further adventures in Jed York being unsuited for his position
Tom reports that Maryland DB Blake Countess has committed to Michigan, the fourth defensive back in the Wolverines' class of 2011.
|4*, #18 CB, #228 Overall||4*, 5.8, #13 CB, #156 Overall||4*, 80, #14 CB|
Countess is another little guy joining the defensive backfield, as all three sites list him at 5-10, and within a couple pounds of 175. He's also a participant in the US Army All-American Bowl, which gives a brief breakdown of his game:
Countess has the smooth hips and backpedal ability to be the prototypical cover corner. Despite his size, he loves to hit and is strong enough to jam a receiver at the line or come up and assist in run support. Countess has the speed to stay with receivers in man-to-man coverage and has an advanced understanding of zone defenses. Countess’ speed is also an asset in the return game.
Countess is steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills. Very fluid through his hips and transitions in and out of his pedal smoothly. Aggressive with receivers off the line and plays bigger. Shows good coverage awareness skills; reading routes and the quarterback accurately.
As with most shorter guys, the evaluation determines whether he plays "bigger than his size," and decides he does:
Lacks ideal height but is a real competitor for the football in the contested jump-ball matchup. Soundly times his jump, displays good leaping skills and appears very comfortable around the ball in coverage.
He's an okay tackler, which you'd expect from a smaller guy (ask Courtney Avery). Overall, ESPN, says he's a good-not-great prospect:
Countess is not elite in one particular area but is very well-rounded, reliable and consistent. Brings some intangibles to the position and should fit into a number of defensive schemes at the next level.
Scout seems to be enamored with him, which is odd, considering they rank him the lowest of any service:
A strong, hard hitting defensive back, Countess does a good job of jamming his receiver at the line of scrimmage. Flips his hips well to run with a receiver. An asset in the run game because of his willingness to make a hit. Size and skill set of a cornerback with the mentality of a safety. Comes out of his breaks and closes on the ball very well. Not the biggest DB on the field, but usually one of the toughest - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com.
The only area for improvement they list is "size," which he can only do so much about. He'll spend a lot of time adding muscle in the weight room, but isn't going to get a whole lot taller. He tells Scout that he didn't have any interceptions his junior year, sorta making him the opposite of Dallas Crawford.
Countess is a "riser," with Rivals bumping him from #245 nationally to #156 on the basis of a strong senior season:
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Rivals also says something that sounds a lot like Rich Rodriguez's famous "loves football" line:
He is a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents.
He certainly does love to compete, as his frequent showings at camps and combines demonstrate. Blake's athleticism won't come into question, as he posted the eighth-best SPARQ rating at the Nike Baltimore Combine - as a sophomore. He also proved his status as a combine star by excelling at the Under Armour Combine last winter.
If you're an East Coast school, you probably offered this kid. Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, UVa, Wake Forest, and Duke are among the many offers for this Maryland product. Clemson and South Carolina also showed interest.
However, some non-Eastern schools also offered him a scholarship. Arkansas, Louisville, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin (before his junior season), Cincinnati, Illinois, Notre Dame, and Pitt were among them.
This was a highly coveted recruit, as the offer sheet shows. He ultimately picked Michigan over Georgia Tech and Maryland, a final group that belies his strong offer sheet.
His Scout profile has some (imprecise) junior year stats:
Blake Countess finished his junior season with over 50 tackles and returned one kick for a touchdown.
Senior year... there's not a ton of info out there. I'll update in next week's Friday Night Lights.
He struggled against Cincinnati St. Xavier, dropping a punt, but was good in coverage.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout and Rivals are in agreement on his speed, almost to the hundredth of a second. Scout says 4.47, while Rivals credits him with a 4.48. That level of specificity leads me to believe the time is combine-verified and reliable. His highlight video (embedded below) mentions that it's electronically-timed.
I'm left with no choice but to give a mere one FAKE out of five.
Here's the first half of his final high school season:
You can see his junior and sophomore combined highlights here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
When player evaluations can focus on little other than a player's diminutive size, the first thing that comes to mind is a sure redshirt. For Countess, that's no different, especially since Michigan has had big defensive hauls in 2010 and so far in 2011. He needs to get in the weight room before he can play at this level.
After a redshirt year (or a year spending time almost exclusively on special teams), he'll slowly work his way into the lineup over the course of a couple years. He probably won't have a chance to be one of the starting corners until he's an upperclassman, but there are so many variables between now and then that it's hard to project.
As an upperclassman starter, he has the potential to be a fringe All-Conference candidate, but I don't think he's likely to contend for All-American honors unless he can develop quite a bit under good coaching.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Countess becomes the fourth defensive back to commit to Michigan for this season, meaning there may be some shuffling in positions of players currently on the roster or in the class. Dallas Crawford is a high school safety, for example, and Greg Brown could fill a hybrid role if he keeps growing.
Despite the abundance of players back there, Michigan's coaches are likely to look for at least one more DB, a top free safety like Wayne Lyons - though other options are thin on the ground. Beyond that, defensive tackle, linebacker, and one more offensive lineman remain the focuses for filling the class.
Hockey commitments don't usually get full posts but these are big ones. First, according to USHR and via Michigan Hockey Net, Michigan has snake-oiled away NTDP goalie John Gibson from Ohio State. This is a BFD for the program, which loses Bryan Hogan after the year and was facing a season with Shawn Hunwick as their only viable goalie. No offense to Hunwick, but he's a very small walk-on who's not doing that well this year—another option is key.
Gibson is more than just another option. He's the top-rated goalie on the CSB's USHL list, 13th on USA Today's list of the top American prospects for the 2011 NHL draft, and just a month ago ESPN's Gare Joyce listed him first on his list of top five goaltending prospects for the NHL draft, one of a group of "three elite prospects" who may end up first round picks:
John Gibson, USNTDP
Some scouts thought that Gibson (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) was in and out at the NHL Research and Development camp this summer, but he has looked very solid in showings subsequently. He gets high marks for his agility in the crease and he goes post to post very well. With Campbell last year and John Gibson this winter, it just might be that the USDT is becoming what Quebec was for many years -- the leading hothouse for goaltending prospects.
I know what you're thinking but Gibson is already halfway through the year with the U18s—you don't flip a college commitment halfway through your senior season if you're going to defect to the OHL. It was at about this time last year we found out Jack Campbell wasn't headed to Ann Arbor.
Some scouting from NHL.com:
"He has good net coverage, good size and is great on his angles," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He looks big in his initial set-up and while in butterfly. He's not flashy but confident and is always focused, controlled in his movements, strong in his crease and smart at reading plays."
And some more indicating he's not a flake from just junior coach:
A butterfly-style goalie, Gibson said he patterns himself after the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury.
To hear Stern tell it, Gibson has the total package.
"John has tremendous instincts and hockey sense," Stern said. "A lot of times that gets overlooked when people talk about goalies. Everyone talks about forwards and defensemen but they sometimes forget that that's a component of goaltending, too.
"He has unbelievable athleticism, and he's extremely competitive. And he's unflappable. He's just very mature and composed. We like to say a lot of kids are low-maintenance; well, he's no-maintenance.
"That's a pretty rare thing, especially among goaltenders. They can be a quirky bunch, and I think the fact Gibson is so well put-together is something the program is going to appreciate."
Last year Gibson backstopped the U17s to a World Hockey Challenge gold, making 38 saves in a 2-1 win over Canada in the final. He's almost as good as Jack Campbell, and he's appeared from a cloud of vapor to rescue Michigan's goalie situation next year. Win.
Bonus Non-Random Defenseman
Serville is the one on top.
Michigan's also added a second defender to their class in the OJHL's Brennan Serville. Serville has eight assists in 17 games and was committed to Atlantic Hockey school Canisius before he switched. IIRC, Atlantic Hockey schools do not give out the full complement of scholarships so Serville could be a semi-walk on on a partial deal or a guy who broke out this year and found himself with better options.
It appears to be the latter, as Serville decommitted from Canisius a few months ago in search of a better situation. He was an eighth-round pick of Sudbury in the OHL (not bad for a guy who was obviously a tough sign) and was rated a B player (third to fifth round) on the CSB's watch list in October.
He impressed at the Sudbury camp he attended:
Another unsung player who turned heads is defenceman Brennan Serville, an eighth-round pick in 2009. He proved to be mobile and solid on his skates, hard to knock down or separate from the puck.
USHR says he's "a great skating defenseman with size who is good on the breakout, has good hands and sees the ice well," and his coach says he's "a great skater that protects and moves the puck extremely well from the back-end." As a big, right-handed mobile guy he could find a home as the other guy on Michigan's awkward all-lefty power play.
Michigan's 2011 class has gone from extremely worrying to pretty much fine in one fell swoop. Picking up an elite goaltending prospect is a major, badly needed coup and grabbing an uncommitted defenseman expected to be drafted in the same area Steven Kampfer was is another boost.
They're obviously done in goal. On defense Michigan added an end-of-the-bench type in recruited walk-on Mike Szuma earlier this year and is carrying eight scholarship(-ish) guys on the roster this year, so they are likely done there as well. They lose Tristin Llewellyn and Chad Langlais and could see Brandon Burlon, Mac Bennett, or John Merrill leave early (Burlon much more likely than Merrill or Bennett), but as long as they don't lose two of the early entry risks their defense next year will be something like…
…and that's a solid group.
Michigan is also carrying a ton of forwards next year and doesn't need to bring in as many as they lose but with Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Winnett, and Vaughn all out the door they need more than just Alex Guptill. They'll be trying to flip committed players having big seasons or just patrolling for 20-year-olds who can fill in the blanks before a more robust 2012 class comes in. If they can bring in two guys with the ability of Serville and Gibson at forward that will be a beauty save on what was looking like a rough 2011 class.
A horribly enlightening graph. FEI and I were getting along just great until Mr. Fremeau had to go and put our kicker situation in a neat graph. Sit down and get a bucket, as this is a graph of Michigan's attempts against those of FEI #1 kicker Alex Henery of Nebraska:
This is nothing you didn't already know, but Michigan threw away 16 points on field goal attempts this year and was forced into some uncomfortable situations on fourth down because of those big red dots. I'm not sure if those were actual negatives because sometimes this happened:
Romer disciples would say being forced to go for it in that down and distance is probably a net benefit since anyone attempting a 50-yard field goal is going to have difficulties. There were certain situations less friendly, however, and Michigan still had to go because asking for anything more than an extra point was doom.
Michigan might need a kicker in this class.
A minor debunk. One of the rumors wandering around message boards was that Calvin Magee went down to Gainesville a couple weeks ago, supposedly to interview for a job. Given what we know about the Florida coaching situation (Meyer was days away from retiring) that doesn't make any sense and can probably be dismissed, and I can confirm from an excellent source that Magee never met with anyone at Florida. File that in the dustbin of history next to All Of Iowa Is Suspended.
It's a tragedy when you don't get along with your groin. The injury that held Bryan Hogan out of the Big Chill will sideline him for "at least a month," according to AnnArbor.com. That sidelines him for the GLI—a tournament Michigan should win even without him—and an early January series against the State team Michigan just beat 5-0 and is languishing near the bottom of the league standings. It sucks for Hogan to miss out just as he was establishing himself the starter but if he's got to be out a month this is the one to miss.
It is again the groin, but a different bit of the groin:
"But he made one move and he could just feel it."
Berenson said Hogan partially tore a tendon or muscle in his groin, but that it has nothing to do with the injury Hogan suffered last year.
A midseason review of the hockey team on AA.com points out that however frustrating the first half of the season has been Michigan's come out of it in decent shape. A quick glance at College Hockey Stats shows that Michigan's scoring margin is amongst the national leaders:
[Michigan opponents in italics.]
They're 12th, and that's with a few minor schools and ECAC pushovers in front of them. They're 11th in KRACH, which seems about right—a solid tournament team but not a top seed. (My usual complaint about KRACH is it overrates nonconference games and piles WCHA teams atop the rankings, and this is again true.) I'm still concerned that any mildly competent defensive team can reduce Michigan to pinging shots from the point and hoping something wacky happens. This will have to be true…
"I think we expected to be a little further ahead - but not a lot," Berenson said Tuesday. "You can't say, 'Oh, we're going to expect to lose four games in the first half.' I mean, which games are you expecting to lose? I wasn't expecting us to have four ties. … Our best hockey is still ahead of us.
"I think we've seen some glimpses, some good signs, and I think the second half will be our best half. But we're right there. We're knocking on the door. We're not bad."
…if Michigan is going to go into the tournament expecting something good.
Tearing it up. Michigan's current* 2011 signees continue to raise their stock of late. It was Trey Burke making a late-summer push at AAU events across Ohio, but as they enter their senior years its Brundidge making waves:
Brundidge opened the season up with 41 points in a blow out win over Mount Clemens but the competition began to heat up this week as Southfield traveled to Romulus, a consensus top 5 team in the state of Michigan. The burly guard answered the challenge as he poured in 29 points, 8 rebounds, and eight assists in a 78-70 victory. Unofficially, Brundidge was 6 of 12 from the field (2-6 3pt) and 11 of 13 from the free throw stripe.
Vince Baldwin took to the twitters to rave about Brundidge's passing in the aftermath.
As for Burke, he's shooting 79(!!!) percent in two games so far. Adding that guard tandem to Morris, and Douglass and you're verging on… loaded? Can we possibly say that about Michigan basketball? I'm confused.
*(There's still the possibility of a third if Michigan finds a guy—probably a Euro—they want.)
Meanwhile on Kenpom. Michigan poked its hypothetical head above .500 after the Utah game and is now sitting at 17-14 with seven conference wins. Every time I check it it seems they've moved up a spot or two thanks to other teams falling back; they're up to 59th now, twenty spots higher than they were about a week ago. Saturday's game against Oakland is a big one—the Grizzlies just beat Tennessee and played Michigan State to the wire. Win that and it's time to start eyeing an NIT bid.
In other tempo-free stat news, Big Ten Geeks points out that while North Carolina Central is bad, they have never been quite as bad as they were against Michigan—their 0.78 points per trip was a season worst. This is a Beilein team built on… defense? As long as the team is bricking wide-open threes by the bunch, apparently. On WTKA today Beilein said a couple items of note:
- They'd gone straight man to man the whole year because the team is very young and they'd rather do one thing well than a few things poorly.
- "This is Division I basketball" and when you have a wide open shot you have to take it. It doesn't sound like he's displeased with anything from the first half except the fact the ball didn't go in the basket. You could chalk it up to it being just one of those things… if this wasn't the third straight year Michigan hefted a ton of threes (16th nationally) and didn't make any of them (255th).
One step ahead of you. AA.com suggests a fix for the Big Ten logo fiasco:
The Big Ten can backtrack with a press release that says something to the effect of “we are sure honored to have such passionate fans, and we’ve heard their voices.”
Then hold a contest. Fans submit their best ideas for new division names and new logo - there are plenty of good ones floating around the Internet in recent days, ideas that exceed the cartoonish one delivered by the conference.
Hmmm. The M Zone tweaked the popular Tscherne entry by fanning the team logos out underneath the shield:
Now you can remember who's in what division. These are ordered alphabetically but maybe they could put the division champs on top every year? Or they could just go with the horrible periwinkle.
Etc.: The 85k number cited by Guinness is provisional "with the numbers continuing to increase." Dear Lynn Henning: I would have rewritten your column like so: "Yes." Further adventures in scouting Mississippi State continue with a breakdown of Dan Mullen's TE shovel pass, AKA "binky," which he's still running to good effect.
Photos from MGoBlue.com
The Michigan basketball team has continued to roll in games held anywhere other than Atlantic City. Darius Morris and Jordan Morgan are showing that they're a force to be reckoned with. Stu Douglass is sniping away from distance, as Tim Hardaway Jr. has cooled down a bit. Expectations for this Wolverine squad have been revised (slightly) upward - it's looking like a potential NIT team.
Michigan 75, Utah 64. Michigan 7-2.
The game against Utah was as thorough a beatdown as I can remember Michigan putting on any decent team in the past couple years. With the help of a couple early calls against the Utes, Jordan Morgan held a couple decent big men - even if Foster doesn't have much offensive production, he's still six freakin' inches taller than Morgan - in check. The game was never really as close as the 75-64 score makes it seem.
Darius Morris continued to show that he's improved by leaps and bounds since last year (partially due to the departures of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims giving him a higher usage rate). His only turnover was a failed alley-oop attempt to Jon Horford that Beilein attributes to Horford. He added 10 assists and 4 steals to go along with his 19 points on 57.7 eFG%.
Nobody else jumps off the page statistically, though Stu Douglass's 0/4 night from three is a letdown considering how hot he'd been shooting the ball. Matt Vogrich seems to have found his shooting stroke over the past few games, and he's been getting more minutes accordingly.
|Individuals v. Utah|
Speaking of Vogrich, he had a massively impressive performances in plus/minus (see the full chart at right). Of course, Darius Morris is killin' it, as he was +14 in a game that the team won by 11, meaning the Wolverines were -3 in the 2:21 he wasn't on the court. Tim Hardaway's up-and-down night is evidenced by his 0.
Using only one game of data means there's plenty of noise. For example, Jon Horford would have been higher had he not been on the court in the stretch late in the game when Michigan was content to let Utah chip away at a massive lead. Despite not accomplishing much on the scoresheet, Horford had something of a breakout performance.
If you want to see the data, and individual lineup effectiveness, you can check out the spreadsheet. Before Michigan enters conference play, I'll put together a total non-conference (minus Kansas) table with the minutes played and plus/minus of individuals and lineups. The most effective lineup against the Utes was Morris-Douglass-Vogrich-Novak-McLimans, which was +9 in 3:18. The most used lineup was Morris-Douglass-Hardaway-Novak-Horford, which played 7:49 and finished -3. Most of that came late in the game, as mentioned above.
NC Central Recap
Michigan 64, NC Central 44. Michigan 8-2.
As Brian pointed out on Twitter last night, as ugly as the game was, it fell right in line with Ken Pomeroy's score prediction. Coming in, I had hoped the Wolverines would finally bludgeon an overmatched opponent, but they kept up their habit of playing down to the competition, especially in the first half. The Wolverines were bombing away from three, even when it wasn't the smartest play at the time, and they could have attacked the rim (especially on the break). In the second half, they made smarter plays, got hotter from outside, and took advantage of NC Central's curious move away from the zone that had stifled Michigan's offense in the first half.
Darius Morris and Jon Horford were the stars of the show for Michigan, as Darius had 12 points to lead Michigan, along with 3 assists and a steal to only one turnover, and Jon was just a missed free throw and a rebound away from his first career double-double. As the season goes on, you'll see more of Horford as he learns the game and develops physically. Thus far, he's made the most of his opportunities.
With Michigan's offense struggling early in the game, I was surprised to see McLimans come in as the first big off the bench rather than Horford, and also that Beilein didn't try to get Vogrich into the game sooner, as he'd been hot from the field (though that decision was apparently the correct one, as Matt was 0/3).
At the end of the day, Michigan played poorly against a bad opponent, and was still able to basically meet expectations. Take the win, and move on to the next one. Up next, the Wolverines face Oakland noon Saturday in Crisler Arena. The Golden Grizzlies are hot off a road upset of #7 Tennessee, so Michigan certainly can't play this poorly and come away with a good result. OU preview drops Friday.
I have weathered all the submissions and whittled them down to a plausible few. Many submissions either unwisely tried to shoehorn a 2 into the design, adopted the horrifying your-printer-is-out-of-ink cyan, or were not better than the New Coke logo. I ruthlessly cut those.
Our four candidates:
Yes, this is just the BTN logo minus "network" and with an extra star, but it's included because 1) it makes sense and 2) points out what a weird lack of cohesion there is between the two new marks.
The Reigning Champion
Who's cuisine reigns supreme?
Here's the Mississippi State offense against Kentucky:
The Bulldogs won 24-17 with a quick late drive featuring a Relf zinger over the middle that ate up a third of the field. Kentucky's defense was (sigh) significantly better than Michigan's this year but it wasn't great. They were 79th in rush D, 53rd in pass efficiency D, 49th overall. The don't fare nearly as well in FEI, though—they're 82nd, the worst defense other than Memphis the Bulldogs played. Michigan was 103rd. (Fun fact: only one other team had a winning record against I-A competition with a worse defense than Michigan, and that was Baylor.)
I charted Relf for the hell of it:
[Most of these were clear-cut, but there was a fade down the sideline that was well-covered, hit the receiver in the hands, got dropped, and then saw the receiver hit with an offensive PI call. That could have been anything from CA to BR. I punted and filed it MA—he should have led the receiver to the sideline but it wasn't awful.
The backup quarterback came in for a series, went run, BR, INX, and then ate bench. ]
So… that's not very good. That DSR is one pip off Denard Robinson's freshman year—you know, the one that spawned an offseason of debate about whether he should be a wide receiver or running back—and most of those INs were TacoBLANK specials where the receiver watched the ball zing well over his head or well wide or well short; receivers had no chance to bring in any of them. The two TAs are generous as well. Either could have been filed IN.
However, it should be noted that the Kentucky game was Relf's worst of the year by far. In his last two games against reasonable defenses Relf went 13 of 20 for 288 yards with 3 TDs, and one INT (Ole Miss) and 20 of 30 for 224 yards (Arkansas). This is not a representative sample.
Relf seems like a ridiculously fast version of Steven Threet—capable of those downfield darts in the seam that result in huge chunks of yards and blithering inaccuracy on the next play. In this game he had six complete misses against six accurate downfield throws, but three of the accurate ones were beautiful long gains.
I probably didn't give Relf enough credit as a runner. He was impressive in this game, making decisive option cuts and even throwing in an I-hit-circle spin move:
He's a better runner than Tebow, closer to a Scheelhaase than anyone else we saw this year. Yes, again with the Illinois comparisons and the grim prospect of not putting up 67 against a team with the Illinois offense.
Even more Illinois comparisons. Seriously, they scored the winning touchdown on the inverted veer after their erratic but fast quarterback scrambled for a first down. The clip above is an option keeper. They love the jet sweep and have a difficult time throwing downfield. It's a really close comparison. The differences as I see them:
- Mullen is much more willing to chance his QB throwing downfield. Illinois games I saw this year almost never featured Scheelhaase throwing more than ten yards downfield. Mullen's takes his shots and lives with the balls to covered receivers because occasionally Relf nails a guy and Mississippi State has a much shorter touchdown trudge to make.
- Relf is a better power runner. Scheelhaase is fast but not a guy you're going to go to on third and two (or five, or nine) as Mississippi State does with Relf. He brings the wood and usually picks up two or three yards after contact.
- The Bulldog offensive line may not be very good. It's hard to tell without going super in-depth but it seemed like MSU bogged down when Kentucky players were not getting hooked on the outside or doing many things wrong on the long TD. Almost every time MSU faced a third and long situation they ran or moved the pocket, though, and their offensive design seems like it's built around not expecting a ton out of the OL.
Bumphis and Ballard. Those guys are the heart of the Bulldog offense. Both are short, quick guys capable of turning a small crease into a big gain. Ballard isn't going to break a ton of tackles but is very fast, getting to top speed quickly when an opportunity presents itself and capable of turning on the jets. A wrong angle on him and you've given up six points.
Bumphis is an A- version of a slot receiver.
General confidence level adjustment. Even despite the ugly Relf chart above since more recent info suggests he's not really this bad, because MSU put up 24 against a Michigan-ish caliber defense when their QBs went 7 for 19. If Michigan's 4-7 points worse than Kentucky (and many metrics suggest this) I'm not happy with the idea that they'll have to put up mid-30s to win with the opponent completing 33% of their passes.