this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
picture via Philly.com
This past weekend was huge for the final push in Michigan recruiting class. The next couple weekends could be equally big for the Wolverines. One of the big names taking a visit is PA WR Je'ron Stokes. Stokes is committed to Tennessee but looking around in the wake of the Vols coaching change. I spoke with Je'Ron Stokes about the upcoming visit, here's what he had to say...
TOM: What are the main reasons that made you decide to start taking visits?
JE’RON: My main reason was that I just wanted to be sure about the decision I make. I’ve been committed for so long, and so early. I’ve only gotten to see one place. Things changed, and this is a business decision. The quarterback situation, I thought was wrong, but the coach has a lot on his plate, and he wants to do what he feels is best for the team. It was kind of a 50/50 thing, after awhile it didn’t bother me how he handled it.
TOM: What is your official status with Tennessee?
JE’RON: I really don’t know. I’m still committed, I just want to take some visits and make sure I’m making the best decision.
TOM: Has Lane Kiffin done anything to try and keep you at Tennessee?
JE’RON: Oh yea, he’s spoken with my family. He’s making some good efforts; I’ve met a few of his staff and everything. It’s kind of like starting a new relationship
TOM: You’re visiting Michigan this weekend, what are you looking to get out of the visit? What other schools do you plan on visiting?
JE’RON: Everybody’s going to have good academics; this is the highest level of college football you could play in. So I’m looking for relationships with the people, players, and coaches. The town, just how the overall atmosphere. I’m going to visit Illinois, Penn State, and maybe Georgia. I probably will take a visit to Penn State; I’m not 100% on that yet.
TOM: Is there anything specifically that you’re excited to see, or that you want the coaches to focus on?
JE’RON: Not really, just want to see everything. Just kind of see the whole package.
TOM: Are there any other recruits that you’ve developed a friendship with recently?
JE’RON: I met some people at the All American Game, Jeremy Jackson, and a lot of people. Too many to name. Will Campbell too, he’s a funny guy.
TOM: Since you were concerned about Tennessee’s lack of a quarterback, have you spoken to any of the QB’s from the schools you’re visiting? Have you talked to Tate Forcier at all?
JE’RON: I haven’t. I know the new quarterback at Penn State, Kevin Newsome, but other than that no. We worked together a few times. I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks at the visit, and get a feel for them just as players and people.
TOM: The schools that are left rank them in order of who excites you the most, or who you are most curious about.
JE’RON: Honestly I don’t even know, I’m curious about all of them. I really can’t do that right now.
TOM: When do you think you’ll make your decision?
JE’RON: Most likely not until signing day.
TOM: If any of these visits blow you away, do you think you’ll commit on the spot?
JE’RON: No, I’m going to take my time. I’ll talk to my family about everything, and make sure it’s right.
TOM: With your recruiting, are you kind of blazing the trail for your brother Malik? Do you think he’ll follow, or do his own thing?
JE’RON: Where ever God leads him. He’s going to make the best decision for him, where ever he wants to go. We played together in high school so it’d be nice, but I want him to do what’s right for him.
With Michigan basketball finally good again, and Crisler routinely at near capacity, I think it’s time we talk about the game-day atmosphere at Crisler. Or, rather, I should phrase it, “Hey fans! Let’s talk about your game day experience!!1!1!!”
I’ve been a student season ticket holder for five years now, and have been going to Michigan basketball games since 1990. I was there for the Fab Five, the Ed Martin pay-a-player years, the Jamal Crawford headband craze, and all of the various incarnations of Amaker suck. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in Crisler come and go, good and bad, but this year's incarnation of the Athletic Department's attempt to make Crisler more exciting falls way, way, way short. While Crisler has long had the reputation of being slightly library-esque, that had more to do with the product on the court (and, let's be honest, a long history of the University being pretty apathetic and fair-weather about basketball). Now that we have what looks to be a great team on the floor, and an atmosphere that is loud by design but falls short of getting fans excited to go along with the artificial loudness. Basically, I think fans just don't get it, and by the last run-through of Zombie Nation on the PA, they're already sitting down.
Let’s run it down.
1. The PA announcer is TERRIBLE. This isn’t your day job at Comerica Park, quit acting like it is. “WHO WANTS A FREE PIZZZ-ZZAAAAAA???” “Hey fans!...” “3 for 3!” It’s awful. He’s been bad since he started, but it’s gotten even worse. If you want to hear an announcer who does a great job, the guy that does volleyball and (I think) women's basketball is tasteful and fun. And his voice isn't like an excitable cheese grater on your ears.
2. Stupid in-game promotions and gimmicks. Dance-cam? Seems like a lot of fun for the 4-to-9-year-old crowd, and no one else. Need I say more?
3. Music. I marched 4 years in the Michigan Marching Band, and played in all of the athletic bands as either a sub or permanent member. Part of my gripe has more to do with the administration of the band than it does the athletic department, but the blame definitely goes both ways. The Athletic Department needs to stop using/abusing the band. Don’t tell them to play stupid, cheesy crap like the “Hey, baby!” song. Don’t use them as a juke box for in-game promotions (which was also an issue at football games, too).
The use of canned music, which has become more prevalent as the season has progressed, pretty much makes them irrelevant. On the band’s end, the band administration needs to be more vocal in telling Athletics and Marketing to stick it with some of this pap. Sometimes you just have to play the Victors and hope the people with the finger on the button get the message. I don't care if some bimbo in a Marketing polo shirt is screaming into your headset and waving her arms around. Just play. I'm glad the band is bigger, and it looks like the move to the end zone could be a positive step, unlike the hockey band's relocation at Yost. That being said, what does it matter if they don't get to play 90% of the time?
4. Just because “everybody else does it” doesn’t make it right for Michigan. Cheesy intro videos with fancy-schmancy graphics, team intros with dimmed lights and cheesy spotlights and awful music, that stuff doesn’t get the crowd going. I’m sorry, it’s true. They’ve tried pulling that at Michigan Stadium (“I play for Michigan!”), and again, it falls short.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted with this team, and my criticisms have nothing to do with the product on the court. I’ve been waiting years to see a team this fundamentally strong with genuine excitement and joy to be out there on the court together. It’s a team for once. And I love seeing Crisler actually filled up and not have it just be for the big games. I just wish the games didn’t just reek of Sports Marketing and Athletics being un-inventive and lame. They could harness the energy of crowds that big by doing what Michigan has always done, not by blasting hip hop music and putting on a light show. After all, I remember Crisler exploding for Jalen Rose dunks and Lou Bullock three's, and that didn't need to be spurred by hip hop or Zombie Nation (which is, and should be, solely a Penn State thing) being played as soon as the opposing team took a time-out. I'm not saying Crisler should be a library, but why not accentuate what we already did right rather than attempt to mimic an NBA arena (or other schools) with pretty cheesy results?
On an aside that's somewhat related to the topic at hand...
5. Giving away free student tickets to all but the two biggest games is fine in theory, but doing it to overcompensate for nobody buying the overpriced student ticket package is not cool. I know they’ve fed us a couple times, we’re getting an extra shirt, there are incentives for going to every game, and that’s fine. But what advantage is it that I bought student tickets if the ushers aren’t even going to look at my ticket when I’m going into the Maize Rage bleachers?
The bleachers are becoming overcrowded with people who got in with the free tickets, leaving all of us poor saps that actually paid our way in to be squeezed into overcrowded rows that are getting more and more crowded as the season progresses. The only time they've looked at my ticket this season was not to make sure I had a ticket for the bleachers, but rather because the usher “wanted to see what the tickets looked like this year.” Are you kidding me? They're more concerned that people not stand in the aisles or in the top row than actually checking tickets to make sure people who are there should actually be there. I know people are going to stub their friends down anyway, and that there aren't enough paying students to actually fill the bleachers, but why not give away just enough bleacher tickets to almost fill the bleachers to the students who show up earlier (and actually police it) rather than just wave everybody through?
I feel like I got colossally ripped off for actually paying my way in for a fifth year when others can get essentially the same product as me without having to pay, aside from a few MDen gift cards and two $5 t-shirts with gigantic Adidas logos on the back. After all, the MDen gift cards are just revenue that goes back to Athletics, being that the Athletic Department has a large financial stake MDen. I can’t wait for the much-fabled embroidered sweatshirt we get if we go to everything to be another awful Adidas-logo-covered crapfest.
I know they’re trying to get student interest up, but why not do that by rewarding those who actually supported the team in previous years rather than devaluing their support by letting everybody else file in for free? Returning season ticket holders were promised free tickets by Coach Beilein this summer, and that didn’t come to pass. Instead, everybody else got free tickets while we just got a bunch of handouts that may or may not equal what we paid in. It's nice that they're doing something, but the last minute bait-and-switch "oh, well, you'll get all this free stuff!" business sucked royally.
So, what say ye, MGoBlog? Yay/nay?
Road to #1: In Which I Don't Obsess Over NPH, But, Like Always, I Want To (Also, Rankings Release Edition)
Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about this week.
But I’m going to do it all in one fell swoop.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.
I’m saying this for two reasons:
- There is consensus among the ENTIRE TOP 6 between the USA Today and the USCHO polls. Which means, this entire post, I don’t have to do any split numbering. (Well, I guess I haven’t looked at schedules yet, so I could, but, hopefully.)
- We’re #6! Holy crap! We’re #6! That means we gained 4 spots in one poll, 5 in the other! Hell yeah! This means that, since my policy is to definitively root for the losses of the 5 teams ahead of us, I’m rooting for the losses of THE ONLY 5 teams ahead of us. (Which means if we can creep into the top 5, I get to track less than 5 teams. We’re actually legitimately on the road to #1, which was originally mostly a joke because this blog series thing was really just supposed to be about basketball when I first thought of the idea.)
So, to start with the team you want to win:
#6 Michigan: Oooh, home-and-home, against Bowling Green. Friday at Yost, Saturday at, er, lemme look it up, BGSU Ice Arena (way boring). At any rate, we should sweep this series. It’d be better for everyone. BGSU is sub-.500. We’re the #6 team in the nation. It’d be a very important sweep. Game times: 7:35 on Friday, online coverage only. 5:05 (note early time) on Saturday, on Comcast 900 (also, NHL Network, Canada-live, US-taped).
Teams You Want To Lose
Assume everyone plays a single site, Friday-Saturday series unless I say otherwise. And, just in case, rankings will be listed USA Today/USCHO, unless there’s only one listed, in which case they’re the same in both polls, or its above 15, in which case the USCHO poll is the only one that goes to 20. (That was unnecessarily complicated.)
#20 Nebraska-Omaha and Alaska: Who, oddly enough, play each other. This is for CCHA reasons. We’re at 18 points, good for a tie for 5th, with either 2 or 4 games in hand over every team above of us. This is good. UNO and Alaska are tied for 3rd (which is only one ahead of us, because of the tie), at 21 points. So, it goes like this: We sweep, we’re at 22. So, I’m rooting for a split. Yes, I realize this would put each of those teams at 23, still tied for 3rd, and keep us at 5th. But, in the end, I think being one point behind UNO and Alaska with 2 and 4 games in hand, respectively, is better than being two behind one of them, and alone in 4th. This is just my thought. Games are at 7:05 Alaska Time, so, uh, 10:05 Eastern?
#9 Miami: Yep, still want them to lose. They’re sitting at #2 in the CCHA standings, with 23 points. Which means, of course, that, if they lose all weekend, and the Miami/UNO series splits, they’re all tied for 2nd, a tie we’d be ONE POINT BEHIND if we sweep. The problem: They’re playing Michigan State. Damn. On the bright side, the Spartans won one last weekend, and Miami’s pretty wounded. So, we’ll see. Maybe a split. It’d help the cause.
#5 Cornell: The Big Red (I just realized that I’m rooting against Andy from The Office) are doing, oddly enough, exactly what Yale did last week. At Union on Friday, at Rensselaer on Saturday. Well, I didn’t expect either team to do anything last week, but they beat Yale. And, hey, I still really don’t. Cornell losing one would be cool.
#4 Denver: Takes the weekend off.
#3 Northeastern: Ooh, Northeastern plays #7/#8 Vermont, which means there’s upset potential. I’m totally rooting for the upset. Hard. 7:00, both nights.
#2 Boston University: So, this is weird. They play sub-.500 Providence tomorrow night, in a probable win. Then, they play at Merrimack on Friday night in a probable win (7:00). Then, Saturday night, they play at home against cross-town rival #12 Boston College (7:00). Should be a good matchup, go Eagles!
#1 Notre Dame: They play LSSU all weekend, and probably sweep. It’s in Sault St. Marie, so, LSSU could get help from the home crowd, so, maybe a split or something, but Notre Dame is pretty freaking good. 7:05.
So that’s hockey. Hopefully, we can move up a rank, if not, lets just keep from falling.
Woo, this is getting long. Oh well.
We’re ranked again in both polls! Woohoo! #24 in the media, #25 in the coaches. Which is the first time the coaches liked us better than the media. Damn liberal media. We play twice this week. I do basketball a little bit different from hockey, because schedules are more convoluted. So, lets start with a general rundown of who you want to lose:
Teams You Want to Lose
This only goes to Thursday. I’ll plan your weekend late Thursday or sometime Friday. As a consequence, this schedule is pretty scant. As is Saturday, actually. I’m tracking something like 4 less teams than I was last week though.
#20 Louisville v. #12/#13 Notre Dame: This game already happened, actually. And I’m not sure who I was rooting for. Its better for us if Notre Dame wins, but, I physically can’t root for them. So, I guess its fine that Louisville won. Whatever.
#24/NR Tennessee v. Kentucky: I’m sorry, but, Tennessee doesn’t deserve this spot. It’s that simple. We do. So, lets root for Kentucky, who is 12-4, to win it for us. 9:00, ESPN, ESPN360.com
#25/#24 MICHIGAN @ Illinois: THIS GAME IS IMPORTANT! Michigan needs to prove it can win on the road without first being down by 20. Illinois is very good, and we’ll have to stay on our toes to win. 8:30, BTN.
#21 Baylor @ Texas A&M: Comparable records, Baylor’s probably better, home crowd could help out Texas A&M. 9:30, ESPN2, ESPN360.com.
#19 Purdue @ Northwestern Northwestern isn’t very good, and, really, I don’t want Purdue to fall. 7:00, ESPN2, ESPN360.com.
No basketball of note on Friday. I’ll see you then to tell you how its going and tell you how your long weekend should go.
In my Sunday paper yesterday I noticed that the 2009 Big 33 Game rosters were announced. For the very few who are not familiar with the game, I'll briefly explain: Every year since (I believe) 1957 an annual game has been played between an all-star roster of Ohio high school football players and their counterparts from Pennsylvania. It is generally seen as an honor to be named to the Big 33 roster, and for good reason-- the talent level is considerate and many players can really make an impression on a national level prior to starting their collegiate careers. Perhaps the more impressive statistic is that A BIG 33 PLAYER HAS PLAYED IN EVERY SINGLE SUPER BOWL. Not a bad track record in over forty years. What's also great is that it combines players, perhaps for the first time in their careers, regardless of school size, so you have A school players alongside Quad-A players.
In recent years, I remember memorable Big 33 performances from Terrell Pryor, Chad Henne, Maurice Clarett, etc. In other words, it's a good indicator of future talent.
Anyway, the rosters for this year's game, held in the summer in Hersheypark Stadium, have been announced. Yes, Hershey Chocolate has a town named after it, that also has a theme park, that also has a pretty large football stadium (I believe the fires started there in the previously mentioned Terrell Pryor's light-up-the-field state title performance last year have finally died out, but that's another story).
Some names worth mentioning that register on the Michigan radar, include:
RB commit Fitzgerald Toussaint
OL visitor Marcus Hall
DB Mike Edwards
DB commit Justin Turner (listed oddly as J.T. Turner)
DB commit Isaiah Bell
and from Pennsylvania:
LB Dan Mason
There were obviously several other players of note on the PA roster but only Mason is the only one I recall who made serious rumblings around here on recruiting lists. One name that stands out (and I'll drop the warning now) is recent Rutgers de-commit/Penn State commit DE Jordan Hill. I watched his state title victory game last year, and I have NEVER seen a Defensive End shape a game as much as this young man did (think Vernon Gholston in the game a few years back x 10!). He could be cause for future concern.
Anyways, what really stood out to me is that Je'Ron Stokes is not going to be one of the wideouts for Pennsylvania. I didn't even really recognize the others at that position, and certainly Stokes has garnered a lot of attention in Eastern PA. AND there's been plenty of Philadelphia talent selected before... very strange.
I'm going to try to make it to the game this summer-- it's not very far from my home and tickets are pretty easy to score. If I do make it there I'll be sure to wear as much Maize n Blue as I can and try to make an impression on our incoming freshmen. I'll also be sure to deliver a strong scouting report to the MgoBlog faithful. Personally I think I'll be there most to get a good look at Fitzgerald Toussaint, who I've never seen play but sounds very promising as a future tailback.
Road to #1: Wherein I Become a Supervillan and Fall in Love With a Girl From a Laundromat (Also a Sunday Recap)
Ok, not really. But, after Neil Patrick Harris’ appearance on SNL, I went and watched “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” again. It’s awesome! Go watch it on hulu! Seriously! NPH is amazing.
And now, content:
How the weekend went:
#12/#10 Colorado College: Colorado College splits with Minnesota State. Cool. We should be solidly above them in both polls now.
#11/#10 MICHIGAN and #8/#6 Miami (OH): SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP! Awesome, just awesome. Our guys played great, and we needed these wins. Rankings wise, it means we’re a bit closer to the top 5. But, more important is what it did for the standings. I’ll get more into it in Tuesday’s hockey post, but, I think we have a very, very good chance of being the #2 team in the conference going into the conference tourney. Which would be fine with me.
#10/#12 Vermont and #9 Boston College: Tie on Friday night, Vermont wins on Saturday. Cool. Should affect our ranking positively. I think we may end up passing both of them.
#7/#5 Denver: Sweeps Michigan Tech. They move up.
#6/#8 Cornell: Sweeps Niagara. Good for them.
#5/#7 Princeton: LOSE all weekend. Lost to Union on Friday night, lost to Rensselaer on Saturday afternoon. It could just mean they move down to a spot we deserve, but, it means they’re on the hot seat.
Just everyone’s record this weekend:
#12/#10 Colorado College: 1-1
#11/#10 MICHIGAN: 2-0
#10/#12 Vermont: 1-0-1
#9 Boston College: 0-1-1
#8/#6 Miami (OH): 0-2
#7/#5 Denver: 2-0
#6/#8 Cornell: 2-0
#5/#7 Princeton: 0-2
So, that looks good. I predict we’re #9, but, I’m hoping we can get #8. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable rank for us. I think we’ll be in the Top 5 by the end of the season.
How the Weekend Went:
Dayton: Loses to UMass, so, they won’t be taking any spots that open up in the coaches’ poll, where they are between us and the rankings.
Illinois State: Same deal as Dayton, but lost to Indiana State.
MICHIGAN: Today’s game against Iowa was totally awesome. Beat them pretty bad. After going 2-0 this week, we should be ranked, as long as a spot opens up in each poll.
#25/#22 West Virginia: Oh, here’s a spot. They lost to #18/#15 Marquette. So, we’ll get their spot in the media poll.
#17/#24 Boston College: And they lost to Miami (FL). So we can take their spot in the coaches’ poll.
#15/#25 Tennessee: They beat Georgia. So they’ll go up. Maybe their coaches’ poll position equalizes a bit with their media ranking.
#23 Baylor: They beat Texas Tech, so they’ll go up.
#23/#21 Louisville: They beat #18/#17 Villanova, which is annoying, because now Villanova might take a low Top 25 spot that we might have been able to nab.
#22/#19 Minnesota: They beat Penn State, which I’m actually happy about, because I want Big Ten teams to not fall out of the polls.
#21/#20 Butler: They beat Detroit. Barely. I wish they hadn’t. But whatever.
These are whole week records.
Illinois State: 0-2
#25/#22 West Virginia: 0-2
#17/#24 Boston College: 1-1
#15/#25 Tennessee: 0-2
#23 Baylor: 1-0
#23/#2 Louisville: 2-0
#22/#19 Minnesota: 2-0
#21/#20 Butler: 2-0
So, a couple teams around us didn’t do so well. I’m hoping we get #24 this week. Seems about right.
See you tomorrow to see how I did.
I'm watching the MGoBlue.com video feed now (with the radio audio piped in), and have several comments.
First of all, this is pretty good coverage, at least compared to the alternative.
I see that the Miami players are entering and leaving the rink from the south end, rather than the north. Until I moved away and quit going to games in 2006, both teams used the entrance at the north end. When did this change? Are there new visitor facilities at the south end now? I recall that the "concourse" area at the south end really was mostly useless loading-dock type space.
During radio commercial breaks, we hear what Al Randall and Jim Hunt are saying off the air with their mics on. Just before Jim Hunt's second-intermission interview with Miami's injured Justin Mercier, Jim said, "Justin, how's the leg? They told me not to ask you about it, but I won't say anything on the air." And Mercier then gave him the full scoop "off the air."
After the interview, Jim was talking to his producers, and he said something to the effect of, "How was that? Yeah, LOTS better than the first one. [Greg Pateryn in the first intermission] When you don't know these kids sometimes you have no idea what you're gonna get on the air."
In the third period, Michigan appeared to score a shorthanded goal which was waived off. Porno-mustache Langseth reviewed the video, and the MGoBlue camera focused from the press box right down onto the review monitor rinkside. The ruling was that the puck was directed in with a Michigan skate, and the goal was waived off. From the video I saw though, it clearly looked to me on the slow motion the ref was looking at that it was a Miami skate that kicked in the puck. What are the rules about defensive skates kicking pucks in? Or maybe I just didn't see it correctly.
Someone had better buy Bryan Hogan a HUGE steak tonight. He made some absolutely ridiculous saves in the second period.