Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Baraka Obama-a. Remember Kelly Baraka? Unless you're an old-school M recruitnik probably not. If you don't: he was supposed to be a total ninja RB before a number of high school pot arrests saw him lose his shot at an M scholarship. He never made it anywhere else and has regularly featured in "where are they now?" features end up with the Kalamazoo Xplosion, a minor league football team. Not that you needed me to tell you that with a name like "Xplosion."
Yeah… anyway. About that ninja bit:
LeGarrette Blount ain't got nothing on Kelly Baraka.
Video revamp. Inside Michigan Football sans browser-crippling software:
Schilling's beard is a confidence-building one.
Slings and arrows. The Mathlete takes a look at luck over the past two years in the Big Ten and nationally, re-running last season based on performance-adjusted PPG metrics and slicing out some of the huge swings from random plays like fumbles (he leaves in interceptions). Unsurprisingly, Michigan hasn't been on the kind end of things:
I had some questions about whether this "luck" factor was really luck, but there doesn't appear to be any correlation between excellent teams and good fortune. OSU and Penn State average out to be basically even. Iowa nets out around –2. Michigan State's 9-3 2008 team was the second most-fortunate in the country that year, something that checks out in the statistics. It passes a cursory sanity check.
So, then: Northwestern is your official Big Ten lucksack with Minnesota a distant second. If I'm reading the graph right, the Wildcats have been the luckiest team in the country two years running. The negative outlier for 2009—that dot sitting right at –3.0 on the y axis—is Oklahoma, by the way. Not that you needed to be told that a seven-win Stoops outfit suffered its share of outrageous fortune even beyond the Bradford injury.
One stop scouting. The NTDP moved to the USHL this year, which the NHL scouting community loves. Previously, the development team had puttered along in the NAHL, in which draftable prospects are few and far between. Now they're in the USA's premiere junior league and scouts are going "eeee":
"The whole design of the program has given us the selfish benefactor of comparing the Under-18 team on one weekend against the University of Michigan and older players, and then watching them against their group peers the following weekend. But because this is such a select team, an elite team, we think that the elite 18-year-olds should be able to compete against the 21- and 22-year-olds who were not selected in the draft. Those players are older and more savvy but for some reason were passed over."
This should help the NTDP hold on to some of the elite Americans they've lost in recent years. (Example: Stefan Matteau, son of longtime NHLer Stephane Matteau, has accepted a slot according to Michigan Hockey Net.) The 2011 NTDP is a relatively motley bunch. Michigan hasn't recruited anyone from it, a rarity these days. That will change for 2012, as Michigan will have at least two on next years U17s. Boo Nieves is a holy lock for the team and Heisenberg says Connor Carrick has already accepted an invite.
More Brandon panting. David Brandon loves America:
“Expanding the tournament, I believe is a bad idea … there are certain things that if they are not broke, don’t try to fix ‘em. If there is a better, more outstanding platform out there than the NCAA Final Four and basketball tournament, you have to tell me what that is.”
Not that this matters as the 96-team tournament becomes a foregone conclusion. I can't wait for that 9-24 matchup that will determine who has the right to face at eight seed. Guh.
While I'm on Brandon, contrast Michigan's hiring process with the fiasco that went down in Eugene after Mike Bellotti was presented a $2.3 million going-away present after accepting a job with ESPN:
[Oregon president Richard] Lariviere made two things clear: that he initiated the change in leadership and that university officials made missteps in dealing with Bellotti’s contract that no longer will be tolerated.
“This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past,” Lariviere said. “That will not be repeated by my administration.”
Makes the hundred grand or whatever Michigan spent vetting candidates seem like the chump change it is.
Lariviere fired Bellotti because of an "increasing need for strong financial and business management"; the ESPN job was a late development that seemed to allow all parties to save face. (Then it blew up in their face, but it was a nice try.) The trend in athletic directors is clear: CEO types.
Walk it back. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick has read enough livid emails about Notre Dame's national cachet and the potential damage to Catholicism that would result from Our Lady joining up with those secular hooligans and is now changing tack on Notre Dame's role in Big Ten expansion:
That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big Ten or any other league.
"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it's not three divisions in college; it's four. It's the big change.
"I don't see that happening."
Please reduce your ND-to-B10 DEFCON to 85. Swarbrick adds:
"I really do believe strongly that we're sort of uniquely positioned to continue to chart our own course."
Sort of uniquely positioned? DEFCON back to 84!
In other Big Ten expansion news, Barnhardt writes about a 16 team Big Ten, spurring another round of PANIC duly shot down by DocSat, resurrected by the St Louis Post-Dispatch and OSU athletic director Gene Smith:
"I believe that if we expand, you probably ought to look at more than (just adding a 12th school)," Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said.
Stressing that was his opinion and may not be shared by some colleagues, Smith added that he believed the impact "would be pretty massive."
A sixteen team Big Ten is stupid. I complained earlier that an expansion to 14 would see Michigan play Penn State 29% of the time; going to 16 would drop that to 12% (eight conference games) or 25% (nine). That's not a conference any more. The only way it could work would be to adopt promotion and relegation. Whenever I bring this up people point out that the radical swings in team quality characteristic of college football could doom very good teams to irrelevance, and they're right. But it makes more sense than pretending to be in a conference with a team you play once every eight years.
If you're going to expand like that, I think 15 is the number. My completely bats proposal for a 14-team Big Ten is mathematically unworkable, but if you add a 15th team you can break the conference into three divisions of five that play each other and two (or possibly three) opponents in each of the other divisions, and then you can have relegation/promotion crazytimes at the end of the season. This will never, ever happen.
I'm hoping this is all a game of chicken to convince Notre Dame to sign on the dotted line. Expansion of the Big Ten past twelve teams is an idea on par with a 96 team NCAA tournament.
Reviews of a mixed variety. Local scouting service "Best of the Best" returns from the MSHAA playoffs with impressions of a number of players, three of them relevant to your interests. Isaiah Sykes:
He doesn't have a jump shot to save his life, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better finisher and slasher in the 2010 class statewide. Also drop dimes like a 5'9 PG. Terrific rebounder, and is great at getting the defensive board and starting the fast break and making something positive happen with the basketball. High majors are recruiting him, and it's warranted, would be a good late pick up for any up-tempo college team.
He's already committed to Michigan, but I don't know if he'll be successful in that system. In order to succeed at the highest level, picking the right system will be a absolute necessity for him. At the end of the day, he's a SG, and that's the bottom line. He produces and gets the job done, at that's what every team needs. He's a very good finisher for his size at the high school level and he can score in bunches when he gets rolling. All in all, his upside is limited in my opinion.
Decidedly negative, that. Hopefully he can develop a jumper over the next year and a half. Finally, Amir Williams:
A defensive phenom no matter the game because of his length, size, and timing, his effect on the game will be felt no matter what. He is also a hungry rebounder, who attacks the glass. Those are two big positives that you'd like every big man to have in their game, once the offensive part of his game becomes more consistent, we could be looking at another McDonald's All American out of the Country Day program.
As always, the running log of updates can be found on the Michigan Football Recruiting Board. The technology is acting wonky, so make sure you log in on that page to see the most recent version.
AR QB Kiehl Frazier (pictured at right) has an outstanding website on which he claims a Michigan offer. He also reports offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Texas Tech, to go along with interest from Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Ohio State. Basically what I'm trying to say is this guy will be a heavily, heavily recruited guy. The site also features a highlight video, in which he looks like a Black Righty Tebow. Michigan is often one of the schools he mentions first among his scholarship offers:
"I have 22 offers," Frazier said. "They are coming from everywhere. LSU, Arkansas, Florida, UCLA, Michigan, Nebraska -- there are just too many to try and name.
He says he wants to play in a pro-style offense to prepare him for the next level, but is open to playing in a spread.
A likely-irrelevant note on FL TE Nick O'Leary. The kid's also a star lacrosse player in high school (and it should come as no surprise that I like this). Of course, it's highly unlikely Michigan lands him for a number of reasons. He has options like Ohio State (where his grandfather, Jack Nicklaus, might have played golf or something) for football and national powers like Maryland and Cornell for lacrosse.
AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena has received an offer to play in the Under Armour All-American Game, further evidence (on top of his recent USC offer) that his recruitment is blowing up. His former teammates Craig Roh and Taylor Lewan both played in the game two years ago.
"If you watch his highlight tape, he is nasty on the field," Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle said. "He dominates. He can run. He's fast and he's nasty."
Michigan has the advantage of a couple former Firebirds on the roster (and for Craig Roh, excelling as a freshman starter).
OH DT Kevin Williams will make his college decision in the first week of May.
"I leave [Monday] for Wisconsin," Williams said. "I'll be there until Wednesday. I'll watch spring practice. I'm thinking about visiting Illinois later this week. I'll either do that or visit Michigan State on Thursday or Friday."
Williams also plans to attend Nebraska's spring game on April 17. "I'll be there for three days," Williams said. "And I might show up at Michigan one more time."
If he takes the bonus visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan would be considered the team to beat. Otherwise, it's a Nebraska-Michigan battle.
MI DE Brennen Beyer has long been considered something of a Michigan lean, and Sam Webb gives him double coverage on GBW, talking to his coach:
“He has got a motor that does not quit. He just keeps on coming at you. He has got great arm length. He’s really worked on his explosiveness in the weight room with power cleans and the parallel squat and all the stuff we do in the weight room. Probably his greatest thing is his quickness and his motor.”
...and The Detroit News, where Allen Trieu of Scout.com says he'll be a top-100 prospect in the 2011 class, and Beyer himself says:
"I still like Michigan a lot," Beyer said. "But I'm really looking hard at Michigan and Notre Dame right now."
"I guess just when I feel like I've been to the college I want to go to, and I'm 100 percent sure that it is the right place, I'll commit."
Beyer plans to return to Ann Arbor for Michigan's spring game on April 17th. His remaining visit schedule has yet to be determined.
Despite overtures from Notre Dame, I think Michigan is still considered the favorite. His spring game visit could be a potential commitment time for Beyer.
VA LB Curtis Grant, who holds a Michigan offer, will trim his list to 10 by the beginning of the season, but won't announce his final decision until Signing Day.
NC LB Kris Frost has declared Michigan has favorite, and said he'd visit for Michigan's spring game, but the latter is no longer the case. He told Tom that he waited too long to buy plane tickets, and can't afford to make it to Ann Arbor on April 17th. He'll instead attend Auburn's spring game, but only as a backup plan. He recently took a "fantastic" visit to the Plains ($, info in header), so the more times he visits, the less he looks like Michigan leads.
Message board posts are always a potentially-risky source for recruiting info, but someone purporting to be a family member of NJ Ath/Slot Miles Shuler says he'll be visiting Ann Arbor for the spring game. He is also a very fast dude.
According to Top Prospect Sports (née Michigan Sports Zone), NY LB Antoine Pozniak will visit Ann Arbor for the Michigan Spring Game. He recently visited LSU, but did not come away with an offer from Les Miles. He was originally a class of 2010 prospect, but will enroll at The Hun School in New Jersey (or Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina, if you ask Rivals) for a postgrad year.
OH DB Charles Perdue (from Youngstown Liberty High School, alma mater of Isaiah Bell, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Antonio Kinard) plans to make it in for the Michigan spring game. I hadn't heard of Perdue until this news, so I'd be surprised if he's offer-worthy.
I'll spend a lot of time in next week's update covering Spring Game visitors, but for now, you can check out Tom's constantly-updating diary, running down some of the kids who plan to be in town.
FL DE Anthony Chickillo has a Michigan offer, and hopes to take a visit to Ann Arbor (along with "as many schools as I can" before he makes a decision.
MI LB Terrell Porter apparently excelled at the BadgerSports 7-on-7 at Glick Fieldhouse a few weeks ago ($, info in header, video in article), and now he plans to take an unofficial visit to Michigan ($, info in header).
Job Security And Recruiting
FL RB Andrew Buie (pictured at right) talked to the Jacksonville Times-Union about what he's looking for in a school, and the answer should sound familiar to Michigan fans by this point:
The main priority for me in looking at a school is the stability of the program. I realize anything can happen, but I really want to go to a program where there won't be a coaching change.
This sentiment is almost certainly aimed at Michigan and Rich Rodriguez. Negative recruiting and a general air of Freepiness around Ann Arbor has given several recruits reason to think that Coach Rod will not be around after the 2010 season.
We all know FL RB Demetrius Hart has heard a lot of this, which has put his recruitment into something of a whirlwind, and MI RB Justice Hayes has told WTKA's Sam Webb that he would have committed to Michigan (audio) by now had the Wolverines had success on the field the past two years, and there was no need to worry about Rich Rodriguez's job security.
So what is there to do? Despite lacking success the past couple years on the field, Michigan has been able to pull in well-regarded recruiting hauls. Winning on the field this season will show that MIchigan is a place that recruits can come if they want to compete for Big Ten and national titles, and remove any doubt that Rich Rodriguez's job is safe, since apparently Dave Brandon saying, "Rich Rodriguez is the coach of the University of Michigan football team. He's our coach, he's my coach, he should be everybody's coach" (audio) is not enough to prove that.
Speaking of Hart, he and his teammate, FL S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, recently visited Alabama. Though Clinton-Dix has said it will be nearly impossible for anyone to top Alabama on his list, neither prospect committed to the Tide - yet ($, info in header). Clinton-Dix could decide "at any time."
But before everyone starts getting their hopes up, there is still at least one more thing to consider.
"April 12, Michigan," Hart replied to what his next plans are. So he'll add another chapter with a trip to Ann Arbor, where he already has a good friend and former Dr. Phillips teammate Ricardo Miller on the Wolverines' roster...
Hart actually was very very close to committing to the Wolverines at the end of this past season, but then decided to hold off while he started to take unofficial campus visits. Each school he has seen has had an impact on his considerations. He's been to Florida, Florida State, USF and of course Auburn and Alabama.
If that visit date is accurate, it would mean a week-long visit to Ann Arbor, since the 12th is Monday, and the Spring Game isn't until Saturday (1PM, Michigan Stadium).
Bill Kurelic runs down the top 5 prospects in the state of Michigan (Thomas-Arnett-Hayes-Beyer-Miller), and continues to spread the (false) notion that MI RB Onaje Miller had a Michigan offer at the time of his MSU commitment. SC DE Deon Lee is "hearing from" Michigan, as is SC LB Myles Jackson. FL OL Zach DeBell, who holds a Michigan offer, will decide during his senior season. Fluff on PA DE Shawn Oakman. PA LB Ben Kline wants to decide before (or early in) his senior season. Elite Scouting Services runs down the top 100 in Florida. Happy Trails to AZ OL Christian Westerman, who committed to Texas.
Central Michigan (15-10)
|Wednesday 2:30pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium|
|TBA||vs||Bryce Morrow (1-0, 7.71 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (WBCN)||Video ($2.99)|| |
|Notes: 32-27-2 All-Time vs CMU, Last meeting a 2-10 L in 2009. |
Game time has been updated to avoid rain.
Michigan and Central Michigan have quite the heated rivalry over their all time series, as adequately reflected in the all time series being so close. This isn't even due to decades old scores either, Michigan hasn't beaten CMU since 2007 (13-3), being beat pretty bad 10-2 in 2009 and 3-7 in 2008. Go a couple years back and you'll find the barn burner of 2004 played in Mt. Pleasant. Michigan escaped with a 14-13 win in the most back and forth games in recent memory. The series has been a great one, and all indications are that this year's installment will be just as awesome.
Central Michigan comes in with an RPI just under 200, and a strength of schedule rated 192 in the country. The Chippewas have a solid series win over Miami in MAC play, but not a lot else to write home about in terms of quality wins. They've played two other Big Ten teams this season, Indiana who shut them out 9-0, and Michigan State, who won by a score of 13-10.
The offense is lead by Nate Theunissen, who, as of Tuesday pre-UIC* is batting .409 with 13 doubles, 3 homers, and 24 RBI. He's by far their leading slugger with a .659 slugging percentage, and leads the team in on base percentage with a .459. Also worth noting is Dale Cornstubble. He's batting .357 with 20 RBI and .488 slugging percentage, 2nd only to Theunissen. Billy Anderson is their next top hitter with a .354 batting average and a .485 slugging percentage, but he's also their stolen base threat with 11 on the year. His 15 attempts are about 40% of the teams attempts, so don't expect too much from anyone else. All three of those hitters have about the same on base percentage, mostly in the .450-.460 range. That's quality, especially for the MAC.
*All these stats were before the UIC game on Tuesday.
Pitching profile, weather, and thoughts after a jump.
Your MGoBracket victor is the elaborately misspelled entry "tickeledtodeath": he will be covered in luxurious cotton from head to waist. All hail his perspicacity, and scorn his willingness to pick Duke as national champion. It was a crazy tournament: the winner only got half of the Elite 8 and half of the final four.
Runners up in the MGoBracket contest are Nate-Dawg, phil solomon, drewg32, and MGoAero. Please email me an address and a size preference.
Fearless Leader finished a respectable 78th, if you're interested. I had Wisconsin in the final four, did get Duke in the final and had Butler as an Elite Eight team.
- DE Will Heininger (right) has torn his ACL and will have surgery to repair it. His status for the fall is dependent on how his rehab progresses.
- Martavious Odoms, Junior Hemingway, and Je'Ron Stokes will practice a little today and will hopefully be full-go by the end of the week.
- Vlad Emilien, Jared Van Slyke, and Quinton Washington will hopefully return to practice next week.
- The guys who are out for spring (David Molk, Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, and Vincent Smith) are progressing on schedule.
- Tate and Denard are splitting reps with the first team. Rich does not care if one guy wins the job, or if he has a few guys who are ready to play. He wants to have at least two QBs ready to play. The guys understand that they're competing for the starting position.
- Tate Forcier is being challenged by the coaches this spring, with football, academics, as a student-athlete at the University. He's very competitive, and likes being challenged to improve.
- Denard has a better understanding of the offense and the passing game than he did last year (unsurprising, since this is his first spring). He still has a ways to go, but he's improving. Once he gets the QB position down, he'll learn other positions to get him on the field.
- Gardner is fun to be around, and has a high energy level. He's learning quickly, but still has a lot to improve upon. The coaches can't expect too much too soon.
- The quarterbacks are practicing full-contact to work on their ball security. Normally they'd have non-contact jerseys. Once the QBs get used to taking some hits, they'll let them wear non-contact jerseys.
- Michael Cox has had a very good spring, and Michael Shaw has had some good days and some days "where we expected more out of him." Fitzgerald Toussaint is also in the first group with them; he's gotten bigger and is getting a good grasp of the offense.
- Stephen Hopkins is a big guy, and they needed a big back to replace Minor and Grady. He has a chance to play some at big back this fall.
- Austin White has been a little banged up this spring. However, he has the talent to help the team in the future.
- Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson have gotten some reps at running back. Grady missed some strength work when he was practicing with the basketball team this winter, and Rodriguez would let him return to basketball this fall only if he can handle it academically, and isn't just going to sit on the end of the bench.
- There is still competition ongoing at the safety position. They don't have a comfortable 2-deep, and probably won't until fall. Vlad Emilien's injury has hurt them there.
- Cameron Gordon has had a really good spring, and that's one of the better personnel changes they've made.
- Jordan Kovacs is capable of playing any safety position.
- Some days there has been good kicking performance, sometimes not so good. The situation still isn't comfortable punting or placekicking.
- Will Hagerup with arrive in the fall and will compete with Seth Broekhuizen for the starting punter spot in the fall.
- There is no starting kicker yet, as the best performer is different every day. That situation won't be resolved until fall. Brendon Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back-and-forth.
- The snapping and coverage units look good, and they have the athletes to contribute there.
- "We'll have a better team, and I expect us to have a good team, yes." This spring practice is much, much better than two years ago, and is a little better than last year.
- Chemistry - The leadership can come from not only the 12-man senior class, but also some underclassmen who can be leaders.
- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is the annual coaching clinic. Thursday will be a practice in just shorts, and Saturday will be a full-scale scrimmage. This is the most important scrimmage of the spring.
- There has probably been more talk about the changes to the defense than there have actually been changes. They did a lot of multiple-front stuff last year, and Greg Robinson is trying to best fit the scheme to Michigan's personnel. They're trying to find the right combination of simplicity for the player to learn and the flexibility they'd like from the defense.
- Regarding Demar Dorsey, Rodriguez said "If anything changes with any of our signees, I'll let ya'll know if anything happens with that."
After Rich was done speaking, the media got a chance to watch a couple periods of practice. My observations from that:
- Injured guys running inside Glick Fieldhouse: Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, Brandon Herron.
- Red Shirts (no contact): Quinton Washington, Zac Johnson, Vladimir Emilien.
- Green Shirts (limited contact): Devin Gardner, Austin White, Je'Ron Stokes, Junior Hemingway, Karl Tech, Martavious Odoms.
- Mark Moundros only practiced with the linebackers.
- Adam Braithwaite quote of the day: "We're gonna be the best-tackling team in America."
- Visitors to practice: former Michigan QB Rick Leach, former WVU running back Avon Cobourne, the leading rusher in West Virginia history and current Montreal Alouette.
|Lexington, Ohio - 5'10" 165
|Scout||3*, #35 CB|
|ESPN||73, #94 CB|
|Other Suitors||Stanford, Louisville, Vanderbilt|
When you need a fawning quote about the newest commitment or signee, no matter how obscure, the kid's high school coach is the #1 source. I've read hundreds of these things, but I've never seen anything quite like this:
“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."
That's Lexington High coach BJ Payne on star quarterback and corner Courtney Avery.
Avery was the first cornerback Michigan picked up in the class, receiving an offer after showing up and dominating Michigan's summer camp. Payne again:
"He had a phenomenal workout at Michigan, which is exactly what we expected of him," Payne said. "He was the top defensive back there and he performed as such."
Shortly afterward Avery switched his Stanford commitment to Michigan, ensuring one Wolverine coed a gentleman suitor in the near future.
Unfortunately, the local paper is one of many under the misapprehension that locking your archives behind a paywall will do anything other than annoy bloggers so Avery's high school exploits are a bit foggy. We do know he was an explosive full-time quarterback as a freshman and sophomore before starting both ways as an upperclassman. He started every game of his high school career he was healthy for, and his TD-INT ratio was something any of Michigan's QBs would aspire to:
Courtney Avery, QB, Lexington - Four-year starter and Michigan commit is as good an athlete as we'll see at any level. He threw 26 TD and just 3 INT last year.
That goes double for his completion percentage as a junior:
A starter at quarterback since his freshman year, Avery completed 73 percent of his passes during the regular season (122-for-166) for 2,095 yards, 21 touchdowns and one interception and was the Ohio Cardinal Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Too bad he's not 6'3". Avery also runs track and was the star of Lexington's basketball team. Too bad he's not 6'10". Avery wasn't too shabby as as a defensive back, either, finishing his career with seventeen interceptions and being named first-team All Ohio last year. He did this despite an ankle injury that limited him in a few games and forced him to miss a couple others. By season's end he was a player who had "battled injuries all season."
Scouting Avery might as well start with another ridiculous quote from his coach. Payne's in the tank for this kid to the point where his praise can't be taken seriously. I mean:
“He a true cover corner,” Payne said. “He’s a Deion (Sanders)-type corner. He’ll lock you down. And he’ll come up and hit. He thinks he’s 6-3, 220. We had to tell him, hey, tone it down a little bit because he was our quarterback, too.”
He's like Deion Sanders, except an awesome hitter. All right, then. Does he also peel garlic?
Payne does claim that Avery is the best athlete and football player he's ever gotten his hands on, which means something since Payne coached former Ohio State receiver and current Miami Dolphin Brian Hartline. Hartline was a productive starter at OSU and a fourth round draft pick; if Michigan gets that sort of production out of an anonymous three star that's a major win.
Hartline has the advantage of being 6'2", though. Avery doesn't. He's 5'9", although that seems like an actual 5'9" and not a fanciful Cass Tech 5'9". Even so, the common thread in scouting reports is "this guy is good, but tiny." Scout's evaluation:
A good football player who possesses above average speed and good quickness and agility. Is smart and understands the game. Picks up quickly on routes and has the athletic tools to close on plays. He does not have prototypical size, but is able to play up on the line. He is a well built kid, but is not real tall.
FWIW, Scout was much higher on Avery than other sites. When he switched his commitment to Michigan he was on the fringe of four stars, and though he's slid because of the ankle he's still fairly close.
ESPN's evaluation is surprisingly positive for a guy they give a MAC-like 73:
Avery is an exceptional athlete that his only limited by his physical size. He is light weight but has very good speed and excellent quickness. … Has good hips and can turn and change direction without any loss of balance or control. Shows the ability to play man to man coverage as a corner and can run stride for stride with the wideout on the takeoff route. Closes quickly on the receiver when playing zone coverage. Displays good tackling abilities but size makes it difficult to really explode through the ball carrier.
As a bonus, longtime Ohio high school football observer and Bucknuts guru Duane Long thought highly of Avery, calling him a "borderline Buckeye caliber recruit." That's pretty good for your fourth cornerback.
Avery's offers are probably not a good barometer of his talent since he committed to Stanford in April of last year, short-circuiting other schools' efforts. At the time of his commitment he had a smattering of offers from MAC-type schools, with Vanderbilt and Louisville coming in after he was supposedly off the market. Just before signing day there were rumors Florida was taking a look after hiring the coach who recruited Avery to Stanford, but those didn't materialize into anything.
Why Grant Mason? I remember Mason being considerably shorter than the six-foot he's listed at in his various NFL bios, just like Avery is considerably shorter than the 5'11" he's credited with on Michigan's official site. Anyway, Mason was a slight cover corner who transferred from Stanford and developed into a fairly decent starter as a senior. He had similar meh recruiting rankings and was also a smart, athletic kid limited by his size. It sounds like Avery may be a better athlete.
"When Courtney started narrowing down his schools, he had Stanford and Michigan and Northwestern and Vanderbilt and Duke. They all are great academic schools," Payne said. "A lot of kids would be glad to have one of those schools interested and Courtney had offers from all of them.
In case you were afraid Rodriguez was restricting his corner recruiting to the juvie halls of America.
Guru Reliability: Low. Avery is a known quantity in high school circles but nowhere did I find any mention of a camp or combine at which recruiting gurus could have been present. Combine that with full-time duties at quarterback and a senior-year ankle injury and it's tough for anyone to project Avery to the other side of the ball.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Avery seems like a better bet than most three stars because he's walking around with whatever the opposite of a red flag is. He's smart, athletic, and has transitioned to corner well. Michigan saw him in a camp setting. His size doesn't seem like a huge problem if he's going to be a cover corner.
Projection: Likely to redshirt since Michigan will have four or five corners in front of him this year. He does need a little more beef than he's got currently. After that, time on special teams and maybe a nickel package or two with an eye towards starting as an upperclassman.
|Winter Haven, Florida - 6'1" 204
|Scout||4*, #18 S|
|Rivals||4*, #20 OLB|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #21 OLB|
|Others||#42 to Lemming. #61 in Florida according to Orlando Sentinel.|
|Other Suitors||Ohio State, USC, Florida, UNC|
|YMRMFSPA||Stevie Brown with more lumber|
|Tom interviews Robinson in 2008. Commitment post.|
|Notes||This MaxPreps video of a game between Lake Region and Frostproof from Robinson's junior year contains multiple "power of Grayskull" references and the line "he had only one thing on his mind… get tackled at the four. So he did."|
Marvin Robinson's almost disturbingly chiseled abs—and the rest of him—could be considered the very last Lloyd Carr recruits. Robinson's been on the Michigan recruitnik's radar since he camped at Michigan as a sophomore and picked up an offer. Publicly enamored since, Robinson withstood a bizarre anti-M campaign (one that included multiple message board postings that were at least slightly unhinged). from his coach, an Ohio State fan*, and picked Michigan early in the recruiting cycle.
Robinson's long status as a Michigan lock and some explosive early hype—Ricardo Miller and Robinson populated top ten lists of Florida underclassmen forever—actually make his above rankings disappointing. He was supposed to be an uber-recruit. It's not hard to see why what with his offer as a 14-year-old from Michigan. A year later he had added offers from Ohio State, Florida, and USC. Zounds.
Early evaluations were similarly tantalizing. Rivals's Barry Every in 2008:
6-2, 205, OLB Eagle Lake (FL) Lake Region 2010
Assets: Has a tremendous burst and excellent ball skills.
What was most impressive at camp: For a guy who is making the change from safety to linebacker, he sure looked a natural.
Areas for improvement: He just needs to get reps at his new position because all the tools are there.
On the Hoof: Has good height, long arms and wide shoulders. Robinson's frame will fill out and enable him to play all three linebacker positions.
Here's another 2008 eval from a camp in which he was named to the Hot 11 while competing against a host of top recruits a year older than him:
6-1, 190, LB Eagle Lake (Fla.) Lake Region
Robinson admits he didn't have the best outing earlier this summer at the USC Rising Star Camp. Along with being injured, he just couldn't get in the zone. But he was there on Sunday, making big play after big play in drills and then in one-on-one battles. He was the one guy who was consistently able to hang with both the physical and speedy backs in the camp.
Those backs included top 100 seniors (and future Robinson foes) Cierre Wood and Edwin Baker. A game eval from his junior season was a little less rapturous but still pretty enthralled:
MARVIN ROBINSON (Jr., Lake Region): I’ve talked to Robinson a lot a over the last few months and his game film is impressive. What’s more impressive is his size and speed. He was bigger than a lot of the lineman on both teams and showed good speed while running downfield on kickoffs. However, he left his feet a lot when going for tackles on smaller guys and relies on a lot of arm tackles. Still, he is a great athlete and saved his team a lot as the last line of his defense.
Even in April of 2009, the reviews coming in were positive:
Defensive Backs Michigan commit Marvin Robinson (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region) stood out with the defensive backs. He is a physically imposing and athletic safety prospect. He showed good ball skills and moved well. On film, he displays a good feel for the game. In talking with Robinson after the camp, he said he still wants improve on his ability to read plays. Robinson said he plans to graduate early, and it looks like the Wolverines scored a good one from the Sunshine State.
Naturally, Michigan fans expected that a guy with those early offers and scouting reports would be shoved into national top tens, or at least top 25s, or at least given five stars, or at least put in top 100s or something. This did not happen. As you can see above, the scouting consensus on Robinson is good, not great, and almost frighteningly uniform.
Part of the drop is a re-evaluation when Robinson turned out to be one of those guys who gets big fast then stops growing. Another part of it is the perception that Robinson is a tweener between linebacker and safety. Robinson checked in at the tail end of top 100 lists when they came out. At the time of his commitment he was barely hanging on at #99. He slid in every rankings revision at Rivals until September when he was booted from the top 250 and ceased to exist in the realm of folks whose rankings fluctuate on the regular. Only Tom Lemming kept the faith: Robinson is his #42 player overall.
Why did this happen? Near as I can tell, Robinson showed up at a bunch of camps as a rising senior looking and playing like a linebacker but hanging out amongst the defensive backs. Mike Farrell's take from his appearance at "Gridiron Kings" that summer:
Robinson is bigger than his listed weight of 190 pounds, but he still has the body of a safety and not a linebacker. He's not a quick-twitch athlete, but he still closes well and keeps things in front of him. His coverage skills are OK, but not great, and he didn't stand out much.
Barry Every's version of events from the Tallahassee Nike camp referenced above:
ASSETS: Incredible body structure and very good speed for his size.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Struggles coming out of his breaks and may be better suited as an OLB at the next level. WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE AT CAMP: Without a doubt the prettiest looking prospect competing in the defensive back group.
CONCLUSION: This Michigan commit will either be a hard-hitting strong safety, or more than likely a super-athletic linebacker with the speed to track down any running back in the Big Ten.
In a separate article for a Georgia site, Every is blunter: "struggles in space and in the backpedal trying to cover receivers." On the other hand, he had "tremendous speed and side to side movement" going forward. Barton Simmons closes out the Rivals skepticism trifecta by saying he looks "unbelievable on the hoof" but "isn't totally comfortable covering receivers on an island." Scout echoes:
Robinson has enough size that some feel he will grow into a LB. His speed would be very attractive there. He is an excellent tackler, particularly in space and he has plus hitting ability. Robinson will need to improve his range to stay at S in college, however he has shown quality instincts and has plenty of athleticism for the position.
So he's a 190-200 pound guy who doesn't seem like a free safety and is somewhat undersized for linebacker. That plus loads of athleticism gets you a solid but unspectacular four-star rating despite a crazy flood of early offers. Fair enough.
Compounding matters was a senior-year injury. Robinson pulled his groin in the second game and missed most of his season. Lake Region was 0-8 and no one was paying attention when he did, so Robinson stayed put in the rankings. Even so, Florida, UNC, and Georgia were still poking around in December (and probably beyond).
Robinson was planning on an early enrollment but couldn't get himself squared away in time for that to happen, leading to scattered rumors he might have some work to do to qualify. Those seem to have been generated by Robinson's creepy Buckeye coach and may or may not have much validity.
*(Whose team went 0-8. Surprise!)
Why Stevie Brown? Brown was a heavily recruited, super-athletic safety recruit who was completely terrible in coverage as a deep safety and was a total bust until he moved into the spur-type role he occupied last year, at which point he became Michigan's third- or fourth-best player on defense. Hopefully Michigan won't make the same mistake here, assuming the gurus are right about Robinson in a deep zone.
Other Guy Named Marvin Robinson: Spirit Bear guide in the super cold parts of Canada.
Etc.: Signing day photo.
Guru Reliability: High. Robinson was a heavily scouted player from midway through his junior year and the guru consensus is almost uncanny.
General Excitement Level: High. I know the sites downgraded him but the main reason they did is it seems like a traditional 4-3 doesn't have a great spot for him. Michigan does, whether it's the spinner position that Stevie Brown occupied last year or a spur/bandit in the 3-3-5.
Projection: Michigan's move to the 3-3-5 seems tailor made for an athletic edge player like Robinson who can take on backs out of the backfield, cover the flats, blitz, and take on blockers. Jordan Kovacs has one of the box safety roles sewed up but with the other currently manned by a rotating combination of Mike Williams, Floyd Simmons, and Thomas Gordon there is an opportunity for Robinson to step directly into the starting lineup. All observers mention Robinson's throbbing, college-ready abs. A redshirt is not necessary and there is an open starting spot that seems tailor made for him. Robinson will feature. Even if he doesn't manage to start against UConn, he will probably work his way onto the field situationally with an eye towards starting by midseason.
More meta UFR stuff. Biological fun fact: because of Chris Chelios, Mike Comrie, and my loose affiliation with the Wings due to a childhood spent in then hockey-free Colorado, I migrated my NHL fandom to the Edmonton Oilers a while back. How's that working out? Just fantastic, thanks.
One of the compensations of following the sort of team that would sign 70-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year deal without giving him a physical is that the blogging community around the team is spectacularly good. I've read Lowetide and MC79 for years and have just stumbled on the SBNation Oilers blog. It has a post called "Groupthink, Confirmation Bias, Hockey Fans And Microstats." I put in in the feed reader three times.
Anyway, here's UFR motivation in a nutshell:
In the world of sports fans, confirmation biases abound. It's impossible for individual fans to record, catalog, process, analyze and interpret the results of hundreds of independent events occurring constantly throughout a game, but it's much easier to pick out those events and sequences of events that support their conclusions. Any hockey fan that has sat silently shaking their head while the crowd piles on an undeserving player recognizes this immediately. It's a powerful psychological force, especially in a setting like sports. Fans can confirm their biases for themselves and immediately fall back on thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of fellow fans to confirm what they already know.
It seems that the Michigan fan's groupthink these days has been pretty accurate. Most of the people who have come in for internet horsewhippings have subsequently fluttered in and out of the lineup (Mike Williams, JT Floyd, Obi Ezeh, Jonas Mouton, Dorrestein/Huyge platoon) or been moved to less terrifying spots for their athleticism (Kovacs). Even so, it's nice to have UFRs around for when it's unjustified, like when Steve Breaston was getting killed for dropping about the same number of balls as any other receiver on the team.
And yes, I will UFR the Ohio State game, probably about a week after spring practice finishes up.
Right, I forgot about the pablum. So Da'Sean Butler suffered an ugly ACL tear in his Final Four game against Duke and then had that uncomfortable moment with Huggins.
But before that he said a bunch of nice things about Beilein:
"Everybody has to buy in, and you have to get the right people," Butler said, referring to Beilein's offense, which requires discipline and precise shooting. "You've got to get the absolute right people for that system, because if you have even one person that doesn't understand or doesn't care to understand, a cancer on the team of some sort, then it can throw everything off, honestly.
"The system works. That's the best system I've ever been part of in my life as far as just running an offense. It suited me so well. I think everybody kind of gets into, you've got to get all these five-star and whatever recruits, and for him, you just need to find the right players who can obviously make shots, but who will work hard. And if you find that right group, and not like prima donnas, it could be a very good system."
I guess that's nice but I bet the "whole lot of nothing" quote Butler dropped a few days ago resulted in a sharp thwack on the head and a reminder to never say anything that could be construed as not wildly positive. On the other hand, Huggins is still running Beilein's 1-3-1 regularly. That does seem meaningful.
Might be time for another "eeee" tag. Yes, more David Brandon hype ahoy:
“I don’t put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on any one year, but clearly this year was a year we hoped for better and certainly lost a little bit of momentum in terms of our improvement,” Brandon said. “But that doesn’t detract from my belief that going forward we can regain that momentum, and our program is going to get bigger and better and stronger when we get those practice facilities in, and we do some things that will afford us to be able to recruit a little more aggressively. It’s going to help both those programs a lot."
He manages to strike a balance between acknowledging things have been disappointing and offer public support of his coaches in response to the machine-gunned "when can we fire this guy?" questions he appears to field 24/7.
That comes from an article that focuses on the future of the basketball program with a couple of Brandon quotes that give an indication of what the U has planned for Crisler:
“We need wider concourses, we need more restrooms, we need better amenities in terms of food service and service opportunities for our fans,” Brandon said. “We need to re-seat the bowl, think differently about the kind of seating that we use and probably put in some kind of club-seating opportunities to give special experiences to people who are willing to take advantage of those.
“Probably come up with a different game plan as to where we put the media and just how we professionalize that arena.”
Emphasis mine. That sort of talk would be an anethma about Michigan Stadium—though it is basically undergoing the same process—but is welcome in reference to Crisler, which is what you'd get if you took Joe Louis Arena and turned off half the lights. If Brandon can fulfill his goal of having the broadcaster who declared Crisler one of the worst in the country return to eat crow*, Michigan's facilities renovations will be essentially complete. The last thing to do would be another Yost renovation that brought in video boards and some other things.
*(This has to be Bilas, right? I imagine this happened during one of his many defenses of Tommy Amaker.)
This was a Malcolm in the Middle plot. MVictors has detailed Michigan's tumultuous 1909 on his blog and in HTTV, and now we have a postscript thanks to mgouser and extremely unusual person Alaska Hokie. Michigan QB Joy Miller was the Demar Dorsey of his day, except with academic laziness (the classes: he had none) substituting for juvenile robberies. He was eventually booted from the team and ended up cleaning pots for a horrible woman in Alaska. Or something close to that:
QUARTER BACK LOSES HIS MIND
Famous Football Player on the Wolverine Team is Located at Walla Walla Working as Laborer.
HIS MIND IS TOTAL BLANK
Disappeared Months Ago From His Home and All Trace of Him Has Up to the Present Been Lost.
WALLA WALLA, March 19.—James Miller, the famous quarterback of the Michigan team last year, who has been missing from his home for several months, was located in this city yesterday working as a laborer. His mind is a total blank and he is quite unable to recognize his friends. He was elected to the captaincy of the Wolverine team for next season.
The end. It was Washington, but same difference.
Man-for-man, his isn't the most talented offense in the conference, but given the close-to-the-sweatervest approach at Ohio State and widespread inexperience at Penn State, I'd put my money on MSU leading the conference in scoring at a little over 30 points per game. Just like last year, though, part of that will be out of necessity, to overcome the growing pains of a pair of new and/or ineffective cornerbacks, specifically, and a back seven in general that just doesn't have the horses to seriously contend for the conference title or one of the floating BCS slots. Assuming the offensive line holds up, though, the passing game will have a few eye-popping afternoons, and a Gator or Outback Bowl bid likely awaits after a borderline top-25 finish in the neighborhood of 8-4.
That is not within a game or two of .500, which will be its undoing. Spartan .500 gravity is one of the universe's most powerful forces.
Etc.: Devin Gardner is walking around campus in a sling. He's still practicing, though. Canadian hockey writer/broadcaster person Bob McKenzie sent his son to St. Lawrence to play college hockey. The younger McKenzie has just played out his eligibility, causing the elder to post on his experience with college hockey. Browser-crippling version of Inside Michigan Football #3 up.
The Michigan Men's Lacrosse team took on a pair of in-state (and in-conference) opponents this weekend, squaring off against Western Michigan Friday night, and Central Michigan on Saturday. As is often the case against weaker opposition, the Wolverines took no prisoners, pounding both teams. I was only able to make it to Friday's game, the that report will be in a little more detail.
In front of a packed house at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, the Wolverines struggled to start the game. Though they finished the first quarter with a 7-3 lead, expectations are a bit higher against lower-tier CCLA squads. Michigan responded with a strong second quarter, outscoring the Broncos 11-1, while taking 11 shots to the Broncos' 3, winning 10 of 12 faceoffs, and holding Western to 3/7 on clears.
Freshman goalie Conor McGee took over for Mark Stone after the break, but the second half was no different, as Michigan continued to dominate, putting up 11 goals, while holding Western Michigan to just one - the first score of the half. The half was not as high-scoring as the first two quarters, as Michigan was content to keep the Broncos from scoring, and dominate possession of the ball - as well as try a number of behind-the-back passes and shots.
As should be the case with such a dominant performance, there were a number of statistical firsts and season-highs. Freshmen Sean Sutton and Joe Hrusovsky each recorded their first career goals in Michigan uniforms, while their classmate Thomas Paras collected career-highs in points (11) and goals (6). Senior attack Josh Ein set a career high in points with eight, as did midfielder Jamie Goldeberg, with with five.
Also the Wolverines did the old man-up-hidden-ball trick to score. Twice.
On Saturday night, the Wolverines made for their slow Friday opening frame by blitzing Central Michigan with seven goals in the first seven minutes, fueling a 19-1 blowout over the Chippewas. Junior goaltender Andrew Fowler got the start in net (more on the goalies later), yielding to McGee for the fourth quarter.
Trevor Yealy (pictured at right) notched one assist to go along with seven goals, giving him an even 200 scores for his career after the weekend. Joey Hrusovsky scored for the second consecutive game, and his big bro Anthony tied his career high with three assists.
The Wolverines dominated statistically, winning 22 of 24 faceoffs (including a perfect 8-for-8 by Edward Ernst), taking more than four times as many shots as Central, collecting a 62 to 29 advantage in Ground Balls, and riding the Chips to a dismal 8-20 success rate on clears.
It's always nice to see the team dominate a pair of lesser opponents, not only because that's what a squad of this caliber should do, but also because it gives young guys a chance to step up and show their stuff. With Michael Bartomioli and Clark McIntyre out injured, some youngsters were going to get a chance to prove themselves either way, but improving the depth by giving bench players some experience is always a positive.
While talking about young guys, I'd better point out that Thomas Paras looks like he's going to be a special player. just a freshman, he is a huge threat to score at any time, and he's significantly more likely than other attackmen to rack up big assist numbers as well. When Michigan returns to full strength, the number of offensive options will be astounding.
As for the goalies, I'm still a little confused as to what to rotation is. Andrew Fowler seemed like the better goaltender last year until he suffered a foot injury midway through the season (though he would come back healthy by the end of the year). That confidence was shared by the coaches, as he went wire-to-wire in the National Championship game, despite a poor first half. This year, Mark Stone is the clear #1, and I'm not sure if it's because Fowler regressed, Stone improved, or some combination of the two.
Next weekend, the Wolverines hit the road (as they've been doing a ton this year, with only four home games out of a 13-game schedule) to take on Colorado and Colorado State. Colorado is pretty bad this year, but a win over the Wolverines could spark a run to salvage their season. With #2 Chapman falling to Oregon, Colorado State will likely be the #2 team in the country going into this weekend, for a huge #1 v. #2 matchup in Fort Collins.
I'll preview both teams in more depth in a diary later this week.
Michigan went into Bloomington this weekend for a three game set to open conference play. The first two games were high intensity with plenty of drama, the last game was a huge let down. Despite that let down, Michigan currently sits tied for first place with 4 other Big Ten teams as we emerge 2-1 on the weekend. That's more important than how badly the team face planted on Sunday.
So for full recap, take the jump. My thoughts on the series come after the individual game recaps.