...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Defensive tackle is one of the holes that hasn't been filled yet for Michigan, which makes Darian Cooper one of the most important recruits left on the board. Up to even a few weeks ago it seemed like Cooper wasn't going to entertain the idea of even visiting Michigan. The new coaching staff made him a priority and convinced him to visit this past weekend. Michigan has now moved into his top four with MSU, Iowa, and Georgia Tech. Here's his film, and what he had to say about the visit.
TOM: Tell me from the start what you guys did.
DARIAN: We got there at five on Friday, and we went and ate dinner at the Big House. After that I hung out with some of the players, we hung out with Josh Furman, Patrick (Omameh). We got to meet all the players and we played some video games.
TOM: Was Saturday more the business side of it then?
DARIAN: Yeah, Saturday was more the academic side of it. My mom and little brother were with me, and we spent a few hours with the Dean of business. They went over what a degree means from Michigan and the overall academics there.
TOM: That's usually what parents care the most about, did your mom come away impressed with that?
DARIAN: Their degree ranks 15th in the nation, so it's hard not to be impressed with that. My mom doesn't care so much about the football side. She wants there to be stability with the coaching staff. Football is football, you line up and the objectives are all the same, so she's worried about the other parts.
TOM: I'm assuming you also met with the coaches, Coach Hoke and Mattison, on Saturday. What did they have to say?
DARIAN: They were talking to me about my role on the defense. For the past few years their strength has been offense, and they were telling me that they're defensive minded coaches and they want to bring that defense back. They're putting an emphasis on defense now.
TOM: What did they say as far as your role in the defense, what's their pitch to you?
DARIAN: They were telling me it's a great opportunity to play early. My freshman year, Coach Mattison said I would be a relief for Mike Martin on the field. They would work me into a nickel package, and a third down rushing defensive tackle. Playing is good, I don't really care what my role is as long as I get to play.
TOM: You went from not wanting to visit Michigan, to now potentially having them in your top group when you decide. Did this visit help Michigan even more?
DARIAN: Michigan moved up in my mind, definitely. I'm really focusing on my experience with the players at each school. Buildings are buildings, but it's all about the people in the place not the bricks that have been laid.
TOM: Was there anything that really stuck out to you that was different from other visits?
DARIAN: It was an official visit, so everything's going to be great. What I liked was that they didn't take me to the most expensive restaurant that I'll never eat at again, which was interesting. They took me to the training table and told me everything that was real, and this is how you'd live here. They didn't try to sell me with stuff that wasn't going to be how it was there. I liked that part.
TOM: Where do you go from here?
DARIAN: Most likely make my decision on signing day. I'll sit down with my mom, and make my decision.
Michigan Men's Lacrosse has captured the last thee national titles in the MCLA, the highest level of club lacrosse in the country. They begin their quest to make it an unprecedented 4-peat tonight at 6:00PM in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, with a pre-season scrimmage against Division 1 squad Bellarmine.
Let's look at the personnel.
Key Returners: Mark Stone (HM AA, 2nd Conf), Andrew Fowler
Losses: Conor McGee
Mark Stone and Andrew Folwer split time in net almost equally in 2009, and though Fowler missed some time with a leg injury, he got the start in the MCLA Championship game. Last year, however, Stone took over as the #1 keeper, playing almost twice as many minutes as Fowler, and posting a slightly better save percentage (.609 to .595) overall.
This season, look for Stone to be the starter again - and increased performance out of both main keepers in their senior years. Sophomore Cy Abdelnour is the third option, as Conor McGee has transferred to UVa.
Key Returners: Harry Freid (1st AA, 1st Conf), Austin Swaney (2nd Conf), Justin Burgin (3rd Conf).
Losses: Zach Mueller, Theo Lederfine Paskal, Bob Diehl.
Newcomers: Dakota Sherman, Pat Stansik, Jake Dockser.
Harry Freid enters his senior year after back-to-back First-Team All-American seasons, and he's been named to the MCLA's all-decade team. He's the key player in the Wolverines' defensive corps, and will probably spend next spring playing a year of Division-1 lacrosse.
Austin Swaney is the team's #2 defenseman. His athleticism and instincts are the keys to his success. The starting unit could be rounded out by either Pat Stansik or Justin Burgin, though Burgin is coming off an injury. Stansik is a big, intimidating defenseman, and Burgin excels going up the field in transition.
JD Johnson, Dakota Sherman, and Paul Hegeman should also get some good playing time in a very deep defensive unit.
Key Returners: Matt Asperheim (3rd AA, 1st Conf).
Losses: Anthony Hrusovsky (2nd AA, 1st Conf), Jordan Kirshner (3rd AA, 1st Conf), David Rogers (2nd Conf), Svet Tintchev (2nd Conf), Michael Bartomioli (HM Conf), Jamison Goldberg (HM Conf).
The midfield is the hardest-hit unit by graduation, with only senior Long-Stick Matt Asperheim returning among players who received All-American or All-Conference honors. Asperheim is an important part of the team's defensive play, but also has great stick skills, and can score.
The other starters of Michigan's defensive midfield have graduated, so Jordan Kirshner and Michael Bartomioli (now an assistant at Michigan's Feb. 19th opponent Florida) will need to be replaced. Sean Sutton should be one of the starters, but the other is still up in the air, with Rob Healy a strong contender.
Michigan also lost a lot from their offensive midfield units, with #5 scorer Svet Tintchev out the door, along with #7 Anthony Hrusovsky, #9 Jamison Goldberg, and #10 David Rogers. Young players such as Joey Hrusovsky will have to step up, and don't be surprised if the Wolverines have more 2-way midfielders this season.
Key Returners: Edward Ernst, Harrison Silver
Losses: David Reinhard (1st AA, 1st Conf)
David Reinhard was a huge part of Michigan's success over the past two years, as the diminutive faceoff specialist won nearly 70% of his draws, helping the Wolverines dominate possession against all competition. With Reinhard out the door, it's up to junior Edward Ernst to carry the torch at the faceoff X.
Ernst actually performed better overall (80.6 win percentage), though most of his attempts came late in games, and especially against lesser competition. He'll have to step up his game for Michigan to control possession like they have the past few years.
Key Returners: Trevor Yealy (1st AA, 1st Conf), Thomas Paras (2nd Conf)
Losses: Kevin Zorovich (2nd AA, 1st Conf), Josh Ein (HM Conf), Clark McIntyre (HM Conf)
Though Michigan's #3, 4, and 6 scorers from last year have graduated, the Michigan offense still has its most important piece in Trevor Yealy. The senior captain has been a deadly finisher on the crease the last three years, with a mind-numbing 77 goals last year alone - compared to a grand total of 2 assists. This year, he should play a more versatile role, including out on the wing. Even if his scoring production drops, it will be for the betterment of the team on the whole.
Michigan's #2 scorer from last year, Thomas Paras, should be improved in his second year in the program. Since the Wolverines lost two lefties (Zorovich and Ein), the addition of St. John's transfer Ryan-Dutton O'Hara (HT: UMGoBlog) is important. He's a big attackman with good finishing ability.
The Wolverines may have scoring spread more throughout the roster, so keep an eye on Chad Carroll, who's new to the team after not playing lacrosse the last couple years, and freshman jitterbug Jeff Chu.
Last year's home lineup consisted of a meager four games, but that's paid forward to 2011, with 8 home contests, including 2010 tournament teams Florida, BYU, Boston College, Colorado State, and Arizona State (last year's runner-up). I break it down into about 4 parts:
Jan. 29, 6:00PM
NCAA Division-1, 9-6 in 2010
Feb. 4, 7:30PM
NCAA Division-3, 10-5 in 2010
Feb 12, 7:00PM
NCAA Division-3, 6-8 in 2010
Early Season/Road Trip
Feb. 19, 7:00PM
SELC, 12-4 in 2010 (First Round MCLA Tournament)
Feb. 25, 6:00PM. Los Angeles, CA
PNCLL, 10-5 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament First Round)
@ Loyola Marymount
Mar. 2, 3:00 PM. Los Angeles, CA
SLC, 13-5 in 2010
Mar. 5, 1:00 PM. Orange, CA
SLC, 16-3 in 2010 (MCLA Final Four - Lost to Michigan)
Mar. 12, 2:00 PM. Athens, OH
CCLA East, 11-2 NCLL in 2010
The Home Stand
Mar. 18, 7:00 PM
RMLC, 12-6 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament Second Round - Lost to Michigan)
Mar. 19, 7:00 PM
CCLA East, 5-10 in 2010
Mar. 25, 7:00 PM
PCLL, 11-3 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament First Round)
Mar. 26, 7:00 PM
SLC, 10-6 in 2010
Apr. 1, 7:00 PM
RMLC, 17-2 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament Second Round)
Apr. 2, 7:00 PM
SLC, 16-4 in 2010 (MCLA Runners-up - Lost to Michigan)
Apr. 9, 7:00 PM
GRLC, 8-7 in 2010
The Home Stretch
Apr. 16, 7:00 PM. Birmingham Seaholm HS
CCLA, 10-6 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament First Round)
Apr. 23, 7:00 PM. Toledo, OH
CCLA East, 8-6 NCLL in 2010
May 5-7 Saline, MI
May 17-21 Denver, CO
Michigan's recipe for success over the past few years has been to dominate possession, owning the faceoff X and riding opponents into turnovers to hold on to the ball much more than the opposition.
Michigan's biggest question mark this year, then, will be on faceoffs. In the one-on-one battle at midfield, they need to have Edward Ernst step up to continue the formula that's brought them such success. Ernst has David Reinhard, last year's All-American specialist, teaching and competing with him in practice (just like Reinhard had with Brekan Kohlitz a couple years back), so he should be able to step up.
Other than faceoff, Michigan's top-end talent and depth are both exceptional. Plugging Division-1 transfers into holes created by graduation is not a luxury all club programs have, and the Wolverines have some of the best coaching in the MCLA as well.
It's likely, unless there are some early-season stumbles, that Michigan will be favored - and often heavily so - in every game this year. They've earned it by losing only one game in the past 3 years, and refusing to ever rebuild, but always reload. It doesn't hurt to have the runaway favorites for MCLA Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year on your squad, either.
If you're looking to make it out to just a couple games, I recommend tonight's scrimmage, as Bellarmine is a D-1 opponent, and the back-to-back home games against Colorado State and Arizona State.
At long last, IL OL Chris Bryant has committed to Michigan. Tom talked to Michigan's 17th commitment, and he had this to say:
"It was a tough choice, I put a lot of thought into it. I went through each school, and when I said that name I knew it was the school for me. I'm comfortable there, and I have a good relationship with the coaches. I want to compete and work towards a championship. I'll be down there in June and I'll be ready to play football."
On with the show.
|3*, #21 OG||4*, 5.8, #20 OT, #196 Overall||3*, 77, #37 OG|
Bryant's position in college is something of a question. He's a huge kid, listed at 6-5 and 330 pounds by his Rivals profile. He has the height to play tackle, but it seems Michigan is looking at him as a guard. He had previously only played guard in high school, but shifted to tackle this year. ESPN evaluates him, and we'll start with the positives:
Flashes good pull / trap ability; can kick out and seal up inside showing the ability to play on his feet in space. We see a player capable of making the necessary run blocks at the next level of play once his techniques improve. His nimble feet and arm length should be assets in pass protection; flashes short set ability however his bend and base need attention; is capable of sliding his feet and playing flat footed in a reduced area; demonstrates the upper body playing strength to control pass rushers however all areas of hand use need refinement. We like the aggressive finishing attitude this guy brings to the game, it's what we like to see from offensive linemen.
Unsurprisingly for a high school kid his size, conditioning is a key to his future improvement:
Has the size for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition however his body mass will need to be redistributed through off season conditioning... Can come off the ball low and hard but more often his initial fit and pad level are high; needs to improve his ability to play low coming off the ball... This player could have problems with active 1st and 2nd level defenders unless his initial quickness and pad level improve.
Initial quickness will be improved with conditioning, and turning his body into that of a high-caliber college offensive lineman. On his Scout profile, Bryant talks about his game:
“I’m big and quick. A lot of college coaches like that I can move. Also, I’m not a sloppy 330, I’m built. I have a real powerful punch too.
“But I’m trying to improve my footwork and my overall technique. I’m just trying to get it all down.”
ESPN would beg to differ with his assessment of his body build. The Scout profile also lists testing numbers of a 395 pound bench and 420 pound squat. That seems ridiculously top-heavy to me, going along with the idea that he needs to redistribute that weight. UMGoBlog's analysts both point out that his athleticism is amazing for his size:
“Unbelievable athletic ability for a man his size. He moves his feet as well as any 300+ pound player you'll find...a mammoth kid who despite his size, is a pretty good athlete.?"
Bryant held a number of BCS-level offers outside of the Michigan one that he ultimately accepted. Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Stanford were his flagships. That's no 5-star offer sheet, but nor is it like some of the others we've seen lately, with a couple Big Ten rejects and some Big East and MAC offers. Ohio State came in late, but did not offer.
The offers that Bryant holds confirm the recruiting services' rankings, on the border between a 3-star and a 4-star. His final group consisted of Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, and Pittsburgh.
Bryant is an offensive lineman, and therefore does not have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout lists his 40 time at 5.30 seconds, which seems fairly realistic. We do have to take into account that the kid is THREE HUNDRED THIRTY POUNDS, however, and didn't get there via a college-level weight training program. I deem this time worthy of two FAKEs out of five.
Highlights from the Michigan Football Showcase, held in Glick Fieldhouse last winter. He looks surprisingly agile for a guy his size.
Junior highlights on both sides of the trenches:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case you haven't gotten the vibe quite yet, a year of redshirting to do some work in the gym is all but mandatory. He needs to turn some of his extra pounds into muscle, and also shed some serious poundage as well. I would guess a playing weight around 310 is a good goal.
One thing I worry about is his ability to get weight off, keep weight off, and stay in game shape. We saw Quinton Washington (who Rich Rodriguez's staff pegged as the #1 overall offensive line recruit in the class of 2008) struggle to crack the two-deep in his first couple years after redshirting, and eventually move to defensive tackle. It could take Bryant a little longer than expected to make his way into the lineup.
Michigan's current guards are Patrick Omameh and (probably) Ricky Barnum. Once they graduate, Bryant should be able to work into the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore. If he can stay in shape through his entire career, All-Big Ten seasons are a definite possibility.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Every recruit for the rest of the class is an independent case, as it's unlikely Michigan will run up against the scholarship limit, and the needs are mostly filled - outside of tight end and defensive tackle. Even at those positions, Michigan will take who they can, and move along should they not land anybody.
OH TE/LB Frank Clark, CO LB Leilon Willingham, MI OL Jake Fisher, TX TE Chris Barnett, MD DT Darian Cooper, MI RB Thomas Rawls, and OH FB Trayion Durham are the main remaining targets.
Bryant is a teammate of 2012 IL OL Jordan Diamond, who likes Michigan early in the process, and 2012 QB Robert Gregory. Having the opportunity to join Bryant in Ann Arbor may help push them to the Maize and Blue.
The local beat reporter in Colorado Springs has tweeted that Michigan will fill in one of its holes in the 2012 schedule with Air Force. That's a one-off at Michigan Stadium, obviously, and a higher-quality one than usual. Given the way these things go Michigan is probably going to be shelling out a cool million bucks to the Falcons.
Why? Well, that year's home schedule is awful—OSU, Nebraska, and Notre Dame are all on the road with Alabama in Dallas—and whatever small cachet Air Force brings to the schedule it's better than Eastern Michigan or Baby Seal U. I'd expect the last nonconference opponent to be a MAC team.
1/27/2011 – Michigan 61, Michigan State 57 – 12-9, 2-6 Big Ten
left two Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com
A couple years ago Michigan fans were wondering if they really had something or if an unexpected win against UCLA was just a one-off when they took on Duke in Crisler arena. Michigan won that game, and the moment I remember most was Zack Novak holding his follow-through an ostentatiously long time. He'd just hit a three pointer to push Michigan well in front that sent Crisler into honest-to-God hysterics. It was an ungritty thing to do, but if anyone can justify a little flash now and then it's Zack Novak.
Yesterday Novak had what can only be described as a leadership aneurysm. It was the grittiest twitchy, alarming fit anyone's ever had. MSU fans rushed to put it on the internet the better to mock him by:
This worked out about as well as painting "1,181" across your hairless, AXE-laden chests.
You know this, but: 6 of 8 from three, 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and various dogged things that don't show up in the box score but contribute to the bottom line. In the aftermath of the game David Merritt tweeted something about how if you question Zack Novak's importance to the team you "don't understand team sports*". That and math.
Because Michigan followed up a series of promising performances against elite teams with road duds against Indiana and Northwestern, beating Michigan State won't mean anything outside of the thing itself. Michigan's not likely to get even an NIT bid because of the win. Before my fiancée fell asleep for the second half she remarked that even though Michigan was in front "they make everything seem so hard," and they do.
Michigan is aimless. The announcers kept talking about Michigan taking a lot of time off the shot clock like that was a special strategy for this game when they're almost as slow (327th) as they are young (337th) and played at the exact same pace against South Carolina Upstate. When it's going well they're "deliberate," but to my eyes it's a team that doesn't really know what it's doing. They're forced to improvise when time gets low after chucking it around the perimeter for 20 seconds. It's almost exactly what Amaker teams did down to pulling the big out of the lane to provide a low-threat passing option as the ball cycles around the three point line.
The most eye-opening section of the season was the first half against Northwestern, when the Wildcats team ran a series of intricate cuts that opened up Michigan's defense for a rain of open threes and drives into the lane against mis-positioned defenders:
Michigan gets a lot of that from Darius Morris but Northwestern gets it from all over. Morris has an astronomic assist rate but if you compare the teams there are seven(!) Wildcats between him and Stu Douglass, Michigan's #2 guy. Despite the hype about Beilein, right now Michigan's offense boils down to "do something, Darius."
Fortunately for Michigan, Darius Morris has proven pretty good at not only that but twisting down the lane and getting awkward shots to fall. He was somehow 5 of 8 from inside the arc despite his teammates assisting on zero of his buckets; most of those were Dion Harris-style "well, someone has to put it up" buckets while swarmed in the lane. Combine that with near 50% three-point shooting and a you've got the recipe for an upset.
You don't have something sustainable to go back to the rest of the season.
Michigan's going to get better the rest of the way, but it might be hard to tell because of noise. They'll probably even get better more quickly than more experienced teams. IE, all teams. They still won't be very good. That's okay. Beating Michigan State at Breslin hasn't happened since I was a freshman in college—JESUS—and while it's very Sparty to say they can pack it in the rest of the year and there will still be some satisfaction from the season, it's also true. As a self-contained thing it is the best of all basketball things.
In the larger picture it's just one of those games when Colton Christian hits an 18-footer as the shot clock expires. They happen. Where this game gives hope is for the offseason, when Zack Novak will call for a captain's practice and the his teammates will remember he was the man who sprayed gore all over the Breslin Center and showed Michigan State it was theirs.
*[He also mentioned that he used to throw "Office" quotes back and forth with Douglass.]
Non-bullets and whatnot
Not a vintage MSU team. At some point in early in the game a goofy white guy did something bad and I was about to kick something when I realized he was playing for Michigan State. Late in the first half I was wondering why the goofy white guy never came off the floor when the announcers mentioned his name, which was a different name, and I looked at their numbers and they were different too and it dawned on me that there were two goofy white guys who only did bad things splitting 40 minutes of playing time. One of them was an elf who bakes cookies.
It was at this point hope dawned.
Novak and Stu as reasons for Beilein hope. They're obviously better than Smotrycz on a possession-to-possession "oh God, what was that?" level, and I'd throw in Hardaway and his addiction to chucking up not-very-good shots in there too. Novak and Douglass were just as shaky as freshmen. Douglass had the same disease Hardaway does. Now they have the best eFG% on the team excepting easy-bucket machine Jordan Morgan. Douglass was a conscience free gunner his first couple years; now his usage rate is in the "limited roles" category and his three point percentage is a point short of 40%.
If Hardaway and Smotrycz can advance at the same pace they can be those guys plus three inches each. I'm relatively serene about Beilein's bulletproof status because his recruiting's improved tremendously, the team would be a lot different if Robin Benzing and Ben Cronin hadn't flamed out, and it's at least worth checking out what will happen next year when experience goes from almost dead last nationally (337 of 345) to approximately middle-of-the pack. If you add a year of experience to everyone they'd be in a huge multi-way tie for 126th, but that's generous because Michigan will play Burke and Brundidge.
Beilein's already earned next year, and when they take the inevitable step forward in '11-'12 he'll get year six, and that's got at least a decent chance of working out.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., please report to the lost and found. We have found your conscience. Please re-insert it and stop leading the team in three-pointers attempted despite only hitting 30% of them. He's got a higher percentage of shots while he's on the floor than Morris does, which is kind of amazing. Michigan would be better if he got that usage down to around 20%. I'm sure, like Stu, that he'll learn.
The strange thing about Smotrycz. Does anyone else think his best defense is played in the post? This isn't really a compliment—he's probably the worst defensive player on the team, constantly getting lost. But when Michigan goes tiny they have him defend the five and I can't remember thinking "this has to stop" during any of those long stretches.
Seriously. Someone at The Only Colors complained about my characterization of the streak guys as "meatheads." Seriously?
You can seriously look at those guys and envision them doing anything other than slather each other in AXE as they recite "Sex Panther" quotes back and forth to each other before heading out to a kegger where they are totally going to get laid, or at least slapped?
This has something to do with the juggalos post in the aftermath of the football game this fall, but here I was just making an observation about five guys with spotlessly hair-free chests whooping like monkeys. Michigan has meatheads enrolled. I met plenty. It was not a shot at anyone except the jinx-bringers.
Also, seriously: juggalos in Ann Arbor last fall. Seriously. Never been that bad, even when OSU fans were 30k strong for the 2009 Game. This is because the OSU fans who showed up were the kind that went to the game instead of just hanging out for an opportunity to take out their insecurities. Dozens of Michigan fans have told me this, a good chunk before the post even went up.
Well, that's one streak of days stretching into the thousands down. Bonus for those five gloating meatheads ESPN showed at every opportunity: the guys who painted "1" on their chest don't have to change anything to be accurate tomorrow as long as they sit separately. The "8" guy will have to sit at home and cry for a week.
And you can't have one without the other…