*This is a 'fluff piece' with no breaking news - merely a recounting of the first event with the 'Big Three' UM coaches in recent history.*
The UM Alumni Club of DC held a meet-and-greet with coaches Rodriguez, Beilein, and Berenson, as well as AD Bill Martin tonight. Matt Cavanaugh (I think - former drum major) and a guy who looked a lot like one of Beilein's assistants were also there, on the rooftop of a DC office building. Bill Martin said that this was the first time he knew of that all three coaches had met for an event outside of Ann Arbor. Kudos to the UMDC!
The evening started with an autograph session during which each coach was scattered around with throngs of people surrounding. The first humorous event of the evening was watching Bill Martin wander around with... fewer people, and at one point introducing himself to a confused little boy for someone to talk to. Rodriguez obviously had the longest line, but listening in on some of the conversations, the coaches were refreshingly honest and down-to-earth in their dealings with the fans.
The speeches started with Bill Martin, who said mostly boiler-plate stuff. He mentioned that both Beilein and Rodriguez were hired without ever setting foot in Ann Arbor; something I didn't know. It was really awkward/funny when he was talking about Carol Hutchins' softball team, and said, "boy, they have some real horses on that team!" Uhhhhhhhhhh, whatever you say, Bill! He blabbed a little about our success this year with the APR, how some other institutions in the B10 didn't, and how well the athletes are doing academically. Had a direct quote of "Don't ask me any questions." He introduced Red as the 'Dean of Coaches' at Michigan, and the guy that he uses as a mentor for all new coaches. Also told the story of Red scoring 6 goals in one game in the NHL. Also plugged the December 2010 hockey game at the Big House. Oh, and there are only 24 private suites still for sale btw. Oh, and Red has one hell of a championship ring. Wowsa.
Bill then introduced Beilein and mentioned that Beilein's team this past year had the biggest improvement in GPA of all varsity teams. No mention of practice facility. Mentioned the SI coaches survey that proclaimed Beilein as the most creative coach in the game. Also said he talked to Ben Howland recently and Ben told him that he would never want to play Beilein again in his lifetime. While Beilein was being introduced, he was pre-occupied with helping a child fix a chair:
A few moments later, the arm fell off again :) Beilein spoke a little of recruiting, and how his biggest recruiting success recently was keeping Sims and Harris on the team, which got a lot of applause. He fondly recounted the season, particularly Selection Sunday. Nothing else of much note but a very endearing speaker.
Then time for Martin to introduce Rodriguez. Like Beilein, stressed that his creativity, success at building programs, and doing a lot with a little are what most impressed Martin. In short, Rich Rodriguez is massively gifted at working a crowd in a 'down home' way. Snake Oil Salesman extraordinaire, to the max! I told my friend before he came onto the stage that I thought the over/under on "tickled to death"s should be set at around 8. To our dismay, there were NONE! However, the Lion King story about the monkey getting hit in the head or whatever made its standard-issue appearance. Aside from that, it was about 10 minutes of non-stop one-liners, self-deprication, and good-natured humor. When he first got the mic, said "when they told me that, after going 3-9, that I should come up to the top floor of a 20-story tall building to face 600 alums, I was pretty suspicious", and "I think I'll stand back here by this wall!" Mentioned that, even over a year later, West Virginia is still "pissed" at him. Said, "I should have murdered a family of 5 with an axe - I would've been less hated". Also, when responding to a question about his Twittering, said he isn't much of a technophile because "West Virginia just got cell phone coverage about a month ago," to which Beilein stole the mic and said, "see, he can get away with saying that stuff, but I never could!" Then Rodriguez said in response, "Hey! After the way I got sued, I owe 'em somethin in return." Much applause. Also, in response to questions about Detroit-area recruiting, said, "some may say that another school up north is doing better, but we actually get the recruits that we want." Zing! In response to questions about young quarterbacks, joked that he'll be taking many QB recruits every year because he never wants to be in the situation he was last year. Rich said that, on an academic front, that this year should break at least a 25-year record for the football team's average GPA. Also significant was his discussion of 'buying in' - he said, "last year, some people said that certain team members didn't buy in. That's not true - everyone bought in, but with questions. This year, they all know about the system and what they should be doing."
*Thanks to my friend Bonners for the photos.
All in all, this was a wonderful evening, attended by around 600 alums. Signed basketballs and footballs were auctioned, and all those proceeds, plus the ticket sales, went to the UMDC scholarship fund. The kid who won it this year was introduced. Again, thanks to the UMDC Alumni Club for organizing this. In the last year or two UMDC has become what I believe is a great club. For example, during the winter and early spring, we had 2 - 3 locations around DC reserved for members just to watch regular season basketball games! We even watched hockey *gasp*! Anyway, a great time, and 3 very impressive men. Plus one accomplished sailor :)
There isn't a whole lot of information running through the series of tubes that is the internet about Wrestling recruiting, but I thought some might be interested that UofM could be putting together a stellar class this year.
Heading it up is Eric Grajales, #2 overall to Intermat.com. He is out of Brandon HS in Florida, and is good enough to step right into Michigan lineup at 133 and be All-American level. I might be a little fuzzy on the particulars, but IIRC he went through all 4 years of high school with only 2 losses and over 200 wins, probably closer to 250, and was a 4 time Florida state champ. He comes from a GREAT wrestling school, one that went on an undefeated streak that stretched over something like 30 years. He is a great catch for McFarland and will fit in nicely at a weight UofM struggled at last year with Zach Stevens.
Next up is Sean Boyle, #32 overall to Intermat, and a native of Lowell, Michigan, although he transfered to Blair Academy in New Jersey, consistently one of the top 2 high school wrestling teams in the country. Boyle doesn't have the star power of Grajales, but he is very highly rated, and with Micheal Watts graduating from the 125 spot, he should step in and contribute right away. I'm not as confident about him being as solid in the lineup as Grajales, but with a coach like McFarland he has the chance to be All-American level sometime later on in his career. I won't completely count him out though, as another wrestler who was ranked a little higher than him, but not considered a superstar, stepped in 2 years ago and shot up the rankings to number 1, Kellen Russel. They even come from the same school, so there is some hope that he, Grajales, and Russel could turn what has been a weakness in Michigan wrestling for a few years into a major strength very quickly.
Michigan has also gotten a commitment from Pete Rendina, a strong performer in 4 years at Dundee, but not receiving the national praise of the other 2. He is probably in the middle weights, 149 is probably the best unless he really puts on a lot of muscle, although he does have a longer frame that could put it on. I've seen him a lot in person, and he has skills you want in a college kid, namely very good offense, especially leg attacks. Probably doesn't contribute for a little while, as 141 up to 157 should be filled by young wrestlers for a while, but he could surely step in later in his career and be a solid wrestler, maybe knock off a few ranked kids, maybe even place sometime. Think Aaron Hynes, but smaller, and probably not stepping in to his spot until later than Hynes did.
Another in state commitment to UofM comes from the same HS as a current teammate, Justin Zeerip, his younger brother, Brandon. Brandon was part of a star studded Hesperia team this year that lost to eventual D4 champs Hudson. I only saw him once this year, and that was where he bumped up from 152 to 160 and manhandled our 160 pounder, the eventual runner up in d3. Doesn't have the resume of his brother, but a very talented wrestler who also could contribute late like Rendina.
Theres also some nice Uncommited recruits in the state of Michigan who would be great to fill in the upper-weights now that Luke and Todd are leaving. The big one, probably the top target right now, is Dan Yates, who is 12th to Intermat, and is a giant. He was at 160 this year for states but wrestled most of the year up at 189 for his team, and lost only once, in the team state title match to Gabe Elliot, the D4 189 champ. He comes from Hesperia, same school as the Zeerips, but I didn't get to see him wrestle because he injured him arm earlier in the tournament we were at. Yates would be a great pickup to this class, sadly, michigangrappler.com says Michigan isn't on his list at the moment. Thats liable to change though, especially with McFarland, who is an excellent recruiter.
The same goes for Kyle Elsworth, from Goodrich, who was ranked higher earlier this year, thanks to some impressive victories over other highly ranked kids, but has fell thanks to some rather unimpressive performances late in the year. He won all of his matches this year, but some of them were a little tougher than they should have been, causing him to drop in the rankings. Elsworth is also not listing Michigan, but his former teammate, Mark Weber, is there, so again, anything is possible.
I'm sure Michigan is on some more out of State kids, but I have no idea who...Perhaps they pick up some more commitments from other in state kids later as well, Robert Nash might fit in nicely, other than that, thats all I've got.
Alright so I decided to look this up among the “Big Ten Expansion” hoopla. It’s obviously BS media frenzy cause the Big Ten will only consider Notre Dame and the Irish have that oh-so-lucrative NBC contract – or is it?
Notre Dame’s NBC contract – granted it’s just for football – is worth $9 mil/year.
Big Ten’s ABC contract – which includes some deals for Mens/Womens Bball and Volleyball – is over $100 mil/year. That’s $9.1 mil/year for each Big Ten team.
Add Notre Dame to the Big Ten and I’m pretty sure those contracts improve enough to more than cover those financial issues OR sharing the money evenly appears to balance quite nicely.
Plus the Big Ten gets royalties from the NCAA Tournament which I imagine are comparable, if not more, than what the Big East gives Notre Dame (cause we have the same amount of successful teams in the tournament and less teams to share it with).
The only thing I can’t seem to find is how much the Big East gives Notre Dame for Basketball TV deals – which I don’t think is a whole helluva lot considering they have 16 teams to share the money with and the Men’s Bball regular season doesn’t generate NEARLY the money football does. Not to mention the Big Ten has a pretty huge fan base that will generate comparable money for basketball regardless of the quality of our conference. Also I heard Notre Dame has agreed in the past to join the Big Ten for every sport except Football – which means their only issue appears to be Football finances which I just disproved earlier.
My point: the money issues are non-existent and should be easy to work out. The real reason behind Notre Dame’s independent status must be more about tradition than actual financial concerns.
If anyone knows more details about Notre Dame’s financial arrangements do tell cause this isn’t adding up. Does the BCS pay Notre Dame an unfairly higher amount than the major conferences? Is there football revenue that I didn’t account for which Notre Dame would have to share with a conference if they joined? Do tell.
Conclusion: Notre Dame coming to the Big Ten and adding a conference title game should more than make up any difference in money and actually make Notre Dame more than before. I’m surprised by this and no longer understand the business arguments they put out there.
Also, for the record, I’m completely against conference title games. I think they’re just de-facto playoff patchwork to make money. If you want a 12th game, conference title game, and a bowl game (not to mention a +1 national title format) – isn’t that enough games to just put together an 8 or 16-team playoff? YES IT IS!
Sound off por favor.
I keep hearing a lot of things said about our dearly departed QBs of the last couple years, and some of the assumptions don't make sense to me. This is the way I hear the story told, without dates but in chronological order:
1. Threet chooses Georgia Tech and Mallett chooses Michigan
2. Threet chooses to transfer to Michigan
3. Mallett doesn't like Michigan and decides to transfer to Arkansas
4. Threet chooses to transfer away from Michigan
Tell me if this doesn't make more sense. Bear with me as this is intricate:
1. Mallett grew up a Razorback fan but he wouldn't start over Mustain (or he assumed as much), so he goes to the next-best statue-QB school available: Lloyd Carr's Michigan Wolverines
2. Threet grew up a Michigan fan, but knowing that Mallett would be there, he shied away
3. Mallett doesn't like Michigan and Michigan doesn't like Mallett. Even the football seems to hate Mallett, as it finds ways to slip out of his hands time and time again.
4. Mitch Mustain transfers to USC. Mallet transferring to Arkansas becomes a question of when, not if. Carr knows this.
5. Carr looks furiously for the best available option. He knows Threet would transfer if he knew that Mallett was leaving, so he tells him that. Threet can't tell anyone that he knows Mallett is transferring, though.
6. Michigan has a bad season, Carr is gone, Rodriguez is hired.
7. Threet sees he's not in our long term plans anymore. His transfer is a question of when, not if. The wide open starting job of last season kept him at bay for a year.
8. Rodriguez knows the situation and looks furiously for two QB recruits. He is telling them that Threet is as good as gone. (How do you get two comparably talented QBs to be part of the same class, with last year's starter returning? Perhaps the reason we kept losing commits was because they kept being assured Threet was transferring, but it wasn't happening.)
9. Threet transfers; hello starting freshman QB! (edit:
Notice that we had no more QB decommits as soon as the transfer was made public.)
The big difference in timeline 2 is that everyone's actions are reactions to something external rather than unprovoked. What do you think? Is there evidence that Threet really opted to transfer to a volatile coaching situation, knowing he would sit behind a 5-star QB for four years? That makes no sense to me, especially since he transferred again this offseason because he doesn't want to be a benchwarmer.
Let me start by saying that while I trust Rodriguez has a plan and knows what he is doing, some of the early commits have been perplexing. Not that I can’t see a reason for taking a kid not highly sought after by top programs; only that I don’t necessarily see the reason for taking those kids early. Like many, I always follow recruiting in hopes of a super class; a “top 10” group consisting of 4 stars, with one or two 5s, and a few unavoidable 3s as the sprinkles on top. Our sundae is slightly sprinkle-heavy at this date. I get some of the angst. But honestly, I like the kids we have. In particular, I like Dileo. Please allow me--in meandering fashion--to explain why.
Applying the bandaids
If you put yourself in the shoes of our coaching staff and imagine what it was like to live through last season (yes, it was even worse for them) a few areas emerge as the most frustrating and painful. (1) QB play, (2) OL inexperience, (3) turnovers, (4) Kick returns, and (5) pitiful WR blocking.
1. QB play is being addressed as best it can, with excellent recruits coming in, and a no-stone-unturned approach to immediate help that has bordered on appearing desperate (yes, I am referring to the short, chuckling Dukie who shall not be named--I am not interested in reopening that--just saying we are busting it to find help here, thought it will unfortunately remain a bit of a waiting game)
2. OL inexperience has been addressed mostly by allowing the earth to circumnavigate the sun. We will also be unleashing the redshirts, receiving dividends for good efforts already made on this front. (Both QB and OL will be improved this year, but much better still in years to come)
3. Turnovers. All you can do is teach proper technique, stress security, and instill some confidence. I am sure that is happening.
4. At this point you may think I have forgotten little Drew Dileo--I have not. He is a direct response to items 4 and 5. I am not sure I have seen a better kick returner on film. Don’t take that statement with the weight of a recruiting guru--I am a casual fan. But this does not look like a fast, star player who was asked to run to the 10 yard line and catch the kickoff. This looks like a kick returner. Lots of kids are fast and have a bit of wiggle--Ted Ginn comes to mind--and this is enough to make them a pretty good returner. Dileo actually has the intangible instincts. He follows the wedge and hits seams with exactly the right timing. Watch his kick returning on film--he is outstanding.
5. What I appreciated even more about his Scout film is that the opening plays were WR blocks. I do not recall ever seeing a recruit's film begin with downfield blocking. This is not your usual guy. He is tiny, but this kid craves contact. When you watch his film you see someone who cannot wait to throw himself into somebody. No disrespect, but this is not the sense you get watching Matthews, Stonum, et al. Our WR blocking last year was not bad. It was awful. That destroys quick screens and runs outside-of-tackle. And indeed, we watched those plays regularly get destroyed. Dileo gets after it. He will embarrass starters by out blocking them in practice. I hope it shames them to improve.
How Dileo will be useful
In short, Dileo is a kid who excels in exactly the spots where we are weak. We may not be sorely in need of a kid who can return kicks--it seems like 2-3 guys each year are now tabbed as having great kick returning potential--but he could really be at home in the role, and avoid opening ourselves to injury risk by putting a core positional starter back there (e.g. Cissoko, Shaw).
And he may help us more when other teams are holding the ball. Remember that he also plays corner. Quickness and collision-loving are not ill-suited there, and that could also be his spot. Even more likely, I think we will see him running people down for tackles on special teams. His size and skin tone are going to evoke Wes Welker comparisons--I think he is actually more like that unfathomably annoying (but annoyingly great) special teams walk-on from Notre Dame last year. (Someone else recall his name?) That guy killed us at the beginning of that game. The first quarter was typified when Shaw lost a kick, went slowly to pick it up, and had modern day Rudy’s helmet crash through his knees for a turnover. I expect Dileo to be a special teams gunner; he was born for it. I expect him to make a difference there in games.
Recruiting Services and Specialists
And this spotlights one area where recruiting has clouded perception when it comes to the worth of players. (Note: this is not a general anti-recruiting rant; just an observation about their valuation of role players and specialists) Talent matters; and star ratings are fairly accurate. But guys with super bodies and super potential will always claim the top spots, while a lot of useful non-star players will drag a class’s “rating” down. Taylor Lewans and Anthony LaLotas come with incredible potential, but guys with even more hype have sometimes struggled to find the field. “Upside” guys are high-risk, high-reward. I love them, don’t get me wrong. I want as many as we can take each year. But I also like guys you can count on to contribute by playing a minor role and playing it very well.
Imagine how much worse last year could have been if we did not have a great punter. God bless Zoltan. But kickers and punters illustrate this point perfectly--they never help the overall stature or rating of a recruiting class. You can take Rivals' 3rd best kicker and he’ll drag down your class with his 3-star rating. If you are gunning for overall star ratings/rankings, you may be better off putting up fliers on campus for a walk on rather than taking the best high school kicker in the country. That is sort of dumb. But it is how the rankings metrics work. A special teams gunner is even less important in the eyes of talent evaluators, and understandably so. They are an afterthought. But as ND found out last year, having a great one can make a real difference. That is what I think we are getting with this kid. Someone who will fight like hell in practice and become a star on special teams.
The bottom line
Is he a boon to our recruiting class? Does he add momentum and help us lure top talent? No. Does he provide an opportunity for people longing to see Michigan’s demise to point and laugh? Perhaps. But let them. We are building, and a guy like Dileo is an important piece. Sometimes you find a guy like him as a walk-on and strike it big. I don’t mind spending a scholarship to not take that chance. Damn the perceptions. Watch his film ($)--he is 160 pounds of skills we are missing.
Multiple Choice (Choose all the apply)
Question 1: How do I deal with Michigan recruits dropping places in the rankings?
A) Bitch about them dropping for being already committed.
B) Fret about not having any top 100 recruits in May.
C) Get enraged that Rivals sucks at ranking players and isn't fair, then shamefully realize my last post was demeaning Rich Rod for offering 'middle of road' WRs, where middle of the road is determined using rankings like Rivals. Oops.
D) Point out RR track record in excelling with recruits that are low ranked, and hell, it's only fucking May, these kids are juniors in high school and this addiction is borderline pedophilia even to the greeks/spartans (the ancient ones, not the rollerbladin' brahs in the EL).
E) Just D.
Question 2: How do I communicate my feelings about reduced rankings to said recruits?
A) MySpace. Immediately. I'm friends with them all.
B) Facebook wallposts. It makes me feel connected to 16/17 year old freak athletes I have nothing in common with.
C) What are MySpace and Facebook?
D) Whooaa, people actually friend recruits and then talk to them? That's really fucking creepy.
F) Do I get extra credit for interviewing recruits?
Question 3: My next post on recruiting will be about -
A) How Scout is better than Rivals because they rank current Michigan recruits higher.
B) How Star Ratings don't matter because Pat White.
C) How Star Ratings don't matter because Kevin Grady.
D) OMG 2 mny slot recevers!!11!!!!
E) I recruit "Talent", if you know what I mean (/wink /ninjafootball).
Question 4: I spend too much time following recruiting.
Question 5: My wife would divorce me if she knew how much time I dedicated to 17 year old boys.
Question 6: I am aware that Michigan is at a huge disadvantage in recruiting to the Southern schools, and at a smaller disadvantage to OSU.
Question 7: I now realize how much better my life was before I followed recruiting. Finding out about who was recruited to Michigan only when they hit the field was much less involved.
B) I'm in Denial.
Question 8: In 54.7 words or less, justify how questioning Michigan's recruiting strategy (eg, questioning if RR knows he needs defensive recruits) two months into the first full cycle RR is part of (among other evidence proving it's not RRs first rodeo) does not make you some kind of reverse sycophant that is still 100% pure fail.
Kirby Line Breaks
1. D or E. We would also have accepted "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize."
2. C (half credit) or D (full credit)
3. Kate Beckinsale, Rachel McAdams, or Elisha Cuthbert.
4. A. We also would have accepted "I spend too much time criticizing people for following recruiting."
5. A or B.
6. Answering E$$-EEE-CEE, O$UCK$, or U$C results in immediate death by harpoon.
7. A, or if you opened up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program immediately after.