if you seek an image of the most Wisconsin OL ever, enter here
1/20/2014 – Michigan 54, Rutgers 50 – 12-7, 5-2 Big Ten
BENCH MOB NO MORE [Bryan Fuller]
At one point last night Michigan's lineup consisted of two walkons, two freshmen who had been snatched off the who-dat heap right before the late signing period, and redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. At another point it was Walton, three freshmen, and 6'7" center Max Bielfeldt. To paraphrase the increasingly rat-faced gentleman to the west, Michigan was playing a lot of weird guys. This is how weird: they yoinked a redshirt off a walk-on. It's not going to plan, you guys.
And they won! They won because Rutgers is a basketball team in the same way North Korea is a tourist destination, but Sean Lonergan played 13 more minutes than Caris LeVert did. Michigan is a basketball team in the same way London after the black plague was a city. I'll take it.
In fact Michigan is a zombie in the same way a zombie is a zombie: lurching forward despite taking a staggering amount of damage. They've got their grobbly little teeth into five Big Ten teams already largely because Beilein has deep experience taking the undersized and faintly ridiculous farther than seems possible. I bet a small part of him thinks it's kind of fun he's throwing out a zillion different zones and deploying a rotation that occasionally grabs chemistry students out of Orgo lab. A part much smaller than the eyerolling demon that controls most of his precincts, but an extant one nonetheless.
It is this tiny part of our rage-filled selves we should seek to cultivate.
Against teams that don't yield 25 uncontested threes against a team that barely hints at activity in the paint, the projection is rougher. Michigan's projected to win four of their remaining 11 games on Kenpom and it's hard to dispute that as pessimistic, what with Kenpom unaware that Caris has gone away.
It's going to be ugly. And… I guess, fine, let's just get to it and move on. Michigan saw Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas depart for the NBA. Jon Horford followed his family's insane NBA dream to 18 minutes a game on a 10-8 SEC Team. (Note to Michigan basketball: if Tito Horford shows up with a babe in swaddling clothes, put it in the river and run.) Caris is kaput and there's obviously something bothering Walton when he's not rebounding his ass off. Irvin is not quite in a Hardaway-esque sophomore funk (still 35% from three) but he's rarely able to generate anything that isn't provided.
You can rip that pile of talent away from a Duke or a Kentucky and they will plug it back in because the next wave of seven-footers from the Nike tanks is just around the corner. Michigan, not so much.
It's a minor miracle that they've done what they have over the last few years without recruiting one-and-done types. Michigan effective experience over the last five years, out of about 350: 335, 207, 342, 330, 326. The only team in that bunch to not win an NCAA game was the 207 squad, which went out early against Ohio. They went to a national title game and nearly another final four in there. And the NBA swooped in on guys who nobody had heard of before they put on the block M.
At some point the wrong combination of guys was going to pop out and Michigan would be pretty bleah. That's this.
Thanks to the two horrendous nonconference losses Michigan would probably have to get to 11, maybe 12 conference wins to get a bid. I guess that's not impossible, but neither is it likely. Against the easiest part of their Big Ten schedule Michigan has five wins that were one-basket games sometime in the last five minutes and two decisive losses.
The only reason anyone is holding out a faint modicum of hope is that 1-6 team that wandered into Breslin and sprayed blood all over the place. If that happens, great. I'm resigned to the NIT and looking for blips of improvement whenever Dawkins skies over everyone or Doyle, like, plays. I was throwing things earlier this year when this improbable scaffold collapsed on itself; now I'm trying to have fun watching it go back up.
Oy. I guess it evened out a little by the end but man, the three point shooting was something else. Rutgers somehow conspired to give Michigan open look after open look and Michigan could not convert. Walton hit a couple key late ones to get Michigan to 8 of 26, 31%.
That's much less of a problem than going 39% from within the arc, but if that happens against non-Rutgers teams it's curtains. Most of them aren't going to give up anywhere near as many open looks, though.
Rutgers. Just fire Eddie Jordan now. To be that disorganized with two seniors and two juniors in your starting lineup is a spectacular condemnation of coaching ability even in year two.
Two pointers. There aren't any. Doyle is getting an acceptable number up at a good rate (66%), and that is it. Irvin is at 42%, Chatman a stunning 34%, Walton even worse at 33%… it's night and day from last year when Michigan got a ton of good looks and converted them.
Why that might be. Walton's inability to step forward and become a high-usage, high-efficiency guy is killing the offense. I don't think anyone really expected Irvin to drive a lot of shot-generating, so the burden from the departed Stauskas was bound to fall on LeVert and Walton. LeVert stepped up insofar as he could—big usage, big assist rate, poor efficiency inside the arc. Walton's TO rate is almost as high as his assist rate and he's not effective as a shooter.
I believe that turf toe is a major problem, but we'd better hope so because any renaissance starts with Walton being an all-conference level player.
Chatman versus Dawkins. If you had no idea who was the touted recruit you would pick Dawkins 100 times out of 100. He can leap out of the building, he's decently efficient shooting, and he does not do the very strange things Chatman does multiple times per game. And yet Dawkins was picking between Michigan and Dayton while Chatman was a top 50 recruit everywhere. Very strange.
We're going to explore the boundaries of what Dawkins can do now over the rest of th season, as he's showing some promise. He even had a take to the basket last game out.
This is how you know it's not your year. Spike's TO rate is over 20, and the second highest on the team. Last year he went through a big chunk of the Big Ten season with an infinite A:TO ratio.
coming to a slot seam matchup near you?
I'm a tiny bit skeptical here since the source right now is recruit Iman Marshall (and Freddy Canteen if Canteen isn't just reacting to that) and Michigan's coaches other than Mattison haven't seen Peppers take a snap, but it's out there:
@JabrillPeppers moving to safety is good, can scrape the field left to right .. And is 2nd to none at it, peppy pep
— OneSeven (@FreddCanteen_) January 21, 2015
Michigan does return Countess and Lewis at corner, plus Channing Stribling, Terry Richardson, and Brandon Watson. If they find a third guy there's enough depth there to make the move. Meanwhile Michigan never settled on a safety opposite Jarrod Wilson last year, rotating through Delano Hill, Jeremy Clark, and Dymonte Thomas with middling success.
"But why?", you ask?
We have seen a lot of defenses move to a quarters system of varying aggressiveness as a response to the spread, and depending on how good and deep your safeties are that's either gone really well (Michigan State two years ago) or gotten you blazed down the slot whenever you run up against a good offense (Michigan State last year). OSU is also playing quarters for the most part, and when they're not they're putting a lot of pressure on a single high safety.
This trend comes from the NFL, where passing offenses were more advanced and you could unearth a freak of nature more often at safety. Chris Brown on quarters:
At first glance, Cover 4 looks like an anti-pass “prevent” formation, with four secondary defenders playing deep. But therein lies its magic. The four defenders are actually playing a matchup zone concept, in which the safety reads the tight end or inside receiver. If an offensive player lined up inside releases on a short pass route or doesn’t release into the route, the safety can help double-team the outside receiver. If the inside receiver breaks straight downfield, it becomes more like man coverage. This variance keeps quarterbacks guessing and prevents defenses from being exploited by common pass plays like four verticals, which killed eight-man fronts. The real key to Cover 4, however, is that against the run both safeties become rush defenders (remember, the outside cornerbacks play deep). This allows defenses to play nine men in the box against the run — a hat-tip to the 46’s overwhelming force.
The problem college teams often face is what happens when that man coverage from a vertical receiver comes from the offense's best WR against your third-best cover guy: the touchdowns linked above.
In a spread-oriented world, a safety has to be a corner and a linebacker at the same time. This is very hard, and modern offenses are targeting them more than anyone else for their big plays. After decades in which cornerbacks were the glamor players in any given secondary, the way many teams are playing and the shortcomings against slot receivers exposed this year demands a new, crazy athlete safety, even at the college level.
That's Peppers. If Michigan is set on quarters coverage, he's a guy who can sit over that "slot" receiver and not give up a major athleticism mismatch.
UPDATE: Peppers seems to confirm on the twitters.
Caris LeVert is out for the year. Several players were sick. Zak Irvin sat most of the first half with foul trouble. Derrick Walton didn't hit a shot until the game's waning minutes.
Sean Lonergan and Andrew Dakich played—at the same time. Aubrey Dawkins led the team in made field goals—with four. The Wolverines were 8/26 from beyond the arc—and 9/23 inside of it.
Michigan beat Rutgers on the road.
It wasn't aesthetically pleasing. It didn't make a whole lot of sense. It was... kinda fun?
The plucky underdog role suits this team, unburdened from expectations. The missteps are much more understandable, while stuff like "WALK-ON LAYUP OUT OF NOWHERE" provides genuine joy. The offense remained disjointed and relatively ineffective, but there's hope to be found in Aubrey Dawkins scoring an efficient 11 points, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finishing a couple strong drives to the rim, Max Bielfeldt—Max Bielfeldt!—posting 8 and 8. While M didn't shoot the ball well from the outside, they generated a lot of good looks, and the defense—albeit Rutgers-aided tonight—continued to be pleasantly decent.
Losing the lead in the second half felt expected, not disastrous. Then Spike Albrecht scooped in a running layup, Walton drilled back-to-back triples, and Bielfeldt extended the lead with a three moments after he pulled down an offensive rebound. Walton and Irvin iced the game at the line, and just like that, Michigan is 5-2 in the Big Ten.
It's probably not going to last. Wisconsin comes to town on Saturday, and they're easily the best team in the conference. Then again, they lost to Rutgers last week. For tonight, let's celebrate the weird guys, in all their weird glory.
needs updating: "MILK: never heard of it"
I couldn't find the rocket fuel. Add it to the pile:
"This one time I was a kid, we didn't have any milk for cereal," says Jay Harbaugh, 25. "He put Gatorade in the cereal instead of milk. It was the weirdest thing I ever saw.
"I didn't try it. For good reason. That's not where Gatorade goes."
Later that day he poured a Red Bull on his pizza, with powdered sugar donuts for dessert. IF YOU GET MY DRIFT
DO YOU GET IT? I have to explain everything.
ANYWAY. It's not the worst idea in the world.
409? 45. When you absolutely need something burned to the ground, you could do a lot worse than calling on Keith Olbermann:
It'll never happen, but if Michigan hockey all wore "45" stickers on their helmets the next time they played Penn State I'd be real happy. 45? The number of counts Sandusky was convicted on.
Snipe. Michael Hurley is some dude in Boston who's confused why Michigan fans are high-fiving him online today. You do the Lord's Work, Mr. Hurley:
“There are well-founded whispers in the NFL that the underlings who supply towels in the visiting locker room sometimes run back to the home locker room to share what they heard.”
This is stupid. This is lazy. This is irresponsible “journalism” from Sports Illustrated. This should not be published, period.
“The Patriots supposedly stopped videotaping opponents’ defensive signals when they got caught in 2007, but opponents wonder if they are still stealing them.”
I wonder every single day if I’m going to get hit by a comet and wiped off the face of the earth. It does not mean it’s going to come true. “Reporting” on what opponents wonder is pathetic.
That is an on-point fisk of a pile of not-even-Googled Michael Rosenberg assertions about the Patriots in the wake of slightly-less-inflated-ball-gate. Someone send him an "I Oblierated Michael Rosenberg On The Internet And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt" shirt.
“Maybe some of this is overstated.”
A pattern arises.
JOBS (one of which some of you might be qualified for). A number of jobs have been posted on Michigan's site with which they do that federally-mandated thing, and they're interesting in terms of program direction even if you're not trying to fit in one of the gaps—a number of these are probably already decided upon anyway.
One might not be. There's a "recruiting coordinator" spot that is heavy on the twitter/vine/swipe-right-to-commit end of things:
- Create Highlight Tapes that are used on Unofficial and Official Visits
- Create Highlights of Michigan Football that are used for social media
- Create Highlights from Prospects game tape for the coaches to evaluate.
- Handle the logistics for Video Presentation at the Stadium with prospects.
- Create and Coordinate Michigan Vine Video Account
Good to see that they're going to be more out there on the social medias than Hoke was—not that Hoke was particularly hampered by not doing this until his offense died in a hole.
(Note that Chris Singletary's title is "director of player personnel" and that a bunch of these responsibilities are not currently taken care of. Singletary's staying and this spot likely reports to him.)
There's also an "offensive football analyst" spot that sounds a lot like the video coordinator stuff I know they're already doing with extra snitchin':
7) Monitor team curfew during preseason training camp.
8) Lifestyle monitoring of student-athletes. Monitor off-campus student-athlete housing.
And a "player development" spot which also seems like it will report to Singletary and help him do more.
And even though they didn't get Shannon Turley there's no question that's what Harbaugh wants his S&C program to look like. Michigan's posted a "performance manager" post that sounds like it's at the full Turley/Chip Kelly level of sophistication…
1. Clinical application and administration of comprehensive performance analytics and lifetime wellness services for student-athletes as assigned.
2. Collaborate with Student-Athlete Health and Welfare personnel and coaching personnel to assess training loads, neuromuscular fatigue, athlete readiness, and other performance factors.
3. Collaborate with Student-Athlete Health and Welfare personnel and coaching personnel to develop protocols to monitor and enhance rest, recovery, and regeneration, and athlete readiness.
Say goodbye, kids:
- Ability to work long hours, including early mornings, late nights, weekends, holidays, overtime, non-traditional work hours, extended periods of time without days off, travel, and be on-call as a regular part of the position;
They also posted a "performance nutrition" spot two weeks ago. It sounds like they're fleshing out the support staff—IIRC Harbaugh often makes requests for extra resources in these departments.
Midterm CSBs out. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau provides an official-ish draft ranking around this time of year, and this one features a particularly prominent set of Michigan-affiliated players. (A reminder: the CSB separates Euro and North American skaters, so multiply a player's ranking by about 1.3 to get an approximate draft position.) They are:
- #6 Zach Werenski, D, already enrolled
- #14 Kyle Connor, F, Youngstown (USHL)
- #34 Brendan Warren, F, USA U18 (USHL)
- #70 Joe Cecconi, D, Muskegon (USHL)
- #176 Nick Boka, D, USA U18 (USHL)
That's two likely first round picks, a second-rounder, a mid-round guy, and a guy who might go late. Goalie Hayden Lavigne and forward Connor Murphy are the only incoming players not ranked. Murphy was ranked last year whilst tearing up Ontario Junior B, but after a move to the USHL's Chicago Steel sees him with a 10-10-20 line in 33 games he's dropped off the radar—as 5'9" kids who aren't murdering the competition tend to do.
FWIW, if Michigan doesn't add anyone before the summer that might be an indication they expect to return just about everyone they are able to next year. The three incoming F and two outgoing D match Michigan's departures (At F: Hyman, Lynch, Sinelli; on D: Serville, Chiasson) precisely.
Michigan is carrying a longer roster than they usually do, but right now I don't think anyone is going to be in a spot where their NHL team would be encouraging a quick signing. Maybe Larkin, if Larkin wasn't a draftee of the very patient Red Wings. Maybe Werenski if he gets picked by an exceptionally jumpy team.
But it's Michigan hockey so don't believe they're there until three weeks into the season.
UPDATE: I didn't look at recruits scheduled to come in for 2016, so I missed #63 Cooper Marody and #192 Sam Miletic, both USHL forwards.
Jedd Fisch background. He's completely out of nowhere:
While most of the members of Harbaugh's staff have an immediate connection to the head coach, Fisch doesn't.
He met Harbaugh for the first time when he got off the plane in Ann Arbor. However, he does have a long-standing coaching relationship with Vic Fangio, Harbaugh's defensive coordinator for four years with the San Francisco 49ers and one year with Stanford.
Fisch does have a knack for getting good jobs, and Harbaugh's hiring history is impeccable. Hopefully that's a bright young mind in a bad situation kind of thing instead of Kiffin 2.0; I'm guessing it's the former until evidence says otherwise.
While we're on the topic, here's MGoVideo has some Jedd Fisch miked up stuff, including a moment where he yells at Denard. Not, like, Rodriguez-yells. He's much more laid back. So are coked-up hyenas. Why am I talking about this?
Etc.: Soccer alum Justin Meram got a start for Iraq at the Asian Championships. Nine caps and counting. You'll never guess where Pat Forde slots Michigan on his list of winners and losers in the coaching carousel. (If you are deliberately obtuse.)
When it rains, it pours (Upchurch / MGoBlog)
Your Weekly B1G Hoops Column
Table of Contents:
Week III Results
Post-Week III Standings
Team of the Week: Iowa
Player of the Week: D’Angelo Russell
Stat of the Week: Youth and Success
Various B1G Thoughts
Michigan’s Week That Was
IT’S TIME TO PANIC
Week IV Schedule
Some Personal News
1. Week III Results
There weren’t any true upsets this week, as the conference race is starting to take shape. Indiana staved off a challenge from Penn State and notched a nice road win against Illinois (without Rayvonte Rice); Illinois defeated Northwestern in Evanston, Purdue had a miraculous sequence at the end of regulation to win against PSU in Happy Valley, and Iowa failed to choke away a game against rival Minnesota in the Barn – those were the only road wins, none of which could really be considered upsets.
Maryland and Ohio State each had impressive home blowouts, over Michigan St. and Michigan, respectively. Other than that, there wasn’t much of note in terms of on-court results – everything more or less went as expected, to a large extent.
2. Post-Week III Big Ten Standings
Even though Maryland has one more win than Wisconsin (due to scheduling), the Badgers are still the class of the conference from an efficiency standpoint, even though they haven’t faced any legitimate challengers yet. The Terps are a weird team – they have the 9th-best offensive efficiency and best defensive efficiency in conference play.
From there, the race is still indistinct. Iowa finally shook off their late-game demons after squandering a lead at Minnesota, only to win on a late Jarrod Uthoff jumper, and held off Ohio State at home; Indiana still has a negative efficiency margin, remarkably – that blowout loss in East Lansing has overshadowed an otherwise decent start to Big Ten play; Michigan State’s schedule will start to get easier from here on out; Michigan is assuredly out of the race after Caris LeVert’s injury.
One other thing: Poor Damn Minnesota. They have a very disappointing 1-5 record, but the Gophers are only four points worse than their opponents over 100 possessions. I’m not sure if I’m crazy for thinking this, but I don’t think it’s over for them quite yet.
Click on image to enlarge. Data’s starting to fill in a little bit.
3. Team of the Week: Iowa
The moment when Iowa purged its late-game demons (source)
Though Maryland is currently atop the standings and Wisconsin – the clear frontrunner for the conference title – has an excellent efficiency margin, it might be time to seriously consider Iowa as a potential challenger. They’ve rightfully received plenty of attention for their chronic propensity to blow leads in the second half; they’re still one of the better teams in the country, when they’re at their best.
Minnesota erased a 17-point second-half deficit and took a two possession lead late in the game, only for some unfortunate missed front-ends and clutch baskets from Jarrod Uthoff to enable Iowa to steal the game late. It’s hard to assess whether Iowa’s late-game struggles over the past two seasons are an inherent problem – the analytically-inclined would be more likely to ascribe simple bad luck as the root cause, but at a certain point, it’s harder to explain away. Regardless, the win over Minnesota is a nice sign. Iowa’s still not exactly a team that exudes reliability, but a 4-1 start is undoubtedly positive.
After this week, they’ve swept Ohio State – remarkably, the Buckeyes are now two games out of first place after three weeks of conference play. Iowa’s win this past weekend showed off their capabilities when they’re playing particularly well: they attacked the basket well and got to the free throw line a lot (and converted there); they forced the Buckeyes into an uncharacteristic 16-42 (38%) from two-point range; they managed to overcome a herculean performance for D’Angelo Russell and a mini-run early in the second half that could have led to another backbreaking comeback against the Hawkeyes.
It’s still a little tough to trust Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have generally been playing good basketball this season – an insane barrage of threes from Michigan State notwithstanding. The Hawkeyes might be a step below Maryland and Wisconsin, but they should receive plenty of attention – they might be the best team behind those two.
Previously – Maryland (Week I), Rutgers (Week II)
[HIT THE JUMP for the rest of the article / lamentations on our bad luck]
Michigan (11-7, 4-2 B1G) at
Rutgers (10-9, 2-4)
Louis Brown Athletic Center,
Piscataway, New Jersey
|WHEN||6:30 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||Rutgers -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Joe Davis
Analyst: Dan Bonner
Right: Look up Rutgers mascot images, get free nightmares for life. (Source)
The injury situation went from limiting to dire in a hurry, with the worst of it being Caris LeVert's season-ending foot fracture suffered on the final play of Saturday's Northwestern game.
It doesn't end there. Spike Albrecht and Ricky Doyle are both questionable due to illness; after Albrecht missed the whole game and Doyle the second half on Saturday, neither practiced Sunday. The same bug has limited Zak Irvin, though he's been able to play and practice through it. Kameron Chatman is questionable due to swelling in his knee.
Even the scout team has been hit hard. DJ Wilson still isn't cleared for full-court practice, so he's not (yet) a candidate to have his redshirt lifted. Transfer Duncan Robinson, who isn't even eligible to play, has sat out the last few weeks with a sprained ankle. Things got so bad this week that David Merritt, the former walk-on point guard, suited up for practice alongside coaches and team managers. No, he doesn't have any more eligibility.
If the questionable players can't go, Michigan will have a very short bench. The presumed starting lineup would be Walton-MAAR-Irvin-Dawkins-Donnal, leaving Max Bielfeldt as the only scholarship player off the bench. Walk-on Sean Lonergan practiced with the first team Monday in anticipation of getting serious minutes.
Not losing to Rutgers would be nice.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||4||Myles Mack||Sr.||5'10, 175||90||24||Kinda|
|Scoring and assist leader is RU's only player with ORtg above 100.|
|G||2||Bishop Daniels||Jr.||6'3, 185||43||26||Kinda|
|Not very efficient but draws a lot of fouls. Very turnover-prone.|
|F||10||Junior Etou||So.||6'7, 230||76||16||Kinda|
|Team's best defensive rebounder. Iffy shooter.|
|F||11||Kadeem Jack||Sr.||6'9, 235||70||27||Yes|
|43% on twos and 29% on threes, so naturally takes a crapton of shots.|
|C||35||Greg Lewis||Jr.||6'9, 245||63||15||Very|
|Good rim protector, mediocre rebounder and finisher.|
|G||6||Mike Williams||Fr.||6'2, 190||60||19||Yes|
|Spot-up shooter who can't knock down shots (23% 3P).|
|F||22||DJ Foreman||Fr.||6'8, 230||35||16||Not really|
|Inconsistent finisher draws lots of fouls but has hit just 7/25 FTs.|
|C||40||Shaquille Doorson||Fr.||6'11, 275||23||12||Very|
|Low usage, solid off. rebounder and shot-blocker, TO- and foul-prone.|
Rutgers had a rough go in nonconference play, losing to #180 St. Peter's and #174 St. Francis at home and failing to come within 17 points of the three top-100 squads they faced. They started off the Big Ten schedule by losing at home to Northwestern, edged Penn State by four at home, got blown out at Nebraska, and then... beat Wisconsin. Yes, the Badgers were without Frank Kaminsky, but that's still deeply bizarre.
The Scarlet Knights have followed up their signature win with road losses to Maryland and Minnesota, the latter giving the Gophers their first conference win.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
HEY. With searchapalooza over and LeVert out and hockey at least in contention for a bid this year, let's talk about hockey some more.
THE SITUATION. Michigan has put itself in decent shape after a streak in which it's won nine of ten games. Now 13-7, Michigan is 17th in RPI and the Pairwise. To have a chance they'll have to be at least 15th and to feel secure they'd have to hit 12. How many wins that would take is hard to judge. They barely moved after the Minnesota sweep, shot up to 14th with one game over OSU, and now have slid back down to 17 solely because of other teams' activities. It is volatile out there.
A REMINDER. The new jazzed-up RPI is pretty much all that matters. Changes a few years ago have made it very difficult for the Pairwise to deviate from RPI at all:
- there are only three categories
- one is RPI
- one is head to head and a lot of teams don't play each other
- RPI is also the tiebreaker
As a result you have to lose the other two categories to lose a comparison you would otherwise win. That requires losing both head to head and common opponents. This happens very, very infrequently.
THE GOOD NEWS. Michigan's put themselves in a situation where they are more likely to move up rapidly than down. There are four teams behind them within a single point; there are seven ahead of them.
Also, Michigan's heavily away-and-neutral schedule is horrible for fans but good for RPI. One of the tweaks they made a few years back was to weight road wins and home losses at 1.2 and home wins and road losses at 0.8. This is an affront to mathematics—a road win is worth 50% more than home win in a sport with a long-term home win percentage around 55%—and it's hurting Michigan right now since they've played a lot of unfairly devalued home games and not a lot of unfairly valued road games.
Michigan has been trudging through quicksand here despite win after win; the combination of the two above factors means that if they keep the winning up they should get some traction soon.
THE BAD NEWS. The Big Ten is so bad—if the season ended today they would be a one-bid conference like Atlantic Hockey—that Michigan is going to have to win a lot of games to feel anywhere near safe when conference play is over.
Only Minnesota and Penn State have any shot at an at-large, and since to make good on that shot they're going to have to beat the other teams with a shot it looks like the only way the Big Ten gets more than one team in is for one team to run away with the regular season title and then lose in the crapshoot tourney.
The Big Ten is not quite working out like people feared.
THE WISCONSIN NEWS. Michigan's opponent this weekend is shockingly bad. The Badgers have seven NHL draft picks and went 24-11-2 last year; they are currently 2-13-3. They've been outscored 2 to 1 on the season; they have one guy with a positive plus-minus. That is bad.
I would not be surprised if by the end of the year Wisconsin is so bad that even wins over them would lower Michigan's RPI. RPI fixed that a while back by dropping games like that out of the equation entirely (Michigan's wins against American International are already in that category), but even so that means Michigan can't do much other than but go backwards this weekend. A sweep doesn't help much, if at all; anything else provides an anchor in which Wisconsin's schedule becomes a sucking hole in Michigan's SOS.
Irritatingly, Wisconsin is already a problem for Michigan: They took three points from Ferris in a weekend series, beat Michigan Tech one night after losing 8-1, and tied Minnesota last weekend. Each of those non-wins seriously hurts those teams, and by extension Michigan.
The moral of the story: don't expect much.
ROOTING GUIDE. Hold your nose and root for Minnesota the rest of the way. RPI includes a quality win bonus for teams in the top 20 and Michigan has two wins over the Gophers. Also root for Tech and UMass-Lowell, for the same reasons.
Root for Wisconsin to end the season with two wins, because if they are bad enough to get dropped from RPI entirely at the end of the seasons that means they'll have transferred some schedule strength to the rest of the conference, and root for the bubble to collapse.
OSU 0 UM 1 EV 01:38 Hyman (12) from Larkin (15)
Dylan Larkin picks up the puck in Michigan’s defensive zone and carries it out himself. As he reaches the neutral zone the two nearest defenders react in very different ways; the far-side defender sees Larkin and steps toward him, while the near-side defender skates off for a line change. In the middle of a play. Where the guy with the puck is about eight feet away.
Larkin is able to skate in to the neutral zone with ease thanks to the pick that the line-changing defender set on his neutral zone counterpart. Larkin’s speed gains him a step on the flat-footed defenseman that picks him up, and as he starts to go behind the net the opposite defenseman (circled below) panics. He jumps to try and pick Larkin up, thus vacating the net-front area he should be in.
Larkin sees the second defenseman jump out of position and realizes that leaves Zach Hyman unchecked in front. He threads a perfect backhanded pass to Hyman, who shoots immediately. The puck hits Matt Tomkins’ shoulder and rolls down his back a bit before falling into the net behind him.
[After THE JUMP: M’s goalie gets pulled but they still win, so lots of scoring]
DJ Durkin's rapid ascension to a coordinator-level spot at the somewhat preposterous age of 34 wasn't surprising to a lot of people who knew him. Durkin jumped into coaching immediately upon completion of his playing career, first as a GA at Bowling Green, his alma mater, under Urban Meyer. He progressed to a steadily more impressive series of stops. Since that GA spot Durkin spent…
- two years as a grad assistant at Notre Dame under Greg Mattison
- two years as a BGSU position coach, first DE, then LB
- three years as Stanford's DE coach under Jim Harbaugh
- two years as Florida's LB coach, first under Urban Meyer, then retained Will Muschamp
- two years as Florida's DC
…and now he's at Michigan. Probably for more than two years, but not twenty. Coaching trajectories like that don't often end before the head coach level. Durkin's already been hired by Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh (twice), and those guys are head coach gatling guns.
Add in Greg Mattison and Will Muschamp (who knows what he's doing on defense to the tune of a $1.6 million gig at Auburn even after the Florida flameout) and that's a lot of excellent coaches vouching for him.
“Everyone I talked to said he is one of the bright young coaches in college football,” Muschamp said.
This is how quickly he moves up: when Dan Quinn was hired away from Florida to be the Seahawks DC it took all of three hours for Muschamp to promote him.
But until he's got a presser somewhere else, he's here. Michigan's won a defensive version of Jim Harbaugh, which isn't that surprising since his first big break was with him.
It helps Durkin's case he has the energy, intensity and work ethic to match the indefatigable Muschamp. Before he came to Florida in 2010, Durkin was the same way at Stanford with the hyper-intense Jim Harbaugh.
The way he coaches is the way Durkin wants his players to perform.
"We want to play with unbelievable effort and enthusiasm in what we're doing," he said. "That's the way I coach. That's my personality."
Stanford fans were impressed with him as well:
Durkin was always known as an insanely high-energy coach when he was at Stanford, and his special teams units were always well-coached. That intensity definitely carried over to his recruiting abilities, where he helped bring in and develop some of the best players in Stanford history.
I think his star pupil at Stanford was probably Shayne Skov, who became an unstoppable player on special teams his freshman year - he made so many tackles that the coaches basically had no choice but to play him at linebacker. The guy knows what he's talking about and has that same intensity as Harbaugh and Muschamp, so I think he's a perfect fit for the promotion.
And so is Scot Loeffler:
"His enthusiasm is off the charts," said Scot Loeffler, the former Wolverines quarterback and assistant coach who later was a Lions assistant, and who tutored Tim Tebow at Florida, where he worked with Durkin.
"I've known him for five years, and he's remarkably intelligent. He knows the game inside and out, and his toughness and love for the game is remarkable.
"I think he's a great hire for Michigan. He'll bring excitement to the program. He has that great enthusiasm. And I promise you, his defensive unit will be fundamentally sound."
He generally backed that up in his two years as Florida DC, with the caveat that Muschamp was also heavily involved:
There's a good measure of how random turnovers are: Florida was great or horrible with nothing in between over the last five years.
Durkin's first year at DC was a miserable 4-8 hole in which the Florida offense died, finishing 97th in FEI—a large part of the decline there was no doubt fatigue and apathy.
Durkin's position coaching chops are also impressive. At Stanford he was walking into a situation where talent was sparse, but he still had a major impact on their ability on a college level:
"He always found a way," [Ben] Muth recalls. "We really didn't have much speed out there at all at Stanford early on, and he still found a way to put together some really solid special teams groups.
"And we had some good position coaches. Our defensive line coach (Lance Anderson), our offensive line coaches (Chris Dalman, Tim Drevno), David Shaw. All obviously really good. But Durkin, he might've been the best position coach we had."
The year before Durkin got to Stanford with Harbaugh (2006), the Cardinal had 14 sacks as a team. Two years later, Stanford registered 33 sacks.
At Florida he did excellent work with their LBs. Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, and Ronald Powell were drafted, with Bostic going in the second round. OLB/WDE guy Ronald Powell is projected as a top 15 pick in the upcoming draft. Antonio Morrison was a second team all-SEC guy at a mere 218 pounds.
After Muschamp's firing, Durkin was a hot commodity. He was courted by North Carolina and supposedly on the verge of accepting the Texas A&M DC job until Harbaugh stepped in. Those jobs went to Gene Chizik and LSU DC John Chavis, and Durkin was seemingly preferred in both situations. Hell, as late as early December OSU fans on Eleven Warriors were agitating for Durkin to replace Luke Fickell, in part because he almost ripped highly touted OH LB Jerome Baker from their sweaty clutches. Urbtopia has no doubt cooled those calls, but point is dude is desirable.
Durkin should be a major asset. He was named the Rivals recruiter of the year for the 2012 class after swooping into North Carolina and snatching two five stars out of the state; as mentioned above, he has been active in Ohio with recruits that OSU went into the recruiting year believing they had a blood right to. Durkin's hire immediately piqued the interest of several recruits in the south, including Roquan Smith, who visited last weekend.
Durkin's from Youngstown and has four years of experience scouring the south so he'll be a pointman on a lot of major recruitments.
Presser style preview:
Durkin has run both a 3-4 and a 4-3, but let's expand on a topic we briefly touched on during the very last searchbits: there's running a "3-4" and running a 3-4. The scarequotes version kind of has three down lineman plus a "drop end" who often lines up in a two point stance. There's no behemoth Wilforkian nose tackle, and the DL generally attack single gaps. This was what Florida ran most of last year, featuring 6'3", 260-pound Dante Fowler as their WDE/drop-end guy.
That's basically a 4-3 under taken slightly further. When running the under with Greg Mattison, Michigan would blitz SAM Jake Ryan, slant the three guys on the line away from him, and "fold" the end back.
The end result is the same 4-3 defense except the guys are in different spots and the offensive line may get confused, allowing your gap attack to be more effective. Durkin's most recent Florida defense was more explicit about the fact their defense flipped from down to down, but it was similar in philosophy to Michigan. Against FSU it was almost all 4-3 or nickel looks with the standard okie chaos on passing downs.
So I wouldn't expect Michigan's style of defense to change much.
What about the coverage? With Jourdan Lewis coming on and Jabrill Peppers hopefully healthy, Michigan could so some things, and Florida was inclined to do those things:
Florida plays a lot of press technique especially for cornerbacks, an in-your-face physical style of pass defense. The style also involves a shuffle step in lieu of the traditional backpedaling most cornerbacks are taught to do from an early age.
If Michigan does try to go aggressive again the comparison between staffs will be an interesting one.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
A couple years to get stablized and get some pass rushing talent in, then some dang good defenses, then he ends up like Pat Narduzzi, waiting for a good opportunity to break into the head coaching ranks.
Official Visits Wrapup
This guy is a legend pic.twitter.com/nD6MewDzAT
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 18, 2015
While Michigan's big official visit weekend hasn't yet produced a commitment, it certainly moved the needle for some of the program's top targets. Four-star CT TE Chris Clark—who appears to have rocked khakis on his visit, based on the above picture—was already familiar with Michigan's campus. He came to Ann Arbor to meet Jim Harbaugh, and told MLive that couldn't have gone much better:
"It's crazy, he's really intense, and you really like that," Clark told MLive on Sunday. "He grew on me a lot. I didn't know what to think at first, I wasn't sure what he'd be like. But once I left, he really, really grew on me.
"He's the best coach I think I've sat down with. I just think he's awesome."
An important note: Clark had an in-home with UCLA's Jim Mora last week. Clark now says his two finalists are "neck and neck" heading into this weekend's official visit to UCLA; Harbaugh will have an in-home with Clark after that visit, hopefully allowing him the last word in the process. Momentum looks to be swinging Michigan's way, though we'll see if that changes after Clark sees UCLA's campus for the first time. Clark is slated to make his decision on Signing Day in a televised ceremony on ESPNU.
Michigan also made significant progress with top-50 GA LB Roquan Smith; per TomVH, the Wolverines are poised to make the cut when Smith narrows his list to three ($):
Heading into the trip, Smith had Florida, Georgia, Michigan and UCLA as his likely top four. He has yet to take his official visit to UCLA, but says he should have news before that trip.
"[Michigan is] in my top and I'll be coming out with a final three next week," he said.
I'd assume Florida is the odd team out here—the main reason Smith looked at Michigan in the first place is because they hired DJ Durkin, who'd recruited him while at UF.
Three-star FL CB Damon Arnette, a South Carolina commit, got some important perspective from his player host, Jabrill Peppers, per Scout's Amy Campbell ($):
“Me and Jabrill had this conversation, just based off of speaking to him, he’s ready, you know what I mean? I can tell he’s going to be a great player, and I think that’s maybe something I want to be a part of. Him being back there behind me,that would be great. I can tell, since he got hurt, that put a drive in him,” Arnette said.
“Speaking with Jabrill, he was saying when he got hurt, he was going crazy because he didn’t know what else he could do, but then he realized he’s getting a great education. God forbid something happens to me, if I end up going to Michigan, I still have my education to fall back on.”
Arnette sounds like a strong candidate to commit; he had effusive praise for the coaches and even said he loved the weather—not exactly the norm for a Florida kid visiting Michigan in January.
The only uncommitted official visitor who doesn't sound like a distinct possibility to end up in the class is three-star FL DE Shelton Johnson, who said the visit was "pretty good" to Scout's Corey Bender ($). Nothing he said in there gave the impression Michigan should challenge Florida State, the presumed leader, for his commitment.
Meanwhile, five-star CA CB Iman Marshall is on campus. There will be much more on him later in the week.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]