My original diary: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/realistic-2009-prediction
Midway through the season, I can see that calm objectivity is helpful in making predictions, and now can see that its equally helpful in keeping things in perspective during the whirlwind of emotions in a college football season.
Looking at the predictions, I'm 5/6, with my one incorrect prediction being a win against Notre Dame when I expected the Irish' offense to outscore us. Without Forcier's heroics, I would have been correct. Looking forward, my fear of Illinois' offense seems unwarranted, while my dismissal of Purdue as a threat seems hasty. I stand by my prediction of an upset at home against Penn State, as well as my predictions against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The point? We're still on course for a 6-6 or 7-5 regular season record. So if we do end up there, keep a level head and understand the progress we've made this season and don't be THAT GUY that complains about a late season collapse. Rodriguez has this team on track, and Michigan will be kicking ass with him at the helm for the forseeable future.
(Note: Just got the morning lines. Everything held steady, but the NW/MSU O is 51.5. So that's what I have. Heading to Ann Arbor right now. Go Blue!!!!)
Here we at the verge of another Big 10 football weekend.
It's mid-October. The autumn air is crisp. The colors have changed. Football is in the air. And, like always, it's an October showdown at the Big House between Michigan and, uh, ah, ahem, Delaware State? Is that right? Are you sure?
Ok, scratch that. On a day with big games dotting the landscape, Michigan welcomes a school from the mighy MEAC where they will play in front of a single day crowd larger than the combined capacity of the rest of their season.
The real competition tomorrow will be between the MMB and DSU's band dubbed The Approaching Storm. This one is anybody's game, and I look forward to this halftime moreso than ever before. But, it's rare that the MMB is the underdog, so we're rolling with the local Bando's. Well, if I can hear them, that is.
We joked on the MGoPodcast about a hypothetical pointspread in this one. Make no mistake, there is a real spread. Michigan is favored by 35.5 points. I want be touching this one in the Diary or anywhere else.
Many folks are probably saying, "what are you talking about, they dont do lines for games with FCS schools?" You could not be more mistaken. Several offshores do indeed put lines out for game spitting FCS and Bowl Subdivision against each other, not to mention a full board of games within the FCS and Division III ranks. 5dimes.com is one such place, and that's where the -35.5 line for tomorrow's classic comes from. Place your bets accordingly. Actually, places like 5dimes are greeat come Decmember when those levels of football begin their playoffs. We're out of college football at the level we enjoy, but there are plenty of December weekends with small school playoffs going on. And, you can gamble on them all the way. It's 50/50 that the Just Cover Blog will be a part of that. We'll have to see how the rest of the season goes.
To that end, here's another installment of Big 10 Picks. Our season record is 21-14, which is not too bad, except we've been running in place for three weeks in a row. Last week, we were 3-4, with that Wisconsin side and over being swing results the wrong way. Down 18, with a 16.5 spread and needing just a two points for the Over to hit, Brett Bielema skipped a field goal to get his team to within two scores. Instead, he sent the offense back out there to convert a fourth and long. They did not. A made field goal there is the difference between 5-2 and 3-4 record last week. Sometimes the line between profits and losses can be depressingly thin. But, those are the breaks.
Let's get it on this weekend. Five league showdowns, some big spreads and inmportant games in Madison and Bloomington that will shake up the pecking orders at both the top and bottom of the standings. And, as always, blindly following my plays may be hazardous to your wallet.
Northwestern at Michigan State, noon, ESPN2. Lines, MSU -14, O/U 51.5
Michigan State seems to have steadied the ship after a three-game losing streak in September nearly derailed the season. Now comes the hard part for Sparty: maintaining consistency. Can they navigate the rest of their schedule without any of the lapses in concentration that have become the identity of the program? Mark Dantonio's teams have suffered those lapses at a lesser rate than past MSU regimes, so I give them a pretty good shot at getting through the rest of their slate without more disasters.
But, doesn't this game with Northwestern just smell of Sparty letdown? Two weeks removed from a season-saving win over bitter rival UM, coming off a big road win against Illinois, the Spartans now host little old Northwestern in the sleepy nooner slot on the schedule. They have a huge night game at home next week against Iowa. I wonder if the Cats have MSU's full attention.
Northwestern has looked ragged at times this season, but they're still 4-2 and likely headed to another bowl game. The defensive issues that plagued them in September seemed to have been fixed a bit in recent weeks, in large part to better health. MSU, with the top ranked passing attack in the league, will be a formidable test. Offensively, QB Mike Kafka has stepped up his game passing the football and also remains a top threat for Northwestern running the football.
Actually, both teams are good at moving the ball in the air and mediocre at best at stopping aerial attacks. The Cats struggled to stop Syracuse and did surrender yards in chunks the last two weeks despite giving up just a total of 27 points. MSU, meanwhile, got torched by ND and Wisconsin and nearly saw the Michigan game escape them thanks to fourth quarter passing downfield. I dont see either defense locking the other offense down.
Northwestern will hang around in this game. They might not be a brick wall on defense, but they are good ball hawkers and have forced 20 turnovers. MSU is a young team. They're vulnerable to the turnover, and the Cats are just potent enough to take advantage when they do snare a takeaway.
Frankly, I am not sure these programs, as they sit now, are two touchdowns apart as this spread suggests. In the last 50 Big 10 games, NW is 25-25, while MSU is 23-27 and the clubs have split their ten head-to-head meetings. MSU won in Evanston last year, continuing the trend in this series that has seen the road team win outright four straight times and earn covers in seven of the last eight meetings. The Wildcats have covered four straight in East Lansing with outright wins a double digits underdogs in each of their last two trips to the E.L.
Also, the Spartans have been money burners at home, going just 9-19 ATS as home in recent seasons.
The Pick: Northwestern +14, Over 51.5...........MSU wins, but closeer than the experts think. I think NW will continue getting turnovers, which could set up scores, and that Kafka will be just enough of a running threat to keep the Spartans pass rush honest. As for the Over 53, the last seven games between these teams has averaged 65 points with the loser averaging 25 points. We're sticking with our theory that when certain teams take the field in the Big 10, the Over is the play. Here goes another one as I like both of these offenses to outperform the defenses.
Ohio State at Purdue, noon, BTN. Lines, OSU -13.5, O/U 46
This game will be blowout city. A Purdue team that specializes in inventing ways to lose now faces the premier progran in the leage. Look out, cub scout.
When the Boilers aren't handing the ball over (they have 20 giveaway this year), they're committing killer penalities. There is no way you can endorse such a sloppy team, even at home, against the league's most dominant defense. The Buckeyes will plant Purdue QB Joey Elliot into the ground enough to shatter his confidence. And, a playmaking pass defense will score points for the second week in a row.
Offensively, the Buckeyes are less than ideal. They won this matchup last year without scoring an offensive touchdown. Terrelle Pyror is confounding fans with his lack of progress. The running game is struggling to find a home run threat in the post Beanie Wells era. But, you know what? All those ills are at ease in this one. Purdue is just the right defense to get it going against. The Boilers rank in the bottom half of the country in nearly every defensive category. They are 100th in points allowed, giving up more than 30 points a game.
Here's the deal: I dont think Purdue can get more than two scores in this game. While the Bucks lack a dominant spark running the football, they have enough horses in the stable to march through a Boilers defnese that's 87th in rushing yards allowed. The Bucks O averages just under 30 points per game, while the PU D gives up a smidge more than 30 a game. I am pretty confident OSU gets more than 30 in this one.
Is it worth mentioning that Ohio State is 16-4 ATS in their last 20 stabs as a road favorite? I think so. There's something about this Buckeye program right now, where they take no prisoners and play more loose and free away from the judgemental eye of a home crowd that demands perfection.
The Pick: OSU -13.5.......The Buckeyes win this by more than to touchdowns, with the final being in the 31-14, 34-10 ballpark. Purdue has yet to be blown out this year. They wont be able to say that when the sun sets on Saturday.
Minnesota at Penn State, 3:30, ABC. Lines, PSU -17.5, O/U 46.5
I made my feelings known about Penn State in this week's MGoPodcast with Brian and Tim. Penn State boosters, send me your hate mail, but.......this might be the most overrated team in the country right now. Just E-pinion. With a little dash of No Sugarcoat.
They have piled up some guady numbers, but against who exactly? Nobody, that's who. It says something about the slate you've worked against when a home game with Minnesota is your second hardest foe by the middle of the season. The one team with a pulse that they have played from a BCS league, they lost at home to Iowa 21-10. They could not move the ball across the street after the first quarter. Could not protect their QB. Turned it over a lot. And the alleged premier defense could not stop the Arron Robinson/Brandon Wegher combo running the football. I'm not so sure this team is worthy of being ranked. I make the case that at least four (Iowa, OSU, MSU and Wisco) league teams are better than PSU this season.
We'll see if they show me up tomorrow. I think they have a hard time shaking the Gophers. I talked last week about hisotric bugaboos for UM and OSU. Minnesota has played that sort of foil to the Nittany Lions. They've won four of the last six matchups outright. and are 5-2-1 ATS against PSU the last decade.
Minnesota is a decidedly average team. But, here is what I like. The defense bends and even breaks a few times. But, they are very physical at the line of scrimmage, are good at getting QB pressure and are ballhawkers. This is one of the best in the Big 10 at generating turnovers and when they do, they are excellent at turning the D into offense and scoring on INTs and fumbles. I dont trust Dayrrl Clark. I see him throwing a few mistakes, with one of them being returned for direct points.
On offense, I like the Weber to Decker combination to do damage in this one. Illinois is a bad team and yet they almost thrw for 300 yards on PSU and Arrellious Benn nearly had 100 yards in receiving. As explosive as he is, there has not been a more consistent, smooth or tough combination in the league than Decker to Weber the last few seasons. I see 120 yards and a score for Decker against an untested secondary that's less talented than past years.
None of this is to say that PSU wont win. Hardly. They get it done in the end, but Minnesota will play just well enough and the PSU flaws, which have been masked on account of poor competition, will be exposed enough to make this a close game.
The Pick: Minnesota +17......the Gophers are 9-4 ATS the last couple years in Big 10 play. The Gophers keep this within two touchdowns and if they do maintain their usual ID as a ballhawking, scoring D, then the game will be decided by single digits. Want a real best bet, however? Get down on UM +5.5 over PSU. That's the line right now for next week. You wont need the points, but Book It anyway.
Illinois at Indiana, 7:00, BTN. Lines, Illini -3, O/U 54
Sometimes, it's not who you pick, but who you pick against.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Illinois Fighting Illini.
I dont have enough space to diagnose all that ails the Zooker's Ship these days. But the offenses are many. And, not going away. They dont know who their QB is, have no offensive identity, cant stop a cab on defense and, well, ahem, they are still coached by Ron Zook. This has the look of a team that has quit.
Right now Illinois cant block up front. That's trouble against the Hoosier's active defensive ends and linebackers. The Hoosiers were embarassed by their performance at Virginia last week. They talked all week about making a statement at home to right the ship. They have a perfect foe to make that statement against. Indiana will kill Illinois all day with their midrange passing attack. Ben Chappelle and the Pistol O of Indiana ends up having its best day of the season.
The Pick: Indiana +3........I was burned by Illinois early in the season, but since have made that back by betting against them since the calendar turned October. I'll keep fading them until proven otherwise. I said two weeks ago, this was your last place team. Money meet mouth.
Iowa at Wisconsin, noon, ESPN. Lines, Wisco -2, O/U 46
The biggest game of the week in the Big 10 is both the hardest and most dangerous for me to handicap. I say dangerous because I remain bitter at the way the Wisconsin game went down last week and how both my bets on the Badgers and the Over went down in flames thanks to sloppy QB pla, porous blocking and questionable coaching moves as Wisco attempted to shave the deficit in the fourth quarter. It left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I remain a bit prejudiced against the boys in Madison.
Do I have to guts to take Bucky Badger again? Or do I recklessly fade them, even though they return home where they are always a tough out? In the end, it comes to this: Wisconsin is unranked. Iowa is not only ranked and undefeated. Yet, it's the Badgers who are favored. To quote famous Indiana Univeristy Coach Lee Corso, somebody knows something, and I am going with that somebody.
At the end of the day, the magic dries up for Iowa. Statistically, they dont look pretty. Heck, they dont even look like a winning ball club. But, they beat you up, never quit and find a way to get things done. Unlike Penn State, the Badgers have more offense to put the Hawks on their Heels. Unlike Michigan, the Badgers are playing this game at home, not Kinnick Stadium, and they have not been as prone to giving up the dagger play on D as the Wolverines. It all adds up to a big win in Madison and fifth quarter like no other.
I remain steadfast in my belief that Jonathan Clay is the best running back in the Big 10. Michigan's offensive line took over the game last week and Wisconsin's is as good, but bigger. They will lean on the Hawks and Clay will bust out big, with two long scoring runs. And, I am giving Scot Tolzien another chance. I've said numerous times that he has been as much an upgrade at the QB position as we've seen in the league. Then, he spit the bit in Columbus last week. I dont think the Iowa pass rush will swarm him the way the Scrlett and Gray did last weekend. I remain in love with this offense. It might be the best in the Big 10. They had little trouble scoring until last week. And even against the mighty Buckeyes, the Badgers moved up and down the field and were in rythmn most of the way until disaster struck. But, that was Tolzien's first road start. He will bounce back at home and help the Badgers outscore the Hawkeyes tomorrow.
On the other side of the ball, the Hawks dont do any one thing well. They had issues with the Michigan pass rush last week. Stnazi is an INT machine and has thrown a pick-six in three of the last four games. At times, he is in control of the offense, but no QB in the Big 10 is more prone to WTF moments than this kid. It's hard not to see a new round of Stanzi Ball rear its head tomorrow. The Badger D is a whole new unit from last year and despite the departure of star power seem to be a better unit than last year.
This will be a fun game. A rivalry game. For Iowa, an undefeated season is on the line. For Wisconsin, they will be favored in every game from here on out, so they're bucking towards a double digit win campaign. I expect this to be one of the best games of the day. It's an even matchup, but the Badger have better skill players and a QB that's playing a bit better.
Badgers hit the 30 mark for the fifth time this season. Iowa will put up points to. In the end, a final drive spurred by the legs of Clay and a big catch by All Toon will lead to the game winning points in a 31-28 win
The Pick: Wisco -2, O46.....Listeners of the Podcast are doing a double take now. I did say Iowa earlier in the week, but I also said I would revisit the game. We taped on Tuesday. The scars from Saturday were still open. Besides, Tim and Brian are pretty smart, right? I'll blame them if it goes awry. See, and you all thought I wasn't addict enough to point fingers and place blame elsewhere. You have no idea who you are dealing with.
There you go. To sum: NW +14, NW O 53, OSU -13.5, Minny +17.5, IU +3, Wisco -2, Wisco O47.
- PSU @ UM
- Friday October 16
- Cliff Keen Arena
- Tape Delayed on ESPN2, Sunday Oct 18, 1pmET
- Live Radio - WBCN Ann Arbor 88.3
Tonight is a huge game for Michigan on the volleyball court as #11 Michigan takes on #1 Penn State at Cliff Keene Arena. PSU comes in undefeated in their last 82 games, and they also hold a 35-3 record against Michigan. That said, this is a different Michigan team than years past. Michigan comes in with a 16-3 record and with a stronger winning attitude than in years past.
Despite all the positives that could come from this game, Michigan is focusing on the game, not the potential results. When talking with the Daily, coach Mark Rosen describes the focus:
If you think about the end product, it doesn’t get you anywhere. ... We really try to focus on the process and get back to concentrating on the small picture rather than the big picture.
These sentiments were also shared by Lexi Zimmerman today on her CiL live chat on mgoblue.com. Lexi stressed the need to play crisp, to make the right passes, and to make the right reads.
I am going to work on seeing the block and making good decisions. It all goes back to being crisp, we have to be crisp tonight from start to finish.
It'll be important tonight as those middles are some of the best in the nation. Arielle Wilson is a 6'-3" junior who is averaging 1.46 blocks per set. If that wasn't solid enough, their second middle is Fatima Balza, another 6'-3" junior averaging 1.35 blocks/set. That's good for 3rd and 4th in the BigTen respectively. To put it in perspective, Michigan's leading blocker, Courtney Fletcher averages just .8 blocks/set.
|Avg Opp. RPI||69.2||Avg Opp. RPI||100.1||-|
I'll give that these matchups aren't the most solid ways to compare a pair of teams, but I think it at least offer a little bit of an idea of play.
Michigan has played a much tougher schedule so far this season, and that has a little to do with PSU gaining an advantage on their kill numbers. That said, some of their numbers are so much higher, and that's because of the talent on the Nittany Lions.
I'm somewhat worried about that kill percentage of PSU versus our block and digs. Michigan doesn't block all that well. Penn State will try to capitalize on that often. The good news here is that we were able to hold up against Indiana on the road who had the next best set of middles in the BigTen. The Nittany Lions are a good step up on the Hoosiers, but hopefully we can have a solid game from Rood (pictured to the right via MGoBlue) and Fletch. They'll be one of the keys to the game.
Michigan tends more to rely on a solid service game on both sides of the net. We want to receive well and we want to hold the lead in aces. Penn State has done well this season on receiving and have a solid ace count themselves. Whoever wins this facet of the game will probably come out on top.
The game starts at 7pm, so if you are one of the lucky few with tickets, get out there early. The girls feed off the energy and want to hear you get loud.
Week In Review
The midweek featured both soccer teams in action, with the men facing off against Cincinnati and the women against #18 Purdue, both on the road.
The men won 2-0, and even had some preplanned dancing by junior Jeff Quijano. Michigan defenders were definitely the bright spot. Cincinnati played very aggressively, putting a lot of pressure on the Michigan defensive end. Our defenders not only helped shut them out, but they also were integral in Michigan scoring. Not only did Quijano score, but Chase Tennant and Adam Keller also had an assist each. Solid day for the defenders.
The women lost at #18 Purdue 0-1 in West Lafayette. Purdue really set the tempo all game in this one. They controlled the ball and were in our box time and again. We played good defense when they were in there, but some of it sounded like Michigan was just getting lucky. Eventually Purdue got a ball in just before the half. From that point on, Purdue was playing the type of soccer that people generally hate – back to center, to back, to other back, to center, to back, repeat. No pushing the ball forward. They were content just to hold the ball, and it worked out well for them. When Michigan did get the ball, they looked solid in the offensive third, but they just couldn't get the ball into the net.
Coach Ryan thought things went well, even though we lost:
The girls, collectively, decided that they wanted to play soccer. It is something we have been working at, and they made the decision that they were going to support each other, communicate and keep possession of the ball. At the end of the day, they did a great job -- it was the best soccer I have seen since I got here. I want to give all the credit to the players. A coach can draw up the scheme, but it's the girls that are doing the job.
So there may be some silver lining in there.
The women are participating in a non-scoring meet at Penn State today (Friday) at 11am. The course is a 6k, and it will be a preview of the BigTen meet later in the season. Michigan will send eight runners including MGoBlue's Wolverine to Watch Kaitlyn Paterson, a true freshman that holds Michigan's fastest 5k and 6k times this season.
Record (Ranks): 16-3, 4-2 BigTen (#11 AVCA Coaches Poll)
- Friday 7pm – vs. Penn State (ESPN2 Tape Delay)
- Saturday 7pm – vs. Ohio State
This weekend is going to an emotional one, no doubt. Michigan opens with Penn State, a team that hasn't lost since September 15, 2007. I'll hopefully have another post up today (Friday) to preview this game with a bit more depth. This game is already sold out, so don't plan on walking up to the door. Cliff Keene will be at absolute capacity. Paul couldn't even get media credentials.
No matter how that game ends, Michigan will have to turn around quickly, as much hated Ohio State comes to Cliff Keen Arena on Saturday. The Buckeyes enter at 14-5 overall, and 2-4 in BigTen play. OSU has fared well against most of their low to middle level competition, but they've been handled pretty easily by their higher ranked opponents. Their last two games came against Penn State and Minnesota, both top 10 level teams. OSU won only one set in the two matches, and it came against Penn State.
It'll be interesting to see how Michigan plays against OSU's Dozier. The middle blocker has a height advantage over most of the Michigan players (Fletch excluded), and has been a huge part of the Buckeye offense (2nd on the team in kills) and defense (.76 blocks per set).
If you can make it out Saturday, tickets are still left for this game. If Michigan somehow upsets PSU, those tickets might not be available just a few minutes after the win.
Also worth noting, Lexi Zimmerman is doing a CiL live chat today (Friday) at noon. Head over to MGoBlue and ask questions.
Men: Thursday to Monday, Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional, Ann Arbor, MI
The men's tennis team is hosting a major non-scoring regional this weekend. This will be the lone home series in the fall for the team, and it's a pretty big one. Nineteen other teams will descend on Ann Arbor, including five BigTen opponents. Jason Jung is expected to lead Michigan and improve on his #41 preseason ranking. He's already knocked off a top 10 opponent so far.
- Saturday 1pm @#19 Ohio State
- Sunday 1pm @Miami (NTM)
The tilt against the Buckeyes is big in the BigTen races. Both teams are currently tied for second place in the BigTen and the winner will be sitting pretty with only two conference games left. OSU is the best team in terms of scoring defense, allowing just 1.29 goals per game with 6 shutouts.
Miami (NTM) will also be a solid opponent. The RedHawks are just above .500 overall and 5-2 in the MAC. They are ranked 30th in the coaches poll in the other receiving vote category, 5 places ahead of Michigan. The RedHawks stats remind me a lot of Michigan's. They've got a definite leading scorer in Mary Hull (like our Bowery), but they've also got a pair as alternate shooters. None of their numbers are that overpowering, but they've won games they should.
Record (Ranks): 5-7-2, 0-2-2 BigTen
Sunday 2pm – vs #22 Indiana (BTN Tape Delay – Sunday 4pm)
The women look for their first conference win of the season after a positive showing on Wednesday. Michigan has two numbers working against it in this game. The Wolverines are 18-36-10 against ranked teams and 0-1-3 when televised. At least two of those wins against ranked teams have been Indiana. Hopefully we can take another.
The women rowers are headed to Boston for the Head of the Charles event on Sunday. I was in Boston for this two years ago and it was awesome. There were "tailgaters" in the tents along the river with anything from chili to lobster.
Updates will come up here if I'm around and have the time. I've got 5 or 6 games to umpire, so it could be slow if at all. If you make it out to something, leave a note in the comments. Lots of good stuff this week.
The roster was released for fall ball last week with all of this year's current changes. The four lost still had eligibility left, but I'm not sure where they are, whether finishing at Michigan or transferring to find playing time. That's not uncommon in baseball. There will probably be a couple more tweaks to the roster before the actual season starts, and those will be dealt with closer to the season.
- Adam Arbour – Not a big loss as only saw very limited playing time. Stuck behind Chris Berset and Coley Crank in the depth chart.
- Bryce Aspinwall – Loss is pretty meh. Aspinwall had 10 at bats last season but made the most of them. I thought he had a pretty good shot of taking over for a graduated Fellows. Apparently not.
- Jim Bircher – No real loss. Had one pinch runner appearance all last season.
- Jake McLouth (yes, younger brother to the major leaguer Nate McLouth) – Definitely the biggest name lost from last year. There had been rumors that he wasn't going to stick around, and it appears that rumor stuck. McLouth was the DH for Michigan last year, hitting .272 in 151 at bats (6th on team). That's a big hole to fill.
My intital thought is that Garrett Stephens will take over the DH role, with some support by Coley Crank. Stephens was our top bench player last year, filling in at first base when Mike Dufek would close out games. Stephens also tore it up all summer in his wood bat league, earning all Prospect League honors.
- Kevin Cislo – Loss is huge. My guess has Toth moving to second base to fill his hole defensively, opening up short stop for freshman Derek Dennis. We also lose Cislo as our lead off hitter. That's a bigger loss. (Pictured to the right by MGoBlue.com)
- Kenny Fellows – Loss is pretty big here as we also lose our #2 hole hitter. I wouldn't be surprised to see Biondi to move into his outfield position, especially with the loss of Aspinwall.
- Chris Fetter – Again with the huge losses. There goes one of the top starting pitchers Michigan has ever had. He ate up innings (even if it sacrificed his quality down the stretch) and saved us from using the super weak bullpen last year.
- Ben Jenzen – Not much of a loss based on last season. Jenzen was injured the previous year and didn't make it back to play. He would have been a key part of the bullpen or even starting rotation last year had he been healthy.
- Tim Kalczynski – Loss is medium. As a team captain last year, he was the super utility player. He filled in for an injured Chris Berset and shared third base duties with John Lorenz. Timmy Kal's bat won't be too badly missed. He only hit .234 last year in 107 at bats, with only 8 extra base hits.
- Mike Wilson – Wilson's loss isn't a killer. In 2007, he had the conference in his hand, earning All-Region for his efforts on the mound. In 2008, he lost his touch. In 2009, well, he only made it into 13 games, including 4 starts. In the end, he finished with a 5.07 ERA in 27 innings. The 24 walks to 23 K's ration was also a killer, not to mention the .328 opponent batting average.
- Anthony Toth from 16 to 5 (previously McLouth's number)
- John DiLaura, C – I did a brief write up on DiLaura when still at VarsityBlue. He is a solid hitting catcher, earning Division 1/Dream Team All State honors, who has experience at third and second base. With two catchers in the recruiting class ahead of him, including Coley Crank, if he makes an impact this season, it will be because Chris Berset misses time again and Crank struggles.
- Kyle Clark, RHP – Clark was a four year starter at Portage Central HS of Michigan as a pitcher and first basemen. He's been brought on to pitch in Ann Arbor. He was runner up for his team's pitcher of the year in 2009, and finished with All Conference honors (he was All Conference and All District as a junior) despite having a season ending knee injury. The injury was a strange one. While playing third base, he went to field a slow roller and the knee just buckled. He finished the year 4-1 with 25.2 innings pitched and a 2.18 ERA. Clark has since recovered, and pitched in a summer league team (A. Green, along with Biondi and Michigan signee gone pro Daniel Fields), so he is good to go.
- Derek Dennis, SS – One of our two draft picks not to go pro, Dennis was an 8th round pick with the Devil Rays. He was considered either the top or second best position player in the state of Michigan this last year (Division 1/Dream Team All State), and he projects to make an impact early. I'm thinking we see Toth move to second base to open the door for 4 years of Derek Dennis at short stop. (Pictured to right by Grand Rapids Press)
- Zach Johnson, DH – Johnson is a big guy at 6'3", and he's also really versatile. During his senior season at Grandville HS, he was their top pitcher, their top catcher, and according to his high school coach, he "could've been [their] best infielder, too." Johnson hit .438 and held a on base percentage of .541. On the mound, he was extremely dominant with an ERA of 1.81, record of 4-2, and a 9 strike outs per 9 innings pitched ratio. So while he's listed as a DH now, he could end up playing just about anywhere to get his bat into the line up.
- Patrick Biondi, OF – The second of our two non-signing draft picks, Biondi was a very late round pick of the Tigers. He's played center field primarily, which makes him a prime candidate to come in and start. Ryan LaMarre isn't a pure centerfielder, and I definitely can see him moving to left field (vacated by Fellows). In 2009, Biondi earned Louisville Slugger All American status as an outfielder, which speaks volumes of his talent. He was also All State Division II/Dream Team.
- Michael Kershner, RHP – Kershner comes from Oakland, CA where he won a North Coast Section Division IV title in his senior season. Kershner threw a complete game in the championship game to win it all. At 6'3", 160, he'll probably spend a year building up strength, but he could potentially see time in his first year. PerfectGame.Org describes him as:
Lean and lanky build with projection. Works from ¾ arm slot with a long and extended arm action. He ran his fastball up to 86 in San Diego and it showed good life. He throws with lower effort and shows poise on the mound, changing speeds with his 11-5 breaking ball.
- Ben Ballantine, RHP – I did a write up on Ballantine at VarsityBlue as well during his recruitment. Ben is a 6'8" pitcher out of California, and he chose Michigan because of the work Rich Maloney and his staff has done with other tall pitchers, namely Chris Fetter. Ballantine decided to pick the jersey sure to fit him, Chris Fetter's #41 jersey. That's some awfully big shoes to fill. I don't see him cracking the rotation this year, but he'll probably start seeing playing time early and often this season as Maloney turns him into the next big starter for Michigan.
- Cameron Luther, 1B – Luther is another one of the Michigan All State players at the Division II level, but his is for power. "Cam" hit a home run in nearly all news articles I have found on him. That said, I can't find any specific stats on his season. MGoBlue.com described him thusly (before his senior season):
Luther, a three-time all-district performer for coach Eric Dunapilis at St. Joseph, has 19 home runs in three varsity seasons and hit .431 as a junior. A powerful first baseman, Luther had a breakout summer of 2008 with the Kalamazoo Maroons, hitting .429 while slugging 1.021 with 19 home runs.
- Bennett Howard, IF – He shows up on the roster at fall ball. A thorough google search comes up with nothing. He's from New Jersey. That's all I got.
- Samuel Cleary, RHP/IF/OF – Cleary comes from Ann Arbor's Huron HS. I haven't found much about him as I believe he is a walk-on at fall try-outs. He had a few academic honors in 2008. I believe he was a middle infielder at Huron, but he has the ultimate utility listing of pitcher/infielder/outfielder on the current roster. If anything he is an academic walk-on that provides depth.
EDIT: I looked over Rickey Samuel, which is definitely a poor choice to skip. Thanks go to wolverinebandit for pointing out the error.
Ricky Samuel, OF – Samuel is another All State Dream teamer from last year. He is listed as an outfielder on our roster, but the lefty also was a solid pitcher in high school. Samuel has 3 main pitches, a fastball (touches upper 80s), a sharp breaking ball, and a changeup. That said, he's only considered an above average prospect as a left handed pitcher.
His swing, however, is considered his main selling point. The best summary of his senior season I could find came from this Detroit News article written right before the district playoffs:
Going into […] Division 1 pre-district game against Walled Lake Northern at Walled Lake Central, Samuel was batting .510 with 35 RBIs, 41 runs, nine doubles, three triples, six home runs, 23 walks and 22 stolen bases. He has a .608 on-base percentage and a .840 slugging percentage. As a pitcher he's 6-2 with one save. In 48 innings he's struck out 87 with an ERA of 2.90. Opposing batters are hitting .169.
That's spectacular. Depending on how we use Alan Oaks this year, Samuel has a chance at making it in the outfield as well. Oaks is high risk/high reward in the outfield. His defense isn't great (it isn't poor either), he has major power, but Alan just strikes out way too much. If he gets converted to a starting pitcher, which seems likely based on the end of last season and his summer league numbers, Samuel could see a lot of time in right field.