Mailbag: Unbalanced Classes, Hockey vs Basketball, Further Hockey Expansion, Defensive Coach Turnover
If you're doing a mailbag any time soon, a potential question: does all the defensive coaching turnover dampen your expectations for the defense? Having three new coaches, including a new DC, has to impose some kind of transition cost, right? It would be frustrating to have what might be an excellent defense undermined by coaching changes.
On the whole, no. For one, while Chris Partridge is a new coach he's replacing John Baxter, who did not work with last year's D. There are only two guys being replaced. Losing Greg Jackson is a blow, as by all reports the players loved him. The secondary's performance last year was a major step forward from everybody—even Peppers, who we had not really seen before, developed over the course of the season. It's likely that Jackson is very good at his job, and you always hate to lose a guy like that after just one year.
I have zero concerns about replacing DJ Durkin with Don Brown. Durkin's defense last year was very good until it collapsed late, and while part of that was on Glasgow's injury it was very frustrating watching Michigan play a spread option team with a safety lined up 18 yards off the LOS. You can't do that when the opposition has an 11-on-11 run game, and Michigan found that out the hard way. Since that was a thing that even a blogger was warning about…
So it's up to Michigan: ride with what got you here and try to hold up, or go to more of a zone based look in an attempt to replicate what just happened [against MSU]. The bet here is that Michigan enters with the latter in their pocket but tries to go toe to toe, combating zone with the addition of a safety to the end of the LOS and the corresponding blitz.
…and Michigan emphatically had nothing in their back pocket in the second half, I'm happy to see Durkin at Maryland. He could be a great coach, sure. He could be a guy who hung on to Will Muschamp's coattails and got exposed by Urban Meyer.
Meanwhile Brown has an excellent track record:
Bolded years are Don Brown; others are there for comparison. YPP is raw yards per play. FEI and S&P+ are advanced metrics that attempt to take schedule strength and various other factors into account.
It is possible that there's a settling-in period where Brown's D isn't as effective. The data don't show anything conclusive about that, with Maryland and UConn both getting significantly better in advanced metrics in year one despite a drop in yards per play. Meanwhile last year Michigan's defense was very good despite being in its first year of a new system.
Michigan can't get significantly better in advanced metrics and should expect a backslide just from regression to the mean, so I won't be judging Brown on how he does relative to last year's D… except against Ohio State. The absolute best news of the offseason to me is that Don Brown spent his time at Michigan's coaching clinic ranting about run defense…
Coach Brown believes that it all starts with run defense, “Check our record, 4 out of the last 5 years, nobody runs the ball. I don’t give a crap what I have to do, we’re going to stop the run.” Don Brown’s defenses finished #2 in 2011 (UCONN), #3 in 2012 (UCONN), #2 in 2014 (Boston College) and #1 in 2015 (Boston College) in run defense.
…and detailing the varied and intricate responses he's developed to zone read including inverted veer or "power read," as coaches seem to be calling it.
The result of last year's Game (and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that) cried out for a defensive coordinator who is awesome at stopping a power spread attack. Don Brown looks like the ideal candidate. I was getting pretty nervous for a couple weeks there when Rivals kept bringing up NFL guys—exactly the wrong kind of candidate for the biggest game on the schedule—and couldn't be happier with the way things worked out.
I'll be keeping a wary eye on the developments in the secondary but at least Brian Smith is a DB by trade and a DB coach until he was shoehorned in at linebacker a year ago; this isn't going back to Roy Manning, lifetime LB, as a CB coach. As far as the DC trade goes, I give it an A++++++.
[After THE JUMP: Jim Delany and the satellite camps, college hockey realignment stuff, hockey and basketball expectations.]
Just another day in the life.
Jim Harbaugh got drenched with water onstage at Migos. pic.twitter.com/WnX0p0rJSA
— Rachel Premack (@rrpre) April 14, 2016
One of our photographers wrote a book. You've probably seen Bill Rapai's hockey photos around these parts. If you like those you'll no doubt love his new book, which is about invasive species in the Great Lakes. For some reason it has a picture of an SEC coach reacting to Harbaugh's latest antics on the cover. Bill on the contents:
It’s called Lake Invaders: Invasive species and the battle for the future of the Great Lakes and it explains how these little beasties got here, the damage they are doing, how they might be controlled, and why you should care. (Yes, you should care.) There’s even a chapter on everybody’s favorite invasives, the Asian carps.
It's available on Amazon for anyone who's interested.
DRAKE JOHNSON GOT RUN OVER BY A FORKLIFT!? Yes. He is apparently fine afterwards, if 1) very bruised up and 2) understandably pissed off.
Harbaugh says Drake Johnson's injury is short-term, one to three weeks. Said it's a miracle right up there with Easter.
— Adam Schnepp (@aeschnepp) April 14, 2016
Do not run people over in forklifts, people. I shouldn't have to tell you this.
Tick tock the hot takes don't stop. All it took was for Jim Harbaugh to say some pointedly critical, but true, things for people to lose their minds about the dude. NJ.com columnist Steve Politi has been a reliable source of humor ever since that "Jim Harbaugh may be flashy, but Kyle Flood is real" column, and he is undeterred by being as wrong as humanly possible about that. His reaction to Man Invited To Give Speech may even top his earlier opus:
Steve Politi, a columnist for The Star-Ledger and NJ.com, said Paramus Catholic should be ashamed for having Harbaugh give the speech. …
"The big problem here is Paramus Catholic president Jim Vail who, in announcing his decision to give an out-of-state football coach a free infomercial at his school, called Harbaugh a great leader and educator. Come on, Harbaugh speaking to your students is as much a recruiting advantage for your football program as it is for Harbaugh at Michigan."
I love all these accusations that PEOPLE might be DOING THEIR JOBS WELL. While there's no doubt an element of publicity and recruiting on both ends, Jim Harbaugh is also a very interesting and successful person who might want to give people some guidance. And he's sure as hell going to be more interesting than whoever my high school graduation speaker was. I have no idea if there even was one. Chris Ash is openly envious, and he's real, so…
This undercurrent of "wait a second… wait just a minute here! I see what you're doing! You are trying to make your football team good!" is a never-ending source of entertaining spittle these days. Remember that Alabama dude who clutched his pearls and fell over because Michigan's satellite camp at Prattville was really about recruiting? This is just the latest episode. Here's Mike Florio accusing Harbaugh of the blazingly obvious:
If we’re going to pull back the curtain on why the SEC and ACC coaches wanted to keep Harbaugh out of their backyards, it’s only fair to pull back the curtain on why Harbaugh wants to frolic in them. Although Rosenberg does his best to defend the satellite camp process by baking the concept into the apple pie of American dream chasing, it’s obvious that the camps had become at least in part a pretext for recruiting the best players in a setting that, from the perspective of a high school kid, doesn’t feel like recruiting. It all leads to a more organic, authentic, and visceral bond.
That's the point! Also it is good! We have reached the point in this dumb conversation where people are accusing Jim Harbaugh of trying to have a real relationship with the people he recruits. I feel like I am going crazy here.
Yes, e-goons of the world, people have motives. When they pursue those motives within the rules and without negatively impacting anyone, pointing at them and screaming "YOU ARE PURSUING YOUR GOALS" is literally the dumbest argument possible.
I mean, yeah, get on Harbaugh for the various decommits last year. That's a legit criticism. This stuff is moron central.
Shots fired. I assume you've all seen the Harbombing of the satellite camp decision in SI. While Harbaugh talking to a dude who tried to sabotage the program with bogus allegations of NCAA violations is a frequent irritation, I'll take it as long as he's willing to say the things that are true in public:
Says Harbaugh: "You've got a guy sitting in a big house, making $5 million a year, saying he does not want to sacrifice his time. That is not a kindred spirit to me. What most of these coaches are saying is they don't want to work harder."
Hugh Freeze responded to this with the time-tested retort of the smarmy gasbag: muh families.
"I'll never apologize for wanting to be a father and a husband," Freeze said when asked about vacation time. "I miss enough volleyball games (and other things), that is a priority for me. ... I think we work very hard, I don't think working hard is an issue. If you're asking me if I want to add more nights away from my wife and kids, I do not. That window is closing for me to be a husband and a father and I think the kids that play in our system need to see me in that role an awful lot."
When someone talks about being a family man in this way they are always attempting to shut down criticism by being holier than thou. See: Dave Brandon's "this hurts my family" talk on his last-ditch media spree after the Shane Morris incident. It also blows by a point: if you don't want to do them, don't do them. Nobody's making you. You are in fact making the demands.
Freeze then doubled down on the smarm by criticizing Harbaugh for being right, but in public:
Freeze on Harbaugh: "We're probably not a kindred spirit in terms of making comments about other coaches in public forums like he has done."
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 13, 2016
Along with being recursively hypocritical, this is an admission that Harbaugh is correct but also mean. I like mean.
Elsewhere in shots fired. High school coaches are just as fired up about the ban:
"Realistically, I shouldn't have been surprised." said John Ford, the head coach at Roswell High School, which is located north of Atlanta. "The NCAA works in opposition to what benefits young kids and student athletes. They work to protect the few as opposed to protecting and promoting the many. The hypocrisy is pretty well known." …
"I've been doing this for 15 years and I know it's really, really helpful for kids at these camps," [Toby] Foreman said. "It makes it extremely difficult, and I personally don't think the NCAA has kids interests at heart. You're almost punishing people for being proactive. Go out and recruit harder. Quit being lazy."
I wonder if the pushback on this is going to be sufficient to torpedo the rule change here. These days a lawsuit-stricken NCAA is very sensitive about public relations, and there are a ton of people on the warpath about this. It is really rare to see guys with skin in the game come out with these kind of statements, and the condemnation for the rule change has been near-universal. The only people sticking up for it are guys like Tony Barnhart who are more or less bought and paid for by the SEC and a less-than-lucid Dennis Dodd.
Tommy Tuberville, for one, thinks that the ban will not stand.
Elsewhere in how Freeze gets work done. Interesting little glimpse inside the sausage factory Freeze is running at Ole Miss from a doofus with money:
An Ocean Springs businessman claimed to have offered his guest house to unnamed college football players rent-free, only to later amend his story. But a source with knowledge of the situation said Scott Walker’s neighbors were told by the renters they paid for a two-night stay at his home last weekend.
Renting his home on a short-term basis would be a violation of local ordinances, and when first contacted by the Mississippi Press Walker said it was “four university players” who were “absolutely not paying” to stay in his guest house.
That raised red flags, because a booster (Walker is an Ole Miss grad and fan) offering free or reduced rent is a clear-cut NCAA violation.
Ole Miss cheats. Hardcore, all the time. That's how a nobody high school coach with one year at Arkansas State who arrives at a school with a fanbase that mostly still wants a plantation owner as their mascot and zero success in the past 50 years starts recruiting five-stars. I'm resigned to the fact that this will happen forever, and that the correct solution is to let people pay the players without repercussions.
But you run the cheatingest program in the country and you get sanctimonious about your free time? Harbaugh's just trying to level the playing field out a little bit here. Freeze can take his vacations and come back knowing that an Ole Miss offer has thousands of dollars behind it that a Michigan one doesn't.
That solution could be on the horizon. Via Get the Picture, this is a potentially huge move towards an Olympic model of amateurism:
Big East commissioner Val Ackerman told SI Now’s Maggie Gray on Friday that the NCAA is reconsidering allowing student athletes to sign endorsement deals.
Under the current rules, student athletes may not be paid for the use of their image or likeness or they would forfeit their amateur status and their collegiate eligibility could be affected. When Gray asked Ackerman why students shouldn’t be able to capitalize on the value they bring to their university, Ackerman responded that the NCAA is considering changing that rule.
“That’s one that’s actually under consideration I believe by the NCAA,” Ackerman said. “It’s actually a time right now where student athlete interests are being closely examined. I don’t have an answer for you on that one today but I will say that and a number of other topics are under review, and I think rightly by the NCAA and it’s very possible that over the course of the next year or two as these these ideas work their way through the legislative system you could see changes.”
In the next year or two! As always I will remind you that even if you don't like the idea of players getting paid directly by the university, opening up outside compensation is a very good thing when you command a money cannon like Michigan does.
Warde Manuel sticks up for his guy. Good to see that Manuel isn't shying away from the fight either:
“People say this is Jim Harbaugh, he wants to do it this way,” Manuel told the Free Press today. “No. This is a rule that has been allowable for a long time. With all due respect to … questions about not being able to recruit (during the NCAA quiet period), all that stuff was there before, and people did it. Now it’s no good? Some kind of way, it’s bad for the game? It’s crazy.”
That is direct and devoid of hand-waving CYA business speak, so bully for that.
Elsewhere in laziness. Iowa DE Drew Ott will not get a fifth year after a midseason injury. That's not much of a surprise since he played in six games a year ago and the NCAA does not budge on injury redshirts if you've played more than 30% of a season. The timing of the announcement, however, has irritated many since Ott cannot enter the NFL draft proper and will have to go the supplemental route. Why did this come so late? It's not on the NCAA:
In fairness to the NCAA, it does seem like the lengthiest delays in this entire ordeal were not their end -- it sounds like Ott's case wasn't even sent to the NCAA bodies that rule on this matter until late February. His case was with Big Ten authorities until that point. What took the Big Ten so long? Good question -- and one that neither Ott nor Kirk Ferentz had an answer for during their press conference earlier today. So perhaps our ire at the glacial pace of the decision-making in this situation should be directed at Jim Delany & Co. rather than the NCAA folks.
That is especially odd since Mario Ojemudia suffered a similarly ill-timed injury and found out he would not get an exception in December.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with MSU's attempt to get sixth years for three players, all of whom appear to have taken voluntary redshirts. MSU keeps telling people they'll be back but the NCAA is very strict about sixth years; going to be tough to come up with sufficient documentation about an injury when these guys have bios declaring they were scout team player of the week.
Everyone should go back to these logos. Wisconsin never changed theirs, but the lack of Jaunty Iowa Newsie in my life has been acute:
1978 Big 10 Conference football slide schedule pic.twitter.com/gzoNcRQY2v
— Sports Paper (@PressRoomGFS) February 22, 2016
[HT: Hoover Street Rag]
It's not like the results are good when he does open his mouth. Useless person Jim Delany:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told CBS Sports this week he has “no reaction at this point” regarding Michigan's spring break trip to Florida.
While this is disappointing, keep in mind that whenever Jim Delany talks he sabotages his own side. When called to testify in the Ed O'Bannon trial he accidentally firebombed the NCAA's case. Delany didn't bother to fight for home games in the Cofopoff. He said he "didn't have a lot of regard" for Alabama right before they curbstomped Michigan. The current SEC dominance was preceded by Delany writing a snotty open letter. Having him on your side is like having Mark May pick you to win. It ain't good.
But this is such a slam dunk that even Delany might be able to make a couple good points. Someone ask Greg Sankey what his opinion of this trip is:
The Vanderbilt baseball team will travel to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to start a six-day fall break team trip.
The Commodores will tour the capital and practice three days at the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Md.
“That’s a huge plus for our kids just to be on the Naval Academy’s campus,” coach Tim Corbin said. “… It’s an opportunity to educate your kids in another way besides baseball. I’ve always wanted to take them to the capital.
Nobody cared about this then, and the only reason Sankey cares about it now is because of recruiting. That is transparent.
Team stuff. Harbaugh signed a bunch of autographs a couple days back and took some media questions while doing so; in addition to the Sankey stuff he revealed a couple of position switches, at least temporary ones:
Khalid Hill is going to work at fullback. Zach Gentry will stay at TE
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 19, 2016
I imagine that Hill's tenure as a fullback will be similar to Poggi's: he's much more likely to go out for pass than carry the ball, but he's good at that bit and a squat 270, so I can see that working. It's still pretty much the same fit for him as a blocky/catchy guy.
The Gentry move is a lot more interesting. It says either one or both of these things:
- the quarterback battle is all but decided, likely in John O'Korn's favor, or
- Gentry's brief moonlighting at TE during bowl practices was too impressive to ignore.
I lean strongly to the former since O'Korn's had the opportunity to play QB in front of Harbaugh for a year; Gentry may have impressed at TE but not enough to remove a touted competitor from the single most critical open position on the team… unless that position is not particularly open.
That's good since it's a tangible piece of evidence supporting the extremely positive practice chatter in re: O'Korn.
Meanwhile, Allen Trieu reports that Rashan Gary will start as a strongside end (or "anchor" in Brown's system) with Taco Charlton moving to WDE. Both of those are moves that we've projected for a bit. That does create a bit of a problem. Matt Godin was pretty good as Chris Wormley's backup early in the year—he actually played about as much as Wormley did—and not very good as a defensive tackle when injury pressed him into duty there. Michigan needs a fourth DT to rotate in with Glasgow, Mone, and Hurst. With Gary at SDE, either Wormley or Godin is likely to get sucked inside.
Finally, Harbaugh said that Mason Cole was going to play a bunch of center in spring.
PRATT. JUST PRATT. The highlight from Harbaugh's presser:
Pratt, my man Pratt’s got to get past a few more things. He’s one of the students. We had about 14 guys who were students who tried out about a month ago and did really good. They’ve been keeping up well, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing them on the field. Guys that were just going to the University of Michigan.
“A lot of them are freshmen. Pratt’s one that’s a junior, but if he walked in here right now, you’d say ‘okay, he belongs.’”
On if there are any fullbacks in the group:
“Yeah, there are. There are two or three fullbacks in the group and some linebackers and a kicker, a snapper. Pratt’s an offensive lineman.”
On what his first name is:
“He’s Pratt right now. He’s just Pratt.”
This will probably be the last we heard of Pratt just Pratt but it was memorable.
A DB coach candidate. Aubrey Pleasant is one possibility; Michigan is also interviewing Chip Viney, a QC coach for Oklahoma. Viney is a former UCLA corner who took a grad transfer to NMSU in 2011; afterwards he was scooped up by Oklahoma as a grad assistant before transitioning to the QC job last year. He is a Harbaugh kind of guy:
Viney also surprised the players by frequently wearing his cleats to workouts and challenging both other defensive backs and receivers to one-on-one battles. He went head-to-head against guys like Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders.
“A lot of those guys think since he sits in an office he doesn’t have it, but he still does have it,” Sanchez said. “Guys would talk, but if he put those cleats on, he will get you."
Viney is widely credited with Oklahoma's success recruiting the Fresno area and California more generally:
Chip is awesome,” first-year defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. “From a personality standpoint, he’s as good a recruiter from the G.A. spot I’ve ever been around. It’s easy for him to be relatable to these players. He’s phenomenal with that.
“He’s played the position and played it at a high level. He knows the details. I have complete confidence with Chip. It has been a blessing to have him.”
Viney, who played at UCLA, has become the name synonymous with OU’s recruiting success in the state of California.
Viney's a former corner; Zordich is a former safety. He's young, upwardly mobile, and an excellent recruiter in a part of the country that is a major focus for Michigan's national recruiting. Everything looks like a fit. The Oklahoman just published a glowing profile of him a week ago; would not be surprised if he was the guy. Harbaugh specializes in finding guys like him.
While we're on coaches. I don't think I mentioned that one of the open analyst spots is going to be filled by Jimmie Dougherty, who a lot of people though was going to be Michigan's WR coach before Jedd Fisch fell into Harbaugh's lap. Meanwhile, Matt Doherty returned to Miami.
OSU postgame, 1995. Via Dr. Sap:
Also here's 1981 MSU via Wolverine Historian:
Now that we definitely have a draftee can we have Willie Henry back? Kiper is projecting Graham Glasgow in the second or third round, and Harbaugh's unvarnished opinion is a major aid:
"Jim's highly regarded and highly respected, he's done a phenomenal job wherever he's been," Kiper said. "Jim's a phenomenal coach, whether it be in the NFL (or in) college football. He'll have Michigan right there with Ohio State and the best teams in the country, had a real good recruiting class ... his opinion is huge."
Henry is getting lost in the shuffle of a deep DL class, he says, but the combine could be impressive for Henry if that playing strength translates to bench press reps. Kiper also says Rudock will get drafted. If that happens it'll be a testament to Harbaugh's development skills.
Why you want the money to be on the table instead of under it, Part N. Somehow the Big Ten continues to lead the universe in TV ratings:
Amateurism is a handicap for the Big Ten.
Interesting job. Michigan posted an interesting "analytics coordinator" job with a bunch of responsibilities:
1. Perform data analysis for identification of play calling tendencies and strengths and weaknesses of our team and our opponents
2. Creation of and provision over research in regards to specific teams, conferences, styles, and College Football as a whole, that lead to insightful measures and reports
3. Weekly video scouting of top opponent players through an in-house created Player Evaluation System
4. Creation of Michigan post-game summary statistics and advanced measures of success
5. Weekly management of coach-produced player grades and helmet stickers
There are many other things, all of which seem like good things for Michigan to be keeping track of.
This is a good omen. When you have three really good scorers you tend to do well in the tourney:
Over the last 17 years, a handful of college hockey teams have had similar production from a standout trio. Of the eight teams that finished with three top-10 scorers during that stretch, three won national titles and another three finished runner-up.
Miami was the most recent in 2011; they got dumped in the first round. Red called Racine "the difference" in the Ferris State game… I can't agree with that, but he has been critical over the past month.
Half of this is Baxter, the other half Ferrigno. Michigan's increased emphasis on special teams paid off a year ago even if there were some hiccups:
— SportSourceAnalytics (@SportSourceA) February 22, 2016
Will be interesting to see how Michigan maintains there without Baxter. I don't think they'll give back all the gains. Harbaugh doesn't carry around guys who don't pull their weight like Hoke did.
Etc.: Illegal man downfield rule to be enforced vigorously. I'll believe it when I see it. Michigan moves up to 14th in Baseball America's poll after a 4-0 start. Omaha.com names them a CWS dark horse(!). Will Carr goes from GA to analyst at Texas. Rashan Gary's decision process; contains lots of fun quotes.
Not bad for year one. Michigan finishes tenth in Matt Hinton's final rankings.
But for an all-time fluke you can swap M and MSU. Jim Harbaugh can coach a bit.
Embrace expectations in year two. Michigan will not start next year outside the polls. It may start it inside the top five, if post-season top X lists are any indicator:
- Stewart Mandel ranks Michigan 4th.
- PFF predicts Michigan will make the playoff, also ranking M 4th.
- Mark Schablach ranks Michigan… yep, 4th.
With a pile of starters returning and Jim freakin' Harbaugh as Michigan's coach, this is not a huge surprise. Michigan demolished Florida in the bowl game and that kind of thing tends to get you a big perception bump headed into next season. Half the time that's a mirage; Michigan will hope that theirs is legit.
The number one gentleman who needs to come through for Michigan to deliver. That would be one John O'Korn, likely starting quarterback. For months I've mentioned a steady drumbeat of chatter from inside the program that O'Korn was the best QB on the roster. Here's another manifestation of that from Ron Bellamy:
He said from his discussions with the Michigan coaches and the people in the program, John O'Korn "just lit up" the first team defense as the scout team QB everyday in practice. He said he was doing it against Lewis, Peppers, etc and the Michigan defensive coaches told him that O'Korn was going to be a flat out stud.
I'll try to stay calm and reasonable about these reports for the next eight months. And fail.
Let's go wherever, whenever. Harbaugh wants to have a week of spring practice in Florida. Specifically, at IMG, which has started a football program that attracts top recruits from around the country. A solid idea that will infuriate many: welcome to the offseason.
(Harbaugh wants to do it over spring break, naturally, to assuage any academics concerns you might have.)
I might watch it on mute just to see. Harbaugh is going to the state of the union thanks to a couple of congresspersons:
"For me he's the best of what the country should be and is," Dingell told MLive Monday night, pointing to his track record of hard work and teamwork.
Dingell, a Democrat, represents the 12th Congressional District, which includes the University of Michigan. She and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from West Michigan, together agreed to bring Harbaugh and his wife Sarah as guests to the State of the Union on Tuesday.
Each congressperson can invite one guest, so Amash invited Harbaugh and Dingell invited Sarah Harbaugh. Dingell said Amash's office approached hers about hosting the Harbaughs, and she'd have invited him in the first place if she knew he was interested.
Well done… people… in congress?
Seriously, do I have to watch the State of the Union now? I mean, any of these things could happen:
- President shouts out Michigan's football coach
- Harbaugh is invited to give speech
- Harbaugh is not invited to give speech, gives speech anyway
- Harbaugh wears cleats
- Harbaugh nails Joe Biden on a post route
- Harbaugh signs Declaration of Independence, is told that is unnecessary these days, says he has improved document all the same
- camera cuts to Harbaugh gobbling stadium foodstuffs not apparently on sale anywhere in the building
Gentry location. Zach Gentry could be a tight end. He could also be a quarterback. He did a little of the former in the bowl practices but he is not a tight end. Yet.
Gentry was one player who Harbaugh experimented with during bowl practices last month, moving the 6-foot-7, 230-pound true freshman from quarterback to tight end.
An athletic quarterback in high school, Gentry was asked by Harbaugh to give it a shot after the regular season ended. Gentry says he didn't hesitate.
"It was their (idea), but I've been flexible with it," Gentry said last week in Orlando. "Coach Harbaugh and (Jay Harbaugh) wanted to use my athleticism and see what happens. I've been doing it in practice, I think I've done a nice job with it.
"But I'm not sure, exactly, what's going on with my future (and what position I'll play)."
I imagine he'll compete in spring as a quarterback, because Michigan's got an open job. If he ends up clearly behind at least two other guys, tight end becomes a real long-term option. (As does a transfer, unfortunately.) If he's in the running, or even in the top three, you have let him stay at QB. The athleticism that makes him a good tight end prospect is something Harbaugh wants from his QBs—and last night Deshaun Watson made Alabama's defense look silly thanks in large part to his legs.
Rats, what is your opinion of this ship? Penn State lost DC John Shoop to Tennessee. Related: John Shoop ain't got no shame.
Less than two weeks after Bob Shoop told reporters he hoped Penn State would have him "forever and ever and ever," the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator is leaving the program for the same position at Tennessee.
PSU nearly lost him last year to LSU, whereupon Shoop was given a three-year, near-seven-figure deal. This year Tennessee offers 1.15 million and he's gone. All this further confirms that we should just pay the f-ing players before people in college football start literally drowning in money.
Anyway, the bleeding was and is not over: a few days later Penn State loses OL coach Herb Hand to the same position at Auburn. Today linebacker Troy Reeder announced he's transferring to Delaware after starting 11 games as a redshirt freshman. (Geno Lewis also grad-transferred to Oklahoma but that looks like a garden-variety playing time transfer.)
This all seems less than ideal for James Franklin, who has escaped serious scrutiny so far as Penn State digs out from under NCAA sanctions. Hand was dealt a… nevermind. Hand was put in an enormously difficult spot by those sanctions, which forced him to start two converted defensive linemen at guard. Then he lost the one good lineman he had to the draft last year; getting out makes sense for him.
I just wonder how hot seats get if Penn State's offense struggles again next year and their defense takes a half-step back without most of that defensive line. I'm guessing pretty hot.
Meanwhile in Big Ten teams losing defensive coordinators to SEC teams. Wisconsin's Dave Aranda headed down to LSU, causing Barry Alvarez to grouse about funding.
“The reason they can go up higher (in the SEC) is they’re not supporting as many sports,” Alvarez said. “It’s a difference in philosophy. The Big Ten is known for being more broad-based in its sports offerings. We are committed to supporting a broad-based athletic program. People may dismiss that, but it’s a real thing. They can sink more of their money into football."
At Get The Picture, a commenter points out the differences between Wisconsin and Georgia aren't significant:
What they have that we don’t: 3 rowing teams, wrestling, 2 hockey teams and men’s soccer.
What we have they they don’t (w/o looking to confirm): baseball, equestrian and gymnastics.
LSU is similar. They sponsor gymnastics, beach volleyball, and baseball; Wisconsin does not. Wisconsin sponsors hockey for both genders, wrestling, men's soccer, and rowing. Men's hockey makes money. Wisconsin's added expense for extra teams is more or less rowing—which mostly exists to be a cheap Title IX makeweight. Alvarez is full of it.
At least he's not alone?
…look at where some of the many other Big Ten coordinator hires came from this offseason: Louisiana-Lafayette (Minnesota, offense), Fordham (Penn State, offense), internally (Purdue and Illinois, offense), Northern Illinois (Rutgers, defense), Arkansas State (Maryland, offense) and even a coach who was out of football for a year (Purdue, defense). Maybe those moves will work out brilliantly, but they hardly bring the sizzle that Tennessee and LSU acquired.
On the other hand, Mike Debord.
Meanwhile in literally drowning in money. Hoo boy this makes me furious:
Jim Delany wrecked the Big Ten by adding two makeweight east coast programs that make no sense, destroyed the basketball schedule, made it so Michigan plays half the league once in a decade, and gets rewarded for it because some dillweed in the league office figured out a way to exploit the dying cable monopoly for short-term gain. I mean, I guess that's how things go in a business, but then they turn around and try to justify amateurism.
Meanwhile, the bubble creaks ominously:
Old Dominion and the other 13 Conference USA schools will have to make do with about $500,000 less in television revenue next season.
League TV revenue is likely to fall by about half when new contracts with Fox Sports and the CBS Sports Network take effect on July 1, according to sources at three schools familiar with C-USA’s TV contract negotiations.
The Big Ten is up in a few years. They've got a lot more pull than CUSA, but this might not be the best time for a contract negotiation.
In other news, I now have massive respect for Dane Brugler. CBS analyst Dane Brugler tells Michael Spath that Jake Butt had a shot to be the top tight end in the draft and a second round pick if he came out and picks out—yep—DESMOND MORGAN as Michigan's top eligible player:
:…he was all over the field,” Brugler said. “He was a blitzer, a guy that could play in the middle but play in space. He has lateral range, played sideline to sideline, quick reactions, strings runs out to the perimeter.
“Morgan is a physical player, aggressive but also at the same time, smart. I think he has the best shot to go a bit higher than his teammates. As long as the medicals check out.”
Thank you, Dane Brugler. You and I can ride on the Desmond Morgan bandwagon all the way to the, er, fifth round. Saddle up.
Don Brown defensive resources I haven't had the time to look at yet but will revisit when I do. Ditto Ian Boyd on running your slot receiver down the gut of the MSU defense or Smart Football touching on the same topic.
They said it couldn't be done. As first reported by mgouser Canadian, hockey tickets are actually declining(!) in price this year:
Just got an email informing me that this seasons prices have been reduced. Endzone seats see a 15% drop, sideline 12% and centre ice 10%.
Also I noticed at the bottom of the email that season ticket holders will receive a 20% concession discount before the start of the game (for every home game). This is great news for myself as that's the only time i visit the concession stands (grabbing a bite to eat as I have to rush over right after work).
Wags immediately assert not to click on any links as this email must be written by a Nigerian prince, but no seriously I got it too:
I wonder when the last price drop in one of the big three sports happened. I certainly can't remember one, but you have to figure that basketball was walking back prices at some point during the dark period. Ticket demand for hockey must be very soft, what with two years out of the tournament and basketball going like gangbusters.
There's also an assortment of season ticket holder benefits. While none of them are particularly significant, it is a step in the right direction for a department that has basically laughed at the idea of loyalty since Brandon was installed.
Ty Wheatley tribute. Wolverine Historian releases a new version that's five minutes longer because why not:
A sizeable nerve hit. John U Bacon's article about Michigan's season ticket situation was so popular his server imploded under the pressure, and now Yahoo has asked him to consolidate and refine it for their site. I don't think the headline guy did him any favors by invoking "greed", but if you liked the original you'll find plenty to agree with in the sequel. It also gives me the opportunity to pull another money quote, so here goes:
Yes, advertising in the Big House does matter. Americans are bombarded by ads, about 5,000 a day. Michigan Stadium used to be a sanctuary from modern marketing, an urban version of a National Park. Now it's just another stop on the sales train.
Everything the ticket holders spend hundreds of dollars to wait for and pay for, they can get at home for next to nothing – including the ads -- plus better replays. They can only get the marching band at the Big House.
John might be attempting to set a record for "number of times single piece gets emailed to me," and I think he's just about caught that piece about Gibbons that every MSU/OSU troll in the world sent me.
Just when your life was running low on gravel trucks. Mike Barwis has a reality TV series coming up from the Funny or Die guys, who happen to be fanatical Michigan fans. Barwis is a natural for this, of course.
Well done, Jim. Jim Delany took the stand as an NCAA witness. For the umpteenth time, an NCAA witness went over a bunch of stuff the judge said she wouldn't be considering like the impact on non-revenue sports. Delany also issued more College Is Good statements that make legal analysts rend their garments at their irrelevancy.
That was par for the course. Then Delany firebombed his side's cause:
Delany is tired of athletes being asked to spend all year on voluntary -- read: mandatory -- workouts. He'd like to see athletes get a chance to spend a semester abroad if they chose. He believes they are supposed to be students first. As he said all this, he admitted he remains very much in the minority among the policymakers in college sports on those issues. (Case in point: The schools have recently passed rules allowing football and basketball coaches to spend more time with their players in the offseason.)
That admission from Delany hacked several questions off his cross examination.
The plaintiffs have spent the entire trial trying to prove that in today's NCAA, players are athletes first and students second. The NCAA's attorneys and most of its witnesses have insisted that isn't the case. They say the athletes are students who just happen to play sports. They say allowing football and men's basketball players to sell their name, image and likeness rights would drive a wedge between the athletes and the student body. The plaintiffs contend the wedge was driven long ago and extra money in the pockets of the athletes won't change that. Delany helped them make that case Friday by explaining the reforms he'd like to see that actually would make the players feel more like regular students and then by explaining that they'd get steamrolled if they came up for a vote.
I only have one problem with Andy Staples's article:
Outside of the Big Ten, Delany is massively unpopular. He continually stood in the way of a college football playoff. He essentially claimed an SEC team beat a Big Ten team for a football national title because the SEC team was faster and dumber. He created a cash cow of a cable network while still banging the drum for amateurism.
He is massively unpopular to Big Ten fans as well after adding Rutgers and Maryland.
Meanwhile, in Emmertland. Staples covers Emmert's testimony:
Emmert discussed the "commercial pressures" to use athletes in a variety of ways. "One has to make sure, in an amateur context, that it doesn't go to a place where the student-athletes are in fact being used as nothing more than shills for a product," Emmert said.
Staples got a little snarky. I understand. It's hard not to be. As I've noted before, taking the NCAA's model and trying to justify it in a courtroom leads to progressively increasing levels of cognitive dissonance that end with you going ACK and snarking.
Oh no, what would that be like. Upside to the NCAA enforcement department ceasing to exist, from the NCAA's perspective:
Banowsky (NCAA): It would be "highly-corruptive" if big money boosters, tied to AAU coaches and "South Beach parties", negotiated IP rights.
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) June 23, 2014
Dinosaur hit by Google meteor. It must have been grand to be a sportswriter in the days when the collective memory of your readers was about six months long, tops, an you could just recycle your bits ad nauseum in between three-martini lunches. Unfortunately, these days you can just plug "out of touch sportswriter name" and "topic" and verily, thou art exposed.
So when Dan Shaughnessy wrote a "but I don't want to like soccer" piece that seemed 25 years old, it was quickly discovered that the reason it seemed 25 years old is that it actually was. Deadspin:
Hands are what separate man from beast
June 22, 2014
Soccer takes away our hands. This makes the game incredibly skillful and exhausting, but also robs fans of much of the beauty of sport. Hands and opposable thumbs separate us from creatures of the wild.
June 17, 1994
And what's with the hands? How good can any game be when you can't use your hands? Hands are what separate us from the animal kingdom.
July 5, 1990
Finally, there is the hands problem. Hands and thumbs, that's what separates us from the beasts of the jungle.
I'm terrified that I repeat myself too much when I go on about how punting is evil or the NCAA should keel over and die posthaste, because I came of age shaking my head at dudes like Shaugnessy and Rick Reilly who phoned in the same four columns for 20 years.
I used to be really mad at these guys because they were wasting the greatest job in the world. Nowadays it's more contempt than anger. Y'all are still doing this in 2014?
Hockey scouting. Over The Boards collects a bunch of scouting on college-hockey bound gentlemen, touching on a number of Michigan recruits. Zach Werenski, who may be on campus this fall:
He’s deliberate and doesn’t put himself in situations to fail. He doesn’t pick his battles, he just battles smart. His natural abilities, what he’s worked on, continuing to improve, I think the debate is what part of what he does is going to persist to the pro level, but his being well-rounded I don’t think makes him undefined like some toolsy kids that can’t figure out where they put their skills in the toolbox and when to pull them out, you know? He knows what he can do and plays to it: situational awareness.
2016 D Griffin Luce:
“Luce is arguably the best ’98 defenseman in the country. He has great size at 6’3, 200 and plays with an edge, throwing his body around in the corners and in-front of the net in his own end and is a presence on the offensive blueline. Luce moves very well for his size and age and handles the puck effortlessly with hard, crisp, tape to tape passes up ice. He can run the powerplay and with his reach and hockey IQ is an ideal penalty killer as his head is always on swivel and getting his stick out to take away passing lanes."
Luce is projected as a potential first-rounder. 2015 F Kyle Connor gets a brief mention as a kid who has really come on this year. That is understating it a bit. Connor was second in the USHL in scoring this year, highly unusual for a kid his age, and is one of three 2015-ish recruits at the WJC evaluation camp this year. I know Yost Built has been fretting about whether he'll follow through on his commitment, so hopefully this reassures somewhat:
“Growing up, that was my dream school,” said Connor. “I’m a Michigan football fan and Michigan everything, even my parents are big Michigan fans. When I heard they offered me the scholarship it was a no brainer.”
Saginaw drafted him in the 14th round, and they're not known for swooping in on college commits.
I will also take this opportunity to note that UNO has a kid named "Luc Snuggerud" coming in this year. That has to go high up on the list of most hockey names.
Etc.: EMU to install a gray field, start calling Rynearson "the Factory." "Why isn't EMU I-AA?" you ask, because that's what you always ask about EMU.
Harris had ten points on four shot equivalents in last year's matchup.
Open the floodgates. As you've probably heard, WVU transfer Eron Harris got his paperwork and immediately spoke to a gentleman of distinction:
West Virginia transfer Eron Harris has finally received his release. Told ESPN that Michigan's John Beilein has already contacted him today.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 7, 2014
That is quite interesting. Harris, a DO WANT shooter, is essentially a class of 2015 guy who will be super-ready to play with two years of eligibility. But after taking MAAR and Aubrey Dawkins, there's no question that grabbing him seriously impinges on Michigan's ability to promise 2015 kids like Jalen Brunson and Jalen Coleman playing time—and their ability to offer scholarships. (Maybe less so Brunson since he is more of a PG, but with Walton likely still around Michigan's pitch has to center around the two of them playing at the same time.)
Do you grab that guy? Since Michigan's having a hard time holding onto guards for more than a couple years, I would say yup. Harris is also less of a deterrent to the 2016 kids Michigan seems to be doing very well with since he'll be around a maximum of one year after their arrival.
In the flurry of articles following that tweet two things became clear. One, being closer to home is not as much of a priority as the right fit…
"The fit is more important that the location (of the school)," Harris said. "Eron is used to seeing his brothers and family more than he has the past couple years. But if he has to go to New York or California to find the right fit, then that's what he'll do."
…and two, Michigan's going to have to put on its prettiest dress and bat its eyes:
Within two hours of getting his release, Harris had already been contacted by Butler, Indiana and Purdue as well as Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State and UCLA.
Harris is a terrific get-your-own-shot shooter who would have an apprenticeship before seeing the floor. If he's fleeing Huggy Bear because of fit, Beilein is pretty much the opposite… and this quote all but begs you to read between the lines:
“It is going to be the place that I can be myself,” said Harris. “I want to be myself. I want to go out there and play basketball and love playing basketball. I am a competitor first, and I want to play instinctively. That is it. I want my coach to respect me and I will respect him."
The art of shade, man.
OPEN THE PRETZEL. One WI SG Brevin Pritzl, a shooting guard out of Wisconsin, blew up over the past couple of weeks of AAU tourneys. This has intrigued Michigan, who's bringing him in for a visit this weekend. An offer is probably not in the offing unless they're really serious about moving on from the dawdling Jalen Coleman, but he's a guy to keep an eye on down the road.
2016 priorities. MI PG Cassius Winston is a highly-rated gentleman in his own right, one who Michigan has a lot of interest in. He's waiting for an offer this summer, but not in June:
“I’m pretty sure, if I know correctly, that I’ll be offered by the end of the summer,” Winston said on Saturday at the Spiece Memorial Run-n-Slam.
To me that says Michigan is going to give Derryck Thornton the first crack before they expand their PG POV. That expresses a level of confidence that Michigan didn't have when they went after Derrick Walton; they offered the other instate PG, Monte Morris, at the same time.
In other Thornton news, current main competitor Arizona picked up their second 2015 commit from a highly-rated PG, which can't hurt.
Hibbity hooblah! It's NFL draft time, hooray. Taylor Lewan will go in the first 15 picks tonight; Jeremy Gallon and Michael Schofield are likely to follow in the next two days. Baumgardner profiles Gallon:
"We've had dozens of guys go off to college and (not make it)) that had circumstances a lot better than Jeremy's," said Rick Darlington, Gallon's former coach at Apopka High School. "He had to fight to get into college. Then he had to fight to stay in college. Then he had to fight to get on the field.
"You look at him now, and it's easy to say he was a great college player in the end. But it was never as easy for him as it was for others. He always had to struggle ... it didn't come easy."
Gallon had to take three classes after his graduation just to get to Ann Arbor, which I know is something that was a problem with admissions. Not in Gallon's specific case, necessarily, but in the sheer numbers of guys Rodriguez recruited that needed serious help. Michigan would not look at Gallon today even if he was 6'4" because hypothetical rising senior Gallon's grades would make them move on.
On the one hand, some guys come through and become Jeremy Gallon. On the other, attrition watch.
In other news, Hoke defends Taylor Lewan again.
I didn't expect anything different, but wow. Various NCAA personages are appearing in front of a congressional committee today to talk about unionization. There is a lot of ludicrous stonewalling like the Stanford AD refusing to state how much his coaches make when you can google it in five seconds—the answer is three million dollars—but nothing quite so faceplam inducing as congressmen taking up irrelevant talking points that have already been eviscerated and left for dead while waving his iPad around:
Congressman Roe: "I just pulled up on my iPad (holds up iPad) that most schools lose money." …
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) May 8, 2014
Congressman Roe then resumed playing Candy Crush Saga before a brief nap, so he missed this riposte:
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) May 8, 2014
People in congress are just in congress for no reason.
Anger bit. Jim Delany talked to USA Today for two extensive pieces, one of which makes me involuntarily shake my fist at nothing in particular when Delany has the balls to make this assertion:
Q: Eight games vs. nine is a hot topic right now. What was the driving force behind the Big Ten going to nine conference games?
A: For us, it's a combination of things. One is the Playoff. Another thing is we're going to get larger (as a conference), we're going to play each other more. We want to be a conference.
Well, you were, Jim. And then somebody had to chase money in a nonsensical way, thanks to the faulty assumption that the current setup wherein sports leagues can involuntarily tax non-fans is going to last in an era of streaming.
This is not a "conference":
What I really like is that every athlete in the Big Ten who plays football will play every opponent inside the four-year period. That's what I like.
That is more of a conference than the SEC's setup where crossover teams without protected rivalries see each other once every six years, but Michigan hasn't played Wisconsin in four years. They may as well be in the Big 12. Going forward they will play the other division less than half the time.
I feel that this has to be intentional trolling. I mean I just…
Michigan's new "historic traditions" football page features an Adidas uniform they wore once. http://t.co/8nwffdIzZi
— Ben Mathis-Lilley (@BenMathisLilley) May 6, 2014
There is subset of MBAs who have their own opposite-day dialect of the English language.
Simplify : offense :: aggressive : defense. "Seven ways that Lane Kiffin will change Alabama's offense" unfortunately doesn't include "make it squintier" but does include this familiar refrain:
3. Playbook simplified
One change won't be too obvious from the seats or living rooms. After playing with in an offense known for complicated terminology, players see a difference in Kiffin's style.
"Some coaches and quarterbacks over-analyze things at times," receiver Amari Cooper said. "Sometimes it can be pitch and catch, let the play-makers make plays."
Cooper, the leading receiver each of the past two years, also likes the in-game adjustments he saw from game film.
"Coach Kiffin calls plays based on matchups and what he sees," Cooper said. "Like I said before, it's a simple offense. If he sees they are in man-to-man coverage and I have a hitch route, it converts if he's close to me, we are going to throw a little fade route and make something out of it."
I really need Al Borges to get hired somewhere so there can be an article about how he's going to simplify offense X.
That article includes obvious balderdash like "finding the playmakers" as if that's a huge overlooked priority for an outfit that saw AJ McCarron throw for 9.1 yards a pop with a 28:7 TD:INT ratio and rushed for 5.8 yards a carry without even removing sacks. But it also gives you some insight into what Nussmeier does:
2. Fullback added
Alabama's been primarily a one-back running team during the Saban era. They used an H-back to help clear the way, but it sounds like the Tide will be using a more traditional fullback in 2014.
Michigan's picked up a one-back offensive coordinator just in time for their four-man fullback crop to ripen. To H-back you go, gentlemen.
Etc.: NFL.com scouting reports are creepy. Remember when John Beilein was not a golden colossus? Why Nick Saban hates the hurry up. Former MI SF AJ Turner is now prepping in NH and might be a guy to keep an eye on if Coleman doesn't work out.