File photo, since Heiko took pictures and then left the conference room to ask Hoke more questions
Heiko and I are in Chicago today and tomorrow for Big Ten Media Days. Here's the transcript from Brady Hoke's presser, with questions about the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Penn State transfers, Denard, and the non-conference schedule, as well as a little Sparty trolling at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Head Coach Brady Hoke.
COACH HOKE: Number one, thanks to everybody here for coming and traveling and supporting the Big Ten Conference. I can't tell you how excited we are as a team to be representing such a great league and to represent the University of Michigan is something that's very special to all of us.
We're excited about the upcoming year. We're excited because of the hard work that our kids have put through since the end of the Sugar Bowl and the things that they've done as a team.
I think the leadership is really what's important for us. Last year we had a group of seniors that came together and did a tremendous job of leading the football team. And I think at the same time those guys who were juniors or those guys who played a lot of football understand now it's the expectations are in their hands.
And we're excited about that. We had a disappointing year a year ago when you do not win the Big Ten championship. And at Michigan we've not won that championship since 2004.
So we have direct goals ahead of us and what we want to do and we're excited about that. Our schedule is one that is a great opportunity and a great challenge for us. We played 10 out of 12 teams that are Bowl teams. We play five of those teams on the road.
And so for us it's going to be a great challenge and a great opportunity. Our focus and how we approach each day and how we as a team have the work ethic and the commitment and the accountability and respect and the trust for each other, that's what will make us successful.
But we're glad to be here. Glad to see you, kind of. But we're glad you're here. So thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. At least according to the media you're the favorite in the league after one year. You're perceived to be back. What do you think of that?
COACH HOKE: Not much, to be honest with you. I think we were picked fifth in our division a year ago. I think the 1997 team, I think pre-season was picked right inside the top 25 by a lot of people. And that ended up being a pretty good football team. We don't put too much stock in that. It's like anything in life, it's not where we start but where we finish.
Q. Leadership, who has stepped up so far at this point and who would you like to see step up a little bit more?
COACH HOKE: As a staff we don't have an opportunity to be with those guys all summer, because of the NCAA rules, and those kind of things. But I think you can see the three guys we brought are just a part of that with Denard and his development, and I think Jordan Kovacs is an amazing story, number one, but how his leadership has grown. And then Taylor Lewan, who is going to be a junior for us. But I think he's really taken a lot of responsibility.
Q. With two teams in the Leader's Division [not bowl eligible], possibility of Penn State taking a step back long term, is there a competitive balance issue, do you think, in the league? Is there a fairness issue consequently that needs to be rectified?
COACH HOKE: I think the only thing I can tell you is this is such an unbelievable circumstance. And I'm sure Commissioner Delany and everyone else, you wouldn't see this coming. But at the same time, life's not fair. And whether it's fair or not, it doesn't matter. We have a schedule to play. Our focus is on the University of Michigan, and that's what we're going to keep focused on.
Q. How have you and your staff reacted to the sudden availability of Penn State players?
COACH HOKE: To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision -- I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree -- but we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more about Jordan and what you expect of him in leading the defense coming up this season?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, he's a guy who had to walk on twice to play at Michigan. And I think because of his love for his teammates, his love for the game of football, his intensity, how he approaches every day from a work ethic standpoint to being a great teammate, and that's what we talk about every day.
And he's truly one of those guys, terrific teammate, his development as a player, we're very fortunate, he's a very instinctive guy, a very smart football player, and I think his teammates see that.
Q. Have you made a determination as to whether Fitz Toussaint is going to play against Alabama or not?
COACH HOKE: No, both of those young men, they're-- obviously there's a standard of performance we expect at Michigan from an academic standpoint to a community standpoint and to an athletic, competition standpoint. And we have -- they're right now indefinitely suspended.
They're going to pay the price for poor judgments which a lot of 18 to 23-year-old kids make and then we'll make a decision down the road.
Q. What do you expect to see out of Denard Robinson this year?
COACH HOKE: I think when you look at it, and going through spring and just his overall concepts-wise when you look at the offense, I think that's much better. And from the point of our terminology and what we call things, and I think it's had an opportunity for Al Borges to maybe grow a little bit more within the offense. And I think from that point of it, and probably more specifically is how he has really become a guy you can count on when it comes to leadership and how his work ethic is and those things that he's done.
Q. You've spoken about this before but you decided to take your team or a good chunk of your team out to the West Coast to go through sort of a Navy Seals training session. What precipitated that decision? What did you see them get out of it?
COACH HOKE: Well, everybody wants to focus on that one four-day period or three-day period. That started in January. We do leadership seminars with our seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. The seniors are a little more encompassing to some degree. And we did it at Ball State.
Our strength coach, Aaron Wellman, came to this after two years at Ball State and trying to grow our leadership and it's just part of that seminar or whatever you want to call it.
And with our guys it was something that they learned a lot about themselves, number one, individually, which is important. And, secondly, they learned about themselves as a senior class.
And when you talk about the team and the commitment to each other and the accountability, when they did the different things that the Seals put them through.
Q. We heard Urban Meyer say maybe the Big Ten lacks a little speed and athleticism in comparison to the SEC. I was curious, with Alabama on your schedule, what strengths do you think your team and maybe even the conference has on those top SEC teams?
COACH HOKE: I think it's a hard question, really, to even answer. Because I think everybody's different. I think when people make the mistake of lumping the conference in not having speed or whatever it might be. When we're playing the reigning national champion, they're a terrific football team and they've done terrific things. We're excited about the opportunity to go into a great venue, different venue, obviously, and go line up and see what happens.
Q. You mentioned Alabama. Talk a little bit more about your non-conference schedule?
COACH HOKE: I think obviously September 1st is a day that most people in this room understand that great game that we'll play down there and it's a real privilege to have Troy Calhoun and the Air Force Academy come into Ann Arbor because of the significance of those kids who are out there for Air Force and their duty to country.
I think UMASS is a moving up program and a new head coach and obviously the great national rivalry we have with Notre Dame playing them down in South Bend at night. So we're excited about the non-conference schedule.
Q. You were the beneficiary of the Bowl system last year; you didn't have to win the division to still go to a BCS Bowl. How would you feel if you were on the tail end of that at some point in time?
COACH HOKE: Probably not that good. But it was out of our control. We don't control that part of it. So I wouldn't feel very good about it.
[Programming note: sorry about the slow content from myself. Minor family emergency, emphasis on minor, but one that required some attention the last 24 hours. Anyway…]
the spring headfake
Michigan's decision to recruit ALL OF THE CORNERBACKS is now a little clearer, as Sam Webb is reporting that Terrence Talbott has decided to leave the program. Talbott was buried on the depth chart last year before a star turn in the spring practice videos that seemed to indicate he was being given serious consideration for playing time. JT Floyd reasserted his hold on the starting spot in the spring game, and now Talbott's out the door. Apologies to Andy Staples, who used the hype at this site to name Talbott to his spring breakout team.
Talbott's departure leaves Michigan thin at boundary corner. If Floyd goes down it probably sees Blake Countess slide over and Courtney Avery slide into the starting lineup with either Delonte Holowell or Raymon Taylor taking over the nickel spot. Either that or Taylor steps into the starting lineup at boundary, but he's listed at 169 pounds on the roster… other than Floyd Michigan's cornerbacks are tiny. By virtue of being listed at 5'11", 180 Talbott was the second-biggest guy available. Floyd's health, already pretty important, is now more so.
From a recruiting perspective, Talbott's exit opens up a 21st scholarship for the 2012 class. On the WTKA recruiting roundup a couple days ago, Webb mentioned that Michigan would now take a 25th player in the class, so Talbott's decision seems to have come recently and led directly to Ross Douglas's offer and commitment. Michigan is still after LaQuon Treadwell and will look for BPA with slot #25. Rivals is reporting($) that Leon McQuay III has dropped Michigan after the Douglas commitment, so who that might be is a mystery unless it's VA RB Derrick Green.
NON-BONUS: The 2010 class, originally 27 strong, has been hacked to 15 in just two years. Death by…
- ACADEMICS: Antonio Kinard, Demar Dorsey, Davion Rogers, Conelius Jones
- BEING A NE'ER DO WELL: Austin White
- INJURY: Christian Pace, Terry Talbott
- DEPTH CHART RELATED: Cullen Christian, Ray Vinopal, DJ Williamson, Carvin Johnson, Terrence Talbott (probably)
Today's recruiting roundup discusses newest 2013 commit Ross Douglas, Shane Morris's Elite 11 finals performance, BBQ at the Big House visitors, and more.
Prep Kickoff Classic Presser Wrap
The Detroit Sports Commission Prep Kickoff Classic—formerly known as the Big Day Prep Showdown—will be held this year at Wayne State on August 24-25, and features a headlining matchup between Division 1 state champ Cass Tech and Division 2 champs Birmingham Brother Rice. Yesterday, the Detroit Sports Commission held a luncheon promoting the event, so I made the drive up to Detroit with the promise of an opportunity to interview some of Cass Tech's top players.
Unfortunately, every team but Cass Tech sent a contingent of players, and I left the event empty-handed. Well, save for this photo of Southgate Anderson's terrifying mascot:
Don't all thank me at once, now.
Hello: Ross Douglas
As ryebreadboy noted in the comments of yesterday's Hello post, recruits have a knack for making my job a little difficult, so of course OH CB Ross Douglas committed yesterday while I was in Detroit. There's this guy named Brian who does a decent job of blogging himself, however, so the site didn't miss a beat. Douglas's commitment has spurred the usual slew of scouting reports, including one from Scout's Bill Greene that compares him to the same player Brian did, Courtney Avery. More from Greene ($):
Douglas is a pure speed athlete, first and foremost. He can run and jump with the best of Ohio's top defensive backs ... He has a lot of upside as a cornerback, because he has a lot to learn about playing the position. The skill set is more than adequate, and all he lacks is game experience at the position, but he will get another year's worth this season.
The usual concerns about height crop up, as well. The fact that Douglas has done so well at corner despite his inexperience at the position is a good indicator of his natural athletic ability.
ESPN's Billy Tucker also provides a report; this excerpt comes from above the paywall fold:
Not the biggest perimeter defender but he can cover with very good footwork, transitional skills and above average speed. Does a good job in both man and zone schemes. While not the biggest or fastest, Douglas closes with good burst, is instinctive, technically sound and well-rounded.
Matt Pargoff caught up with Douglas's high school coach, who had nothing but good things to say about his character:
“No one works harder than Ross when it comes to football,” said Elder. “In all my years of coaching high school football, I’ve probably never had a kid that works as hard at it as he does. I’ve watched him grow from the freshman that started at corner for us to the senior that he is now, and it’s been a lot of fun to coach him and watch him develop.
“He’s a high character kid. He comes from a great family. I just talked to Coach [Brady] Hoke on the phone probably about an hour ago and the one thing I told him was, I can promise you – obviously they know he’s a great football player or they wouldn’t recruit him – but I said he’s a great kid who will never embarrass your program. That’s something that I’m proud of as a coach. He’s a good kid. He treats people with respect. He’s a good student. He’s going to do things the right way and work hard.["]
A welcome addition to the program, to be sure.
Bonus: Rivals has a free article on sleeper prospects that is largely devoted to Michigan's recruitment of Channing Stribling.
Elite 11 Or 25 Or Whatever
Depending on where you look, Shane Morris was either the best quarterback at the Elite 11 (Scout), in the top four (Rivals), or outside of the top 11 (the Elite 11 staff). You can judge for yourself, as Fox Sports/Scout provides video of all of Morris's throws from the camp. His performance was a little uneven, especially when throwing deep, but then you watch the throw at 2:25 and swoon:
Scout's Scott Kennedy cites Morris's big arm in naming him the top QB at the camp, though he also has the same concerns you likely do after watching the above video:
The biggest arm at the camp, Morris shook off a rough outing on his first day to steadily improve each week. Morris is capable of making throws that only a few in this class can hope to match. Needs to develop better field vision and consistency.
Rivals has a slightly more in-depth evaluation ($):
4. Shane Morris, Warren (Mich.) De La Salle: Morris is at the top because of his high ceiling. He has great size, a cannon of an arm and he has started to show the ability to put more touch on his ball. His long ball didn't sail like it has in the past and no one can sling it where it needs to be faster. The interesting thing about Morris is that while he's learning to drop the ball into spots rather than zip it all the time and learning to throw across his body more, he becomes more impressive. He's no longer just a kid with a hose for an arm, he's becoming a complete quarterback.
Morris has consistently improved his ability to change speeds since last fall if you believe his camp evaluations (and I'm not sure why you wouldn't).
If you're curious, South Florida commit Asiantii Woulard took home camp MVP honors; other standouts included Penn State commit Christian Hackenberg, USC commit Max Browne, and Miami (YTM) commit Kevin Olsen.
BBQ Visitors and 2013 News
I've been asked several times for a list of this weekend's BBQ at the Big House visitors, and thankfully Tremendous has done the legwork for me. The list of 2013 uncommitted recruits is small, just VA RB Derrick Green (AZ WR Devon Allen visits the day before the BBQ). One notable name not on the list is IL WR Laquon Treadwell, but fear not: he'll be at the Gridiron Kings camp with, you guessed it, Shane Morris. A slew of 2014 prospects will attend, including offered recruits like MI CB Damon Webb, IL CB Parrker Westphal, and OH LB Michael Ferns. Ferns, especially, could be one to keep an eye on, as he's already named a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State with plans for an early decision; given the situation in Happy Valley, this could already be a two-horse race.
FL WR Alvin Bailey narrowed his list to a group of eight: UCF, Georgia, Florida State, Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina, Michigan, and Notre Dame. He gave more detail to Rivals's Chris Nee, saying that among those schools, UCF, Georgia, South Carolina, and Michigan stand out ($). Word is Bailey even has favorites among that top group, South Carolina and UCF, and given Michigan's scholarship situation and the difficulty pulling a prospect from the South, I'd still bank on Treadwell as the most likely WR to end up in the fold.
As mentioned above, Derrick Green will be in Ann Arbor this weekend. He recently took a trip to Auburn, however, and came way saying he "got that feeling," about the school, as did his mother ($). I've never been particularly optimistic about Michigan's chances of landing Green, and that stance hasn't changed.
CA DE Joe Mathis, for whatever it's worth, tells 247's Todd Worly that Michigan remains in his top three with Nebraska and Washington, with all three schools even for now ($).
Happy trails to HI DT Scott Pagano, who committed to Clemson yesterday.
This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:
♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.
Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…
There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.
Till there was you! ♫
Linebacker depth: EXTANT!
This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?
And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!
Quickly again. 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.
SAM (Strongside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.
Heiko took this
Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?
What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.
So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.
In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.
MIKE (Middle Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:
|2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr)||236||228|
|3rd (Junior or RS Soph)||246||232|
|4th (Senior or RS Junior)||248||233|
|5th year Senior||252||238|
Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:
|Kenny Demens||248||Jake Ryan||230||Desmond Morgan||220|
|Joe Bolden||230||Cam Gordon||222||Brandin Hawthorne||214|
|Mike Jones||224||Royce Jenkins-Stone||215||Antonio Poole||212|
|Kaleb Ringer||219||James Ross||209|
Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.
There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!
In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.
WILL (Weakside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.
If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.
For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.
In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.
Leave it to the NCAA to get the Penn State sanctions right, yet still find a way to screw it up.
The debate surrounding the—wait for it—unprecedented penalties handed down to the PSU football program has largely hinged on whether or not the NCAA had any jurisdiction at all over this issue, one that at face value went so far beyond football that it seemed inappropriate and insensitive to make it a football issue.* Criminal matters should be handled by criminal courts, so what basis does the governing body of college sports have to essentially decimate PSU football?
Yesterday, Mark Emmert decided to justify his swift and forceful actions by indicting the very culture that funnels billions into the pockets on his organization:
"The fundamental message here, the gut-check message is, do we have the right balance in our culture?" he said. "Do we have, first and foremost, the academic values of integrity and honesty and responsibility as the drivers of our university? Or are we in a position where hero worship and winning at all costs has subordinated those core values?"
In doing so, Emmert opened up the NCAA to—very fair—criticism about the sheer hypocrisy of the above statement, and that criticism extends to the penalties themselves**. Slamming "hero worship" when the NCAA extravagantly profits from—to take one small example—NCAA Football video games that advertise "a deeper game for a deeper devotion," is remarkably tone-deaf. The NCAA doesn't make their money from "academic values", but from fanatics (it's called March Madness, for chrissakes) who sanctify figures like JoePa and Coach K and Woody and Bo and the athletes upon whose backs this empire is built. The NCAA asking us to suddenly find perspective is like TMZ chastising their readers for caring too much about the lives of people they don't actually know; it's a nice sentiment coming from precisely the wrong source.
What I find more remarkable, however, is that the NCAA had the proper basis to levy these sanctions sitting right in front of them, and instead they took the hypocrisy route. It's simple: Penn State gained a massive, long-term competitive advantage by keeping Sandusky's heinous crimes quiet.
Why did Joe Paterno, when confronted with clear-cut evidence of Sandusky's sexual abuse of Victim 2, decide against alerting the Department of Child Welfare? It wasn't to cover for a friend; it's been well-documented that Paterno and Sandusky weren't exactly close off the field. No, this was a football decision, one that kept up Paterno and Penn State's untarnished image while avoiding a scandal that—even if Paterno did the right thing and reported Sandusky—would bring an enormous amount of negative attention to the program and potentially threaten Paterno's job status.
In March of 2002, when Mike McQueary reported what he had seen in the Penn State locker room to Paterno, Penn State was coming off back-to-back five-win seasons. Paterno was 75 years old, reaching the point where questions abound about his ability to run a successful football program, if he could retire with dignity before PSU would be forced to push him out the door. I can't claim to know the motivation behind the cover-up, but the timing of the 2002 allegations could not have been worse for Paterno from a football perspective.
Instead of facing the situation head-on, Paterno and Penn State kept quiet, and Penn State's program turned around; from 2002-2011, the Nittany Lions went 83-43 with two shared conference titles and two BCS bowl appearances. I have a hard time imagining that Penn State would have compiled such a lofty record while dealing with sexual abuse charges against their former defensive coordinator. I'm guessing JoePa thought much the same.
When looking at the issue from that perspective, the NCAA had little choice but to bring the hammer down on a Penn State program that gained an enormous, decade-long competitive advantage by covering up crimes of a most despicable nature. The scope of the penalties, which almost certainly doom PSU to a decade or more at the bottom of the college football barrel, are just given the severity of the crimes committed*** and their on-field consequences. While I commend the NCAA and Mark Emmert for coming through with these penalties, I have no earthly idea why they decided to base them on hypocrisy when there was such an obvious and justifiable alternative.
*The other point of contention was the potentially disconcerting precedent set by Emmert. To that, I'll say this: when do you expect something remotely close to the PSU situation to arise again? And, if we're unfortunate enough that something similar does occur, would it not merit the same level of action? I don't believe Emmert will exercise this executive power even for cheating as severe as Miami's or UNC's.
**Spencer Hall and Drew Magary, most notably, fell on the "scathing" end of the spectrum.
*** I'm referring to the cover-up, not Sandusky.
watchu talkin' bout, Penn State?
Well, I was wrong about Penn State implosions not having a direct effect on Michigan's roster: OH CB Ross Douglas decommitted from Penn State two seconds after the sanctions were announced, got an offer from Michigan today, and committed about two seconds after he got it.
Douglas is a four star at three of the four recruiting sites; at 5'10", 180 he's more in the Courtney Avery mold than the lanky guys Michigan's already acquired. More details in an INFORMATIVE UPDATE forthcoming.
#21. Does a lot of tailbackin' in high school. via
|3*, #42 CB||4*, #22 CB, #222 overall||4*, #30 CB||4*, #25 CB|
Ross is a four star to everyone but Scout; no one puts him in the top 200. FWIW, Ross was in the initial 24/7 top 247, right at the tail end. He's probably just outside it right now.
Given his size, which is listed at 5'10" and gives off a vibe of generosity, the rankings imply his skill level is high but the height puts a cap on his ceiling. The level of disagreement here is far smaller than for, say, Gareon Conley, who is either awesome or not awesome depending on who you listen to.
ESPN's evaluation backs up the high floor, low ceiling guess:
Plays and pursues fast but lacks ideal top-end speed and does not project to be lock down cover corner in college you want to leave on an island. Shows a good nose for the ball and is at his best playing the pass in front of him. Displays good footwork and balance as well as closing burst. Lacks a tight, fluid waist and doesn't always look smooth in transition when locked down in man but he can recover with burst and proper inside positioning to make a play on the ball. Does a good job using his hands and leverage in tight coverage. Aggressive and effective in press; will reroute and take away the inside release. Competes for the jump-ball when challenged deep in one-on-one coverage but can struggle versus taller receivers. We didn't see great leaping or ball skills. This is a solid second level defender.
Douglas attended the Columbus NTFC at which David Dawson and Malik McDowell drew raves, and did well for himself:
4. Ross Douglass, CB, Avon (Ohio) High School – The defensive back group in Columbus was very strong and had a lot of depth to it. On this day, Penn State commit Ross Douglas was our pick for the top player of the talented group. He doesn’t have the height and length that is ideal in a corner prospect but he was the most fluid and natural defender in coverage at the event.
Douglas has great feet, flips his hips with ease and he also has some make-up speed to recover in tight spaces. The only thing he seems to be missing is that prototype height.
DB: Ross Douglas, 5-10, 179, Avon (Ohio)
Breakdown: It was Douglas' ability to cover in the slot that grab the eyes of the coaches. He is very quick and showed an understanding of zone coverages.
And Barton Simmons responds to a question:
Douglas is awesome he's just a little bit undersized.
Helmholdt on the NIKE camp:
Douglas is so consistently clean in coverage that you almost forget he is out there. Not hearing your name called is a good thing at the cornerback position, and the public address announcer is not saying "Douglas" very often. The 5-10, 175-pound prospect is not a flashy player. He stays in great position in relation to the wide receiver throughout routes and makes throwing the ball in his direction very unappealing. Douglas has all the speed he needs to stay with receivers and his technique is near flawless.
We're getting a picture here. It's a picture of Courtney Avery.
FWIW, he attended The Opening, and told Allen Trieu($) that he plans to enroll early:
"The plan right now is to graduate early. I'm on track right now. I'm taking a summer class and I'm doing very well in it, so I'm on track to do that. They said if I come in and just bust my tail, there will be an opportunity for me and that's exactly what I'm going to do."
No reason that plan would have changed, unlike his plan to go to Penn State. Douglas said he was "120% solid" to PSU in April, but the situation changed slightly after he said that.
Douglas obviously had a Penn State offer. Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Tennessee also offered. Michigan and other regional powers had not checked in with offers but they didn't have much time: Douglas pulled the trigger on his PSU commitment in February and was on the market the second time for all of a day.
* 38. Ross Douglas, defensive back, Avon – Douglas (5-10, 180, 4.4) was a third-team All-Ohio pick in Division II. Douglas helped Avon reach the Division II state title game. As a junior, he carried 175 times for 1,019 yards and 15 touchdowns and added 10 catches for 150 yards and another score. On defense, he had 40 tackles, 13 pass break-ups and one interception.
Yes, that is Bucknuts ranking him the #38 player in the state.
FAKE 40 TIME
4.4? FOUR FAKES!
You'll be surprised that the soundtrack is RAWK instead of rap. I was, at least.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Douglas's commitment gives Michigan a whopping four cornerbacks in the class. Douglas is the second short guy (Jourdan Lewis is the other) to go with tall guys Channing Stribling and Gareon Conley. Meanwhile, only JT Floyd exits after this year. Michigan is loading up at corner.
So it might be tough for all of these guys to see the field… except when it's not. Cornerback is a spot with three starters these days, and Michigan is preparing for the days when they'll take on some future NFL quarterback in a BCS bowl. I get it. I remember Football Armageddon. I like it.
Michigan has three distinct corner positions:
- Field corner: plays to the wide side of the field, often against the best WR the opponent has to offer. Less run support responsibility.
- Boundary corner: plays to short side of the field. Usually a bigger guy better on the edge.
- Nickelback: plays over the slot. Has safety help virtually all the time. Priority is underneath routes and quickness. Doesn't have to be tall.
Douglas seems like a nickel, Lewis a field corner, and the other two boundary corners unless one of them turns out to be really really good in which case he can play field corner and flapjacks for everyone.
At nickel, Douglas has to deal with one year of Courtney Avery and a couple of Delonte Hollowell; after that he has a surprisingly clear path to a starting-ish job. I think Michigan would prefer it if they had two bigger guys on the outside, but the emphasis placed on that third corner spot is obvious… and reassuring.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Here's your upshot: Michigan is done save for a receiver they hope will be LaQuon Treadwell.
Douglas's commitment all but erases any chance Michigan will go after a Penn State transfer who has more than one year of eligibility left. They want to add a receiver, they probably will get Treadwell, and they are already banking on attrition to get the 24 guys currently budgeted on campus. They're preparing for a reasonable level now, but adding further guys would be pushing it*.
Exception: if Frank Clark's stuff escalates into a career termination event Michigan may look to a Zettel to nerf the damage.
*[Obligatory oversigning note: Michigan is not going to sign guys they don't have room for because of Big Ten rules, and they converted all their scholarship offers to multi-year. The risk here is pissing off a kid you promised a scholarship to, whereupon he goes somewhere else. That's an order of magnitude less cynical than the Alabamas of the world. But it is something less that perfect moral rectitude and makes me a little uncomfortable.]