things go poorly
A couple summers ago, I delved back into the blogspot days to look at Brian's 2008 recruiting posts and how well players lived up to expectations. There were high points, like Mike Martin wrestling Not Mike Martin. These were accompanied by lows such as "Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit." The McGuffie mixtape was rewatched, wistfully.
I forgot to continue the series last summer, so I'm picking it back up with the 2009 class; conveniently, all the players from that class have completed their time in the program, so it's easier to give a fair retrospective on their careers. If you want to go back and look though the old posts yourself, the Tate Forcier profile features links to every player.
While that last link is a nice teaser for the offense portion of this exercise, today I'll be looking at the 2009 defensive recruits. Brace yourselves.
I'm gonna go ahead and get the defensive back portion of this post over with, as the four commits in the secondary were Vlad Emilien, Thomas Gordon, Justin Turner, and Adrian Witty. Emilien's projection was a harbinger of doom for U-M's future situation at safety:
Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.
Brian, today, on this quote: "I was so innocent then."
Smith moved to outside linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer near the end of the 2009 season, ending up at Temple and never doing anything of consequence there. Emilien followed a similar path, playing a little special teams as a true freshman, then transferring after the first game in 2010 when Jordan Kovacs put a death grip on the strong safety spot. He ended up as, yup, an outside linebacker at Toledo, where he made 15 tackles as a senior last year.
|omg shirtless heroin-laced carrot|
Witty never actually made it onto the team due to academic issues, eventually landing at Cincinnati, where he's the top returner in the secondary this year. Not getting him through admissions may be viewed as a recruiting failure, but in context, it was totally worth it:
Adrian Witty, a teammate of Denard Robinson, is Denard Robinson's teammate. On this team, which they share, they play together. Also, Witty and Denard Robinson attended the same high school. At this high school, they played on a team which they shared and played together on: they were teammates.
That should be clear. Many, many folks regard Witty's offer as the heroin-laced carrot used to lure critical QB recruit Denard Robinson away from Urban Meyer's clutches and to Michigan's post-apocalyptic frozen wastes.
Even though Witty would've been, at worst, the second-best defensive back in this class for U-M, there are no hard feelings here. We salute you, heroin-laced carrot.
The most hyped recruit in the class was Massillon, Ohio's Justin Turner, a top-35 overall player to both Rivals and Scout.* It wasn't hard to see what all the excitement was about:
That excitement only grew after Turner tore it up at Army All-American Game, to the point that his recruitment post led off with a discussion of one of those B/R "[touted recruit] is [football titan]" posts:
If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:
"Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man."
IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)
Brian took the conservative tack, comparing Turner to... Marlin Jackson. Let's just move along.
The one defensive back to actually make a positive impact on the field at U-M, Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, came in as a relatively anonymous recruit. He got Brandent Englemon for his "YMRMFSPA" and this projection:
General Excitement Level: Well… he is the lowest-ranked non-kicker in the class, and that's probably for a reason.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and will likely require at least two years before he's ready to see the field on defense. The most likely (but by no means assured) outcome is that he doesn't contribute much.
Yes, it's possible for a Cass Tech recruit to exceed expectations.
[*ESPN was a skeptical outlier, listing him as their #21 athlete. Point, ESPN.]
|At least Mike Jones provided us this picture.|
General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out.
I won't spend much time on these guys simply because there isn't a whole lot to talk about, but I will note that when a search for a player comparison goes like this, there's a pretty good chance you've got a serious tweener on your hands:
So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings.
Brian suggested Hawthorne "may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D," and hoo boy did some bad memories just come flooding back. Quick, to the defensive line!
THORQWASH & The Crab Person
Between this and the legendary hood slide, we're all good, Big Will.
Justin Turner wasn't the only five-star recruit to the established recruiting sites to get some major skepticism from ESPN. Will Campbell's rankings went #35 overall (Scout), #26 overall (Rivals), and... #21 offensive tackle (ESPN). Another point for the Worldwide Leader. Like Turner, an outstanding Army game performance added to the hype, as did pictures like this...
...and, for entirely different reasons, this:
WE GOT THOR.
In retrospect, however, maybe we should've seen Campbell's future weight issues coming:
Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.
"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."
Even though he didn't have the desired impact until a solid, though not five-star-caliber, senior season, Campbell always gave a hell of a quote. Brian's Gabe Watson comparison was pretty on point; though Big Will didn't come close to Watson's production, they were similar players—jovial, wildly talented, bull-strong, big fans of food—with similar hype coming to Ann Arbor.
|craaaaaaab people craaaaaab people|
Michigan landed two defensive ends in the top-100 range in the class: Craig Roh (right) and Anthony LaLota. While Roh never became an edge-rushing terror, he managed to consitently produce and improve despite boucing between positions—not to mention different defensive schemes that didn't necessarily fit his skill set—for his entire career due to factors outside his control. This comparison both worked and, well, didn't work:
Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.
The tweener aspect of the comparison was spot-on, but Roh ended up being a very different player from Crable, more disciplined and able to hold the point of attack but far less explosive off the edge.
As for LaLota, he received one of the most random YMRMFSPA comps in this blog's history:
Alain Kashama… except good!
Kashama was a total project at Michigan, coming in with little football experience—as did LaLota, who played just 12 games of organized football before hitting campus—before settling in as a reserve pass-rushing specialist, eventually totaling six career sacks.
That ended up being six more career sacks than LaLota recorded, as he transferred back to home-state Rutgers two weeks into his sophomore season, where he quit football to focus on his education after a move to tight end saw him buried on the depth chart.
We end with the class curveball, Quinton Washington, whom everybody evaluated as an interior offensive lineman—with most saying he had a ton of potential there, this blog included:
General Excitement Level: High. It's clear the coaches were nuts about this guy and he's got the offers and recruiting mojo to back it up.
Projection: Though the coaches have suggested Washington might see the field this year—they think he's that ready—a redshirt makes more sense with Schilling's move inside solidifying the interior line. He'll have to fight Ricky Barnum to replace Moosman next year; if he loses that battle he'll be the odds on favorite to replace Schilling in 2011.
Steve Schilling, in fact, was his player comparison. Washington instead moved to nose tackle early in the 2010 season, worked his way into a starting role as a junior, earned the nickname QWASH, and gave the defense a proficient space-eater until his role mysteriously diminished last season.
The real answer is Roh, but one could make a reasonable argument that Michigan's most critical 2009 defensive recruit was a guy who never played a down for the Wolverines: heroin-laced carrot (seriously, Brian, how the hell do you come up with these things?) Adrian Witty.
so so fast
Not so fast. Incoming transfer Ty Isaac wants to play next year, and has at least some sort of case to do so. Is it enough? While we are talking about an insane organization that could do anything, the consensus is probably not.
"(The family health issue) has to be a debilitating injury," said John Infante, a former NCAA compliance officer who operates the popular "Bylaw Blog" for AthNet. "It doesn't have to be life-threatening, necessarily, but it would have to be something that prevented her from working or getting around, if it's a surgery for hearing loss, I'm not sure if that'll qualify, but it might."
And then the 100-mile thing kicks in. If Isaac was 109 miles away, you could probably fudge the difference. Michigan's distance from Peoria might be problematic.
From Michigan's perspective, moving Isaac a year behind Smith and Green is better for roster balance… but not so good for this year, when offensive production is critical for the perception of the program.
O'Bannoning. The O'Bannon trial kicked off yesterday, and there were highlights. The NCAA wanted O'Bannon to know that a man he respected thought college athletes should not be paid.
After establishing that O'Bannon looks up to Bill Walton, attorney pulls up article Walton wrote saying student-athletes shouldn't be paid.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) June 9, 2014
It was determined that Noted Legal Scholar Bill Walton has a legally binding opinion and the case ended 15 minutes later with a comprehensive NCAA victory. : (
In case the previous sentence is not true, you may want to read about the issues addressed on day one of the trial. The NCAA is trying to show that the college experience is worth something, which I guess sure it is. How that relates to publicity rights and the law is… well, there's a reason Bill Walton is getting brought up.
In related news, the NCAA blinks in the Keller case, settling that for 20 million. They have again asserted that current student-athletes who receive a check for their likeness will not have their eligibility compromised, because that's ridiculous. As long as compensation for your likeness is mandated by a court after the fact, you can profit off of it.
"In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance."
It's just getting paid for something without having to sue they have problems with. Delightfully, the NCAA is going to try to argue that there is no market for college athlete's images after settling two lawsuits in which 60 million dollars have been issued in compensation for those images. Oh, and EA says they would have paid if they could have.
Also a prime NCAA argument: the ban on compensation is required for a level playing f—
“If you’ve got a $6 million athletic budget, you shouldn’t be worrying about what I do,” [Washington president Michael] Young contends. “You’re never going to compete with us. We don’t recruit the same players. We don’t even play on the same field. It just doesn’t matter.”
A potential factor. The student section is collapsing this year, and MLive has a potential reason why. Prices:
Ohio State -- $252 for 7 games
Penn State -- $218 for 7 games
Wisconsin -- $188 for 7 games
Iowa -- $175 for 7 games, $165 with future alumni group discount
Michigan State -- $175 for 7 games
Nebraska -- $166 for 7 games
Purdue -- $119 for 7 games
Illinois -- $99 for 7 games
Rutgers -- $99 for 6 games
Minnesota -- $90 for 7 games
Indiana -- $60 for 6 games
Maryland and Northwestern -- tickets free with full tuition and student fee payment
Michigan's is 50 bucks more than Ohio State; unlike Ohio State, Michigan is barely above .500 since 2007. And Ohio State has a big game or two on the schedule. Once again, Michael Proppe sounds like the adult:
"We did a survey for students while we were researching the general admission policy, we told them 'assume the price stayed the same, here's the schedule for next year, even if we went back to reserved seating, how many would renew their tickets?' I think it was about 68 percent who said they'd renew.
"(The drop) was pretty predictable, actually, even with going back to a more attractive ticket policy that a lot of people would drop their seats."
And about 68% renewed. It's kind of amazing that it's the student government that had to survey the students.
"What we want is the students who buy tickets to show up," Brandon said. "If what we've done is lost some of the students that really weren't interested in attending, if you're looking at the projected reduction in tickets, that's almost the equivalent of the no-show average we had (last year)."
The no-show rate is not going to go down much, as the kind of people who no-show games aren't the ones for whom three hundred bucks is kind of a big deal. Michael Proppe for athletic director.
Everybody into the pile. I thought Michigan's hockey roster was going to be crowded this fall. Now it's going to be jammed. Michigan picked up a commitment from Ann Arbor native Niko Porikos a couple days back. Porikos is a '93, which means he'll arrive at 21. Generally this is a sign of a gentleman who is destined to be a healthy scratch for most of his career, and… well, yeah, probably.
In Porikos's favor, defensemen do take time to develop, and given the state of the roster it's not like they need a guy to be a practice body.
Michigan has seven defensemen on the roster, plus incoming freshmen Sam Piazza and Cutler Martin. Porikos is number ten…
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Zach Werenski and what appears to be a Swedish ten-year old
Michigan has not quite acquired a commitment from U17 defenseman Zach Werenski. Poke a guy on twitter, or especially Mike Spath—who was way out ahead of the story but has to be careful for the same reasons Sam Webb does—and he'll say Werenski is going to be in Ann Arbor. They'll generally do this with an "ugh" because Werenski is kind of a big deal, a potential top ten draft pick, and they are Boston College fans who thought they were going to get him.
The thing is: he's a potential top ten draft pick in 2015, and Werenski is probably going to be playing for Michigan this fall. IE: dude is skipping his senior year of high school. Thus the "eh, maybe" aspect of this whole thing, where Spath drops hints for months and all the news comes from the BC side of things.
Adding Werenski would put Michigan at a whopping 11 defensemen, and while a few of them are not real threats to play (Spencer Hyman redshirted last year; Mike Szuma didn't get a game after playing most of his freshman year), I thought there was some Title IX-related reason that Michigan couldn't have a really big roster. Maybe not? Title IX compliance comes down to a court saying you are or are not, because the law is written pretty vaguely.
While we're on next year's hockey team, Dylan Larkin is ranked ninth by HockeyProspect.com. That's the highest I've seen, and while he's more likely to go in the 20s than the top ten it does seem at this point that he's likely to go in the first round unlike some of Michigan's recent projected first rounders (Compher, Merrill).
So it's come to this. I assume that Erin Lennon of the Daily has not been around too long, so let me gently suggest that this…
…expect Porikos and Michigan’s underclassmen to play key roles in coach Red Berenson’s defensive-minded system.
…is more a product of sad circumstance than intent, and that if you insist on claiming that Red Berenson is some sort of trap aficionado I will become desolately sad.
It was football. Someone remind me next year when the European American Football Championships are on, because when Germany and Austria face off you get reverse passes and squat kickers doing the Manziel:
So Austria's kicker just made the Manziel $$$ sign after nailing a field goal. You should be watching this. pic.twitter.com/zBdMYL5GTK
— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) June 7, 2014
Turns out the Germans and the Austrians have some bad blood here, and that's all you really need.
Etc.: Graham Glasgow was driving a merry car indeed. The NCAA hasn't even bothered to investigate North Carolina. The NCAA would probably prefer it if Washington's president would stop saying things. Mathlete's Lego stadiums make Yahoo.
But Is He ELITE? (Yes.)
Before rankling a certain perpetually aggrieved blogger with one of the most innocuous rivalry tweets ever, Alex Malzone earned himself a bid to the Elite 11 finals with an outstanding performance at the Columbus regional. 247's Barton Simmons put him at the top of the list when running down the best QBs in the "Pressure Chamber" drill (video above):
Alex Malzone – Malzone, the Michigan commit, had a very solid evening and had one of the better arms at the event. He also has good active feet in and outside the pocket. He could blend in at times but he definitely rose to the occasion during his pressure chamber showing. Of his five throws, four of them were dimes that he threw with a lot of command. He missed on a dig route but all in all, he had a strong output on his rival’s field. Later Monday night Malzone earned an invitation to the Elite 11 finals, securing one of the final 18 spots.
Scout's Allen Trieu was also impressed, though it sounds like Malzone still has a little work to do on his mechanics ($):
Malzone was generally on the money. His passes down the seam were excellent and showed the arm to hit the deep outs as well. As noted in the past, he has a hitch in his delivery, but the ball comes out of his hand nicely, with good pace, and he's an accurate passer.
Fellow commit Tyree Kinnel took the field last weekend at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and ranked #5 on their list of top defensive backs at the invite-only event ($):
Multiple times on out routes, Kinnel came up and stepped in front of the pass. He showed off great instincts and a great ability to read receivers' routes and then come up to make the play. Kinnel's backpedal is smooth and then he turns and runs well with receivers. Kinnel is set with his Michigan commitment.
Interestingly, Rivals listed Kinnel as a cornerback; while Michigan recruited him as a safety, he's displayed the requisite coverage ability to have positional flexibility in the secondary. After the event, Kinnel told the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga he's fully committed to U-M despite recent overtures from Alabama and Michigan State.
[Hit THE JUMP for coverage of Ty Isaac's impact on the 2015 RB situation, Grant Newsome's upcoming decision, weekend visit reactions, a potential five-star visitor, and more.]
So That Was Odd And Didn't Happen
PROTIP: DON'T GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH "ABORT" WITHOUT "MISSION"
WVU transfer Eron Harris is headed to MSU, and without ever visiting Ann Arbor. This was seemingly a mutual decision after a conversation before the visit, as Harris had a vision of the way he wanted it to go that Beilein did not share. So, okay. Whatever.
2015 Class: Still Trying To Exist
Moving on, the 2015 roster now looks approximately like this, give or take a Caris NBA departure or miraculous Hatch recovery:
- PG: Walton (Jr), Albrecht (Sr)
- SG: MAAR(So)
- SF: Irvin (Jr), Dawkins (So)
- PF: Chatman (So), Wilson (So), Bielfeldt(Sr)
- C: Doyle (So), Donnal (So)
You could probably slide Irvin and Chatman down a spot, but the upshot is that Michigan would like a guy approximately shaped like a shooting guard. Given the age and NBA departure threat levels of the folks on the roster, a PG/SG combo would be a nice fit. Prime candidates include offerees like MI combo Eric Davis, IL PG Jalen Brunson, and IN SG Jalen Coleman. All of these gentlemen have Michigan in a leading group, and MSU adding two 2015 SG types in a couple days should help Michigan out—MSU is also in the lead group for all those gentlemen.
Status for those three:
Davis wants to narrow by July, take officials in August and September, and decide by October. He wants to shoot a lot of threes, so we've got that going for us.
Brunson has a top eight including Michigan that he wants to narrow in August, and then he'll take officials and decide before the November signing period. Playing time has always been a major priority for him, so Michigan might actually want him to wait until spring. If he decides before it's clear whether Caris enters the draft (or Walton—longshot I know, but I'd like to introduce you to 10% of this year's first round).
Coleman, as per usual, has not provided any indication of when or where he might commit. He did tell a 247 gentleman that he was planning on "cutting his list soon" and that fit (check), opportunity (likely check) and proximity to home (eh… close enough?) are his main priorities.
Coleman has been too busy making rims explode on the AAU circuit to get too much into recruiting, where he's shooting 50% from three on almost 100 attempts. 247's Crystal Ball still says Michigan almost all the way, but with Coleman telling folks that "to this point, Coleman's dad has been in charge of the recruitment—with Jalen having little involvement" means that you should take any and all thoughts/hopes Michigan leads with a graint of salt.
2015 Big Options
If Chatman does end up sliding down to the 3, which is very possible with his skill set, Michigan would have a reasonably-sized opening for either a 4 or a 5, depending on where they want to play Mark Donnal long term. There are a couple options in this recruiting class still.
One is OH PF Esa Ahmad, who's a little undersized at 6'7" but has been playing well and is planning visits to both MSU and Michigan. Another is 6'10" Henry Ellenson, a power forward out of Wisconsin with three point range and a lot of high-major interest. Michigan is currently on the periphery pending the all-important visit:
"Michigan was at my house, and so was Michigan State," Ellenson said. "Michigan has been talking to me lately. I like Coach [John] Beilein down there. He is a great guy and easy to talk to.
"I know I will take my five officials next fall, but I'm not sure where I am going yet. I know they are big on coming to campus. We'll just see if the timing works out."
Get 'em on campus, etc. Ahmad and Ellenson are both ranked around 50 or 60 most places… except ESPN, which has Ellenson 5th(!) overall.
Michigan's elite camp has come and gone with three headliners: NJ SG Tyus Battle, NV PG Derryck Thornton Jr, and MI PG Cassius Winston, all 2016 five-stars. Those three were the class of the camp, according to Scout. Sam Webb on Thornton($):
This kid has all of the tools. Elite quickness, explosion, three-point range, and he is unselfish. He crossed too many players over to really keep track of and was generally capable of getting to wherever he wanted on the floor. Thornton excels in space, which is why it wasn’t a surprise to see him wave off ball screens. He just doesn’t need them to leverage on a defender.
[Much, much more at the link, FWIW.]
Despite that, the Scout guys generally thought Winston was better right now, though Thornton had more upside because of the whole nobody-can-stay-in-front thing. Battle is a lights-out 6'5" shooter.
Other notables($) included IN SG Kyle Guy ("a much smaller Nik Stauskas"), OH C Jon Teske ("6-10 and skilled … the physical part will come"), and OH SF Seth Towns ("6-7 shooter" whose shot wasn't falling). I don't think Guy or Teske will get offers until M lets Battle and TJ Leaf think about theirs; Towns is still a possibility since Michigan doesn't seem to have a guy obviously in front of him on their board, but it sounds like that offer may take a little bit longer to come.
Teske seems like he's almost recruiting M at this point, and a 6'10" guy with skill inside and out is someone Michigan will be keeping an eye on.
Thorton's vague top five
Thornton told Scout that five teams were coming for him hardest: Kentucky, Michigan, UConn, Cal, and USC. Those kind of statements are generally soft top X lists, and it seems unlikely Cal or USC can hang with the two teams that just met in the NC game and Derryck's dad's coach. Thornton on M($):
“Their offense is so spread out. They’re about development but the offense is really spread out, the bigs are mobile and there’s a lot of pick and roll stuff. They key on development and I love that.”
Thornton has no timetable but it sounds like he might get things over quickly.
“It’s early but I already have 20 offers,” noted Battle. “Michigan has been recruiting me hard, Villanova, Syracuse, Ohio State, Duke, and several other schools.”
Michigan may be recruiting him harder than everyone else because Thornton is recruiting for them? Yeah! That's the ticket. That is the ticket.
HOT. Jozy scored a scorcher, the team worked a beautiful goal, and Tim Howard was all but untroubled until Omar Gonzalez entered and the US flailed about ineptly with three central defenders. That was like the Panama game I love referencing except against a World Cup-quality outfit, the most recent African champions at nearly full strength. At the moment I'm not even mad about Landon Donovan. That's how good that was.
- The alternate universe. After a dismal performance from Brad Davis against Turkey I suggested that the alternate universe version of the USA lineup might forget all about having a nominal winger guy at left mid and just field ALL THE CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS because hey, why not. This happened, and it was terrific.
- And it had the opposite effect you might expect on the USA's width. They were able to cover the flanks much better in this game and because of that, the fullbacks—both fullbacks—were comfortable getting upfield. It's a lot easier to make that surge when you've got Beckerman and Jones looking for it and offering to cover instead of just one.
- Speaking of Jones…
Pictured: Jones, pre-Beckerman
Off the chain. Even if you don't appreciate the things Beckerman does himself, the fact that his addition lets Bradley and Jones range about the field pressuring opponents with their endurance and athleticism was a revelation and demands his inclusion going forward.
Jones felt like a wonderful player for most of this game. I have spent the last four years going "bleah" about him and demanding that he eat bench so that Bradley can be the offensive force the US needs him to be. But what if I told you Bradley was up the field and Jones was roaring around the field and it was all just fine? ESPN presents 30 for 30: Kyle Beckerman, The Man Who Didn't Move.
Jones did. Goddang he did move. There were multiple instances where he flew in at speed and removed a ball from Nigeria's possession. While his positioning as a pure holder is questionable, his defensive instincts and effort are top-notch, as he demonstrated after a dangerous Beckerman turnover when he recovered to clear a ball that would have been totally uncovered if this was the Turkey game. And then there was the 70-yard run to end a Nigeria break where Jones went from the potential target of a through ball just outside Nigeria's box to an interception on the edge of the USA's. Once you realized it was the same guy on both ends of that play it was… I be like dang.
The one-game turnaround from Davis/Chandler to Jones/Beasley was incredible. What happens on that turnover if Davis in in the game? It doesn't go out of bounds harmlessly, that's for sure.
There's a clear and large gap between Jones's ability going forward and Bradley's, but when freed up to go get the ball he was the bald eagle's equal. Two of those guys in one midfield suddenly seems tough to deal with, especially since both were going full blast 85 minutes into a friendly that had seen Nigeria wither.
Something weird: check. Poke a USA fan on the internet today and you'll get an exclamation about Jozy's second goal and then a comment about how the formation worked well. Everyone will tell you a different formation, though. MLSsoccer.com has back-to-back articles labeling it the "Christmas Tree" 1-2-3-4…
In USMNT's new "Chrismas tree" formation, Kyle Beckerman plays starring role
…and the diamond…
Three Things: USMNT commit to the diamond and it finally starts to shine
…while ESPN and various other people on the internet asserted it was Klinsmann's standard-ish 4-2-3-1. If you ask me that was… weird. Everyone's right, and everyone's wrong.
On defense the shape was generally the Christmas Tree that was briefly unpopular a couple years back: either Dempsey or Altidore was up top with the other withdrawn next to Bradley; behind that there was a line of Jones-Beckerman-Bedoya.
Except when it fell into a diamond for folks who wanted to advocate for diamondness.
Functionally, Bradley would apply high pressure while the back line of three provided shielding and covered for the backs when they advanced. The withdrawn forward very occasionally did some covering on the left, mostly when it was Jozy.
In possession it was hugely mutable and definitely asymmetric, with Bedoya ranging upfield as a winger and Bradley pulling centrally as the withdrawn forward pushed higher. Bedoya's upfield run put him in position to get the hockey assist on the first goal, with Johnson cutting inside of him. Approximate location chart in possession:
Beasley Beckerman Johnson
Jones did surge upfield from time to time anywhere on the left two-thirds of the field; generally he was more withdrawn.
Jones left, Bedoya right
So what is that? I've seen it described as just about anything; it felt like a 4-3-3*, but with one of the wingers flipped with Bradley on defense, so I guess a diamond, except not. Which is not something I've ever seen before. I will probably resort to calling it "Nigeria" in the event it lasts. Which it should, right?
*[Distinguishing characteristic of the 4-3-3: three central midfielders with one playing behind the other two.]
Spiritual formation. Forgetting the positions for a moment, the US featured:
- two offensive players with minimal defensive responsibilities, one of whom would link with the midfield
- two box to box midfielders
- one defensively-oriented right winger
- one holding mid
- a wide fullback
- an in-cutting fullback
- two central defenders
If you forced me to put a name on it I would call it an asymmetric 4-3-3. A slightly less weird version of that has historically been my preferred Football Manager formation, so obviously Klinsmann has found something here.
Rope a dope. The US soaked ineffectual pressure for about 20 minutes before finding its stride, and by ten minutes into the second half they were running rampant over an exhausted Nigerian squad. The US has twin advantages here with so many of their players based in MLS (or, in Beasley's case, Mexico): unlike Euro-based gentlemen, MLS players play in the summer, and play where it is hot. Also unlike Euro-based gentlemen they're coming off a recent opportunity to rest. Hopefully fitness will be a key advantage in the sweltering heat of Brazil.
Beas with ease. Even before the game, Klinsmann was telling reporters that "Beasley is the starter at left back" in response to questions about why Beasley over Chandler, and then that game happened. With a big assist from the relentless Jermaine Jones, here's both the key passes and crosses from the first 80 minutes (ie, until Gonzalez entered and the US lost its shape in an unfamiliar 3-5-2) mashed into one graph:
That is one pass that got to the box for a shot and one cross that even made it in, for 80 minutes. Fabian Johnson and Bedoya had a bit more trouble but only a bit—none of those crosses were completed and most of the things resembling danger were off corners.
Part of this is the fact that Nigeria's left winger, Victor Moses, is their best attacker, sure. Beasley and Jones completely shut off the US left wing of an offensively-oriented World Cup foe. Beasley's understanding with both Jones and Besler was a world apart from the acres of space Turkey was given.
Johannson T-shirt FTW.
Checking in with irritating striker confidence meme. Jozy had a great flick-on to Dempsey that passed without anyone saying anything about Altidore's confidence level. A few minutes later, he scored from two feet. A few minutes after that, he had another threatening flick-on to continue 180 straight minutes of being a handful and chance-generator up front; Twellman attributes it to the goal he just scored from two feet. Argh, argh.
Now, the second goal, that's a confidence booster, if you believe confidence has much to do with it.
Your eleven for Ghana. I wouldn't make a change. The only US player under threat is Bedoya since Zusi does have a skill set the rest of the roster does not, but Bedoya's corners were superior to a couple of weak Zusi efforts in the last game, and even though Bedoya's final ball wasn't quite there most of the day he did make a lot of correct decisions.
The problem comes if and when someone gets the hook because of card accumulation or injury. It's clear Klinsmann was not expecting to have both Beckerman and Jones on the field simulatneously; if that was the case then Maurice Edu would be on this roster. If someone does go out with injury he now seems like the most logical callup, but save chicanery and bad/good luck the US's options are like so if Beckerman goes out:
- Put Jones back on the chain.
- Move Cameron into the midfield and play either Brooks or Gonzalez on D.
Who loves those ideas? Nobody.
This doesn't really exacerbate things otherwise because Jones and Bradley are not replaceable in the pool. It does add another cog that can't get out of whack without damaging the machine.
Depth is an issue. Another Gonzalez appearance ends with the impression that if Gonzalez sees the field in the World Cup it's collar-tugging time, and that's the case around the field. Other than Zusi for Bedoya and possibly striker for tired striker, is there anywhere else a US substitution doesn't make you think "uh-oh?" Large chunks of the roster seem unplayable.
I guess I am still a little peeved about Donovan. I have no faith in Davis or Green to do anything positive if inserted, and that's one too many guys to not have confidence in. Meanwhile a couple others are awkward fits, like Diskerud. Diskerud is Bradley's injury cover, and that's necessary. Unfortunately he doesn't quite fit in any other spot on the field, so when you bring him in it's suboptimal.
Turnovers are another. The US is trying to play like a possession team and isn't quite good enough at it yet. They get caught out a bit too often. Beckerman had a couple of turnovers in bad spots, and the central defenders had issues in previous games. That looms as a potentially devastating issue. It's one the US has to risk, as they have to be able to retain possession better if they're ever going to progress to past the quarterfinal of a World Cup.
Jones is really good at putting out fires, at least.
LET'S GOOOOOOOOO. Let's go, man.
Elsewhere. The great Zonal Marking has started their tactical previews of the World Cup. Directly relevant teams haven't been posted yet, but you can get some schadenfreude from the Mexico analysis. SI on Jozy. Wahl thoughts. Analysis of Portugal-Mexico.
Brandon said, “We all think of every home Michigan football game like a miniature Super Bowl.”
I don’t know any Michigan fans who think that. Quite the opposite, they think Michigan football games are the antidote for the artificial excess of the Super Bowl.
Bacon has hit a nerve here—his server is imploding under the pressure.
The problem with Dave Brandon is that he is a mediocrity in a suit with one skill, which is wearing the suit. Unfortunately, this is who is in charge most places. But when Georgia fans, who were until recently saddled with one of our nation's greatest suited mediocrities in Michael Adams, are pointing at us and saying "it could be worse"… well, it ain't good.
At least we have the student government?
The move to general admission was fairly disastrous for Michigan last fall, and former student body president Michael Proppe launched a survey of students midway through the season.
“It was so overwhelmingly negative, we knew we had to come up with something,” Proppe said.
The first survey that had 6,000 respondents was taken after the fourth home game and responses — including 76 percent saying they did not approve of general admission — were shared with the athletic department.
“It just didn’t really work,” he said.
A second survey administered with the athletic department gave a better gauge of what students want. They were asked to rank what’s most important for their game-day experience, and No. 1 was being able to sit with friends. Interestingly, students said having Wi-Fi was the lowest priority.
“That is such a misconception that putting in Wi-Fi is going to get students to show up,” Proppe said.
Michael Proppe for AD. Seriously.
Also yes. Bo Pelini suggests doing away with Signing Day altogether, which I almost support for this reason:
"If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign, it's over," Pelini told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "That will stop some of the things that are happening -- people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid."
The "almost" part is that the kid should be able to get out of the LOI if the coach he committed to gets the axe. The best system would maintain the Signing Day hoopla but also feature a non-binding LOI that you could sign whenever that would 1) prevent coaches from contacting you, 2) prevent you from taking an official visit to another school, 3) let the coaches you signed with talk to you whenever they want, and 4) guarantee you a scholarship at school X.
you get better pictures from the Mars lander
Well that clears up everything. The Ann Arbor News has an in-depth investigation about whether Taylor Lewan was the guy who punched some Ohio State fans who were begging to get punched ("Munsch had been walking around with a megaphone … taunted U-M fans on the street and inside the Brown Jug") after last year's edition of The Game. They have video that clears nothing up and quotes that contradict each other from about a dozen different people.
My takeaway is that this is time that could have been better spent finding anything else out. It seems like this incident has gotten a ton of attention for some drunk bar punchin' such as happens just about everywhere most years.
The last time I mentioned a potential transfer coming in for a visit it worked out all right. West Virginia shooting guard Eron Harris will be on campus this weekend, and a commitment to someone should be forthcoming soon. Harris has already been at Purdue and Michigan State, his other two finalists.
Perhaps relevant: MSU just landed a commitment from 2015 OH SG Kyle Ahrens, a guy who was vaguely on Michigan's radar. Harris is effectively a 2015 SG, so that may be a signal MSU doesn't have a great vibe with him.
2016 IN PG Eron Gordon is also slated to be on campus this weekend, and then the Michigan elite camp will bring in all manner of 2016 gentlemen fighting for Michigan's love and vice-versa.
The new guy. MGoVideo has a supercut of every Ty Isaac touch from last year. Sorry, you'll have to go over there—no embedding. I'm a little torn—Isaac doesn't look particularly explosive but then he outruns defensive backs in that game against Cal. Maybe he's just one of those guys who don't look like they're moving at high speed but somehow are. Guys do tend to bounce off him; Isaac had some nice chunks of YAC and tends to fall forward when that's at all a possibility.
You cannot be seeeeeeeerious. The NCAA published a snippy little press release about the portion of the O'Bannon case that EA settled on that must be seen to be believed:
The NCAA did finally find someone in their office who had a dictionary and changed "benefactors" to "beneficiaries." Meanwhile, the NCAA claiming that the "real benefactors" are the lawyers, who have dared to make money off the backs of student-ath…
uh… this is a terrible idea
I know, but that's never stopped us before
…DARED TO MAKE MONEY OFF THE BACKS OF STUDENT-ATHLETES is just… wow, man.
And they're probably going to try to draw a line between athletes being compensated for the use of their likeness in a court case and being compensated for the use of their likeness legally. I set the over under on exploded heads at NCAA HQ in the next two years at 2.5.
None of this does anything. The hockey rules committee was looking at some notable changes including three-quarter shields and changes to overtime procedure. Those all went away. The most notable change they have suggested:
Faceoff Location – Offensive Scoring Opportunity: If the offensive team is attempting to score and the puck goes out of play – the faceoff will remain in the attacking zone.
Status quo. Jake Butt is still on track to return by week three:
"I don't think we know (exactly when he'll be back) yet, but I wouldn't expect him back until after week three," Hoke said. "He feels great, he thinks he's Superman. They all do at that age.
"But he feels good."
Hoke said the hope is to get Butt back to seeing live contact action after the week three game against Miami-Ohio -- at the earliest.
This will be interesting. The Ed O'Bannon case kicks off Monday. SI has a primer and the NCAA witness list, which consists of folks disproportionately relevant to you: both Brandon and Mary Sue Coleman are on it, as are MSU AD Mark Hollis and Jim Delany. It seems like bad news that one of the economists on the NCAA side has this quote in a book of his:
“The NCAA restricts competition in a number of important activities. To reduce bargaining power by student athletes, the NCAA creates and enforces rules regarding eligibility and terms of compensation.”
It'll be interesting, but not suspenseful. Claudia Wilken, the judge in the case, has already dismissed the word "amateurism" and ruled that the NCAA can't even mention non-revenue sports, leaving:
Her reasoning is that no one forces schools to sponsor teams that can't financially support themselves, so she considers the impact on those teams irrelevant in the eyes of the law. This doesn't leave much for the NCAA to argue except the pro-competitive aspects of its rules.
A pro-competitive aspect that anyone who's ever looked at a recruiting site knows doesn't exist and the SEC commissioner just said this about:
“I consider this period of time one of the historic moments that all of us are witnesses to — an evolutionary change where we put the student-athletes first and we build our philosophies on the student-athlete rather than the so-called level playing field,” Slive said.
The NCAA is gon' die. Their current arguments are straightforward descriptions of functioning markets.
"In those circumstances, it is basic economics that allowing cash payments for (name, image and likeness usage) for the first time will tilt the distribution of talent and success towards colleges and universities with more cash to spend."
Oh, and this one.
They are only in the stadium at all because their colleges and universities have agreed to let them play ... (Athletes) cannot own the right to broadcast their games when they need the same permission that broadcasters do to be in the stadium at all.
The only tension is in how fast the NCAA will get laughed out of court.
Etc.: Caris finds his way onto a list of the top 15 draft prospects already in school. If you have no idea about soccer here's a good place to start. Looking at next year's softball team. MVictors points out a Kickstarter for old-timey jerseys. B10 championship to stay in Indy; basketball tournament to still mostly rotate between Chicago and Indy. North Carolina's Rashad McCants says the school bit of his career was a total sham.