so much for that
recruiting might not be so legit sometimes
It is a day after National Signing Day and the Big Ten has inked yet another lackluster group of mostly 3-star recruits. Fearing a further drift toward mediocrity, representatives from each relevant school have secretly gathered together. Their goal: rescuing the competitive future of their once mighty conference!
A prayer is offered to AIRBHG and thanks given unto BHGP for allowing me to rip off their format.
Scene: A little-used back room of the Palmer House in Chicago, its walls lined with trophies honoring the conference's academic achievements, and tasteful sweaters. A group of men and a duck mill about, most huddled around a smartphone showing walrus porn. One is eyeing the gilded stand lamps, apparently wondering if they're bolted down. They are watched by a shadowy figure in a ski mask. JIM DELANEY enters…
: It's the…no, Brady we're not doing the thing.
[More. Oh so much more, after the JUMP!]
Ostensibly because they simply don't have the resources to keep Lane Kiffin from tweeting recruits every five nanoseconds, the NCAA this week announced they're getting rid of those limits altogether. They're also planning to let schools send as much mail as they want.
If you're a big school like Michigan who can afford to pay a guy to do nothing but send mail and text people wonderful Michigan facts, this is horray. But if you're a young football player upon whose skills rests the future employment of a hundred highly motivated collegiate coaches, prepare for the USC Legion of Owls…
What can you do to fight back? Well it's not like recruits don't have options, and I'm not just talking about picking a hat. You, young sirs, are for this brief window the sole source of information for a voracious, massive, and more than a little creepy information vacuum. Collegiate hopefuls of America's high school, I tell you today you can approach the recruiting process with poise, intelligence, humility, and maturity, or you could wield that which has ever been the tool of your kind—troll them.
Now some of you have tried this before—demanding your program have a good medical school to sound academically inclined, making up fake visits to Notre Dame, making up fake dead girlfriends, even committing to big schools sight-unseen to drum up internet interest *cough*DeQuinta Jones*cough*—I call such sad attempts sophomoric. Inspired in part by DeAnthonthy Arnett, in part by a conversation with Ace when Michael Ferns announced, and with help from Brian Cook, here follows a handy list of ways the nonpareil prospect can pique the system, discomfit the coaches, and have a little fun at the expense of all those strangers hanging on the bell.
==Idiot disclaimer: I am not actually advocating any of this.==
Remedies for the Coach With the Iron iPhone:
You are a running back whose backflip hurdle over a defender hit YouTube and now Bob Stoops is waiting at your car after the game: "Hello." But wait, now Mark Stoops climbs out of your back seat: "Hello." And now here's Urban Meyer's helicopter landing in the middle of the parking lot with a Corvette and dealer plates: "Hello." Suddenly your lower body trembles and a purple thing emerges, its face reconstituting into that of Brian Kelly: "Hello." Lane Kiffin taps you on the shoulder. "Hello." Lane Kiffin has surgically implanted himself into your shoulder. "Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello." What do you do?
1. Hold "hair ceremony" instead of hat ceremony. Display toupees modeled after your finalist coaches.
2. Skype video invite to Brian Kelly, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer so they all think you're calling to commit to them, then do hat dance between three schools and "lose connection" to video. Repeat following week. (Please record this)
3. Flip to your former chosen school's most hated rival, and in so doing read the same exact statement a guy going the other way did last year.
4. Tell him you'll commit, but only because you believe the rumors saying he'll be replaced with Ron Zook in a month.
5. Insist on being called "future major violations case."
6. Claim you're a package deal with your team's kicker, provide name and phone # of least athletic person you know (it's not like anybody ever gets film on a kicker).
7. Invite coach for an in-home visit; once he's seated ask if he'll watch your baby sister while you run out real quick.
8. Demand your final two schools prove they will know how best to deploy your talents by playing each other on NCAA using created teams made up entirely of you.
9. Suggest to Ole Miss that they text your dad to "work out a deal." Provide phone number of friend/co-conspirator/NCAA enforcement agent.
Remedies for the Reprobate Recruiting Reporters
So many sites today promise subscribers instant information on the latest whims of recruits considering their schools. Mention interest in a visit and you'll instantly have seven dudes from seven services camped out in your shower. Here's how you flush 'em:
1. Call recruiting services and continually ask them if they have a top five list. Refuse to offer any information unless the reporter announces his favorite schools. Follow-up: If reporter changes those schools, tell him he's dishonest and drop him.
2. Announce you will only talk to recruiting reporters under 16.
3. Only answer recruiting questions with boilerplate quotes that have strong sexual double-entendre.
4. Pick recruiting service. Respond to all inquiries from recruiting service with quotes from "Baby Got Back". Pick different recruiting service. Respond to all inquiries from recruiting service with quotes from Robert Frost. Pick third recruiting service. Respond to all inquiries from recruiting service with obfuscated C programs that print "Baby Got Back"/Robert Frost mashup quotes.
Describe the recruiting process for you so far? "I'm tired of magazines."
Is distance a major factor for you? "Like men we look too near."
How did you feel when you got that Ohio State offer? "You say you wanna get in my Benz?"
Would you consider other offers if your coach takes that NFL job? "My homeboys try to warn me, but I have promises to keep."
Bonus: "Take the average black man and ask him that" as a reply to most recruiting questions will make an interviewer really uncomfortable until they figure out what you're doing.
5. Insist that your name is Lee Fucking Corso.
6. Insist that people call you Lee Fucking Corso even though they know that's not your real name.
7. Hold hat ceremonies every Tuesday. One of the hats is "Decision Next Tuesday." Eventually you'll call it Walt, so every press conference ends with you pickin' ol' Walt.
8. Commitment ceremony has five hats. Each hat reveals a different cheese. Describe your favorite cheeses. Pause. Say "but I'm going to have to go with.... PORT SALUT!!!!!!!!" and eat 10 oz in one bite. When done, stare at assembled crowd. Pause again. Say... "what, I like cheese."
9. Game of Thrones gambit: Tell five different journalists, in confidence, that you're silently committed to a different school, wait and see which one gets leaked. Follow-up: Announce you are committing to the Lannisters.
Remedies for the Message Board Morans
Who us? We're annoying?
1. Go on message boards to solicit video testimonies from fans as to why you should go to their school of choice. Publish the best of them.
2. Announce press conference for "big announcement," where you play Catlab dubbed over with french noveau vague and film noir soundtracks, occasionally turn back to audience and explain "You see? You get where I'm going yet?"
3. On your announcement day, proclaim you have buried your decision in a box you've geocached based on some obscure statistic, but which coordinates are actually in the middle of the hippo pen at your local zoo.
4. Find some annoying person on the fan site for the top team you didn't commit to, claim it was that person's posts that made you choose the other school, watch that person get devoured.
5. Do the same with whatever the last protest was at that school. "I was going to commit to Michigan but then I saw they were protesting to save the whales, and I hate whales."
6. At your hat ceremony, stick a large wad of cash under one hat you were about to discard. Act surprised, try to cover it, then say you're canceling the ceremony while you think things over a bit longer.
7. Hold your hat ceremony in a hat store.
8. Answer all questions as if you were being asked about your NCAA dynasty.
(Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments)
This week Michigan pulled in a commitment from another offensive lineman. That makes six for the 2013 class, with the possibility of a seventh, on top of four in 2012, on top of…well that's the point isn't it?
It's easy to point fingers […in the general direction of Tucson] for the dilapidation of M's o-line depth. Rodriguez did knowingly and willfully get too picky with his 2009 and 2010 recruiting, perhaps figuring the massive 2008 haul would tide him over until he was winning championships and could offer playing time and non-ridiculous uniforms to Oregon targets. The result was two great tackles in '09, just a center in 2010, and then much striking out in what was supposed to be the year of many Hobbis and Yruretagoyenas, the wanton whiffing exacerbated five times over by [the bad timing of…] The Process.™
A man cannot be faulted for the circumstances of his creation, and certainly Brady Hoke and co. have since done a bang-up job of finding large and talented young gentlemen willing to stand between us and the ill-begotten creatures that plague Big Ten defenses. That's not to say they'll be any good at it…yet. Like a basement full of wedding gifts without a house to fit them all, our future of wealth and comfort is all but promised but we wonder how long must we wait?
Answer: some time yet, sorry. I hate to bury the lede, so here's a great big spoiler. We're gonna have a little history lesson, and then you're going to find this:
Year in Program:
|Not on team||1||6||13||16||28|
|% Solid +||1.4%||9.5%||21.5%||33.8%||37.3%|
What the hell this is: It's me tracking the development of Michigan offensive linemen over the last 20 years based on how many years each has been in the program. It is subjective on the top and a bit accusatory in the middle and perhaps only a little bit useful on the bottom where I show things like just 1 in 5 of all the great centers and guards and tackles in two decades of Michigan recruiting end up ever becoming All Big Ten-level players. It seems to say that there's a lot that can go wrong between the gathering of the linemen and the deployment of the linemen.
It also says it takes time: in 20 years of OL recruiting just seven guys (Lewan, Molk, Long, Backus, Hutchinson, Jansen and Boren) were even ready to be okay starters by their second years in the program. If one guy from the 2012 class starts this year and is proficient, that's beating the odds; the chances of the 2012-'13 classes forming a proficient unit by 2014 are the chances of finding five NFL linemen in ten recruits.
A History of Michigan OL Recruiting, 1993-2011
I wanted to go back far enough to get a relatively large enough sample of Michigan offensive linemen and some idea of how a class of recruits matures into a line. Because this involved a lot of memory and subjectivity, I included my written impressions of all of these linemen below. That information was put into chart form to produce the above money chart.
For the years before Rivals-Scout these are general senses gleaned from Lemming, Prep Football Report, and one blogger's admittedly bad memory. They should not be trusted. From 2002 on it's an average of star rankings from Rivals, Scout, and after 2006, ESPN – positional rankings are composites of those available.
Also I'm going to ignore dudes who were defensive linemen for the majority and end of their careers because there's no way to say how good they would have turned out. They are: Will Campbell, Marques Slocum, Alan Branch, and Quinton Washington.
1993: Damon Denson (★★★★★) was Maurice Williams before it was cool, riding in on a wave of hype then wasting effectively two years (including burned redshirt) playing defensive line, having his eligibility run out just as soon as he was getting really good at donkey abuse. Unlike Williams he had a short and uneventful pro career. Zach Adami (★★★½) was a smallish three-year starter you could plug in anywhere who came in for one of those "your team won, here's some extra all-conference pins for your longtime starters" awards his senior year in '97. John Partchenko (★★★), and Joe Ries (★★½) never saw the field that I recall and neither made it to 5th years.
1994: Jon Jansen (right) (★★★★ as a TE) was also a great linebacker for Clawson. That athleticism plus his massiveness led to three years of starting, two All-B1G selections, and a long and productive NFL career. Noah Parker (★★★) was a small Floridian career backup at guard.
1995: Steve Frazier (★★★½) and Chris Ziemann (★★★★) were constant presences as injury starters on the '97 to '99 lines, both ending up okay-ish (Frazier's infamous snap over Brady's head in the '99 Illinois game notwithstanding) as 5th year seniors. Eric Moltane (★★★★) was an early medical loss, Jeff Potts (★★★) was buried on the depth chart.
[Pics of different dudes wearing 77, after THE JUMP…]
[Programming note: Ace is at a Big Day Prep Showdown event today and will be reporting from that. Recruiting roundup will be tomorrow.]
Jamie Morris breaks the record. Via WH, the 1987 Minnesota game:
Also Michigan gives up a 98-yard touchdown run.
FOOTBAW. Also from WH, the 1998 shutout of Penn State. Try to watch the first minute of this without punching something and thinking about FOOTBAW:
Keith Jackson, man.
UPDATE/BONUS: Fumble recoveries, man.
Luck be a lady tonight.
Your tears are so yummy, Scott. Run, don't walk, to ND Nation and imbibe the thread "An emo rant: I'm still not over the Michigan loss" if the suffering of other tribes stirs even the barest tremors of pleasure in you. You will not be disappointed:
I was there...
and the worst part for me was the 45 min it took to wade through 100,000 rabid fans screaming and singing the entire time.
I had perfect seats right under the press box on the west side with my best friend who's a UM fan. There were so many head-banging letdowns during that game: The last drive, Denard continually throwing the ball up for grabs the entire game and having UM come down with it every time, Denard fumbling and then picking it up and running it in for a TD vs Rees having the ball just fall out of his hands in the Red Zone...
Fortunately my friend was very gracious in victory, as I would have been had we won. But it still makes me ill when I think about it.
My brother's response after the game summed it up perfectly
"I don't know where to start cleaning up. Firs I sh*t myself I was so happy. Then I threw up all over the carpet."
Oh, man. I have to sit down after that.
He came with the power of LAW and gave unto newspaper reporters. Are you wondering what the only lawyer in America thinks about the Penn State sanctions? Wonder no longer:
On Sunday, Buckner filed a blog entry (read it here) stating that he is "extremely concerned about the possible NCAA sanctions and urge the organization to comply with its existing processes and procedures to address the Penn State sexual abuse scandal."
Further, he wrote that sanctions could "potentially violate federal and state notions of due and fair process" because, among other reasons, Penn State did not violate an existing NCAA rule, and the NCAA is not following existing procedures available to other schools.
He's got a blog now. Batten down the law-hatches.
Even more PENN STATE~! So the thing about the sanctions that is truly painful is that the roster restriction doesn't start for two years. The bowl ban is now, the scholarship reductions are now, but the roster cap of 65 does not come into effect until 2014. But since it's open season on PSU players and what's left of their 2012 recruiting class, PSU is likely to be way, way below their hypothetical maximum this fall, and then they've only got 15 slots to try to bring that up to par next year, and that's when the roster cap kicks in. Penn State has six years of extreme restrictions. Which… wow.
Q: assuming academic-fraud-laden and booster-runner-employing North Carolina gets charged with LOIC can Mark Emmert level a similar punishment? I think that's the test case for those theorizing about the New Era Of Enforcement. What went down at UNC seems as egregious a violation of NCAA principles as what happened at Penn State, though not the principles of basic human decency. If Emmert agitates for a similarly harsh, long-term punishment of the Tarheels, then I'll believe in the new era.
I'm on the fence as it is. Emmert is clearly trying to repair some of the things that suck about the NCAA. Under his watch they jammed through the ability to offer multi-year scholarships (barely) and were only thwarted by the Indiana States of the world when they tried to offer an additional stipend to the athletes. IIRC, both of these pieces of legislation took some arcane-but-direct route that got them through the legislative process without exposing it to votes involving the Indiana States until their only resort was the override process. That required a supermajority of 5/8ths to knock down the legislation and that is the only reason (THE OPTION TO OFFER!) multi-year scholarships got through. A majority was against it.
So, yeah, rail on the NCAA because you're Drew Magary or Charlie Pierce and railin' is your speciality, but really what we're railing at is the rickety structure trying to accommodate schools that spend millions of dollars annually on a bonfire called college athletics with the major schools that can build thousand-foot tall statues of Charles Woodson intercepting that pass against MSU*. When the big players try to lurch slowly towards a more equitable distribution of their massive revenues, the small schools cry "level playing field" with a straight face and knock it down. That's the real issue, and the only solution is to hack big football schools away from Indiana State.
Anyway, Emmert seems to be ramming things through the NCAA without regard to anything except how he can Get Things Done, and the things that he wants to get done are good changes. He can't help it that he's not a dictator.
Paterno statue position paper. Should have left it up, but removed the "educator, coach, humanitarian" text under his name. Just let people look at as they would.
We've got a poll. The writers have taken it upon themselves to replicate the preseason polls the milquetoasty Big Ten has done away with. Results:
1. Wisconsin (19 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State (5)
5. Penn State
1. Michigan (16 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (7)
3. Nebraska (1)
Michigan wins the championship game on 11 out of 24 ballots. If only it was slightly under 50% for the Rose Bowl this year. The inexplicable Will Gholston Hype Train continues, as he's the pick for defensive player of the year. Kawaan Short and John Simon are like "WTF I have beaten many blocks in my career page me when Gholston does yes I still have a pager also Tamagotchi."
The Elite 11 is a ridiculous thing now. You may not be following this closely, but there are now 25(!) quarterbacks at the Elite 11, which is, like, too many quarterbacks. Not only is your name silly but it results in events like this:
The third day of 7v7 began at the Elite 11 in which each quarterback takes eight throws. The duration of the day spread across a seven hour time frame makes for some strikingly different conditions. The early afternoon groups contend with a stiff ocean breeze that typically dies down late afternoon and into the evening.
Even more ridiculous was a redzone event where the QBs threw four times. Take all Elite 11 rankings with a grain of salt, as they represent little data made big. Shane Morris did well according to all observers, but did not make the camp coaches' Elite 11 list.
Isn't he doing this whenever he walks down a street? Will Campbell's Dukes of Hazzard fail magically transmogrifies into…
Michigan senior defensive tackle Will Campbell accepted responsibility for a civil infraction of blocking a sidewalk Monday morning in the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Be narrower or pay $300 in fines or court costs. Campbell also has a sentencing hearing for misdemeanor destruction of property coming up. My punishment spidey-sense suggests this is a stairs-type offense that shouldn't impact his availability for football games.
Nevermind. The "Valley of the Sun Bowl" is no more. In its place:
The bastard child of the Fiesta Bowl, the Insight Bowl, will now shed its technocratic shell and become known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Please insert immediately obvious jokes about a field rigged with sprinklers and booby traps designed to take games into overtime here.
I hope other people are driven as insane by the idea people would go to a sports bar and cheer for a tie, or that someone could be watching the Detroit Randoms try a last-ditch Hail Mary down a touchdown and say "the only thing that could make this better is… OVERTIME" instead of "the only thing that could make this better is winning 68-0 and being at a place where the food comes on, you know, plates." I hate the fake BWW people so, so much.
Yessssssss. EA has agreed to give up NCAA licensing exclusivity as part of an anti-trust class-action lawsuit. The contract lapses in 2014. Bizarrely, it stipulates that EA won't re-acquire an exclusive license for "at least five years." If your position now is so crappy you're paying out a class action lawsuit settlement why would it be better in five years? I don't know.
Anyway, this opens the door for football games from other people that may not suck and may get EA to actually fix its product. A lot of folks in the comment thread were skeptical about the economics of just putting out a college football game, but I figure someone's got to take a swing. Also one guy put out a call for a CFB game akin to Football Manager. Working title: "Brian was never heard from again."
Etc.: Bonus news that will depress Penn State fans: top basketball recruit Brandon Austin decommits. UNC stuff gets incrementally worse. Luke Winn on transferring up in college basketball. Former Penn State player twitter roundup. Penn State punishment comment fallout. BHGP podcast w/ the original BSD mafia (Chris Grovich, Kevin… uh… I don't know his last name) on the Penn State stuff. The city of Grambling is saucy, yo.
Me-date. If you're thinking about tearing your ACL, let me give you some advice: skip it and have some ice cream instead. I'm limping around vaguely now and gingerly moving my leg back and forth so that it doesn't get stuck in one position forever*, taking serious painkillers, and falling asleep all the damn time.
That's the main problem. Large parts of the past week that I thought I'd be working have been spent either asleep or doing this:
no srs I'm awake
I thought I was fine when I posted that UV a day after the surgery and then was somewhere between asleep and falling asleep for the next two days straight. Add in two to three hours of gingerly moving the leg around per day and despite things getting better productivity is still low. Bear with me. In my stead Ace and Seth and the Mathlete have been putting in yeoman work.
I'm experimenting with a prescription-painkiller-free day as we speak and it hasn't been too bad. Productivity can only increase from here.
*[That thing your mom said about your face? Yeah, that's apparently true for knees.]
Something something bride before the mall /BOOM SINGIN' MATT MILLEN'D. The Great Dantonio's latest dig:
Up the road in East Lansing, however, Michigan State shrugs off talk about the Wolverines regaining their super power status under Brady Hoke. The Spartans are confident of their own standing and future prospects.
"We're laying in the weeds," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio says with a half smile. "We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"
This proves Dantonio is either A) the boss of this town and isn't afraid to let people know it or B) has passed the denial phase of his Kubler-Ross acceptance that the new boss is the same as the old boss and is settling into anger, with bargaining to come in a year or two. Hopefully this works out as well as The Hecklinski Incident—good name for a sci-fi novel there—did for him. The days where Michigan and Michigan State have anywhere near the same talent level are in the process of ending. Might take another year or two, but if I was MSU I'd make hay now.
How the sausage is made. ESPN has released three videos detailing their rankings process. Given the Mathlete's post earlier today, the fourth one will be entitled "…and then we all ignore all that and pile everyone from the SEC footprint into the top 50" but I appreciate the transparency. ESPN is planning on releasing a 2014 150 in… August. Yeesh.
ESPN says they have no regional dudes at all and farms out a particular set of position groups to scouts who do rankings for everyone at that spot, which does sound good. The Mathlete's methodology is suggestive but could have a systematic issue: since it relies extensively on all-conference teams and there's always an all-conference team even if you suck, ESPN cramming all those players from one region who go to one conference into the top end of their rankings would make them look worse even if they were right. The recent SEC-SEC-SEC business makes it at least plausible that ESPN is right. Adding another level of detail with NFL draft results would help sanity check that.
Poking around 2013 kids. Basketball is, that is. But apparently not Bo Ziegler, who told Inside The Hall that Michigan had not been much of a factor:
On other schools recruiting him hard:
“Pretty much the same schools that you heard about. Providence, Iowa State, Michigan State. Michigan was coming for a minute but I guess they’ve backed off. I’ll probably get a few more looks once we hit the AAU circuit.”
That is probably not a momentary oversight; Michigan has had a lot of time to think about this stuff. John Beilien, Y NO LIKE ZIEGLERS?
Instead, meet two new prospects:
- NJ combo guard Jaren Sina, a consensus four star who ranks in the bottom half of the top 100 everywhere. Sina committed to Alabama a while back before reconsidering. Beilein went out to watch him and the kid seems extremely interested. Pitt, Villanova, and Alabama are his biggest offers at the moment.
- NJ PF/SF Reggie Cameron. You know a guy is a Beilein recruit when he's listed at 6'7" and starts his lists of strengths off with "my jump shot." Other evaluations list him at 6'5" so it's up for debate as to whether he can be a stretch four to give Michigan that Smotrycz option or if he's pretty much a wing and wing only. Dave Telep called him a "hybrid 4-man"($) who plays small forward on offense and guards bigs on D; his stroke was praised. I hope Michigan's done with 6'5" power forwards, but maybe he grows some. Cameron is usually in the 100-150 range on recruiting sites.
Michigan could take both these guys as long as someone goes to the NBA next year, which is a near-certainty. Sina could provide minutes at the one and two, Cameron the three and maybe the four or two.
Meanwhile in the class of 2013, Rivals revamped its basketball rankings for that year. Irvin slid a little to #63; Walton and Donnal rose a little to #72 and #116. Irvin's down six spots, Walton up 15, Donnal up 8.
Ahem. Just going to leave this here.
It's in the store. Consume!
Whoah, whoa-oh oh oh oh. We own Penn State. The halycon era:
You know this already but I was asleep so my tab is still open. ND's Aaron Lynch, who you may remember being terrifying last year, is leaving ND. Bwahaha. Unfortunately, Brian Kelly recruited his balls off on the DL in that class so there's plenty of talent left behind. None of them were quite Lynch, who I remember coming in to the ND-MSU game and running around MSU OL like they were not there. Not having to face him the next three years is a lot like seeing Michael Floyd transfer after his freshman year. Which would have been cool.
Also old: this. Mary Sue Coleman said Michigan wouldn't be putting the Fab Five banners up, causing a twitter hissy from Jalen Rose I can't be bothered to go find again. No school is ever going to put up a banner for a game the NCAA made them vacate. That is a banner that says "congratulations: you technically weren't at the Final Four!"
Surely no one can be surprised by this. The only topic more tired than Fab Five banners is the #1 jersey, and no one's—oh hell, we're talking about this again. For the love of cripes, just offer it to LaQuon Treadwell and let's be done with this. The only thing this Braylon scholarship thing has done is made it so no one wears the number.
Etc.: Freshman RB TJ Yeldon goes ham at Alabama spring game (against the second team D). Denardfluff. I'll probably write more about this at a later juncture, but here's a Smart Football post on the future of the NFL being more shotgun high-tempo stuff. I don't mind a pro-style offense if it's actually a pro-style offense and not what a pro-style offense used to be in 1970. More Smart Football: the monster defense of old and its resurgence.
McGary. McGary DROP. MCGARY MAD. MCGARY SMASH. MCGARY SAY THINGS ABOUT HATERZ THAT IGNORE THE USEFUL SOCIETAL EFFECTS THAT RESULT FROM DISAPPROVING THINGS THAT ARE WACK. BUT THAT OKAY IF MCGARY SMASH.
If you read Heiko's 3/22 presser transcript you probably guessed already what the MSM angle would be for this spring. If you missed it, here's the highlights:
"Hello everyone. It's Spring. Spring is FOOTBALL TOUGHNESS time. [Points off-screen]. Toughness and finishing. I'll now take questions that are not about Will Campbell."
Can you name some positions that you feel need to be addressed after last year's departures?
"Well you may not realize this but we lost three guys on the interior of the defensive line so I'm really looking for someone to step up th…say, this isn't a question about Will is it?"
Do you feel like you need guys on the line to be team leaders?
"Oh yes absolutely. Seniors, guys on the line, seniors on the line mostly. You, the Asian kid in the back!"
What do you like specifically about Elliott Mealer at the left guard spot?
[everyone grabs coffee while Hoke answers a few uninteresting questions about condo-blocking or whatever F you]
Have you seen consistency out of Will Campbell so far?
"I'd say that he has been consistent when he's consistent, but that hasn't been consistent. What we're looking for from all of our players is that they're always consistent, and not just consistent some of the time. He is mostly consistent, but when he gets inconsistent, that's when there's consistency issues. When there's inconsistency we have consequences, which we call 'consistequences,' and he has been very consistent at winning consistequences."
Last year you coached the interior defensive line. Does that mean you're going to be coaching W…
When a player is perceived as a blue chip out of high school is there a…
How long does Will Campbell have to prove himself?
Well after four years of playing they lose their eligibility so, hey where's everybody going?
Eric Lacy, the Detroit News:
Ann Arbor — Time is running out for Michigan senior defensive tackle William Campbell to prove he deserves to be a starter.
Michael Rothstein, ESPN Wolverine Nation:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- He's down to his last chance. For three seasons, defensive tackle Will Campbell has oozed potential and possibility. From the acclaim he came in with from Cass Tech in Detroit to his massive size, everything about him appeared to be can't miss.
Nick Baumgardner, Ann Arbor.com:
For Will Campbell, the sand in the hourglass of his Michigan football career is starting to thin out.
There were other angles. Kevin Minor of Rivals.com eschewed the tick-tock approach to stretch "he lost 35 pounds" into 800 kind words from his buddies. The AP reporter led with both O and D lines and didn't get to BWC's countdown to oblivion until the 7th graph. Mark Snyder went with the tight ends because #ManballIsEverything. Drew Sharp almost assuredly said something that made Drew Sharp sound dumb.
When I interviewed Ryan Van Bergen a couple months ago, we talked a bit about Will. The gist of the discussion revolved around Will knowing his role, knowing what's needed of him and that it's simply a matter of execution. Ryan was clear in saying that near the end of the season, Campbell started to realize how important he was to Team 133's future. Apparently, Will has gotten the message, as the coaching staff is impressed with his developing leadership skills this off-season.
The Viking Age
What you are witnessing here is a going on six-year Norse saga as told by contemporaneous headlines: "Gone Viking: Sluggish Scandinavian Economy Forces Soldiers to Seek Fortunes on High Seas." Told as narrative it's so much better:
The legend began when he committed to Lloyd Carr in the summer before his junior year of high school. Pre-Hoke a high-profile kid pulling the trigger more than a year out sounded weirder; you're going to have to trust me on this. Four Nick Sheridan quarters into 2008 he then decommitted so he could give everyone a heart attack at the Army Bowl. His freshman year he enrolled early with expectations of replacing the graduating Taylor. Then Will hit a wall, apparently because his all-important pad level was too high to penetrate it. My Sparty little brother began reminding me that NCAA'10 Will Campbell was an 85 and Greg Jones a 74, this being supreme evidence that MSU can justify being the trolls of college football for having to put up with such perpetual indignities. Barwis set about rebuilding him as Barwis does, and in retrospect that freshman year should have been a redshirt, but you can't really redshirt a 5-star DT when you just graduated most of your defensive line, right?
The saga's nadir was reached his sophomore season. Enough folks were ready winding up to pitch the b-word by then that MGoUser West Texas Blue penned a "don't use the b-word" diary showing his progress was about on par with most of his classmates except (sigh) DeQuinta Jones. When things didn't go so well that year, the warrior threw down his sword/hammer/axe/polearm/seax/whatever F you to serve as a backup guard, a less prestigious post given to Vikings who cannot strike low enough to defeat a shield wall. Will got up to 350 pounds and served a quote about being lazy that fit the narrative.
But with the rise of the new king, Brady Hokesson the Pointer, and thanks to many battle losses among the hirdfense, Will was called back to the D-line. This is the rising action where the warrior is trained by three of the Great Wise Men of Nose Tackledom and we get a montage of weight running, coaches yelling "STAY LOW!" and "USE YOUR HANDS!", and much punishment of sleds. This culminates in a flash of +5 in the UFR for Notre Name, followed by the first reveal of god-like powers against Illinois sometime between before and after the Illini Zooked out for the year. Now it approaches its climax. Post-montage he is 315 and a leader and we still have no idea if he'll be good enough to give Michigan a shot at a great defense this year. Will he? Won't he? And the girl?
Guess how much time is left?
I don't know, dude, 13 games or something. Let me watch! And for the record pointing out that there's 1/4 left to go right when the film's getting good is just as annoying as it sounds like.
Why the fascination?
The obvious answer is as obvious as a press conference angle. Here's a list of every Michigan player recruited from 2008 to 2011 who was was a 5-star to at least two major sites (Rivals, Scout, ESPN):
|William Campbell||DT||6'5"||317||6.1 (5 stars), 5th DT||5 stars,
|79 (high 3 stars),
That is the list. Gardner, Turner and Cissoko got the 5th from Scout and nobody else.
My own obsession on Will led me to that study of body shapes earlier this year, and also led me to ask various people who know football better than I do what's so hard about learning pad level. Their answers were between "it's actually really hard," and "YOU try learning to do a thing that your brain is sure is going to break your spine."
Rivals slotted Big Will just under fellow DT and similarly sized Chris Davenport of LSU. Davenport is now going into his redshirt junior season as LSU's top backup at OT, unless he's passed this spring by sophomore Evan Washington. There's nothing particularly remarkable about Davenport in circles who follow guys in Davenport's position carefully. They have plenty of 5-stars waiting their turns, and even more dudes who don't make an impact until their fourth year on campus. That is to say they only want Davenport taken outside and disemboweled for not living up to his hype about as often as they want him to replace the guy ahead of him (second-team All-SEC junior Chris Faulk); for the SEC this is considered a placid reaction.
Michigan is hardly a place that has never seen a blue chip. We have also seen blue chips morph into spectacular busts, and tables that explain this to us by showing things like 50%+ of 5-stars get drafted by the NFL while dramatically smaller %s of lesser star ratings do so, and can remind ourselves that once in awhile everyone who recruits 5-stars ends up with one from the half that don't become superstars. This is binary and human brains are good at binary.
What we're not quite as used to, what the old narratives don't really know how to address, is the blue chip who's kind of just a really good teammate who's working hard and has some talent and some technique issues that take a long time to work out but is slowly becoming the kind of guy who's a consistent contributor. If all you saw was the ESPN rating you'd be fine with this.
Eventually the Mathlete is going to come out with a PAN-based bell curve to replace our binary "made it or didn't" tables but when he does I bet you it looks like this:
The "inconsistency" and "…when he chooses to use them" and "out of shape" quotes that have escaped at times fit a narrative we do know: the loatheable, self-absorbed pre-star who wastes his God-given talents enjoying the benefits of them. But that is not at all Will Campbell. Those who interview him find him jovial, if a little shy. There's no hint of academic issues (he's on track to graduate in four years). The inconsistency isn't from lack of willpower (ha!) but the fact that a 6'5" guy needs to do worse things to his spine than a guy who's 6'3" in order to "get low." After essentially trolling recruiting followers he hasn't to my knowledge so much as registered a femto-ego on college football's touchy-ass vanity sensors. This means nothing except, no, it does: he loses rap battles to guys from Whitehall, Michigan:
More than anything he's proof that completely normal college guy brains exist in pretty much every kind of body, including incredibly athletic 6'5" 350-pound ones. And that normal guy brains are wired much more strongly that we credit them to not get spinal injuries.
When pressed with "when will we get our Norse god of nose guards" questions the coaching staff now answers with "he's a leader who leads defensive line meetings and sets up extra film sessions." Again, you can read too much. He's the senior and doing the things the seniors do, and while he should get credit for that it's not like this is at all out of character for normal likeable college guy.
Does the recruiting hype still mean anything? Yeah, kinda, since if you read his recruiting profile it still has him pretty dead to rights except for the timeline. You can also peer into his UFRs from last year and find less than superstardom, but also non-air:
|WMU||Campbell||-||2||-2||This is not happening.|
|ND||Campbell||5||-||5||Please be real.|
|EMU||Campbell||3||2||1||Doesn't seem that real.|
|SD State||Campbell||4.5||1||3.5||Keep hope alive.|
|Minnesota||Campbell||4||-||4||"Get off me"|
|MSU||Campbell||-||-||-||Did not register.|
|Purdue||Campbell||2||1||1||Not getting a ton of push.|
|Iowa||Campbell||-||4.5||-4.5||Got cut to the ground and was a major culprit on two long runs.|
|Illinois||Campbell||4||-||4||Time to get excited about him again until next week.|
|Nebraska||Campbell||1||-||1||Also crushed face.|
|Ohio (NTO)||Campbell||1||-||1||Didn't register.|
Given no Martin, no RVB, and not even a Heininger (unless Brink is as Brink-y as they said he'd be last year, or Ash/Washington/Pipkins surprise), Campbell is almost assuredly going to start this year as the anchor of the defense. Whatever terrible coaching he got from missing out on a redshirt season and the switch to offense and whatever you count RR's staff as, it's hard to point to a guy in college football who's had access to higher quality position coaches than he has since last year.
Maybe he'll be a superstar. Probably he'll just be somewhere between decent and good. I feel like we've been saying that for a long time, but in the absence of real information what else is there? The trickles from insiders who know they're going get these same questions say things that suggest the talent, the arms, the strength, are all there and he's gotten better. We all want to know—I desperately want to know—but the answer for this one really just is let's wait and see.
As for help from Pipkins, Michigan's 2012 freshman 5-star DT, I wouldn't want to bank on it. He doesn't have Campbell's height—he's 6'3—but watch the video: he has some fundamentals to learn. Another saga, that.