this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
I apologize for posting this so late. I meant to do it earlier, but my 2 year old daughter decided to do a swan dive off of the couch and break her arm. First haircut and first broken bone in the same day, not bad.
Big thanks to Heiko for manning one of my cameras and taking the majority of the photos below. Enjoy!
Brian had to sign his name well over 400 times yesterday. This photo was approximately number 50. He was very excited!
Tacopants was in the house..He shot this photo.
While the pace of recruiting has slowed for Michigan, the same cannot be said for the rest of the Big Ten, as eight of the 12 conference teams (plus Notre Dame) picked up commits this week. Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State continue to be in a dogfight for second place, while Indiana goes back to being Indiana after briefly remembering they have a football team. Changes since the last rankings:
6-24-12: Penn State picks up Dorain Johnson. Iowa picks up Trevon Young, Solomon Warfield, and Ike Boettger. Michigan State picks up Dylan Chmura.
6-25-12: Michigan State picks up Trey Kilgore and Jay Harris. Wisconsin picks up Sam Raridon. Northwestern picks up Kyle Queiro. Purdue picks up John Strauser.
6-26-12: Notre Dame picks up Danny Mattingly. Ohio State picks up Darron Lee. Illinois picks up Dawuane Smoot.
6-27-12: Ohio State picks up Michael Hill. Penn State picks up Zach Bradshaw. Wisconsin picks up Matt Miller.
6-28-12: Purdue picks up Brisly Estime.
6-29-12: Notre Dame picks up Michael Deeb. Penn State picks up Zayd Issah. Purdue picks up Jake Replogle.
6-30-12: Illinois picks up Joshua Jones. Northwestern picks up Warren Miles-Long.
|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.
Elvis says: don't do drugs. Because you'll totally overthrow Desmond Howard if you do.
One offs FTW. That Colorado game has no return date scheduled according to CU's official site:
Colorado and Michigan will renew their short but exciting rivalry with a single game in Ann Arbor on Sept. 17, 2016. While not officially part of the Pac-12/Big Ten schedule series set to commence in 2017, it will mark the fifth time the schools will play, the first since 1997.
And neither does the Oregon State official site mention a return game:
The Oregon State University football team will travel to the University of Michigan to play during the 2015 season, Beaver Director of Athletics Bob De Carolis announced Wednesday. …
“This is an exciting opportunity for our student-athletes, staff and fans to visit not only one of the great venues in college football but all of sports,” De Carolis said. “But make no mistake, we will make this trip with the goal of winning a football game.”
So… that ND gap can be filled by a marquee opponent instead of road games against middling to not so good Pac-12 teams. Take a picture: GOOD JOB DAVE BRANDON WOOO! Also good job Bill Martin for having luxury suites that make it important to not have home schedules like this year.
Now, about canceling the Horror II and pretending that never happened…
Notre Dame hiatus just that. Whenever Michigan and Notre Dame take a break in their series there's a small cadre of folks suspicious that it's a front for an end to the whole thing. This does not appear to be the case, tinfoil hat folk. From the Tribune:
"This was either in place when I got here or it was a request that came shortly after I got here," Swarbrick said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I didn't even know it wasn't known, frankly. It had been cooked into our scheduling model for at least three years.
"I don’t think somehow (Michigan athletic director) Dave (Brandon) had been informed when he came aboard. When he called and we started talking about dates, I said, 'You know Dave, we had this bye built in and I scheduled games.' He was great. We just made it work.
"We're going to keep playing each other. It's important to both schools. This initiated with a request from up there years ago, and we said OK."
Since this is Notre Dame there is the slight but real chance Swarbrick means "heaven" by "up there." In any case, ND is coming back after the break. On the schedule. Not to the realm of teams that win a lot of football games.
And then he gave you the finger guns. Brandon on the ND hole:
But what does Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon intend to do with those two open dates on the schedule?
"Stay tuned," he told AnnArbor.com by phone on Wednesday.
You're too small. This is something that is true about Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel despite being people of this size:
Football is weird.
BONUS: Well done, photobomber who must be Wormley's younger brother or something.
ZomBCS lurches on, makes more sense. There will remain some semblance of the red carpet bowl tier that fans have gotten used to over the past decade or so, as Stewart Mandel reports that the as yet undefined selection committee will also hand-craft the four bowls that are super special but not hosting playoff semifinals. The top twelve get in, no exceptions—you're still not in the top 12, Michigan State, go away—and there will be some restrictions due to Rose/"Champions" bowl business. As a bonus, they've also decided to un-screw the bowl schedule by playing all six of the red carpet bowls on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
That's good. Less good is that the selection committee will start issuing a top 20 at midseason:
"We didn't want the top four teams to just come out of the blue at the end of the season," Swarbrick said.
This is to provide some transparency, I guess, but if they are prioritizing conference champs that's data you don't get until the season's over, making the previous polls a pointless exercise. I'd rather do away with the whole poll mentality in case some of the dumb from previous systems leaks into the new one.
Budget bits. Michigan's released its 2012 athletic department budget, which is the usual: about 10-12 million in the black with 4-5 of that set aside for a capital reinvestment fund. Things that jump out:
- Michigan is budgeting $2.4 million for "hosting, food, and special events" in the 2013 FY, a threefold increase on FY12. Alabama game effect?
- Premium seating is sold out for football and "essentially sold out" for basketball. Someone high five Brady Hoke and John Beilein.
- Despite having two fewer football games, "spectator admissions" are projected to drop only slightly, from 43 million to 39 million. Ticket price increase is a part of that and they must be including their 4.7 million from the Alabama game in that item.
- They made $3.9 million more than they expected last year.
More OHL rumblings. It's the incredibly annoying part of the year where OHL teams try to swoop in on committed players just for the hell of it. Plymouth traded for incoming defenseman Connor Carrick's rights, and then signed him. (Apparently. I can't find anything other than the link-free MHN article.)
Carrick committed to Michigan as a sophomore in high school and as a small defenseman who was a mid-round draft pick he's the archetypical guy who should play in college, so the only way this makes any sense at all is if Carrick was concerned about playing time. Michigan does return six guys who had a regular-ish shift last year and adds Trouba. But this isn't John Gibson bugging out at the idea of backing up Hunwick—Carrick only has to beat out one of Chiasson, Serville, or Clare to get PT. Stupid move for a guy who has about a 12% chance of playing 200 NHL games.
Meanwhile, an OHL source telling Matt Slovin that Jacob Trouba is 50/50 to be in Kitchener this fall is something to mention, but my initial reaction to that is eyerolling given anonymous OHL sources' tendency to play up their chances at everyone. Trouba has been more insistent that he'd be at Michigan than anyone save Jack Johnson. If he backs out that would be an all-timer. I need a sufficiently condescending youtube video to embed in these situations.
As far as Phil Di Giuseppe goes, Rivals' Michael Spath seems to be a little more optimistic as of yesterday's Inside the Fort post.
It doubles as a tombstone. The CCHA's final year will be commemorated by patches.
I'll be vaguely sad about the lost tradition until I see some good old fashioned CCHA reffing in November. Or remember Shawn Hunwick, second-team all-conference.
Mikulak killing it. Michigan's men's gymnastics Olympic hopeful is crushing the trials:
So much for the U.S. men's gymnastics team being a two-man show.
Sam Mikulak was impressive during the first day of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials Thursday, threatening to break up the grip national champion John Orozco and Danell Leyva have on the role of top Americans heading into the London Olympics.
Looking as relaxed as if he was competing in a college dual meet for Michigan, the 2011 NCAA champion posted an all-around score of 91.80, the best on a day many of the other contenders to make the five-man Olympic team faltered.
Leyva moved past Orozco into first place in the overall standings, which combine scores from nationals and trials, but couldn't top Mikulak, at least for a couple of hours. Mikulak remained third in the overall standings but drew closer to the top two heading into the finals Saturday.
Mikulak was also interviewed by espnW. If he makes the team he is a lock to have an NBC equivalent of Tom Rinaldi narrate a sepia-toned profile, what with the broken legs == broken dreams angle.
Etc.: John Bacon on the recently departed Bob Chappius. The Ex-Peach Bowl wants to be the #6 bowl in this new rotation they've got going. Indianapolis, you're our only hope. TOC's Chris Vannini on Detroit FC. Shut up, I like it. UConn joins Hockey East, prompting BC blogs to advocate secession into a new six-team conference styled on the Big Ten. New BHGP podcast intro song.
Lloyd meets the peregrine falcon named after him, asks "why is that one not named Fielding?" He does not actually ask that.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses visits from Alvin Bailey and Jordan Wilkins, the top lists of #1 overall prospect Da'Shawn Hand and other 2014 standouts, and more. Also included is an interview with Michigan's first 2014 offered prospect, UT DT Bryan Mone.
Future Touchdown Dance: The Funky Charleston
Pictured on the right is FL WR Alvin Bailey (photo via his Twitter) from his visit to Michigan on Wednesday. If Bailey and his Seffner Armwood teammate Leon McQuay III both end up as Wolverines, let me present the motion to nickname the duo "Kid 'n Play," both due to Bailey's spectacular high-top fade and the fact that it could spur Special K to play some decent music for once.
Anyway, Bailey was on campus this week, and the four-star receiver came away impressed, according to an interview with TomVH ($, info in header):
"It helped them a lot. I was already up on Michigan, but this definitely helped," he said. "I knew some things about them, but being able to see it in person it meant a lot."
Bailey is in the midst of a slew of trips that has also seen him visit Georgia, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Clemson, with Florida State, Georgia, and Auburn also on the docket for July. The Wolverines and Irish could be at a serious disadvantage, however, as Bailey said this to GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz ($):
One issue that plays against Midwest schools such as Notre Dame (which he visited on this trip as well, right before U-M) and Michigan, however, is the issue of distance from home—something Bailey admits is a factor for him.
“It’s big,” said Bailey. “I’m not going to lie, it’s real big. That’s something that I would probably have to sacrifice, so it’s big.”
Sounds like distance is a big factor, which would not bode well for Michigan's chances. Bailey also mentioned that the Wolverines will only take two more players—not a surprise, considering the current number crunch—and his decision could come either before or after his senior season.
While Bailey got the full tour, TN RB Jordan Wilkins stopped by on Tuesday for a quick three-hour visit, and there's very little in the way of visit reaction from him thus far. 247's Clint Brewster did post on their message board that Wilkins's father, who wasn't on the trip, said the visit went "very well" for Jordan ($). There's discussion of a potential visit later in the summer, which would greatly improve Michigan's chances of getting Wilkins, but for now it's safe to assume that Auburn is still the prohibitive favorite.
In 2013 commit news, Jourdan Lewis was invited to the Army All-American Bowl, joining fellow commits Chris Fox and Mike McCray should he choose to participate (roster here). Michigan also has six commits—Shane Morris, Gareon Conley, David Dawson, Logan Tuley-Tillman, McCray (he'll have to choose just one, obviously), and Patrick Kugler—currently slated to participate in the Under Armour All-American Game.
First Journey Joke Earns a Banhammer
Sam Webb's latest DetNews profile is on 2014 OH LB Michael Ferns, who recently narrowed his list to a final three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State. While making such a cut this early is unusual, Ferns's father reveals that there's a very good reason his son has eliminated many of the schools pursuing him, including the home-state squad:
"It's not that he doesn't like the coaches, facilities, etc. (at Ohio State)," Mr. Ferns explained. "It's just that he grew up in a town of 3,500, so it's difficult to feel comfortable in a (large) city. It has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that he feels more comfortable in college town settings. Ideally, if Ohio State would work for him, it would be great for me from a geography and local hype standpoint. But if you don't feel comfortable living in a city, you simply don't. It's no different than the kid in the south having no interest in moving north. It's what they know."
He's just a small-town boy, you see, born and raised in [bans self]. The elder Ferns—no word on if Webb stood between the two during the interview, unfortunately—also had very high praise for their recent trip to Michigan and Jerry Montgomery as a recruiter—"He's as strong a recruiter as we've dealt with." As for future visits, Ferns plans to check out a game at all three of his final schools during the fall.
Also getting the profile treatment this week was IL CB Parrker Westphal, whose father spoke at length with TomVH. According to Mr. Westphal, Michigan has set the standard by which his son will measure his other suitors ($):
"I think what better school to base a standard from. Michigan is a big school with a big program, really good academics and facilities," he said. "If he would have gone to Nebraska first, though, that's a big school with modern facilities. That might have been the standard."
It doesn't mean that U-M is Parrker's favorite, but it is up there.
Westphal's father mentioned that Parrker would like to finish up his recruitment "sooner rather than later," but there's no rush as they make sure to examine each school carefully.
OH DB Darius West was one of the standouts at Michigan's camp, and although he didn't pick up an offer, he's got serious interest and reciprocated by putting the Wolverines in his top two with childhood favorite Ohio State, according to Matt Pargoff. You'll also enjoy this quote that he gave to Sam Webb ($):
Sam Webb: Talk to me about Michigan State. How did that camp go for you?
Darius West: “I mean, if I had to rank Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan camp, Michigan State would be third.“
West told Pargoff he'd like to decide by the end of his junior year, so he's one to keep a close eye on if Michigan comes through with an offer. He told Webb he's being recruited at both corner and safety at the moment.
247's J.C. Shurburtt caught up with the nation's #1 overall prospect for 2014, VA DT Da'Shawn Hand, and got an early top seven from him: Virginia Tech, Ohio State, UNC, Clemson, USC, Alabama and Michigan. VT seems to have the early edge—he's visited campus twice and mentions Bud Foster as his favorite recruiter—but he's yet to visit most of the schools on his list, including Michigan.
Happy trails to MI WR Drake Harris, who committed to Michigan State on Wednesday over Michigan and Notre Dame.
Quickly: Clint Brewster reports that Michigan offered CA TE Tyler Luatua, who's pegged as the top tight end in the class in 247's early rankings. Correction from Tuesday's post: TX LB Hoza Scott doesn't yet have an offer, according to Tim Sullivan, but he probably has to visit campus first, which may not happen soon due to the distance factor ($). MI CB Damon Webb continues to see his stock rise, recently picking up offers from Ohio State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Catching Up With Bryan Mone
I had the chance to chat with UT DT Bryan Mone, a high school teammate of incoming freshman Sione Houma who picked up Michigan's first 2014 offer way back in December. This is the first time Mone has given an interview, and he updated me on the status of his recruitment, his current size and preferred position, and a potential visit next week:
ACE: First of all, how's everything going with your recruitment? Which schools are in contact with you right now?
BRYAN: So far, so good. It's just really a blessing sir. But the schools that I'm in contact with are Utah, BYU, and Utah State.
ACE: Which schools have offered you so far?
BRYAN: All of the three [as well as Michigan].
ACE: I know Michigan gave you their first 2014 offer. Have you been in contact with Michigan at all since then?
BRYAN: Yeah, well kind of. I keep in contact with the D-line coach. I might just go out to Michigan with my dad next week.
ACE: Do you talk to Sione Houma at all now that he's enrolled? What has he told you about Michigan?
BRYAN: Yes I do, I was just talking to him. He told me that it's really good out there and that some of the football players don't know what a Tongan is [laughs] and he was just saying it's a great program and all.
ACE: You mentioned possibly visiting Michigan. Are there any other schools you'd like to check out over the summer?
BRYAN: No sir, just Michigan.
ACE: I know it's early, but do you have any favorites at this point?
BRYAN: All my favorite schools are the ones that offered me and Colorado all because my other cousin told me about Colorado.
ACE: What's your height and weight right now, and what would you like to play at next season?
BRYAN: 6'4" height, 300 weight [Ed-Ace: Up from a listed 6'3", 255 last year]. I'm going to play D-tackle and offensive guard.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field, and what are you trying to improve for next year and the next level?
BRYAN: My biggest strengths are mainly [being able to play] on the line on both sides of the ball. I am trying to improve on my speed and strength for next year and the next level.
ACE: When looking at schools, what do you think will be the biggest factors in your decision? Do you know when you'd like to make a choice?
BRYAN: First of all my education and how I would fit in the program and the community and the brotherhood of the football team. I don't know [when I'd like to make a decision] ... like you said sir I'm still young.
Sadly the most recent 2013 commitment did not come with a pair, so the diarists decided they'd do the doubling for him. Not even counting two weeks of Blockhams, four other diarists penned not one but two articles each.
Michigan's Defense Again. Let's start with hart20 since I've been jonesin' recently for a little Mattison appreciation. This is a comparison of Mattison coordinator stops past to find out whether there's a clear Mattison effect. This sort of thing can never be conclusive but there's a pattern emerging of immediate and dramatic improvement against the run in the first year, and holding serve the second (though in early stops the pass defense was more variable).
Hart's second diary is a follow-up to the ND preview he was penning before, this time with more OSU and Bama, wrangling up what the interwebs have been saying on things like the ND QB situation, and whether they're headed for their own Never Forget backfield poster. Ohioan recruiting and Eddie Lacy's injuries also feature. I wonder how the ND fans reacted to Brian Kelly saying the goal for Year Three is 8 wins. Purple faces? Diarist of the week.
Defining the Debate. If you think that game at the end of the 2012 season is a culture-clash, wait'll you see the one at the beginning. The blue-blooded TSS tossed out the opening salvo with Michigan's signature weapons: variability charts, and contingency tables.
That's taken from Part I, the roster comparison. He followed up this week with Part II, which accounts for a lot of the headaches caused by Alabama roster analysis* then gives us a comparison of early enrollees and redshirts. The statistics are a bit dense for the non-statistical, but there's a lot to learn there. A few Bama fans arrived in the comments to debate the existence over-signing because Les Miles is a Michigan man, see? A Part III comes, and more subjective analysis is promised. Also promised—as regular readers of This Week in Schadenfreude can attest—rising tensions as our pretentious selves prepare to meet a particularly notorious (notable exceptions noted) internet fanbase that's guaranteed to push every single one of our buttons.
* As I learned with Decimated Defense, Alabama's roster is a bitch to analyze. Oversigning and the corresponding attrition rates mean there's so many guys to track down, recruits appear in multiple classes since so many are shuttled off to friendly prep schools and JUCOs. And then there's the names, which as TSS discovered have so many hyphens, variant spellings and repeats it's harder on a VLOOKUP function than a list of Roman generals. #lateantiquityexcelreferencesFTW
Quarterbacks and Rivalries. Okay, Son of Lloyd Brady, I love your diaries but the tables—can't we do something about the tables? Copy into Tableizer, paste into Notebook, remove the first paragraph, paste into html, voila: pretty, perfectly width-ed tables.
Complaint registered, Wow! The first he penned is a comparison of dual-threat QBs Denard, RGIII, Collin Klein, Taylor Martinez, and Braxton Miller. SoLB on Robert Griffin:
If it seemed like RGIII was putting up video game numbers to open last season, well he wasn’t because you can’t put up numbers like that in video games. He started with amazing proficiency and I got all too well known #DIV/O! error message for his OOC ATT/INT & TD/INT because he didn’t throw any picks until conference play. Although his stats weren’t as gaudy in conference, I’m sure any QB in the nation would have accepted that level of play as he was still extremely effective.
It's a lot of information but difficult to compare with the big charts. I suggest you dive in anyway for the splits: conference/OOC, 1st 6 games/last 7, home/away&neutral. Lol away at Taylor Martinez once D.C.s realized they just have to make him throw.
His next diary is shorter and easier, and covers great rivalries by series record, average score, differential, etc. I'm not as big a fan of this one because not all rivalry games are created equal (find me someone not from Alabama who never misses an Iron Bowl). The Red River Shootout may be an historical pick 'em, but Michigan-Ohio State is the kind of rivalry where a 36-point spread can still manage to immortalize the number 50. Point spreads don't matter that much (side-note: I'm pretty sure this page on Bentley didn't call them Ohio in the end notes before).
CRex and the Korean Hallows. The CRex saga continues this summer. In his latest OT blockbuster, (now-) Mrs. CRex and the Pentagon team up to defeat the INS, Little Sister throws a stag after discovering vodka is not a wine cooler, and on the opposite side of the world from Columbus a Buckeye can still get trolled by four hookers. Between you and me, Brian is going to throw a fit once he learns a perfect opportunity to re-enact the K-Pop Girls' Generation video with a Michigan helmet was missed in favor of Lollipop. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, through the powers of M-Wolverine's copy/paste function and superb foresight, the collected works of CRex are now available in their own diary. Congratulations to the young couple. May your marriage be as entertaining as your courtship.
Etc. User wallaby created several classy options for Legends patches like the one above. Compared with the real one at right, well there's no comparison. rman247 made his own recruiting rankings by watching highlight videos of each prospect. I mean to do something comparing his ratings versus the major sites' unless he does it first. And someone who I'm surprised would remember Diallo Johnson that well given his stated age (mid-college in 2006) is nevertheless handled DialloJohnson and wrote about Bo's death being that reality-slap that comes when your adulthood synapse decides it's time to activate.
Best of the Board
This new board meme bores me: You are all Roll Damn Tide's new account. If that went whew we had one of those notable exception Bama fans around who posted well-written and considered recruiting info from time to time until he got one wrong and took offense to people who took being wrong the wrong way. Now asking if the OP is RDT has become the new "First!," and almost as annoying. Less annoying: user I Only Reply in Gifs is tautologically up to 115 posts now.
MILKSTAKE'S BROTHER MADE A UTL HIGHLIGHT VIDEO
Milkstake's brother's highlight video of Michigan-Notre Dame 2011. Keep trying Kapron; I'm sure you'll get Denard down before Milkstake's brother puts 2010 Illinois to Sigur Ros. Or anything to JDK & Rey, i.e. Michigan quarterback Jack Kennedy and receiver Joe Reynolds. This is them:
OFFSEASON BORED LET'S START AN ARGUMENT THREAD
Wot it sez on the tin. Space Coyote added question 8: toilet paper wrapped over or under, and that's how I discovered this site. Consensus is over unless you've got a cat or young children. The rest of my answers: 1.) Tank, 2.) Always lose unless called upon to perform a service (like knocking off a potential B1G tie). 3.) Which Navarre argument are we having, the one from 2000 when he slaughtered MAC schools then was overmatched vs. UCLA, or the one from 2003 on whether someone in the NFL can teach him touch? Guy was a good quarterback and a great person. He also read this year's HTTV before you did so nah! 4.) Trick question: Ditka doesn't exist. 5.) I'll take a mascot if students come up with it on their own; if the marketing department is involved no thanks. 7.) Ale [full stop]. 6.) Tomorrow, all identities will be revealed. Also it will be revealed that the MGoStaff are really the cast from SilverHawks (dibs Bluegrass). Tally ho!
Your moment of zen:
Allison Hall, home to yours truly for three weeks in 2000 and three weeks again in 2001. It was good times.
Downfield threat. Former USC player Kyle Prater, who was the best receiver from the 2010 recruiting class, made a lot of noise in January when he left the Trojans for Northwestern. Prater struggled with injuries and redshirted as a freshman. He emerged in 2011 only to see his spot taken by classmate Robert Woods and rookie dynamo Marqise Lee. Prater called it quits at the end of the season after amassing a singular reception for 6 yards during the OT loss to Stanford.
Currently the Wildcats are currently waiting on an NCAA waiver to allow Prater to play immediately in 2012. That decision should come sometime next month. If the ruling on Michigan State transferee DeAnthony Arnett is any precedent, Michigan fans should expect to see Prater in the Big House on Nov. 10. [Ed-myself: The family hardship thing makes Arnett's situation technically different. Not sure if Prater has as strong of a case as Arnett did, but you never know. Homesickness/buriedonthedepthchartness sounds pretty extenuating to me.]
What does Prater bring to the table? He's listed at 6-5 and around 215 lbs. While he's not reputed to have terrifying speed, that's about the only knock on him. Rivals has all of his other attributes tabbed as "blue chip" and compares him to former college standouts like Michael Floyd and Julio Jones.
For Michigan this should be somewhat of a problem. Brady Hoke is addressing the shortcomings of the Wolverines defensive backfield by recruiting corners like Gareon Conley and Channing Stribling, but that won't help the fact that J.T. Floyd (6-0, 185 lbs) will be Michigan's only starting corner taller than me this season.
The threat level can be tempered, however, by Floyd's admirable track record against opposing No. 1 receivers and simple logic saying that Prater is, at best, slightly worse Marqise Lee (1143 yards, 11 TDs) or Robert Woods (1292 yards, 15 TDs).
The Actual Preview Part
Northwestern's bid to become relevant ended when Heiman hopeful QB Dan Persa tore his Achilles against Iowa two years ago and was never quite the same after that. The Wildcats spent 2011 searching for the magic that once existed, but you could see in her eyes only unwaking embers where a warm light used to dance.
Persa's departure won't be such a huge blow. Northwestern has a great contigency plan on offense and should continue to put up points. If it's going to compete for prominence in the league, however, it'll need to address some issues on defense, although a lot of issues may be talent-related and won't be solved overnight.
In the meantime the Wildcats can continue to push the upper boundaries of so-so and lose bowl games to undermatched opponents.
- Sept 1, @ Syracuse
- Sept 8, Vanderbilt
- Sept 15, Boston College
- Sept 22, South Dakota
- Sept 29, Indiana
- Oct 6, @ Penn State
- Oct 13, @ Minnesota
- Oct 20, Nebraska
- Oct 27, Iowa
- Nov 3, WIFEDAY
- Nov 10, @ Michigan
- Nov 17, @ Michigan State
- Nov 24, Illinois
Northwestern opens on the road at Syracuse, who has another B1G matchup with Minnesota three weeks later. For the Wildcats it's actually sort of a solid nonconference schedule, what with three technically BCS (what a quaint and outdated system, makes me laugh) teams. If nothing goes horrendously wrong, I can see Northwestern winning three of those games, with a loss to the Orange the most likely.
The B1G schedule is neither great nor terrible. It's backloaded, but the Wildcats benefit from a bye on Nov. 3 to regroup before taking on the state of Michigan. And then they have perennial rival Illinois to close, but who knows how good the Illini will be.
A 4-4 B1G record would be an optimistic prognosis, but not too much so. A couple of the bottom feeder teams (Minnesota and the smoldering wreck that Illinois became) might be better than expected, but so might Northwestern, especially if Prater gets cleared. Conversely, some of the heavier hitters (Penn State, Iowa) might end up weaker than expected.
If the 6-win bowl game requirement stands, expect Northwestern to go bowling this season.
This schedule is as favorable as: A hot dog eating contest to the casual hotdog enthusiast.
X's and O's, Jimmys and Joes
No. 2 QB Kain Colter vs. Nebraska
Style: Spa-ready-cat (cat cat cat cat cat)
Key losses: QB Dan Persa (passing: 73.4%, 2376 yards, 17 TD, 7 INT, rushing: 32 yards, 0.4 ypc, 1 TD), WR Jeremy Ebert (75 rec, 1060 yards, 11 TD), TE Drake Dunsmore (45 rec, 522 yards, 6 TD), LT Al Netter, C/G Ben Burkett
Top returners: QB Kain Colter (passing: 67.1%, 673 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, rushing: 654 yards, 4.8 ypc, 9 TD, receiving: 43 rec, 466 yards, 3 TD), RB Mike Trumpy (182 yards, 5.2 ypc, 1 TD, tore ACL on Oct. 1 vs Illinois), WR Demetrius Fields (32 rec, 382 yards, 3 TD), LG Brian Mulroe, C Brandon Vitabile
Yes, Northwestern's top returning rusher and receiver are ... its quarterback. The Ultimate Triple Threat (c) FTW!*
Anyway, the point is the Wildcats should be just fine at the skill positions. Colter took a backseat to Persa at quarterback for most of the B1G schedule last season but was employed often as a receiver and a rusher from the wildcat (although is it really a wildcat if the guy is technically a QB?). When he did come on the field as a full-fledged QB, he beat Nebraska. He'll be all right.
Running back was a little iffy for Northwestern last season after Trumpy's injury. With a year to recover, though, he'll be able to work his way back into the rotation. Whether he can shoulder all the responsibilities of being a feature back may not matter -- the Wildcats seem to favor the passing game a little more, anyway, and they have a dangerous runner already in Colter.
The receiver situation is currently in limbo, as mentioned above, but assuming that Prater gets his waiver, Northwestern should have one of the better units in the B1G.
The real question is on the offensive line. They lose a stud offensive lineman in Ben Burkett, who spent most of his career at center and was even named to the Rimington watch list twice before sliding to guard last season. They also have to replace Outland Trophy candidate LT Al Netter.
The bad news for the Wildcats is that even with these two guys last season, their offensive line wasn't very good. BTN.com's Tom Dienhart ranks their 2012 unit a pitiful 10th in the conference.
*Now Nissan has to give me royalties for their new ad campaign.
This offense is as terrifying as: A slightly burnt hot dog bun. The outside and edges may burn you (and/or cause cancer), but middle is still nice and fluffy. Fear level = 6.
No. 24 S Ibraheim Campbell loses jumpball to Junior Hemingway.
Key losses: DT Jack Dinardo (34 tackles, 3 sacks), CB Jordan Mabin (62 tackles, 1 INT), S Brian Peters (91 tackles, 1 sack, 5 INT)
Top returners: DE Tyler Scott (31 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT), LB David Nwabuisi (84 tackles, 1 sack), S Ibraheim Campbell (100 tackles, 2 INT)
Northwestern stands to benefit most from improving its defense, as it finished 80th overall (407.1 ypg) in total defense and 66th (27.7 ppg) in scoring defense. Those numbers aren't awful, but a slightly better defense, particularly in the secondary, would have been the difference between their 6-7 record in 2011 and 8-5.
It would seem that the Wildcats would have to stretch the limits of their abilities in order to get better, however. Lack of elite talent is a problem. Moreover, Fitzgerald was an All-American linebacker back in his day and subsequently coached defense before becoming head coach at Northwestern, so it's not like he's one of those darned "non-defensive-minded coaches" that we don't take kindly to in these parts.
Aside from getting a new defensive backs coach (which is unlikely since Jerry Brown is Northwestern's version of Fred Jackson (but less good)), there's not much they can do about it but wait for a light to come on.
To be fair, they did do an outstanding job defending against Michigan for the better part of three quarters last season, particularly in the run game. They used a series of run blitzes that limited Toussaint to 14 carries for 25 yards and made Denard pay for every inch of his 117 yards on 25 carries, eventually knocking him out of the game. You have to think that with the lack of quarterbacks on their 2012 schedule able to take advantage of overaggressive defenses, they're going to adopt this strategy more often.
This defense is as frightening as: An undersized, overtoasted hot dog bun. If your hot dog is long enough, there's no way it can cover all of it. ...
Fear level = 4.
KR/PR Venric Mark (yellow) poised for a big return behind his blockers (black) vs. Minnesota. / via Sippinonpurple.com
Northwestern is bad at kicking field goals (6/10).
But good at returning punts (11.4 ypr, 1st in B1G)!
Pat Fitzgerald demonstrates proper hot dog eating technique.
Record: 7-5 overall, 4-4 B1G
Against Michigan: If Michigan can limit Kyle Prater this shouldn't even be close. Michigan demonstrated that it was capable of defending against Northwestern's ground game with its various options and whatnot, so keeping a lid on their passing game (and bubble screens) will be a big priority. On offense Michigan might have trouble getting a steady ground game going if Northwestern stacks the box like they did last year, but if Denard's understanding of the offense and passing mechanics have truly improved over the offseason, I'd expect to see him recap his 2011 second-half eruption against them. 42-17 Michigan.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: A casual hot dog enthusiast trying to win a hot dog eating contest where all the hot dogs are footlongs and all the buns are burnt. The name plate on the next seat over reads "Kobayashi."