(Marc-Gregor Campredon) Alex Kile with his best performance of the year
FIRST: Michigan had a weird offensive period. They generated 27 (!!) attempts on goal but only 2 from Home Plate. They came close a couple times, but Schierhorn had the angle and it would have taken a corner shot to beat him. It semed that the gameplan was to shoot if you had the puck anywhere in the attacking zone...because that's pretty much what happened. The shot volume is great, but if they're going to beat Schierhorn tonight, they're going to have to get to a more dangerous place on the ice.
SECOND: Michigan's second period was better and worse than their first. They generated half as many chances (14), but they also got into HP with 7 of them...something they did not do in the first. Alex Kile generated their first goal, hitting a corner on a shot from just above the circles that snuck inside the post. Probably not the best goal for Schierhorn to give up, but he easily could have been screened. I guess the first period of strategy of sheer volume of pucks to the net paid off for Michigan on that goal. Not as many chances but higher quality ones.
- THIRD: Michigan had their best offensive period of the evening in the third. They took 18 even strength attempts, including 10 from HP. That's very, very good. They also got some power play attempts from inside HP, as well. Michigan's game-winner was from even strength when Nolan De Jong threw a puck at the net from the side boards and Evan Allen redirected it past Schierhorn. Kile probably had his best game of the year. He shot the puck when he had opportunities, and passed the puck very well, tallying a goal and two assists. Allen has also come on very strong the last half of the season. He's also had a nice shot, but has learned the art of slot-tipping, gathering the winner, tonight. Michigan ended the night with 56(19), 34% from HP...right at their season average. The difference was their volume, tonight.
FIRST: Well, taking my advice from the first period above, Minnesota did just that. They out-attempted Michigan in the first period by one, getting 28 looks on net. To top that, they were also able to get into the Home Plate area for 10 of those 28. That's a nice 36% with a high volume. If Michigan is going to allow those types of numbers, they're going to need another Hobey performance from Nagelvoort. Michigan also struggled to get the puck out of their zone, lost an attacker a few times, and had more untimely DZTOs (surprise!). Improvement requested.
SECOND: Well, the second period was pretty much a carbon copy of the first for Michigan, defensively. They allowed 25 more attempts and 11 from HP. Again, not great. Nagelvoort played very well, again, and Michigan was lucky to not surrender a goal. I mean...this just is what it is: Minnesota has a good offense and Michigan does not have a good defense. I expect the third to be similar, penalties pending.
- THIRD: Michigan gave up a 19(8) in the 3rd period. The percentage wasn't great, but the overall volume decreased by period. So...yay! Still, not a great defensive third frame. It took another fantastic effort from Nagelvoort to see this one through. The would-be game-winner for Minnesota was just a great play/move/decision from Vinni Lettieri who came in on a 2v2, used his teammate and the defenders as a screen, and popped out to beat Nagelvoort. Sometimes, good players makes winning plays. In the end, Michigan gave up a 72(29). That's a 40% from HP. That's too high on too large a volume of shots.
FIRST: Minnesota got the only power play of the period (bit of a soft call on Calderone -or so it looked from up here). They threatened with multiple chances before Cammarata finally got alone in front of Nagelvoort and wraped one around him. Minnesota has the #4 power play at 26%. Penalties need to be kept at a minimum tonight.
SECOND: Minnesota had one more power play and threatened, again, but didn't score. Nagelvoort was great on that penalty kill. Michigan drew their first power play and had multiple different chances that Eric Schierhorn was equal to...until Alex Kile had a DO from just above the dot to the back post that Calderone tapped in to tie the game. Pass of the year, if you ask me. I may grunted as to refrain from cheering after that pass, as it was easy to see it all unfold from up here. Fun stuff.
- THIRD: Michigan out-skated Minnesota in the third period and it resulted in several penalties. They had a carry over from the second, threatened, but did not score. Michigan drew a second power play a few minutes late, but again failed to score. After giving up the lead, Lockwood broke in alone and was slashed, drawing Michigan's 3rd and final power play of the period. Jake Slaker took advantage by fanning on his first attempt and rifling his second attempt over Schierhorn (who was fantastic, tonight) to tie the game. Michigan never gave up after going down 3-2 and drawing the penalties exemplified that. Michigan's only penalty kill of the 3rd came when Cutler Martin dumptrucked Schierhorn way after the whistle. Minnesota only had a minute and a half advantage due to the Kloos slash...and they were in time kill mode, already, being up 3-2. M: 2/4; Minn: 1/3
(Marc-Gregor Campredon) Kick Save? Glove Save? FACE SAVE!
FIRST: Zach Nagelvoort started tonight after his shutout of Ohio State. He looked the part, early on, making multiple point-blank saves. Minnesota had several stretches of sustained offensive zone pressure, but Zach held strong for most of the period. Neither first period goal should be on him. The power play goal was shot from about 2 feet away and the second came from a 2v1 and an unlucky bounce after a nice defensive play. He ended the period with 13 saves.
SECOND: Nagelvoort backed up his nice first period with an even better second. He did not allow a goal and made multiple saves from dangerous positions and two OMRs. I thought his positioning and rebound control were both great. The defense has not exactly helped him out a ton, but he's held strong as Michigan's last line of defense. 12 more saves for a two period total of 25.
- THIRD: Dude. Nagelvoort. Maybe its just Steve Shields? I tweeted something out about Michigan not having a best goalie. They have three great ones. Who do I want to start tomorrow night? Like, whomever, man. Each have had hiccups because they're college-aged goalies, but, man...Nagelvoort played very well, agian, tonight. The goal he gave up was just a great offensive play shot from very close. He had no chance. He also made about 3-4 consecutive saves and then had back-to-back glove snatches. Is it past the trading deadline? Can we deal one for Auston Mathews? Nagelvoort ended with 35 saves on 38 shots.
ODD MAN RUSHES
FIRST: Michigan surrendered two OMRs. The first was a 3v2 that Nagelvoort got a piece of and it just trickled wide. The second was a 2v1 that Boka raced back to break up, but the puck bounced right back to the attacker and he was in Nagelvoort and beat him. Both could have easily been goals. Michigan cannot get caught up ice against this team.
SECOND: Ugh, another couple OMRs. Neither cost Michigan a goal, though. Minnesota had a couple 3v2s: both were denied by Nagelvoort, including the last one with his face. Minnesota up to 4 OMRs.
- THIRD: Michigan gives up one more OMR: Another 3v2 and De Jong gets in front of it to block it aside. Five OMRs is too many, if you ask me...especially against a team like this that can score. You can't give them advantages on special teams or get caught up ice. They got one tonight and could have easily has another 1-2.
FINAL CORSI SCORE
I had: Minnesota 72, Michigan 56
www.collegehockeynews.com had: Minnesota 73, Michigan 56
With one game left in the regular season, the Big Ten Tournament picture is becoming clearer – there are still a wide variety of potential outcomes, but most teams have a pretty good idea of where they’ll end up. With Michigan’s recent heartbreaking loss to Northwestern, and Iowa’s impressive road win over Wisconsin, it’s likely that Michigan will find itself playing in the 8/9 game on Thursday afternoon against none other than Illinois, the team that may have sparked the Michigan turnaround with a blowout win and Maverick Morgan’s harsh-but-mostly-true “white collar” comment. Derrick Walton in particular has been playing blue-collar ball as of late, and I’m sure he’d relish another shot at the Illini even though Michigan won the rematch.
This excellent post by Dan Baker at The Only Colors outlines the potential outcomes of this weekend of action across the Big Ten (and it’s definitely worth a click to read through in-depth) – right now, this is what the bracket would look like if there’s chalk in the remaining seven games:
The favorites in the remaining games (according to Kenpom) are in bold:
- Indiana at Ohio State
- Illinois at Rutgers
- Michigan State at Maryland
- Penn State at Iowa
- Purdue at Northwestern
- Minnesota at Wisconsin
- Michigan at Nebraska
A look at some possible seed outcomes after the JUMP.
After last night's loss to Northwestern, I got a little panicked about the thought of Michigan blowing their next 2 games and missing out on the tournament. To help assauge my fears, I took a look at all the bubble teams (based on Bracket Matrix) and how they fared in the categories we know the Committee tends to weigh heavily in their decision making process. Those categories are: Record, RPI, Non-Conference SOS, Wins vs. Top 50 RPI, Wins vs. Top 100 RPI. Apparently, they have added some emphasis on advanced metrics (my guess is KenPom) to aid in their decision-making process.
Here are the "Bubble Teams" at the moment:
Atlantic 10: VCU, Rhode Island
ACC: Syracuse, Wake Forest
Big Ten: Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State, Illinois
Big East: Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette, Providence
Big XII: Kansas State
Pac-12: USC, Cal
SEC: Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Georgia
Mid-Majors: Wichita State, Illinois State, Middle Tennessee, UNC-Wilimington, Texas-Arlington
|TEAM||RECORD||RPI||NCSS||VS. TOP 50||VS. TOP 100 (L vs. 100+)|
|Rhode Island||20-9||42||20||2-3||4-7 (2)|
|Wake Forest||17-12||38||13||2-9||7-12 (0)|
|Michigan St||18-12||46||21||6-7||11-11 (1)|
|Seton Hall||19-10||50||200||3-6||9-9 (1)|
|Kansas St||18-12||58||220||3-8||5-11 (1)|
|Wichita St||26-4||41||221||1-4||2-4 (0)|
|Illinois St||24-5||33||139||1-1||2-3 (2)|
Based on Bracket Matrix, 18 of these 24 teams are currently in the field. Obviously, that # could drop if the mid-majors lose in their conference tournament. If neither WSU/ISU, MTSU, UNCW, or UTA win, there would be at minimum 14 spots for these 24 teams. Where does Michigan stand in each category?
If Michigan were to lose out and end up at 19-13, they'd be playing with fire. A list of teams with less than 20 wins to garner at-large bids in the last 5 years is as follows:
2016: Vanderbilt (19-13, Play-In), Oregon State (19-12, #7), Texas Tech (19-12, #8), Syracuse (19-13, #10)
2015: Oklahoma State (18-13, #8)
2014: Nebraska (19-12, #11)
2012: West Virginia (19-13, #10)
2011: Tennessee (19-14, #9), Penn State (19-14, #10), Illinois (19-13, #9), USC (19-14, Play-In), Michigan St. (19-14, #10)
Some years are more leniant than others to teams with less than 20 wins, but picking up that 20th win would make us all feel much safer on Selection Sunday. Not only does that 20th win represent an important benchmark, but it avoids the stigma of Michigan being in a freefall and finishing the year with 3 consecutive losses. That said, you may realize that half of these teams currently have less than 20 wins. I'd root against all of them as hard as you possibly can.
Michigan is currently dead center in terms of RPI with the 12th best RPI among bubble teams. Again, the concern with losing out is that two more losses to average-or-worse teams would probably see their RPI end up in the high 50s or so, which would put them towards the back of the pack depending on what other teams do. I believe last year, Michigan went into Selection Sunday with a RPI in the low-60s and barely made it in.
This is much better. 85 isn't eye-popping, but this stat will remain static (ha!) until Selection Sunday. Michigan sits 14th, but some of these teams have truly dismal numbers. The Valley teams and the Big East might suffer from not having played many good teams outside of their conference (or in-conference in the case of Wichita St. and Illinois St.)
Michigan is in good standing here.
Record vs. RPI Top 50:
And here we get to the good stuff. Michigan currently has the 7th most wins against teams in the RPI Top 50. The mid-major teams are hard to gauge because they haven't had many opportunities, but when you look at teams like Wake Forest, Cal, and Georgia, Michigan is a cut above. This may not matter much for a team like VCU, but UNC-Wilmington has played 1 game against a Top 50 opponent all year. The Committee will not look favorably at that.
Record vs. RPI Top 100:
And here's our shining star. Michigan is tied with State for the most wins against Top 100 teams of anybody on the bubble. Last year's team had 4, count 'em, 4 wins against Top 100 teams. And much like last year, they have zero losses outside of teams in the Top 100. They have as many wins as almost half the teams have games played. Also, even if they lose their last 2, they'd still be Top 100 opponents (Nebraska is currently at 85).
Of the 37 brackets updated after last night, Michigan is in all of them and is an 8 or 9 seed in 32 out of the 37. They are actually the highest ranked team on the Matrix out of all 24 teams. Even if they lose out, it seems unlikely that 14-18 of these teams will do enough to pass Michigan within the next two weeks.
That said, beat Nebraska and all of this is moot and the Big Ten Tournament becomes about whether they can climb to a 6-7 seed (if they make the semifinals/finals) rather than spending next Thursday worrying about winning or getting left out. If you'd like to watch some games with an eye towards eliminating some competition, here are my recommendations:
Player development has been a reoccurring bright spot for the Michigan basketball program in the past decade. Making the most of 3-star recruits or overlooked talent has been a staple of John Beilein’s teams. Coaching up Trey Burke to the title game and getting Stauskus to the league as a top-10 pick stand out the most.
But another trend has stood out to me after carefully watching recent Michigan teams and that’s late season player development. Each year it seems as if there is an underclassman or two who are nowhere to be found midway through the season – then late February happens. Emerging underclassmen have been an interesting barometer for future success. Look no further than a few current starters.
Last year at this time, Moritz Wagner was in the middle of a stretch where he played one minute across five games. Michigan lost four of those games. Two weeks later, he scored nine points in a BTT win over Indiana before logging 22 minutes against Tulsa in the NCAAs. Against Tulsa, Wagner had 8 rebounds, displayed nice athleticism with post moves and active defense hands. Although he didn’t fill the stat sheet, he showed promise in tournament games vs. Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue. That momentum carried into this year and was on display today when he dropped 22 first half points against the biggest frontcourt in the conference. It was among the most impressive performances I remember seeing from a big man.
Wagner wasn’t alone last year. To a lesser extent Kam Chatman played some big minutes. In 2015-2016 Chatman only averaged 2.8 points in about seven minutes per game. Yet he was on the court in the waning minutes of Michigan’s upset of Indiana. We know how that went down. One shot doesn’t make a player – but player’s don’t hit winning shots from the bench. Chatman’s place on the floor mean’s he earned Beilein’s trust. A closer look at his box scores shows his minutes nearly doubled in mid February. Would have been interesting to see how he would have turned out.
More notably, you may remember Caris LeVert burning his redshirt and being an end of bench guy during Michigan’s title run. He was the team's 8th or 9th man depending on where you place Horford, which is notable considering Michigan’s rotation is usually about seven or eight men. Beilein saw something. And of course through a combination of departures and an offseason training program, LeVert came back the next year to log more than 30 minutes per game – a huge jump similar to what we saw from DJ Wilson between this year and last.
So why is this important now? Lurking in the shadows of Wagner, Walton and to a lesser extent, Wilson’s great resurgence is Xavier Simpson. A month ago, he was seemingly never on the court, or when he was it wasn’t notable. Recently, he can be seen gaining more confidence, running fast breaks, making threes and occasionally taking it strong to the hole. It isn’t much yet, but if history tells us anything Simpson may be figuring things out – which bodes well for the future squad which will have a major hole to fill with Walton graduating.
A few comments this hockey season from the regular posters have asked about or lamented the fact that our present hockey team is sagging back to the 'Pre-Red' days of despair. Having been a small part of that era I thought maybe some of you might be interested in some of the background of those times and teams. Remember I am doing this one from memory of 35-37 years ago (yes, I am very old), and candidly I hope that some of the guys on those teams might be lurkers and/or bloggers here and would be kind enough to supplement or correct what I'm posting. Think of this as the JV version of what one of my favorite posters, RYG, does on a regular basis.
Leading up to my freshman year the team had been coached by Dan Farrell for a number of years, with all but one of those years being a winning record. He was a very good recruiter and my freshman year I think our team had more talent (myself excluded) that would end up playing pro hockey than any college hockey team I'd ever heard of. That said, Farrell resigned before the 1980 season, and it wasn't until decades later that I found out he apparently went back to Houghton to be an engineer. Wilf Martin became head coach. I think he was a Michigan alum that had played minor league pro. He was a nice guy but was in a bit over his head and, to quote Teddy Spears one of the guys on the team who ended up being captain, it was quickly found out that 'He couldn't handle the pressure'. Enter John Giordano, the erstwhile assistant thrust into the lead role.
Giordano fancied himself as the next Herb Brooks, the tough guy coach of the incredible 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic team. You may remember that Brooks' players hated him at the beginning, but by the end of their time with him would've walked through fire for him. Indeed, that team of Brooks' is part of the greatest sporting achievement and event I've ever witnessed. Anyway, the problem with Giordano was that he didn't have anywhere near the gravitas (I am trying to be very diplomatic here) required to pull that off. The net result was that the players did not respect Giordano, they didn't like him, he was not a good recruiter, and though he was okay with the X's and Os of hockey, he was losing altitude in the win/loss column.
The shame of it is that Giordano inherited some pretty serious talent on that roster. Guys that had at least a cup of coffee in the pros, with some doing much better, would include Dave Richter, aka, "Magic", who was a 6' 4 or 5", 235 lb defenseman before those things existed in hockey. Magic was smart and tough and in a pair of skates looked to be about 8' tall. Other guys who made some pro rosters, some minor league pros, include Steve Richmond, aka 'Chi', Dennis May, aka 'Los', Teddy Spears, aka 'Spearsy', Brad Tippet, aka 'Tipper', and goaltender Paul Fricker, aka, 'Spaceman'.
By the '83-84 season Giordano had lost the team, so to speak. The guys all signed a letter addressed to AD Don Canham asking in effect that the school get rid of Giordano and that is in fact what happened.
Red has had a great run but as many have mentioned it looks like that run should come to an end. I hope he leaves gracefully and it would be very cool if the team sparked these last weeks of the season to achieve to the level of it's recruited talent.
Anyway, I hope the Michigan hockey fans amongst the mgoblog glitterati will enjoy this post. Have a great weekend regardless.
This is the first story in this series that features a guy I was not teammates with. He graduated two years before I got to Ann Arbor. Although we shared a lot of mutual teammates, I never had to go against him in practice (thankfully). I was a little concerned about writing this one because I couldn’t interject any personal interactions from our playing days like I did in all the other stories. The good news is, he's an attorney and damn near wrote the piece for me. I've always had great admiration for this guy. He’s got a great story and one I’m happy to share with you.
In this day of roster management, red/blue/gray shirts, satellite camps, poker chips, and the need for immediate impact players, we as fans have a tendency to write kids off if they don’t contribute by their 2nd year. Just 5 years ago, it was taboo around here to say someone was “taking up a scholarship”. I’ve never liked that term or its connotations. We’re so caught up in stars and rankings and offer lists and immediate results that we sometimes forget these are 18 year old kids fresh out of high school.
There’s a chance that if “processing” occurred back in the 80’s, you might not have ever heard about this next subject. He came here as a tall, skinny tight end who transitioned to tackle his sophomore year. He battled homesickness, injuries, and a handful of All-Americans, but finally, in his 5th year, he finally got his due. That year - 1982 - he won a starting spot, made another trip to Pasadena, earned All-Big Ten honors, and lived out his boyhood dream.
Rich Strenger was the youngest of 4 growing up in Wisconsin, where he was a 218 pound end for the Grafton High School Black Hawks. He was recruited by Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan. The Badgers were never much of a factor because they were going through a coaching change. Northwestern was a surprisngly serious threat. Northwestern was coached by first year head coach Rick Venturi. The Wildcats hadn’t had a lot of success on the field winning just 12 games combined the previous 5 years, but they had one of the best recruiters in the business. This guy wasn’t flashy or cut throat. Rather he was honest, personable, and trustworthy with unwavering character and a knack for closing the deal. Rich’s parents knew right away this was a coach they could entrust with their youngest son. They knew he’d get an outstanding education at NU, he’d be closer to home, and with this particular assistant coach, their boy would be well watched over.
You all know who I’m talking about.
Coach Swag Mattison served as defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire for NU from 1978-1980. He knew how to find players and get them to commit. He made a hell of a pitch to the Strengers. Turning him down was a tough choice to make, but Rich knew it was the right one.
Michigan had their own secret recruiting weapon: former Wolverine great and (then) Defensive Backs coach, Dennis Brown. Coach Brown made an equally memorable impression on the Strenger family. He was honest, hard working, and a great man loved by Mr.&Mrs. Strenger. Coach Brown was busy in the Grafton area in 1978. Not only did he get Rich to say yes, he also got Mike Lemirande, Tom Garrity, and Dave Brewster to come to Ann Arbor that same year! The 4 guys were all good friends but they never discussed attending the same college. It just happen to work out that way thanks to the remarkable efforts by Coach Brown.
When Rich arrived in Ann Arbor and moved to Offensive Tackle his sophomore year, he had to compete against future All-Americans Ed Muransky and Bubba Paris who were in his same class. It's hard enough switching from Tight End to Tackle, but when you're undersized AND have to battle All-Americans, it can become a little disheartening. Back then, guys didn't transfer because of who was in front of them on the depth chart. Sure it happened, but not with the same frequency or publicity as it does today. Guys like Rich looked at the depth chart as a challenge. We had two All-Americans on the line, one at Wide Receiver, and a couple others on defense. He knew he'd have to take his licks on demo. Luckily, he had his friends from back home there with him along with Coach Brown, and Coach Paul Schudel who helped keep his head straight and his spirits high. He was not backing down.
Back home – a small town of about 10,000 people 35 minutes north of Milwaukee – people didn’t think he was tough enough or good enough to play at Michigan. Sure he could cut it at Northwestern, you just had to be smart to play there. But Michigan was the big time - "out of his league" according to some know-it-alls. Many of the naysayers predicted he'd be back in Wisconsin in no time.
It was tough for him, no doubt about it. He was a long way from home, playing behind future Hall-of-Famers, and barely able to bench press more than some of the kickers. Legendary Strength and Conditioning coach Mike Gittleson paid extra special attention to the skinny kid who was switching over to the offensive line. Mike was known for pushing guys to their absolute limit. With Gittleson's help* and "encouragement", Rich packed on the muscle, gained his confidence, and ultimately became the player he would be. As a testament to his toughness, Rich never missed a full day of practice (Fall or Spring) in any of his 5 years. That is a remarkable feat for an Offensive Lineman.
“I often think they (the coaches) were part psychologists and part coach. Here they were dealing with kids from all walks of life, different personalities, different races, different religions. Some poor kids, some rich, some middle class. Some over-confident, some lacking confidence. We all felt that we were being treated alike, and I think we were on the field, but off the field, the coaches did subtle different things to help us succeed.”
An example of those “subtle things” was giving Rich his first game action against his hometown team, the Wisconsin Badgers. You never forget that first time you step on the field. It’s surreal. You’re so hyped you damn near forget how to hear. It’s a big deal for anyone whose ever played. But it’s all the more special when the coaches give you that first taste of action against your hometown team. It’s a little thing but it goes a looooonnng way.
During his 3rd year, Rich starting seeing some action on the special teams. He recalls a couple games that stuck out.
Against Illinois, Rich ran down on the punt and laid a hit on a guy trying to block him that knocked him off his feet. The guy fell into the punt returner who muffed the punt due to the distraction. Rich’s momentum carried him right through the receiver and he pancaked him, too. The ball was loose and a teammate recovered the fumble. As was tradition back in then, the coaches would award Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams players of the week. The defensive coaches also recognized the “Big Lick” - the biggest hit of the game. They used to put a projector outside the defensive meeting room that would play the Big Lick on a reel-to-reel, literally looping the play over and over. Rich was surprised to see his play on loop that week. He wasn’t even a defensive player but he was recognized for that week's Big Lick Award. It was the first time he felt like he was contributing to the team.
Later that same year, he given the Special Team’s Player of the Week for his play against Ohio State. They beat the Buckeyes 9-3 that year which clinched the Big Ten title and trip out west where Bo earned first Rose Bowl victory.
At the start of his 4th year, Rich was competing for a starting guard spot. Unfortunately, he would injure the arch on his foot, which was excruciatingly painful. An injury like that won't heal unless you get off your feet and give it a rest. Of course, that wasn’t an option. He went and got treatment before and after every practice, but he never missed a day. Despite his grit and best effort, he didn't earn the starting position. You could blame the injury, but the fact of the matter is, Rich was competing against Stefan Humphries - another All American who was later a member of the Super Bowl Champion ’86 Bears. (If you’re keeping count, that's THREE All-American’s Rich was behind on the depth chart. Remember that the next time you think of "processing" a player).
Rich made his first start at tackle in the opening game of the 1982 season against Wisconsin. He had a good game in the win but the following week against Notre Dame (in their first night game ever), things would not go so well. The offense failed to score in the first half, and despite a second half charge, the Irish prevailed 23-17. Rich didn’t have a good game and was fearful that he might lose his starting position. But Bo, Coach Schudel, and Coach Hanlon stuck with their guy and he rebounded with a strong performance against UCLA the following week. That team would go on to play in its 3rd Rose Bowl in Rich's 5 years. In all, he would be a part of three Big Ten Championship teams and amass an overall record of 45-15. He fought through pain, adversity, a loaded depth chart, and plenty of doubters along the way, but in his fifth and final year, he proved to everyone he could play at Michigan.
When I asked him if playing in the pros was always a goal of his, he replied that “Yes and no. What kid doesn’t want dream about playing in the NFL? But I never gave it a thought because in the back of my mind, I did not think it was an achievable goal. A kid from Grafton Wisconsin just does not go on to play pro ball.” His opinion would change about ¾ of the way through his 5th year.
Rich had improved every week following the Notre Dame game and could tell he was getting better, but not enough for the scouts to notice. Then one day, Bo walked up to him and said matter-of-factly, “You’re going to play in the NFL.” That’s a conversation that’ll change your your life.
The following year, with the 40th pick in the draft, the Detroit Lions select in the 2nd round….Rich Strenger - Offensive Tackle, University of Michigan.
He earned the starting left tackle position his first year in the league, but a season-ending knee injury cut the season short. The following spring, the Lions drafted consensus All-American (of course) tackle out of Florida, Lomas Brown. Since playing behind All American’s had become old hat, Rich simply moved over to Right Tackle, where he would finish out his career.
Following football, he went to work for Oakland County prosecutor (and now County Executive) L. Brooks Patterson. He worked in Risk Management as well as on Patterson’s personal security detail which required him to attend the Police Academy. Rich found the Academy interesting, particularly the criminal law classes. After 8 or so years with the County, in a job that didn’t have much upward mobility, Rich considered other career options. He thought about physical therapy, but Oakland University didn’t offer evening classes (and regular daytime classes were out of question). So he harkened back to his Academy days and the law classes he liked so well. After talking it over with is wife, he decided to apply to and was accepted at Detroit College of Law. He started practing at Butzel Long, and now owns his own firm in Lake Orion, Michigan.
He’s been married to his wife Karen for 32 years and has one daughter who's a junior on the high school basketball team. He sits on the board for the Orion Area Youth Assistance Program and the March of Dimes for Southeast Michigan. He also participates in Clay Miller's "Mentor Program" for current Michigan football players (which just held its 10th annual event last night).
Those who stay…..
Rich wore #68 at Michigan.
If he had a son he’d let him play football and support him all the way. He wouldn’t push him if he wasn’t interested in playing, though. Rich believes that sports teach so many life lessons. He says that the people he encounters in daily life that impress him the most all have one thing in common: they played a team sport.
And in case those naysayers from back home in Grafton need a little more convincing, check out the Grafton Wikipedia page.