this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
I guess I can't be mad at the Dispatch any more. Because we're doing it to ourselves:
If it motivates the players, great. I never want to see it again.
That's one way to put it. How are things on the Michigan State offensive line? Deep. Peachy. Deeply peachy:
Spartans depth sparks offensive line competition
This is their depth:
Converted defensive tackle Dan France has emerged as the leading candidate at left tackle, but the battle at center and right tackle are far from decided.
Redshirt freshman Travis Jackson and junior Blake Treadwell, another converted defensive tackle, are running neck-and-neck at center, while redshirt freshman Skyler Burkland and junior college transfer Fou Fonoti are fighting for the top spot at right tackle.
Er. France was flipped from OT to DT last year despite being 6'6" and now returns to be the starting left tackle. That is a hell of a position switch starter. This was his status in January:
"But in the bowl practice, I was struggling," he said. "I didn’t know the (blocking) techniques and footwork. I never had done pass blocking before. I mean, I sort of did (at tight end) in high school, but I didn’t have any technique or really know what I was doing."
Kirk Cousins might be under siege this year. Let's hope so, because if someone were to bold Michigan's secondary it wouldn't be much prettier.
Hey, here's a Michigan football coach talking. I wonder if he's going to talk about "violence," "toughness," "being physical," and "being consistent":
No, he mostly talked about cheese. Cheese and Will Campbell's pad level.
Of course not. Some news organization I can't be bothered to look up—oh this article says it's the Seattle Times—posted the shocking news there was a Pac-10/Big 10 "consensus" in favor of a plus one game. This was shocking for a little while until it was debunked. Or at least sort of debunked. Check out Jim Delany's reply to that:
"To describe the ADs as supportive, I would call that erroneous," Delany said.
Masterful weaseling right there. This on further expansion, at least, is a straightforward declaration they're not interested:
"No, we're about as comfortable as we can be with where we are," Delany said. "We've said we will continue to monitor the landscape, but we have closed down active expansion. Every period you look at it, but we don't expect anything the SEC does to affect us."
I'm increasingly irritated at the media reports predicting Superconferenceageddon without bothering to figure out whether adding teams like Pitt and Missouri helps or hurts the bottom line. The burden of proof is on people predicting unwieldy, tradition-hurting behemoths but all we get is "this is totally happening because it's an arms race!"
Yes, yes, TV markets blah blah. At times like these I think about Lloyd Carr in his last couple years sighing disgustedly whenever the subject of money came up in press conferences. He believed placing it above all other goals was destructive, he's looking prophetic at the moment.
Zing. I was just hoping Jerry Hinnen would drop some more twitter bombs on the SEC so I could post them up, and then he did:
Gotten the feeling that if Scott and Delany jumped off a bridge, SEC fans would gripe that Slive should have been the one jumping first. "We can't afford to react. You have to be proactive when it comes to bridge-jumping!"
Adding Nebraska had a purpose. Adding A&M to the SEC just dilutes it.
Downing disagreement. Retweets coming from Michigan Hockey Net and Yost Built over the course of the recent Five Nations tournament were rapturous about 2013 D commit (and team captain) Michael Downing. Examples from tourney observer @twharry:
The difference between Downing and DeAngelo is vast. I had no idea Downing was this good. He plays like a vet.
Michael Downing is having another very strong two-way game. Comparing him to Merrill may be unfairly lofty, but they are strikingly similar.
Breakaway going the other way. DeAngelo was way out of position. Luckily Downing was there to cover and Demko made the stop.
FWIW, talked to an ex-teammate of Downing today from CC - said he's the real deal, nat. skill set but little rough around the edges at times
When one of my friends checked out the Friday game he compared Downing to Nick Lidstrom. Apparently the US team was so confident in his positioning they would often send the other defenseman up the ice to pressure the Swiss. A local diary praised his game as well.
So of course a couple scouting reports are mixed at best, contradict the above, and contradict each other. WCH:
Michael Downing has had a very good summer--including locking down a scholarship to Michigan--which has helped turn him into one of the top defensive prospects in the US for his age group. He appears to have loads of potential with a big frame and nice skating, but still has a pretty long ways to go when it comes to decision-making and handling the puck. The pace of play here looked a little faster than what he was used to, which took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to make some bad turnovers. Not many players have things completely figured out by age 16 though, and with a little more experience, he has a chance to develop into a very nice player.
And the United States of Hockey:
Michael Downing - Canton, Mich. — The big defenseman served as the captain for this U.S. outfit. He’s pushing 6-foot-3, but has some good mobility and offensive instincts. Despite the size, however, Downing was getting out muscled and hit hard by smaller players. The more muscle he can tack on, the better in the coming years. He’ll also need to do a better job in his own end, but he appeared to improve defensively as the tournament went on. Despite the defensive deficiencies, I really liked his offensive game. If he can develop defensively, he could be a. pretty solid blueliner down the road. Draft eligible in 2013
Another Burns tweet did mention Downing needs to fill out quite a bit, so at least there's some consistency there. Downing maintains he's 110% committed to Michigan and is not a goalie, so he'll probably show up. I'm actually drawing a blank on the last Michigan D commit to skip out for the OHL before he hit campus. Seems like it's a F/G thing.
The Blip …is what I called the 2008 Wisconsin game in last year's Plays of the Decade feature. It was a briefly intoxicating lie about how good that team could be that presaged the less brief but no less deceitful starts the next two years; as such it's both an emblem and an enormous outlier.
Holdin' the Rope takes us way back when:
I sat and wondered how we could spring a comeback from so much flailing incompetence. I had faith, but it was that kind of belief that eats at itself if exposed to the light.. It's propped up by rubber bands and paper clips and a little bit of measured delusion and naivete.
Somehow, Michigan pulled itself together and willed themselves through a halfway decent touchdown drive in the third quarter, capped by Kevin Koger's first touchdown reception. A promise of a bright future. Michigan went down the field on the arm of Steven Threet, the legs of Sam McGuffie and Kevin Grady, and the hands of Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews. Greg's last name only had one "t," but people managed to always get it wrong, and they probably still do. This wasn't Henson, Terrell, Walker, and A-Train. It wasn't Henne, Manningham, Arrington, and Hart. It wasn't Navarre, Braylon, Avant.
Etc.: Notre Dame is taking its sweet time figuring out where its hockey team is going to hang out. MGoMix is going with songs 1-5 and 6-10. Trailer for the Willis Ward movie is good. Shakin' the Southland's DrB talks 3-4, 4-3 under, and multiple fronts. Money quote:
In the one-gap 3-4, you have a blend of the 4-3 and the older two-gap system. You can take a guy that is a ‘tweener’ and put him at DE or OLB. You can take heavy interior linemen that are skilled at pass rushing, and put them at DE positions even if they don’t run 4.6-4.7 in the 40. The fact that it is a one-gap system and easier to teach means they can rush the passer without regard for the linebackers and put what talent they do have to good use.
I do not advocate the one-gap 3-4 over the 4-3, each has its uses. I do prefer the one-gap over the 2-gap version because it disguises the bubbles in the front better, and is simpler to teach. I'm all for adding fronts that simply teach guys new places to stand without actually changing everything they're doing. In most cases, the fronts are exactly the same, but with different personnel.
This one goes to thirteen because we aren't dead yet. Again, a combination of overall impact with a heavy emphasis on how awesome that moment was—if eligible the Donovan goal against Algeria would be the perfect candidate. #13 is admittedly valedictory.
Michigan State, 2007: Mike Hart scoops up a Mallett fumble and conjures a first down from air.
If Mike Hart did anything other than run for thousands of yards at Michigan it was pick up blitzers on the most famous Michigan plays of the decade. There weren't any Mike Hart runs on this list because the guy always got caught from behind and Michigan's offense was set up to get its big plays from the passing game for the duration of his tenure, but Hart will block on three of the top four. This had to be rectified, but how? There was that eight yard run against Penn State, but that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It was in the first half, for one.
How about this rescue instead?
This may be the most Mike Hart play of Mike Hart's career. Ryan Mallett's come in the game for one play after Chad Henne limped off, and Mallett does what he always did, which was fumble. Michigan's about to be facing a second and forever even if they get the ball back when Hart pops out of the pack, ball in hand. He then jukes one Spartan out of his shorts and plows over two more for a game-changing first down. He then heads to the sideline because he's so injured he shouldn't even be in the game.
2003 Illinois: Steve Breaston fields a punt on one sideline and glide-cuts his way all the way across the field, juking six separate Illini before finding a seam and setting sail for the endzone. NOTE: Unfortunately, I can't find this in an embeddable form. It is 15 seconds into this Breaston highlight reel. Picture not relevant.
…was the name message board posters sarcastically bestowed on Steve Breaston as he redshirted and reports of his practice exploits became progressively more ludicrous. "Freshman you've never heard of fails to live up to epic practice hype" is perhaps the most common fall storyline across the country, and Michigan has had more than its fair share of epic busts from Grady Brooks to David Underwood to Kevin Grady. The nickname was a shield against disappointement
When Steve Breaston took the field, though, he somehow managed to exceed the expectations built up over the offseason. This return was the crowning glory; after a half-season full of almosts where he'd get tackled at the five or have something called back on a penalty he didn't need, he waited and waited, making two of those looping back-cuts that would become so familiar and exploding up the sideline.
For the most part teams stopped punting to him after this play, and though he remained amongst the country's most dangerous returners for the duration of his career he never quite recaptured the magic of the first two-thirds of his freshman year. At the moment he did this, though, he could do anything.
11. Ernest Shazor just killed a guy. No, seriously, he's dead
Purdue, 2004: Michigan has a narrow lead in the dying minutes but Purdue wins with a field goal and is driving. Dorien Bryant, then merely a freshman and not yet the Brooks Bollinger memorial eighth year senior, grabs a ball over the middle and starts picking up tons of YAC. Purdue is already in field goal range when Brandon Williams grabs at Bryant's feet, sending him into the air. This is where Ernest Shazor murders him. Bryant coughs up history's most understandable fumble; Leon Hall recovers, ending the game.
I've seen a lot of murderous hits in football, but they're mostly for show. Football's violence is a thrilling, sometimes sad sideshow to the main event; only rarely does the sheer intimidating force of a guy running directly at another guy matter immediately. Not so here. This hit turned a very likely loss into a sure win and ranks as the most CLICK CLICK BOOM play of the decade.
After the hit Shazor evaporated, providing only theoretical resistance against the first terrible appearance of That God Damned Counter Draw in the Michigan State game, about which more later, and entering the NFL draft early only to be passed over entirely. Despite being dead Bryant would go on to be probably Purdue's finest receiver of the decade, though I'll leave that judgment to the Purdue blogs' decentennial glazomania.
This play is lower than I expected because the feelings were more relief and frustration at the defense. A close call against a Purdue team that wasn't at all good (7-5) nearly derailed Michigan's season. Other plays in crappier seasons were fraught with less expectation and more enjoyable, like for instance…
10. The Blip
MGoRetro: We're From Phoenix
Wisconsin, 2008: Donovan Warren breaks up a slant, sending the ball on that parabolic trajectory that screams interception but often ends up hitting the turf. In this instance, Johnny Thompson is in the right place in the right time, catching the ball and picking up a defense's worth of escorts.
Exactly one good thing happened in the entirety of 2008, and this was it. Michigan had just gotten a touchdown thanks to a supremely ill-timed Wisconsin blitz that set Brandon Minor free. One play later Michigan would be in the lead:
Michigan would add another touchdown thanks to a 60-yard Steven Threet read option keeper and hang on for dear life, surviving a two point conversion that tied the game thanks to an illegal formation penalty and stuffing the second attempt.
At the time, the win over a top-ten Wisconsin team seemed like an indicator that even in this season of transition and quarterback incompetence something of Michigan would persist. It seemed super important, and then Toledo blew everything to hell.
9. Chad Henne robot apotheosis
Michigan State, 2007: Chad Henne completes his transformation from inept and injured to flawless robot incapable of understanding pressure by shouting "reprise" and pretending Mario Manningham is Braylon Edwards, completing an improbable Michigan comeback.
I'd somehow managed to get tickets on the 50 yard line in the Michigan student section at Spartan Stadium, and things were tense. Some unlit-cigar-chomping State fan was in my seat and insisted it was his seat to the point where he called the cops over so they could look at my ticket and shrug. He'd eventually switch places with a few Michigan fans outside of the section. At some point early in the second half a woman who looked like she watches a lot of Jenny Jones turned around and screamed something incomprehensible but very angry. She proceeded to do this every five minutes until someone figured out the thing she was saying was "Art Fag U," at which point the guy standing next to me went off about how bigoted that was whenever given an opportunity for the rest of the game, which was every other play.
Meanwhile on the field, Michigan was busy blowing a 14-3 lead in the immediate aftermath of Mark Dantonio's "pride" comments. They gave up three straight touchdowns while managing only one play of significance, a hopeful downfield jump ball that Mario Manningham came up with. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan was cooked.
In my head, this is when Hart went over to Henne and slapped him really hard. Michigan State backed off their coverage and Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown, dodging the Mallett disaster above, got the ball back, drove some more, and then decided to inflict the maximum amount of pain by joining the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society:
This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant.
8. "I Saw Cover Zero"
MGoRetro: Moxie and MacGyver.
Notre Dame, 2009: leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan faces a 4th and 3 in the no man's land where field goals are dodgy and punts get you put on the Worst Plays of the Decade list. Michigan goes for it, calling a bootleg pass for Forcier. Notre Dame's Stephen Filer cuts off the angle, so Forcier breaks his ankles and cuts up into the wide-open middle of the field.
This could have been one of Forcier's scrambles on the game-winning drive or the touchdown that won the game or Charlie Weis's decision to call a 40-yard fly route during Notre Dame's attempt to kill the game—miss you, big guy xoxo—but for sheer impact it's Forcier rewarding Rich Rodriguez's ability to do math:
Forcier's moxie would see Michigan through another two games of desperate fourth-quarter action before disintegrating in overtime against Michigan State and the fourth quarter against Iowa. In this it's similar to the Thompson interception, where early-season hope gave way to the cruel reality of the situation and the opponent turned out to be something less than they were supposed to be.
7. A Knee On The Ground
Citrus Bowl, 2007 season: with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne takes a snap and falls to the ground.
The definition of bittersweet.
Michigan had just finished racking up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State, so of course they come out in a shotgun spread attack and put up 41 points on Florida en route to yet another bowl victory over the SEC. Every downfield strike conjured forth a cauldron of mixed emotions: immediate joy. Fist-shaking at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Depression about the missed opportunity represented in Chad Henne's healthy shoulder. An entire extra layer of confusion about Mike DeBord. It was like being 15 again, like being 15 again and stuck in a never-ending afterschool special.
But when Henne kneeled and Marques Slocum, of all people, was the first to get Lloyd Carr up on his shoulders, well… IT IS VERY DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR AIR FILTERS. I have allergies, you know. Severe allergies.
At some point you just have to let that frustration go and accept the program for what it is, accept Carr for who he is, and say thanks. He did hole up and punt with a six point lead against Tim Tebow, but how could he go out any other way?