Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
Michigan moved one step closer to a monopoly on the top-ranked in-state 2017 recruits when four-star St. Joseph DE Corey Malone-Hatcher announced his commitment to the Wolverines this afternoon. He chose Michigan over a group of finalists that included such luminaries as Alabama, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and UCLA.
Michigan's recruitment of Malone-Hatcher dates back to his freshman year, and he's held an offer since his sophomore season. He is Michigan's 13th commit in the 2017 class and the first at defensive end; he's expected to be joined by top-100 WDE Luiji Vilain when Vilain makes his announcement on June 12th.
4*, #24 DE,
|4*, #13 SDE||
4*, 80, #20 DE,
4*, 92, #12 WDE,
4*, #16 WDE,
Malone-Hatcher's rankings are in a close grouping, with 247 more bullish than the field and Rivals as a relative skeptic—CMH is the final four-star in their SDE rankings. His rankings are all the more impressive when accounting for the fact that Malone-Hatcher has missed large portions of the last two seasons due to injury.
All four sites list Malone-Hatcher at 6'3" with weights ranging from 225 (Scout) to 246 (Rivals and 247); he's on the higher end of that range at this point. He's destined to play with his hand in the dirt, most likely as a weakside end who might eventually grow to play on the strongside, though he has spent some of his high school career at linebacker.
Scout's free evaluation provides a solid overview. Other than Malone-Hatcher's injury issues—most recently, an ankle issue that required surgery last fall—there's little not to like:
Great pass rusher who can dip his shoulders, bend the corner and get around offensive tackle. Agile kid who does a good job with his hands as well. Closes on quarterbacks quickly and has improved on his ability in coverage but can continue to work in that department. Main concern are a couple of injuries the last few years, but when he's been on the field, he's made an impact.
- Backside Pursuit
- Pass Rushing Skills
- Techniques and Moves
Areas to Improve
- Injury History
Malone-Hatcher first earned notice from the recruiting sites in the spring of 2014, when he named an underclassman to watch at the RCS Detroit, NFTC Chicago, and Sound Mind Sound Body camps. His performance at Michigan's technique camp that June went a long way towards him earning an offer, and Tim Sullivan could already see improvement in his game over the span of a couple months:
St. Joseph's (Mich.) 2017 Corey Malone-Hatcher is one of the state's top rising sophomores. He's already improved since his April appearance at the Rivals Camp Series in Detroit, and the 6-3, 210-pounder is adding a variety of techniques to his natural abilities.
Video from that camp includes multiple one-on-one wins for CMH against 2016 five-star Notre Dame signee Liam Eichenberg:
Malone-Hatcher hit the camp circuit hard again in 2015, earning praise from Josh Helmholdt for his versatility at the RCS Cleveland camp:
Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, Malone-Hatcher ended up getting reps at both defensive end and linebacker on Sunday. He did remarkably well running with tight ends and running backs in the one-on-one session and recorded a couple pass breakups. Defensive end still looks like the likely position for him in college, though. Malone-Hatcher showcased a great first step and built speed to the quarterback despite adding 15-20 pounds since his sophomore season ended. He's still mastering the finer points of the position, but the raw physical tools that have attracted coaches were certainly on display.
That May, he posted SPARQ combine numbers that were among the better marks for 2017 defensive linemen:
Will be fun to watch 2017 DL Corey Malone-Hatcher develop into a big-time player.
101.88 Nike Football Rating
— Todd Huber (@ToddHuberSS) May 4, 2015
Despite battling through injury—a recurring theme—he was the only 2017 prospect among the six defensive standouts at Notre Dame's Irish Invasion camp according to the Irish247 staff:
Saint Joseph (Mich.) High Top247 2017 defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher played standout outside linebacker during drills and was a blur coming off the edge despite being banged up. With his size and quickness, offensive tackles had a tough time getting a hand on the Midwest standout.
In August, heading into his junior year, 247 moved him into their top 150 overall prospects on the strength of his spring and summer performances. Since then, Malone-Hatcher hasn't had much of a chance to push his way further up the rankings due to the ankle injury, which cut his senior season short after only a few games but made his camp play all the more impressive in retrospect:
"He took a few weeks off to recover [after the initially injury]," his father Orlando Malone said, "but the injury resurfaced at Rivals camp. He was able to play through it, but it impacted his explosiveness. The injury came back even stronger at the NIKE camp in Chicago. The issue kept surfacing whenever he would try to explode off his leg and accelerate. Even though Corey had good camp showings at Michigan and Notre Dame, he still had to shut down early due to pain. After that, we cancelled camp visits to MSU, Alabama, and Ohio State to get him healthy.
"Once we got into the season, Corey was playing five positions (WR, TE, FB/H-Back, DE, and LB) including special teams. He was having a great year on both sides of the ball as his athleticism still showed through. In his last game, Corey exited and didn't return. This time we decided to consult a specialist about the injury."
That foot specialist told Orlando that his son had been essentially playing on one leg since March.
ESPN's evaluation, which appears to have been updated for his junior year—there's also a prior underclassman eval—praises his "good-to-excellent size," strength that hasn't fully translated to his play yet, and overall physical attributes while noting the need for technique improvement; they're waiting on him to settle on a position:
Malone-Hatcher moves around and plays multiple positions for his team. He needs to settle in and find his best fit and develop in that area, which we feel is on the defensive line. Plays linebacker and while he has more limitations in that role, can still certainly offer some versatility in how utilized within the front-seven. There is room to improve and that should come as he narrows down his positional focus, but good versatile, active defender with some upside.
There's a lot of hedging throughout that report, but the underclassman eval had a more positive bent ("Regardless of where he lines up is a very good defensive prospect") and they rank him within their top 300.
Malone-Hatcher holds offers from Alabama, Cincinnati, Columbia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin. A very impressive list, especially considering his injury history.
According to the Rivals database, which dates back to 2002, Malone-Hatcher will be the first Power 5 signee to come out of St. Joseph High School. The only other prospect from the school to even be ranked by Rivals is three-star 2015 Western Michigan signee Wesley French.
I couldn't find complete stats for him.
FAKE 40 TIME
Malone-Hatcher has a combine-verified 40 time of 5.10 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs out of five.
Training and camp highlights from 2015:
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With both starting defensive ends (Wormley and Charlton) set to depart after the 2016 season, Malone-Hatcher could get the opportunity to play as a freshman—as of now, none of the other DEs on the roster have proven themselves on the field. It's more likely CMH will take a redshirt year before competing with Lawrence Marshall, Chase Winovich, Reuben Jones, Ron Johnson, Carlo Kemp, and Shelton Johnson for a place on the two-deep.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Malone-Hatcher is the first of what should be four defensive ends to join the class, and we have a very good idea who the second will be: Michigan is far and away the favorite for Luiji Vilain, and they're also in great position for three-star OH SDE James Hudson.
As for how in-state recruiting is shaking out, I'll leave this here:
Not bad, I guess.
Michigan is up to 13 commits in a class that should reach the upper 20s. Positions of need going forward include wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety. Here's the class as it currently stands:
FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T PAID ATTENTION IN A YEAR OR TWO
If you're just joining us after the World Cup, hoo boy. The US has alternated impressive friendly victories over world powers with dismal performances against the likes of Jamaica and Guatemala in competitive matchups. The US had its worst-ever Gold Cup, limping through the group stage and getting bashed out of the competition by the Reggae Boys in the semi, then losing in the third-place match. Since then the USA has careened wildly from one thing to another; they're now in slight danger of missing out on the World Cup after a first-ever loss to the aforementioned Guatemalans.
Even Aussies writing for the Guardian have noticed:
Jurgen Klinsmann is …
… an average coach whose motivational abilities can’t disguise his tactical shortcomings. JW
… stretched too thin. The technical director of US soccer keeps interfering with the head coach in trying out new personnel to bring through, with a perpetual eye on a distant event horizon. The coach is unable to settle on a side with all this going on, and should maybe take that up with the technical director, but the technical director … etc etc. GP
… still unsure of his best team and tactics and surely ripe for replacement if the Copa is a catastrophe. TD
… relying on new blood. Pulisic, Brooks, Nagbe and Wood have excited in recent matches. Will they finally fulfill Klinsmann’s promise of proactive soccer? DM
… always a motivator, never a tactician. Klinsmann’s Achilles heel is that he doesn’t have a plan B. LME
For Michigan fans the parallels to Brady Hoke are many. Good recruiter; tactically deficient, in over his head, tends to clap a lot.
Some good things have occurred. Klinsmann was ahead of the curve on both Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, and did call up Darlington Nagbe the instant he was eligible. (Starting him seems to be a bridge too far at the moment.) Along with the aforementioned three, the emergence of Deandre Yedlin as a legit EPL right back and John Brooks's continued development give the USA a player pool that is at least on par with the best they've ever had—even without Jozy Altidore, who will miss the tournament with another hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a light at the end of a long dark tactical tunnel. But first…
A BRIEF RANT ABOUT AVAILABLE TALENT
If any eurosnob you come across attempts to defend Klinsmann by trashing the USA's current talent level, please stab them. The USA got out of a World Cup group in 2010 with a striker corps of Altidore, Robbie Findlay, Edson Bubble, and Herculez Gomez. Fringe EPL defender Jay DeMerit, Belgian-league star Oguchi Onyewu, and either Jonathan Bornstein or an out-of-position Carlos Bocanegra were most of the defense. Ricardo Clark and Maurice Edu split time in the midfield; neither of those guys ever made it in a top league. (Edu did have a good run at Rangers.)
This USA team figures to feature:
- More or less the same goalies, Bradley, and Dempsey
- Two regular Bundesliga starters (Johnson, Brooks) and a guy just signed by Hamburg after scoring 17 in the German second flight(Wood)
- Two regular EPL starters (Cameron, Yedlin)
- A regular for Nantes (Bedoya)
- A former Schalke captain (Jones)
- aaaand Gyasi Zardes
Off the bench they'll bring Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe instead of one the aforementioned strikers and Edu/Clark. Maybe the talent isn't better, but for it not to be the dropoff from Landon Donovan to Not Landon Donovan would have to be stunning.
Anyone who tries to tell you the USA doesn't have the talent to get out of this group or not get massively outshot at the Gold Cup last summer is the kind of soccer hipster who should be deported.
AT LONG LAST, A PLAN
The USMNT's long-standing lack of commitment to any approach, lineup, or even center-back pairing finally appeared to resolve itself into a formation and even a starting 11 over the past few friendlies. It looks like the US is set to deploy a 4-3-3 close to this:
This more or less makes sense. Without Altidore the US does not have a traditional burly center forward. They do have a couple of fast buggers and one ornery Texan with a nose for goal and sweet moves. The 4-3-3 accommodates these gents.
A lot of commenters hate Dempsey as a "lone forward" up top, including MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle. His desired formation inserts Wood up top and has Dempsey as a highly nominal right winger.* Doyle is an excellent analyst who I agree with most of the time, but not here. While Dempsey is without question the USA's most skilled and dangerous attacker, he's never been an industrious player. Now that he's into his 30s, expecting him to cover on defense is foolhardy. Putting him (again, nominally) up top allows him to marshal his energy reserves and allows a much more spry player to provide cover when the game demands it. Zardes, for all his flaws, runs his ass off to support on D.
Dempsey's best as a striker when the US is out of possession. When the US gets the ball his natural tendency to drop deep provides center backs with a dilemma: allow Dempsey time and space to turn in or near the final third, or challenge him and hope the space you're leaving doesn't bite your ass. Bolivia chose the latter and gave up chance after chance, including the opening goal:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 29, 2016
In fancy talk this is Dempsey operating as a "false nine." (Fancy people will refer to the lead striker as the 9.) Dempsey facilitated several dangerous opportunities by playing like this; in addition to the goal you can catch him playing Wood in at around 1:30 on US Soccer's highlights of the game.
Dempsey is well suited to this kind of play. He's crafty, he's skilled with the ball at his feet, opponents are generally wary about getting too close because he has the ability to smoke 'em. This makes sense. Maybe. Probably.
We don't know it makes sense because Klinsmann has spent every friendly he's had on something that is not this. Whether the US can sustain this in a competitive match against a good opponent is unknown. Whether Klinsmann will even stick with this setup is unknown. He has rumbled about going with Beckerman when opponents deploy an attacking midfielder, ominously.
But still, I'll take something that looks like it makes sense, and might remain the same for a few danged games consecutively.
*[You may have heard me describe a 4-3 under in football as a defense halfway between the 3-4 and the under's 4-3 predecessor, the 4-3 even. Positional designations in soccer are far less rigid but the same principle applies here: a 4-3-3 often turns into a system that is a hybrid between one- and two-striker systems. If Dempsey is deployed on the "right wing" he is going to function like a slightly right-biased underneath striker.]
Michigan's best offensive recruit of 2011 entered the program as a walk-on. [Barron]
It's that time of the offseason when I go back through the recruiting profiles for the class that just finished its five-year cycle, which brings us to...
Oh no. Ohhhhhhhh no. It's the 2011 hybrid RichRod/Hoke class, an underwhelming group at the time—ranked 26th in the composite—that didn't come close to living up to expectations. I promise this exercise will be less painful next year. Until then, let this serve as a painful reminder of how far the program has come in the last couple years.
This post on the offense will be mercifully short, at least; there were only seven scholarship players on that side of the ball in the class, and two didn't make it through their first fall camp.
Forcier Comparison = Accuracy
Michigan snake-oiled three-star dual-threat quarterback Russell Bellomy from Purdue shortly before signing day. By the time Brian got around to writing up Bellomy's profile, Shane Morris had already committed to the 2013 class, while Devin Gardner was waiting in the wings behind Denard Robinson. Bellomy's profile didn't exactly scream "future starter" regardless of the competition:
So what have they won? A developmental prospect. Bellomy's a bit like Justice Hayes in that he seems like a better fit for the offense Michigan just dumped. That might not be a big deal long term—unlike Hayes, Michigan actually got interested in Bellomy after the transition—but Bellomy is not Chad Henne. He's described as an "efficient spread offense QB" and completed only 58% of his passes on a run-heavy team. He rarely broke the 20 attempt barrier. Opposing coaches($) say stuff like "he was much more effective in the pocket than we expected" and "you have to respect his passing ability as well." He needs work.
Bellomy's YMRMFSPA was "pick a Forcier" due to his mobility and reputation as a "riverboat gambler." The comparison worked in that Bellomy flamed out of the program. You know the story well: Bellomy entered the 2012 Nebraska game over Devin Gardner, then moonlighting at receiver, when Denard Robinson hurt his elbow, had a disastrous three-interception performance, and never saw meaningful time again. He transferred to UT-San Antonio for his senior season, attempted ten passes as their backup quarterback, and left the program only a month into the 2015 season.
[Hit THE JUMP for, well, more pain.]
Dan Murphy at Bo's grave. A memorial day thing:
The cemetery groundskeepers say that during most weeks there are a few maize and blue trinkets at the foot of Schembechler's grave, but traffic really picks up in football season. On a spring day this year, there were a pile of pennies, a few Canadian dollar coins, a bell, a blue foam football, a couple of rusty "Beat Ohio State" buttons and an egg keeping Bo company. No one is quite sure what the deal is with the egg, but the best guess is that Bo often liked to jab at his guys by calling them "ham-and-eggers" when they weren't being as productive as they should be.
Women's College World Series on deck. A dramatic comeback win in game two of softball's super-regional sends them to Oklahoma City, with #1 seed Florida watching on TV. Michigan gets the late game Thursday (9:30 PM) against LSU; Alabama and Oklahoma are the other half of their bracket. All games are on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Meanwhile Brendan Quinn profiles Carol Hutchins:
Carol came along in 1957 and immediately raised hell. In fifth grade, playing with matches, she set a field behind the family home on fire. Two fire engines arrived to douse the flames. The Lansing fire chief pulled young Hutchins aside to let her know: "You're lucky you didn't burn down the entire southside of Lansing."
When her father arrived home in his blue trooper uniform, Carol ran up and said, "I have to tell you something: I burnt down the field."
She was grounded.
Even more satellite kerfuffle. SEC meetings are happening so there are more opportunities to ask southern college coaches about the scourge of satellite camps. They still don't like them. The reasons they offer are still a blend of hilarious and infuriating. Nick Saban is the latest, and he followed the script:
"I don't know how much it benefits anybody because all the people that say this is creating opportunities for kids, this is all about recruiting," Saban said. "That's what it's about. Anybody that tells you that. What's amazing to me is somebody didn't stand up and say here's going to be the unintended consequences of what you all are doing."
Again with the SEC's insistence that going around and scouting football players is—gasp—part of a recruiting strategy, again with the yammering about unintended consequences. This is a conference that managed to set off a firestorm of recriminations because their two-sentence rule change unintentionally screwed over small schools nationwide. Now they are complaining because something that was legal remaining legal will have unintended consequences.
A second talking point the SEC keeps hammering is about the influence of "third parties":
"All you're doing is allowing all these other people that we spend all of our time at the NCAA saying, you can't recruit through a third party. You can't be involved with third-party people and that's exactly what you're doing ...
Then hand met podium.
" ... creating all these third parties that are going to get involved with the prospects and all that. And who gets exposed on that? I go to a camp and I'm talking to some guy I don't know from Adam's house cat and he's representing some kid because he put the camp on, and then I'm in trouble for talking to this guy? And who even knows if the guy paid to go to the camp."
Not only is this amazing chutzpah from the League of Extraordinary Bagmen, this argument wants us to believe that allowing college coaches to go to camps and directly interact with players is going to increase the influence of middlemen. Because someone has to give those kids a ride…? I guess?
Harbaugh, as is his wont, ended the internet again with a tweet.
"Amazing" to me- Alabama broke NCAA rules & now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly "amazing."
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) June 1, 2016
That is the other thing: Alabama is the worst possible cow to have moo about compliance issues. Saban has pushed the envelope for years himself. There's a bump rule named after him. When he was recruiting a couple of five-stars from Dr. Phillips in Orlando he coincidentally had Alabama's bowl practices at that high school, mirroring Michigan's trip to IMG this spring. His huge pile of medical hardships forced the conference to start reviewing all hardship requests. The program itself has been the target of investigation after investigation dating back to the Stone Age. Nobody in the state of Alabama has ever—everrrrrrrr—shown any indication that they give one tenth of a crap about compliance except insofar as sanctions are a drag on wins.
On the one hand, this is knee-slapping stuff. On the other, the construction of vapid arguments that a segment of partisans will lap up veers way too close to politics for comfort. Nonsense delivered in the cynical pursuit of power is best left to trivial things like the nuclear codes.
And all this over what? Over nothing.
“I think that’s probably the unique thing and I can say after observing Harbaugh last year, the vast majority of kids at this camp are probably not Division 1 football players or aren’t likely to make it there. But I thought every one of those kids got the same attention and the same direction from the Michigan coaching staff whether they really showed that potential or not.
"They all walked out of here thinking that was a pretty worthwhile camp and left an awfully nice taste in their mouth about the University of Michigan."
One of these things is not like the other. PFF has a reason for hope for each Big Ten team, many of which are items like "Cornerback Jalen Myrick may be a better player than 2015’s NFL departees" for Minnesota or "The aerial attack is intact" for… uh… Nebraska. Rutgers's reason for hope is a return specialist.
Michigan, on the other hand:
Michigan: The Wolverines could be fielding a historically great defense in 2016
That would be okay. In our ongoing quest to get a read on every player in the PFF database I believe this is the first time they've mentioned where Ryan Glasgow ended up in their system a year ago:
Returning on the defensive line are three of the top 16-graded interior players (Chris Wormley, Maurice Hurst and Glasgow), and DE Taco Charlton, who in 2015 had the highest pass rush productivity of all defensive ends coming back this year.
They've talked a ton about Wormley and Hurst already so I'm guessing Glasgow is their #16 interior DL from last year. At this point I think we've seen or deduced their opinion on every starter from last year save Jeremy Clark.
This is a bad idea. Signing Day is at the right time. It is after the yearly coaching carousel has concluded, giving players and coaches a month or two to find appropriate landing spots after the chaos of December. Allowing players to sign before that will inevitably lead to many more instances where player and school are a poor fit. And yet there seems to be a push to do that very thing:
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has long been an advocate for a rather radical change to the process of signing recruits to letters of intent –eliminating signing periods and instead allowing prospects to sign at any point when they’ve decided they’re ready to end the recruiting process.
Johnson said at the ACC meetings in early May that he thought that the option was gaining in popularity. He may have known what Division I football oversight committee chairman Bob Bowlsby acknowledged in an interview with the AJC last week – that the committee is looking into it.
“I think a case can be made for that,” Bowlsby said. He called it a “large departure from where we’ve been in the past. Maybe it’s time for consideration of that."
The reasons offered up here are somewhat compelling—being able to sign right away resolves questions about how "committable" an offer is and how solid a commitment is—but the downside outweighs them considerably. Whenever this comes up I suggest a more flexible model:
- Commits can sign a non-binding LOI at any time before Signing Day
- The school has to offer a full LOI when the time comes.
- School and prospect have unlimited contact and can arrange an additional official visit.
- Prospect cannot take an official to another school.
- Other coaches cannot contact prospect.
- Prospect can withdraw LOI at any time.
That goes a good distance towards resolving the issues Johnson's proposal resolves without locking players into situations that can change radically by the time they're on campus.
Etc.: Baseball was left out of the tournament after a late slide. MGoFish looks at what's next. Saban also proposed a commissioner, which is never happening. Verne Lundquist to step down as SEC game of the week guy after this year. CFB is losing their best announcers at a disappointing rate. Popular opinion is that Baylor won't get the Penn State treatment from the NCAA.
It's Defensive End Season, Apparently
Corey Malone-Hatcher (left) announces his decision Thursday. [Fuller]
The next couple weeks should be quite eventful for Michigan on the recruiting trail after a couple top defensive end targets set their decision dates.
Top-100 VA WDE Luiji Vilain has been considered a heavy Michigan lean since his visit a couple weeks ago, and he told 247's Steve Wiltfong his mind is "made up" heading into his announcement on June 12th. Vilain will choose between Michigan, USC, and Virginia Tech; all signs indicate he'll choose the Wolverines.
The prospect of Michigan starting to fill its open spots at defensive end is probably what prompted four-star St. Joseph WDE Corey Malone-Hatcher to set his decision for Thursday afternoon.
Top schools: I will be announcing my commitment on Thursday @ 3:30pm at SJHS. Thanks to all that recruited me pic.twitter.com/E6SA0k59Du
— corey malone-hatcher (@CMH2017) May 31, 2016
While Malone-Hatcher still has ten schools in play, his Crystal Ball reads 100% for Michigan; like with Vilain, it'd be a huge surprise if he went elsewhere.
Michigan has also made a move for three-star OH SDE James Hudson, who decommitted from Kentucky just before visiting campus two weekends ago, and he picked up an offer on the trip. After speaking with multiple sources familiar with Hudson's recruitment, 247's Steve Lorenz put in a Crystal Ball pick for Michigan, and in doing so he clarified M's outlook at DE:
The Wolverines appear to be in great shape with four-stars Corey Malone-Hatcher and Luiji Vilain, both of whom are expected to make a college decision in the very near future. An eventual addition from Hudson would give Don Brown a trio of defensive ends to work with in the 2017 cycle. We would expect Michigan to take at least one more at the position in 2017 after that.
None of these potential commitments would preclude the others from joining the class. The trio of Vilain, Malone-Hatcher, and Hudson would be a great haul at defensive end, and Michigan would still have space to pursue the likes of DJ Johnson and Deron Irving-Bey to round out the group.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
An irregular series in which I fix all of a sport's problems. Previously: hockey.
10. Use goal line technology. The imposition on the flow of the game is minimal and there is no reason to not have it. Whether or not a goal is scored is kind of a big deal in a sport that sees 3 or 4 a game.
9. Offsides is reviewable on goals. Again, this disrupts the 90-minute-flow that soccer and only soccer has. But since the game is getting broken up anyway—at least slightly—a quick peek at whether an offsides was or was not accurate is worth it as long as they adopt the NFL's hard limit on time available to make a decision. If it's not obvious in 30 seconds the call is close enough.
8. Stop the clock when people are injured. Ideally soccer would dump the whole stoppage time concept and have a clock that actually reflects what time it is. Every other sport manages this. In lieu of a total overhaul which is not coming, soccer games should borrow a concept from college soccer and allow the ref to cease the inexorable march of time with an X symbol over his head.
The X is deployed when the game is stopped because a player is down. Right now the perception amongst players is that falling over when nursing a late lead helps you win, so it happens all the time. Erase that perception and second half time-wasting gets 50% more tolerable.
7. Yellow cards for being Pepe. In the Champions League Final, Real Madrid defender Pepe twice rolled around like he'd been shot after light taps to his face. These should be cardable events. I will also accept a firing squad.
6. Dump Financial Fair Play and replace it with… I don't know. FFP, if you don't know, is an attempt to prevent a rich owner buying a Chelsea or Manchester City and making them very good by spending a lot of money. Because teams are allowed to spend what they make it tends to set the current power structure in concrete, Leicester notwithstanding. Also it does not work for the same reasons that NCAA amateurism rules, and prohibition more generally, don't work. There is always someone smart enough to cheese the rules. Like… yep, Leicester.*
I have no idea what to do with it in its place. Ideally the euro soccer structure would change so that a Leicester City event was more of a one-in-ten-year event instead of one in a hundred, but I struggle to come up with something that would work. Even Germany—which has the most even revenue distribution and rules against club ownership by individuals—has seen Bayern win four straight titles and 12 since 1998.
The predictability of euro soccer is the main reason I can't be bothered to care about any of it. I have the choice of picking the Yankees or the Lions, and no thanks to either. But without radically reshaping it into a socialist American-style thing*, which isn't happening, there appears to be no solution other than buying a little defensive midfielder from Ligue 2.
*[The cheesing Leicester managed was not enough to get them anywhere near the giants in the EPL and should not color anyone's perceptions of the magnitude of their accomplishment. The fact that there's a Guardian expose on the fact that Man Who Owns Soccer Team Spends Money On It that includes the phrase "Leicester City’s dash to an unlikely Premier League title is billed as football’s most romantic story in a generation but" is so very NCAA and demonstrates why FFP is destined to fail.]
**[The irony here is vast, yes.]
5. Allow refs some discretion on PKs. Right now a lot of fouls in the box don't get called because the punishment for them is outlandishly severe. Also some harmless situations get punished in an outlandishly severe way. If a ref spots a foul in the box that doesn't disrupt an imminent scoring chance he should be allowed to call for a free kick at the spot.
4. Free kicks resulting from fouls that draw yellow cards should be more dangerous. Defenders should not be allowed to line up in the penalty box on the resulting free kick unless they are level with or behind the ball*. That's not as severe as a penalty kick, but it's a lot more severe than it currently is and would adequately punish teams that specialize in those canny fouls just outside of PK territory.
*[IE, they can still defend the opposition on FKs that are more or less corners.]
3. No shootouts in finals. I don't care what you have to do to prevent them. Anything vaguely resembling the actual sport that's going on is far superior to the current system, in which all of a sudden a darts competition breaks out after 120 minutes. The only person who likes that is Steve Lorenz. I grudgingly accept that maybe you have to have shootouts for early stages in competitions because winning the equivalent of a triple OT hockey game is going to destroy your fitness for the next game. Finals should end with someone scoring a goal.
There are various ways to approach the problem but I think the simplest and best is to remove the goalies after 30 minutes of extra time and play sudden death. Is that 100% soccer? No. But it's at least 50% instead of 0%.
2. All throw ins must have a totally rad flip before them. I mean.
This one is obvious.
1. Teams have the option of putting a guy on field with skates. Offsides does not apply to him. Goals he scores count double. It works for any sport!
Some of the best uniforms in college football
In the BCS era, only five programs from the non-automatic bid conferences made it into a big bowl game – Utah and TCU each made it twice and are now in Power 5 conferences, Boise State also played in two BCS (and one New Year’s Six) games and usually is one of the best mid-major teams, and NIU, with one BCS bowl appearance, has won its division in the MAC seven straight times. And then there’s Hawaii. After Greg McMackin left the program amid controversy relating to a homophobic slur McMackin used in an interview, Hawaii hired Norm Chow, who proceeded to go a combined 10-36 from 2012 until most of the way through 2015 – he was fired before the season ended by a new athletic director.
Hawaii reached its apex with that undefeated regular season and Sugar Bowl appearance* back in 2007, but the Rainbow Warriors have largely struggled since and are on their third crack at replacing June Jones, who left after that year to coach SMU. That 2007 team was amazing (and has a really well-detailed Wikipedia page, which is something I’m sure Michigan fans can appreciate): UH didn’t play the toughest schedule, but they won six(!) one-score games en route to a 12-win season behind Colt Brennan and Jones’s wide-open Run-and-Shoot offense. Unfortunately, Hawaii is far removed from those days, which seem like a distant memory.
Of course, the recent losing amplifies the underlying existential uncertainty that seems to follow Hawaii around. Their football program was rescued by the Mountain West after the WAC fell apart, but supposedly the unique (mostly financial) challenges of college football’s most remote outpost generate an undercurrent of rumors about the solvency of the program. There haven’t been any indications that the Rainbow Warriors won’t be playing football in the future, though attendance issues and extreme travel costs are cause for concern. Since the program has been around since five decades before Hawaii became a state, it seems unlikely that the program would ever be forced to drop down a division or quit football entirely – but I guess you never know.
*Georgia destroyed them, but still.
[After the JUMP, the scoop on UH]
Ambassador Long Already At Work
Jim Harbaugh called David Long a potential ambassador for the program, and that appears to be coming to fruition already. Five-star CA CB Darnay Holmes hasn't been mentioned much around here, but that's about to change, per 247's Steve Lorenz:
“Michigan is for sure moving up in things," Holmes told Huskers Illustrated analyst Mike Schaefer over the weekend. “Coach Jim Harbaugh is building a monster up there. My best friend David Long is going up there in June. Dylan Crawford is up there. A lot of California guys go up there. That shows Ann Arbor isn’t a bad place to go."
There are a few promising things to note here. Holmes plans to take an official visit to Ann Arbor in the fall. Long is quoted in the article saying Holmes is "like a blood brother," and he's been talking to both Holmes and his father about Michigan. Perhaps most tellingly, Holmes talked up Michigan to a Nebraska reporter.
Lorenz added a report today that provides a new layer of intrigue. Yesterday, Jim Harbaugh contacted Desean Holmes, Darnay's cousin and a 2015 four-star receiver who didn't enroll at San Diego State for personal reasons. Desean could visit soon, and if he winds up at Michigan, Lorenz "strongly believe[s]" that would move Michigan up Darnay's list. Desean could fill a major 2017 need with Chesson and Darboh outgoing and help deliver a five-star corner. Sounds good to me.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
I’ve been mulling this over for a bit and I don’t know it makes for a mailbag question, a separate post or even just a “here are some helpful links Dana” reply but here goes;
How would you guys explain (REALLY explain) college hockey to someone new to the sport? I’m not a complete layman, I follow the team through MGoBlog and even spent a couple summers at Red Berenson camp years ago, but when it comes to Michigan athletics it’s definitely Football, Basketball and Hockey in that order that I follow.
So again, how would you guys explain college hockey to a layman or someone who wanted to know more;
- Conference makeup and where the power in college hockey lies (who is the SEC of hockey, etc) -
- RPI (convenient way to rank all 60 teams or nah?)
- Recruiting (where do US College Hockey players come from I guess…did I mention I’m Canadian?)
Time to break out some bigger headers.
Penn State blew it up, but it needed to blow up [Bill Rapai]
College hockey is a bifurcated sport with two main areas of interest: the East, which consists mostly of New England and the occasional Pennsylvania team, and the West, which is concentrated in Minnesota and Michigan with scattered outposts in Nebraska, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. There are also a couple of Alaska teams funded largely by the state's desire to have local sports of any variety and two weird outliers: Arizona State just started a program, and Alabama-Huntsville has one for… reasons.
The East is more or less static with some minor movement. From top to bottom:
- Hockey East contains almost all of the big state schools in New England plus various private institutions that fit in for historical reasons. BU and BC are the perennial powers with a rotating cast of other teams who are good enough to make the tournament. UNH and Maine used to be powers but have fallen off a bunch recently. ND joined up and is quickly departing because HE is kind of perfect.
- The ECAC is about half Ivy League schools and half academically respectable schools in upstate New York and environs. Historically they've been a weak league with one bid more often than not, but in recent years surges from Union, Quinnipiac, Yale, and Harvard have seen them lock down high seeds in the national tournament and even a couple of national titles. Sustainability of this surge is in question.
- Atlantic Hockey is a one-bid league that does not offer the full scholarship complement of 18—I think it's 12 for them. They're the Horizon League, basically.
The vast majority of these teams are smack on top of each other. HE and the ECAC are bus leagues in which most weekends see two different teams come to town. AH is a little more spread out with teams in Pittsburgh (Robert Morris, Mercyhurst) and Colorado Springs (Air Force, which wants to be in the same conference as Army and Navy).
The West is now all over the place. There used to be two conferences, the WHCA and CCHA. The CCHA was all the Michigan teams save Tech and everything else in the Midwest. The WCHA was all the Minnesota teams, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and the two Colorado teams. Those conferences split the Alaska teams. The Big Ten blew this all apart a couple years ago, and now:
- The NCHC is more or less the top half of the old WCHA (minus Minnesota and Wisconsin) plus WMU and Miami from the old CCHA. This means they have a couple of major powers and a large number of respectable outfits. They are probably the best conference in college hockey at the moment. They just added Arizona State, an upstart program that just finished its first season.
- The Big Ten is a six-team league consisting of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State. It is currently in a down phase since Michigan is in Berenson limbo, Minnesota had an off year, Wisconsin took too long to replace Mike Eaves, and Michigan State spends every day of every year spitting on their rich heritage. Wisconsin is going to get real good real quick here and once Mel Pearson (knock on wood) comes back from Tech, Michigan will also get back to what it was. ND, who will be good as long as Jeff Jackson is around, joins next year.
- The WCHA got stuck with the leftovers from both the CCHA and WCHA. There are some good teams in there, but it's more mid-major than major.
The West is far more spread out than the East. The addition of the Big Ten was deeply controversial, especially in Minnesota, but once Penn State added a program it was a fait accompli.
One benefit of shakeup: the addition of a conference now gives new programs a landing spot. Previously the WCHA and CCHA were both full at 12 teams; new programs eked out an existence as an independent or in the ever-shifting, now-defunct College Hockey America. Many of them failed. Without the Big Ten it's tough to see an Arizona State adding a program. Also, Penn State has been a great success. They just missed the tournament this year and play to a sold-out rink.
I believe hockey is unique amongst NCAA sports in that they select and seed their tournament exclusively by a formula. The Pairwise used to be a complicated pile of factors that overweighted some things (recent games, nonconference schedule) and underweighted others (how good you are at hockey). Elements of it were gradually pared away until the current version, in which there are three factors. One of those, head to head, usually doesn't apply. RPI breaks ties when it disagrees with the other factor, common opponents. So these days with very limited exceptions RPI == Pairwise.
College hockey RPI is okay. They do some home/away weighting that is out of whack with stats and they have a quality win bonus for beating top 20 teams. (This is approximately the top third of D-I.) That latter plus the relative lack of true tomato cans means a lot of the issues basketball RPI has do not apply. The end result makes enough sense that people don't complain about it much.
There is a competing ranking system called KRACH that is more mathematically rigorous but tends to overrate schedule strength; the differences between the two are a lot more muted now that the WCHA, which was by far the best conference before the shakeup, is no longer in its Voltron form.
Teams play 34 or 36 regular season games plus a conference tournament and an NCAA tournament. (You get a couple extra games if you go to Alaska.) Games are usually on Friday and Saturday nights with the occasional midweek or Sunday game. Somewhere between 20 and 28 of these are conference games, depending on the number of teams in each. Conference tournaments generally have a round or two of best-two-of-three matchups and then a single-elimination final 4 (or 5).
TV coverage is poor unless you're Minnesota or Notre Dame. Regional sports networks were generally carry a handful of games. FSN covers every Minnesota game that the BTN does not; NBCSN picked up a bunch of ND games because ND. The Big Ten Network covers a reasonable number. Full coverage is rare, and smaller schools often rely on streaming. Even megapower North Dakota struggles to get TV coverage, with only 4 national games a year ago.
Hockey has a 16-team single elimination tournament held at four regional sites and then a Frozen Four modeled after… well, you know. The Frozen Four is a successful and well-attended event that will draw a full house or something near to it even when it's thousands of miles away from the nearest hockey program. The regionals are half meh and half a disaster.
The meh half is in the East, where the teams are so close together that the NCAA can rotate through a more or less defined collection of mid-sized arenas that will all be reasonably full because at least two fanbases will be right on top of them. Atmospheres are still muted for the most part.
Neutral site college hockey is not well attended [Jason Coller]
The West is the disaster. Michigan has seven college hockey teams and hasn't seen more than one NCAA regional in a decade; instead the committee keeps putting regionals in places like Fort Wayne, St. Louis, and even Omaha, in buildings way too big and with ticket prices way too high. A second West regional is generally in the WCHA footprint, Minneapolis as often as not. These regionals are almost universally attended by marching bands and crickets and are loathed by literally everyone in the college hockey world except a plurality of coaches who either think playing in a tomb gives them a better chance to win or are in the East and therefore don't care.
There have been some rumbles that the NCAA will finally move away from the failed regional model in the next few years, but I'll believe it when I see it. It's a shame, because Yost hosted a couple of regionals a decade ago, and they were insane. So insane that the rest of college hockey got mad and more or less banned campus sites. The leadership of college hockey has failed massively in this department.
On the other hand, college hockey has pioneered most of the rules that the NHL adopted over the course of the past decade. These include no-touch icing*, two refs, and getting rid of two-line passes. The main differences between the NHL and the NCAA that remain are
- fighting is five, a game, and a suspension in college
- there is no goalie trapezoid behind the nets
- five-on-five OT, with shootouts only applicable to conference standings**
- no handpasses, anywhere
- Olympic rinks are allowed
Also you have to wear a full shield.
*[The NCAA had pure no-touch icing until a few years ago, when they went to the same hybrid icing the NHL did.]
**[A game that ends in a shootout is treated as a tie for RPI purposes.]
These days a plurality of players come from the USHL, a "Tier 1" junior league spread throughout the Midwest. The USHL and NAHL, another junior circuit with two main hubs in the upper Midwest and Texas, were about on par until a decade or so ago when USA Hockey created the Tier 1 designation and the USHL went after it. In general this means a higher level of facilities and support for the players. If you believe in point equivalences—ie the idea that a league can be judged by how well its players' scoring translates to higher leagues—USHL to AHL/NHL point transitions are more or less on par with the CHL. The NAHL is some distance back and their players usually populate lower-tier teams and fourth lines.
USA Hockey's National Team Development Program also plays in the USHL but is a thing apart. They have U17 and U18 teams that play a variety of international tournaments and, for the U18s, a ~30-game schedule of exhibitions against college teams. The U17s draw the majority of USHL games and generally get cranked due to the age gap. The NTDP gets about 80% of the first round NHL draft picks who are headed to college.
Minnesota and New England both have high school hockey that is good enough to produce a lot of recruits, and the NCAA recruits from various non-CHL junior leagues across Canada, the most prominent of which are the BCHL and OPJHL, if the latter is still called that. Per the most recent NCAA data 24% of NCAA hockey is played by "nonresident aliens," the vast majority of whom are Canadian.
One key difference between Canada and the US is that US players will often stick with their junior teams after high school. USHL teams can have players up to 20 and for many teams their answer to recruiting deficiencies is to bring in older and older players. There was a recent kerfuffle when the Big Ten, which generally recruits right out of high school, introduced a proposal to reduce eligibility for players who enter college older than 20. Everyone yelled at them and it was withdrawn.
Level of Play
More variable than the CHL but likely to be better overall. In large part this is due to age. College hockey players are on average much older than CHL players, and now college alums make up about 30% of the NHL. While the CHL has more NHL prospects per team—both leagues have about 60 teams total—the NCAA's are more concentrated, so unless you have a lot of Atlantic Hockey teams on the schedule that gap between future NHLers is smaller. The NCAA also has a significant edge in point equivalencies. Three years is apparently more than enough to bridge the gap in relative NHL draft status.