Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
St. Paul (MN) Cretin-Derham Hall ATH James Onwualu recently picked up a Michigan offer as the Wolverines joined Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Stanford among schools to extend him a scholarship. I interviewed Onwualu back in January, before receiving his offer, and recently got the chance to talk to him again now that his recruitment is quickly picking up steam. Onwualu told me prior to the interview that he planned on graduating early, so we discusses his accelerated timeline, new offers, and more:
ACE: You just got your Michigan offer recently. Who have you been talking to from Michigan and what was your reaction to getting the offer?
JAMES: I've mainly been talking to Coach Mattison, but also talking to Coach Hoke. Obviously that's a big offer for me, a big-time school. They're really making a lot of different changes and really coming up as a program. It's a huge offer for me. I was excited.
ACE: What's your impression of Michigan as a school and a football program?
JAMES: I think they're one of the best in the nation, personally. I think that their academics are extremely high, their business school ranks high, which means a lot to me. Also their alumni base ... is huge. Then I think everybody pretty much knows what their football traditions are, what they look to in every season.
ACE: You pulled in a few other offers recently. What other schools are showing interest in you now and how do the schools stack up in terms of your interest?
JAMES: I haven't really made a list of where I'm going to go yet, I haven't come up with a top ten list or anything. I'm just kind of pulling everything in. But Notre Dame continues to show a lot of interest, Stanford, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, a lot of big schools have been showing a lot of interest. I'm just keeping it open right now.
ACE: Do you have any plans in terms of taking visits to schools now that you've got offers coming in?
JAMES: Yeah. I'll definitely go up to Michigan. I haven't gone out there before so it'd be good to go out there. I'll probably go back down to Florida and go down to Stanford, possibly.
ACE: Coming from Cretin-Derham, that's a school that's obviously produced a lot of football talent. Do you ever talk to some of the guys who have gone D-I from there and got an impression of what going through the recruiting process is like?
JAMES: Yeah. Actually, [former Heisman winner] Chris Weinke is one of the guys who's kinda guided me through this whole thing, along with [former Notre Dame receiver] Mike Floyd, and also [Baltimore Ravens Pro-Bowl center] Matt Birk. Oh yeah, and also [Denver Broncos offensive tackle] Ryan Harris. Having people like that around me, it really helps being able to manage the schools and balance out what the coaches are actually saying and what I actually want in my future.
ACE: I know you did the Army All-American combine, but do you have any more plans for doing training or camps over the summer?
JAMES: Probably not. I train seven days a week with the best trainer in the nation, Ted Johnson. I don't really find the need to go to any more camps. I think that I can really start focusing in on what I want to do in college. I'm looking to be committed here so I'm going to be spending a lot of time with the school that I'm going to.
ACE: The last time I talked to you, you said you were looking to commit in the spring, and you mentioned the possibility of graduating early. Is that timeline still holding true right now for you?
JAMES: Yeah, as of right now, I think so. It may be pushed back a little bit into the summer, but as of right now, I think I'm going to get it done with and start focusing on what I have to do, like I said.
ACE: In terms of focusing, in terms of improving on the football field, what do you think are your strongest qualities on the football field as a player right now, and what are you looking to improve as you work towards the next level?
JAMES: I think the main thing I'm good at is really making a play after the catch. That's probably just because of my base in playing running back, being versatile all over the field. I really think that I'm going to start working on—there's so many different styles of play around the nation—just learning different styles of DBs and just getting more experience.
ACE: What position did Michigan offer you for? I know you're listed as an athlete. Do you know what position you'd play if you decided on Michigan?
JAMES: Well, as of right now, they just have me offered as an athlete. We haven't really talked position-wise. Since I've been talking to Mattison a lot of people assume I'm going to be playing safety or corner, but as of right now I don't really know.
ACE: Do you have a preference in terms of where you fit best on the field? Do you prefer offense or defense?
JAMES: I don't know, it could change. Next year I'm going to be all over. We've got a really good running back, [2014 RB] Blake Banham, who's going to be playing next year, so I'm not going to playing as much running back. We've also got a safety, [2014 S] Tim Gordon, so we're going to have to see, I might be playing corner and receiver.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's one thing you want people to know about you that has nothing to do with football?
JAMES: That's a tough question. I'd say I like going and watching my friends play sports, like Cortez Tillman, I don't know if you've heard of him, but he plays basketball at my school, so I like going and watching him on the weekends.
Thanks to James for taking the time to do the interview. He made sure to tell me before we ended that I should be keeping an eye on his class of 2014 teammates—he sounds like a great guy to have alongside you on the team.
Warning, this post is meta-stat nerd.
What is Success Rate, and How Did It Come To Be?
The first question is pretty straightforward and the second I can only guess.
Success Rate is a measure is an attempt to measure how good a player or team is at the traditional concept of “staying ahead of the chains.” There are some slightly different calculations but for the most part a success is defined as at least 40-50% of yards to go on 1st down, at least 50-70% of yards to go on second down and first down achievement on third or fourth down. Typically the target is 50% success rate.
Although I doubt there is any recorded history on how this came to be (I believe its origin or at least its popularization comes from Football Outsiders) I have two theories. The first is that this is how football fans, players, and coaches have been conditioned to think, especially old school, grind-it-out football folks. You still hear it often among clichéd commentators: the offense’s number-one priority is to stay ahead of the chains, don’t put yourself in bad down and distance, stay away from obvious passing downs. All of these things are good things for a football to do.
The second reason I think it came to be is that advanced football stats came to be after advanced metrics for baseball had come a long ways. One of the key tenants of Moneyball/SABR revolution in baseball is that On Base Percentage >>> Batting Average. On top of that, one of the fundamental advanced baseball stats is OPS, On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percent, a combination of Success and Magnitude. One paralleled by Football Outsiders* in their S&P metric.
*I want to be clear that this is not a critique of Football Outsiders. They do tremendous work and are at the forefront of advanced football analysis.
Why Football is Not Baseball
Good OBP is critical for baseball because you are dealing with a finite, irreplaceable resource, outs. You get 27 of them per game. Once you generate an out there is no way to get it back; you are 1 step closer to the end of your chance to score, and you only have 27 total steps per game. OBP measures a team or individual’s ability to forego outs when they come to the plate. Not getting out will always improve your chances of winning while getting an out will almost always decrease your odds of winning (this is not an article about the sacrifice bunt).
Contrast that with football, where the only finite resource is time. Even if the quarterback gets sacked and loses 10 yards, one play later the effect of that loss can be wiped out. In a sense a set of downs is finite, but not an individual set of downs. If there were a team correlation, first downs converted would be more appropriate and I don’t really see a true individual equivalent.
The Goal Is To Score Points
Consistently being in good down and distances is not a bad thing, but it’s not nearly as important for today’s offenses. Modern offenses have a much greater ability to convert unfriendly down and distances than offenses of old. Plus, the offense’s goal is to score points, not get first downs. Getting first downs obviously helps score points, but a metric like EV/PAN that directly accounts for how each play contributes to scoring is a much stronger measure, not just a complimentary stat like Slugging Percent. In baseball the complimentary stat is needed because of the finite nature of outs. In football, everything is a sliding scale and categorizing plays as pass-fail is simply too black and white for a sport that has more gray.
A couple of examples of how success rate can be misleading (first down gain, second down gain, third down gain):
4,3,2: This is a 67% success rate but is a three and out.
3,3,4: This is a 33% success rate but a first down, plus the first two plays are nearly identical but the first two downs of the first group are both successes and the second group are both failures. Over a large group of data some of these will iron themselves out, but why put such a black and white metric over something that is not. 2nd and 7 is almost the same as 2nd and 6, but 2nd and 1 is very different from 2nd and 6. Success rate completely misses the magnitude of plays.
This is why for football, an Expected Value model is much more valuable. With an enough data, you can get a pretty good description of the expected points based on all down, distance and yardline combinations. Once you have this you can evaluate the shades of gray for each play. A three yard carry on first and ten is nearly as good as a four yard one. A nine yard carry is even better. Expected Value can quantify the subtle and substantial differences between plays. The value difference between first and ten and the twenty and first and ten at the thirty will be the same whether it was one ten yard play or three runs totaling ten yards, although the value per play will justifiably be better. Success rates can vary wildly based on how you get from point A to point B, EV only carries where you start and where you finish.
What is Success Rate Good For?
It is an interesting stat and isn’t totally without value, I just think that it is unnecessary and shouldn’t be a fundamental part of team evaluation. There are lots of stats that fit this characterization. For a lot of teams it’s how they mentally operate, especially in the running game. Success rate does a good job evaluating running backs in traditional ground games. It might not totally align with scoring points and winning games, but it does align well with accomplishing a team's offensive objectives. Running backs often get tightly bunched near the mean in an EV model but success rate can be a way to further separate individual backs. Success rate will hold up between the tackle pounders but knock down the home run threat. EV may consider them the same (or more likely the home run threat will be higher) but the consistency of the old school back will be valued better by success rates.
I don’t think success rate has much value for the passing game. Completion percentage and YPA are more than adequate to indicate both explosiveness and consistency.
Coming Next: The Wisconsin Case Study and Optimal Offense and Defense Response
The underlying context of “ignore success rates” is that the traditional running game is overrated. If your main goal as an offense is to avoid bad third downs, and you are good at it, you will likely end up with a lot of third and short or third and manageable. Even if you they are all “good” third downs, each third down is a chance for the defense to take the field. We all remember the classic drives with multiple third down conversions, but we forget all the ones that could jump the odds and failed after giving the defense one too many chances to get off of the field. Explosive plays are essential to a productive modern offense and unless you are running a Chip Kelly or RichRod style ground attack, explosive plays are much more likely through the air than on the ground.
Next week I will follow up with a detailed look on the relative values of Russell Wilson and Montee Ball to Wisconsin’s 2011 offense. Ball had the TDs and the hype and Wilson was considered a quality second option. I’ll dig deep into the numbers and show why Wilson was the real threat of the Wisconsin offense.
Following that, I’ll have the final article in this series looking at how offenses (and maybe moreso defenses) can effectively maximize their expected points for and against through a better perspective on managing offensive output versus managing each down’s success or failure.
|WHAT||Illinois at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||M –5 (Kenpom)|
Illinois is the only Big Ten opponent Michigan hasn't faced yet this year. They're a weird team, blessed with two A-level stars but capable of scoring droughts spanning a quarter of the game.
The main main is junior guard Brandon Paul. He may technically be the two-guard but in practice he is the man with the ball in his hands most of the time. Paul's usage is prodiguous but he's not great at anything in particular. His assist rate is high; so is his TO rate. His shooting efficiency is mediocre both from three (34%) and two (43%). He gets to the line a lot, I guess, and he is a big component of Illinois's defensive rebounding. He's a better version of Manny Harris.
The second A-level star is sophomore center Meyers Leonard, who is shooting 61% from two, rebounding furiously, and blocking many, many shots. He does a good job of staying on the floor and has above-average (but not amazingly so) usage. He's quality, and the prospect of Leonard matching up against Michigan players a half-foot shorter and no more athletic is daunting.
Illinois's third banana is guard DJ Richardson. Richardson is perimeter-oriented guard hitting 39% from three and 44% from two; he does not get to the line or turn the ball over much.
After those three there's a rotation with no player seeing more than 55% of available minutes. They are:
- Backup C Nnanna Egwu. Yeah. "Nnanna." Low usage turnover machine who doesn't even rebound well. If Leonard gets into foul trouble Illinois is toast—they were close against the Hoosiers until Leonard picked up two quick fouls, one for having his jaw in the way of Cody Zeller's elbow, the other a weak moving screen call. Leonard went to the bench and Illinois folded immediately.
- Senior starting G Sam Maniscalco. Grad-year transfer from Bradley. Decent usage but not a threat from deep (27%). Efficient from inside two and at the line.
- Sophomore wing Joseph Bertrand. Wing slasher; has no range (just 5 three attempts on the year) but hitting 58% on twos. Doesn't get to the line.
- Nominal starting G Tracy Abrams. Low usage turnover machine. Awful offensive player. Plays half of available minutes and does nothing at all well statistically. Must be a good defender or something.
- Junior PF Tyler Griffey. Good offensive rebounder, will shot threes, big TO rate.
Basically any shot not from the top three guys or Bertrand is a good shot for Michigan. If Leonard gets into foul trouble Michigan may be able to run away and hide—his backup is that bad.
As a team, Illinois does not shoot well from three. The only guy you should wince at leaving open on the perimeter is Richardson. Paul is meh; threes from everyone else are good for Michigan no matter how open they are.
Brandon Paul temporarily evolved into a higher life form on January 10th en route to like a billion points in Illinois's dramatic upset of Ohio State. At that point the Illini were 15-3 and cruising. They've lost five of six since. Because basketball makes no sense the lone win was a one-point decision over Michigan State in a totally horrendous game.
For all the harrumphing about Michigan's road struggles, Illinois's only road win against a top-100 Kenpom opponent was by one point at Northwestern.
Illinois's only nonconference win of note was a home game against Gonzaga. They also beat Maryland. They lost badly to UNLV and narrowly to Missouri.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||51.1 5||49.7 5||49|
|Turnover %:||22.2 11||19.4 4||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||28.3 8||31.0 6||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||33.9 8||39.1 9||36.5|
Illinois is just not an efficient team except when they get off twos.
Illinois is ninth in both shooting and defending the three, second at shooting twos, and block a lot of shots. They don't give up a lot of threes, something that may be more important than the actual percentage opponents shoot.
Survive Meyers Leonard. It would be immensely helpful if Leonard got in foul trouble; Illinois has no backup, basically. If that doesn't happen I'm guessing we see some of the 2-3 and 1-2-2 zones Michigan has deployed through the year. We might even see the endangered 1-3-1; Illinois is not a smooth offensive team and could dribble themselves into a bunch of trouble.
Another Leonard mitigation possibility: more McLimans. His size could prevent Leonard from getting as many touches as he would otherwise, and five fouls are five fouls.
Hope Stu can handle Paul. Brandon Paul could explode and not leave Michigan much chance to do anything about it. That has not been the case for much of the Big Ten season, however. Paul can get a shot any time he wants but they don't go down regularly enough for him to be efficient unless he's getting to the basket with regularity. Keep him shooting jumpers… and hope he doesn't go unconscious a la Ohio State.
Generic Hardaway concern. Get him going to the basket off screens and see what happens. Please for the love of god make some threes. Etc.
Crash the boards a bit more than usual. A shotblocker like Leonard will often leave his feet, allowing a weakside rebounder an opportunity to clean up shots that get past outstretched arms. Michigan has all but abdicated offensive rebounding; maybe they should try to get some cheap buckets that way.
Win the bench. Illinois has some dudes that aren't very good; Michigan is basically six or seven deep right now, and the guys off the bench aren't contributing much. If M can get some quality minutes from Vogrich and Smotrycz when members of the Illini Big Three are on the bench it'll help.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by five.
Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes made his first-ever trip to Ann Arbor yesterday for an unofficial visit to his childhood favorite, Michigan. Dukes told me earlier this week that he was "ecstatic" upon receiving his Wolverine offer and "[has] my mind set on where I want to go," but he's heeding the advice of his coaches and parents and making sure to check out not only Michigan, but other schools as well before me makes a commitment. I spoke with Jaron last night when he returned from his visit, and needless to say he enjoyed the trip:
ACE: How'd you enjoy the visit?
JARON: Oh, I loved it. It was the best.
ACE: Do you want to expand on that? Take me through what you saw in Ann Arbor.
JARON: I'll tell you what I saw. I saw a love for Michigan. Everybody I talked to loves the university, loves everything about it. They were a family, you could tell there was a bond everywhere you went, you could just feel it. It was just a great place to be. They took me through the facilities, they showed me the field, academic center, athletic center, I talked to the dean, everything—it was just great.
ACE: Who hosted you on the visit and what coaches were you talking to?
JARON: It was myself, Coach Heck, Coach Montgomery, and another coach, I think he was the linebackers coach.
ACE: What was your impression of the coaching staff?
JARON: (laughs) We were just over there having a good time, laughing and talking, making sure Michigan will be a place that I will be happy at. It was just having a great time getting to know the school and everything, not putting pressure on me, just letting me enjoy seeing the campus and everything for right now.
ACE: What would you say was the high point of the visit? Can you pick out a particular thing that stood out to you?
JARON: Easily. Easily I can say the highest point was me starting from the very top of the tunnel, running down the tunnel, jumping, and just walking out onto the field. I went from the 'M' in the center of the field, to end zone, to end zone, and back to the center, and a tear came down my face.
ACE: Is Michigan a place you could see yourself playing?
JARON: Oh, yes sir.
ACE: I know you didn't want to make a snap decision, a commitment on the visit, but what is it going to take it terms of knowing when you'd like to make a decision? Also, what's it going to take for another school to be able to match what Michigan offers?
JARON: I don't think, well, I don't know. I guess they have to show, they'd have to impress my parents. If my parents are happy, then I'm going to be happy, but as long as I feel I'm safe there, then it'll be OK.
ACE: What did your parents think of the trip?
JARON: My parents really liked it, they loved it. They just want me—and they should—they want me to go around and make sure that I've got everything else out of the way that I want to see. They want me to go around and see what other colleges have to offer. Show me that there's more than just one school out there.
ACE: Do you know what other schools you want to see at this point?
JARON: Yes. I would like to take a trip to Cincinnati, Michigan State, I'd like to go up to West Virginia, maybe Illinois.
ACE: Do you know when you'd want to take those visits and when you'd want to be done with your recruitment, or is that still to be decided?
JARON: That still has to be decided with my parents, and me and my coaches would have to go over it.
So this is both late and half-assed. Apologies. Probably worth it, though: the Brian things done today included a minimal amount of driving around listening to the Smiths but were mostly attending the Novi Glazier clinic to hear Greg Mattison talk about the Michigan defense and Darrell Funk talk over my head about inside zone minutiae. Then I got home and crashed to sleep because getting up at 7 AM is not part of the regular routine.
MSU IS HOCKEYBEAR TIME
|WHAT||Michigan at Michigan State|
|WHERE||Fri: Munn Ice Arena
Sat: Joe Louis Arena
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday/Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 15-11-4, 10-9-3 CCHA. State is one of the cast of a thousand CCHA teams hovering around the middle of the CCHA pack and solidly on the NCAA tournament bubble. They are tied for 13th with Northern Michigan (who Michigan will face next weekend) and will either play themselves in or out over the last few weeks of the season. Get ready for another super-motivated team. Oh, and they're also Michigan State.
Thanks to Michigan's demolition job on Miami last weekend and MSU's sweep of imploding OSU, it's now the Spartans who have the second-best goal differential in the league at +8. Michigan is +19 and has an easier closing schedule than the Spartans, who must travel to ND to finish the regular season.
Previous meetings. Michigan pulled out of its November tailspin with a four-point weekend against MSU in early December. The games were close: Michigan won 4-3 on Friday and a 3-3 tie followed. State won the shootout, something that seemed pointless then but may end up costing Michigan the CCHA title.
In the Friday night game shots favored MSU 34-27 largely thanks to a 14-3 blitz in the third period as MSU narrowed a 4-1 game to one goal. MSU was 2/3 on the PP. Shots were almost even in the Saturday game; MSU again scored on the PP. In general penalties were few and far between, with just eight on the weekend.
Michigan continued its renaissance at the GLI when Luke Moffatt tossed a puck in front of the net on a 6x4 power play with 50 seconds left. Kevin Lynch deflected it in and nine minutes into overtime Lee Moffie and Kevin Clare combined for a beauty OT winner.
Dangermen. Considering the position he plays, defenseman Torey Krug is far and away MSU's best offensive player and has a case for the best one in the league. His 8-16-24 is not quite a PPG and he is the primary weapon on MSU's power play with five goals.
Forwards Lee Reimer, Brett Perlini, and Greg Wolfe are also in the 27-23 point range.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. State is platooning senior Drew Palmisano and sophomore Will Yanakeff. Yanakeff has the better save percentage (.927 vs .914) and GAA (2.37 vs 2.77). The gap is not so large that it would be a Blasi-level error to continue splitting starts.
The aforementioned Krug is MSU's top defenseman; the rest of the guys are stay at home types with little profile. No MSU defenseman has been drafted. (Side note: only three(!) MSU players have been drafted, period, and two of them are former first rounder Daultan Leveille and Trevor Nill, who have 14 points between them. Thank you Comley clap clap clap.)
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.8||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||4.0||4.1|
Two mediocre power plays face off; State's penalty kill is significantly better than Michigan's and one of the top ones in the country. Given the shocking lack of penalties so far when these teams go head to head it might not matter much… unless State goes 3/5 on the PP over the weekend.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
I'm going to skip this section since it is of debatable utility and the game is in like an hour.
This is where I note that Chris Brown is out on Friday thanks to the fight-type substance at the end of Saturday's Miami game, which will draw Luke Moffatt up to the first line and (presumably) Andrew Sinelli onto the fourth line. Which Lynch pops up on the third line is an open question. Obviously, breaking up the rampant first line is suboptimal.
Also, CenterIce's preview includes some revealing +/- numbers: MSU has very little depth. On D Krug and Shelgren are +17 and +11, respectively; everyone else is treading water at best. Reimer and Wolfe are the only MSU forwards with double digit +/- in the right direction. Michigan will have a big advantage when one of their top two pairings is on the ice opposite someone other than Krug and Shelgren.
The Big Picture
With the Miami sweep Michigan hops up to an extremely precarious second in the RPI and Pairwise; they can solidify that spot (or at least a one seed) by doing better than split. MSU's got a nice enough RPI that a split will actually improve Michigan's, albeit barely. Going 1-1 against a TUC is a negative… in all it's a push. Michigan would likely slide behind someone behind them who sweeps. At the top of the mountain you can't tread water.
Anything better than a split and Michigan is cooking. Getting swept would be bad but far from fatal on the quest for a one-seed.
As far as the conference goes, Michigan would really like to gain points on Ferris this weekend; the Bulldogs take on Notre Dame before finishing with BGSU and WMU. If Ferris pushes their edge out any further than the one game it's already at it will be hard for Michigan to pass them on the final weekend.
- Tennessee Tech, 34-7 (W)
- @ Iowa State, 41-44 OT (L)
- Pittsburgh, 31-27 (W)
- Louisiana-Monroe, 45-17 (W)
- @ Penn State, 3-13 (L)
- Northwestern, 41-31 (W)
- Indiana, 45-24 (W)
- @ Minnesota, 21-22 (L)
- No. 15 Michigan, 24-16 (W)
- No. 17 Michigan State, 21-37 (L)
- @ Purdue, 31-21 (W)
- @ No. 21 Nebraska, 7-20 (L)
- No. 14 Oklahoma, 14-31 (L) Insight Bowl
Record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 B1G, 4th place Bo Division
|Rush:||137.7 ypg, 79th||156.0 ypg, 62nd|
|Pass:||234.8 ypg, 59th||222.9 ypg, 58th|
|Total:||372.5 ypg, 76th||378.9 ypg, 60th|
|Scoring:||27.5 ppg, 58th||23.8 ppg, 47th|
|T/O Margin:||+1, 52nd|
Recap: If one word could describe Iowa’s 2011 campaign, that word would be “flat.” So flat that if you were to survey the terrain while driving through the state you’d be all like, “Huh, this reminds me strongly of their season,” and you’d also see the one landfill-turned-ski slope off the freeway, and it would be named “Michigan.”
Sorry. I’m a metaphors kind of guy.
This is a metaphor.
(more metaphors after the jump)
Despite finishing just 3-11 from the field for six points in Michigan's win against Nebraska on Wednesday, Tim Hardaway Jr. showed signs that he could snap out of the scoring funk that has plagued him for much of the Big Ten season. With Hardaway, it all comes down to shot selection; against the Huskers, he was 0-6 from three and 3-5 from inside the arc. In the second half, especially, John Beilein called plays designed to get Hardaway moving towards the basket.
The first play I'm going to look at needs a bit of an introduction, and luckily Dylan has already taken the time to picture page the play that sets it all up. Check out the second play (the one from the Nebraska game) in UMHoops's Inside the Play feature from today. The video is below, and you'll see that Jordan Morgan sets a high-side on-ball screen for Hardaway, rolls hard to the basket, and is wide open for a layup:
Here's the very next Michigan possession. The Wolverines set up with four plays in a box up top while Hardaway is isolated in the far corner of the court. As you'll see, this setup will allow Michigan to spread the floor and have ample room to set up that same screen action on the left side of the court:
In the next frame, Burke has passed to Novak and gone to the near corner, and Novak has swung the ball to Morgan at the top of the key. Everybody but Hardaway is concentrated on the near side of the court:
Hardaway flashes up to the elbow and gets the pass from Morgan, who comes over to set a screen. Morgan's defender (#13) is prepared to hedge, and Hardaway's (#3) begins to lean in to Morgan, anticipating having to fight through the pick:
Hardaway recognizes that his defender is cheating, so instead of coming over the screen he quickly takes it left and blows by his man. Note that Douglass and Burke are way out on the perimeter while Novak is clearing out to the far corner; with Morgan's defender caught up top, there's nobody in the middle to stop the drive:
Hardaway gets into the paint with ease and rises above Novak's man, who has come over to help, finishing with a pretty finger-roll as someone's flash goes off:
This is a great way for Michigan to create offense for Hardaway when he has the ball in his hands, and it has the added bonus of making Jordan Morgan a viable offensive threat—he's at his best when he's rolling to the basket, and this setup forces the defense to pick their poison. Granted, the Huskers could be a lot more sound with their pick-and-roll D, but forcing a team to be aware of the roll while guarding the drive off either taking or refusing the pick will usually expose some flaws.
Michigan found other ways to get Hardaway involved in the offense, as well. On this next play, he sets an off-ball screen for Burke before getting the ball in that same spot on the wing. Instead of having the center—in this case, Smotrycz—come up for a pick, the Wolverines spread the floor, giving Hardaway all the space he needs to get to the hoop for another layup:
Hardaway's third field goal, in contrast to his first two, comes from his movement off the ball. When THJ sees Novak draw attention from the defense as he dribbles towards the top of the key, Hardaway makes a sharp backdoor cut behind his befuddled defender. Novak makes a gorgeous one-handed pass on the move, hitting Hardaway in stride for another layup:
While there will certainly be adjustments by future opponents, you can see that Beilein is working to get Hardaway the ball in a position where he can get to the basket, taking advantage of his athleticism while mitigating his shooting struggles. At some point Hardaway is going to have to find that shooting stroke, but in the meantime it helps that the team is focused on getting him great looks at the basket.
Brian is off doing super-important Brian things for the day (read: aimlessly driving around Ann Arbor while listening to The Smiths, probably), so you're stuck with me for an entire Friday. I know, I'm sorry too. Anyways, today's recruiting roundup looks at the new Rivals250—replete with many magnificent monikers—new offers, lists, and visits for the 2013 class, and a study on recruiting exenditures in the NCAA.
NOTY, NOTY, NOTY, Can't You See? Sometimes Your Names Just Hypnotize Me
Rivals is the latest recruiting service to release rankings for the class of 2013, putting out the Rivals100 on Wednesday before unveiling the full Rivals250 yesterday. There are only 11 five-stars on the list, but Shane Morris is in position to earn that status in the near future as he comes in at #16 overall (#3 QB). Fellow commit Dymonte Thomas is ranked at #77, and Josh Helmholdt discussed his status in the "toughest decisions" article:
Alliance (Ohio) Marlington safety Dymonte Thomas is one of the fastest players in the Midwest for 2013, and overall an outstanding athlete. As a junior, though, he mostly played close to the line of scrimmage and we did not get a chance to see much of him in coverage. So, we did not get too bullish on his ranking until we were able to more thoroughly assess his coverage skills.
If Thomas can show off his coverage ability in camps this summer, expect him to make a move up the board. Meanwhile, your suspicions that Michigan has offered a ton of blue-chip prospects early is correct. TTB has the full rundown on Wolverine offerees in the Rivals100 and the Rivals250—Michigan has offered 35 prospects in the top 100 alone and an additional 19 in the 101-250 range. Two of those are Morris and Thomas, and five players are committed to other schools, but needless to say the Wolverines are targeting the best of the best in what should be a smaller class than 2012.
As impressive as Michigan offer list is, perhaps more incredible is the sheer amount of Name of the Year candidates from the Rivals250. A sampling, for your reading pleasure:
- Alabama RB commit Altee Tenpenny
- Vianna (GA) DT Montravius Adams
- Muscle Shoals (AL) DE Dee Liner
- Fort Worth (TX) DT A'Shawn Robinson
- Fultondale (AL) ATH ArDarius Stewart
- Virginia Beach RB Taquan Mizzell
- My personal favorite: Moreno Valley (CA) WR Demorea Stringfellow
- Cedar Hill (TX) ATH Laquvionte Gonzalez
- Pickerington (OH) DE Taco Charlton (real name: Vidauntae)
- Dallas (TX) WR Ra'Shaad Samples
- New Orleans TE Standish Dobard
- Shreveport (LA) ATH Tre'Davious White
- Pomfret (MD) OL Na'Ty Rodgers
- Milpitas (CA) DE Vita Vea
- Mesquite (TX) WR Eldridge Massington
That's leaving out some pretty strong names, too. I highly recommend perusing the entire list, not only to educate yourself on this year's top prospects, but for some serious entertainment value. Throw in South Carolina CB De'Andre "Chocolate" WIlson, who missed the cut, and I nominate this for the best class of names in recent memory.
Speaking of Names... Jake Butt
Sam Webb's latest DetNews piece covers Pickerington (OH) North TE/DE Jake Butt (#96 overall in the Rivals250), who says Michigan is his leader "by far" early in the process. Butt doesn't have a concrete timeline yet and childhood favorite Ohio State could become a major factor in his recruitment should they choose to offer, so this one is far from over. That said, the Wolverines are in great position early, and while they're recruiting Butt as a tight end (stifle those giggles, children), he's also a strong prospect on the other side of the ball:
"Jake is an athletic kid with a great frame," [Scout.com's Allen] Trieu said. "He still has to add more weight and strength to his game, but he runs well for a kid of that size and is a very coordinated athlete. On offense he catches the ball well, his height makes him a matchup problem, and his athleticism allows him to create separation. At the same time, Jake is one of those rare kids who I think projects very well to both sides of the ball. I think he's a BCS prospect on both sides of the ball. For most schools it sounds like he's a defensive end right now, but a handful see him as a tight end too."
"Jake is right there as a potential top-10 prospect in Ohio. It's a fairly deep year down there, as usual, it's just not as top heavy (as it was in the 2012 class). We haven't really finalized anything yet, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him end up in the top eight to 12 prospects in the state."
Another top Midwest prospect holding a Michigan offer is Wheaton (IL) St. Francis OL Kyle Bosch, Rivals.com's #60 overall prospect, who has taken multiple trips to Ann Arbor and has an interesting way of going about his visits ($, info in header):
Normally when a recruit visiting Ann Arbor says he wants to talk to someone, the names that come up tend to be Denard Robinson, Taylor Lewan, Ryan Van Bergen -- the "famous" players on the Michigan football team.
But those aren't the guys 2013 offensive line recruit Kyle Bosch (Wheaton, Ill./St. Francis) is interested in talking to.
"I want to see where they stand going through their freshmen years, whether it lived up to the expectations that they had," Bosch said. "I'm more curious to get to know what the first year at Michigan is like compared to three or four years into it."
I've never heard that before, but it's a strategy that makes sense, especially for a highly-touted recruit who will have to make the transition from Big Man on Campus to lowly freshman when college begins. The whole profile by Chantel Jennings is well worth a read if you have Insider—it sounds like Bosch has a good head on his shoulders and is going about his recruitment the right way. He plans to visit Ann Arbor again on February 18th ($).
Here's your latest list of 2013 offers as Michigan continues to send them out in bulk:
- Indianapolis North Central DL Darius Latham, who Trieu profiled for free on Scout. He also picked up a Tennessee offer, joining Northwestern, Indiana, Ole Miss, Purdue, and Minnesota early.
- Richmond (VA) Varina S Tim Harris added offers from both Michigan and Ohio State on Tuesday ($, info in header).
- Another Richmond prospect, Hermitage High School RB Derrick Green, earned offers from the Wolverines and USC ($, info in header). They join a laundry-list of national powers pursuing Rivals.com's #64 overall player.
- Owensboro (KY) OT Hunter Bivin recently added offers from Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, Notre Dame, Miami, and several other Big Ten and SEC schools ($, info in header). He visited Michigan unofficially twice in the fall—including for the Ohio State game—and has high interest in the Wolverines early.
- Grand Rapids Christian two-sport star Drake Harris boasts an offer to play both football and basketball from Michigan, MSU, Indiana, and Notre Dame ($, info in header). The 6'4" wide receiver/shooting guard is coached by former Wolverine wideout Tai Streets in AAU basketball.
- Somerville (NJ) Immaculata DE Tashawn Bower—#250 in the Rivals250—picked up his Wolverine offer on Tuesday ($, info in header). His dad is a Michigan fan and he plans on taking a spring trip to Ann Arbor.
- Wisconsin tight end commit Scott Orndorff got offered by Michigan, Boston College, and Virginia; he plans on looking around after some recent changes to the Badger coaching staff ($, info in header).
Several players started narrowing down their lists this week. Blue chip linebacker E.J. Levenberry now has Michigan in his top three along with Florida and Florida State, though his father says that list is subject to change ($, info in header). Bloomfield (NJ) OT Marcell Lazard named a top four of UConn, Miami, Michigan, and West Virginia, and he plans to visit Michigan later this month ($). Michigan is one of 11 schools being considered by Louisville (KY) Trinity DE Jason Hatcher ($, info in header). As for players Michigan did not make the cut for, five-star tackle Laremy Tunsil now has a top three of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama ($, info in header), while top-ranked linebacker Jaylon Smith's top three includes Notre Dame, Ohio State, and... Purdue ($, info in header). Did not see that one coming.
Many players are setting up visits, as well. Michigan will host four juniors this weekend: offensive linemen Logan Tuley-Tillman and Chris Fox and receivers Jaron Dukes and Laquon Treadwell. Of the four, Dukes and Fox are the most likely to make early decisions—both have mentioned Michigan among their leaders, and Dukes has the Wolverines as his clear favorite—while both LTT and Treadwell will likely take a while before deciding after their offer lists expanded greatly in recent weeks.
Kyle Bosch won't be the only Illinois lineman on campus on the 18th—he'll be joined by Lemont's Ethan Pocic ($). Another Illinois lineman, Colin McGovern, plans to take a trip to Michigan on March 10th ($). Top-ranked tight end Adam Breneman, meanwhile, had to alter his visit plans, pushing back planned trips to Penn State (later this month) and Ohio State (sometime in the spring). I asked him on Twitter if he was still planning a trip to Ann Arbor, and he wasn't sure yet. The general consensus—and I agree with it—is that it will be very tough to beat out childhood favorite Penn State for him.
In very quick 2014 news, Michigan will host St. Louis OT Andy Bauer this weekend, and they've also shown interest in Mequon (WI) Homestead DT Brandon Hines ($, info in header).
Spendin' That Paper
The Business of College Sports blog released a list of the top 50 spenders in recruiting among all sports, and the list is dominated by the SEC, whose schools take up six of the top eight spots (Tennessee leads the way at nearly $2.3 million last year). Coming in at #9, and tops among Big Ten schools, is your very own Wolverines, spending just under $1.5 million. The order of the rest of the B1G schools is rather surprsing: Illinois (#14), Nebraska (#19), Ohio State (#23), Minnesota (#24), Penn State (#26), Purdue (#41), Michigan State (#42), Iowa (#43), and Indiana (#46) round out the schools in the top 50. It's best to keep in mind that this includes all sports for both men and women; it would be interesting to see how this compares to spending on football alone. [H/T: Lost Lettermen]
Tremendous interviewed preferred walk-on OL Dan Gibbs, who will join the 2012 class on campus this fall, and the young man is not only an Eagle Scout, but well-versed in the current Wolverine lingo [emphasis mine]:
Tremendous: What did it feel like when you finally decided to go with Michigan?
Dan: I'm about as excited as can be! It feels absolutely amazing to finally realize my life-long dream of playing Michigan Football.
Tremendous: Was it an easy decision given the scholarship situation?
Dan: It wasn't the easiest decision, per se. I was seriously considering Penn, especially after my visit there, and other Ivy League options. But this is Michigan fergodsakes! In the end, Michigan won out by a mile because I realized that it was where I always wanted to be.
Southfield (MI) High School WR Brandon Bean has yet to pull in any Division I offers, but he's been in contact with both in-state powers and several other schools as his recruitment begins to gain steam. The 6'2", 200-pound junior is a Michigan legacy; his father, Vince, played receiver under Bo Schembecher, amassing over 1,500 yards from 1981-84, and Brandon wears the same #25 for Southfield that Vince sported as a Wolverine. The younger Bean has already visited Michigan unofficially for the Nebraska and Ohio State games, and he also took in Michigan State's last-second win over Wisconsin. I had the opportunity to talk to Brandon earlier this week, and he brought me up to date on his recruitment:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which teams are going after you the hardest right now?
BRANDON: The recruiting is going pretty well right now. I'm getting a lot of mail from a lot of different schools in a lot of different conferences. Mostly, I've been a lot from Big Ten schools like Michigan and Michigan State—I've been to some of their games, and a couple of Michigan games. I get a lot of mail every day from a lot of people and I keep in touch with a lot of coaches through Facebook, some coaches come to the school. I meet a lot of people and I also keep in touch with some coaches, too.
ACE: Specifically regarding Michigan, who are you in touch with from the school and what's your general impression of Michigan as a school and a program?
BRANDON: I've always loved Michigan, even as a little kid. I've always been familiar with their program and I've been familiar with their facilities as well. I've been talking to a lot of their coaches as well, I've been talking to their receivers coach [Jeff Hecklinski], and I met a lot of coaches this year at games when they invited me down. I got the chance to talk to the offensive coordinator, Al Borges, he came to the school to talk with me, and the receiver coach and the recruiting coach ... I mostly remember talking to Coach Borges when he came to the school.
ACE: What did Coach Borges have to tell you about recruiting you and your possible role as a part of the offense?
BRANDON: He was telling me a lot of good things. He told me he liked my size, he liked my aggressiveness as a receiver going to get the ball, and he started telling me about the future of the program and he thinks I fit in well. That made me feel really special and really good, and it definitely pushed me as being recruited by the school because I got a chance to talk to him, he made me feel like I could be a part of the program. He likes to talk about some of the other recruits and how I fit in well.
ACE: Coming from Southfield, did you grow up as a particular fan of Michigan or Michigan State?
BRANDON: You know, I've always been a fan of Michigan, but I've also been a fan of Michigan State too. My dad played under Bo Schembechler, so I've always grown up watching Michigan play and I've always been dreaming of continuing the legacy of being a Wolverine. I've always had a passion for the Maize and Blue.
ACE: I was going to ask, with your dad playing for Coach Schembechler, does that affect your recruitment at all in terms of where you'd consider going?
BRANDON: As of right now, I'm interested in a lot of schools, a lot of them are saying good things to me, but that definitely helps. I've always said since I was a little kid that I wanted to play in the Big House and everything, so my dad playing there definitely helps me, but I haven't made up my mind about anything.
ACE: Going back to your junior season, how'd everything go for you during the season and what kind of numbers did you put up?
BRANDON: I don't really remember the numbers any more off the top of my head. I have a highlight tape I can send you [see above]—I was all-league, All-OAA. The season went pretty well for me. We had two other D-I recruits that went to different schools, so I had to share the ball with them but overall it was a pretty good season for me. I was happy and I'm definitely excited for my senior year to do bigger and better things.
ACE: Coming from a school where you guys have had some Division I prospects recently, have you been keeping in contact with prospects—I know Ron Thompson was coming out of Southfield—do you talk to those guys at all about what it's like to go through the whole recruiting process?
BRANDON: All the time. Ron [Thompson], Leviticus [Payne], Brandon Watkins, I talk to them a lot. They always give me pointers about what to listen and what to watch for, stuff like that, especially in 7-on-7, can really help me out. Ron, being recruited by Syracuse, being in touch with Coach [Tyrone] Wheatley, I keep in touch with him a lot. I met him through Ron and Coach Wheatley talks to me a lot, we email and I sent him my highlight tape, so he asks for stuff like that. I talk to Coach [Steve] Stripling from Cincinnati. I've actually talked to some great coaches at schools where [my teammates] have already committed to, and also they put me on the map through 7-on-7 and getting in touch with other people that can help me in my recruiting process, too. They always give me pointers and tips and I always listen to them.
ACE: Looking ahead to the summer, do you have any idea in terms of junior days or camps or schools visits that you'd like to go on?
BRANDON: I'm planning on participating in a 7-on-7 team for Maximum Exposure, we're doing a lot traveling—we go to Dallas, we go to Canada, we do a lot of traveling there. We also do some camps locally like Sound Mind Sound Body that I've been participating in, and I'll be doing some other visits to schools when I can get down to junior days, stuff like that, so I can showcase my skills, so I'll definitely be participating in a lot of camps.
ACE: When it comes down to wrapping up your recruitment and making a decision, what are going to be the main factors that you're looking for when you're trying to pick a school?
BRANDON: Before I make a decision I'll just have to take into consideration my future, my major, and that's very important to me. Going to school to play football is definitely a main factor for me, but school is important to me and I always put school first. The other thing is family, I always have to take into consideration what my family thinks and where I'll be happy.
ACE: Any specific timeline for when you'd want to get your recruitment wrapped up, or is that still to be seen?
BRANDON: I don't know. Right now I'm playing basketball. Basketball is going really well for me so I've been doing a lot of stuff, so I don't know when I'll be able to wrap that up, but right now I'm very busy with school and basketball. Then I'm doing track to improve my skills some more, then I'm doing 7-on-7, so I'll definitely be coming across more people, especially through 7-on-7, so I'm not really sure when I'm going to wrap that up.
ACE: To go away from football for a second, what's one thing that you want people to know about you that happens away from the field?
BRANDON: I've always had a great work ethic. I'm a hard worker on and off the field. You can see it through my grades that I'm a hard worker. I'm a Christian. I represent my family, my school, my community, I'm a person who cares about what other people have to think, too. I'm a hard worker and I want people to remember me by that, not just what I did but what I can do.
…or "install a 3-4 defense," or "hedge on screens," or "replace Martin & Van Bergen," or "excuse bad threads with 'OT:'," or "take a bus to North Campus," or "find parking on 4th street." But starting a Facebook meme page for your school? Oh man, there is evil there that does not sleep. Not with a 100 memes could you do this. More best of the board:
NO TIMEOUTS IN CRISLER (WE'RE JUST GONNA COME OUT IN ZONE ANYWAY)
Also peasy is identifying the Maize Rage shirts from Amaker's first season because they said "No timeouts in Crisler!" on the backs. The fronts said "Pass around the perimeter, have Bernard or LaVell take a bad shot, give up a layup, repeat until Avery Queen turns it over!" Then we'd all turn around in shame and Amaker would see "No timeouts in Crisler!" and oblige as his former team scored 104 points on his current one. If you still have your Maize Rage t-shirts from any era, Wolverine Devotee could use your help for his project. Tell the story of that season when you post and this thread will get either good, or really bad but easy to root for.
RIVALS 100/250 ARE OUT
Tremendous, who goes by aquaman2342 on MGo, posted the relevant folk to Michigan, and Hill.FootballRecruits did la même chose for the Rivals 250. Shane Morris is No. 16 overall, the third QB, and well within the range that eventually becomes 5-stars for Rivals, so of course the board is putting out conspiracy theories for why he's so low. Dymonte is 77th. Bluestreak points out that the in-state crop isn't as deep as it was this year, but 2012 was just a really deep year.
DON'T YOU ALL HAVE HOMES?
The Red Wings and Maple Leafs are coming to Michigan Stadium to break the Big Chill's hockey attendance record, the GLI is moving to Comerica Park, and if you're wondering why it seemed the negotiations were so edgy just imagine both Dave Brandon and Mike Ilitch in a room when it comes time to order lunch. Actually they negotiated this from different rooms. Pizza is srs business. I love outdoor hockey, and love anything that brings back the Wings-Leafs rivalry, and I love love love the Red Wings. But srsly January 1st? I don't care about the record; that "backup date of Jan. 2" clause had better have something in there about roses is all I'm saying (it doesn't, but it oughtta).
JOIN THE BOOK CLUB
Only you. User aiglick wants to start an MGoBookClub this offseason, starting with Bo's Lasting Lessons. I'm in so long as you all promise that the June book is Hail to the Victors.
HIPSTER, BRO, OR LATE-AUGHTS MICHIGAN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN?
'Pre-Gaming with' Pat Stansik made a movie that I think takes place on Ann Street about a new roommate who defies his friends' attempts to place him in social categories. I bet the dude has a stache-tat on his finger. But if avant-garde is more your style I put up a … thing discovered by Orson where … oh hell screen caps:
Fair warning: if you get past a thread title that says "Un film dérangeant" and "Catlab" in it, plus the images above and the nonsensical introduction, and you still watch all 2:37 of this video, I am not responsible for any amount of your life you can't get back.
Hutch's softball program—shout-out to the ones at the airport Wendy's last evening—may be nearing its apex with three players on the pre-season All-America watch list . They also picked up a shortstop recruit from Georgia who's hitting .568 in an area not known for softball. Wrestling recently was on the short end of what numerous people who know wrestling have now assured me was the worst call in the history of wrestling. Oh, and we got a diary on Men's Tennis.
Diaries Play Five
Hey look at Moffie. See your glorious forward playing an unhindered Holmstrom spot—this is very bad for Miami by the way. CenterIce is your diarist of the week for his new regularish feature he calls "Special Teams Breakdown" and your alliteration-loving editors would rather he call "Picture Paging Power Plays." The theme for this week's is Miami is bad at the penalty kill.
High Five, Fab Five. In the basketballs, buddhafrog put up a heart-warming story about when the Fab Five showed up to a hospital for mentally disabled kids—the kind of kids it's hard to face because you start mentally shaking your fist at deities who would do such things to kids—which makes this kind of remarkable:
Weber and Rose saw through their disabilities; they saw through the wall that makes most people much more comfortable by just turning away. They treated the boys as real boys, as real people. It meant the world to my boys at the Center and was probably the highlight of their year.
The raison d'être for this blog was because Beilein wants to get $100,000 in charity to the same center, and is in a tight race on ESPN with Motta and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
Demi-sabermetric Alabama fans don't exist, but if they did… Maize_in_spartyland investigated that turnover margin last year equals wins/losses this year metric on its face and finds that yes it works in his too-easy-to-work definition. Notable exceptions were Alabama and Oklahoma State; this means somewhere out there is an Alabama fan who is saying Bama's +12 turnover margin in 2010 was…okay yeah you are never going to have that conversation with anyone, because once you start down the path of analyzing turnover margin to predict next year's win totals you're not going to stop half-way.