"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Summer of Harbaugh, Commence
Michigan's nine-day, ten-camp tour kicked off yesterday in Indianapolis, where Jim Harbaugh, sweatshirt tucked into khakis, instructed a group of campers that included quarterback commit Brandon Peters and RB/ATH targets Kiante Enis and Chris Evans. Here is what some of that instruction looked like, via MLive; you're going to want to pay close attention starting around the :30 mark:
Nick Baumgardner has an excellent recap of the day, which also features an amazing photo of Harbaugh and Peters. 247's Steve Wiltfong focused more on the evaluation side of things, and his look at the top performer from the camp may feature on this site again quite soon:
Indianapolis (Ind.) Ben Davis four-star running back Chris Evans typically leaves the field he played on as the best player and the same goes for this day.
Evans has speed, evident in him making the state finals in the 100-meter dash among other events, but it’s how fluid he is that impresses. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound Evans is so smooth changing direction. He’s an impact guy on the next level at running back, receiver, cornerback or safety.
At this particular camp, Evans was a cut above the rest through running back agility drills and in 1-on-1s it was easy for him to abuse the linebackers on the field. He’s sure-handed. Perhaps Evans best trait is his love for the game. If there is a football in the air, he’s typically performing at that particular camp.
Evans has confirmed to both Rivals and 247 that he'll announce on Saturday. Sam Webb indicates Michigan is recruiting him as a slot receiver, and Evans didn't hide his intentions much when talking about his upcoming decision with The Wolverine's Chris Balas ($):
Evans confirmed that he plans to announce Saturday now rather than wait, and though he wouldn't give a list, he did say Michigan was high on his list.
"Academics," he said when asked the best part about his trip. "They were a big hit on academics first. Everything centered around that and what you do with that. That's the biggest part."
He said tradition and comfort level with the program and coaches would be the deciding factors in his decision, and it's clear U-M has emerged as a serious threat.
It'll be a surprise if Evans isn't a Wolverine this weekend.
Meanwhile, I've buried the lede: Michigan's first satellite camp immediately produced a commitment in Kiante Enis. There's a whole lot more on him in yesterday's Hello post. Since that went up, he clarified his positional future—somewhat, at least—to Scout's Anna Hickey ($):
Enis projects as an athlete at Michigan.
"They had me with the running backs today," Enis said. "I know they said come in as a running back first, and then receiver second and after that secondary."
After watching his film again, I think safety may represent Enis' best chance of seeing the field quickly, not only because of the depth on Michigan's roster, but his closing speed and willingness to lay a hit. That said, it could be hard to keep the ball out of his hands; I also liked his patience as a runner, which may help him stick at RB even though he doesn't fit the burly mold of a quintessential Harbaugh back.
Now the coaches are already on to camp the second, this one in Prattville, Alabama, home of incoming freshman Keith Washington and 2016 commit Kingston Davis. Davis gave Wolverine247 an update on his commitment status ($):
Since his commitment to Michigan, Davis has seen two major SEC offers from LSU and Florida. While a visit to LSU fell through last weekend, his current plan is to see both of those schools. He has no current plans as of now to return to Ann Arbor until the fall for an official visit. However, he maintains his commitment to the Wolverines.
"My commitment is solid," he said. "It would take something major for me to reconsider. There'd have to be a chance for a great education and a great opportunity to play early that would be better than what Michigan has to offer."
The good news is with the attention he's getting, I doubt Davis will remain a three-star for long; the flip side is Michigan will have to fend off some top programs, though if they can afford attrition from this class, it's at running back.
The highest-rated prospect at the Prattville camp, five-star AL SDE Marlon Davidson, is planning to make his way to Ann Arbor soon:
Biggest name at Michigan's Prattville satellite camp is 4-star Greenville (Ala.) DL Marlon Davidson. Plans to visit #Michigan July 19th
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) June 5, 2015
Getting Davidson on campus would be huge, though he's an Auburn legacy who most expect will end up there.
IMPORTANT, LATE-BREAKING HARBAUGH UPDATES:
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) June 5, 2015
— Albert Cesare (@AlbertCesare) June 5, 2015
GONNA BE A GREAT DAY. A GREAT WEEK. A GREAT MONTH. AND A GREAT YEAR.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Available from jonvalk, with or without redemption.
Diaries: That and the Tour de France in three parts. Mich1993 did a table of comparison of 4*+ upperclassmen at various positions. In 2013 there were nine; this year projects to 14 and 2015 projects to 30 as the Hokesters grow.
THE GREATEST NOTHING GAME EVER
South Bend Wolverine asked the assembled masses to pick a non-rivalry, non-major game from Michigan's past that you just remembered very fondly. Weirdly he then says the Air Force game—you weren't terrified of losing to Air Force after getting wrung out by Alabama? Other folk picked moderately big games, like the 1999 Citrus Bowl. And State games. C'mon, this isn't nam. Here's rules:
Disqualified: lots of MSU and Notre Dame games. Penn State games when PSU was ranked in the top 10 at some point. Bowl games Citrus or higher. Last-second wins (AC's catch vs. Indiana, etc.) Things remembered for personal reasons.
My favorites were all games when things went totally better than expected. Like the first Nebraska Big Ten game, when Martin forced a pitch and at the end we were chanting "Beat Ohio!" Another guy mentioned 1999 Purdue, to which: YES THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.
Tiller had been tearing up the league with the spread-n-Brees (47 pts vs UCF, 28 in a win over ND, 58 vs CMU, 31 vs NWern), and with all due respect to the legion of defensive backs from that team who are friends of this site, our secondary was a weak point. But not that day. That day Carr came out in a 3-3-5 and Todd and Whitley and Patmon and Tommy and B-Will decided to punish every receiver who dared come near them. The guy who remembered it being a nice day is wrong; it was rainy.
If we're extending to other sports, the Molly McGannon game. Whoever's idea it was to raise funds to name the student section the Molly McGannon Memorial Student Section, get on that already.
BRIAN GETS WINDY
Time to bust out the On the Road.gif
How's that for a geographic headline? Double-entendre baby. I should get paid for this. Like Brian got paid for taking his powerpoint presentation to a meeting of the grand association of Chicagoan alumni of Michigan. They also had Chris Balas; tell me you wouldn't pay to see Brian and Balas together, fielding questions about unspeakable things known only to the Fort.
Tentatively scheduled Monday the 18th in New York and Tuesday the 19th in Philadelphia, and currently talking to Cleveland. We plan on having a Marlin event at MGoPatio again this year, and something like that again at Notre Dame with Jared and the Sports Power Weekends trip, and Chicago again for Northwestern.
Pelini, not our Bo. Apparently he lost a recruit to Ole Miss the way people always lose croots to Ole Miss, and he decided to say/not-say. Then he blamed the parents. Don't you just love Pelini? I mean, he's kinda right: big-time recruits might be content with a scholarship and the benefits of playing in 100k stadiums, etc., but their parents who sank tens of thousands of dollars into training these athletes don't get diddly, and yet have a very large influence. Whatever happened with Cam Newton, nobody's disputing at least that his dad called asking for a ridiculous sum, correct?
Blame: the system, of course, but honestly if the players could get paid upfront, the bag men would still drop bags with the parents. As a solution, I'd just legalize that too: boosters can give money to whomever they please, so long as they report it, and maybe a portion goes to fund an NCAA branch that can police this stuff.
MICHIGAN SOUTH UPDATE
At 2:09 of this video Chad Henne throws a pass to Denard Robinson. Also in favor of your interests, they do a flash of Bortles and then a long segment on clearly-the-starter Henne, where Chad mentions they're using a lot more audibles (complexity favors the elders).
MICHIGAN OF THE ________
This design could be copied for any politically boundaried entity, really.
Your Moment of Zen
They weigh 12 oz. and they'll be in Ann Arbor on Monday.
Let's smother this meme in its crib, okay? In the aftermath of Nussmeier's hire you can't throw a rock without hitting an article that broaches the possibility of a QB controversy next year. [Picture at right: Adam Glanzman.]
Gentlemen. Let me first say that you are upstanding writers of things on the internet and I respect you all greatly. That dispensed with:
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR COTTON-PICKIN' MAIZE AND BLUE MINDS
FOR PANTS SAKE
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME MICHIGAN REPLACED A FIFTH YEAR SENIOR QUARTERBACK WITH A UNDERCLASSMAN VOLUNTARILY
DON'T LOOK IT UP I'LL TELL YOU NEVER
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SHANE MORRIS'S PERFORMANCE IN THE BOWL GAME THAT CONVINCES YOU HE'S THE GUY, EXACTLY
THAT ONE SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT OTHER SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT END AROUND THAT TECHNICALLY COUNTS AS A PASS
THE DUDE AVERAGED 5.2 YPA, WHICH IS THREET/SHERIDAN PRODUCTION
HE THREW AN INTERCEPTION THE INSTANT MICHIGAN LET HIM THROW DOWNFIELD
MICHIGAN SCORED SIX MEANINGFUL POINTS
DEVIN GARDNER WAS 80% DEAD MOST OF THIS YEAR AND STILL HAD 8.6 YPA
Right. I have high hopes that Morris and his cannon arm will develop nicely, but a senior Gardner coming off a season that's statistically quite promising despite having absolutely zero help from his running game is not getting replaced. Period. Guy was literally playing on a broken foot for most of the OSU game and still put up 41. He smoked Notre Dame. He had a lot of wobbly moments midseason, but when you're getting sacked 21 times in a month that will happen.
I'm sure there will be some rumbles about competition; I will believe each and every one of them just as much as I believed Saban to Texas.
200 pounds of twisted blue steel. Via MVictors, here is an OMG shirtless Bo in 1976 post heart-surgery:
1981 Rose Bowl. Here's all of it. Dick Enberg, not Keith Jackson, unfortunately:
Goodbye, Jeremy. A Gallon tribute:
Goodbye, NCAA. Underclassmen are leaving college for the pro ranks in increasing numbers, with last years record high of 73 already broken. This draft may feature as many as 100 underclassmen. This is partially due to CBA changes in the NFL that have prevented rookies from getting big first contracts, which changes the equation as to whether they should stay or go:
The new system doesn’t remove huge contracts. It delays them. To get a huge contract, a player must have at least three years in the NFL. And so it now makes sense to get to the NFL ASAFP, and to put in the time necessary to get the second contract.
The increasing money all around the kids probably isn't helping, either.
While this hasn't affected Michigan or—sigh—Ohio State much (Roby was gone either way), Notre Dame has taken a couple of unexpected hits, first RB/KR George Atkinson then TE Troy Niklas. Atkinson's departure is firmly on the "nuts" side of the scale since he's unlikely to get drafted at all; Niklas is projected as a second-rounder. ND has also lost WR Davaris Daniels to academics for the upcoming semester, but he should be back for fall as long as he crosses his Ts and dots his Is instead of having someone else do it.
A familiar name. Notre Dame is still looking for an offensive coordinator, and it might be someone you've heard of.
A source told Blue & Gold Illustrated that former Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges, current Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn and Quinn’s former assistant Don Patterson are on the short list.
Yuuuuup. Unfortunately, twitter is no longer showing the cavalcade of Michigan fans responding to Steve Lorenz's tweet on this topic, otherwise I would count up the AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-variant responses and compare them to the LOL-type responses.
Meanwhile in "really?" Bobby Petrino has swiped Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham for a reported five-year guaranteed contract of one million dollars per year. Louisville is throwing money at their problem like you would not believe, but unlike Doug Nussmeier, Grantham's track record is pretty iffy. Georgia yards per play of late:
- 2013: 5.4, 54th.
- 2012: 5.2, 34th.
- 2011: 4.5, 7th.
- 2010: 5.2, 39th.
- Georgia was in that 30-40 range just before Grantham showed up, so this is a guy with the best coordinator contract in all the land and he's had one legit defense in the past four years.
I wonder what the real numbers are. The GoDaddy bowl reported attendance of 107% of capacity. This may be slightly optimistic.
On the whole, bowl attendance declined marginally this offseason, but with the rampant number-fudging going on attendance could be collapsed and the official numbers would just be bolder and bolder lies.
Sounds familiar. The Seattle Seahawks have a pass defense that is almost unprecedented in the recent history of the NFL. How do they do it?
Quietly, the Seahawks have achieved a 13-3 record and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by exploiting a loophole: NFL referees are reluctant to throw endless flags for pass interference and defensive holding, even if defenses deserve them.
"They look at it and say, 'We may get called for one but not 10,'" said Mike Pereira, a former NFL vice president of officiating who is now a Fox analyst.
League insiders say this divisional-round matchup between the Seahawks and Saints, the NFC's top passing offense, may be Seattle's rule-bending masterpiece.
"They just seem to not care about the rules," said New York Giants wide receiver Louis Murphy, whose team was routed 23-0 by Seattle this season.
This is also Michigan State's strategy, not that Michigan could protect Devin Gardner long enough for anyone watching that particular game long enough to find out. The Seahawks are masters of the art, trading off less than one pass interference penalty a game (they picked up 13 on the year) for play after play where routes are disrupted and balls fall incomplete.
Since the NFL is the NFL, I'd expect them to come down with some sort of point of emphasis ruling, but college doesn't respond nearly as quickly and the penalties are far less punitive, so the jam-and-grab style with big corners projects to be effective into the future. Jabrill Peppers fits that mold, and once you put a bunch of weight on Channing Stribling he does as well.
Small changes. The NCAA is exploring allowing athletes to do stuff other than athlete, so the Boise State running back whose name I can forget can make hats and rappists can rap, etc.
Etc.: Urban loses Mike Vrabel to BOB's new Texans regime, which is a surprise. Vrabel's supposed to be Urban's ace recruiter; I'm not waiting for OSU's recruiting to fall off a cliff.
I know we no longer have Borges, Hoover Street Rag, but I say you should cram your existing OC-O-Meter philosophy onto whatever OC we currently have. Illinois was ranked, but they just lost to Northwestern so they will no longer be ranked. Probably ever. Meanwhile, Tre Demps is the Big Ten's Marshall Henderson.
Michigan's program is worth as much as an NFL team despite vastly lower revenues. I do not wonder why this is.
Tuesday. Must be time to post a shirtless photo of somebody. Nik Stauskas is a larger person.
Hopefully this makes him LeBron James, or at least more capable when it comes time to finish at the rim. Last year he had two modes: 1) Game, blouses dunk. 2) wildly inaccurate layup.
Drink. Nick Baumgardner, or at least his headline guy, gets the season off to a rousing start:
Not just a shooter: Nik Stauskas backs up his teary-eyed Final Four pledge by focusing on defense
"I'm going to get back in the gym as soon as I get back to Ann Arbor," Stauskas said, with tears in his eyes. "I'm going to be a different player next year."
Six months after making a vow to improve himself, Michigan's sharp-shooting Canadian sophomore showed up to media day Thursday looking like a different person.
Stauskas added 16 pounds of muscle to his frame, spending most of the summer in Ann Arbor in the weight room with fellow sophomore Caris LeVert.
Michigan loses two first round NBA picks; gets back three or four Sophomore Leap™ candidates, depending on how you look at McGary.
My other three is a lottery pick. Mitch McGary won't play in tonight's exhibition against NAIA Concordia. This is the only thing that prevents me from declaring victory in the great Glenn Robinson III Is A Small Forward Over John Beilein's Dead Body war of the 2013 offseason:
“Spike or Derrick will play at the point, Nik or Caris will play at the two, Glenn or Zak will be at the three, and at the other three it will be Jordan or Glenn. Jon’s played real well, too. Jon’s going to get a great chance.”
"The other three." A door opened, and Michigan became the first team to go 1 2 3 3 5, because it was good PR. In fairness to Beilein, the roles of the 3 and 4 in his system are not particularly different, especially when you've got a guy like Robinson.
Also, please be true:
“Glenn is one of our top assist guys in all the scrimmages thus far. A lot of times we’ll just let them play, and allow them to play to the vision and strengths that they have,” Beilein said. “He’s got an ability to play where he can see open men really quickly. You see a lot of kids who, for some reason, while they’re athletic, don’t have the same feel for the game in crowds.”
Shot creation from Robinson would be enormous. Freshman to sophomore leaps are possible at a couple of different positions from players who were already pretty damn good last time out.
A SHORT LIST OF THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
- Does Nik Stauskas rip an arm off a Concordia player, use it to shoot a three pointer, and then bite a chunk out of it as he leaves the floor?
- Is Caris LeVert showing any signs of making the proverbial Jump?
- Why did Tim Hardaway Jr get taller?
- That's still Trey Burke, right? I left my contacts out.
By the way, a quarter will get you in the door. If the University's making more money off the unclaimed student tickets, it's not going to be much money.
AT LEAST THEIR HELMETS WERE DUMB
Well, that's not good. By the time I got home from Saturday's hockey game it was halftime in the PSU-OSU game and the score was 42-7. That's some pretty un-swell boding right there. By the end, the Ohio State offense had eviscerated Penn State in unprecedented ways:
• Ohio State racked up 686 yards of total offense against Penn State, a new high for the Buckeyes against a Big Ten defense and a new low for the Nittany Lions in the 127-year history of the program. The final score, 63–14, made it the most lopsided defeat Penn State has endured since Nov. 25, 1899, in a 64–5 loss to the Duquesne Athletic Club, which was also the last time Penn State allowed 60 points. In the intervening 114 years, only two other opponents scored 50 points against Penn State: West Virginia in October 1988, and Navy in October 1944.
I was curious and grabbed a torrent of that event. OSU's line blew that 282 pound defensive tackle who occasionally featured against Michigan off the line regularly, took all manner of perimeter screens when presented the opportunity (including, oddly, a third and one conversion and a second and one conversion), and used Hyde as a punishing alternative to Braxton Miller—the usual. I guess they've kind of struggled in their other league games? Yeah.
Also alarming was Michigan State's Illinois-aided demolition of Illinois:
• Michigan State QB Connor Cook was 15-of-16 for 208 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois, setting a school record for pass efficiency (264.8) in a 42–3 rout. After a slow start, the Spartan offense as a whole converted 14 of 16 third-down attempts – including a kneel-down to end the game – the best single-game rate by any team this season, and scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions before killing the clock.
One of those touchdown drives featured an Illinois player certain to intercept not only not doing that but batting the ball directly to a Michigan State player for a touchdown. That put MSU up 14-3 in a half featuring that and a goal line stand for MSU at the one, turning a potential tie into a lead insurmountable and eventually a laughable blowout.
On the bright side, Minnesota ran for almost 300 yards in a relatively easy win over Nebraska. Football is weird. That's the hope now, anyway.
At least this is the last year we have to talk about this. Fresno State and Northern Illinois are currently undefeated and on track to finish higher than the champion of the Large America conference, which means whichever finishes higher in the final standings will get the honor of being annihilated in a BCS Game. This is the BCS's own fault, because rough and tough football coaches mewled about how it was mean when that man scored another touchdown:
One of the reasons the Bulldogs and Huskies are in such solid position, surprisingly, is their good standing in the computer polls, where both rank in the top 15 despite the computers' alleged emphasis on strength of schedule. (NIU's best win is over Iowa, by three points; the crown jewel in Fresno's resumé is either a one-point win over Rutgers, in overtime, or a one-point win over Boise State.) In fact, even the machines don't really know what to do with them. In Jeff Sagarin's rankings, for example, his "real" rankings – which include margin of victory – list both NIU and Fresno as mediocrities at No. 51 and No. 52, respectively, nowhere near the threshold for a BCS game; in the version Sagarin submits to the BCS, though, which excludes margin of victory, the same teams come in at No. 3 and No. 14.
The BCS has been one eyerolling compromise after another. Even if the playoff committee was Condoleeza Rice and 14 animals representing the diversity of American agriculture the output would be less of a steaming pile than the soon-to-be late, extraordinarily unlamented BCS.
Math is just a tool, and for two decades the people in charge of college football took the safety off of Richard Billingsley and pointed him at their face, then sawed-off the other computer rankings and pointed them at their family. We're better off without it if it's going to be used like that: by morons.
I'm back from parts unknown—okay, Phoenix—with definitive proof that TomVH, not myself, is the recruiting analyst with the vacation-commitment curse (or gift, depending on your perspective). It's been mostly quiet on the recruiting front for the past week, save for Michigan finally pinning down a big-time visit.
Roll Out The
Red Blue Carpet
LA RB Leonard Fournette would like some extra barbeque with his barbeque, please:
New Orleans (LA) St. Augustine 2014 running back Leonard Fournette has been talking about visiting Michigan for some time now.
On Sunday, Wolverine247 insider Steve Lorenz confirmed that Fournette, the Nations top running back, will visit Michigan for an extended visit next week.
This year's BBQ at the Big House is a two-day event slated for Saturday/Sunday; Fournette will arrive in Ann Arbor on Thursday and spend the weekend — accompanied by both of his parents, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($). Fournette and his family remain adamant that the nation's top back doesn't have any leaders despite everyone expecting the Louisiana native to stay in the Southeast. Michigan is still a longshot and I will continue saying that until there's very concrete evidence to the contrary; Fournette staying for a long weekend with his parents, however, certainly indicates serious interest.
Fournette won't be the only 2014 running back in attendance at the BBQ; Michigan has long been among the top schools for New Jersey three-star Jonathan Hilliman, whose offer sheet far outstrips his current rankings — he'll be in town this weekend, but the Wolverines have ground to cover, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
Hilliman's top five schools were, in no order, Ohio State, Alabama, Rutgers, Michigan and Vanderbilt but he already knows of one school that will make it to the next round.
"I'm going to cut down to three," he said. "Ohio State is still the leader. We're keeping in contact and it's easy for me to see how interested they are. I know Ohio State is going to make the cut and most likely Rutgers will also but I want to see how the visit goes. I'm not sure of which school will be that third one.
The BBQ gives Michigan a good chance to be that third school; Ohio State is obviously the team to beat. I'll have the full rundown on BBQ visitors on Thursday, once I've had a chance to settle back in and more recruits confirm whether or not they'll attend.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on early enrollees, the latest on Adoree' Jackson, and updates on several underclassmen, including Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and the two choice eliminations from his recruitment.]
EA Sports has seen this picture.
It's that time of year when football-starved gaming aficionados devour each morsel of information that EA Sports deigns to leak. With NCAA Football 14—totally not featuring real people, we swear!—set to release next month, that process has begun in earnest. Last week, Operation Sports unleashed a video of some guy scrolling through the top ten players on each team, which if nothing else gives a bored college football blogger something to write about. Since the ratings in NCAA often make little sense, I decided to take a stab at guessing Michigan's ten highest-rated players before hitting play (the game tends to reward seniority, which may explain some of my picks):
- Taylor Lewan
- Jake Ryan
- Devin Gardner
- Jeremy Gallon
- Michael Schofield
- Thomas Gordon
- Quinton Washington
- Brendan Gibbons
- Desmond Morgan
- Blake Countess
I also asked Brian to give his list:
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dennis Norfleet
- Dr. Hamlet III
You're a great help, Brian.
Anyway, here's the great unveiling:
If you don't want to find the right time to pause the video (2:02 mark) and peruse the ratings yourself, here's what EA Sports came up with for Michigan:
LT #77Taylor Lewan (96 overall)
- Jeremy Gallon (90)
- Devin Gardner (89)
- Jake Ryan (89)
- Matt Wile (88)
- Frank Clark (88)
- Brendan Gibbons (88)
- Thomas Gordon (88)
- Raymon Taylor (87)
- Desmond Morgan (87)
I have no problem with the top four, especially with Lewan earning such a lofty rating (only two Alabama players are rated higher than 93, though both come in at 97 and their entire top ten is at least a 91). Punter Matt Wile—notable for being Not Will Hagerup, since the game includes just one of each specialist—lands at fifth, which is... strange, even though Wile has plenty of talent.
Then comes the big leap. Junior DE Frank Clark, with all of two career sacks, is clearly EA's choice for breakout player, granted a loftier ranking than several proven commodities. The Frank Clark Offseason Hype Machine has gone national, and frankly that makes me nervous. This is the same video game that rated redshirt sophomore safety Brandon Smith, who had mostly played on special teams, at 88 overall before the 2010 edition, only to see him transfer before the season started. Beware the Offseason Hype Machine.*
[EDIT: So... the video lists DE #97 as the team's sixth-best player, not DE #57. In my haste to say that EA took up the driver's seat on a player's offseason bandwagon, I named the wrong bandwagon: they're apparently quite enthused about Brennen Beyer, who... moved from WDE to SAM this offseason after Jake Ryan's injury and is projected to back up Cam Gordon. Okay, then.]
The rest of the list is justifiable, though I'd wager that Michigan's top cornerback and linebacker in the 2015 edition won't be Raymon Taylor and Desmond Morgan, respectively; Blake Countess gets dinged for coming off an ACL tear, while presumably EA used up their breakout spot on Clark instead of James Ross, who would've been my choice there.
A QUICK SCAN FOR RIDICULOUS RATINGS ON OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS REVEALS...
- Nathan Scheelhaase is 89 overall, two better than Butkus Award semifinalist and potential first-round NFL draft pick Jonathan Brown. Yes, the same Nathan Scheelhaase who split snaps with Reilly O'Toole as a junior returning starter.
- Indiana's best player is a white strong safety. Viva Hoosier Kovacs.
- Iowa's third-best player is this guy, which... sounds about right, actually.
- Denicos Allen is a very good player, don't get me wrong, but having him as a 95(!)—Michigan State's top player—over 91-overall Max Bullough, the unquestioned heart of that defense, is surprising.
- Ra'Shede Hageman is Minnesota's highest-rated player at 88 overall and surely Brian's choice for most underrated player. The next-best Gophers come in at 83 overall, and players in the 70s crack the top ten. Woof.
- Ameer Abdullah is not among Nebraska's top ten players, which makes me question if EA Sports bothered to watch so much as a second of the Huskers last season.
- Unstoppable Throw-God Trevor Siemian is 85 overall, so clearly EA didn't catch last year's Michigan/Northwestern tilt.
- Braxton Miller is a terrifying 96 overall and is better than many running backs at breaking tackles (81 rating). I hate that this is in no way ridiculous.
- Penn State's Allen Robinson, the best receiver in the conference last year, merits just an 87 rating, which seems especially low given that unspectacular PSU running back Zach Zwinak is just behind him at 86.
- Purdue right tackle Trevor Foy, who wasn't even All-B1G honorable mention last season, ranks at 92 overall, putting him at least five points higher than Michael Schofield. While I can't say I've watched Foy all that much, either EA knows something we don't or this is pretty bizarre.
- None of Wisconsin's top ten players are offensive lineman, which does not pass my sanity check.
- Not Big Ten, but it's worth noting that academically-ineligible Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is in the game and, at 89 overall, is just as good as Devin Gardner.
Yeah, it's probably best not to take these things too seriously. The bigger issue here is finally ridding the game of post-route-intercepting middle linebackers, anyway; while I haven't seen that addressed specifically, EA does appear to be doing some cool stuff with Dynasty Mode, which is where I spend most of my time in the game.
*I'm not saying Clark won't be quite good, only that this level of hype, when contrasted with on-field production, involves a great deal of projection. Frank Clark could be a terrifying quarterback-killing machine or a backup before the season ends or anything in between, and we have no earthly clue where he'll land on that spectrum.