Unorthodox. [Eric Upchurch, Marc-Gregor Campredon, Joseph Dressler]
Zak Irvin made six hundred field goals at Michigan. Each one seemed like a minor miracle.
I say this out of admiration. Pick up a basketball, head to the park, and try to replicate Irvin's shot. To do this, stand pigeon-toed while holding the basketball low and in front of you like a hot casserole just out of the oven; with your hands on the sides of the ball, swing it above your head on a path that passes by your left front pocket; as the ball rises in front of your face, rotate your hands so your shooting hand is under the ball; lock your elbows at a 90-degree angle; flick your wrist to release at the apex of your jump; hold your follow-through at a 45-degree angle. It'll look something like this:
You won't make it. Certainly not the first time, and probably not on the hundredth, either.
Perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise that Irvin's career was for a long time defined by its inconsistency.
After Irvin's freshman year, it was difficult to keep expectations in check. On a 2013-14 team loaded with NBA talent, he excelled in the role of unabashed gunner off the bench. He hoisted 146 three-pointers and made 43% of them, seamlessly replacing Nik Stauskas, who'd become the team's star, as the instant offense freshman who promised a whole lot more in the future.
Irvin's game, however, was extremely limited. He recorded all of 13 assists in 37 games. His defensive rebound rate was lower than Spike Albrecht's. Nearly 75% of his shots came from beyond the arc; according to hoop-math, all ten of his makes at the rim were assisted.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
Mattison seems very confident that his starting four is Gary, Hurst, Mone, and Winovich. They’re working to find the group behind them that will earn the right to rotate
Carlo Kemp and Donovan Jeter were mentioned as young guys who’ve been very impressive this spring
The guys competing at the tackle positions are Lawrence Marshall, Ron Johnson, Carl Myers, and Michael Dwumfour
Dwumfour is being held out of contact drills but is participating in non-contact portions of practice
Winovich has gotten much stronger and is now capable of being an every-down player.
“Here we go. That’s four hours out there; my knees feel really good. I feel great.”
Do you do conditioning for this?
“It’s conditioning every day we’re out there for me. But it’s going good. It’s going good.”
What do you like about the depth of your guys? Obviously not as many proven guys.
“Yeah, and that’s something we really are working on and the depth’s gonna be a real key because, as you know, we have a real belief in rotating guys. That was a big positive for us last year and really that’s why the first unit we’re very optimistic about because they played so much last year. Now we’ve got to develop another group to be able to come behind that new first group. They’re working very hard, but that’s gonna be a big key for us.”
What have you noticed out Rashan mentality-wise and intelligence-wise?
“Rashan comes out every day like he’s a senior, and he’s done that throughout the winter conditioning. You know, he came out and came off this last season and I really think it had a lot to do with Taco and Chris Wormley [and] the way they mentored him, and they set a great example for what you have to do to be successful.
“Rashan is a tremendously talented young man. He’s got great character, and he just stepped forward from the start of conditioning to right into spring practice. Every day he comes out and tries to lead by example. You would never be able to tell that the young man is going into his sophomore year. He’s having a real good spring.”
He said that he was looking forward to nitpicking himself a little bit more. He said he was hitting the film a lot harder. What have you noticed about him in that aspect?
“No question, he has. That’s why I say he acts almost like he’s a senior. A lot of times when you’re a sophomore coming off a good season as a freshman you’re kind of ‘Okay, I got it, I got it’ but he’s really critical of himself. He listens to every coaching point. I mean, when that happens, you’ve got a special, special young man.
“And he leads the other guys by that. They see him doing some really, really athletic things on the field and watch him do it and all of a sudden that’s like somebody saying this is how you do it. He’s been a very good example for everybody.”
[After THE JUMP: Kemp hype! Winovich hype! Mone hype! Carl Myers hype!]
Hello: Matt Brown
Michigan's added a late PWO to their 2017 class, Ohio LB/FB Matt Brown, who decided to forgo a Quinnipiac lacrosse scholarship to walk on at Michigan.
— Matt Brown (@Matt_b1213) April 3, 2017
Brown's HUDL page lists him at 6'0", 220; he was the AP and USA Today's Ohio defensive player of the year. With Michigan's extensive linebacker haul in this class, adding 20 pounds and playing fullback is the clearest path to playing time for him... but that path is very clear, what with both scholarship fullbacks graduating this year and no clear heir apparent.
Gant, Babb make it to campus
OH LB Dallas Gant, currently the only 2018 linebacker Michigan is recruiting, made it up to Ann Arbor over the weekend and was duly impressed:
"Coach Harbaugh was a great guy," Gant said. "He took a lot of time out of his day to talk with my dad and I one on one and gave us an inside look of what the program is like and how he runs things. It was definitely impressive, and his track record speaks for itself."
More encouraging than the quote is Gant telling Steve Lorenz that he's planning on coming back up for Michigan's spring game next weekend. Back-to-back visits speak to a real interest even though he's just a short drive down US-23. Gant plans to commit on his birthday on May 16th, so this one is going to wrap up quickly. Lorenz thinks he's a "Michigan/ND type kid," FWIW, despite a current OSU lead on the crystal ball.
— Kamryn Babb® (@kamm_o) March 31, 2017
MO WR Kamyrn Babb also took in Ann Arbor, offering Wiltfong some fairly generic quotes about the trip. Lorenz asserts Michigan is a "serious contender" but that OSU still is the likely leader. News is better for NJ WR Jahan Dotson, who is probably an OSU/PSU/M battle with neither other school feeling very confident.
Also visiting in the recent past are GA CB Christopher Smith and OH DE Tyreke Smith. Christopher is a 3.5* guy who might be due for a rise given the schools that are after him. Georgia is the crystal ball favorite and Michigan has been hot on the trail as well. Tyreke has been a name on the fringe of the board who most people assume will go to OSU because he is from OH and has an OSU offer.
Visits in the near future
3.5* FL QB Joe Milton will be up for the spring game, which means Michigan will have both of their top QB recruits on campus simultaneously. Confidence is "tepid, but existent" per Lorenz.
Confidence is still running high with 4* GA CB Myles Sims, who had an extensive interview with Sam Webb and plans a second long-range unofficial for the spring game and a decision shortly thereafter. The shape of that recruitment is very positive for Michigan.
Also coming up next weekend: 4* TX TE Mustapha Muhammad, who Michigan and everyone else badly wants. Michigan had seemed to be fading for him as he concentrated on schools closer to home; a second unofficial is obviously a big step in the right direction.
4* WA ATH Tre'Shaun Harrison has somewhat less vague plans to get to Ann Arbor this summer, or possibly earlier. Wiltfong put in an early CB for Michigan a few weeks ago; Lorenz relates that the unofficial is not something he expected a few months ago and that this indicates a level of mutual interest.
Camps, camps, camps
— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) April 2, 2017
Soft commit and IN OL Emil Ekiyor checked in as a very big dude at an Opening regional in Chicago:
An extremely powerful player at 6-foot-3, 339-pounds, Ekiyor projects at guard or center on the next level.
He posted the top SPARQ score amongst linemen, as you can see above. When Emil Ekiyor says he trusts you as far as he can throw you, he means it as a compliment.
A second name from that same camp is instate OL Tyrone Sampson Jr, who has not fielded Michigan interest to date because everyone projects him as a center and Michigan got a guy the recruiting industry believes is the best high school C prospect in a decade last year in Cesar Ruiz. Nonetheless Sampson might be a name of interest at some point:
Detroit (Mich.) East English Village Top247 offensive lineman Tyrone Sampson Jr.’s dominance on the camp circuit continued in the Windy City as the nation’s No. 2 center per 247Sports continues to have his way with interior defensive linemen. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Sampson is strong, has good feet and plays with that nasty streak on every snap.
Sampson's offer list does not match up with his recruiting hype so far, as they're in the UK-Minnesota-Syracuse-Virginia range. Michigan State's lack of interest is especially perplexing.
Finally, Wiltfong mentioned MI OL Jalen Mayfield in passing as the guy "with the most upside" amongst the OL and MI DE commit Aidan Hutchinson as a "unique frame, high upside" guy.
Grudging 2019 section is maybe less grudging this time
GA DT Chris Hinton is a potential five star and a name that's been in the grudging 2019 section at least a few times; his brother Myles is a 2020 OL. Steve Wiltfong has put in early—very early in Myles's case—crystal balls for both to Michigan based on "buzz at Atlanta Nike".
MD WR DeMarcco Hellams will visit for the spring game. Yes he is a real person and not a Fast and the Furious character. FL LB Anthony Solomon plans a return visit and that is a sign Michigan has a strong early lead for him; he just came up a couple months ago. GA RB STEELE CHAMBERS is a recent offeree and it won't take long for him to arrive in AA: he's got a visit scheduled for the 17th
4* FL ATH Houston Griffith, the son of BTN analyst Howard, is "very interested" in Michigan, vague visit plans, no top list, etc. At IMG.
5* TX S BJ Foster rides horses, wants to be a cowboy.
4* TX TE Malcolm Epps has vague Michigan visit plans, mentions the cold.
Not quite happy trails but probably to IA DE John Waggoner, who was told by Greg Mattison that Michigan is looking for one more DE and that he'd have to wait for another spot to open up.
So here's a post I absolutely never wanted to write. Despite being an e-site on the internet staffed by basement trolls, historically this space has been very slow to get on a soapbox and say FIRE THIS GUY. I was still barely on board with Rodriguez after his third season and only called for Hoke's firing after the Shane Morris concussion fiasco. Meanwhile other parts of the internet call us Beilein slaps, because other parts of the internet are dirt stupid Rome listeners. And I love not just Michigan hockey but damn the torpedoes, screw your trap, let's score a buttload of goals Red Berenson hockey. Without Berenson it's likely I'm not a hockey fan of any variety.
But I kind of have to write this, because apparently missing the tournament for the fourth time in five years with the worst team Red Berenson's had since the mid-80s isn't enough for everyone involved:
I think Red Berenson will be back for a final season. We'll see what happens with meeting later this week with Warde Manuel. @umichhockey
— George Sipple (@GeorgeSipple) April 2, 2017
George has a pretty good feel for these things. Have been told the chances of him retiring are growing slimmer by the day. https://t.co/1WshrO0XUz
— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpathITH) April 2, 2017
This is why I was fretting about Michigan's post-Frozen-Four decision date on Berenson. If there was a decision to make it should have been made midseason, probably after Michigan handed a Tom Anastos-led Michigan State team two of their three conference wins. If not then, then immediately after the season. And yet.
Red Berenson is no longer a good hockey coach. Michigan's decline has been near-constant for a decade, with two items obscuring that: walk-on goalie Shawn Hunwick turning in two of the program's best-ever years in goal and last year's near-unprecedented pile of NHL talent. While Berenson should get credit for each, those are blips as Michigan hockey slaloms downhill.
Even when Michigan has been at a relative peak during their decline, North Dakota pops up to remind us that Berenson's approach has been lapped by modern hockey coaches. The last two times Michigan and North Dakota have met in the NCAA tournament Michigan has gotten outshot two to one. They won one of those with the greatest single-game goalie performance in program history. Last year they lost, meekly, because they could not even get out of their own zone.
That should have been the last straw. Michigan is no longer a program that can go into any game against a top-end foe and expect to have an even game even if their entire power play should already be in the NHL. North Dakota flat-out embarrassed Michigan in that game, and they specifically embarrassed Michigan's coaching.
It was not the last straw, so Michigan fans were treated to a season in which the only thing keeping them from a single-digit-win season was outstanding goaltending. Michigan finished 57th of 60 D-I teams in even-strength Corsi*. Forgive me if I bring out my inner Jim Rome right now, but that is flat-out unacceptable. Michigan controlled their zones about as well as 5-31-3 Niagara, 7-21-6 Alaska-Anchorage, and second-year independent Arizona State—which is still using club players.
Talent is indisputably down, but not that much. There are nine NHL draft picks on the roster and a tenth player (Luke Martin) will go in the next one. It is distantly possible that you could build a case for Red to return if Michigan had missed the tournament by a hair. They did not. They missed it by a mile, and the underlying numbers are even worse than the record.
Michigan's coaching is not and has not been an asset since Mel Pearson left. Pearson is working with scraps and guys from places so remote that Houghton seems like a metropolis in comparison. He's made the tournament twice in the last three years, and finished in the top five of even strength Corsi all three years. His talent is at best average in the WCHA; he outperforms. Berenson's talent was at worst league-average in the Big Ten; he underperforms.
Meanwhile there are signs every year that nobody's afraid of Red anymore—that nobody even respects him. This year Cooper Marody was academically ineligible for the first half of the year, which hasn't happened since I've been paying attention. Every NHL talent flees the instant it's an option. Jon Merrill missed half a season with personal issues a few years back; things never should have gotten that bad with him. When Andrew Copp jumped to the NHL after his junior season, Red slammed his character and that of his father. When Mike Spath related this, Copp's furious father responded at length, explaining why Copp decided that another year in Ann Arbor would not be a positive for his hockey career.
The year Copp decided to leave Michigan excluded him from the hockey banquet entirely: not a mention of his name. For the captain of the team. Does that sound like a rational person?
Red Berenson is 77. His hockey team was horrendous this year. He appears increasingly incapable of controlling the kids on his team. He's been on his "final" season for three years now. If he won't retire he is RedPa. Warde Manuel should do him a favor and prevent that from happening.
*[Corsi is your percent of all shot attempts. It is broadly more predictive of future events than actual goals, which are lower in number and subject to goalie vagaries.]
What’s the talent like at your position?
“Great. I mean, we have great talent. We have a chip on our shoulder when we come to practice every day. We’ve got a lot of opportunity ahead. But yeah, feel really good about it.”
How much has Devin [Bush Jr.] progressed from last year to this year?
“Devin progresses on a daily basis, you know. He’s starting to understand what it takes to be a Big Ten linebacker. He’s having a heck of a spring so far. He had a heck of an end of the season and got better and better. And he’s the kind of guy who comes to work every day, so he gets better every day. You really see it. He’s working on some things. We’re very excited about him.”
Do you feel confident he’s one of your top three guys right now with Mike McCray and Wroblewski?
“No, I can’t say that. I think every linebacker is one of my top guys, you know. I think that they all have to come to work and they have an opportunity. It’s all about opportunities in the spring and if they show up, whether it’s one rep or a hundred reps, they’re got to take advantage of it and work their butts off. I’m not ready to say—at least personally, I’m not ready to say who the top guys are. I think they all have to earn and do their part.”
The ferocity that Devin plays with on special teams; does he play that way at linebacker as well?
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. He’s not allowed not to. He’s really good. He’s the kind of guy who shows up and just…he’s the kind of guy who shows up every single day and every drill, whether it’s special teams or linebacker stuff, he gets it and that’s important.”
[Hit THE JUMP for Partridge’s recruiting philosophy and the strengths of the LBs]
"The end crowns all. And that old common arbitrator, Time, will one day end it."
In Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, the Trojan hero Hector gives an existential twist to the Latin phrase finis coronat opus: the end crowns the work. The original is a more forgiving statement; when a task is completed, the finished product justifies the effort. Hector, preparing for a fatal battle with Achilles, adds that cruelest of elements: time. Only so much of his fate rests in his own hands, for there are forces present no person can control.
[left: Patrick Barron; right and center: Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Michigan lost at Illinois on January 11th, falling to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. Their November dismantlings of Marquette and SMU had gone from promising augurs to cruel teases. The offense was merely good, the defense abominable. When the Illini's Maverick Morgan described Michigan as a "white collar" program, it rankled because it rang true.
Derrick Walton didn't spend his summer in the gym for this. He called a team meeting. When asked about the timing, the senior captain answered with his usual calm, but his words communicated a sense of urgency.
"It’s only so many games left.
"We’re hitting the mid stretch and the back stretch is coming soon. It’s time to make some noise. I feel like we are a ton better team than we’ve showed and our record doesn’t show it. I think we’re a lot better than we’re playing and guys are ready to show that."
In only so many games, Walton redefined his legacy from program guy to program legend, led a storybook turnaround, and shifted the perception of the coach whose offense he helped reshape.
[Hit THE JUMP.]