Learn from the master. Not to be outdone by some twit in a hat, Nick Saban dropped the boom on two players on the eve of fall camp. One learned he'd "failed a physical" and is either going to be medially disqualified by Alabama's doctors and placed on a scammy hardship scholarship (someone should figure out how many kids have been placed on medical scholarships since Saban arrived; I'm willing to bet it's triple the rate of a sampling of representative schools) or transfer. The other was just straight up deferred because the wrong number of kids got eligible. The usual goes here.
Something unusual: it looks like we're at a turning point as far as media attention goes to this stuff. In the last week both SI's Andy Staples and CBS screedmaster Gregg Doyel have taken up the baton. If you've ever read a Doyel piece you can Mad Libs the nouns between the bombast but at least this time he's struck on something worthy of some portion of the usual outrage. The thrust of his piece is actually too kind since he focuses on exceeding the 25 player limit, which these days you can only do by three, instead of the disparity between some incoming recruiting classes and the number of scholarships available for them. Those can hit double-digits. In LSU's case, they had 27 signees and two early enrollees so they could have gotten everyone on campus if not for the 85 cap. I'll take any attention this issue gets but Doyel's got a lot of his facts wrong.
Meanwhile, Staples has been SI's main recruiting reporter for a few years now. He knows the field, and I'm not just saying that because he's on board with the idea that you shouldn't be able to sign a player unless you can show where the scholarship is coming from. A note on that—Staples says:
Yahoo!'s Matt Hinton and MGoBlog's Brian Cook, two people who have written thoughtfully on this subject in the past, had a brilliant suggestion so simple that even a heavy-handed bureaucracy should be able to bring it to fruition: Make a rule that requires schools to give an actual scholarship to every player they sign to a letter-of-intent.
Cook even suggested raising scholarship limits if necessary. I disagree. If a school has 22 slots on Feb. 2, 2011, it should sign 22 players. If three of those players don't qualify, that's the coach's fault for not recruiting more academically sound prospects. He can play the season with 82 players on scholarship and sign more next year.
I don't think I was clear enough when I suggested the same thing I always suggest. Two scenarios I think would be good for college football:
- LOIs are binding both ways for one year. If you sign a player and he does not qualify or you can't fulfill the promise made, you don't get to use that scholarship the next year.
- LOIs are actually binding for two years. If you lose a player like above, you can't use the scholarship for the next two recruiting classes. Since this one is more punitive I'd give schools the leeway of an extra scholarship or two.
Either one is fine by me; in scenario 1 I don't think you need more scholarships.
As this gets on the radar of more reporters, coaches across the country will have to start justifying departures from their program, and maybe in a year or two the noise will be enough to force the NCAA to take action. Coaches will caterwaul, but what are they going to do, quit?
(HT: Doc Sat.)
Captains. I forewent retweeting the RR tweet announcing your 2010 permanent captains because if I had it eight times in my feed chances are everyone else had it at least twice already. For those opposed to societal ADD, the guys are Steve Schilling and Mark Moundros. Moundros is representing the defense. The official site's much less horrible video page has reactions from Schilling and Moundros on the honor; Michigan will still pick two additional game captains throughout the season.
This is undoubtedly overreacting to a tiny slice of information, but it's the day after the first fall football practice. If there's a national day of Overreacting To Tiny Slices of Information, it's today. So: guuuuh linebackers. Michigan's got a couple of fifth-year multi-year starters and they get squeezed out of the official captaincy by a walk-on who was a fullback until spring practice. This is the most circumstantial of evidence but since we have three years of direct evidence that the linebackers aren't very good, it does not make me feel awesome.
Who wants to bet that someone at a newspaper or in sports radio declares this a repudiation of Rodriguez? We should start a pool. I've got Jeff DeFran.
Elsewhere in grunting. This is not so good:
“We have quite a few guys in very good shape, a handful who are in OK shape and a small handful not ready to play Division I football,” he said.
Rodriguez specifically omitted freshmen from his crap list, so Richard Ash—listed at a flabby 320 on the fall roster—is not one of those guys. I'm afraid he might be making a pointed statement directed at Will Campbell, who is the biggest guy on the team at 333 (mark of the half-beast!). This would crush my dream of having a Sagesse/Campbell rotation at the nose free Mike Martin to wreak havoc as a 3-tech DT/5-tech 3-3-5 DE.
Graham is destroying. A steady stream of articles declaring Brandon Graham the next Dwight Freeney, except better, have hit the sidebar, and now here's some main column action:
"I look at him as another (Dwight) Freeney deal," said Cole, referring to the Colts' five-time Pro Bowler. "He's a great player and just keep watching because he's going to be pretty good."
Also Andy Reid dropped a quote that may lend some credence to both EEEE Barwis and a hopefully burgeoning EEEE Bruce Tall contingent:
"He's done very well with that," said Reid. "He's very strong in the lower body; he's very strong in the upper body, too. His lower body, he's got a nice anchor there and good core strength and understands how to use his hands and arms and plays with separation on the linemen."
If we see Roh and Van Bergen do this consistently this year, Tall will enter the pantheon of assistant coaches Michigan fans can't bitch about currently inhabited by Greg Frey, Calvin Magee, and maybe Rod Smith.
Etc.: Ron English says he doesn't want to recruit kids without father figures. Detroit head coach says "that's insane" because "what he's asking for, we don't have." This makes me terribly sad for Detroit. Chad Henne has one vote for Tate. Tom Dienhart's extensive season preview has just two M players (Molk and Schilling) on his all Big Ten first- and second-teams (Stonum is the second-team kick returner), but manages to slot Michigan fifth despite this.
You probably dismissed the idea of Michigan playing a huge nonconference game against Alabama in two years in Jerryworld as crackpot rumor-mongering of the sort the internet specializes in. Michigan's on the road against ND, leaving a maximum of six home games, it's transparently silly to play a college football game thousands of miles from either college, and Michigan hasn't played a neutral-site OOC game basically ever. It seemed instantly implausible.
But apparently it is happening. The contract is being signed Monday. Which is tomorrow.
The following details are unconfirmed but of interest since they come from an established source:
- Game is happening because a desperate Jerry Jones "overpaid."
- Michigan will be the nominal home team (important mostly for TV rights) and receive more money.
- There's no additional game scheduled and there may not be.
- Jones might be well-positioned to provide some advice on HD scoreboards.
This comes with a set of crazy conflicting emotions. Hurray awesome nonconference game, boo that it's in fricking Dallas in a corporate death star of an NFL stadium and not a home-and-home in Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa. I guess that's what it takes for a lot of actual nonconference games to get done these days, but awesomeness of trip to Dallas to see M play 'Bama <<<<<< awesomeness of M-Bama home-and-home. On the other hand, awesomeness of M-Bama Dallas >>>>>>> awesomeness of M-BGSU anywhere.
[Note on sourcing: in this case I am going with one source, but he is a very established one.]
Advertising note. If you live in Michigan (or, more accurately, if your ISP does) You may have noticed a banner for the Women's Football Academy rotating along the right side of the blog. They've purchased some ad space in support of the blog and I'd encourage anyone who is a qualified for the Academy (read: a woman) to check it out. As with many things related to the football program these days, the proceeds go to an excellent cause.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon: 'Change is in the wind'
Poem to date:
I create the future
Change is in the wind.
That is all. Oh: peanut gallery request for Dave Brandon Poetry Slam image to go with what promises to be an electric ongoing feature.
CEASE INSANE DIVISIONAL SPLITZ KTHX. If the Big Ten expands, Michigan and Ohio State will be in the same division:
"I think what’s probably most important is that you play them every year,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday from the Big Ten spring meetings. “For us, it’s always been at the end and that’s always had a great buildup and excitement to that, so you would think that would be part of the conversation. But there’s a lot of factors in play. I have not put a lot of thought into it.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said that issue is “very important” to him.
“At the end of the day when I look at things quantifiably, I’ll determine how hard I jump on the table,” Smith said. “But I can’t say for sure how high a table I’ll jump on. I have to wait and see.”
I have no idea what the hell Smith means by that but I'm sure if it's translated from Buckeye it means "beer fire bad. Michigan-Ohio State rivalry good." Bloggers still creating wildly impractical expansion scenarios—losers—can cut out the ones where Michigan and Ohio State do not play every year.
Getting way ahead of ourselves. Penn State rotates off the schedule next year along with all nonconference road games. (Also Purdue.) Minnesota and Northwestern return. The resulting schedule looks… well, it looks as easy as these things get short of moving to the WAC:
2011 Michigan Football Schedule
|Sept. 3||Western Michigan|
|Sept. 10||Notre Dame|
|Sept. 17||Eastern Michigan|
|Sept. 24||San Diego State|
|Oct. 8||at Wisconsin|
|Oct. 15||Indiana (Homecoming)|
|Oct. 22||at Michigan State|
|Oct. 29||at Iowa|
|Nov. 19||at Northwestern|
|Nov. 26||Ohio State|
Eight home games, no Penn State, OSU and ND at home: that will be a put up or shut up type of schedule.
I don't understand why people keep falling out of the boat when I push more in. Hardcore Michigan recruitniks will have a vague recollection of Star Jackson, the dual-threat quarterback who was briefly on Michigan's radar during Rodriguez's first-month quarterback scramble that landed Justin Feagin and whiffed on Pryor, BJ Daniels, and everyone else. Jackson was committed to Alabama and stayed committed despite the Michigan offer. Today, he's announcing a transfer.
As far as Crimson Tide transfers go this one is near the bottom on the sketchiness scale: Jackson was third-string after spring practice and the Tide have hyped incoming freshman Phillip Sims joining the team this fall. Quarterbacks have a hair trigger these days when it comes to transfers. Even so, it takes a robot to say this with a straight face:
"We hate to see any player leave the program, but quarterback's kind of a unique position where one guy can play, and we have a lot of competition there right now. Greg's the starter coming back, AJ has done a fantastic job of improving, Phillip Sims came in at mid-semester and showed a lot of promise this spring."
Alabama oversigned by ten this February. Yes, again. They have six more guys to go. Jackson battled an academic suspension in spring, and given the state of the depth chart you have to wonder how invested Alabama was in getting him through that.
Now: which offensive lineman who isn't panning out will get a medical scholarship?
This is a problem? Apparently the one person on the planet with both a deep personal animosity towards the San Diego State football program and a connection to Michigan is Tate Forcier:
Honestly, San Diego State is a team right in my backyard and they didn’t show me any love or attention. Coach (Chuck) Long didn’t pay much attention to me, which was surprising because I showed some interest in them.
Son of a bitch. Grab the influenza and burn the boats: there's an indigenous group of homicidal, gold-hoarding polytheists to beat by at least three points.
Actually: maybe David Underwood also hates SDSU. Maybe he blames it all on them.
Zinger. Rodriguez speaking about the ACC's Big East raid, which happened while he was the coach at WVU:
“I think it caught a few institutions off guard and it probably institutionally taught a few lessons that, hey, we better be prepared for that the next time,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know all the factors, but I’m sure there’s a few more buy-ins and buy-outs and things like that. I know all about buy-outs."
Zing! Wait, he zinged himself. Someone at this to the list of Rodriguez Humiliations that will be read over the loudspeaker before every game this fall.
Etc.: Even more python parsing of MGoBlog reveals that the words "Harbaugh," "mom," and "penetration" have each been deployed exactly 128 times. Isn't that was the Les Miles rumor? So much for python. Maize n Blue Nation gets detailed on the new turf. Beilein is heading overseas with the team if they can work something out.
Marquette 79, Michigan 65
Alabama 68, Michigan 66
Michigan (3-2, 0-0)
Michigan fans hoping to lean on the success of the basketball team to fill the void left by a subpar football season might have to re-think things. The Wolverines, favored to win the Old Spice Classic, went just 1-2 in the event, falling to Marquette and Alabama after beating Creighton in round 1. Time for everyone to adjust some expectations.
When the 3-point shots aren't falling, this team is going to have some difficulty beating teams with comparable talent. Even when Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both have decent performances, a third player will have to step up with a good game in support. Against Alabama, it looked like Manny was the only one who had any interest in winning the game. Though they may not have the talent of this year's players, CJ Lee and David Merritt were able to pull the team up by its bootstraps and gut out some wins. Somebody needs to step up for this Michigan team and fill a much-needed leadership role.
Of course, this is basketball, not football. Simply losing a couple games isn't going to mean that the Wolverines are removed from national contention. However, it's a pain to see such glaring weaknesses exposed this early in the season. John Beilein is known as one of the best coaches in America for a reason, and he should be able to help the team bounce back. Hopefully, that can come sooner rather than later, since Boston College definitely won't be an easy out on Wednesday.
- Darius Morris really seemed to struggle in the past two games. Hopefully, he can learn quickly how to adapt to the mental requirements of this level of basketball. Playing LLP more at the 1 and easing Morris in a bit might help... except for the fact the 2-guard has no depth. Stu Douglass can shoot the hell out of the ball, but Marquette exposed his lack of quickness on Friday.
- Anthony Wright continued to show why he shouldn't get as much playing time as he does. Every time he gets the ball, he wants to shoot. Most of those times, he misses.
- DeShawn Sims is lacking consistency at this point in the year, but he shows flashes of why he has potential to break out and become a major NBA prospect. I don't think much more needs to be said about what the other superstar, Manny Harris, means to this team.
- The free throw shooting wasn't particularly bad against 'Bama, but it was a horrorshow earlier in the weekend. Michigan was a great free throw shooting team last year, so hopefully this is just a speed bump that the team can get through.
- Not a ton of bench players, beyond Douglass, Gibson, and Wright (grumble grumble) got much playing time. Even Matt Vogrich only got a few minutes in the last two games. Michigan's bench needs to be able to bring out a couple contributors if this team is going to have any success.
- On that note, Michigan was pretty bad last year coming of short rest. Part of that was likely due to lack of depth. Hopefully, the weak efforts against Marquette and Alabama were partially related to a lack of game shape, with no practice time in between to recover. That would give Michigan much more upside.
Michigan will take on Boston College on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Previews of the Challenge and the Eagles coming up later this week.
"I don't know how it happened," said Atkins, a tight end from Dixie Hollins High School. "I did everything USF asked me to do. The committee said my grades were on a downward trend, but they improved my last semester. I don't understand the process."
That's a who-dat two star tight end who's suddenly on the open market—not exactly the crown jewel of the class—but it's also the third player who's been shot down not by the NCAA Clearinghouse but by USF admissions.
Why would USF suddenly get religion about this sort of thing? I'm guessing its their BCS-worst APR. USF's been the caboose the last two years but has miraculously escaped sanctions via unexplained waivers. They managed to get a waiver this year despite seeing their APR fall eight points. Unless the Bulls get their numbers up now they will feel the NCAA's boot, and now USF must take a hard look at players at risk of failing out.
I'm not sure if this is a positive development or not. On the one hand, USF is experiencing difficulties with recruiting because the NCAA isn't going to put up with terrible graduation numbers any more. On the other, three kids have had their plans disrupted. The first two players to get rejected have landed at Southern Miss and Louisville (and Atkins is also rumored to be headed to UL), so they're still getting D-IA scholarships.
And the smoking gun. New Golden Eagle Alonzo Lawrence on his violation of team rules, or lack thereof:
He was expected to see playing time as either a cornerback or safety for the Crimson Tide this season, but Saban said this week that Lawrence was one of four players who violated a team rule and were not invited back to the team.
“That’s something that isn’t true, but I’m not going to say anything about that,” Lawrence said.
Ah, the classic comment-but-no-comment. Very passive-aggressive. Lawrence is one of eighteen Alabama players to leave the team this offseason and amongst 30 in two years. Fully 13 Alabama players who completed spring practice are off the team. Saban again brought in way more players than his roster could theoretically handle, guaranteeing these departures in February. At some point the sheer numbers defy explanation.
Again: a school shouldn't be able to sign someone to a LOI unless it can show where the money is coming from.
The fortune cookie of articles. Does it seem like this description of Shaun Alexander's recruitment should end with "…in bed"?
Alexander drove through a snowstorm to Michigan, where the school’s recruiting hostesses greeted him in their standard-issued khaki pants and golf shirts.
A week later, Alabama representatives picked him up in a private jet. On the way to Tuscaloosa, the pilot slid over and let Alexander fly. Once on campus he was greeted by a group of sundress-wearing co-eds named the ’Bama Belles. The young lady assigned to Alexander was the reigning Miss Alabama runner-up.
I'm pretty sure I know what that infamous golf shirt outfit looks like (right):
Michigan has since replaced those shapeless… items with something more appealing. Maybe they allow the hostesses to wear something other than cotton garbage bags these days.
Michigan would get the last laugh when Ryan Pfluger shanked an extra point in the first overtime of the 2000 Orange Bowl, and in 2004 the NCAA would significantly restrict the ability of schools like Alabama to fete their recruits Paris Hilton-style.
Show me your jets. There's been a lot of scuttlebutt about how Michael Shaw's injuries saw his abilities decrease in his intermittently-impressive freshman year, but I believe this is the first confirmation of such a thing from the man himself:
"I remember the Minnesota game, and nine times out of 10 that's a touchdown," Shaw said, referring to his 48-yard run, which led to his season-best 71-yard day. "I broke a long run and got dragged from behind. It was then that I was like, 'I'm really hurting. I've never not been able to run, not been able to explode.' " …
"I had significant playing time last year," Shaw said. "With those two guys (Minor and Brown) in front of me, it's up for grabs, and camp is a great platform for me to show I can still play and I'm ready. ... I'm about 90%. I'll be 100% by camp."
Yes. Remember that Mike Shaw is also made of dilithium. Last year he fumbled and disastrously tried to bounce it outside a few times each, but when he wasn't forcing facepalms out of the fanbase he was slashing into the secondary and picking up 20 or so yards a couple times per game.
Shaw's unlikely to wrest the starting job away from the two seniors unless both succumb to injuries. A good sophomore year would see Shaw remain healthy, rip off the occasional long run whilst spotting the two co-starters, and throw down the gauntlet for anyone who presumes to challenge him in 2010.
More for the great leap forward. The latest effort of Football Outsiders' college guru Bill Conolly tackles tailbacks and has a number of data points relevant to Michigan. The stat in question is "Points Over Expectation." The brief summary: it's a metric that rewards you for rushing for lots of yards over many carries. It's something midway between YPC and yardage. (You can get a longer explanation at the link above.)
The notes of interest:
- Sam McGuffie checked in with the seventh-worst POE number in the country last year.
- Brandon Minor had the 12th-best POE number, and is the tenth-best returning tailback.
- Javon Ringer ran a lot, but to little effect:
Ringer was fourth in the country in rushing yards last year, but where did he stack up in POE? A whopping 137th, between Ball State backup Cory Sykes and Colorado backup Demetrius Sumler. Ringer's 390 carries merited a POE of -0.3, meaning an average college running back would have put up exactly what he did in 390 carries. While there is certainly skill (or at least good genes) involved in managing 30 carries per game without breaking down, it is unlikely that the skills Ringer possesses will in any way translate to pro success
In football numbers always require interpretation. Mine: the difference between McGuffie and Minor is partially, maybe even mostly, due to the radical improvement of Michigan's offensive line as the season progressed. The vast bulk of Minor's carries came in the second, effective half of the season. McGuffie was stuck running behind some super-confused guys.
But, man, the size of that gap is epic. Minor was more effective by leaps and bounds. This may something anyone who watched the two could tell you anecdotally, but if last year's Michigan's running game was the 12th-most effective in the country when Minor got the ball that's an accomplishment nearing magnificence. I've been making the case here that we should expect the rushing offense to take a considerable step forward this year; these numbers support that, possibly even to an extent I haven't dared suggest.
On Ringer: I think most people who saw a lot of Ringer would disagree with Connolly's conclusion at least somewhat. Ringer's lack of per-carry production was a product of extreme overuse, predictable playcalling, and being backed by the "threat" of Brian Hoyer*. I've also heard from a couple of educated Michigan State fans that the reason last year's Michigan State team had about one run play—power off tackle—was the ineptness of the offensive line. That's all they could do. He was not put in a position where he could succeed, and he managed to get drafted despite Dantonio treating him like a pack mule. Ringer has talent—probably not NFL-level, but you could say that about a lot of tailbacks with much better POE numbers.
It'll be interesting to see whether the repertoire expands next year or if they're the new Rock, Rock, Rock of the Big Ten. I lean towards the latter. Dantonio may have herded the cats at State into something resembling a competent defense, but offensive creativity does not seem like a specialty.
*(Brandon Minor gets to deploy all these excuses as well since Michigan ran two-thirds of the time when he was the feature tailback, largely because the alternative was having Threet or Sheridan throw. And yet… the numbers. I'm going to go breathe into a paper bag for a while and then write "I will NOT predict 9-3" on a chalkboard 500 times.)
Ah, Doyel. I've previously called Gregg Doyel a junior-high version of Christopher Hitchens and that he remains, but goddamn if it isn't satisfying to read a Christopher Hitchens piece when his strident personal morality happens to intersect with yours. So, yeah, Doyel's latest is a rip job on the inane Meyer-to-ND meme personally started by professional provocateur Paul Finebaum, and I like it.
I want to highlight this bit:
Finebaum's source? He doesn't mention one. Because he doesn't have one. His source is either Spurrier's "rumor down there," or that vast empty space Finebaum calls his skull. …
the Meyer rumor won't leave. Newspapers in Gainesville, Fla., Nashville, Tenn., and Orlando, Fla., have written about it, all in the past six days. Why? Because of Spurrier. And Finebaum.
This is pretty much the exact thing newspaper partisans get upset about when a baseless rumor flies about the blogosphere, reproducing willy-nilly despite a total lack of evidence or credibility. This is not a bug unique to the internet. Like everything else, it just happens much more slowly in newspapers.
In a way it's even more likely to result in untruthiness. Scratch the right sort of Notre Dame, Michigan State, or Ohio State fan and eventually he'll say something along the lines of "lol, Shredriguez" because last year a West Virginia newspaper published an embarrassingly credulous story about Rodriguez invading the Sacred Single Hardcopy Room and destroying all evidence that West Virginia even had a football program. The thing in question takes on a patina of reality due to the institutional momentum behind such a meme—it in a newspaper, it must be true—even if it's purest crap.
Etc.: Terrific UMHoops post on the three-point line move and Michigan's bombing ways.