alternate headline: man does job
Greenstein could have just gone quiet, or could have recrafted his article as a more general statement on the woes of modern recruiting. But instead, he doubled down.
As you probably know, I am not an insider, and to the extent I have information that is not already in the public domain, I do not plan to share. But in the interest of poking bad writing and logic with a stick, I thought I would share my thoughts on Mr. Greenstein's thoughts.
1. Much of the response was along the lines of: Hey, other coaches also dump verbal commitments. Why single out Harbaugh?
My response to that: I’m among the scores of college football columnists who have ripped SEC coaches for oversigning. What Harbaugh is doing, on this scale, is unprecedented among Big Ten coaches. And I cover the Big Ten.
First of all, what “scale” is this, and exactly what part is unprecedented? I’m guessing Teddy will fill us in on these things soon.*
*SPOILER: he doesn’t.
He began the practice at Stanford, using the shield of academics and the admissions office. Quarterback Kain Colter, who carried a 4.2 grade-point average and later led the fight to unionize college football at Northwestern, was dumped after he injured his throwing shoulder.
Does Greenstein have a problem with a team “dumping” a player for injury reasons? I can’t wait to find out.
Harbaugh is now dropping verbal commits when he thinks he can upgrade to a better player. Or a healthier one.
The circumstances of the departures vary widely, and the latest insisted his scholarship offer had not been pulled. But we’re talking about eight players. Eight. More info here in Mark Snyder’s Detroit Free Press piece.
Got it. So when a recruit (in this case Enis) comes out and explicitly says “my scholarship wasn’t pulled,” and no one contradicts that statement, he still gets the “the kid insists his scholarship wasn’t pulled” treatment, with the implication being “but we should be suspicious and can’t just take him on his word.” But when a kid comes out and says his scholarship WAS pulled suddenly, even when it is contradicted by other sources, we’re required to take it at face value.
Moreover, the suggestion that Michigan has pulled eight scholarships is just weird. He’s lumping the likes of Antwain Richardson (who from all indications the Michigan staff wanted), Vic Viramontes (who Michigan wanted, and who the MGoStaff REALLY wanted), and Matt Falcon (whose knee asploded several times), as well as situations where, to be tactful, qualification was an issue.
In one instance, a player coming off multiple knee injuries was told he could either retain his scholarship as a student or go elsewhere to play football. Some people have a problem with that. I don’t.
But wait, you just lumped him in with the eight. EIGHT, I say. Also, what about Harbaugh casting Kain Colter adrift in a life boat with a tiger because of a bum shoulder?
Harbaugh declined to comment Friday. A university spokesman emailed the Tribune to say "we won't be commenting at this time due to NCAA rules."
Couple of things here. First, this line was not in the original article that ran. It was added to subsequent versions, with no mention of a correction. Second, you'll note this was Friday, while the original article ran Thursday. Did Greenstein even ask for Michigan's side of the original story? There's no mention of it if he did. Also, keep that "NCAA rules" part in mind for later.
2: As I wrote, Harbaugh is taking advantage of a flawed system. For years players have decommited before signing day, “upgrading” and reneging on commitments. If you’re a Michigan fan, you might use that to justify Harbaugh’s methods.
But if Erik Swenson (much more on him below) was your son, would still feel that way?
If I’m Swen Swenson, (a) I have an awesome name, and would monogram everything I own, and (b) I would want my son to have the absolute best in everything. That’s how parenthood works. I’d bet my late father would have wanted me to receive multiple D1 offers. But I was 5’9” coming out of high school, and the world is a tough place.
You can argue about the relative merits of the current recruiting system all you want (and it’s a valid and important conversation), but when you write two articles using the word “Harbaugh” a total of 30 times, make no suggestion of any other coaches doing anything similar, use words like “mockery,” “greedy,” and “Nixonian,” and make a reference to Deflategate (which, still? Really? Do they not teach the Ideal Gas Law at Northwestern?), you have to say something that is specific to Harbaugh.
3: The most honest response to all this came from the Twitter feed @cubbygeorge: “GO BLUE whatever the costs!!!”
This is some next-level ad hominem shit right here. You don’t just attack the person rather than the position, you attack the person defending that person. One random person. With 33 followers. Who voluntarily roots for the Cubs.
4: The most interesting response came from Harbaugh’s Twitter feed, his only tweet since Sunday: “‘They said’ artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in Iraq and Anna Nicole married for love ‘... ‘They said’”
So apparently we should not believe “they” … whoever they is.
That… that’s not even an argument. That’s just the weirdest retweet ever.
5: Let’s review what Swenson, an offensive lineman from the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told the Tribune’s Bob Narang....”
In the interest of space, I'll just sumarize. You have all heard Swenson’s position; that he had NO indication that anything was amiss until a couple of days before the proverbial hammer dropped. Let’s remember that for a bit.
Also: “I was kind of taken back in the beginning, but that’s how those coaches are. There’s nothing you can change about them. They believe that’s how you should run the university and what’s best for the team. I was taken back. I fully intended to play there. I was nothing but loyal and was committed over two years. I helped them recruit several guys that are still there. I just felt used.”
This is where I am reminded how much this whole thing sucks. It has played out really poorly, and it left a kid who by all accounts LOVED Michigan without the opportunity he dreamed of. I feel bad for Erik Swenson. I just don’t know if he’s doing himself a service here.
6: A story that ran Friday on Michigan’s Rivals.com site, The Wolverine, included this:
"We have also been told by multiple sources (though admittedly one of those sources on the Michigan side) that the Swensons were told back in November that he no longer held a committable offer.
We were also told by a source out of Downers Grove that the Michigan coaches asked Swenson to camp at U-M over the summer so the staff could properly evaluate him (he refused) and we were told that it was understood that Swenson’s senior year would serve as an evaluation period because this coaching staff had never seen him in-person and wanted to know if he was a good fit for the program."
[ED: omitted additional unflattering comments from area coaches, for space and relevance]
So we have unnamed sources bashing Swenson OFF THE RECORD. ("Off the record," by the way, means not to be published. "On background" means you can use the information as long as it’s unattributed.)
This is where Teddy just loses me. There are very specific claims from Rivals, who is unquestionably a legitimate outfit with legitimate sources. Those claims are as follows:
- Swenson was told back in November that he no longer held a committable offer.
- Swenson was asked to camp at Michigan and refused.
- The same Free Press article Greenstein links above contains a quote from Swenson’s OWN COACH who said, “we got some red flags three weeks ago, just comments made from coach encouraging Erik to make all five official visits (to other schools). That was the first indication it wasn’t heading in the direction we thought it was going.”
Greenstein’s entire rebuttal to this argument is that these sources are off the record. Not that they are wrong, or biased, or drunk. He doesn’t seem to recall that, as he mentioned like 500 words ago, Michigan *cannot* comment about him on the record. It’s an NCAA violation. Besides, not everyone is
off the record on background (ed: sorry, I did not go to Medill). Swenson’s own high school coach contradicts his story that Michigan lurched from the shadows like Brutus attacking Julius Caesar and metaphorically stabbed him in the back.
And Greenstein doesn’t want to believe this. Which, okay, I guess. There are two sides, and you can choose to believe whomever you want. But if Rivals’ sources say Michigan told Swenson months ago (and, FWIW, they are NOT the only ones saying so), and it is empirically true that rumors have floated on insider boards for weeks, and Swenson’s coach claims he knew something was up weeks ago, you have to at least TRY to explain why you reject all of that information in favor of the story of the recruiting equivalent of a jilted ex. Everyone knew but him, and none of these other conversations ever happened. His high school coach never mentioned it. None of his classmates or teammates or fellow recruits saw this information and passed it along so Erik could ask Drevno what was up. Occam, noted non-Medill graduate, is confused.
7: What’s interesting about The Wolverine piece is that it ignores stories that ran on its own website. From September to December, it ran two stories on Swenson.
Oct. 16: “Swenson is a Staple” … 743 words without a hint of any negative vibes from the coaching staff...
Nov. 13: “Swenson with the Scoop” … 401 words, again without a hint of any negative vibes from the coaching staff...
Does this sound like a player who was informed by coaches over the summer that his offer was conditional, that he was subject to an “evaluation period?”
Behold, the bait and switch. Rivals didn’t know in mid-November that Swenson’s situation had changed, therefore there was no way Swenson knew it had changed. And if you think about that for more than two seconds, it doesn’t pass the smell test. If you get a questionable performance review at work, that doesn’t get published in the company newsletter. If you’re failing, say, Journalism 100, no one issues a press release. For the kids who Michigan loses because they don’t qualify, Rivals didn’t run weekly updates on their Algebra scores.
The fact that Michigan didn’t bash Swenson publically is both logical and “ethical,” if we want to use that word. Teddy, you asked before how you would feel if you were Swen Swenson, to which I reply (a) monograms, and (b) I’d rather not see a Rivals headline saying “Michigan Questioning Whether Swenson Can Cut It,” both because it would be cruel and because it would taint him for other schools.
8: If Michigan was souring on Swenson in the fall, Harbaugh should have sat him down, looked him in the eye and told him exactly how he felt.
Dear reader, I ask you to go re-read point #6. The same point #6 that Greenstein brushed off, and made NO effort to contradict. According to Spath’s sources, Michigan sat Swenson down in the fall, looked him in the eye, and told him exactly how they felt.
9: I hope Harbaugh remains at Michigan for another 20 years because college football is way more interesting with him around. I also hope he realizes that the way he’s acting is unseemly. A great school deserves better.
One could say the same of a great publication. But sometimes people end up places above the level at which they can reasonably compete.
We can debate the merits of how Jim Harbaugh, or Michigan, or any school handles recruiting. But You have to start with the facts.
Michigan's longest-standing commit is no longer one:
— Erik Swenson (@Eiek77) January 20, 2016
While that's a surprise it's less of a surprise since this week people started putting their name next to the assertion that he would not end up in the class. Mike Spath said so in a post on attrition; Wiltfong did the same at 247; Webb concurred. With Northwestern and Nebraska possible landing spots, academics are obviously not a problem.
Swenson committed to Brady Hoke's Michigan sometime during the Truman administration and hasn't wavered or visited elsewhere; like Rashad Weaver and Kiante Enis this appears to be a case where Michigan re-evaluated the players' talent after their senior season and did not like what they saw. Let's talk about how we feel about that, with the caveat that we are working with incomplete information here since neither side is offering much detail on what went down.
Editorial opinion on decommitting guys based on talent
Michigan's suffered a number of decommits this cycle. Some were not Michigan's choice, others are because of academic concerns, and a few look like Michigan straight-up pulling offers from committed recruits because they prefer other players. To date players in the latter category appear to be Enis, Weaver, and Swenson.
This could be anywhere from completely legit (Harbaugh tells them they may have to find another landing spot if things don't work out) to not great (this is not communicated). There's a post on the board from a gentleman claiming to be two degrees of separation from a recruit who consciously uncoupled from Michigan, and it was more or less the former:
He said the coaches meticulously laid out who his competition would be, and explained to him that they weren't done recruiting the position yet. Harbaugh also told him that his scholarship to one of the best academic institutes was absolutely still available to him, but he would need to work his ass off to see any playing time. Said recruit has decided that while academics are important, playing football is his true passion and wants to see the field sooner than later. He would rather fine tune his game on the field and get better.
Despite the parting of ways the recruit seemed fine with the overall result, as he got a ton more interest after "Michigan commit" was appended to his resume.
Enis and Weaver were probably given a heads-up a couple months ago. Enis made an official to Indiana in December; Weaver scheduled an official to Temple in November. In any case they are likely to find schools that are a better fit for them and have fine college careers.
This doesn't really bother me. These days "commit" is used about as accurately as "literally" and Harbaugh has adapted to that situation. If you want to visit, visit. Michigan is going to recruit as if commits don't exist, just like everyone else does. It can be infuriating for players, coaches, and fans as order and structure break down but that's life. I've never really railed about that practice; it's shipping guys out mid-career without a degree, against their will, that rankles. I don't think Michigan will be doing that and certainly hope they never do.
However, Swenson's situation is considerably more sketch. He has not made a peep since his commitment and was tweeting about signing with Michigan as late as January 3rd. Webb says "don't be surprised if a little mudslinging happens." Swenson took the high road, but if someone pops off after a LOI is safely faxed I won't be surprised, nor will I have much to say other than "seems accurate."
If Michigan was going to pull Swenson's scholarship it should have at least warned him about the possibility during the season so he could make a backup plan. That doesn't look like the case and it appears Michigan has pissed some people off. Not a good look.
If he wants to play and does land with the Wildcats or Huskers, he's probably better off. Michigan looked at senior film and decided he would not play.
I wouldn't want to go to a school that thought I wouldn't play and wouldn't tell me that; I would expect them to tell me that. By November at the latest.
This isn't so much a rug being pulled out from under someone as an order for a rug being canceled. Michigan does have to get more organized with this stuff going forward. Setting someone adrift approximately three weeks before Signing Day—the news took a week or two to get out—isn't enough time for them to find the best landing spot.
Attrition, Expected and... Not So Expected
In a move that should surprise no one, three-star in-state ILB David Reese announced his decommitment from Michigan yesterday so he can find a program that will allow him to enroll early:
— REESE3⃣ (@Dreese18) December 10, 2015
The coaches assuredly saw that coming. That wasn't the case with the decommitment of three-star CA QB/ATH Victor Viramontes over the weekend, per 247's Clint Brewster ($):
The de-commitment came as a huge surprise to Michigan as coach John Baxter just saw Viramontes and reported back to Harbaugh that the visit went extremely well.
We have been told that Viramontes was given bad information from a member of his camp that Michigan wouldn’t give him a shot at quarterback and he would immediately be a fullback or linebacker, which is completely false.
Sam Webb discussed the Viramontes situation extensively on his radio show Monday; alum96 was kind enough to write up a summary on the board that's well worth reading. The upshot: while Michigan wasn't expecting Viramontes to leave the class, they don't consider him a must-get—they'll continue to pursue him but at this point there are other uncommitted prospects who are higher priorities.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Closing The Opening: Michigan Commits
"Keep it up and I might return the hug." — Tim Drevno
The Elite11/The Opening camp bonanza finally wrapped up, and both Michigan commits to participate fared well. Despite not being able to show off arguably his greatest strength, Michael Onwenu made 247's top performer list again at the end of the week:
The Michigan commit is almost immovable at 371 pounds. On a rep-by-rep basis, very few offensive linemen have had the success Onwenu has had in the pass-rush one-on-ones. Because his state's high school athletic association doesn't allow him to wear pads, Onwenu didn't compete in the run-blocking drills but that would seem to be an even better setting for his skill set.
In one of the highlights of the camp, he faced off against Ohio State commit Jonathan Cooper in one-on-ones and won a rep with authority:
A 371-pound guard facing the top edge-rushers in the country should not be able to do that. The counselors agreed; they selected Onwenu for the all-tournament team.
After moving in and out of the offical list throughout the week, Brandon Peters ended up
finishing 10th in the Elite 11. [EDIT: Because the Elite 11 tries to be as useless as possible, apparently, they put players in alphabetical order after winner Shea Patterson, so Peters finished somewhere between 2nd and 11th.] As was the case early last week, Peters impressed onlookers even more than the counselors (maybe?), finishing seventh on 247's Barton Simmons' list:
Peters is one of the best quarterbacks in the Elite 11 from release to completion. The ball is always on target with spin and velocity. If he picks up the pace in his drops and delivery, adds some more urgency, he has a chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in this group.
The word on Peters is pretty consistent these days: strong, accurate arm; good athleticism for a "pro-style" QB; excellent potential if he corrects some technical flaws.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Ace is on vacation this week.
Rashan Gary is never impressed
NJ DT Rashan Gary, the consensus #1 player in the country, has been on Michigan's radar for a while. Michigan has been the tentatively presumed leader after they hired Chris Patridge, Gary's high school coach, to be their recruiting coordinator. Gary himself hasn't said much, but after a swing through the Midwest on visits that's beginning to change.
Sam Webb recapped Gary's visit on the Scout message board($). Gary's mom:
"Michigan hit every detail," Jennifer Coney said. "EVERY detail."
There's a bunch more at the link. The vibes there are pretty good; Gary is planning one more trip this summer, to Georgia, and then they plan on narrowing his list. It does not sound like OSU is going to be a main competitor.
But it's never easy with a guy as highly touted as Gary. 247's Steve Wiltfong:
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) June 29, 2015
Sounds good... except that Wiltfong put in an Auburn Crystal Ball for Gary. Gary's mom again($):
“You can know for sure Michigan is going to make the cut,” Jennifer Coney, Gary’s mother said. “You know Auburn is going to make the cut."
That would be a top two, then.
Michigan is also in on five-star CA LB Caleb Kelly, who was in attendance for a satellite camp in his area. He has a very practical take on things:
"It's like any other coach: you get told what to do, and you go ahead and you do it. It's just cool to have it be from the Michigan coaches. It's a big-name school and that's cool."
He has a who's who of offers; Oklahoma is currently strong on his Crystal Ball.
The New Jersey Migration of the Early Harbaugh Epoch
A pile of New Jersey (and environs) players made it out to Ann Arbor last week, with great success. Four star NJ DE Ron Johnson is already in. Four star NJ WR Brad Hawkins, Johnson's teammate, is probably next. He is scheduled to announce on Friday; Michigan and South Carolina are pretty much the only contenders; he has a visit scheduled to Michigan for July 19th.
Rule eight of following recruiting is that "a recruit who has a visit scheduled for after an announcement is going to the school he is visiting." (Rules 1, 3, 7, 13, 50, and 121 are "DON'T TWEET AT RECRUITS." Number 144 is "SERIOUSLY.") Also, Michigan has fielded every Crystal Ball pick since February.
Ahmir Mitchell has a bowling trophy
Fellow NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell is also nearing a decision. Star-Leger reporter Todderick Hunt:
2 teams stand out 4 Mitchell although he's not ready 4 me 2 release them at this time. But seems to B gettin closer. pic.twitter.com/BEOgONFUZF
— Todderick Hunt (@TodderickHunt) June 27, 2015
Michigan is one of those teams. OSU is the other according to Rivals. Mitchell just announced that he would not be doing any more interviews before his decision, so he's clearly thinking about making one in the near future. Lorenz is hearing positive things($), and the Crystal Ball is an M blowout.
BTW, Mitchell's pretty good($).
There are few players in the country that are comparable to Mitchell. His size, explosiveness, competitiveness and reliable hands were on full display on Saturday. Cornerbacks that tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage were quickly dispatched and errant passes were hauled in with ease. There was one pass that Mitchell hauled in with one hand between two defenders. He had to pin it against his body because the defender was holding onto his other arm.
In not-quite-New-Jersey-but-pretty-much, Philly-based PA TE Naseir Upshur came back from the trip beaming, rating it a "ten of ten($)". He's got a commitment date scheduled for August 8th. Rule nine of following recruiting is "a recruit who issues a commit date soon after a visit is probably going to that school." When that doesn't happen, it's usually because another school swoops in with a visit before the announce date and changes things. That is a possibility here($):
*Alabama is still very likely to add another tight end to its current 2016 haul of two standing commitments at the position, and one of their top targets - Naseir Upshur - a 6-foot-2, 233-pound four-star prospect out of Philadelphia, will be visiting Tuscaloosa with his family on July 17. Michigan is trending with Upshur on the Crystal Ball at 74 percent at the moment. Upshur plans to commit on August 8.
We saw Alabama grab Khalid Kareem. It could happen, but Steve Lorenz notes that($) "Michigan's lead has reportedly grown into a very strong one at this point" and that he is one of the safest bets on Michigan's board" at the moment.
Finally, 2017 NJ OL Cesar Ruiz was on the trip, picked up an offer($), and sounds very excited about it. Michigan is a tentative early leader.
Sometimes I get the feeling that a certain player is not going to end up at Michigan despite everyone assuming they'll end up at Michigan. This usually happens when Michigan's lead goes on and on and on without a commitment actually happening. See: Parrker Westphal.
In related news, FL LB Jonathan Jones still maintains that Michigan is his leader($):
Sam Webb: It seems like someone is committing to Michigan every day. Is the number of scholarships they have left something that is on your mind at all?
Jonathan Jones: “Not really. I’ll be honest when it comes to all my top schools. Four years is a huge part of my life and I’m going to train that out and I’m not going to rush myself for any school. … I’m going to be honest with you, I’m real pressed to go there. There my leader most definitely, but it just wouldn’t be a wise decision to check out that school and leave all my other options unsettled."
Jones wants to take all his officials and may decide as late as signing day, and doesn't appear to be the type of guy to get sped up because Michigan is filling up. Michigan would definitely take him now. Will they take him in December or January? Depends on a lot of things.
FWIW, Jones has an academically-oriented top five of M, Notre Dame, Duke, Stanford, and Oklahoma and seems to be the kind of guy who Harbaugh is after.
"Jim Harbaugh is their new coach and he has a lot of NFL experience," he discussed about the Wolverines. "He can translate that to the college game, and I can gain a lot of knowledge from what he has to offer. I have a lot of family on my father's side that lives in Detroit. That's not too far away so I'll have them there to support me if I went there. Their academics stand out."
They'll have to beat out some heavy hitters here. Alabama, FSU, Georgia, and Clemson are also on his list. Kelly came out to Sound Mind, Sound Body, so there's real interest there. Wiltfong says Michigan is "very much in it."
Michigan's also recruiting AZ DE Connor Murphy, who relates his weird history with Harbaugh on the tubes:
This one's a longshot, but Michigan's trying to get GA DE Antonneous Clayton on campus for a visit($).
Swenson still around
IL OL Erik Swenson has been committed to Michigan for over a year now—his recruiting profile is going to start the same way Tyree Kinnel's did—and Nick Baumgardner would like to remind you of his existence:
"The first thing (Harbaugh) told me was 'you're a lot bigger than you look in pictures,' " Swenson laughed. "He's a great guy. He's not the guy he sometimes gets portrayed as in the media, the guy who is always yelling and screaming, doing anything for a win. He wants to win, obviously and he can be serious, but he's funny, relaxed. He's got a great personality."
Swenson's now a part of a great OL recruiting class that is currently four deep on touted prospects and could add a fifth any day now if MD OL Terrance Davis decides to drop.
Reese maybe not so much
Michigan has a couple of wavering linebacker commits. One is instater David Reese, who apparently committed as fullback but is now having second thoughts. This might have something to do with MI WR Desmond Fitzpatrick's recruitment. The two are teammates and Fitzpatrick seemed like he was about to flip from Louisville to Michigan… and then didn't.
That and Reese's desire to play linebacker have him poking around. He took a visit to Maryland:
"I just want the initial opportunity to play linebacker because that's where my heart is. But I understand that if I didn't start for two years then I would want to see the field-of course I want to play. So of course I would go at fullback. But I feel like I can actually play at linebacker."
He offered the "I'm committed but keeping my options open" spiel as well. If I had to bet I'd guess he ends up flipping elsewhere.
Etc.: 2017 TN RB Cordarrian Richardson is a guy to keep an eye on.NC OL Landon Dickerson sets an official for Oregon State. Michigan has faded with CA CB David Long but he is planning a visit($) before a decision. Stanford is a heavy leader.
Well, crap, I guess I should probably do one of these.
Goodbye: Chris Clark
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) December 2, 2014
Mere moments after the announcement of Brady Hoke's dismissal, four-star 2015 TE commit Chris Clark decommitted in a move that came as little surprise. In talking to The Wolverine's Brandon Brown, he gave the impression Michigan is pretty unlikely to regain his commitment ($):
"I'm still interested in Michigan but it kind of just depends on the impression the new coach makes on me," he said. "I'll be honest, it's probably going to be pretty tough but we will see. I just really have to see who the new coach is going to be and what coaches are going to be on his staff.
North Carolina, the school Clark originally committed to, is among four other programs vying for his services, along with Texas, UCLA, and USC. Providing a small ray of hope, Clark said he'd like to take one of his official visits to Ann Arbor, and his recruitment should extend until Signing Day or close to it.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup, including updates on Kinnel, Cole, the 2016 commits, and Wheatley.]