“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
it's always a good time for this picture
The start of spring practice is an annual opportunity to dust off the stuff you posted titled "2012 outlook" in the aftermath of the bowl game, slightly revise it, and post it again. AnnArbor.com has a series previewing every position group… which… like… basically it's all the same except a couple places. I won't go into that much detail but it does feel like time for some State of the Team bullets after they got a lot of detail from Hoke in an interview.
Offensive line reshuffling. All those moves you've been hearing about since Danny Coale's misery finally ended in early January are now official per the head man:
To shore up those issues, Hoke said he is making several personnel changes as the Wolverines kick off their 14-practice spring camp Saturday.
The most prominent of those moves impacts redshirt senior Ricky Barnum, the former starting left guard who now will receive the first crack at replacing the Rimington Award-winning Molk at center. …
Returning centers Rocko Khoury, a senior, and Jack Miller, a redshirt freshman, also will be given a shot to win the job.
Meantime, Hoke said junior Michael Schofield, who filled in for Barnum at left guard, will slide back to his natural position of right tackle. He can play anywhere but center on the line, but his 6-foot-7, 299-pound frame makes him an ideal fit at tackle.
It appears the most wide-open job could be the vacated left guard position. When asked who were candidates for it, Hoke first mentioned Elliott Mealer, a senior who has played sparingly in his career.
"His opportunity, his time has come," Hoke said.
Schofield to right tackle, testing Barnum at center: both very much expected. Just look at Schofield's arms and frame at right. Dude is built to pass block. I expect he'll be an upgrade on Mark Huyge.
Chris Bryant is Mealer's main competition at left guard, but Miller and Khoury will be an indirect threat. If either is better than the potential starter at left guard they'll shuffle Barnum back to guard and roll with it.
A prediction: Barnum spends all of spring at center but slides back to guard in fall as Miller proves himself the best option for the fifth guy on the line. I don't think they're wild about Khoury and want to give themselves more options at center. College-ready Kyle Kalis will probably be given a crash course at right tackle to give Michigan a scholarship option in the event of an injury to one of the starters.
Defensive tackle reshuffling. You also know about Michigan throwing its top two guys at WDE inside, paving the way for the quicker Clark/Beyer generation of pass rush terror. We have little clarity on what positions a lot of guys will be playing in there, and spring will be an opportunity to figure out just where the most terrifying hole is on the depth chart.
Roh is a strongside end now and Black a three-tech. Where do Campbell and Washington go? Are Wilkins, Ash, and Rock viable options? Is Keith Heitzman a guy who can provide some depth as a redshirt freshman?
Linebacker pressing. Jake Ryan is a lock atop the depth chart. Elsewhere there have been some rumors that Kenny Demens could find his job under threat. Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is a hitter without a ton of athleticism who will get tested by redshirt freshman Antonio Poole and two of Michigan's three early enrollees, Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer. Bolden's probably an MLB in an ideal world and Ringer seems like a redshirt candidate, but once the pads go on those perceptions can change quickly.
Brandin Hawthorne's also around. He lost his job last year and it's clear Michigan thinks he's too small for the spot but I have this nagging feeling M is missing out on something by not incorporating him into the nickel package. His speed could be useful in coverage and on blitzes.
Wat? Let me untangle this bit of technical speak for you:
Hoke said linebacker Jordan Paskorz and defensive end Chris Eddins are moving to tight end "to get an on-the-line guy who can block a five-tech, or move a six-tech." Both could vie for time in the fall after the departure of starters Kevin Koger and Steve Watson.
A five tech is a strongside defensive end. He would be coming from the interior on an outside play and the TE can't get run over; on an inside play if the tight end is getting the five he's probably doing so as part of a double.
A six tech is what happens to a 4-3 under defense when the weakside end gets a tight end to him. In that case he has to bunker down and take on that tight end; if he gets sealed to the inside the corner is going to be there. Michigan wants a guy who can take a Clark or a Beyer or a Roh and get rid of him.
If you're reading the piles of players moving to tight end as a shot across the bow of the incumbents, you're probably right.
Scholarship clarity coming. Sounds like we might get another departure or two in the near future:
When asked if any players have left the program since the conclusion of last season, Hoke said he would "address that issue Friday" and declined further comment. His first news conference of spring camp is scheduled for noon Friday at Schembechler Hall.
He did say he doesn't expect to incur any academic problems.
A number of candidates bubble to mind but we'll find out in a couple days so no need to go speculating. If two scholarship guys exit before spring practice I'm bumping my projected class size to 24. Football teams don't go ten months without losing anyone. Also I like the idea of pushing this class to 24 a great deal. That's three WR, three LB, a couple DL, and a couple roving wild card supers unless Michigan goes ahead with that third TE.
Do you think Coach Beilein wasn't selective enough in the 2013 class, seeing that none of the recruits are in the top 50, and one of them is outside the top 100?
At this point Beilein has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to jumping on recruits early. When he grabbed Glenn Robinson III he was an unranked three-star; he is going to finish his high school career with five stars on Rivals and won't be far off on Scout. Nick Stauskas has broken into the top 100 on all sites as well; I think he'll be a fantastic two-guard for Michigan. Last year Beilein won a recruiting battle with Cincinnati for PSU decommit Trey Burke. The year before he grabbed Smotrycz before his profile blew up and was higher on Tim Hardaway Jr than anyone else. Beilein's evaluation skills are clearly a notch above the field.
So there's that. Beilein's taken a lot of lightly-regarded three stars who happen to blow up either before or after they hit Ann Arbor. Michigan's 2013 class may be in the process of doing that. Derrick Walton just went for 47 in a playoff game; Zak Irvin has had a strong high school season. I'm guessing those guys are more likely to move up than down, though Scout's Brian Snow doesn't seem like he's going to budge on Irvin just yet.
Even if those guys aren't in line for some of the meteoric rises we've seen Michigan recruits have, they don't have to get bumped much to be on par with 2012. Irvin's on the edge of the top 50 on Rivals and Walton is 87. They're starting out with more rep than Robinson or Stauskas, more rep than three of MSU's four 2012 commits.
As for Donnal, I don't care as much what the ratings say about him because it's at that five spot that Michigan is so divergent from a conventional team. Donnal has an extremely high skill level that makes him a great fit for Michigan. Hypothetical athletic limitations—which may or may not be a big deal for a post who just finished his junior year of high school—make him the #124 player in a nationwide ranking; in Beilein's eyes you can bet he's a lot higher.
When Carlton Brundidge, a guy who still has a lot of time to turn into a useful player, is the best case for a Beilein recruiting miss* attempting to criticize his 2013 class is like shooting a guy wearing six bulletproof vests.
*[I don't think anyone expected post-signing-day pickup Colton Christian to be anything other than what he is; jury is out on Bielfeldt. Beilein is making a lot of encouraging noises about him. #pleasebelikedraymondgreen
Also, a large number of Beilein recruits that went elsewhere have gone on to agonizingly good careers elsewhere: Kyle Kuric, Kevin Pangos, Klay Thompson, etc. Hell, Green was supposedly about to commit to Michigan before Izzo swooped in on him.]
A follow-up from the Michigan Today story featuring the "athletic colors" and the "official colors" that were so divergent:
After reading about university colors on MGoBlog, I thought you find find some additional information of interest.
An Ann Arbor News article from November 29, 1998, "Hue-ing the line: True blue, maize ways" follows up on the Fall 1996 Michigan Today story "Which Maize? Which Blue?" The 1912 official color color samples (housed at the Bentley Historical Library) were tested in 1997 with spectrophotometers by X-Rite (a company in Grandville, Michigan founded by Rufus Teesdale a Michigan graduate).
According to the Ann Arbor News article, the spectrophotometer readings were converted to printing instructions noting that the numbers "were tweaked a bit to account for some fading of the ribbons since 1912."
The spectrophotometer readings of the 1912 official color samples were:
MAIZE: 9 cyan, 28 magenta, 59 yellow, 0 black
BLUE: 93 cyan, 76 magenta, 24 yellow, 2 black
The 1912 report on the official colors reads a lot like current complaints about color, "In short, the blue color, which is the one longest associated with the University, starting with a shade almost as dark as "navy blue" has gradually weakened until it has the hint known as "baby blue." the maize, likewise, has faded to correspond, and is now an expressionless pale yellow. So delicate have the colors become, that they have not only lost their original character, but are ineffective in decorations, and useless to the Athletic association, which has been forced to employ colors entirely different from those which recent graduates regard as University colors. It is only necessary to see the diversity of the banners which are displayed in the store windows to realize the confusion which exists."
Every time I bring this up I'm pleasantly surprised by how seriously people take this. Again, I've heard that the athletic department would like to move away from the kind of yellow that gets us mentioned in the same breath with the Sounders and Oregon when SI writers are bagging on these babies:
I hope they come with sirens, ladders, and hoses
Let there come a day when Roy Roundtree is wearing sunglasses in Crisler just to look cool instead of prevent retina damage.
On Michigan's late game success.
You mentioned that you don't buy into the "grit" factor as a possible explanation into their 13-5 record given the difference in efficiency margin. I agree that Eckstein-adjectives don't rationalize the difference but I was curious if there is any game experience stats out there that could help.
I know that UM is still young in terms of overall team experience but there's no question in my mind that Novak and Douglas' four years of relevant playing time contributes to that record despite the efficiency. I would also think that having Morgan and Hardaway being second year starters adds to that explanation given the relative short time periods that excellent teams have their players for before they leave for the draft.
I don't know how you would measure it but is there anything that quantifies the experience of the players actually playing minutes in the game. Having two starters that have played significant time over four years has to be somewhat rare in the Big 10's upper tier.
Kenpom does have an experience measure that adjusts for minutes played. Michigan is 209th of 345 with an average of 1.54 years of experience. This is a massive improvement on last year when they were 335th*.
As for Michigan's super-experienced dudes, Michigan's two is better than OSU's one (Buford) and MSU's one (Green; Thornton has not seen a lot of time in his career), but Green has a usage of 28%, Buford 23%. Stu and Zack are around 15% each. Their involvement in the offense summed about equals Green's.
Meanwhile when I think clutch late-game performances, I think Trey Burke putting it as high off the glass as possible against OSU and hitting free throw after free throw. This blog has a tag about Burke's clutch play even though it tries not to believe in clutch. That's a freshman.
So I cannot agree with your police work here when poor Northwestern is so much more experienced (89th), relies two massive-usage upperclassmen, and endured maximum epic pain in all late game situations this year. BOOM REVERSE ANECDOTE'D.
In the face of the post-Merrit/Lee implosion I'm a convert to the gritty winning winners bit, but I think that's equally useful at all times during a game, in practice, etc., not especially at the end of a game.
*[BONUS KENPOM STATISTICAL OUTLIER: Michigan gets 17% of their minutes from its bench. That is 343rd(!) nationally. The only teams more reliant on their starters are Siena, a 14-17 MAAC team, and Youngstown State, a 16-15 Horizon League team.
Oddly enough, having few bench minutes is much less of a problem than having a ton. Alabama is the most bench-heavy team in the tournament at #45 and they are up there involuntarily after two starters were suspended midseason. #60 Kansas State is the first team on the list that seems to have voluntarily played its bench a lot. Life's better at the bottom: 14 teams in the 300s in this category (ie, a third of them) made the tourney, including S16 seeds Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisville, and Michigan.]
Today's recruiting roundup examines the bizarre weight-gain strategy of a walk-on long snapper, takes a sneak peek at the weekend's upcoming visits, and discusses a few top-flight wideouts with interest in seeing Ann Arbor.
Hello: Ryan Glasgow
2012 recruiting: not dead yet. Michigan picked up a preferred walk-on yesterday in Aurora (IL) Marmion St. Francis OL Ryan Glasgow, the younger brother of Michigan sophomore-to-be Graham Glasgow. The younger Glasgow is 6'4", 265, and held offers from Wyoming and a handful of FCS schools. Junior highlights:
Fellow 2012 preferred walk-on Taybor Pepper, a long snapper from Saline, was profiled on Ann Arbor.com by Rich Rezler. Pepper is looking to pack on some weight to his 6'3", 190 lbs. frame, and he has an interesting method for doing so:
Two raw eggs. One-third cup of olive oil. A big scoop of ice cream. Fresh fruit. Blend. Enjoy.
That unusual concoction is only part of Taybor Pepper’s nightly weight-gain routine.
He also whips up three peanut butter sandwiches. One goes on his nightstand, near the alarm clock set for 2 a.m., when he’ll wake and devour it in the dark.
The other two go in his backpack, a mid-morning snack during class at Saline High School that bridges a high-calorie breakfast and lunch.
Rocky Balboa and Elvis Presley both approve.
The running back situation. You have questions. The answers are, well, murky, even to some of the principal parties. Warren (OH) Howland RB DeVeon Smith will visit Michigan this weekend amidst rumors he's slowing down his recruitment—just a few days ago, it seemed he'd inevitably commit if Ty Isaac didn't beat him to the punch—and he seems either undecided or unsure about the situation at this point ($):
While Smith would not rule out the possibility of committing to Michigan this weekend, even he does not know what to expect.
“I don’t know,” Smith said. “I really don’t know. I’m really going to take it all in. I’m not going in planning to commit at all.”
Smith’s coach is currently in the process of coordinating upcoming visits to Ohio State and Penn State. Have any schools separated themselves from the pack at this point?
“Nobody really stands out,” Smith said.
I'm not going to speculate about what's going on without first-hand information, so you'll have to decide for yourself—or better yet, just wait and see how things play out—what this means regarding Smith and Isaac.
Another 2013 prospect who will be on campus is tight end Scott Orndoff, who decommitted from Wisconsin a couple weeks ago after changes to their coaching staff. He sounds like he could be eying another early decision, especially with the way Michigan's class is filling up ($):
“If I decide I want to go there, I will have to make a decision quickly,” Orndoff said, “because of how quickly they are filling their spots. Like every player I just want what is best for me. Like whether it would be the school (academics), or how much playing time I am going to get. There is a lot that goes into it (recruiting). But definitely the way this class is filling up, I can’t take my time if I decide to go there. They are not going got wait for me, you know.”
Orndoff is one of just two remaining uncommitted tight ends currently holding an offer from Michigan (the other being Standish Dobard); he seems like the most likely player to fill a potential third TE spot in the class.
Meanwhile, the Cass Tech connection continues, as a trio of Technician linebackers will make the quick trip down to Ann Arbor this weekend ($). All three players—OLB William White, OLB Deon Drake, and MLB Gary Hosey, who transferred to CT from Farmington Hills Harrison—are class of 2014 prospects. If you're wondering, the answer is yes, I will be seeing my fair share of Cass Tech games this fall.
Future Visitors, Interested Prospects, Happy Trails, Etc.
One player who was rumored to be making a mid-week visit is Cretin-Derham (MN) WR James Onwualu, but plans for a Wednesday visit fell through. That doesn't mean interest in the Wolverines isn't there, however, as Onwualu named a top four (in no particular order) of Michigan, Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Stanford ($). He's got visits scheduled for Ohio State and ND the next couple weekends, and expect him to reschedule his Michigan visit soon; the last time we talked, Onwualu was planning to graduate early and he's looking to wrap up his recruitment in the near future.
Two other four-star receivers have recently expressed interest in visiting Ann Arbor. Charlotte (NC) Mallard Creek's MarQuez North originally hails from Flint, and he's looking to visit Michigan "when it warms up," according to 247 ($, info in header). Smart kid. Wylie (TX) East's Marcell Ateman expects to check out the Wolverines soon, either in the spring or summer ($, info in header). Michigan also had a wideout on campus last weekend in Damascus (MD) prospect Zach Bradshaw, who rated his visit a "nine out of ten" and said he wants to check out Ann Arbor again in the future ($).
A couple more players to keep an eye on: District Heights (MD) Bishop McNamara DT Darius Commissiong, who recently earned an Iowa offer, will be in the Big House for the spring game on April 14th ($). Another potential future visitor is Elyria (OH) DE Tracy Sprinkle, who says the coaching staff has an offer waiting for him if he makes it to campus ($).
We can officially wish happy trails to TE Adam Breneman, who committed to childhood favorite Penn State last Friday, marking a huge recruiting victory for coach Bill O'Brien. Rancho Cucamonga (CA) CB Chris Hawkins was expected to commit to Stanford on Saturday, but a last-minute offer from USC has caused him to hold off for now ($, info in header). While Hawkins had Michigan in his final group, he never visited; expect him to stay out on the West Coast.
Quickly: Free Rivals article on Shane Morris, Brady Hoke, and Michigan's in-state recruiting efforts in comparison to other in-state schools (and, yes, in comparison to Rich Rodriguez—you know this story). Bill Greene looks at Hoke's impressive work in Ohio for the 2013 class ($). Commit Chris Fox is named Scout's top interior lineman in the West ($)—they do mention that he has the size and versatility to play anywhere on the line.
Iona is this year's controversial selection for the NCAA tournament. They booted Drexel and a few other schools based on their nonconference strength of schedule despite Drexel playing better in a better league—the CAA is Kenpom's #13 conference, the MAAC #20—and seeming to have a shinier resume. At some level, this is well and good. Teams should be punished for scheduling cupcakes.
It's just that… well…
When you look at the actual resumes instead of simply the non-conference strength of schedule, Drexel trumps Iona in just about every way possible. But they "only" played Cleveland State, Virginia, St. Joseph's, Princeton and six cupcakes ranked 200th or worse in RPI in non-conference, while Iona played Purdue, Marshall, Nevada, St. Joseph's, Long Island and four teams ranked 200th or worse.
…the NCAA's SOS measure took that data and spat out #43 for Iona's nonconference SOS and #222 for Drexel's. This seems deeply flawed, but when you hop over to Kenpom to see the Real Numbers, he's got the exact same gap. Iona is #36, Drexel #213.
Now let's look at three teams' nonconference schedules ranked from toughest to easiest. Each of these teams went 9-3 in the twelve games listed. Losses are in italics. Tourney teams are in bold with their seed in parens after:
|26||Virginia (10)||24||Purdue (10)||9||Memphis (8)|
|65||Saint Joseph's||65||Saint Joseph's||17||Duke (2)|
|82||Cleveland St.||74||Marshall||26||Virginia (10)|
|89||Princeton||78||Denver||30||Iowa St. (8)|
|213||Norfolk St. (15)||120||Vermont||156||Oakland|
|268||Bradley||181||Western Michigan||327||Arkansas Pine Bluff|
|308||St. Francis PA||221||Hofstra||338||Towson|
|343||Binghamton||287||William & Mary||340||Alabama A&M|
Which of these teams has by far the strongest nonconference schedule? Michigan. Drexel and Iona played one team capable of acquiring an at-large bid each; Michigan played four plus a middling Pac-12 team and not so good SEC team. From the perspective of the good teams that expect to get in the tournament, any differences at the bottom are meaningless.
Is Michigan's nonconference SOS a lot better than both these teams? No.
Is it better than Drexel's atrocious number? Barely. Michigan has the #181 nonconference strength of schedule to Kenpom, #173 to the NCAA($).
The reason for this is the bottom end. Michigan didn't just play some bad teams, they played some unbelievably bad teams. Towson won once all year. The two SWAC teams weren't even good SWAC teams: Alabama A&M went 7-21, Arkansas Pine Bluff 11-22. These SOS measures just jam a bunch of wins and losses together without taking the fact that there's not much difference between 1-31 Towson and 18-14 Western Illinois from the perspective of the tourney aspirant being evaluated. This places a high priority on avoiding truly wretched teams in favor of merely bad ones.
This isn't just a matter of concern for potential at-large bids. Missouri almost fell
to off the two line because their nonconference SOS fell apart:
When asked about Missouri's status as a potential 1-seed following the revealing of the bracket, Hathaway said, simply, that they were not only out of consideration for a No. 1, but they were the lowest-ranked No. 2 because of their strength of schedule. It didn't matter that they had as many wins (11) versus the RPI Top 50 as anybody else in the Field of 68; it only mattered that they didn't try hard enough to schedule better teams in non-conference … even if, technically, they had.
That's Bill Connolly arguing that the NCAA should dump NCSOS from consideration. Sippin' on Purple has a similar argument. I agree that the model needs to change. Either dump it entirely and eyeball it or to a probability-of-victory model where a random collection of 5'9" guys from nowhere is functionally equivalent to an organized collection of 5'10" guys from nowhere. Calculate an average tournament team's average record against a collection of nonconference teams and use that as your SOS metric.
If that happens, great. Until it does Michigan should learn from the tables above and adopt the following policies:
- Never play a team from a conference that never gets off the 16 line. Looking at you, SWAC.
- Don't play a team coming off a 4-26 year. Towson, other completely terrible nonentities under 300 from random minor conferences.
- Do schedule quality programs from minor conferences. Find out who's supposed to be the first, second or third place team in conference X and play them. Oakland is actually a fantastic matchup here for SOS purposes. Michigan should play more MAC teams than no MAC teams. If you're going to play a mid-major, make it a mid-major.
- Play Notre Dame annually. This has nothing to do with anything. It's just that Michigan should play ND every year. I don't understand why this doesn't happen.
It is true that Michigan's had some narrow escapes against middling or worse teams in tourney years (Harvard by 3 last year, the vague threat when WIU got within four right at the end this year, OT against Savannah St in 2009), but the first two tourney teams were bubble battlers. Going forward Michigan hopes its teams are going to be big and athletic enough to crush poor competition without much thought.
If Michigan thinks it's going to be a big dog as soon as Little Big Dog and company arrive next year, it should schedule like a big dog should. Aim higher with your cupcakes and get the boost. Even if it only gives Michigan a higher seed every once in a while, it's a low-cost way to up the program's profile. Schedule smart by playing teams who'll have shiny records against dodgy competition by the end of the year. The dogs have got to go.
I hit up Hustle Belt's Matt Sussman to enquire about the OHIO Bobcats. Matt's a BGSU man himself but has taken in scads of MAC basketball this year. Hit his site Hustle Belt or follow him on twitter. Curling tweets!
Matt was also good enough to clarify the origin of Ohio being OHIO: "if you gander at ohio.edu you'll see the all caps damn near everywhere. Just doing what they want, to the extreme." The Mountain Dew of schools. Still, they annihilated GT.
It's a terrible strain on OHIO football fans to get mentally prepared for, say, Kent State then suddenly hear in the news that they might be playing Michigan, spend $50 on a one-game ticket, watch film on Denard then finally realize what Brady Hoke is doing. All this money adds up especially when compounded with student loans and translates directly into 4.6 points per basketball contest.
There are a few things that leap off the page when you hit up OHIO's Kenpom sheet:
1) Turnovers forced. The Bobcats are second nationally. DJ Cooper has an Aaron Craft-like steal percentage. Can he give Trey Burke as much trouble as Craft, or is he more of a high-risk, high-reward type of guy? Do they use weird zones or is this just a man to man D that gets into passing lanes really well?
Coop (the kids call him Coop) is kind of a risk-taker and they'll go between zone and man. Really I think the entire team is so solid defensively that they can allow Cooper (sportswriters call him Cooper) to really frustrate his man.
2) Three-point defense. Pomeroy has dedicated a series of posts this fall to the idea that three point D is basically luck and that the real number to look at is the number of threes conceded. The Bobcats are great at the former (19th nationally, 30%) and not good at the latter (36% of opponent shots are from three, 261st). Not to denigrate the MAC, but is this a league with a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks?
Well, four of the five first team All-MACers were power forwards, so ... maybe kinda. (The fifth was DJ Cooper, FWIW.) Couple theories on this: the one you mentioned, or that their interior defense is better than advertised so all they have left is to shoot the three. I can think of one "chucker" in the MAC and he plays for Buffalo, a team they beat three times despite having two outstanding forwards and a better seed in the MAC Tournament.
3) Speaking of a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks, if you click the conference toggle for the Bobcats Kenpom tells you they're dead last at shooting threes (barely over 30%) and take a ton (38%). These guys are just going to shoot over guys without even trying to find an open shot a lot, right?
Is this another question about DJ Cooper? Because yes. I think the ghost of Tommy Freeman does inhabit the occasional Bobcat from time to time. The only one who usually makes them is Clark Kellogg's son Nick, and if CBS wants to run that storyline into the ground they'll find a way. And yes, they are prone to going three-happy, and risk-taking in general on offense. Oh, that can sometimes have hilarious results.
As far as individual matchups go, it looks like OHIO is actually bigger than Michigan. M rotates Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan at the five and will have both on the floor for a few minutes per game; it looks like Ohio has a 6'8" two-headed center and an actual power forward named Ivo Baltic. How much of a post force is he? Can Zack Novak reasonably match up against him?
Anytime I see Baltic play, he has some nice quick moves whether it's to the basket or to separate for a 10- to 15-footer. He's a reliable 4 but I wouldn't call him one of the tops in the MAC ... just one of the many sound interior players along with Reggie Keely and Jon Smith.
DJ Cooper (right) has a monster assist rate, draws a ton of fouls, shoots well from the line... and is pretty horrible at all other shots. Poor man's Lewis Jackson: fair comparison? What does he have to do to make Michigan worry?
The team is nothing without him but he can't be everything. When he stays as a true point guard he's at his best. He can score 20 points as long as he lets Baltic and Keely and Kellogg and Offutt also score 10 or 15 points. If those other guys are getting into position and he can pass to them regularly, then he's going to put Michigan in a world of hurt.
While he can sometimes get the big shot, he's not particularly known for it. Dangle that carrot in his face that the game depends on his very next shot with 12 minutes to go and that may be the key to his undoing.
Is there anything in what Ohio does that seems likely to give an undersized, outside-shooting-dependent, shallow Big Ten team issues?
You gave away the answer already! Three-point defense. Take Northern Iowa for example. Big-time reliant on the 3-point shooting, not a lot of inside size. OHIO's guards contested lots of threes, rebounded well, and they put UNI away by several points on the road. It was a big win at the time that looks progressively worse with age, but that's basically the blueprint. Strong guard defense, get everybody involved on offense.
Two years ago OHIO took down three-seeded Georgetown by 14, with Cooper featuring. Anything other than a coaching talking point to be taken from that? Repeatable due to scheme and talent?
Keely got some points, Baltic had a cameo appearance, but other than Cooper's great game and John Groce being present and clapping and stomping I'm not putting much stock into that anomaly. Let's remember that OHIO was a NINE seed in the MAC tournament that year. They were about as inconsistently hot that year as a Hot Pocket. It's been two years since the Georgetown upset and I still can't figure out how it happened other than to say it was just the best two-week stretch of Armon Bassett's life and maybe he was bitten by a radioactive basketball.
On an upset alert scale ranging from "Captain Renault is shocked that Kansas underperformed its seed" to "Sixteen seed takes down one," how would you rate this 4-13 matchup?
Sir Lancelot, played by D.J. Cooper, single-handedly storming the castle where a wedding is being held, but never gaining ground. Like many other 4-13s: can happen, might happen, probably won't happen, not willing to wager money it won't happen.
MAC rivals have started calling the Bobcats "Ohio State," right?
That's not really fair to a team that will actually travel to a MAC school for a game.
Novi (MI) Detroit Catholic Central running back Wyatt Shallman committed to Michigan during the Greatest Mid-February Weekend in the History of Mid-February Weekends, giving the Wolverines one of the top in-state athletes in the class of 2013. Shallman plays running back, defensive end, and defensive tackle for CC, but he'll come to Ann Arbor as a tailback. I caught up with Wyatt over the weekend to discuss his commitment, future role, and physical style of play:
ACE: What made you decide a couple weekends ago that it was the right time to commit to Michigan?
WYATT: There's a couple things that went into it, but my dad and I went down to Michigan and talked to Coach Jackson real in-depth. Just hearing his side of it and talking to more of the coaches made the difference.
ACE: What did you get into when you talked to Coach Jackson? What did he tell you that firmed things up for you?
WYATT: We just talked about positions and how he sees me playing. It checked out with the things that I want to do.
ACE: Specifically, I know there have been a lot of questions when it comes down to position, how do they plan on using you when you come to school?
WYATT: At running back, and that's what I want to play, so that's why I liked it.
ACE: What do you think are your biggest strengths on the field, especially when it comes to being a running back. What do you bring that isn't necessarily what your more traditional running back might bring?
WYATT: There's not too many running backs who are 6'3", 250. I think I bring a lot of speed and power for that size of back, so I think that's what I bring to the game. I'm a one-cut running, so I think I'm going to bring back the power game to Michigan. I don't dance too much, that's what I think I'm good at.
ACE: You said you're weighing in at about 250 right now. Have the coaches said what size they'd like you to be at when you come to school?
WYATT: No, we haven't really talked about that. I think they like the size that I'm at and the speed that I'm at. I could always get faster, but if I can keep this weight and get faster, why not?
ACE: Going back to your commitment, you committed during what ended up being a crazy weekend of commits. What was it like seeing a large part of the class come together during that weekend?
WYATT: It was pretty crazy. You don't really get too many weekends like that in recruiting, so it was pretty exciting to see all the big names go up there on the ticker. Just seeing my name on ESPN was pretty sweet.
ACE: It seems like you guys have become a pretty tight-knit group of players. Which players do you keep in contact with, and what's it like being with a group that's already so tight-knit with 11 months to go before signing day?
WYATT: It's pretty interesting to have that. I keep in touch with Khalid Hill and Shane [Morris] and Kyle Bosch a lot. The reason I keep in touch with Shane is, you know, we play them, so that's always interesting. Khalid is just a nice kid, and then Kyle I've been texting a lot. It's an interesting thing because back even a couple years ago you really don't even know anyone until you get to the school, and now with social media and all that stuff you can really become friends with people before you really get to meet them and hang out with them a lot. It's a blessing in disguise because you get to come in with that unity on the team, but you're not quite a team yet. It's great.
ACE: You also had your teammate Matt Godin committing last year. Were you talking to Matt at all before you made your decision?
WYATT: He gave me advice on how to handle the recruiting process. He didn't really force Michigan on me, which I liked. He just said, "you've got to make the right decision for you and your family," so that really helped a lot. It just happened to be Michigan and that's where he happened to go, so it all worked out.
ACE: Looking forward to next season, you guys have a little bit of unfinished business at Catholic Central. What's the goal for next year both for the team and for you personally?
WYATT: For the team and I, it's always a state championship. It was a disappointing season last year to get to the state title game and lose in that fashion, but it's put a lot of oomf in our steps and we've been working out every day for the past two months now just to get ready for the season, so it's kind of a blessing in disguise to lose like that. Now we know what it takes to get to a state championship and we know we have to work a little bit harder to win it. It'll be an exciting season for our team, we have a lot of people coming back, and we have some great talent. Me, personally, I just want to go for 1,000 yards rushing, do great on defense, and just help my team win a state championship. That's the name of the game so that's what I'm trying to do.
ACE: You mentioned working out every day with your teammates, and I also saw that you've been working out with Mike Barwis, too. What's it like getting into the weight room with Barwis?
WYATT: It's pretty crazy. He's an intense dude about it. It helps a lot, and it's cool—I do a lot of the power lifting and conditioning at school, so when I go to Barwis it's more of like the tuner muscles and that sort of thing, and the fine running motion. It's pretty interesting to pick his brain about all he knows about the subject and certain little nuances of everything. It's interesting to talk to him about all of it, and like I said, he's a crazy guy, he likes to get after it, so it's pretty exciting to lift with him.
ACE: Talking about Michigan's coaching staff real quick, what set them apart from the other coaches you interacted with when going through the recruiting process?
WYATT: They're just a great bunch of guys. They're really lighthearted, but they like to get down to work, and that's the way I am. I love to joke around, I love to have fun, but once you have to do it you have to get down to work and that's the way they are. That's what I'm really excited for. It just felt right, it felt like family. I want people who want to help me grow as a man and not just a football player, and I really feel like that staff can help me, so that's why I liked them and I'm excited to get in and work with them.
ACE: What else about Michigan stood out to you?
WYATT: Just their tradition; they're always going to be one of the top college football teams ever. You can't really contest Michigan and what they've done in college sports. It's a universal name, you can go anywhere and people know about Michigan and what they do. That's always been an attractive thought about Michigan, so that's why I've always kinda liked them. Also, it's a great school. You can't get too much better than a public Ivy, you can really set yourself up for later in life. Even though the reason why I'm going to Michigan right now is for football, I have to get ready for after the NFL, so it's a great place to be.
ACE: I've seen quotes from you, and I remember you saying something along these lines when I interviewed you last year, about the physical aspect of football and your enjoyment of "smashing heads," as I think you like to say. What is it about the physical side of football that you enjoy so much?
WYATT: There's not too many sports you can play where you can basically maul people and not get in trouble for it. Football is one of those sports. You can't walk around in public and just hit people as hard as you want to, you'll get arrested. Football lets you do that and that's why I've always liked it. Ever since I was a little kid I've always liked to hit. My dad, he played college football for Grand Valley, he's always loved it. I just grew up loving it. It's truly an arena where men can show their skills and test each other against other men and really show what you've got, so that's why I like. It truly is the gridiron and you've got to go out there and be a man amongst boys.
ACE: That seems almost like a defensive mentality when it comes to football. Would you say that's something extra that you bring to the offensive side of the football when you're playing, that willingness to hit people and bring that physical side to it?
WYATT: Yeah. I've learned a lot of my physicality just from playing at Catholic Central. We're a running football team, we hit you. I've always thought if you play offense like you're on defense, they can't really stop you, because you've got both sides of the ball going at you, you can't really get too much better. If you hit people like that—I think you want to shell-shock a defense into not wanting to hit you, so that's the whole mentality about it and that's what Catholic Central teaches, so that's what I've kinda come to love.