Rarely have I been so happy for a Michigan player. After the last two years, Graham deserves every good thing that can possibly happen to him. I hope he learns how to fly.
(Also: can I take a moment to tout how useful UFRs have been in tracking Brandon Graham's impact? I was a little worried that BG was outperforming Woodley, but there he is in the top half of the first round after the NFL saw how unblockable he is.)
Denard-o. Gerry DiNardo has lost more football games than you've ever watched, but he's still on the television so people ascend to his yurt high up in the Indiana mountains to beseech him for his wisdom. Last year his wisdom was "Denard Robinson is going to start at quarterback," which is a strong indicator as to why he's lost more football games than you've ever watched. DiNardo single criterion for choosing a starting quarterback is "is it vaguely possible this kid was named after me?" By no other measure was Robinson a plausible starter in 2009.
"I think it has to be Denard Robinson," he said. "If you think about the way Rich Rodriguez became so successful at West Virginia it wasn't with a drop-back quarterback that threw 50 times, even though that approached worked for him some as an offensive coordinator. He wants to play the game that Denard plays, with a greater emphasis on the running attack than the passing attack. He wants to have that guy that can tuck the ball and make you miss even when the blocking isn't perfect, that can make you miss even if he misreads the read-option, and from everything I've seen, Denard Robinson is that guy.
"In college football nowadays, defenses, as much as they try to practice this, cannot tackle in space. From the earliest age, you're not coached to tackle one-on-one without help. The instruction is always about rallying to the ball and then for your defensive backs to use the sideline as their friend. But when you're stuck in a one-on-one situation, against an athlete like Denard Robinson, most of the time you're going to be left grasping for air.
"So when I see what he can do, and then I see what Forcier did last year - to me there is no comparison for where this offense wants to go."
I'm not sure he's right that Rodriguez is dedicated to running 75% of the time, but his other points are solid. The bit about defenses being unable to tackle in space could be the operational philosophy of Rodriguez's entire offensive system. Tate missed reads on the option plenty last year—most of the time, it seemed—and while he was slippery enough to evade lumbering defensive ends he wasn't fast enough to turn his frequent missed reads into anything more than a few yards. A prime example from the Illinois game:
It's possible Robinson can turn this into another couple yards, or even break something long (although probably not on this particular play). A quarterback who can get that extra couple yards is an extremely dangerous option. For all Forcier's flaws, he was an effective runner. If you cut out the copious sacks Michigan gave up last year (24 for 184 yards), he averaged 4.7 YPC. (This is slightly optimistic since Robinson probably took a couple sacks, so you may want to mentally adjust that to 4.5 or so.) A version of Denard Robinson that can run the zone read and throw well enough to keep linebackers honest will obliterate that.
Keeping the linebackers honest will take some doing, but the nice thing about being Denard Robinson is that when you go to play action, it's time to cheat like a mother for all but the best defenses. I don't think Ohio State is going to be particularly vulnerable to a raw sophomore like Robinson, but I also don't think Illinois or Purdue has much of a chance to stop him.
At the beginning of the tournament Gudbranson had the inside edge as the potential top defender to be selected this year, battling it out with Windsor's Cam Fowler, but the gap is closing. The play of Merrill, along with the struggles of the Gudbranson-led Canadian team, may have catapulted Merrill into that coveted position and certainly into the overall debate.
Coming into the tournament many even felt Forbort would likely be ranked and selected ahead of Merrill, and even though Forbort has looked strong, the abilities that Merrill has showcased so far during this tournament have pushed him ahead in the eyes of many scouting circles. Merrill is a tall and lanky player with a lot of room to build on his frame. He has tremendous speed and has extremely good intelligence with and around the puck. Merrill has been the kingpin of the US's powerplay and quarterbacks it tremendously well.
Merrill will jump into Michigan's top four on day one and I'm betting he'll be on the top powerplay and top pairing by midseason at the latest. He was also interviewed by McKeen's, and because he's going to play in college he was asked to justify his existence. He did so with aplomb:
I think a lot of guys make the argument that the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) is the most similar to the NHL in style of play, and you play a lot of games, and things like that, but you’ve got to look at it from my perspective. I’m 18 years old. If I went and played in the CHL, there’s 15 and 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, in the league. There’s top-end 18 and 19-year-old guys, too, but if you go to college, everyone’s older than you. I’m a freshman in a bigger, stronger, faster game, and you get up for every game, because you only play 35, 40 games, or whatever it is. Every game is a big game. Whereas in the CHL, you’re playing in Sudbury on a Tuesday night, and how do you get up for that, you know?
Tuesdays in Sudbury is a best-seller by Bizzaro Canadian Mitch Albom, but not a particularly attractive option compared to playing outdoors in front of one million people, give or take nine hundred thousand.
Nothing on Moffatt, unfortunately. He has just one assist for a rampant USA. The U18s are the last opportunity to put it out there for NHL scouts and he's not drawing a whole lot of notice. Hopefully he'll slide in comfortably—a mid-round NHL draft pick is usually a good player—but an instant impact is unlikely.
Side note: please don't read anything about Jack Campbell. It will make you sad.
General ticket sales began Wednesday, netting 14,700 purchases by 4 p.m., according to an athletic department spokesman. When added to the that seats have already been sold or committed to by season-ticket holders, former players and other groups, officials announced Wednesday that close to 80,000 tickets have already been sold.
"This has just taken off. You knew it would when you have something this special at the Big House - the first time ever, maybe the only time ever," Berenson said in a statement. " Everybody wants to be there. I think we'll be sold out before we know it. It'll be a tough ticket to buy."
With the original Cold War still the all-time hockey attendance record, the question at this point is not if this December's game will break it, but if the record shatters with enough force to match the destructive power of a bear dropping a bomb into a volcano.
You know what would be cool? If someone started a post on the MGoBoard about this? Maybe someone could be creative and argue that Denard is really fast and would be able to run at will, whereas Tate is a better fundamental quarterback. I, for one, think that this would be a novel and interesting topic for discussion.
I know it's been said over and over and might not merit my continual repetition but it's just so easy to root for this team. BG was the steed-bound herald of the Age of Impossible Kindness at Michigan. These dudes are just so overwhelmingly nice. I wish I could explain my feelings better, but I guess it's that simple. I really like the people associated with Michigan football.
It's been quite encouraging to read the reviews on Merrill. I can't wait to see him when I come up for the Big Chill. I just hope that Moffatt learns to use his teammates a bit more, because the kid is still talented as all hell.
On a down note, I've been hearing rumors that Nieves (2012 commit who's looking like a possible first-round NHL pick) is giving major consideration to the OHL because the NTDP decided to not extend an invitation to him for whatever reason. Also, his teammate Dalton Izyk, a goalie we've been targeting who is very good, will probably follow him there.
I hear something about/from Merrill, I think I like him more. 4 years, please.
If Nieves and Izyk do decide to go OHL, good luck to them, though I can tell you from experience that a Tuesday in Plymouth can't be much more exciting than a Tuesday in Sudbury (I've never been to Sudbury, mostly I just wanted to paraphrase that quotation). It'd be great to have them, but if not them, the staff will find someone else, they're good at that :-D We probably shouldn't have expected that a de-commit and someone leaving in the middle of the season make up for (hopefully) nobody else leaving anyways...
Glad Brian added that he agreed with his quote, because as I read it I though it was exactly right on all points. I don't think RR wants to run 75% of the time either, but 60% is about right. I'm not taking a position on the issue that is already over-discussed, because I want them both to play and don't care who starts as long as they're doing well. But in terms of the ideal offense that RR wants to run, all things being equal? IME he nailed it, regardless of his past positions. We had plenty of football knowledgeable, prominent members of this blog who predicted Denard would start by mid-last year as well.
"We can't overestimate the value of computers: yes they are great for playing games and forwarding funny emails, but real business is done on paper. Write that down."
Anyone have a link of the Brandon Graham goal line play last season when someone (I think Michigan State) tried to go over the top and Brandon Graham crushed him? I know they gave him the touchdown anyway, but I love that video.
As all readers of the "#1 Michigan site in the central asian steppe" are aware the yurt is favored by nomadic plains dwellers, because it is relatively easy to put them up and take them down.
Obviously former Coach DiNardo [who has a lot of experience leaving town one step ahead the pitchfork-and-torch crowd] has adapted this traditional portable dwelling to mountain life [perhaps there is a secret back way off of Mt. Indiana].