"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
Gallon's levitation skills translated to the college game just fine.
Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...
My Bad, Cam
While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:
Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess
Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.
Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)
Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.
The Blue Darter
As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.
PEAK MIXTAPE WEEZY WITH A KEVIN FEDERLINE REFERENCE.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?
Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:
Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.
Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.
As for Stokes...
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
Yeah, that was for the best.
Oh Damn, Fitz
From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.
He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:
That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...
It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.
...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.
Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:
ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.
Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:
In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.
Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.
If You Just Take Two Linemen...
...you might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor.
While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:
“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.”
"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."
On point, Coach Ragle.
Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:
In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.
Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.
So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?
On second thought, let's save that for next summer. Or perhaps never. Leaning towards never.
They said it couldn't be done. As first reported by mgouser Canadian, hockey tickets are actually declining(!) in price this year:
Just got an email informing me that this seasons prices have been reduced. Endzone seats see a 15% drop, sideline 12% and centre ice 10%.
Also I noticed at the bottom of the email that season ticket holders will receive a 20% concession discount before the start of the game (for every home game). This is great news for myself as that's the only time i visit the concession stands (grabbing a bite to eat as I have to rush over right after work).
Wags immediately assert not to click on any links as this email must be written by a Nigerian prince, but no seriously I got it too:
I wonder when the last price drop in one of the big three sports happened. I certainly can't remember one, but you have to figure that basketball was walking back prices at some point during the dark period. Ticket demand for hockey must be very soft, what with two years out of the tournament and basketball going like gangbusters.
There's also an assortment of season ticket holder benefits. While none of them are particularly significant, it is a step in the right direction for a department that has basically laughed at the idea of loyalty since Brandon was installed.
Ty Wheatley tribute. Wolverine Historian releases a new version that's five minutes longer because why not:
A sizeable nerve hit. John U Bacon's article about Michigan's season ticket situation was so popular his server imploded under the pressure, and now Yahoo has asked him to consolidate and refine it for their site. I don't think the headline guy did him any favors by invoking "greed", but if you liked the original you'll find plenty to agree with in the sequel. It also gives me the opportunity to pull another money quote, so here goes:
Yes, advertising in the Big House does matter. Americans are bombarded by ads, about 5,000 a day. Michigan Stadium used to be a sanctuary from modern marketing, an urban version of a National Park. Now it's just another stop on the sales train.
Everything the ticket holders spend hundreds of dollars to wait for and pay for, they can get at home for next to nothing – including the ads -- plus better replays. They can only get the marching band at the Big House.
John might be attempting to set a record for "number of times single piece gets emailed to me," and I think he's just about caught that piece about Gibbons that every MSU/OSU troll in the world sent me.
Just when your life was running low on gravel trucks. Mike Barwis has a reality TV series coming up from the Funny or Die guys, who happen to be fanatical Michigan fans. Barwis is a natural for this, of course.
Well done, Jim. Jim Delany took the stand as an NCAA witness. For the umpteenth time, an NCAA witness went over a bunch of stuff the judge said she wouldn't be considering like the impact on non-revenue sports. Delany also issued more College Is Good statements that make legal analysts rend their garments at their irrelevancy.
That was par for the course. Then Delany firebombed his side's cause:
Delany is tired of athletes being asked to spend all year on voluntary -- read: mandatory -- workouts. He'd like to see athletes get a chance to spend a semester abroad if they chose. He believes they are supposed to be students first. As he said all this, he admitted he remains very much in the minority among the policymakers in college sports on those issues. (Case in point: The schools have recently passed rules allowing football and basketball coaches to spend more time with their players in the offseason.)
That admission from Delany hacked several questions off his cross examination.
The plaintiffs have spent the entire trial trying to prove that in today's NCAA, players are athletes first and students second. The NCAA's attorneys and most of its witnesses have insisted that isn't the case. They say the athletes are students who just happen to play sports. They say allowing football and men's basketball players to sell their name, image and likeness rights would drive a wedge between the athletes and the student body. The plaintiffs contend the wedge was driven long ago and extra money in the pockets of the athletes won't change that. Delany helped them make that case Friday by explaining the reforms he'd like to see that actually would make the players feel more like regular students and then by explaining that they'd get steamrolled if they came up for a vote.
I only have one problem with Andy Staples's article:
Outside of the Big Ten, Delany is massively unpopular. He continually stood in the way of a college football playoff. He essentially claimed an SEC team beat a Big Ten team for a football national title because the SEC team was faster and dumber. He created a cash cow of a cable network while still banging the drum for amateurism.
He is massively unpopular to Big Ten fans as well after adding Rutgers and Maryland.
Meanwhile, in Emmertland. Staples covers Emmert's testimony:
Emmert discussed the "commercial pressures" to use athletes in a variety of ways. "One has to make sure, in an amateur context, that it doesn't go to a place where the student-athletes are in fact being used as nothing more than shills for a product," Emmert said.
Staples got a little snarky. I understand. It's hard not to be. As I've noted before, taking the NCAA's model and trying to justify it in a courtroom leads to progressively increasing levels of cognitive dissonance that end with you going ACK and snarking.
Oh no, what would that be like. Upside to the NCAA enforcement department ceasing to exist, from the NCAA's perspective:
Banowsky (NCAA): It would be "highly-corruptive" if big money boosters, tied to AAU coaches and "South Beach parties", negotiated IP rights.
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) June 23, 2014
Dinosaur hit by Google meteor. It must have been grand to be a sportswriter in the days when the collective memory of your readers was about six months long, tops, an you could just recycle your bits ad nauseum in between three-martini lunches. Unfortunately, these days you can just plug "out of touch sportswriter name" and "topic" and verily, thou art exposed.
So when Dan Shaughnessy wrote a "but I don't want to like soccer" piece that seemed 25 years old, it was quickly discovered that the reason it seemed 25 years old is that it actually was. Deadspin:
Hands are what separate man from beast
June 22, 2014
Soccer takes away our hands. This makes the game incredibly skillful and exhausting, but also robs fans of much of the beauty of sport. Hands and opposable thumbs separate us from creatures of the wild.
June 17, 1994
And what's with the hands? How good can any game be when you can't use your hands? Hands are what separate us from the animal kingdom.
July 5, 1990
Finally, there is the hands problem. Hands and thumbs, that's what separates us from the beasts of the jungle.
I'm terrified that I repeat myself too much when I go on about how punting is evil or the NCAA should keel over and die posthaste, because I came of age shaking my head at dudes like Shaugnessy and Rick Reilly who phoned in the same four columns for 20 years.
I used to be really mad at these guys because they were wasting the greatest job in the world. Nowadays it's more contempt than anger. Y'all are still doing this in 2014?
Hockey scouting. Over The Boards collects a bunch of scouting on college-hockey bound gentlemen, touching on a number of Michigan recruits. Zach Werenski, who may be on campus this fall:
He’s deliberate and doesn’t put himself in situations to fail. He doesn’t pick his battles, he just battles smart. His natural abilities, what he’s worked on, continuing to improve, I think the debate is what part of what he does is going to persist to the pro level, but his being well-rounded I don’t think makes him undefined like some toolsy kids that can’t figure out where they put their skills in the toolbox and when to pull them out, you know? He knows what he can do and plays to it: situational awareness.
2016 D Griffin Luce:
“Luce is arguably the best ’98 defenseman in the country. He has great size at 6’3, 200 and plays with an edge, throwing his body around in the corners and in-front of the net in his own end and is a presence on the offensive blueline. Luce moves very well for his size and age and handles the puck effortlessly with hard, crisp, tape to tape passes up ice. He can run the powerplay and with his reach and hockey IQ is an ideal penalty killer as his head is always on swivel and getting his stick out to take away passing lanes."
Luce is projected as a potential first-rounder. 2015 F Kyle Connor gets a brief mention as a kid who has really come on this year. That is understating it a bit. Connor was second in the USHL in scoring this year, highly unusual for a kid his age, and is one of three 2015-ish recruits at the WJC evaluation camp this year. I know Yost Built has been fretting about whether he'll follow through on his commitment, so hopefully this reassures somewhat:
“Growing up, that was my dream school,” said Connor. “I’m a Michigan football fan and Michigan everything, even my parents are big Michigan fans. When I heard they offered me the scholarship it was a no brainer.”
Saginaw drafted him in the 14th round, and they're not known for swooping in on college commits.
I will also take this opportunity to note that UNO has a kid named "Luc Snuggerud" coming in this year. That has to go high up on the list of most hockey names.
Etc.: EMU to install a gray field, start calling Rynearson "the Factory." "Why isn't EMU I-AA?" you ask, because that's what you always ask about EMU.
Last week I did the thing you're not supposed to do: I got into an argument with a Tennessee fan about conference strength. Actually it started as a conversation about how cute my 1-year-old dog is but all conversations with SEC fans are really conference strength conversations. Before the inevitable deterioration into Woodson-Manning (which is particularly impossible with him because he knew Peyton in school and has an incredible story about how nice of a guy Peyton Manning was) I thought to test his assertion that the SEC has been dominant, except for 2005, since Bear Bryant's day.
Attempting to debate this, I stumbled onto sports-reference.com's SRS statistic. It stands for "Simple Rating System" and was borrowed from the NFL guys. What it represents is how much that team should beat an average team:
So every team's rating is their average point margin, adjusted up or down depending on the strength of their opponents.
This generally works for the NFL because of relative schedule parity. But it proved useless for comparing college football teams and conferences over history because they lacked that. I'll explain why, but first lets apply SRS averages of the conferences since 1964 to our debate, which demonstrates… that I just totally screwed myself:
Well yeah, but we admitted this: until Penn State joined and some of the dreks got their acts together it really was the Big Two-Little 8. Let's see mostly Michigan-Ohio State against Alabama et al.:
It stayed pretty even except when Michigan wasn't good. There's a reason for that: Michigan (35 times) and Ohio State (33) teams account for over two thirds of Big Ten's 100 representatives from the last 50 years. Alabama teams are counted 28 times, with Florida (18), Tennessee (15), Georgia (12), Auburn (11) and LSU (11) all ahead of the next Big Ten team, which is Penn State (8). Until the '90s, the bottom half of the Big Ten sucked way worse than the bottom half of the SEC, according to SRS:
What really happened here: the SEC teams were playing easier schedules until the Big Ten caught on and started scheduling bodybags, and then things were even until the Big Ten started actually sucking. I explain, after the jump.
[The jump, after which I explain, as I just explained]
Name: Mook Reynolds
Ht/Wt: 6’0" / 175 lbs.
Location: Northern Guilford - Greensboro, NC (2015)
Offers: Virginia Tech (COMMITTED), Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Duke, East Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee
Rating: ★★★★ .9024 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #263 NAT / #23 CB (247 Composite)
In the wake of the Shaun Crawford decommitment the Michigan staff identified Mook Reynolds as a potential replacement and offered him on June 11. Reynolds himself is currently committed to Virginia Tech, but has decided that he will look around just a little bit before finalizing where he'd like to play his college football.
Jamon "Mook" Reynolds was nicknamed by his mother as a baby and it has stuck with him his entire life. While his nickname might make you chuckle, his game and his confidence definitely will not.
"I think of 'Mook' as sort of an alter-ego on the field," he explained. "I am really physical, versatile, and will lay the wood to anybody. When people watch me play they will see me everywhere doing everything. I hate losing more than I like winning. I don't care what it's in, I live to win."
As a current Virginia Tech commit, Reynolds has been compared to former Hokie and recent first round draft pick, Kyle Fuller. At roughly the same size and with a similar skill set, the comparison seems appropriate.
The term "Virginia Tech commit" could be temporary as Reynolds has recently drawn attention from several big time schools, four of which he plans on checking out more closely.
"Michigan, Notre Dame, Georgia, and Tennessee are involved now," Reynolds said. "Those are my most recent offers but right now I'm still committed to Virginia Tech. I'm going to take my visits to those four schools and go from there."
Michigan recruiting buffs are well aware of the BBQ at The Big House. This year Reynolds will be in attendance on July 27th for the event, a plan that he set up through Coach Manning. Reynolds cited his relationship with the new cornerbacks coach as a reason why he's now so interested in the Wolverines.
"The relationship I have with Coach Manning is the only connection I have to Michigan," Reynolds said. "He's a really cool guy even outside of football. He's about his business and is really excited about coaching the corners. He loves Michigan football too and you can tell. He's cool."
Coach Manning isn't the only thing Reynolds likes about Michigan. He pointed out the program's rich history, legacy and tradition as other aspects that he appreciates.
Reynolds doesn't have any other visits scheduled at this point so it's impossible to say whether the BBQ visit will be a great first impression of the four programs or if it will have a lasting impression as one of his final visits. Either way, the fact that he has the Michigan visit in place before the others can't be a bad thing.
Even though his visits aren't all on the calendar yet, Reynolds knows what he's looking for and has a very level head when it comes to his approach to his recruitment.
"After I take my visits I'm really not sure how my recruitment will finish out. Only time will tell," he said. "If I do what's best for me, it shouldn't be a tough decision though. I'll just take my time with it. I know that I want to play early, I want to win, and I want to have a better opportunity to advance to the next level. I know those are lofty goals, but it keeps me focused."
5 – Trending Blue
4 – Solidly in a top 2-3
3 – Contender in a top 3-7
2 – Among large (8-15) group under consideration
1 – Let’s see if he visits before we talk
0 – Passing interest or none
Reynolds is currently committed to Virginia Tech but he didn't hide the fact that he'd like to look around. Right now it seems as if Michigan has as good a shot as any of the other four schools to impress and flip him. The BBQ visit will be big as usual for curious recruits and his relationship with Coach Manning also seems to be trending in the right direction. As the end of July approaches it will be interesting to see if he has scheduled or even engaged in any of the other potential visits. As he said, only time will tell.
Five-Star Planning Visit, Maybe Two?
2015 five-star CA CB Iman Marshall has mentioned Michigan as one of his planned official visit destinations. According to 247's Steve Lorenz, that's not the only visit to Ann Arbor in the works for the nation's #2 corner ($):
Yesterday, 247Sports National Analyst Ryan Bartow reported that Michigan is expected to receive an official visit from Long Beach (CA) Poly 2015 five-star cornerback Iman Marshall. Per his father, that will not be the only visit he will make to Ann Arbor as they are planning a late July visit.
"Yes, it's looking that way," the elder Marshall said. "It'll be a dead period between school and football after the Opening. That will be a perfect time for us to visit Ann Arbor."
Marshall is reportedly in frequent contact with freshman receiver Freddy Canteen; they worked out together during the offseason and struck up a friendship. It's obviously huge news that Marshall plans to pay his own way to visit campus next month.
In looking at Bartow's original report($) and a free Scout article on Marshall posted on Saturday, however, I'm a little skeptical the original planned official is set to go—when asked about which schools he plans to use officials on, he mentioned Florida State and Notre Dame, but not Michigan. That's not to say he doesn't plan on taking one, just that it isn't set in stone yet. Regardless, the planned July unofficial is a big deal.
The Latest On KLS
Five-star CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South released a top 11 over the weekend; as expected, Michigan made the cut. KLS told Lorenz that he talks to Michigan "almost every day," and he's already hearing the U-M recruiting pitch from their latest 2015 commit ($):
"I hear from Alex (Malzone) and Darrin (Kirkland) almost every day," he said. "Chris Clark got in touch with me only a couple hours after he committed. I hear from Garrett Taylor quite a bit too. I know most of their guys will be at the Opening, so I'm looking forward to meeting them in a few weeks. We'll also all be taking our official visit the week of the Penn State game, so I'll get to spend some time with them then as well."
Clark wasn't kidding about wanting to get a jump start on recruiting before The Opening.
While KLS has called Michigan his "dream school" at times in his recruitment, UCLA is thought to be the team to beat, and after a recent trip to that other school in Los Angeles, another in-state threat looms, per Rivals' Adam Gorney ($):
"I'm starting to like SC a lot," Lucier-South said. "I'm feeling the vibe. It's kind of like the old SC when Pete Carroll was there.
"I think coach Sark is doing a really good job with the program and I especially like the d-line coach, coach Wilson. He's a great guy and he used to coach in Georgia and do big things so I really like SC right now."
While KLS told Lorenz that U-M "will be in it the entire way," it won't be easy to pull him from his home state.
Other 2015 Updates: Michigan, ND "Neck And Neck" For Bilal
Four-star IN LB Asmar Bilal entered his weekend unofficial to Michigan with Notre Dame at the top of his list. Per 247's Steve Wiltfong, he left with Notre Dame in the same position, but with new company ($):
The decision-making process just got more difficult for the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bilal, who would like to have his mind made up before the fall.
He says Michigan is neck and neck with the Irish moving forward.
“They’re both, I’m juggling with both right now,” Bilal said. “They both have a good academic program and good football program.
Bilal wants to make a decision before the fall, and he doesn't have any other visits scheduled right now, so this looks like a two-team battle, and U-M may have the momentum.
Michigan made a top group of six schools for four-star TX WR AD Miller, but they've got work to do to land an eventual commitment, per Rivals' Jason Howell ($):
"I'm favoring Miami, Arizona State, Cal, Michigan, Ohio State, and Illinois, and I'm leaning towards those schools because they all give me an opportunity to play early, they all have great coaching staffs, and I get along with all the coaches, and I feel like all the academic standards are at a high level," Miller said. "They're good programs."
Three of those programs have begun to separate from the others.
"Yeah schools starting to take that lead are probably Miami, Illinois, and Cal," Miller said.
Yes, I also did a double-take at "Illinois".
Per TomVH, four-star Washington (DC) Gonzaga athlete Marcus Lewis, a Florida commit, plans to visit Michigan next month. He's listed in various places as a wideout, corner, and safety—I assume U-M would want him at corner to replace Shaun Crawford.
2016 Updates: Leads Don't Always Last
The last recruiting roundup contained the encouraging news that blue-chip 2016 OH OT Liam Eichenberg named Michigan as his leader after camping in Ann Arbor. That lead turned out to be short-lived:
2016 OT Liam Eichenberg just told ISD that after camping at #notredame yesterday, the Irish are his new leader. The reason? Harry Hiestand.
— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) June 22, 2014
Hiestand is ND's O-line coach, FWIW.
Per Steve Lorenz, Michigan is set to host a four-star receiver whose name I'm just gonna copy-and-paste, if you don't mind:
Suwanee (GA) North Gwinnett 2016 four-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe has set a visit date to see Michigan, he tells me.
"I am planning on visiting on the 24th of June right now," he said. "I will be visiting with my brother and mother."
Imatorbhebhe received an offer back in May.
247 updated their 2016 rankings. Tackle commit Erik Swenson moved up two spots to #231, while Messiah deWeaver climbed five spots to #238.
Happy trails to the nation's #1 overall 2016 recruit, TX OT Greg Little, who committed to Texas A&M.
6/22/2014 – USA 2, Portugal 2 – 1-0-1, Group G
I had an internship in Austin when I was in college, and fell in with some guys who played roller hockey in the parking lot. We were a motley crew; I was near but not quite at the bottom in terms of skill. This is always my critical point: I have to be obviously not the worst guy. I was at least fourth from the bottom here, which marks my personal athletic best.
We would take breaks because it was summer in Texas. During those breaks we would discuss how close we were to dying at that very moment, because we were engineers playing roller hockey in summer in Texas. But there was this guy. He had a ponytail and did not look like an engineer. He was not skilled either. When we took our breaks to pound water in our faces and discuss how narrowly we had avoided catastrophic death, this guy would be flying around the parking lot at top speed. He did nothing except take laps.
We looked at him like he was out of his mind. He kept skating. Endurance is rarely spectacular, but when it is, it really is.
Jermaine Jones probably doesn't know what hockey is, let alone the variety that comes on fake ice skates. He is nonetheless that guy, running and running and running even after he should fall over and expire. This has always been more or less true, but now that he's been well and truly released by the presence of Beckerman, he is something to marvel at. He's probably taking laps at halftime.
And then this gets into what it is to America. I read one of the pile of articles about how Klinsmann was or was not making American soccer more or less American and got irritated at various assertions but particularly this one…
"Largely due to an influx of continental players, the U.S. team has options now and is reaching beyond its previous identity, the way a toddler goes from a crawl to a walk. "
…because it just couldn't be more incorrect. The Influx Of Continental Players is basically Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones and the occasional substitute appearance, hardly unusual world-wide. Spain (Spain!) started a recently naturalized Brazilian striker. The US lost Giuseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic to Italy and Serbia, respectively. Meanwhile, the United States has long been on the lookout for anyone technically American, no matter how vague the connection. Having the son of a soldier stationed overseas on the team dates back to at least Earnie Stewart. The teams that won't poach a dubiously authentic Insert Nationality Here if given the opportunity start and end with Brazil.
But anyway I bristled at this assertion that the USA's surging fortunes were due to some unprecedented wave of educated foreigners to the point that I left a snotty comment, which was this:
There are all of two dual-nationals who are projected to start, and one of them is the most stereotypically American player in the 11: Jermaine Jones, a physical and endurance marvel who's about as creative as a brick.
And he is! You could not carve a more American defensive midfielder out of apple pie. He may as well be running around the field in a stovepipe hat, all industry and impossible running 80 minutes into a game played in a convection oven.
It's not often that you can see a guy playing sports and go "whoah" just because he's running in a straight line faster than the other guys around him. Those moments are usually reserved for the Denard Robinsons and Usain Bolts of the world. Even next to the indefatigable Bradley, though, Jones makes you marvel. When US shirts had descended into sheer, soaked clingfilm, Jones was still roaring around.
The US got their grip on the game, and this time it was Portugal dropping out exhausted as the US kept coming on. I said after the Ghana game that I had seen this before, and it does remain a real thing about this team: they will never stop coming.
Then friggin' Ronaldo had to go and do his Ronaldo thing—actually his un-Ronaldo thing—to spoil the party. If you had given me any odds that Ronaldo was going to doodle around and then fire in a shot from a bad angle that was still scary I would have taken it. Ronaldo doesn't cross. Are we rubbing off on people? I certainly hope not.
After it was over I collapsed on a stool, wrung out. I had not been there, but my legs, stomach, and assorted other vaguely aching bits would disagree with this assertion. Jones had fired in a piledriver of a goal that felt like it was coming as he and Bradley took turns calibrating their rifles in the first half; I had done a series of involuntary squats at chances squandered on both sides.
Thirty seconds from freedom; instead another lap. Okay. We have legs yet.
It happens. Stray into a comments section today and you'll get some dude screaming about how Bradley should be deported for overall suck, and I'm just like… no. Bradley managed to put a ball from two yards on to a defender's knee, sure. Here is The Best Player In The World afforded a chance from not quite the same range but not much further:
juuuuuust a bit outside
The number one rule of soccer is that it is hard and you mostly look dumb trying to do it.
The late turnover is also a thing that happens; Bradley had a poor first touch, then set up to wall off the Portugal player who was trying to get the ball off him. he found misfortune when that guy happened to be Eder, who is about 30 pounds heavier than anyone else on the field and made a play that was seemingly way out of his wheelhouse by deftly stripping the ball without fouling.
It still took three subsequent major errors and a perfect cross for anything to come of it.
If the above still had been the goal instead of the sad thing that transpired in the 95th minute people would be bitching about Dempsey and Beckerman, who conspired to turn it over and create a break. When you complain about something that happened after six more touches, none of which had anything to do with the initial turnover, you are just venting irrationally.
Bradley was much, much better in this game than against Ghana, opening up the Portugal defense with accurately placed balls down the wing and harrassing Moutino into a performance that lacked impact. A turnover well on the Portugal side of the field is just that: a turnover. Which happens.
The real question. What is even the point of Omar Gonzalez? Specifically brought in to deal with crosses late, Gonzalez ends up higher up the field than four other American players on the fatal break.
Gonzalez dead center, higher than Jones
If he is even with Besler in the center of a three-man back line he cuts that cross out well before it gets anywhere near Varela and everyone goes home happy. Instead he's somehow gotten dragged into the midfield. When Bradley loses the ball he is literally at the halfway stripe!
I don't get it. It makes sense to bring the guy in to clog up the box with about three minutes left. So why isn't he doing it?
Tactical shift, quicktime. The official lineup released by the US had Zusi on the left and Bedoya on the right, presumably because Bedoya's higher work rate and defensive ability would come in handy against Ronaldo. The fifth minute goal seemed to change that:
Bedoya left, Zusi right, after 5 minutes. Before that they were flipped.
After the US went down Zusi moved over to a spot where his right foot was better situated to have an impact. Note Zusi's tendency to stay tucked in so Fabian Johnson could bomb down the right, exploiting the space that Ronaldo refuses to track back on. For 94 minutes he was a liability.
Zusi then flipped back to the left when Yedlin came on, which is where the assist on Dempsey's goal came from, a sweetly hit short cross from his left foot.
Immense. Matt Besler just turned in one of the finest performances I've seen from a US center back in… ever? Possibly ever. Oguchi Onyewu has to get a mention here for battering out approximately a mole of crosses from Spain in the Confed Cup (oh man now I just thought about having Gooch in this game instead of Gonzalez and now sadness reins).
Other than that, Besler's high up there. Besler's positioning and instincts were impeccable here. The high point was probably the break he snuffed out at midfield just as everyone was getting their Ronaldo panic on. He was near flawless.
Immensely variable. Cameron, Besler's partner, had a major hand in shutting down Ronaldo all night. He also scuffed a clearance right to Nani for the opener and got beaten in the last minute. I don't know, man. Obviously both those things are very bad. But outside of those very bad things Cameron has been consistently good for the US, anywhere you put him. I think he'll put an admittedly game-wrecking performance behind him.
I mean, there's a poor clearance and there's a poor clearance that happens to be the absolute perfect ball to Nani. As with Bradley, I'm trying to chalk up Cameron's error on what it was instead of the result.
Are you five-foot-eight and fast as a guy with flaming pants? If so, stop playing basketball. Stop playing football unless you are Dennis Norfleet. You aren't making it big in either of those sports. Best-case scenario, the one in 300 million scenario, is that you are a role-playing freak show for a few years. It's not bad if you can get it, but you probably can't.
Soccer, though: DaMarcus Beasley is 5'8". DeAndre Yedlin is 5'8". All those terrifying buggers like Christian Atsu and various other Ghana midges are 5'8". Brazil brings on a 5'5" guy(!).If you can run all day and change directions quickly but tend to disintegrate on contact because you are a wee thing, get thee to the soccer field. For America.
The US wins the group with a win over Germany and finishes second with a tie. The prospect of a wink-wink draw with the Germans is there, as it would guarantee both teams advance and Germany would avoid (presumably) Belgium in the first knockout round. At the very least expect both teams to play defensively.
If the US loses things get into goal differential with the winner of the Ghana-Portugal game. Portugal would have to make up their 4-0 loss in the opener; Ghana just has to make up a one-goal loss. The US is out if they lose 1-0 and:
- Ghana wins by two goals, or
- Ghana wins by one in a goal blizzard (3-2 at least)
- Portugal wins by five
So root for Portugal in the other game. Barring unlikely outcomes, the US enters the final match with a two-and-a-half goal cushion on Ghana and a five-and-a-half goal cushion on Portugal.
That's still a pretty good situation.
The Germans are close to healthy. Right back Jerome Boateng was lifted at halftime of the Ghana game with a hip injury of some variety and may or may not be available. Thomas Muller took a nasty collision right at the end of the Ghana game but is not seriously damaged and should be fine for Thursday. Everyone else is good to go.
After a German walkover of Portugal, they struggled against Ghana. The 2-2 draw was closer to a Ghana win than vice-versa as the Germany D struggled to keep pace with Ghana on counters. Germany's outside backs were particularly poor at both ends, and not unexpectedly: both the starting right back, Benedikt Howedes, and Boateng's replacement, Shkodran Mustafi, are center backs at club level. Boateng is a bit more versatile but is still primarily a center back. (Germany's using Phillip Lahm as a holding midfielder for some reason—really makes you wonder if Germany would have both Jones and Johnson on their roster if they had not switched to the US.)
It's the offense bit that's worrying. Germany has about a half-dozen world-class attackers, and even though one's out with a pre-World Cup injury they've still got a pile of dudes more talented than anyone the USA's got.
Knowing they only need a draw, The US is likely to reprise their 4-2-3-1 from the Germany game in an attempt to keep possession for long stretches and remain compact at the back.