- Blake Countess and Fitz Toussaint should be back for the season opener.
- Jake Ryan could be available as early as mid-October.
- Devin Funchess got dinged up during the game but should be fine.
My nice camera is broken, so here is a high-res iPhone shot. Note the bling.
“I think we got 65, 66 plays in, which is about where we wanted to be. We got some situational work that I wanted to get done. We need to really get a lot of the young guys up front on both sides of the ball. We want to continue to improve some of the fundamentals on both sides of the ball. Running the football is one of them, and playing the run and getting off blocks -- we have to do a little bit of that. We got to do a little bit of red zone. That’s one area that we need to continue to work on on both sides of the ball. The guys went out there, it’s the first day we’ve been outside, which is unusual. But we got done what we wanted to get done.”
That was the first time you practiced outside all spring?
Talk about Devin’s first long completion, and some of the passes he threw today in this weather?
“Well, Devin naturally throws a tight ball. When you throw a tight ball, and he’s got good arm strength -- he has good velocity on it. He can cut through the wind pretty well. He’s always thrown a long ball pretty well. He had a pretty good day.”
Talk about Jack Miller at center and Chris Wormley’s return?
“You know, I think Jack has really -- there’s great competition, him and Graham Glasgow at the center position. I think Jack has really grown as a player. Again, so much of this is about the fact that he’s made some real strides in his accountability and about being the bell cow when you look at the offensive line. Chris was a little tentative early in the spring, but I think he’s had a good spring. His recovery, confidence and those things [are good].”
“I think the young guys and Jeremy Jackson -- I think Jeremy’s really having his best spring. You look at Jehu [Chesson] and Amara [Darboh], I think both those guys have really come a long way. They both are very talented and do a lot of different things. Joe Reynolds. I think Joe keeps pushing everybody. Joe’s a guy that’s played a lot of positions, and that’s real positive.”
What about Graham Glasgow makes him able to rotate through all three positions?
“Smart, number one. Very intellient. He’s tough, which you need to be, physically and mentally. He has a real passion for the game.”
Talk about your pass rush -- looked like Taco got to the quarterback a couple times and actually hit him …
Was that something that you saw consistently throughout the spring?
“Well I think we’ve grown. I think we’ve got some young kids who have some ability. With Greg and his passion with how he teaches rushing the passer, the work that’s been put in … and the guys are excited about it. They know what we want to do. We’ve worked on it. We’re not near what we can be and will be, but I think we’re a little better at it.”
Thoughts on Blake Countess’s spring and the secondary in general?
“Well, Blake, he’s healthy. Kept him out of contact. Same with Fitz [Toussaint]. I think that’s just the best way to go about it. They both played a number of snaps. The secondary, the competition level at a core position -- you want it there. You can say the same thing about the safeties. Jeremy Clark is a guy who’s a pretty good player. Marvin [Robinson] has shown great glimpses through his career here. Thomas is having a real solid, real good spring. He’s been very much the leader. And then Jarrod played quite a bit a year ago, but he’s come along.”
What was your evaluation of the backup quarterbacks today?
“I think with Brian [Cleary] and [Alex] Swieca, it was good to give them snaps with people here. People in the stadium, playing in this stadium. Both of them handled themselves well. We put the ball on the ground on a snap, which we can’t afford to do. Whose fault was it, I’m not sure. But we need to do a better job with that. As far as the growth that they both have made, it’s been positive.”
James Ross was in the middle of a lot of plays today. Have you been seeing that from him all spring?
“Yeah James has had a pretty good spring. He’s a good football player. Very instinctive. He’s got a burst, movement to the football. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not afraid to take on blocks.”
Are Ross’s instincts unorthodox similar to Jake Ryan?
“No. No he’s not unorthodox. He’s going to be a little more of a technician, but it’s still football instincts.”
What are your thoughts on the transtion to pro-style offense?
“I think it’s gone very well. I think I’d be shocked if we didn’t show a whole lot of anything today as far as scheme and all those things. That’s what we’ve run before we came here. We still have elements -- you can still tell from the play-action game standpoint how comfortable Devin is and how good he can be.”
Offensive line was up and down today. How big of a focus is improving the interior line going to be moving forward?
“Look, we’re going to focus on all of it, what we do from here on as a team and what they do together, the seniors and all that. Objectively there were some good plays offensively and there were some good plays defensively.”
How likely is it that you bring in a JUCO transfer at quarterback?
“I -- I don’t know. It could happen. It couldn’t happen.”
Looked like something happened to Funchess …
“He’ll be all right.”
Any update on Hagerup’s status?
What would you need to see from a JUCO transfer in order to take him?
“He’d better be pretty good. That’d be the first and what would fit what we want to do with the scheme and what we want in a quarterback. ”
Talk about Fitz’s progress? Other running backs?
“Fitz, he’s made really good strides. He probably could have done a little more, but I think his progress is pretty good. I think Thomas [Rawls] made a nice run in there today, had a really nice cut. [Dennis] Norfleet made a guy miss in the hole. I think Drake [Johnson] ran hard, and Justice [Hayes] protected well a couple times there, but we’re a work in progress. Has there been any separation? I don’t think so yet. We’ll go through some of it in the fall.”
What kind of clarity did today provide as fars as your No. 2 quarterback?
“Well I think Brian is [No. 2].”
Is that your ’97 championship ring there?
Any significance to bringing that out today?
“Uh, I usually don’t wear it, so … just had it on.”
Just felt like putting it on today?
“Yeah. Went with my … shoes.”
Would you expect Fitz and Blake to be back for the opener?
“I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
What is the likely timetable for Jake Ryan?
“You know, I’m not a doctor. But. Possibly middle of October. Some people react differently.”
Impact of Taylor Lewan on offensive line?
“Taylor’s done a great job with those guys. That’s one reason why he wanted to come back. Physicalness that they need to play with, targeting, all those things that go with that. He’s taken that really personally. I think the group of them, and the competition will really -- it’s been great. They’ll be impactful.”
How much of a strength will the tight end position be, and what kind of role will Jake Butt have?
“Well I think Jake being here has made it a stronger position. He’s a guy who can catch the ball in space, run well, but he’s also a guy that blocks well at the line of scrimmage for a guy who’s been here since January. We’re excited about what he brings added to the guys we have here.”
Lloyd Carr approves of this quote in the Michigan locker room. Via Rittenberg
A long time ago there was a thing called foot-ball that was so important we'd spend a month or two talking about foot-ball team practice that happened months before the foot-ball team played a foot-ball game. This was called "spring" no matter what happened to be happening out your windows.
I have just been informed by other parts of my brain that the "spring game" will be held tomorrow, and will still be called that despite a forecast of 43 degrees and a 22 mile per hour wind. This will be the last opportunity to get data on foot-ball until fall, whereupon excitement will descend upon the land again.
Here's everything I threw in a post because I was too busy with the Final Four run to do them any justice, and just in time.
The Peel Down The Fingers Of Michigan To Create An Obscene Gesture Offense
It's a working title. Shut up.
Denard Robinson has graduated. This is a terrible event for a lot of people, but probably not Al Borges. Borges can now stop jamming his brain into a spread coach's and do what he wants to do without everyone getting mad at him (until it doesn't work once). Lewan:
"I feel like (offensive coordinator Al) Borges is much more comfortable running this kind of offense than he’s been running for the last however many years."
What this will look like is still unknown even after Devin Gardner's five-game run as the starter, because…
- Michigan had spent most of the last two years focusing on Denard's unique talents and deficiencies
- They still had those talents for three of those five games and ended up running an even weirder hybrid offense than the weird hybrid created by matching Denard and Borges
- The NFL just started running this stuff so now it's cool with NFL bros.
Earlier in spring, Borges referenced the innovative stuff they were doing at places like San Francisco and Seattle—yes in fact just like that annoying NFL fan you know who dismisses the read option as gimmickry.
“You have to look at some of the stuff that [the NFL is] doing. Particularly because it’s pro football and running quarterbacks by design has not been a really popular thing to do in pro football over the years."
The upshot of this is scattered bouts of read option, a lot of it on the playside (ie: inverted veer), and a pistol package that could be anything from a quickly-discarded experiment to essentially the base offense depending on how well it works. There will also be fullbacks. : /
Andy Staples visited Ann Arbor and came back with an excellent article on the transition process that started immediately after last year's Nebraska game. It is unfortunately light on details.
We do know that Al Borges knows chick dig the long ball, and that Gardner is quite adept at unleashing the dragon.
"I kind of know sometimes what they're doin' before they do it," Gardner said of the defense. "I don't think (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison's very happy about that."
Safety Thomas Gordon affirmed Gardner's take, saying the quarterback has had his way with Michigan's secondary at times -- a secondary that ranked fifth against the pass last year.
"Devin, he'll let that thing fly," Gordon said. "With him back there, he can throw it, he can roll out. He can do everything. You never know with Devin, so you always have to be on your P's and Q's.
"He can pick you apart. He's been testing us so far this spring, and (secondary coach Curt) Mallory has been on the DBs' heads."
It's going to be a Tyler Bray kind of thing out there.
Interior Line: Mustachioed. Nicknamed. Mean?
talking with Jack Miller
Michigan returns both tackles, who will be great. They replace the three other guys on the line. Since that portion of the line was so bad a year ago—try to gain a yard, anyone not named Denard Robinson, moohaha—no one's freaked out about this. But it would be nice if the new guys were better.
If facial hair is any help, by God they will be.
They're calling themselves "The Muzzy Maulers". And they're building chemistry one mustache at a time.
"What are we calling this?," Miller shouted to fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, who like an older brother was watching his young center take on his first media pack of the spring. "The 'Muzzy Maulers'. That's kind of the new nickname. There's a mustache thing going on and Taylor's already taking advantage of it. I haven't yet because I have a boy mustache."
Jack Miller is picking up both the hirsuteness baton and the quote machine baton, which bodes well. In that article he notes that a bunch of the offensive linemen have gone so far as to live together in an effort to operate as one mind, describes Kyle Kalis as "a man" for his mustache-growing ability, and contains multitudes in an answer to the question "what did you learn from David Molk?"
"What did I learn from David Molk?," Miller laughs at the question.
Let me fix that for you, Mr. Miller.
What did I learn from David Molk that I can repeat to a reporter without causing Brady Hoke to explode?
And then there's… oh hell just read the whole article, I can't blockquote everything interesting that Miller says. The upshot is that Miller is larger and 70% as mean as David Molk on a scale ranging from Molk to Mealer. It sounds like he has a strong grip on the job, which is what I was hoping for with just walk-ons and incoming freshman Patrick Kugler backing him up:
Talked with offensive line coach Darrell Funk this morning about his group, which has to replace three starters in the middle. He mentioned that Jack Miller has been the most consistent interior lineman so far this spring, but he's being pushed by Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow. He said redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden have come a long way. And it sounds like it's a little easier to have youth inside than at tackle.
The buzz has been within in the sunnily positive range:
"This is by far the best spring start (they've had) since I've been here," fourth-year quarterback Devin Gardner said.
As of two weeks ago, Joey Burzynski was still running with the ones—that'll be something to watch for at the Spring Game. No offense to Burzynski, but I think everyone's hoping Kyle Kalis locks onto the right guard job with the jaws of death.
Meanwhile, the other guard spot is Ben Braden's to lose.
It’s hard to get a read on the young interior linemen right now, but one name that’s constantly floated by coaches and players is Ben Braden.
"He's going to be a hell of a guy to get around when he's coming downhill at you," Lewan said.
Lewan said he's excited about Michigan's offensive line looking more like the lines of old.
"The tradition of mauling people up and down the field is really cool, and it's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us," Lewan said. "Everybody's got a nasty streak. These guys really get it."
While I don't think anyone's making an explicit comparison to last year's collection of nice guys who had trouble consistently identifying the middle linebacker, my mind immediately goes there. "It's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us" is kind of a brutal shot at last year's interior line, right? Am I crazy?
In any case, the meanness here and the options at the guard spots should provide Michigan more consistent production, and by that I mean "any production."
Catchists Of Size
Michigan's got a couple of good receivers in Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon; they'll need a couple more to fill out Gardner's targeting array. With a zero-receiver class in Hoke's first year and a collection of sleepers in year three, the onus falls heavily on second-year guys Amarah Darboh (a sophomore) and Jehu Chesson (a redshirt freshman). Both have come in for considerable buzz. Darboh is in the Avant mold; Chesson in the Edwards mold.
"Jehu, in one-on-ones, he’s just flying by people with his speed. Doing all these amazing things. You can tell he’s learning." -- Receiver Jeremy Gallon
Chesson also made a ridiculous diving catch in the scrimmage video (at about 2 minutes):
Chesson looks like the football team's Caris LeVert—earlier in that video he gets a ball he should catch raked out by a defensive back. He's probably not going to be too good at getting off jams or dealing with bump and run yet, but that's what stacked formations are for.
Meanwhile, the siziest catchist, Devin Funchess, is calling himself a "pretty boy." In a negative way, not like he's a parrot:
"I was like a pretty boy that didn't want to get hit," he humbly admitted on Thursday. "Now I know that I have to change many aspects of my game, change my mindset. Now I just go in there and stick my head in as much as possible.
"I believe I wasn't ready for the Big Ten because it was a tougher game."
While everyone else was staring at the box score, circling his lack of receptions and wondering why he wasn't being targeted more, Funchess and the coaching staff were more concerned about his blocking.
"I have to help the team win," Funchess said of his offseason reprograming. "I learned that because at the end of last year I missed some blocks, some key blocks. And it hurt the team."
That is accurate. I am a bit concerned that he hasn't added any weight—seems like Michigan would like him at 250 if he is going to be a Y TE. It doesn't matter how good of a blocker you are at 230 pounds, you are just an oversized wide receiver.
"I hang out with all of them, but I can't hang out with the lineman too much because I can't grow facial hair," Funchess said. "I'm just a young lad; can't really grow it."
Unleash The… Dangit James Ross You Don't Fit With "Unleash The"
This site has been hyping up James Ross since midway through last year when every time I'd look at tape, Ross would be getting to the right spot at the right time. Sometimes he had issues despite that, as in the Iowa game when Mark Weisman ran over a perfectly-positioned Ross repeatedly.
a history of nonviolence
If Ross can just go from the above to wrecking people, he'll be all-conference. At least. What's that, Devin Gardner? You've decided to put some practice clips of Ross wrecking people on the internet?
I'll be peering at him for hints of the above tomorrow—and this site's breakout player prediction is no secret. Michigan is moving Desmond Morgan to MLB for a reason. Ross has to start.
Freak Clark To The Rescue
Lo and it came to pass that there was a man who had not really done much so far in his career who entered spring practice a different man and was called exciting things.
Both [starting tackles], asked open-endedly which defensive lineman provides the most difficult matchup in practice, offered the same answer: Frank Clark.
"He’s just so quick. He’s got such a quick step, it's hard to handle him. He's a freak," said Schofield, who wasn't the only Michigan player to invoke the F-word.
Added senior defensive lineman Jibreel Black: "Ever since Frank came in here, he's been a freak athlete. It's just a matter of putting it all together."
And this always worked out and never did not work out. Amen.
Jake Ryan's ACL tear makes finding some more pass rush—already priority one for a defense that was pretty good in all other aspects—absolutely critical. Fortunately, hulked-up WDE Frank Clark is far and away your Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award winner. Por ejemplo:
What they're saying: "I feel like he’s more focused, just to become our No. 1 pass rusher. I feel like he’s definitely proven he can do that. I think he’s realizing he’s older now, and wants to step up, especially now with Brennen moving. He’s among the quickest defensive linemen I’ve ever faced, and he’s got a nice little bull-rush too. He can mix it up on you." -- Right tackle Michael Schofield
I've heard that Lewan and Clark have a nice little practice rivalry going. To have one of those means you're evenly matched, or at least close. Lewan is hyping and hyping:
"I think, no doubt in my mind, he's an All-Big Ten player -- if not more," Lewan said Tuesday of the weak-side defensive end. …
Clark claims he's gotten the best of Lewan in practice.
"Perception is reality," Lewan countered. "If he wants to perceive it that way, then yeah."
He's seen his share of pass rushers, from Tom Gholston to Jadeveon Clowney. Michigan would like Clark to end up closer to the Clowney end of things, though obviously not particularly close because holy pants that guy.
Grady Brooks didn't do anything at all after his spring hype; guys like Breaston did. Let's go Breaston.
In other pass-rush hope, early-enrollee Taco Charlton came in at 6'6", 265 and is getting buzz of his own. Gardner:
He's huge to begin with. He comes in big enough to play. He's fitting in. He doesn't look like a freshman. He knows what he's doing out there.
Mario Ojemudia is in there too, though he's by far the smallest of the available WDEs and may be restricted to nickel rush duties.
Wherefore Art Binkie
Jordan Kovacs is gone. While Marvin Robinson still seems to be taking most of the first-team snaps, if you made me guess I'd say Jarrod Wilson would push past him to start. Wilson enrolled early and was the third safety a year ago. He knows what was the most important part of the tao of Kovacs:
Even with all the extra work he puts in, Wilson might consider himself first and foremost a student of Kovacs.
The former captain has been in and out of Ann Arbor this winter, dropping by Schembechler Hall periodically for workouts, and though Wilson really hasn’t had the opportunity to pick Kovacs’s brain, the year he spent observing Kovacs while on reserve has given him insight into the kind of safety he’s striving to be.
“His instincts and what to expect even before the play has even started,” Wilson said of what he’s picked up by watching Kovacs. “He could come out and tell you what the offense was going to run due to line splits, wide-receiver splits, quarterback and everything. I pretty much learned pre-snap reads from him.”
That reminds me to put Kovacs on my future Michigan coach wish-list. Oh hell yes.
This article was based off a dumping-ground where I put ever article that flipped past me during Michigan's tourney run, and as I finish it I notice that certain things are absent. Quick take time.
Running back. A murky mess with no clear leader. Drake Johnson has come in for some coach hype; I've heard Justice Hayes is looking good; everyone's waiting for Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith to rumble into camp in fall. Biggest thing might be seeing whether Hayes or Norfleet can lock down the third down back role.
Tight ends. Can AJ Williams block now? Is he a downfield threat after the weight loss? I don't know.
Defensive line. Are they really going to roll with 276-pound Jibreel Black as the starting three-tech? How's Pipkins doing? Who will start at SDE?
Linebacker. Cam Gordon, please be good.
Cornerback. Countess is still limited so some uncertainty is still there even though the top three spots appear to be taken by quality players.
Tomorrow is the Spring Game, though we've been completely distracting you from all the football going down this week. If you'll be in town for the game, stop by R.U.B. (on State & Packard) afterwards for a live Q&A with Marlin and some high-contrast bloggers. If you won't, the Q&A part will be liveblogged. Bring questions to save us from Chris Farley'ing. Hey remember when you shut down Reggie Williams in the 2002 opener? That was awesome.
That Was Awesome. Hey remember when we had a basketball team in the championship game? The staff here got a bit lethargic afterwards, and we were saved by the work of bronxblue, Diarist o' da Week, who kept a running diary of the entire tournament run. The good: THAT, likeable players, Beilein stories, Burke-Spike-McGary. Bad/Ugly: Refs, injuries, awful announcers, Adidas. Best-worst: expectations:
At the same time, though, the feelings of these past 4 weeks will probably never be there again, or if they are they’ll be tinged with a dread you can’t quite shake. The cloud over UM basketball has finally lifted; it may just be replaced with a far less oppressive one.
The "it's been awhile" sentiment was repeated in the other DotW by Tom From AA, which recounted a decade of would-be ascensions from Bernard Robinson to the walk-on-led B1G champs. Excerpt from the Not Just a Shooter™ prototype:
Stu Douglass – in addition to sporting a Spock-like haircut as a freshmen – was a prototypical example of what a player can be under John Beilein. Initially only an outside shooter (and a streaky one at times), Douglass turned into one of the teams most reliable ball handlers and its best off-ball defender by the end of his senior season – a compliment to both Douglass’ hard work and Beilein’s staff’s ability to develop players. Stu Douglass is the all-time leader in games played at the University of Michigan, beating out his partner in crime by two games. Douglass ranks fifth in career 3-pt field goals made and ninth in minutes played.
I learned this with the 2006 Tigers: the team that takes you up the mountain is the one that will always stick with you; every run afterwards the excitement ebbs into fear of falling short. In this the randomness of single-elimination is your friend. Given the nature of March Madness, I have zero fear of not being able to appreciate any future run to the Elite 8 or beyond.
This 20-year rundown of M players with NBA and/or Euro careers by AC1997 is a quick read in the same vein of we've been through that, appreciate this. Speaking of guys who terminate their college careers just to end up playing in some foreign country…
Trouba No! Jacob did the awful thing, leaving a huge hole on Big Blue's blue line so he could play for a team in Manitoba or Saskatchewan or Nunavut or Prince Edward Island or YES I CAN NAME ALL OF YOUR PROVINCES TAKE THAT CANADIAN STEREOTYPES! If you're wondering what comes after the defections of Merrill and Trouba, read. You can tell MGoBlueline is gonna end up on that Mt. Blogmore image one day because he's already getting his bolded subconscious on.
Other Jumps. I bumped from the boards this Drbogue post where he did some of the early legwork for what could be an important study on whether a player should go pro or not. The evidence suggests young players are so likely to burn through that first year's earnings so fast they ruin this advantage for themselves. Just in case here's a look by 1484 of which NBA teams might have interest in early entry Wolverines. Burke to Pistons yes I am biased.
In a comparison of non-random groups of Sparts and Bucks encountered by mgrowold the in-staters were the bigger jerks. Spartanfreude board threads throughout the week (usually of RCMB melting down with envy) attested to the instability of the green psyche, but the smart ones were with us. I watched every round but the last with my Little-Brother little brother, who after MSU went out added all of his vim to my might and main. His reasoning: if M played themselves into four lottery picks they might all go do that, leaving a smoother path for…
More in perspective. Remember when we hired Beilein? The final version of this-used-to-be-Games Remaining by mistersuits has a final ranking of 2012-'13 games by difficulty according to Kenpom; the last was the toughest. And lunchboxthegoat penned a personal diary of his one-year MGo-Exile, self-imposed after he reamed out Burke for what we thought was a decision to play the 2012-'13 season with the Heat or whatever. Take notes future trolls of America: this is how you redeem yourself.
Dated tourney blogs you still ought to read: fuzzy247 rewrote Casey at the Bat for Burke, and UMAmaizinBlue did Devil Went Down to Georgia for Pitino. Stopthewnba quantified the Big Eastness of the refs for the Final Four—Louisville was familiar with them, though I can't imagine that translated to Pitino telling his players not to worry about Trey Burke because they're gonna make up a million fouls on him. Official ref venting thread. Save this for when you go to Atlanta. Some jonvalk wallpapers for the Final Four and Final Final. Where wast thee in '93? How to crush oranges. Non-dated shots from the tourney: LSAClassof2000's statistical review. Being a Michigan dad (bonus: when your kid gets a photo with Novak)
[LET'S JUMP TO THE BOARD.]
The National Championship game was a bitter-sweet affair, but there was one part of the game that was
sweet amazing un-flipping-believable: Spike Motherf***ing Albrecht. the guy came in averaging 2.2 points per game, and he scored 17 points in an 11-minute stretch in the title game. I mean…
Spike Albrecht was on the front page of CNN. Spike Albrecht was trending on Twitter. Spike Albrecht made thousands of curly fries, and those curly fries each went on to shoot lights-out from the outside.
Now, imagine for a second that you are this guy. The world has been awed by your meteoric rise. Today you are a god, but you know that, like Gangnam Style and the Harlem Shake, your run can end at any moment. What do you do? Yeah, you’d probably do this:
This, as Adam Jacobi pointed out, has all the hallmarks of a “heat check.” And while some of you probably think Kate might be out of his range, he’s shown this week that his range is a lot broader than you might have expected.
Moral High Ground: Crumbly, But Extant
As we discussed on an earlier installment, a Michigan Man is gracious in victory and stoic in defeat. Unlike our younger brethren in East Lansing, we can deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with an unflinching gaze. So despite the glorious nature of the win on Saturday and the heartbreaking nature of loss on Monday, we know that these fine Michigan Men would not resort to the kind of childish tomfoolery as those Neanderthals in green and white.
Well, balls. Reports differ, but what is known that several fires were spotted on Michigan’s campus after both the Syracuse game and the Louisville game. Most of these fires involved couches. This induced groans from Michigan fans and glee from Michigan State fans. As a result of this dumb-ass display, I received two types of comments from the many Sparty fans I interact with on a regular basis.*
1) “LOL, looks like scUM isn’t as morally superior as they think. Get off your high horse, scUM”
I hate to say it, but I think they’re right. For as much crap as we talk every time Michigan State burns a couch, we torched them sons-o'-b*tches at the first chance we got… and then after the VERY NEXT chance we got two days later. It’ll take some serious myopia to be all “hurr, go burn some more couches, couch-burners” after this. This was an immature, brah-tastic display by Michigan students. Anyone who thinks this is a Sparty-specific thing is wrong, and anyone who supports this kind of thing makes us all look bad. And is someone who sucks. If we're gonna claim to be above this sort of thing, we have to either be above this sort of thing or we should STFU.
2) “LOL, looks like that ‘Michigan State riots and burns couches’ meme is gonna have to die now!”
Whoooooa there, fella. Not so fast.
First, sure, Michigan burned a few couches, but if we’re gonna call this a riot, then Michigan sucks so very much at rioting. Let’s compare the videos:
One of these is a riot. One of these is a s'more roast gone bad. I'll let you decide which is which.
Second, it isn’t like this is some little thing that Michigan fans conjured up out of nothing. The good people at The Google will back us up on this:
(h/t @Bry_Mac) (Hey… dat’s a me!)
When the Internet thinks of riots and burning couches, it thinks East Lansing. When it thinks East Lansing, it thinks of riots. QED. Besides, since when do rivalry memes live and die with “facts”? A couple of years ago polling data came out that completely destroyed the entire factual basis for the “Walmart Wolverine” meme. Have you noticed a decline in “Walvie” references? No? Okay, then go back you your couch-burning, you couch-burners.
And finally, the meme also won’t die because this week Sparty proved the seventh-oldest adage in the book: never bring a burning couch to a bomb fight.
[*Full Disclosure: I am the son of two Spartans. I married a Spartan. My sister was a double-Spartan. I’ve lived in the Lansing area for almost six years of my life. I speak fluent Brah. I am not one of them, but I am of them.]
Mark May is Terrible at Everything
What if your entire life was about the dumbest things you ever bothered to write down? Well… you’d be Mark May.
May is not good at not being wrong. He also has a running battle with Ohio State dating back to the Tatgate thing. It is not unlike the Michigan/Mike Rosenberg relationship. They hate this dude, and he seems to dislike them just about as much.
Fortunately, Ramzy (@ramzy) at Eleven Warriors has a handy database of other wise calls May has made over the years:
The terrible thing about the Internet is that nothing is ever forgotten. The fabulous thing about the Internet is that nothing stupid ever said by annoying professional trolls is ever forgotten. I suggest keeping an eye on Ramzy’s feed for future troll trolling.
(Also, I’m not sure if your aware, but May also dislikes spelling and grammar. But that is neither hear nor their.
[UPDATE: Oh, Internet. You never let me down. Looks like overnight @mgoblog, @AceAnbender, @BrianMFloyd, @edsbs, and others jumped on the "look at the amazing things Mark May has said" bandwagon. And it is glorious. I recommend taking 10 minutes of your day to soak in the wisdom.]
[DEFINITIVE UPDATE: Jason Kirk summarizes the Tao of Mark May. All the points]
What Have You Done For Me Lately? Yeah? DON’T CARE YOU STILL SUCK
Losses bring out the trolls in the best of us. In defeat, people freak out and blame the blameless things. They say heat-of-the-moment crap that they know at the time to be stupid, but they can’t help themselves. “Trey Burke is terrible.” “Denard doesn’t seem to care.” “Navarre AAAAAAAHHH NAVARRE.” That is why I largely discount the stupid stuff that happens after losses. The 504 errors on the MGoBoard after a particularly bad loss are usually a blessing in disguise.
But after Saturday’s win (again, I emphasize after Michigan’s FINAL FOUR VICTORY), Ace engaged in this conversation, and it made my jaw drop, melt, and re-form as a giant cartoon mallet that bashed me into the ground like a tent peg:
Substantively, he is almost certainly wrong. The problem down the stretch against Syracuse was free throw shooting, and while Beilein is admittedly a poor free throw shooter, I don’t know if we can blame him for those misses. And as Ace pointed out, the epic return of Jordan Morgan was 100% JB. He used his subs. It was crazy.
Beyond that, the object lesson here is that some people will never, ever be happy. Your team just won a gigantic game. They’re going to the freeking National Championship. Your impulse should be “OMG THIS COUCH MUST DIE,” [Note: resist the impulse. Save the couches] not “I HAZ CONCERNS”. It saddens me that there are Michigan fans who couldn’t enjoy the run Michigan just made, because dollars to donuts you will never have a run that is more fun than this one. And at the highest point of that run, there were people honestly and legitimately complaining about various stuff. And it wasn’t just this guy; after I read this, I poked around to see if other people were seriously upset after the game. And there were. But I stopped reading them because I had some g*ddamn celebrating to do.
After a poor showing last week, Jose is back in fine form.
And I am happy… but then…
We have a complicated relationship, my bash brother.
As ever, once the year is over thoughts turn to the future. With four of five Michigan starters on NBA radars it is impossible to predict how they'll be next year, but I sat down to write stuff and this is the thing I wanted to think about—no doubt a lot of you guys are wondering the same thing.
Along with a number of walk-ons Michigan loses scholarship players Blake McLimans and Matt Vogrich, neither of whom was a significant contributor.
As you've heard incessantly for the past three weeks when you were trying to concentrate on something like, oh I don't know, the live fantastic basketball being played in front of your face, Michigan has some gentlemen on their roster the NBA would like to talk to.
Trey Burke almost left after one year, turned himself into a top-10 pick, and has been regarded as gone-gone-gone since about two weeks into the season when it became clear he had gone from a damn good freshman to the best point guard in the country. Anything other than a departure would be a shock. Whether that's NBA draft entry or a transfer to Penn State is yet to be determined.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., is the Michigan player NBA types seem least enthused about. He doesn't feature in the first round of anyone's mock draft and seems destined for one of those 13th-man-then-billion-years-in-Europe careers. Some guy with spiky hair and a terrible track record said he was out the door, which his parents denied.
Even though Hardaway is not a first round pick at the moment, a lot of juniors end up going because they've reached the peak of their NBA attractiveness. If Hardaway makes another incremental improvement in his game, upside-thirsty pro teams will look at a senior who probably tops out as a bench shooter in the league and still pick him in the second round.
On the other hand, he's not really giving much away if he returns. I'd guess he goes, but won't be surprised either way.
Glenn Robinson III is 6'6" and can jump real high. He's also 18 months younger than Mitch McGary, which means he has not hit that Hardaway zone where people expect him to be essentially what he is forever and ever amen. He's consistently rated a pick in the teens. There's been some second-hand message board posts about various interactions that make people believe he'll stay; those are unconfirmed but credible-seeming to me.
Mitch McGary's blazing tournament put him in Hated Chad Ford's lottery. Despite that and his prep school year, he seems likeliest to stay. For one, he directly said he'd becoming back—that he didn't even "have a decision to make"—before the Final Four. Though he's backed off that a little, if he's coming from that mindset chances are he comes back. After the championship game the noises were still positive:
"This will be a great team next year, with great guys coming in and a great group of guys leaving, you can't replace those five seniors," he said. "We'll see."
"There's some unfinished business. ... We'll see next year."
Like GRIII, interactions with McGary's parents from the Final Four weekend have filtered out to the internet; they indicate he'll stay. Let's clutch that unreliable hint to our bosoms.
My personal spidey sense says Burke's out the door (surprise!) while Robinson and McGary stay. Hardaway could go either way.
Side note: there is essentially no withdrawal anymore. Technically you can take your name out of the draft until the 16th, which is before any event that might make you want to pull out. The NBA deadline is the 28th.
Last year rumors had floated around about guys leaving for weeks. Those came to fruition with three post-season transfers. This year it's quiet on that front.
Eyeballing it, the only players who may be in playing-time jams are Max Bielfeldt and Jordan Morgan. Morgan's a bit of a folk hero these days and did find a role as the tourney progressed. I'd bet he gets over the disappointment of losing his starting job and sticks around; he will get minutes. I heard from a good source midseason that Bielfeldt was a little worried about his long-term PT prospects.
Both guys may be affected by NBA decisions. GRIII or McGary leaving would open up a lot of playing time for both. Meanwhile, the high post role McGary flourished in against Syracuse may allow Michigan to go bigger at the four from time to time without making the offense suffer too badly.
You could also throw Jon Horford in amongst the playing time battlers. He seems focused on those study things to the point where he wouldn't want to disrupt his schooling by finding somewhere else to play.
Incoming And Returning
Assuming Burke's departure, point guard Derrick Walton has some big shoes to fill. The good news is he's got serious game. A quick look at any of the various highlight reels out there shows a quick-step PG reminiscent of Burke. He put up over 30 points a game this high school season and is generally rated inside the top 50 at the major sites.
I like single-game highlights because they give you a better picture of a player. (This is in fact irony, people who use the word irony.) There's less to cull from so you get a better picture of what they do. In the above you get deep shooting, floaters, and at about a minute in a crossover-to-three sequence that is very Burke-like.
In his matchup with Kentucky-bound James Young it's a lot of deep shooting; it starts off with the steal I now think of as The Burke:
Walton will not be Burke, at least not sophomore Burke. If he hits freshman Burke levels of performance (74/49/35 shooting, high but not outlandish usage, 29% assist rate, TO rate just under 20) Michigan can survive Burke's loss as long as they don't get the max exodus and do get expected improvements from other players.
Indiana Mr. Basketball Zak Irvin is a 6'6" wing with a huge wingspan and advanced pull-up game. He's ranked in the same neighborhood GRIII was last year (24th ESPN, 34th Rivals, 49th Scout). Judging by highlight tapes and scouting reports…
…he is a bigger version of Tim Hardaway Jr. The buckets on many, many individual game highlight packages up on Youtube have an 80/20 split between jumpers and the rim. He'll occasionally go to the bucket; mostly he's going to shoot threes and pull up. As with most jump shooters, streakiness comes as part of the package.
He's listed between 6'6" and 6'8" and is reputed to have the sort of improbably long arms that allow you to be a defensive pest on the perimeter. With Irvin's blowout high school finish and recent camp performances…
@dandakich Michigan fans..Indiana Mr Bball and Michigan signee Zak Irvin absolutely killing at Indiana Top 60 workout!!
…he might have some upward mobility in the rankings yet. Dakich just hyped him as the Big Ten freshman of the year favorite, which says something what with Noah Vonleh at Indiana.
Irvin is not going to be a super-efficient scorer unless he adds more drive to his game, but he can bounce between the 3 and the 4 and be a plus defender at one of those spots.
Dollars to donuts Mark Donnal redshirts. At 6'8" or 6'9" he's a four or five, and those spots are jammed at the moment. When he does get on the court, think Christian Watford.
Donnal has a high skill level and three-point range; the knock on him is athleticism. If GRIII goes he would likely be forced into the lineup as a more offensive option at the 4 than either Morgan or Bielfeldt, especially in the context of the Michigan offense.
Definitely Returning: Perimeter
Nik Stauskas is the lone starter certain to return. His shooting percentage was mellow Kid Icarus: explosive rise, steady decline. He entered Big Ten play well over 50% and finished the year at 44%; in the final 26 games of the season (IE, Big Ten, conference tourney, NCAA run) he was at a merely respectable 36%. Details:
- He was More Than Just A Shooter™, taking only about 60% of his shots from behind the arc and getting to the rim for a quarter of his attempts. Once he got inside the line the shots there were mostly his own creation—80% of his buckets inside the line were unassisted. Game, blouses. Etc.
- He was great from three, good at the rim, and bad in-between. At 85% he was the best FT shooter on the team.
- His creepy ability to not foul may have been more of a detriment than a positive. Stauskas was second nationally in fewest fouls acquired; he did little rebounding, blocking, or stealing.
- Touchy-feely eyeball test says Stauskas's defense wasn't as bad as the most serious grumblers would have it. Save for Gary Harris in the grim blowout at Breslin, none of the guys he checked really went off. Part of that was Michigan hiding Stauskas against role players for the most part, yeah. I think he'll improve.
Michigan would like Stauskas to take some of Burke's usage and turn it into his assists. He should spend the summer running a million pick and rolls with McGary—his handle is good enough to make that effective, Darius Morris-style. Doubling his assist rate to around 15—approximately Hardaway level—is feasible and would help out Walton/Spike a lot.
Meanwhile, Stauskas's three point shooting could use some diversity. He was poor off of the dribble and Michigan could not execute catch and shoot screens for him like they did Hardaway. Getting Stauskas's efficiency (top 50 in true shooting) up to 23-25 percent usage will go a long way towards mitigating Burke's likely departure.
Is Upton-chasing, three-draining Spike Albrecht a real thing? I dunno man. In about eight minutes a game he had the lowest usage on the team. Stats are thin on the ground. We do have 18 of 33 shooting from three, 10/12 from the line, and 10/26 from two. That's about what you would expect from a little bugger with a dead-eye shot.
Unfortunately, his stature means that once teams start taking him seriously there's no way he can get the shots he was draining in the tourney with any frequency. (Other than the 30-footers. He can probably still get those.) Can he show more of the at-the-rim finishing he did against Louisville? Can he get that TO rate down to Burke levels—ie, cut it by almost half—and can he act as a bonafide point guard?
I think the answers to all these things are "not yet." Albrecht's got a tight handle and can obviously shoot; too often this year possessions featured him dribbling the air out of the ball without getting past his man or disrupting the defense, i.e. PG job one. But he'll get a shot now. At the very least he's earned a month or two of platooning with Walton until one of them shows he's the better player. I bet Albrecht provides 12-15 minutes off the bench, shoots a bunch of threes effectively, and never quite recaptures the delirious first half of the championship game.
Fellow freshman bench player Caris LeVert looked like a promising player for big swathes of the year. Emphasis on "looked." Statistically he's a bit of a wreck, with a 50/33/30 shooting line and not much else that jumps out except a low TO rate. He was supposed to be a defensive specialist, but all I can remember is that 3/4 Hancock threes came with LeVert trying to guard him. Also the whole Brust thing—not only the half-court heave but the critical OT three he hit when LeVert didn't put a hand in his face on the perimeter.
So he's got a ways to go. The good news is that he should improve a lot. Michigan will slap another 20 pounds on him, he's a freshman, kids get better, etc. He'll probably start if Hardaway goes. He doesn't have to create shots with Walton, Stauskas, and potentially High Post Mitch McGary around him; it would be nice if he took his reputation as a defensive player and lived up to it.
Definitely Returning: Post
Leaving aside the possibility of transfers, everyone is back. Jordan Morgan lost his job late and doesn't look to be getting it back, but recovered from one minute in the opening weekend of the tourney to provide some key plays for Michigan against Kansas and Syracuse. As a senior he can expect minutes here and there spotting McGary; that will certainly include some long stretches when McGary's eagerness gets him in foul trouble.
At this point he is what he is: an agile, undersized post who finishes decently, rebounds well, and provides good positional defense without acquiring anything in the box score that represents it.
Jon Horford has a statistical profile essentially identical to Morgan except in two regards: he's a decent shotblocker and he fouls a lot more frequently. He's not an offensive factor except on putbacks and here-is-a-free-dunk-from-your-point-guard; he does have upside left since he is a big and what's more a big who keeps getting sidelined with injury. His development will be key not necessarily for this team, but for the 2014-2015 crew, when Horford is a senior, Morgan graduates, and McGary is probably in the NBA.
Max Bielfeldt got scattered minutes during Jordan Morgan's period of injury. We don't really know what he's going to be like yet; the best case scenario is one of those undersized Notre Dame forwards that inexplicably collects all of the rebounds.
What It Looks Like
In the Hardaway departure scenario, give or take five minutes here and there:
PG: Walton (25) / Spike (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert (10)
SF: Irvin (25) / LeVert (15)
PF: GRIII (35) / Morgan (5)
C: McGary(30) / Morgan (5) / Horford (5)
If Hardaway returns hack out 30 minutes for him from Stauskas, Irvin, and LeVert. If GRIII leaves, that's interesting. I wouldn't put it past Beilein to play Irvin at the 4 for a good chunk of time. That would end up increasing the minutes of both PGs as they would have to play simultaneously with few other perimeter backup options.
What is that? It's hard to say. It's a tourney team, certainly. It's still super young. The minutes above give Michigan an average experience level of 0.95 years, better than this season's 0.73 but still very, very low. Michigan was 342nd at 0.73. 0.95 would have been good for… 329th. (That doesn't account for the fact that McGary and Spike both took postgrad years, FWIW. The experience number conflates age with system/level-of-competition familiarity.)
That collection of players could be anything from a 2 seed to an 8 depending on the Burke dropoff, how sustainable Mitch McGary's tourney run is, and how much the returning freshmen improve. Things get bubbly in the event four Michigan players are in this NBA draft.