...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
New commits for Michigan and it's time to hit the front page. Action since last rankings:
12-13-10 Michigan gains commitment from Desmond Morgan. Minnesota loses commitment from Matt LaCosse, Illinois gains commitment from Matt LaCosse. Illinois gains commitment from Nick North. Indiana loses commitment from Nick VanHoose, Northwestern gains commitment from Nick VanHoose.
12-14-10 Minnesota loses commitment from Marquise Vann. Northwestern gains commitment from CJ Robbins.
12-15-10 Illinois gains commitment from Patrick Flavin. Iowa gains commitment from Dan Heiar. Purdue gains commitment from Sterling Carter. Minnesota gains commitment from Foster Bush.
12-16-10 Michigan State loses commitment from Mika'il McCall. Nebraska gains commitment from Darien Bryant.
12-17-10 Illinois gains commitment from Jeremy Whitlow. Michigan gains commitment from Blake Countess. Wisconsin loses commitment from Trayion Durham. Ohio State gains commitment from Ryan Shazier.
12-18-10 Nebraska loses commitment from Darien Bryant. Minnesota gains commitment from Josh Campion.
12-19-10 Iowa gains commitments from Jacob Hillyer, Rodney Coe, and Mika'il McCall.
|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).
Full data after the jump.
I hope your monitor likes cyan…
I've never been much for criticizing someone else's taste in art. It's a fact of life that some people (my wife) will think a Chagall* is perfect where another person would have a motivational poster or, I dunno, someone's copy of the cover of the Michigan Daily from early January, 1998. Who am I to judge?
Of course, people can come to a general consensus on some art based on a particular work's evocation, effort, insight, execution, etc. For example, 90 percent of Big Ten fans who bothered to approach Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany this week think this is bad art:
And apparently, the commish is listening:
"I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating," Delany said during the interview. "But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising."
Six Zero, official MGoArtist, chimed in with a professional perspective on logo creation, stressing there's a lot more that goes into a logo design than creating something that looks good on a blog. Like writing all the documentation that goes with it, and various formatting options, and vectoring. Suffice to say, your version of Paint probably isn't powerful enough to design the next official Big Ten logo, let alone the accompanying paperwork:
For example, the UM sports department probably issued a new brief last year telling everyone NOT to use the block M with 'MICHIGAN' through the middle, and not to use the one with the blue stroke, and instead use only the single color block M. It might also say you cannot add to the mark, rotate the mark, use different typography for the mark, etc etc. All of this has to be prepared, developed, and considered so that no handling or manipulation of the logo is open to interpretation.
Here's the available literature on Michigan's logo and use. It's enough to fill a small Web site, but it's really not so much that a savvy marketing student couldn't hammer out over a Christmas Break. From Six's description, the image side doesn't seem impossible for someone with the right Photoshop/GiMP/Inkscape plugins. His point, however, is well taken: the difference between putting up a cool-looking logo on MGoBlog and designing the Big Ten's logo is the difference between coming up with the name/logo/jersey design for the H.R.M. Jack Tars ("Halifax Jacks" for short) and starting a hockey team in Nova Scotia.
Of course, none of this excuses the sad and obvious lack of effort and creativity that went into the artwork itself.
On the other end of the spectrum, 99.9 percent of MGoBlog readers who have read more than one recruiting article since coming to this site agree that this is spectacular art:
Michigan's first battery powered defensive backfield recruit is welcomed by UMAmaizinBlue, who wrote an entire "Hello:" post for this guy, including guru rankings, the Scout screenshot above, offers, high school stats, fake 40 time, and Video? Video!!! Just put this thing on Lock-Down mode and watch all of your metaphors come true:
"His hips are always on a swivel: no seriously, his hips are welded to a swivel. As a result, Michigan Robot can allow his body to follow a tackle through to completion even if he doesn't get the initial stop on first contact, which never happens, so disregard that. How is this guy even legally eligible to play against humans?"
If you made it this far without clicking any of the above links to this excellent diary, my advice is click. This is what good art looks like: well thought out, satirical, pointed, and brilliantly executed. This is your Diarist of the Week.
And speaking of high art, y'all are gonna have a cow…
…for your weekly monuMental wallpaper. If you're heading south this New Year's, your standard MSU (YTMSU) jokes still apply.
* To be perfectly honest, I love the Chagall.
Oh Right, We Have Another Football Game!
As such, we continue with our regularly scheduled obsessing over Michigan's next football opponent. Obsessed Guy Number One, please step forward…
BlueSeoul: (waves) Hello.
Obsessed Guy Number One is a Wolverine-American wordslinger from Dictionopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom, who enjoys watching Mississippi State's 2010 entire season and then shooting off game notes in bullets, to varying degrees of graphicality (yes, Windows Live Writer spellchecker, I made that word up). The barrage continues this week with Alcorn State (with pics), Florida, Alabama-Birmingham, and Alabama.
Thank you, Obsessed Guy Number One. Obsessed Guy Number Two, please step out here…
Enjoy Life: (thumbs up). Glad to be back.
Obsessed Guy Number Two is a maize and blue number cruncher from Digitopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom. By this I mean he likes to take numbers and crunch them down so that hundreds of digits will fit in a diary-width graph:
A satisfying, tasty, mint-berry crunch.
EJ's weekly rundown of college football's sabermetrics predicts Miss St. a 5-point favorite. It's inspiring work, as it inspired this next guy too. Obsessed Guy Number Three, come on down…
Misopogon's bolded subconscious: Free Mo! Free Mo! Free Mo!
Miss St. Preview, and Bowl Watchability Index Using FEI
Cheating at my (ESPN confidence) office bowl game pool.*
Calculating how to maximize my enjoyment of Misopogal's 2.4 football games per week limit before asking why I spend so much time watching football in the bedroom instead of Real Housewives shows with her.
Then I realized the stats lend themselves very well toward predicting what the Miss St. game will look like as compared to other FBS Michigan opponents from 2010.
First, the Watchability Index revisited. I compared each bowl by three metrics of things I think make for a fun bowl-watching experience:
COMP: Competitive (how close are the opponents in FEI?)
PERF: Quality of opponents (total FEI of opponents combined)
OFF: Lots of offense (each team's OFEI plus opponent's DFEI combined)
Google spreadsheet lives here. You can mentally add a 4th for Big Ten games and a 5th for stupid names (Chick-fil-A is a stupid name). I'm trying to make this universal. The numbers are percentiles, a 0 to 100 scale, so high is always better. The results:
|Peach||South Carolina vs. Florida State||94.3||71.6||90.4||85.5|
|Orange||Virginia Tech vs. Stanford||64.6||93.3||97.6||85.1|
|BCS Championship||Auburn vs. Oregon||76.7||100.0||70.5||82.4|
|Sugar||Arkansas vs. Ohio State||60.7||87.1||92.4||80.1|
|Rose||Wisconsin vs. TCU||63.0||80.2||88.0||77.1|
|Independence||Air Force vs. Georgia Tech||89.9||39.4||89.2||72.8|
|Hawaii||Hawaii vs. Tulsa||84.7||30.3||97.2||70.7|
|Gator||Mississippi State vs. Michigan||83.4||48.1||79.3||70.3|
|BBVA Compass||Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky||80.0||56.6||68.5||68.4|
|Liberty||Georgia vs. Central Florida||65.6||50.8||87.6||68.0|
|Pinstripe||Syracuse vs. Kansas State||61.0||41.2||100.0||67.4|
|Capital One||Alabama vs. Michigan State||62.3||78.6||57.8||66.2|
|Dallas||Texas Tech vs. Northwestern||72.4||25.0||98.8||65.4|
|Insight||Missouri vs. Iowa||34.2||73.0||86.5||64.6|
|Alamo||Oklahoma State vs. Arizona||77.4||58.3||55.8||63.8|
|Poinsetta||Navy vs. San Diego State||83.7||49.0||53.4||62.0|
|Armed Forces||Army vs. SMU||66.3||25.2||93.2||61.6|
|Champs Sports||West Virginia vs. North Carolina State||13.4||75.0||94.0||60.8|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Nevada vs. Boston College||56.1||46.9||72.5||58.5|
|Military||Maryland vs. East Carolina||100.0||40.7||33.9||58.2|
|Cotton||LSU vs. Texas A&M||28.4||74.2||68.1||56.9|
|St. Petersburg||Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi||57.9||43.5||64.9||55.4|
|Sun||Miami vs. Notre Dame||29.6||63.8||72.5||55.3|
|New Orleans||Troy vs. Ohio||52.3||17.4||91.2||53.6|
|Outback||Florida vs. Penn State||39.5||42.2||76.5||52.8|
|Texas||Illinois vs. Baylor||75.9||37.6||44.6||52.7|
|Humanitarian||Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State||69.6||31.4||52.2||51.1|
|Meineke Car||Clemson vs. South Florida||0.0||56.5||82.5||46.3|
|Music City||North Carolina vs. Tennessee||49.3||40.6||48.6||46.2|
|Las Vegas||Boise State vs. Utah||43.6||60.9||32.3||45.6|
|New Mexico||BYU vs. UTEP||56.3||9.9||70.1||45.4|
|Fiesta||Oklahoma vs. Connecticut||33.7||63.4||27.1||41.4|
|Little Caesars||Florida International vs. Toledo||58.5||16.0||45.8||40.1|
|GoDaddy .com||Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)||25.6||0.0||76.9||34.2|
|Holiday||Nebraska vs. Washington||46.8||48.7||0.0||31.8|
Changes from previous: we look a lot more competitive when you put it that way. There's a lot of bowls with good matchups but our matchup is much closer to Arkansas/Ohio State than Alabama/Michigan State in how confident you should be of the outcome. On the other hand, the teams are decidedly middling.
The big question on my mind is where Miss. St. falls among our other opponents this year. So I did that too. I pulled comparisons of each opponent's O versus our D, their D versus our O, and their total efficiency versus ours. Field Position and Field Goals are there too. FCS opponents are removed. The results are all zero-ed at Michigan's numbers, so negative means we're better than them at this, and positive means they're that much better than us at it:
DFEI v M
|4||Bowling Green||no bowl||103||-0.200||-0.089||-0.931||0.042||0.094|
|6||Michigan State||Capital One||22||0.104||0.597||-0.290||0.006||1.739|
Wow does this ever tell the story of this year: our offense is better than any defense we faced, sometimes murderously so; our defense was worse than any offense we faced except for a MACrifice and a Purdue team whose plan for the Michigan game was to use their 3rd string running back with a gimp leg at QB and have him pass to the quarterback with a broken hand except then the RB/QB guy got injured on the first play. Field position was terrible except against…Indiana? And we never met a team who was a tenth as bad at kicking field goals as we are.
So in Total FEI, Mississippi State is a slightly better Illinois, and marginally behind Notre Dame:
Both games on either side of MSU were very close wins. We have one loss on a terrible performance below it, and other than ND no wins above it. Michigan is actually in an FEI virtual tie with BCS-by-segfault UConn (fact: Rich Rod teams would dominate in the Big East), so beating ND and Illinois were both reaches for us. But this thing is winnable.
MSU Offense vs. Michigan's Defense:
This is good news. Their offense is going to be among the worst we've faced, slightly below Penn State's half-McGloin/half-disaster total. If you look at the first chart with all the OFEI versus our DFEI, you can see this still makes their offense better than our defense (only BG and Purdue could be counted on to shoot themselves in the foot). If anything, this number is probably low for Miss St., since their offense relies heavily on a mooseback quarterback and the SEC West is the home of large and ponderous front sevens who depress the efficacy of moosebacks. Still, this is not Wisconsin's attack, nor the MSU/OSU slow murder. Maybe bump them up mentally to Illinois, but no further.
MSU Defense vs. Michigan's Offense:
The story of our defense is told above. Some teams we could simply run all over. Some gave us a few fits. Some were actually capable of stopping us. MSU is very much in the latter:
After Ohio State, this is the most efficient defense we've faced, according to FEI. They're not Ohio State, but rather indistinguishable from Iowa and Michigan State, two teams who ostensibly looked good against Michigan. Except, really, we were fine at moving the ball against those guys as they played bend-don't-break against us until we got to the red zone and inevitably threw an interception or Lewan got flagged for a false start or something. Forcier shredded Iowa in the just-short comeback. And neither of those defenses should be anything like what Mississippi State throws at us. As Brian's been pointing out, MSU is a blitz-happy squad, whereas MSU and Iowa defended against Denard by sitting back and trusting their linebackers and DEs to contain Denard. The blitziest opponent we faced this year has to be Notre Dame, but then they had the most success against our offense when the Irish stopped blitzing and went to a disguised 4-man front. This is as bad a matchup for MSU's defense as our defense is for their spread-n-moose offense. I expect them to look more like Notre Dame; if they stick to what they do best and send blitzers against Denard the whoop-master, well, good luck with that.
This doesn't get its own chart, but it's kind of encouraging in a kind of we've been to hell so what's Guantanamo kind of way. Little Miss State over here is in the Penn State/Iowa/Illinois field position range of better-than-M-but-so-is-everybody-else. HOWEVEA, in field goals they're the worst team we've faced since Bowling Green (who was using our old kickoff specialist. In kicking competence, they're probably good for 3 more points this game than Michigan will get.
* Guess what, readers from my office: I updated my picks after the latest FEI rankings came out, so if you're using my own table to beat me, yours was made with old data. Also, what's with like four people naming their entries some form of "I want Harbaugh"?
Other Adventures in the Tollbooth World
As we travel through the country of Wisdom, this week witnessed some great analytical work on dogging questions from the Rich Rod era and college football in general.
Is There a Barwis Effect?
You will come here. You will be destroyed. You will be rebuilt. You will be Barwisized. User bonobojones did the single most interesting thing yet with those weight stats that we have in plenty but are hard to glean any useful information from beyond "look how much the hog-mollies weigh at Wisconsin." This highly intelligent primate, who is unfairly hard on himself for something so interesting, takes three years of team weights and discovers there is a Barwis effect of losing bad weight and gaining good weight demonstrated in our players' progressions. Players tend to lose weight or gain it marginally from freshman to sophomore years, then gain quickly as upperclassmen. This was especially true, it seems, on defense. It's not nearly enough data to support a conclusion, but he offers one for the sake of argument:
Looking at the large changes taking place with OL, DL, and LB, it's obvious that these players should not be playing young. Or at least we should not be judging them so much based on performance in their first couple of years.
With over 100 comments, the argument has been healthy.
Does Time of Possession Mean Better Defense?
SmithersJoe came in with a graph-heavy breakdown of time of possession and how it relates to defensive efficiency (again, using Fremeau). In an addendum, he tried again to find a correlation in number of offensive possessions and defensive efficiency, to see if the style of offense has an effect. In both: not statistically significant:
What this says to me is that there are too many variables that influence how a defense performs; one cannot boil it down to a simple thing like Time of Possession (or experience on a depth chart, for that matter). All of those factors may play a part, but no one individual factor is significantly correlated to a team’s performance on defense. Football is just too complex to boil down into simplistic truisms.
Is Experience Necessary for Good Play?
The post linked in the above quote is that from ebv this week which takes a fresh look at experience independent from talent to see if gross years on a team make a big difference for how a defense or offense performs. The results: again, not statistically significant.
Translation: if this mattered a lot, the dots should look kind of like they're bunching around an imaginary line that angles from lower-left to upper-right. Rather, it's just…spotty. The other thing spotty about this: the blue crosshairs that represent Michigan show us to be an above-average team in experience. Wait…what?
Is it possible that we need more variables to make sense of this data? (Any stat experts know whether you can underestimate an effect by having too few variables?) It’s also possible that an interaction between several variables might provide a good explanation for our data; for example we might need experience, NFL-worthy talent and great coaching to produce an elite defense, but none of the three alone will do it.
Or it could be the obvious: you're giving as much credit to a team starting Adam Patterson and Courtney Avery (=2.5) as one starting two 5-stars, one a junior and another a sophomore, both whom started the year previous. But keep checking in on ebv's work here, because it sounds like he's building a good database that will yield some results once stuff like this is accounted for. My feeling is you need to judge performance versus expectation (based on Rivals Rating). You can pretty simply total up the recruiting average (dropping the lowest 25 percent of results from each class?) for each unit and compare that with FEI. Then see how much the difference between RR and FEI correlates to academic year.
Till next week, folks, stay out of the Doldroms.
Rich Rodriguez met with the press prior to practice today, discussing preparations for the Gator Bowl. I'll update with video when it's ready to go. For the record, I saw two recruits of note at the practice - 2011 MI CB Raymon Taylor and 2012 MI LB Hunter Matt. Justice Hayes tweeted that he would be there, but he must have arrived after I left for the basketball game.
The guys who are out for the whole season (Martavious Odoms, Mike Jones, et al) aren't going to play in the bowl game. Some of them are practicing with limited contact though. Devin Gardner will seek a medical redshirt, and that process will begin immediately following the bowl game. Tae Odoms got injured too late in the year to apply for a medical redshirt.
Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway, and Denard Robinson should all be fully healthy. Je'Ron Stokes is close, though he didn't practice with full contact today. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, and (are you sitting down?) Fitzgerald Toussaint [Ed-M: Now pitching for Detroit, Joel Zumaya...] are all healthy.
The kicking game is still being worked out. The competition is between Brendan Gibbons, Seth Broekhuizen, and Kris Pauloski. It's hard to evaluate them, because "they kick like champions in here." Indoors, they haven't had any trouble. Hopefully, they'll practice outside once in Ann Arbor before traveling to Jacksonville.
Grades won't be posted until about Christmas. The staff doesn't know yet if any players will miss the bowl game due to academic issues, but they don't anticipate that anyone will have trouble. "I think guys are working hard at it. I expect a really good semester academically."
The team has been mostly having a spring practice-type practice schedule. They've focused a little bit on Mississippi State, but they'll mostly worry about that once they get to Florida. With the game on a Saturday, they should have a normal game week schedule in Jacksonville.
Today was a physical practice with full tackling. The guys need to get a chance to have some physical play in the long layoff.
The team has practice the morning of the 22nd, then players go home for Christmas. On the 26th, the team will fly charter down to Jacksonville. Some players will join the team down there instead of coming back to Ann Arbor first. There's a practice the afternoon of the 26th.
Rich's staff evaluations will come after the bowl game. He is always evaluating coordinators and position coaches, offering suggestions, etc.
The Will Campbell/Quinton Washington swap will stick as a permanent change.
Coach Rod had a few chances to watch Mississippi State during the season. "Watching how aggressive their defense is, they bring a lot of different pressures, they're very aggressive, blitzing-wise, very athletic defensively. Offensively, they're similar to us in some respects. They'll probably run in between the tackles more because they've got a bigger quarterback."
The Bulldogs played well much of the year, and impressed in their wins, but also some of their losses. "They probably did the best job of anybody all year against Cam Newton and Auburn. I think by far they did the best job defensively against him."
Everybody's spread is a little bit different, but it's possible to learn what Mississippi State might do against Denard by seeing what they did against Cam Newton. There's been a lot of time for the team to prepare some new things, however.
Jeremy Gallon is simulating Chris Relf in practice. "He's a good runner; they have a good runner at quarterback."
After practice ended today, the assistant coaches hit the road recruiting. The contact period ends after the weekend, and the staff has done a good job balancing bowl preparation with recruiting. There should be 19-20 recruits in the class. It's "a little bit of a fluid situation," but Rich expects 2-4 recruits to enroll early.
The staff combats negative recruiting about their job status by focusing on their relationships with the recruits. "They feel comfortable with our coaches and what we're telling them, and obviously the school."
"You don't know until the first Wednesday in February exactly what your class is gonna entail, and you probably don't really know for another year or two how that class is gonna turn out." There's too much focus in the media on recruiting classes before we know how good the players will be in college."
Denard's "legs seem fresher." He also had a lingering shoulder problem later in the year, and "I think his arm feels a lot better as well."
Since many of Michigan's players haven't played in a bowl game before, the upperclassmen have the responsibility of making sure the young guys understand how to handle a bowl game, and how to prepare for one. "We've talked about - quite a bit, I'll remind them at the beginning of every day - about keeping the main thing, which is going down there to win the game."
Michigan's players from Florida are excited that their families will be able to come see them play (though most have been to a game in the Big House). Everybody gets six tickets so a lot of those guys are trying to get the extras that their teammates won't use.
Sometimes it feels like Rich has been coaching at Michigan for a long time, and sometimes it feels like time has just flown by. He can see the progress in individual players and the program on the whole. Guys like Kevin Koger, Patrick Omameh, Steve Schilling, and David Molk are extensions of the coaching staff.
Practice was open to the media today because Rich wanted the opportunity to give some access before going down to Jacksonville. "I wanted to see if y'all had any questions - especially in a positive manner."
Several young guys who are redshirting have caught Rich's eye during practices. Josh Furman "a big safety/outside linebacker... He looks like he's going to be a real good player." Defensive line standouts: "Richard Ash and some of those guys look like they're going to be good in the future as well."
Rich had been mostly unaware of the "controversy" surrounding the Big Ten division names. "I guess I should know which one is ours." He likes using the past greats to name the conference awards.
Update - Video
|WHAT||Michigan v. Oakland|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 18th, 2010
Michigan has quietly put together a solid start to the 2010-11 season, with a small handful of games against top competition amongst blowouts over the weaker sections of Division 1. Oakland, on the other hand, has been tested in nearly every game this year, losing to top-20 competition in West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan State before finally getting a showcase win against Tennessee on Tuesday. All of those were on the road except the Michigan State game, played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, a "neutral site" that skewed pro-Spartans.
The Golden Grizzlies are tested, and not a team Michigan can bully around in Crisler Arena tomorrow. They have to be concerned about the inverse. Oakland has an excellent duo in 6-11 center Keith Benson, a likely NBA Draft pick this spring, and diminutive junior guard Reggie Hamilton. PF Will Hudson has good size at 6-9 and leads the team in eFG% without attempting a single 3-pointer. With a number of capable role players to round out the roster (though erstwhile Wolverine Laval Lucas-Perry is ineligible to compete until next season), this is a solid squad.
Michigan, meanwhile, has had a nasty habit playing to the level of their competition--which has been mostly down. Their last time out was an uninspiring performance against North Carolina Central which featured abysmal shooting and indecisive offense, especially against zone. A young team like the 2010-11 Wolverines could use an early confidence booster, but Oakland may not provide it. With a win over the Golden Grizzlies, Michigan has a good chance to play themselves into the NIT during the Big Ten season.
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Oakland Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OU Def eFG%||138||133||-|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OU eFG%||25||69||M|
|Mich TO% v. OU Def TO%||74||279||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. OU TO%||166||175||-|
|Mich OReb% v. OU DReb%||169||184||M|
|Mich DReb% v. OU OReb%||28||12||O|
|Mich FTR v. OU Opp FTR||319||151||OO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OU FTR||10||150||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OU AdjD||100||137||M|
|Mich AdjD v. OU AdjO||33||28||-|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Oakland's tempo-free numbers aren't that impressive, but considering the schedule they've been doing it against, they're performing well. Michigan has a big advantage in holding onto the ball, while the Grizzlies have an advantage in not sending Michigan to the line.
The size of Oakland may give Michigan troubles, as the interior defense has been OK at best for most of the year. Drawing charges early against Utah got Jason Washburn and David Foster into foul trouble early, negating Michigan's height disadvantage. If they can get Oakland's talented big man into trouble early, they should be able to succeed on both ends of the court with Benson on the bench. Michigan's depth among big men has improved with the emergence of Jon Horford, so they can afford giving up a couple fouls trying to draw charges.
Making good decisions offensively will be another key for the Wolverines. Though they haven't been turning the ball over much, shot selection has been questionable lately. Players were passing on open shots against NC Central, and then forcing well-defended shots later in the shot clock. Taking what's available will make the offense run much more smoothly.
Oakland isn't going to come into Crisler Arena scared of the atmosphere. They've played in tougher venues several times this year (and against better teams, too). However, they may be out of gas early in the game, and have a letdown from finally getting that big-name win (or even a look-ahead to Ohio State on Thursday). At the first TV timeout, I think Michigan will have a small lead.
However, by halftime, I think the Grizzlies will have settled into a groove, so Michigan will have to get the confidence rolling early, knock down some shots, and hopefully get out on the break a little bit. The game should be within a couple possessions either way at the half.
The Wolverines have a tough task to handle against the best post player they've seen so far, and this will probably be the first time we see a Wolverine foul out this season. That means more evenly-distributed minutes than we've seen lately among the big men, an a lot more Colton Christian.
At the end of the day, I think Michigan's players and coaches will have good focus in preparation for this game, as they understand its importance. This could be the difference between the NIT or no postseason. That motivation, and the biggest crowd we've seen at Crisler this year (tickets available here) will help the Wolverines pull out the win, by a 69-62 score.
This could be you!
Is it possible that Rich Rodriguez's style of offense doesn't give his defense enough time to rest between drives? Using numbers from cfbstats.com, I calculated the following "time per drive" stats for Michigan and three other Big Ten teams:
My edition of Windows Live Writer automatically links to a post discussing how I hate time of possession whenever I type the words, so I'm probably not the guy to make this argument to. While it is possible that Michigan's lack of rest between drives contributed to the terrible defense,the goal of Michigan's varying tempos and generally quick pace is to place stress on the opposing defense. Arguing that short drives stress the defense is one side of the coin; the other is that they contribute to the offense's success.
The actual difference in rest is lower, too. The 45 seconds on game clock Michigan's isn't running isn't much when you account for TV timeouts and stoppages for first downs and incomplete passes and reviews and etc etc etc. I'd guess the difference is considerably less than 30%. Amongst the many factors that led to the defense's demise this year, "tiredness because the offense has short drives" is well down the list.
I'm a lifelong Michigan fan and moderate supporter of Rich Rodriguez. Here is my question... What can happen with the D coordinator position? We know Robinson should be fired, who are some good candidates to replace him if they stick with RichRod? Also, with all the unknowns regarding RichRod, does this mean that Robinson won't be fired until there is a firm decision about Rodriguez? Do we really have to keep him until New Years? Thanks guys,
The answers change significantly based on what defense you want to run. If Michigan is sticking with a 3-3-5 they should get someone who knows how to, you know, run the defense. The old and proven version of this coordinator is San Diego State's Rocky Long*, the former New Mexico head coach. He had a fairly successful decade-long run before running out of energy a couple years ago. The younger and not so proven option would be someone like Louisiana-Monroe's Troy Reffett, who's about 20 years younger than Long and has bounced around smaller schools, coordinating 3-3-5s at UTEP, New Mexico, and now ULM. ULM was seventh in the Sun Belt in yardage when he arrived and has finished 2nd and 3rd in his two years as the coordinator.
I don't think that should be a factor, though. From the outside it looks like they brought in Robinson, let him do his thing for a season, realized he was Greg Robinson 2010—not 1997—and tried to triage as best they could. This went not so well. The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes like a human, bring in a guy with an actual track record of success and let him run the defense. The less wacky the better. This means changing the D for like the fifth straight year, but we're doing that whether or not Rodriguez is retained so you might as well get used to the idea now.
As for who those might be:
- Randy Shannon was discussed in a previous mailbag. As an unemployed guy with a recent barrage of defenses somewhere between good and great, he's obviously appealing. He'd help Michigan's Florida recruiting while running a defiantly Big Ten-style "this is our 4-3 cover two we run every play, try to beat it please" defense. Downsides: he's never done anything but coach at Miami and may call the fire marshal when he sees an actually full stadium, and other cultural whatnot. He may hold out for another head coaching job, or leave if he gets offered one.
- The other interesting unemployed college DC is Pitt's Phil Bennett, a 52-year old who was SMU's head coach before June Jones came in. In three years at Pitt he posted FEIs of 27th, 26th, and 31st. His SMU years were moderately successful until the 1-11 crater that cost him his job; before that he was the K-State DC from 1999 to 2001, during which time the Wildcats finished in the top five in total defense every year. All K-State stats under Snyder should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt, but that's still a pretty good record for an available guy.
- Mike Trgovac is the Michigan Man/chaperone option most commonly presented. He was the Panthers' DC for six successful years before turning down a contract extension and leaving to be a DL coach at Green Bay, which is bizarre but whatever. He's 50—the coaching sweet spot—but hasn't coached in college since 1994.
- Another option is throwing scads of cash at a guy whose existing school can't afford to keep him. This might bode unwell for our bowl game but Manny Diaz's maniacal maniacs at Mississippi State are 14th in FEI this year. He's working under an offensive-minded head coach and is obviously the motive force behind that ranking. Diaz is young and fiery. This is an upside, but the downside is he has only one year under his belt in the SEC. At Middle Tennessee his last three defenses were 44th(hey, pretty good for MTSU), 103rd, and 84th (not so good).
Depressingly, a scan down the FEI defense list for good units at schools Michigan can drown in 100 dollar bills doesn't hit much of interest past Diaz until you get to #34, which is Syracuse and Scott Shafer. Everyone else is either not happening, dodgy because the head coach is the defensive mastermind, or TCU's Dick Bumpas, who's probably not happening.
*(Savor long and deep the irony of the quintessential "Michigan Man" candidate running a 3-3-5.)
Do you and Tim have a pretty good idea of the total number of recruits we can sign this year? I've heard people say about 18-19, but with all of the unexpected departures (Vlad, Turner, LaLota, White, Rogers, Dorsey, CJones, Kinard) that last year's class was a lot smaller than originally thought and that there are more roster spots available.
The Depth Chart By Class shows 77 scholarship players, ten of whom graduate. I'm assuming that Jordan Kovacs is now on scholarship but Will Heininger, Kevin Leach, Seth Broekhuizen and the various fullbacks are not, at least not until Michigan ends up with fewer than 85 scholarship players. That would leave a class of 18. In addition, I think it's unlikely Steve Watson and Mike Williams get fifth years, bringing the total to 20. They've currently got:
- QB: 0
- RB: 1
- WR: 0
- TE: 0
- Slot: 1
- OL: 3
- DE: 2
- DT: 0
- LB: 2
- CB: 4
- S: 0
- K: 0
That's 13, leaving seven slots for a kicker, a safety, a DT, a guard, and then three slots that could go to whoever they want. Chris Bryant is likely to be the guard, and two of the wild-card selections seem likely to be DE/DT Anthony Zettel and WR/LB Kris Frost. There are no likely options at DT right now and the safeties Michigan is in on seem like longshots, though it's possible Greg Brown ends up at FS. I'm also guessing Cullen Christian moves to FS this spring.
Are you a student? Do you like costumes?
After watching the dissapointing Bball attendance, myself and another remote alum and bball fan would like to help support the team but unfortunately are too far to make it to the games. We'd like to sponsor tickets for 2 students for the remainder of games provided they wear Big Bird costumes and Blake McLimans jerseys or T-Shirts.
The problem is, we don't know where to start finding 2 students willing to go to the games dressed as Big Bird and take our sponsored tickets. After reading the blog, I feel like this is a project you could get behind.
Behind it I am. Email me if you're interested in being the Blake McLimans fan club and I'll send your information along to Dave. Anyone else interested in exchanging money for shots of someone looking silly at a basketball game should contact me immediately.
Tom reports that Maryland DB Blake Countess has committed to Michigan, the fourth defensive back in the Wolverines' class of 2011.
|4*, #18 CB, #228 Overall||4*, 5.8, #13 CB, #156 Overall||4*, 80, #14 CB|
Countess is another little guy joining the defensive backfield, as all three sites list him at 5-10, and within a couple pounds of 175. He's also a participant in the US Army All-American Bowl, which gives a brief breakdown of his game:
Countess has the smooth hips and backpedal ability to be the prototypical cover corner. Despite his size, he loves to hit and is strong enough to jam a receiver at the line or come up and assist in run support. Countess has the speed to stay with receivers in man-to-man coverage and has an advanced understanding of zone defenses. Countess’ speed is also an asset in the return game.
Countess is steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills. Very fluid through his hips and transitions in and out of his pedal smoothly. Aggressive with receivers off the line and plays bigger. Shows good coverage awareness skills; reading routes and the quarterback accurately.
As with most shorter guys, the evaluation determines whether he plays "bigger than his size," and decides he does:
Lacks ideal height but is a real competitor for the football in the contested jump-ball matchup. Soundly times his jump, displays good leaping skills and appears very comfortable around the ball in coverage.
He's an okay tackler, which you'd expect from a smaller guy (ask Courtney Avery). Overall, ESPN, says he's a good-not-great prospect:
Countess is not elite in one particular area but is very well-rounded, reliable and consistent. Brings some intangibles to the position and should fit into a number of defensive schemes at the next level.
Scout seems to be enamored with him, which is odd, considering they rank him the lowest of any service:
A strong, hard hitting defensive back, Countess does a good job of jamming his receiver at the line of scrimmage. Flips his hips well to run with a receiver. An asset in the run game because of his willingness to make a hit. Size and skill set of a cornerback with the mentality of a safety. Comes out of his breaks and closes on the ball very well. Not the biggest DB on the field, but usually one of the toughest - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com.
The only area for improvement they list is "size," which he can only do so much about. He'll spend a lot of time adding muscle in the weight room, but isn't going to get a whole lot taller. He tells Scout that he didn't have any interceptions his junior year, sorta making him the opposite of Dallas Crawford.
Countess is a "riser," with Rivals bumping him from #245 nationally to #156 on the basis of a strong senior season:
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Rivals also says something that sounds a lot like Rich Rodriguez's famous "loves football" line:
He is a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents.
He certainly does love to compete, as his frequent showings at camps and combines demonstrate. Blake's athleticism won't come into question, as he posted the eighth-best SPARQ rating at the Nike Baltimore Combine - as a sophomore. He also proved his status as a combine star by excelling at the Under Armour Combine last winter.
If you're an East Coast school, you probably offered this kid. Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, UVa, Wake Forest, and Duke are among the many offers for this Maryland product. Clemson and South Carolina also showed interest.
However, some non-Eastern schools also offered him a scholarship. Arkansas, Louisville, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin (before his junior season), Cincinnati, Illinois, Notre Dame, and Pitt were among them.
This was a highly coveted recruit, as the offer sheet shows. He ultimately picked Michigan over Georgia Tech and Maryland, a final group that belies his strong offer sheet.
His Scout profile has some (imprecise) junior year stats:
Blake Countess finished his junior season with over 50 tackles and returned one kick for a touchdown.
Senior year... there's not a ton of info out there. I'll update in next week's Friday Night Lights.
He struggled against Cincinnati St. Xavier, dropping a punt, but was good in coverage.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout and Rivals are in agreement on his speed, almost to the hundredth of a second. Scout says 4.47, while Rivals credits him with a 4.48. That level of specificity leads me to believe the time is combine-verified and reliable. His highlight video (embedded below) mentions that it's electronically-timed.
I'm left with no choice but to give a mere one FAKE out of five.
Here's the first half of his final high school season:
You can see his junior and sophomore combined highlights here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
When player evaluations can focus on little other than a player's diminutive size, the first thing that comes to mind is a sure redshirt. For Countess, that's no different, especially since Michigan has had big defensive hauls in 2010 and so far in 2011. He needs to get in the weight room before he can play at this level.
After a redshirt year (or a year spending time almost exclusively on special teams), he'll slowly work his way into the lineup over the course of a couple years. He probably won't have a chance to be one of the starting corners until he's an upperclassman, but there are so many variables between now and then that it's hard to project.
As an upperclassman starter, he has the potential to be a fringe All-Conference candidate, but I don't think he's likely to contend for All-American honors unless he can develop quite a bit under good coaching.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Countess becomes the fourth defensive back to commit to Michigan for this season, meaning there may be some shuffling in positions of players currently on the roster or in the class. Dallas Crawford is a high school safety, for example, and Greg Brown could fill a hybrid role if he keeps growing.
Despite the abundance of players back there, Michigan's coaches are likely to look for at least one more DB, a top free safety like Wayne Lyons - though other options are thin on the ground. Beyond that, defensive tackle, linebacker, and one more offensive lineman remain the focuses for filling the class.