I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
…says Bill Hancock! But they're doing it anyway.
If Michigan can't host at Michigan Stadium this is the second-best option.
Stewart Mandel is the latest guy to throw his sources in the ring in re: what the exact specifics of the Four-Team Event shall be. His version of reality is this:
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of last week's discussions in South Florida have confirmed to SI.com that the new favored proposal for a four-team playoff within the bowl system would place the two semifinal games at the traditional anchor bowls of the No. 1 and 2 teams' conferences. For example, No. 1 Alabama of the SEC would host the No. 4 team in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 USC of the Pac-12 would host the No. 3 team in the Rose Bowl.
This would have blown up the traditional Rose Bowl in five of the last 14 years, six if you want to throw Nebraska's presence as the Big 12 North Division Co-Champion in the mix. That's nearly half the time and is the kind of thing that makes Jim Delany's fists open and close helplessly.
Home sites are still in the running, though:
That said, it's no certainty the conferences will opt for bowl-hosted semifinals. Contrary to some reports, on-campus sites remain "very much alive," according to two sources. One said the commissioners left the meetings split about "60-40" in favor of using bowl sites. They will present all remaining proposals to their respective conference presidents, athletic directors and coaches at league meetings in late May and early June to gauge their preferences before reconvening June 20 in Chicago.
There are five conferences who matter. You can guess the 40% opposed to the bowl sites right now. For a lot of reasons—amongst them a desire to maybe not have to fly across the country to see a bowl-type event and a belief that bowls are institutionalized stealing from unpaid student athletes—I'm with them.
Q: Can Jim Delany actually pull off the home sites plan? He stared down Comcast, won, and got the Big Ten their massive pile of money that no one save Michigan and Ohio State is bothering to use. ("Oh, hai, I'm Tim Beckman. You may remember me from that one screen Eric Page took for 70 yards on Tuesday night, and by 'one' I mean 'six.'")
Here's he's got one ally-type substance in the Pac-12, two conferences content to leave the status quo as is because it's generally beneficial (SEC, Big 12) to them… and then you've got the ACC and maybe Big East.
Does anyone care about the Big East? Unknown. If they did have a vote you'd think they lean towards home games. Home games would be nice in the event one of their teams ever makes it into the top two; perhaps more importantly for them, sucking four teams out of BCS bowls makes it likely even their oft-tattered champion is attractive enough most years.
As for the ACC, they're in an odd spot because two of the teams expected to be relevant here are in Florida. The other is Virginia Tech. The rest of the conference is flung up and down the eastern seaboard, and will be more so when Pitt and Syracuse join. Here, too, you'd think a majority of schools would prefer hypothetically getting a local game instead of being on foreign turf. The conference might not like the idea of seeing their banner teams travel north, but here too the benefits of sucking four teams out of the sexy bowls would seem to be a big draw. The ACC hadn't gotten a second BCS bid in forever before Virginia Tech was selected for the Sugar last year.
Q: Does Delany have the chutzpah to take his ball and go home? Or threaten to? Probably not. If the Big Ten and Pac 12 walk, things will go one of two ways: 1) Delany gets his way, or 2) the league is fffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuu after having balkanized itself out of a Four Team Event that kinda pretty much is the national title. The Rose Bowl is great, but I don't think the kids are going to be down with that particular sickness. With their hippin' and their hopping, they don't know what the jazz is all about. /shakes fist at lawn
Q: Does this actually make sense for college football? Well, at least they're bidding out the final. They aren't concerned about selling out since it'll quickly turn into a Final Four/Super Bowl type event where it just sells out and then scalpers take on the risks and rewards of properly pricing the thing. So then you've got either a guaranteed sellout in a stadium that averages 80k+ over the years or some version of the current system except that the #2 game matters a lot more and fans are staring down the prospect of back to back trips.
Inevitably the travel will suck money that otherwise could have been given to college football—ticket prices go up, more get sold—and put teams in a spot where they're spending massive amounts of money on the same sorts of scams bowls are currently running. So, no. The whole will suffer to maintain the location bias that the South currently enjoys.
The most confusing thing in all of this is the persistent notion that the bowls have any leverage. Mandel:
An obvious hitch with the anchor-hosting proposal is that based on history, certain bowls would host semifinals far more often than others. For instance, had this concept been in place all along, the Sugar Bowl (SEC) would have hosted six straight semifinals from 2006-11, the Fiesta Bowl (Big 12) five of seven from 2003-09. The ACC, on the other hand, has not produced a No. 1 or 2 team in 12 years, meaning no semis for the Orange Bowl.
The Orange Bowl is upset. So? What is the Orange Bowl going to do, defect to lacrosse? No. They can only steal money from college football. They'll deal.
Q: Strength of schedule! That's not a question, or a thing that will happen. Maybe it will happen…
As for selecting the teams, the commissioners are a ways away from deciding whether to use a revised BCS formula, a selection committee or some combination of both. "The whole topic of selection and who would get in is something that we've really parked for now," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. "We realize that's going to require a whole lot more debate and study." If they do employ a formula, sources said there's a near-universal desire to emphasize strength of schedule. One source said the commissioners also aren't keen on preseason polls, which could signal an end to using the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
…but as soon as this SOS component causes the system to pick someone other than the poll-anointed, it will be declared incorrect and dropped. See: the past.
Q: Will you take it? Yeah. Arguments that moving the line from two to four doesn't reduce controversy have always been ludicrous. Multiple undefeated top five teams have been given zero chance to win a national title in the BCS system. At the very least a four team playoff prevents the Auburn/TCU/Utah/Boise screwjob from ever happening again. Anything is better than what we've got now.
Mandel says he was never a fan of a playoff because it would make the NCAA an "NFL clone," which… 12 of the 32 NFL teams get in the playoffs. An equivalent NCAA playoff drawn from the five major conferences is 24 teams. Anything eight or below maintains almost all of the importance of the regular season to be okay.
Also, in the system Mandel details above the chances Hypothetical Host Big Ten team gets a virtual road game are low. Unless USC finishes in the exact spot to force a matchup, anyone going to that game will be flying. So it could be worse. Could be better. Could be worse.
Q: What happens if the Big 10 and Pac 12 are one-two? Or if there's a repeat of last year, when the top two teams are in the same conference? In the former situation I'd just run a Rose Bowl per normal. In situation two, I don't know, put it in Glendale or something. I'm vaguely hoping that Jerryworld pirates the Big 12 affiliation from Glendale and relegates the Fiesta Bowl to the status of the old Cotton Bowl.
Recently, Football Study Hall provided a spreadsheet of epic length to anyone who wanted it detailing not only catches and yards for the 2005-2011 seasons, but "targets"—ie, the number of times a guy had the ball tossed in his direction. FSH did this for all of D-I. I sliced out the other 119 teams to focus on Michigan.
This data spans a fascinating period in Michigan history:
- 2005-2007 are the last three years of the Henne era, except 2007 is a third Henne, a third Mallett, and a third injured Henne who shouldn't be playing but Mallett is insane.
- 2008 is the Threet-Sheridan disaster.
- 2009 is mostly Forcier.
- 2010 and 2011 are mostly Denard, with 2010 RR's best shot at a great offense and 2011 the first year of Borges.
Here's the interesting stuff that came out.
YARDS PER TARGET
The top 20 (min 10 targets). Bet yourself a dollar you can guess #1:
|11||2007||Carson Butler Jr.||25||20||9.8||12.3|
You win a dollar from yourself. Junior Hemingway is the king of yards per target. Not only does he share the #1 spot with Martavious Odoms, he also finishes #6 and #8. It's too bad this data doesn't go a couple seasons further back, allowing us to have a YPT battle royale between Hemingway and Braylon Edwards.
The other thing that jumps off the page is the impact of the spread. The only pro-style WR to crack the top ten was Mario Manningham's 2006 season. Tyler Ecker also made the top ten but on just 15 targets; he made his hay by catching 80% of his limited opportunities. Also, Roundtree does very well to show up at #18 despite being the target of dozens of screens. That target number is off the charts.
This is expected, since the spread came with a huge shift towards running the ball. Passes are naturally more likely to go far when you run 70% of the time.
The bottom 20:
|48||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||5.4||9.1|
This is mostly sparsely-used tight ends and tailbacks with the notable exception of the top three receivers in 2008 and their 200 targets between them. Also I would like to note the presence of Tim Massaquoi towards the bottom of the list. This is not his fault. Massaquoi broke his hand in 2005. Michigan kept throwing the ball at him.
Note that two of the worst yards-per-target guys—the 2008 versions of Odoms and Mathews—show up in the top 10 here. Guys, I'm beginning to think that Michigan's 2008 offense wasn't very good.
Manningham's 2007 year is a clear winner here, with Jason Avant's 2005 a distant second yet distant from the #3. In context, Avant's stats scream "guy who will be a possession receiver for 20 years in the NFL": Michigan went to him all the time, never threw him screens, and he still checks in with a terrific catch rate.
Also catch Roundtree's 2011: bad. His production fell off not only because he was targeted less frequently but because his catch percentage plummeted from 67% to 39%. No screens, no easy TDs, a lot of doubt about whether he can take over Hemingway's downfield duties.
[NOTE: The spreadsheet erroneously listed Sam McGuffie as the #1 player here with 39 catches on 39 attempts… in 2010. The spreadsheet is right, in a way: those are McGuffie's numbers from his 2010 season at Rice. McGuffie still finishes #1 for his 2008 season, a 19 of 22 campaign.]
Unfiltered, these are of debatable utility since all of the guys at the top are small-sample size guys. Tailbacks, tight ends, and slots dominate. Let's limit it to players with at least 30 targets in a season and see what we get. The "rank" is rank amongst everyone. There are 59 seasons in the DB.
|33||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||59.4%||9.1|
I highlighted it this time. Roundtree's regression from 2010 to 2011 was enormous. He went from the #5 player in this sample to second-worst.
In other news, Adrian Arrington's 2006 was secretly great. And when you combine the catch rates with the yards you have a dead heat between Mario Manningham '06 and Junior Hemingway '11 as the best season in this time frame, with Avant's '05 drawing an honorable mention for moving the chains.
MOVING THE CHAINS
There are two subsets provided in the data, with attempts split into "standard downs" and "passing downs." Passing downs can come on second and long but using them as a proxy for third and let's-not-run isn't going to introduce too many distortions. The top 20 security blankets:
|19||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||19||12||63.2%||12.4%||19.6|
You get a dollar for betting that you should throw it to Jason Avant on third and medium, too. Only low-usage versions of Arrington and Roundtree bested him on catch percentage and they were far less-frequently targeted; Arrington's 7.4 YPC further implies that some of those completions were well short of the first down.
Avant has a combination of catching the ball and maintaining a great YPC that makes it totally unsurprising that he's a solid NFL player and a little wistfully sad whenever I compare yet another incoming WR to him when I know deep in the soul of my heart that there's no way Freshman X will be half as good.
BONUS: Steve Breaston would like you to take your criticisms about his hands and shove them up where Bill Hancock's head is.
Today's recruiting roundup takes a look at full junior film for four 2013 commits, addresses an interesting theory on offensive line recruiting, and details a couple of recent offers.
Butt Taco D-Train MANBALL*
It's been a slow week for recruiting news, so luckily ScoutingOhio's Mark Porter unleashed full-length junior highlight videos for four Michigan commits. Here they are, with some brief analysis; first up is TE Jake Butt:
Once you get past the first half of the video, which is comprised of defensive highlights, you get to see some impressive play from Butt at tight end. He catches the ball away from his body, displays sure hands, and does a really nice job of turning back to the quarterback and giving him a target on just about every route. These are just highlights, but he also looks solid as a blocker. Butt doesn't have off-the-charts athleticism and he could be a little sharper on his route-running; he still looks like a player who could come in and have a quick impact if he can add the necessary size and strength before he hits campus.
DE Taco Charlton:
Charlton mostly played as a situational pass-rusher last fall, so his highlights aren't as lengthy as the others. That said, the outstanding athleticism that makes him such an intriguing prospect is on full display, as he's often able to just blow by opposing blockers without facing much resistance. There are issues with technique, especially when it comes to shedding blocks; those should improve with proper coaching, a summer on the camp circuit, and starter's experience in the fall. Given Michigan's depth at defensive end, Charlton likely won't have to play right away, but he looks like he could make a big impact down the road, at the very least in the same role he played last year.
S Dymonte Thomas:
Before you start calling for Thomas to play running back, check out the next tape (and also remember that Michigan is seriously in the mix for Ty Isaac). We don't get to see Thomas playing much safety in the above clip—he spends a lot of his time in the box—but we do get to see his sideline-to-sideline speed, quick diagnosis against the run, and ability to come up and lay a lick. I don't see a whole lot not to like here, though I'll be interested to see if he plays more deep half as a senior and we get some more film of him in coverage; there's not a lot to go on above.
RB DeVeon Smith:
Hello, MANBALL. Smith may not have breakaway speed, but he displays everything else you'd like to see when running the football: great initial burst, good vision through the hole, legs that don't stop moving upon contact, and the power to punish defenders for attempts to arm-tackle. The one caveat to this video is that Smith didn't play the highest level of competition last year; he comes from the same league at Fitzgerald Toussaint, however, and that worked out just fine. We don't get to see him block much, and passes are limited to swings and screens, but there's little doubt that Smith should have an impact carrying the football.
Former All-Pro offensive lineman Kyle Turley evaluated four of Michigan's five offensive line commits in a free article at 247Sports; he's apparently over his OUTRAGE from Brady Hoke leaving San Diego State (his alma mater) to coach at Michigan, because the reviews are quite positive. Unfortunately for us, they're also pretty much identical for each of the four players (Logan Tuley-Tillman, Chris Fox, Kyle Bosch, and Patrick Kugler). In short:
Strengths—Mean streak, size
Can Work On—Pad level, footwork
Part of this is because leverage and technique can always be improved upon, especially in making the transition to the college game. Also, Michigan has assembled an impressive collection of big linemen who finish blocks with authority. There is a little more insight in the full article, including the fact that Bosch appears to be the most college-ready of the four.
*That's gotta provide an SEO boost, right?
Pro-Sized Offensive Linemen: Good
I was pleased to see that SBNation recently unveiled Land-Grant Holy Land, a new Ohio State blog spearheaded by 11W and EDSBS contributor Luke Zimmerman. This recruiting-related article for the site by DJ Byrnes, however, should probably be addressed. I won't give "Brady Hoke's Blind Spot" the full FJM-style fisking, but here's the setup after a brief discussion of how good former OSU OL Alex Boone looked as a high school prospect [emphasis mine]:
Two years later, I watched Alex Boone get eviscerated by Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. Play after play, there was another rabid jackal clad in orange and blue, running down a previously elusive Troy Smith. There was no mercy and no quarter given. There was no pity. It was just unrelenting pressure, and Alex Boone succumbed to it.
The next year, Alex Boone got eaten alive by LSU's defensive line in a game where I'm surprised Todd Boeckman wasn't killed. Again, it was a straight up mauling for which Boone and his compatriots had little defense. The Buckeyes didn't get beat like a drum against LSU as they did against Florida, but it was another poor showing for the offensive line. (SEC coaches understand: a deep, versatile defensive line will give bigger, slower offensive lines nightmares over the course of a game.)
So, this is why I laugh at Michigan and their recruitment of Boone-like clones to stock their offensive line. It's also why I get super giddy when I compare those efforts against Urban's.
Yes, this is an argument against recruiting pro-sized offensive linemen, and the crux of the argument is based on the failings of Alex Boone. There are many flaws to this, but the most notable is that Alex Boone didn't fall short of expectations at Ohio State because he was 6'8", 310+ pounds. He fell short because, through most of his college career, he was a raging alcoholic, at one point admitting to drinking up to 40 beers a night during the weekend. That will slow down just about anybody.
Byrnes then notes the rather massive human beings Michigan is bringing in for both the 2012 and 2013 classes, as well as the extremely high level of talent the Buckeyes are assembling along the defensive line. I have no argument here—there should be some epic trench clashes in the future of this rivalry. I think Michigan has a good chance of coming out on top in those clashes, however, because this simply isn't true:
Brady Hoke will be good for Michigan. He may even beat Ohio State once or twice during his tenure, but he doesn't seem to realize that college football has shifted away from massive, clattering offensive lines. By the time he does, it might already be too late.
First, it's worth noting that massive =/= unathletic. Taylor Lewan is 6'8", but he's also got remarkably quick feet. Anyone who watched 6'9", 345-pound tackle Jonathan Ogden play as a pro remembers him for somehow resembling the world's most devastating ballerina. As for the college football world moving away from large offensive lines, here are your spring depth charts for the two teams to play for the 2011 national title:
1) If college football is moving away from behemoth offensive lines, we forgot to inform the SEC, which has somehow managed to make do.
2) *Looks at Alabama's depth chart, shudders*
So, in short, you probably shouldn't worry about Michigan reeling in large classes of man-sized linemen being a bad thing. This argument could probably have been accomplished with one word—Wisconsin—but it's a slow week.
Okay, one last thing. Urban Meyer was hired on November 28th, 2011. After that date, the Buckeyes added three offensive linemen to their 2012 class: Taylor Decker (6'8", 315), Joey O'Connor (6'4", 295), and Kyle Dodson (6'6", 315). Yep, Meyer isn't stupid, either.
[So, um, MnB's Zach Travis did this too, and his take is worth a read as well. I swear I wrote this yesterday. So it goes.]
New Offers, Ojemudia Enrolls Early, Etc.
Michigan isn't slowing down on the hunt for wide receivers, as Tim Sullivan reports that their latest 2013 offer was extended to three-star MD WR Paul Harris ($, info in header). Harris stands at 6'3", 185 lbs., and he plans to attend Michigan's one-day camp on June 21st. The Wolverines are a mortal lock to add two more receivers to the class, and I wouldn't be surprised if they take three given the lack of proven depth and the scholarship no longer being held for E.J. Levenberry.
Tremendous got the scoop that the Wolverines also threw their hat in the ring for one of the top defensive prospects of 2014, NJ CB Jabrill Peppers. Peppers already holds offers from Florida, LSU, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Rutgers, and South Carolina, and that list will likely include a laundry-list of national powers before all is said and done. Peppers told Aquaman that he grew up watching Michigan—favorite players: Mike Hart and Mario Manningham—and has interest in a visit, either in the summer or fall.
11W's Alex Gleitman spoke to four-star MA DL Maurice Hurst Jr. after a recent visit to Columbus, and Hurst stated that he'll visit Michigan and Michigan State in the near future, and then he'll be "done with visits." He'd like to make his decision in the next month and a half, and currently lists Ohio State, Michigan, and Virginia as the schools sticking out to him. Buckeye coaches apparently told him that they'll take another defensive tackle; we'll see if the loaded D-line class there affects his decision, especially if things go well on his trip to Ann Arbor.
The Wolverine's Andy Reid reports that 2012 DE Mario Ojemudia will enroll for spring term on Monday, giving the man with the laser death-stare a leg up on strength and conditioning, not to mention a head start in the classroom. Ojemudia needs to add a fair amount of weight before he'll be able to line up with his hand in the dirt, so this is welcome news.
You can probably rule out Michigan for a couple of California prospects. CA RB Justin Davis has "pretty much" narrowed down to a final three of USC, Cal, and Washington, and he expects to make his decision soon ($, info in header). With the Wolverines focused in on Ty Isaac and Derrick Green, that doesn't come as much of a surprise. If Michigan was back in the market for linebackers after losing out on Levenberry—very unlikely, considering the prospects they've turned away—they seems out of the race for CA LB Michael Hutchings, who's aiming for a summer decision and is only mentioning Pac-12 schools as possible visit destinations ($).
Quickly: Free Rivals article on CA WR Demorea Stringfellow, who Mike Farrell describes as a "tough matchup for cornerbacks" because of his size (6'2", 185) and ability to go up and get the football.
After years and years of everyone getting his name wrong despite it being the same name as a famous Michigan tailback who happens to be his dad, Troy Woolfolk wakes up today and tomorrow hoping to see a team next to his name on the NFL draft tracker. Aaaaaand…
…oof. Fine, thinks Woolfolk. I didn't want to be part of your stupid dlaft anyway.
Hopefully this marks the retirement of the "Tloy Wolfork" tag, but I'm guessing it'll make at least one more appearance. Now on to everyone calling our new quarkback "Dennis Northfleet."
Berkley Edwards: already on the roster, but named "Dennis Norfleet"
Guys, are the Michigan coaches really not offering Berkley Edwards? I understand he is small, but as fast as he is and the fact he is a legacy makes me question the thought here. I’ve noticed this hasn’t been mentioned at all since the ever mature Braylon went on Twitter to complain. At the very least, I hope the coaches reach out the Edwards family and keep any discussion out of the social media.
What I don’t get though is if he is someone Nebraska considers, can Michigan afford to overlook him? I know I really think that the Buckeyes not recruiting Mike McCray is going to come back to haunt them. I don’t want Berkley to come back and haunt us.
Berkley Edward's chances went from okay to slim when Michigan flipped Dennis Norfleet the day before Signing Day and from slim to life support when Brady Hoke went Donkey Kong on 2013 recruiting. At this point Michigan can afford to overlook someone Nebraska offers two scholarships and an earldom, let alone considers.
Michigan has 17 kids in the class and is going to somewhere between 22 and 24. Even if we take the most Edwards-friendly number, six of those seven scholarships are earmarked for:
- Ty Isaac
- Two wide receivers
- Three defensive linemen
So then you're talking about adding Edwards over another corner, safety, TE, or WR. Is a pint-sized tailback most likely to make an impact on special teams really a priority over one of those spots, especially when you already have three running backs in the class and recruited a seemingly-superior quarkback prospect in Norfleet the year previous? No.
Add in the likelihood that whoever Michigan is pursuing for spot 24 at one of those other positions is going to be a four-star type and it's a blowout. Offering Edwards makes no sense. McCray, a consensus four-star ranked in the top 100 by Rivals and ESPN with two dozen BCS offers including Oklahoma, is not even a comparison.
Edwards might have a shot if Isaac ends up at USC and Michigan can't latch on to another touted guy at tailback. Even in that situation it seems unlikely since Michigan is loaded with tiny darty return guys who are the only tailbacks Fred Jackson doesn't think are the second coming of Earl Campbell. He just does not make sense on the roster.
Wouldn't you rather have another safety? Safeties are important, yo.
I am not sure I followed your latest post. There might be something I am missing. I am not a fan of Brandon or this game, but I don't see how a home-and-home makes us better of financially. Let's say a bad opponent home game nets us 5 million. Playing Bama at home nets us 7 million. And for arguments sake lets say the return of a home-and-home with Bama would be in 2013.
The way it is
2012 Jerry Game: 4.7 million + 2013 crap team: 5 million = 9.7 million
2012 Bama: 7 million + 2013 at Bama: 0 = 7 million
2012 crap: 5 million + 2013 crap: 5 million = 10 million (but you don't get to play Bama; but the band is happy)
I would choose home and home if it was me because it is not my money and that is more fun, but I don't think that is the best choice financially. I would choose both over more UMass games.
The thing you and the OUTRAGED at OUTRAGE gang in the comments are missing is the ticket price. Apparently a game like Michigan-Alabama can support a ticket price range from $125 to $285. This is at a minimum 66% higher than Michigan is currently charging for bodybag games, not the 17% suggested in your email (remember that Michigan has to shell out about $2 million to get the one-off games in the No Bama scenario).
When the ticket prices came in 30 bucks or more—potentially much more—above what Michigan is charging for their "premium" game this year that changed the math drastically. Maybe that pricing is not sustainable over 110,000 tickets like it was for the 25,000 Michigan was given for Jerryworld, but… yeah, it totally is. Find me a Michigan fan who'd be less likely to buy a season ticket package this year that had 'Bama on it but was $50 more expensive. That person does not exist.
A correctly priced monster home-and-home is financially comparable to the dual punching bag scenario even without considering the ancillary benefits that will come from increased interest in season tickets, suites, goodwill from the fanbase, donations, etc. It would have made more sense for both Alabama and Michigan to schedule a game in Ann Arbor for 2013, then figure out where the return game goes later.
In the long term this is largely moot. After the Pac-12 agreement kicks in Michigan will have a road nonconference game every year except when the ND series takes its brief breaks. It's hard to imagine them adding a third opponent who would require Michigan to travel.
I just hate getting sold a bill of goods, is all.
Keep Crisler ArenaCenter weird.
Hey Brian. My buddy works with the guy that buys the costumes (and tickets) for the students wearing the lobster suits. With Smotrycz transferring, the lobsters are going to become bees through a glorious transformation. I hope this insider tidbit helps you get through the slow period and maybe even leads to some cool visions on your current meds.
I will miss the lobstryczs, but good on the Maize Rage for keeping the weird quotient high. I suggest someone purchase an enormous buffalo head mask so they can be Bielfeldt's Buffalo. Someone should wear a fez for no discernible reason. He should have one of those huge faces of himself wearing the fez, as well, cocking an eyebrow and looking suave.
Also also we're going to need a giant Canadian flag for Stauskas. And some guys dressed up like beetles who click their mandibles alarmingly during free throws. And there should be a moose. A live moose. With moose teeth. Wearing a toque. His name is Graham the Brown Moose, and he sets huge screens. In the event a live moose is not permitted in Crisler we will innovate.
In addition, on certain defensive possessions Crisler should adopt the disconcerting Yost penalty-kill hooting. Whenever Stauskas hits a three the entire student section should shout "You're my buddy, pal!" There will be a Mark Twain impersonator as well.
Addendum: we need a prominently located fat shirtless guy. On his chest we will paint an image of Glen Rice raising up for a three-pointer. He will not be allowed to shower. We should think about putting a hat on him as well. Hats are crucial for the entire operation. People should also dress like the future people in Bill and Ted.
These are reasonable suggestions. /jedi hand wave
On "Ohio" (not that OHIO). In 1995, Ohio sued OHIO(!!!) so they could use "Ohio" on shirts and stuff. Sweet Jesus that's a confusing sentence. A little clarity:
On Dec. 16, Ohio State University filed a petition with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Ohio University's trademark of "Ohio." The trademark, which was granted by the federal trademark office in 1995, applies to what is called a "secondary use" -- a use limited to university athletic events, entertainment and apparel.
In an op-ed run by The Dayton Daily News and The (Toledo) Blade, Ohio University Vice President for University Relations Adrie Nab said: "CNN, ESPN, the wire services, USA Today and most other national media refer in sports stories to Ohio University as 'Ohio,' just as they call Indiana University 'Indiana,' just as they call the University of Michigan 'Michigan.' The University of Michigan has a trademark for 'Michigan.' Indiana holds a trademark for 'Indiana.' Why shouldn't Ohio University hold a trademark for 'Ohio'?"
So call Ohio Ohio all you want. After all, Ohio tried to claim Ohio for its own, even taking it to the legal system when OHIO(!!!) wouldn't let them use "Ohio" for Ohio's desired purposes.
I'm going to lie down now and breathe into a paper bag.
LeVert visit. OHIO(!!!) decommit Caris Levert has scheduled some initial visits. There are three to Dayton, Purdue, and Michigan. "Xavier and maybe others" are also on the docket with a decision scheduled within a month. A Rivals dude claimed M, Purdue, and Iowa were LeVert's top three a couple days back.
Um… okay. An addendum to the BCS's anti-home-game arguments:
Where are people going to stay if Oregon hosts a semifinal game? In Portland?
Wherever they stay now? Also Portland is two hours away. I think people can deal. The BCS thinks this is an insurmountable logistical disaster.
Jason Kirk has some more details on the average capacity of a home semifinals, FWIW. Elsewhere, Dan Wetzel bombs the BCS boondoogle. This is a small portion of the money college football is burning by letting blazer-clad stripper enthusiasts run their postseason:
Major bowl games have the money. The most recent federal tax filings of Sugar Bowl Inc. show it ended its fiscal year with $34.2 million in assets, including $12.5 million in cash and $20.8 million in publicly traded securities. CEO Paul Hoolahan pocketed $593,718 in total compensation.
While financial numbers from this year aren't publicly available, the last time the Sugar Bowl "double hosted" – it's namesake game and the BCS title game – it did $34.1 million in revenue and turned an $11.6 million profit. Since the game enjoys a 501 (c) (3) non-profit status, that was all tax free.
The Sugar Bowl ran a 34% profit margin that year. I bet a dollar none of the four teams made out so well.
Compher impresses. I've been throwing links on the sidebar detailing the performances of Jacob Trouba and JT Compher at the U18 world championships that the USA just dominated to win their third-straight gold medal. Both impressed. Trouba was expected to, but as an underager no one really knew what to expect from Compher. They got a performance that belied his years:
J.T. Compher — The 1995-born center was a revelation in the tournament. His high-energy style, speed and grit make him a versatile threat. Not only does he possess the qualities of an energy-line type player, he also has offensive touch. Compher scored two goals, each coming in big games. He scored Team USA’s first goal in the semifinal against Canada and its third in the gold-medal game against Sweden. Compher has a good shot and decent enough puck skills, but he creates with his power and speed. His forechecking led to a few U.S. goals and his line with Frankie Vatrano and Matt Lane was probably Team USA’s most consistent in the tournament. It’s hard to believe Compher was an under-ager with the way he played this year. Draft eligible in 2013. Committed to the University of Michigan.
I still wish Michigan could pick up some of the little scoring dynamos Miami is bringing in. They had two in this tournament, one for 2012 and one 2013. Midgets with a mid-round NHL grade are a great opportunity to have a high-talent guy the NHL is willing to leave in college.
An odd path. Michigan fans were introduced to walk-on QB Alex Swieca when he came on late in the spring game. He's an interesting guy who took a path to Michigan football odder than anyone in recent memory:
With a passion for football that dates back to his early childhood, the Manhattan product started playing flag football in third grade and attended numerous tackle football camps as he got older. Growing up on the upper East Side, he had long desired to play collegiate football.
His aspiration to play tackle football was initially hindered when he entered the Frisch School, a Jewish day school in New Jersey that didn’t have a football team. Swieca decided to wrestle during his four years at Frisch, to quench his competitive drive. He continued to play football in recreational leagues, and attended camps during the summer.
After high school, Swieca deferred his enrollment to Michigan, opting to take a year to study in Israel. With the suggestion of his brother, Mike, Alex joined the Judean Rebels of the Israel Football League — a four-year-old amateur tackle football league in Israel that plays eight men on each side.
While taking academic courses during the day, Swieca traveled to Jerusalem twice a week for practice and traveled all over the country to play weekly Thursday night games.
He'd probably start at an ACC school with that Thursday night experience. Also I think the Judean Rebels should rename themselves the Judean People's Front as soon as possible.
NIT opponents, possibly. Other headliners in the Preseason NIT are Pitt, Kansas State, and Virginia. If that seems kind of weak, yeah. Michigan got a 4-seed last year, Kansas State an 8, Virginia a 10, and Pitt did not qualify for the tourney.
Despite losing Frank Martin, K-State does return almost everyone else, losing only a 6'7" guy who played 60% of KSU minutes. Virginia loses Mike Scott, a KPOY contender, and a starting guard. Pitt loses two starters as well. Pitt does have a strong recruiting class.
Even so, Michigan should be looking to win this thing.
JIM DELANY POWER RANKINGS.
1. Jim Delany again recounts the tale of the BTN's formation in which former ESPN CEO and notable failure Mark Shapiro taunts the B10 into action.
JIM DELANY FINGERBANG THREAT LEVEL: Shapiro sat across the table, smirking. Again. The little brat had just proposed a game show in which Big Ten coaches would perform Fear Factor-like stunts for the privilege of getting off ESPNU. "Take it," Shapiro said. "I can't guarantee this deal will be here tomorrow. You only have to wear the organ grinder outfit on gamedays."
Delany stares back blankly. Under the table, a fist with two raging fingers extended. The other hand soothingly caresses it. Soon, Delany thinks. Soon. Shapiro smirks. He has no other facial expression.
Etc.: Brandon also shoots down the idea Michigan will return the Fab Five banners. Terry Richardson seems a bit more amenable to the idea of a redshirt these days. Witnesses seem to confirm the ballad of Josh Furman's lawyer. I'd guess he gets acquitted or whatever sticks is so minor it won't affect his availability this fall. UPDATE: Furman acquitted.
Zak Irvin scouting video.
Pulling guards are key for play action. Michigan did that plenty last year, but you kind of have to get a guy blocked to make it work.
Far away province of O-hee-o.
- Akron, 42-0 (W)
- Toledo, 27-22 (W)
- @ Miami, FL, 6-24 (L)
- Colorado, 37-17 (W)
- Michigan State, 7-10 (L)
- @ No. 14 Nebraska, 27-34 (L)
- @ No. 16 Illinois, 17-7 (W)
- No. 15 Wisconsin, 33-29 (W)
- Indiana, 34-20 (W)
- @ Purdue, 23-26 OT (L)
- No. 21 Penn State, 14-20 (L)
- @ No. 15 Michigan, 34-40 (L)
- Florida, 17-24 (L) Gator Bowl
Record: 6-7 overall, 3-5 B1G, 4th place Woody Division
|Rush:||191.2 ypg, 27th||141.5 ypg, 51st|
|Pass:||127.0 ypg, 115th||182.0 ypg, 14th|
|Total:||318.2 ypg, 107th||323.5 ypg, 19th|
|Scoring:||24.5 ppg, 79th||21.0 ppg, 27th|
While the NCAA is doing its best to wipe Ohio State’s 2010 season from the record, Buckeye fans are doing their best to wipe the 2011 season from their memories. I’m going to write about it and post it on the internet so that it’s there forever. Hahahahaha.
Note: Wisconsin fans, this is going to suck for you, too.
I have mastered the rhyming Haiku. See?
Tressel got fired,
Because he was a liar.
Boom! Terrell Pryor’d.
There was a moment in the beginning of 2011, despite Michigan having sunk to the lowest of lows and Ohio State having just won the Sugar Bowl, when I knew everything was going to be okay.
Jim Tressel lost his job essentially because of that guy. ‘Ah!
TATGATE CAUSED THEIR ROSTER BEING NOT VERY GOOD
The Buckeyes' roster lost a handful of key starters for the first five games as a result of Tatgate (all stats from 2010):
- LT Mike Adams - 2010 1st team All Big Ten
- DE Solomon Thomas - Um… not a whole lot because he split time with Nathan Williams. Made the game-saving interception in the Sugar Bowl, I guess?
- RB Dan Herron - 1155 yards, 5.3 ypc, 16 TDs
- WR DeVier Posey - 848 yards, 16.0 ypc, 7 TDs
- QB Terrelle Pryor - Heisman winner, future No. 1 draft pick, NCAA record setting quarterback … just dominate.*
Herron and Posey eventually got caught taking too much money for a summer job (employee-of-the-month bonus I'm sure), which resulted in Herron being suspended an extra game (Nebraska) and Posey missing an additional five, leaving him with just Penn State and Michigan.
As the damning evidence piled up against Pryor, Ohio State gave him the Samwell Tarly treatment. His options were GTFO (...before he can be forced to testify against them) or GTFO (now). Naturally, he opted to GTFO and enter the supplemental draft, where he was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the third round. His most significant contribution to date has been a false start on a QB sneak. Bravo.
So what did that leave Ohio State with for the first half of the season? Not a whole lot. If my calculations are correct, minus the Tat Five they returned five starters on offense and three on defense. Those numbers would be eight and four with everyone back from suspension. Either way, that’s almost as bad as 2008 Michigan when Rich Rod had three on offense and seven on defense to work with.
Unlike their 2008 Wolverine counterparts, the 2011 Buckeyes weren’t an empty cupboard. Their past few recruiting classes (according to Rivals.com: No. 11 in 2011, No. 25 in 2010, No. 3 in 2009) had been terrific, and players weren’t clamoring for the nearest lifeboat like it was the Titanic (now in 3D!). If Tressel had been allowed to stay in Columbus, they would have simply called it a rebuilding year. They probably would have gone a modest 8-5 before licking their wounds and eating a lot of spinach over the offseason.
*In Pryor's alternate universe.
LET'S POINT AND LAUGH AT SOME THINGS WHILE WE STILL CAN
Things that the Buckeyes sucked at in 2011:
- Throwing the ball - 245 total attempts, 51.0% completions, 6.7 ypa
- Scoring points - 24.5 ppg
- Defending the run (relatively speaking) - I mean, did you really think teams like Miami, Nebraska, Purdue, Penn State, and Florida beat them with their fearsome passing offenses? Psh. Michigan had TWO 100+ yard rushers against them.
That whole throwing thing -- QB Joe Bauserman was to Ohio State what Threetsheridammit was to Michigan, except he didn’t quite make it past the nonconference schedule. QB Braxton Miller wasn’t that big of a step up until much later in the season, but he was elusive enough of a runner that he didn’t really need to throw all that much. Remember when the Buckeyes beat Illinois? Miller completed one pass. It was a touchdown! #Winning.
I don’t understand why it took so long to transition to Miller. At least, I don’t remember. Right now the best explanation I can manage is that, as a true freshman, Miller didn’t understand the playbook very well.
I know, I know. How hard is it to learn Jim Bollman’s playbook? It’s only four pages, right? And pages one and four were left blank for printing purposes.
via Ramzy from elevenwarriors.com
Miller eventually secured the job after an undeniably epic effort against Nebraska before getting hurt. He wasn’t a huge upgrade for the Buckeyes passing game, but more on him in a sec.
Offensively in general, the Buckeyes had problems getting into the endzone, and this can be attributed to … Wait. There’s nothing to be gained from analyzing Jim Bollman’s offense and its inability to score points in 2011. Moving on.
That defense. Right. TheBuckeyeBattleCry.com previewed the defense prior to the season and came away with saying that the defense would be “on their way to another season of defensive domination.” Understandably, this came after they scouted the defensive line, crossed their arms smugly, and said, “Look at all the great players we have!” Yeah, there was DT Jonathan Hankins (poor man’s Vince Wilfork), and DE John Simon (um… white man’s Brandon Graham? I have no idea. I’m really bad at this), and maybe some quality senior rotational players.
On a side note, the writer [Ed-H: actually it was this guy. I got my tabs all mixed up sorry.] had to go ahead and say something along the lines of “Our backups would start on any other team in the Big Ten!” which is just so OSU. Why do they keep doing this? Are they basing this on star ratings? Marvin Robinson could start on any other team in the Big Ten, too, ya know.
He even looks like a four-star
Anyway, even if the defensive line was going to be good, by the middle of the season it would be apparent that it was probably the only thing they had going for them. The linebacking corps was a confused jumble of athleticism, and the defensive backs seemed like a bunch of JAGs, though to be fair they were hardly ever tested by all those … scary gunslinging QBs of the B1G. I am trying very, very hard to keep a straight face right now.
Damn. I failed.
PLAYERS TO KEEP A LEERY EYE ON
Braxton Miller, obvi. His coming out party in Lincoln was unfortunately spoiled by a bunch of Bauserbombs and a defensive meltdown, but teams like Wisconsin and Michigan would discover that it wasn’t a fluke. The guy is a slippery runner and has a way of evading pressure and threatening the run long enough for his wide receivers to get open, often in the end zone:
vs. Wisconsin ...
and vs. Michigan ...
While he doesn’t have the most accurate arm in the world, he won’t need one in Urban Meyer’s offense in 2012. Really, he just needs to not get injured.
Then there’s Ryan Shazier, aka pain in the ass linebacker. He was mostly responsible for creating the jumbled mess of athleticism at the position, but that’s to be expected when a guy starts playing as a true freshman. He plays with really good instincts when he’s not completely out of position, however, and is a lightning fast tackling machine. Accounted for 15 tackles against Penn State:
There you have it. Two dudes who will likely do some terrible things to Michigan over the next couple years, and we just have to hope Michigan does more terrible things in return. I’m not sold on their other “playmakers” who have been getting a lot of hype out of spring practice like Jordan Hall and Michael Thomas just yet.
Oh I forgot one more: Zach Boren, younger kinsman of the infamous Justin Boren. He got all salty after The Game because of Michigan’s grenade celebration, taking to twitter to express his indignity:
@ZBoren44: I lost so much respect for michigan after they won n threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade. This is a great rivalry and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have before n treat htis rivalry like it should be treated.
Why keep an eye on him? He’s a fullback, so if you blink next year, you might miss the one snap he plays per game.
THERE IS NO ORGANIZATION TO THIS RECAP IS THERE
The very late nature of this post means that most things about Ohio State's 2011 season have already been beaten to death. Also, I refuse to have an italicized alter ego. Go away.
Best win: Wisconsin. I’m really mad at Wisconsin for this one. And for Michigan state Part I. WTF, Wisconsin.
Worst loss: Purdue.
What this win meant for Michigan: Everything, basically. It also merits rewatching. Popcorn, anyone?
And it totally felt as awesome as: Finally finishing this post about five months after the fact. TIMES A ZILLION.
Cue the Muppets one more time:
And you can't have one without the other...
Vastly underrated; properly rated
Previously: The Offense
My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.
Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?
*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.
The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.
RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.
Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.
Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.
A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season. He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.
Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.
He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.
This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.
I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.
This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.
Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.
Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.
Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.
Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.
EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT THIS WOULD BE.
Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.
No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.
If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.
This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.
Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)
Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.
Not So Much
Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11. Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.
I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.
"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.
The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.
Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.
If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.
We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.
Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.
In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.
Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.
Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.
Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.
Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.
After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.
Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.
Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.
Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.
I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.
It appears that conference commissioners are against home games for a four-team college football playoff. Since it's tough to think of a valid reason to be against them, the commissioners have to make up bad reasons. Bad reasons like "they play basketball at neutral sites" that ignore things like the NFL and every other playoff in the country that is not NCAA hockey.
That only is the third-worst argument.
The second-worst is "what if Cincinnati gets a bid?" Here is a complete list of teams that would have hosted first-round games if a four-team playoff had been instituted in 1998, the year of the BCS's inception:
- Tennessee [102,455]
- Florida State [82,300]
- Virginia Tech [66,233]
- Oklahoma [82,112]
- Miami [74,916]
- Nebraska [86,304]
- Ohio State [102,329]
- LSU [92,542]
- USC [93,607]
- Texas [101,624]
- Florida [88,548]
- Alabama [101,821]
- Auburn [87,451]
- Oregon [53,800]
All but three of those stadiums have capacities above 82,000. The exceptions are Miami's Your Name Here Stadium (75k), VT's Lane Stadium (66k) and Oregon's Autzen Stadium (54k). Each would have hosted once. Since the capacity of the Fiesta Bowl is 63k and the Orange Bowl is held at the same place Miami plays home games, stadium size cannot be a reasonable objection. In the event a tiny stadium would get to host, make them move the site to a reasonably close stadium of appropriate size, or just count your money from the many, many times college teams with capacities 20k larger than the biggest pro stadiums have hosted. Problem solved.
So that's a bad argument. But it's not the worst. This is the worst:
BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said there are questions about whether some college campuses had the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the crush of fans and media attending a college football semifinal.
"The infrastructure needed on campus is significant," Hancock told the Associated Press. "That's a factor. That's just one example of the intricacies that are part of this."
Bill Hancock wonders if college football stadiums have the infrastructure to host college football games.
You can't make this up, because if you did people would hit you really hard with rolled-up socks.
(Archived from MGoBlue.com)
Sometimes I go to write something, then mid-way through researching it I get completely turned around on the point I was trying to make. This one started with a conversation between me and Ace trying to compare the 1999 offensive line to the 2012 one. My recollection (which was wrong) was that the superbly talented and experienced starters were backed up by air and freshmen, and that when one went down for injury or an off-campus thing this drew in an Elliott Mealer-type who was moved all over the place as the coaches played "find the weak spot" with the defense. Unfortunately this dude had his own number and looked totally different than a Backus or Hutchinson, and therefore was easy to find. Anyway, they're not comparable, but I figured you'd still find the trip down memory lane interesting and perhaps draw some of your own comparisons.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, offensively speaking. Best of times because Michigan was going into the season with an experienced, senior quarterback, a junior running back who had flashed his star potential while seizing the starting job the year before, and an offensive line littered with future longtime NFL starters and returning starters, backed up by an entire class full of hyped O-line. It was the worst of times because they couldn't run the damn ball.
It was 1999, one year removed from the best recruiting class in school history, two years removed from a national championship, and three years removed from a class so full of touted offensive linemen Darrell Funk would call it greedy. This was also about the point in my fandom where I was just starting to know the names of offensive linemen, mostly because it was my first offseason on campus and everyone was saying the line is stacked.
Left tackle was Jeff Backus, who foreshadowing his long and healthy NFL career didn't miss a snap for two and a half years. Steve Hutchinson, a team captain as a junior, had started since the '97 team at left guard. David Brandt had started all of 1998 at center. Senior guard Chris Ziemann had 10 starts between '97 and early '98 and was returning from an injury. Right tackle was to be Maurice "Mo" Williams, who had drawn into the lineup for Ziemann late the previous year and promptly started pancaking fools.
However Mo Williams (NTMO), along with roommate and backup guard Jonathan Goodwin, was spending the first half of the season on double-secret probation (known then as "Carr's doghouse") for the K-Mart thing.
Thus drew in Frazier, the guy Maurice had to displace. Steve Frazier (right, via), last popped up in these pages when Brian, in the midst of excoriating Harbaugh for the 2007 General Studies tiff, quoted some guy who noted Frazier was a commercial airlines pilot. LinkedIn says he's still there. Before that he tallied up 18 starts on Michigan's offensive line, including 10/13 in 1998. The thing about him was it was impossible to guess, any given week, where on that line he would appear. In '98 it was four at center, six at guard (when Ziemann was hurt. In his senior season, Frazier started three games at center, three at right guard, and two more at right tackle.
Frazier came to my attention during that Illinois game for orchestrating the last and most memorable of the comedy of 4th quarter errors that turned a ho-hum stomach settler into Michigan's second straight loss. Brady was in his element, taking snaps in the shotgun down late and picking his way through a prevent D. At this point Frazier snapped a ball several feet over the head of the 6-4 quarterback. Brady fell on it 25 yards behind the LOS, then threw basically a Hail Mary that was picked off.
Throughout this exchange I was arguing with the guy who used to invite my father to games about whether Michigan was smart to let Illinois score a long rushing TD to go up by eight when the likely scenario otherwise was getting the ball back with less than 20 seconds and no timeouts down by one. For some reason I wouldn't let this go, but I believed him when he said the offensive line was way weak behind the starters.
You hear this and immediately think of 2012, with Lewan, Omameh, Barnum, Mealer and Schofield, then air and true freshman. This was actually not at all the case in 1999, since Michigan had an entire line's worth of highly rated redshirt sophomores. Few written records survive from the recruiting Dark Ages except the manuscript of the Venerable Vijan, so here's Vijan on that ridiculous haul:
Maurice Williams, OL/DL, Detroit, MI. 6'6", 275 lbs, 4.9 40. Williams is the top player in the state of Michigan and is one of the top line prospects in the nation on either side of the ball; he is one of the top 100 players in the country. Played primarily on offense this year, but was a dominant DL as a junior. He chose Michigan over MSU, Florida St., Washington, and Ohio St., and is an excellent student with a 3.5 GPA. Was rumored to have committed to Michigan in July, but did not make a final announcement until his official visit on the weekend of 12/6. Could play either OL or DL at Michigan, depending upon his preference and the needs of the team.
Todd Mossa, OT, Darien, CT. 6'3", 285 lbs, 4.9 40. Mossa is one of, if not the, top offensive guard prospects in the nation. He was rated the number 1 overall OL prospect by SuperPrep in the preseason, and was a post-season All-American on most recruiting lists. Led his high school to the state championship, and graded out at over 90% in his blocking assignments as a senior. In addition to football, Mossa plays goalie for his lacrosse team. He is a tremendous drive blocker with great feet who was also recruited by Penn St., Syracuse, and Boston College.
Jason Brooks, OL, Cleveland, Ohio. 6'4", 270 lbs, 5.1 40. Brooks is from an outstanding high school program in Cleveland St. Ignatius, which has won the last two state championships in Ohio. Brooks is the top OL prospect in Ohio, and one of the top 5-10 OL prospects in the nation, as well as a top 100 overall player. Rated the top prospect in Ohio, and the top lineman in the nation by the NRA, with a rating of 6.1 ("franchise player"). Brooks graded out at over 90% in his blocking assignments as a senior despite suffering a leg injury early in the season. Despite rumors to the contrary, never wavered on his commitment; he visited Colorado only to be sure that he had a school that he could compare with Michigan.
Ben Mast, OL, Massillon, Ohio. 6'5", 275 lbs, 5.0 40. Mast is another top OL prospect from Ohio, and is considered by many to be the best prospect out of traditional power Massillon in several years. He is considered one of the top OL's in the midwest, and was recruited heavily by schools throughout the nation. Ranked as one of the top 10 linemen in the nation, and as one of the top 100 overall players by several recruiting services. Mast's other in an OSU grad, but he has always been a fan of Michigan.
Adam Adkins, OL, Troy, Michigan. 6'3", 265 lbs, 5.1 40. Adkins has been described as a dominant player from yet another traditionally strong football program. He has played on both sides of the ball in high school, but projects to be a center in college. He is generally considered to be one of the top two OL prospects in Michigan. Adkins is also the top-rated heavyweight wrestler in Michigan.
Kurt Anderson, LB/TE/OL, Glenview, Ill. 6'5", 225 lbs, 4.8 40. Kurt is the younger brother of Michigan Butkus Award winner Erick Anderson. He is one of the top prospects in Illinois this year; he set a school record for solo tackles as a junior and broke his brother's record for total tackles in a career. Followed it up by having a great senior season, making 142 tackles, with 6 sacks and 2 interceptions; he is considered an All-American by several recruiting services.
Around the time President Clinton was congratulating the national champs in football (and the hockey team was winning one themselves) in spring of '98, Brooks had his thing which eventually saw him removed before '99. The rest of the guys were still there and rotated in. Ben Mast started most of '99 at right tackle, and drew in for Hutchinson at guard one time. Adkins got two starts early in the season at center. Mossa didn't pan out—he now lives in Vail and tweets clever things. Anderson would start later in his career.
So this was a deep team. But it couldn't run. Minus sacks, but including David Terrell's five end-arounds for 17.8 yards a pop, Michigan in 1999 averaged just 3.4 yards per carry (with sacks it was 3.2). Part of that, from recollection, was that A-Train was playing hurt, and barely ever coming out. His 301 carries were 10 times that of backup Walter Cross. The five aforementioned end-arounds made Terrell the second leading rusher on the team (he had 89 yards).
That also counts a lot of 4th quarter saltings and 1st quarter running into piles, and if the game was exciting by the 4th quarter (about half the time), we'd suddenly got to a shotgun and let Brady or Henson toss to Walker and Terrell and Knight and Diallo Johnson until the ledger tipped our way again. It was typical DeBordian offense which set the tone for people of my generation to despise DeBordian offense. If you go back and watch this team on Wolverine Historian clips you'll see plenty of screens. I believe this was because when Maurice wasn't at right tackle, everybody else they had there were guards, so defenses who knew when a pass play was coming just as well as every sophomore in Row 83 couldn't completely tee off on Brady.
How relevant is this to today? Little, except if you squint really hard. What I'm saying is despite the recruiting profiles and the age, once Goodwin and Maurice were removed from the depth chart (and that was only for half the season), given what we know about them later, starting Ben Mast in '99 is not all that different from starting Kalis in '12, in a best-case Kalis scenario. On the other hand Frazier was more of a Barnum than a Mealer. I had forgotten the '97 class was mostly still on hand, but I had good reason to: other than the can't-miss guy and the flier who made good as a serviceable senior later on, you don't see the next generation (Stenavich, Pape, and the Daves) on this depth chart. They were on the team as some type of freshmen, or they were recruits, and considering they ended up starting over Mast and Adkins and Mossa, technically they might too have been the best options.
No there isn't a point in here. Like I said, I thought I had something that might be a preview of what it's like living on the edge with great starters and freshmen behind them. Instead I only found more evidence that getting lots and lots of O-linemen is important because you really don't know which ones will work out, which can best serve the team as depth, and which are really just giant intellectual future ski bums.
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