this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
The rumored Utah series is now official:
Utah will host Michigan in Rice-Eccles Stadium in the 2015 season opener as a part of a home-and-home series that begins with a 2014 game in Ann Arbor. Michigan will make its first Salt Lake City appearance on Sept. 3, 2015 in a rare weekday game for the Wolverines, who have never played on a Thursday. The first game of the series is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2014 in Michigan Stadium.
Michigan becomes just the second Big Ten team ever to play in Salt Lake City. The Utes knocked off Indiana 40-13 in Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2002.
"A home-and-home series with Michigan is the kind of opportunity that comes with membership in the Pac-12 Conference," said Utah Director of Athletics Dr. Chris Hill. "I greatly appreciate Coach Whittingham's willingness to add college football's winningest program to his already difficult 2014 schedule, which will also feature five Pac-12 road games."
You'll note that the Wow Factor has been factor'd by playing in the Thursday night slot usually occupied by Mississippi State's latest flailing interception machine.
But wait, there's more! Michigan has released the entire 2015 nonconference schedule, which is as follows…
Sept. 3 at Utah
Sept. 12 Notre Dame
Sept. 19 Oregon State
Sept. 26 UNLV
…and bits of the 2016 schedule, featuring ND, a home game against Colorado on September 17th and two TBAs likely to be punching bags. The Pac-12 agreement is tentatively scheduled to start the year after, so Michigan's eliminated ND-and-three-dwarves nonconference scheduling for the foreseeable future. That's a positive even if none of the teams incoming has much sex appeal.
But wait, there's more!
In addition, Michigan and Notre Dame will take a two-year hiatus in their long-standing rivalry during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Both schools intend to resume the rivalry in the years following.
That may be "less," actually. We'll see if Michigan fills that slot with a quality opponent when the time comes.
Are those Oregon State and Colorado games one-offs? Or are they home and homes with return dates set for the distant future? (If one-offs: coup. If not, okay.)
If so can we expect the Oregon State and Colorado games to slot into that 2018 and 2019 ND hiatus along with the Pac-12 agreement? (If so: meh.)
When was the last time Michigan played three BCS-ish teams in a nonconference schedule, as they will in 2015? (A: 1997, when they played Baylor, Colorado, and ND. They also did so in 1996 (Colorado, BC, UCLA) and 1994 (BC, ND, Colorado).)
What is our deal with playing Utah? (Seriously.)
The highly rated 2012 and 2013 (barring mass decommitments) classes have us all aflutter these days, so much so that we have to keep reminding each other most of these guys won't play a down for several years. Mentally placing them all in starring roles by 2016 is the classic recruiting fan's error—some work out, many end up overrated, plenty don't get to the end of their eligibility. Who knows how many will actually redshirt? I thought I'd try to answer that.
Why We Do It or Don't. Well, the obvious: would you rather have an 18-year-old who joined the team just weeks ago, or a 22-year-old who's been with the team for four years? The biggest reasons for the team not to redshirt a guy is when they think he's likely to be NFL-ready in four seasons, or if he's needed right away.
Then the human element comes in: Kids arrive needing to lose fat, needing to become accustomed to the rules that now govern their lives. Meaning no offense to Brackinses or Sarantii, but sometimes you bring in a guy because he's a good teammate (cough cough …of Kelly Baraka) and can help on special teams now but whose ceiling is such you highly doubt you'll renew his 5th. Players who came for the education will plan on moving on after four years. Players who came to play football will grate about being on the bench when they're better than the guy getting playing time (why Urban Meyer is going around pretending like he's the only coach who "plays the best players.") (Upchurch----->)
Coaches with three years to prove themselves will fire every bullet in the chamber to survive the current gunfight, not the one in four years. No coach in the country will hold back Desmond Morgan for just the hope of a 2015 Desmond Morgan, or at least not unless he's got a bunch of 2015 Desmonds on hand already. And there's the rub: the only way to have that luxury later on is to have the luxury already.
Historical Trend. Redshirting is a practice much older than my fan memory can take me. The history of serial redshirting freshmen is hard to track down but it seems to be exactly as old as the five years to play four rule, which was a response to wild old days in the '20s and '30s when teams were stocked with nigh professionals.
WWII screwed everything up as servicemen swapped schools to be at whatever camp their service commanded, then came back from war as 26-year-olds with eligibility. The mess clears out by 1960, which class had four players—quarterback Forest Evashevski, guard John Marcum, center Bill Muir, and tackle John Yanz—make it to a fifth year. None from the class of 1961 were on the '65 roster; five of the '62 freshmen made it to '66. There's your "good old days" baseline. Let's put that against the era I can at least kind of check against memory (big HT to Mike Desimone, whose wheel I have reinvented):
|Class||Total||RS'ed||% of Class||5th Yr||% of Class|
|2001||21||15 (+1)||71.4% (76.2%)||8||38.1%|
|2005||24||13 (+2)||54.2% (62.5%)||7||29.2%|
|2006||21||11 (+1)||52.4% (57.1%)||8||38.1%|
|2007||23||11 (+3)||47.8% (60.9%)||10||43.5%|
|2008||25||14 (+1)||56.0% (60.0%)||8||32.0%|
Those parenthetical +'s are medical hardship redshirts or mid-career transfer years given to players from those classes who weren't redshirted initially, e.g. the three for 2007 are Woolfolk, Hemingway and Threet. In chart form (click embiggens):
The slightly different shade of blue for the 2009-'11 classes are the guys on track to play five years; they won't all. We're still looking at relatively small groups of redshirt seniors for the next few years, as cascades of attrition forced a lot more guys to play early who otherwise wouldn't have.
You can see what I mean about cascades. When Michigan was really humming, only about 30% of the freshmen were playing right away. That became more like 50% in the Late Carr era, and then peaked at 60% during the Year of Whatever Sticks. In the middle of that you can see the '97 and '98 classes were, for their time, anomalies for playing 8 or 9 true freshmen.
Who those freshmen were is instructive:
1997: Demetrius Smith, William Peterson, Pat McCall, Ray Jackson, Mo Williams, James Whitley, Anthony Thomas, and DeWayne Patmon
1998: David Terrell, Drew Henson, Justin Fargas, Marquise Walker, Todd Howard, Larry Foote, Hayden Epstein, Walter Cross, and Evan Coleman
That's three cornerbacks, six running backs, two linebackers, and a lot of guys listed at or near the top for their position coming out of high school.
Positional Redshirting. You don't need me to tell you some positions get more redshirts than others. Positions where weight matters—defensive line, offensive line, tight ends, and linebackers—should be more likely to see redshirts since very few people, even in the early-growth-spurt-athletic-freak category, can safely put on BCS-level muscle by 18. Those that demand a high level of developed knowledge and skills—quarterback, center, safeties, middle linebackers—might be a secondary category. Receivers and cornerbacks have a lot to learn and do need size but those are secondary to physical traits. And then there's running backs, who regress/retire from the NFL before 30, seem to progress little in measureables over the course of their college careers, and therefore usually play early unless blocked. Special teams is another consideration; safety-like objects are desired in abundance while 280-lb. future tackles need not apply. Let's test that against the '93-'11 recruits:
It's twue. Dwamatically so. While I was at it, I thought I'd also use the opportunity to see which positions Michigan favored over this same time period. The "Factor" means how many starting positions you're really recruiting for (TE and WR split one). The question here was whether how often that position is redshirted factors into whether we over-recruit or under-recruit that spot. This may be the most useful table of this article:
Column C being how many recruits per year we managed to get to fill each starting spot. Okay, forget useful. What you're seeing instead is Michigan recruiting lots and lots of running backs. There was pretty high attrition there in the '90s, but this doesn't even count all the RBs who moved to other positions, something they did a lot of 20 years ago, when every HS team's best player was the running back. DT, OT, and kicker—recent problem areas—show up as dramatically under-recruited. Running these numbers over different time periods would say more but sample sizes are getting tiny as it is.
The best of what's left of the 2008 O-Line haul (Upchurch)
Anyway, yes, they're correlated, except safety is sitting in the "need more dudes" region with a less-than-average rate of redshirting. So we didn't have safeties either. On the other hand Michigan had some great tailbacks and quarterbacks come through here.
Going back to the table above, the only one that doesn't exactly fit the paradigm of a mass/experience/athleticism matrix is defensive tackle. For that just see the list of who redshirted versus who didn't:
|Marques Slocum - 6'5/336||Jason Kates - 6'2/339|
|Richard Ash - 6'3/320||Alan Branch - 6'6/331|
|Quinton Washington - 6'4/315||William Campbell - 6'5/331|
|Marques Walton - 6'0/292||Gabriel Watson - 6'4/331|
|Grant Bowman - 6'3 /289||Terrance Taylor - 6'0/319|
|Will Johnson - 6'5/285||Larry Harrison - 6'3/313|
|Norman Heuer - 6'5 /282||Mike Martin - 6'2/299|
|Will Heininger - 6'6/277||Vince Helmuth - 6'1/291|
|Alex Ofili - 6'4 /275||Renaldo Sagesse - 6'4/289|
|Rob Renes - 6'2 /275||James McKinney - 6'2/285|
|Terry Talbott - 6'3/260||William Carr - 6'2 /276|
|Josh Williams - 6'4 /260||Paul Sarantos - 6'3/261|
|Eric Wilson - 6'4 /255||-|
|Shawn Lazarus - 6'3 /245||-|
|Ben Huff - 6'4 /232||-|
Richard Ash, two guards (one of whom would have played but had eligibility issues), and a bunch of guys less than 290. Among those who played as true freshmen, it's planetary objects, a 20-year-old Canadian, a couple of low-expectation position switchers, and Will Carr. Find a freak athlete over 300 pounds who wants to play right away, you put him at the nose. On the left you're looking at a lot of vintage 3-techs. From this I take it players Michigan recruits for nose are probably more likely to play right away, while a 3-tech should be expected to need more time to develop.
Hyped Players Play Early. The nose tackles also seemed to have come with more hype. Recruiting data doesn't go back beyond 2002 but with that small sample plus the anecdotal evidence above from 1997-'98, we can see a little of how stars affect the likelihood of redshirting:
Everyone else is average; the 5-stars are the ones who seem to overwhelmingly get on the field as freshmen, them being the most likely to be college-ready after high school and expected to be NFL-ready in four years.
2012-2013 and Beyond. We haven't done anything here really except confirm what we pretty much already knew about redshirting. That all said, here's my predictions for the upcoming guys:
[UPDATED: Now with more "Why?"]
|Blake Bars||OG||93.5%||4||?||A couple of OL injuries and he's in.|
|Joe Bolden||LB||64.9%||4||No||Early enrollee, already 2nd on depth chart|
|Ben Braden||OT||95.8%||3||Yes||Less ready than Bars/Kalis at this point|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||57.5%||3||No||Need receivers. At least one will play|
|Jeremy Clark||S||53.3%||3||Yes||Kovacs/M-Rob ahead. Plz don't burn on Special Teams|
|Amara Darboh||WR||57.5%||4||No||See Chesson|
|Devin Funchess||TE||80.8%||3||Yes||Not ready. Needs to gain size|
|Allen Gant||S||53.3%||3||Yes||Depth at SS, more ready than Clark|
|Matthew Godin||DT||55.6%||3||Yes||3-tech development track|
|Willie Henry||DT||55.6%||3||Yes||See Godin|
|Sione Houma||FB||56.3%||3||Yes||Hopkins and experience ahead of him|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||If MLB, EEs are ahead. SLB 2-deep is set|
|Drake Johnson||RB||36.4%||3||No||RBs play early – want him ready if Toussaint leaves early.|
|Kyle Kalis||OG||93.5%||5||No||Most ready of OL. OL depth is scary thin|
|Erik Magnuson||OT||95.8%||4||Yes||High ceiling but not ready for PT yet|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||36.4%||4||Yes||Would like to get separation from other returners.|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||66.7%||3||Yes||Too small to hold edge right now|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||55.6%||5||No||Weak depth chart plus 5-star nose tackles always play early|
|Terry Richardson||CB||42.9%||4||No||Is 7th CB, but 3 coming next year and Talbott is the guy to beat at field corner|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||64.9%||3||Yes||Bolden better. Injuries could draw him in|
|James Ross||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||Needs to gain muscle, separate from Des|
|Tom Strobel||DE||66.7%||4||Yes||RVB-like – needs to grow into 5-tech|
|A.J. Williams||TE||80.8%||3||No||Has much to learn but depth here is scary|
|Jarrod Wilson||S||53.3%||4||No||EE. If ahead of Furman won't R.S.|
|Chris Wormley||DE||66.7%||3||No||Competition to back up Roh is Brink and Heitzman|
|Jake Butt||TE||80.8%||4||No||College-ready TE needed immediately|
|Taco Charlton||DE||66.7%||4||Yes||Clark/Beyer are JRs – gain size.|
|Gareon Conley||CB||42.9%||3||Yes||One boundary will play, but not Conley|
|David Dawson||OT||95.8%||5||Yes||Hopefully 2012 OL ready. If not it's true freshman OT hell all over again|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||57.5%||3||Yes||8th/9th receiver|
|Chris Fox||OT||95.8%||4||Yes||Tackles are supposed to redshirt|
|Ben Gedeon||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||Separation from big 2012 LB class|
|Khalid Hill||TE||80.8%||3||Yes||Developing into U-back|
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||55.6%||3||Yes||3-tech track but could draw in for depth|
|Patrick Kugler||OC||100.0%||4||Yes||Centers always redshirt|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||42.9%||4||No||One boundary will play. Probably Lewis|
|Mike McCray||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||Slotted for SLB: Gordon/Ryan/RJS|
|Shane Morris||QB||63.6%||5||Yes||All depends on if Gardner gets his RS|
|Henry Poggi||DT||55.6%||4||?||Highest-rated DT on roster after Pipkins|
|Wyatt Shallman||RB||36.4%||4||Yes||Are you *sure* you're a ….|
|Deveon Smith||RB||36.4%||4||No||Smith, possibly Toussaint gone. Opportunity knocks.|
|Channing Stribling||CB||42.9%||3||Yes||One boundary will play, but not Stribling|
|Scott Sypniewski||LS||NA||NA||Yes||Glanda will be a senior|
|Dymonte Thomas||S||53.3%||5||No||7 safeties on roster for 2 spots, none more highly rated, 4 just a year older|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||OT||95.8%||4||Yes||Tackles redshirt.|
|Csont'e York||WR||57.5%||3||Yes||See Dukes|
Yeah, 15 and 17 redshirts when we've been averaging 7 to 10—what was that I said about the classic fan mistake again? I'm kidding myself about 2012 and the depth on the team currently, but I could see 2013 actually shirting that many guys, provided they're not needed to fill new holes and whiffs from this year. The tight ends, at least, will see the field, and at least a DT will likely be called upon before he's due. It's quite far out to be thinking about not wasting a year of a York here or a season of Shane there, but 2017 will thank us.
Today's recruiting roundup recaps the Rivals Five-Star Challenge, discusses a pair of 2013 visits and Drake Harris's impending decision, goes over a slew of new 2014 offers, and more.
Five-Star Challenge Recap: New '13 OL Target?
Rivals hosted their first annual Five-Star Challenge last weekend as their answer to Nike's The Opening and four Michigan commits—David Dawson, Jourdan Lewis, Mike McCray, and Chris Fox—were in attendance alongside a bevy of the nation's top prospects. Dawson continued his outstanding camp season with an impressive performance, making Josh Helmholdt's "Surprise Standouts" list($) and earning the #4 spot on Helmholdt's rundown of the top offensive linemen ($):
4. OC David Dawson, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech: The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Michigan pledge is listed as an offensive guard and plays tackle for his team but says he could end up anywhere on the line for the Wolverines. When the coaches needed a center, Dawson stepped in without hesitation. Though pass protection on the interior is completely different than at tackle he made a seamless transition. He has a strong base and used his lower body strength to hold the big noseguards at bay. Dawson should prove to be invaluable in Ann Arbor because of his versatility and willingness to play wherever he is needed.
Cass Tech's other camp stalwart, Jourdan Lewis, did not disappoint either, excelling in the 7-on-7 portion. Mike Farrell ($):
10. DB Jourdan Lewis, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech: Lewis started off very well with one of the best interceptions you'll see when he showed off his closing speed and undercut a pass from Tyrone Swoopes, the only interception the Southwest quarterback threw. Lewis was solid throughout the day, flashed that speed and took on bigger receivers well at times. Despite his closing ability, he sometimes allowed too much of a cushion.
That last part is an issue that has shown itself in multiple settings, including the Sound Mind/Sound Body camp and during Cass Tech's season last year. On the positive side, Lewis continues to show exceptional ball skills.
According to Tim Sullivan, Fox performed well at several different positions along the line, while McCray displayed decent coverage skills against backs and tight ends but also measured in at just 6'1" ($). That's a lot smaller than expected for McCray and could be a point of concern if he ends up at strongside LB, as expected.
A new target may have emerged at the camp, as well, and the position he plays might surprise you. Tremendous caught up with 2013 MD OL Khaliel Rodgers, who revealed that David Dawson was selling him hard on Michigan at the camp. Rodgers now plans to visit for July's BBQ at the Big House and appears to have pushed back his decision date, which was originally set for this week. He also tweeted last night that having him and Dawson on the same O-line would be "epic" and "unreal". The scouting services are split on Rodgers, with Rivals listing him as their #1 guard and a top 100 overall prospect, ESPN giving him four stars, Scout putting him as a three-star but the #2 center, and 247 giving him a meh three-star rating.
This could be nothing, or it could be a sign—especially if we get word that the coaches are after Rodgers—that things aren't entirely settled along the line. I doubt Michigan would take a sixth lineman in the class, but with over 20 commits in June, it's almost certain that the class will experience a decommitment or two at some point before signing day. Rodgers looks like he can slide in at any spot on the interior of the line and he'd be a quality contingency plan should attrition occur.
Wilkins, Bailey Visiting This Week
Michigan will host two big-time 2013 recruits this week. TN RB Jordan Wilkins tweeted out plans to be on campus today and later confirmed the visit with TomVH ($). He also told Tom that his top four consists of Auburn, Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Tennessee, though Auburn is widely presumed to be his leader after he almost committed to the Tigers on a visit a couple of weeks ago. The Wolverines will need to make a big impression if they want to catch up.
FL WR Alvin Bailey is set to swing by Michigan and Notre Dame this week, and according to Scout's Tom Beaver his visit is set for Wednesday ($). Bailey is in the running for the last open receiver spot, and with the news this week that Laquon Treadwell wants to visit Auburn($), the race for that spot may be tighter than anticipated. Treadwell is still looking at a senior year decision, and if Bailey wants to come on board the coaches probably can't afford to wait on him.
The Wolverines made the cut on a couple of top lists, as well. MD CB Kendall Fuller revealed to Rivals($) that he now has a top three of Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Michigan. The Wolverines may have a tough time overcoming Fuller's close connections to VT and Clemson, but they've hung around a lot longer than expected with Fuller, so you never know. Meanwhile, VA DE Wyatt Teller now has a top five($) of Virginia, VT, Michigan, Clemson, and Oregon, and he told 247 he'd like to visit Michigan and Oregon before making a decision. He's looking to decide before his senior season, so things should move quickly on that front.
CA WR/CB John Ross has seen his stock blow up over the summer, and Michigan recently offered him at cornerback, according to Scout's Greg Biggins ($). With the Wolverines taking Channing Stribling at corner last week, I don't anticipate them taking another defensive back unless it's Fuller or Leon McQuay III, though that could change if Michigan misses on their wide receiver targets and the coaches decide to move Stribling to offense.
Harris Decision On Wednesday & More 2014 Updates
Sam Webb reported yesterday that 2014 Grand Rapids Christian two-sport star Drake Harris will decide between Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame on Wednesday. Harris earned a Michigan offer for football while camping in Ann Arbor last week, which makes the timing of his announcement interesting, though he also was at a Tom Izzo basketball camp last weekend. Most pundits have him pegged for State, which has been recruiting him hard for both football and hoops for a long time, and we'll find out soon enough if the common wisdom is correct. Harris projects as a wide receiver on the football field, where most scouts think he has the most potential, and he'd also be a very solid shooting guard prospect on the hardwood.
More evidence of the trend towards an accelerated timeline in recruiting comes from OH LB Michael Ferns, who announced not a top three, but a final three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State. Ferns told Sam Webb that he wants to stay close to home and make a decision by the end of his junior year ($). The Wolverines appear to be in very good position here after a great visit to Ann Arbor for last week's camp.
Michigan sent out several offers recently, which I'll run down in bullet form:
- TX OLB Hoza Scott, who already holds offers from heavy hitters Alabama, Florida, LSU, Oregon, Texas, and USC, among others.
- TN OL/DL Alex Bars, younger brother of incoming freshman Blake Bars, was just offered according to TomVH ($).
- PA S Montae Nicholson earned an offer after camping at Michigan last week, according to 247's Clint Brewster ($).
- Drake Harris's high school teammate, OL Tommy Doles, picked up an offer on Friday, via Tim Sullivan ($).
- TX S Brandon Simmons pulled in offers from Michigan, LSU, and Ohio State last week, joining a list of over 20 schools ($).
- FL WR Corey Holmes added a Michigan offer after camping last week, and he told Brewster that the offer "gave [him] butterflies" before naming Michigan his top school ($). He's pondering a commitment prior to his senior year and is one to keep an eye on.
- OH LB/DE Joe Henderson also earned a post-camp offer ($). Not to be confused with this guy.
- Chantel Jennings reports that Michigan offered New Orleans RB Leonard Fournette, a massive prospect at 6'1", 232 pounds. Fournette's backstory, a heartbreaking account of surviving the streets of New Orleans in a pre- and post-Katrina world, is well worth your time.
Quickly: OH OL Nathaniel Devers is one tough kid. I'm sure you'll enjoy KY QB Drew Barker telling Eleven Warriors that he'd like to emulate the way Shane Morris has helped spearhead Michigan's recruiting efforts.
Glory days. Once upon a time Minnesota was pretty good at football. During head coach Bennie Bierman's 18-year tenure in the WWII era, the Gophers claimed five national championships and seven conference titles. A decade later (1960) Minnesota claimed another national crown under Murray Warmath. They won a Rose Bowl a year later. And then the bottom fell out.
Since then, no Gophers coach has recorded a winning record (including Lou Holtz, who coached there in 1984 and 1985) until Glen Mason, who posted .535 and their first 10-win season since 1905. No coach has since recorded a winning record, either.
This is a circuitous way to say WHY WOULD YOU FIRE HIM???
The actual preview part
The Metrodome, which
unfortunately is not where this year's game will be played.
Last season sucked for the most part but ended with a ray of hope for the Minnesota football program. They stole a victory from Iowa and trounced Illinois, effectively ending GopherQuest, an unofficial pursuit to become the Worst Big Ten Team Ever.
So despite finishing 3-9, second year head coach Jerry Kill bought himself and his coaching staff time to rebuild the program. Whether Kill ever reaches the success of even the Mason era remains to be seen. He has a good track record as a coach, but taking a program like Minnesota from its previously moribund state into contention to even win the division will require a quantum leap. At the very least it will have to start with recruiting. For the Gophers, that currently isn't going so hot.
In the meantime Michigan fans can sit back and enjoy Minnesota's presence as the reputed "thorn in the side" of mid-major Big Ten teams -- the Iowas and the Illinoises, I suppose -- without Michigan itself being in any real danger of succumbing to the occasional upset.
Here's hoping for a Minnesota victory on November 24.
- Aug. 30 (Thursday), @ UNLV
- Sept. 8, New Hampshire
- Sept. 15, Western Michigan
- Sept. 22, Syracuse
- Sept. 29, @ Iowa
- Oct. 6, WIFEDAY
- Oct. 13, Northwestern
- Oct. 20, @ Wisconsin
- Oct. 27, Purdue
- Nov. 3, Michigan
- Nov. 10, @ Illinois
- Nov. 17, @ Nebraska
- Nov. 24, Michigan State
Non-conference will be interesting only because Minnesota hosts Syracuse, who has a running backs coach by the name of Tyrone Wheatley. Other than that, there's not much reason to tune into any of their first four games unless you're so jonesing for B1G football by August you'll watch Gophers in Nevada on a Thursday night.
Not much is particularly notable about their B1G schedule. Having both Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road isn't ideal, but I don't really think anyone's expecting the Gophers to win either of those games regardless of location. Also, the last four games will be rough.
Matchups to watch: at Iowa and Michigan State at home. Minnesota played both of those teams competitively last season and even managed to eke out the Iowa game. It will be interesting to see whether there is something inherent in the Gophers' playing style that's favorable against those two teams, who share similar systems, or whether they just played two really flukey games last year.
Minnesota should be able to get three wins out of non-conference and pull out a B1G win over Illinois (most likely) or Purdue or Northwestern (less likely).
This schedule is as favorable as: a half hour "hill workout" on a stairmaster.
X's and O's, Jimmys and Joes
No. 5 QB Marqueis Gray
Style: Spready McSpreaderson
Key losses: RB Duane Bennett (639 yards, 3.8 ypc, 3 TD), WR Da'Jon McKnight (51 rec, 760 yards, 4 TD), TE Collin McGarry (16 rec, 120 yards, 2 TD), RT Chris Bunders, RG Ryan Orton, C Ryan Winn.
Top returners: QB MarQueis Gray (50.7%, 1495 yards, 8 TD, 8 INT), WR Devin Crawford-Tufts (8 rec, 156 yards), WR Brandon Green (15 rec, 190, 1 TD), LT Ed Olsen, LG Tommy Olsen.
Everything anyone needs to know about Minnesota's offense begins with MarQueis and ends with Gray. Gopher fans say Gray is their Denard Robinson (or better than Denard Robinson). Really he's more their version of Devin Gardner, i.e. a super athlete with a less than accurate arm who's probably better off playing receiver if not for the dire QB depth situation.
Last year he ran Minnesota's offense about as well as you could expect him to. He started 11 games, missing the entirety of the Michigan game due to a broken thumb, and otherwise got spelled by backup QB Max Shortell in a three-game stretch before wresting the starting job back completely. With the help of some decent skill players like Bennett and McKnight around him, Gray put on a few commendable performances against Iowa, Michigan State, and Illinois late in the season.
The loss of Bennett, McKnight, and the entire right side of the offensive line means Minnesota should probably brace for some "growing pains" -- as Al Borges would say -- this season. They might be okay at receiver. They have a couple fast guys (Crawford-Tufts, WR Marcus Jones) who should be effective in the spread. The running back competition seems to be murky at this point, however. The Gophers don't really have a whole lot in the way of reinforcements since their recruiting hauls have been understandably meager the last few years. They're going to have to make up with heart what they lack in stars.
Unless the Gophers can get their other receivers and a running back to step up, it will be the MarQueis Gray show until he gets injured, at which point the Gophers should just crawl into a hole and hope they don't see any shadows next spring.
This offense is as frightening as: A one-legged pirate who became a one-limbed pirate after a recent case of gangrene. Fear level = Yarrr! (3)
No. 11 CB Troy Stoudermire
Key losses: S Kim Royston (123 tackles (2nd in B1G), 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 INT), MLB Gary Tinsley (87 tackles, 9 TFL 4 sacks, 3 PBU), DT Anthony Jacobs (26 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack).
Top returners: CB Troy Stoudermire (24 tackles, 3 PBU, 2 INT, missed 8 games due to injury), WLB Keanon Cooper (77 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU)
One major reason Michigan blew Minnesota out of the water last season was the absence of MarQueis Gray. Another, perhaps more easily forgotten reason is the fact that Troy Stoudermire was missing from the game as well due to a fractured wrist. Stoudermire was a converted receiver playing corner in 2011, but through four games he proved to be a pretty competent one.
While the loss of Gray obviously had the bigger impact, having Stoudermire in the defensive backfield may have kept Denard in the game longer and given Borges a better opportunity to test Denard's passing issues against a decent corner instead of pulling him after an impeccable first half and calling it a day. Could have helped with the first half against Northwestern is all I'm sayin'. Dawg.
This season Minnesota should be getting Stoudermire back from injury. Good thing, because the Gophers lose a big chunk of their defensive impact players. Like the offense, this defense isn't going to get by on talent; other than Stoudermire, you wouldn't call anyone else on the unit a "solid B1G starter."
That's not to say they aren't any good at all. If you take away the massive skewing effects of their scores vs. Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin, their defensive stats weren't all that bad, especially toward the end of the season. That is a rough estimate.
Even without massaging the numbers, Minnesota ended up above average in things like pass defense, which is to say that with the right coaching they can at least milk their talent to allow them to hover around mediocre in other categories as well. They'll have to start with the front seven -- they were horrible against the run last season, and Ace identified this obvious weakness in his FFFF, back when North Dakota State was averaging 5.0 ypc against them. Not good.
This defense is as frightening as: A one-limbed pirate who contracted frostbite in his remaining foot due to his inability to put on socks. Fear level = Yarr? (2)
Record: 4-8 overall, 1-7 B1G.
Against Michigan: They might actually score a touchdown. Michigan will score fewer touchdowns. 31-7 Michigan.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: A one-limbed pirate with frostbite completing a half hour hill workout on a stairmaster.
Turns out the Internet has a rich selection of cats in party hats
The Pre-Sale for our (now-independent) preview book is over; if you have still not bought the thing, you are now out of excuses because you can buy the thing. If you have already bought the thing, you may commence your mailbox vigil. If you're in Ann Arbor or environs, you can also just walk into Moe's and buy a copy.
EDIT: Now available at all three UGP locations:
- 1114 South University
- 329 S. Main Street
- 711 N. University (Moe's)
I'll put up a list of other outlets where available, when available, but one I know for sure is…
Official MGoEvent the First:
In celebration of now having the thing, THIS SATURDAY (Saturday! Saturday!) from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., you are welcome to come join us for the all-official Hail to the Victors 2012 Launch Party. Meet Brian and the MGoStaff, talk Michigan football, and show your spouse that your internet friends are really real and stuff. Answer the poll above if you plan on coming so I can get an idea of attendance.
What? MGoBlog's Launch Party of Hail to the Victors 2012
Where? Underground Printing, 1114 South University, Ann Arbor, MI
When? Saturday, June 30, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. –ish.
Parking? Street parking. Warning: 320-pound defensive tackles who think they're Dukes of Hazzard have recently been sighted in the area, so bring the car with the hood you don't like.
I already have an event that day at 3 at Middle Earth: Of course you do. #myreaders
So can I come by afterwards? Yeah, it's open-house-y.
Can I help/bring cookies? Contact Seth at misopogon, at symbol, att dot net. If it's about cookies, contact any time. Doesn't even have to be related to the party, or the blog, or Michigan if it's cookies.
When do I get my book? Kickstarter and pre-sale orders have been processed. If you have a t-shirt coming it might take a bit longer since those had to get printed and it's a different shipping mechanism.
Say 'punch and pie' or nobody will come! Punch and pie.
We'll have copies and t-shirts available there for pickup if you bought on the Kickstarter. There will also be some sort of Q&A session with Brian, Ace, Heiko, myself, Upchurch, and some of the other contributors (jamiemac should be there; Dooley, Kryk, Ross, and Chris Brown are various levels of maybe).