[DATELINE: THE BURNED OUT HULK THAT USED TO BE ANN ARBOR.]
CONNECTION SHAKY. MASS PANIC AND RIOTS. WHOLE FOODS RAIDED. SINGLE ENDIVE LEAF ALL THAT REMAINS. ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT BUNKERED IN WHAT IS LITERALLY FORT SCHEMBECHLER NOW. TAKING POTSHOTS AT PASSERS-BY THEY CLAIM ARE ZOMBIES. SOME ARE. SOME.
SEND DVDS OF 1997 SEASON. ALSO WATER.
IF… IF I DON'T MAKE IT TELL CHARLES WOODSON I LOVE HIM.
I kid you not, GIS for "looting" and this guy in an off-brand Michigan jersey shows up
Let me know when I should start panicking. I am ready at your command.
Okay this is where I'm at. I've got a go bag ready. Passports, about 10k in cash, various fake mustaches and sunglasses. I'm up do date on all my vaccines. Are you up to date on your vaccines? I can be in Laos in 15 hours, never to be seen again. Rumors of the white tiger of the jungle will flourish. I will become known only in song and legend.
BUT: note that I am not already in Laos. I am sticking around to see what this season has in store, because weird things happen against Notre Dame and—and bear with me here—this game actually felt much less bad than some hammerings from last year. There are some obvious problems at cornerback and Gardner has to play better but when things went wrong it was mostly one thing going wrong, not eight. So it might get fixed. There is no reason to demand a coaching change right now. Let the season play out and see what happens. If Michigan does catch fire in the crappy Big Ten this game will be a footnote.
Meanwhile, there's no reason to assume a coaching change is coming unless you're literally 75% of my inbox…
A true Michigan Man keeps his promises about the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa July 1914.
You may recall that I said I would never write to you about Michigan football again after the BW3 Bowl and my comparison of Michigan football to the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa July 1914. Since the last part is still true, I won’t make this long. But your entry today about coaching prospects caused me to think about my second school (the Syracuse Orange).
Here are a LOT of assumptions, but (a) assuming the tire fire rages, (b) Hoke is fired, (c) none of the few big names worth watching (i.e., Miles, the Harbros) is/are available, and (d) Syracuse goes 8-5 or better again this year with a mid to late-December victory, what about a guy like Scott Schafer? He’s in his mid-40s. He runs an attacking style defense. He’s from the Midwest. He favors an up-tempo offense. He has to coach against Clemson, FSU, Louisville (and ND this year). He picked up the pieces after Doug Marrone ran off to the NFL with half of his coaching staff last year.
Might he be someone to watch? I know the experience as Rich Rod’s DC did not work out. But given his success running the defense at SU (particularly following GROB), that seems like it was more an issue of Rodriguez trying to make him run a defense he didn’t want to run. He left with grace and took the blame that may not have been 100% his.
Just a thought – I’m grasping at straws . . .
Syr. Law ‘88
I don't think Shafer has a track record to get excited about. He did improve the Syracuse defense upon his arrival but he hit a ceiling pretty quick. FEI rankings for his defenses at 'Cuse:
2013: 65th (as head coach)
In FEI there are a lot of schedule adjustments so 39th isn't nearly as good as it is in straight yardage rankings. Meanwhile he'd have two years of head coaching experience, the first a 7-6 season, and the second an 8-5 one. I liked Shafer and know for a fact he got a raw deal from Rodriguez's defensive assistants, and then Rodriguez himself. But even if you don't hold that against him his resume is thin.
He is a guy to track, since he is a poachable head coach not in the MAC. That he's worth tracking is a good summation of the available talent this year.
[After The JUMP: I REGRET TO INFORM YOU YOU WILL NOT STOP DRINKING.]
I'm in Turkmenistan. Seriously.
My name is Matan (Michigan '09) and I am a huge fan of MGoBlog. I am currently driving 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia in a beat up little car as part of a for-charity roadtrip.
A couple months ago (and two years ago), you posted a picture of the "Door to Hell" in Turkmenistan on the blog. We figured we'd put the Michigan flag on it and claim it for the MGoBlog community.
The second picture...well...when starring hell in the face, you might as well have some fun.
It's always nice when someone explains why we got that one hit from Turkmenistan. Papua New Guinea, you're next.
I am of the type that I really don't care about ANY info about the skill positions that is coming out of camp because it is pretty clear that this team will only go as far as the offensive line will take them. The chemistry issues on the team last season were well documented and some have been more specific and direct, that there were chemistry issues and a lack of cohesion on the O-Line. With that being said, is there any truth to this and may it be better for this team to have an entire O-Line with youth so that they collectively progress together?
That's a bit of a stretch. I'd think that having an older guy next to you who could explain why you screwed up would accelerate the learning process for the younger folk. Where that kind of thing might pay off is a year or two down the road; this year it's just going to add to struggles.
I've dismissed "chemistry issues" as they may apply to last year's line, but there's two kinds of assertion in that bucket and I'd like to disavow one but not the other. The one I think is pretty unlikely to have had a major impact: Taylor Lewan supposedly being a jerk. At worst this slowed the ability of younger linemen to progress, and probably not much.
However, if by "chemistry issues" you mean the offensive linemen not having a good idea of what the guy next to him is going to do, I very much buy that as an explanation for why Michigan couldn't get yard one on the ground. So what I can offer is this: if the line remains stable through the year and reps the same offense throughout they will get better as we go, and possibly much better. Their relative youth should mean they improve faster than older players.
Meanwhile, moving guys around is going to be less of an issue if Michigan does focus on inside zone as their base play. Positional responsibilities are a lot closer in zone offenses—nobody pulls, everybody frequently executes doubles that send one or the other OL to the LB level depending on what the player in front of you does.
Unfortunately they're probably going to start as a pile of suck. Judge them by what their pile looks like at the end of the year. Maybe it'll be okay!
[After THE JUMP: safety moves, a guy who is not taking this mailbag as seriously as he should, recruiting feels]
Early hockey entries: a trend? One applicable to basketball?
With both Zach Werenski and Noah Hanifin (BC) graduating high school a year early to play for their respective schools, do you think this might be an emerging trend among schools looking to secure top end talent? Or at least secure them for more than a season?
Also, seems like there could be applicability to basketball. If he's academically eligible, bring a guy a year early. A lot of the high-end recruits are probably about as college ready at 17 as they would be at 18. Is this a possibility for schools or do you think Werenski and Hanifin are the rare exceptions?
Don't forget BU's Jack Eichel, who is joining Werenski and Hanifin in college this fall after accelerating. That's three, and that's a trend. And it's one that makes sense. The USA NTDP U-18 plays a schedule heavy with exhibitions against college teams, and they're competitive. You could take the top guys on those teams and put them on a second or third line and they'd be fine, if not better.
Then you probably will get them for a second or even third year instead of one, two, or—increasingly likely as the prospects get more and more touted—zero. One of the most interesting aspects of this new version of early enrollment is that all of these guys are leaving the NTDP a year early. That does not happen often because the NTDP contract comes with a clause that forces you to repay the costs of your first year in the program if you leave before the second.
Given that it seems like this is a concerted effort by the NTDP and college hockey to get the top 15 pick types in the program to college before the OHL can try to sink its hooks in.
As for applicability to basketball, it is something that comes up occasionally as players move in and out of recruiting years in an attempt to find the best fit. Usually this means going back a year, though. And since a lot of high end basketball players were strategically held back so they'd be bigger and stronger than everyone else, moving ahead a year is often just moving back to your natural spot.
But the real problem with accelerating basketball players a year is the academic situation of the top players. In hockey, many of the players are at tony private schools or, in the NTDP's case, Ann Arbor's well-funded Pioneer High. American prospects generally have some money in their family—hockey is expensive—and as a result have gone to good schools for the bulk of their scholastic career. Accelerating is evidently within the capabilities of both the schools and the players.
That combination is undoubtedly a lot rarer for basketball players. These days large chunks of the top prospects are at places like Findlay Prep, which are dogged with eligibility issues. Often those are because the players who arrive at Findlay have been miserably served by their local high schools. There's an entire cottage industry dedicated to taking promising basketball players and beating their transcripts into shape the NCAA might accept. Doing that in a year less and packing an extra year of credits in is going to be a bridge too far for almost everyone.
What's the deal with Manning?
So, looking at coaching changes, is putting Manning, who has never coached DBs as the CB and nickel coach an effort to:
A) get your most dynamic recruiter to your most dynamic, desired athletes and keep them with him when they get to campus
Probably not. Coaches usually take an area rather than a position. The position coach does come into it but after much of the legwork has been done. And Michigan was recruiting CBs just fine before the move.
B) get a guy who has played and coached more physical positions (RB, LB) to take some physicality and tackling ability to the DBs
Maybe? Moving to what seems to be an aggressive man press defense means that a guy who knows what you should to to get under a guy and rock him back can apply his experience. It also minimizes some of his inexperience at the position. If the position is about getting in a guy's grill and reacting to what's in front of you that's something that takes less holistic knowledge of what to do in situation X in a zone.
C) minimize the role of Curt Mallory, who has been rumored to be looking at a head coaching gig elsewhere
Not sure if "minimize" is quite the right word, because just by the numbers he had five guys while the most anyone else had before the move was two. But yes devolving some of those responsibilities seems like a good idea.
D) get rid of overlaps in coaching staff. Hoke will work with Smith on DL, Mattison takes over LBs, Manning and Mallory take DBs. basically your 3 most dynamic recruiters (HC Hoke, Mattison and Manning) all head up a unit on D.
I do think this is a reasonable idea. When Montgomery, Hoke, and Mattison were all dealing with the DL that was three guys for four starters with the other two guys handling seven. Now everyone has about the same number of guys.
E) all of the above
Parts of three of the above.
I like 'em both.
Would you rather see Michigan win a football national championship or the USMNT win a World Cup? I'm a lifelong Michigan fan like most of your readers but I think I would rather have the World Cup. At this point I have more pride and anticipation when watching the USMNT in the World Cup. What are your thoughts?
I like 'em both.
A couple of readers who would prefer not to be identified passed along this:
We are pleased to announce a special offer for our Season Pass Holders. To show our appreciation for your loyalty to Radrick Farms and the University of Michigan's Athletic Department, we are offering complimentary tickets for you and a guest to attend up to two football games at the Big House!
We have LIMITED tickets available for the following games on a first-come, first-served basis:
- UM v. Appalachian State on August 30th
- UM v. Miami of Ohio on September 13th
If you are interested in attending these games, you must let us know at least THREE weeks prior to kick-off.
Football's just around the corner, but World Cup fever (including your soccer columns) has me paying a little more attention than usual to soccer. Last year I caught bits and pieces of NBC's EPL coverage on Saturday mornings while counting down the minutes to actual football and was thinking maybe this year I'd find myself watching more of it.
Here's my question: Who should I root for? Should I pick a team to follow? Pick a team to root against? Root for current/future USMNT players? Root for bicycle kicks or red cards? A quick guide to "What to watch on Saturday mornings before real football kicks off" would be a fun read.
Looking forward to your season previews!
There's not a whole lot of American flavor in the EPL these days, just a couple goalies and various people trying to keep their teams from getting relegated. There was a good eight years or so where Fulham was relying on Brian McBride and then Clint Dempsey as their primary goalscorers, but now not so much.
You can't root for the Yankees, and you probably shouldn't root for whichever random club has been picked out by a petrosheik and driven towards the top of the league through no merit of its own. And you don't really want to pick out some team that stands a good chance of relegation within five years, because a team that gets relegated won't be seen by an American until it comes back up.
With that in mind, options:
EVERTON. Tim Howard, a strong finish last year (fifth, just outside a Champion's league spot), they like Landon Donovan, you know their manager from ESPN, they've been in the top flight since 1955, and haven't won since 1987. Wear blue.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR. Named "Tottenham Hotspur." That's all you need to know. Also have been in top flight forever but hasn't won since 1961. White and blue color scheme M-friendly. Have the money to potentially do something but generally don't. Had Clint Dempsey for a bit.
STOKE. Brek Shea and Geoff Cameron. Probability of relegation is low in immediate future. Long term… they will probably go down at some point. Currently have Peter Crouch, the 6'7" robot-dancing beanpole former England striker.
LIVERPOOL. Along with Arsenal, the most tolerable team that regularly participates in the Champions League. Advantages over Arsenal: still plays at Anfield instead of stadium named after Middle Eastern airline, you might be tired of Nick Hornby, Arsenal's manager is a French guy who wears a ridiculous puffy coat whenever the temperature drops below 70.
ARSENAL. Along with Liverpool, most tolerable team that regularly participates in the Champions League. Advantages over Liverpool: you might rather like Fever Pitch, haven't won since 2004, just like Michigan.
Rooting against is obvious: Chelsea and anyone from Manchester. United is the Yankees, Chelsea plays desultory bore-ball and is backed by a Russian kleptocrat, Manchester City is Qatar FC, basically.
possible future employment?
The message boards have a good deal of speculation about Hoke's job security. At what point will Dave Brandon's job security come into question? A while back you outlined a number of failures during Brandon's tenure. To me, the fact that ticket sales are so slow, that even the students seem to have had enough of this BS, has to raise some eyebrows with people in power. Or is Brandon firmly entrenched as long as wants to be here?
As Brady said, "This is Michigan, fergodsakes." It's not feeling much like Michigan lately.
Class of '93
I don't think Brandon is particularly entrenched.
I've heard chatter that certain people in positions of power would be happy to see a change… a lot of chatter. But I've heard that chatter for over a year now, and predictions that Brandon would be replaced have come and gone. At this point I'm skeptical that the people are inclined to do much, or have the power to do so.
That said, Brandon's now in the same situation Rich Rodriguez (and big swathes of the department he replaced) was: his boss did not hire him, and his performance is in the range where replacing him wouldn't raise eyebrows. It's quite a trick to get the entire student body to hate you.
Gents of MGoBlog -
In these recent times of hardship for the football program, Dave Brandon has taken a lot of heat for his cardboard cutout marketing/branding efforts when it comes to the team and other University athletic programs. There seems to be a large and growing consensus of fans (at least on the MGoBoard) that point out every misstep they believe he makes - there have been quite a few dud ploys he and the AD have rolled out.
However, i'm curious to know if there are any decisions or moves he's made as AD that the MGoPolitburo or wider UofM community have received positively. Have any of the AD's ideas under his leadership had a direct positive impact on any or even one of the school's athletic programs? Whatever the case may be, who are some Athletic Directors who "get it" at their respective institution who you would like to see in charge at Michigan?
The main thing people point to in Brandon's favor is the pile of cash. I'm not that impressed, because you or I could have been appointed AD and sat there wibble-wobbling our lips and Michigan would have seen an enormous uptick in revenue. Brandon's first official day on the job was the UConn game when the luxury boxes opened. The Big Ten Network and the expiration of the Big Ten rights deal provided another large bump.
What revenue that is attributable to Brandon comes from piling a bunch of rights together and selling them in a pile to IMG and testing the outer limits of what people will pay for Michigan football tickets. That's good if you're running a public company and your stock options are about to vest, but there are indicators everywhere that the fanbase has finally been worn down. Brandon is chipping away at fan goodwill constantly, and I worry about the long term impact of the clear divide between big chunks of the fanbase (and all of the students) and Brandon.
Meanwhile, what do I care about the amount of money flowing into Michigan's pockets? It does me no good. It doesn't seem to do anyone any good. The Big Ten has been the nation's best money extraction device for some years now and they still end up hiring Tim Beckmann. Meanwhile, every athletic department in the Big Ten is trying to find ways to launder their piles of cash by plowing it into minor sports that hold the same interest for me no matter how well they're supported.
I do like the legends patches (if only they'd stop screwing with people's numbers), but the rest of the changes he's made to the Michigan gameday experience have been negative.
As for potential replacements, there are a couple of Michigan alums at prominent schools: Jeff Long is at Arkansas and Warde Manuel at UConn. Long got handed a poop sandwich when Bobby Petrino had his motorcycle sexytime accident, but recovered impressively by pirating Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin. Whatever your personal opinion of Bielema, that is a coup of a hire for a school like Arkansas. He was just named the chair of the CoFoPoff's selection committee, as well, so he's respected within the AD community.
Manuel hired Turner Gill at Buffalo, who briefly made Buffalo not the worst team in D-I, and then ended up hiring Kevin Ollie at UConn, though that was not much of a decision. Paul Pasqualoni was already in place when he was hired at UConn; he fired him and replaced him with ND DC Bob Diaco after taking a swing at MSU DC Pat Narduzzi. That may or may not work out but that process seems pretty sensible to me.
Importantly, both of these guys have experience in the job they'd have at Michigan.
Could you give odds/estimates on the likelihood of all six freshmen redshirting next year? At the end of the regular season we expected Doyle and probably Wilson to redshirt. Now they're both potentially heavy rotation players while two unheralded wing players signed up that may play key roles or may redshirt. Help us sort out the situation.
Doyle, Wilson, and Chatman are all going to play. I don't expect Hatch to. MAAR/Dawkins is where it gets interesting. Michigan has tried to redshirt guys who are young and need some polishing, but both MAAR and Dawkins are older than average freshmen. For MAAR that's just because he's older; for Dawkins it's because he took a prep year.
It would make sense for one to redshirt with Michigan looking at a small (one member?) 2015 class, but with the NBA attrition these days you might want to play both in an effort to see which guy can help you more down the stretch and prepare both to take over for LeVert and possibly Irvin. I'm guessing everyone plays.
There have been three high level recruits who have decommitted this recruiting season. My question relates to the bagman article mgoblog referred to a couple months back: is there a possibility that there are Michigan bagmen who disapprove Brady Hoke and have pulled their resources from high level recruits in an effort to more quickly dump Hoke? I realize there are many factors that play in, I just can't help but wonder after reading the bagman article.
No. While I imagine bagmen play into the recruitment of one of the guys who has decommitted, the situation there was more local guys getting involved with family members than anything Michigan did or did not do.
I don't know if Michigan actually has bagmen per se. It doesn't seem like their style, and it doesn't really seem like their style to remove support even if they do exist.
Occam's Razor suggests that the guys who have decommitted have done so because they saw last season's football team and are a little leery of signing on with a program that might be seeing a coaching change in the near future.
[After the JUMP: some soccer stuff.]
Despite being passive, Michigan was 23rd in INTs last year [Eric Upchurch]
Since Hoke has taken over, it seems the expectation / criticism has been largely focused on the offense. Since rich rod left the defense in shambles, hoke & mattison seem to have taken a bend don't break approach and largely been given a pass while they accumulate talent and experience. With most of the experience and talent on the defensive side of the ball this year, does the pressure to get it done and carry the team to victory shift?
I balk at the idea that someone needs to be "given a pass" after turning what was literally the worst defense in Michigan history into the #17 total defense in a year and improving to 13th the next year before dipping to 41st. FWIW, in yards per play terms the Mattison defenses are 46th, 25th, and 41st—a narrative of drastic improvement in year one, another step forward in year two, and then a step back.
I wish that step back hadn't happened, too, but the defense ended up collapsing once it was putting Richard Ash and Nose Tackle Jibreel Black on the field against the top rushing team in the country and then facing Tyler Lockett in a dismal who-cares bowl game they had approximately zero chance of winning once Gardner was ruled out.
Against the rest of the schedule, the defense was good enough to win. They could have carried Michigan to victories against Penn State (1.9 yards a rush, 6.8 per pass), Nebraska (under 300 yards total O), and maybe even MSU (16 points through 3 Q) if the offense was extant. People jumping on the D are a lot like people saying SHANE MORRIS COULD START YOU GUYS: they're letting the unprecedentedly terrible running game color their perceptions of the rest of the team.
That said, yes, last year's D was frustratingly passive and with Michigan returning almost everybody of note (departures from the two deep are limited to Black, the underutilized Quinton Washington, and both Gordons) it is time to take a step forward from passable to very good or great. The offense is not going to get where it needs to be in one year, so if Michigan wants to have the kind of season that makes people think Hoke should be back it's up to the defense to hulk up.
The rivals. We must beat them. Or not.
Can you talk me into a scenario where Michigan loses to both at MSU and at OSU this year and we call the season a success?
Let's step back for a second. There was a thread on the board about the recent Angelique Chengelis article in which she predicted a 10-2 record with losses to MSU and OSU. As always, the thread was split between people going "lol more like 2-10" and people responding to folks that say "I'll be happy with 9-3" with:
Is this what we are now? A program with fans that are "pleased" with mediocrity.
YES! YES, THIS IS WHAT WE ARE NOW. I mean… Michigan had that one 11-2 year that they acquired by shooting the moon six times. Aside from that, Michigan's gone 3-9, 5-7, 7-6, 8-5, and 7-6. And that last 7-6 doesn't really encompass the true face-crippling misery that was last season.
So, yeah, there are a ton of seasons that include road losses to the two teams that met in the B10 championship game last year that seem like a success. 10-2 is obvious. 9-3… sheeeeeeit, I would take any 9-3 record any way any how right now, no questions.
Would it suck to lose yet again to OSU and MSU? Yes! Yes, it would be a kick right in the plaster of Paris. But we're not in a place where we can turn up our nose at anything resembling a fun season. Just getting to a place where I can think "hey, this offensive line might be good next season" is a success. That necessarily comes with some wins, but except in pissy fan ways I'm not sweating who they come against.
Updated minutes for basketball.
It's go time for Derrick Walton [Bryan Fuller]
Can I get a prediction on next year's starting five?
Three and a half of the spots are pretty obvious. The three:
PG: Derrick Walton
SG: Caris LeVert
SF: Zak Irvin
C: Mark Donnal/Ricky Doyle
Michigan might be able to spare some minutes for Donnal at the 4 depending on how foul prone those gentlemen are. Freshmen bigs ten to be very foul prone, so… yeah.
Even PF is not that confusing: it'll be split between Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson. Chatman will also get minutes filling in for LeVert and Irvin; Spike will get 10-15 minutes; Bielfeldt will be in the 0-15 range depending on how the other guys perform and if he can actually hit some of those threes that Beilein says are unstoppable in practice.
My guess at the minute breakdown now:
PG: Walton (30) / Spike (10)
SG: LeVert (35) / MAAR (5)
SF: Irvin (30) / Chatman (10)
PF: Chatman (15) / Wilson (25)
C: Donnal (25) / Doyle (10) / Bielfeldt (5)
MAAR over Dawkins is just a guess. I do think it'll be one or the other by crunch time since Beilein favors short rotations. It is possible that one of the two redshirts.
That's very young and skinny up front—four freshman and Bielfeldt is your frontcourt—but I'd put Michigan's backcourt up against anyone in the conference no problem.
But what about The Process?
I've seen a few stories about how young Team 135 will be. They all highlight the small senior class, but never get into The Process's impact on the class. In my opinion, the 2011 recruiting class was a mess largely because Dave Brandon waited until January to fire Rich Rod (and then spent a couple of days actually firing him). By the time Hoke was hired, there wasn't much time to put together a class. In your opinion, how big of a factor was The Process on this year's senior class?
Don't forget the song-and-dance with the planes and four or five days spent in an apparent effort to throw people off the scent of the most Michigan Man choice available.
We'll never know for sure whether or not Rodriguez was a dead man walking going into the bowl game, but I've heard from multiple people on that disastrous trip that everyone thought he was. This led to a widespread breakdown in order and the performance-type substance Michigan put out there. If there was any chance he'd be back before it, there was zero after. Brandon didn't hang the man swiftly or extinguish the idea he'd be gone, so Michigan got a month and a half of limbo during which Blake Countess inexplicably signed up and nothing else happened in recruiting. Hoke walked into the following recruiting class:
- DEFENSE: DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, CB Delonte Holowell, CB Blake Countess, CB Greg Brown, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Kellen Jones
- OFFENSE: OL Tony Posada, OL Jack Miller, OL Chris Bryant (Bryant did commit after Hoke was hired but had been favoring Michigan for months beforehand.)
To this he added in the two or three weeks available to him:
- DEFENSE: DE Frank Clark, DE Keith Heitzman, CB Tamani Carter, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole
- OFFENSE: TE Chris Barnett, RB Thomas Rawls, RB Justice Hayes, QB Russell Bellomy, K Matt Wile.
Both ends of that class are equally subpar. Hoke's ten late adds produced Taylor, Clark, and Wile. There's a possibility that Hayes or Heitzman will contribute at a decent level this year; that is meh.
Given what we've seen from Hoke since, especially before Michigan's offense descended into awful unwatchability, you have to figure he would have done much better with the extra five weeks. He almost certainly would have found a tackle to replace Jake Fisher—he may have in fact held on to Jake Fisher—and found a tight end who was capable of staying on a college campus for more than three weeks. They may have found a better fit at QB than Bellomy, whose main asset was his mobility. And they would have gotten a better idea about a few guys who weren't likely to stick—I'm thinking about Posada mostly, by the time signing day rolled around some people were skeptical about his commitment level—and grabbed a guy to fill out the OL numbers.
So… it was significant. There is a reason schools don't wait until January to throw guys overboard, and Michigan is suffering through that this year.
Hey MGoBlog team,
Thought it might be fun to list what would reasonably need to happen on order for Michigan to have a B1G division championship season. I've got: dramatically improved interior OL play, inferior outside OL replacements that still perform above expectations, better QB decision making (fewer interceptions), adequate WR replacements for graduating seniors, improved DL play, and status quo the rest of the way. Follow up question is, what are the odds of these things happening and can we see any historic examples of these sorts of improvements in just one year? Or are we just screwed and should hibernate until basketball season?
Uh. Let me blow the dust off my optimism beanie, place it upon my pate, and spin the propellor.
I feel… marginally better. All right, let's tackle this. If Michigan's going to win the division they have to at least split their dual road games against MSU and OSU and then hope misfortune befalls the one they lose to a couple times. Oh, and beat Penn State and Northwestern and not, like, blow it against Rutgers and Minnesota.
How do they do that? Probably the same way they beat Notre Dame and nearly beat Ohio State last year: Devin Gardner playing like the baby of Denard and Tom Brady. The run game is just not going to be good enough to rely upon. Things that need to happen:
Magnuson and Braden are at least okay. Or Cole or whoever ends up playing tackle.
The interior line is not a complete shamocracy, and someone can pick up a blitz. Reducing bad decisions from the quarterback is at least 50% on reducing the number of opportunities to make bad decisions under pressure.
Gardner increments. 8.6 YPA, 450 yards against OSU, 60% completions… Gardner does not have to go particularly far to be B10 championship quality even if he has a heavy burden.
The defensive line can hold up against mean ol' OLs. The DL wasn't an enormous problem until Ondre Pipkins went down and Ohio State's terrible matchup came to town. With Henry back and still on an improvement kick and the losses eminently sustainable (Washington inexplicably did not play as much as he did as a junior and Black was way, way out of position by year's end) plus Michigan's initial DL rush starting to bear fruit, improvement here is likely.
Pass rush has to exist, in a serious fashion. I'd be more comfortable about this if Ryan was still your edge threat and Clark was bookending him. As it is, increments from Beyer and Clark plus added aggression also seem to bode well here.
A competent safety has to be found opposite Wilson. Your guess as good as mine.
Probabilities: dodgy, very dodgy, likely, likely, 50/50. If you told me the OL would be like a C+ I'd actually be pretty positive about this season… but man, that's a long way to go from an F-, down Lewan and Schofield.
Wait you think this was on purpose?
Dave Brandon isn't a terrible negotiator, he seems to get what he wants, so presumably he wanted this home schedule. Is the point so that we alternate between having all of our difficult games away one year, then having them all at home the next? That way every other year we presumably have a great run that gets us to the B1G championship? The easy early games are obvious schedule padding...
Dave [ed: not Brandon]
I am taken aback by the idea Dave Brandon is a sly fox who always gets his way. It's true the first thing he had to tackle—stretchgate—was seemingly done with aplomb, but in retrospect since the USC case the NCAA hasn't done anything to anybody of note that didn't involve 1) multiple lies from the head coach about NCAA violations or 2) horrible horrible felonies. You or I could have piloted Michigan to a slap on the wrist once the various improprieties turned out to be 15 minutes of extra stretching and grad assistants looking in on summer practices.
- Michigan hired Brady Hoke, possibly because negotiations with Jim Harbaugh went poorly. That "all that glitters is not gold" line from the press conference lingers as bitterness over those negotiations breaking down.
- Michigan gave Brady Hoke a top ten contract when he was not in demand anywhere else and said he'd walk to Michigan.
- Michigan and Ohio State got stuck in opposite divisions with a crossover game, thus guaranteeing that Michigan would have the hardest schedule in their division over time had they lasted.
- Michigan played Alabama for less than they would get for a home game. The head-staving by Alabama made no financial sense, as Michigan traded a huge TV event and a game with ticket prices that were 50-100% higher than home game tickets for an outlay parsimonious enough that bringing the band was a big problem.
- Michigan wore a series of clowniforms. Fan pushback was so severe on this that they have dialed it back out of necessity. Meanwhile, Michigan can't even get uniforms that are, you know, uniform from Adidas.
- Notre Dame cancelled the Michigan series. They punked Brandon along the way, blindsiding him and getting themselves the last home game in the series after getting the first when the teams resumed.
- Michigan gave Al Borges a 300k raise. I mean. Gotta retain that guy.
- Michigan replaced Notre Dame with Arkansas. Look at future MSU and OSU schedules, which feature Oregon and Alabama and Oklahoma and Texas, for comparison.
- Michigan got stuck with MSU and OSU away in the same year. Not only that, they get to travel to MSU twice in a row.
- Michigan couldn't get Mitch McGary's suspension reduced. OSU DE Noah Spence is going to miss three games for testing positive for X or something like it, this after an appeal that reduced the punishment from a whole year. Meanwhile, the NCAA reduced the penalty for McGary's transgression two weeks after he received it. Michigan still got rejected by the NCAA.
With rights fees negotiated by the league, Brandon's main accomplishment as AD has been to raise ticket prices. Any bro in a suit could have done this. Any time he's had to interact with another human in an effort to protect Michigan's best interest or bottom line he's either lost or not even tried. (Night games are not an accomplishment. Networks aren't like "Michigan at night… pshaw." Michigan had been actively resisting them for years.)
His biggest negotiation wins are things that are nice for the bottom line but don't actually have any impact long term. And they're probably attributable more to the capacity of Michigan Stadium than anything else: the Winter Classic and this upcoming Man U-Real Madrid friendly.
So. While it's possible Dave Brandon wanted this home schedule—after all, he is personally responsible for the Horror II—it's more likely he just got run over by the Big Ten, because that's how things go. Things make much more sense if you think of Dave Brandon as Lucille Ball than as Gordon Gekko.
Has Michigan been the victim of B.S. penalties by the NCAA more than any other program?
...at least for the last decade? Specifically, I am thinking about the two obvious instances, which are 'Practicegate' and the recent McGary clusterf---. Both of these seems ludicrously disproportional in the severity of punishment compared to the actual crime. To compound matters, you don't need to look very far to see far more egregious punishment (e.g. Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, etc) go completely unchecked.
Of course, the other nuance to this is that Michigan seems to be doing it to themselves. If they didn't so willingly 'play ball' and try to be as open and transparent as possible, would they even be in some of these messes? It seems to me the days of trying to play by the rules is long gone, and if the NCAA isn't even going to attempt to maintain an ounce of consistency, why would Michigan continue to get hammered while most others skate by?
But in all seriousness, has Michigan been the most unlucky/attacked program by the NCAA compared to the actual transgressions that have occurred?
In terms of proven allegations versus what appears to be the standard, USC would have an excellent case just on the strength of a recent NCAA punishment docket that looks like this:
1. Penn State, pre-softening
3. Penn State, post-softening
1,000,005. Jim Tressel lying to the NCAA at least four times about illegal Terrelle Pryor benefits
1,000,006. North Carolina not even really being a college for its students.
Michigan's stretch-gate crap was essentially nothing but bad PR. Given the way that went down and how the Freep creeps knew exactly what to FOIA it is extremely likely that was an inside job. By the time the NCAA got done with that they were specifically calling out the original article as sensationalized and inaccurate. The punishment was something like a 2% reduction in practice time and the loss of a grad assistant or two. I have no problem with the results of that investigation. It was a joke that turned up some technical malfeasance and was treated as such.
The McGary thing is just terrible luck and the NCAA being the dumbest organization on the planet. Plenty of other athletes have gotten nailed for Violating The Special Spirit Of Sport.
As to your point about not playing ball and just cheating your ass off because you'll get away with it… well, yeah. That is obviously the move. When the best team in the country is going into every year knowing they have to cut like ten guys before fall and it doesn't impact their recruiting, the way to the top is obvious: ruthlessness and lawlessness. By the book, USC probably got what they deserved. They feel aggrieved because almost literally everyone else is doing it and getting away with either nothing or minor penalties.
90% of the crap Michigan goes through they do to themselves. The NCAA is not the problem.