this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Added NJ OL Jake Kaufman, FL RB Roy Finch.
Editorial Opinion: A much more manageable set of items this week. The big news was Michigan picking up a commit from Dallas Skyline RB Tony Drake, which was covered earlier. With three senior RBs and transfers from McGuffie and Horn, Michigan will be in the market for probably three tailbacks this year. Drake is a smallish zone slasher; expect one angry moose type and a wildcard to round out the class.
He will battle the evil Mingovians
Okay, words: Legaux is a dual-threat QB who's obviously from Louisiana; he's a member of the Rivals 250 and completed nearly 70% of his passes last year. Michigan is his first big offer and that article comes from Sam Webb. So, yeah, heuristics and all that: Michigan leads for a quarterback named Munchie Legaux.
Let's do this.
MN OL Seantrel Henderson is currently the nation's #1 recruit to both Scout and Rivals. He's a mountain in a helmet, and last week he visited Michigan. The trip went well:
Cretin-Derham Hall's 6-8, 300-pound junior offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson was especially impressed with an unofficial visit to Michigan the other day.
And this appears to be the barest outline of a leader for Henderson, albeit an undeclared one:
GH: Which schools do you like right now?
SH: I like all schools, I don’t have a top three or four — Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame and Minnesota — those are some of the ones I like.
GH: Do you plan on taking all of your five official visits this fall?
GH: Do you have schools that you definitely want to go see?
SH: Michigan, for sure.
Schwing! There's a long way to go with Henderson—when you're the #1 recruit you can wait until signing day, or, like, a month after.
A couple things that may affect Henderson's choice are the fate of his friend JD Pride, who Henderson would like to go to school with, and the ability to play basketball in college. Pride, a dual threat QB, has a Minnesota offer and visited Michigan with Henderson.
A foot in the door
It's supposed to be a poor crop of defensive tackles this year, so this is welcome news:
An absolute beast is Johnathan Hankins out of Southeastern High School in Detroit, Michigan. He’s over 6-3 and 300, he dominates sort of like an ornery bear, a big one. Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State are after him, Florida’s offered.
A Florida offer for Hankins would be strange. IIRC Michigan is waiting on summer camp before deciding whether or not to issue an offer, and they've had plenty of opportunity to interact with Hankins. But the above-linked is part of Gator Country, the ESPN-affiliated Florida recruiting site, and is therefore likely to be accurate.
Despite the increased competition a Florida offer brings, I'd regard the above as extremely good news. Hankins has been rumored to be a Michigan fan and lean for a few months now, and if he's got the talent to reel in a Florida offer he's likely to pick one up from Michigan. Bonus: Hankins is a high school teammate of MI DE Will Gholston. Getting a commitment from him couldn't hurt in Gholston's recruitment.
Before: cute. Now: eh, not so cute.
An extensive Sam Webb article in the News on TX LB Caleb Lavey features this picture from the Lavey family archives:
Awww. Amazingly, Lavey comes up well short of the most adorable legacy-recruit-as-kid photo. Here's current Northwestern defensive back David Arnold, the son of former Wolverine Dave Arnold, a long time ago:
Those of you who managed to keep your brains from exploding should know that Lavey is now a 6'4" middle linebacker who racked up 200 tackles last year and has offers from Oklahoma, Penn State, Notre Dame, and others. He is no longer cute. This is good for his prospects.
Lavey hasn't come out and named a leader, but the unofficial visit and his dad's background have Michigan in good shape:
"I really like Coach Rodriguez," said Caleb. "He left me no doubt in my mind that he will be able to turn Michigan around. He's a great coach and a great guy. Me and my dad sat down and talked with him. We talked about the program and what his plans are. He has a great vision for Michigan and he'll be the coach that turns it around and turns it back into the national championship Michigan that it always has been."
Another trait that stood out was the vigor with which the players practiced. "It was just unbelievable how hyped up they were and how they were just getting after each other," Caleb reported. "It was great."
It still kills me a little that Arnold never got an offer; hopefully this one works out better.
Video of people and things
Rivals' move to Yahoo's video distribution system has been a godsend. Things are tagged and organized, they work cross-browser, and the free stuff is available for embedding. The old stuff was finicky—never worked in firefox for me—and way less functional. Yahoo FTW.
Anyway, embeds. This is FL RB Corvin Lamb, a teeny tiny jet engine from Miami Northwest:
Top five is a good place to be at that point; if there's a visit it'll get serious.
And while we're on video, please enjoy the most pointless content in the history of recruiting. It's highlight video of PA CB Cullen Christian's combine performance. Christian extends his arm! Is a certain height! Jumps! Continues jumping! Etc. The best part is that 1) this was evidently televised by Fox Sports, and 2) whoever did the televising thought his name was "Christian Cullen."
Etc.: M in SC RB Marcus Lattimore's top ten; MI QB Robert Bolden says he doesn't want to go "where they are recruiting two or three quarterbacks and have a bunch of guys already." The coming Gardner commit is probably the death knell for M's chances with Bolden.
I am the lyrical master. This would be 100% Pure Colombian Awesome but it features Toney Clemons, who seems like a cool guy to have around, front and center and is therefore a little sad. It remains the Coner dropping knowledge, though, so its Pure Colombian Awesome percentage hovers around 98%:
Dude. Cone just smoked Brent Petway. That's Febreze, people.
Spring practice photos. Yo.
I wish I could wager on this. Michigan has a new defensive coordinator, but it's the outgoing guy with a reputation, and the stats to back it up, as a blitzing mad scientist. This does not—cannot—dissuade sportswriters, though. There's a new defensive coordinator. Who is he? Anyone. Where is he? Anywhere. The hand moves of its own accord:
I also wish I could bet that this article would state the new scheme is "more aggressive." I wish this because I like free money:
The Wolverines hope the moving parts and the more aggressive scheme generate increased pressure from players other than star end Brandon Graham, who recorded 10 of the team's 29 sacks last fall.
Hurray free money.
Cliche aside, there are a couple of interesting nuggets in the above Rittenberg piece. A pithy summary of Greg Robinson's Big Idea:
"It feels like a 3-4," Ezeh said, "but sometimes we do a 4-3 look."
Michigan is using several players in a hybrid defensive end-linebacker role, including junior Marell Evans, sophomore Brandon Herron, sophomore Steve Watson and freshman Anthony LaLota, an early enrollee. Senior Stevie Brown, who started all 12 games at safety last season, is being used as a safety/strongside linebacker.
Robinson calls the hybrid the "quick" or "spinner," because you have to have a slightly goofy name for any nonstandard position in your defense. If it comes off and they can get production out of the spot, it's a lot less frightening to consider a defensive line of Graham/Martin/RVB with Patterson/Campbell/Sagesse/Banks backups than taking one of those backups and throwing them into the starting lineup.
Then your problem is getting production out of a true freshman, a guy who lost his job last season, a guy who's never seen the field, and a tight end, all of whom have never played this position before. Which good luck with that.
Rumors flyin'. It's Tuesday, so it's time for more Darryl Stonum transfer rumors. These have been debunked by someone close to the situation: Stonum. His myspace page issued a bulletin:
I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE!!!
People are speculating 24/7 and I just want to let you know I'm a Michigan Man!! This is where I want to be and I'm truly buying into Coach Rod's system. I know I will be something special on the field and I want to prove that here at Michigan. I love this program and you best believe that.
Or, at least, several people on message boards all over the place have replicated that; Stonum's profile is set as private and I'm not on the myspace.
Fly, fly, fly! Denard Robinson was named the second fastest recruit in all the land by Rivals sometime last year. Rivals was right:
Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.
Robinson's personal-best eclipsed the state standard for this year set by Byrd, a junior at Ida Baker, and it is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
Even better is Robinson's reaction to his smokin' hot time:
''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that.''
Robinson plans on running a 10.3 by states. By the time he arrives on campus he'll be from the future.
Saw that Rich Rod has an official facebook account, and has william gholston as a friend. Are there any issues with non-contact periods for recruiting and how facebook fits into that? I mean what happens if he posts on his wall? Does that count?
Well, one: there's a major misconception about dead periods. Even in the deadest of dead periods, limited phone contact (the standard once per week) is permitted. And mail, electronic or otherwise, is basically unregulated. Instant messaging, though is considered a phone call.
As for Facebook and Twitter… those are gray areas. They aren't illegal as of yet—obviously—and enterprising coaches always looking to increase their profile amongst potential recruits. Since Facebook and Twitter have broadcast characteristics—anyone can follow Rodriguez—I think they'll probably be okay.
On our forum, we have had a discussion regarding the physical size of Tate Forcier. Some people feel that due to his lack of weight and height, not to mention the size of his arms, he will not be able to withstand the hits in the Big Ten. What are your thoughts on this?
Any speculation on how injury-prone Tate Forcier might be because of his little toothpick arms would be just that: speculation. Some little guys seem to get injured all the time, like McGuffie and Hart. Others just keep on trucking without issue.
The coaches are obviously aware they've got a nasty combination of youth and lack of depth; indications are they'll protect Forcier as much as possible. Feagin's been running at quarterback in spring quite a bit and I think you'll see him and Robinson see duty in a quasi-wildcat* formation when they want to get QB carries.
Meanwhile, reports on Forcier say he's 1) elusive in the pocket and 2) effective throwing on the move. We might see a lot of moving pockets, and even when Forcier does bust out he's probably going to look to chuck it deep instead of take off. I meant those Drew Tate comparisons when I made them: smallish moxie-fied mobile passer.
Compare that to Threet, who was pretty fast in a straight line—see Wisconsin ramble—but had no change of direction and took a lot of ugly-looking hits simply because he wasn't agile enough to shield himself when it came time to meet a linebacker. When Forcier does run, which will be maybe a half-dozen times a game, he'll probably be at less risk than the ponderous Threet.
(Quasi-wildcat because, yes, they're QBs. But no, you shouldn't expect them to throw much or at all.)
What are the chances that Michigan will play one night game at home over the next 2-3 years? I would love to see Michigan Stadium all lit up for a home game v ND, MSU, or PSU. I don’t support the idea of playing “the Game” at night. Can you please tell me what your thoughts are on this subject.
I'll probably answer this every six months until I die, but there was hullaballoo about this on the message board a while back so my take, again: Michigan should pick one Big Ten opponent and always play night games against them, but never against anyone else. That would be a nice tradition that would hype up what might be just another conference game, and it wouldn't be too much of a strain on the AD or the police department or whatever.
My primary candidates were Iowa and Wisconsin, since they're both respectable programs and there's usually something to play for when they arrive in town. I would prefer Iowa, as Michigan and Iowa have a long history of friendly rivalry and cooperation dating from Bump's tenure as Iowa AD.
I was wondering, any reason why U-M under RR is now issuing the same number to two different players one on offense and one on defense. OSU did this last year with Pryor and Jenkins. Last year there were two # 3s on U-M with Feagin and Brown. This year's roster has two different #5s (Forcier and I forget who on defense it was) as well as twin #3s. Is this because coaches are promising numbers to players in recruiting now?
Love the site (and yes I know I have too much time on my hands),
Colleges often carry over 100 players, so it's impossible to have a roster without some overlap. The NCAA allows you to play as many guys as you want with the same number as long as only one of them takes the field at the same time, so it doesn't come up often, and if you switch positions midseason, like Carson Butler did, you can just change your number. So, yeah, it doesn't matter.
As far as why, I don't really know. Michigan's #1 is off limits now unless you're a supadupastar, which reduces the number of available (and always popular) single digit jerseys. And maybe the kids these days are pickier. I don't think it's a Carr-vs-Rodriguez trend, though.
Side note: My favorite number share in recent years was a couple years ago when Kevin Grady and one of the kickers shared #3, which was good for a special-teams doubletake a game.
Computer issues remain: this is Tom's doing, as per usual.
Texas running back Stephen Hopkins attends a high school with unfortunate uniforms. He's also one of a few bigger backs with a Michigan offer; he's also been offered by Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oregon. You can see him turn linebackers into goo at ESPN. Tom interviewed him over the weekend, and it sounds like Michigan is a strong contender.
TOM: So what schools are showing interest in you so far?
STEPHEN: Stanford, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M are a few off the top of my head.
TOM: Being from Texas, what schools are you most interested in? Is it important to stay close to home?
STEPHEN: I’m interested in all of them right now but I know the most about Michigan and Texas A&M. Distance won’t be a factor for me, I know that. I just want to go where I’m wanted.
TOM: You’re a bigger back already, and only a junior. Do you think that gives you an advantage going into college?
STEPHEN: Yea, it kind of gives me a disadvantage though too. Sometimes there’s a stereotype that I can’t run fast, but I’m going to improve on that. I recently ran a 4.6 40, so I want to try to get that down to a 4.5. I like that I’m bigger, and don’t want to lose that, but I want to get faster too.
TOM: Are you more of a physical back with your size, or do you try to stay balanced?
STEPHEN: I’m going to try to be more balanced next year. I think I can do other things besides hit. I really want to show what I can do this year, and hopefully let the schools know I’m not just a big back.
TOM: You’ve been to Texas A&M, SMU, and Nebraska so far. What stood out to you with those schools?
STEPHEN: I liked A&M the most, because I got the most attention. I don’t want that to sound bad, but I want to be a big part of the program, and make a difference. I don’t want to just be a role player.
TOM: What other visits do you plan on taking over the summer?
STEPHEN: I’m going to KU; my family is from there so that will be easy. I’m going to Michigan April 10th too. Besides that, I’m not really sure; it depends on how my visits before that go. My biggest thing with Michigan is how they’ll use me in the offense. I know they haven’t really had any bigger backs like me before, so that’s one thing I’m going to ask the coaches. Obviously it’s Michigan, so they have great facilities, and the environment is great, I want to see about some other parts too.
TOM: I know it’s early, but what kind of negative recruiting have you seen so far?
STEPHEN: I haven’t really heard any yet. No one has put anyone down; it’s been more focused on their school. I’m still deciding on whether or not I’m going to graduate early, so when I decide that I think I’ll hear more.
TOM: What’s going to make your final decision? What do you want from a school?
STEPHEN: I want to see how I’m used in the offense mainly. Most of the schools I’m looking at have good business schools, which is important. My main thing is how valuable I am to them. I want to be a big part, and I know I can make a difference.
TOM: Where does Michigan rank right now? Do you have a top 5?
STEPHEN: If there was a top, I’d say Michigan’s tied with Texas A&M. I don’t want to say too much, but I haven’t even seen them yet, and they’re definitely up there. I’m excited to see everything up there.
3/27/2009 – Michigan 0, Air Force 2 – End of Season
Naurato (left) and Lebler; Ariel Bond from the Daily.
Well, at least I don't have to make a tedious case that the way the NCAA hockey championship is determined is close to a random number generator. Reality has done that for me. Yost Built summarizes the chaos over the weekend:
-3 #1 seeds are out.
-3 #2 seeds are out.
-The only remaining #2 was down 4-2 with 40 seconds left in regulation. They scored with .8 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
-That wasn't even the latest a goal was scored to send a game to OT as UNH popped one in against North Dakota with .1 second left and won in OT.
-Cornell scored with 18 seconds left in regulation to beat Northeastern.
-A game was won in double OT on a shot that went through the net.
Hell, Michigan's loss against Air Force wasn't even the craziest thing to happen. Notre Dame got behind Bemidji State 4-0 and ended up losing 5-1. Literally the only team that adhered to expectation was BU, the sole one-seed to make the Frozen Four.
Today we stand at the edge of history, with Bemidji State—a team whose conference will cease to exist as soon as it is eliminated, if, you know, anyone bothers to do so before they win a national title—ticketed for the Frozen Four. Michigan outshot Air Force 44-13 and lost. In their next game, the Falcons were denied in double overtime by the above-mentioned shot that went through the net and was subject to a tortuous ten-minute review before it was declared a game-ending goal.
If ever there was a time for this particular youtube embed, this is it:
Does all this make me feel better? Well, yeah, kinda. When the misery was all Michigan's, it was weekend ruining. When Jeff Jackson (and the rest of the favored planet) can empathize, eh… that's single-elimination playoff hockey.
Travis Turnbull, who was this close to murdering a half-dozen people over the past couple months, probably disagrees.
I was actually planning on doing something else on Friday but the looming possibility of knife-twisting overwhelmed all. At this point I care about the hockey team as much as I care about football—for which you can blame/credit the back-to-back Yost regionals earlier this decade—and there is no point at which a football team finds itself at the mercy of the fates like college hockey teams do during the tournament.
Maybe this is an effect of the limited information we have in football. There are so few games that teams become their results; "deserved" doesn't enter into it. Teams become legendary because they win all their games, or in some cases win all but one and get lucky, and then that it. They exist as their body of work.
Hockey teams have a body of work, which is thrown into the pairwise blender and spat out somewhere else and then they show up and hope. I've mentioned this before: pucks bounce. And sometimes a seemingly harmless shot from the half-boards finds the millimeter of space the opposing goalie provides, and sometimes your first-round draft pick defenseman and senior captain gets walked and sometimes the team you're rooting for seems bound and determined not to score any goals that don't bore a hole through the opposing goalie and then you scream profanities and go mope until you fall asleep.
So ends Michigan's 2008-09 hockey season, and dude: lame. I wish I had something more enlightening to say about it, but when you outshoot the opponent by more than 3-1 and lose there's not much you can say except "goddammit."
Berenson himself drops the strange results from 97 (when Michigan had one of the great college hockey teams of all time and got bounced) and 98 (when a shell of the 97 team got hot in the tourney and won a national title) whenever someone puts a microphone in his face and asks him about his chances. I can almost rattle off his speech verbatim by this point: "the best team doesn't always win" etc, etc, etc.
But even if the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are old hat by now, this one had to be incredibly disappointing. Michigan was up 2-0 in the CCHA championship game, looking to extend their streak in non-controversial games to 21-1. Ninety minutes later the scoreboard reads Michigan 1, Opponent 7 and the season is over without anything to mark its passage.
The picture above says it all: what the hell was that?
- Man, that second goal was a killer. It's two-on-two coming into the defensive zone and Mitera steps up in a completely insane way, creating an unnecessary two-on-one. If he's been on the ice a month you have to play him and hope; I don't think that play happens if Mitera has another season of experience behind him instead of rehab.
- Well… next year. Primary flight risks are Summers, Palushaj, and Caprusso. If you made me guess I'd say Palushaj is gone and the others return. Seniors are Mitera, Turnbull, Miller, Fardig, and Naurato. (Also Sauer.) No offense to any of those guys, but that's two fourth-liners and two third-liners who occasionally got sucked up into scoring lines for physical presence along the boards and so forth and so on. Lebler and Winnett should be able to step into those roles, and then you've got a probable second-round NHL draft pick at power forward plus the U18 team's leading scorer.
The team should be very good again.
- Turnbull spent his last couple months in a Michigan uniform seriously pissed off (which was not entirely outside the bounds of reason), from the misconducts in the Ferris game to a wide variety of incidents with referees. I don't know why or anything, but it's worth noting.
The ding: minor. Sheridan's injury won't last much past spring:
Nick Sheridan has suffered a non-displaced fracture of his leg that will not require surgery. He will be out 4-6 weeks, and will be back with the team in time for summer workouts.
React to that as you will. I have absolutely no emotion relating to that news.
Drop the puck. Yost Built has ten things about Air Force for you before today's 3PM puck drop. As always, I'm petrified. There is nothing more terrifying that single-elimination playoff hockey, and nothing more shattering than that moment when the knife twists and the wrong red light comes on.
That's a lot of hamburgers. The Frozen Four is coming to Ford Field next year, which is a lot of seating for a college hockey game even if they, as planned, cut the stadium in half and put up temporary bleachers. They have changed the plan:
The NCAA announced today that the rink for college hockey's championship event will be in the middle of Ford Field next April, just like the basketball court will be in a couple of weeks.
There had been talk of putting the rink in an end zone and curtaining off part of the stadium because of crowd-size and viewing concerns.
Uh… thumbs down. Are you really going to get 70,000 people at the Frozen Four next year? In Detroit? Very unlikely even if Michigan makes it. This seems likely to be a debacle that makes the committee avoid Detroit for future events. Hurrah.
Adios. Toney Clemons' departure was handled with slightly more class than that of Mr. Plow:
"I was recruited in to play in coach (Lloyd) Carr's more pro style offense and that was an offense that allowed me to utilize my talents, using my size and speed combination to stretch the field, run precise routes and make plays down field in the passing game," Clemons said. "The offensive concepts were very different than the ones that coach Rod (is) running now and that was a system that I feel I could go into and thrive in. I gave this new system a chance thinking that I could switch lanes and use my athleticism to excel in the system but it just didn't work out for me, I just had a feeling that I wasn't what they were looking for."
By all accounts, Clemons was an outstanding kid—Breaston's cousin, so not surprising—and someone with talent in the right system. Hopefully he lands somewhere he can use that talent.
Sucker bets. Bruce Feldman checks in with Vegas to see if there's been any recent movement in the BCS championship lines. He finds one particular team surging:
Apparently, there's some enthusiasm for Michigan in Year 2 under Rich Rodriguez. The Wolverines went from being a 200-1 shot to win the 2010 BCS title game (on Feb. 3) to a 100-1 shot as of March 24.
Feldman cites the usual jump Rodriguez teams in year two, the six redshirted offensive linemen, and the Tate/Robinson combo at QB as reasons this might have happened. But all these things were true on February 3rd except maybe Robinson. I credit (blame?) drunk Michigan fans in Vegas after the Clemson game.
Here's an education, sort of. The Globe and Mail took a look at the CHL's education packages, getting some quotes along the way from Red Berenson:
“I think what's happened is that the Canadian Hockey League has done a good job of contaminating these kids in terms of their eligibility,” said Berenson, a Regina native and former NHLer who has coached in the NCAA for 25 years. “They're drafting these kids at 14 out in Alberta and B.C. and 15 in Ontario, so they draft them and get them excited about playing in the O [OHL] or the Dub [the WHL] and they bring them up and play them in a game and they're done. Once they've played a game, they've lost their [NCAA] eligibility.
“They can tell the kids they're getting everything they're getting in the U.S., but they rarely do.”
This is correct: junior players can get scholarships but only one year for each year they play in junior. Even sketchier, as soon as you sign an AHL or professional contract the money is gone. Heck, if you sign an ECHL contract you have one year and then the money is gone. Only 32% of CHL players end up getting anything at all.
Junior advocates will tell you this is still a good bet for future stars, and it may be for the tip of the pyramid, the top-ten picks who aren't long for any junior league. But once you take the numbers and start creating league equivalencies, 1) the USHL has the same quality of play as any of the Canadian junior leagues, and 2) college hockey is considerably tougher. The case that waiting for college hockey will delay your development has been blown up by the move of the USHL to tier one and the corresponding increase in quality of play. Junior now provides zero advantages unless you just don't want an education, which the CHL is happy to not supply.
Elsewhere in the hockey blogosphere, Tom Benjamin says Berenson is "full of shit" and proceeds to completely misinterpret the above quote:
Every young player knows that if he plays a game of Major Junior he loses his chance at an NCAA scholarship. This rule has not changed in recent years and therfore this rule does not explain why fewer and fewer Canadians are opting for the NCAA. It is happening because the CHL offers better opportunities - a faster route to the NHL and the scholarship program - now.
Berenson's not saying the kids don't know they'll lose their eligibility, he's saying the CHL teams are getting kids to play in a game or two when they're too young to have any idea whether or not it's a good idea, when they're really vulnerable to the far-off and unlikely dream of making the NHL. Mudcrutch has an excellent rejoinder, and Benjamin gets pwned in his own comments:
It’s also worth noting that the CHL’s scholarship program is a lot less financially generous than is a full ride NCAA scholarship. The fact that the “full ride” in the OHL is limited to first round picks from the Midget draft is outrageous - no wonder guys like Berenson are miffed. If it is about education, then you extend the offer to all players, not just an elite few whom you are concerned might bolt for greener pastures. It also takes at least four years to get a degree, not two or three, and the fact is that the CHL is usually only paying for two years for many of the players.
Junior is a scam, man.
Um, Michigan offered a random 5'9" guy from Texas named Tony Drake and Drake duly committed. He's probably a corner or a slot. Informative update coming.
Dallas Morning News; Drake is #5
(Not Particularly) Informative Update: Okay, Drake is definitely a running back/slot sort according to his Rivals video, which I took the unusual (for me) step of actually watching because there's very little information available on who this guy is outside of some brief mentions in game recaps. I guess we'll go with the format, but it's going to be silly-lookin' and sparse:
Whee: Drake isn't ranked by anyone yet, except this guy at "Vype," who ranked Drake… uh… #13 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:
13. Tony Drake, Skyline The Raiders are in a situation where they are producing multiple Division I recruits each season, and Drake will be another. He only rushed for 300 yards last season, but remember again like White, he had limited opportunities because Skyline has so many talented skill players. Drake is another back with 4.4 speed.
But that's regardless of class, so… yeah, might be like the fourth or fifth best back in Dallas this year. Jim Stefani has him the #175 receiver nationally.
Michigan was his first.
See above: stuck behind two seniors at Dallas powerhouse Skyline, Drake saw limited time and only acquired around 300 yards.
FAKE 40 TIME
See above: 4.4. Fake!
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The flimsy evidence here is even flimsier than normal, so take the following with a grain of salt.
Michigan has offered the junior backup of a talented senior again—this is a virtual replay of the Teric Jones recruitment—and are taking chance on the sparse playing time Drake acquired last year being representative of his talent. This is a risk. Given the lack of attention so far and the spots in which Drake shows up when someone does notice him, he's a mortal lock for three stars unless he has a crazy Terrance Robinson senior year.
I did watch the video, though, and the good news is that Skyline basically runs Michigan's offense. If you're going to make an offer based on just film it's nice if you don't have to make a lot of assumptions. Here there are none: the coaches have seen Drake do exactly what they'll ask him to do. They unearthed Slaton and Reynaud and so forth and so on and this is one of those positions at which Michigan can take a guy others might not get a lot of use out of and turn him into a pain-dealing jet engine.
I'm much less bothered about random three star running backs like Drake and Vincent Smith than I am about linebackers and defensive backs who don't have an unusual system to dominate in. If Michigan's staff gets leeway in their recruiting at one spot, it's tailback. They've earned it.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
There's a certain genre of recruit that is going to play a running back/slot hybrid like Dorrell Jalloh or Darius Reynaud at WVU, and Drake will be one of those guys. With three running backs graduating this year there's still plenty of room for others to come in, though they'll probably be larger angry moose sorts.
Hopefully irrelevant. Normally the first-string quarterback going down with an injury rumored to be a broken leg—it's "serious" according to the Free Press—is time for PANIC(!). But when it's Nick Sheridan in question… eh. I wasn't planning on seeing Sheridan under center this year except in trauma-induced flashbacks, and I don't think losing some practice time is going to seriously impact his performance unless he gets bitten by a radioactive spider in his downtime.
However, the mere reminder that weird injuries happen is an ominous reminder of what coule happen once Forcier's spindly physique hits the field. All hail quick rhythm passing and a much improved offensive line.
The least correct thing. If you ever need a scale on which to measure truth and need labels for the extremes of that scale, "Mel Kiper's opinion of Carson Butler" should be the label for the bad end:
"Butler is going to block and get the job done there," Kiper said. "(Teams want) a guy who can block. You have to secure the edge. These 3-4 teams you're going up against, you have to be able to handle, (and) you handle with a blocking tight end. Carson Butler as a late-round pick for those types of teams would have some value."
WTF. No, wait. Mere letters are insufficient. I need a panda for this.
Kiper is now dead to me. In Mel Kiper's world, Carson Butler is useful as a blocker, Michigan State wide receivers can go a week without one of them ending up in prison, and candy tastes like ashes. I've always thought Kiper was sort of useful, but how can anyone take him seriously after that? Or after "Curtis Painter is a top-ten draft pick"?
Fourth-liners. The Daily reports that Ben Winnett is questionable for the weekend and the Scooter Vaughn experiment is unlikely to be repeated, leaving Luke Glendening, Danny Fardig, and Brandon Naurato on Michigan's fourth line.
Impact of this on Michigan's chances in the tourney: minimal. I did like Winnett more than the options to replace him, but that may have been residual prejudice about his NHL draft slot (too high, apparently) rather than anything that happened on the ice. Naurato's actually scoring at a higher clip.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Call for assistance. User Bleedin9Blue is embarking on a study of recruiting rankings and requires some extra hands. If you've got some statistical or database know-how and are interested in such a project, I'm sure he'd appreciate any assistance.
Twitterin'. Where Pete Carroll goes recruits and coaches follow, so Rich Rodriguez is now extraordinarily boring on Twitter. Check it:
Good work done at practice today. Watching film with the Coaches. Go Blue!
That's pretty much the extent of things: we practiced today, I am doing something, I occasionally capitalize something strangely, "Go Blue!" I count two posts without exclamation points so far, and no revealing personal details like "boy I miss OMC." As far as comedy value goes he's got nothing on Tim Brewster, who twitters like someone making fun of Tim Brewster:
JUST OFF THE FIELD FROM PRACTICE #1....GUYS SHOWED GREAT ATTITUDE AND EFFORT TODAY!
EACH GUY CONTROLS WHAT HE BRINGS TO THE TABLE EACH DAY ATTITUDE, EFFORT, TOUGHNESS AND PASSION NOT TAUGHT BUT BROUGHT!
WINNING ON AND OFF THE FIELD EACH AND EVERY DAY IS WHAT CREATES A CHAMPION!
TRY FIGHT BEST WIN indeed.
You can thank the NCAA for your insight into Pete Carroll's musical taste and Tim Brewster's FIGHTBRAIN: by shutting down texting they've sent coaches scrambling for another avenue via which to communicate with recruits. Twitter's broadcast nature means it should remain legit, and coaches' neverending desire to get a leg up on their competitors should keep the erratically spelled tweets flowing forevermore.
It's been a long time. It's time to remind you again what a weird, insecure hunchback of a man Charlie Weis is:
"My intent is to coach the game from the field That is my intent. Okay? As (Bill) Parcells said years ago, I reserve the right to change my mind, but that is my intent. I talked to people at the collegiate level and pro level, from Andy Reid right on down. By a very, very large majority, almost everyone I talked to were overwhelming thinking I was thinking way outside the box."
This passage is much, much funnier if you pretend Charlie Weis talks like Truman Capote.
That is all.
Etc.: Dhani Jones paints; the 2002-2003 class will help the graduation numbers considerably; Carty enraged by selection of some guy that knows Hagen to head academics stuff in the athletic department; back and forth in the comments is pretty interesting.
You may have noticed the absence of this feature the last two weeks. Brace for impact:
Update 3/17: Linked to video of MI LB Daniel Easterly, articles on GA WR Tai-ler Jones, FL WR Kenny Shaw, OH WR DJ Williamson, GA QB Blake Sims, VA LB Aramide Olayanian, FL S Marvin Robinson, OH DE Darryl Baldwin, OH LB Jordan Hicks, OH RB Spencer Ware, SC QB Cornelius Jones, MI DE Will Gholston, MI DE CJ Olaniyan, OH OL Matt James, GA QB Blake Sims, FL WR Kenny Shaw, FL CB Spencer Boyd, MI CB Dior Mathis, MI RB Austin White, FL QB Christian Green, MI DE Will Gholston, FL LB Jeff Luc.
Added PA DE Dakota Royer, SC DE Brandon Willis, OH DE Marcus Rush(offer), OH LB Jewone Snow, MI OT Jarhuar Jackson, LA WR Drew Dileo, FL OL Brent Benedict, MI DE Tremondae Branch, SC DE Corey Miller. SC S Bashaud Breeland, FL RB Nickell Robey, MN OL Seantrel Henderson.
Didn't remove VA LB Aramide Olaniyan. He committed to Duke but still plans visits, which I am now considering "says Duke leads."
Moved OH OL Skyler Schofner to offered($, IIH). Also moved OH OL Andrew Donnal to offered. Downgraded FL WR Kenny Shaw to yellow; FSU leads for now. Moved MI QB Devin Gardner, OH LB Antonio Kinard, and OH WR DJ Williamson to committed, committed, and committed. Linked to Rivals camp recap with mentions of MD LB Josh Furman and MD RB Zach Zwinak. Jim S content galore. Scout top 100.
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Jeepers. So, yeah, that's a ton of stuff. I'm going to ignore anything that's just "Recruit X has offers from team Y" and focus on things of more immediate relevancy.
Three folks have joined the fold: OH LB Antonio Kinard, OH WR DJ Williamson, and MI QB Devin Gardner. Kinard got a somewhat useless "Hello" post last week; profiles of Williamson and Gardner are pending.
Kinard and Gardner are the first recruits at their positions and don't require a lot of explanation: Michigan liked them, offered, and got commitments. Hurrah.
The pursuit and acquisition of Williamson, whose first and only offer is from Michigan, makes a lot more sense in the wake of Toney Clemons' departure, but that's still four receivers in this class, all of whom are 6'2"+ guys who aren't likely to end up in the slot. Even if Michigan uses a lot of receivers that seems like a larger than ideal haul.
There's a tendency for fans to overrate their team's early commits, but even accounting for that the results of the initial Rivals and Scout lists are disappointing. And strange.
Ricardo Miller, who Michigan fans expected to be a sure top 100 player and a potential top 50 guy, didn't make either top 100 list, ending up in the 100-200 range on both sites. Much-hyped Devin Gardner didn't make the Rivals 100 and checks in at just 77 on the Scout list. Marvin Robinson, who Michigan fans have been hearing about for two solid years as a rock-hard five-star lock, ended up #99 on Rivals and #182 on Scout.
Meanwhile, OH WR Jerald Robinson comes in at 149 on Scout, ahead of Miller. Robinson's offer list reads "Michigan" and ceases there; Miller has offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, and so forth and so on forever and ever amen. "Strange" doesn't quite cover it.
There weren't any pleasant surprises outside of Robinson: Jackson, Williamson, and Kinard don't rank at the moment. Unless they go to a lot of combines—unlikely since they've committed—or have blowup senior years they're likely to be three-star sorts in February. Jackson, who's supposed to have Texas, LSU, and Florida offers, might have upward mobility.
We're still in the phase of recruiting season when the board expands wildly with only the occasional early commitment helping reign it in, so there are many more guys entering your world than leaving. A couple departures, or guys who aren't quite departures yet but are 95% likely to be in the near future:
- VA LB Aramide Olayanian committed to… wait for it… Duke(!). He says he's solid but plans visits. If we have a better season than Duke he might reconsider or something. I've left him on the board because I'm irritated about deleting kids and then re-adding them once they open it back up; I don't think this one will matter.
- GA WR Tai-ler Jones doesn't have Michigan on his list of seven schools recently released. Given that, his dad's ND ties, and Michigan's jam-packed WR recruiting class, he's off the board.
- OH DE Darryl Baldwin is so under the spell of Tressel that he lists OSU first and Michigan State second, which is one "Notre Dame" away from being the world's most Michigan-unfriendly list. He is technically still listing M, so he remains on the board.
- OH OL Matt James has a top three of Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Cincinnati, which is another strong take on a Michigan-unfriendly list. .
- FL WR Kenny Shaw, Ricardo Miller's teammate at Orlando Dr. Phillips, had proclaimed Michigan his leader a few times, then said FSU was coming on, then said FSU and Michigan were his top two, and now says FSU leads($). Even though Michigan has a lot of receivers committed, that's a bit of a blow. Shaw's a talent with offers from the in-state Big Three and would play in the slot, a spot Michigan hasn't filled despite the receiver glut.
- FL QB Christian Green is sounding like an FSU lock despite the fact he'll play WR there.
Michigan is still looking for quarterbacks, as they can't decommit at the last second unless they've already signed up. GA QB Blake Sims, teammate of less-enthused WR Tai-ler Jones, has a top group of Michigan, Georgia, and West Virginia with the latter school trailing significantly. At one point he was favoring Michigan.
This is a place where Sims will be looking at a QB offer from M versus a sort-of-QB-sort-of-ATH offer from Georgia, which will help offset the negative geography we've got going on.
I'm not sure how verified Jim Stefani's statement about MI CB Dior Mathis is, but let's hope its "lots":
He has an early Michigan offer and Michigan has made a push to emerge as the prohibitive favorite over former leader Miami and several others.
Miami was the heavy leader until late in Mathis' junior year, when the Cass Tech thing took hold and he started looking more heavily at Michigan. This, then, certainly implies that Michigan is in strong position:
"Right now I know that I'm going to take [officials] to Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Ohio State, and I don't know the other one yet. It's going to be Miami or USC."Mathis was originally considered a heavy Miami lean, but he's not ready to decide just yet, "I'm high on Miami still but I don't want to just be on one school, I want to get to know everybody," Mathis said.
Mathis has already visited Miami, but unofficially, and actions seem to speak louder than words here. The 'Canes appear to be fading.
Elsewhere in Detroit, supposed Spartan lock Will Gholston may be more open than previously believed:
Gholston’s preference is to play linebacker at the college level and he feels the way Michigan would utilize him is similar to the position he played as a junior for Southeastern. That opportunity, along with the recent unofficial visits to Ann Arbor, has bolstered Gholston’s perception of the Wolverines.
"It's evolved a lot from where it was at first,” Gholston said. “I was looking, but I wasn't feeling them as much as I am feeling them now.”
Josh Helmholdt does declare Michigan State the "team to beat".
Despite that North Carolina chatter, Michigan remains the team to beat for FL S Marvin Robinson, though the lead is "slight." Quoth Robinson:
“I love the atmosphere at Michigan,” he said. “Also I have a good relationship with the coaches already. They’ve been recruiting me for a while and I’ve gotten to know them well.”
He says he’s being recruited by (quarterback) coach Rod Smith. “He’s a great guy,” Robinson said. “We’ve talked a lot about life and the little things too. He’s a good coach and I like how hard they are working to be on top again."
New Persons Of Note
A quick summary of where most of dozen-plus new additions to the board stand: "I have a Michigan offer and remain open." Persons about which we can get even slightly more specific:
- MN OL Seantrel Henderson, the nation's consensus #1 recruit, took a visit and deposited this tantalizing quote on Helmholdt: “Michigan was great. I loved it more than any other college I’ve been to so far.”
Other colleges on Henderson's visit list include Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan State, so Ohio State and Notre Dame and so forth and so on still lurk. Still, Henderson is now a possibility and hits the board.
- OH DE Marcus Rush picked up a Michigan offer, visited for Junior Day, and has declared Michigan his leader.
- MD LB Josh Furman's been impressive at various combines and picked up a Michigan offer a couple weeks ago. He's got a Dhani Jones vibe going:
So there's that. Watch out for him at the next Decemberists show you end up at.
via reader Will; click for big
The committee decided to avoid the first round intraconference matchups like prescribed and skipped the obvious switch of 12 and 13 in PWR and gave Michigan that sweet, sweet bracket projected last weekend:
4. Air Force
BU, the overall #1 seed, got hosed and has to face Ohio State in the first round. Michigan is on ESPNU at 3PM Friday.
Some details on the opposition in Bridgeport:
The Falcons are only the second* non-power conference team to rank high enough in the pairwise to warrant an at-large bid, though they don't need it after winning the Atlantic Hockey autobid.
Air Force finished #14 in the final pairwise, was 27-10-5, and ranks #29 in KRACH. That's the fifth best record in the country but it came against the #51 schedule. (D1 hockey has but 58 teams.) Teams of interest near them in KRACH include #27 UNO, #31 Western Michigan, and #32 Michigan State: if Air Force plays at all like any of those teams Michigan should outshoot them at least 2-1.
However, the Air Force nonconference schedule is actually pretty respectable:
- Wins: Bemidji State (2), Colorado College
- Losses: Denver, Quinnipiac, Yale
Both the Quinnipiac and Yale games were competitive, with Yale getting a GWG at 13:22 of the third and Quinnipiac tacking on an ENG in a one-goal game in which Air Force outshot them nearly 2-1. Though I'm happier Michigan faces them than Miami or Ohio State, this is not a pushover.
If there's one guy you want to know at the academy it's Jacques Lamoureux, the nation's leading scorer with a 32-20-52 line. Should it bother you that the best player on a military academy's hockey team is so obviously French Canadian? Yes, except he's from North Dakota so no.
*(A nascent Niagara program snagged an at-large in 2000. Though they won the CHA, the conference hadn't been granted autobid status yet. Even more impressive: the tourney was only twelve teams then. More impressive yet: the Purple Eagles downed New Hampshire in the first round.)
Yale won the ECAC this year with a 15-5-2 conference record and then won the conference tourney to boot. This constitutes possibly the best season in Yale hockey history. They, too, have a swanky overall record (24-7-2) run up against questionable opposition (SOS #43), but their record is swanky enough and their opposition robust enough to see them slot in at #10 in KRACH.
This would be an excellent draw as Michigan's two-seed except that Vermont, the three-seed in the regional, is #6 in KRACH so it's a wash. Also, KRACH doesn't take scoring Margin into account, and even if Yale played a weak schedule they crushed it: they're #5 in scoring margin. Vermont is #19.
I have this image in my head of successful ECAC teams that will never leave: they have a huge French Canadian guy, a goalie with a save percentage above .920, a thudding, defensive style of hockey, and very little offensive pop except for one leetle guy that's like a version of TJ Hensick interested in going to an Ivy League school.
Yale comes up empty on the huge French Canadian but goalie Alec Richards is at a .926 save percentage and the Bulldogs strike it big with the little guys: four of Yale's top five scorers are listed at 5'9" or less, which means they probably average about 5'7". Don't let the low counting numbers deceive you: though Yale's leading scorers only have 35 points, Yale is an Ivy and plays fewer games than the rest of the country. They currently stand at 33; Michigan's up to 40.
As for the offensive pop: Yale's actually got a decent bit. They're eighth nationally in scoring offense, with six players above 0.8 PPG. One is junior defenseman Thomas Dignard, undoubtedly the PP quarterback, and the rest are young forwards. Yale has no seniors until you get to Patrick Brosnihan's eight points.
Okay, this is not a Cornell or Colgate or whoever, this is a small team with some talent in their sticks.
BONUS: HSR on Yale.
As noted above, math thinks Vermont is the favorite in the 2-3 matchup. The Catamounts were 20-11-5 against the #11 schedule, but instead of flailing about with numbers and goal differential and the like, how about a scouting report from a close observer?
This is from reader Corey Griffiths and far outstrips any knowledge I've got about Vermont:
My alma mater causes me to bleed Maize and Blue, but I have also been going to UVM hockey games since I was half a year old, so I am very much looking forward to the possibility of the two teams playing (for the first time ever?). I figured it might be nice to actually provide some sort of useful scouting report for you, or at least get you on the right track in the event that U-M has to play them Saturday night. Here's what I've got on my perspective:
Vermont has a couple guys you need to watch out for:
- Victor Stahlberg is arguably the best player on the team. He's solid mentally and appears to provide great leadership for the team. His puck skills and playing ability will likely translate well to the NHL, and he reminds me a little bit of a not as good version of Kevin Porter. He's not one of those players that you notice all that much necessarily, but you know something is going to happen when he's out there. I think he plays bigger than the 6-3, 210 he's listed at too. I expect M would probably be pretty good at defending him since I think he actually plays the most like the kind of player Red Berenson goes for.
- I played both with and against Peter Lenes all the way through high school, and his playing style has changed very little. At a generous 5-6 160, students will be tempted to go with the "dirty hobbit" chant, but I would advise against it given his ability to make you eat words. I've never seen a player with a quicker or more lightning-fast reaction time, and you can expect one or more moments where a Michigan player winds up losing the puck for reasons he doesn't quite comprehend. He also has a way of taking shots that aren't unexpected; his favorite move is skating away from the net along one of the sides and taking a sharp turn with a wrist shot right on goal. His accuracy can be deadly both on the forehand and the back hand are deadly, too. The positives for Michigan are that his size makes him easy to lock up if you're able to get a body on him. The last few games of Vermont's season have seen opponents somewhat effectively reduce him to a fixture along the boards.
- Dean Strong is one more player I would watch out for. He's clearly a leader on the team, and though I would only say he's a little above average in the skills department, he plays hard enough to make things happen. You might say he fits the definition of a blue-collar hockey player. M shouldn't have a problem defending him, but if they try to sit back and play dainty hockey as they have done in the past, they'll get burned by him. I feel like he's gone and gotten his helmet knocked off enough times this season that I could even recognize him on the street if I ran into him.
- Vermont has a strange way of acquiring very very good goalies, and Freshman Rob Madore isn't an exception. I would say his 0.911 save percentage and 2.36 GAA are slightly worse than how he is capable of playing. I'm no goalie expert so I'm not going to comment much on his ability, but he just has the feel of a goalie that you can trust to keep the puck out of the net. Usually when he gets scored on it's because one of the blue-liners in front of him got burned.
They forecheck physically (often unnecessarily so) and always scrap for the puck in the corners. They cycle the puck well, and are very good at getting the puck to the net to try and cause something. The goals generally aren't anywhere near as pretty as what you might see at Yost, but that's because a lot of the goals they get are a result of putting a bunch of traffic in front of the net and firing a shot off just to see what happens. Again, beware the Peter Lenes sneak attack and what I might call above average strength in breakaway situations.
Honestly, there isn't a whole lot to get excited over here. If UVM's forwards aren't having a good day they'll probably be counting on Madore to keep them in the game. Their strength I think comes on the power play, where they seem above average at being able to get the puck around to the right guys. Recently much has been made of the lack of defensive effort on the part of the entire team, and you can expect Kevin Sneddon will have spent the last two weeks trying to get them to improve significantly. Exploits: Brayden Irwin, a very large but pretty immobile player who inexplicably scores or makes a brilliant move every few games.
On the power play the Cats have a17.7% success rate, good for 4th in the conference. Vermont has a pretty crappy penalty kill rate (only 80%, 9th conf), but that's partially because they only have about 480 penalty minutes (compare that to Boston University's 767), so you could make a case for sample size. Either way, their penalty kill isn't so good.
don't know if they do it on purpose, but you can bet that this team will go into a hole if they have a lead with 5-7 minutes remaining in the game. They very obviously play a 1-4 forecheck, and the defensive zone coverage starts resembling a penalty kill. Their tendency towards this is not so good for them when combined with the fact that their defensive coverage isn't all that great to begin with. This has killed them in games against UNH and UMass Lowell recently.
Michigan plays a much more organized style of hockey, which should be interesting against Vermont because their 5-on-5 style is a bit more "dump it, get it and see what happens" (Expect a much cleaner game on their power play though). Michigan could get flustered by the Vermont's in-your-face style, or Vermont could find themselves getting picked apart by precision offensive plays.
Vermont fans are generally very good-natured and supportive of their team. The students have recently developed a taste for crappy cheers like the usually badly-timed and over-used—e.g., the "Hey, you suck!" chant during Rock and Roll Part II. As much as I love UVM, their band is almost comically awful at times, though they have a selection of music that can be fun. So yeah.. students are kind of lamely rude as far as fans go, but the general population should be kind.
Corey's done. Hi. I'm done, too, but here's the HSR post on the Catamounts.
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