"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DT Terry Talbott, and DT Richard Ash.
|Avon Lake, OH - 6'3" 263|
|Scout||3*, #11 C|
|Rivals||3*, #7 C|
|ESPN||3*, 79, #13 OG|
|Other Suitors||Florida State, Iowa, Stanford, Pitt, Michigan State, Northwestern, South Carolina|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Probably could have gotten into Michigan if he was 5'6".|
Christian Pace is the entire 2010 Michigan offensive line recruiting class. Those of you with fingers will be able to calculate the number of offensive linemen who play at the same time, note the number of people one person is (it is one), and grimace meaningfully at the lack of people just one person is. But that's another show. This one is about the one person.
Fortunately for your fingers and what they abstract, Pace seems like as close to a can't-miss sort of prospect you can get in a three-star. I usually don't advocate watching highlights but this exceptionally useful and interesting AMP piece on Pace is an exception:
If you're still allergic to video (or at work or something), Rivals's Greg Ladky says the following things:
Pace has perhaps the best tape—not highlights, tape—in the Midwest.
He's a perfect fit for Michigan's offense, which prizes agility over massive size.
He doesn't have that size, is therefore a serious longshot as far as the NFL goes, and this is an explicit factor in Rivals's rankings.
Those opinions add up to the most concrete reason to be more excited about a prospect's potential impact at Michigan than his rankings would suggest than has ever been ventured. They're also shared by many according to his high school coach.
"I’ve had coaches tell me that (Pace’s highlight tape) is the best they’ve ever seen, bar none, coaches throughout the country," he said.
And more detail yet:
“I had a number of college scouts tell me that might be the best senior lineman tape in the whole United States, it was that good,” Dlugosz said. “He’s a very, very physical player. He’s an individual that has tremendous footwork and he’s very agile. He loves the physical part of the game and he knows how to finish blocks.”
Interestingly, one of those coaches was very likely Rick Trickett, the Florida State offensive line coach/Full Metal Jacket devotee who was Rodriguez's OL coach at West Virginia before FSU flashed its thigh. The guys from Tomahawk Nation follow Florida State recruiting closely and mentioned to me after Pace committed that Rick Trickett was grumbling about letting him get away and how he could have turned that kid into a Rimington winner. Here's the version of those events from Bucknuts:
Pace didn't get four stars from anyone for a pretty good reason: dude is small. But the constant refrain from people who watched his film was that he was a nasty, agile center perfect for Michigan's zone read running game. A Florida State blogger I keep in contact with reported back that FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, formerly on Rodriguez's West Virginia staff, groused that he could have turned the kid into a Rimington winner if he'd grabbed him.
Add that to the pile of reasons to file Pace as Molk 2.0: an undersized, feisty center who is a crucial starter but doomed when it comes to the NFL.
Rimington winners don't play tackle, but as per usual with D-I line prospects, Pace was a tackle in high school. Due to his Molkian stature he'll move inside in college. Michigan is going to put him and his enormous brain at center, where it will be best put to use:
"He finishes blocks really well, he’s also an intelligent football player," Dlugosz said.
"Christian understands concepts, when you tell him ‘we’re running this blocking scheme,’ he will be able to visualize who everybody is supposed to block and how he fits into that scheme. So he ends up being like a coach on the field. He understands those things really well."
Continuing the theme from earlier where the coach says something and then says pretty much the same thing:
“He’s very intelligent,” Shoremen coach Dave Dlugosz said. “Some players understand: I’ve got to block this player on this play. Christian can look at the defense and he understands the concept of the play, and he’s capable of making adjustments not only for himself but for the rest of the team as well.
“He plays tackle for us, but Michigan is going to move him to center, where he’ll be responsible for making most of the blocking calls.”
Another AMP video featuring a Pace interview confirms:
Also though Pace picked up 25 offers from various mid-level programs plus Florida State before his commitment, his final three were Michigan, Northwestern and Stanford. This was not a guy admissions cocked an eyebrow at.
At center, Pace will have plenty of opportunities to pass off a guy to one of the guards next to him and wall off a linebacker with his agility. As a high schooler he displays A+ mobility. ESPN's evaluation is a technical version of the above praise:
Pace is a very proficient run blocking offensive lineman. He is undersized a little in terms of height but is extremely strong and powerful. Comes off the ball like a locomotive and derails the defensive lineman on run blocks. Really dominates the defender on base and drive blocks. Fires out low and hard with a flat back and strikes the defensive lineman across with a jarring first punch. Follows the initial blow delivery with great leg drive; churns legs like pistons. Impressive reach and zone blocker; uses excellent footwork in gaining position on the edge defender. Runs his legs and keeps the opponent locked in; really works hard to finish and sustain the block. Very solid combination blocker that drives defensive lineman into the lap of the linebacker. Pulls and traps with authority; turns upfield and seeks out defenders in the openfield. … He has the aggressiveness and nastiness coaches look for in a lineman.
Similarly, Ohio Varsity calls him a "fantastic interior line prospect":
His agility is what sets him apart from most linemen, as he has the ability to get out in space and execute blocks against smaller, faster defenders. Pace thrives as a pulling guard and his film features numerous plays where he rockets out of his stance and immediately becomes a dangerous 265-pound lead blocker. Where he really impresses, however, is that he sees the field and when pulling he has a proper feel on when to trap/kick out the blocker and when to pull around and seal the edge.
I’ve said it on reviews of other linemen and I’ll say it again: I want to see elite prospects putting defenders on their back on a regular basis. If you have a 6-foot-3, 260-plus pound offensive lineman playing at the high school level, pancake blocks should be a regular occurrence. For Pace, it is. And I love it.
Both evaluations mention some potential dodginess in pass protection, which Pace doesn't do much of, with OV smartly noting that the transition from a tackle who never pass blocks to an interior lineman is a tough one that requires the ability to pick up all manner of stunts. Pace's intelligence should help him with that, and he won't have to play until his third year at center anyway.
Other than that probably-minor issue, the only thing that hold Pace back is his size. That issue kept Pace from the rankings those evaluations—heavy breathing even for recruiting fluff—suggest he should get. (Scout unhelpfully lists as it an "area for improvement.") Pace is optimistically listed at 6'4", 270 in several newspaper articles, but the official site has something closer to the truth: 6'2", 259. Even those tend to be burnished, which means Pace could be 6'1". That could be a problem when Michigan's offense isn't busy running away from behemoth nose tackles, which is infrequent but not unheard of. Pace's ability to pull might mitigate that, though; Michigan might be able to go power off tackle, using him as a 270 pound fullback instead of an overmatched center going up against someone 30-40 pounds heavier.
If he doesn't make it, his (very) relative shrimpiness will be the reason. But many, many people think that's a problem that will be overcome.
Etc.: Interview from after his enrollment. Commitment article with plenty of quotes but nothing hard. Want to wonder what you're doing with your life? Watch this video of Pace working out at a Pitt combine. Second-team All-Ohio in his division as a junior and made Ohio Varsity's all-division first team as a senior.
"It’s going to be an interesting transition with snapping and everything, but I’ll play wherever they want me to," Pace said. "The center makes all the line calls and reads the defense and gives the O-line all the calls it needs but other than that, I’m basically coming in fresh to the position."
Why David Molk? Obvious. Extraordinarily tight comparison here. Same sort of recruiting profile if you give Pace the benefit of the doubt implied by the AMP video above, same size, same position.
Guru Reliability: Low? Don't get me wrong, the consistency of the evaluations and Pace's profile indicate strong reliability but when you've got Rivals guys stating that he's a great fit for Michigan but too small for the NFL as part of their evals… well, I don't care about that last bit. I care about the first bit.
General Excitement Level: High. People are talking up Rocko Khoury a bit these days but he'll have a hell of a time holding off Pace after two years of schooling and weights.
Projection: Likely starter as a redshirt sophomore after Molk graduates.
We made a podcast over the weekend covering the latest in recruiting, both with players coming in and not making it, the spring game, the team this fall, and some extremely cheery basketball conversation. Significantly less apathetic slurring in this one than the podcasts towards the end of last season, but equal levels of disorganization.
BONUS disorganization: sometimes when you update things to keep current they break the hacky bits you've downloaded and inserted in order to get big files properly updated and then you grumble and fix it, causing things to be late.
Links of use:
This has been happening for a couple weeks now and I've gotten enough email about it to provide a front-page explanation: points have started to expire, which they do after a year. This is not functionality I put in intentionally but I might keep it around since it seems to make sense. But that's what's happening. If you get a snarky email about losing super powers but haven't done anything to warrant it, that's what's going on.
A comment revamp is coming and I don't want to touch anything on the site until that's up and going, so please bear with us.
Open house fluff. If you couldn't make it here are moving pictures that describe the goings-on:
There's also the version of Tim's post yesterday at all media outlets. MVictors has the best one because it has a picture of a fire hydrant wearing a hat. The Daily, meanwhile, provides a noise increase estimate that's more reasonable than the doubling that was initially proposed:
A 30-percent noise increase on the field level was also promised, which will be tested by a sound engineer early in the season.
I'm not sure why they couldn't have tested that last season when the structures were up.
If you just can't get enough, AnnArbor.com has a slideshow and a couple stories that have the same content in a slightly different package. The latter does have this entertaining quote about the 3k+ club seats:
"I came in here, and I was like, 'Wow,'" Neumann said during Wednesday's public open house. "Then they told me how much it cost, and I was like, 'Wow.' "
FWIW, nary a crab was to be found in the articles. With newspapers typically straining to get "both sides of the story" that's one more indicator that the Save the Big House folks are slightly out of touch. Speaking of…
I am so glad I already have a lolcfn tag. Outrage(!) spans the internets today after CFN's Pete Fiutak talked up Matt James as a promising incoming recruit. Matt James is no longer alive after falling from a hotel balcony during spring break festivities, so this is a very bad idea.
I can only say that I'm not surprised at all. Way back in the day I took a swing at finding all the errors in that year's edition of the Michigan preview and came up with a solid two dozen, and while I can't find that post from before time began here's something they wrote just last year about the relative strength of the Michigan defense:
The real strength will be at safety where some superstar prospects will combine with some established playmakers. That means veteran safety Steve Brown can be part linebacker and part safety in the new system.
That was ridiculous even before the season, when this blog proposed it as "the most incorrect statement ever uttered by a college football preview ever"; now it stands as monument to the magnificent pointlessness of human cognition. Also they declared Obi Ezeh's the team's second best player.
It was just a matter of time before they incorrectly identified someone who is not alive as someone who is. In CFN House, it's always lupus and the patient dies because it's not lupus.
Other things that are not true about Notre Dame. Via Orson, here's a breathless bit of frippery on Brian Kelly:
"Coach Kelly and the entire Notre Dame staff has been very aggressive in recruiting," said Mike Frank, the publisher of IrishSportsDaily.com. "They are getting the offers quickly out the door. They are organized and they grind it and work very hard. This staff is much more aggressive than the previous one."
This is not true at all. Legend has it that Corwin Brown once camped out in front of Martez Wilson's door after being booted from the interior, refusing to leave until Wilson agreed to sign with the Irish. It didn't work—never in the long history of that move has it been successful—but by God it was aggressive. Seriously, the one thing Weis did well was recruit. At least give him that.
Charles Woodson Called “A Hero” In Aftermath Of House Fire
…suggests Woodson just became hero yesterday. Pete Fiutak probably wrote it.
Anyway, Woodson and his business partner were just doing what any average Michigan fan might have done on a lazy Friday night: watch highlight videos of Charles Woodson and doze off. As per usual, doing this saved lives:
“The Charles Woodson 1997 highlight tape saved our lives, because that’s what kept us up so late,” said Ruiz. “Seriously, we were up late watching that tape, and that’s what made us stay up so late to find that smoke in the beginning. Otherwise we probably would have been passed out. I don’t know.”
They made a movie of the Todd Howard version of this, by the way.
Old Man Yells At Cloud. John Pollack's got one convert: Chicago columnist Rick Telander. His crotchety old man column complains about the amount of money spent on the renovations, says "you can't go 5-7" and "sure as heck can't go 3-9" if you're going to do that, and then pulls out more evidence for this blog's theory that everything written about sports in a Chicago newspaper is false:
In that 2008 season, Michigan got crushed at home, 33-10, by Toledo.
That's not a typo—crushed—and is only 20 points off on a game that happened two years ago. A bonus Fiutak follows:
Is it a coincidence that Brad Labadie, Michigan's director of football operations, just resigned?
Don't think so.
Rabble rabble rabble, and so it goes.
The usual array of losers. Generic complaint about college football scheduling that sees Michigan named the bravest Big Ten team because it's the one team taking on two BCS schools if we don't count Iowa State, which we shouldn't. Standard whining about faking your way to bowl eligibility by taking on Akron and three schools Akron would kill, as Indiana will attempt to do this fall. Hopeful muttering about rising prices for tomato cans spurring some actual scheduling from Big Ten teams, delivered more in hope than expectation. Continued calls for Eastern Michigan to drop its football program entirely.
Etc.: Ace follows up on his Bo team picture slideshows with one showing the team MVPs from 1926 on. Penn State fans survey their schedule and unanimously (though tentatively) pick Michigan as a potential landmine. I'll take it. An analysis of Nebraska's dominating front, which switched between over and under, last year.
Remember, the Michigan Football Recruiting Board holds all the info you need.
Tournaments, Visits, Decisions. Oh My!
FL RB Dee Hart and his Dr. Phillips teammates participated in the Nike 7ON tournament last weekend, and though the team results weren't the best, Dee tore it up:
Hart was easily the best player on the field for Dr. Phillips and when the team seemed out of sorts to start the competition, he stepped up to make some key plays.
That's an extremely positive review, the type that Michigan fans are used to seeing by now. That, along with Dr. Phillips's fourth place finish, earned Hart a spot on the all-tournament team, and the Orlando Sentinel explains why:
"One play sums up Hart's style of play: He caught the ball for a short gain and put a swift move on a linebacker and then sprinted toward the middle of the field to gain some separation. When two defensive backs came to meet him he side-stepped them and they collided as he ran past for an even bigger gain. Hart is electric with the ball in his hands and he can catch coming out of the backfield.'
Craig Haubert points out that he's great at going up to get the ball, despite his smaller stature. Here's a bit of recruiting fluff on Hart and his teammate FL S HaSean Clinton-Dix. Hart is also cryptic in his recruiting interviews, though reporters still haven't realized that he just wants to be left alone. He'll be in Ann Arbor today with 2012 FL QB Nick Patti.
"It went well," said Walsh of his one-on-one time with Michigan's head coach. "We talked a lot about (different) stuff, and not always about football. He told me about the new additions to the Big House, the town, and everything. I like him. I guess you could say he's different from how he is portrayed. He's a really cool, laid-back person. He's always smiling, and the way he talks about things, you kind of just feel good talking to him."
Walsh, who grew up a Michigan fan, plans to make a pre-season decision. He is down to eight schools, including Michigan, conference mates Michigan State, Iowa, and Northwestern, and a pair each from the PAC-10 and SEC in the Los Angeles schools and the Tennessee schools.
LA CB Daren Kitchen has been openly lobbying for a Michigan offer, going so far as to say he'd commit to the Wolverines on the spot. According to Tom, he's not only been offered, but also upheld his pledge to accept. Rich Rodriguez recently returned from vacation, so we'll have to see if that offer becomes committable. If so, look for a Hello: Daren Kitchen post i the near future.
Happy Trails, NC QB Marquise Williams. After the commitment of FL QB Kevin Sousa, it was clear that Michigan's staff knew Williams was heading elsewhere, now it's just been made official—he'll be a Tar Heel.
Michigan is not mentioned in a Rivals article about PA DE Desimon Green, who "knows where he wants to go." He's still on the board, but close to a Happy Trails moment.
Adios, FL LB AJ Johnson. He's narrowed his list to three, and Michigan is nowhere to be found.
Paring It Down
LA DT Mickey Johnson is down to a final five schools:
“UCLA, Nebraska, Michigan, Tennessee, and LSU are my final 5 in that order. I’m going to take 4 official visits, I won’t take one to LSU since it’s so close. I may enter a 5th visit down the line but we’ll see. I’m up to over 40 total offers right now so it’s been tough to narrow them down.”
Here's Johnson in action during his junior season:
Johnson is probably Michigan's last best hope for a high profile nose tackle in this class, though he maintains that UCLA and Nebraska have a healthy lead on the other three schools.
PA DE Deion Barnes plans to narrow his list to four or five schools by the start of his high school season.
GA S Avery Walls has a top 11, which includes Michigan. He plans to visit Virginia and Oregon, the only schools on the list that he hasn't seen yet, before making his mid-season decision. Remember, he spoke glowingly of Ann Arbor when he came through last month.
He announced a cut down list of 14 Saturday night that included the Gamecocks, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Stanford, Vanderbilt, UCLA and South Florida.
Michigan hadn't seemed too involved in Lyons's recruitment, but we'll see if interest increases now that it's obviously mutual. From the same article, Michigan is in a top 9 for FL S/WR Sammy Watkins. Clemson and Miami are his top two.
Michigan is in the final eight for OH CB Doran Grant. Ohio State and Michigan State (where his dad played) are still the presumed favorites.
FL RB DeVondrick Nealy has a Michigan offer and the Wolverines are in his top five. He's likely a backup plan if Demetrius Hart doesn't end up in Ann Arbor.
OH WR AJ Jordan is up to 21 offers. He'll also make a return trip to Ann Arbor:
"I'm visiting Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Michigan this summer and hopefully I'll be able to make a decision before the start of the season.
He's been to Ann Arbor a couple times, so Michigan is likely near the top of his list. At this time, I think most people expect him to be Michigan's second outside wideout in this class. Here's his junior video, for those who are interested.
MI OL Anthony Zettel won't decide until after at least one official visit, to Iowa ($, info in header). Even just that header mentions that Michigan and Michigan State have a big lead on the field.
The Oakland Press's Scott Burnstein obviously turned on his BROTASTIC filter before writing this article about MI CB Valdez Showers:
Then summertime hit and with the increase in temperature, the Eagles very own, "REIGN MAN," caught red-hot fire and proceeded to BLOW UP like DA BOMB he is.
So, uh, yeah. Not really sure how I should react to that.
PA CB/S Dondi Kirby tore his ACL at Michigan's camp ($, info in header), and will miss his senior year of football.
Michigan is giving attention to OH CB Roger Williamson ($, info in header). I've added him to the board.
The Distant Future. The Year 2012.
As mentioned above, FL QB Nick Patti (right) is in town this weekend with his 2011 teammate, FL RB Dee Hart. Though he's a little guy, the Orlando Sentinel still points out that he's one heck of a QB:
"[H]e's going to make some school happy. He has a big arm, is smart and capable and was one of the better quarterbacks at the event."
Patti, just a junior, is heading into his first full season as the starting QB at Dr. Phillips. He recently won the Golden Gun award for accuracy, hitting all eight targets at the Las Vegas Elite 11 camp.
Offers, much less a commitment, for Patti are a long way off, but keep him in the back of your mind.
Michigan has picked up a couple players from Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the past couple years (Patrick Omameh in 2008, Chris Rock in 2011), so don't be surprised if they go after OH RB Warren Ball, who should be one of the Midwest's top running backs. Alas, they'll have to fight Ohio State if they want to land him.
SC WR Dorial Green, who holds a Michigan offer, will be a big-time recruit next year:
He helped lead the Hornets to a Class 5 basketball state championship. He also closed his sophomore year by winning two state titles, including the 100 meters, at the track and field championships.
Projections will have him as one of the most highly regarded national football recruits of the Class of 2012. The top programs in the country will be offering to Green, who is 6-foot-5.
The rest of the article is of the variety "his Rivals profile says he's interested in...," so take it with a grain of salt.
It was a surprisingly busy July day for Michigan's Athletic Department, as they opened the doors to Michigan Stadium's new premium seating areas, FieldTurf announced a new deal with the Wolverines (way to piggyback off the day's news, guys!), the official seating capacity of 109,901 was announced for the 2010 season, and Athletic Director David Brandon held a press conference to talk about the newest features of Wolverine Mecca. It's all stadium, all day.
Apologies for poor photo quality, as cellphone shots will have to stand in for the out-of-commission pro camera. If it's higher-quality shots you want, UMTailgate can hook you up. Firstly, I was surprised how many people showed up to the event in the first place, many of them decked out in their gameday garb. Pioneer's lot was mostly filled up in the late morning.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon said that the structures will help keep crowd noise in the stadium, a welcome (but by no means novel anymore) idea to Michigan fans. He said that sound engineers estimated a 30% increase in volume at the 50-yard line, but to get more concrete data, they'll test the sound early in the year.
Another note about the structures themselves is the classic look. Brandon noted that the aesthetic fit with the rest of athletic campus (seen at right from the fourth floor of the East structure) makes the look perfect for Michigan.
Adding these structures also helped Michigan provide a variety of gameday experiences for fans with different preferences. Those who want to sit in traditional bleachers can continue to do so, but there are also options for those who want - and can afford - to sit in chairback seats, club seats, or suites.
Suites And Seats
The suites themselves looked exactly like the one Brian and I toured last summer, except now there are lots of them. The ones on the corners also get good views of campus or the golf course, as well as looking down on the crowd (insert The Hero Of Tiananmen Square-ism here):
Of the 81 total suites, only 20 are available at this time. Approximately 60% of the suites have been purchased by individuals or small groups, and 40% are for corporate customers. Associate Athletic Director for Development Joe Parker said that is a pretty good reservation number, and he does not anticipate single-game suite rentals becoming an option to fill them all.
When other schools have added premium seating, and even when Michigan added it at Yost Ice Arena, 100% occupancy hasn't been reached until the third year. Michigan should have all 81 suites committed by then.
I know lots of MGoBloggers are interested in the behind-the-scenes media access stuff, so here's a shot of the new press box. It's a decided improvement over the old one, to say the least:
There's another row on the left there, and the ceilings are a good 15-20 feet high. In addition, AD Dave Brandon (jokingly) promised that the media will have better food options this season.
At this point, capital gifts and suite/club seat reservations have paid for the $226 million of the renovations(!). The rest of the way, these income sources should be positive cashflow for the Athletic Department. Though he didn't have exact numbers, Parker said that the premium seating areas will increase the profitability of each home game in the future.
Inside the stadium, the 2009 Michigan/Notre Dame game was displayed on the scoreboards as the fans made their way through the new premium seating areas in the East Side structure. Those scoreboards might not be long for this world, according to Dave Brandon. The Athletic Department is already discussing further expansion of the stadium, but the scoreboards are going to be the next part of the stadium improved.
Brandon said he hopes that the existing architecture of the scoreboards can be maintained (speculation - so as to not waste money when stadium expansion forces them to move within a few years?), but it's time for them to be upgraded. The Athletic Department will explore all possible revenue streams to pay for that project, though there are currently no plans for in-stadium advertising.