"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
After dispatching Central Michigan in a rainy midweek game, Michigan resumes conference play in Ann Arbor this weekend against Purdue in the conference home opener. In an effort to get a feel for Purdue, I did a Q&A with Hammer & Rails writer TMill to get a glimpse of how Purdue's season is going.
TMill is just getting into his fledgling baseball coverage over the last week due to some sort of basketball tournament-thing that's been going on, but he's got a better idea of where the baseball team is compared to most outsiders.
No return Q&A will be going on at H&R, so I'll conclude the Purdue preview tomorrow with my series thoughts.
Content after a jump:
Before we get into discussion of the deeper issues facing Michigan lacrosse, Let's take a look at this weekend's opponents. Colorado has been struggling throughout this year, badly enough to change coaches mid-season. Colorado State, on the other hand, has been excellent. They are ranked #2 and are undefeated on the season in the competitive Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference.
Friday, 7pm MDT,
Franklin Field KITTREDGE FIELD, Boulder CO.
Record: 2-5 (0-2 RMLC)
Rankings: Prodigy #22, LaxPower #15, Computer #14
Common Opponents: W 17-7 Simon Fraser
Previous Meetings: 2009 Regular Season (video highlights), 2009 MCLA Playoffs (liveblog).
I've talked a few times about how Colorado is a team in disarray. They fired their first-year head coach just a couple games into the season and have limped to a 2-5 record against MCLA teams this year. Those two wins, however, came against respectable competition (Simon Fraser and Lindenwood), so it's not like the Buffaloes are incapable of beating top teams.
Offensively, junior attack James Blackburn, a 2009 Honorable Mention All-American, leads the team with 2.71 points per game, and freshman Doug Lilburne isn't far behind at 2.29. Those are the only two CU players over two points per game, however, and the offensive production has really struggled, with the Buffs only breaking into double digits in their two victories on the year. sophomore middies Nick Kupcewicz has impressed, but was suspended for last week's game against Colorado State.
On defense, senior Mike Britt was named an MCLA 1st-Team All-American last year, and his classmate Mike Geocaris earned an Honorable Mention distinction. Sophomore defensive mid Ryan Emerson leads the team in ground balls, closely followed by freshman LSM Hap Knowles. In goal, 4th-year sophomore William Brown and freshman Bradley Macnee have gotten the most playing time. Brown has the higher save percentage, but facies more shots, giving up 8.6 goals per game.
Michigan should be able to emerge victorious in this contest. The Buffaloes are talented, but haven't been playing like it yet this year, and are just enter the second week in the system of new head coach Mike Ryder. The Wolverines' ride should be able to prevent an unsettled CU clear from reaching respectable numbers, and Michigan has proven to be able to turn defense into offense, as well as scoring on established possessions. [Ed: CSU and the possibility of a D-I move after the jump.]
The media got a chance to talk to Michigan Offensive Coordinator Calvin Magee earlier today. Note from his press conference follow.
- There have been a lot of fun competitions to watch at every position. Nobody wins or loses a starting spot in spring football. Guys have the summer to improve their bodies, and position battles really take place in fall camp. The next five spring practices still give guys a chance to emerge.
- There have been a number of injuries that have given younger guys a chance to prove themselves this spring, specifically center (David Molk) and Outside Wideout (JR Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes).
- As much of a jump in offensive production as there was from Year One to Year Two (from 109th to 59th in total offense, from 101st to 41st in scoring offense), Magee hopes there will be equal improvement between last year and Year Three. There is finally returning experience at important positions, and guys that have had three years in the system. They finally aren't starting fresh.
- The early enrollees are adjusting to the pace and physicality of college ball. The coaches need to keep reminding themselves that these guys are basically still high schoolers.
- Magee and Rodriguez have never butted heads about playcalling. When you gameplan the right way, you know going into a game what you're going to do. The only thing that can get frustrating is when the execution isn't good.
- South Florida first contacted Magee about applying for their head coaching job, not the other way around (Skip Holtz eventually won the position). Magee lived 15 years in Tampa, so he is familiar with the area, and actually graduated from USF while he was playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Interviewing for the job was a good experience, but he doesn't really think about becoming a head coach that frequently, aside from a long-term career goal. He just worries about doing what he can at Michigan: "Man, we're about to do what we're supposed to do here." He didn't want to leave unfinished business in Ann Arbor.
- Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are both getting time running with the 1s in practice. Now that they have game experience, the coaches are really working on their mechanics and fundamentals. Splitting time with the 1s gives both a chance to compete.
- Tate Forcier "played like a freshman" last year at times. He faced new coverages every week, and it takes time to teach a kid everything.
- Denard Robinson is learning the entire offense. They didn't plan to only have him run QB sweeps, etc., last year, but that's just what happened. He will have a much better comfort level with the offense this year, with spring practice, game experience, and film study.
- Devin Gardner has been good. He's very competitive, and he wants to compete with the other two guys right away. He's not going to sit behind them without doing everything he can to compete with them first. Magee would like to see him compete for the starting job in the fall, because it means that there are several viable options at QB. If he plays well enough to get onto the field, they don't have a problem not redshirting him.
- Experience at quarterback will give the coaches much more comfort with their play calls. They'll be confident with the entire playbook.
- The competition is heating up, and it's fun to watch. The coaches would love to have three or four options in the season. Guys who can play multiple roles within the offense give the team some flexibility.
- Mike Cox is a powerful guy, who is very physically talented. Last year, he maybe thought that it wasn't "his turn" yet, and he'd have to wait for Minor and Brown. The coaches had to make sure he realized that if he can compete and earn the job, it's his, no matter what. He's taken that attitude to heart this spring.
- Vincent Smith will be back in fall camp, competing with everyone else for a starting role.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint needs to keep learning the playbook, and he'll be good to go. He's done a good job with that so far.
- The coaches know what Mark Moundros is capable of, but with him moonlighting at linebacker this spring, it's given John McColgan a chance to get a lot of reps, and getting that experience in practice will really help him down the road.
Slots, Tight Ends, and Wideouts
- When they recruit slots, a lot of the guys can also play outside receiver positions, so they've moved there for spring with the injuries to Hemingway and Stokes. Roy Roundtree's "been mostly all outside right now." He was originally recruited as an outside receiver, so he can play both positions.
- Terrence Robinson is playing really well this spring. His first year, he was in a competition with Martavious Odoms for a starting spot, but got injured. A similar thing happened last year, which led to the emergence of Roy Roundtree. He's finally healthy, and can do a lot of different things.
- Jeremy Gallon is coming off a redshirt, and should have a chance to contribute at multiple positions. Like Odoms and Robinson, he's a very shifty guy, with a lot of ability.
- The tight end position has been really good to watch this spring. Magee isn't sure which of the two main guys (Kevin Koger and Martell Webb) is better. Webb is turning into a real team leader.
- The three redshirt freshmen coming up are very good. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield showed their talent on the scout team last year, and it's fun to watch them compete in the offense. They are a little immature (though they weigh more than they look - they aren't far off from their target weights), but very competitive. Lewan has been playing left tackle, and Schofield right tackle. Quinton Washington had been doing well, but he's been a little banged up.
- David Molk's injury has given some other centers a chance to get reps. Rocko Khoury has been getting a lot of time, and Elliott Mealer is playing in there as well. They're building depth at center.
- Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein have "been fine this spring." It's their third year in the system, so they understand what the coaches want.
- Steve Schilling is playing as well as he ever has since this coaching staff has been in town. He's turning into a real leader on the offense.
- Last year, there were too many injuries to have any real competition on the offensive line. This year, it's much better, and the competition is fun to watch.
Assorted items of possibly dubious validity that have darkened my inbox about spring practice. Are these accurate? Useful? Worth reading? Possibly not. Will at least one player who these reports suggest will be a ninja spend his career doing nothing? Yes. Will you absorb the reports voraciously anyway? Absolutely!
I'm on the record as skeptical that Denard Robinson presents a serious threat to Tate Forcier, but multiple sources here and elsewhere keep saying it looks even, or even advantage Robinson, thus far. Robinson's got a zippy arm that bests Forcier when it comes to short-range oomph and has vastly improved his accuracy. This makes him a plausible quarterback. He remains ridiculously fast, and is actually running the read option now.
Areas for improvement: throwing on the run, reading defenses—when the D deviates from its vanilla schemes Robinson has a nasty tendency to throw it directly at defenders—and pocket awareness. On long throws he still has a tendency to throw ropes that give receivers little opportunity to adjust to inaccurate balls.
There has been little chatter about Forcier, with some observers theorizing he's still dealing with the after-effects of his shoulder injury and others claiming he's totally healthy and just not progressing as fast as Robinson. That latter makes some sense, as Forcier has been exposed to high-level coaching for years. He's a lot closer to his ceiling than Robinson.
Despite all the Robinson talk, most people are hesitant to suggest he would actually start. Michigan is installing the 3-3-5 and running vanilla coverages. There's a long way to go from seeming competent in spring to being the starting quarterback. More realistic is a continued timeshare with Robinson moonlighting at other skill positions when Tate is at the helm.
Devin Gardner, meanwhile, looks like a freshman. He needs work on his mechanics, doesn't know the offense that well, and is clearly behind the two sophomores. He's running a lot of those Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretch plays that Robinson was relegated to last year. If Denard can establish himself a viable option Gardner seems headed for a redshirt. His long term potential remains totally sweet.
It sounds like Mike Cox is the tentative leader at this point. He alternates punishing Minor RAGE runs with mental mistakes that undoubtedly have Rodriguez throwing his hat and saying he's dang-diddly-anged disappointed in the young man. Cox has the best combination of size and speed, and that uncanny balance he flashed during some of his garbage-time runs is no fluke. Caveat: Vincent Smith is sometimes suggested as the probable starter. Cox is entering his third year in the program so the mental mistakes may be a long term issue, unfortunately.
Michael Shaw is next in the pecking order, less likely to break a tackle than Cox but more likely to take something a long way. He's also been mentioned as a player who needs to work on the mental side of the game some.
Stephen Hopkins is getting the sort of reviews you expect him to: he is a horse, a load, a freight train, a moose, etc. He will run straight ahead until he falls over or he burrows into the wall in the endzone. If Cox doesn't establish himself as a short yardage back, the duties will likely fall to Hopkins.
Toussaint comes in for cursory "looked good" praise but it seems like he's trailing the relative veterans. White is probably redshirting.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Hard to tell anything with Hemingway and Stokes out; in their absence Roy Roundtree is practicing outside and drawing mixed reviews. Drops are supposed to be an issue with everyone, but Roundtree gets more stick for it than others.
Mixed reviews on Darryl Stonum, with a couple reports citing his obvious physical superiority to the rest of the WRs and projecting a strong season. Again, hard to tell absent his most serious competition.
Roundtree may stick outside even after the injured return because Odoms, Gallon, and Robinson are all having strong springs. Robinson and Grady are taking a number of snaps in the backfield—think Darius Reynaud—and doing well with it. Both were high school tailbacks. Robinson and Gallon seem to have the inside track on punt returns.
Tight ends are the same as they were last year. It sounds like they're focusing more on the slots this year.
The interior line remains as expected: Schilling, Molk Placeholder, Omameh, with both guards coming in for regular praise and the Placeholder (Khoury, mostly) having issues snapping the ball. That's supposedly getting better.
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
Washington (when healthy) and Schofield have also gotten good reviews; that whole class seems to be panning out so far. Huyge and Dorrestein haven't been the subject of much chatter good or bad. With the quarterbacks focusing on shorter routes the opportunities for serious pass protection have been intermittent.
Renaldo Sagesse continues to play well. Will Campbell is huge and still working on technique issues but much better both physically and mentally; it sounds like those two will be the NT platoon. I'm pretty confident they'll be a good one. That leaves Van Bergen and Martin outside with Banks and Patterson backing up. It's hard to tell how much of the praise for each of the senior backups is real, but given how Sagesse played last year I think he can hang. Patterson and Banks I don't know about.
Specific mentions of RVB have been few and far between. Banks and Patterson are getting talked up publicly but aren't drawing a ton of hype on background.
This comes with a "just spring" warning since he was buried all of last year, but Kenny Demens is getting a significant amount of buzz and is taking some of Ezeh's snaps with the first team. The scheme change may suit him: the Casteel-style 3-3-5 doesn't need a huge MLB, just a tough guy willing to plug his face on a guard and make the nose tackle right all the time. His speed and blitzing is a good fit for the new system. He's been laying his share of thumping hits.
Other than that, it's MOTS in the linebacking corps, with Mouton and Ezeh seeming like Mouton and Ezeh. If there have been any adjustment pains for Craig Roh they haven't made it into the wide world. He seems to be doing very well. Adding 20 pounds turns him from overmatched but promising into beast, apparently. From the inbox's lips to God's ears.
The Cam Gordon hype train continues unabated, with words like "excellent," "natural," and "seems vaguely like an actual safety" getting thrown around. (Latter praise invented by me to tamp own expectations down.) ESPN's Adam Rittenberg gets in on the act:
Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, drew praise from Rodriguez and several players I spoke with.
Most positive reports about receivers read "hauled in pass and was disemboweled by Gordon, but held on." Caveat: all the quarterback reports indicate that Michigan is working on short stuff incessantly, so opportunities to get dragged way out of position and give up, oh, I don't know, a third and thirty-seven conversion have been limited.
With Emilien out with another injury, Brandin Hawthorne is second-team at deep safety. Rodriguez has been wary about the lack of depth there.
Troy Woolfolk is about on par where he was last year: pretty good Big Ten corner, may have a bit more upside than that as a senior. Then there's JT Floyd. He is "vastly improved." I know. I'm skeptical, too. According to Rittenberg, Woolfolk had praise for Floyd as well.
The bad news: Justin Turner gets a universal "meh," with a couple of reports indicating that a 6'2", 210-pound corner is not likely to work out and a position move is in the cards once the quartet of freshman corners hits campus in fall. One talks up James Rogers, his teammate on the second team, in favor of him. Bleah. As of now the third string corners are walk-ons so Turner continues to labor at a position it seems he doesn't have the quicks for. With Gordon developing a death grip on deep safety, Turner's best shot at playing time in the near future may be as a spur or bandit.
As far as the hybrid SSs go: Jordan Kovacs has the weakside spot (bandit) locked down. This is no surprise for anyone who saw him play there as a freshman walk-on. That box safety thing is tailor made for him. The other side is a total mess, with Mike Williams giving way to a combination of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and walk-on Floyd Simmons. It's unclear whether the Williams demotion is a temporary thing due to injury (Williams is in green) or a long term move to other players, but it seems like it's closer to the latter. The Hawthorne move leaves a couple of marginal players duking it out at a spot that requires dealing with a lot of blocks. Reports have neither been positive or negative. They mostly confine themselves to who's playing where. Gordon has laid a couple pops, apparently.
I wouldn't be surprised to see someone move to the spur for fall; Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson will have opportunities to earn immediate starting jobs.
With Will Hagerup not enrolled yet, there's not much you can tell about the punters. On the Huge Show yesterday Rodriguez said he was the most likely freshman to start (surprise!), so it sounds like there isn't anyone in camp threatening to make an Olesnavage-like move.
Placekicking, on the other hand, has everyone it's going to have and the initial reviews are seriously negative. Brendan Gibbons is reputed to have a big leg but questionable accuracy. Field goals have been something of a fire drill so far. Here's a terror-inducing Rodriguez quote:
"The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent in practice. I couldn't tell you who our starting kicker is. It changes in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Other special teams, we've got athletes, but the kicking and punting is not at the point where we feel comfortable."
This is an early list of who is going to be at the Spring Game this year. This list will continue to grow, since these are only the players I've talked to so far. Some of the visits could change as we get closer, so just remember that.
I'll keep adding to the list as I talk to more people, but here's what I have so far.
WR DeAnthony Arnett
OH LB Percy Johnson
OH DE Bryan Baird - Said he will probably be there, not positive.
OH DB Greg Brown (commit)
MI DE Brennen Beyer
MI CB Delonte Hollowell (commit)
MI OL Anthony Zettel
FL RB Demetrius Hart (Mom coming too.)
FL S Dallas Crawford - Yes. This is a big one for Michigan.
FL WR Sammy Watkins - Yes. Also big.
MD DT Vincent Croce - Yes, as of now.
TX RB Jarrell Oliver (same school as Stonum, Herron, Woolfolk)
NJ LB Antoine Pozniak - He's coming with the "Top Prospects Family." Je'Ron Stokes dad is the founder of Top Prospects Family.
NJ ATH Miles Shuler
PA DE Deion Barnes - 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. Same school as current wolverine Je'Ron Stokes, and his brother Malik Stokes.
NJ LB Andre Hodge - Top Prospects
Other Top Prospects Family - Ronald Butler, Tyron Stevens, Lamar McKnight
IN OL Tony Springmann
GA WR Justin Scott
FL DE Anthony Rabasa
PA DB Kyshoen Jarrett - No, as of now. Family might decide to come, but no for now.
OH S Ron Tanner - He has baseball.
OH DE Robert Mincey - No, he'll be at Toledo. No offer, not sure if he'll get one.
OH DT Kevin Williams - He'll be at Nebraska, for their spring game. He was recently at Michigan for one of the practices. It seems like it's down to Nebraska and Michigan. He'll make his choice shortly after the 17th
NC LB Kris Frost - No. His family waited too long to buy tickets, so they were too expensive when they went to buy them. He's NOT going to Auburn's spring game over Michigan's, he's going to Auburn's because it's only 6 hours away. He figures he might as well go somewhere, if he can't make it to Michigan. They are trying to find another time to make it up.
AR QB Kiehl Frazier (2011) - No for the spring game. I spoke with his father, though, and they're really excited about Michigan. He said they DEFINITELY plan on making a trip to Ann Arbor. They really like Coach Smith, and are excited to see Michigan.
NJ WR Damiere Byrd - Track Meets
MI RB Justice Hayes is going to try to make it. Not positive yet.
OH TE Ray Hamilton - There's a "strong possibility" that he'll be there. Not definite.
OH OL Aundrey Walker - Doesn't know for sure yet. It's still a possibility.
OH WR Shaq Washington - Going to try to make it. He doesn't have an offer, but Michigan is one of the few schools he's hoping to get an offer from. He thinks he fits the offense really well.
OL Matt Frazier - Didn't end up making it to practice the other week. He fell ill, and couldn't make it. He's either coming for the spring game, or one of the early games of the season. Most likely a game, though.
21. Jon Merrill (down 1)
68. Jacob Fallon (down 18)
95. Luke Moffatt (down 20… yeesh)
99. Alex Guptill (2011, down 1)
153. Derek Deblois (2011, up 17)
Kevin Clare was 132nd in the midterm rankings and is now absent. He's also been playing with the U17 team, not the U18s… not a good year for him. (Note that the CSB rankings claim Deblois was 63rd in the mid-term rankings, but he was actually 170th. Either way that's not a spot at which a lot of players get drafted.)
Obviously not good, but there's a tendency for players at the top of the ratings to move down so not too damaging. Luke Moffatt's stock continues to collapse; what happened to the guy who was the #2 pick in the OHL draft?