LIST OF WWE PERSONNEL?!?
nice pits, 40
The low rumble that OHIO(!!!) decommit Caris Levert was favoring Michigan increased its intensity recently. Levert visited, was offered, and now Michigan seems far ahead of the pack. Football commit and Pickerington Central teammate Taco Charlton offered this less than cryptic tweet up in response to a question about whether he was recruiting Levert to M:
Also there is this:
Michigan is goina love Pickerington Central athletes!!!haha that's all I gota say.
Do high school kids turn autocorrect off? They must. Otherwise their tweets would read "Michigan is tomato love Thanksgiving Central athletes."
Sam Webb says that Ohio sources at Spiece were saying the usual things about blowing people away, and then brought out the old "gut feeling." Dollars to donuts Levert is in the fold in the next couple weeks.
How are we feeling about this? A longer re-recruiting here would have helped clarify things. If Levert grabbed a Purdue offer to go with Michigan, Dayton, and (presumably) Illinois that would be an excellent signal that Levert is a high-major guy who slipped under the radar. Illinois's recruiting class is now Nobody, but Purdue is doing pretty well for themselves. But we don't have that data.
Without it we'll have to fall back on Beilein's talent evaluation, which okay yeah has not been nearly as great when we're talking about late additions. What separates Levert from the Colton Christians is his production. Guy drove his team to a state title. Also, John Groce did pretty well for himself picking up under-the-radar Ohio dudes. I'm also just like…
JJHuddle Players of the Year
2012: Caris Levert, Pickerington Central (Ohio)
2011: Trey Burke, Northland (Michigan)
2010: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2009: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey (Ohio State) & B.J. Mullens, Canal Winchester (Ohio State/Charlotte Bobcats)
2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky (Ohio State)
…I will take a guy on that list all day.
From a roster standpoint it makes sense. Levert is a 2/3 who Michigan probably doesn't need right away but could step in for major minutes as early as next year if Tim Hardaway Jr or Glenn Robinson III bolts for the NBA. Beilein's finding out that backup plans are nice to have.
Grad Year Name
Assuming Levert commits, Michigan can still issue another 2012 scholarship. Usual spiel about 2013 commits creating a bit of a crunch and statement that a grad-year guy would be ideal. Michigan's deployment of both their long-term scholarship options makes that spot a lot less attractive, though, and at this point it would be a longshot. Wright State grad-year transfer Julius Mays did throw Michigan on the end of a high-end five team list a few days ago:
Mays told CBSSports.com that his initial list consists of Purdue, Michigan State, Kentucky, Cincinnati and possibly Michigan.
Those are some heavy hitters, and Michigan is fifth of five. If interest picks up between the two parties, it looks like Mays can really play. He was high-usage starter for Raiders last year who hit 42% from three, got to the line quite a bit, and had a good assist rate. A 43% shooting percentage from inside the arc is the only drawback. Even with the recent additions, it's not hard to envision Mays sucking up some of the minutes earmarked for Albrecht, Stauskas, and Vogrich to get to 20-25 per game. That could be attractive, but probably not as attractive as being a go-to-guy at Purdue.
2014 Caring Meter: Incremented
I may be adding IL SF Keita Bates-Diop to the list of people from the year 3000 I am interested in hearing about. Bates-Diop just made the new Rivals 2014(!) top 50 and is stopping in at the place all people who want an early Michigan offer they may hop on immediately do:
A silky smooth forward who can play some in the high post, Bates-Diop's future is on the wing and he wields one of the smoothest, most accurate jump shots in the sophomore class. More than just a shooter, the 6-foot-7 forward has length, ball skills and is a graceful athlete who is light on his feet and plays with a high level of intelligence.
Bates-Diop went for 26 in an afternoon game and did so without needing a bunch of shots.
"My shot felt good out there today," Bates-Diop told Rivals.com. 'I feel like I've had a good spring. I'm just trying to play hard and show what I can do."
Major college basketball programs have already taken notice of what Bates-Diop is doing and the Normal (Ill.) University product has already drawn offers from Purdue, DePaul and Northwestern while he's getting interest from Michigan - where he will take an unofficial visit in June for its elite camp - Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisville, Oklahoma State and others.
You may remember last June's elite camp from such events as "entire 2013 class commits." You know Beilein is going to slap on some cologne and bring flowers for a 6'7" shooter with ball skills and athleticism.
By request, recruiting rankings front-paged to bump that creepy picture off the top. Given the glut of early commitments in the class of 2013, it was inevitable that we'd start to see some recruits have a change of heart. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Ohio State suffered a couple of decommits this week, though the circumstances surrounding Alex Anzalone's decision are obviously highly unusual. Other than then happenings in Columbus, nothing changed at the top of the board, though there were several pickups by teams in the middle of the pack. Changes since the last rankings:
4-29-12: Wisconsin picks up Chikwe Obasih.
4-30-12: Illinois picks up Merrick Jackson.
5-1-12: Lewis Neal decommits from Ohio State. Illinois picks up Jarrod Clements. Northwestern picks up Blake King.
5-3-12: Wisconsin picks up Jack Keeler.
5-5-12: Alex Anzalone decommits from Ohio State. Nebraska picks up Christian Lacouture. Illinois picks up Austin Schmidt.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
Today's recruiting roundup addresses some disturbing Twitter-related news, the recruitments of Ty Isaac and Henry Poggi, a pair of new 2013 offers, and a way-too-early top 25 for the class of 2014.
On Twitter and Recruits
Prepare to be creeped out:
Ohio State has learned that a convicted sex offender from Kentucky has made contact with Buckeyes student-athletes both in-person and through social media websites.
The Lantern obtained a Friday email that was sent from OSU athletic director for compliance Doug Archie informing Buckeye student-athletes that the university is aware of photographs OSU players have taken with Charles Eric Waugh, 31, a man listed on Kentucky’s sex offender registry, Archie said in the email.
"The University has become aware that an individual who is listed on Kentucky's sex offender registry has recently been seen in pictures with our student-athletes," Archie said in the mail, which was preceded by a warning text to student athletes.
Land-Grant Holyland has further details, including screencaps of Waugh tweeting inspirational quotes to Ohio State players and recruits and a photograph of him with 2013 recruits Alex Anzalone, Joey Bosa, and Mike Heuerman (above). Waugh is a registered sex offender—and currently on probation—because he was convicted in 2007 of "five counts of possession of matter portraying sexual performances by minors." As Land-Grant Holyland points out, Waugh could be in deep trouble, as the terms of his probation explicitly prohibit him from using any social media platform that allows access to minors, which is obviously the case with Twitter.
What strikes me most about the whole ordeal, however, is that several people—including a pair of current Buckeye players—came to Waugh's defense when he was called out by LGH on Twitter for sending quotes to underage kids and "pandering for [retweets]." This happened prior to the revelation that he was a sex offender, but I still find it deeply worrisome. One of the most prevalent arguments I see when people defend interacting with high school recruits through social media is that many of the recruits enjoy those interactions, so they're justified. I can't agree with that logic—there's a reason most high school kids can't vote, and it has to do with gaining a proper understanding of the world around them.
I'm not saying people shouldn't ever follow recruits; given the nature of my job, that would be hypocritical. I honestly don't see why people want to do so—the amount of relevant news gained is dwarfed in comparison to the sheer volume of high school drama, tweets with far too much information, and life musings of high schoolers—but that's your prerogative. When the line is crossed to interacting with recruits, however, it becomes a problem; even if you can't see an issue with chatting with a high school kid you don't know, there is the fact that NCAA violations are being committed at an alarming rate. I've had people ask me to tweet at recruits and encourage them to go to Michigan, which not only violates NCAA rules and the principles of journalistic integrity, but is also asking me to insert myself into a life decision for which I have no business giving input.
I realize that I'm speaking to a small fraction of the blog's readership, and also that there are a large number of fans who won't see this. But things will change soon—this isn't the first or last time that recruits will unwittingly interact with a sex offender, to put it bluntly—and I can't foresee fans having such unfettered access to recruits remaining the norm. Get ahead of the curve, remember that you're dealing with high school kids, and understand that it isn't your job to tell these young men what they should do with their lives. Brady Hoke will handle recruiting just fine without you.
(As for Facebook, by the way: don't. Just don't. Please don't make me list the reasons why you shouldn't "friend" recruits.)
Isaac Visiting USC, More 2013 News
IL RB Ty Isaac will take his second trip to USC this weekend, and according to Sam Webb he'll be accompanied by his mother ($). While I still think Michigan has the edge in his recruitment—his mother indicated that another visit to Ann Arbor is likely—this does signal that USC is a legitimate contender, perhaps moreso than Notre Dame. Isaac does ask that people not read too much into the trip, however:
“At this point (people) are going to find out (about the visit) anyway,” he said. “They’re going to have writers out there that hear that I’m out there, and they’re going to write about it. I can’t control that. I knew I had it set up for about two weeks and I kind of didn’t want to say right when I knew because you know how some of these guys on the internet are. They go crazy… like two visits means a commitment. But it’s tough… you have to get out and see these places. Just because it’s far away doesn’t mean it should be a one visit type deal. I’ve been a lot of places multiple times, so we’re just checking it out again.”
Please don't let Isaac doing his due diligence cause panic(!) in the comments. Also, as he has said in the past, Isaac plans to make his decision before the fall.
Rivals caught up with MD DT Henry Poggi after his visit to Alabama, and he played things close to the vest, abstaining from naming any leaders ($). He's working on setting his first visit to Penn State, however, and also is considering trips to Texas A&M and Cal. Given that he's taken three trips each to Michigan and Alabama, I wouldn't expect those schools to become a threat unless he takes return visits.
According to TomVH, Michigan sent out offers to two new prospects ($) this week in Fort Lauderdale (FL) University School of Nova South teammates WR Jordan Cunningham and DT Maquedius Bain. Cunningham is strangely listed at either 6'1" or 6'3" and makes the top 150 on both Rivals and ESPN, though he garners three-star ratings from Scout and 247. MAQUEDIUS BAIN (yes, he gets the all-caps treatment) is currently a Florida State commit, but he could possibly open up his recruitment; he's in the top 100 on both Scout and ESPN, but also has three stars on two sites.
Neither offer should come as a surprise considering Michigan's needs, especially with how things are trending at wide receiver. While things look good for Laquon Treadwell, there's still along way to go before he decides. Meanwhile, TX WR Eldridge Massington just committed to USC this afternoon ($, info in header). Fellow TX WR Marcell Ateman committed to Oklahoma State on Wednesday. NC WR Uriah LeMay cut his list down to ten ($), and it doesn't include the Wolverines. With two more receivers a near-necessity for rounding out the class, don't be surprised if Michigan goes hard after some new names on the recruiting trail.
Quickly: Sam Webb's DetNews feature this week is on CA ATH Elijah Qualls, who's trimmed down his current list to Washington, Oregon State, Arizona, Nebraska, California, Michigan, Iowa State and UCLA, though USC, Oklahoma, and Oregon could just into the mix if they offer. He's considering using an official visit to check out Ann Arbor. Michigan added a quarterback for the 2012 class, picking up Detroit Jesuit's Brian Cleary as a preferred walk-on.
Camps! Plus 2014 Updates
It's a big weekend for Michigan commits, as Columbus will host an Elite11 regional today then the Nike Football Training Camp on Saturday. Shane Morris will try to earn a spot in the Elite11 finals after failing to do so at the Dallas regional last month, though he'll face stiff competition from Stanford commit Ryan Burns (ESPN's #17 overall recruit) and others.
The NFTC will play host to commits Jourdan Lewis, Taco Charlton, Khalid Hill, David Dawson, and Mike McCray, who will attempt to raise their stock with strong camp performances. Scout's Allen Trieu has an extensive free preview; uncommitted recruits of note include Cass Tech DT Kenton Gibbs (no M offer), IN DT Darius Latham (offer), and a host of 2014 prospects, including MI WR Damon Webb, OH WR Thaddeus Snodgrass, MI LB Deon Drake, MI LB Gary Hosey, MI LB William White, and MI RB Lorenzo Collins. I know TomVH and Chantel Jennings will be there, as will the guys from Tremendous, so there will be no shortage of coverage on the event next week.
247 released a (very) early top 25 for the class of 2014, and several players holding Michigan offers made the list, including top overall prospect VA DT Da'Shawn Hand. Other offerees: NJ CB Jabrill Peppers (#3), MD OT Damian Prince (#13), NC OT Bentley Spain (#17), DC CB Jalen Tabor (#20), and MI DE Malik McDowell (#23). [EDIT: Tim Sullivan just posted over on The Fort (and said I could pass this along) that Peppers doesn't yet hold a Michigan offer, despite statements Peppers has made to the contrary. His coach confirms that Peppers doesn't have an offer at the moment.]
Peppers named a top six this week that includes Michigan, and he revealed to 247 that he grew up as a fan of the Wolverines ($). Joining the Wolverines are Stanford, USC, Miami (YTM), Notre Dame, and Ohio State; Peppers said that Michigan will "definitely" be in his top five when he has one, and he's working on setting up an unofficial visit. Getting in early on Peppers would make for a fantastic start to the 2014 class.
Quickly: Kyle Turley and J.C. Shurburtt break down Logan Tuley Tillman's junior film—there's not much insight beyond what Turley wrote up last week, but it's interesting to see him go through tape. David Dawson is still getting visited by other schools, with Florida making a particularly strong push, though he remains committed and won't take visits elsewhere—he's well aware of Hoke's policy. Trieu breaks down the emerging 2014 prospects in the Midwest, including recently-offered Parrker Westphal.
Last month I took a look at how the recruiting services stacked up when it came to predicting future college success. With the latest NFL Draft in the books I wanted to review it to see if there were major differences between services predicting the draft versus college success.
Even though NFL draft position doesn’t always equate to success at college, it is an indicator of talent and there are very few instances were great college players don’t ultimately end up in the NFL, mainly highly efficient noodle armed quarterbacks. Even rushing quarterbacks typically find their way onto draft boards where the Kellen Moore’s and Case Keenum’s of the world sign on as undrafted free agents.
Biggest Hits & Misses
Here are the players from the first three rounds that one service rated significantly different than the other two.
ESPN had significantly more outliers than other two services. Luckily, the hits outweighed the misses. ESPN was the sole advocate for five first rounders and had more hits (9) than the other two services combined (7). The Worldwide Leader also racked up the misses at a record pace, missing on six top picks.
Morris Claiborne, Ryan Tannehill, Luke Kuechly, Kendal Wright, Whitney Mercilus, Courtney Upshaw, TJ Graham, Mohamed Sanu, Sean Spence
Matt Kalil, Mark Barron, Nick Perry, Mitchell Schwartz, Cordy Glenn, Isaiah Pead
Scout had only four players from the first three rounds that they significantly diverged from the other services on. Their divergence was centered on receivers as three of the four players they deviated on were wide outs.
Justin Blackmon, Stephen Hill, Olivier Vernon
The players were different but Rivals hit and miss counts were virtually identical to Scout.
Quinton Coples, Brandon Taylor, Jamell Fleming, Jayron Hosley
Round by Round Scorecard
How each round went, points given for whichever service had a draft pick rated highest (must be in the top 1000 ranked). Numbers listed as Rivals/Scout/ESPN.
Round 1: Push 8/9/9
Round 2: Rivals 11/4/6
Round 3: Rivals/ESPN 8/3/8
Round 4: Scout/ESPN 6/12/10
Round 5: Scout 5/9/3
Round 6: Rivals/ESPN 5/3/6
Round 7: Scout 8/12/6
Overall the wins were pretty evenly balanced across the services. Rivals taking at least a share of the first three rounds would probably give them the overall edge. They also had the lowest overall average ranking of draft picks.
Scorecard by Class
Class of 2007: Push 18/18/15
Class of 2008: Scout 22/29/26
Class of 2009: Rivals 10/6/5
Despite their overall strength, Rivals struggled in the main class of the draft, 2008.
The look at the NFL draft results versus the recruiting rankings mostly reinforce each other. Based on the data from both looks, here is how I would describe each service’s strengths and weaknesses.
Rivals: The best and most consistent performer. Year after year producing output at or above the level of any other service.
Scout: A very good second to Rivals. Similar consistency to Rivals and an overall level that is close but still a notch below. A quality second voice.
ESPN: The all or nothing service. Demonstrated that overallocation to the SEC that isn’t necessarily supported by the NFL draft. Blatant neglect of west coast recruits but willing to deviate from the other services, with mixed results.
It is spring, the time of renewal, by which I mean today is the last day you can renew your football season tickets. In order to do this you were supposed to get your "points" by donating earlier—by Jan. 30 even—but like any other money-taking organization, so long as they have inventory and you are willing to give money for that inventory, a deal may be struck. According to MGoSoftball they won't even tell you the minimum donation you need to get the tickets, because then you might not bid too high. This is starting to sound more like buying a car than access to see Michigan play Air Force, UMass, Illinois, MSU, Northwestern, and Iowa.
JeepinBen posted a link to an attendance visualizer for 2006-'11. The money shot:
Things that don't affect attendance: major scandals (OSU), or fleecing your fanbase with mandatory donations (M). Things that kill attendance: major scandals AND fleecing your fanbase with mandatory donations to buy football tickets. Penn State had their scandal at the same time as Ohio State. The "adjusted season ticket pricing guidelines" were instituted in Happy Beaver Valley State College for 2011.
Meanwhile Indiana and Kentucky won't play each other in basketball for the first time since 1969 because Indiana didn't want to turn it into an NBA game and Kentucky was all like "screw you guys, I'm S-E-C!"
SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS GAME
Now I love college football, so much so that I have knee-jerk reaction when somebody says it's barbaric, even if it's a former linebacker. We don't know what caused Junior Seau to commit suicide, or Dave Duerson, or Ray Easterling. What we know is that multiple concussions can create severe, suicidal depression, and when you start going down the list of former football players to commit suicide it's exactly the dudes you remember as your favorite hitters. Football is still the sport that killed participants and will always be about breaking the other guy's will by flinging your body at him. But I'm ready to overreact now.
That Virginia Tech study which came out last year that ranked the helmets on the market based on safety also taught us a lot about helmet design. Last time I had this conversation with someone it was at the plastics show in Orlando with a guy who makes the padding in the helmets. I asked what's holding them back from making a helmet that cuts down on concussions and got two points back: One, there's an aesthetic problem—people have a general idea of what a football player ought to look like, and some of the danger points (like the top of the forehead) when you put more padding over them, make the player wearing the helmet look less dangerous. Two—and this was just anecdotal—the helmets are already ridiculously safer than they were just 10 years ago, but the safer they make the helmets the more recklessly the players will attack each others' heads. He said when he played ball (in the '60s and '70s) they knew their helmets weren't infallible so players held back, even against hated rivals.
Like I said, I'm ready to overreact, but how? I really have no idea. This is cumulative so the NFL is going to feel the brunt of this, but the concussions don't care if the players were paid when they happened. At the very least remember this when you're complaining about how they effectively got rid of kickoff returns this year. They're obviously trying; there's no such thing as an easy fix.
PRACTICE? PRACTICE? PRACTICE!
Thank you Matthew for discovering a bevy of footage from former slot receiver Terrence Robinson. T-Rob was the first
starting slot bug in the Rodriguez era, but injury and dropsies buried him under the thickest part of the depth chart and he ended an unrenewed 5th after last year. He put his practice film on YouTube because what says Michigan 2008-'10 more than a backup slot receiver burning a who's who of terrible defensive backs. Watch as Teric Jones is knocked on his butt by a 5'8 dude, and J.T. Turner stands around then sort of waves at a pass that's going behind him—exactly the way my brother plays EA NCAA defense. Between hilariously bad bites by a clueless Cullen Christian you can also find a bunch of perfect-touch downfield passes by Devin Gardner. Practice hype: not all fairies.
Double-post on this one but we haven't mentioned it yet on the front page that I can tell: the 2nd slot bug of the Rod era—Odoms—has an organization to help the town that gave Michigan its Florida flavor. I'm contacting them about how we might help (and about their spelling of "Vegtable" [sic]). Brandin Hawthorne wears No. 7 because that's the number of their high school teammate who was shot. Vincent Smith is the team's smallest back and yet the best pass blocker among them. There are towns who have done less for us.
Meanwhile in former player charities, Space Emperor Zoltan is still unfamiliar with human humor, and thus has asked his minions of Earth to tweet him a good name for his celebrity karaoke event.
IS THERE A DRAFT IN HERE OR AM I JUST IN KOREA?
Draft-related items littered the board the past few weeks. The coolest is that from blueherron, who created a spreadsheet of Michigan draft picks. The last three years was unsurprisingly our lowest output since the '80s. Rivals did a two-part series comparing their rankings to the draft and got a good discussion going. And brooktrail posted the inevitable discussion of M's next crop.
COACHES TO AISLE MAGNUS
Magnus's program is a little light at defensive tackle, facing a run-heavy schedule, and looking into going with a 3-3-5 to make up for that. Degree of difficulty for snarky responses applies—I'm sure he's already purchased a stuffed beaver. CoachZ's response is enlightening. Coaches: plz write more diaries.
ALL DIARIES ARE TENNIS DIARIES
ETC. Blockhams are trying to help their Sparty brother. You can help Six Zero by suggesting ways for this not to become RCMB-blue. THE_KNOWLEDGE has discovered our WYSIWYG has a feature to make text bigger and wants his own tab.
Special Teams: Bit of a mixed bag, just not in the way you expected.
This is the final edition of the 2011 Preview Review, focusing on special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions"—his term, not mine. Instead of breaking it down in the categories I've used in the two previous posts, I'm just going to go prediction-by-prediction for this one, since there's obviously less to cover here.
First, however... never forget:
This picture, encapsulating the gawd-awfulness of Michigan's 2010 attempts to split the uprights with a football, prefaced the preview section for kickers. The general assumption, given said gawd-awfulness, was that highly-touted freshman Matt Wile would step onto campus and immediately take over the starting job. Instead, three photos of post-shank Brendan Gibbons graced the top of the "kicker" section ("Rating: 2?"), followed by this caption:
WHAT THE BALLS WHY IS THIS MAN'S PICTURE HERE
It was a legitimate question. Gibbons went 1-for-4 in the 2010 regular season, lost his job to Seth Broekhuizen (3-for-9), then put a fitting cap on RichRod's final season by completely biffing a 35-yarder in the Gator Bowl. Optimism, well, was justifiably absent:
The idea of Gibbons hitting the field again gives me hives. At least this time around there's another option, though it's an option that lost out to Brendan Gibbons. Guh.
I always punt on kickers I haven't seen play but the chances Michigan has come up totally incompetent on two straight scholarship guys is low. Either Gibbons has gotten a lot better or they're trying not to put too much on Wile's plate.
So, of course, Gibbons goes out and hits 13 of 17 field goals, then cements himself in Michigan lore by drilling the game-winner in the Sugar Bowl while thinking about brunettes. By midseason, I wasn't even hiding my eyes when Hoke sent out the field goal unit. Gibbons improved dramatically; I won't attempt to figure out why—kickers are weird—but the stark contrast in reactions between Hoke and Rodriguez when the kicking game went to hell isn't a bad place to start.
The aspect of the kicking game that purported to be rock-solid was punting, where Wile was supposed to hold down the fort for four games until Will Hagerup made a grand, Zoltan-esque return from suspension.
If he manages to get through September without immolating his career, Michigan will have one of those punters color commentators call a "weapon" whenever he strolls onto the field. In Hagerup's case this is almost not hyperbolic.
Brian gave the punters a rating of "3, then 5" with the expectation that Hagerup would put behind him the early struggles of his freshman season and punt like the guy who averaged 44 yards per boot in Big Ten play. Instead, he wasn't even the best punter on the team: Wile averaged 42 yards per punt, while Hagerup managed just 36. Hagerup still started for most of the season, but when he shanked punts for 26 and 24 yards in the Sugar Bowl, Wile came on in relief and again performed better. Michigan finished the season 109th in net punting, a bitterly disappointing effort from a unit that was thought to be a strength.
Less surprising were Michigan's struggles in the return game, where Jeremy Gallon's contined presence at punt returner after finding every conceivable way to fumble in 2010 was deemed "inexplicable." There was one mission, and one mission only:
Gallon and the kick returners? Ask again later. I'm not expecting miracles. Just HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.
There were no miracles. Gallon averaged a hair over ten yards per punt return as the Wolverines finished 53rd nationally in that category. Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith handled most of the kick return duties; both were underwhelming, and Michigan was 117th in the country, averaging just 18.4 yards. Fumbles were notably absent, however, and thus the masses were placated.
Now we delve into the "Heuristics and Stupid Prediction" portion of the preview. Brian again recounted RichRod's "weird evil turnover juju," then predicted that Michigan would experience a much-needed regression to the mean after finishing -10 in turnover margin in 2010, in large part due to a competent defense and experience (say what?) at quarterback.
If Robinson remains healthy Michigan should improve significantly. The defense has to suck less and Robinson's responsibility should improve rapidly relative to players more than a year removed from being novelty freak shows. I'm afraid that Robinson is just a fumble-prone guy—Mike Hart didn't need experience to hold on to the damn ball—but the interception rate should dip considerably.
On the other side of the ball, a defense that rushes more than three players and has Martin, RVB, and Roh should get back to at least average in sacks. The center of the Gaussian distribution here is probably –3 turnovers on the year; even that would be massive improvement.
Robinson's interception rate, unfortunately, did not take a dive, but that didn't stop the Wolverines from vastly exceeding those expectations. Michigan finished +7 on the year, jumping from 109th to 25th in the national rankings.
The part you all want to see, however, is the final, "stupid" prediction. Before the ultimate unveiling, Brian put forth best-case and worst-case scenarios. Your nightmare season:
There's no bottom if Denard and a couple of other key defensive players are hurt. Leaving the worst-worst case out, a relatively healthy Michigan has no business losing to WMU, EMU, Minnesota, or Purdue at home.
San Diego State, Northwestern, Illinois are all losable but Denard should be able to snake at least one of those. 5-7 is the floor.
Obviously, none of that happened, because this website is not devoted to pictures of kittens. As for the best-case season:
The schedule is fairly soft, with no true road games until Michigan State (the game at Northwestern will be at least half M fans) and both Penn State and Wisconsin rotating off. If the offense maintains its current level of productivity and Mattison mediocres the defense real good, the only game that still seems entirely out of reach is Nebraska.
That's not to say Michigan can reasonably expect to win all games in reach. Taking more than two from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, and the Akron State Golden Bobcats seems to be irrational optimism. 9-3 is about all you can reasonably hope for.
Take out what ended up being overblown faith in Nebraska and understandable skepticism about the defense being anything better than mediocre and this is essentially what happened. Hooray for besting the "best-case" scenario. Less hooray for overrating Iowa and seeing them beat us anyway.
And finally, Brian's actual prediction:
I add it up and I come up with eight wins and change. Assume one irreplaceable player is annihilated and that comes back down to an even 8-4. Unlike last year, when I predicted 7-5 but thought 6-6 was more likely than 8-4, I think Michigan is more likely to surprise to the positive until such time as we have another Woolfolk ankle explosion pity party.
Some commenters have suggested that the exactingly specific predictions in the previous posts today suggest I'd be predicting something better than 8-4, but I think turnovers, while getting much better, will still be in the red. Though the special teams issues can't be as bad they will still be a problem that could kill Michigan in a close game.
Robinson, Martin, Van Bergen, and Demens all survived the season without significant injury; dodging those potential bullets cannot be understated in its significance. Throw in Michigan's turnover reversal, a defense that surprised even the most irrational optimist, and a competent kicking game—plus the implosion in Columbus—and you get a 10-2 regular season, landmark victories over Notre Dame and Ohio State, and a (completely fluky) Sugar Bowl triumph over Virginia Tech.
Please predict 10-2 this time around, Brian. That's how these things work, right?