During Michigan’s rocky non-conference season, the weak link on the squad was fairly obvious: the big men, most of whom were still young and / or inexperienced, really struggled. The implications were far-ranging – not only was the Wolverine defense particularly porous inside, but the pick-and-roll game on offense was starkly stagnant. Between Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, Moritz Wagner, and DJ Wilson, Michigan couldn’t cobble together more than a few consecutive solid shifts on the floor, let alone a strong 40 minutes of interior play. Needless to say, that – coupled with Michigan’s other early-season issues – led to blowout losses at the hands of some good teams. Watching Xavier’s front line feast in the Crisler Center early on was a sobering sign of how far the big men (and the team as a whole) had to come.
Then, in the first game of the Big Ten season, Mark Donnal discovered that he could dominate Illinois – a team with no inside presence whatsoever – to the tune of 26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Caris LeVert was insistent on creating easy looks inside for Donnal and it worked; because fate is cruel, Caris went down with a foot injury late in that same game and couldn’t replicate that pick-and-roll chemistry again – which looked as good as it had in years for Michigan basketball. Still, even without LeVert, Donnal became much better at making himself available on the pick-and-roll and he became much more effective at converting the wide open looks that Michigan’s offense creates for its posts.
That wound up being his best game of the season – though a game at Maryland in which he scored 25 and had 5 blocks may have been close – but he still posted legitimately good numbers in the 18 games of Big Ten play:
3rd-best in the conference in Effective FG % and True Shooting %,
4th-best in 2-Point % (62.5)
8th-best in Offensive Rating (121.5)
8th-best in Offensive Rebounding Rate (11.7)
13th-best in Block Rate (4.9)
13th-best in Free Throw Rate (38.6)
Maybe most importantly, 63.3% of available minutes
Donnal was a quintessentially efficient Michigan big man once his feel around the rim improved, even though he wasn’t a particularly physical finisher. In fact, despite his good block rate, he wasn’t a rim protector as Michigan allowed a horrendous percentage on opponent shots around the rim. That lack of physicality led to some criticism, and indeed, Michigan didn’t have much strength in the post, from Donnal or from anyone else (it’s worth noting that Donnal’s low defensive rebounding rate is not too much of a concern with Michigan’s team-wide success in clearing the defensive glass).
All in all, Donnal was an effective post in Michigan’s offense and was noticeably better than the other options on the depth chart (although MGoFavorite Moritz Wagner outplayed him in the NCAA Tournament), and his ability to stay on the court was key. He has one year of eligibility and a potential grad year (here or elsewhere), and his midseason awakening was huge in Michigan’s effort to get into the NCAA Tournament.
[More after the JUMP]
Three-star CT ILB/FB Ben Mason, who picked up an offer while on an unofficial visit last month, will announce his college decision tomorrow evening:
I will be announcing my commitment on Tuesday May 3rd at 6:30 at Cover Two in sandy hook @Cover_Two_SH
— Ben Mason (@benmason41) April 29, 2016
Michigan is the prohibitive favorite; there were rumblings Mason might commit shortly after his offer came in, and all ten of his Crystal Ball selections are for the Wolverines. He's coming off a strong showing at the New Jersey Opening regional that earned him position MVP honors:
Sandy Hook (Conn.) Newton linebacker Ben Mason won MVP honors for his position group, doing well in drills, the Cat and Mouse setting and also moving well in coverage in 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s. It’s easy to call the 6-foot-2 ½, 247-pound Mason a throwback, and one wouldn’t think this would be a setting he’d shine in, but Mason did his thing and left with hardware.
Mason could be an inside linebacker, fullback, or even defensive end in college. If a commitment comes as expected, I'll have much more on him tomorrow.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|Detroit, MI – 5'10", 172|
|Scout||4*, #97 overall
|Rivals||4*, #176 overall
#14 CB, #5 MI
|ESPN||4*, #278 overall
#21 CB, #7 MI
|24/7||4*, #88 overall
#6 CB, #2 MI
|Other Suitors||MSU, PSU, Tenn, Clemson, UGA, OSU, Texas, USC, UCLA|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Brother of Delano. Army AA. Also national DB of the year. Nicknamed "Ghost," which is a good nickname.|
Lavert Hill's recruitment ended the way you expect "younger brother of Michigan player" to end. Getting there was a bit odd. Hill fired off an early commitment to Penn State, but by the time last year's football season rolled around he was on Michigan's campus weekly and regarded as the biggest lock on the board… without actually decommitting. When he finally made the obvious official by declaring himself a free agent, Hill still managed to be the indirect cause of a ton of finger-pointing when Penn State brought him on the ice during a hockey game. For dessert there was a late, apparently unwarranted surge of optimism from Michigan State. (At his Signing Day announcement, his brother admitted he knew what the pick was for a "couple weeks.") Hill had a high-drama no-drama recruitment.
But all that's in the rear-view mirror now. Michigan did indeed acquire Delano Hill's younger brother, and in doing so they hope to set themselves up with a younger version of a guy currently on the roster: Jourdan Lewis. Former DB coach Greg Jackson's YMRMFSPA is also Jourdan Lewis, for one. The similarities are many, to the point where scouting reports could be about either guy. Scout's profile evaluation is a good example:
Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.
Or 247's take from the Army game:
…lockdown corner with elite feet, great speed and quicks. He competed on every rep giving the quarterback no option on his side of the field.
"Hill is a lockdown cover corner who has shown he can check the top wide receivers in the country," Helmholdt said. "He has a fluid turn, good top-end speed and an outstanding break on the football." … "The one thing he will have to work on when he gets to college is he tends to get a little handsy."
Or Sam Webb, also at the Army game:
…excellent press corner. … great speed, terrific hips, and cat-like quickness. All of those things aid him in sticking with receivers when he lines up in their faces. But he didn’t look as instinctive when playing off. I thought he lined up too far off the ball Monday, giving receivers too much freedom to get into their routes. He was much more aggressive and physical Tuesday and did a much better job of throwing off the QB-to-WR timing.
…Flashes very good recovery speed in the short-area and longer makeup speed if caught out of position vertically. … Smart, savvy and aware on the perimeter. Understands zone concepts and does a really good job reading the quarterback and feeling routes develop. … Shows good press-man technique jamming receivers with his length and retaining inside leverage . Will turn and run showing good speed and fluid hip turns. Mirrors with sharp footwork and balance; closes separation quickly out of breaks to undercut routes.
The scouting reports continue, and continue, and continue in this vein. Dude seemingly went to every camp out there for years, killing it at most of them. "In terms of instincts and man to man cover skills, you won't find many in the 2016 class better than LaVert Hill"; "fantastic as usual"; "won MVP at NIKE's The Opening regional with dazzling one-handed interceptions and lockdown cover skills." Etc.
Hill's speed is a major plus, with a 4.41 electronic 40 and a 4.10 shuttle at an Opening regional. He's not the biggest guy but has the ability to stay in anyone's back pocket; once there his timing and vertical allows him to make plays against strapping wideouts. Kind of like… yep. Even the drawbacks remind you of Lewis, who is at his best in press man and spent much of last year successfully toeing the line between legit coverage and interference.
Former Cass Tech coach Jermain Crowell directly compared the two when Hill committed:
“Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD with them being the same age coming out of high school. His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.
“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”
Let's explore that latter bit, the main drawback people mention about Hill. He got beat with some frequency in high school. When Ace caught him at the beginning of his junior year, he was very up and down:
Hill had an up-and-down day, giving up a long touchdown when he got beat on a post route and compounded his error by diving for a pick, then bouncing back to make a couple very nice plays on the ball—he got hit with three pass interference calls on the night, but I thought two of them were highly questionable.
Cass played him off a lot, and Ace also noticed that he was often uncomfortable doing so. 247 took in the same game and came away with the same take: physically capable but beat too often, like Vernon Hargreaves against Jehu Chesson.
Touch The Banner mentions in its evaluation that his high school production was often called into question and that he made his name largely on camps. That appears to be a criticism Hill is leaving behind, however, as his senior year was extremely productive. King assistant Terel Patrick told Steve Lorenz that Hill developed a great deal from when Ace saw him above to a 12-interception(!), 24-PBU(!) senior season that ended in a state championship:
“His eyes are extremely disciplined from when you look earlier in high career. The athleticism has always been there, the playmaking ability has always been there, but honing in on the small things and working his craft and the eye discipline, and ability to stay locked in all four quarters is the biggest change I’ve seen in Lavert’s game from the start of his high school career to end of his high school career.”
Ace relates that Hill gives up long plays whenever he sees him play but that they were greatly reduced in frequency as a senior. Hill is no doubt still working towards the ideal here, but the trajectory of improvement is encouraging. Some struggles early are natural.
A second problem area is run defense. Per Ace, Hill "isn't much of a form tackler," and that's something ESPN mentioned in their evaluation:
Not a physical edge setter versus the run but will come quickly and make the low cut tackle. As a productive zone defender, he will need to continue physically develop to remain effective in those schemes at the college level.
Crappy tackling is to high school cornerbacks what pad level is to high school linemen, so it's not a death knell or anything. Hill's size and lack of experience in that phase of the game could be a hindrance to his playing time, especially in a Don Brown defense. Last year Michigan's corners were rarely—almost never—involved in run D; that will not be the case going forward.
Both of these drawbacks are fixable. Hill has already gone some way towards fixing the former. In contrast to David Long, the apprentice year Michigan can provide him is more necessity than luxury. Both guys have similar upsides and enticing futures.
He brings those intangibles that you can’t teach: instincts, quickness, transition in and out of breaks and reaction skills.
I will die fighting on this hill. Favorite phrase is "pretty good."
Why Jourdan Lewis? See above. This entire post is "why Lavert Hill is a lot like Jourdan Lewis." FWIW, Hill's rankings are eerily similar to Lewis's.
Guru Reliability: High. Only thing that keeps it from "exacting" is a sizeable split in the rankings. It's not a massive difference, though. Hill was at the Army game and the Opening amongst a ton of other camps and has been on the radar for years.
Variance: Moderate. There's always a little worry that a player Hill's size will find the college transition difficult, and he has work to do.
Ceiling: High. See also: Jourdan Lewis.
General Excitement Level: High. Sounds like a guy who would be up and down as a freshman and hopefully hit it big going forward. I do wonder if Don Brown's zone stuff and emphasis on run support from the corners might be a less than ideal fit for Hill (and Lewis), especially early on. I'll take it if it means Michigan can actually defend spread-to-run teams, especially You Know, That One.
Projection: Broken record time: Hill will play this year in preparation for a starting role in 2017. He's not likely to beat out the three seniors at corner; along with David Long he is a favorite to start as a true sophomore the year after. Hill does seem like less of a sure thing than Long, but I'll be surprised if anyone on the roster can displace him for a two or three year starting stint.
Left: Jim and Sam, who is smiling, because when is he not? Right: Little Demo, who is giving the look big demo used to give little defensive linemen
Last February I went to that Harbaugh & Harbaugh thing that inducted the brothers into the Pioneer HS Hall of Fame. As part of the charity auction they had each brother sign a Pioneer helmet. First they auctioned John’s helmet, but Jim Harbaugh outbid everyone. Jim sat down with his new John Harbaugh helmet, and signed the other side.
Then they auctioned the one Jim signed. A lot of people bid, including my friend Matt Demorest, but now it’s a competition: John outbid them all, signed his far more expensive helmet, and sat it back down in front of Sam Webb, instructing the auctioneer that he was donating it back to the cause.
So here’s the auctioneer, who can’t figure out what just happened even though the audience had tracked it well enough. On the other end of the table there’s Jim glaring like this is going to end in a wrestling match. In between them are Sam and Ira smiling like their teeth can keep them from bursting out laughing.
Jim leaps up and jams his helmet into the auctioneer’s hands: “I’m donating this back too.” The auctioneer’s like okay…throws out a number near what John Harbaugh just paid, and for a moment it’s silent before Demorest stands up with a massive finger in the air. His kid pumps his fist and goes “YES!” Sam loses it.
So if you’re wondering where your money goes when you buy or refinance with Matt, yeah, he just blows it all on hats. Fortunately it doesn’t cost you much since Homesure Lending is a small shop without the usual overhead, and you’ll make that back in a few months of your less expensive mortgage. Good deal.
ON OTHER MEMORABILIA:
User Jay Z bought a copy of this print, and was trying to figure out game; the readers figured out it’s 1989 Maryland. In the process it inspired two more threads: mine on your favorite memorabilia, and Wolverine Historian’s list of things the stadium used to have in 1989 that it doesn’t have now.
- Backflips off the front row
- Flinging toilet paper
- Drinking beer in the stands
- Packed student section
Go in there’s gifs and discussion.
On the bits of memorabilia, M Fanfare put you all to shame:
And finally, probably the most unusual piece of UM memorabilia I own, given to me by one of my groomsmen when I got married. It's from a book written by a UM geology professor right after World War I about why, in his opinion, the war broke out. But what makes it unique is who owned this particular copy. The author inscribed it to him.
"To Fielding H. Yost, With the best regards of Wm H. Hobbs, Ann Arbor, Oct 3, 1922."
To those of you who bought bits of the old turf, that was all the doing of Bob Lipson, the guy who created and produced Michigan Replay.
[After the JUMP: I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a burning desire to write something on Tunsil, in case you want to hear me make the same case Brian already made today.]
M Offers Jamal Cain
Today's roundup starts not with football, but with some long-anticipated hoops news, courtesy of MLive's Brendan Quinn—Michigan has offered three-star 2017 MI F Jamal Cain:
Jamal Cain made the short trip from Pontiac to Ann Arbor for an unofficial visit to Michigan on Wednesday afternoon. He made the drive back with a scholarship offer in tow.
Cain, a three-star small forward from Detroit Cornerstone Prep, added the Wolverines to his list of committable offers as U-M joined the likes of Xavier, Georgia, Marquette, Florida State and others as his biggest suitors.
Cain's outstanding play over the last season has raised his profile considerably, and Michigan should be a strong contender to land him. M has three open spots in the 2017 class in addition to a commitment from four-star SG Jordan Poole; that number could dwindle to two if John Beilein decides to fill the current open scholarship with a 2016 recruit, but either way Cain will be a top target moving forward.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
So the thing that everybody knew happened did happen.
Tunsil's Draft Presser via WBBM. "Was their an exchange between you and your coach for $$?" "I'd have to say, yeah." pic.twitter.com/TqYeOSjOfO
— Robby Donoho (@RobbyDonoho) April 29, 2016
As revelations go it's small time. Tunsil didn't get suspended for seven games for nothing.
Here is the best description of the admission. Tunsil went in front of the media almost as the Instagram stuff was posted and said these things in this order:
Then Tunsil was asked about the Instagram posts. He said he’d just found out about them, and reiterated that he’d made a mistake. Asked by reporter as to whether there’d been an exchange of money between Tunsil and a coach, he first responded, “I wouldn’t say that.” But when pressed a few moments later, he said, “Those messages?” almost as if he hadn’t understood the previous questions. “Those were true. Like I said, I made a mistake.”
Asked again if there had been an exchange of money, Tunsil then responded matter-of-factly, “I have to say yeah.” A further question about whether he’d met with the NCAA was being posed when Milam appeared from behind a curtain, cutting the session short. “He’s got no more comments. Thank you guys so much,” she said, tapping the offensive lineman on the shoulder, whisking him away and leaving media as baffled as Tunsil apparently had been.
Tunsil said it twice and was clearly referring to the Instagram posts since "those" is not a way you'd reference the bong hit. That's about as clear as it'll ever get.
Good for Tunsil, more or less. Dude got paid, got to the NFL as a mid-first-round pick, and got to do a gas mask bong in front of a Confederate flag. I guess that's empowering?
I don't have any issue with Tunsil's priorities. I assume 80% of college football players have taken hits off a novelty bong. I'm assuming his family is not particularly wealthy; it's a logical decision to get paid when you happen to be an incredible prospect in a field that has a professional career that lasts on average 2.6 years. Maybe don't film yourself doing a thing that you know the NFL is irrational about, but the only proper response to tut-tutters is to roll your eyes.
Meanwhile I can get behind following that up with an honest admission he got paid to go to a university with negligible football history and Confederate flags behind every bong. I'll only be vaguely irritated at Tunsil if he walks back those admissions. He doesn't owe anything to Ole Miss; a look inside the sausage factory can only speed up the day when people can give money to college football players over the table. There is a point at which the NCAA must admit that they have no ability to prevent people from getting paid and drops the whole charade.
It is an amazing bit of brainwashing. That's why I think some coach just needs to use protest-the-system defense. https://t.co/HmYhlGvgdl
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) April 29, 2016
And what a charade it is. Whenever I bring this up and advocate near-total deregulation of money headed to college football players there is a pushback from people who say
- but then people with money will have influence on football programs and
- but then college football players will have the money.
I look at these people and wonder why they think 1 isn't already true—even at programs trying to stay between the lines—and why 2 is a problem. The text message exchange is an attempt to get a bill paid for his mom. We have zero issue with 18 and 19 year olds getting paid in any other sport; paternalistic concerns they might do something harmlessly stupid with the money are nonsensical since then the players are merely back where they started.
Ole Miss got greedy. The reason that Ole Miss might actually take a fall here is because they got greedy. They had a story why they might acquire Robert Nkemdiche—his brother was already on the team. They had zero plausible story why they'd acquire Tunsil or Laquon Treadwell, out-of-state five stars with zero connection to a program that hadn't done anything since the 1960s. Tunsil in particular seems to have come with some serious family baggage that may explain why Ole Miss was able to outbid others:
Suspicion for the hacks quickly and naturally fell upon Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, with whom Tunsil has been engaged in a lengthy and nasty legal battle.
Last June, Tunsil was arrested on domestic-violence charges after a fight with Miller. Tunsil told police that his stepfather had pushed his mother, and he punched Miller to protect her, and pressed charges against Miller. Miller told police that Tunsil hit him at least six times, that the attack was unprovoked, and that the argument started over Tunsil having impermissible contact with agents. NCAA investigators interviewed Miller over his claims that he had proof of rules violations committed by Ole Miss.
A month later, Tunsil and Miller agreed to drop the charges against each other.
This past Tuesday, two days before the draft, Miller filed a lawsuit against Tunsil, claiming Tunsil assaulted him and defamed his character. The suit alleges “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
If you're Alabama you can just move on to the next kid. (Or maybe not.) Ole Miss can't, and that may be their undoing. And it should be. While paying players is morally fine it is also against the rules.
Hi, Hugh Freeze. If there's ever been an example of a guy who just along for the ride it's Hugh "muh families" Freeze. Dude is an anonymous high school coach before a one-year apprenticeship at Arkansas State and then Ole Miss. Upon his arrival they start recruiting like they matter, and he bitches about having to work.
Gus Malzahn is a great comparison here. Malzahn also came from high school and also had a one year apprenticeship at Arkansas State before getting the Auburn job, but beforehand he was OC at Arkansas and Auburn and Tulsa and had excellent success at all those places, getting chased about because sometimes those places are insane. Malzhan got his job because he's a good football coach, and if Auburn's paying some guys to come that's only part of his success. Survey says they are, but not egregiously.
Freeze has nothing to his name other than the ability to not observe cash payments to high-profile recruits, and over the past year his program has seen one Nkemdiche fall out off a balcony whilst high, the other Nkemdiche leave the team and get hospitalized twice with "personal issues," and now the Tunsil thing. One of the appeals of the Ole Miss program appears to be a total lack of adult supervision. The NCAA changing official visit policies so that parents can come along will not be a help to them.
It's to the point where the NFL notices:
Multiple sources told The MMQB that Tunsil’s off-field behavior was becoming increasingly worrisome and reason for some teams to remove him from their draft boards altogether. Much of it had to do with the culture at Mississippi, sources say.
A Freeze implosion here would be richly deserved. Whether the NCAA has the ability to deliver it is very much in question, unfortunately.