Ron Bellamy Day. From WH. Part II is here.
Remember that one time an otherwise obscure/disappointing player was a superstar for a day?
Full game is on the youtubes.
Smoothitron: I went through his game log not that long ago praying that wasn't his career high, and it's not, but it's close.
The pinnacle stretch of Spike's career was tragically unfun.
[Do NOT hit THE JUMP if you prefer to fondly remember erstwhile highly hyped Michigan scatbacks]
A couple summers ago, I delved back into the blogspot days to look at Brian's 2008 recruiting posts and how well players lived up to expectations. There were high points, like Mike Martin wrestling Not Mike Martin. These were accompanied by lows such as "Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit." The McGuffie mixtape was rewatched, wistfully.
I forgot to continue the series last summer, so I'm picking it back up with the 2009 class; conveniently, all the players from that class have completed their time in the program, so it's easier to give a fair retrospective on their careers. If you want to go back and look though the old posts yourself, the Tate Forcier profile features links to every player.
While that last link is a nice teaser for the offense portion of this exercise, today I'll be looking at the 2009 defensive recruits. Brace yourselves.
I'm gonna go ahead and get the defensive back portion of this post over with, as the four commits in the secondary were Vlad Emilien, Thomas Gordon, Justin Turner, and Adrian Witty. Emilien's projection was a harbinger of doom for U-M's future situation at safety:
Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.
Brian, today, on this quote: "I was so innocent then."
Smith moved to outside linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer near the end of the 2009 season, ending up at Temple and never doing anything of consequence there. Emilien followed a similar path, playing a little special teams as a true freshman, then transferring after the first game in 2010 when Jordan Kovacs put a death grip on the strong safety spot. He ended up as, yup, an outside linebacker at Toledo, where he made 15 tackles as a senior last year.
|omg shirtless heroin-laced carrot|
Witty never actually made it onto the team due to academic issues, eventually landing at Cincinnati, where he's the top returner in the secondary this year. Not getting him through admissions may be viewed as a recruiting failure, but in context, it was totally worth it:
Adrian Witty, a teammate of Denard Robinson, is Denard Robinson's teammate. On this team, which they share, they play together. Also, Witty and Denard Robinson attended the same high school. At this high school, they played on a team which they shared and played together on: they were teammates.
That should be clear. Many, many folks regard Witty's offer as the heroin-laced carrot used to lure critical QB recruit Denard Robinson away from Urban Meyer's clutches and to Michigan's post-apocalyptic frozen wastes.
Even though Witty would've been, at worst, the second-best defensive back in this class for U-M, there are no hard feelings here. We salute you, heroin-laced carrot.
The most hyped recruit in the class was Massillon, Ohio's Justin Turner, a top-35 overall player to both Rivals and Scout.* It wasn't hard to see what all the excitement was about:
That excitement only grew after Turner tore it up at Army All-American Game, to the point that his recruitment post led off with a discussion of one of those B/R "[touted recruit] is [football titan]" posts:
If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:
"Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man."
IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)
Brian took the conservative tack, comparing Turner to... Marlin Jackson. Let's just move along.
The one defensive back to actually make a positive impact on the field at U-M, Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, came in as a relatively anonymous recruit. He got Brandent Englemon for his "YMRMFSPA" and this projection:
General Excitement Level: Well… he is the lowest-ranked non-kicker in the class, and that's probably for a reason.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and will likely require at least two years before he's ready to see the field on defense. The most likely (but by no means assured) outcome is that he doesn't contribute much.
Yes, it's possible for a Cass Tech recruit to exceed expectations.
[*ESPN was a skeptical outlier, listing him as their #21 athlete. Point, ESPN.]
|At least Mike Jones provided us this picture.|
General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out.
I won't spend much time on these guys simply because there isn't a whole lot to talk about, but I will note that when a search for a player comparison goes like this, there's a pretty good chance you've got a serious tweener on your hands:
So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings.
Brian suggested Hawthorne "may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D," and hoo boy did some bad memories just come flooding back. Quick, to the defensive line!
THORQWASH & The Crab Person
Between this and the legendary hood slide, we're all good, Big Will.
Justin Turner wasn't the only five-star recruit to the established recruiting sites to get some major skepticism from ESPN. Will Campbell's rankings went #35 overall (Scout), #26 overall (Rivals), and... #21 offensive tackle (ESPN). Another point for the Worldwide Leader. Like Turner, an outstanding Army game performance added to the hype, as did pictures like this...
...and, for entirely different reasons, this:
WE GOT THOR.
In retrospect, however, maybe we should've seen Campbell's future weight issues coming:
Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.
"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."
Even though he didn't have the desired impact until a solid, though not five-star-caliber, senior season, Campbell always gave a hell of a quote. Brian's Gabe Watson comparison was pretty on point; though Big Will didn't come close to Watson's production, they were similar players—jovial, wildly talented, bull-strong, big fans of food—with similar hype coming to Ann Arbor.
|craaaaaaab people craaaaaab people|
Michigan landed two defensive ends in the top-100 range in the class: Craig Roh (right) and Anthony LaLota. While Roh never became an edge-rushing terror, he managed to consitently produce and improve despite boucing between positions—not to mention different defensive schemes that didn't necessarily fit his skill set—for his entire career due to factors outside his control. This comparison both worked and, well, didn't work:
Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.
The tweener aspect of the comparison was spot-on, but Roh ended up being a very different player from Crable, more disciplined and able to hold the point of attack but far less explosive off the edge.
As for LaLota, he received one of the most random YMRMFSPA comps in this blog's history:
Alain Kashama… except good!
Kashama was a total project at Michigan, coming in with little football experience—as did LaLota, who played just 12 games of organized football before hitting campus—before settling in as a reserve pass-rushing specialist, eventually totaling six career sacks.
That ended up being six more career sacks than LaLota recorded, as he transferred back to home-state Rutgers two weeks into his sophomore season, where he quit football to focus on his education after a move to tight end saw him buried on the depth chart.
We end with the class curveball, Quinton Washington, whom everybody evaluated as an interior offensive lineman—with most saying he had a ton of potential there, this blog included:
General Excitement Level: High. It's clear the coaches were nuts about this guy and he's got the offers and recruiting mojo to back it up.
Projection: Though the coaches have suggested Washington might see the field this year—they think he's that ready—a redshirt makes more sense with Schilling's move inside solidifying the interior line. He'll have to fight Ricky Barnum to replace Moosman next year; if he loses that battle he'll be the odds on favorite to replace Schilling in 2011.
Steve Schilling, in fact, was his player comparison. Washington instead moved to nose tackle early in the 2010 season, worked his way into a starting role as a junior, earned the nickname QWASH, and gave the defense a proficient space-eater until his role mysteriously diminished last season.
The real answer is Roh, but one could make a reasonable argument that Michigan's most critical 2009 defensive recruit was a guy who never played a down for the Wolverines: heroin-laced carrot (seriously, Brian, how the hell do you come up with these things?) Adrian Witty.
Goodbye beard. Also the rest of Elliott Mealer at winter graduation:
Goodbye to you sir. Michigan suspends Hawthorne, Floyd, and Will Hagerup for the bowl game. A couple people told me this a couple days ago, and they both seemed to think Hagerup would not return. After a dramatically-timed suspension against Ohio State and another for the first four games of 2011, it would be surprising to find out Hagerup had a fourth strike.
But the AD didn't announce Hagerup was gone, so there's probably a last-ditch straight-and-narrow chance he can get back a la Stonum, except hopefully not a la Stonum. Michigan will be fine with Matt Wile for the bowl anyway.
Cornerback, on the other hand… yeah, Floyd spent the year tempting fate but the alternatives there are… uh. Moving Courtney Avery to the outside—probably to field corner since he's a lot smaller than Raymon Taylor—is probably your best one, and then your nickel guy is either Delonte Holowell or Terry Richardson. I'm still not sure that corner environment is any worse than Michigan's options at tailback, but at least the Norfleet-to-corner move makes some sense now. Hopefully it's temporary.
Hawthorne had been limited to special teams this year; his loss isn't impactful.
Now has more time for dancing. MGoVideo caught this oddly-timed dance festival just posted on youtube featuring Floyd:
I rate it an 0.8 Mike Cox.
And so it does not begin. Presenting Michigan's secret weapon in their recruitment of Derrick Green:
Dead period for football begins today and runs through January 3. No on- or off-campus contacts/evals permitted. Calls/email permissible.
Green plans on enrolling early; if he sticks to that plan he should be announcing at the Army game on January 5th, leaving virtually no time for anyone to catch up with announced leader Michigan. Does yoga, is huge.
This trend will probably stop soon. Will Leitch on the way the cable bundling model is going:
Not that many people are going through all the trouble to do this yet, but as cable fees keep going up, and more workarounds can be found (and we haven’t even gotten into pirated feeds), more people will cut the cord. We live in an information-wants-to-be-free age, and we’re still being held down by these media-company gatekeepers. In the real world it’s 2012; in the cable universe, it might as well be 1988. Eventually, this will have to change. It’s too insane and rigged-against-the-consumer for it not to. The problem, of course, is that, like so many capitalists before them, leagues and teams and sports networks are all assuming that it’ll always be like this, that these revenue will keep growing forever and ever, that this golden goose will always keep laying eggs. There are decades upon decades of Darwinian consumer trends that contradict that. In 30 years, we may have all unplugged our cable bundles and be paying a la carte. This is the nightmare situation, but I’m not the first person to suggest we’re living in a cable sports television bubble. Someday it’ll pop. Then, suddenly, we’ll look and think: Why in the world is Maryland in the Big Ten?
Rutgers is even more of an outlier but the point is a good one. At some point the rickety dam keeping all of these channels unnecessarily bundled is going to break, and then having teams that can't fill not-very-big stadiums is not going to be an asset.
Bacon. He considers the PSL increase:
Former Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham sold the experience – and we bought it. Canham was a great marketer, but what impressed me most was what he would not do for money: solicit donors, put advertising on the uniforms or in the stadium, host night games, charge for tours – or ask for a raise. He had already made millions in business, and didn’t feel the need to squeeze more from his alma mater.
The current athletic department now aggressively seeks donors and corporate sponsors. It has brought advertising back to Crisler, in a big way, and has started sneaking advertising into the once-pristine Big House, too. They now charge to host corporate events, wedding receptions, and even school tours, which had been free since the Big House opened in 1927. Heck, until a few years ago, they didn’t even lock the gates during the week.
Michigan’s not alone, of course, and they will tell you it’s the cost of doing business – but what business, exactly? When current Athletic Director Dave Brandon said on “60 Minutes” that the “business model is broken” – what he failed to grasp was that it’s “broken” because it was never intended to be a business in the first place. After all, what business doesn’t have to pay shareholders, partners, owners, taxes, or the star attractions, the players and the band?
Raise your hand if you're sick of being told you can rent out the Big House for a wedding. That is everyone except the guy who emailed me pictures of his Michigan Stadium wedding over the summer in case I wanted to post them, which seemed like an awfully mean thing to do to a guy.
Brandon clearly sees the lack of advertising in the stadium as an annoyance, and has put it in anyway: just because the blaring thing trying to market something is a wedding or Michigan's facebook page doesn't mean it's not advertising. By pushing the boundaries wherever he can, Brandon indicates where he'd like to take the Big House experience if not faced with a potential fan revolt.
Bacon makes a great point: it's to the point that whenever you're putting down your money you feel like kind of an idiot for spending it. Thus the multiple "I bet I can scalp for cheap" projects on the internet and the regular stories about how you can get into most Michigan State games for two dollars or the Big Ten Championship for ten.
Speaking of: College Football Is This Other Thing post using Wall Street as the other thing is creepily accurate.
The Guys Running The Big Ten are Bain Capital
Step 1: Take over asset. Step 2: Exploit that asset with no regard for long-term consequences. Step 3: Laugh, buy a bigger summer house or a dressage horse or something.
In the Big Ten's case the dressage horse is a fancy building for a sport that brings in no revenue.
Yes please return. This will help the floundering hockey team:
Michigan coach Billy Powers on WTKA: "There's a good chance we could see (Merrill) immediately following the holidays."
I'm not holding out much hope for the GLI with Trouba at the World Juniors, and by the time Merrill makes it back Michigan's fate may already be sealed. Michigan is currently 36th in the RPI and would have to win 75% of their remaining games to get into the top 20, where a bid is vaguely possible. Either they rip off a streak for the ages starting right now or it's conference tourney or bust.
Etc.: can Rob Parker please stop existing now? On TV, I mean. He can remain in existence as long as he is not given a platform to express his thought-type-substances to the masses.
Brian has already waxed poetic about the seniors, so I'll stick to moving pictures and keep the words to a minimum. I've done my best to cover each member of the outgoing class. Let's just say it was hard to pick one moment for this guy:
He may make some cameo appearances later.
[For the rest of the gifs, hit THE JUMP.]
A leaf blows in fall
Tasting each position once
Time to duck, Martinez
These days people who
are not Thomas Gordon say
"Get off of me, please"
A man from nowhere
is the safety blanket for
a hundred thousand
As Northwestern died
they must have thought "ouch" and
"my god, sweet mustache"
We'll always have that
Purdue hash to hash zone drop
and a kickoff hold
finger-gun Balrog LB,
state YOU SHALL NOT PASS
Stayed through some things
that would have made most depart
and we needed him to
Not a walk-on, no
A scientist of brains, yes
And blocker of sweeps
[UPDATE: so I forgot Roy Roundtree.
Joe Tiller quivers
in walrus rage as Roundtree
waves an arm, alone
I had been in the desert for some time, lost and directionless. The sun was relentless. A deadly thirst stalked me. I had not accepted the grisly fate which awaited me but was powerless to change it.
On the fifth night—possibly the sixth—a breeze arose. It was cool and dewy. I savored it for a time, then step by step it led me home.
|Jake Ryan||So.*||Kenny Demens||Sr.*||Desmond Morgan||So.|
|Cam Gordon||Jr.*||Joe Bolden||Fr.||Brandin Hawthorne||Sr.|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||Fr.||Mike Jones||Jr.*||James Ross||Fr.|
It's step-up time for the linebacking corps. They return every contributor from a year ago and get freshman-to-sophomore transitions from Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan. Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, and Brandin Hawthorne are entering their second consecutive years in a sane defense for the first time in their careers and could/should see larger than average leaps in performance.
They will need to be much better. Mike Martin isn't going to bail them out on six plays a game anymore. Ryan Van Bergen isn't walking through that door. Ryan has to become an elite pass rush threat; Demens and Morgan need to take on blockers and funnel to help far more consistently than they did a year ago.
This is well within reach. Now about getting there.
|SLOWER THAN BLOCKS|
|eats MSU cut|
|eats OSU TE|
|eats him again|
|FASTER THAN BLOCKS|
|flow hard son|
|GOT SOME THUMP|
|Iowa FB denied|
|No Coker part 1|
|line to seam PBU|
In 2010, Kenny Demens was not Obi Ezeh, and this was enough. Expectations were sky-high for Demens in 2011 if only because he seemed so much better than Michigan's incumbent that he had to be pretty good. In retrospect, his somewhat disappointing output was always the likely outcome. Like almost everyone else on the defense, Demens had experienced position-coaching chaos and shifted from system to system on a semiannual basis.
Stepping into an entirely different coaching regime naturally meant hesitation, and hesitation was what we got. I put up this extremely scientific pie chart after Eastern Michigan put up 4.5 YPC despite throwing six times:
We'll talk about the Jake Ryan edge allowance below; here we're fixated on the big red thing labeled "hesitant linebacker play." This was the week after I'd watched Notre Dame's linebackers tear ass after anything that moved, so I may have had a view of proper linebacker play improperly biased towards running your balls off as soon as a guard gives you a direction.
I don't think so, though, as Michigan linebackers were exploited on the edge for much of the year. Blue Seoul captured a Kain Colter option TD in With Pics(!), and while I suppose Carvin Johnson, who Seoul criticizes, could have been more Kovacs-y on the play, he did follow the golden rule of leverage by keeping Colter well inside of him. It's just that there was no one to clean up afterwards:
Johnson's mistake should have been worth a few yards, but not enough for Northwestern to convert. Earlier he was unable to shut down an outside run that got turned up at the numbers:
He's even with Hawthorne, who was the backside LB, and well behind nose tackle Mike Martin in his attempt to shut the play down. This is because he took an angle upfield of a blocker on a perimeter run, which is one of those "you better make the damn play" decisions. Demens wasn't close.
Demens got a –4 in that game and was negative the next week against MSU as the Spartans pounded the edges and found Michigan LBs a step slow. Too often Demens did not do what Johnson is managing above, like on this Ed Baker run against MSU. Watch him eat a block and let Baker to the edge:
I know this is not an edge play, but it's symptomatic of the main issue.
You want edge biff? Edge biff.
State couldn't get out to the second level on Hawthorne and he is free. This is a quintessential example of what you hear about the WLB in the under: he often ends up the free hitter because of the configuration of the DL whereas the MLB has to take on a block. Demens takes on a block, loses leverage, does not funnel to his partner, and off Baker goes. This was 60-70% of all the complaining I did about the linebackers last year and my A-#1 bitch about Jonas Mouton. Michigan linebackers aren't good about keeping leverage. (Yet.)
Before and after that, Demens was pretty good between the tackles. He pounded ND for twelve tackles and a +8.5 and was consistently above average late in the year, picking up three straight +4s against Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska before falling back towards zero in the OSU game. Late he started playing faster. His third-and-one stick of Marcus Coker was hands down Michigan's tackle of the year:
Yeah, Kovacs collapsed Alex Carder's lung. He did not stop that truck dead in its tracks. Demens was also the second key on that Braxton Miller rollout against OSU, tracking him to the edge and forming up at the right spot to allow Black to come from behind.
For Demens, it's about playing fast and going hard. Last year Mattison literally played him at nose tackle because he'd rather have Mike Martin blitz; Demens needs to go when he goes, and decide to go more quickly. That should be in reach. He'll be a solid run defender and decent down the seam, but a lack of raw athleticism probably sees him top out at a bit above average.
[hit THE JUMP for Bolden as Samson, Jake Ryan(!), and Desmond Morgan]