[ED-S: Quick heads up soccer fans in town for the Colorado game. This is happening after:
That is all.]
Michigan Men’s Soccer is coming off an 8-6-4 season which saw them miss the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.
Defensively, Michigan was very good last year and returns most of the squad. Senior’s Lars Eckenrode, Andre Morris and Rylee Woods provide leadership along the back line while Billy Stevens, Peter Brown and Marcello Borges will also make significant contributions. Borges just returned from the U-20 National Team Camp in New Jersey and is a defender at heart but may play both winger and outside back once again in his second season in Ann Arbor.
In midfield, sophomore Ivo Cerda will look to continue to impress and has been named a pre-season All B1G performer by the Coaches.
Also returning for his Junior season is goalkeeper Evan Louro, who was arguably the team’s MVP last season and was second in the Big Ten in save percentage. Louro is arguably one of the best 5-10 goalkeepers in the NCAA and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his last season at Michigan.
Amanda Allen / Michigan Daily
2015 B1G Ten Freshman of the year and All B1G Ten selection Francis Atuahene features up top for Michigan after his freshman season saw him score ten goals, which was second in the conference and a First Team All B1G selection. Atuahene is the best pure attacking talent Michigan has had in years and he’ll score plenty of goals this season.
However, Michigan loses Colin McAtee, Will Mellors-Blair and James Murphy, who accounted for 13 goals last season. The only other two guys who scored at all last season are Cerda and RS Junior midfielder Michael Kapitula. Simply put, Michigan must find other attacking options besides Atuahene.
Chaka Daley brought in five freshmen in this year’s class, including forward Jack Hallahan, who has played for West Brom’s U18 and Ireland’s U19 team and figures to see significant playing time in Daley’s 4-3-3 formation. Additionally, Abdou Samake, a 6’3 defender joins Michigan after being with the Montreal Impact U18 team. Goalkeeper Andrew Verdi and midfielders Lucas Rosendall and Joe Hertgen round out the 2016 recruiting class.
Michigan faces another difficult schedule this season, as it has each of Daley’s years in charge. However, missing from 2016’s schedule are Akron and Creighton, two perennial top ten schools.
Michigan starts off the season on a road trip to #19 USF and Florida Gulf Coast. Visiting Central Florida in August should be an interesting fitness test and both matches against Florida Man can be found on ESPN3. A visit from Notre Dame highlights the rest of the non-conference schedule.
Michigan’s Big Ten schedule is favorable, with Indiana, Penn State Ohio State and Maryland at home and while Michigan State, Rutgers and Wisconsin figure to be the difficult road trips. Rutgers is actually good at soccer and Michigan has a bunch of New Jersey natives on the roster so The War on Rutgers lives on (or something).
The Big Ten was solid a year ago with Maryland being within penalties kicks of beating Clemson and going to the College Cup, Indiana made it the Quarterfinals, Ohio State lost to eventual Champions Jordan Morris and Stanford and even Rutgers made it into the second round before losing to powerhouse Akron.
Michigan is ranked fifth in the B1G Preseason Coaches’ Poll behind Maryland, Indiana, Ohio State and Rutgers. This shouldn’t be surprising but I believe there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic.
LAST WEEK: Fresh Look
More wallpaper? More wallpaper.
This week is all about the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach a.k.a. Jim Harbaugh. We love Harbaugh. He's an odd duck, but he's our odd duck, and he happens to be a damn good coach. Offseason Harbaugh has been entertaining, but it's time for Sideline Harbaugh to return. Let's celebrate.
These wallpapers are all about iconic Harbaugh things. First, we have the Skinny M hat. He isn't the first to wear it, but he wears it well. Second, the Harbaugh sweatshirt. He wears this thing everywhere, and this year it has a new logo. Third, the infamous "Enthusiasm" quote. Use it for daily motivation. Lastly, the Harbaugh schedule. HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH.
Use these wallpapers with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
Whereupon I make a unique preseason prediction for your amusement: The 2016 offense will be different
Football's almost here, folks.
It's at the point where I wonder if anything more can be said about this team. MGoBlog is in a starved frenzy. Millions of words have been written about a team that has yet to play a down of the 2016 season. Preseason predictions are as lofty as an undefeated regular season and playoff berth. So this is either the best possible time to throw out some content, or the worst. I guess I'll just live with what comes out of this.
FWIW, I hate making W/L predictions, namely because something crazy tends to happen that defies all logic. Key B1G matchups were won last season on freakish factors, from bad officiating to bad weather. Predictions can be perfectly logical and still not matter. But I do get premonitions, and while they're sometimes "X will beat Y", sometimes they're oddly specific in a not-nearly-as-satisfying way. So I might get some "why bother" reactions for this, but we're at the point where little else can be said about this team (you've probably seen over dozen W-L predictions if you haven't been living under a rock), and it occurred to me that I did come across something that hasn't been said yet. So FWIW, I'll put it here just in case I'm on to something. Probably not but we'll see.
Let's start with the premise that's about to be challenged. Everyone here (and elsewhere) is taking for granted that this year's offense is going to be an overall upgraded version of last year's, maybe some positional downgrades, but plenty of MANBALL and 4TE sets and Smith running through a roughin' toughin' line (year 2 Drevno uber alles) with plenty of Harbaugh/Fisch hijinks to keep defenses off balance. Now, just because the Internet goes "what's nuance?" I guess I have to point out that I don't expect a wholesale abandonment of those concepts. Harbaugh's preferences are clear; he likes to ram the ball down your maw if he can do it. So he'll certainly try, but not to the extent of losing games in the name of principle (may 2011 Iowa never happen again). But for what it's worth, here's a prediction that I daresay hasn't been made. . .
The 2016 offense is going to look significantly different from 2015, strategically.
I get that that sounds like it's saying something without saying anything, but unfortunately I can't think of a better way to phrase it. I hate soundbites, anyway, so I'll try to explain. Let's look at the starters from early in the 2015 season, as they stood, but with some hindsight as to where they really were:
WR: Chesson, Darboh, Perry
TE: Butt, Williams
OL: Cole, Kalis, Glasgow, Braden, Magnuson
If you remember, it took Rudock a while to get going. Perry was a true freshman and practically single-handedly lost us the Utah game. Rudock couldn't hit Chesson with the deep ball, Peppers couldn't be unleashed yet (new coordinator for the D as well), and as a result pass defenses keyed on Butt. So Harbaugh had to get the most he could from the run game, even though guard play was iffy. I mean, he likes to run, but this was a need. So what we got for about half a season was a very left-handed run game with Cole and/or Glasgow often pulling, and extensive use of the fullbacks. We saw Chesson's speed utilized in end-arounds and then threatened with fakes once that was on tape. We saw FB dive come back like it was in style, and plenty of screens.
Harbaugh didn't do this just to mitigate damage. He gets the absolute most out of what he has and what he saw was hey, I have a fast blocking WR and two good fullbacks, and I'm gonna use them. Also, Cole is great in space and (we didn't know it at the time but) Williams was a completely different player last season. I bolded all these players above as run game assets and you can see why he went with a FB-heavy MANBALL approach. It never went away even after Rudock heated up, but it wasn't just tendency. Every chance he could, he had the players doing things they were good at, even if that was limited at the time.
So with that in mind, let's look at the projected starters as of today, 8/23 (subject to change!!):
WR: Chesson, Darboh, Perry
TE: Butt, Bunting
OL: Newsome, Kalis, Cole, Braden, Magnuson
I'm not making any crazy predictions here; this should be news to no one. A freshman might surprise (Wheatley is particulary intriguing) but they all have uphill climbs. Now, that thing that bothered me about the way the preseason predictions have been going. I've maintained that Harbaugh is the ultimate SunTzuball coach. Why is everyone assuming he'll try the same thing with no regard to roster change? They are the same guys, for the most part, but many of them are now different players.
What's he going to do this year? To figure that out, and this may hit some nerves, I italicized the possible run liabilities in the starters. (If Speight starts, he's marked as a "liability" in that he can't threaten with his legs.) Not necessarily disasters, but guys who will struggle with consistency. Again, not saying they're bad; this is about getting the most out of this unit. Harbaugh's going to put the players in a position to succeed instead of ordering them to head-butt their way through a brick wall. Anyway, if the FBs can't block consistently. . . they won't. Henderson might be an X-factor here but he's not Kerridge or Houma, and Harbaugh used those guys because of who they are. And even against Florida, UFR showed the run game was largely Smith making something of a checked-out Florida D. Year 2 Anno Drevno duly noted, but I'm not the only one openly wondering if the O-line's close to its ceiling. We'll still run the ball, but I don't see us relying on it like the start of last season, largely because. . .
We won't need to! I bolded the pass game assets above, and that's almost all of them. (That includes most of the OL because as a unit they overall graded very good in pass pro -- Bosa was just something else and he's gone). Both QBs have spent over a year doing wax-on, wax-off in the Harbaugh-fu dojo. Smith is an excellent pass blocker. Perry's got his head fixed, and Chesson's blowed up from a guy Harbaugh had to use creatively to a guy who roasted Vernon Hargreaves crispy. Butt is a velcro-covered black hole for balls thrown his way. Add in guys like O'Korn or Peppers and the picture doesn't really change (maybe more RPOs). Add in Jourdan Lewis, Ty Isaac or Drake Johnson and the picture's even more pass-happy.
So, what will the offense look like, at least to start the season? I think we'll see more West Coast-ish, one-back stuff than expected, with Wheatley next to Newsome to shore up the left side if necessary. Darboh, Chesson, Butt and Perry will wreak havoc on back 7s, which will spook linebackers and open up the run game. You may see some Isaac/Smith or Johnson/Smith backfields for wheel routes, Smith doing his blitz pick-up thing and maybe moonlighting as a fullback. But mostly, I'm predicting that this offense -- until/unless guys like Poggi and Kalis get their targeting issues fixed anyway -- will be a pass-first unit.
Some things I have to disclaim because the Internet goes "what's nuance?":
1) No, we are not going to be one-dimensional. That's the last thing Harbaugh will allow. We all know he's going to do a ton of crazy stuff beyond the scope of this entry.
2) We're not abandoning the run either. We'll still see MANBALL and plenty of FB play, especially with comfortable leads. In close games, though, the pass unit will support the run much in the way the situation was reversed to start last season.
3) This is subject to change based on player improvement. If Poggi and/or Hill vastly improve their blocking in the submarine then I'll look stupid and I'll be fine with that, because that's only good news.
4) This isn't saying Poggi and Hill are bad. Please don't insinuate I'm saying that. This is more, we have excellent receiving options to open up holes in the defense, vs. the excellent fullback options and passing game challenges Harbaugh had last season. Poggi and Hill aren't competing against each other so much as who we have at slot and TE and we have some great options there. They'll play, but if Harbaugh needs points you might see more 3-wide and 4-wide looks. With O'Korn he might run zone read.
5) Probably not against Hawaii or UCF. They're not good so if the pass-first approach gets us to 21-0 in the first quarter and the defense shuts the door, Harbaugh might be content to MANBALL for 3 quarters en route a 35-3 glorified scrimmage. This prediction is more about his "go-to" offensive set.
Harbaugh puts players in positions to succeed, puts the best 11 on the field and understands constraint concepts well. Again, the run game won't be bad. But looking at what he has as of today, the passing game is so compelling that I just don't see Harbaugh -- a former pro QB and SunTzuball extraordinaire -- go all Lloyd Carr on it. If rolling out a pass-happy one-back set gets him more TDs than doing what worked last year he'll do that, and he's certainly got the personnel for it.
So you are aware, the OT Season officially comes to an end at midnight on the 27th of August, or one week before the first game as per tradition. There will be some cleanup of a preliminary nature starting before then, but it will be mainly background items and removing recent threads with, for example, numerous downvotes – basically subtle strategies to attempt to maximize the amount of football content before the actual deadline comes.
What does that mean for you? Veterans will know the answer, but for newer folks or infrequent visitors, here is your yearly reminder.
To start the ramp-down, however, at midnight on Friday, you may no longer post threads about your favorite shows, movies, books, music and so forth. Friday can be a transitional day for OT, giving people an opportunity to get their final OT threads in.
One further point, when we say “end of OT season”, it is more a “significant narrowing of scope” – in other words, not every single OT thread will be removed outright. What you must do, if you plan on posting such a thread, is provide a pretty damn good explanation of why it should stay (or the reason may be self-evident) – and yes, frivolous ones will be removed as always. As usual, there are usually narrow exceptions made for major breaking news of regional or national importance and a few other things and that’s what we mean here. Those are just a few examples of “allowable OT”. I realize some people would prefer a hard stop, but this is a community and we’ll consider things that might be of note to the community, even during the “non-OT” months. Such threads should be an EXCEPTION, and the onus is on the blogger to justify it.
A few things of note (non-comprehensive, of course – we reserve the right to throw other stuff out there too):
1) The Snowflake Rule will apply after games, but we will weigh threads individually and those which provide, for example, detailed analysis of a single series or play or video analysis will probably stay. Those threads which are mere hot takes that could easily fit into a snowflake thread will likely go. I understand why the Snowflake threads are not popular in many segments of the MGoPopulation, but there has to be a way to mitigate hot takes and make sure they don’t bury more worthwhile content. The whole point is to make sure the better user-generated content remains – we have some excellent football minds on the board and I really don’t want their contributions to be buried by your two paragraphs which amount to “that was awesome” or “that sucked” or what-have-you.
2) Having seen #1, please take care in general to consider carefully what you want to say if you’re going to create a thread. Search the first three pages of threads or so for similar threads – that’s typically what I use as a measuring stick for “redundant”. Most weekends in the season, three pages covers about 2 days of threads, or after a loss, about 30 minutes of threads. As for breaking news, make sure that you check the publish dates on articles – you can almost be assured that anything over an hour old has made it to the board barring a huge oversight (and sometimes, something does get overlooked). Normal rules on sourcing apply as well, so for example, be judicious with Bleacher Report, no Chatsports, and don’t post a whole Freep article out of spite – post a quote, link it, and give people the opportunity to avoid reading it.
3) DO NOT attack players or fellow MGoBloggers personally. Ad hominems are essentially your ticket to Bolivia or worse depending on the severity of the statement. I know people get emotional after games, but do try to run your initial reaction by your frontal cortex first for proper review. Criticizing play and strategy is fine, but basically bringing someone’s mom into it, if you will, is your way of telling the mods you no longer wish to be here. As you may have seen in the Mod Sticky as well, there will be a doubling down on efforts to promote a more welcoming environment around here too, so PLEASE check your choice of words and photos against those rules set forth in the sticky before posting.
4) Report potential infractions or questionable posts in the Mod Sticky with a link to the comment or thread. We will review them as soon as possible and dole out point deductions and so forth accordingly. If it is raining in La Paz, we will provide appropriate gear assuming we did not spend the money on beer first. If there is a delay in getting to an issue, remember that the mods have lives too, but if it is something that really should go, say, right now, tweet me at @LorneEC3 and I’ll address it right then or make a note to do it ASAP. Yes, I can’t stand the threads with “IBD” or “Moms please delete” in 40 different forms and posts either, so let’s try to mitigate that, eh?
5) Sunday (also Thursday and Monday) NFL threads will be allowed as usual. Pro sports events which are significant are fine as well (World Series, NBA or NHL coverage, etc…) – just not every bit of news like we get during the draft and free agency periods sometimes. I know people gripe about the amount of Lions coverage during the NFL season, but try to remember that a sizeable number of the active users on this site also live in Michigan. Do feel free to throw in some coverage of your own teams, if you so choose, but be selective due to OT restrictions.
6) Threads covering other college games should typically be OK, but do try to keep the tradition of “Saturday Noon Games Thread”, for example, on the weekends (and on Thursdays and Fridays when sometimes there is a significant slate too). The tradition of MACtion is absolutely OK even though ESPN has apparently all but killed it. If something noteworthy is happening in a particular game, a separate thread should be fine but detail the reason for breaking out of the open thread coverage.
I will let JustinGoBlue add whatever he feels is appropriate in the comments, but I thought I would get this out there in a prominent location to everyone now.
After the Big Ten scrapped the ridiculous “Leaders” and “Legends” division upon adding Maryland and Rutgers, Michigan found itself in the same division as its two primary conference rivals. Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio have each won the East once en route to a playoff bid; Ohio State beat Alabama and Oregon to win a national title, while Michigan State was destroyed by the Tide. Michigan managed to hire Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL, and the division added a third elite coach, who turned things around at Michigan immediately.
The Buckeyes went on a crazy postseason run with third-stringer Cardale Jones to win it all in 2014, and their team was loaded with top-tier talent last season. They were the consensus pick to win the conference, but Michigan State went into Columbus without Connor Cook and managed to lock OSU down in a slugfest that left the Buckeye fans apoplectic with the playcalling. Since State came away with a win in Ann Arbor (the forces of the devil were working that night and I refuse to admit otherwise), the Spartans were the surprise winner of the East. Ohio State figured things out and took out their frustrations on Michigan and then Notre Dame in the bowl game. MSU / OSU / UM finished with a combined 31-3 record against other teams.
Meyer, Harbaugh, and Dantonio make the Big Ten East as competitive at the top as any other division in college football. This year, State gets both OSU and UM at home, while Michigan gets both rivals on the road. In terms of the general wax and wane of team quality from year-to-year, Ohio State and Michigan State are on the downswing from last year: OSU loses a ridiculous draft class (there were too many good players to list here, honestly), while MSU loses its star quarterback, best receiver by a mile, two All-American offensive linemen, and three of four defensive linemen (including an All-American). Michigan, by contrast, gets many of its best players back – the Wolverines have several elite position groups (receivers/tight ends, defensive line, and defensive backs).
None of those three teams lost to any of the other four teams in the B1G East (Penn State, Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland). James Franklin is 14-12 so far at PSU, Indiana is a chaotic gadfly but not much more, Rutgers became OSU Jr. and Maryland became UM Jr. after hiring those respective schools’ defensive coordinators. It’s a safe bet that it will come down to Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State – and the winner of the B1G East is the heavy favorite to win the entire conference. There’s a decent chance the division goes three-for-three in playoff appearances.
[team previews after the JUMP]
LAST WEEK: 2016 Schedule Wallpaper
It's time for more wallpaper. One of the biggest stories this offseason has been the switch from Adidas to Nike/Jordan. Earlier this month, we finally saw all the new apparel. After many years with Adidas, it was refreshing to see some new designs.
A few of the new designs really stood out to me, so I decided to convert them into wallpapers. These designs include the football/field graphic, "Wolverines Against the Nation," and the lightning bolt football icon. I also really like the new blue bumper and Maize Block M on the helmets, which can be seen in the first wallpaper.
I know a lot of people don't get excited about new apparel, but to me it signifies a new era. Michigan is being presented to the rest of the country with a fresh new look. Join them with these wallpapers.
NEXT WEEK: Harbaugh Wallpaper