in town for free camps
As usual, new commit means we hit the front page. Action since last rankings:
12-19-10 Iowa loses commitment from Mika'il McCall (false alarm from the recruiting sites).
12-20-10 Illinois gains commitments from Dondi Kirby and Kenny Nelson. Minnesota gains commitments from Grayson Levine and Marcus Jones. Nebraska loses commitment from Tevin Mitchell. Wisconsin gains commitment from Devin Gaulden.
12-22-10 Illinois loses commitment from Tyler Marcordes.
12-24 Michigan gains commitment from Matt Goudis. Minnesota gains commitment from Drayquan Crawford.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn 1 star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45, except JuCo players, who aren't included in the average).
Full data after the jump.
CA K Matt Goudis, though he said he wouldn't be decommitting from Boise State, has done just that and pledge to Michigan.
|3*, #5 K||2*, 5.4, #12 K/P||3*, 77, #16 K/P|
The sites are unanimous: Goudis is 6-0, 165 (however relevant that is for a kicker). They're in semi-agreement on his ability, too, ranking him anywhere from the #5 to #16 kicker in the nation (though Scout is the only service that ranks them independently from punters). If you separate punters, he's Rivals' #7 pure kicker, and #9 to ESPN, bringing the rankings much closer in line.
ESPN's breakdown is way more brief than we're used to:
Matt Goudis is a refined ball striker. The ball jumps off his foot and he in great control of his rhythm and follow-through. His motion is very repeatable... Matt's hang-times on his kick-offs are solid and he should be able to compete early in college on both field goals and kick offs. Matt gets good height on his FG off the ground and should not have a difficult transition to the college game. Matt has a solid high school resume and has game experience making big field goals for his high school team.
It also mentions that he's a good punter, with the athleticism to run the fake punt, but with Will Hagerup in town, that's likely to be irrelevant at Michigan. Scout hears from his kicking coach Chris Sailer:
Matt is an oustanding kicker. He has a good leg and makes kicks consistently with great height. He is the top field goal kicker in the nation in the Class of 2011. Hard working young man with a great attitude. Big time D1 scholarship prospect.
The the commitment post ($), Sailer says he's the "best pure field goal kicker in the nation." He was in Sailer's national Top 12 this summer, but Chris Sailer himself ranks Matt #2 in the country, saying:
He has a huge leg, makes FG's with ease off the ground, and kickoffs with the best of them. Mentally he is very strong showing great maturity to kick at the next level.
Matt himself tells Scout his power will improve when he gets into the weight room, so there's that to look forward to. His long this season was 54 yards (though I assume that's off a tee).
Goudis decommitted from Boise State (to whom he committed in October) to join the Wolverines. According to the premium sites, his only other offers came from Cal and Fresno State.
Scout has partial senior stats:
6-of-10 field goals this year – his longest a 54-yard boot and another 52 yarder for good measure; averaging 43 yards per punt.
Those numbers don't jump off the page to you (especially if he's kicking off a tee), but without knowing the distances on the attempts he missed, it's hard to be too concerned about it - aside from the general panic we've grown accustomed to feeling.
Full game-by-game breakdown in the next edition of Friday Night Lights.
FAKE 40 TIME
The premium sites don't list a 40 time for Goudis, and since he's a kicker it's probably irrelevant. Five FAKEs out of five.
There are several other videos on Youtube, including nailing a 54-yarder.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Goudis is a pretty good kicker prospect, but we've seen that in recent years without much success at the college level. However, the coaching staff feels he's good enough to spend a scholarship on, so he'll get every chance in the world to win the job for next fall.
Recruiting kickers is something of a crapshoot, so it's hard to project too much one way or the other. For a guy who's likely to be a four-year starter, he could be a moderate improvement over the 2010 kicking situation (gulp), or he could eentually become an All-American type.
I prefer to believe in the latter.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has been actively recruiting a kicker for the better part of the 2010 recruiting season, so this comes as no surprise. It takes up one of those 18-20 spots - Michigan currently has about 15 commits, with Anthony Zettel, Chris Bryant, and Kris Frost likely leaning toward going Blue - leaving just a couple more to fill spots.
That means Michigan has to go hard after a defensive tackle (I'm now considering OH DE Commit Chris Rock a definite DT) and a safety, and then if they have another couple spots - for example if Antonio Kinard is not a part of the class - they can fill them as they see fit.
via Roar of the Tigers.
Also the front of the MGoWedding's save the date cards, minus the elder-terrifying text.
It's time for the annual approximately week-long Christmas break, which extends from tomorrow, the 23rd, to the 28th. Normal blog service resumes the 29th, with exceptions made for breaking news of an important variety. A recruiting dead period just began and the only sporting event in the interim is a basketball game against Bryant they should win by 30, so monumental news is unlikely.
Merry Christmas/Holiday of Choice.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Blake Countess Goes Blue
MD CB Blake Countess committed to Michigan last week. Tom spoke with Blake shortly after the commitment, and he had this to say:
I just fell in love with the school, the facilities, and everything the University has to offer really.
He also talked to The Baltimore Sun's Matt Bracken:
“The Big House, I knew about it but hadn't really seen it at all,” Countess said. “When I went there, it was just unbelievable. I really fell in love with the school, the atmosphere and Ann Arbor.”
Touch the Banner on Blake's game:
I can't honestly say that he's "great" at any one thing. But unlike several other cornerback recruits over the past few years (Justin Turner was too big, Demar Dorsey was too thuggish, Boubacar Cissoko was short and harbored too much ill will toward delivery boys), Countess doesn't have any glaring deficiencies. He has decent size, runs well, has good hips, is a solid tackler, and tracks the ball well in the air.
Hypothetical Decommitment Apocalypse
We've addressed rumors (and facts) re: Demetrius Hart's commitment status time and again, but the case remains the same: He's committed to Michigan as long as Rich Rodriguez is the coach. Florida scrapping the spread offense for pro-style sets narrows down the likely competition for Hart's signature, helping Michigan hold onto him. Of course, Alabama just so happening to spend thousands of dollars upgrading Dr. Phillips's facilities is coincidence, I assure you.
Elsewhere in decommitment scuttlebutt, FL CB Commit Dallas Crawford is starting to hear from his childhood favorite, the Miami Hurricanes. Like Dee, Dallas is unlikely to decommit as long as Rich Rodriguez's job is safe, but this certainly throws a wrench in the works. Tom talked to his coach, who gave some reassuring quotes. At least Miami's fans are sure to show the love.
"I think it's a media thing, what they're trying to do, making it a big deal,"
Which is 100% true, of course. Fellow commit Desmond Morgan is effusive in his praise of what a "great guy" Rodriguez is. He's also confident that the staff will return, but will stick with Michigan no matter what. (in the article above, Blake Countess makes similar statements).
And, while we're on the topic, I guess I'll have to mention the Detroit News article stating Dave Brandon's timetable is affecting recruiting, if only because Tom is quoted. My personal thought is that he's not going to change his mind, regardless of how much people bitch about it, so what's the point in continuing to rail on about it?
Looking for positive news? MI RB/Slot Commit Justice Hayes says more commits are on the way.
NC QB Marquise Williams is going to stick with UNC ($, info in header), unfazed by the USC-level sanctions headed their way. Of course, there's a contradictory article about his status every other day, so bear with that one.
NC WR/LB Kris Frost talked recruiting before participating in the Shrine Bowl last weekend:
"It's time for the (Army) All-American game in San Antonio and I'm really excited about that. [If he could choose what to play there] It would be receiver, my wish. That just goes back to showing what I can do. A lot of people want to stress and say, 'You're so good at linebacker so why are you thinking of receiver?' I haven't really been seen at receiver and I don't feel like it's that big of a deal. I'll always have something to fall back on. It's not like I'm running away from something. I feel like if I have an opportunity to do both I'm going to take it."
As for what's going to be the deciding factor between Michigan, LSU, and Auburn:
"It's pretty much going to come down to comfort level," Frost said. "It's going to be what is the best fit for me and what team is going to expose me the most and allow me to make plays and be the best I can be. I'm going to have some time now to look it over with my family and think about it and now's the time to get back to school, get back to studying and get back to the recruiting process."
He plans to make his choice at the Army game. Frost was named the defensive MVP for North Carolina in the game.
High school fluff on Shawn Conway's JuCo adventure.
Michigan sent a big contingent of recruiters to visit SC WR Hakeem Flowers ($, info in header).
OH TE Darien Bryant committed to Nebraska, but wait! He immediately decommitted, so he may still be an option.
Happy Trails, NC TE Drew Owens, who committed to South Carolina ($, info in header).
Local fluffon CA K Connor Loftus, who holds a Michigan offer:
He came into Saturday night's CIF state championship Open Division bowl game with 15 field goals, including a long of 53, and he hasn't missed from under 40 yards. In the Pac-5 semifinals, he had a 68-yard punt against Mission Hills Alemany. Even more impressive is his ability to put the ball consistently into the end zone on kickoffs.
Yes plz. He plans to visit.
In his weekly update, Tom has information of FL S Roderick Ryles and MD DT Darian Cooper considering Michigan.
Michigan, Oregon, and Ohio State are the favorites for IL QB Robert Gregory. He likes that they "play athletes" at the QB position. Gregory was All-State as a junior.
The other part of Tom's brief interview with new Michigan commit Blake Countess regards recruiting for the Wolverines:
Ohh of course. Me and Stefon are really close, so thats definitely going to be something I look foward to doing in the future. We have a bunch of underclassmen studs at my school.
"Stefon" refers to MD WR Stefon Diggs, one of 15 wideouts Scout has already pegged with 4-star status for the 2012 class.
RC Slocum, man about town. This doesn't have anything to do with anything but here's Joe Paterno doing the limbo:
Sort of, anyway. I don't think you're supposed to go that way. Paterno probably thinks going backwards is a Hun affectation. Also prepare for the OBC to burn himself into your retinas:
These are from a recently unearthed cache of photos of former Texas A&M coach RC Slocum that features both Gorbachev and Mathew McConaughey, although not in the same picture. Barking Carnival theorizes that Slocum is the most interesting man in the world, and it's hard to disagree. Gorby!
OTL on oversigning. ESPN's put out what's hopefully part one of an extensive series of interviews with college athletes who have been screwed out of scholarships and swept under the rug. It's LSU again:
So Les Miles…
- Runs a program that oversigns and cuts players who don't seem useful.
- Doesn't bother to tell players they've been cut in a face to face meeting.
- Relies on someone else to send a letter to the kid.
- Refuses to meet with the kid after he's received the bad news.
- Baldly lies about the kid at media day.
Then Elliot Porter shows up and says he had to be a man about getting cut by Miles, demonstrating more maturity than his erstwhile head coach. Unfortunately for those of us making huge "Please Be Our DC, Randy" signs for the bowl game, Randy Shannon's rep as an awesome dude also takes a huge hit.
Not to beat this dead horse for the thousandth time, but this is some bullshit right here and should be a major target for reform. ESPN's doing the Lord's work, and I hope they continue.
The inevitable redshirt. To reiterate something from Tim's presser recap, Devin Gardner's back problems held him out of the last eight games and have set him up to take a (surprise!) redshirt this season:
“His back has been better, and he’s been able to do most of the stuff today,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Saturday.
Should a medical redshirt be granted, Gardner would, in theory, have two years to hold the starting quarterback job. Denard Robinson is penciled in as the starter through the 2012 season.
Yes, the nature and timing of Gardner's injury is unbelievably convenient, but if they've got documentation they've got it and the NCAA will have to grant Gardner his redshirt. We should all go back and undo the Great Gardner Non-Redshirt Infighting, since it looks like Michigan's going to have its cake and eat it too… unless Rodriguez gets fired and everyone transfers and we're starting Jack Kennedy next year.
Gwaltney in repose. A Bruce Feldman article on well-travelled former blue chip recruit Jason Gwaltney, who I remember openly campaigning for Rivals to raise his ranking as just another message board plebe, has a random quote about Rich Rodriguez($):
He says he did learn how to practice full-speed from his days at WVU. "They chiseled that into my brain," he said. "Coach [Rich] Rodriguez instilled something in me. I still owe that man a lot."
Gwaltney ended up at a D-III HBCU in New Jersey and is in an upcoming all-star game with fellow spectacular flameout Fred Rouse. His brother Scooter Berry was an afterthought throw-in but developed into an All Big East defensive lineman as Gwaltney toured the lower divisions of college football, so he's got an obvious what-could-have-been in his own family.
Hello Georgia? After UGA's athletic director was pulled over for DUI with a girl in the passenger seat and her panties in is lap, UGA has a new athletic director. His first scheduling actions were cancelling games against actual opponents that the old guy had put in place, so it seemed like Georgia's brief glastnost period wherein they were prepared to end their infamous policy of never leaving the South was over. This, then, is a surprise:
Preliminary discussions have taken place with Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State about the prospect of one or more of them scheduling a home-and-home series with Georgia in the future, UGA athletics director Greg McGarity confirmed to Dawgs247.
“We’d love to do a home-and-home with a Big Ten or Midwestern school that has a rich tradition,” McGarity said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.
“Hopefully, within the next year, we’ll be able to have something in writing.”
Georgia and Clemson have a series that extends until 2014, so any series would have to wait until at least then. McGarity says the series would be "way down the road" so one school or the other would have plenty of time to cancel it.
Would Michigan be interested? I'd hope so. Dave Brandon's already set up a neutral site matchup with Alabama that's slightly cool but also thousands of miles from either campus in a generic, if swanky, corporate stadium. From a fan's perspective having a home and home with Georgia is way cooler than a one-off in Dallas. From a financial perspective not so much—Michigan's getting a home game's worth of revenue from the Jerryworld game—but money isn't everything and Michigan needs something to spruce up the schedule in years when Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are all road games. Of course, "sprucing up" the schedule in those years means "making it brutal," so maybe not.
Would they be more interested than the other three schools listed? Probably not. I'd bet Michigan is the least likely of the four to actually land a series with Georgia. Because of their Notre Dame series they have to work in games against actual opponents where they can; Penn State and Ohio State don't have any annual commitments and Notre Dame has to fill twelve games every year.
Limbo update, or backdate, or whatever. Yesterday Tom's recruiting post quoted Darian Cooper saying Tony Dews told him Michigan coaches would "know January first" whether they'd be around next year. Recent commitment Desmond Morgan was told something similar with more confidence but something less than rock-hard certainty:
“I’ve talked with coach Rodriguez and the rest of the coaches and they’re pretty confident he’s going to be there after the season,” Morgan said. “I’m pretty confident as well. No matter what happens, Michigan’s a great football program.”
So that's Morgan and Countess in the boat no matter what. Picking up two commits during this time of uncertainty is a nice insurance policy against the uphill battle a January coaching change would see the new guy fight.
Bang-bang. Soony Saad's been called in to the U20 team, whereupon he scored in a dismantling of Canada and essentially announced he'd be back for 2011:
Philadelphia Union striker McInerney scored in the 50th minute while Saad also notched an impressive 25-yard half-volley score in the 34th.
It's nothing new for Saad, one of the top strikers of the ball in the country, who helped lead unsung Michigan to the College Cup as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. "It was nice being in camp. It was kind of a tough adjustment coming off the college season," he said.
When the subject turned to the College Cup, where the Wolverines suffered a semifinal loss to eventual champion Akron, Saad declined to comment.
"Not until we win the College Cup next season," he said.
The usual disclaimers apply.
Etc.: Zac Ciullo comes in for an extensive profile in the News. Random New Yorker poem about Michigan. Jason King drops some positive fluff about the basketball team along the same lines as my column but with far fewer references to the DOS command line. Might want to update that photo, though.
This should be the last regular edition of Friday Night Lights for the 2011 recruiting class, but there's more to come with new commits and all-star games, etc. If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, @reply me on Twitter or e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
New Commit MD CB Blake Countess
As a defensive back at a program with lots of talent, Countess didn't have to spend much time on offense, and defensive stats go unreported in high school ball. Interpret the numbers below as a small part of his production this season.
Game 1. Preview. Good Counsel defeated Cincinnati St. Xavier 21-6. Article 2. Another article. None of the articles mention Countess, but his junior teammate Stefon Diggs stole the show (more on him in tomorrow's recruitin' post). Blake had 1 rush for 3 yards and 2 receptions for 22 yards.
Game 4. Good Counsel smashed Bishop O'Connell 53-7. Blake didn't accrue any offensive stats.
Game 5. Good Counsel pasted Bishop McNamara 48-0. Blake came up big on special teams:
The only score in the first quarter followed an excellent punt return by Blake Countess of 52 yards to the Mustang 17 yard line...
Then the "Play of the Game" ensued. With McNamara kicking from deep in their own territory, Blake Countess received the punt at the Mustang 39. He headed straight up field and then, behind some solid blocking, broke left and scampered to the end zone...
The Mustangs kicked off to open the second half and Blake Countess, the Gameday Player of the Game, took the kick at the 13 and raced 87 yards for another touchdown.
He also had a 16-yard touchdown reception. The kickoff return:
Game 7. Paul VI. Blake had 3 catches for 39 yards and a score.
Game 8. Good Counsel beat St. John's 27-14. I don't think Blake played in the game.
Game 9. Good Counsel beat Gonzaga 50-38. Blake didn't accrue any offensive stats, but had a 9-ayrd kickoff return.
The official website for Good Counsel Football is a little more... complete. I encourage you to check it out, because it links to a lot of 1-play highlights that aren't feasible to embed here. It credits Blake with the following stats on the year:
|Blake Countess 2010|
|St. Xavier||W 21-6||1||3||1||9||0||9.00||1||0||0||0.00||2||2|
|State College||W 35-13||0||0||3||46||0||15.33||2||34||0||17.00||4||3|
|Paul VI||W 42-0||0||0||3||39||1||13.00||0||0||0||-||1||0|
|St. John's||W 27-14||DNP|
FL RB Demetrius Hart
Dee is the class 6A Player of the Year, which makes him a finalist for the Mr. Football award for the state of Florida. More Dee fluff. He got to attend the Heisman banquet as a candidate for Army Player of the Year.
Last Week: Opponent perspective. Game preview. Previews galore more . Dr. Phillips fell to Miami Central 27-42 in the State Championship Game, and Dee was kept out of the endzone for the first time all year. Video:
Stats below from the DP Website.
|Demetrius Hart 2010|
|Cypress Creek||W 52-0||14||168||4||12.00||1||7||0||7.00||3||24||0||8.00|
|Oak Ridge||W 56-28||21||126||3||6.00||4||37||1||9.25||1||5||0||5.00|
|West Orange||W 49-6||11||121||4||11.00||4||24||0||6.00||2||69||1||34.50|
|Oak Ridge||W 45-0||18||129||4||7.17||2||71||1||35.50||2||86||1||43.00|
|Seminole Ridge||W 38-28||21||218||2||10.38||2||40||0||20.00||3||66||0||22.00|
|Miami Central||L 27-42||20||39||0||1.95||0||0||0||-||6||105||0||17.50|
This week: Dr. Phillips season has ended at 14-1 as the State Runners-up.
FL OL Tony Posada
This week: Plant's season has ended at 13-3 as State Runners-up.
FL CB Dallas Crawford
Crawford participated in an area All-Star game last week, throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass.
South Fort Myers' season ended in the State semifinals. Dallas finished 126/181 passing for 2349 yards and 26 TDs to only 6 interceptions. He ran 112 times for 450 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also had 4+ interceptions, a pair of them returned for scores. He's the career record holder for passing yardage in his county.
Seasons Complete After the Jump
MI RB/Slot Justice Hayes
Hayes missed most of his senior season with a broken wrist. Grand Blanc finished 7-4 and lost in the second round of the State Playoffs to Lake Orion.
MI OL Jake Fisher
Traverse City West's season is over, with a 6-4 record and a loss in the first round of the State Playoffs. Fisher was 1st-Team All-District as a defensive end. Postseason fluff. Jake was named All-Divisions First-Team All-State (Dream Team).
OH OL Jack Miller
St. John's finished the season 11-2 with both losses to Toledo Whitmer (in the second in Round 3 of the State Playoffs). Miller was also named 1st-Team All-District, and the District Lineman of the Year. Also 1st-Team All-State.
OH DE Chris Rock
DeSales's season ended at 5-6 with a loss in the first round of the State Playoffs.
MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer
TX LB Kellen Jones
St. Pius X's season finished with a 10-3 record and a loss in the second round of the TAPPS playoffs. Jones finished with 110 tackles, 25 for loss, and 7 sacks, to go along with 3 fumbles forced, 2 recovered, and a punt block. He was named TAPPS first-team All-State.
MI LB Desmond Morgan
West Ottawa went 8-3 on the season, with a loss in the second round of the playoffs. Desmon was named the captain of the All-Area Defensive First Team, despite spending most of his time as a quarterback.
OH CB/S Greg Brown
MI CB Delonte Hollowell
As we get closer and closer to signing day, Michigan nabbed two quality commitments this week in instate LB Desmond Morgan and Maryland DB Blake Countess. Michigan is currently at 13 commitments, which leaves anywhere between 5-7 more spots open. A few updates from this week, and a look at what could happen going forward:
6'1", 185 lbs.
I'm sure everyone has noticed that Roderick has an outstanding set of dreadlocks, always key in recruiting. Ryles was committed to Arkansas, but recently decommitted/had his offer pulled from the Razorbacks. He has opened up his recruitment, and Michigan will be part of the process.
I'm not with Arkansas anymore, so it's back open with everybody. I'm definitely interested in Michigan. I just talked to Coach Smith on Thursday (10/9).
Dr. Phillips just lost in the state championship game so Roderick will be focusing on recruiting going forward. He hasn't set up his visit date yet, but is looking to do that soon.
6'1", 275 lbs.
I'm not sure where it originated, but there was a rumor that Michigan was out of it for Darian Cooper. That's not entirely true. This was somewhat discussed in this thread earlier, and this is what Darian had to say about it.
Tony Dews came out on Thursday, and we talked about some things. I asked him about the coaching situation and he said that we'll know on January 1st. They're not out of it yet, I'm just concerned with what's going on with them because I had a friend go through that too.
While Michigan isn't out of it for Cooper, they are slightly behind the likes of Penn State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, and Michigan State. We won't know if Michigan is back in it until we know the fate of the coaching staff.
[Ed.: That's quite a statement from Dews, if second-hand. Not even a "we'll be back." Everybody limbo.]
6'4", 230 lbs.
Red Bank, New Jersey
Jack Tabb and recently offered Glenville prospect Frank Clark are the main tight ends on Michigan's board these days. Tabb has decided that he's ready to announce his decision after visiting Michigan, Arkansas, Iowa, and North Carolina.
I'm announcing either Wednesday or Thursday, I'll find out tomorrow. I'll have hats for Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Rutgers, and Iowa.
The coaching situation at Michigan has also been in Tabb's mind recently. He really liked his visit to Ann Arbor, but I wouldn't get your hopes up with him.
- Commit Demetrius Hart told reporters last night that he will officially visit Florida, and still plans on enrolling early wherever he decides to go. If Rich Rodriguez stays, then I think Dee will too. If Rich Rod goes, then so will Hart.
- Instate DB Raymon Taylor was offered by Michigan this week. He's a lifelong Michigan fan, and barring anything out of the ordinary there's a good chance he'll be a part of this class. Taylor is a Rivals four star who was committed to Indiana before their coaching change; the other sites have him a generic three-star.
- The Army All American game will be played on January 8th, and Michigan fans will have reason to watch. Michigan commits DB Blake Countess and RB Demetrius Hart will be in the game. The two prospects announcing their decisions during the game to keep an eye on are FL S Wayne Lyons and NC ATH Kris Frost.
- There's a dead period that starts today that will run through January 3rd. The next big recruiting visit weekend will be that following weekend of the 7th. We'll have more as it gets closer, but so far WR Devin Lucien, TE Frank Clark, DB Sheldon Royster, DB Dallas Crawford, and DE Deion Barnes are scheduled to be there.
12/18/2010 – Michigan 69, Oakland 51 – 9-2
This doesn't happen so much anymore, but back in the day there was a point in the lifetime of any Windows installation at which the operating system was so loaded with cruft that the only thing to do was take it out back, shoot it in the head, and reinstall. During this process there was always a moment when the computer reminded you in all caps that you were about to shoot it in the head.
The moment when you hit "Y" was always slightly* thrilling. At that time you had to beat your head against extended memory to get Master of Magic to play—there was always a chance your brilliant reinstall plot would end with you banging your head against the case screaming vile things about Bill Gates's parentage. But if things worked out you'd be able to open your word processor without it automatically typing "I hate you and you are stupid."**
Watching this year's basketball team is like sitting in front of a blue screen that asks you if you'd like to format C:. Last offseason John Beilein saw that prompt and hit "Y," and how. This was not entirely voluntary, since DeShawn Sims had run out of eligibility and Manny Harris tolerance for college, but Beilein also lost Anthony Wright and Laval Lucas-Perry to smaller schools in the area—seemingly by his choice, not theirs—and fired his entire coaching staff.
As a result Michigan entered the year without five of the nine players Kenpom had individual stats for last year. Only one—seldom-used freshman Matt Vogrich—used enough possessions to escape the "limited roles" dungeon. Here's what the very bottom of Kenpom's "height and other stuff" shows when you order by average experience:
Anyone who had coached the straggling returners and a couple of redshirt freshmen was out the door as well. An entirely new coaching staff started burning up twitter with exclamation points, installing a man-to-man defense, and trying to get three pointers to fall. The Big Ten was projected to be brutal, with Michigan a speed bump. This was to be a year of banging the head upon the case without even much hope that it would amount to anything.
Eleven games in, Michigan has essentially completed the nonconference schedule. A game against 1-9 Bryant remains and Michigan bizarrely takes on Kansas in early January, but we've gotten all the information we're going to get before Michigan's brutal Welcome To The Big Ten And Kansas stretch (all numbers Kenpom):
- Dec 28: #11 Purdue
- Jan 2: #74 Penn State
- Jan 5: #9 @ Wisconsin
- Jan 9: #2 Kansas
- Jan 12: #3 Ohio State
That still looks like pain, but after three bludgeonings of okay teams and one stirring comeback against Tommy Amaker's Ivy League favorites the chance Michigan swipes one of those uphill battles is something less than infinitesimal. They'll be worth watching, at least. The stretch after that is littered with teams from 15 to 81, with just two forays back into the top ten after, and with Kenpom wavering between 7-11 and 8-10 for the league record both math and your lying eyes suggest this is an NIT team.
So that's weird. Weirder still is how this is being accomplished: with fierce man to man defense. After shutting down Keith Benson Michigan is now 16th in defense, and we're getting to the point where you can't wave away the results as small sample size against poor competition. UMHoops:
Michigan’s defense held Oakland – a team that has already faced West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, and Tennessee – to their worst offensive output of the season. I’ve been hesitant to believe that Michigan’s defense is the real deal, because making bad teams look terrible only goes so far, but right now there’s no denying that Michigan is playing great defense.
On one particular possession on Saturday, Michigan did so well over 35 seconds that the crowd rose to its feet like the hockey team had just killed off a 5-on-3 power play. With the offense still bombing away from 3 (sixteenth nationally) despite not making any of them (253rd), the primary difference between this year and last year is a switch-mad man-to-man that is totally unlike anything Beilein's ever put on the court before.
That, the complete lack of seniors, and the expectation the team's best player returns. We're about to hit the stretch in the format process where the drive makes horrible noises and bad sectors pop up, but the path from here to the point where our word processor loves us again is far clearer than it was two months ago. This, too, is slightly thrilling.
*(very, very slightly)
**(Things like this actually used to happen. They were called macro viruses and I managed to get one back in the day when I shared a spreadsheet with a lab partner. I don't remember exactly what the cryptic message was, but whenever I opened Word it would type a bunch of stuff, delete it, and then type something else that might have been "ferret" but is probably just me misremembering things.)
The All-Seeing Eye. You know it's a good game when the thing that makes you wince in the second half is when the other team goes on a run to cut the lead from 20 to 10 because the all-seeing Eye of Kenpom will disapprove. Fouling and whatnot pushed Michigan's final margin out to 18, and the Great Eye is pleased—Michigan has run itself from triple digits after the UTEP game to 52nd. They've cleared Penn State and Iowa and are in a virtual dead heat with #50 Northwestern, #51 Minnesota, and #54 Indiana for the title of Sixth Best Team In The Big Ten According To Ken Pomeroy.
As far as tourney resumes go, Michigan is clearly behind Minnesota and their wins over UNC and WVU but well ahead of Northwestern (one decent win against GT and that's all) and Indiana (best win over Wright State). If the Big Ten is destined for seven bids, the last one seems up for grabs with Michigan in the conversation. I don't think the BT is going to get seven mostly because none of the three teams after Minnesota has a nonconference win that would cause the committee to sit up and notice, but Michigan could be vaguely on the bubble late this year.
Put this in your pocket. Illinois suffered a demoralizing loss to their version of Oakland, barfing up a 57-54 stinker against Illinois-Chicago. The difference is UIC isn't secretly pretty good—they're 5-7 and have already lost to Akron, Illinois State, Central Michigan, and other less than awesome teams. Here's a reason why:
When UIC took the 1-3-1 zone against us, we looked lost, and since we were unable to shoot ourselves out of it, we were flailing.
Well, then. Michigan plays the Illini only once and that's in the middle of February, so maybe this won't have a huge impact. But if Michigan pulls the 1-3-1 out against Illinois remember this post.
(Side note: Central Michigan is completely awful despite having what must be the most talented player in the MAC. Trey Zeigler and company are 2-8 and just got obliterated by Detroit. This is depressing but from the Zeiglers' perspective the only thing keeping dad around is the presence of his son so the decision makes sense.)
Doubling down. Michigan doubled Benson the instant he got the ball, which was new. They hadn't helped out their center all year even when Harvard's counterpart was tearing Morgan up; in this game they forced turnovers and kickouts from Benson all day. Morgan held up pretty well with the help.
Infectious coaching. Beilein must have gotten a tiny thrill after Jon Horford gave up an and-one to Benson in the first half when both Zack Novak and Darius Morris went over to him to demonstrate what he did wrong on the play. Novak even provided helpful "arms straight up" versus "whatever you were doing, freshman" pantomimes.
I know how you feel. The UMHoops game preview said "expect a lot more zone" and I thought "that's a really good thing to put in the preview because it's probably going to be true" and then the only zone we saw was a single possession of 1-3-1 at the end of the first half.
How Darius Morris makes the defense go. Thanks to their huge point guard, Michigan's perimeter rotation of Morris, Novak, Douglass, Hardaway, and Vogrich is all about the same size, which allows them to switch relentlessly on all screens, which goes a long way towards making up for a lack of quickness from the pastier guys in the rotation, which means teams get few opportunities to drive the lane because there's always a dude right in front of them.
Michigan's defense is now Wisconsin's: built on never fouling you, never blocking your shots, never stealing the ball, but forcing you into a wide array of not-very-good shots. Michigan is 10th in three point D, 57th in two point D, 11th in FTA/FGA, 14th in eFG%, and well down the list when it comes to forcing turnovers and getting blocks. Instead of leaving their feet they get in spots to take charges and get their hands in the air.
It's the exact opposite of the 1-3-1, which might make the 1-3-1 pretty effective if they 1) figure out how to use it, and 2) deploy it as a change up.
UMHoops game recap. Beilein on guarding Benson. The Wolverine Blog talks about the defense. Morgan fluff from the News. Five Key Plays from UMHoops features this assist, which wasn't key but it was awesome:
There is a shaky but extant torrent.
New commits for Michigan and it's time to hit the front page. Action since last rankings:
12-13-10 Michigan gains commitment from Desmond Morgan. Minnesota loses commitment from Matt LaCosse, Illinois gains commitment from Matt LaCosse. Illinois gains commitment from Nick North. Indiana loses commitment from Nick VanHoose, Northwestern gains commitment from Nick VanHoose.
12-14-10 Minnesota loses commitment from Marquise Vann. Northwestern gains commitment from CJ Robbins.
12-15-10 Illinois gains commitment from Patrick Flavin. Iowa gains commitment from Dan Heiar. Purdue gains commitment from Sterling Carter. Minnesota gains commitment from Foster Bush.
12-16-10 Michigan State loses commitment from Mika'il McCall. Nebraska gains commitment from Darien Bryant.
12-17-10 Illinois gains commitment from Jeremy Whitlow. Michigan gains commitment from Blake Countess. Wisconsin loses commitment from Trayion Durham. Ohio State gains commitment from Ryan Shazier.
12-18-10 Nebraska loses commitment from Darien Bryant. Minnesota gains commitment from Josh Campion.
12-19-10 Iowa gains commitments from Jacob Hillyer, Rodney Coe, and Mika'il McCall.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn 1 star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45, except JuCo players, who aren't included in the average).
Full data after the jump.
I hope your monitor likes cyan…
I've never been much for criticizing someone else's taste in art. It's a fact of life that some people (my wife) will think a Chagall* is perfect where another person would have a motivational poster or, I dunno, someone's copy of the cover of the Michigan Daily from early January, 1998. Who am I to judge?
Of course, people can come to a general consensus on some art based on a particular work's evocation, effort, insight, execution, etc. For example, 90 percent of Big Ten fans who bothered to approach Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany this week think this is bad art:
And apparently, the commish is listening:
"I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating," Delany said during the interview. "But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising."
Six Zero, official MGoArtist, chimed in with a professional perspective on logo creation, stressing there's a lot more that goes into a logo design than creating something that looks good on a blog. Like writing all the documentation that goes with it, and various formatting options, and vectoring. Suffice to say, your version of Paint probably isn't powerful enough to design the next official Big Ten logo, let alone the accompanying paperwork:
For example, the UM sports department probably issued a new brief last year telling everyone NOT to use the block M with 'MICHIGAN' through the middle, and not to use the one with the blue stroke, and instead use only the single color block M. It might also say you cannot add to the mark, rotate the mark, use different typography for the mark, etc etc. All of this has to be prepared, developed, and considered so that no handling or manipulation of the logo is open to interpretation.
Here's the available literature on Michigan's logo and use. It's enough to fill a small Web site, but it's really not so much that a savvy marketing student couldn't hammer out over a Christmas Break. From Six's description, the image side doesn't seem impossible for someone with the right Photoshop/GiMP/Inkscape plugins. His point, however, is well taken: the difference between putting up a cool-looking logo on MGoBlog and designing the Big Ten's logo is the difference between coming up with the name/logo/jersey design for the H.R.M. Jack Tars ("Halifax Jacks" for short) and starting a hockey team in Nova Scotia.
Of course, none of this excuses the sad and obvious lack of effort and creativity that went into the artwork itself.
On the other end of the spectrum, 99.9 percent of MGoBlog readers who have read more than one recruiting article since coming to this site agree that this is spectacular art:
Michigan's first battery powered defensive backfield recruit is welcomed by UMAmaizinBlue, who wrote an entire "Hello:" post for this guy, including guru rankings, the Scout screenshot above, offers, high school stats, fake 40 time, and Video? Video!!! Just put this thing on Lock-Down mode and watch all of your metaphors come true:
"His hips are always on a swivel: no seriously, his hips are welded to a swivel. As a result, Michigan Robot can allow his body to follow a tackle through to completion even if he doesn't get the initial stop on first contact, which never happens, so disregard that. How is this guy even legally eligible to play against humans?"
If you made it this far without clicking any of the above links to this excellent diary, my advice is click. This is what good art looks like: well thought out, satirical, pointed, and brilliantly executed. This is your Diarist of the Week.
And speaking of high art, y'all are gonna have a cow…
…for your weekly monuMental wallpaper. If you're heading south this New Year's, your standard MSU (YTMSU) jokes still apply.
* To be perfectly honest, I love the Chagall.
Oh Right, We Have Another Football Game!
As such, we continue with our regularly scheduled obsessing over Michigan's next football opponent. Obsessed Guy Number One, please step forward…
BlueSeoul: (waves) Hello.
Obsessed Guy Number One is a Wolverine-American wordslinger from Dictionopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom, who enjoys watching Mississippi State's 2010 entire season and then shooting off game notes in bullets, to varying degrees of graphicality (yes, Windows Live Writer spellchecker, I made that word up). The barrage continues this week with Alcorn State (with pics), Florida, Alabama-Birmingham, and Alabama.
Thank you, Obsessed Guy Number One. Obsessed Guy Number Two, please step out here…
Enjoy Life: (thumbs up). Glad to be back.
Obsessed Guy Number Two is a maize and blue number cruncher from Digitopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom. By this I mean he likes to take numbers and crunch them down so that hundreds of digits will fit in a diary-width graph:
A satisfying, tasty, mint-berry crunch.
EJ's weekly rundown of college football's sabermetrics predicts Miss St. a 5-point favorite. It's inspiring work, as it inspired this next guy too. Obsessed Guy Number Three, come on down…
Misopogon's bolded subconscious: Free Mo! Free Mo! Free Mo!
Miss St. Preview, and Bowl Watchability Index Using FEI
Cheating at my (ESPN confidence) office bowl game pool.*
Calculating how to maximize my enjoyment of Misopogal's 2.4 football games per week limit before asking why I spend so much time watching football in the bedroom instead of Real Housewives shows with her.
Then I realized the stats lend themselves very well toward predicting what the Miss St. game will look like as compared to other FBS Michigan opponents from 2010.
First, the Watchability Index revisited. I compared each bowl by three metrics of things I think make for a fun bowl-watching experience:
COMP: Competitive (how close are the opponents in FEI?)
PERF: Quality of opponents (total FEI of opponents combined)
OFF: Lots of offense (each team's OFEI plus opponent's DFEI combined)
Google spreadsheet lives here. You can mentally add a 4th for Big Ten games and a 5th for stupid names (Chick-fil-A is a stupid name). I'm trying to make this universal. The numbers are percentiles, a 0 to 100 scale, so high is always better. The results:
|Peach||South Carolina vs. Florida State||94.3||71.6||90.4||85.5|
|Orange||Virginia Tech vs. Stanford||64.6||93.3||97.6||85.1|
|BCS Championship||Auburn vs. Oregon||76.7||100.0||70.5||82.4|
|Sugar||Arkansas vs. Ohio State||60.7||87.1||92.4||80.1|
|Rose||Wisconsin vs. TCU||63.0||80.2||88.0||77.1|
|Independence||Air Force vs. Georgia Tech||89.9||39.4||89.2||72.8|
|Hawaii||Hawaii vs. Tulsa||84.7||30.3||97.2||70.7|
|Gator||Mississippi State vs. Michigan||83.4||48.1||79.3||70.3|
|BBVA Compass||Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky||80.0||56.6||68.5||68.4|
|Liberty||Georgia vs. Central Florida||65.6||50.8||87.6||68.0|
|Pinstripe||Syracuse vs. Kansas State||61.0||41.2||100.0||67.4|
|Capital One||Alabama vs. Michigan State||62.3||78.6||57.8||66.2|
|Dallas||Texas Tech vs. Northwestern||72.4||25.0||98.8||65.4|
|Insight||Missouri vs. Iowa||34.2||73.0||86.5||64.6|
|Alamo||Oklahoma State vs. Arizona||77.4||58.3||55.8||63.8|
|Poinsetta||Navy vs. San Diego State||83.7||49.0||53.4||62.0|
|Armed Forces||Army vs. SMU||66.3||25.2||93.2||61.6|
|Champs Sports||West Virginia vs. North Carolina State||13.4||75.0||94.0||60.8|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Nevada vs. Boston College||56.1||46.9||72.5||58.5|
|Military||Maryland vs. East Carolina||100.0||40.7||33.9||58.2|
|Cotton||LSU vs. Texas A&M||28.4||74.2||68.1||56.9|
|St. Petersburg||Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi||57.9||43.5||64.9||55.4|
|Sun||Miami vs. Notre Dame||29.6||63.8||72.5||55.3|
|New Orleans||Troy vs. Ohio||52.3||17.4||91.2||53.6|
|Outback||Florida vs. Penn State||39.5||42.2||76.5||52.8|
|Texas||Illinois vs. Baylor||75.9||37.6||44.6||52.7|
|Humanitarian||Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State||69.6||31.4||52.2||51.1|
|Meineke Car||Clemson vs. South Florida||0.0||56.5||82.5||46.3|
|Music City||North Carolina vs. Tennessee||49.3||40.6||48.6||46.2|
|Las Vegas||Boise State vs. Utah||43.6||60.9||32.3||45.6|
|New Mexico||BYU vs. UTEP||56.3||9.9||70.1||45.4|
|Fiesta||Oklahoma vs. Connecticut||33.7||63.4||27.1||41.4|
|Little Caesars||Florida International vs. Toledo||58.5||16.0||45.8||40.1|
|GoDaddy .com||Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)||25.6||0.0||76.9||34.2|
|Holiday||Nebraska vs. Washington||46.8||48.7||0.0||31.8|
Changes from previous: we look a lot more competitive when you put it that way. There's a lot of bowls with good matchups but our matchup is much closer to Arkansas/Ohio State than Alabama/Michigan State in how confident you should be of the outcome. On the other hand, the teams are decidedly middling.
The big question on my mind is where Miss. St. falls among our other opponents this year. So I did that too. I pulled comparisons of each opponent's O versus our D, their D versus our O, and their total efficiency versus ours. Field Position and Field Goals are there too. FCS opponents are removed. The results are all zero-ed at Michigan's numbers, so negative means we're better than them at this, and positive means they're that much better than us at it:
DFEI v M
|4||Bowling Green||no bowl||103||-0.200||-0.089||-0.931||0.042||0.094|
|6||Michigan State||Capital One||22||0.104||0.597||-0.290||0.006||1.739|
Wow does this ever tell the story of this year: our offense is better than any defense we faced, sometimes murderously so; our defense was worse than any offense we faced except for a MACrifice and a Purdue team whose plan for the Michigan game was to use their 3rd string running back with a gimp leg at QB and have him pass to the quarterback with a broken hand except then the RB/QB guy got injured on the first play. Field position was terrible except against…Indiana? And we never met a team who was a tenth as bad at kicking field goals as we are.
So in Total FEI, Mississippi State is a slightly better Illinois, and marginally behind Notre Dame:
Both games on either side of MSU were very close wins. We have one loss on a terrible performance below it, and other than ND no wins above it. Michigan is actually in an FEI virtual tie with BCS-by-segfault UConn (fact: Rich Rod teams would dominate in the Big East), so beating ND and Illinois were both reaches for us. But this thing is winnable.
MSU Offense vs. Michigan's Defense:
This is good news. Their offense is going to be among the worst we've faced, slightly below Penn State's half-McGloin/half-disaster total. If you look at the first chart with all the OFEI versus our DFEI, you can see this still makes their offense better than our defense (only BG and Purdue could be counted on to shoot themselves in the foot). If anything, this number is probably low for Miss St., since their offense relies heavily on a mooseback quarterback and the SEC West is the home of large and ponderous front sevens who depress the efficacy of moosebacks. Still, this is not Wisconsin's attack, nor the MSU/OSU slow murder. Maybe bump them up mentally to Illinois, but no further.
MSU Defense vs. Michigan's Offense:
The story of our defense is told above. Some teams we could simply run all over. Some gave us a few fits. Some were actually capable of stopping us. MSU is very much in the latter:
After Ohio State, this is the most efficient defense we've faced, according to FEI. They're not Ohio State, but rather indistinguishable from Iowa and Michigan State, two teams who ostensibly looked good against Michigan. Except, really, we were fine at moving the ball against those guys as they played bend-don't-break against us until we got to the red zone and inevitably threw an interception or Lewan got flagged for a false start or something. Forcier shredded Iowa in the just-short comeback. And neither of those defenses should be anything like what Mississippi State throws at us. As Brian's been pointing out, MSU is a blitz-happy squad, whereas MSU and Iowa defended against Denard by sitting back and trusting their linebackers and DEs to contain Denard. The blitziest opponent we faced this year has to be Notre Dame, but then they had the most success against our offense when the Irish stopped blitzing and went to a disguised 4-man front. This is as bad a matchup for MSU's defense as our defense is for their spread-n-moose offense. I expect them to look more like Notre Dame; if they stick to what they do best and send blitzers against Denard the whoop-master, well, good luck with that.
This doesn't get its own chart, but it's kind of encouraging in a kind of we've been to hell so what's Guantanamo kind of way. Little Miss State over here is in the Penn State/Iowa/Illinois field position range of better-than-M-but-so-is-everybody-else. HOWEVEA, in field goals they're the worst team we've faced since Bowling Green (who was using our old kickoff specialist. In kicking competence, they're probably good for 3 more points this game than Michigan will get.
* Guess what, readers from my office: I updated my picks after the latest FEI rankings came out, so if you're using my own table to beat me, yours was made with old data. Also, what's with like four people naming their entries some form of "I want Harbaugh"?
Other Adventures in the Tollbooth World
As we travel through the country of Wisdom, this week witnessed some great analytical work on dogging questions from the Rich Rod era and college football in general.
Is There a Barwis Effect?
You will come here. You will be destroyed. You will be rebuilt. You will be Barwisized. User bonobojones did the single most interesting thing yet with those weight stats that we have in plenty but are hard to glean any useful information from beyond "look how much the hog-mollies weigh at Wisconsin." This highly intelligent primate, who is unfairly hard on himself for something so interesting, takes three years of team weights and discovers there is a Barwis effect of losing bad weight and gaining good weight demonstrated in our players' progressions. Players tend to lose weight or gain it marginally from freshman to sophomore years, then gain quickly as upperclassmen. This was especially true, it seems, on defense. It's not nearly enough data to support a conclusion, but he offers one for the sake of argument:
Looking at the large changes taking place with OL, DL, and LB, it's obvious that these players should not be playing young. Or at least we should not be judging them so much based on performance in their first couple of years.
With over 100 comments, the argument has been healthy.
Does Time of Possession Mean Better Defense?
SmithersJoe came in with a graph-heavy breakdown of time of possession and how it relates to defensive efficiency (again, using Fremeau). In an addendum, he tried again to find a correlation in number of offensive possessions and defensive efficiency, to see if the style of offense has an effect. In both: not statistically significant:
What this says to me is that there are too many variables that influence how a defense performs; one cannot boil it down to a simple thing like Time of Possession (or experience on a depth chart, for that matter). All of those factors may play a part, but no one individual factor is significantly correlated to a team’s performance on defense. Football is just too complex to boil down into simplistic truisms.
Is Experience Necessary for Good Play?
The post linked in the above quote is that from ebv this week which takes a fresh look at experience independent from talent to see if gross years on a team make a big difference for how a defense or offense performs. The results: again, not statistically significant.
Translation: if this mattered a lot, the dots should look kind of like they're bunching around an imaginary line that angles from lower-left to upper-right. Rather, it's just…spotty. The other thing spotty about this: the blue crosshairs that represent Michigan show us to be an above-average team in experience. Wait…what?
Is it possible that we need more variables to make sense of this data? (Any stat experts know whether you can underestimate an effect by having too few variables?) It’s also possible that an interaction between several variables might provide a good explanation for our data; for example we might need experience, NFL-worthy talent and great coaching to produce an elite defense, but none of the three alone will do it.
Or it could be the obvious: you're giving as much credit to a team starting Adam Patterson and Courtney Avery (=2.5) as one starting two 5-stars, one a junior and another a sophomore, both whom started the year previous. But keep checking in on ebv's work here, because it sounds like he's building a good database that will yield some results once stuff like this is accounted for. My feeling is you need to judge performance versus expectation (based on Rivals Rating). You can pretty simply total up the recruiting average (dropping the lowest 25 percent of results from each class?) for each unit and compare that with FEI. Then see how much the difference between RR and FEI correlates to academic year.
Till next week, folks, stay out of the Doldroms.