I GET IT
Aaand scene. Rivals is the last major scouting service to revise its rankings after Evan Smotrycz's impressive AAU showings. The result:
Evan Smotrycz A highly skilled forward with some bounce.
Smotrycz is about a dozen spots away from the last four-star, FWIW. He's gone from flier to the highest ranked post Beilein has ever recruited ever. Woo!
Revised opinion. I've cited Smart Football's concerns about a lack of sophistication in Rich Rodriguez's passing game a couple times because Smart Football is a blog by a football coach intimately familiar with the spread offense. When SF talks, I listen. So this is reassuring to hear:
I spent a substantial amount of time this offseason researching Michigan's offense (the results of which are to published, but not necessarily on the web -- though I hope to eventually get it out here or elsewhere that can be linked to). I will admit that I went into it thinking that there was some looming structural/strategic problem with Rodriguez's offense -- that's just my bent. Players win games obviously but I like blaming coaches more, and in any event all coaches have to work with what they have. But I quickly decided that, yes, there were things for Rodriguez to work on, but the biggest thing for Michigan was just to find a quarterback, any quarterback really. And, though he is but a wee true freshman, and a rather wispy one at that, Tate Forcier does appear positioned to at least be better for Michigan and Rodriguez than anyone they had last year.
This isn't a total retraction, as the criticism was one built on Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia. There Pat White obviated the need for whiz-bang passing systems; this did not so much happen last year and the results were plain to see.
SF's larger point, as I understand it, is that the spread has gone from exotic to standard: Rodriguez has lost the advantage of surprise and will have to evolve further if he's going to match the offensive output of West Virginia at its zenith. It has to evolve, anyway, as Tate Forcier is a nimble, deadly accurate passer and not possessed of ACME brand rocket skates a la White.
By the way: that research is going into Hail To The Victors 2009, about which I'm terribly excited.
About this we all agree. Ask anyone not directly affiliated with the coaches poll about said organization's effort to move the poll ever-deeper into secrecy and they will say "that's a retarded idea," or words to that effect. Ask the directly affiliated, though, and they'll spin your face off:
"The perception is that there's a huge bias, and we've never really found that," Teaff said.
Thankfully, someone bothered to look at the numbers and blew this up. The Blue-Gray Sky sayeth:
On average, each coach rates every team in his own conference about one position higher than the rest of the voters. … On average, a coach placed his own team 1.7 spots higher than the rest of the voters. … coaches ranked a team .7 positions higher if they actually played the team during the regular season. …
It comes as no surprise that the Coaches Poll is fraught with bias. However, since this is the first year we actually get to see the results, it's still somewhat shocking to see such blatant gamesmanship laid bare. The supposed advantage of the BCS polls, and the Coaches poll in particular, is that you have a body of "football experts" who are ranking the teams; their vast experience and acumen is supposed to lend the poll unquestioned authenticity.
There may be some debate about whether the numbers cited represent a "huge" bias. Take it from a guy who's run a squabbly, transparent college football poll for going on four years: that's a significant finding. (It's also one that would probably be replicated if you tried it on the BlogPoll; the argument here is not that the poll should be part of the BCS but that the coaches certainly shouldn't, especially if they're going to be secretive about it.)
Offensive linin'. The Wall Street Journal drills further down on their offensive line thing mentioned earlier, providing charts for every BCS conference. The Big Ten promises to put the lie to their theory about the importance of this, though: while Iowa finishes #1, the next four teams are Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern. Yikes.
Why can't they all be club sports? Michigan's lacrosse team is into the national semifinals after obliterating the Sonoma State Seawolves, and the Ultimate Frisbee team had a season-ending run that, if replicated in a major sport, would be legend passed down from generation to generation. The situation:
- Enter double-elimination regional tournament as the top seed
- Blow first game against Illinois (possibly after having an eighteen-point lead?)
- End Notre Dame's season in next game
- End Ohio State's season in next game
- Qualify for nationals, which are in Columbus
Ultimate Frisbee Diarist "uofmmarcum" has details for anyone interested in catching the national tourney:
If you feel like following the team at Nationals the tournament is Friday, May 22nd-Monday, May 25. You can follow it online at http://college2009.upa.org/
Also. A reminder that it's gorgeous today and the softball regional gets underway. Michigan faces off against Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) at 7.
Etc.: John Bacon's last lecture in glorious streaming video.
The re-rank. More on Evan Smotrycz and the hype train a-buildin':
"I was pretty impressed with him; he's pretty tough," Daniels said. "I heard the rumblings about him. He was known as a guy that can really shoot the ball, and I hadn't seen him before so he was a priority guy for us." …
"I expected him to be able to shoot the ball well from deep," Daniels said. "I was surprised with how he attacked the rim and surprised with his toughness. Against Jayvaughn Pinkston, one of the tougher guys in the class, Evan more than held his own. He mixed it up inside, and I was thoroughly impressed with him."
It's getting to be that time when the scouting sites put their rankings where their mouths are, and the first vote is in. Scout has slid Smotrycz up to #17 amongst power forwards. He still a three star, but he's right on the verge of a fourth. The #16 guy, Melvin Tabb, is #73 on Scout's preliminary list of 75 kids, so Smotrycz is probably around #80. That's a big step forward from unranked and virtually unknown.
(Side note: one of the Rivals mods posted that Prep Spotlight shot Smotrycz all the way to #46 in their latest rankings, but there's no way to link—Prep Spotlight's website is defunct and it exists only as a magazine.)
The flameout. The Free Press considers Michigan's 2005 recruiting class, which turned into Mario Manningham, Terrance Taylor, and not much else. This is territory this blog has gone over in detail. The 2004 and 2005 classes, in summary:
Michigan got killed by back-to-back classes that saw a ton of attrition at key spots. Basically the only thing Michigan has to show from the 2004 and 2005 classes is the defensive line, which was Big Ten championship caliber.
The rest of the team? Is not.
By the time Rodriguez arrived at Michigan the excellent recruiting classes of the late Carr era had already been decimated, and few of the departures afterward were unusual. The attrition was worst on the offensive line, which was terrible early until finding some sort of footing as the season approached its merciful end. Speaking of…
The WTF. The Wall Street Journal puts together a piece on offensive line experience and its correlation with football success—strong—and just as you're bracing for Michigan to find itself on the face-punched list you get this shocking table:
|TEAMS TO WATCH||O-LINE STARTS||TEAMS TO WORRY ABOUT||O-LINE STARTS|
|Virginia Tech||100||West Virginia||25|
|Florida St.||86||Penn State||39|
Holy hotpants. I guess that's what happens when you return every single player on the line. A small caveat for the hope implied here: a number of those starts won't see the field as Ferrara and McAvoy get booted to the bench in favor of Huyge or Omameh.
Other bits of interest:
- If Penn State's offense undergoes an inexplicable collapse after returning Royster and Clark, the line might be why. Or the vast talent deficit at WR.
- If Notre Dame can't run the ball this year they never will.
- Remember how everyone was predicting one last bash for West Virginia followed by a swift, Bill Stewart-spurred immolation? Yeah.
The confession. File this under "things you already knew":
“Last year all I did was supervise. I was more of an observer,” Paterno said of his 11-2 team that lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl. “I have a heck of a staff. Those two years I didn’t do much. Last year we had a pretty good football team, and I didn’t do much.”
So all those shots of Paterno sitting in the press box never talking into his for-show headset meant what we thought they meant: Tom Bradley is Penn State's head coach, and a pretty good one from appearances. (HT: EDSBS.)
The mocking. This goofy video put together by a bunch of kids is more entertaining than it has any right to be:
They also listed it as a reply to 'Jimmy Clausen for Heisman,' which never fails to rope me in for the whole 2:16.
The enemy. Sunday Morning Quarterback surveys the great gray menace:
This is definitely a "rebuilding" year with a lot of uncertainty on paper, destined for the fringe of the top-10 in all the preseason magazines -- and still, Ohio State is likely to be favored in every game except USC, with Penn State serving as the toss-up for the auto bid to the Rose Bowl (where OSU, for all its success, hasn't been in more than a decade). I'm willing to project a conference loss, although I don't know where it will come from if not the Nittany Lions, and another 10-2 effort will be hard for the BCS to ignore.
The whole thing is, as always, a good thing to spend your time reading.
MONDAY MONDAY MONDAY! This is probably going to be way less blood-spattered than the average person who might care about this would like, but it should be entertaining anyway: I'll be on Bacon's show on WTKA this afternoon… with Jim Carty! Carty's on at the beginning of the 4PM hour and I'll be joining him midway through. You can probably guess the topic: the dissolution of the Ann Arbor News. No, I'm not planning on getting into a really complicated discussion about the academics investigation that 15 minutes on a radio show can't do justice.
(One of these days, I promise, I will be on the radio to talk about football. Again, it's April.)
Christening. It looks like Michigan's going to open up their spectacular new renovated stadium next year with a terrific game against traditional power Massachusetts:
According to a source, it was Michigan that approached UMass about the game, which would be played at Michigan Stadium, which holds 106,201 for football.
“We’d like to, we want to, and we’re looking into it,” said UMass spokesman Jason Yellin.
Lame. Might as well get the yearly complaint out of the way: this is the worst thing about college football. Bill Martin's decision to extend the ND series until the sun expands was fine as long as Michigan would occasionally schedule an interesting second game, but that looks like it's never going to happen. When is Michigan going to agree to any series against an opponent respectable enough to demand a return game, even if it's a 2-for-1 situation? It doesn't have to be USC, but this is awful.
Two changes that will never get made that would improve things immeasurably: banning I-AA games and instituting a maximum of seven home games (or a minimum of five true road games, which would prevent things like Michigan vs New Mexico State at Ford Field from evading the directive). Since exactly zero people in the NCAA's hierarchy care about the people who pay for the entire enterprise, this will never happen.
Leaving as fast as possible in as many ways as possible. Lane Kiffin caused defections at Tennessee are up to a spectacular nine now, which is a lot more folk a lot faster than Rodriguez "ran off," to use the parlance of people who don't know what they're talking about. The latest is QB BJ Coleman, who actually appears to have gotten run off:
“It’s the best move for me,” Coleman told The Free-Press. “What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me."
This brings Tennessee down to two scholarship quarterbacks, one of whom is terrible senior Jonathan Crompton. And yet Kiffin said no thanks to the two committed quarterbacks he inherited from Fulmer, including top-100 guy Tajh Boyd. Relevance to Michigan? Slight. I guess he's taking a lot of heat that might otherwise be directed at Rodriguez.
Despite the irrelevance, the mention is because he's instantly the most fascinating head coach in college football. He committed yet another stupid, minor recruiting violation recently, by the way. Of course he did. This could go towards Spurrier direction or John L Smith; I have no idea which it will be.
Smotcyz! Smotycrz! Smotycz! Smotrycz! There's an inside view into my Smotrycz spelling process for you. I plan on charging 9.95 a month for things like that soon*, so soak it up now while it's free.
Anyway, Michigan's most recent commit had another AAU weekend and there were a couple reports. This is from NBE:
Good height, but needs to get physically stronger before the Big 10. His size and skill away from the basket makes it look like he was made for John Beilein’s system and he should get the most of his strengths at Michigan. Showed ability to slash to the basket, but needs to finish more often once in the paint, as evidenced by failing to convert on an easy lay-up. Added strength will help.
Kind of sounds like Deshawn Sims, no? Smotrycz is taller but probably not as athletic. Meanwhile at NERR:
Evan Smotrycz was the catalyst as the Michigan bound forward really brought his game to another level. Not only was he making shots from the perimeter, but he also showed a much improved dribble drive game, as he was able to break his man down with a right to left cross-over on more than one occasion. But it wasn’t just his ability to score off the dribble that was so impressive as he also passed the ball tremendously well, acting as a facilitator in the second half with his ability to create open looks for his teammates.
Evan Smotrycz picked up right where he left off a day earlier as he was outstanding for the second consecutive day, making shots, breaking people down off the dribble, and passing the ball very well. It was his consistent excellence throughout the course of the weekend that helped propel the Rivals all the way to the finals before finally losing to a New Jersey Celtics team that featured top 50 junior Kyrie Irving and the nation’s top sophomore Michael Gilchrist.
I'm getting a little skeptical of these reports from NERR because identical ones are showing up at Scott Hazelton's site. Hazelton runs a basketball school/camp sort of business and Smotrycz is a protégé. The glowing reports might not be 100% fair and balanced, then. Might want to scale those down to places where Smotrycz is not a titan astride basketball.
That's not to say the last two weeks haven't been very good for public perception of Smotrycz's game: every national pundit who's offered an opinion has been extremely positive, and most have brought him up apropos of nothing except his ability to ball.
In other basketball recruiting. UMHoops has a wider roundup for those interested, with the most important development being the apparent cooling off between NY PF Will Regan and Michigan. Regan's latest top five doesn't include Michigan. With Michigan still hot on the heels of Trey Zeigler and in need of another point guard after Kelvin Grady's transfer, both open slots in this class are probably going to guards or wings, which Regan is not.
Grady's transfer brings the 2010 class to at least three spots. I've suggested in the past that Michigan might take four depending on the NBA status of Manny Harris and the fifth year status of Anthony Wright, but it's been pointed out to me that Michigan would then be approaching the loaded instate class of 2011 with just one open slot unless there was unexpected attrition. That's something they probably won't want to do unless the hypothetical 2010 player they're taking is freakin' awesome.
More media machinating. So: a kind mention from John Bacon on his weekly NPR commentary (transcript here) amidst his take on the Ann Arbor News is going kaput. Carty takes issue with some of the numbers:
I'm a little skeptical that, as John claims, more people read MGoBlog during football season than purchase the Ann Arbor News (this is a metrics issue, not a shot at MGoBlog, but a question about the difficulty of measuring individual Internet visitors, vs. the 250,000-plus people a week who you know bought the News, because you have their money).
Carty's right as to the difficulty of measuring the relative readership across mediums. My stats are public in two flavors:
- Sitemeter, which measures pageviews and visits, and
- Quantcast, which does an awful lot of complicated stuff to come up with some demographic numbers.
The upshot, as far as I can tell: the blog does about 2 million pageviews a month now. By traditional internet accounting these hits come from about 110,000 monthly uniques, but Quantcast thinks that's about 2x too generous as far as the number of actual people who check the site. The Ann Arbor News has a circulation of about 45k, which by standard industry math corresponds to sixty trillion readers. So… draw your own conclusions. The mere fact that it's plausible is probably more interesting than the current winner.
More JMFC, and friends. To hockey recruiting now: Jack Campbell was interviewed by the Wolverine, and certainly sounds like a guy who will end up on campus by his scouting reports on teammates current and future:
Merrill - absolute stud. Enough said. Next JMFJ.
This is a man who is into Michigan hockey. The second, premium section of the interview($) contains another statement similar to the one discussed earlier, where Campbell professes his loyalty for Michigan before mentioning the dark possibility that the team that drafts him will be really into Sutter brothers and want him elsewhere. Chances of a defection remain slim but nonzero.
Elsewhere, 2010 D Kevin Clare was the subject of an extensive Red Line Report profile. After JMFJ2.0 and Adam Clendening were called up to the U18 team, Clare was handed increased responsibility on both ends of the ice and responded:
“With the departure of those two skilled players, Kevin has completely stepped up his game and shown to everybody that he has a lot more to his game than just being a hard-nosed, tough defenseman,” remarked U-17 assistant coach John Wroblewski. “He is exceptional with the puck, cool under pressure and can handle the power play very well.” …
“We look at him to be one of the harder players, to set the tone physically and to make sure that the opponent knew when he was on the ice,” Wroblewski said. “The biggest thing with Kevin is lately he has shown such a great ability to go back for pucks and just read the situation on the breakout. As a defenseman, it is invaluable to have that knowledge and presence back there.
“On the opposite end of the puck, he has shown an absolute knack for knowing when to step up into the play and delivering pucks to the net. That has made him a great asset on the power play as well as 5-on-5.”
Cool biographical tidbit: Clare's father is Irish, as in from-Ireland Irish, and played Gaelic football, but didn't want Clare to get into it because there's no professional opportunities.
PROTIP: Don't do a google image search for "burst cyst." Here's a kitten instead:
I'll be in therapy the rest of the day.
Uptick. Last weekend was a big one on the AAU circuit, and recent Michigan commitment Evan Smotrycz made a statement at the Pitt Hoop Jam. ESPN's Reggie Rankin highlighted Smotrycz among a number of elite players he scouted, offering praise bordering on the effusive:
This super skilled combination forward has all the tools on the offense end of the floor. He is a perfect fit for the offensive system he will play in at Michigan. Smotrycz is a terrific 3-point shooter with NBA range. He has a quick trigger and the size to shoot over smaller defenders with ease. Smotrycz runs the lane in transition and does a great job of stretching the defense with his ability to make shots. Making plays off the dribble is also strength of Smotrycz’s. He is a very good ball handler and does a great job of creating space with scoring dribble moves that include a step back pull up jumper going to his left. He would be perfect in pick and pop situations as well. His skill set doesn’t stop with his scoring he is also a very good passer. He can drive, draw and kick in transition or in the half court where he has the ability to pass with either hand.
At 6-foot-8, 200-pounds he’s a guy that moves very well, has great touch in the paint, but most importantly is a terrific shooter. His form is flawless and he finishes it off with a high release. The New Hampton (N.H.) School standout, who showed use of both hands around the basket, is capable of putting it on the decks for a few bounces and pulling up for jumpers as well.
NEBRR also quotes Hoopscoop's Clark Francis as "very intruiged" with Smotrycz, saying he projects as "more than just a good role player at the big time level." Everyone does say he needs to add strength, FWIW.
Maybe Beilein got on a player who was just about to blow up, as the kids say. A 6'9" small forward with diverse and sundry offensive skills sounds pretty freakin' good. ESPN's put him on their 150 watch list; it'll be interesting to see if the tourney springs him into Scout and Rivals' lists when they update. Rivals didn't actually have anyone there, BTW, so if Smotrycz ends up lower there than elsewhere that's probably why.
Elsewhere in basketball recruiting, I don't know if this guy knows anything specific about Trey Ziegler, Michigan's #1 remaining target in the 2010 class, but let's hope so:
Trey brings an impressive build to the guard position in which he operates. He might not look the part of a quick, agile guard, but he sure plays it. He had many defenders on their toes trying to cover him, and his ability to pull up for the jumper or drive the lane for the explosive dunk was something that almost seemed impossible to cover. He lacked hustle several times defensively, allowing breakaway layups from the opposition, but in his defense, did play all but two minutes of a 32 minute game Saturday afternoon. Although Michigan is the frontrunner for Zeigler now, he hasn’t yet committed and has left the door open for several Big East schools at this time.
There's also been an uptick in Detroit Country Day point guard Ray McCallum's interest in the Michigan program, though he still seems like a longshot. I'd be delighted to be 100% wrong about Beilein's recruiting chops.
Still 2010, but different. To the hockey class of that year: Jack Campbell is good. The USA U18 team just won the gold medal at the World Championships and Campbell's play is the talk of the tournament (even though the Russian goalie bizarrely made the all-tourney team despite a 5-0 thumping in the final). Western College Hockey:
I think the best thing you can say about a goalie is that his team won, and without him, they would have lost. In the semifinal against Canada, if the US is down by more than 1 goal midway through the third period, there is absolutely no chance they come back to win that game. Campbell made some great saves to keep his team in it long enough for the US powerplay to score a couple goals and steal the win.
Insert fervent prayer that the 2010 hockey class arrives on campus intact here. Campbell is establishing himself as possibly the top goalie in his draft class.
Not so fast on the not so fast. A curious report that included Michigan Stadium as one of a number of potential World Cup host sites was shot down by a second report playing Lee Corso. Now Lee Corso report has been Lee Corsoed:
"Anything we can do to support our region economically, we would very much like to do it," U-M athletic director Bill Martin said. "The timing of the event -- June, July -- would be perfect. But we'd have to build a platform up into the first 10 rows of seats to make the field wide enough."
I'm skeptical they'll actually get to host. There are 70 other potential sites, many of which wouldn't require that level of project. Erasing ten rows of seats might defeat the purpose of having such a huge stadium host, too. But there's a chance, and maybe they'd just do it for the meat-on-the-table aspect of having the biggest stadium in the country involved.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Forcier Forcier Forcier Forcier—A Snaaaaake! The Forcier "Weapon of Choice" video has been Walkenized. Ace for the win.
Speaking of Forciers, Rittenberg has more on the possible transfer of Jason back to Michigan. Apparently the "repeal" of the Mundy Rule that allowed graduated players to use their fifth year of eligibility somewhere else was something between a repeal and a, you know, non-repeal:
"Obviously, sports is going to end for me," Jason Forcier said. "You've got to accept the facts. But it doesn't change my passion for it. So if I can still be involved with it somehow, I feel like I can still participate.
"With the waiver, it would look good that I got into Michigan when I was an undergrad and I transferred to Stanford and did well there, graduated. They know it wouldn't be for a football issue."
So it appears the NCAA is making its decisions on a case-by-case basis now to prevent things like Florida pirating one of Utah's starting cornerbacks but allow transfers by players who have a legitimate academic reason to move.
Someone tattoo this man extensively.
Massachusetts small(-ish) forward Evan Smotrycz has committed to Michigan, annoying both that guy from the mailbag yesterday and bloggers who have to spell "Smotrycz" for four years. In this, we are united. UMHoops has your googlestalking profile; this is what leapt out at me:
While Smotrycz finished with 18 points & 10 rebounds, how he got those numbers were even more impressive. He knocked down a one-dribble step-back three-pointer, went to the low block and showed a polished jump hook, got to the rim off the dribble a few times, and even rebounded in traffic.
Versatility and overall hugeness is an excellent fit for the Beilein system. Smotrycz sounds like a 6'9" version of Zach Novak. You can see where this is headed: last year's team is going to be by far the smallest of Beilein's Michigan career; in the future Michigan is going to have like one 6'3" point guard and then an assortment of 6'4"-6'9" wings and like one post on the floor. Smotrycz is going to be a very large wing sort.
Offers were not impressive, with Oregon State his biggest other than Michigan, but there was interest of unknown intensity from a half-dozen bigger schools. Despite that, scouting reports about Smotrycz sound a lot more positive than those on incoming posts Blake McLimans and Jordan Morgan.
As for the rest of the class: Michigan has two scholarships open; ideally they would fill those with Buffalo PF Will Regan—considerably more of a post than Smotrycz—and MI SF Trey Ziegler. I'm still betting that Anthony Wright is not given a fifth year (and is brought back as a grad assistant) and Michigan will have a fourth scholarship to give; that would also go to a guard sort.