News bullets and other important things:
- The team started practicing in pads on Wednesday.
- Jack Miller has also been taking snaps at left guard along with presumed starter (at this point) Elliott Mealer.
- Brandon Moore has established himself as the current number one option at tight end.
“We’ve had four practices to this point, so we have a lot of work to do. We’ve got some positions obviously that need to be addressed. I like how we’ve come out to practice. I don’t know if I like how we’ve finished it completely. We have to do a better job of finishing. That’s a big part. You want to finish games. You want to finish the month of November. That’s something that we talk about, something that we need to do. The leadership’s been good. I like how our guys have worked together and the things that they’ve done. I think there’s some examples out there that guys are trying to show and trying to do a good job with. As far as that goes, I’m excited about being able to be out there in pads. We started that yesterday, and it was good to be out there and see some guys hit and be physical.”
Can you name some positions that you feel need to be addressed?
“I think they all [need to be addressed] as you know. But the front defensively, the front offensively -- that’s where the game’s played and that’s where we have to be more physical. I don’t think we’ve been as tough at the point of attack in the four days that we’ve had as we’d like to be, but I probably said the same thing last year at this time. I think the guys are working at it. I think Will [Campbell] is trying to step up as a leader. I think Ricky Barnum is. You see Taylor [Lewan] coming along as a leader, so I think guys are working together well. I think they understand the expectations.”
Do you feel like you need guys on the line to be team leaders?
“You know, I don’t know if it’s the most important thing, but I think if you have a guy who plays in the most physical part of the football team, I think that can make a difference to some degree. Defensively, Kovacs is a guy who shows a great deal of leadership. I think Craig Roh’s doing a great job with the position change. He’s been active. It’s going to pay off in the long run with that change. And then offensively Ricky’s a senior. Elliott’s doing a good job at the guard position. And then Taylor. So if you look at those up front guys, those guys are doing a good job, but it doesn’t necessarily [have to be them]. I think Denard is really working hard to be a good leader for us.”
What do you like specifically about Elliott Mealer at the left guard spot?
“Right now I like his work ethic and his demeanor. I think he’s got a bit more confidence than he had last year at this time.”
Mattison mentioned that Craig Roh is better suited on the strong side. Do you feel that way, too?
“We wouldn’t have moved him if we both wouldn’t have felt that way. He’s gained strength and the weight … that he’ll continue to do, but he has a burst in him and a good first time which gives you a little more speed and more of a guy who can give you a three-way move, which is important up front. We’d like for him to be 280-282. Boy don’t quote me on this, but he was 273 when we got started, so if he can maintain that and then gain a little more during spring ball, then during the summer he’ll be able to gain that weight. ”
How does the game change between being a weakside and strongside?
“You’ve got more combination blocks with the tight end and the tackle. If you’re on the open side then the tackle’s the primary guy who’s going to block you but you don’t have as many combinations.”
How is Ricky Barnum adjusting to the center position?
“I think he’s doing okay. We did so much with him a year ago. When we go to our quarterback snaps and all that, we have about five guys snapping. We’ve always done that part of it. He took some snaps in some live situations a year ago. I couldn’t count the number for you, but I think he’s doing okay.”
Have you seen consistency out of Will Campbell so far?
“Yeah, I wouldn’t say all the way yet. I think there’s so much more that we can get from him. What I like about it is his attitude towards it. We do some ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ every practice, and it pays to be a winner and losing -- there’s consequences. Defensively, we’ve had some consequences, and he’s done a great job of running the consequences.”
Who else is snapping besides Barnum and Jack Miller?
“It’s Jack, Joey Burzynski, and Ricky. Joey’s a guy that’s really grown into it pretty well.”
Has anything stood out at the left guard spot yet?
“No I think Elliot’s done a pretty good job with it at this point. And you’ve got that three-way rotation -- Ricky can bounce over there since he’s played it. Jack’s taken some snaps there. Joey’s taken some snaps there. If anything, we’re developing guys that have multiple skills who in the long run can help you.”
Can you see the comfort level in Denard that you may not have seen last fall?
“Yeah I would say so. Not watching the practice tape yet of what we just did, but from yesterday, there wasn’t any doubt that I thought there was marked improvement in some areas with throwing, decisiveness, good decision making, those things.”
What’s the most notable thing you’ve seen from him?
“Decisiveness with his throws.”
What are you looking for in the tight end position?
“Well we have to have a guy who can move the line of scrimmage first and foremost. Whether we run the power out of the one-back set, gun set, or if we’re running the power and the outside stretch play out of two-back. We’ve got to have a guy who can combination block the defensive end with the tackle and a guy who can handle what we call the 6-technique -- head up guys, defensive end -- if you want to try and get to the edge. That’s what you have to have. Koger was a guy who could do multiple things. I think Brandon Moore these couple of days has grown up a little bit. I like what he’s doing.”
Is Brandon Moore far and away the best one?
“I don’t know if it’s far and away, but he’s the best one at it so far. Most experience, too.”
How are your three freshmen holding up?
“Really well. Really well. I think they’re all three very willing. They all three have an athelticism to them. I think Joe and Kaleb are physical linebackers and they both run pretty well. Jarrod, he’s pretty good playing the ball and those things. At the same time he’s learning all this stuff -- this coverage is this, and when they motion this guy over, what do you do? And is it a zone, a fire, or a zone blitz, or is it man coverage? I mean, there’s a lot of things and it’s always hard at the safety position. Probably as hard as any within the defense because of the adjustments they have to make.”
Last year you coached the interior defensive line. Are you still doing that with guys like Will Campbell and Jibreel Black?
“Yeah. Jibreel at times, Jerry and I switch him back and forth, but Will and Quinton Washington and Richard Ash are the three guys I’ve got a great opportunity with.”
Does losing so many veterans change how you approach coaching the position?
“You know, I don’t know if it ever changes how you coach, because I think you make a real mistake -- and I did it here in 1998, having three returning starters back from the national championship team. I didn’t do a good job as coach with sticking with the basics and the progression that we want and the expectation that we need to have. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again.”
Do you like Schofield’s move to right tackle?
“Yeah I do, and I think he’s playing with more confidence. I really like it. That always helps when you have all of the snaps that he has in big games. I’m real excited for him.”
How has level of physicality been now that you’re practicing in pads? Is it to your liking?
“Yes, no question about it. We will be as physical as we can possibly be.”
Do you expect Roy’s numbers to go up with his move to Junior Hemingway’s position?
“You know, I think the expectation has to come with how people want to defend you. I think that’s always a big part of it. Roy is a guy who I should have mentioend earlier as far as leadership and doing those things by example that I’ve been impressed with.”
What do you see from Jerald Robinson?
“Jerald’s got a chance. He’s got a huge chance to be a contributor. He’s shown more consistency. He’s caught the ball well. Gallon and him and Roy both, Drew to some extent, have done a good job. The receivers have been competing well.”
(I'll have some player transcripts up later today.)
(Quick site note: Museday is moving back to Wednesdays. I know that makes a ridiculous name more ridiculous but "Musenesday" sounds like nasal congestion)
In the calm before the storm of spring football, the diarists and board took the week to honor the other pieces of M athletics.
The Wrestler. Now I know two things about wrestling: that horrible call a few months ago, and that winning TWO (!) national championships is like, well, winning two national championships. Michigan's 141-pound wrestler Kellen Russell has done this. He's the sixth wrestler to do so for Michigan. The rest: Norvard Nalen (1953-'54), Jarrett Hubbard (1973-'74), Mark Churella (three times! 1977-'79), and Ryan Bertin (2003 and '05).
The Hockey Players. This incomparable diary by stephenrjking is hands down one of the best and most well written articles I've ever read about Michigan sports. He takes us back to the 2002 NCAA Playoffs and I can't write a better introduction than this:
It was the weekend Jed Ortmeyer achieved greatness. It was the weekend a mascot was ejected. It was the weekend Ron Mason coached his last game, and Ryan Miller played his last game. It was the weekend the CCHA Humanitarian of the Year almost murdered a dog. It was the weekend Denver stole Michigan’s locker room. It was the weekend the NCAA reconsidered its regional hosting policy.
It was one of the greatest sports experiences of my life. And incredibly, it was ten years ago this Friday.
It was also the year of the Cold War, and when the university decided swearing at opposing players on their way to the penalty box wasn't very genteel. If the tourney weekend was the loudest Yost ever got, a few weeks earlier against Michigan State has got to be up there. SRJK won Diarist of the Week and got his points about 5 minutes after this was front-paged.
For the rest of you ice junkies, there's a Picture Pages from the BG game by CenterIce, including one where Brown shows us how a screen's set in Texas. Also if you give Michigan 5 minutes of powerplay the Wolverines actually may gain the zone and score.
The Basketball Players. Right before three and a half guys bolted from next year's team, AC1997 wrote a fantastic diary going over the 2012-'13 basketball roster and what he expects from the returners. It's still mostly useful if you can mentally replace Smot's minutes with what I'm guessing will be a rotation of Morgan and NBA heirs at the 4.
East Lansing is Burning. Of course. Of course.
Multiple reports of couch burnings, rowdy activity in E.L.
10:20 p.m. Police scanner traffic and eyewitness reports indicate that there are multiple reports of fires, fireworks and arrests in East Lansing. Staff reports indicate that there are fires in the the Cedar Village neighborhood, Harrison Road and Elm and Milford streets. Fireworks were reported near Abbot Road. Police officials reported that “there’s not a lot going on right now.”
10:30 p.m. Residents are gathering on Elm Street. Mechanical engineering senior John Lusczakoski said the East Lansing Fire Department is watering down couches on the street to prevent residents from burning them. “I saw a lot of broken alcohol bottles,” he said. “They were watering down couches so we could not burn them.”"
You were expecting general shrugging of shoulders, sanguinity, and hope for next season, son? Let me introduce you to your uncle. Image HT: Blue in South Bend.
The Tennis Players. Beat Michigan State 7-0. Evan King got to 6-0, 4-0 and a break point before dropping that point and the 6060.
The Softball Players. My mission to make everyone softball fans continues for realz starting this week. You know about the northern team problem by now: they play the first six weeks of the season in various southern tournaments. This time it meant having two games canceled for rain while Ann Arbor soaked in sun and 70. To stay warm, the team scheduled an impromptu match against Eastern Michigan (you can do that? You can do that!). As EMU warm-ups go, Michigan looked a little sloppy at first, then hit a grand slam and forced the Eagles to cry uncle in the fifth.
For those of you trying to wrack up Priority Points for better football seats this year (don't deny it – you're the same people with airline status in the lanthanides) the $70 for softball season tickets is by my calculations the cheapest way to jack up your number. They're cumulative too. Just sayin'. By the way, the most expensive way to earn Priority Points is to earn a 4-year degree from the University of Michigan.
The Big Ten season begins tomorrow as Michigan hosts Penn State. Forecast says rain for the doubleheader.
The Man Who Stares at Borges. You've met Heiko but have you really met Heiko? Six Zero's MGoProfile Series came back this week with one of the most interesting interviews, and interesting subjects, yet. Heiko answers questions about what it's like being a member of the Michigan media, from the press room experience and other members of the media, to asking Borges questions about the bubble screen and the underappreciated medical art of properly framing a question. See for yourself why we send a doctor instead of a journalist to press conferences.
The Men Who Embed Videos. Other than ruining the UFR backlog and other heinous crimes against fair use, T.E.M. has now killed off the great Brady Quinn for Heisman Video, but for now you can still have the other without the one. You can also have Denard's magical first snap at Michigan, Denard to Roundtree, Wangler to Carter, Grbac to Howard, Desmond Howard's return, Charles Woodson's return, and much more in a thread of all-time favorite Michigan videos. Watch them all before people I despise with the hatred of a thousand supernovae manage to register enough baseless complaints to trip YouTube's level of "it's not worth it."
Etc. ZooWolverine started a thread to discuss the outlook for Michigan maintaining the Winningest Program title (note: except for Yale and Notre Dame pre-2002 or whatever year that was when we took it for good nobody else really talks about this). MMB drum major tryouts has to be coming up real soon right?
Your Moment of Zen:
In the immediate aftermath of yesterday's Trey Burke PANIC I said that Michigan wouldn't have to wait too long to know whether Burke will make us all emo. A correction: the NBA early entry deadline is the 29th. The deadline to withdraw is the 10th. IE, there is no deadline to withdraw anymore.
Burke will get his evaluation back from the NBA on the sixth, so a day or two after that would be a potential announcement timeframe. If it doesn't happen then Burke is on the fence and a final announcement probably won't come until the deadline nears. So… yeah, try not to think about it for the next month. I'll have kittens/muppets on standby.
Ah, hell, let's do the whole regional.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Denver(?)|
|WHERE||Green Bay, heart of the CCHA|
|WHEN||9:30 Eastern Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
It's a pioneer. It is also Sinbad. This description is not about his comedy, obviously. It's about how he played basketball at Denver with a silly looking afro.
Record. 25-13-4, 16-8-4 WCHA. I'm not sure how a WCHA team with that record falls to a three seed, but that's Ferris State's problem before we can complain about it. FWIW, KRACH is in near-lockstep with the Pairwise when it comes to ranking Ferris and Denver.
The Pioneers finished third in the WCHA—a game and a half ahead of streaking one-seed North Dakota—with a +17 goal differential. After beating Wisconsin in three games to open the WCHA playoffs they won OT games against Michigan Tech and UMD, the second in double OT, before getting clubbed by North Dakota in the final 4-0. Take that with a grain of salt. By the end of that game Denver was down to three defensemen one night after going to double OT.
In keeping with the regional's ALL THE OVERTIMES theme, three of Denver's last four games have been playoff OTs. Michigan is coming off consecutive weekends with playoff double OTs. Ferris State got bounced by Bowling Green thanks to two overtime losses two weeks ago. And ten of Cornell's last 21 games have gone to OT. Prepare for fetal position hockey this weekend.
Outside of the league, Denver had one very impressive win and one bizarre loss. They beat BC in Boston to open the year, then lost to BU the next night. They beat Princeton in late November, then lost to Miami. They beat eventual one-seed Union 3-1 and smoked Air Force 7-1. They hosted Alabama-Huntsville… and split, giving the Chargers one of their two wins on the year.
Previous meetings. None. How about…
Common opponents. Both teams have wins against BC. Michigan, of course, got clubbed by Union at the tail end of their November fail; Denver beat them. Michigan went 2-1-1 against the Redhawks Denver lost to, and Michigan swept Denver's first round opponent. Denver will obviously be 1-0 against Ferris if this preview becomes relevant.
Dangermen. This is hard to judge given Denver's extensive but murky injury issues:
DU coach George Gwozdecky on Sunday said his six injured players — forwards Jason Zucker, Chris Knowlton and Beau Bennett, and defensemen Paul Phillips, Josiah Didier and David Makowski — are all “day-to-day” and questionable for Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener against Ferris State.
The Denver Post's Mike Chambers guesses that Zucker and Didier will be fine, Bennett will return, and that Makowski will play but only on the power play. Bennett and Makowski have been out since December; Zucker and Didier picked up injuries in the WCHA title game.
As a result of the injuries, Denver fans are feeling a bit of pessimism. One emailer:
I've see a few of their games this year and I am not holding my breath for this team to go deep in the tournament. The scoring dries up at times and the defensemen had issues clearing the puck earlier in the season. More than likely the goalie won't be determined until the day before and they both are pretty solid (either Brittain or Olkinuora). The Shore brothers and Zucker are the biggest scorers on the team, so losing Zucker would hurt if he can't play. Philips is a solid defensemen, but he might be out as well. This team is kind of wounded right now and young.
Uncertainty aside, this team has some elite scorers on it the likes of which have ceased to exist in the CCHA. If Denver fans think their team sees scoring dry up they'd be appalled by the CCHA: Denver is 9th nationally in goals for, with Michigan one slot behind them.
The top two lines are centered by the Shore brothers, Drew and Nick. Drew drives the bus for Denver with 21-31-52 and a +21. Given the plus minus ratings it looks like Denver has run a blender through its lines all year. Luke Salazar and Ty Loney are currently Shore's linemates. Salazar has 12-17-29, a +18, and just one minor penalty on the year; Loney has 10-11-21 and appears to be the gritty guy who provides grit and stuff.
The second line is explosive offensively but has struggled to keep its head above water. Nick Shore has 13-28-41 and is a –1 on the year; Zucker has 22-24-46 and is just +6. Some of this may not be their fault, as Denver has been missing two of their best defensemen for most of the year.
Defense. Injury clouds the picture even more here. Denver was down to five defensemen after the Didier injury against North Dakota; while they will get players back for the tournament how many will make a big difference. It sounds like Didier should be fine, Phillips still out, and Markowski limited.
That would mean Denver rotates through five guys on the blue line with occasional shifts to the returning Markowski; on a hypothetical second-night matchup they would be more tired than Michigan's guys, inevitable overtimes held equal.
In the absence of the injured, freshman Joey LaLeggia is the main man. He's +15 on the year and has 11-27-38. Those are astounding numbers given that he's only got three power play goals. LaLeggia's brilliant freshman season saw him named the CHN rookie of the year. He's not a big guy—just 5'10"—but he's been a rock for the Pioneers.
John Lee appears to be LaLeggia's partner. he's the muscle in the pairing at 6'2" but is also a good skater; he was a fifth round pick of the Panthers in 2007. If you're adding that up, yeah: he's 23. Veteran. Scott Mayfield is a penalty-prone stay at home guy with massive size (6'4") and an excellent draft pedigree (a second rounder). He may be deployed in an effort to slow down Brown and/or Guptill depending on how long the fracturing of the top line lasts.
Sam Brittain is 60-40 to be the guy
Goalie. Denver has three different goalies with double-digit games, something I don't think I've ever seen before. Junior Adam Murray, the least impressive statistically, only got his starts thanks to an injury to sophomore and Panthers draftee Sam Brittain. Once Brittain returned he and freshman Juho Olkinuora split starts. Both have impressive save percentages (.931 and .924, respectively). Despite Brittain's slight edge in that category his GAA is a couple tenths worse than Olkinuora (2.39 and 2.18). You'll note that neither of those is very high.
Denver fans aren't sure who will get the call this weekend. Based on recent play Brittain has the edge. He stopped an alarming 67 shots in the double OT win over Duluth; the next night Olkinuora was bombed for four goals on 18 shots before getting pulled for Murray in the third. I'd guess Brittain gets Ferris State and will maintain that spot in the event of a win that isn't 6-5.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.1||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.3||4.2|
Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically
Single elimination hockey. Is insane.
Take care of the puck. Bob Daniels on the Pioneers:
“After watching tape on DU, we realize we have to be careful with turnovers. They’re a team I think, full of predators. They have so much skill up front that any type of turnover, could be very dangerous. We’re going to turn pucks over, but we want to make sure we’re very careful where they occur.”
- Ferris State Head Coach Bob Daniels
If you're thinking of Michigan's recent tendency to cough up horrible turnovers, you're not alone.
Hope the relatively chipper injury report is a front. If Zucker's out that's a big boost.
Wear them down if at all possible. Denver's shorthanded on the blue line and will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. If the first one is close or the inevitable overtimes are unbalanced, a steady diet of dump, chase, cycle could have the Pioneer defensive corps sucking wind in the third. A corollary…
Survive an offensive onslaught in the first period or so. Hypothetical Denver matchup is a rare one in which the other team has a clear edge in offensive talent. Michigan will have to ride it out and get to the part of the game in which they're fresher.
For the love of God stay out of the box. Obviously. Michigan prefers games like the ones they had against Notre Dame where penalties are rare animals.
The Big Picture
Michigan of course has to beat Cornell to find themselves against Denver. From there, win or disintegrate into component atoms.
Walker, Gardner, Avant (L to R)
After yesterday's one-two gut punch of basketball news, let's talk football, shall we? The story that will likely dominate the spring is the potential move of quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver, at least part-time. Gardner, in case you didn't see Brian's UV yesterday, showed some pretty serious skills at receiver when camping as a high schooler. He's also 6'5", athletic, blessed with hands large enough to make the catch above, and familiar with the offense. Meanwhile, Michigan's two known quantities at receiver are Roy Roundtree, whose production plummeted last year when QB OH NOES wasn't a regular part of the playbook, and Jeremy Gallon, who looks quite promising but is also listed at 5'8".
Gardner taking some snaps at receiver is a good idea then, right? I certainly think so, but I've heard several arguments to the contrary. Allow me to present them, then do my best to crush them.
Argument 1—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because if he's hurt at wideout and Denard gets inevitably dinged (or hurt himself, God forbid) we're totally screwed.
This is the argument I've seen the most, and the mentality behind it is one I absolutely hate. Yes, I'm aware that Michigan has just three scholarship QBs on the roster. That is the reality for this year and it's not an optimal one. Denard Robinson has been known to get knocked around on occasion, sometimes requiring a backup cameo. He's a running quarterback. Injuries happen.
But it takes a large leap from "Michigan is thin at QB" to "Gardner can't play wideout because injury doomsday scenario." First of all, if Denard gets hurt, that's a doomsday scenario in and of itself. If Gardner is hurt at the same time, well, the football gods hate Michigan. Does the slim chance of this worst-case scenario happening mean Michigan shouldn't play one of their best athletes at a position in dire need of help when he otherwise wouldn't see the field? No.
Simply put, college coaches cannot operate under the assumption that the worst will happen. That's the same line of thinking that made coaches doubt the viability of the forward pass (remember, only three things can happen when you throw, and two of them are bad) and causes the Zooks of the coaching world to punt on 4th-and-3 from the opponent's 38. Brady Hoke has proven that he's got some serious cajones, and that's generally regarded as a fantastic trait in a head coach. This is not how he operates.
Also, redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy may very well be an equally viable backup option as Gardner, or at least at the point where the dropoff between the two backups isn't large enough to justify keeping Gardner on the bench when he could be contributing at wideout. Which brings me to the next argument...
Argument 2—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because it'll take away from his practice reps at quarterback and he won't develop.
This one holds more water than the first argument, but I still don't agree with it. Gardner is already splitting backup reps at QB with Bellomy, and unless you think Gardner needs a ton of "mental reps," I don't think it hurts to have him spending his non-throwing practice time running routes and catching passes.
It's not like Gardner is switching sides of the ball. In fact, playing receiver can help with his quarterback play; running routes can hone timing, understanding of schemes, and keep him sharp and ready to see the field.
This year's NFL draft will provide a great example of a player who went through a very similar mid-career situation. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill was a three-star dual-threat QB in the 2007 class, redshirting in his first season. As a redshirt freshman, he battled for the starting QB job but ultimately fell behind two other players. At 6'4", 220 pounds, Tannehill was moved to receiver in fall camp by head coach Mike Sherman. All he did was catch 55 passes for 844 yards and five TDs.
The next year, Tannehill again competed to start at quarterback, but lost out to Jerrod Johnson. As the primary backup, A&M could've handed him a headset, but instead they threw him back out there at receiver. Tannehill had 46 receptions for 609 yards and four TDs while also appearing in three games at QB in mop-up duty. As a junior, Tannehill started the season as a receiver but earned the starting nod as a quarterback partway through the year, completing 65% of his passes and throwing 13 TDs to just six interceptions. After a strong senior season as the full-time starter at QB, Tannehill is expected to go in the top 12 in this year's NFL draft. If playing receiver stunted his development as a quarterback, it wasn't enough to merit keeping the team's best receiver off the field.
Argument 3—The dumbest argument ever.
Sorry to put you on blast, Eric Lloyd, but I can't let this just slide on by:
@AceAnbender Why would you try this without trying Denard at WR first? That's for sure his NFL future and Gardner is better QB.
— Eric Lloyd (@EricLloyd) March 21, 2012
Just no. If I seriously have to argue this point, and I hope I don't for 99.9% of you out there, I'll keep it short. Denard Robinson is about to be a senior in his second year under the current system, coming off an All-Big Ten season that followed up one of the most productive years by a quarterback in the history of college football. Whether or not he's going to be a quarterback at the next level, it's by far the most optimal position to play him at in college.
Devin Gardner has attempted 17 career passes—10 against Bowling Green in a 2010 curb-stomping—and has spent his entire career as a backup quarterback. If he's better at this point in his career than Denard, he hasn't made that apparent to anyone who would have the best idea about whether or not that was the case. End of argument that hopefully never needed to be made.
Michigan can explore the opportunity of sticking a 6'5" playmaker on the field at a position of huge need, or they can keep Devin Gardner on the bench for fear that the worst thing ever will happen. Unless you're the type to keep a fully-stocked bunker in case of the nuclear holocaust, the choice here is rather apparent.
Yesterday's rapture of three players and near-rapture of Trey Burke takes Michigan from set on players for years to scramble mode. Even if Burke returns—
—Michigan has two open scholarships for now or 2013 and a third that could go to a grad-year transfer. Options? There are some.
Amedeo Della Valle
The 6'5" combo guard from Italy out of Findlay Prep in Nevada. Michigan made his top five despite not officially offering and Beilein's checking him out in person today. He's not ranked highly but has offers from Arizona, Ohio State, and Gonzaga, three of the other teams in his top five. (Texas A&M is the other team. They are not good at basketball.) He's not highly ranked but if he's actually got offers from those three teams and UCLA, UConn, and USC he's a best-case scenario as far as talent Michigan can add to the roster.
Is he a point guard? He thinks so.
Della Valle is a natural point guard, but with Dominic Artis and Nigel Williams-Goss entrenched in the Findlay backcourt, he’s been playing out of position a bit. Moreover, with Bennett injured, Della Valle has been defending bigger players.
It’s given him the chance to demonstrate his versatility.
“I can play the one and the two,” Della Valle said. “I can defend combo guards.”
Della Valle is taking his time with a decision, and said he will likely choose a school until April. There are no favorites, and no other visits planned just yet.
“I want to play right away,” he said. “I also want a great coach. And style of play is important.”
I get the vibe Michigan is in strong position with Della Valle but am simultaneously suspicious of my instinct. There was a random guy on the Rivals board saying he had some inside info and Michigan would get him if they pushed hard. So that's totally solid.
Albrecht is the kid with the ball.
That's not a protest sign directed at a Swiss alderman, it's a person. Sam Webb mentioned a point guard from Indiana spending a prep year in the same league Stauskas and McGary are in; though he didn't mention a name Albrecht fits the profile and is undoubtedly the player in question.
Albrecht is from Crown Point, Indiana—the heart of Michigan recruiting—and a former member of the SYF AAU squad that has provided Michigan with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. He took a post-grad year in an effort to get a major scholarship. He's still looking for one. He put up 23 points in the prep school AAA championship game after defeating Mitch McGary's heavily favored Brewster squad (link is to full game) and was named the tourney MVP. He's got a couple kids going to D-I schools on his team (Vermont, Harvard, Dartmouth) but still seems to be his team's go-to guy. As of October Albrecht was getting interest from Vermont and MAC schools; he's not rated and is variously listed anywhere from 5'11" to 6'2", with the shorter end of that scale being more realistic.
He is not large but does seem to have the wild double-clutch reverse layup game that you have to have if you're going to be a guy that size playing college basketball. We'd be totally boned if we had to start him next year and he's not likely to beat out Derrick Walton but he might be a solid rotation guy.
BONUS: his team is nicknamed the "Hoggers."
Random High Profile Uncommitted Dude
There are some uncommitted fellows with four stars at various recruiting services but with none of them listing Michigan it's doubtful they can get seriously involved. It is distantly possible they could hop on a guy like Darrick Wood, who is #104 at Rivals, plays at a New England prep school, and only shows an offer from St. John's… a school he already decommitted from. That is a name I picked off a list and nothing else.
With coach-firing season comes potential defections. Illinois has jettisoned Bruce Weber and will not reload with Shaka Smart. Could Michigan pirate one of their recruits? They do have a three-star PG named Michael Orris out of Crete-Monee (also the high school of LaQuon Treadwell). As of a couple weeks ago this was his status($):
"Absolutely," Orris said, when asked if he still planned to suit up for the Orange and Blue next season. "It changes a lot because (Weber) was the man that recruited me, someone I developed an amazing relationship with, but I've signed a letter of intent to Illinois. As of now, that's where I'm going."
It's a longshot, but not completely off the table. Illinois also has an unranked 6-foot shooting guard with one other offer from North Dakota State committed as a preferred walk-on. He's not likely to draw interest.
Nebraska also dumped its coach recently, and unlike Illinois they've got a number of commits. Unfortunately, none are geographically proximate and most are JUCOs. They do have a 5'8" three-star PG out of Kansas City and a 6'4" shooting guard out of Kansas. No one has gotten an "I'm still committed" quote.
This is also the category in which grad-year transfers might be explored. I have no idea if there's a Brandon Wood out there for Michigan this year, but if there is Michigan should take him without blinking. FWIW, UConn's Alex Oriakhi has announced he will transfer and will be immediately eligible as long as UConn's APR-related suspension is upheld. Unfortunately he's a 6'9" center who Michigan doesn't really need.
If Burke returns Michigan doesn't really need anything except maybe a backup point. They could bank a scholarship or two and try to add to their 2013 class with a Bo Ziegler or other guys. It's about 90% likely that Michigan does not fill both slots, I'd say.
Since he'll have to sit out a year, Trey Ziegler counts as air, BTW. Not that it seems like there's anything going on there.
Let's Feel Better About Things
Man, is Mark Donnal going to be a tough matchup in Beilein's offense.
Love the skill level, and he seems like he's got decent athleticism. Also, Derrick Walton is gooooood.