For the first time ever, the MGoBlog staff photographers covered all 13 Michigan Football games. In addition we covered Basketball, Gymnastics, Hockey, Softball, Signing of the Stars, The Nike/Jumpman Launch, and many other media days, press conferences, etc. It has been an interesting ride and we've loved every minute of it.
First and foremost, thank you to Brian, Ace, Seth, Adam, and David for all that you do to make our job possible. You guys are awesome!
Second, thanks to the readership of MGoBlog. Your support on the blog and through social media has been outstanding. We appreciate all of you…well most of you…well some of you. It's hard to believe that I have just finished covering my 6th season of football for MGoBlog. It has been an interesting ride thus far. I'm looking forward to many more seasons on the sideline.
I also want to make sure that we thank the other photographers who stepped in when one of us can not cover a game: Bill Rapai, Marc-Gregor Campredon, Paul Sherman, and Joseph Dressler. You guys have done a great job.
All that out of the way, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos (from all of us) to come out of it.
MGoPhotographers Eric Upchurch, Bryan Fuller, and Patrick Barron
[After THE JUMP]
[Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette]
The sinuous path of Oliver Martin’s recruitment has reached its end with Martin’s Michigan pledge last evening. Martin seemed like he might commit to Michigan at any time this past fall; after appearing to be a Notre Dame lean, 247’s Crystal Ball moved in favor of Michigan before moving back to Notre Dame and finally ending solidly in favor of Michigan. Crootin! With all the buzz around his name, I decided to look for a full game to scout. Thanks to Friday Night Lights’ youtube account, we’re able to take a look at the 4A state title game.
It’s still better to have a full game than a highlight tape to scout, but there are times—as happened here—where there are extenuating circumstances that limit a player’s productivity. Dowling bracketed Martin all game, and it wasn’t until late in the second half that West would try to duplicate the one successful target they had in the second quarter by having Martin run deep ins. On top of that, Dowling’s pass rush was too much for West HS; their QB often found himself scrambling away from one or two un/partially-blocked defenders and flipping the ball to a nearby safety valve. Even so, there were impressive parts of Martin’s game worth noting.
[Note: Martin’s typically lined up at the bottom of the screen. The easiest way to spot him, though, is to find the guy in the knee-high white socks.]
[Hit THE JUMP for Martin’s scouting report]
Michigan reeled in one of their top remaining targets when four-star Iowa City (IA) West WR Oliver Martin announced his commitment on 247Sports, going public with a decision he'd already made.
Iowa City (Iowa) West Top247 receiver Oliver Martin was soaking wet.
Martin’s little sister Ruby, a world-class swimmer was in the pool getting her workout in as family surrounded the four-star recruit as he made the decision to play for the Maize and Blue.
Martin choose the Wolverines over Michigan State and Notre Dame, among many others.
The Spartans were, in fact, Martin's first major offer, getting in on him before he blew up at The Opening finals. Martin appeared destined to go to Michigan once they offered and began serious pursuit, then looked headed to South Bend when it appeared Nico Collins would take the last WR spot. Michigan rekindled interest as Collins looked more likely to stay in the South. At one point recently, 247's Steve Lorenz reported the coaching staffs at Michigan, MSU, and ND all believed they would land Martin. In-state Iowa was hanging around. Ohio State briefly emerged as a threat after Tyjon Lindsay's decommitment but Martin never made his planned official visit there.
After visits from Jim Harbaugh, the guy who once hit Jim Harbaugh with a mail truck, and Pep Hamilton, as well as a final trip to Ann Arbor, Martin decided to join the 2017 class. He's the 27th commit in the class and the fourth at receiver, joining Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, and Brad Hawkins. With the way his recruitment is trending, Michigan may very well add Collins to that number, too. They haven't had a better group of receivers in one class in recent memory.
4*, #30 WR,
4*, #35 WR,
|4*, 80, #60 WR||
4*, 97, #7 WR,
4*, #28 WR,
Martin was a relative unknown on the recruiting trail until a breakout performance at The Opening last summer, which took him from a three-star to a nationally ranked prospect in most places. Scout and Rivals settled on ranking him ~200th overall and there's an outlier on each side. ESPN has him as a four-star but well outside their top 300 (the last WR to make the cut is 41st in the position rankings), while 247 shot him into the top 100 after The Opening and moved him up again after the Army Bowl.
Martin is listed at 6'1" (or 6'0.5" in 247's case) and 185-192 pounds on all four sites. While he's generally regarded as a slot, he could play inside or outside in college.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, impact on the class, and more.]
The board is narrow and looks set to stay that way. Let's get to it.
Oliver Martin: In The Boat?
4* IA WR Oliver Martin did make his official to Ann Arbor. That knocks out a host of schools trying to get in last minute and restricts available options to the places he's been. It also probably means he's in the boat. Wiltfong is at the point where he would be "shocked" if it wasn't Michigan; Lorenz says it would be a "significant surprise"; Webb issued a gut feeling.
Most likely scenario: Martin is already committed and just waiting to announce. Silent verbals and all that, sure, but two days before Signing Day I like Michigan's chances to make that stand up.
Nico Collins: Uh, Same?
My operative theory on the way wide receiver recruiting went this year was: they wanted four. They had three guys who were committed, two silently, after Brad Hawkins re-emerged. They held a spot for Donovan Peoples-Jones no matter what. Thus those couple months where it looked like Martin would head to Notre Dame. Once noise about AL WR Nico Collins and Georgia started up, Michigan re-engaged Martin to get back to four.
Soooo then about this:
Those are the main 24/7 Georgia writers pegging Collins to Michigan after an official to Athens on the last available weekend of the cycle. As far as crystal balls go that's pretty definitive: bad-news picks from plugged in folks late in the game are almost certainly on point. Mansell's explanation is pretty wishy-washy, unfortunately:
truthfully this is starting to feel that ends up somewhere else. That guess from me right now would be Michigan.
Nonetheless a flood of Michigan picks has triggered, including Wiltfong. Collins hasn't said much about his recruitment in forever, so it appears that nobody will be getting clarity until he announces on NSD. Wiltfong related that the Georgia crystal ball run was initiated by Collins's coach at Chalkville telling people that Georgia had surged when everyone was in San Antonio for the Army game; nobody appears to have talked to Collins himself.
That may be the crux of the swings here, with people around Collins saying things that don't actually reflect his mindset. Brown quotes a source:
"We are beginning to hear that the Georgia staff doesn't think they're going to land him," our source said. "I don't really know what happened but he looked miserable at the basketball game this weekend."
It was always odd that Collins, who had taken not just an official but three(!) unofficials despite living in Alabama, would be genuinely in play. Maybe he never was, but there were reasons to pretend like there were? Only thing that makes sense at this juncture.
Side note: What's the deal with five receivers? Michigan has the space, with 26 current commits and a class that can get up to 31 or 32 per reports earlier in the year. They're seriously chasing just six guys, all of whom get section headers in this post. A clean sweep of the five guys not named Collins is extremely unlikely, so the question is "do you want a 6'5" WR with offers from Alabama and Georgia or air?" That's not tough to answer.
[Update: Sam's latest update says Michigan has four slots left, but "could push it to five." A sweep of the offered guys other than Tufele would apparently shut Melifonwu out.]
Aubrey Solomon: status quo is good
Signs still point to Michigan for 5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon. Michigan fans are in a state of panicky anticipation about his recruitment—and to be fair it is that kind of recruitment—so occasionally someone must hold the fanbase's collective hand and reassure them. Sam did that last night, saying the word from down south was "still Michigan." He won't put the ol' gut feel on it because it's that kind of recruitment; it sounds like he's got a ton pointing the right way here.
Wiltfong's in much the same boat, telling the Michigan 247 board that Solomon's "always loved Michigan" and that he continues to hear Michigan is where he's leaning; Alabama and USC lurk. Georgia appears to be out. Brandon Brown reports that word out of Lee County was still M as of a couple days ago.
Willie Gay: status quo is not good, sayin' there's a chance
LSU remains the tentative favorite for 4.5* MS LB Willie Gay. Wiltfong currently has Michigan in third; Sam did clarify that a "VERY" well-placed source asserts that Michigan is #2 to Willie. The Compromise Pick scenario is thus in play since this is believed to be the situation:
PREFERENCES OF GAY'S MOTHER
- Mississippi State
PREFERENCES OF GAY
- Mississippi State
That's obviously a long shot. I would get your fists ready to shake at the Mississippi black hole.
FWIW, LSU's recent flip of 4* TN LB Jacob Phillips from Oklahoma is one that should help, not hurt, LSU. Phillips and Gay were on campus at the same time and reportedly hit it off; Phillips is 6'4" and 230 and projects to MLB. Gay is emphatically an OLB.
Mekhi Becton: cumong man look at the depth chart
Conflicting signals on 3.5* VA OL Mekhi Becton. Scout's Michael B Clark reported that Michigan had "gained momentum" after their in-home, which focused heavily on the depth chart and chance to play early. Michigan has been recruiting Becton hardest per a proverbial source close to Becton; VT and Michigan are supposed to be his top two.
That's hopeful for a badly needed option at tackle. The rest of it not so much. Wiltfong hears that VT and Louisville are the top two; with that previous report from a Louisville commit that UL and Michigan were the top two, folks reporting on Becton have hit for the cycle.
Ifeatu Melifonwu: I think I can pronounce it now
MA S Ifeatu Melifonwu did not immediately flip from Syracuse after his official; in fact, Wiltfong reports that he returned to Syracuse this weekend. It's unclear whether Michigan has offered at this point or if they're waiting to see how things work out with the non-weird guys on the board.
Either way, Melifonwu has decided to do a hat thing on NSD:
I will be at Grafton High on National Signing Day when Ifeatu Melifonwu makes his big announcement where he'll play college football pic.twitter.com/Akp6eBFSq7
— Carl Setterlund (@CarlSetterlund) January 28, 2017
It's odd, but Melifonwu is a guy I'd really like Michigan to add. They don't have a lot of safeties, is brother is headed for the early rounds of the NFL draft, and Don Brown is familiar with the area and the family. I'd be more bummed about missing out on him than one of the WRs despite the WRs being highly touted folks.
MI DT commit Deron Irving-Bey profiled and hoo man:
Sitting in Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio’s office a year ago, Deron Irving-Bey couldn’t hold it back.
It seemed like the seminal moment in his journey.
“He surprised me with it,” Irving-Bey said of MSU’s scholarship offer. “We were on a little academic tour. He called me in his office and said he was going to offer me. That’s when I just started crying. I always thought I would have to go to a JUCO because I never thought I was good enough for that.
“Just the thought of Michigan State, one of the top colleges, I’m like, ‘This is a dream come true.’ ”
Been a rough crootin' year for our friends in East Lansing. Did you hear the one about the guy they flipped from Temple who took under a week to be like "nah, I'm going to Rutgers"?
Michigan is "heavily" pursuing FL OL/mountain Daniel Faalele, which is what I like to hear.
Walk-on commitments are beginning to roll in. Amongst them are former Air Force commit Sean Fitzgerald, an instate OG/DT with respectable size already. A college coach told Trieu that he "will play there at some point." Michigan also flipped Columbia commit Jack Young, a safety out of Pennsylvania. MI LB Adam Fakih announced a commit, as did FL TE Chris Hanlon.
FWIW, former Michigan TE commit
Jack Carter Dunaway landed at Princeton.
Miles Bridges hit some key shots late. [Bryan Fuller]
Even against a Michigan State team that's not up to Tom Izzo's usual standard, Michigan needed a lot to go right if they wanted to pull out a win in the hostile confines of the Breslin Center.
Very little went right.
The Wolverines struggled to score, shooting 40% on twos and 27% on threes. Zak Irvin had the worst game of his career, going scoreless on eight shots with three turnovers in 36 minutes. Derrick Walton was a bright spot with his aggressive drives to the basket, but while he scored 24 points and went 14-for-15 from the line, he couldn't get dialed in from long range, making only 2-of-9 threes. Moe Wagner, the only Wolverine who could consistently score from the field, only got up six shot attempts while saddled with foul trouble, and his fourth foul came on a preposterous double technical.
There were times when Michigan looked like the superior team, but they couldn't sustain them for long. The deciding stretch came early in the second half; starting at the 17:23 mark, when M trailed by a mere two points, the normally turnover-averse Wolverines coughed up the rock seven times in eight minutes. Suddenly, MSU had a double-digit lead, and the closest Michigan could get the rest of the way was four points as Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, and Cassius Winston closed the game out strong.
Given their offensive performance, Michigan was lucky to be this close. On the flip side, they managed to hang tight with MSU on the road while playing far from their best game. They'll have the whole week to work out this afternoon's issues before taking on a very beatable Ohio State squad at Crisler on Saturday. Two days later, they'll get a chance for revenge against the Spartans, and they'll need Irvin to show up for that one if they want a different result.
#33 Michigan (14-7, 4-4 B1G) at
#53 Michigan State (12-9, 4-4)
East Lansing, Michigan
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Sunday|
MSU -1 (KenPom)
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Clark Kellogg
Right: Gonna keep rolling with "embarrassing photos of opposing coaches" until that stops working. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Last night's dismantling of Indiana shot Michigan up ten spots on KenPom. While the Bracket Matrix hadn't been updated at the time this was written, it's safe to say the Wolverines couldn't have done much more in that game to improve their tourney hopes; CBS's Jerry Palm moved M up to an 8-seed in today's update.
Going by KenPom's updated numbers, Michigan's win projection has improved substantially:
Michigan improved their season outlook quite a bit after last night's win: pic.twitter.com/kRGtmF8RHf
— Crisler Spider-Man (@CrislerSpidey) January 27, 2017
That's a median of 9-9 at just over 25% likelihood, and a 41.5% chance of finishing 10-8 or better in conference play
— Crisler Spider-Man (@CrislerSpidey) January 27, 2017
KenPom projects Sunday's game as a virtual toss-up, giving Michigan a 45% chance to pull off the road win. With four home games and road matchups with Rutgers and Nebraska left on the schedule, that would put a 10-8 conference record (and 20 regular-season wins) very much in play.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||Tum Tum Nairn||Jr.||5'10, 175||60||12||109||Kinda|
|Decent distributor, but wonky shot has only improved slightly. Tiny usage for PG.|
|G||14||Eron Harris||Sr.||6'3, 190||59||24||107||Not At All|
|Excellent three-point shooter both on spot-ups and off the bounce.|
|G||1||Josh Langford||Fr.||6'5, 210||51||15||109||Not At All|
|Good spot-up shooter who sticks to perimeter; one FT attempt in B1G play.|
|F||22||Miles Bridges||Fr.||6'7, 230||51||27||100||Not At All|
|ORtg doesn't do his all-around game justice. As he goes, so goes MSU.|
|C||44||Nick Ward||Fr.||6'8, 250||48||33||105||Very|
|Massive-usage post scorer. Great rebounder and shot-blocker. Fouls, FTs can be issues.|
|G||5||Cassius Winston||Fr.||6'0, 185||50||24||104||Kinda|
|Boasts #1 assist rate in the country, but inconsistent shot and too many TOs.|
|F||25||Kenny Goins||So.||6'6, 230||47||12||98||Very|
|Former walk-on forced to spot Ward at C. Decent finisher but very TO-prone.|
|G||3||Alvin Ellis||Sr.||6'4, 210||39||20||101||No|
|Decent outside shooter, disruptive defender getting more time lately.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]