The latest week in recruiting sees Notre Dame pick up their highest-ranked recruit in DT Jarron Jones while Purdue and Northwestern each add some lower-ranked players to their classes. Other than that, nothing really happened. Action since last rankings:
8-28-11 Northwestern gains commitment from Jaylen Prater.
8-29-11 Notre Dame gains commitment from Jarron Jones. Purdue gains commitment from Carlos Carvajal.
8-30-11 Northwestern gains commitment from Terrance Brown.
9-3-11 Purdue gains commitment from Aloyis Gray.
9-4-11 Purdue gains commitment from Devin Smith.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg|
*ESPN doesn't rate JUCOs, so Isaac Fruechte (Minnesota), Darius Stroud (Indiana), Steffon Martin and Devin Smith (Purdue) are exluded from their respective team averages.
On to the full data, after the jump.
|#1 Michigan - 22 Commits|
Michigan maintains their stranglehold at the top of the rankings. Sione Houma moves from two to three stars on Rivals, and he's now ranked as their #5 fullback in the country.
|#2 Notre Dame - 14 Commits|
The Irish land Jarron Jones, their highest-rated recruit across the board to date. They still have some ground to cover to catch Michigan, going by pure numbers, but in terms of quality of commits this class is right up there.
|#3 Penn State - 17 Commits|
J.P. Holtz earns a three-star ranking from Rivals.
|#4 Ohio State - 12 Commits|
No change for the Buckeyes.
|#5 Michigan State - 14 Commits|
Kodi Keiler is upgraded from unranked to three stars on Rivals. Interesting, but completely irrelevant, sidenote: Rivals and Scout are in complete lockstep when it comes to ranking the Spartan commits (requisite dig: because they're almost all three-stars—but, you know, national three-stars).
|#6 Wisconsin - 10 Commits|
No change for the Badgers.
|#7 Indiana - 17 Commits|
Shawn Heffern gets a three-star ranking from Rivals, while Alex Todd picks up three stars from 24/7. I'm still keeping them just a hair below Wisconsin, but if the average rankings get any closer or the Hoosiers pick up another commit that'll probably change.
|#8 Northwestern - 16 Commits|
The Wildcats pick up a pair of unheralded recruits in LB Jaylen Prater and S Terrance Brown. This drags down their averages considerably, but I won't punish a team for picking up commits. Iowa is hot on their heels, though.
|#9 Iowa - 10 Commits|
No change for the Hawkeyes.
|#10 Minnesota - 18 Commits|
Nick Rallis, Maxx Williams, and Rodrick Williams each pick up three stars from Rivals after being unrated. 24/7 does the same for Scott Ekpe and R. Williams.
|#11 Purdue - 15 Commits|
The Boilermakers land ATH Aloyis Gray, OL Devin Smith, and TE Carlos Carvajal. Jimmy Herman picks up three stars from Rivals. By the power of sheer volume, Purdue moves ahead of Nebraska. File that under: 'Things I Never Thought I'd Write About Football and/or Recruiting'.
|#12 Nebraska - 6 Commits|
No change for the Huskers. Still. Bo Pelini isn't expecting some sort of Big Ten Expansion Draft, is he?
|#13 Illinois - 8 Commits|
No new commits for the Illini. Joseph Spencer picks up three stars and Joey Warburg two from Rivals.
Dan Wetzel's background piece offers interesting perspectives on Les Miles' approach to defending Oregon's high-tempo spread offense.
While acknowledging Miles' eccentricities, including game-management, grass-eating, etc., Wetzel brings out the exhaustive detail Miles brings to daily practice and game preparation, a side of Miles not covered in much depth by most writers. Most interesting to me is LSU's prep for facing the Oregon spread. Here is an excerpt from Wetzel:
LSU began preparing its defense to handle Oregon’s fast-break offensive timing just days after last year’s victory in the Cotton Bowl. Throughout spring practice, and then into fall camp, Miles and his staff dreamed up a drill called “tempo” that would condition the Tigers for the challenge.
It featured one defense facing two offenses. One offensive unit would line up and run a play while the other huddled. When the play ended, the second offense would sprint into formation and snap the ball as fast as possible and the defense would have to scramble into position. Then the first offense would huddle and repeat the cycle.
It caused defenders minds to spin and their muscles to burn. It also got them ready to stuff the Oregon offense and negate the Ducks’ usual schematic advantage.
Whatever odd impulses pulse through his brain during critical game situations, Les Miles clearly is much shrewder than appearances sometimes suggest.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
So here we are again at the beginning of a new era in Michigan Football, not nearly far enough removed from the last “beginning of a new era”, and once again I find myself seated in front of the computer trying to sort out my feelings on the matter. In truth I had planned on not doing these this year. Most of my impetus for spilling my thoughts here for the past three seasons stemmed from the completely foreign sensation a Rich Rodriguez led Michigan team left me with on fall Saturdays – an out-of-sorts feeling of not really knowing what to expect going forward. While Bo/Mo/Carr teams had a character that evolved so slowly that year-to-year change was almost undetectable, Rich Rod’s first tilt against Utah flipped my perceptions of Michigan completely and it seemed each successive game of the past three seasons distorted my outlook further. Michigan football went from being a solid thing I could count on and often take for granted, to a crapshoot of strangeness that forced me to question my unhealthy obsession with Michigan Football each and every week.
I thought Brady Hoke’s hiring would make things easy again and give me that cock-sure attitude back that said “I don’t need to worry about the details; I can just turn on the TV on Saturday and feel assured that Michigan will most probably win.” My cousin who played DE as a walk on under Hoke assured me that there was no better hire to be had, and that the past would become the future. Hell, maybe it will eventually, but for now the trials of the past few seasons compel me to question what the future has in store.
Learn from yesterday…
What did the game against Western Michigan teach us, and what is left unclear?
· Just because your name is Greg doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate a defense. Seriously, raise your hand if the thought of starting out the season against a very-good, veteran QB didn’t worry you a bit. After last year I was braced for the worst and Carder was every bit the accurate and composed passer he was advertised to be. He shredded our secondary at will until Greg Mattison made adjustments and started getting blitzers through. In truth our defense never truly broke; the longest play allowed was a 24 yard run and the longest reception only netted 20 yards for WMU. I waited all game for the play that would torch us, but the defense did a good enough job of keeping the play in front of them and got aggressive when it was well suited. The end result was something bordering on mediocrity, which felt like competency, and is a win for Mattison for sure. Two defensive touchdowns is a nice start to the season as well.
· Will the Al Borges offense work? Not enough data here really, what with Michigan’s offense having only 6 meaningful drives to look at. The data we have is surely encouraging though. Michigan’s first drive showed a degree of composure and demonstrated an ability to take control of the game tempo. The long runs seemed to be set up for success, especially coming practically back-to-back. We probably would have scored on 4 of 6 drives had the game not been halted, though the other two were 3andouts. Will it work for Denard? I am not so sure of this. The first offensive play from scrimmage looked very familiar indeed. In fact most of the first drive looked much like last year, right down to the amount of punishment Denard was being exposed to. If the defense hadn’t spotted Michigan two touchdowns, I wonder if run-hard Denard would have continued to be the go-to play if the score had remained closer. Denard’s comfort level overall was encouraging though, and he looked much better playing under center than last year.
· +3 on turnovers will make a fairly evenly matched game into a lopsided one. This is obviously true and was on full display in this game. Two of WMU’s three were of the most back-breaking variety imaginable, while the third almost assuredly took points off the board for them. Even the most conservative estimate would have a 20 point swing from turnovers alone. We should all keep in mind that this could have easily been a dogfight to the finish.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Jordan Kovacs– KOVACS!!! KOVACS SMASH!!! KOVACS, KOVACS, KOVACS!!! (I had my four year old son chanting this with me. Kovacs is now the first Michigan player he knows by name.) Seriously, it is insane that this guy came from open tryouts. He is my favorite player.
2. Brandon Herron – Talk about johnny-on-the-spot! The best part though was that neither of those were gimmee TDs. Herron showed great agility and stamina to stay in bounds and truck 94 yards in that heat and scooping up the fumble instead of falling on it was a heady play as well.
3. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Shaw – Big runs by these two led to the touchdown that finally blew the game wide open. If the damned commentator had been right, and the first of the two runs had indeed been Shaw, there wouldn’t have been need of a second because Shaw == Fast. Fitz still looks somewhat slow, but manballed two TDs in from close which is admirable.
4. Kevin Koger – Koger
only had one grab but it had two receptions and one was a doozy. Stretched out and snagging the ball with his fingertips, he still managed to put a hurting on the safety that hit him with a full head of steam. Gets up like no prob, first down converted. Nails.
5. Denard Robinson – No particular statistics are amazing, but he seems to have handled the transition pretty well and had several encouraging plays. Of note: the pull-down-and-scramble move for 12 yards and a first down just prior to Michigan’s third TD. Also the long pass completed on the money (I think at least, TV commentator be damned) to Hemingway. Denard probably doesn’t need to be listed here as he is always awesome and steadfastly refuses to bask in his own glow (making him even more awesome of course).
Also of note was the play of Jeremy Gallon, Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, Courtney Avery, and Kenny Demens. Oh, and Woolfolk before his injury – here's to a speed recovery.
Hope for Tomorrow
Next week brings a matchup with a Notre Dame team that just choked on its season opener, losing to a South Florida team that it exactly doubled in total yardage in South Bend. The Irish seem to have settled back on the QB that led them to 4 straight victories to end last season, Tommy Rees. They also have Michael Floyd. After watching Carder to White shred us yesterday, it is safe to say that Rees/Floyd is going to be bad news indeed.
Then again, Rees did throw two picks, so maybe karma will continue to be on Michigan’s side and we will score multiple defensive touchdowns, and Denard will gain 500+ yards of offense again, and all will be just swell. In reality though, ND is good and will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing and the game is in our house and we may even be favored despite not outplaying a MAC school by all that much. Add it up and history dictates a heart-wrenching loss. I continue to be braced for the worst.
PS - I realize that the quantity and quality of the posting on MGoBlog has increased by leaps and bounds the past three years, and that my posts tend to be more emo/rah-rah than actually, you know, useful. So if the obvious consensus is that my posts are no longer a welcome addition to the blog, then by all means let me know so that I can ride off into the sunset and trouble you all no more.
This year's dose of what has become a yearly philosophical rambling
Well, my friends, it has arrived.
I look back on seasons past and think of all those mornings I woke up too early, too excited, and too impatient for the first game. So much has changed since then. I am no longer rousing myself hung over and dehydrated; I do not have heart-cringing football food laid out for the entire day; I am not making plans with friends to sit on couches from ESPN College GameDay to TBS Pac-10 late games; and I will not end the night celebrating or drowning my sorrows in a frozen stein somewhere.
Disney's Jake and the NeverLand Pirates are holding the TV hostage as I type this. I was up before 6 and took orders for cinnamon toast and Honey Nut Cheerios. The dog has been walked, toweled off, fed, and wrestled with, perhaps not necessarily in that order. I've already punished the same kid twice for something the child already knows all too better. And I have ultimately dedicated myself to being SuperDad for the entire chunk of the day just to reserve a healthy 3:30 - 7:00pm EST block all to myself.
(Don't get me wrong, the kids will be there-- they woke up saying "What time is Michigan??"-- but their attention span will be exhausted about three seconds after Denard breaks the first of his several gazelle impersonations that are sure to take place today. There's something that tells me it's not quite fair to make young children watch every play, even if it's a Mattison defense.)
But despite all these changes in my life... and even all the changes that have befallen Fort Schembechler for the past decade and beyond... nothing has changed.
This morning, I lay in my bed like a bright-eyed, ten-year old maize-and-blue-clad dreamer, full of optimism, hope and enough anticipation to power an oil refinery. I lay there in the dark beside my beautiful wife-- who either doesn't really understand how deep all of this runs in my veins, or does and yet still manages to take me seriously anyway-- with visions of broken plays turning into 65 yard scampers, competent decision-making by the secondary, and enough blitzes to make General Patton happy all dancing inside my head. As I laid there waiting for Gameday to begin, it didn't matter who I was or everything my life has become.
There's something timeless about Michigan football, and that translates to us as well. No matter where life will take us, and no matter who we ever become, there's moments like today that serve as a constant reminder of who we really are inside, and for better or worse, what's really important to us, at least in the fall. The restless impatience we are all boiling over with this morning-- well, may it never change, despite how much any or all of us do.
We will always be men of Michigan. GO BLUE, and we'll see you on the other side tonight.
|Play||Formation||Down & Distance||Field Position||Run/Pass||1st Down?|
My first M-Go Chart. So what does this crazy thing mean? The plays of an offense are numbered down the left side. The second column is full of several different personnel packages. In a real game a team wouldn't really run 12 different personnel packages in a row, this is just several examples of different ones. Some coaches use this number system to easily identify what the other team is up to. It's a really simple system where the first number represents the number of running backs, and the second number is the amount of tight ends. You assume 5 lineman and a QB, and so the final number (WR's) is implied. For instance the "21" Formation is two RB's and 1 TE which means there are 2 WR's in play.
What can you do with this new way of looking at personnel? Well, create a simple chart like the one above. You can add whatever columns you want (mine are just an example). Obviously you want to watch the game live without a chart in your lap, but the idea is to go back through the offensive plays and write down the data as it happens. (Brian already does an awesome job of this, it's just a different way to look at it...)
You can then create statistics that will tell you things like, "On first down, the opposition runs 75% of the time." Or, "This team likes to run the ball in their own territory and pass more in yours." There are endless ways of breaking down the small amount of columns I used.
Teams like to do this to gain an advantage in knowing what other teams might do next. They will look at data like this at halftime to make adjustments and look for keys in playcalling. Teams also run this type of analysis on themselves (self-scouting) to make sure they don't have any glaring tendences.
You can call them whatever you want, but this simple system allows you to focus on how these different allignments effect what the team will call in any given situation. Most teams don't run every play from every package.
I just learned about this a few months ago, and I wanted to start charting our team under the new head coach. It will be fun to see if any of you create some badass charts of your own. I mean, this is MGO, right?
Today, I went for a walk. I left my central campus apartment and headed south on State St., hoping that if I walked slowly enough, by the time I got to the stadium, there would be someone at the gate to take my ticket and let me in. I seriously even took my ticket along, just in case. I walked because I could not read another word or watch another video about Michigan Football (yes, when it comes to Michigan Football, you capitalize the ‘F’). I had no intention of writing anything, but as I walked, I could not fight the urge.
I walked by the ticket office, and saw a couple dozen people picking up their tickets. “Who could possibly wait until today to pick up their tickets,” I wondered. But then again, I called the ticket office in a panic when a friend’s tickets arrived in the mail and I had not yet received mine yet. I hadn’t even checked my mail yet. They were there. That day, I took out my tickets, snapped a picture on my phone and sent it to my brother, a Michigan alum living in Chicago, who wasn’t as much jealous as excited, and will be here with me as many Saturdays as work will allow this fall.
I walked by Schembechler Hall, and thought of Bo. I never met the man, and am not even old enough to have seen the games he coached live, but have read about and watched everything I can about his legend. I like to think that his handshake could have told you all you needed to know about him. Strength, confidence, a touch of brashness and a genuine human-beingness that makes you try to make up words like human-beingness. Probably what it’s like to shake the hand of a 4th generation plumber, his hands strong from wrenching the steel inner workings of his teams, who loves what he does and couldn’t give a damn if you don’t respect his craft. I thought of how many people’s lives he must have touched, how many large, grown men probably heard the news of his passing, silently walked to a room away from their wives and children, and wept. How his death deeply affected millions of people who probably never got closer to him in person than the confines of Michigan Stadium’s railings would allow. I saw what appeared to be two grandfathers with their grandsons walking to take a peek inside Schembechler Hall. I thought of how one day I hope I’m lucky enough to do the same. To pass on what is one of my greatest passions to another generation like so many have before.
As I walked, I saw a pizza delivery car pass with a Pizza House sign atop its roof, and thought of Rich Rodriguez. A couple friends and I would occasionally go to the coach’s radio show on Thursdays to drink beer, eat pizza and listen to Brandstatter and whomever the guest of the day was. There, I met Rich Rodriguez several times. While I had hot and cold feelings about him throughout his tenure, it becomes much more difficult to dislike a man when you meet him. When he turns to your table in commercial breaks, asks you about your future and jokes that he wishes he could have a beer with you. When he meets you only a couple times, you’re nothing more than another fan, and he remembers your name. When you watch him order the free pizza Pizza House provided him with to take home to his wife and kids. I thought of how, regardless of your feelings on him as a coach, you have to be so thankful that he brought Denard Robinson to this program. A young man who redefines his position, loves playing football more than anything in the world, and encapsulates humility and what you want in a student-athlete in a way that is indescribable. I literally hate that last sentence because it falls so incredibly short of capturing everything great about Denard Robinson. Ronald Bellamy’s Underachieving All Stars does the best job I’ve seen. Brian’s not too bad at it either.
I walked past the Al Glick Field House and noticed something I had not seen before. By the Southeast entrance is a stone sign with ‘2009’ engraved in it. I realized its significance. When myself and everyone reading this are long gone, it will remain. There will be a 232nd year of Michigan Football, and 332nd and on and on. The magnitude of a tradition that great and sacred filled me with pride.
I walked past the field hockey fields and thought of Charles Woodson. Strange, right? But the color and texture of the field reminded me of what used to be at Spartan stadium (yep, they get a lowercase ‘s’ in ‘stadium’) when Charles Woodson went on a solo mission into space and landed perfectly back at Cape Canaveral, with his intergalactic pigskin in tow. The man in black and white stripes who could not even contain his own amazement as he reached back and made the most deliberate first down signal for Michigan I’ve ever seen. “Neutrality be damned,” thought that referee, “that was awesome and deserved to be called like a home plate umpire who rings someone up in the bottom of the 9th of a perfect game in game seven of the World Series on a nasty curveball thrown by Cy Young striking out Babe Ruth.” Except more exciting and historic. (Boom, Fred Jacksoned.) I thought of how Charles Woodson an idol to me in my childhood. How when I recently found a journal from my elementary school days, scribbled in awful penmanship and grossly misspelled was, “My hero is Charles Woodson. He plays cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. He went to the University of Michigan. I am going to go to the University of Michigan.” I thought of Saturday afternoons when I would sit with my friends glued to ABC watching every amazing second of every game, then going out in the brisk autumn evening to throw a football around until it got dark. “I’ll be Charles Woodson,” my friend would say. “No, I will,” I’d argue back. We all wanted to play cornerback. Kids who like football do not grow up wanting to play cornerback. They want to be Joe Montana or Barry Sanders, but after 1997, they wanted to be Charles Woodson, too. When I played football in seventh grade, I was a quarterback and the smallest middle linebacker in the history of the universe, because that’s where my coaches wanted me to play. I was number 24, Sir Charles’ number for the Raiders. I wasn’t number 2 only because one of my best friends on the team had a name before mine in the alphabet and got to pick his jersey number first, that bastard. When I left middle school and they let us have our jerseys, I scribbled ‘Woodson’ on the back with a Sharpie. Obsessed probably doesn’t do it justice.
I turned right and headed down the train tracks. I thought of the men that built those tracks, and I bet they liked Michigan Football. I’ll bet they were the kind of households where if someone asked to watch a different game at halftime, the father would say, “we only watch one team in this house. Michigan.” (I’ll confess I stole that from Rudy. And if the timing of black and white TV and railroad construction and televised football don’t match up, screw you for caring.) I thought of warm apple cider spiked with a little whiskey, bratwursts sizzling and smoking on portable grills, the smell of a cigar or two, and the feeling that everything is right in the world on late chilly fall Saturdays in Ann Arbor.
I walked through the parking lot and was in awe of the pantheon that is Michigan Stadium. Or Cathedral. Or Mecca. There’s something magnificent about a building that’s awe-inspiring even when it’s completely void of its purpose and patrons. Like a church you walk around even though there’s no priest or parishioners in it (if you’re into that kind of thing), Michigan Stadium begs to be explored even when you’d be only one of one in there instead of one of 113,000. I can think of no other stadium in the world I’d rather have my favorite football team call home.
I walked as close as I could to the tunnel and saw the Rose Bowl Years painted by the player entrance and thought of Lloyd. A man who I think I’d be proud to be like as a father. A man who supports Mott’s Children’s Hospital as if every child there is his own. If you asked me who the best football coach in the country was, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say Lloyd Carr, right or wrong. Someone who pretty much anyone would love to play golf with, or just talk life. I’m upset with myself right now for waiting this long to talk about Lloyd. My attention span is waning and there are only so many analogies and adjectives left in the keys right now. Suffice it to say, I’m proud to know that Lloyd Carr was a coach for my favorite team. He’s a great man and a pillar of hope in the sometimes selfish, cold and calculated world of college football. If he ran for political office, I wouldn’t vote for him, but not because I don’t think he’d be good at it, because I think he’s above that world, and I’d want to protect him from it.
I walked a little further, and this long walk reminded me of Brady Hoke. A man who would have walked from San Diego. Yes, it’s been talked about so much by idiots like Drew Sharpe that it’s almost annoying, but I still love it. Because I believe him. Like many people, the Brady Hoke hire was scary for me. I wanted Harbaugh. I don’t resent him for going elsewhere. I kind of wanted Les Miles, but was a little leery. I did not initially want Brady Hoke. I knew who he was only because I am a college football NUT, but I wasn’t excited. Then, he had that press conference. Words can only do so much, but sometimes sincerity and emotion can make a big difference. Brady Hoke belongs at Michigan. He has already achieved his dream. Not just to coach college football, but to be the Head Coach at the University of Michigan. People will feel that. I doubt there will ever be a time when Hoke really wants to talk about how many hours he puts in, because he doesn’t care. Not talking about your new salary until after you quit your old job and move your family across the country is kind of crazy. But it’s not crazy if it’s for your dream. I think he would have accepted a 10th of what he’s earning if that’s all Michigan could have afforded. As long as he could’ve provided for his family, he would have been A-OK with that. You know that question from Office Space about what you would do if you won a million dollars ? What would Brady Hoke do if he won 100 million dollars? He would coach the University of Michigan Wolverines, I think. Also, buy lots of sausage. Maybe commision the invention of a time machine to go and convince Chris Farley never to play that Matt Foley guy. Regardless, I have faith, and maybe it’s partially blind faith, about the direction he’ll take Michigan. But that blind faith is part of what makes being a fan so great. The hope for the future success for your team and the belief, even the deep-rooted feeling of a knowledge that your team will be great again. It also is part of what makes the offseason so painstakingly long.
I walked back up Hoover and decided to write this, knowing it would get me that much closer to tomorrow. And tomorrow, I’ll walk back down State St., surrounded by tens of thousands of people who love and believe in the same thing that I do. That walk will be filled with less thoughts, mostly because I’ll just be awash in excitement and anticipation. But there’s a few vague words or feelings concepts or horribly cliché ideas that will run through my brain. Winning. Pride. Championships. Character. Tradition. Michigan Football.
P.S. In the most uplanned and awesome timing ever, we’re now 24 hours from kickoff.