this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Programming note: there was a lot of negative feedback on the "Anti-Carr Team"; it appears most found it meanspirited, and I have to agree. It was fun in concept but not execution and has been discontinued. If you need a complete team, there is a diary entitled " The Game I'll Watch In Hell ."
Blog fixes. You should notice the MGoStore block is back. Click for sweet t-shirt action. Also: the "more" links in the diaries tab now lead you to something that's not totally useless. Before, they actually had worse functionality than the tabs, as they'd give you five posts without any option to see another page. Now they'll show you 25 and there's a full pager. Also, the Fanhouse links on the left sidebar are fixed.
Crankiness level: medium. Red Berenson has always been admirably straightforward about how damned ornery NHL teams picking off his best players makes him. Sometimes he's okay with it (Jack Johnson); other times he's near livid (Mike Cammalleri). The Pacioretty reaction falls in the middle:
Q: Was he frustrated with your decision?
Pacioretty: A little bit. He's very understanding. He knows I want to be a professional hockey player. Sometimes, not everyone has the same mindset for developing as a hockey player. I think there might have been a little bit of friction there, but not too much. I know he supports my goal to one day play in the NHL.
"We're disappointed that Max Pacioretty has chosen to forego his eligibility at the University of Michigan," Berenson said in a statement released by the school. "Max was certainly a positive force on our team last season. We would like to wish him well in his pursuit of his dream to play in the National Hockey League."
Eeeeeeeeeeee. Again. Okay, even I'm getting a little tired of reading about Superhero Mike Barwis. Mere days after ESPN published three separate items about the former ninja who may have assassinated Prince Moriyoshi in 1335 comes a Dennis Dodd piece. Naturally, it starts with wolves:
The pet wolves died last year. Mike Barwis had two of them which, to anyone who knows Michigan's strength and conditioning coach, is hardly a surprise.
The rest of it is per standard. Barwis makes grown men cry. Larry Foote can fly now. Player X came in a 200 pound fatty and now bends steel bars with his forearm hair. Barwis ate a baby once and crapped out Lawrence Taylor. Barwis got in a time machine, travelled back to the Indian subcontinent when it was still floating in the ocean and got the natives so fired up they threw it into Asia.
Barwis invented flour.
Also there's this quote from Threet:
"We have to scare people again," Threet said. "There used to be a certain intimidation factor. You'd see Michigan run out and touch the banner and you knew you were in for a long day. Some of that has started to go away."
Historian. The 2000 Michigan State game for your edification:
Meanwhile. The Ann Arbor News' editorial leadership has taken every possible opportunity to criticize the Michigan athletic department this summer. Meanwhile, in Lansing they're publishing 4,000 word puff pieces about the new athletic director's little league baseball coaching:
Runners stand on first and second. It's 6:33 p.m. on Monday, June 9, at a baseball field behind Chippewa Middle School in Okemos. Coach Mark Hollis gives the sign to his baserunners: double steal. As the next pitch crosses the plate, both break into a sprint.
"Get there!" Hollis barks, and both do with ease.
It is, after all, little league baseball.
Michigan State's athletic department is consistently in the red, features a football team one point above the APR's minimum, and has a coach that provided more ammunition to Michigan fans in one year than John L Smith did over his entire tenure. Also his last recruiting class sucked. (This one? Pretty good so far.) But the rush to lionize is on.
Diaries of note. A number of good things in the Diaries: gsimmons85 tackles press coverage as Shafer will apply it:
You wont see a lot of straight jam technique, rather the press is an inside shade, outside foot back, inviting the fade (michigan corners will know how to play the fade better than any other corners int he country) then on the snap of the ball, they execute what is called a shadow technique. Shafer describes it as imagining that the sun is setting behind the offensive player, and the defender gives ground, with short shuffle steps, and tries to stay in the shadow as long as possible. Forcing the offensive player to make the first move, makes it harder to get a corner off balance with a missed jam.
Simmons is a high school defensive coordinator who's used Shafer's schemes for the past four years and is very complimentary of his stuff over on his home blog Three And Out.
Meanwhile, Blue Seoul interrogates the Barwis hype. In doing so he accidentally stumbles over some interesting numbers about fourth quarter swings. Over the last five years:
Michigan was outscored in the 4th quarter 19 freaking times. 6 of those were 4th quarter collapses where we lost the lead, and 4 of them were double digit 4th quarter leads. WVU was outscored in the 4th 21 times, BUT ONLY 1 RESULTED IN A LOST LEAD. One! One freaking game did they lose in the 4th quarter. ... Conversely, WVU only won 7 games in the 2nd half, 2 of those in the 4th. Michigan won 7 games in the 2nd half, but 9 in the 4th.
I cosign the proffered explanation:
I think this has more to do with coaching. Lloyd would sit on a lead, lose the third quarter and then open up a bit to win in the end. Whereas with RR he doesn't hold back. He's either going to beat you and put you away in the first half, or just trail for the entire game.
(There's probably an element of luck in there, too.) An interesting thing about the Rodriguez offense as it was constructed at West Virginia: you can't turn off the "scoring offense." Michigan could grind into the line a few times, throw on third down, avoid risky plays, etc, etc. West Virginia could try to do that, and Pat White would rip off a 50 yard run or something. The downside to this is the lack of comebacks: WVU had one kickass dimension, but if you shut that dimension off you were going to win.
I don't think this is the ideal for Rodriguez, but when you've got Pat White -- especially as a freshman and sophomore -- that's just what you've got. It would have been interesting to see if Rodriguez added more passing to the WVU offense with a senior quarterback, as Carr always did.
- QB Waggle continues his excellent series on Michigan players in the NFL. (Note the use of bold for headers and italics for subheaders to break the text up into nice readable chunks.)
- Dex of the WLA concludes the Kevin Grady adventure.
- Keegan provides his own Slocum eulogy; There is more at the WLA.
It might suck, though. Michigan Sports Center has been scouring Internet message boards for information on NCAA 09 and reports back with some problems:
To incorporate "wide open gameplay," the defenses in NCAA 09 reportedly have been incredibly dumbed down. By this, I mean that it is far too hard to play defense when lining up against the computer. When you are on defense, most people have reported that the opposing computer quarterback are way too accurate. The norm is only five or so incompletions a game according to some, and that is only because of dropped passes. On top of that, the computer's offensive line supposedly is way too dominant, even against the best teams in the game. With an extremely accurate QB and barely any pass rush, the results aren't good.
There are also widespread difficulties with editing the rosters (which I couldn't care less about, especially since you can download a whole roster for free from inside the EA Locker). Bill Abner's continued to post impressions at his blog and remains pleased -- "if I had to return the game and then decide whether or not to buy it, I'd be in line just like the rest of you, forking over my $60 and change" -- despite some annoyances; I trust him over some of the inveterate whiners that populate video game message boards. (Not that they don't have a point, but sometimes it's a bit much.) Abner does futz with the sliders excessively, so the issues above may be real on All American with default sliders but obviated if you're willing to tweak.
Law and Toomer. In the Thursday post rebutting Michael Rosenberg's column on Rich Rodriguez, I made passing reference to the distance between former Michigan stars Ty Law and Amani Toomer and Lloyd Carr. A couple folks have asked for background. Law left for the NFL after his junior year when his family filed for bankruptcy, and Carr did not take it well:
"He didn't care for me leaving, and I wasn't welcomed back for a while," said Law of Carr, who was Michigan's defensive coordinator but replaced Gary Moeller as head coach for what would have been Law's senior season.
Law says Carr "actually told me -- and that's what I feed on until this day -- that I would never see the third round. And that kind of hurt me. I know I thought I was one of the better players here on the team."
The animosity lingers; see the sidebar of that Page 2 article for further detail.
Toomer's issues with Carr are vaguer but just as real:
Did you hear from any of your former U-M teammates or Lloyd Carr after the win? No. The last time I heard a word from Lloyd was when I was playing in a (Michigan) game; it was my last play of my senior year. I caught a touchdown from Brian Griese, and I was walking off the field and Lloyd looks at me, looks at Griese, looks at me again, and goes, "Good throw, Brian." And that's the last thing he ever said in my direction.
Did you have a good relationship with Carr while at U-M? I thought we did, but I guess we didn't. So I don't know. I wasn't too upset to see the whole regime change.
Le Dominator is French for The Dominator. Pacioretty hype from Montreal's prospect camp continues to come fast and furious:
While Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' director of recruitment, was reluctant to talk about individual players, he did venture the opinion that Pacioretty is "head and shoulders" above his peers.
... et chaque ...
Take this to the bank, people: Max Pacioretty will be with the big club when the 2009-'10 season begins. And he's going to be a good one.
But where will he be playing this fall? Probably Yost:
Pacioretty has played one season at the University of Michigan. It's unlikely he'll stay there for a full four years, but he is expected to return in September.
Knock on wood and all that. If he does return, plan on it being a Jack-Johnson-like victory lap, hopefully one just as freakin' awesome as JMFJ's senior year.
Cross is boss. Wolverine Historian has compiled the 2001 Illinois game, a comprehensive beating applied with some panache. I had totally forgotten what I think were back-to-back trick plays that got Michigan its first touchdown, and Todd Howard is subject to the most spectacular facemask penalty I've ever seen. In full:
Another day, another jab. The Ann Arbor News takes the opportunity presented by the "Rodriquez" settlement to launch another broadside at the athletic department. This was my favorite part:
Michigan used to be unique amid a national trend that's seen programs at other schools become less about student athletes and much more about the money that marquee sports can generate.
This isn't just orthogonally wrong, it's the exact opposite of right. The first sentence in Don Canham's Wikipedia article is "he became nationally-renowned for his ability to market and sell products bearing the name or logo of the school." Canham himself:
The only thing I did know was that were going to draw a hell of a lot more people than we ever did. Up until then, schools did not advertise. I almost got fired when I flew a helicopter advertising Michigan football over the World Series (in Detroit) in 1968. That was considered undignified. We ran ads in magazines and all the Detroit suburban newspapers. Our big gimmick was that we mailed ticket applications - that first year we mailed 400,000 ticket applications and sold coffee cups and things like that. We paid for the ads with the coffee cups. The premiums we came up with paid for it all.
The only thing unique about Michigan's place in the college football money grab was its status as first-mover. The rest of it is a complaint seemingly from another universe: Michigan's athletic department leadership has "little if any accountability or openness." The dastardly bastards in charge finished third in the Director's Cup, saw all their teams easily clear the NCAA's APR hurdles, and ran a massive surplus doing it. They must be held accountable!
By any reasonable standard the Michigan athletic department is one of the best in the country. It supports a massive number of student-athletes, does extraordinarily well in sports across the board, and does so without draining a dime from the university's general fund. Since the Ed Martin affair over a decade ago there hasn't been even the barest hint of NCAA problems. For this it gets harsher coverage from its local media than any program in the country.* I'm not asking for mindless homerism, but how about a shred of perspective?
The Ann Arbor News lists the phone numbers and email addresses for Martin, Coleman, and the Regents, exhorting you to "send a message." I suggest you send a different message to an organization that evidently has no interest in covering Michigan fairly by calling 734-994-6989. That message: "cancel my subscription."
*(I assume. No one else has been the target of a week-long investigative series that turned up virtually nothing, right? Washington might have a case given the Seattle Times' recent exhumation of the Neuheisel era at UW, but that actually seemed targeted at UCLA. If the Columbus Dispatch tried this they'd be under seige. Probably literally.)
Etc.: The NYT preview of Michigan approvingly references MGoBlog but contains some glaring errors ("Michigan did not land one quarterback recruit in the 2008 class"); Jim Brandstatter snaps back at Rosenberg; Michigan favored by seven against Utah.
insert rock band miming.
Max Pacioretty is the last Michigan hockey player who hasn't announced his intentions to return for the 2008 season. When last we left our budding power forward, he was torn:
Heard it from a very good source that he would like to sign and that Montreal wants him but the family will have none of it. At this point, put the chances of him returning for his sophomore year at about 80%.
That was The Wolverine's Mike Spath about three weeks ago. Pacioretty is now at Montreal's rookie camp and... sigh(?)... impressing:
And Canadiens director of player recruitment and development Trevor Timmins was on the ice, watching his recent draft choices - plus a few free agent signings - skate through their paces.
Timmins spoke glowingly of Max Pacioretty, telling journalists "as you can see out on the ice surface, he's a big, strong, powerful athlete" who's a strong skater and likes to hit and finish his checks. Timmins thinks Pacioretty is "physically ready" to turn pro but has to work on aspects of his game, either as a University of Michigan sophomore or a Hamilton Bulldogs rookie.
At least Montreal isn't dangling a chance at the NHL at Pacioretty. If he's eyeing the AHL... well... that's a far less appealing alternative. Further quotes from Pacioretty, however, indicate he's open to the Bulldogs:
Pacioretty said "this is a big summer for me." He trusts the Canadiens to offer sound advice on whether he should turn pro or go back to Michigan.
"I couldn't tell you right now. We have to talk more about it and figure out how they (Canadiens) feel and that'll help my decision." Pacioretty is aware that the big club could use a power forward. "I think that's where they see my upside," Pacioretty said. "I'm able to play a more physical role. But I've got a lot of work to become a power forward."
Eek. Spath says Montreal wants him to sign, Pacioretty says he'll do what the Canadiens want him to do... 1 + 1 = dammit. HOWEVA, maybe Spath's source was premature? This article makes it sound like Montreal is expecting him to return to Ann Arbor (emphasis mine):
Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' director of player recruitment, said yesterday that Pacioretty is physically capable of playing in the NHL, but the smart money says the Connecticut native will be a Wolverine for at least one more season.
Pacioretty, who is projected as a power forward, said as much yesterday when members of the media told him about Timmins's statement. While he said his strength was one of his assets, he also said he might have a way to go before he can battle along the boards with the likes of Georges Laraque.
Pacioretty had an outstanding season at Michigan. He played on Michigan's top line with Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik, both of whom have signed contracts with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Playing with those guys definitely helped," Pacioretty said. But Timmins and Pacioretty both feel the youngster will be able to survive - and thrive - in the wake of the departures.
"I was the guy doing the dirty work in the corners and I think that I'll be able to play a more offensive role now that they're gone," Pacioretty said.
"He's lost two outstanding linemates, but this will give him a chance to showcase his talents," Timmins added.
Spath's 80% now seems like 60% to me, but the above passage contains direct quotes from the two people closest to the situation that assume Pacioretty's hockey will be played at Yost this fall. Still... Michigan Hockey Summer and all that. We should know sometime soon, at least, as I doubt Montreal will drag out the decision much past the next couple weeks.
Also, in a BCS-like move that comes one season too late:
Also, the Division I Men's Ice Hockey committee will recommend that teams be required to have a .500 record or better to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin, of course, made the tournament (as a three-seed!) despite being under .500 and got to play at home. No more of that.