mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
(Audio for transcription courtesy of WolverineNation because I had a thesis committee meeting yesterday and my dog ate my tape recorder)
P(eanut)BU(tter) Jelly Time
How have you gotten better over the last nine practices?
“Just correcting what I’m doing wrong, so just little things like bad eyes, technique, things like that. Just have to keep getting better every day.”
You weren’t here for spring practice last year. Is it what you expected?
“It’s very similar to fall camp. We have full pads. It’s pretty much what I expected.”
You had a good rookie season but struggled against Ohio State and Virginia Tech. How much did that motivate you during the offseason?
“I don’t know if it’s motivation. I just know that I have to keep getting better. It’s the expectation for playing corner here at the University of Michigan. I just have to keep getting better and keep working on my craft.”
What happened during those games? Where did the breakdowns occur?
“Just bad technique. We’ve gone over it plenty of times, and that’s what we’re trying to finish. When you talk about teams getting better or worse as the season goes on -- we had some changes go on, and we just have to get it corrected and keep getting better. We have a lot of guys returning especially in the secondary.”
How would you evaluate how the rest of the team is coming together?
“We’re coming together really well. We have some seniors that are stepping up for us. Coach Hoke always talks about seniors leading, so that’s who we look up to.”
What areas can the team improve on in the next two weeks?
“Just being physical. Coach Hoke always talks about hearing football, so I think we need to step up the intensity a little bit and keep getting better.”
How motivated are you by the cornerback tradition at Michigan and to be the next in that line of guys?
“It’s all motivation. That’s why you come to Michigan for every position. When you talk about motivation, it’s going to be there from the time you get here to the time you leave. It’s kind of a given.”
You talk about expectations for the position -- is it different for the corners?
“I don’t think so. There’s an expectation for every position. We have really great coaches, and they’re going to demand what they need.”
Do you feel that last season wore on you toward the end?
“No I don’t think it wore on me. I just made some mistakes I hadn’t made, but I have to keep getting better.”
What kind of mistakes?
“Just bad eyes, bad technique. We talked about that the last two games. My coaches got on me and corrected it.”
What do you mean by bad eyes?
“Just as far as the reads coming off the line, things like that.”
Where do your eyes need to be and where were they?
“I don’t know the exact place, I just know they weren’t where they were supposed to be when they needed to be there.”
Does that mean you need to watch more film?
“Oh yeah. Of course. That’s another expectation. As you get older, you become more comfortable with the defense, so you don’t need to focus more on the plays, but you need to focus more on watching film and the game plan.”
You were a pretty slight guy when you got here. What are you up to nowadays?
“What do you mean by that?”
You were listed at 172, 174 last year …
“I’ve gained a little weight. I have to get a little bigger. This is the Big Ten, it’s a big conference. My weight’s probably at about 180 right now.”
Where do you want to be?
“Um … I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about that.”
Was your size ever an issue last season?
“No no no no. I don’t think it was a big issue at all. It’s a big league, but as you get older you’re going to get bigger. That comes with it.”
Can you talk about some of the other corners you’re competing with?
“I just know we have a lot of guys and we’re competing and everything. As corners we’re competing every day and we’re getting better and we’re pushing each other. I wouldn’t just say one guy, but Terrence [Talbott] is going to push J.T. or Terrence is going to push Ray[mon Taylor] or they’re going to push me, I’m going to push Delonte -- we just work as a group.”
Have the coaches talked to you about avoiding the sophomore slump?
“Coach Hoke tells us all the time that the dumbest guys on the team are the freshmen and the biggest problems are sophomores that played as freshmen. Coach Hoke kind of picks on me and I have to take that to heart a little bit. I’m working on it.”
What are your expectations for yourself your sophomore year?
“I just wanted to contribute as much as I can to the team and the Big Ten Championship is always the goal.”
Was there anything about playing in the Big Ten last season that you didn’t expect?
“No I don’t think so. We have great guys on the scout team, and during practice you kind of get the feel for things. The way my coaches worked me into it, I was pretty comfortable out there.”
What have you seen from Denard from your vantage point this spring?
“Denard’s a hard worker. He’s a senior this year so he’s kind of stepping up. He’s trying to be more vocal with little things like that. We’re coming along very well.”
Where have you seen him develop as a passer this spring?
“I don’t know what you’re looking [for] -- I’m a defensive back. I mean, he’s making his reads, he’s completing balls …”
Which receiver gives you the most trouble in practice?
“Everybody. I mean, when I line up against a receiver there’s always going to be competition. I wouldn’t point out just one guy, but the receivers are working hard.”
So there isn’t one guy that gets the better of you in practice and maybe ticks you off a little?
“No I wouldn’t say that.”
You wouldn’t even say if there was, would you.
Who talks the most? Roy Roundtree, probably?
“No no no. I wouldn’t say Roy talks the most. Probably [Jeremy] Gallon.”
Sugar Bowl file
Is it different running primarily with the ones this year?
“Yeah. It’s a lot different. Being with the ones, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to fulfill the expectation of the position. It’s a major difference. And you have to develop more as a leader.”
What kind of progress have you made personally, and what kind of progress has the team made?
“Myself, I think [with] it being a new position for me, I think I’m making some big strides for the team. Coming from the outside to the inside, I’m able to use my quickness. I’m a little faster off the ball. The thing I need to work on most to help myself out a little more on the inside is probably my footwork and my hands. Placing my hands. And my development will help the team’s development.”
There’s a weight gain component to it, too, right?
“Yeah. In the winter I gained 10 pounds.”
Where are you at now?
Where do you want to be in the fall?
“In the fall about 280.”
How are you putting on the weight?
“Just Wellman. Talking to him, sitting down with him, eating right, drinking right. Everything.”
How big of a transition is it to move from the outside to the inside?
“I wouldn’t say it’s a huge transition. The only thing is your feet and everything in the hands. Everything else is pretty much the same thing. You just have to get used to the swing of things.”
Are you comfortable with taking double teams and those sorts of things?
“I’m getting comfortable. At first I wasn’t … but I’m learning to stick in there and put in my hands a little more.”
Do you notice Fitz gaining more confidence?
“I’ve noticed a difference since I’ve been a freshman with Fitz. Fitz is the type of guy -- he’s been waiting a while to step up, and when it was his time to shine and fulfill his position, he stepped up. His confidence has to go up. Coming off a season like I did, everybody has to take it up a notch.”
The defensive line was a huge part of the team’s success last season. Is that motivation for you?
“We’re not looking in the past. We’re looking straight forward at what we have to do for Michigan and just focus on September 1st.”
Did anyone at the tackle position take you under their wing and show you the ropes a bit?
“Yeah. Will Heininger. I talk to him a lot. He showed me what he did and what helped him out coming from playing nose to 3-technique. I’ve been talking to him a lot and he’s been showing the ways I shoot my hands.”
Does he come down to the practice field and show you these things?
“Sometimes I see him out, and sometimes I see him in here in the training room and weight room.”
Who are some of the other tackles you’ve been impressed with so far?
“Our seniors. Big Will, Craig Roh. They’re the leaders. They’re the seniors. We all follow suit with what they do. They’ve really taken their game up a notch. Especially Craig, seeing his work in the winter, and especially Big Will taking charge and being that leader.”
Obligatory Will Campbell question.
“Will, last year, the coaches used to always talk about how he used to play high and how he needed to lower his pad level. I think he’s starting to realize that. It’s his senior season. He’s the leader and he has to step it up a notch.”
There’s been a lot of change on the defensive line. How is your chemistry off the field?
“Brotherhood. We’ve been doing everything together. We work out together, we eat together, we sweat together, bleed together -- everything. Our chemistry on the field is pretty tight, especially when we communicate back and forth what we’re going to do. Off the field it’s getting there, especially with the new moves.”
What’s Will like off the field?
“He’s a funny guy. Good to be around. Lot of joking. Silly stuff.”
There’s a lot of experience on the offense. Have you noticed them being more potent than they were last fall?
“Yeah. Most definitely. I think as far as the center position goes, Ricky I think he’s doing a pretty good job stepping up trying to fulfill Molk’s position, with huge shoes to fill, when you talk about the No. 1 center in America. I think Ricky’s taking strides and he’ll be taking it to the next level. I think the offensive line as a whole, they’re really kind of putting it together as far as pass protection -- Patrick Omameh stepping up a lot. Taylor’s one in there, too.”
How have you seen the rush ends progress, like Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer?
“Frank and Beyer, they’re coming along real well. Me and Craig joke about it all the time, how our bodies weren’t meant to do all that running and stuff. When I watch film and see them running to the ball, they’re a better fit for that position. They’re coming along real well. They’re working together. Coach Mattison’s doing a great job with them, progressing them along.”
Do you feel like your current position is a good fit for you?
“Yeah. I think it’s a perfect fit. Any way I can help the team out and better the team is perfect for me.”
What was your first thought when the coaches asked you if you wanted to move inside?
“I was kind of taken back at first, but I kind of knew it was happening because I played inside during the Sugar Bowl and towards the end of the season, so I was prepared. It was like, ‘All right, come on, let’s go with it.’ ”
Was there any apprehension at all?
“I was nervous about gaining the weight and how my body would respond, but other than that, it really wasn’t 'I can’t do it' or anything.”
How did they ask you to make move?
“Coach [Mattison] called me in. He just said, ‘You’re going to play 3-technqiue for us.’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”
When did that happen?
“It happened a week after the Sugar Bowl. Week or two. Two weeks.”
BURKE ACK. Everyone's on alert after Sam Webb—previously confident—walked that back significantly last night on the premium Scout board. Rivals almost immediately provided a positive counterpoint but I think we all know who's had the better information over the last year or so. Dylan has "strong rumors on both sides of the coin." I'm stocking my bomb shelter.
Burke should hear an official word from the NBA advisory committee in two days. I haven't heard any analyst say he's a first rounder and the strong rumor I got said Burke wouldn't leave unless that's where he was projected; if that's the case we could get an announcement of a return shortly after. Once that date passes April 29th is the deadline. The April 10th date is meaningless.
This is wasting time I could be using buying canned goods.
This is cultural relevance. Via Matt Norlander and Jerry Hinnen, a curiosity left behind in the Kentucky locker room in the aftermath of their national championship:
It was probably inevitable that the end result of the Fab Five is the apotheosis of the one-and-done. Whether that's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder.
I WATCHED ALL-STAR HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL AND SURVIVED. It was a near thing, but I made it. Over the weekend I took in Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III playing in separate games of the ESPN something something classic something, and wondered why I was doing it. I can tell you these things:
- Mitch McGary is tall, but not as tall as some other guys.
- Glenn Robinson III can dunk very well…
- …but had a rough day at the free throw line.
Click through for McGary, who didn't look as good of a prospect in a barely-organized meaningless quasi-scrimmage that even the announcers regularly talked trash about. Hurrah for information.
Robinson looks like he'll be tough to keep off the court. After the game Dave Telep asserted that he and Sam Dekker were overlooked for the McDonald's game. It'll be interesting to see how the minutes shake out. Robinson says he's being looked at for the 2 and 3…
As far as next season goes, Robinson says he's currently putting in extra time on his 3-point shooting and his ball handling. He said the Michigan staff would like to use him as both a small forward and shooting guard next season, meaning he could be relied on to attack the rim off the dribble, distribute and score from deep.
…but I'm betting we see Michigan go with Robinson at the four for at least 15 minutes a game. That will depend on how Hardaway and Stauskas are playing and how comfortable Beilein is with a four who can't shoot threes.
Also a chic pick. Indiana is getting a lot of hype in everyone's way-too-early previews. Someone else getting hype: Michigan. Andy Katz:
The Wolverines will be in the top 10 if Trey Burke returns to school. He should. He would join freshman stud Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr., and a loaded class that also includes ESPNU 100 recruits Glenn Robinson Jr., and Nik Stauskas. The Wolverines have had a few defections, and that has disrupted a bit of their flow. But John Beilein has figured out the Big Ten, so Michigan will once again be in the mix.
Not to be outdone is Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star:
3. Michigan: Trey Burke is the big key here. If he stays in school, Michigan is loaded considering what it has back and the addition of players like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. If Burke leaves, I think Michigan slips a few notches here. Losing Douglass and Novak would be bigger if a guy like Burke doesn’t return.
CBS has Michigan #5. Yeesh. I know we're talking Big Expectations next year but a one-seed is not the peak of my personal expectations distribution.
Twosie, the story. The Daily tracks down the man who sold Taylor Lewan his tandem bike:
Hakken asks Lewan where the coeds are going to sit, as he rides around with his friends. Tandem bikes are, after all, romantic.
“No girls are going to ride my twosie,” Lewan says, incredulously, and Hakken laughs again. He's never heard anyone call a tandem that before, but he chooses not to correct Lewan, who makes it clear he’s serious about buying the bike.
It's a story for the ages. In 2055 the most prestigious college football award will be the Taylor Lewan's Twosie, given to the best pair of starting tackles in the country.
Flufftasm. Not Michigan Replay is all "BCS Sugar Bowl champions but that's in the past," and MGoVideo has restored the rightful music that is right:
Reader Matt Stone points out that there's a (smoked) bubble screen around 8:52. Either way that's good—Michigan couldn't defend it at all last year, and never ran it in an effort to loosen up defenses.
Check out the segment on Michigan replacing Molk and Martin if only to hear Ricky Barnum pronounce hungry "hawngry." #doyouspeakflorida.
Talking to Al. I watched about an hour of this at the Glazier Clinic I went to and could have happily done another four:
"He invited me into a room…"
"…the film room."
Ohhhh oh. Oh. Carry on. Michigan Replay should be an hour of this every week. Two.
Overcoming tragedy, he selected extra value meal #3. If Elliott Mealer does end up winning the left guard job, you can ink the inevitable Tom Rinaldi feature in double-underlined ink. I just wonder if he'd like to be Elliott Mealer at this point instead of Overcoming Tragedy Elliott Mealer. Example AA.com headline:
Elliott Mealer overcomes tragedy, becomes leading candidate for starting spot on Michigan's offensive line
Maybe Elliott Mealer wants to be Guy With Mountain Man Beard instead.
Meanwhile, Brock update:
He continues to work out with Barwis three times per week, commuting from Ohio to BarwisMethods in Plymouth, and can now take 23 steps without any kind of support -- canes included.
A weakness! A palpable weakness! Alabama is moving Australian JUCO transfer Jesse Williams from defensive end to nose tackle, where surely he'll be an exploitable liabilit—
Dammit. Why are we playing a team with an entire extra recruiting class to sift through again?
Etc.: If Derrick Nix misses one minute against a real opponent this year for getting arrested for pot I'll eat… well, I'll be surprised. Unless he's got a couple of secret strikes already this will blow over before fall.
M has acquired its Sugar Bowl bling. Point of order: Michigan fans aren't "misinterpreting" Advice Columnist Mark Hollis's Burke-directed tweet. We know it's harmless greeting-card advice. We are mocking Hollis for being a 12-year-old who likes Twilight.
Out: William Buford, probably Jared Sullinger, possibly Deshaun Thomas
In: Nobody yet. LaQuinton Ross may qualify here since he didn't get until the second semester and did not play.
Status: Yes, it is odd to see OSU in this section, but fresh off a heartbreaking choke job in the Final Four Ohio State faces the prospect of life without 80% of its shots. William Buford is definitely gone. Jared Sullinger is presumed gone. Deshaun Thomas could go. He said "of course I might come back" in the aftermath of the exit. Interpret that as you will. To me that sounds like a guy who will get a first round grade from the NBA and take it. If Thomas is back, upgrade the Buckeyes into the contender tier. FWIW, he's #41 on Chad Ford's board. That seems low to me.
Replacing those lost will be… no one. At least right now. Ohio State is after a guy named Tony Parker who makes it seem odd that you associate such a bland name with French point guards. This version of Tony Parker is a 6'9" post from Georgia. OSU acquiring him is far from certain (the current leader seems to be UCLA) and the Buckeyes seemingly aren't in on any of the other one-and-done types who are probably headed to Kentucky.
Without reinforcements it's hard to see OSU keeping pace at the top of the league. The two returning starters are efficient players that provide a lot of value when they are not asked to be alpha dogs. They are unproven as go-to-guys. The backups will have to make quantum leaps if they're going to take up the mantle.
One probably will. These are highly touted guys, after all. One doesn't seem like enough given the additions at the top of the league.
Question in need of resolving: Can any of OSU's backups actually play basketball?
There are talented recruits behind the starters, but early returns on everyone except maybe Amir Williams are poor. No one could get on the floor for more than about 25% of OSU's minutes; no one save Evan Ravenel and the possibly-transferring, definitely-low-sample-size-possessing JD Weatherspoon cracked 100 in ORtg.
Five star point guard of the future Shannon Scott was particularly awful, shooting 22% from the line, 36% from two, and 5% from three and managing a turnover rate of 34.4. That's good for a 67.8 ORtg, which is the worst I think I've ever seen. Let's click over to his comparables… UNC PG Larry Drew is the #1 hit. He still managed a 79.1 in 2009.
OSU's going to need two or thee of these guys to step up and become quality starters or they're doomed.
Out: PG Bryce Cartwright, SG Matt Gatens, C Andrew Brommer
In: C Adam Woobury (4.5*, right), PG Mike Gesell (4*), C Kyle Meyer (3*), SG Patrick Ingram (3*), PG Anthony Clemmons (3*)
Status: While Iowa barely scraped their head above .500 this year, things are looking up for the Hawkeyes. They should break their NCAA tourney drought and if things go right they could be one of the nation's surprise teams.
Their only major loss is Gatens, who went ham at the tail end of his senior season. Cartwright was an assist machine who also manufactured copious turnovers and missed shots; Brommer was the end of the bench.
They return Andrew White, everyone's Big Ten Third Best Freshman of the Year winner, Roy Devyn Marble, budding wing snipers Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby, and enigmatic but potentially lethal Melsahn Basabe. To this they add a seven-foot center they grabbed from everyone in the world and the point guard who set up most of Glenn Robinson III's dunks in that All Star game. He, too, is a consensus top 100 guy.
There's enough recruiting hype and proven Big Ten production here to see Iowa taking a significant step forward from its Big Ten form. That would have been a game away from a tourney bid if the Hawkeyes hadn't started off so poorly. Losses to Creighton, Campbell, Clemson, Northern Iowa, and Iowa State doomed the Hawkeyes to NIT aspirations before the Big Ten even started. That won't happen next year. The Hawkeyes should find themselves comfortably in the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Melsahn Basabe was Tim Hardaway Jr Jr last year. Which way will he go?
Basabe hit the Big Ten running. His freshman year he was near top 100 in true shooting percentage, blocked a ton of shots, rebounded very well on both ends of the floor, and generally looked like he was going to be an All Big Ten player for multiple years. Like Hardaway, he backslid as a sophomore. He was worse at virtually everything, losing 5% off his FT and 2PT percentages, rebounding less effectively, and seeing slight declines in blocks, minutes and usage.
You'd think Basabe gets a boost playing next to White and Woodbury; last year he had to play a lot of time out of position at the five. Free to take short jumpers and slash into the post he should rebound, figuratively and literally.
Out: C Ralph Sampson
In: PF Trevor Mbakwe (essentially), PF Charles Buggs (3*), SG Wally Ellenson(3*)
Status: When Trevor Mbakwe went out for the year in Minnesota's seventh game, the world left them for dead. This was the right thing to do. The Gopher stomped through a weak nonconference schedule before stopping dead against Big Ten opposition. Eighteen games later, the Gophers were 6-12 with one win against a team that made the tournament (@ Indiana).
Was Mbakwe really that big of a deal? Yes. If you forget his thunderous first year in the Big Ten—something Zack Novak never will—here's a reminder: 58% shooting, top 20 in defensive rebounding, top 30 in getting to the free throw line, and a healthy number of blocks and offensive rebounds. His absence robbed Minnesota of a potential All Big Ten player.
They've got him back. Their only personnel loss is Ralph Sampson, a guy who played 42% of Minnesota's minutes and was no better than his projected replacement, rising sophomore Elliott Eliason. Two of their starters will be making freshman-to-sophomore transitions, and the silver lining to the Mbakwe injury was Rodney Williams bursting onto the scene, often through people's chests.
Minnesota has been a bear defensively since Tubby Smith arrived; they'll be good enough on offense next year to knock off anyone in the conference.
Question that needs resolving: Can Williams and Mbakwe play together?
While they're not quite the same player—Mbakwe is bigger and a much better rebounder—they fill the same niche in the offense. There are only so many alley-oops and thunderous putbacks to go around. I'd guess Minnesota plays Mbakwe at the five quite a bit; having that work out on the boards and on offense will go a long way towards determining how good the Gophers can be.
Out: PF Robbie Hummel, PG Lewis Jackson, SG Ryne Smith, SF Kelsey Barlow
In: PF Jay Simpson (4*), PG Ronnie Johnson (4*), C AJ Hammons (3*), SG Rapheal Davis (3*)
Status: If Minnesota and Iowa are going to rise without the teams that finished at the top of the standings sliding back, it will be Purdue that suffers.
They've lost the heart of their team in Hummel and Jackson. They used almost 50% of Purdue's possessions between them. Ryne Smith was Just Another Three Point Shooter, but he was really good at that (43%). Those three guys were the linchpins of an elite offense that saw Purdue scrape into the tournament as a ten seed, and now they're gone. (Also out the door is the dismissed Kelsey Barlow, but Purdue played a lot better without him.)
What's left behind is alarming given the talent already listed in these posts. Purdue's best returning player is… DJ Byrd? Terone Johnson? Anthony Johnson? It doesn't matter who it actually is, because any of them would be a third banana on a Big Ten contender. Meanwhile, Purdue spent most of the year running Hummel out at the 5 because their best post guy was Travis Carroll. Carroll was invisible offensively and had a defensive rebound rate only 0.4 percent better than 5'9" Lewis Jackson. Jackson created all the shots, too.
All this sounds grim. The Boilers do have a couple of quality recruits incoming who may be able to pick up some of the slack, but their guys are on the 3/4 borderline and seem like they'll take a year or two to get adjusted to the Big Ten. They can't provide enough in a Big Ten that looks even deeper than last year.
Question that needs resolving: Who, like, does stuff now?
About the only thing that Purdue can feel good about next year is Byrd raising up for an open three. The Johnsons drive to the basket with abandon and do not finish well when they get there. They were crappy defensively and their most experienced post is all but useless. Now they have to play him. Robbie Hummel is not walking through that door.
Out: Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Verdell Jones, maybe Christian Watford, probably not Cody Zeller.
In: Yogi Ferrell (5*), Hanner Perea(5*), Jeremy Hollowell(4*), Peter Jurkin (3*), Ron Patterson(3*).
Status: A chic pick for big things next year, the Hoosiers lose only a few seniors who didn't contribute much. Roth and Pritchard saw about 25% of Indiana's minutes, and while Roth hit a spectacular 55% of his threes he only took five twos. His 82 shots will go to good homes. Pritchard was terrible at everything. Oft-injured Verdell Jones provided some assists, but had an ugly turnover rate and poor ORtg. No one will be pined for next year.
Meanwhile, the incoming class is loaded. Yogi Ferrell was a McDonald's All-American and seems a lot like Trey Burke except with bunches of extra hype; Hanner Perea and Jeremy Hollowell played on a virtual Big Ten All Star team in that game GRIII got the MVP in and impressed. Add those guys to a virtually intact roster that sees its best player go from freshman to sophomore and you can see the outlines of a very, very good team.
Question in need of resolving: Can they play defense?
The Big Ten featured three of the top five defenses in the country, all of whom received Sweet Sixteen seeds. The other two B10 outfits to do so were Michigan (60th defensively) and Indiana (64th). Michigan's problems were obvious: they played Zack Novak at the four most of the year and had one legit post defender after Jon Horford was sidelined with a foot injury early in the year. They'll fix those issues with an influx of size and athleticism.
Indiana's defense has fewer easy solutions. They'll probably start the same guys they did this year, and that means a lot of Jordan Hulls blowbys. That's something you can live with when a guy is shooting 49% from three. It's also the thing that may keep Indiana from being as lights out as people expect.
Out: Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz, Carlton Brundidge, Colton Christian, maybe Trey Burke.
In: Mitch McGary(5*), Glenn Robinson III (4.5*, right), Nick Stauskas (4*), maybe Amedeo Della Valle (3*) or other late pick-up.
Status: The departure of Smotrycz, the only guy to hit some shots in Michigan's first-round tourney flameout, puts a damper on expectations that had begun to tower relative to the program's recent success. Before that Michigan's departures were seniors who built the program despite talent deficiencies; their recruits were versions of their current players after a power mushroom.
Now… well, they're probably still fine. It was a struggle to find minutes for the two incoming five stars and Smotrycz since Michigan has two upperclassmen at the five and Tim Hardaway at the three. Jamming everyone into the four left me projecting Mitch McGary would manage 15 minutes a game next year.
It's actually the least-heralded recruit who may be the most important: Nick Stauskas figures to step right into the starting lineup at shooting guard and is the most plausible guy on the roster to give Burke a little bit of rest here and there. If he's truly the deadeye shooter he's reputed to be, Michigan's three-heavy offense could finally reach the heights of efficiency last year's Indiana team scraped.
Michigan is boned if Trey Burke leaves. They'd probably hobble into the tournament still, if only just.
Question in need of resolving: Is Tim Hardaway an elite talent or not?
Hardaway entered his sophomore year a potential All-American and exited it the Big Ten's leading bomb-chucker despite shooting 28% from three. He picked up little of the shot-creation slack in the aftermath of Darius Morris's departure and played indifferent defense. Flashes here and there and a relatively efficient end to the season could not obscure the massive disappointment.
Now entering his junior year it's time for everyone to find out whether Hardaway is truly an NBA talent or a guy headed to Europe for the standard Quality Big Ten Player 15-Year Career.
Out: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton, maybe Branden Dawson if he can't recover from his ACL tear fast enough
In: Gary Harris (5*), Matt Costello (4*), Kenny Kaminksi (3.5*), Denzel Valentine (3.5*)
Status: Losing Green will force a massive restructuring of the program. Green was an All-American who finished as the Kenpom POY, which means he's a high-usage player with a good assist to turnover rate and buckets of rebounds. Those are rare. Wood was also a major piece of the MSU renaissance; while Thornton had no usage he finished fifth in ORtg thanks to 48% shooting from three and 87% from the line on an inexplicably high number of free throw attempts.
Branden Dawson's ACL throws a wrench into this transformation. Mostly a three last year, Green's exit seemingly opened the door for him to move to the four, where his lack of shooting would be less of an issue and his rebounding could become even more pestilential to defenses. Now he's going to spend the summer rehabbing instead of adjusting, and while an ACL is generally regarded as a six-month injury these days that still puts him behind the curve when the season kicks off.
If Dawson doesn't move to the four Izzo will either have to field both of his posts at the same time—a dodgy proposition what with their conditioning issues—or go to a Beilein-esque lineup featuring freshman stretch four Matt Costello. Which might not be a bad idea. Kid is 6'10", can shoot threes—something MSU's offense has gotten used to lately—and poured in points en route to Mr. Basketball.
/shakes fist at Izzo recruiting all of Beilein's perfect power forwards
Question in need of resolving: This will become a theme, but do they have a point guard?
While Keith Appling managed the position decently this year, he's more of a natural two-guard. Without Green taking a near-equal share of the shot-generation duties he may find there's too much on his plate to be an effective distributor, scorer, and defender. He seemed to suffer late this year when an outside shooting slump saw his three-point shooting dip to 25%. MSU will be better off if they can move some of Appling's duties to other players.
This is where Harris comes in. He's got the rep and the skill; if he steps into the lineup at the one immediately and performs MSU will maintain their high level of performance from a year ago.
Out: Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson
In: Sam Dekker (5*, right)
Status: Remember when we were getting all defensive about Wisconsin's Kenpom ranking? Point Kenpom. The Badgers recovered from a 1-3 Big Ten start to finish 12-6 in the league, get a four seed, and come within one point of Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
Next year is anyone's guess. They're replacing their version of Draymond Green: Jordan Taylor sucked up 25% of Wisconsin possession in his 36 minutes a game, had a massive assist rate, never turned the ball over, and shot… well, not well. But pretty well for a guy who seemed to get the ball 30 feet from the basket with five on the shot clock ten times a game. Unlike Michigan State they do not have anyone remotely plausible to plug in the large shoes of the departed.
They do have Sam Dekker, though, and Sam Dekker is the truth. A 6'8" small forward with range and burst, you can add Dekker to the long list of Wisconsin players John Beilein has naughty dreams about. They also return every player of note other than Taylor. If the swing offense can sustain itself in an environment where there is not a primary shot generator, the Badgers can expect similar success next year.
Question in need of resolving: Does Wisconsin need a point guard? Because they don't have one.
Right now their players under 6'6" are Ben Brust and Josh Gasser, guys with assist rates of 7.9 and 11.3, respectively. Gasser's going to have to be the guy, I guess. How do you feel about heaping Jordan Taylor's job on a guy who used 13% of Wisconsin's possessions despite being on the floor 85% of the time?
You might feel fine about this. You might not. Either Gasser is on everyone's lips as the most improved player in the conference or we're going to find out what happens when Bo Ryan doesn't have even the vaguest semblance of a point guard.
As Michigan enters year #3 with Denard starting the season at the helm and year #2 under OC Al Borges, I did a deep dive into teams that have made the leap into offensive greatness. A handy guide to going from a good offense to an elite offense in one year.
In making predictions you are always safer predicting things to regress towards the mean. I wanted to look at the teams that have gone from good but not great offensive teams to truly elite teams in one season. There were some surprisingly strong correlations within this group.
1. A quarterback with experience returning.
2. The same offensive coordinator as the previous year
3. Continuity in your receiving core
These three three aren’t sufficient conditions for making the leap, but they are necessary conditions.
From 2004 to 2011 there were 20 teams, including 2010 Michigan, that increased their offensive EV+ rating by at least 4 points per game and ended the year above 10. I wanted to take a look at these 11 teams to figure out what was necessary to make a jump like this, what might seem necessary but wasn’t and how many teams fit this same criteria but couldn’t make the leap.
It’s not rocket science to say that having a returner at quarterback is a good thing, but the exceptions to this rule prove it as much as anything. Of the 20 teams to make the leap, five didn’t technically have a returning starting quarterback. Two, Auburn 2010 and Stanford 2009, did it with future first overall draft picks. Wisconsin 2011 technically counts but Russell Wilson was a three year starter for NC St before arriving in Madison. Tim Tebow got quality field time on a national championship team despite Chris Leak’s position as starter. The final exception was Oregon 2010 when Darron Thomas stepped in to great success.
The returners themselves take all forms. There are runners like Josh Nesbitt from Georgia Tech in 2009, Pat White at West Virginia in 2006. There are pass-first athletes like Robert Griffin on Baylor 2011 and Vince Young on Texas 2005. There are future first round picks like Sam Bradford at Oklahoma in 2008 and Matt Leinart at USC in 2005.
Three times it was done with multiple quarterbacks seeing action. Michigan in 2010 saw returning starter Tate Forcier make regular appearances during the Denard Robinson injury hour every Saturday. Cincinnati didn’t miss a beat in 2009 when Zach Collaros stepped in for injured starter Tony Pike. Arizona State had the same story in 2005 when Rudy Carpenter replaced the injured Sam Keller.
How many years at the helm wasn’t a significant issue. There were as many teams who made the leap with second year starters as third and fourth starters combined. The only team to do it with a non-transfer four year starter was Northwestern in 2005 under Brett Basenez. Zac Robinson did it in his second year at Oklahoma St in 2007, Chase Daniel did it at Missouri in his third year of four running the offense at Missouri.
Not all the QB’s developed within the program, either. Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Mallett all accomplished the task after transferring from a previous school or Junior College.
On average, about 35% of BCS programs turn over their offensive coordinators in a given year. For teams making the offensive leap it drops to 10%. Charlie Weis found his famed “Decided Schematic Advantage” in 2005 (only to lose it thereafter) with Brady Quinn. Arkansas and Ryan Mallett where the only others to accomplish the feat, but the presence of head coach and offensive guru Bobby Petrino indicates the continuity was likely high.
Teams making the leap returned 75% of their value from their receiving core, nearly fifty percent higher than the average team (53%). Only four teams returned less than 60% of their receiving value from the prior, and those teams all managed to make the leap due to ultra efficient passers, Tim Tebow, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Vince Young.
Missing The Cut
Returning Running backs
My crusade to bury the position of the running back continues. Teams making the leap where all over the map on returning RBs. Texas and Northwestern both made the leap in 2005 with virtually no non-QB carries returning from the 2004 season. Baylor, Michigan, Florida and Cal all did with only marginally used carriers returning. On the flip side USC returned Reggie Bush and LenDale White in 2005. Georgia Tech, Oregon, West Virginia and Missouri all returned over 80% of the previous years carries.
It’s not that having a key ball carriers returning is a bad thing, it’s just not necessary to make the leap.
Just like the running back question, the recruiting rankings are mixed bag. Cincinnati, West Virginia, Cal, Northwestern and Baylor all made the leap without the benefit of a roster full of 4 and 5 star recruits. USC, Auburn, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma always enter a season stacked. Better recruits = better results is true but Better Results = Better Recruits is often incorrect.
Odds of Making It
Of teams that meet criteria 1-3 above (with 3 being defined at 60%) and are within 1 standard deviation of +10 EV+ (4.4 or higher) 25% make the leap to +10 or higher. 40% of this group improves but not to an elite level. That leaves 35% of teams to regress under this environment. The worst offender is Michigan State in 2006. Poised to become a potentially great offense under Drew Stanton, Sparty fell apart and dropped from a +7.2 in 2005 to a –2.6 in 2006.
Can Michigan be that team
With the loss of Junior Hemingway, Kevin Koger and Martavious Odoms Michigan falls below the 60% threshold (38%). All of the other criteria fit nicely for Michigan and when it has been done without the aid of returning receivers, its come on the back of a Heisman level quarterback performance. If year 2 of Al Borges Denard Fusion Cuisine comes together, that doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. I won’t be on record predicting a leap like year for the 2012 Michigan offense, but they are one of a handful of schools that I would even consider.
Hey, kids! Ace is off this week so I'm taking over your semiweekly recruiting overview. Why now instead of Tuesday? Taco time.
Go West, Young Mexican Staple Cuisine
OH WDE commit Taco Charlton was headed out to California for a family trip and they just happened to be having a Nike camp at the same time. Charlton decided to stop by:
If that looked like an impressive burst off the edge, you may be a Scout/ESPN analyst. The positive buzz from the event has already been translated from the twitterese and annotated by mgouser Michael Scarn:
Taco Charlton made his way to the LA Nike Camp, and he looks like one the best DE's here. Ready for one v. one drills.
Taco Charlton is 3-0 going against the #1 OL group. He and Joel Mathis [Scout's #8 DE in the country with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Nebraska, ND, Oklahoma, USC] are DL MVPs on my board today.
Charlton finally got handled by the West's top OL Nico Falah [Scout's #3 OT in the country with offers from Florida, ND, Oregon, USC], but he then finished 2-0 against another of the West's best - Kenny Lacy [Scout's #15 OT with offers from Arkansas, Nebraska, most of the Pac 12 save USC and Oregon, WVU].
Greg Biggins also opined that "no one has come close to stopping" Charlton, a "blur off the edge." ESPN analysts on site declared him "unblockable off the edge and huge" and said he "passes every test." Michigan recruit Joe Mathis won the DL MVP; Charlton was a close second.
[UPDATE: ESPN's Craig Haubert: "a bit in the mold of William Gholston, doesn't quite have the mass that Gholston has but is a tall, long player. … He's got a nice burst. He's not overly quick-twitch, but what he is is pretty smooth and fluid for a kid his size. He did a nice job against offensive tackles in one-on-one when they gave him the inside. He was able to quickly redirect and use that long reach to knock their hands down.]
While 247 and Rivals were not present—or at least not tweeting—those two services are already high on Charlton. Scout is the only service with rankings out that didn't have him in their Top X players list, something that sounds like it will change at the next available opportunity. That would leave one (ONE!) of Michigan's sixteen recruits outside the Scout 300. That is tight end Khalid Hill, who is looking like the 2013 Sleeper Of The Year by default.
You've undoubtedly heard OSU fans scoff about Charlton not even starting for his high school team last year, an accusation that is true. (He was a pass rush specialist.) The camp setting is a good one for a 6'6" quick-twitch guy who may not know how to play football yet. He'd be a guy to watch for a move down during the season if he doesn't turn his potential into production. Michigan is able to take a flier on a high-ceiling kid like Charlton thanks to Beyer, Clark, Ojemudia, etc. If he doesn't work out someone else will. If he does… hoo boy.
Tremendous got a camp reaction from Charlton. He'll try to duplicate his impressive performance at the upcoming Columbus Nike camp.
Go Slightly East, Young Mountain
Logan Tuley-Tillman, Shane Morris, some short guy, and Patrick Kugler via Morris's twitter. Good lord is Michigan bringing some big dudes. Also check LTT's shoes.
Undoubtedly worn out by his daily commute from Chicago to Ann Arbor, IL OL commit Logan Tuley-Tillman plans on relocating to the state of Michigan($, info in TomVH tweet) this fall. Fire up your high school dream-team fantasies now. He won't be protecting Shane Morris's backside, though—he wants to enroll early, which De La Salle does not permit. Ace is no doubt rooting for Pioneer to cut down on travel time.
Perhaps more enticing than LTT showing up in the area even earlier than expected is what he told 247 in a freebie:
“I have been helping recruit a running back, wide receiver, and a linebacker from my class,” said Tuley-Tilman. “I can’t say which ones but I am pretty confident they will be going to Michigan. I just try to stress to those recruits about how much of a family we are at Michigan and that we really have something special going on here. The support at Michigan from the fans and everyone around the university is better than anywhere else in my opinion.”
I'm guessing those guys rhyme with Shmy Shmisaac, ShmaQuon Shmreadwell, and Shmen Shmedeon. Michigan is the presumed leader for all three. IL RB Ty Isaac has returned from USC, has no visits planned at the moment, and wants to decide sometime in the next couple months. OH LB Ben Gedeon has been less definite about his timetable but also seems on the verge of picking a school. He is planning a Stanford visit this weekend, after which a commitment could come at any time. Ohio State insiders say they're scrambling to get back in, which implies this is going a particular direction. IL WR LaQuon Treadwell is the farthest away from the Hokéball*. He's still planning a full slate of official visits before he decides.
BONUS GOODBYE MASSIVE ATTRITION NOTE: LTT's currently got a GPA just under 4.0.
*[Is it possible that no one has referred to this recruiting binge as Hokémon yet? Gotta catch 'em all.]
Go To Another Header Concept For The Secondary, Author
Michigan's still going after a number of defensive backs despite having commitments from MI CB Jourdan Lewis, OH CB Gareon Conley, and OH S Dymonte Thomas. They were in on DC CB Devin Butler, who has an announcement date and seems headed to ND or PSU. They're recruiting Priest Willis and a couple other guys from the West Coast. They are of course in on super-safety Su'a Cravens, and now they're pursuing a Cole Luke from Arizona:
“Michigan has been recruiting me pretty hard,” said Luke. “They are a great school and have a great football program, so why wouldn’t I be interested in them you know. Michigan has produced players like Charles Woodson, who I really look up to. I know that they have a good coaching staff because of what Michigan did last year so that’s what really stands out to me about them.”
He says there's an offer out for him, but you know how it goes these days with the whole "committable offer" business. Offers to guys across the country can be mere visit inducements. Luke is visiting Texas and Oklahoma in the near future but doesn't have anything scheduled for Michigan yet.
In other longshots Michigan is still pursuing, presumed VT lock and MD CB Kendall Fuller will make it up for the spring game. On campus, have a shot, etc. OH CB Darian Hicks has also set a visit($), though he lacks an offer.
This suggests Michigan is planning for 24 guys in the class. They've got 16 commits now. If they add a tailback, two WR, two DL, and two LBs they'll be at 23. There's no room for another defensive back unless they grit their teeth and go with two WRs or forgo one of the highly-touted linebackers Michigan seems to be heavy leaders for… unless they go to 24.
Is this a Dymonte Thomas backup plan? Probably not. OSU just flipped OH S Jayme Thompson, the Toledo kid who set three or four announcement dates in February in an effort to trawl for big local offers. When none were forthcoming he eventually went forward with a SeVon Pittman-style non-commitment to West Virginia. That ended yesterday.
OSU's now got three defensive backs in a class that won't get very big. Picking up Thompson looks like cutting their losses. We'll see. Buckeye insiders refuse to give up the ghost there.
BONUS GAREON CONLEY IS GOOD BIT. TomVH on Michigan's corner commits:
I'll go on the record to say that I think Gareon Conley is the real deal. No one is talking about this guy, and he's 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with tons of athleticism, speed and ball skills. I've heard "no brainer" when his name was brought up. On top of that, Jourdan Lewis is no slouch. I saw him play plenty of times this past season and he was always making plays.
Conley is a potential riser as we go into the fall.
Defensive Line Shakeout
With Michigan down to a few targets almost everywhere, defensive line is the one spot with some remaining mystery to it. MD DE/DT Henry Poggi is a prime target for the SDE/3-tech spot; NJ DT Greg Webb is a priority at nose tackle or three-tech, and then… fuzzy. This is the normal way of things in early April. We are spoiled.
Poggi is the best bet. He's friends with IL OL commit Kyle Bosch and his recruitment has morphed from a Michigan/Alabama battle to a Michigan/Ohio State battle. It is always good when you're the constant on a shifting leaderboard. Webb either has Michigan first or fourth or tied in a top group of four($):
"Probably during the summertime I will cut it down to a good five schools. Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama are the three that will automatically make my list.
"Michigan has been recruiting me the hardest. Their coaching staff of Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison are d-line coaches, so if they think a player will be a good defensive linemen I feel like they just reach out to them a lot and that's what's happening. I talk to those guys a lot. Actually, I think that Michigan will definitely make my final list too."
TX DE and A&M decommit Christian LaCouture is visiting for the spring game…
"I'm going to visit Michigan April 14th for their spring game," he said. " Probably after that, I'm not going to visit any more schools. By then, I'll probably have the team where I want to go."
…but says LSU leads:
"Like I said, LSU right now is probably the team to beat."
When a kid's last name is LaCouture this cannot be a surprise.
CA DE Joe Mathis—Cravens's cousin—won the Taco Charlton Invitational Camp MVP and will return the favor by flying out to Detroit(!) for this weekend's Best of the Midwest Camp. When Tremendous talked to him he said he'd swing by Michigan as a part of that trip; Beaver is disputing that but I'm sure Steve asked and got an answer. Beaver gets huffy when other people break things. TomVH confirmed that Mathis will "try to swing by" this weekend.
IL DL Josh Augusta claims an offer and will swing by both Michigan schools($) this week when he's on Spring Break. He's an anonymous three star but did just pick up an Oklahoma offer; at 6'5", 275 he's probably an SDE/three-tech. Michigan has also reached out to MA DL Maurice Hurst Jr according to 247. He's a 3/4-star tweener who is the son of a former NFL player.
Meanwhile, the is-he-recruited-isn't-he on AL DT Rod Crayton… don't expect him at Michigan.
The Cthulhu Kid
…is what I might call TX WR Eldridge "Eldritch" Massington if he ends up commiting to Michigan. Massington told Tremendous that Michigan was his leader on Friday. Ace provided SNL highlights; here's a few actually featuring football from a camp now two weekends ago and an analysts's take:
"Throughout the day Massington's great frame and surprising speed made him a near impossible cover for defensive backs through the day. He struggled, a time or two, with drops but with as many quality catches as he made it seemed to be a mental lapse or two rather than a problem of drawing the ball in," said SoonerScoop.com Recruiting Publisher Josh McCuistion.
Needs moar tentacles to catch ball.
Si Se Puede
A realistic finish to a 24-member class: Isaac, Treadwell, Massington or OH WR Kevin Gladney (high three-star sort), Webb, Poggi, Gedeon, Levenberry, random three-star DB/TE/DL. Jebus. If I had only known I wouldn't have let Ace do this.
/remember the eight-commit weekend
/takes it all back
CA CB Chris Hawkins is off the board to USC.