“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
Tennessee offensive lineman Blake Bars [6'5", 275 lbs, 4 Star] is on his way up to Ann Arbor for his visit that will take place tomorrow [Saturday the 18th]. Bars' name hasn't been thrown around as much as some of the other prospects Michigan is after, but that doesn't mean he's wanted any less. Blake told me about his recruitment and what lead to a slow start in his process. Here's a look at his film then the answers.
TOM: The fans aren't as familiar with you as they are for some of the other prospects. It seems like your name has shot to the top very quickly though, is there any reason for that?
BLAKE: Yeah, we didn't get any of our game film until late in February. Our coach just didn't give them to us until after the season in fear that we would focus too much on recruiting and not the program. We got it in late February and put together a highlight film, sent them out the schools and got really positive feedback. That's why it took so long.
TOM: That makes sense. Since you got somewhat of a late start, at least compared to the rest of the crop, where are you at in the process? Do you have a top group yet?
BLAKE: My top schools are probably Penn State, Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, and Michigan. There are some other schools I would maybe want to consider, but that's my top group right now. We're focusing on visiting the top schools right now, and we really wanted to visit Michigan. We're headed down there right now.
TOM: Ok, and to talk more specifically about Michigan how familiar are you with the program?
BLAKE: We lived in Trenton [Michigan] for around 12 years. I went to a Lloyd Carr camp in Wyandotte once, but I can't really tell you much more than that, I was pretty young. We did go up to Michigan last year and took a brief visit. We have relatives in Ann Arbor and we wanted to look around the stadium. We're excited to go back up and meet the coaches and go on a tour.
TOM: Does Michigan have any advantage with all this since you have family there and you've lived there before?
BLAKE: I think my Aunt who lives in Ann Arbor is a pretty good recruiter. She always says that if I come to Michigan she'll have special things for me. She'll bake me cookies and cook for me. I like the fact that my family is there, and my mom's uncle actually played for Michigan, but I'm not sure how much it will factor in.
TOM: What coach from Michigan are you mainly in contact with?
BLAKE: Coach Smith is recruiting our area. He came out to watch me practice and he said he was pretty impressed. The offer came after that. He's a great guy and I'm excited to meet him. When I talked to him on the phone we got to talk to Coach Hoke which was pretty cool.
TOM: With this visit what are you looking to get out of it? Are there any specific questions you want answered?
BLAKE: Right now I'm just keeping an open mind about each school. When we see it tomorrow I don't know that I have a specific questions other than just hearing what the coaches have to say. I want to find out about the academic side of everything. I think I'm looking for a school that's well balanced, good academics and good athletics as well.
TOM: You said you want to visit your top schools, so how do you think this whole process is going to play out for you?
BLAKE: I think I'm looking to get everything done sooner than later. I want to make a decision before our season starts. We have a really good team this year and we have a good shot at states. Getting that decision out of the way will help that. We have the top five right now and we'll try to get it down from there.
Paws for a cause. If you've got a desire to have Michigan football players wait on you, you are in luck:
"Celebrity waiters" is a new phrase to me. Proceeds go to the local Humane Society; tickets can be purchased here. Order the coconut so your waiter can rip it open with his bare hands. This is not an opportunity that often comes.
I told you so. If the equation "Jersey Shore == Bronzed Juggalos" holds true, last fall's assertion is now approved by the Michigan State athletic director himself:
Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino of Jersey Shore is going to be a #Spartan fan this season. Catch him at a game in Spartan Stadium.
Dave Brandon didn't do anything today, but point Dave Brandon. The Only Colors is at a loss for words but not gifs.
Peering into your basket-soul. Basketball recruiting suddenly turned into hockey recruiting, where it's all like "this kid isn't coming forever but he seems pretty good." It's a risk, but one you might feel like you have to take these days. /yells at cloud
But UMHoops points out Beilein's track record with early commits is stellar:
Glenn Robinson III was considered a second-tier prospect in the state of Indiana but impressed Beilein at Elite Camp and picked up a scholarship offer, since then he’s exploded into to a top-75 player. Tim Hardaway Jr. impressed at Elite Camp and committed shortly after, two years later he was one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten. Now that’s not to say that Beilein uses the six hours at his camp as the only evaluation tool, he’s been down to watch Hatch and Donnal play with their high school squads on many occasions over the last year.
That does not use all the available evidence: Beilein picked up Evan Smotrycz before he rose in the rankings; Jordan Morgan was a recruit so questionable even his dad was like "really?"; Trey Burke fell at AAU-only Rivals but rose elsewhere after a stellar senior year saw him named Ohio Mr. Basketball. Also, Pittsnogle and Gansey and etc. Beilein's got an eye. In this regard he is the anti-Amaker.
Michigan is after a point guard in the 2013 class and appears to be operating under the assumption they have a fourth scholarship available in either 2012 or 2013 that will probably go to a shooting guard or face-up four.
Haters going to notice your blatant contradiction. Excellent catch by Oversigning.com. Here's Nick Saban discussing the SEC's meaningful but not perfect new legislation on kicking kids the the curb. Before passage:
"In my opinion, it would really affect the quality in our league," Saban said. "You can't know the attrition from signing day until August, which guys who're going to be fifth-year seniors that decide they don't want to come back and play football. Well, you can't count those guys. You're going to have to tell those guys they're going to have to decide in January.
"I don't really feel that it's going to create any management issues that's going to affect the quality of play," Saban calmly said Thursday before his annual charity golf tournament that benefits his "Nick's Kids" program. "I think it's all good."
Oversigning.com describes this as "craw-fishing," which is inexplicable to me but yeah: that dude is totally craw-fishing. What a jerk.
They eat the pig. You know who else needs to feel the pimp hand of the NCAA? North Carolina. Their car business is now just as transparently illicit as Ohio State's:
It appears that one UNC football player accrued 93 parking tickets under nine license plate numbers between October 2007 and August 2009, according to parking records UNC released Thursday and a database search of the University’s Department of Public Safety website. …
The plates in question corresponded to cars including a gray Dodge, a gray Nissan, a black Acura, a black Honda and a green BMW, according to the records.
Greg Little had nine license plates in 22 months. The student newspaper discovered this by searching a public database after UNC was finally sued into releasing records requested under the FOIA act. There is obviously some combination of car trouble, generous grandmothers from poor sections of Durham, footloose and fancy-free car swapping on the whims of a young man feeling the wind in his hair, and OBVIOUS EXTRA BENEFITS UNC WAS BEING SLAPPED IN THE FACE WITH EVERY TIME HE GOT A PARKING TICKET, WHICH WAS APPARENTLY ON A DAILY BASIS that explains how this may have occurred.
Meanwhile, phone records show John Blake was talking to Marvin Austin and Gary Wichard when they were on one of their non-kosher trips. They're going to get hammered, too.
(HT: Doctor Saturday.)
What is luck? Baby don't hurt me, no more. A follow-up to the Pythagorean post from this morning: was Michigan State actually lucky last year? If you listen to Pythagorean expectations, they were. They were the luckiest dang team in the study period, exceeding expectations by a whopping 2.4 wins.
If you're using a more conventional measure of record in close games, they weren't even close to the luckiest team. By my count there were three: wins over ND (34-31, OT), Northwestern (35-27 with a cosmetic touchdown for MSU at the very end), and Purdue (35-31). A six point win over Penn State does not count since PSU scored a touchdown with under a minute left to make the final score more attractive; MSU was a long way from losing that.
3-0 in close games is a bit lucky but nothing out of the ordinary for any team that finishes 11-2. While you would expect any team with 11 wins to regress the next season, there's nothing there that suggests MSU should be unusually likely to drop back to .500 or thereabouts.
The Pythagorean method is blown away by MSU's two losses, utter hammerings at the hands of Iowa and Alabama. I'm not convinced those are as meaningful as the formula would have it.
Etc.: Nobody closes the barn door like the Ohio State Buckeyes. Yost renovations are go. Renaldo Sagesse making his way in the CFL. NCAA poking around agent-type dudes in South Florida, investigating a selection of SEC schools and Ohio State. Doctor Saturday renews call for "East" and "West" division names, which is endorsed by this space. Holdin' the Rope fires up the nostalgia machine and takes us back to the 2010 Indiana game. Remember when Ohio State had a football program? Weird!
I like me some stats, boy howdy, but there's a few things I'm not sure about. One is applying Pythagorean wins to football. For those of you who don't know the name of Data's brother, some smart baseball types realized that baseball teams pretty much try to score runs all the time. This means you can predict future performance better with run differential than record.
It works in basketball, too, because basketball teams pretty much try to score baskets all the time. A team leading may try to suck a possession or two out of the game by stalling late, but that effect is extremely minor. It works in hockey because hockey teams pretty much try to score goals all the time. A team leading late will take fewer risks but that effect is minor, too. Futz with the exponents and it's cool.
You can do this for football as well, but Lloyd/Tresselball observers can tell you that football teams do not try to score points all the time. This is because football has more state—primarily the line of scrimmage—than the other sports, and that state is simultaneously applicable to offense and defense. There is never any reason to not score in baseball or basketball. In football trying to score is riskier than running three isos up the middle and punting in a way that missing a jumper is not. Because of this, lots of personnel turnover, and wildly varying schedules, I don't think raw Pythagorean wins is a particularly useful predictive device. It does correlate some. I just don't like it. I acknowledge this is a Murray Chass sort of criticism.
I bring it up because BHGP has a long post featuring Pythagorean wins that eventually kind of discards the concept by way of praising Northwestern for consistently exceeding expectations. There's a table I'll post a bit later showing eight years of Big Ten performance versus expectations followed up by this:
The fact that most teams have such consistent "luck," when coupled with the fact that close wins and losses appear to be the strongest factor in where a team appears on the list, means this list may not be a measure of "luck," per se, but rather the simple ability to win close games. Since such ability is presumably based in large part on things like on-field experience, efficient playcalling, and clock management, the list could be considered a measure of a coach's in-game ability. Is it any wonder that the conference's biggest late-game buffoon and a geriatric who doesn't even wear a headset sit at the bottom of the list? …
It's also a credit to Pat Fitzgerald and the late Randy Walker at Northwestern. Even in its worst years, jNWU has outperformed its pythagorean expectations. In every year included in this study, Northwestern had a positive overall pythagorean margin, and in all but one the LOLcats had a positive margin in conference play.
There is an objection to this based on stock-picking monkeys.
Seriously. In 1999, a six-year-old female monkey named Raven threw darts at a selection of tech stocks that subsequently returned 213 percent. This was a bubble environment but even in that context her performance was impressive—22nd amongst thousands of funds. If you had 64 monkeys do that every year half of them would be discovered to be frauds by not beating the market, but you would expect at the end of that eight year period there would be one very lucky monkey who beat the market for eight consecutive years.
Any normally distributed set of data is going to have a lucky monkey and Ron Zook. I present a lucky monkey and Ron Zook:
Wins – Pythagorean expectation, 2002-2010
|Rank||Team||Ov +/-||Conf +/-|
Except… that is not a normally distributed lucky monkey. In conference (which is a more interesting number to me because nonconference schedules are so unbalanced), Northwestern accounts for nearly 70% of the deviation from perfectly Pythagorean records by itself. Lloydball advocates Michigan, OSU, and Wisconsin follow in order, and BHGP points out that Michigan State would be the second luckiest monkey if only the Dantonio era—more MANBALL—was considered. There seems to be something non-monkey there.
But I'm uncertain if that's good or bad if you're a fan. Does this mean manball is good at closing out games, as BHGP suggests the chart shows? It's a possibility. The other possibility (24-21 vs SDSU, 10-7 vs Utah, falling behind by 14 in the Orange Bowl before suddenly remembering David Terrell exists, etc.) is that Lloydball-type play shuts off the offense once it gets a narrow lead or until it falls behind significantly, thus leading to a lot of tight games generally slanted towards wins.
The most haunting stat from the Carr era is this: Carr was actually more likely to win a game if he entered the fourth quarter with a narrow deficit than a narrow lead. Since the point of football is to win more games, period, not more games than you were expected to based on the final score, the excellence of your coaching is bound up with your record. Exceeding expectations as Ohio State means your manball is working (until you get into a championship game). Doing so as Michigan, but never beating Ohio State, means something different.
There's too much weird stuff tied up in scoring points in football to draw many conclusions from a look at just margins. Primarily this comes down to wanting to score, which is a complicated decision based largely on your faith in the defense. This is hard when your defense is good-ish (Michigan) but not when it's terrible (Northwestern) or awesome (Ohio State). OSU and Northwestern rarely make the wrong decisions because theirs are obvious. Michigan (and Iowa, and Penn State) fans are haunted by the the decisions that turned out wrong.
BONUS GUESS ON NORTHWESTERN: Why would the Wildcats consistently exceed expectations? Guess: they feature in games with lots of points. Their spread has been as consistently effective as their secondary has been flailing, so a lot of Northwestern games feature large scores. If NW is consistently winning 42-35 that will look different to the formula than OSU grinding out 17-10 wins.
BONUS LOCALLY RELEVANT SECTION: FWIW, only one Michigan team shows up at the margins. If you think about it you'll probably figure it out:
Of course, using the full schedule allows for statistical variance based on strength of non-conference scheduling. If we look solely at Big Ten play, as close to a level playing field as we can get, Sparty still wins. It's just not 2010 Sparty:
Rank Team Py +/- 1 2008 Michigan State +2.16 2 2004 Northwestern +1.77 3 2010 Michigan State +1.69 4 2004 Michigan +1.63 5 2009 Northwestern +1.53
That 2008 Spartan squad went 9-4 (6-2) despite a total margin of victory of +28 and an in-conference margin of -7. In fact, 2008 Michigan State was one of just five teams since 2002 to post a winning record in the Big Ten despite being outscored in conference play.
The 2004 team that went to the Rose Bowl despite deploying a freshman quarterback thanks to things like nailcoeds.exe outperformed Pythagorean expectation significantly. You might be all like "a HA!" because the next year Michigan slumped to 7-5 in 2005, but they went 11-2 the year after that—there's just so much noise.
Not really the devil, as I have met(!) Jason of 11 Warrior and had a cordial experience. Also he runs Drupal.
So Eleven Warriors took me up on my "someone argue OSU's sanctions shouldn't be as a bad as USC's" challenge, and even did so with a table. Let's take a look:
18 specific instances of violations by Reggie Bush or his family, including a house for his parents, a car (with new rims and a stereo), airfare, hotel stays, limo services, meals, car repairs, clothing, furniture and and appliances.
12 similar instances of violations out of basketball player OJ Mayo.
Running backs coach Todd McNair was found to have known or should have known of Bush's activity and was also cited for lying during the investigation.
Further violations by the women's tennis program and a failure of the athletic department's infrastructure when it came to oversight and policing.
Together, these findings led to a charge of Lack of Institutional Control.
An email trail that proved the head coach had knowledge of players forfeiting their eligibility, but did nothing to notify his superiors or compliance/enforcement staff.
UPDATED: Further, Tressel signed a statement attesting to the fact that he was unaware of any violations in the fall of 2010.
Additional athletes may have been involved in memorabilia-for-tattoos.
Potential improper benefits in the form of car deals for football players.
Terrelle Pryor allegedly received benefits in the form of free golf at a country club and is also alleged to have received $20,000-$40,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia.
|FATE OF HEAD COACH||Bolted early for the NFL.||Forced the resignation of a beloved coach with otherwise excellent reputation amongst peers.|
|LEVEL OF COOPERATION||None||Ohio State has reported all findings to the NCAA on their own and has stayed in contact with the organization to assist with the investigation.|
|TAUNTING||Hired habitual scofflaw Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll. AD Mike Garrett claimed the NCAA report was "nothing but a lot of envy".||None, unless you wanted to count the fumbled presser on March 8th. Which you shouldn't.|
Let's play the Feud!
USC's lack of institutional control charge was the major factor here and while Ohio State has not yet been hit with that allegation the Pac-10 has a primer on what does and does not qualify for a LOIC charge featuring a lot of components that should make OSU fans nervous.
Specifically called out is a head coach's responsibility:
A head coach fails to create and maintain an atmosphere for compliance within the program — the coach supervises or fails to monitor the activities of assistant coaches regarding compliance.
A head coach has special obligation to establish a spirit of compliance among the entire team, including assistant coaches, other staff and student-athletes. The head coach must generally observe the activities of assistant coaches and staff to determine if they are acting in compliance with NCAA rules. Too often, when assistant coaches are involved in a web of serious violations, head coaches profess ignorance, saying that they were too busy to know what was occurring and that they trusted their assistants. Such a
failure by head coaches to control their teams, alone or with the assistance of a staff member with compliance responsibilities, is a lack of institutional control.
This is not to imply that every violation by an assistant coach involves a lack of institutional control. If the head coach sets a proper tone of compliance and monitors the activities of all assistant coaches in the sport, the head coach cannot be charged with the secretive activities of an assistant bent on violating NCAA rules.
In this case Tressel can't even attempt to pass the buck since he is directly responsible.
Meanwhile, there have been multiple incidents that suggest institutional control is weak at best: the Plain-Dealer reports OSU was warned about Talbott in 2007 but still allowed players to leave tickets for him and remain on the sidelines as a photographer; a 2006 audit of OSU's car tracking found it inadequate, then found a third of the athletes were driving vehicles unknown to the department. They discovered this by checking cars at practice and examining university parking pass and ticket records. Ohio State stated it looked at Terrelle Pryor's three loaner tickets and decided a test drive to Pennsylvania did not constitute an extra benefit. As late as May Doug Archie, the director of compliance at OSU, responded to a question about why nine players had been issued citations in cars with dealer plates with "you'll have to ask the dealers"; even after the USC case established the need for "high profile compliance" of high profile players, Archie disavows any special attention to Pryor and other football players.
The Pac-10 document lays out a selection of "acts that are likely to demonstrate to a lack of institutional control," of which the head coach bit above is one. Ohio State appears to hit many of the others:
A person with compliance responsibilities fails to establish a proper system for compliance or fails to monitor the operations of a compliance system appropriately.
The explanatory text below notes that "the mere compilation and distribution of
rules and regulations, along with written compliance procedures, is not sufficient if no one regularly checks on the actual operations of the system."
A person with compliance responsibilities does not take steps to alter the system of compliance when there are indications the system is not working.
OSU's extremely high rate of secondary violations does not help them: "if there are a number of violations, even if they all are minor, indicating that the compliance system is not operating effectively, the person(s) responsible cannot ignore the situation, but must take steps to correct the compliance system." They constitute a warning that should have been, but was not heeded. They were an indication increased vigilance was needed.
A director of athletics or any other individual with compliance responsibilities fails to investigate or direct an investigation of a possible significant violation of NCAA rules or fails to report a violation properly.
Even if Tressel does not count here—and I'm pretty sure he doesn't since the next bullet is the one about head coaches—a pattern of evidence OSU players were getting deals on cars was either uninvestigated or rubber-stamped by the department; similarly, Ohio State's 11-day investigation into the tattoo business was insultingly brief and turned up no extra players whatsoever, something that has been brought into question by multiple media reports. Those media reports may involve dubious dudes name Ellis but they also involve former players like Robert Rose, who admitted his own NCAA violations, and Ray Small.
In light of the other issues it seems clear the goal of OSU's tatgate investigation was to offer the appearance of compliance instead of the actual thing. An actually diligent compliance department would have turned up more issues than those specifically told them by the Feds.
In conclusion, the guy whose job it is to ask the dealers responded to a media inquiry about the dealers by saying "you'll have to ask the dealers." When—and it is when*—the NCAA determines an unusual, easily detectable pattern of behavior was permitted to happen for years after Maurice Clarett's burglary report should have put the athletic department on alert, the LOIC charge will be inevitable.
Not very bonus for OSU fans: they are up for repeat violator status because of Boban Savovic, and unlike in previous cases where schools were technically up for extra penalties under that statute, here the nature of the violations is extremely similar.
*[This is the part at which Jason objects to most, I think:
MGoBlog, unsurprisingly, is more certain of that happening than you might be
I am inclined to believe there is not a reasonable explanation for the loaner cars, it's true. If you look at the situation at OSU—a dealership littered with memorabilia that sold some 50 Buckeyes cars and has seen nine different players ticketed in cars featuring dealer plates, including one Terrelle Pryor getting three separate tickets when any normal human would have been blacklisted after the first—and think the NCAA can possibly find no extra benefits, well… we are on different planets and talking to each other is pointless.]
Saying OSU self-reported its violations when they did nothing about the tattoos until they were notified by federal investigators is stretching things a bit. They literally took no action until someone else had done all the work for them. OSU's internal compliance measures failed to pick up any hint of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, it was OSU's legal department that originally caught the Cicero emails—not compliance.
So while OSU may have reported its violations to the NCAA, they only did so after a federal investigation and the legal department's intervention; in the aftermath they gave themselves a hilariously weak punishment.
Fate Of Head Coach
The only difference between the fates of Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel was Carroll's foresight in his constant flirtations with the NFL. The NCAA will not give Ohio State credit for doing something they were going to have to do anyway once they put a show-cause on him.
Level Of Cooperation
USC did the same song and dance with the NCAA. Todd Dickey:
Since the allegations surfaced, USC has been working closely with the NCAA and the Pac-10 in an attempt to get to the truth.
Working in conjunction with the NCAA and the Pac-10 — we have already interviewed approximately 50 people and spent many hundreds of hours investigating these allegations. We have no idea how long this investigation will continue — and no one is more anxious to bring this process to a conclusion than we are — but we remain committed to getting to the truth.
USC has participated in every interview — except those few from which we were excluded. Our exclusion from these interviews mainly stemmed from demands from those making allegations against our student-athletes, insisting that no one from USC be present.
We have cooperated and worked together with the NCAA and Pac-10 every step of the way during this process and we intend to continue to do so.
Once you are in the hole, you can stop digging. Ohio State has stopped digging, but they are still in the hole. Way down in the hole. Not cooperating is asking to get SMU'ed; what Ohio State is doing now is the same thing USC did, the same thing any school does once in the crosshairs. It is not likely to see penalties reduced.
If we're counting Mike Garrett's ham-handed press conference, the "fumbled" presser on March 8th counts as well, as does Ohio State's excessively weak response to a serious every-coach-gets-fired 10.1 finding: a two game suspension.
Tressel later "resigned," something Gordon Gee insists was Tressel's own doing and not the university stepping forward to terminate the coach's contract. If he's smart—he's not—he will change that tune immediately, adopting a hang-dog Day of Great Shame rhetoric, and regretfully assert while Tressel was an excellent coach and leader of men he violated the principles the university lives by and had to be terminated.
And Then We Burn, But Not Together
Yeah, you guys are screwed.
[Ed.: part of what promises to be a series orienting people unfamiliar with lacrosse to the sport.]
Courtesy of Insidelacrosse.com.
(We now have the best helmets in three sports. Also: Maize uniform rage spreads to two sports)
I’ve started this diary to help introduce Michigan fans to lacrosse and to explain what’s going on both on the field and off as best I can. Since there are no games to recap and I don’t have any video of this past season to break down, I figured it was best to begin with an investigation of Michigan’s roster and how much overhaul and time would be needed before the team became competitive.
There has been a lot of chatter in the message boards and perhaps some diary entries for the past year speculating how Michigan’s 3x MCLA National Champion lacrosse team would fair at the varsity level. Some have argued that Michigan will need a minimal level of roster overhaul or change in recruiting strategies in order to be competitive both within their conference and nationally, particularly in light of the fact that Brother Rice High School won the Inside Lacrosse High School National Championship in 2008, and that the general University student body is already heavily composed of kids from the East coast.
I’ve broken this introduction into four parts:
- Part I of this Introduction to Recruiting will compare and contrast lacrosse recruiting to other sports.
- Part II will attempt to compare how Michigan’s roster compares to the dominant programs in Division 1, in order to see what recruiting changes are necessary to compete for a national title
- Part III will compare Michigan’s roster to its conference foes in the ECAC to see how long it will be before they compete for conference championships and NCAA bids
- Part IV will look at two other new Division 1 programs to see if their experience gives us any indication into how long it will take for Michigan to become nationally competitive.
An Introduction to Lacrosse Recruiting
In terms of what coaches are looking for, it’s pretty straightforward. First, college coaches are looking for a player that has the proper size and speed. If you are a defensemen at a top level program, you are probably going to be around 6’2”-6’3” and roughly 220 lbs, a top level midfielder is 6’0”-6’1” and around 190 lbs, and attack can vary anywhere from 5’10” 190 lbs to 6’2” 215 lbs. In terms of speed, you are looking for players that run in the 4.5-4.6 range in the 40. Max Seibald, former Cornell midfielder and 2010 Tewaaraton Trophy winner (lacrosse’s version of the Heisman or Hobey Baker) recently clocked the same time in the 40 yard dash as Percy Harvin (sub 4.4), so lacrosse is increasingly bringing in top-level athletes (not just guys too slow or uncoordinated for football, etc).
The last element that factors into the scholarship equation is stick skills. Coaches vary widely in how interested they are in a players stick skills. Some coaches love to take athletic guys that were great at multiple sports and true athletes—particularly Dom Starsia at Virginia and John Desko at Syracuse—and trust their own ability to teach stick skills. Other coaches want “lacrosse players” that have the stick skills to immediately contribute the moment they set foot on campus. These players won’t be ranked in the Inside Lacrosse Young Guns list (Top 100 high school players in a graduating class, their version of Rivals 250, etc), but coaches hope they will turn into something special as upper classmen. Normally, only the most successful programs have the luxury of taking a risk on this type of player since they know they have 5-6 instant contributors already in their recruiting class.
Lacrosse recruiting is also in a state of flux right now—for years it operated under the radar due to minimal participation in the sport and neglect from television and print media. As the sport has grown in the past 15 years, and as ESPN and CBS have steadily increased the number of games on television, more people are starting to chart and follow high school players and their recruitment. Overall, lacrosse recruiting is a hybrid to what we are familiar with from football, basketball and hockey.
Similarities to Football
At its core, lacrosse recruiting is still most similar to football recruiting. To begin with, what matters most is your performance with your high school team. How you perform on tape or in person during your high school season is still the single most important element in getting recruited—college coaches want to see you how you play in settled offense, settled defense, transition, special teams, when a defense is focused on one player, etc. The only time you really see teams scheme is during the high school season, so it’s the most realistic chance for college coaches to see how players will translate to the college level.
It is also similar to football in the importance that the camps most major schools host during the summer play in recruiting. Colleges host team and individual camps, and like football, they provide the opportunity for coaches to get a player on campus and to see how they play in person. It’s a chance for the college to get an accurate height and weight, to see how fast the player is both with and without the ball, and to meet the player in order to get a feel for how they will fit into your locker room. As well, there is an Under Armor All America lacrosse game (one for juniors and one for seniors), and the team is selected through a series of combines like the UA or Army All America games in football.
Finally, lacrosse is similar to football in the sense that location matters a great deal. Just like Florida, Texas, California and Ohio/Pennsylvania are the four major hotbeds in terms of producing high-level football talent, the same is true for Baltimore/Washington DC, Long Island, and Upstate New York (you can also start making a very strong argument for including New Jersey and Philadelphia on the list). Like football, you can find talent in other places, but it is impossible to match the density of top quality athletes and high-level coaching of these areas. The players coming out of these 3-4 areas grew up with a stick in their hand, went to high schools where the most athletic kids in the school played lacrosse, and had coaches that treated them like low-level college players from the time they were 14 years old. If you want players who will contribute immediately and a team that will compete for national titles, conventional wisdom says you have to recruit heavily out of these areas (Part II will examine whether this is myth or reality). Players from outside the hotbed areas tend to be recruited as the proverbial “athletes” since they do not have the stick skills to immediately contribute or a natural position on the field.
Similarities to Basketball
Now that you feel like lacrosse recruiting is incredibly familiar and easy to grasp, let’s complicate it by adding elements of basketball. If you follow basketball recruiting, there are two similarities between lacrosse and basketball.
First, club teams and programs are a big deal in lacrosse recruiting. While this seems like a contradiction to primacy of high school tape in recruiting I wrote above, club teams are essential in getting your name on a coach’s watch list. Most college teams have little to no budget to travel during the season, let alone does a team that has 1 head coach, 2 assistants and 1-2 graduate assistants have the man power to travel during the season. Consequently, if a coach is going to see you live, it’s going to be in the summer or fall when you’re playing for a club team. If you want to be noticed by a coach, particularly if you are not from one of those lacrosse hotbed areas (or you are in a hotbed, but on a high school team so stacked that you won’t see the field until your senior year), your club team and the tournaments they qualify matter. Once they know your name after seeing you in a summer tournament, then they’ll start watching your high school tape Playing for major club programs like the Blue Crabs (out of Baltimore) or the Long Island Express is often the first step towards a D1 offer. Club teams are so important that Inside Lacrosse Magazine now ranks the top club programs in the nation at the end of every summer.
The second similarity to basketball is the recruiting timeline for a top player and the top programs. If you are a Top 100 Young Gun, you will probably start collecting scholarship offers during your sophomore year and will commit sometime before the start of your junior season. Johns Hopkins, one of the top programs historically, just received its third commitment for the Class of 2013. Obviously the majority of players still commit around their senior year and the majority of teams do not fill up their classes early, but if you want to land a Top 25 player odds are you will need to lock in a commit 2-3 years before he sets foot on campus. I hate this aspect of the game and think it has the potential to lead to very dirty tactics if the sports exposure and TV money continue to grow, but that’s where the game is right now.
Similarities to Ice Hockey
Now time to really complicate the issue. Lacrosse is a suburban sport, so the top players tend to come from school districts and families that are more affluent on average than a typical BCS-level football or basketball recruit. It’s a sport that requires a lot of equipment and travel, so like hockey it tends to attract more affluent families. This means players in this sport have options that a lot of top level football and basketball recruits do not. On top of that, the sport is still small so that if you want to play on a top high school team, you only have a few options. This means that you could be a stud attackman at Garden City high school on Long Island and be talented enough to be ranked in the Top 100 nationally for your high school class, but you could never see the field until your junior or senior year because there are 3 other attackman in the Top 100 in the class above you on your team. Coaches won’t see you and recruitniks will forget about you.
So what’s a player to do—they are outstanding, but can’t get the playing time to warrant a scholarship offer from a D1 school. What many players will choose to do is to go to a boarding school for a year or two. Some players will do a post-graduate year after graduating from high school, some will repeat their junior year and stay at boarding school for two years, and some will repeat freshmen year and stay at the boarding school for four years. So, like ice hockey, you may gain a commitment from a kid that appears to be a year too old for their recruiting class. Sometimes a team will also ask a player to take a PG year, either to grow or because they will have more room in the following year’s recruiting class.
This route has proven to be a great way for kids to get more exposure and for school to find the “diamond in the rough” in their recruiting classes. Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Salisbury School in Connecticut are national powers at the high school level in large part because of the contributions of PG players, and 2011 Tewaaraton Finalist Rob Pannell and 2011 All-American Billy Bitter are both products of a PG year.
I hope this helps illuminate the process of lacrosse recruiting for everyone. I know this post does not have a lot to do with Michigan specifically, but I wanted to make sure we are all on the same page with how the recruiting process works with lacrosse. It’s obviously going to take Michigan some time to fill their roster with high level talent, considering they are already missing out on some key rising juniors who have committed already.
2013 offers went out today and two 2013 commitments came back within a few minutes of each other—Brady Hoke's ark act is spreading. They are:
Hatch is a 6'6", 214 pound wing from Canterbury, Indiana.
You may remember Hatch as the guy who declared Michigan his outright leader in a local profile article from a while back. The question with him was whether the feeling was mutual; it evidently is. Hatch is a three-star-ish unranked dude who hasn't got much pub yet because his high school is small and an injury held him out of the early part of this AAU season. Beilein's been all over him, though, and he just shot up two inches so he could still be expanding.
UMHoops got some scouting in at the recent elite camp:
At around 6-foot-6, Hatch has a solid frame to go along with his smooth and quick jump shot. He hit a pair of deep back-to-back threes during his time on the main court and had a couple strong takes to the basket – using his strength and body position very well. He appeared to be the most consistent shooter of the wings at the camp in both game action and shooting drills.
He did a good job on the glass and was assertive offensively without trying to do too much. His handle isn’t quite what you’d like to see out of a wing guard at the next level but it’s good enough to get in the lane and keep defenses honest. His dad has told us that he’s still growing and depending on how much he grows he should have a very interesting combination of size, strength and shooting ability.
Donnal is a 6'9", 200 pound post—yes the post is 14 pounds lighter than the wing—out of Wayne, Ohio. He's 81st in the current ESPN top 100 and appears to be moving towards more Big Time status, as late-developing, skinny bigs are wont to do. UMHoops camp scouting again:
The camp wasn’t loaded with big men but Donnal was the most impressive of the bunch. He has very solid footwork and makes the most of the opportunities provided to him, which can be few and far between in a fast paced camp setting.
Knowing how to play the game is often an overlooked trait for big men. Reading situations, rolling to the basket at the right time, pivoting the right direction and making the right move are reactions that have to be made quickly and that most young bigs struggle with. Donnal, like anyone, makes his fair share of mistakes but he seems to embrace coaching and make the necessary improvements quickly.
He had a nice dunk in 3 on 3 play and seemed to always make the right play every time. He’s not a jump out of the gym athlete or a tremendous shot blocker, although he did have a few nice blocks in full court play, but he has a good motor and is an above average rebounder. He showed off a strong drop step in the post on a couple of occasions but surprised me more with his face up game. He’s not going to be a true face-up four man at this point, or ever, but he’s surprisingly coordinated at putting the ball on the floor for a sophomore big. He’s also confident enough to step out and knock down a jump shot from 18-feet.
There's more from ESPN and others at the UMHoops commit post.
This technically fills Michigan's roster for 2013 but that assumes Hardaway stays four years, Blake McLimans gets a a fifth year, and there's no other attrition. More realistically Michigan is looking for another two guys in the class. Monte Morris is obviously a priority, and then the fourth guy could be anyone.