never heard of it
The University of Michigan football program will open the 2014 season with a match-up against Appalachian State University on Aug. 30 at Michigan Stadium. This will be the second [sic] meeting between the Wolverines and Mountaineers at Michigan Stadium.
Sorry about that error in the second sentence above. Michigan has never played Appalachian State.
If you'll excuse me, I feel like having a seizure.
Tristan Nickelson on an unofficial visit to Auburn. [Photo courtesy of the Nickelson family]
League City (TX) Clear Falls offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson projects to be one of the top offensive tackles in the nation in 2013, and it looks like Michigan will be a serious player in his recruitment. The 6'7", 280-pound prospect is an ESPNU 150 Watch List candidate and could receive consideration for five-star status when the 2013 class is ranked. Excelling in the classroom as well as on the field, Nickelson carries a 4.1 GPA (!) and plans on studying mechanical engineering in college. His father was kind enough to update me on Tristan's recruitment as he prepares for his junior season, which kicks off tomorrow against the Hitchcock (TX) Bulldogs.
ACE: Who has been recruiting Tristan from Michigan? What is his interest level in the Wolverines, and are there any plans to take a visit at this point?
MR. NICKELSON: Coach Funk personally sent Tristan a hand-written invitation to attend one of the summer camps in Ann Arbor last June -- unfortunately we had a conflict in scheduling and were unable to attend. Based on NCAA rules, Tristan can’t receive any recruiting information until September 1st, 2011.
At this point (still very early in the recruiting process) Michigan would be his top choice, based on the new coaching staff, Coach Funk, the engineering department, and the incredible facilities. Tristan asked me several years ago, “Which top-25 program also has a world-class engineering department?" I answered Michigan, so since that time Michigan has been his favorite college team, even though I played for coach Jim Wacker at TCU (4-year letterman 1984-1988) and his mother played volleyball for Texas A&M. (Our daughter Taylor is a freshman at Texas A&M.)
We would like to explore taking an unofficial visit to Michigan to expose Tristan to the game day environment, and we're thinking that invitation will happen -- but again, most likely after Sept. 1st. It would be Coach Funk’s call or the recruiter assigned to the greater Houston area.
Tristan also plans on attending the Michigan Football Camp in June 2012.
ACE: What other schools have shown interest, and does Tristan have an idea of which programs are among his favorites?
MR. NICKELSON: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, TCU, West Virginia, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M -- basically everyone on the list has started showing interest in recruiting Tristan by inviting him to games and unofficial campus visits.
His top three at this point (in order) would be: Michigan, LSU and Texas A&M.
ACE: Does Tristan have a timetable in mind for his recruitment? How has he handled all the attention so far?
MR. NICKELSON: We plan on attending a number of college football games this season, then continuing with unofficial visits throughout the spring and summer. Tristan is being considered for the U.S. Army All-American Game (Jan. 2013) and could wait until then to announce his final choice. I guess the timeline is still undetermined at this point. Schools can start contacting him directly on April 16th, 2012 -- I’m sure it will get crazy at that point.
ACE: This might be tough to answer, being his father, but how would you evaluate Tristan's strengths and weaknesses on the field? Is there anything specific he's working on in his game right now?
MR. NICKELSON: Although several publications have him listed at 6’6”, 255 lbs. [and playing for] Clear Springs High School, the correct information is 6’ 7 3/8”, 281 lbs. (with a shoe size of 17) at Clear Falls. So we need to improve on his “feet work” along with his 40 time; at the Under Armour Combine he was timed in the 6.4’s, which he has since improved to under a 6.0. Based on the top 10 OT numbers, Tristan really needs to be under a 5.2 by spring football (March 2012). His shuttle times have also continued to improve, and I would say at the point in his career, he is a much better run blocker than he is on pass protection. On over 50% of the run plays, he ends up with a “pancake block.”
From a positive standpoint, he is very strong and increasing weekly as he matures. Several programs, including Auburn, feel like Tristan will play in the 310-320 range. He has a wingspan of 82.5” and extremely large/strong hands (Tristan had the strongest hands at the UA Combine -- 165 lbs. on pressure). He is also on the wrestling team, placing 4th in district last year as a sophomore in the 285-pound class (his weight was 241 during the season). He is being trained by one of the top Olympic lifting coaches in the country, Tim Swords.
ACE: You said that your son is planning to study mechanical engineering in college. What qualities is he looking for in his future college choice?
MR. NICKELSON: As I mentioned, the combination would be a top-25 football program with has a top-tier engineering school; it’s only a handful of schools that have both. In addition, we have talked about playing for an offensive line coach that played the position in college or in the pros, along with a head coach that will have some level of flexibility in regards to the engineering curriculum.
Based on recent events, it will also be very important that the program is in good standing with the NCAA, and not under any type of current investigations.
If Tristan has the opportunity to play in the NFL that will be great, but we have always stressed the need for a great education, which he has done a great job of managing to date. So from our perspective, the pursuit of the [mechanical engineering degree] should always be equally as important as playing for a major university.
JoePa as Rivers Cuomo.
Apparently JoePa is a closet hipster. I knew it all along! Just look at his shirt in the golf cart at practice. Couple that with the short pants, white socks, thick-rimmed glasses...hipster all the way. Thoughts?
Paterno vs Hipster: FIGHT
Emailer: flawless victory.
A manball transition theory.
After reading your posts on Denard and the shotgun, I began thinking about what might be an appropriate Way Forward for Hoke, Borges, Denard and U-M fandom.
I agree with most everyone that last year's spread-and-shred offense was very good despite having a first-year QB starter, turnover issues and the lack of a consistently dependable RB in the backfield. However we all know that was last season, and the new coaching staff isn't going that same route. I think a three-year transition from spread to West Coast offense is what Borges needs to consider. It could go something like this:
2011: passing spread, a la Missouri with Chase Daniels or the Michigan-Florida Cap One Bowl game in 2007. Plenty of shotgun, still plenty of Denard dilithium. The distribution of running/passing plays goes from 60/40 last year to something approaching 50/50. Borges gets the benefit of the short passing game that he desires, takes advantage of a very skilled WR group and the learning curve for the whole offense is a lot less steep.
I'm not sure anything featuring Denard Robinson at quarterback can ever be described as a "passing spread," but it stands to reason that as he develops he'll throw more. In any case I'm less concerned with the development of the passing game than what happens on the ground. While what Denard ran last year was effective in the structure of the offense—how many times did he have nowhere to go?—I got the impression it wasn't very sophisticated. They kept updating it. That's fine as far as it goes. I'm guessing Borges's system is more robust.
The ground game is more of a concern. It was pretty good a year ago and with everyone save Schilling and Webb back it should be better this year. It seems doubtful they'll be able to take that incremental move forward if they're changing their bread and butter.
2012: West Coast/spread hybrid, a la last season's Philadelphia Eagles with Michael Vick at QB. A senior Denard should be able to handle most anything thrown his way by this time, and hopefully a consistent threat at RB emerges. Meanwhile, Devin Gardner is getting ready for the spotlight because the transition is nearly complete.
Where are they going to get the personnel? With Barnett out they've got very little at TE/FB. They'll be choosing between Moore/Miller/Kerridge and a third or fourth WR. It's hard to see two of those three on the field for big chunks of the game when the WR options beyond Stonum and Roundtree will be veteran and decent: Gallon, Jerald Robinson, and Dileo will all be juniors—you can split Hayes out as well. The WRs have been getting talked up while no tight end save Koger is mentioned.
Unless Moore and Miller come on big time, Michigan will be all but locked into three-wide sets in 2012.
2013: full-blown West Coast offense. Devin should be ready to take the reins of a team that might resemble last season's San Diego State offense, or U-M teams from the early 2000s.
This seems like the first year they could plausibly run most of their offense from under center. Gardner's big enough to be comfortable in the pocket, they'll have some sophomore tight ends at their disposal, etc.
Maybe this is something that Hoke and Borges are considering and for their sake I hope so. This seems plausible to me but I'm no coach. What do you think?
I don't know yet. We'll have a much better idea when we see this year's offense. If it's as spread-like as Dinardo keeps saying and it performs well it's hard to see them moving away from it for Denard's senior year.
If I had to guess I'd say they are installing a pro-style passing tree right now and will use the parts of it they can with Denard and a bunch of short receivers. By next year that will be almost totally installed. We won't see a drastic shift in the run game until 2013, when the entire interior line ages out and is replaced by Hoke-recruited beef machines. That will be the dawning of the age of Manball.
Someone asks about technique.
I apologize in advance for not already knowing this, but my time on the football field was limited to middle school. I hear Hoke…
Excerpt from interview on Scout.com: "Ryan has been playing the three, Mike Martin has been playing the shade, the one and then a combination of guys, Will can play both the three and the five and the three and the one. Will Heininger can play all three and has.
…talk all the time about the different places our D-linemen can play, but what is the difference between all the different Techniques?
Techniques are addressed in the incomplete but not totally useless UFR FAQ. Here's a recap/primer for people who haven't been around for one of the previous explanations. First, the explanatory image:
Your question addresses the leftmost DE, the NT, and the DT. Bullet time:
- THE FIVE TECH: The leftmost—strongside—DE lines up shaded outside of the strongside tackle. He's a defensive end but he's half DT, too: he often has to take on double teams as teams try to hook him and get outside. When doubled on the line he's usually trying to fend off a TE as the second guy so his task is not quite as difficult as the NT in this regard, but when the offense goes to a spread look he's got a lot more pass rush responsibility. The ideal guy here is someone like Brandon Graham, equally capable of ripping through that double or annihilating the tackle if left alone on pass protection.
- THE ONE TECH: This is the nose tackle. He is supposed to be enormous and immobile. If he's not you can still get a lot of production out of the spot if the guy can split doubles. Martin is the latter variety. "Shade" is a synonym for one-tech/NT—shade means he's not directly lined up over an opponent but he's not halfway between two. In the diagram above the NT is shaded left of the center.
- THE THREE TECH: This is the DT on the weakside. Because of the alignment of the defense he usually gets a one-on-one matchup with the weakside guard. He's got to win that battle for the defense to be effective. Usually this is the smaller, quicker DT, but the best ones are huge and quick. If we had a nose tackle Mike Martin would murder folks here. Being able to go one on one with the G is how Warren Sapp was so much of a factor in the backfield.
The oft-mentioned Theory Of The 4-3 Under states that the five tech and three tech are somewhat interchangeable. Both need to be tough run defenders with a secondary focus on pass rush. They're big hulking plus-sized DEs or somewhat smaller DTs; sitting and anchoring against doubles is less important than getting penetration by beating your opponent. The strongside DE is usually a more important run defender because he's vulnerable to a lot more double teams.
Are we still better than State at basketball?
Michigan swept Michigan State last year. (awesome)
Compared with last year, how does Michigan match up with Michigan State this year? More favorably, worse, or about the same? I know it is way early, but considering player losses, incoming players, and current player development.
That depends on how much value you place on Darius Morris and how well you think Trey Burke can replace him.
In terms of players, minutes, and usage lost Michigan has an advantage. Michigan lost only Morris, who was on the court 86% of the time and used 29% of possessions when he was out there. Michigan State lost:
- Kalin Lucas (83% minutes, 27% possessions)
- Durrell Summers (73%, 21%)
- Garrick Sherman (30%, 14%)
- Mike Kebler (24%, 9%)
At first blush that's encouraging, but losing low-efficiency usage is not a big deal. Morris combined massive usage with a high ORtg (109); all of the players State lost save Lucas had turrible numbers. The departures are a push at best. State's only going to miss one of the absent. Both teams replace their offense's main engine. Michigan's engine was significantly better.
Year-to-year improvement should be advantage Michigan. As we've discussed over and over again, last year M was one of the youngest teams in the country. Michigan State was about 70th percentile. Juniors like Draymond Green and Delvon Roe are not likely to get a ton better; freshmen like Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Smotrycz, and Jordan Morgan are. State has a couple wildcards in Keith Appling and Adriean Payne. Michigan has the above three plus the ever-expanding Jon Horford.
State's best argument is their recruiting class, which includes five star Branden Dawson. Depending on the service you prefer, Michigan can match the rest of the class with Brundidge, Burke, and Bielfeldt. Not Dawson. He's kind of a big deal.
I'd guess Michigan is narrowly better next year unless State gets an extra quantum leap from one of their young guys. Burke and Dawson's adjustments to college will be the biggest factor.
UPDATE: I totally forgot MSU's addition of Valpo grad-year transfer Brandon Wood, an All-Horizon first team player who might swing the advantage to MSU. /shakes fist at grad transfer rule
This is clearly not part of the 2011 football preview, except it is. It was not possible to write this year's "The Story" without closing the door on the Rodriguez era. Thus this.
I meant to, but never got around to, writing one of the Rich Rodriguez obituaries that sprouted across the Michigan blogosphere in the aftermath of his firing. At the time I was busy panicking about Les Miles, the lack of Jim Harbaugh, and the possibility someone with as thin a resume as Brady Hoke would get hired.
By the time I'd stopped railing about The Process and the hire it begat, Rodriguez's corpse was cool. People were already complaining about how I wouldn't let the last three years go. So I dropped it. They say things happen for a reason, though, and usually say so at press conferences.
A couple months later I was at show at the Magic Stick. We had no knowledge of any of the bands that were playing; we'd been encouraged to see the headliner by a friend of the MGoWife. Whatever talent the headliner had was overwhelmed by the impression she was the worst person ever*, but the second opener was this quirky trio from Ypsi called Lightning Love. Lightning Love is a twee indie band whose drummer (now) looks like he was acquired from the Megadeth surplus store. Most of their songs are about being a miserable discontented loser surrounded by people just like you**. MGoWife adored them, bought the album and all that, and eventually I came to think of one of their songs as The Ballad of Rich Rodriguez.
This is it. Yes, you're going to have to do this obit multimedia style:
Lightning Love - Friends
Thirty Josh Grobans agree this is more in the spirit of the Rodriguez era than Josh Groban songs. And that's hugely depressing, isn't it?
It's his kid that kills me. Scattered amongst shots of Rodriguez emoting like a mofo are pictures of his son Rhett doing the same. At this point he must wonder why the universe hates his dad. Three years ago Rodriguez was promising his son as a member of the class of 2017. A few months ago this was happening after the Illinois game…
…a few months later it was this…
…and some heretofore innocuous sports photographer got a terrifying glimpse into life as a paparazzi.
The universe's capper:
The universe has watched your gladiatorial antics, Rich Rodriguez, and it is not impressed. Thumbs down.
In retrospect the downed thumbs were inevitable. I mean… the Groban thing. Come on. It was always something. It was Groban or another fake controversy about how people need to "get a life" or his inability to "get it" about rivals. Rodriguez wasn't subsumed by the overwhelming Michigan-ness of Michigan. He either failed to understand the need to throw himself at the shoes of the Great Tradition or just couldn't be anyone other than the guy who grew up in the "holler" and married someone my mother would certainly refer to as "that woman." You know how mothers do.
So the legacy program and local media rejected the organ transplant. The program started throwing t-cells at Rodriguez on day one. Rodriguez chipped in with stormy sideline antics and pouting. When he swore it was weakness; when he choked up it was weakness.
All of that was unambiguously negative for a football coach, but an offshoot of that was having your kid with you in a genuinely touching way. For a human this is the definition of low expectations. You publicly express your affection for your son. You are not a grim military object; you are capable of squeezing emotions other than rage out of your gray heart. Congratulations for not being a one-dimensional character straight out of American Beauty.
But I can't recall ever seeing the kind of father and son shots Rhett and Rich Rodriguez feature in before. Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit. He, like most of us, was doing okay but sometimes—too often—he was not. When Michigan instituted "The Team The Team The Team" as its official pregame hype theme it drove the point home: there is God, and there is man, and Rich Rodriguez is not God.
There was no clearer evidence of that than his answer to a question posed days before the Wisconsin game. Michigan was 7-3 but a teetering 7-3. The question was something about "how he projected the third season at Michigan." A coach would have blustered something about senior leadership. Rodriguez told it like it was, and though it was already kinda over this seems like the moment when Rodriguez accepted his fate:
"I thought we'd be further ahead.
"I thought a lot of things when I got here."
*[The chorus of every song was functionally "I'm sorry I don't care about you or any of the things you care about, except I'm not sorry."]
**[Or they've been arranged for marimba by a Michigan State fan… which… wow, internet. Vast and deep are your reaches.]
Chris Barnett has tweeted that he is out:
No longer at the university of Michigan
A couple of commenters wondered if that might be a joke. It is not. I've heard from multiple sources that Barnett was not in practice and was considering leaving or actually had left the team. Now it's (all but) official. That's the third member of the incoming class to flame out before the first game. At least in this instance I'd forgotten to write a recruiting profile for him. I did fret about his association with Baron Flenory.
Barnett probably wasn't going to play this year after suffering an injury late in his high school season and showing up pushing 280 pounds. Like Posada, his departure is more of a big deal next year when Koger and Watson graduate. At that point the only non-freshman tight end on the roster will be Brandon Moore, who hasn't played a lick thus far in his Michigan career.
Michigan might have to delay this manball thing even longer than they wanted simply because they don't have the personnel to put a tight end on the field much.
UPDATE: There's also Ricardo Miller at TE, though he needs to spend the next year eating nothing but bacon grease if he's going to get up to a reasonable weight.