"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
— Zoltan Mesko (@ZoltanMesko) January 17, 2014
ATTN: New Yorkers. Rather large game approaching on the 23rd. If you seek the camaraderie of your fellow Michigan Man, here is a thing you might do: hang out with Zoltan Mesko and two small dogs at Professor Thom's, with proceeds going to a good cause. Details:
Professor Thom's, February 23rd, Noon.
Happy hour drink specials, complimentary appetizers, door prizes & more!
A $10 donation at the door (or online) to benefit the Zoltan Mesko Foundation will be your ticket to the event. If you can't make it, but would still like to donate please do so at zoltanmeskofoundation.org
Here is the facebook page. No word about speedo availability, ladies.
Just the worst. If you follow me on twitter you already know about this, but since many people don't for excellent reasons like "tends to go on rants about Penn State bench players," let me introduce you to John Johnson, a guy getting ten minutes a game for Penn State who drives me completely insane because:
- His ORTG is 87, which is actually up two points from last night.
- Despite this he takes 23% of PSU's shots when he's on the court.
- He has an assist rate of 4.6 and TO rate of 20.
- His parents named him "John Johnson," which is… wow. Also what happens when he finds out about Major Major Major Major? Exactly.
I have to tell you about this here because BISB stole my platform to lob statistical oddities at you and now I just track Illinois defensive rebounding anomalies in my basement.
Did you know the Big Ten now has TWO guys named Maverick? Or that Purdue has only three guys playing more than half their minutes, and nobody (NOBODY) averaging 30 minutes a game? Or that Northwestern starts a guy, Sanjay Lumpkin, who takes fewer than 10% of available shots? Only me and the basement elves did.
By the way, do we have a Reggie Cleveland All Star team for guys who should be oompa-loompas but are in fact 6'6" half-Indian dudes? Because… well, you see where I'm going with this.
OTHER THING. Rewatching the Ohio State game made one thing clear: Amir Johnson tries to block everything. I mentioned the Morgan basket on a missed Albrecht shot that was functionally equivalent to a pass as Williams came over. That is a canonical example but far from the only one. About ten minutes into the first half it became clear that OSU's defensive rebounding problems were about 80% Williams attempting to swat everything, leaving Michigan bigs all alone on the weakside.
The offensive rebound numbers don't even tell the full story, as there were a number of instances in which Michigan was in position to add to their totals until funny bounces intervened. The numbers back this up, especially if you tick over to the conference only Kenpom stats. Ohio State is 11th in the league at defensive rebounding. And it doesn't even help their defense. In league play OSU is 10th at defending twos.
OTHER OTHER THING. What, you want links to things? Oh fine. Here is your Indiana schadenfreude after they managed to lose to Penn State despite being up 11 with three minutes left.
This is absolutely 100% unacceptable. This team is hot garbage with a bevy of talent. Seriously, I'm not going to talk any crap about youth or inexperience. That had nothing to do with the non-stop disasters that we've witnessed this year. I even want to try and blame this most recent egg on Tom Crean and I can't find where I actually feel he had a problem in this game.
Win chart? Hell yes.
I'd like to thank the Nittany Lions for doing that to someone else this year.
New rules. The NCAA proposes allowing replay booths to not only overturn targeting expulsions but also the targeting penalties, which was always going to happen once it became clear that leaving half of a non-penalty to stand was rage-inducing. So hooray.
The committee also recommended a rules change that will allow defensive units to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, with the exception of the final two minutes of each half, starting with the 2014 season.
If a team snaps the ball before 29 seconds on the play clock they will be hit with a five yard delay of game penalty.
You try to not be a jerk about everything and this is how they repay you.
More offensive yet is the stated reason for these changes:
“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” said Calhoun.
Nobody buys this. A player who is hurt or in trouble can fall over and the game will stop to accommodate them.
Speedy coaches have texted any reporter they know expressing their skepticism/disgust, and some guys have even taken to twitter to express something than bland positivity. "Think of the children" isn't flying in this case. The pushback here exceeds anything I've seen in the last decade or so. Even the hated clock rules that got rolled back after one season didn't get public heated disagreement from coaches.
But… Matt Hinton does point out that very few snaps would have much chance of running afoul of the rule. Oregon averaged 20 seconds per snap, so how many would actually be under ten? Not many.
I went back to the the canonical example of lightspeed, Indiana, to find out. Specifically, I wondered if that play on which Indiana's tempo burned Ray Taylor for a touchdown would have been affected. You know, this one:
That play was snapped exactly eleven seconds after the previous one ended. IE, it would have been legal, probably. Indiana may have had to wait a beat if the play clock took a second to reset.
Ten seconds is not many seconds. It may not even be enough to substitute confidently. If the rule does get passed it's probably not going to have the huge impact people fear it will.
It goes without saying that getting the rule change passed would be good for Michigan, which regards speed as a distasteful attempt to gain advantage.
It sucks you have to say this, but yeah you have to say this. Welp:
Goal No. 1 for Doug Nussmeier at Michigan? 'We're not going to go backwards'
May you succeed in this task, for all of our sanities. I'm encouraged by what this quote implies about Nussmeier's approach to data:
"There's a number of different things, you wish you can pinpoint one thing, but we need to get our players to understand how their success rate decreases with loss yardage plays," he said. "You look at statistical football, it doesn't add up. We've got to stay on schedule, within the sticks. We'll talk about that and it'll be a big part of the spring.
"We'll talk about our goals with down and distance, what we're looking for from each play yardage-wise. And what a negative play does to you as far as your percent chances to score and how our negative plays hurt our chances to score last year."
That sounds like a guy who's willing to look at stats to see if there's anything he can learn from them, which is a change of pace from the fancy-stats-are-for-losers approach of his predecessor.
Spartan health update. Izzo had the "feeling" Keith Appling was out a couple weeks as of February 9th, which would make his return for the Michigan game in some doubt. I mean, no doubt, really. But he might not be full go. Well, of course he won't be full go. No Michigan State player will be. For one, they'll be trying to cope with the emotional havoc associated with having a 14 year old call you names on twitter*.
I've had grown men (my players) in my office in tears because of what's being written.
The things these guys play through are insane. It's Iwo Jima out there.
Meanwhile, the Fist of Stupidity gets its pins removed on the 20th, which makes fist owner Branden Dawson hypothetically but not necessarily available for Michigan. Anyone ever had pins taken out of their hand? Would you be ready to play basketball three days after? Seems unlikely to me, but maybe they're really tiny or something.
*[First sentence of first comment: "Social Media is bringging this Country to its Knees."]
Etc.: Wildcats make preliminary argument to local labor relations board. Induction Burner! (It's not happening, Brian, stop trying to make it happen, Brian.) Andrew Sinelli, suddenly key defenseman. We may not have Oompa Loompa Reggie Cleveland, but we do now have the Basil Smotherman All Stars, which are comprised of the guys who sound the most like peers of the realm.
Zoltan ponders how the gradient potential of his latest punt lines up exactly with that of collateralized debt obligation investment products in the 2008 bubble, and if they are correlated, could this end prostate cancer and teach cats to play ping-pong?
Somewhere in the Pisces-Cetus Supercluster complex, about a Yottameter from the Great Attractor, on a wet, rocky satellite of a smallish yellow star on the belt of a medium-sized Virgo Complex galaxy, there was a football game. In the first half, despite the best efforts of their opponents, Michigan's offense gained enough yards to traverse the Hoover Dam; in the second half they barely made it the length of a 747.
Millions who witnessed a representation of this occurring on stacked LCD pixels went online to find the similarly sized (and metaphorical) grain of salt, or compare the offensive coordinator's brain to the like-massed Paramecium. They tore out hair follicles, pounded their couches to release thousands of silt and skin particles which had settled there, and angrily flicked the transistor gates deep within their electronic devices to exclaim how this loss hurt to their very DNA.
In the abstract, a loss to Ohio State, even if largely expected, was too horrible to countenance. And so the Diarists burned glucose deep into the night while attempting to make sense of what was essentially the movement of a whole lot of atoms but to us a whole lot of matter. Zoom far enough in or out and you no longer have to see it.
The Micro. For the real quantum foam of the events in question, again I quote bronxblue…
The whole gang was back, to give the OSU faithful one more opportunity to cheer on a myth, a delusion about its history that seems painfully obvious to everyone not wearing crimson and grey.
So between the first and second quarters of the final game the 2012 Buckeyes will play, a premature finale caused by Mr. Tressel’s behavior during his years in Columbus, the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation, one of the biggest cheers of the day. … The narrative went, at least in some circles, that most schools would have done the same, that fans love to cheer on winners and that most of those players were completely above board and played fairly, won every game that season, and, let’s be honest, Miami was no saint either. The thinking went that this was a team that the school should be proud of, or at least should be able to recognize publicly.
…who is going to keep winning Diarist of the Week until such point as BlueSeoul comes back to game wrap (with pics). I sat high up in the student section where freshmen who were probably 7 years old for 2002 cheered louder than the alumni. One kid in a black longcoat who spent most of first half with cheap nacho cheese on his chin yelled "Fuck Michigan!" at us through it all. This is Ohio State in a nutshell: cartoon bad guys oblivious to how stupid they look.
ST3 boiled Inside the Box Score down to Borges quotes. On the boards, Profwoot narrowed it to the script. And caup took it to the O-Line coach. Hypothesis: the more you know about football the deeper down the coaching ranks you can find blame. Theory: the 2003 team would have been national champs if it wasn't for (student mgr) Jeff Levine. Damn you, Levine!
Shane Morris puts the game in perspective.
[After the JUMP, we zoom out far enough to see the Space Emperor's Mustache]
Between National Signing Day and the Superbowl, we are in the last little oasis of The Footballs before the other things take over again. Then comes the long months before little bits of spring trickle in. So let's with the footballs! The footballs last year! The footballs this year! The footballs in four years!
Maize_in_spartyland put a lot of time into using this year's success as a predictor for next year's strengths of schedule across the conference, including early 2012 projections for each team. Michigan's schedule is up there but Nebraska and Penn State seem to have the toughest roads ahead, not that you have any sympathy for either of them.
CRex continued (2002-2005) and then concluded his year-by-year study of Minimum Playoff Size, with 2006 through 2011. He's got a 5-team playoff for 2006 that doesn't include Michigan, which highlights the problem with doing this with hindsight (ie including the bowl results) instead of looking at the pre-bowl situation and saying "THIS would settle it."
He also put together a long review of Coaching the West Coast Quarterback, a book by one Al Borges and his brother Keith in 2002 while they were at Cal. If you're the kind of person who buys coaching books by your team's coordinators* there's one new one left at a reasonable price on Amazon. Or you could read the diary. Combined effort nets this man Diarist of the Weeks.
With NSD passed we really are into next year now. One last trip, then, into that which was 2011, courtesy of Eye of the Tiger, who after a bolded "But" with an ellipsis and its own line goes on to make a good point that V-Tech ended up looking eerily like Mississippi State 2010. The offense scored a few more points but wasn't as good as expected. The defense was WAY better than we dreamed. Brunette girls fixed the kicking problems (Misopogal: "We are awesome like that") and we all converted back to the church of…Time of Possession?!?
What I learned this season was that ToP may not matter in many cases, but it sure does when you're exactly the kind of team that has close to zero depth on defense. Then you really should keep them off the field if you can. Oregon can do the uptempo thing because they have lots and lots of depth on defense. They may not be Alabama, but they have a legion of solid dudes they can substitute in and out, and that's exactly what they do.
This makes sense. Let's recruit like 10 DL/LB this year so we don't have to … oh we did that. Carry on.
The Footballs, Recruiting is Perspective:
RJS and the Temple of Zooms
Well you know how National Signing Day went down. In case you missed some of the lead-up, Ace interviewed 2012 commit Royce Jenkins-Stone, the No. 1 player in the home state according to Scout (but not Dantonio). And you figure he's run out of funny names for 2013 prospects, but there's still one (Florida OT) Laremy Tunsil to go along with a boring old electric 6'4 receiver from Jersey named Charlie. Six Zero turned the microphone around and interviewed the weirdly named Ace Anbender.
WolverineBlue took Scout's recruiting scoring system and tried to predict where Michigan would land. It's as of 1/24, so needs updating after we know what the OL are doing, but he's accurate as of this writing. WolverineLake went backwards in time, grabbed a bolded personality, and showed the Scout recruiting rankings are predictive but the margin for error is big enough to drive Wisconsin's offensive line through it.
So the plan this year was to lean on the front court while breaking in a new PG so he's not overwhelmed with responsibility an…hey, this freshman IS our offense:
Player Year FGM Assists Team FGM % Team FGM Eric Turner 1981-82 163 120 696 40.70% Trey Burke 2011-12 99 92 472 40.50% Daniel Horton 2002-03 151 134 706 40.40% Manny Harris 2007-08 159 86 709 34.60% Jalen Rose 1991-92 206 135 1,014 33.60% Gary Grant 1984-85 169 140 936 33.00% Kevin Gaines 1999-'00 110 133 780 31.20% Antoine Joubert 1983-84 118 102 867 25.40% Dion Harris 2003-04 112 76 823 22.80% Darius Morris 2009-10 52 84 732 18.60%
So Trey Burke is right there among the leaders for this metric.
Raoul goes on to compare him favorably against the best point guards in the country in how much of his team's offense is generated by the 1.
AC1997 has put together a fantastic and nice-looking study on Michigan's season to date. This is outdated post-Indiana but still very good and very relevant as it breaks the schedule into good wins, good losses, bad losses, and what various outcomes of what cometh would mean.
Hey, what was up with our Power Play vs. Notre Dame eh? Yesman2221, our resident hockey guru other than that Cook guy, PP'ed Michigan's PP.
Etc. In the fall your blood is for beating Ohio. But in hockey/hoops season, you can put it all toward beating State. M Wolve with a list of places to donate. If your name is Zack Novak you are welcome to give directly at Breslin. A couple of Blockhams.
Best of the Board
OH FATHER! M PULLS TWO SIGNING DAY SURPRISES
Congrats to two new MGoDaddies who kept Michigan fans on edge for only a few hours before leaking their new sons' final college choices. Shortly after these announcements Mark Dantonio assured alumni he already had a solid verbal from the top 2030 prospect in the state. Further shout-outs to zohizzle101 for the recruit profiles you see above, and comment of the year from gajensen:
WE'RE GETTING COMMITS IN PAIRS AGAIN!!1!1!
I would also like to send out my deepest condolences to the Facebook friends of Florida Blue and Wolverine In a Bag. Once there were epic Youtube links, lolz pics from George Takei*, and breaking Michigan news—no more. As of now the baby has probably already taken over the profile pic and will be the subject of every update until at least 2016. In other M legacy recruits, Madonna's pushing her daughter to choose Michigan.
*Damn you Takei, another hour of my life. Sigh. Urban Meyer in college:
YOU'RE FOR THE G-MEN SUNDAY RIGHT? YOU'RE WHAT? HHHMMMMMMM.
No Dave Baas, I'm not rooting for your team, and not just because the Giants' whites look like a certain group of unmentionables when your helmets are off. I'm sure the readers have some sort of deep-seated reasoning, or office squares, or deep knowledge about the Pats and Giants, but since the Lions have never sniffed such a thing in my lifetime, in Superbowls I root for whoever's got the most Michigan guys and/or fewest Buckeyes, with ties going to the most favoritists of M players, or guys who haven't won before. This year the Giants have Super Mario and David Baas of the Daves*, versus Tom Brady and Zoltan the Inconceivable. The former link there is 12 trivia about Brady. The latter is a link to a link to a Romanian Space Emperor/Epic Punter/Business Major doing Borat. For this, I wish him great success.
*My senior year Michigan ran most of its plays up the middle behind an interior line made up entirely of guys named Dave. Since I didn't have access to a blog at the time I just tried to get my section to call them things like "Dave Petruziello of the Daves" or "Dave Pearson of the Daves."
NO LEGS? NO VAK!
MGOBLOG: THE MAGAZINE RETURNS
As Brian announced in a meta thread, we are bringing back "Hail to the Victors" this year, and for the first time producing it independently. Look for future updates on this as we use your support to prove we can afford to do it. There's still some time to submit your ideas of things you would pay for to help support the launch effort.
ACE: THE PODCAST
++ = listen.
NFL's new rookie cap might drive more players to the NFL faster. Future Museday: how many 4- and 5-stars make it to NFL Contract #2. If you've caught yourself double-posting something and want us to erase your heinous, unforgiveable crime for all time, you can change the title to "Mods Please Delete," or you can invoke the Space Emperor (of Space).
Brandon Graham (2009) & Lamarr Woodley (2006)
Slam dunk locks and mirror images, Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley set the standard for Michigan quarterback terror in the aughts. Wildly hyped in-state recruits and five stars, both spent a couple of years as underclassmen playing here and there and making people wonder if and when they would live up to their billings; both did so emphatically as juniors and then managed to top those performances as seniors. A large portion of last year's defensive UFRs not given over to rending of garments was spent wondering whether Brandon Graham was actually better than Woodley.
Survey says: yes, amazingly.
There was a mailbag question that explicitly addressed it:
I think Graham is better. I haven't gone over the UFR numbers yet—slightly busy this time of year—but I know Graham set a record against Michigan State earlier this year and has been owning offensive tackles all year. Woodley set standards by being consistently around +8 or +9 with forays up to 12; Graham's baseline is around 12 and ranges up to 18.
Though he didn't win the Lombardi like Woodley did his senior year, Graham led the nation in TFLs and was drafted about a full round higher by the NFL. While Woodley was more heralded in the award department, that had a lot to do with the other guys on defense. Woodley's compatriots will pepper the rest of this list. Graham's not so much. Woodley lined up next to Alan Branch, Terrance Taylor, and a senior Rondell Biggs; Graham's bookend was a true freshman and his other linemates were just sophomores.
Lamarr Woodley, meanwhile, did with the Lombardi in 2006, the first and to-date last time a Michigan player has won it. His season was statistically frustrating since, like Graham, he was close to a dozen additional sacks that a competent secondary would have seen him put up truly ludicrous numbers. Even so he had 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles; outside TFLs were low (just three) but that can be chalked up to the rest of the defense taking up that burden. As mentioned above, he was the original gangsta of the UFR, averaging close to double-digit plus ratings on a weekly basis.
But all that pales in comparison to the play that finished the "Oh Wide Open" game in which Michigan established itself a contender. By scooping up an unforced Brady Quinn fumble and fending off ND tight end John Carlson all the way to the endzone, Woodley inaugurated the Yakety Sax era:
I just watched that three more times.
Second Team: Dan Rumishek (2001), Tim Jamison (2007 or 2008, take your pick)
It gets muddy past the slam dunks. Michigan's quasi 3-4 from the beginning of the decade makes decisions difficult, as does that one year Michigan switched to an actual 3-4. In 2001, Dan Rumishek was on the All Big Ten team with just 22 tackles. Seven were sacks, but man. That same year Shantee Orr managed 35 tackles with six sacks and 10 TFLs, but didn't show up on all conference teams. Later editions of defensive ends would have almost identical big play numbers but way more tackles. Tim Jamison had 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks as a junior and senior but had 52 and 50 tackles.
Past Rumishek, Orr, and Jamison pickings are slim. Rondell Biggs was the unheralded guy on the 2006 line, a decent plugger but nothing special. A post-career steroid bust also gives his career an unpleasant sheen. Larry Stevens's career was very long but largely anonymous. He's best remembered for being hog-tied on the Spartan Bob play.
We'll go with Dan Rumishek, the only other Michigan DE to get on an All Big Ten team this decade, and one of Tim Jamison's upperclass seasons. Which is entirely up to the reader since they are essentially identical; I lean towards '07 because Graham was not yet a beast and Jamison saw more attention.
Alan Branch (2006) & Gabe Watson (2005)
That will do.
His statistics were not ridiculous (25 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks in '06) but when he left for the NFL draft I thought to myself "this is a logical thing because he will go in the top five." Surprisingly he did not, falling to the top of the second round, but when you are primarily responsible for opponents going six of eighteen on third and one you get dropped onto the All Decade Team no questions asked.
Watson will be a more controversial choice but the guy was a two-time All Big Ten selection and is currently an NFL player. At Michigan he never quite lived up to his copious recruiting hype but he did have some pretty nice statistics for a nose tackle: 40 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 sacks as a senior with almost identical numbers from the year before. The primary issue with Michigan's run defense in '05 was that Watson would drive his guy yards into the backfield, forcing the tailback to cut upfield into the gaping hole left because Pat Massey was 6'8" and therefore getting crushed backwards as far as the guy futilely attempting to contain Watson.
The year before Michigan had their one-off experiment with the 3-4, leaving Watson all alone in the middle, where he dominated. In the aftermath of Watson's one-game suspension for being approximately spherical to start the '05 season, I attempted to adjust for Michigan's tendency to give up a lot of nothing and then a lot of huge runs in the spirit of Football Outsider's "adjusted line yards" and came up with the number 2.5, which was better than anyone in the NFL by three tenths of a yard. (Schedules are much more balanced there, FWIW.) Watson may have been an overrated recruit, but his Michigan career has been underrated.
Second Team: Terrance Taylor(2007), Grant Bowman (2003)
This is actually Taylor's junior season, when he lined up next to Will Johnson, a sophomore Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison and managed impressive-for-a-DT numbers: 55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks. He'd drop off considerably in his doomed senior year; whether that was a falloff in play or just collateral damage from the wholesale implosion around him is in the eye of the beholder. My opinion is the latter since Taylor tended to beat a lot of blocks only to see poor linebacker play rob him of opportunities in the run game; he was never much of a pass rusher.
We'll go with Taylor's statistically productive 2007 over 2008 because he was just about as good via the eyeball then and had more to show for it. Either way he is an easy pick.
The last spot is not easy. Early in the decade, Michigan defensive tackles were excruciatingly bored guys who spent football games blocking offensive lineman and letting linebackers take all the glory. In 2001 Shawn Lazarus started 12 games and managed 16 tackles. In the absence of accolades, statistics, or personal remembrances I can't put Lazarus or Eric Wilson or Norman Heuer in here even though I couldn't tell you whether or not those guys were even good. The guys not on the list who I do have personal remembrances of were not very good or are still on the team.
It's a debate between Grant Bowman, who I don't remember much about other than his mother was attacked by the usual band of Columbus idiots one year, and… yeah, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Bowman's 2003 featured 36 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 3 sacks; Van Bergen had 40, 6, and 5; Martin 51, 8.5, and two sacks. Bowman's defense was infinitely better (22nd nationally in rush defense) than either Martin's or Van Bergen's but without the UFRs sitting around it's hard to tell how much of that had to do with Bowman and how much was the contributions of Pierre Woods, Carl Diggs, Lawrence Reid, and the profusion of non walk—ons in the secondary.
The tentative nod goes to Bowman if only because the rest of the line that year was Heuer, Massey, and someone the Bentley doesn't even bother to list but is surely Larry Stevens. Even if he had more help behind him, being the best player on a line that did pretty well against the run is a tiebreaker here.
David Harris (2006), Larry Foote (2001), Victor Hobson (2002)
A couple years ago I was editing a Hail to the Victors article about the considerable difference between David Harris and Obi Ezeh that referenced a couple plays from the '06 season. The diagrams, as diagrams are often wont to be, were confusing so I set about looking at the play myself so I could break the diagram out into three or four separate ones that would explain things in a more leisurely fashion. This was the result:
I swear to God I saw David Harris read not only the direction of a run play, the blocking scheme of that play, and which offensive lineman was assigned to him but modeled the lineman's brain and duped him into thinking the play had cut back. I found this terribly exciting.
That was just another boulder on the pile of reasons I love David Harris. He looks like Worf. He tackled everyone all the time and never did not tackle anyone. He was the first player I felt I was ahead of the curve on thanks to UFRing the games—like David Molk I think I was the first person in the media to recognize that this unheralded player was the balls, which made me feel like Dr. Z. And he kept tackling people. At some point in 2006 the Greek gods descended from the clouds and borrowed him for a while because the eagle that eats Prometheus's liver was on strike.
Then the Lions passed on him and Lamarr Woodley to take Drew Stanton, guaranteeing that the pair would instantly become two of the best defensive players in the league. Yeah. David Harris. I miss him so much.
Larry Foote had a less tangential connection to the worst franchise in sports, but outside of that one-off decision his career has been a good one. As an upperclassman he was an all-around terror, notching 19 TFLs in 2000 and 26 in 2001 at the same time as he picked up a total of 16 PBUs. In 2000 he actually had more of the latter than Todd Howard, and Todd Howard got some of his when the ball deflected off the back of his helmet. Foote was what Jonas Mouton was supposed to be.
We'll go with Foote's senior year when his sack total leapt from one to six and he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year en route to a smattering of All-American honors. A fourth-round pick of the Steelers, Foote's NFL career has been long and productive; he gets a small dollop of bonus points for being one of the current NFL crew frequently seen hanging out with Barwis.
The final member of the first team had to beat out stiff competition but Victor Hobson gets the nod because he was by far the best player on his front seven (Rumishek, Bowman, Lazarus, Stevens, Orr, Diggs, and Zach Kaufman(!) were the other major conributors) in 2002 and racked up the best all-around numbers of any linebacker under consideration: 99 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. One of those was the Outback-sealing reverse pass interception. Hobson was deservedly All Big Ten on a team that finished 9th in the final rankings and 31st in rushing defense despite having zero future NFL players other than Hobson and an injury-stricken Orr.
Second Team: Pierre Woods(2003), Shawn Crable(2007), Lawrence Reid(2004)
Pierre Woods did something almost but not quite bad enough to get booted off the team after his breakout sophomore season (68 tackles, 14 TFL, 7 sacks) and spent the rest of his career playing sparingly—probably the only thing that has infuriated both Ted Ginn Sr and myself—until injury forced Michigan to deploy him extensively in the '05 Iowa game, whereupon he totally saved Michigan's bacon. Though he'd moved to defensive end by then, his bust-out year was at linebacker so here he goes.
Poor star-crossed Shawn Crable will go down in history as the best player to ever put on a winged helmet who Michigan fans have exclusively terrible memories of. In the span of three games at the end of the 2006 season and beginning of 2007, Crable delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scrambling Troy Smith that turned a fourth-down punt into first down and eventually the winning points for OSU and failed to execute a simple blocking assignment on the field goal that could have turned The Horror into the worst win ever.
When he wasn't doing either of those things, though, he was a unique weapon. He is the current holder of Michigan's TFL record and spent his college days bouncing from linebacker to defensive end to crazy 6'6" chicken-legged defensive tackle in certain spread packages, finding ways into the backfield wherever he lined up. He also was the Ryan Mallett of defense as an underclassman, overran a bunch of plays even after he got his head on straight, and appears twice on the upcoming Worst Moments Of The Decade list. That disqualifies him from the first team, but not the second.
Finally, Lawrence Reid saw his career end prematurely as his back went out; late in the 2004 season it was clear he was laboring. Despite that he finished with 70 tackles, 12 for loss, 3 sacks, and an interception. Without the injury his senior season could have made it on to the first team… and seriously aided the 2005 team's efforts to not play the unready Shawn Crable.
Marlin Jackson(2002), Leon Hall(2006)
Leon Hall was sneaky great, one of the few players that the NFL ended up drafting well before I expected them to. Before Hall went halfway through the first round I'd pegged him as another LeSueur sort who'd go in the second and have a decent career; instead he's kind of ridiculously good. Hall leapt into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year an continued improving until he was a hidden beast on the '06 team. Hall's tackles declined from 61 to 45 as teams targeted neophyte Morgan Trent and whichever slot receiver Chris Graham had no hope of covering. At the same time his PBUs leapt from 5 to 15(!). That's impressive. Hall was a deserved Thorpe finalist.
Jackson, meanwhile, has the rare privilege of being the only sophomore to feature in the All-Decade first team. His opening-day matchup against Reggie Williams, Washington's star receiver and a player who had seriously considered Michigan before choosing to stay home, was electric. Jackson got in Williams's grill all day and the Huskies would not back off; by the third quarter he'd set an all-time Michigan record for pass breakups.
By the end of the year he was a second-team All-American to the AP, third team to Sporting News, and (whoopee!) first team to College Football News. He would spent his junior year at safety, battling injury, and though a return to corner as a senior found him on All-America teams again, Jackson never quite recaptured that sophomore magic.
Second team: Jeremy LeSueur (2003), Donovan Warren (2009)
LeSueur was a true rarity on the Michigan roster: a kid who managed to escape the state of Mississippi's immense gravitational pull. He started off slightly wonky—it was his face-mask penalty on Charles Rogers that extended Michigan State's final drive in 2001, setting up both the Spartan Bob play and Lloyd Carr's public dressing-down of Drew Sharp—but finally developed into the guy I thought Leon Hall was: an All-Big Ten type of player destined for a solid NFL career. That wasn't quite the case—LeSueur is currently playing for Bon Jovi, but no one else from the decade comes close.
The final spot is a tossup between Morgan Trent in the one year he wasn't clueless or unmotivated (2007), Donovan Warren this year, Grant Mason's year that exemplifies totally average play, and the nine starts James Whitley made in 2000 before succumbing to his personal demons. The vote here is for Warren, who I actually thought was good, over Trent, who I thought was okay trending towards good.
SAFETY… SORT OF
Jamar Adams (2007), Julius Curry (2000)
Michigan fans will be unsurprised to find a wasteland here after nine defensive positions occupied by world-wrecking All-Americans who have embarked on long NFL careers—everyone on the first team to this point is still in the NFL and almost all will start this year. Safety? Well, Cato June is still kicking around as a linebacker, but at Michigan he was a wreck thanks to an ACL tear that took years for him to fully recover from. And that's almost it.
The almost: Jamar Adams, bless his heart, was the closest thing to a star safety Michigan had in the aughts. He was actually good. Not good enough to get on the All Big Ten first team or get drafted, but good enough to be on the second team two years running and stick with the Seahawks long enough to actually get on the field in six games last year. This makes him a slam-dunk lock as the best safety in the last ten years of Michigan football.
And now: guh. After Adams it's a choice between the most massively overrated Michigan player of the decade—Ernest Shazor—or the guys towards the beginning of the aughts that no one remembers being specifically terrible. You can feel free to disagree but there is no way I'm putting Shazor here. While he did decapitate Dorien Bryant in that one Purdue game, his Michigan career ceased there unbeknownst to the coaches and most of the fans. He was about 80% of the reason Braylon Edwards had to hulk up and smash Michigan State in the Braylonfest game and when he entered the NFL draft he went from a projected second-round pick to totally undrafted, but not before various organizations made him a first-team All American. I will exercise my Minute Observer of Michigan Football privileges and say this: ha, ha, ha.
The problem then is that as I went through the names that vaguely occupied the safety spots for Michigan over the last decade I thought to myself "I should probably write down Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon." Sadly, I cannot vouch for two guys who couldn't stay healthy or maintain their starting jobs, nor can I seriously support anyone I've seen take the field in the UFR era. So let's reach back into the long, long ago when memories are fuzzy and haul out easily the most unlikely member of the All Aughts: Julius Curry.
I can't tell you that I have detailed knowledge of Curry's play anymore, but I do remember liking the guy a lot and being seriously disappointed when his junior and senior years were wrecked by injury. As a sophomore in 2000, he put up an impressive collection of statistics: 59 tackles, 5 TFLs, 5 PBUs, and 3 forced fumbles, plus two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Ohio State in a 38-26 win. Michigan managed to scrape out the 49th-best pass efficiency defense despite deploying Todd Howard and a very confused James Whitley—this was the heart of the "suspects" era—thanks to Curry's unregarded efforts. Maybe he never decapitated anyone, but by God he definitely would have tackled DeAndra Cobb by the second time.
Patmon was the second member of the safety unit I remember not being specifically terrified about; Shazor was discussed above. He does deserve to be here because even if he gave up a ton of big plays he made more big plays in Michigan's favor than the other safeties kicking around this decade, and those guys gave up about as many plays.
Garrett Rivas (2006)
Rivas never had a huge leg but he was good out to 47-48 yards and stands as the most accurate kicker of the decade, hitting 64 of 82 in his four years as Michigan's kicker. That's a 78% strike rate; in 2006 he checked in at 85%. He was reliable, and that's all you ask for in a college kicker.
Zoltan Mesko (2009)
Obviously. All hail Zoltan the Inconceivable.
Training day. AnnArbor.com talks with Brandon Graham about his prep for the NFL combine. Includes interview segments with Graham and a look inside what Barwis's program is like. Graham also makes a huge array of pained faces:
Graham's running 4.58 40s and doing linebacker drills. I feel a RBUAS piece referencing this video in the future.
In other NFL draft news, Zoltan Mesko is interviewed by the Boston Herald and references a name from the past you might be surprised is hanging around the program again:
“I thought he [Pats special teams coach Scott O'Brien] was very knowledgeable in the special teams game,” Mesko continued. “I know we have our own Michigan guy that takes special teams really seriously, Pierre Woods, and basically, I never knew… When Pierre came back this past month, he’s training up at Michigan again to stay in shape, the amount of knowledge he’s picked up from the special teams coach there is unbelievable. You can really make or break yourself as a linebacker… you’re going to play special teams at that level.”
Woods got in some trouble after a breakout sophomore year and barely hung on with the program after that; many people believe that's where Michigan's rift with the Glenville program that pumps out players year after year started.
Hunwick! After last night's hockey game I bet my friend a dollar that Shawn Hunwick would get the first star despite not facing much in the way of scoring chances, or even shots, from Notre Dame. Lo, it was so. That capped what was probably the best game at Yost all year, a 4-0 win over Notre Dame that saw loveable tiny walk-on get (split) a shutout and two of the four seniors score. Carl Hagelin even added the sort of pretty goals that have been sorely lacking all year when he danced around an ND defenseman and set up Matt Rust for a slam-dunk on a two on one.
Hogan, who has made 41 straight starts in net, is listed as doubtful for Saturday's regular-season finale at Notre Dame.
I know I've been pretty down on Hogan of late—so has Red—but Hunwick's a 5'7" walk-on. That's a major blow.
Michigan is now sixth in the league. Four and five are done with conference play and Michigan can pass them with a win Saturday. If Northern gets five points or more out of their weekend (ie: win both nights and win one in regulation) against Lake State, they'll pass Michigan. Anything less and M will sneak into the fourth spot and grab the first-round bye that comes with it.
Will it matter? Eh… probably not. Unless MSU or Ferris State is upset, Michigan would reach the Joe as the lowest remaining seed and have to take out #1 Miami, a team that's lost all of two conference games this year. Doing that full strength is difficult enough, and now with Hogan questionable it's even more doubtful.
Side note: excellent work by whoever slid this game to Thursday night. I assume it was to make sure the students were present for senior day, something that's been exceedingly rare for a long time. Usually the students are on break and senior night is a flat affair.
Recruiting cavalcade. This didn't get mentioned in Thursday Recruitin'—which we promise will return to Wednesday when things are less insane—but this weekend Michigan is hosting a massive "Showcase" for high school recruits at Oosterbaan and Newsterbaan. They're not officially involved because they can't be, but having what seems like half of the Midwest's big recruits take an unofficial visit to Michigan's shiny new practice facility can't hurt.
Scout has a couple lists of all the folk coming in. Prepare for the begats. Notable names include MI RB Justice Hayes, MI WR DeAnthony Arnett, commit Shawn Conway, OH WR AJ Jordan, MI LB Lawrence Thomas, OH LB Antonio Poole, 2012 MI LB James Ross, commit Greg Brown, commit Delonte Hollowell, MI WR Valdez Showers, MI OL Anthony Zettel, OH OL Chris Carter, OH OL Aundrey Walker, IL OL Chris Bryant, and many others. It's like a super-massive junior day on Michigan's campus, the equivalent of getting a NIKE camp. The difference: NIKE camps are rare appearances and this is going to happen every year.
I'll be most interested to see how the current Michigan commits do. Zettel's already torn up a lineman camp and seems like he'll be an easy four-star, but Hollowell, Brown, and Conway haven't been to a senior camp yet IIRC and this will be a first read on where they'll end up in the rankings.
Expansion dampening? Yes, another Big Ten expansion article. This one has a couple of interesting quotes about the issue of buying into the Big Ten Network. New members are probably going to have to operate at a lower revenue level to start:
"You just don't jump into the league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time," Alvarez said. "I think someone has to buy their way into the league." …
"We've created such an asset in the Big Ten channel," Outgoing Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said, echoing Alvarez. "I cannot see our 11 institutions simply saying we're going to divide our pie up into more pieces from Day 1."
That will dampen enthusiasm from potential additions, but it might not matter. This is the first time I've seen these numbers for the BTN's second year and holy crap:
But according to tax forms the nonprofit conference is required to make public, it generated $217.7 million and paid each school about $18.8 million in 2007, the most recent year for which tax forms are available.
The next year, according to the Sports Business Journal, the new TV network added another $66 million to the pot. That pushed the per-team payout to about $22 million each, a figure officials from several Big Ten schools confirm remains accurate.
The next most prosperous conference, the SEC, paid its member schools about $11 million each in 2007, according to tax documents.
I'm pretty sure that latter distribution is way up since the SEC's blockbuster ESPN contract kicked in, FWIW, but I also think the SEC is going to have a static amount of money for the next 15 years; the Big Ten is half-owner of its network and will see increasing revenue shares over the course of that time.
(HT: Get The Picture.)
Yes that again. The WLA has a piece similar to the one I just posted, but when I said "I cannot emphasize enough" I was not kidding. Money grafs:
They certainly didn’t know their statements were true either. Is strongly asserting something you know could theoretically be true but might also be false a lie? If you don’t offer up any qualifications to your assertions (I didn’t see any), then I say yes, especially in the case of Rosenberg.
I suppose the best we could say about Snyder is he was totally ignorant of the subject on which he was writing and he didn’t know he was uttering falsehoods. So yay for being a dumbass, Mr. Snyder. But with Rosenberg, we know from his opinion column that he disapproves of the job Rodriguez is doing. For him to write falsehoods that also denigrate someone he disapproves of is just a bit too much of a coincidence for me to believe. Rosenberg knew what he was doing, IMO.
They lied. In the days and months to come regarding the story about “Michigan Players Practice A Lot,” let us not forget the fact that Rosenberg and Snyder lied to their readers.
To aid you in your stalking. People tend to like the occasional mentions of my personal life, so they'll love this: my fiancée's food blog. In it you will find out what I have been eating, what food-related conventional wisdom has recently been enraging in my presence, and various other bizarre things that don't have anything to do with me.
Etc.: Delany has our back, I guess.
University of Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez announced Thursday (Nov. 19) following practice the four permanent captains elected for the 130th team in school history. Linebacker Stevie Brown (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East HS), defensive end Brandon Graham (Detroit, Mich./Crockett Technical HS), punter Zoltan Mesko (Twinsburg, Ohio/Twinsburg HS) and left tackle Mark Ortmann (Klein, Texas/Klein HS) were selected by their teammates as captains of the 2009 football team.
“Our players have selected four student-athletes who represent our program at the highest level both on and off the field,” said Rodriguez. “Stevie, Brandon, Zoltan and Mark have played at a high level all season and received the greatest honor that a player can receive, selection as captain by your peers. They, and our other seniors, will lead us into Michigan Stadium Saturday to play the greatest rivalry game in college football.”
Brown joins Graham as a defensive captain. He is the team’s leading tackler with 73 stops and is second with eight tackles for loss, both career highs. Brown has also contributed one sack, one forced fumble, one interception and four pass breakups. He has started all 11 games at linebacker and will see action in his 50th career game when U-M faces Ohio State.
Graham is the most dominant defensive lineman in the Big Ten, racking up a league and NCAA-best 21 tackles for loss. He has 8.5 sacks on the year and has contributed at least one quarterback stop in six of the past seven games. Graham has recorded a career-best 57 tackles, two PBUs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He has also contributed on special teams, blocking two punts and returning another for his first career touchdown. An All-America candidate, Graham is second all-time at Michigan in sacks (27.5) and third in tackles for loss (51).
Mesko is one of the nation’s top all-around student-athletes, excelling on the field, in the classroom and the community. He leads the Big Ten and is sixth nationally in punting with a career-best 44.7-yard average this season. A semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the second straight season, Mesko has punted 46 times for 2,054 yards. He had 16 fair caught, 15 boots of 50 yards or better and 13 downed inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Mesko is a finalist for the Lowes Senior CLASS Award, the Danny Wuerffel Trophy and has been named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. He earned CoSIDA Academic All-District IV first team honors and is top candidate for Academic All-America honors.
Ortmann has started all 11 games at left tackle and helped anchor the Wolverines’ offense that is rated top in the Big Ten in scoring (31.3 points per game) and is second in rushing offense (195.8 avg.). He has started 24 contests and played in 35 games during his career.
The captains will lead the Wolverines against No. 9 Ohio State Saturday (Nov. 21) at Michigan Stadium. The 106th meeting will be televised nationally by ESPN on ABC at noon EST.
Following is the team’s injury report for the game against the Buckeyes:
David Molk (knee)
Brandon Minor (shoulder)
Doubtful (25 percent chance of playing)
Mike Williams (ankle)
Probable (75 percent chance of playing)
Martavious Odoms (knee)
Most obvious captaining ever, but good for them. I really wish Brandon Minor could, like, play against OSU. They've appreared to have left injured people off the report, but the coaches have never listed someone as out and then played them. Damn.