6/28/2009 – USA 2, Brazil 3 – Confederations Cup Runners Up
Note: yeah, this is Off Topic, but 1) this is also way more interesting than anything else going on at the moment, 2) I reserve the right to wander off the reservation in the hard offseason, and 3) I'm slightly tired of recruiting-recruiting-recruiting. Aren't you? Coming up tomorrow: Wednesday Recruitin'!
Here's Clint Dempsey holding the "bronze ball" bestowed on the FIFA-approved third-best player at the Confederations Cup. Here is a brief list of the folks Dempsey finished in front of:
- That white guy on South Africa
- Everyone on Brazil not named Kaka or Fabiano
That is an impressive array of players to beat out. And yet Dempsey looks like he's auditioning for The Hangover 2 or Fully, Completely Baked. This is because the United States has just found out that there is a way to lose to Brazil 3-2 and feel agonized, that, yes, there is such a thing as crashing out for you who thought yourself immune.
Sitting there in the aftermath of Brazil's comeback was one of the strangest feelings I've had as a sports fan. To demonstrate: I was going to put an adjective on "comeback" there and considered both "stunning" and "inevitable." Words literally fail. Maybe there's something in German for it. Schiessenkopffrauballsdammit: the feeling you have when the incredibly improbable thing you dreaded and feared comes to pass, just like you knew it would. (See: 2005 Ohio State game.)
That was the nature of this deeply bizarre tournament. Bludgeoned and discarded in the first games, the United States retroactively justified my friend's terror that the Honduras game would not end with a result and that this would surely put the Nats in an honest-to-god World Cup qualification dogfight—in CONCACAF! Late in the dire Brazil drubbing, another friend asked me what we should do and I succumbed to pure reactionary talk-radio blithering: "Fire Bradley," I muttered, and said no more.
From that moment on the US put together the most brilliant two-and-a-half game run in probably their entire history: 3-0 over Egypt, 2-0 over Spain, and 2-0 over Brazil. Yeah, they were on the back foot for about 60 minutes of the Spain game, but dos a cero is dos a cero. If only soccer finals were 45 minutes long. (While we're at it: if only soccer finals were 45 minutes long and banned people fluent in Portuguese.)
They are not, and we are left with our schiessenkopffrauballsdammit.
I don't have any other soccer team. The nearest MLS team are in Chicago and Columbus and Toronto, none of which I can root for on geographical principle. If I was to pick up one of the big four in the EPL I might as well just go the whole nine yards, buy a Yankees hat, USC jersey, Duke shorts, and Lakers shoes, and shoot myself.
But what's the point of rooting for Fulham? Good job lads, you didn't get sent to purgatory… this year. European soccer is structured such that you can either pick the Yankees or the Toledo Mud Hens. The Mud Hens have as much of a chance at winning the World Series as Wigan has of winning the Premiership. But Wigan fans don't seem to mind. Win some games, lose some games, sing about Emile Heskey emerging from a radioactive lagoon during a terrible thunderstorm, end of story let's get a pint.
On the other hand, even the lowliest American franchise has aspirations to greatness. A few years ago the Penguins were awful enough to get like three consecutive top-three picks. The Patriots were a laughingstock for most of their existence. The Spurs were some random team in San Antonio before Tim Duncan arrived. The Cardinals won the World Series despite being like four games above .500. Everyone can strive. Even Clippers fans eagerly await the day Donald Sterling dies. "Look at the Blackhawks!" they say before returning to Bill Simmons' annual fantasy football draft-stravaganza. This is a blessing and a curse.
The curse section is provided Brian Phillips on the outstanding Run of Play:
I'm more interested in seeing the run through this tournament, and the Spain game above all, as something to celebrate for its own sake, without thinking about next year or whether it's safe to nudge up my expectations. I'm sure I'm not alone in that, but partly thanks to Bradley's understandable emphasis in his postgame remarks, so much of the coverage has skirted the "what does this mean?" question that I've spent most of the last 24 hours wanting to take an anchorperson by his lapels and scream "We #$*%ing BEAT SPAIN! Doesn't that matter more than abstract 'potential'?"
Yes, because it probably doesn't mean much in the scheme of things. Spain and Brazil showed their quality, and while it's great the US beat one and took the other to the limit, what that says is that the US can scrap with teams better than they are. The World Cup group is going to have between one and three teams better than the Nats, and there will be scrapping.
This is foreign to the national state of mind. The United States does not scrap except maybe in rhythmic gymnastics and kayaking and other things dreamed up by commies trying to get up to par in gold medals. When the US decided to get super-serious about soccer, they dreamed up "Project 2010," which was supposed to "ensure the US Men's National team was a legitimate threat to win the World Cup by 2010," emphasis mine because WTF? Win? We are Americans, and it doesn't matter if we have the resources of the Kansas City Royals. We have Yankee dreams.
So what the Brazil game was was a chance. A stupid, improbable chance built on equal parts grit, skill, and astounding luck; a chance to slay two giants back-to-back and scramble up to the pinnacle of world football for somewhere between sixty seconds and a day before the ground gave way and it was back to Grenada and Haiti. So I appreciate *#$&ing beating Spain but also feel like Dempsey above, holding a trophy he had no right to expect and thinking of what might have been.
- So a major reason this post exists was the large influx of soccer emails into the inbox. Aaron Rennie's contribution: "The first half was like the best blowjob you've had in your life; the second was discovering you got it from a dude." Funny, but it's not like I started questioning which team I was rooting for later. I have my cool group of local friends because a couple people knew I liked soccer and needed someone to watch it with and joined up with us; I feel I owe Arriaga II, God of Soccer, a tribute.
- You know, I had bought into Harkes' gratuitously negative take on Dempsey in the Egypt match—when I deigned to tweet about the 3-0 win, I mentioned Dempsey had been "terrible" or "awful" or something like that—but then I re-watched the first half a couple days ago and saw him set up the US's two best scoring opportunities of the first half with incisive passes. There really needs to be a Nats UFR.
- …which might fall to me, actually. I'm seriously considering starting up a USMNT blog with a couple friends (so that the burden on me is not extensive enough to hamper MGoActivities, of course). Name suggestions welcome.
- I wasn't thrilled with Bocanegra at left back but that might have something to do with the fact he was coming off injury and playing against Spain and Brazil; he was clearly less overmatched than Bornstein. Bocanegra-Demerit-Onyewu-Spector/Cherundolo should be the backline going forward, with Hedjuk around to come on as a lead-protecting substitute and all around insane hairy guy.
- Bornstein, meanwhile, might see his spot yoinked by Edgar Castillo, the Texican left back who appears frozen out of Los Douchebags' plans. That would make the USA 2/2 on grabbing newly-eligible defectors.
- Argh Rossi.
- Actually read some insane Big Soccer criticisms in the wake of the first couple matches directed at Howard because "the book" on him had become clear: shoot miraculous 30-yarders. When that's all they can say about you…
- What happens when Ching is available? Davies ran around and did some stuff and scored an Eckstein goal and had that gorgeous assist to Donovan. But Jozy's not much of a holding or linkup forward right now. He is a beast who is fast and huge and could conceivably function as a Charlie Davies who ate a steroid-laced power mushroom. Ching and Jozy worked very well together before Ching's injury, and then you get to bring Davies' pace off the bench.
- Similarly, once Edu and Jermaine Jones start pushing for central midfield slots the competition will be as brutal as it gets on the US National Team. Clark might get pushed to the bench even after turning in a very strong Confederations Cup; he's not likely to go without a fight.
- Side benefit: you've seen the last of Kljestan against teams outside of CONCACAF. (Or I'll die.)
- Jozy watch: Villareal just sold Nihat. He was injury-plagued and not a consistent starter, but maybe that opens up space for Altidore to be a consistent substitute?
- While we're at it, Dan Levy has an excellent article at TSB on ESPN's impact on the Future we're trying so hard not to consider at the moment.
2010 SG/SF Tim Hardaway, Jr., has committed to Michigan. UMHoops, linked there, has your googlestalk for you. As to who this guy is—other than the son of Tim Hardaway:
Hardaway is a 6-foot-4 lanky shooting guard with excellent length who is a great three point shooter. He’s not as athletic as Casey Prather and his offensive game isn’t as refined as Trey Zeigler’s but there is no doubt that he is the best shooter of the bunch.
File this guy under Vogrich/Douglass/Novak, not Manny.
The obvious question is "what about Zeigler and Prather?" Both of those guys are wing forward sorts who can fill the shot creation and penetration role that Harris has thus far in the Beilein regime; Hardaway does not fill their spot. It does, however, terminate the (faint, thrilling) possibility that Beilein could somehow snag both. While Rivals and Scout both give him an anonymous three-star ranking, ESPN has them in their top 100 at #93.
And it's worth repeating: Hardaway is another guy who fits in the Beilein mold, a lanky 6'4" shooter with the sort of basketball IQ you'd expect given his bloodlines; this is what the bulk of the roster is going to look like, in varying heights, as long as Beilein is in town.
The Rest of 2010: Lock down a high-rated wing forward who can be Harris and call it a day. Laugh about grabbing Smotrycz ten seconds before he blew up Bikini Atoll style. Prepare for many shots of Tim Hardaway in the crowd.
And 2011? Michigan loses Wright and Harris after 2010 so there will be at least two spots open. C Amir Williams, SG Brandan Kearney, PG Patrick Lucas-Perry, and combo guard Carlton Brundidge are the plan A folk.
The week-to-week minutiae of recruiting can sometimes obscure the larger picture.From time to time this here blog likes to provide a 1,000 foot view so people can have context going forward. Details below are designed to be sparse. The offense was treated to a similar overview a couple weeks ago.
Also sorry it's late but I think you'll see why. The recruiting board, as always, lives here.
They remain the same: Michigan has 20 scholarships to give out next year under these assumptions:
- No attrition
- Cone and Wright aren't extended fifth years
- Kelvin Grady, George Morales, and Nick Sheridan aren't on scholarship next year
2 is a solid assumption; 1 is probably goofy, and 3 is solid on Sheridan and unknown on Grady and Morales.
Needs: Well… dude, I just don't know yet. Michigan's move to the 4-3 under (mostly) leaves everyone's positions a mess. There are approximately three different sorts of things you can do on the defensive line:
- Be the nose tackle. Play shaded over the center, take on a lot of double teams with an idea towards splitting them, and disrupt the strongside A gap like whoah. Sophomore Mike Martin is your starter backed up by Renaldo Sagesse and Will Campbell. Martin and Campbell are both underclassmen so they'd like to get some numbers here but they only need one as they have no seniors.
- Be the deathbacker. Be a hybrid DE/OLB that can be considerably lighter than a conventional defensive end. You sit outside the weakside tackle and threaten to death him to death (ie: murder the quarterback). Michigan's current options here are not great: converted TE Steve Watson plus converted. LBs Brandon Herron and Marrell Evans, plus probably freshmen Craig Roh and Anthony Lalota.
- Be the strongside defensive end or three-technique DT. These are the guys who flank the nose tackle and their duties appear pretty similar; multiple recruits have mentioned that playing SDE and DT in this defense is pretty much the same, and you can see that in the projected starting lineups: Brandon Graham's backup, Ryan Van Bergen, is now the starting three-tech DT. The DE has to be more of a pass-rush threat, I guess, but these guys are going to be big guys ranging from 260 to 290. Graham, Van Bergen, Patterson, and Banks are your two-deep here: all guys who will be gone in two years except for Van Bergen.
This has turned into a dissertation on defensive line responsibilities in the new defense. Anyway: Michigan wants one nose and probably at least two SDE/DT prospects, and already has two deathbackers.
Commitments: Michigan has deathbacker commits from PA DE Jordan Paskorz (right) and PA DE Ken Wilkins. Both are three-star sorts with okay-not-great offers that Michigan hopes are reflective of their tweener status. That's an issue defenses that require different things from their defensive ends, but under Greg Robinson it's all good as long as you're an athlete like whoah.
One thing on Wilkins: despite that combine that claimed him at 225, many, many sources since then have him at 6'4", 240; other reports also question his agility. 240 + 6'4" + lack of agility + two years with Barwis + "good frame" == 270-280 == SDE. "But if Michigan saw him as an SDE wouldn't they have taken Holmes Onwukaife?" you ask, and I reply "don't be a pest."
Realistic Future Options: This is where it gets dodgy. Michigan's apparently taken a pass on MI DT Jonathan Hankins, at least for now, leaving very few NT candidates on the board. There's Sharrif Floyd, who everyone wants and Michigan should get a visit from, Samoan Mormon Ricky Heimuli, and OH DT Terry Talbott. The vibe I get on Floyd is that Michigan isn't in great spot; M is just a letter to Heimuli; and Talbott is just a name right now, and one of those meh three-stars at that.
At SDE/DT, the only green on the board belongs to Marcus Rush, who continues to maintain that Michigan leads but also seems locked into deathbacking and might not have a committable offer in the wake of Paskorz and Wilkins, and Derrick Bryant, who said Michigan led a long time ago and then hasn't been heard from since except when a rumor mentions there's been some parting of the ways.
Past that there are a lot of southern guys who have expressed little interest in their Michigan offers, instate DE CJ Olaniyan, and NY DE Dominique Easley. FL DE Corey Lemonier and GA DE Henry Anderson have (erratically) expressed desires to visit too, but of the people on the board right now I think you'll see one guy actually commit and then you're looking at Defensive End Taylor Lewan, hopefully.
Level of PANIC: 4/5. Michigan really should fill three more spots on the defensive line in this class but it's hard to see where they come from. This only compounds the hole left by the signing-day defections of Pearlie Graves and Dequinta Jones. It looks like more of the same the rest of the way out.
Needs: The only senior is WLB Stevie Brown. Mike Jones, Isaiah Bell, and Brandin Hawthorne all come in as safety-sized outside linebackers, so Michigan needs one guy in the middle and maybe a one or two on the outside.
Commitments: Youngstown Liberty offered up its third player in two years when Antonio Kinard committed at junior day. At the time I thought Kinard was likely headed for deathbacker, too, but now it seems he'll come in as a middle linebacker.
And then there's Marvin Robinson, who may or may not be a safety. Recruiting analysts say he's a weakside linebacker; Robinson, and apparently the Michigan coaches, have him a strong safety. He's addressed in the secondary for now; be advised that if Michigan pulls in like three corners and two non-Robinson safeties I'm moving him to linebacker whether he wants to go there or not.
Realistic Future Options: Uh. MD LB Josh Furman has some ridiculous combine numbers, offers from Oklahoma and others, and plans a visit in the near future. He also looks indie like Dhani Jones, which can't hurt.
MD LB Troy Gloster has Michigan in his top five of strong academic schools. TX LB Corey Nelson is the teammate of RB/slot commit Tony Drake; Michigan is outside his top five but should, apparently, get a visit. For now. There's also Onwukaife if he decides he does want to play linebacker.
Only Nelson is a blue-chip there, though Furman certainly has promise. Michigan missed out on a couple of in-state guys (Daniel Easterly and Austin Gray) by not offering; if they get involved with either they may get a look.
Level of PANIC: 3/5. There's not a huge need at this spot but you'd like to see two guys, and here we're again banking on the Michigan coaching staff having information no one else does about low-rated, unoffered Kinard.
Needs: No one graduates, but the two-deep had a walk-on on it this spring and only two guys come in to reinforce. Also, Donovan Warren might be an early-entry candidate if he suddenly lives up to his recruiting hype. I consistently overestimate the corner need, but now it's tradition: I'd like to see them take three.
Commitments: OH CB Courtney Avery flipped his commitment from Stanford to Michigan after picking up an M offer at summer camp. Avery's not highly rated but Michigan got an extended look and decided to shoot him an offer; in that situation you can reasonably assume the coaching staff does have information no one else does.
Realistic Future Options: Here, at least, it appears Michigan has enough candidates who list Michigan strongly to pick up a strong class. PA CB Cullen Christian is Scout's #3 corner and should be due for a major move up on Rivals when they rerank; he has all but said he will commit to Michigan at some point in the future whenever anyone has asked him for months.
So that's in all probability two. Would they take a third? I would; these days your nickel corner is probably more important than whichever linebacker comes off the field in a passing situation. They have options: Cass Tech mighty dwarf Dior Mathis and Rashad Knight have publicly proclaimed Michigan leads, and supposed Miami lock Tony Grimes came back from his Michigan visit saying things along the lines of—but not quite—"Michigan leads." FL CB Travis Williams, who tried to commit on a visit of his own but was put off, may also be an option.
Level of PANIC: 0/5. Michigan will probably pull in three good corners.
Needs: No one graduates here, so that's good. Not so good: only having four scholarship bodies covering two starting spots. Michigan should be looking to take at least two.
Commitments: FL S Marvin Robinson made what everyone had been expecting forever official by committing a few months ago. Six-pack coming at you, ladies:
Though Robinson didn't turn out to be the five-star lock everyone said he was a couple years back, he's a highly-rated four-star just outside of the Rivals 100.
Realistic Future Options: The big name is Glenville S Latwan Anderson, who was the best uncommitted player at Michigan's camp. He has Michigan second on an ordered list of five schools; supposedly M and WVU—the #1—are distant from the chasing pack of three southern schools. I still get the vibe that Anderson is headed elsewhere, as MGoBlog Recruiting Heuristic #4 is "if a player leaves a visit to your school saying someone else leads, you are in trouble." But maybe he's waiting around to confirm the competency, or lack thereof, of Bill Stewart before committing to a program that no longer has the primary reason anyone outside of West Virginia would be a fan of the program.
Two other players have Michigan in a small leading group: OH S Kurtis Drummond says Michigan and State lead, and SC S Detrick Bonner was the subject of an odd article recently in which he claimed a Michigan offer and said Michigan was his favorite despite no one ever hearing of him. There are a number of other guys from Maryland, the West Coast, and Ohio who Michigan would go for.
Level of PANIC: 1/5. Robinson's an excellent start; Anderson would be a great finish. That's slightly unlikely, though, but they've got enough guys on the board to pick up a solid second option.
Needs: They need one with the departure of Zoltan.
Realistic Future Options: It will probably be one of three players Michigan has identified already. WI P Will Hagerup already has an offer and appears to be the #1 choice. He's got offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Wisconsin, and many others—he's probably the best punter in the country this year.
If it's not Hagerup, it will probably be FL P Brandon Tarpley or MI P Mike Sadler.
Level of PANIC: 0/5. It really sounds like Sadler's just waiting for an offer to drop, so Michigan will pick up either the top punter or third-best (-ish) in the country. He won't be Zoltan but he should be decent.
Let me first state something for the record before offering up an e-pinion here. Yes, seven years of program building at West Virginia and yet more elsewhere far outweigh the opinions of recruiting gurus. I don't want to get into one of those dumb arguments where someone says something mildly critical, someone else replies with something defensive that slightly escalates the stakes, and twenty post later it's turned into a catfight with both sides annihilating strawmen like "recruiting rankings are 100% infallible" and "this recruiting class dooms Rich Rodriguez." Recruiting is one important aspect of a program; it's far from the only one.
You've probably figured out where this is going during the disclaimer, but here goes anyway: I'm not thrilled over here. It looks like the secondary recruiting will be about on par with a typical Michigan class, with two high profile stars, a couple middling four-stars behind them, and then a couple three-star-sorts with promise on the back end. Linebacker and defensive line are another matter, with three eh (Paskorz, Kinard) to eh-plus (Wilkins) recruits in the bag and what looks like zero four-stars Michigan has a strong shot except maybe Sharrif Floyd, and that's tentative. (I am excluding Corey Nelson and Corey Lemonier here.)
There is a lot of time left and all that, but the this gaussian distribution is centered on Moderately Disappointing. Thrilling is three standard deviations away.
I've said this before and here I go again: none of this is surprising after a 3-9 season; teams have been turning in disappointing recruiting years the year after they crater for a while now and that effect gets even more pronounced as recruiting continues to slide forward in the calendar year; it's good that Michigan has hold of a coach who has turned classes far more star-bereft than this one projects to be into national title contenders; I still think this is going to be a drag on Michigan's ability to be a national contender, albeit a small one.
Michigan recruits selected:
Chris Brown: Round 2, Pick 6 to Phoenix
Good news here; Phoenix has a history of taking Michigan players and allowing them to develop in Ann Arbor. Both Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter stayed four years. Brown's a higher pick than either and may get enticed early, but his flight risk dropped today despite going high in the second round.
Kevin Lynch: Round 2, Pick 26 to Columbus
Lynch's (@ right) flight up draft boards concludes with a second-round pick. Columbus doesn't have a history with the Michigan program either way.
Mac Bennett: Round 3, Pick 18 to Montreal
This selection is somewhat frightening. Bennett has another year of prep school before he arrives at Michigan and Montreal is the sort of team that could push him to the QMJHL. The Canadiens have yoinked Mike Komisarek (two years) and Max Pacioretty (one year) before their eligibility was up. Those guys were first-rounders, however, and Bennett's considerably further down the pole.
AJ Treais, Lee Moffie, Derek Deblois: Undrafted.
As expected, though there was a chance one might go late.
Ten minutes. Of electric alumni schmoozin'. Go.
Why, in a sentence. The Orlando Sentinel talked with Urban Meyer about many things, amongst them frequent sharing of information between coaches in the offseason. Meyer's begun to cut things down, and Rodriguez is one of the guys who they're no longer exchanging with. The reason:
We always do it. Rich Rodriguez? We used to do it all the time [when he was at West Virginia], but now he's at Michigan and a competitor in recruiting so we don't anymore.
Not a particularly strong competitor in recruiting after a 3-9 year, but enough of one to yoink Denard Robinson and Marvin Robinson, something that would not have happened at West Virginia.
The rest of the interview is worth a read, too, as it touches on a lot of the issues anyone who is a spread-first sort of coach has to deal with:
…Heading into the draft people were wondering if Percy Harvin's three years of running bubble screens meant he couldn't run a simple dig and the rest of the routes on the passing tree.
MEYER: He can run it better than most; and if someone is paying him $20 million, he'll run a great dig route. It's interesting that you say that. I don't hear it a lot, maybe in recruiting once in a while, but I did hear a NFL coach saying something about that. I like to do my homework. I went and checked the record of that coach and the guy barely had a .500 record. There are certain people I'll have a discussions with. And if I hear something like that, that's not a person I want to have a discussion with. That's nonsense. That's someone putting too much value on scheme rather than personnel."
FTR, I will run a great dig route for far less. It will be half as fast, but it will be awesome. I will bring a vuvuzela and those shoes with LEDs in the heels. Bidding starts at a measly one million dollars.
NO THIS ISN'T EXCESSIVELY DRAMATIC: it's Iran on the golf course. Ann Arbor Golf & Outing runs the golf course next to the stadium which has been primo tailgating territory since the dawn of time. Over the years, folk have congregated in bunches with their friends and—well, you're probably familiar with the logistics here. But now you will submit to order, tailgaters, or you will be thrown out of the garden:
• Canopies are allowed at no extra charge but must be no larger than 10' by 12' and must be placed at the front or back of your vehicle. Charges for canopies may be levied in 2010.
• For safety and efficiency, vehicles will be directed to specific spaces as they enter the grounds. Group parking at a favorite spot will no longer be allowed.
This has caused a lot of consternation, as you might imagine, on message boards and the like. A typical example can be found at MATW:
So long, sand trap. Goodbye
pine urinalshady pine tree. So long, large, enjoyable group tailgate where everyone meets at the same spot every week, every year. Instead, hello parking garage-like cash grab where cars are packed in closer than can be imagined and the AAGO lines their pockets with a few extra G's. … This policy was implemented because the AAGO continues to expand on their unofficial policy of greed and hypocrisy. Instead of thinking about how to raise revenue without alienating customers, the AAGO jumped to the easiest solution.
MATW has a suggestion: allow the hardcore to purchase a pre-paid season ticket for a little bit more—taking the risk of a golf course rainout—and congregate wherever they please a little early. I don't have a personal stake in this, as my tailgate from the Paleozoic is elsewhere, but I hate to see Michigan traditions erased in the pursuit of a buck. If you're pissed off at the change I'd take the opportunity to let them know: email@example.com.
Also, a Downfall parody seems in order.
Oh argh oh argh argh oh. I've been trying to call out stupid people for being stupid less frequently of late—part of being respectable and all that—but holy God I've reached my limit on CFN again and it's time empty both barrels.
Two straws floated down onto my hump recently. The first: a thing about which coaches are "on the hotseat." The hotseat is not a nebulous concept. In all cases its usage is meant to indicate a coach who is in serious danger of losing his job unless he performs this year. So, since this is CFN and Rich Rodriguez is in zero danger of being fired in just his second year at Michigan it will surprise you not at all to find out that virtually every responder cites Rodriguez because CFN is written by howler monkeys.
Fiutak, chief of this short bus, manages to explain this away by redefining the "hotseat" to mean a coach who needs to perform well this year or he'll be on the hotseat next year, which what? Why even use language at this point? My #1 coach on the hotseat this year is Ty Willingham, because when I use "hotseat" what I mean is the coach who was most authoritatively fired last year. Tomorrow I think I'll redefine hotseat to mean "pancake."
But at least Fiutak avoids suggesting Rodriguez is in serious danger of getting axed this year. Not so the rest of these serious observers:
Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez comes to mind as someone, who will undergo intense scrutiny in Ann Arbor if his Wolverines don’t start showing immediate signs of life. …Have Rich Rodriguez and Charlie Weis flip a coin. No one else is even remotely close…. . I would also throw Rich Rodriquez in the mix from Michigan.
In fact, the only person who doesn't mention Rodriguez specifically mentions why he's not mentioning Rodriguez by claiming "Michigan has a high profile head man who is at least brining attention to the program," which somehow manages to refute something stupid but contribute to it simultaneously.
Here's how bad the article is: this Bleacher Report article (BLEACHER REPORT!) that lists Weis, Kragthorpe, O'Leary, Hawkins, and Groh—you know, coaches who are actually in danger of losing their jobs next year—is 100% less retarded than it.
Then Fiutak has to blow his semi-reprieve by making what I propose is the most incorrect statement ever uttered in a college football preview ever:
The real strength will be at safety where some superstar prospects will combine with some established playmakers. That means veteran safety Steve Brown can be part linebacker and part safety in the new system.
Michigan's depth chart at safety reads: decent true freshman prospect, guy who was cornerback midway through spring practice, guy who got beat out by freshman and cornerback, meh true freshman prospect, walk-ons. Safety is, bar none, the most frightening position on the team, with neither returning starters or highly-touted recruits. The weird thing is that the preview is decently well-researched, mentioning moves for Brown and Brandon Smith and the installation of Woolfolk, but the conclusions drawn are preposterous.
It's time to drag up the definitive word on CFN once more. Via BHGP:
CFN is to actual analysis what ramming two GI Joes together is to MMA. It's only the same to 7-year-olds.
Fin. For about a year or two.
Oh, and MGoMichaeltribute:
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, RB Teric Jones, RB Vincent Smith, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, QB Denard Robinson, and K Brendan Gibbons.
|San Diego, California - 6'0" 184
|Scout||4*, #15 QB, #137 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #4 DTQB, #164 overall|
|ESPN||81, #14 QB, #144 overall|
|Others||#56 to Lemming, #133 to TAKKLE|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Oregon, Florida, Nebraska|
|Quarterback Conundra. A diarist takes in Tate's final high school game. TomVH interviews Tate. Gun show. Mailbag 1. Mailbag 2. Tea leaves. Spring recap.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Younger brother of former M QB Jason Forcier. Personal site.|
Tate Forcier is the one who didn't get away, the one who was planning on committing even when Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver hadn't twirled their mustaches in dastardly fashion and tied Michigan football's hopes to the train tracks before effecting their getaways. His brother is my favorite Michigan player of all time who never played. He is a relentlessly trained quarterback prodigy ready to step in on day one—which was a month ago—and challenge Steven Threet for the starting job. God help us if he flames out.
Here's the world's most succinct scouting report($), via a story title from the Nebraska Rivals site:
Forcier Equals Accuracy
Indeed. Forcier's high school numbers were mindboggling, Colt McCoy-style things. His junior year he completed 77%(!!!) of his passes; at times you could have taken a shot every time a Forcier pass hit the ground and driven home in confidence. His completion percentage dipped this year, but there were reasons and compensations:
|So||157 / 221||1637||71.0%||7.4||10.4||17-4|
|Jr||164 / 213||2387||77.0%||11.2||14.6||21-5|
|Sr||208 / 326||3424||63.8%||10.5||16.5||23-15|
Forcier was given a much greater burden in his final year. That naturally drives down your numbers as the playcalling slants towards passing and defenses are being called with that in mind. Despite that, you can see Tate's YPC rise every year as the dinking and dunking receded.
The one glaring issue is Forcier's senior spike in interceptions. That's partially the increased attempts and partially what sounds like a sieve-like offensive line. In Forcier's final high school game he was sacked seven times in a 41-14 loss against Oceanside. An MGoBlog diarist took it in:
Tate throws a great ball. Unfortunately, his offensive line was horrible and never gave him any time to sit in the pocket and throw a deep ball. It would have been nice to see him attempt some down field stuff, but it was not to be. All of his passes looked sharp and accurate though. He also has a really quick release.
Forcier was often reduced to scrambling around and chucking it hopefully, which obviously led to the interceptions. Here's another piece of the Drew Tate comparison I've been beating into the ground for months now: Tate (Iowa Version) also saw a senior-year spike in interceptions as Iowa's offensive line regressed (they gave up an extra half-sack per game when Tate was a senior) and Tate took matters into his own hands more often. This tendency can be either wildly good or wildly bad, and threatens to do so on consecutive plays this fall. Only experience will teach Forcier what he can and cannot do at this level.
When not fleeing from virtually unblocked defenders, Forcier is creepily accurate. That was his calling card as early as November of 2007. Rivals introduces Tate:
Forcier, 6-1, 185 pounds can flat out spin the rock. We first saw him at the NorCal NIKE Camp two years ago following his freshman season and he was already throwing the ball better than just about anyone at the event. Mechanically, Forcier is nearly flawless and has everything you're looking for in a signal caller.
The quarterback takes a great drop, has a quick release and the ball comes out of his hand so effortlessly. There is no wasted motion in Forcier's delivery and he has an absolute cannon for an arm. He's very accurate and can throw on the run or outside of the pocket equally well.
At the Elite 11 camp, Forcier won the accuracy competition. Soon after Rivals named him the most accurate quarterback in his class. When Friend of Blog Craig Ross caught him at spring practice that's what leapt out:
Forcier’s arm is stronger than I thought it would be. Most of the balls he threw looked pretty crisp. He looked terrific in the drills. Running right or left he puts the ball on the money. I didn’t see him throw a poor ball.
Yes: Forcier equals accuracy. That's his one-word description. Weis equals corpulence. Tressel equals boring. Forcier equals accuracy.
Accuracy arises from good mechanics, which have been drilled into his head since he was tiny. Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith:
"I think he's got some of the best mechanics I've seen from a high school kid in a while," Smith said. "He's humble, and he's just willing to work. The kid's been playing football and winning games ever since he's been little."
You don't have mechanics like that, or two older brothers who got scholarships to Michigan and UCLA, without structural reasons pushing you towards that. Primary reason: Forcier's dad. A secondary one: Forcier's Tebow-esque homeschool setup:
On Fridays in the fall, Tate Forcier doesn't feel like going to school. The night's game is on his mind, and the quarterback for Scripps Ranch High in San Diego can't imagine studying a textbook rather than studying a defense.
No big deal.
"I'll tell my teacher, 'I have a game today,'" Forcier said. "He'll say, 'That's fine; you don't have to come.' And I'll go to my football school and watch film all day."
Aaaand the 17-and-under readership of this blog just passed out in joyous contemplation of such a thing. The flexibility in Forcier's schedule allowed him to pack in hundreds of extra workouts with Marv Marinovich, the father of one-time quarterback wunderkind Todd. Marinovich's assessment of his charge is strangely poetic:
"Tate springs off his feet. He bounds from side-to-side to avoid the rush and then accelerates. His peripheral vision is key allowing him stay focused and scan downfield. But really, his mental attitude toward the position along with quick feet and hand-eye coordination blended together is ridiculous."
A haiku version of this:
Tate springs off his feet
He bounds from side to side, and
So here's word two in our ever-expanding world's briefest Forcier scouting report: scrambly. ESPN's evaluation highlights it frequently:
Forcier lacks ideal height, but he makes a ton of plays with both his arm and feet. He has excellent speed for the position, but he's really a passer who happens to be athletic enough to run a spread or read-option attack with ease. … Has good mobility within the pocket, and pulls the occasional rabbit out of his hat when a play breaks down. Can sidestep the rush and has a very quick release. He isn't afraid to take off on the run. Can create second chances with his feet and pick up a first down. Often breaks containment, and can throw on the run to either side with very good accuracy. He's a timing passer who likes to get the ball out of his hand quickly. … Has ideal skills for his team's offense--excellent pre-snap reads, a quick release and great accuracy. … Shows a tough side and scrappiness when working to make things happen.
Forcier himself reinforces that scouting report:
"That's why coach Rodriguez recruited me," Forcier said after Saturday's scrimmage. "A lot of times, when the play breaks down, that's your job. Make a play."
Indeed, this youtube video is full of "oh my god what are you doing, stop doing that, arrrgh… touchdown?!" moments:
cough cough drew tate cough tate, drew cough.
Forcier's tutelage and longtime starting experience had him net an impressive set of BCS offers before he even showed up at the Army All-American combine as a junior:
The talented Californian barely showed up in time for registration, but had big news with Auburn, Penn State and Oregon sending offers within the last week to join the existing group of Wisconsin, Iowa, Stanford and Arizona.
Ironically, that article contrasts Forcier and Kevin Newsome, pigeonholing the former as a pro-style quarterback and the latter as a dual threat sort.
By the Signing Day a year before Forcier would actually put his name on a piece of paper, he had added to that list with offers from LSU, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Florida would also throw its hat in the ring by June at the latest; Tate's personal site also shows offers—like, you know, the actual letters—from Tennessee, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and many more. This is a lot of offers from impressive sources.
At that combine Forcier had some issues attributed, oddly, to the balls in use:
"I thought I threw the ball decent, I felt like I could have done better. I was getting used to the receivers and they did a pretty good job catching my ball. Overall I thought it went pretty well," Forcier said. "All quarterbacks like to have a certain kind of ball, some like the soft ones, some like the hard ones, and these were pretty hard. So you know we tried to adjust to them the best that we can.
"I have an advantage over some guys though, I've got big hands." [HEYO! –ed]
He did "nothing to hurt his standing" as a top 75 prospect… except apparently he did. So there you go. He dropped out of the top 100, but not far, and committed to Michigan about ten seconds after Kevin Newsome re-opened his recruitment, after attending the Utah game. And who could blame him after that?
Then, of course, came spring:
I just watched that thing again and it's pure sport porn; I sort of wish Ace had left in Forcier's three incompletions—one bad read, one Stonum drop, and one overthrown screen—so it wasn't a just a possibly-misleading highlight reel but was instead the whole spring performance. My favorite part is that little swing pass to Moundros on the rollout: Forcier's getting pressure from a defender, calmly positions himself, and puts a perfectly-led ball right in Moundros' arms, allowing him to turn upfield against the chasing linebacker. That is the sort of precision Michigan's offense was lacking last year.
In the aftermath this here blog was about as "eeee" over Forcier as it is over Mike Barwis:
Most encouraging development: The general existence of Tate Forcier. Forcier chucked one pass into a linebacker's pads but other than that was worlds better than anything Michigan's seen at quarterback since Lloyd Carr rode out of the Citrus Bowl on the shoulders of his team. Forcier was as advertised: quick and scrambly in the pocket, accurate on the run, worryingly small, &c.
…There was one overthrown screen and the shoulda-been interception, but other than that he was dead on. Unofficial stats had him 11/14 for 130 or so yards. That's worlds different from last year's spring game, in which both quarterbacks threw multiple interceptions to legends like Artis Chambers and everyone started panicking in earnest about what fall would bring. Forcier's first excursion as Michigan's quarterback could not have been more reassuring.
So, here we are.
Why Drew Tate? That's my go-to comparison and I'm sticking to it. Forcier is about 6', maybe 6'1". He's nimble and though he took off frequently in high school, in college he won't have as much of an athletic advantage and will mostly use his feet to buy time to throw downfield. He has the proverbial moxie, which occasionally gets him into trouble. The Tate comparison is eerily accurate, except maybe Forcier is better school and will be more accurate than the occasionally-erratic Tate.
Look, you can even listen to ESPN, which grabbed the most Tate-like NFL quarterback in recent memory when searching for a comparison:
Has a style similar to that of Jeff Garcia, another riverboat gambler who finds ways to get the job done.
I'm telling you. I tell you. This I have told you.
Guru Reliability: High. Forcier's been on the radar screen a long time with his father and his brothers and whatnot. Also, the final guru ratings above are spectacularly similar, with Lemming's strong endorsement the only one that finds him outside a narrow band centered around #150.
General Excitement Level: High, minus a pip or two. He's not Devin Gardner in terms of upside but those skills in this offense should provide an immediate boost, and I'd be surprised if he wasn't a four-year starter.
Projection: Here's me on a limb: I think Forcier will be the starting quarterback this year. Wow, this limb… it's very wobbly no it's not it's the ground.
Light day today due to Spain-USA. May we die with honor. Braves and Birds previews it for you.
Times and dates. A press release containing every exciting Big Ten matchup against Towson has been C&Ped into the diaries. Michigan games listed:
- Western Michigan at MICHIGAN, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Notre Dame at Michigan, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Eastern Michigan at MICHIGAN, Big Ten Network, Noon ET
- MICHIGAN at ILLINOIS, ABC, 2:30 p.m. CT
Yes, Western Michigan at Michigan is a 3:30 ABC game. Woo! It's not like there's anything else going on but Jebus. If the rest of the schedule wasn't dire enough to get WMU @ M on ABC I'd put in my usual complaint about a home 3:30 start really impinging on my ability to see games around the country.
Also: was it widely known that the Illinois game would be a 3:30 ABC affair?
We were good except for the eighty yard touchdown we gave up six times. I couldn't dig up a specific instance of this concept in the archives, but I'm pretty sure at various times last year I described the defense as doing pretty well except for the four long touchdowns. Michigan wasn't a team you drove the field on, it was a team you mostly failed against until someone in the secondary or one of the linebackers screwed up and then you ran for a long time and got seven points. Sometimes this happened most of the day (Illinois), sometimes it didn't.
It turns out there are numbers to support this idea:
The most interesting name on this list is Michigan. They were seventh in Success Rates+ but 62nd in PPP+ [Points Per Play]. That suggests that they played pretty efficient defense overall, not giving up consistent gains, but the breakdowns they did suffer were large ones, and they gave up far too many big plays.
There aren't any helpful glossary links that explain exactly what goes into these metrics, unfortunately, so I can't tell you if they attempt to account for the terrible field position Michigan found itself in time and again, but even that can't explain all of this discrepancy.
So: the stats point a finger squarely at last year's safeties, with some bonus points accruing to the sloppy linebacking.
More metrics for good. The Free Press summarizes Steele's metrics on Michigan, all of which point in the right direction. Many of them will be familiar to readers of this blog:
- Teams coming off extremely negative turnover years improve 80% of the time.
- Teams who lose three or more close games than they win improve basically 80% of the time.
- Michigan returns many starters.
- And holy hell the offense has to be way better.
Steele predicts an improved season for the Wolverines, the fourth-most improved season nationally, trailing only Illinois, Ohio and UCLA. He also sees them in the Champs Sports Bowl against Miami (Fla.).
Raise your hand if you'd take that right now. That appears to be everyone.
Another bullet in the head. Man, this coaches poll thing… eh… not so good:
the Coaches poll is a different story. Only 5 of the 18 non-BCS teams have a positive average, meaning that the overwhelming majority of non-BCS teams drop further in the Coaches poll after a loss than the average team does. (It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots.) In fact, the Coaches dropped non-BCS teams more than the average in nearly 2/3’s of their losses. Looking at it one final way, all of the BCS teams combine for the average 0.0 in the Coaches poll – non-BCS teams combine for a -1.6 average, losing a spot and a half more per game than BCS teams.
And Carson went forth amongst the Hittites, and slew many, and gloried in the destruction, whereupon he was released from the football team to the annoyance of his high school coach. Minor PR fire at Detroit Renaissance arising from an interview with its head coach. First, the facts: Ren's Antonio Watts is being interviewed by "Hondo," who's a Spartan-slanted (and apparently unemployed now) TV guy the RCMB mocks.
First he references Carson Butler—"now with the Green Bay Packers"—as one of the major athletes in Renaissance's past, at which point Hondo asks why everyone loves Dantonio, at which point Watts says, in effect, "Dantonio shows up."
Then there's some garbled ungrammatical stuff from Hondo about the current Ren kids at State; Watts launches into this apropos of nothing—Hondo never mentions Michigan:
"I had two kids who went to the University of Michigan with Lloyd Carr and when Rodriguez took over last year, in my opinion they weren't done well. They weren't treated well. Carson had to leave early… to the NFL, and Andre Criswell, who's still up there, he's a graduate assistant who's not doing anything. And that hurt my heart. And I have a kid at West Virginia who's not very happy there. And I feel that."
Well, then. One: don't expect anyone out of Ren to go to Michigan in the near future. But let's not confuse this coach's slant with reality. Criswell is a great guy but he was the last guy in his recruiting class, a guy Carr offered on signing day because he had an extra scholarship. He came in as a fullback, never played under Carr in three years, and never played under Rodriguez. As mentioned, he's currently a grad assistant. I'm finding it difficult to see how that can be spun as anything negative. I'm even assuming his withdrawal from the program was entirely his decision: Michigan has extra scholarships this year. So what the hell?
And Carson Butler… well. Carson Butler is the most embarrassing program alum in the last decade. He punched a Notre Dame player last year. The year before that he participated in the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, was kicked off the team by Carr, and only let back on after he managed to evade legal consequences. At the time it seemed clear that Carr would have rather washed his hands of him then and there but couldn't justify it since he was acquitted. On the field the guy was a false-start prone headcase whose interest in blocking was nil.
And the stories that have hit my inbox about him have been either hilarious or disturbing, or both. There's a typical Carson Butler story in that thread linked above; I've heard three or four others of similar vintage. Unless this is an amazing hoax, the guy is a sociopath who got far more consideration than he deserved from Michigan.
So over it. A couple of weeks ago, Rich Rodriguez called up a couple of guys in West Virginia in an attempt to bury the hatchet. Here's how that went:
My wife is not a sports fan.
Recently, though, she read the front page article by the Daily Mail's Jake Stump about Rich Rodriguez, the one where the former West Virginia University coach said how much he loved West Virginia and hoped the tension between him and hard-core Mountaineer football fans was fading.
Her observation after reading the article was, "Who is this man? What a pitiful, whiny, self-serving creature."
You, sir, have a very dramatic wife. Who likes adjectives.
Teeny tinies are the trend. Some of the roiling sea of consternation about Michigan's future is about the tiny wide receivers and their unsuitability for the NFL and that sort of thing. Maybe this helps?
Though there were no wide receivers taken in the first round in 2008, 10 went in Round 2, and a quick look at their first-year statistics paints an interesting picture. The success among the smaller guys was led by 5-10, 182-pound Eddie Royal of Denver, who embarrassed then-Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener on Monday Night Football to the tune of nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. That was just the opening salvo in a season that saw Royal finish with 91 catches for 980 yards in 15 games.
Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is another example of a small receiver having a big impact as a rookie. At 5-10, 175, he finished with 62 catches for 912 yards, but only two touchdowns. Even the surprise first receiver taken in 2008, 5-11, 184-pound Donnie Avery of St. Louis, had a stellar debut. He had 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns, not too shabby for a 'rook.'
Meanwhile, all the big guys from that draft haven't done anything. Now, none of these guys are 5'2" or whatever Jeremy Gallon is, but they are in the range that of a Je'Ron Stokes. And if you're one of these guys you're probably going to go to the school that can best deploy your tiny windmilling legs, right?
Linked to articles on SC QB Cornelius Jones, SC WR Nick Jones($), DC LB Javarie Johnson, OH S Kurtis Drummond, FL RB Eduardo Clements, MI QB commit Devin Gardner, SC QB commit Cornelius Jones, LA QB Munchie Legaux, MI RB Austin White, AZ S Marquis Flowers, OH OL Skyler Schofner, GA DE Henry Anderson, FL RB Roy Finch, MI P Mike Sadler (more($)).
Removed TX LB Corey Nelson(dropped M), VA DT Evan Hailes (ditto), OH LB Jordan Hicks (basically dropped us), NC DE Gabe King (M not top 4). Didn't quite remove MI LB Daniel Easterly despite his Illinois commitment.
FL RB Eduardo Clements
A couple more guys Michigan was following on Twitter but weren't being followed by (Hailes, Hicks, King) hit the bricks, as per usual. Two situations merit a little more discussion:
- Cass Tech LB Daniel Easterly committed to Illinois. I didn't remove him from the board in case a Michigan offer would warrant further consideration by him, but he didn't show at camp. That signals a lack of interest in getting that offer, and I don't expect anything will come of it.
- TX LB Corey Nelson got dropped from the board after announcing a top five that had Michigan nowhere in it, but I re-added him after a weird article in which he claimed he would take an official to Michigan, which you can read a summary of at Burnt Orange Nation.
Third (Second?) Tailback
Various recruiting sites are asserting that TX RB Tony Drake is actually being brought in as a slot receiver, FWIW, though I think that determination will depend a lot on the composition of the roster next fall and is far from decided. So more tailbacks might be in order.
FL RB Roy Finch is a high-rated waterbug sort who Michigan has offered, but this article doesn't mention them:
Finch said Oklahoma and Stanford are “right up there” on his list favorite schools. However, he says his mind is not made up quite yet. “I really think every school is in the hunt,” Finch said. “I just really have to get down and visit some schools and find out what is best for me.”
Finch added schools won’t have to wait too much longer, though, before his decision is made. “When the recruiting process first started, I thought about prolonging it,” he said. “But now, I want to get it out of the way before the season starts.”
Blah. If Finch doesn't wait for officials he'd have to shell out for an unofficial to visit M; without that he's headed elsewhere.
MI RB Austin White has been rumored to be a Michigan lean for a while now but he's playing it cool in this article:
"I'm still not really comfortable with what I've seen," White said. "I'm going to LSU July 21 and check that out. I'll get a chance to talk to the coaches.
"I might hit a couple other schools too, but I'm not sure."
Michigan and Michigan State were hit on a camp swing, as was Illinois. There have been several reports reporting a significant, but private, Michigan lead, and I still feel confident White will be a part of the class.
And camp week's most unusual visitor was FL RB Eduardo Clements, who visited, claimed he would decide between Michigan and Georgia after he came back, and saw this written about him in the aftermath:
Apparently Booker T. Washington H.S. (Miami) standout running back Eduardo Clements got a big bug put in his ear when he got to Michigan on Tuesday. Clements reportedly has dropped FSU as his top team and has put Michigan at the head of the class. Clements cited the contrast in styles as his primary reason for this.
Okay: I don't think that's true. Clements was quoted elsewhere as being down to M and UGA, so that bit of information has to be regarded skeptically. But Clements has backed off his decision to decide, which is good since the conventional wisdom was that Georgia would lock this guy down if that came off. He's also added Miami back in. The best hope here is that Clements holds off for some fall officials.
Clements, by the way, is a Rivals 100 guy who was highly impressive at camp. He would be a ver' nice pickup.
One guy who it looks like will be on the outside looking in: MI RB Nick Hill did not get an offer after his camp trip. He did pick one up from State, which is a little odd given their offense and his size (a 5'9" Ringer is one thing, but Hill is seriously tiny). The running backs in state could fall out in the opposite fashion everyone expected, with White ticketed for M while Hill sucks it up and heads to East Lansing.
Michigan's locked down one interior lineman and remains in good shape with FL OL Torrian Wilson, who spent a full week($) in Ann Arbor recently. That wasn't all camping and whatnot, as he was visiting a local aunt, but he did take the opportunity to visit the Michigan campus a few additional times. Miami remains a threat but it's hard to see anyone else coming in for him; successfully locking him down would end Michigan's interior OL recruiting.
So that would take care of interior linemen, leaving Michigan to pick up one or two tackles. Obviously Highest Most Holy Priority of Priorities is MN OL Seantrel Henderson, but there are a couple other possibilities out there. OH OL Skyler Schofner has an offer but plans on waiting to decide:
"I'll probably make (a decision) after football season," the big lineman said. "Right now, I'm considering everyone. I can't be judging anyone right now (by games) on TV and all of that. I want to see for myself."
On the other side of the ball, Michigan does draw a mention from PA DT Sharrif Floyd in a post-camp AMP interview, but it sounds like Penn State, USC, and Florida are in better shape. Floyd does plan to take his officials and commit at the Army game, so you know the drill: get him on campus and there's a chance.
MI DT Jonathan Hankins, meanwhile, is an enormous puffy version of Hill. He camped but did not get an offer after showing his conditioning to be lacking. Michigan doesn't want to actually have Barwis kill and eat anyone, so that's an issue. Michigan might follow him into the fall after giving him instructions to get in better shape; at this point I don't think that's particularly likely. DT is going to be a hard spot to fill.
The Man Who Would Be Space Emperor
Zoltan the Inconceivable shuffles off this eligibility coil this fall, of course, leaving a yawning cavern at the punting position that no one will ever fill. But men will try… men will try.
There have been a couple other names thrown around at the position (specifically: WI P Will Hagerup and FL P Brandon Tarpley) but it's looking like MI P Mike Sadler is going to be the guy. He showed at Michigan's camp and did well:
“It went well,” he explained to GBW. “I was only there for the second day, as I had a prior commitment on the first day. But I punted well. I did have a shaky session in there, but I got right back at it, and people were impressed ... so it went well."
And this is about as blunt as recruits get:
"And," he added, "I’m hoping to be their guy.” …
“I’d be very humbled (if they offered). In terms of taking it or not, I’d have to think about it -- but they’re definitely my top choice right now. So things are looking good.”
Read: offer = commit. How likely is that offer? Well, they're going to take someone at the spot and Sadler's got some impressive offers—LSU and Alabama($), for two—so once Michigan sits down to talk about special teams offers it would be a surprise not to see Sadler issued a letter.
Ah, hell: this was obvious once Michigan took a commitment from Cornelius Jones but it hurts all the same:
ESPN reports that Edna Karr multitalented QB Munchie LeGaux (6'4-180) has Oregon atop his list at this time. Michigan, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ole Miss are all a step behind for the dual threat star. He plans on majoring in sports medicine.
Legaux will probably hit "Happy Trails" in the near future; with that and the abortive commit attempt of TX LB Holmes Onwukaife, Michigan's awesome name quotient looks to take a dive this year.
Ack Potential Future WR
So the assumption on SC QB commit Cornelius Jones is that if QB doesn't pan out we'll see him move. I was hoping safety, but that's not what he's been told:
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said he would start Jones out at quarterback, and if that didn't work out, most likely move him to receiver.
“That would be okay,” said Jones, who has 4.47 speed in the 40-yard dash. “I like wide receiver. But I'm looking forward to giving quarterback a try.”
Nice fake 40, BTW. Hear me now and believe me later: one of our zillion WR recruits will be in the secondary before the end of 2010-2011.
Weekly Gardner Porn-type Substance
Some fluff on the Sound Mind/Sound Body camp that happened a couple weeks ago strikes upon Gardner's performance:
The event was dotted with standout moments by numerous players, but none was more consistently dominant than Inkster's Gardner. He has staked his claim as the state's top player with outright dominance in camps and combines throughout the spring and summer. His Sound Mind/Sound Body performance was more of the same.
"We all know he's a great athlete and he showed that by doing very well at receiver in addition to quarterback," said Scout.com Midwest analyst Allen Trieu. "What has impressed me the most recently, though, is how much he has improved as a passer. His mechanics are like night and day from this time last year and his passes have much more zip. The work he has put in as a passer has paid off."
Gardner also played enough wide receiver to convince observers he was the best guy at that position there, too. Seven-on-seven video from Michigan's camp for you:
I should point out that from reports Gardner had a rough day overall in the 7-on-7. That's not wholly surprising—he still needs a lot of work with reads and routes he hasn't been getting in these camps—but also might retard what looked like a sure flight towards the top of recruiting lists.
Cracking Glenville(?) And Other Safeties
OH S Latwan Anderson also showed for Michigan's 7-on-7 camp, where he was utterly dominant according to observers. (Video if you're intrigued.) Michigan, Michigan State, and WVU have been Anderson's top three for a while, but in the aftermath of the camp that list has changed:
Highly recruited Glenville H.S. defensive back and Gridironstuds.com member Latwan Anderson has announced his Top 5 of: #1 West Virginia, #2 Michigan, #3 Georgia, #4 North Carolina and #5 Miami, FL. Anderson says this list is final “no more changes.”
That site is still not 100% reliable in my mind, but it's been pretty good over the last few months and there was a premium article confirm that so there you go. I'm not aware that Anderson has visited any of his top five aside from Michigan and WVU, and the two leaders are supposed to be close to neck-and-neck. Anderson was a WVU fan when he was younger.
(Meanwhile, SpartanMag's Matt Dorsey, who if you don't know is like Tom Beaver plus an enormous inferiority complex and minus any shred of dignity, says "Ohio State and MSU are considered the favorites." Whoops. OSU might be a factor if they offer, but State just got pwned.)
Another safety to keep an eye on is some guy from South Carolina named Detrick Bonner, who popped up for the first time in an AJC article claiming offers from about a dozen programs and… uh… this leader?
He had 11 offers as of Wednesday, favoring Michigan the most. But it’s clear he hasn’t made a decision and Clemson, where he has camped, made an impression on the 6-foot, 165-pound receiver.
“The fact that they gave me my own tour, they showed more love, I guess,” Bonner told the AJC.
ACK receiver, yes, but no: at Michigan he's a DB, obviously. This is the first I've heard of Bonner; often these weird one-off stories are followed up by others that never mention Michigan at all and a commitment to a school somewhere in the South, but if he's got a Clemson offer and still says M leads this one might actually be something to watch.
Finally, OH S Kurtis Drummond visited M and MSU and has some unsurprising leaders in the aftermath of that:
Officials are on tap.
Etc.: SC WR Nick Jones says South Carolina leads($), which okay. Not sounding good with GA DE Henry Anderson. AZ S Marquis Flowers disses USC camp because it's too expensive, so don't expect him to take an unofficial to M.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, RB Teric Jones, RB Vincent Smith, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, and QB Denard Robinson.
|West Palm Beach, Florida - 6'0" 202
|Scout||3*, #11 K|
|Rivals||2*, #8 K|
|ESPN||77, #16 K|
|Others||#1 K to Lemming|
|YMRMFSPA||Kickers of Christmas Past|
Brendan Gibbons was Michigan's second choice at kicker after Penn State (and onetime Michigan) commit Anthony Fera. Fera may be rated higher, but has he ever smoked some fool?
Eh… maybe. Fera's a pretty big dude for a kicker. But it's not on the internet so screw that guy in the ear.
Kickers, who tend to melt down at the slightest provocation, are almost fruitless to project but Michigan might be better at picking out their guys than most since former M kicker Brandon Kornblue has begun carving a career for himself as a guru in the field. Kornblue held a bunch of camps and reported back positively on Gibbons:
For the first time this summer, the Kornblue Kicking School, run by former U-M kicker Brandon Kornblue, was Michigan’s primary camp for evaluating kicker prospects. The camp attracted some of the nation’s elite prospects. The top performer at the June 29-30 camp, according to Kornblue, was West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Neumann’s Brendan Gibbons.
Michigan duly offered and, as is usual when it comes to specialists, the offer was quickly accepted.
Gibbons's got a bigger leg than Michigan kickers of the recent past, having hit a 52-yarder in high school. Rivals says he possesses the third-strongest leg in the class. And though kicking guru Chris Sailer has a vested interest in pumping up one of his proteges, he echoes the big leg stuff:
He has a huge leg and gets the ball up well. Kicks off the ground for FG's and off the 1" for kickoffs. One of the strongest legs in the nation.
ESPN says… well… you see… he's a kicker:
He gets into his field goals quickly and has smooth tempo. Powerful leg and has kicked several field goals over 40 yards including a 52 yarder. Kickoffs average about 5 yards deep with good hang of about 4.0 seconds.
And though he didn't get a lot of work as a senior, when called upon he was accurate:
The 6-1, 205-pound Gibbons has had a strong senior season, converting 10 of 12 field goals with a long of 52 yards. He also has hit 93 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks, and most go out the back of the end zone. Gibbons leg strength is one of his best assets and he expects he'll be able to show it off early at Michigan.
"I hope I can start right away; that's my goal," he said. "I'm pretty sure both their kickers are seniors and that's what they want me to do, so I'll do it. Coach Rodriguez said I might have a shot at punting too."
That 93% touchback number is based on a higher tee and kicks from the 40, so don't expect that to be replicated at Michigan.
He at one point noted Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the MVP of last year’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl who had a drawn-out recruiting process that ultimately came down to the Buckeyes and Wolverines, “should be wearing blue.”
Gibbons isn’t just all show, though. He was consistently booming the ball on field goals and kickoffs during practice.
Even Penn State signee Eric Shrive took note of the leg:
Brendan Gibbons is the East kicker, and Shrive said he was teeing the ball up at the opposite 45-yard line and booting the thing through the uprights and onto the running track beyond the field. That's a 65-yarder with some distance to spare.
"Our kicker is nasty," Shrive raved.
So: Gibbons can kick it far indeed, and has at least two folks very much in his corner—you'll note Tom Lemming's ranking above. Michigan clearly preferred Fera, though, and so there were probably some consistency issues Gibbons had that Fera lacked. Either way he should be better than the dual-headed walk-ons of the past couple years. Or maybe not. This is a kicker, after all.
Guru Reliability: Low. Is kicker.
General Excitement Level: Is kicker.
Projection: Is kicker. And starts this year… how well I can't tell you.
lolfans. I don't mean to take a shot at Ohio State fans in this specific instance, but I did find this shocking development in the Jamaal Berry case funny:
Much was also made of the fact that Berry was listed at 5-8 in his arrest report, though Ohio State lists the incoming recruit at 5-11. While it’s true that height numbers are routinely inflated during both recruiting and college ball, it’s worth pointing out that Berry’s height (and weight) information may have came from his (two year-old) driver’s license and he’s grown the two to three inches since then.
"Oh no! Our star-studded RB recruit might not make it to campus!" was quickly replaced with "oh no! he might be way smaller than reputed!" Which, honestly, would be exactly my reaction if Rodriguez didn't appear to prefer his running backs bite-sized.
Drama. The Big 33 game—an all-star affair between Pennsylvania and Ohio—took place over the weekend, with Ohio winning on a one-yard dive by an offensive lineman. Fitzgerald Toussaint participated and scored twice on a 46 yard swing pass and a six-yard pitch sweep. You can see them for yourself (sort of) at 1:20 and 4:30 in this dramatic highlight video:
Needs more lightning bolts. That first touchdown was impossible to make out, so a couple of descriptions follow. One:
Akron quarterback recruit Patrick Nicely tossed a pass to Toussaint in the left flat where he cut back to the middle and outran the defense for a 46-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
The same kind of thing worked big for Ohio on its next try, three wideouts going deep to clear out the secondary and Nicely finding Fitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan) in the flat and Toussaint making open-field things happen for a 46-yard touchdown.
Fitzgerald Toussaint: where open field things happen.
I forget to spell you again. Every time I go a week or two without spelling "Smotrycz" I forget how to do it and end up typing all sorts of weird stuff in a vain attempt to figure it out, but Smotrycz is endeavoring to come up often enough to forestall this, which I appreciate. The latest events in Smotrycz's slow-motion summer explosion were the Rumble in the Bronx, at which this…
Evan Smotrcyz (6′8″ Jr. SF, Reading (MA) New Hampton Prep) This weekend, he showed again that he’s really come into his own as he continues to play well. He shot the ball well from long range and managed to be aggressive without forcing something that isn’t there. Besides his three-point shots, he scored on jumpers off the dribble and found openings to drive to score as well. The Michigan commit has had a solid spring.
(Note that he's shrunk a couple inches here.) …and the NBAPA, at which this…
The Michigan commit is not that athletic and his game isn’t necessarily aesthetically pleasing. Smotrycz, however, produces. He can score at all three levels and has to the tune of 13 points per game. He can also find the open man and has a penchant for coming up with 50/50 balls. He is not a prospect who everyone is going to love, but it is evident why coach John Beilein thinks highly of him.
…which actually seemed a little negative, as Smotrycz was voted to the camp's 20-man all star team (there were 80 prospects in attendance) and finished around tenth in scoring. It was a busy week for Brandan Kearney and Trey Zeigler, too.
Drafting. The NHL draft approaches and should see as many as six future Wolverines taken, though two of them won't arrive on campus this year. Both future-future Wolverines play on the same team: Rhode Island native Mac Bennett is a member of Michigan's loaded 2010 class, and forward Derek Deblois is currently scheduled to come in for 2011(!), pending early departures. The Providence Journal has an article breaking down their prospects. RLR's Kyle Woodlief on Bennett:
"Someone’s going to like him enough to step up and take him in the second round,'' probably from 45 to 50. Woodlief said that he does not like Bennett’s “lack of discipline in the defensive end. He’s more like a forward playing defense.’’
Bennett is a strong skater –– he has “jets,’’ Woodlief said. “He’s able to create odd-man rushes with his wheels,’’ he said, and “he can handle the puck at high speed.’’
Woodlief suggests, apropos of nothing, that Bennett should go to major junior. Thanks for nothing, Kyle. Deblois, meanwhile, is projected as a sixth or seventh rounder. Woodlief, again, provides the most bluntly interesting assessment:
“He really has soft hands. He knows where the back of the net is. Doesn’t really like to play in traffic, from what I’ve seen. His skating is slightly above average.’’
A Kings scout also chips in:
"He is a very good skater, carries the puck with much jump and deception. Works the boards, corners, goes hard to the net, has real nice hands, puck carrying, puck handling and passing skills, creative offensively, distributes the puck very well. Has to be a little bit more consistent game to game."
The article consists entirely of scouting reports, so there's plenty more at the above link. (HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
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