The ding: minor. Sheridan's injury won't last much past spring:
Nick Sheridan has suffered a non-displaced fracture of his leg that will not require surgery. He will be out 4-6 weeks, and will be back with the team in time for summer workouts.
React to that as you will. I have absolutely no emotion relating to that news.
Drop the puck. Yost Built has ten things about Air Force for you before today's 3PM puck drop. As always, I'm petrified. There is nothing more terrifying that single-elimination playoff hockey, and nothing more shattering than that moment when the knife twists and the wrong red light comes on.
That's a lot of hamburgers. The Frozen Four is coming to Ford Field next year, which is a lot of seating for a college hockey game even if they, as planned, cut the stadium in half and put up temporary bleachers. They have changed the plan:
The NCAA announced today that the rink for college hockey's championship event will be in the middle of Ford Field next April, just like the basketball court will be in a couple of weeks.
There had been talk of putting the rink in an end zone and curtaining off part of the stadium because of crowd-size and viewing concerns.
Uh… thumbs down. Are you really going to get 70,000 people at the Frozen Four next year? In Detroit? Very unlikely even if Michigan makes it. This seems likely to be a debacle that makes the committee avoid Detroit for future events. Hurrah.
Adios. Toney Clemons' departure was handled with slightly more class than that of Mr. Plow:
"I was recruited in to play in coach (Lloyd) Carr's more pro style offense and that was an offense that allowed me to utilize my talents, using my size and speed combination to stretch the field, run precise routes and make plays down field in the passing game," Clemons said. "The offensive concepts were very different than the ones that coach Rod (is) running now and that was a system that I feel I could go into and thrive in. I gave this new system a chance thinking that I could switch lanes and use my athleticism to excel in the system but it just didn't work out for me, I just had a feeling that I wasn't what they were looking for."
By all accounts, Clemons was an outstanding kid—Breaston's cousin, so not surprising—and someone with talent in the right system. Hopefully he lands somewhere he can use that talent.
Sucker bets. Bruce Feldman checks in with Vegas to see if there's been any recent movement in the BCS championship lines. He finds one particular team surging:
Apparently, there's some enthusiasm for Michigan in Year 2 under Rich Rodriguez. The Wolverines went from being a 200-1 shot to win the 2010 BCS title game (on Feb. 3) to a 100-1 shot as of March 24.
Feldman cites the usual jump Rodriguez teams in year two, the six redshirted offensive linemen, and the Tate/Robinson combo at QB as reasons this might have happened. But all these things were true on February 3rd except maybe Robinson. I credit (blame?) drunk Michigan fans in Vegas after the Clemson game.
Here's an education, sort of. The Globe and Mail took a look at the CHL's education packages, getting some quotes along the way from Red Berenson:
“I think what's happened is that the Canadian Hockey League has done a good job of contaminating these kids in terms of their eligibility,” said Berenson, a Regina native and former NHLer who has coached in the NCAA for 25 years. “They're drafting these kids at 14 out in Alberta and B.C. and 15 in Ontario, so they draft them and get them excited about playing in the O [OHL] or the Dub [the WHL] and they bring them up and play them in a game and they're done. Once they've played a game, they've lost their [NCAA] eligibility.
“They can tell the kids they're getting everything they're getting in the U.S., but they rarely do.”
This is correct: junior players can get scholarships but only one year for each year they play in junior. Even sketchier, as soon as you sign an AHL or professional contract the money is gone. Heck, if you sign an ECHL contract you have one year and then the money is gone. Only 32% of CHL players end up getting anything at all.
Junior advocates will tell you this is still a good bet for future stars, and it may be for the tip of the pyramid, the top-ten picks who aren't long for any junior league. But once you take the numbers and start creating league equivalencies, 1) the USHL has the same quality of play as any of the Canadian junior leagues, and 2) college hockey is considerably tougher. The case that waiting for college hockey will delay your development has been blown up by the move of the USHL to tier one and the corresponding increase in quality of play. Junior now provides zero advantages unless you just don't want an education, which the CHL is happy to not supply.
Elsewhere in the hockey blogosphere, Tom Benjamin says Berenson is "full of shit" and proceeds to completely misinterpret the above quote:
Every young player knows that if he plays a game of Major Junior he loses his chance at an NCAA scholarship. This rule has not changed in recent years and therfore this rule does not explain why fewer and fewer Canadians are opting for the NCAA. It is happening because the CHL offers better opportunities - a faster route to the NHL and the scholarship program - now.
Berenson's not saying the kids don't know they'll lose their eligibility, he's saying the CHL teams are getting kids to play in a game or two when they're too young to have any idea whether or not it's a good idea, when they're really vulnerable to the far-off and unlikely dream of making the NHL. Mudcrutch has an excellent rejoinder, and Benjamin gets pwned in his own comments:
It’s also worth noting that the CHL’s scholarship program is a lot less financially generous than is a full ride NCAA scholarship. The fact that the “full ride” in the OHL is limited to first round picks from the Midget draft is outrageous - no wonder guys like Berenson are miffed. If it is about education, then you extend the offer to all players, not just an elite few whom you are concerned might bolt for greener pastures. It also takes at least four years to get a degree, not two or three, and the fact is that the CHL is usually only paying for two years for many of the players.
Junior is a scam, man.
Hopefully irrelevant. Normally the first-string quarterback going down with an injury rumored to be a broken leg—it's "serious" according to the Free Press—is time for PANIC(!). But when it's Nick Sheridan in question… eh. I wasn't planning on seeing Sheridan under center this year except in trauma-induced flashbacks, and I don't think losing some practice time is going to seriously impact his performance unless he gets bitten by a radioactive spider in his downtime.
However, the mere reminder that weird injuries happen is an ominous reminder of what coule happen once Forcier's spindly physique hits the field. All hail quick rhythm passing and a much improved offensive line.
The least correct thing. If you ever need a scale on which to measure truth and need labels for the extremes of that scale, "Mel Kiper's opinion of Carson Butler" should be the label for the bad end:
"Butler is going to block and get the job done there," Kiper said. "(Teams want) a guy who can block. You have to secure the edge. These 3-4 teams you're going up against, you have to be able to handle, (and) you handle with a blocking tight end. Carson Butler as a late-round pick for those types of teams would have some value."
WTF. No, wait. Mere letters are insufficient. I need a panda for this.
Kiper is now dead to me. In Mel Kiper's world, Carson Butler is useful as a blocker, Michigan State wide receivers can go a week without one of them ending up in prison, and candy tastes like ashes. I've always thought Kiper was sort of useful, but how can anyone take him seriously after that? Or after "Curtis Painter is a top-ten draft pick"?
Fourth-liners. The Daily reports that Ben Winnett is questionable for the weekend and the Scooter Vaughn experiment is unlikely to be repeated, leaving Luke Glendening, Danny Fardig, and Brandon Naurato on Michigan's fourth line.
Impact of this on Michigan's chances in the tourney: minimal. I did like Winnett more than the options to replace him, but that may have been residual prejudice about his NHL draft slot (too high, apparently) rather than anything that happened on the ice. Naurato's actually scoring at a higher clip.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Call for assistance. User Bleedin9Blue is embarking on a study of recruiting rankings and requires some extra hands. If you've got some statistical or database know-how and are interested in such a project, I'm sure he'd appreciate any assistance.
Twitterin'. Where Pete Carroll goes recruits and coaches follow, so Rich Rodriguez is now extraordinarily boring on Twitter. Check it:
Good work done at practice today. Watching film with the Coaches. Go Blue!
That's pretty much the extent of things: we practiced today, I am doing something, I occasionally capitalize something strangely, "Go Blue!" I count two posts without exclamation points so far, and no revealing personal details like "boy I miss OMC." As far as comedy value goes he's got nothing on Tim Brewster, who twitters like someone making fun of Tim Brewster:
JUST OFF THE FIELD FROM PRACTICE #1....GUYS SHOWED GREAT ATTITUDE AND EFFORT TODAY!
EACH GUY CONTROLS WHAT HE BRINGS TO THE TABLE EACH DAY ATTITUDE, EFFORT, TOUGHNESS AND PASSION NOT TAUGHT BUT BROUGHT!
WINNING ON AND OFF THE FIELD EACH AND EVERY DAY IS WHAT CREATES A CHAMPION!
TRY FIGHT BEST WIN indeed.
You can thank the NCAA for your insight into Pete Carroll's musical taste and Tim Brewster's FIGHTBRAIN: by shutting down texting they've sent coaches scrambling for another avenue via which to communicate with recruits. Twitter's broadcast nature means it should remain legit, and coaches' neverending desire to get a leg up on their competitors should keep the erratically spelled tweets flowing forevermore.
It's been a long time. It's time to remind you again what a weird, insecure hunchback of a man Charlie Weis is:
"My intent is to coach the game from the field That is my intent. Okay? As (Bill) Parcells said years ago, I reserve the right to change my mind, but that is my intent. I talked to people at the collegiate level and pro level, from Andy Reid right on down. By a very, very large majority, almost everyone I talked to were overwhelming thinking I was thinking way outside the box."
This passage is much, much funnier if you pretend Charlie Weis talks like Truman Capote.
That is all.
Etc.: Dhani Jones paints; the 2002-2003 class will help the graduation numbers considerably; Carty enraged by selection of some guy that knows Hagen to head academics stuff in the athletic department; back and forth in the comments is pretty interesting.
The bubble screen is a staple of the spread 'n' shred. It's tough to defend without committing a player that would otherwise be in the box to the slot receiver, and if you've got the right zippy dwarf running it it can break big.
Theoretically, it should be an easy throw, but it requires precise timing and location. If you're off by a couple feet on a longer ball you might take the receiver off his feet but you've still picked up eight, ten, fifteen yards. If you're errant on the bubble screen you'll slow the receiver and wreck the play. Or you could, like, throw it backwards and provide a free turnover to an opponent.
Since that last horrible example has actually occurred this year, this will be no surprise: Michigan's quarterbacks have been pretty iffy on them all year. However, Nick Sheridan had a couple beauties against Minnesota. Here's the purtiest:
Minnesota lines up in a 3-4 with a linebacker or safety sort lined up over Clemons. The outside coverage is offering eight-yard cushions; this is a pre-snap setup that looks perfect for the bubble. (It's markedly different than Illinois' approach.) Especially when…
…the guy covering the slot blitzes. Michigan gives the dive fake, then Sheridan pulls up for the bubble. Note the position of Clemons at the moment. He's four yards behind the line of scrimmage. He will give another yards as he searches for depth, then run forward to a designated spot.
Here Clemons has acquired the ball. You can see the setup downfield, with the outside receivers blocking the two defenders and a safety attempting to close it down from the outside. The key here is the timing of the pass and its location: Clemons catches this in stride, facing downfield. There is no delay between the catch and run. This has not frequently been the case this year.
Excellent blocks from the two receivers and a not-quite-quick-enough reaction from the safety provide…
…a first down. Clemons will use his momentum to get ten more.
Here's the video:
Here's a similar play against a defense that's basically the same except the opposition defensive backs are offering less cushion:
In UFR I said this one "isn't as upfield as it should be," and you see Odoms has to turn his body upfield a bit to catch a ball slightly behind him. I think I overstated my criticism a little bit on review (review-review, actually); this one also sees Odoms catch the ball basically in stride.
A couple notes:
- I can't find where I read this, but IIRC when you see Michigan give a handoff fake before the bubble screen, that's a read. When it's a presnap call they just throw it.
- I'm not sure if different defensive alignments call for different sorts of throws and may be partly responsible for the QBs not throwing these "right" much of the year. But I kind of doubt it; even this well-timed bubble is caught four yards behind the LOS.
- This is the kind of thing I thought we would be surprised we missed without Henne. (We all knew we'd miss, say, laser post passes to Adrian Arrington.)
11/8/08 – Michigan 29, Minnesota 6 – 3-7, 2-4 Big Ten
Football is the strangest sport.
Baseball and basketball and hockey are too transparently random to be strange. Sometimes you just lose despite largely outplaying the other team; that's not strange, it's just puck luck or hot shooting or whatever baseball equivalent you'd like to offer. You hit the ball hard and it goes into someone's mitt. You toss rubber at the goalie and hope. You engage in a series of independent random trials worth two or three points. In all these activities the chance is right on the surface.
Football, though… in football inexplicable things happen on a regular basis and they're all gussied up to look like Flat Out Heart. You might think that, eventually, close observers would figure out this tendency and start saying things like "watch for the inexplicable thing!" but no, not really.
This is of some comfort to me in a season where the only thing more reliable than Michigan's ineptitude is this blog's ability to incorrectly forecast future events.
To be fair, if you had collected everyone on the planet who thought Nick Sheridan would lead Michigan to victory over a 7-2 team, no matter how fraudulent, and put them in a room that room would contain Nick Sheridan's mother, that one guy on the message board with the annoying, unkillable optimism, and a bushman who speaks one of those clicky languages and erroneously believes there to be free sandwiches because of a mindboggling linguistic coincidence.
Then at some point during Michigan's opening field goal fiesta Sheridan scrambled out of the pocket and threw across his body. I guarantee you every single Michigan fan watching the game thought this was a horrible idea and that in approximately two seconds Minnesota would be running the other way with the ball. Somewhere, a Michigan fan stuck at a wedding had an eerie feeling of deep foreboding as the Michigan fanbase's collective brainwave screamed "nooooooooo" in slow-motion.
Complete, first down, eventual scoring drive, final yardage for 435, final yardage against 188, 29-6 victory.
Back in the day when computer cases came bolted on with a dozen tiny screws and floppy disks were floppy, if you wanted to have decent sound you had to buy your sound card separately. My friends did this, and it was there they met Dr. Sbaitso. Dr. Sbaitso was a weird little AI program that would converse with you that Creative Labs shipped with their soundcards to show off their speech software. It was the early '90s. It was free software. If you swore at it, it would complain that that kind of talk would give it a parity error. You can imagine the hilarity.
Though I never interacted with him myself, for years after conversations would occasionally take abrupt detours into Sbaitso lingo. The thing that lingers in my head to this day is this:
NOT ENOUGH DATA SO I MAKE BIG
This was inevitably followed by some sort of fooshing noise that indicated great expansion.
Over the past five weeks as Michigan slid from 2-2 to 2-7 and victory became a thing once remembered, everybody wanted someone's blood. It didn't matter who you are, you wanted to bash someone with a brick. For some, it's Rodriguez or Martin or Shafer. For others (Wolverine Liberation Army most prominently), it's anyone who would come on the internet and say something rashly dumb. For me, it's the media that took the opportunity to lay the foundation for Rodriguez's premature firing.
Scorn, condescension, and mockery are the only things coming from Detroit columnists not named Wojo these days, as they rush to be the first to pile dirt on Rich Rodriguez's grave (but, of course, only after telling you that's it's far too early judge).
Look at this from the Detroit News in the aftermath of the Purdue game:
But what should be as distressing to Michigan's football camp as this incomprehensible string of losses -- five in a row -- is Rodriguez's attitude.
"I know what's going on," he said Saturday, as if he is aware of deficiencies no one else seems to recognize
Does he really believe that?
I find it amazing that Lynn Henning finds it possible to condescend to someone who's proven over the last twenty-five years that he's one of the best football coaches in the profession. After all, Lynn Henning has proven over the past twenty five years that he is Lynn Henning.
And then, of course, the Worst Columnist On The Planet*:
They're [Michigan fans] spoiled. They're arrogant. They feel entitled. They took 9-3 seasons with annual losses to Ohio State for granted, lusting for their program's rightful destiny. And they will demand significant improvement from Rodriguez in his second season or he will face a BCS-or-else ultimatum in his third year.
Saban's quick Alabama transformation just made it harder for every other coach.
This is so obviously retarded in a thousand different ways (for one: Saban has a senior multi-year starter at QB) that it hardly warrants a response. But there is one thing that is dangerous here: the suggestion that Rodriguez should be on a short leash.
In a word, no.
Rocky Top Talk, a fine Tennessee blog, was kind enough to have me on their latest podcast, whereupon we talked about coaching changes and the creepy similarity of the two programs* and, uh, how Alabama fans hate me. At some point Joel asked for advice, which was kind of odd but he asked. In response, I asked what the talent level looked like and he said the general opinion was that next year would actually be a step back. Then I noted that last year Tennessee had one of the most disappointing recruiting classes in the nation and that this year's class would likely be substandard what with the coaching change and all and advised patience. Sustained, gritted-teeth patience.
Because without patience you acquire unreasonable demands like "take a 3-7 team to the BCS in two years with a (probably) true sophomore quarterback or we fire you, confirm every stupid thing the media has incorrectly said about the Michigan fanbase, and start all over with someone definitely less proven as a successful head coach than Rich Rodriguez."
Screw that. Screw Sharp and all his ilk at the Detroit papers ready to leap upon the carcass of Michigan football because they're too stupid and shortsighted to do anything else.
Nick Sheridan was nicknamed DEATH up until the moment he threw that "nooooo" pass across his body. I had too little data, but I made big.
Michigan fans assumed this all-singing-all-dancing-all-freshman offense would be basically as effective as other crappy offenses from Michigan teams past. They had too little data, and they made big.
The Detroit media would like to assure you that it's way too early to judge Rich Rodriguez but my god what a horrible coach who is mostly at fault for Michigan's failure to acquire a chintzy bowl bid. They had too little data, and they made big. (They will continue to do this.)
Now Tennessee and Washington and Clemson and maybe Auburn and a bunch of other teams will be scouring the nation for coaches upon there is precious little data, because the ones on which there is much data are already out of reach. If Michigan goes searching again prematurely they will not find a guy with a proven record of success like Rodriguez. They will not find a coach with two BCS bowl wins to his name. They are wishing and hoping.
We got extraordinarily lucky; there is enough data to justify Rodriguez the five years coaches all used to get, and we should give it to him.
*(if you absolutely must see the entire thing I will link it (nofollowed) but I urge you to not click here: .)
**(No, seriously. I always thought Tennessee, a traditional power with an awesome fight song that operates at a recruiting disadvantage because its home state is talent-deficient relative to its peers and has a national championship from about a decade ago, was pretty similar to Michigan. Then Joel from RTT was talking with me and mentioned that Tennessee had been coached by a total of two guys over the last 32 years (16 years each for Majors and Fulmer) and I was like… whoah.)
- This is already way too long!