It's been a while since this feature has made an appearance, but with a recent boom in good diaries, it's time to dust off the cobwebs and bring you the best in user-generated content. Write a good diary and you, too, can have your time in the spotlight!
A lot of diaries of late have been Lacrosse (me), Baseball (formerlyanonymous), or Recruiting (Tom/me) -related, but there's been some good user-generated content, as well. Though we haven't seen this feature since December, I'll restrict entries to the end of basketball season. I'm leaving 16-team Big Ten proposals alone for now, as Brian will probably bring them up later.
The Mathlete brought it strong over the past few weeks, including a look at which NCAA football teams have been the most and least lucky over the past two years. How did he define luck?
To try and answer these questions, I took my team PPG values for the full 2009 season and then “re-played” the regular season schedule to see how the season would play out if the teams played at that consistent level and the fluky plays were eliminated. All first half plays and any in the second half with the game within 2 touchdowns were included. Interceptions are included, fumbles are not. Standard special teams plays are included, punt blocks, on-sides kicks etc. are not.
Unsurprisingly, Michigan hasn't been so lucky either of the past two years:
Northwestern has been the luckiest team in the nation two years running, so they may be in for a rude awakening sometime soon. MCalibur's lengthy diary presumably covers something similar (win expectations), but is more notable for how pretty its charts are.
Here offensive YPG is charted against defensive YPG. The horrible dot at the bottom is '08; the horrible dot to the right is '09. You can see how far from respectable Michigan was in '08 and the sizeable improvement last year, albeit not enough of one to expect a bowl game.
The Mathlete then delved into the importance of personnel, starting with the cumbersomely-titled post exploring the value of returning starters to a football team's success. Surprisingly, as long as your team wasn't among the bottom 20% in the country of returning starts at some key positions, returning experience isn't that big of a deal:
Returning starts don't matter as much as people think. The way they are most likely to affect a team is if you have very few. A whole host of returners isn't necessarily more valuable than a solid group. Just don't be stuck at the bottom, even a low ranking in a single position group can be worth a game or two.
So Michigan is losing its best three defenders, which bodes ill for the 2010 season, right? Not So Fast My Friend, as The Mathlete continued to outdo himself, crunching the numbers to reveal who were Michigan's top defensive players last year. Ryan Van Bergen comes in at a surprising #3, with Brandon Graham, in a shocker, the runaway leader with an adjusted score of 27.4. Donovan Warren's 8.7 was second.
The only positive performers who are returning are Van Bergen, Jonas Mouton, Mike Martin, and Obi Ezeh. Jordan Kovacs, Craig Roh, and Mike Leach were only slightly in the negative, all right around average nationally for their positions. The conclusion:
The most glaring point for me is that Michigan’s top linebacker, Mouton, barely makes the top 150 linebackers nationally in production. If Michigan’s defense is going to turn things around there is going to have be some new playmakers step up and there has to be more production from the linebackers.
The Mathlete, for your research-laden diaries (and the charts, OH, the charts!), you are The Diarist of the... er... Spring!
Inspired by the recent changes to NFL overtime rules, ecormany proposes a few tweaks to the NCAA's overtime system. Among his ideas: reincorporate the punting game and give teams only two minutes to complete each possession in an overtime period.
In Can The Heat Be Beat?, Elno Lewis looks at the ever-growing dominance of so-called "warm weather teams" in winning football national titles. The results are striking:
Warm Weather Teams Winning Championships
1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 40.6% 47.5% 53.1% 53.8% 62.1% 68.4% 70.0%
It looks like the trend is still upward for warm-weather teams. Can northern squads like Michigan try to buck the trend? Follow-up question: can an infusion of Florida talent negate the trend? I'd be interested to see someone expand on Elno's research.
wildbackdunesman compares the respective CCHA coaching careers of Ron Mason and Red Berenson, and proposes a name-change of the CCHA Tournament trophy to the Mason-Berenson Cup. Red is comparable to Mason in every category of measuring success, and there's certainly a compelling argument to be made. It seems the only serious advantage Mason has is being the coach of more CCHA teams (Lake State, Bowling Green, and Michigan State, as compared to only Michigan for Red) and coaching longer than Berenson has so far.
With the NFL Draft coming up, Mat takes a look at whether Donovan Warren made the right choice in leaving Michigan a year early for the Big Leagues. The criteria to consider:
The potential gains for returning for one more year are:
- Another year of college life / experience
- Potential improved draft stock
...and the verdict:
Warren didn't make a mistake. Most guys who are drafted are not making a mistake when they turn pro. The decision is the correct one when all the costs and benefits are factored in for most. The decision is only a mistake is if you’re immediately cut and never earn a penny as a pro football player or are really enjoying life as a collegiate athlete and will miss it more than you’ll appreciate the money you’ll earn as a pro.
The reasoning behind this conclusion seems pretty sound, yet it inspired tons of debate in the comments. Both supporters and detractors of the premise raised a bunch of interesting points about Warren's draft stock, and how it affects their view of his decision.
mfan_in_ohio declares the Michigan fanbase's independence from Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God. The preamble proceeds thusly:
When in the course of sporting events it becomes necessary for fans to dissolve the bands which have connected them with another, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
...but the money quotes come in the airing of grievances.
Misopogon determines whether the three new NCAA football rules have an effect on Michigan. The verdicts? Wedge blocking ban: Help. Taunting rule: Hurt. Eyeblack message ban: Neutral. Click through to find out his reasoning.
Bust out the cigarettes and Fedoras, as BlueSeoul gives us a glimpse into the noir-style meeting between Jim Delaney and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick's about the Irish joining the Big Ten. Plus he has to apologize at the end for getting to Star Wars-y.
An actual historical diary from Alaska Hokie shares the story of former Michigan quarterback James Miller.
WALLA WALLA, March 19.—James Miller, the famous quarterback of the Michigan team last year, who has been missing from his home for several months, was located in this city yesterday working as a laborer. His mind is a total blank and he is quite unable to recognize his friends. He was elected to the captaincy of the Wolverine team for next season.
Sounds like something out of the twilight zone (or at least the front page of MVictors). There's debate over whether his amnesia was a medical issue or a clever ruse to cover up for some personal issues.
Defense + - Graham 6 0 RVB 1 0 Herron 0 1 Heniger 0 1 Kovacs 2 2 Roh 1 2 Brown 1 2 Warren 3 0 Martin 1 0 Mouton 4 2 Leach 2 1 total 21 11
Denard Robinson was 1/1 with the pass being deemed "catchable," but Tate Forcier had a slightly rougher day.
On the basketball side of things, Champswest tries to figure out where Michigan's scoring will come from next year. Uh, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz, apparently. I guess more balanced scoring is a good thing?
Etc.: Nantucket Blue, seemingly apropos of nothing, rips on Michigan State in Our Colors Don't Mix. In other Michigan State-related diaries, MGoData looks at the Google habits of East Lansing residents (seriously). Kman23 brainstorms ways to get Michigan's best receivers on the field at the same time. Jeff gives props to the streaking Women's Tennis team. Laveraneus looks at combined win/loss records for football and basketball across various schools and conference. MGlobules tries to round up some UConn spring game recaps. backusduo pre-previews EA's NCAA Football 2011.
Safety not guaranteed. This is a photo from 1940 that clearly shows a TIME TRAVELER who has visited the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in British Columbia:
The time traveler is the guy in the crazy sunglasses who looks like he walked out of Bursley and into history. That shirt he's wearing has a block M on it:
If you doubt this is actually a time traveler please note that Skinner from the X-Files is keeping a close eye on him. QED.
This guy's next mission is to find a sleepy bungalow in Mentor, Ohio and bang really loudly on the windows on the night Jim Tressel is conceived. Oh no… what if he's already done it?
Next guy hi. Michigan's looking for an assistant basketball coach and with the public "no thanks" from IPFW head coach Dane Fife—Mr. Self Aggrandizement also publicly shot down overtures from Indiana despite not being offered a job by either—speculation focuses on a trio of guys with state of Michigan ties. If you're looking for a guy with high major experience, Lickliter assistant LaVall Jordan is your man. If you want a guy who's recruited one of the better mid-major teams in the state, Oakland assistant Saadi Washington is your man. If you want a former Globetrotter who is "one of the most fashionable coaches around" and has a name that sounds like a vicious mixed drink of rum and bitters, Bacari Alexander is your man.
That's what I thought. Bacari Alexander for the win.
Meanwhile in attempting to get someone, anyone to join the basketball program: Sam Webb reported on WTKA this morning that Isaiah Sykes did pick up a Michigan offer this weekend. Surprisingly for a guy who's bounced around so much, his transcripts are in fairly good shape. So that's good news.
It's less good that Sykes didn't commit immediately and plans on trips to Central Florida and Arkansas. Orlando may be a trip to take a trip but anyone going to Fayetteville is going on business. Michigan fans grimly remember the recruiting saga of Chicagoan Patrick Beverly. Michigan had late-rising Beverly all locked up until a trip to Arkansas resulted in a Razorback commitment and rampant speculation about payoffs. The parallels are uncomfortable.
Cover three pattern read. Clemson blog Shakin' the Southland has a fantastic analysis of a cover three system that uses "pattern read" principles to prevent itself from getting sliced into little tiny cubes in the passing game, something that would be pretty nice if Michigan could swing this year. Pattern reading is pretty much what it sounds like: the defensive backs read what the receivers are doing and react accordingly. Here's an example:
Flat defender [Ed: SS] drops to the flat zone and picks up the RB when he crosses his face. The H/C defender [SLB] starts his drop up the seam but then takes the first receiver that breaks inside, and tries to wall him off. The deep corner takes the deepest threat, which in this case is the TE on a flag route.
Flat defender [WLB] starts his drop underneath the #1 receiver who is running a Dig route, and keeps inside leverage on him. Once he sees someone cross his face he jumps him in the flat (#2).
The H/C defender (MLB) runs with the #1 receiver on the Dig, remember he's supposed to cover any inside breaker into his zone. If the Z couldn't be walled off and breaks underneath, he must keep him in front of him, and try to stay under that Dig route.
The Corner closes on the most dangerous threat he sees, while the FS is reading the QB and breaks on any throw.
Depending on the formations and routes presented, the players in the zone take different actions. If everyone's on the same page (and has the requisite athleticism) your zones become hellishly adaptable man coverages that provide most of the advantages of zone and most of the advantages of man. The catch is that "if." Smart Football explains in a post on Alabama's pattern reading defense:
The two zone-dropping schools of thought are to teach “spot-drops” or “pattern-reading.” One can overemphasize the distinction, but generally spot-dropping is easier to teach and was the traditional approach. For example, if your outside linebacker is responsible for the weak-flat, he will take his read steps and, upon reading pass, will drop to a spot and then react to the QB’s eyes. A big advantage with spot-dropping is simply that it is easy to teach to, say, a run-stuffing inside linebacker who spends most of his time on run game pursuit and shedding blocks.
The difference between a spot drop and a pattern read is in the complexity of the algorithm. Spot drop:
- GOTO X
Hypothetical Pattern read for a hook/curl defender:
- If (receiver #2 goes vertical) goto seam
- If (receiver breaks outside of me) goto smash
- If (receiver breaks inside) goto dig
One of the reasons Alabama is so good is that Saban is crazily efficient at coaching his guys up with pattern reading. Robots make robots, and robots are good at algorithms.
Will Michigan use this? Eh… I'm not sure. The linebackers were pretty clueless against both run and pass next year and have seen their defensive responsibilities shift. Adding complicated pattern reading on top of that is probably a bridge too far. Maybe we'll see it in some of the players, but probably not Mouton and Ezeh. It sounds like a move to a pattern read is one akin to moving from a regular gap blocked scheme to a zone running game: you've got to commit to it 100% or it doesn't help.
Chicago is full of lies. Remember early this week when everyone was panicking about the imminent expansion of the Big Ten and dissolution of the NCAA? Yeah. Here's Teddy Greenstein repudiating a previous report that sent everyone into a tizzy:
Big Ten expansion timetable isn’t on fast track
Commissioner says conference will stick with 12-18 month window
Good work! That will show whoever wrote that spurious article about Big Ten expansion acceleration. Who was that again? I couldn't find it on Bleacher Report… hmm, weird, there's a link right on this page…
Looks like Big Ten expansion timetable accelerating
Conference could decide to add schools in next few months
April 17, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter
Whoops. The Sun-Times would not let Bob Stoops-to-ND die and is still leading the race to the Bleacher Report bottom, but here's a point for the Tribune. I am not holding my breath for an orgy of clucking akin to the one after the BR-spawned and KC Star-abetted Pitt-to-Big Ten rumor.
First chance to see. If you haven't gotten enough of slightly disorganized football games with unexplained strictures on the defense, the North-South Ohio All Star game is Friday at 7 PM on "SportsTime Ohio," which you probably get if you live in Ohio. Math demands that Lexington quarterback/defensive back Courtney Avery will be on your screen at all times:
A four-year starter at quarterback for Lexington, Avery is just one of four defensive backs on the North roster and one of two true cornerbacks.
"It's going to be a little different, because I'm not playing quarterback," said Avery, a two-time All-Ohio first team defensive pick and the owner of virtually every Lexington passing record. "It will be nice to focus just on defense. It will give me a taste of what I'll be doing at Michigan."
Antonio Kinard and Jake Ryan are also on Avery's team; the Talbott brothers are on the South team. Preferred walk-on kicker Carey Spear is on the North team, too. It's a little more data on all those guys, at the very least.
The 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board lives here.
Brennen Beyer Goes Blue
And He's Leaping With Excitement About It! (Sorry).
Michigan's 2011 recruiting class now stands at four commitments after MI DE Brennen Beyer joined the fold Thursday afternoon. For much more on his commitment check out Hello: Brennen Beyer. Tom talked to Brennen Thursday after he committed, and gave a brief update in the comments of that post:
He said, "After seeing all the other schools, I knew that this was the right place. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to go."
He has been a lifelong Michigan fan and added an emphatic "Go Blue!' at the end.
Touch The Banner breaks down his game:
In many ways, Beyer reminds me of Craig Roh. Both are long, explosive, and relentless. Both are somewhat susceptible to taking the run game head on. Roh was a little more refined coming out of high school and, despite being a little bigger, has a little more athleticism... Beyer will likely redshirt in 2011 and have a real shot at contributing in 2013 after Roh graduates.
"A lot like Craig Roh" is the prevailing opinion on Beyer, so no surprise there.
Spring Game: The Aftermath
A number of important visitors were at the Spring Game over the weekend, including several top instate guys, as well as some out-of-state prospects. Perhaps none is more important than FL RB Demetrius Hart (pictured at right). Sam Webb profiled Hart in the Detroit News last week. On top of his football skills, he has all the intangibles as well:
"Hart's physical ability, speed and quickness, are easily identified, but after watching him for two days there is much more to this impressive athlete," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Bill Greene. "His leadership ability, infectious attitude, and desire to win far outshine his impressive physical gifts. Demetrius Hart is a winner, on and off the field. He will be an outstanding addition to whichever college he chooses."
Most of the article recaps the ongoing "Michigan leads - wait no they don't - I'm not considering them - wait yes I am" saga that's we've been following for several weeks, but also says that he'll be deciding over the summer:
"I am going to Auburn at the end of May, and then on June 5 to Alabama," Hart reported. "I do not have an overall favorite until I see what (his mother) thinks. I'll make my decision sometime this summer. I am going to look at academics and playing time."
The Michigan visit may have pushed that decision forward somewhat. Tom talked to his mother during the visit, and she spoke glowingly of the Michigan program:
TOM: Does this visit change anything with Demetrius, as far as his top schools?
MRS HART: I’ll say this, I would say that they received a whole lot of brownie points with this visit. And, we’ll be back soon. You have to go somewhere you feel loved and supported, and I know he would get that here.
TOM: Will he be deciding anytime soon?
MRS HART: It’s going to be soon. Within a month.
There's much more info in the post, so check it out. The fact that he's deciding shortly after a return visit to Michigan (likely for the "BBQ at the Big House" near the end of May) is a very, very good sign. Sam Webb said on WTKA the other day that he has a "strong gut feeling" on Hart, which typically indicates a silent commitment to the Wolverines.
In other Spring Game-related news, PA DE Deion Barnes was in attendance with the Top Prospects Family, and he received an offer ($, info in header) from the Michigan coaching staff on his "legendary" ($, info in header) visit. He spoke with ESPN last week prior to the visit, though the video's not that informative.
Top recruits FL WR Sammy Watkins (younger brother of Florida freshman CB Jaylen Watkins) and FL Ath/QB/S Dallas Crawford attended the spring game. Crawford "loved his Michigan visit" ($, info in header), They are expected to be big time recruits, and would be huge gets for the Wolverines.
One prospect I was interested in hearing from following the spring game was MI OL Anthony Zettel. He's been favoring Michigan ($, info in header) for quite some time now, but the visit wasn't enough to coax a commitment out of him.
IL OL Jordan Walsh was there ($, info in header).
Tom has a bunch of other news from the Spring Game visitors he's talked to, which includes the snippet that MD DT Vincent Croce now favors the Wolverines, along with UVA, as well as a tidbit on MI WR DeAnthony Arnett. Our Helmets Have Wings goes into further depth on Arnett:
Arnett still plans to take in the spring game at MSU this upcoming weekend, but he indicated he will create a top 7 this summer and then top 5 right before his senior season, and that he won’t decide until after his senior season is over.
Arnett was pleased with Michigan's passing game during the spring game, and since he grew up a fan of Michigan and Oklahoma, a strong season for the Wolverines could help net a commit from him. Highlights from his performance at the Michigan Football Showcase are now available on Youtube:
News Of The Not-So-Happy Variety
Not all news is good news this week, as Michigan went from one of the favorites for OH DT Kevin Williams, to slipping, to outside his top 3 by the time he committed to Nebraska following his visit to their spring game. He was one of Michigan's top targets, and it hurts to lose a guy that had Michigan at the top only a month ago. However, there are other defensive tackles in the sea, and the staff will shift focus to the likes of Vincent Croce, Kevin McReynolds, and others.
AZ OL Christian Westerman committed to Texas a little while ago, but I forgot to remove him from the recruiting board. He's off now.
TN Ath/QB Jabriel Washington has committed to Alabama. Despite his Michigan offer, he always favored SEC schools, so it's no surprise.
Demetrius Hart's teammate, FL S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, committed to Alabama. If Hart does indeed commit to Michigan, might he be able to sway his teammate? It sounds like Clinton-Dix is 100% Crimson, unfortunately.
FL RB Mike Blakely has been offered ($, info in header). Michigan is "still in the mix" for SC WR Hakeem Flowers ($, info in header). FL TE Jeff Heuerman will visit today. AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena "likes the cold" ($, info in header), which can only help Michigan. Michigan leads for FL OL Tony Posada, and he plans to visit ($, info in header). LA OL Trai Turner will decide over the summer ($, info in header). Stanford leads for Michigan offeree CA DE Charles Burks ($, info in header). NC LB Kris Frost would prefer to play WR ($, info in header). Michigan appears to be in third for OH CB Doran Grant ($, info in header). Eleven Warriors talks to him as well.
this is a sculpture called "Very Hungry God," so it goes here. the little boy is ND.
The old bats idea was for 14 teams and wouldn't have worked anyway. And with Big Ten expansion probably definitely happening now and probably definitely being the crazy XXL version, a 14 team Big Ten is so March. Give us 16 and give us the death of the Big East, even if it doesn't make any sense.
If this is happening, it's important that whatever form the Big Cthulhu takes makes as much sense as possible. Since the usual divisional stuff makes no sense and would see Michigan play opponents in the opposite division slightly more than once a decade, this requires thinking outside the chicken patties. So here's another crazy idea. The new bats idea: it's the World Cup, yo.
The New Bats Idea
So the problem with 16 is that it doesn't divide very well. You have two choices if you want to split teams up: eight or four. Thinking inside the chicken patties provides eight and all the stupid problems that go along with that. Four is interesting.
Divide the Big Ten into four groups of four based on last year's standings. (1-8-9-16, 2-7-10-15, etc.) Everyone plays each other.
Top two teams in a group get put in an eight team division at the top; bottom two get put at the bottom. Point differential breaks ties. Everyone plays each other except for the teams that have already played.
At the end of the year, the winner of the top division wins the conference.
(Variant: instead of lumping teams into eight team divisions on the second go-round, do another round of four team groups that split the top and bottom of the conference into approximately equal sets. Then do a third round of four team groups, two of which offer their winners a bid to the conference title game. The "contenders" groups consist of: the winner of both loser groups, the top two teams in each winners group, and the teams with the best conference records after that. This is probably too complicated.)
This makes a lot more sense to me than playing Penn State once a decade. You play a subsection of the conference based on how good you are. If you go from really bad to really good, as Penn State did in the middle of the decade, you don't get locked out of a championship game before the season starts.
There are a bunch of tricky issues, though: unbalanced home and away in the early section means getting through your group is partially dependent on home/road split. Getting stuck in the second division basically ends your conference championship hopes and that can happen with just one loss (see the PSU group above). And teams wouldn't know who they were playing, or even what their home/road split would look like, until midseason. Protected rivalries would be a thing of the past.
What about a…
Do the divisions first. Play seven games. At the end of the year create groups based on finish in the divisions.
|Contenders A||Contenders B|
|Div A #1||Div B #1|
|Div B #2||Div A #2|
|Div B #3||Div A #3|
|Div A #4||Div B #4|
(Other teams would get sorted into groups as well and play out the rest of the season; these matchups can take rivalries into account because if you're not playing for the conference title you might as well play someone you hate.)
Play the two games you haven't already; the games you have played count in the group standings. The winner of each group gets a bid to the conference title game. First tiebreaker is overall conference record. Variant: Play a tenth conference game and do a full round-robin in each subdivision. Teams seeded #1 and #2 get the extra home game. The variant provides everyone who makes the contenders groups a reasonable chance at winning them, but does guarantee one rematch per year. It also severely restricts nonconference opportunities.
This version is way more doable. Teams would be able to lock down ten of their 12 games before the season. The clawing for the fourth spot in a contenders group would keep most of the conference at least theoretically in the title hunt until deep into the season, but keeping the result from the earlier game and using overall conference record as tie breaker gives the top team in each division a big advantage. The extraneous games against the other conference would be sort of like playoff games. They wouldn't be random, unbalancing games with a distorting effect on the conference race. They would have purpose.
You want games to have purpose, don't you? You don't want them wandering around being all pointless, do you?
In Which I Pretend To Be Ives Galarcep
What do you think? Should Ricardo Clark have stayed in MLS?
I want more ideas. If a Big Cthulhu conference happens there should be so many different possibilities for the leadership to consider that they get very confused and actually pick one of them instead of defaulting to a divisional format that leaves everyone zo unsatisfied at the conclusion of a season (or the decade) when they drew the top two teams in the Bo division and the team that won your division drew Indiana and Northwestern and you haven't played Penn State since JoePa's age could be practically expressed without scientific notation.
So email me or post a diary or put it on the message board or pick this proposal apart—it's got its flaws—and we'll revisit this at a later date if this turns out to be something other than a game of chicken with the Big East and the Notre Dame administration.
Could you imagine that, by the way? The Big Ten waves its pointy stick at the Big East and manages to get them to boot Notre Dame and then ND ends up joining a 12-team Big Ten? Jim Delany would instantly be the most frighteningly Machiavellian person on the planet.
|Tuesday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|Eric Katzman (2-1, 6.00 ERA)||vs||TBA|
|Stats||Audio (MGo)||BTN.com ($)|
|Notes: Michigan is 78-44 all time, Last year: 1-1 in DH @ND (my |
recap from last season).
|Wednesday 6:05pm ET, Frank Eck Stadium, South Bend, IN|
|Matt Miller (0-2, 7.01 ERA)||vs||TBA|
Michigan will host Notre Dame Tuesday to open a home and home series with the Irish, with the road game for Michigan coming Wednesday. The Irish aren't that good of a team this year, and that might be a bit of an understatement. At just 15-19, they are currently sitting around #201 out of 301 in pseudo-RPI. That said, they, and any college team for that matter, can still be a dangerous team during the mid-week.
Preview and thoughts after a jump:
A Thing About Denard And Tate
The new official picture of "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." Via MVictors.
Yet more on the quarterback situation because that's all anyone is talking about: it seems to me like the correct stance to take in the aftermath of Denard going 9/11 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the air is to declare Game On. But only that.
I've seen a ton about how Denard is just a better fit for Michigan's offense and Rodriguez has wanted Pat White 2.0 since he got here and Tate is doomed because of the zone read and basically disintegrated over the course of the season and is probably going to transfer as he is destined to by his genetic heritage. I've also seen a lot of people saying "now wait just a minute" to the Forcier doomsayers, and I'm with them:
- Forcier had a midseason lull but two of his best games of the season came against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against UW he was 20 for 26; against Purdue he was a lot closer to 50% but suffered a ton of drops. His trajectory is not straight down. He even looked good against Ohio State when not offering up one of his hair-pulling, soul-destroying turnovers.
- Forcier's main problem on the zone read was making good decisions or fakes. These were made more difficult by the defense focusing on the run game because Forcier's ability to make decisions in the pocket was limited. He pulled the ball way too much, didn't let the fake "ride" a la Juice Williams, and faced down a defensive end as a result. He then juked this guy 80% of the time and picked up positive yardage. If the defense is sufficiently focused on the tailback and Forcier develops his fakes as much as Denard develops his passing, he can be an effective zone read alternative.
- Last year's offensive line was very shaky on the right side, which led to a lot of justified scrambles.
Tate is not out of it by any means, and since the two quarterbacks are so different it looks like the backup will get a large number of snaps anyway.
What the spring game (and spring in general) did was stand the horse race on its nose. Robinson looked better on Saturday. He looked better in the clinic scrimmage, when he was live and splitting first team reps with Forcier. He looked better over the entirety of spring, which is the reason he was afforded the easy matchup Saturday. One 97-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree might not mean much, but 15 practices does.
The ones-vs-twos is a big deal, but maybe not as big a deal as the few remaining Denard skeptics—still clinging tight to that Betamax stock—have made it. Last year Robinson was having a Man vs Himself battle. Seeing him develop to the point where you need to see a Man vs Man conflict is immense. Hopefully by this time next year we're sending him off to fight Icelandic volcanoes.
Running Backs Are Indeterminate
Another source of persistent unexpressed disagreement in the last couple days: a steady pessimism about Michigan's tailback situation. I haven't seen anyone say "hey how about that run defense"; the assumption is a lack of big runs from the tailbacks means Michigan is going to be putting out some crappy tailbacks next year. I don't think that's necessarily true. Vincent Smith had a tantalizing cameo last year, and he did nothing of note in the spring game. A few carries here or there isn't a whole lot to draw conclusions about, and even so there were a couple of nice runs from Cox.
Michigan isn't going to have the best back in the conference or anything but they've got enough of a stable to have a good running game. And what would a discussion of the tailbacks be without Fred Jackson proclaiming something the best ever?
“I think I’ve got the best blocking tandem, I didn’t say running back tandem, but best blocking tandem I’ve had,” Jackson said. “I’ve got three or four guys that based on the pictures and movies, how you want to see it done. It’s more than I’ve ever had at one time.”
Never change, Fred.
Hell I if know. I'm planning something resembling a UFR and will be able to tell you more after that, but probably not that much with Martin and Woolfolk out and the first-teamers going up against second-string offensive lineman and not blitzing and etc. etc. etc. It's clear this isn't going to be a vintage unit. Latest hint from Woolfolk:
"We're mostly just focusing on zones, which is easier than playing man," said Woolfolk. "But I would like to go back to doing more man coverage and stuff. It's easier, but pertaining to the players we have on defense, that probably makes it easier for us to play. Keeping it simple allows us to play more instead of thinking too much and slowing down. It allows us to react and get to the ball faster."
My hope for the defense is something relatively stout against the run and functional enough in the secondary to force opponents into long drives if they want to score. Average would be fine.
Video Of All Varieties
Highlights and errata:
Here's an ebullient Denard Robinson in the locker room:
"Ebullient" as defined by answers.com: "zestfully enthusiastic." There's plenty more in a diary from Boyz in the Pahokee. TYT has posted an SD torrent; MGoVideo is planning an HD one tomorrow. There is also a browser-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football.
A zillion photographs
If you want more photographs than are crammed into this post, boy howdy are you in luck. AnnArbor.com has a flickr set, as does the Daily. MVictors and Maize and Blue Nation also file photoposts. MnBN found the letters from the top of the press box:
They're outside sections 2 and 44. It's too bad they couldn't find someplace a little more prominent, but at least they're still around. Also… isn't the S the wrong way?
Quarterback Stuff From Teammates
"He’s really been working on his technique," Roundtree said. "All the quarterbacks have, but Denard has really been working on his technique, his touch on the ball instead of throwing it so hard. And this year it shows so far what he did."
More Roundtreee on Robinson:
Roundtree said Saturday actually was Robinson's "second-best" practice of the spring.
"Last scrimmage (a week ago), he did really well," Roundtree said.
Thus both clinic observers giving the starting QB nod to Denard after that scrimmage. Of note: that was not a strictly ones-vs-twos setup like the spring game. In that scrimmage both Tate and Denard got extensive reps with the first team against various first and second team defenses, and Roundtree thought he did better than he did on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Van Bergen's full LAZERZ quote:
"I think Denard has probably made the most progression. I think he's developed a whole new aspect of his game as far as making great reads and making great throws.
"His throws are on lasers now. He's not throwing balls up for grabs. He's putting them right on receivers, and I think the fact he can scramble while looking downfield is really something that's helped him because last year when he pulled it down, he was going to run. But this year, he's got his eyes downfield, and they're making even bigger plays. He's dangerous. I think he's probably made the most progression, but I think they've all done really good things."
In the future, Denard Robinson will still be made of dilithium; his arm will be made of lasers.
There were plenty of folks who sat out Saturday with injuries of some varieties, including five or six possible starters. The good news is that only walk-on DE Will Heininger will see his injury last into the season. There had been some uncertainty about Vincent Smith but the latest on him is that he should be "fully recovered by preseason camp." If that holds up he's probably your opening-day starter barring a summer renaissance from the rest of the depth chart.
The rest of the injuries range from minor dings to stuff that happened a long time ago horrific bone breaks that just provide an opportunity to work on your standup. Troy Woolfolk's comedic alter-ego:
"I’m going to introduce you all to something," Woolfolk said. "Y’all know me, myself, Troy, but I have a split personality named T-Wolf. When I’m on the field, T-Wolf comes out. T-Wolf doesn’t know how to cry, that’s only a trait that Troy does. Right now, this is Troy. T-Wolf, he’s crazy and I can’t bring him out all the time, I only let him come out on the field. T-Wolf doesn’t have that ability to cry, so that would never happen."
Knock on wood and all that but sounds like everyone should be ready to go for summer conditioning. The most damaged Wolverine may actually be RB coach Fred Jackson, who got stepped on by Kevin Koger. Maybe:
"Supposedly, I'm the one who broke his foot - supposedly, though," Koger said. "It was a 86 on film, but there's no name on the back (of the jersey). So it could have been any 86."
Purdue's spring game saw the Boiler debut of Miami transfer and presumptive starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve was meh:
Robert Marve talked about "putting on a show" for the fans. Quite simply, he didn't...But how could he with this format? He threw a couple of good balls (for instance, a long pump and go to Cortez Smith for the longest TD of the game), showed the burst of speed that Hope had bragged about...but never got into rhythm for multiple reasons...and just plain missed on quite a few throws. But, he does have an arm.
Iowa's spring game was a Carr special: sparsely attended and no different than a usual practice. Ohio State offensive line is in flux and Pryor didn't have a great day statistically but Buckeye Football Analysis is pretty sanguine about things.
A poster attempted to ferret out what's going on with UConn but didn't come up with much outside of the usual "is this good or bad" stuff.
As always: exploit your kid for youtube fame and I post.
New feature. Profile pages now contain a table with the user's most recent comments presented in reverse chronological order. This is mostly useful for mods, but now you can track the progress of your favorite (or "favorite") mgousers. Before you get any funny ideas, the main reason I implemented this was so that we could better judge a poster's body of work when we're considering a banhammer. Applications unrelated to totalitarianism are just a bonus.
Victors. Congratulations to the men's gymnastics team and their shiny national title:
Michigan beat out usual suspect Stanford by three-tenths of a point for its fourth national title and Michigan's first (varsity) title since 2005. You'll see them at the UConn game, no doubt.
One of these things is extremely similar to the other. Ohio State recruit Jamel Turner just got shot. According to his facebook feed he's as fine as you can be after getting shot, but getting lit up is the latest and scariest development in a tumultuous couple years for the blue-chip defensive end. Turner was kicked off Ursuline's team and was declared academically ineligible as a senior. He headed to Fork Union for a post-grad year and was asked to leave. Eleven Warriors calls him "troubled," which… yeah, seems about right.
I don't even have to tell you the local media's reaction to all this, do I? I don't but here you go anyway:
Suddenly, many of the dozens of schools that had once recruited Turner started getting back in touch. But just as Ohio State never pulled its scholarship offer when he got into trouble, Turner would not be swayed from his original choice.
"(Coach Jim) Tressel is a good man, and he stands by his word," Turner said. "So I'm going to stand by my word, and we're going to get it done."
Not that it should be any different. If Turner manages to keep himself on the straight and narrow at Ohio State that will be a win for both parties. If Ohio State decided to cut ties with him he'd be headed for a place with far fewer resources at his disposal and would have a much greater chance of hanging around the sorts of places where you get shot.
Turner hasn't gotten into any problems with the law, but it's not like that matters in the media environment Michigan is facing these days. Drew Sharp is running around saying "we don't know" about the trouble that Dorsey obviously got in after he was diverted from serious legal consequences two years ago. If Dorsey doesn't qualify there will be another round of clucking about how Rodriguez shouldn't have "taken a chance" on the kid. If Turner washes out there will be sad panda columns about today's society.
It is in this fashion—pretending it's not about wins—that the media proves it's all about wins.
(Side note: Turner is from Youngstown, as is Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint's dad got locked up for stabbing his mom's new beau… at a football game Toussaint was playing in. I am moving Youngstown below Somalia on my list of potential vacation destinations.)
Everyone's 6'6". Michigan offered 2012 Flint Powers wing Javonte Hawkins over the weekend:
Hawkins was told by the UM staff he is their "#1 sophomore wing recruit". Hawkins definitely has outstanding upside and potential. Baylor, South Carolina, Notre Dame are the newest schools to his recruitment.
Best of the Best also throws some names out for Michigan's assistant coach job: Dan Fife (not Dane, Dan), the head coach at Clarkson, Oakland assistant Saadi Washington, Bakari Alexander, and Oronde Taliaferro.
Update: Maybe it's Dane after all.
By way of podcast explanation. WH posted up a vintage Michigan Replay intro. It is fantastic. As a bonus, it answers the question "why you using that funky music for the podcast?"
God, remember when Michigan Replay was the only way to see highlights of the previous week's game? I remember installing crazy netscape plugins to download the tiny grainy video of Charles Woodson's punt return on CNNSI in '97, thinking that if I didn't get it right then I'd never be able to watch it whenever it occurred to me. Yeah. Not so much.
Google launched a thing where it will automatically caption youtube videos based on speech recognition software. It's slightly beta. It appears the corpus it was trained on was Donald Rumsfeld poorly translated back and fourth from Japanese six to seven times. It opened a wormhole into an alternate universe where Rodriguez is an important political analyst.
Mr. Rodriguez, what is your opinion on international terrorism?
THE SHOCKING CONCLUSION AFTER THE JUMP!
Rich Rodriguez addressed the media for 20 minutes or so after yesterday's spring game, then a number of players spoke to small groups. Notes:
- Won't answer questions about a resolution to the quarterback situation, and they won't be available to the media. Pleased that the QBs have gotten better. It's nice to have competition, and not have one guy seize the job this early. Denard and Tate have both improved, but they still have more work to do. Devin has learned well, considering he's only been around for 15 practices. The #1 guy may not emerge until after the first game.
- The quarterbacks had a poor day compared to how they've been practicing the rest of the spring. It's OK for the QBs to scramble around, but the coaches don't want them to do that until the initial play breaks down. Still, their offensive creativity and explosion shouldn't be hampered.
- Having a QB competition will continue to elevate those guys. If multiple guys are ready to play in the fall, they'll play. The goal is for the whole team to get better, so the improvement by the quarterbacks is important to that. Denard got the first rep of the game because he's been more consistent over the course of the spring.
- Denard Robinson's grasp of the offense, and recognition of defenses has improved markedly since last year. Understanding the offense is important, but both Denard and Tate Forcier need to get better at reading the defense, now that they are able to execute the offensive plays. Denard's always been able to throw, it's just a matter of making sure his mechanics and reads are consistent. He's still learning the offense, because he's still just a first-year guy. Pat White redshirted his first season, and in that first spring, he was probably about at the same point in his development that Denard is now. He continued progressing, and hopefully all of Michigan's quarterbacks can do that as well. Pat and Denard are similar players, but it's unfair to compare them, because Pat was so good for a while, you can't expect that out of a young guy.
- Today was the first day of the spring that the quarterbacks weren't live. That changes the way they play a bit, and the defense might let up on them a little bit more.
- One of the emphases this spring was limiting turnovers and negative-yardage plays. The spring game was somewhat disappointing in that regard.
- Running backs: There will be more competition in August when everyone is healthy. More than one running back will play in the fall. Mike Shaw and Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will all be in the mix. Spring has given some new guys a chance to emerge.
- Jeremy Gallon's redshirt year helped him get into good shape. Right now, he's the leader at punt return and kick return, and he'll play in the slot as well as maybe some other places.
- They have more guys who are ready to play at the offensive skills positions. Some of the QBs have a bit of experience, which raises expectations.
- Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have played pretty well. With Perry Dorrestein injured, they've have opportunities to progress. There are now two additional guys who can get in the rotation, and the coaches want to have more guys ready to play.
- The team wasn't as physical and good at tackling today as they were in other practices, maybe because they couldn't hit the QBs. The scheme was simple today, but fundamentals need to continue improving.
- Troy Woolfolk broke his finger on Thursday, but he'll be fine by fall camp.
- Mike Martin will play noseguard when he returns healthy, but he'll also play other spots on the defensive line. Adam Patterson and Will Campbell will also play "both nose and tackle."
- The kicking game was very uneven today. The situation is still wide open. Brendan Gibbons kicked well today, but Will Hagerup will have the opportunity to win the punting job in the fall. Tate had a good punt, and he's pretty good at it. The other guys practice it a lot more, because Tate has other things to worry about.
- The coaches got some answers this spring, mostly positive. They'd like to have more answers than they got, but most of what they see right now is positive. No negative surprises. Cam Gordon and Mark Moundros were positive surprises after position changes, as was the level of play at cornerback.
- The early enrollees provided some good moments as well. Jerald Robinson and Stephen Hopkins are probably going to get some playing time in the fall. The early enrollees were a little nervous playing in the Big House. It's nice to get those nerves out of the way early. Some of Devin's mistakes may have been due to nerves.
- Team chemistry is really good, and still improving. Players get closer together each day they work.
- The coaches have a week to look back on spring, then they'll hit the road for the Evaluation Period in the recruiting cycle.
- Hopefully in the future, the spring game will continue to grow. The weather wasn't great, but fans still came out. Maybe weather will be better and more fans will come out. Players appreciate the support from the crowd.
- The team has three spring scrimmages, and the Spring Game might not be the most useful for teaching, it does give players the chance to get in front of a crowd, and to adjust what they're doing without the coaches telling them exactly what to do after each play.
Notes from the players after the jump.
FL RB Demetrius Hart is making his second trip to Ann Arbor this weekend for the annual (and just completed) spring game. The difference this time, is that his mother* is a long side him to take in Ann Arbor. With the recent NCAA allegations, Mrs. Hart had some questions for the coaching staff and concerns for her son. I spoke with her about the visit. Here's what she had to say.
TOM: How’s the trip going so far?
MRS HART: The amount of support from everyone, the coaches, academics, and fans is amazing. The environment, everything that Michigan has to offer has been really great. Michigan seems to be the total package in my mind. This is my first time at Michigan, so I was overwhelmed. I’m looking for the total package for my son, and that seems to be here.
TOM: Has it been nice to see Ricardo’s family? How close are you with them?
MRS HART: Yes, we’re very close. His mom and I are very close. Demetrius calls Ricardo’s mom, mom, and her children call me Aunt. I know if he comes to Michigan, I’d know he’d have a family away from home. It’s a good feeling to have that here.
TOM: How does this visit compare to other schools you’ve been to?
MRS HART: I haven’t been to any other schools yet, but we’re planning on some official visits. Demetrius has gone on a lot of visits. He is a very humble child, and he wants to feel loved and wanted, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re a close family, and we won’t steer him in the wrong direction, and he knows that. We also respect and trust the decisions he makes, too, so we just want what’s best for him. Whatever school he’s interested in we want to check in to. I honestly feel very good about Michigan after this visit, I really do.
TOM: Did you have your meeting with Rich Rodriguez, or the coaches yet?
MRS HART: I sat down with Fred Jackson, and I’m going to be talking to Rich Rodriguez tomorrow. We’re going to talk about some things as a whole. I respect him as a person, and he [Rodriguez] seems very genuine. He has made very good decisions with recruiting, which impressed me. All the kids that were visiting were very polite. How they conducted themselves was very impressive. It reminded me a lot of Demetrius. They expect a lot of out the athletes, and we need that for our child. The distance is a problem, but if I know he’s ok, then I’m comfortable with that. That speaks very highly of Michigan, if I feel that very comfortable.
TOM: What will you be discussing with Rich Rodriguez?
MRS HART: I basically want to know about the future of the coaching staff, where everything is headed, how my child would play a part in their goals, and also about the NCAA issues. With everything that’s been going on, I want some reassurance, because who am I to judge them based on what I’ve read. Apparently they’re doing something right, so I want see what really happened.
I take everything with a grain of salt. I’m not moved by reports, and you need to find your own results. So, I want to hear everything from them, and figure out what’s really going on. We had some issues with Demetrius, and the school zones in Florida, so I understand that everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes you need mistakes to learn from, and grow from.
TOM: Does this visit change anything with Demetrius, as far as his top schools?
MRS HART: I’ll say this, I would say that they received a whole lot of brownie points with this visit. And, we’ll be back soon. You have to go somewhere you feel loved and supported, and I know he would get that here.
TOM: Will he be deciding anytime soon?
MRS HART: It’s going to be soon. Within a month.
*[Ed. note: There's been some confusion as to whether Hart's mom or aunt was accompanying him on his visit. The answer is "both": Hart was adopted by his aunt.]