i find this extremely interesting
Update 5/12: More video of MI QB commit Devin Gardner. linked to articles on OH TE Alex Smith (w/ mention of PA WR Andrew Carswell), MD S Lorenzo Waters, PA DE commit Ken Wilkins (two three), FL RB Nickell Robey, FL DE Corey Lemonier, FL RB Cassius McDowell, MI DE Will Gholston, PA WR Andrew Carswell, MD OT Arie Kouandjio, MI WR commit Ricardo Miller, OH DT Jibreel Black, MI LB Daniel Easterly, PA DE commit Ken Wilkins. Moved TX DE Holmes Onwukaife and SC QB Cornelius Jones to committed.
Removed FL RB Darion Hall (Miami), SC S Bashaud Breeland (Clemson), FL CB John Fulton (dropped M), OH DE Darryl Baldwin (same), PA DE Kyle Baublitz (PSU), MD S Jeff Knox (Pitt), TN QB Barry Brunetti (WVU), FL OL Brent Benedict (UGA), MI CB Mylan Hicks (MSU), MI DE Will Gholston (MSU).
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Despite what you read above I've held off on anointing the Holmes Onwukaife commitment official until he gets the super-OK from Rodriguez but expect that will happen shortly.
Tons of guys come off the board for various reasons. Random guys who Michigan never really got involved with: Breeland, Fulton, Brunetti, Benedict, Knox. Others:
- FL RB Darion Hall named Michigan one of his top four but just committed to Miami.
- PA DE Kyle Baublitz had a top eight he claimed was even an tentatively planned a summer unofficial.
So not exactly anyone M was counting on. The two in-state commits were also thought to be favoring State, so no surprises there. They are both good players, though. You know about Gholston. Hicks has been outperforming Mathis at the various camps the two have participated in and his commitment further narrows Michigan's margin for error in a year when they need three or even four corners.
One note on Brunetti: I'm happy enough to see him go off the board, as it further narrows Ohio State's slim choices in this year's class. It's basically Moeller QB Andrew Hendrix or bust. They must be kicking themselves about Gardner; even if he's raw, better to have someone raw than someone eh.
Speaking of Corners
Michigan remains in the driver's seat for PA CB Cullen Christian, MI CB Dior Mathis (probably), FL CB Travis Williams, and FL CB Rashad Knight, so they're not in terrible shape or anything. Also a candidate is Marvin Robinson's good friend Nickell Robey:
“I want to visit some schools that I have been wondering about,” Robey continued. “Michigan, Tennessee and I would like to visit Miami but they haven’t come through yet. I wouldn’t mind going out to California to see Stanford and Notre Dame to go to some far away schools to see how life is.”
Robey on M:
Robey also commented on one of the non-regional schools he mentioned, Michigan.
“A good northern school that loves football. I think of Desmond Howard. I’m number 21, so that’s nice. They produce great players to the NFL and I could be one of those athletes, play football and have fun,” he said.
Local schools, Virginia Tech, and various others will have their say, too.
The Soothing Balm Of Raw Athletic Whatzit
Your latest Devin Gardner video is a compilation of Vince Young-esque runs:
Elsewhere in All Things Gardner, he showed at a local Michigan camp and dominated at both QB and wide receiver. He's been getting preposterous reviews of his athleticism when he puts himself in a position to use it at these things. He finished third in the 60-yard dash at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp, getting beat out by two defensive backs a half-foot shorter than him and 50 pounds lighter, and came up a half-yard short of the longest throw.
There remains some possibility that
FL MI WR Ricardo Miller joins up with Gardner this fall. He's moved to Michigan but the original plan to join MI WR Jeremy Jackson at Ann Arbor Huron was kiboshed when Huron got a new coach who intends to install a veer offense. Another possibility would be Saline, which features BC commitment Joe Boisture at quarterback.
Ken Wilkins Can Wear Rock Star Jeans
More panting coach quotin' from PA DE commit Ken Wilkins' main man, who says he has a tiny waist despite being ENORMOUS:
"He is a physical, freakish-looking kid," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He is 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds, and he has a 30-inch waist. He is an unbelievable physical specimen."
Dalton said Wilkins' potential is off the charts.
"When he plays with a high motor, he is unbelievable," he said. "He has to become a little more consistent and play at a high level every snap, but the sky's the limit."
Well, a good source at Trinity who knows the football program well said Wilkins is talented, but isn't as athletic as Andrew Sweat, a Trinity linebacker two seasons ago who is now at Ohio State. "He doesn't have the agility that Sweat had," the source said.
Since he's way bigger than Sweat and not a linebacker, this does not bother me.
Hankins and Other Three-Point Players
This will be a critical week for Michigan and MI DT Jonathan Hankins. Varsity Blue notes a Hankins mention on one of Sam Webb's recent recruiting roundups for WTKA, and helpfully translates the lingo:
Sam Webb had a “gut feeling” on the Recruiting Roundup Thursday that Hankins would be blue if offered. For those who are unfamiliar with the WTKA morning show, Sam’s “gut feeling” means that he has heard directly from a source that the information is true.
I think that depends on whether that's a "gut feeling" or a "strong, strong, strong gut feeling," actually, but Webb is expert at playing coy and allowing the listener to read between the lines.
Elsewhere in defensive linemen who aren't edge-rushing maniacs, OH DT/DE Jibreel Black, who would probably play as a 3-technique DT in Michigan's 4-3 under, is down to a top five:
In no particular order, it is Michigan State, Michigan, UC, Indiana and Kentucky. It's getting hard, but I should have a decision real soon.
Black's been on State's campus and was also up for the BBQ, IIRC; Michigan is usually the choice when an out-of-state prospect picks from a list like that, but Cincinnati is the local school here and could be a threat.
Michigan still leads($) for OH DE/OLB Marcus Rush, but he has to be just about out of luck by now, right? Michigan has three or four guys already at his position and he's not a guy who you'd shove into the class no matter what. I don't think he'll get the opportunity to commit; the Inn is full.
The coaches at Hialeah have been experimenting with a new way to use star defensive end Corey Lemonier. The Thoroughbreds have implemented a 3-4 defense to use on occasion, where Lemonier will line up as an outside linebacker.
When the T-Breds throw out the new wrinkle Lemonier is still used as a pass rusher most of the time, but he does drop back in pass coverage at times.
Kid's playing deathbacker this fall. Hopefully Michigan can sell him on the spot. It looks like they'll get an opportunity:
Lemonier is tight lipped on his recruitment and says he will make a decision when he feels the time is right. He did mention one school and a region of the country he would like to see during his official visits this fall.
“Probably I know for sure I’ll say Ole Miss and some (northern) school like Michigan, a school up there.”
Obviously a long way from the finish line there.
Whispers of Relevance
More Weekly Whispers; drilling down to the relevant bits:
- OH TE Dan Schneider, a teammate of OH OL Christian Pace, may pick up an offer soon.
- Michigan would likely shoot to the top for OH OL Dan Rotheram if they offer.
- Illinois and Oklahoma are going to make IL WR Kyle Prater's next cut; also Tennessee gets a visit. No M mention.
- MI RB Austin White is a "heavy lean" to Michigan.
Etc.: MI LB Daniel Easterly says Illinois leads "so far"; a Michigan offer might change that quickly. CityBallers.com interviews Teric Jones, Cameron Gordon, and Devin Gardner (also Robert Bolden). PA WR Andrew Carswell says Pitt leads($), which ok fine.
South Carolina quarterback Cornelius Jones, who runs 6'3" and 185, committed to Michigan after his first day at summer camp. Despite holding a Michigan offer since last June, he remains mysterious to… uh… everyone.
So, yeah. As mentioned: Jones is a near-complete mystery, totally unranked so far in an era when if you aren't ranked by mid-June you're probably a MAC-level prospect. There are good reasons for this. He has no highlight film and hasn't hit up any camps or combines I am aware of. And he spent his early high school years not playing football.
Despite this, Michigan saw fit to offer him when his varsity snap count stood at a robust zero:
Cornelius Jones hasn’t played a down for the Spartanburg Vikings varsity football team yet, but Michigan has seen enough to offer him a scholarship.
The junior quarterback received his first offer Tuesday, after Vikings coach Freddie Brown sent the Big Ten school a five-minute video of Jones from a scrimmage.
That Tuesday was last June. His coach, perhaps alone amongst all people, wasn't surprised:
“After I sent the tape, no, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Brown said. “I can see who he’s going to be in this offense in two years.”
There's another small bit from Brown on his commitment:
"I think it's a great decision," said Spartanburg coach Freddie Brown. "He looked in state first. He didn't receive an offer and he moved on. He's a great player and a good kid. He'll start out as a quarterback. He threw a lot of balls the last couple of days at camp. Their system is a lot like our system."
The only other free internet discussion of any variety about Jones comes from this local TV guy:
Spartanburg’s new quarterback Cornelius Jones could eventually remind longtime area fans of another player by that same last name. A decade ago, Gaffney’s Kentrell Jones glided past opposing defenses and threw bombs when rolling out and that’s who this Jones reminds me of, in a much rawer form.
If you, like me, are not familiar with South Carolina high school football you're probably saying to yourself "who the hell is Kentrell Jones?" Well, he's apparently enough of a high school legend that people were comparing him favorably to five-star Willy Korn last year and has video of a 1997 state championship high school game on the YouTubes. After that game he disappeared and may have re-emerged as Drake's backup quarterback… or something.
So there you go. Or, rather, don't really.
As of April:
--Cornelius Jones (6-2, 185) of Spartanburg favors Michigan at this point. He has offers from the Wolverines, Duke, Wake Forest and Stanford. He's also hearing from North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia. Jones went to junior day at USC and Clemson but hasn't heard from them since.
Did I mention Jones currently sports a 3.7 GPA? It's not quite Holmes Onwukaife's offer from Harvard, but dang that's a bunch of high profile academic schools.
Despite the high GPA there something unfortunate in Jones' past:
Jones hasn’t played football in the Spartanburg system for a couple of years after he got into some trouble, he said. He was one of the players that Brown went out into the community and got back in school during the spring.
“He’s given me another chance, and I want to make sure I make the most of it,” Jones said.
Since that article was published just after Jones' sophomore year of high school, the trouble must have happened in, like, middle school. I can't imagine what sort of trouble an eighth-grader can get in, but in any case that's well before my personal strike meter starts ticking. That may explain the instate schools' reticence to recruit him, I guess.
Jones had no stats until last year, of course, and what stats he had indicated he was still pretty rough:
As a junior QB, he completed 89 of 185 passes (48.1%) for 1,020 yards and 2 TDs and had 226 carries for 736 yards (3.3ypc) and 7 TDs
FAKE 40 TIME
This man is so obscure he has no fake 40 time.
And neither does he have any video.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well… WTF, guys? I have no idea what to tell you here. Jones hasn't even been rated by a single scouting service. His stats are eh, his offers aren't great, and the in-state schools apparently had zero interest. None of these are good indicators.
Despite all that, I'm not too peeved. The super-early offer and continued pursuit implies that Jones was a guy Michigan was, for whatever reason, highly enthusiastic about. He's done pretty well so far at Michigan's camp. A QB offer from David Cutcliffe means something even if he's at Duke. And with Forcier, Robinson, and Gardner in front of Jones the fourth guy on the roster should ideally be a developmental prospect with a lot of athleticism, high upside, and the ability to play elsewhere. Check, check, check. There are plenty of reasons bigger schools would avoid a flier on Jones, and reason to believe Michigan got in on the ground floor of a diamond in the rough they can afford to spend some time on.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Jones fills the second QB slot in the class and shouldn't scare off Gardner any; unless there's a decommit—which I guarantee you is completely impossible and will never happen—Michigan looks done at quarterback. The only other quarterbacks on the board with offers are AJ Derby, who doesn't seem interested, Munchie Legaux, who is now talking like he is a huge longshot to depart the South, and Jeffery Godfrey, who Michigan may have some shot at but is talking up FSU.
So if Godfrey doesn't get recruited heavily, Michigan is done. And successfully: plan A was Gardner plus a developmental prospect who has the athleticism and willingness to move to another if QB doesn't work out.
Michigan managed to score two commits while I was in an airport or waiting on a runway for two bonus hours of incredible fun or actual in transit or watching Italy-USA, about which I have to say aaaargh aaaargh Rossi aaaargh.
Tom Van Haaren caught up with commit #1, TX OLB Holmes Onwukaife, this afternoon. Commit #2 is SC QB Cornelius Jones, about whom more later. First, Onwukaife's awesome highlight video, which features the best highlight music ever and lightning bolts.
On with the talking:
TOM: So you committed today, have you gotten a chance to talk to Coach Rodriguez?
[Note: commitments are apparently not 100% official-official until Rodriguez has been called, which is probably why neither premium site has an article up yet. FWIW.]
HOLMES: No sir, I told Coach Jackson, and some other coaches. I'm just waiting for the camps to get over with today, so he can talk.
TOM: Have you been to Michigan yet?
HOLMES: Last summer, at the AAU track meet, I went to Eastern, but never to the University of Michigan.
TOM: What have the coaches told you they like about you as a player?
HOLMES: They like me for the outside linebacker position. They told me they just really like my explosiveness, and my pursuit. They like that I don't give up on the play, and I go after the ball.
TOM: Ok, so what made you decide to commit? What was the difference maker?
HOLMES: I was just waiting for school to finish, and once that happened, I sat down with my family and we decided that Michigan is the best place for me. It's got the best mix of academics and football. It's a great school, with great tradition. Coach Jackson has come out to me, and he's seen me three times now. The effort he put in was well done. We built a good relationship, and developed a bond. I've talked to Will Campbell, Roy Roundtree, and Tony Drake. I just asked them what they liked about it, and how they felt. They all had the same message, that it's just a family once you're there. You're part of something special, and the University really wants you to succeed academically.
TOM: So when do you plan on taking a visit?
HOLMES: I'm not sure the date yet, but I plan on taking my official visit to Michigan. I'm still planning it out.
TOM: So, what's next for you?
HOLMES: Just working hard, focusing our team, we're trying to do big things. I want to stay in contact with Devin Gardner. Stephen Hopkins, and some other guys.
"Confirmation." Rodriguez was pinged at last weekend's Women's Football Academy about Dann O'Neill. The Free Press reports back:
Rodriguez confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O’Neill has left the program, but he wasn’t sure whether O’Neill will transfer to another school.
So… confirmed, eh? Which sort of implies the existence of a report that O'Neill has departed, eh? Where might this report be? I'm curious as to when a newspaper will credit something other than another newspaper for breaking a story.
- If the elder Grady gets his probation together and so forth and so on he'll remain on the team:
“He’s still working out with the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve gotten the details from him and researched it a little bit . Kevin has taken care of some of (those) responsibilities, and the rest of that is up to him. If he does everything, come Aug. 9, when we start camp, he’ll rejoin us.”
FWIW, Grady's father went on WTKA and asserted that the newspaper reports of what, exactly, he didn't complete were erroneous and the slip-up was considerably more minor. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Grady staying on the team.
- Rodriguez said there was only one freshman in danger of not qualifying. Sam Webb asserted that Fitzgerald Toussaint was good to go, which leaves Jeremy Gallon squarely in the crosshairs of that comment. (There were rumors that Adrian Witty was also a potential casualty, but since we know Gallon has a point or two to get it's easy to infer Witty has cleared the bar. Justin Turner's situation is apparently not a big deal.)
Speaking of that Women's Academy, while it didn't turn up anything equivalent to last year's legendary squat 'n' scream…
…Rivals does have some entertaining pictures. Here's Greg Robinson not getting the spirit of the thing:
YAAAAAARGH GET WITH THE PROGRAM 70 YEAR OLD 110 POUND RETIREE. There is also this woman wearing a shirt that appears to say "SQUIRELS [sic] GONE WILD" which WTF. And yes, insane all caps man, this girl is hot. I assume she's a cheerleader given the outfit.
Busts past. I was reading the good Doctor's Auburn preview when I ran across a name from the past:
As bad as those two [Kodi Burns and Chris Todd] were, career backup Neil Caudle only got on the field for five snaps against Tennessee-Martin -- yet he left the spring in a virtual dead heat with Burns to be No. 1. If we also assume Rollison can run, his arm might be worth a flier in case of another slow start.
Caudle was at Michigan's camp at the same time as David Cone, who apparently outperformed him and another high-profile quarterback. At the time this was encouraging; now it's apparent it said more about Caudle than Cone. Take it from a guy who witnessed Todd's painfully looping throws in the flesh: if you couldn't get on the field for Auburn last year, you were bad.
Also, that Rollison guy is Tyrik, who hardcore recruitniks may remember as the guy who played opposite Shavodrick Beaver in a game televised by ESPN. He had virtually no offers—Baylor might have been his best—until very, very late, when Auburn took a flier and got a commitment. This obviously meant JUCO, but somehow the guy qualified. Many teams will be kicking themselves if Rollison lives up to the hype. And manages to stay in school.
Yes, fair enough. Conversations about Rodriguez's recruiting this year usually go something like this:
Person One: I am concerned the class is filling up with players with low ratings and unimpressive offers.
Person Two: But Rodriguez dominated doofuses in the Big East with crappy classes!
That's an expletive, ad-hominem free version of events but you get the idea. The WLA takes issue with that latter hypothesis, because it is their job to find any optimism related to Michigan football and stamp it out:
Let’s look at how WVU recruited compared to their primary competition: fellow teams in the Big East:
2002: #2 class in the Big East (includes Miami, VT, and BC)
Looking at those results, it’s difficult to argue that West Virginia suffered any tangible talent deficit to it’s fellow Big East teams. … while WVU’s classes full of two andthree-star talent seems poor when put into the context of major college football, it was actually an above-average result when put into the context of their conference.
Okay, point taken, but counterpoints: West Virginia was most certainly at a huge talent deficit relative to Georgia and Oklahoma, and once you start getting into the area where you're pulling hairs between the #27 and #37 classes the gradation is way flatter than it is at the tippy top; West Virginia dominated a conference in which they had virtually equal talent to everyone else, and even if Michigan's class comes in a little disappointing this year it's still virtually guaranteed to be third at worst. This is coming off a horrendous year and should improve in the future. The argument that Rodriguez can take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his, is one with significant data backing it up.
I went, I saw, I ate little finger foods and learned fascinating things about the New York-area magazine softball league, which has been dominated by High Times for the past decade. We eventually settled on this theory: at some point in the hazy past, the High Times staff sat around, high off their gourds, and someone said "hey… you know what would screw with everyone's heads?"
A report ensues. What follows could be interpreted as excessively critical, so some positive words first: I'm astounded that HHR managed to put this together and pull it off so successfully. The room was packed and the people who spoke were terribly impressive on paper. There was an after-party with an open bar sponsored by GQ. This was such a vastly inexplicable accomplishment that when I asked one of the roving, frightened-looking GQ writers why the magazine would do such a thing he was as lost as I was. Roping in all these different people with different interests is so far beyond my ken that I spent a large section of the day in silent awe of the power of being a nice friendly driven person who can sell other people on your point of view. The mere existence of the thing is a tribute to HHR Media.
This is a power I lack utterly, though. Posts like this one, all sun and exclamation points and so forth, are grating things designed for buttering up more than honest evaluation. I prefer the bitter truth, and there were a lot of rough spots. So here goes.
Note: Yes, MSM is a frequently-deployed term below and it's hard to separate it from its pejorative connotation; I don't wish to come off like a snotty blogger as I use it. But there are huge differences between journalism borne of an institution and not-journalism borne outside of institutions, and MSM remains a useful catch-all.
"The Future Of Sports Media"
This was not a good start. Various venture executive suit type people sat around and gave their talks. They apparently got together and bet each other which of them could say "Twitter" 2000 times in 10 minutes. Kathleen Hessert, who runs Sports Media Challenge, won. Each speaker focused on the changing media landscape from the perspective of an agent/handler. Now athletes can interact directly with their fans. Okay. How does this pertain to me? This was not explained.
I remember zero from the presentations of the guy who runs sports agency Octagon and the guy who runs Fantasy Sports Ventures, but Richard Ting from R/GA had a interesting power point presentation that was unfortunately compressed given the pointlessness of the rest of the panel. Factoid: if Shaq's twitter was a newspaper, it would be the country's third largest. (And shortest, and most likely to talk about ass-tasting.)
If this was actually about the direction sports media was going with an angle on, you know, independent sports media often purveyed in blog form, it might have been worthwhile. It wasn't; looking around the room towards the end of the panel I saw glazed eyes and discontent.
Confirm or Ignore: Leveraging Social Media
This was the nadir. At one point Dan Levy spent five minutes explaining RSS to a room full of bloggers. Much snark befell him in the back room. The rest of the panelists weren't much more enlightening: Twitter! Social media! Etc.! There was a long discussion about whether or not following 30,000 people on Twitter was a good idea. Conclusion: maybe if you're a marketing droid. Not if you're a real person.
Hi Mom! Claiming That Earned Media
This is where things started turning around. Matt Ufford, aka
Unsilent Majority Captain Caveman of KSK and then the guy behind With Leather and now the guy behind Warming Glow—who I was disinclined to like because my impression of his work was "hey… tits!"—turned out to be awesome. He expressed a desire to move away from tits, even. He moderated a panel with Michael Tunison, AKA Christmas Ape, one of the guys behind WhoDeyRevolution, a Bengals blog dedicated to the proposition that the Bengals are basically owned by William Clay Ford, and Sarah Spain, who is famous for some reason or another.
Spain spent a lot of time complaining about how people judged her on her looks. The irony of her skirt hitting mid-thigh as she said this escaped her. She was intent on justifying herself, and by this point I was really tired of people with no interest in talking to the audience. I mean… seriously, own up to what you're leveraging (right). If Ufford was posing for cheesecake pictures people would start talking about it, yo, and possibly questioning their sexuality.
This panel was mostly a discussion of what happens when something you do catches fire, and the answer was "watch the carnage and buy something flame-retardant."
The WDR guy talked about some of their Project Mayhem stunts—placing urinal cakes with ignominious Bengal records in every urinal at a home game—and about how they've galvanized a fan community around their cause; that was the best part of the panel. A discussion of what happens after your post about Allison Stokke gets shot across the internet doesn't do much; a discussion of how you can get yourself some notoriety without resorting to 1) dumb luck, 2) hot underage chicks, or 3) getting fired would have been appreciated.
Ufford did have a salient point on Digg: it takes a huge amount of effort to penetrate the byzantine Digg community and the traffic you get from hitting the front page is ephemeral. That was a bit on social media more useful than anything in the actual social media panel.
Making It Big: The Secret of My Success
Strange selection of folks for this panel, as Tunison moderates:
- AJ Daulerio, whose secret is "be a close personal friend of Will Leitch"; no offense to his talent, but come on now: getting handed the keys to Deadspin after your BFF leaves for New York magazine is not a widely replicable strategy.
- Ufford, who did indeed turn himself from a crazy nickname into a professional writer via the dint of hard work.
- Dan Shanoff, whose personal brand got a major kick in the ass from his time as a prominent writer on Page 2 back when Page 2 was relevant, and
- Jimmy Traina, who writes Hot Clicks for SI.
Exactly one of these people—Ufford—did not have a major kick in the ass from an existing brand when they jump started their own, and KSK's close association with Deadspin was maybe a half kick in the ass. (Spain actually would have been a good selection here.)
As per usual, this topic didn't really come off like the title and description intended it. Instead, the highly influential linkers on the panel discussed how to catch their eye and how not to be ignored when you send them your awesome link. Worthwhile discussion despite the bait-and-switch.
Power In Numbers: Content Networks
Burned by the earlier panel without any bloggers on it, I missed most of this one in favor of talking with some folks I knew via their blogs but not personally. I did catch the last 15 minutes or so, which mostly justified my decision to skip the rest. Again, I don't see what the relevance of this is to most in the crowd: sure, it's nice SB Nation and Uproxx have blogs, but either they want you to sign up with them or not. My problems with Bleacher Report are well documented; anyone who's serious about establishing a career for themselves should avoid it like the plague. By posting there you associate yourself with the overall opinion of BR. This is not something you want to do. (This Get The Picture post is fortuitously timed; I wanted to ask the Bleacher Report CEO "do you know that your median post is horrible?")
This would have been much more interesting with a devil's advocate of some sort instead of just five guys who were trying to sell you something. I think certain members of the audience sensed this too, because the first question was a long rambler that boiled down to "don't you people have any souls, man?" It was overheated but I saw where that guy was coming from.
But, right: didn't see this whole thing so I could have missed something enlightening.
Make It Your Job
Clearly the A-1 panel, with Orson—in full WP Mayhew sartorial/drunkenness splendor—and Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski hilariously holding court. There was also some quality thinkin' injected, but it was the hilarity that stood out after a day sorely lacking in it. Also around:
- John Ness of NBC Local and a former boss of mine when we were both at Fanhouse, was an odd inclusion since he's not a writer. He didn't say much, though he was good when he did speak.
- Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead. TBL attracts a large share of the sports blogosphere's catty derision and this panel made it clear why.
- Matt Cerrone of Metsblog; he was overshadowed by the two cards but when he said something it was considered and on point.
The first questions from this panel linger in my mind as emblems of a conference-wide lack of focus on the audience. Paraphrased, they were "what was the thing about your old job you hated most?" and "what's great about being a blogger?" Neither question has anything to do with the process of going from Some Guy On The Internet to a professional writer, and while the guys on the panel eventually roped the discussion around to some useful advice the moderator didn't have much to do with it.
McIntyre is a highly unpopular character in the blogosphere and it's not hard to see why: most of his answers were pure MSM. There was a question about whether the panelists were rooting for a specific outcome or a "good story"—another question that had zero to do with the putative panel topic—and he went right for the cynicism of traffic and pageviews. In a later panel an ESPN reporter cited Deadspin and TBL as things the MSM reads; I think the popularity of TBL is largely because of the site's decidedly newspapery mindset: as many things as possible in as little detail as possible. You could see other people on the panel chafe as he talked.
That only added to the overall entertainment, though. This was engaging, interesting despite the questionable direction provided, and a welcome relief after some soul-deadening previous panels.
Show Me The Money
This was about turning posts into money and was moderated by Mike Hall, a baby-faced guy at NESN running their new media department; he was terrific. His questions were focused and audience-directed. This panel also had one blogger—the guy behind WOO TITS AND SPORTS (NTTAWWT) blog Uncoached—paired with a couple of business-side guys, which provided an interesting mix. Hall delved into specifics, attempting to ferret out a solid number of pageviews that would provide a livable wage. The answer, worked out in detail by Yardbarker CEO Pete Vlastelica, was about a million per month. I can tell you that 1M per month is in the ballpark, but it's at the beans-and-rice-daily end. (MGoBlog is averaging around 2M of late.)
Other parts of the discussion were about how swearing like a sailor makes you tougher to market to some brands, and something called Lijit, which remains mysterious to me. This panel was okay but lacked a discussion of ways to monetize other than the banner ad, save for some comments by Vlastelica about moving display/brand advertising more into content a la Gawker.
I had a side discussion with Bethlehem Shoals about his frustrations trying to monetize his content which would have made for great fodder here; it's not all sunshine and lollipops.
Why We Hate You
This was posed as a rehash of the Buzz Bissinger stuff. The panel was a strange melange, with Hall and Dan Steinberg clearly caught between worlds, and the woman from ESPN whose name escapes me largely silent. Only SI's Jeff Pearlman really took up the MSM flag.
A large portion of this panel was spent explicitly rejecting its premise. Every panelist took time to explain that no, they don't hate blogs or the mainstream media, with Steinberg and Bethlehem Shoals holding forth convincingly on what a stupid conversation it is to have. When the panelists did get into some of the rifts between large institutions and independent mavericks—"blogger" was dismissed as a term of art—Pearlman made a case for the really good reporters who seek out stories instead of following time-worn paths through the season, much of it in response to Wyshynski's earlier assertion that in 20 years bloggers would be the only game in town. He came off very well, and posted on his blog about his appearance.
This was the second-best panel of the day once it got past the disavowal stage.
I find people like Gary Vanyerchuck kind of depressing and tuned him out after he literally said "if you're not spending 20 to 50 times more effort promoting your content than creating it, you're an idiot." For the record, this blog has become a living for yrs truly and what I'm pretty sure is the #1 college football blog of any description with vanishingly little effort applied to marketing the content. His model is not the only model. I don't go in for rah-rah, and I don't want to own a professional sports team.
Suggestions for BWBII, which is in October in Vegas:
Avoid college football season. Because I can't go.
More. I may have tripped a fine line between being honest and being a dick, so to clarify: spectacular win for HHR and something that now has the momentum to self-perpetuate. That's a huge accomplishment.
More bloggin'. It's not a coincidence that the best panels were heavily populated by bloggers and the deadest ones were the province of corporate types. I understand that the corporate sponsors want some face time for their promotional considerations, but full panels of these guys talking adjacent to each other, not to each other, isn't particularly good.
More diverso-bloggin'. There's a huge difference between a blog that covers sports as a whole and one that covers a specific team, but by my count only two team-specific blogs were represented: WhoDeyRevolution and MetsBlog. Both of those inclusions were valuable, and in the future more team-driven sites should be highlighted. It's a totally different world.
More focus. The first panel probably should not have happened at all, as even when it flickered towards interestingness it remained irrelevant. Other panels wandered back and forth with little guidance; sometimes the guidance was an active hindrance to the topic at hand.
If this Lijit guy is going to talk someone should be asking him pointed questions about why a blog should slow its pageloads down and hand over valuable real estate to him. If the corporate types are going to be talking about the shift in media the person moderating the panel should be a blogger trying to figure out why this is relevant to him.
More breaks. People got increasingly antsy as the day dragged on and opportunities to interact with people were limited to lunch (and the afterparty). Everyone took a half-hour afternoon break at some point, which caused several interruptions as panelists asked people to quiet the din in the back.
For The Win. The panelists most full of win:
- Orson Swindle
- Matt Ufford
- Greg Wyshynski
- Dan Steinberg
- Bethlehem Shoals
- Jeff Pearlman
I will forgo a full conference UFR.