Each morning, before I get on the train to work, I load my Twitter feed to get the morning's news. What's "news" for me from Twitter is often about sports. The sport I follow the closest is college football, with college basketball likely in a second-place tie with the NFL. With the buildup to and conclusion of the O'Bannon trial, many of the posts in that feed have shifted from "Big Ten Preaseason Power Rankings" or "X Player Has Michigan as a Finalist" to the dissection and dessimation of the structure of the NCAA. My opinion on the issue falls in line with what I perceive is a growing majority (although this may be affected by who I get my content from): whether or not we know the way to fix it, the system is broken, unfair, and difficult to legally and ethically justify.
But this diary is not a position statement on the merits of arguments that players should be paid or allowed to unionize. I start with the premise that the NCAA is broken and amateurism is a term used to maintain and justify a status quo in an operation that has become decidedly professional. I don't think Mark Emmert or Dave Brandon should get to have their wages determined in a free market (or set them themselves) and line their pockets while the kids driving revenue don't get that same opportunity. I don't think the backs of 18 year old kids, often from modest or even poor and dangerous upbringings are the places to yolk money carts for old white guys in suits. If you disagree with me, that's fine, but that's where I am coming from.
What I struggle with today, as the moorings and girters of the NCAA model stand to topple like dominos in Federal court (whether from O'Bannon's, Kessler's, or some other suit - I would argue radical change is almost certaint, and likely pretty imminent), is the role I play in this scheme. I open up an article from Grantland, EDSBS, or this site and nod my head in agreement when the writers eviscerate college administrators and the ludicrous arguments the NCAA has trotted out in defense of its system. Minutes later, I read a breakdown of 17 year old receiver who runs X 40 time with X high school stats committing to Michigan and pump my fist in excitement. I think it's borderline criminal that Denard Robinson and Trey Burke didn't see a nickel of their jersey sales, and yet I own both. I malign outrageous budgets for bowl committees and athletic deparments, then happily hand over my credit card for a game ticket or a $90 sweatshirt.
I think the best description of my feelings for Michigan Football, in particular, is a religion. I wrote this thing and called Michigan Stadium a cathedral, after all. I continue to love and believe in what Michigan Football and Basketball stand for. I attach my love to the stories of Brock Mealer and Quintin Washington, to hope there's a first time Austin Hatch takes the court for Michigan, and to John Beilein sitting by himself late into the night at the NBA Draft waiting for Jordan Morgan to get drafted. But for every virtue I celebrate, lately I cannot escape all of the system's vices. For every Denard Robinson success story, there is a Tate Forcier tale - without a full story I can't judge how much he is to blame for his transfer, regardless, I think it's pretty sad that Tate Forcier doesn't have one red cent to show for the brief period of time when tens of millions of people knew his name and were entertained by him. And there's plenty of kids with stories much sadder than his
I wrote this with the suspicion that others may feel similarly, and I truly wonder how to rationalize this dichotomy. I am excited for the feverish analysis and sense of possibility that fall camp will soon bring while I bemoan that former players deal with untreated medical problems or few job prospects because they were "tutored" through a bullshit major to keep them eligible. How am I not a hypocrite? Is this not my fault, too?
[Ed-S: bumping this to diaries. I wonder who the Diarist of the Week will be...]
After picture paging a play from the spring game in which James Ross makes one of his several TFLs on the day, I was trying to think of his best comparison. Forgive me for going outside Michigan lore, but I think he compares decently well to Sean Spence, or at least has the potential to in the future. For those unfamiliar, Spence is an outside linebacker from Miami(FL) who was selected in the 3rd round, #86 overall by the Steelers in the 2012 draft. In full disclosure, I'm a Miami grad, (currently at Michigan and don't worry, Michigan always comes first) so that's where my knowledge of Spence's career comes from. It is also likely the reason why I was able to quickly connect the two's similarities. Anyways, here's the meat of why I think they're similar:
Recruiting and Measurables
Both were 4-star outside linebackers, but Ross may have been a little more impressive. Spence's offer list looks lacking, made up of Rutgers and North Carolina types, but he committed early enough to explain that away. Spence was part of the famous 2008 Miami Northwestern High ("national championship" high school team) of which Miami pulled basically their entire number one class that year, most of which turned out on the bench or became an interception machine (Jacory Harris), but I digress.
Spence was listed as 6'0 and a tiny 186 lbs (!!!), whereas Ross was listed as 6'0, 209. Spence ended up coming in at 5'11", 231 lbs at the Combine, and I wouldn't be surprised if Biggs was trying to sneak in an inch or two. Ross is listed on the latest roster at 6'1", 223. I think around 230-235 is reasonable to expect Ross to end up at, although if he actually is north of 6', he could end up a few pounds larger.
Strengths and Weaknesses
If it wasn't obvious yet, one of the reasons I think this comparison works is because they both could be classified as under-sized. Ross may outgrow that moniker, but for now, it's appopriate. Additionally, they're both quick, smart, instinctual linebackers who can bring the wood, despite their size. Dan Gibbs can vouch for Ross. Here's a few snippets of Spence's draft profile from NFL.com; tell me it doesn't sound familiar.
He was a four-year starter at Miami, and although undersized he makes up for this deficiency through speed, instincts and overall athletic ability
He can quickly diagnose a play and use his explosive hips to meet running backs and deliver the blow.
Spence is undersized and needs to play free of big blockers on him to be productive. He can flow to plays but "rides the pole" and falls off tackles at times.
I'll confess, but I don't know what "rides the pole" means in a football context, so maybe Ross can be free of that weakness. I'd assume it's a bad habit of making initial contact and stopping his feet, but that's just my guess.
Spence played in every game as a true freshman, and only didn't see the field a handful of times in his career - due to injury and a pesky little Nevin Shapiro related suspension. Happy that Ross won't have that on his resume. Spence made a name for himself with a couple plays in a loss to Tebow in Gainesville his freshman year, and eventually became the leader of Miami's defense. He played some at the MIKE his senior year due to injuries and the graduation of Tennessee Titan starter Colin McCarthy. He ended up a Butkis semifinalist and earned All ACC honors (har har har ACC, but still) before graduating and heading for the NFL.
This started out as a focus on a great play that James Ross made en route to 8 tackles and several TFL in less than a full games snaps. Safe to say this kid might be pretty good. Anyways, it somewhat evolved into realizing that however talented and large our interior offensive line may be, they're still developing and gelling this spring. Usual caveats apply, I am not a football coach, just an educated fan and former high school player - let me know if you disagree with any assesments.
Link, thanks to mgovideo, one of the biggest free perks for Michigan fans. Play starts at 1:11
Michigan comes out in what Al Borges would probably draw on the first page of his autobiography: offset I with a tight end (the size of a small tackle) and a full back with his hand on the ground. All that's missing is Funchess lined up next to Lewan with Jake Butt in motion and this would turn into what Al Borges probably dreams about at night. The tight camera angle doesn't show the wide receiver personnel or formation, but I'd bet it's some combo of Gallon/Darboh/Jackson/Chesson based on my memory. Lewan appears to be trying to make a check of some kind, but that's just my hope based on the breakdown that happens on the interior. It was not uncommon for him to make line calls last year apparently, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's still encouraged to do so, if not moreso.
The defense, meanwhile is lined up in basically its base 4-3 under, with Beyer and Ross only slightly outside of their normal positions. Ojemudia is offsides, too. Get onsides there, terminator eyes. Your D-lineman are Ojemudia, Willie Henry (who played a lot), Pipkins and Godin (I think).
As the ball is snapped, it's apparent why James Ross was a half a yard closer to the line of scrimmage than Desmond Morgan - he was real excited about his A-gap blitz. Coach Mattison probably was too. We already see that Kalis is pulling: he's opened up his hips well and his first step is directly for the spot Devin Gardner is vacating. Everyone save Kalis and Williams will down block. Kerridge is headed for Godin. Notice that Miller has his sights set on double teaming Henry despite James Ross and his reckless abandon for the A gap. I think this is the first breakdown, and Miller ends up being a non-factor when he probably could have picked up Ross and turned this into a gain. I think he could be good, this is just a growing pain of a young center in the spring.
As Devin reverse pivots and prepares to hand off to Drake Johnson, most of the offensive lineman have done their road grating jobs. Lewan has joined Braden on Pipkins, and Peewee doesn't have a shot against the All-American and his young giant friend. AJ williams has left Ojemudia for Willie Henry and Schofield is prepared to help see him off. Miller, in hopes of sealing off the back side, has now taken himself completely out of the play as I mentioned. Desmond Morgan has read run as well, but I think he heads for the wrong gap. James Ross is already going to be in Kalis' hip-pocket shortly - that's his guard read anyways. Guard pulls, you run right through where he left straight to the ball carrier. Meanwhile, Morgan should be scraping playside as fast as possible until he sees daylight and or Drake Johnson with the ball.
Kalis has his sights for Brennan Beyer. Schofield has Henry sealed and Williams has left him to chip Ojemudia and keep ole laser eyes away from flying down the line. Ross continues his plan to arrive early for his scheduled meeting with Johnson.
Kerridge has stalemated Godin, Kalis is headed upfield ready to for either Beyer, a hypothetical Desmond Morgan or a safety. But, James Ross is not only deadly, but apparently silent. Kalis needs his head on a swivel here - I have a feeling he got a little excited for 5 yards of momentum and a one-one matchup in the open field. Then again, he thinks the backside should have been handled. Anyways, at this point it's pretty clear to Drake Johnson that things are not going to end positively. Could Braden have left Pipkins earlier and found Ross? Possibly, but I'm pretty sure his job is to donkey the guy who is head up on him until there can be no more donkeying and then find someone else.
Drake Johnson, I have a Mr. James Ross here to see you. Again we see Morgan could've taken a better angle, and if Ross were picked up, there is a lane and a freight train named Kyle Kalis headed downfield.
Two yard loss.
P.S. Devin please calm down when celebrating and wrap yourself in bubble wrap.
Yes, I have an addiction. Yes, it's March. Some choose to build tiny wooden ships in bottles, I intricately break down defensive lineman technique from spring practice videos frame by frame.
Here's the set-up, Pipkins vs. early enrollee Kyle Bosch and a running back who I don't even bother identifying because Pipkins plays this so well that it doesn't matter what the running back does. Besides, his job is to just pick a side and hit it hard.
Here, Pipkins has a pretty good stance, wide base, on the balls of his feet, athletic posture and good knee bend. Low for a big man - that small human he shed this offseason seems to have helped with that some.
Right after the snap, Pipkins has fired of his left foot and is already bringing his hands, preparing to make contact with Bosch. At first glance he appears to come out a little high, but as we'll see, his hands, strength and quick feet help him overcome that. The ideal first step (my understanding) is to be quick, low to the ground, forceful and almost a jab - generate force but reset to be able to drive off again.
As he makes contact with Bosch, Pipkins has already driven off his right foot as well, generating more power and force into Bosch. His hands have shot inside very quickly and, as we'll see, will allow him to control Bosch.
Here, Pipkins has reset both feet and will again drive through them to push Bosch back. They're pretty much at the line of scrimmage - Bosch has not fired off the ball nor has he moved his feet, except laterally. I think he should be drive blocking here, but I could be mistaken. Maybe his job is just to seal off Pipkins. Regardless, the young buck won't win this battle. Bosch has his hands in pretty poor position, as Pipkins has him basically by the collar and Bosch would need to hold to really have his left hand be any use to him at this point.
This time as Pipkins generates more power into Bosch with his legs, he clearly has leverage. Just compare the angles of their bodies to the ground - Pipkins is firing out and up, Bosch is sitting back down onto his heels. His feet are again driving for power, and as we'll see in a second, he's about to explode upward with his feet and hips, while also extending his arms and pressing Bosch away from him.
He's pushing off the ground hard enough that both feet are (minorly) airborn. His hands are extended, they're even with his eyes. Ideally they will end up above his eyes when he extends, but this a strong punch he delivers. Keep in mind this has all happened in a few split seconds as we are just now seeing the ballcarrier enter the frame.
Here, Pipkins has his left arm free with his right fully controlling Bosch, further pushing him back on his heels. The running back has already decided to go left, so that's where Pipkins will meet him with great haste.
Contact is made with the ballcarrier at about the line of scrimmage, as Bosch is finally leaving his heels. He's also managed to grab a little cloth with his lefth and, proving that Pipkins hands were far better on this occasion. I'll give him credit for trying to finish the block and driving through Pipkins, but it's already over.
Tackle made - 1 yard gain.
Here's the video of the whole thing, starts at about 2:28.
If you start a second before you can see how much taller Devin is than Gallon which is both awesome and depressing at the same time. Let me know if you see any mistakes or glaring oversights or crap I just made up.
So, I'm sure everyone has seen the sign that OSU has in their football building comparing the majors of Michigan and OSU football players. The list seemed awfully small and incomplete to me, so I decided to look into the numbers myself. I got my info from the Sugar Bowl Media Guide and from OSU's 2011-2012 Football Information Guide (strangely enough, OSU's website listed no media guide from their losing effort to John Brantley in the Gator Bowl). You'll be unsurprised to learn that "Baseball America rated [Joe Bauserman] as having the best changeup in the Pirates' farm system." I would've thought it was his knuckeball, but changeup is pretty hilarious too. You really can't make this stuff up.
|Major||# of players|
|Afro-American and African Studies||4|
|Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science||2|
|Arab, Armenian, Persian, Turkish and Islamic Studies||1|
|Business Administration - Ross School of Business||1|
|Cellular and Molecular Biology||1|
|Master of Social Work||1|
|Masters of Accounting - Ross School of Business||1|
|Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering||1|
|Physics and Mathematics||1|
I didn't break up Kinesiology School students, but if I did it'd be a split of about 65/35 between Sport Management and Movement Science, with maybe one Physical Education thrown in.
|Major||# of players|
|Sport and Leisure Studies||7|
|Family Resource Management||7|
|Management and Industry||4|
|Construction Systems Management||1|
|Fisheries and Wildlife Management||1|
|Middle Childhood Education||1|
|Real Estate and Urban Analysis||1|
A couple of notes. First, the hilariously named "exploring" is apparently not a major but a way for undeclared kids to take a survey of a variety of courses. Sounds eerily similar to a General Studies major, doesn't it? Second, Joe Bauserman is your Fisheries and Wildlife Mangement major. Third, "famiy resource management" isn't as much of a joke as it sounds like, appearing to be basically a watered-down finance or financial planning degree that tells you how not to lose all the money, cars and tattoos that you accrue.
I was going to make this a diary (and still might) and try to add to the discussion started by Ramzy's take, but I've got stuff to do. All I'll say for now is that I'm pretty sure the reason you don't see more business or engineering students on Michigan's roster is the incredibly difficult admissions standards of those schools.
This weekend, I took a trip to Happy Valley. Yes, your read that right. Why, you ask? This had been planned for months as a good time to visit a friend in grad school there on a Michigan away game week, that conveniently matched up two good teams that should've been talking about a rematch from their last contest and the possible budding of a new rivalry. My ticket was purchased, my friend expected me, so I went. I'll delve a little into the awkwardness of everything but mostly wanted to give an in person preview of what Michigan can expect when Nebraska comes to Ann Arbor in a few days.
The tailgating to start the day was more than slightly subdued. Sure, they still had beer, brats and music, but it did not feel like a matchup between two ranked teams vying for a possible path to the inaugural B1G Championship game. Appropriately so given the awful tragedies that had taken place. How much was out of respect for the kids and how much was the fact that they missed JoePa is up for debate, but I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and lean towards the former. Those of you that watched the game on TV likely saw the pregame honoring of the victims, which was done quite well. When the teams met at midfield to pray, you could faintly hear the man speaking at the 50 from 20 rows up around the 5 yard line. It was that silent. Small groups of people tried to start chants but were appropriately shushed. The crowd eventually got impatient and started a slow clap, which was not really disprespectful but did somewhat dampen an otherwise nice moment. As the game started, there was cheering from the student section, but it all felt quite hollow, as it should have. Late in the game it got as loud as I assume Beaver Stadium normally gets, but only for a brief period of time. Overall, the weirdest and most awkward game I've been to by a longshot. Downright eery. Anyways, on to football things.
Taylor Martinez - boy oh boy is it tough to watch him throw. But you already knew that. What perhaps you didn't know is that every throw he makes is a frozen rope about 6 feet off the ground. And this is not a good thing for him. It appears that his chicken wing delivery doesn't afford him the ability to put any touch on his throws. If I were the coaching staff, I would put a tremendous amount of emphasis on the D line getting their hands up. Having not watched a ton of their offense this year, I was suprised to see how often they went to the air early. It appears that their game plan was to try to relax Penn State's stout defense, then run the ball late. They stuck with the passing game despite its ineffectiveness for quite a long time.
Rex Burkhead - Quick as hell and incredibly frustrating to try to stop. They frequently will line up in the I and have Burkhead and Martinez switch places. Burkhead is such an effective runner and Martinez such a terrible passer that it sometimes feels like they should do this permanently. He's a decisive runner with solid vision and decent power who always seems to fall forward. They've got a power runner whose name escapes me that they used in goal line. He's effective.
The punter - Yea, the punter. He's the third player I'm talking about. The punter. He's that good. He's like the space emperor. He can coffin corner better than anyone I've seen in a long time and he'll bomb it as well. Someone nearby asked what the name for the punter of the year award in college football was and suggested it be renamed after the Nebraska punter.
Nebraska's corners - they're good. It's hard to tell how much of Penn State's ineffectiveness passing was due to McGloin - or, as he's known, "The Scranton Slinger", and how much was due to the corners, but I felt like receivers were consistently well-covered. Penn State doesn't have world beaters, but Moye is a solid receiver and I often watched him get locked down. Obviously everyone knows about Alphonso Dennard, and he was as advertised. The rest of the secondary was also great, though.
I had more to say, but my memory escapes me on a few of my mental game notes. Overall, Nebraska definitely seems beatable. They execute the triple option damn well, and can eventually burn you with it, but their offense feels like a middle of the road B1G one, and I think the statistics bear that out. Their defense is meh, but the secondary does worry me. An ability to lock down several receivers with man coverage could pose problems. This will definitely be a game where I'd like to see a lot of 4 wide with zone running. Getting into an Ace formation and the like and running play action pass probably won't fly as they'll be able to both confidently load the box and shut down whoever is on the outside.