go go go
Via Hail to the Blue in the comments, "The softball team is in action today, tomorrow, and Sunday in Lafayette, LA at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational. Follow @umichsoftball on Twitter for live updates. Couple of tough games against UL-Lafayette today and tomorrow down here."
Pitchers and Catchers! There used to be a day sometime in the late summer every year when I start to get really excited about football. This tingling would progress to a low hum when practices started up, and would be a spinal vibration by the time I'm racing into the stadium for whatever MACrifice we're starting against. I miss that. Last year we were doing the basketball book so August was just a bleary eyed gauntlet, and the year before the season started in Jerryworld. This year I already know that excitement will be damped down by a month's worth of reliving The Horror.
Pitchers and catchers reporting isn't so much an event, or even a day on the calendar, as it is a metaphor: It is the day that winter's back begins to break; a promise that day follows night.
|9||W All Track Combined||$141,452|
You can't dampen pitchers and catchers day, not when Omar Infante is the rookie you're praying will lead the offense, not you're seeing his back plus Prince Fielder's and your 4th best pitcher's because the expense of being so awesome has passed what awesome can net.
Sorry, this is supposed to be about Michigan not the Tigers. Ah but it is, for it's a lead-in to Raoul's comprehensive preview of Michigan's baseball team. It's still tough for a northern team to be more than a good mid-major in this sport, but Bakich seems to have Michigan heading in that direction.
When baseball is really good (e.g. their 2006 run) they're the fourth sport in these parts. Are they Michigan's true #4 sport? There was a interesting thread this week where the question of that sport's identity was posed by Wolverine Devotee. To that discussion I added the list at right from Michigan's Title IX reporting. Some of those teams (like lacrosse) are benefiting more from ticket sales/TV revenue generated by opponents' fans. I tried to compare where each stands among other universities, but many schools lie their asses off in those reports regarding women's sports revenues, for example West Virginia says their W Track & Field team takes in what Michigan's hockey team does. My guess is this gets them around a Title IX provision but I don't know which. Either way it makes the stats useless.
As for Michigan's fourth sport, I still think it's softball.
My bloody valentine. Sunday there will be a whole bunch of recruits who don't have drivers licenses yet watching the Wisconsin game at Crisler. Next week there will be a large and star-heavy group of those who can drive, and who can also say things like "I'm committing to Michigan," say, for example, if they were suddenly taken by a wave of euphoria that might accompany an effective conference title clinch over a rival. This is not crazy; it has happened before. Go make our football team good, basketball.
FWIW HopeInHoke's diary shows winning the conference from here is possible, but nowhere near a certainty. MSU's only road loss in-conference is to Wisconsin; remember when that was a thing we used to just chalk up to "happens to everyone"? LSA's weekly stats report shows Michigan's superior to an average of remaining opponents in everything but rebounding.
[After the jump: things Marcus Ray et al. say about Michigan's 2014 secondary]
Soady two-holer > Sochi two-holer
One of the mods already put this in a thread but a front page reminder can't hurt: don't post scores or spoilers of Olympic events on delayed telecasts. This goes especially for the results of hockey games that will be broadcast in primetime. Laughing at the myriad (mostly toilet-related) follies of bored and pampered journalists with nothing else to talk about for four days is fine.
The NHL kindly added the hockey games to its schedule, and I Bleed Maize N Blue put up a list of Michigan folk. Your Wolverines are hockey players Carl Hagelin (Sweden), Brian Lebler (Austria), and Max Pacioretty (USA), and U.S. figure skaters Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Maia & Alex Shibutani, and Evan Bates.
|Fri 2/7||Opening Ceremony||7:30 PM||NBC||All|
|Sat 2/8||Ice Dancing||9:30 AM||NBC||Davis & White|
|Wed 2/12||Hky: Czech-Sweden||12:00 PM||USA||Hagelin|
|Thu 2/13||Hky: Finland-Austria||3:00 AM||NBCSN||Lebler|
|Thu 2/13||Hky: Slovakia-USA||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
|Fri 2/14||Hky: Sweden-Switzerland||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Hagelin|
|Fri 2/14||Hky: Canada-Austria||12:00 PM||USA||Brian Lebler|
|Sat 2/15||Hky: USA-Russia||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
|Sat 2/15||Hky: Sweden-Latvia||12:00 PM||USA||Hagelin|
|Sun 2/16||Hky: Austria-Norway||3:00 AM||USA||Lebler|
|Sun 2/16||Hky: Slovenia-USA||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
Makes M's Happy
Sara Driesenga pitched 263 innings with an ERA of 1.89 last year [Terra Molengraff/Daily]
Softball is my chosen sport for following without obsessing. Carol Hutchins is one of the best coaches the sport's ever had, and the team still exudes a spirit that's so so enjoyable. Just don't think too hard about the competitive aspects, or how large a role a pitcher plays in the outcome versus the rest of the team.
If you'd like to know how this team looks, the answer is "very good" again. Like the Tigers, they return ridiculous pitching—Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga are both aces, and they're joined this year by highly touted freshman Megan Betsa—and one of the game's best hitting infielders (shortstop Sierra Romero), but lost their cleanup hitter. Also like the Tigers they're not a very good defensive team.
Etc. Survey results for RunTheFootball's expectations thing says Michigan's not living up to those. Your weekly goal by goal analysis covers the tallies vs. Wisconsin last weekend. Michigan is still shooting the lights out in conference play except against Indiana, not updated with Nebraska game yet. Lacrosse. Softball.
Best of the Board
NATIONAL SIGNING EVE WAS LONG AND FULL OF TERRORS
The night before signing day I got an email from a source who's been spot-on before that Peppers was thinking about holding off signing his LOI the next day—nobody else had that info so I didn't publish it, but it appears he was correct and that Peppers's coach talked him down off the ledge. Since this source has been right about everything so far, I'll share the reason he gave for the wavering: another program's coach, claiming knowledge from an NCAA source, was in Peppers's ear about "possible major sanctions at Michigan," presumably for the Gibbons thing. Crutin, man.
Clarification Update: He didn't say which coach, and guesses are just that since virtually every coach goes around flingin' B.S. on signing eve. Playing defense keeps other coaches from going on the offensive against your class. It's just Crutin' man.
TIDBITS FROM THE SIGNING DAY PRESSER
- Clarity on LB recruit positions: Winovich is a Jake Ryan-style SAM, Ferns is a MIKE, Furbush is a MIKE or WILL, Wangler is a WILL or Stevie Brown-style SAM.
- Dymonte Thomas will just be a safety, no more nickel and diming
- Canteen is a slot guy
- Furbush cut his own cast off using a hedge trimmer.
Thanks to Every Roh Has Its Thorn for collating these.
PUNTING: NOW FAME-WORTHY
Monte Robbins [source] / Zoltan Mesko [Scout] / Adam Finley [Desimone]
Now that the stat-heads have shown the punt is the least important play in football, the NFL Hall of Fame, which is the second-least meaningful of all Hall of Fames (they're heavy on skill players and big names, light on understanding the game; the college football one is worse), has finally decided to let in the Guy (ha!) they named the punting award for.
This got me wondering if there's a punter in Michigan history who could surpass those I can personally recall. Punting stats have been kept only since 2000 by the NCAA, and Bentley only goes a few years further back. They're very wonky stats when they're good, and very badly curated, and the most accessible ones are more suggestive of a terrible offense than a great leg. Zoltan is the obvious if-memory-serves candidate for best Michigan punter ever. I remember thinking Adam Finley was underrated because he could pow it very high or place it out of bounds, and that Hayden Epstein was overrated because all he did was thwack it.
Great Grandpa Alfonse used ta say if you're lookin' back at the tings you missed you won't know what hit ya.
As for how Wile did I can pull 2013 conference data from cfbstats if you like:
|Player||Team||Atts||Net YPA||% Ret|
|Cameron Johnston||Ohio State||49||41.7||16%|
|Mike Sadler||Michigan State||76||41.0||25%|
|Alex Butterworth||Penn State||51||38.5||22%|
That 46% of punts returned (ie didn't end with a fair catch, downed, out of bounds, or touchback) is the dinosaur punting. This is enough about punting for today.
CRASH TESTING HELMETS
UM Engineers are getting into the helmet-improvement game to understand the biomechanics of football hits.
Your Moment of Zen:
A reader asked for a screenshot from that movie where a bunch of kids are going through the process of applying to and selecting their college destination and the dad of one decides to don the only appropriate attire for accompanying said decision-makers. And the MGoBoard came through. Color this gunter embarrassed to have totally forgotten about this cheesy '80s flick. You know who didn't forget about it? Craig Barker of Hoover Street Rag (and HTTV Hoops/Hockey), who wrote the IMDB synopsis (nice job MGoShoe in spotting it).
Another Shot at Recruiting/Performance Charts. Trying to figure out how to rate the value of four recruiting classes ago versus the latest one etc. and come up with an expectation for that year's performance was all the rage in the diaries last year. We've got a new entry, and his methodology is seniors x4, juniors x3, sophomores x2, freshmen x1. He then took the conference and BCS championship games and ran down them all so we could see what level of recruiting (by 247 composite) was producing these victors. It's got a lolTyWillingham chart:
Lol Willingham, and lolWeiss for underperforming that graph so much. His conclusions are a bit wonky because he doesn't acknowledge the limits of recruiting to explain things like transfers and coaching changes and hiring GERG.
Wallpaper from FabFiver5 (we're from Five!):
Please make "Win the Game."
Best of the Board
The board has been doing a great job of collating and contextualizing the available information. That's Erik_in_Dayton's timeline of events which he has kept updating as info streams in. There has been an epic amount of helpful comments from people with relevant experiences that helps put these events into context. I'm still collecting them and will break that off into a separate post.
Best of the Board (not the Kicker)
LEGENDARY MICHIGAN COACH WHO STARTED IN 1969
Count the Wolverines on the wall. [Max Ortix/DetNews]
I grew up a long time ago in a house not far away from Brother Rice, one of the bigger D-II programs in-state. When I was in high school Rice had this legendary head coach who was celebrating his 30th season there. Understand, the guy was a massive Spartan, and I went to Groves and rooted for Seaholm (long story), so I'm supposed to despise Brother Rice. But Al Fracassa is just a guy anybody who cares about football in this state should know and respect.
He sent 20 kids to scholarships at BCS schools since 2002, including a parade of 4-stars to East Lansing, but nothing but walk-on's to Michigan for a long while now. When they named the field after Fracassa in Sept 2006, Bo came and spoke (one of his last engagements). He just retired THIS year, so I thought I'd use the announcement of his successor to pay him tribute.
HELLO: RAD MAGICIAN
Michigan's last Jack Weisenburger came for its baseball program and wound up one of the key members of its greatest football teams ever. UM recently inked another Jack Weisenburger (his grandson) to play baseball here. Grandpa says he's a fantastic kid, but would not guarantee this means football will go two years without a loss.
ETC. Help these kids get their wings. Dated, but MBB's remaining schedule side-by-side with the competition. Eighty-five percent of NFL players would risk higher brain functioning to play in Superbowl—not surprised; underlines the need for better controls. LolOSUlostlol. Sports myths. Happy Bend Over to Dave Brandon Day.
[Jump for the zen part cause it's really giffy.]
The State of Our Thing With State. Since the Rose Bowl there's been a palpable "I don't wanna talk about it" feel on the board with regard to the in-state rival. The coaching carousel came and went without whisking Narduzzi or Dantonio to someplace that doesn't have polar vortexes every other week, and the latest is they're the presumed leader for McDowell, which would be exactly the kind of straight-up, in-state recruiting win they haven't had yet vs. Hoke.
During the conference makeover meetings last fall—you know, where the principles were told to make divisions that keep the rivalries intact but were not allowed to do the obvious thing and leave Rutgers and Maryland out of it—MSU successfully lobbied to host our game on even years, which is going to be incredibly annoying when Minnesota is our most interesting home game, and even more annoying when we have to visit East Lansing a second season in a row. That after the coldest, wettest, darkest, most miserable sporting event in human history, when all good things in the world—Michigan's season, your soul, Gardner's ribs, etc.—were obliterated, and the trolls pranced around the parking lot shouting MLive comments to each other, and it was called wisdom.
|I expect they'll show up with "You were worked" t-shirts tomorrow. How dumb are Michigan's slogan t-shirts? They make the Izzone seem clever.|
At Michigan State they teach that insolence is the highest form of expression. The last time we played them at Breslin the Izzone showed up with the perfect mockery of those arrogant shirts Adidas made during the non-conference sweep. And if that message didn't put the Fightin' Dave Brandons in our place, an all-encompassing 75-52 exposure did the trick. Until then Michigan's losses on the season were a couple of close-ish, badly officiated, bad-luck-sort affairs at OSU, Indiana, and, just three days earlier, Wisconsin.
Some people called the blowout in East Lansing a Tuesday-turnaround throwaway and moved on; these people are not surrounded by Spartans every day of their lives. For me, if it had rained freezing water droplets containing bits of Gardner's sternum rather than Gary Harris three-pointers, it wouldn't have felt much different.
Of course the last time we played in basketball was March 3rd at Crisler, when Stauskas bleeding profusely from Branden Dawson's elbow promised to be your lasting image of the season. Then Trey Burke pilfered one, and scored, and slapped the floor, and then stole another to seal a one-point victory, and burned a completely different set of images onto our memories.
This week their QB recruit from Cass Tech (whom a year ago a lot of people on the board wanted to be our QB recruit) bodyslammed one of his high school security guards. And we played their mediocre hockey team last night at the Joe, and won 2-1 on PDG's goal at 17:42 in the 3rd, and had a posbang thread for it. These are small things, yet received greater attention because the horrific events of late 2013 are still fresh.
Their basketball team started as everybody's favorite 1-seed, and is currently No. 3 in the nation. But that's just because the last guys they called No. 3 got knocked off at home by the same Michigan team that visits on Saturday. LSA says Michigan's shooting the lights out since conference play began. Brian says because we beat Iowa and Wisconsin that tomorrow is house money. I'm telling you it doesn't feel like that.
More Best of the Board
SIGNS OF OUR TIMES
College Gameday will be at Breslin tomorrow, and that means a thread to brainstorm ideas for signs. Some good 'uns:
- "I DON'T PARTICULARLY CARE FOR YOU PEOPLE"
- "EAST LANSING IS A WOMAN OF NEGOTIABLE AFFECTION" (r.i.p. MGoShirt)
- "SAY 'NOT JUST A SHOOTER!'"
- "QUEME LOS BARCOS; QUEME LOS SOFAS" (r.i.p. other MGoShirt)
- "BEAT STAEE"
- "THIS SIGN GOT INTO MICHIGAN BUT CHOSE TO GO TO STATE"
- "MSU MATH: TWO OF SIX = DOMINATING"
- "LET'S ARGUE ABOUT WHO WAS BORN FIRST"
IF YOU SPONSOR, WE WILL COME
We finally did some live events last year and every one turned out better than my expectations. I've been chatting with several former players with charities worth getting together for. Anyway I'd like to do these again this year and am open to venue suggestions, either in cities with a large contingent of MGoReaders over the summer (not New York or D.C. since we already do those), or at football away games. Mostly I need somebody on the ground in your town, or a connection to a company who'd like to sponsor these in various places across their footprint so we can keep them free.
ETC. Discussion on Walton's defense. Guy who met Fran McCaffery obviously didn't do so during a basketball game. Detroit Lions get a t-shirt for participation (this was a Bears fan's job but replace the kitten with Bubbles and I'd wear it to Ford Field totally). Michigan's new president is being announced right now. Morgan appreciation. Burke eviscerating the Pistons #FIREDUMARS. Brandon Brown recruiting updates on QBs Nick Johns and Jarrett Stidham, and RB Johnny Frasier. Hart changes directions. Preferred walk-on commit (kicker/punter).
Your Moment of Zen:
When I did the UFR of Bama's bowl game this week I ran into the same content fight that Brian vs. had with companies who license X conference's games then go around abusing YouTube's preference to stay out of fair use debates. As an alternative to the videos they harassed me about, I placed some of the analysis from the article right into the video. Somebody asked me to do that with Michigan's plays so I gave it a shot:
If these are helpful I might make it into a feature. If they're just repeating what you get from UFR and picture pages I'll drop the idea.
Eye of the Tiger has started going this direction as well, changing "Reading the Tea Leaves" into "Zone Blocking Zealot," and promising stuff like this:
The next question is: which of the OL on the double releases to the second-level defender? In some cases, this will be determined by the nature of the double—if one of the OL has a bad position on the defender, he will release. But if it’s a good double, where either OL could sustain the block, the releasing OL will be determined by the danger posed by the nearest second-level defender. Take this example from the Jaguars link:
This blogger votes yea.
Basketball2000. LSA switched up too: the regular statistical analyses and charts and lolcats thing is covering the cagers now, starting with a look at the non-conference schedule. The team has fared as well as their ballhandling:
[Jump for the board.]
So we've got ourselves a new offensive coordinator. I guess there's no use hiding that I'm on the more ambivalent end of the spectrum of Michigan fans, but I'm a spread zealot, and I admit another gorram transition is just too painful a prospect right this moment. At the very least it was the kind of PR coup that resets the countdown clock on Hoke's tenure. These days you only get to play the "it was my offensive coordinator's fault" card once per Rose Bowl trip, but this was the right time to do so. I'm probably just a cynic who's been sold a bill of Mariucci over Mornhinwheg to believe in any apparent upgrade. Let's see if the readers can convince me otherwise.
Eye of the TIger tried. He found some quotes by an ex-Bama player on how Inside Zone is repped to insanity, which can be taken as evidence of philosophical thinking, or taken as the zone version of Hoke's "Power" philosophy which admittedly never materialized under Borges anyway.
|The thing about Barrett Jones is you don't have to make tough decisions about what your OL can and can't do.|
Tiger pointed out that Alabama's riches in offensive lineman size allowed them to depart from the typical suite of complementary plays and players that limits you to. It's supposed to be this:
Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:
The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run. A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play. The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.
Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.
Major advantages: You can run an offense with less experienced OL and opens up a bigger growth curve for RBs, who become more effective the more comfortable they get at reading the holes and cutback lanes.
Major disadvantage: It's way harder to run play-action from a zone running look. Reason is nothing gets defenders thinking run like a good running MANBALL (or inverted veer) team pulling a guard. Second reason is the small, cut-rate scatbacks that zone lets you get away with don't typically make very good pass blockers. I probably don't have to tell this to 2013 Michigan fans.
At Alabama they overcame the disadvantage by having massive/quick OL who are naturally difficult obstacles to a pass rusher, and with 5-star running backs who can cut, block, slam, juke, and jet, all for three easy payments of $3,995.95, plus shipping and handler's fee (order now and we'll throw in a free safety). At Michigan, well, actually, we've got just those kinds of guys on campus now. Maybe?
Also there's this:
@michiganinsider I think people don't realize how handcuff Nuss was at Bama, he called the plays, but Nick was in control, handcuffs are off
— Theus DeShon Sears (@Theist313) January 10, 2014
And here I am a quarter way through UFRing an Alabama game. Anyone got Washington tapes?
P.S. I purposely stayed vague on the Song of Ice and Fire references; you're not off the hook from a season recap.
[After the jump: the board goes Borges for Nuss]