Peppers at 10, which seems low.
Again. Congrats to softball, which won their umpteenth consecutive regional. Their super-regional against Missouri is this upcoming weekend. Wolverine Devotee has assembled the relevant information:
2 Michigan will host 15 Missouri in the NCAA Ann Arbor Super Regional next weekend on May 28-29.
- Game 1- Saturday, May 28 (3pm/ESPN)
- Game 2- Sunday, May 29 (Noon/ESPN)
- Game 3 (if nec.)- Sunday, May 29 (3pm/ESPN)
Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 8:30am for season ticket holders and to the general public on Tuesday at 8:30am.
You will not get tickets if you don’t already have them.
Awww yeah. Jane takes the 1986 Hawaii game and adores it:
10. When people tell you they want to see "Schembechler-style" football they mean they want to see a football game that looks sort of like the Battle of Verdun. Typically, the people telling you this will have a carefully-guarded recipe for seven-layer dip. I have no problem with any of this.
11. 27-10 is the score of a game in which one team is much better than the other team but doesn't really want anyone to know it. Like, you score 3 touchdowns but then, "whoa, let's not get cocky."
12. 27-10 is kind of the most Michigan score of all.
Expectations. Many people are expecting a good season from Michigan this year but this might be a tad much:
— Johnny Detroit (@Johnny_Detroit) May 23, 2016
7 to 1 are the second best odds on the board behind Alabama at 6 to 1. This is not a power poll, many of which have Michigan around #5. Like this one from PFF:
It’s all about the defense at Michigan, as they’re poised to be one of the nation’s best. They return the nation’s top-graded cornerback in Jourdan Lewis as well as two of the top three graded interior defensive linemen in Chris Wormley and Maurice Hurst. It will be on the offense to find a way to score points, but the majority of the offense returns and the results of their wide-open quarterback race – led by Wilton Speight – will determine just how far this Michigan team will go.
That’s a power poll. The betting lines aren’t. Those take Michigan’s iffy schedule into account. They’re also a collection of sucker bets that has less predictive power than a weekly line that sharps mostly control. (It also emphasizes how incredibly unlikely Leicester City was: you can bet on Navy or Air Force to win the national title at 1000 to 1. Leicester was infamously 5000 to 1.) But the expectations: they are out there.
About that defense. PFF details why they expect Michigan to have one of the best ones in the country again:
2. Their pass rush should be excellent…
As good as Henry was for Michigan last season, he was only the fourth-most efficient rusher on the Wolverines’ defense. Chris Wormley and Maurice Hurst formed the most efficient interior pass-rushing duo in the nation, with Wormley ranking first among defensive tackles in pass-rush productivity (45 total QB pressures, including seven sacks) and Hurst ranking third (30, including three). Hurst only saw 418 snaps last season, so the ability of both he and Wormley to stay productive and on the field will be critical to the Wolverines’ defensive success.
On the edge, Taco Charlton ranked sixth among 4-3 defensive ends in pass-rush productivity, generating 41 total pressures including six sacks.
Charlton did that in relatively scanty playing time as for much of the season he was splitting SDE snaps with Wormley. Only in the last few games did he end up starting at WDE. He could break out in a huge way with incremental improvement and a clear starting role.
PFF also offered up a couple of glimpses into their database that I don’t think we’d seen before, since usually the only hard numbers we get are from the top end. On Michigan’s departures:
The Wolverines only had one player drafted at all – defensive lineman Willie Henry, who went to the Ravens in the fourth round. That’s not to say they don’t have to replace some very productive players. Henry was PFF’s No. 34 interior lineman, LBs Desmond Morgan and Royce Jenkins-Stone both produced at a high level (linebacker in general is a bit of a question-mark position for Michigan), and SS Jarrod Wilson ranked No. 29 at his position after grading well in both run and pass defense.
I didn’t think RJS was that productive—not bad, but not great, either. And Wilson’s ranking is very boring, as is appropriate. A couple departures are omitted, one due to injury early in the year, the other… not due to injury.
Why does there have to be a seamy underbelly? Waco police and Baylor have conspired to keep a series of serious crimes by Baylor players out of the public eye. One of many:
In one case from 2011, an assault at an off-campus event in Waco ended with three football players being charged and Baylor and Waco police discussing the incident. Waco police, according to documents, took extraordinary steps to keep it from the public view "given the potential high-profile nature of the incident." According to a police report obtained by Outside the Lines, Waco's investigating officer asked a commander that "the case be pulled from the computer system so that only persons who had a reason to inquire about the report would be able to access it." The report was placed in a locked office.
This is bigger than the football program. The Title IX “Dear Colleague” letter that we became familiar with when Brendan Gibbons was belatedly expelled from the university is very much in effect at Baylor despite its private status, and there are a pile of accusations that the university has been operating like it’s still 1950 in this department. That could lead to serious repercussions for Baylor as a whole.
Via GTP, Chip Brown is reporting that Art Briles may be safe despite the fact that his teams seem to have a ton of bad behavior going on:
Multiple sources connected to Baylor told HornsDigest.com football coach Art Briles has a better chance of keeping his job after the school’s rape scandal than BU president and chancellor Ken Starr.
The sources said Starr will probably be reassigned to a position in BU’s law school as a result of the failed leadership displayed after multiple rape claims made by female Baylor students against five BU football players all but went ignored…
Briles, who has taken an irrelevant football program to two Big 12 titles in the last three years (including a bunch of new athletics facilities), is sometimes referred to by Baylor brass as “Moses.”
Brown titles this piece “Starr—Not Briles—Will Be BU’s Fall Guy,” which is wrong. A fall guy is someone who takes the hit for something that wasn’t his fault. Scott Shafer was a fall guy for Rich Rodriguez. Here, Ken Starr is certainly responsible for massive failures and should be booted. You could make an argument either way for Briles, but it’s indisputable that Title IX stuff is above his paygrade. (Uh… figuratively.)
"If you don't (release the findings), it's going to look like you're hiding something given all of these allegations that are now out there," he said. "There's just been so much of it. All of that (Shawn) Oakman stuff. Now this."
And this is a salient point:
"These guys kept playing?" the coach said. "The message you're sending is, 'This isn't a big deal.'" … "This is a guy (Briles) who prides himself in being a players' coach and coaching his team like a high school team. It's really hard to believe that he didn't know about any of this stuff."
Michigan would still have Logan Tuley-Tillman on the roster if they acted like Baylor evidently has. The goings-on in Waco make Michigan’s participation in Baylor’s camp a dubious proposition. We’ll see if it continues as scheduled—Sam Webb mentioned there was some discussion of it but they still planned to go forward with it.
Still, this is more a story about Waco police corruption at the behest of Baylor’s administration more than it is a football coach. Someone’s head has to roll and unusually it look like the—or at least a—correct one will. Whether or not Baylor actually changes as a result is very much in question.
Praise to a sensible thing. More details on Big Ten hockey’s revamped playoff format have emerged, and they are equally devoid of neutral sites:
The tournament would be played over the course of three weekends and feature three best-of-three quarterfinal round series, two single-game semifinals, and one championship game. All games will be hosted on campus of the highest seed.
I assume they meant “higher” seed, not “highest” seed, FWIW. While I’d prefer best two-of-three to continue throughout the tournament, that change is close enough to what I’ve been advocating since Big Ten hockey started existing that I’ll take it. It’s more hockey, and a much much better environment for it. I assume the single game semis and finals are for TV purposes—the league can say we have these three games at this time and televise it without having to worry about if-necessary games. There would seem to be no other reason to have the above format.
While the story linked above seems to assume that the Big Ten will stay at 7, the format will obviously accommodate an eighth team without much disruption. Arizona State’s announcement they will join the NCHC means that particular bad idea is off the table, so the options are 1) swing for the North Dakota fences, 2) wait for a Big Ten school to add hockey or 3) take Miami, I guess.
BTW the comments here are 90% Minnesota fans bitching about Big Ten hockey…
Wow, it's been 24 hours since I thanked the Big 10 for ruining college hockey. Thanks Big Ten!!!!
…and one North Dakota fan trolling. My favorite is the guy that imagines Minnesota has leverage:
Cleaning up this mess is Coyle's first priority as AD. We need to force ourselves out of this debacle and back into regionalized hockey as soon as possible. He needs to play hardball like Alvarez played hardball in forcing Minnesota to accept this terrible idea.
They’re gonna make Minnesota hockey great again by playing hardball. That’s the ticket.
Etc.: Manuel on scheduling. Manuel on Harbaugh. Ian Boyd on how teams protect their matchup nightmare TE when he’s not a killer blocker. Relevant to our interests. Conference distribution numbers show the SEC and Big Ten on par, at least temporarily. Billy Donlon, defensive coordinator.
By a final margin of 3,016 votes to 2,364, the winner of the inaugural Jim Harbaugh GIF Tournament is...
...the juggernaut known as Spring Game Grin, which cruised through the Final Four after the titanic grin-off with Harbaugh As Grinch. I've already described these GIFs several times over, but I think Louisville Wolverine best captured why this one won out.
It isn't solely the sentimentality of SGG that makes it a winner, thought that is a compelling aspect of it. It is the latent potential that it holds for everything that would eventually come after it.
All the other gifs exist there. It is the spring event from which the river of entertaining moments flow.
The tourney will return next spring with an entirely new field. Harbaugh is already off to a tremendous start on this year's crop.
Thirty GIFs down, one to go.
We've eliminated some bona-fide contenders, including all four one-seeds. For the second straight round, a vote came down to the final minutes. Without further ado, your Final Four results:
#2 Spring Game Grin: 2,299 (65%)
#3 Pfffffffhahahaha: 1,238 (35%)
#3 WELL OKAY: 1,751 (50%)
#2 Punt Demo: 1,766 (50%)
It all comes down to this.
(2) Spring Game Grin vs. (2) Punt Demo
Def. Fist Pump 76% to 24% in the first round.
Def. "You're Really Good" 70% to 30% in the Sweet Sixteen.
Def. Harbaugh As Grinch 50% to 50% (14-vote margin) in the Elite Eight.
Def. Pfffffffhahahaha 65% to 35% in the Final Four.
The sentimental favorite. In addition to capturing the moment returning to Michigan seemingly sunk in for Harbaugh, this is an ideal reaction GIF.
Def. What's The Call 86% to 14% in the first round.
Def. Harbaugh's Huddle 65% to 35% in the Sweet Sixteen.
Def. Dr. Harbaugh 70% to 30% in the Elite Eight.
Def. WELL OKAY 50% to 50% (15-vote margin) in the Final Four.
You can tell by the hat's uncertain perch on Harbaugh's head that he's already mid-freakout when this GIF begins. All eyes are on Harbaugh as everyone expects something spectacular; to say the least, he delivers. As a bonus, this GIF is eminently photoshoppable.
Voting will run through the weekend. The champion will be crowned on Monday afternoon.
Hello. This is an attempt to give you a 1,000 foot view of Michigan's current recruiting class. It lives as a wiki post under the "Useful Stuff" heading as well, and can be updated by anyone with 500+ points. Last updated 5/20.
Michigan can take a maximum of 29 players in the class, and per Sam Webb Michigan expects somewhere between 28-32. The lower end of that range is realistic without truly massive attrition since there are a number of guys who probably won't be asked back for fifth years and a couple early NFL draft candidates.
Going past 28 starts cutting into guys who you'd hope are gunning for roles in 2017. Going past 29 requires Michigan to "blueshirt" kids. Blueshirting is recruiting a guy as a walk-on with the promise he will immediately get a scholarship upon arrival. This avoids the LOI cap but has other complications—kid can't take an official, for one. There are a few in-state guys who might sign up for that, but acquiring the room looks pretty painful at the moment.
Right now we're projecting
CURRENT CLASS SIZE
Michigan has 18 commits. NM RB O'Maury Samuels has announced he's going to take some visits. Everyone else is solid.
ROOM LEFT AND WHO MICHIGAN IS TARGETING
That leaves ~11 spots left. Michigan is actively recruiting all positions save QB. Running back also looks pretty full, but AJ Dillon has the ability to play linebacker and could shift there if Michigan hits on one of the five-star types they're on the periphery for at the moment. Chase Lasater has been promised a shot at linebacker; we project he ends up a fullback. Paea could be a guard.
Some guidelines to the below: players are put in columns based on the opinions of MGoStaffers and not necessarily because the recruit has announced Michigan is in X group or is a leader. To move out of “on the radar” you usually have to at least schedule a visit on a specific date.
MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 'CROOTIN OVERVIEW
|DECENT SHOT||TOP GROUP||LEADER||COMMITS|
|FB (1)||C. Lasater|
|WR (0+2)||J. Lewis||
|T. Slaton||K. Herbert|
|G Rogers||P. Aumavae||P. Paea*|
|NT (1+1)||J. Tufele||A. Solomon|
|SDE (0)||L Ray||
|WDE (2)||H Echols||
|SLB (0)||N Proctor||K Murray|
|ILB (2+1)||E Brooks||
|CB (1+1)||A. Thomas*||B St-Juste|
|S/Nk (1+1)||AJ Harris#||J. Kelly-Powell*|
projected class in bold
Please don't remove updates until there is a front page board update that notes the changes.
7/18: Many changes.
Jim Harbaugh, Picky Shopper
Maize n Brew's Brandon Justice penned an article on four-star CA C Brett Neilon for the Detroit News that contains what I believe is the first food-related Harbaughism that isn't about red meat:
A conversation Neilon had with Harbaugh earlier this month may have placed Michigan at the top of Neilon’s list among schools he is considering.
The topic: blueberries.
“He told me, if you buy a pack of 30 blueberries and one is moldy, it will affect the others, and that’s why he doesn’t recruit moldy blueberries,” Neilon said, laughing, recalling his talk with Harbaugh. “(Harbaugh) thinks I will fit perfectly at Michigan.”
While Neilon won't cop to having a leader, he acknowledged Michigan is recruiting him harder than any other school. USC and Washington are M's primary competition. Notably, the California native says distance from home won't play a factor.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|Camden, NJ – 6'4", 230|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||4*, NR overall
#20 DE, #8 NJ
|ESPN||4*, #109 overall
#15 DE, #4 NJ
|24/7||4*, #239 overall
#18 WDE, #6 NJ
|Other Suitors||PSU, UO, ND, OSU, Bama|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Son of former Badger Ronald Johnson. Teammate of Brad Hawkins.|
Our grueling Signing Day podcast finished with a Lightning Round(!). 247's Steve Lorenz was the victim. Our last question was "recruit Michigan fans have forgotten about." Lorenz said "Ron Johnson… that's an easy one." And so it is. After an early commit and little subsequent drama—a Kentucky visit is not much drama—Johnson is just another mid-four-star Jersey guy to a lot of folks, including your author. But he's an excellent prospect—albeit a divisive one.
I am similarly divided. Many of the things that are written about him are very encouraging, but the Semper Fi game at which Khaleke Hudson became a fave-rave also featured Johnson. He mostly got hung up on blocking. Impactful he was not. While you never want to read too much into a half-game of snaps in an All-Star situation, it is data. That data wasn't great.
Oddly, the rest of the data from that game was. 247 paid it the most attention, and was consistently wowed by his performance in practices. On day two they named him the "Alpha Dog":
…easily the most dominating player on the second day of practice. The four-star Michigan commitment could not be blocked at the line of scrimmage, firing off the ball and using his raw strength to explode on contact. At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, Johnson is lean, but on Thursday he showed the upper body strength is already there to throw blockers to the wayside. …. Coaches were raving about his performance on Day two, and rightfully so.
The day before he narrowly missed the same designation because he "displayed three great qualities of a productive pass rusher"—tenacity, violent hands, and flying to the football. The day after he narrowly missed the same designation because he was "tenacious" and had "speed to get to the football that cannot be coached." The practices hold more weight than the actual game when it comes to rankings and 247 bumped him into their top X list afterwards.
Other reports are mixed. One thing everyone seems to agree on is Johnson’s athleticism, which is Grade A.
Rivals: “pure edge rusher with great explosiveness off the line of scrimmage.”
- 247: “physically gifted defensive end with great explosiveness and power.”
- ESPN: “Demonstrates excellent raw strength … brings some excellent physical tools.”
- Scout: “Johnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism.
That’s everyone, then. Despite this there is a big spread in opinion on Johnson running from fringe top 100 guy to generic three star. Most of the disagreement appears to be about how heavily to weight his upside versus where he is right now, or at least where he’s been for much of high high school career.
Despite being the most optimistic service, ESPN offers up a lot of what skeptics are seeing. This is another report where their ranking doesn’t entirely match up with the contents. This time the scouting report is a little lukewarm for a prospect on the fringe of their top 100:
Needs to watch pad level, but displays ability to stay low and has the strength and length to set the edge when he keeps pads down. … Lateral agility is adequate and displays inconsistent recognition skills. … nice upside [as pass rusher] with length and ability to quickly get off the ball. …doesn't have great bend, but displays ability to work tight path. … Can rely on size and strength some and needs to be more consistent with technique.
That sounds more like a four star outside their top 300, but it’s possible his ranking got bumped at some point without an update to the report. Rivals originally had Johnson at the tail end of their top 100 before a big drop just preceding his senior year, one that was based on size concerns:
"…if the offensive tackle can get his hands on Johnson, the New Jersey native has a hard time recovering. Size and strength are a bit of a concern as a defensive end, but his athleticism can't be denied.”
A contemporary evaluation compared Johnson to PSU commit and composite top 50 player Shane Simmons, justifying Rivals drops for both since they are undersized players with little recourse if an opposing OL can match their outside rush.
Meanwhile, the “mixed” comes into play heavily in Scout’s assessment, which directly contradicts ESPN’s in a couple places and itself once:
Johnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism. He gets up the field in a hurry, but also uses technique, including a nice swim move. He stays low at the snap and can dip his shoulder to get around the edge… He needs to work a bit on his change of direction, which is good for a kid his size.
“Hand quickness,” an item ESPN says he needs to work on, is a strength. Change of direction, which is good, is bad. Despite saying he’s good at things ESPN thinks he’s not good at, Scout ranks him 32 slots lower at DE than the next most skeptical service. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
That is literally the only text content from Scout that, you know, scouts Johnson. There are a couple of their horrible talking-heads-standing-outside-in-the-wind recaps elsewhere because someone high up at Scout thinks videos that should absolutely not be videos are the company’s salvation… I am digressing.
Brian Dohn did offer up a highlights-plus-talking item when he committed, praising his ability to pursue—always a backhanded compliment—and saying he needs to do better at disengaging from blockers and is liable to go blow a guy up even if that guy doesn’t have the ball. The latter echoes one of the criticisms ESPN had for him, and is in direct contrast to recently-covered Josh Uche. That’s an important flaw, albeit a fixable one.
His video also has a number of those high school tackles on which the D-I prospect hurls himself wildly at a future accountant. The accountant goes backwards five yards, the recruit flexes, and coaches wince. Johnson’s not exactly refined.
If you’re noticing that a lot of reports say that he’s crazy strong and a lot of reports say he’s too small… yeah. Here’s a canonical one:
While he does not have developed technique, he is incredibly strong and uses his hands violently. At Michigan, expect Johnson to be coached up for a year or two while he adds size to his frame, which appears like it could easily hold 30 or 40 more pounds.
Those would seem to be traits in direct opposition to each other. An attempt to interpret this: “crazy strong” reports are more about Johnson impacting OL violently with that explosion and knocking them off balance. “Needs to get bigger” reports are more about what happens when the OL can cope and gets locked on. Clint Brewster has some more detail:
…gets off blocks with an aggressive swim move and has the strength to shrug them off as well. He has the core-strength and ability to beat offensive tackles inside to make plays in the running game or the quickness and speed to beat them outside. He works hard to stand his ground against the run and has power in his upper body to punch and dispatch blockers.
That eval is directly contradicted by various other reports, FWIW. I’m just trying to resolve the distinction.
A lot of WDE types will garner similar evaluations. Johnson is a common prospect: athletic LB/DE type who’s going to eat like The Rock for a couple years and end up a much different player. Sometimes that’s an eh guy who loses his quick-twitch and ends up being a backup SDE or something. Sometimes it’s the high school prospect plus 40 pounds of anger. Roll them dice. Johnson is starting with a +1 or +2 modifier to your roll.
Etc.: Dang hard to Google.
Why Frank Clark? Clark was an explosive, high-impact WDE who needed to add a bunch of weight and technique before he became effective. Early in his career Clark was horrible at diagnosing zone read and would often vacate his rush lane; late he was a strapping 270-pound athletic player whose production outstripped his stats.
Johnson isn’t as far away from playing weight as Clark—who was 210 coming out of high school—and has correspondingly higher rankings. He’s also got a couple inches on Clark, so hitting that 270 or even 280 that Clark did is within reach. The upsides are similar.
Johnson is also similar to Lawrence Marshall as a recruit, but we haven’t seen how Marshall’s game translates to college. That could also be Johnson’s fate. He’s not a slam dunk by any means.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy, All Star appearance, but big split. More or less agree on what kind of player Johnson is and radically disagree on how valuable that is.
Variance: High. Low technique, high athleticism DE with a big ceiling and a long way to go.
Ceiling: High. See Clark, Frank.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Boom or bust guy. Semper Fi performance leans towards “boom.”
Projection: Redshirt should be coming with Michigan’s depth on the DL and Johnson’s rawness. He will probably have to cool his heels a bit longer if Winovich sticks and Marshall comes through. This is completely fine. Unless he is tracking way ahead of schedule 2018 is the first you’ll hear from him.
In 2018 and beyond he could be anything from a ghost to Clark 2.0. Your guess will suffice.
Even with McCaffery behind him and plenty ahead, we're still seeing Brandon Peters in our futures. After a shirt. [Upchurch]
Who redshirts from the 2016 class? Which of those has the biggest impact down the road?*
Ace: Michigan is finally in a position where they can default to redshirting freshmen unless they’re too talented not to see the field (Rashan Gary), happen to fit at one of the couple positions in serious need of depth (Devin Bush), or auditioning for a starting job next year (David Long, LaVert Hill). As such, the list of players I expect to redshirt is long, especially on offense.
OFFENSE: QB Brandon Peters, RB Kingston Davis, RB/SLOT Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Eddie McDoom, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Mike Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, K Quinn Nordin
DEFENSE: DT Michael Dwumfour, DE Carlo Kemp, DE Ron Johnson, DE Josh Uche, LB Devin Gil, S Josh Metellus
A few of those guys might end up seeing spot snaps or special teams duty, and I guessed a bit with the receivers; Dylan Crawford, Nate Johnson, and Ahmir Mitchell aren’t locks to play, either, but it’s probably safe to assume the coaches won’t keep all six receiver-types in the same class. Even Devin Asiasi, who’d see the field right away under normal circumstances, might sit a year given TJ Wheatley’s emergence and the overall depth at tight end.
As for which redshirting freshman I expect to have the biggest impact, those who listen to the podcast probably won’t be surprised that I’m going with Brandon Peters, even with a few really talented linemen on this list. Peters was lights-out as a senior and is an ideal fit in Harbaugh’s offense. Even with Dylan McCaffrey coming in a year behind him, I have a really difficult time not seeing Peters as a very successful multi-year starter.
[After THE JUMP we tweak Ace's answer]
[Bryan Fuller. They all are. Also he bugged us all to get this done.]
A Fast Start That Felt Slow. Michigan softball came into the 2016 season riding a tremendous wave of momentum from their phenomenal 2015 performance that saw them fall just one game short of reaching the sport’s highest glory. The newfound momentum was a mixed blessing however, as it brought with it raised expectations and the pressure that comes hand in hand with success. The 2015 team was able to play free and have fun at every stage, in large part because they were supposed to be good, but not that kind of good. Their record-shattering performances were as much of a surprise to the players as to the fans, and we all went on the crazy ride together. In 2016, by contrast, Michigan came in bearing all the pressure that comes with a #2 pre-season ranking.
Even with all the pressure, if you focus on the win/loss column, Michigan blazed through the non-conference schedule with scarcely a bump in the road. Losses to #1 Florida and to then-top-ten Washington (now #13) are simply things that happen, while the Wolverines piled up plenty of signature Ws, including a pair at the home turf of a now-top-ten Florida State squad and a 16-9 slugfest triumph over Oklahoma that doubled as a Romero-family grudge match. An 8-6 thriller on the home turf of UCLA, the ultimate softball blue-blood, and a merciless 13-0 blasting of Missouri rounded out Michigan’s marquee victories.
Despite the glittering 22-2 record and persistent #2 national ranking, the mood in the softball fanbase was tending towards the restless side. The offense was effective, but had not been able to recapture the free-wheeling, long-bombing swagger of 2015’s “Year of the Pizza” unit. Meanwhile, injuries and official “points of emphasis” combined to hamper Michigan’s top two pitchers. Unquestioned ace Megan Betsa has always been queen of the rise ball, but a renewed emphasis on call high rises balls sent her walks through the roof early on, while Sara Driesenga took some time to get back up to speed after missing almost all of 2015 due to injury. Even more concerning was the fact that the loss to Florida was not just a loss, but an 8-0 5 inning mercy-rule shellacking that left many Wolverine fans questioning whether the Maize & Blue would ever be able to challenge the Gators’ national dominance. Worries persisted even into the early stages of the Big Ten season, as the Wolverines opened Big Ten play with a dismal defensive performance, dropping a 13-12 contest to a solid but unremarkable Northwestern squad.
In addition to the quantifiable problems, there was an intangible sense that the 2016 team hadn’t really come together quite yet. Hutch talked in interviews about how the team wasn’t responding well at the beginning of spring practice, and only locked in over time. The pizza-making passion of 2015 had not yet been replaced by any new charming quirks or wacky antics. Even many of the wins felt simply dutiful, rather than joyful. A 3-1 W over a mediocre Virginia Tech team or a 1-0 squeaker over an Illinois State team that would go on to post a losing record in the Missouri Valley Conference felt more ho-hum than hail, hail. The team were still strong favorites to win the Big Ten and even to retain a super-regional (top-8) seed, but there was a clear need for something more.
[Hit THE JUMP for The Team The Team The Team, The Enemy, The Enemy, The Enemy, and The Hutch The Hutch The Hutch.]
When Beilein was hired about a decade ago, he had the reputation of being able to attract European recruits – after the Robin Benzing situation fell through early on in his tenure, that reputation sort of faded. I guess those connections never really went away, because Beilein recently pursued another German big man and this time, Moritz Wagner cleared all the hurdles on the path to becoming a Wolverine. Even though he’d actually seen the floor in an exhibition against the then-defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Wagner spent most of his time with the Alba Berlin B team, playing against more age-appropriate opponents. Predicting how well he’d adjust to the increased level of athleticism and physicality in college basketball was a fool’s errand, but it was clear from watching his film that Wagner had an unusual combination of size, handle, and fluidity and that he could potentially grow into an impact player at the college level in time.
Even though a player with his profile (essentially a wing transitioning to being a post player, a la DJ Wilson) would typically redshirt, Wagner did not; whether it was because he’s a Euro prospect – who are far likelier to leave college early than their American counterparts – or because the coaching staff thought he could contribute valuable minutes, I’m not sure, but either way, Wagner saw the floor last year. In the fifth game of the season, Moritz dominated a weak Charlotte team to the tune of 19 points on just 9 shot equivalents in 16 minutes(!) of playing time. He followed that up with 41 combined minutes in Michigan’s next two games (both against high-major opponents) and at the time, it seemed as if he was quickly becoming the Wolverines’ best option at the five.
It didn’t work out that way. Even before Mark Donnal emerged as a feasible starter with starter minutes, Wagner’s minutes evaporated: on the floor, he was turnover-prone (a casualty of his playmaking instincts, but an issue nonetheless), couldn’t avoid getting himself into foul trouble (7.3 fouls per 40 minutes on the year) and particularly struggled with defending and rebounding. A quote from a Brendan Quinn piece after his early-season breakout is instructive: "I've never been a natural rebounder, I guess. I think it (takes) a lot of experience to know when to watch the ball, how to box out your opponent and how to be in the right place. I think it comes with time." Once Big Ten play rolled around, Wagner became an afterthought in Beilein’s rotation, only totaling 55 minutes over 18 games.
[Hit the JUMP for more on Moritz]
it’s back [Bryan Fuller]
Single digits. Via the twitters,various numbers for incoming freshman are now known. The most significant development for Michigan numerologists: Crawford and EMB are both getting the #1. This is good; the number had gotten too bound up in its history to actually get used most of the time. I’m willing to give it to a guy who isn’t AC yet just to get it out of mothballs. Issuing it to a defender too is an interesting twist, especially a linebacker.
Other numbers: Devin Asiasi and Lavert Hill are both #2—no pressure, Lavert—and Rashan Gary will retain his #3 from high school—no pressure, #3.
[UPDATE: Seth relates that some of these numbers are just sticky notes, not plates, and that those are not official. Never mind some of this, then.]
Goodbye, ESPN. The last guy left in Bristol who can call college football is Joe Tessitore. All games this fall will be called by him or the army of Pam Ward clones currently being decanted in the basement:
- Mike Tirico left for NBC,which caused the accursed NFL to yoink Sean McDonough for Monday Night Football.
- McDonough’s broadcast partner Chris Spielman left for FOX, where he, too, will call f-ing NFL games.
- There are plenty of rumors that Brad Nessler is leaving for CBS, which seem to be backed by the fact that Tessitore got promoted to Saturday nights.
- Brent Musberger is still in SEC Network purgatory.
Tessitore is fine, and Fowler is fine. It sucks to lose McDonough, Spielman, and Nessler, all of whom are great.
Not that it matters so much to the Big Ten. They must have had a teleconference, because various reporters are now quoting ADs and Delany about the second half of the Big Ten’s rights package. Is the following real or posturing for a better deal from suddenly-miserly ESPN?
“No one has amnesia about the relationship we have had with ESPN. John Skipper and that group, they have been a wonderful partner. But we’re at a different place and I think they’re at a different place in 2016 than we were in the last round (of negotiations). That doesn’t mean we can’t get to the altar together and get married again. But we’re at the dating stage right now. And that’s a process.”
Whenever this comes up you hear that coaches are loathe to not have a relationship with the gorilla in the sports media ecosystem…
“I believe the Big Ten schools are, at a certain point, going to demand from their leadership, ‘We have to be on ESPN, for recruiting and for publicity. We can’t give that partnership up, it’s too valuable for us in in terms of our conference competing against other conferences for high school players,’” Deitsch said on his podcast. “I’m going to bet, in the end, there’s a deal there.”
…but I’ll believe a college athletics conglomerate is willing to leave money on the table when I see it.
Departing ESPN wholesale for (probably) FOX would be interesting. Right now the Big Ten gets a ton of viewership—would that move tank it? Or would the prospect of having an army of Pam Ward clones do every game at ESPN do so?
On that Tunsil lawsuit. Tunsil’s stepfather is on the stepfather is on the warpath:
Miller met with an NCAA investigator in July and told him about other possible improprieties he had witnessed dating back to Tunsil’s high school recruitment, when Tunsil turned down Nick Saban at Alabama and Mark Richt at Georgia to sign with Hugh Freeze at Mississippi.
Miller claims Tunsil’s academic records were altered. He said Polingo used to receive Western Union deliveries of money from Barney Farrar, Ole Miss assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations. An apparent reference to Farrar was made in the year-old text messages on draft night; when Tunsil asked the Ole Miss administrator for money, he responds, “See Barney next week.” Farrar has denied giving money to or being asked for money by Tunsil, Ole Miss is investigating and Farese predicts it will turn out to be “much ado about nothing.”
Some of that has already been accounted for in the allegations the NCAA has investigated. This lawsuit promises to uncover further things, because it looks like Ole Miss got caught giving him a bunch of different piddly stuff:
The NCAA said Tunsil was not initially honest but that five rules violations were confirmed: Tunsil improperly used three loaner cars without paying during a six-month period; received two nights’ lodging at a local home; accepted a free airline ticket; used a rental car for one day for free, and received an interest-free four-month loan to make a $3,000 down payment on a used car.
That’s not a one time thing, that is five different incidents of giving the guy cash, directly or not, and looks like the tip of the iceberg. What are the chances that this pattern is not repeated with other players? What are the chances that these are the only five things Tunsil was provided? Zero and zero.
Old school items. Via Dr. Sap:
I don’t know why people suspected Caris was soft. He has a broken foot:
LeVert revealed here this week that his injury -- the nature of which was kept under wraps during the season -- is a Jones fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. The injury, he said, is similar to the one he suffered earlier in his career.
He hoped the fracture would heal on its own, but when that process was slow-going, he opted instead to have surgery after the season by Dr. Martin O'Malley.
LeVert was still on crutches this week in Chicago, and said he will need to wear a boot on his left foot for another four weeks. That means he won't be doing any predraft workouts with teams.
The idea that Levert would try to avoid playing time this year was always goofy. Nobody wants to enter the NBA draft after two years mostly lost to injury. Even if he was only thinking of his draft stock, he would have played if at all possible. But rabblers gonna rabble.
Inevitable comparison. Beilein is going to go there with Xavier Simpson. He’s going with Trey Burke:
"I do," Michigan coach John Beilein was saying recently, asked if he sees significant comparisons between the two, other than they're both from Ohio.
"I see the dog in him, and I mean that in a positive. He goes out there and guards people and plays and he's a high competitor.
"This guy might be a guy that comes in the door with those competitive instincts."
A step towards sanity. The Big Ten will start using campus sites for hockey playoffs once ND joins, with a single week of best two-of-three games before a single elimination final four at an as of yet undisclosed location that I hope is the league winner’s home ice. The winner gets a bye, you see, and it would be weird if their reward was not playing any games at home.
John Gasaway compiles a list of the top shooting performances in the Kenpom era that surprisingly does not include a Stauskas or Burke team; it does include last year’s MSU game, with Michigan on the “whoops” side.