When current New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles played pee-wee football, he was so unfairly fast that his league instituted the "Darren Sproles Rule", which barred him from running sweeps—otherwise, he would score on every play.
Given Malik McDowell's dominance at the Class C (enrollment limits: 217-448 students) level of MHSAA football, I'd have to assume that a hypothetical "Malik McDowell Rule" would prevent him from playing entirely.
McDowell is listed at 6'7", 290 pounds, and that does not appear to be an exaggeration despite the fact that he's not playing with any bad weight. On Friday, I watched him lead Detroit Loyola against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, a team featuring players with names like Zach Beans, Vinny Puma(!), Clay Senerius, and McLane Burtrum.
It went as you'd expect.
By my count, in four very short possessions' worth of work, McDowell amassed 11 tackles, five TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble, while also adding a few thunderous hits on a justifiably terrified Our Lady quarterback. This week's video highlights are short and sweet; these include less than half of McDowell's tackles thanks to rain and a brief period when the camera refused to focus:
Soundtrack: "Saw Myself Today" — Oddisee
It's tough to break down McDowell from a technical standpoint when he's so physically dominant over his competition; on most plays, he simply bowled over an interior lineman and moved on to wrecking whomever possessed the football. However, you can see him display a very effective swim move in the first two clips of the above video; despite it probably being unnecessary, McDowell regularly switches up his attack between that swim move and a simple bull rush.
Our Lady of the Lakes lacked a downfield passing game—or even the ability to go into the shotgun—which made it impossible for them to call plays that avoided McDowell. He swallowed up interior runs, at least contacted the quarterback on all but a couple dropbacks, and chased down both attempted toss sweeps for big losses. McDowell proved very adept at reading plays, staying home when runs came at him and reacting quickly when the play went outside.
McDowell's athleticism speaks for itself; he covers the field sideline-to-sideline from defensive tackle, gets a great burst off the snap, and has the strength to match his size. He's all the more impressive when it's noted that he's currently dealing with nagging injuries to both his shoulder—which caused him to exit the game on two occasions—and hip. Despite having to gingerly peel himself off the turf after tackles, he brought full effort on every play.
Caveats apply due to the low level of competition, of course. That said, McDowell is the most physically impressive and dominant prospect I've seen in these last two years; he deserves every bit of the hype coming his way. While I'd like to see what he can do against viable competition, the praise accompanying his camp appearances suggests that he is by no means a mirage produced by lower-division football.
If I had to rank the best players from the 2014 in-state class, it's McDowell first, then Damon Webb, then a large gap before getting to the Cass Tech linebacker trio and Detroit MLK's Carl Fuller (though I haven't seen Drake Harris in action, and rankings suggest that he's right around Webb in terms of potential, nor have I seen Chance Stewart).
A brief note: Our Lady of the Lakes junior kicker Spencer Howell showed off a strong leg on kickoffs, booming one completely through the end zone, and drilled a ~35-yard field goal. I can't find much information on him online but he's a guy to keep an eye on for a potential walk-on spot down the road.
This Week: Speaking of Cass Tech and Fuller, the Technicians take on King on Friday at 7pm. I'll either head there or check out Wyatt Shallman and Catholic Central take on Orchard Lake St. Mary's, also kicking off at 7 on Friday.
Hail Mattison. Tube sock brigade == ND's line in the eyes of a guy who might know, Purdue OC Gary Nord:
Gold and Black: Are you having trouble with your offensive front, and is that affecting your run game?
Nord: "No, I think the offensive line played the best game they've played this year, I really do. They probably protected better than they've ever protected. I think Michigan's defensive line was probably as good as any that we've played. They were very good. They held Notre Dame to about the same number of yards we had and they had five turnovers on them. They played two of the better teams in the country in Alabama and Notre Dame, those two, so their stats were screwed up a little bit going in, but watching them man-for-man and for the four-down guys and two linebackers, they're as good as there is in the country."
Coachspeak? Never. Gary Nord speaks the gospel truth at all times thanks to an ancient curse passed down from Nord father to Nord son that turns them into a walrus if they ever say anything other than the unvarnished facts of a matter.
Danny Hope has it too, and fell from the straight and narrow.
That's so Weis. I mean, seriously.
The US government needs to disguise Weis as an Iranian ayatollah and send him into deep cover. Within weeks the country will collapse in the world's most disorganized civil war.
Yeah, I know about Somalia. I stand by what I said.
Next up: the University of Phoenix Phoenixes. TOC does a thing where they deploy Bradley-Terry ratings for college football* in the service of predicting things. They've got a margin-aware version, too. The West is a sack of cats with Michigan a tiny favorite thanks to not having a conference loss yet; the by-far top two teams in the East are the ineligible ones. BIG TENNNNNN.
Michigan's opponent this weekend… eh… not so good.
Blowout of the Week (Illinois Division): Illinois @ Michigan
Not only has Illinois only won one game against 1-A competition (Western Michigan), last week's 17-point loss to Wisconsin was their closest loss. This will not end well. Michigan is an 80% favorite according to the basic method, 93% (17 points) according to margin-aware.
The Illini have a one in 70,100 chance of winning out, though.
Over at A Lion Eye they're trying to figure out how on earth you fire Ron Zook and get a lot worse:
Our last four losses by 17 or more under Zook:
11/26/11: Minnesota 27, Illinois 7
11/12/11: Michigan 31, Illinois 14
10/16/10: Michigan State 26, Illinois 6
10/03/09: Penn State 35, Illinois 17
So if you’re scoring at home, that’s four 17+ point losses in the last five weeks for Illinois. And before this season, four 17+ point losses in the last 35 games. You know what, let’s make this one hurt a little more. 2006 through 2011. Six seasons, eight losses by 17 points or more. This season, four of our six games were losses by 17 points or more.
Illinois's run game has fallen off a cliff you already thought it had fallen off, dropping from 11th in 2010 to 41st in 2011 to 94th(!) this year, 94th when three of their opponents have been WMU, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. Every La Tech opponent has rushed for more yards against the Bulldogs than Illinois.
BONUS: after collecting 41 sacks a year ago, Illinois has nine in six games this time out. They returned everyone but Mercilus. They're 109th at sacks allowed. Illinois: not good.
*[college hockey fans may know this as KRACH]
Another tough injury for State. Dion Sims missed most of the Indiana game with an ankle injury. He's day-to-day-ish:
"I don't know that he'll make it this week," Dantonio said of Sims, "but he may make it next week. We'll have to see how he responds in the next couple days, really."
This week is Iowa, next week Michigan. Sims is MSU's leading receiver with 313 yards, though if you give Aaron Burbridge a minute he'll eclipse that.
Sims's backup is a redshirt freshman, FWIW. If Sims misses the Michigan game the main benefit seems to be a lack of the multi-TE sets State used to spring Ed Baker to a big day last year.
Also in injuryland, OSU MLB Etienne Sabino is out four weeks with a bone fracture in his leg. That prognosis should have him back on the field for Michigan, but seriously you can come back from this sort of thing in four weeks?
Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino has a broken right fibula and will miss at least three weeks, possibly more, for the Ohio State football team.
Sabino was injured in the first half of Saturday’s 63-38 win over Nebraska. He had surgery on Sunday to implant a steel plate into his leg.
“He talked to the team afterwards, and it was an emotional moment,” Meyer said. “The best case is three weeks. The worst case is longer. We hope to get him back.”
I am terrified of football players. Sabino's replacement is true freshman Joshua Perry, but OSU spends a lot of time in a nickel package that he won't feature in.
Willis Ward to be honored. All it took was action from the state legislature:
Oct. 20 (UM vs. MSU) is Willis Ward Day in Michigan. Athletic Department spokesperson said Michigan plans to recognize Willis on that day.
I've always loved "recognize" as a thing that is done by official-type people. "Oh, hey… you're Willis Ward, aren't you? Rad. I suppose this IS a plaque with you on it!"
Yost to host. Hockey drops the puck tonight in an exhibition against Windsor; Yost Built previews the D and goalies. I agree with him that splitting Moffie and Bennett across two pairings makes sense. Something like…
…gives you offensive firepower at all times and a defensive guy who will cover up for the offensive guy when he lets his freak flag fly. I'll also be watching to see what kind of progress Brennan Serville can make. He was pretty bad last year but also very young; he could make a big step forward.
Red says Rutledge, Racine, and Janecyk will all play a period so hopefully that means Rutledge's eye thing is healed is ready to go for the real season opener on… Thursday? Guh.
Someone's got to do something about hockey scheduling. There's a game at Yost on February first this year. You know when the next one is? March. I assume this is just the CCHA screwing with Michigan because it can; hopefully next year they'll be able to move more home games into the back half of the schedule.
BONUS SCHEDULING TIP: The Big Ten should seek out opportunities to have rival weekends where, say, Minnesota football and hockey come to town at the same time. The travel equation changes dramatically when you get a hockey series on top of your football game.
Compher so pretty. JT Compher had another career lined up if hockey didn't work out:
"When I was younger I did toddler modeling and I was on the front of a catalog," Compher told NHL.com. "I got to keep the red scooter that I was modeling. That was pretty cool."
Compher said he can't remember what company the catalog was from, only that he was 3 or 4 years old at the time and got a pretty cool new toy out of the deal.
Okay, okay, this happened. Stop emailing me about it plz:
As I said on the twitter, my favorite part is that he appears to have misspelled his own damn name in his twitter handle.
Etc.: Ramroth Finnegan! I bet he ends up at Cincinnati. Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne was taken off in an ambulance last week but may return Saturday. Weinreb on Penn State remembering this football thing. Tim Hardaway expectation tracker. More numbers displaying that Illinois is bad yo. Denard throws are key.
It's almost mid-season, so it's time to check in on the Draft-o-Snark teams and see how this whole Big Ten(nnnnnnnN!) thing is shaping up so far. Spoiler: euh.
Who we drafted:
The sacks have been removed, and I've combined the rushing and passing totals.
*Heiko took Martinez as a running back, and Braxton Miller was turned into a fullback when he drafted Danny O'Brien. Andrew Maxwell was a backup option chosen in lieu of having a punter. Gray and Colter were taken strictly as wide receivers.
Who's winning: Heiko's running back, followed by Heiko's fullback. He is better off with either of those guys than his designated passer Danny O'Brien, who lost his job to Joel Stave (stah-VAY) after Week 2. The competition matters, but Taylor Martinez has been the conference's best quarterback so far, and Braxton Miller holds a strong second.
Denard looks really good in most stats but already has 8(!) interceptions. He's faced the hardest schedule so far (Alabama and Notre Dame) though nobody else threw 4 picks against Notre Dame, and guys like Miller have already faced MSU's DBs. Also Michigan has had a bye week, while most of the competition has played 6 games, so some of his totals are not quite comparable.
Of Brian's two guys, Scheelhaase has been barely productive. Weirdly he hasn't rushed much, just 160 yards on 34 carries for 4.7 YPC with sacks removed. So much for the new coach being a perfect fit. If you don't believe me when I say Denard's interceptions haven't all been that bad, watch a few of Scheelhaase's. His O-line isn't doing him any favors, FWIW. Maxwell has been a bit better than his worse-than-Vandenberg stats might tell you; those stats have been suppressed by awful receiver play, though he's sent his share and some to Tacopants and Nachoshorts as his offensive line deteriorated. I'm all this is Threet if Threet was in the right offense for his abilities.
Vandenberg isn't helping the Ace cause very much, failing to throw a touchdown the first three weeks against not-good secondaries; Iowa currently ranks 95th in pass offense nationally and last in the Big Ten. He had a decent game last week against the toughest defensive backfield he's faced yet, unfortunately that was Minnesota's.
Guy we should have drafted (?): Nobody, really. Joel Stave's YPA will come down when a 62-yard screen to James White isn't 1/10th of his yardage, but he's still been impressive since taking over for O'Brien. That pass which ended with (Illini CB) Terry Hawthorne in the hospital was floated directly into the palms of his tight end along the sideline, in stride, and between two defensive backs. OTOH he has had the new-guy struggles.
QB Standings: 1. Heiko, 2. Seth, 3. Brian, 4. Ace. Should I penalize Heiko for turning the best two QBs in the conference (thus far) into RBs?
[Bad receivers, terrible offensive linemen, and an exclusive, dramatic reenactment of AIRBHG being foiled by Jewish Vin Diesel, after THE JUMP]
ACE YOU'RE SEEMING ACEXCEPTIONALLY ACEY THIS ACE DAY. What do you mean, "I'm Heiko"? I've never heard of such nonsense.
GROUND AND POUND. Also pound and ground.
ACE MAKES ME FEEL SAD FOR MISPRONOUNCING THINGS. STOP CALLING YOURSELF HEIKO
FUNCHESS HAD A BADASS CATCH. Yup.
I KNOW WE NO CAN RB RUN. How why guesses but no answers.
OH SO DEFENSE. How does it happen?
TALKIN' BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC. One more week I hang on to Boilermania. Also, the rest of the league is not as good as you may have been led to expect by 1970.
The usual links:
A large shakeout, with all skepticism about South Carolina dispelled and Oregon State suffering thanks to impressive wins various other places. Some of their fall is due to week to week jitter that isn't meaningful, but Florida and South Carolina earned it, yo.
FLORIDA STATE. Propped up by the Clemson win.
BIG LSU DROP. Auburn suxxxxxx, and they struggled with Towson. They're two weeks from icing Ralph Bolden at center. BOOM LES'D. The Washington win does have some meaning after they beat Stanford, but they're not looking vintage. They'll rebound or fall further after their matchup with South Carolina; right now their resume is not anything that demands them in the top ten.
CINCINNATI? Um… well. Undefeated? It's that with two decent wins or teams with dodgy bits all over. Oklahoma finally got a win over a real team—a real team with no wins over BCS schools.
News bullets and other important items:
- Kickoffs: There was one bad kick and nine missed tackles, but kicking it short and to the right was on purpose to avoid Raheem Mostert.
- Denard's wrist is fine.
- Gallon's job as punt returner is not in danger.
- Hoke did not consider putting in Rawls earlier for Toussaint.
“Thanks for coming. Very pleased with the win. It’s great to win, obviously. I thought we set a tone early defensively and great to win on the road is what I should say because you look at this league on the road, it’s a tough place to play. I thought we set the tone with the three-and-out on the defense, and offensively, 17-play drive, almost nine minutes, really was what we needed to do. We play really good defense watching our offense out there on the field. That’s a good deal. I think we practiced well for the week. We prepared well. Liked how our guys came to work every day, and we need to continue to do that. We know we’re in a championship game every Saturday, so our mentality and attitude needs to reflect that by our actions in practice. We had a good day yesterday, and hopefully we can continue that.”