Live streaming goes just far enough. There is a live stream of IL PF Max Bielfeldt's announcement, which is going to happen in about ten minutes here. Michigan and Illinois are the contenders with most signs pointing to Michigan despite Bielfeldt's last name being on more than one building in Champaign. Bielfeldt compares himself to Luke Harangody and put up monster numbers as a senior, but recruiting sites say he's an "average at best" athlete. Think Graham Brown, I guess, except apparently he's got a decent shooting stroke that extends to the three point line.
I hope this is one game. Trey Burke highlight reel ahoy:
Probably one game, right? I bet they cut out a couple misses but probably one game.
Even in the unlikely event this is a season's worth of highlights, that's still pretty encouraging. Burke shows a three-point stroke, crossovers, spin moves, a nice pull-up jumper, and a floater in the lane. The diversity of his offensive game is impressive, and if these stats are right…
Burke is averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals. He is shooting 58.7 percent from the field, 46.6 percent from three-point range (54 of 116) and 73.3 percent at the free-throw line (88 of 120).
…dang, we may have just ganked* the next Talor Battle away from Penn State. (I only doubt because a separate article has even more ludicrous shooting percentages, FWIW. I believe the very slightly more pessimistic version but there's some wobble that makes me think they may have overlooked some attempts.)
48% from three plus that highlight video plus winning Mr. Basketball over a bunch of other D-I commits including a guy headed to Michigan State equals one extremely underrated recruit—Burke is a three star on Rivals. ESPN does have him a bit higher as a four star ranked #85, and boy were they right about Tim Hardaway Jr. Let's hope their streak continues.
In other basketball recruiting news, Carlton Brundidge just saw his high school career end in painful fashion. He tied Southfield's state semifinal against Kalamazoo Central with a 17-foot pull up, missed a backdoor layup on the ensuing possession, made both halves of a 1-and-1 to re-tie the game, then saw Central get a putback off an airball for the win. Burke plays his semifinal tonight at 8:30.
*["Ganked" should have made the transition from thing you say in sixth grade to critical part of the language by now.]
Frank Beckmann thinks this is racist
The tipping point. I've read Ramzy Nasrallah's stuff on and off for a very long time now and while some of his opinions make me roll my eyes I'm sure that's mutual. It's a natural consequence of being on opposite sides of the rivalry. That said, he's always been worth reading even when we disagree, and when he posts something titled The Case For Regicide that signals a huge shift in the portion of the Ohio State fanbase that doesn't have neckbeards. That shift is from "this shall pass" to "this seems too dumb to tolerate; we're screwed, at least insofar as a football program with OSU's natural advantages can be, which isn't that much."
I've been pretty strident in my opinion that Tressel should be fired and now it seems fairly likely he will. He's already been tried, compared to Nixon, and executed in the media. In that event the big questions lie in the eventual results of what seems like it will be a labyrinthine NCAA investigation and whether or not Tressel will axe Gordon Gee on his way out. I'm guessing "disappointing" and "yes."
More pads. More pads:
At the 35 second mark Denard runs a zone read for many yards, and then a power play gets destroyed. I'm just sayin'…
Seriously though, seeing a zone read makes me happy even if they hardly ran it last year. Tough talk and an open-minded offensive coordinator are where it's at.
Fort? No fort. Last year Michigan had an open practice in Michigan Stadium that you could buy your way into by shelling out for the big baller seats or donating to Mott at the Spring Game. Rodriguez hated it and I had to wait until the rest of the internet had responded to round up third-party impressions because I'd been asked not to relate anything I saw myself. So that was a one-off, right? Hoke's back and so is The Fort and that'll never happen again:
Fans attending the game will be asked to make any donation the hospital. Donations at the following levels will come with a correlating gift:
• $5: A 5”x7” Fathead Trading Card of either Charles Woodson or Desmond Howard.
• $20: A Fathead Teammate Block M (roughly 12”x7”).
• $100: A Fathead Junior Big House Mural (17”x30”).
• $250: Four passes to a pre-season scrimmage
• $500: Two pre-game sideline passes (does not include game tickets) to one of the following four games: Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State or Minnesota.
• $750: Two pre-game sideline passes (does not include game tickets) to the Nebraska game.
Except apparently it will. Never underestimate the power of club seating. I went last year with Greg of MVictors and FOB Craig Ross. It was rainy and strange but I thought it was worth it because I'm insane.
Notes from Brady Hoke's meeting with the media today. Photo from file.
Ray Vinopal is no longer with the team. "Ray decided to go back Youngstown. You know, that issue's more a family issue."
Injuries: Christian Pace is doing individual drills only. "Molk's the other guy who hasn't done anything but some individual. He'll be fine by Tuesday." - hamstring tweak. Troy Woolfolk is doing a little group work, mostly individual. JT Floyd doing less group stuff than Troy. Mike Shaw is doing alternate conditioning things. Next week, he'll do more with the cast on. "I think we're OK health-wise. I don't think we're anything of real significance yet."
"We wouldn't play a game" for the spring 'game' with the team's current injury level. Would do more situational scrimmage-type stuff. With only 11 more practice days, "I doubt if we'll play a game game. I'd like to, but we don't have enough depth."
No new position changes. There may be some later in the spring when they've had more of a chance to evaluate.
During the spring, "we'll put [a depth chart] out. Nothing's given. You're gonna have to earn it." If you end spring as a starter, you better keep working over the summer, and in fall camp, because you have to earn your job.
Wants to install 50-60% of offense and defense in spring (Al Borges would like to get 65% of the offense in). You can install more in the fall as you're gameplanning. "Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play." [ed: This is a very MANBALL quote.]
QBs: "I think both of them have done a good job. I think you look at, the different things are a little more under center, obviously. The ball mechanics and footwork... all those technical things that go along with it. So, I think they've both done a good job, they're both very capable of being tremendous quarterbacks in this offense."
RBs: "I wouldn't wanna say any of them's any better than the other ones. Vince [Smith] has done a good job, [Stephen] Hopkins has come on, Fitz [Toussaint] had a good day in there with a couple good runs, and Michael Cox is a guy that has some outstanding ability, and we've just gotta keep progressing with him."
Fullbacks: "We don't have a lot of fullbacks." Hopkins works out well at FB "for a lot of the old 49ers stuff" with split backs. Hoke wants fullbacks to block so hard they "come in at about 6-3, and leave the program at 6-1." Wisconsin fullbacks get shorter as the years go on.
WRs: "They have to do both" block and catch. They have the most bodies there and at safety. Lots of competition, so guys they have to block well and catch well to see the field.
Lines: "We just don't have a whole lot of bodies there... That's always, up there, because you need a lot of bodies on both sides." They need to address it in future recruiting. With Molk and Pace out, Rocko Khoury is getting most snaps at center. Patrick Omameh is getting a lot of reps with limited line depth.
Defensive line: "There's some guys who have played some significant minutes and downs up there that we've gotta get 'em better when you talk about the fundamentals of playing the position." Quinton Washington ("he shows up") and Richard Ash ("has made some progress") are doing well, you expect the 2 seniors to step up. "I think Will [Campbell] had some real good plays the other day, and he's gotta have more of those than bad plays."
Kicking game: "They're doing OK. We haven't gone full-bore into it... They have their specialists but we put a little live rush on them and those kinds of things yesterday." All the different elements (snap, hold, kick) need to come together.
There have been three practices so far, one in pads. "I've liked the tempo that we played with. I like how the guys are flying around to some extent. We've still got a lot that we've gotta get better at, and playing fanatical as a team."
"We're not playing as fast as we will" due to the nature of learning. Still pleased with the competition level. Guys come in wanting to improve every day.
How to cultivate a competitive atmosphere: "You do that by rewarding guys who play well, and guys who don't play as well, you maybe don't get as many snaps." In their situational drills (red zone, etc.), "There's consequences for losing." There is competition within positions and also offense v defense.
Smooth transition for Denard? "I think so." He sometimes has issues with rushing the footwork, but both QBs have handled it really well. Once in a while, Denard shows off those feet. "If you leave a little crease in there, he can go get it."
How have players responded to practice intensity? "They haven't come to see me about it. I guess it's been OK."
Any spring surprises? "Not yet. I think it's way too early to make any comment, to be honest with you. We're just really scratching the surface, in my opinion." General thoughts: "I think there's a little more, I think good and bad... You want to see some guys be a little more physical and a little more sudden in some of the things they're doing. At the same time, there's some other guys who have done a good job of being physical and the things that you're looking for."
By the end of spring, "We'll never be where I want us to be. Period. I know me." It's typical here, like it was with BSU and SDSU, they know where the team is starting and where they want to be when they finish spring. "We're where I thought we'd be right now, and where we thought we'd be."
There's a learning curve "paralysis by analysis" when installing new O and D. You see it more on the defensive side of the ball (which is by nature reactive). "From an offensive standpoint you may see it when the guys up front start movement patterns." Players over-thinking new plays, technique, etc. being a little different. "They're hungry, and they wanna learn. We just gotta keep as coaches doing a good job of being teachers."
Fundamentals and techniques of positions are the critical areas. Every position needs to know proper alignments, line splits, etc. Effort and toughness do not have any wiggle room for being less than perfect. The techniques and schemes are new, but effort and toughness do not change. How big is the gap between what players are doing and it should be done? "I don't know. The Grand Canyon size, right now." Players want to be coached and do it the right way. Guys who have played a lot might be further along, but may be slower learning a different way to do things.
They have 1-on-1 padded drills, not necessarily tackling all the time. "You're only limited to a certain amount [of full-contact practices], so you've gotta cherish those dates."
Had to move practice to 5:30 in the morning [ed: !!!] on Monday because 40-some players had Monday afternoon class. "Morning is my favorite time of day, but i worry about the other end of it for the kids" from an academic perspective.
It's important to practice outside in fall, but not so much in spring. "Previous experience here has told me you may get 6 times at the most to get out in the 15 days." The new indoor facility allows full kicking game, you can throw full deep routes without hitting the ceiling.
Meta. Here's a screenshot of a blog taking a screenshot of itself:
I wish I had thought of that. That's UMHoops. After a season of coverage they're gently prodding people to click the donate button. I did, then checked my email to find that I had received a donation exactly the same size as the one I'd just made. I promise this will happen to you if you chip in.
If you promise to be gentle, I will gingerly shake your hand. Congratulations to wrestler Kellen Russell, who won the national championship at 141 pounds and was the primary reason Michigan finished 15th at the national championships. He beat Boris Novachkov—no doubt sent by a Russian oligarch to destroy democracy—of Cal in the final.
Russell went 38-0 against an insane gauntlet of opponents. The Big Ten featured five of the top six wrestlers in his weight class. Russell beat all of them, beat a bunch of them again in the conference tourney, beat a bunch of them again again in the national tournament, and finally defeated Russia's nefarious plans in the final. Statistically it's the best season in Michigan wrestling history even if it came by the slimmest of margins:
It didn’t matter when he heard his ankle pop while he was tied, midway through the championship match and couldn’t put pressure on his leg.
It didn’t matter that it took Russell a combined four overtimes to advance through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, or that both wins came from the slimmest of margins — a meager 21 seconds of combined riding time, earned by being on top of your opponent.
Russell returns for another go-around next year.
We are talking about practice. Normally the start of spring practice would get banner headlines around here, but something something basketball something so here's this:
I was slightly disturbed by the bit where they run through the dong forest:
Whatever happened to family values? /boren'd
Draft tea leaves. Michigan had their pro day, during which Jonas Mouton showed relatively well and Martell Webb showed at 274(!) pounds. Commence retroactive Greg Frey assault, though:
G Stephen Schilling did pretty much what everyone expected in Ann Arbor. His athleticism, quick feet and pulling speed continue to entice NFL teams. He looked solid in positional drills, showing he can physically do what he will be called upon to do.
The one issue that showed up during his workout, something not unexpected from watching Schilling on film, was his shaky technique. He often bent at the waist and leaned rather than keeping his feet under him.
I'm not even mad. The Tennessee game was a crazy outlier, a 30-point blowout in which the winning team made no free throws and only attempted one. Surely you cannot find one Tennessee fan on the planet who is complaining about the refereeing in the aftermath. Surely this is the one game ever played in which everyone agrees that—
Tennessee is better than Michigan.
Yeah, I said it. Tennessee is better. It was obvious at the outset that Michigan could not guard Tennessee. They were too slow. They were guarding with their hands and fouling. We were getting past their defenders at will.
Then, about 10 minutes in, we were only up about 5 and we had completely outplayed them. I began to think we may have problems.
Then the refs took over. They called charges if Michigan's players even thought about moving their feet to establish position...which they never did. After four bogus charges (and one legitimate one on them that went uncalled), Tennessee changed its offense. UT no longer drove the ball. They settled or outside shots and pull ups. They missed. A lot. The refs had accomplished their mission. They single-handedly took Tennessee out of its offense. Then Michigan started hitting from outside.
Thanks to the above elements, Michigan went on a run. Tennessee got down. Then Tennessee quit. I'm not excusing that, but given the recent events of the past few days and given that it was abundantly clear from the officiating that UT would not be allowed to win this game, it's understandable. So a loss turned into a blowout loss.
Thank God college basketball is over. I won't watch another game in this tournament because it's ridiculously subjective and corrupt. I just don't know if I'll care enough to watch any of it next year. It's like scripted reality TV. Can't wait for football.
That is amazing. I love this man for posting this thing on the Tennessee message board that had the nice story about Beilein. He has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no possible game in which fans of the loser will not blame the refs.
Exit Pearl. Bruce Pearl has been fired at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. There were some minor recruiting violations and one extremely minor violation of the bump rule, too, but if Pearl just says "my bad" in the room he gets away with a minor suspension a la Izzo/Calhoun. Instead he lies and then fails to report the bump violation and he's out.
Is this Tennessee doing a 180 from earlier in the year when they seemed determined to hold on to Pearl at all costs? It doesn't look like it. Fans are apoplectic. Wes Rucker tweeted that anyone who thinks Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton wants a new coach "is wrong"; that link contains one of those impossibly long and plausible-seeming emails that get batted around the internet but can never be confirmed suggesting the same. Meanwhile, FOX's Jeff Goodman says that UT's hand was forced:
Hamilton — according to sources — was recently informed that the NCAA would be coming down hard on Pearl and he opted to cut ties.
Add another notch on Bylaw 10.1's belt.
The obvious comparison is to Tressel, who voluntarily extended his suspension to five games as if his violation is on par with those of his players. Media still isn't buying this, especially if the suspension only applies to gameday. In Tressel's corner: he didn't lie to anyone's face and he didn't follow up his transgression with an otherwise minor violation that proved he'd learned nothing, then score another violation in March—ie, now. Not so much in his corner: Pearl's troubles stem from a minor recruiting violation acquired in the pursuit of a player he didn't actually get; Tressel covered up violations that made five important players ineligible through an entire season, failed to disclose the problem four separate times, and duped the NCAA into making them eligible for the Sugar Bowl. I think Tressel's violation is considerably worse than Pearl's but that could just be a zillion losses talking.
Here's one bet on supplemental. Notre Dame terrorbeast Michael Floyd got hit with something between a garden-variety and Kevin Grady "Mickey Mouse is a dog" frightening DUI, getting pulled over with a .19 BAC after running a stop sign. That would warrant a game or two suspension at most places. At Notre Dame they have some jackbooted bureaucrats called the Office of Residence Life who are like every evil movie dean ever, though. Pot possession? Gone for the year… or out for the Purdue game*. Drankin'? No big deal or season-long suspension.
Which will it be? Well, that last link may be the most relevant: TE Will Yeatman got booted for a year for being one of 37 underage ND students ticketed at a house party. He had picked up a DUI in January for driving down the sidewalk with a .11 BAC. Floyd has not one but two underage drinking citations in his past and by exceeding .15 BAC has been charged with a more serious version of drunk driving. If precedent holds Brian Kelly is going to watch his best player get suspended by the dread Office and head to the NFL's supplemental draft.
*[I could not for the life of me find definitive word on what Ragone got hit with, but the NCAA says he played in every game except ND's opener.]
Just screwin' around for pi day. It turns out Zack Novak doesn't know 62 digits of pi:
He does know more than you do.
Etc.: Jalen Rose makes it very clear for anyone who still has trouble parsing Jalen Rose's very clear sentences. Ohio State rabble-rouser Bruce Hooley gets insta-fired for his comments about Tressel, and my reaction is admiration—people in Ann Arbor itself still have to deal with miserable schticky losers, let alone Detroit. Eamonn Brennan says Michigan fans have a lot to look forward to. Boston College fans shipped to St. Louis as four seed UNH gets to play at home are on-board with ditching the current regional format. The Bylaw Blog argues that anyone with a problem with the NCAA should really look at the NBA and NFL for providing zero alternatives. Nebraska won't add hockey even though they've got a multipurpose arena opening in 2013. The culprit is the usual: Title IX, a law made in a different world. In this one 57% of college students are women.
The Spring 2011 football roster has been posted on the mother ship. I don't know how I missed this before, but it includes a 2009 walk-on RB named "Jihad" (joking about this can't possibly end well). He is for real. He is the Next Barry Sanders (HS video) He's from Detroit Southeastern, so we can guess walking on at M wasn't his HS coach's idea.
Other information to be gleaned from the roster isn't as entertaining, but might be useful. Some of it already seems outdated so I won't trouble you too long, but since the roster was down for a month and then reappeared with changes and Greg Brown listed, I figured it was legit enough to play with.
NOTE: I removed my section on player weights. Apparently the Athletic Dept. just posted a bunch of freshman weights instead of, you know, the actual size of our players. No: the football team didn't shrink. I am profoundly sorry.
Things of special note that could mean everything or nothing:
- Mike Williams is on the roster.
- Furman is a redshirt freshman (I thought I saw him in at some point but don't quote me on that). He's listed as a safety.
- Other erstwhile SAMwise Spinners of SLBiness listed as safeties: both Gordons, Carvin J, M-Rob.
- Gardner is listed as a true sophomore. Don't panic yet.
- Slot receiver is still separate on roster from WR. Odoms, 'Tree, Grady, T-Rob, Dileo and Gallon listed there.
- New walk-ons: QB Steve Wilson (Jr*), RB Jihad Rasheed (Fr*), OL Joey Burzynski (Fr*), TE Mike Kwiatkowski (Jr*), S Charlie Zeller (So*)
- Greg Brown is listed as a cornerback (not a safety). He will wear #35
- Steve Watson is listed as a DE still, and Will Campbell's still on there as an OL. Trust that this is outdated info.
- Walk-on # changes: slot receiver Jordan Barpal from 10 to 35, DT Alex Schwab from 68 to 60
- Tom Pomarico still exists, will be Long Snapper again. Isn't he 30 by now?
- Ricardo Miller is a WR (not a TE) and wearing No. 80 instead of 82. Hey guys, remember when that other guy who wore 80 switched to…
- 1 is open.
Continued from yesterday's extended look at the offense.
Scheme vs. Fundamentals: Fight
If you ask about the 3-3-5 and pull the string on a Michigan coach, this is what you get:
"Too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise," Rodriguez tells Ryan Terpstra on ESPN 96.1. "I mean, a lot of people are saying we're doing this or that, but basically, what we're doing this spring more than anything else is fundamentally trying to get better – trying to tackle better, trying to be able to react to the ball better so we get more people around the ball."
Greg Robinson said much the same thing to Adam Rittenberg and reiterated that to the folks at the coaches' clinic: "The fundamentals of leverage and angle and how a player uses his eyes and hands is more important than any scheme." I'm sure if you bugged any of Michigan's position coaches they would robotically intone a similar paean to fundamentals.
To this I say: 50% bollocks! It's not that fundamentals aren't important. Anyone who saw the performance of Craig Roh and Stevie Brown relative to expectations last year knows that how you tackle, cover, and read the opponent is a huge part of a football team's suck or lack thereof. You can ask Florida State about that. But I interpret "too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise" as "I would not like to talk about the details here; let's focus on platitudes." Certain defenses have strengths and weaknesses and fit other players better or worse, and while a defense that is robotically efficient is probably going to be decent that will depend on how well the players fit into the scheme.
The line should be the strength of the defense again. Will Campbell is rounding into a load, a true NT who requires a double team and holds up against it most of the time. At other times he gets too high, but they're working on that and by fall they hope he can be an anchor in there. Van Bergen is a redshirt junior who played well in a tough spot as a starter last year and is at a more natural position where he's doing well. No one's 100% sure that Mike Martin is going to be the other DE—the coaches will try him at both spots in fall—but Campbell "needs to be on the field" and Martin is likely to be Michigan's best defensive lineman, so that's the logical spot.
Michigan would like to get Campbell down another 10 pounds or so.
At end, Banks is starting in Martin's absence. Rodriguez mentioned yesterday that they've moved Adam Patterson to the nose, which 1) just about spells the end of Patterson as a potential contributor and 2) hints that Martin is going to start in the spot Banks currently occupies. I can't imagine a 272 pound senior is going to get substantial playing time as a zero-tech NT. He may be a situation substitution in pass-rush situations, but I kind of thought they might move Martin back inside and let Banks or even Roh take a crack at a speed rush when that happened.
The backups here are pretty sketchy without the freshman reinforcements, but Anthony Lalota was a regular entrant into the backfield against the second-string offensive line. He's RVB's backup with Heininger out.
There were some concerns about Craig Roh, who's a great athlete going directly upfield but doesn't have the lateral mobility to shuffle a step or two one way and then re-route his body in time to avoid blocking angles or get a proper zone drop. He'll be blitzing a ton; Michigan will be vulnerable when the opposition is running misdirection and Roh is being asked to execute linebacker responsibilities. Think waggles, counters, reverses, that sort of thing. He has displayed an aptitude in one-on-one coverage, though. He tracked a Michigan State tight end down and raked a ball free last year in a matchup that you'd think heavily favors the receiver; there were a couple other instances where his ability to cover a guy downfield was a surprising bonus.
There didn't seem to be a whole lot of progress with Ezeh and Mouton, though it's hard to tell with the move to the new system. Their responsibilities have changed and there's a learning curve that anyone would have. Moving to the 3-3-5 should allow Mouton to blitz almost as frequently as Roh; this is Mouton's main strength.
A surging Kenny Demens has been held out the last few days.
Observer A is a major believer in Robinson, though, citing that Roh play and a few others as an example of Robinson's ability to coach up players in a short amount of time. He was in charge of Roh and Brown last year; this year he's got all three linebackers. Robinson himself believes Mouton could be a breakout player. Here is a classic Robinson-ism that will make Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician delighted: "We just need to get him to slow down to play faster." Mouton overruns plays because he's "too instinctive" and doesn't always follows his keys, as anyone who remembers his 5-minus 8-minus 3 lines in UFR can tell you.
I've been pretty positive about the idea of running Jordan Kovacs out as a box safety since he was a heady kid and solid tackler and in the 3-3-5 DVD I have that is no longer a wasted purchase, Jeff Casteel repeatedly emphasizes that those characteristics are by far the most important when it comes to spurs and bandits. As a bonus, as the weakside guy Kovacs has the luxury of playing in space (usually) unblocked, so his size won't be a major hindrance.
HOWEVA, discussions with Observer A made it clear that running a 1-high defense* constantly is a recipe for getting four verticals in your face time and again and that teams could force Michigan into a two-deep alignment by formation or playcall. Jordan Kovacs being a walk-on sort of guy, they will do this constantly until Michigan proves they can deal with it.
Why not just deposit Marvin Robinson or Josh Furman at this spot in fall? Think about it: the bandit has to roll up to the line of scrimmage and act as a force player in the 3-3-5. Force players are important. It's their job to funnel everything inside of them. (This is often called "leveraging the football.") If they screw up, the runner is outside everyone and loping for a first down. In pass coverage they have to read and drop into flat zones, play something called "flat buzz" that I'm not quite clear on yet, and generally act as a cover two corner would. So there's all that. Then the bandit will have to rotate back into a two-deep on occasion, play a deep third when they switch up coverages, blitz, respond to motion, etc etc etc. It's probably the most complicated position on the defense. Throwing a freshman in there is asking for it.
Kovacs is Michigan's best option at the bandit, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good option.
Spur is also sketchy. Mike Williams has plummeted down the depth chart and is now behind both walk-on Floyd Simmons and redshirt freshman (and scholarship possessor!) Thomas Gordon. Williams is healthy, FWIW. Gordon did get some daps/love/props from observers who thought he was aware and athletic enough to deal with the coverages he'll be asked to run—a "pleasant surprise"—but he's safety-sized and is going to be asked to play over a tight end. He's also a redshirt freshman. Simmons also made a few plays and might be an okay option as a backup.
Observer A evaluated this group of eight players as "slow, small, inexperienced, or injured." He didn't add "pick three," but my brain did. Michigan's got a couple of fantastic prospects for the future in Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson (plus Carvin Johnson), but a couple of painful years beckon before Michigan has any chance of getting a guy who has both athleticism and a clue on the field.
The combination of cluelessness and lack of crazy athleticism led to a couple plays were Michigan just ran a tight end straight down the seam without a bump and gave up 30-yard plays. Michigan has an adjustment they want to install, but they haven't done it yet.
*(A one-high defense has one safety in the middle of the field and is usually cover 1 or cover 3 unless the defense is playing a disguised coverage. A two high defense has two safeties approximately on the hashes and usually suggests cover 2 or 4.)
The three members of the secondary proper actually didn't scare Observer A very much. Woolfolk is pretty good, Floyd is improved—though he shared my skepticism he would ever be above average because of his speed deficiencies—and Turner, while rougher in drills, got the proverbial "just makes plays" endorsement. It's tough to tell a kid's playmaking rate based on limited observation, but the general impression I got was that Turner should be okay eventually. It seems logical that when the freshmen arrive, there might be some reshuffling with the spurs and safeties. Observer B also thought Turner "was OK."
James Rogers seemed to be doing well in drills, too. He's "beginning to learn the position," which is a sad thing to say about a
fifth year senior who's bounced around so much.
Cam Gordon is the guy at free safety, but you knew that.
Robinson's entire session at the coaches' clinic was on his tackling system, which is unusual in a couple ways: it uses different aiming points than conventional systems and doesn't ask the player to break down and wait for the ball carrier to arrive; you "shimmy" to the ballcarrier. It's also unusual because Robinson picked it up from a high school coach, something the old regime "wouldn't be caught dead" doing. Michigan's current group of guys seems far more likely to pick up an innovation being run by high schools or lower division schools than the old guys, who talked to the NFL and only the NFL, which is probably why they couldn't defend the option worth a damn for almost a decade.
Here's how Greg Robinson explains Braithwaite's hire:
Robinson used the new coach, Braithwhite as a demonstrator of technique. He said the “best demonstration” coach he ever saw in his life was Jim Colletto but he says that AB is every bit as good. The impression they give is that this guy was hired because a) he knows what he is doing and (b) he is great at demonstrating techniques to the players.
Observer B notes a difference between the offensive and defensive coaches: the offensive guys are "tireless" explaining and drawing their schemes, but it's hard to get anything out of Robinson. Where Robinson gets expansive is when it comes to the aforementioned fundamentals. There was a chalk talk in which Robinson spent a good deal of time illustrating the right way to do a "dip and rip"; Bruce Tall was also in the midst of an animated technique discussion that lasted two hours.
One of the best things about having a hybrid-laden defense is it minimizes situational substitutions in today's fast-paced modern football environment. You should be able to respond to whatever the offense throws at you without having crazy packages where non-starters get pushed into the lineup, and can adjust to bizarre formations (wildcat) on the fly.
Defense In Toto
I got a vastly different perspective from defensively-oriented observer than was provided by the posters here over the weekend. We're going to have to score some points. I think in objective "this is Michigan" terms the defense is going to be bad, but one of the main confusions batting about the internet at the moment is someone asking "is this defense going to be (as) bad (as last year)?" and someone answering "(in terms of what I have come to expect from years of watching Michigan play and taking that as a baseline) yes."
I had this same sort of foreboding Q&A with Observer A, but when I asked point-blank "will they be better" I got a pretty solid "yes," albeit with the caveat that the same guy thought they'd be considerably better than they were last year.
That doesn't mean the defense is in a spot where it will remind anyone of 2006, or even 2005. In the Saturday scrimmage the defense did well on the first couple series but "after that the carnage was brutal," with the offense moving the ball "almost regardless of what unit was facing what unit." You can get a hint of that in the quarterback stats provided by MGoBlue in the most recent Inside Michigan Football, which are 9/11, 9/12, 100 yards rushing, made a pony sort of things.
There aren't any walk-on punters who are serious threats to play; the best guys they currently have are averaging in the 30 to 35 yard range. This is Will Hagerup's job as soon as he steps on campus.
Placekicking will be an adventure. Brendan Gibbons has a big leg but is "erratic at best." Walk-on Justin Meram was the other kicker who participated in the scrimmage; he seemed accurate on short stuff but his range might top out at 40 yards on a good day.
The audacity of lacrosse. Run, don't walk, to Patrick Hruby's Page 2 article on Mike Legg's famous lacrosse-style goal. It's as told by the participants, with Hruby mostly staying out of the way and allowing Legg, Morrison, Turco, Victimized Minnesota Goalie, Berenson, and Guy Legg Learned It From tell the story:
LEGG: "We're in the playoffs, so I had been telling myself, 'Don't even think about it. Get that crap out of your head. Don't do anything silly. If there's even a half-open player, try to get the puck to him.'"
MORRISON: "I was sneaking into the point."
LEGG: "I looked around and didn't really see anybody open."
MORRISON: "All of a sudden, Mike leaned down and scooped it."
BERENSON: "I thought, 'Oh my God, he's going to try it.' I saw him shoot it 100 times in practice, just fooling around. I hadn't coached him into it."
It's 5000 words. Turco says "it took a long time for Mike's party to mellow out" at one point. It's epic. I suggest you peruse it, because you will enjoy it or find out you are a robot. (HT: MGoUser Blueintheface.)
While we're on hockey, AnnArbor.com scored an excusive interview with Berenson in anticipation of the Frozen Four (where Miami got what was coming to them, BTW). Let's skip over the "argh we won" bits:
Q: Considering all the disappointment that surrounded Michigan's football and men's basketball teams, do you think your team provided some ray of hope this year?
A: That's what people are telling me and that's what the last month of the season did for Michigan. That helped carry the torch high and gave a lot of Michigan fans pride in Michigan sports. You never know how your season is going to end, but ours ended - up until that last goal - on such an up note. It wasn't just one weekend. It was four weekends and it just kept picking up and people got into it. I think it was great for Michigan.
It sounds like they'll platoon Hunwick and Hogan like they did with Sauer and Hogan a couple years ago.
Further detail. Michigan's made its coordinators available over the past couple weeks and during the brief segments when they aren't admonishing fans not to get caught up in a wholesale scheme change (or "tweak" according to Greg Robinson) they're throwing out a few guys who seem to be developing. Greg Robinson dropped a couple names to Rittenberg yesterday, and not just Cam Gordon:
The competition at middle linebacker is really heating up between Obi Ezeh and Kenny Demens, who has come on strong this spring. "This is a dogfight," Robinson said. "And I like it. It's amazing when you have competition, how much the improvement comes."
The other Gordon, JT Floyd, and Teric Jones also get positive mentions; Justin Turner remains worryingly unmentioned. It's weird that Demens goes from buried behind a walk-on to pushing for a starting job over the course of a couple months, but I'll take it. If Demens can develop into a contributor Michigan's linebacker depth chart looks considerably less frightening.
On the other side of the ball, Calvin Magee's press conference was bulleted in this space a couple days ago. Here's a transcript for the detail oriented. And here's a pull quote:
“Terrence is really playing well this spring … I mean, really well,” said Magee. “Having Jeremy Gallon off his redshirt year, too, we have a number of guys I feel real comfortable about.
“Terrence is interesting, because Year one it was a competition. He just happened to get injured. Year two it was another competition with Tay Odoms, and he got dinged up again and missed some time, allowing Roy Roundtree to show his stuff.”
A lot of people, including yours truly, had written Robinson off after a redshirt freshman year in which he did nothing. Magee repeatedly emphasizing his breakout bodes well. If the guy can catch he's got some crazy moves.
Leverage. When the NHL instituted a salary cap as part of a massive revamp of their collective bargaining agreement, the end result appeared to be very bad for college teams hoping to keep their seniors around. It appeared that the rookie cap and service-time-based arbitration would combine with near-instant free agency for college kids who play out their eligibility to give give both player and team powerful incentive to sign before the prospect's senior year.
It hasn't quite worked out like that. TJ Hensick, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, and Chris Summers have all stuck around for four years and it looks like Michigan will retain its 2011 seniors as well (knock on wood). While players still regularly sign early, it's not epidemic.
Why? Oilers draftee Riley Nash, a late first rounder who just finished his junior year at Cornell, provides an interesting case study. One: I didn't know that an entry-level contract is three years if you sign before your senior year but two if you sign after. You have the same opportunity to become an RFA no matter when you sign. Two: a college player has crazy leverage because he can play his final year and become a free agent immediately afterwards.
The end result of this? Mo' money. Mudcrutch has assembled a chart showing the amount of money late first rounders have signed for recently* and color coded it for easy pattern recognition. Orange are kids in college, purple juniors, and blue euros. I make it small in order to hit you over the head with the conclusion:
College kids (and Euros) get better bonuses because they have attractive options other than signing. Junior kids just go back in the draft, where they invariably get taken lower and paid less. The difference even clearer if you remove goalies. Goalies almost never play in the NHL during their initial contract and the top two junior players on the list are goalies.
If you squint hard or click for big you'll note some familiar names: Mitera, Summers, Cogliano, and Pacioretty all appear on the list, with Mitera and Summers—both seniors with the option to become free agents—hovering near the top of the list. Cogliano (sophomore) is a bit farther down and Pacioretty (freshman) is the last blip of orange on the chart. The upshot: unless a college player sticks on an NHL roster they don't lose much if any money by sticking around because their increased bonus leverage makes up for the relatively paltry AHL salaries they'd be pulling down. Instead of being a death knell for college seniors, the CBA actually provides some incentive for collegians to stay in school until they are NHL-ready.
Question: Summers has a two-year deal, but Mitera signed for three. Both waited until after their seniors years to do so. Why are the contracts different lengths?
UPDATE: Contract length is based on age. Mitera signed at 21, Summers at 22. When you're 22 the entry-level contract is two years. Thanks to emailer Brendan Baker.
*(There is a rookie cap that all almost all these contracts reach, but NHL teams can offer a wide array of bonuses if the want that are easily achievable by someone playing in the NHL.)
The final revamp. AnnArbor.com caught a Brandon appearance in which he said a number of interesting things, amongst them some more detail on what they plan to do to Crisler in the relatively near future:
“And then the third phase will be absolutely a complete remodel of the facility where you would potentially bust out the concourses and you would create the bigger circulation space,” Brandon said. “More restrooms, capacity, more amenities, better food service, maybe some kind of club-seating opportunities for those who are interested in that experience. Really making it a modern arena for the purpose of big-time college basketball. And that’s ultimately where we’d love to go with Crisler Arena because the program deserves that.”
This cannot happen fast enough.
Etc.: Big Ten baseball teams are operating a serious disadvantage because of restricted oversigning. This is less "cram the academically questionable in" and more "scramble for leftovers after unexpected signings".