here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
Michigan just let in all manner of heathens to observe a couple practices, ping various coaches for information, and take in a Saturday scrimmage; naturally, this has created a ton of internet chatter. Also naturally, large portions of it conflict with other portions of it. There's a faction of super insiders on Rivals declaring Denard Robinson to be a complete disaster and one focused here proclaiming him to be Pat White—except fast! Tate Forcier is either looking like a "walk-on" or the obvious starter, and Devin Gardner is either a total n00b or Vince Young—except fast!
So… yeah. I don't know. Here's my contribution to the melee. First, a non-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football featuring all quarterbacks doing something awesome:
Whenever I hear one of the freshmen speak I get annoyed at all the Dorsey stuff. Yeah, Michigan is totally turning into Jimmy Johnson's Miami.
Anyway, in addition to the posters who got bumped to the front page over the weekend, MGoBlog had a couple of sources who took in the activity late last week. Observations gleaned:
Terminology, or: The Quick And The Dead
One of the toughest things to do as a guy who tries to figure out football and communicate it as a layman is figure out what to call something. Every time I decide to call something X, well meaning folk tell me it should be Y or Z. I tend to apologetically ignore them just so things are relatively clear for readers.
However, if the coaches are all calling something one thing and it's not counter-intuitive I'll go with it. So:
- Michigan is calling the dual SS in the 3-3-5 "spur" (strongside) and "bandit" (weakside). Some 3-3-5 teams make no distinction between these guys, but it appears that Michigan will flip these guys strong and weak. This leaves the bandit as the guy who will be tested in the occasional deep half, about which more later.
- The coaches were actually calling the deep safety "strong" for a while but they've reverted to calling him "free." There are good football-related reasons for that weird nomenclature but since they're gone, whatever. I'll return to calling Cam Gordon and other guys who line up there free safeties.
- The north-south MINOR RAGE run that Michigan's used to good effect the past couple years is something I've been calling "veer," which has been the nomenclature that's drawn the most protests. Michigan calls this their "belly" series.
Spinner: dead. Quick: dead. With this jargon we will ascend to the pillars of knowledge.
My initial reaction to the Denard Robinson hype was the same as Doctor Saturday, who has lumped Tate-Denard-Devin into a list of "specious spring quarterback controversies," but both observers gave tentative, caveat-laden nods to Robinson as the starting quarterback. The difference between last year and this year is vast. That falls just short of incredible since Robinson arrived without any ability to even run the zone read. Many of his plays were Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretches run from an empty backfield. Robinson's high school coaching amounted to nil, so it's obvious that he would have a bigger leap forward than Forcier and his years of intensive training.
Robinson is still light years away from Forcier as a passer—his ability to "see and understand the field remains limited"—but in the open field he is ludicrous and now that he's gotten the hang of the zone read he gets in that space frequently. Craig Roh on Robinson:
"I hate Denard on the football field," Roh said. "I love him outside of football, but on the football field, he's just such a nuisance. The quarterbacks here are too fast, and Denard, I just can't catch him. It's ridiculous."
Observer A, a defensively oriented guy, said "as a coordinator you watch him come around the corner on the naked boot and you say uh-oh." Another high school coach told observer B that Denard "runs into traffic just to make defenders look silly." Robinson's athleticism will force defenses to overplay that threat and open up other opportunities.
Tate Forcier remains Tate. One of Michigan's coaches praised Tate's "great strides" in his understanding of the playbook, but what you see is what you get with Forcier: accurate on the run, good scrambler, shortish, meh arm strength. Meanwhile, the undercurrent of coaching discontent with his dedication as a freshman has added another pebble:
"Maybe some of the things that happened early in the season happened a little easier for him," Rodriguez said. "It kind of felt right to him. At the end of the year, he played more like a true freshman at times. And he got banged up a little bit and his concentration wasn't as sharp.
"As coaches, it's our job to make sure he maintains that focus."
The most worrisome thing I hear about Forcier is actually a positive thing related about Gardner. Gardner sets in the pocket and has less of a tendency to start running around than either of the other two quarterbacks, which allows him to go deep more regularly. The offense is a lot of broken plays with both of the short guys. While that's obvious with Robinson, I was hoping Forcier would get more comfortable throwing in the pocket.
Despite that, it will be all but impossible to pull Forcier in favor of Robinson full time when their skill sets are so divergent; a platoon beckons.
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
This position remains a mess that will not be resolved until UConn, and frankly I'd be surprised to see a single game this year where Michigan goes exclusively with one quarterback. With two polar opposites at the spot, the nominal starter may depend on the relative strength of the opposing defense.
That's just this year. The vibe I got was that Gardner is the future of the position. Maybe not this year, but all bets are off in 2011. The position was described as "loaded," albeit young.
Running Back Battle
Zero clarity here as well. As mentioned earlier, Stephen Hopkins was impressive to Observer B; A was pretty noncommital about the tailbacks. Mike Cox has slipped for whatever reason. Observer B on Hopkins:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
Shaw and Toussaint seemed like better runners than Cox, as well. This is another spot that will lack clarity until deep into fall unless Vincent Smith (who is jogging but limping badly) comes back fully healthy and establishes himself as the guy.
At fullback, Mark Moundros is playing mostly at linebacker, leaving McColgan the starting FB. He seems okay. Made a couple catches, made a couple blocks. Fullback isn't a huge priority.
Still hard to tell much of anything with two of the top three guys on the outside missing and Michigan focusing on the short stuff, but the freshman making the most of his spring is Jerald Robinson, who is "rangy" and "knows how to get his body in position." That's similar to assessments coming out of his strong summer camp performance.
Jeremy Jackson is also on par with expectations: smart, good routes, great hands, approximately as fast as a tight end. Could this be the guy who actually warrants the incessant Jason Avant comparisons I make? Miller didn't impress in the brief window provided.
Meanwhile, the guys in the slot are reputed to be extremely slippery. Terrance Robinson and Jeremy Gallon are described as "better than a pretty good Big Ten player" in Odoms as long as they're catching the ball. This is not assured: Robinson's hands were the main reason he didn't see the field last year and Observer B praised Odoms's hands while complaining about too many drops in the slot. Coaches were talking up Robinson as a potential contributor, FWIW.
Offensive line being an esoteric position, I don't have much other than the general positivity even absent David Molk. Taylor Lewan could use another 15 pounds but is still holding down left tackle. Perry Dorrestein is nicked up, which may explain the move. More than likely this is an opportunity Lewan won't pass up and Dorrestein is going to have to battle for the right tackle spot. Insert now-default Jake Long comparisons here. Lewan's not likely to be the #1 pick in the NF L draft but his career trajectory is zipping along at the most optimistic level possible.
The most encouraging thing on the line is the depth. Even with Washington and Dorrestein nicked up there's almost a solid two-deep of players who Michigan could throw on the field without panic:
Getting Molk back will give Michigan a buffer of three or four competent backup offensive linemen.
Remember last year's complaint about Michigan potentially tipping their run plays based on the position of the quarterback? This was the setup position on a zone stretch…
…and this was Michigan's belly (which this blog called "veer") series:
From the sideline shot it's pretty obvious what's going on here. QB in front of RB: north-south. QB behind RB: east-west. I'm not entirely sure a defense is going to be aware enough to make an adjustment based on this—it's a lot easier to tell when you're way far away on a sideline—but it can't help.
The coaches apparently have the same concern. They've moved away from this paradigm in favor of something they believe will disguise their intent better. What it is I don't know. It sounds like at the very least the QB is going to move late, like a split second before the snap, if not after. This strikes me as something that Debord would never do.
(FWIW: They did try to mix it up some after practicing for Illinois' zone read veer—which I think is, like, really a veer until someone corrects me on it in the next 60 seconds—but that wasn't successful and was abandoned. I wouldn't write it off entirely, FWIW. It's possible a newly capable Denard Robinson makes that crazy effective.)
|Tuesday 3:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|Matt Miller (0-2, 6.89 ERA)||vs||TBA|
|Stats||Audio (WCBN)||BTN.com ($)|
|Notes: 33-11-1 All Time, Last game was a 12-4 W in 2008. No game |
notes yet, so no official probable starters in either game. This gets
addressed in Series Thoughts below.
Bowling Green State (9-17-1)*
|Wednesday 3:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|Matt Gerbe (1-0, 2.84 ERA)||vs||TBA|
|Notes: 38-13-1 All Time, Last game was a 3-8 L in 2009. *Record is |
as of Tuesday morning. They have a game with Cleveland State
Michigan takes on the second highest ranked remaining team on their schedule on Tuesday with a game against #83 RPI Toledo and will follow that up with a game against a lower tier MAC opponent (RPI of #215 is about equal to that of Purdue or Northwestern). Dare I say Michigan may lose to a MAC opponent this week?
Take the jump to find out:
[Ed: Spring report coming this afternoon. I have to decrypt some stuff.]
The longest win streak in the history of the MCLA ends at 49. Michigan coming out of the weekend with a 1-1 record on the road wasn't a surprise, but the way they did it certainly was. The undefeated and seemingly-invincible Wolverines were run off the field by reeling Colorado for three quarters before staging a furious comeback that fell just short. They recovered against #2 Colorado State a couple days later and will likely maintain their #1 ranking.
Only able to check the score of this game on the UmichLacrosse Twitter feed, it sounded like the Wolverines were getting run off the field on Friday night in every way. In actuality though, they were the more dominant team in every way except the scoreboard. Michigan had 48 shots to Colorado's 33, nearly doubled them up in groundballs, and cleared the ball at a higher rate. In addition, David Reinhard won nearly 70% of the faceoffs he took.
So what was the difference? Michigan wasn't getting good looks at the cage early in the game, and wasn't forcing Colorado's goalie to work quite as hard as Mark Stone. Only seven Wolverine shots in the first half were on the goal, and though three of them went in, Colorado scored six before the break, while forcing Stone to make five additional saves.
The third and fourth quarters, Michigan had more effective offense, but Colorado's Bradley Macnee came up huge in the cage throughout the third, while his teammates gave CU an insurmountable 11-5 lead going into the fourth. Though a late Wolverine rally would bring the final score within a pair of goals, they were unable to finish the comeback, and lost for the first time in nearly three years.
Nobody knew exactly how Michigan would react after a loss, because it hadn't happened in quite some time. In fact, nobody except the seniors on this team had ever lost a game in maize and blue(!). It's no surprise that a John Paul-led squad would be able to turn that adversity into motivation against a top-notch opponent, as the Wolverines came right back with a comfortable 10-6 win over previously-undefeated #2 Colorado State.
Michigan was able to turn yet another dominant statistical performance into scoring production, breaking a 5-5 three-quarter tie with a dominant 5-1 fourth quarter for the big win. Eight different Wolverines scored, with Trevor Yealy and David Rogers both notching a pair. Stone came back from his shaky start against Colorado to stop 15 shots while only allowing 6.
The Colorado loss seems to have been just what this team needed. They had been sleepwalking a little too much in previous games, and destroying their air of invincibility could re-energize them for a Nationa Championship run. If the CSU game is any indication, that may be exactly the case.
What it all means
[…after the jump. That's how you tease, baby.]
Michigan moved to 18-11 and 4-2 in Big Ten play this weekend with a series win over Purdue at Ray Fisher Stadium, 2 games to 1. Ryan LaMarre was the big story of the weekend exploding for a 9/13 batting average in the 3-hole for your Wolverines.
UPDATE: Ryan even earned POTW honors in the Big Ten:
LaMarre earns his second career Player of the Week honor and his first this season after leading Michigan to a series win against Purdue over the weekend. The outfielder hit .692 and slugged 1.077 on the strength of three doubles and a triple vs. the Boilermakers. He also recorded three hits in every conference game, extending his hitting streak to 10 games dating back to last season. Against Central Michigan on Wednesday, LaMarre made his first start since suffering an injury at Texas Tech on Feb. 20. He went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI in a 13-7 win. In eight appearances this season, LaMarre has four multi-hit games and is hitting .519 with a .704 slugging percentage.
Full recaps and series thoughts after the jump:
[Ed: couple of first-hand observations posted on the message board that jive with those of a couple sources of mine who were also there. Those will be coming early next week.]
I was at today's scrimmage and noticed a couple of things:
-the final score was 59-53 offense... it was 53-42 when they went to a segment called last play from the 3 yard line with the defense up by 4. defense stuffed the offense twice then Denard ran in for the win.
-everyone played. walk on slot receiver #10 (not gallon) i think his name is Jordan Barpal had a terrific catch in the back of the endzone for a touchdown from Jack Lennedy.
-John McColgan looked good at FB.. even had a td reception.
-Stephen Hopkins is the real deal. He was running with the 1s has the "big back" and had some really tough runs. I love the way he finishes his runs and really punishes defenders.
-the QB competition is WIDE OPEN. All 3 played with all the lineman and WRs. ( it seemed like they were rotating the QBs with no regard as to which offensive teams were going in.)
-Taylor Lewan looked very good. he played LT with the first team and the second
-the defense looked phenomenal. There tackling was like night and day from last season. There was only one missed tackle that I saw, and it was on a great move by Mike Cox who looped back around and ended up being tackled for a loss by Thomas Gordon.
I was very impressed by today. The team seems to really be coming along.
Another Report Pulled From Lower In the Thread
I was there too and concur with the OP and was pleasantly surprised.
I would add:
Fitzy had a nice run. He was solid. Stephen looked the best on this particular day though.
Thomas Gordon seems to be the best fit for the Stevie Brown Spur/Bandit position for now. I would be curious to see if he will beat out Marvin, or even Cam, or JT Turner.I think they will have to move JT Turner to one of the safety spots when the other frosh get in. That young lad had himself a growth spurt. He is a big kid. It will be interesting to see what they do with him once they get depth this summer at CB
The LB's or secondary didn't suck. I was pleasantly surprised. Troy is pretty good at that CB spot. The defense as a whole was better against the run than I ever would have thought based on last year.
Devin was owning the 2 and 3rd team D. He is the real deal, I don't care what string he was playing against. He seems to have the best shot of us having a vertical game whenever he takes the reins. Denard has a cannon, but doesn't have the touch that Devin has. Devin had a long gainer to Gallon. When Devin played with the 1's he threw a TD to Roundtree.
Denard seemed to have the most success moving the ball against the first team D. He was carving up the D when running the zone read, has a cannon, lacks a little touch on the short and intermediate stuff. If they want to stay true to the West Virginia style O, then Denard has to be the guy this year. He reads it pretty well, and has the explosiveness necessary to get around the corner obviously.
Tate was pretty decent. Didn't get as much time with the 1's as Denard. Tate is Tate. Pretty accurate on the short and intermediate stuff, not as explosive as the others when running the zone read. He did okay though. He can win football games, they just have to tailor the play calling to his strengths.
I would guess that we see more of a rotation this year as opposed to last year when Tate was getting the majority of the snaps. Devin is the real deal, I would hate to be the coaches if they wanted to keep a redshirt on that kid. I wouldn't be able to do it.
Either way. Denard has to be on the field somewhere. You can tell he is putting it together. He is way too explosive to spend as much time on the sidelines as he did last year.
The Oline seems to be a lot better too. Taylor Lewan was getting a lot of time at LT and did really well. It wouldn't surprise me if he just didn't let that spot go.
Cam is a ball hawk. He is very much a see ball, hit ball kind of player, and seems to be just fine at that deep safety if he has to stay there. They tested him a little bit.
It wouldn't surprise me though that when the fall frosh comes in to see them work JT Turner in back there, and move Cam up to a Spur/Bandit position to get the best 11 out there. You can see the talent in JT, the sky is not falling with him, but he has outgrown corner and in my opinion is only there this spring because they don't have depth to move him. JT is big enough now to work into a spur/bandit type roll too.He looks to be in the 210-215ish range.
One fumble, but no turnovers up until the point I left. I had to jet a little early.
All in all I came out actually more impressed with the defense than the offense. Logic tells me that is a good thing, but with this team....who knows?
In Which Your Editor Provides A Short Addendum
I also heard that Hopkins was killing people today in a fashion similar to a squatter Minor, although I'm guessing with less speed since a 230-pound running back who's as fast as Minor is not a generic three star recruit. The quarterback situation seems utterly confused; depending on who you talk to any of the three is the likely starter against UConn. Running back is also a jumble.
One thing that is becoming more and more certain: Taylor Lewan is locking down the left tackle spot, which is great news.
Press Release - Dunn leaving was no surprise after his leave of absence this year, I think Mahoney's departure is less expected.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan coach John Beilein announced today (Friday, April 9) that Jeff Meyer will move permanently into an assistant coaching role following his elevation midway through the 2009-10 season. In addition, Beilein announced associate head coach Jerry Dunn and assistant coach John Mahoney will be leaving the program to pursue other collegiate coaching opportunities.
"I have a clear vision of where I want this program to go and how I would like to complete my coaching staff," said Beilein regarding the vacancy. "I see this change as a unique opportunity to add another highly qualified individual to our Michigan Basketball program."
"I have decided to continue Jeff Meyer’s role as an assistant coach," added Beilein. "He did an incredible job filling in this season and will be a tremendous asset in our recruiting efforts in the footprint of the Big Ten. Jeff is a great teacher of the game and I look forward to his presence on and off the floor next season. "
Meyer joined the Wolverine Basketball staff as an administrative assistant two seasons ago and was elevated to assistant coach midway through the 2009-10 season following a leave of absence by Jerry Dunn for personal family reasons.
Meyer has over 31 years experience in collegiate basketball, with 16 of those seasons coming as a head coach at Liberty (1981-97). He had assistant coaching stops at Indiana (2006-08), Missouri (2004-06), Butler (2001-04), South Florida (1980-81) and Purdue (1978-80), as well as an associate head coaching position at Winthrop (1998-2001). Throughout his coaching career, Meyer has been a part of nine NCAA Tournament and four NIT postseason appearances.
"Jerry Dunn has been a successful head coach in the past and would like to do so again," said Beilein. "He is now going to put all of his efforts toward that goal. I have worked with Jerry for seven years and appreciate his many contributions to the success of our programs. He will continue to work with me on several administrative tasks until the end of the April."
"I want to be a head coach again and the only way to be fair to the program is to pursue these opportunities with my entire focus," said Dunn. "I have enjoyed spending the past seven years with John. We have had a lot of success together and I have learned a great deal during that time. Michigan has made great strides getting back to the tournament but it is time to move on and pursue my goal. My time with the Michigan Family has been enjoyable and I wish our program and the university nothing but success."
Dunn worked alongside Beilein the last seven years as his associate head coach, both at Michigan and West Virginia. Dunn is known most for his work in the Big Ten, spending 20 years at Penn State, including eight as head coach of the Nittany Lions. Four of Dunn's PSU teams reached postseason play, twice at the NCAA Tournament (1996 and 2001) and on two occasions in the NIT (1998 and 2000). He led the Nittany Lions to the championship game of the 1998 NIT and guided the program to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2001.
"John Mahoney is one of the hardest working coaches in the business," said Beilein. "He is a tireless recruiter and I am confident he will prove to be a valuable asset wherever he coaches next year. We wish him nothing but the best in the future and thank him for his loyalty and commitment to our program."
"I wish to thank Coach Beilein, the players and everyone at the University of Michigan for giving me the opportunity over the last three years to continue to not only grow as a person, but as a coach," said Mahoney. "It's never easy to leave a program that you have worked so hard to build, but I am looking forward to this next progression of my career and my pursuit of becoming a collegiate head coach."
Mahoney worked the past five seasons with Beilein at Michigan and West Virginia. He was an assistant coach the last three years at U-M and was West Virginia’s Director of Basketball Operations for two seasons before coming to Ann Arbor. In his 22-year coaching career, Mahoney had assistant coaching stops at Duquesne (2001-05) and Robert Morris (1998-2001). Before entering the Division I coaching ranks, Mahoney was the head coach at Mount Aloysius College (1994-98) and began his coaching career as the boys' head coach at Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School (1986-94).
[Ed: These games are at home, and while tonight's promises to be chilly the weekend day games should be beautiful spring weather in the 60s. If you're around, I suggest going.]
Michigan (16-10, 2-1)
Purdue (12-11, 1-2)
|Friday 7pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|Alan Oaks (3-3, 3.29 ERA)||vs||Matt Bischoff (3-1, 2.06 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (WTKA)||TV: BTN|
|Notes: Michigan is 131-52 all time, Last year: 1-0 (4-3 in 10 innings)|
|Saturday 1pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|Bobby Brosnahan(3-2, 4.36 ERA)||vs||Blake Mascarello (1-2, 2.61 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (WCBN)||TV: BTN|
|Notes: Mascarello is a LHP|
|Sunday 12pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Matt Morgan (2-0, 3.23 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (WCBN)||TV: BTN|
|Notes: No idea on the starter. Katzman? Miller?|
It's been a long time since Michigan has faced off with Purdue in Ann Arbor. With the Boilermakers being the team rotated off the schedule the last two years, they haven't been to Ray Fisher since the 2007 season. The two teams have faced off three times since that series, twice in Ann Arbor for the 2008 Big Ten Tournament, Michigan winning both games, and once as a side game in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge of 2009, Michigan winning 4-3 in 10 innings.
This year's matchup is a bit less intense than the Big Ten Tournament, but it's not without it's own importance as Purdue can be dangerous if their starting pitching (as mentioned in yesterday's Q&A) can get in a groove against our aggressive hitters.
Match ups, concerns and more after the jump…
The audacity of lacrosse. Run, don't walk, to Patrick Hruby's Page 2 article on Mike Legg's famous lacrosse-style goal. It's as told by the participants, with Hruby mostly staying out of the way and allowing Legg, Morrison, Turco, Victimized Minnesota Goalie, Berenson, and Guy Legg Learned It From tell the story:
LEGG: "We're in the playoffs, so I had been telling myself, 'Don't even think about it. Get that crap out of your head. Don't do anything silly. If there's even a half-open player, try to get the puck to him.'"
MORRISON: "I was sneaking into the point."
LEGG: "I looked around and didn't really see anybody open."
MORRISON: "All of a sudden, Mike leaned down and scooped it."
BERENSON: "I thought, 'Oh my God, he's going to try it.' I saw him shoot it 100 times in practice, just fooling around. I hadn't coached him into it."
It's 5000 words. Turco says "it took a long time for Mike's party to mellow out" at one point. It's epic. I suggest you peruse it, because you will enjoy it or find out you are a robot. (HT: MGoUser Blueintheface.)
While we're on hockey, AnnArbor.com scored an excusive interview with Berenson in anticipation of the Frozen Four (where Miami got what was coming to them, BTW). Let's skip over the "argh we won" bits:
Q: Considering all the disappointment that surrounded Michigan's football and men's basketball teams, do you think your team provided some ray of hope this year?
A: That's what people are telling me and that's what the last month of the season did for Michigan. That helped carry the torch high and gave a lot of Michigan fans pride in Michigan sports. You never know how your season is going to end, but ours ended - up until that last goal - on such an up note. It wasn't just one weekend. It was four weekends and it just kept picking up and people got into it. I think it was great for Michigan.
It sounds like they'll platoon Hunwick and Hogan like they did with Sauer and Hogan a couple years ago.
Further detail. Michigan's made its coordinators available over the past couple weeks and during the brief segments when they aren't admonishing fans not to get caught up in a wholesale scheme change (or "tweak" according to Greg Robinson) they're throwing out a few guys who seem to be developing. Greg Robinson dropped a couple names to Rittenberg yesterday, and not just Cam Gordon:
The competition at middle linebacker is really heating up between Obi Ezeh and Kenny Demens, who has come on strong this spring. "This is a dogfight," Robinson said. "And I like it. It's amazing when you have competition, how much the improvement comes."
The other Gordon, JT Floyd, and Teric Jones also get positive mentions; Justin Turner remains worryingly unmentioned. It's weird that Demens goes from buried behind a walk-on to pushing for a starting job over the course of a couple months, but I'll take it. If Demens can develop into a contributor Michigan's linebacker depth chart looks considerably less frightening.
On the other side of the ball, Calvin Magee's press conference was bulleted in this space a couple days ago. Here's a transcript for the detail oriented. And here's a pull quote:
“Terrence is really playing well this spring … I mean, really well,” said Magee. “Having Jeremy Gallon off his redshirt year, too, we have a number of guys I feel real comfortable about.
“Terrence is interesting, because Year one it was a competition. He just happened to get injured. Year two it was another competition with Tay Odoms, and he got dinged up again and missed some time, allowing Roy Roundtree to show his stuff.”
A lot of people, including yours truly, had written Robinson off after a redshirt freshman year in which he did nothing. Magee repeatedly emphasizing his breakout bodes well. If the guy can catch he's got some crazy moves.
Leverage. When the NHL instituted a salary cap as part of a massive revamp of their collective bargaining agreement, the end result appeared to be very bad for college teams hoping to keep their seniors around. It appeared that the rookie cap and service-time-based arbitration would combine with near-instant free agency for college kids who play out their eligibility to give give both player and team powerful incentive to sign before the prospect's senior year.
It hasn't quite worked out like that. TJ Hensick, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, and Chris Summers have all stuck around for four years and it looks like Michigan will retain its 2011 seniors as well (knock on wood). While players still regularly sign early, it's not epidemic.
Why? Oilers draftee Riley Nash, a late first rounder who just finished his junior year at Cornell, provides an interesting case study. One: I didn't know that an entry-level contract is three years if you sign before your senior year but two if you sign after. You have the same opportunity to become an RFA no matter when you sign. Two: a college player has crazy leverage because he can play his final year and become a free agent immediately afterwards.
The end result of this? Mo' money. Mudcrutch has assembled a chart showing the amount of money late first rounders have signed for recently* and color coded it for easy pattern recognition. Orange are kids in college, purple juniors, and blue euros. I make it small in order to hit you over the head with the conclusion:
College kids (and Euros) get better bonuses because they have attractive options other than signing. Junior kids just go back in the draft, where they invariably get taken lower and paid less. The difference even clearer if you remove goalies. Goalies almost never play in the NHL during their initial contract and the top two junior players on the list are goalies.
If you squint hard or click for big you'll note some familiar names: Mitera, Summers, Cogliano, and Pacioretty all appear on the list, with Mitera and Summers—both seniors with the option to become free agents—hovering near the top of the list. Cogliano (sophomore) is a bit farther down and Pacioretty (freshman) is the last blip of orange on the chart. The upshot: unless a college player sticks on an NHL roster they don't lose much if any money by sticking around because their increased bonus leverage makes up for the relatively paltry AHL salaries they'd be pulling down. Instead of being a death knell for college seniors, the CBA actually provides some incentive for collegians to stay in school until they are NHL-ready.
Question: Summers has a two-year deal, but Mitera signed for three. Both waited until after their seniors years to do so. Why are the contracts different lengths?
UPDATE: Contract length is based on age. Mitera signed at 21, Summers at 22. When you're 22 the entry-level contract is two years. Thanks to emailer Brendan Baker.
*(There is a rookie cap that all almost all these contracts reach, but NHL teams can offer a wide array of bonuses if the want that are easily achievable by someone playing in the NHL.)
The final revamp. AnnArbor.com caught a Brandon appearance in which he said a number of interesting things, amongst them some more detail on what they plan to do to Crisler in the relatively near future:
“And then the third phase will be absolutely a complete remodel of the facility where you would potentially bust out the concourses and you would create the bigger circulation space,” Brandon said. “More restrooms, capacity, more amenities, better food service, maybe some kind of club-seating opportunities for those who are interested in that experience. Really making it a modern arena for the purpose of big-time college basketball. And that’s ultimately where we’d love to go with Crisler Arena because the program deserves that.”
This cannot happen fast enough.
Etc.: Big Ten baseball teams are operating a serious disadvantage because of restricted oversigning. This is less "cram the academically questionable in" and more "scramble for leftovers after unexpected signings".
Via Friend of the Blog Craig Ross, offensive and defensive red zone efficiency in last year's Big Ten:
- Opp = number of redzone opportunities.
- FGM = made field goals.
- Poss Pts = possible points
- RZEff = Pts / Poss Pots
- Trad = The traditional, stupid way of calculating red zone efficiency: (TD + FGM) / Opp.
Note how dumb the traditional measures of redzone efficiency can be: Michigan State finished ninth in the league in points gained as a percentage of the maximum and third by traditional measures.
It doesn't matter which metric you use, though: Michigan is thunderously last in this category. That's not a huge surprise when you're as turnover-plagued as Michigan was. Add on the First And Goal Of Doom against Illinois and there you go.
No surprises here. Defensive red zone efficiency seems much better correlated with overall performance than the offensive variety, Illinis respectability nonwithstanding. Michigan isn't last by a mile this time, but they're not far off the bottom. No fancy explanations needed here: the defense sucked anywhere on the field last year.
Just start screaming now. It will save time. PPT is "points per trip," and it hates you:
On average, Michigan gave up 2 more points per redzone trip than they got. Over the course of the season this cost them 122(!!!) points relative to the opposition.
I don't have any idea how much year-to-year correlation there is in this stat, but if I had to guess I'd say there was a moderate amount. It's not as loopy as turnover margin, certainly—Wisconsin's always going to be good inside the five—but I bet crazy numbers like Michigan's have a tendency to head for average the next year. Let's hope so, anyway.