finally people are complaining about us
North Korea DPR at
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||9 PM Eastern, Today|
|LINE||OSU –7 (Kenpom)|
ASGB png via HSR
In case you allergic to clicking: Jared Sullinger is an NBA lottery pick at center who is a monster at rebounding, shooting, getting to the line, and ORtg in general. It's worth noting that Sullinger's been in a bit of a slump of late. His two-point shooting has slid from 61 to 57 percent in the last few weeks.
Sullinger is surrounded by a bunch of bouncy wing types and 40-minutes-of-hell point guard Aaron Craft. While the bouncy wing types are a little inconsistent, the rebounding and defense they bring makes Ohio State extremely difficult to beat even when they're playing like crap on offense. They possess Kenpom's #1 defense, and their #13 offense isn't exactly terrible.
One thing has changed since Michigan's first matchup with OSU: they now seem somewhat vulnerable to getting pounded inside themselves after getting beat up by Michigan State in their own building. Applicability of this event to tonight's game: 0.0%.
Since squeezing Michigan into a panini press of offensive rebounds and despair… er. Since beating Michigan 64-49 at home in a game that was vaguely competitive until OSU started pulling away several minutes into the second half, OSU has
Beaten Wisconsin on the road in a close-ish game (58-52)
Edged Purdue at home (87-84) in a game where Purdue went nuts from three
Gotten horsewhipped by MSU at home (48-58) and
Churned out a 78-68 win over Minnesota.
That's seen the Buckeyes fall to second in Kenpom. Let's all point and laugh.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||51.2 4||45.3 3||49|
|Turnover %:||18.3 6||21.9 1||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||36.6 2||26.4 1||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||39.1 4||28.7 2||36.5|
OSU's offense is pretty good at putting the ball in the net and then gets better when they get second chance opportunities you're undoubtedly sick of hearing about. The defense is all-around throttling.
OSU is only a mediocre three-point shooting team (7th at just under 34%) and takes very few as a result. They do give up a relatively high number of threes, something Kenpom is busy asserting is more important than actually being able to defend them. It seems like there's little actual ability in three-point D numbers.
Get insanely hot from three. Purdue's not much good this year and they managed to stick within three of the Buckeyes by hitting a mere 58% of their threes. They might have even won if OSU didn't hit 9 of 16 themselves.
OSU gives up a lot of threes and doesn't have a lot of control over whether they go down or not. Threes also lead to a lot of long rebounds on which Michigan's lack of size is less of an issue on the offensive boards.
Yeah, it's the desperate act of an overmatched team to close your eyes and hope you can make it rain from behind the arc. And? Michigan's not winning this game unless they have a significant advantage in threes made.
Collapse, collapse, collapse. If the choice is between A) Sullinger grinding Michigan's thin post presence down, getting 57% twos off, and getting to the line and B) taking your chances with OSU's outside shooting, it's hardly a choice at all. Michigan will do what they've done all year, which is cheat like bandits against any and all post feeds.
Morgan actually did a good job against Sullinger last time out since he can front with less threat of getting beat over the top. No one else on the roster has much hope of doing anything other than being an annoyance, even if the temporary Smotrycz-Sulllinger matchups didn't go too badly last time.
Box out Lenzelle Smith and the rest of the world. David Merritt took on some of Michigan's defensive rebounding problems in a recent UMHoops post, pointing out Michigan's missed rotations when the above collapsing occurred. Those rotations left Lenzelle Smith (bottom of the picture) staring down the barrel at this:
The results were predictable. I think we've given up on the idea that Michigan's Stu-based lineup isn't going to get pounded on the boards but Michigan has to do better this time out. Hardaway is a big part of this as the second-biggest dude on the floor (and the guy not rotating above). Speaking of…
Win the mercurial shooter shootout. William Buford and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been plagued with inconsistency, except in Hardaway's case this is actually a way to say he's consistently been laying bricks. Hardaway got a little mojo back against Illinois and now finds himself one of just two Michigan players with a reasonable claim to being as athletic as his opponent (Burke is the other). It would help a great deal if Hardaway can score efficiently. He doesn't have to and probably can't go Brandon Paul; Michigan just needs him to hit open shots and finish better at the basket.
Oh, and rebound.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Tajikistan Air Force FC by seven.
Brady Hoke continues to prove that in recruiting, at least at Michigan, commits come in pairs. After Kyle Bosch committed earlier today, Novi (MI) Detroit Catholic Central ATH Wyatt Shallman announced on Sam Webb's radio show this afternoon that he also pledged to the Wolverines. Michigan now has five commits in the class of 2013, and four of them are already garnering four-star ratings from at least three recruiting services.
|4*, NR DE||
4* DE, ESPNU
150 Watch List
4*, 92, #9 SDE,
As you can see, Shallman is a four-star recruit across the board, though his position is very much up in the air; Michigan reportedly recruited him as a running back, but he also played on the D-line in high school and is listed at DE by Scout, ESPN, and 24/7 (though the latter also lists him as a fullback). All four sites agree that Shallman stands at 6'3" and somewhere between 245-255 pounds, though watching him this year I think he's at or above the higher end of that range.
Shallman was plagued by a hamstring injury for much of his junior year, so it's difficult to find any evaluations of him as a tailback. There is one, however, and it's... mine. Here goes me:
Shallman is at his best running North-South, and while he doesn't have top-flight speed, he does get to the second level of defenders in a hurry. When he reaches the back seven, he has a tendency to put his head down and try to bowl defenders over, which often works but also limits his big plays—to his credit, however, there wasn't a single run in which Shallman didn't fall forward for at least an extra yard or two.
I was impressed, as I pointed out earlier, with Shallman's agility. He's not going to utilize a lot of fancy jukes or spin moves, but his go-to move—the quick jump-cut as he approaches an oncoming defender—worked really well for him. Shallman isn't going to make a lot of guys completely whiff at the next level, but he's shifty enough to get defenders off-balance, and with his power that's enough to shed tackles—Inkster defenders were bouncing off of him all night.
Though he only was asked to do this on a couple of plays, Shallman showed that he was a capable lead-blocker, getting to the second level and pushing his man several yards downfield on a couple of occasions. I didn't get to see him in blitz pickup, as Inkster couldn't generate a pass rush on the few occasions the Shamrocks attempted a pass, but his strength is definitely an asset in the blocking game.
In that game, Shallman finished with 72 yards and two touchdowns on just ten carries, including a very nice 25-yard TD run in which he juked two guys (unfortunately, I wasn't able to get video of the game). He seems like the type of player who could plow ahead and pick up decent chunks of yardage, though he's not as much of a big-play threat, and he echoed that sentiment when I talked to him after the game:
ACE: You watched the game against Western. What do you think about the offense, and how do you think you can fit in and make it better?
WYATT: Right now they're still running more spread because of the personnel that they have, they don't really have the 'I' type of thing that they were talking about to me, because they want me to play tailback. When they did go to the 'I', it was very interesting because they were getting six-yard chunks, and that's the type of football I like. I like lining up, going straight ahead, and hitting some people straight in the face, so that's what I like to see.
In case you can't tell, Shallman loves contact and is not afraid to dole out punishment on either side of the ball.
The other evaluations mostly focus on Shallman's ability as a defensive end. Since there's a decent chance he could end up there by the time his Wolverine career is over, they're worth looking at. Here's Josh Helmholdt discussing Shallman after last year's season opener ($):
We did not get to see the 6-3, 250-pound junior tote the football as we had hoped - he was suffering from a hamstring injury and only played on defense - but once he checked in on the defensive line late in the first quarter, Shallman did not come out until the game was well in hand. At times he looked to be protecting the leg, but mostly he went all out and looked sharp. His athleticism for a big prospect is outstanding and his speed is well above average for the defensive end position. We're still not sure if tailback is an option in college, but Shallman is definitely a high-end defensive prospect with a great motor.
Shallman played sparingly on defense when I watched him play, so I'll trust the more experienced scouts when it comes to judging his ability on that side of the ball. His athleticism for his size is a definite plus; while he doesn't have ideal speed for a tailback, he's more than fast enough to put on a good speed-rush from the edge. Here's Allen Trieu on Shallman after his sophomore season:
The 6'3, 248-lb Shallman could be a fullback or defensive lineman at the next level. Since fullback is not a position every school uses, we're projecting him as a tackle, where he played last year. He's a very good player. He's aggressive and has a quick first step.
Trieu also scouted the same game as Helmholdt ($), saying Shallman "looked good [on defense]. He was active, got good penetration and made a couple plays at or behind the line of scrimmage."
Along with Michigan, Shallman held offers from Cincinnati, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Syracuse. He also had interest from Cal, Florida, Georgia Tech—a very interesting suitor if they were looking at him for running back—Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, and Wisconsin, among several others.
As a sophomore in 2010, Shallman toted the rock 53 times for 355 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He also 32 tackles (six TFL), two sacks, and a forced fumble.
I'm still trying to track down junior stats, but I'll update the post if I come across them.
FAKE 40 TIME
From a July 2011 Sam Webb feature in the Detroit News:
At 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, Shallman is far from your typical ball carrier. He'll routinely outweigh many opposing linemen, but don't think for a second that makes him a plodder. The Shamrock standout runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, has a 38-inch vertical and a shuttle time of 4.1 seconds. That makes him pound-for-pound one of the best athletes in the state regardless of class.
ESPN lists Shallman as running a 5.11 (though they do list an impressive 4.18-second shuttle), and I've also seen him listed at a 4.9 elsewhere. I'll give the 4.7 a four FAKEs out of five.
Junior highlights from both sides of the ball:
You can also find Shallman's sophomore highlight reel here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Shallman is a tough prospect to peg down. He certainly isn't your traditional running back, though he could be used very effectively either as a change-of-pace/short-yardage back or a second weapon in the backfield, either in a dual-tailback set or as a fullback. He has experience at both tailback and fullback, and we could see him used in several different roles as a Wolverine.
The big question is whether Shallman will be able to stick at running back; at around 260 pounds as a high school junior, it's tough to see him staying there if he arrives in Ann Arbor much larger than that. Given that he's a four-star DE prospect, it certainly wouldn't be an issue if it worked best for him to shift over to defense. A potentially apt comparison is former Texas Longhorn Henry Melton, another four-star athlete who was 6'3", 275 pounds coming out of high school. Melton began his collegiate career as a massive tailback, averaging five yards per carry and scoring ten touchdowns on just 87 rushes as a freshman. He continued to grow, however, and by his junior year he had shifted to DE, where he started ten games—recording ten TFLs and four sacks—as a senior. Melton was a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears and has 9.5 career sacks as a 295-pound defensive lineman.
It's tough to say at this point where Shallman will end up. If he can keep his weight down, I could see him being an Owen Schmitt-style threat out of the backfield. If he gets much bigger, I think he's better suited to play on the defensive line, where he could stand out at end. My guess is we'll see him start his Wolverine career at running back, but don't be surprised if he's a position-switch candidate down the road.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Shallman gives Michigan a bruising backfield presence, and now they'll focus on bringing in a talented all-around back as a complement. Joliet (IL) Academy four-star Ty Isaac appears to be the top player on Michigan's board, but they've offered several other blue-chip running backs as well, including DeVeon Smith, Justin Davis, Derrick Green, and Keith Ford. Expect the Wolverines to take one more back, likely from among that group; Isaac and Smith seem like the best bets to end up in the class.
Overall, Michigan has now filled five spots in what should be a 20-22 player class. There's still a need for 3-4 more offensive linemen, a couple big-time receivers, and depth across the board.
According to both 24/7's Steve Wiltfong and TomVH, Wheaton (IL) St. Francis OL Kyle Bosch committed to Michigan on his visit this afternoon. Bosch joins QB Shane Morris, S Dymonte Thomas, and TE Khalid Hill as the fourth member of the Wolverine class of 2013.
4*, #9 OT,
150 Watch List
4*, 95, #7 OT,
Every recruiting service but Scout has put out extensive early rankings for the class of 2013, and in those Bosch acquits himself well, making the top 100 in all three (here is ESPN's, which is hard to find [$]). He's one of the ten best tackles in the country, and those guys will usually make a strong push for the top 50 overall recruits by the end of the year. All four sites list Bosch at 6'5" and between 280 and 285 pounds; he has the frame to play either tackle or guard, and 24/7 goes so far as to list him at both positions.
Bosch has been hitting the camp circuit and turning heads since his freshman year of high school. More recently—January of this year, to be precise—he participated in the Marines' Junior Rank Diamond Flight camp in Chicago, and Scout's Allen Trieu said he stood out above all the other underclassmen at the event:
"Leading the way was Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis' class of 2013 offensive lineman, Kyle Bosch," said Allen Trieu, Scout.com Midwest regional manager, "He has excellent technique, is strong, and plays mean and physical. He told me most schools see him as a tackle, while a few see him as a guard. I can see why some schools would project him inside, but I think he could play either depending on the school. Regardless, he is ahead of the curve and really impressive."
Bosch reportedly went undefeated in one-on-one pass blocking drills at the camp," a remarkable feat considering his high school team only throws the ball an average of four times per game." He's used his combine experience not just to show off his skills, but to hone them as well. His coach echoes the sentiment that he plays with an edge ($):
"I think the biggest thing is that he has such a high motor," said [St. Francis coach Greg] Purnell. "He's a very intense football player, and I think a lot of times, bigger kids like that take a while to develop that. But he has an intensity level that I've never seen in a big guy. He loves contact. That, to me, is the big difference."
Rivals Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt, meanwhile, is most impressed with Bosch's technique:
“We have not seen many offensive linemen in the Midwest early,” said Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt, “but the 6-5, 275-pound Bosch stood out because he is well ahead of his years technically."
Strong, versatile, technical, and mean? Please and thank you.
Elsewhere, Tom Lemming called Bosch "the best sophomore lineman [he's] seen since Chance Carter," a class of 2010 defense end who committed to Northwestern. Lemming noted that Carter leveled off in his final two seasons; it doesn't appear the same will be the case for Bosch at this juncture. In December, TomVH named Bosch as the #2 offensive recruit with a Michigan offer, behind only Ty Isaac and ahead of standouts like Ethan Pocic, Logan Tuley-Tillman, Laquon Treadwell, and Adam Breneman ($). Magnus/Thunder gives his scouting report of Bosch over at TTB, projecting him to guard while comparing him to former Michigan All-American tackle Jeff Backus.
Bosch held 21 offers from all over the country when he committed: Alabama, Arizona, ASU, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Mizzou, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, and West Virginia. No matter what point you're at in the process, but especially this early, that's one heck of a list.
No stats for offensive linemen, obviously, but Bosch was named all-area and all-state in 2011.
FAKE 40 TIME
24/7 lists a 5.25 40 time, which doesn't sound at all unrealistic for an offensive lineman lauded for his athleticism. I'll give it a token two FAKEs out of five, only because I don't know the source of the time.
WARNING: This junior highlight reel, while short, contains an excessive amount of violence.
Bosch also has a more extensive sophomore highlight film that you can see here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With Michigan going after so many elite tackles in this class, I see Bosch ending up at guard as a Wolverine, though he could play left tackle—assuming he's starting at the same time as the lefty Shane Morris—and excel there as well. At 6'5", and with Michigan pursuing so many prototype tackle prospects, I don't see him protecting the blind side, but he's one of the more college-ready prospects you're going to find at this stage in the process.
With Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, and Elliott Mealer all graduating after 2012, Bosch should immediately provide depth at guard. Depending on where the coaches decide to use Kyle Kalis, he could be in the mix for playing time as well. At the very least, Bosch fits the profile of a prospect who should be a multi-year starter and compete for all-conference honors down the road.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan will take at least three, if not four or five, more offensive linemen in the class. The Wolverines appear to be in the drivers seat for tackles Logan Tuley-Tillman and Chris Fox, while the highest-ranked lineman in the Midwest, Ethan Pocic, is on campus this weekend. They are in the mix for several other top prospect, as well, though at least one lineman is going to have to project to center—unless that player is Bosch, the Wolverines may have some tough decisions to make about which linemen they take (and how many) this year.
|WHAT||Northern Michigan at Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena|
7:35 PM Friday
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 14-10-6, 9-9-6 CCHA. The Northerns, as Al Randall bizarrely calls them, are yet another basically .500 CCHA team. Even at this late juncture six of the eleven teams are within a game of .500. Northern has the worst goal differential of any of them at –5, FWIW.
NMU has been successful out of conference, going 5-1 against WCHA opponents St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, and Michigan Tech. That has seen them through to the good side of the tournament bubble. Yeah, the bubble: even though Northern is currently tied for ninth in the PWR the margins down there are incredibly slim and a Michigan sweep this weekend could bonk them out of the tourney entirely, if temporarily.
Previous meetings. Remember this?
Yeah… that. Shawn Hunwick got booted from the Friday night game for that. You can see why he was pissed:
This started the year-long Gongshow campaign in Hunwick's crease and as a result Michigan got only a tie out of the weekend, losing 5-3 in the punch game and eking out a 3-3 tie Saturday. On Friday Michigan fell behind 3-1; after Hyman and Travis Lynch tied it up Janecyk let in a soft one to let the game slip away. Shots were 32-27 Northern. Michigan outshot Northern 28-26 the next night.
Dangermen. I'll defer to Marquette native Jason Paul on this one:
Topping my list would be big 6-foot-4 senior forward Justin Florek. He was a beast last time around against the Wolverines, who struggled to defend him in front of the net, especially on the power play. Florek has 15 goals and 13 assists in 30 games. Eight of his goals have come with the man advantage. He only had one goal against Michigan earlier this season, but he was responsible for a pair of redirects in front of the net on the power play led to rebound goals. I expect to see U-M defenseman Jon Merrill matched up with his line. That’ll definitely be the match up to watch on the power play.
Tyler Gron had 14-19-33 as well. Matt Thurber appears to be the other member of that line with an 8-15-23 line; past that there's an NMU version of Treias in sophomore Stephan Vigier (11-9-20) and a couple guys with seven goals before the dropoff into grinder territory.
Defense? I'm splitting defense and goalie because they are different things and putting a question mark after defense because let's be honest: it is impossible to scout college hockey opponents since they're never on television and honestly I don't know if I could figure anything meaningful out from a game or two anyway. Defensemen are especially vulnerable to misrepresentation.
So. Junior Kyle Follmer is the only NMU defenseman to make an impact offensively with 3-19-22. As a team, NMU is 21st in goals allowed per game but the guy in net has a huge impact on that, as we'll see…
Goalie. You may have noticed Jared Coreau's name pop up when this blog discusses how statistically impressive Shawn Hunwick is. That's generally to dismiss his candidacy for big-time awards because he's platooning, but a .935 save percentage is impressive even so. Paul notes that Coreau seems to have asserted himself as the man after starting the last three games. With senior Reid Ellington sporting a .905 and giving up almost an additional goal per game it's not hard to see why. The Wildcats are in crunch time and it's time to ride the hot guy.
This is how big a difference there has been between the two goalies: extrapolate Coreau's 2.03 GAA to a team GAA and NMU would be second nationally in goals allowed. Ellington's 2.92 would be 37th. As always, NCAA goalie sample sizes are extremely small, but they're all we've got.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.6||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||4.7||4.1|
The above table hasn't been much help of late. Gongshow is gonna gongshow and Red has now uncharacteristically complained about the officiating for two straight weeks. But, yeah, Northern takes a ton of penalties and doesn't draw many.
When on special teams, the NMU power play is decent, converting at just under 20% and fielding only one shorthanded goal. Michigan is still languishing just over 15%. Northern is 7th nationally on the kill; while NMU can expect to be shorthanded more often than M they perform better on special teams; this can be considered a wash.
Michigan vs Those Guys
Don't have Hunwick freak out and nail some guy but good. This is self explanatory, but it would be nice if a Gongshow ref actually called contact on Hunwick.
Keep your cool in general. This series was ugly four months ago. The Hunwick thing came paired with a couple of fighting DQs and a Northern guy got a contact-to-the-head DQ Saturday night. Pair that with Michigan's Miami dustup and increasing frustration with Gongshow refereeing you can see the outlines of an ugly, penalty-filled series short on 5-on-5 play.
This would be a bad thing. Not only does NMU play better on special teams than Michigan does but they give up a ton of shots relative to the opponent (they're –202 in CCHA play). The bulk of that disparity is 5x5—1.1 power plays per game does not make that big of a difference. If Michigan can play some of the remarkably penalty-free games they've turned in thus far they'll be in good shape.
Third line: make something pay off. The Sparks-Moffatt-Hyman line seems like it should be putting some pucks in the net but hasn't in a long, long time. AJ Treais can't keep his smoking hot shooting up forever. Unless Travis Lynch is going to start scoring against teams not named Michigan State, at some point Michigan is going to need these guys to step up.
First line: get your mojo back. Sans Brown the top line got smoked on Friday vs State and they didn't score on Saturday, which was the seemingly first time since its invention that it had not. As a huge driver of Michigan's success in the post-swoon era it will be reassuring if they get back on track.
The Big Picture
The CCHA title is likely gone. If Ferris biffs their layup against BGSU this weekend the door cracks open. That's not likely. That out of the way, Michigan can certainly aim for second and will strive to finish in the top four to get the bye and second-round home series. A split would likely assure the latter, again assuming Michigan doesn't totally blow their BGSU layup.
As far as the Pairwise goes, it's like I've been saying for a long time: Michigan can tread water with a split but to make headway they will have to do better than that. Splitting hurts slightly and will see them continue to hang out in the 2-seed band they currently occupy. Sweeping likely takes them past a team or two—they would definitely pass Ferris, for one, by becoming the #1 team in RPI. Probably, anyway. It's hard to predict exactly what will happen.
Aforementioned Michigan Hockey Net preview.
Mequon (WI) Homestead DT Brandon Hines may only be a sophomore, but he's already hearing from schools not only in the Midwest, but around the country. At 6'2", 265 pounds, Hines already has great size for a high schooler, and he's garnering interest from schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oregon, Boston College, and others. I had the chance to speak with the class of 2014 prospect this week, and Brandon gave me some insight into his recruitment, including some potential good news forthcoming from the Wolverines:
ACE: You said you had some exciting news. What's happening on that front?
BRANDON: Basically, I made a new highlight tape, because I broke my hand at the beginning of the season—I had a broken hand for six games, having the club kind of slowed me down. I finally got [tape of] all the games without the club and I made a highlight tape from that, and I think I performed a lot better without that club, and a bunch of colleges seem to think so too. I decided to send that film out, and one of the first coaches I decided to reach out to was Coach Mattison from Michigan, and after I sent him my film I got some really good feedback from him.
ACE: What did Coach Mattison tell you about your film?
BRANDON: I first called him and told him the day before I sent him a text asking him if he got the tape and he said he did. He had a player in his office, so he had the player find my film for him and he told me to call him back in 30 minutes. 30 minutes passes over after I'm done lifting and I gave him a call back. Basically, to my surprise, he said they were extremely impressed and they definitely want me there. I actually talked to him about my film for a little bit and we got to know each other, and he asked me if I had any offers. As of right now, I don't have any offers, but a couple schools have been hinting and when I make my trips out to those schools I'm pretty sure I'll pull out an offer.
When I was talking to [Coach Mattison] he told me he's not going to offer a scholarship over the phone, so he asked me when I was available to come to the school. He said they're going to be on their spring break [soon], but they're going to be done in early March and that's when he wants me to come out there and watch a spring practice and meet the head coach. I'm definitely looking forward to making a visit to Ann Arbor and see what Michigan has to offer.
ACE: Have you made any other visits so far?
BRANDON: Most of my visits are going to take place now. I've been to Wisconsin twice, Michigan State, and NIU, and I also went to Boston College for their junior day. Most of my big-time visits will be taking place from this week up until the end of March, that's when I'm going to be taking my big-time visits to really good schools. First I went up to Wisconsin this [past] weekend for their junior day, then the next weekend I'm heading down to Illinois—I talked to the coach there, Coach Butkus from Illinois, and he's definitely interested, he loved my film, so I'm hoping to get some good news from them. The week after that I think I'm going to be heading down to Arkansas for their junior day, and then the week after that I'll be at Michigan State, then the week after that I'll be at Michigan.
ACE: Are there any other schools have been talking to?
BRANDON: Tennessee—I sent them my film, and that's where my parents are from, so I've got some ties there—Oregon State got my film and they really liked it, and Boston College. A lot of schools are seeing my film. Also Oklahoma State I've been reaching out to and I plan to hear from them in the next couple of days. Then there are schools that have mailed me, schools like Kansas State, UCLA, USC, Wisconsin, Minnesota, there's a long list of schools. That's what I can think of off the top, but those are some of the schools, and then a lot of other Big Ten programs have been sending me mail to the extent that they can.
Things are going at a steady pace but I definitely think if in these next couple weeks I can pick up an offer it's going to pick up a lot more. I also didn't get to send out my film to all the coaches I wanted to, so I feel that once I get that out I'll definitely be in a good position, so it's only good things to come from now on.
ACE: Being just a sophomore and getting this type of attention, what's it like for you? How are you handling it right now?
BRANDON: You know, it's actually nothing new to me at all. I've known about the recruiting process and followed most of it since I was in eighth grade. I can go back and name All-Americans from the U.S. Army game when I was in eighth grade. It's nothing new to me. I've been focused on getting a scholarship for a long time, I think I've prepared myself for it. I know what it's going to be like, I know it's going to get hectic, I know I'm going to get a lot of mail. I know the first and second days I'm able to get recruited, exactly what to expect. I've talked to a lot of other high-caliber players—I talk to [2013 TX recruit] Jake Raulerson, he's a really good guy. I've talked to Kyle Bosch a few times. I talk to [2013 Brookfield, WI DE] Chikwe Obasih, from my state, a lot of other good players. They give me advice and tell me what it's like from time to time, so it's definitely something that I'm prepared for, and I'm really ready to get these offers and hopefully narrow down my choices soon.
ACE: What type of advice are those guys giving you?
BRANDON: When I was a freshman, I thought I needed to get to the U.S. Army combine, gotta get to this combine, this combine, this combine; I went to those combines, did really well, got MVPs at most of them. Then I actually talked to Kyle Bosch about it, and he was like, "You know what man, straight up, they're a waste of money," besides the Army combine and stuff like that. He told me that you've got to get to the college camps, that's what you've gotta do, see the coaches one-on-one and just impress them that way, because it's better to see them first-hand than third-party. Jake Raulerson, he's really religious, a really good guy. That's where I get most of my faith advice from, I guess you could say. I follow that example, he's a really good guy, and he's strong in his faith which is extremely good. It's a lot of different stuff coming from different people, but I definitely appreciate all of it and it helps me.
ACE: When you head out to these schools, what specifically are you looking for? I know it's a long way off, but what's going to come into play when you're trying to pick a college?
BRANDON: School major are definitely a big key for me right now. I'm trying to see what a program is going to be like when I get there. I want to talk to a lot of the players, not just the star players but everyone, like when I went to Wisconsin I talked to Derek Watt, who I threw shot against, I talked to Darius Feaster, who went to my school, and I talked to a lot of other players who aren't the biggest big-time players but will give me the real feedback of the school. Then I'm definitely looking at the campus and the area, that's a big thing for me. I'm from a big city, Milwaukee is a pretty big city. I definitely need someplace where it's kinda populated, a big fan base for a school would be a good thing for me.
Also, the coaching staff, I have to have a coaching staff that pushes people. The coaching staff I'm with at my high school right now, I moved here [to Homestead], and they're tremendous. They're on you all the time no matter what. They will stay on you, they're going to push you, and they're going to push you past your limits. That's something I'm definitely looking for. Today I had a really tough workout with one of our coaches who's one of the to speed trainers in the state, so I'm definitely looking for some high-caliber coaches.
ACE: Looking back on your sophomore year, I know you said you were hurt for a little bit there, but how do you think you played overall?
BRANDON: Coming in sophomore year, I was nervous, really nervous. I guess you'd say my first three games at Homestead I was really nervous, because it's been a really good program, like 10-1 and 11-1. It's a lot to live up to, to play at that level. With the injury I think I performed pretty well. I think when I got to the fifth game I just built a lot of confidence, the team saw a lot of confidence with me and I exceeded [expectations] from there. I pulled in 42 tackles and six sacks. I think I pulled in some pretty good numbers and it was a solid overall season. But I think I'm definitely looking to possibly get to a state title next year. I think we have a lot of good players and we can definitely pull it off if we all work together.
ACE: What would you say your biggest strengths are as a player, and what are you trying to work on to improve for next year and to ultimately earn those scholarships?
BRANDON: I think I'm a good technical player. You see a bit more a technical side to me as opposed to a bull-rush type style. I do a lot of swim moves. I think that's my knack, I have a knack for playing like a skinny person when it comes to using moves. My key strength is definitely my strength—I think I'm pretty advanced with my strength, I think I bench 300 and I squad 405, so I think that's definitely an advantage for me. The thing I want to work on next season is my speed. I want to become a fast player. Being from the South, I think that's something I definitely have to live up to is my speed. I think if I cut a little bit of unnecessary weight I'll be a pretty good player, and that's definitely what I want to be known as coming into my junior year, is more speed than strength.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's one thing—like a hobby or something—that you like doing that has nothing to do with sports that you'd like people to know about you?
BRANDON: This is so far-fetched from what you'd think. I collect sneakers. That's an odd hobby but I'm really into sneakers and clothing. Besides football, you'll probably catch me online looking at some new shoes. That sounded weird, but...
ACE: My brother is kind of a sneakerhead, so I know where you're coming from. Is there a specific shoe that you're trying to look out for? I know there's some Jordans that are kind of the holy grail, but is there a specific shoe that you're trying to look out for?
BRANDON: I'm not tied to Jordans, but I'm definitely trying to get the Olympic 6s when they come out in July. July is when my birthday is, so they'll be pretty easy to come by. We have a coach at our school, a basketball coach, who's pretty crazy for his sneakers and is actually known for his sneakers. I think he has over 900 shoes, so he's definitely giving me some advice and helping me improve my sneaker game. His name is Brandon Maddox, he's a good guy.
ACE: Man, 900, that's nuts. How many do you have?
BRANDON: I have 45 pairs. I'll buy shoes that I'll wear to school, and then I have my shoes that I just don't touch. I'll just let them sit there, then maybe on a rare occasion like when I go to a formal dinner I'll wear those shoes out. It gets pretty intense. I have a big sneaker collection for my age. Being 15 I can't even get a job, so I don't have the biggest advantage.
Guest post by Craig Ross.
I talked to Coach Darrell Funk for a bit before his three sessions (all on the inside zone game) and asked him about his impressions re: the defense last spring. He said, “I could feel it in the spring that the defense would be good. Coach Mattison was doing little things that drove us crazy.” The coach indicated that he thought his offense would be decent, so he knew that Mattison had a chance to show a lot more than the defense had in 2010. Indeed, Coach Funk stated he had been pretty certain of his assessment.
Funk is a very engaging guy. Like a few other coaches I have talked to (Mark Smith on the current staff, Rod Smith, Scot Loeffler and Mike DeBord on prior staffs) he considers it a priority that the listener understands what he is getting at. And, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the listener is a coach, a wanna-be coach, or just some schmo off the street (me, for example). He is a teacher, first, and it shows. At the close of his last session (he was three hours in) I bugged him (well, Brian goaded me; his fault) about the offside’s guard first step into the A gap (some call this a “bucket” step, a term Funk doesn’t prefer—he likes to say the OL is “giving ground to gain leverage”), and he was pleased that I asked him, demonstrating the technique to make sure I understood the point.
He started his first session saying that he could talk “for two full days” on the inside zone, if anyone was willing to listen. When Brian joined me for session 3, (he had spent sessions 1 and 2 with Coach Mattison) he (kinda) groused about not having the background to learn the “minutia” of these blocking techniques. But after building upon the first two sessions, I could have easily have listened to a few more. Not that I can swear that I was getting more than the various tips of isolated icebergs. And, probably I have some of it twisted around. But, my notes from the first session were close to pristine, before my energy waned.
Here are Coach Funk’s basic principles from the first session [the philosophy of the Inside Zone] with the caveat that I am just an ordinary fan. [Though Funk said, “If you just get a tidbit out of this I will be happy.”] Jargon is always tough for the non-coach but I think I have most of this “right.”
When zoning, Funk and Borges are seeking “hard double teams” at the line of scrimmage. Even though it is zone, they still want physical, hard downhill combo blocks.
The hard double team at the LOS is more important than getting one of the double team blockers to the second level, though, clearly, that’s the idea. But, between late on the second level and not getting hard double team blocks at the LOS, Funk chooses “be late.”
He doesn’t want the offensive line blocking “rules” to vary. He prefers that there not be a lot of exceptions to blocking assignments; it is best if the OL have a few rules, and not a lot of exceptions. Practice time is limited, you can only learn so much. [I have heard coaches say this over and over. Get good at what you do.]
Funk wants the offensive line and the RB to work for “squareness” with their shoulders. He thinks the shoulder angles of the OL and RB should match, as much as is possible. He stressed this a couple of times so I assume this is a key point for him.
He says if your RBs are running with square shoulders and “downhill” the back has a greater opportunity to take advantage of cut backs. He prefers that the RB press the gap and stay square, implying less bounce to the outside and, when there, the opportunity to find a lane (a cut back) when the defense has over-pursued. [I found this very interesting, not something I had heard before, especially the “match” between RBs and OL.]
When they are running zone with “number 16,” they often have a read to the backside (but not always). The key for Coach Hoke “and I have heard him say this a hundred times” is that he wants the back to “press the A gap until he can’t.” Hoke stresses simplicity.
Targeting. Who is going to combo what DL and to what backer? The Coach says the guards never say/call anything but the Center (Tackles? They may communicate with guards on the 30 or Bear fronts) is responsible for making “exception” calls. In the UM offense the exceptions are (primarily) a “30 front” (odd front with a NT right over the center) or a Bear defense. Otherwise, they have primary rules to determine who is doubling and who the target LB is. My assumption is that an OL blocks a lineman if he is covered. If not covered he doubles to the next linemen to his play side. Depending upon the movement of the DL, one blocker releases and looks to the second level, the targeted LB.
OL Splits. The basics are that center to guard is about 2 feet. Guard to tackle, about three feet. But he isn’t dogmatic about this or with stance, so long as the lineman isn’t tipping run or pass.
Landmarks. Doesn’t like angles. He wants each OL to work from “his backside eye to the play side number.” He feels this gets back to principle #1, hard doubles at the LOS. And then work to square, finishing North. “Stay low, don’t stand up.” [As he shows tape in subsequent sessions, he critiques OL play primarily looking to footwork, working to square.] So, let’s say the backside guard has a DL over him. The landmark is still BSE/PSN. He wants the OL to work a line of his backside eye to the DL’s play side shoulder, thus protecting the backside A gap. In the subsequent sessions, when reviewing tape, I would say these are the keys for Funk.
Footwork. “First step, get out of your footprint.” [And gain ground.] The second step is the most important, has got to “get into the ground.” Funk makes the second step as the most important coaching point. [He provides examples.]
Get out of your footprint, “get into the ground with your second step,” work backside eye to play side number, work to square, finish north. This is the homily.
Oh yeah, “don’t stand up.” Funk says he has one, young promising OG who “will get there” as soon as he stops standing up.
Two small things that cropped up in his presentation that I found interesting. First, Funk’s theme that there just isn’t enough time to teach/practice, so getting good at a couple of things is better than doing a lot of stuff not very well. I have heard this from coaches a lot.
Second, and this wasn’t that explicit but it was clearly there, was that Al Borges isn’t a huge fan of zone schemes. He would prefer to be in a man or gap system. I think Funk can go either way, and might even lean to zone constructs, but Borges isn’t convinced. Whether or not this is a tea leaf for the future I don’t know. Coach Funk seemed to indicate that it would take him a couple of years to get his zone scheme in sync (a bit different that RR’s scheme). So, we get the zone into gear next year and then we transition when Denard graduates? Or not? Next time I get the opportunity, I will ask.
In sessions two and three there was a lot of video demonstration and refinement of the basics outlined in session 1—ergo Brian’s comment. In the second session there was a lot of talk about defenders “spiking,” specifically “spiking down.” That’s when a defender attacks a gap from (say) outside of the right guard, looping back into the A gap. Funk talked about the techniques for protecting the A gaps, which were, in fact, variations of the BSE/PSN theme, but with an OL always taking a “bucket” step to the protect the gap to his play side, even if a short jab step and if the OL was “covered.”