also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Shooting for the "most times a single GIF hits the front page" record.
Michigan lost one of the most genuinely enjoyable players to watch in recent memory with the graduation of Jeremy Gallon, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll be seeing a 5'8" dude with rocket boots and a cloaking device breaking school receiving records again anytime soon.
That said, the Wolverines don't lack players that can make your jaw drop. Inspired by this Matt Hinton piece on college football's most exciting players, here's my list of the Wolverines who should provide the most entertainment this season. Take note: this isn't a rundown of the best players, but a subjective list of who I think will be the most fun to watch—it's ordered by position, since what constitutes "fun to watch" varies wildly from person to person.
QB Devin Gardner
An obvious choice, especially since some of Gardner's bad habits—namely, reversing field when under pressure—can still produce spectacular results. He's an electric runner even when not at full health. He's got a heck of an arm; this throw against Notre Dame last year simply defies explanation. He continued the grand tradition of Michigan quarterbacks hilariously punking Tanner Miller. His ability to improvise has bailed out the offense on many occasions. Yes, this sometimes gets him into trouble—I know another throw from that otherwise amazing Notre Dame performance is going through your head right now—but it also poses a threat to opponents that is extremely difficult to defend, and it's sure fun to watch when everything clicks.
WR Devin Funchess
Again, an obvious choice is obvious, as evidenced by the GIF that graces the top of this post—and that wasn't the first time Funchess leaped over an oncoming defender:
The whole "hurdles defensive backs on the run" thing is pretty great, but that's just a small part of what makes Funchess so remarkable. He's a 6'5", 230-pound former tight end with legitimate top-end speed; his movements bear the grace of a much smaller player. Even when he slips, he seamlessly recovers, and the average defensive back is going to have a very difficult time contending with his ball skills or bringing him down once he makes the catch. Oh, and having oven-mitt-sized hands allows for him to make catches like this while on a dead sprint.
If Funchess isn't on the team in 2015, it'll be because he turned in a monster year and justifiably went pro, and I don't think anybody could begrudge him that move.
[Hit THE JUMP for eight exciting players not named Devin.]
This is an actual movie. See? There are worse things than Draftageddon
Draftageddon is complete, to the relief of many of you and the heartbreak of… well, some of you. Maybe. But there are still some non-terrible football players to be discussed, so to be properly prepared for the season, let’s take a look at some of the players who were not selected, but could have been if we’d Heiko’d just a little deeper. We’ll also review who WAS taken at various positions and take a quick gander at the position group as a whole. If you want to go back and read our snark, on any of the players, the hyperlinks on players' names will take you to the relevant articles.
Who was taken:
Joel Stave, Wisconsin – Threw for 7.4 YPA with 22 TDs, 13 INTs. He’s a game manager, though not a particularly inspiring one. Stave didn’t exceed 9 YPA in any game against a power conference team, despite a massively effective running game behind him. Wisconsin’s passing game stagnated last half of the season, and as a result, Stave is theoretically battling w/ Tanner McEvoy for the starting job. Stave will almost certainly win the job, but he’s returning to a gutted receiving corp: Wisconsin loses their four leading receivers, including Jared Abbrederis & Jacob Pederson. Their leading returning receiver had 127 yards. Way more red flags than green ones.
Jake Rudock, Iowa – Threw for 6.9 YPA with 18 TDs and 13 INTs. These are not inspiring numbers, especially for a quarterback with a solid running game behind him. Another game manager type, Rudock didn’t throw for more than 256 passing yards in any game, and didn’t crack 9 YPA against any non-Purdue opponent. Meh.
Trevor Siemian, Northwestern – Was a pretty stoppable Throw God last year, throwing for 7.2 YPA with 11 TDs and 9 INTs. In B1G play he went for 4 TDs and 0 INTs against Illinois… and 3 TDs and 7 INTs against the rest of the conference. He seemed to regress over the course of the year (along with Northwestern’s entire offense), and whether it is the result of missing Venric Mark (SIT DOWN, SETH) or just Northwestern not being that good, it’s hard to expect great things this year.
OVERALL – Braxton, then a few guys, then wheeeeeeeeeee. Despite the gap in draft rounds between the second and third quarterbacks taken, there is a solid tier just below Miller that includes Devin Gardner, Christian Hackenberg, and Connor Cook (and potentially Nate Sudfeld or CJ Brown, but probably not). Beyond that, you’re looking at uninspiring game manager-types, young guys prone to moments of WTF, and Gary Nova. Michigan is very much in the “haves” half of the draw in this respect, so be pleased.
[After THE JUMP: other positions, as you probably guessed.]
News bullets and other items:
- The team scrimmages in Michigan Stadium on Wednesday
- Mason Cole really, truly might play. Really.
- Funchess was held out of practice but Hoke didn't even call it a boo-boo so he's likely fine
- Csont’e York is still part of the program
- Devin Gardner is expected to start against Appalachian State
- The coaches will probably know their starting offensive line after Saturday's scrimmage
- Jake Butt being back by the Notre Dame game is “a little nuts”
- Ross Douglas is a wide receiver
“Thanks for coming out. We continued, I think, as a team to practice hard. We continued as a team to take the incremental jumps that we want to keep making every day were out here I think from all positions. Again, the competition is such that it just creates a great competitive environment in everything we're doing. Happy with the effort we've had throughout camp, happy with the improvements and the progress. We need to keep getting better, I think that's a big part of it. The jump that we make this week as a team, because this is really a grind, is important. Tomorrow we'll put it together up at the stadium, we'll scrimmage up there. We'll see how many plays. Would like to get 120 in, 130 plays. We'll talk a little more in-depth what we want to get from each unit, from the first defense to the first offense, seconds, thirds, all the way down so that we can see – we're getting everybody some reps and also a good idea of guys playing up in that stadium.”
We've heard a lot about Mason Cole. What has he done to impress you guys and is it a good or a bad thing or are you concerned that you might have a true freshman starter on the offensive line?
”I think I'll take the back end of it first. If he's good enough, he's old enough. To this point so far he's been good enough. When you look at the people that he's gone against with Frank and those rush ends and the people that he's blocking, five techniques, he's held his own very well. I think I mentioned earlier sometime but he came in a little differently. I give a lot of credit to his coach and his high school team and their preparation. He has a great passion about playing the game.”
Any update on the injuries?
“Yeah, everybody was back. The only one, obviously Jake is still not full speed but the guys who got banged up – Funchess is the only guy that we held out a little bit but other than that I can't think of another guy. I'm just trying to think so I can give you accurate information.”
What happened to Funchess?
”He just got bumped up a little bit. He'll be okay. He probably could have gone today but we're trying to be smart. We've got a scrimmage tomorrow.”
Any update on Csont’e York and is he still a part of the program?
”No question. We are going to go through the process. You know, he's a guy who has been a part of this team and we'll go through this process. His status hasn't changed.”
So he's still part of the program?
”Yeah. Status hasn't changed.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more on Jake Butt, Devin Gardner, the inside linebackers, and a complete lack of clarity regarding the offensive line]
Brandon said, “We all think of every home Michigan football game like a miniature Super Bowl.”
I don’t know any Michigan fans who think that. Quite the opposite, they think Michigan football games are the antidote for the artificial excess of the Super Bowl.
Bacon has hit a nerve here—his server is imploding under the pressure.
The problem with Dave Brandon is that he is a mediocrity in a suit with one skill, which is wearing the suit. Unfortunately, this is who is in charge most places. But when Georgia fans, who were until recently saddled with one of our nation's greatest suited mediocrities in Michael Adams, are pointing at us and saying "it could be worse"… well, it ain't good.
At least we have the student government?
The move to general admission was fairly disastrous for Michigan last fall, and former student body president Michael Proppe launched a survey of students midway through the season.
“It was so overwhelmingly negative, we knew we had to come up with something,” Proppe said.
The first survey that had 6,000 respondents was taken after the fourth home game and responses — including 76 percent saying they did not approve of general admission — were shared with the athletic department.
“It just didn’t really work,” he said.
A second survey administered with the athletic department gave a better gauge of what students want. They were asked to rank what’s most important for their game-day experience, and No. 1 was being able to sit with friends. Interestingly, students said having Wi-Fi was the lowest priority.
“That is such a misconception that putting in Wi-Fi is going to get students to show up,” Proppe said.
Michael Proppe for AD. Seriously.
Also yes. Bo Pelini suggests doing away with Signing Day altogether, which I almost support for this reason:
"If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign, it's over," Pelini told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "That will stop some of the things that are happening -- people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid."
The "almost" part is that the kid should be able to get out of the LOI if the coach he committed to gets the axe. The best system would maintain the Signing Day hoopla but also feature a non-binding LOI that you could sign whenever that would 1) prevent coaches from contacting you, 2) prevent you from taking an official visit to another school, 3) let the coaches you signed with talk to you whenever they want, and 4) guarantee you a scholarship at school X.
you get better pictures from the Mars lander
Well that clears up everything. The Ann Arbor News has an in-depth investigation about whether Taylor Lewan was the guy who punched some Ohio State fans who were begging to get punched ("Munsch had been walking around with a megaphone … taunted U-M fans on the street and inside the Brown Jug") after last year's edition of The Game. They have video that clears nothing up and quotes that contradict each other from about a dozen different people.
My takeaway is that this is time that could have been better spent finding anything else out. It seems like this incident has gotten a ton of attention for some drunk bar punchin' such as happens just about everywhere most years.
The last time I mentioned a potential transfer coming in for a visit it worked out all right. West Virginia shooting guard Eron Harris will be on campus this weekend, and a commitment to someone should be forthcoming soon. Harris has already been at Purdue and Michigan State, his other two finalists.
Perhaps relevant: MSU just landed a commitment from 2015 OH SG Kyle Ahrens, a guy who was vaguely on Michigan's radar. Harris is effectively a 2015 SG, so that may be a signal MSU doesn't have a great vibe with him.
2016 IN PG Eron Gordon is also slated to be on campus this weekend, and then the Michigan elite camp will bring in all manner of 2016 gentlemen fighting for Michigan's love and vice-versa.
The new guy. MGoVideo has a supercut of every Ty Isaac touch from last year. Sorry, you'll have to go over there—no embedding. I'm a little torn—Isaac doesn't look particularly explosive but then he outruns defensive backs in that game against Cal. Maybe he's just one of those guys who don't look like they're moving at high speed but somehow are. Guys do tend to bounce off him; Isaac had some nice chunks of YAC and tends to fall forward when that's at all a possibility.
You cannot be seeeeeeeerious. The NCAA published a snippy little press release about the portion of the O'Bannon case that EA settled on that must be seen to be believed:
The NCAA did finally find someone in their office who had a dictionary and changed "benefactors" to "beneficiaries." Meanwhile, the NCAA claiming that the "real benefactors" are the lawyers, who have dared to make money off the backs of student-ath…
uh… this is a terrible idea
I know, but that's never stopped us before
…DARED TO MAKE MONEY OFF THE BACKS OF STUDENT-ATHLETES is just… wow, man.
And they're probably going to try to draw a line between athletes being compensated for the use of their likeness in a court case and being compensated for the use of their likeness legally. I set the over under on exploded heads at NCAA HQ in the next two years at 2.5.
None of this does anything. The hockey rules committee was looking at some notable changes including three-quarter shields and changes to overtime procedure. Those all went away. The most notable change they have suggested:
Faceoff Location – Offensive Scoring Opportunity: If the offensive team is attempting to score and the puck goes out of play – the faceoff will remain in the attacking zone.
Status quo. Jake Butt is still on track to return by week three:
"I don't think we know (exactly when he'll be back) yet, but I wouldn't expect him back until after week three," Hoke said. "He feels great, he thinks he's Superman. They all do at that age.
"But he feels good."
Hoke said the hope is to get Butt back to seeing live contact action after the week three game against Miami-Ohio -- at the earliest.
This will be interesting. The Ed O'Bannon case kicks off Monday. SI has a primer and the NCAA witness list, which consists of folks disproportionately relevant to you: both Brandon and Mary Sue Coleman are on it, as are MSU AD Mark Hollis and Jim Delany. It seems like bad news that one of the economists on the NCAA side has this quote in a book of his:
“The NCAA restricts competition in a number of important activities. To reduce bargaining power by student athletes, the NCAA creates and enforces rules regarding eligibility and terms of compensation.”
It'll be interesting, but not suspenseful. Claudia Wilken, the judge in the case, has already dismissed the word "amateurism" and ruled that the NCAA can't even mention non-revenue sports, leaving:
Her reasoning is that no one forces schools to sponsor teams that can't financially support themselves, so she considers the impact on those teams irrelevant in the eyes of the law. This doesn't leave much for the NCAA to argue except the pro-competitive aspects of its rules.
A pro-competitive aspect that anyone who's ever looked at a recruiting site knows doesn't exist and the SEC commissioner just said this about:
“I consider this period of time one of the historic moments that all of us are witnesses to — an evolutionary change where we put the student-athletes first and we build our philosophies on the student-athlete rather than the so-called level playing field,” Slive said.
The NCAA is gon' die. Their current arguments are straightforward descriptions of functioning markets.
"In those circumstances, it is basic economics that allowing cash payments for (name, image and likeness usage) for the first time will tilt the distribution of talent and success towards colleges and universities with more cash to spend."
Oh, and this one.
They are only in the stadium at all because their colleges and universities have agreed to let them play ... (Athletes) cannot own the right to broadcast their games when they need the same permission that broadcasters do to be in the stadium at all.
The only tension is in how fast the NCAA will get laughed out of court.
Etc.: Caris finds his way onto a list of the top 15 draft prospects already in school. If you have no idea about soccer here's a good place to start. Looking at next year's softball team. MVictors points out a Kickstarter for old-timey jerseys. B10 championship to stay in Indy; basketball tournament to still mostly rotate between Chicago and Indy. North Carolina's Rashad McCants says the school bit of his career was a total sham.
Everything in Minecraft. Michigan Stadium in Minecraft.
I like healthy butts and I cannot lie. Jake Butt is jogging again:
"Went for my first little run yesterday and my knee feels great!" Butt tweeted.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Feb. 13 during conditioning drills before spring practice began. Butt underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament on Feb. 28, exactly three months ago Wednesday.
ACLs are six-month things these days so Butt could be back even earlier than the third or fourth game, as Hoke projected a couple months ago.
Yes, this is a good idea. Auburn's having a big ol' recruiting weekend, so naturally they've painted the path of the Kick Six on their field.
If I find out they've also got a cardboard cutout of Nick Saban in tears, I will commit.
In unrelated news, Bret Bielema took a job at Arkansas. Bielema demonstrates his mastery of making himself look bad with his mouth:
Bret Bielema why he made move from Wisconsin to Arkansas "SEC will get minimum of 2 teams in 4-team playoff"
None of these are ever going to be Arkansas, is the thing. The other thing is that give or take a tough decision, the SEC would have gotten two teams in a four-team field about 25% of the time since the dawn of the BCS era. Three is off the table.
Hooray for three months of this. If there was a single moment when Dave Brandon completed his heel turn with the Michigan fanbase, it was when he picked up the steel chair of Appalachian State and beat us over the head with it by scheduling a rematch. While the blessed event is still three months away, first extensive article on the Horror has been published. I refuse to read the thing, so here's a paragraph at random:
It’s no secret around campus that the football success of 2005-07 was a boon for the school’s “PR value” and “notoriety,” in the words of ASU athletic director Charlie Cobb. It helped bring enrollment increases, academic improvement and more.
I can't wait for replays to be on my television 24/7. Reliving the moment Michigan football went from national power to… this… is not high on my list of desirable activities. Here it comes anyway.
Possibly related. The student section has dropped alarmingly:
"We're projecting that number to be somewhere between 13 or 14,000 for student ticket numbers this year," Michigan associate athletic director of media and public relations Dave Ablauf said. "(That number was at) about 19,000 last year. We don't have a finalized number (yet), that's just an approximation because all the incoming freshmen haven't put in their orders yet."
This is partially because students can just buy tickets next year without long-term punishments and this home schedule is not worth the 300 dollars they're asking for it, let alone the regular price they're charging everyone else. It is also partially because last year was no fun and partially because the students don't like Dave Brandon at all.
The alarming thing is that this is probably going to happen every other year going forward unless Brandon can find a home and home series that actually moves the needle. Arkansas and Virginia Tech do not have anywhere near the appeal that Notre Dame does, and since Michigan got totally boned by having MSU and OSU away in the same year, every other year has no schedule anchor.
Even for you, this is surprising. Zach Travis has a column on the student section drop that you should read. The themes in it are things we hit on frequently here. In the comments, though, TOC contributor MSUDersh relates a story about the things happening to the UM wings of his family that is sadly believable. His dad and uncles are old-timey ticket holders in section one with tickets that go back 50 years:
A few months ago my uncle who splits tickets with my dad & another uncle rec’d an email about their tickets. The university told them that it appreciates their loyalty and also wants to ensure that they continue to have those great seats going forward. And in order to do so, the school recommended that they purchase four more season tickets (plus PSLs) in a completely different area of the stadium. Despite there literally being decades of my family history with the school & athletic department, including an endowment from my great grandparents in the 60’s that continues to fund scholarships today, Dave Brandon’s team is threatening to pull their choice seats and relocate them if they don’t purchase more.
I just had a wow experience. Has anyone else received an email like this? I'd like to confirm that the AD is stooping so low.
I motion to not do this and have ice cream. Latest O'Bannon wrangling:
Lawyers for the NCAA asked the appeals court to vacate U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken's order for the trial to start June 9. The NCAA also wants the appeals court to rule that the O'Bannon antitrust trial should not be held before the Sam Keller right of publicity trial involving videogames, a related but now separated case scheduled for trial in March 2015.
The filing late Thursday night marks the fifth attempt by the NCAA in recent weeks to delay and/or redefine the case. A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously rejected one of the delay attempts without comment.
Our local law-talkin', football-playin' dog weighs in:
Without boring you with the legal mumbo-jumbo, the NCAA's latest motion is not one filed by a party that thinks it is in good shape.
— Bry Mac (@Bry_Mac) May 30, 2014
The NCAA is also asking the courts not to consolidate the wave of anti-trust lawsuits filed by former players claiming they were cheated out of compensation above and beyond the value of a scholarship, and trying to get anyone other than Claudia Wilken as their judge, because Oakland is "spectacularly inconvenient" for a trial. A flight's a flight, according to the NCAA's own rules for seeding the NCAA hockey tournament.
Incoming. Dylan Larkin NHL draft profile ahoy:
“Larkin has shown he can be an elite-level power forward in addition to showing a high level of offensive ability. His ability to take the puck hard to the net allows for unique scoring chances most players would not be able get because of a lack of size and strength.”
Etc.: You definitely shouldn't watch Mitch McGary's draft workout video unless you want to be real sad. Nussmeier's position now sponsored by rich dude. Barking Carnival's boot camp series continues with leverage.
More fun with stats! CFBStats helpfully grabs every play off the NCAA's box scores and turns lines like "Devin Gardner pass complete to Jeremy Gallon for 14 yards" into downloadable data on receiver targeting. Here's where Gardner's passes went last year by down:
|Receiver||Target(%)||1st Dn||2nd Dn||3rd Dn|
|Total passes||395 (n/a)||142||144||105|
|Jeremy Gallon||137 (35%)||43%||28%||34%|
|Devin Funchess||92 (23%)||25%||18%||28%|
|Drew Dileo||30 (8%)||6%||5%||12%|
|Jake Butt||27 (7%)||3%||13%||4%|
|Jehu Chesson||24 (6%)||4%||8%||6%|
|Jeremy Jackson||10 (3%)||3%||3%||1%|
|Joe Reynolds||7 (2%)||2%||3%||-|
|A.J. Williams||2 (1%)||-||1%||-|
|Fitz Toussaint||20 (5%)||4%||8%||3%|
|Other backs||23 (6%)||6%||6%||6%|
There were four passes on 4th down: two that Funchess converted and two that Dileo didn't. For our purposes I'm going to count them with 3rd downs because they're functionally the same (i.e. not converting is a failure). When every preview this year says defenses will be focused on taking away Funchess, you can see why: most every other target from last year is graduated or not immediately available (Butt). The data also show whether each reception ended up in a 1st down:
|Receiver||1st/2nd Dn||Conv%||3rd/4th Dn||Conv%|
I don't know if the conversion rate for 1st and 2nd down will be that valuable except as a measure of team dink-and-dunk-iness. The numbers for conversion downs show tendency and success. Again, nothing surprising here. Gallon and Funchess remained equal targets, with Dileo the only other likely 3rd down destination.
Was it common for teams to be so focused on a few guys? Well those 3rd down targeting numbers are high. Gallon was the recipient of just over a third of Michigan's 3rd/4th down attempts; that's 7th in the nation at go-to-guyness. The rest:
|Receiver||School||Tm Att||Tgts||Conv %|
|Alex Amidon||Boston College||106||43 (41%)||42%|
|Jordan Matthews||Vanderbilt||104||39 (38%)||38%|
|Shaun Joplin||Bowling Green||114||41 (36%)||49%|
|Willie Snead||Ball State||131||47 (36%)||55%|
|Allen Robinson||Penn State||129||46 (36%)||43%|
|Ryan Grant||Tulane||133||46 (35%)||46%|
|Jeremy Gallon||Michigan||109||36 (33%)||42%|
|Ty Montgomery||Stanford||100||33 (33%)||55%|
|Titus Davis||Central Michigan||98||32 (33%)||56%|
|Quincy Enunwa||Nebraska||112||36 (32%)||33%|
Gallon was as important of a chain-mover for Michigan as A-Rob was to Penn State. What's weird is Michigan's 2nd guy was also really high on the list. Funchess (29% of 3rd/4th down targets, 39% conversion rate) also appears on the national leaderboard, at 19th, right behind Jared Abbrederis.
[After the jump: Michigan was the most obvious team in the country, finding Dileo-like objects, target types.]