no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
The series continues with a look back at the defensive prospects in Michigan's 2010 recruiting class. Rich Rodriguez took 16 defenders in the class; more of them failed to make it to the opening kickoff of their freshman year (four) than advanced all the way to Senior Day (three).
I apologize in advance.
Those Who Stayed
Especially in retrospect, Jake Ryan's recruitment was bizarre. Ryan was the most productive defender on a state-title-winning Cleveland St. Ignatius squad that got plenty of exposure; he played next to Ohio State commit Scott McVey; his highlight tape provided more than a glimpse of what he'd become at Michigan. He looked a whole lot like Jake MF Ryan, minus the flowing locks.
Yet Ryan went unranked for much of the process, and even after a strong senior season only earned middling three-star rankings. Michigan didn't offer Ryan until he took an official visit a couple weeks before Signing Day. Ryan, holding only MAC offers, committed the next day. Reading his profile today makes me wonder if I unwittingly ingested all of the drugs:
Why Obi Ezeh? Ryan is a big, slightly clunky middle linebacker who will easily reach Ezeh's current 245 pounds and may outgrow the position entirely. As a recruit Ezeh was an anonymous three-star in about the same range Ryan is; he was also a sleeper-type pickup who had not been on anyone's radar before Michigan grabbed him. Ryan is praised for his vertical attacking and dogged for his ability to cut through the trash sideline-to-sideline or effectively cover zones; Ezeh's career is ably summed up by those critiques.
Ryan has some assets Ezeh doesn't: a high school career at linebacker (Ezeh was mostly a running back), a head start on the system he'll be playing in, and Greg Robinson as a position coach. Hopefully he'll have some consistency in coaching as well.
Notably, Greg Robinson as a position coach was listed as a positive. Greg Robinson as a defensive coordinator was... not.
Jibreel Black's profile spent a lot of time hoping he'd become at least a poor man's Brandon Graham. While Black didn't come close to Graham's heights, he was a solid contributor his last three years, and he could've been more productive if Michigan's issues with D-line depth didn't force him into a role as a 275-pound nose tackle for much of his senior season. Black is one of many players from the Rodriguez/Hoke era whose career would've benefited from a redshirt year he wasn't afforded.
The career of Courtney Avery saw him go from promising freshman corner to clearly undersized spot starter to senior utility man—he'd finish his time at Michigan with 19 starts, five of them at safety in 2013. Avery was also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, which shouldn't come as a surprise since he flipped his commitment from Stanford to Michigan; his high school coach thought very highly of him:
“He’s the type of kid that if he wants to be president of the United States one day, he will be. I got two compliments I could give him. That’s the first, and the second is if my daughter was 18, she could date him."
"Thanks, Coach. I'm deeply uncomfortable."
[Hit THE JUMP, if you dare.]
The most interesting man in the world, part XXXVI. Since Harbaugh's tweeting about the organic bananas Miguel grew today this seems like a good time to note that there's a 50-minute-long documentary on Harbaugh conquering South America on vimeo. I can't embed it, but, like
I hope to name something they do this fall "peruball."
Yet more complaints from the NFL. The spread is such a good offensive system that a collection of French six year olds could probably go 6-6 with it, according to Seahawks assistant Tom Cable:
“Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players — other than a receiver — that come out of these spread systems,” Cable continued. “The runners aren’t as good. They aren’t taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea.”
Nobody is taught anything. You show up in college and they're just all like "put that hat on, the one with the bars on it, I think the bars go in front, hooray we just had practice."
There is nothing funnier than NFL coaches having little stomp fits that their QBs can't take a three step drop when they are making the same transition college is, just slightly slower. As of 2011, 38% of NFL snaps were from the gun. That shot up to 58%(!) by 2014. The NFL is going to hit the theoretical maximum by the time Tom Cable gets done talking.
Harbaugh angle on the above. It'll be interesting to see what Harbaugh does given the above environment. It's a stretch to call his Stanford offense "pro style" for a lot of reasons. It was both far more spread-friendly and far more caveman than that term implies. Andrew Luck ran his share of zone read and the Cardinal had an affection for shotgun runs on third and not quite short (IE, 3 or 4). Meanwhile they'd happily roll out a goal line formation on first and ten from their own 30.
Harbaugh was similarly extreme in both directions as an NFL coach. His first two years in San Francisco his team used fewer wide receivers per play than any other team in the league. At the same time they were introducing Colin Kaepernick as a college-ish run threat.
So the spread is dominant because people who have never seen a football can run it. At the same time you can't poke an NFL coach without that guy giving the public perception of your weird-ass offense a recruiting boost. Harbs gonna Harbs without thinking about what other people will say, of course, but I wonder if the shape of what he does is going to look significantly different than it did at Stanford.
On baseball. We had a mailbag Q that asked how Big Ten had gotten rathergood at baseball that I couldn't answer particularly well, but our former baseball writer Formerly Anonymous had an excellent comment that tackles that topic:
RPI has changed drastically to emphasize road wins. It's helped the northern teams quite a bit. As an example, the Missouri Valley conference is one of the strongest conferences in RPI this year by playing tough teams in the non-conference on the road. The top 25 in RPI includes Dallas Baptist (who I've seen and know are good), Missouri State, Radford, and Bradley. What the hell is a Radford or a Bradley?
Add that Nebraska and Maryland were two very solid adds in the last few years. The B1G has had several big wins over big name programs this year.
- Illinois has wins over Coastal Carolina, and series wins over Oklahoma State and South Florida.
- Ohio State has a signature victory over ACC leader Louisville in the midweek.
- Indiana took 2/3 from Stanford, split 2 with College of Charleston, swept Cal State Fullerton, and beat Louisville in the midweek.
- Nebraska split with Fullerton as well and swept Florida Gulf Coast.
All of those are pretty damn impressive wins.
The big kicker though is how down the Big12 is. They are looking at only having 2 tourney teams this year. Texas is way down leaving just TCU and Oklahoma State in the running. Tech has an outside shot, but its borderline. Part of that is losing Texas A&M and Mizzou (granted they added TCU after that loss). Baylor is down, Oklahoma is down. They just aren't up there at the moment.
There's some structural disadvantages yes, but the amount of money put into programs like Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, or anyone else in the B1G the last few years, the B1G is definitely showing some major improvements. We've been a 2-3 bid league for a while, we're taking advantage of a down Big12 to grab another, and our recent success in facilities/adding good teams has lead to some better recruiting.
For more in depth coverage, I suggest d1baseball.com. They've amassed every major college baseball writer I have read over the last 15 years into one site. Aaron Fitt (formerly of Baseball America), Eric Sorenson (ESPN/CBS), Kendall Rogers (Yahoo!), Mark Ethridge (SEBaseball), and Michael Baumann (Grantland) are just a few . "O.M.G., it's amazing" is probably the best way to describe it. They do regular features of different areas of the country along with national storylines.
For B1G fans, I'd suggest starting right here for a take from that site. There's also a season update from about a month ago and an early season/preseason article about how B1G has spent big on baseball.
Michigan can help out the league and their cause this weekend in an odd home series with #13 Oklahoma State that closes their season. Yesterday's game was a 12-2 hammering by the Cowboys, so Michigan probably has to win both tonight and tomorrow to give themselves even a faint chance of an at-large bid. The very idea a 14-10 Big Ten outfit would be on the fringe of the fringe of the bubble is a ton of progress.
Softballin'. Angelique Chengelis profiles Michigan catcher Lauren Sweet. The Wolverine softballists kick off their NCAA tournament tonight at 6 PM at Alumni Field. It's on ESPNU as well.
Etc.: In news that is, in retrospect, not surprising, Iowa and Tennessee drank every drop of liquor at their bowl game. Brendan Quinn joins the ranks of people who just don't want to hear about the Fab Five anymore. Bielfeldt to Nebrasketball? AFC Ann Arbor in the Daily. Haven't had a bread photoshop in a while. Point guard acquisition matrix. Against a 30-second shot clock.
Of local interest: there's a Barry Sanders charity raffle going on. You could play golf with him and discuss whether abruptly retiring from the Lions was a good idea or the best idea.
[Ed-S: written at our request.]
Big Ten Champions
|WHAT||NCAA Softball Regional|
|WHERE||Wilpon Complex/Alumni Field|
|WHEN||Friday-Sunday, May 15-17|
|TV||ESPN2 & ESPNU|
The NCAA regional is a double-elimination tournament, so the only team Michigan is guaranteed to play is Oakland; if all goes chalk, Michigan would play Cal in Game 3 and go from there.
|Friday, May 15|
|3:30 p.m.||Game 1 -- #2 seed California vs. #3 seed Pittsburgh (ESPNU)|
|6:30 p.m.||Game 2 -- #1 seed Michigan vs. #4 seed Oakland (ESPNU)|
|Saturday, May 16|
|4 p.m.||Game 3 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (ESPN2)|
|6:30 p.m.||Game 4 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser (ESPN2)|
|9 p.m.||Game 5 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner (ESPNU)|
|Sunday, May 17|
|3:30 p.m.||Game 6 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner (ESPNU)|
|6 p.m.||Game 7 -- Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary) (ESPNU)|
Big Ten Review
For the first time since 2005, Michigan softball swept the Big Ten championships, taking home the regular season crown after a tightly contested race with Minnesota and the tournament crown after downing PSU, Northwestern, and Nebraska in dominant fashion.
The Wolverines came into Big Ten play slightly chastened by a home loss to Kent State and their brilliant pitcher, but nevertheless riding a brilliant non-conference performance. MGoSoftball has already ably reviewed that portion of the season (http://mgoblog.com/diaries/softball-mid-season-report).
After exacting revenge against KSU and pounding Bowling Green, the Wolverines charged into Big Ten play with a three game set at Ohio State, racking up double-digit wins in all three games. Two games into the Iowa series, things were looking on track for continued success. Halfway through the final game of the series, though, the Wolverines defense collapsed, blowing a 4-run lead and handing the lowly Hawkeyes an unlikely upset at Alumni Field. There wasn't much time to recover, either, as Michigan had to travel up to Minneosta for a 3-game set against the nationally-ranked Golden Gophers, headlined by star pitcher Sara Groenewegen. After a 9-1 run rule drubbing and a blown 3-run lead early in the second game, it looked like Michigan's magical season was unravelling all too quickly.
Fortunately, something clicked in those Maize & Blue minds after that bad 2nd inning in Minnesota, and the Wolverines bounced back. They tied the game in the 3rd, and went on to win 9-4, following up that performance with an Easter Sunday run-rule blowout, returning the 9-1 favor that Minnesota had handed out that Friday.
From that point on, Michigan has not looked back. Since the loss to Minnesota, Michigan has won 20 straight games, including 13 via the run-rule and 2 no-hitters from sophomore stand-out Megan Betsa.
The end of the Big Ten season found the Wolverines in possession of an array of awards, headlined by Megan Betsa as the conference pitcher of the year and Carol Hutchins as the coach of the year. Multiple Wolverines found their way onto the 1st, 2nd, and defensive teams. Sierra Romero won the tournament MVP award and also the inaugural ESPNW national player of the year award as well (she is a finalist for the more prestigious player of the year award, which will be announced later). The brilliance of the team's performance earned Michigan the #3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and the right to host a regional and, if they win through, a super-regional as well.
Three teams will be coming to Ann Arbor this weekend with their eyes on a trip to the super-regionals. We'll look at Oakland, the #4 seed in the region, first, since they're our Friday opponent, then at #2 seed California and #3 seed Pittsburgh after that.
[After the jump.]
Winston On Campus
2016 U of D Jesuit point guard Cassius Winston, the #23 overall prospect on the 247 Composite, is expected to be on campus today for an unofficial visit, per The Michigan Insider's* Kyle Bogenschutz ($). With two bigs already in the fold—albeit with rumblings that Austin Davis could reclassify to 2017—and Tyus Battle adding a dynamic wing to the class, getting a point guard will be the main focus going forward, and there's little question Winston is at the top of Michigan's wish list.
Winston's father told Bogenschutz that this is still a battle between the Wolverines and Michigan State. Winston will have a little more time to focus on recruiting in the near future, as a broken wrist suffered last weekend will sideline him the next 6-8 weeks.
Step Into The Octagon. For Football. I Think.
ExposureU teams w NFL QBs & trainers for a 1 day Aerial Assault. First ever 2016, 2017, 2018, & 2019 QB Cage Match! pic.twitter.com/Kw93lkmjlQ
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) May 13, 2015
Jim Harbaugh announced a quarterback camp to coincide with Michigan's Exposure U Presented By Troll God camp. The available details are limited to the above for now. Colin Kaepernick! Jay Cutler! Denard Robinson! Jameis Winston! Uh... Zac Robinson! A F****** FIGHTER JET! CAAAAAAAAAAAGE MAAAAAAAATCH!
You know what? The fewer details we add to the above, the better. Stay tuned for an indeterminate time until QB ARMAGEDDON.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup]
high-rez sticker courtesy Dr. Sap's Archives
[Ed (Seth) note: This article appeared in the 2010 edition of Hail to the Victors. Because they're bringing the stickers back, we thought to bring this article back.
Author John Kryk is all over the latest HTTV, with an original piece on the 1985 football team and an excerpt from his latest book Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football, wherein Yost used horizontal offensive attacks and fast tempo to bewilder our chief rivals.
If you'd like to get our book, you have 4 days to get in on the Kickstarter.
If you'd like to get Kryk's book, it is scheduled to go on sale in mid-July and can be pre-ordered direct from the publisher.
A huge thanks to Dr. Sap and readers who sent in their pics of stickers.
Wolverines On Your Head
|Back of Derrick Walker's helmet from 1989, now in possession of reader Rob Graham.|
By John Kryk
When Jim Mandich, Dan Dierdorf and the '69 Wolverines dumped Woody Hayes' dream team, they sported reward stickers on the backs of their famous winged helmets.
So did Rick Leach when he led Michigan to two Big Ten championship victories in Ohio Stadium. And Anthony Carter when he caught that 45-yard lightning bolt from John Wangler against Indiana. And Jim Harbaugh when he crushed the Buckeyes back-to-back. And Leroy Hoard and Tyrone Wheatley when they ran roughshod in different Rose Bowl wins. And Desmond Howard when he made The Catch against Notre Dame, and when he struck The Pose against OSU. And Remy Hamilton when he gut-kicked Lou Holtz and the Irish.
But Michigan players' helmets haven't featured those maize, football-shaped reward stickers since Lloyd Carr took over for Gary Moeller in 1995.
It was a tradition begun at Michigan by Bo Schembechler in 1969. And, no, Bo wasn't copying Woody Hayes—as almost everyone today believes, especially the mouth-readers south of Lake Erie. The accepted story today is that Hayes’s 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes inaugurated the college football tradition of placing reward stickers on their helmets after each game. An ESPN.com feature story in 2008 reiterated that it “all started with those buckeye leaves.”
Only it didn’t. Guess who beat Woody to the punch, even within the state of Ohio? Why, none other than Bo. It was Schembechler, Hayes’s most famous pupil and eventual arch-rival, who’d begun the practice in 1965 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
courtesy Miami University Libraries
[At the Jump: how the bird poo got on the Buckeye helmets, right before the guy who invented the stickers brought them to Ann Arbor]
Via his instagram:
My past four years here at the University of Michigan have been great! Nothing but love and appreciation for Ann Arbor, the faculty, the coaches, the support staff and the great fans but after many sleepless nights and much prayer I have decided to play my final year of eligibility elsewhere. I truly thank those that have been there for me and hope you would continue to do so. #ForeverGoBlue
That is a blow to Michigan's secondary. Countess was the leading candidate to start opposite Jourdan Lewis, give or take a Wayne Lyons, and even in the event he lost the job he figured to see considerable playing time spotting various guys in the secondary.
Countess struggled mightily last year as Michigan transitioned to a man press style, but was an All Big Ten performer as a sophomore in a zone system. It is possible that Michigan apparently rededicating themselves to the aggressive system they had to ditch midseason last year may have precipitated a transfer. Either that or the usual transition stuff compounded by the availability of immediate eligibility elsewhere.
Other than Lyons, the main beneficiaries of Countess's departure figure to be Brandon Watson and Channing Stribling. Watson was impressive in the spring game and has a ton of experience as a press corner; Stribling was promising as a freshman before a relatively anonymous sophomore year.
Countess was set to be a fifth year senior so this doesn't impact recruiting classes going forward; it does end any questions about if any contributing walk-ons would get stiffed. If anyone else leaves Michigan would have a spot to add another fifth year transfer.
Godspeed, Mr. Countess.
It's apparently that arbitrary down time in the offseason when I take a look back at Brian's recruiting profiles for the class that just finished their time at Michigan. In this case, that class is the infamous 2010 group, the last full class brought in by Rich Rodriguez during his time at Michigan.
So, uh, you've been forewarned.
I'll start with the nine offensive players in the class, five of whom were wide receivers. If that sounds like a strange and dangerous way to contruct a roster, you may be a longtime reader of this here blog. Or maybe you just watched the offensive line the last few years. Either/or, really.
We're Really Sorry About The Coaching Thing
As a Pioneer grad, I have no idea how Pioneer won this game.
By the time Brian wrote up Devin Gardner's profile, he'd already enrolled at Michigan and participated in the spring game. The comparison that came up the most in his profile—and, really, the most reasonable one to make at the time—is a pretty good indication of the level of expectation for Gardner's college career:
Why Vince Young? The combination of size, speed, a wonky throwing motion, and the multiple comparisons from gurus tips the balance over to Young, who redshirted despite being the top prospect in the country and didn't come into his own as a passer until he played Michigan in the Rose Bowl—awesome timing!
Guru Reliability: High. Ton of exposure to him. Elite 11 camp, UA game, all that stuff.
General Excitement Level: Towering. Vast. Expansive.
Gardner, of course, stayed on track—except for the cameo at wide receiver—by looking like a future star when he took the reins after Denard Robinson's injury in 2012, and while he had some disappointing outings in 2013, those were largely chalked up to the O-line and playcalling. It came off the rails last year for a host of reasons covered so thoroughly they're not worth bringing up again. Needless to say, reading through his profile leaves one with serious what-could've-been feels.
[Hit THE JUMP for Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins and, well, mostly disappointment.]
Dennis Norfleet's murky situation has blown up into the first real PR crisis of the Harbaugh administration. Unfortunately for Michigan, it's one they're legally prohibited from saying much of anything about. FERPA restricts their ability to say much other than "he is on the team" or "he is off the team." Right now Michigan isn't saying either. They've gone with this:
A Michigan athletic department spokesman told The Detroit News that the situation was "an internal matter."
All right then.
Harvel added about Norfleet's situation: "If only one kid out of 120 is missing class, they must be the No. 1 program in the country (for football players' academic achievements)."
Harvel has repeatedly said things like "we're not going to let him be a victim," outed private conversations he had with Fred Jackson, publicly bemoaned his decision to switch away from a Cincinnati program on the verge of hiring Tommy Tuberville, and generally done everything in his power to make academic standards like "go to all your finals" seem nefarious. Usually when high school coaches blow up like this it's because their kid has seen his scholarship yanked for a dubious reason, or none at all.
It was Harvel who leaked the apparently erroneous information that Norfleet was gone, which turned the story from message board rumor* to something that every local news organization has dedicated big stories to. It was Harvel who went full steam ahead with the information that Norfleet was not doing things expected of him in the classroom. He is the #1 reason this is a thing. Because Norfleet is a "victim."
I mean, you know me. I just about challenged Brady Hoke to a fight about Norfleet's misuse during his tenure as head coach. But if Norfleet is no longer on the team because he missed several classes and did not attend at least one and possibly more finals, that is on one person: Dennis Norfleet.
And Jim Harbaugh cannot be concerned with just Norfleet here. It's his first semester as head coach and he's just going to let that slide? What kind of message does that send to the other 84 kids on scholarship? Is that likely to improve or degrade the overall academic performance of the program?
The answers to those rhetorical questions are obvious to everyone except Harvel. Privately resolving issues with the head coach—and there have been a number so far that have been so resolved—is more likely to create a positive outcome both in the short-term individual player level and for your relationship with a major school of interest to your players. But Harvel has decided that grandstanding without information that is, you know, correct is more important.
I hope Norfleet makes it back. His coach isn't helping.
*[Albeit one that was more credible than your garden-variety internet rando mutterings since it had the backing of John Borton, an editor at Rivals. It is not hard to trace the path here: Borton names Norfleet, Nick Baumgardner starts checking it out, hits upon the King coaches, and then the tempest takes over the teapot. This is why I don't report on potential transfers anymore. I would rather not spend a week with my head in an alligator's mouth, thanks.]
I've written in various places, and Brian said again just yesterday, that Blake Countess is a very good zone cornerback who was exposed last year by being asked to do things outside of his comfort zone. Or outside his natural abilities. Or outside the capabilities of a guy his size.
The tape is the best evidence that he's not a fit for the aggressive man-to-man stuff Michigan switched to early last season, and will almost certainly try again this year. The best evidence against it was produced by Countess this spring, when he generated above the usual level of comments for controllable things like his work ethic, his knowledge of the defense, his toughness, etc.
But his size is a thing Blake can't change, and that plus the inability to shut down Tyler Lockett or William Fuller downgraded our hopes for a next-Woodson (leave him on an island) ceiling even before we discovered he's no MC5:
(you forgot to kick out the jams.)
That kind of thing can be mitigated by not lining him up so close—you give up that lock-down mentality for either soft coverage that lets the QB complete short stuff, or puts a safety over the top so Countess can break on that stuff.
Is Countess too small?
His size is below average for a guy who registered a play on a Power 5 roster, though not debilitatingly so. Here's how the CB depth chart stacks up against cornerbacks on all Power 5 rosters from 2010-2013 (#6 is Lyons):
Bubble size is more guys with that listed ht/wt. Avg height was 5'11", and weight was 183. Year-to-year differences were negligible.
If you need a roster refresher I put the tentative depth chart below-right. Our guys are generally on the line of distribution, with Richardson a wee little dude and Stribling and Dawson (and Keith Washington) on the edges of lankiness. I included Peppers to show just how different he is from most cornerbacks on this level of football, even as a redshirt freshman whose conditioning was hurt by a year of injury.
There were also quite a few teams who list all safeties and cornerbacks as "DBs"; indeed the cornerback sample we did get seems like it wouldn't change much. If you care here's Michigan's expected 2015 backfield rotation against the distribution of one year's Power 5 cornerbacks.
Interesting side-note: Florida's cornerbacks last year under Durkin were the smallest of any school in the Power 5. Using the formula from the chart above, Auburn and Minnesota were by far the biggest defensive backfields—both teams were about 6'0/200 with their cornerbacks. I know Minnesota at least is a man-all-day-long team. Nebraska and Ohio State were top five biggest, Iowa and Notre Dame around there and Stanford relatively big. Michigan was smallish—right around FSU and LSU. TCU was the second-smallest at CB.
Anyway Countess isn't the little guy according to the rosters; Lewis is. Jourdan's game is based on his recovery speed. He is just okay at jamming a guy at the line, but is so fast on a dead run and so quick to change direction that he doesn't have to stonewall his guy.
[Jump for what we've got in Lyons]