to play football, not to play trumpet
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.
So we were told on Monday that the receivers and tight ends were playing as well as any group in the Big Ten. They’ve taken a big step forward, it seems like. What do you think has been the cause of that?
“I think it’s just impossible to work hard and practice really well and not get a lot better. If you do the right things it will pay off. It’s just a matter of time, I think. Really that’s all I would attribute it to.”
Can you measure the synchronization change from the start of the season til now with Jake Rudock and the receivers?
“Just in terms of being on the same page?”
Just being more used to each other.
“Yeah. I think I wouldn’t say that we weren’t used to each other, but with the pass game relationship there’s definitely a benefit of spending more time together. Kind of, as I’ve said before, it’s just a matter of improving over time.”
When did you start to see those improvements pay off on the field?
“In terms of Jake and the receivers?”
“I thought we were going to throw the ball well against Utah, so…it’s not like an ‘aha’ moment, I guess. It’s not like an instance where you go all of a sudden Jake’s good, Jake Rudock’s good or Amara and Jehu are good. It’s just a matter of improving and connecting on plays; more plays in week two than we missed in week one, week three and four, etc. It’s not like a one week, one moment thing even though people will try to make Indiana out to be like that.”
I got scolded a bit Monday for asking about Ian Bunting. He was starting to contribute quite a bit in the passing game early in the year. What’s he got to do to get back to that level and see more playing time?
“He does all the right things. He’s working tremendously hard and is practicing really, really well. If there was a downside of having a really good, deep group at one position I think that would be it. Not everybody always gets to play as much as they’d like or contribute in the ways that they would like, but he’s doing all the right things and hopefully in the next few weeks he’ll be able to show his improvement.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Everyone’s talking about Jabrill this week, so what’s it like for you having him on offense? What does he do for you?
“Well, he’s very explosive. You can see when he gets the ball he explodes and it’s a great option to have to be able to work him into the offense and an opportunity for a few plays on the offensive side of the ball. If he does or doesn’t, it’s nice to have that club in your bag.”
I know you don’t get a ton of time with him, but is he special in the way that he can not spend a whole lot of time with the offense and still pick things up?
“Yeah. I mean, he’s a football player, so he’s got that DNA that you can kind of tell once he fixes a problem- just special. Great football awareness.
“It’s really- dealing with him is like dealing with a pro football player. He just kind of looks you in the eye and takes what you’re telling him, understands it, and then puts it into action. He’s just got great football awareness and great football savvy. He’s a football player. I’ve said that before, so it’s exciting to have him.”
Do you customize the playcalling based on whether Drake Johnson or De’Veon Smith’s in the game?
“No, we don’t. No, we don’t. We feel like they all have strengths and weaknesses, but we just call the game as we call it and put those guys in the best opportunity up front and the receivers and the quarterback so no, we don’t like specifically say, ‘Hey, do this, do that.’”
What’s Jake’s [Rudock] status at this point?
“He was good yesterday. He threw the ball around, breaking the huddle. He looked good. Looked good to me.”
You expect him to play?
“Yeah, absolutely, yes. Really do.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re changing this thing, and it’s going in the right direction and we’re really pleased with where we are.”]
to be the man you gotta recruit the man
It's a new era in all possible ways at quarterback. Michigan has exhausted their supply of raw passers with thrilling athleticism; they have also cast aside the previous coaching staff in favor of one in which the head coach is also the QB coach. He is one of the best in the country. Possibly the best.
In Harbaugh's tenure as a coach he…
- helped Rich Gannon(!) win the 2002 NFL MVP award,
- developed non-scholarship San Diego's Josh Johnson into a third-place finisher for the Walter Payton, the I-AA Heisman, and the first draft pick in school history,
- recruited and developed Andrew Luck,
- made Alex Smith look like a legit NFL QB just long enough for him to sign what some regard as the worst contract in the NFL, and
- advocated for, drafted, and developed Colin Kaepernick into a legit starting NFL QB when few thought he could make the transition from the Nevada pistol.
That is strike after strike after strike in not only player development but also talent identification. The contrast between Harbaugh and Al Borges*, who has still never seen a quarterback he recruited start as an upperclassman, could not be greater.
So when Harbaugh saw the state of the most important position in football at Michigan, it's no surprise that he reacted like Kirby. Harbaugh imported a grad transfer (Jake Rudock), a regular transfer (John O'Korn), a second quarterback recruit in 2015, and two recruits in 2016.
Only one of those guys is relevant to this preview: the graduate.
*[Doug Nussmeier has a good track record but only had a year in which it was difficult to make an impact. The only QB on the roster he is responsible for bringing in is freshman Alex Malzone.]
HE CAME FROM DEEPEST IOWA IN SEARCH OF RECEIVERS AND LOVE
Rudock was kind of a big deal at media day [Bryan Fuller]
JAKE RUDOCK will find at least one as long as he keeps his interception rate where it was last year.
Michigan's previous quarterback, Devin Gardner, turned into a turnover piñata sometime after his soul left his body for the third time. While it's hard to blame him much when his career seems like the kind of experiment that ends in a war crimes trial, the sheer quantity of errors he dished out over the course of last season will make a boring quarterback seem like a godsend.
Rudock is just what the doctor ordered in that department. Of the 100 quarterbacks with the most attempts last year, Rudock was 11th in interception rate. 1.4% of his passes got picked off last year. Gardner was dead last, with a rate almost quadruple Rudock's.
There is a cost associated with that, as any Iowa fan still capable of speech will tell you. This is it:
That is Jake Rudock's reputation: a boring boring boring game manager who idolized Brian Griese and dry toast growing up.
[After THE JUMP: Are Iowa fans wrong? Does Rudock have upside? Whither Morris?]
Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson, DE Reuben Jones, OL Nolan Ulizio, OL Grant Newsome, OL Jon Runyan Jr., TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., WR Brian Cole, WR Grant Perry, RB Karan Higdon.
|Albuquerque, NM – 6'7", 240|
|Scout||4*, #278 overall
#19 QB, #1 NM
|Rivals||4*, #105 overall
#4 Pro QB, #1 NM
|ESPN||4*, #118 overall
#9 Pro QB, #1 NM
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#15 Pro QB, #1 NM
|Other Suitors||Texas, Bama, Neb, UL, OkieSt, TCU, Tenn|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Decommitted from Texas.|
People don't know what to make of Zach Gentry. Presented with a quarterback pushing 6'8" playing New Mexico football that resembles Godzilla versus Assorted Oompa-Loompas, they are intrigued. When Godzilla roars past the Oompa-Loompas for consecutive 80-yard rushing touchdowns, they start looking around for Morpheus. I mean:
A dual-threat quarterback trapped in the body of a prototypical pocket passer … one of the more unique quarterback prospects I've ever seen. There's really not a good comparison out there for him because he's such a rare breed, but the comparison he's been given of having Ryan Mallett's size with running ability is as accurate as anything I've heard.
Gentry seems like a glitch in the Matrix. These things don't go together often:
Gentry completed 60 percent of his passes during a 12-game season and threw for 2,978 yards and 26 touchdown passes while rushing for 1,057 yards and 22 scores. An athletic quarterback, Gentry concluded his high school career with 55 passing touchdowns and 47 touchdowns on the ground.
He breaks things, including English: multiple recruiting sites deployed modifiers in front of "unique" in an attempt to grasp what was going on.
As a result, Gentry was hotly pursued by a number of major programs. Texas, obviously, was one. Tennessee was highly interested in making him Tyler Bray 2.0 (this time he's sane!). And yes, the Bama offer was very much legit. 247 reported in May that the Tide's QB recruiting was "primarily focused" on Gentry, and when he dropped to Texas the question there was "where do we go from here" because they didn't really have many other targets. (Bama, being Bama, did okay for itself by snaking five star Blake Barnett away from Notre Dame.) Michigan was interested during Hoke's final year but did not offer after observing him in person.
[After THE JUMP: lots of disagreement dispersed by FINAL JUDGMENT.]
I changed up the format this week since the question was a seven-parter. A reminder of who everyone is:
- Brian: Blogger of mighty repute.
- Ace: Lead reporter, recruiting/basketball guy.
- Seth: Associate editor/site business guy
- BiSB: A funny person.
- Adam Schnepp: Press correspondent (Heiko's old job) and hockey guy.
- Alex Cook: Basketball correspondent
- Dave Nasternak: J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Lead Backend Logistics Strategist and Associate Vice President of Name Day Nittany Lion Taunting and Corporate Titlery (i.e. a responsible adult)
The Question Seven Questions:
Brian: Best recruit? Most important? Most likely to outperform ranking? Best name (nationally)? Guy who got away who will haunt you? Guy you are most irrationally enthusiastic about? Overall class hot take? Harbaugh?
BiSB: Brian Cole. He's a fantastic athlete, but more importantly Cole is a guy with speed in a position where, despite the assertions of some, SPEED IS A GOOD THING THAT CANNOT BE TAUGHT AND IS A GOOD THING. One caveat: Roquan Smith takes this category if he picks Michigan.
|Five votes for the superlative in-stater. [Allen Trieu/Scout]|
Seth: Brian Cole. In a terribly weak in-state class, this player this year was the perfect opportunity for Dantonio to flip the in-state script—no weird families or MSU connections or coaches who lock players in their cars during their Michigan visits or questionable transcripts.
AND he's a great player at two positions of need. Other than Borgesian leapers at receiver there's Canteen and Drake Harris's un-Dude hamstrings. Safety is an even greater need; if by some holy luck Peppers stays through 2018, Michigan would have two safeties in 2018. I'd gladly take Cole and four more just like him.
Adam Schnepp: Zach Gentry. I am an unabashed fan of gun-slinging giants who causes Physics and Anatomy to get into a fight over who left THAT loophole open. I think about fitting him into a Harbaugh-ffense and find myself chortling under my breath. If you're a commit who makes me chortle when thinking about your fit with Michigan's system then you too could be a contender for next year's Best Recruit.
Dave Nasternak: Probably Brian Cole. I can see arguments for Gentry, but I think that Cole is the best overall player, right now. And I think (hope?) he is the only member from this class who will not see a 2015 redshirt...if for no other reason than they just will not be able to keep him off of the field. There are a handful of places that he should be able to contribute early -WR, Returner, ST coverage, etc.
Ace: Another vote for Cole. He's such a good athlete that it's hard to imagine he won't end up contributing somewhere, and he's especially impactful with the ball in his hands.
Alex Cook: Brian Cole. The whole "the best players from Michigan go to Michigan" thing is, um, patently false, but there's a good chance that Cole will be the best homegrown recruit in this cycle. Oh, and he was a presumed State lean before committing to Michigan - and he stuck through the coaching change? Great. I'm sold.
Brian: I'm going with Zach Gentry. You do not get guys flying past safeties 50 yards downfield at 6'8" anywhere, and Gentry improved considerably over the course of his career. John Navarre running Buffalo 100 Meter Dash? I'll take it. Gentry has higher bust potential, yeah, but that upside. Yooooooo.
[Hit the jump for most important, sleeper, best names, the one that got away, and bloggers going squeeee]