In my mind, the Freep article left a host of important questions unanswered in its attempt to brand the Michigan football program NCAA rule-breakers.
1. Most obviously, who are these guys? The phrase "current or former" players is vague. How many are currently on the roster? How many left the program early? How many graduated? How many lost playing time under Rodriguez? How many were Carr recruits? All these questions could have been answered without compromising the anonymity of the sources. Why weren't they?
2. Speaking of anonymity, why were the former players allowed the opportunity to speak without attribution? The Freep offered this justification for granting anonymity: “The players and parents agreed to talk only if they were not identified because they said they feared repercussions from the coaching staff.” How does this apply to former players? Were they worried Mike Barwis would come to their houses and pull some MMA moves on them? I used to work for a media watch non-profit, and they liked to call these “spinonymous sources” – individuals granted anonymity on dubious grounds with an obvious interest in pushing one side of the story. A disgruntled transfer who has already cut all ties with Michigan would certainly fit in that category.
3. How many programs have off-season conditioning programs that, if required, would wildly violate the NCAA hour limits? How many of these programs strongly encourage their players to attend, so they can get bigger and stronger and compete for playing time? Would this quote apply to all of them? “‘It was mandatory,’ one player said. ‘They’d tell you it wasn’t, but it really was.’"
4. Why are the quotes from freshmen Je’Ron Stokes and Brandin Hawthorne in the story? Were they misled as to the nature of the story? Did their quotes add anything to the story’s contention that Michigan was requiring players, in violation of NCAA rules, to attend rigorous offseason workouts? With all the Freep’s concern for the anonymity of both current and former players, why would they put true freshmen in the uncomfortable situation of having their quotes used in a way they obviously never intended? The disclaimer that the players were “not complaining” does nothing to change the fact that these student-athletes are now forever publicly associated with a story eviscerating the program they just joined.
However, as NCAA sanctions and the like were mentioned, I began to see a glimmer of hope:
1. All programs do this. As everyone knows, in college (and high school sports, for that matter) off season workouts are not "voluntary", but mandatory if you ever want to see the field.
2. The coaches never strictly declared they were mandatory. Because of this, I'm not sure the NCAA truly can come back and slam the U-M football program. Besides, what are they going to do, take away our 3 wins from last year?
3. Finally, this seems to be another facet of the "wah wah family values" that we've seen develop over the last year and half. Hopefully the NCAA will take this into consideration when reviewing the situation.
After the big game in 2007, his personality changed. He had a seizure. He was soon diagnosed with a brain tumor. He fought it valiantly to include high risk, low reward surgery, but died just a few months later at the age of 43. He left a wife and four boys under the age of 13. He was a good man, a good father and a good friend. I should have been a better friend to him but life is busy and you never expect a timetable for such things.
The neighborhood did what it could to pitch in. I would mow his lawn frequently until the boys took over. Brian was always working on some project in the yard. Seeing these uncompleted jobs really hit home with me, truly representing a life cut short, incomplete. I digress. I guess that gradually life returned to some normality for his family. They seem to be doing pretty well, all things considered. His wife said that he will be honored in some way at the OSU/Navy game. Sam/Pogue, if you are there, lift a glass or doff your cap for my friend and neighbor. I will be fortunate enough to be at the Big House with my two sons.
I am more excited than I have been in a few years for the upcoming season. I hope to see Michigan return to winning ways. I'd love nothing more than to put it to those bastards from Ohio. But when I roll into the neighborhood with an "M" plate on the front of my truck, I am greeted by blond boys making goofy OH-IO hand gestures. I have to smile. It lends some perspective. Three and nine seasons, "being owned" by Tressel, even Rosenberg's "shocking" revelations don't seem to matter much. I just plan to enjoy the ride. Here's to a great, successful, safe and healthy football season to all--even in Ohio.
What a difference one week makes. It was hard to believe this was actually the same player, and the same Spartan High team for that matter. Class 4A Spartan High absolutely dominated traditionally strong Class 3A Union High in Union's home opener. The Vikings scored touchdowns on five of their nine possessions en route to a 35-0 trashing of the Yellow Jackets. The Vikings improved to 1-1 on the season and the Yellow Jackets fell to 0-2.
One problem with evaluating players on a week-by-week basis is that (1) they improve each week and (2) it's hard to gauge the quality of the competition, especially early on. Some took my review last week as "grim", but while his performance was really nothing short of awful, it was just one game. One game that it turns out was against a very high quality opponent. Just a point that I wanted to make mention of and that everyone needs to keep in mind in reading this. Until I have more of a body of evidence to work with these should be taken as an evolving body of evaluative work. Now onto the fun...
The start of this game induced several minutes of WTF is going on here? Jones did not start at QB. Instead, sophomore Adrian(?) Kinnock got the starting nod. Obvious first thoughts were that there was an injury or some type of trouble, but Jones was back in for the second possession and for the rest of the half. This repeated in the second half (i.e. Kinnock started, followed by Jones) so this should NOT be taken as an indication of any type of a problem for Jones. In hindsight I am certain that it had everything to do with the quality of the opponent and a desire by the coaching staff to get Kinnock some meaningful playing time with the first team. From an evaluative perspective it was actually quite helpful though as it gave a nice perspective of the two quarterbacks running the same offense against Union's first defense. It was a night and day difference between Jones and Kinnock in every single facet, all significantly in Jones' favor.
It really was a night and day difference between this week and last. Jones was almost completely flawless tonight in every facet of the game. He passed for a beautiful 50 yard TD pass on a lights out play fake on a 4th and 4 and ran for 3 short touchdowns (3 yards, 1 yard, and 3 yards). The fact that the touchdowns were short doesn't mean that they weren't impressive. One of the 3 yard touchdown runs was a beautiful play fake that left everyone in the stadium, including the Union defenders, having no idea who had the ball. The most stunning part of his game was his absolute mastery on play fakes on both play action passes and play fakes to set up boot legs or quarterback draws. He had at least two runs of 20+ yards. Overall he was utilized much more effectively this week and he, as well as the rest of his teammates, executed much better this week. My suspicion is that the Dorman High team they played last week will turn out to be far better than most people expected at the beginning of the season (and they were expected to be pretty good) and that contributed to the somewhat dower performance last week. If there was one thing that really stood out in my mind tonight it was without a doubt Jones' ability to absolutely baffle the defense and a good portion of the crowd on the play fakes. It really was a sight to behold. He's definitely not the fastest guy in the world, as I mentioned last week, but he certainly is fast and his speed showed through much more this week. While not exceptionally fast by any stretch, he is slippery to tackle and shows the ability to escape trouble with his athleticism and strength. On one play in particular he broke a sure sack by backpeddling out of it and proceeded to throw an absolute strike for a first down. His long passes were much more accurate this week and continued to exhibit good velocity. My suspicion is that this entire team played very tight last week and it showed all around. The real test on that front will be when Spartan High and Dorman High face off again in the final game of the regular season (it's weird, they play twice each year). Until then it will continue to be a week-by-week evaluation with little ability to evaluate the strength of the oppenent until more games are played. All in all this was a drastic improvement over last week for Jones (in case that wasn't already obvious), and I can certainly see now why he caught Michigan's interest. He continues to be a much better passer than I expected.
(1) Jones out / started at Union 40 / TD
(2) Jones in / started at own 42 / TD / pass: 1-1 (5 yds) / rush: 2 (4 yds), TD (3 yds)
(3) Jones in / started at own 30 / TD / pass: 3-3 (58 yds), TD (50 yds) / rush: 1 (19 yds) / sack: 1 (-8 yds)
(4) Jones in / started at 50 / TD / pass: 2-2 (19 yds) / rush: 2 (8 yds), TD (1 yd)
(5) Jones out / started at own 45 / punt / pass: 2-3 (25 yds) / sack: 1 (-10 yds)
(6) Jones in / started at Union 3 / TD / rush: 1 (3 yds), TD (3 yds)
(7) Jones in / started at Union 49 / downs / pass: 0-1
(8) Jones in / started at own 43 / missed FG / rush: 2 (37 yds) / Jones left drive after 20 yd run with bruised hand and drive faltered
(9) Jones out / started at own 20 / punt
Passing: 5-7, 107 yards, TD
Rushing: 8 carries, 71 yards, 3 TD
Sack: 1, -8 yards
The following are the comments that I wrote down throughout the game:
- Tight spiral with good velocity
- Good action on play-action-pass
- Good touch and accuracy on pass across body to flat
- Game program listed his name as "Cornelius" (final determination to be made at home opener)
- Good ball fake tucked into 19 yard run with quick cutback
- Awesome play-action on 50 yard touchdown pass on 4th down
- Hides ball extremely well on play-action
- Tight accurate spiral on long balls; excellent trajectory
- Appeared comfortable out of shotgun and from under center
- Quick feet on drop backs from under center and out of shot gun
- Broke a sack with his back peddle and threw an absolute strike for an 8 yard gain to the 1 yard line
- Obvious polish difference between Jones and Kinnock (substantially in Jones' favor, as would be expected between a senior and a sophomore)
- Just awesome deception on play-action bootleg TD run left defenders completely baffled on who had the ball
- High ball on 4th down incompletion, but coverage was underneath not over the top
- Commands respect on play-action that opens huge holes for his backs
Spartan High travels to Northwestern High near Rock Hill, SC (just south of Charlotte, NC) on 9/4. I will not be in attendance as I will be up north for Labor Day and the start of the college season. My next report will come after Spartan High's home opener against Sumter High on 9/11.
If anyone has any questions I will obviously be glad to try to answer them to the best of my ability. Also, if anyone has anything they would like for me to evaluate in the coming weeks please let me know and I will add them to my list.
For the last few years, Michigan has been building a name for themselves in volleyball. It wasn't too long ago that Michigan was always a bottom wrung team. Under the tutelage of Coach Mark Rosen, Michigan has scraped its way to respectful. Friday, it took the next step.
In front of a packed house of 5,772 in Omaha, NE, just an hour away from the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln, the Wolverines took on the #3 Cornhuskers in the Runza/AVCA Challenge, the top tournament in the college volleyball regular season. This game was going to be tough; Nebraska has dominated Michigan in 3 games, sweeping Michigan in 3 games each time. The Cornhuskers have only lost once ever in the Qwest Center. Nebraska was coming off yet another Final Four appearance, knocking Michigan out in the same stadium during the Sweet 16 round.
But Michigan came out looking to match the effort of the 2007 season opener against Hawaii in Hawaii. They wanted to take out the crowd early. They wanted to get into the heads of the younger Husker lineup. They did just that. Michigan came out strong early. Juliana Paz and Alex Hunt were putting tremendous pressure on the Huskers front line. Megan Bower and Courtney Fletcher, who wasn't even slated to start until the last minute, were strong on the front, affording Michigan plenty of opportunities for easy passes. Everything clicked. [Full recap after the jump]
Before that, I wanted to give a summary of the informal voting that took place in the last thread as it related to the 2002 class (note: it would be helpful if more readers would vote – the number of votes was small, although the justifications were scholarly). Here was the 2002 class career ratings proposed after the McBean Rating definitions were debated:
The following votes were then cast:
Five-Star: Two votes
Four-Star: Three votes
Three-Star: Three votes
Two-Star: Zero votes
Three-Star: Two votes
Two-Star: One vote
Single votes for Bihl as a four-star, Breaston as a four, Tabb as a three and Riley as a three.
All votes are not equal as arguments of varying persuasiveness were offered. In the debate, wolfman81 almost perfectly captured what still remains a point of contention: how to use the NFL draft in our assessment -
Notice that in all of these cases, I consider the college career first. If there is some doubt about what category the player should fit into, only then do I consider the NFL draft. The NFL draft is a tiebreaker, but only when there is a tie to be broken. In my mind, 1st team All-American = 5-star McBean. All-Conference = 4-star McBean. Starter = 3-star McBean. There can be exceptions to this rule (Tom Brady was not All-Conference, but I think he should be 4 star due to his leadership on the field and other intangibles. As he was drafted, the NFL assessment backs this opinion up. The fact that he will likely be a first ballot NFL hall of famer cannot bump him up to the 5-star discussion; at the same time, it does not harm my 4-star rating.) But, I think that this rule sets a minimum standard.
The new 2002 McBean Ratings are as follows with only one change – Harris drops to a four-star. Mark Bihl was pushed hard as a four-star, but his career falls short of making a significant impact, just as Harris clearly falls short of an elite career.
The conclusion one would then draw from this data is that the 2002 class dramatically underperformed. To give you an idea, this would represent a drop in the team rankings (if the rankings were based upon average stars) from 10th to 21st, using an average of the 2002 through 2009 data.
Now, the problems:
- How do we handle the math for players like Dann O’Neill, Quinton McCoy and Taylor Hill? Players who never saw the field and did not stay. My original method counts these players in the Rivals list, but does not count them at all in the McBean list. For example with the 2002 class above, the 21 players in the Rivals list are all counted and the denominator is 21. For the McBean review of their careers, McCoy and Berishaj didn’t have a career at Michigan, so they are not counted and the denominator to determine the average star rating is 19. If we eliminate the two players from the Rivals list, do we fail to take into account the reference point of our evaluation: the quality of the entire incoming class as judged by a recruiting service? Yet, by taking them out of the McBean career list, do we fail to punish the staff for recruiting players who could generally be considered a bust? However, if we rate them a zero or even a two, we ensure that pretty much every class will underperform badly (counting both as a zero, the McBean average would drop to 2.81!). I am both befuddled and in need of a paragraph break.
- Second, the ease with which we rate invisible players as two stars devastates our average rating. We rarely recruit two-star players, yet because every team logically has many anonymous backups (seventeen preliminary McBean two-stars over the first five classes I’ve looked at), we have exceeded a ratings Chandrasekhar Limit and pulling each class down into a black hole of underperformance. Case in point, I offer the 2003 class which, if this class doesn’t qualify as a recruiting success and overperformer, then none will:
EDIT, August 29th, 9:24am: Gentlemen, after reading below and thinking about the problems presented, I feel we made a mistake with the definitions. Any viable Michigan players - this includes backups who do not see the field - should be get three stars. We could use this yardstick: any player who makes the two-deep during his career gets a third star. Also, we should be more generous with four stars for good starters like Bihl and Kraus.
Here's my reason: we must remain connected to our baseline system, Rivals. It is our point of comparison. Without a close connection, we can make no claims about under and overperformance. We recruit many three-stars, and while individually each kid hopes to be the next Pat White, the 30,000 foot reality is that those three-stars, en masse, are destined to be the backups. They are not underperforming, they are performing as expected.
This pushes some - not many and not enough to unbalance the finite four-star numbers - up a notch, because Mark Bihl and Adam Kraus cannot coexist with a three-star backup.
So, I am thinking we need to predominantly loosen our three-star standards to allow us to recognize backups as meeting expectations.