So, like many people, my thinking is swinging between the depressing "Argghhh here comes another 3-9 season" and unrealistic expectation of "Tate & D-Rob are the 2nd coming of my lord and savior". I tend to fall more toward the former than the latter, and that is depressing.
So, in a series of diaries I'm going to try to convince myself, and maybe some of you, that significant improvement is on the way this season. If you think we're going 9-3 or 10-2 I hope you're right, but that seems lofty. The aim and tone of this is set to show we can go 7-5, or maybe 8-4 if we get some bounces.
For my first submission, I'll look at DBs and try to convince everyone that overall we are better off at this position than last year. I can't stress enough that "better off" is relative...
Donovan Warren: Warren is a stud, he was in on 52 tackles, had an interception and 4 pass breakups. Considering it seemed like the opposition went at him relatively infrequently, this is quite impressive. He seems to be a sure tackler, and limits the YACs (yes, I do remember the slant that went for a TD, and that seemed like an isolated event). I think most are pretty confident with him, so I won't waste more time here.
Boubacar Cissoko: I assume he will be taking care of duties on the other side of the field. This probably makes everyone kind of nervous because he is so smurf-y, but i'm going to try and talk you into it. In spot duty as a freshman, he broke up 3 passes (tied for 2nd on the team) and was in on 15 tackles. Also, he's FAST with a (fake) forty time of 4.4 coming out of high school. Let's not forget that he was a 4* to rivals even with his height, and it's their job to know these things. He should be at least serviceable. Morgan Trent was a huge letdown for me this past season after showing promise as a junior, so I'm hoping Boo-Boo can fill his role, though probably not in the leadership realm.
Others: After that, I think incoming freshman Justin Turner has a chance to play a role similar to what Cissoko did last year. He also has the size Cissoko lacks. In a perfect world, he is successful enough to move to a full-time corner for the last third of the season. This would allow Cissoko to move to a nickelback role, which is his true calling in my opinion. I don't think that will happen, but it's the ceiling of what he can achieve as a true frosh. We also have Woolfolk and Johnson who have some game experience. They certainly can't be every-down players unless they've shown some significant improvements but they add depth and a little veteran knowledge to the mix.
The only contributing CB we lose is Trent, who as previously mentioned was a disappointment this season. I think he had a good head on his shoulders and was a good leader, but he was exposed as kind of meh as far as his raw skill and instincts go. His stats were similar to Warren's, but it seemed like they went at him twice as much. He also gave up a few big plays that don't show up on the stat sheet.
Oh god, how could these be any worse? What a nightmare in 2008. Okay, enough of that, here comes an analysis of the players.
Stevie Brown: I'll be gentle on this one since this is a relative comparison to last year, and not judging on an absolute scale. At worst he's the same, but it is much more likely that he improved at least some. I'm not saying he'll be "good", but he should be better than last year. I'm really hoping the best for this kid, he shouldered a lot of blame last year, and some (though not all) was undeserved. He may have played poorly, but man he took a ripping when he clearly was trying his absolute best and was more upset than anyone at his failings. Would love to see him get some redemption. Moving on.
Michael Williams: Who is going to fill in for Harrison? Other than QB, I think this is the most important question on the team for next year. It isn't because Harrison was great (he was average at best, just looked good in comparison to Brown). It's because we all witnessed, painfully, exactly what poor safety play can do to a defense. Just imagine how much worse things would have been last year if our two safeties had been Stevie Brown and... Stevie Brown. No thanks. Anyway, I think Michael Williams is the kid most ready to step into the other starting role. Not only does he have the most game experience (18 tackles, 2 for loss), he also was a 4* recruit to rivals coming into college. He was the only not-terrible DB in the Illinois game last year. In fact at a quick glance at UFRs, I did not see one negative play for Williams all year (I only looked at a few games, definitely could have missed something). I don't know what reasons the coaches had for not playing him last year, but those reasons couldn't have been good enough. My only concern here other than inexperience is speed. Coming in, rivals lists him with a 4.67 which is not very quick for a DB. I can't find anything more recent. Silver lining? 2 years of Barwis hopefully improved his speed and at safety, much more than corner, you can overcome a lack of blazing speed with heady play (which the lack of negatives in the UFR suggest he has).
Brandon Smith: He (I think) redshirted last year. He was a 4* to rivals with 4.5 speed, and he was a big dude at 6-2 210. He had 9 INTs in high school his junior year and was an Army All-American. He is a wild-card in this race and could go either way as a total bust, or push Williams for the starting position.
Others: We have a frosh righteously named Vlad Emilien. He'll probably end up an LB, but maybe he'll play some safety as a true freshman before he bulks up and makes the transition. There's a chance he's underrated, since he was injured for his senior season, but there is probably just as good of a chance that the injury set him back and he's overrated. Let's hope for the former. Artis Chambers left so, like... bummer. That leaves freshmen Adrian Witty and Mike Jones and other people that we better hope don't see the field. If they do, not to be a jerk, but: yikes.
Cornerbacks we should have an improved Donovan Warren, an improved Cissoko that hopefully can be the equivalent of Morgan Trent, and a freshman that has a chance to play the role Cissoko played but with better size. We also have a couple guys that can handle spot duty, and they even have some minimal experience. Net gain.
Safeties we have a he-must-have improved Stevie Brown, one guy that saw spot duty and showed a lot of promise, and another somewhat unknown guy that came in highly rated and was red shirted. Actually, you know what? Screw this. There is no possible way our safeties are worse than last year. Even if they are a push (they will be better than a push), with the improvement at corner our defensive backfield shows a net gain.
OFF TOPIC: Somebody less stupid than me should post a formatting how-to. I want to use neat bullets and bold and such, and this being my first actual submission, I have no idea how to do that.
UPDATE: I know how to bold things now. Woooo progress.
I tread lightly seeing the bashing the Mallett post took, but I am always fascinated with how every little decision or event can send your life in a different tangent and how it effects everyone else. Since it was the game I have most wanted in my entire life, I submit what if the ref doesn't call Crable for a late hit??
Michigan with their offense on a roll drives down to defeat the Buckeyes and the 06 game surpasses the 69 game in Michigan lore as they "win 1 for Bo".
Michigan then goes down and pounds Mike Hart into Floridas quick but light defense and we harass C. Leak all night on our way to a NC.
A spent Lloyd Carr almost surely retires and Long, Henne and Hart head off to the NFL. Lloyd Carr with his legacy restored and 2 NC's in his pocket is allowed by Martin to virtually name his successor.
That by all accounts leaves Miles out and we end up with Debored at HC and Loeffler running the offense and English running the defense.
Heading into 07 the team looks much like 08 did. A lot of holes on offense with a young oline and a QB battle between the older Forcier and Mallett, but experienced WR in Arrington and Manningham.
My guess is today on Mgoblog we would be discussing 2 "down" years while we were in the Alamo and Citrus bowls and how we need to fire Debored. In the meantime we speculate on the greatness of our next stud QB Nick Montana as Loefller rolls out the red carpet for Joe and his son and the ND nation recoils in horror at the prospect of Montana's kid coming to Michigan. Most are pumped about Montana coming, but there is another faction saying we need someone more mobile like Gardner because Loeffler has been down in WV studying the spread from Rodriguez, who is riding high after winning a NC in 08, and we are looking to incorporate some spread concepts into our packages.
Color me frustrated with the Bracketology World this morning.
Catching up with the mock brackets last night, I expected Michigan to surge a little bit. I had convinced myself they might find their way into enough fields to build a consensus spot in the Bracket Matrix. If not that far, they would be no worse than on the cusp of the field.
Yeah, um, about that, ah, well funny thing, it seems my analysis was a wee bit off.
Ironically, Michigan, despite a great road win and plenty of fellow bubble teams falling around them, actually lost ground in the last comprehensive Matrix update. Before the weekend, Michigan was third to last out of the field, according to the full view of the Matrix, which tracks upwards of 55 mock brackets. Monday night, however, they had been downgraded to sixth to last out.
Looking deeper into the Matrix eased only some fears. Only 28 brackets were updated today to include games played through the weekend. So, not all the "votes" are in. But, still, Michigan was only in five of those 28 brackets. I expected that number to be at least twice as much.
Michigan does not appear to have separated themselves at all from the group of teams just left out of the field. Michigan is one of the final eight teams on the outside looking in, according to the Bracket Matrix.
Of those teams, Michigan, at least, passed Kansas State as they're in one more bracket than KSU of those 28 fields updated yesterday. Rather surprisingly, Michigan only received the same amount of invites as Penn State and Providence. Georgetown, Creighton and USC, meanwhile, remain in more of these 28 fields than the Wolverines.
Spinning some of these numbers positively, you do notice that seven of the eight final teams out, Michigan included, basically have been given equal accord. They're all scattered in just enough brackets across the entire 55-bracket spectrum to make a dent in the Matrix and be included in the final group out. It is within Michigan's grasp to out perform all of those teams from here on out.
Southern Cal, the team in this first eight out group with the most bids, has not paid in full for their loss late Sunday night. The Trojans are in 28 fields (compared to the average number of fields from the other seven in this group ,9.5, with UM in 9 fields), however more than half of those bids came from brackets that have yet to be updated to include the weekend's results. The Trojans should lose support as more mocks come in. Who will get those bids?
Michigan's losing record in league play right now might be the one thing that’s keeping UM from sweeping onto one of the final bracket lines.
Michigan has a decade's worth of mediocrity to overcome as far as perception goes. Coming to the table with a losing league mark is something you only want to do if you're a tournament regular and folks are already conditioned to giving you the benefit of the doubt. Michigan is not in either category. Despite improved play from the Big 10, Bracketologists dont seem inclined to include a team from the league that’s below .500. And, most appear to be having a hard time talking themselves into granting seven bids to the league.
Not all Bracketologists feel this way. One, The Bracketeer, whose mock field is affiliated with, of all things, a Creighton Blog, sneaks the Wolverines in the field. He explains that in each of the last two seasons a team with a losing record from a BCS league netted an invite. As of now, he feels Michigan will benefit from that gift. Mr. Bracketeer, the Mgoblog Community salutes you for going to extra historical research mile on behalf of the Maize and Blue.
Michigan needs to force everyone else's hand this week with a pair of conference wins. It will push UM to 8-7 in the Big 10. In the updates one week from today, I would be more than interested in hearing arguments for keeping UM out of the field, considering they would have a winning league mark, big time OOC scalps in Duke and UCLA and as many wins against the RPI top 100 as anyone else on the bubble.
What surprised me when looking into the fields that updated yesterday was the fact that for every field that had Michigan just missing the cut, there was a field where Michigan didn't seem to be in contention and left off of whatever 'final group left out' list thrown out there. There is a fairly wide range of opinion on the Wolverines. And, the more prominent brackets out there are among those driving the inconsistent judgment on the Maize and Blue.
Michigan is on the up tick according the Matrix administrators. In their own field at the Bracket Project, Michigan remains excluded from the field. They don’t list who their final teams out are, but in the mock NIT Field, Michigan is a top seed, moving up from a 3 seed last week. Moving up on the NIT Bracket lines is progress, right?
Michigan was the last team out of Lunardi's field at ESPN. He also pointed out in an interview on the WWL that the Wolverines could easily play themselves into a bid. The Wolverines were also the biggest mover of the week in the Bracket Junkie's field, going from 7th to last Out to 3rd to last In. Those two are annually considered among the most accurate Bracketologists. Those are good signs.
You know who else gets acclaim for their accuracy and brilliant mock brackets? Bracketology 101 and College Hoops Net, both of whom continued to downgrade Michigan. In B101, Michigan's fall mirrored their overall decline in the Matrix with UM going from third to last out to sixth to last. Siegel at CBH had been a long holdout for UM's chances, but in his bracket Monday, he doesn't even have the Wolverines listed among the final eight teams left out. I dont feel comfortable about Michigan's standings if both of these guys have Michigan falling farther out of range for bid.
Bottom line, it's up to Michigan to gain people's support. If they have a winning record in their final regular season games, they will notch at least two more wins against teams currently in the field. They will also notch at least one road win. With more bubble carnage also expected between now and then, its still safe to assume that three more wins, enough to clinch a .500 league mark, will be enough for Michigan to earn an at large bid.
Looking elsehere along the Bracket Matrix, here a couple of other observations:
Bracketologists gave Cincinnati a mulligan for their road loss to Pitt over the weekend. That's fair enough considering the Panthers might be the best team in the nation. Of the 28 brackets updated Monday, CU remained in 18 of them. The Bearcats recent run up the Big East standings gave them enough capital to absorb a loss to an elite team. Can they afford two? Most of the brackets have them clinging to a 12 seed. The Bearcats next play Saturday afternoon at home against Louisville. I dont think they get a second mulligan with another loss.
The Miami Hurricanes are in jeopardy of being swept out of most fields. There were more new brackets Monday, by a 15-13 count, that had Miami out of the field. By that metric, the Canes are the team most in danger of falling out the Matrix. They travel to Florida St Wednesday night and host Boston College Saturday afternoon. Those are two games that might be as important as any other games along the way for Michigan's eventual chances. The Wolverines are decidedly anti-Da U from here on out.
The Mountain West Conference continues to receive four bids. I promise to no longer get worked up about this though. In the Matrix, BYU, SDSS and UNLV remain in a vast majority of fields, but all three are on the 11 line. I dont think any of those teams can afford losses at that projection and not fall by the wayside if other bubble teams perform well. After spending the last couple of weeks collecting wins against the bottom half of the league, we finally see a run of head to head matchups that might end up being elimination games relating to next Monday's brackets. New Mexico at BYU, BYU at UNLV, SDSU at NM, UNLV at Utah, BYU at SDSU are all on the schedule from now until the end of the month. The league could cannabolize its at-large bids between now and the end of the month. It will be hard to keep the losers of those games in mock brackets as we get closer to March, especially if other bubble teams perform well.
Beware Creighton. The Bluejays suddenly are in more updated fields than Michigan. The Missouri Valley Conference had been on a six-year run of receiving multiple bids into the dance. That ended last year. But Creighton and league cohort Northern Iowa are trying to start a new streak. What's intriguing about the Jays position is that, unlike most mid majors this time of year, they can really improve their resume in their final four regular season games. They play MVC fourth place team Evansville tonight. On Saturday, they have a marquee Bracket Buster game against well known George Mason, where a win will impress. After a road game against last place Missouri State, the Jays close the season on ESPN playing third place Illinois St. If they win those games, they will be in the tournament as long as they dont flame out early in the MVC tournament. How many losses will it take to implode their at large hopes. One? Two? This is a storyline to watch between now and the end of the month.
Did Texas A/M just breathe new life into their season? They have a poor man's Michigan resume with a pair of OOC wins over LSU and Arizona sparkling their profile. But, they are three games below .500 in conference play in a league regarded to be below the Big 10. Yet, getting lost in the Bracket Matrix for some time reveals the Aggies in a surprising amount of final groups left out of the field. And that was before last night's resume win over Texas. They have one of the easiest slates of all the bubble teams from here on out, although they do have three league road games to play. Still, the Aggies have to be considered a threat again.
I love Steven Threet for his heart, his moxie and his willingness to try and fit into an offensive scheme that probably wasn't the best fit for him as a QB. But at some point, you have to look in the mirror and decide what is best for you the rest of your life. If that's playing football for 2 yrs at po-dunk state, fine, but if its getting one of the best educations in these United States of America, you have to look at the big picture. And this is where your parents set you straight. You may be a good athlete, but there may be several athletes that are better than you at your given sport. Time to face the facts and live with it.
When I worked with the football team back in the 80's, there was this kid named Rich Hewlett. He was a pretty good football player and he was smart as hell. He started the M vs OSU game as a freshman for god's sake, but he didn't play much at QB much after that game. Bo wanted to mix it up and as we all know, he would do anything, ANYTHING to try and beat Ohio State. It didn't work out that day and Rich ended up as a safety for the rest of his career. He wasn't the best QB, he wasn't the best safety, but godammit, he was a f'ing fighter that would never give up to help his team win championships.
Guess what happened to that guy that wasn't good enough to beat out the likes of Steve Smith and then Jim Harbaugh? He was a pretty good contributor as a safety on the team. He wasn't all conference or all american, but he was a teammate for the MEEECHIGAN Wolverines! He studied his *ss off and did okay on the field and got his degree. Then he went on to get his JD degree and is now a very successful lawyer, an awesome father and great husband. Hugo is a close friend of one of my best friend's family from Michigan. I know him in passing. But he is the epitome of what a Michigan Man is.....unfortunately, Steven Threet is getting advice that tells him he will be a star at XyZ University. This is simply not the case and he could either help his team to championships in the future, help his successors learn faster or move on. He has chosen to move on, versus taking on this unenviable task of helping create champions on his team. This is where he is missing one of life's valuable lessons. Its a shame, that's all i can say.
I had to chance for a soccer scholarship in college at Adrian College, but my life long dream was attending the University of Michigan, even though they only had a club soccer team at the time. I had to work through college and was fortunate enough to be a trainer for the football, basketball and hockey teams (when Red started and they were horrible..) for 4 years. It was never going to be my profession as I knew i needed to work right after college and could never afford to go to grad school for physical therapy, but I knew that it would help pay for college and also let me participate in a team environment. I accepted my fate and played IM sports and club soccer for 4 years.
And i have never looked back. I got the coveted M diploma, i made a family very proud of me and now I am running sales for my current employer in Europe, exposing my children to life experiences I could never imagine growing up.
Be careful what you wish for, don't always let everyone tell you that you are getting "screwed" when you have a full ride to a great university that 99% of the world's population would love to attend. Learn to be a leader for the rest of your life, not only for a couple seasons at xyz college because you are QB1.
Those Who Stay WILL be Champions! Rich Hewlett was and so would Steve Threet if he would have stayed for his entire career.
As a Chicago-based Michigan fan, this was my first chance to see Manny & company in person. A couple things jumped out at me:
- We need to get Grady back in the mix, or some other ball-handler. Maybe even LLP could handle this. It's clear, however, that Lee cannot be trusted in late game situations under pressure. We also had a ton of turnovers in traffic in the paint in the first half. A legit ball-handler who can deliver a pass in traffic would do wonders for this offense. When Northwestern collapsed on defense, we couldn't make them pay because we kept losing the ball. Even when we managed to pass the ball out of congestion, the pass was often off-target. Their defense had the extra half-second it needed to recover, and our shooters couldn't catch and shoot in rhythm. I think poor passing to open shooters is a big reason why our 3PT% is so low this season. If anyone has highlights of the Duke/UCLA wins, I would be curious to see the quality of the passes that led to our made 3-pointers.
- We could use a Graham Brown. I know that this system prioritizes shooters, but we could really use a bruiser to rebound and set some tough screens. Is there anyone on our recruiting radar that weighs more than 220 pounds soaking wet? We had seats a few rows behind the Michigan bench, and Beilein was constantly screaming at the team to box out. Northwestern was a tall team, but they didn't have any gifted rebounders. Getting 15-20 minutes from one human wrecking ball with some infectiously physical play would have been helpful. Gibson didn't really get it done.
- The Maize Rage is traveling well. Keep up the good work.
- I didn't see a lot of the 1-3-1. I remember we went to it for one play (early in the second half?), got burned by a lob over the defense to Northwestern's lackluster, lifeless, gigantic center, and immediately abandoned it. Have we just totally given up on this defense, or was I not playing close enough attention?
- The officiating looked horrific in person. We didn't have the benefit of replay on a jumbrotron (because Northwestern's facilities are about the same quality as a 1970s-era health club), but a lot of the whistles on the perimiter seemed arbitrary and unnecessary. That changed towards the end of the game, when there were a handful of questionable no-calls that were totally inconsistent with how the game had been officiated to that point. Did the officiating look as erratic with the benefit of replays, multiple angles, and DVR?
- Finally: good God, please make Manny stay. Please. He could use another year in the weight room, and we could use another year of the give-it-to-Manny safety wheels on offense.
I find it amazing how the value of Threet is being overstated almost as a badge of wisdom amongst the Michigan writing elite (whoever that is...people like Rivals folks and established bloggers; I know Brian is composing something along these lines at this very moment). It is an obligatory, painful thing to watch. I think it's horseshit. If it's a sign of respect for Threet, then whatever. I am not inclined to go out of my way to be hushed and respectful to people who don't honor their commitments. I won't slam the kid, but I am not going to mute my opinion of his worth as he heads out.
He was not a good QB. Any potential he had was, like sandpaper on skin, painful and at the expense of how RR wanted to conduct football here at Michigan. He was a living, breathing, walking, snapping, throwing example of a square peg. The upside for the square peg fitting into the round hole is never high.
There are many, many, many, many, many reasons why the prospects of these incoming freshman are vastly higher than with Threet.
1. Threet = square peg; Forcier and DRob = roung peg
2. One more year for the other 100 players in RR's system
3. The OLine will be vastly improved. The read option handoff, which was usually into Molk's butt, will likely be viable
4. RB is more settled and the weapons are many
5. More electrons
6. Easier schedule
7. Better defense expected, although this puppy has yet to be fleshed out. One would assume that cohesion on the defensive system and the emergence of some LB talent would make the D better. Can they get worse?
All in all, I'd rather have Threet. Not starting, mind you, just around. I would have been much more concerned if Mouton transferred or Ryan Van Bergen.