this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
brady hoke charms pants
and thus ended a really stupid debate about jersey number deservedness
I keep trying to put words here but the GIF is just looping endlessly in the editor and I no longer feel words are really necessary.
Gleeful cackling, on the other hand, seems totally appropriate. The rest of the ASU game in GIFs, which I swear isn't entirely devoted to Devin Funchess, is after the jump.
[JUMP, but probably not over two defenders because that's really hard unless, well, you're Devin Funchess.]
So I'm in Canada and I'm shopping for food and we're in the dairy isle and my friend laughs and says "no way." But yes, yes way. There is a margarine they are selling called Memories Of Butter.
This is an acceptable name for something only if dairy cows have been obliterated by whichever flavor of apocalypse comes home to roost. In between shifts at the sludge plant you smear Memories of Butter on your protein cube and weep silently when the child who doesn't know any better asks you what it was like during the Before Time.
In a world where there is butter, this is literally the worst possible marketing. The butter is three feet away. Once moved to action by the memory of butter, you can reach out and acquire butter. Our operative theory was that it was badly mistranslated from French, or at least there was something lost in translation. What that could possibly be we do not know.
And so: Michigan football. There is no quote more Memories Of Butter than this Gerry DiNardo exclamation about Michigan finally getting rid of that Denard Robinson guy:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams. It changes your entire program. Just like the spread makes your defense soft, the West Coast offense makes your defense tough."
That comes from a Mark "Stretchgate" Snyder article that is almost as embarrassing as the article that will follow him around until he dies:
Every spring and fall, the network analysts would attend a practice, try to absorb the flavor and make nice about the impact of an offense they knew didn't fit.
Then they strolled into Ann Arbor this spring and had to check their GPS — or their mirror to see if they rolled back a decade.
This was Michigan playing smashmouth football, the game's nastiest, purest form.
Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten in sack-adjusted rushing, ahead of only Purdue, and was last nationally in TFLs allowed. A tub of margarine may well have made the two-deep on Michigan's "smashmouth" offensive line. It would clearly be the Free Press's best reporter.
Michigan football is a white tub proclaiming to be a memory of a feeling. It is on the shelf next to things that still provide dat mouthfeel tho. For everyone reading this Michigan basketball has provided the craved-for combinations of hope, joy, and even eventual, forgivable disappointment. For myself and a goodly hunk of the people reading this, USA soccer has also filled that void. But when we cleared the NBA draft and the World Cup, the cliff loomed ahead.
The dread was palpable. Dread. Unprecedented, but true.
How did we get here? Every year the fact that I declared 2005 the "Year Of Infinite Pain" becomes yet more ridiculous as we explore new avenues in not feeling real good about football, but I submit that 2013 was the worst football season I have ever experienced. 2005 just isn't even in the ballpark anymore; 2008 had an obvious explanation and novelty; 2010 was GERGtastic but man I can't get that mad at a season containing the 2010 Notre Dame game.
Why was 2013 the nadir? We've learned that it's worse—so much worse—to know that you have absolutely no chance to score points than to have absolutely no chance to prevent them. Ludicrous pointfests like 2010 Illinois and 2013 Ohio State are full of explosions, at the very least. Farting out a three-point loss with under 200 yards of offense is death on a field. There are tense, well-played defensive battles that are the football equivalent of pitcher's duels, and then there's 2013 Michigan: Don Kelly, the football team. (Except when they weren't.)
I kind of lost it as a result. By the end of the year I was giving up on UFRing anything and proclaiming that I was going to go bowling because the Big Lebowksi taught me how to sportsfan my best…
The movie is a series of unfortunate events culminating in the death of Donny thanks to the bullheaded stupidity of Walter, who doesn't want to give up his fifteen dollars to some nihilists. That Donny dies as an indirect effect of that decision is the capper: your desires and actions are futile; you are subject to the random capricious whim of a universe that doesn't care about anything and if it was going to care about something it absolutely wouldn't be you. I don't have to spell the rest out for you. Sports!
…and I remember watching the bowl game in this state of obligation. Worthless, stupid obligation. We had gone from infatuation to a bad 30-year-old marriage that will never end because no one can think of anything better to do.
In retrospect, all of that seems… on-point, actually. Semi-quitting and having public conniption fits at the folks who defended Borges looks like eminently defensible behavior, and that's coming from a guy who occasionally remembers certain actions in high school and has to quickly think of something else lest the eyerolling self-shame overwhelm.
This is where we are: when I got around to doing the Iowa UFR at the last possible moment, most people just asked "WHY?"
How do we get away from here?
Many of you aren't going to like my answer to this. It is: hold on to what we have and hope like hell. Transitions are awful. Michigan has suffered through two consecutive botched ones that left the roster in a state of strip-mined mid-majordom for the better part of a decade. The next one will either be run by Dave Brandon or an unknown person who has just arrived. With nothing approximating a terrific idea out there after Texas snapped up Charlie Strong, with zero reasonable, available Michigan Man™ options out there, the move appears to be to sit tight and hope.
And Brady Hoke does provide a good deal of hope. Seriously! His recruiting is bulletproof. He is the real William Carlos Williams. Michigan can suffer through the least tolerable season since the 1960s; he can lose three top-100 commits; Michigan State can win the Rose Bowl. None of this prevents him from locking down a class of consensus four-stars minus a kicker and an OL legacy. Save for the rare Skeeps suckerpunch or microfracture surgery, all of these players will arrive qualified and stick around until they've been definitively passed on the depth chart… and possibly beyond.
If these are the kind of positives that seem beneath This Is Michigan, well, yeah. This Is Michigan is fiction. This Is Michigan has rarely meant anything better than 9-3 since the 80s ended, and the program is now 1-5 against MSU and 2-11 against OSU since [insert year here]. They haven't had anything approximating a complete roster since 2006, and even that team was so desperately short on cornerbacks that Chris Graham spent much of Football Armageddon trying to cover a future first round pick WR.
This is were we're at: trying to figure out exactly which things we took for granted for 40 years are real assets and which are replaceable. For me, keeping guys around until they're good is not replacement-level performance—as much as I wish it was. And even if I think Hoke is set on 1997 Michigan as the endpoint of football as the sport mutates at breakneck speed around him, there are teams that make it work.
I just want something to work now. I just want something to sit on my tongue and dissolve into a salty heaven, like my father told me about in the long long ago. I may be of the mines and forever from the mines as we try to keep the engine that keeps us all alive running, but by God even a man of the mines has heard about grass, and the possibility of moving forward upon it for upwards of three yards at a time.
Let's find a cow. Let's punch it until it excretes butter. We may later find out that punching a cow until it leaks is not the optimal way to do these things, but that's for later. Now is for building a society like idiots who have only read about it in books.
I'm in Turkmenistan. Seriously.
My name is Matan (Michigan '09) and I am a huge fan of MGoBlog. I am currently driving 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia in a beat up little car as part of a for-charity roadtrip.
A couple months ago (and two years ago), you posted a picture of the "Door to Hell" in Turkmenistan on the blog. We figured we'd put the Michigan flag on it and claim it for the MGoBlog community.
The second picture...well...when starring hell in the face, you might as well have some fun.
It's always nice when someone explains why we got that one hit from Turkmenistan. Papua New Guinea, you're next.
I am of the type that I really don't care about ANY info about the skill positions that is coming out of camp because it is pretty clear that this team will only go as far as the offensive line will take them. The chemistry issues on the team last season were well documented and some have been more specific and direct, that there were chemistry issues and a lack of cohesion on the O-Line. With that being said, is there any truth to this and may it be better for this team to have an entire O-Line with youth so that they collectively progress together?
That's a bit of a stretch. I'd think that having an older guy next to you who could explain why you screwed up would accelerate the learning process for the younger folk. Where that kind of thing might pay off is a year or two down the road; this year it's just going to add to struggles.
I've dismissed "chemistry issues" as they may apply to last year's line, but there's two kinds of assertion in that bucket and I'd like to disavow one but not the other. The one I think is pretty unlikely to have had a major impact: Taylor Lewan supposedly being a jerk. At worst this slowed the ability of younger linemen to progress, and probably not much.
However, if by "chemistry issues" you mean the offensive linemen not having a good idea of what the guy next to him is going to do, I very much buy that as an explanation for why Michigan couldn't get yard one on the ground. So what I can offer is this: if the line remains stable through the year and reps the same offense throughout they will get better as we go, and possibly much better. Their relative youth should mean they improve faster than older players.
Meanwhile, moving guys around is going to be less of an issue if Michigan does focus on inside zone as their base play. Positional responsibilities are a lot closer in zone offenses—nobody pulls, everybody frequently executes doubles that send one or the other OL to the LB level depending on what the player in front of you does.
Unfortunately they're probably going to start as a pile of suck. Judge them by what their pile looks like at the end of the year. Maybe it'll be okay!
[After THE JUMP: safety moves, a guy who is not taking this mailbag as seriously as he should, recruiting feels]
This is how Brady Hoke sees an 'M'. [Upchurch]
Recruits: if you are reading this, do not believe the man in the red/crimson track suit telling you that criticism of Brady Hoke or his staff means Michigan is going to lose him anytime soon. Those are very bad men who are likely to have you downsized to Southern Alabama or regularly featured in photographs and articles that highlight how bad you are at tackling. You also should pay no attention to bloggers who suggest you should ride pine until 2016 and that your future coach needs to win X amount of games until then to even be his coach. Also I shouldn't be talking to you.
Fifth-year seniors >>>>>>> freshmen on special teams. That's why I strongly disagree with the conclusions of AC1997's assessment of this year's redshirting, while appreciating the hell out of the diary (quick read, too). The only one he's mad about is Da'Mario Jones, while Bosch and York are "questionable." I know we did this recently in a roundtable but my take is different:
- Obviously play him: Smith, Butt, Gedeon. All were effective and needed.
- Not mad but needed a shirt: Shane—we've discussed this. Green but you kind of have to play five-stars. Bosch but chances are good there's still two decent 2017 starting guards out of Samuelson, Dawson, and Mason Cole and other 2014/15 recruits.
Me in 2017 is (probably) very upset about this. [Fuller]
- Mad: The safeties and receivers and here's our big disagreement. Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are perfect examples of the reason we have a tag about burning redshirts on special teams. Jones & York—Mathlete keeps telling us that returning experience at receiver is a strong indicator of a good offense and vice versa, and unless a receiver has a massive talent lead on the DBs trying to cover him WR effectiveness is about route running and blocking and reps reps reps.
- Pick ONE cursed freshman corner: Both Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling played, both were pretty good for freshmen, one was needed. Theory: Uber recruits tend to cast a shadow on recruiting their positions, so it's important to have good stocks ahead of them (see: Russell Bellomy/Shane Morris situation). Peppers doesn't fill a depth chart by himself, and if he really is Woodson reincarnate* he'll be gone to the NFL after winning the 2016 Heisman and then we're left with Whitley and Howard.**
At the risk of sounding like every NFL columnist who thinks every franchise needs to adopt the strategy of whichever team just won the Superbowl, the reason Michigan State and Wisconsin have been to Indianapolis twice apiece, despite recruiting classes that top out like our (mediocre-for-Michigan) 2011 haul, is because they redshirt almost everybody and keep them around.
It's a luxury of stable programs, and Michigan is still paying for not being one of those for the latter half of the 2000s. Denard would have been nice to have this year, obviously. How badly did you wish for Vincent Smith when the RBs were getting Gardner killed? How's Michigan's pass rush if you add fifth years from Roh and Campbell to it? Brandin Hawthorne could have let you put a shirt on Gedeon. Developed talent is good. Fifth year seniors are good. Leastways they're better than a marginal improvement in kickoff coverage for a team that rarely scores touchdowns.
*[Nobody is Woodson reincarnate. The thing about the greatest players in the history of the game is they don't grow on trees.]
** [I mean who wants 1998 Todd Howard starting? He's a true freshman. He's short. He doesn't know how to press yet. He's…he's right behind me isn't he?
Nope, he's over there by Brian.]
That's not what I expected. Okay, reader. Zoom out, cock your head sideways, and tell me with just a glance what you think this diary was about:
Turnover analysis? A deep look inside offensive stats? An estimated timetable for improvement? Nope: try a "when do we fire this guy" post.
Deep, statistical analysis to answer rhetorical fan questions that have simple answers not requiring statistics (Michigan isn't firing Brady Hoke anytime soon): these are my readers tag activated. Really it's a case of bad title—what he's doing is comparing Hoke's coaching stops to those of the most successful coaches in recent history, concluding that Michigan needs to win 20 games in the next two seasons (and probably a national championship) to have his name placed among that pantheon. Expectations are probably around 17, with the fanbase getting mighty grumpy if that number dips below 16.
Your regular etc. LSA tackles (ha!) the defense, which straddled the B+/A- line all year until it faced Miller-Hyde without its middle linebackers.
[After the jump: a very meta board]
One Play. I got really into this piece by Brhino where he went over Michigan football seasons going back to the "Year of Infinite Pain" (i.e. 2005) to point out games where one play may have meant the difference. Interesting way to reassess how we view the seasons. For example this year's team was a couple things going right away from 11-1 and a BCS bid (MSU would have still have won the Bo Division, with BCS eligibility riding on that), and a couple of things going wrong away from 4-8. I chart:
Bicking makes it cligger.
Quibble: I may be stretching "one play" too far, but Football Armageddon had that late hit out of bounds by Crable on 3rd and 15. OSU scored on that drive to go up 10. Who knows if Michigan can drive the ball the same as they did on the next possession. NFL win probability calculator says OSU was 79% to win if Crable doesn't make that hit, and 91% after the call. Fan brain says Michigan would have drove for the victory, beaten essentially the same Florida team they played the following year, and cured cancer.
Trend Lines. If you're into seeing how the rest of the Big Ten progressed on offense as this season did, dnak followed up last week's Michigan chart with some for the rest of the field. MSU is a young offense slowly growing up, Michigan's is one coached by insane people.
Hypothesis: UConn was just a bad game and the coaches over-responded to it, putting themselves behind the 8-ball the rest of the season. I submit as a different model Penn State, which had more than a few personnel shortages but big talent in places and stuck with their scheme all year, seeing noticeable progression but no spikes until the last game.
Goals! The Corsi Charts have been shelved for the moment so MGoBlueline can do those goal analysis things I like much better anyway:
Compher wins the faceoff, which is huge. Even more important, however, is that DeBlois is able to tie his man up. This allows a clean tap across from Compher to Guptill…
The OSU weekend's tallies at the link.
Charity. Tomorrow is Adopt-a-Shelter and both sites still could use some volunteers. K.o.k.Law had a tailgate at the house next door to MGoPatio, the cause being to fix up the house of an 11-year-old with a terrible illness.
Weeklies. Turnover Analysis talked about the Countess interception, which had a negative result of half a point. I still would have taken it; I think Furman stood there amazed for a second while OSU's receivers recovered, and if he hadn't he was in the exact right spot to make a key block. Turnover margin has been steadily climbing to the good since UConn, though the offense going into a shell to make that happen might have negated the good that's done. Inside the Box Score. Best and Worst talks about Ben Gedeon. LSA's usual stuff.
[Jump to learn an important lesson about swearing.]
If you think the headline contains a typo, try listening to better music.
George Campbell, Mayor Of Twitter
As Michigan fans tried to decrypt Wilton Speight's Twitter teaser, Saturday afternoon bled into Saturday evening with no word about a commitment. Would it be Shaun Crawford? Sterling Jenkins? Erik Swenson? Maybe even Malik McDowell? Any would've been great; the real answer, though, elicited a rapturous response.
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) July 27, 2013
— DG (@DGDestroys) July 27, 2013
holy pants. Hoke, you are the stockiest ninja.
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) July 28, 2013
George Campbell's commitment briefly turned the entire Michigan twittersphere into Robin and Brady Hoke into the proudest papa.
Mason Cole's Instagram also features ... are those tears, Coach?
It also attracted the attention of the CEO of Twitter, Michigan grad Dick Costolo.
— dick costolo (@dickc) July 29, 2013
Modified rule: Don't tweet at recruits — unless you're the CEO of Twitter. [Side note: This is a story. Get here already, football season. Also, Matt Hayes must be stopped, and this is one of a very short list of things Michigan and Ohio State fans can agree upon.]
Why is everyone so excited? Because if "500" was an Olympic sport, George Campbell would win the gold, silver, and bronze.
Also, have I mentioned he's 6'4" and runs a 4.36 40-yard dash?
There were 3 WR's in the 2013 NFL Combine w/ a 40 as fast/faster than George Campbell. They were 6', 5'8", and 5'9". Campbell is 6'4". Wow.
— CoachBrown TheMBlock (@CoachBrown3) July 28, 2013
Yes, Campbell still has work to do when it comes to his hands and route-running — this video from the Columbus NFTC highlights both the best and worst parts of Campbell's game right now — but with two more years of high school ball to play, his potential is terrifyingly vast. Scout's Jamie Newberg provided a detailed scouting report of Campbell after his commitment, and even the areas for improvement section features one of them good problems ($):
What may be of concern: Campbell catches the ball well but is not a natural pass catcher. Sometimes he fights it but he is getting better and better. Size is also an issue because you just can’t forecast just how big this cat is going to get. He has a giant frame and long arms so there is no telling what his size will be like in three or four years. Remember, he still has two high school seasons to play before he gets to Ann Arbor. Will his growth prompt a position change? If so, how will that impact his develop?
All of these are concerns but I see them as minor concerns because Campbell is such an outstanding athlete. Recruit him now and worry about it later.
Oh no he might be even more giant and still probably really fast.
Campbell's commitment does more than just give Michigan one of the top prospects in his entire class. It also looks like he'll be a major recruiting conduit in the tradition of Morris, Speight, Ferns, et al — Campbell reportedly struck up a close friendship with 2015 MI ATH Brian Cole, and he's already reaching out to other top prospects on Twitter. Others, including 2015 MN LB/DE Jashon Cornell, ESPN's #1 overall recruit in the class, took immediate notice after Campbell tweeted out his commitment announcement.
— Jashon Cornell (@Jay_Rock16) July 28, 2013
— Jashon Cornell (@Jay_Rock16) July 27, 2013
Oh, and some other guy passed along his congratulations.
— Damien Harris (@Damien_D1Harris) July 28, 2013
That guy is consensus top-100 2015 running back Damien Harris. He committed to Michigan while I was writing this post. Brian, mercifully, handled the Hello post. Commitments come in pairs, Brady Hoke poops magic, and Michigan now has their top targets at wide receiver and running back already in the fold for 2015.
Hello there, potential überclass:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) July 29, 2013
Not a bad start to the week, you guys.
[Hit THE JUMP for much, much more on the BBQ, including reactions from Malik McDowell, Shaun Crawford, Sterling Jenkins, and Justin Hilliard, plus surprise appearances from a couple of Glenville's finest.]