...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Indianapolis (IN) Pike WR Dominique Booth is one of the top Midwest prospects in the class of 2014, and he's off to a quick start in his recruitment. Booth already holds scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Missouri, with interest from several other schools across the region, including Michigan. Booth visited Ann Arbor at the tail end of March, and I had the chance to chat with him last night about his recruitment. Here's the full transcript:
ACE: First of all, what schools are currently contacting you the most in your recruitment?
DOMINIQUE: All of them are contacting Coach Moyers about me the same amount. There are so many schools and I think there are some my coach hasn't even told me [about]. Every day it seems like I'm hearing from a new school.
ACE: Of the schools you've heard from, who do you most want to get an offer from that hasn't offered yet?
DOMINIQUE: Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan.
ACE: I know you visited Michigan recently. What was your favorite part of the visit?
DOMINIQUE: I didn't get to go around the whole campus but their indoor practice facility stood out from any other, and all the championships they have won.
ACE: Which Michigan coaches have you been in contact with, and what's your impression of the coaching staff?
DOMINIQUE: Coach Mallory is the one recruiting me and they seem very enthusiastic.
ACE: Do you have any other visits planned for the spring/summer?
DOMINIQUE: Cincinnati this Saturday and Ohio State the Saturday after that.
ACE: Any plans to see Michigan again down the road?
DOMINIQUE: Yes, they made me promise to come back so they can show me all they have to offer. They also called my coach making sure he stresses to me that I need to come back and spend more time with them.
ACE: I know it's early in the process, but what attributes are you looking for in a school?
DOMINIQUE: A good medical school, a good teacher in the wide receivers coach, and a head coach that is going to be there the whole time I am.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field?
DOMINIQUE: Changing speeds in my route running, just being an athlete when the ball is in the air, I catch with my hands, and I'm really good in the screen game because I'm hard to bring down as a ball carrier. Another thing I'm good at is recognizing coverages and exploiting them.
ACE: And what parts of your game are you trying to improve?
DOMINIQUE: I can work on having cleaner cuts and being more aware of my surroundings while going up on the ball and using my hands more on the top of my routes.
ACE: When you're not on the field, what do you like to do in your spare time?
DOMINIQUE: Basketball and I'm a big movie watcher. I feel like I have to see every good new movie that comes out.
Hockey Special Teams 2: The Neutral Zone and Penalty Kill
In honor of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting tonight, here’s Volume 2. I saw the Wings utilize both the Umbrella PP and the Diamond PK, so I was inspired to write tonight.
For the first diary in this series, look here: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/hockey-special-teams-1-powerplay-basics
As was covered previously, there are many situations that can lead to a power play during a hockey game:
Any excuse for a SlapShot Clip
The job of the penalty kill is simple:
1. Don’t let the puck into your zone
2. If the puck gets in your zone, get it out ASAP
3. If the other team possesses the puck in your zone, keep it out of the middle and get it out of your zone ASAP.
In this Diary I’m going to talk mostly about the neutral zone, only some about in zone formations. I mentioned that the obvious advantage of a powerplay is the extra man. The advantages of the defense are that 1, you can ice the puck with no penalty to kill time and 2, you can just focus on defense.
2 may seem obvious, but it’s not. Even-strength hockey is a lot like basketball. It’s a very fluid game, transitions happen instantly, scoring chances are often even, games can be up and down or slow. Suddenly with a penalty, the gameplay turns. There is a defined offense and defense. The offense should score. The defense is trying to stop them. Occasionally the defense scores (anyone have numbers on shorthanded goals per pk vs. defensive touchdowns per drive?) but the main goal is just to stop the offense from scoring. The other thing to keep in mind is the line rules. The offense has to cross the red line to dump the puck (or they ice the puck) and the puck has to cross into the zone before any offensive players do (offsides). The PK can use this to their advantage as I explain below.
In the defensive zone
This is your most common defensive formation. A simple zone box, you try to keep the puck to the perimeter and prevent the offense from getting high quality shots. The arrows above illustrate the coaching adjustment if the Powerplay wants to play an Umbrella (see previous diary). The PK plays a diamond rather than a box. This pressures the QB and wing players and prevents the Umbrella from doing what it wants. If the PK shifts to a diamond, the PP shifts the PP, typically trying to create a 2-on-1 out of the corner.
General PK Bullet that belongs here:
- On the PK, you play under extreme control. If a defender gets out of position and makes a mistake, goals happen. That said, the PK has to play with controlled aggression. A good PK can dictate play. The easiest way to kill a penalty is to not allow the puck into your zone (segue alert) but importantly, the PK MUST capitalize on any mistake the offense makes. If a pass isn’t crisp, if it’s bobbled, if it’s dribbling off a stick into a corner the penalty killer should attack and ice it ASAP. If the offense is able to repossess the puck, get back into your formation and wait for your next chance.
Neutral Zone Play
Here is where it gets really interesting. Most of Michigan’s Powerplay problems stemmed from 2 things. 1, they didn’t have an elite scoring defenseman (H/T to JimLahey, read his comments on the last diary) and 2, they couldn’t get the puck into the zone. My high school team ran 4 different neutral zone penalty kills. I’m going to (quickly) go over 3 of them. Critical in special teams Neutral Zone Play are the lines. The offense doesn’t want icing or offsides.
We called this the I, just like the football formation (or something). In it when the PP begins their breakout, the first man waits between the tops of the circles and forces the defenseman to move the puck to one side. The second forward waits outside the zone and reads the first and pinches on that pass, trying to disrupt the break out before it reaches the red line. These players have to be patient and react to the breakout.
Again, your players need to be patient. You have 1 on the offensive blue line, 2 on the red line (or a step towards the offensive zone), and one near your own blue line. Again your front man has to read the breakout, and force it to one side. Once it’s forced the man on the red line steps up before the puck gains the red line. This prevents the offense from chipping it in. Also you always have 2 men back since the man on the weak side should back up and become a defenseman. This formation is beatable though, most simply by sticking an offensive player at center ice. If the man who catches the first pass can make a good touch pass to the man at center, the offense has a 3-on-2 or better. If the PP doesn’t have the passing ability, or a coach who wont adjust his breakout, this formation works like a charm. It was dominant on the high school level, and I just saw the Wings running it tonight.
This formation is extremely passive and can give offenses fits. What this formation says is “you’re not carrying the puck into the zone against us. You have to dump it.” By challenging between the red line and defensive blue line, you invite the PP to dump the puck in. If you have fast defensemen, you can bait the offense into dumping it, win the race to the puck, and then ice it. Many pro teams use this to just slow teams down through the neutral zone. This gave Michigan fits, as they didn’t have an elite puck handler a la TJ Hensick who could beat this with the puck on his stick. This makes the offense work to gain possession in the zone, and can wear down a first powerplay unit.
Those are some basic Penalty Kill set ups. Now for some general penalty kill bullets:
· The Wings ran a bunch of this tonight
I’ve gotten feedback here and on twitter that this has helped some folks already, hope you enjoy the playoffs. I’m a Blackhawks fan, but I’d love to see us meet in the WCF. And hey, I found out that I get CNBC. Who knew?
· The powerplay is a lot like football plays – constraints are huge
As I showed above, a lot of the formations are a chess match against each other. As I write this the Wings were in an umbrella look while Nashville ran a diamond in the zone. Forced a shot from wide.
· While on the Penalty Kill, keep the puck out of the middle
At all costs. Let the other team waste all the time they want in the neutral zone or near the walls in your end. Players don’t score from behind the net (often). Players score from the hashmarks. Always defend inside out, and if it’s close, be patient and stay defensive.
· 5-on-3 situations
The typical defensive formation is a rotating triangle. Think the Box, just with 3 guys. Depending on what the offense runs, you’ll have 1 high 2 low, or 2 high 1 low. The triangle should rotate (you rarely recover to the zone you were in, you just keep moving). Ice it and get whistles. From the other diary: A 5-on-3 is a goal one way or the other. Everything mental I just mentioned about a normal powerplay is turned up to 11. A goal is scored, either by the offensive team or by the team that shut down the 5-on-3. The momentum swing and huge boost is as good as a goal, and I am not exaggerating. Many teams will run their normal powerplay, just condensed.
· From the other diary, still true: A Good goalie can muck all of this up
A team’s best penalty killer is their goalie. Done. At 7:37 central time they even said this during the Wings game.
- A note on individual play
If you’re coaching at all, or just watching, watch the front of the net during a PK compared to 5 on 5. In 5 on 5 you often see players tie each other up and wrestle for position. On the PK the defenseman should NOT lock up with the offensive players. You’re already down a man, don’t get stuck and create a 4-on-3 situation.
There’s the PK diary. Again, please ask questions in the comments and add insight to it. A detailed breakdown of Michigan’s struggles will come as I can get the pictures and videos together. Hopefully you’ve got some of the concepts to work with now.
[Ed: bump for everyone sticking around for lax Saturday.]
(Saturday's lacrosse game against Ohio State will be the first Michigan game in history truly available for mass consumption, as it will be broadcast on BTN. No paid streams, no hunting around the internet for free ones, no heading to the opponent's website for lame-ass freeze-prone gametracker. Therefore it deserves special treatment, so here is a preview of what you can expect.)
Date/Time: Saturday, April 14; 2:30
Record against the Buckeyes: 0-0
Last matchup: None
Last game: UD 11, U-M 7 (4/7); OSU 10, Hobart 9 (4/7)
Records: U-M 1-10; OSU 5-6 (3-1 ECAC)
(Michigan is an ECAC conference-mate of Ohio, but merely an associate member this season, as not every ECAC team was able to make room on its schedule for Michigan. Therefore our games don't count in the conference standings.)
|Faceoff %||42.0% (54th)||58.0% (54th)||44.5% (47th)||55.5% (47th)|
|Clearing %||71.2% (60th)||76.1% (2nd)||91.0% (3rd)||81.9% (19th)|
|Scoring %||28.7% (51st)||38.9% (57th)||27.8% (54th)||26.8% (7th)|
|O-rating||11.64 (55th)||13.70 (42nd)|
|D-rating||17.94 (57th)||11.99 (8th)|
(Please see first comment for explanation of these statistics.)
Other than perhaps the season opener - and maybe not even that - this is the game that Michigan has been targeting as its biggest all season. It could be because of the opponent; sources tell me that some kind of a rivalry may exist between these two schools. The athletic department, however, has scheduled us a springtime bonanza, with this game directly following the spring football game at the Big House. The weather will be warm but potentially rainy; with any luck the latter will hold off and a five-digit crowd will stick around for this Creator's Trophy showdown.
Yes, I said trophy, though it's not actually at stake this time. The Big Ten lacrosse-playing schools - Michigan, Ohio, and Penn State - have banded together to award a three-way trophy similar to the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. PSU already beat both schools to earn the inaugural Creator's Trophy, and it will stay with the current trophy-holder in the event of a three-way 1-1 tie in any given year.
Ohio last made the NCAA tournament in 2008, and with a first-round upset of 8th-seeded Cornell, the Buckeyes (along with Notre Dame) were at the time considered representative of a Western resurgence (or perhaps just "surgence") in the sport of lacrosse. But they haven't been able to duplicate that success since, as ND has left them in the dust somewhat, and head coach Nick Myers - who was promoted to the head job following that tournament run - may be feeling his seat warm up a little bit. (However, OSU is a football-is-king school, so don't expect the heavy boosters to particularly care, as they would at a place like Syracuse or UVA.)
[Ed: more after the jump.]
During the past few summers when college conference expansion was all the rage, all I could think about was how the maneuvering and backstabbing going on was similar to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I tweeted about it a long while back, but forgot about it until recently when I read an article comparing soccer teams to the great houses of Westeros. I figured with it being a quiet off season and HBO’s version of a Game of Thrones currently in its second season, I should revisit the idea and look at the Big 10 and some of college football’s other teams as if they were great houses. I’ve excluded Nebraska because they are too new to the Big 10 and have tried to avoid spoilers for people who have not read all the books. Feel free to add more in the comments. Enjoy!
Michigan: House Stark. Michigan is one of the oldest teams in the country and can trace their lineage back to the First Men (to play football). Like Winterfell, their keep is one of the oldest and largest in all the BCS Kingdoms, and like the Starks there must always be a Michigan Man in the Big House. One of the defining characteristics of House Stark is their dedication to honor, a trait that Michigan shares as well. Many other houses look upon this as folly, for it puts both Stark and Michigan at a disadvantage when dealing with other Houses who have no such restrictions. Both the Starks and Michigan share sigils of ferocious creatures that do not actually live on their lands. They are The School in the North.
Ohio State: House Bolton. If there is any house that can match the Starks in the North, it is House Bolton. While the power of Michigan has waned in the past years, Ohio State’s has risen under the watchful eye of their quiet leader, Jim Tressel. Like Roose Bolton, Tressel looked like a model banner man and Northerner, honorable and loyal, but deep down he only cared about winning. And win he did, dispatching Michigan and becoming the new Warden of the North. House Bolton is seen by many to be brutal and untrustworthy, but there is no denying their power or the intelligence of their leadership. While the rest of the North floundered, they flourished. Both Ohio State and Bolton now are dealing with new heirs who many people think are basically the scum of the earth.
Wisconsin: House Umber. While not the most powerful House, the Umbers have made a name for themselves for being brave warriors and immensely strong. They could never match the power of the Starks or the Bolton’s, but individually they are perhaps the strongest warriors in the BCS Kingdoms. Their sigil is a chained giant, and the men of the house look the part, simply overpowering any foe who stands before them. One of the members of House Umber is nicknamed “Whoresbane” which sums up Brett Bielma nicely.
Penn State: House Manderly. House Manderly was never originally from the North, instead they arrived a 1000 years ago after being chased away from the South. While they were accepted by the Starks and have lived in the North for some time, they are still viewed by many as outsiders, and not considered true Northerners. While this may not seem fair to Penn State, who have proven themselves time and again to be loyal subjects, it is the case regardless. Whiteharbor is the only port of size in the North and is the portal through which the rest of the North gains access to the fertile lands of the South. While Penn State is not the only way the Big 10 gains access to the East Coast, it does play a similar role.
Michigan State: House Karstark. The Karstarks are an offshoot of House Stark, started by a youngest son who would never have inherited anything. They are proud, but not particularly powerful in the grand scheme of things. No matter what they do, they forever live in the shadow of their more powerful, pure blood Stark cousin’s. And if they get out of hand, you can bet that big cousin is standing there ready to lop off their head.
Minnesota: House Mormont. Both Minnesota and House Mormont are exceptionally proud and incredibly poor. They hardly seem worthy of being part of the BCS nobility, seeing as they live in a wooden fort on an island with no resources, but they are. Their sigil is a bear which kind of looks like a gopher.
Iowa: House Reed. House Reed lives in a swamp far away from civilization. Iowa can be found in a cornfield far away from civilization. Every once in a while they do something interesting, but mostly they just sit far away from civilization.
Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana: House who cares. Seriously, no one cares about the minor houses in the books and no one cares about these teams.
Other Great Houses:
Notre Dame: House Targeryen. House Targeryen is not aligned with any of the old kingdoms, having arrived from Vallyria with dragons and conquering everyone. For centuries they lorded over the other BCS people as the undisputed kings, but recently have fallen on hard times. Inbreeding has basically left them insane, and a series of horrendous leaders have left them running around in the wilderness with no shoes eating horse hearts. One Targeyen named Viserys even got a pot of melted gold poured over his head. Like Targeryen, Notre Dame is not really seen as a threat to anyone, but there is a great deal of power still in the name. A capable person could turn them into a mighty force.
Texas: House Baratheon. Both are big, powerful, and pretty much assholes. They don’t really work with others, instead just tell them what to do. They were kings for a while, but recently have utterly collapsed, and aren’t really a force to be reckoned with. Baratheon’s sigil is a horned stag, which is similar to Texas’ Longhorn.
Alabama: House Lannister. Everyone hates the Lannisters/Alabama, but they are probably the most powerful force in the world at the moment. They have the money, don’t really play by the rules, and treat everyone like the peasants they are. When they play you, they don’t so much want to beat you but kill you, kill your family, and erase your names from the history books. It seems that every few years some sort of horrific scandal is coming out of Alabama/House Lannister, but people soon forget it after they crush some new foe. As far as leadership goes, both House Lannister and Alabama have the privilege of having a genius and bloodthirsty dwarf in command. While the sigil of House Lannister is a lion and Alabama has an elephant, House Lannister’s colors are gold and crimson, which fits in nicely for the Crimson Tide.
Oregon: House Baelish. House Baelish was a speck of a house on the ocean that had no great history or wealth. But through the genius and possibly ill-gotten wealth of one man, that has all changed. Oregon was nothing before Nike founder Phil Knight began making it rain dollars in the Pacific Northwest instead of, you know, rain. Through a combination of absurd wealth and some backroom deals, both Oregon and Baelish are now knocking at the doors of the elite. Plus, both have adorable birds as sigils.
Florida State: House Tyrell. Both Florida State and House Tyrell think they are royalty, but really both found themselves in very fertile grounds and got lucky. It is hard to fail when you have the richest lands to draw from; large populations on those lands, but surprisingly both Florida State and Tyrell seem to fall apart with some regularity. They have neighbors in Miami and House Florent who fell that they are superior and deserve the top spot, but no one else thinks so.
The Big East: The Iron Islands. You could look at individual teams and compare them to individual houses, but what’s the point. Both the Ironborn and the Big East live on the coast and like to think they are powerful and deserve respect, but most people ignore them until they get beaten. And when that happens, they turn around and smack them in the mouth until they run away. Both the Big East and the Ironborn like to claim great swathes of land, but have no hopes of actually holding on to any of it. It is tough to be surrounded by far more powerful kingdoms who could crush you with a sneeze.
WATCHING THE REPLAY... AGAIN
(Click the image to view full size)
Oh, come on. You know you've done it too.
And probably more than once.
OnThursday we'll see Sparty's take on, well, pretty much the same subject matter.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and at least
every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out our newest
feature, Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
[Ed-Ace: Brian (knee) is day-to-day, though he did prepare some content that will be posted this afternoon. Post-Burke-return hoops stuff and a Spring Game primer will appear later this week. In the meantime, enjoy some Mike Hart.]
In honor of Michigan’s all-time leading rusher’s birthday yesterday, a look at one of the unique careers in college football.
Since the 2011 season completed, I have been re-loading 9 seasons worth of games (6,063 to be exact) to update my database to include 2011’s new feature of Win Percent Added. In doing so, something immediately popped out at me. No running back added more wins to their team than Mike Hart did for Michigan.
Sometimes when you are looking at advanced stats you are surprised by how counter-intuitive results can be and sometimes you are surprised how well the data fits the existing narrative. Mike was the back who wouldn’t go down, always got the extra yard, killed the clock and never fumbled. Those are all the things that factor highly in Win Percent Added, especially the 4th quarter capabilities. Burning the clock in the fourth quarter is a key requirement of a successful running back. Especially a Michigan running back. No one did it better than Mike.
For his career, Mike Hart was responsible for 4.4 Wins running the ball. Reggie Bush edges him out if you count receiving WPA, as well, but those are tainted wins. It’s not just longevity and playing time that pushed him to the top. His per game average of 0.11 is fifth, behind two players with only a single season in the database and two more with two seasons at non-BCS level schools.
At this point, writing about Mike Hart is a daunting task. What is left to write that hasn’t been written? He joined the team in the 2004 class as a 3 star recruit. He nearly set the national high school rushing record but wasn’t even the highest ranked running back in Michigan’s class. He would have been the fifth highest rated running back in Miami’s (YTM’s) recruiting class. He saw his first quality action in his second game of his career against Notre Dame in the second week of the season. By week three he was over 100 yards and posting a +5 EV+ and a crucial .36 WPA as Michigan held on for a 24-21 win over San Diego St.
Hart would go on to string together three straight 200 yards games in Big Ten play, including a 0.26 WPA in the Braylon Edwards game. His EV+ was always strong for a running back but where his EV+ was strong, his WPA was Herculean. Mike Hart made all the plays to win the game but none of them to lose them. By the end of the 2004 season true freshman Mike Hart had gone from anonymous three star to posting a per game WPA of 0.15, still my best recorded number in the Big Ten.
Injuries killed a large portion of the 2005 season. Kevin Grady, Max Martin, Antonio Bass and Jerome Jackson all took carries but none could come close to the production from Mike Hart. Kevin Grady was the only one to surpass a +1 EV+ in his absence, and that was mostly unnecessary against Indiana. Jerome Jackson did have a solid 0.14 WPA on 11 carries in an overtime win against Iowa, but that was limit of the success when Hart was out. In five full games of action Hart averaged 0.23 WPA which if replicated across an entire season would have given him the second highest (Reggie Bush, 2005) WPA average in a season for any running back since 2003.
It’s hard to think about what could have been with a healthy Mike Hart. Three carries in a seven point loss to Notre Dame, a DNP in a three point loss to Wisconsin eight ineffective carries in a four point loss to Ohio. There’s a very real chance he swings those three games and Michigan shares a Big Ten title with Penn State and spends its holiday taking on Florida State in the Orange Bowl rather than getting screwed over by the refs in the Alamo Bowl.
With fewer games coming down to key fourth quarter possessions in 2006, Michigan didn’t need the fourth quarter machine Mike Hart. He finished the season with a profile almost exactly like Chris Perry’s 2003 season. With not much in the way of close games, he didn’t have any massive, WPA pushing games like he had in his first two years, but 10 of 13 games would finish at .07 or better. For the year Hart ended at .09 WPA/game, his third top 20 Big Ten WPA year in as many tries. John Clay is the only player to have even 2 top 20 finishes.
For the second time in his career, injuries would derail an outstanding Mike Hart season. After surviving The Horror and somehow managing a strong WPA in the follow-up beating by Oregon, Hart was on track for a season to along side his junior year. An ankle injury in mid-season cost him a couple games of action and a couple more of effectiveness. 2007 would be his lowest rated season but still crack the Big Ten top 50. He would finish the year with enough quality carries to become Michigan’s all-time leading rusher and set the then non-existent WPA record.
When I talk to people about how much more valuable quarterbacks are than running backs they usually point to running out the clock in the fourth as the unquantifiable equalizer between the two. When I first developed the Win Percent Added I was anxious to see how true it was. If you properly value the ability for a running back to keep the clock running and close out a game, what happens to the value relationship between quarterback and running back. After I crunched the numbers I found that the fourth quarter benefit was largely overstated. Until I looked at Mike Hart. There are very few running backs whose value is truly magnified by the little things like the narrative claims.
Mike Hart is the narrative.
Mike Hart, Seasons
Mike Hart, Games
|Year||Week||Vs||EV+||WPA||Rush EV+||Rush Att||Yards|
|2004||3||San Diego St||5||0.36||5||25||121|