to play football, not to play trumpet
The time has come for the annual offseason series in which I provide a semi-analytical preview of Michigan’s opponents. Because of the relatively late start, I don’t think I’ll get around to writing up every team. So for those of you interested in Central Michigan and Akron, here is a super condensed version:
- 2012: 7-6 overall, 4-4 MAC; beat Iowa.
- Offense: QB-by-committee as of spring; senior tailback is 1,000-yard rusher; top wideout averages 20 yards per, which is Hemingway-like. O-line lost primo tackle Eric Fisher to the draft.
- Defense: Injured d-line, solid linebackers, meh secondary.
- Kind of like: A stiff punching bag.
- vs. Michigan: Would be a good opportunity for M to practice running power with new RBs. If the coaches anticipate needing Shane Morris this season (hint: they probably do), his redshirt should be burned here.
- 2012: 1-11 overall, 0-8 MAC; saved UMass from winless season.
- Offense: Crap.
- Defense: Crap.
- Kind of like: Crap.
- vs. Michigan: Assuming Morris loses his redshirt against CMU, this should be treated like a second spring game, i.e. give the starters a series or two, then bring in the backups.
My tears are real. You're not.
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking you’ve probably done something wrong if you’re coming off a 12-1 season and the only things people talk about are fake girlfriends, "poor academic judgement," and flighty defensive tackles. Not to mention those rumors about your head coach possibly ditching you to be with someone else at some point.
Well. Let me assure you that it’s not you. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not your fault love letters are most effective when written in 140 characters or less. It’s not your fault you’re not allowed to “retweet” someone else’s homework. It’s not your fault Eddie Vanderdoes thinks @BruinBoobs is a way better follow than @NotreDameBoobs.
And speculation about Brian Kelly’s imminent departure to the NFL is just hurtful gossip perpetuated by rumormongers who think that anything they say on the internet can be deleted before they get in trouble.
You see, a pattern emerges: Twitter is sabotaging your way of life en route to bringing down Western society.
Damn it all to hell.
Notre Dame’s 12-1 season was made possible by luck, good defense, a positive turnover margin, and absurdly bad refereeing. They lost to Alabama at the end of the season because, incidentally, they didn’t have any of those things.
Conventional wisdom says that Notre Dame can’t replicate that level of success this year because the things within their control won't be any better, and the things outside of their control will most likely be worse.
The defense will be great once again, but when you were No. 2 in the nation in points allowed there’s not a whole lot of room for improvement. Offensively, the Irish under Kelly have never been anything special. With question marks at nearly every position -- including QB now that Golson has been suspended -- it’s hard to see them doing much better in terms of yardage, and it’s even harder to see them hang on to that low turnover rate.
The schedule is relatively similar to the one they had last year. They host Michigan State, USC, and Oklahoma, and significant road opponents include Michigan, Pitt, and Stanford. As college schedules go, that's pretty rough, and they don't get any real body-bag games to take a breather.
Their defense will keep them in every game they play. Their offense will need a lot of luck, however, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like they used up the entirety of their five-year allowance last season.
This potato is really hot.
Golson is out. That leaves Rees, Hendrix, and incoming freshman Malik Zaire to jockey for the starting spot. Reports indicate that Rees has won the job already, which makes sense, but a lot can happen between now and September.
Rees, in case you've forgotten (how dare you!), is the prolific passer who started two years ago in Under the Lights. In fact he was so prolific he outshined Denard in the “throwing to the other team” category. I guess it's kind of his thing -- his first career pass against Michigan was a flea flicker interception to Jonas Mouton.
On the other hand, he scored the only touchdown of last year’s game against the Wolverines on a QB run, of all things.
If Rees starts, Michigan’s secondary will get a stiff but manageable early season test. Stiff because all things considered Rees is pretty decent. Manageable because the matchup nightmares that Notre Dame usually seems to have -- Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert -- are no more. Davaris Daniels (31 rec, 490 yards, 15.8 ypc) is the only potential weapon they have. We don’t know much about him because he wasn’t given too many opportunities last year. That’ll change with Rees at QB, and then we’ll see whether he’ll blow up like Jeremy Gallon or get beaned in the helmet like any Michigan State receiver not named Aaron Burbridge.
Formationally we’ll probably see a lot of shotgun and one-back with receivers spread all over the field. When Rees started in 2011, the run-pass split was slightly in favor of pass (33:36 attempts per game), but that was with guys like Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray. Expect that ratio to be biased more towards pass this year; I don’t think they can afford otherwise.
That's because the Irish run game will be thin. The starting O-line is solid, returning both tackles and a guard, but their depth beyond that is as dire as last year’s Michigan line. Any injury could spell the end of positive yardage on the ground, especially considering that there is really only one experienced running back on the roster, George Atkinson III (51 carries, 361 yards, 7.1 ypc, 5 TDs). No one seems to know whether he’s durable enough to last more than 10-15 carries a game. He could be 2011 Toussaint, or he could be a 2012 Toussaint. Either way, he's their only guy as of now.
At least having a competent and somewhat experienced pocket passer plays to Kelly’s strengths as a playcaller, so Notre Dame should be fun to watch regardless. Drives will end quickly and spectacularly, and Kelly will have plenty of opportunity to practice his Grimace impersonation.
What would an Irish defense be without Tragic Hero/Victim Manti Te’O? A lot less annoying/entertaining to hear about, and still very good. Expect to see them hanging out in opponent backfields on a regular basis.
Notre Dame defensive cordinator Bob Diaco runs a 3-4, which looks a lot like Greg Mattison’s 4-3 under but with slightly different names and concepts. The nose tackle in the 3-4 lines up directly over the center and is a monument to the law of inertia. The defensive ends are a lot like Michigan’s 5-tech and 3-tech; OLBs are like SAM and WDE; ILBs are like Morgan and Ross.
Responsibilities are interchangeable between a lot of positions because the front seven is built for a variety of zone blitzes. The secondary is the same.
So who should we worry about? All of the defensive linemen, to start. There’s DE Stephon Tuitt -- you know, shredder facemask -- who is a 6-6, 300-lb monster who had 12 sacks last season. There’s 6-3, 340 lb DT Louis Nix who has orbiting satellites. And there’s DE Sheldon Day who is kind of like Brandon Graham. Five offensive linemen are probably not enough to block these guys.
Then you kind of have to deal with the linebackers, a unit that returns everyone but Te’O. OLB Prince Shembo (51 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks) is the guy to watch out for, but no one is really a slouch. Most of them are seniors. Most of them are very good. This is depressing to write about.
The secondary is really the only group with exploitable potential. Last year they were a freshman, a converted running back, and a converted receiver; this year they will be a sophomore, a converted running back, and a converted receiver. They held up just fine in 2012, however -- few opposing QBs had much time to do much of anything before eating turf -- and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to shore up the coverage thing should the front seven fail to generate pressure, if ever.
This team is kind of like: Roger Federer after a strenuous biceps work-out. Wimpy forehand, wicked backhand.
Vs. Michigan: One thing Michigan failed to do last year was sufficiently test the fragile Irish secondary. The Wolverines are much better equipped to do that this year, with the only problem being that secondary will probably be a lot less fragile. Still, it’s probably better than running into 300-pound defensive ends, am I right?
The way the two teams match up against each other gives every indication that this will be a very low scoring game, but crazy things tend to happen under the lights.
- Wins: Temple, @Purdue, Arizona State, @Air Force, Navy, @Pittsburgh, BYU
- Tossups: @Michigan, Michigan State, USC, Oklahoma, @Stanford
|Baltimore, MD – 6'4" 270|
4*, #143 overall
4*, #70 overall
4*, #255 overall
4*, #120 overall
Alabama, Ohio State, PSU, Stanford, Notre Dame, Auburn, MSU, A&M
|YMRMFSPA||Will Johnson or Ryan Van Bergen|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Dad is his coach at Gilman.|
UA game performance:
Yes, yes, it's yet another four star recruit from a high powered program with extracurricular reasons to expect he'll be a success who picked Michigan over another power program. This is Michigan, fergodsakes.
In Henry Poggi's case, the high school is Baltimore private school Gilman, a powerhouse that sent two other prospects to BCS schools last year (QB Shane Cockerville went to Maryland, LB Micah Kiser to Virginia), four the year before, two the year before that, etc. etc. The extracurricular reasons are dual: 1) his father is the head coach at Gilman, and 2) he really likes the Big Lebowski. The power program bested was Alabama, which liked him enough to take a run at him right before Signing Day.
As you might expect from a coach's son, Poggi popped up early as a technically and physically advanced player. As a junior, various folks projected him to be a top, top player. Rivals had several different reports on him then. An example:
Poggi will be one of the top interior linemen in the country next season. He has size (6-4, 255) and quickness to go along with terrific athleticism, solid speed and soft hands (he made two nice grabs on Saturday). …more than held his own down in the trenches and was very effective in run support.
Other evaluations follow in the same vein, with a focus on technique, physicality, and effort. IE, Poggi has all those coaches' kid qualities you'd expect. Foremost is stamina. A two-way starter for Gilman the last two years, Poggi impressed with his fortitude:
What's most impressive about Poggi, however, is his ability to maintain his fundamentals and play through the whistle for all 48 minutes. He starts both ways for Gilman but has the stamina and desire to scrap like his job depends on it. Physically, Poggi keeps his pads low and uses his legs to generate power. He has a stiff, dead-arm punch and impeccable strength, which allows him to overwhelm inside tackles at times.
"Henry was awesome," he said. "He started both ways at tight end and defensive tackle. I don't know how he played as hard as he did. He was really impressive and did a really great job in the playoffs. He played every play running around and was exhausted by the end of the game, it's a tribute to his character, his motor is ridiculous."
"He has ten sacks from his three technique position as a junior," Russell added. "He plays with incredible passion and has a non-stop motor."
. JC Shurburtt:
“There’s defensive tackles across the country that either have a lot of heart or a lot of talent. Henry’s got both,” Shurburtt said. “[He is] the complete package of what you look for in a defensive tackle.
“He’s definitely an inside guy. That’s what gives him plus athleticism.”
Scout's Brian Dohn said Poggi has a chance to be "a star grunt" in a scouting report, which makes sense despite being paradoxical. Overall the picture painted is of a guy right up Brady Hoke's alley:
What to like
In watching Poggi in person and watching lots of junior tape, a few things jump out. Mainly, he is physical. He is also physical, and when he is not playing physical, he is playing physical.
Poggi is engaged on every play, loves the contact and has the strength to make an impact on every play.
He lines up in the middle of the defensive line, and is a disruption no matter how opponents try to block him. Poggi is always moving, always looking for the ball and plays violently (in a good way). He has the body type, strength and mentality to be a classic nose guard who can handle getting hit from all angles and still be a factor because of very good balance. …
What needs works
…time and again Poggi has to rely on his strength and there are few times he gets off the line of scrimmage and gets into the backfield untouched. That is all about staying lower and maximizing his burst.
Dohn actually hits that note about playing him at the nose more than once, but it seem doubtful he'll end up the requisite size, about which more later.
Poggi was not one of the huge standouts at the UA game but did impress 247:
5. Henry Poggi, DT, Baltimore (Md.) Gillman
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Michigan commitment lined up over the ball on Tuesday, and proved to be too quick and technically sound to be blocked one-on-one. Poggi not only flashed a quick first step, but also got small and used his hands to near perfection quickly dismissing would be blocking centers.
On the other hand, ESPN has a lot of hemming and hawing:
. … flashes a good initial burst, but is inconsistent and can be a beat slow. He does need to watch his pad level, but displays the ability to fire off the ball low and gain leverage. He is a hard-nosed player who can make good contact and be tough at the point of attack. He is active with his hands, but needs to do a better job of consistently separating from blockers. … He is a physical and high-effort player who works to get around the ball. As a pass rusher, he comes upfield hard. He will try to attack half-a-man and displays the ability to be violent with his hands. He gives effort and will make opponents work to block him, but can be a bit out of control at times. He is adequately able to quickly and tightly bend back in towards the quarterback.
They like his potential, overall but think he's more of an effort guy than a big timer, and that's reflected in their rankings for him.
There's some debate about Poggi's frame. 6'4" and heading towards 300 pounds seems pretty good to me, but ESPN's relative skepticism is largely based on a lack of upside because they perceive him as a tweener:
He possesses good height, but is a bit of a 'tweener size-wise as a defensive lineman. … While Poggi looks to carry his weight well, he may be somewhat limited in the good size he can add, making him an undersized D-tackle or more of a swing player if he stays on defense at the next level. Poggi is a tough and smart player. While he may have some limitations, he is a good football player who can help a team and be a good productive player if he can find the right position fit.
Their evaluation in fact mentions four different spots—DT, OC, FB, TE—as possibilities. A quadruple tween. A 247 evaluation from Poggi's UA game appearance has a similar concern:
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Poggi has lineup over the ball in one-on-ones, and been very tough to block due to a quick first step, active and quick hands, a strong initial punch and the awareness to get small. While all of that ability is not in question with Poggi, his ability to carry the desired weight remains in play. While he can certainly carry 20-25 more pounds on his frame, there is a question of if he can carry the ideal weight to play over the ball at the next level.
This is a bit of a different take than early evaluations had. For instance:
At 6-4, 255, Poggi has a great frame; he's a tall, thick defender with a wide base, stout legs and broad shoulders. He plays with a low pad level, which makes him difficult to move off the ball. He also has tremendous upper- and lower-body strength, allowing him to collapse the pocket and toss offensive linemen around like a dog with a chew toy.
At 6-4, 255, he has a powerful base, long arms, broad shoulders and ideal height. … If Poggi continues to add power and build his body he'll be one of the top D-tackle recruits coming out next season.
To me that signals a guy who started being a college player early and may be closer to his physical peak than most others in his class. Think Marvin Robinson. When you're Jabrill Peppers this is just fine. When you're 270 and you already have a neck wider than your head…
…I get the concern.
So Poggi is likely to end up a three-tech, which is part of the reason I projected Hurst to nose tackle. Yeah, I am also tantalized by potentially sticking Hurst at the three but in the context of the roster it makes more sense for Poggi to end up there. FWIW, Poggi told the Baltimore Sun that Michigan would start him off at the five and move him inside when he put on enough weight, causing JC Shurburtt to shake his head:
"Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think long term that [playing DE is] realistic if he wants to play beyond college and be very good,” Shurburtt said. “If he were a 3-4 defensive end we were talking about, I think he’d be in business. But I think 4-3, that’s a stretch.”
To me, those spots are near interchangeable and there's no reason to get in a huff about who's playing where at either of them, but that is a useful take on how Poggi can be an effective college player.
There is also a backup plan. Though all the sites rated Poggi as a defensive tackle, a number of evaluations paused to praise his potential as a blocking tight end. Tim Sullivan:
… Poggi showed a tenacity and quickness in his blocking that truly impressed. He wasn't perfect in the blocking game, but was very good. In fact, he could probably add weight and play guard if that's what a team needed of him (and that's where some schools, including Alabama, were recruiting him).
Offensively, … where he really excelled is as a run blocker. Poggi did a great job stalemating his man at the point of attack before driving him off the ball. He showed the ability to chip, gain leverage and readjust to quick edge rushers. Right now, the only question is how much bulk he can pack onto his frame and what position he'll fit best at.
ESPN flat out suggests he'll be better on offense:
… overall skill set may be better suited as a blocking tight end and we wouldn't be surprised if he landed on offense at the next level at some point.
Michigan didn't bring in an AJ Williams type in Poggi's class and they won't in the next one; there is a large window for a second 270-280 pound face-masher on the roster, especially if Wyatt Shallman ends up moving to defense at some point.
Etc.: Has Michigan pajamas. Second team AA according to 247. First team to USA Today. 31 TFLs and 16.5 sacks as a senior. Has a brother at Iowa. Here's a big long profile on the family. USA Today interview.
Why Will Johnson or Ryan Van Bergen? Tough to choose between the two as far as how he'll end up, so let's go with both.
Will Johnson was listed at 6'4", 285 pounds by Rivals when he was a recruit and 6'5", 285 pounds by Michigan when he was a senior. While Poggi figures to add some weight from his listed 260-270, he probably won't exceed 285 by much.
Meanwhile, Johnson was a solid player as an upperclassman who was mostly a stubborn run defender. He had good technique, but his mgoblog career summary is basically this:
Johnson did okay against a wide array of double teams but not great.
Johnson was a low four star recruit to the contemporary services as well.
Ryan Van Bergen is another good comparable in size and recruiting ranking. He is the upside here as a tireless worker with some pass rush ability and fantastic balance. Poggi's endurance and high-effort playstyle are right out of the RVB playbook. Also, Poggi's hair is a virtual replica.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Conflict between early evals and late, few camps, but high profile school and UA appearance.
Variance: Low. Good, not great size, advanced for his age, doesn't seem to have huge upside.
Ceiling: Moderate. If you ask me I'd invert Hurst and Poggi's average rating. Disclaimer: I'm just this guy on the internet. Poggi should be a contributor, but right after watching Hurst's film my main takeaway was that Poggi lacked that dynamite first step.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Poggi should be a solid contributor for a while.
Projection: Redshirt unless he comes in at 285 or something, which doesn't seem likely. After that will attempt to break into the three- or five-tech two-deep, with the former more likely. Three tech is actually pretty open depending on who slots where: other than Poggi it's Wormley and guys who may or may not play there: Matt Godin, Willie Henry, Maurice Hurst.
Poggi is likely to be a rotation three-tech at some point, but it's hard to predict when with the uncertainty at the spot. Ideally it wouldn't be in year two. It may be. Eventually starting may be in the cards depending on how well his compatriots work out—call it 50/50.
If Poggi doesn't end up in the two-deep at three-tech he's got a second shot as a blocking TE.
Hey kids. I've been fiddling about with tables and have finally gotten the offense together for our 2014 recruiting board. Por ejemplo:
|Ian Bunting||IL||3.5||Yes||ND, OSU, USC, OU, VT, Neb, UW, UO|
|Hello post. Enormous, lanky pass catcher with skillet-sized hands has buckets of potential. Injury shortened both his junior and sophomore years, leading to wide split in rankings. Going to need a lot of weight to block anyone, but lookit dem hands. PYMRMFSPA: Tacopants is real!|
It's a short board, which helped. Now that the formatting is formatted the defense should be along shortly, followed by the burgeoning 2015 class. Note: the recruiting board is a wiki page, which means you can update it if you have 500 points.
The board also lives under the "useful stuff" dropdown.
Once upon a time there was a pig.
We already have an Ace.
Dr. Hamlet was a very intelligent pig. One day he and his friend StephenRKass went to the Midwest Coach's Tour and met Brady Hoke, and heard Dave Brandon explain the annexation of Maryland and Rutgers as a population-grab, which any Europa Universalis player can appreciate. Dr. Hamlet and his friend cornered Laura Hoke, and Laura Hoke read all about Dr. Hamlet, and they became quite fond of each other. That adventure was front-paged and the whole town came out to enjoy it, because he enjoys all UM Alumni Club events (upcoming: John U Bacon in Columbus a week from today).
Then Dr. Hamlet heard a yell from the diaries section. "Dr. Hamlet!" it said. "Come see how Michigan has fared against everybody in head-to-head recruiting!" It was Dr. Hamlet's friend Coastal Elite! Dr. Hamlet loved the study and found it quite Informative, and gave it Diarist of the Week!
Seeing how much their friend Dr. Hamlet liked to read recruiting studies, his friends all got together and decided to throw him a recruiting study party!
- "I'll update my non-conference opponent recruiting watch!" said EGD.
- "I'll write a sequel to my expansion recruiting diary that covers Nebraska's shifting recruiting territory since joining the Big Ten!" said maizeonblueaction.
- "I'll tackle SEC recruiting the same way I did Big Ten recruiting with Rivals database, and print a bunch of charts that show each school vs. the conference average, and then post a lolcat!" said LSAClassof2000, and Dr. Hamlet said thank you for the pies:
- And even THE_KNOWLEDGE said "I will review the future for you!
But by that point even Dr. Hamlet had become distracted by the surprise release of a new installment in the great CRex Saga, though this one mostly made him a really sad pig because he's had bad experiences with stories about barnyard communism in the past.
Etc. The Blockhams got a pig too.
Best of the Board
ALAN BRANCH DID IT
Several weeks ago I asked in this space if the Photoshoppers could produce a full Alan Branch rampage. We were passing the phone around and refreshing the entire ride down to Kentucky over Memorial Day as they provided. We salute his victims: Anthony Morelli, Kikko Haydar, Patrick Roy, Maximus, Pablo Escobar, a Pamplona bull, Joe Frazier, Titanic, Kyle Larson's car, Mufasa, Claude Lemieux, Pisa's tower, the Death Star, and Morelli again on the rolling hills wallpaper.
Chunkums went in a different direction:
ALL THE PAHOKEEIANS
Brandin Hawthorne jumped on Vincent Smith's account to do his own hello to the board. We learn things like the difference between old coaches and new:
Hoke staff's just more on the coaching and teaching the players and with Coach Rod's staff it was hard to relate at times--and this tradition we speak of I'm curious to know what it is—yeah there were so new things that we did differently with the new staff but for the most part it was pretty much the same in that aspect
Hoke and Mattison do more teaching, draw from the well of Michigan: a pattern emerges. Also who on the team does the best Hoke impersonation and how fast Pahokee's rabbits are.
So fast that one of my high school teammates go by the name Jackrabbit in the NFL and i would have to say we've all caught rabbits except Richard.
Tsk tsk Mr. Ash.
JUST DIARY MAN!
Space Coyote is a great writer and is one of the best at talking Michigan X's and O's. But now to read his stuff I have to find a board entry that goes to his blog that goes to Maize n Brew, then come back to the board for the discussion. Here's the play as he draws it up:
ETC. Father-son Wolverines and other family connections discussed. Pick your favorite M quarterback (Denard, but I'd take Henson for this offense). Recruits in the 2012-'14 classes in the top 5 at their position on at least one site. Urban makes a funny face. Ed Hightower react has gifs of course. A discussion on Cass Tech and if there's a shift in the readiness of players coming out of Wilcher's program. Let's throw chickens at Notre Dame. Upchurch shot the moon.
Your Moment of Zen:
Things I have tried: jangling keys while listening to metal
Not A Good Look
At this point, anyone reading this post is pretty familiar with Da'Shawn Hand, the nation's top overall prospect. Michigan and Virginia Tech are presumed to lead the other three schools in his top five—Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina—while LSU and USC are on the outside looking in. Even further on the outside is Ohio State, where Hand reportedly had a poor visit experience the first time around, and despite a decent trip there last weekend—he swung by while in town for the Columbus NFTC—the Buckeyes won't be a factor in his recruitment going forward.
If you believe Eleven Warriors [ed-S: ...''s recruiting guy Jeremy Birmingham, not Ramzy] , this is because the Ohio State coaches suddenly decided they weren't very interested in the top player in the country—for reasons, you see—and here begins the fisking:
For some reason, my contention that Ohio State would not be aggressively attempting to get back into the Hand sweepstakes set off an internet wildfire with people.
This contention is reasonable; it's become clear that Ohio State is a longshot at best to get Hand, and the coaching staff could better spend their time targeting prospects with more interest in the Buckeyes. This would be a good place to stop, but...
As I have said a few times, it's a simple matter of personality. Ohio State wants people who are going to go 1000 miles per hour, every day, on and off the field. They want people who fight for each other, for their university and for their own improvement. They want people who are challenging themselves to improve every day and do so without the need to proclaim their own greatness for people to see, read, or hear. They want competitors and they want fighters.
...then there's this load of crap, as if the above doesn't fit what every football coach in America is trying to find in a recruit. Which leads us to the really stupid thing:
As far as Da'Shawn Hand? I've never said he was not a competitor, just that things with Ohio State and Hand did not see eye-to-eye from the start of his visit in November because he was not being treated any differently than any of the other recruits on hand, 90-minutes before kick-off of the biggest game of the year. The Buckeyes could not give Hand the attention they would have liked to, and the day was a bit too hectic for him to get "comfortable" at Ohio State.
This is a remarkably shitty thing to write about a high school kid without anything approaching first-hand evidence. The "I've never said..." hedging is just that, hedging, because discussing OSU's supposed lack of interest in reconnecting with Hand after everything in the previous paragraph is either a case of really unfortunate juxtaposition or the type of insinuation that unfairly impugns the character of a 17-year-old — one who, by all other accounts, is a kid of extremely high character.
The timing—when it's become blindingly obvious that Hand doesn't want to go to Ohio State—makes this come off as some seriously sour grapes. I'm sorry, Buckeye faithful, that Hand's reaction to being asked about Ohio State in the above video was this:
But, no, I'm not actually sorry. A high-profile player isn't interested in your school and may very well end up at a rival school. These things happen. Responding to this by suggesting that a player doesn't work hard enough, or is afraid to compete against the best, or isn't motivated enough to improve ... even if the implication is merely by context, that's a bad look. Nearly as bad as the one Hand gave when asked about Ohio State.
I think Eleven Warriors does a fantastic job, and that includes their recruiting coverage, but seeing this—and the wild speculation that it inevitably led to in such a forum—was disappointing. Perhaps, next time, just say that the kid isn't interested and move on.
[Hit THE JUMP for camp highlights of Ian Bunting, the latest on the Malik McDowell transfer rumors, and more.]
So I went to the Midwest Coach's Tour, aka "Sports-O-Rama," tonight in Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Michigan Alumni Association. We had a wonderful time, hearing from Brandon, Hoke, Beilein, Kim Barnes Arico (Women's basketball,) and Hockey Asst Coach Brian Wiseman.
It was a great night, and a lot of fun. It was clear they had rehearsed and done this before, as this is the end of a 10 day tour, starting on the West Coast. (Brandon asked Hoke, for instance, "Did you really say that Notre Dame was chicken?" To which, Hoke answered, "I did.") They all had a good time, were happy to be there, and took a number of questions from the crowd. The only hard question had to do with Michigan's APR, which was low last year, and lower this year. We're abysmal compared to ND & Northwestern. (football is 7th in the Big 10 in ranking.) Brandon didn't quite say "answer to the hand," but close. His basic answer was, come back to me again in four years and ask the same question. The rolling average makes it very difficult to overcome students who do poorly four years back.
Afterwards, the coaches went to different locations, to take questions, sign autographs, take pictures, etc. The lines were ridiculously long for Hoke and Beilein, understandably so. I waited a bit to talk to Brandon. The first thing I'll say is that he was very personable, approachable, and not defensive at all. You can see how he is great for the position of AD. Here are a couple things he said.
- Adding Maryland and Rutgers is not just about TV dollars today. They both certainly open us to the New York, Baltimore, DC markets. But more than that, the problem is projected population growth. According to Brandon, the midwest is flat to declining in the number of people. Projecting out 10 years, the SEC & ACC are seeing significant population growth in their footprint, while the traditional Big 10 footprint is stagnant and stable. Adding the two new teams helps mitigate against this population trend.
- In the future, 12 noon starts will be extremely rare for Michigan (except maybe for Ohio.) TV drives everything, and they want as many night games as possible, and late afternoon games as possible. Teams in the bottom half of the conference will be relegated to 12 or 12:30pm starts. Michigan will almost always have an afternoon or evening start time.
- Brandon is working hard to schedule better non-conference games. A number of teams are ducking Michigan, even when offered very significant money (I think Toledo would be one of these.) We already have a home and home with Arkansas, and with Virginia Tech. Expect an announcement on a home and home with a major West Coast team in the next couple weeks. (USC? UCLA? Stanford? Oregon? I'm guessing Stanford.) ND is at least 10 years, maybe 15, before being regularly rescheduled.
- The door is open for Chris Webber. He is the only one of the Fab 5 not to reach out to Michigan. (Obv., there were limitations until recently on his contact with Michigan.) But Brandon is willing to talk with Chris, if that's what Chris wants to do.
The highlight of my evening, by far, was an unexpected discussion. Three of us were getting ready to head out. As we were walking, I looked over at Laura, and said to the two guys I was with, "I want to say hi to Laura Hoke." She was incredibly personable, sweet, talkative, and approachable. Obviously, you don't ask Laura bubble screen questions. (sorry, Heiko.) But she was just a fount of information. We went all over the place, and I'll try to remember some of what she said.
- The coaches and wives are extremely close. Hoke and Mattison were together at Western Michigan for 5 years, overlapped several years under Carr at Michigan, and are back together again. Hoke and Borges got along very well at San Diego. They all just get along, and enjoy each other's company. I can really see how the wives getting along fosters the family atmosphere recruits have talked about. Every school says they're a family: Michigan really is.
- The wives sometimes join their husbands in recruiting. (And they have to be reminded by coaches to talk to recruits and recruit's moms, not to each other.)
- Laura told a story about talking to Pepper's coaches and parents, just making small talk. They assumed she was part of the staff in some capacity, asked who she was, and she said, "oh, I'm one of the d line coach's wives." At which point, one of them figured it out.
- I asked whether it was Hoke or his grandchild that brought Mattison to Michigan. She said, "Both (citing the friendship.) She also said, "Mattison really didn't enjoy the NFL the same way he enjoys the college game."
- I asked how long Borges and Mattison would be there. She said, "Forever. They're not going anywhere." Seriously, as long as their health holds out, I think Borges and Mattison will stay at Michigan. I think their wives don't want to go anywhere else, especially Mattison's wife.
- I asked if Brady ever encouraged one of his staff to take a promotion to coach elsewhere. She said, "Well, the ONLY coach to ever leave Brady's staff was Montgomery." That's an incredible statistic, and speaks of real loyalty.
- I mentioned that Da'Shawn Hand has talked about how "real" the Michigan coaches are, not putting on a show, just regular folks who enjoy life and care for each other and the players. That he liked the "family" atmosphere. Laura told me another story. She mentioned that a recruit had come to Michigan, and had also visited another school down south, who really "put on the red carpet." The recruit's mom was very impressed by the red carpet treatment, and Hoke's attitude was, "that's not us. We're not doing that for anyone. We are who we are." The recruit eventually went to the school down south. I thought to myself later, that recruit must have been Treadwell. I could see that if Mississippi really pulled out all the stops, treated recruits like royalty, that would impress some of them.
- Brady doesn't ever do negative recruiting. He just shares about Michigan and their resources, and Michigan sells itself.
- I asked Laura what was the hardest part of recruiting. She said, "It starts so early, and it never stops." Laura said, "if a five star recruit [her words] comes to campus, what are the coaches going to do? They're going to go to the office, show the recruit around, spend time with him." With unofficial visits happening all the time, you NEVER are off as a coach or a wife. She said they'd get a couple weeks of vacation in July, but that's it.
- Laura (like Brady) is very open. Brady shared again about his bad choices his first two years at Ball State. This really shapes how he cares for the "105 sons" who are on the MIchigan team. On this area, Laura had very high praise for the academic support team, and how proactive they are in helping Freshmen before they get on campus, and the minute they're on campus.
- I asked Laura about Football Saturdays. She said that they were a lot of fun. They have as many as 50 family members sleeping over Friday and Saturday night in their home.
- Laura really enjoyed the Senior Leadership training in California last week. The Seals did their thing, Laura was able to visit friends in San Diego, the team got to see the Rose Bowl (and picture being there,) and the Seniors did their football clinic for kids in Pasadena. Brady had nothing to do with it: the seniors needed to organize drills, and make the whole thing happen.
I hope you all get the opportunity to go to one of these things sometime. What a great couple Brady and Laura are. Just seeing her and Brady, I can see why the summer Barbecue would be so successful. And what a treat to hear her perspective on football at Michigan. She so clearly is having fun and enjoying this.
I will stand by the essence of what I said, although this is all from memory, and so it is not word for word. There was way more that happened, but this already is far too long, and gives you a taste of the evening.