spoiler alert: i linked this
Yesterday I was thumbing through a notebook I use for interview prep and found a projected line chart I wrote last summer for the 2015-16 hockey season. It had Tyler Motte, JT Compher, and Alex Kile on the first line; I had Kyle Connor on the second. I chortled under my breath and moved on. It was only in doing research for this piece that I rediscovered how long- two months(!)- the lines were arranged as such. It's easy to forget that Michigan started their season without Connor, Compher, and Motte together, with the trio we'll affectionately remember as the CCM line not seeing game action until the beginning of December.
Connor, Compher, and Motte launched a four-month-long assault on the Big Ten and the Michigan record books that produced numbers that will be tough to come across in the near future. They also produced the kind of moments that become seared into your sports consciousness; sports memories tend to be grounded in moments, not the chronology of events. I still remember walking up State Street after some game during the 2007-08 season and marveling at Kolarik and Porter the whole way back. I don't remember which game, but I remember exactly what it felt like to be a witness to something special. I liked Michigan hockey before 2007-08, but the credit for why I care enough to want to break down every goal scored over the course of every season falls squarely on Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik's shoulders.
That feeling was back this year. For the first time in at least eight season we weren't just watching great players play, we were watching players play perfectly off of each other and accomplish things that caused that voice in the back of your mind to pick up decibels until it's practically screaming at you, reminding you that this is something to hold on to, something that doesn't happen every season.
The numbers give context to the memories: Connor led the nation in scoring and goals, Compher finished second in scoring nationally and led the country in assists, and Motte finished fourth in scoring nationally. Motte scored a goal in 12 straight games, a Berenson-era record; Connor ended the season with a 27-game point streak, another Berenson-era record. Connor scored more goals than any other freshman in Michigan history while finishing second in all-time freshman points. Compher had the second most assists of any junior in Michigan history. Compher, Connor, and Motte were three of the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker, which is just the third time in the award's history that one school has placed three players in the top 10. (Michigan also did it in 1994, when Steve Shields, Brian Wiseman, and David Oliver were finalists.)
Michigan's roster next year will look different, and it's not just because it's missing two guys (and possibly a third) who scored in droves. The way they played together is what set the CCM line apart. It's something that you don't see in hockey very often these days; creativity and communication can create beautiful plays, but the system a player is a part of has to allow the player to take some liberties for that to transpire. Michigan's system is well suited for that, and the results speak volumes not just about the system but about the way the abilities of three players blended to create a scoring threat that was nearly unstoppable.
Igor Larionov wrote a piece for The Players' Tribune that I've seen passed around NHL circles again recently, and the crux of his argument is that players are told to over-simplify their game at too early an age in order to eliminate risk. In his mind, this stifles creativity and leaves only a handful of players in the NHL who think the game three or four moves ahead and then act on those suppositions. In his words:
Our philosophy was about puck control, improvisation, and constant movement. Now, the game is all about “north-south,” chip-and-chase. We moved side-to-side and swooped around the ice looking for open spaces. A backward pass was just as good as a forward pass. You didn’t have to see your linemate. You could smell him. Honestly, we probably could have played blind.
Michigan had three boundlessly creative players on the same line. Connor's accuracy and quick release made him the perfect finisher, always open thanks to his linemates' ability to maintain possession and positioning near the net. Compher had some of the finest olfaction of any Michigan skater I've seen, seemingly throwing the puck around blindly only to put it precisely on the tape of his teammate's stick. Motte could turn and lift a puck from a sharp angle in such a way that the puck seemed to explode off his blade; he was the perfect netfront presence.
With a few exceptions, these three showed that you can be responsible defensively while also being creative offensively, and in the process they crafted moments that transcended box scores. To borrow from Red Berenson by way of Dickie Moore, you can't buy that kind of fun.
[After THE JUMP: I empty out my "CCM line" gif folder]
Sound Mind Sound Body provided exposure for thousands of area players. [Rapai]
The NCAA ban on satellite camps—and coaching at camps away from campus, period—is an ill-considered, haphazard measure that serves the selfish interests of a select few millionaires while hurting the exact people the NCAA is supposed to serve: the student-athletes. That's been the near-universal reaction from current players, recruits, parents, and media members alike in the wake of the ruling.
Khalid Hill, Jourdan Lewis, and Moe Ways, all of whom participated in the Sound Mind Sound Body camp, spoke out against the ban on Twitter over the weekend. Hill had some particularly strong words for the NCAA:
All I got to say.... pic.twitter.com/HOVhsIJhw4
— Khalid Hill (@Thatboylid80) April 10, 2016
Of greater concern to, say, the SEC coaches who pushed for the legislation, current prospects and their parents are also outraged. Five-star Cass Tech senior Donovan Peoples-Jones wrote a note about how much SMSB helped him and other local prospects, many of whom didn't have the opportunity to attend on-campus camps, get noticed by college coaches:
— Donovan P. Jones (@dpeoplesjones) April 10, 2016
Recruits and coaches at Bob Jones and Prattville high schools in Alabama, two of the planned stops on Michigan's summer camp tour, also lamented the lost opportunity:
Bob Jones coach Kevin Rose anticipated the camp at his school would draw about 500 players.
"I was really disappointed because, in my opinion, it's a lost opportunity for high school kids and high school coaches, especially that kid that's maybe not quite tall enough to make the measurables," Rose said. "We have a couple of guys that I think in a satellite camp setting could make a case for themselves, and obviously you're not going to drive to Ann Arbor or Michigan from Madison, Alabama. If they come to you, that's a great opportunity for kids and coaches. ... From our perspective, we feel like that was something very positive for high school football in north Alabama."
While the efficacy of change.org petitions is up for debate, it's very notable that one of the most-signed petitions calling for a reversal of the ban was started by Rozlyn Peoples, Donovan Peoples-Jones' mother. It's already surpassed 5000 signatures.
On Friday April 7th The SEC, ACC, PAC12, BIG12, Sunbelt and MWC conferences voted not to allow FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) coaches to work camps at sites away from their campuses. This new rule will restrict and reduce educational opportunities for high school students and their parents by lowering the opportunities for youth to showcase their athletic talents and earn a college scholarship. If college coaches are only allowed to work camps on their campus there will be far less scholarship offers to high school students in the summer of 2016. This will in turn have a disproportionate impact on parents in the class of 2017 because:
-1. The effective immediate date of the NCAA ruling means they will not be able to see multiple college coaches the summer prior to their last year of high school
-2. The conflicting institutional camp schedule makes it impossible for students to attend multiple camps
3. The majority of students and parents that this affects come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.
Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel penned an open letter to the NCAA asking for them to reverse course; they could do so before the end of the month:
On April 28, you will decide whether to approve a proposal passed late last week by the Division-I Council that bans FBS football coaches from conducting or working at camps and clinics outside of their program's regular facilities -- a.k.a. satellite camps. I realize that in most instances your role is primarily to rubber-stamp legislation, but in this instance, I'd urge you to rescind this ill-conceived measure.
It badly fails the one constituency your organization purports to protect -- the athletes themselves.
I wouldn't normally hold my breath for the NCAA to do something right, but the outcry in this instance has been remarkable. In one corner, you have the athletes (current, future, and former), their parents, high school coaches, media members, and a decent chunk of the NCAA's member institutions. In the other corner, you have this:
Freeze: "I’m selfish with my time,” he said. “I’m away from my family enough, and I just did not want to go." https://t.co/QPjNOK5QDf
— angelique (@chengelis) April 10, 2016
Hugh Freeze is paid $4.9 million per year to coach football in an area with enough talent that he has little need for satellite camps. He doesn't want to work harder for those $4.9 million, which is fine; that's his prerogative. What's not fine is he doesn't want anyone else to be allowed to provide these opportunities, which would probably cause him to have to work harder to avoid falling behind, and won't someone think of Hugh Freeze's children? Just, uh, while you do so, don't think about all those other children—the thousands trying to earn scholarships to attend college because their parents don't make $4.9 million per year.
At least he admits he's selfish, I guess.
Previously: Last year's profiles.
Note: Rivals appears to have broken their player profiles; the "News" tab didn't have anything under it for Metellus. I'm using Google but not much is coming up. These profiles might be light on their opinions as a result.
|Hollywood, FL – 6'0", 187|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|ESPN||4*, NR overall
#22 S, #51 FL
|24/7||3*, #1245 overall
#82 S, #161 FL
|Other Suitors||Colorado, FIU, FAU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||HS teammate of classmates Devin Bush Jr and Devin Gil. Twitter.|
Georgia Southern commit Josh Metellus was just a name with a placeholder picture on most of the recruiting sites when he suddenly became a part of Michigan's class last June. The Hello post resulting from Metellus's flip is probably the shortest in the genre's history. Metellus had no scouting, stats, or 40 time. Ace posted his Hudl film and took a shot in the dark:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
He will probably play safety?
At the time Metellus was joining a half-dozen other summer camp commits; fast forward nine months and he is one of the few left standing despite his low profile.
And it is a low profile, with one notable exception. Metellus is excellent evidence that the two-star ranking is more or less gone from Power 5 recruiting classes. When he committed he was an anonymous two-star or unranked. By signing day he was an anonymous three-star everywhere… except ESPN, which only got around to ranking him after his commit and liked what they saw enough to issue a fourth star. Aside from that I didn't find anything justifying the addition of a star from any site, or even any indication that his ranking changed. Metellus got a prototype "courtesy bump."
ESPN's system has its vagaries, as we'll discuss soon when we get to Khaleke Hudson, but at least they put some scouting next to every kid. Since their report is more or less it, let's see what they liked:
Below average safety measurables. Looks more like a hybrid type SS/nickel CB. Plenty of room to fill out. … Not always the most disciplined player when it comes to technique and position. … Plays everywhere in this scheme. At his best near the box in coverage. Good range defender who closes quickly and covers a lot of ground fast. … Quick to get over trash and utilizes his hands to shed. Big-time hitter who looks to initiate contact and get downhill quickly on run support. … Closes fast with explosive burst that leads to big hits. … Metellus is a physical ball-hawk who can run and hit with top tier safeties in this class. Unrefined at times in man coverage.
This sounds a bit like Hudson and a lot like the kind of safety that Don Brown used a lot of at BC, with the notable exception of the man coverage skills that enabled so much of what his outstanding 2015 defense did. Metellus has the physical ability to hack it there, and he reports that is indeed the plan:
“[Brown] sees me as a cover guy, a matchup guy. I’ll be matching up a lot with the slot receivers.”
Brown himself reiterated that take on Signing Day:
Josh is young but really smart. In my experiences talking football with him, he’s really sharp. He’s physical and is a safety with cover skills, which is important in our system.
Michigan is moving to a system where the safeties are going to be in a lot of man coverage, and at first blush Metellus is a good fit for that. "Below average safety measurables" is another way to say "kind of a corner," and those are the kind of guys Brown coached up at BC. Soon-to-be-former defensive backs coach Greg Jackson also offered his take:
Josh is a guy that is an aggressive tackler but at the same time he is a great cover safety. In this day and age, you need to have a safety that has the ability to cover as well as being a good tackler in space. One of the other things that caught my eye was his competitiveness.
No doubt that latter is what got Harbaugh's attention, and before that Devin Bush's.
Outside of ESPN, team-specific sites under the national umbrella did their best to fill in the blanks. At Rivals, Mike Spath talked to Sun Sentinel preps writer Ryan S Clark for a take on Metellus, one influenced by a recent Michigan hire:
"When I asked [Flanagan coach] Devin Bush Sr. about Josh he said, 'I tried telling you guys but no one wanted to listen. He did so well under the lights, and I don't know what these other schools are looking at, but take a look at his film, and you put his film against other guys, all I can say is really? How does this kid go unnoticed?'"
He'd express similar sentiments to Scout's Josh Newkirk, saying that he wasn't much different than the dudes at the Opening:
Metellus can make a lot of the same plays. He can run. He can open his hips and turn. He can change direction. He can make plays on the ball. He can come through the alley and make contact. He makes plays in the open field. He’s a very physical, versatile, and highly intelligent player.”
That is something approximating a consensus. Metellus is a guy with coverage upside who can hit; he's not a crazy athlete a la Dymonte Thomas; he's a smart, physical guy. This is all good, and the reason he is at Michigan. Keep in mind here that this version of Michigan is not averse to sending a four-star guy who ended up at Oklahoma packing; if Michigan didn't believe in the guy they would have put him on a boat to Kazakhstan.
But the recruiting rankings are what they are, usually for a reason. Around here we take rankings seriously in aggregate. They're not fate and this series exists because I think it's useful to look beyond the number of stars; all evidence suggests that they are predictive. So it must be said that there is no reason that the various recruiting sites wouldn't have taken notice of Metellus over the course of his senior season. He was committed to Michigan, playing on the eventual state champs of the largest classification in Florida. A lot of guys use those platforms to hurdle forward, as Brandon Peters did. Metellus's ranking remained static outside of Bristol.
Other than the ESPN evaluation every take above is from a Michigan coach or a guy who was about to be a Michigan coach. Those are not neutral, and so we're back here, looking at some very meh rankings with one notable exception and trying to split the difference. Touch The Banner does so:
The first thing that jumps out about Metellus is that he brings everything he has when he comes up to tackle. He's a solid tackler and can patrol the middle. He wraps up well and runs his feet through contact. I also think he does a good job in run fits and can wade through the trash, changing direction well in small spaces to dodge blockers and find the ball carrier. Metellus tracks the ball well in the air, and it looks like he does a good job of keeping things in front of him.
What Metellus isn't is a guy who leaps off the screen for any particular reason. He is a solid but unspectacular football player. He lacks great size and will need to get in the weight room so he doesn't get overpowered. He lacks great speed and is not a dynamic runner if he gets the ball in his hands.
He's probably not the 161st-best player in Florida this year, as 247 ranks him. But the film and the fact that no one bothered to hype a multi-year starter on a powerhouse suggest that Metellus is not a crazy sleeper who will make everyone regret their words and eat their hats and self-immolate at their wrongness. A decent starter is probably the ceiling.
Why Brandent Englemon? Englemon was slightly under six-foot, topped out around 200 pounds, was of absolutely no note to recruiting services, and had a solid career as a multi-year starter at Michigan because he was smart and healthy. He was not a guy who won you games; he was not a guy who lost you games. Steady and unremarkable is always underrated.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. There's no reason to think that his guy isn't heavily scouted and the "meh" evaluations are on point, but the ESPN outlier does give pause. ESPN is the kind of service that doesn't GAF about anything other than your tape. Meanwhile nobody else actually put scouting of him on the internet.
Variance: Low. Metellus isn't likely to be a superhero and isn't likely to bomb out.
Ceiling: Moderate. Likely tops out at good college safety who doesn't interest the NFL.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. I do like the fact that both Brown and Jackson talked about how he was a good fit as a cover safety. That kind of specific chatter feels accurate to me, and he's a guy who can be a unremarked-upon player on a very good defense.
Projection: It's all on the table for safeties this year. Metellus probably won't and probably shouldn't redshirt since the depth chart at the spot next year reads…
- Tyree Kinnell
…because Hoke's redshirt approach was dumb as dirt. He's not going to play meaningful snaps on D; he should get ST time and some garbage time snaps and if we're lucky he'll be an obvious choice to start next year because Michigan needs one or two of those at S. More likely is that he and his friends at safety are a major question mark headed into 2017.
Not a surprise, of course:
— Kyle Connor (@KyleConnor18) April 11, 2016
Connor, the Hobey Baker winner in an alternate universe where college hockey is run by people who can count, had a monster freshman year with a 35-36-71 line. That kind of production isn't replaceable even if Michigan had another first-round forward coming in, which they do not. The CCM line is down to just one C, and at this point I kind of expect JT Compher to sign as well.
The remaining roster is fine, but if they do lose Compher it doesn't look like the kind of outfit that is going to be able to overcome the defensive issues that have been a constant the last five years; this year's edition had a line that scored like it was 1985 and they still didn't win the Big Ten.
On the roundtable this week:
- Craig's back!
- Spring football revelations and omens
- What to do with pending basketball coaching openings
- Red returns: y/n?
THE USUAL LINKS
Same. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
The Question: What was your biggest revelation from the spring?
Adam: The biggest thing the spring game did for me was ease lingering fears about two defensive position groups. The linebackers were almost universally question marks heading into the spring (unless you count the snaps we saw Ben Gedeon play last season) and they played well enough to quell concerns heading into the fall. I don't remember noticing Gedeon live or in the three or four times I've rewatched the game, which is passable for the Mike position; he also didn't get many snaps, which is indicative of how the staff feels about him. Mike McCray looked good in the spring game, while Devin Bush Jr. looked good in the open practice at Ford Field. Jabrill's gonna Jabrill at Sam; it's unfortunate that Noah Furbush was on crutches considering the hype he received from the coaching staff, but at least there's an excellent starting option at that spot.
Even though we've seen Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas play quite a bit I was a little concerned about them, particularly Thomas taking over Wilson's free safety spot. Thomas lived up to the hype he'd received this spring whether he was jetting up to support the run or dropping and covering acres of space; his interception in the back of the end zone is a great example of what he can do with his athleticism. Thomas mentioned that he didn't feel like he hit his stride last season until he fully learned the playbook; it looks like he's learned this playbook very quickly. Tyree Kinnel looked like an excellent backup to Hill at SS, reading the field well and bumping receivers off routes regularly.
When I step back and take a 10,000-foot view of things, I find myself taking twisted joy in the things that cause hand wringing about the defense. Sure, some of the position switches on the defensive line are curious, and though I've written in this very space about trying Gary out at WDE (or End in Don Brown's defense) and keeping Wormley at SDE (or Anchor to Brown) it's fun to worry about how to best deploy an armory of Dudes who deserve significant snaps instead of whether there are any Dudes to be deployed. After the spring game, we know the latter isn't an issue for any defensive position group.
[Hit THE JUMP for more positive defense feels, Tyree Kinnel hype, quarterback reassurance, and a stunning reversal of course from Brian.]