...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
In Part I (MPP: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/moving-picture-pages-two-way-hopkins-i, PP:http://mgoblog.com/content/picture-pages-two-way-hopkins-i ), Stephen Hopkins shows his value as a blocker. Here, he builds on the 35-yard Toussaint run that was enabled in large part by his two-for-one block. The BTN announcers referred to this as a 'pop pass,' but I think 'Iso Oh Noes' has a much better ring to it.
Setup: Michigan has the ball back quickly after the previous drive (which contained the Toussaint long run). They line up in the same formation as that play, and Minnesota counters with their same formation, with two safeties up and the corners waaaay off.
Wha'hoppon: The play starts out looking like the Toussaint run. Most likely with their ears still burning from the chewing-out they got after that, one LB and one S fail to notice that Michigan's line is pass blocking rather than run blocking, and both move to fill the hole that Hopkins is heading into. Much to their chagrin, Hopkins heads straight out of the hole and has two steps on them before they can change direction. Denard's pass is on target, and the result is a 28-yard gain.
Full YouTube page is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw05WqUONNk
Above: Camp highlights from Michigan, courtesy of Allen Trieu. His defensive highlight reel, which inexplicably cannot be embedded, is available here.
One of the fastest-rising prospects in the state of Ohio is 2013 Cleveland Shaker Heights athlete De'Niro Laster. Despite being a part-time JV player as a sophomore, he recorded 65 tackles and six sacks at linebacker and tallied over 600 yards and six touchdowns as a receiver in 2010, according to Scout, and he's off to a strong start to his junior season. At around 6'3", 215 pounds and still growing, I think Laster projects as either a linebacker or tight end at the next level, although all four recruiting services currently list him as a wide receiver.
De'Niro currently holds offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Duke, and Temple, and already has interest from schools such as Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oregon, Pitt, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and, of course, Michigan. I caught up with the rising junior last night for an interview, and he showed a lot of interest in the Wolverines:
ACE: How's your recruitment going so far? What teams have shown the most interest in you?
DE'NIRO: Everything is going really good. I've been getting a lot of interest from almost every school in the nation, and for different positions. I've been talking to a lot of coaches, a lot of coaches like me at linebacker now, outside linebacker, which I thought I could play at the next level. A lot of coaches still like me at receiver, but I play [well] at both, so I don't mind playing anywhere.
Some top programs that have been showing interest are Ohio State, Michigan is starting to show more interest, and I really like them, West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, USC, Michigan State, it's really a lot. Notre Dame…
ACE: Do you have any early favorites out of that group?
DE'NIRO: I don't have a top [list], not in order. I like Michigan a lot. I've been trying to get in contact with them, but I know they're busy. The week of the Notre Dame game I talked to somebody and I was supposed to go up there for a game, and they wanted me to bring some film too from this year, but I wasn't able to make it. But I like Michigan, I like Ohio State, Indiana, West Virginia, [and] Tennessee, right now.
ACE: You mentioned trying to come and visit. Do you have any plans for visits this season, or are you just focusing on your season right now?
DE'NIRO: Our team isn't doing so well, so I'm just trying to finish up the season, but I do plan on making it up to the Ohio State-Michigan game. We play a lot on Saturday, so I haven't made it to any college games this year yet.
ACE: Which specific Michigan coaches have been in contact with you, and what position are the Wolverines recruiting you for?
DE'NIRO: I think [my Michigan recruitment] got started because I went to a camp, it was a Michigan camp, with Raw Talent, the people I work out with. I did really good, I shined there, I showed my talents up there. Coach Jeff [Hecklinski], he's the receivers coach, I talked to him once and I've been trying to contact him some more but he's been very busy. I don't know [regarding position]. They just want me to bring film up so they can decide. A lot of teams, they're recruiting me for different positions.
ACE: You've mentioned playing wide receiver and linebacker. Where do you think you'd fit best at the next level?
DE'NIRO: To be honest, at the next level, I think linebacker, just because I think I have a lot more to go. I'm 6'3", 215 right now, and I've been gaining 20 pounds every offseason, so I just think linebacker would be the best fit. I'm having a real good season at linebacker.
ACE: I know your team hasn't been doing too well, but how have you been doing personally this year?
DE'NIRO: On defense, I have 77 tackles so far and six sacks, and we've got four more games to play, so I've been doing real good as far as on defense. On offense, I'm versatile, I play anywhere my coaches want me to. They've moved me to receiver, then they moved me to tight end, run me some routes at tight end, so that's going good too. But our team hasn't been doing what we're capable of doing, so I haven't been able to really excel like I want to on the offensive side. I have three touchdowns, and somewhere around 25 to 30 catches, but I'm not sure exactly.
ACE: In terms of your game, what do you think are your biggest strengths, and what are you trying to work on before you get to the college level?
DE'NIRO: My biggest strengths, I know a lot about football, I think I have a high football IQ. I take pride in the game. I go study film by myself all the time, and I think that's been really helping me out a lot this season. As far as physically, I'm a lot stronger than a lot of people, so that makes a lot of stuff easier. During the offseason, I always work on speed and quickness, and I will always want to increase that some more. You can never not want to increase that.
ACE: Any idea when you'd want to start wrapping up your recruitment? Do you have a timeline in mind, or are things pretty open?
DE'NIRO: Things are pretty open. I wanted to, maybe if everything is going well, try to get it done before my senior year, but for right now everything is pretty much open.
Thanks to De'Niro for taking the time for the interview. One thing to keep an eye on in his recruitment is that he's teammates with highly-touted 2013 defensive tackle Donovan Munger, another recruit on Michigan's radar. There's been some talk the two could be a package deal, but it's very early on in the process and those things have a way of falling through pretty often. Ohio State is also going after Munger, so this could once again become a battle between the two fierce rivals, possibly for both Shaker Heights prospects.
I left a fair amount of Brian's analysis out of this MPP because it didn't translate particularly well to video. If you haven't read Brian's original PP, go do it now. If you have, go do it again.
Setup: Michigan has it first-and-ten on their own 38 on their first drive of the game. They come out in a 'power' shotgun (a 12-gauge, if you will) with two backs and a TE, and will run an iso to the right utilizing combo blocks on the NT and a lead blocker (Hopkins).
Wha'hoppon: Schofield and Molk plant the NT like he's a burlap-wrapped sapling. Omameh and Huyge single-block their men halfway to the bench, Denard freezes the backside DE with his ever-present run threat, and Hopkins roars into the hole. He gets his helmet across the LB and blasts him out of the hole, collecting a safety who really sucks at geometry in the process. This turns out to be key to the play, since it both completely opens the hole and eliminates the man-advantage Minnesota had by walking an extra safety down into the box. Toussaint flies through the hole untouched until he gets well into the secondary, and breaks an ankle-tackle on his way to a 35-yard gain.
Full YouTube link is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U0Wh_TNn5E
As I watched Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees @ Tigers the other day, a thought began to pour over me. It reached its peak at the conclusion of the 5th inning.
Superman was beating the tar out of Doomsday. One of the few adversaries with a good chance to fight back, and it was fast becoming a good old fashioned ass kicking. Blow after blow planted squarely and fiercely in the vulnerable midsection; too fast, too powerful, too perfect for even the faintest glimmer of hope to fight back. In just ten punches, the Man of Steel had defeated evil with grace, style, perfect technique and raw power seen only beneath blue moons and in the wildest of dreams. The MVP was king of the mound, high protector of Detroit and all that is good and right in the world. A man of inhuman power and ability. A banner for truth, justice and Victory. I swear that I saw his cape fluttering in the breeze as the crowd stood together to cheer their savior, dumbstruck but to awe his power. The only question was would Doomsday even bother to pick himself up and take the rest of the beating he so rightfully had coming to him?
Welcome, sports fan, to the rationality juncture. The rationality juncture permeates our lives nearly completely. Anywhere a conflict, struggle or challenge exists that we are party to, we often end up standing before the rationality juncture, forced to pick a route. You and I both know, rationally, that the big gainer stock won’t rise forever. Conversely, rationally, we know that the economy will not perpetually tank. We know if we keep driving too fast through the hairpins, we will skid out. We know if we stick to our diet and exercise, the pounds will start to come off. We knew, rationally, that Verlander was not going to strike out 12 more batters and that things would get tight in the game. We knew that Doomsday could punch back.
That night we stood at the rationality juncture with a decision to make. Do we turn down the rational path, applaud lightly, but expect change and thereby minimize disappointment? Or do we walk straight ahead, sucking great lung-fuls of air to scream out our hero’s name? Do we expect a fight back, or do we ready our cameras for the next superhuman volley? Do we accept the chance of failure or cheer the certainty of success?
Sports fans in Michigan have spent a lot of time becoming exceedingly familiar with the rationality juncture as of late. Its twists and bends, various and diverse ways it presents itself, and its ability to inflict massive pain or incredible pleasure, or both have become common to us. It can be lightning quick (Did that play just destroy all hope?) or season long (Will the Lions go undefeated to the Superbowl?). Should we be rational and accept that it was just one play, or should we start the pity party now? Do we want to remember that the Lions are still young and will lose, or do we want to ready our Superbowl party guest list?
U of M fans stand at a unique and far reaching juncture. We’ve been to this party before. And undefeated start against overmatched opponents with a bit of luck and a lot of Denard magic. The rationality juncture stands screaming before us.
“Don’t take that road! It leads to self-delusion and eventual heartache!”
Buckeye fans now understand. They stayed straight where the rationality juncture turned, and now they’re looking for someone (Jim Bollman?) to throw their disillusionment at every time Joe Bauserman throws a pass at air. It would have been much easier to begin with tempered expectations.
Our QB is magic. Our coordinators are the best money can buy. Our coach excretes precious metals.
Our QB is magic. Our coach is a true innovator. Our team is so fast and perfectly built for our offense.
Do you not see the rationality juncture crying out, “Stop This Insanity”?
I saw Verlander’s flowing red cape. I also saw 2 runs in the first and a murderous lineup. I saw what was rational. I still believed in the cape. For all the reasons, right and wrong, sensible and ridiculous, I believed in a superhero.
The contributors of this blog will give you the numbers. They are an interesting and fascinating way to get a handle on a game or a season. They, quite effectively, tell us why something happened. They’re getting better at projecting what will happen. They are giant road signs pointing down the turn-off at the rationality juncture. But they are not why we are sports fans.
We are fans because we believed that a five foot ninja could stop North Dakota. We are fans because we believed Darius Morris would shoot successfully. We are fans because we believed in 30 seconds.
Some of these beliefs left us overjoyed. Some left us heartbroken. The rationality juncture pointed us away from all of them. And nothing could be sadder than believing that D-Mo would find iron or the clock would run out.
The team is 5-0, again. The rationality juncture beckons you to turn. Go Straight.
Believe in Superheroes.
In a previous UV, Brian called out one of Brandon’s chief marketers for saying that the players were the customers. In the UV of Oct 4, I commented that maybe the players ARE the customers. This got a few positive responses and a few negative responses. I want to expand on this idea a bit.
I work in marketing. I just returned from an internal marketing meeting. One of the ideas that our Chief Marketing Officer drove home was “there is always competition - know your competition and you will know your market.” Let’s see how this fits into the college football space.
Let’s define the customer as the end user of a product or service. Fans fit this definition. A fan can be a warm body in the stands, a warm body watching the game on TV, a warm body buying merchandise, or some combination. These are the ways that fans are customers. Let’s assume that you are a fan and you are starting to get very stingy with your entertainment dollars. You will begin to look at the competition. What does that mean in terms of college football? Does it mean you will start going to Eastern games because they’re cheaper? No. Perhaps it means you will not renew your season tickets, or you will buy fewer t-shirts, or maybe you will cancel cable TV. If you do anything, you will trim your spending. You will not forego your love of Wolverine football. Realistically, then, very little competition exists for customers as end users. This is due to extreme brand loyalty.
If you were to define a customer as the end user of a product or service, then the fans are the customers and there is no competition. But there is always competition. I define a customer as somebody who will react to changing conditions/competition. Here, the fans are not customers because their brand loyalty is basically certain. Let me give you an example. When UM hired Brady Hoke, Brian (seemingly) was pretty upset. He was a supporter of Rich Rodriguez and the idea of the RR experiment. He had previously denounced Hoke as a crony. Yet when Hoke was announced as the hire, Brian didn’t vote with his feet. He didn’t become a fan of Purdue. His loyalty is certain. He is a fan from his youth and an alumnus. He is not going to start supporting the Buckeyes.
So the question becomes who CAN vote with their feet and respond to changing conditions? The answer is student athletes. When RR was hired there may have been much dissent among the fanbase, but I doubt too many began rooting for Ohio. Yet when RR was hired Justin Boren went to Ohio. I do not know of one Michigan fan who suddenly switched their allegiance to Arkansas upon the RR hire, but I do know of one player who did.
In the business model of college football, the revenue does ultimately come from the fans as paying customers. Because of bowls and merchandising, and demand for seats, that revenue is directly dependant on the competitiveness of the product on the field. Dave Brandon knows the athletic department can count on the brand loyalty of Michigan fans. The athletic department is competing with other schools for the talents of the student athletes.
Beaverton (OR) Aloha running back Thomas Tyner is one of the top overall prospects in the class of 2013, earning a five-star rating from 247Sports, four stars from Scout, and ESPN150 Watch List honors. Tyner already holds scholarship offers from Oregon, Oregon State, and USC, and has interest from Alabama, Stanford, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and, yes, Michigan.
In just four games this season, he has already amassed 700 rushing yards on 85 carries, and in his high school career he has 2.934 yards on 333 rushes and was the 2010 Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. Tyner suffered a concussion that has held him out of Aloha's last two games, but he was kind enough to do an interview via Twitter (due to his injury, a phone interview was not an option). Tyner wanted me to make sure to shout out all his Michigan followers, and you can find him on Twitter @Thomas_Tyner. Here's my discussion with Thomas:
ACE: What teams have you been in contact with so far?
THOMAS: So far my mailbox has been getting loaded with letters, along with my football locker. I just recently received a offer from USC. A lot of the schools that have been sending me letters are questionnaires.
ACE: How much has Michigan been contacting you? (Any specific coaches?) Also, will distance be a factor in your recruitment?
THOMAS: During the school year one of the coaches came to school and we chatted. I forgot the name, but I am a family man. Michigan is a fantastic school though, so if the school has high enough ratings in athletics and academics, then it's a definite possibility.
ACE: Anything else specific that you're looking for in a possible school? Also, any idea when you'd want to narrow down leaders or make a choice?
THOMAS: A comfortable environment, and [a] comfortable and strong relationship with the coaches. I'll start making my top list next year (senior year).
ACE: How's your season going, what are your goals for the year, and how would you describe your game (strengths/weaknesses)?
THOMAS: My season's going well. I've been out 2 weeks due to a concussion. My strengths are delivering a hit and break away speed. My weakness, or something I could get better at is patience.
Thanks again to Thomas for taking the time for the interview, especially while recovering from his concussion. As evidenced by his ratings, he's definitely a big-time prospect to watch, and should draw major interest from the Wolverines.