to play football, not to play trumpet
Tampa (FL) Wharton CB Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the top prospects at any position in the class of 2013, earning five-star status from Rivals (#10 overall), 24/7 (#7), and ESPN along with an early four-star rating from Scout. The Wolverines recently joined Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami (YTM), Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, South Florida, USC, Vanderbilt, and Virginia in extending the 5'11", 180-pound junior an offer. You can see sophomore highlights of Hargreaves above, and read through my recent conversation with the blue-chip prospect below:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which schools are going after you the most right now?
VERNON: It's going good, it's exciting. I got four offers today, which was really exciting, I wasn't expecting them. I'd have to say Florida and USF are recruiting me the hardest.
ACE: Coming from Florida, is there a strong pull from those in-state schools, especially with having your father [USF assistant Vernon Hargreaves Jr.] on the coaching staff at one of them? Is that a big drawing point for you?
VERNON: Not really. I'm looking for a program with a good base, where the coaches aren't constantly leaving. So not really, not for me at least. For some kids it is, but for me I'm just going to take all my visits and see which one I like the best.
ACE: Are there any schools that are standing out as early favorites for you?
VERNON: Not really, because I haven't seen every school. The only schools I've been to are Florida and Florida State, so I can't really say they're my leaders because they're the only schools I've been to.
ACE: Talking about Michigan real quick, which coaches have been in contact with you from Michigan, and what are your impressions of the school and the program?
VERNON: Coach Montgomery called me recently, so I've been talking to him lately. I don't really know much about Michigan, but I know they have a huge stadium, one of the biggest—114,000, something crazy like that. That's always cool.
ACE: Coming in and getting the five-star recognition early and getting all this attention from all these big schools, how do you handle the expectations that come with that and what's it like to get that recognition early on?
VERNON: Football season hasn't started yet so there's not really that much pressure on me yet. I'm just taking it in, watching it happen and just having fun, not getting too stressed about it.
ACE: Going back and talking about your junior year, how'd you feel you performed and what kind of numbers did you put up?
VERNON: I actually got hurt in the summer, I sprained my left ankle, so that set me back, and then I sprained my right ankle, so I was playing crippled basically for the whole year. I think I could've done better this year, but my team made it to the playoffs, and though we lost in the first round it was the first time we've made it in four years, so that was pretty exciting. My numbers, I had 11 touchdowns, two interception and around 67 tackles.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field and what are you trying to work on and improve for your senior year and beyond?
VERNON: I'm trying to get faster. I'm running track right now, because they always say speed kills. I'm also just trying to get stronger, so I'm not getting hurt as much and I can jam people off the ball.
ACE: And what would you say you're best at on the field?
VERNON: I'm probably best at playing man-to-man. That's where I feel like I'm best at.
ACE: Looking ahead to this summer, do you have any junior days in mind for taking visits or are you still trying to figure out a schedule?
VERNON: I'm still trying to figure out a schedule where I can work everybody out. I'm going up to USF this Sunday for a junior day, but that's just right up the street.
ACE: When it comes down to making a decision what are you going to be looking for at a school in terms of what traits are going to draw you in?
VERNON: It would have to be a good environment and a good education, obviously, just like everybody else. Just a good place to be around and where I can be happy for four years.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline, when you'd want to get things wrapped up?
VERNON: Probably a little before signing day. Next year at this time I'll have it all figured out, but I'm not sure. That's just what I'm thinking.
ACE: I see the name 'Freeze' come up as a nickname. How'd you pick that one up?
VERNON: I was playing 7-on-7s and I was at corner, and the other team wasn't throwing my way. I got interviewed after the game and the reporter was like, "Can I call you Freeze," and I said sure. All my teammates heard it and they started making fun of me, so I just went whatever, so it kinda sticks now.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's one thing about you or something you like to do that has nothing to do with football that you'd like people to know about you?
VERNON: I don't really have any hidden talents or anything, but I play a lot of Xbox. I guess you could say that (laughs).
ACE: What's your favorite game on there?
VERNON: Call of Duty.
|WHAT||Michigan at Nebraska|
|WHERE||Devaney Sports Center,
|WHEN||9 PM Eastern|
|LINE||M –5 (Kenpom)|
Nebraska basketball: waiting around for Ndamukong Suh Jr. to rescue your program… in 2042.
The only thing keeping Nebraska from the title of "easily the worst team in the Big Ten" is the existence of Penn State. They're .500 on the year and 3-8 in the league. They're not very good. But it's a Big Ten road game so Michigan has to overcome not only the opponent but the heebie jeebies.
Senior guard Bo Spencer is the main guy. He shoots nearly 30% of Nebraska's field goal attempts and has a decent assist rate. Unfortunately for the Huskers, he turns the ball over a ton, shoots a lot of threes at a 31% clip, and hits only 48% from within the arc. His stats have a Dion Harris vibe to them—on a better team he'd be taking a lot fewer shots and making more of them. One thing to avoid: putting Spencer on the line. He's an 88% FT shooter. Michigan isn't giving up many free-throws (second in the league), FWIW.
After Spencer, senior wing Toney McCray is the main man. He's efficient when he gets a shot off and a good defensive rebounder but is also a turnover-prone black hole who doesn't get to the line.
Guard Brandon Richardson is a low-usage version of Spencer, with a good assist rate, terrible TO rate for a guard, and meh shooting. He is hitting nearly 40% from deep, though, and does get to the line from time to time. 6'4" guard Caleb Walker is low usage and high-turnover; when he gets a two off it's a good shot.
Post Brandon Ubel looks like a standard-issue guy who gets a bunch of offensive rebounds but is otherwise not a big part of the offense. Normal starting center Jorge Brian Diaz is out with a foot injury. Diaz is a quality shot blocker; Ubel is not.
The tempo-free theme is turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. No Nebraska player cracks the top 500 least turnover-prone players in the country; everyone who sees playing time has a TO rate of at least 17. Michigan has three starters well under that mark (Hardaway, Novak, and Douglass) and their high-usage freshman PG has a TO rate three points lower than Spencer.
While Nebraska is not good at basketball they have risen up to disturb tourney-bound teams more than once this year. Their only actual win against a tourney aspirant was by one point against Indiana but they tested Illinois and Wisconsin (on the road, even) and hung in for a surprisingly long time against Michigan State in a game they ended up losing by 13.
Those mitigating factors aside, yeesh. Nebraska had one win against major competition in the nonconference (a double OT win against 6-18 USC) and lost to bad Oregon and Wake Forest teams; their conference wins aside from Indiana are against Penn State and Iowa.
Michigan's visit to Carver-Hawkeye earlier this year is ample evidence that no road game should be taken for granted, but if you were going to do so this would be the one.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||46.9 10||52.1 9||49|
|Turnover %:||23.0 12||19.5 6||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||26.5 11||33.9 10||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||31.1 9||35.9 8||36.5|
Nebraska does nothing well and the only thing they do sort of okay is force turnovers. This looks like a high-risk, high-reward sort of outfit. They lead the league in steal% at 11.5; they are dead last at defending twos, allowing nearly a 55% conversion rate.
Nebraska hits only 30% of its threes but takes 41% of its shots from long range. They're tall and old, though—Kenpom has them #2 in experience.
For the love of God, Hardaway. Please, please, please let you get what you want this time.
Michigan needs rebounds, defense, and better shot selection from Hardaway. If he's taking a late-clock force, an open three off ball movement, or going to the rim I don't care if it goes in or not. Long twos with 25 seconds on the shot clock have to die, and he has to close out, and he has to get on the defensive boards.
The worst part about Hardaway's slump is how useless he's been at all the things other than scoring that you can do. Fix that, and Michigan can live with the shooting, or lack thereof.
this, do this
Skip the threes. This is a team giving up 55% from inside the arc. They're actually decent at defending threes. Backdoor, screen, etc. Any and all threes should be open looks based off penetration. Go inside.
This goes double with Diaz out. The starting center is rejecting 1.6 percent of available shots. Run at the rim with impunity.
Um. Show up on defense. Looking at the conference numbers and it's just, like… I don't see how this team does anything. They shoot free throws well; in all other categories they are eighth or worse in the league.
Presumably Douglass gets Spencer, which seems like a fine matchup from Michigan's perspective. Novak will draw a guy approximately his size—Nebraska seems to rotate the posts at the five and there are no other players on the roster taller than 6'6" who get minutes. The main concern is again Hardaway, who will get McCray's efficient shooting and vast turnover supply.
Usual Big Ten road game stuff. The heebie jeebies!
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by five.
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Ohio St. 8-2 66.7 1.11 0.84 +0.27 2. Michigan St. 7-3 62.3 1.10 0.93 +0.17 3. Wisconsin 7-4 57.7 1.02 0.96 +0.06 4. Michigan 7-4 59.4 1.04 1.01 +0.03 5. Indiana 6-6 65.6 1.10 1.09 +0.01 6. Minnesota 5-6 64.2 1.02 1.02 0.00 7. Illinois 5-5 62.6 0.98 0.99 -0.01 8. Purdue 5-5 63.7 1.03 1.08 -0.05 9. Iowa 5-6 67.3 1.03 1.10 -0.07 10. Northwestern 4-6 61.4 1.04 1.12 -0.08 11. Penn St. 2-9 63.0 0.94 1.09 -0.15 12. Nebraska 3-8 62.6 0.92 1.08 -0.16 AVG. 63.0 1.03
Michigan plays #1 at home and then has games against 7 (two of them), 8, 10, 11, and 12. The games against the bottom three are on the road, but if you were going to split up the home/road games to maximize likely wins that's the way you'd want it.
no pressure, Ondre
As part of the run up to the Super Bowl, Smart Football posted a Grantland article detailing the Patriots' defense. It's not much good at football, that defense, but it is pretty interesting from the Michigan perspective for two reasons.
Reason one: it provides an excuse for Chris Brown to talk about techniques in an easy to understand way.
"Gap" refers to the area between offensive linemen. A 1-gap technique is just what it sounds like: The defensive lineman lines up in front of the gap he is responsible for and his job is to attack and control it. If nothing else, a defender must not allow a runner to go through his gap. While defensive linemen attack their gaps, the linebackers behind them are responsible for their own gaps. These are the defense's "run fits," meaning how they fit into an offense's blocking scheme to take away running space.
Courtesy of Chris Brown
The 2-gap technique, by contrast, sounds physically impossible. How can one player occupy two separate gaps? He does it by controlling the blocker. At the snap of the football, a two-gapping defensive lineman does what Wilfork did to Birk. He leads with his hands, gets leverage on the offensive lineman, and takes control of the blocker. From there, the advanced techniques kick in. On run plays, the defender reacts to where the blocker tries to take him. If he is double-teamed, he'll try to split the blockers and either shoot into the backfield or occupy the blockers, thus freeing up his teammates to make tackles.
In short, while a 1-gap player attacks gaps, a 2-gap player attacks people. Football's conventional wisdom states that an effective 2-gap lineman, particularly one who lines up in the middle of the defense like Wilfork does, must be enormous. Coaches refer to them as "war daddies." But size is actually less important than athleticism and smarts. The line between touchdowns and stops in the NFL is exceedingly thin, and it's footwork and feel that are the difference. It is the most violent, most complicated, and most beautiful ballet I can think of.
Count the war daddies on the Michigan defensive line. You come back with a true freshman and an inconsistent former five star who can't play consistently without standing up straight. The other guy who would be two-gapping in a 3-4 is… Nate Brink? Jibreel Black? A true freshman? Not happening.
This matters much more than a surfeit of linebackers when you're trying to pick a defense to run, especially when moving to a two-gap system does not get more of them on the field. The 3-4 is not coming to Michigan.
At least not in total. We might see bits and pieces, though…
Reason two is an interesting adjustment the Patriots have made to adapt to their personnel. Wilfork is a monster they would like to use to the maximum extent possible, which means two-gapping him. Asking him to be Mike Martin is a lot like asking Ondre Pipkins to run a bunch of goofy pass-rush stunts like he did in the AA game. But because of deficiencies elsewhere Bill Belichick (mainly a 3-4 guy) feels compelled to run a 4-3, which generally means one-gapping.
What to do?
The Patriots run a 3-4 to one side of the field and a 4-3 to the other, all on the same play. The key to all this is Wilfork. He lines up over the center and assumes his traditional spot of run-stuffing, blocker consuming, two-gapping war daddy. Belichick fills out the rest of the pieces based on the strengths and weaknesses of his other defenders.
Create a hybrid. This is the Patriots' under front, one similar to what Michigan ran this year except with one planetoid defensive tackle and one strong-and-good strongside defensive two-gapping. This might be something we see from Michigan next year. Getting maximum production out of Pipkins basically demands something similar.
The problem here is still the same one we have when we theorize about moving to a 3-4, though: there is no SDE on the roster with a prayer of being able to two-gap anything. If you try to get clever by flipping Campbell out there you're asking for it when that tight end goes in motion to the other side of the line and you're either rearranging the entire DL on the fly or running this:
Your weakside DE is not a pass rush threat at all. So don't expect this next year.
HOWEVA, even if you shouldn't go around calling the defense "basically Belichick's" yet, we should expect Pipkins' deployment to be radically different than Martin's. That should mean fewer blocks getting to the linebackers and more plays from that unit. If the ILBs find a surge in productivity it will be because of Pipkins—not because he is a better player than Martin, but because he's a different one.
You'll be able to tell if this is happening by Pipkins's alignment. Martin played a "shade"—he aligned in the gap between the center and guard. If Michigan wants Pipkins to be Wilfork they'll put him nose to nose with the center and say "sic 'em."
This is where disclaimers go. Even with New England doing this a major theme of the first half in the Super Bowl was that one-gap backside tackle getting doubled (often on zone runs) and blown up. It is never as simple as "this guy gets one on one blocking." All you can do is change the equation so that doing that exposes someone else to a tough assignment. You can't entirely cover up for a sucky player.
Pipkins may be talented but there's more to playing nose tackle than talent. You can dominate your guy, push him into the backfield, and still screw up if you lose control of one of your gaps. Usually this happens when the DT gets pushed too far in the direction he wants to go and opens up a cutback lane behind him. When one of these players is Gabe Watson and the other is Pat Massey, pain results. It's not too hard to envision that happening what with Will Campbell still a rotation player you're a little afraid of. At least he's not 6'8"*.
It may make more sense to start Pipkins off with the easier assignment (always one-gap) and hope to make him impactful in two gaps later in his career. That'll be one of the interesting tactical decisions we unveil against… oh, Christ. Alabama. Yay!
*[Who in the hell looked at a 6'8", 260 pound player and put him on defense? That is either a tackle or a tight end or a man who should be playing basketball.]
A couple of not-very-important bits of information I've gotten from sources I consider reliable follow.
the last one ended well
Night night night night. I'm hearing next year's game at Notre Dame will be at night. Given Michigan's stated desire for a night game per year and the Big Ten's prohibition against having them in November, we could see a large number of M-ND matchups from here on out in primetime.
Maize is not BRIGHT BRIGHT yellow.
An increased focus on making things look reasonable. A reader who would know and I trust when talking about these matters tells me the athletic department is placing an increased focus on making maize actually, you know, maize.
This comes after years of increasing highlighter-yellow creep. Anyone who's surveyed a student section and been able to pick out the 10% who still wear shirts that would not blind a donkey knows how alarming the color drift has become in recent years.
This will "take years to happen." Even so, it's a welcome development. Uniform guru Steve Sapardanis liked the brighter yellow last August, FWIW. I prefer the darker shade.
BONUS: If you care and know what the Pantone colors are, they are Blue 282 and Maize 116. If someone can convert those into hexadecimal I will move the primary colors here to Officially Official colors until such point as copyright-drunk lawyers sue me. I confess that I eyeballed them way back when.
[Note for superheroes with the power of pedantry: there will have to be a few different shades of whatever I use for internet purposes.]
Philadelphia (PA) William Penn Charter OT Mike McGlinchey is one of the latest juniors to receive an offer from Michigan, who join Wisconsin, Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Rutgers, and Virginia in extending a scholarship early in the process. McGlinchey is rated as a four-star and the #244 prospect overall on 24/7 and he's a member of the ESPNU 150 Watch List. At 6'8", 285 pounds, he has the prototypical frame for a left tackle, and his recruitment has really picked up in the last couple of weeks. I had the chance to chat briefly with Mike last night:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which teams are going after you the hardest right now?
MIKE: Everything has been really exciting, and I have offers from Michigan, Wisconsin, Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers, Duke, and Virginia.
ACE: Any favorites of those teams right now?
MIKE: Yeah I really don't know who is at the top of my list right now. I still have to take the time to think about it and narrow down my choices.
ACE: How do you think you performed in your junior year?
MIKE: I think I performed well. I put a lot of hard work into making sure I do so!
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field, and what are you working on to improve for your senior year and beyond?
MIKE: I have a lot of size and strength and quickness and I think I need to sure up my technique.
ACE: Who's your main recruiter at Michigan, and what are your thoughts on the school and the program?
MIKE: Coach Mallory. They are a great program with a huge tradition.
ACE: Any idea what your timeline is for wrapping up your recruitment?
MIKE: I want to be finished with the process by the end of this school year.
Purdue or Purdon’t … There is no try.
- Middle Tennessee, 27-24 (W)
- @ Rice, 22-24 (L)
- Southeast Missouri State, 59-0 (W)
- Notre Dame, 10-38 (L)
- Minnesota, 45-17 (W)
- @ Penn State, 18-23 (L)
- No. 23 Illinois, 21-14 (W)
- @ No. 18 Michigan, 14-36 (L)
- @ No. 20 Wisconsin, 17-62 (L)
- Ohio State, 26-23 OT (W)
- Iowa, 21-31 (L)
- @ Indiana, 33-25 (W)
- Western Michigan, 37-32 (W) Motor City Bowl
Record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 B1G, 3rd place Woody Division.
|Rush:||181.6 ypg, 33rd||174.9 ypg, 82nd|
|Pass:||195.2 ypg, 83rd||221.0 ypg, 53rd|
|Total:||376.8 ypg, 71st||395.9 ypg, 73rd|
|Scoring:||26.9 ppg, 60th||26.8 ppg, 62nd|
|T/O Margin:||+1, 52nd|
Recap: Purdue had all sorts of issues this season yet somehow scraped together a 7-6 record plus a bowl game, which makes it their best record since 2007 when former coach Joe Tiller’s 8-5 squad also finished with a Motor City Bowl win.
The Boilermakers needed stability at the quarterback position after last year’s debacle of a finish. They didn’t get it because bona fide starting QB Rob Henry tore his ACL in fall camp. Apparently this kind of thing is tradition in West Lafayette.
Purdue gave backup Caleb Terbush the job because the other backup guy Robert Marve was recovering from his own ACL tear from less than a year earlier. TerBush was fine. Though he quarterbacked the loss to Rice, he was decently accurate throughout the season. Even when Marve eventually got healthy enough to split time with him, which was critical for the win over Ohio State, TerBush played the majority of snaps. He was a junior in 2011, so Michigan can look forward to seeing him again next season.
Purdue’s defense posted mediocre numbers this season mainly due to three horrible performances against Notre Dame (551 yards), Michigan (535 yards), and Wisconsin (605 yards). When the Boilermakers weren’t completely outclassed, they did a decent job on that side of the ball, and this was without their usual number of playmakers whose names start with R and end with -yan Kerrigan. The highlight of their season came against Ohio State -- their defense forced six three-and-outs over the course of the game and made a clutch stop in OT to hold the Buckeyes to a field goal.
Just rushing the field and minding their own business / via Purdueexponent.org
Michigan and Purdue play again in 2012 before taking a hiatus from each other until at least 2015. Next season the Boilermakers may be better but not by much. They lose some of the glue-type players on the offensive line, but they return a majority of their contributing skill players such as WR Raheem Mostert, WR Antavian Edison, RB Ralph Bolden, and of course TerBush. Defensively they take a couple hits by losing S Albert Evans and LB Joe Holland, but they return CB Ricardo Allen and DT Kawann Short, who is reportedly up to 330 pounds these days and carrying it well.
Purdue is unlikely to get much help from their most recent recruiting class, which ranked near the bottom of the B1G.
Best win: Ohio State.
Worst loss: @ Rice. The Owls finished their season 4-8 overall; every other team Purdue lost to had at least a winning record. Notre Dame is probably a close second due to the instate rivalry thing.
At the time we thought they were as frightening as: I gave them a fear level of 4 but didn’t come up with an analogy that week. Instead I lamented how bad the B1G was when a team that lost to Rice and nearly lost to Middle Tennessee could play competitively against Penn State and then beat an Illinois team that was 6-1 at the time.
But now we know they are as frightening as: Still a 4.
What the win meant for Michigan: I remember being annoyed after this game when nearly everyone in the media tried to cite the win as evidence for why Michigan wouldn’t have a “second half collapse.” I felt a great deal of sympathy watching the players deal with the presser questions the previous week (“Is this like last year?”) and then the following week (“This isn’t like last year!?”), but I also felt an equal if not greater amount of sympathy for the reporters asking them. I’m so happy I don’t have to deal with angles.
Beating Purdue was great, but it wasn’t a sign that the Wolverines had shaken the second-half collapse monkey despite what every headline wanted you to believe. I’m not saying good things didn’t happen: the defense was solid after giving up their first free touchdown of the season, and I think that may have been partially due to Kovacs not playing after sustaining an MCL sprain during a bye week practice. Mike Martin finally went into Beast Mode by notching two sacks, one of them for a safety. Jake Ryan made a highlight reel arm-tackle at the goal line late in the game.
Offensively Toussaint went for 170 yards on 20 carries, finally establishing himself as Michigan’s No. 1 option at running back.
Lots of horse-collaring in this game / via the Toledo Blade
For me, the reason why beating Purdue wasn’t a great case for “this isn’t last year” is because the Wolverines did beat them last year. I don’t know why everyone suddenly forgot. [Ed-S: Because who would want to remember that miserable game?]
Up to this point in the 2011 season Michigan still hadn’t beaten anyone they lost to last year. Who did they lose to last year? Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Penn State and Wisconsin weren’t on the schedule, though you could argue that Nebraska could stand in for the Nittany Lions. So the Wolverines had three more opportunities to prove the 2011 != 2010 hypothesis; Purdue was not one of them.
And it was totally as awesome as: A cool glass of milk in between a jalapeno eating contest and a habanero eating contest.
This edition of the recruiting roundup welcomes a new 2013 commit, takes a look at 2012 preferred walk-on Dan Gibbs, and discusses a bevy of new junior offers. As always, you're encouraged to email me or hit me up on the twitters with any recruiting tips or news you'd like to see in the next roundup.
Hello: Dan Gibbs
Michigan may not have landed Jordan Diamond or, at least for now, Alex Kozan, but they did manage to pick up a 6'7", 305-pound offensive lineman this week. Birmingham Seaholm's Dan Gibbs accepted a preferred walk-on spot over offers from Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and several Ivy League schools. Gibbs is a Michigan lifer and is ranked as a three-star by Scout (#97 OT) and 24/7 (#121 OT) and a two-star by Rivals (NR) and ESPN (#109 OG). He has the versatility to play either guard or tackle at the next level, and it's always nice to pull in a walk-on who had D1 scholarship offers. You can see his senior highlight tape above, and here is ESPN's evaluation ($):
Gibbs is a tough inline blocker who can maul defenders when run blocking; also flashes the explosion and playing strength to knock defenders off the ball when single blocking. Has great size with good athleticism for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition. It appears his frame is very capable on handling additional body mass. We like this guys toughness; comes off the ball aggressive and hard but a little too high at times; must work to lower his pad level on initial contact. Appears to bave some lower body stiffness however we are impressed with his ability to get out of his stance when asked to pull and trap, locating defenders on the move while demonstrating good balance and agility; plays on his feet well in space. Although this prospect is more of a mauler than one who consistently knocks defenders off the line of scrimmage we are impressed with his ability to get movement when single blocking; is a nasty tough finisher who is capable of putting defenders on their backs. If he is to successfully reach for leverage and consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders we see the need to improve initial quickness, first step and pad level. His long arms should be an asset in pass protection; is not heavy legged playing in the center/guard box, flashing the ability to bend and slide his feet. We do feel he plays too tall and must improve his overall balance and base when pass blocking. All areas of hand use will need refinement although we see flashes of strong initial punch and extension.
Gibbs is a developmental prospect, to be sure. His size and physicality should be a great asset on the practice field, however, and he's got the potential to become an in-game contributor down the road.
In more from the class of 2012, four Michigan signees—Devin Funchess, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Terry Richardson, and James Ross—suited up for Team USA in the International Bowl. Although they fell to the World Team, 35-29, the future Wolverines impressed, especially Funchess, who hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass ($):
"I think Devin Funchess is going to be a star. When they put weight on him, he is a long 6-5 guy, but he's just a boy. They'll put 40 pounds of muscle on him. He has great hands, runs great. He had a great attitude. He's going to be a great player - not just a good player, a great player."
"He looks like a wide out. He runs great. For a tight end, he has tremendous speed," [Team USA coach Steve] Specht said. "The thing that really impressed me about Devin is how much bigger he's going to get. I said something to him when we were in Austin. I said, 'In a few years, when you get that weight on you, you're going to be special.'
Funchess appears to be in line to take a redshirt year as he works on adding that bulk. After that, he could turn into a very dangerous receiver from that TE/H-back hybrid spot. For highlights of each Michigan commit in the International Bowl, check out MGoVideo—a big thanks to Josh (aka MaizeNBlueJ) for putting those together.
Speaking of Funchess, his senior highlight tape is now available on YouTube. Also releasing senior film is DL Matt Godin; he does a very impressive job of getting skinny and shedding blocks to work his way into the backfield:
Quickly: Greg Mattison was named the Big Ten Recruiter of the Year by Scout and also earned top-25 status nationally on Rivals. 24/7 released their Big Ten superlatives—Ondre Pipkins is one of three players tabbed for immediate impact and the Wolverines have more players (10) on the All-Big Ten team than any other school (Ohio State has seven, Wisconsin two, while Minnesota, MSU, and Nebraska each have one). AnnArbor.com's Kyle Meinke discusses the importance of tight ends in recruiting with Al Borges and Darrell Funk. Stephen J. Nesbitt writes a feature in the Daily on Pipkins and Willie Henry. TTB Andrew interviews Amara Darboh.
Welcome: Khalid Hill
Recruits come in pairs, right? Michigan not only landed Gibbs yesterday, but they got a jump-start on tight end recruiting for 2013 when they pulled in Detroit Crockett's Khalid Hill. You can read the full "Hello" post here. Hill—who committed on the spot after getting his offer on an unofficial visit yesterday—is another life-long Michigan fan, offering up this fantastic quote to Allen Trieu in the aftermath of his commitment ($):
"I feel great," he said. "There's a smile on my face. I'm cheesin'."
I'll give Khalid the benefit of the doubt and assume that's not a South Park reference. Hill also told 24/7 that, upon receiving a verbal offer from Brady Hoke in his office, he immediately accepted and gave the coach a "big hug." He also carries a 4.0 GPA and plans to major in Engineering; this is definitely a commitment worth celebrating. Hill's high school coach shed some light on his future role in a free Scout article:
"He's a great pass catcher. He has the blocking ability of a lineman, the athletic ability of a skill guy, and the hands of a wide receiver, so he's a match-up nightmare. What he brought to the table for us this year was, he created mismatches down seams of the field."
He'll do the same for the Wolverines, but also fill a couple of other roles as well.
"It's a tight end/H-Back kind of deal. He's a utility guy, who will be motioning from fullback, get work done in the slot. They'll move him around a lot. They sat him down and told him how they're going to use him. They said he'd do a lot of what Kevin Koger did last year."
That hybrid role makes sense for Hill, a solid athlete who's a little short for the traditional tight end role at 6'2".
Another 2013 tight end, Pickerington (OH) North's Jake Butt—an early four-star to 24/7 who holds a scholarship offer from the Wolverines—has Michigan as his top school ($):
"Michigan is definitely my leading school right now, by far… it’s not even close,” he reported. “Their coaches are showing me a lot of attention. I have been up to the campus twice and loved it there, and seemed to grow a great relationship with coach (Jerry) Montgomery who is my recruiting coordinator. I already had five (Michigan) coaches come down to school to see me, so that is big. They are telling me I am their leading tight end on the board."
Butt doesn't have a concrete decision date in mind, but he's looking to wrap things up before the start of next football season. If he does, it looks like Michigan will be tough to beat.
Meanwhile, Logan Tuley-Tillman was at Yost on Saturday and plans to return to Ann Arbor this weekend—his fifth visit, and he's hoping to bring his mother along with him—but there's a minor change atop his leaderboard. While the Wolverines were at one point alone at number one, they're now joined by Alabama after Tuley-Tillman visited Tuscaloosa for their Junior Day ($).
Quickly: Cass Tech CB Jourdan Lewis is excited by his recent Michigan offer, but has not yet settled on a timeline while he's playing through basketball season ($). Magnus has a thorough preview of 2013 in-state recruiting over at TTB. He also takes a look at the early scholarship numbers and breaks down Michigan's needs by position. Chantel Jennings does the same—plus identifies some key early targets—over at WolverineNation ($).
Just when I think I'm going to be able to sum up Michigan's list of offers in something other than bullet form, they seemingly extend scholarships to half of the free world. Here's what I pulled together since the last recruiting update:
- Tampa (FL) Wharton CB Vernon Hargreaves III now has a Michigan offer listed. He's a five-star prospect to 24/7 and their #7 overall player in the class; all the major in-state schools have also offered and his father coaches at USF, so he'll be a very difficult pull out of the Sunshine State.
- Dayton (OH) Trotwood-Madison LB Mike McCray earned offers from Michigan and Oklahoma within the past week ($). The Top247 and ESPNU 150 prospect says those two schools plus Illinois, Tennessee, and Purdue stand out early in the process, but expect Ohio State to become a major factor if (more likely when) they offer.
- Michigan offered four-star Vorhees (NJ) Eastern CB Eli Woodard, though he's favoring Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Rutgers early ($).
- Centerville (OH) OL Evan Lisle becomes the latest standout Midwest lineman to earn an offer ($).
- I forgot to include him last week, but CB Ryan White became the third Louisville (KY) Trinity prospect to receive a Wolverine offer, joining teammates James Quick (WR) and Jason Hatcher (DE). White told Scout that he plans on visiting Ann Arbor at some point ($).
- The Wolverines offered another wide receiver in Cretin-Derham Hall (MN) standout James Onwualu ($), who plans on visiting within the next couple of weeks.
- Philadelphia (PA) William Penn OT Mike McGlinchey received a Michigan offer last week ($). He's a four-star prospect to 24/7 early in the process.
- Cincinnati Moeller LB Shane Jones now boasts offers from Michigan and his hometown Bearcats.
- Rivals.com's Adam Gorney reports that Michigan also offered Stockton (CA) Lincoln RB Justin Davis.
There are a couple of happy trails to report as well. Toledo Central Catholic DB Jayme Thompson chose West Virginia over Michigan and Notre Dame last week; it's unclear whether or not he had a commitable offer, though I don't believe he did. He's a player to keep an eye on should the Wolverines decide to continue pursuing him. Finally, while Michigan hadn't extended an offer, they had displayed some interest in Flint Carman Ainsworth RB Gerald Holmes, who chose Michigan State on Sunday.
Hockeybear searches for the best place for a Big Ten tournament
I guess it's college hockey so I shouldn't be surprised. Apparently the ludicrous worst-case scenario for a Big Ten playoff is maybe possibly happening:
Andy Baggott is reporting that a majority of athletic directors from the future Big Ten hockey schools are in favor of moving their postseason tournament to a neutral location, rather than having home sites host tournament games. The tournament would take place over three days, with all six teams from the league involved, meaning the top two seeds would receive byes into the semifinal round. Baggott also reports that the league is close to finalizing a deal with the XCel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota to host the tournament.
Why on earth anyone other than UW and Minnesota would agree to this, let alone have it at the X, escapes me. Before you, Minnesota fan, go "durr durr money" consider three weeks of home series: 10-15 games averaging between 6 and 15 thousand people sold at full price. This alternative is five games, only two or three of them anywhere near a sellout because they'll feature Minnesota. It would be marginally worse at the Joe (fewer fans per local attraction but more of them plus more OSU/PSU fans).
This setup is throwing away tens of thousands of dollars, cheapening the regular season, and giving Minnesota an unearned home-field advantage because a couple schools want to use their buildings for high schools. It's almost as ridiculous as not having a regional closer to the CCHA than Green Bay this year and St. Louis(!) last year.
Red isn't having it, at least, and at least provides the hope the dumb single-weekend system won't necessarily be the worst possible one:
Berenson: I'd prefer to see early rounds of Big Ten tournament played at teams who earn home ice, semis and finals at a neutral site. … Berenson also said he hasn't heard Minneapolis as the front runner, but certainly in consideration. Thinks Detroit should be as well.
It never made sense that Michigan, MSU, Penn State would ever agree to the XCel bit. All have (or will have, in PSU's case) dedicated hockey facilities. Even if OSU wants a one-weekend system that's still 3 vs 3 and it appears that we're talking a rotation between the XCel and the Joe.
Neutral sites… guh. Why does college hockey hate atmosphere and money?
Speaking of atmosphere. Hey, this sounds cool:
The Big Ten is not only ready to listen to proposals regarding a national four-team football playoff, league and school officials are kicking around an intriguing idea.
Sources told the Tribune that a Big Ten plan would remove the top four teams from the BCS bowl pool and have semifinal games played on the college campus of the higher seed. That would do away with the facade of “neutral” sites such as New Orleans, Miami and Pasadena, Calif., and ease travel concern for fans.
The championship game then could be bid out, like the Super Bowl.
Two more games and making the Rose Bowl the permanent location for the title game and we're talkin' MGoPlayoff. I'll take an 80% solution. Everyone and their uncle has cannily pointed out that Jim Delany's suggestion benefits the Big Ten(!) since it wouldn't require two rounds of distant travel for teams that are remote from bowl games. This is true. It also helps cut out the thieving middlemen, raises the importance of the regular season, and would be awesome. In this instance, naked self-interest benefits everyone not wearing a yellow jacket.
More importantly: that's it, there's going to be a four-team playoff. Delany is publicly negotiating terms of surrender. He knows he's lost the war and is trying to get the best deal possible for the Big Ten. Since it's the thing that actually makes the most competitive and financial sense, let's hope he wins out.
Alabama game setup: banned on the West Coast. Interesting change to the Pac-12's bylaws:
No member institution shall enter into an agreement to play a neutral-site football game (except in circumstances where such neutral-site game is the away leg of a home-and-home series) unless such agreement provides the Conference with the exclusive broadcast rights and digital rights in all media, and copyright to such neutral-site game.
IE, no more Washington State-Notre Dame in Texas. Previously the Pac-10 banned these sort of things within their footprint; now it's everywhere. This is a clear shot at Jerryworld-type games.
Q: Why are Jerryworld-type games becoming vogue? A:
- The Big Ten shares all television revenue*, even that acquired from nonconference games. Michigan makes no profit relative to the rest of the league for playing Notre Dame instead of East Nowhere State, because all that money goes into the kitty that's distributed evenly at the end of the year.
- Independent skylarker in Texas figures out he's not a part of the Big Ten footprint and can make an end-around on this agreement by paying two teams to show up and selling the television rights himself.
- Teams get home game money—possibly more than home-game money—plus big national attention and sign up.
- Conference loses revenue from big team home game.
- Conference bans these sorts of things.
I would not be surprised to see the Big Ten follow suit shortly.
I have mixed feelings about this. While Jerryworld-type games are a trend I'm not a fan of, I'm even less of a fan of meaningless cupcakery and this is a move clearly designed to keep the Indianas and Purdues of the world hooked into a revenue stream they have nothing to do with. That wouldn't be a disaster except for the fact that removing 11/12ths of the financial incentive to schedule a real opponent has seen college football nonconference scheduling devolve significantly. If teams were free to cut their own deals on nonconference games we'd see a lot more competitive matchups.
At least the BTN gives the conference at large a similar incentive: the desire to improve nonconference inventory is the impetus behind the Big Ten-Pac 12 scheduling agreement that will at least slightly increase the number of real games going on in September.
*[This was true as of a few years ago at least. I was having a discussion with someone in the AD about the sorry state of college football scheduling and this was brought up as a major reason.]
This is never going to happen, but if it does… If College Hockey Inc can actually pull this off, Paul Kelly is a genius:
College Hockey Inc., is working to enact legislation — either with the oversight of the NHL or through the transfer agreement between USA Hockey and Hockey Canada — to bar Canadian major junior teams from stealing a player who has signed a letter of intent until after the player’s freshman year.
IE, Michigan has John Gibson and a letter of intent actually means there is a 100% chance that player shows up on campus for a whole year.
The only problem is there is no incentive for the CHL to go for this. USA Hockey does have a potential saber to rattle: right now USA kids can go play in major junior at any age. As we learned during the Max Domi head fake, Canadians who want to play in the USHL must have their families move to the United States. That's a clear double standard, one that USA hockey could threaten to go both ways. That would get the CHL's attention.
UND's Dave Hakstol also wants to give CHL players NCAA eligibility, which sounds good in theory but would not work in practice. A kid who has spent his junior and senior years of high school in the CHL would have a zero percent chance of being academically eligible for NCAA play—major junior franchises will see to that. Hypothetically opening the door back to the NCAA will just give the CHL a marketing bullet point with little basis in reality.
And now the glidepath. If you're wondering just how tough basketball's last stretch was, they currently sit #1 nationally in Kenpom's Pythagorean strength of schedule($):
They've faced the most imposing opponent offenses and the tenth-most imposing defenses. It eases significantly from here.
Geediot. Stop talking!
"We hired the best coach and we went out and got the best kids so get a life," Gee said of Bielema's criticisms.
Stop dressing like a five-year-old, as well. Actually continue these things.
Etc.: The Daily successfully trolled me with this Jon Merrill article. Yeah, Denard is everywhere. So is Roundtree. Can we get some Roundtree love? Michigan's RPI is 15. I looked up their nitty gritty stats on ESPN and, man: 3-3 against the RPI top 25. They've really been playing some tough opponents. Yesman breaks down Michigan's special teams goals against Miami.
Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes may have grown up deep in enemy territory, but he's a lifelong Michigan fan. His childhood favorites extended a scholarship offer on signing day and the Wolverines immediately jumped to the forefront of his recruitment. The 6'5", 200-pound junior also holds an offer from Toledo and has interest from several prominent Midwest schools, but other suitors might have to hurry if they want a say before he makes a decision. I talked to Jaron last night and he made it very clear which team leads for him in a big way:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which schools are going after you the hardest right now?
JARON: Everything's going great. I'm starting to hear from Ohio State, all of a sudden I'm starting to hear a lot more from Michigan, Michigan State, and I'm getting letters from Nebraska now and Illinois.
ACE: You got your Michigan offer recently. What was your reaction to that and what are your thoughts on the school and the program?
JARON: Ecstatic. (laughs) I'm going up there for a visit on Friday. When I first got the offer my mind was blown.
ACE: I know you're coming out of Columbus. Did you grow up as a Michigan fan or were you an Ohio State guy?
JARON: I was a Michigan fan all my life. I got a lot of criticism, you know, being a Michigan fan in Ohio.
ACE: Is that going to play a factor at all when it comes down to making a decision?
JARON: I think I kind of have my mind set on where I want to go. I think all I can do is pray on it and make sure, hope I make the right decision.
ACE: You said you've got your mind set on it. In terms of a timeline, when do you think you're going to make that decision?
JARON: I'm not sure. I'd like to talk it over with my coaches and everything and make sure that's what I really want to do—[see if I should] visit the college more than once, see it in different environments like dorm food, after school, and on weekends, make sure that's where I officially want to be, and do the same for other schools.
ACE: How did your junior season go and what kind of numbers did you put up?
JARON: I thought my junior season went very well. I didn't know it was going to be that good. My freshman year my coaches always said "you can't catch a cold," and I dropped everything that came towards me. Other than that, I think it went very well. I had 663 or 673 yards, 18.5 yards per catch, 36 catches, and seven touchdowns.
ACE: If you had to evaluate your game, what would say are your biggest strengths on the field and what are you trying to work on for your senior year and beyond?
JARON: My biggest strengths are being able to read the secondary, keeping a level head, going out there and having fun and being able to go out and catch, just catch the ball. I would love to get faster. They keep telling me speed kills, so I want to be the fastest one out there. I want to be the fastest one on the field.
ACE: I know it sounds like you're leaning towards Michigan right now, but in terms of when it comes down to making your choice, what are you looking for in a school specifically?
JARON: Academics, somewhere where I can be happy. The technique of the game, if they're a passing team, if they're going to pass me the ball when it's there or if they're just going to keep running the ball. Somewhere where it just feels right.
ACE: Moving off the field, what's one thing you'd want people to know about you that has nothing to do with football?
JARON: (laughs) Oh, man, I don't really know. I draw a lot. I love music. I like sitting—sometimes I just like being by myself and just relaxing.
ACE: What kind of music?
JARON: I listen to all types of music. Country, rock, metal, rap, R&B. The funny thing is, a lot of times, I don't like the new generation of rap now.
ACE: I'm with you there. I like the old school stuff, but the new stuff isn't really my thing.
JARON: Yeah, it's not mine, either.
This wasn't a bad year, was it?
|Scout (4th)||247 (8th)||ESPN (7th)||Committed|
|Ben Braden||OL||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||79 (3-star)||Mar 24|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||88 (3-star)||78 (3-star)||Apr 12|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||93 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Apr 16|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||90 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Apr 22|
|A.J. Williams||TE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||86 (3-star)||77 (3-star)||Apr 22|
|Joe Bolden||LB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Apr 29|
|James Ross||LB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||95 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||May 2|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||89 (3-star)||80 (4-star)||May 7|
|Matt Godin||DT||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||91 (4-star)||79 (3-star)||May 12|
|Terry Richardson||CB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||95 (4-star)||81 (4-star)||May 19|
|Allen Gant||S||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||75 (3-star)||May 31|
|Erik Magnuson||OT||5.9 (4-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||79 (4-star)||Jun 10|
|Tom Strobel||DE||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||93 (4-star)||78 (3-star)||Jun 10|
|Jeremy Clark||DB||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||76 (3-star)||Jun 24|
|Blake Bars||OL||5.8 (4-star)||3-star||89 (3-star)||79 (3-star)||Jun 26|
|Jarrod Wilson||S||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||91 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Jul 8|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||6.1 (5-star)||5-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Jul 10|
|Sione Houma||FB||5.5 (3-star)||3-star||83 (3-star)||74 (2-star)||Jul 25|
|Chris Wormley||DE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Jul 31|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||6.1 (5-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Aug 8|
|Drake Johnson||RB||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||72 (2-star)||Nov 10|
|Amara Darboh||WR||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||93 (4-star)||78 (3-star)||Dec 4|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||89 (3-star)||79 (3-star)||Dec 21|
|Willie Henry||DT||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||83 (3-star)||75 (3-star)||Jan 31|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||94 (4-star)||75 (3-star)||Feb 1|
Considering how good things looked last July, people on the boards and whatnot are kinda disappointed that the class finished as only consensus Top 10. This was back when nobody but Ohio State thought its cars-for-commitments program would continue, if there even would be such a thing as Columbus when The Law was through with them.
But with no 'Pryor' testimony available, the NCAA effectively rubber-stamped the automotive business, OSU turned in their slightly used Tresselwagon for a shiny refurbished Urban model and the Big Ten race went from this in July:
…today. The above is a visualization of Michigan's 2012 class final rankings by Rivals and doesn't count Caleb Stacey and Anthony Standifer, who were in the class at the time. The red is 6.1, the yellow 5.8, yellow-green 5.7, everything right of the line is 3-stars. The link takes you back to July 18, when I used the same graphical representation to show just how good it was to be a Michigan Wolverine.
It wasn't just Ohio State blue was beating. Michigan was killing in the conference. This was then:
…and this is now:
Penn State's scandal turned them into Northwestern, while Ohio State's wasn't enough to counter the Urban effect. Michigan held steady but those late whiffs ended up with a class that's largely balanced between blue chips and the 60%-likely-to-be-"solid"-or-better-as-upperclassmen guys.
That's still good for among the top teams in the country:
Now this is Michigan, fergodsakes. More importantly Michigan, who by last July was already well extended into Ohio territory didn't seem to fall victim to the great Buckeye Reclamation of home state products late in the process. Gant, a legacy, and Wormley were Toledo-ish guys long considered Michigan's barring strange circumstances. Kaleb Ringer, A.J. Williams, and Willie Henry come from schools and have profiles that might have been automatic Buckeyes in a typical Tressel cycle but were probably second options for Meyer's late push. But I have to imagine Jarrod Wilson received a desperate phone call before he enrolled at Michigan in January, and we know Kyle Kalis did. In return Meyer convinced Bri'onte Dunn, a Tressel commit worried about the sanctions, to stay in the fold and beat Michigan head to head for Armani Reeves after he shook loose from Penn State's class. That's 2 for 4 in head-to-head battles in Ohio with Ohio State's new coach. This is important; if we're going to travel back in time to battle Buckeyes on their own turf, it's important to plant Woody Hayes or one of his ancestors in manure every 30 years or so.
So did we make it? Are we back?
We're back, but it's an alternate 2005, when 4-stars are just plain 4-stars not Taylor and Jamison and Antonio Bass, and the 3-stars are mostly the good type of 3-stars—Gordon-like 3-stars as opposed to lots of Mister Simpsons and Nerd Terminators. More importantly there's just more of everybody, and the old defensive line coach is rich and powerful and the head coach at Michigan, and the guy at West Virginia has been committed.
Many of the key contributors from the classes before this experienced above normal attrition. By some of the decisions made during this year's cycle—backing off Yuri Wright after his expulsion, and seemingly backing off a rumored grade risk in one of the top in-state prospects, hopefully Hoke's excellent class of of 2012 will make up for in staying power what it lost by the slow close.