to play football, not to play trumpet
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at [email protected] or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
This question comes from TK-421, one of the contributors at Wolverine Liberation Army. He asks:
I'm assuming the makeup of the next recruiting class has been altered, considering the losses of Dorsey, Emilien, and Rogers (and I'm probably forgetting some). My question is, is it possible to shift the demographics of a class (in this case back towards defense again) midseason? Aren't recruits already narrowing their lists down, and so defensive guys that MICH wasn't in the running for back in August are already looking elsewhere?
At this point in the process, the staff has still cast a wide enough net that the tone of the class could be completely different based on which ones they land. The only thing that would truly have to change is which guys get more attention (NCAA video game analogy: give 60 minute calls to the defensive guys, 10 minute quick calls to the guys you're de-emphasizing, for example).
Also, this staff is known for unearthing sleepers later in the process and flipping commits from other schools, so there are definitely other places to look for commits. Look at a guy like Ray Vinopal last year. The staff offered him in the process and landed him, and he immediately made a move on the depth chart (enough to get Vlad Emilien to reconsider Michigan?).
There's plenty of time left in the recruiting class, and last year's class showed that they're able to close strong on defense. Even if a couple of those guys didn't end up qualifying, hopefully that lesson is learned. Guys with "narrowed lists" are nothing to worry about.
Visits Past and Future
The UMass game brought in a few unofficial visitors, including a couple bigtime 2012 prospects. Tom let us know late last week that IL OL Chris Bryant and his teammate, 2012 OL Jordan Diamond would both be in the house. Bryant enjoyed himself, but isn't committing to anyone quite yet. Scout reports ($, info in header) that he enjoyed his visit enough to make the Wolverines his leader, but won't take many visits until after his high school season ($, info in header).
MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel also attended the game, along with 2012 MI DT Danny O'Brien. More on O'Brien below.
From Tom's Weekly Update, FL CB Dallas Crawford and WR Sammy Watkins are both planning to make it to Ann Arbor for the Iowa game. Watkins is still looking for a couple more points on a standardized test before he's allowed to take officials.
The long, bizarre recruitment of FL RB Demetrius Hart takes another turn, as he visited Auburn last weekend, and left "very high on Tigers" ($, info in header). As Sam Webb revealed on WTKA, the article says he was close to a commitment, which spawned a freakout amongst Michigan fans.
I'll try to talk Michigan fans off the ledge a bit. Tom spoke to Hart's Mom:
"Demetrius said he liked it, and so did his uncle. His uncle said that overall though it was about a 7 out of 10." As far as what's next for Demetrius, he had always planned on taking a few more visits, and then making his decision since he'll be graduating early.
Keep in mind that Hart has always returned home from visits VERY high on the last place he saw (remember Alabama briefly becoming his favorite, then sinking to an afterthought shortly thereafter?), but after a bit of time to settle down, things have returned to normal. He has visits upcoming to Arkansas and Alabama, and if he manages to make it to Ann Arbor one more time before deciding, there's not too much to worry about.
Michigan and Auburn lead for NC WR/LB Kris Frost ($, info in header), but it sounds like the Tigers might have a slight lead.
MI DE/DT Damon Knox has a top three of Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois. He won't make a decision until well after his senior season.
The Wolverines make the top 9 for LA DT Mickey Johnson, and are one of the four schools recruiting him the hardest. He'll make a decision after all of his official visits.
FL DT Timmy Jernigan will take a visit to Michigan this fall, but not for the MSU game, when he'll be visiting Florida. He won't commit until after all of those visits.
Michigan is "still in the hunt" for PA LB Branden Jackson ($, info in header).
FL S Karlos Williams is committed to Florida State, but still keeping his eye on Miami, Michigan, USC, and Ohio State. Tom shared a while back that Michigan might have a shot at receiving a visit from Williams, and as long as they continue winning this season, that's still the case.
Tom thinks LA CB Daren Kitchen is on the backburner, until some other (more coveted) prospects come off the board.
Speaking of those prospects, Michigan is in the top four for TX CB Charles Jackson. Though Jackson is a highly-coveted prospect, other news on him has been very slow lately.
Happy Trails, OH CB/WR Roger Williamson, who committed to Michigan State.
The Distant Future. The Year 2012.
With 2012 news picking up, I think I'll aim for a debut of a 2012 board within the first couple weeks after the end of the regular season. Expect it then. For the record, Scout has released their initial top-100 list for the 2012 class.
OH QB Maty Mauk was in the house for Michigan's game against UConn ($, info in header). I also saw him in Notre Dame Stadium a couple weeks ago, so he's already seen Michigan twice in this young season.
NC OL DJ Humphries (a teammate of 2011 QB target Marquise Williams) is "paying attention to Michigan" ($, info in header).
MI DT Danny O'Brien (at right) was the focus of last week's recruiting column by Sam Webb in the Detroit News. First on his game:
"Dan is very quick off the ball, he plays with a lot of intensity, and he has the agility to get around blockers," said Scout.com Midwest Regional Manager Allen Trieu. "He's about 6-2 and 280 right now, so he's not a big run stopping gap-plugger. I think you'd like to see him get to 300-lbs and get a little stronger in the process. "
O'Brien compares himself as a player to Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. "That's because of his intensity and his just going crazy," O'Brien said. "I love to hit. There ain't nothing like it. Any sport I play, I always play with intensity. I always go nuts. I think that is the way to do it. You just throw your body out there. That's the way to play football."
And on recruiting:
"Right now the schools that are high on my list are Tennessee, Michigan, Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and Oklahoma," O'Brien reported. "I want to get down to see LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma...
"(My brother) and my dad would love to see me in a Michigan uniform, but they'll support me in whatever way I go," he said. "They will help me out with my decision and they'll understand it is for me. I'm going to take my time, look at all my options, and then make my decision. I want to commit after my senior season -- maybe a week or a month after that."
...and despite my extensive blockquoting, there's actually much, much more information in the article. Click through to check it out.
Don't expect Michigan State to go after MI CB Terry Richardson:
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said it is Richardson's lack of size that has recruiters from MSU backing off. "He's not big enough," Wilcher said. "Terry said they want their cornerbacks to rotate and play safety.
Michigan should be one of the leaders whenever they offer.
Men down. Two major injuries in the Big Ten just came down the pipe:
- Badger linebacker Chris Borland, last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, is out for the season with a shoulder injury. It sounds like he will be replaced by sophomore Mike Taylor, who just returned from an offseason full of injury himself.
- Iowa's Jewel Hampton was struck down by Angry Iowa Running-Back-Hating God, tearing his ACL. AIRHAG, as BHGP has taken to calling him, also saw fit to concuss Paki O'Meara, leaving Adam Robinson and "anybody else who wants to volunteer," according to Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa also lost second-string LB Bruce Davis for the season.
Iowa's looking like a potential swing game after the Arizona loss, and getting down to their equivalent of JT Floyd at tailback might mean Michigan's linebackers can actually get an angle on outside runs; I'll still believe M beats Wisconsin when the clock reads zero and I'm all like "woo New Year's Day," which isn't happening so don't get your hopes up.
Man down less sympathetically. The reason Dion Sims isn't playing for Michigan State is he has "allegedly been involved in a Detroit Public Schools computer theft ring involving 988 stolen laptops valued at around $800,000." This will presumably knock him out of the Michigan game unless Michigan State manages to swing a work-release program for him. (How does MSU manage to get all of this stuff done during the season? They could be making headway towards a third straight Fulmer Cup, but nooooo they only get in massive trouble from September to January.) QUICK EVERYONE LOOK AT THE JAW.
Speaking of hopes up. Michigan did not get punished by sportsbooks for the events of last weekend. They're now a 4.5 point favorite against MSU (up one), one point favorites against Iowa (up one) and Wisconsin (even), and 3 and 14 point dogs to PSU and OSU, respectively. IE: the most reliable predictive device available projects something slightly better than a 2-2 split against the meat of the Big Ten schedule. If Michigan takes care of business against BG, Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois they would be 9-3 if that comes true; even if they biff one of those four they'd be 8-4.
This makes me terribly nervous.
Troof. Orson's graphs are back and yeah:
Our other stuff looks like Run DMC, though, so we've got that going for us.
The other football. The Daily was there and so was I, and we both thought the same thing: whoah. 3,500 people packed out the officially 2,200 seat soccer stadium to see a 0-0 tie against Notre Dame, and the Daily is overrun with people who want to write the other football:
…at the latest mass meetings, the majority of students said they were interested in a different kind of football — the one with a “u” and an “o” and a significantly different ball. And each time, I did a double-take. This is the University of Michigan, after all, and all of you just want to cover soccer?
My friends and I tried to sit in the grandstand, which was full, and then migrated to the student side of the field, which was shockingly lively. The "Ultras," as they're calling themselves, badly need to work on their chants* but do an outstanding job of existing, especially since the soccer complex is way off campus.
There are games tomorrow and Saturday at 7 PM, with the latter against Ohio State.
*(A large number of them were classic tunes that saw a couple words replaced, with the weakest being "When The Saints Go Marching In" sung except they say "blue" instead of "saints." You've got two guys named "Saad" on the team! What do you think some working-class London hooligans would do with that? This is a layup.
Also, soccer and hockey have the same aims; many of Yost's cheers could be appropriated. Apparently some have, but I saw a 0-0 draw without any goal chants.)
Expansion: over? OSU AD Gene Smith says so:
"We're finished (with expansion)," Smith said. "The only thing that would cause us to look at it further is if someone contacted us. …The reason most of us say it's not done is because we think there are some schools that are going to try to talk to some conferences. But we're not actively out looking at expansion. After our October meetings, that's going to be the last we talk about it."
Fine by me. 14 or 16 team conferences are dumb.
Smith also says the schedule has not been finalized past '11 and '12 and that Michigan-OSU at the end of the year is not a given. Though he'll 'push for it," he doesn't know what "Barry Alvarez might bring in the room," to which I say if it's not bratwurst tell him to go back and get some.
Etc.: At least everyone's special teams suck. More on Kiffin's bizarre two-point hijinks. Full RR presser transcript. The Daily's story on the Shirtpocalypse is ironically paired with a big animated ad exhorting you to purchase their picture of Denard doing the Heisman on that Te'o. Must… not… smash… faceintodesk SPOCK.
For live updates of the games I'm attending, follow me on Twitter @varsityblue. If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, @reply me on Twitter or e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
FL QB Kevin Sousa
Sousa had 151 yards passing but threw three interceptions. He was 9-of-24 and was hurried quite often by the University defense.
Sousa had 2 TDs through the air, and added an 8-yarder on the ground (on 9 carries for 67 yards, according to what he told Tom), but two of those picks were true Stanziballs:
...things appeared to get to Sousa after that as the senior Michigan commitment threw back-to-back interceptions that Johnnie Griffin and Jachary Baldwin each ran in for touchdowns.
This was University's first win on the year, so Lake Nona is still very bad. Sousa clearly doesn't have much help around him.
|Kevin Sousa 2010|
|Oak Ridge||L 0-48||6||13||46.15||34||2.62||0||1||7||31||4.43||0|
This week: Lake Nona hosts Sebring on Friday at 7:30.
MI WR Shawn Conway
Last Week: Seaholm fell to Detroit Country Day 21-28. Conway tweaked his ankle covering a punt early in the game, and Seaholm's starting QB was also out. These factors, along with the weather, limited his production, though he still did some stuff through the air. I was there, so enjoy the (mostly unedited) highlights:
And the scouting report: Don't be too alarmed by the defensive play where Kenny Knight (#8 on Country Day, considering Minnesota and others) ran right by him. It was the play immediately after the ankle injury - probably why DCD decided to test him - and Conway fell for a pump-fake. He won't be playing defense at the next level, so it isn't much of a concern.
Offensively, the backup QB for the Maples couldn't throw a bubble screen to save his life, and those are typically a pretty big part of the Seaholm offense (and Conway's involvement in it). He did get chewed out on the sidelines by head coach Chris Fahr (his stepdad) for giving up on routes during the game, so with a 100% effort, he might have had a bit more success.
In all, this definitely wasn't his best performance (it's a shame this had to be the one Rod Smith and Tony Dews saw in person), but there are enough reasons to explain it, so I don't think it's anything to worry about. I would also point out that Country Day has five or six Division-1 prospects over the next couple classes, whereas Seaholm has... one. Conway was a big part of the Maples even staying in this game.
FridayNightHighlights.tv has comprehensive highlights, as usual.
|Shawn Conway 2010|
|North Farmington||W 26-6||4||32||8.00||1||3||137||45.67|
|Country Day||L 21-28||3||62||20.67||0||3||32||10.67|
This week: The Maples host Auburn Hills Avondale on Friday at 7.
OH OL Jack Miller
Last week: St. John's pasted rival St. Francis 42-10. The Titans scored nearly every time they touched the ball, and rushed for nearly 200 yards.
This week: St. John's heads to Toledo Whitmer on Friday at 7. Jack will be tested by elite defensive ends Kenny Hayes (2011 OSU commit) and Chris Wormley (2012 Michigan prospect).
FL OL Tony Posada
"I told some people if it appears it's shady out there Thursday night, it's because of this lineman," said [Abilene coach Steve] Warren of the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Michigan commitment. "He's the biggest person I've ever seen. Why doesn't he just go on to the NFL instead of Michigan? He's huge."
The game didn't go so well for the Panthers, as they fell 17-27. It was on ESPNU, so I got a chance to watch. The story on Posada remains the same: he's massive, but will need to work on his conditioning before he's able to contribute at the next level.
This week: Plant takes on Riverview at home on Friday night.
MI OL Jake Fisher
Last week: Traverse City West lost to Cadillac 35-58.
This week: TC West hosts winless Gaylord on Friday at 7:00.
OH DE Chris Rock
This week: DeSales heads North to take on Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's on Friday at 7:30. I should be in attendance, though I make no guarantees.
MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer
Last week: Plymouth beat Livonia Churchill 41-27.
Michigan-bound Brennan [sic] Beyer led the Plymouth defense with 10 tackles, including three sacks.
This week: 3-1 Plymouth heads to Livonia Franklin on Friday at 7:00.
TX LB Kellen Jones
Last week: St. Pius X defeated Worthing 20-12. Jones didn't play, because he's resting his ankle injury from last week, and wants to be healthy for conference play.
|Kellen Jones 2010|
|Trinity Christian||W 33-7||11||5||1||0|
|Worthing||W 20-12||DNP - ankle|
OH CB/S Greg Brown
Last week: Ross defeated Cleveland Benedictine 47-7:
The Little Giants even came together early Friday night, racing to a 7-0 lead on Greg Brown's 85-yard touchdown reception on Ross's first offensive play. Wolf skied a pass to Benedictine's 45-yard line, Brown reeled it in and then raced to the end zone for the game's first points...
Fremont head coach Derek Kidwell said, "Greg Brown started the game off well for us."
The proprietor of the Fremont Ross Forum blog mentioned Brown's TD:
From the first quarter when Tyler Wolf hit Greg Brown on an 85 yard TD pass to the runback of a fumble by JJ Moreno in the fourth quarter, Ross was hitting on all cylinders last night.
This week: The Little Giants host University School on Saturday night.
MI CB Delonte Hollowell
Last week: Cass Tech dominated Detroit Southeastern 42-0. No mention of Hollowell.
Next Week: Cass Tech faces Detroit King on Friday.
This is just pure aaargh right here, but how about a preview of why the Michigan defense was so terrible against UMass?
It's first and ten on the Michigan 35 on what will be UMass's second touchdown drive. UMass comes out in an ace set with two tight ends to the short side of the field:
Michigan is in a 3-3-5, basically, but the twins formation and the double TEs distort it. Roh's off the field momentarily, replaced by JB Fitzgerald. UMass is going to run it up the gut:
There's no pull on this so it's an inside zone. There's nowhere to go with RVB shoving his guy into the backfield, Kovacs beating the second TE to the inside, and Leach blitzing unmolested off the weak side. Michigan has basically killed this play as the RB has no choice but to head outside, where…
…Mouton is totally unblocked. You can also see Kovacs poking his head through at the top of the line and Van Bergen getting his shove on.
Anway, Mouton: with no one outside of him because of the alignment he's the force defender who must get the tailback inside of him, where Leach and a scraping Ezeh can deal with the tailback if he cuts back inside tackle. (For some reason, this is "keeping leverage on the football.") And he's playing against a I-AA tailback. So he runs up real fast…
…lets the tailback outside of him…
…and personally turns zero yards…
Seriously, there's nothing else here except Mouton making an enormous mistake. The good news is that if they fix that stuff the scheme of the defense is fine. It's not like they're asking the players to do anything particularly difficult or novel: make tackle. If cannot make tackle, funnel RB to help. Do not let RB outside of you. This has nothing to do with a shift to a 3-3-5. Look, here's Mouton doing the pretty much the same thing last year, albeit against a blocker:
That's the bad news: if these linebackers have been starting for three years and are still making these mistakes, why would they stop now? GERG linebacker fairy theory is about it and that took a major hit against UMass.
Maybe it was just an off day, one on which the linebackers took it easy and reverted to old, bad habits. Yeah. That, too, is the ticket.
[Ed.: Bump. This makes sense to me: Michigan should mostly dump special teams once it gets across midfield.]
As Brian highlighted in the UMass round-up, maybe forgoing the punt altogether might not be such a bad decision. He noted my earlier look at the the topic and I wanted to pull it back and revisit and refine some of the work.
I looked at the years 2004-2009 and only looked at the top 20 rated offenses for each year. This study assumes that Michigan’s offense this year will be at a top 20 caliber and provides a broad enough definition of greatness that there is a good sample size. I did not distinguish what type of offense (Texas Tech Air Raid vs Georgia Tech triple option vs spread and shred) was used to get into the top 20. I will detail more assumptions as they are applicable along the way. In place of fourth down conversion percentages I used third down conversion percentage since the data pool is much larger and covers a wider variety of opponent levels. Since the thought process on a third down and fourth downs are roughly the same in most all (for now, anyway) situations, it seems reasonable to use the third down numbers.
Time for a you know what…
Assumptions: Top 20 offense, average defense, average punt game, average field goal kicker.
Based on these assumptions, except for long yardage, the punter should grab a seat once the offense crosses midfield. On your own side of the field the decision still makes sense starting around the 30 for shorter yardage situations and becomes more viable for longer yardage as you cross further down the field. Field goals become practical with 4+ yards to gain and only from about the 5-25 yard lines.
There are two big advantages a potent offense has that make 4th down tries more logical. The first is that they have more to gain by success. With a limited number of drives in a given game, why give them away for free? The second is that they are more likely to make them. Good offenses are more likely to be in better position on fourth down and more likely to make it. Here is a chart of great offenses fourth down conversions compared with all offenses. The right hand column was the one used for the above chart.
|To Go||All Teams||Great Off|
It’s not a huge advantage on any one given down, but Top 20 offenses convert the same opportunities about 2-3 percentage points more often than the average offense. Note: the rate of conversion for great offenses was much higher in the original analysis and is part of the reason the chart isn’t quite as go for it as the original.
But we don’t have an average <blank>
<blank> = Kicker
Let’s start with the kicking game, which is currently 5 points below average on the season and rated third worst in the country after the first three weeks.
Assumptions: Top 20 offense, average defense, average punt game, below average field goal kicker (FG make odds are reduced by 25% everywhere on the field).
The decisions near midfield obviously aren’t changed but now attempting a field goal on 4th and 5-9 from inside the 25 is no longer the most valuable option.
<blank> = Punter
I know it hasn’t been the most Zoltanic of starts for Will Hagerup, but at this point if he can hold onto the snap, there is no point in adjusting him to below average, even if he isn’t an advantage at this point.
<blank> = Defense
This is the one that seems a bit counterintuitive and Brian and I disagree on. I say that the strength or weakness of your defense is irrelevant to your offensive decision on whether or not try a fourth down conversion. My belief that it is irrelevant is based on this chart.
Great defense obviously give up fewer points than bad defenses but the key point is that the difference between a great defense and a bad defense is consistent up and down the field. Giving the opponent a first down at midfield isn’t a guarantee of a touchdown even with a bad defense and isn’t a guarantee that pinning an opponent deep against a great defense will keep the other team off the board. In fact, the gap between the two is about .25 points per first and 10 all the way from the 1 to the 90. If this is true, then the ability of the defense is irrelevant to the offense’s decision to go for it. For that to be the case, there would have to be evidence that the difference between a good defense and a bad defense changes at different points on the field.
So what does all this mean
If Michigan can maintain their feverish offensive pace this year and fail to find an adequate kicker, I think their decision set in all but late game score specific situations should look something like this:
As I noted previously, if you buy into this mentality, it opens up another opportunity, changing your early down play calling. If your four down strategy has changed, so should your down by down playcalling. It may become more viable to risk a wasted down with deep ball knowing that you have an extra, or it might just make sense to keep the ball short in the air and on the ground knowing that over four plays instead of three the likelihood of getting the yardages greatly increases so play to have the shortest possible fourth down attempt if you don’t convert before that.