Holy Offensive Extravaganza Batman! In the interest of time, I'm going to break format again, skip the introductory paragraph and get right to the numbers. Michigan gained 1237 yards on 98 plays, accruing 73 first downs in the process. Devin Gardner led the way with 712 yards passing. Jeremy Gallon's 26 receptions accounted for 560 of those yards. The rushing game returned in grand style, with Fitz Toussaint running for 234 yards and 8 touchdowns, behind a line featuring a fourth string left guard and three high school seniors. Michigan won the time of possession battle, 52:12 to 7:48. Michigan punted negative three times, and finished seven for four on third down conversions. Raymon Taylor led the defense with 37 tackles and 16 pass breakups. Yes, these numbers are completely made up. They are ridiculous, but so are these numbers:
Burst of Impetus
* Early in the game, it was obvious that Indiana was throwing to the receiver guarded by Raymon Taylor. Taylor got beat deep, giving up a 59 yard TD to IU. On the next drive, they went back at Taylor, hitting Latimer for a 14 yard gain. After an incomplete pass and a five yard run, Sudfeld went back towards Taylor. Taylor absolutely lit up the TE, Bolser, forcing an incompletion. Later in the first quarter, on another third down, Indiana went back at Taylor down the sideline. He just barely turned his head around and got another deflection. Later in the game he got another PBU on third down and forced a field goal. The boxscore lists him with 4 of Michigan's 5 pass breakups. He did make 9 tackles, so it's obvious Indiana was targeting him and giving him opportunities. He wasn't perfect, BUT HE MADE PLAYS. In a back and forth game, the key to winning was who was going to be able to break serve. Indiana was 8 of 14 on third down. Half of those stops are directly attributable to Taylor. The other defensive player who MADE PLAYS (2 of them, in fact) was Thomas Gordon. He did not record a tackle, but he did make two huge interceptions that gave the Impetus back to Michigan both times.
* Devin Gardner was 21 for 29 with ZERO INTERCEPTIONS! (That's not difficult to do when IU's DBs were rarely in the same time zone as our WRs, and the line provided good protection for the most part.)
* He threw for 503 yards, 2 TDs, and a long of 70 yards (thanks to Gallon.)
* His bad habit of flinging wild throws to avoid sacks returned, but fortunately, did not result in any INTs.
* Al Borges is the QB coach. Is Al the one responsible for teaching Devin how to pitch the ball to Fitz? I'm, of course, referring to the fumble. It was attributed to Fitz, but the pitch was the problem. I have a hard time picturing in my mind, Al out on the field giving Gardner instructions on the proper way to pitch the ball back to the RB.
* After suffering through the 27 for 27 documentary, Fitz ran 32 times for 151 yards net. The longest run was only 27 yards, so this is not one of those cases where a guy's stats are inflated by a 60 or 70 yard TD run. He scored 4 TDs.
* Derrick Green pitched in 21 yards on 6 carries.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Jeremy Gallons actual stats were 14 receptions for 369 yards and 2 TDs. He caught 2/3 of Gardner's completions.
* Devin Funchess was the second option, catching 4 balls for 84 yards. Towards the end of the game UofM was trying to run out the clock. They faced a 3rd and 6. Instead of running on third down, Al called for a pass. 38 yards later, Funchess had given UofM another first down, and three more opportunities to run clock. I think that is the go-for-the-win attitude that we became accustomed to under Brady Hoke, that was sadly missing last week against PSU.
* Jeremy Jackson returned to the field, catching 2 balls for 23 yards.
* I love Dileo and if I were in charge of the offense, I'd involve him more, so what I'm going to say next may amount to heresy. Is it possible that he's not getting open on the other ~60 plays, or that he's not great at blocking? I also wonder if he got hurt, because he wasn't back there fielding punts. Maybe Borges just wanted to give Devin a slightly bigger target in Jackson.
* Midway through the first quarter, Joey Burzynski got hurt. So let's review our situation at Left Guard this year. Glasgow started the season there, only to move to center in an attempt to shore up the middle. Chris Bryant was the next man in. He's either injured or not as effective as the staff would like, so he was replaced by Burzynski. When he got hurt, Kyle Bosch entered the lineup. Yep, our 4th string left guard. Indiana did get 2 sacks and 7 TFLs, but I can honestly say, I didn't notice Bosch out there, and that's a compliment for a lineman. He may have made a mistake or two, or missed an assignment, but I didn't notice.
* A bruised and bloodied Taylor Lewan returned to the lineup. I was a little worried before the game started, as Lewan showed very little enthusiasm jumping up to touch the M Club banner. To think he could be making millions of dollars today, all I can say is thank you, we appreciate your effort and loyalty to our shared University.
* I would be remiss not to mention Graham Glasgow's hustle. At the end of Gallon's 70 yard run after the catch, Glasgow was right there. There were several other long plays where I noticed Glasgow hustling down the field looking for another block. The guy can move for someone his size.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet returned 6 kicks for 121 yards. He made a couple poor decisions, but on average, the results were fine.
* So is this blocked FG thing something I'm going to have to worry about for the rest of the season?
* Five of Wile's 10 kickoffs were touchbacks. IU didn't do much with 4 of the 5 they returned.
* On one kickoff, we kicked from the 50 due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on IU. Doesn't game theory demand an onside-kick there? Or at least a high, short, coverage kick where you can pin them back inside the 20? If they recover the onside kick, they get the ball at their own 35. Instead, we kicked it out of the endzone and they got the ball at the 25. For 10 yards, I'd take that chance at getting the ball back. This was not a field position game. This was a ball possession game, as in, if you had possession of the ball you were likely going to score.
I'm an international umpire
* The refs let them play. IU had 3 penalties for 20 yards and Michigan had 4 for 15 yards. I noticed some holding and maybe some DBs getting to the WR a little early, but nothing outrageous, and the officials didn't get nitpicky. I'd rather they call a foul a foul, but it kept the flow of the game going nicely, and they were consistent, which is all you can ask for.
* I covered the important stuff in the Impetus section. We got some stops.
* Help me out, Alannis Morrissette, is it ironic that we ended the game by sacking IU's QB? I say yes.
* Besides Taylor's 9 tackles, JR3 had 8, Jourdan Lewis and Morgan had 5, and Wilson had 4. That's a lot of DBs, but that's to be expected in a game like this.
* It seemed like neither defense could stop the opposing offense. In fact, it seemed like neither team faced many difficult third downs. So I decided to review the play-by-play and see how the two teams did on first and second down. My numbers aren't quite adding up, but they are close to being accurate. In the all-important second down conversion stat, Michigan dominated Indiana going 14 for 26, to Indiana's 10 for 24. On first down, Michigan was 14 for 41 to Indiana's 10 for 35. That's right, we had 35 first downs, and gained 28 of them, 80%, on either first or second down. Indiana's defense is horrible.
* I mentioned in the Game 1 diary that my dad passed away from cancer this summer. Michigan broke out the pink accoutrements to raise awareness. I think most people are "aware" of the major cancers - breast, lung, prostrate, etc. In fact, my dad was a five year survivor of prostate cancer. Spending our limited resources attacking the most common cancers makes sense (Spock would agree, the needs of the many, etc.) but let's also spend some time raising awareness of the less common cancers, because these are often the ones that aren't diagnosed in a timely manner. A year and a half ago, dad was diagnosed with urothelial cancer. The problem was mis-diagnosed for a good 3-4 months, during which time the cancer may have doubled in size and changed from something that could be dealt with, to something that was fatal. I'm all for raising awareness, but I also think we need to be doing more in terms of improving diagnosis and treatment options.
My dad took my brother to the Anthony Carter/IU game. I suppose I should be jealous of my brother for that, but I was the one who got to hear Bob Ufer call the play. So who was the lucky one? HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK!!!
What amazes me about this site is the amount of content posted during the dead of summer, when people should be, you know, outside and not worrying about the nickelback (NTN)* on passing downs. Mind you, I say this with 100% absolute love and appreciation, as it really makes those bathroom br…er, interminable time between seasons a bit more bearable. The only problem, if you’d call it that, is that with such great, consistent diarists like Mathlete, Six Zero, Seth, CRex, and LSAClassOf2000 (and I’m sure to be missing others, so my apologies in advance), it makes it tough for people without advanced knowledge of mathematics, drawing skills, or hilarious fish-out-of-water tales to think of anything useful to post. Luckily, I’m here to post random thoughts on football without any of those messy facts, charts, or thoughtful analysis that bogs down everyone else. But I will definitely make consistent references to late 80’s/early 90’s pop culture, because nothing draws eyeballs like Battletoads puns.
And let it be known that I have yet to receive my copy of HTTV (available now for ordering if you are a horrible person who didn’t love Brian enough to sponsor his Kickstarter because you spent all of your money on funding a Deathstar), so if anything happens to overlap that is purely coincidental. So no need for a spoiler alert, but perhaps a didn’t-mean-to-tap-into-the-hivemind-alert. Also, this is not exhaustive – I don’t have the knowledge of football that other writers here possess, so me saying “Lewan is really good and Mattison knows how to coach” isn’t going to be ground-breaking; I’m going for a “key points” approach here. So without further ado, I bring you a preseason Best and Worst for Michigan (and college in general) football in 2013.
* I’m not a fan of all Nickelback songs, but that is one awesome movie tie-in song!
Best: Finally the focus is on actual football
While it is undeniable that college sports drive a multi-billion-dollar industry (but don’t tell EA that), the actual seasons for football and basketball are about 4 months each, with only a bit of overlap. So after the first week of January and/or the first week of April, the “official” engine driving the gravy train for network and cable television, websites, merchandisers, etc. shuts down for about 8 months. Unfortunately, there are still 24 hours a day that need to be filled with something, whether it be talking heads arguing over “issues” and obscure hypotheticals, former athletes pontificating on the need to have “played the game” to really understand why throwing on 3rd-and-12 is the right call, or scanning the police blotter in every college town to see if the Ven diagram of college kids getting drunk and/or fighting and college football/basketball players intersects.
So when the football season ends, the focus immediately turns to NSD, wherein a bunch of grown men’s and women’s emotions wax and wane according to the whims of high-schoolers participating in very weird hat dances.
|One of these is awesome, one is insanely awesome, and one is Denard rocking a great look.|
March is dominated by commercials for Southwest Airlines and Capital One credit cards with a dusting of basketball sprinkled in, and just when that madness ends, we get inundated with draft combine reports and the respective NBA and NFL drafts. And as the weather gets warmer, you finally think “self, what else can they report about? Kids are not even in school; at most they will be some puff pieces about charity work and new coaches getting used to a particular school.” But no, you are instead bombarded with stories about kids slacking off, whether or not a former coach is somehow partially responsible for a suspected murderer because the Program actually happens IRL, and old men talking about “big changes” that will only make things more convoluted and disjointed as sports go full Voltron with super-conferences and paychecks.
I guess my point is that in a few short weeks, fans of college football will actually be able to celebrate the sport itself, even if the depressing accoutrement isn’t going anywhere. Those recruits will now be in the lineup (or at least at practice), the returning players will be settling into their roles, and all of the coach-speak/playbook prognostications/expectations will manifest themselves in an actual product on the field. The silly season is over; bring on the games.
Worst: Addition + Subtraction != Reality
One of the common refrains I’ve read recently about the upcoming season is the old “addition by subtraction” on offense as Gardner takes over for Robinson at QB. As the thinking goes, the loss of Robinson and his career 10,776 yards of offense will be mitigated by Devin’s superior throwing ability and a more balanced, Al Borges-friendly offensive system.
This phrase has always driven me crazy, if for no other reason than football doesn’t work like math. A football team is comprised of innumerable players, coaches, opponents, etc.; we’re talking thousands of meaningful variables. Change one and you might have a major effect on the system, but the far more likely outcome is that nothing demonstrably happens or, worse, the output is worse. And it’s this last scenario that really scares me about losing Denard and installing Devin at QB full-time.
Just because you’ll be able to shove a slightly less misshapen peg into an ever-changing hole doesn’t mean the entire enterprise, or even a component like the offense, will function better a year later. Other than Jeremy Gallon’s mountain goat imitation and The Threat keeping the chains moving, the passing attack is long on potential and short on real results (I believe Funchess will have a solid year catching the ball, but when you can’t block at UM you aren’t going to be on the field much). Fitz’s recovery sounds promising but will he be the guy who ran for 5.6 ypc in 2011 or struggled to break 4 in 2012? I don’t know, and while there is guru-approved talent in the backfield (Green and Smith) and is a position where young talent can flourish, nobody with shoelaces has been able to consistently gain yardage on the ground for years now. And while in years past defenses had to respect the ability of UM’s QB/RB/WR/braided decoy to bust a massive run, Devin isn’t that type of player and defenses will treat him (and by extension this offense) accordingly.
Of course, Devin isn’t the perfect Al Borges QB either, but in theory he’ll be better able to throw downfield accurately and COMPLETELY IGNORE ANY TYPE OF SCREEN PASSES, amongst other things. Call me skeptical, but I still see this offense living and dying with the line giving whoever lines up at RB the time and space necessary to get into the second level. Protecting Devin will definitely help as well, but he’s enough of an athlete to buy himself some time on obvious passing downs if necessary; limiting the number of times he lines needing 8+ yards for a first because they tried this twice would be great.
|Unleashing the dragon is not officially endorsed by Al Borges, but he’s not officially against it either.|
Best: The Flying V
One of my favorite movies growing up was D2: The Mighty Ducks, the sequel to, I don’t know, the Joshua Jackson vehicle The Mighty Ducks. It’s 100% crap if you watch it critically; rampant product placement, jingoism and mindless flag-waving up the wazoo, and the most lax enforcement of international junior hockey rules known to man (seriously, the team adds players to the squad midway through the tournament by signing them up after a street hockey game). But by gawd, 13-year-old me loved this movie so much, and mostly because the creators pulled the comic book staple of expanding the Might Ducks universe by introducing new characters with exactly one “secret/mutant” power/character trait. Now you had the super-tough guy Dean to team up with Fulton (himself mostly known for his rocket shot) to make the Bash Brothers. Julie “The Cat”, with her lightning-quick reflexes, could even defend the previously-unstoppable triple deke. Luis Mendoza was the fastest guy the ice had ever seen, but couldn’t stop to save his life. And I guess to fill out the roster they added a cowboy (Dwayne) and the aforementioned street hockey star Russ (more on him later).
So why does this matter? Well, for a couple of years now, the RB situation at UM always left like a cut-rate casting of the Ducks, with guys trying to fill in the “power”, “speed”, “every down”, etc. roles but with limited success. They played hard and, at times, could fill in their roles admirably, but it should trouble people that even with Fitz’s decent 2011 season and barely playing his first year, Denard accounted for 42% of the team’s total rushing yards during his career. In virtually every circumstance, he was the best/only real option to move the ball on the ground, whether it be in short-yardage, designed first-down runs, even catching out of the backfield toward the end of last season.
This year, it feels like the situation will be improved if for no other reason than the talent in the backfield is significantly better than in years past. Even coming back from injury I expect Toussaint to be better than he was last season, and if he can’t line up full-time in the backfield is still a great change-of-pace back with (I hope) the elusiveness and phone-booth shiftiness everyone saw a couple of years ago. Green and Smith were some of the top RB recruits in the nation last year, and both look capable of running the ball 20-25 times a game if needed. Shallman and Kerridge should be able to provide some power in short yardage (I guess Rawls could improve here as well but who knows) and, in Shallman’s case, maybe a bit more in the open field. Guys like Hayes and Johnson look like situational backs who could move into the slot in certain formations and cause issues against LBs and Safeties. And to both make Brian happy as well as wedge in the reference that drove me to shoehorn the RB situation into this horrible analogy, Norfleet is the ultimate Knuckle-puck and a player I expect will help immensely in the return game if nothing else.
Getting yards on the ground still relies immensely on the guards and center blocking FAR better than they did last year, but it finally feels like the backfield could whip out a flying V of talent.
Worst: Where’d the “Gimmick” Go?
With Denard gone and Devin and co. clearly moving toward a more “classic” offense philosophy, I’m having to come to grips with the fact that the atypical elements of this team are rapidly disappearing. It always drove me crazy when people would call the spread option a “gimmick” offense, because last time I checked the goal was to score points as frequently as possible by maximizing your strengths and exploiting the weaknesses of your opponent. It wasn’t THAT long ago that people viewed the forward pass as (at best) a fad and (at worst) an affront to the game that killed 18 people and injured 100s, and even the multiple-receiving TE craze of recent years was scoffed at when it was first introduced. It’s an offense that clearly works in college, and the flexibility it gave in terms of play-calling helped make UM stand out a bit compared to the Big Ten-ness of offenses at outfits like Iowa, Wisconsin, and MSU.
While Al Borges’s offense looks to move the ball far better than other teams in the conference and should feature a fair number of wrinkles, the designed QB runs, unpredictable formations, and Worst Waldo Ever are probably relics of the past.
Worst: Stupid Elephant
Even though UM won’t be seeing Purdue until 2017 doesn’t mean that the Boilermakers couldn’t dramatically affect UM’s season as they unleashed Perry, clumsiness elephant in the world upon Jake Ryan and his precious ligaments. Though it sounds like he’ll be back in time for most of the conference slate, he’ll likely just be getting his conditioning and game-speed bearings when the meat of the schedule (@MSU, Nebraska, @NW, @Iowa, OSU) kicks in. Mattison Uber Alles and all that, but its going to be interesting to see how this defense responds without their leading tackler (88 total tackles) and pressure generator (team-leading 4.5 sacks). Let’s hope the hype around Clark, Ojemudia, and Washington is for real, because that line is going to have to generate a significantly better pass rush. You can only blitz so many times before good offenses figure out how to exploit those holes, and UM’s corners simply aren’t experienced/good enough right now to play on islands (though I do think they’ll be good).
And an aside: having recently had a birthday and solidly entering my early 30’s, I am definitely feeling my age when it comes to minor injuries. Whereas in years past running a couple extra miles or tweaking a muscle lifting took all of a day to recover from, now I’m limping around like I’ve got shrapnel in my ankle if I don’t stretch 10 minutes before jogging. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me that 20-something-year-olds can bounce back from these injuries in record-breaking time. It just blows my mind that Ryan will see the field 7 months after this injury. Heck, when Timmy’s Dad came back from his ACL injury and was a reasonable approximation of the player he was before, people thought it was a miracle.
You Decide: The (Near) End of an Era
I apologize to the mother of the equine that is about to be bludgeoned again, but we are rapidly nearing the end of the Rodriguez regime’s influence on Michigan football. While RR coached his last game on the UM sideline on January 1, 2011, the long tail from recruiting, player development, and (minor) cultural impact is still affecting Hoke’s regime years later. That’s the thing about coaching changes; the head guy may leave his office in a single day, but the fallout from his time at the helm literally remains for years. And we all know how it feels when a guy just lingers.
(* Full Disclosure: I remain a staunch believer that RR’s tenure at UM could have turned out quite differently if a handful of about eleventy billion things had gone differently. Your mileage with him will likely vary, but the guy who recruited Lewan, Denard, Gardner, Fitz, Ryan, etc. and obliterated a number of school records – admittedly both good and bad – could have worked in Ann Arbor.)
While we have seen some players from his regime leave in the past, the transition from last year’s squad to this year really feels like the first natural “purge” of RR’s most prominent players. The kids who left in 2013 were the first full RR class to matriculate, the kids who signed up after the 3-9 season and survived immense negative karma that welcomed them to campus, Stretchgate, the losing seasons, the Process, and, finally, some redemption.
The two names that I suspect stick out for most MGoBloggers are Denard and Kovacs; the Alpha and Omega that embodied the dichotomy and extreme variance that was a hallmark of the Rodriguez years.* Denard was the scintillating maestro of an offense that could be maddening for fans and opponents alike. At his peak, Denard was the most exciting player Michigan had fielded in a generation; his two transcendent games against ND rank up there with Biakabutuka against OSU, Braylon’s new Math, Chris Perry’s marathon versus MSU, Mercury Hayes leading the comeback against UVa, and a slew of performances by Woodson, Wheatley, and Hart. His flaws were well-documented (mediocre passer, injured, the sometimes-victim of being the best option on every play), but when he was on he gave fans the feeling of having the “ringer” in a game; of having the guy who was so much better than everyone else that it didn’t seem fair.
If Denard was the quintessential spread QB recruit, Jordan Kovacs epitomized the other mythos of Rich Rodriguez: gritty walk-on makes good. Sure, if you read his Wikipedia page the story feels incredibly predictable, but at the time I doubt anyone expected the kid with a single preferred walk-on offer at Toledo (yes, that Toledo) would become a team MVP and leave this program as one of the better safeties in its history. He just made plays, and I’ll admit that my testicles will probably retract a bit the first time someone goes deep on Michigan this year. I suspect Gordon will slide in adequately enough, but you don’t replace a mult-time conference award winner easily, regardless of the story told in getting him on the field.
This season will only accelerate the exodus of The Last Guy’s recruits, and while I am exceedingly happy about The Current Guy’s performance, it is still a bit sad to see some of the standard-bearers of this important era in Michigan’s history move on.
* You could also make a case for BWC, the biggest “can’t miss” prospect that flamed out under RR and only recovered under the steady hand of Hoke and Co. Because if there was a third defining element to the RR era, it was big-name prospects (Tate, Cullen, Cissoko, etc.) failing to live up to expectations.
Best: The Gap is Shortening
Of all the systemic and natural advantages certain programs have – coaching stability, location, tradition, money, SEC-ness – probably the most important to sustained success is player development & talent replenishment. The reason programs like Alabama, LSU, Stanford, Oregon, OSU, etc. have been successful recently is that the depth charts usually remain pretty flush with talent year over year. Sure, you’ll see holes pop up here and there as recruits flame out or unexpected attrition occur, but for the most part good teams stay that way because when you graduate one all-conference performer there’s usually a guy or two behind him to fill in those shoes.
If you take a look at the unofficial depth chart, you’ll notice there’s this massive wall of players for 2016 and 2017 crumbling to a handful of 2013 starters and regular contributors. This drop is less precarious on the defensive side than the offense, which makes sense given the coaching staff’s composition and their early focus when they took over, but it highlights the “blue-bloods”/“first-world problems” meme you see thrown around with consistently-great teams that, once upon a time, included UM.
A common refrain you hear from programs like Texas, OSU, UM, Alabama, OU, Oregon, etc. is that if they aren’t winning the conference and playing for the MNC/major bowl game, the season is a “disappointment” even if they win 9+ games. This inevitably drives other, less consistently successful teams crazy because it reeks of entitlement and a sense of superiority. While that is probably a part of it, the bigger reason is that these teams know they are so superior in talent compared to most of their competition that the band of variance for their season is relatively narrow; they’ll rarely lose more than 2-3 games a season because they probably only play 3-4 teams with comparable talent a year. Even with the odd upset, they’re not worried about making a bowl game or having a winning record unless something cataclysmic happens. Because they have depth, the natural ebb and flow from injuries and departures year-to-year is muted; the whole “we don’t rebuild, we just reload” refrain. That was never true under RR (I get into the lasting influence of his tenure below), and the later Carr years had their fair share of talent gaps that culminated in the Horror and the aftermath.
Hoke is obviously doing a great job replenishing the cupboard with top-notch talent, and I suspect that in a year or two the expectations for UM will return to their lofty heights. But if anyone thinks that there won’t be quite a few true/RS freshmen playing meaningful minutes this year, you’re going to be surprised. 8-5 is just as likely as 11-2 despite the seeming upward trajectory of the team in recent years.
Best: And in a Hurry!
This is a late addition given the events of the BBQ, but by gawd Hoke is doing work when it comes to skill position players, which was the last “real” concern people had regarding his recruiting acumen. In hindsight, his early focus on linemen and depth makes sense since a Denard-led offense should be able to score a reasonable number of points to hide many deficiencies on that side of the ball. But having already picked up some of the best RBs and WRs in last year’s class, he wasted no time grabbing some of the best WR, RB, and DB players early on for 2015. This won’t totally mitigate that gap between upperclassmen and the rest of the depth chart, but Hoke and co. are going to do their best to eradicate that issue with overwhelming force.
Best: We want people to pass?
After living through the weekly carpet-bombing by 5x Heisman Trophy winners like Ben Chappell, Scott Tolzien, and Chris Relf, the last thing I’d thought I’d be saying a couple years later is that the secondary looks like, if not a strength, at least an adequate part of the defense this year and one of the strengths of the team going forward. Taylor impressed me as the chief replacement for Countess after his own ACL injury (damn you Perry!), and veterans like Avery and camp surprise Hollowell should help fill in the gaps and limit the reliance on the younger talent. There definitely isn’t a Woodson, Hall, or Jackson in the backfield, but the corners should be able to stick with enough receivers on the schedule that teams will have to at least earn those long completions.
Best/Worst: Come On B1G
It has been discussed on this board many times before, but looking around the conference I’m not seeing any teams poised to make the leap up in competition. On one hand this should make UM fans happy; the Big 2, Little 10 situation pumps up the win totals. At the same time, when the third best team is either an in-transition Wiscy, a sanctioned PSU, or a meh MSU, it doesn’t speak highly of the strength of the conference and how it will be perceived when bowl selection and rankings roll around. I expect MSU’s defense to be one of the stronger units in the nation and for Wiscy and NW to continue to exceed their talent level, but you’d hope that “better than expected” wouldn’t be the ceiling for over half the teams in the conference.
So that’s it. Comment away below if you got this far, and tell me where I screwed up. I’m sure I did somewhere. John Navarre’s still the QB, right? Go Blue!
I know that Stefan is very interested in Michigan but I couldn't help but wonder if the recent commitments by Blake Countess, Tamani Carter, and Raymon Taylor will have an impact on his recruitment. We also have Greg Brown and Delonte Hollowell as cornerback commits. Seems like a lot of CBs! Taylor, Countess and McClure are probably the best of the group and seem like true competitors that would welcome the competition. Any insight TomVH, DGDestroys, others? Thanks in advance. Perhaps I am off base for my concern. I would really like McClure to be Blue on Feb 2nd!
This Weekly Update is going to be a little tough because so much can change within a matter of days. Here's what's potentially happening in the near future. With Demetrius Hart decommitting to Alabama that leaves Michigan with roughly seven spots to fill.
January 7th Visitors
As of right now most, if not all, of the visitors plan on making it in this weekend. I have received two texts from prospects asking if they should reschedule their visit, though. I'm going to make sure that everyone understands that anything can change at any time. That even goes for the comment I made the other day about current commitments sticking with Michigan. Tony Posada and Dallas Crawford both said they will "most likely" stick with Michigan. That most likely is their way out, so it's not 100%. Dallas is being actively recruited, so that's something to watch. [Ed. He did say he was "solid" on Facebook today, FWIW.]
Anyhow, here's the list of recruits expected to be in this weekend.
- S Sheldon Royster - Royster will be a tough pull for Michigan. Considering Michigan, Rutgers, South Carolina, Miami, and North Carolina.
- ATH Raymon Taylor - Decommitted from Indiana because of a coaching change. He loves Michigan, but ya know, they might have a coaching change.
- WR Devin Lucien - Devin was just offered by Miami today. He really likes Michigan though. He'll be making his announcement on January 30th at his school. He could be making his final decision soon though. Decision is different than announcement. He's said Michigan's standing does not depend on their coach.
- DT Darian Cooper - I spoke with Darian last night, and he said "he thinks" he's still coming this weekend. We'll see if that changes.
- WR Shane Wynn - Glenville product, potentially coming this weekend.
- QB Cardale Jones - Same situation as Wynn. The visit might not happen.
- TE Frank Clark - Same as the two above.
- DE Deion Barnes - This visit looks like it's leaning towards not happening, but I haven't confirmed it yet. I'll still include him here, just not expecting him to be there.
- TE Tanner McEvoy
Army Game Decisions
There are 13 total prospects making their decision public at the Army All American Game on Saturday January 8th. The two that apply to Michigan are LB Kris Frost, and DB Wayne Lyons.
Kris has been consistent with his public stance, and who he names in his top group. I have been in very close contact with Kris the entire time, and it's my understanding that he had his final decision made up around 3 weeks or a month ago. Frost is an early enrollee, and has told me he's comfortable with his decision.
Wayne has kept a lot of his recruitment close to the vest, but the rumor is that it may be between Michigan and Stanford, with potentially Nebraska in there as well. This provides an interesting scenario with Michigan and Stanford's current situation. I don't think anyone can predict the outcome of this one, so we'll have to wait and see what hat Wayne picks up on Saturday.
6'5", 330 lbs.
I put this on the board a few days ago, but Chris Bryant has decided to hold a press conference to announce his decision on January 21st.
Chris has always been very high on Michigan, and has been out to Ann Arbor a few times. The interesting scenario here is that Bryant is likely down to Michigan, Arizona, and Ohio State (if they offer). Stanford was also a school that Chris was very interested in, and he's aware of the potential coaching changes that could take place at Michigan. All of this could obviously change from now until January 21st, but I think Michigan is in strong position right now.
- The silent commits that I've alluded to are still intact. I know of two for now, and potentially a third soon. Some of them could decide to go elsewhere. They're still in place for now.
- If Michigan makes a coaching change, and makes it fast, there could be opportunity for that coach to bring in some of their recruits. Specifically Jim Harbaugh with his current commitments. I've spoken to a few Stanford commitments that are going to wait to see what happens, and make a decision from there. I've spoken to four, and only one has said he will stay with Stanford 100%.
- Early enrollee Greg Brown is in Ann Arbor, and ready to go.
- Again, all of this information could easily change in the next few days, so don't take it as 100%.
We're in the middle of a recruiting dead period, and about a month away from signing day. I thought I would give an update on who's left on the board, time frames for when specific recruits will make their decisions, and who will be visiting in the near future.
|Demetrius Hart||RB||FL||4 Star|
|Justice Hayes||RB||MI||4 Star|
|Brennen Beyer||DE||MI||4 Star|
|Blake Countess||CB||MD||4 Star|
|Dallas Crawford||CB||FL||3 Star|
|Jake Fisher||OL||MI||3 Star|
|Delonte Hollowell||CB||MI||3 Star|
|Kellen Jones||LB||TX||3 Star|
|Chris Rock||DE/DT||OH||3 Star|
|Greg Brown||DB||OH||3 Star|
|Jack Miller||OL||OH||3 Star|
|Desmond Morgan||LB||MI||3 Star|
|Tony Posada||OL||FL||3 Star|
|Matt Goudis||K||CA||2 Star|
That's 14 current commitments, and for argument sake we'll just assume that Michigan will take 20 in this class. Rich Rodriguez has recently said they will take anywhere from 18-20 commits, so we'll go with 20. Here's a look at the most likely recruits left at each position, up to this point. There could be some new names pop up, but this list seems pretty solid for now.
|Name||State||Decision Date||Rivals Ranking|
|Kris Frost||NC||Army All American Game (Jan 8th)||4 Star|
|Hakeem Flowers||SC||Either January or Signing Day. May still take visits.||3 Star|
|Devin Lucien||CA||Signing Day. Visiting Michigan January 7th||4 Star|
|Prince Holloway||FL||January 15th. Recently said he will commit to Michigan on his January 15th visit.||3 Star|
Frost is in this category because he will most likely get his chance to try wide receiver before potentially moving to linebacker. The situation for Michigan here is that they may just lead for all four of these receivers.
|Name||State||Decision Date||Rivals Ranking|
|Wayne Lyons (S)||FL||Army All American Game||4 Star|
|Raymon Taylor (ATH)||MI||Visiting January 7th. Decision after that.||4 Star|
|Sheldon Royster (S)||NJ||Visiting January 7th.||4 Star|
|James Richardson (CB)||TX||Deciding in January||3 Star|
|Roderick Ryles (S)||FL||Planning a visit, decision date unsure.||3 Star|
Again Michigan is in great position for most of these recruits.
|Name||State||Decision Date||Rivals Ranking|
|Jack Tabb||NJ||January||3 Star|
|Frank Clark||OH||Visiting January 7th, decision date unsure.||3 Star|
|Tanner McEvoy||NJ||Visiting January 7th, decision date unsure.||3 Star|
Tabb is thinking over his decision, and will be announcing sometime in early or mid January. The coaching situation had been factoring into his decision, and he was also hoping for an offer from Miami. He's not getting the Miami offer, so it will be between Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas.
|Name||State||Decision Date||Rivals Ranking|
|Chris Bryant||IL||January, or Signing Day||4 Star|
Bryant isn't sure if he wants to wait until signing day to make his decision, or just get it over with. He is waiting to see what happens with the coaches, but Michigan is likely to land Chris.
|Name||State||Decision Date||Rivals Ranking|
|Anthony Zettel (DE)||MI||Likely to decide in January.||4 Star|
|Darian Cooper (DT||MD||Visiting January 7th, likely to decide signing day.||4 Star|
|Max Issaka (DE)||NJ||May visit Michigan||3 Star|
|Deion Barnes (DE)||PA||Visiting January 7th, decision in mid-late January or signing day||4 Star|
As you can see, there are a lot of recruits left for only roughly 6 spots left. The good news is that there is a lot of quality left on the board. The recruits that are left and still have Michigan in the race are ranked highly, and more importantly could help Michigan in key areas.
The next visit weekend will be January 7th, and will be host to a good amount of prospects. Here's the list so far, and as usual will be updated as we get closer. These visits aren't set in stone, so they could change from now until the 7th.
- S Sheldon Royster - Michigan is in Royster's top four with North Carolina, Rutgers, and South Carolina
- DE Deion Barnes - Michigan is in Barne's top group with Penn State, South Carolina, and Georgia.
- WR Devin Lucien - Michigan is in a very favorable spot for Lucien. This visit could determine where he ends up.
- DT Darian Cooper - Cooper still lists Michigan in his top group, but definitely has concerns about the coaching situation. He should have some answers by this time.
- ATH Raymon Taylor - Recently offered by Michigan, and recently decommitted from Indiana I suspect that Michigan leads.
- TE Tanner McEvoy
- TE/LB Frank Clark - The Glenville prospect always speaks highly of Michigan, and is excited about the visit.
As we get closer and closer to signing day, Michigan nabbed two quality commitments this week in instate LB Desmond Morgan and Maryland DB Blake Countess. Michigan is currently at 13 commitments, which leaves anywhere between 5-7 more spots open. A few updates from this week, and a look at what could happen going forward:
6'1", 185 lbs.
I'm sure everyone has noticed that Roderick has an outstanding set of dreadlocks, always key in recruiting. Ryles was committed to Arkansas, but recently decommitted/had his offer pulled from the Razorbacks. He has opened up his recruitment, and Michigan will be part of the process.
I'm not with Arkansas anymore, so it's back open with everybody. I'm definitely interested in Michigan. I just talked to Coach Smith on Thursday (10/9).
Dr. Phillips just lost in the state championship game so Roderick will be focusing on recruiting going forward. He hasn't set up his visit date yet, but is looking to do that soon.
6'1", 275 lbs.
I'm not sure where it originated, but there was a rumor that Michigan was out of it for Darian Cooper. That's not entirely true. This was somewhat discussed in this thread earlier, and this is what Darian had to say about it.
Tony Dews came out on Thursday, and we talked about some things. I asked him about the coaching situation and he said that we'll know on January 1st. They're not out of it yet, I'm just concerned with what's going on with them because I had a friend go through that too.
While Michigan isn't out of it for Cooper, they are slightly behind the likes of Penn State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, and Michigan State. We won't know if Michigan is back in it until we know the fate of the coaching staff.
[Ed.: That's quite a statement from Dews, if second-hand. Not even a "we'll be back." Everybody limbo.]
6'4", 230 lbs.
Red Bank, New Jersey
Jack Tabb and recently offered Glenville prospect Frank Clark are the main tight ends on Michigan's board these days. Tabb has decided that he's ready to announce his decision after visiting Michigan, Arkansas, Iowa, and North Carolina.
I'm announcing either Wednesday or Thursday, I'll find out tomorrow. I'll have hats for Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Rutgers, and Iowa.
The coaching situation at Michigan has also been in Tabb's mind recently. He really liked his visit to Ann Arbor, but I wouldn't get your hopes up with him.
- Commit Demetrius Hart told reporters last night that he will officially visit Florida, and still plans on enrolling early wherever he decides to go. If Rich Rodriguez stays, then I think Dee will too. If Rich Rod goes, then so will Hart.
- Instate DB Raymon Taylor was offered by Michigan this week. He's a lifelong Michigan fan, and barring anything out of the ordinary there's a good chance he'll be a part of this class. Taylor is a Rivals four star who was committed to Indiana before their coaching change; the other sites have him a generic three-star.
- The Army All American game will be played on January 8th, and Michigan fans will have reason to watch. Michigan commits DB Blake Countess and RB Demetrius Hart will be in the game. The two prospects announcing their decisions during the game to keep an eye on are FL S Wayne Lyons and NC ATH Kris Frost.
- There's a dead period that starts today that will run through January 3rd. The next big recruiting visit weekend will be that following weekend of the 7th. We'll have more as it gets closer, but so far WR Devin Lucien, TE Frank Clark, DB Sheldon Royster, DB Dallas Crawford, and DE Deion Barnes are scheduled to be there.