he grew a beard
It was a surprisingly busy July day for Michigan's Athletic Department, as they opened the doors to Michigan Stadium's new premium seating areas, FieldTurf announced a new deal with the Wolverines (way to piggyback off the day's news, guys!), the official seating capacity of 109,901 was announced for the 2010 season, and Athletic Director David Brandon held a press conference to talk about the newest features of Wolverine Mecca. It's all stadium, all day.
Apologies for poor photo quality, as cellphone shots will have to stand in for the out-of-commission pro camera. If it's higher-quality shots you want, UMTailgate can hook you up. Firstly, I was surprised how many people showed up to the event in the first place, many of them decked out in their gameday garb. Pioneer's lot was mostly filled up in the late morning.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon said that the structures will help keep crowd noise in the stadium, a welcome (but by no means novel anymore) idea to Michigan fans. He said that sound engineers estimated a 30% increase in volume at the 50-yard line, but to get more concrete data, they'll test the sound early in the year.
Another note about the structures themselves is the classic look. Brandon noted that the aesthetic fit with the rest of athletic campus (seen at right from the fourth floor of the East structure) makes the look perfect for Michigan.
Adding these structures also helped Michigan provide a variety of gameday experiences for fans with different preferences. Those who want to sit in traditional bleachers can continue to do so, but there are also options for those who want - and can afford - to sit in chairback seats, club seats, or suites.
Suites And Seats
The suites themselves looked exactly like the one Brian and I toured last summer, except now there are lots of them. The ones on the corners also get good views of campus or the golf course, as well as looking down on the crowd (insert The Hero Of Tiananmen Square-ism here):
Of the 81 total suites, only 20 are available at this time. Approximately 60% of the suites have been purchased by individuals or small groups, and 40% are for corporate customers. Associate Athletic Director for Development Joe Parker said that is a pretty good reservation number, and he does not anticipate single-game suite rentals becoming an option to fill them all.
When other schools have added premium seating, and even when Michigan added it at Yost Ice Arena, 100% occupancy hasn't been reached until the third year. Michigan should have all 81 suites committed by then.
I know lots of MGoBloggers are interested in the behind-the-scenes media access stuff, so here's a shot of the new press box. It's a decided improvement over the old one, to say the least:
There's another row on the left there, and the ceilings are a good 15-20 feet high. In addition, AD Dave Brandon (jokingly) promised that the media will have better food options this season.
At this point, capital gifts and suite/club seat reservations have paid for the $226 million of the renovations(!). The rest of the way, these income sources should be positive cashflow for the Athletic Department. Though he didn't have exact numbers, Parker said that the premium seating areas will increase the profitability of each home game in the future.
Inside the stadium, the 2009 Michigan/Notre Dame game was displayed on the scoreboards as the fans made their way through the new premium seating areas in the East Side structure. Those scoreboards might not be long for this world, according to Dave Brandon. The Athletic Department is already discussing further expansion of the stadium, but the scoreboards are going to be the next part of the stadium improved.
Brandon said he hopes that the existing architecture of the scoreboards can be maintained (speculation - so as to not waste money when stadium expansion forces them to move within a few years?), but it's time for them to be upgraded. The Athletic Department will explore all possible revenue streams to pay for that project, though there are currently no plans for in-stadium advertising.
Hello. If you have a blog that…
- has been active consistently since September,
- is either about a college football team, college football in general, or is a regional blog covering local teams including the local U, and
- gets some minimum level of traffic and interaction (maybe a hundred hits a day and comments that do not consistently read "zero")
…you are invited to apply for BlogPoll membership as long as you are willing to divulge what your favorite team is. What is the BlogPoll? It is a college football poll run by bloggers that is entering its fifth year of existence. Last year it turned into an excitingly useful thing that paid considerably more attention to Alabama's rise to power than the usual suspects and was rewarded by the events at the end of the season.
Poll membership requires you to do the following things:
- Pay attention to the explicitly stated poll philosophy.
- Enter a draft ballot by Monday at 11 AM and post this on your site.
- Request feedback from readers.
- Enter a final ballot by Wednesday at 10 AM with any modifications.
That's it. How much detail you'd like to go into is up to you; voters have ranged from the laconic to the very serious indeed. If you miss a lot of votes you probably won't be invited back but the occasional whiff is no big deal.
Email me to be put on the applicants list. If you're already in the poll or have already submitted an application there's no need to As the poll matures I am trying to achieve geographic and team balance, so if you want a quick ballpark on your chances check the voter list and figure out how many blogs already cover your team and conference. As far as teams go, zero or one is good, two is iffy, and three is not possible unless someone drops out (which does happen all the time). Conferences… let's just say there aren't a lot of Pac-10 blogs that will get turned down.
Decisions will come at the end of next week.
Correction. The recruiting profile of Richard Ash brought up Jason Kates because he's the canonical recent example of a guy whose weight problems prevented him from becoming a player. In that post, I mentioned that Rivals had 'won' that evaluation since they issued two stars to Scout's four. I got that backwards. It was Scout that was skeptical and thus won.
The underbelly of disaster(!). Tim is taking in the official media bit of the tour (lunch!) and is tweeting brooding photos of empty stuff. Full post coming up later today; for those who can't wait UM Tailgate got in way early and already has the first of what will be dozens of galleries posted today. Swanky:
Meanwhile, Michigan has released this year's box-engorged seating capacity: 109,901, which puts it back in its rightful place as the largest in the country. Wikipedia was updated in nanoseconds:
Michigan Stadium's capacity will drop next year when the seats and aisles are widened but should still check in #1.
Beam me up. I can't control when I get the weird photoshops of recently graduated players, but here's this:
His people are Patriots. Thanks to Corey Ray.
Also in graphic stuff, TRSaunders expands his library of MS Paint crazy photo stuff with Cam Gordon.
Raid your own stadium. Tickets for the Big Chill are all but officially sold out as Michigan holds back the last few blocks for incoming freshmen. Unless you head to Michigan State's ticket department, that is. Buy away. Plot in the message board thread.
In graphic form. A poster named BlueMonster threw this chart up on Rivals. It speaks for itself:
Steele can be wobbly on certain things but not wobbly enough to get Michigan out of the overall cellar when they're so far behind the nearest competitor, especially since Steele's evaluation of Michigan's starters is significantly more veteran than the actual lineup will be.
Interesting to note that UConn, which had a rep as a very veteran outfit, comes in towards the bottom of the list. Penn State, meanwhile, checked in next to Michigan at just below average on the Steele experience ranking but is well up the rankings here. Everything else looks to be about what you'd expect, with that Notre Dame game looming large as an opportunity to start off in a non-flailing fashion.
Expansion of the other variety. Everyone else has an opinion, so I should too: the NCAA has announced that the four play-in games will be contested in two groups: everyone who used to be a 16 seed plays for two spots and the last four at-large teams will play for the other two. So everyone gets slid down one more notch and the three teams that are added have to play for a spot with the team that would have been the last at-large in a 65-team tournament.
I was against any sort of expansion from the start and still think 68 is goofy, but if they're going to do it this is the best way. The 16 seeds are invariably weak opponents and bidding another one goodbye is not going to make anyone shed a tear. While the occasional interesting team finds itself a 15 seed, usually the worst 15 seed is no threat against the best 2. Meanwhile, having the last few at-large bids face off against each other will reduce the "what about X" complaining every year because X will have an opportunity to play Y, settling the argument on the court. More of those third place Mountain West or A-10 teams will get the opportunity to prove themselves better than Clemson or Minnesota.
The Artist Formerly Known As Big Ten Wonk dislikes this, calling it "dumb":
I realize many pundits are fine with this today, but wait until they see it in action with actual team names inserted into these brackets. Inevitably a five-seed will lose to a 12 that emerged from a play-in game and we’ll hear all the usual talk about the “advantage” and “momentum” the 12 had from playing already. And as for talk of 10-seeds being in play-in games, mark me down as absolutely terrified. I’m already on the record as thinking that tournament seeding has far too little to do with reality. (And note that today’s decision only raises the stakes that will be riding on a team’s seed.)
Now, if you’re talking about a team seeded as high as a 10, there’s a good chance that said team is way better than the selection committee could have realized. To require a team that good to win an extra game while every year the 64th-best team in the field is guaranteed a comparatively easy six-win path is antithetical to what’s made the NCAA tournament the best postseason spectacle in major American team sports. We’ve trusted the tournament’s outcomes precisely to the extent that the courts have been neutral, the brackets have been balanced, and the opportunities have been equal.
I think that's an anticipation about talking heads doing the thing where they have a fierce disagreement over a petty issue because of Stephen A Smith and not an actual argument that this will be a factor, but even so I must dissent from Gasaway's dissent. A case where the second to last at large spot is actually a 10 seed will be exceedingly rare. The equivalent would be the last at large in the current tourney being a 10, which I'm pretty sure has never happened. Meanwhile, the 64th-best team has earned something (the auto-bid) the last teams in have not. It's not entirely fair but if it keeps a bunch of small teams from getting shuffled to "TruTV" in favor of major conference mediocrities, I'm in favor of it. Seeds are mostly guesses and a small conference team that won its championship and avoided the play-in has proven itself better than a subset of college basketball; major conference teams that finish seventh have not done this.
The committee did the best possible job given they had to assemble a 68-team tournament and include a cable channel no one's even heard of.
Leader for real. Now that the World Cup is over it can be said: ESPN has shed its Mark Shapiro skin and has returned to something that people can both love and hate instead of just the latter. Not once during the 2010 tournament did I pine for the Univision that I had in HD in 2006 but not 2010, and this is despite the fact that Univision is such terrific fun that I would occasionally flip on replays of games I'd already watched just to hear someone's head explode because of Diego Forlan. Also, 30 for 30 is an unqualified success, the sort of original programming that ESPN always should have done instead of "I'd Do Anything" or literally everything else Shapiro ever came up with. (His latest trick: running Six Flags into the ground.)
Everything from the play by play to the studio crew was fantastic—even Alexi Lalas was genuinely fun when he ribbed the English. My only complaint was the time spent showing replays when action was going on, and that wasn't even ESPN's fault since FIFA controls the feed. There has never been a greater turnaround between consecutive broadcasts of a single event. Last year we were stuck with Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa.
Why can't they do this for other sports? Well, if you took ESPN's top four college football announce teams (PBP: Musberger, McDonough, Franklin, ?) they would probably come close to the four excellent teams put together for the World Cup. When you get to #8 it's Pam Ward, and by #12 it's that awful Rod Gilmore/Trevor Matich color pairing that had a combined IQ approximately the equal of tapioca pudding that went 12-20 in 15 years as as boxer. Plus ESPN had the pick of any English announcers they wanted. If you could put together an All-Star roster of college football from ESPN, CBS, Fox, and, uh, NBC… well… you'd get Verne Lundquist. Never mind.
Initial NCAA impressions. If you're like me and have gotten tired of EA's consistently lame NCAA franchise, I suggest you check out GameShark folks Bill Abner and Todd Brakke's "Nut and Feisty Weasel," where they'll be posting their annual stream of consciousness reviews of the latest edition. These are always unvarnished and far more useful than any review ever is.
The first impression, as always, is promising. This is something that I don't know if an NCAA game has ever managed before:
John Clay had 88 yards on 20 carries. He was hard as hell to tackle. Michigan? I shut that team down with impunity. I had a chance late to get the ball back against Wisky and they marched 30 yards to nail the coffin shut.
Against UM my DE Cam Heyward was UNBLOCKABLE. He was KILLING whoever the Michigan RT is. 3 sacks, multiple pressures, etc. In years past this would raise a quick red flag. This is a potential pattern that could really kill the game because before--something like this simply meant...the AI blocking sucks.
Against Wisky? Heyward was as non factor. And believe me...I tried.
Abner is an OSU fan, unfortunately. Let's hope the game's projection for Mark Huyge is pessimistic.
Etc.: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get the 2013 and 2014 Frozen Fours. Fine by me; at least Pittsburgh is drivable. Boston fans are complaining about the FF's long absence from their neck of the woods—by 2014 it will be a decade—and I would have some sympathy if the Detroit FF was the first time in forever that the perpetually-screwed CCHA had gotten to host one. Rivals ranks Michigan a job-saving #41.
Brad Labadie, football director of operations and person frequently talked to, but not heard from, in the sanctions document dump, has resigned:
"I wish Brad well," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "He has worked hard and worked incredible hours.
"He's been in a punishing job in terms of hours, and to get into a traditional position with more normal hours and a young family is what works for him now. He's moving out of athletics at this stage."
Brandon added: "I absolutely don't think people should" think his departure has anything to do with the NCAA investigation.
Everyone who's emailed me about Brad Labadie in the aftermath of the document release has started their message off with something about how he's a super nice guy, so let's take it easy on the grave dancing.
That said, Labadie's departure doesn't have anything to do with the NCAA investigation in the same way Jim Boccher's departure doesn't have anything to do with the spread punt fiasco of '03. Many many details can be found in the Heads Should Roll post from earlier this summer. If he wasn't outright axed he was encouraged to find a job elsewhere. You may resume your unbreakable faith in David Brandon's pimp hand.
Three days before Bill Martin exits the AD, Lloyd will:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After 30 years of distinguished service to the University of Michigan, associate athletic director and former U-M head football head coach Lloyd Carr will officially retire from the athletic department on Sept. 1.
"I am thankful for the wonderful opportunity to assist two great coaches here in Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller and I will always appreciate Joe Roberson's decision to name me the head coach in 1995," said Carr. "I am also appreciative for those I worked with and for all the great friendships I have developed.
I kind of said all the stuff I had about Carr when he retired from the whole football coaching thing, and that remains true. Here's a lot of the long pieces touching on it:
- Luther Van Dammit. In which Lloyd Carr is outsmarted by Luther from Coach, and frustrations are expressed about staid consistency.
- At Least It Rained. In which I grapple with the Carr legacy immediately after that Ohio State game the picture of the offensive line blocking no one comes from.
- The Big Rodriguez. In which Carr shoves me into a limo where I am berated by Bill Martin.
- You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad. In which staid consistency is wistfully considered on the eve of something else.
And then there is this:
He was and is a true oddity when it comes to football coaches and probably won't get the credit he deserves for the good parts of his tenure.
This will start the rumor mill about Carr's distaste for Rodriguez once more and conflict within the department and so forth and so on, but if there's anything we've learned about Carr the past five years it's that he's old and tired of doing stuff he doesn't really want to do. Once the valedictory spot in the department became annoying he wasn't long for it, I'm guessing, and it's been annoying for two solid years.
Michigan Stadium before renovations:
Cork boat enthusiast, political speechwriter, "Save the Big House" founder, Yale grad, and Hero of Tiananmen Square John Pollack on this transformation:
It’s a lot different and ironically it looks a lot bigger from the outside and it feels a lot smaller from the inside. Going to games there over the last couple years, as the boxes have risen–they are so out of scale with bowl itself that it makes the bowl seem small. And that’s not positive.
Before, as you approached the stadium there was this sense of anticipation whether you’d been there 100 times or never had been there. Because even if you knew what was coming, you walk in and this mighty bowl unfolds before you. Now you’re walking up to two corporate-looking structures and when you walk in the bowl is diminished because the proportions are all wrong. Those boxes are literally monuments to self-aggrandizement and unfortunately they diminish the stadium. …
The university has greatly diminished the iconic stadium in the United States of America.
That's from an MVictors interview of the HOTS himself. "Corporate-looking." What does this mean? It means Pollack is a certain kind of leftist. As the renovations have gone up the level of concerned emails in my inbox has dropped to zero, as the structures are both attractive and, with Newsterbaan, part of a unified look for the athletic campus based on Yost that cannot get to Crisler soon enough. The stadium now looks like something other than a hole in the ground. But if you're so invested you could see Michigan Stadium as "the iconic stadium in the United States of America" you clearly aren't going to ever back down.
This site's been over this before, making the case for luxury boxes when a reasonable questioner—of the variety that seems not to exist any more—wondered what that case was. In short, extracting exorbitant amounts of money from relatively few patrons is better for everyone because those people are funding the modernization of the stadium and making the place more intimidating than it was before because instead of their silence we get the fairly significant acoustic benefits of the structures. Also maybe they won't yell at me to sit down as much.
The case against the boxes as made by Pollack is a breathtaking combination of delusion ("One of the great things about college football, especially Michigan football, is that it is a great public space—a place where autoworkers and millionaires can come together to cheer on their team") and arrogance ("Michigan doesn't need to keep up with the Joneses. We are the Joneses") that rests largely on the idea that Bill Martin, who seemingly thought about nothing but money during his tenure at Michigan, is getting the money wrong. A source close to the project has convincingly debunked these ideas in a detailed post on the renovations and a response to a mailbag question. Michigan has to renovate the stadium after years and years of Duderstadt-inspired neglect. They can pay for this renovation by adding a surcharge to tickets for 20 years or by putting in boxes that will do more than pay for themselves and set Michigan up to compete with the likes of Ohio State and its massive spending.
Meanwhile, the "grass roots" effort to stop the renovations is as natural as the turf they just put in. Allow myself to quote myself:
There was one loud, PR-savvy group with no grassroots support that employed disingenuous political rhetoric in an attempt to stall a project that it seems like the vast bulk of the fanbase supports. Three guys with impressive names and a website do not a movement make, and when you are persistently, uselessly annoying you shouldn't expect perpetual fruitless audiences. Not once in this process did Pollack attempt to measure the sentiment of the fanbase, or if he did the results he got back were disconcerting and quickly buried; "but but but Fielding Yost" is not an argument that sways anyone with decision-making powers, no matter how many newspapers it appears in.
Unfortunately, no one has undertaken that measurement; in its absence all we have to go on are the constant "I was by the stadium so I took 20 pictures" posts that pop up on message boards across the Michigan internet and the almost-unanimous excitement about the addition on practical, aesthetic, and auditory grounds.
As for the sanctified tradition we're tossing aside, here's a quote from MVictors's HTTV 2010 (buy now!) piece on the construction of the stadium I wish I'd seen earlier so I could have put it in every post I've made on the subject. It's Yost speaking to Bennie Oosterbaan after the dedication game in 1927:
Bennie, do you know what the best thing about that new stadium is? Eighty-five thousand people paid five dollars apiece for their seats -- and Bennie, they had to leave the seats there!
This is a big week for visits but other than that it's pretty slow since coaches are on vacation. Here's a look at who's visiting with some updates elsewhere.
Visiting July 13th:
- Jake Fisher - Instate lineman is coming down from Traverse City to visit both MSU, and Michigan. I spoke with him about the visits and his timeline: he's visiting MSU first, then Michigan. Take from that what you will, other than that MSU happens to come first geographically on his trip. He is on commit watch.
Fisher: "I'd like to make my decision shortly after these visits. I might have a leader right now (laughing), but I don't want to say who."
- Cyrus Hobbi - As mentioned in last week's update, Hobbi is coming up to Michigan on his way to a family trip in New York. That is a huge break for Michigan. Without it, it's safe to say that Cyrus wouldn't have been able to get up to Michigan for an unofficial visit before the season. If Cyrus likes what he sees, it should give Michigan a serious shot at landing the big lineman. West coast schools are the main competition.
- Jordan Walsh - As it was noted in my interview with Jordan this past week, he is also making a trip to Ann Arbor on Tuesday. If you didn't read the article, here's how his mom feels about Michigan.
"She loved the junior day visit, too. When Coach Rodriguez offered me, she started crying."
All of these visits could be big for Michigan. I would be very happy with pulling two out of the three from this list.
5'8, 190 lbs.
Everyone's favorite recruit to discuss and one of the most important in this class. Hart was recently at the Nike 7 on 7 tournament in Oregon. ESPN gives you a synopsis of how he did and how he keeps the media guessing.
I spoke to Hart's teammate, Roderick Ryles, the other day. Ryles told me that he and LaQuentin Smith are going up to Arkansas, while Demetrius Hart and (2012 QB) Nick Patti are coming up to Michigan this week. I also spoke with Hart, and he wasn't 100% sure the visit is going to happen:
I'm not sure we're coming up yet. I still have to figure it out. I think we are, but it's not final.
Hart came up earlier this year and planned a second trip for the Spring Game but could not make it. Even if he can't scrape together the cash and time to get up to Michigan for a second unofficial, his interest in making one is genuine and he will visit officially in the fall.
5'8, 156 lbs.
Sicklerville, New Jersey
Byrd is a (very) speedy slot guy who already has offers from Florida, West Virginia, Iowa, Pitt, South Carolina, and Nebraska, amongst others. Michigan doesn't have much of a need for tiny slots in this class, but I had an interesting conversation with Byrd the other day. He recently narrowed down his list to 7 top schools. I asked him if Michigan were to offer, would they be able to get back in it.
Yeah, I would consider them again. I really liked it when I went up there, so they would still have a chance.
This doesn't really matter right now because he doesn't have an offer from the Wolverines. If they miss out on a few wide receiver targets down the road they might look to Byrd.
- [Ed.: LA CB Darren Kitchen has gotten an offer from recruiter Fred Jackson. This is not an official written offer and can't be committed to until Rodriguez gets back from vacation and issues it. If and when that does occur, Kitchen has said straight out he will commit.]
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, and DT Terry Talbott.
|Pahokee, FL - 6'4" 300|
|Scout||4*, #25 DT|
|Rivals||3*, #52 DT|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #55 DT|
|Other Suitors||WVU, USC(?), Florida(?), Florida State, UCLA, South Carolina|
|YMRMFSPA||The Fat Elvis edition of Brandon Graham, or a less severe Jason Kates|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Pahokee has sent Martavious Odoms, Vincent Smith, and Brandin Hawthorne to Michigan in the last couple years.|
For a brief moment, Richard Ash was white-hot. In early July of last year he added a USC offer to go with his Florida, Tennessee, and Florida State ones, establishing himself as one of the top defensive tackle recruits in the country. A couple months later, with those offers seemingly off the table he committed to West Virginia. Two weeks later, Doc Holliday was Marshall coach and Ash was on campus committing to Rich Rodriguez.
Michigan fans will be interested, then, in determining which Ash is the real one. All-conquering fire hydrant that uses centers as shot-put practice, or just another guy who could be second-team All Big East some day? There's a long way from favoring Florida in May to two of three scouting services giving you a ranking of "meh."
The internet's conventional wisdom is that Ash's appearances at various camps, most prominently Florida's, disappointed. "Work ethic issues" are commonly cited. I can't vouch for that opinion from a random South Carolina message board, but that's as good as a narrative as we're going to get until Urban Meyer opens up Jerry Jones-style about a random three/four star recruit. A couple other sources with a bit more credit do have the same story. This appears to be a Q&A session with some Rivals guy replicated on a Florida message board:
No idea where this is from but it looks like a Q&A on some Florida site or another:
I did talk to someone who recently spoke to Ash, and he said Ash’s workout at Florida’s camp might not have been to the coaches’ liking.
I watched Ash at Florida’s camp a couple weeks back and yes, he didn’t look as in shape, but it’s also the summertime and spring football has been over with for a while. He looked a little slow and tired, but displayed a frame that probably builds a lot of muscle fast. Not everyone was in the best shape and that’s to be expected in June. Things change when kids start going to more camps as the month progresses and July comes around. Speaking of July, Ash was supposed to work out at Friday Night Lights, and when I spoke to him last that was the plan. I haven’t heard anything different, but anything could happen between now and late July.
That's followed up with an assertion that Florida's DL coach was "pushing him harder" than other guys in the camp, with his "focus for the afternoon" mostly on Ash and uber-recruit Ronald Powell. After that hard look, Florida decided to move another direction.
Finally, when FlaVarsity.com analyst Michael Langston evaluated Ash for the Wolverine($) he flatly stated that Ash "started the season off way too big" because he didn't "take care of his body in the offseason." His fluctuating weight provides supporting evidence. At the time of the Trojan offer he was listed at 263 and was being recruited as a three-tech:
He runs a 4.85 40 and is known for his combination of speed and strength. The Trojans are recruiting him for the three-technique position and he has been recruited to USC by defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.
(QFJ: Quote for Jethro.) That number was not fictional. It was measured at '>the Nike camp early in his recruitment that put him hunting lists of big time schools. One of the skeptical reports from summer camps noted he wasn't in great shape because he had reached "265-270 pounds." By December he was telling folk he was 290($) and in May he reported to GBW that he was an even 300. Even without the reports that he was out of shape last summer, it's impossible that Ash put on 60 pounds of good weight in a high school program.
So there's your script: very promising prospect from Pahokee who fell off the radar because of too much ham and should spend the next twelve months in a sweat lodge with Barwis communicating with his workout chi.
As to why he's promising, that aforementioned Nike camp had observers all a-flutter. Ironically, the first positive scouting-type mention of him on Rivals notes his frame($):
Chandler and Lemonier were the top defensive linemen along with a very strong performance out of Pahokee (Fla.) High School's Richard Ash. Ash has the body to carry a lot of weight and maintain his athleticism and his aggressiveness and explosiveness was evident on Sunday.
Rivals analyst Barry Every took in the same camp, praising Ash's "great body structure and really long arms," declaring him "easily the best-looking interior lineman physically," and projecting he'd triple his offers by the end of May. Every also projected that he would grow into a DT, although he didn't say this would happen by August.
ESPN makes the chorus complete($):
…a bit of a 'tweener between the tackle and end spot. He could start off in college as a defensive end, but in the long run we think he projects as a defensive tackle or at least as a swing guy like he is now. He has good size and should be able to add more good bulk. He has a good get-off and is a kid capable of getting some quick penetration. He is a physical kid at the point of attack. He does a good job of using his hands to create some separation and he can hold his ground. … We feel he will grow into a defensive tackle and his skills will be better used there, but he offers some versatility also.
Scout's version of that:
Ash is an excellent athlete and has terrific size for a DT prospect. He has a quality first step and gets into the backfield quickly while having the speed to pursue to the edges. Ash needs to continue to develop his technique, particularly his ability to disengage blockers. He should add plenty of size which will help him against the run.
So in three years Ash could be 300 pounds and everyone would be happy with that, especially a nose-deficient Michigan defensive line. Depending on how 3-3-5 Michigan's new 3-3-5 actually is, he could find himself in the lineup anywhere in the front three.
For his part, Ash on his own game:
“I’m quick off the ball. I have a good first step and have great hands. I use them good and have great technique. I like to play quick and fast.
“I want to run better and get faster in the forty. I’d like to be more explosive because that would help me get more sacks.”
The analysts disagree about the technique, with many reports citing his tendency to get high and failure to use his long arms as effectively as he should. Langston suggests($) he needs to gain more upper body strength but has good burst and that Michigan told him that they wanted him as a defensive end because "they told him they needed a pass rusher like him, a guy … with speed around the edge."
For what it's worth, even after the drop Ash was still a guy worth pursing. In July he was the #27 player in Florida—which would be solidly in the top 250 range nationally—to the Orlando Sentinel. There were a number of BCS teams willing to overlook whatever issues caused the Floridas and USCs of the world to back off. He took officials to UCLA and West Virginia, committing to the latter and aborting a planned Rutgers visit. South Carolina was trying to get him on campus. LSU was in his top two (with USF) as late as mid-October.
Michigan probably won't know what they plan to do with Ash for a year, maybe two, as they figure out what weight they actually want him to play at and what his strengths indicate the best spot for him is. Ideally, he'd end up an angry, lithe 280 and play as the three-tech DT/3-3-5 DE Ryan Van Bergen or Mike Martin could end up as. With the roster in the state that it is and Ash's apparently ability to get up to three bills in both good and bad fashions, he may be drafted to play nose tackle. Whatever he ends up as, there's a lot of work to do to get there.
Why Fat Elvis Brandon Graham or Jason Kates? Graham was a vastly touted high school middle linebacker who claimed he wanted to play LB in college, too then showed up to Michigan at 290 pounds. He burned his redshirt (not that he would have used a fifth year anyway) coming in as a nose tackle on passing downs and spent some of his sophomore year on the interior, looking ponderous, until Barwis came in and shaped him into Michigan's golden calf. Ash briefly had the same sort of hype but added his weight earlier and fell down boards as a result; he may have the same sort of trajectory as Michigan takes the time to turn him into the player that could have gone anywhere he wanted in May.
Jason Kates, meanwhile, was a frighteningly large DT prospect who got four stars from Scout… and two from Rivals, which explicitly expected him to wash out of football because he could not get his weight under control. Rivals won. Ash is 50 pounds lighter than Kates entering college and doesn't have that same sort of explicit risk, but the sort of thing where he's always a "yes, but what if he wasn't carrying around a small child too" is possible.
Which will it be? Well, Langston said the reason he switched to Michigan is that "he feels the best chance" of getting to an impact level is with this staff. Kates, on the other hand, was a last-second add, not a hotly pursued prospect.
Guru Reliability: Only moderate. Boom/bust sort of player, one that the sites may have fairly ranked despite his high upside.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. On the one hand, Ash's physical potential combined with Barwis's wolf run ("You are covered in pork fat, some of it applied by us. Run away from the wolves.") could yield a crushing destroyer of a defensive lineman. On the other hand, Jason Kates.
Projection: Probably a redshirt as Barwis will have to mold this clay into something less clay-like. Bad sign for this year if he sees the field but possibly good for Ash long term. Redshirt sophomore year earliest projected effectiveness. From there will either go HAM or just ham.
Time-lapse photography. Ace has compiled a slideshow of Bo's team pictures over the years. It's like the Johnny Cash "hurt video" but team-specific:
They multiply and are fertile. We should film a version of that Nike ad with a bunch of soccer players thanking the US team for being inspiring. Ours would have folks in front of spreadsheets running regressions thanking Misopogon and the Mathlete. MCalibur's latest was FPed yesterday and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention El Jeffe's study of how important first down yardage is. It is very math-heavy, but here's a straightforward analysis of Michigan versus itself under Carr, WVU under RR, and OSU:
Note how small the margins are here despite the huge differences in the aggregate and observationally. This is the '09 team, remember, not the Threetsheridammit '08 offense, which would make your monitor bleed in strategic points like "-4 to –1" yards on first down.
The biggest difference? "Turnover on series," which is almost double for '09 than it was in the staid Carr era and considerably above either the OSU or WVU lines. The other figure that jumps out is the percentage of plays that lost yards: almost 15 for Michigan '09 and around 9 or 10 for everyone else. If Michigan can stop those two things they can have an excellent offense. That will depend largely on the performances of both tackles and both(?) quarterbacks.
Gah, that's not how it's supposed to work. After a brief period of salivating over the USC defensive backfield when the Trojans' sanctions were announced, things went quiet on the yo-ho-ho front. Then a couple of backups started lighting out for greener pastures, and one of them is going to show up in Michigan Stadium next year. He won't be playing for the right team, though:
Junior fullback D.J. Shoemate told ESPN Thursday night he is transferring to Connecticut.
He said he is making the move because he wants to play running back, and because USC has such depth at the position, he didn't think he would get the chance. USC has used him as a wide receiver and at fullback. He was expected to compete for the starting spot in 2010.
Connecticut returns leading rusher Jordan Todman and his 1188 yards but loses Andre Dixon and his 1093 yards. UConn runs a lot. Shoemate was a Rivals 100 guy as a recruit and could see a few carries against Michigan. Hopefully none of them will go for 85 yards.
- Free parking at Pioneer.
- Enter through Gate 2 on the south side of the stadium.
- WTKA will broadcast live from the event.
There is no word on whether the troughs have returned to the men's bathrooms, but I'm guessing no.
It is more meaningful to score. Hockey numbers guy Gabe Desjardins maintains "NHL equivalencies" lists for all the major feeder leagues that supply hockey's big time with players. These have long maintained that an NCAA point is worth considerably more than a CHL point when it comes to projecting that player's NHL scoring. This has something to do with the average age of both the player in question and his opponents, which are both on average older in the NCAA.
Oilers blog the Copper and Blue has drilled down with some additional age breakdowns that have very low sample sizes but are interesting nonetheless:
Once you get past 21, jumping directly to the NHL becomes rare and generally unsuccessful. Before that the players (all forwards in this study) maintain their scoring rate considerably better than juniors of an equivalent age. Again, low sample size due to the focus on jumps to the NHL. Would be interesting to see about AHL equivalencies since that's a far larger pool of players.
This won't happen. USC's proposed 2011 Kiffin Bowl with Tennessee in Atlanta isn't going to happen for obvious reasons—Tennessee is pretty full up on real games already and is in a position to lose most of those—so the organizers are casting about for someone else. Cue the sexy names and entire conferences:
Regardless of the opponent, Kiffin still wants to bring the Trojans to Atlanta, hopefully for the 2011 kickoff game.
“They’re interested in playing people other than Tennessee," Stokan said.
But who? Notre Dame, Michigan, Big East and Big 12 schools are under consideration.
Notre Dame's presence of a list of potential USC opponents instantly invalidates said list, but it says Michigan there so here's this blurb. Michigan does get the ND/PSU/OSU trio at home in 2011 and could conceivably head to Atlanta without killing the home schedule, but if they were going to schedule USC they'd probably just order up a home-and-home instead of playing thousands of miles away from either campus.
Rub those barrels. Remember last year when Lane Kiffin was running around doing very derp things and otherwise well-adjusted UT folk were sounding increasingly unhinged as they attempted to justify Coach Derp's derpity doo*? Tables have turned. Here's a Conquest Chronicles response to the release of Seantrel Henderson:
Coachspeak aside, this remains a small victory for USC. Even more so in the wake of the NCAA sanctions, USC remains a "big boy" program reserved for athletes with killer instincts and intense competitive spirits, who are driven and motivated to become the best players possible. The right players for this program are not, however, motivated by the possibility of playing in one or two bowl games, as Kiffin echoed the other day.
That statement must have been made with a shotgun in the author's lap. He caresses it gently, telling Wallace the Gun that, coachspeak aside, he remains a very good gun with shiny barrels. One day Wallace might make a very loud noise, and that, too, will be a small victory for USC.
Rocky Top Talk is staging an intervention:
We know from experience the dilemma a fan experiences when Lane Kiffin takes the reigns of your beloved program and that it can drive you to the edge of insanity, but hopefully you come to your senses before walking off the cliff.
*(Att'n Penn State bloggers: you could successfully lob the irony grenade at me here.)
Cancer updates. The latest on Vada Murray is up at their Caring Bridge site. They're on vacation in the UP:
We are making a trip to a local hospital up here every day for bloodwork. Vada's liver enzymes normalized last week and he was able to go back on the trial, but promptly taken off again two days later. Vada's oncologist is able to monitor him closely from afar and although it sucks to have to go to a hospital while we are on vacation, it's just what we have to do.
Vada is slightly better since my last post. The challenges we currently face are controlling his pain, his liver enzymes, & his cancer.
Phil Brabbs, meanwhile, has gotten a second bone marrow transplant and did an interview on WJR fresh out of the hospital. The interview is on WJR's site. Meanwhile, his blogging pace will be slowing down as he recovers from the various treatments he's undergone. Alarm not necessary.
Etc.: Tennessee probably just landed a major violation.
Jordan Walsh, out of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. He's the sixth best offensive guard, according to Rivals. Walsh has had interest in Michigan since his visit for Junior Day, and that interest is still growing. Here's his sophomore film (his junior film isn't on YouTube), then our conversation.
TOM: Let's start with where your interest in Michigan started from.
JORDAN: I was getting some mail from them, and then I got a junior day invite. I went up there, and they saw my film somewhere, and that's how they offered me. They offered me when I was up there. It was just amazing there, too. The trophy cases, the championships, the coaches were awesome, and Ann Arbor, the town was awesome. I really felt a lot of interest being there.
TOM: Was that where all of this stemmed from? Just from a visit?
JORDAN: Well, my mom always liked Michigan. She was a big Michigan football fan, and she told me when I was younger that I should go to Michigan. When we went there, I really liked it. She loved the junior day visit, too. When Coach Rodriguez offered me, she started crying. I guess my mom saying that all those years really got me interested initially. She's a fan of everybody now, though. She wants me to make my own decision, so she's a fan of everybody.
TOM: So is your Mom coming with you on any other visits then?
JORDAN: We might be coming back up to Michigan on the 13th (Tuesday). I really want to see the academic side and the support system they have. I want to check if I went there, if they would help me out. I have around a 3.7 GPA right now, so that's important to me. I'm not 100% sure if we're coming because I was talking with one of the (Michigan) coaches, and he gave us two dates. I'm not sure which date me and my mom are going to choose yet.
TOM: Do you have a top list right now, or are you looking to narrow it down?
JORDAN: I have a top eight. It's (in no order) Michigan, Iowa, MSU, Northwestern, LSU, USC, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. To summarize them all, I felt comfortable with all of them. I'm interested in all of them, and I like all the coaches.
TOM: Do you know when you're going to make your decision then?
JORDAN: I don't really have a timeline set. I really just want to see everything I'm looking for. If I see and hear the stuff that I need to, then after that I'll make my decision. I don't really know when that will be.
TOM: For the fans that don't know too much about you, tell us who you are as a football player.
JORDAN: Some coaches say that I finish my blocks, and I'm nasty on the field. To be honest, I just love the game of football. I'll do anything a coach ask me to do. I block, so I obviously can't ask for the ball, or anything. The offensive line is a cool position. You don't really get the glory, or praise, but you get to hit a lot of people.