Before signing day I took a look at how team recruiting rankings were predictive of future success. I found that good defenses almost always come with good recruits, but on offense great offense often comes without being fully stocked, although it doesn’t hurt.
This week I wanted to look more at the individual level by comparing recruiting rankings to draft success. For most positions college success is going to translate well into future draft status. Michigan might have the biggest exception to that rule in Denard Robinson (although some think he might be a top WR pick). For almost everywhere on the field but rushing quarterback, college success and production are highly correlated to NFL stock. It’s not perfect but it’s a great place to start.
The debate on do recruit rankings matter rages on. Dr. Saturday, may he blog in peace, annually refreshed his look to affirm their accuracy. Rarely do you find anything resembling an analytical take down but from even the best writers on college football can come the anecdotal dismissal. Hopefully those of us who prefer to use data have already won you over and this can be a nice look at some of the ups and downs within the overall success of recruiting rankings. If you’re there yet, hopefully you are after you read this.
The Data Sets
On the recruit side, the pool of players will be the recruiting classes of 2002-2006. All but 2-3 of those players have had their shot to be drafted between the 2005 and the 2011 drafts. I will only be looking at the players who were ranked for their position, as well. This means I have all 4 & 5 stars and the best of the 3 stars. I excluded fullbacks and specialists because the numbers are pretty low and they are mostly all 3 stars or less.
It’s All in How You Word It
There are two key arguments against recruiting rankings. The first is the one used by Bruce Feldman in his recent article on Stanford linked above. It’s the yeah but what about…argument. Ignore recruiting rankings because Stanford is good. Ignore recruiting rankings because JJ Watt is good. There of course exceptions. There are plenty of flameouts and come from nowhere success stories but this is a volume game and the exceptions don’t disprove the rule.
The second argument is the famed failure to divide. Here are two true statements:
If you are drafted, you are more likely to be a three star or less recruit than four or five star.
The more stars you have the more likely you are to be drafted.
The first statement is used by opponents of rankings but isn’t really a relevant statement. The second is the key point. If every single five star was drafted, there would still be six times more three stars and below drafted than five stars. Because four stars and above are so selective they can’t win the quantity game but they dominate the likelihood game. The NFL is full of unheralded recruits but for every five start there are literally hundreds of unheralded recruits playing college football. The pool just starts much bigger.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
So at this point we can all agree that recruiting rankings matter, right? If you’ve made it this far you’ve earned a chart.
Percent of Recruits Drafted
|Position*||5 star||4 star||3 star|
*Position based on recruited position, not drafted position
Across all positions, each additional star more than doubles your likelihood of being drafted. It’s not only true in the aggregate but at the position level, as well. There isn’t a single position where a 3 star recruit is more likely to be drafted than a four star. And this is a self-selected group of 3 stars and not the entire pool. In almost every case, a fifth star is another large bump from 4 stars. OLB, OT and WDE are virtually equivalent between 4 and 5 stars. Even a largely college specific position like Dual-Threat QB (RQB) and undefined positions like Athlete show the same trend.
The top positions for 5 star success are Athlete, DT, ILB and Safety at over 60% and the tight end position which was a perfect 4/4 in getting 5 stars drafted.
But getting drafted is only half the story, the other is draft position.
Average Pick For Drafted Players
|Position||5 star||4 star||3 star|
At the position level, the draft spot doesn’t hold up quite as well as the previous chart, but overall there is a strong trend favoring the higher starred players. On average, a drafted five star player will be picked in the middle of the third round, nearly a full round ahead of the average four star player and another 17 picks ahead of ranked three star players.
On twitter on Friday I teased a question about which position did five stars underperform four star counterparts. There is actually a position on each side of the ball. On defense it’s outside linebackers that don’t follow the trend and on offense it’s the tackles.
I think it’s interesting that Rivals has struggled to match top high school talent at position like tackle, outside linebacker and defensive end at the rate they have at other positions. Despite the weakness at these positions, similar positions like guard, inside linebacker and defensive tackle have had their rankings hold up quite well.
Don’t get too hung up on the magic of the fourth or fifth star. They are a nice aggregation but there isn’t going to be much difference between the last five start and the first four star. The bottom line is the higher ranked a recruit is the better they are likely to be, with plenty of exceptions. Positions like tackle, weakside d-end and outside linebacker the difference between a four star and a five is almost negligible. And there are no guarantees. Loading up on top talent gives you the highest likelihood of having team success and successful individuals, but when you get down to the specific player level it becomes a crapshoot. More 5 stars players never hear their names called than ones who do. For four stars it’s still a nearly 4:1 chance against getting drafted.
McCray II (left) is also a standout TE for Trotwood-Madison; the elder McCray (right) was a captain at OSU.
As first reported by Scout, Trotwood-Madison LB Mike McCray II—the son of former Ohio State captain Mike McCray—made his commitment to Michigan official this afternoon ($):
"I have committed to Michigan," McCray stated. "I've been feeling like Michigan was the right school for me for two weeks now, and there's no reason for me to wait any longer. It's the right time for me to commit, and I'm very excited to be a Wolverine. I'm being recruited by Coach (Mark) Smith and we have a great relationship. We speak at least once or twice per week."
McCray becomes the 14th commit of the class of 2013 and the first linebacker. He told Scout he's being recruited as an inside linebacker, but as you'll see, I think he ends up on the strongside.
4*, 92, #10 ATH,
Michigan brings in another player generally regarded as a four-star, as McCray lands in the early lists of every recruiting service save Scout, which has released by far the most limited rankings (though that changes this week). Rivals is especially bullish on McCray's abilities, placing him all the way up at #44 overall in the country. Both Rivals and 247 list McCray at 6'4", 230 pounds, while ESPN (6'3", 225) and Scout (6'2", 220) have him a little smaller. Considering recent articles on McCray have him listed as high as 238 pounds, I think the higher figures are likely more accurate; some suggest that he could grow into a defensive end role, though he's needed at Michigan as a stronside linebacker, where his size projects well.
McCray landed at #18, one spot behind fellow commit Taco Charlton, in the recently-released Bucknuts top 50 players in Ohio. Mark Porter thinks McCray is headed for a position switch ($):
“He would be an active defensive end and will probably grow into that position as a college player. He plays linebacker now, but I think he ends up moving down to the line at the college level.”
However, the strongside linebacker in Michigan's 4-3 under is practically a DE; Jake Ryan took snaps at both SLB and weakside DE last year depending on the situation. In this case, McCray's size and possible tweener status could be a strength.
McCray really broke out in 2011 as a junior, helping lead Trotwood-Madison to a Division II state title. Scout's Bill Greene was extremely impressed with McCray's performance last season ($):
One of the more improved juniors in Ohio this season, and a legitimate Top-10 candidate in a loaded year in-state. McCray's improvement can be traced to better side-to-side movement, and better recognition from his linebacker spot. He is super-athletic, plays with high intensity, and displays good overall football intelligence. I definitely see McCray receiving an Ohio State offer at some point, and this weekend makes sense with his teammate Bradley on campus with him.
McCray was ranked at #13 in Scout's initial Ohio top 50 ($), but unlike teammates Cam Burrows and Bam Bradley, he did not receive that Buckeye offer (as of now, at least). Rivals Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt watched McCray play twice last season, praising his instincts, pass coverage, and discipline in his first evaluation, then saying this after watching him in the state title game (both links $):
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, McCray is one of the best playmaking defenders I have seen this year. He is always around the football, always playing at 100 miles per hour and never tiring despite going both ways. McCray doubles as a tight end on offense, and there are teams interested in him for that position in college. His highest upside is definitely on defense, though, where his combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability should ensure a long career in football. If McCray plateaus right now he's still going to be one of the top linebackers in the Midwest, and probably the country. But McCray also has room to grow in his game. He can add strength and definition to his body in the weight room this off-season, which should also improve what is already pretty good speed. If he takes another step forward with off-season preparation, McCray is going to be scary good a year from now.
After the state finals, BuckeyeGrove's Mark Givler added, "McCray simply does everything you can ask a linebacker to do; he fills gaps, makes plays in space, and does a great job in coverage." For those afraid that McCray is too big for linebacker, it certainly sounds like he has the athleticism and coverage ability to play in space, and that shows up in his film as well.
McCray chose Michigan over Tennessee and Illinois, while also holding offers from Arizona, Boston College, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Nebraska, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Oklahoma and Tennessee offers obviously stand out; despite the lack of an Ohio State offer, McCray was generating national attention when he decided to commit.
McCray had 88 tackles, two forced fumbles, and five interceptions—returning three for touchdowns—as a junior. As a tight end, he hauled in 30 receptions for 494 yards and nine touchdowns, making him the increasingly-rare true two-way player.
As a sophomore, McCray tallied 65 tackles, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions while catching 11 passes and scoring five offensive touchdowns.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals credits McCray with a 4.61-second 40, which is quite fast for a player who could conceivably play DE at the next level. While he's lauded for his athleticism, I'll still give that four FAKEs out of five.
Short junior highlight reel:
As noted, McCray has no problem dropping into coverage and making plays.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
McCray will immediately provide depth at SLB, a position only redshirt sophomore Jake Ryan and redshirt junior Cam Gordon—he of the multiple position switches—currently occupy among scholarship players. Ryan appears to have that job locked down for the next few years, while Gordon should be competent enough to play as a backup while McCray takes a redshirt year.
That said, McCray has the size and athleticism to be an early contributor, and his coverage skills could mean Michigan is afforded the luxury of sliding Ryan down to WDE and putting McCray in at SLB in passing situations once he has a handle on the defense. Once Ryan graduates, McCray will have every opportunity to take the starting job on the strongside; we'll see if he's battling, say, E.J. Levenberry for that role when this class fills out.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 14 commits in the class of 2013, all but two of whom garnering four-star ratings on Rivals. McCray is the first linebacker in the class to commit—Charlton plays OLB in high school, but he's coming is as a WDE—and it looks like Michigan will take three total in the class. The other two will likely come from the trio of high-caliber recruits currenly listing Michigan at or near the top of their list: WLB Ben Gedeon, WLB Dorian O'Daniel, and SLB E.J. Levenberry.
For more detail on the scholarship situation, check out Brian's recruiting section from Monday's Unverified Voracity. Major needs for the rest of the class are at running back, wide receiver, defensive tackle, and cornerback.
Today's recruiting roundup eagerly awaits Mike McCray's decision (and Ben Gedeon's, too?), looks at the other linebackers strongly considering Michigan, and goes over a recent offer plus several interested visitors.
Good Problems: Linebacker Edition
We've been over this before, but Michigan has more linebackers strongly interested in the school than they know what to do with; filling the 2-3 (likely 3) spots at LB could very well come down to who commits the fastest.
If that's the case, Trotwood-Madison (OH) SLB Mike McCray (right) will probably be the first to drop; he could commit as soon as today, and likely no later than tomorrow. McCray told Tremendous that he actually has already made his decision, and his only other move will be to inform the coaches of his choice—there will be no hat game or press conference. He narrowed down his decision to Michigan, Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina and Illinois; while the Vols appeared to be in a strong position for him quite recently, the latest message board scuttlebutt—even among Tennessee partisans—has him pledging to Michigan.
Hudson (OH) MIKE/WILL Ben Gedeon may not be far behind after visiting Ann Arbor last weekend. Sam Webb caught up with Gedeon after his visit, and it's clear the junior is well aware of the scholarship situation at linebacker ($):
“I’m not sure if they want (where things currently stand with linebacker recruiting numbers) out there.”
“I won’t be making a decision tonight, but (the numbers crunch) definitely will be taken into account and could speed (my making a decision) up.”
Gedeon won't name a leader, but it isn't too difficult to read between the lines in this situation.
One linebacker who Michigan will have to wait for—and likely will, given his talent—is Woodbridge (MD) C.D. Hylton's E.J. Levenberry, who confirmed yesterday that the Wolverines are his leader, holding an edge over Florida State. Steve Wiltfong talked to Levenberry last night and got the latest on his timetable ($):
“I’m 100 percent sure I won’t announce until the Army Bowl.”
Alabama and Florida round out the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Levenberry’s top four.
Levenberry plans to visit Michigan for the Wolverines spring game on April 14. He will also try and get to Alabama and Florida State for spring practices.
E.J.'s father told Wiltfong that the coaches have made it clear to him that there will be a scholarship available to the potential five-star prospect; if the Wolverines lock up two linebackers in the near future, they'll likely reserve that last spot for Levenberry.
Oh, but there's more. Four-star Olney (MD) Good Counsel LB Dorian O'Daniel has Michigan in his top group with Clemson and Tennessee, and he'll be visiting Ann Arbor—along with five-star CB teammate Kendall Fuller ($)—for the spring game on April 14th ($). Four-star Matthews (NC) Butler LB Peter Kalambayi, meanwhile, has already visited Michigan once and now has the Wolverines near the top of his list with plans to check out the school again in the near future ($). In the race to grab the two spots not reserved for Levenberry, however, these two blue-chip recruits just might be too late. We'll know much more after this week.
New Offer, Planned Visits, Etc.
There's one recent offer I don't think I've noted here yet, and that went out to Charlotte (NC) Zebulon B. Vance LB Larenz Bryant. Just to be clear, (1) yes, another linebacker, and (2) the school's name is "Zebulon B. Vance," not the player's. Bryant is a four-star and the #86 overall recruit to 247, and he holds most of his offers from SEC and ACC schools.
Massilon (OH) Washington CB Gareon Conley told Sam Webb that Michigan is his leader, and he's scheduled to visit this weekend ($, info in header). Conley is a big—6'1"—corner who's currently rated as a three-star recruit on 247. Another weekend visitor will be College Station (TX) A&M Consolidated OL Christian Lacouture, who just decommitted from Texas A&M, though he still has a lot of interest in the hometown Aggies ($, info in header). He won't be the only offensive lineman in Ann Arbor, as New Lenox (IL) Lincoln Way West four-star Colin McGovern will also be on campus, despite knowing that Michigan doesn't currently have a spot for him ($).
A pair of cornerbacks are also planning future visits. Solon (OH) four-star Darian Hicks will be in Ann Arbor on March 27th, and he says that the Wolverines would vault to the top of his list if he receives an offer ($). Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep CB Tre Bell, who does hold an offer, is looking to set up a summer visit ($).
Three more prospects want to take visits but haven't set dates yet: Baltimore (MD) Gilman DT Henry Poggi, who's already been to Ann Arbor twice but wants to visit again either this month or next ($); Matthews (NC) Butler WR Uriah LeMay—high school teammate of Peter Kalambayi—has Michigan among the schools he'd like to see this summer ($); and Peoria (IL) High School DE Josh Augusta, who's recently talked to the Wolverines about a potential offer ($).
One player who did visit recently is Crete (IL) Monee LB Nyles Morgan, a class of 2014 teammate of Laquon Treadwell, who told 247 he'd "have to seriously consider [Michigan] when [he] start[s] considering colleges."
Quickly: Happy trails to blue-chip running back Keith Ford, who committed to Oklahoma over the weekend. The Sooners offered Ty Isaac last week (we'll see how the Ford commitment affects his interest), and SoonerScoop has a free article on Michigan's top running back target. MnB's Zach Travis looks at recent offensive line recruiting and tries to project future two-deeps. Black Shoe Diaries's Cari Greene puts together an early team rankings list for the Big Ten; Michigan, as you'd expect, is well out in front for now. I'll start the Big Ten Recruiting Rankings back up when Scout releases their top 300, which should be coming soon.
Basketball: really as good as all that?
Now, it doesn't matter for the Big Ten regular season...it is what it is, we went 13-5, and earned a share of the title. But what does it mean for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA?
Ask yourself this question when it comes to evaluating the Michigan season...was it a solid 13-5 or a weak 13-5? Was it a 13-5 that with a few breaks was 15-3? Or was it a 13-5 with a bunch of breaks that could have easily been 10-8? Which of those is more representative of the basketball we saw this year? Death from above in the two tournaments?
Northwestern looms. Twice we played them. Twice we went overtime with them. Could have lost both. Didn't. Positives to be sure. But who shows up come Friday? …
To me, happy we share the title. Not convinced at this point we are as good as either of those other two teams. Proud of the heart, proud of the overall result. Concerned about the two tourneys.
Bluntly, Michigan was not as good as either of the two teams they tied with. You can see that in the efficiency margins:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Ohio St. 13-5 65.4 1.10 0.93 +0.17 2. Michigan St. 13-5 62.5 1.08 0.92 +0.16 3. Wisconsin 12-6 58.0 1.03 0.97 +0.06 4. Michigan 13-5 58.9 1.06 1.01 +0.05 5. Indiana 11-7 65.4 1.11 1.06 +0.05 6. Purdue 10-8 64.0 1.10 1.09 +0.01 7. Northwestern 8-10 61.0 1.08 1.12 -0.04 8. Minnesota 6-12 62.6 1.00 1.04 -0.04 9. Iowa 8-10 65.8 1.03 1.09 -0.06 10. Illinois 6-12 63.7 0.97 1.05 -0.08 11. Penn St. 4-14 62.3 0.97 1.10 -0.13 12. Nebraska 4-14 61.9 0.93 1.09 -0.16
Kenpom will confirm that for you: it has MSU and OSU #2 and #3 behind Kentucky with Michigan idling at 20.
Meanwhile, going 13-5 would not have netted Michigan a title in any other year since the Big Ten went back to 18 games. Most years they wouldn't even be within a game. There's no denying they were fortunate to end up where they are now. Michigan lost one close Big Ten game (@ Indiana, 73-71) and won four to six (NW x 2, MSU, Purdue, maybe Minnesota and OSU depending on how you feel about five-point games). You can grub grub grub about will to win and finding ways to win and winning is for winners; I don't buy that stuff.
In terms of efficiency margin and Kenpom rankings, Michigan is about where we'd hoped they'd be before the season: slightly improved despite the loss of Darius Morris, short of truly contending for a conference title. In terms of wins they're a three seed and a Big Ten champ.
I don't say this to bring anyone down. It's wonderful. For this team to accomplish what they have is fantastic, and at this point anything after winning a 3-14 matchup in the first round is gravy.
I do think they'll be a particularly vulnerable three, though, and won't be surprised to see them flame out in the second round*. I also won't let that damage the wonderful run they went on to erase a lot of bad streaks. From a logical perspective I get the "concern"; from an emotional perspective it went from 90% house money to 110% as soon as Buford hit that shot. The worst that happens is Michigan State fans say "see you weren't really a Big Ten champ." This will not prevent the banner from going up.
*[I'm not predicting that by any means. Michigan gave Duke all they wanted last year and a hypothetical second-round opponent will be much worse than the Blue Devils were last year. Beilein is a consistent outperformer when he reaches the tourney.
HOWEVA, I do loathe the prospect of drawing a couple of the current six-seeds in Jerry Palm's bracket. They are all dangerous mid-majors: UNLV, New Mexico, Wichita State, and St. Mary's. In Kenpom's eyes that's two teams better than Michigan (Wichita, New Mexico) and two who are a dozen or so spots worse (UNLV, St. Mary's).
You may remember the Dohrmann UCLA article mentioning the success of a couple transfers out of the program: that's basically UNLV. Chace Stanback is a 6'8" guy hitting 47% from three; Mike Moser is a 6'8" guy in the top ten in defensive rebounding with high usage and an inside-out game.
I find Palm's fives a lot more palatable: Louisville (#30 Kenpom), FSU (#28), SDSU (#51), and Creighton(#35). No matter what I expect a second-round nailbiter.]
The golden child's effect on the OL.
Brian or Ace or Anybody;
I am confused, when talking about o-line prospects in the 2012 or 2013 class, some say "Fox makes an ideal RT" or "LT-T is the prototype Left Tackle.". Is the fact that Shane "Obama circa 2008" Morris is a southpaw baked into the projections as to who plays where on the OL? Wouldn't the proto LT be moved to RT for a lefty QB, or no?
Are you and your Bloggy ilk keeping this in mind, does it make a difference for a lefty qb?
I don't think it matters much. Many players at Michigan and elsewhere have flipped from right to left tackle without a problem; when Morris becomes the starter Michigan will put their best pass protector at right tackle and he'll adjust over the course of an offseason. Jake Long switched from right to left after his first year as a starter; Mike Schofield was pressed into service as a left guard after practicing mostly at tackle and did fine.
There might be some slight issues if Morris is either in (because of Gardner injury) or out (because of a Morris injury) of the lineup unexpectedly. In that case you probably wouldn't want to screw up the line's performance by flipping them mid-game and will be exposing either Morris's or his backup's blind side to slightly worse protection. That's life.
Even if that happens it doesn't look like there's going to be a huge difference between the starting tackles at any point in the near future. Whoever the #2 guy is will have beaten out an array of 6'5"-6'7" blue chips. This is not going to be Jake Long opposite Rueben Riley. It's going to be Almost Jake Long opposite Decent Approximation Of Jake Long.
MANBALL concerns revisited.
I WANT YOU TO JOIN UP
ALL OF YOU
THAT WAS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
You have argued over the past several years that you think Michigan will be at a talent disadvantage compared to teams like Ohio and SEC oversigners like Alabama, so long as the status quo persists. You've also argued that, schematically, the best way to deal with this deficit is the spread offense. I am curious if you think Hoke (and Borges) can build an offense in their mold that can truly compete on the national stage. What do you think it will take in terms of recruiting and scheme to be a legitimate contender for the national championship? Do you think that we have the ability to recruit the offensive talent we need to contend for a national title? Or is it perhaps too early to tell?
Obviously an elite defense, which I think we are building, mitigates the need for an elite offense, but recent BCS title games have demonstrated that you can't rely on just defense to win that game. Ultimately I am asking what combination of scheme and talent you think we need to achieve in order to win the national championship.
All the best,
My concerns about Michigan's ceiling have been blown away by Hoke's early recruiting returns. If Michigan is bringing in top five classes consistently—Hoke's already two for two a month into his second class—and is approaching games with the controlled aggression that Hoke, Mattison, and Borges displayed in their first year, there is no reason they can't run a conventional offense and compete for national titles.
When you have a huge talent advantage or are Wisconsin you can line up and beat heads in: top ten FEI offenses* this year include Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC. Alabama was #11. All you need to replicate that is a ton of NFL guys on the line, an NFL quarterback, and some NFL skill guys. Check, check, well… we'll see.
I get the vibe from your email that you're a bit skeptical of Michigan's skill position recruiting. I think that's premature. Shane Morris is a Henne-level QB recruit. Michigan did pick up a consensus four-star in Amara Darboh at WR and came close to flipping Brionte Dunn; this year they've got a top 100 tight end (for now, anyway—Butt will probably fall into the 100-200 range as the year progresses) and seem to lead for a couple five-star types in Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell. If Hoke lands those guys Michigan's weak spot in the 2012 and 2013 classes is…
…uh… cornerback? For now, anyway.
Even if one of those two guys escapes we're still 11 months from Signing Day; more targets will emerge. It seems like Michigan's going to be able to focus a lot of attention on any holes they have in the class come, oh, May.
My main concern with Michigan's scheme going forward is a potential over-reliance on a fullback. It seems like most pro-styles have moved to double TE sets. See this Chris Brown article on Alabama's very MANBALL, very NC-worthy offense. I hope that's where Michigan's going, too. Tight ends threaten defenses vertically in a way that fullbacks do not; they're better athletes, generally, and better targets for downfield passes. Fullbacks… eh.
I think this is also where Michigan's going. Their TE recruiting is massive—they're looking for a fifth in two years—and there's clear distinction between guys like Jake Butt and Khalid Hill, a 6'2", 230 pound guy designated a "U-back" or "move tight end" according to TomVH.
So, like, whatever. My beefs 14 months into the Hoke era are "that one punt against Illinois" and "taking a scholarship fullback." Oh, and the complete implosion of the offense in a couple games. But that's not a long term issue.
Hoke has dumped game-changer after game-changer on us since his hire to the point where the internet is making memes like this…
Ben Gedeon's visiting, you say?
…if we're feeling for a ceiling it's a bit hard to find right now. One will probably come, but there's no reason to go looking for it just yet.
*[I know FEI put up some weird results this year what with Navy and Miami in the top ten as well but it at least tries to account for strength of schedule and pace of play; FWIW, Stanford was 8th in total yardage, Wisconsin 14th, USC 21st, 'Bama 31st.
Also, as long as you're down here, how about Paul Chryst? I predict Wisconsin has a noticeable dropoff in his absence.]
The Fab Five didn't cross my mind. Not when Michigan beat Penn State, not when William Buford's shot found twine and gave the Wolverines a share of their first Big Ten title in my lifetime, not until I read Brian's article today.
This is largely a function of age. When the Fab Five first played at Michigan, I was learning to read books made out of cardboard. I have no strong feelings one way or another when it comes to their legacy, because I can't properly contextualize it without having been there to witness it in the first place. I don't see their relevance to this year's team, though that doesn't mean it isn't there.
The teams I grew up watching, however, were the radioactive fallout from the Ed Martin scandal, and that experience has made me all the more appreciative of the John Beilein era. This has little to do with the character of the players—as a kid, you have little-to-no awareness of these players's existence when they aren't playing ball—and everything to do with coaching, the atmosphere surrounding the team, and the joy of simply watching them play.
I have a particularly striking memory from my early years of seriously following Michigan basketball. Brian Ellerbe was the coach, the Wolverines one year removed from the brief glimmer of hope provided by Jamal Crawford, and it was a gray Thanksgiving weekend in Ann Arbor. My friend Jeff and I would often walk over the Stadium bridge, usually with tickets from his parents, and enjoy all that Crisler had to offer. We had fun because we didn't know any better. On this particular day, we had no tickets, but with all the cash you'd expect a pair of middle-schoolers to have, we decided it was worth at least walking the 15 minutes from my house to Cazzie's and try our luck.
Through the power of the internet, I now know Michigan was playing Wagner, though I don't remember the details of the game. What I do remember is climbing the concrete steps in front of the arena to see a lone middle-aged man holding up two tickets; despite it being just before tip-off, I recall him being one of just a handful of people outside Crisler. Jeff and I walked up to him, each with a five-dollar bill extended—a bargain, in our minds. The man gave us a look of sheer pity, began to reach out for the money, then recoiled.
"I can't, in good conscience, make you pay for these," he said. "Just take them."
We couldn't believe our luck, nor understand why this man would give up a perfectly good pair of tickets for nothing. We settled in to our seats and watched the Wolverines cruise to a 98-83 victory. Both of us thought two freshman starters looked rather promising. Their names were Avery Queen and Josh Moore.
Two weekends ago, a college buddy called me up while on his way to Ann Arbor from Chicago. He'd also grown up as a die-hard Michigan fan in Ann Arbor, graduating one year ahead of me at Pioneer. He wanted to know if I could track down a couple of tickets for the Ohio State game.
When Michigan hired Tommy Amaker, I thought the times were changing. When he brought in a recruiting class featuring Lester Abram, Graham Brown, Chris Hunter, and the talented point guard Daniel Horton, I believed. Watching Horton average 15 points and 4.5 assists as a freshman while spearheading a 13-game winning streak after an ugly 0-6 start, I envisioned Michigan reaching the biggest of big stages while Horton earned All-American honors.
But Horton never got better, at least not until his senior year, when his Herculean late-season efforts were wasted on a team headed for yet another NIT appearance, two years after a deep run in that tourney had lost whatever promise it once held. Michigan never developed any semblance of an offense under Amaker. Aimless perimeter passes inevitably led to a hurried chuck from the perimeter; this was the Amaker Offense, as far as I could tell. Every once in a while Brent Petway would tip-slam an offensive rebound. Those were the moments I lived for.
On Sunday, as it has all season—and every year of Beilein's reign—Michigan's offense had a clear purpose. An intricate series of precise cuts and screens begot open look after open look, and the Wolverines connected with remarkable efficiency. Stu Douglass, once a one-dimensional outside shooter with a severe aversion to the paint, played near-flawless defense while creating baskets both inside and outside the arc. Fellow senior Zack Novak, though plagued by foul trouble, quietly scored 11 points, including a run-stopping jumper late in the second half that should've earned extra points for degree of difficulty. The two leaders and captains barely resemble the unknown two-stars who walked onto campus four years ago.
Sure, Michigan hired John Beilein in part because he's the squeaky-clean head of the ethics committee, a coach who will recruit players who pass the can-you-date-my-daughter test with flying colors. But Michigan also hired John Beilein because he's perhaps the greatest strategic mind in college basketball, a coach with an uncanny eye for talent, and the ability—working in tandem with his assistants—to develop that talent.
The newly-christened Crisler Center has received a major face-lift, the Wolverines are headed to their third tournament in four years—with the potential to grab a three-seed—and a banner will be raised next season over the heads of the best Michigan recruiting class in at least 15 years. More importantly, this team has an identity, and it all stems from their head coach—not just his nice-guy image and his emphasis on character, though that is important, but his offense. This is basketball, after all.
I'll happily pony up a few bucks to keep watching. The days of "just take them" are thankfully behind us.
The only reasonable explanation. Michigan State lost the outright title, still won a share, and collectively reacted like this…
…the likely explanation is that they were more focused on denying Michigan than their own team. That game meant very little in the grand scheme of things to MSU. It mattered to OSU and Michigan.
No, it wasn't hard to root for Ohio State yesterday. I didn't even notice.
Irrational optimism getting less irrational. Michigan has two five-star sorts in its upcoming recruiting class and the guy I'm most excited about may be the other dude. That is 6'6" shooting guard/potential Burke backup Nik Stauskas, who just outdueled Nerlens Noel, a 6'10" center who recently reclassified to 2012 and instantly became a top five player after doing so, for tournament MVP at the NEPSAC championships. He is not just a shooter($):
Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Mark’s)
2012, SF, 6-6, 205
Stauskas finished with 19 points but his impact on the game far exceeded that total, as he not only scored the ball in different ways but also facilitated for others in both pick and roll as well as drive-and-kick action. While the complete versatility of Stauskas’ offensive repertoire was on full display, the most impressive part of his performance was that innate star quality that allowed him to make big play after big play at the most pivotal moments of the game.
The main thing keeping him from being another five-star type recruit is his athleticism. That shouldn't prevent him from being a shot generator at the college level—he'll enter with far more skill than Stu Douglass had, for one. I mean, look at his evil beard:
IF that does not fill you with confidence, nothing will.
Stauskas also drew raves from NERR. Meanwhile, Mitch McGary's Brewster team suffered an upset while Glenn Robinson III helped his team win their first sectional title since '97. All that and more at UMHoops.
McCray/Gedeon/Levenberry: Linebacker is the new offensive line
brief comment on the linebacker crunch. My trapper keeper with Michigan's projected recruiting class surrounded by hearts has at least two slots for linebackers, but if the third guy is going to be O'Daniel/Levenberry/Gedeon it probably has three. Sam Webb first thought this was not the case, but recently reversed course.
It should be clear why after a quick glance at the depth chart by class. With announced positional rearrangements taking Beyer and Paskorz away from the SAM spot, that is now the sparsest position on the depth chart. Insert First World Problems GIF here. Michigan has three more years of Jake Ryan, two of Cam Gordon, and nothing else. Even if you figure one of the 2012 recruits is destined to move down—something the coaches denied on Signing Day—that would seem to make a third linebacker a reasonable acquisition.
Even if that's the case now, if O'Daniel and Levenberry hew to their current plans and take their decisions to Signing Day there's a pretty good chance room opens up for one of them. The current assumption on this site is 22, but that assumes Michigan only loses two players to attrition*.
That's an extremely conservative estimate. If Michigan gets up to 24, they can take…
- Another RB
- Two more WRs
- A third TE
- Another CB
- Two DL
…and still have a couple spare scholarships. You may have spotted the assumption here: Michigan will only take one three-tech/SDE type in this class. I think that's reasonable after taking four (Wormley, Godin, Strobel, Henry) last year, especially with two 2011 recruits coming off redshirts and the possibility/likelihood that Wyatt Shallman ends up weighing 280 by his sophomore year.
When all is said and done the bet here is Michigan has a couple scholarships to play with in January and SLB is an excellent candidate to use one of those spares even if Michigan already has a couple linebackers committed. It sounds like McCray and Gedeon are about to drop; if Levenberry changes his mind and attempts to commit on his Spring Game visit he's not getting turned down.
BONUS HYPOTHETICAL EXTRA SCHOLARSHIP DISTRIBUTION DESIRE: Cornerback. Michigan… uh… has fewer blue chip guys there than anywhere else in the last two classes.
/runs around laughing maniacally
//falls in trough
/continues laughing maniacally
We do it better than Todd Graham.
*[Two more players are assumed to not be getting fifth years.]
A rule to live by. Orson just tossed this off and I'm thinking of embroidering it on a sampler or something:
Never have anything to do with a recruit who wants to sign after Signing Day.
This may be sour grapes.
June building stuff. The Washington Post highlights Cato June, new head coach at Anacostia High School in DC. He's filling his staff out with a familiar name:
June quickly turned to [retired HC Willie] Stewart, asking him to help coach the Indians next fall. He also named his close friend and Michigan roommate Walter Cross, the 1997 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year from Oxon Hill, as his offensive coordinator — the same position Cross held at Potomac (Md.) this fall.
Apparently anyone in DC can transfer without a reason, so if June gets things off the ground Anacostia could be a fertile ground for recruiting—not that Brady Hoke needs another one.
Bye-week hockey events. Michigan pulled the worst possible opponent in the second round thanks to Northern Michigan going down in flames against Bowling Green and all other higher seeds holding. They go against Notre Dame, who gave them a very tough weekend about a month ago. The Irish are 19th in the Pairwise and entering a do-or-die weekend for tourney hopes.
The key for Michigan will be watching Notre Dame's goalies play as poorly as they have in all games not against Michigan. Steven Summerhays put up a .945 in the M-ND series; for the year he's at .908.
Pairwise. Michigan's off weekend saw them move up thanks to a one-point weekend from Minnesota-Duluth that cost them the regular-season WCHA title and put their one-seed in flux. Michigan still doesn't win that comparison—I told you it would be tough—and still wont even if they sweep next weekend despite UMD drawing 12-22-2 Minnesota State. Michigan can win the comparison by sweeping ND and doing better than UMD at the conferences' respective finals… as long as UMD doesn't lose this weekend.
Weird system: you are rooting for UMD to win this weekend and get annihilated at the Final Five.
BONUS CCHA BIDS ODDITY: remember that period in the season when seven CCHA teams were destined for the tournament? That's been whittled down to four as of today. Five of the first six teams out of the tourney are CCHA teams. Western, Lake Superior, and ND can still play themselves in.
It's March, so it's time for huge Daily profiles. Luke Glendening is first up:
It was late April 2008, and the Michigan hockey assistant coach had just extended a one-year tryout offer to Luke Glendening, a forward recruit from The Hotchkiss School, a prep institution in Lakeville, Conn.
“You’re on a one-year tryout,” Powers told Glendening. “If you’re good in practice, you’ll stay.”
Powers left him with one last word of warning.
“If you have somewhere else to go, you should probably do it.”
We're living in the golden age of angles, I'm telling you.
A fantastic idea. Mike Spath proposes a new format for the NCAA tournament:
To start, the NCAA should collaborate with the NHL to form six permanent sites, rotating among the six for the four yearly locations: Boston, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver and Toronto. The Frozen Four would also rotate among those six cities instead of taking us to Tampa Bay or Washington D.C.
That would be excellent. You might want to add a Philadelphia or Pittsburgh but that's fine. No more Green Bay, St. Louis, Tampa, etc. Take the money the NHL is giving you and use it to lower ticket prices so you get a local crowd—part of the horrendous attendance in Fort Wayne was the $90 session passes—and try to fill those buildings as much as you can. If you want to "grow the sport" you can promise a local regional/FF to areas considering the addition of hockey programs.
In response to this idea, the NCAA announced the next six Frozen Fours would take place in New Zealand.
Retconned history. The New York Times has a look at how the Big East fell apart featuring this tactical error back in the day:
Tranghese tried to tell the Big East’s university presidents and athletic directors as much as early as 1989 when he was Gavitt’s assistant. Gavitt thought the conference needed to bring Penn State into the fold. Penn State was an independent at the time, looking for the security of a conference.
The membership voted no, with St. John’s, Villanova and Georgetown leading the resistance. At the end of the meeting, Gavitt asked Tranghese what he thought about the decision. “I said, ‘We will all rue the day about this decision,’ ” Tranghese said. “I understood how big football was. I didn’t understand how big it was going to become.
“At that point, the Big East had so much success in the ’80s, everybody sort of forgot about it. But I felt looking back on the history of the Big East, that was probably the biggest mistake we made.”
The conference has been regularly pillaged since and will be a nationwide amalgam of mid-major football schools minus flagship Syracuse as a result. I wonder if the Big Ten would still be ten teams today if the Big East hadn't screwed it all up in the late 80s.
Etc.: Wojo on Sunday's events. I bet a dollar Burke and Cody Zeller end up splitting the freshman of the year award. From Old Virginia takes a look at where lacrosse is headed, speculating that Michigan will eventually end up in a "Western" conference with OSU, PSU, Detroit, Air Force, and Denver. BSD recaps the PSU-M game from their perspective. Michigan engineers elect Bender to school board.