this may be of some local interest
Ondre Pipkins already announced he was out, but with Harbaugh asserting he was still on scholarship and would be this fall there was some uncertainty about what would happen. No longer:
Former Michigan DL Ondre Pipkins said he’ll transfer to Texas Tech, sit out this season and play in 2016.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 17, 2015
Michigan now has another slot to give a walk-on this fall, or they could bring in at fifth-year wide receiver. The latter seems a little far fetched this deep into the offseason.
Pipkins got on the field late in the opener last year [Bryan Fuller]
Ondre Pipkins will attempt to use his last year(s) of eligibility elsewhere and he is not happy about it:
"I feel I'm healthy and ready to play," said Pipkins, who played last season after he was cleared to return from a torn knee ligament. "I don't want to sign the form. I wanted to play for my seniors and for the team. Coach Harbaugh said, 'I recommend you take the medical.'"
Pipkins said he felt constant pressure to retire. …
Harbaugh told him that he wanted "to make sure you graduate from Michigan" and that the coach did not plan to invite him to fall camp due in part to medical concerns. The lineman added that Harbaugh told him that he did not believe he would be drafted into the NFL for medical reasons.
"I feel bad I wasn't able to complete this journey with my classmates," Pipkins told ESPN. "I feel I am healthy and without pain. I believe Michigan wanted to free up the scholarship. I felt I was practicing well and could compete at a high level at the nose tackle and tackle positions."
First off, good for Pipkins for saying something about it—and apparently painting Harbaugh in a somewhat sympathetic light.
But this is a strange situation for a lot of reasons. I can't really figure out why Harbaugh would want to run Pipkins out of town:
- He was scheduled to be a senior and Michigan is at 85 scholarships right now, with the three former walk-ons (Kerridge, Glasgow, Glasgow) we think will get scholarships in 2015 accounted for.
- Pipkins thus doesn't impact the numbers in the 2016 class; the only reason he'd need to go this year is if Michigan was going to bring in yet more transfers.
- ND DE transfer Jhonathan Williams was just told no by Michigan.
- I'm sure at least one other player has a very legit medical hardship-inducing injury they haven't announced yet.
There were some rumors Michigan was looking at fifth year wide receivers that haven't come to fruition as of yet, but none of this really makes sense. Michigan seems to have room for him, and the move would appear to be a redshirt (that he should have gotten as a freshman /shakes fist at Hoke) so that he can be a fifth year somewhere else after getting his degree. That is unless he actually shouldn't play football.
Pipkins asserts in the article that Michigan wanted the scholarship… but for what?
Via his instagram:
My past four years here at the University of Michigan have been great! Nothing but love and appreciation for Ann Arbor, the faculty, the coaches, the support staff and the great fans but after many sleepless nights and much prayer I have decided to play my final year of eligibility elsewhere. I truly thank those that have been there for me and hope you would continue to do so. #ForeverGoBlue
That is a blow to Michigan's secondary. Countess was the leading candidate to start opposite Jourdan Lewis, give or take a Wayne Lyons, and even in the event he lost the job he figured to see considerable playing time spotting various guys in the secondary.
Countess struggled mightily last year as Michigan transitioned to a man press style, but was an All Big Ten performer as a sophomore in a zone system. It is possible that Michigan apparently rededicating themselves to the aggressive system they had to ditch midseason last year may have precipitated a transfer. Either that or the usual transition stuff compounded by the availability of immediate eligibility elsewhere.
Other than Lyons, the main beneficiaries of Countess's departure figure to be Brandon Watson and Channing Stribling. Watson was impressive in the spring game and has a ton of experience as a press corner; Stribling was promising as a freshman before a relatively anonymous sophomore year.
Countess was set to be a fifth year senior so this doesn't impact recruiting classes going forward; it does end any questions about if any contributing walk-ons would get stiffed. If anyone else leaves Michigan would have a spot to add another fifth year transfer.
Godspeed, Mr. Countess.
Dennis Norfleet's murky situation has blown up into the first real PR crisis of the Harbaugh administration. Unfortunately for Michigan, it's one they're legally prohibited from saying much of anything about. FERPA restricts their ability to say much other than "he is on the team" or "he is off the team." Right now Michigan isn't saying either. They've gone with this:
A Michigan athletic department spokesman told The Detroit News that the situation was "an internal matter."
All right then.
Harvel added about Norfleet's situation: "If only one kid out of 120 is missing class, they must be the No. 1 program in the country (for football players' academic achievements)."
Harvel has repeatedly said things like "we're not going to let him be a victim," outed private conversations he had with Fred Jackson, publicly bemoaned his decision to switch away from a Cincinnati program on the verge of hiring Tommy Tuberville, and generally done everything in his power to make academic standards like "go to all your finals" seem nefarious. Usually when high school coaches blow up like this it's because their kid has seen his scholarship yanked for a dubious reason, or none at all.
It was Harvel who leaked the apparently erroneous information that Norfleet was gone, which turned the story from message board rumor* to something that every local news organization has dedicated big stories to. It was Harvel who went full steam ahead with the information that Norfleet was not doing things expected of him in the classroom. He is the #1 reason this is a thing. Because Norfleet is a "victim."
I mean, you know me. I just about challenged Brady Hoke to a fight about Norfleet's misuse during his tenure as head coach. But if Norfleet is no longer on the team because he missed several classes and did not attend at least one and possibly more finals, that is on one person: Dennis Norfleet.
And Jim Harbaugh cannot be concerned with just Norfleet here. It's his first semester as head coach and he's just going to let that slide? What kind of message does that send to the other 84 kids on scholarship? Is that likely to improve or degrade the overall academic performance of the program?
The answers to those rhetorical questions are obvious to everyone except Harvel. Privately resolving issues with the head coach—and there have been a number so far that have been so resolved—is more likely to create a positive outcome both in the short-term individual player level and for your relationship with a major school of interest to your players. But Harvel has decided that grandstanding without information that is, you know, correct is more important.
I hope Norfleet makes it back. His coach isn't helping.
*[Albeit one that was more credible than your garden-variety internet rando mutterings since it had the backing of John Borton, an editor at Rivals. It is not hard to trace the path here: Borton names Norfleet, Nick Baumgardner starts checking it out, hits upon the King coaches, and then the tempest takes over the teapot. This is why I don't report on potential transfers anymore. I would rather not spend a week with my head in an alligator's mouth, thanks.]
the last of the famous international playboys
This rumor had been floating around for a couple weeks now, picked up steam on Rivals this morning, and has now been confirmed by Nick Baumgardner:
ANN ARBOR -- Dennis Norfleet is no longer a part of Michigan's football team, according to his former high school coach.
Martin Luther King High School football coach Dale Harvel told MLive on Tuesday that Norfleet has been dismissed from Michigan's program by coach Jim Harbaugh.
"Evidently he was dismissed from the team, Dennis informed us he was no longer on the team," Harvel said Tuesday afternoon. "Something about a disciplinary thing between him and coach Harbaugh. Whether it was academics or something internal, I'm not sure. He just said they had a disagreement and he was let go."
I have heard it was academic. Not sure if that's a slackness that is now verboten under the new regime or a Norfleet morale issue leading to breakdowns elsewhere. [UPDATE: Steve Lorenz says he skipped "more than one final."]
The writing was on the wall as far as Norfleet's career went when he featured as a tiny cornerback in the spring game and was mercilessly picked on for the only offense of the day. With that secondary and that WR corps, the fact he was on defense was a death knell. He may have continued returning kicks and punts; even that job was going to be put under major threat by Jabrill Peppers.
This does get Michigan to 85 scholarships, give or take a walk-on. With a couple of medical hardships likely to be on the way, there should be room to add a fifth-year WR or two, as Mike Spath has suggested might happen.
I will now go sit by myself in a dark room and listen to the Smiths.