Gave up trying to find shapes that look like states after MI. Click embiggerates.
Cartography week. Unless you're Ricky Stanzi, in which case this is every day, the 4th of July was for honoring America. Since this is a thing named for a cartographer, what better way than mapmaking. Randall Monroe (of xkcd) chose to take the Michigan=mitten thing and come up with objects for the other 49 that's worth a 'brief' look just to see what Ohio is and shall hereafter be referred to as for all time. Maize.Blue Wanger decided to pen a 7,700-word thesis about the best Michigan football players from each state. My map above used his work for most things except I used Spencer Brinton for Utah, split Michigan between his choice (Braylon) and mine (Harry Newman, but coulda been Oosterbaan), counted the little New England states as one Jamie Morris, and put a Block M over the ones I didn't care to do Google image searches for since I almost didn't return from my last quest for a representative photo of Brandon Williams. Anyhoo, for such a Herculean effort in service to his country, MBW is awarded Diarist of the Week.
The author also discovered the mess that is Bentley's enter-the-data-then-forget-about-it player database, which is more comprehensive than any other team's database in the country yet manages to do horrible things to Opong-Owusus ("F13" is not a football position!) In spite of such hazards, justingoblue followed MBW into the archives to chart up which states/regions have been dutifully paying their tributes of football talent.
Here's the context then. At the HTTV release after-party we had a long discussion about the '99 Penn State team, to the point that Brian was surprised everybody remember Penn State so damn well. For my part I learned everything I could about them when they joined the Big Ten. It all said they were a true national power, and nothing they did in the interim—like going undefeated in '94—suggested otherwise. The conference might have tried to shoehorn them in to a rivalry with MSU because they both got Morrill Act grants when the SEC seceded from the union, but it was the Michigan games they got up for, and vice versa.
The 1997-'99 series was among best of those. They'd won the last three. Judgment Day marked the point when the national championship run became real. The Sunday morning after—still fresh acceptance packet folded up in my cargo pocket—the glow of that win was still palpable in the chill air, cup-strewn lawns, and weary students stumbling home trying to decide if they'd really been partying at Bollinger's house. In '98 the student section was so loud it turned back multiple Lion goal-line and field goal attempts.
And 1999, when Florida State and its weak-ass ACC schedule was the runaway AP favorite, but No. 2 Penn State the best team in the country. The Nittany Lions had Courtney Brown and LaVarr Arrington, and strength everywhere else. Then they ran into Minnesota (at their Mason peak) and lost in one of those final play games any team can lose any time to a decent team. We laughed, but we knew our offensive line was too hobbled to give Brady time or Thomas lanes, and our cornerbacks were Future Stars of the SmurfFL, and Minnesota's upset was just luck.
Then that game, which you can re-live thanks to footage by Gordon (and photos via DeSimone) The score was close but true to the short-lived rivalry, Michigan beat the snot out of them. A-Train knocked out Arrington and bruised up Brown, and by the end we'd seen something nobody thought could happen that year: Penn State beaten and broken by a better team. The next week they limped through a loss at Michigan State that Spartans remember as the debut of T.J. Duckett, and everyone else remembers as the result of Michigan softening 'em up. Penn State ended with the most sour Alamo Bowl bid ever, Michigan took care of Joe Germaine to earn a trip to the Orange Bowl, MSU whined because they got only a Citrus invite despite winning the head-to-head, and Saban bailed for the Bayou because he realized no matter how many Plaxicos you rent this will always happen at Michigan State. That's the context by which I remember the '99 Penn State game. Also for Penn State it was the goodbye game for their longtime defensive coordinator, meaning when you re-watch there's a way different context. /Penn State memories week on MGoBlog.
Elsewhere in old video, watch the 2003 team trounce Houston.
Search: "Quarterback Depth."
Found" "Devin Gardner" autorun "peanut_butter_jelly_banana.exe"
Actually from this he seems to be the opposite of Tate. Tate would make bad decisions, then could get away with them thanks to his accuracy and moxie and winning smile (or not get away with them). Bellomy makes the right reads then throws a slightly bad, slightly fluttery ball that gets the job done and no more.
Speaking of 2008 I think that's when the Mathlete first introduced the famous (for an MGogiven definition of that) "Michigan Helmet" chart about proper 4th down etiquette based on down and distance. In 2010, with a top 5 offense and no kicking game, the "go" region essentially became anything after the 50-yard-line. This has now been updated for the 2011 offense, and comes with a Googledoc spreadsheet you can use to decide when to go and when to kick. I'm going to keep this handy during live blogs so I can sound smart.
Etc. World Cup 2014 favorites. U.S. Olympic Track and Field. Don't let the fact that the NCAA just instituted a playoff stop you from posting your idea for a D-IA playoff. And do not, under any circumstances, follow recruits on Twitter.
Best of the Board
THE FRESHMEN HAVE NUMBERS (SORTA): Okay, fine, Heiko can follow recruits on Twitter, but only because people have EA Sports dynasties starting this week and need to know which digit to put Wormley in, etc. I'll have a post up when the media guide is released with all of them, but for now Heiko managed to track down most of them from changed @names and twitpicks of lockers/gear.
PHOTO BATH! Brian last week put a link to the favorite football pics from 2011 thread in UV. If you missed it then, go back now because there are so many great images. Max followed up a day later with a favorite all-time photo thread. Leaders And Best added a Sports Illustrated Cover review in there which alone could have been its own diary. Can somebody who knows the history stuff explain:
PICKING YOUR POISON: Who would you like to see added to non-conference schedules of the future? This offseason thread generated a bounty of responses (note: playing Delaware won't make them stop wearing our uniforms), but little in the way of feasibility. We're really talking about three different tiers: Home-and-homes to replace the ND Series during that hiatus, one-offs with BCS schools we can convince to come to Ann Arbor, and then those filler games with MACrifices and I-AA opponents that won't make you gag when Michigan needs a quick pansy to round out the empty weeks.
Tier 1 should be someone everyone wants to watch on TV and would be worth visiting just to see their game day atmosphere and city: Auburn, Georgia, Bama, Tennessee, Texas, Cal (or Stanford though Palo Alto is pretty boring), Virginia, and Clemson. Ole Miss I'm told has an interesting game day, but busing Ann Arborites to Oxford necessarily brings up some nasty history. Tier 2 is pretty much any BCS opponent. The bottom of the Pac12 is nice however I'd love to see Vanderbilt again to pad our historical record versus the SEC, and I believe any Big XII team not named Texas or Oklahoma will take our calls right about now. Tier 3 I'd skip entirely except this is the place I can use to begin an annual pre-season exhibition against Slippery Rock. I personally don't mind playing directional schools because everyone has family there.
THE OPENING: THE THREAD: This thing had some 17,000 views. It's mostly pics from twitter feeds because people are…HEY I TOLD YOU… Related is a thread where everyone posted about that time they met a celebrity. Beat getting kissed on the cheek by the bride from Father of the Bride.
VALLEY OF THE LOST HELLO: ____ POSTS: Bronxblue was wondering what happens when Ace or his predecessors heads into the Super Secret MGoRecruiting Chamber to produce one of those "hey a guy committed!" posts, only to emerge and discover the kid in question chose unwisely. Answer: if the whole thing gets written for naught a respectable blog for the winning fanbase is offered the thing, which is then torn apart for the links and left to rot in the internetherworld. The rest of the closet of unpublished MGoContent is mostly junk nobody ever got around to throwing out. Sorry to burst anyone's bubbles.
Your Moment of Zen:
Party at Bollinger's! The Michigan Daily
Paterno, fridge, Paterno
This might be off-topic, I don't know, but the release of the Freeh Report on what happened at Penn State does seem like something that I would like to address, especially a day after a letter purportedly from Joe Paterno was released by his family. The passage that jumped out at me was this one:
For over 40 years young men have come to Penn State with the idea that they were going to do something different — they were coming to a place where they would be expected to compete at the highest levels of college football and challenged to get a degree. And they succeeded — during the last 45 years NO ONE has won more games while graduating more players. The men who made that commitment and who gave of themselves to help build the national reputation of what was once a regional school deserve better than to have their hard work and sacrifice dismissed as part of a “football factory,” all in the interests of expediency.
His name is Tony Hawks, and he's an English dude who got drunk one night, accepted a bar bet, and proceeded to hitchhike around the circumference of Ireland with a mini-fridge. He wrote a popular book detailing his experiences afterwards, which I read.
His story gets latched onto by a Dublin radio station, which plans a triumphal march to the city center upon Hawks's arrival. This ends up being a sad anti-climax consisting of three people and a confused bagpiper; Hawks goes to a hotel and watches an Irish political debate afterwards. The next day he gets lunch with the radio folk, and what happens when he exits the restaurant has been an oddly persistent thing in my memory:
As I walked out of that restaurant pulling my fridge behind me for the final time, everyone on Gerry's table began applauding politely. Astonishingly, some people on a few of the other tables started to join in. Others looked up to see what was going on, and when they saw me and a fridge, they too joined in, possibly thinking it was somehow expected of them. Soon everyone in the restaurant was applauding, with cheers, whistles, and laughter thrown in for good measure.
I felt great. The anti-climax of yesterday didn't matter anymore. I understood now. Yesterday had been phoney, this was real. Yesterday I had been saying 'Look at me." It hadn't been right and it hadn't really worked, and I should have known that …. Now it was working, and it was working because I was walking humbly out of a restaurant with no airs and graces, affectations or histrionics. The restaurant's diners picked up on this and were offering their spontaneous and unaffected appreciation of someone for whom they had a peculiar nagging respect.
Just lug the damn refrigerator. Stop telling everyone how great of a job you're doing of pulling the refrigerator. Maybe someone will notice, maybe not, but once you start talking about it yourself your self-regard starts chipping away at the core.
If Penn State had not been posited as a Grand Experiment, it's possible that one of the four adult-type substances who could have put Sandusky's second career to a stop a decade before it did would have had more regard for the possibility children would be raped* than for what people would think about them. It's too late for all of them, perpetrator and victims alike, now. But to me the lesson is to shut up about yourself and get on with it. It will help you not make terrible mistakes because you are trying to preserve what people think about you in the face of what you really are.
BONUS AMAZING IRONY SECTION: I've been reading various Penn State boards, which are now riven with debate over how much proofy proof there actually is at this juncture. Quite a lot of people have given up the ghost—a BWI poll about taking down the Paterno statue is running 80-20 in favor—but a few continue to soldier on. Here's an exchange from BSD that is, well…
Just finished the report top to bottom minus all the parts about the Clery act and university and state codes.
I think the 98 investigation heavily, heavily influenced future actions. I think that investigation established to everyone involved that Jerry was not a child molester but rather a man who had boundary issues, the police reports even backed that when they describe his behavior as not that of a predator. Every action they took after that appears to have been normal actions taken with a prestigious former employee, whether it was 2nd Mile support, access to facilities, emeritus status etc, they seemed to feel there was no reason Sandusky should be a liability.
I think that that investigation clouded their judgement of 2001. It seems that there was some telephone affect in place as well but the lack of reconciliation between Paterno/Mike and Schultz/Curley’s statements makes that cloudy. At this point Jerry had been established as a man with boundary issues, not molestation issues and I think in their minds when they heard of another shower incident, they just related it to the same level of importance they thought of the 1998 incident, not a serious one.
It’s called priming. Once we have a preconceived idea about something or someone in our head, it’s nearly impossible to get it out.
A good book that get into this and all sorts of other cool issues is Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide. Most of our decisions are not based on rationality or reasoning, but rather imbedded emotional responses. That can be both good and bad. In this situation, it was obviously bad.
…it's demanding some self-reflexiveness. Yes. Since I cannot shake 20% of the Penn State fanbase individually, screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT, MAN," I think I will go with "demanding some self-reflexiveness."
SIDE NOTE TO IRONY: One of the more useful ways to cleave the world into halves is to split people into a group A that is suspicious of their own brain and a group B that is not. I'm in the former group, thus all the numbers and systematization and so on. You could add a third group of people who are suspicious of other people's brains but not their own, but they seem like a subset of group B with particularly frustrating arguments. Apparently this is a post in which I dispense personal philosophy unrelated to its relevance.
FINAL PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT WITH BASICALLY NO RELEVANCE TO ANYTHING ON THIS BLOG: Port Salut is the most underrated cheese of all time.
ALSO: Boiled Sports takes this topic on as well, albeit with less references to underrated cheese.
The last piece of the 2013 puzzle.
Welcome to the debut of the MGoBlog recruiting mailbag, which will be a regular feature moving forward. The initial response to the mailbag was fantastic, so thanks to everyone who wrote in and apologies for not being able to answer every question here. For future mailbags, be sure to email me or send your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #mgomailbag.
Without further ado, on to your questions:
Do you see us having any significant holes left in the recruiting class of 2013? Who should fill them for us? — @craiglaluk
The one glaring need in the class is a top-flight wide receiver; while I like the size and upside of both Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York, Michigan still lacks a blue-chip talent who can contribute early, a necessity given the unproven nature of the current receivers on the roster. Obviously, Laquon Treadwell is the main target here and the Wolverines are the overwhelming favorite to land him, so it's highly unlikely this need goes unaddressed.
With USC's class, is our "best case scenario" a number 2 overall class ranking? — @kasualt
USC is putting together the most talented class in the country, without question; among their 14 commits are the Rivals #1 quarterback (Max Browne), #1 safety (Su'a Cravens), #1 guard (Khaliel Rodgers), #2 and #5 defensive ends (Kenny Bigelow and Eddie Vanderdoes, respectively), and #3 and #5 running backs (Ty Isaac and Justin Davis). Their class currently consists of three five-stars and 11 four-stars. I hate to say it, but Lane Kiffin is doing some serious work.
Where USC may come up short, however, is in sheer size of the class. Thanks to NCAA penalties, the Trojans can only take four more players in the class, and with Michigan poised for a class of 24 I'm guessing the Wolverines can still take the top spot if they land Treadwell and another four-star to finish the class. For pure star average, however, it's going to be very tough to top USC this year. Alabama and LSU should also be serious contenders for best class.
Hi Ace. 2013 is shaping up to be one of the most amazing recruiting crops in years. Priorities for 2014 class? — @craiglaluk
Matt Pargoff recently posted a complete depth chart by class for the class of 2014, which gives us a great starting point for this discussion. Before I dive into the needs, it's worth noting that the 2014 class will be expected to replace the production of graduating players like Courtney Avery and Jibreel Black, whom you may note just finished their sophomore seasons. Anything written here is subject to some serious change.
That said, there are several position groups that will need to be addressed in two years regardless of future attrition. First among them is quarterback; once Devin Gardner graduates, only Russell Bellomy and Shane Morris remain as scholarship QBs on the roster. Michigan is already taking a hard look at MI QB Chance Stewart and OH QB DeShone Kizer, though no offers have gone out at the position as of yet. While a top-flight guy probably isn't necessary—or realistic—given the presence of Morris, a player with starting potential is a definite must.
With Michigan all but assured to miss out on feature backs like Ty Isaac, Derrick Green, and Jordan Wilkins in the current class, running back will be a huge priority yet again. The Wolverines already have offers out to four of the top 2014 running backs in the country—Leonard Fournette, Jonathan Hilliman, Jalen Hurd, and Bo Scarbrough—and more are sure to follow.
Even if Treadwell comes on board, wide receiver will once again be a need. We should find out in 2014 if Al Borges plans to utilize any slot-demon types, as the only receivers on the roster will be Jerald Robinson, incoming freshmen Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, and the class of 2013 commits. There's not a true slot among those players, so unless Justice Hayes moves to receiver, that position will need to be filled by an incoming freshman or simply ignored entirely.
As always, depth on both lines is a priority, especially on defense. Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer both graduate after the 2014 season, leaving only Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton—two boom-or-bust prospects, in my opinion—at weakside DE. Strongside end won't be much deeper with Keith Heitzman, Chris Wormley, and Tom Strobel. Depending on the collegiate position of Maurice Hurst Jr., nose tackle could also become a glaring need.
Blake Countess, Delonte Hollowell, and Raymon Taylor will all be seniors in 2014, leaving holes to fill at cornerback even in the unlikely event that Michigan picks up a player like Kendall Fuller or Leon McQuay III to round out 2013. Keep a close eye on Cass Tech's Damon Webb and Illinois prospect Parrker Westphal, both of whom are early favorities to join the 2014 class; landing that duo would be a great start to filling needs in the secondary.
So, um, basically everything besides linebacker. I hope this was helpful and not a complete waste of time.
What's your best guess on Treadwell's decision date? — @TKBigCrew
Treadwell's recent quotes indicate that he's not entirely sure himself; he says he'll commit on a "random day," admits Michigan is almost certainly his choice, and says that day will be "soon," but he still wants to take official visits. My guess is he's tiring of the process and will make his decision before the season—which means before officials—but I wouldn't be surprised if he at least checked out Oklahoma State before an announcement. Regardless of timetable or visits, it's going to take a heck of a lot to dethrone the Wolverines from his top spot.
What's up with Mike Farrell's analysis of Taco [Charlton] at the opening? Seems contradictory to what we've heard elsewhere. — @natebburn
This award goes to the player who lowered his stock the most from the camp. While Pickerington (Ohio) Central defensive end Taco Charlton looks the part, he really struggled. He has great size, long arms and he is very athletic. However, he is also very upright, only has an outside move and when coaches tried to teach him misdirection or crossover, he didn't grasp it well at all. He was beaten on almost every 1-on-1 rep he took.
Without seeing the event itself, I can't add my own opinion of Charlton's performance, but I'll say that this jives with a lot of what we know about him. Charlton is a very raw prospect who possesses all the athletic ability needed to be an elite end, yet still was a situational pass-rusher as a sophomore. It's not a mystery that he was recruited because of his sky-high upside. Pitting a player like that against the best linemen the country has to offer is a recipe for a sub-par performance.
However, I wouldn't be too concerned about Farrell's review of Charlton. He still acknowledges that Taco has the frame and athleticism to make a big impact. We already knew that he isn't advanced technically and will almost certainly need a redshirt year and some coaching up before he sees the field. I don't think what happened at The Opening—which is obviously up for interpretation in the first place—changes any of that. If Charlton had excelled against the top linemen in the country it would have been a very pleasant surprise. As it stands, I still think he's got one of the highest ceilings of any recruit in Michigan's class.
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - RB Pass Plays - Day 4
In the past I broke down 13 of DG’s pass plays (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3). This included my reaction about how DG and the offense performed, the idea or theory behind the offensive play, and how the defense performed. This helped me get a much better feel for how DG is actually improving and allowed me to evaluate his performance considering the performance of those around him.
Today, we will take a look at how Russell Bellomy performed. Note that it is sometimes difficult to determine the routes and defense being run due to tight camera angles, but I will do my best to grasp what I think is happening. I will once again be taking a look at all of the pass plays, and separate them into 2 separate days. Today, we will take a gander at the first 5 pass plays.
Play 14 – 0:00
The defense appears to be running a cover 0 look out of a their normal over 4-3 look and a safety coming down to help against the run.
Bellomy makes the right read (a fairly easy one), as he sees the DBs drop back into their soft coverage. His footwork looks good and he looks comfortable, and I think the short throw is really a matter of arm strength more so than any fundamental problem (he could get a little more push off his back foot, but that’s about it).
The design of the play and the theory behind it are going to look very familiar to readers of the previous days. The slot is running a corner route and the outside receiver a dig with the idea or running a high low on the corner. As the corner drops, Bellomy knows his play is to the dig route.
On the backside you see a post run. This is designed to do a double move on the boundary corner and get behind the man and into the deep middle of the field. This is to take advantage of teams cheating on the corner route with their safety by hitting the area of the field they vacate. You will seldom see the QB have the time/patience to go through his progression and hit this receiver, but that is the idea behind that route. The route is run well. Note that the boundary corner doesn’t bite hard on the initial slant as he sees the play running away from him (a QB won’t roll opposite a slant route). When the WR sees that the corner didn’t bite and still is step for step with him, he breaks his post a bit more shallow to take advantage of the intermediate zone being open.
The SAM is a little late diagnosing the play. His initial responsibility is leverage and FB coverage, but he could turn and get to the boundary quicker than he does. The outcome of the play isn’t affected because of a poor pass, and the play would have picked up yards regardless due to the design of the defense, but you would like to see the SAM closer to the man as he catches the ball, and preferably that corner as well, though being out on an island the primary responsibility is not to get beat deep.
[More after the jump]
Goodbye Gateway. You probably have a vague familiarity with Gateway High School in Pennsylvania as that place that puts out a bunch of guys who Michigan recruits, occasionally secures, but more often go elsewhere in the Midwest, sometimes annoyingly. Justin King, one-time Michigan lock-type substance who ended up at Penn State, is the most frustrating loss in retrospect. While King's presence with PSU didn't help them win any games against Michigan…
…adding an All-Big Ten corner (even if a second team one) to the 2006 team had the potential to flip one or both of the OSU and USC games, in which you may remember Chris Graham and Morgan Trent getting torched repeatedly. In Graham's defense, he was a brick of muscle badly miscast as a nickel corner against OSU's passing spread that year, which is all the more reason King's presence could have been a game-hanging one.
You may also remember Gateway as the home of Shayne Hale and Cameron Saddler, two of the guys on the "Pittsburgh is basically Mississippi" list of players who inexplicably chose the local half-empty NFL stadium over, you know, Michigan. And others I suppose. I was pretty sure that Michigan had acquired at least a couple guys from that school (Marlin Jackson?) but Rivals shows none.
Anyway, this is an extremely long preamble to a surprising happening: due to severe budget cuts it looks like long-time Gateway coach Terry Smith may be forced out. The school district is dropping their athletic director position—also held by Smith—to part-time and the guy can get a regular gig somewhere else. Any impact this has on Michigan will be minimal since PA recruiting has been erratic at best since Teryl Austin departed, but apparently the mention of changes at Gateway are enough to prompt the fist-shaking realization of what could have been if Justin King had just gone where everyone expected him to. I still remember the post-it note I would scribble Michigan's hypothetical recruiting class on when in boring work meetings.
The comparison is inescapable. MGoFave-rave Brian Phillips spent the duration of Wimbledon at Wimbledon, returning with autism-spectrum-on-the-scene reports about a triumphant Roger Federer that frequently reference the capital-A "Apparatus" and find Phillips yelled at by a multicultural cornucopia of annoyed television people.
It's impossible to read them and not think about David Foster Wallace, and yet Phillips comes out looking pretty okay despite that inevitability. I enjoyed them… a lot. It turns out I like reading about tennis far more than I enjoy watching it. You might as well. Five parts!
- Part 1: finding a press pass and having a hallucinatory experience
- Part 2: Nadal loses to some guy!
- Part 3: People, toilets, things happening
- Part 4: Phillips's comically bloodshot eye, etc
- Part 5: Watching Murray lose to Federer in a room with a spasming Scottish lady
I love Grantland. Viva Bill Simmons.
But you're supposed to be an incorporeal floating voice. Fouad goes down the twitter rabbit hole and comes out with Carl Grapentine in the flesh:
He's got a radio show in Chicago and is not a ball of soothing energy, which is quite a surprise. Fouad finds this a little disturbing, and I'm with him. But I find this more disturbing:
I know there are some anti-Grapentine folks out there in the fan base
Who are these people? We must find them and give them, I don't know, Fort Wayne Mad Antz season tickets. Grapentine's voice is as integral to the Michigan Stadium experience as Bud Lynch's is at Joe Louis. He's the voice of the program. I find the idea people would dislike him—maybe prefer the FREEEEE PIZZZZAAA guy—alarming.
Good luck with that. If you're not a season ticket holder and you want to buy single-game tickets to the MSU game, you have to buy UMass plus two of Air Force, Illinois, Northwestern, and Iowa. Total charge for the four games is $380, $95 bucks a ticket… which seems about double what you could get from scalpers on gameday. I'm guessing they'll sell out since scalpers will try to make it work selling to people pathologically afraid of going to the stadium without a ticket in hand.
NCAA reviews coming out. Unlike myself, Ace is still a feverish devotee thanks to a band of friends who he plays with online. He'll have a review whenever he can pry himself away. While you're waiting, MJD says "just buy last year's," which he thought was a major leap forward in the series. Midnight Maize highlights the OCD approach—which was mine when I kept buying the thing—taken by the serious folks at Operation Sports. Some of these complaints are the same ones I had five years ago:
Apparently, Brent Venables taught the NCAA Football 13 team all about safety play because receivers run right past them into the open field. Vertical routes with fast receivers are nothing but money, it's horrendous. …
There aren't penalties in football except for the occasional holding and offsides!" - Anyone [whose] only experience with football was through NCAA Football 13. …
There are more plays than just screen plays and deep passes computer AI. Seriously. The A.I. Playcalling is absolutely atrocious from what I'm seeing in the early going. Or maybe it's just the AI's execution? Regardless, the AI seems way off this year when it comes to running an offense.
I'm glad I missed the era when four years into your dynasty nobody had a kicker who could hit an extra point.
On the Dantonio impression. Shane Morris deployed one:
What makes this funny to me is that this is clearly a conversation that actually happened almost word for word. Shane's clearly talking about Taybor Pepper, the longsnapper who was going to walk-on at Michigan before Dantonio tossed him a scholarship. Shane adds a "State" in there when he means just "Michigan," so it's a little confusing, but it's clear that at some camp Dantonio approached Shane Morris and had a little exchange about the importance of long-snapping.
Which is really important starting NOW. 2011: no one cares about long-snappers even a little. 2012: Auburn pays 180k for one.
The pointlessness of watch lists. It's watch list season, when every returning starter in America is named to their positionally-appropriate reminder that Award X exists. This will be the only time watch lists are mentioned on the blog, because this is how silly they are:
Brendan Gibbons converted 1-of-5 field-goal attempts as a freshman in 2010, which helped lead the Michigan football team to a last-place finish in placekicking -- nationally.
Two years later, he's one of 30 players to land on the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top kicker.
No offense to Keith Stone, but Gibbons's career long is 43 yards. Watch lists are inane.
Quality people. Kitchener has apparently filed a pointless lawsuit against the Daily because they said they offered Trouba money. Given the standards for libel prosecution on both sides of the border, the chances of success are 0% and the Rangers are threatening freedom of the press because they'd like to maintain the fiction that certain OHL players get dollars in excess of the $50-a-week stipend they haven't changed since the 80s.
Etc.: The free Blue Ribbon Big Ten preview this year is Michigan. The primary question it asks is "why would anyone pay for this"? Their prediction is… not made. Woo! Meanwhile, Phil Steele says M is one of 11 teams that fit the "national championship mold".
The Insight Bowl is now called the Valley of the Sun Bowl, not to be confused with that other Sun Bowl. It is now the only bowl game other than the Rose and Gator to have an actual non-sponsor name, which means it's probably not long for this world.
Hobbled Lewan would be very bad: Andy Morrison|Toledo Blade
Any team that remains relatively healthy for an entire season is going to be doggone good, and doggoner lucky. Until the Sugar Bowl, when Heininger went out and Molk would have been sidelined if he was anybody but David Molk in his last game at Michigan, Team 132's most significant injury losses were Odoms, the sum total of various dings that kept Woolfolk from being as T-Wolf-ian as he used to be, and Barnum missing extensive time. All were replaced by more than competent backups, respectively Gallon, T.Gordon, and Schofield. Depth at the positions of ding-itude (and relative health elsewhere) was an understated but important part of the strong second half and thin margin by which Hoke's first team ended up winning a BCS bowl.
If 2012 proves an underwhelming sequel, the most likely culprit will be injuries at certain positions where they can be ill afforded. Since so much of this year's ultimate preview is bound to be extraordinarily rah-rah, here I'll try to temper those expectations a bit by predicting what the drop-off might be if we lose any given starter. If negative hypotheticals tend to make rain clouds appear over your head, well, either you're closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.
Quickly. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
In case of emergency: Devin Gardner was a 5-star recruit at the most important and most scouted position in football, has played relatively extensively for a backup, and has athletic powers not quite Denard-level but still far beyond mortal Division I signal callers. The drop-off from Denard to the Devin from practice chatter is measurable but not dire; the fall from Denard to the Devin we've seen in limited action so far is precipitous.
If the inconceivable is conceived, the offense could be simplified and lean far more on Toussaint, both to make things easier on Gardner and because if he gets hurt we're down to Bellomy and walk-ons. How unready Gardner is can be overstated; he's either a redshirt sophomore or a junior depending on how recently Gordon Gee bought your NCAA contact a beer, and this is plenty old enough to have a feel for the offense. Then again, when he's been in… Ultimately Michigan can win 8 games with Gardner; with Denard the upside on the season is roses.
In case of dire emergency: Bellomy looked cool in the Spring Game, but I wouldn't expect more than 2008 Threet out of him at this point in his career. Spread outfits like Northwestern and Purdue have made it work with such guys before, so it's not DEATH. It's hard to see him beating the tougher parts of the schedule.
In case of emergency: The emergence of Fitz last year finally broke Michigan out of a three-year period of carries by broken bits of Minor or guys who could do one thing very well and all other things okay well. Previous the-guys like Hart/Perry/A-Train could get more yards than the defense's execution gave them by having multiple strengths. In Fitz's case those X-factors are Perry-like vision, Carlos Brown-level breakaway speed, plus the Hart-like quality Brian historically refers to as "juking a guy in a phone booth." If he could truck he'd a Heisman candidate. As it is he gives defenses another guy they have to "cheat" around by scheme/alignment/personnel at the cost of weakening something else.
Losing Fitz means going back to a committee of guys who do one or two things well. A passing spread could be just fine with Smith, who's the best blocker among the backs, is dangerous as a screen/catching target, and has some of those Pahokee jackrabbit genes that magnify his effectiveness as space increases. So long as Borges can resist the urge to ISOs with him the offense can still be the best in the conference, if not Oregon-good. Remember 2009 with Brown and Minor? That plus a senior QB. And that wasn't so terrible. Since Smith will get in anyway, the primary beneficiary of an injury to Toussaint is Justice Hayes. Hayes (right) has already outgrown his Breaston-skinny recruiting profile and flashed Toussaint-like skills. In high school he was a good enough receiver that people thought his future was at slot. If he can block too Michigan might have something here.
The Minor in this equation is either Rawls or Hopkins. Rawls we've seen in spring and limited carries last year and seems as advertised: a trunk-legged trucker. All said, the drop from The Guy™ to the guys is a star-and-a-half but the committee is strong enough that the sum difference will probably be one or two of Purdue-Illinois-Northwestern-Iowa getting closer than they would have.
In case of dire emergency: We have two freshmen. If Norfleet isn't returning this year I'd like to see him get the Breaston redshirt to put on some muscle; Drake Johnson could rotate into garbage time now. Hopkins can be dragooned from fullback if we lose Rawls.
In case of emergency: Hopkins seems to have fallen out of the RB conversation since moving to fullback—equal parts Rawls' emergence and fumblitis—but when I look at him I see a young Leroy Hoard, and when I look at the TE depth chart I see plenty of two-RB sets no matter who the feature back is; with Toussaint hurt Hopkins could get Hoard-like usage. There isn't another guy on the roster like Hopkins, but Kerridge is by accounts a decent fullbackian fullback, and if he isn't there's 5th year senior Paul Gyarmati and 3-star fullbackian recruit Sione Houma's redshirt to burn before we run out of noses to stuff into linebackers. I do believe the position will be featured more than in recent memory, but I think if Hopkins goes down it will be less so since he's the only real running threat among the group. So far as I know none of them are the Aaron Shea/Brian Thompson kind of receiving threat; for that Michigan will probably use a U-back, currently Ricardo Miller and Jordan Paskorz.
In case of emergency: The good news: the fall from Michigan's 5th year returning starter to his backups doesn't look too bad. The bad news: the drop-off from the 2nd team to random walk-ons is barely different. Of the group Moore had a good TE's recruiting profile though he's flashed neither Martell Webb's blocking ability nor Koger's receiving skills. In a typical Hoke year you'll see two TE starters but we're not there yet.
Ricardo Miller is the next guy in, but is a vastly different guy. As a junior in high school Miller was one of the top recruits in Florida, the star of power program Dr. Phillips, a National Honor Society member, and an early commit who gave us dreams of the next #1. His senior year he moved to Ann Arbor and ended up a stiff TE in Pioneer's option offense, pushing his rating to MSU-ish 3-star. There's still three years of eligibility for him to turn into Tim Massaquoi, and that seems like the path he's on, though the dearth of practice hype to that effect and equal reps for so many other guys makes the murmurs deafening. The opposite side of the coin from Miller is A.J. Williams, a true freshman who played OT and can therefore block a defensive end, which makes him useful now at the Y, especially when Michigan goes to (it's not dead yet) tight formations. Anything happens to Moore and Williams/Miller are probably trading off based on situation.
A few more common Spring tea leaves for a position in trouble are a sudden burst of hype for a senior walk-on, and position switchers climbing the depth chart. We have that in Mike Kwiatkowski and Jordan Paskorz. All told my guess is Michigan will play one tight end some of the time, two tight ends rarely, and if injury strikes Moore we'll see Miller and a lot more fullback sets.
In case of emergency: Like tight end, the backups here are not a huge drop-off but there's simply not enough dudes with experience to fill the depth chart. Unlike tight end there's a lot of talent and reason for hope. While Tree and Gallon are established as what they are, and Jeremy Jackson is probably not much more than a possession change-of-pace, there's some wideout wild cards in Jerald Robinson and two good freshmen, either of whom could be a starter by the start of the conference season.
Borges does prefer to have a prototype split end and flanker (and a slot), but both guys at the top of the depth chart are spread slots. Gallon is best in the slot, and more so than fullback the tight end situation benefits the existence of a third receiver most plays. Roundtree is now at Hemingway's old position, the flanker, which starts in the backfield and gets to run plays designed to get him open. Who wins the split end position out of J-Rob and the freshmen will mean much for how the unit develops. Since there's seven guys for what should be three positions, nobody is really out of the rotation unless one freshman is significantly ahead of the other.
If Gallon gets hurt, Dileo is a similar type of player and can be used in the same role—he should rotate in plenty as it is. If Roundtree is lost for an extensive time, you may get a long look at Jerome Jackson in that role, something that would signify the corps as a whole will have limitations. The hope here is that the receivers won't have to face super-tough coverage while defenses react to Denard and Fitz, but it's hard to call the difference because the starters and the depth are largely different types of players.
In case of dire emergency: A scenario that sees Roundtree and Gallon hurt (and/or somebody getting very serious about damage to parking gates) probably sees Michigan go "big" (think 2001 with Walker) with routes designed to get whoever Denard feels the most comfort with mismatched against smaller DBs.
Heiko took these. The one at right was accidentally not credited in HTTV.
In case of emergency: It's Jack Miller, who has some Molkian qualities about him but is a redshirt freshman, still gaining muscle, and liable to be thrown around like a ragdoll by the Ogbu's of the world as Molk was. The non-feasibility of Miller starting was underlined when Barnum was announced early in Spring as the center. This depleted the guards but at least there's a live body to snap it if Barnum gets hurt.
Spring proved that gap is wider than we thought, as Barnum established himself as clearly the best interior offensive lineman and tailor-made center for the transitional year's offense. Meanwhile we've heard little from Miller. He wasn't highly recruited but centers rarely are, especially spread centers. The caveat for this is until you see them play you have little else to go on. If Barnum gets hurt, the interior line is probably a team weakness, and teams with immobile DTs will probably bog Michigan's offense down by making it tough to run to the interior. But then if he can reach block like Molk it won't matter so much who's taking up space behind the play.
In case of emergency: By "emergency" you mean anything happening to the starters, which would almost certainly see a true freshman drawn in. The true freshman in question is a 5-star and the most college-ready linemen we've recruited since that's been something we can qualify, but a freshman nonetheless, and one whose brightest future is probably at guard, possibly immediately since Elliot Mealer and a walk-on seem to be the competition for the left guard spot. Mealer was beaten rather badly by Minnesota on a day Minnesota was doing half of the blocking on Minnesota in his one garbage time moonlight on the outside, and I'd rather never see that happen again. So even if the true freshman wins a starting job this fall, an injury to Lewan or Schofield sees Mealer slide back to guard and Kalis is the guy, despite the fact he probably hasn't even figured out the Tisch-to-Mason cut through yet.
We'll get a tiny feel for just how much of a drop-off this is when the squishy part of the schedule yields opportunity to rotate the starters out and let Kalis get some seasoning, but such situations are doubtful to yield much in the way of passing plays against blitzes and hell-bent rush ends. If the unthinkable happens, however, you'll see an appreciable difference in Michigan's passing game, especially early, as they try to lean on whichever RS junior is left standing. Rollouts, runs to the other side, shorter routes, that sort of thing. One thing he'll have going for him is ends don't want to risk losing contain on Denard, so Kalis would not be forced to block a full-on pass rush very often.
Even as he settles in, this is making a position of strength into a weakness, in the case of Lewan like going from Verlander right now to Jacob Turner (for you baseball fans). I would also guess Schofield slides to left to cover Denard's backside.
In case of dire emergency: If any two of the above-mentioned go down I think Ben Braden is the next of the freshmen closest to being ready to play, even if Magnuson probably has a higher ceiling. It's possible Omameh could shift outside too—he's not big but he's quick enough to be a spread tackle and played there before—if one of the existing interior options proves to be a better option.
In case of really dire emergency: It's Gunderson, who looked exactly awful in the Spring Game even when the defense went to playing soft so that Gardner could do something other than get chased by the guy Gunderson was blocking. Or Magnuson. Or Chaucer. Rabelais. Balzac!
In case of emergency: Burzynski got the start in the Spring Game and looked good for a guy not much bigger than my brother. This bodes unwell for nominal starter Elliott Mealer, the last man standing from Carrs 2008 offensive line recruits now that Khoury has moved on. That Bryant is behind both of them says he still hasn't gotten into playing shape, although the redshirt freshman may be closer to that by fall. Anyway if he's not needed as the only breathing tackle Kyle Kalis has as good a shot as anyone at starting left guard this fall.
Omameh is the O-line's longest tenured starter and was brilliant as a spread guard who gets to the 2nd level, something he didn't get to do much of last year. His upside as Destroyer of Teo's makes the relative value of losing him a variable, but large any way you calculate it. Any of the freshmen named earlier, plus Blake Bars, might be cast into a guard role this year. Fortunately there's a lot of O-line recruits on their way in case we burn a lot of redhsirts in 2012, but a quick glance at the depth chart by class reveals a fist-shaking inattention to the O-line.
I imagine by later this year Bryant is closer to being ready to contribute. He was a planetary object brought into to be stripped apart and rebuilt; enough pieces have been reattached at this point that he managed to show some life in Spring. He's a year away from being a ready asset.
In case of dire emergency: Q-Wash might be moved back in a pinch. Anyway, two injuries anywhere on the O-line and I'm writing a Decimated Offense article. Spoiler: it will say Rodriguez expected to recruit a huge O-line class in 2011 in order to have lots of RS freshmen ready to stand behind the 2012 upperclassmen, but because linemen commit early and prefer stability (remember: usually three years before they see the field) and with much of 2010 was poisoned this plan backfired. None of this will be solace to you if the O-line falls apart this year. I'm more worried now than I was before, and I was really worried before.
All told, this is a thinner offense than it was a year ago. The difference between the starters and their backups is two
stars Saturn-Punting Zoltans or more at five positions, six if you think Fitz Toussaint is All Big Ten. Nowhere on the offense is there a ready guy like 2011 Schofield or T.Gordon burning a hole in the depth chart, unless one of the freshman tight ends or receivers move into open starting roles.