I've been slowly building and picking through an all-plays database built from NCAA.org's play-by-play data. The easiest thing to pull out so far has been penalties, so let's play with those.
The benefit of the all-plays is you can tell the difference between penalties, since a personal foul says a different thing about a team and does a different thing to them than, say, a delay of game to set up a punt. I broke the various penalties up into "Violent" and "Non-Violent" behaviors.
- Acts of violence: Clipping, crackbacks, facemasks, illegal blocks, illegal use of hands, kick catch interference, pass interference (?), roughing the kicker (15), roughing the passer, tripping, and unnecessary roughness.
- Non-violent behaviors: Delay of game, encroachment, false starts, holding, ineligible receiver downfield, intentional grounding, kickoff out of bounds, offsides, running into the kicker (5), sideline interference, substitution infraction, too many men, unsportsmanlike conduct, and illegal fair catch, formation, forward pass, motion, participation, shifting, and touching.
Michigan last year was remarkably good at avoiding the latter type. I tracked the Big Ten plus our 2013 opponents and Michigan had fewer of the non-physical (yellow) calls go against them than any other team:
I don't know if I want to count PI since its application can get downright chintzy, so that's broken out. Either way Ohio State managed to lead the study in infractions despite playing a game or two fewer than most of the others. Reason why this is? Online poll says:
4.5% of people who take any online fan poll are Buckeyes
I was surprised that Michigan State appeared to have their pugilistic streak in relative check, i.e. they were only among the leaders, not far ahead as I supposed from watching them. It takes a while to gather all the data but minus the regular season Wisconsin game (data wasn't available) their 2011 penalty numbers were high but their personal foul quotient wasn't: 31 violent (11 of those pass interference), but a ridiculous 60 non-violent. Wanna guess where a disproportionate of those came from? Offsides. #JerelWorthyJumpsEarly.
Michigan vs. Average
We're dealing with smallish sample sizes so conclusions are shaky. That said there are things to see when you look at which penalties Michigan was getting called against them versus a typical team on their schedule.
Non-violent things per season:
|Illegal Offensive Stuff||4.6||-||5||5||5||-|
|Delay of Game||3.3||-||5||3||1||4|
|Special Teams Derps||0.4||-||-||1||-||-|
Michigan's veteran offensive line was good for something last year: remarkably few false starts and none of those illegal formation/procedure things that plagued us in various offensive transitions. That's a feather in Al Borges's cap: the offense had their fundamentals down about as well as you can ask. If you want to correlate offensive line experience with success at avoiding pre-snap penalties (I haven't proven this. Further study: is it experienced OL or just experienced tackles? Inquiring 2013 offensive lines want to know.
Violent crimes per season:
|Various Illegal Blocks||4.8||8||8||4||6||-|
|Roughing the Passer||1.0||3||2||1||-||3|
|Kick Catching Interference||0.6||2||-||1||2||-|
|Roughing the Kicker||0.3||-||-||-||2||-|
Average, the only thing standing out being chopblocks. There were a few of these called against Michigan last year that I thought were horsecrap (Mealer's v. UMass and Gallon's vs. Minnesota), and here's one that was legit (on Gordon):
If you don't spot it in 10 watches, watch it 10 more times.
I'm declaring Michigan a very average team at this.
Home Field Advantage?
There is one, usually. Michigan was almost twice as likely to get a penalty called against them on the road—that was an outlier. You could say it's because we got hosed on the road, or because Michigan Stadium is a major home-field advantage. Given the paucity of calls per game that went against the Wolverines in the Big House, I'd have to say that appears the more likely:
PENALTIES PER GAME
|Team||Tot/G||Home||Away||Neutral||% Diff on Road|
But it could as well mean Michigan is more well-behaved at home. Interesting that being on the road actually helped some teams, particularly Michigan State.
For the True Freshman evaluation I looked at how the quarterback himself fared. To look at how a team’s offense fared I pulled team offensive performance and grouped them by quarterback starts going into the season and quarterback age. For example, last year all quarterbacks from the class of 2011 were grouped together if they redshirted in 2011 or saw spot playing time. If they started as true freshmen they were considered second year starters.
As noted in the prior article, starting true freshmen quarterbacks is not a formula for winning games. Teams with them at the helm operated 3.9 point per game below an average team. For reference, last year’s Michigan State offense was about 5 points below average.
With even one year of seasoning on the bench, that number moves even higher. The NCAA didn’t start publishing official starters by game until 2009 that I can find so this data only represents the last two seasons. There are some small sample sizes in play here but at the same time, the trends are logical and pass a smell test.
Players in their second year have performed better after going through growing pains on the field in year 1, but players from the prior years class tend to have better debuts as second year players as opposed to true freshmen.
For players in their third year, there isn’t much progression for the guys who have been starting from day 1, but the second year starters show a big leap from 2 points below average to over a point above. At this point the value from the extra starting experience has disappeared and the players with a combination of on and off the field time have passed the most experienced group. Their classmates who have sat for two years fare about as well as the second year starters.
By the time players are in their fourth and fifth year in the program, everyone with some starting experience performers at a similar level near 2 points above average. What is interesting is that the one group who is a strong outlier are the guys who have hands full of splinters from all the clipboard handling. Guys who have sat for their first three years on campus typically aren’t worth the wait. Their debuts are typically on par with a player much younger. As with all of these categories there are exceptions all over the place but a guy waiting his turn this long is more often a guy who couldn’t win the job than a guy who was just waiting behind a better option. There are a lot more Joe Bausermans than Tyler Wilsons.
If you flip the chart the more obvious conclusions show up in that the older a quarterback is the better he does. This shows up as consistent across all seasons of starting with the glaring exception of third year players becoming starters for the first time. With 2 or 3 years of eligibility left this looks like the quarterback sweet spot. You have probably given the quarterback a redshirt year to preserve 3 years of starting time. Two years without starting provides the opportunity to learn without getting too stagnant. This window also opens the door up for highly touted recruits to see the field with plenty of time shine without taking too many rough outings to get there.
It should be noted that these are all averages and there are many variances and exceptions to each situation. Just because you are choosing between a true freshmen and a third year player for your starting quarterback doesn’t mean that the third year guy is the best choice. This is just meant to be a high level look at the general progression of quarterback. With that said, getting Shane Morris two years (unless DG blows up and goes pro) or prep could be a big benefit to keeping the offense moving forward through a changing of the guard at quarterback.
Ace: off. That is not a John Woo movie, but rather a state of things. Fearless Leader steps into the breach. I probably shouldn't call myself that.
Kiss the baby
For some reason, that's what MD WR commit Freddy Canteen wants to make defensive backs do. I don't know why, but I do know I've watched the footwork video another three times. Stupid mesmerizing footwork video.
Anyway, Canteen's team is continuing to tour camps and 7-on-7 events. Last week's event was a good one for baby-kissing coercion. Scout's Brian Dohn:
…like he did so many other times in the last few months, covering him at the 7-on-7 was virtually impossible.
Canteen used his speed and route-running technique to set up cornerbacks all day en route to Eastern Christian Academy (Elkton, Md.) winning the title. If he wasn’t catching 5-yard in routes, he was using his speed to blow past the cornerback and beat the safety for deep scores, and it should come as little surprise.
Tennessee was actually recruiting him as a corner; Scout's now listing him at 6'1", and Rivals says he's 6'2" and change now. His role in the offense:
“I did what I regularly do; route running, technique, speed, hands,” he said. “I’ve worked on everything. I think I got better everywhere. (Michigan) liked my route-running. With them having all the 6-4, 6-5 commits, I offer a different game. I can play the slot and I can play outside. I can return kicks.”
I was always fine with Canteen's addition to the class and each new report amps the enthusiasm. Could be a sleeper of the year… d'awww he's got four stars on Rivals. I think I have to relax that requirement: with four sites to track, dang near everyone who ends up at Michigan is going to look shiny in someone's eyes. Canteen might not even make the sleeper cut with relaxed requirements, though, as Dohn said Canteen has "a very good shot" to get a fourth star as soon as his team plays some, you know, games.
Minor downer: MD CB commit Brandon Watson "good, not great" in Dohn's eyes.
Merph: Tranquill Moving Towards Happy Trails
I was all about the possibility of adding IN LB Drue Tranquill after he had great performances at both SMSB and Michigan's camp, but it seems like Noah Furbush dropping has pushed Tranquill out of the class. Without an offer from M or ND, Tranquill looks to be taking his talents to West Lafayette:
While Tranquill doesn’t have his mind made up just yet, he is certainly leaning toward one school.
“I have a good idea [about the decision],” Tranqull said. “Obviously, Purdue has been my top school. Unless something jumps out, they’re the one to beat.”
I like S/LB hybrids who can play nickel or WLB, and don't see one in this class. Maybe Gedeon in the last, I guess?
It is possible that Michigan could come back later in the year and flip the kid. Sounds like the door isn't totally closed:
Notre Dame and Michigan were also in that top group to start the month, though neither has offered. Michigan picked up a linebacker commitment shortly after Tranquill camped with the Wolverines. Communication is still ongoing there, but the timetable for a potential offer has been pushed back.
If they end up with a spot late they could do worse. Yes, Purdue, we can drink your milkshake like that.
HANDPOCA—actually a rather small Hand item
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) July 16, 2013
A Man Who Knows How To Travel
CA S JuJu Smith is a man with many traits to envy, like his nickname and ability to run and tackle a deer. But near the top of the list is his knack for scheduling official visits:
The 6-foot-1, 206-pound athlete had official visits scheduled to Michigan on Sept. 6 and Notre Dame on Oct. 18. Recently, he added to those with trips to Ohio State on Sept. 27 and Alabama on Nov. 8. He'll see the Wolverines host Notre Dame, the Irish host USC, the Buckeyes host Wisconsin and the Crimson Tide host LSU. Smith also will take an official visit to Mississippi, though he hasn't set a date for that trip at this point.
Dang son. UCLA and USC are also in the mix. Wisconsin is claimed to be, but the team that isn't local and doesn't get a visit is not actually in contention. Smith's all over the place with his quotes. This article has one that is unfriendly to M's chances, maybe:
"Everybody says it's the best league, and you get a chance to compete against the best of the best," Smith said. "Staying home is good too, but I feel like going out and competing against the best will make me a better player."
"It" is the SEC, of course. That does sound like a guy leaving the West Coast, at least.
Smith just lit up a 7 on 7 out west:
Smith turned in arguably his best performance this offseason. Early in the day against powerhouse Serra, the four-star standout caught two touchdown passes at receiver and picked off a pass playing safety. There are times when Smith gets lost in the shuffle, but he has the ability to dominate on both sides of the ball. He looked unstoppable at receiver and safety.
Michigan's hired a track coach. Why is this in a recruiting roundup? CA CB Adoree Jackson and his Olympic long-jump hopes. Let's check the new guy's bio:
During Clayton's 15 seasons at Auburn (1998-2013), the Tigers won the 2006 NCAA Women's Outdoor Track and Field championship. He helped Auburn to 18 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Track and Field Championships (indoor and outdoor), including 10 top-five finishes. Clayton personally coached 10 NCAA national champions, had his student-athletes earn 51 All-America honors and 34 SEC individual titles. He had 79 performers qualify for the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Wait, what? Michigan hired Auburn's head track coach? Weird. So… the guy's established, has a lot of success, and married a long-jump All-American. If Michigan won't let Jackson run track as a freshman that's probably all for naught but it sounds like short of importing Baylor's program Michigan's done as well as they could with that hire, in both Jackson-acquisition and hey-this-guy-runs-the-track-program departments.
Not likely to matter in the end, though. FWIW, Jackson gave an interview to ESPN in which he says little except he's going all the way to Signing Day with his decision; he told Rivals his list has actually expanded by adding Oregon and Oklahoma.
2015 OH S Tyree Kinnel was reputed to be a guy who might drop for Michigan the instant he got an offer. An offer has not come yet, and he seems a bit frustrated:
"I’ve heard a little bit from Michigan since I camped there,” he said. “I know they want to follow me this fall. But I don’t know what is holding them back from offering me as they’ve told me they really want me with them.”
Kinnel's a little small for Michigan's tastes but camp observers thought he played very well.
Mayor this commissioner, water general
Sam Webb hits up uber-2015 WR George Campbell:
"Me and Tay grew up together ever since we were little kids, so we’re like brothers and we have a close bond,” Campbell said. “So it’s kind of a big impact what he chooses, but at the same time I have to do what’s best for me and choose my school for me."
Stupid Clemson. Campbell is planning on being at the BBQ, so there's that. He plans on waiting a while.
Soon-to-be-retracted Malik McDowell leader opinion
This one comes from his dad, so may have some staying power:
“In my opinion I believe [Michigan and Michigan State] are the front runners,” Greg McDowell, Malik’s father told 247Sports. “By us being here located in Michigan and him getting to those schools as much as he has, those are the ones heavy on his mind.
“He’s had the opportunity to go to both schools and everything they do to invite him out to games and practices, they’re top contenders and rank right up there. But he wants to visit other schools and get a feel for what they’re about and get a sense for the direction he wants to go.”
They're headed south to some SEC heavyweights in the fall, and they may provide some competition. It has long seemed like McDowell is just waiting around to commit to M, but Treadwell and etc etc etc. I'll eat my hat if he goes to State, though.
PA S Montae Nicholson has made an exciting cut to… twelve schools. Nevermind. Michigan is on said list. He's planning on taking all his officials. He did say he's "built really good relationships pretty much the entire staff up there."
Michigan to make 2015 FL RB Jacques Patrick's top ten. 2015 MI RB Mikey Weber will hit the BBQ. Michigan's sole 2015 QB offeree is CA QB Josh Rosen, and while he says he's willing to look outside of California if you read between the lines Michigan's going to have to offer some more dudes to find a QB. Bizarrely, his team went 8-5 last year with four forfeits.
NJ CB commit Jabrill Peppers is going after Hand and Leonard Fournette. Godspeed, Jabrill. Next time you talk to Borges make sure he brings up Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown in re:
"The best part is that [having Derrick Green around] would preserve him more because he's not gonna have to take on the whole load by himself. He'll get a blow and we won't lose productivity on the field. Getting those breaks will allow him to have a longer career than most running backs."
Though I'm sure Borges has already thought of that.
Well, I'll be danged. I think this is the first documented case of a recruit stating he picked a school because he wanted the security of a long-term scholarship. He's Dyshon Sims, a 3.5 star OL recruit who just picked Georgia over Alabama:
“I also like how you get a four-year scholarship at Georgia. That’s one of the main reasons I picked it. From my understanding, you get three years at Alabama, and you only get a scholarship for each year. If you don’t show enough progression, then your scholarship is pretty much gone at Alabama.”
Nick Saban is probably not quaking at this development, but it's nice to see someone is paying attention to the fact that they can get a four-year ride guaranteed if they ask for it.
don't mention Woodson… don't mention Woodson… don't mention Woodson
Gardner camping. Devin Gardner was at the Manning QB camp thing over the weekend. That was mostly notable the general public for the fact that Johnny Manziel was bootted for showing up late, apparently hung over. Dollars to donuts as he was leaving he made several Heisman poses and rubbed his eyes theatrically in the general direction of Peyton.
Anyway, Gardner was either impressive or raw depending on who you talked to. Mike Mayock named him first when asked about juniors who impressed:
"Gardner came in at the end of the year, he's 6'4", 210, he's got a buggy whip [ed: ?] for an arm, he's highly athletic, he's raw as can be, but trust me—this kid's got some ability. I'm really anxious to watch him develop this year.
Mayock clarifies that this was not actually football, so don't think it's football.
Mayock wasn't the only guy to notice Gardner. According to Bruce Feldman, he was generating quite a bit of buzz:
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks also noted Gardner:
@dg1two might be the next Ryan Tannehill. Limited experience, but athletic and a ultra-talented passer. Great physical tools. Big arm.
If you missed al the Tannehill references last year around this time, Tannehill switched to WR for Texas A&M, was successful there, went back to quarterback for his last couple years, and was a first round NFL draft pick.
Brooks noted that there were 41 college starters showing out at this thing, so for Gardner to be a must-mention for everyone is a good sign.
Whoah. Someone pays 860 dollars too much for a ring commemorating the Mississippi State slaughter; the ring is Kelvin Grady's. Why would you put up a memento like that, other than a desire to never think about that game again?
Kevin Grady Sr. is now in federal prison for 14 years after he was convicted last year on multiple charges of bank and wire fraud and lying to federal authorities as part of a $3 million mortgage scheme. … The sons were left holding the bag on a $45,000 judgment which will be only slightly reduced by the auction, according to Visser, who represented Reitberg Realty and Rusty Richter in the court action that began in 2008.
Whoah. The piece dryly notes that "it is unclear if the buyer of the ring is a Wolverine fan or not."
Yeah, I would have bought this. ARGH CLASSY SHIRT THAT IS NOW ADORNING UGANDANS
Slight difference between this and the immature cheese BCS t-shirts from a couple years back—you know, ORANGE you glad we won, hur hur.
Yes, yes please. Smart Football makes some suggestions to improve the box score, starting with the obvious (sack yards are not rushing yards) and moving on to some good stuff I hadn't thought of:
Completions Behind the Line: Bubble screens, rocket screens, now screens, touch passes and swing passes are an increasingly large part of offenses, and, given that these plays are nominally forward passes but are typically “packaged” with running plays, they really should be their own quasi-run/pass category.
Also suggested is the addition of yards after catch, which yes.
- I'd like to see punts divided into air yards and ground yards, so I can stew over that 30-yard duck that rolled 20 more.
- QB hurries are a legit stat that should be tracked.
- WRs should be charged with drops and have their targets tracked.
Uh-oh. Luke Kennard picked up MSU, Duke, and Kentucky offers this weekend. Kentucky is a particular issue, as Kennard said he grew up a fan of the Wildcats. What is with Kentucky getting all up in Michigan's recruits? Isn't there some 6'7" guy who does not acknowledge the effects of gravity to recruit? Leave us our wonky-form shooter plz.
Hopes: nope. I'm not going to get my hopes up about Kevon Looney. I'm not going to get my hopes up about Kevon Looney.
The mutual interest comes from what Looney watched Michigan do during this past season — specifically, he saw the success Robinson experienced as a first-year player.
“I could be next,” Looney said. “When you see someone that’s built like you, has a style of play like you, and you see he’s going to get better, you sort of put yourself in that position.”
Looney knows what he’s looking for in a school.
“The best situation for me,” he explained. “The best situation where I could come in and play, where I could come in and develop. The best college atmosphere, I want to go to a real college town.”
I'm not going to tell Kevon Looney that he's like three inches taller than GRIII and GRIII's usage rate was in the Brent Petway range.
You should be Trey Burke as well. Derrick Walton, just dribbling stuff.
The season so far in terms of defensive tackle size:
- Aug. 31: 5-11, 290 lbs (Travonte Boles); 5-11, 284 lbs (Jabari Bothwell)
- Sept. 7: 6-3, 326 lbs (Louis Nix)
- Sept. 14: 6-2, 266 lbs (Nico Caponi); 5-11, 293 lbs (Cody Grice)
- Sept. 21: 6-5, 323 lbs (Shamar Stephen); 6-3, 297 lbs (Angelo Pruitt)
- Sept. 28: BYE
- Oct. 5: 6-6, 311 lbs (Rashede Hageman); 6-5, 290 lbs (Cameron Botticelli)
- Oct. 12: 6-3, 330 lbs (DaQuan Jones); 6-4, 310 lbs (Austin Johnson)
- Oct. 17: 6-5, 312 lbs (Ralphael Green); 6-2, 300 lbs (Adarius Rayner)
- Oct. 24: BYE
Highly metaphorical plot synopsis of Thor 1
Thor and Loki are brothers. Thor, the elder of the two, has been groomed to ascend to the throne of Asgard, while Loki has lived his life in the back seat. This state of affairs engenders bitterness and jealousy in Loki. To make matters worse Loki discovers he was adopted. He hatches a plot to banish his brother, kill his father, and do all sorts of bad things on his way to power.
Thor eventually figures out what’s going on, overcomes Loki’s plot, and fights Loki in a CGI-tastic battle sequence that may or may not actually be a Skittles commercial. That’s when Loki has a moment of candor: “I never wanted the throne. I only ever wanted to be your equal!” Moments later, he loses the fight and falls into a wormhole.
Whereupon Thor exclaims, “Loki, NOOOOOOO!”
The season of infinite Schadenfreude*
2012 was a great season to watch Michigan State football. Between LeVeon Bell’s disinterest in requiring an offensive line and the receivers’ disinterest in catching footballs, the Spartans offense was a season-long etude in one-man football. Throw in Andrew Maxwell’s live YPA stats and you had a pretty great drinking game.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan State’s defense probably found a lot of personal meaning in the tale of Sisyphus from Greek mythology. I’m totally kidding. Most of them are like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about / I got rid of mine with penicillin.”
Highlights of their season include trailing Eastern Michigan for three quarters, trailing Indiana for three quarters, blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Iowa, and blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.
Michigan fans will remember that last part as the day it momentarily stopped being funny.
At season’s end, all fingers pointed to the offense, so offensive coordinator Dan Roushar got fired. I’m not sure if that was warranted. I didn’t watch them that closely, but I don’t think you can fault the OC too much when the offensive line is a lemon and Nike is coating their Pro-Combat receiver gloves with teflon. Add in the QB transition and losing most of their previous playmakers to the NFL … Whatever. A witch was required. They burned her.
This is where it gets hilarious. The results of a diligent coaching search turned up Dave Warner (MSU QB coach) and Jim Bollman (YTJB). Warner got promoted, maybe by mistake, so then Bollman got hired a few weeks later because -- who the hell knows. Synergy. Cross-platform initiatives. Verisimilitude.
The two are still figuring out how to split OC duties, since one guy alone couldn’t handle the neural load of the Spartans offensive Jaeger. They will enter a Drift this fall and become one, which means Warner will emerge at some point from the coordinator box shaking uncontrollably, with blown pupils, a bloody nose, and images of Joe Bauserman seared indelibly into his mind. This is a great and totally convincing premise for plot and character development.
Michael Bay Guillermo del Toro is the best.
*Except for the Nebraska game, where choking away the game to spite Michigan’s chances for a division title was the Spartiest thing ever. I bet the most common cause of diabetes in East Lansing is “UM fan wanted to borrow sugar.”
Nobody deserves a second chance like QB Andrew Maxwell. Poor guy put it on the money more often than not only to see the ball clang off his receivers’ facemasks. Maybe that arm strength thing really is overrated, because clearly Michigan State’s receivers much preferred the softness of Kirk Cousins’s balls.
Of course, after suffering through a season of awful receiving and crappy pass protection, nothing says “thanks for taking things in stride” like a good old-fashioned QB controversy. Maxwell (52.5%, 2606 yards, 5.8 ypa, 13 TD, 9 INT) has to fend off Connor Cook, a dual-threat guy who makes up with size and spunk what he lacks in arm. In the spring game Cook went 10-26 for a little over 200 yards and a score. Yeah, had the receivers not been wearing their Teflon-coated gloves, Cook’s completion rate would have been higher. Had the DBs not borrowed gloves from the receivers, though, his INT rate would also have been higher, too.
I think Maxwell holds onto his job, but it’s not going to be easy. Bollman loves him some noodle-armed scramblers, so it’s likely that Cook will be auditioned as a “change-of-pace” player until Bollman gives up on reincarnating Troy Smith.
On the receiving end, WR Aaron Burbridge is the primary argument for having a QB who can actually throw. A late-emerging star last season, Burbridge is a guy you may remember as the borderline five-star recruit Michigan was after in a bad way until academics became an issue. As a Spartan, he lived up to his billing, making a bunch of highlight-reel catches over a three-game stretch in October. His production waned in November for some reason, but he came back strong in the spring game with five catches for 113 yards. He’s the preseason favorite to be MSU’s offensive MVP.
If Maxwell loses his job, however, Burbridge will probably be relegated to blocking duties, where he will join fellow returning starters Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett, and Bennie Fowler. Their lead hands will.
Michigan State’s run game will go from firing depleted uranium shells (Bell) from a BB gun (2012 OL) to shooting frozen chickens (whoever the RB is this year) from a cannon (2013 OL). Yeah, I rocked the SAT analogies back when the SAT had analogies. The injured offensive linemen, RT Fou Fonoti and C Travis Jackson, are doing dandy these days, so things are looking good up front. In the backfield, not so much. As of the last time I read about MSU’s running backs, I’m pretty sure the guy getting the most hype was a RS freshman linebacker (Riley Bullough). Nothing has happened since spring ball, so I’m guessing that’s still accurate.
There’s a lot of suck written all over the Spartans offense, which is ironic because all Michigan State is asking from that side of the ball is to not suck. It’s a very reasonable request. Like, don’t go three and out every drive. Find the end zone every once in a while. Try to cross the 50 yard line.
Because if they can improve even a tiny bit, the team will be in good shape. After all, last year they lost five games by a combined 13 points thanks to their murderous
Spartan Pride -- operationally defined by flexing when you're down 49-7 to Alabama.
Things sure look a lot different over here. Where did all the suck go? Is this a different team?
It definitely deserves to be on a different team, and I bet Pat Narduzzi has been quietly fomenting ideas of secession within his ranks last September. When civil war breaks out, his defense would win easily (Narduzzi vs. Bollman, is there even a question?), and then they could join Northwestern and rule the B1G as a dual hegemony comprised exclusively of two-star recruits, scouting services be damned.
Back to reality, which is clearly not as cool as the alternate one in my head, I think what we’re going to see from Michigan State’s defense is more of the same. Since 2010, Narduzzi has proven his success to be completely sustainable. For Michigan fans, this is all very unfortunate. If he is interested I would be happy to write him a letter of recommendation for whichever head coach position opens up next. Likely Illinois.
The Spartans return everyone on defense except for DE Will Gholston and CB Johnny Adams. I know, right? OMG, 10 starters returning from a top-10 defense! It gets worse. Although Adams was a really good player -- three-time All B1G -- and will probably be missed to an extent, Michigan State has no lack for corners, and the other guy, Darqueze Dennard (52 tackles, 7 PBUs, 3 INTs), was better anyway. Meanwhile Gholston had the pass rush ability of Jordan Kovacs. That almost sounds like a knock on Kovacs. Five bucks says whoever Narduzzi finds as the new WDE will be more productive than Gholston.
Anyway, let’s just get the horrible part of the preview over with. A-gap extraordinaire LB Max Bullough (111 tackles, 12.5 TFLs) will continue to hang out in opponent backfields and make blocking schemes look silly; he is everything we hope Joe Bolden will be someday. Surface-to-Air Missile Denicos Allen (79 tackles, 10 TFLs, 3 sacks) will latch onto anything with a heat signal, which means on any given play he’ll either blow a guy up or run himself out of the play. WLB Taiwan Jones, who won the job from incumbent Chris Norman (38 tackles, 5.5 TFLs) halfway through last season, will be there to mop up the remains.
I’m watching these guys against Wisconsin, and it’s like Wisconsin’s offensive line forgets how to block properly:
The other thing to take away from the Wisconsin video is that the defensive line doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot on its own, but it does a good job of occupying blockers long enough for the linebackers to make plays. I think ever since Jerel Worthy left, the line’s production has lost the snap-jumping edge that made them elite.
They are still pretty good. With the return of strongside end Marcus Rush (38 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and tackles James Kittredge (14 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and Tyler Hoover (missed a chunk of 2012 with an injury), holding steady, last year’s production should be the bottom line. Ramping up the pass rush will be the item No. 1 in a short bucket list of things to improve. Otherwise, it ain’t broke. There’s no need to fix anything, not with the linebackers they have and Narduzzi’s penchant for blitzing them until your backfield is broken.
Even if QB pressure doesn’t always hit home, the coverage should hold up. Opposite Dennard will likely be newcomer Trae Waynes, another member of the two-star mafia likely to end up on an all-conference list somewhere just to spite everyone. At safety, Michigan State will feature multi-year starters Isaiah Lewis (80 tackles, 6 PBUs, 2 INTs) and Kurtis Drummond (53 tackles, 4 PBUs, 2 INTs).
Happy little ray of hope: their offense.
This team is kind of like: Sisyphus and his rock.
Vs. Michigan: The game is in East Lansing this year, which is the opposite of ideal for everyone involved except for Dantonio and Narduzzi, who figure a home game is when they can tell their players to do whatever they want, like so:
State had about 56 or 57 yards per game to penalties last year, a [Ed-H: Hey Seth, did you have a stroke?]
Extracurriculars aside, gameplanning against Michigan State’s defense should involve a lot of heavy sighing with regard to the ground game. Running between the tackles will be a lot like buying a lottery ticket the day after someone hits the jackpot: it should be done only to remind ourselves that downs are valuable and we are stupid. I know, I know, “the winner in this rivalry game always has more yards on the ground. Hurr durrr.” Did I mention that MSU’s best tailback is a linebacker?
Where Michigan can succeed is through the air. The OL should be pretty good at keeping the pocket clean, and Devin seems poised to pick apart defenses provided that he’s not scrambling for his life. As good as the Spartans DBs are, I think they’re lacking a touch of athleticism, and they don’t seem to stick to receivers as well as they should.
Defensively, coverage will be key. The passing game has a lot of potential, and as much as the receivers hate catching passes most of the time, I’m pretty sure they caught every single one last year against Michigan. Giving up big plays in road games can be devastating, and in the absence of Kovacs, the Wolverines will have to do everything they can to ensure that Burbridge and co. don’t get the crowd going.
- Western Michigan
- South Florida
- Youngstown State
- @Notre Dame
Outlook: 9-3 overall, 6-2 B1G
- Wins: WMU, USF, YSU, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, @Illinois, Minnesota
- Losses: @Notre Dame
- Random Number Generator: Michigan, @Nebraska, @Northwestern
You know what's weird about putting together these basketball recruiting things irregularly? Nothing happens. Because we're talking about a class of 3-4 kids instead of 20, these things meander down the great Mississippi, leisurely taking in a vague quote here, a scouting report there, without seeming to go anywhere. I mean, Trevon Bluiett still maintains he has a list of 24 schools or something. Takin' her easy, basketball recruiting.
In any case, things that sort of happened…
This is what the current roster looks like for 2014, assuming Robinson and McGary are in suits on draft day:
PG: Walton (so), Albrecht (jr)
SG: Stauskas (jr)
SF: Irvin (so), LeVert (jr)
PF: Donnal (so), Bielfeldt (jr)
C: Horford (sr), Doyle (fr)
Donnal may play the post; Irvin may be big enough to be a Beilein 4. Even if Donnal ends up at the 4, it's going to be a wing-heavy class. Michigan is going to skip the PG spot, has Ricky Doyle as a developmental big, and will probably take three guys who can play the 2, 3, or 4.
They could add four more players without any unexpected attrition; more likely they'll add three and bank one for a talented 2015 class. Michigan projects to have just one senior in 2014, Horford, so taking a five-man class this year would unduly restrict Michigan's ability to flog the championship game appearance to kids whose recruitments are just starting.
Leaving an open slot in in 2014 plus Horford plus an assumption of at least one piece of attrition (Irvin, Stauskas, or Walton blowing up to NBA early entry levels, Bielfeldt not getting a fifth year, someone transferring because of PT issues) would let that 2015 class reach three top quality guys: a post, a point guard, and someone who is very good at something else.
Bluiett is not making any decisions hastily
I think I just flipped my metaphor from leisurely polin' down the river to Ents, but whatever. As mentioned in UV, IN SF Trevon Bluiett has not dropped Butler after Brad Stevens's departure. That can't help, though, and Yogi Ferrell's mom thinks his list got a shakeup:
Yes, Yogi Ferrell's mom has special insight into Bluiett's though processes. Shut up.
With Scout's Brian Snow popping in on the GBW message board to proclaim he'd be "shocked" if Bluiett ended up anywhere other than Butler or Michigan, that would be a good thing. Bluiett's reputedly a guy who would like to stay close to home—Butler would be very close—so if anyone else gets involved it would likely be the in-state schools or maybe a Louisville or something. The 247 Crystal Ball flipped towards Michigan recently, FWIW.
Devin Booker remains Devin Booker, and will always be the same until probably November. He told Sam Webb that he made it down to Michigan's camp out of "loyalty" recently:
Sam Webb: I saw you last month when you were at the Michigan camp. You had another camp you were going to be going to a week later, and you had just gotten home. You get right home… come over to Michigan… why did you even make it over?
Devin Booker: “I think it’s more of a loyalty thing. Michigan’s been there since 8th grade, and a lot of my friends are going down with me. It’s just overall a good time; I can use it as an unofficial visit, and I’ve basically seen it all there, but just talking to the coaching staff, you know, it was good to go down there. "
Booker's been hanging out with Drake Harris for "like three straight weekends" as he cools his heels in Grand Rapids for the summer with his mom. He claims he has a top group but won't tell anyone.
Booker is headed to Kentucky for their Midnight Madness event. With Duke and UNC taking commits at SG, the Wildcats are likely the top threat.
CA SF/PF Kameron Chatman was just interviewed by Scout:
UConn, Oregon, Washington, and Michigan are the only schools he mentions as offers. Michigan was "good," but with positive inflection. Chatman also said his Oregon offer was "good." You see what I'm saying? About the things not happening? I mean.
Maybe a positive thing: Chatman is apparently buds with Devin Booker, and while they haven't talked much about playing together you'd have to think Booker dropping to Michigan would be a feather in Michigan's cap. Chatman plans a decision in the fall.
Pipe dreaming at the four
Sam Webb talked to WI PF Kevon Looney, who says he wants to get down to a top five this month. Sounds like Michigan will make that list($):
Sam Webb: You mentioned that Michigan was really a school that was coming on with you. Where does Michigan stand with you at this point?
Kevon Looney: “Michigan is in that top tier of schools. Michigan, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee, Georgetown, they all in the top tier right now.”
Sam Webb: How did they get in there because it seemed like for a minute there that they were on the outside looking in? What was it about them that made them get in there?
Kevon Looney: “Michigan was always there. They had actually slowed down their calling and stop coming out. I don’t know what they thought. Then he picked it back up, Coach Beilein came to a high school in the playoffs and since that they have been staying more consistent.”
Looney has only been to Wisconsin and Tennessee, doesn't mention the Badgers in his top tier, and went to Tennessee mostly because he was in the area for a funeral. He plans on taking all of his officials. Looney was similarly coy with UMHoops.
More realistic options at Michigan's stretch four include OH PF Vince Edwards, who is still down to Michigan and Purdue, but also mentioning that Louisville is vaguely interested. Purdue sites think the Boilers may be pulling out in front:
Edwards opened things up a bit in the spring when he said he wanted to see if any other schools were going to show interest. One school that has is Louisville. To what extent, nobody really knows. They are pretty full for 2014 and have a couple guys higher on their board at Vince’s position.
Purdue on the other hand might be starting to take a slight lead, if you could call it that. Edwards stated earlier this summer that he would like to have the process over before his senior season begins in November. He also said it could be anytime between now and then so anything could change.
Edwards has repeatedly stated that he wants to be shown the proverbial love by whoever he picks, and Michigan seems to be diversifying its options at the four, so I'm with that guy.
A couple of unoffered guys are also in the mix. Jaylen Johnson is from Ypsi, has a MSU offer, and blew up at the LeBron James thing. He has "more skill than he's given credit for," sayeth the recruiting analysts there, which makes me think he's more of a fit for a pound-the-rock team like MSU than Michigan, which prefers skill and shooting to raw power at the 4. I mean:
Johnson played with one of the best motors out of any of the bigs in the camp. He was constantly making an impact on the game with his rebounding, defending, passing and scoring.
His ball skills are a little raw, but the potential is there. Just his effort defensively and on the boards is enough to help any team win games.
Doesn't sound like a fit.
Meanwhile, MO PF Jordan Barnett visited and is waiting on Beilein to see him in person to offer. He's a bit undersized at 6'7" if he's not a skill guy, and it doesn't sound like he is.
2015 point guard derby
The race to be the next Derrick Walton is on. The wooed and the wooing:
- Jalen Brunson (offer). Offered on the 23rd of June, Brunson is the top PG in the 2015 class according to ESPN. Michigan is currently… yes… I can say this… the biggest offer in his list, with Purdue, UVA, and Xavier following. Illinois and MSU are also pursuing hard. Brunson also talked to Scout, saying "Yes, I am" in a beautiful deadpan when asked if he is having fun, and claims no favorites. He's waiting until next November to decide.
- Jalen Coleman (offer). It's raining Jalens. Coleman may fit in the Miscellaneous Very Good Player category as a 6'3" combo guard and may not be mutually exclusive with other pure points, but since we know Beilein really likes his height at the SG spot I'm guessing he would be brought in as the point. Coleman, named after Jalen Rose (you are old), was "ecstatic" to get a Michigan offer.
- Sedrick Barefield. Barefield doesn't have an offer just yet but will get one the moment he steps on campus. He lives and California and is playing a typically heavy AAU schedule, so that visit might have to wait until fall.
- Corey Sanders. Sanders is the running mate of misc.-very-good player Dwayne Bacon, a near five-star in the class. While he's the lowest-rated of Michigan's potential additions, he has been impressing on the AAU circuit with his athleticism. Sam Webb just projected Sanders and Bacon to end up in the class—apparently they've added a play called "Michigan" to their AAU team's playbook. Let us consider where the program is now vis a vis the Aneurysm of Leadership.
Any of these options is kind of good. IL PG Hyron Edwards is out there still, but since he's fulfilled all the offer criteria, even attending the elite camp, but has not gotten an offer he seems to be a Plan B.
Sanders is the most intriguing/weird/dangerous/could-be-a-spy option. Anyone who sees Sanders's highlight video…
…knows that his handle his capital-T Tight and his game is capital-S Salty, which may be an artifact of an internet highlight video. But it's also quite a departure from the usual Michigan recruit highlight video, which shows the player working out without fanfare for 12 hours straight, carrying a trainer who screams profantities at him in Tagalog while eating ice cream the player himself has never and will never taste. Hard men, these point guards.
Sanders brings athleticism and heaps of swagger, but can he shoot and can he actually play point guard? Is it worth the risk if he brings Bacon along?
If Brunson sticks to his timetable I bet someone else jumps on the Michigan opportnity first, FWIW.
2015 post grabbage
Michigan seems strong with NV C Stephen Zimmerman, who just moved to #1 overall in the 2015 class to Scout and is enamored with the possibility of being Mitch McGary 2.0, except taller and (necessarily) less adorable. They're also chasing WI C Diamond Stone, who talked to Sam Webb. Stone mentioned Michigan in a small group of planned visits:
Sam Webb: Any plans on getting out to any other schools this summer or is that going to wait until the school year to get out on some more visits?
Diamond Stone: “I’m trying to figure out what Midnight Madness I’m going. Coach Calipari asked me to go to his Midnight Madness. So I don’t even know. It’ll probably be Michigan, Marquette, Wisconsin.”
Michigan hasn't had a Madness event since the first year they made the tourney, FWIW, but that's a quality group to be mentioned in: two local schools (easy to visit) and Kentucky. Stone was already on campus for the MSU football game last year, as well. Kentucky is obviously a huge problem, but if both these guys end up down to Kentucky and Michigan… well, Kentucky and only Kentucky can apparently lock both down. But you've got to think that they go to different places so they can be The Man.
2015 miscellaneous very good player
Depending on who you talk to, OH SG Luke Kennard is either a favorite or a middling shot to be miscellaneous very good player in the 2015 class. Michigan fans have been hearing about him since he was a freshman who shot a lot like John Shurna—oddly but effectively. Michigan has been on him forever-ever:
Bales recalled explaining to a Michigan graduate assistant, “You know, this is going to sound crazy, and I don’t know how good he is, but we think he’s pretty special. We have an eighth-grader who is going to be a freshman that you should take a look at.”
By Franklin’s second game at the camp, one of Michigan’s staffers was watching Kennard play. His third game, the entire Wolverines staff was watching. Like that, his recruitment had begun, even if an offer from Michigan, one of the many schools recruiting him, didn’t come until June 15 of this year.
“At the time, Luke had not received any offers,” Kennard’s father, Mark, said. “He had just gotten out of eighth grade.”
Kennard's been adding more bounce to his game consistently and ranks inside the top 50 everywhere you care to look; he picked up his offer about a month ago, and said the requisite things:
"We enjoy doing that and being there," Mr. Kennard said. "They've got great facilities.
"There's no doubt Michigan will be there [at the end]. They were the first ones that had kind of recruited Luke when we can to team camp his freshman year. That was kind of how it started."
There is of course Dwayne Bacon, Sanders's potential package-deal bro.