"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
I call him Mini-Rod. Over the past few months I would periodically receive emails about Brady Hoke. Most were to the effect of "bet Hoke looks like a much better candidate now," which was true but only because this was his attractiveness level before this season:
Awful. Awful, awful, awful. The worst possible candidate. The mere idea this guy -- who's never even been a coordinator anywhere and has his MAC team performing at a level well below the program's historical baseline -- could get the job is infuriating.
I was a little cranky, as that was posted at the nadir of the coaching search, when Miles had told everyone to "have a great day" and candidates were thin on the ground and the Rodriguez miracle had not yet bloomed from nowhere, but the point stands: Hoke remains a below-.500 MAC coach even after this year.
He's also just ditched his alma mater for San Diego State, which is basically the same thing Rodriguez did. Except for one thing: instead of moving to, say, BYU—the mid-major equivalent of the nation's winningest program—he's moving to the equivalent of Indiana. San Diego State hasn't had a winning record since 1998 (they were 6-6 in 2003) and is currently 2-10. I guess SDSU is tripling his salary, which is not a small consideration.
The Realests also go "huh?" I just wonder if anyone, anywhere, is going to make a coaching move that makes a damn bit of sense this offseason. Quick: what's the best hire of the year? Probably Dan Mullen to Mississippi State. And this is a year when Auburn, Tennessee, and Washington came open. WTF.
Mesmerizing. Yes, for the record, I remain obsessed with Charlie Weis, and will remain so until such time as he is no longer a public figure. (And, for the record, I don't think he'll get fired next year; Notre Dame's schedule is comically easy and ND returns quite a bit from a team that was significantly better; a similar step forward is probably 9-3 and an ill-gotten BCS bid. I am terrified of Michael Floyd. That kid is going to be a Manningham-esque thorn in Michigan's side for the next few years.)
Anyway, BGS posted the following clip without comment*. Notre Dame trails by a billion and Weis has made a pointless (and fruitless) coaches' challenge in the fourth quarter:
*(OK, some comment in the comments: "I don't think it's a rip on Charlie per se (although some may read as much into it). Take it as more abstract, perhaps as a trifling snapshot of the current state of affairs.")
Where's that bump? Michigan's recent acquisition of Taylor Lewan caused me to check back in with Minnesota's recruiting class. Tim Brewster was hired primarily because he was a swanky recruiter at Texas, after all, and had a surprisingly excellent first class, though the star of that class failed to qualify. This year… eh:
- two four-stars, one of them a JUCO,
- twelve three-stars,
- two kids lower than that, and
- a kicker.
Brewster has locked down Minnesota, I guess, but other than Bryce McNeal there are no four-stars in the state. Is this better than your average Glen Mason class? Not really. To be fair, the class that suffers after a dismal season is usually the one a year behind, and Minnesota was a disaster zone in 2007; if Brewster bounces back there may be hope for him yet.
McGuffie finale. Fred Jackson was ambushed at halftime of the Eastern Michigan basketball game and spoke thusly on Sam McGuffie:
"(His issues) have been going on since he got here," Jackson told reporters at halftime of Michigan's 91-60 basketball win over Eastern Michigan. "It's just difficult.
"The kid wanted to be here, but he just had things happen with family that weighed heavy on him. And because of those things, he couldn't concentrate."
Keep your pants on. There was a minor recruiting PANIC over the weekend when Shavodrick Beaver unwisely updated his myspace to read "have a bad feeling about Michigan," or something to that effect. The premium sites have done their best to tamp this down but I think there's some real waver here now.
Beaver doesn't have a lot of time to defect, though, as he plans to enroll in January and much of December is a Christmas-related dead period. I think this is probably McGuffie-related—Beaver does a lot of communication and probably talked to a fellow Texas native about going up—and will hopefully get smoothed out for the better soon. More tomorrow in Tuesday Recruitin'.
Etc.: This has nothing to do with anything, but is there a more Christopher Hitchens headline than "The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas"? That guy makes yours truly look like head cheerleader.
An eventful couple days: first IN LB Jordan Barnes decommits, then Arizona offensive lineman Taylor Lewan commits. Informative update coming in a bit.
And by "a bit" I mean "tomorrow," but first thing!
Becca says "you are so hott," FWIW.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #25 OT||4*, #192 overall, #17 OT||80, #14 OT|
Lewan, of course, is defensive end commitment Craig Roh's teammate; he transferred schools for a senior year that saw him shoot up the rankings a few weeks into his senior season. At his old school he was primarily a defensive lineman, at which position he didn't project to college; at tackle, however, it took all of two weeks for twenty programs to offer. Lewan's decision came down to Minnesota, where his dad briefly played before injury cut his career short, and Michigan, with The Correct Answer winning out.
The sites, as you can see, are close to unified on his potential: it's there, he's got a real chance to be an excellent player, etc. ESPN's rating is equivalent to a mid-four star on the other sites; he's the first OT outside of their top 150.
He is a tall and lean kid with a good build, but he is lean for an offensive tackle and will need to work to add more bulk to his frame. He is a kid who plays hard and is very productive. He makes good initial contact and will flash the ability to generate power from his hips and when he does that he can drive a defender off the ball. He is a tall kid though that needs to watch his pad level and focus to stay low. He is very good with his hands as both a run and pass blocker. He gets good hand placement and can be tough to beat once he gets locked on.
They both told me about Taylor's favorite player: former Michigan left tackle and current Miami Dolphin Jake Long. Dave told me that every Sunday, “Taylor watches the Dolphin games, and actually rewinds every offensive play to see what Jake was doing, and his technique.” Lewan draws comparisons to the first pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Taylor plays left tackle, wears the number 77, is one of the smartest players on and off the field, and has based his game on strength. Coming out of high school, Long was a recent convert to offensive line rated about where Lewan is.
Obviously Lewan would have to absolutely maximize every ounce of his potential to even approach Jake Long's success.
Lewan gathered a wide bounty as teams saw him play tackle:
Staying in Arizona, there isn't a hotter offensive line recruit in the West right now than Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been absolutely dominant this season and word is spreading fast among college coaches.
It seems a new offer rolls in for Lewan almost daily with Oregon State, Arizona and Nebraska being the most recent. Arizona State, Oregon, Nevada and Minnesota had previously offered.
Miami, Wisconsin, and others also threw their hat in the ring.
And I have no idea how verified this voracity is but FWIW:
Chaparral offensive tackle Taylor Lewan could see his number of scholarship offers jump very soon. Lewan said Alabama, Florida and Ohio State will likely be offering after another highly regarded offensive tackle makes his college commitment.
AFAIK there's no highly rated offensive tackle with those three schools on his list, so I interpret that to mean "those three schools had one recruit they were waiting on and then Lewan was their guy"; for OSU that's obviously Marcus Hall.
Offensive linemen don't have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Also they don't really have 40 times.
This isn't particularly relevant but it does exist, so here's five minutes of Lewan as a junior, mostly playing on defense:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
You get too high on offensive line recruits at your peril, as the ratings at that position are the least reliable. That said, Lewan's sudden rise as soon as he found himself at his natural position, and the offers that accompanied that rise, are an excellent indicator for his future. You get the impression that the only thing restricting Lewan's further rise is his late switch to the offensive line, which leaves somewhat deficient in technique and size and makes him something of a risk. That risk is offset by serious upside.
Two comparison points for Lewan: Jake Long and Dann O'Neill. All three have prototypical left tackle bodies and were highly rated. Long started as a redshirt freshman and eventually became the top pick in the NFL draft. O'Neill showed up and immediately seemed like he needed two years to add strength and technique; his future remains all potential.
Lewan's got a definite redshirt in his future, and then he's likely to spend 2010 watching a senior Schilling and Dorrestein (or possibly or Omameh/O'Neill somewhere) play before being a serious threat for playing time as a redshirt sophomore.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Lewan is the second offensive lineman and second projected tackle in the class. Michigan probably wants to add one more offensive lineman. The two best possibilities are NC OL Travis Bond, who's a three-star recruit most project at tackle, and SC OL Quinton Washington, a guy who projects at guard and a couple of the services absolutely love (ESPN and Rivals; Scout not so much).
Both have taken officials to Michigan already and the indicators are encouraging. Washington hasn't scheduled any other visits yet, though he plans to take his four remaining trips in January. Bond looked to be leaning towards UNC but the Tar Heels are doing some Saban-level oversigning and may not have room. That would leave Michigan competing against NC State and then it's just a matter of whether he wants to stay home or not. Michigan probably gets one and then is done on the OL. Also out there: Trotwood-Madison giant Chris Freeman, who's a major project but with upside.
Etc.: If you've got a Scout subscription you should check this article from the Minnesota site, which is titled "Lewan commits to Big Ten School($)" but makes no mention as to which school that might be; this newspaper article does.
An eventful couple days: first IN LB Jordan Barnes decommits, then Arizona offensive lineman Taylor Lewan commits. Informative update coming in a bit.
Goodnight, sweet prince:
"I just got out of the compliance office and picked up my release," said McGuffie. "They gave me a full release – no restrictions. I will be somewhere else in January."
Texas A&M is the likely destination. Keep your head on a swivel. And on your shoulders.
Update: I've updated the Depth Chart By Class for 2009, by the way.
A position-by-position look at Michigan's 2009 season. Previously: Quarterbacks.
With Mike Hart gone there was a void at tailback for the first time since David Underwood yielded to the mighty mite freshman in the third game of 2004, and no one really knew who would fill it. But at least there appeared to be candidates, unlike quarterback:
Like quarterback, Michigan loses a four-year starter and program icon here. Unlike quarterback, there are six options of at least moderate viability and chances are some player or combination of players emerges into a strong Big Ten starter.
As to who that was going to be, I dismissed Brandon Minor…
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety.
In the best case, Barwis gives Minor the half-step he needs to get the corner and he’s a poor man’s version of Darren McFadden. In the worst case he’s David Underwood. He must be physically dominant to be effective because he's not going to make people miss much and he doesn't have Hart's remarkable balance. IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
…and put my money on… well, no one. Brown:
Carlos Brown has a knack for picking up annoying hand injuries. Last year Brown busted his hand in fall practice and missed the early portion of the season; in spring he cut or broke his finger or something in a “freak weightlifting accident.” I suspect Barwis bit it off and spent the summer growing a replacement in a jar.
He's a little small, and his his disappointing senior season was injury-wracked to the point where his nationally televised showcase game saw him spinning 180 degrees before contacting tacklers and driving meekly at the feet of oncoming blitzers, but even the skeptical Rivals named him last year's best running back in space and publicly wondered why he was heading for Michigan instead of a school that would spread him all over the field like Wes Welker—white guy, natch—and take advantage of his crazy speed and cutting ability.
Uh, check. He’s nominally first on the depth chart already, and will see time all over the field. It begins.
The hype is building on Shaw because he chose the right time to juke a couple defenders and plow slot-sized freshman cornerback Boubacar Cissoko. The media was there doling out oohs and aahs as appropriate and a practice legend is born.
There’s more to Shaw than proficiency in the “Michigan drill,” though. He hovered just outside the recruiting sites’ top 100 lists and spent the spring tearing up the track until he was banned for transfer-related shenanigans. He is fast. And he is fast. And he is fast.
Amongst the stupid predictions I offered in the "Five Questions and Five Answers" section:
The running back situation involves a mess of players; Minor, Brown, McGuffie, and Shaw all see 100 carries. Brown has the best YPC.
As we'll see, that was sort of right.
The Disappointing But Not Horrible Truth
That take on the running back situation wasn't far off, though it 1) presumed a heavier slant towards the run and 2) a paucity of quarterback runs. It therefore overestimated the number of carries available for running backs. Oh, and erroneously assumed Carlos Brown would be healthy. Fool me once, shame on me, etc.
The end results:
Everyone was injured at some point, from Minor's nagging stuff at the beginning of the season and then a series of shoulder/rib/shoulder injuries that held him out late. McGuffie was a concussion magnet. Shaw strained his groin and was in and out, and not 100%. And Brown spent much of the year limping before a pretty excellent game against Northwestern.
Anonymous Strong Big Ten Starter was, briefly, Sam McGuffie. His performance against Notre Dame…
McGuffie's most impressive trait against Notre Dame was his vision. When there was a cutback, he took it. When he needed to be patient and wait for the crease to open up, he waited. When he needed to spin around and stuff, he did that, sometimes multiple times on one play.
You could see the difference when Shaw came in: on both of his rushes Shaw had the opportunity to make more yards if he made decisive cuts outside. Instead he cut up or hesitated and had to settle for minor gains.
…was reminiscent of one Mike Hart, but against defenses less permeable it became clear he was incapable of breaking tackles due to his size and when you're playing for Michigan 2008 you have to be able to break tackles because Lord knows they aren't going to block anyone.
When the Penn State game rolled around, Michigan deployed Minor extensively and all other options were quickly relegated to second best:
My hope is that this MINOR RAGE offense is something they can work from as a baseline. I think they've found an effective rushing offense that's going to move forward most of the time—even when rushing plays didn't work that well against PSU the result was usually a 2 or 3 yard gain, not the epic losses from previous games—and must be defended foremost. From there Michigan can add in racing stripes and a spoiler and maybe move away from the basement of total offense rankings.
Michigan State timed a bunch of snaps and threw Michigan's offense off, and Ohio State throttled them as expected—though they did double their offensive output from 2007—but even so the second half of the season was a step forward for the rushing game:
Here's a testament to the Rodriguez running game that might evaporate in the arms of various Ohio State players, so let's just get it out now: despite having this pile of backups and freshmen in an injury riddled offense without Mike Hart and Jake Long and, like, a functional quarterback, Michigan's average YPC is better in 2008 (4.03) than it was in 2007 (3.97).
There is a long, long way to go, but if Michigan can improve that YPC by a half yard and not have the worst quarterbacking situation in the conference you can see the outline of competence in there. That's the most encouraging thing that's happened over the past half-season.
In this, at least, Michigan progressed.
2009, And Beyond
Sam McGuffie appears to be on his way out the door, returning to Texas and hopefully landing at a place where opponents don't have personal vendettas against his skull. Though skepticism about his size limiting his upside as an every-down back proved well-founded, I still think he could have emerged into a weapon of use. A couple of Michigan's rare downfield passes were McGuffie on seam routes or wheel routes wherein he would make a tough catch before getting lit up by a safety. At times his freaky balance was put to good use; the kid has a future as a slot receiver like, yes, Wes Welker. Sometimes the comparison to another white guy is inevitable. But finding McGuffie's proper place on the field appears to be someone else's problem now.
That leaves three guys vying for the starting spot next year, with Kevin Grady scheduled to look on dourly. Assuming Brandon Minor is healthy he is your starter next year. The only player who could touch him in YPC above was Michael Shaw, who did that on limited carries and occasionally drove coaches mad by running the wrong way or fumbling handoffs. Minor killed his early fumbling problems—he didn't put the ball on the turf once after his breakout Penn State game—and tore through arm tackles effectively. One worry: he does run upright and often straight at defenders, which means he takes as much of a pounding as he delivers. That style was a contributing factor in the injuries that held him out of the Northwestern game and limited his time earlier in the season; a recurrence is possible.
Carlos Brown did run pretty well against Northwestern and was quantitatively better than Minor when the two split carries in 2007, but at this point counting on him to remain healthy is a rube's game. I will hesitantly suggest that if—if—Brown does remain upright and functional he could be a surprising breakout player in his final year. He's shown himself to be at least somewhat talented and has all the recruiting accolades you could want. The bet here is for a lot of injuries and 80 or so carries in a backup role, but Brown is a wildcard.
Shaw, meanwhile, was a boom-or-bust guy, a jet in the open field but pretty dodgy when it came to decision making. Shaw tried to turn a lot of plays into big gainers and instead got tackled in the backfield; hopefully that's an adjustment from high school and something he can fix. He's certainly got the speed to take it to the house when he breaks through the crease.
Also, he gets tackled funny. I can't explain why I think that at all, but when he goes down it's persistently unusual. At this point he's your favorite to be the starter in 2010, and should see 100-150 carries next year.
Minor, if healthy, should be one of the conference's better backs, but not its best. Probably third or so assuming the early departures of Beanie Wells and Shonn Green.
A fleet of freshmen reinforce; depth here will be fine even without Horn and McGuffie.
Instate receiver Cameron Gordon has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming.
|3*, #79 WR||4*, #222 overall, #31 WR||78, #64 ATH|
Rivals is considerably higher on Gordon than others are, and ESPN abstains from declaring a position from him at all. That positional uncertainty was an early theme of Gordon's recruitment: reports from Michigan's summer camp were that the staff really liked him… as a linebacker. Gordon has made it clear he wants to play wide receiver. Thus a significant delay in Michigan's offer; if Bryce McNeal hadn't decommitted Gordon might still be waiting.
Scout's Allen Trieu on the positional dilemma:
"Cameron has great tools," said Trieu. "On offense, his size and strength create matchup problems, plus he has good hands. On defense, he finds the ball well and is a big hitter. His only drawback would be that he isn't a true burner as far as the receiver position goes. That would limit his potential on offense. I think he could play either position well in college, but it will likely come down to what a particular school needs. If I had the luxury of choosing, I'd want him at linebacker."
Cameron Gordon, Inkster- had a quiet day but was still efficient because he opened the field up for other receivers by drawing double coverage every play. He's so big and fast but I was most impressed by how hard he runs every possible route.
Cameron Gordon, Inkster- Gordon is just too physically gifted for the high school level and he's just as good of a OLB/safety as he is a receiver. He gave Gardner a huge block 40 yards down field on the long TD run, he made a heck of a play on his INT, and his 42 catch displayed great hand-eye coordination.
ESPN on Gordon:
Could potentially tip the scales at the 215-range making defense a strong possibility. You would never now he was a flashy wide receiver when watching him pursue the football as a hybrid safety/outside linebacker. … Shows good hip and body adjustment to the deep throw. Can break tackles with is strong frame after the catch or make defenders miss with his deceptively good movement skills. Top-end speed is a question mark and he does lack great initial burst with ball. That said, Gordon is a great athlete with coveted physical skills to develop as a college player.
The rest of the scouting report is heavily focused on defense, too. FWIW, that early preference for WR seems to be less important now:
“(Michigan) offered me,” Gordon said. “They mostly said how they want to sign me and that I’ll be able to play both sides, just depending on what side is best for me to play for their team."
On the other hand:
Before the fall, Gordon strongly preferred the playing offense, but he has softened his stance on that issue.
"I feel I am a football player, so it really wouldn't stop me from going to a school if I had to play defense,” Gordon said. “This is my first year playing safety and I really like that position, too. I still am a receiver, but it's not something that will hold me back from going to a college.”
Emphasis mine. Said emphasis indicates that position preference still exists. So he's coming in as a wideout, got it?
Gordon wasn't as heavily pursued as you might imagine. Michigan State offered him in February and Minnesota did so sometime in the summer, but those remained his only BCS offers until Iowa came in with one in late October. Michigan followed suit a few weeks ago.
Jim Stefani has his underclass numbers:
As a junior starter on a 10-2 team, he had 38 receptions for 532 yards (14.00 Avg.) and 1 INT from his OLB spot…………..As a sophomore starter, he had 19 receptions for 308 yards (16.21 ypc) and 1 TD, 7 carries for 58 yards and 1 TD, 19 tackles, 26 assists, 1.5 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries
I couldn't dig up season stats for this year, unfortunately.
FAKE 40 TIME
In the video below, Gordon will claim he is 6'2", 195, and runs a 4.6. I give this two FAKES(!) out of five. However, this:
Now tipping the scales at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and still capable running the 40 in the 4.6 range, Gordon is a bone-jarring presence in the Viking secondary.
Gets a third FAKE(!), as adding 20 pounds in a year and maintaining your 40 is… eh… improbable.
Here's Sam Webb interviewing him, with highlights interspersed:
The crotchety old man in me is like "son, don't chew gum when you're being interviewed."
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Gordon is a big, physical receiver with good hands who supposedly runs pretty good routes. I feel like I've compared a half-dozen possession-type receivers to this particular person in the past, but that sounds like Jason Avant. Avant absolutely maximized his physical ability, though, and a guy like Gordon is not likely to be as good as a guy currently in the early stages of a 15-year NFL career.
And then there's the defense option. Michigan is bringing in a ton of linebackers in this class (IMO, both Mike Jones and Isaiah Bell will be OLBs) but the numbers there are really thin and there's probably a reason everyone under the sun thought he projected better on defense. Sometimes kids get to college firmly intending to play their favorite high school position, figure out that they're really in a tough spot to get playing time there, and quickly switch to the position the project best at. See: Prescott Burgess, who was insistent he was a safety, and Joe Barksdale, who had a major falling out with Michigan because they projected him as an offensive lineman. Burgess was a linebacker at Michigan after about two weeks and Barksdale was a freshman starter for LSU… at right tackle.
This gives Gordon two shots at being a contributor, and the flexibility there bodes well for his future. It's probably 75-25 he stays on offense given his personal preference and the composition of this recruiting class, but the option remains.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Gordon's commitment and the recent news that TX WR commit Dewayne Peace was once again a solid verbal solidifies the outside WR position for this class, especially with Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson committed for 2010. Unless something unexpected happens—like Rueben Randle tripping over a branch, hitting his head, and having a humorous sitcom concussion that makes him think he's the reincarnation of Anthony Carter—Michigan is probably done at the position.
Gordon is commitment #21, so Michigan has somewhere between four and six slots left. The recruiting board currently shows 24 open slots without accounting for the probable departure of Sam McGuffie; Michigan could also not renew fifth years for Savoy or Criswell. Potential errors therein: I'm not providing scholarships to Sheridan (reasonable), Moundros (probably not reasonable), and Morales(who knows?).
In any case, Michigan needs a couple more offensive linemen, Will Campbell, and a corner or two.
A side note: Inkster is a good school to get hooks into, as their new head coach is former Detroit DePorres HC Greg Carter and he's looking to make Inkster into a perennial powerhouse. In 2010 Inkster already has top instate quarterback Devin Gardner, and the hot rumor is that top 2010 running back Austin White is going to transfer in, as well.
Etc.: He looks like Seal in this picture; watch him morph from FOUR STAR STUD to guy MSU didn't want in this RCMB thread; 52-yard touchdown photo; couple additional pictures; transferred to Inkster from Melvindale.