a vitally important recap of all the dumb tweets sent during the Harbaugh coaching search
warning: internet/sports journalism/meta post. it's six on friday so no bitching.
via press coverage
Way back in the mists of time when I'd just been fired from my engineering job for not doing much actual engineering I was wondering whether or not I actually wanted another one when Jamie Mottram emailed me. He asked if I'd be interested in being a "lead" for the college football section of this Fanhouse thing he'd convinced AOL to start*. I said yes and my career as a pants-optional blogger started.
A couple years later, Mottram was at Yahoo and I was on the phone with a guy who seemed to put "-ize" at the end of every verb trying to convince him that Adam Jacobi was a key asset even if he kept posting conversations with Joe Paterno in which he decried DIRTY IRISHMEN. This was the middle of the end, and a couple months later I was out, too.
By that point I didn't much care. I'd stopped posting much because headlines like "God Not A Big Fan Of Sam Maresh, Says Sam Maresh" were getting converted into things like "Sam Maresh Has Further Health Problems." The thing I owned was making sufficient money that I didn't have to put up with aggravation for ten bucks a post.
When I latched on with Sporting News a couple months later it was mostly so I could tell people I wrote for Company You've Heard Of X when that was convenient or lent credibility, and when that got shipped over to SB Nation I cut my workload there down to a couple things I do weekly. The business story of the blog is gradually in-sourcing all of the writing I do, even if it's about the World Cup.
"We're Not Bleacher Report"
Elsewhere, not so much. When AOL decided to blow Fanhouse up and give the Sporting News the brand for five million a year, I wasn't surprised. Ben Koo made a case that it was a stupid move, but we are talking about a company that's had a half-dozen people run Fanhouse in under five years, let Mottram walk out the door, immediately undermined his replacement with HAWT TITS, reversed course on that after 90 seconds, and then did another 180 to hire Jay Mariotti. It's not a surprise AOL has changed course wildly, hoping that doing the exact opposite of their last stupid idea will be the opposite of stupid.
What is something of a surprise is the naiveté shown by some of the outgoing. Dave Kindred interviewed a few of them for IU's National Sports Journalism Center and it's like they've never been part of an aging relic with a declining legacy business before:
"In December," Lisa Olson said, "we were told how great we were doing." Once a columnist at the New York Daily News, Olson remembered The National strutting on stage in 1990, a national sports newspaper hiring good people from everywhere. She thought of FanHouse that way, a gathering of veterans on a journalistic adventure. "We were all experienced and qualified, not some 25-year-old bloggers," she said. "The motto was, ‘Go, go, go. Grow, grow, grow.' And we did. Then, this. It's devastating."
This one in particular even referenced "The National," which lasted all of 18 months. Another complains "we had no idea this was coming," etc. More than one takes shots at bloggers. There's the one above, and then there's the EIC who ended up axing me** stating that when they arrived Fanhouse was nothing more than "a quirky blog."
The theme running through the piece all the way up to Kindred, who titles it "Waiting for the day readers march in and demand an end to the dreck," is journalists bemoaning the fact that their quality isn't recognized as they die by the thousands and Bleacher Report is getting eight-digit funding rounds. Kindred uses the recent press conference in which Jim Boeheim slammed the reporter who asked a question about point-shaving because the internet's been talking about it as a leaping-off point. You'd think they'd know by now.
You Are Bleacher Report
So… the column and those quoted in it are rife with misconceptions that speak to why AOL abandoned ship and why newspapers will slowly bleed readership until internet natives are at the helm in 20 years, at which point they'll just be another voice in the clamor.
Believing Bleacher Report is in the content business. Bleacher Report is not a content company any more than Demand or Associated Media. It is an SEO/marketing company that runs garbage through filters until it comes out with google/newsletter gold. The way they do this is clever, but their success—likely overstated anyway—has nothing to do with the success or failure of people who write for a living.
Believing Fanhouse content was functionally different than Bleacher Report's content. I only subscribed to the college football bit in my RSS reader, but it was a progression of boring AP-style articles, Clay Travis columns, the leftover guys who got in the door under Mottram who were cheap and non-controversial, and Brett McMurphy breaking stories about USF. Meanwhile the larger site had Marriotti.
You know what Mariotti and Travis are? They're trolls. They write controversial things they don't believe for attention. How much of the vaunted 50% non-AOL traffic—the same figure we were told, BTW—was either SEO or people stopping by to tell the various trolls why their stupid arguments were stupid? Mariotti is just a Bleacher Report writer with an editor, and he's the star attraction. This is not hyperbole.
A personal example from my time there: slideshows were pushed ever harder until people started editing posts to stick in random slideshows, hopefully vaguely sexy slideshows, whenever your post could be tangentially connected to one. Slideshows, man.
Fanhouse journalists complaining about how their quality is not appreciated aren't quite right. Anyone who reads above a third grade level can tell there's a vast gulf between it and BR, but when that gulf spans the gap between "offensive to the English language" and "newspaper stuff mostly about things I don't care about" it doesn't matter. Instead of widely loathed you're ignored unless you're breaking news, which is ephemeral.
It's no secret that I hate Deadspin. At least, I hate its bottom 20% and don't care about its middle 70%. But even though I don't read it much I still remember a dozen things—great things—it's published in the past year. If there's anyone who understands making it in internet media it's Nick Denton, and he's decided on lots of dongs and lots of outstanding, smart, highbrow content that people will post on their Facebook wall. Minus the dongs, I try to do the same thing for my niche. That's quality that separates you from BR, not spelling "lose" correctly.
Believing a site that gathers metrics similar to Bleacher Report is long for this world. You can't out-troll Anonymous.
I'd love to know what Fanhouse's direct hit numbers were. Nobody went to Fanhouse from a bookmark. Fifty percent of this site's hits have no referrer; Fanhouse was probably under 10%. Again, that's Bleacher Report except BR has a legion of halfwits voting and commenting on each other's posts to get more RadPoints*** . And if you're like Bleacher Report except you're paying people—giving people benefits—you lose. How many BR halfwits can you vaguely curate for one Jay Mariotti salary? Thousands, and their content is no different except for the platform. Once that platform enjoys content-sharing deals with, oh, say, the Washington Post, the guy with the benefits is screwed.
Bleacher Report's secret is that it's awesome at being terrible. It hammers that dong demographic. Here I try to be really specifically awesome for a niche. Deadspin has it both ways. Fanhouse was just okay at the dong demo, okay at the boring stuff, and there wasn't one thing in the history of that site anyone would remember two days after they read it. That's the same mistake they always make.
When Mottram left for Yahoo he corrected the mistake he made with Fanhouse by creating a suite of independent single-source blogs that are run by a guy. You can tell because each of them comes with a picture.
Not all posts are by these guys, but they own the blog in a way no one owned Fanhouse. Each is "quirky" to some extent. The soccer one has regular posts in which an obscure Polish goalkeeper rants about corn and his neighbor and the week's events. Doctor Saturday annually embarks on a defense of the recruiting-industrial complex. Each one is a central part of its sports blogosphere, written extraordinarily well by people who may have worked in newspapers but didn't live them. Most of the contributors are just people who write well. They haven't been blown up, and Mottram ascended the ladder at Yahoo to do the same across the company.
I don't know what to do about the fading ability of people to pay responsible news-reporting types. Fanhouse was run by incompetents and destined to implode anyway. But I might miss it if it wasn't so goddamn boring.
*[I imagine him crashing through the window of a conference room holding dozens of high-level executives on a chandelier, sword in hand, rose in teeth.]
**[Not that he should have kept me and my two posts a week output.]
***[mwa ha ha. Seriously, though, points here are for troll control and have only incidentally grown into an e-peen contest.]
#1 qualification: has practiced looking exasperated.
Finally. After years and years and years, one of the infinite Mallorys coaching college football will coach at Michigan. This edition is Curt, and he'll be the defensive backs coach.
Mallory is a former Michigan player, a defensive back who won letters in '89 and '90. He stuck around to earn his degree a couple years later and then started a coaching career under his father Bill, who was then at Indiana. After three years as a grad assistant at Indiana and Michigan, his paid coaching career:
- 1995-99 - Ball State University (linebackers)
- 2000 - Ball State University (defensive secondary)
- 2001 - Central Michigan University (defensive secondary)
- 2002-04 - Indiana University (defensive secondary)
- 2005-06 - University of Illinois (defensive secondary)
- 2007-09 University of Illinois (co-defensive coordinator/defensive secondary)
- 2010 – Akron (defensive coordinator)
Like Montgomery, that's a steadily increasing profile as a position coach, albeit one that took more time. After a couple years at Illinois he was promoted to co-DC with Dan Disch. This was a disaster. Whether it was awkward co-DCs or a wholesale lack of talent or Disch and Mallory just not being good DC material is unknown. The talent bit has to be a factor, but even so the numbers are mixed at best. Mallory's history as a DC, with season under him bolded:
|Team||Year||Rush D||Pass D||PEff D||Total D||Scoring D||FEI|
Mallory inherited a decent situation that was masked by the vast incompetence of Juice Williams as a freshman, saw his unit steadily regress in yardage and FEI terms until it was a basket case and then watched the new guy turn things around immediately. I'm not sure the Akron numbers mean anything—that team was a biohazard—but I'd be pretty leery of grabbing him as a DC.
But he's not the DC, Greg Mattison is, so that's fine. Mallory's around 40, has plenty of experience recruiting the Midwest, and is a relatively young for a former DC. He'll be coaching the secondary, where he's also got a ton of experience. At Illinois he seemed to do a good job of turning Vontae Davis and Terry Hawthorne, amongst others, into fine players individually even if the stats didn't show it. Former player Allen Ball has described him as "my boy." His career is one of steadily moving up the food chain and he's the proverbial Michigan Man.
Insofar as we know anything about career assistants he seems like a good choice as long as he stops dressing his kids entirely in green. Seriously, someone stop by Moe's for him before the press conference Monday.
UPDATE: FWIW on Mallory's tenure under Zook:
There will be new faces at the most important coaching positions below Zook. The most important question, will Zook cede control of the defense to the new DC, or will it continue completely unaltered, because Zook has been in control of the D, regardless of who the assistants were.
I wouldn't put much weight on his tenure as Illinois DC
|WHAT||Michigan @ Miami|
Goggin Ice Arena,
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/ 5:05 Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: CBS College
Record. 14-9-5, 11-7-4 CCHA. Miami's taken a significant step back despite returning big chunks of their explosive lineup from last year. They're third in the league, four points back of Michigan and five back of Notre Dame. Michigan has two games in hand on both those teams.
The wonky record extends to their nonconference schedule, where they're just 3-2-1. They currently sit 18th in the Pairwise, four or five slots short of the area where they'd be secure. That's also where they sit in RPI. The good news for the Redhawks: the RPI gap between them and a likely tourney berth is narrow.
Despite the wonky record, Miami's goal differential is impressive. They're tied with Michigan at +28 in the league—though Michigan does have small advantage on a per game basis—and are one goal better than Michigan overall with a +33.
Previous meetings. None this year.
Dangermen. Easy to pick these guys out since they're 1-2 in scoring nationwide: seniors Andy Miele and Carter Camper anchor Miami's top line and pour it in. Miele has a 15-34-49 line, Camper 14-32-46. Linemate Reilly Smith isn't far off with a 19-16-35. That's bar-none the best line in college hockey.
Where Miami's fallen off from last year's blistering pace is the rest of it. They've got a couple guys with 11 goals after the big three and then it falls into a big pile of meh. Michigan's keeping pace with Miami in goal differential because no Redhawk defenseman has scored more than twice—if you can shut down that top line you've got a chance. If.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Miami is still rotating juniors Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp, but this year they've collectively taken a major step back. That's if they're actually different people. It's unclear. Both have a Hunwick-before-groin-injury-power-mushroom .901 save percentage. Last year both turned in a .921. It's not like they're getting peppered—both see an average of 21 or 22 shots per game—and Miami lost only one defenseman from last year's team. It seems like the regression there is mostly on the goalies.
Speaking of that defense, they don't score even a little bit save Chris Wideman, who has a 2-15-17 line I assume is the result of being the lone D on Miami's power play. However, the top four guys are all juniors and sophomores and seniors scatter down the roster so they're a veteran group that's contributing to that severe lack of shots opponents are managing.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.6||4.2|
|PP Ag / G||5.3||4.5|
Miami's taken a lot of minors this year and Michigan should expect to have a slight advantage in power plays—if they can force any.
When Miami gets on the power play they're deadly, converting nearly a quarter of their opportunities. That's third nationally. Michigan lags at 22nd. Miami's also much better on the PK, killing 86.5 percent to Michigan's 81.1. That's eight and 35th, respectively. Michigan would prefer a game played five-on-five.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Stay out the box yo. This is the nation's third best power play against the 35th-best penalty kill. Frequent trips to the box is just asking for it. Michigan's taken a lot fewer penalties this year than they usually do and Tristin Llewellyn is taking his penalties in the ECHL now so this is not necessarily doom. But it probably is.
Line match like a mother and win the second line. It's going to be somewhat tough to pull off since both of these games are on the road but if Miele and Camper are on the ice Hagelin should be two seconds from following. If that can be a neutral matchup then it's down to Michigan's second and third lines (and defensemen) outscoring their Miami counterparts. Wohlberg and Caporusso need to show up this weekend.
Grit heart gritty heart heart. Miami is going to be breathing fire. They are 18th right now and have six games before the playoffs to play themselves into the tournament. They're essentially as good as anyone in the league but a combination of unfortunate/unlucky/plain weird results (losing 4-7 to Michigan State?) sees their tourney streak threatened as Most Hated Enemy comes to town.
If Michigan is off or lackadaisical or thinks Miami is not dangerous or hasn't gotten it into their heads that the only way for them to win is to play like their 5'8" walk-on goalie doesn't have a .923 save percentage but is in fact armless they could get blown out of the building and come back to Ann Arbor fighting for their tournament lives.
The Big Picture
One crappy loss to Michigan State has sent me from figuring out how Michigan can wrangle a one-seed to figuring out how much breathing room they have for an at large bid. Who loves the Pairwise?
Everybody Nobody. That single crappy loss sent their RPI from sixth to tenth and leaves 3 or 4 teams right on their heels. If Michigan gets swept this weekend it's likely they fall into the range where they're depending on playoff results to see if they're actually in the tournament.
On the upside, there are now four teams just ahead of them in RPI who could be passed if Michigan bounces back and takes four or more points from Miami. Anything from sixth to out of the tournament is in play depending on the results of the weekend.
A split will be fine here. That will put Michigan four points clear of Miami with two games in hand and two clear of Notre Dame with a manageable schedule left in the race for the title. A sweep is unlikely but would be killer.
Yost Built has ten things for you. The Daily's Florek in CHN. I linked this in the sidebar but it deserves a bit more attention: this is a really long, really interesting article about what makes Steve Kampfer an 18-minute-a-night defenseman at 22 and how the Bruins identified and acquired him. The Conboy/Tropp incident is remembered—misremembered, but remembered—as evidence he was an NHL player!
|WHAT||Michigan v. #1 Ohio State|
7:00 PM EST
February 3rd, 2011
|THE LINE||Michigan +16.5|
Signing Day has come and gone (on to the class of 2012!), and since last we previewed a game for the Men's Basketballing Wolverines, they've gone out and ended a 14-year road losing streak to their archrival, and taken care of business against a lesser opponent. The team's best player has broken out of a mini-slump with a solid performance in the first game, and a triple-double in the second. Good times in Crisler Arena.
Of course, it must be mentioned that said archrival is struggling like they rarely have under Tom Izzo, and Iowa is indeed terrible at the basketball (but way better than State! HAHAHAHAHA!). Despite both coming up short against the Wolverines, Kalin Lucas and Melsahn Besabe each had wonderful days offensively against Michigan. These Wolverines did not suddenly turn into... well, Ohio State.
Ohio State, on the other hand, remains Ohio State. They're among the tops in the country both offensively and defensively, and are the best team in Division 1 basketball by a healthy margin. Though Michigan played them close in Crisler Arena 22 days ago, they're likely to play much better at home.
The Buckeyes still have Jared Sullinger, and they still have an excellent supporting cast around him. In ValueCity Arena (about which: LOL), every single Wolverine will have to play some of his best ball this season to come away with a win.
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. Ohio State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Ohio State Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OSU Def eFG%||67||73||-|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OSU eFG%||166||6||OO|
|Mich TO% v. OSU Def TO%||23||10||O|
|Mich Def TO% v. OSU TO%||237||5||OOO|
|Mich OReb% v. OSU DReb%||304||32||OOO|
|Mich DReb% v. OSU OReb%||47||65||M|
|Mich FTR v. OSU Opp FTR||344||1||OOOO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OSU FTR||60||236||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OSU AdjD||48||5||O|
|Mich AdjD v. OSU AdjO||87||2||O|
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.
I think I've already made this joke once already this year, but hide ya kids, hide ya wife. Ohio State is good at the basketed ball. Even one of Michigan's strongest suits - not turning over the ball - is a statistical advantage for the Buckeyes. The only areas in which Michigan has performed better is rebounding Ohio State misses, and not sending the Buckeyes to the free throw line.
When last these teams met, the Wolverines outshot the Buckeyes, 64.1-60.7 eFG%. The teams were about equal in turnovers and rebounding. The biggest difference is displayed in the chart above: Ohio State shot more than three times as many free throws as did Michigan.
Judging by the statistics, it's likely that Michigan played above their heads the first time against the Buckeyes. While there could be matchup reasons for that, I think it's more likely that a rivalry game in front of the home crowd played a much bigger role. On the road, Michigan is more likely to struggle like the stats imply they should.
Last time I predicted Michigan would perform better than expected but still lose, it worked out just fine, thank you very much. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 73-56 win for the Buckeyes, and Vegas says OSU by 16.5.
You've probably heard most of the details already - and if you want the full play-by-play, read through the end of yesterday's liveblog - but here are some greatest hits from Brady Hoke's Signing Day presser yesterday:
- All signed recruits are expected to qualify to play next year.
- Jack Miller was singled out as a center. Tamani Carter was listed as a safety. Chris Rock was listed as a defensive end, but Hoke mentioned that some defensive linemen in the class may end up moving inside.
- There is no update on Devin Gardner's redshirt status (so you can stop asking).
- Michigan will run a 4-3 defense next year, including under and over fronts.
And now, for the video I shot of Michigan's assistant coaches. What can you expect? Offensive line coach discusses the future positions of Michigan's three commits (it's still possible that Tony Posada plays tackle, and some current players may move positions as well), Fred Jackson breaks down the game of Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls, offensive coordinator Al Borges discusses the skillset of QB commit Russell Bellomy and talks about adjusting his offense to take advantage of Denard's skillset, and recruiting coordinator Chris Singletary describes holding the class together during a coaching transition.
Be sure to pay attention at 2:35 for an EPIC FRED JACKSON, as he calls Thomas Rawls a faster version of Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry:
He is like the 2nd and 5th all-time Michigan rushing leaders...except faster!
One other quick note: Singletary told me off-camera that the coaching staff would solidify a couple dates for Junior Days in the next week. I would guess that February 12th and March 5th (home basketball weekends) are good guesses.
Kellen Jones M bowtie FTW.
Improving the not LOI. Compliance people complain to each other on twitter about people who abbreviate the "National Letter of Intent" as "LOI" instead of "NLI." Apparently there are other LOIs. You have been warned.
In any case they should be heavily reformed. Right now they're one-way binds with silly timing that have created a cottage industry of kids who attempt to reserve their spot by being "committed, but open." Paul Johnson's opinion of this is similar to Artur Boruc's about corn:
What I’d like to see happen, but I’m probably by myself: if you have 85 scholarships, and you can sign 25 a year or however many you have. When they commit, they sign the papers and you stop. It would stop all the verbal commitments and all the hats. The guys who weren’t ready wouldn’t commit. You’d call their bluff. They couldn’t make their reservation. We’ll talk to kids all the time, juniors right now, who are committing. We’ll say ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’
“Oh coach, I’m open.”
[HT: Get The Picture.]
I'm not really sure what the argument against early signing is. The way it's set up now everyone scrambles to get their class locked in on Signing Day, so someone like FL WR AJ King who has his scholarship pulled by Purdue is in a tough spot in his attempt to find a landing place. If he was signed, he'd be signed and hijinks both ways would be seriously reduced.
The Bylaw Blog has a few other suggestions, one of which I've made in this space before: the NCAA should implement a "no contact" agreement. That piece of paper would be non-binding but would allow the school specified by the player to contact the kid without restriction… and make it a violation for anyone else to. Official visits would also be off the table. That's a verbal commitment that actually exists and would help coaches figure out who's serious and who's just making a backup plan.
Heart-hurting. Remember that video of the Detroit Renaissance coach declaring Michigan's treatment of former Ren players "hurt his heart," thus explaining why Michigan couldn't get anyone out of there no matter what? Raise your hand if you're surprised that Ren's Lawrence Thomas recited the entire negative recruiting playbook:
"Why not Michigan? They had problems. There were some past experiences with other Renaissance players that I didn't like. Plus, Rich Rodriguez sent an assistant to our school to recruit me. He wouldn't even send the defensive coordinator, just an assistant. Then we'd hear that Rich Rod would be in Florida recruiting."
The Renaissance players were Andre Criswell, a last-second addition at FB who never saw the field and was kept on as a GA after leaving the team before his fifth year, and Carson Butler, the insane tight end who finally ran out of chances towards the end of Rodriguez's first year. Butler was treated so badly he stuck up for Rodriguez during the jihad. Michigan did as well by those kids as they could given the latter's hatred of nerds, be they in the wrong dorm room or playing for Notre Dame.
So… this was not a situation likely to produce a commitment even if Rodriguez showed up with every assistant he had, and one that would likely have continued under Hoke. Similarly, when Taiwan Jones complains about a lack of attention from Michigan during his visit to the UConn game he's complaining as a guy who had been a MSU commit for months already and who Michigan never even considered offering.
This continues the theme from these Blue Chip articles in the News since the beginning of time: Michigan commits asked about State say something short, polite and vague, State commits asked about Michigan rant about a lack of respect, and the guys towards the bottom of the list submit a tear-stained questionnaire because neither school thought they were good enough. This will happen next year, and the year after, and so on and so forth.
Adventures in re-evaluating wins. So… how about not losing to Iowa by twenty points? Yeah, got a whole new sheen on it today, that does.
I mention it by way of inserting this "Fran-graph" from BHGP:
Michigan's at the top and you can see the extreme focus on the rim or the three point line in Michigan's field goals. BHGP's Horace E Cow explains:
In men's basketball in the NCAA this year, players have made 34.5% of threes and 48.2% of twos. The average value, then, of a three-point attempt is 3*.345 = 1.04, and the average of a two is 2*.482 = .964. This fact has led many college (and pro) coaches to the reasonable conclusion that three-point shots are better bets than two-point shots, and that their teams should take as many threes as possible (Todd Lickliter was one of these coaches, actually).
Not all twos are worth less than threes, though: shots at the rim are usually made at a very high percentage (60-70%) and thus the average dunk or lay-up is worth 1.2-1.4 points, much more than the average three. Putting these two facts together (threes are better than most twos, but dunks are better than threes), coaches have developed what could be called a "hollowing-out" strategy on offense: threes and dunks are encouraged, anything in between in discouraged.
My first experience with this line of thinking was watching some Kentucky game back in the day when Pitino was coaching them and hearing the announcer go on about how Pitino loathed shots just inside the arc. Beilein's system is the logical extension of that thinking. Michigan's makes against Iowa: 14 threes, nine layups/dunks, and ten anything else.
If you can get it to work it's great, and it's not a strategy that seems to have a ceiling. One of this year's other proponents of the dunk-or-deep strategy is #1 and current opponent Ohio State. Because they have Jared Sullinger they aren't launching as many threes but both their 2PT% and 3PT% are off the charts—they're in the top ten in both nationally. They've got four guys who take a large volume of two-point shots, and two of them are shooting a Jordan-Morgan-like 59%. Ohio State's distribution isn't quite as extreme but it's essentially the same thing.
The slight difference between the programs is the ability to recruit Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas every damn year.
180 update. Media 180, Signing Day edition:
- Brady Hoke's first recruiting class looks like unqualified success
- Brady Hoke earns first win as U-M head coach — in recruiting
- Brady Hoke's first recruiting class adds toughness to Michigan football team
And I'm not even looking at the Free Press, which remains dead to me. I can only imagine the tiny drawings of angels.
I like the one that says there's more toughness now. That's definitely true. Being not tough was the problem, not the secondary being old enough to drive only if they all stood on each other's shoulders in a huge trenchcoat. Also that's the same guy who wrote about the "impossible expectations" driving Tate Forcier away. Pete Bigelow needs to make up his mind about toughness.
[Disclaimer section: Hoke did an okay job, but nothing that should push opinions either way. Not going into the year down eight kids is good. Losing Willingham to Central Florida(!?!?) is pretty wack, but being in a position to say that's wack is impressive since Michigan was nowhere with that kid before Mattison showed up. Losing Jake Fisher makes the tackle depth chart terrifying. I also don't understand telling Rivals 250 receiver Devin Lucien, a guy who was seriously looking at Stanford and silently committed to Rodriguez during The Process because he liked Michigan's academics, "defense or GTFO." Even if you don't want Hakeem Flowers, Michigan had room for another five players and has no receivers in this class.
Meanwhile, most of the guys picked up were of the low-hanging fruit variety: guys who were committed to Indiana or Minnesota or Vandy and didn't have a ton of other confirmed Big Ten options (Heitzman, Carter, Taylor, Bellomy) or guys who had been openly coveting Michigan offers (Poole, Rawls, Taylor again) but didn't get them until later. TX TE Chris Barnett is the exception.
This class is a wait-and-see sort of thing. We won't know if these late pickups were players RR and other Big Ten schools misevaluated or warm bodies for a while, and we won't know about Hoke's recruiting prowess until the 2012 commits start rolling in and he's competing against Ohio State. Not that Rodriguez won many battles against OSU.
On the other hand, a quarter of the class won't fail to show up or wash out by the end of spring like the last RR class so that's cool. Snatching Frank Clark away from MSU despite his existence in close proximity to Ted Ginn is promising. Also: kicker. Hoke uber alles.]
Etc.: Thomas Rawls may be a member of the Jackson family. The awkward Hoke-Rodriguez video. Going back to the 4-3. Michigan finishes 21st in the Rivals rankings. Hoke's got 8 years before the deck stacks against him significantly. Don't play the Hoke "toughness" drinking game. Nutt greyshirt hijinks.
This is the front-page version of the post that lives in the "useful stuff" tab updated for 2011. Since Hoke announced Michigan would be running a shifted 4-3 I've changed the defensive depth chart to reflect what's likely to happen in spring. Defensive ends have been split into strong and weakside positions and Ryan Van Bergen has been moved back into the DT row on the assumption Michigan's starting DL reads Black-Martin-Van Bergen-Roh next year. Large sections of the secondary are wild-ass guesses we won't get resolution on until Spring.
Right now Michigan has 16 slots for the 2011 class and two players who are obvious candidates to not get fifth years, so with normal attrition they'll be in the mid-twenties again next year.
As far as the end result of The Process: Michigan is two scholarships short pending tomorrow's Willingham commitment, which right now looks like it won't go M's way. In addition, they're carrying Mike Williams—a likely medical redshirt—and at least two more players who could have not gotten fifth years after graduating this spring. Michigan forewent up to five additional recruits thanks to the awkward timing of The Process. They didn't sock themselves with USC scholarship penalties—they socked themselves with half of USC's scholarship penalties.
MICHIGAN FOOTBALL DEPTH BY CLASS 2011
|QB (3 + 0)||
|RB (8 - 1)||J. Hayes
|WR (8 - 3)||R. Miller*
|Slot (5 - 1)||J. Gallon*
|TE (2 - 1)||
|B. Moore*||K. Koger|
|OT (4 - 1)||T. Posada||M. Schofield*
|OG (4 + 0)||C. Bryant||P. Omameh*
|C (4 -1)||C. Pace*
|R. Khoury*||D. Molk*|
|DT (6 - 2)||
|Q.Washington*||W. Campbell||M. Martin
|SDE (3 + 0)||
|J. Black||W. Heininger*#|
|WDE (3 + 0)||
|C. Roh||S. Watson*|
|LB (12 - 2)||J. Ryan*
|K. Demens*||B. Herron*
|CB (9 - 1)||
|JT Floyd*||T. Woolfolk*|
|SS (6 - 1)||J. Furman*||M. Robinson
|FS (2 + 0)||
|P/K (3 + 0)||M. Wile||B. Gibbons*
projected starters in bold, returning starters in italics.
Allotted: 83 (Counting Kovacs and Grady as a scholarship players)
Recruits: Right now Michigan has 16 scholarships. There are two redshirt juniors who may not get fifth years if Michigan finds it needs a little wiggle room: Terrance Robinson and Mike Cox.
Latest Update: 2/2/11 – Updated for 2011.
Michigan has gained a commitment from TX TE Chris Barnett.
Hat! Dyed Beard!
|3*, #16 TE||4*, 5.8, #14 TE, #224 Overall||3*, 78, #20 TE|
The premium sites can't agree on how tall he is, with Rivals and Scout saying 6-6, but ESPN going all the way down to 6-4. Despite that, all three list weights within a few pounds of each other, at about 247. ESPN's evaluation:
Barnett is a kid who as a tight end can present a big target with his long and lean frame. He has good height and while he needs to keep filling out he has plenty of room to add size. He has good hands and displays the ability to use that reach and extend and bring the ball in. He runs solid routes and does a good job of finding the soft spots in zone coverage and being able to settle and get open. He is a tall kid who appears to need to build speed and displays adequate acceleration whether getting into his route or after the catch. He displays adequate leaping ability, but will go up and get the ball and that coupled with his size can present a tough match-up and a nice target in the red-zone. He is a tough kid who will fight for yards after the catch. He is not very elusive, but will lower his shoulder and try and fight his way through tackles. While he needs to add bulk and may not physically look like a in-line blocker, he is productive. One thing he does well is he gets hands on and gets good placement. He needs to improve his overall technique as a blocker, but when he gets locked on he is tough to beat. Moves his feet, but needs to watch his pad level and you would like to see him consistently deliver a good initial pop and use his lower body strength more. Works to stay with blocks. Displays upside as player who can stay in and help as a pass blocker. Displays the ability to keep a solid base and move his feet and mirror, but does need to be sure to bend more at the knees. Barnett has good size and the ability to be productive as a both a receiver and blocker.
Scout's comments... well:
The phrase 'chillin, but my swag's on full attack' can definitely be applied to Barnett's game out on the field. He plays under a controlled tempo until it is time for him to explode out of a break or plant a defender into the turf on a block. It is a great year for the tight end nationally and with the proper development and focus Barnett could end up being one of if not the best by the time he leaves college. He has the size and the tools.
Were they drunk when they wrote that lede? I lean towards yes. They list blocking, competitiveness, and route-running as his strengths, while saying he needs to improve his body control and strength. Rivals also evaluates his game:
On the Hoof: Tall, long-armed athlete is a bit thin in the chest and thick through the midsection. Barnett has a nice powerbase to go with long, thick legs. His build is similar to Stanford redshirt freshman Levine Toilolo.
Needs Improvement: Needs to reshape some of his bad body weight and improve his overall speed. Added upper-body strength will also improve his run blocking ability.
Most Impressive: Has very soft hands for a huge tight end and is a mismatch for shorter defensive backs. He also runs precise routes and knows how to use his body to shield off defenders from making plays on the ball.
Conclusion: His size makes him a candidate for early playing time, especially on passing downs and in the red zone.
They love his size and ball skills, while saying his speed, strength, and agility are just good.
Barnett decommitted from Arkansas to join Michigan's class of 2011 (he had previously decommitted from Oklahoma to join Arkansas's class), and the Razorbacks know what a good tight end looks like. "Bobby Petrino tight end" is like "Wisconsin offensive lineman" or "USC pro-style quarterback" in terms of recruiting cachet from a single offer.
The rest of Barnett's offers, then, should follow suit. Miami (YTM), USC, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford, and Utah are just a few of his more notable names. Despite "meh" grades from the recruiting sites, the offers say this is a big time tight end prospect.
The recruiting sites only have estimates for his stats, with ESPN having sophomore numbers:
Caught 25 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Rushed for 150 yards. Registered 130 tackles and six sacks. Missed three games following knee surgery...
And Scout bringing the senior year:
As a senior Barnett racked up 300 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Not exceptional numbers, but as with most high school prospects, it's hard to determine the quality of his team and the opposition, as well as his team's offensive style. Especially since tight end isn't a "glory position," those stats are nothing to sneeze at.
FAKE 40 TIME
OK, if these numbers are legit, this dude is a beast. Scout lists him with a 4.55 40-yard dash time, and Rivals says 4.52. Those are very good numbers for a wide receiver prospect, and much more so for a 6-6 250-pound tight end. Since both sites have such specific times, and since they're so close, I'm inclined to believe they might be legitimate. Still, that only knocks it down one spot to four FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights from the YouTube:
I couldn't find senior highlights on Youtube.
OTHER PEOPLE NAMED CHRIS BARNETT
Apparently there's an MMA fighter named Chris Barnett. People REALLLLY like putting MMA videos on Youtube.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Though the Wolverines really needed a tight end in this class, that doesn't necessarily mean Barnett will get onto the field right away. Kevin Koger will be a senior this year, and if redshirt junior Brandon Moore can become a contributor, Michigan's top two TEs are locked down.
However, Barnett seems ready to play immediately, and though he can add a bit of strength and weight, he has the speed to make defenses pay for overplaying the run. I think he'll get a bit of playing time as a true freshman, splitting the #2 spot on the depth chart with Moore.
After Koger graduates, Barnett should see tons of playing time in Michigan's TE-heavy offense. By the time he's a junior, All-Big Ten honors are a strong possibility, and don't be surprised if he contends to be an All-American a a senior.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has a true tight end in the class, leaving defensive tackle as the only strong need. Any prospects on top of that are icing on the cake, as Michigan has filled all of its other needs by now, and they're unlikely to run up against the scholarship limit. CO LB Leilon Willingham is the only known prospect left on the board.
Barnett is a great pull for this coaching staff, and they've gone well beyond showing they can recruit. With just a couple weeks of contact, they've reeled in a number of good prospects (Barnett, Antonio Poole, etc.) and continued the recruiting job Rich Rodriguez's staff did (Countess re-commitment, Taylor and Bryant commitments).
OH Ath Frank Clark has committed to join Michigan's class of 2011. The Cleveland Glenville product projects to a number of positions, but is expected to play linebacker or tight end in Ann Arbor.
|3*, #33 TE||3*, 5.6, NR LB||3*, 77, #82 DE|
The sites are basically in agreement on Clark's size: he's about 6-3 and 210 pounds. ESPN's evaluation is mostly at defensive end, and therefore unlikely to be too useful, but here are the revelant words:
He is a physical kid and can be a solid tackler. He is active and defends the run well. Displays good upside as a pass rusher. He will attack half-a-man and while he needs to develop his pass rush arsenal he can be active with his weapons and can turn the corner well to get to the quarterback. There is some possibility that Clark could be looked at as a tight end, but we feel he fits well on defense and with some work could develop into a good college defender and end up being a nice little pick-up for a program.
It seems like they're in love with him on defense, particularly on the line (or as an outside 'backer in a 3-4, I suppose). This is particularly odd, given that the rest of their evaluation is "he's not polished with the skills necessary for a position that he hasn't played and likely won't."
Since there's precious little out there on Clark's game, I'll dip into the paid reserves a bit, to excerpt this ($) Scout article:
Also impressing was Glenville (Ohio) receiver Frank Clark. With a large frame, long arms, and a solid lower body, Clark looks like a prime-time D-I athlete. Clark moves well for being about 6-4, 215-pounds. Although not quite a tight end, Clark looks as though he can easily put on another 10 pounds and be a big redzone target. He jumps relatively well and has pretty good-sized hands. His concentration was a bit inconsistent, but when he worked, he is a very good player. His waist is not quite big enough to grow into a tight end and he is already a thickly built kid; he will come into a D-I program pretty well developed. Not a true burner, Clark’s straight-line speed is decent due to his long strides.
He is a very good athlete and moves well for his size, which is listed in the 205-210 range. Frank clearly has the frame to add the weight needed to be a college TE or H-back. His straight-line speed is reported to be in the 4.5+ range.
Frank runs solid routes and uses his body well to separate from defenders. Glenville is loaded with skilled players, so Clark does not show up a ton on film. His video from the Michigan showcase was impressive.
So, he's on the borderline between a wideout and tight end in body size - though if he's actually 6-4, and can pack on weight, he should be just fine. In terms of skill set, he seems like a hybrid TE/WR, as he performed mostly as a wideout at camps, and it doesn't sound like he's done a lot of blocking.
Rivals credits Frank with offers from Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Cal, along with a trio of MAC schools. Scout says he also had interest, but no offers, from Penn State and Pitt. He also heard (briefly) from Ohio State, but his chance for an offer disappeared when Ryan Shazier committed to the Buckeyes.
Michigan (offered in December), Michigan State, and North Carolina were Clark's final three.
ESPN has some stats:
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Clark played outside linebacker and tight end during his senior season. He made 70 tackles including 19 sacks while catching 12 passes with three touchdowns.
Not bad, especially for a team that has playmakers at every position.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals credits Clark with a 4.53 40-yard time. That is very impressive for a guy that ESPN ranks as a defensive end, and would even be a pretty good time for, say, a strong safety. I'm pleased to present it with four FAKEs out of five.
There doesn't appear to be any video of Clark on Youtube or even on ScoutingOhio. That's pretty rare, especially for a guy from a program as high-profile as Cleveland Glenville. If you can find any out there, let me know.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With fellow recent commit Keith Heitzman expected to find a home on the defensive line, Clark is almost certain to be a tight end at Michigan. Depending on the status of Brandon Moore, who has yet to see the field, that could mean a redshirt for Frank. After a redshirt season, he and Moore will be the only tight ends on the roster (barring further commitments, of course), and he should see serious playing time with the two-tights leaning of the new staff.
Frank will always be a bit on the smaller side for a tight end, given what the recruiting services have said about him, so he'll be more of a pass-catching threat than a devastating blocker. However, that means stats should come, and with them accolades. Clark has All-Big Ten potential before he leaves Ann Arbor.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Wooo! Michigan got a tight end! That was a huge need in this class, and Mr. Clark's commitment makes it less of a pressing issue. The coaching staff is still going hard after TX TE Chris Barnett as well. Barnett is more of a true tight end, and is probably more ready to play right away than Clark is.
Going forward, Clark gives Michigan a foot in the door at the notoriously impenetrable Glenville Academic Campus, which pumps out top prospects on a yearly basis.
Getting started around 7AM. We'll be running most of the day, at least until after the 2PM press conference. We won't shut it down while there is a good possibility any prospects will pick Michigan today.