Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
Visit from some guy. Someone at TSN—the Canadian ESPN, eh?—took in the Saturday Notre Dame-Michigan game and reported back in volume. Yost did not burn his ears off:
t's been a long time since I last traveled to Michigan's Yost Arena to see a hockey game, as I did on the weekend, and it was about as much fun as I remembered.
The road trip weekend with longtime friends Geoff, Brian and Sparky was a blast, as the energy in Yost Arena makes it a must-see for hockey fans.
I remembered thinking that it was really cool to have a band playing Hail to the Victors during the game the last time I was at Yost (to see the Western Michigan Broncos upset the powerhouse Wolverines in the early 1990s) and it still seemed that way now as the combination of the band and student section kept things lively throughout and was rip-roaring during the third period.
It's kind of novel to have a third party report back without breaking down into tears after hearing Yost's PG-13 penalty cheer (which I still think should be stopped or modified but holy crap some people need to chill).
Elsewhere the guy claims that college hockey "stifles creativity," probably because he's watching a really good Jeff Jackson team. (He does disclaim with "at least on this night.") That's an annoying criticism, as college hockey has a rep for deploying little skilled ninjas that can't find a home in the rough and tumble CHL, or whatever, and that's used as a tool to bash the development potential of college hockey. But when you get a game like Michigan-ND, that's stifling creativity. You can't win.
Le sigh. This doesn't make me feel better and probably won't make you feel better, but Mike Spath has confirmed with CCHA officials that both calls against Notre Dame were incorrect. The first:
The official ruling from the CCHA is any puck directed in by a skate, regardless of intent, regardless of kicking motion or not, is not allowed. However, the call on the ice was a goal because no official saw the puck deflect in off the skate.
So that Miller goal earlier in the year was correctly waved off (despite what appeared to be an allowance for it in the rules) and the CCHA has basically declared all goals that come off an attacking player's skate to be null and void. Okay, the officials on the ice missed it—annoying—and they weren't allowed to use the angle that clearly showed the kicking motion—also annoying but not their fault.
It's the waved-off Michigan goal that really gets me:
The neutral-zone referee thought he saw the net come off and blew the play dead before the puck crossed the goal line. …
CCHA sources admit that the neutral-zone referee should not have blown his whistle when he did, remarking "You have to trust your partner and the deep-zone referee, in this case, was in the proper position to make the call. You only act in that manner if your fellow official isn't in position, if he fell down or is racing down the ice." So essentially, the official on top of the play did not blow the whistle and was rendered useless when the neutral-zone referee blew the whistle prematurely.
There's your two-referee system in action. Here it was actually the veteran ref, Brian Aaron, who assumed his partner six inches from the net couldn't tell if it was knocked off. And even if he didn't the proper action was to let anything not obvious go and review it later. The net never even trembles in the video. Very frustrating.
Meanwhile, Spath predicts Mitera plays against Ferris State and no sooner. He is "behind schedule" according to Red.
Wait, does this mean Scooter has cancer? New Big Ten director of officials Bill Carollo talked with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg recently. Naturally, the Brandon Minor touchdown-like-substance against Michigan State came up:
The good news is no one's died of cancer on that play at Michigan because the right team won the game. Had a mistake with replay given six points when we shouldn't have or vice versa and decide the game, it would have been a much bigger problem. So we were a little bit lucky.
Indeed, and it goes down with the Domata Peko fumble return as the most egregiously awful but thankfully meaningless touchdowns in Big Ten history. I still maintain that the league's policy of staffing the replay box with decrepit ex-officials is a bad idea. Sure, have some guy who knows the rulebook inside and out up there (or, in this case, doesn't) but pair him with someone still amongst the living.
History of shirtless creepy panic. Bleed Scarlet has an excellent piece on how recruiting came to be the way it is, and a roundtable I answered a few questions for. I'd like to highlight this idea cribbed from Vijay of iBlog For Cookies:
Do you favor an early signing period in college football? Would such a proposal help or hurt prospective student athletes?
Brian Cook - “Sort of. I’d like a nonbinding letter of intent program. You sign it and 1) you can’t take official visits to other schools and 2) other schools are not allowed to contact you in any way whatsoever. You can rescind it at any time up until the official signing date. This system seems a lot better than the current one — you’re not really a commit until you sign, and that has some meaning — but doesn’t lock players in any earlier than they get locked in now.”
Anyone see any issues with this setup? I think it's a bulletproof improvement on the free-for-all we've got going now.
Another quick roundup of goings-on:
SC OL Quinton Washington doesn't know what to do. It's either M or South Carolina for him, but there are sources on both sides declaring optimism. For his part:
Washington was supposed to meet with his coach Art Craig today at school but Washington did not come to school. "He's a confused young man right now," Craig said. "He's torn completely in half," between USC and Michigan. Craig said he and Washington are to meet Tuesday morning to discuss the situation.
Washington could announce whenever. Yesterday he wore a South Carolina hat on, uh, "Hat Day." Which I didn't know about. Isn't someone supposed to tell me when Hat Day is?
OK DT Pearlie Graves isn't going to Oklahoma. This is good, but it may not get us entirely out of the woods:
Tulsa East Central defensive lineman Pearlie Graves apparently no longer holds a scholarship offer to Oklahoma, according to the recruiting Web site Rivals.com. Graves, a four-star recruit,had been planning to take an official visit to OU this weekend. Instead, Graves will probably end up signing with Michigan, with whom he’s been committed since November.
Not sure whether the offer was pulled because he didn't visit or he didn't visit because his offer was pulled. However, Texas Tech is supposed to be pushing hard and the insiders are basically saying "I don't know."
SC DE Sam Montgomery cut Michigan.
Though I don't have any new public info on Stokes, Witty, Robinson, and DeQuinta Jones, a quick scan of any Michigan message board will reveal considerable pessimism or even downright panic at some last-second shifts in the recruitment of Stokes and Robinson; since Michigan was the presumed leader in both recruitments that's bad. That strong finish of 3-4 good prospects now seems like a longshot. Here's some Robinson fluff, though. (Via Varsity Blue.)
1. I'll be on WTKA at 4 PM today with John U Bacon. Recruiting will be a main topic of discussion, and we may get into other things.
2. I am going on a fairly ill-timed vacation starting Thursday that will last until the 15th. In my stead there will be a number of guest posters: Dylan from UMHoops, Tim from Yost Built, Tim from Varsity Blue, various Wolverine Liberation Army posters, MVictors, the Hoover Street Rag folks, and others. There should be content every day, and I'll be able to check in at least a few times throughout the course of my absence.
Ball transfer with 19 minutes left in a close contest:
"Something must be done about Michigan basketball … [Beilein] must get control of his program."
Flying elbow with under a minute left in a twelve-point game:
"There was nothing wrong with Hansbrough going after that rebound. There was nothing wrong with him trying to score, or with Henderson fouling him. The problem was it was an excessive foul. The rule as written has nothing to do with intent. I don't think Henderson intended to hurt him, but that's not the issue. It was a foul that was too hard. It doesn't make either of them bad kids."
It's been brought up again and again since Tommy Amaker was deservedly fired: Jay Bilas has completely lost his head about Michigan and shouldn't talk about them, ever. Two years ago ESPN ranked the most underachieving programs from 1997 to 2007, and Michigan was #1 with a bullet. Bilas left them off his ballot entirely. A month earlier he attempted to paint the Michigan basketball program as a decrepit wasteland completely demolished by sanctions then ten years old. Midway through Beilein's first season Bilas laid into some harmless comment by Beilein in a manner so stupid it drew a fisk from Jim Carty, who at that time was not a blogger but a sportswriter. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski picked it up, too:
The more Bilas shills for Amaker, the more people in basketball laugh at him. Unlike Amaker, Beilein never had the ultimate coaching godfather to pick up the phone and get him a job.
“C’mon Jay, that is terrible,” an NBA scout who watched Amaker’s team regularly in the Big Ten emailed me this week after reading Bilas’ blog rant. “Almost laughable, really.”
Even when Bilas is attempting to defend his ridiculous comments about Michigan in the wake of the Harris ejection he fabricates:
"I respect his right to protect his kid and stand up for him, and I respect that, but that doesn't mean I have to buy it. I don't buy it. I saw (the play) 100 times. That's not a basketball play. That's not the way the game is played. How many games are played every day, high school, college or pro, and players execute rip-through moves, and how many noses are broken?"
This is in reference to Beilein describing it as a basketball play. Bilas leaves something out, though:
Players and coaches from both sides said afterward they thought it simply was a "basketball play." Kramer said he didn't consider it a "dirty" play.
Both Painter and Kramer said they saw nothing dirty in the play. Again: Bilas is suggesting that Harris intentionally clocked Kramer in the face because he was frustrated with 19 minutes left in a game Michigan was leading. But Gerald Henderson didn't intend to hurt Tyler Hansborough when he gave him a flying ninja elbow in garbage time. One of these things is "not a basketball play". The other doesn't consider itself a basketball play, it considers itself a leader.
Every time Bilas opens his mouth about Michigan he flushes more of his credibility down the toilet.
Etc.: Carty goes to town on Bilas on WTKA.
1/31/2009 – Michigan 49, Purdue 67 – 14-8, 4-6 Big Ten
1/31/2009 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 3 – 19-9, 13-7 CCHA
One of the eternal mysteries of sport to me is why no player has ever lost his mind and gone Tropp on one of the referees. I put myself in their position, having worked so hard my entire life for this one goal only to see some gym teacher ruin it all, and just can't imagine the white-hot blinding rage I'd feel in their situation. You'd think self-control would fail at some point, and there would be An Incident. But, no, apparently not.
The closest thing in my memory is Rasheed Wallace threatening a ref on a loading dock behind some NBA reason or another, but that doesn't quite fit. This is Rasheed Wallace we're talking about here. 'Sheed is one spaced out cat, and it's one thing to clock a guy in a fit of pique during an event and something entirely different to calmly wait for the game to end, shower, get dressed, and then scare the ever-living hell out of some guy with your Cheshire Cat grin and weird bald spot you take everywhere with you because it is attached to your head. (Is there anyone on the planet you would less like to be threatened by on a loading dock? This is a 6'10" man nicknamed "Roscoe" who looks slightly deranged even when he's happy.)
I digress. Saturday was a bad day to be a Michigan fan. It's one thing to lose. It's another thing to lose partially, largely, or entirely because of the incompetence of a referee. And in two separate, critical games refereeing incompetence ruled the day, costing Michigan dearly.
This is a foul and was adjudged one until such point as Scrappy Heady IQ Head For The Scrappy Eckstein started gushing blood out of his nose and the Purdue crowd cried out, at which point it was cause to boot Manny Harris. From there Michigan imploded. Given the results of the past few weeks, they were probably going to implode anyway. But good God.
Incident two has not found its way to the internet, but incident three has. Collectively were even more damaging. One was a Notre Dame goal obviously kicked in that not one of the four people employed to observe these things noticed. The second was a puck lying in plain view of one of the four people employed to observe these things that was blown dead the instant before it was stuffed into the net. By a guy at the blueline. Who then reviewed the play and told Berenson the reason the goal was no good was because the net had been dislodged. A quick calculation reveals that 2 + 1 is larger than 3 – 1.
Red Berenson came as close as he ever does to losing his cool:
"I'm not here to discuss the officiating, but this was a big series, and obviously you want top officials here, but they were two great college hockey games."
Which, you will note, is not very close at all. The Wolverine has some elaboration:
"That's the part as coaches – you can't question the officials but there was definitely a question about the goal that went in off the player's skate," head coach Red Berenson said. "It wasn't under the review camera so they couldn't see it and we had to go by the referee's judgment and that's not always as accurate as it might be. It's disappointing because it was a close game and came down to one goal.
"[On the disallowed goal] that's a tough call because the puck was loose."
Meanwhile, Michael Spath—normally very professional—declared the ruling "ridiculous" in that article.
Both of these games, then, were vexing. Extremely vexing. The fact that one followed right after the other and a spectacularly irritating Notre Dame fan was seated directly behind me at the hockey game combined to make Saturday night one spent searching for a local farm with an emu to punch. Or, you know, basically any sort of flightless, eminently punchable bird. I would have taken a chicken or an ostrich or, I don't know, a cow with big ears. No luck. I was just vexed.
It's not like this stuff is ever going to get better. Someone's got to do these games and if all you've got are Aaron and Hall and Wilkins and Hightower and Bova, you're just going to get hosed periodically. And that's all you're ever going to get because these guys have full-time jobs at which I hope they are considerably better than their weekend ones. (Otherwise there are a lot of crappily organized floor hockey teams around, let me tell you.) But even if regular vexing at the hands of college referees is a given that doesn't make it any less frustrating when it happens.
- UMHoops is one of many to go to the rulebook in an attempt to figure out what it says about ejecting some dude. See also: Varsity Blue. Meanwhile, the Ace of Sports is just pissed.
- Yost Built channels Chevy Chase.
BULLETS OF AAAAAARGGHGHGHGHGHGH
- Jevohn Shepherd's lack of playing time is even more totally inexplicable now. Maybe he can't shoot, but no one can so let's play the 6'5" guy who's scoring pretty efficiently, eh?
- Manny Harris was like 1 for 6 and had five turnovers by the time he was booted. I don't think that's a major reason Michigan lost; they were always likely to regress to their mean and get run out of the gym. Harris is going backwards in a major way. There can no longer be any serious debate about it.
- That spectacularly irritating ND fan was a punk high school kid and, I'm 99% sure, one of the three NTDP players playing for ND next year. At one point he attempted to respond to someone heckling him by saying "if my grades go good [sic] you'll see me on the ice next year." Also, there were a couple other kids with him who were just obviously hockey players. Everything from their 100% Hollister wardrobe to their lingo made it obvious. Also obvious: punk high school kid was attempting to memorize the details of his fake ID.
- Aside from the vexing hose job, the hockey weekend was a productive and encouraging one. They won on the road solidly. They outshot and outchanced Notre Dame at home. Michigan is now tied for fifth in the Pairwise and still has a shot at a top seed if they maintain their level of play over the homestretch of the season. Plus, Mitera should be returning in two or three weeks.
- Okay, the last time we saw Scooter Vaughn he was taking a major for delivering the year's dumbest hit, and the time before that he was responsible for two Michigan State goals in the 5-3 game at Munn, but surely Tristin Llewellyn could use some time on the bench to reflect on the dumb roughing penalty he takes every game, no? Llewellyn's getting walked on a regular basis and doesn't seem to bring much other than the occasional hit.
- There is zero reason to limit review to the goal cam when there are other options available. The concern about "inconsistent enforcement" is a weird one: surely a system that gets as many calls correct as it can is more consistent than one that ignores plain evidence a goal was kicked in because Lake Superior State's game isn't being televised this weekend. More correct calls = good.
|WHAT||#8 Michigan H&H vs #1 Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Joyce Ice Arena (Friday)/Yost Ice Arena (Saturday)|
|WHEN||8:05 PM Friday, 7:35 PM Saturday|
|THE LINE||Uh… do they have college hockey lines?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on CBS College Sports, Saturday on FSN|
Michigan's currently third in the CCHA by percentages—they trail a few teams on which they have two or even four games in hand—and seventh in the pairwise. Though Notre Dame has all but clinched the regular season CCHA crown, this coming weekend means a great deal for the team.
One: it's Notre Dame. Screw those guys in the ear. Two: this is probably the best team Michigan will play all year. They're 19-3-3, unbeaten in 20, #1 in the polls, and a solid #1 seed in the Pairwise. Three: this is the team that knocked Michigan out of the NCAA tourney. See earlier statement about ears and screwing therein. Four: it's hard to tell exactly what's going to go down with the wacky Pairwise this early, but a sweep here and Michigan—believe it or not—is well-positioned to acquire a #1 seed when the tournament arrives. (For one: it'll be really tough for ND to win the comparison when they're 0-2 against M, pending a potential matchup at the Joe.)
About that sweep, though: the last time Notre Dame lost was October 25th. Miami completed a weekend sweep of 3-2, and since then it's been 17-0-3. Though ND's competition since hasn't been rough—mostly bad CCHA teams with UMD and BC interspersed—any win streak of that length says volumes about a team. Michigan just gacked one away to BGSU, after all. This team is the class of the league and perhaps the nation, and if we're being honest with ourselves a split would be just fine thanks.
The key to their success? They really don't give up that many goals. They've given up more than three just one time the entire season, and that was in the season opener (a 5-2 loss at Denver). They've only given up 3 goals on five occasions. They've held an opponent to 0 or 1 goals on fourteen occasions.
That bodes unwell for a Michigan team that has struggled to score against teams as weak as Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green. First goal will be even more critical than it usually is.
I assume we'll see Hogan, since the last time Michigan ran up against Notre Dame Billy Sauer went all Nickelback on us. (Side note: that post is on the first page of Google hits for "Nickelback sucks"; I could, if I so chose, declare victory and retire a satisfied man.)
Mitera inches closer. Mitera has hit the ice at Yost with the team. Red would like you to hold your horses, though:
"It’s good, but Mitera’s not ‘back’ back,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It’s all a matter of getting into full practice, full tempo, full intensity and then full contact. I think he’s fine. It’s just a matter of him and the doctors getting confidence.
“He looks fine and he feels fine, but he’s not in shape.”
The Daily links an earlier article in which Mitera said he was aiming to return for the last weekend of the regular season against Ferris, but the latest info from Mel Pearson projected Mitera to return as early as two weekends from now against Nebraska-Omaha.
Return of the jack. Corey Tropp has returned to his USHL team, although he remains "enrolled" at Michigan State. He plans to return next year, but that's not decided:
The plan right now is we’ll sit down and talk at the end of the season. They have to make a decision and I’ll have to make a decision on what I think’s best for me.
Tropp does not come off well in that interview, BTW. Red said his last bit on this stuff, if you're interested in that. (Hoover Street Rag also has a comprehensive recap of the various and sundry reactions.)
Meanwhile, Steve Kampfer testified in court about that other head trauma and Bruce Kampfer has been banned from "most buildings on Michigan's campus"—I bet he can still go to the FXB! Michigan also plans yet another of their periodic crackdowns on potty-mouthed Michigan students:
On Thursday, an e-mail was sent to U-M students reminding them of the warning printed on the backs of their game tickets, which in part reads that "management reserves the right to eject any person whose conduct management deems disorderly, obnoxious or unbecoming. ... We will eject, without warning, individuals who use profane language and/or make obscene gestures."
While I sympathize with the administration about the issue, (if not in the specific instance that occurred Saturday) the way they go about this is the same half-ass tough guy thing every time. It never works and it won't work this time either. Kicking out a dozen kids doing the penalty box cheer does nothing. Either carrot-and-stick the whole student section—and there should be a "carrot" part—into compliance or give up.
(Kampfer testimony HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
It's near signing day so the news is a bit more likely to expire before I can throw it at you so how about a special pre-weekend recruitin' blast? We established baseline expectations going into the final week of recruiting on Monday, so consider any unmentioned recruit to be status quo.
I've ceased updating the board, as it will be obsolete in under a week. Anyway, the changes:
The vibes on PA WR Je'Ron Stokes continue to be very good. The latest bit of public information comes from Bill Kurelic:
Stokes says he will decide between Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and Georgia, but speculation has him changing his commitment from the Volunteers to the Wolverines when he announces his final decision next week.
Stokes may take a visit to Georgia this weekend but that's up in the air. Penn State is out, leaving Michigan geographically best situated; Tennessee's quarterback situation also has Stokes a bit leery. There have been a lot of favorable indicators here, like Tennessee message boards basically writing him off. Signs point to huzzah.
The status of the Deerfield Beach duo of FL QB Denard Robinson and FL CB Adrian Witty is also nearing consensus. The Wolverine's Josh Helmholdt:
Robinson, a quarterback, and Witty, a cornerback, are good friends off the field and want to attend the same school together. Only Michigan and Kansas State have offered both. Florida is also a contender for Robinson, but this one looks like it will go in Michigan’s favor.
The local paper echoes, saying it looks "more and more likely" Robinson picks M, which would naturally bring Witty along. Scout's Allen Wallace says Kansas State is "the major competition for Michigan here." Even Florida sites are down on their chances:
[Robinson] is a game changer who will be a big-time player (although maybe not at the QB position) on the next level. While Florida is still in play here, I feel like it is more likely that Robinson will end up at Kansas State or Michigan on National Signing Day.
At this point it's fair to say that Robinson and Witty going somewhere else would be something of a shock. Not quite as much as "Beaver to Conference USA," but, hey, whatever.
(There is one dissenter, but given the tidal wave of opinion going against this guy I bet dollars to donuts that he's just out of the loop.)
SC OL Quinton Washington has cut a couple schools. Michigan is left standing in good position:
Washington has cut Clemson and Tennessee and will make his decision from USC, Michigan and Miami. USC and Michigan are the top two but he will visit Miami this weekend.
His coach seems to think it's tight:
"Michigan and South Carolina have done an outstanding job recruiting him. I wouldn't want to be him right now."
South Carolina message boards are considerably more chipper about Washington than UT boards are about Stokes, FWIW. (For perspective: "OMG he's ours" is the standard position of all message boards and should be taken as an absence of good news rather than a presence of bad news.)
Stock Stubbornly Immobile, Like Gene Keady's Hair
LA DT DeQuinta Jones took his official and, like many southern kids, was surprised he was not eaten by a polar bear:
“Snow was piled up everywhere,” said Jones, who verbally committed to the Wolverines over the summer. “But it really wasn’t that cold to me.”
One of the highlights of the trip for the handful of recruits was getting to pay a visit to coach Rich Rodriguez’s home. “We went to coach Rodriguez’s house and played pool,” Jones said. “It’s a three-story mansion.”Overall, Jones says his visit, “went real good.”
Prognosis remains the same here: likely but not definitely Michigan.
SC DE Sam Montgomery has cut Oregon from his list but the buzz on this one is pointing to North Carolina, they of the overflowing class and few spots. ESPN's JC Shurburtt says Michigan also trails another school:
While it's still a situation where anything could happen, several reliable sources have said that the recruitment of Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) focuses on three programs: North Carolina, LSU and Michigan. Most believe the Tar Heels and Tigers to be the frontrunners.
There's still a chance here but it's a slim one unless UNC DL coach John Blake gets hired by the Jets. Blake has just shot down those rumors.
LA LB Barkevious Mingo is taking a visit to… uh… UConn this weekend. That's probably not relevant. Also probably not relevant: Michigan in Mingo's recruitment. OH OL Marcus Hall has basically dropped Michigan, as expected.
LA WR Travante Stallworth reconfirmed his commitment to Auburn; he's out. LA DE Benny Logan got his LSU offer and committed.
A 2010 Item
Lest you think that FL WR commit Ricardo Miller is not big time:
This morning, Miller picked up a scholarship offer from LSU. This afternoon, Alabama faxed a written scholarship offer to his school. He is firm to the Wolverines.
That's pre-signing day offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida, and, of course, Michigan. Ricardo Miller is big time.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Michigan State could have a recruiting class better than Michigan's.
Scout ranks Michigan's class #16; State is sitting at #35. Rivals ranks Michigan's class #7 and State's #15. As mentioned above, Michigan looks to add three or four highly rated players before signing day. State is basically done. In no way is this assertion accurate except in the mind of Tom Lemming, who is creepy.
Steve Schilling, various, reaction to walk-on playing at left tackle.
Offensive line is the position group least understood by the average fan (and this blogger), but even the vast ignorance of the unwashed could not delude us into thinking this was a promising situation:
LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr. Mark Ortmann Jr.* Tim McAvoy Jr.* David Molk Fr.* David Moosman So.* Steve Schilling So.* Perry Dorrestein So.* Ricky Barnum Fr.* Rocko Khoury Fr. John Ferrara So.* Dann O'Neill Fr.
Perhaps the saddest indicator of the potential looming tragedy that is the Michigan offensive line is this: last year this depth chart went three deep. There’s no one but freshmen unlisted this year and, uh… four freshmen in the actual two-deep as hypothesized above.
One returning starter, one backstabbing departure, and one unfortunate knee injury left Michigan one mishap away from starting John Ferrara, defensive tackle until two weeks ago, at guard. This was grim.
A brief tour of individual expectations reinforces. At tackle, Steve Schilling was "frankly bad" as a freshman, though there were a lot of reasons to believe he would take a significant step forward. Mark Ortmann was "stuck behind the uninspiring Schilling" and the starting left tackle "virtually by default."
On the interior, there was hardly any data except "none of these players could beat out Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla." Moosman "could be good" given his guru ratings and experience; McAvoy got a "lord knows if he's going to be any good," and Molk came in for equal parts skepticism and hope:
He fits much better in this system than Carr’s, as it emphasizes his mobility and places a much smaller premium on size, but Rodriguez made it clear he was battling John Ferrara for a starting job. Two weeks ago Ferrara was a defensive lineman. Crap.
There are virtually no backups as long as Cory Zirbel's knee injury persists, and the word from Rodriguez is that could be the entire season. Mark Huyge exists, I guess.
And unto the breach they went.
That's Not Surprising At All, Unfortunately
Well, yeah, it was a disaster. The Utah UFR:
Offensive line: their overall suck was obviously part of the gameplan in a huge way; I expect that will seriously impinge on Michigan’s attempts to forge an offense all year. Like 2005 except worse.
…the offensive line is bad for reasons other than execution. It is bad because the players on it are small or underpowered or just plain bad.
But wait! We played Notre Dame!
Michigan had great success with the zone stretch and occasional dive because Molk and either McAvoy or Moosman spent the day crushing the playside DT downfield. With good kickouts from the tackles and Notre Dame defenders keeping contain on Threet, McGuffie got into the secondary time and again.
Everything was fixed forever until the next week against Wisconsin:
That was the story of Wisconsin's defense: their active defensive tackles murdered Michigan's interior line all day against both the pass and the run. Notice that Michigan's second-half run game was successful largely when it completely avoided Wisconsin DTs or fooled them into slanting away from the play. For example, the Minor touchdown run was a counter to the zone stretch the Wisconsin D was expecting.
That was the low point for the offensive line, as the interior got whipped all day and it was only some spectacular flukes that put Michigan's offense in gear at the end of the game. Oh, and an INT returned for a touchdown. From there things began to improve bit by bit.
Ortmann was not the answer at left tackle and is—along with McAvoy or Ferrara or whoever you consider to be the incumbent left guard—the starter with his job most under threat. In that surprisingly excellent performance against Penn State there was one sore spot:
Here's your PROTECTION METRIC: 15/21, Team –1, Ortmann -5.
That might look ugly, but –5 of that game on two plays where Ortmann was beaten badly by Evans, one of which resulted in the game-killing sack/fumble. Everyone else was actually pretty decent.
Meanwhile, against Michigan State he checked in as a "goat."
The left side of the line is killing Michigan; I'd be surprised to see Ortmann keep his job once Dorrestein his healthy, and they've been trying to replace McAvoy all year.
Ortmann will be a senior this year and probably won't improve a ton; if he's running at all close with Omameh or O'Neill or anyone younger than him it wouldn't be surprising to see Rodriguez go with the option who will be of some use down the road.
Schilling was better than he was a year ago, but he didn't make that great leap forward we were vaguely hoping for. His run blocking came in for praise against, uh, Toledo, but there were a lot of minuses assigned to him in protection. The Michigan State UFR was pretty ugly:
And PROTECTION METRIC: 34/47. Ortmann –6, Schilling –5, Team –1, Moosman –1. Note that the tackles were often put in tough spots by the snap-jumping. Also note that a lot of this was against three-man rushes and the overall picture was pretty grim.
(This is the same performance that got Ortmann chastized above, FWIW.) Though the team exploded for 35 points against Purdue—punt return TD, remember—even then I noted how freaked out the OTs made me:
I am leery of both tackles these days, BTW, and wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of reconfiguration that sees Schilling slide inside to guard next year. At least they'll have some options other than "you appear to be healthy and were not a defensive tackle two weeks ago."
I've moved more towards surprise as regards that a reconfiguration, but more because I doubt Michigan finds better options at tackle than anything else.
Anyone who read this blog over the season probably remembers its growing appreciation for relatively tiny David Molk, the nimble center who occasionally got blown back directly into the running back but more often just barely held his ground so that the ballcarrier could shoot through a crease (and more often than not into unblocked second-level defenders, be they safeties or linebackers).
His agility helped him make a lot of tough reach blocks. One particular QB off tackle against Penn State spurred a Picture Pages in which he was the focus. The summary:
I think Molk might be pretty good once he is enormous-er. I brought this up earlier in the year, but Molk was a fringe top-100 guy who was the only real OL recruit brought in after the shift to zone blocking. He got dinged later in the year for being small, but in a system like this where he's reach-blocking all day his agility is an asset. Time and again against Penn State he successful executed these blocks, springing people into the secondary. Against Notre Dame he did the same thing.
(FWIW, Molk had another good seal in a Toledo edition of Picture Pages.) Molk was just "all right" against Michigan State—depressingly, that statement showed in the "heroes" section—and was a major culprit in the hammering handed out by Wisconsin; increased size and strength are a must going forward.
Moosman was "all right" against Michigan State, too, and hardly comes in for mention in any of the post-game "you didn't read the play summaries because you're not insane" sections. This was because he was usually okay to decent, unremarkable in a year when most of the remarks were going to be negative.
And, well, I don't need UFRs to tell you that left guard Tim McAvoy wasn't particularly good. McAvoy got pulled in just about every game the last half of the season as Michigan rotated through Dorrestein, Ferrara, and I think I even saw Mark Huyge out there a few times in an attempt to find a suitable player.
2009, And Beyond
Everyone returns, and perhaps more importantly a fleet of redshirt freshmen will vie for playing time. Michigan will be more experienced and deeper; they will all have a year in the system under their belts. Coupled with the notable improvement at the end of the year, this presages a great leap forward. They could even be… sigh… average.
At left tackle, Ortmann and Perry Dorrestein will battle Patrick Omameh and possibly Dann O'Neill for the starting job. Though Ortmann was clearly the first-choice option a year ago, his uneven performance opens the door. Dorrestein was functional when forced into the lineup; the relentless, surprising practice praise for unheralded freshman Omameh indicates he may be a factor as early as next year. (O'Neill is generally believed to need another year of seasoning.)
Unless there's a miracle renaissance and there are a ton of good options on the outside, Schilling will return at right tackle. He did get better last year, and should get better still as a junior.
The interior will be in flux until the Western game and probably for several weeks after. Moosman and Molk return. Moosman seems safe, as he can play any of the three spots on the interior. My impression is that he was regarded Michigan's best offensive lineman a year ago. Molk will field a challenge from redshirt freshman Rocko Khoury, but I think he's done well for himself and will hold his job. Left guard will be a wild free-for-all between oft-pulled Tim McAvoy, former DT John Ferrara, redshirt freshman Ricky Barnum, and perhaps a cast of others including Khoury and the rest of the freshman brigade. I don't think it will be McAvoy; other than that I don't know if anyone can tell you who or what is going on.
At the very least, depth and experience will make this unit considerably more functional than it was a year ago. Further development under Barwis and the steps made late in the year under Frey are encouraging. This should be the most improved position on the team. God help us if it isn't.
1/29/2009 – Michigan Not That Many, Ohio State Many – 14-7, 4-5 Big Ten
You're just an old man. And you don't appear to be a 6'10" shotblocking menace, either. Jerk!
Well, that appears to be that. Other than Iowa and Northwestern there doesn't appear to be a game on the schedule Michigan should win. Michigan's schedule is way backloaded and they could not afford to lose to Penn State or get swept by Ohio State and lose at home to Wisconsin. It's asking too much of them to win another five Big Ten games and arrive at the magic .500 conference record: it's the NIT for us.
And that's disappointing, sure, but they were supposed to be an NIT team when the year started and will be one when it finishes. Ekpe Udoh's transfer left… well, you know the deal. You've seen the team play in the Big Ten. Sometimes it looks like a really good AAU team has wandered onto the court in Michigan's uniforms. Sometimes Kelvin Grady ends up trying to check a seven-footer under the basket. They're too small and young and all that.
There isn't that much more to say. The problems are glaring. The starting power forward is a 6'4" freshman. They were 0-11 from 3 in the first half and are now 222nd in the country in three-point shooting at a measly 32.5%. They're sixth in number of threes launched and that number keeps going up. (It's now at 47.3%.) Whatever mojo they had earlier is obviously gone and doesn't seem like it's coming back. The defense is really terrible for obvious reasons.
I feel like I'm repeating myself. Does it feel like I'm repeating myself? I don't have much to say about the team other than "well, obviously." That Indiana game was a clear as day warning, and I said this then and said it now. I appear to be out of things to say re: this team.
It's just too bad it was a mirage.
- Novak should be suspended a game for the elbow.
- Harris is proving he's a good player who's nowhere near ready for the NBA of late: 3-18 in his last two games and though he put up 22 and 12 against Ohio State those came with ten(!) turnovers. The ultimate crap scenario is for Michigan to miss the tourney and then for one (or even both) of the stars to leave. I think that's getting less likely as we continue and they play more and more poorly, but stranger things have happened.
- I guess I don't understand the offense when it so often finds one guy inside the arc and four guys spaced around the three point line. Other teams will cut to the basket with much greater frequency. Is that by design? Or does it just reflect on the general youth of the team?
- I don't even know if the team is going to be any better defensively next year. They'll get Morgan and McLimans and Cronin and should return everyone except the sparingly-deployed Jevohn Shepherd, but man, all three of those big men are major projects.
- What happened to LLP? Yeesh.
Hail to the Victors 2009 is on, and it will be like 2007 and 2008 except with more DEATH. This year I thought I'd do something novel: ask the world if they'd like to contribute. A lot of it is written by myself and a number of contributors are returning, so there aren't a whole lot of spots open, but there are a few.
If you're interested in contributing email me the following:
- An article proposal: basically an idea, some explanation, and a suggested length from 2200 to 4400 words.
- A writing sample or, better, a blog URL.
The writing sample doesn't have to be relevant; I just want to know you can write. If you can snag an interview with a current or former player or coach that would be a major selling point.
I'm also looking for someone who's good with Illustrator to help out with a few diagrams.