...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
"You failed a test, your girl left you, things are hard at home, and you got a ticket on the way to the rink. It doesn't matter. Lace up the skates, put on the gloves, strap on the helmet and walk into a realm where nothing else matters. For the next few hours, your universe is absolutely perfect."
...And if perfection is what you get on the ice, chaos is what occurs off of it. Despite some intense uncertainty, things were going pretty well for me at the time. I calmly assumed that things just had a way of working themselves out and that this situation would be no different.
On the second last game of the season my team had a chance to clinch a favorable playoff spot that would allow us to avoid a first-round matchup with a team that has already put two guys in the NHL. It was basically a must win situation. I specifically remember hating the arena in this particular city. Dressing rooms were small, ice was always terrible, and the parents on the other team were insane. I recall one particularly deranged mom yelling over the boards at the ref that I was "on the juice and should be banned" after I laid one of my better body checks against their team.
Winning 4-3 late in the third period, I was back-checking as hard as I could to catch a player on a breakaway. When his shot hit the post and lay in the crease, I stretched out and dove to clear the puck. A dog-pile ensued. After the whistle blew, I got up on one knee and stared into space for a moment. Something wasn't right. Why does it feel like I have no right arm? Then came the pain, followed by my trainer (an MD).
"My arm isn't in it's socket or something"
(Takes off my equipment, feels around the shoulder area)
"Ahh shit, looks like you dislocated your shoulder"
"Well put it back in and give me my stuff, the game isn't done."
"Don't think so pal, you might have torn some things in there."
I had never had a major injury before, I assumed this was nothing and that I would be back in a few days. Speaking to the orthopedic surgeon the next day, I was informed that my season was definitely done and that the best course of action would be to have the surgery ASAP, otherwise it would most likely continue happening.
Anyone who follows the NFL draft knows that the word "surgery" really means "stay away from this prospect". And news travels fast. The phone calls definitely slowed down, but they still came. Dale Hunter called and once again we had a pleasant conversation. This time he told me that he'd love to take me with his 4th round pick but that I probably wouldn't last that far.
I think there comes a point in every athlete's life when they realize that they are not invincible. For some, it could be when going from high school to college and realizing that athletic ability alone won't cut it anymore. For the really good ones, the ones who truly are elite, it might come with old age when they begin to see that they won't stay great forever. My career was far from over, but I never took my talent for granted again after that injury.
The show must go on.
I had the surgery done pretty quickly and all I could do was wait to see what happened. Central Scouting released their final rankings a few weeks before draft day. My final rankings were as follows:
Pre-season - A (rounds 3-6)
Mid-season - AA (rounds 1-2)
Final - B (rounds 6-9)
In the days leading up to the draft, my local newspaper does a rundown of the local prospects with a chance at being drafted and has an anonymous OHL scout give comments about each. Since it is still sitting on my mom's fridge, here is what mine said:
"An interesting case. Has top 40 talent but missed the most important parts of the season with serious injury. Likely won't fall too far, but teams will be concerned about a 15 year-old with major surgery on his resume.
Big, strong, forward was unquestioned leader of his team that had trouble winning without him. Developed a nasty side to his game this year. Willing to get dirty in the corners and in front of the net but possesses surprisingly good scoring and playmaking ability. Needs to develop a quicker first step and learn to stay low."
The OHL draft used to be exactly like the NHL. It was held at an arena with a podium so that the GM's could announce the picks and give a jersey to their selections. My draft was either the first or second one to be held on the internet. Watching heartbroken, future-millionaires plummet at the NFL draft in New York is hard enough. Try watching 15 year olds who believe they are about to get a jersey not get their names called at all. Alot of crying went on at those drafts. Remember that 600 kids are given a letter grade and deemed eligible for a draft that contains only 300 slots.
I'm quite certain that I didn't sleep the night before the draft. Unless you are a definite top 10 pick, nobody has any clue where they will get drafted. I watched the entire draft because it was interesting, but I started to look for my name once the 2nd round started. When you get drafted, it consists of you sitting in front of a laptap pressing F5 every 10 seconds for several hours. When my name didn't come up with the first pick of the second round, I began to fear that I wasn't going to get drafted at all. The headlines would read "Guinness confirms biggest draft plummet in sports history--local has-been to become hobo"
Then my name came up and my heart stopped beating for what seemed like a minute. My mom cried. I won't say exactly where I got drafted but I went well ahead of my final projection. It may not mean that much, but at 15 years old getting selected in a draft that some people in some places actually care about is an amazing feeling. I jumped around for a while and then spoke on the phone to the GM who called right after the pick. After our conversation, I forgot who I had just spoken to and which team had drafted me.
Rehab was going well and decision time was looming. I was hearing that Michigan had become interested in me because a few of their prospects who were older than me had declared their intentions to play in the OHL. But getting drafted is a circus. Everywhere around town I was getting congratulated. My friends had a party to celebrate my getting drafted. Girls started treating me differently at school. I think they thought I had somehow become rich or something, not realizing that OHL players make $55 a week.
If you're undecided, OHL training camp is where you make your decision. As I understood it, once you spend over 48 hours with an OHL team, the NCAA considers you a professional athlete with no college eligibility. So i went to camp, still about a month away from being able to play full contact.
I sat down with the GM, who knew that I was considering college. He basically explained to me the benefits of the CHL, the education packages, and the unique experience of being a young local celebrity. He was very polite about it, but told me that if I was signing, he wanted it done within 2 weeks.
"Two weeks is plenty of time to evaluate your options. I have to know these things so I can plan for my season. There are other kids we drafted who would love nothing better than for you not to sign so that they can have your spot."
He gave me a contract and I took it home. On this contract, I was given the second best educational package available (1st rounders get the best) which consisted of 4 years of 75% tuition paid for. It was also a 2-way contract, meaning I was basically signing with two teams: the OHL team, and their junior B affiliate. This meant that I might play the year in junior B, or they would send me down if I wasn't performing.
So i went home and thought. I thought all day, I thought all night. I had no appetite, and I don't think I spoke to anyone besides my mom the entire time. I was waking up almost every night in a cold sweat. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice. Why should I sign there? If they are going to keep me in Junior B then I might as well just play tier 2 Junior A in Toronto and wait for a scholarship. Then the phone rang, it was the GM.
"Have you thought about it?"
"Yes, I'm still not sure"
"How's this sound? A one-way contract (guaranteed spot on the team) and a 1st round educational package (100% tuition)."
"I'll call you back tomorrow"
What if I wait for a scholarship and then Michigan doesn't even want me? What if Michigan offers me a scholarship and then I dislocate my shoulder even worse next season, ending my career and eliminating my non-binding commitment? It isn't worth it.
So I signed. I signed because I was terrified. Because I couldn't take anymore agonizing, sleepness nights. I signed because the attention I was getting from the OHL and the local fans and my peers was like a drug. I signed because it was the easiest thing to do. And honestly...
It felt great.
I was late getting this done and that is because I had no idea where to end the story. I realize that some of you will not be pleased with this ending but I really can't go much further. The original purpose was to give you guys insight into college hockey recruiting as it relates to the CHL and I think I have done that. Furthermore, anything past that point would have had nothing at all to do with Michigan and would be pretty self-serving on my part.
If you guys have any questions, I'll answer them below. Just remember, I'm not giving up my identity. To answer your first few questions: No, I don't play in the NHL. I am in law school and am a hockey agent in training. Thanks for reading guys. This was a bit rushed because I have somewhere to be but I wanted to have it done by tonight. I'll be back later to correct any of my spelling/grammar mistakes and answer your questions.
Michigan has only offered a handful of elite running backs in the 2012 class. It's not a huge need for the coaching staff, but if they find the right back they could end up taking one. Marlington High's Alden Hill (6'2", 220 lbs) doesn't currently hold an offer but was asked to make an appearance at Michigan's camp this summer. Here's a look at Hill's film and where he's at in the recruiting process.
TOM: What's the most recent that you've heard from Michigan?
ALDEN: They were in school about three weeks ago. Coach Mattison came in to see me and Zach [Higgins]. He was telling us that we need to camp. Zach committed to MSU, so now they just want me to come. They're really interested and they said I'm one of their top five running backs.
TOM: Outside of Coach Mattison have you gotten a chance to talk with any of the other Michigan coaches?
ALDEN: I went down there for their junior day. I went back and got a chance to sit down with Coach Jackson. He said I'm glad you came back so that we could meet each other, and he told me that I was in their top five now because he likes my personality and everything. They'll evaluate me at camp, and he said I definitely have a shot.
TOM: When's the next time you'll be back up there? For camp?
ALDEN: I've been there twice, so yeah camp will be the next time I go. I have to call Coach Mattison to pick out a date.
TOM: Did you know much about Michigan before you went up there?
ALDEN: I went up there and I didn't know too much until I visited. There's a lot of tradition, and like the SEC they take their football seriously up there. Michigan is known for really living football. They play a lot of big games and a lot of great competition. I know Brady Hoke is going to turn things around, I like him personally. I think they have a lot of good coaches on staff and I like all of them. I really have nothing negative to say about them. It seemed like everyone was on the same page. Every one of them has the same goals in mind, to win a Big Ten Championship.
TOM: Overall how many offers do you have right now?
ALDEN: Seven. I have Toledo, Ball State, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, U Conn, Vanderbilt, and Boston College.
TOM: You had mentioned Zach Higgins as one of your teammates, but you have another teammate getting recruited also right?
ALDEN: Yeah, Zach Higgins committed to Michigan State. It's me, Zach, and  Dymonte Thomas. All of us are getting recruited now. If one school talks to one of us they talk to all of us. We've talked about going to the sam place. They both have been offered by MSU, and the coaches want to see me at their camp. I can't say it's going to happen though. Every kid's going to fit in a school a different way, you have to make sure it's the right fit.
TOM: Since you're a year ahead of Dymonte do you think you'll try to recruit him to whichever school you choose?
ALDEN: I'll definitely try to recruit Dymonte. I wouldn't be too serious about it, because I wouldn't want him to feel pressured.
TOM: I know you're a big back, is that basically your game, or is there more to you than size?
ALDEN: This week I weighed in at 225 pounds, and I'm 6-foot-2. When college coaches ask me, or they watch my film they say I'm a big back, but I have speed. I'm in track right now, and I run a 4.55 in the 40. I also have an 11 flat in the 100. Dymonte and I raced before and 3 out of the 4 times I beat him. He doesn't like admitting that though. I'm not a shifty back, I take one cut and go.
TOM: To go back to your overall recruitment, what are you looking for in the ideal school?
ALDEN: To me a lot of kids will say location, but for me it's wherever you'll fit in the best. What do they offer academically, how they want you to fit in the offense or on the team. I want to be a running back, a lot of schools offer you as a running back then move you to linebacker. I want to bust the line and pound the ball.
TOM: What does your timeline look like? You've mentioned checking out camps so I'd assume you'll take your time?
ALDEN: I've been telling everyone I want to wait. The thing with me is it's been up and down with offers. I feel like if you're going to college for four years you want to go somewhere you'll fit in well. It's like buying a house or marrying a girl, you make sure everything is right. It's the same thing as the coaches before they offer someone, they make sure everything is right. A lot of other kids pick and they don't realize other schools were interested. If I find a school that really likes me and I feel comfortable, then I would have no problem committing.
The Rivals Top 250 list was recently released and Michigan still has a shot with around 45 of those top recruits. Among the top prospects is La Costa Canyon offensive tackle Erik Magnuson. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound lineman checks in as the number 34 overall prospect in the nation with a 4 star ranking. Considering the competition among offensive linemen in the 2012 class, that ranking says a lot.
Back in March Magnuson updated us on his knowledge of Michigan and familiarity with the new coaching staff from their days at San Diego State. "Yeah, I know [the coaches] from there. I feel like Coach Funk is a great coach and really knows a lot about the offensive line….Coach Funk is just the man. He took me in when I was a sophomore and just really treated me well," he said. He also mentioned that despite the fact that he lives in California he prefers the cold weather of Michigan.
Erik's then top five consisted of Michigan, Oregon, USC, Miami, and Oklahoma but was still changing as offers were coming in. He now knows who the top three programs are, but isn't ready to announce all three schools just yet. "I haven't come out with the top three yet. I'm waiting a little bit to make it public, but I will say that Michigan is one of them," he said. "I'm only taking official visits to schools that I'm really serious about and I will be out to Michigan this fall for an official."
Magnuson will release the rest of his top three to the public soon, but isn't sure when exactly. He also doesn't have a set timeline for when he'd like to make his decision, but is hoping that comfortable feeling lets him know when he's ready.
Erik Magnuson Junior Film
NOTE: I am not so narcissistic as to think that my life is deserving of a novel, but I didn't realize just how much information would be involved in this story. I originally intended to write about an alternative perspective to the OHL vs. NCAA debate, but it turned into a story about my hockey life and I think it works better this way. I really hope I'm not boring the shit out of you guys, thanks for reading.
Why'd you turn against me, Gordon? For six years, I taughtcha how to skate, I taughtcha how to score, I taughtcha how to go for the "W". You could have been one of the greats. An' now look at yourself. You're not even a has-been. You're a never-was. " - Mighty Ducks
The OHL draft year begins the day after the previous one takes place. Scouts never stop scouting. Players never stop playing, and parents never cease to believe their child is the foremost deserving of attention. My coach arranged to have various scouts and OHL executives speak to us prior to the season so we would know what to expect. The most common advice in no particular order:
1. Lay off the beer/marijuana 2. Don't change your game just to impress scouts (most kids had trouble with this one) 3. Do not take steroids, they don't help with hockey and they will destroy your teenage body 4. Teams will absolutely inquire about your character, so don't be an idiot off the ice or at school.
This period in my life seemed like one long existential crisis. Who was I? Was I the type of guy who would go to the OHL or should I hold out for a letterman jacket? I will say this: I don't remember anything from my social life as a 15 year old. I'm pretty sure there were girlfriends, parties, and hangouts but I don't remember much of it. Ask me about my hockey season though and I can probably recall my team's record against every other team in the league, right down to which goalie was playing on each side, and who were the top performers from each game.
In a game that featured two teams with several top prospects, there would be at least 15-20 scouts in the stands who were identifiable by the logo-jacket and notepad. I was nervous to the point of barely being able to speak prior to each and every game I played.
When the year begins, Central Scouting releases a preliminary draft list with about 100 kids on it. Teams add players as the year goes on which results in a mid-term ranking with 300 players and the list ends up at 600 kids who are eligible in the final version. Only 300 get drafted in total. The rankings go as such:
AA - Bluechipper, rounds 1-2
A - Rounds 3-6
B - Rounds 7-10
c - Rounds 11-16
Mind you, every eligible player receives a letter grade, and only half of the total players on the list would get drafted at all. Prior to the season, to my dismay i received an A grade, pegging me to go in rounds 3-6. Oh well, maybe it had something to do with my flirtation with college hockey.
Letters from colleges started coming in. The first letter I got was from Ohio State. It said something along the lines of "We recently scouted you at the (whatever) high school tournament and are aware of your talents, we will continue to scout you." That was a funny one because I never played high school hockey in my life. Moreover, I wasn't even aware that Ohio State had a hockey program. Letters continued to roll in. Holy Cross, Michigan State, Maine, Minnesota, Notre Dame. No Michigan. Remember, schools can't make offers to kids that young. The letters all contained generic language talking about educational opportunities saying that they were basically aware of my existence along with some brochure and questionnaire. Nothing from the actual coaches, and nothing personal at all.
I was very much wanting some sign from the University of Michigan that they were interested. I began sending emails to who I thought was Coach Berenson. Basically, I wrote about my hopes and dreams and that it would be an honor to play for Michigan. I did so at least every two weeks all season, giving updates on my stats and performances. I don't even remember where I got the email or if he was reading them. I didn't send out any other emails, only to Michigan.
My season was going splendidly. The mid-term rankings came out and I was pushed to a AA projection. What a feeling. I remember the same week that the rankings came out my grade 10 math teacher told me that Dale Hunter (Owner/head coach London Knights) had called him to ask what kind of kid I was, if I did my homework, and if I treated my classmates with respect. A week later he called my house to have a good, long conversation about what the Knights had to offer for a young man. We talked for at least 30 minutes and the conversation ended with him saying that he wanted me with their 2nd round pick but that I probably wouldn't last that far (the Knights were a powerhouse, picking last in each round). This wasn't the first such call I had received, but it became at least an every other day occurrence at this time, along with giant packages in the mail with brochures from each club containing hand written letters from coaches/GM's.
In football recruiting terms, I was a 4-star prospect, probably somewhere just inside or outside the Rivals 100. Now imagine a prospect lists Michigan in his top 5 with LSU, Bama, USC, Florida. Then, tell Brady Hoke that he is the only one of those coaches who is not allowed to speak with said prospect at any point during his senior season. In fact, he's not even allowed to let him know that they want him there at all. Meanwhile, Les Miles and Nick Saban are speaking to him daily, making in-home visits, and sending emails. That's what NCAA hockey deals with every single year against the CHL.
I still wasn't wavering on Michigan, but I didn't know what to do. I began to tell scouts that I would go to the NCAA only if I could go to Michigan, otherwise I'd be in the OHL. The only reason I said this was so that the hockey community would know that I wanted to go to Michigan. The hope was that this information would make it to someone important in Ann Arbor at which point the information would trickle back to me as to whether they were interested or not.
This worked, kind of. There are these companies that exist that you pay to promote you as a prospect. They are mostly geared toward helping Canadians get NCAA attention. I got two or three calls, all from different people claiming to work for various services inquiring about my intentions. I was not paying anyone for this service, they just called me.
"Hey, I heard you're interested in the NCAA. Good for you, smart guy like you should be doing that."
"I am interested, but only in Michigan."
"Oh really, I was going to suggest you look elsewhere, I know they have their eye on some other prospects and I think a big gritty forward like yourself is better suited to the OHL."
"What, you just said I should be playing in the NCAA"
"I'm just saying, I don't think Michigan is interested, maybe you should look at other schools. But you never know, right?"
"Yeah, right, cya"
SHIT!?! Who the hell was that and why is he taking a dump on my dreams? I told people about this call and most said not to worry about it. Chances are, according to my coaches and friends, that it was someone from an OHL team who knows that only want to play for Michigan and will otherwise go to the O.
At this point, I was getting extremely upset and impatient. Rules be damned! Michigan, if you're interested, give me some sort of sign. Anything will do.
I started to hear from every direction that there were several top division 1 scholarships available to me, but that Michigan would probably not be one of them unless I was willing to wait at least a year for them to see where their scholarship situation stood. At this point, the information was becoming so similar from all sides that I had to assume it was true.
That is until I finally got the letter. Stacked somewhere in between the Oshawa Generals and Bowling Green was a letter with a block M in the corner. It contained a brochure for the University, a questionnaire, and the contact information for the coaches. Turns out, I had not been emailing coach Berenson at all, but now I had his real address. I emailed him and got a response from an assistant coach. He told me to call him.
WHAT?! I can call these people?! How was this not explained to me before? I had never bothered to email any other school and since the player must initiate contact, they couldn't reach out to me. This changed things. I called the number several times and left messages, but nothing. Then finally, someone picked up and we had a good, long conversation.
While these conversations excited me, they were generic and non-informative. I still had no idea where I stood with them, and that was not a good thing.
Draft day was 3 months away and I was still hearing through the grapevine that I was not a plan A player for Michigan. Shit was about to hit the fan.
Michigan kept the commitment train rolling by landing Matt Godin and 2013 QB Shane Morris last week. With 11 commitments already in the 2012 class it doesn't look like things will slow down just yet. Here's a look at some recent happenings, and where Michigan is at with a few new prospects.
6'5", 270 lbs.
Keenan is a versatile lineman that has racked up around 15 offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi State, and Tennessee, amongst others. Despite the fact that Trey lives in Texas he has some roots in Michigan.
Michigan came by the other day, Coach Funk did. We plan on making it up this summer because my grandma still lives in St. Clare Shores, that's where my dad's from. He played at Northwood and he's a big Michigan guy. He grew up with the 70's and 80's teams when Michigan was cranking out good teams. He always cheered for Michigan.
Trey has been to Ann Arbor before, just not for a football game.
Before I was a football player I was a big hockey player. We went to Ann Arbor for a hockey game once. I played hockey until I was 15, and I was actually drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western league.
Michigan already has one former hockey player turned offensive lineman in Ben Braden. It would be pretty unique to have two in one class. The Wolverines seem to be high on Keenan's list for a number of reason.
Coach Funk said they're in a real shortage of offensive linemen, they only have eleven. They want to try to get six out of our class. I think he likes how athletic I am, and I'm strong enough to be in lifting meets.
It seems as though the Michigan coaches are positioning themselves to make Keenan's final list as well.
I want to figure out my list by the schools that I feel like have invested time in me, coming by my school, and making the extra effort with handwritten letters like Michigan has. If football didn't happen that I'd still love going to school there. I also want to go to a place that could push me football wise and if everything worked out right, get me to the next level. I think Michigan fits those points.
He plans on having his narrowed down list out by the end of this school year. As he said he'll make it up to Michigan sometime in the summer. Ultimately he would like to have his final decision made before his senior year starts up at the end of summer.
6'1", 175 lbs.
Michigan is in great shape with a few defensive backs that already hold offers. The coaches, however, are still offering defensive back prospects that they think fit their system. Glenville DB De'von Bogard is the most recent recipient, and Will Hines could potentially be on that list as well. I have been in contact with Hines for some time now, but he believes that things are starting to pick up.
I have eight offers so far and I think Texas A&M and Michigan might be close to offering. Michigan came by the school the other day. Coach Funk said he liked my updated highlight film and the defensive coordinator just needed to look at it. He's going to look at it in the next few weeks I guess.
I believe the coaches will be out recruiting these next couple weeks, so Mattison will probably watch his film after that. Hines said that he does have a top list right now, but that could change if some schools jump in the mix.
Right now it's Arkansas, Baylor, Missouri, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State. Those are the top five that have offered. If Michigan offers then they'll probably take Notre Dame's spot.
Hines doesn't know too much about Michigan yet, but is definitely hoping for an offer.
They have a great history, a great program, and they make a lot of great players. It's going to be tough to get up there, but I am going to try to get up there for a visit. I'd like to make my decision towards the end of summer after I get some visits in.
Like I said Michigan is in great shape with a few other defensive backs, so we'll see in the near future how many spots are left.
6'3", 235 lbs.
Michigan has already extended a few offers to 2013 prospects. Commit Shane Morris, and Ohio super Dymonte Thomas were the first two. The third is Detroit Catholic Central ATH Wyatt Shallman.
[Michigan] offered me in person. Me, my dad, my mom, and sister all met the coaches. We went in and talked to Coach Hoke and he offered. We were just kind of small talking and then he said, by the way you have a full scholarship to go here that will pay for your education. We just kind of looked at each other, and my mom cried. It didn't really sink in to me until I was driving away from the stadium and I could see it in the rear view, as cliche as that sounds.
Cincinnati has also offered Shallman, and he's hearing from MSU as well. The interesting part of the Michigan offer is that the coaching staff has told him they want him as a tailback, not a fullback.
I was offered as a tailback at Michigan. There's a common misconception that I'm big and will play fullback. I believe that I could be a different type of tailback. I had a long talk with Fred Jackson. They were telling me how the offensive coordinator came from Auburn with Ronnie Brown. Everyone said Ronnie was a fullback, but they noticed his speed and used him as a tailback. I feel like there's some parallels with him, and they told me I'd be dotting the i.
Even though Michigan was his first offer, Penn State was where his recruitment started. That seems to have left an impression on him as well.
Penn State is really the first school to start recruiting me. I went down to a camp after freshman year and they started talking to me after that. With them being my first influence in recruiting really intrigued me. I would love to get an offer from them because of all the tradition they bring to the table.
Penn State may have been the early bird, but Shallman's family will also factor in to his decision.
It's a great thing for my family to have this offer, because they're a football family. I was never a football fan growing up until about 8th grade. My mom is a crazy Michigan fan, she has bumper stickers that say Oh How I Hate Ohio State and everything. It will probably take me awhile to make my final decision, too. It involves my whole family, they're my rock and this is a family decision. I'm going to take my time with everything.
Wyatt is lucky to have a good foundation to support him, and he also has a good friend that recently went through the recruiting process as well.
Me and Matt [Godin] are really good friends. He was kind of my mentor this season, and he was a sophomore on varsity also. We've talked a little bit about recruiting and Michigan but we haven't had a lot of time to sit down and talk about it. Once you commit you're kind of a recruiter for that school so I'm sure he'll try to do that with me.
Shallman is nowhere near a decision, obviously, and plans to let everything take its course.
Ohio DE Chris Wormley recently said Michigan was his leader in a Toledo Blade article. Wormley told me last week that he thinks he's inching closer to a decision. Once track is over in June is when he'll start to focus on his recruitment.
Instate DB Terry Richardson will most likely be making his announcement this week. It will probably be Tuesday or Thursday, according to his coach. I'll let you know once I have the official word. An early decision is good for Michigan. [Ed: The announcement is set for Tuesday at 11:45am]
Ohio DE Adolphus Washington told me that he will be making a trip to Michigan soon. It's safe to assume that he will bring his teammate WR Dwayne Stanford with him as well. Look for that to happen in the next two weeks.
There's been a rumor running around that Michigan may be getting a visit from QB Gunner Kiel. I haven't confirmed that yet, but there's been a lot of smoke around Kiel's name lately, so keep an eye on that. [Ed: Source of the smoke seems to be Facebook stalkers noting a Kiel wall post from Borges asking if he's coming in this weekend. If he does end up on campus that's a very good sign since he was just in Ann Arbor. Rapid-fire visits like that usually mean the school being visited is the leader.]
Georgia DT Jordan Watkins is expecting a visit from the Michigan coaches this week, or next. Watkins has a ton of offers, has a 3.7 GPA, and even plays the cello.
A couple quick notes on a few questions that keep coming up. It looks as though the Michigan coaches have cooled on TE Ron Thompson for now. His coach is planning on calling the Michigan coaches this week to find out what's going on. Please try not to speculate too much here.
Illinois DB Anthony Standifer had to reschedule his visit this past week because his father couldn't make it. He plans on rescheduling it in roughly two weeks, once the coaches are back from recruiting trips. Michigan is still in good shape with him. The new offers from the likes of Notre Dame may cause him to slow things down, but when he visits a commitment is possible.
I was told and reported awhile ago that Michigan and Rutgers were probably the top two schools for New York DB Wayne Morgan. I was told recently that Michigan may have taken over the top spot for Morgan by his coach. Both Morgan and his coaches have been impressed with the Wolverine coaching staff.
A long, long time ago I did some analysis on the correlation between defensive performance and player experience. The results showed, somewhat surprisingly, no correlation. However, the consistent knock was that the analysis leaves out player talent level. This article will hopefully lay that issue to rest. We will look at the talent level of defenses throughout the NCAA, examine the correlation between the average rivals star rating of the defensive players on the two-deep and the defensive performance, and conclude that it is quite significant. We will weep a little at Michigan's poor performance, but end up hopeful that from the ashes of 2010, a salvageable defense can rise in 2011.
As before, I'm scraping the depth chart data from rivals for the 97 teams for which it is available, and for this analysis, using only the defensive players. As before, I calculate "experience" from the players academic year (fr = 1, so = 2, jr = 3, se = 4, gs = 5, rs += 1).* I then take a simple average to come up with an experience score for the defense.
Next, I scraped the rivals recruiting database to get star ratings. Unfortunately, even though both data sources are from rivals, they have a significant amount of mismatches, so I had to go back through and find ratings for several hundred players, in cases where, for example, rivals had the full name in the two-deep but only the first initial in the recruiting database. Yes, this was a massive pain in my ass**, and it is why this analysis doesn't include offensive data - I didn't feel like looking up another several hundred players***. Players that I couldn't find got 1 star. (eg, the Michigan 1 stars are: Moundros, Kovacs, Leach) Finally, with stars for every player, I took an average for each defense.
"Defensive Performance" comes from Football Outsiders. I'm back to using the S&P+ out of personal preference.
First lets look at a plot of experience vs talent for defenses in the NCAA last year:
Each point is a team, their average "talent" as measured by rivals star ratings is on the X axis, and "experience", as measured by average years on the team, is on the Y axis. The blue lines cross at Michigan's point. As you can see, Michigan's defense last year averaged right around 3 stars, which is not the worst in the NCAA but certainly not the best.
Lets summarize this data with a bunch of tables:
Teams with most talented defenses:
Teams with least talented defenses:
Talent on Big 10 teams + Nebraska and ND:
Teams nearest to Michigan by Euclidian distance:
|Team||Stars avg.||Exp. avg.|
Huh. . . that's actually some pretty good company.
Ok, next, lets look at how talent correlates with defensive performance:
Finally - a good correlation! After staring at those experience vs performance shotgun blasts, this is beautiful. Clearly, having a more talented defense leads to better performance. In a linear regression model with defensive talent (avg. rivals stars) and defensive experience (avg. years on team) as predictors and defensive performance (Football Outsiders' S&P+) as the target, talent is a significant predictor (p = 3.49e-11) of defensive performance with a large effect size (each avg star increases a defense's S&P+ score by 14.8). R2 is so-so, at 0.38. However, as we saw in previous analyses, years on the team is still not a significant predictor (p = 0.84). This underscores the extreme importance of recruiting.
The blue lines cross on Michigans point. Teams with the same level of talent turned in much better defensive performances, and teams with similar defensive performances pulled it off with much less talent. Blerg.
If we take the red line (best fit line) as a gauge of the performance a team should be able to get from a group of players with a given telant level, we can look at who is overperforming and underperforming that prediction by looking at the distance of the actual performance from the red line.
Top 10 outperforming their talent level:
|Team||Gain over Predicted|
Top 10 underperforming their talent level:
|Team||Loss from Predicted|
Big 10 + Nebraska and ND:
|Team||Distance from Expected|
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Blerg.
Interestingly, even after including talent in the regression, experience ("years on the team") is still nowhere close to being a significant predictor of defensive performance. Getting older is not guaranteed to make your team appreciably better, but getting talent on the field does. There is also clearly a range of outcomes available at each level of talent, exemplefied by Boise State and TCU (assuming FO S&P+ really does account for strength of schedule). We might attribute this to a factor not included in the regression analysis, eg. "coaching".
All told, there are no excuses in Michigan's average experience or talent level that can account for the defensive performance in 2010. In terms of average talent and experience, this team resembles some of the best teams in the country, including the national champions. Hopefully, this means there is no reason that there can't be a huge turnaround in 2011.
Unfortunately, SD State doesn't have a depth chart on rivals, so they weren't included in this analysis. It might be interesting to compare their performance to expectations - maybe I'll do that for my next diary.
* Yes, I know this counts "years on the team" and not "years as a starter", quit telling me that.
** I discovered a bug in rivals recruit search. Go here: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/recruiting/recruit-search and put Greg Banks in the first and last name boxes, and select "any year" in the drop down. Hit search. Now go back and search for Greg Bank.
*** Though if anyone wants to help me compile this data I'd be open to that, we could use more excellent articles like this one: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/recruiting-bias-and-accuracy