it's a major award
This is an offseason post. You’ll find no revelations buried in records or statistics, no concrete prognostications on the coming season, and it neither applauds nor condemns the recent coaching change. It is merely one fan’s take on a somewhat transitory period of Michigan football.
Sometime after its owner has gone to bed, a Michigan jersey sprawled on the grass becomes indistinguishable from any other uniform. The blues fade into green then scarlet then nothing at all; the burst of maize flirts with the audacity of Nittany white before settling into a muted gray. The colors play their tricks and all that remains is crumpled fabric.
The uniform is not actually different in those hours after it was cast aside in triumph or defeat, but to a nocturnal observer its identity can feel temporarily misplaced.
Some colors just float on the light.
If rocks could swim, pigeons were toasters and the lunar cycle affected Michigan football, we would be experiencing those silent hours that are neither dusk nor dawn but that uphold qualities of both. Today's Michigan fans are like those nocturnal observers, watching the same winged helmets crown the same fervent players in the same Michigan uniforms, but somehow the team's identity, that ineffable thing that makes it whatever it is instead of something different, has been temporarily misplaced.
This is not to say we find ourselves in, or anywhere near, the proverbial dark ages of Michigan football. Instead we bask in the entropic calm of night, that recuperative time only partially remembered in the infancy of the following day. The night comes and it goes and it is not good or bad; while it's here our visibility is diminished and our perception is skewed and identities might become misplaced, but in the morning we are usually stronger because of it.
Some praise the Lord for Light,
The living spark;
I thank God for the Night
The healing dark.
~Robert William Service
Exeunt the night.
You may think that Brady Hoke is a god or devil, and you'd be wrong. If you tell me he's lucifer, you've stumbled closer to the mark but most likely by awkward chance. It's been 108 days since Hoke was hired, no games have been played, and how he will fare in the coming season is a fair question for better time-travelers. Although his success may still lurk in the realm of our collective optimism, Brady Hoke is already bringing something palpable to this team. It's light materialized into rote sound bytes about "toughness" and "fundamentals." It's identity. It's the dawn that ends the night.
Michigan may have the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, but the sharpest weapon in its arsenal at the moment is a newfound sense of self-definition. Six months remain to dissipate the lingering darkness, but already the contours of the future program are becoming visible.
Sing to the colors that float in the light;
Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue!
Yellow the stars as they ride thro' the night,
And reel in a rollicking crew;
Yellow the fields where ripens the grain,
And yellow the moon on the harvest wain; Hail!
Hail to the colors that float in the light;
Hurray for the Yellow and Blue!
-Charles M. Gayley, 1878
Just about everyone knows the chorus to the fight song, but many fail to recognize the above words as those to the alma mater. It's said that these words earned Gayley the sum of ten dollars after he entered them into a contest at the University of Michigan. Today they seem to hold a certain magic, a special meaning for a team battling the haze of the early morning and struggling to find its identity. As this team rides thro' the night, these words offer a reminder of what awaits in the coming dawn.
The light is coming, and the colors are beginning to float.
Brady Hoke has made it clear that the state of Ohio will be one of the main areas of focus [Ed-M: linked to DD on Ohio] for recruiting going forward. He proved that point early on by offering most of the top ranked prospects in the state to the south, including defensive end Adolphus Washington. The Taft High standout spoke with me today about Michigan and where he's at in the process. Here's a look at his film and what he had to say.
TOM: I know it's still early, but you already have a good amount of offers in hand, do you have any visits planned right now? What's next for you?
ADOLPHUS: I don't have any visits planned yet, but I'll probably start taking some in a couple weeks. I haven't really had time because of basketball, so once that's over I will.
TOM: Where have you taken visits so far?
ADOLPHUS: Just Ohio State and Kentucky, I think that's it.
TOM: You said you don't have any visits planned, but do you have an idea of what schools you want to see?
ADOLPHUS: I want to see the Midwest schools like Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Kentucky. I can't go too far obviously, so just the local ones. Ohio State and Michigan will be my first two visits.
TOM: Since you haven't seen most of these schools yet, how are you evaluating them or analyzing them?
ADOLPHUS: When I'm at school I look up their rosters to see who they have coming back and who's redshirting. I kind of look at defensive end more, some schools want me to play outside linebacker, defensive end type role. Michigan has said just defensive end.
TOM: I'm sure the coaches are probably all saying something similar about their schools, but what has Michigan been telling you so far?
ADOLPHUS: Michigan, they think highly of a lot of guys here. They say they need Ohio guys to build their program. I mainly talk to Coach Smith and Coach Mattison sometimes too.
TOM: It's early, but do you feel comfortable talking to them? Do you feel like you're establishing a good relationship with them?
ADOLPHUS: I've established a real good relationship with them. Our AD at Taft used to play for Coach Smith at Indiana State so I trust him because of that.
TOM: I know you and your teammate WR Dwayne Stanford have said you want to play together in college, is that 100%?
ADOLPHUS: We're kind of looking at everything together, we like the same thing in schools. Our majors will be different, but yeah we're 100% going to school together.
TOM: I know that there's a lot of talk about you guys being Ohio State leans, and really liking Ohio State. Are you open to listen to other schools, or are you guys set on Ohio State?
ADOLPHUS: We're open to everybody. We like Ohio State because we grew up fans of Ohio State, but we're giving everyone a chance. Michigan is recruiting me very hard. A lot of people say that I'm an Ohio State lean, but Michigan is still recruiting me hard and I like that. That says a lot about them that they're still coming after me like that. Their program was down last year but I think they're an up and coming program and they'll be back.
TOM: When you start to take visits what are you going to be looking for when your on campus?
ADOLPHUS: When I go to a school I'm going to be looking for how I fit in with everybody else, how do they treat the players and everybody else on campus. Are the players segregated from everybody, or is everyone together. I want everyone to be treated equally with the players, I don't want it to be separate.
TOM: Do you have any preference for scheme?
ADOLPHUS: I can play in any scheme.
TOM: Fair enough. With that being said what do you think are your strengths and weaknesses, and what's your height and weight right now?
ADOLPHUS: I'm 6-foot-4, 258-pounds right now. I think my strengths are rushing the quarterback and being the first to the quarterback. I think I need to learn how to use my hands more, to use my hands better. That's something that I work on.
TOM: Do you know when you're going to make your final decision?
ADOLPHUS: I'm going to make my decision at the Under Armour All American game.
Defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins (6'3", 325 lbs) may currently live in Missouri, but he still has a soft spot for his old hometown teams in Michigan. Pipkins has seen his recruitment take off with offers from Michigan, Iowa, MSU, and Tennessee to name a few. He's still taking things day by day, but here's a look at his combine film and where he's at in the process.
TOM: Have you heard from the Michigan coaches recently?
ONDRE: Yes, they came out to my school [Monday].
TOM: Was it for an academic evaluation, or did they watch you practice?
ONDRE: They saw me lift as well as my grade evaluation.
TOM: I know you've said before that you're going to try to visit Ann Arbor, have you set anything up or do you know the date yet?
ONDRE: Yeah, I'm going down there in June. I'm not going to camp, I'm just visiting.
TOM: I know it's still early for you, but where do you think Michigan stands in all this for you?
ONDRE: They're a school I really like, that's home for me. I have a great relationship with the coaches. Coach Heck[linksi] is my recruiter and he's serious about winning. They all really want to win.
TOM: Do you know when you're going to narrow down your list yet?
ONDRE: Yeah, I'll narrow it down to a top five in June sometime. So it's getting real close. Besides Michigan I don't know who else will be in it yet.
TOM: Will those schools that make the top five be the schools that you take official visits to?
ONDRE: Yes, and I'll probably make my decision after my season. I don't mind waiting that long, it doesn't get annoying if you can manage it and prioritize things the right way.
The reason I wanted to adjust the results for quality of opponent was to try to account for SDSU’s #88-ranked schedule versus Michigan’s #23-ranked schedule. The best I could come up with was: average the offensive PPG with the defensive PPG, then take that “projected score delta” and subtract it from the actual score delta to get a pseudo-PAN (to borrow the Mathlete’s term). Don't worry, there will be an easy-to-understand number at the end.
Offensively, SDSU averaged 455 YPG and scored 35 PPG. That compares pretty closely to Michigan’s 488 YPG and 32 PPG. So right off the bat the offense looks to be a little more “efficient.” More points + less yards = good. Defense is a whole different animal. SDSU allowed 355 YPG and 22 PPG, compared to Michigan’s 455 YPG and 35 PPG. They have a defense, we did not. SDSU is still capable of scoring lots of points, scoring over 40 5 times, and over 30 in 9 games. Again, number of drives is pretty variable, from 9 to 18. For the season, SDSU actually averaged more drives per game than Michigan, at 12.3 to 12.0.
Since we established that the raw drive data is pretty pointless yesterday, I’ll skip it and get right to YPD. Basic data and Chart:
|opponent||yards||drives||points||ypd||ppd||d-yards||d-drives||d-points||d-ypd||d-ppd||net ypd||net ppd|
Looking at YPD, SDSU averaged about the same as Michigan, at 39.0 vs. 41.9 YPD for the season. The anomaly in that data is the TCU game, where SDSU only managed 20 YPD. Michigan’s low for the season was Purdue, at 26.3 YPD. Once again, defense is much improved at 30.4 YPD versus Michigan’s 37.3 YPD. The defense was inconsistent, giving up 50+ YPD twice, a feat even Michigan’s Decimated Defense didn’t match. Overall, I think YPD is a useful indicator, but not as valuable as PPD.
On to PPD, we now get to see that SDSU was indeed more efficient in putting points on the board compared to Michigan, at 2.9 versus 2.7 PPD average for the season. Defense shows similar improvement, at 1.8 versus Michigan’s 2.9-PPD average. To put that in perspective, SDSU only had one game (Utah) where they allowed more PPD than Michigan’s average. So what the chart shows is that while SDSU’s offense doesn’t have the firepower of Michigan’s former spread (maxed out at around 5-6 PPD), the low isn’t so low, either. SDSU’s bottom end looks like it’s around 2 PPD, where Michigan could get down to 1.5 on occasion. Even in the win against ND, Michigan was below 2 PPD. On defense, we all know the story. Michigan flirted with 3 PPD for the season, giving up more than 3 PPD on 7 occasions. SDSU was more consistent, only giving up more than 3 PPD once.
I think there are a number of valid comparisons between SDSU’s schedule and Michigan’s. Their #1 game was TCU, against the #4 offense and #1 defense. They had 300 yards of offense and scored 35 points, and gave up 466 yards and 40 points in a loss. That game is comparable to the OSU game, against the #11 offense and #5-ranked defense. Michigan had 351 yards and only 7 points, while giving up 478 yards and 37 points. Advantage: SDSU. Overall SOS differences are obvious (Michigan’s opponents scored 28.6 and gave up 23.4, compared to SDSU’s 24.5/28.4), but “score delta” should let us normalize those results.
Looking at the “score delta.” Michigan averaged 1.4 points above expectation for the season, compared to SDSU’s 4.5. It is totally open for debate as to whether this stat has any meaning, but I think that it does. If you’re supposed to blow out your cupcakes, and don’t, it will be reflected. Conversely, if you play well against a better opponent, like say ND or TCU, it is also reflected. I think it does a good job of showing overall team performance versus expectations.That big -32 by the Bowl Game shows that We Got Blown Out.
|opponent||o-ppg||d-ppg||opp o-ppg||opp d-ppg||o vs d||d vs o||actual score delta||projected score||score delta|
|opponent||o-rank||d-rank||opp o-rank||opp d-rank||o vs d||d vs o||actual score delta||projected score||score delta|
Well basically I think that the defense would have improved regardless of what happened, but I feel that the improvement with the new staff will be greater than the improvement with the old staff. I’m also hoping the MANBALL worries will be unfounded. After all, SDSU scored more points than Michigan, had more drives than Michigan, and darn near had as many yards as Michigan. I’ll trade that for a defense that gives up 100 fewer yards and almost 2 fewer touchdowns per game. I realize that most of the defensive improvement is speculation, since Mattison wasn’t Hoke’s DC at SDSU, but here’s hoping for Defensive Mediocrity in 2011, and a return to Kicking Competency!
Recent announcements from QB Zeke Pike and TE's AJ WIlliams and Devin Funchess have given thought about where Michigan will go from here with regards to each position and certain players. Here's a look at what could potentially happen in the future, and how the recent announcements may affect other players.
6'3", 215 lbs.
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Devin Funchess is the teammate of Ojemudia and the two have been making trips to Michigan together. Recently Mario told me that Michigan was in his top three with Michigan State and Stanford. It seems natural to wonder if Devin Funchess committing to Michigan will have any affect on Mario.
It depends on what [Devin] says to me. We've talked about playing together, but that's not the main reason I would choose to go to a college. I pretty much knew [Devin] was going to Michigan, I just didn't know when he was going to commit.
Mario has been up to Michigan a few times and has openly said that they have been impressive every time. He was in East Lansing this last Tuesday, and he plans on taking another trip out to Ann Arbor in the next few weeks. This time he'll bring someone other than Devin along.
I'm going back up there probably in a few weeks. We're just going to hang out, the coaches want me to finally bring my parents up there. [My parents] don't have a preference between Michigan or Michigan State.
That's a good next step in the process for Michigan to get his parents on campus. He wants to make his decision before the season starts.
6'3", 202 lbs.
Now that Zeke Pike is off the board Michigan will have to look to their other options. They have current offers out to other quarterbacks, but outside of Bennie Coney they aren't in favorable position with many. The Michigan coaching staff may have to extend a few new offers and Tyler O'Connor might be a candidate.
I have been hearing a lot more from [Michigan] lately. They will be here at my school on Wednesday. I think they'll eventually offer especially with them not getting Zeke Pike. They haven't said that, but I think they will. I want to get up there to be around the coaches and see how they are.
O'Connor said that if Michigan were to offer it would be a big one for him and that he really likes the Wolverines. He wants to get to know them though and still go through the process.
If they offered I think they would be one of my leaders. I want to still take my time with everything though. I want to have my decision made by the first week of my football season. I'm looking to see how well I like the coaches, the opportunity for things after school and football, how good the team is, and how well I fit.
O'Connor has already been on the radar for the Michigan coaches but could very well see an offer soon. Austin Appleby has also been told by the coaches that they are interested, but they want to see him at camp first.
6'3", 225 lbs.
Ekanem just recently received an offer from Michigan to go along with Boston College, MSU, Pitt, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech among others. He already has a nice offer list, but is trying to take everything in for now.
I'm trying to stay open minded about everything so far. I will start narrowing it down before my football season starts. I plan on taking all five of my official visits and deciding after my football season.
Coach Mallory was the Michigan coach that extended the offer to Ken and he's excited to continue to build that relationship.
I was surprised that [Michigan] offered, I didn't know they were that interested in me. When I was younger that was my team, and I love the stadium, I can say that. I don't know much about them though, and I don't have a favorite team now. I'm really looking for academics, good coaches, a good recruiting class for 2012, and a place that feels like home.
Ekanem said he might do an unofficial visit to Michigan over the summer, but nothing has been planned.
- The most popular question lately has been if Michigan still has room for Ron Thompson now that they have two tight end commitments. With the recent attrition I think there is still an opportunity for him to be a part of this class. AJ Williams and Devin Funchess are versatile enough that they could both project to different positions.
- Ohio DE Pharaoh Brown says that he will be making another visit to Michigan soon. This time his mom will come up with him to check out the place. MIchigan has been in the lead for some time and Brown has been picking up a good amount of offers recently. He still wants to make his decision by June or July.
- Illinois DB Anthony Standifer is probably very close to a Michigan offer. There was some confusion about whether he did or didn't and he's gotten that straightened out.
- Pennsylvania OL Tyler Alt (6'3", 275 lbs) was getting a visit to his school tomorrow by Coach Mallory. Alt is out of town though, so he'll be speaking with Mallory over the phone tomorrow instead.
- Instate DE Matt Godin is announcing his final decision on May 12th.
With rumors of a varsity announcement running rampant, it's easy to forget that there's still an actual season going on. When last we saw the Michigan Lacrosse team on these pages, they had successfully completed a California road trip, and were preparing to kick off a long homestand. Since that time, they have won 9 consecutive games and wrapped up their third undefeated regular season in the past four years.
Let's take a look at those results weekend-by-weekend...
BYU came to Ann Arbor as a top-5 team, but Michigan ran them off the field despite a mediocre performance. Chad Carroll and Joey Hrusovsky each had a 4-point game, while Trevor Yealy scored 3 goals himself. The following night, Michigan took on an overmatched Pittsburgh squad, and walked away with the easy 20-1 victory.
Boston College was the first team all year to come into Oosterbaan Fieldhouse and not back down, even when Michigan built up a lead. Brian Greiner solidified his starting position on faceoffs as Edward Ernst struggled on draws, and Michigan played a very sloppy game, which allowed the Eagles to stay in it. I sat near the UCSB team at the BC game, and they were chirping quite a bit about how they were going to get an easy win the following night... so imagine their surprise when they were blasted into a fine red mist in a 21-0 beatdown. Maybe Michigan was sending a message, or maybe their second and third lines are just that much better than the Gauchos. Either way, Trevor Yealy scored 6 goals to become Michigan's all-time leading scorer, and this game was over seemingly as soon as it started.
The following weekend, #1 welcomed the #2 and #3 teams in the land into Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, but managed to emerge unscathed. Colorado State was the first victim, as Michigan showed why they're so tough to beat at home. They rode the Rams into tons of turnovers, and got the easy win. It wasn't such easy going the following night, as the Wolverines built up a 9-3 lead on Arizona State, but the Sun Devils refused to give up, and managed to get the final margin to 2 goals. Attackman Eric Nelson and goalkeeper Dylan Westfall played excellently, but not well enough to earn the win.
The Wolverine offense was a well-oiled machine the following weekend, as they scored .609 points per possession (.400 is a very good performance) and easily dispatched of a Missouri team that never stood a chance. The Tiger offense was surprisingly effective itself, but they were no match for Chad Carroll, who put in 8 goals and an assist all by himself.
Like the BC and Arizona State games, Michigan managed to build up a couple leads, but the opponent didn't wilt under the pressure, and made some runs of their own. It was a rainy night in Birmingham, and both squads made their share of sloppy plays. The Spartans couldn't put the ball on net, and that was ultimately their downfall against their most hated rival.
The Wolverines finally played a true road game after several weeks at home and one at a neutral site, but it was business as usual in dispatching first-year MCLA program Toledo. Plenty of backups got a chance to play in this game (which was played in the Glass Bowl), and the outcome was never in doubt.
Michigan has a weekend off from competition, and they'll return to action on May 7th at the conference Tournament in Saline. They'll face a Directional Michigan (most likely Central) in the first round, before taking on the winner of Michigan State and Pittsburgh (most likely the Spartans) in the final on Sunday.
Assuming they win the conference tournament - and even if they don't - they're all-but-guaranteed to be the #1 overall seed in the National Tournament, which starts May 17th in Denver. They'll seek their unprecedented 4th consecutive championship, and then we can start worrying about whether or not they'll play varsity lacrosse next season.
For all the day-to-day details on the team, you can check out my lacrosse blog at GreatLaxState.com.