to play football, not to play trumpet
There are going to be visitors all week, not just the weekend so I figured I would post this now. You can take a look at the visitors from last weekend here. As always there will be names added and dropped as plans change. Here's who I have confirmed so far.
- Tuesday: Kentucky QB Zeke Pike (6'5", 220 lbs). Offers from everywhere and will be one of the top quarterbacks in this class. I confirmed with him that he will be in on Tuesday.
- Tuesday: Ohio LB Kaleb Ringer (6'0", 220 lbs). Visiting Michigan again. Announcing on the 15th.
- Not coming anymore: Indiana TE/DE Pierre Aka (6'4", 250 lbs). He was supposed to make it in last weekend but had to reschedule. He's hoping for an offer, and if he gets it there's a chance he could pull the trigger.
- Saturday: Ohio QB Austin Appleby (6'5", 228 lbs). Took a visit to Florida this past weekend and recently took a trip to U Conn as well. Also still hoping for an offer. I think he will eventually get one depending on how things play out with the other qb prospects.
- Saturday: Ohio QB Maty Mauk (6'2", 185 lbs). Does have a Michigan offer, and seems to be impressed with the new Michigan coaches. This visit could help Michigan move along in the process.
This past weekend was Michigan's junior day and by all accounts was a success. There were a ton of prospects in to watch practice and take part in a few tours. Here's a look at how a few of those recruits felt about the trip.
6'4", 255 lbs.
Wormley is one of the top ranked prospects in Ohio for 2012 and is also one of the main targets for the Michigan staff. He's been on campus before, but this was his first chance to see the new coaches in action.
My mom and dad were up there with me. We watched practice first, went to lunch, and then they took us on a tour of the locker room and everything. I noticed in practice that the coaches are real patient and there's not a lot of yelling. It definitely helped me get a better understanding of how they coach and how they work. This visit definitely helped Michigan.
Chris also got a chance to get some one on one time with Coach Montgomery and Mattison.
We were just talking about general stuff, just chit chat. They talked about the defense and that I would most likely be playing what they call the rusher position on the outside.
While Chris has been on campus before, this visit gave him a little bit of a better understanding for the program in general. He talked about the academics and when he wants to make his decision.
I think what stood out to me the most was how seriously they take the academics up there. The academics are first and football's second; I like that. My parents were having some good conversations too, so it was good. I either want to make my decision before the season starts or after. It will be too big of a distraction during the season. If I'm not 100% comfortable then I'll do it after the season.
Michigan has been high on Wormley's list for some time and the new coaching staff has made a definite impression on him and his family. It's a race now between Michigan and Ohio State for Wormley.
6'0", 220 lbs.
Ringer decided to make another trip up to Ann Arbor, and he has also decided on a date to make his final announcement.
I'll be making my announcement on April 15th at 6:00 [EST]. But yeah I was up there for a photo shoot with Tom Lemming and then I stayed for practice. When I got there Coach Hoke came up to me and hugged me. It was cool, but I didn't stay for the junior day. I just wanted to make sure I spoke with the staff before I left.
I then asked Kaleb if this visit let him see anything new or different from what he had already seen from the coaches and the University.
No, they have been real with me from day one. I was mostly checking out the linebackers to see how they play. They really stress physicality and I like that.
While he didn't necessarily see anything new while watching practice there was an aspect that he saw that stood out to him.
I saw a family on the football field, not just a team. You couldn't tell who the stars were on the team, everyone blended. I think they have accepted Coach Hoke's vision and bought into it, and so have I.
Ringer currently has offers from Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, and Toledo. Like he said, he will be making his announcement on April 15th. It's an announcement to tune in to.
6'3", 220 lbs.
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Mario made it up to Ann Arbor with his teammate TE Devin Funchess. They both took in practice as well.
We went to practice and talked to Coach Jackson and saw all the coaches. I had a long talk with Coach Hoke, too. He basically talked about what Michigan has to offer and the tradition there. I liked the visit more than I thought I would. I liked it more because of the coaches, they're just really easy to talk and get a long with. I didn't expect all that. We were all just talking about life a lot, especially with Coach Jackson.
The visit seemed to make an impression on Mario, and practice gave him a better view of how the Michigan coaches operate.
They said I would be a hybrid type. I could put my hand in the dirt or drop back into coverage. Watching practice I liked how it was ran. Everyone was hustling and it was 100%. I was basically trying to watch the ends and outside linebackers. After that Coach Singletary took me around by myself and gave me a tour. He was just telling me how Michigan is different.
Ojemudia is hoping to make his final decision before the season starts. He's going to wait until the summer to narrow down his list. He also told me that this visit definitely helped Michigan in his mind.
5'11", 188 lbs.
Brooklyn, New York
Morgan is a prospect who hasn't been talked about too much yet. He already has offers from Alabama, Boston College, UConn, Maryland, Miami, Penn State, and now Michigan.
I sat down with Coach Hoke and he asked me if I think I have a scholarship from Michigan. I said no, and he said well you do.
Rutgers has a slight edge right now because of familiarity and how much he knows about their program. This visit was big for Michigan in that regard, and it gave him a better feel for what Michigan has to offer.
We went around the stadium, the weight room, and the academic center. Coach Mattison was showing me coverages that they run. I saw a lot and all my questions were answered. I basically wanted to know about academics and how I would stand in a school like that. The visit got me closer to the coaches, so that helped.
Besides the coaches, the Big House was an exciting part of the visit for Wayne.
Practice was good, it showed me how they coached. But it was great to be in the Big House. I've never been inside something like that, it just blows your mind to be in the Big House.
Morgan will take more visits and try to gain more comfortability with some of the other programs that have offered. He could end up being a key recruit because of his versatility. He could potentially try out at the corner or safety spot at the next level.
Michigan TE Ron Thompson (6'4", 210 lbs) might be announcing his decision this week. Michigan is in good position with Thompson.
If you missed it, here are the reactions from Michigan's first commitment Ben Braden, and another visitor in LB Joe Bolden.
Instate DE Matt Godin decided to head over to Michigan's practice after the Tom Lemming photo shoot as well. He told me that Michigan keeps moving up every time he goes there. He's still not sure when he wants to decide, but I have a feeling he's getting closer. He's likely to take a few more visits though.
Massachusetts LB Camren Williams committed to Penn State while on his visit. His teammate ATH Armani Reeves was also on the visit with him, but won't be making his decision until December. Michigan still has a chance with Reeves despite his teammate committing to PSU.
So back around the end of December I put together a preview of CC for the GLI championship game that Michigan won 6-5 in a back-and-forth, Wild West shootout. Some of that will be replicated here, but if you want to check it out, here's the link:
Colorado College (23-18-3/13-13-2) Second-Half Overview:
Since Michigan ousted CC in the GLI, the Tigers have gone 11-9-2, including 6-4-1 since Jaden Schwartz returned from a broken ankle suffered playing for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships (you might have heard of him- the announcer last night may have been getting paid on commission by the St. Louis Blues for how many fans he could bring in tonight to see Jaden- he also put up a 2-2-4 scoring line). While that's not a world beating record by any standard, the level of competition faced in that stretch was, playing eight games against tournament teams North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth and, including, last night's 8-4 win against Boston College, going 4-3-1. In fact, overall CC has played the most games again the tournament field of any team in the tournament- posting an 8-7-1 record (again, including BC).
This team is very young (its average age is 20 years and 4 months- for comparison's sake, Michigan's average is 21 years even), with 16 underclassmen and only four seniors on the roster, although they've certainly grown up the last month or two. This is not the same team that Michigan faced in the GLI (more on this later). CC has essentially been playing playoff hockey since the middle of February, when its Pairwise was hovering somewhere in the high-teens to low-twenties. Nearly every game since February 12th's 2-1 victory over Mankato, last night's game excluded, have been one-goal games (in the two losses to Wisconsin down the stretch, both 3-1 losses, in one game Wisconsin scored the 3rd goal with 4:25 to go, in the other the third goal was an empty-netter with 11 seconds left). Winning tough games in the final part of the year, CC bolstered its Pairwise ranking, earning the #14 overall seed and an at-large berth. CC is battle-tested and is playing its best hockey of the year when it matters the most.
CC has been playing with nearly the same line combinations since Jaden's return.
Fr. Jaden Schwartz (17-29-46)- So. Rylan Schwartz (9-28-37)- Sr. Shultz (17-28-45)
Jr. Hall (5-6-11)- Jr. Dineen (13-11-24)- So. Rapuzzi (12-10-22)
Fr. Eveland (3-14-17)- So. Winkler (3-6-9)- Sr. Johnson (20-17-37)
Fr. Krushelnyski (6-8-14)- Jr. Civitarese (5-4-9)- Fr. Collett (2-3-5)
The "dangermen" are obvious. The top line is as good as any in college hockey. Jaden has a ridiculous 17 goals on only 78 shots (about 22%) and 46 points in only 29 games played (1.59 points-per-game, 2nd in the nation behind only Andy Miele). After that, scoring is fairly balanced, but no one is going to beat you single-handedly. Johnson and Dineen do most of their damage on the power play: 12 of Johnson's 20 and 11 of Dineen's 13 coming on the man-advantage (they are tied for 2nd and 5th nationally in PPG). Dineen's the guy who sets up in the crease for greasy goals. Johnson hasn't registered a point since scoring two goals February 26th against Minnesota-Duluth, but has been playing with a shoulder injury- he's looked much better in recent weeks, but is still in a scoring drought. Team speed is an emphasis, as I'm sure you'll hear during the broadcast. Hall, Eveland, Johnson, and Krushelnyski are all slot-ninja types (about 5-8, 170), but even the bigger guys can skate. Alexander Krushelnyski is also the son of former Red Wings player and asst. coach Mike Krushelnyski.
Only two players on CC are NHL draft picks- Jaden (1st round, #14 overall, St. Louis Blues) and Winkler (3rd round, Dallas Stars) and neither played against Michigan at the GLI- Jaden was with Team Canada, Winkler was out after surgery on a broken wrist. Rapuzzi was also out with a concussion suffered against MSU the night before. The line chart, save for the 4th line, which remained the same, was much different at the GLI:
Sr. Schultz- So. Rylan Schwartz- Sr. Johnson
Jr. Hall- Jr. Dineen- Fr. Morin
Fr. Eveland- Fr. Skalbeck- So. Hamburg
Fr. Krushelnyski- Jr. Civitarese- Fr. Collett
Essentially CC replaces two freshman fresh out of high school and Hamburg with two NHL draft picks and Rapuzzi.
Michigan will have to play more physically than CC in order to slow down their team speed. For a smaller team, CC likes to hit, and plays better when they do. If you saw the CC-BC game last night, you’ll remember how bodies were flying everywhere, especially in the first two periods as CC established a 7-2 lead. Conversely, in the 3rd period, CC’s physical game diminished and BC got back into the game, pulling within three with 6:21 to go.
CC’s top two defensive pairings have been the same for the entire season, and log the most minutes. The third pairing, however, has been a rotating cast until the last month or so, in which time it, too, has been a constant.
Jr. Guentzel (6-21-27)- So. Marciano (3-8-11)
Sr. Lowery (1-16-17)- Fr. McDermott (2-12-14)
So. Boivin (3-5-8)- Jr. Bidwill (0-2-2)
The D isn’t flashy offensively or defensively, but is mediocre enough to get the job done (a ringing endorsement). Gabe Guentzel’s last name ought to sound familiar to some- he’s the brother of the Notre Dame forward Ryan Guentzel, as well as the son of Nebraska-Omaha’s asst. coach Mike Guentzel (who also coached at CC Gabe’s freshman season). He is also the team’s biggest threat from the blue line. Marciano is a former NTDP product and more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Lowery has balance in that he likes to hit and can move the puck. McDermott is more of puck-moving defenseman, but his D has gotten better. As I mentioned, the top four will be out there a fair bit, although Boivin and Bidwill have played well enough as of late to given them more of a breather. They replace the Jr. Behrend- So. Leaverton pairing that faced Michigan the last go-around. Look for Michigan’s forwards to capitalize on a few defensive breakdowns that are sure to present themselves throughout the game, particularly against the Boivin-Bidwill pairing.
Goalie and General Defense:
Joe Howe has been the go-to-guy down the stretch. While posting average numbers for the year (18-14-2, 2.97 GAA, .901 Save%), he’s been a solid competitor. He’ll make a few flashy saves here and there (he had a few of those last night) and follow that up with a “my grandma could have stopped that one.” That said, Howe made 39 saves on 43 shots against BC and 34 on 38 against North Dakota last week, two very good teams. He’ll give up a few goals, but he’ll keep CC in the game too. His defense occasionally leaves him out to dry, but the forwards are very good fore- and back-checkers. CC has been out-shot in the last 5 games, on average 33.6-25.4, which is a concern for them, but for the fact that they’re 4-1 in that span, the only loss in a 4-3 defeat to North Dakota.
Special Teams and Whatnot:
CC’s Power Play is good. Tied for 6th nationally at 23.4%, CC’s top PP is a dangerous foe to tangle with. Guentzel (2 PPG) and Shultz (9 PPG) play the point, while J. Schwartz (8 PPG), Dineen (11 PPG) and R. Schwartz (3 PPG) play up front. I can’t find face-off stats, but Dineen and R. Schwartz are pretty good, I want to say near 60%, especially on the PP. The 2nd unit isn’t nearly as good, and has changed faces such that I’m not exactly sure who’s on the 2nd PP line, but keep an eye on Johnson (12 PPG) and Rapuzzi (4 PPG).
While Michigan’s power play ranks 24th nationally clicking 18.39% of the time, CC is tied with Michigan for 23rd nationally on the PK at 83%. Michigan has scored 8 shorties this year, including Glendening’s against CC in the GLI, while CC is tied for the lead (with Michigan Tech) in giving up shorties, with 11. And although CC blanked the national leader in forcing SHG’s, BC, they had a few shorthanded chances and Michigan will too. On the flip side, Michigan has only given up five shorties all year, and CC only scored five shorties this season, although two of them came last night. Krushelnyski leads the Tigers with 2 SHG’s, including one against BC.
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics:
-This is the 6-year anniversary to the day of the last time the Tigers and the Wolverines met in the NCAA tournament, which was also a regional final matchup. That game saw the Tigers down 3-0 early in the second period before scoring four unanswered goals, including one by eventual Hobey Baker winner Marty Sertich, to pull out a come-from-behind victory and a Frozen Four berth, after which the Tigers lost 6-2 to hated rival DU on their way to back-to-back national championships.
-CC’s freshman class have collectively accounted for 115 points (40-75), 29.6 % of the team’s points.
-The Tigers have scored at least one power play goal in 11 of their last 12 games and in 30 of 44 overall for the season.
-CC is undefeated (17-0-1) when leading after two periods and is 21-3-3 when ahead or tied after forty minutes of play. Conversely, CC is 2-15 when trailing after the 2nd. However, those two wins came recently in the final two games in the best-of-three series against Wisconsin in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
-CC has scored twice within a minute nine times this season.
-Head Coach Scott Owens is the only coach in the West Regional without a National Championship. Red Berenson, Jerry York, and Dean Blais have eight between them.
Meaningless Fearless Predictions:
CC continues its strong play and avenges the loss in the GLI. Jaden Schwartz scores at least one goal and the announcer blushes with deep man-love for him. CC gives up a shortie and a PPG, but wins the 5x5 battles in a harrowingly close 5-4 victory.
There are a ton of visitors this weekend so there will probably be a matching amount of info. Since OL Ben Braden and LB Joe Bolden were the two visitors on Thursday I'm going to do a mini update on them here. Here's a look at how their trips went.
6'2", 225 lbs
Bolden has a decent offer list so far with the likes of Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, NC State, Stanford, and Tennessee to name a few. He took in Ann Arbor for the first time with his dad, uncle, and cousin.
We got there around noonish and we met with Coach Smith, Coach Mattison, and Coach Hoke. Coach Mattison told me more than likely I'd be playing the MIKE linebacker spot. It's definitely a privelage to sit down with him and watch film. Coach Hoke basically stated the goals as a football coach, as a team, and as an individual. We just talked casually for awhile.
As usual the coaches were down to earth and the Big House was shockingly big.
The coaches were really easy to talk to, I feel like I get along with them really well. My dad is my AD and my uncle is my coach and they knew the coaches from when they were at Ball State. They really like those coaches, and they've known each other for awhile. We all got to go to the Big House too, and that sent chills down my back thinking about the history that's been in that stadium.
This visit was a positive for Michigan, but Bolden isn't making his decision any time soon.
I was definitely impressed by this visit. Michigan is definitely up there on the list overall. I haven't narrowed anything down yet, I just know that Michigan is up there.
Bolden may visit North Carolina this weekend, and plans on trying to make it back up to Michigan sometime soon.
6'6", 285 lbs
As you probably know Braden committed on his visit Thursday. He and his coach had planned this visit for awhile and Ben decided that he was comfortable enough to make his decision. I spoke with his head coach, Ralph Munger, about the visit.
He and his father made a trip to Wisconsin, the family made a trip to MSU, and also Michigan. He's been traveled and checked out a lot of places. Ben shared with me and his parents that he appreciated all the time with the coaches, but he just feels real comfortable with Michigan. He was going to go to MSU also, but in the last couple weeks he was just really excited about Michigan. After today I could see why, he really feels comfortable there. He connected, he looked at the educational opportunities, the football opportunities, and he felt that was the place he could call home.
From a coaching perspective, it's important that a high school coach is comfortable sending his players to that respective school they choose. Luckily for Michigan, Coach Munger has a long time relationship with Brady Hoke.
I've known Brady for a lot of years, he's been very good to me. I've learned a lot from Brady. I've known him on a very personal level and what you see is what you get with Brady. All the years that I've known him and he's still the same guy that he was ten years ago. He's definitely a player's coach, a coach's coach. I can't say enough good things about Brady. He has a certain magnetism with attracting good people. He's very demanding of his players, yet his players are always willing to give everything they've got. He assured me all the coaches will treat the players like sons, and there's a lot of teaching going on there. The line coach that Ben will be working with, he's a family guy, and a very good teacher too.
The recruiting process is very much about relationships and it seems like all the past work that Brady Hoke has put in will soon start to pay off for him.
Illinois has a few top defensive linemen in the 2012 class and Vontrell Williams is included on that list. The 6-foot-2, 263-pound defensive tackle currently holds offers from Bowling Green, CMU, Illinois, and Toledo among others, but has recently been hearing from some big time schools. Michigan is one of those programs showing interest in the Chicago native, and Vontrell took a trip over to Ann Arbor this weekend. Here's a look at his film and what he thought of the visit.
TOM: What was the first thing you saw on your visit?
VONTRELL: When we first got there we saw my dad's old teammate, Coach Hecklinski. After that we went to an academic meeting and saw the academic staff. I learned a lot academic wise and how they help us through college. They make it easier for you to transition.
TOM: Your dad was teammates with Coach Hecklinski?
VONTRELL: Yeah, they played at Western Illinois together. That kind of helps to have someone there that we already trust.
TOM: That's interesting. So what did you guys do after the academic meeting?
VONTRELL: After that we went to watch practice. You would never know that was their first practice. Everything was so crisp, I don't know, everything seemed to be on point like they've been practicing for years. That let me know that Michigan is back now and that Coach Hoke is going to do good things.
TOM: After practice I'm assuming you got to see the facilities and the Big House?
VONTRELL: Man, the weight room was unlike any other weight room. They had some things I've never seen before. It was very professional, it was pretty crazy. They had machines that get you warmed up in less than two minutes. And then the Big House, man, I've never been inside the Big House and there's nothing like being right in the middle of that M. Just looking around and picturing all those fans there it was great.
TOM: After the facilities then did you get a chance to sit down with the coaches?
VONTRELL: Yeah, I was able to meet Coach Montgomery, Coach Hoke, and also Coach Mattison. We met Coach Jackson too and also Coach Singletary. I was impressed by all of them, but I was most impressed with the resume of Coach Mattison. Being the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, it says a lot to come back to Michigan. To coach those guys at the Ravens and to come back really says a lot. It also says a lot about how long the coaching staff will be there. I believe that will be the last place Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison will coach at. I also believe that the coaching staff they have around them they'll bring home some national championships.
TOM: Wow, you have a lot of good things to say about Michigan and this trip, were you a fan of Michigan growing up? Is there a reason you know so much about them?
VONTRELL: I've been a Michigan fan all my life. Just visiting Michigan was a dream come true. Then to have the Michigan coaches like me was another plus. Michigan has always had my eye, I know the fight song and everything.
TOM: With you having such high interest in Michigan, I know they haven't offered yet but did they talk to you about what you need to do to get that offer?
VONTRELL: They talked to me about it, yeah. Coach Mattison was telling me that Michigan isn't like other schools that just throw out offers. They told me that I'm very very high on their list, that I shouldn't get discouraged that they haven't offered yet, and if I do everything I'm supposed to then I'll have an offer eventually.
TOM: What's it like to hear that from a Coach? What goes through your head when you hear him tell you he's interested in you?
VONTRELL: It's an honor that any college wants you, but it's a special honor with Coach Mattison. Achieving everything he's done, it's amazing. For him to actually tell me he wants me to play for his school it means a lot to me. Once upon a time I felt like maybe I wasn't a big time player, but with Coach Mattison telling me that, I know I'm a big time player now.
TOM: With all that being said, when do you want to make your final decision? How is your recruitment going to play out?
VONTRELL: I want to make my decision when I'm 100% sure. While Michigan is a great school I want to take my official visit there to be 100% sure on whichever school. I'll never know just by talking to the coaches on the phone, I need to be there. I need to be around the student body, around the players and the coaches to get to know them more. I just want to be 100%.
TOM: Even thought they haven't offered yet, after this visit where does Michigan stand?
VONTRELL: Michigan is definitely in the top three. I'm still kind of choosing the other schools in the top group, but Michigan is definitely in there.
TOM: Will you be making it back up to Michigan any time soon?
VONTRELL: Yeah, I'll be back up for the spring game. I'll definitely be there for that.
[Ed-M: Bumped because I'm still laughing]
Upper Peninsula can’t be sure it’s staying in Michigan
BY MARK SNYDER
DETROIT FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Upper Peninsula said all the right things.
It said it would “definitely” be back next year. After all, it is geologically attached where it is, and already has the Mackinac Bridge connecting it to the rest of Michigan.
But the UP will investigate other options.
Once caught in the middle of a Michigan-Ohio recruiting war over Toledo (who later proved to be one of the largest busts in history), the UP was lured away from Wisconsin with the promise of being part of an actual state. Things in Wisconsin have changed since then, however, and the UP may find the attraction of a living, breathing NFL team, as well as Bret Bielema’s musky man-scent, to be too powerful to resist.
The UP has been a valuable asset to Michigan. Once a source of lumber for paper mills and the iron that eventually fed Detroit’s automobile industry, the UP has recently put together an impressive collection of Indian casinos and even taken a Hollywood turn in “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”
However, the presence of Mackinac Island on its southeastern border has become an irritant. The overwhelming odor of horse feces and fudge can be a powerful repellent, and may push the UP toward the greener pastures of Green Bay.
The UP said Sunday it will be back. It was understandably emotional. It has since been unreachable for comment, as the invention of the telephone has not yet progressed that far north.
I believe, as of now, it will return to Michigan. When it makes the decision official, Michiganders can exhale.
Until then, even the UP can't be certain itself.
Contact Mark Snyder: [email protected].
Editor's note: A previous headline on this story named the Upper Peninsula a part of Canada. This version is correct.