"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
College football in a nutshell, according to Finebaum callers
Oversigning continues to be a hot topic now that beat writers are aware of the subject and are keeping an eye out for stuff like a half-dozen players evaporating from the Ole Miss roster in the wake of Ole Miss oversigning by twelve:
In the Ole Miss notebook in Wednesday’s Clarion-Ledger, you probably read the lead note about the impending transfer of WR/KR Jesse Grandy. That’s somewhat significant news, considering how valuable he was as a freshman and the depth at wide receiver.
Later in that note, though, there are a couple of other names mentioned: Dele Junaid and Jared Mitchell. Both were scholarship players who are not on this roster that the school distributed Tuesday night, shortly after the news of Grandy’s departure broke.
But here are four more scholarship players from last year who were missing, as we noted early Wednesday afternoon on Twitter: RB Martez Eastland, OL Terrance Hackney, DE Lekenwic Haynes and DL Alan-Michael Thomas.
Hope you enjoyed your year or three in Oxford, but it's off to South Ballsack for you. Enjoy your degree from something that's not technically a community college anymore, unless it is, except you probably won't be getting one anyway. Don't brush the APR on your way out.
Hopefully this keeps up to the point where the SEC has to do something more than obfuscate the problem and actually, you know, does something about it. Here's Mike Slive:
It was two years ago that we took the initiative and put in an SEC rule that 28 was the most you could sign [in one class] and understanding that the rest of the country might not do that. The rest of the country followed suit and copied the SEC rule nationally and made it 28.
The SEC took an "initiative" to implement something far weaker than the Big Ten and Pac 10 had for decades after Houston Nutt signed 37 kids one year. That implementation is a paper tiger, but Slive's waving his PR magic wand because he's a company man. The SEC's done nothing except implement a cosmetic change. Florida going bats about it forced Slive to gesture towards discussion later this year, but at no point will he ever suggest that the SEC is anything but a forward-thinking bastion of nation-leading ethics.
In contrast, the Big Ten actually grasps the issue:
Do those exceptions relate to the rule that allows three over the [scholarship] limit?
CH: Correct. This is the difference between our rule and what the NCAA rule is. If you have 20 scholarship slots available, our rule would allow you to sign 23, where the NCAA is a firm number. We allow oversigning by three in football. Some have used it, not everyone has. On a year-to-year basis, there are fewer than use it than not. And even within those instances, we may be looking at oversigning by two or even one.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban's feeble attempt to justify his massive oversigning was torn to shreds by anyone who wrote about it. (He then had the audacity to complain about players breaking verbal commitments! Alabama is the only school in the state that blacks out scholarship numbers from FOIAed requests!) Moments later we found out we can add Saban to the list of coaches who yoinked scholarships from players after they had moved into the dorm:
So Jones was asked to delay his enrollment until January. He had to move out of the dorm, and he won't be on an athletic scholarship until next semester. He can't practice with the team, work out with the team or travel with the team.
Instead, he'll be a part-time student this semester, taking nine hours, and he'll live in the condo his parents had leased for his older brother to call home and for the family to share on football weekends.
"It's disappointing when you don't really expect it, but we understand it," said Leslie Jones, the mother of Harrison and Barrett. "We have no hard feelings. We're very grateful for the opportunities our sons have."
[Ed-M: Update: there's more to the story - According to the boys' high school coach in the comments below, he's back on scholarship. Also, Saban had a long talk with the family about the grashirt situation, wherein he probably explained...]. This is followed by the quote that always shows up in these stories:
"College football is a business, and you have to treat it as a business."
Yea, and the legions of SEC fans filled the comments to call the reporter a quisling and the player a piece of meat, and other people were depressed because the people Bud Light commercials work on can still operate computers, and people compared the attempted education of poor kids to Wall Street.
|WHAT||Ohio State @ Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 14-13-2, 9-11-2 CCHA. OSU's gone 2-4 the last three weekends, splitting with Notre Dame and Michigan State and getting swept in Alaska. They've got a –5 CCHA goal differential but had a strong effort against (terrible, terrible) nonconference teams. They're +9 for the season.
KRACH is not impressed: it has them 28th, ahead of only BG and Northern Michigan in the CCHA.
Previous meetings. Michigan split in Columbus in early December, losing 3-2 in OT on Friday before winning 2-1. Friday was a sinfully ugly game in which Michigan had the bulk of what chances occurred. On Saturday Michigan bombed Cal Heeter with 48 shots but couldn't break through until the third when Luke Glendening gritted in a goal; Wohlberg punched in the game winner with around five minutes left.
Both games were low on quality chances and featured plenty of aimless play between the blue lines.
Dangermen. OSU's middle of the pack in scoring at 32nd. Their top guys are linemates and seniors John Albert (11-20-31) and Sergio Somma (15-11-26); junior Danny Dries has 13-11-24 but did the bulk of his damage against OSU's weak nonconference schedule. There are three more guys with seven or eight goals and then it collapses—OSU has no scoring depth.
They also get nothing from their defensemen. Shane Sims is the only D with more than one goal and the only guy who seems like he might be generating scoring chances with his passing. The rest of the corps have the scattered assists you'd expect from guys who happen to be on the ice when other people do stuff.
Heeter. Also ugly uniforms.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior and guy named like he lives in a van down by the river Cal Heeter has played all but 22 minutes this season. He's been good. He's got a .920 save percentage despite facing almost 30 shots a game. That puts him in a four way tie for 20th nationally (72 goalies are ranked) with Shawn Hunwick and a couple other guys.
As mentioned, the defense is comprised of simple defensive guys save Sims, an Islanders draftee. None stand out statistically and I don't remember anything useful from the first series. They do seem to be good. Michigan struggled to generate anything earlier and while that was also the case last weekend that OSU series still stands as the ugliest and least exciting of the year.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.7||4.3|
|PP Ag / G||4.3||4.7|
More evidence the OSU D is pretty good at being boring, solid defenders can be found in that power plays against number. 4.3 is low, and the OSU D corps does not take a ton of penalties that generate power play opportunities. OSU's maintained their PP advantage through the conference season, so that's not an artifact of the nonconference schedule. Meanwhile, after the dumb penalty orgy over the weekend Michigan exactly inverts OSU's numbers.
Michigan (17.7%, 32nd) has a slight advantage on the PP against OSU (16.9%, 37th) but is slightly worse killing penalties at 80.7 percent (39th) to OSU's 81.5 (35th). Yes, Michigan's specialty units are both in the thirties.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Attempt to stay awake through both games. It's going to be tough. There's going to be all this luxurious ice out there and it will be easy to forget about the puck and just lay down for a nice nap. While it's unlikely anything actually happens while you're getting a bit of shut-eye, if it happens in the offensive zone you'll have to deal with offsides and whatnot.
Hunwick non-reprise. Michigan lost that OT game largely because Hunwick gave up a terrible goal on a shot taken from the half-boards on a a harmless rush. He's been very good every since.
Maybe the line blender will work. Red revamped his lines for the first time in over a year, placing Caporusso with Hagelin and creating a new second line of Wohlberg, Treais, and Moffatt that should/could/might wake up Rust, Lynch, and other forwards who are scoring less frequently than Scooter Vaughn and three of Michigan's defensemen. Rust and Lynch can go out there to shut down OSU's secondary scoring, leaving the line that hypothetically could score to eat up OSU's exceedingly weak bottom six.
The Big Picture
Michigan is hovering around the 3/4 borderline after three straight losses and needs to pick it up if it expects to reach Joe Louis Arena with an at-large bid already in its pocket. Falling down the standings has created a huge mess of teams that are relevant to Michigan's PWR ranking and makes it hard to pick out specific events that you're rooting for this weekend other than "root for everyone in front of and directly behind Michigan to lose (unless Michigan played them)." That means anyone good in the CCHA, Merrimack, Union, Dartmouth, and Colorado College are your enemies.
As for Michigan itself, they're 12th in RPI and will maintain that if they go 4-2 down the stretch. Ohio State at home is probably their second-easiest series—Northern's goal differential is awful—and after the ugliness the last two weeks a sweep would go a long way towards calming fears about breaking the tourney streak. A win and a tie would be fine, a split disappointing. Anything worse is time to head for the lifeboats.
The Wall Street Journal declares college hockey arenas "the cathedrals of sports" and gives Yost the nod for best crowd. Caporusso is now e-famous. Yost Built previews OSU and adds a little bit more information to what we know about 2013 commit JT Compher:
USHR had him ranked as the #4 forward at the Select 15 camp this past July: "Aggressive and good-sized, with a sense of the game and anticipation. Competitive, too. Blocks shots."
Site update. It took a little longer than we thought it would but we have restored commenting abilities for IE users. This serves as your regular reminder that you should switch to Chrome or Firefox. Also, users should be able to upload avatars again. Also I updated the "MGoElsewhere" menu a bit so it contains links to twitter feeds for both Tim and Tom.
The destruction of the innocents. Basketball beat Northwestern 75-66 yesterday as Jordan Morgan went ham (11 of 13, 27 points) against the Phantom of the Opera and John Shurna failed to exist. Shurna's been limited much of the season and apparently picked something new up recently. His last three games are a DNP against OSU and two games in which he played around 25 minutes but only attempted 5 field goals. Michigan may have gotten a little fortunate there.
I don't have a ton to say that UMHoops didn't cover in the link above but some praise is in order for Morris, Hardaway, and Douglass for setting up Morgan's monster night. Almost all of Morgan's baskets were assisted and even on the ones that weren't his teammates were setting him up in excellent position. Example: Douglass had an excellent post feed—in a year when any post feed is a rarity—that allowed Morgan to immediately spin baseline for a layup. Northwestern's D is terrible so this may stand as a career game for Morgan but it was good to see him be so efficient after that Ohio State game where going up soft cost Michigan badly. Morgan started the game off in similar fashion before becoming ruthless.
Meanwhile, at one point I exclaimed "shoot that!" when Hardaway passed up an open three. Progress all around. I wasn't even that mad about the terrifying Northwestern run because it was four straight three pointers, two of them challenged to the point where there could have been a foul.
Kenpom moved a bit afterwards. Not losing a game Michigan was only mildly favored in pushed the season prediction to almost exactly 17.5-13.5 and increased the chance of reaching 9-9 and therefore the bubble to 16%. Slightly beating the prediction moved Michigan up to 52nd, one spot behind Michigan State.
More fodder for next year's optimism. The Only Colors tracks an individual stat called PORPAG that sort of mimics baseball's VORP. (The usual caveats that basketball is a team game and you don't know about defense, etc., apply.) A quick glance at their top 15 shows Darius Morris sixth. That's excellent. More excellent still is that only four players in the top 15 are going to be around next year: UW's Jordan Taylor, Morris, Shurna, and IU's Jordan Hulls. The rest are seniors or Jared Sullinger. So not only is Michigan returning everyone but the rest of the Big Ten is getting hammered by graduation.
This is not a throwdown. So one part of the now confusingly diverse Maize 'n' Brew crew got sick of my repeated assertions that The Process was the worst way to acquire any new head coach, Brady Hoke or not. The result was this very long post that asserts Michigan's most recent recruiting class is "awesome" and makes other arguments that I don't even know what to do with. Since that post's been disputed by another of that site's contributors and effectively countered by a long message board thread here that's surprisingly light on snark and image macros. I'll forgo a response (other than, you know, this) because Mets Maize made it pointless:
One Small Step for Hoke, One Giant Leap for Hokeamania
There you go: the events of the last month delivered with maximum pith. Nothing has changed the fact Michigan had a candidate pool of one in their coaching search that started in January that they were probably going to start no matter the result of the bowl game.
Hopefully we'll start seeing some reason for optimism other than Mattison soon. Nothing in the intervening weeks qualifies, not even Jason Whitlock's endorsement.
Wasted effort. The Sporting News's Dave Curtis went to some trouble to find out that converting third downs is a good idea. It's gotten play a few places because it's February 10th and the long hard college football offseason has started. I don't like this because I am all mathy and stuff and this…
All five BCS bowl winners ranked among the nation’s top 13 teams in third-down differential. The differential statistic, not officially computed by the NCAA, takes a team’s third-down conversion rate on offense and subtracts its opponents’ third-down conversion rate.
…is not useful at all. "Drives are good," it says.
Worse, it places undue emphasis on third down itself when first and second down are equally, if not more, important. This has unfortunately succumbed to linkrot but back in the day I did an analysis of third downs by distance and frequency, coming to the unsurprising conclusion that short was good and great third down conversion rates are often more indicative of what you did before third down than anything else. Just looking at third down rates is goofy because first and second down contribute to the distance you have to go—you're really looking at "first and second and third down conversion rate," which is fine if you want to look at that. Just don't make it seem like third down is really really important when your number doesn't control for the effects of first and second.
Old news. I got distracted writing posts on the 4-3 and Tim Hardaway that ballooned into way longer thing than I thought they'd end up being, so some items fell through the cracks. You've seen these already if you read anything other than the front page here.
One: Wojo interviewing Brady Hoke. Amongst the increasingly familiar Passion For Michigan, Denard As NFL Vick, and Tremendous Toughness segments were a couple of things that are not familiar. One was Hoke saying he was "pissed off" at Michigan's factionalism the past three years, which is a refreshingly blunt way for a coach to say anything. The other was the admission that beer had a role in shaping Hoke's physique:
Q. Did you just drop a hint you were a bit wild back in your college days?
A. Uh, yeah, for two years I really didn't have the best goals in mind. I wanted to play football and try to drink every beer in Muncie, Ind. And I tell parents that on visits.
I'm trying to ignore the bit that follows wherein "funnest" gets deployed. Football coaches and grammar, man.
Hoke comes off as likeable, down to earth, etc. Even if you're of the opinion that ADs tweeting out old Jason Whitlock articles as evidence in favor of anything is awful, at least the guy he hired has a solidly positive rootability factor.
Q. How often do you chew a kid's tail?
A. Oh, usually daily.
Do yourself a massive favor by taking that out of context.
Two: De-emphasizing Denard, a little bit. This is almost a week old and has the freshness of Abe Vigoda but:
"To a degree … we're blowing a lot of it up," new Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "In our offense, I don't see Denard rushing for 1,700 yards, and I told him that. But I could see him rushing for 1,000 yards, and I could see him throwing for that 700 or 800 he didn't rush for."
Hives hives hives hives hives… mmm smaller, treatable hives. Borges later praises Denard's completion percentage as a couple other coaches make noises about a running game that looks "a little different" and emphasizes more "downhill" running. It then throws this in at the end:
Michigan was eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 488.69 yards, 13th in rushing (234.54), 25th in scoring (32.77) and 36th in passing (250.15).
…and returns ten starters. I'll come around on Al Borges after he's got a tall strapping fellow bombing it for 10 YPA but the chances I don't spend next year bitching about the misapplication of Denard Robinson are slim. I'm not even sure how you get him 1,000 yards if he's taking snaps from center. You can only run so many waggles and Incredibly Surprising QB Draws. As always, I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Hoke uber alles.
Etc.: Michigan picks up a 2013 hockey commit; JT Compher is a forward from Illinois who seems high-end, like first-round OHL pick and easy NTDP pick high-end. We'll see if that holds up as he ages. Mets Maize on the Northwestern game. More justified hockey grumbling. Spring game will be April 16th. Michigan football documentary series planned. The Wolverine Blog points out that the guys who "couldn't shoot ever" now can and that's probably another thing we can add to the list of reasons Darius Morris is awesome. Scot Loeffler becomes Temple's OC.
[note: this post and the BWS post were written before the Northwestern game.]
A hearty thanks to Burgeoning Wolverine Star for showing men of pessimism what pessimism really is in his post on Michigan basketball's immediate future. Whereas I'm content to downplay Michigan's chances at making the tourney this year, BWS wants you to know that Michigan isn't making the tourney next year, the year after, or ever again.
I kid. I think so, anyway. But the thing that struck me as true Keyser Soze-level pessimism was when BWS downplayed the possibility Hardaway will blow up by comparing him to Manny Harris:
Hardaway's measurables and stats are remarkably similar to Harris' throughout his career at Michigan:
PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% Harris 07-08 16.1 4.2 2.7 38.10% 31.80% Harris 08-09 16.9 6.8 4.4 41.50% 32.70% Harris 09-10 18.1 6 4.1 42.10% 30.80% Hardaway 10-11 12 3.8 1.5 37.50% 32.60%
Not that adding Manny Harris to this team wouldn't be beneficial, but Hardaway's production and body type--to say nothing of his predilection to take bad three pointers--are things Beilein has had to play with in the past. With any luck, Hardaway will avoid the general apathy and combativeness with the coaching staff that Harris showed toward the end of his career at Michigan, but regardless, seeing Hardaway turn into an unstoppable force is a little optimistic IMO.
The thing about Harris is that he didn't get much better, as the above chart suggests. None of those percentages have anything to do with frequency. Harris's usage rates as a sophomore and junior were almost identical, he took as many threes, as many twos, etc. The main difference between the two years was a considerable drop in assist rate that the team mirrored, dropping from third to 21st in percentage of shots assisted. Since the only losses from the team were two walk-on guards and the Grady buried behind them you can argue that Harris actually got worse between his sophomore and junior years. Also, Manny collapsed every Big Ten season as defenses collapsed on him.
BWS uses this as a cautionary tale about projecting Hardaway down the road, but I think that's backwards. Players improve as they age and they improve a lot when they are young. Manny not improving at the same time he was getting suspended, sitting on the bench for OT against Iowa, etc., says more about Harris specifically than Beilein's ability to deal with a Harris-type player.
Even if Beilein's inability to cajole Harris into learning how to use his off hand or not jack up strange three-pointers multiple times per game suggests Hardaway's fate, Harris still improved radically after his first season. There will be graphs. Meanwhile, Hardaway has a much better offensive efficiency mark than Harris as a freshman with nearly as much usage. He's almost reached Harris's sophomore and junior marks because of one glaring difference between the two players: turnover rate*. Harris was at 22% as a freshman and only got down to 16.5% as a junior; Hardaway is 14th nationally at 9.3%.
Now, there are lots of reasons for this that have nothing to do with the relative merits of the players. They can be summed up with the words "Darius Morris," who has a Harris-like 18.8 TO rate that no one's complaining about because he's fourth nationally in assist rate. Hardaway does not have to be the primary ballhandler. He doesn't provide the assists Harris did. He has a lower TO rate than anyone on the team, three-point specialists included, despite using more possessions than anyone except Morris. He should learn what shots are good and which are not as his career progresses, something Harris didn't want to or couldn't because he didn't have the butter—[strangling sounds] version of Darius Morris next to him or anyone who could shoot ever.
While I don't think Hardaway is as good as Harris was as a freshman or will be as good as Harris was as a sophomore, he doesn't have to be in the context of this Michigan team to be more efficient than Harris could ever dream of being. Chart? Chart. Chartzzzz.
[These are adapted from the excellent Big Ten Geeks study from a couple years back that showed the general path of improvement as players age. Kenpom has not updated individual numbers from last night yet so these are a tiny bit out of date. Hardaway went 5 of 11—3 of 8 from three—was 4 of 4 from the line, and had four assists to two turnovers, so these are slightly pessimistic.]
Harris maintained an epic usage level his entire career; Hardaway has started off at nearly the same rate.
Due to the high usage both are below average. Harris was less efficient, likely because very few of his buckets were assisted. Hardaway should not expect to improve as much but should at least equal Harris next year; average is within reach.
Harris was slightly above average for the duration of his career but these numbers include a lot of stone-handed post players and are not targeted towards guards; I don't have any data but eyeballing it those numbers seem thoroughly mediocre.
Hardaway's numbers are remarkably good for anyone, even players who believe the ball is radioactive. He's the only freshman on the list until you get to #38, and the first frosh playing outside the Dakotas you find is #44 Jared Sullinger. The guys above him are folks like Wisconsin's Tim Jarmusz (9.5 usage rate), Illinois's Bill Cole(11.5), and… uh… Jordan Taylor (best point guard in the country unless you're an idiot).
His numbers are so good that we can expect him to regress next year, especially if he starts driving more aggressively. They're also too good to be a fluke given his usage.
Since Hardaway doesn't have to be the primary ballhandler he is crushing Harris and the average for freshmen. Improving shot selection, reducing usage, increasing assist rate, and general improvement should send this higher next year—higher than Harris ever achieved.
What would have happened to Manny Harris if he had an awesome point guard next to him? What about awesome point guard + conscience? What about awesome point guard + conscience + actually liking his head coach? These are the questions we're about to find out as we watch Tim Hardaway, Jr., go from maddening but efficient-for-a-freshman to something between a good second banana and a ninja.
SIDE NOTE: These numbers brought home another point: Darius Morris is a better player than Harris ever was, full stop. Literally the only thing Harris has on Morris is a few points of 3PT% and a slight edge in free throw rate**. Morris is shooting far better than Harris ever did from within the arc, assisting on damn near everything he's not scoring, and maintaining an acceptable TO rate.
Freshman, Minutes, And Improvement
To further dispute BWS, he mentions later that people are pointing towards the extreme youth of the team as a reason they will improve considerably:
The biggest source of hope is that Michigan's team is once again one of the youngest in the country. Much like in 2009, Michigan's team is at a serious disadvantage in terms of college experience. This was one of the biggest points of optimism for the 2010 season that ultimately saw the team flame out spectacularly and lose close games in agonizing fashion.
Even before the season it was clear Michigan was overrated at the #15(!) team in the country after finishing the year 50th in Kenpom. People expected them to get better and got worse, something I'd again argue was a chemistry problem largely brought on by Harris. That problem won't be around next year and even if it did the overall percentage of freshman minutes then was far lower than it is this year. In 2009 freshmen played 31% of Michigan's minutes. This year it's 44%.
What's more, the second and third highest usage guys on the team are freshmen who play at least 60% of minutes. In 2009 Douglass and Novak had low usage and Laval Lucas-Perry was a mid-year transfer who only played 33.% of Michigan's minutes. The percentage of possessions used by freshman this year is vastly higher. Two years ago: 26%. Now: 45%. That plus being on the same page should yield a significant improvement in 2011-12.
Yes, Mr. Gaerig, you are too pessimistic about basketball, but you already came to that conclusion yourself.
*[The percentage of possessions used that end in a turnover.]
**[Harris has an individual edge in rebounding but this year's team is much better in that category than they were the last couple years so how much of that is actually meaningful is in question unless you're David Berri. Also Morris doesn't play the three, Hardaway does.]
The 2011 class is over, so it's time to look ahead to next year. But first...
As you may recall, Michigan signed 19 talented high schoolers last Wednesday, including a signing Day surprise(ish) in TX TE Chris Barnett. Yes, I mostly just wanted an excuse to use this picture again.
Of course, OH S Greg Brown was already enrolled in Ann Arbor, and didn't need to fax his LOI.
As for the other prospects who were still on the table:
- MI OL Jake Fisher signed with Oregon. The former commit switched to the Ducks.
- MD DT Darian Cooper signed with Iowa. He had been favoring the Hawkeyes for some time, and a late push by Michigan (courtesy of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison) couldn't sway him to be blue.
- CO LB Leilon Wilingham signed with UCF. He committed to Texas A&M without ever visiting, and then had reported silent commitments to Colorado and Michigan before switching to the Knights on Signing Day. He's a loss for Michigan's class, but sounds like a kid who can't make up his mind, either.
- For those who can't stop asking about FL WR Prince Holloway despite repeated claims he wouldn't come to Michigan, he signed a letter of intent to a Junior College in Kansas.
On to the Next One
Since I've been actively neglecting the 2012 class in favor of in-depth coverage of 2011 for the past couple weeks, updates from rising seniors should be hectic throughout the month of February. Things should settle down by the end of the month, and look for a recruiting board (with revamped format) by that time.
First, let's look at a list of 2012 recruits with offers:
Michigan offered FL QB Bennie Coney in the fall, and they're currently in his top 6. As I said at the time, he has character question marks, so we'll see if his offer from the Wolverines holds up with the new staff.
KY QB Zeke Pike has a Michigan offer ($). He's one of the top QBs in the country, a mobile pro-style guy.
Michigan - along with the rest of the country - has extended an offer to MO WR Dorial Green-Beckham. He has a good shot at being the #1 overall recruit in the 2012 class, so he's a definite longshot.
OH WR Dwayne Stanford holds a Michigan offer ($), along with Ohio State and a number of other top programs.
MD WR Stefon Diggs - a teammate of 2011 CB signee Blake Countess - has an impressive highlight reel:
He was named MVP of the Army Combine, and has already been invited to next year's Army All-American game. He told Rivals that he wants to hear from Michigan, and though the Wolverines took a while to offer, he sees himself as a "Charles Woodson type" at the next level, which certainly doesn't hurt Michigan in his mind.
Michigan has offered ($, info in header) OH TE Sam Grant. He's a big tight end who could be a devastating blocker at the next level.
FL TE Sean Price also has a Michigan offer.
OL Jordan Diamond - one of 2011 signee Chris Bryant's good friends - may be a package deal with his teammate, QB Robert Gregory (more about him below). Diamond already holds an Ohio State offer, and will be on Michigan's campus next weekend. I don't have confirmation yet, but it's sounding like that may be the Wolverines' first junior day. Diamond will decide early(ish) in the process ($, info in header).
Michigan has an offer out to WA OL Zach Banner, who has already committed to participate in next year's Army All-American Bowl. He's one of the top prospects in the nation, and is probably a longshot for the Wolverines.
Scout's Allen Trieu says it'll probably boil down to Michigan or Tennessee for MI DT Danny O'Brien - whom he thinks is the top prospect in the state at this point. Tennessee has the slight edge at this point.
IL DT Vincent Valentine, who holds a Michigan offer, was recently profiled by STLToday.com.
Jim Stefani gets back on his blogging game, and shared that Michigan has offered OH DT Greg Kuhar.
DC DT Eddie Goldman, one of the nation's top defensive linemen, holds a Michigan offer, but is probably a longshot.
Ohio State-centric recruiting experts are already conceding OH DE Chris Wormley to the Wolverines. His reasoning gets a little muddled, but if Ohio State will give up Wormley in order to land Adolphus Washington and Greg McMullen, more power to them.
Yes, I want Wormley. No, I am not going to lose any sleep over his decision to go to Michigan should be choose to do so. Great kid and I wish him all the best should that be where he chooses to spend the next four or five years of his life.
Wormley is going to be a solid 4-star or borderline 5-star guy, so Michigan's recruiting class should get a great early boost should he decide for the Wolverines.
Looks like the Wolverines are pounding the pavement on defensive ends from Ohio. OH DE Ifeadi Odenigbo recently received a Michigan offer. Ohio State fans don't think he'll receive a Buckeye offer, and they're terrified about the prospect of facing him in coming years. Michigan has offered OH DE Tom Strobel. Another Michigan offer is out, to OH DE Pharoah(!) Brown.
MI LB James Ross wants to play in next year's Under Armour All-American Game with his friend, MI CB Terry Richardson, who's already been invited. Ross is intrigued ($, info in header) by the hiring of Greg Mattison.
There may be a couple more offers out there, but this is (almost) all of them that I'm aware of. A couple guys are already committed to other schools - such as FL WR Avery Johnson to LSU - so I haven't included them.
Before expressing worry about "Hey, this kid loves Michigan and we're slipping because we haven't offered him yet," keep in mind that the Michigan staff wants to evaluate prospects on film before extending an official offer. Some of them may even be close to committing if they held a Michigan offer, and the coaches want to know for sure whether it's a prospect that they really want before the kid potentially joins the Class of 2012. Offers should be coming soon for a lot of these guys, so it's not a huge delay, especially for a new coaching staff. Here are some of the guys for whom that possibly applies:
- MI CB Terry Richardson's favorites list reads like 2010's final top ten list - plus Michigan. Michigan State has offered ($, info in header). TheRinger scouts his game, and he'll be on campus for tonight's basketball game.
- Richardson's teammates, LBs Royce Jenkins-Stone and Laron Taylor, both came home from Iowa with Hawkeye offers ($, info in header). Scout's Allen Trieu says that Michigan's hefty lead for Jenkins-Stone is diminishing as more teams offer, including Michigan State. Terry (and possibly Royce) is expecting to talk to Greg Mattison today, which could mean a Wolverine offer is on the way.
- MI DE Matthew Godin attended several Michigan home games and the Big Chill ($, info in header). If Michigan wants him badly enough, it sounds like they should be able to wrap him up early. Michigan State has offered him, but Michigan may be waiting to evaluate him before offering.
- Michigan is among the favorites for OH RB William Mahone (they'd probably be the favorite if the former coaching staff was still in town), and he impressed at the Under Armour combine ($, info in header).
IL QB Robert Gregory has Michigan near the top of his list. However, they weren't in his top five in mid-January, as Iowa, Notre Dame, Oregon, Miami (YTM), and Northwestern got the honor. Gregory has dual-threat ability, but is looking to play in an offense that's primarily pro-style. Michigan's newfound pro-style offense with room for a dual-threat (hello: Denard Robinson) is a huge benefit there, as is their pursuit of Jordan Diamond.
OH WR Monty Madaris has the Wolverines near the top of his list.
Michigan's coaches have been in to visit CO OL Shane Callahan. Probably convenient as they were heading out to check on 2011 LB Leilon Willingham, though Leilon ended up siging with UCF.
IL DT Tommy Schutt already has a decision timeline in mind ($, info in header). As he's just a junior, "before his senior season" is a good bet.
OH DE teammates LaTroy Lewis and Greg McMullen from Akron Hoban are hearing from Michigan. Lewis's father briefly attended Michigan, but it seems as though Ohio State leads for him.
Michigan has "shown interest" in OH LB Mason Monheim.
NJ LB Elijah Shumate doesn't mention the Wolverines to Palmetto Sports's Eric Guimaraes, and his top five is South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Rutgers, and LSU.
WI LB Vince Biegel plans to visit Michigan.
TheRinger.com profiles OH S Bam Bradley (pictured at right):
A safety with that size and instincts, a sound tackler who is comfortable in both the run and pass is going to be a big time recruit. Should be a prospect that can come in and player earlier than later. The weaknesses we see are nothing that can’t be corrected with solid coaching and a willing learner, which Bradley is.
Bradley's from Trotwood-Madison, one of Michigan's favorite schools of late.
Happy Trails (already!) to AZ QB Connor Brewer. One of the top pro-style QBs in the country committed to Texas.
Offensive and Defensive hotlists from MGoUser JC3, and Tom has a huge list of prospects to keep an eye on in his Weekly Update. We'll look at it in more detail next week, when we're not crunched for space. Scout's Allen Trieu has a preliminary list of top in-state prospects. Some top prospects from Lakewood (OH) St. Edward. Michigan has already offered a couple of them, and OL Kyle Kalis is already committed to Ohio State. On today's Recruiting Roundup, Sam mentioned that Brady Hoke has dropped by the schools of a few top juniors, including Wormley and Diamond.
The 4-3 is back, like it never sort of left and then really really left against Purdue and then came back and then altered into a slightly different version of itself and then mutated into a bizarre thing that was like the thing against Purdue but wasn't really because the person doing the mutating spent all his time watching his "Best of Just For Men Commercials" DVD. It will not suddenly be replaced by things that start with the number 3 and end with razorblades and pain. In the long term, this is delightful.
In the short term… eh… there might be some issues. This series is an attempt to fit Michigan's noses, ends, spurs, bandits, spinners, deathbackers, doombackers, dipbackers and frosting-covered gnomes into their new homes.
We start with the defensive line.
What we were forced to watch last year
Michigan stemmed into four man fronts occasionally but spent most of its time with a three man front featuring a traditional nose tackle who lined up directly over the center and two defensive ends. It was unclear to me if these defensive ends were intended to slant one way or the other at the snap—an aggressive "one gap" system—or if they were reading and reacting—a "two gap" system—because of the massive confusion surrounding them. It was hard to tell if Greg Banks was trying to cover two gaps unsuccessfully or just getting single blocked all the time.
They did typically line up slightly outside (lingo: "shaded outside") the tackles, indicating that it was probably the former:
You'd have to be the sort of idiot that would have Craig Roh play linebacker to play Craig Roh as a two-gap DE at 235 pounds, but… yeah.
At other times Michigan would switch to a four-man front in which their linebackers did things that made no goddamn sense at all, like on this soon-to-be 61-yard-touchdown…
…but that's another show. I bring it up to point out that in this situation you see Greg Banks as the weakside(!) defensive end, Craig Roh as the strongside guy, and Ryan Van Bergen folded inside to be the three-tech defensive tackle. This is a shifted line rather than an 'even' line, but more about that later.
What we were forced to watch the year before
Michigan ran mostly four-man lines and while they varied they usually put Brandon Graham on the weakside-ish of the formation. Here Illinois presents a balanced line with two TEs but you can see Martin lined up over the nose tackle and Graham to the bottom of the screen with a big gap between the two. Banks and Roh are to the top of the screen:
The linebacker walks down to the LOS in an effort to prevent Graham and Martin from getting double-teamed. When there is no TE on the weakside teams had a choice between singling Graham or Martin, which is why Graham got to eat the universe so often.
Sometimes they would line up differently. Here's another play on which Graham is on the weakside, well outside of the tackle as Martin lines up directly over the guard:
This is actually an "even" look where Michigan's not shifted. The DTs are over the guards, the ends line up outside the shoulder of the tackles.
They did occasionally stem into 3-3-5-ish looks, but note here that the defensive "ends" are lined up inside the tackles—this defense is designed to push runs to the outside.
Michigan ran this front most of the day against Ohio State and had success against their traditional I-form game, but struggled when the Buckeyes went to unbalanced spread sets. USC ran this quite a bit in the last few years of the Carroll regime; they called it "double eagle".
What can't possibly be quite as bad next year
My assumption is the defense is going to look a lot like the 2009 one did. That was a 4-3 under. I was going to go dig up old Michigan rosters featuring the "rush linebacker" to demonstrate that Michigan's old school defense also tended to have a guy hanging out on the edge made of menace and sacks while the other guy enjoyed fighting off tight ends but then I remembered Hoke obviated the need for circumstantial evidence:
“We’re going to be a four-three defense, either an over or under front.”
Those sound like two totally different things but they're not. This from above is an "over" front:
This is an "under" front:
And you're probably like "that's the same damn thing except Craig Roh is standing up." You're right. The difference in the pictures is the offense. In the MSU still there are more DL to the side with the TE and FB; in the Western still there are more DL away from the side of the formation with more dudes. Both have a one-technique DT and a three-technique DT. Both leave a big gap between the one-tech DT and the DT to his side. They're just mirror images of each other. A couple of helpful graphs from Shakin' The Southland to clarify. Michigan's overshifted line in the State image:
And the undershifted line against WMU:
The only player that ends up aligning differently is the strongside DE; it's really just flipping the tackles over.
That's still a useful distinction Hoke made for us, though, because a team that is under/over is going to have different requirements than a team that aligns even like Michigan did on that Iowa play above. We get to keep our terminology from two years ago when we talked about the three-tech DT and the one-tech DT.
Every team is "multiple" these days and will run under/over/even fronts as changeups. Also, the generally accepted theory is that under is better against pro-style teams that will bang your head and over is better against spread teams that will take your strongside linebacker into the slot. So when Hoke says "under/over" he probably means Michigan is going to run both depending on situation, not that they'll pick one when they figure out their personnel a bit better.
What you need at each spot
From right to left in the second graph above:
- The weakside defensive end is going to get a one-on-one matchup with the tackle most of the time and needs to turn that opportunity into plays. Think Shawn Crable, Pierre Woods, etc.
- The three-tech DT also usually gets a one-on-one matchup with the guard. He should be a penetrator that gets into the backfield with regularity. NFL DTs you've heard of (Warren Sapp is the canonical one) who aren't barely mobile piles of goo are probably three-techs.
- The one-tech DT is going to experience a ton of double teams as the offense attempts to attack the "bubble" in the front the defense leaves but not putting someone over the other guard. You know all those successful zone running plays the site has explained over the years that start with a guard blocking some DT and end with that guard plugging a linebacker as someone else slides over to finish the job on the NT? That's what you don't want your nose tackle giving up.
- The strongside DE should be Brandon Graham. Failing that, he should be a big, strong guy who's good against the run and can add some pass rush here and there.
A post from Battle Red Blog provides more detail on what your 4-3 under requires—at least on an NFL level—if you're interested.
Who goes where
Craig Roh is the weakside defensive end and will be backed up by Herron/Paskorz/Beyer/Heitzman. Attempts to move Roh elsewhere will be thwarted by a plucky band of kids and their dog ripping the Mattison mask off of a dastardly Greg Robinson.
There are two scenarios for the rest of the line. In the happy fairy dance scenario, Mattison, Hoke, and Beyonce are so much better than Bruce Tall and Greg Robinson that they transform the platoon of Will Campbell, Quinton Washington, and Richard Ash into a functional one-tech DT. Here's what happens if they don't and they move Martin:
Yeeargh. I'll believe Will Campbell can play D when I see it but Ash and Washington got some praise last year so you've got three bullets. It's possible this happens, if not probable.
If you can assemble a frankentackle in the middle then you can slide Mike Martin out to the three-tech spot he doesn't know he's been coveting for years. Imagine senior Martin getting single blocked on most plays. Tingling is normal when contemplating this scenario.
As a bonus, successfully moving Martin to the three tech allows you to leave Ryan Van Bergen at DE, where he is the kind of solid run defender you need on the strongside. He'll chip in a half-dozen sacks and be the B+ version of a strongside defensive end and that will be fine.
The realistic-thing-that-will-be-called-pessimistic-in-the-comments scenario is that Campbell/Washington/Ash produce a guy or two worth platooning but actually running those guys out as starters is asking to be smashed. This strands Mike Martin at the one-tech and essentially forces them to move Van Bergen back to the three-tech spot he occupied in 2009. Redshirt freshman Terrance Talbott is the only other three-tech on the roster until fall. Neither of these things are necessarily bad. RVB graded out decently in UFRs a couple years ago and picked up six sacks; Martin is good enough to play either spot.
What is bad is what that does to the strongside defensive end spot, where Jibreel Black would be an all-but-certain starter as a true sophomore. Black had some promising moments last year… as a pass rusher. He had many more in which his terrible run defense hurt Michigan, and while he'll get better it seems doubtful he'll get better fast enough to be an asset. The only other option at SDE is redshirt freshman Ken Wilkins.
It is possible that in this scenario they put Roh on the strongside since he'll be a junior and he's been less prone to crippling mistakes against the run. His main problem has been a lack of size that the offseason should come close to erasing. That would take a guy who's presumably going to be Michigan's best pass rusher and put him in a position to get doubled lots, though.
Awkwardness Rating On A One To Rodriguez-Interviews-Hoke Scale
Depends on scenario but this shouldn't be too bad. In the happy fairy scenario Michigan's personnel fits a shifted line like a glove. You've got three battleship type NTs, two guys on the weakside who will wreak havoc, a solid guy at SDE, and a scattering of decent backups.
Even in the regular non-fairy scenario you've got good personnel at three spots. SDE would probably be an issue. Either way it's way better than trying to use Craig Roh as a LB or three-man-line DE.