"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
If you can keep a secret, this image was actually taken in Iowa.
- Chattanooga, 40-7 (W)
- Fresno State, 42-29 (W)
- Washington, 51-38 (W)
- @ Wyoming, 38-14 (W)
- @ No. 7 Wisconsin, 17-48 (L)
- Ohio State, 34-27 (W)
- @ Minnesota, 41-14 (W)
- No. 11 Michigan State, 24-3 (W)
- Northwestern, 25-38 (L)
- @ No. 12 Penn State, 17-14 (W)
- @ No. 18 Michigan, 17-45 (L)
- Iowa, 20-7 (W)
- No. 9 South Carolina, 13-30 (L) Citrus Bowl
Record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 B1G, 3rd place Bo Division
|Rush:||217.2 ypg, 15th||158.5 ypg, 64th|
|Pass:||162.7 ypg, 104th||192.2 ypg, 19th|
|Total:||379.9 ypg, 66th||350.7 ypg, 37th|
|Scoring:||29.2 ppg, 49th||23.4 ppg, 42nd|
|T/O Margin:||-1, 67th|
Recap: Today I learned where the state of Nebraska is on a map. It’s … :
When the B1I1G Ten anschlussed Nebraska, some were surprised that a school like Missouri didn’t even get more than a courtesy consideration. Guns, Germs, and Steel provides some great arguments for why it’s more natural for civilization to spread latitudinally (east-west) than longitudinally (north-south). I expect the B1G’s newest member to be Wyoming in several years unless Notre Dame finally gets culture-flipped* before that.
(more after the jump)
"The academic support at Ohio State, there is no way you can fail. Even if you’re giving minimal effort there is no way you can fail.”
So, the sign.
It caused Ramzy to do some deep musings on what the value of an education is anyway. I'm not here to speak on Michigan's general studies major or clustering, but rather to point out that the sign is a bald-faced lie. It highlights three impressive-sounding fields in which Ohio State has many majors and Michigan has few. You will be unsurprised to find out virtually all of these players are walk-ons.
According to OSU's 11-12 media guide…
- Walk-ons: four.
- Scholarship players: zero.
- Walk-ons: six.
- Scholarship players: one. DE Darryl Baldwin is an ME.
- Walk-ons: five.
- Scholarship players: one. Jordan Whiting. Taylor Graham is listed as one and has transferred. [UPDATE: Whiting is now considering a transfer to Louisville.]
Meanwhile Mark Huyge can make, like, boats and stuff. There's always a tiny number of football players who are superfreak enough to put 40 hours a week into an "extracurricular activity" and still get a serious degree, but they are few, especially at a place like Michigan that won't even admit you to the B-school until you've scored a 3.8+ in your fist two years.
If you're looking to get a scholarship from Ohio State there's a 90% chance you will end up in the usual communications/"sport and leisure"/taco preparation majors. Which is fine. I just went to a coaching clinic—playing football in college is challenging both mentally and physically.
Just don't pretend you're something you're not. Ask Jim Tressel about how that works out in the long run. Enjoy your bowl this year, guys.
[UPDATE: Should clarify that I also excluded kickers and longsnappers for obvious reasons.]
[HT: Michael Scarn's diary.]
So... that happened. Let's just start right in, shall we?
My Totally Normal, Uneventful, Relaxing Weekend
I was tipped off about the impending Kyle Bosch commitment on Friday evening, so I pre-wrote the "Hello" post, called it a night, and felt like I was ahead of the game.
At 3:20 pm on Saturday, I got this message from Heiko: "LOL your job." I would get the same message again 24 hours later. Over the course of 48 hours, I ended up writing eight commitment posts: Kyle Bosch, Wyatt Shallman, Jourdan Lewis, David Dawson, Chris Fox, Taco Charlton, Jake Butt, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. I no longer have the words to describe what went down—though the progressively more slap-happy tone of my posts as the weekend wore on serves this purpose well—so luckily other people wrote stuff, too.
Maize n Brew's Zach Travis discussed the implications of the weekend haul and compared it to Texas's ritual Junior Day bonanza:
That is eight four-star recruits all considered to be in the top-200 to Rivals.com, two linemen with a realistic chance of moving up to five-star range, and one of the best single day hauls outside of Texas's annual Junior Day Commitment Extravaganza.
Michigan, to my knowledge, has never had a six-commit day or an eight-commit weekend—at least in the documented internet recruiting era*—and Texas came up with exactly zero commits on their Junior Day this year. We need a new benchmark, though I think "That Weekend in February of 2012" is now it. Rivals.com's Mike Farrell utilizes the same comparison, mostly because there isn't anything else to equate this to:
"I've never seen anything like this—it's Texas territory," Farrell said in comparing U-M to the Longhorns, notorious for cleaning up early. "This is something new. It's pretty remarkable. I think they got the right guys on campus and that they really know the kids they are recruiting. They've got a good feel for kids who might be ready to pop - that said, they still did a good job to actually get them to jump on board.
"Got the right guys on campus" is probably in reference to Hoke, Mattison, et al, but it could just as easily refer to Shane Morris, whose role as a recruiter is clearly having a huge affect. Morris was the subject of an Angelique Chengelis profile today centering around his efforts as a pitchman:
The affable, congenial Morris has taken hold of the social media and works Twitter and Facebook, sending messages to potential future Wolverines. He makes calls, sends texts and emails, helping to secure commitments from the best high school players with whom he'll be teammates at Michigan.
"Oh, definitely. Hope so," Morris said enthusiastically when asked if he has impacted the Wolverines' recruiting. "I'm definitely recruiting all the time. We want to win national championships at Michigan and we're going to need the best players in the nation to do that."
Anyone who is on Twitter is likely aware of Morris's dogged recruiting efforts, and Taco Charlton took to the social media platform last night to relay his story of how he came to commit:
— Taco Charlton (@thekidTC33) February 21, 2012
I'll give Farrell the last word from an article hyping up the upcoming recruiting battles between Michigan and Ohio State, who all of a sudden find themselves playing catch-up despite having a five-star and three four-stars in the fold (the rest of the B1G—four total commits, period):
"Urban Meyer's the Axl Rose of recruiting," Farrell said. "He's the rock star. Brady Hoke is not out there like that. He's not the same type of guy. He's an old-school, shoot-it-straight guy. But he's obviously getting the job done at an equal level. With these two, recruiting will be fun because they're unlike each other. That's going to make things very interesting. They each have different approaches to things. It's going to be a great battle.''
Let's hope Florida was Meyer's Appetite for Destruction, and we'll now spend a decade waiting for Chinese Democracy before realizing we don't care anymore. Alright, there's no way that's how things will turn out, but one can hope.
*The six listed by Rivals for one day in 2003 did not actually happen that way; I think they were just catching up and didn't specify the exact dates. Seth, who probably summed up my weekend better than anyone, has the correct listing.
Hoke Never Sleeps, 'Cause Sleep is the Cousin of Death
The fallout from this weekend spills over into a second section because it deserves as much. Steve Wiltfong caught up with both Kyle Bosch and David Dawson in the aftermath of their commitments to get their thoughts on why they committed, and both are well worth a read. Here's Bosch, who had this gem [emphasis mine]:
At the beginning of the day, I started to hint that I was going to commit. I told Coach Borges maybe next month I could see myself commit. Then the director of player personnel Coach Singletary came over to me and I said maybe next week. I then went in the bathroom and talked to my mom on the phone and we talked about it, Michigan State and Stanford. It came down to academics. I have a ton of respect for Michigan State and Stanford. I think they’re both outstanding schools, but it came down to academics. Michigan is the right place for me.
Those of you still smarting from Josh Garnett's decision to go to Stanford will find that especially cathartic. The only thing that could make that quote better would be if Jim Harbaugh was still coaching the Cardinal.
I guess I got the order wrong when putting up Dawson's and Lewis's commitment posts, because it sounds like the offensive lineman beat his teammate by a matter of seconds:
I talked to my mom about if Michigan offered me, would I commit on the spot. She was okay with it. She liked it for the academics, and the academics came before the football.
We were talking to Coach Hoke and he offered me. I looked at my mom and then looked at him and I told him I’d like to commit. He asked me if I was serious, and he jumped up and started yelling. He shook my hand and gave my mom a hug, gave me a hug. Everyone was screaming and it didn’t make it any better when J (Jourdan Lewis) walked in and said he was committing too. It was a great feeling yesterday.
Given Hoke's propensity for screaming and hugging when a recruit commits in person, I'm kindly requesting that the next player who plans on doing this records the whole thing on their smartphone. I imagine it's a sight to behold. Speaking of Hoke, he apparently doesn't sleep, because by the time Jake Butt committed on Sunday, he was in Florida schmoozing with some bigwig donors:
Before offering his pledge the Pickerington North star decided to travel home and mull things over just a little bit more, but that he was close to making his choice was likely evident to all. Even so, that didn’t stop his future coaches from reacting to the news like they had received the surprise of the year.
“I actually told Coach Hoke, Coach Borges, and Coach Ferrigno and they were all really excited," Butt stated. “Coach Hoke was down in Florida talking to some boosters for the university, and he just let out a big scream when he heard it. (Laughter) They all said I made their night and they can’t be happier for me. This is really great.”
I wonder if Hoke had any voice left by the time Tuley-Tillman committed. Given that he can barely talk after games, I have to imagine the weekend was hell on his larynx.
Ethan Pocic—one of just two weekend visitors to not commit, along with Rod Crayton—reportedly enjoyed his visit and said Michigan "went up in [his] view." ($, info in header). There was a false Twitter report out there that he had named a top three that didn't include Michigan, but Pocic soundly denied doing so.
That wasn't all on the weekend, by the way. Michigan also managed to pick up a couple of preferred walk-on for 2012, both long-snappers. Saline's Taybor Pepper—the #7 long-snapper in the 2012 class on Chris Sailer Kicking—actually jumped the gun and committed on Thursday. Fenton's Tyler Tokarsky announced his commitment via Twitter yesterday. Both links contain video and more info on a couple of guys who will hopefully remain anonymous barring a Jareth Glanda moment.
Offers, More Offers, Visits, Lists, Etc.
Prepare for a massive bulleted list, as Michigan has sent out a ton of offers in the last week. These are in no particular order, just how my tabs happened to show up:
- Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton was offered a scholarship while on his Sunday visit to Ann Arbor ($). Crayton was very impressed by the fact that he would have three D-line coaches at Michigan.
- Auburn (CA) Placer DT Eddie Vanderdoes ($, info in header), the #21 overall recruit in the country according to Rivals.
- Petaluma (CA) Casa Grande ATH Elijah Qualls, who told aquaman he's being offered as a DE.
- Wyomissing (PA) Area LB Alex Anzalone, a four-star on Rivals who also has offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia.
- Everett (MA) OL John Montelus, the #214 prospect on Rivals—I had a chance to catch up with him last week and he mentioned a desire to visit Michigan.
- Moreno Valley (CA) Rancho Verde WR Damore'ea Stringfellow, the #107 player on Rivals, recently grabbed offers from Michigan, Arizona State, Nebraska, UCLA, and Washington State.
- Santa Monica's Sebastian LaRue is another California wideout to grab an offer ($, info in header). He's the #141 overall player in the Rivals250.
- Rancho Cucamonga (CA) DB Chris Hawkins told TomVH that a Wolverine offer was one he and his father were waiting on ($). Hawkins is the #159 prospect according to Rivals.
- Washington DC Gonzaga ATH Devin Butler is a three-star on 24/7, and he told Clint Brewster he plans on visiting in the spring ($).
- Dallas (TX) Kimball DT Justin Manning, the #89 player on Rivals, also picked up an offer ($, info in header).
- Massillon (OH) Washington CB Gareon Conley is another in a long line of D-I prospects from one of Ohio's most storied high school programs. He told Scout that he grew up as a Michigan fan and was very excited by the offer ($).
- A third Rivals250 WR from California, Oakley Freedom's Darrell Daniels, now has offers from Michigan, Colorado, UCLA, and Oregon State after a strong showing at the U.S. Army combine ($).
- Tempe (AZ) Marcos De Niza CB Priest Willis is the #84 overall prospect on Rivals, and Michigan's offer gave him 16 total ($, info in header).
- Los Angeles (CA) Loyola CB Cameron Walker is a four-star and the #214 prospect to 24/7, but Michigan became one of his first two offers along with, coincidentally, San Diego State ($).
- Three-star Randolph (NJ) guard Brendan Mahon added offers from Michigan and Temple last week ($, info in header).
- Belton (TX) TE Durham Smythe—who I posted an interview with this morning—got his Michigan offer last week, though it might be difficult to pull him from Texas.
- Upland (CA) DE Joe Mathis, the #93 prospect on Rivals, got his Michigan offer last week.
- The Wolverines also offered 2014 DT Andy Bauer, a big-time recruit from St. Louis (IL) De Smet who visited two weeks ago.
As you can see, the Wolverines are heavily targeting the top talent in California, a likely product of Brady Hoke's connections there from his time at San Diego State. That offer list is also littered with prospects from the Rivals250, as Michigan is able to focus on blue-chip players with a small class that's now already halfway full. We'll see how judicious they are with their offers moving forward; three players—Donovan Munger, De'Niro Laster, and Ross Douglas—visited on Monday and did not get offers extended. Tight end Jacob Matuska, who does hold an offer, also was on campus yesterday.
Several players have expressed interest in visiting lately, and a couple of them are quite noteworthy. Five-star CA S/LB Su'a Cravens told Scout that Michigan will get one of his five official visits, in large part due to his relationship with Hoke dating back to his days with the Aztecs ($, info in header). Two blue-chip prospects from Good Counsel in Maryland will visit for the April 14th spring game in five-star corner Kendall Fuller and four-star linebacker Dorian O'Daniel. Four-star WR Robert Foster has confirmed that he'll visit Michigan State next weekend, and it's a possibility that he'll swing by Ann Arbor as well. Richmond (VA) Hermitage RB Derrick Green, the #64 prospect on Rivals, will visit Ann Arbor this weekend ($, info in header).
Unfortunately, it can't all be sunshine and lollipops, as some players either named top groups that exluded Michigan or committed elsewhere. Five-star FL OT Laremy Tunsil named a top two of Florida and Georgia ($, info in header). Four-star VA DE Jonathan Allen named Alabama as his favorite after receiving an offer ($, info in header). Four-star VA safety Tim Harris named a top two of Virginia and Virginia Tech, though he expressed interest in visiting both Michigan and Ohio State ($, info in header). Louisville (KY) Trinity CB Ryan White named a top two of Louisville and Illinois, and his teammate, DE Jason Hatcher, has also expressed strong interest in the Cardinals.
We wish happy trails to four recruits: Dallas (TX) Jesuit WR Jake Oliver committed to Texas, while his teammate, OL J.J. Gustafson, committed to Texas A&M. Vorhees (NJ) Eastern CB Eli Woodard pledged to the Buckeyes. While he didn't hold an offer, Birmingham Brother Rice LB Johnny Reshke will likely be one the top 2013 prospects in the state, and he committed to MSU last week.
Quickly: Sam Webb profiles RB Deveon Smith—whose recruitment will likely come down to Michigan and Ohio State, and says it's "50-50" between the schools regarding his favorite right now—in his most recent DetNews column. Wiltfong recaps the Best of the Midwest combine, which featured five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith—the event's MVP—as well as linebacker Tim Kimbrough, defensive end Elijah Daniel, and several potential Michigan targets. Allen Trieu scouts last week's Elite Big Man Camp in Wixom—ND commit Steven Elmer, Cass Tech junior DT Kenton Gibbs, and 2014 Detroit Loyola DE Malik McDowell are mentioned as standouts ($).
|WHAT||Michigan at Northwestern|
|LINE||M –1 (Kenpom)|
Remember when Michigan hadn't been to the tourney in ten years? Multiply that by infinity, give them a shot, and that is this game. Sippin' on Purple:
Hey, Northwestern's playing tonight! And it's not important at all! BREATHES HEAVILY INTO PAPER BAG) Hahahahahahahaha basketball is fun! (DIES)
So, Northwestern fans experiencing the team's first true bubble run don't really know how to feel. It turns out I've mastered the correct feeling, and here's how you do it: AFJKLSDSA;KLFJDL;ASJKADLS;KJFDAS WHAT WHAT IS HAPPENING AHHHHHH AHHHH EVERY SINGLE BASKETBALL GAME WE PLAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER TO HAPPEN EVER AND I'M NOT EVEN JOKING. There. Just be like that.
One of these pictures is of John Shurna, but which one? Okay, fine, you got it. It's the beak. Dead giveaway.
Penn State is terrible, Purdue is at home, and by the time Michigan plays Illinois Champaign will be in the throes of civil war. Thus tonight's game against Northwestern is Michigan's most daunting hurdle left. Kenpom says @ Illinois is more difficult but Kenpom cannot take the breakdown of civil society there into account.
Meanwhile, the stakes. Oh, the stakes. If Michigan wins they'll probably double their chances of getting a share of their first Big Ten title since 1986. If Northwestern wins they probably double their chances of getting their first tourney bid since the Big Bang. If Northwestern gets to 9-9 in conference they are in, and they have games against Iowa and Penn State left. Road game, sure, but their path to the a bid is clear if they defend home court tonight. Expect Welsh-Ryan to be bats. What's that, Stu Douglass?
"That gym's pretty small and it doesn't get too loud"
Expect Welsh-Ryan to be double bats.
The Wildcats got the preview treatment already. The main change since then has been due to injury: Luka Mirkovic has been out with an ankle sprain that must be of the dreaded "high" variety for him to miss so much time. In his absence, secret albatross John Shurna has played a lot of center—Northwestern's primary lineup these days is basically Michigan's lineup with Smotrycz on the floor and Morgan on the bench. Mirkovich did not play against Minnesota on Saturday and it doesn't seem like he'll return today.
Northwestern will go to a bigger lineup with post-type guy Davide Curletti, who got twenty minutes against the Gophers. Curletti is a lot like Mirkovich statistically but has significantly lower usage and turns the ball over a bit more. This may be due to Curletti playing more against Big Ten competition. Curletti's not much of a concern from the floor (low usage, 44%) or line (57%) and might see his time against Michigan reduced since the rebounding imperative will be lower than it was against Ralph Sampson III and company.
Northwestern also has guard JerShon Cobb back after a long injury absence. His numbers this year are too thin to draw much from; last year he was an inefficient offensive player (45% from 2, 30% from 3, few free throws but few turnovers). He has a reputation as a defensive stopper, however, and may be placed on Burke in an effort to slow him down. The Minnesota game was his first significant playing time since the Illinois game before the first Michigan-NU matchup of the year; he went 0-3 from the floor (all threes) in 24 minutes but had five steals.
Those are the relative newcomers. The team's engine is still John Shurna and Drew Crawford, who you know about. Shurna has massive usage, plays 92% of the time, never turns the ball over, and shoots 43% from 3. Crawford's got Hardaway-level usage, never turns the ball over, and shoots 40% from 3. Both are around 52-53% from inside the arc. They're quality.
The third banana is coming on like gangbusters as the season draw to a close. That's freshman point guard Dave "Sobocop" Sobolewski (right), who is averaging 14.8 points per game over the past six. He's got 22 assists to 8 turnovers in that span and is hitting 56% of his threes. He's only had one stinker in there (three points against Indiana) and if he can keep that up Northwestern's going to be hard to beat on their home floor.
Though Sobolewski was just okay against Michigan the first time out he impressed with his ability to get to the basket. Again: Michigan should closely monitor all Northwestern recruiting classes for opportunities to violate gentleman's agreements.
Aside from the three bolded fellows and the guys who need no introduction there aren't many other players to mention. Only two bench players got more than a minute against the Gophers: Curletti and Alex Marcotullio. He and Reggie Hearn are generic Northwestern low-usage guards with a lot of threes and not much else. Hearn does get off a decent number of two pointers.
It's been a while since Michigan eked out a two-point OT win over the Wildcats in Crisler. Since that game Northwestern has gone 5-5 in the league. They beat Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan and then took care of some of the league's poorer teams at home; they also helped initiate the Illinois death spiral by beating them 74-70 at Assembly Hall, Champaign Edition.
On the less-happy side of the ledger they suffered double-digit road losses against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Purdue, a five-point road loss against Indiana, and a two-point home loss against Purdue.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||54.4 1||52.9 10||49|
|Turnover %:||17.1 4||18.4 7||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||24.6 12||36.3 12||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||40.2 4||38.7 2||36.5|
Northwestern is Michigan only moreso. They are getting hammered on the boards in the post-Mirkovich era, and while they make up for that with excellent shooting on the offensive end—as a team they are hitting almost 40% of their threes in the Big Ten—they can't make up for the crappy defensive rebounding with good FG defense like Michigan does. As a result they're the second-worst D in the league, in front of only Iowa.
As you might expect, Northwestern launches a huge quantity of threes (44%, 7th nationally) and gets a ton of assists (65% of made field goals are assisted, 6th nationally); they also give up a lot of threes at a high rate of success and a low plenty of assists themselves.
Run 'em off the line. In a marked contrast with every other team in the league, Michigan should not have to double when the ball goes in the post—if the ball goes in the post—and can stick with their shooters. If Curletti is going to put it up, fine. If Shurna's willing to work for a two, fine. If a team that's hitting 40% from three gets a bunch of them, not so much.
The key thing to watch here is Sobolewski and Crawford penetrating. Without a post presence, Northwestern generates its open threes with a lot of penetrate-and-kick. Sobolewksi was effective at this in the first game. Trey Burke is going to have to D up a lot more than he did against the passive Aaron Craft. Stu Douglass will likely draw Crawford, and that will be okay unless he starts sinking a bunch of contested jumpers. Which could happen.
Anyway: reducing the numbers of threes taken is a priority. Michigan did a good job of this in the first game, holding the Wildcats to just 13 threes. That and a ton of offensive rebounding (17 on 44 opportunities) eventually gave them the win despite shooting 7 of 30 behind the arc themselves.
Morg-ownage: possible? Shurna at the five has been a problem for a lot of Big Ten defenses. Michigan would seem in better shape than most with Jordan Morgan, a relatively quick center who has the stamina to chase Shurna around the court. If Morgan can cope defensively, Michigan should have an advantage on the other end of the court when it comes to offensive rebounding. Yes, they're more than rumors.
Is that likely? Well… Shurna had 21 points on 15 shots in the first matchup. So maybe not. Morgan may be able to outrun most centers in the league but guarding Shurna on the perimeter has been an issue. So then you've got Smotrycz, whose defense is… inconsistent.
Morgan needs to dominate the boards here to make up for what will be an awkward matchup with Shurna.
Make some threes. Northwestern gives up a ton of quality three point opportunities and allows opponents to shoot 50% from two. There aren't a whole lot of bad shots when you play the Wildcats.
Michigan just has to hit them. That 7 of 30 thing is going to be tough to overcome on the road. Michigan's been judicious and effective from deep in the past couple games. Let's hope it continues. If Michigan can hit 35% instead of 23% they will win comfortably.
Yes, this bullet is basically "score points!"
Bench help. Matt Vogrich can be useful in this game; Evan Smotrycz will have a relatively even matchup when he's in at the five.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by one. Sippin' On Purple's Rodger Sherman literally dies. The second part is not a part of the Kenpom prediction, at least not yet.
"If we play the way we play against everyone else, it opens things up for things they want to do offensively, such as back-door plays and cuts," Jordan said. "We have to figure out how to make a new habit in two days (of practice)."
But for Jordan, his task is daunting because he doesn't want to miss a single detail or not be prepared when the game plan is presented in practice to the players and coach John Beilein.
"The goal is to eliminate surprises. You want to try to crack the code," he said. "You want to give some sense of what maybe to expect, but a lot of it is personnel-driven."
That Sippin' on Purple item is also a game preview.
Way back before Michigan filled half of their 2013 class—aka last week—the Wolverines offered Belton (TX) TE Durham Smythe. We'll see if Michigan decides they want to take a third tight end in the class at this point, but if they do, they'll give a hard look at the 6'6", 230-pound Texan, who currently holds offers from Baylor, Florida, Ole Miss, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. I caught up with Durham shortly after he received his offer to talk about his recruitment:
ACE: How's everything going with your recruitment, and what schools do you hold offers from right now?
DURHAM: It's been getting pretty busy lately over the last two weeks. As of right now I have offers from Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas, TCU, Ole Miss, Michigan, Stanford, and I'm possibly leaving out one or two, but those are the ones as of recently.
ACE: With those coming in all pretty recently, have you been able to figure out a list of leaders or is it too soon to say?
DURHAM: It's still pretty early, so it's a little bit too soon to say, but I'm going to try to distinguish them coming in the next couple of weeks. I'm taking a trip to A&M this weekend and two weeks from now I'll visit Stanford, on March 1st and 2nd. After those visits I'll try to evaluate everything, try to get a top list, ranking, and just see if I need to take any further visits.
ACE: You mentioned getting the Michigan offer recently. Who has been in contact with you from Michigan and what was your reaction to getting the offer?
DURHAM: Actually pretty much every coach on the offensive side of the ball talked to me this morning. I haven't been in too heavy contact with them recently. My head coach just talked to them a little bit and they called this morning; I talked to them for about 30 minutes on the phone, got a little bit of a rundown and everything of the program, what they want to do the next couple years, and got the offer, so it was a good phone call.
ACE: What's your impression of Michigan as a school? Is that a place you'd be interested in visiting and what do you know about them?
DURHAM: It definitely is. It's a great school and has a great surrounding area. Obviously it's a great program, it's the most winning program in college football history, so that's huge. The Big House, 115,000 people, so it's big-time football, it's everything you could really ask for. Just because of those thing it's definitely worth a look.
ACE: Going back to your junior season, how do you think you performed and what kind of numbers did you put up?
DURHAM: We run kind of a spread and also pro-style offense at the same time, we run a little bit of both. It was good. As a team we probably could have done a little bit better, go deeper into the playoffs, but individually I was pretty happy with my performance on the year. I think I had close to 30 catches for about 400 yards and four touchdowns.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say are the biggest strengths of your game and what are you working on to improve your game for your senior year and on to the next level?
DURHAM: My strengths, I would say, probably versatility, being able to do different things, being able to flex out, play the H-back position, play the regular tight end position, and being able to catch the ball. On weaknesses, something I'm trying to work on is I'm trying to put on weight in the offseason; that will help me with strength and blocking, so that's something I'm trying to work on.
ACE: You mentioned a couple of visit plans. Do you have any plans in terms of going to any camps over the offseason?
DURHAM: Not yet. What I'm going to try to do is after these two visits is sit down, see what I need to do in terms of camps and other visits, and I'll go from there.
ACE: You made it up to Texas's junior day. What was it like being at the junior day at Texas and also getting an offer from them?
DURHAM: It was really cool. I got to meet a bunch of great recruits down there. Obviously, the facilities and academic side of the school are fantastic, so that was good to see first-hand. Also, I really enjoyed being able to meet some of the players. Actually, Texas's starting quarterback, David Ash, came from our high school and we're pretty good friends, so I got to talk to him a little bit. It was a good overall visit.
ACE: Once you're done taking visits and it's time to evaluate schools, what are going to be the main factors that you're going to be looking at when it comes time to make a decision?
DURHAM: Obviously seeing how they use a tight end in their offense, see how much they're using that. Hopefully I'll be able to take an extra visit to these schools once I narrow it down to be able to get a view for the total atmosphere, and I'll go from there.
ACE: You mentioned playing in a spread and pro-style offense. Is there a particular style that you prefer?
DURHAM: Not anything specific. Really either one works for me, since I feel like I can fit into either. I don't really prefer one that's an actual listing, really, it's just how they use the tight end in the offense. If it's a spread, how they're using the tight end, if it's a pro-style, how are they using the tight end, that's what I really look at.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's something about you, whether it's a hobby or just something about you, that you think people would like to know about you?
DURHAM: Football is everything I guess, off the field is just playing video games, football everything. Other than that, there's actually a lake in our hometown that's kind of a hotspot, so I spend as much time as possible there when I'm not involved in football.
ACE: Is that like a swimming hole kind of spot, or fishing, taking boats...
DURHAM: It's all of that put together. It's pretty nice.
Content note: I'll come back to Manball Matrix next time. I thought this was more timely. Note II: So you won't miss another commitment, while reading this article you are advised to hit refresh on your browser at regular intervals.
It was a commit-a-palooza unlike Michigan had seen since scholarship offers were sent by telegram and a signing ceremony was when a young player stepped off the platform of Kerrytown Station to serenades by hawkers, haberdashers, and hazing-minded upperclassman. Within one week of Michigan's annual summer camp, seven players were moved to end their recruitments and commit to the Wolverines' Class of 2004:
The verbal explosion was mostly camp commits, i.e. guys who impressed enough to earn an offer which they immediately accepted. In an age when mid-June was still quite early to be filling nearly half of a class, Commit-a-Palooza '03 was remarkable. With Morgan Trent and Max Martin this was 9 of eventually 22 signed.
[Quick: two more recruits probably just pledged; hit refresh now!]
Michigan later filled that class with Henne, Jamar Adams, Alan Branch, Jamison, Arrington, and a lot more roster fodder who appeared unremarkably in early UFRs, or didn't. At the time I wrote an email I just spent way too much time trying to find that talked about early signees of years prior. The point was to temper the post-euphoric expectations of pre-Facebook friends by showing how previous early birds had a greater chance of busting, what with all the offseasons, lifting clubs, and senior years between now and National Signing Day. Then I proved myself inconclusive.
With an 8-man commit-fest that forced me to put time stamps in my database to keep track of % of class filled, and which puts the '03 bonanza to shame [refresh reminder], let's try it again. Here's the players, classes 2003 to 2011 in my database who committed to Michigan at least 50 weeks before National Signing Day:
I didn't include several guys who later decommitted, but I did count Will Campbell, who verbaled to Michigan in June of 2007 (!) and a year later decided to lead Rodriguez on a merry chase until 5 weeks to NSD. Many of these guys—Hollowell, Helmuth, Chambers, Trent—committed on the offer after Junior Day.
Well there's Mario, and…well that's a lot of guys who didn't or haven't lived up to their hype. Schifano gave up football, Grady was overrated before he was the guy you could count on to get Michigan at least a mention in the Fulmer Cup, Chambers and Helmuth were whiffs, Cissoko … his thing, and these days the extent of our Campbell and Ricardo dreams are Gabe Watson and Tim Massaquoi.
Busts can come from any time, and this is a small sample of early RR and late Lloyd recruits who didn't have the pedigrees of the solid-to-high 4-stars Hoke is bringing in. Taking out kickers, players with more than half of their eligibility left, guys who didn't qualify, guys who lost their best years to injury before we could get a feel for their evaluation, and proprietors of Fck Lions, here's the apparent success rates by when they committed:
|Weeks to NSD||OvRtd||+/-1*||UnRtd||Success Rate||Avg Diff||Tot|
|50 or more||4||6||--||60.0%||-0.95||12|
|40 to 49||5||10||--||66.7%||-0.50||17|
|30 to 39||3||22||1||88.5%||-0.29||35|
|20 to 29||7||15||1||69.6%||-0.52||27|
|10 to 19||4||9||--||69.2%||-0.31||17|
|5 to 9||5||25||1||83.9%||-0.52||36|
|1 to 4||1||8||--||88.9%||-0.22||19|
|Week of NSD||5||18||2||80.0%||-0.26||29|
"OvRtd" (overrated) to me means guys who probably should have been pegged at 1.5 or more stars below their Scout/Rivals average. "UnRtd" means 1.5 or more stars and were, in order, Hart, Molk, Branch, Englemon and Omemeh. Google Doc here so you rip apart my totally subjective ratings. "Total" on right includes the guys I cut out so you can see the flow of a recruiting year before the Hoke era. FYI 30 to 39 week corresponds to about May-June.
[Refresh now anyway.]
Does this mean anything for the flood of early pledges this week, or much of this year's class for that matter? I don't really think so, no. Mostly what this says is that Michigan had a ton of busts over the last decade of recruiting, and that juniors who commit immediately upon receiving a camp offer are seldom primo athletes.
As of now Michigan has filled approximately half of its projected Class of 2013, (figuring on 22 total) at a point in the cycle when traditionally only about 6 percent of the class has taken shape. A look at previous 50-percent points demonstrates just how unprecedented this is for Michigan:
|Year||Commits||Avg Stars||50% Full By||Days to NSD||Final Scout Rk||Final Rivals Rk|
A handful of these 2013 guys—maybe one or two more than of a class put together later in the year—will probably disappoint from their lofty rankings. This is an inevitability. In fact count on a few never making it to campus, because 17-year-olds change their minds exactly as fast as popular music turns over. But then when you add up that attrition and apply it to the class that formed over the weekend, it's still shaping up to be one of the best incoming groups since Yost was greeting his freshmen at the train station.
So hit refresh one more time, because it only gets better from here.