"Well, it’s good to see everybody again. That at least means they kept me for another year and you guys are all healthy."
What are your specific goals for the next few weeks?
“The number one goal is to get better at everything we do in this defense, one practice at a time. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, we’ve got miles to go. It starts all over again. The race started when we started winter conditioning. The race heats up when we start practice. If we don’t improve on every phase of our defense, in each one of those you’re going to fall backwards. The schedule we play, you can’t take a step back in any way, and not improving is taking a step back, and that’s what these guys have got to do.”
What have you seen from Will Campbell’s conditioning and that of everyone else?
“I think we’re blessed here because I believe we have one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country. For us to be out there and watch what Aaron has done with those guys, I think he would have been frontrunner of us getting to be better. He’s pushed them. What I’ve been able to see legally when I could be out there, it looks like they’re responding. They understand this is Team 133. Boy you’ve got what you all said all along: the bar at Michigan is as high as it can ever be, and that’s what it’s supposed to be and you have a lot of work to get up to that bar. I see that when I’m down there every once in a while. I see them working to do that.”
You aren’t where you need to be with numbers on O-line and D-line. How do you deal with that?
“That’s the head coach’s job. I don’t get into that very much. We have to deal with what we have. That’s one thing you find out about college: you can’t go trade one guy for two other guys somewhere. Whatever we have right now, we’ve got to put those guys as if we’re playing them tomorrow, put them in the best position and see if you can’t get them to the level that we want to get them at. I think that’s what we’re doing with some of our guys. Who would be the best at this position and let’s put them there. You don’t ever want to go into a season and say we have a really good freshman coming in, because freshmen are still freshmen, especially in this program. What you have in that room right now, that’s who you better plan on playing with. Anybody that steps it up is a bonus. We’ll always play the best players, so if a guy coming in from a high school that we just signed is the best player, then he’ll be the best player, but he’s got to earn that.”
Can you talk about the decision to move Craig Roh?
“We did a lot of thinking about that, and Jibreel is the same thing. I want to always have a very very fast, disruptive defense. That’s what you always need to have, especially up front. Craig Roh has played some very very good football here. Craig Roh will be a better football player moving into a 5-technique than he would be out on the edge where there’s a lot of open spaces. Jibreel Black the same thing. IF a guy can get big and strong, which I believe they can, and talking to Aaron I believe that can happen, now you become faster when you move an edge player inside. Now there’s competition with Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark at the outside position. You want to be able to put your people in the best position but have competition when you’re doing it, and I think that’s what’s happened so far.”
When did you start making those decisions?
“Right after the season was over with. Again, when the season is over, what you do is say, ‘Okay, now let’s look at next year, how can we be as good as we can be? What’s the best way for this defense to be as good as we can be?’ and again, taking what you have in that room. That’s what we did. We felt that that was the best to get the best players on the field at one time.”
Were those decisions based on what you saw throughout last season?
“Yeah, as a coach, what you do is when you’re watching a player and you’re evaluating him and you see him make a play and you might say, ‘Boy, that was hard for him, but he made a good play.’ He may not have had to work quite as hard had he been at this position, so in the back of your mind you’re saying he’s still the best you have for that time, but now when we get an opportunity maybe we’ll move him. Maybe we’ll see if we can’t get him in a position where it’s not quite as hard for him to do what he just did.”
How much do they have to learn with those new positions?
“The one thing that I’ve been happy with was last year was very difficult. When I look back and think in terms of our players, the first time we put in the defenses they looked at me like I was trying to teach them German or something. They just go, ‘What are you doing?’ I remember the first practices we had a ready list that I wanted to get taught, and I think again in the next practice I said, ‘Cut that down in half and we’re going to go backwards and do this.’ This year, in putting in what we want to work on this spring, the players just look at you and go, ‘Got it. I understand that. This is what we have done.’
The terminology is there. They don’t have to worry about who is Curt Mallory and who is Jerry Montgomery. These guys have just went through the war with them. They say this is what you’re supposed to do. If Mark Smith says this is what you’re supposed to do, [they say] ‘Okay, gotcha.’ The learning curve and believing in what is taught and them knowing that this is the kind of defense we’re going to play and this is what is expected, all those are kind of gone. I know they hear it all the time from us. Once they know that defense, then they can understand why they should do little subtleties to allow them to play better. Instead of just saying, 'On this defense I line up as a 3-technique. Well why do you want me to tighten down?’ Because something’s coming from the outside. ‘Oh I got it now.’ All those kind of things in a very short time, in two days that we’ve had them, I’ve been like that.
"This group of guys, I don’t know how good they’re going to be. I know how good I expect them to be -- one thing I’ve liked about them so far is they’re very willing to do what we ask them to do. They’ve been very coachable. Believe me, we could have 20 hours to meet with them and it wouldn’t be enough. But the next day they don’t seem to make the same mistakes or they understand what we just said to them. I’m excited about that. That means they’re really into it.”
How critical is the next month for Will Campbell?
“It’s critical for every guy on our defense. Will Campbell is a member of that defnese. I don’t look at Will Campbell and say, boy this is really critical for you. It’s really critical for Jibreel Black, and it’s really critical for Craig Roh, and it’s really critical for Kenny Demens. Every day he either gets better or worse. You might have heard that as a saying, but that’s the way it is here. So after a practice, we want to say, you didn’t get better, so you got worse. Or you got better, that’s a great sign. I don’t worry about the future of a guy. The future is being a Michigan football player and playing as good as you can play. After that, what he does will take care of his future.”
What specifically do you need to see from him this spring?
“Consistency. We need to see him play in and play out playing at a high level. If he’s had one good play, he’s got to put two together, and then he’s got to put three together. That’s it in a nutshell. He has shown that he has what you’re looking for for a play here, a play there -- now we have to do it consistently, and that’s everybody.”
Have you had guys in the past for whom the lights have gone on late in their careers?
“Oh no question. No question. That’s probably happened more than not that all of a sudden they become -- and here especially. Here at Michigan and maybe more than any place because as a senior you’re expected that. It’s so much in them that when you’re a senior that is your job. That is what you better do. Don’t come out as a senior and not improve. Don’t do that. That’s not accepted here.”
Who do you see as the leaders on this defense so far?
“It’s been too early. It’s been too early. I don’t want to say based on a guy running the drills we did in the winter conditioning, because we’ve all had guys who are great at yelling at winter condition and then when the pads come on -- until we see the pads come on and I see them hitting and executing when they’re beat up a little bit, we’ll know at the end of the spring. Even then, I’m not going to be able to say this guy is our leader because we won’t find out who our leader is until the game when it’s really down, until you’re behind. Who’s going to step up now? That’s when we’ll know, but I can’t tell you right now.”
Is it fair to see that Jordan Kovacs is in a position to lead this year?
“Kovacs was the leader last year, so we’ll find out this year. Nothing in this program is entitled. Nothing. I love him. Jordan Kovacs, I love him. Every day Jordan Kovacs has got to get better. Every day he’s got to go out there and see if he can’t become a better safety than he was last year.”
The secondary played well for most of the year but struggled in the last two games. Have you been able to identify what went wrong there?
“The one great thing for us as coaches that we’ve able to do in the offseason was we really got a chance to evaluate our program. These new coaches and these guys all had to put in an all-new defense -- everything was new to a lot of them, too. Now after watching it throughout the year, they’d come up with suggestions, and they’d say now, what if we did this, what if we did that? Like I told them, this is their defense now. This is the Michigan defense, so this is everybody’s defense now. I think we as coaches all understand the little things that will help rather than just saying this is cover 2 and in cover 2 you do this, for example. I feel like our kids have learned faster already too because of that. A lot of it’s the way you teach them. I think our guys, our coaches have done a great job of studying that. We’ve got to improve -- if you said that the secondary or the defensive line or linebackers were good, I wouldn’t say that. I’d say we did some things good, but it’s the same for us as coaches and as our program, you have to do it every play. Like you said in the Ohio State game, you can’t have that. You know my feeling on big plays: one of them makes you want to get sick to your stomach. We had too many of them at the end of the year, which means we have to go back and see why and get that all corrected.”
What specifically do you need to do better in order to eliminate those big plays?
“I think it’s technique. I think it’s just being better at your technique, being more focused. A lot of times big plays come from busted assignments, then that means we better make sure if a guy was confused on that, then let’s get it corrected. All those are the kind of things you see happening in the second year, where we’re all together on the same page. The guy out there playing, the coach, and myself. That’s my job.”
What are you looking at from Thomas Gordon?
“I’m looking for him to play a lot faster. I’ve told him that straight out. I love Thomas Gordon. He’s a great young man that has ability, but he must play faster. He must play more reckless. I think sometimes guys worry about are they fast enough, can I do this? Well yeah, you have to be able to do it. If you’re going to be out there, you have to be able to do it. He knows it. We’ll see during the spring if he does play faster.”
What do you mean by ‘more reckless’?
“Take a shot. That goes with what I mentioned about knowing the scheme. I think sometimes when you’re a safety coming down like he does, you kind of hesitate because you don’t want [the other guy] to run by you. But there’s sometimes you can go hit that because you’ve got a corner and another safety playing behind you, so if you miss, somebody else will make that play. I think after yesterday’s practice, maybe he’s understanding that a little bit, maybe he’s saying, ‘I get it, I get it.’ Plus give yourself a little credit. You can run pretty well. Don’t think that everybody’s going to outrun you. I think that’s knowing yourself, knowing the scheme, and that’ll allow you to play faster.”
What have you seen from Jarrod Wilson?
“He’s young. I’ve seen that he’s a guy that’s got his books in his hand, and he just came from a class that he’s never seen before, and he saw some pretty girls probably, I hope. I do tell you this, I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad all those freshmen are here. I wish we could have our entire signee class come early. I can’t evaluate him yet. I can’t evaluate any of the freshmen yet, because they’ve had no pads. But I do like their attitudes. I’ll tell you that.”
Considering how much size you lost up front from last year’s team, how are you going to approach things differently? How much bigger can Craig Roh and Jibreel Black get by next season?
“First I thought you were talking about me losing weight. I thought, well I don’t think I’ve lost that much weight. I’ve been trying hard, though.
"Craig Roh and Jibreel Black are working really really hard at gaining weight and getting stronger. What’ll happen is if you don’t have Big Will and you don’t have Mike Martin and things like that, then the guys that fill in for them, number one have to play with great technique because you don’t have that buffer. And the other thing you might have to do is move them a little bit. If they are guys that aren’t as big, but they happen to have pretty good movement -- again, remember, you’ve got Jibreel and Craig Roh who were the outside guys that had to be fast. Now we’ve moved them in because maybe we thought that they could help, maybe we might want to move them a little bit, too. I think there’s thing that we can do, which we will do, to allow our players to play as well as they can play.”
Does it put an emphasis on Will, since he’s the biggest guy in the middle?
“Well there’s no added emphasis on him. My philosophy has always been you’re only as good as you are down the middle. You can’t have a great defense unless it starts at the nose, then it goes to the backers, then it goes to the safety. Any great defense I’ve ever seen is strong right down the middle. It obviously starts with the nose.”
How much is familiarity with the system going to help your linebackers?
“I think it’s going to make a lot of difference. Again, we made no bones about it: I think we have to improve at that position. One of the things we’ve worked very very hard at is our underneath coverage. I think that’s something we saw when we watched the tape, that we have to get better at that, we’ve got to get more eyes on the football. If you’re not the fastest player, then you better see that quarterback to gain a step. If you don’t, then you’re just going to get torn apart as far as not having enough speed. That’s been a big emphasis for us. Our underneath coverage is something that we’re going to work very very hard on.”
You mentioned Jarrod Wilson. How are Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden doing?
“No pads. I love them, but I haven’t seen them. This isn’t cross country. They can come out there and they can run like crazy. I love those kids, I’m just going to tell you I’m so happy they’re here, but they can be the best runners in the world, but if they won’t hit anybody, I won’t like them as much. We’ll wait and see when the pads come on.”
3/16/2012 – Michigan 60, OHIO(!!!) 65 – 24-10, 13-5 Big Ten, end of season
I'm about to paint with the kind of broad brush that had a couple people call me kinda racist after I asserted that Illinois DT Corey Liuget and I probably didn't have a lot of common life experiences, but here goes anyway.
A guy on the internet asserted that there seemed to be a big gap between serious Michigan hockey fans and the rest of the Michigan fanbase in their reactions to Michigan's frustrating loss to OHIO(!!!) on Friday, and man do I see that. I did the usual kick-the-cat, drink-the-whiskey thing in the immediate aftermath, but then it was just… fine. It sucks for the guys, especially Zack and Stu, but they don't put up banners for getting to the Sweet 16. They do for winning the league, and Michigan did that.
The disappointment from the tournament is real, and I feel what Dylan evidently did after taking that punch in person…
In the present, the retrospection and drooling about the future can wait. This one hurts and there’s no sugarcoating it.
…it's just not viscerally there for me. The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better.
So, yeah, it's a downer. But if you've been trained in the fu of an April gut punch as well as Michigan hockey fans have, it ranks below… almost everything. Certainly the Nickelback goals and the Air Force horror and the black, burnt grass of an OT loss in the championship game. The hockey team is rarely facing a wall of doom in the bracket that promises to end things well short of the ultimate goal.
The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.
As for the game itself, Michigan was never a team that could go into an opening-round game with the outright expectation of victory. Kenpom had 'em by five and then the Bobcats and Michigan combined to do this:
The statistical outliers are what truly decide any game. DJ Cooper, a 31% three point shooter, hitting three-of-six NBA range triples. Or TJ Hall, a 27% three point shooter, knocking down a critical second half three, his only shot of the game. Add in Michigan, the ninth best two point shooting team in the country, missing nearly a dozen layups and Ohio, a 68% free throw shooting team, hitting 15-of-17 freebies.
Don't forget Ivo Baltic canning two or three fadeaway 15-footers with Novak's hand in his face. Yeesh. There is your ten-point swing.
There are teams featuring very long forwards and centers who can rely on their arms to dissuade opponents from that ability, teams that get second chances on a ton of missed shots, teams that are just so much of one thing or the other that an OHIO(!!!) can't hang with them unless the probabilities swing two or three standard deviations against them. Michigan was never that team.
They were the best mid-major in the country, per Mark Titus, and when the other team was chuckin' it real good there was always the chance this happened. It did, and if we're executing Real Talk neither Michigan getting hammered by OSU in the Big Ten tourney nor the early NCAA exit was unpredictable given the nature of the season. Evan Smotrycz was the second-most-credible post player on the team for the entire Big Ten season. Tim Hardaway Jr. took more threes than anyone else on the team by a good margin and hit 28% of them. I mean, come on.
I tried to warn us. We didn't listen!
None of that changes the narratives of the seniors or the trajectory of the program. Michigan just graduated two universally-beloved program builders and going-pro-in-something-other-than-sports icons who will get a banner sometime next fall. They welcome three top recruits and get a couple of guys off redshirts; collectively they should transform the program from scrappy overachieving underdogs to a full-on Big Ten power program.
After the cat was kicked and the whiskey consumed, it's hard to find something to brood on. If Beilein wasn't about to give his team an extreme talent makeover, we could complain about an artificially low ceiling. If Michigan hadn't broken its Big Ten title drought we could complain about our beloved program builders leaving without anything to mark their passage.
Neither of these things are true, so it seems the thing to do is salute the departed and look to the very near future. Godspeed, men taken from Valpo and Harvard. The last word goes to Novak:
"…coming in, personally, I was the fat kid from Indiana.
"And (we were) able to make three NCAA Tournaments, win the Big Ten in a year when it was the best conference in the country and win a lot of games. You have to keep things in perspective."
The downer bit. I did find it very frustrating that Michigan never switched to a zone for extended periods of time. Michigan's initial forays into zone did give up open looks from three, but given Michigan's crap defense all night it seemed like it couldn't be worse than the man to man. Whereas most of Michigan's shortcomings seemed to be necessary adaptations to their limitations, the man-to-man insistence was one of those things that makes you wonder long-term.
Only slightly, though. Beilein has dumped his 1-3-1 already and adopted a bunch of ball screen sets. He's not exactly a stick in the mud. It was just a little surprising to see Michigan get cut up like that without a response.
It is possible that the coaches thought they were fine if they would just rotate better. Novak got caught in the paint time and again when he was one pass from the ballhandler and seemed to be a major reason OHIO(!!!) found itself with open looks from three.
Other downer. Michigan was down three late for about three straight possessions and the offensive devolved into… actually, this may be my memory playing tricks on me. The late-clock offense did feature Burke twice pulling up from three when a big switched onto him, but it also got Novak a corner three and Smotrycz yet another layup Michigan somehow did not convert:
Burke finished the year shooting 35% from three and those were pretty easy to get. That might be the play given that you're down three.
Final numbers. A shooting profile of Michigan's returning contributors:
- Burke: 75% from the line, 49% from 2, 35% from three.
- Hardaway: 72%, 54%, 28%
- Smotrycz: 78%, 53%, 44%
- Morgan: 51%, 62%, N/A
Novak was the most efficient guy on the team, hitting 86/56/41 and having the lowest turnover rate but he and Douglass were also in the "limited roles" category on Kenpom. Michigan isn't replacing guys who did the heavy lifting on offense. To maintain their offensive efficiency they'll only have to get few extra shots generated by Burke, Stauskas, Hardaway, et al.
Returns. Speaking of "returning contributors," Burke and Hardaway said they'd be back in the aftermath:
"No, I'm coming back next year," the [Hardaway] said after Michigan's 65-60 NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Ohio on Friday. "I'm coming back."
Burke, who earned the co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year award this season and finished the year as the team's leading scorer, was right in step with his teammate.
"I'm definitely coming back," he said. "I'm just going to learn from this loss and get ready for next season."
Those are emotional postgame sentiments that may or may not hold up over time. Still, Hardaway is not much of a threat to leave after struggling with his shot most of the season and Burke probably has to be an All-American sort to get a lock first-round grade at his height. It doesn't seem likely either will change his mind, especially with the lockout backlog clearing up.
IT'S NOT MAGIC IT'S CHANCE. Arglebargle argle:
Late-game magic escapes when it matters most
Glarb glarb glarb.
Are we really talking about this? Yeah, Smotrycz turned the ball over when Michigan put him in a crappy situation with seven seconds left. He'd also put up 15 points on seven shots before that. We really need Daily article and message board threads defending the kid because e-loons are on his jock? Sometimes I hate people. Sometimes is almost all the time.
Butthurt. One thing this has really driven home is how amazingly butthurt OSU fans are about Brady Hoke calling them Ohio. It drives them nuts. Their reaction to this whole upset was as if it was some kind of vindication.
And yet they use "TSUN" constantly without recognizing the irony. Even operating under the assumption that many OSU fans are only technically human, that's surprisingly dumb.
Suddenly next year
Stauskas, Robinson III, McGary
As this season wraps up, eyes turn towards next year. Michigan loses Stu Douglass and Zack Novak; they bring in freshmen Mitch McGary, Nick Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III. They also get bigs Max Bielfeldt and Jon Horford off of redshirts.
Though Novak was regarded as more integral to the team his absence is going to be easier to cope with. His minutes at the 3 and 4 will be fiercely contested by four or five players. Douglass's role as the go-to perimeter defender and secondary ballhandler… um. Michigan's best bets are Stauskas's nasty crossover immediately translating to the college level or a leap forward from Carlton Brundidge. Both are possible. Neither seems especially likely. If Michigan ends up with an unexpected scholarship dollars to donuts they scour for a backup at the one, whether it's the Italian kid with the 'fro or a grad-year transfer. If it's a grad-year guy, Beilein might sidle up to Max "My Name Is On Several Buildings At Illinois" Bielfeldt and delicately broach the idea he could pay tuition next year.
If that doesn't happen, one man's minute breakdown next year:
- Point guard: Burke 35, Brundidge 5.
- Shooting guard: Stauskas 25, Vogrich 15
- Small forward: Hardaway 30, GRIII 10
- Power forward: Smotrycz 20, GRIII 15, Bielfeldt 5
- Center: McGary 15, Morgan 15, Horford 10
Center is up in the air. McGary could come in and establish himself as a 30 minute guy, in which case I'd bet that sucks up most of Horford's minutes. Christian and McLimans probably won't see the light of day.
That's an 8-9 man rotation with spot minutes from a couple other guys—Michigan's bench minutes should reach the middle of the pack.
Michigan is suddenly huge. If Michigan actually sees the playing-time breakdown above, Michigan's average minute will go to a guy just under 6'6". (Assumptions: Stauskas and GRIII are listed at 6'6", McGary 6'10".) That's a five and a half-inch(!) difference from this year's roster, and that could be a conservative estimate. McGary and Smotrycz may see more time than estimated but probably not less; rosters do things like list Douglass at 6'3" and Burke at 6'1". With that conversion rate, guesses at 6'10" for McGary and 6'6" for GRIII may be an inch or so short.
That will take Michigan's effective height from –1.1 inches, good for a mid-major-ish 250th, to +4.4, which should be top ten nationally. That is whiplash-inducing. It's also pretty good company. Three of the four one seeds (all but MSU) are in the top 12 along with a two (Duke), a couple of threes (Baylor, FSU) and a four (Indiana). And… uh… Illinois.
Even if it's not a guarantee, height is strongly correlated with both offensive and defensive efficiency. This year's Michigan was about the third-best team you could put together with two guys over 6'5". That ceiling—one so harshly experienced by fellow first round upset victim Missouri—is about to lift.
Michigan's suddenly deep at places that aren't point guard. Assuming one of Robinson or Hardaway can handle some minutes at the two, they'll have two reasonable bench options for every spot on the floor except point guard. When Hardaway is broken, Michigan can put him on the bench. When he's hot they can ride him. They can effectively threaten playing time in a way that they could not last year.
Someone's going to lose out at center. The above minute breakdown at the 5 may be realistic over the course of the season, but when it comes down to crunch time they'll probably go with two guys unless severe foul trouble intervenes. That guess seems like the weakest above.
Can anyone spot Burke? Everyone on the roster has a reasonable backup or two except Burke, whose only support is a seldom-used guy who came in as a shooting guard who can't really shoot. It was a very bad sign for Brundidge when Eso Akunne was drafted to take over point guard opportunities early this year.
I know there's a lot of time for the guy to develop but I'm not seeing it. Maybe there's a system in which a 6-foot guy who could get to the basket in high school but doesn't seem to have the handle to do it in college could be effective, but it's not this one. Add in a scary asthma incident that kept him out of a few practices and prevented him from traveling to Michigan State and his prospects of serious playing time get slimmer still.
Should we play a ton more zone? Length is commonly associated with being good at playing zone. Michigan will have lots of it next year.
Also, a quick survey of the backcourt options reveals nothing even resembling a shut-down on-ball defender unless we want to hand that job to Burke. Since Burke is going to be heavily relied on to run the offense, I'd rather not do that. Other options are Stauskas, Vogrich, and Hardaway. None of them figure to be even above-average, let alone shut-down. While Michigan figures to have a lot more shotblocking next year to cover up for that deficiency, consistently allowing penetration is a recipe for open shots and bad defense.
So… zone, whether it's a 2-3 or a resurgence of the 1-3-1, seems like something Michigan might look at. The argument against it is that you should focus on your existing system and get better at it; the football team has amply demonstrated that changing your D every year is not a recipie for great success.
Can Bielfeldt play? The plan at the beginning of the year was to redshirt and Michigan stuck with that even when Horford went down. This would be ominous except Bielfeldt had some tendinitis issues that sounded relatively severe. Also, big men develop slowly and unpredictably and getting a fifth year out of them is often a much better idea than flinging spare minutes at them when they're an overwhelmed freshman.
Bielfeldt is a wide guy with a good jumper who Beilein says is a "tremendous" rebounder and good in short spaces. This is him:
“Long and bouncy, Max is not,’’ Mathews said. “But in the right program, he could be ultra productive. Because good big men are hard to come by.
“He’s a throwback. He’s gonna bang. He’s gonna be physical. He’s gonna draw contact. He’s gonna set a hard pick. He’s gonna pop and hit an open jumper. He’s gonna be able to guard their 4, their big who is posting up back to the basket. He can get in there and guard that guy. Sometimes, 6-10, long and bouncy doesn’t guard those big, husky bodies inside.
“But Max can do that.’’
I'm not exactly sure where he fits. He's probably not big enough to play as a 5 in college and if he doesn't have a three-pointer it's going to be tough for him to contribute enough on offense to supplant Smotrycz or Robinson.
Hardaway: the usual? Please bounce back please bounce back please bounce back.
Is Nick Stauskas finally the ludicrous 45% three point shooter Beilein has been craving forever? Would it be nice, yes? I speak like Russian contemplating this. Da.
Almost 10 minutes after their final games in a Michigan basketball uniform, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass emerged from the Wolverine locker room one last time — and neither one of them quite knew what to do.
Douglass, eyes puffy and red from the tears that welled inside them moments earlier, and Novak, wearing an emblematic bruise on his cheek and bump across the bridge of his nose, walked a lonely hallway inside the bowels of Bridgestone Arena to meet with the media one final time.
"I don't know," Douglass said in a somber tone. "I just didn't think this would happen today."
With that, Novak and Douglass were gone.
It was the end of an era of low expectations for the Wolverines. And that's the kind of ending so many Michigan fans have been anxiously waiting for, isn't it?
Five years after John Beilein arrived to begin another tedious rebuilding effort in Ann Arbor, it's safe to say, as departing senior Zack Novak did following Friday's loss, "The foundation is set in place."
From the new-and-improved basketball facilities on campus to the stable coaching situation to a more-energized fan base, that's hard to argue now, even in a cramped postgame locker room choked with disappointment.
Michigan gets two more commits over the past week, so the Big Ten recruiting rankings are front-paged. Also making a big move is Penn State, which grabbed a pair of commits of their own. Changes since last rankings:
3-9-12: Penn State picks up Adam Breneman.
3-10-12: Michigan picks up Gareon Conley.
3-13-12: Michigan State picks up Caleb Benenoch.
3-14-12: Notre Dame picks up James Onwualu.
3-15-12: Illinois picks up Jesse Chadwell.
3-17-12: Michigan picks up DeVeon Smith. Penn State picks up Brendan Mahon.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the three recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as one-star players. This may be a bit unfair this early in the process, considering there are many unevaluated recruits out there at this stage, but that's life.
On to the full data, after the jump.
Photo via cu.tribtoday.com
As reported last night by Sam Webb, Warren (OH) Howland RB DeVeon Smith pledged to become the 16th member of Michigan's class of 2013. Smith is the second running back in the class, joining Detroit Catholic Central's Wyatt Shallman, and he's the 14th recruit among the Wolverine commits to garner a four-star rating from at least one recruiting service.
Smith has multiple Big Ten ties, as both his older brothers (Lance at Wisconsin, Maurice at Michigan State) played for schools in the conference before later transferring. Despite growing up deep in Buckeye country and having brothers play for two conference foes, DeVeon grew up a Michigan fan.
4*, #7 RB,
|3*, 89, #31 RB|
Early on in the process, there's quite a disparity in the rankings on Smith. Scout—the most recent service to update their rankings—is by far the most bullish, putting Smith up at #58 overall and the seventh running back in the class. ESPN has him on their top 150 watch list, but on the other end of the scale, 247Sports has him as a middling three-star and Rivals has yet to rank him. Expect this to change in the future; Smith has earned rave reviews from Midwest scouts covering Ohio.
All four sites list Smith at 5'11", and only Rivals (195) doesn't list him at 210 pounds. As a high school junior, he already has the size to see the field at the collegiate level.
"He's a powerful kid with a low center of gravity and he runs hard and with attitude. He can run between the tackles and he doesn't waste a lot of time getting north and south. He's a guy that you can feed the ball to throughout a game. His balance and ability to break arm tackles really stands out. He's not a burner, but I think his speed is better than advertised. He's a classic I-formation, pro-style tailback."
As you'll see on his film, Smith may not have track-star speed, but he has little issue tearing through tackles at the high school level. While that speed comes into question, Dave Berk says he's a home run threat in the writeup for Scout's top 50 players in Ohio, where Smith ranks #3 ($):
Two-way player who projects as one of the top running backs in the Midwest. Has good size at 5-foot-11, 210-pounds showing speed, power and balance. Capable of taking each carry to the house for a score or making the big defensive stop.
Size, balance, and power appear to be the main strengths in Smith's game, and he has enough speed to be dangerous when he breaks into the open field. This sentiment is echoed by Mark Porter as Bucknuts ranked Smith as the #5 2013 prospect in Ohio ($):
“He is a well built back. He can run well between the tackles. He can take a lot of punishment. He would be your traditional Big Ten back who can play in bad weather and grind out yardage. He would be a good fit in Ohio State’s new offense. As a junior, he was much quicker than he showed the year before. He has some spring to his step. He is very powerful and thickly built.”
Before Smith's junior season, Duane Long had some concerns about Smith's size and speed, but loved his natural ability as a runner ($):
I would argue Smith is the most naturally instinctive runner in the class. Very quick feet. Good balance and runs with good power. I think Smith stands a good chance of moving up this list because my reservations are about his body and speed. He is a very muscular kid at a very young age. I am concerned he will be a ‘tweener. The older he gets without growing into a ‘tweener the better his chances of moving up. His speed is a question. I think speed is the most overrated thing with backs but they have to be fast enough. We will see if Smith is.
Long had Smith listed at 6'0", 210, so I think he was worried Smith would grow into linebacker range. That didn't happen, so the only concern moving forwards is top-end speed. Given the rest of the package that Smith provides, plus the growing evidence that sprinter's speed isn't necessary to excel at running back—see: Mike Hart, among others—he still has the skill-set to be an excellent Big Ten back.
Smith's offer sheet wasn't especially long, but he has one that should stand out: Ohio State. Along with the Buckeyes and Wolverines, Smith had offers from Bowling Green, Indiana, Purdue, and West Virginia.
As a junior, Smith was second-team All-Ohio in Division II after amassing 2,150 yards and 25 TDs on 189 carries. That followed up an 1,800-yard sophomore season and a freshman year spent racking up just under 1,000 all-purpose yards at the varsity level.
FAKE 40 TIME
Bucknuts lists a 4.5-second 40 time for Smith, which I'll give three FAKEs out of five considering the concerns about his speed.
Short junior highlight reel:
And film from a pair of Warren Howland games last season:
Smith certainly passes the eyeball test when it comes to a running back; his build and strength for a junior is impressive.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Smith is going to walk on campus in 2013 and have a chance to play. If his Scout ranking is ultimately the one that holds up, he'll be the highest-rated back on the roster barring a later commitment by Ty Isaac, and only Fitzgerald Toussaint (a senior in '13) and Thomas Rawls (a three-star in '11) really project as every-down backs in the classes in front of him. It wouldn't surprise to see Smith earn the backup role as a freshman before taking over full-time for Toussaint in 2014. With the Wolverines not picking up a true star at running back in the last couple classes, Smith will get every opportunity to earn time and excel in Michigan's evolving offense.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ah, I was kinda dreading this section. First of all, Michigan now has 16 commits in a class that should get to 23 or 24. With the remaining spots, the Wolverines need two more receivers, a nose tackle, a strongside DE, and a linebacker (probably Ben Gedeon). That takes Michigan to 21, and a potential third tight end would move that number to 22. This leaves one or two spots for the best players available. LB E.J. Levenberry has a spot waiting for him. S Su'a Cravens likely would as well.
The big question, however, is what this means for Ty Isaac. I've been told Michigan will take just two tailbacks in the class—Wyatt Shallman very much included—but we'll see if that changes for a five-star like Isaac. Despite the rumors, it wouldn't appear that a crowded backfield would be an issue for Isaac:
“Competition makes you better. If you don’t have someone behind you pushing you to be better, you might get sloppy. If I’m the only back in the class, yeah that’s cool with me… but if I’m not, it’s not a turnoff and I’m not scared of it. I would expect people to be disappointed in me if I was talking like that. As a coach if I heard somebody say that, I’d understand. But at the same time, to me that sounds like you’re scared of competition.”
Deveon Smith on #Michigan possibly recruiting another RB after his commit: "They didn't talk about that at all.It doesn't even matter."
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 18, 2012
We'll have to see how it plays out. Regardless, Michigan has a pair of four-star backs in the class who bring the MAN in MANBALL.
Selection show starts off with UMD's OT winner last year and WMU's win yesterday. Good omen! They didn't screw us:
2. Ferris State
Michigan gets a technically tougher second round matchup against #6 Ferris State, but it's a team they swept earlier in the year and is not hypothetically Minnesota on its home ice. That guarantees nothing (I mean, obviously), but I'd rather play in an empty, lonely dungeon than against Minnesota at the X.
Bonus item: Michigan avoids red-hot BC and North Dakota until a hypothetical final and will probably get either Union or a CCHA team in a hypothetical national semi.
UPDATE: The other regionals:
4. Air Force
1. North Dakota
4. Western Michigan
Somewhere Else In The East I Forget
4. Michigan State
If Michigan gets out of their regional they'll play the winner of the Union regional in the semi.
…comes right at the end. The games are played and the PWR is set. Details are later. Now is now. This is what I think the committee will do:
3. BU (or Maine)
Yes. I'm guessing they bone us. MFan In Ohio disagrees. QUIEN ES MAS MACHO?! We'll find out tomorrow. My logic after the dashy bits.
The bracket using pure 1 to 16 sets up poorly for Michigan. This is it:
- 1. BC
- 8. Minnesota
- 2. Michigan
- 7. Duluth
- 3. Union
- 6. Ferris State
- 4. North Dakota
- 5. Miami
- They have to fiddle with the fours so that the Michigan/MSU matchup does not happen. It doesn't really matter how they slide the teams around, Michigan gets Cornell.
- Then the committee has a problem: they are sending the overall #1 seed to Minneapolis to face a potential second-round matchup with Minnesota. That will not happen. They will protect the #1 overall and they don't want to murder attendance in the East dead. So how do they deal with this?
- Option A: Flip either the 8-9 matchups or just Minnesota and Duluth. Send either both Boston schools to Worchester or Maine and BC. Attendance: good. Regionals 3 and 4: unaffected, integrilicious.
- Option B: Go by the super-strict selection process that locks Michigan into Green Bay, the closest regional, and ends up putting the #8 team in with #4 North Dakota in Minneapolis, both eviscerating your bracket integrity and, more importantly, not screwing Michigan. This is hypothetically the way it should work, but more often than not the committee just does what it wants. It's their hot body.
- If the committee does take this route, Michigan ends up in Green Bay. They still get Cornell in round one; round two is the winner of Ferris State/Denver. This alternative is hypothetically better for attendance since the other East regional isn't three Western teams and Union, but since none of those teams is within 500 miles of Green Bay it just doesn't matter.
BONUS THIS-MIGHT-BE-A-YEAR-THE-COMMITTEE-LOSES-ITS-MIND ALTERNATIVE: There is the slight possibility that the committee flips Air Force into Michigan's bracket figuring that while a flight is a flight, a flight for Air Force is cheaper to Minneapolis and Cornell can probably drive to Worchester. I think they got over their cost-cutting insanity after that one year when they put all the West teams in the West and all the East teams in the East… but you never know.
I seriously doubt this is how it goes down, FWIW.