in town for free camps
Rich Rodriguez met with the press prior to practice today, discussing preparations for the Gator Bowl. I'll update with video when it's ready to go. For the record, I saw two recruits of note at the practice - 2011 MI CB Raymon Taylor and 2012 MI LB Hunter Matt. Justice Hayes tweeted that he would be there, but he must have arrived after I left for the basketball game.
The guys who are out for the whole season (Martavious Odoms, Mike Jones, et al) aren't going to play in the bowl game. Some of them are practicing with limited contact though. Devin Gardner will seek a medical redshirt, and that process will begin immediately following the bowl game. Tae Odoms got injured too late in the year to apply for a medical redshirt.
Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway, and Denard Robinson should all be fully healthy. Je'Ron Stokes is close, though he didn't practice with full contact today. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, and (are you sitting down?) Fitzgerald Toussaint [Ed-M: Now pitching for Detroit, Joel Zumaya...] are all healthy.
The kicking game is still being worked out. The competition is between Brendan Gibbons, Seth Broekhuizen, and Kris Pauloski. It's hard to evaluate them, because "they kick like champions in here." Indoors, they haven't had any trouble. Hopefully, they'll practice outside once in Ann Arbor before traveling to Jacksonville.
Grades won't be posted until about Christmas. The staff doesn't know yet if any players will miss the bowl game due to academic issues, but they don't anticipate that anyone will have trouble. "I think guys are working hard at it. I expect a really good semester academically."
The team has been mostly having a spring practice-type practice schedule. They've focused a little bit on Mississippi State, but they'll mostly worry about that once they get to Florida. With the game on a Saturday, they should have a normal game week schedule in Jacksonville.
Today was a physical practice with full tackling. The guys need to get a chance to have some physical play in the long layoff.
The team has practice the morning of the 22nd, then players go home for Christmas. On the 26th, the team will fly charter down to Jacksonville. Some players will join the team down there instead of coming back to Ann Arbor first. There's a practice the afternoon of the 26th.
Rich's staff evaluations will come after the bowl game. He is always evaluating coordinators and position coaches, offering suggestions, etc.
The Will Campbell/Quinton Washington swap will stick as a permanent change.
Coach Rod had a few chances to watch Mississippi State during the season. "Watching how aggressive their defense is, they bring a lot of different pressures, they're very aggressive, blitzing-wise, very athletic defensively. Offensively, they're similar to us in some respects. They'll probably run in between the tackles more because they've got a bigger quarterback."
The Bulldogs played well much of the year, and impressed in their wins, but also some of their losses. "They probably did the best job of anybody all year against Cam Newton and Auburn. I think by far they did the best job defensively against him."
Everybody's spread is a little bit different, but it's possible to learn what Mississippi State might do against Denard by seeing what they did against Cam Newton. There's been a lot of time for the team to prepare some new things, however.
Jeremy Gallon is simulating Chris Relf in practice. "He's a good runner; they have a good runner at quarterback."
After practice ended today, the assistant coaches hit the road recruiting. The contact period ends after the weekend, and the staff has done a good job balancing bowl preparation with recruiting. There should be 19-20 recruits in the class. It's "a little bit of a fluid situation," but Rich expects 2-4 recruits to enroll early.
The staff combats negative recruiting about their job status by focusing on their relationships with the recruits. "They feel comfortable with our coaches and what we're telling them, and obviously the school."
"You don't know until the first Wednesday in February exactly what your class is gonna entail, and you probably don't really know for another year or two how that class is gonna turn out." There's too much focus in the media on recruiting classes before we know how good the players will be in college."
Denard's "legs seem fresher." He also had a lingering shoulder problem later in the year, and "I think his arm feels a lot better as well."
Since many of Michigan's players haven't played in a bowl game before, the upperclassmen have the responsibility of making sure the young guys understand how to handle a bowl game, and how to prepare for one. "We've talked about - quite a bit, I'll remind them at the beginning of every day - about keeping the main thing, which is going down there to win the game."
Michigan's players from Florida are excited that their families will be able to come see them play (though most have been to a game in the Big House). Everybody gets six tickets so a lot of those guys are trying to get the extras that their teammates won't use.
Sometimes it feels like Rich has been coaching at Michigan for a long time, and sometimes it feels like time has just flown by. He can see the progress in individual players and the program on the whole. Guys like Kevin Koger, Patrick Omameh, Steve Schilling, and David Molk are extensions of the coaching staff.
Practice was open to the media today because Rich wanted the opportunity to give some access before going down to Jacksonville. "I wanted to see if y'all had any questions - especially in a positive manner."
Several young guys who are redshirting have caught Rich's eye during practices. Josh Furman "a big safety/outside linebacker... He looks like he's going to be a real good player." Defensive line standouts: "Richard Ash and some of those guys look like they're going to be good in the future as well."
Rich had been mostly unaware of the "controversy" surrounding the Big Ten division names. "I guess I should know which one is ours." He likes using the past greats to name the conference awards.
Update - Video
|WHAT||Michigan v. Oakland|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 18th, 2010
Michigan has quietly put together a solid start to the 2010-11 season, with a small handful of games against top competition amongst blowouts over the weaker sections of Division 1. Oakland, on the other hand, has been tested in nearly every game this year, losing to top-20 competition in West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan State before finally getting a showcase win against Tennessee on Tuesday. All of those were on the road except the Michigan State game, played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, a "neutral site" that skewed pro-Spartans.
The Golden Grizzlies are tested, and not a team Michigan can bully around in Crisler Arena tomorrow. They have to be concerned about the inverse. Oakland has an excellent duo in 6-11 center Keith Benson, a likely NBA Draft pick this spring, and diminutive junior guard Reggie Hamilton. PF Will Hudson has good size at 6-9 and leads the team in eFG% without attempting a single 3-pointer. With a number of capable role players to round out the roster (though erstwhile Wolverine Laval Lucas-Perry is ineligible to compete until next season), this is a solid squad.
Michigan, meanwhile, has had a nasty habit playing to the level of their competition--which has been mostly down. Their last time out was an uninspiring performance against North Carolina Central which featured abysmal shooting and indecisive offense, especially against zone. A young team like the 2010-11 Wolverines could use an early confidence booster, but Oakland may not provide it. With a win over the Golden Grizzlies, Michigan has a good chance to play themselves into the NIT during the Big Ten season.
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Oakland Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OU Def eFG%||138||133||-|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OU eFG%||25||69||M|
|Mich TO% v. OU Def TO%||74||279||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. OU TO%||166||175||-|
|Mich OReb% v. OU DReb%||169||184||M|
|Mich DReb% v. OU OReb%||28||12||O|
|Mich FTR v. OU Opp FTR||319||151||OO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OU FTR||10||150||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OU AdjD||100||137||M|
|Mich AdjD v. OU AdjO||33||28||-|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Oakland's tempo-free numbers aren't that impressive, but considering the schedule they've been doing it against, they're performing well. Michigan has a big advantage in holding onto the ball, while the Grizzlies have an advantage in not sending Michigan to the line.
The size of Oakland may give Michigan troubles, as the interior defense has been OK at best for most of the year. Drawing charges early against Utah got Jason Washburn and David Foster into foul trouble early, negating Michigan's height disadvantage. If they can get Oakland's talented big man into trouble early, they should be able to succeed on both ends of the court with Benson on the bench. Michigan's depth among big men has improved with the emergence of Jon Horford, so they can afford giving up a couple fouls trying to draw charges.
Making good decisions offensively will be another key for the Wolverines. Though they haven't been turning the ball over much, shot selection has been questionable lately. Players were passing on open shots against NC Central, and then forcing well-defended shots later in the shot clock. Taking what's available will make the offense run much more smoothly.
Oakland isn't going to come into Crisler Arena scared of the atmosphere. They've played in tougher venues several times this year (and against better teams, too). However, they may be out of gas early in the game, and have a letdown from finally getting that big-name win (or even a look-ahead to Ohio State on Thursday). At the first TV timeout, I think Michigan will have a small lead.
However, by halftime, I think the Grizzlies will have settled into a groove, so Michigan will have to get the confidence rolling early, knock down some shots, and hopefully get out on the break a little bit. The game should be within a couple possessions either way at the half.
The Wolverines have a tough task to handle against the best post player they've seen so far, and this will probably be the first time we see a Wolverine foul out this season. That means more evenly-distributed minutes than we've seen lately among the big men, an a lot more Colton Christian.
At the end of the day, I think Michigan's players and coaches will have good focus in preparation for this game, as they understand its importance. This could be the difference between the NIT or no postseason. That motivation, and the biggest crowd we've seen at Crisler this year (tickets available here) will help the Wolverines pull out the win, by a 69-62 score.
This could be you!
Is it possible that Rich Rodriguez's style of offense doesn't give his defense enough time to rest between drives? Using numbers from cfbstats.com, I calculated the following "time per drive" stats for Michigan and three other Big Ten teams:
My edition of Windows Live Writer automatically links to a post discussing how I hate time of possession whenever I type the words, so I'm probably not the guy to make this argument to. While it is possible that Michigan's lack of rest between drives contributed to the terrible defense,the goal of Michigan's varying tempos and generally quick pace is to place stress on the opposing defense. Arguing that short drives stress the defense is one side of the coin; the other is that they contribute to the offense's success.
The actual difference in rest is lower, too. The 45 seconds on game clock Michigan's isn't running isn't much when you account for TV timeouts and stoppages for first downs and incomplete passes and reviews and etc etc etc. I'd guess the difference is considerably less than 30%. Amongst the many factors that led to the defense's demise this year, "tiredness because the offense has short drives" is well down the list.
I'm a lifelong Michigan fan and moderate supporter of Rich Rodriguez. Here is my question... What can happen with the D coordinator position? We know Robinson should be fired, who are some good candidates to replace him if they stick with RichRod? Also, with all the unknowns regarding RichRod, does this mean that Robinson won't be fired until there is a firm decision about Rodriguez? Do we really have to keep him until New Years? Thanks guys,
The answers change significantly based on what defense you want to run. If Michigan is sticking with a 3-3-5 they should get someone who knows how to, you know, run the defense. The old and proven version of this coordinator is San Diego State's Rocky Long*, the former New Mexico head coach. He had a fairly successful decade-long run before running out of energy a couple years ago. The younger and not so proven option would be someone like Louisiana-Monroe's Troy Reffett, who's about 20 years younger than Long and has bounced around smaller schools, coordinating 3-3-5s at UTEP, New Mexico, and now ULM. ULM was seventh in the Sun Belt in yardage when he arrived and has finished 2nd and 3rd in his two years as the coordinator.
I don't think that should be a factor, though. From the outside it looks like they brought in Robinson, let him do his thing for a season, realized he was Greg Robinson 2010—not 1997—and tried to triage as best they could. This went not so well. The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes like a human, bring in a guy with an actual track record of success and let him run the defense. The less wacky the better. This means changing the D for like the fifth straight year, but we're doing that whether or not Rodriguez is retained so you might as well get used to the idea now.
As for who those might be:
- Randy Shannon was discussed in a previous mailbag. As an unemployed guy with a recent barrage of defenses somewhere between good and great, he's obviously appealing. He'd help Michigan's Florida recruiting while running a defiantly Big Ten-style "this is our 4-3 cover two we run every play, try to beat it please" defense. Downsides: he's never done anything but coach at Miami and may call the fire marshal when he sees an actually full stadium, and other cultural whatnot. He may hold out for another head coaching job, or leave if he gets offered one.
- The other interesting unemployed college DC is Pitt's Phil Bennett, a 52-year old who was SMU's head coach before June Jones came in. In three years at Pitt he posted FEIs of 27th, 26th, and 31st. His SMU years were moderately successful until the 1-11 crater that cost him his job; before that he was the K-State DC from 1999 to 2001, during which time the Wildcats finished in the top five in total defense every year. All K-State stats under Snyder should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt, but that's still a pretty good record for an available guy.
- Mike Trgovac is the Michigan Man/chaperone option most commonly presented. He was the Panthers' DC for six successful years before turning down a contract extension and leaving to be a DL coach at Green Bay, which is bizarre but whatever. He's 50—the coaching sweet spot—but hasn't coached in college since 1994.
- Another option is throwing scads of cash at a guy whose existing school can't afford to keep him. This might bode unwell for our bowl game but Manny Diaz's maniacal maniacs at Mississippi State are 14th in FEI this year. He's working under an offensive-minded head coach and is obviously the motive force behind that ranking. Diaz is young and fiery. This is an upside, but the downside is he has only one year under his belt in the SEC. At Middle Tennessee his last three defenses were 44th(hey, pretty good for MTSU), 103rd, and 84th (not so good).
Depressingly, a scan down the FEI defense list for good units at schools Michigan can drown in 100 dollar bills doesn't hit much of interest past Diaz until you get to #34, which is Syracuse and Scott Shafer. Everyone else is either not happening, dodgy because the head coach is the defensive mastermind, or TCU's Dick Bumpas, who's probably not happening.
*(Savor long and deep the irony of the quintessential "Michigan Man" candidate running a 3-3-5.)
Do you and Tim have a pretty good idea of the total number of recruits we can sign this year? I've heard people say about 18-19, but with all of the unexpected departures (Vlad, Turner, LaLota, White, Rogers, Dorsey, CJones, Kinard) that last year's class was a lot smaller than originally thought and that there are more roster spots available.
The Depth Chart By Class shows 77 scholarship players, ten of whom graduate. I'm assuming that Jordan Kovacs is now on scholarship but Will Heininger, Kevin Leach, Seth Broekhuizen and the various fullbacks are not, at least not until Michigan ends up with fewer than 85 scholarship players. That would leave a class of 18. In addition, I think it's unlikely Steve Watson and Mike Williams get fifth years, bringing the total to 20. They've currently got:
- QB: 0
- RB: 1
- WR: 0
- TE: 0
- Slot: 1
- OL: 3
- DE: 2
- DT: 0
- LB: 2
- CB: 4
- S: 0
- K: 0
That's 13, leaving seven slots for a kicker, a safety, a DT, a guard, and then three slots that could go to whoever they want. Chris Bryant is likely to be the guard, and two of the wild-card selections seem likely to be DE/DT Anthony Zettel and WR/LB Kris Frost. There are no likely options at DT right now and the safeties Michigan is in on seem like longshots, though it's possible Greg Brown ends up at FS. I'm also guessing Cullen Christian moves to FS this spring.
Are you a student? Do you like costumes?
After watching the dissapointing Bball attendance, myself and another remote alum and bball fan would like to help support the team but unfortunately are too far to make it to the games. We'd like to sponsor tickets for 2 students for the remainder of games provided they wear Big Bird costumes and Blake McLimans jerseys or T-Shirts.
The problem is, we don't know where to start finding 2 students willing to go to the games dressed as Big Bird and take our sponsored tickets. After reading the blog, I feel like this is a project you could get behind.
Behind it I am. Email me if you're interested in being the Blake McLimans fan club and I'll send your information along to Dave. Anyone else interested in exchanging money for shots of someone looking silly at a basketball game should contact me immediately.
Tom reports that Maryland DB Blake Countess has committed to Michigan, the fourth defensive back in the Wolverines' class of 2011.
|4*, #18 CB, #228 Overall||4*, 5.8, #13 CB, #156 Overall||4*, 80, #14 CB|
Countess is another little guy joining the defensive backfield, as all three sites list him at 5-10, and within a couple pounds of 175. He's also a participant in the US Army All-American Bowl, which gives a brief breakdown of his game:
Countess has the smooth hips and backpedal ability to be the prototypical cover corner. Despite his size, he loves to hit and is strong enough to jam a receiver at the line or come up and assist in run support. Countess has the speed to stay with receivers in man-to-man coverage and has an advanced understanding of zone defenses. Countess’ speed is also an asset in the return game.
Countess is steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills. Very fluid through his hips and transitions in and out of his pedal smoothly. Aggressive with receivers off the line and plays bigger. Shows good coverage awareness skills; reading routes and the quarterback accurately.
As with most shorter guys, the evaluation determines whether he plays "bigger than his size," and decides he does:
Lacks ideal height but is a real competitor for the football in the contested jump-ball matchup. Soundly times his jump, displays good leaping skills and appears very comfortable around the ball in coverage.
He's an okay tackler, which you'd expect from a smaller guy (ask Courtney Avery). Overall, ESPN, says he's a good-not-great prospect:
Countess is not elite in one particular area but is very well-rounded, reliable and consistent. Brings some intangibles to the position and should fit into a number of defensive schemes at the next level.
Scout seems to be enamored with him, which is odd, considering they rank him the lowest of any service:
A strong, hard hitting defensive back, Countess does a good job of jamming his receiver at the line of scrimmage. Flips his hips well to run with a receiver. An asset in the run game because of his willingness to make a hit. Size and skill set of a cornerback with the mentality of a safety. Comes out of his breaks and closes on the ball very well. Not the biggest DB on the field, but usually one of the toughest - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com.
The only area for improvement they list is "size," which he can only do so much about. He'll spend a lot of time adding muscle in the weight room, but isn't going to get a whole lot taller. He tells Scout that he didn't have any interceptions his junior year, sorta making him the opposite of Dallas Crawford.
Countess is a "riser," with Rivals bumping him from #245 nationally to #156 on the basis of a strong senior season:
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Rivals also says something that sounds a lot like Rich Rodriguez's famous "loves football" line:
He is a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents.
He certainly does love to compete, as his frequent showings at camps and combines demonstrate. Blake's athleticism won't come into question, as he posted the eighth-best SPARQ rating at the Nike Baltimore Combine - as a sophomore. He also proved his status as a combine star by excelling at the Under Armour Combine last winter.
If you're an East Coast school, you probably offered this kid. Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, UVa, Wake Forest, and Duke are among the many offers for this Maryland product. Clemson and South Carolina also showed interest.
However, some non-Eastern schools also offered him a scholarship. Arkansas, Louisville, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin (before his junior season), Cincinnati, Illinois, Notre Dame, and Pitt were among them.
This was a highly coveted recruit, as the offer sheet shows. He ultimately picked Michigan over Georgia Tech and Maryland, a final group that belies his strong offer sheet.
His Scout profile has some (imprecise) junior year stats:
Blake Countess finished his junior season with over 50 tackles and returned one kick for a touchdown.
Senior year... there's not a ton of info out there. I'll update in next week's Friday Night Lights.
He struggled against Cincinnati St. Xavier, dropping a punt, but was good in coverage.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout and Rivals are in agreement on his speed, almost to the hundredth of a second. Scout says 4.47, while Rivals credits him with a 4.48. That level of specificity leads me to believe the time is combine-verified and reliable. His highlight video (embedded below) mentions that it's electronically-timed.
I'm left with no choice but to give a mere one FAKE out of five.
Here's the first half of his final high school season:
You can see his junior and sophomore combined highlights here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
When player evaluations can focus on little other than a player's diminutive size, the first thing that comes to mind is a sure redshirt. For Countess, that's no different, especially since Michigan has had big defensive hauls in 2010 and so far in 2011. He needs to get in the weight room before he can play at this level.
After a redshirt year (or a year spending time almost exclusively on special teams), he'll slowly work his way into the lineup over the course of a couple years. He probably won't have a chance to be one of the starting corners until he's an upperclassman, but there are so many variables between now and then that it's hard to project.
As an upperclassman starter, he has the potential to be a fringe All-Conference candidate, but I don't think he's likely to contend for All-American honors unless he can develop quite a bit under good coaching.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Countess becomes the fourth defensive back to commit to Michigan for this season, meaning there may be some shuffling in positions of players currently on the roster or in the class. Dallas Crawford is a high school safety, for example, and Greg Brown could fill a hybrid role if he keeps growing.
Despite the abundance of players back there, Michigan's coaches are likely to look for at least one more DB, a top free safety like Wayne Lyons - though other options are thin on the ground. Beyond that, defensive tackle, linebacker, and one more offensive lineman remain the focuses for filling the class.
Hockey commitments don't usually get full posts but these are big ones. First, according to USHR and via Michigan Hockey Net, Michigan has snake-oiled away NTDP goalie John Gibson from Ohio State. This is a BFD for the program, which loses Bryan Hogan after the year and was facing a season with Shawn Hunwick as their only viable goalie. No offense to Hunwick, but he's a very small walk-on who's not doing that well this year—another option is key.
Gibson is more than just another option. He's the top-rated goalie on the CSB's USHL list, 13th on USA Today's list of the top American prospects for the 2011 NHL draft, and just a month ago ESPN's Gare Joyce listed him first on his list of top five goaltending prospects for the NHL draft, one of a group of "three elite prospects" who may end up first round picks:
John Gibson, USNTDP
Some scouts thought that Gibson (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) was in and out at the NHL Research and Development camp this summer, but he has looked very solid in showings subsequently. He gets high marks for his agility in the crease and he goes post to post very well. With Campbell last year and John Gibson this winter, it just might be that the USDT is becoming what Quebec was for many years -- the leading hothouse for goaltending prospects.
I know what you're thinking but Gibson is already halfway through the year with the U18s—you don't flip a college commitment halfway through your senior season if you're going to defect to the OHL. It was at about this time last year we found out Jack Campbell wasn't headed to Ann Arbor.
Some scouting from NHL.com:
"He has good net coverage, good size and is great on his angles," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He looks big in his initial set-up and while in butterfly. He's not flashy but confident and is always focused, controlled in his movements, strong in his crease and smart at reading plays."
And some more indicating he's not a flake from just junior coach:
A butterfly-style goalie, Gibson said he patterns himself after the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury.
To hear Stern tell it, Gibson has the total package.
"John has tremendous instincts and hockey sense," Stern said. "A lot of times that gets overlooked when people talk about goalies. Everyone talks about forwards and defensemen but they sometimes forget that that's a component of goaltending, too.
"He has unbelievable athleticism, and he's extremely competitive. And he's unflappable. He's just very mature and composed. We like to say a lot of kids are low-maintenance; well, he's no-maintenance.
"That's a pretty rare thing, especially among goaltenders. They can be a quirky bunch, and I think the fact Gibson is so well put-together is something the program is going to appreciate."
Last year Gibson backstopped the U17s to a World Hockey Challenge gold, making 38 saves in a 2-1 win over Canada in the final. He's almost as good as Jack Campbell, and he's appeared from a cloud of vapor to rescue Michigan's goalie situation next year. Win.
Bonus Non-Random Defenseman
Serville is the one on top.
Michigan's also added a second defender to their class in the OJHL's Brennan Serville. Serville has eight assists in 17 games and was committed to Atlantic Hockey school Canisius before he switched. IIRC, Atlantic Hockey schools do not give out the full complement of scholarships so Serville could be a semi-walk on on a partial deal or a guy who broke out this year and found himself with better options.
It appears to be the latter, as Serville decommitted from Canisius a few months ago in search of a better situation. He was an eighth-round pick of Sudbury in the OHL (not bad for a guy who was obviously a tough sign) and was rated a B player (third to fifth round) on the CSB's watch list in October.
He impressed at the Sudbury camp he attended:
Another unsung player who turned heads is defenceman Brennan Serville, an eighth-round pick in 2009. He proved to be mobile and solid on his skates, hard to knock down or separate from the puck.
USHR says he's "a great skating defenseman with size who is good on the breakout, has good hands and sees the ice well," and his coach says he's "a great skater that protects and moves the puck extremely well from the back-end." As a big, right-handed mobile guy he could find a home as the other guy on Michigan's awkward all-lefty power play.
Michigan's 2011 class has gone from extremely worrying to pretty much fine in one fell swoop. Picking up an elite goaltending prospect is a major, badly needed coup and grabbing an uncommitted defenseman expected to be drafted in the same area Steven Kampfer was is another boost.
They're obviously done in goal. On defense Michigan added an end-of-the-bench type in recruited walk-on Mike Szuma earlier this year and is carrying eight scholarship(-ish) guys on the roster this year, so they are likely done there as well. They lose Tristin Llewellyn and Chad Langlais and could see Brandon Burlon, Mac Bennett, or John Merrill leave early (Burlon much more likely than Merrill or Bennett), but as long as they don't lose two of the early entry risks their defense next year will be something like…
…and that's a solid group.
Michigan is also carrying a ton of forwards next year and doesn't need to bring in as many as they lose but with Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Winnett, and Vaughn all out the door they need more than just Alex Guptill. They'll be trying to flip committed players having big seasons or just patrolling for 20-year-olds who can fill in the blanks before a more robust 2012 class comes in. If they can bring in two guys with the ability of Serville and Gibson at forward that will be a beauty save on what was looking like a rough 2011 class.
A horribly enlightening graph. FEI and I were getting along just great until Mr. Fremeau had to go and put our kicker situation in a neat graph. Sit down and get a bucket, as this is a graph of Michigan's attempts against those of FEI #1 kicker Alex Henery of Nebraska:
This is nothing you didn't already know, but Michigan threw away 16 points on field goal attempts this year and was forced into some uncomfortable situations on fourth down because of those big red dots. I'm not sure if those were actual negatives because sometimes this happened:
Romer disciples would say being forced to go for it in that down and distance is probably a net benefit since anyone attempting a 50-yard field goal is going to have difficulties. There were certain situations less friendly, however, and Michigan still had to go because asking for anything more than an extra point was doom.
Michigan might need a kicker in this class.
A minor debunk. One of the rumors wandering around message boards was that Calvin Magee went down to Gainesville a couple weeks ago, supposedly to interview for a job. Given what we know about the Florida coaching situation (Meyer was days away from retiring) that doesn't make any sense and can probably be dismissed, and I can confirm from an excellent source that Magee never met with anyone at Florida. File that in the dustbin of history next to All Of Iowa Is Suspended.
It's a tragedy when you don't get along with your groin. The injury that held Bryan Hogan out of the Big Chill will sideline him for "at least a month," according to AnnArbor.com. That sidelines him for the GLI—a tournament Michigan should win even without him—and an early January series against the State team Michigan just beat 5-0 and is languishing near the bottom of the league standings. It sucks for Hogan to miss out just as he was establishing himself the starter but if he's got to be out a month this is the one to miss.
It is again the groin, but a different bit of the groin:
"But he made one move and he could just feel it."
Berenson said Hogan partially tore a tendon or muscle in his groin, but that it has nothing to do with the injury Hogan suffered last year.
A midseason review of the hockey team on AA.com points out that however frustrating the first half of the season has been Michigan's come out of it in decent shape. A quick glance at College Hockey Stats shows that Michigan's scoring margin is amongst the national leaders:
[Michigan opponents in italics.]
They're 12th, and that's with a few minor schools and ECAC pushovers in front of them. They're 11th in KRACH, which seems about right—a solid tournament team but not a top seed. (My usual complaint about KRACH is it overrates nonconference games and piles WCHA teams atop the rankings, and this is again true.) I'm still concerned that any mildly competent defensive team can reduce Michigan to pinging shots from the point and hoping something wacky happens. This will have to be true…
"I think we expected to be a little further ahead - but not a lot," Berenson said Tuesday. "You can't say, 'Oh, we're going to expect to lose four games in the first half.' I mean, which games are you expecting to lose? I wasn't expecting us to have four ties. … Our best hockey is still ahead of us.
"I think we've seen some glimpses, some good signs, and I think the second half will be our best half. But we're right there. We're knocking on the door. We're not bad."
…if Michigan is going to go into the tournament expecting something good.
Tearing it up. Michigan's current* 2011 signees continue to raise their stock of late. It was Trey Burke making a late-summer push at AAU events across Ohio, but as they enter their senior years its Brundidge making waves:
Brundidge opened the season up with 41 points in a blow out win over Mount Clemens but the competition began to heat up this week as Southfield traveled to Romulus, a consensus top 5 team in the state of Michigan. The burly guard answered the challenge as he poured in 29 points, 8 rebounds, and eight assists in a 78-70 victory. Unofficially, Brundidge was 6 of 12 from the field (2-6 3pt) and 11 of 13 from the free throw stripe.
Vince Baldwin took to the twitters to rave about Brundidge's passing in the aftermath.
As for Burke, he's shooting 79(!!!) percent in two games so far. Adding that guard tandem to Morris, and Douglass and you're verging on… loaded? Can we possibly say that about Michigan basketball? I'm confused.
*(There's still the possibility of a third if Michigan finds a guy—probably a Euro—they want.)
Meanwhile on Kenpom. Michigan poked its hypothetical head above .500 after the Utah game and is now sitting at 17-14 with seven conference wins. Every time I check it it seems they've moved up a spot or two thanks to other teams falling back; they're up to 59th now, twenty spots higher than they were about a week ago. Saturday's game against Oakland is a big one—the Grizzlies just beat Tennessee and played Michigan State to the wire. Win that and it's time to start eyeing an NIT bid.
In other tempo-free stat news, Big Ten Geeks points out that while North Carolina Central is bad, they have never been quite as bad as they were against Michigan—their 0.78 points per trip was a season worst. This is a Beilein team built on… defense? As long as the team is bricking wide-open threes by the bunch, apparently. On WTKA today Beilein said a couple items of note:
- They'd gone straight man to man the whole year because the team is very young and they'd rather do one thing well than a few things poorly.
- "This is Division I basketball" and when you have a wide open shot you have to take it. It doesn't sound like he's displeased with anything from the first half except the fact the ball didn't go in the basket. You could chalk it up to it being just one of those things… if this wasn't the third straight year Michigan hefted a ton of threes (16th nationally) and didn't make any of them (255th).
One step ahead of you. AA.com suggests a fix for the Big Ten logo fiasco:
The Big Ten can backtrack with a press release that says something to the effect of “we are sure honored to have such passionate fans, and we’ve heard their voices.”
Then hold a contest. Fans submit their best ideas for new division names and new logo - there are plenty of good ones floating around the Internet in recent days, ideas that exceed the cartoonish one delivered by the conference.
Hmmm. The M Zone tweaked the popular Tscherne entry by fanning the team logos out underneath the shield:
Now you can remember who's in what division. These are ordered alphabetically but maybe they could put the division champs on top every year? Or they could just go with the horrible periwinkle.
Etc.: The 85k number cited by Guinness is provisional "with the numbers continuing to increase." Dear Lynn Henning: I would have rewritten your column like so: "Yes." Further adventures in scouting Mississippi State continue with a breakdown of Dan Mullen's TE shovel pass, AKA "binky," which he's still running to good effect.
Photos from MGoBlue.com
The Michigan basketball team has continued to roll in games held anywhere other than Atlantic City. Darius Morris and Jordan Morgan are showing that they're a force to be reckoned with. Stu Douglass is sniping away from distance, as Tim Hardaway Jr. has cooled down a bit. Expectations for this Wolverine squad have been revised (slightly) upward - it's looking like a potential NIT team.
Michigan 75, Utah 64. Michigan 7-2.
The game against Utah was as thorough a beatdown as I can remember Michigan putting on any decent team in the past couple years. With the help of a couple early calls against the Utes, Jordan Morgan held a couple decent big men - even if Foster doesn't have much offensive production, he's still six freakin' inches taller than Morgan - in check. The game was never really as close as the 75-64 score makes it seem.
Darius Morris continued to show that he's improved by leaps and bounds since last year (partially due to the departures of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims giving him a higher usage rate). His only turnover was a failed alley-oop attempt to Jon Horford that Beilein attributes to Horford. He added 10 assists and 4 steals to go along with his 19 points on 57.7 eFG%.
Nobody else jumps off the page statistically, though Stu Douglass's 0/4 night from three is a letdown considering how hot he'd been shooting the ball. Matt Vogrich seems to have found his shooting stroke over the past few games, and he's been getting more minutes accordingly.
|Individuals v. Utah|
Speaking of Vogrich, he had a massively impressive performances in plus/minus (see the full chart at right). Of course, Darius Morris is killin' it, as he was +14 in a game that the team won by 11, meaning the Wolverines were -3 in the 2:21 he wasn't on the court. Tim Hardaway's up-and-down night is evidenced by his 0.
Using only one game of data means there's plenty of noise. For example, Jon Horford would have been higher had he not been on the court in the stretch late in the game when Michigan was content to let Utah chip away at a massive lead. Despite not accomplishing much on the scoresheet, Horford had something of a breakout performance.
If you want to see the data, and individual lineup effectiveness, you can check out the spreadsheet. Before Michigan enters conference play, I'll put together a total non-conference (minus Kansas) table with the minutes played and plus/minus of individuals and lineups. The most effective lineup against the Utes was Morris-Douglass-Vogrich-Novak-McLimans, which was +9 in 3:18. The most used lineup was Morris-Douglass-Hardaway-Novak-Horford, which played 7:49 and finished -3. Most of that came late in the game, as mentioned above.
NC Central Recap
Michigan 64, NC Central 44. Michigan 8-2.
As Brian pointed out on Twitter last night, as ugly as the game was, it fell right in line with Ken Pomeroy's score prediction. Coming in, I had hoped the Wolverines would finally bludgeon an overmatched opponent, but they kept up their habit of playing down to the competition, especially in the first half. The Wolverines were bombing away from three, even when it wasn't the smartest play at the time, and they could have attacked the rim (especially on the break). In the second half, they made smarter plays, got hotter from outside, and took advantage of NC Central's curious move away from the zone that had stifled Michigan's offense in the first half.
Darius Morris and Jon Horford were the stars of the show for Michigan, as Darius had 12 points to lead Michigan, along with 3 assists and a steal to only one turnover, and Jon was just a missed free throw and a rebound away from his first career double-double. As the season goes on, you'll see more of Horford as he learns the game and develops physically. Thus far, he's made the most of his opportunities.
With Michigan's offense struggling early in the game, I was surprised to see McLimans come in as the first big off the bench rather than Horford, and also that Beilein didn't try to get Vogrich into the game sooner, as he'd been hot from the field (though that decision was apparently the correct one, as Matt was 0/3).
At the end of the day, Michigan played poorly against a bad opponent, and was still able to basically meet expectations. Take the win, and move on to the next one. Up next, the Wolverines face Oakland noon Saturday in Crisler Arena. The Golden Grizzlies are hot off a road upset of #7 Tennessee, so Michigan certainly can't play this poorly and come away with a good result. OU preview drops Friday.
I have weathered all the submissions and whittled them down to a plausible few. Many submissions either unwisely tried to shoehorn a 2 into the design, adopted the horrifying your-printer-is-out-of-ink cyan, or were not better than the New Coke logo. I ruthlessly cut those.
Our four candidates:
Yes, this is just the BTN logo minus "network" and with an extra star, but it's included because 1) it makes sense and 2) points out what a weird lack of cohesion there is between the two new marks.
The Reigning Champion
Who's cuisine reigns supreme?
Here's the Mississippi State offense against Kentucky:
The Bulldogs won 24-17 with a quick late drive featuring a Relf zinger over the middle that ate up a third of the field. Kentucky's defense was (sigh) significantly better than Michigan's this year but it wasn't great. They were 79th in rush D, 53rd in pass efficiency D, 49th overall. The don't fare nearly as well in FEI, though—they're 82nd, the worst defense other than Memphis the Bulldogs played. Michigan was 103rd. (Fun fact: only one other team had a winning record against I-A competition with a worse defense than Michigan, and that was Baylor.)
I charted Relf for the hell of it:
[Most of these were clear-cut, but there was a fade down the sideline that was well-covered, hit the receiver in the hands, got dropped, and then saw the receiver hit with an offensive PI call. That could have been anything from CA to BR. I punted and filed it MA—he should have led the receiver to the sideline but it wasn't awful.
The backup quarterback came in for a series, went run, BR, INX, and then ate bench. ]
So… that's not very good. That DSR is one pip off Denard Robinson's freshman year—you know, the one that spawned an offseason of debate about whether he should be a wide receiver or running back—and most of those INs were TacoBLANK specials where the receiver watched the ball zing well over his head or well wide or well short; receivers had no chance to bring in any of them. The two TAs are generous as well. Either could have been filed IN.
However, it should be noted that the Kentucky game was Relf's worst of the year by far. In his last two games against reasonable defenses Relf went 13 of 20 for 288 yards with 3 TDs, and one INT (Ole Miss) and 20 of 30 for 224 yards (Arkansas). This is not a representative sample.
Relf seems like a ridiculously fast version of Steven Threet—capable of those downfield darts in the seam that result in huge chunks of yards and blithering inaccuracy on the next play. In this game he had six complete misses against six accurate downfield throws, but three of the accurate ones were beautiful long gains.
I probably didn't give Relf enough credit as a runner. He was impressive in this game, making decisive option cuts and even throwing in an I-hit-circle spin move:
He's a better runner than Tebow, closer to a Scheelhaase than anyone else we saw this year. Yes, again with the Illinois comparisons and the grim prospect of not putting up 67 against a team with the Illinois offense.
Even more Illinois comparisons. Seriously, they scored the winning touchdown on the inverted veer after their erratic but fast quarterback scrambled for a first down. The clip above is an option keeper. They love the jet sweep and have a difficult time throwing downfield. It's a really close comparison. The differences as I see them:
- Mullen is much more willing to chance his QB throwing downfield. Illinois games I saw this year almost never featured Scheelhaase throwing more than ten yards downfield. Mullen's takes his shots and lives with the balls to covered receivers because occasionally Relf nails a guy and Mississippi State has a much shorter touchdown trudge to make.
- Relf is a better power runner. Scheelhaase is fast but not a guy you're going to go to on third and two (or five, or nine) as Mississippi State does with Relf. He brings the wood and usually picks up two or three yards after contact.
- The Bulldog offensive line may not be very good. It's hard to tell without going super in-depth but it seemed like MSU bogged down when Kentucky players were not getting hooked on the outside or doing many things wrong on the long TD. Almost every time MSU faced a third and long situation they ran or moved the pocket, though, and their offensive design seems like it's built around not expecting a ton out of the OL.
Bumphis and Ballard. Those guys are the heart of the Bulldog offense. Both are short, quick guys capable of turning a small crease into a big gain. Ballard isn't going to break a ton of tackles but is very fast, getting to top speed quickly when an opportunity presents itself and capable of turning on the jets. A wrong angle on him and you've given up six points.
Bumphis is an A- version of a slot receiver.
General confidence level adjustment. Even despite the ugly Relf chart above since more recent info suggests he's not really this bad, because MSU put up 24 against a Michigan-ish caliber defense when their QBs went 7 for 19. If Michigan's 4-7 points worse than Kentucky (and many metrics suggest this) I'm not happy with the idea that they'll have to put up mid-30s to win with the opponent completing 33% of their passes.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at email@example.com or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Desmond Morgan Goes Blue
Read the Hello: Desmond Morgan post for full details on the kid. He almost never smiles in pictures (at least ones on the internet), and more often looks ominous:
Fluff on Morgan's move to quarterback after only playing linebacker for his first three years. He's a well-rounded athlete, also playing hockey and lacrosse. The best part:
“Anything less than the playoffs would be very disappointing,” said Morgan, who has a 3.97 grade-point average. “There are a lot of great schools in the OK Red. I think the hard work in the offseason is going to pay off.”
Following the season, he was named to the All-Area First-Team defense, and captained it as Defensive Player of the Year:
“He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He makes the calls on defense and just his presence out there makes other guys around him better as well,” [West Ottawa Coach Jim] Caserta said. “… When you gameplan against us, you have to put at least a couple guys on him, and it makes the guys around him better.”
Opposing coaches were equally impressed:
“Desmond Morgan playing sideline to sideline, that kid can play at any college right now and I’ve admired that kid,” [Muskegon Coach Shane] Fairfield said after his team won 28-14. “That kid has inspired our defense, just watching him on film. He comes out here and runs like he’s Ironman. I’m glad our linebackers had a chance to play against him, because he made us grow up and realize how to play linebacker.”
Congratulations and welcome, Desmond.
Elsewhere in last weekend's visitors...
OH WR Darius Patton was "impressed" ($, info in header).
Though he visited last weekend, don't expect PA DT Rob Trudo to decommit from Syracuse ($, info in header).
MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel is ready to start thinking about a decision ($, info in header). Expect him to make his choice in early January.
Tom's Weekly Update has full reactions from OH WR Darius Patton, IL OL Chris Bryant, and LA CB James Richardson.
Prince Holloway, Come on Down?
FL Slot WR Prince Holloway is receiving an in-home visit from OL Coach Greg Frey later this month (the contact period ends next Monday), at which time his commitment status will be clarified. To recap, Holloway has said he's ready to commit to Michigan, joining his cousin, FL CB Commit Dallas Crawford, in the class.
Howeva, with MI RB/Slot Justice Hayes already in the class, I'm not sure if Holloway holds a committable offer at this time. Though MI WR Shawn Conway won't be a Wolverine next fall, Holloway, at 5-9, isn't really the prototype to fill the outside receiver position. He also has yet to achieve a qualifying score, and though it's possible for him to keep working toward that, Michigan's staff is probably leery of the risks after cases like Adrian Witty, Demar Dorsey, and Davion Rogers.
Within a week, we should have a much better idea of where Holloway stands with this coaching staff. Sam says on WTKA that he would already be committed to Michigan is not for a bit of a "slow-play."
Coaching Carousel Reopens Doors
PA CB Kyshoen Jarrett says he'll see who Pitt hires as a replacement before making any sudden decisions. If the new coach brings along a whole new, staff, it's more likely he'll decommit ($, info in header). However, he wants other coaches to know that he's available if they just wanna, you know, have a chat.
MI CB Valdez Showers remains committed to Florida for now. Now that the Gators have hired Will Muschamp, he'll likely come to a decision on his commitment soon.
FL DT Tim Jernigan eliminated Michigan and USC last week (HT: Dreisbach1817), but with Meyer resigning at Florida and the Wolverines playing in a bowl game just an hour away from his hometown of Lake City, Florida, might MIchigan have a chance to change his mind?
LA DT/OL Gregory Robinson commits to Auburn.
MD DT Darian Cooper has eliminated Michigan from consideration.
PA DE Myles Jackson committed to Rutgers.
OH LB Steven Daniels committed to Boston College.
GA S Avery Walls committed to Cal in the only painful recruiting loss in this week's update. Walls was actively recruiting for Michigan in the summer, but coaching uncertainty made it tough for him to pick the Wolverines, as he wants to enroll in January. (I'm not sure how it makes more sense to pick a school that went 5-7 and will be looking for a new coach soon, but whateva).
OH CB/Ath Tyler Williams committed to Akron.
MI RB Thomas Rawls is serious with his recruitment.
He’ll take an official visit to Central Michigan — the school that first expressed interest — next weekend. Then it’s off to the University of Michigan the following week, with a stop due in Toledo sometime in January. Cincinnati is in the process of setting up a date as well, said Rawls.
When he reaches a decision, he'll hold a low-key press conference at his school. And should he receive a qualifying test score, don't be surprised if that choice is Michigan. More local fluff.
OH QB Cardale Jones and his teammate, OH WR Shane Wynn, didn't make it to Ann Arbor for the Big Chill. Jones, at least, will try to reschedule for later this winter.
NJ TE/QB Tanner McEvoy has a final four ($, info in header). Spoiler alert: Michigan is in it.
Michigan has offered OH TE/Ath Frank Clark, and they're now a co-favorite for the Cleveland Glenville prospect ($, info in headers). Perhaps his recruitment will have an effect on his teammate Cardale Jones.
NC WR/LB Kris Frost still wants to start out at wide receiver at whichever school he chooses. His coach says he'll be excellent at either:
[Butler Coach Mike] Newsome said, "He's great on both sides of the ball. He thinks he's a better receiver than linebacker. I think he's a better linebacker than receiver, but the thing that makes him so much better a football player is he's just got 'it.' He's got the other factor to him that I can't coach into him, and that factor that takes his game to a whole 'nother level. He's just got an intensity level that helps him be better than folks he faces."
That intensity and his physical gifts - Frost has a 35-inch vertical leap and has been timed at slightly less than 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, for example - are what led more than 30 Division I colleges to offer him a scholarship.
Opposing coaches give the same level of praise:
South Mecklenburg coach James Martin said, "From a defensive standpoint, he completely understands the game. He understands formations. I've seen him make so many checks. He's one of the best linebackers I've seen since I've been coaching in Charlotte. On offense, when he gets out on the open with his hands and speed, he's a true threat."
Michigan can probably offer him much more opportunity at the wideout position, since Shawn Conway won't be in the class.
FL S Roderick Ryles, a teammate of FL RB Commit Dee Hart, will not attend Arkansas, because they don't need safeties. Michigan may be interested, though they didn't offer Ryles prior to his commitment to the Razorbacks.
JC defensive back Anthony Baskin visited Michigan last week.
PA LB/FB Nicholas Klass may walk on at Michigan ($, info in header).
MD CB Blake Countess is close to a decision ($, info in header).
Local fluff on an offer to CA K Connor Loftus.
IL QB Robert Gregory was named First-Team All-State as an athlete.
Michigan is in the top five for MI RB Juwan Lewis.
MI CB Terry Richardson was named an Under Armour All-American.
Sam Webb's recruiting column last week covered a junior combine that took place over the weekend. Once the 2011 class is wrapped up, the Wolverines will start to show serious interest in some of these guys.