Feel free to shoot me for the headline.
2/6/2011 – Michigan 65, Penn State 62 – 14-10, 4-7 Big Ten
Michigan played well for about ten minutes yesterday but in those ten minutes they poured in three pointers from all over, drove to the basket with abandon, and twice turned double-digit Penn State leads into deficits. Since Darius Morris kept Michigan in contact during the other thirty and six of the ten minutes came at the end of the game that meant Michigan won.
That isn't a small feat. Penn State spent the past month cannibalizing seeds across the Big Ten by defending their home court. They beat Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan State at the Bryce-Jordan Center. On the road they were this close to enormous upsets of Ohio State (L 69-66) and Purdue (L 63-62). In a not-very-alternate universe they were cruising towards a tourney bid even if they did get crushed by Maine.
So that was a good, weird win. If you want it in a chart (chart):
The point on the graph where it drops like a stone until the end should be labeled "Hardaway kill switch engaged." Down ten and aimless with nine minutes left is when the fan packs it in and starts grumbling. In this game it's also when Tim Hardaway goes from Freshman Liability, Jr., to Just Tim Hardaway, Thanks.
In the two minutes of video above a possible future of Michigan basketball reveals itself. When UMHoops describes the Hardaway sequence above as a "coming of age" Dylan's talking about Hardaway himself, but it could be one for the team as a whole. Those things don't seem that different right now.
Everyone comes back next year, so the various bits of basketball that depend on cohesion (rotation on D, cuts and passing on O, etc.) should improve. Everyone should get incrementally better, which gets you an increment. Michigan's hopes to go from an NIT hopeful to a solid NCAA team rely on at least one guy getting so much better that twitter threatens to kill Tim Doyle again, and the erratic freshman leading Michigan in shots is the obvious candidate.
In the clips above it's not the three-pointers that set hopes to tingle. We've seen Hardaway shoot a ton of threes this year and while he's adding a couple points of shooting percentage to them is encouraging, Michigan has plenty of guys who can take shots from outside the arc. It's the two different drives to the hoop where he glides into the lane and elevates to finish. Yes, you are 6'5". Yes, you are Tim Hardaway's son. Yes, you can turn into the kind of player who's an all-around nightmare. Yes, please, by next year.
This year we expected and got that graph above, struggles punctuated by tantalizing flashes. So far we've gotten slightly more of the latter than we were banking on. Maintain that, reach the NIT, and get one guy—one guy—to make a Morris-like leap and next year Beilein's program can establish itself for real.
Let's get ahead of ourselves bullets
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. File this under general fan overreaction as well:
After PSU Win, Can U-M Make a Tourney Run?
That's The Wolverine Blog laying out Michigan's stretch run and saying "well?" Said run, home games in bold:
Feb. 9 — vs. Northwestern — 14-8 overall (4-7 Big Ten, 3-4 road), No. 53 Sagarin, No. 76 RPI
Feb. 12 — vs. Indiana — 12-12 overall (3-8 Big Ten, 0-7 road), No. 89 Sagarin, No. 148 RPI
Feb. 16 — at Illinois — 15-8 overall (5-5 Big Ten, 11-1 home), No. 27 Sagarin, No. 37 RPI
Feb. 19 — at Iowa — 10-13 overall (3-8 Big Ten, 7-5 home), No. 103 Sagarin, No. 130 RPI
Feb. 23 — vs. Wisconsin — 17-5 overall (7-3 Big Ten, 2-4 road), No. 14 Sagarin, No. 20 RPI
Feb. 26 — at Minnesota — 16-7 overall (5-6 Big Ten, 11-2 home), No. 32 Sagarin, No. 24 RPI
Mar. 5 — vs. Michigan State — 13-10 overall (5-6 Big Ten, 3-6 road), No. 43 Sagarin, No. 49 RPI
Opposite the hockey devil sitting on my shoulder there's a basketball angel screaming "THIS IS TOTALLY DOABLE." There are four games on the schedule (the home games that aren't Wisconsin and @ Iowa) that look like should-wins, which gets Michigan to eight wins, and then if you squint real hard you can see Michigan picking off one of the others to get to 9-9 in the nation's toughest conference. That plus 19-12 overall could get into the new, pointlessly larger field.
There's a problem with the mind's definition of "should," though. Accrording to Kenpom Michigan's easiest game left is against Indiana. Michigan has a 69% shot to win that. Even if Kenpom is wildly pessimistic and Michigan has a 70% shot at all four of its "should-wins" that means they have just a 24% shot to win all four, and even then they'd have to pick off one of the other three, and in reality Kenpom has Michigan a slight underdog @ Iowa. Add it all up and a pretty accurate mathematical model says Michigan has a 10% chance to get to 9-9. Not so good.
Michigan really needed to pull out that Kansas game or the Ohio State game that immediately followed. Even without making the small positive adjustment in expectations that would give them a 35% chance to finish 9-9 or better and a marquee win to thrill the committee with. And at that point 8-10 might be feasible since they'd still be 19-12 overall in that scenario. If that was in play they'd have a 60-70% shot at the tourney.
As it stands they'll have to play perfectly to make it, and with all these freshmen the chances of that are slim. If I had to guess it'd say 17 or 18 wins and an NIT bid, which would be fine by me.
More evidence about the getting ahead of yourself. Michigan's still tenth in the league in efficiency margin, though said margins aren't huge and Michigan's finishing stretch is probably easier than average:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM
1. Wisconsin 7-3 56.1 1.19 1.03 +0.16
2. Ohio St. 11-0 63.0 1.14 1.00 +0.14
3. Purdue 7-3 64.0 1.14 1.04 +0.10
4. Illinois 5-5 62.7 1.10 1.03 +0.07
5. Penn St. 5-6 58.6 1.07 1.09 -0.02
6. Minnesota 5-6 61.7 1.07 1.10 -0.03
7. Northwestern 4-7 63.2 1.08 1.14 -0.06
8. Indiana 3-8 63.0 1.06 1.13 -0.07
9. Michigan St. 5-6 61.6 1.03 1.10 -0.07
10. Michigan 4-7 59.7 1.07 1.15 -0.08
11. Iowa 3-8 65.9 1.00 1.11 -0.11
AVG. 61.8 1.09
Big Ten Wonk (aka John Gasaway) dubs this "The Year Nobody Sucked" because the league's worst team is way better than LSU or DePaul or Wake Forest, all of whom are just getting hammered. So… on paper we're filing three teams with better conference efficiency margins as should-wins when we're constructing our tourney fantasies.
Also of note in the above numbers: Michigan's defense is the worst in the league. It's close; the number is still the number. This isn't hugely surprising given the fleet of underclassmen and Zach Novak's persistent inability to escape the 4, but it's a comedown from earlier in the season when the Michigan D was shockingly proficient. I think we've got an obvious route for Michigan's offense to improve, but the defense is murkier. Michigan needs Smotrycz and Hardaway to get a lot better, I think, but without numbers that's just one guy's opinion.
Very aggressive. Earlier in the year I mentioned that Morris should have more of a nose for the basket when Michigan ran the shot clock under ten and in this game he went nuts with an array of floaters in the lane, layups he'd fought for tooth and nail, and various other shots where the viewer was like "bad idea bad idea bad idea actually that looks like he got a decent shot off it went in yay."
Part of this was Penn State adopting OSU's defensive approach—stick to the shooters and force shots from the lane. It worked for OSU because they have athletic shotblockers in the post and Michigan missed a lot of short-range shots. Penn State just gave up a lot of points in the lane.
Torrent. The rest of UMHoops' five key plays. Game recap. AnnArbor.com scouts Trey Burke against Brookhaven; UMHoops catches him going for 35 in a narrow loss to St. Edward. Mets Maize also chips in recap bits. Since I neglected to mention him:
Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, Stu Douglass, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself! Consitent with Michigan's inconsistent season, Stu, who probably had his worst game of the year against Ohio State a few days ago, had his best game yet: 14 points, including 4/5 from behind the arc, 4 boards and 3 assists off the bench. I still think Stu needs to have more shot clock awareness at the 1, but he made timely 3's all game. One 3 came mid-way through the 2nd half to cut Penn States's lead from 10 to 7 when Michigan JUST started to look as if they were ready to give up. STUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.
MGoUser 2012 also assesses Michigan's chances at a tourney bid and comes to the same conclusion—wait 'til next year.
2/4/2011 – Michigan 2, Miami 4 – 17-8-4, 14-6-1 CCHA
2/5/2011 – Michigan 0, Miami 3 – 17-9-4, 14-7-1 CCHA
Over the weekend Miami paid tribute to tragically deceased team manager Brendan Burke by kicking Michigan's ass; Michigan paid tribute to not-very-tragically departed Tristin Llewellyn by having a team-wide contest to see who could take the stupidest penalty. Your winner was David Wohlberg, who slammed a Miami player into the boards on an icing call. Michigan had just blown a one goal lead and trailed by one with three minutes left, and I wasn't even surprised. The next night Michigan managed maybe three scoring chances in a 3-0 loss that tempted me to use the word "pathetic" despite its association with internet troglodytes.
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Let's review the facts:
- In the last billion games Michigan has scored four goals, all of which were shots from defensemen that pinballed around the offensive zone like they were in that famous HORSE game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Each struck at least three goats before entering the net.
- The best player on the team is the four-foot walk-on goalie who's gone from a terrifying liability to the reason Michigan hasn't lost all of the last billion games in which they scored four goals.
- Despite being coached by another four-foot tall person, this one so goofily hairy that he has to shave every six hours lest he drown in his own beard, Miami has the top two scorers in the country and is 10-6-1 against Michigan in the past X years. Michigan has been swept in Oxford the last three times they've visited.
- The four goals scored have mostly zinged past seniors, and while all of them not named Scooter or Carl have been disappointing the incoming recruiting class consists of a hyped goalie and then guys who are mostly last-minute additions. They seem likely to keep Michigan above the epic .500 fray in the CCHA but not keep pace with Miami and Notre Dame.
As I was trying to figure out the "subtler qualities" this Michigan hockey team had in the midst of their streak of nine wins in ten games, Red Berenson was telling anyone who would listen this team kinda sucked and was enjoying a fluky magic carpet ride. Red Berenson may not be have Carter Camper or Andy Miele these days but he can still identify problems better than I can. Three games later Michigan's finished going 2-2 against the 10th place team in the league and was swept out of the building by the Redhawks. They're now third in the CCHA and while they've got a couple of games in hand on Miami they're two back of Notre Dame and fading fast.
Meanwhile, I've been bracing for next year as a possible end to the tourney streak ever since Lucas Lessio decided to take his talents to the OHL. Michigan loses Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Vaughn, Langlais, Hogan, and Winnett, and while those guys have been immensely disappointing on the whole that list has Michigan's three top scorers. Two or three defensemen are flight risks and Michigan always seems to lose one guy inexplicably. Right now next year's top line look like it could be Wohlberg-Brown-Glendening, which… man. Either Moffatt blows up or that kid too young for the NHL draft (Di Guiseppe) massively exceeds expectations or we're going to be Alaska-Fairbanks++ next year.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing anyone who's watched this team closely was worried even when its winning, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It has gone thud. Now we're looking back across the last few years, seeing a narrative of erratic but generally declining play coupled with declining recruiting and a general sense of malaise as other teams in the league pass Michigan.
I'm in no way advocating a change. Red's earned the right to coach Michigan until the sun expands and engulfs the earth. I'm almost definitely freaking out because fans are always like "this thing that just happened is never going to stop happening," and unless Jim Tressel is involved that's not usually true. But it does feel right now that we're in the long decay phase every icon from Woody to Bo [era in general] to JoePa to Bowden to Mason [era in general] endures in the long slide from might to age. This Miami series was the equivalent of Football Armageddon: the moment the bad thing you hope isn't true becomes undeniable.
That doesn't mean we can't be good here and there. Since college hockey's system is weighted plinko, we could even win a national title. It won't be as a one-seed, and the days when Michigan getting swept by someone was a nuclear event are over. The near future for Michigan hockey feels like those years when they wandered into a WCHA rink against Minnesota or North Dakota in the tournament and you expected they'd lose. That feeling has lost its novelty.
Feeble, Feeble Non-Bullets
Come on, anti-jinx. Let's do this, yo. Genuine feeling about Michigan sports == Michigan sport doing its best to make me look silly. Let's do it.
Pairwise. Another weekend, another alarming slip. Michigan now hovers at 12th. Eyeballing it, they'll have to go 4-2 down the stretch and make the Joe to feel secure for an at-large. Going .500 would give them the same RPI as Western has right now. Western is 16th and the PWR is an RPI correction scheme, so that would be a coin flip. Going 4-2 would keep their RPI where it is right now and probably keep them along the 3/4 borderline.
The schedule is relatively friendly: home series against OSU and Western followed by a trip to Northern. OSU and NMU are both 9-11-2 in the league, but OSU's performed much better OOC and Northern's lucky they haven't sunk well down the league standings with their –24(!) goal differential. Western is 9-5-8 and has +11 league goal differential, which is good but not in the class of Miami. If they can't go 4-2 in those six games and then beat a team like OSU or Northern at Yost in the second round of the playoffs they won't deserve to be in the tourney anyway.
Yes, pretty much. Daily's Florek with two haunting questions:
If it’s late in the game and the Wolverines are down and call a timeout to draw up a faceoff play, whose stick does the puck end up on? And who takes a penalty shot if Michigan coach Red Berenson could choose anyone on the team?
Florek says you thought about that for too long and settled on Hagelin, which is true, and not good, and it's sad that's not good because Carl Hagelin is awesome but he needs an evil goal scoring gremlin somewhere on his team. It really burns when Michigan is consistently going up against Miami's magic midgets. Those tiny magnificent bastards used to be ours.
OH GOD FLOREK STOP ASKING QUES—
When’s the last time, somebody, literally anybody, on the Michigan team scored on a breakaway?
Dude, I can top that with "what about a cross-ice pass?" If you don't count the first Treais goal from Friday, which had already been deflected into the net by a defenseman's skate before Treais yo-ho-hoed it, it's… um?
The 2012 recruiting year is about to get underway and we should hear new offers and junior days being scheduled sometime in the next week. You're probably asking yourself where we're at and who we're going to target.
This post attempts to answer that question. Jeff posted a look at the 2012 Hotlist for Offense the other day. There's some good content in there, and I believe he will have a defensive post soon. Without overlapping too much with that here's some quotes from recruits I've talked to and notes on others Michigan will go after. This isn't a full list, it's just who I've spoken to or believe will be targeted. More names will pop up.
Michigan will look for one quarterback in this class, and one in every class after it. I'm not sure if they will land an elite QB like Zeke Pike or Gunner Kiel but if not, there are some other good options out there.
Tyler O'Connor (6'3", 202 lbs, Lima Central Catholic/Ohio): Tyler already holds offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, and Northwestern and is starting to hear from Michigan as well.
I have those three offers, and Tennessee, Virginia, Clemson have shown interest. The Michigan offensive line coach came up and introduced himself a couple weeks ago.
You can watch Tyler's junior highlights here. Looks like he has a pretty strong arm and good accuracy. He'll continue to pick up offers; Michigan's interest will be clearer after a couple junior days.
Collin Michael (6'5", 200 lbs, Lexington/Ohio): Collin doesn't have any offers yet, but told me he has a lot of interest in Michigan.
I'm open to anyone right now, but mainly Big Ten schools. Both my parents and most of my family went to Purdue, so I grew up a fan of them. I'm definitely interested in Michigan, though.
All we have to do now is wait for him to commit to Purdue and it should only be a matter of weeks before we steal him away. Collin's highlights are available here.
Connor Brewer (6'2", 185 lbs, Chaparral/Arizona): Chaparral is the home of current Wolverines Taylor Lewan and Craig Roh. It's also the home of Jake Roh, Craig's younger brother. Chaparral head coach Charlie Ragle likes Michigan, and the new offense would fit Connor very well. West Coast schools seem like the early favorite but Connor is an outstanding quarterback and I'd like to see Michigan pursue him. Here are his highlights.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Cole Gautsche (Cole is a Michigan fan, grew up in Michigan until he was 14. He's hoping to hear from Michigan), Maty Mauk, Jeff Lindquist, Shane Dillon, Jameis Winston, Bart Houston, Gray Crow, Wes Lunt.
Tight end is a position of need in the 2012 class even though Michigan pulled in a late pick with Chris Barnett. They'll get at least one and probably two.
Taylor McNamara (6'5", 235 lbs, Westview/California): Taylor was previously high on Ohio State, but that interest has cooled from both sides it seems. Being from San Diego, McNamara knows the current staff and is hoping to hear more from them now at Michigan.
Ohio State I think has moved down on my list. I think now that Coach Hoke is at Michigan it helps them. I'd like to hear from Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oregon too.
Taylor was told by the coaches that they would recruit him heavily his senior year while they were at SDSU, so I don't see why that would change, especially since he already holds offers from Arizona, Cal, Florida State, Kentucky, and Stanford. His sophomore film can be viewed here.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Michigan will probably take 4 or 5 offensive linemen in the 2012 class after trying to take 4 or 5 in 2011 and coming up short.
Jordan Diamond (6'6", 290 lbs, Simeon/Illinois): Jordan is teammates with new Wolverine Chris Bryant and really likes Michigan himself. Don't be surprised if Jordan decides to take all his visits and then announces after his final visit. He may take officials, or just do unofficials and be done with it.
Either way Michigan is in his top group, and he was recently offered by Ohio State. I'll have an interview with him soon, and you can see his film here.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Josh Smith, Tyler Alt, Stephon McCray (from Cali but has family in Inkster), Ryan Anderson, Ben Braden, Marquise Walker (NTMW), Jake Notario, Chase Deback (really likes Michigan), Ryan Brodie, Shane Callahan, Sid Anvoots, Kyle Knapp, Greg Pyke, Jordan Simmons, Jonah Pirsig, Taylor Decker, Anthony Stanko.
Brady Hoke will make both lines a priority for this next class, and after getting just two defensive tackle prospects in the last three classes there's no spot on the roster more desperately in need of a talent infusion. Fortunately, there are some good local defensive tackles for him to target.
Danny O'Brien (6'3", 278 lbs, Powers/Michigan): Michigan and Tennessee are the early leaders with Danny, but I have a feeling that Tennessee is the leader overall. Michigan may have some ground to make up with O'Brien, and he's a can't miss prospect for Brady Hoke this year. A top ranked instate prospect at a position of need is someone that becomes a must get. We'll see how it plays out and what Danny decides once the real recruiting starts.
Jaleel Johnson (6'2", 277 lbs, St. Joseph's/Illinois): Jaleel has both interest in Michigan and a ton of potential. Michigan's new defensive coordinator could end up being a big selling point for Jaleel when all is said and done.
It would be an honor to receive an offer from Michigan. I'm hoping to hear from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Purdue right now. I really like the Ravens, so that definitely helped Michigan when they hired their defensive coordinator.
Wisconsin was the first to show interest in Jaleel so he said he became somewhat of a fan of the Badgers, but that's nothing that can't be overcome. He has a highlight video that includes him pancaking blockers on kick/punt returns.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Defensive end also has a lot of great talent in the Midwest. The biggest name for Michigan fans is Toledo Whitmer's Chris Wormley. The rumor is that Michigan currently leads for Chris. With Ohio State short on scholarships and Ohio in possession of multiple top-flight DEs, all signs point in their direction.
Alex Balducci (6'4", 250 lbs, Central Catholic/Oregon): Alex is a West Coast kid that is somewhat familiar with Hoke and staff from SDSU. He's also hoping to hear more from Michigan.
I like the tradition and history of Michigan. I haven't really had the experience of going around the country, but I don't know why I wouldn't consider one of the best programs in the history of college football. Coach Ferrigno was out to our school about two weeks ago. They want to see my film and go from there, it would be great to get an offer from Michigan.
Alex's dad was a high school coach, and power football was the type of game he liked. They often watched Big Ten film rather than Pac Ten due to that, so he's very familiar with Michigan's style of play.
Ifeadi Odenigbo (6'4", 210 lbs, Centerville/Ohio): Odenigbo is teammates with 2011 Ohio State commit Mike Bennett. Everyone has been assuming that Odenigbo will be an OSU lock, but he's not even sure himself that Ohio State will offer. They have already extended offers to a few other local defensive ends, and Odenigbo is definitely keeping his options open.
I will most likely make my decision in the summer. If I don't do it then I'll do it after my season and take official visits. I actually want to be a doctor like my mom, she's a pediatrician. We plan on taking some unofficial visits in the summer, we'll talk about the pros and cons of each school. What's nice about Michigan is that their coach is from Kettering, and I live five minutes from there.
If Ohio State doesn't offer I think Michigan has a really good chance. I still think they have a shot if OSU does offer, if they can get him on campus with his mother. Academics will be important here.
Odenigbo somewhat reminds me of Jermaine Cunningham coming out of high school. Cunningham played for Florida under Mattison in '08, weighed around 195 lbs coming out of high school and ended up with the Patriots. Their size and tape is similar.
Other names to keep an eye on:
We'll have a better idea of where Michigan stands with a lot of these recruits once the offers roll out and the coaches shift their focus froom their late scramble to fill the 2011 class. This is a good year for Brady Hoke to take over with all the local talent in the Midwest, but the challenge will be to close the deal on the top ranked kids.
Greg Mattison has proved he's a top notch recruiter, and from everything that we've heard Brady Hoke is the same. There is a definite opportunity for Michigan to finish with a top 15, top 10 class if they can get all the pieces they want.
(LONG … LEWAN)
Last October, in an effort to get a better handle on what our starting defense looked like compared to past defenses, I put together a depth chart-long “You Might Remember Our Starters from Such Players As…” comparison…thingy. At the time people requested a second version for the offense, but I figured what’s the point? The active period I was pulling YMRMFSPAs was ’96 to ’07, when the offense was substantially different that that of 2010.
Well now that’s changed, and other than talk about the Class of ’11 recruits (about which among the MGoTeam I’m the least qualified) we’re in a dead period where there’s not a lot to muse upon. On the other hand, finding comparisons among the DeBord/Malone band of Daves (Pearson, Baas, Petruziello) for a roster generated in three years of heavy Rodriguization is going to lead to some very non apple-y conclusions. I’m going to need some help in the comments for nominees before I put that together. For now, here’s a projected depth chart:
(Returning starters in bold, * means redshirt, all images courtesy of MGoBlue.com.)
|Quarterback||Tailback (Speed)||Tailback (Rage)||Fullback|
Denard Robinson (Jr)
Vincent Smith (Jr)
Stephen Hopkins (So)
John McColgan (Sr*)
|Devin Gardner (Fr*)||
or M. Shaw (Sr),
F. Toussaint (So*)
|Mike Cox (Jr*)||Joey Kerridge (Fr)|
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle|
Taylor Lewan (So*)
Ricky Barnum (Jr*)
David Molk (Sr*)
Patrick Omameh (Jr*)
Mark Huyge (Sr*)
|Mike Schofield (So*)||Rocko Khoury (Jr*)||Christian Pace (Fr*)||/||/|
Note on O-Line: The backup situation is anybody’s guess. This blogger’s guess is that Barnum replaces Schilling, but Khoury is in the mix as well. An injury to either tackle could mean Schofield replaces them or Omameh slides over and a guard moves in. Khoury is probably the first guy in at any guard or center position, and has been a center thus far, but I slid him over only so we could mention Pace.
|X||Y||Z (Slot)||Tight End|
Darryl Stonum (Sr)
Martavious Odoms (Sr)
Roy Roundtree (Jr*)
Kevin Koger (Sr)
|Junior Hemingway (Sr*)||Jeremy Jackson (So), et al.||JeRon Stokes (Jr)||Brandon Moore (Jr*)|
Note on Receivers: I wouldn’t know where to begin if I ran everybody here. Hemingway might as well be a starter too. I’m basing this off of the concept of the 2003-’07 three-wide offense but chances of this being the depth chart are slim. Left out are Kelvin Grady, Terrence Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, D.J. Williamson, Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, any of whom could play this year.
We’ll get to candidates in a moment. Before that, though, let’s just sit back and enjoy something here: this is the best-looking offensive depth chart we have seen since 2000. Better than 2007, since there aren’t any Mitchells, Ciullas, or freshman Borens and Schillings anywhere to be found. Not to sound too Jacksonian, but the best way to describe this depth chart is 2003, only faster.
…and a hell of a lot smaller.
This roster is pretty much the exact opposite of the 2010 defensive depth chart, and likewise the exact opposite of the 2008 offensive depth chart, and likewise the exact opposite that day your favorite pet died. There are longtime returning starters and upperclassmen who have played at a high level all over the place, from the stocked receiver corps to the junior quarterback who spent the first half of his first year starting as the presumptive Heisman frontrunner.
The Possibly Depressing Thing: Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee spent three years finding all of these round pegs to fit his offense’s round holes. The stupid but ultimately irrepressible meme of the 2008 offense was that Rich Rod was trying to play an offense that didn’t match the talent. That was true for the Loeffler-ish quarterbacks* but nobody else – we are talking about a team playing a total of one guy (Greg Mathews) at the same position he had occupied the previous year.
* That means Threet and Cone; I really don’t want to get into Mallett again here.
Let’s examine those round pegs, and the concerns they present:
The O-Line Are a Bunch of Zone Pansies
Borges says he plans to run an offense that best fits the talent on hand. On the other hand, Brady Hoke seems to favor man blocking over zone (a meme based mostly on a San Diego columnist that (the meme) makes user S.G. Rice go “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH”). Hoke’s disdain for the spread is probably overblown (and the suggestion he means to make us into Wisconsin even more so), but neither does anyone think he’s planning to run the spread ’n shred. Which means that to a degree, these players may have some edges exposed when they’re inserted into square-ier holes. That starts on the offensive line, where the last transition didn’t go so well.
The story of the 2008 offensive line was the coaching staff being so desperate to sit McAvoy they inserted a fall position switch DT at guard, and Angry Michigan Offensive Line Hating God parrying with successive injuries to Zirbel, Huyge, Schilling, Dorrestein, Molk, and several lawn chairs before Rodriguez/Magee/Frey finally cried uncle.
Brian said this in the 2008 preview when the position’s Angry Hating God was just getting underway:
“The line took a hit it could not afford to sustain when certain starter and once upon a time touted recruit Cory Zirbel went down with a knee injury, forcing either David Molk or hastily converted defensive lineman John Ferrara into the starting lineup. Michigan is now one injury away from serious issues indeed.”
…penned a ‘Decline and Fall’ declamation after just one game:
“Blame goes to Carr, who recruited so erratically, Andy Moeller, who was the line coach, Rodriguez, who has no family values, and whoever was identifying linemen to go after. To me this list goes “miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, Schilling maybe, miss, miss, miss, miss, guys Moeller couldn’t destroy.”
…and in the position’s post-mortem, gave a positive review to all of one guy on the entire unit: redshirt freshman David Molk. That’s the same David Molk who will be your 5th year senior, 4th year starting center this year. The other guy who showed promise on the field in ’08: Huyge, who four years later (and with no discernible regression) is projected to be either our worst offensive lineman, or backup to a hyped redshirt sophomore whose time has come.
Molk and Huyge were the first two guys recruited when Carr took us to zone blocking. Molk especially turned out to be great at using his agility to open up the Spread ‘n Shred. He has come a long way from the time Penn State linemen were picking him up and depositing him in the backfield. Huyge at tackle has been just a guy. To them have been added Omameh, who struggled inside at times as a redshirt sophomore but has a true knack for knocking defenders’ heads together on the 2nd level; and Taylor Lewan, now entering his (RS) sophomore season, who claims to be a clone of Jake Long and just might be. Ricky Barnum, who saw some playing time last year, is probably the guy who most looks like a typical Hoke blocker, but his recruiting pedigree said agility. The staff kept after Rod’s similar recruits. Guys, I don’t think this is becoming the Wisconsin line, or at least it isn’t this year.
The Wisconsin game last year might be instructive, since RR ran a more “nose to nose” blocking. If you’ve suppressed that game from memory, here’s how the blocking turned out:
|Huyge||2.5||0||2.5||Run game seemed to tilt the other way.|
|Molk||7||1||6||No reaches but some good blocks otherwise.|
|Omameh||10.5||3||7.5||Surprisingly the focus of the run game. Executed a lot of grinding double teams.|
|Koger||2||2||0||Also the usual.|
|TOTAL||33.5||23||20.5||Solid blocking day.|
You can open your eyes now. Look up…yeah, see? “Solid blocking day.” The worst guy was Dorrestein, who’s now gone. Lewan didn’t play, and this we said was bad. Note Omameh’s “executed a lot of grinding double teams” and Molk’s “7-1-6” day without any of his signature reaches.
Denard Isn’t Built for This Offense
The tea leaves (important: at this point all we have to go on is tea leaves, which are nearer in predictive accuracy to banana peels than facts) suggest the plan to deploy Denard is something between Frank Beamer’s use of Michael Vick, and “run around and stuff.” The upside might be something akin to 2006 Ohio State, when diminutive Troy Smith won the Heisman on lucky, back-shoulder tosses to guys better than Junior Hemingway but not that much better. Among the weaker points in Denard’s game:
- Accuracy? I went back to the formula I used for Data-Mining the HenneChart, an early 2009 “Wow Tate” piece that might give some perspective. I didn’t want to go over the whole thing again, but I plugged Denard’s 2010 season through Wisconsin (last game UFR-ed) and tried to pull some useful things out of it. Results:
Per 100 Attempts:
|Quarterback (Year)||Dead-On||Catchable||Marginal||Incomplete||Bad Read|
Sorry I didn’t include 2009 – I only have partial info for that. The star is because Brian didn’t chart marginals before 2008. The thing to notice is that out of 100 throws, the Incompletes for Denard were really low – closer to Henne’s best year. Those are given out for winging uncatchable passes. Also the bad reads are spectacularly low, almost as good as Henne’s senior year. At this point, however, you are screaming at me because “threw two steps behind his receivers in end-zone to cue Day of the Jugalos.” From that UFR:
That success rate has to be wrong.
It's not wrong, it just doesn't weight passes based on how damaging the particular inaccurate ball is. Against MSU, Denard threw the following balls not to his receiver:
- Endzone interception #1 on route Roundtree had two steps on. [Zero points]
- Wide open Stonum on fly route about 20 yards downfield that's airmailed. [Three points]
- Hitch to Odoms on second and nine from the 11 that would have been first and goal. [Zero points]
- Endzone interception #2 on slant that Hemingway was open on. [Zero points]
- Covered slant zinged over Grady [Zero points]
- Bubble too far in front of Roundtree. [Seven points]
- Other interception on route where Grady had plenty of room to the inside of the field but the ball was way, way too far outside, allowing sinking corner to react and intercept. [Zero points]
How big of a deal is it to throw a bubble screen a step in front of a receiver? One unit of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw a makeable 20 yard touchdown over someone's head on third and three? Two, three units of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw endzone interceptions when you have open receivers? Five units of big deal.
The reason the rate is the rate is because a bad pass is a bad pass; in reviewing a performance we're trying to strip out the emotion from the game and use it as a predictive measure. If Robinson had thrown those balls out of the endzone instead of behind the receivers Michigan would have had maybe seven more points but the QB play would have been equivalent.
- So continuing with this bullet, there isn’t evidence that Denard is inaccurate. On the contrary, he’s among the most accurate passers we have had in the UFR era. I would suggest that fear of Denard’s legs make his reads a lot easier, but then again, they’re his legs. When I run the rest of the metrics from ‘Data-Mining’ Denard jumps out as Michigan’s best passing quarterback by far, with attempts comparable to a full Henne year. That threat isn’t taken away unless Borges trains him to sit in the pocket with timer like Henne – and no, he’s not going to do that.
- Scrambling. Through Wisconsin Denard had four charted scrambles. Most of the time he kept the play alive and looked downfield. Often this led to bouts of, to paraphrase something I’m sure Brian wrote, “Run! Run! Run Damn You!” [Faerie Magic] “YAY!” It’s hard to complain too much when this ends with Junior Hemingway dipsying around four Illinois defenders at the sideline for an unlikely touchdown, but maddening nonetheless. Perhaps if he’s not counted on to run the ball as much, plus with another year of experience, Denard will take greater advantage of his speed when the holes are there.
- Size. Yes. I ended up talking myself out of the first two pretty handily but that ends here. This is Denard’s problem, and it will be more of Denard’s problem in a West Coast offense, because he starts his sidearm-y throws a good foot below where the tropospheric statues of yore released the ball. This is why passes zinged over wide open Stonum 20 yards downfield when pressure broke through. It’s also probably why Robinson’s dilithium seemed to get diluted later in the year, as his small frame took pounding after pounding. He’s a tough sonofabitch, but also took a lot of shots to his throwing shoulder from other tough sonsofbitches.
The Receivers Are Too Small
A few years ago, I suggested Rodriguez’s secret plot to develop a vertical game. A lot of attrition followed, but then were replaced by plenty of targets, meaning whatever Rich Rod was up to, he didn’t just stock the cupboard, but filled an entire larder. The concern, of course, is that he stocked it with lots of smurfs on jetpacks, or slot ninjas, or midgets on rollerskates, or pick your trochee-containing metaphor. Let me show you something:
The right side is Michigan’s projected 2011 depth chart:
As for the left side, it’s the Top 13 receivers in FCS last year by total yards:
|6'1||207||Greg Salas, Hawaii|
|6'1||205||Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.|
|5'11||183||Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma|
|6'4||233||Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina|
|6'1||215||Jordan White, Western Mich.|
|6'0||195||Vincent Brown, San Diego St.|
|5'11||205||Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii|
|5'10||178||Aldrick Robinson, SMU|
|6'4||210||Juron Criner, Arizona|
|6'2||205||DeMarco Sampson, San Diego St.|
|5'11||170||Titus Young, Boise St.|
|6'3||205||Leonard Hankerson, Miami (FL)|
|5'10||186||Cody Wilson, Central Mich.|
They’re a bit bigger and taller than our depth chart, especially as you get lower, but remember most of them are upperclassmen, and they were the most productive receivers in the game – our freshmen and their 2010 weights shouldn’t even be that close. And in case you’re wondering if these guys are the results of wily Air Raid systems, two I’ve highlighted played for Brady Hoke and Al Borges at S.D. State last year, and might as well have been less heralded versions of Stonum and Hemingway (except smaller, and not as fast, and against WAC corners).
The tall guys like Jackson, Ricardo Miller and Hemingway should do just fine. As for the tweeners -Stonum, Roundtree, Stokes, D.J. Williamson and J.Robinson – they’re certainly within the size range of successful NCAA receivers at any school.
Among our roster players, only the bugs recruited for slot ninja will lose some value because they “don’t fit the scheme.” That means Gallon, Dileo, Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson won’t be as effective in an offense not designed to get them in space, unless, say Gallon, can become the kind of deep threat that forces corners into giving ground for the West Coast’s beloved stop and out routes (Grady and Robinson probably are what they are now). Odoms could be in that group too, but his effectiveness last year as an outside receiver makes me think he can thrive as that rare small guy (obvious analogue not mentioned due to Ohio State connection) in a red light/green light possession role – his downfield blocking is an unquestionable asset.
All told, this looks like a great offense no matter the scheme. Obviously they’re used to the spread ’n shred, but it’s not like taking Northwestern and suddenly asking them to play Bielema Ball. This is the opposite of 2008: If they can’t score next year, it’s on the coaching staff.
The good folks are still coming out of their holes after the site attack: there are four over the last two weeks and they’re all still on the sidebar, and as I’m writing this I’ve already missed most of a half of the Superbowl. Read all of them. I’m going to roll those into the next one for “of the week” purposes.
See You in Washington, Mr. President.
Congratulations on your Superbowl ring, Heisman Winner, Champion, Wolverine.
New Michigan commit(s), and this bad boy hits the front page. It was a hectic Signing Day in the Big Ten, so all the action won't be listed here. Last rankings. Barring any unforeseen developments, this will be the last set of rankings for the 2011 class. New rankings:
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn 1 star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45, except JuCo players, who aren't included in the average).
|#1 Ohio State - 24 Commits|
Ohio State takes the recruiting crown with a good-sized cass of quality players. They're slightly behind Notre Dame in ESPN average, but a big part of that is having a long snapper commit. It sounds like OH OL Chris Carter will sign with Ohio State after all, so I've left him in the chart.
|#2 Notre Dame - 23 Commits|
|George Atkinson III||S||CA||5.8||3||79|
The Irish picked up Troy Niklas on Signing Day.
|#3 Nebraska - 19 Commits|
The Huskers' class is a small-ish but solid one. A couple of their signees might play minor league baseball instead of enrolling at school.
|#4 Michigan State - 21 Commits|
Michigan State's class is high-variance, with a couple highly rated guys (though 5 stars for Lawrence Thomas is an exaggeration for sure), and some low-end guys as well. I have Sparty just a hair ahead of their in-state rivals, and the extra commit for MSU was the tiebreaker.
|#5 Michigan - 20 Commits|
Wolverines picked up a few new commits, including a big time tight end in Chris Barnett. However, they also missed on a couple prospects of need in MI OL Jake Fisher (Oregon) and MD DT Darian Cooper (Iowa).
|#6 Iowa - 23 Commits|
Iowa dropped a couple commits and picked up a couple new ones on Signing Day. The headliner among newcomers is MD DT Darian Cooper.
|#7 Wisconsin - 20 Commits|
An okay class for Wisconsin, but nothing special. [Ed-M: Hello, I'm Wisconsin.] As usual, success in Madison will be based upon developing the 3-star types.
|#8 Penn State - 16 Commits|
A small class for the Nittany Lions. It's got a couple top-end guys, but top-to-bottom is just okay.
|#9 Illinois - 27 Commits|
An enormous class for Ron Zook. Can quantity trump quality and help Zook win enough games to stick around another couple years?
|#10 Northwestern - 17 Commits|
Northwestern has their traditional small recruiting class. They're likely to redshirt most of these guys, and focus on development in the system.
|#11 Minnesota - 22 Commits|
I am wholly unimpressed by Minnesota's recruiting class, a hybrid of Tim Brewster and Jerry Kill. They have more JuCo guys than any other school, and a number of guys they have to hope pan out as sleepers. Note former Wolverine Tim McAvoy's brothers are bound for Minneapolis.
|#12 Indiana - 21 Commits|
Indiana loads up on the lines on Signing Day.
|#13 Purdue - 15 Commits|
No sugarcoat, this is a terrible recruiting class. It could spell the beginning of the end for Danny Hope.
[Ed-M: Edited and front-paged for great content.]
Now that National Signing Day 2011 has finally come to a close, the Michigan coaches have been reviewing film and sending out offers to 2012 prospects. As mentioned many times before, the 2012 class is extremely strong in the midwest, including Michigan and Ohio, as well as Illinois and Indiana as well.
Here are some local and regional prospects to look out for, on offense.
Note: Sorry for the massive wall of text as well.
QB Gunner Kiel – 6'4, 220 lbs, Columbus, Indiana.
With Michigan’s move to a more pro-style offense Kiel becomes an even more important prospect. Kiel was offered by the previous staff as well, and he has some mobility (600 yards rushing) to go with his big-time arm (2,700 yards passing). However, Kiel is an Notre Dame legacy recruit, and he’s also been offered by Alabama, Cincinnati, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Purdue, TCU, and Tennessee among others.
QB Robert Gregory – 6'3, 180 lbs, Chicago, Illinois.
Gregory is the teammate of 2011 signee Chris Bryant and 2012-super OL Jordan Diamond. Though Simeon ran a spread offense, Gregory possesses very good arm strength and could develop into a solid pocket passer. There are rumors out there that schools are looking at Gregory as an athlete, but he is only interested in playing quarterback. An interesting note as well, as Gregory recently said in an interview he and Jordan Diamond would be attending the same school.
RB William Mahone – 5'10, 200 lbs, Austintown, Ohio.
There is some serious talent at running back in the state of Ohio next year, and Ohio State has already locked down two studs in Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn. Michigan’s coaches are looking for another big-time back, and Mahone visited the campus twice last year, so there is mutual interest in both parts. Other offers: Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Miami (NTM)
RB Juwan Lewis – 5'11, 200 lbs, Muskegon, Michigan.
Many of you Michigan west-coasters will recognize the name, as Lewis starred on a very good Muskegon Big Red football team this year. Interestingly enough, Lewis played fullback in Muskegon’s shotgun/pistol offense. Like Mahone, Lewis has good size, but deceptively good speed as well. Lewis camped at Michigan last year, and is very interested in the Wolverines. Offers: None
Burbridge was one of the stars on a 14-0 Harrison squad that captured the state title this year. An excellent athlete, Burbridge played RB, WR, CB, and KR and excelled everywhere, though he will be a receiver at the next level. He reminds many of fellow Harrison alumni Mark Dell, and it is rumored Burbridge is very close to Dell as well. That is not true. Michigan State has offered and appear to be the early leader for this top 10 player in the state next year [Ed-M: Farmington Hills Harrison (Drew Stanton, Agim Shabaj) was a Michigan State feeder in my day, but haven't produced a Spartan since Dell; M got Charles Stewart from there] , but there is no doubt he will be interested in Michigan.
WR Amara Darboh – 6'2, 190lbs, West Des Moines, Iowa.
A big athlete with great speed, Darboh has the ability to stretch the field vertically and is very dangerous in space as well. Darboh will likely be the #1 player in Iowa, and that may not mean much but he is a very talented player. He has yet to narrow down his list, but if Michigan offers I fully expect Darboh to visit in the fall. Other offers: Iowa, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin.
WR Stefon Diggs – 6'0, 175 lbs – Olney, Maryland.
Diggs is the teammate of 2011 signee Blake Countess. While he doesn’t possess great size, Diggs does have blazing speed and great hands to boot. He’s a crisp route runner and has dominated every camp he has shown up at. Diggs, along with Dorial Beckham-Green, will likely challenge for the top receiver spot in the nation in 2011. Just a few weeks ago Diggs said he was interested in Michigan, with Countess signing with the Wolverines. I don’t expect Michigan to land him, but there it is good to see interest there. Other offers: Cal, Florida, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (YTM), Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Pitt
TE Sam Grant – 6'6, 230 lbs, North Royalton, Ohio.
Grant only caught 16 passes last season, but that’s because St. Edwards ran a primarily run-based offense. Grant has already tripped to Ohio State and Michigan State, and he will be a premium talent at the next level. With Michigan looking for more Tight Ends in their offense, look for them to get Grant up on campus soon. Other offers: Toledo
Athlete Drake Johnson – 6’1, 205 lbs, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Johnson is a very talented athlete at Ann Arbor Pioneer, who played running back this season and excelled as a national track runner as well. In college Johnson’s career may take a number of possible routes, as he could play running back, wide receiver, or even linebacker. Being right across the street from the Big House, I expect Johnson to be very well-scouted by the Michigan staff and definitely a possibility for an offer down the road.
As for offensive linemen, I haven’t spent enough time looking at all the film, but there are a lot of talented linemen in the Midwest this year. It’s not quite as talented as the past, but there is much better quality throughout the area. I fully expect Michigan to stock up on at least 3-4, maybe 4-5 this recruiting cycle. Along with Jordan Diamond, whom we’ve known about for a while, here are names to watch.
OG Kelby Latta, 6'4, 295 lbs, Battle Creek, Michigan.
OT JJ Denman, 6'6, 305 lb, Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.
OT Jake Meador, 6'6, 280 lbs, Whiteland, Indiana.
OG Caleb Stacey, 6'4, 275 lbs, Cincinnati, Ohio.
OT Ben Bradem 6'6, 285 lbs, Rockford, Michigan.