i like 'em both
|WHAT||Michigan vs Cornell|
|WHERE||Green Bay, heart of the CCHA|
|WHEN||8:05 Eastern Friday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
It's a bear.
Record. 18-8-7, 12-4-6 ECAC. The Big Red were a clear #2 to the dominant Union Dutchmen in the ECAC this year, finishing two and a half games clear of third-place Harvard and putting up a +20 goal differential in conference. Union was a whopping +38(!) and Yale was somehow +13 despite finishing .500 in ECAC play; no other league team topped +5.
They made the ECAC semis but then got smoked by Harvard* 6-1:
They bounced back with a 3-0 win over Colgate in the consolation game.
Cornell made the tournament with defense, giving up only 2.1 goals per game in the league. Their offensive numbers were middle of the pack, as per usual. Cornell has been built on tight checking and excellent goaltending since I've been following college hockey.
As an Ivy, Cornell played an abbreviated schedule but the shorter ECAC league schedule did allow them some opportunities to test themselves against teams across college hockey. Results were mixed, with losses to Mercyhurst (a barely above .500 Atlantic Hockey team) and UMass (a 13-18-5 Hockey East team) against a win over Niagara and an old-style three-point weekend against Colorado College. They also lost in overtime to BU at Madison Square Garden.
For what it's worth, KRACH really does not like the ECAC this year. One-seed Union would be the last team in the tournament if it was used to seed the field; Cornell would not even be on the bubble at #22. The nearest CCHA team is #19 Lake Superior, if you're looking for a conference analog.KRACH overrates schedule strength considerably, but the ECAC's performance in the tournament of late reinforces the skepticism of pure math. The 2003 edition of Cornell was the last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four. Atlantic Hockey and the CHA—which doesn't even exist any more—have been more recently.
Previous meetings. None. How about…
Common opponents. Few. Both beat Niagara in one-off games; Michigan's win was by a more comfortable margin than 1-0. Michigan annihilated St. Lawrence; Cornell swept them but won only 1-0 and 4-3 in overtime. On the other hand, Michigan got crushed by Union at Yost at the tail end of their terrible streak earlier this year. Cornell got a win and a tie out of two games.
Greg Miller is three points short of a PPG.
Dangermen. If the point totals for the Big Red's leading scorers don't seem impressive, keep in mind that they've only played 33 games to Michigan's 40. They're just above average in scoring at 2.9 goals per game. (Michigan is a tie for tenth with North Dakota at 3.25.)
In any case, Cornell has two guys around a PPG, junior Greg Miller (14-16-30) and senior Sean Collins (13-11-24). Collins was a Blue Jackets seventh-round pick in '07, FWIW. Both of those guys are very good at staying out of the box, with just nine minors between them on the season, but it's Miller who drives the bus. They center the top two lines: Miller is +20, Collins +4. Brian Ferlin (8-13-21 and +15 in just 26 games) appears to be another top line guy along with John Esposito (7-8-15 in 22 games, +13). [UPDATE: Cornell fans mention that Ferlin is out with an injury.]
After the big two, Cornell has a bunch of guys between six and eight goals on the year. Two are defensemen; six are forwards. Cornell's scoring goes three lines deep but lines two and three are not outfits you really have to gameplan for.
Defenseman Nick D'Agostino is dangerous on the PP when not getting kneed by opponents. (NH Register)
On the power play, watch out for defensman Nick D'Agostino. With six goals he's the Big Red's leading power play scorer.
Defense. Again, it's hard to extrapolate much here without watching Cornell play a ton. D'Agostino has all the power play points and Joakim Ryan also has 6-10-16; D'Agostino, Kirill Gotovets, and Braden Birch have all been drafted late. It's Birch and Gotovets with the big +/- numbers. Those two are either a shut-down top pairing or a second pair sheltered from the top lines of the ECAC by the high-scoring guys.
Goalie. Cornell starter Andy Iles is like an ECAC Hunwick. He's 5'8" and played every minute Cornell was on the ice this year save the five or so given up to Open Net. His save percentage isn't quite in Hunwick's stratosphere but it is a solid .918; his GAA is a hair over 2.1. CCHA comparables are OSU's Cal Heeter and MSU's Drew Palmisano, both of whom put in .918s this year.
The video from the Harvard game above was not Iles's best day but a couple of differences between him and Hunwick are immediately apparent. Hunwick is much more aggressive at coming out of his crease than Iles, and there was one goal where he waved his glove at a shot and missed entirely. I can't remember a glove side shot Hunwick had a shot at going in since the doom at the end of Fort Wayne.
It looks like there will be room over the shoulders for a Wohlberg, Brown, or Treais to snipe at.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.9||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.0||4.2|
Cornell's penalty kill has been a major weakness all year. They're at 79% and are 48th of 58 teams. That's right: Cornell's PK is worse than Michigan's power play, which is 46th. The Big Red's power play isn't much better at 40th; Michigan's PK is a decent 13th. This is a rare game in which Michigan wouldn't mind a lot of penalties… as long as they're evenly distributed.
Michigan vs Those Guys
Single elimination hockey. Is insane.
Nowhere to hide. It's not exactly going up against North Dakota but Cornell has enough scoring depth that Clare and Chiasson/Serville will get thoroughly tested. ECAC teams are usually short on footspeed, which should help prevent the ugly shifts where those guys get caught in their own end for 90 terrifying seconds… but most of these guys can shoot and you know we're getting at least one of those.
Get the zone on the power play. One of the primary reasons Michigan's power play sucks out loud is they have no way to carry the puck into the zone and have been consistently poor at dumping, chasing, and setting up.
Against Cornell they'll be getting power play opportunities against one of the worst penalty kill teams in the country. If they can get set up, they can have success. Getting there has not been easy.
Pound, pound, pound. While Cornell is a big hockey team, the impression I've gotten from watching highlights against Harvard and BU is that they're pretty vulnerable to getting leveled. They may not be accustomed to the pace of play in leagues outside their own and Michigan may have an opportunity get turnovers in dangerous areas if they press hard.
Hunwick > Iles. Michigan goes up against Shawn Hunwick's ECAC doppelganger and should have an advantage in net. If they don't much of their expectation of victory evaporates. I'm not overly concerned about this since Hunwick's had maybe one or two bad games since Michigan removed its head from its rectum in December, but you know the drill: single elimination playoff hockey.
Pray. Here it comes. Drawing an ECAC team is usually good news. Still… pucks bounce.
The Big Picture
Win or die.
I'll have briefer capsules on Ferris State and Denver later in the week.
Today's recruiting roundup looks at Michigan's remaining scholarships and how they might be used, checks out visit reactions from last weekend, and more.
The Remaining Spots
After DeVeon Smith committed over the weekend, Michigan now has 16 commits in a class projected to hit 23-24 players. Yes, it is still March, and the Wolverines have 2/3 of their class wrapped up. Recent events have added some clarity to the positions Michigan is targeting with the remaining 7-8 spots, so I thought I'd go over the potential options, position-by-position.
Quarterback (1 commit/0 spots remaining): Shane Morris. Period. Yes, there are concerns about depth at QB, but with the number crunch in the class taking a second signal-caller appears highly unlikely.
Running Back (2/1): Michigan has Wyatt Shallman and DeVeon Smith in the fold, but they aren't done. The coaches told Richmond (VA) Hermitage RB Derrick Green that they would take a third back in the class during Green's visit last weekend ($)—a visit that went quite well, by the way—and they've said the same to Cordova (TN) four-star Jordan Wilkins ($, info in header). Ty Isaac is the top target here, and we'll see what his timetable looks like after he returns from his USC trip this weekend.
Wide Receiver (1/2): Jaron Dukes is a big receiver with big-play ability, and the Wolverines will add two more to his position group. There's a strong focus on bringing in another big outside guy—Laquon Treadwell (right) fits that mold—and it wouldn't surprise to see the coaches target a smaller, faster player like Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep's Devon Allen to play the slot. Gone are the days of the 5'9" slot ninjas, but the 6'1" track star Allen could signal what the current staff wants in a slot receiver. A laundry-list of other receivers have interest in Michigan, including Marquez North, Darrell Daniels, Eldridge Massington, Sebastian Larue, Marcell Ateman, Zach Bradshaw, Damore'ea Stringfellow, Kevin Gladney, and Uriah LeMay. Four-star prospects Robert Foster and James Quick look like longshots for now.
Tight End (2/0?): When Michigan continued to offer scholarships to TEs after gaining commitments from Khalid Hill and Jake Butt, it looked like a third TE would definitely be a part of the class. Now that Scott Orndoff has committed to Pitt, however, only one uncommitted tight end remains holding a Michigan offer, New Orleans prospect Standish Dobard. It seems unlikely that Dobard will leave SEC country. With the Wolverines not rushing to hand out any more offers at the position coupled with the news that they'll take a third running back, it looks like they might be content with two TEs.
Offensive Line (5/0): The coaches have informed all offensive linemen holding an offer—yes, this includes Ethan Pocic—that they're full along the offensive line. Barring a decommitment, I don't think that will change.
Defensive Tackle (0/1-2): Michigan must take at least one nose tackle in the class, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to bring in a second depending on how the other position groups shake out. The Wolverines are in a strong position with Henry Poggi—more on him later—and got Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton up for a visit, and they're also pursuing high-profile prospects like Montravious Adams, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Greg Webb, among others.
Defensive End (1/0): With Taco Charlton set to come in as a weakside DE, Michigan is in a position to stay pat after the bumper crop of DEs in the 2012 class. They could go after a strongside end, especially if Chris Wormley or Matt Godin moves inside to DT this fall, and they are after some talented prospects—Tashawn Bower seems to be showing the most interest (Michigan is in his top 10 [$]) and the Wolverines are also pursuing top recruits Joey Bosa, Alquadin Muhammad, Jonathan Allen, and others. They can afford to be picky here.
Linebacker (1/1*): The Wolverines have Mike McCray in the fold and it's pretty much assumed at this point that Ben Gedeon will join him in the class, given that the coaches have told prospects like Dorian O'Daniel, Alex Anzalone, and Shane Jones that they're full at linebacker. The asterisk represents E.J. Levenberry, who has Michigan as his leader over Florida State and has a spot apparently reserved for him in the class.
Cornerback (2/0): Jourdan Lewis and Gareon Conley should more than suffice for this year's class unless a five-star talent like Kendall Fuller (unlikely, considering his ties to Virginia Tech and Michigan turning away teammate O'Daniel) or Vernon Hargreaves III (also unlikely with his father coaching at USF and the Florida schools pushing hard for him) wants to come on board. Then again, the Wolverines still seem to be pursuing corners like Tre Bell, Devin Butler, Cole Luke, and Cameron Walker, so there's a chance they take one more.
Safety (1/0): Dymonte Thomas fills any pressing need for a safety, so much like at cornerback and defensive end, the Wolverines can be comfortable staying put while going after blue-chip talents. Or should I say, talent: five-star Su'a Cravens is the only uncommitted safety to currently hold a Michigan offer, and he plans to use one of his official visits to check out Ann Arbor.
Kicker/Punter (0/0): There's no need to take a specialist in this year's class.
If Michigan takes two linebackers (including Levenberry) and two defensive tackles along with a running back and two wideouts, the team has 23 scholarships accounted for with potentially one spot to use for a best player available (or, quite possibly, a third corner). If you want to drop a DT and project the Wolverines grab a strongside DE instead, be my guest—I think we'll see two more D-linemen in the class, and a nose tackle is a must, but that other spot could go to either.
As you can see, it's already time for the Wolverines to hone in on their top targets and be fairly selective with their remaining spots. The main question going forward isn't how Michigan will use their remaining scholarships, but how many they'll have to work with.
New Preferred Walk-On, Visit Reactions, Etc.
The Wolverines now have three preferred walk-ons in the 2012 class coming from Fenton High School, as tight end Quinton Mandle joined teammates Kenny Allen (punter) and Tyler Tokarsky (long snapper) in pledging to go to Michigan on Sunday. Mandle is 6'5", 220 pounds, and had 53 receptions for 700 yards last year, both school records. His addition bolsters depth at a position sorely in need of it.
Rivals released their 2013 position ranks and an initial group of three-stars, which included previously-unranked commits DeVeon Smith and Jaron Dukes. Shane Morris has the highest position ranking, coming in second among pro-style QBs. Also of note: Michigan has five of the top 23 offensive tackles (four in the top 13), though obviously the five linemen won't all play tackle at the collegiate level.
Henry Poggi was on campus last weekend amidst rumors of an imminent commitment, and while that didn't come to fruition, he still had a great trip. Here's his dad/coach Biff discussing Henry's third visit to Ann Arbor ($):
“It was a great visit,” Biff Poggi, Henry’s father and coach told 247Sports. “Just a great visit. It was really, everyone loved it. My wife really loved it. My son loves Michigan. Loves the coaches there, Coach (Greg) Mattison, Coach (Jerry) Montgomery, Coach (Brady) Hoke. We got a chance to spend a lot of time with them. My wife is getting comfortable with the academic piece which is good, and it was a very, very good trip.”
Poggi plans to head down to Texas and Texas A&M and possibly swing out to the West Coast, but his recruitment shouldn't last much longer; his father says they plan to have it "wrapped up by the end of April."
Quickly: 2013 Cass Tech DT Kenton Gibbs said "it was most definitely a good time," after his trip to Ann Arbor last weekend ($). He's still looking for a Wolverine offer. Four of Gibbs's sophomore teammates—LB Gary Hosey, LB William White, WR Damon Webb, and DB Johnny Miggins—were also on campus, and Tremendous has visit reactions from all four. Also visiting was 2014 OL/DT Brian Allen, who already has offers from Iowa and Michigan State ($, info in header). 2013 Los Angeles (CA) Loyola CB Cameron Walker will visit from April 12-14, which includes the spring game ($).
A-Train, Perry, Hart. Photos archived from MGoBlue.com
Here is what has Michigan football fans all aflutter this week: With two 4-star running backs committed to our class, do we still have room for a 5-star running back? #firstworldproblems. Since this is our concern, I thought we'd take a look at the prospective depth charts that past Michigan RBs committed to and see if the prospective mountain for 2013 prospects is any harder than the typical Michigan starting tailback's, prospectively speaking.
When the next class arrives in 2013 Toussaint and Hopkins—a permanent fullback I mention because he's the B.J. Askew type of fullback who will eat up carries—will be seniors, and Vincent Smith will be gone. Barring attrition, the next generation, i.e. the guys an additional 2013 commit should expect to be competing with, will then look something like this:
- Thomas Rawls, Junior
- Justice Hayes, RS Sophomore
- Drake Johnson, RS Freshman
- Dennis Norfleet, RS Freshman or Soph.
- Wyatt Shallman, Freshman
- Deveon Smith, Freshman
Three RBs in the 2013 class gives us potentially five freshmen competing for carries with a sophomore and a junior. "Barring attrition" would almost be a fool's gamble given the history of the position in all my years of following Michigan, except Hoke's program has so far (very small sample) been actually kind of remarkable in holding onto guys—policy is to give them all the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway we have the dudes; if Iowa RBHG gets bored one day he will find too many sacrifices for even his mighty, smite-y hand. This means Michigan is doubtful to take any more add-on running backs to pack the roster unless they or someone on the list is switching to defense. However there is absolutely room—even a need perhaps—for a high-profile back in this class.
The recruiting profiles of a lot of these guys suggests any could be beatable by a hypothetical freshman 5-star. Norfleet and Johnson were both very under-the-radar guys. The former and Justice Hayes are more like scat-backs who could as easily end up as slot-kick returners (though from yesterday's Spring video it looked like Hayes has bulked up a bit since last year, or else someone else is wearing 5. Insiders?). Asking if Shallman is really a running back is entering the realm of media cottage industry. Rawls is so Kevin Grady. At this point Smith is a 4-star to Scout, an Anton Campbell Memorial "no idea, but I guess he committed to Michigan" 3-star to Rivals and a guy named Smith to the other sites. Throw a dart at that group in two years and you could hit anything from (respectively) Mark Ingram/Steve Breaston/Barry Sanders/Mike Hart/Ron Dayne/Eddie George Except Faster to six Brackenses.
Of all positions tailback seems the most freshman-friendly, so it's not as necessary to stockpile today for 2017. On the other hand if you look at Michigan history the lesson is MOAR TAILBACKS. In fact Michigan's great running backs of the last two decades have mostly committed to apparent depth charts way more jammed with highly rated players and established starters:
The thing that's readily apparent is the youth. Michigan averaged about two recruits per year at RB, and graduated one a year. Some didn't move far—Chris Floyd, B.J. Askew, and more recently Stephen Hopkins switched to a type of ball-carrying fullback. A good many switched to defense. A good many quit the team too. But look at the depth charts so many highly rated backs committed to:
- Tshimanga Biakabutuka would have to beat out Tyrone Wheatley, Rickey Powers, and Ed Davis, not to mention a higher rated recruit in his own class. He earned 149 carries in two years versus that group then became his own legend as a junior.
- Chris Howard signed on with two all-everything backs with a sophomore Biakabutuka already established, and ended up the nominal starting RB for a national champion.
- Clarence Williams, the Cass Tech mite, didn't seem afraid of larger classmate J.R. Ford or the aforementioned guys; he beat out Howard and Floyd as a freshman, became the feature back as a sophomore, and spent his whole career battling Howard, Floyd, and A-Train for carries.
- Anthony Thomas was the second-least heralded of four heralded backs who might have believed they were coming in to wait two years for Howard and C-Will to clear out. The train arrived at the starting station his freshman year and eventually broke most of Michigan's rushing records.
- Justin Fargas signed up beside Walter Cross, while freshman A-Train was tearing it up, and before A-Train's classmates skedaddled.
- B.J. Askew came in with three other freshman backs, including 5-star Ryan Beard, when Thomas had two more years, and two more 5-stars, including the electrifying Fargas, had three.
- Chris Perry had about the clearest route to the starter's gig of anybody, but that still meant behind two 5-stars with sophomore eligibility (Beard, Fargas), and one junior (Cross).
- Mike Hart might have looked like depth no matter which class he signed onto. To win the starting job as a true freshman he beat out senior David Underwood, junior Pierre Rembert, sophomore Jerome Jackson, and higher rated freshman Max Martin.
- Kevin Grady saw the freshman duo leap to the top of the depth chart in 2004 yet opted to join the Wolverines in 2005.
- Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown arrived when Grady was to be a sophomore and Hart had two more years as starter locked down.
- Shaw's snake-oiling away from Penn State was to join McGuffie and Cox as the generation that should wait two years for Minor/Brown to clear out. McGuffie hurdled everyone to start much of '08.
- Fitz Toussaint and Vincent Smith signed on before McGuffie left, and piled into a two-seater filled with eight other RB-or-Slot bug types.
- Hopkins signed up to maybe be the thunder guy in case they wanted to keep that job after Minor left, but still had to contend with the boatload of slot bugs.
The list of guys who didn't commit to imposing depth charts full of established and/or hyped underclassmen reads thusly: Kelly Baraka, David Underwood, Pierre Rembert, Darnell Hood, Alijah Bradley, Jerome Jackson. The moral: if you want to be the starting tailback for Michigan you always have to compete against other highly rated backs. This isn't coach speak; it's the standard. A running back who commits here is almost 50% likely to end up at another position or another school. Standard operating procedure is to arrive behind an established junior star and last year's freshman phenom, and if you manage to earn carries against those guys there's still two more classes of blue chip backs arriving after you to steal them.
Enough Carries to Go Around
So two things are true: Michigan has for a long time recruited many more guys than they need at the running back position, and the position has experienced a lot of attrition and position switches. The latter was probably by design; Lloyd Carr recruited at least Weathers, Woody Hankins (who was an RB as a freshman and as a junior), Ian Gold, Jon Shaw, Charles Drake and Darnell Hood with the idea of a defensive swap in mind. Anyway it never stopped the parade of hyped backs to Ann Arbor, despite the fact that until 2008 the coaches always preferred a feature back kind of system. A quick look at the numbers shows there were a lot of carries slipping through the starters' grasps:
|Year||Starting Tailback||Class||Carries||ALL RB Carries||% RB Carries|
|Total||ALL STARTERS (not itals)||--||3,832||6,881||55.7%|
Note: In years with two players listed, the one in italics is the nominal backup who got carries due to the nominal starter's injury. Their stories are intricate and known. Anyhoo, speaking to this year's freshmen, if anything it's not the other backs they should be worried about; it's Denard taking carries away from the entire RB corps.
The closest comparison to the situation for a hypothetical three-man 2013 class is probably 2004 (the year Hart won the job), since there's a lot of guys on the roster now whose profiles would suggest "just a guy" more than "future star." Any year between 1997 and 2000 makes a good case study for a seemingly insurmountable climb for any one recruit, but even in the heart of the A-Train years there were plenty of carries that went to guys like Justin Fargas and B.J. Askew. There were also plenty of Ryan Beard/Walter Cross/Ray Jackson/Pat McCall types who came with hype and couldn't crack the depth chart.
This is what Wyatt Shallman and Deveon Smith are signing up for. Given Michigan's history of stockpiling talent at this position, adding a five-star to this class is no deviation from the norm; in fact it would probably bring us closer to a "typical" depth chart. Fitz will be a senior when these guys arrive, and none of Drake Johnson/Dennis Norfleet/Justice Hayes/Thomas Rawls at this point should seem more insurmountable than, say, a Jerome Jackson. On the other hand an Isaac commit would mean carrying eight scholarship backs in 2013, something we haven't done since 1997. It's way too early to predict this kind of stuff but I'm sure jamiemac wouldn't call you crazy for a Justice Hayes to receiver prop. And while we can't ever plan for transfers, busts, or injuries, and I certainly hope all of these guys play out their eligibility, I don't think anybody is willing to bet on that. If Michigan wants to take another blue chip, history says there is room and opportunities available. However it's not the year Michigan can afford a scholarship for a depthy flier dude to keep up alumni relations or something like that.
It was loud. It was dramatic. It was legendary. It was historic.
It was the weekend Jed Ortmeyer achieved greatness. It was the weekend a mascot was ejected. It was the weekend Ron Mason coached his last game, and Ryan Miller played his last game. It was the weekend the CCHA Humanitarian of the Year almost murdered a dog. It was the weekend Denver stole Michigan’s locker room. It was the weekend the NCAA reconsidered its regional hosting policy.
It was one of the greatest sports experiences of my life. And incredibly, it was ten years ago this Friday.
You wouldn’t have expected this if you watched the first game. Ron Mason’s Spartan squad played so lifelessly against Colorado College that they forgot to even pull the goaltender (Michigan arch-nemesis Ryan Miller) until it was too late. I was preparing for a standard, slightly-louder-than normal playoff game against St. Cloud when I heard it: the chant that irrevocably signaled that the weekend would be among the most memorable in Michigan history.
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
On March 22 and 23, 2002, the six-team NCAA Hockey West Regional came to Yost Ice Arena. The teams were Denver, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, Saint Cloud State, and Colorado College. The two days of hockey that those teams produced comprised the greatest weekend in the history of Yost. You can find the results in a database, and the results will tell you that Minnesota beat Colorado College and that Michigan beat Denver to advance to the Frozen Four. Those were the results.
This is the story.
The Molly Game: Yost at its Craziest
Michigan was a four seed drawn to play St. Cloud State as a 5 seed, a rematch of the West Regional final from the year before in Grand Rapids. Early pregame talk about the game surrounded St. Cloud’s inability to win in the NCAA tournament (the program didn’t win a game until 2010) and Michigan’s presumed home-ice advantage.
The conversation changed when the Michigan Daily picked up a quote from SCSU on-ice cheerleader Molly McGannon, who told the St. Cloud Times that she was treated poorly by Michigan fans in Grand Rapids. Her quotes spread all over town. “They’re horrible people,” she said. She further predicted that, on Michigan’s home ice, “They’ll be worse.”
She was right.
The initial team warmups were a normal affair, but as soon as the Michigan team left the ice and the band had concluded its pregame rendition of “The Victors,” the two sections reserved for Michigan students erupted in loud “WE WANT MOLLY!” chants. When Saint Cloud cheerleaders and the Husky mascot, Blizzard, emerged from the entrance behind the north goal, the noise became a roar.
As the cheerleaders performed their standard pregame routine of skating around in circles and waving pom-poms, the students showered them with catcalls and insults. It was loud, menacing, and for the husky mascot, infuriating. The routine ended as the Saint Cloud players took the ice from the north endzone; the students began waving and howling “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh” expecting them to depart promptly. They did not understand that the cheer team procedure involved remaining on the ice almost until faceoff; following their exit, cheerleaders traditionally entered the grandstands for the hockey action during the period.
The cheerleaders would not be entering the stands at Yost.
Michigan took the ice and began its customary counter-clockwise warmup skate. Star defenseman Mike Komisarek noticed that two cheerleaders were standing in formation on Michigan’s half of center-ice, and as he skated around he very deliberately lowered his stick and tapped the back of the girl’s skates, nearly causing her to fall. After “The Victors” concluded students resumed taunting the cheer team, whose members were now so psychologically shattered that they could only exchange terrified glances at each other.
During player introductions the cheerleaders continued to be jeered on the ice, occasionally interrupted by the introduction of players. When each Michigan player was introduced, the mascot would skate up to them and take fake-swings at their heads with his hockey stick while spewing taunts. He was not being ironic.
Following introductions, the cheerleaders finally left the ice to a muffled C-YA chant as the teams huddled around their respective goals. The Husky, however, refused to leave, and a linesman eventually had to corral him and physically escort him to the north exit, behind the goal Michigan was huddled around.
That’s when the mascot speared defenseman Brandon Rogers.
And that was when backup goaltender Kevin O’Malley, who was named CCHA Humanitarian of the Year just the week before, launched himself toward the exit. He went fully airborne, blasted straight through the linesman, and attacked the mascot just inside the door. It was total chaos.
Then the actual game started.
It was a good one; Michigan charged to a 3-1 lead in an electric first period, chasing Husky goalie Dean Weasler. Enigmatic freshman winger Milan Gajic scored the goal of his life, a behind-the-back spin-pass to himself behind the goal followed by a gliding skate out front and a roofed shot. But the moment everyone remembers was this one, perhaps the best hit in Michigan history, served by the peerless Jed Ortmeyer.
St. Cloud crept back into the game, trailing only 3-2 in the third, but star forward Mark Hartigan missed a wide-open net after deking past Josh Blackburn. St. Cloud could not recover, and Michigan won 4-2.
It was time for Michigan to play #1 seed Denver.
The Denver Game: Yost at its Loudest.
Michigan’s new locker room, still a sparkling part of the facility, was much nicer than the other three locker rooms available for regional competitors. In the week leading up to Regionals, Denver made a stink about this and Michigan was ordered to vacate its locker room and allow top seed Denver to use it.
After the game, Red Berenson said, “Maybe they shouldn’t have taken our locker room away.”
This game doesn’t get the legendary treatment of the game the day before, but it was my favorite part of the weekend and one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed. Many fans who were there say that it was the loudest they’ve ever heard Yost Arena; the only game that comes close was the ’98 regional game against North Dakota.
It was a wonderful game. That ’02 Denver team was terrific, and they played a defensive, checking style very similar to the MSU teams of the era. Goalie Wade Dubielewicz was a dominant player, and after their WCHA title many favored them to win the national title.
After a scoreless first period the teams traded five goals in the second. Michigan seemed to be in good shape up 2-1 until Mike Komisarek attempted to kill a penalty by grabbing the puck and throwing it 150 feet down the ice; the resulting 5-on-3 allowed Denver to tie the game, and they took a 3-2 lead a short time later.
Denver never gave away third period leads--they were 28-1 when leading after two. The crowd was nervous, or at least subdued; I was terrified. This was it, the season on the line, needing a goal against an impenetrable team.
Eric Werner tied the game 4:47 into the period. The crowd was back. Raucous “Go! Blue!” chants traded sides. Every hit was cheered, every shot exhorted. Michigan took control of play, but as the clock ticked down overtime seemed certain.
Jed Ortmeyer did not come to Michigan as an exceptional offensive talent, and NHL scouts never drooled over his physical attributes. He had the face of a teddy bear. There were always players on Michigan who were more imposing, players who were better skilled. But Ortmeyer was a remarkable leader and a tireless worker. And he lived for these moments.
With less than two minutes left, Mike Cammalleri fed him the puck in the neutral zone...
(Look closely for the Michigan player who pulls the net off its moorings to allow the rest of the team to pile on top of Ortmeyer. Red trains smart players.)
Ortmeyer’s goal blew the place up. I’ve attended UM-OSU football games at both venues; I’ve been to games at Texas A&M and LSU; I’ve been to Red Wing playoff games; but I’ve never been in a place like that. The audio on the recording simply does not convey how ear-bleedingly loud Yost was. The Denver players couldn’t look away from the crowd--they were beaten, it was over, and they knew it.
Often forgotten, the officials stopped the game for ten minutes to deal with a timekeeping problem. The crowd roared unceasingly throughout the stoppage. When retiring rink announcer Glenn Williams gave his celebratory “You’re Welcome!” to the students, they went nuts. When Eric Nystrom flipped a puck from center ice into the open net, the place went bonkers again.
At the conclusion of the game, after the handshakes, Ortmeyer organized an improptu fan salute, before it was a regular procedure. The players gathered in the center circle and faced outward, grins on their faces, and raised their sticks in the air. The crowd gave one last, deafening cheer. Triumph.
What a weekend.
"I got you guys broken in."
How does Rocko Khoury’s departure affect the center battle?
“Well we do, yeah. We have enough guys to compete. You always would like more numbers, offensive line wise particularly because we’re not deep at the position. We have a couple kids, Ricky Barnum, Jack Miller -- I think will be good centers. Ricky has a good profile for the position, probably even more so than when he played guard.”
Are you experimenting with Devin Gardner at other positions?
“We’re doing what we did a year ago, pretty much. We’re giong to play the best 11 guys. Devin’s the backup quarterback right now. He’s number two, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get the best 11 on the field. Nothing’s changed in that perspective, so we pretty much have the same mentality that we had.”
Are you looking at him at wide receiver?
“Yeah … the practices are closed for a reason.”
Are you able to work on more experimental things now that you’ve had a year with this team?
“Later on, yeah. Not right now. First thing [is] we’re not going to get real fancy the first couple days of practice. We’re going to go through a little refresher course on the offense, take them about four or five days of practices to do that. Once we get to where we’ve pretty much got it back -- kids learn the stuff much faster now for obvious reasons -- then we’ll start dabbling more in some of the offseason research we’ve done on some stuff, whether it be deuce package or moving folks around. So we’re always evolving constantly, and we’re always trying to figure out how to get our best 11 on the field to do what they do best. That may not be not consistently be the same 11 guys all the time. You may change the the 11 so that you can get a guy out there that may be able to do something that may not be able to do it on some other plays. Devin’s part of that. We’ve got about five guys that are involved in that.”
Is it more difficult for an offensive lineman to switch to center than anywhere else on the line?
“Well, center, because the ball’s involved, you have the issues there in terms of snaps. But once a kid’s played center for a while, they usually prefer it. They know exactly when the ball’s coming up. They can control the line play a little better. But center’s a little different animal than tackle or guard. Mike [Schofield] had played tackle, so it wasn’t a huge transition for him.”
How do you balance being physical in practice with your lack of depth on the offensive line?
“Boy, that’s tough. That is hard. You have to be smart with it, but if you don’t get accomplished what you’re trying to get accomplished, then spring football’s a waste of time. We’re always going to err on the side of getting after it a little bit, and if you have to pull off, we’ll pull off. We just believe that the game’s played with a physical demeanor and we’re not ever going to stop that regardless of guys getting hurt. We’re going to be smart, but we’re never going to stop thinking that way.”
Where do you think Denard stands in terms of throwing downfield?
“I think the first two days of practice, he’s made a marked improvement in that because he basically understands the offense better. It’s always a work in progress. There’s still errors here and there, but there are less. I think as he goes and understands better and better you’re going to get a better product. There’s two issues with Denard, and that’s one: the overall understanding of the offense, which I know is going to be better, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, and the footwork issues, which generally cause a lot of the interceptions. We’re working on it everyday, and he’s so keenly aware of it. When he makes a mistake, he’s getting to a point now where he can almost coach himself. He’ll come out and say, ‘Oh I screwed up.’ He’ll tell me before I tell him. I’ll never assume it. I’ll still tell him. He’s tired of me telling him the same things, but he knows how I think as a coordinator and how I think as a position coach. One thing about the kid is he’s a very good football guy. He understands the game really well. He has great instincts. Now that he’s got a year in the system, I think some of those instincts will show up more than that, and that’s scary.”
What do you know about Denard now that might change the way you coordinate the offense?
“Well, not much than what I knew at the end of the season. He’s a great runner. He’s taken on a leadership role which is exciting to me. It’s exctiing to all of us. Those types of things. And we can probably do a little bit more now because he understands without doing it too much, where you get paralysis by analysis.”
Did he get enough time with Ricky in the offseason to get comfortable?
“Yes. Yeah, he did. He and Ricky have been working it out for a while and Jack too. All of them. They’re always on their own just go out and snap balls and working the skelly drills and all that. This isn’t the first time they took a snap. It wasn’t yesterday or the day before yesterday.”
How do you replace Junior?
“Boy that’s the best question that’s been asked so far. That’s not been easy to do. One way we are doing it is with Roy Roundtree. Roy is moving to flanker. Roy was a split end last year. He played flanker in some spots. Because we split time with him and Jeremy Gallon, Roy took some hits with his numbers, but going to Junior’s position, a healthy Roy Roundtree is really running well right now. Best I’ve ever seen him run. But a healthy Roy Roundtree could really have a good season. I’m thinking great things about Roy. Roy’s had such a great attitude. He did take a hit with numbers, and it would be natural to second guess a lot of things, but he didn’t, and because he didn’t, he’s improving daily.”
Was Roundtree unhealthy at all at any point last season?
“Not really. I think he stayed in one piece pretty good. But out of flanker now you get a lot more balls thrown your way. You saw Junior -- a lot of time you catch that thing and there’s some folks around you. But I have no doubt that Roy Roundtree’s going to have a heck of a year.”
Can he be your vertical deep threat?
“Yes he can. Yes he can. You bet he can. He’s got excellent speed. He goes and gets the ball. He can definitely be that without question, and so can Jeremy Gallon for that matter.”
Who besides Roundtree are you looking for at that position?
“Jerald Robinson. Jerald Robinson, in two days, has been very impressive. Big, physical receiver. Very much like Junior. Not quite as big as Junior, but still big. Has excellent hands. Ran on the scout team quite a bit. Not because he wasn’t good enough to play -- he was good enough to play, but we were pretty good at wide receiver and we never got a chance to use him. But this year Jerald’s going to get a great look. So far what we’ve seen, he’s going to make a contribution, and he is that big physical guy much like Junior was. If you’re aksing how to replace [Junior], he’s definitely at least one answer. ”
You saw Fitz Toussaint’s vision improve over last season. What’s the biggest thing you want to see take a jump up this spring for him?
“Well that to continue, number one, and improve his pass receiving skills. He’s got good hands, but we used Vince so much in that capacity that I’d like for Fitz to be equal to what Vince did so we don’t have to take him out all the time. Pass protection still can improve. We ask our backs to block. That can always get better. Those types of things. Refining more of the little things about his game, where a year ago there were some huge factors, the vision being at the top of the list. The more we learn with Fitz, the more he plays, the faster he learns and the issues go away with him. Some backs they never go away. They never gain good vision because they simply don’t have very good vision. He does. He just needed the time and I think that’s going to be the case with the other things we’re talking about.”
How do you envision using a player like Justice Hayes?
“He’s another one. We’re going to take a good look. Knowing that Fitz has been productive, we don’t have to overuse Fitz in the spring, yet still try to improve him. I’m not talking sit him on the sideline and let him watch, he’s still playing now. But that being said, it isn’t like last spring where we have to run him and run him and find out what he can do. We kind of know what he can do. That’s where we can use Justice now is give Justice a chance to carry that ball, tote it a few times, get him in some pass protection situations. He’s got some great receiving skills, see if he can do that, but this is a big spring for him.”
Switching between shotgun and under center puts a lot of stress on the center. How does Ricky’s transition to the position affect how you run your offense?
“Well, because we are under center some and because our center basically quarterbacks the offensive line -- he puts them all on the same page with regard to targeting fronts where it be in pass protection or running. That position is absolutely critical that we get productivity out fo the position. You need a smart guy that’s athletic and knows how to use his help. We don’t ask our center to consistently single block a nose guard, but he’s got to know how to make the call to allow for some help for him. I could go into all the nuances, but it’s endless what that kid's got to do. It’s not an easy position to play. ”
Do you anticipate being under center more this season?
“I don’t think it’s going to be much different. We’re still basically a shotgun team. I mean, we have a quarterback that can run, and the best way to exploit that is for him to be in the shotgun. Yet we still want to downhill run. You look the last two or three games of the season, that’s really what we want to be. We don’t want to be a total shotgun team. But knowing that the shotgun is going to be very very prominent simply because of the skillset of our quarterback. So in answer to your question, we’re basically going to be what we were a year ago.”
How quickly is Ricky learning how to make all the pre-snap decisions?
“He’s doing a great job. He’s still got a few deals. Now Greg’ll throw you some defenses that will test your center’s ability to adjust. It’s still a work in progress … and the more he sees it the better he’s going to get at it, the better he’s going to understand it and the better he’s going to get the other guys to understand it, because that’s part of his job, too. I’m not concerned about Ricky. He keeps progressing like I think he will. He’ll be a good center.”
Has anyone caught your eye at tight end yet?
“Not yet, but they’re not doing bad. No one has jumped out and said, ‘Oh my god, look at that guy.’ But they’re not doing bad. Brandon Moore’s been consistent. Ricardo Miller, who really is more of a move guy, but he’s played with his hand on the ground a little bit. He understands our offense. Very athletic. Very athletic. Athletic as any tight end we got. Used to be a wide receiver so he has speed and he has receiving skills. He’s another one that’s going to get a great look. Who knows, we have some freshmen coming in. If they show up, they’ll have an opportunity to contribute there, too. So we’ll see how that goes. It’s still too early. We haven’t put pads on yet. I want to save judgement on that position until we’ve been through a few practices with pads on and guys blocking at the line of scrimmage because that’s so critical to what we want to do.”
What have you learned about Devin, and how can that help you prepare for the season?
“Well he’s an incredible athlete. He has so many dimensions to him. He’s smart, so he picks stuff up fast. He doesn’t have any problem that way. That being said, every time you put together a plan, you have to find out how to factor him into it somewhere. Again, if it doesn’t sacrifice any other phases of your game. As you guys saw last year, we’re always looking for opportunities to get him in the game in some way shape or form without breaking the rhythm of the quarterback, which I don’t think we did. And seeing to it that we use him getting the ball, use him throwing the ball, and use him decoying. With that in mind, doing the same thing with Denard.”
Do you feel like you’ll use him more this season?
“I don’t know. I want to see. Maybe. I don’t know yet. We’ll see. It’s a matter of how. That’s the key. What are you going to do? We’ve done a lot with him, but there’s still a lot more that he can do, so we’ll see.”
Is his athleticism such that it’s better than your other skill position players?
“No. It’s very much like that -- he’s an athletic quarterback. I wasn’t here -- but Devin was recruited as the number one dual threat quarterback in the country, was he not? Generally those guys can do a lot of stuff. He was not a prototypical drop back passer type, although he was recruited by prostyle teams and spread guys, so he can do that stuff. He’s certainly one of our better athletes on the team, and we have to find a way to exploit that.”
Is he open to all of this?
“Oh yeah. Yeah. He wants to play.”
Are you concerned that giving him looks at other positions will disrupt his growth as a quarterback?
“Nope. Nope. Not at all. Smart kid, he’ll be fine.”
What do you like about Russell Bellomy?
“Russ is very athletic -- another athlete. Very good athelte. Can run the ball. He was recruited too by spread teams and pro-style guys. Accurate passer. His arm is improving strength-wise all the time. If you tell him once, he’s got it. He’s one fo those guys. You don’t have to re-tell him ten times. He’s got it down. He’s got composure. He can get himself out of a lot of messes when things break down, and he can run. He can run designed quarterback runs, although I don’t know you’re going to run as many as you would with Denard. But if you turn him loose he will hurt you. He has that kind of ability. We’re looking more at him because it’s spring time and we’re trying to give him some time. Like we’re talking about Fitz, where we’re giving Justice Hayes time and it may cost Fitz a few reps, we’re going to look at Russ more and cost Denard a couple reps or even Devin a couple. But we have to see them all now. This is our chance. Once we get into the season and we’re game planning all the time, it’s tough to give everybody enough chances.”
Do you start game planning at all for Alabama this early?
“Oh yeah. Yeah. We do. Kids are watching Alabama now. They come in on their own and they’ll look at Alabama. Right now it’s about developing our football team. We don’t have an opponent in front of us other than ourselves right now. We’re trying to develop our football team, try to get every guy a little better every single day and build up to that. Build up to that, get through spring fotoball, and as you get closer to the game, you get more focused on the task at hand, but right now we have a heavy emphasis this spring on becoming a fundamentally better offense. We talked about it. We’re allotting the time in practice for it. Whereas last year we were trying to be fundamental and installing our offense. That was a headache. Now second year, we have it installed, we’re just trying to get better with our footwork at every position -- offensive line, running back, you name it. Just doing the little things better.”
How confident are you in Schofield’s ability to transition back to right tackle?
“I think he’ll do fine because it’s really a more natural position for him. He has a tackle profile He’s 6-foot-6 plus. He was a hurdler in high school, somebody told me, and it’s obvious because he can move. He’s really more of a tackle body type than he is a guard body type, although he did a nice job at guard. This is where we need him now, he’s very receptive to it, and so far he’s done a nice job.”
The Spring Rosters are out, hooray, hooray, the spring rosters are out, hooray! Let's totally overanalyze them and make outrageous statements! (Note: Outrageous statements are outrageous. Truly truly truly outrageous)
Early Enrollees With #s:
|No.||Name||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Hometown (High School)|
|35||Joe Bolden||LB||6'3||230||Cincinnati, Ohio (Colerain)|
|49||Kaleb Ringer||LB||6'1||225||Clayton, Ohio (Northmont)|
|22||Jarrod Wilson||S||6'2||190||Akron, Ohio (Akron Buchtel)|
Jarrod Wilson shares a number with Michigan's last competent free safety (until last year?). This totally means: He will be Jamar Adams except fast like Ty Law.
Dudes who changed positions (you know some of these already):
|No.||Name||Old Pos||New Pos|
This totally means: Jibreel Black isn't Brandon Graham, or maybe he is but it's what we'd do if we had Brandon Graham today. Brennan Beyer is Craig Roh. Craig Roh Woodley!
Dudes who changed numbers:
|Name||Old #||New #||Pos||Ht.||Wt.||Elig.|
|Russell Bellomy||3||8||QB||6'3||189||RS FR|
|Paul Gyarmati||59||99||LB||6'1||216||RS SR|
This totally means: Russell Bellomy is like Drew Henson PLUS ONE! Or...I dunno. Here's previous multi-year QBs to wear #8: Nick Sheridan, Jim Breaugh, and a guy who went to school with my brother.
Others guys who didn't return (class is what they would have been this year)
|60||Alex Schwab||DT||SR 5th||6'1||241|
|28||Matthew Cavanaugh||S||SR 5th||5'10||190|
|35||Jordan Barpal||WR||SR 5th||5'10||166|
|93||Kris Pauloski||PK||RS JR||6'3||204|
|32||O'Neil Swanson||RB||RS JR||5'10||162|
|96||Jeremy Ross||PK||RS SO||5'5||150|
This totally means: Gibbons YOU PUT IT THRU THE UPRIGHTS BRUNETTES!
Walk-ons you never heard of before:
|No.||Name||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Elig.||Hometown (High School)|
|13||Alex Swieca||QB||6'1||210||RS FR||New York, N.Y. (The Frisch School)|
|27||Jonathan Keizer||WR||6'5||205||RS FR||Portage, MI (Portage Northern)|
This totally means: Portage gets another shot. Hi Cat!
Baquer Sayed appears on the roster this year as well. For some reason he was on my old 2011 roster but didn't make it into the Bentley Records. Speaking of Bentley Records, WEIGHT GAIN 2012...oh. Nevermind, they haven't changed anything.
Here's Incredibly Svelt Miguel Cabrera instead.