The narrative so far:
- Aug. 31: Moments prior to kickoff, Brian Cook tweets. I predict he uses the words “student” and “section.”
- Sept. 7: A million years from now, astronomers will observe the sudden appearance of a football in a void. They will have only milliseconds to identify it as the one last seen leaving Tommy Rees’s hands in the year 2013 before it explodes.
- Sept. 14: I am strongly reminded of my lab work, the part where I rip testicles out of fruit flies.
- Sept. 21: Michigan’s steady run offense wins the game in the same manner that a steady drip of water wears through rock.
- Sept. 28: BYE.
- Oct. 5: Michigan debuts the pistol formation and wastes the surprise on Minnesota.
Raise your hand if you thought Penn State was going to miss their bowl game after starting the 2012 season 0-2, losing to Ohio and Virginia.
Do you see what I did there?
Sorry. Horrible, horrible, I know. For real, though, raise your hand if you thought Penn State was going to recover from those losses and end up 8-4 with an OT victory over Wisconsin. Yeah, that’s nobody. The Nittany Lions’ quick turnaround was pretty impressive considering all the negativity from the Worst Offseason Ever. And they did it the old-fashioned way, by playing smart and efficient football and by developing and motivating players to replace the ones who jumped ship.
Unfortunately, while a winning season and a degree of recruiting success marked a promising start to the Bill O'Brien era, nothing will change the fact that Winter Is Coming.
That actually makes Penn State a really intriguing team to follow over the next few years. No major college team has been struck down this heavily by sanctions while still being allowed to play football. What’s the protocol for recruiting, developing players, and game planning when figuratively you’re going to be short a pint of blood at every phase compared with your competition? I’m kind of curious to see whether this kind of stress will force that staff to invent new strategies that could potentially revolutionize how a college football program is run.
Either way, if Bill O’Brien sticks out his tenure in Happy Valley -- not a given, since he interviewed with NFL teams after last season and declined their offers only because he didn’t want to be “one-and-done” kind of guy -- and has decent success, i.e. a winning record in conference games, Penn State will be back by the end of the decade and in much better shape than it was before the “penn state awful thing” tag was ever created.
O'Brien / Brady.
If you want to know how much better Penn State’s passing offense was after O’Brien started coaching, you only need to take a look at Matt McGloin’s 2012 stat line:
That’s a former walk-on going ham after his team got scuttled by mass transfers following the NCAA penalties.
Compare that to how Tom Brady did in 2011 when O’Brien was New England’s offensive coordinator:
Great. Given the admittedly short but nonetheless impressive track record of turning a so-so passer into one performing on the level of a three-time Superbowl-winning QB (okay maybe not that dramatic, but still pretty good), I think it’s pretty safe to expect that whoever takes the reins of the Nittany Lions offense this season will do pretty well. Eventually, at least.
That guy will probably be incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg, who was ranked the top pro-style passer in his class above Michigan’s Shane Morris. If he doesn’t win the job immediately, he’ll at least be seeing the field by the end of season and fighting for playing time with JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson, who has gotten only lukewarm reviews so far.
The QB battle will be interesting to watch, but I don't think Michigan needs to worry much. The Mathlete has already reassured us that true freshmen generally suck, and it won’t help that O’Brien’s system is reportedly so complex a caveman couldn’t do it. Ferguson has been on campus for a semester and is still struggling, so I wouldn’t expect either to dazzle anyone until late in the season, if at all.
Let's hope I'm right, because aside from the QB the rest of the offense is pretty loaded. WR Allen Robinson, who led the Big Ten in receiving yards last year (77 rec, 1013 yards, 11 TDs), will be a nice, experienced target to throw to. At 6-3, 200-lbs with decent speed, he’s a guy Borges would want wearing a winged helmet.
And he’s not the only downfield weapon Penn State has in the passing game, nor the most terrifying. While the other wideouts are pretty so-so, the tight ends will be a unit to watch out for, particularly with O’Brien, famous for the two-TE monstrosity he perfected at New England, calling plays. Sophomore TE Jesse James exploded towards the end of his freshman campaign with 15 catches for 276 yards and five touchdowns. The former 19th century train robber is a lot like Devin Funchess, except two inches taller (6-7) and 30 pounds heavier (260 lbs). Okay so he’s nothing like Funchess. Let’s call him “Gronk.”
To complement him, the Lions have a slightly smaller guy in Junior TE Kyle “Aaron Hernandez minus the murder” Carter, who was the team’s second-leading pass catcher with 36 receptions for 453 yards and 2 TDs before missing the last four games of the season with a wrist injury.
I’m a scurred, but not because the guy I compared you to has been killing dudes, allegedly.
The passing game has a lot of potential, but realizing it will depend on how quickly the QB can learn the system. That guy will probably have plenty of time to take chances, get messy, and make mistakes without too much detriment, though, because hey, look, a running game.
If you ignore the shuffling, the offensive line basically returns everyone except for center. They weren’t great last year (not that I watched them a whole lot, but there were grumblings about their run blocking ability), but continuity is never a bad thing.
So we can probably expect a lot of production from their running backs. Junior Zach Zwinak was a nice surprise after the Silas Redd transfer -- he averaged 4.9 yards a carry and broke 1000 yards, ain’t no thang -- and makes me wonder why Michigan can’t have nice things when teams that shouldn’t be able to have nice things have them. At 6-1, 240 pounds, Zwinak makes Brady Hoke wonder the same thing.
As a bigger dude, Zwinak is fairly similar to Iowa’s Mark Weisman, who converted from fullback, was really hard to bring down -- just ask James Ross -- and had surprising speed. Unlike Iowa, however, Penn State also has a couple smaller, shiftier backs that may see signifcant playing time this year. No, they are not like Danny Woodhead.
Outrunning Penn State linebackers is probably the better way to go.
Coaching-wise, I don’t know. John Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator over the offseason after Ted Roof left for Georgia Tech. Previously he coached DBs, and before that he was doing a lot of special teams all over the place.
Butler doesn't have many laurels to rest on, so consider this season to be somewhat of an extended job interview for him. It won’t help that all the stars from last year are gone: LBs Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, and DT Jordan Hill. They led the team emotionally and in tackles. Hill in particular was instrumental (12 tackles, 2 sacks) in their OT win against Wisconsin to end the season.
That’s not to say the cupboard is bare, though. Plenty of starters return, and the recruiting implosion from the sanctions is only just beginning to nip at the Lions' depth. If Butler can coach, the Penn State defense shouldn’t backslide too dramatically. If he can’t … kerplunk.
The guy who will anchor the defensive effort and be a huge pain in the backfield will probably be LB Glenn Carson. At 6-3, 235 lbs, he played SAM next to Mauti and Hodges last year. This year he’ll probably slide inside. He was an active presence (85 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack) last year and is relatively unknown only because he was overshadowed by his more decorated cohorts.
At the WILL, the Nittany Lions will probably go with 6-0, 225-lb Mike Hull (58 tackles, 5 TFLs, 4 sacks), who got a lot playing time back up Mauti and getting some starts after Mauti’s injury. A redshirt freshman and a sophomore, both undersized, will probably duke it out for SAM. I’m guessing that’s going to be a soft spot for Linebacker U.
The defensive line will be comprised mostly new starters, and none that you’ll recognize unless you’ve been actively following Penn State football, in which case good for you. Wait -- here’s a name you might recognize, and not in the good way: Anthony Zettel. Remember him? Well, he’s not starting, but he’ll be backing up fellow sophomore DE Deion Barnes, who for all intents and purposes has that spot locked down with a 2012 stat line of 25 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 6 sacks. Zettel collected 15 tackles and 4 sacks of his own last season as a situational guy, but is on the outside looking in and probably will stay that way unless he switches positions. Penn Shtaaate.
On the interior, The Nittany Lions have converted DaQuan Jones, a 6-3, 330-lb former offensive lineman, to play tackle (probably nose) and Austin Johnson, a 6-4 310-lb former offensive lineman, to play the other tackle position. Sweet. C.J. Olaniyan (15 tackles, 1 sack) is the other defensive end. Nothing to see here. Move along.
The secondary returns three starters. They were okay last year and look to continue to be okay this year. Behind them are a bunch of guys that decommitted and went to Ohio State or Michigan instead. Secondarymaggedon, man. Never forget.
This team is kind of like: A blinking fuel light 100 miles from the nearest gas station.
Vs. Michigan: Well. A lot of things can happen between now and Oct. 12. I know that’s a stupid thing to say, but here’s what I mean: both teams are evenly matched now, but it’s a very unstable equilibrium.
While both teams meet at roughly the same place in terms of overall talent and depth, Michigan is on the upswing from its own tumultuous coaching changes. Penn State is dropping. Michigan has a lot more potential to develop in its young, inexperienced players. We’re waiting to see if any of the rookies or players returning from injury can exceed expectations: Derrick Green, the sophomore receivers, the interior O-line, Blake Countess, Jake Ryan’s replacement, Jake Ryan when he returns … Penn State needs to milk every last ounce of production from its veterans because Winter Is Coming and won’t be bringing in a whole lot of warm bodies. My feeling is that they aren’t waiting for guys to blow up so much as just praying that they’re viable.
Yes, that’s just a circuitous way to say I’m going to punt on any sort of prediction.
Due to conflicting allegiances, I don't know how to feel about this photo.
What will be exciting about this game is the O’Brien vs. Mattison matchup. As you may know, O’Brien was hired by the Patriots around the same time Mattison went to Baltimore. While O’Brien wasn’t officially New England’s offensive coordinator until 2011, after Mattison came to Michigan, he was Tom Brady’s QB coach as well as official “play-caller,” whatever that means.
Over the three year stretch that both were at their respective NFL teams, the Patriots and Ravens split pretty evenly in the win-loss category. Interestingly, the box scores suggest that the New England O vs. Baltimore D battle usually ended in Baltimore’s favor. Specifically, the Pats were nowhere near as prolific as they were against other teams and often struggled horrifically on third down.
I’m sure that’s usually what happens when Ray Lewis is on your team, but it’s a promising sign.
- Aug. 31, Syracuse
- Sept. 7, EMU
- Sept. 14, UCF
- Sept. 21, Kent State
- Sept. 28, BYE
- Oct. 5, @ Indiana
- Oct. 12, Michigan
- Oct. 19, BYE
- Oct. 26, @OSU
- Nov. 2, Illinois
- Nov. 9, @Minnesota
- Nov. 16, Purdue
- Nov. 23, Nebraska
- Nov. 30, @Wisconsin
Wins: Syracuse, EMU, UCF, Kent State, @Indiana, Illinois, @Minnesota, Purdue
Flip of a biased coin: Michigan, Nebraska, @Wisconsin
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch.
|Parker, CO – 6'6", 297|
4*, #118 overall
4*, #142 overall
4*, #134 overall
4*, #137 overall
OSU, FSU, MSU, Iowa, Mizzou
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post.|
Army game, but did not play due to ACL tear. Twitter.
At this point you can probably recite this bit with your eyes closed: OFFENSIVE LINEMAN SIGNEE X is huge, agile, and one mean sumbitch on the field, whereas off the field he rescues kittens from nefarious, head-tilting Ohio State fans; he got four stars from every recruiting service as a result; Michigan got him over an Ohio State or Alabama offer; he's about 6'5" and could play inside or out because he has the feet of a tackle and a guard's hatred of anything in pads.
What can I say? Chris Fox fits the mold. He says so himself.
“I am the meanest player you will ever meet” Fox said confidently. “That’s the way I play. I just play mean. You go into beast mode with good technique—you’re dominant.”
Everyone agreed to the point where his ratings are downright creepily in sync: all four services ranked him in a range from 118 to 142nd nationally. He was considerably higher to start, but kids in Colorado kind of get lost in the shuffle and Fox blew out his knee late in his high school season, so he couldn't get in any face time in front of scouts at the All Star things. The drop is both reasonable and perhaps not indicative of Fox's talent level.
Meanwhile, I should take quotes from all these articles and see if anyone can figure out who they're talking about other than Logan Tuley-Tillman. Cue coach:
"When he's out there, he really wants to dominate. I mean dominate," Murphy said. "So, if he can put you on your back and make sure you know who put you there, that's what he's going to do. And he does it a lot. We're talking pancake blocks. I wouldn't want to be a defensive lineman, man, I really would not.”
"The thing that most people have told me that stands out the most is how physical he is," Huff said. "He really is trying to destroy people when he hits them. He's not just a big body. He's a real football player for sure."
Scout's Brandon Huffman:
“…once he puts those pads on, he transforms into this angry guy. He is very nasty. He is a real physical kid. He won’t play after the whistle but will play up until that whistle stops blowing. He’s got more of that guard mentality. He would much rather scrape it up with defensive tackle then a speed guy on the edge. He’s also very technically sound. He’s very fundamentally sound. He has great bend. He’s got great hand placement."
…physical and aggressive O-line prospect … He has good height, looks to have a solidly built frame and displays very good upper and lower body strength. He displays the ability to quickly get out of his stance and into defenders, and can deliver a good initial pop on contact. Flashes the ability to engage with good hip roll and drive defenders off the ball with sustained leg drive. … Displays good feet and can react to and handle quick movement. ... A tenacious blocker who looks to finish and bury opponents. In pass protection, he uses hands well and can deliver a good punch. He is able to maintain a good base and shadow rushers.
Pad level tut-tutting is present, as always. They project him to right tackle with possibilities at guard.
Unlike Bosch, Fox showed out at a number of camps as a rising senior. At the Top Gun thingy he was a cut above the rest of the OL along with ND commits John Montelus and Steve Elmer, a "very solid all-around prospect" who settled in at right tackle:
…Fox worked almost exclusively at right tackle on Friday, and looked comfortable in that spot. He could also be of service at the guard position in college, but right tackle appears to be his best position. Fox used his strength to dominate most defensive ends he went against on Friday, but he also showed quick feet in handling speed rushers. The only times he got caught was when a rush end would make a second move across his face, but after getting beat early he corrected that and never let it happen the rest of the day.
…a massive player with a solid base, and despite that mass, he moves very well. He's already built like a college lineman, and has time to add strength before contributing in college - even though he probably doesn't need to. Fox was one of the few players to win a rep against 2014's top player, Da'Shawn Hand, and was not soundly beat on any rep.
Rivals put him on their "All Lobby Team," noting his massiveness again and calling him a 300-pounder with little bad weight. Also, uh:
There seems to be toughness inherent in the way he's built physically.
I'm not sure how that works but okay.
Fox was an excellent example of what camps are useful for these days. Michigan actually offered him at the 2011 edition of the same—ie, basically at the same point they offered John Runyan Jr.—and impressed him enough that he pulled the trigger on last year's Ace-murdering Commitmas. By the time his recruiting year rolled around Michigan had already done the work to snatch him away from OSU.
One reason Michigan could do that is Fox was already enormous as a sophomore, when a CU evaluator called him "just huge" and projected he would play at a "darn good 330" en route to rapture and an eyebrow-cocking comparison:
… an athlete for a big man his age and his size--moves well, flexible, is a big time knee bender, and he is a mauler - loves contact - not afraid to mix it up but athletic enough to shut down Stephen Gibson when he tried some moves and speed rushes at CU's camp. Fox plays with a level of violence and passion you don't see very often in high school offensive linemen. It's a beautiful thing to watch. …
Most like: Jake Long
Fox doesn't seem to have added any height since then, which makes him a bit less of a Long comparable. As mentioned above, he's being projected at right tackle with sprinklings of guard:
…we think he projects best on the interior of the line. He’s a physical and nasty player who moves well in space. He’s very athletic for a big man, has a great frame, plays with a motor and has a great upside to him.
Michigan will throw Bosch, Dawson, and Fox into a blender; all will work at both tackle and guard and a couple will end up being designated sixth and seventh OLs no matter who goes down. Versatility is a theme here: other than Tuley-Tillman, everyone profiled so far has the ability to play inside and out. Think of the OL roster going forward as centers (Miller, Kugler, probably Bars), left tackles (LTT, Braden, Magnuson), and other.
Also as mentioned, Fox tore his ACL and missed his All-Star game appearance. He should be rehabbed for fall practice, not that it will matter for a guy almost certain to redshirt. For what it's worth, the ACL issue was not as clean as, say, mine:
“I have a torn ACL and a double torn meniscus on my left knee,” Fox said. “It was the last game of the season. We were up by big. I was just running down field blocking a kid. I just twisted up on it weird and heard it pop three times. That’s it.”
Google says that adding torn menisci to an ACL issue is fairly common in contact sports and not an enormous extra burden on the injured player. A lot of OL retire with knee issues, though, and when you're as massive as Fox is the stress on that joint is severe. It'll be something to watch going forward.
Etc.: Will look like UltraPicard by his senior year.
"He's pretty much a puppy dog off the field," said Mark Murphy, Ponderosa's offensive coordinator. “He really is, which is cool.”
Coach, tell me about the pattern:
"He has a lot of compassion for people and he has a heart bigger than his body," Huff said. "He really is a great person and I think that comes from mom and dad. Once you get to know them they really are special people. You just don't see it very often.
"His athletic ability, his size and strength and his passion from snap to whistle is pretty impressive, too."
Why John Runyan? Runyan is the prototypical grinding, driving Michigan right tackle. Runyan has an inch or two on Fox—listed at 6'7" most places—but Fox should get up into his weight range if the evaluators are correct. Runyan is also from a time before recruiting rankings were a thing.
Downside here is a Rueben Riley type of tackle that's more a guard out of position, but if that's the case he'll just play guard because someone else will be a better fit outside.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Consensus, some camps, but hard to judge against Colorado competition. Late injury both adds variance and prevented evaluators from adding an All Star appearance to their opinions.
Variance: High. While he doesn't have that much weight to add, his high school competition wasn't great and the ACL tear is a potential setback. It should be fine, sure, but should does not equal "will."
Ceiling: High-minus. It seems like Fox is the other designated tackle in the class; it also seems like he is not a prospective LT and may be a better fit at guard. Otherwise, hoorah.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Unlike a couple other guys in the class who seem like exceptions to the "OL are hard to project" meme, Fox is right in the heart of big guys with potential who may never be heard from again. See "variance." Still, when Chris Fox is the guy you're fifth-most excited about in a recruiting class, yeah buddy.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
After, MEAT FOR THE MEAT GOD. I don't favor him to win the coming tackle battle since Magnuson will have a year on him and Tuley-Tillman six months plus however much weight room stuff the ligament tear is going to force Fox to miss, but yadda yadda OL are weird anything can happen multiple huge angry mean streak bullets equals pretty damn good line by 2015 at the latest. Meat for the meat god.
I'm beginning this draft on Thursday morning, and four-star IL OL Jamarco Jones is scheduled to choose between Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State at 2 pm. It doesn't seem like any insiders have a great feel for his destination, but the general consensus is that it's unlikely to be Michigan. This means a head-to-head loss against either MSU or OSU; you can decide for yourselves which one of those is the least undesirable scenario.
PRE-POST UPDATE: It's Ohio State, as most everyone predicted. This is certainly a tough loss for Michigan, though it's worse for MSU, which needs more depth—not to mention high-end talent—on the offensive line. If you still need to feel better (and you might before the end of this section), there's always being Not Illinois:
BREAKING: A top recruit in the state of Illinois commits to a school outside the state of Illinois
— TheChampaignRoom.com (@Champaign_Room) June 27, 2013
[insert Tim Beckman derp face here]
Meanwhile, the tide appears to have shifted dramatically in the recruitment of FL WR Artavis Scott, who said this after a return visit to Clemson last weekend, per Rivals ($)...
So, which school is recruiting him the hardest to ensure they get an official visit?
"Clemson. I'm building a great relationship with Coach [Tony] Elliott and Coach [Jeff] Scott. When I'm there I talk to Coach [Dabo] Swinney and guys like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. They tell me how it is and my bond is growing with Clemson," stated Scott.
...then promptly moved up his decision timeline:
— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) June 26, 2013
The Opening starts on Sunday, though Scott's announcement will likely come later in the event, which runs through next Wednesday. Regardless of when he makes the call, it's a bad sign that Scott suddenly decided to announce (1) on the heels of a Clemson visit and (2) before a planned trip to the BBQ at the Big House. For his part, though, Scott is at least keeping up the appearance of being undecided:
This is probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make
— DÂ_GRËÂT7 (@tayscott7) June 27, 2013
It should come down to Michigan and Clemson; the Tigers appear to have the edge.
Scott's five-star 2015 teammate, ATH George Campbell, told Scout's Amy Campbell that he still wants to visit for the BBQ with Scott and commit Mason Cole, but he's unsure it it'll happen—though it appears this depends more on Cole's plans than Scott's ($). Campbell also mentions plans for a return trip to Clemson, saying "it's basically family," so... crap. Projections have quickly shifted from Michigan potentially getting all three of the East Lake trio to just the one they have in hand.
To keep the good vibes going, Tim Sullivan caught up with CA CB Adoree' Jackson; recent buzz surrounding Jackson and Michigan has been quite positive, but this is a cold dose of reality ($):
"That's going to be the main factor," [Jackson] said of a school's track program. "That's the biggest. It's probably one of my biggest things right up there with education."
Michigan's standing in his recruitment may suffer from Jackson's intense focus on track. The Wolverines are currently without a track coach following the retirement of longtime coach Fred LaPlante, and U-M's program has not been on the national stage in quite some time - the last national title came in 1923.
Jackson still plans to spend part of the summer in his native state of Illinois, but told Tim that he's "not really worried about" taking the time to head up to Michigan's BBQ. The Wolverines are still slated to get an offical visit, per Scout's Greg Biggins($), but at this point they're a heavy underdog against the likes of USC, UCLA, Florida, and LSU.
So, not a good week for pipe dream class projections, then. Please don't shoot the messenger.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup. I swear there's good news in there.]
Flippin' the line: feasible?
Schofield moved all over
How hard is it in mid game or mid season to change from a right handed to a left handed qb? Does the OL switch the guards and tackles etc.?
Not particularly hard, because the offense will almost certainly ignore the change and operate just like it was before. If there is a change, it will be flipping the tackles, something that teams occasionally do when guys go down injured. Either of these things are suboptimal, but if we are, say, talking about a potential Devin Gardner injury forcing Shane Morris onto the field, that righty-lefty switch is maybe 5% of the hit.
It might be more when there's a significant pass protection gap between your tackles. I'm projecting 6'7" Michael Schofield to be very good at that, so any blindside/non-blindside pass rush tradeoffs are minor. The run game shouldn't be affected, as QBs have to hand off to both sides of their body on the regular.
A couple years down the road when Morris is the projected starter it'll make sense to flip the right and left tackles over the offseason to give Morris better protection from behind, but that's a minor change when you've been given that much time. Schofield slid from left guard to right tackle, a much more drastic move, with not much ill effect.
Why you gotta be huge to play left tackle?
Quick question that may be obvious: why is height such an important asset in a left (or blindside) tackle? I've always taken it as a given but I'm not sure I've ever heard an explanation. Off the top of my head, I would guess it has to do with arm length and the ability to be massive yet retain a lean and athletic body (i.e. Schofield is 303 lbs but is quite a bit more lean and athletic than Ondre Pipkins).
OT Adam Terry (Baltimore Ravens) and OT Marcus McNeill (San Diego Chargers) are both former second round picks (Terry in 2005, McNeill in 2006) who both weighed in during their Combine appearances at 6-8 and around 330 pounds. However, the key difference during each player’s weigh-in was the dramatic discrepancy in the length of the two player’s reaches. McNeill measured in at 35½ inches and Terry posted a reach of 32 ¼ inches. Therefore, we have two men who are roughly the exact same size, however, McNeill has the length to match and maximize his 6-8 frame, while Terry’s length forces him to play like a tackle closer to 6-3.
There are other variables that go into a comparison like this, however, the facts are that McNeill has been the Chargers starting left tackle for each of the past five years, while Terry is considered now as nothing more than an NFL journeyman.
The same guy had an article the previous year on the same topic and a notable name jumped out at me: Robert Gallery, former Iowa superstar, top-five pick, and colossal bust. He also has T-Rex arms.
HOWEVA, Iowa pro-bowler Marshall Yanda's arms are 33.5 inches long, famous left tackle prototype Michael Oher the same. Joe Thomas is at 32.5, Jake Long 33. Arm length is marginal at best… at least when we're talking about guys in a narrow range from enormous to slightly less enormous.
Meanwhile, height is sometimes a… drawback? Again, talking on an NFL level where you can pick the top 1% of players, yeah. After Jake Long in 2008, the NFL didn't take a tackle taller than 6'6" until the 2011 draft, when it was so odd that there were so many huge guys that Mike Tanier wrote an article about it:
One scout I spoke to in Indianapolis said that diminishing returns kick in once an offensive lineman reaches the dimensions of an NBA power forward. “They have to keep working to bend at the knees, to not pop up at the snap,” he said. “They can’t ever let up on their technique.” …
Several of this year’s tall tackles are not just long, but lean. Castonzo has a classic lineman’s build, with a lot of mass in his thighs and butt, but Carimi and Solder have relatively narrow trunks. Their “high cut” bodies create even more leverage issues. Carimi, in particular, gets too narrow when run blocking: defenders can turn him sideways and slide around him. Carimi is so strong and athletic that teams will be willing to work with him to perfect his technique, but his size may never convert to NFL strength.
Giants Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), and Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) all went in the first round, but so did three 6'5" guys. You'll note that Michigan's recruiting is heavily biased towards 6'5" high school tackles who have half the scouts pegging at tackle, half at guard.
Tanier does note that super long arms are, in general, a help, and that blocking techniques are designed with the assumption you're going up against a guy a couple inches shorter than you.
Here's my take on it: in general, bigger people are just harder to get around. A wider stance and longer arms gives a left tackle a bigger catching radius, as it were, to intercept pass rushers. When it turned out NFL teams were sending players of size X at quarterbacks, most of those guys turned out to be 6'3" or 6'4" and after some experimentation it was determined that guys a couple inches taller than those guys combined catching radius with balance. Balance is absolutely the most important thing for offensive linemen. Bigger guys with traditional lineman builds (ie, bottom heavy) take more force to get off balance than smaller ones, but only as long as they can keep a leverage advantage on their opponents.
Who takes the shot against Kansas and such, other than nobody?
With Trey & Tim leaving, who takes the end of shot clock and end of game shots for us next year?
I think McGary would be the obvious choice, but that can be pretty tough for a big man to create shots outside of the offensive flow. And it could pull him away from the basket and rebound opportunities. GRIII hasn't shown a lot in a way of creating his own shot. Walton would be an obvious choice, but he's a freshmen. Maybe some end of shot clock looks, but at the end of a close game? Same goes for Irvin. That leaves the other options as Stauskas (maybe?), Levert (supposedly a terror 1-on-1 in practice, but late game experience?) and Spike (not as terrifying as I thought a few months ago).
Who do you think becomes the regular closer out of that group?
Uh… I think they might go closer by committee?
There is no obvious answer there. McGary's usage shot up in the tournament but very little of that was McGary actually creating a shot—basically some jumpers from the elbow, a couple of sweet short-corner turnarounds, and his once-per-game two-dribbles-to-a-layup. Michigan never, ever posts guys up, and I don't think that's going to change. Meanwhile the other returning star had a usage rate of 13% and got virtually all of his baskets from Burke or off rebounds. Neither is a good candidate for late-game or late-clock hero duties.
With Michigan's emphasis on the pick and roll, it'll probably fall onto the point guard again. Derrick Walton isn't going to take step-back jumpers that somehow fall quite a bit; he's more distribution-oriented. Teams overplaying his penetration will find him kicking to Stauskas or Irvin or dishing to Robinson or McGary.
I can see three other guys possibly taking up the banner:
- STAUSKAS. Showed pretty good ability on the pick and roll, where he showed hints of a Darius Morris-like ability to find passing angles with his length. And you of course cannot go under unless you want punishment. Would take some development both on the bounce and as a distributor, but that's what freshmen do.
- IRVIN. 6'7" to 6'8" guy with an advanced pull up game already. By midseason will be able to get a midrange jumper whenever he wants. Prefer Michigan to try something else always, but late when refs are clenching their bowels and swallowing the whistle the midrange game is the part of your offense least affected by hacks.
- LEVERT. Yes, a stretch given his rough numbers and brief tourney cameos where he was unready for the moment. Seemed to be able to get where he wanted most of the year, small sample size, freshman improvement, and he should have buckets since he was both young and skinny.
This question is a "what we do without Burke" Q writ small, and the answer is "I don't know, but spread it around."
This Week in the Twitterverse takes a look at the social media happenings of the previous week, or whatever else I feel like talking about. Mostly I make fun of people who are better at things than I am. No purchase necessary, void where prohibited. Consult your doctor if this column lasts more than four hours. If you come across anything you think should be in next week's column, send it to @Bry_Mac.
As of today, I have been married to my lovely wife, Mrs. BiSB (also known as WiSB or J_Mac, but not really), for exactly four years. In that spirit, I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learned in those years, in hopes that my wisdom may save you from some of my missteps.
Your stupidity is noticed, stupid.
When you screw up (and you WILL screw up), you may not always get called on it. You ignored a request to
refrain from peeing in the sink put some pants on, dammit, we have company do the dishes, or you come home from your "quick drink after work" at 2:00 a.m. with a concussion, wearing a loin cloth and reeking of ouzo, and your significant other lets it slide. "I'm a wizard," you think to yourself. "I should rob banks. Or the Louvre." You see, you confused a patient and tolerant person with someone who didn't mind. Turns out, humans tend to notice and respond to stimuli. You are unknowingly making withdrawals from the First National Bank of Spousal Patience, and you never know when your balance will hit zero and crap will hit the fan. To wit:
As we have discussed many times, people send stupid tweets to recruits all the time. The recruits usually don't respond, so the morons tweeting them probably assume either (a) no one notices or cares, or (b) they need to up their trolling game to break through the noise. Turns out, they are just making their respective schools look bad. Shai Mckenzie had a since-deleted back-and-forth with one such Pitt fan, and as a result he’s not feeling the love. I don’t know if he decided to cancel the visit (it was scheduled for today), but needless to say that if you were the fan who cost your team a 4-star running back, your day will not be good.
Sometimes a little space is a good thing
If you've been in a relationship for a long time, you probably enjoy spending time together. Regardless, a little "me time" is a healthy thing for both of you. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and you don't need to share your every thought and every waking moment with your paramour. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Omnipresence makes you this dude:
Kentucky has jumped to the front of the Inappropriate Twitter Stalkers parade, and this guy is out front waving a Big Blue baton. As you can probably guess, those are all recruits (including Jamarco Jones, who is most decidedly not considering Kentucky anymore). It isn't even that he contacts recruits. It's how OFTEN he's contacting recruits. And what he's saying to them. And how it seems to be the SOLE REASON he has a Twitter account. And... Jeebus, read that feed. He’s mentioned TJ Harrell nearly 50 times in the last two weeks alone. So, based on quantity, quality, use of exclamation points, and overall lack of self-awareness, I declare you, John Turner, to be the TWITTER CREEPER OF THE YEAR OF THE WEEK. This is only the second time I have given this award, so cherish it, BBN hero.
[After the jump, your friends may be on your side, but that doesn't mean they're "helping"]
In the 2005 NBA Draft, three players were selected before Chris Paul.
Australian-born Naismith winner Andrew Bogut went first to the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with two young point guards—T.J. Ford and Mo Williams—hoping to fill a hole at center. He topped out as a solid post threat and rebounder before injuries derailed his career over the last couple seasons.
The second pick belonged to the Atlanta Hawks, a franchise in desperate need of a franchise point guard. Instead of choosing Paul, the super-productive yet diminutive playmaker, the Hawks chose Marvin Williams, a 6'9" forward who'd flashed great promise as a freshman sixth man on North Carolina's national title team. Good at many things but great at none, Williams has been a huge disappointment, providing below-average efficiency as the third option on some decent Hawks teams before being traded prior to last season straight-up for Devin Harris, whose career has been in a freefall since he was the centerpiece of Dallas' 2008 trade for Jason Kidd.
The Utah Jazz took 6'3" point guard Deron Williams with the third pick and can't be blamed for that choice, as the Illinois product has had a very productive pro career featuring three All-Star appearances.
Paul went fourth to the New Orleans Hornets, won Rookie of the Year in 2006, and in the seven years since has established himself as the best point guard in basketball. The Hawks, still looking for that franchise cornerstone, have been kicking themselves ever since; they're now targeting Paul in free agency and, in fact, violated NBA tampering rules by saying as much in a press release.
You probably know where I'm going with this. The NBA Draft is tomorrow night and Michigan's Trey Burke is expected to go anywhere from second to eighth. Brian has posted this before, but I want to once again draw your attention to Grantland's "NBA Job Interview" with Burke:
If YouTube is blocked or you don't want to watch the video, at the :32 mark Bill Simmons asks Burke to say which current pro is the type of player he'd like to be. Burke, without hesitation, says Chris Paul; look around for the various pre-draft content and this is his established ceiling. Simmons immediately fires back with what, at least from my impression, is the biggest doubt NBA GMs have about Burke's ability to become the next CP3:
The one thing about Chris Paul, though, is he's thick. When he goes down low, and he bounces off guys, they kinda bounce off him, too. The one thing I noticed with you in college, you would bounce off guys sometimes and you would take hard falls...
I didn't follow Paul's college career too closely, so I did three things after watching the above clip. First, I went to Burke's and Paul's respective NBADraftNet profiles, which has their pre-draft measurements.
Burke: 5'11.75" w/o shoes, 6'1.25" w/ shoes, 6'5.5" wingspan, 187 pounds, 3 bench press reps (185 lbs.)
Paul: 5'11.75" w/o shoes, 6'1" w/ shoes, 6'4.25" wingspan, 178 pounds, 10 bench press reps (185 lbs.)
Burke is, in fact, a little bit bigger than Paul was when he came out of college, and while Paul has clearly added muscle since he was drafted, his listed weight is still at 178 pounds. The difference is in their strength — Paul performed much better on the bench press.
The second thing I did was watch Paul's college highlights, and boy do they look a lot like Burke's:
At this stage in their careers, Burke and Paul had similar body types as well as similar games; both made their hay by dominating the ball, effortlessly finding ways to the rim, passing at a level that often caught teammates off-guard, and knocking down outside shots to keep defenses honest. Paul looks stronger at the rim than Burke and has a few more jaw-dropping passes in his arsenal; otherwise, they're practically doppelgangers.
The third thing I did was to compare their final college seasons statistically, a convenient comparison in this instance since both left school after their sophomore seasons. The full rundown can be found at StatSheet, which is the source for this (chart?) chart:
Despite a much higher usage (28.9% vs. 23.1%) and a longer three-point line (20'9" vs. 19'9"), Burke and Paul have near-identical offensive ratings; Burke boasts a better assist rate, fewer turnovers, and a higher eFG% despite attempting 28% of his team's shots against Paul's 20%. Paul has one major advantage, getting to the free-throw line at a much higher clip.
Simmons' point holds true, as far as I can tell, though it's an issue of strength, not size; Burke and Paul are near-identical in all other regards, but Paul was better in college at taking contact and continued to develop that talent in the NBA — look at his shooting heat map from this year, which shows his impressive efficiency in the paint and at the basket.
Can Burke make up this ground? I think it's possible. For one, his work ethic is tough to match, and obviously that's the largest obstacle between a player and adding strength. The videos of Burke working out before he arrived at Michigan are something I always point to when discussing his seemingly out-of-nowhere rise to the top of the college basketball world. For some reason I can't embed the video, but look at Burke's face as he's about to arrive at his after-school workout destination: the steps of the 94-foot-tall Hoover Dam* in Columbus.
Burke has also bulked up since he arrived at Michigan; while he's still on the skinny side, he's more defined than he was as a high-schooler and has added 15-20 pounds of muscle since arriving in Ann Arbor. That hasn't taken away from his game one bit—in fact, his finishing has improved—and he should be able to continue adding weight to his frame without losing athleticism or explosiveness.
Then there's the shooting aspect. While Paul was a very good three-point shooter in college (47.0% for his career), he's been just okay in that regard as a pro (35.6%, and the only time he's cracked 40% was in 2010 when he had a career-low 127 attempts). Burke's college numbers are worse, but they came under different circumstances — the longer line, of course, and also Michigan's late-clock "do something, Trey" offense. Rarely did he have the chance to catch and shoot; according to hoop-math.com, just 49% of Burke's three-pointers were assisted last year, while every other Michigan regular had a figure at or above 85%. If Burke ends up on a team with enough proficient ballhandlers to allow him to occasionally spot up, not just run high pick-and-rolls and choose to drive or pull the trigger, this could be an area where he's more effective than Paul.
Do I think Trey Burke will be better than Chris Paul? No, probably not. Paul's strength is a bigger asset at the NBA level than in college, and while I believe that Burke will improve in that regard, he's starting from well behind where Paul was at this stage — his around-the-rim finishing and free throw rate may never match Paul's. CP3 is also one of the league's best defensive point guards, and while a good part of that is his Burkian thievery—Paul has led the NBA in steals five times—it's also a product of his strength, which allows him to hold his own one-on-one against bigger guards.
Do I think that Trey Burke could become as effective as Chris Paul, just in a slightly different manner? Yes. The key here will be the development of Burke's outside shooting. We already know he has NBA range—just ask Kansas—and if he can become a 40%-plus outside shooter it'll open up room for the other parts of game.
I won't make the argument that Burke should go first overall—the Cavs have quite a point guard in Kyrie Irving, anyway—or even that he should go to Orlando at #2 (Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore are both exceptional athletes with NBA-ready skill sets). With less-proven players like Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, and Anthony Bennett likely to go off the board before Burke, though, I think it's safe to say there will be at least one team dealing with regret down the line, and for a long time at that.
*Not to be confused with the better-known Hoover Dam on the Arizona/Nevada border.