Periodically on this site and others like it someone will post with an update about how former Michigan players are doing in the NFL – such as the weekly feature over at Maize n Brew (LINK). For the most part, that NFL coverage has centered around the two GOAT guys from the 1990’s and a bunch of other players who are having modest seasons at this point…..plus Thomas Rawls (still shaking my head on that one).
Now that the football season is complete for our Wolverines, I wanted to take a look at the former Michigan players who are playing professional basketball instead. I’ve seen a post or two about this on MGoBlog in the past, but I wanted to take it a step further. I wanted to highlight not just the guys playing in the NBA, but elsewhere as well.
Below is a breakdown of all the former Michigan players (even those who transferred) that are still making their living by playing basketball. For more details, hit this LINK. Where I had something interesting to say I put a few bullet points. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts and memories in the comments. (Stats shown for each player are PPG/RPG/APG.)
NBA – "The Beilein bunch plus one"
- Trey Burke (PG, 2011-2012) – Still playing as the backup PG for the Jazz, which seems to be a role he will continue throughout what should be a solid if unspectacular career. The predictions about his size and athleticism seem to have been accurate, which means he needs to excel in other areas. Unfortunately his outside shot wasn’t very good his first two years and that limited his effectiveness. Things are looking up this year in his bench role as he’s shooting better than ever before at 42% from downtown so far through 18 games. [10.8/2.2/2.6]
- Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, 2010-2012) – The trade to Atlanta did not go well for him it seems. After being a significant contributor on some bad Knicks teams he’s buried on the bench in Atlanta, playing in just a handful of games this season. [2.5/1.3/0.5]
- Nik Stauskas (SG, 2012-2013) – Has the fate of playing on a horrific Sixers team, but is showing more upside this year than his limited time with the Kings. [8.4/2.4/1.9]
- Glenn Robinson III (SF, 2012-2013) – Has made a solid living with some guaranteed contracts despite very limited minutes played thus far in his career. He is with the Pacers now and seems to be earning about ten minutes per game as a back-up, which is a huge improvement for him. [5.0/1.5/0.3]
- Mitch McGary (C, 2012-2013) – Had hoped to parlay a strong summer season into more of a role this year, but continues to struggle with injuries and is buried in a deep front court. [1.5/1.5/0.3]
- Jamal Crawford (SG, 1999) – Often forgotten due to his short stint with Michigan, but has been the most successful NBA player to wear the Maize & Blue in decades outside of the Fab Five and the ’89 Champs. As his career is winding down he is still contributing as a sixth man for the Clippers. [13.3/1.9/2.3]
NBDL – "Waiting for their chance"
- Manny Harris (SG, 2007-2009) – Manny had a brief attempt at a European career but otherwise continues to give it a shot in the D-League with hopes of getting another chance to show he can be a Jamal Crawford type of spark off the bench. He can definitely fill a stat sheet. [23.4/6.8/4.1]
Foreign Leagues – "He’s still playing??"
- Graham Brown (C, 2002-2005) – Ricky Doyle’s doppelganger continues to play a meaningful role as an undersized center overseas. He’s currently playing in France and has put together a solid career. [4.5/3.5/0.6]
- Stu Douglas (SG, 2008-2011) – He has found his way to Israel and seems to be a regular contributor. [6.9/1.0/1.2]
- Jordan Morgan (PF, 2010-2013) – Morgan had enough valuable skills that he was going to make some money playing professionally if he was willing to travel. He’s having a solid season for a team in France’s B division. [8.0/6.1/1.1]
- Brent Petway (SF, 2003-2006) – Air Georgia never really translated his raw talent into success on the floor at Michigan, but he was always exciting. He seems to have grown as a player over the last decade as he’s currently playing in the Italian A-league…..and probably winning a dunk contest somewhere. [4.6/3.8/0.7]
- Courtney Sims (C, 2003-2006) – The frustrating but talented big man has taken his talents to Asia in the last few years and played well. He’s currently in Korea’s KBL. [15.3/10.0/0.6]
- Jevohn Shepherd (SF, 2005-2008) – He is without a doubt the most unlikely former player I found to have carved out a long pro career. He barely contributed while on some bad Michigan teams and yet here he is, all this time later, still playing professionally. He’s also in the A-league for Italy. This is a guy who averaged 2.5ppg in his four year Michigan career and attempted just 16 three point shots in that time. [5.0/2.7/1.1]
- Jordan Dumars (SF, 2009-2010) – The forgotten man when it comes to Michigan’s NBA offspring outreach program. Dumars was a walk-on briefly at UM before moving on elsewhere. He’s fmade a brief appearance in one professional game in Germany so far this season. [2.0/0.0/0.0]
Transfers – "We played there too!"
- Evan Smotrycz (PF, 2010-2011) – He spent two years at Michigan before leaving for Maryland. Things went south for him when he was forced to play out of position at center due to injuries. Things never worked out despite the fact that he seemed to be an ideal fit as a stretch4 for Beilein’s offense. He has played just one game overseas so far. [10/10/2]
- Ekpe Udoh (C, 2006-2007) – He lasted just one year after Beilein was hired before transferring to Baylor. I always wondered what the team would have been like had he stayed and provided a defensive presence in the middle. His stock took off while at Baylor, resulting in a solid draft pick. After a couple years in the league, he’s now in Turkey. [10.7/3.8/1.5]
Unknown - "Missing in Action?"
- Darius Morris (2009-2010) – He has played four years in the NBA but was cut during training camp this season and has yet to land somewhere that I could find. Other than his recent Twitter incident with Byron Scott there wasn’t much out there to be found. I suspect he’s waiting for a call from an NBA team for a 10-day contract to see if he can stick as a back-up PG.
- Deshawn Sims (2006-2009) – There was no information for him in the link at the top of this page, which implied that he wasn’t currently playing professionally. According to Wikipedia, however, he’s been playing in Lebanon on various teams for the past couple of years after a brief stint in the NBDL.
Is there anyone else you think I missed in my search? Let me know in the comments. If you would like to check out these players stats from their time at Michigan, use this LINK.
Finally, I would love for someone to do this for Hockey as well. That was beyond the scope of what I wanted to tackle here.
PS - Quick aside, I believe there are currently four former Michigan players in the MLB: Rich Hill (P), Ryan LaMarre (OF), Zach Putnam (P), and Clayton Richard (P).
Now that the basketball season that was full of ups and downs is over, we start to gaze toward next season. Prior to this season everyone expected the team to take at least a small step back with the departure of five rotation players, which only got worse with the loss of the two best players on the roster. But as expectations shifted, we were able to see younger players grow and now next season looks as promising as ever. There will be countless season wrap-up articles that talk about growth and potential, which is similar to what I’m going to do here. At first I was going to put together a list of which skill each player should work on for next year, but that seemed too boring and similar to a dozen other posts you will see here and elsewhere.
So I decided to take a different approach to make it a little more interesting. I created the acronym FMPHSWOYT – Former Michigan Player He Should Watch On YouTube. I tried to think of a player from Michigan’s past that would be a good role model for each of the current players to learn from this off-season. That was easy in some cases, not so easy in others. The idea is to point out some potential opportunities for improvement, remember stars of the past, and generate some fun discussion. I welcome any and all input…..especially since there is a surprising lack of YouTube clips easily found for former players that weren’t on the Fab Five or in the last five years.
Caris Levert (assuming he stays)
- FMPHSWOYT: Jalen Rose
- Clips: Fab Five Highlights
- Explanation: I am aiming high right off the bat as Jalen is one of Michigan’s most successful NBA performers in the last 30 years and an icon from the Fab Five. I thought a more recent player like Stauskas would be a good fit, but Nik was more of a ball screen player and Caris is an improviser. That’s what Jalen was as well and he was able to be both a set-up man as much as the alpha-male on the team who took control when needed. Jalen was skinny and able to play any of the wing or guard positions – and he was almost always the guy with the ball in his hands at the end of the shot clock, much like Levert. The point of this comparison isn’t to suggest that Caris can be Jalen – just that he should learn from some of his success on the court since they are similar players.
- Also Considered: Lester Abram, Nik Stauskas
- FMPHSWOYT: Trey Burke
- Clips: 2012-2013 Highlights, 2011-2012 Highlights
- Explanation: Again with the all-time great, but there’s a specific reason. As much as Burke was our best player in ages, he actually struggled at times as a freshman with running the ball screen offense in part due to his size. I think that was what we hoped to see Walton adjust to as a sophomore but he struggled in some of the similar ways that Burke did (height, explosiveness, inconsistent big men, etc.). Watching how Burke adapted and ran a masterful offense as he became a sophomore is what Walton should look at – with realistic expectations obviously being far short of POY results.
- Also Considered: Daniel Horton, Gary Grant, Demetrius Calip
- FMPHSWOYT: Jimmy King
- Clips: Fab Five Highlights
- Explanation: Jimmy’s role for at least his first three years was always to be an athletic defensive player who was always the 3rd or 4th option on offense who had a decent shot and decent ability to take the ball to the hole. Rahk should embrace his role as defensive stopper because it will ensure him minutes while his offense develops. If Levert leaves, Rahk’s role probably should expand even more – but watching King as a younger player can’t hurt since he would attack the rim, play tough D, and be an opportunistic shooter.
- Also Considered: Dion Harris, Stu Douglas
- FMPHSWOYT: Nik Stauskas
- Clips: 2014 Season Highlights
- Explanation: Everyone hoped that Irvin would progress in a similar fashion to Stauskas given their skill at shooting threes as freshmen, but Irvin was always on a longer development cycle given where he started and what was asked of him. As UMHoops showed last week, Irvin started to become a competent ball screen player who developed a pull-up jumper and even attacked the rim more. Next year he should get more help on offense from the development of the big guys and return of Walton (and perhaps Levert) so that Irvin isn’t the focus of the opponent and can exploit some match-ups. Stauskas developed those same skills when he became the man and overcame a loose dribble and increased usage – Irvin has already started showing that he’s doing the same.
- Also Considered: Tim Hardaway Jr.
- FMPHSWOYT: Glen Robinson III
- Clips: UMHoops Scouting Report (5-min mark summarizes things)
- Explanation: Dawkins was difficult to figure out because he had such a unique first year and came from no where. I picked GR3 because Dawkins needs to learn to exploit the back-cut for alley oop dunks and to take advantage of defenses overplaying him on the outside given his good shooting touch. He had his moments this year, but he never developed GR3’s skill for having 3-4 monster back-door plays per game. (Edit: I wrote this originally at the end of the regular season and then he went out with major dunks against Rutgers and Illinois. In fact, if you look at his overall stats since becoming a starter you can almost argue he’s passed GR3’s performance…..but we want MOAR DUNKS!)
- Also Considered: Bernard Robinson Jr.
- FMPHSWOYT: Lavell Blanchard
- Clips: Argentina game (21pts 7reb) (couldn't find any UM highlights)
- Explanation: Blanchard is one of my favorite players of all time and is probably right now trying to figure out how to gain some eligibility to play in a Beilein system. Both of these players are undersized and versatile PFs who came in with a lot of hype. Blanchard had a spectacular career during a down period of the program where he was able to rebound, shoot, pass, and throw in a few post moves. Kam is about the exact same size and would play a similar role. If he can emulate Lavell in any way then he will be a valuable player to this team.
- Also Considered: Jerod Ward, DeShawn Sims
- FMPHSWOYT: (....no clue....)
- Clips: n/a
- Explanation: I’m at a loss for this one. I thought about falling into the typical stereotype trap and picking Dugan Fife since he was a short, white, scrappy point guard who could shoot – but I think it is safe to say that Spike has already exceeded Dugan’s career peak and will never be the same type of defender. That then leaves some of the scoring point guards of years past like Burke, Horton, Grant. I guess maybe Rumeal Robinson will work since I’d love to see Spike nail clutch free throws to win a title of some sort.
- Also Considered: Rumeal Robinson, Michael Talley
- FMPHSWOYT: Zack Novak
- Clips: 2010-2011 Highlights, Dunk Contest
- Explanation: It is hard to say what we should expect from Robinson next year since it wouldn’t surprise me to see him start at the 3 or 4, be a microwave shooter off the bench, or get buried at the bottom of the rotation. I chose Novak because both players are undersized shooters with limited athleticism who could hit corner threes but were asked to do more. Novak used every tool and trick he could to out hustle and out work his opponent while playing the 3 and 4 despite being overmatched athletically throughout his career. If Robinson can emulate some of those tricks and hustle plays into his game then there will always be a place for him in the rotation.
- Also Considered: Zak Irvin, James Voskuil
- FMPHSWOYT: Maceo Baston
- Clips: EuroLeague Highlights (couldn’t find any UM highlights)
- Explanation: I would love to see Wilson be a true stretch PF for Beilein, but at this point I am firmly in the camp that believes he will be a center for the near future. The last few years have proven to us that we need three players in the rotation at the 5 so the role of Bielfeldt will likely fall to Wilson next year. Frankly, I like it because the idea of an athletic guy with long arms and leaping ability is a nice contrast to the earth-bound players we’ve become used to. Picture Wilson in the middle of a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone…..which is how I come up with Maceo Baston. Maceo was also a skinny 6’9” kid who ideally would have played PF but ended up playing center in college. He started as a guy who blocked shots and dunked, but morphed into a solid offensive player who had a long professional career overseas. I think Wilson should focus this off-season on his defense while leaning on his athleticism for what limited offense he can provide next year. Embrace that role as a freshman – which is what Maceo did his first couple of years.
- Also Considered: Epke Udoh, Courtney Sims, Chris Hunter
- FMPHSWOYT: Graham Brown
- Clips: 2006 Celebration vs MSU (no game action but is always fun to watch)
- Explanation: Maybe this is too “easy” since the two players have the same look and physique. Feel free to use Jordan Morgan here if you’d rather someone more recent. I picked Brown because he so quickly jumped to mind. He was not very athletic, not overly tall, and had limited offensive moves. His early years he was basically asked to clog the lane and grab some boards. But then he became a fan favorite for his work ethic and overall contributions. He was never a star but rounded into a very solid center as his career progressed. Watching him evolve and looking at all the small things and dirty work that he did would serve Doyle well, even though I was shocked at how modest Brown’s career stats were – maybe we can blame Amaker.
- Also Considered: Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary
- FMPHSWOYT: Josh Asselin
- Clips: Euro Highlights (couldn’t find any UM highlights)
- Explanation: It is no secret that Donnal struggled this year. When he was originally recruited there was talk of him being a stretch-4, not a center. He needs to get more physical and needs to figure out to leverage his shooting ability knowing he isn’t a low-block player. That sounds a lot like Asselin, who also started out very slow in his career. But Josh ended up becoming a very good player who could shoot from outside, learned a couple of post moves, improved his defense, and worked well in a ball-screen offense. Asselin was closer to seven feet than Donnal, but the way he grew into a strong player who had a long Euro career would be a great lesson to learn from.
- Also Considered: Chris Hunter
Next year is going to be a fun ride with as many as 11 viable contributors fighting for playing time.
One of the most common blog posts during the football season is to document the performance of former Michigan players in the NFL. You see this on Touch The Banner, Maize n Brew, and it is has been a prominent component in The Wolverine publication for years. I thought I’d try to do the same for basketball now that we actually have a couple of recent players featured in the league.
Now that Juwan Howard has moved on to coaching, there are only three former Michigan players in the NBA. Here are their profiles:
- Trey Burke (Jazz) – As Brian pointed out, he’s been a significant help to the Jazz who were woeful without him. He’s averaging 29 minutes per game with a slash line of 90/37/34. The 2-point percentage isn’t great, but when matched with his 4.9 APG he’s having a good start to his rookie year.
- Tim Hardaway (Knicks) – Hardaway is off to a solid start considering the number of wing players he’s competing with on the Knicks. He’s averaging 7.9 points and 1.1 rebounds with a slash line of 84/46/41 – pretty impressive outside shooting.
- Jamal Crawford (Clippers) – He’s been in the league for a long time now and really only played about a dozen games at Michigan, but we can still claim him as ours – right? His solid career continues with his 16ppg average and percentages of 81/43/36.
There actually is a fourth former player in the NBA that has often been forgotten as Beilein has built his program into a national power….Epke Udoh. It would have been interesting to see him stick it out here at Michigan instead of transferring to Baylor.
- Epke Udoh (Bucks) – Udoh has primarily been a role player but a solid one. He averages 26 minutes per game and contributes 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds on average.
I’ll even use that Udoh mention as a segway to another feature I’ll steal from. Over at TTB there is another favorite post of mine where Magnus highlights the performance of former Michigan players or recruits who ended up at other schools for one reason or another. There have been three recent transfers that still maintain college eligibility.
- Evan Smotrycz (Maryland) – He seems to have found a home on the future member of the conference, averaging a solid 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. In a loss to OSU earlier this season he had 15 points and 7 boards. He’s a solid player that fits Beilein’s offense really well – it is unfortunate that it didn’t work out for him at Michigan.
- Carlton Brundidge (Detroit) – Brundidge was always a bit of an enigma since he was not a true point guard but was somewhat stuck in a point guard’s body. He barely played at Michigan before being kicked off the team. At Detroit this season he’s averaging 25 minutes a game and contributing 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
- Colton Christian (Florida International?) – He supposedly transferred to FIU, but I can’t find any record of him ever showing up there.
At this point I’m not going to bother researching all of the former recruits who didn’t sign with Michigan. If you’re interested in that information, I suggest you browse the recruiting page over at UMHoops as there is a lot of interesting information there.
However, I will take a moment to highlight one recruit I really wish Beilein would have signed – Larry Nance Jr. He was being recruited by Michigan for the same roster spot that ended up going to Max Beilfeldt. Recruiting is a funny thing so it is hard to know what happened during the process, but I’ve often thought that he is perhaps the player I most wish had signed with this team. I like Max and think he’s a great guy to have on the end of your bench, but it sure seems like Nance would have been an ideal fit. Michigan has lacked a true power-forward for the past few years and that’s the position Nance plays at Wyoming. Having the ability to use him two years ago when Horford got hurt and only Morgan and Smotrycz existed over 6’6” tall would have been nice. Having him last year when Robinson was the only viable power forward would have been nice. He’s currently averaging 13 points and 9 boards as an athletic power forward. In case you suspect that has a lot to do with playing for Wyoming, I’ll mention his stat line from a game against Ohio (yes, THAT Ohio): 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks. I also have an irrational fondness of signing the sons of former NBA players as it often brings more mature talent and positive media attention. Building on the legacy program established with Hardaway, Robinson, Horford, and even Dumars seems like a good thing – doesn’t it?
Finally, I decided to expand this piece into another area. Last season I stumbled across a post at The Only Colors that discussed the performance of former MSU players who were playing in professional leagues overseas. (Sorry, can't find the link.) Since there are a surprising number of them still playing, I’ll wrap this up by using a chart instead of long-winded bullet points.
|Name||Years @ UM||Current Team (country)||PPG||FG% (2/3/FT)||Previous Countries|
|Josh Asselin||1998-2001||Assignia (Spain)||11.8||47/41/86||Ukraine, Dominican Republic|
|LaVell Blanchard||2000-2004||Liga Sudamericana (Ecuador)||18.3||52/29/81||Brazil, Finland, Bosnia, Ukraine|
|Graham Brown||2003-2006||Le Havre (France)||10.0||49/0/67||Belgium, Portugal|
|Brent Petway||2004-2007||Olympiacos (Greece)||7.6||72/50/63||France, Greece, Harlem Globetrotters|
|Dion Harris||2004-2007||Piratas (Columbia)||16.4||42/41/79||Venezuela, Germany, Cyprus, Syria|
|Courtney Sims||2004-2007||SK Knights (S. Korea)||7.9||62/0/81||Latvia, China, Belgium|
|Jevohn Shepherd||2006-2009||Omenga (Italy)||21.0||58/35/75||Germany, Holland, Canada|
|DeShawn Sims||2007-2010||Galil Gilboa (Israel)||12.0||38/27/71||S. Korea, Puerto Rico, Greece|
|Stu Douglas||2009-2012||Galil Gilboa (Israel)||8.2||62/24/84||Spain|
There were several other former players I found in the database that have played recently, but none of them seem to be currently playing. They are Maceo Baston (last played 2010-2011), Louis Bullock (2011-12), Daniel Horton (2011-12), Bernard Robinson (2012-13), Manny Harris (2012-13), and Zack Novak (2012-13).
You have to wonder how comfortable of a living these players make - clearly some of them have made it work for a long time. The name that jumps out from that table is Jevohn Shepherd. He struggled to contribute at Michigan and now averages over 20 points per game in a solid Italian league.
If you have other information about former players, share in the comments. I'd also suggest anyone with an interest do this same type of piece for Hockey or Baseball.
Now that the regular season has ended for football we can spend the next couple of weeks reflecting on the various decisions and outcomes. I’m sure smarter people than I will analyze coaching and schematic decisions. Instead, I’ll address another topic that comes up often on the blog: the subject of red-shirting players. This post will look at the freshman class in the context of which ones were able to redshirt and which ones weren’t. Then we can debate these outcomes with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
What makes this season so unusual was the significant number of close games. I suspect that after the first two wins over WMU and Notre Dame that the coaches were planning to give some young players some garbage time minutes against Akron and UConn to see if they would be viable rotation players later in the season. We all know how that turned out – with no other “blowout” wins the rest of the season except for Minnesota (how did that happen again?) and thus limited snaps for players who had seen garbage time minutes at the beginning of the season. You have to wonder how some players would have developed (Dymonte Thomas for example) had they been able to play more significant minutes early in the season.
Before we begin, let’s discuss the philosophy we’ll use when analyzing these players. You have no doubt heard Brian talk about the need to redshirt any player who isn’t an active member of the two deep. A classic example would be his man-crush – Dennis Norfleet. Instead of playing him a handful of snaps his entire freshman year, why not redshirt him and gain the benefit of a fifth season? In general I would agree with Brian’s philosophy – a healthy program redshirts as many players as possible, especially in the trenches. Wisconsin and Michigan State are good examples of this right now. However, I will cut the coaches some slack because I think Michigan is trying to build a program and dealing with limited upper classmen in the depth chart. If someone can help on special teams or with more practice time in the two-deep, we need them to play to make sure this coaching staff is in place when they are seniors (especially considering the recruiting success thus far under Hoke – more good players are on the way). Likewise, there are some recruits that may have a limited ceiling and may help the program the most in a limited role – picture Royce Jenkins-Stone – and getting them on the field for four years rather than five likely has a limited effect overall.
Now on to the 2013 freshman. I think we need a CHART. What you’ll see here is a list of the redshirts* and my assessment as to whether the correct decision was made by the coaches. Obviously the coaches know best and this is just one man's opinion of the redshirt status, but it should generate some interesting discussion in the comments.
|QB||Shane Morris||No||Necessary||Given that he played only one useless series against MSU and a single play when Gardner lost his helmet after the WMU game, it is tempting to say he should have redshirted. Unfortunately, the Bellamy injury made it necessary to develop him and he probably should have seen the field more to give Gardner a rest – we just couldn’t open up the lead enough. Tough call – he probably had to play.|
|RB||Derrick Green||No||Good||He got a fair number of carries and considering the struggles of the running game he probably should have gotten more.|
|RB||DeVeon Smith||No||Good||Given the promise he showed in limited carries and the struggles of the offense you can’t argue burning his redshirt, but you can argue they should have used him more. Prior to the Northwestern game I was advocating for him to have a mysterious back injury like Devin Gardner to reclaim his redshirt since he went weeks without seeing a carry. But in hindsight, he should have been given more carries, not a redshirt.|
|FB||Wyatt Shallman||Yes||Good||Given the depth at the position and his previous injuries, it was the right decision.|
|TE||Jake Butt||No||Good||Excellent decision as he was the only useful TE on the roster this year and should be a major contributor next season.|
|TE||Khalid Hill||Yes||Good||Considering how poorly the TE’s played for much of the season, it is tempting to have thrown him out there and see what you have. But remember that blocking was their issue and undersized freshmen are not going to be good at blocking…unless they come from Pahokee, FL.|
|WR||Da'Mario Jones||No||Poor||When your only notable play from the season is accidentally touching a muffed punt, a redshirt was probably warranted. If the coaches weren’t going to play him on offense but like his future, why not redshirt him?|
|WR||Jaron Dukes||Yes||Good||Hardly any young WR got significant snaps, wise to redshirt.|
|WR||Csont'e York||No||Questionable||Given that on paper neither Dukes or York project to be significant contributors with more heralded recruits at their position on the way, why not put one of them on special teams instead of Jones?|
|OL||Kyle Bosch||No||Questionable||When a guy starts multiple games you figure it was the correct decision to burn his redshirt. On top of that, this OL class had a full six members to it so splitting up their eligibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But given Bosch’s struggles and the fact that he ended up losing his job, you have to wonder if someone else (Kalis, Bryant, Miller, Braden, Bars) could have performed just as well.|
|Yes||Good||Had Kugler been healthy you have to wonder if he would have been the next man up in the revolving door that was the OL this season, but it was the right decision to keep all of these redshirts and hope for the best next season.|
|DL||Taco Charlton||No||Good||He made little impact, but he did end up a part of the rotation late in the season so it is hard to fault his playing time. Next season he should compete at WDE and SDE so the experience should help.|
|Yes||Good||Interior defensive linemen rarely contribute as freshman and you should try to keep their redshirts if at all possible (*cough* Will Campbell *cough*). Both could be in the rotation at positions of need next season and emulate the emergence of Willie Henry.|
|LB||Ben Gedeon||No||Good||When you have three viable LB in the rotation along with another playing significant snaps on special teams you would hope to redshirt a guy like Gedeon. But he was forced to play due to injury and actually did reasonably well.|
|LB||Mike McCray||Yes||Good||As a “tweener” linebacker with a lot of depth in front of him it was good to keep his redshirt.|
|No||Good||They had their struggles at times and you have to wonder if Hollowell could have emulated their performance, but you didn’t need to redshirt all of the freshmen. Their snaps were actually pretty high and they shared the “first DB off the bench” title this season. The two of them will compete for the nickel, safety, and dime positions next season.|
|Yes||Good||We had a glut of unheralded corners on the team this year so it was good to redshirt at least a couple of them.|
|DB||Dymonte Thomas||No||Good||He represents the biggest difference between expectation and performance of anyone in the class. That probably isn’t fair to him since our expectations were likely inflated, but it is a reality. The five star recruit was expected to be a major part of the rotation and instead barely played. He had an amazing blocked punt to start the season and then vanished until late when he struggled in a cameo at nickel back. His development next season will be very interesting as we desperately need help at safety, yet two of his classmates have passed him at nickel back and Peppers joins the squad in a similar capacity. Having his athleticism patrolling at free safety sounds intriguing, but he has a long way to go and lots of other DBs ahead of him on the depth chart.|
|DB||Delano Hill||No||Good||He was a constant presence on special teams and looks more like a linebacker than a safety out there…impressive for a freshman. Considering we need to find a starting safety for next season, getting game experience for a physically mature freshman isn’t a bad thing.|
|LS||Scott Sypniewski||Yes||Good||He’s a long snapper….|
If you look at the overall results, only D’Mario Jones jumps out as a major miss by the coaches. I would count Bosch, Morris, and York as questionable. Bosch and Morris were almost forced by the depth chart and injuries. York probably should have kept his redshirt, but his fifth year likely has limited value considering the incoming talent and depth at the position. That is a better result than I expected when I started this so I guess I have to applaud the coaches for their overall success in this area.
I wanted to end with my two-cents on Shane Morris. We can shake our fists at a variety of circumstances that prevented his redshirt this season, but let’s talk about next year. I’ve seen several comments on the board about trying to redshirt him next season. This is an interesting idea and has its upside. Certainly if Gardner plays 95% of the snaps next season you’d want to redshirt him and use Bellamy for emergency situations. But I don’t agree with that strategy. I think you need to take the opposite approach – Morris should play as much as the situation allows. Just to be clear, in no way am I advocating benching Gardner. What I’m actually suggesting is that the coaches should be trying to get Gardner out of the game more often to keep him healthy and get Morris snaps. We will need a starting quarterback in 2015 and getting real snaps can only help. Obviously we need to be able to get ahead to afford us the opportunity to pull Gardner, but I think they should also be more comfortable giving Gardner a series or two off so he can pick rib cartilage from his jersey.
Assuming Morris plays next season, he’ll have two years as a starter after Gardner leaves with Bellamy and Speight behind him. When Morris graduates you’ll have Speight as a junior ready to take over the spot and 2-3 more new recruits from 2015 and 2016 filling out the depth chart. The only scenario where I think redshirting Morris next season makes sense is if you think Bellamy is your second best QB and he is a legitimate contender to start in 2015. Otherwise I want Morris ready to step in right away if Gardner gets hurt or when he graduates.
* Note – There are a couple of players that I was a little unsure of so if you have conflicting information, post in the comments and I’ll update the chart.
(Note: I was just about to post this prior to Brian's post about the "fickle" fans. I actually think this relates very closely to that discussion and doesn't even bring the obvious financial impact into the debate.)
It probably won’t surprise any readers of this site when I say that I’ve had many a debate with fellow fans recently about the way this season has unfolded. One such recent debate with my brother centered around why everyone seems so frustrated and is writing off the OSU game entirely. His argument was that we never used to feel that way under Lloyd Carr – even though Carr had more seasons with 3 or more losses than he did with fewer than 3. The initial theories we debated for why we are so more negative this season were:
- In the information age it is easier to be an arm-chair coach with the advanced metrics, easy to obtain video, sites like MGoBlog, etc.
- We’re headed into year 7 of frustration and are just less patient than we were under Carr.
- Brian Cook is like the pied piper of negativity for his readership and we should all stare at videos of cats and feel better about ourselves instead of letting Brian corrupt our minds.
- Perhaps Carr wasn’t very good and “This Is Michigan” really means “We’re likely to have 3-4 losses and shouldn’t be surprised like we are right now."
That last point got me to thinking – why can’t I remember heading into an OSU game prior to Rich Rodriguez being hired where I felt there was zero chance of winning or that the season was a failure like I have so many times since then? John Cooper obviously helped that perception, but that wasn’t all of it. Why are we so bitter now but weren’t even in Carr years with 3 losses?
Prior to doing the research my hypothesis was that we stayed optimistic as fans because we ALWAYS played close games when Carr was coaching. No matter who we were playing, we had a chance. Our frustration with Carr at times was that he was so conservative that we played down to lesser opponents and that resulted in narrow victories or the occasional surprising upset. But no matter who we were playing, we felt we had a chance.
So I created a chart of Carr’s final decade of coaching. I only went back to 1997 since MGoBlue’s records only go back that far and this is the portion of his career where his reputation was built and what earned him a lifetime contract:
|1998||8-2||7-0||8-3||@ND (36-20), Syr (38-28), @OSU (31-16)||2|
|1999||8-2||5-2||9-2||@MSU (34-31), ILL (35-29)||0|
|2000||7-3||5-2||9-2||@UCLA (23-20), @Purdue (32-31), @NU (54-51)||0|
|2001||8-2||6-1||8-3||@Wash (23-18), @MSU (26-24), OSU (26-20)||0|
|2002||9-2||6-1||9-3||@ND (25-23), Iowa (34-9), @OSU (14-9)||1|
|2003||9-2||6-1||10-2||@ORE (31-27), @Iowa (30-27)||0|
|2004||9-1||7-0||9-2||@ND (28-20), @OSU (37-21)||1|
|2005||7-3||5-2||7-4||ND (17-10), @WI (23-20), MN (23-20), OSU (25-21)||0|
|2007||8-3||6-1||8-4||APSt (34-32), ORE (39-7), @WI (37-21), OSU (14-3)||3|
First, a comment on the chart: I admittedly ignored bowl games in this analysis. I did this because I’m measuring whether fans were still interested, happy, and optimistic leading up to the end of the regular season. Bowl games are a black mark on Carr’s resume, but that’s a separate discussion.
I think I’ve proven the hypothesis to be true. In the span of a decade Carr had only SEVEN games where we lost by more than 10 points. If you throw out his swan-song season of 2007 that number drops to an amazing FOUR. Think about that - in a full ten years we were blown out just four times! This includes trips to Oregon, UCLA, Washington, OSU, MSU, and Notre Dame just to name a few. In Brady Hoke’s three seasons we’ve had as many blowout losses as we had over a ten-year span during Carr’s career.
With Carr we may have had a couple of frustrating losses in a season, but we never entered a game knowing we had no realistic chance to win. THAT is what we’re longing for as fans and why this season feels so different when we look at the OSU game.
But there’s more!
While looking over that chart something else dawned on me that added to the conclusion. Look at the conference record heading into the OSU game. Not once did we enter the OSU game with more than two conference losses. Never!
If you go back to the previous statement that from 1997-2006 we had just four blowout losses you’ll see that two of those were following the national championship season. Yet immediately following those two losses we went on an 8-game winning streak and entered the game against OSU with a 7-0 conference record and chance for a title. So the one season in that period where we looked vulnerable still resulted in the OSU game having immense meaning and hope.
Not only did we compete in every game we played in, we almost always were still in contention for that conference title that Hoke talks about.
When Brady Hoke or any member of the fan base talk about getting back to what defined Michigan, this is what they mean. We were never the national juggernaut that Alabama has become – so dreams of undefeated regular seasons are probably misguided. But what we were for nearly Carr’s entire career (and that of Moeller and Bo before him) was a team that would compete in ANY GAME. We were a team that would get to the end of the season with something on the line more often than not and knew we could compete with OSU every year.
The reason we’re so frustrated and bitter this season is not just because we can’t win the conference title or are still bitter about RichRod – it is because we know we have no realistic chance of competing with OSU. Making matters even worse, we’ve already proven we have no realistic chance of beating our other main rival and get to watch MSU play for a title against OSU.
While I agree with Brian 100% on the financial aspect of the red jerseys we'll see in the stands Saturday, I also believe that if our team was capable of upsetting our undefeated rival the stands would be full of blue jerseys. Just as they were for all of those Carr seasons, despite knowing we weren't headed to the national championship game.