Ben Braden and Caleb Stacey Go Blue
MI OL Ben Braden kicked off the Wolverines' 2012 recruiting class with a bang. Tom talked to his high school coach, Ralph Munger, about the commitment:
[I]n the last couple weeks he was just really excited about Michigan. After today I could see why, he really feels comfortable there. He connected, he looked at the educational opportunities, the football opportunities, and he felt that was the place he could call home.
Although there wasn't a lot of info on him for the Hello post, that has changed in a hurry. First, an e-mail I received from another coach in West Michigan:
I can tell you that Braden is every bit of 6'6"--he is massive. Ralph Munger absolutely loves the kid. Watching him in one-on-one drills, I would say that he is still a little raw in terms of pass blocking; however, as a run blocker, he is dominating.
As a wing-t offensive lineman, it's understandable that he hasn't put in a ton of work pass blocking. That is borne out by the video that Scout posted upon his commitment. Allen Trieu also says that Braden is probably near the 3/4-star borderline early in the process. With a strong senior season (without Cincinnati-bound Parker Ehinger on the other bookend), it's possible he'll move up the rankings. Allen's (free) write-up has some details on Braden's abilities. Ben's also a former hockey player(!). Local fluff.
The night after Braden's commitment, OH OL Caleb Stacey made it a quick #2 by pulling the trigger on a trip to Ann Arbor. Tom talked with his position coach about what type of player Michigan is getting:
Caleb's strengths: 1) Football Knowledge/Coachability
2) His weight room strength/Physical play
3) He excels against great players
4) His footwork
5) His ability to pull
6) Pass Pro
Needs to Work On:
1) Second Level
2) Pad Level
There's a lot more detail on all of those points, so click through for the full details. Mike Dyer covers Stacey's commitment in the Cincinnati area, confirming that Caleb is a future guard at Michigan, though (as is the case with many great high school linemen) he's a left tackle for Oak Hills. Caleb wants to study pre-med, and eventually become an anesthesiologist. Slacker.
Weekend visitor MI TE Ron Thompson told recruiting sites that he may not wait much longer to make a decision ($, info in header). If he picks a schools soon, chances are it's Michigan.
MI DT Matt Godin was on campus yet again over the weekend, and is "about to get serious" ($, info in header). Could he be getting close to a Michigan commitment as well?
OH LB Kaleb Ringer still holds Michigan #1 ($, info in header), and he not only visited Ann Arbor Saturday, but planned to visit practice yesterday - though I didn't see him there in the limited media availability. He plans to announce a commitment on April 15th. [Ed: He's also taken to hashtagging Ann Arbor as "#MyFutureHome" on twitter, so... yeah, that's probably a good sign.]
Tom spoke with OH LB Joe Bolden following his Thursday visit to Ann Arbor. Unsurprisingly, he was impressed with Michigan's coaching staff and facilities, so where do the Wolverines stand in his recruitment?
I was definitely impressed by this visit. Michigan is definitely up there on the list overall. I haven't narrowed anything down yet, I just know that Michigan is up there.
Mike Dyer drops some MSM fluff on Bolden just in time for his Michigan visit:
"Colleges are always looking for sure things like Joe Bolden to recruit," Porter said. "A leader on the field and a great student in the classroom really removes any doubt of what kind of person you are getting. Bolden can take over games on defense because he can get all over the field to make plays." ...
"He has such a passion for the game," [Colerain Athletic Director] Dan said of his son. "He is the kind of kid on a Saturday night when other kids are trying to find out what's going on - him and his friends are getting pizza and watching a string of college football games. He loves the game that much."
Sounds like not only a high-character guy, but somebody who's passionate about the game, as well.
MNOL Jonah Pirsig is "feeling good about Michigan" after visiting last week ($, info in header).
MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone was on campus over the weekend.
Another recent visitor, IN DT Sheldon Day was the subject of Sam Webb'smost recent recruiting column:
"I think he is one of the most explosive guys you'll see," said [Warren Central coach John] Hart. "That's what everybody says -- he explodes off the football. I'm not saying he is Warren Sapp, but he brings a lot of same characteristics to the high school game as Warren Sapp. Lots of times he is unblockable. His motor never stops."
Scout analyst Allen Trieu praises his athleticism, and says Sheldon will likely start out as a 4-star prospect. Day doesn't have a decision timeframe, but says when he does make a choice, Academics will be a key consideration.
OH DE Chris Wormley enjoyed himself at Michigan over the weekend. He plans to decide during the summer or after his high school season.
MI DE Mario Ojemudia and TE Devin Funchess - the less-heralded members of the Farmington Hill Harrison trio - visited Ann Arbor over the weekend and Ojemudia gave some lukewarm quotes to Tom. He plans to decide over the summer.
NY CB Wayne Morgan picked up a Michigan offer on his weekend visit.
Tom got a visit reaction from KY QB Zeke Pike. He wants to make his choice in the next couple months, and says Michigan will be in contention until the end.
Recruiting fluff on OH DE Ifeadi Odenigbo includes his current favorites:
“I can’t really say a have a top five because I am just really blessed and I never thought I would be in this situation,” the junior claimed. “Right now I am looking at Northwestern, Ohio State, Stanford and Notre Dame, but it is going to change when I start visiting schools like Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois.”
No word on when a potentially eye-opening visit to Ann Arbor might take place.
CA DT Ellis McCarthy has a Michigan offer ($).
AZ ON Andrus Peat mentions Michigan and says he doesn't have any favorites.
Michigan offered PA RB Drew Harris ($, info in header).
OH RB Bri'Onte Dunn may consider Michigan - even though he's currently committed to the Buckeyes ($, info in header).
Michigan has offered TX FB EJ Fatu.
Penn State is "making progress" with PA DE Noah Spence. GA WR JaQuay Williams holds a Michigan offer, but is not mentioning the Wolverines. IN QB Aloyis Gray grew up a Michigan fan. OH TE AJ Williams likes Brady Hoke ($, info in header). Keep an eye on MI OL Robert Riche ($, info in header). IL OL Jordan Diamond will visit Ann Arbor for the spring game,as will MI CB Terry Richardson.
WI RB Vonte Jackson picked Wisconsin.
IN OL Sid Anvoots seemed unlikely to get a Michigan offer, so it's no big loss that he has committed to Louisville.
GA DT Jafar Mann committed to Florida.
MA LB Camren Williams committed to Penn State. This was a little surprising, because he had just visited Michigan and was talking about how he couldn't wait to get back.
Working Way, Way Ahead
Those who were concerned about Michigan's slow start to the 2012 recruiting class will undoubtedly be pleased to hear that Michigan has already sent out an offer to 2012 MI QB Shane Morris ($, info in header). Morris is expected to be a top QB in the class.
Cass Tech DT David Dawson is already taking visits to Michigan ($, info in header).
Recruiting guru Jim Stefani breaks down some Michigan targets from the next couple classes, including Braylon Edwards's younger brother and the sons of a few past Michigan greats.
You'll know this by the third word but this is a guest post from Johnny of RBUAS, who just popped up and was like "I've got this thing." Here it is.
He came from the internet, just like the rest of them. He was in California in barren gymnasiums, making no-look passes from half court with the audacity of someone who thought he’d be the best one there back when the bus was still idling in the parking lot waiting to depart, even though sometimes he wasn’t.
He was at Michigan last year when it was bad and was supposed to be good and when it wasn’t his team because it wasn’t really anyone’s team. And this year when he stewarded a sinking raft that became a submarine lurking just below the water’s surface.
And he was there in Charlotte with eight seconds left, clapping for the ball with enough intensity to turn carbon to diamonds between his hands. Not out of routine or even because it could be no one else but because he knew exactly where he was going and that he needed to get on with it. He needed only the ball and a chance and pursued it with the sort of maniacal focus that ends with you pulling your head inside your shirt completely when you miss because it is dark in there and calm, or at least calmer than the disorienting, vertiginous return to a reality you thought you had transcended in those brilliant moments.
It was a miss that leaves with it a haunting memory; seconds that play on a loop until you fall asleep and then you see them in your dreams. But sometimes they manifest themselves in the type of theatrical vindication accompanied by a montage and a soaring, orchestral soundtrack or at least a bodacious new haircut. I think, at least.
It's technically over but let's call this an interlude.
I think it was sometime in 2006 but all that matters is that it was years after everything happened that they said didn’t happen. Chris Webber was on The Best Damn Sports Show talking to John Salley and some men with spectacularly gelled hair who had never played basketball professionally. And then Jalen Rose appeared on screen via satellite.
Jalen and Chris existed then as they do now: in an impenetrable nebula with other wealthy people who build bowling alleys in Welsh castles and fill the moats with virgin blood and ride around on hover boards sipping Pterodactyl bone marrow straight from fossils. They were exactly where they told each other they would be.
They were there and I knew that they were there because I could see their bodies, and yet they were still mostly back in Jalen’s Dodge Shadow in jackets that were too big; half baffled that they’d made it, half amused that it had been so easy.
Chris said these things:
“Jay had old, beat up shoes, with holes in ‘em, that he would sit around cleaning with a toothbrush and white shoe polish.”
“You’d get a pizza card every day for five days … but me and Jalen would eat the same pizza, save (the cards), so the next week we could get like 15 pizzas.”
“When we were down to UCLA by 20 at halftime, Jalen came in, and Juwan said something, I might have cried, coach Fisher ain’t say nothing, and we walked right back out on the court.”
“Jalen had a green Dodge Shadow that had no back seat because all it had was speakers in the back, that one of his boys hooked up that probably was going to catch the whole car on fire, and all we would listen to was Scarface.”
“It was the best time of my life.”
When they were in that car they were in orbit, in a way, twisting the world in their palms like a tiny stone they’d found floating on their way to another galaxy. They were there and I think, sort of, they always have been.
Jalen told Bill Simmons, “When media members came into the locker room and they hear that kind of music, they’re looking at us like we’re from another planet.”
In some ways they were. Grotesquely fascinating and, in their most thrilling moments, frighteningly unstoppable. Five kids synchronize to create a monster the country struggles to interpret, let alone fathom. They can only stand and watch and listen to the noise and feel the ground shake beneath them. They were a marauding death squad worthy of a theme song and an action figure, shooting apples off each other’s heads once the curtain was drawn.
And so you can pull the banners down; burn them in an open field while orphans sing hymns around the flame. It happened. Something was there and it sort of isn’t anymore but mostly it is, like getting a tattoo of her name removed after she left you and then really left you. Bubbly, mangled flesh where a life once was. It’s gone except that you never forget the times you opened the door and she was there, just standing there, looking at you, waiting for you to let her in.
Brian’s frustration with Webber is not at all irrational. But I never knew them as something that grew, or simply emerged, and then broke everyone’s heart. I know them only filtered through the tumult and deification. Part of why I’m so capable of appreciating the Fab Five is specifically because I’m so detached. I know them through VHS recordings, retrospectives, and ultimately a reputation not so much for capturing the zeitgeist but for chewing it up and spitting it out unmistakably altered. They existed, somehow, and so that is enough for me. They are a geological force, a museum exhibit, an alien cadaver cryogenically frozen in a remote military base to be studied and dissected. It won nothing except everything that actually matters.
It is like someone saying, “So tell me what it was like when you got electricity.” This is what I know because it has always been. Long ago it was dark when the sun went down and now I plug two metal prongs into a wall and can watch infomercials on a colorful rectangle. Only rather than a lab coat they were wearing black socks and an air of magnetic irreverence. I know only what they became.
This is not that team; it is not any team and I have no idea what it will be and for that reason I love it. It is not peculiar or compellingly flawed or even one of Beilein’s self-effacing, limitation embracing West Virginia teams. It is just a thing that is constantly turning into another thing and we see it happen in Jon Horford moving through the lane in what seems like a single step and in laser-precise backdoor bounce passes. In Tim Hardaway Jr. launching three pointers undaunted by distance or obstruction, knowing only of a force that overcomes his entire body and having no desire to suppress it, and a confidence that builds like a tidal wave in the distance and leaves in its wake snapped umbrellas and a 900-win coach’s emasculated smile after barely managing to make it out of there alive.
It is a team at once starkly pragmatic and gleefully ambitious, a kid posing in the mirror in its dad’s fatigues from Vietnam when no one’s home. It is proud and quietly defiant; it is something where things shouldn’t be. If the Fab Five was a seismic force capable of shifting the earth on its axis, this is a plant growing from the fractured pavement.
They came from the internet, obscure aside from their lineage and some of them, for a time, with hair like members of 60’s British rock bands. They are here now and they will be here and I am watching it happen.
Johnny used to write stuff like this at RBUAS before everything became too depressing. He met Lloyd Carr once because Carr liked what he wrote.
Photo from under-construction Crisler Arena. I already covered yesterday's most pressing issue, the potential early NBA entry of Darius Morris. The rest of John Beilein's post-season talk follows. If you're interested in the video, UMHoops has you covered.
Though the expectations for the 2009-10 team didn't pay off, this team has handled some increased expectations, even just over the course of the season. "We focus on just us getting better," rather than worry about expectations. "It's the ones that sort of sit back and rest on their laurels that won't get better."
On the drop-off in 2009-10: "I think most of us were part of that. Whether you're an incoming recruit - they were a part of that - and they know stories about it. So we don't have to talk too much about it, and I don't think we should beat them over the head about it."
Talkin' 'Bout Practice?
The team gets 8 hours of instruction time once the season ends. Yesterday, they did the fourth hour of practice, and the last one in Crisler Arena before the facility is closed until next fall. During those 8 hours, a lot of the time is spent showing the players the offseason practice routine the coaches want them to practice.
The coaches give players a written "shell" practice plan, and also instructional DVDs that demonstrate some of the drills. In terms of individual development, the next 5 months "are an important time for us. What our guys are going to do when the coaches aren't watching anymore." Stu went to a private facility last offseason to work on his game, and the coaches encourage the other players to get private instruction.
"We've got a bunch of self-starters, and you just never know how much they're going to improve. I think you saw that with Darius over the summer." It's hard to pinpoint any individual player to make a big step forward in the offseason. It all depends on how hard they work on their own. "I think when Tim Hardaway Jr. goes home and sees Tim Hardaway Sr., they'd be in the gym within hours, because Tim Sr. was in the gym for hours."
"What we're really working on right now is making sure that we have the option to just not go to four guards and play that way." It sounds like they're trying to develop more 4/5 players so that Novak is more free to play the 2 instead of guarding the likes of Bill Cole from Illinois. [Ed: or Trevor Mbakwe.]
"The competition level is gonna be very high, because we're going from 10 scholarship players to could-be 13 scholarship players."
Teams like Butler are good to observe playing in the Final Four, because they show how far a good team concept can take you. "But we're still the University of Michigan, and we love what the large University in a BCS conference can also bring to our recruiting."
There are no specific team goals for next year. Just like every year, they start out wanting to be in the top 6 in the conference (since those are usually the tournament teams), and then to win the Big Ten Championship once you reach that level.
The coaching staff is fielding calls from a lot of interested recruits, with the success on the court. "We feel positive momentum." The Player Development Center and Crisler renovations (pictured at right) are going to be a boost for recruiting, but more importantly for the team's practice. "We can practice any time that we want to, they can practice any time that they want to that fits their schedule in their free time." The new facility also allows the coaches to drill more concepts at once, and film everything, etc.
[Note: Max Bielfeldt wasn't mentioned by Beilein, I assume because they hadn't received his official LOI by yesterday's conference]
The incoming players are given a similar voluntary practice plan to the returning players. "We can only give them... 'these are some of the ways to improve as a player.'" Both Burke and Brundidge are going to enroll in summer term, and be here in June.
Trey Burke - "He truly is a point guard, he truly runs his team. He really has great pace to him, and his quickness is exceptional." He will add quickness to the roster - which Beilein talked about lacking several times this year.
Carlton Brundidge is also a quick player, and excels in ball-screen situations. He played well for a great high school program, "but I'm really looking forward to putting him in the Michigan program as well."
Darius had to play a lot of minutes this year, and adding these two guys will give the team more options to give him some rest. Zack and Stu will also get an opportunity to play a little less and get some rest. They want freshmen who want to compete right away for playing time.
Next Year's Schedule
Playing in the Maui Invitational, they'll have the opportunity to play three high-level opponents, and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge should give a solid opportunity for a home game (though there's a chance they may have to switch and play away).
"Now we're looking at several opportunities to do what we've done in the past with the Kansas, with the UConns, with the UCLAs." There's also an away game at Oakland already planned.
They're trying to line up the guarantee games right now, and trying to fill in to get a good strength of schedule. "I think we have understood what the committee is looking for."
This following item doesn't come from Beilein's conference, but it also relates to next year's schedule: The new 12-team Big Ten will feature seven 2-plays and four 1-plays, with the 1-plays from last year (for Michigan, that's Illinois and Purdue) guaranteed to be 2-plays this upcoming season. There are no protected rivalries, so there's a chance Michigan and Michigan State only play once.
Again with the killing. The Daily's latest feature is on Michigan's connection to the St. Mike's prep program that produced Louie Caporusso, Andrew Cogliano, Brandon Burlon, and plenty of other Wolverines over the years. It features a what-if on the level of "what if Kevin Garnett went to Michigan":
When Lindros first visited before the OHL draft, Berenson was sure to make the right impression.
Berenson called Lindros into his office with an offer he hoped the 6-foot-4 power forward wouldn't be able to pass up. Hanging in the coaches’ room when Lindros entered was a traditional white Michigan jersey, with the trademark 'M' on the chest. Berenson then revealed the back of the sweater: LINDROS 88.
Lindros had been No. 8 at St. Mike’s, but Berenson was making a statement.
“I didn't let anyone have a high number back then,” Berenson said. “But (Lindros) was big time, and we knew that. Gretzky was 99 — I gave Lindros 88.”
The offer was made and the decision was left up to Lindros. He chose Michigan.
The OHL promptly changed its rules against trading first-round draft picks and Lindros went there instead.
Also most of the pictures are credited to "Danger Nesbitt," which is either author Stephen Nesbitt's ironic nickname or ass-kicking nine year old sister.
Recruiting blitz. Lost in the most crammed sports day I can remember—basketball, hockey, and US soccer were all going on simultaneously—was the commitment of 2012 Canadian wing Nick Stauskas. Stauskas claimed a Kansas offer at one point and was definitely getting recruited by Wake Forest, Iowa State, Butler, and others. Scouting from UMHoops's "Hello" equivalent:
Strengths: Stauskas is a well built swingman who can really shoot the basketball. He has good size for the two-guard and has gotten noticeably stronger within the last year. He is a big time shooter who makes shots in bunches and can never be left unchecked anywhere within 25 feet of the rim. He can handle and pass the ball in the open floor, will attack bad closeouts off the dribble, and isn’t afraid to mix it up inside the paint to battle for rebounds.
The consistent knock is raw athleticism; a half-dozen reports on UMHoops are split down the middle on whether or not he can actually create a shot for himself. On WTKA this morning Sam Webb said he was like Stu Douglass with a better handle, but once you start talking about a 6'6" Stu Douglass who can get to the rack are you really talking about Stu Douglass anymore?
Stauskas's commitment fills Michigan's roster for 2012 if there's no attrition. That's kind of a big if at this point, so Michigan should be planning to fill Darius Morris's slot. Most people talk about Indiana five star Gary Harris as someone to look at but that's something of a pipe dream. I'm still holding out for man-mountain Sim Bhullar because it would be terribly fun to have a 7'4", 300-pound Indo-Canadian on the team. As a bonus, envision Gus Johnson exclaiming his name.
BONUS: Remember the almost-but-not-quite recruitment of Nate Lubick? That paid off with dad:
Stauskas credited his high school coach, Dave Lubick, for helping to connect him with the Michigan staff. "He was the one who started the relationship with Michigan," Stauskas said. "They never would have seen me if not for him."
It was just a couple of years ago that Michigan recruited Lubick's eldest son, Nate, as hard as anyone in the country and while he ultimately committed to Georgetown, the process left Lubick extremely impressed with Beilein.
"I thought it was a gift that I was given, that I was now able to give to this family," Lubick said of getting to know Beilein. "This is a great man and a great coach. I have as much respect and admiration for him as I do anyone I've met in this business."
Invites questions as to why he went to Georgetown, but whateva. If you're curious as to how the younger Lubick did this year, he played half of Georgetown's minutes and shot well but was extremely low-usage. Like Petway low-usage.
As for Bielfeldt. Mike Rothstein got some clarification on just what he is in a Q&A:
…right now they like me playing the four and, depending how I develop, they said I might play a little five as well.
Q: Where do you feel the most comfortable in their offense and defense?
MB: Their four spot. They said next year they are thinking about running a little bit more two-post stuff. I think either one, they are kind of similar to us with the offense. If I can develop my game a little bit over the summer, I think I’d be comfortable at either one.
Bielfeldt says he shoots "when he has to" but is more of a post and short corner guy, so his fit in the offense is going to be interesting. Same goes for Brundidge, FWIW.
The first five. Now that we've got five full classes of Beilein recruits, a brief survey:
2008: Douglass, Novak,
Cronin, Benzing 2009: Morris, Vogrich, Morgan, McLimans
2010: Hardaway, Smotrycz, Horford
2011: Burke, Brundidge, Bielfeldt
2012: Robinson III, Stauskas
Since picking up Douglass and Novak in his first class Beilein has recruited just one unranked kid anywhere except the five—Bielfeldt. Pickups at those four spots all seem to be in the 75-125 range with at least one guy who seems to be (or has already proven to be) massively underrated per class: Morris, Hardaway, Burke, and Robinson III. Morris throws a wrench into theories about four-year players but I don't think anyone expected he'd be in a position to think about moving on when he was recruited.
Redux. I added this a few hours after I posted on the Zapruder goal, but in case you missed it and need to email a North Dakota fan or something:
The guy you're emailing will then say that's not conclusive and you'll throttle him with your mind.
Additional Fab Five stuff. Via Wolverine Historian, the 1993 Purdue game:
Bouncyfreude. Sippin' On Purple adapts This Week In Schadenfreude into This Tournament In Schadenfreude with awesome results:
want to throw up right now, i cried shortly after the loss. F*CK VCU with a capital FFFFFFFF. Your fans are all ugly decrepite mason nazi pricks who don't know the essense of our great program. they were lucky as hell.
If you thought incoherent rage was restricted to football fans… well, no one thinks that. Just click over.
Etc.: MSU C Garrick Sherman transfers. Slightly sketchy seeming since MSU does not have a scholarship for Harris at this instant, but Sherman did play 30% of MSU's minutes this year so it's not like he's a total scrub. Once Nix hits five bills they might regret losing him.
People who write about the NFL draft are probably the dumbest people putting words in sentences outside the USCHO.com message board. EBay watch hits on a highball glass I got for Christmas this year. It did not cost 65 dollars, I checked. Baseball swept by MSU for first time since 1955—yeesh. Jim Jackson says one more year for Morris. A Rich Rodriguez piece? Oh boy! KJ of The Only Colors says goodbye. /shakes fist at time
right via flickr user bre pettis
You've often mentioned how a single elimination hockey tournament is a poor indicator of who the best team is, due to the randomness that exists in hockey. There is one sport where the randomness of the winner is considerably higher - baseball. And college baseball deals with this by making the tournament, and the college world series, double elimination tournament up until the championship.
Do you think a double elimination tournament could work for NCAA hockey, or if not for the frozen four, at least for the regionals? Each regional would still fit nicely into a weekend, rather than needing to spread out over two weeks if it were a 3 game series at each round. As hockey is poised for a potentially cataclysmic change tomorrow, the time for changing the tournament would be now as well.
Double elimination doesn't work for hockey because it's just too many games. A first-round loser could hypothetically play five games if they reach the final and win the first game, and how are you going to fit that into three days? Even if you decide the final is one and done (presumably playing this exhausted team is advantage enough) you've still got a situation where someone's playing twice in a day. That's not feasible.
The thing that makes the most sense is to go back to the old best two-of-three series. Have two rounds of those and have a Frozen Four. Downsides: it takes a week longer and some schools don't control their rinks, making reservations awkward. Upside: massively more revenue and it looks like people care about college hockey.
Something like this may be coming. As mentioned this morning, the NCAA has not announced regional sites past next year. Last May this was apparently the hot idea:
Under the most popular proposal, the tournament would stay as a 16-team field, but the first round would be a best-of-three series played at the venue of the higher seed.
The eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals would play at one of two super regional sites. The quarterfinals would be one-game shots with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line. The Frozen Four would not change.
That manages to be only slightly better than the current system since you know you're going to this random "super regional" site to watch your team play once. There seems to be no reason not to play another campus series other than a desire to pretend you're a bigger deal than your are.
If hockey is truly insistent on having regionals, let's format them like the first round of the World Cup or Olympic hockey: everyone plays each other and the top two teams move on. That would force teams to play three straight days but without overtime everyone's on a level playing field. That should help attendance since you know you'll get to see your team play three times.
The biggest issue with that format is scheduling the last day. In the World Cup the last group games are simultaneous because there are situations in which teams can assure themselves advancement by walking around for 90 minutes and tying. You couldn't do that at a regional. I think if you're flexible with the final day's schedule you could avoid that by making the teams who are in that advantageous position play first, though.
More money, more reason to travel, and less randomness—it's better than the current setup. The tournament could start out with groups, have a campus weekend, and then have a Frozen Four.
If NCAA determines that OSU must vacate last year football wins, does that mean RichRod went 1-2 vs. OSU?
No. A vacated game never happened—unless you lost, I guess—so officially he'd be 0-2.
After reading your thoughtful post about Webber, I couldn't help but think about why, despite everything, I always loved the guy. Just to try to explain what it was like: The Fab 5 era has many of the elements of the last few years of Michigan football, except they were magnified. First, there was the culture clash. Fisher's coaching style, the new players, all of it received a very similar reception, but unlike RR he had the '89 national championship for protection. And of course the culture clash was magnified because it was not only a matter of a culture clash within the university but on a national level. Think of it as the culture clash times five.
Then there was the electrifying style of play. Every moment of every game at Crisler, you were just sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something amazing to happen. Not just dunks, although people often forget just how incredible not only Webber but Jimmy's ups were. But an unreal block, an impossible pass, a quick as lightening steal. The only thing I can really compare it to in my life of watching sports was watching Denard last year. You were just sitting there with visceral sense of anticipation, knowing you just might witness something amazing. But now imagine if Denard and Rich Rod had taken us to a national championship game -- or two in a row -- and I think that will give you some sense of how it felt to be a student at Michigan in that era and why we simply can't not love those guys. We all knew those players personalities, their faces, their styles of play. It was something close to watching five Denards.
There was obviously a culture clash with Rodriguez's program as a whole but Denard isn't a part of that because Denard is the nicest kid in the history of the universe. I've been going to basketball and hockey games for years and when other athletes show up, they do so in a big group, come late, and leave early. This extends even to nonentities like the tennis team. They signed some autographs at Yost earlier this season and then watched a portion of the second period in seats directly behind mine, then took off.
Denard went to the DEATH TO BACKBOARDS Wisconsin game. He wasn't there with teammates (unless Drew Dileo was there—everyone around him was an average-sized white guy), stayed for the whole thing, and when handed a random maize T-shirt he put it over his futuristic Annie Lennox jacket. You can throw that on the pile of evidence that contains every press conference he's ever attended and every touchdown he's ever kneeled after.
But the larger point is good. Michigan swung away from its baseline attitude in the aftermath of the '89 championship because it won a lot for a brief period of time, and then when it won less and got the program in trouble they reacted by hiring Tommy Amaker and John Beilein. Even more telling was only after Amaker left for Harvard that people started complaining about his recruiting practices.
A lot of people have pointed at that reaction as the Fab Five's doing, but it's really just Michigan returning to its equilibrium state after being knocked out of it briefly. The same thing happened with Rodriguez except it didn't take nearly as long because there weren't any of those win things. At some point in the future Michigan will have a coach with a different idea of what football looks like*, and he'll be tolerated as long as he wins, and then eventually he won't win and Michigan will return to its equilibrium state.
*[Possibly a distant, Humans Are Dead future, granted.]
A Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure.
It seems just about everyone in the media has a "source" that knows what Darius Morris plans to do this offseason. Such rumored plans include:
- Returning to school for his junior year with 100% certainty.
- Entering his name for the NBA Draft, but not hiring an agent, so he can pull out of it.
- Absolutely, with 100% certainty, entering the NBA Draft - for keepsies.
The correct answer is... none of the above. At John Beilein's meeting with the media today, he went into great detail about Darius's (possible) upcoming decision.
There are effectively three phases for an underclassman who intends to enter the NBA Draft. The first phase, which is what Darius has done, is to submit an application to the NBA Draft Undergraduate Advisory committee. John Beilein recommended to Darius that he apply to this committee: "Within two days after the season was over, I called Darius into the office, and suggested that we go through the Undergraduate Advisory Committee and gather information - and that's all that's happening right now." This is not a decision that blindsided the coaches, and in fact was Beilein's own idea.
Phase two is declaring for the NBA Draft, which Darius has not done. In fact, the application for evaluation explicitly states:
Please note that submission of this application is not a declaration of eligibility for the 2011 NBA Draft. A separate letter must be sent to Commissioner Davis Stern (received by April 24th, 2011) declaring eligibility for the 2011 NBA Draft.
(Emphasis original to the source). The third phase is actually going through with the Draft, which means not withdrawing by June 13th, or hiring an agent, etc.
Beilein declined to discuss specifics of Darius's merit for the NBA Draft, only pointing out that conventional wisdom states that underclassmen who aren't projected to be first-rounders usually stay in school at least one more year. He's not a scout, and hasn't watched film on every player who's a senior or has submitted his name for evaluation, and so did not say whether or not he thought Darius met that standard.
He was adamant in pointing out that Michigan's coaches want nothing more than for their players to have successful careers (emphasis on career, presumably as opposed to a big draft payday) in the NBA. "It's not about getting drafted, it's about having success in the NBA."
"There's a lot involved in this, and you have to think about it; it's a very important decision," Beilein said. Manny Harris has proven in his first NBA season that he made the right decision, as he's a regular in the Cavs' rotation. It remains to be seen what the Committee will tell Darius, and he'll make his decision after that.
Other post-season notes from Beilein's luncheon are less pressing matters, so expect a recap tomorrow.
3/25/2011 – Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2 (OT) – 27-10-4
3/26/2011 – Michigan 2, Colorado College 1 – 28-10-4, Frozen Four
The course of the season showed that if Michigan was going to make the Frozen Four they were going to do it one way: narrowly. If you need a number, during the course of the UNO broadcast they put up a stat showing Michigan's record in one-goal games was 10-3. That's just how they do.
That record is now up to 12-3 after history's greatest video review and the Joe Howe show (wsgs Joe Howe's Posts) and if there was ever any chance we remembered this hockey team as the weird one that kind of reminded you of Ron Mason that's gone now. This team isn't trying to win games –1 to –2 but you'd be forgiven if sometimes you thought they were.
It's working, though. I spent the second intermission Saturday thinking about Buffalo, when Michigan dominated Minnesota for two periods but didn't put enough of that domination on the scoreboard to prevent Minnesota's rally from tying the game; Michigan lost the game and Al Montoya's brain in overtime on one of those bizarrely frequent OT goals that comes from almost the goal line on the left side of the net*. I spent the third period thinking about how beautifully boring it was until Red channeled into Lloyd Carr by slipping Jeff Rohrkemper out there for a power play shift. He was immediately punished for punting from the 34 by a Rohkemper boarding penalty and nine seconds later CC fumbled a puck into the net. Everyone braced for a storm. That storm was a single pea-sized hailstone. The most nervous moment after that was a bunch of players rooting for the puck on the boards with the goalie out and twenty seconds left.
Michigan had outshot their opponent 43-22, played a game universally acclaimed as their best of the season, and won 2-1 because Scooter is an animal and pucks that come off Lee Moffie's stick will hit the post and go in even if they have to deflect off three guys to do it. There is a natural inertia pulling them towards narrow wins you're uncertain about; even now that they've reached the Frozen Four there's a feeling they don't really match up with a North Dakota.
There's also the feeling they just might, though. Because what the hell, Michigan's 11-1 since the line shakeup after Michigan's dismal 0-3 stretch against MSU and Miami. Season goals slipping away and faced with the question of how to get the most use out of some good forwards who never, ever score Michigan put together a vintage Todd Marchant checking line and let anyone who might put the puck in the net forget about guys like Jaden Schwartz.
This has been remarkably effective. If the announcer didn't bring his name up every time he wasn't making a joke-type assertion about the "hockey hotbeds" of California, Texas, and Arizona, the viewer could have forgotten about Jaden Schwartz. Lingering irritation at Matt Rust's bad OT penalty against UNO evaporated as his line erased Schwartz, Schwartz, and Schultz with a healthy assist from Jon Merill at his most subtly awesome. The Schwartzes got their goal on a four-on-four scramble; everything other than that was frustration. In the second period they started jawing and shoving people because they were getting nothing. This was one day after they turned defending national champs Boston College into a lump of smoking carbon.
I watched North Dakota pummel two teams, one of them not even in the ECAC, this weekend. I remember Michigan's last two not-very-competitive matchups against them. I have considerable doubts that Michigan will beat them since they're by far the best team left standing. Doubts about doubts come when you close your eyes and see Jon Merrill gently shepherding you, the puck, and a hockey team into a deep, peaceful sleep as Matt Rust obscures the face of North Dakota Hobey finalist… oh… you know… what's his name.
*[Almost certainly an artifact of my introduction to college hockey but they seem to happen all the time: Josh Langfeld's championship winner, the Vanek goal (at 1:00) that put Michigan out in Buffalo, and ND's winner against Merrimack were all bizarre nothing shots from the same area of the ice that took the goalie by surprise.]
A Tiny Window Of White Bullets
Also the other two goals but mostly Scooter!
You do not have a twitter account that concerns itself with Michigan hockey if you didn't tweet "Scooter" followed by one to three exclamation points after his goal, which was completely unbelievable even as it was happening. CC does not have the greatest defensemen in the world but holy crap where did that come from?
Monster faceoffs. Michigan both faced and received extended periods of 5-on-3 time in the first period, and during both they got clean, critical faceoff wins. Moffie's goal was a direct result. The lack of a CC goal on their terrifying PP was greatly aided, as well.
Clare escape. To recap the thing I kept talking about during the game: after a tough shift in which Pateryn and Clare got caught in the zone forever, allowing the Schwartz line to get out against them and some other random non-Rust forwards, Red pulled Clare out of the lineup for more than a period. Pateryn took shifts with the second pair D to give guys a break. Clare returned about halfway through the second and actually got some PK time a bit later, which I guess makes sense because your breakout on the PK is slapping the puck down the ice. I saw him out there a couple times in the third, as well, but his minutes were minimized.
All this invites questions about Burlon's availability. He's got two weeks to recover from his strep and penicillin reaction, so I imagine he'll be in the lineup. Losing 15 pounds is kind of a lot, though, and I wonder how effective he'll be.
RNG in full effect. Hockey's vaguely weighted plinko system was a little more random than normal this time around: FF participants are two three-seeds, a two, and a one. One seeds went 2-2 in the first round, bringing their record against fours to 11-9 the last five years. That goes beyond "anything can happen" into "your excellent season gets you nothing."
What's wrong? I don't think you can blame the Pairwise. The "better"* ranking system, KRACH, already updated for the weekend's results and still has Yale a #1. The only difference between KRACH's top seeds and the PWRs is putting Denver above Miami, and there's a fair chance that wasn't the case before the events of the weekend.
You can blame insular schedules. Yale's nonconference schedule consisted of single games against CC, Air Force, Cornell, and Vermont and an "Ivy Shootout" against other ECAC members. The only evidence we had that Yale was a top seed other than their ECAC schedule was a 5-1 win over a .500 WCHA team and a 2-1 record against Atlantic Hockey—yeah, they'd already lost to first-round opponent Air Force.
This vapor-thin trail coupled with some other ECAC nonconference games convinced the ranking systems the conference didn't suck despite years of evidence to the contrary. The last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003 and that last to win a title was Harvard in 1989.
That only explains perpetually disappointing ECAC #1s, which are rare. The rest of it is on a tournament format which has #1 Miami play #4 UNH in New Hampshire in a single-elimination game.
*[FWIW, KRACH is mathematically pure but has a tendency to go nuts about nonconference results. In certain years it would put up to eight WCHA teams, some well below .500, into the field.]
Abandabuildings. It was no surprise to see literally every seat in the upper bowl in St. Louis empty. We wondered if a couple of friends had actually made the trip despite stern clucking about teaching the NCAA a lesson, and I said "if they did they'll be on TV because they'll be the only people there," and midway through the second there they were. Even the NCAA's comically generous numbers only show 55% capacity.
Every year we get sterile half-full buildings as teams get shipped halfway across the country and fans have to deal with the possibility they'll get on a plane to see their team play once, or if they're lucky play twice and make the Frozen Four and then you've blown your budget on regionals already. Insert usual rant about using home sites here.
The good news is the NCAA has not selected regional sites past next year. In the past sites have been selected three to four years out, so that's a clear sign this failed format is on its last legs. Last year there was a report out of Grand Forks that change was coming, with home sites and "super regionals" of an undetermined nature.
The bad news is that once again the CCHA has no regionals within hundreds of miles of it—the closest is in Green Bay as the St. Louis regional moves to St. Paul. At least Michigan's getting out of that rinky-dink operation, and as a bonus the failures of its commissioner* now directly benefit it.
*[Seriously, what has Anastos done since 1998 that a lump of quartz couldn't? The CCHA has gone nowhere, and has clearly become the region of the country that either gets screwed over by the committee or can't scrape together a bid that makes any more sense than having a regional in St. Louis.]
I am Jack's total lack of surprise. The crew doing the Yale-UMD game that chucked Yale's best player out of the game for a clean open-ice hit were from the CCHA. Yale's coach was infuriated enough afterwards to lead his presser with "the game was taken away from us." Yet more reason to be happy we're getting away from the league—hopefully most of the refs don't follow.
Via Boyz in the Pahokee as per usual.
Daily game story and gallery featuring a great shot of the Scooter(!!!) goal:
Everyone in the shot including Scooter is thinking "WTF?"
“I think they did have a few pretty good shots early on,” Hunwick said. “But this is an opportunity to play for the Frozen Four. I think I made a couple good saves. It’s pretty easy to stay in the game when you’re playing to go to the Frozen Four. They didn’t really get anything going too much until they got into the power play. Once they got into the power play, I really had to be sharp.”
Seriously, that power play was terrifying. That first period five on three was awful.
Torrent of the CC game.
This past weekend was Michigan's junior day and by all accounts was a success. There were a ton of prospects in to watch practice and take part in a few tours. Here's a look at how a few of those recruits felt about the trip.
6'4", 255 lbs.
Wormley is one of the top ranked prospects in Ohio for 2012 and is also one of the main targets for the Michigan staff. He's been on campus before, but this was his first chance to see the new coaches in action.
My mom and dad were up there with me. We watched practice first, went to lunch, and then they took us on a tour of the locker room and everything. I noticed in practice that the coaches are real patient and there's not a lot of yelling. It definitely helped me get a better understanding of how they coach and how they work. This visit definitely helped Michigan.
Chris also got a chance to get some one on one time with Coach Montgomery and Mattison.
We were just talking about general stuff, just chit chat. They talked about the defense and that I would most likely be playing what they call the rusher position on the outside.
While Chris has been on campus before, this visit gave him a little bit of a better understanding for the program in general. He talked about the academics and when he wants to make his decision.
I think what stood out to me the most was how seriously they take the academics up there. The academics are first and football's second; I like that. My parents were having some good conversations too, so it was good. I either want to make my decision before the season starts or after. It will be too big of a distraction during the season. If I'm not 100% comfortable then I'll do it after the season.
Michigan has been high on Wormley's list for some time and the new coaching staff has made a definite impression on him and his family. It's a race now between Michigan and Ohio State for Wormley.
6'0", 220 lbs.
Ringer decided to make another trip up to Ann Arbor, and he has also decided on a date to make his final announcement.
I'll be making my announcement on April 15th at 6:00 [EST]. But yeah I was up there for a photo shoot with Tom Lemming and then I stayed for practice. When I got there Coach Hoke came up to me and hugged me. It was cool, but I didn't stay for the junior day. I just wanted to make sure I spoke with the staff before I left.
I then asked Kaleb if this visit let him see anything new or different from what he had already seen from the coaches and the University.
No, they have been real with me from day one. I was mostly checking out the linebackers to see how they play. They really stress physicality and I like that.
While he didn't necessarily see anything new while watching practice there was an aspect that he saw that stood out to him.
I saw a family on the football field, not just a team. You couldn't tell who the stars were on the team, everyone blended. I think they have accepted Coach Hoke's vision and bought into it, and so have I.
Ringer currently has offers from Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, and Toledo. Like he said, he will be making his announcement on April 15th. It's an announcement to tune in to.
6'3", 220 lbs.
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Mario made it up to Ann Arbor with his teammate TE Devin Funchess. They both took in practice as well.
We went to practice and talked to Coach Jackson and saw all the coaches. I had a long talk with Coach Hoke, too. He basically talked about what Michigan has to offer and the tradition there. I liked the visit more than I thought I would. I liked it more because of the coaches, they're just really easy to talk and get a long with. I didn't expect all that. We were all just talking about life a lot, especially with Coach Jackson.
The visit seemed to make an impression on Mario, and practice gave him a better view of how the Michigan coaches operate.
They said I would be a hybrid type. I could put my hand in the dirt or drop back into coverage. Watching practice I liked how it was ran. Everyone was hustling and it was 100%. I was basically trying to watch the ends and outside linebackers. After that Coach Singletary took me around by myself and gave me a tour. He was just telling me how Michigan is different.
Ojemudia is hoping to make his final decision before the season starts. He's going to wait until the summer to narrow down his list. He also told me that this visit definitely helped Michigan in his mind.
5'11", 188 lbs.
Brooklyn, New York
Morgan is a prospect who hasn't been talked about too much yet. He already has offers from Alabama, Boston College, UConn, Maryland, Miami, Penn State, and now Michigan.
I sat down with Coach Hoke and he asked me if I think I have a scholarship from Michigan. I said no, and he said well you do.
Rutgers has a slight edge right now because of familiarity and how much he knows about their program. This visit was big for Michigan in that regard, and it gave him a better feel for what Michigan has to offer.
We went around the stadium, the weight room, and the academic center. Coach Mattison was showing me coverages that they run. I saw a lot and all my questions were answered. I basically wanted to know about academics and how I would stand in a school like that. The visit got me closer to the coaches, so that helped.
Besides the coaches, the Big House was an exciting part of the visit for Wayne.
Practice was good, it showed me how they coached. But it was great to be in the Big House. I've never been inside something like that, it just blows your mind to be in the Big House.
Morgan will take more visits and try to gain more comfortability with some of the other programs that have offered. He could end up being a key recruit because of his versatility. He could potentially try out at the corner or safety spot at the next level.
Michigan TE Ron Thompson (6'4", 210 lbs) might be announcing his decision this week. Michigan is in good position with Thompson.
If you missed it, here are the reactions from Michigan's first commitment Ben Braden, and another visitor in LB Joe Bolden.
Instate DE Matt Godin decided to head over to Michigan's practice after the Tom Lemming photo shoot as well. He told me that Michigan keeps moving up every time he goes there. He's still not sure when he wants to decide, but I have a feeling he's getting closer. He's likely to take a few more visits though.
Massachusetts LB Camren Williams committed to Penn State while on his visit. His teammate ATH Armani Reeves was also on the visit with him, but won't be making his decision until December. Michigan still has a chance with Reeves despite his teammate committing to PSU.
The Spring Roster has been updated again. It still doesn't list new weights so I'm not going to bother with Weight Gain 2011 for now, but it's excuse enough for me to do a little delving. First, a couple of tidbits:
- Jihad Rasheed!
- Ricardo Miller is listed as a TE (and 6'4, 215). As with all things Ricardo-related, please mentally insert "Ninja." Too early for YMRMFSPA Tim Massaquoi? Yes.
- There are still 12 scholarship players still listed at receiver.
- Mike Williams is no longer on the roster. As expected, the concussion last year ended a disappointing career for a by accounts good guy. I hope he finds success in life after football, and that his dreams aren't too haunted by visions of 11 foot tall robot Juice Williams.
- Safety watch: M-Rob, Furman, Hawthorne, Carvin, Prison Abs, and Kovacs are your scholarship players listed as "S."
- Heininger back on the 2-Deep: It's a good thing we're recruiting defensive ends. RVB and Roh are the only scholarship upperclassmen on the roster; Jibreel Black is the only other schollied-player listed. Wilkins, Talbott the Elder, and Ash are listed as DTs; Jake Ryan and Paskorz are LBs. Since Steve Watson is back at TE, at least one and most likely two of the freshmen Beyer, Rock or Heitzman will need to play this year. If Roh or RVB miss any extended time, file the transfer of Anthony LaLota as a greater-than-zero bad thing.
- Marell Evans is officially back and wearing his old No. 9. Evans was a 2- or 3-star linebacker recruit in Lloyd's "oh god we need LBs and DBs" class of 2007, and started a few games as a redshirt freshman in '08 in a Ray Vinopal-is-your-starting-FS kind of way before falling behind Thompson, Ezeh and Mouton. He transferred the summer before the 2009 season on "good terms" but left pointing out he had three DCs from '07-'09 and didn't fit with GERG's system. Marell rather quietly returned to the program this winter (not because Rich Rod's gone) and is listed as a 5th year senior.
- Nobody minded the decision at the time, but in retrospect the decision to make Shafer the goat after '08 rather than butt out of the defense may have been the crucible of the RR era.
- Evans:In/Vinopal:Out could be a microcosm of the dichotomy between the RR and Hoke/Lloyd regimes: one early playing 2-star is a tiny speed bug; the other is a 6'3 sure tackler who can't move laterally. This would be a good lead for a "Hoke = Return to Pre-Rod" column…if you're Lynn Henning.
- Attrition on the defensive side is still going to be hurting M's defense this year.
- Did someone say "defensive attrition?"
- Here we go again…
The Decimated Defense Revisited
Yes, I'm going there again. We have two more years of data to see how things have progressed, for one. We have a wide disparity in expectations for next year's defense, for two. And three: I now know how to use pivot tables on Excel – that would have been really helpful last time. This week I'm going to go through Michigan's 2007-2011 classses to re-establish our baseline. I'll also link you to my full list of attrition and retention in case you can add any thoughts before next week.
The Expectation Tracker is an estimate of how much the class is contributing compared to the average of five other schools for which I tracked attrition: Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Alabama. The baseline is the average number of defensive players left from that class between those five schools.
Class of 2007 (5th Year Seniors)
Attrition: 4/9 recruits remaining (Avg. retention = 4/10)
Position Breakdown (DL-LBs-DBs): 2-3-4 recruited / 1-2-1 remaining (Avg. = 1-1-2) So running count, we're up a linebacker and down a DB.
Star Breakdown: 4-3-3-2 remaining (Avg. = 4-4-4-2)
Gone: Donovan Warren (Early NFL after '09), Michael Williams (bust, injury, unrenewed 5th), Artis Chambers (transfer in '08), Renaldo Sagesse (Graduated after '10), Austin Panter (JUCO, Graduated after '08).
Walk-On: Kevin Leach (backup MLB)
Discussion: I think you would expect the 5th year class to leave a few B+ guys with a few years of starting experience. The trueborn talent probably found their ways to the NFL, either through early entry or contributing since their true freshman seasons. The 2007 class, recruited from the tail end of the "Year of Infinite Pain" and through the undefeated-till-OSU 2006 season, leaves two such players on defense: Woolfolk and Van Bergen.
Warren was the surprise "horray" commit of the year. Van Bergen was a Zettel, i.e. a 4-star who would be the highest rated player of a typical State of Michigan crop. Michigan whiffed on a lot of top players, and the fallbacks were uninspiring or worse: UCLA and Oregon had backed off from Michael Williams, so there were some red flags around him long before Juice Williams shattered him. Chambers was a 2-star early enrollee who transferred Ball State and couldn’t crack the two-deep.
Panter was a stop-gap JUCO for a scary-thin depth chart, Evans a low 3-star from Brandon Minor’s school who saw the field a few times before losing his job to Mouton in 2008; he transferred to Hampton (FCS) and was eh before returning this year. Herron was a 3-star boom-or-bust from the Shawn Crable school of athletic DEs too small to play DE. Renaldo Sagesse was a 20-year-old Canadian. Troy Woolfolk was a legacy whom the big local Texas schools didn't offer.
So if you'd asked me to predict in 2007 what that class would leave for 2011, a B+ defensive back and a B+ lineman plus some depth guys would be on the low end but still within expectations. On the other hand, for a class recruited after an 11-2 Rose Bowl season, you would expect a bit more.
Expectation Meter: 3. Baseline 4. +1 for Woolfolk, –1 for Williams, –1 for recruiting whiffs at LB and not getting some backup CBs.
Class of 2008 (Seniors, RS Juniors)
Attrition: 4/8 recruits remaining (Avg. retention = 9/12) (!)
Position Breakdown (DL-LBs-DBs): 1-4-3 recruited / 1-2-1 remaining (Avg. = 3-3-3). Running: –2 DL, +0 LB, –3 DB
Star Breakdown: 4-4-4-3 (Avg. = 4-4-4-4-4-3-3-3-2)
Remaining: J.T. Floyd (Starting CB), Mike Martin (Starting DT/NT), J.B. Fitzgerald (Backup SLB, possible starter), Kenny Demens (Starting MLB)
Walk-On: Jordan Kovacs (Starting SS)
Discussion: The meat of a starting group ideally comes from the 4th and 3rd year ranks. To compete for a Big Ten title in '11, the '08 class would preferably contribute at least four starters, one or two of them NFL-bound stars. The hybrid Lloyd/RR class was mostly Carr’s on defense; RR recruited Taylor Hill, who stepped on campus, presumably met the coeds, and took the first bus out of town. The rest were players recruited primarily by the old staff, even if some signed after an heir was announced. Bloggers clamored for more cornerbacks (and got the first wave of slot ninjas).
At points during the ensuing three years this class looked more and more like Mike Martin and disaster. The late emergence of Demens last year means we got at least one Big Ten player out of the four linebackers. Martin is fantastic, even when playing a position that doesn't best take advantage of his talents. Floyd seemed to regress before his injury in 2011, but at his best (see Ohio State 2009) he's a not-fast cornerback who survives on brains, effort and grit. When he's not his best, he misses open field tackles and gives up huge plays. Fitz will have the inside shot at the SAM linebacker position but was so bad at it last year he ended up rotating with Obi Ezeh. Cissoko's story is of the Kelly Baraka variety (kid with no prior problems who develops lots on campus) that nails any school every decade or so. Smith hung around then departed when it was clear the defense was going to be terrible until he was a senior (at which point he would have probably been really useful at the Will spot).
Expectation Meter: 3 - Guh. Baseline 9. –5 for attrition. +1 because Martin is a beast, –1 J.B. Fitz is underwhelming so far, –1 hey, while you're out there trying to convince Pryor that winning the Heisman is better than a free Corvette, could you maybe try and get us another cornerback?
Class of 2009 (Juniors, RS Sophomores)
Attrition: 6/10 recruits remaining + 2 pos. switches, so 8/10 (Avg. retention = 9/10)
Position Breakdown (DL-LBs-DBs): 3-3-4 recruited / 3-4-1 retained (Avg. = 3-3-3) Running: –2 DL, +1 LB, –5 DB (!) and (!) again!
Star Breakdown: 5-4-4-4-3-3-3-3 (Avg. = 5-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-2)
Gone: Justin Turner (transferred before '10), Vlad Emilien (transferred before '10), Anthony LaLota (transferred before '10), Adrian Witty (did not qualify)
Remaining: Will Campbell (Starting DT?), Craig Roh (Starting WDE), Mike Jones (Starting WLB?), Brandin Hawthorne (backup WLB), Isaiah Bell (backup SLB), Thomas Gordon (Backup S)
Moved from Offense: Cam Gordon (Starting WLB?), Quinton Washington (backup DT)
Discussion: The juniors are the guys expected to make the big leap close to their ultimate effectiveness. The class was kind of weak against previous Michigan classes, and really strong for teams that finish 3-9. Given this class was entirely recruited by Rodriguez's staff, the high attrition (40%) due to playing time (!), is really irksome. Two 4-star position switches add depth in the box, but three defensive back losses were not replaced. So the Class of '09 held serve on the d-line and got some linebackers, but ultimately contributed only "Prison Abs" to the secondary. Here you see the genesis of Secondary Disaster 2009-'10.
Turner, if you believe unsubstantiated rumor, turned out to be the cautionary tale of the kid who wanted to be Woodson, but without all that effort. Emilien had an injury that scared away Ohio State and made him look awful in two Spring Games, but board insiders claimed his speed was back. I have no idea if he would have helped; his own assessment was that Cam Gordon would hold down free safety for his entire Michigan career. LaLota was a project recruit who also looked bad in Spring. Witty was the DeVito twin to the Denard's Schwarzenegger, but raise your hand if you'd have taken a 2-star junior cornerback on this depth chart?
Among positives, position switcher (WR) Cam Gordon was epic bad at free safety but has the knack for hitting that could see him turn into a mean Will linebacker, which is where everyone expected him to end up, even during his recruitment. Q has come in for practice hype and wasn't awful at NT after a mid-season position switch from offensive guard. Roh is the kind of high-motor end that has been Iowa's secret weapon for years. Mike Jones was a 3-star S/OLB who generated some practice hype as an outside linebacker before losing the 2010 season to injury.
The 5-star is Big Will Campbell, who looked ineffective at NT, got moved to guard last year, and now is back to the DL as 3-tech. In a spring of precious little breakout player hype, Campbell probably leads the team in positive mentions (and leads the 3-tech battle), but that's also probably because Hoke is most often asked about the defense's lone blue chip in his break-or-bust offseason.
Thomas Gordon was somewhat effective though small at Spur, and is in the mix for free safety or backing up Kovacs. Isaiah Bell was a talented/raw DB in high school but outgrew safety and is rumored to have a bit of the Turner syndrome. Hawthorne is the opposite: his talent level is meh but he's a good roster guy and special teamer. If you think Campbell and Turner were overrated coming out of high school, there's a recruiting/scouting problem with this class; if you think it's due to bad luck or bad coaching there's plenty of that to go around. Anyway, unless maybe Roh pops this year there doesn't seem to be a star in the group. If you're looking for unsubstantiated hope for 2011, it's probably one of the low 4-star guys making that big leap, plus the standard "THIS time the new DC is going to fix all!" that we seem to get every year since Jim Hermann.
Expectation Meter: 3 - Double-Guh. Baseline 9: –1 for attrition. –4 because there are no starting DBs left. –2 Big Will disappointment thus far, +1 Roh=Crab People,*
* Giving a +1 Roh's dad is disingenuous to the mission of this exercise but don't think I didn't think of it.
Class of 2010 (Sophomores, RS Freshmen)
Attrition: 12/16 remaining (Avg. retention = 9/10)
Position Breakdown: 6-3-7 recruited / 4-2-6 retained (Avg. = 3-3-3) Running: –1 DL, +0 LB, –2 DB
Star Breakdwon: 4-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3 (Avg. = 5-4-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3)
Remaining: Cullen Christian (nickel CB), Marvin Robinson (Starting FS?), Ken Wilkens (Backup DT), Richard Ash (Backup DT), Carvin Johnson (Starting FS?), Jibreel Black (Backup SDE), Terry Talbott (Backup DT), Josh Furman (Backup S/Starting FS?), Courtney Avery (Starting CB?), Jordan Paskorz (Backup LB), Jake Ryan (LB), Terrence Talbott (Backup CB)
Discussion: By 2010 it was finally obvious to the coaching staff that warm bodies were needed at defensive back, and warm bodies were attained. This is consequently the first class where Michigan didn't match its rivals in recruiting quality; the result going into their sophomore season is two more 3-stars on the roster instead of a 5-star. The desperate staff, which by this point was recruiting with a few clouds overhead, also perhaps relaxed academic expectations, resulting in three DNQs.
The players still around are too young to grade: you'd expect a typical 4-star who eventually ends-up-being-RVB kind of guy to get some rotational playing time, but you wouldn't expect that guy to be a starter without some growing pains along way. Because of the Decimated Defense (TM) that went before them, a lot of this class got playing time when by all rights they should have been redshirting, giving us a peek at their respective abilities. However, I'm wary of judging too harshly for play by true freshmen thrown into a bad situation. Of those who changed opinions, I think M-Rob downgraded a bit from high expectations, Cullen was much worse than a 4-star cornerback should be even as a freshman, Black flashed ability as a pass rusher (caveat: major liability size-wise vs. run) and Avery didn't look like the next Leon Hall but sure looked a lot better than you'd expect of a 3-star fall arrival who was a high school QB. Conversely, Terrence Talbott looked exactly like a 3-star true freshman cornerback should look.
Expectation Meter: 11! Baseline 9: +3 for Dudes! –2 for low-rated recruits. –1 M-Rob did not play like a guy with 5-star offers, +1 Carvin Johnson showed promise, +1 Jibreel Black too, +1 Courtney Avery, –1 Cullen.
Class of 2011 (True Freshmen)
Position Breakdown: 3-4-5 / 3-4-5 (Avg. 5-3-3) Running: –3 DL, +0 LB, –1 DB
Star Breakdown: 4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3 (Avg. = 5-4-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3)
Gone: Nobody – it's been two months; what do you think this is, 2008 through 2010?
Remaining: Greg Brown (CB), Raymon Taylor (CB), Blake Countess (CB), Delonte Hollowell (CB), Tamani Carter (S), Brennan Beyer (DE), Chris Rock (DE), Keith Heitzman (DE), Kellen Jones (LB), Antonio Poole (LB), Frank Clark (LB), Desmond Morgan (LB)
Discussion: With the world waiting for the axe to fall on RR, and no coach until mid-January, this class was a sunk cost. There's a few low 4-stars but if any of them end up contributing this year, that guy was either very underrated (YAY!) or something has gone horribly, Cone-is-your-starting-QB wrong (again). Since only Brown is on campus so far, there's zero rating. Michigan made up some ground on personnel with this class, but it's even less highly rated than 2010, on par with a good year for Michigan State and an NCAA infraction at other schools. This is the direct result of "The Process," specifically the part about waiting until Winter Semester of their senior years to tell prospective recruits who their coaches will be. No 5-stars, and short a 4-star as well next to comparable teams, but that's somewhat made up for by four more 3-stars than normal.
Defensive line and defensive back are still priorities to recruit beyond normal this year (if you're a DE in Ohio and you haven't received your Michigan offer yet, please contact us). The next step is lots of quality, since the last two classes really should only be expected to do a good job of producing depth and a few upperclassmen starters.
Expectation Meter: 8 Baseline 11: +1 for Dudes!, –4 for low-rated recruits.
Need the dudes: Scout via Maize&Blog
Attrition Total: 40/57 = 70.17% of D recruits still here
I mean: Horray, we're over 10 clicks higher than the Alabama-like losses that haunted 2009 and 2010. Then again, what did we lose?
Star Breakdown Total:
- 5 Stars: 1/2
- 4 Stars: 14/23
- 3 Stars: 24/29
- 2 Stars: 2/3
Gawddammit! M retention versus the field:
- 5 Stars: 1/2
- 4 Stars: 14/17
- 3 Stars: 24/20
- 2 Stars: 2/2
The damage doesn't look as bad from out here.
Position Breakdown Total: 14 DL, 12 LB, 14 DB (Avg. = 17-12-13)
Why more DL and DB? The way I handled transitions to offense is to simply pull guys out (so you don't gain or lose from it) and more DLs ended up as offensive players. Converse: more are recruited. At defensive back, there seems to be, in general, a greater attrition rate for DBs across schools. No idea why this is.
Next week I'll get into the direct comparisons and play the blame game. For now, feel free to check my work.
Diaries of Darius and Decimation
It's Darius Morris week in the diaries while Darius decides whether he's worthy of this year's NBA draft. While Morris explores, let's talk about how much better he makes Michigan.
Raoul has been active in threads discussion DM and decided to try using a simple WSJ formula to show that Morris is actually the key to Michigan's offense:
His 201 field goals and 235 assists mean Morris was involved in 436 of the team's field goals--or 51.5% of the 847 total.
- [Rumeal] Robinson in 88-89 was involved in 432 of his team's field goals (199 FGs + 233 assists), or 32.6% of the team total
- [Gary] Grant in 87-88 was involved in 503 of his team's field goals (269 FGs + 234 assists), or 42% of the team total
This stat raises the Morris quotient in my hoops heart to 31.4% It's low, but I've got a Hardaway man-crush, and gotta save some for the bench.
Say Soyonara to Da U.P. eh
Meanwhile mfan_in_ohio scooped all of us in Michigan media by breaking the news that U.P. may be sayin' ya to da Cheese State eh?
Upper Peninsula can’t be sure it’s staying in Michigan
BY MARK SNYDER
DETROIT FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Upper Peninsula said all the right things.
It said it would “definitely” be back next year. After all, it is geologically attached where it is, and already has the Mackinac Bridge connecting it to the rest of Michigan.
But the UP will investigate other options.
The piece, which I bumped from the boards took a shot at the Freep's Mark Snyder for (at the time) jumping the gun with Morris-to-NBA speculation minus, you know, evidence.
The Schwartz is With Him
In Things Not Morris, denverblue put together an extensive (and mostly correct) puck preview of Colorado College, right before Michigan beat the Tigers to advance to the Frozen Four. Since I can't tell the difference between Denver and North Dakota (they've played each other tight all season), I'm down for rooting for Denver if it means I get another write-up like this Diary of the Week.
Complete domination obscured by thousands of horrible pinging sounds and late-game terror until the world's dumbest penalty, and then more late game semi-terror, resulting in awe at a guy who doesn't show up on the scoresheet at all. JMFM. Definitely best freshman defenseman I've ever seen. Possible additional superlatives might be warranted. Muppets.
And you can't have one without the other…
Quick, everyone look up transport to St. Paul.