I'm in Turkmenistan. Seriously.
My name is Matan (Michigan '09) and I am a huge fan of MGoBlog. I am currently driving 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia in a beat up little car as part of a for-charity roadtrip.
A couple months ago (and two years ago), you posted a picture of the "Door to Hell" in Turkmenistan on the blog. We figured we'd put the Michigan flag on it and claim it for the MGoBlog community.
The second picture...well...when starring hell in the face, you might as well have some fun.
It's always nice when someone explains why we got that one hit from Turkmenistan. Papua New Guinea, you're next.
I am of the type that I really don't care about ANY info about the skill positions that is coming out of camp because it is pretty clear that this team will only go as far as the offensive line will take them. The chemistry issues on the team last season were well documented and some have been more specific and direct, that there were chemistry issues and a lack of cohesion on the O-Line. With that being said, is there any truth to this and may it be better for this team to have an entire O-Line with youth so that they collectively progress together?
That's a bit of a stretch. I'd think that having an older guy next to you who could explain why you screwed up would accelerate the learning process for the younger folk. Where that kind of thing might pay off is a year or two down the road; this year it's just going to add to struggles.
I've dismissed "chemistry issues" as they may apply to last year's line, but there's two kinds of assertion in that bucket and I'd like to disavow one but not the other. The one I think is pretty unlikely to have had a major impact: Taylor Lewan supposedly being a jerk. At worst this slowed the ability of younger linemen to progress, and probably not much.
However, if by "chemistry issues" you mean the offensive linemen not having a good idea of what the guy next to him is going to do, I very much buy that as an explanation for why Michigan couldn't get yard one on the ground. So what I can offer is this: if the line remains stable through the year and reps the same offense throughout they will get better as we go, and possibly much better. Their relative youth should mean they improve faster than older players.
Meanwhile, moving guys around is going to be less of an issue if Michigan does focus on inside zone as their base play. Positional responsibilities are a lot closer in zone offenses—nobody pulls, everybody frequently executes doubles that send one or the other OL to the LB level depending on what the player in front of you does.
Unfortunately they're probably going to start as a pile of suck. Judge them by what their pile looks like at the end of the year. Maybe it'll be okay!
[After THE JUMP: safety moves, a guy who is not taking this mailbag as seriously as he should, recruiting feels]
Moving guys to safety?
With what seems like great depth at the CB position (Countess, Taylor, Stribling, Lewis, Peppers, etc); do you think the coaches missed an opportunity for one of them to learn S in spring practice to try and get the best DBs on the field in the fall? What CBs are best suited to move to the safety position? Who would you look at moving?
Nah. I do think Michigan apparently turning down a consensus four star safety recruit last year was unwise, but as we saw last year with Courtney Avery, moving cornerbacks to safety is a dodgy business when they're of the short and quick variety. Safeties have to hit and tackle; they're different players. That goes double now that Michigan's cornerbacks are fiendish man press guys.
A couple of guys from Michigan's CB corps could play some safety, but only free safety in Michigan's new-look D. Dawson and Stribling could deputize for Wilson; they're awkward fits for the box-plunging strong safety. Well, almost all of them are awkward fits.
The one who isn't: Peppers, obviously. But they seem set on having him as their nickel, which makes sense since that is essentially a starting position in modern football, and then gradually easing him into the boundary corner job.
I would be more comfortable with another solid safety option, but they do have three guys competing for one spot and should be able to find someone acceptable there.
It seems as though Coach Hoke has been emphasizing toughness since he got here, but recent comments seem to indicate he is not yet satisfied with the level of toughness.
Are there better ways for Coach Hoke to execute on his emphasis of toughness?
Perhaps he could be more physical? It sounds as though the emphasis on toughness has been sufficiently verbalized. Or maybe he's not consistent enough with his emphasis on toughness. If Coach Hoke more consistently executed his emphasis on toughness in a more physical way, do you think we could rush for more than 3.3 yards per attempt in 2014?
I don't think you are taking this mailbag entirely seriously, Scott.
Recruiting: how are the feels?
Michigan went through a really rough stretch of negative recruiting news where they failed to sign any recruits and lost the two highest profile members of their class for next season. But over the last few weeks they've signed highly rated players at RB, WR, and TE along with a solid QB recruit.
Given the negativity you and many of your readers felt toward the program earlier in the year, how do you feel now about the recruiting status of the program?
Yeah, there was that period when Michigan suffered a couple of high profile decommits and it felt like the one bulletproof aspect of Hoke's tenure here might be falling apart under the weight of TFL after TFL. It was a bad time.
Then Hoke recovered rather spectacularly, sweeping the top three recruits in the state and picking off a couple of out-of-region commits from VA CB Garrett Taylor and CT TE Chris Clark, both top 100 talents. On Friday, NC DE Damien Roseboro is almost certainly going to join them as guys with no particular connection to Michigan who could have gone almost anywhere but landed in Ann Arbor.
Michigan is a bit fortunate that this class is a small one—it's always easier to find 15 guys instead of 25. Even so, to put up that unwatchable season and then have 8/9 non-kicker recruits be composite four-stars* after three high profile commits is extremely impressive. Hoke's recruiting is truly bulletproof, and that should be factored into any "can we fire this guy" discussion that may happen after the season.
*[Oddly, Alex Malzone is listed as a composite three-star by 247 despite having four stars on all four sites. I assume that's a glitch.]
Basketball recruiting feels?
First, the disclaimer - all hail John Beilein! Nearly everything he's done in the last three years has been golden and I have total faith in him as the leader of our program. With that being said, am I wrong in thinking that recruiting has been a bit of a disappointment lately?
Coming off the national championship run, a run-away conference title, two straight years as the top offense in the country, and five early entries into the NBA draft - wouldn't you think we'd be challenging for the top 30 players more consistently?
I know we get mentioned for some of them and Chatman is a highly rated player, but the last four players to sign with the program (MAAR, Dawkins, Teske, Robinson) are extremely low rated. I have already talked myself into their talents and think they will fit well into the depth of this team......but where is the star? Where is the next NBA prospect going to come from? How should we judge the state of recruiting moving forward with the big fish still in the sea?
I think you can feel a wee bit disappointed that Michigan didn't lock in a highly-rated guard in the 2014 or 2015 class, as Devin Booker, Luke Kennard, and James Blackmon amongst others escaped Michigan's clutches. Michigan had some bad luck there as various UK recruiting misses put Booker on their radar and sometimes you're just going to lose to Kentucky.
But they probably could have had Jalen Coleman if they didn't think Robinson was a player, and at this point if Michigan thinks someone's a player any reaction other than "if you say so, it is probably true" is irrational. Aubrey Dawkins already seems like he set to exceed expectations. Meanwhile, I wouldn't lump Teske in with the sleepers. He is likely to be a four-star kid most places as soon as the next round of rating updates.
Finally: look to 2016, young man. It takes time to get in with the big recruits from the start, and 2016 is a class where Michigan is not just after a couple of top guys who are fits but a half dozen: Winston, Thornton, Battle, Langford, Leaf, Murray, Goodin. If they do lock down the potentially monster 2016 class they could, all complaints will be silenced.