"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Tampa (FL) Wharton CB Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the top prospects at any position in the class of 2013, earning five-star status from Rivals (#10 overall), 24/7 (#7), and ESPN along with an early four-star rating from Scout. The Wolverines recently joined Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami (YTM), Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, South Florida, USC, Vanderbilt, and Virginia in extending the 5'11", 180-pound junior an offer. You can see sophomore highlights of Hargreaves above, and read through my recent conversation with the blue-chip prospect below:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which schools are going after you the most right now?
VERNON: It's going good, it's exciting. I got four offers today, which was really exciting, I wasn't expecting them. I'd have to say Florida and USF are recruiting me the hardest.
ACE: Coming from Florida, is there a strong pull from those in-state schools, especially with having your father [USF assistant Vernon Hargreaves Jr.] on the coaching staff at one of them? Is that a big drawing point for you?
VERNON: Not really. I'm looking for a program with a good base, where the coaches aren't constantly leaving. So not really, not for me at least. For some kids it is, but for me I'm just going to take all my visits and see which one I like the best.
ACE: Are there any schools that are standing out as early favorites for you?
VERNON: Not really, because I haven't seen every school. The only schools I've been to are Florida and Florida State, so I can't really say they're my leaders because they're the only schools I've been to.
ACE: Talking about Michigan real quick, which coaches have been in contact with you from Michigan, and what are your impressions of the school and the program?
VERNON: Coach Montgomery called me recently, so I've been talking to him lately. I don't really know much about Michigan, but I know they have a huge stadium, one of the biggest—114,000, something crazy like that. That's always cool.
ACE: Coming in and getting the five-star recognition early and getting all this attention from all these big schools, how do you handle the expectations that come with that and what's it like to get that recognition early on?
VERNON: Football season hasn't started yet so there's not really that much pressure on me yet. I'm just taking it in, watching it happen and just having fun, not getting too stressed about it.
ACE: Going back and talking about your junior year, how'd you feel you performed and what kind of numbers did you put up?
VERNON: I actually got hurt in the summer, I sprained my left ankle, so that set me back, and then I sprained my right ankle, so I was playing crippled basically for the whole year. I think I could've done better this year, but my team made it to the playoffs, and though we lost in the first round it was the first time we've made it in four years, so that was pretty exciting. My numbers, I had 11 touchdowns, two interception and around 67 tackles.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field and what are you trying to work on and improve for your senior year and beyond?
VERNON: I'm trying to get faster. I'm running track right now, because they always say speed kills. I'm also just trying to get stronger, so I'm not getting hurt as much and I can jam people off the ball.
ACE: And what would you say you're best at on the field?
VERNON: I'm probably best at playing man-to-man. That's where I feel like I'm best at.
ACE: Looking ahead to this summer, do you have any junior days in mind for taking visits or are you still trying to figure out a schedule?
VERNON: I'm still trying to figure out a schedule where I can work everybody out. I'm going up to USF this Sunday for a junior day, but that's just right up the street.
ACE: When it comes down to making a decision what are you going to be looking for at a school in terms of what traits are going to draw you in?
VERNON: It would have to be a good environment and a good education, obviously, just like everybody else. Just a good place to be around and where I can be happy for four years.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline, when you'd want to get things wrapped up?
VERNON: Probably a little before signing day. Next year at this time I'll have it all figured out, but I'm not sure. That's just what I'm thinking.
ACE: I see the name 'Freeze' come up as a nickname. How'd you pick that one up?
VERNON: I was playing 7-on-7s and I was at corner, and the other team wasn't throwing my way. I got interviewed after the game and the reporter was like, "Can I call you Freeze," and I said sure. All my teammates heard it and they started making fun of me, so I just went whatever, so it kinda sticks now.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's one thing about you or something you like to do that has nothing to do with football that you'd like people to know about you?
VERNON: I don't really have any hidden talents or anything, but I play a lot of Xbox. I guess you could say that (laughs).
ACE: What's your favorite game on there?
VERNON: Call of Duty.
|WHAT||Michigan at Nebraska|
|WHERE||Devaney Sports Center,
|WHEN||9 PM Eastern|
|LINE||M –5 (Kenpom)|
Nebraska basketball: waiting around for Ndamukong Suh Jr. to rescue your program… in 2042.
The only thing keeping Nebraska from the title of "easily the worst team in the Big Ten" is the existence of Penn State. They're .500 on the year and 3-8 in the league. They're not very good. But it's a Big Ten road game so Michigan has to overcome not only the opponent but the heebie jeebies.
Senior guard Bo Spencer is the main guy. He shoots nearly 30% of Nebraska's field goal attempts and has a decent assist rate. Unfortunately for the Huskers, he turns the ball over a ton, shoots a lot of threes at a 31% clip, and hits only 48% from within the arc. His stats have a Dion Harris vibe to them—on a better team he'd be taking a lot fewer shots and making more of them. One thing to avoid: putting Spencer on the line. He's an 88% FT shooter. Michigan isn't giving up many free-throws (second in the league), FWIW.
After Spencer, senior wing Toney McCray is the main man. He's efficient when he gets a shot off and a good defensive rebounder but is also a turnover-prone black hole who doesn't get to the line.
Guard Brandon Richardson is a low-usage version of Spencer, with a good assist rate, terrible TO rate for a guard, and meh shooting. He is hitting nearly 40% from deep, though, and does get to the line from time to time. 6'4" guard Caleb Walker is low usage and high-turnover; when he gets a two off it's a good shot.
Post Brandon Ubel looks like a standard-issue guy who gets a bunch of offensive rebounds but is otherwise not a big part of the offense. Normal starting center Jorge Brian Diaz is out with a foot injury. Diaz is a quality shot blocker; Ubel is not.
The tempo-free theme is turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. No Nebraska player cracks the top 500 least turnover-prone players in the country; everyone who sees playing time has a TO rate of at least 17. Michigan has three starters well under that mark (Hardaway, Novak, and Douglass) and their high-usage freshman PG has a TO rate three points lower than Spencer.
While Nebraska is not good at basketball they have risen up to disturb tourney-bound teams more than once this year. Their only actual win against a tourney aspirant was by one point against Indiana but they tested Illinois and Wisconsin (on the road, even) and hung in for a surprisingly long time against Michigan State in a game they ended up losing by 13.
Those mitigating factors aside, yeesh. Nebraska had one win against major competition in the nonconference (a double OT win against 6-18 USC) and lost to bad Oregon and Wake Forest teams; their conference wins aside from Indiana are against Penn State and Iowa.
Michigan's visit to Carver-Hawkeye earlier this year is ample evidence that no road game should be taken for granted, but if you were going to do so this would be the one.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||46.9 10||52.1 9||49|
|Turnover %:||23.0 12||19.5 6||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||26.5 11||33.9 10||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||31.1 9||35.9 8||36.5|
Nebraska does nothing well and the only thing they do sort of okay is force turnovers. This looks like a high-risk, high-reward sort of outfit. They lead the league in steal% at 11.5; they are dead last at defending twos, allowing nearly a 55% conversion rate.
Nebraska hits only 30% of its threes but takes 41% of its shots from long range. They're tall and old, though—Kenpom has them #2 in experience.
For the love of God, Hardaway. Please, please, please let you get what you want this time.
Michigan needs rebounds, defense, and better shot selection from Hardaway. If he's taking a late-clock force, an open three off ball movement, or going to the rim I don't care if it goes in or not. Long twos with 25 seconds on the shot clock have to die, and he has to close out, and he has to get on the defensive boards.
The worst part about Hardaway's slump is how useless he's been at all the things other than scoring that you can do. Fix that, and Michigan can live with the shooting, or lack thereof.
this, do this
Skip the threes. This is a team giving up 55% from inside the arc. They're actually decent at defending threes. Backdoor, screen, etc. Any and all threes should be open looks based off penetration. Go inside.
This goes double with Diaz out. The starting center is rejecting 1.6 percent of available shots. Run at the rim with impunity.
Um. Show up on defense. Looking at the conference numbers and it's just, like… I don't see how this team does anything. They shoot free throws well; in all other categories they are eighth or worse in the league.
Presumably Douglass gets Spencer, which seems like a fine matchup from Michigan's perspective. Novak will draw a guy approximately his size—Nebraska seems to rotate the posts at the five and there are no other players on the roster taller than 6'6" who get minutes. The main concern is again Hardaway, who will get McCray's efficient shooting and vast turnover supply.
Usual Big Ten road game stuff. The heebie jeebies!
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by five.
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Ohio St. 8-2 66.7 1.11 0.84 +0.27 2. Michigan St. 7-3 62.3 1.10 0.93 +0.17 3. Wisconsin 7-4 57.7 1.02 0.96 +0.06 4. Michigan 7-4 59.4 1.04 1.01 +0.03 5. Indiana 6-6 65.6 1.10 1.09 +0.01 6. Minnesota 5-6 64.2 1.02 1.02 0.00 7. Illinois 5-5 62.6 0.98 0.99 -0.01 8. Purdue 5-5 63.7 1.03 1.08 -0.05 9. Iowa 5-6 67.3 1.03 1.10 -0.07 10. Northwestern 4-6 61.4 1.04 1.12 -0.08 11. Penn St. 2-9 63.0 0.94 1.09 -0.15 12. Nebraska 3-8 62.6 0.92 1.08 -0.16 AVG. 63.0 1.03
Michigan plays #1 at home and then has games against 7 (two of them), 8, 10, 11, and 12. The games against the bottom three are on the road, but if you were going to split up the home/road games to maximize likely wins that's the way you'd want it.
no pressure, Ondre
As part of the run up to the Super Bowl, Smart Football posted a Grantland article detailing the Patriots' defense. It's not much good at football, that defense, but it is pretty interesting from the Michigan perspective for two reasons.
Reason one: it provides an excuse for Chris Brown to talk about techniques in an easy to understand way.
"Gap" refers to the area between offensive linemen. A 1-gap technique is just what it sounds like: The defensive lineman lines up in front of the gap he is responsible for and his job is to attack and control it. If nothing else, a defender must not allow a runner to go through his gap. While defensive linemen attack their gaps, the linebackers behind them are responsible for their own gaps. These are the defense's "run fits," meaning how they fit into an offense's blocking scheme to take away running space.
Courtesy of Chris Brown
The 2-gap technique, by contrast, sounds physically impossible. How can one player occupy two separate gaps? He does it by controlling the blocker. At the snap of the football, a two-gapping defensive lineman does what Wilfork did to Birk. He leads with his hands, gets leverage on the offensive lineman, and takes control of the blocker. From there, the advanced techniques kick in. On run plays, the defender reacts to where the blocker tries to take him. If he is double-teamed, he'll try to split the blockers and either shoot into the backfield or occupy the blockers, thus freeing up his teammates to make tackles.
In short, while a 1-gap player attacks gaps, a 2-gap player attacks people. Football's conventional wisdom states that an effective 2-gap lineman, particularly one who lines up in the middle of the defense like Wilfork does, must be enormous. Coaches refer to them as "war daddies." But size is actually less important than athleticism and smarts. The line between touchdowns and stops in the NFL is exceedingly thin, and it's footwork and feel that are the difference. It is the most violent, most complicated, and most beautiful ballet I can think of.
Count the war daddies on the Michigan defensive line. You come back with a true freshman and an inconsistent former five star who can't play consistently without standing up straight. The other guy who would be two-gapping in a 3-4 is… Nate Brink? Jibreel Black? A true freshman? Not happening.
This matters much more than a surfeit of linebackers when you're trying to pick a defense to run, especially when moving to a two-gap system does not get more of them on the field. The 3-4 is not coming to Michigan.
At least not in total. We might see bits and pieces, though…
Reason two is an interesting adjustment the Patriots have made to adapt to their personnel. Wilfork is a monster they would like to use to the maximum extent possible, which means two-gapping him. Asking him to be Mike Martin is a lot like asking Ondre Pipkins to run a bunch of goofy pass-rush stunts like he did in the AA game. But because of deficiencies elsewhere Bill Belichick (mainly a 3-4 guy) feels compelled to run a 4-3, which generally means one-gapping.
What to do?
The Patriots run a 3-4 to one side of the field and a 4-3 to the other, all on the same play. The key to all this is Wilfork. He lines up over the center and assumes his traditional spot of run-stuffing, blocker consuming, two-gapping war daddy. Belichick fills out the rest of the pieces based on the strengths and weaknesses of his other defenders.
Create a hybrid. This is the Patriots' under front, one similar to what Michigan ran this year except with one planetoid defensive tackle and one strong-and-good strongside defensive two-gapping. This might be something we see from Michigan next year. Getting maximum production out of Pipkins basically demands something similar.
The problem here is still the same one we have when we theorize about moving to a 3-4, though: there is no SDE on the roster with a prayer of being able to two-gap anything. If you try to get clever by flipping Campbell out there you're asking for it when that tight end goes in motion to the other side of the line and you're either rearranging the entire DL on the fly or running this:
Your weakside DE is not a pass rush threat at all. So don't expect this next year.
HOWEVA, even if you shouldn't go around calling the defense "basically Belichick's" yet, we should expect Pipkins' deployment to be radically different than Martin's. That should mean fewer blocks getting to the linebackers and more plays from that unit. If the ILBs find a surge in productivity it will be because of Pipkins—not because he is a better player than Martin, but because he's a different one.
You'll be able to tell if this is happening by Pipkins's alignment. Martin played a "shade"—he aligned in the gap between the center and guard. If Michigan wants Pipkins to be Wilfork they'll put him nose to nose with the center and say "sic 'em."
This is where disclaimers go. Even with New England doing this a major theme of the first half in the Super Bowl was that one-gap backside tackle getting doubled (often on zone runs) and blown up. It is never as simple as "this guy gets one on one blocking." All you can do is change the equation so that doing that exposes someone else to a tough assignment. You can't entirely cover up for a sucky player.
Pipkins may be talented but there's more to playing nose tackle than talent. You can dominate your guy, push him into the backfield, and still screw up if you lose control of one of your gaps. Usually this happens when the DT gets pushed too far in the direction he wants to go and opens up a cutback lane behind him. When one of these players is Gabe Watson and the other is Pat Massey, pain results. It's not too hard to envision that happening what with Will Campbell still a rotation player you're a little afraid of. At least he's not 6'8"*.
It may make more sense to start Pipkins off with the easier assignment (always one-gap) and hope to make him impactful in two gaps later in his career. That'll be one of the interesting tactical decisions we unveil against… oh, Christ. Alabama. Yay!
*[Who in the hell looked at a 6'8", 260 pound player and put him on defense? That is either a tackle or a tight end or a man who should be playing basketball.]
A couple of not-very-important bits of information I've gotten from sources I consider reliable follow.
the last one ended well
Night night night night. I'm hearing next year's game at Notre Dame will be at night. Given Michigan's stated desire for a night game per year and the Big Ten's prohibition against having them in November, we could see a large number of M-ND matchups from here on out in primetime.
Maize is not BRIGHT BRIGHT yellow.
An increased focus on making things look reasonable. A reader who would know and I trust when talking about these matters tells me the athletic department is placing an increased focus on making maize actually, you know, maize.
This comes after years of increasing highlighter-yellow creep. Anyone who's surveyed a student section and been able to pick out the 10% who still wear shirts that would not blind a donkey knows how alarming the color drift has become in recent years.
This will "take years to happen." Even so, it's a welcome development. Uniform guru Steve Sapardanis liked the brighter yellow last August, FWIW. I prefer the darker shade.
BONUS: If you care and know what the Pantone colors are, they are Blue 282 and Maize 116. If someone can convert those into hexadecimal I will move the primary colors here to Officially Official colors until such point as copyright-drunk lawyers sue me. I confess that I eyeballed them way back when.
[Note for superheroes with the power of pedantry: there will have to be a few different shades of whatever I use for internet purposes.]
Philadelphia (PA) William Penn Charter OT Mike McGlinchey is one of the latest juniors to receive an offer from Michigan, who join Wisconsin, Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Rutgers, and Virginia in extending a scholarship early in the process. McGlinchey is rated as a four-star and the #244 prospect overall on 24/7 and he's a member of the ESPNU 150 Watch List. At 6'8", 285 pounds, he has the prototypical frame for a left tackle, and his recruitment has really picked up in the last couple of weeks. I had the chance to chat briefly with Mike last night:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which teams are going after you the hardest right now?
MIKE: Everything has been really exciting, and I have offers from Michigan, Wisconsin, Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers, Duke, and Virginia.
ACE: Any favorites of those teams right now?
MIKE: Yeah I really don't know who is at the top of my list right now. I still have to take the time to think about it and narrow down my choices.
ACE: How do you think you performed in your junior year?
MIKE: I think I performed well. I put a lot of hard work into making sure I do so!
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field, and what are you working on to improve for your senior year and beyond?
MIKE: I have a lot of size and strength and quickness and I think I need to sure up my technique.
ACE: Who's your main recruiter at Michigan, and what are your thoughts on the school and the program?
MIKE: Coach Mallory. They are a great program with a huge tradition.
ACE: Any idea what your timeline is for wrapping up your recruitment?
MIKE: I want to be finished with the process by the end of this school year.
Purdue or Purdon’t … There is no try.
- Middle Tennessee, 27-24 (W)
- @ Rice, 22-24 (L)
- Southeast Missouri State, 59-0 (W)
- Notre Dame, 10-38 (L)
- Minnesota, 45-17 (W)
- @ Penn State, 18-23 (L)
- No. 23 Illinois, 21-14 (W)
- @ No. 18 Michigan, 14-36 (L)
- @ No. 20 Wisconsin, 17-62 (L)
- Ohio State, 26-23 OT (W)
- Iowa, 21-31 (L)
- @ Indiana, 33-25 (W)
- Western Michigan, 37-32 (W) Motor City Bowl
Record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 B1G, 3rd place Woody Division.
|Rush:||181.6 ypg, 33rd||174.9 ypg, 82nd|
|Pass:||195.2 ypg, 83rd||221.0 ypg, 53rd|
|Total:||376.8 ypg, 71st||395.9 ypg, 73rd|
|Scoring:||26.9 ppg, 60th||26.8 ppg, 62nd|
|T/O Margin:||+1, 52nd|
Recap: Purdue had all sorts of issues this season yet somehow scraped together a 7-6 record plus a bowl game, which makes it their best record since 2007 when former coach Joe Tiller’s 8-5 squad also finished with a Motor City Bowl win.
The Boilermakers needed stability at the quarterback position after last year’s debacle of a finish. They didn’t get it because bona fide starting QB Rob Henry tore his ACL in fall camp. Apparently this kind of thing is tradition in West Lafayette.
Purdue gave backup Caleb Terbush the job because the other backup guy Robert Marve was recovering from his own ACL tear from less than a year earlier. TerBush was fine. Though he quarterbacked the loss to Rice, he was decently accurate throughout the season. Even when Marve eventually got healthy enough to split time with him, which was critical for the win over Ohio State, TerBush played the majority of snaps. He was a junior in 2011, so Michigan can look forward to seeing him again next season.
Purdue’s defense posted mediocre numbers this season mainly due to three horrible performances against Notre Dame (551 yards), Michigan (535 yards), and Wisconsin (605 yards). When the Boilermakers weren’t completely outclassed, they did a decent job on that side of the ball, and this was without their usual number of playmakers whose names start with R and end with -yan Kerrigan. The highlight of their season came against Ohio State -- their defense forced six three-and-outs over the course of the game and made a clutch stop in OT to hold the Buckeyes to a field goal.
Just rushing the field and minding their own business / via Purdueexponent.org
Michigan and Purdue play again in 2012 before taking a hiatus from each other until at least 2015. Next season the Boilermakers may be better but not by much. They lose some of the glue-type players on the offensive line, but they return a majority of their contributing skill players such as WR Raheem Mostert, WR Antavian Edison, RB Ralph Bolden, and of course TerBush. Defensively they take a couple hits by losing S Albert Evans and LB Joe Holland, but they return CB Ricardo Allen and DT Kawann Short, who is reportedly up to 330 pounds these days and carrying it well.
Purdue is unlikely to get much help from their most recent recruiting class, which ranked near the bottom of the B1G.
Best win: Ohio State.
Worst loss: @ Rice. The Owls finished their season 4-8 overall; every other team Purdue lost to had at least a winning record. Notre Dame is probably a close second due to the instate rivalry thing.
At the time we thought they were as frightening as: I gave them a fear level of 4 but didn’t come up with an analogy that week. Instead I lamented how bad the B1G was when a team that lost to Rice and nearly lost to Middle Tennessee could play competitively against Penn State and then beat an Illinois team that was 6-1 at the time.
But now we know they are as frightening as: Still a 4.
What the win meant for Michigan: I remember being annoyed after this game when nearly everyone in the media tried to cite the win as evidence for why Michigan wouldn’t have a “second half collapse.” I felt a great deal of sympathy watching the players deal with the presser questions the previous week (“Is this like last year?”) and then the following week (“This isn’t like last year!?”), but I also felt an equal if not greater amount of sympathy for the reporters asking them. I’m so happy I don’t have to deal with angles.
Beating Purdue was great, but it wasn’t a sign that the Wolverines had shaken the second-half collapse monkey despite what every headline wanted you to believe. I’m not saying good things didn’t happen: the defense was solid after giving up their first free touchdown of the season, and I think that may have been partially due to Kovacs not playing after sustaining an MCL sprain during a bye week practice. Mike Martin finally went into Beast Mode by notching two sacks, one of them for a safety. Jake Ryan made a highlight reel arm-tackle at the goal line late in the game.
Offensively Toussaint went for 170 yards on 20 carries, finally establishing himself as Michigan’s No. 1 option at running back.
Lots of horse-collaring in this game / via the Toledo Blade
For me, the reason why beating Purdue wasn’t a great case for “this isn’t last year” is because the Wolverines did beat them last year. I don’t know why everyone suddenly forgot. [Ed-S: Because who would want to remember that miserable game?]
Up to this point in the 2011 season Michigan still hadn’t beaten anyone they lost to last year. Who did they lose to last year? Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Penn State and Wisconsin weren’t on the schedule, though you could argue that Nebraska could stand in for the Nittany Lions. So the Wolverines had three more opportunities to prove the 2011 != 2010 hypothesis; Purdue was not one of them.
And it was totally as awesome as: A cool glass of milk in between a jalapeno eating contest and a habanero eating contest.