Hello. You have made it to the end. This year's edition checks in at 43,424 words.
Memories Of Butter. Let's punch a cow until it gives us butter, because it's hard to remember the right way to do it.
Quarterback. Protect this man for great profit.
Running back. Emerge from the swamp and claim your birthright.
Wide Receiver. I will not compare Devin Funchess to Megatron… okay maybe just a little.
Tight End And Friends. Waiting for Budot.
Offensive Line. The catch.
5Q5A, Offense. The madness of last year and leaving it behind.
Defensive End. Secret Agent Clark is the key to the whole thing.
Defensive Tackle. We have the meat. We have the ogre. Unleash the meatogre.
Linebacker. Four starters for two and a half spots. I like 'em both.
Cornerback. In ur face jammin ur doodz
Safety. In this solitary case, Nickelback does not suck.
5Q5A, Defense. Making the case that this is the year to kick ass.
Special Teams. Hagerup leg cannon returns.
Podcast 6.0. We may still be recording this, it's that long.
Heuristics and Stupid Prediction. I say 9-3.
THE HORROR II
Previewed by Ace.
One of my favorite annual pieces is always Orson's season kickoff post. He outdid himself this year. I had the fortune to read it in my feed reader, which meant the GIFs embedded in the post just ran; on SBN their normally very wise GIF-handling software only runs them when you mouseover the image. This is unfortunate, as the gifs give the piece a wonderfully haunted air.
I wasn't really prepared for the last one.
I know I've been pissed off you guys about the increasingly aggressive moneychangers in the temple, but goddamn that is heartstopping. I want to go there again. I want to see the mountains in the background as the sun sets in the third quarter and feel that awe and privilege that this place exists and I have a reason to be here.
And now I feel like there is still something sacred out there, and that is why we all gravitated to this thing in the first place. The bowl goes up and up and it is just impossibly full of people. The thing in front of us is happening right now and I will remember this as glory or death until I've forgotten my own name. The thing is still in there. You just have to look a little harder these days. Rummage around. You'll find it.
Practice video. From Maize and Blue News:
Jane previews Michigan! Oh man this is just so dead on:
We long for a past that we hated while it was happening, in which Michigan would go 9-3 or 10-2 and people would complain like Michigan was a waiter who we couldn't find when we just wanted the goddamn check. If a Michigan fan tells you that they liked Tom Brady when he was playing at Michigan, they are lying because no Michigan fan ever liked whomever was starting at quarterback until Denard Robinson. We hated Elvis Grbac. We hated Brian Griese. We hated John Navarre. We hated Drew Henson. We hated - HATED - sad robot Chad Henne*.
I tended to like Michigan's quarterbacks who were not underclassman Drew Henson, and I knew the one guy who really really liked John Navarre. Like, he was super-enthused about John Navarre. And eventually correct!
More insider business. A gentleman who is probably too identifiable for his own good comes back with a very legit-seeming practice report that he's posted on a couple of different boards. The 247 version, all errors sic:
DL looked great, really great. all the hype is backed up. Pipkins looks the part, even coming off the injury. on friday he was easily the most impressive NT that they had, that by no means is discounting mone, hurst, or henry. Their depth and talent at the position although young, is very, very good. Even pallante looked good!! yes, he is small, but ive spoken to a few players who say he is as strong as a senior and one of the quickest most technically sound players there.
I imagine that if that's true we'll see at least one of those four guys (Pipkins, Mone, Hurst, Henry) at three-tech, which currently has Wormley and no one else who's gotten much hype.
That's not good. Nebraska lost three defenders for the season a couple days back, including two starters: Michael Rose and LeRoy Alexander. That'll help when Michigan… uh… we don't play them this year, or until all those guys graduate. CARRY ON.
That's not… uh… relevant. Reporting from media day!
“The job that he does and the job that he’s done since the day he got here, has been unbelievable,” Mattison said with a sweaty upper lip. “Me personally, there is no way I would have come here if it wasn’t for Brady Hoke.”
That typed itself, I bet. I bet Brendan F Quinn was mesmerized by the lip and when it came time to write the article that phrase slipped itself in there and if you ask Brendan F Quinn about that passage he will be shocked that it exists. You see, I've been there, down on ol' Lip Mesmerization Farm. It's a strange, sweaty place, but you get used to it.
No age gap now. Another article on how the offensive line is going to be better because they all like each other:
"There was an age gap last year, and it was just there," Bosch said. "It was just something that was obviously noticeable. You could tell 'these were the seniors, you were a freshmen.' That's how it was."
No chance of that this year, because there are no seniors. For the record I think the line will be better this year because they will be trying to do one thing instead of all things and not necessarily because they are more together. Or that they are Galvanized By Criticism:
Those stats and the barrage of negative press regarding Michigan’s offensive line have helped galvanize the linemen. Jack Miller, a redshirt junior who started the first four games at center last season, said they are more than aware of the doubters.
No doubt they will Shock The World and Not Listen To The Haters. I mean, Miller's following quote is twisted pretty hard to get into that narrative:
“Between last year and this offseason, you’d be hard-pressed to miss that if you pay attention to anything,” Miller said. “You run into fans who say stuff — ‘What’s going on with that offensive line?’ But that’s the way it goes with any program of this caliber. We know that. We know that’s part of the gig here, and that’s OK. Some of it is rightly so. We need to live up the expectations that people have here.”
A good rule of thumb: when someone cites chemistry as a reason for something it's because they don't know. Chalking it up to the undefinable cannot be disproved or really even argued.
Getting on the the WJC team. College Hockey News profiles Downing and Motte as they try to avoid being late cuts this time around. USA coach mark Osiecki on Downing:
“We’re still trying to identify what (Downing’s) strengths and weaknesses will be,” Osiecki said. “He has a bomb from the blue line, that’s for sure, there’s no doubt about that. His awareness from the red line back has continued to show improvement. It’s hard for a defenseman to jump into summer hockey. You haven’t done much defending at all, and he likes to get into the offense when he can, but he’s getting back to it on the defensive side of things.”
Downing says he's put on 25 pounds; hopefully he'll be more of a physical presence than he was last year, when he was more lanky than intimidating. Motte dumped in a hat trick in the USA's 9-1 thumping of Finland, playing with uber-prospect Jack Eichel.
For his part, JT Compher is not so much fighting to make the team as fighting to be named king:
While a few players have stepped up, it's obvious Compher has emerged as the frontrunner to be captain of the team.
"He's done a really nice job," Osiecki said. "There's a group of those kids that are similar, but you talk to any of the support staff, the trainers, the equipment personnel, and they say he's very vocal and takes charge of the group. We have to start that now and develop that relationship between him and the coaching staff."
I am looking forward to the Copp/Compher axis truly owning the team this year. Jack Eichel:
"He does everything on the ice so well," Eichel, a teammate on the USNTDP U-18 team in 2012-13. "He's a guy that you can just try to model your game after. He just so good wherever he is, in the faceoff circle, in the [defensive] zone, he's great killing penalties, great on the power play. He's a role model to me and I really look up to him. He's a great kid and a great leader. He works so hard everywhere. Everyone else tries to match him. A guy like that on your team, it's really good. Everyone tries to work as hard as him, and if everyone works as hard as J.T., you know you have a good team."
How do two stars get drafted? By adding half a person.
Ra'Shede Hageman, No. 35 overall, gained 60 pounds
Hageman was a well-regarded but raw tight end recruit who grew from a listed 6'6, 250 to 310 pounds while at Minnesota, moving to defensive tackle. He's expected to make an instant impact for the Atlanta Falcons.
Jimmy Staten, No. 172 overall, gained 86
Staten was a 6'3, 217-pound two-star defensive end in high school when he signed with Middle Tennessee State. The Seahawks drafted him at 6'4, 303.
At least nine other drafted two-stars increased their body weight by 20 percent between high school and the Combine.
You really shouldn't criticize recruiting services for missing on guys like Staten or Buffalo first-rounder Khalil Mack—everyone else did. There are always going to be guys who blow up in college.
Etc.: In news that you take for granted these days, all of Michigan's freshmen are enrolled and full go. A look at what Loeffler wants to do at VT. Autonomy details. Annual Michigan drill thingy. Gasaway on the O'Bannon ruling.
Let's feel good! Here's a danged good college football hype video that features Michigan a surprising amount:
YEAH LET'S GET HYPED FOR THE OPENER AGAINST [record SCRATCHHHHHHHH]
Well, that didn't last long. A casino has set an over/under for Michigan football wins next year…
At the moment, 5Dimes has Michigan's over/under for wins in 2014 set at 7 1/2. Presently, the money line is set at -170 on the over of 7 1/2 wins, which means most bettors are going with at least eight wins for the Wolverines in 2014.
…ugh. Not hitting that number would mean losing all three rivalry games and two more from the pu-pu platter that is the rest of the schedule.
Let's feel good again! Jabrill Peppers ran a 100 meter dash in 10.52 seconds, a veritably Denardian high-school-meet destruction.
He wiped out fellow touted corner recruit Minkah Fitzpatrick by a half-second.
Well, that didn't last long. Peppers is still slower than a robot velociraptor. Ugh.
Now you're just rubbing it in. ESPN gentlemen are trying to make college football better, and two of them say Michigan has to stop sucking. Thanks. We agree. And then there's this:
From the day that Bo Schembechler died in 2006, on the eve of No. 2 Michigan's 42-39 loss at its archrival, No. 1 Ohio State, the Wolverines have a record of 50-41 (.549). That's an average of 7-6, pretty much the definition of mediocrity.
Thank you for coming, now go away. Florida's president was trying to say something about how he doesn't like the graduate transfer rule and ended up saying something about his latest incoming graduate transfer:
"If they really wanted to transfer somewhere else, they should sit out a year,” Machen said Friday at the SEC spring meetings. “Why didn't Horford stay at Michigan another year? Because he had a free pass." …
“Go to grad school at Michigan," Machen said. "They have some pretty good grad schools. … It’s really just a way for a school to fill a void at the very last minute, or a player going to get more playing time without having to sit out.”
Is that bad? I mean, it's bad for Michigan. But the guy's already got a degree, which is the tenuous reason transfers are discouraged by forcing kids to a sit out a year.
I do think it's unfortunate that guys are now transferring upwards with frequency; that would really grind your gears as a low-level coach who developed this player for four years only to see him depart. Now you've got a bizarre incentive to not have your players graduate before their eligibility expires.
At least there's a trend. Florida's done playing FCS games, albeit for the same reason Michigan is. More interestingly, Nick Saban is hoping to cut out the lesser schools entirely:
Nick Saban wants Power 5 conferences to play only games against other P5 schools. “Better for fans & for players"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) May 27, 2014
It's better for Saban, too, as there will be fewer pretenders with shiny records to compete against for playoff spots. The difficulty there is that everyone needs their seven home games even if two of them are necessarily bad.
HELLO. South Carolina president Harris Pastides:
“I think we're holding the fort,” Pastides said. “If we allow this reform to fail, the obvious next step would be to give up amateurism.”
I'm pretty sure that was intended to be the rhetorical nuclear weapon that makes everyone gasp whilst Mark Emmert is fanned by the people near him, moaning "lawdy." But someone said it.
Incoming? USC transfer and former five-star Ty Isaac is on campus… uh, now. Isaac is seeking a hardship waiver to play immediately, which would make him a slightly awkward fit for Michigan for two reasons: 1) you need a waiver for your waiver if the school you pick is more than 100 miles from home and 2) that would put him in the same class as De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green.
So, if Isaac does get his waiver it's more likely he ends up at Northwestern or Illinois or Notre Dame, which was supposed to be restricted to him but may not be because of a paperwork error on USC's part. While Illinois and ND are technically outside of the 100-mile radius they're outside by a few miles and would probably get meta-waivers. Michigan would be a harder sell.
If Isaac doesn't end up getting a waiver then Michigan has an excellent shot—they finished second for Isaac. And they didn't bring in a tailback last year.
Ohio State is apparently trying to get involved, but they'd be in a similar situation with the waiver.
Etc.: Sherman built this system, now Sherman's going to burn it down. NCAA #2 is getting out of dodge. Congrats to Bruce Madej, who won a major award. Guess who's mad about harmless spicetweets from Alex Malzone.
Hype video. Summing up the last two years in the tourney:
Paperwork. Michigan's three NBA draft candidates have submitted their paperwork for evaluation. This is a non-event, as they were always going to see what the NBA says. Unless they come back saying something different than expectation (yes Stauskas, maybe GRIII, probably not McGary). Which they probably won't.
SCOUR THE STREETS OF TIMBUKTU. Block/charge is broken but danged if Michigan wouldn't do well with one of those extreme defensive centers whose main job is to intimidate and throw down dunks. John Beilein may agree:
Beilein tells @michiganinsider he may look for a bigger shotblocker to place on the back line due to changes in block/charge call
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) April 9, 2014
Oh really. The Penn State game will be at night, as anyone who had looked at the 2014 home schedule could have told you. Prediction: I mutter about pom-poms in the aftermath.
Oh really, but in a good way. Hockey has already named its captains for next year and I bet you can get the C and one A without even thinking a little and the other A after a brief pause.
Copp will join Jed Ortmeyer and Carl Hagelin as two-year captains since I've been aware of Michigan hockey, and if he drives Michigan back to the tournament with authority he'll end up on my personal Michigan hockey Mount Rushmore with those two gentlemen. (Shawn Hunwick is the fourth.) I don't mean for this to turn into another discussion of Mount Rushmores like twitter was inexplicably doing a month back. Just let it go. No Rushmores.
OHL draft update. It was not a dramatic year for Michigan in the OHL draft, as every one of their commitments was picked in the late flier range. With James Sanchez's commitment to the NTDP, three of their four commits will be on the U17s next year. The NTDP contract has a financial penalty for early departure, so the window OHL teams have will be very small. It's not impossible, but generally NTDP guys who defect are staring down top-ten draft picks and decided they don't have to play school or are terrified by the prospect of competing with Shawn Hunwick.
Michigan's three gentlemen are highly regarded, but not in that range. They're probably safe, except for the whole looming Berenson retirement thing. But there's nothing you can do about that.
Simple, but more complicated. Morris on the differences between Nussmeier and Borges:
"We have to know a lot more this year. We have to know what lineman do on every play, who the back blocks on every play so we know who our (hot routes) are; stuff like that. It's definitely helping us out and making us more aware of the defense."
Morris, who completed 5-of-11 passes for 73 yards on Saturday, summed up the changes as "having to study defenses more" and knowing "the ins and outs of every play."
As long as there is less stuff this can work out, and it sounds like there's less stuff. Hopefully more stuff than Morris claims, though:
What's hoped for is improvement via simplification. Under Borges, the Wolverines struggled in an intricate, extensive offense.
Nussmeier's offense is the converse.
"That's how every coach should be," Morris said. "The stuff we run, we want to be perfect. I think Vince Lombardi, when he was coaching the Packers, they ran about three plays, but they ran them perfectly. That's why they won. That's what we're trying to do this year."
I want my amount of stuff porridge to be just right. Last year was too hot, and that would be too cold. But after last year we might have to settle for dully banging face for uninspiring yardage.
/rolls eyes, makes wanking gesture. If that's bolded I must be talking about Jason Whitlock.
"I'm not a big Shane Morris guy, Devin Gardner struggles during adversity," Whitlock said. "Devin Gardner handles adversity worse than others, in my opinion. …
"I don't want to beat the kid up, but that play against Michigan State when he's one yard away from a first down and he fell down," Whitlock recalled. "When you're a competitor and the leader of the team, that doesn't happen."
…which is probably why he threw for 451 yards on a broken foot against Ohio State. We could extrapolate from one play on which he made a mental error, or we could look at a season in which he was massacred weekly and still came out until—in fact after—his body literally would not let him.
It's a miracle Whitlock's made it as far as he has in the world without ever being even on the same planet as correctness.
Okay? Jeff Goodman flings Caris LeVert on his Way Too Early First-Team All-American list($). There's not much content and Goodman claims LeVert is a "terrific defender," which he's not yet…
G Caris LeVert, 6-6, Jr., Michigan
Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.9 apg
Nik Stauskas made the huge jump last season, and look for LeVert to do it next year. He's long, can score in a variety of ways and is also a terrific defender.
…but we have officially reached the point where people in the media point at a random Michigan player and expect him to morph into a beast because John Beilein. Michigan's actually got three candidates to make this morph—LeVert, Walton, and Irvin—who are sorta kinda making freshman to sophomore leaps. (LeVert is not but is very young for his grade.)
Yes please. The Northwestern union ruling is far from final but if things go like it looks like they're going to go—every time the NCAA runs up a judge these days the judge goes LOL NO—major changes are coming. If it does go the CAPA route, things will get interesting because public schools are going to be beholden to state law, not the NLRB. Ohio seeks to disadvantage itself:
COLUMBUS, Ohio — College athletes in Ohio would not be considered employees under state law, under changes to the state’s budget review made by a legislative committee on Monday.
Michigan, meanwhile, has what I'm pretty sure are strong grad student and lecturer unions. They are emphatically extant, at the least. It'll probably take Ohio one look at the stuff Michigan is handing their athletes to reverse course here, but never underestimate human stupidity.
Why bother with an early signing period? The entire concept of the "signing period" is uselessly anachronistic, but people keep trying to fix it by introducing early signing or late signing or whatever. Bylaw Blog's John Infante is the latest:
An early signing period should be in early December. It should be as close to the end of the regular season as possible to minimize the effect on bowl preparation. That means the Wednesday after conference championship games are played. This is one week earlier than the current initial signing date for midyear junior college transfers. The signing period would be open for one week; it would include prospects enrolling that January and the following fall.
There's no reason to have a signing day at all, but it's now a TV event so it will persist forever and ever amen. There is a way to both ease the burden on coaches and players who have come to an agreement: provide a non-binding letter of intent. Players can sign it at any time and withdraw it at any time. Once they sign it other coaches can't contact them and they can't take officials except to the school they signed with. They have to make it official on signing day.
That system would provide players a way to opt out of the recruiting process whenever they wanted without locking them in if their coach gets whacked. Importantly for its chances of passage, it reduces workload for coaches, who no longer have to babysit their commits so hard and have a more limited range of poaching options.
People are just in charge of things, part LXVII. You may remember Rutgers AD Julie Hermann from such events as "it is revealed that Rutgers, reeling from a scandal in which it was revealed that their basketball coach was a violent psychopath, hires person claimed to be violent psychopath by former players, then experiences mass football decommitment spree after football coach is claimed to be violent psychopath." And then nothing else because Rutgers.
Hermann is now back in the news, which can't be good.
“If they’re not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they’re not selling ads – and they die,” Hermann told the Media Ethics and Law class. “And the Ledger almost died in June, right?”
“They might die again next month,” a student said.
“That would be great,” she replied. “I’m going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive.”
Good job, good effort, Hermann.
I'd say the stink of Rutgers would harm the image of the Big Ten, but… hey, yeah we're a basketball conference now. The stink of Rutgers will harm the image of the Big Ten.
AND STAY OUT. The greatest collapse in NBA GM history is complete, as Joe Dumars will resign after creating the unlikeliest NBA champion in recent history, a team that was a bounce or two away from a second title. Then he traded Chauncey Billups for a broken-down Allen Iverson and spent the money saved on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, at which point it was over.
Eventually Dumars started making decisions seemingly to spite Pistons fans; aside from the fortune of having a franchise center slide to him in the draft there is literally no good thing Dumars has done since he broke bad with Iverson. The Pistons have been stuck in NBA purgatory, never any good but never bad enough to secure one of the top picks in the draft. This year's desperate attempt to get into the playoffs secured them the worst three point shooter in NBA history on a team with two promising young bigs. And of course, Trey Burke. Though Burke's not shooting well this year the difference made by his presence in Utah's lineup is obvious in their record. The guy Dumars picked over him picked up three consecutive trillions.
But you know what they always say: when you can draft a guy who dragged his team to a .500 SEC record you gotta do it.
Anyway, Dumars dug his own grave and I'm mad at him for… uh… being the dumbest person. But at one point he was a genius, so thanks for that.
Well. It's done. This year's edition checks in at 41,191 words. If you had that in the pool, congratulations.
THE STORY: ALL TOGETHER NOW
After a decade trying to find itself, Michigan points itself to the future, united.
Quarterback: I believe in Devin Gardner, so hard.
Running back: Also Fitz Toussaint. Not so much the other veterans, but have I told you about freshmen? They're all right at tailback.
Wide receiver: Yeah, they're short. So? They're damn good.
Tight end and friends: a panoply of blocky-catchy guys featuring one Devin Funchess, larger and ready to bust out.
Offensive line: It's like Ohio: rather good at the edge, increasingly depressing as you approach the center.
Questions and answers: Borges isn't perfect but he's probably good enough; reiterating Gardner squee.
Defensive ends: I do not think Frank Clark is going to be an all-wrecking force. Better, sure.
Defensive tackle: All hail QWASH. Three-tech dodgy, but deep.
Linebacker: If Ryan is Ryan, these guys will be lights out.
Cornerback: War daddy up, Mr. Countess.
Safety: Thomas Gordon, and then… well… hmm.
Questions and answers: Novacs, mitigating that, the importance of hybrid space players, serenity?
Special teams: a major strength if Michigan can just block and cover guys.
Podcast 5.0: Almost two hours of erudite chatter about socialism in the 19th century.
Heuristics and stupid prediction: Turnovers should be much better, only position shifts that are ominous at safety, 10-2 asserted.
Orson's season kickoff: "THE BUSINESS OF PROTECTION."
Holdin' The Rope: "Beginnings"
TEAM SPECIFIC HYPE
College football is a dichotomy of change and sameness. The players turn over at an alarming rate, even the most precocious slipping through our fingers almost before we've met them. But every year there's a Saturday where 110,000 file into a stadium Fielding Yost built, survey their view, hear the band, see the helmets, and think to themselves it's still here. All of it is still here. Thank God.
Life decays us all; the team is forever.