I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
Brian, I liked your spring summary and I agreed with most of the points.
However, I left the spring game wondering if the performance of our offense (and Forcier, to be more precise) was more indicative of our lack of depth on defense. They played the second team defense and generally had their way with them. Considering how bad our offense was last year, does this just show that our defense has bad depth or that our offense (and Forcier) will actually be serviceable/good next year?
Obviously, this is the million dollar question, but I honestly left the spring game more worried about our defense than impressed with our offense.
Please allay my fears! Thanks.
I will attempt to do so via the magic of bullet points:
- That wasn't the second team defense, it was somewhere between the second and third team defense with half of the starters injured or largely held out.
- Depth should improve in the fall when the freshmen arrive.
- The defense is adapting to a new scheme, their third in three years. While this isn't good they should improve more quickly than a team that knows what it's doing and still sucks.
- Forcier may have had a lot of opportunities he might not otherwise but at least he took advantage of them in a way that I don't think Sheridan or Threet would have, at least not so consistently.
While I don't think Forcier is going to finish many games 11/14 with three touchdowns against no interceptions, the thing to watch for are things that don't depend on the defense: when a slant comes open does Forcier see it and throw it on time and accurately? When Roundtree bursts open deep does Forcier hit him? How many horrible interceptions, or balls that should rightly have been horribly intercepted, did he throw? By this measure, Forcier did very well.
Your larger point about the seemingly huge dropoff to the second-string defense, well… yeah. I got nothing for that.
This next one caused this late mailbag to be posted today, because today is "Michigan Football Solstice":
Today (April 15) is the longest possible point between actually, non-scrimmage Michigan football games.
There are 288 days between Nov. 22, 2008 (when Michigan last played, @ OSU) and Sept. 5 (when they next play, at home against Western.)
Nov 22. was 144 days ago.
Sept. 5 is 144 days from now.
We’re now closer to the next Michigan football game than we were to the last one.
I've got a listserv with fellow alumni where we're discussing how to celebrate. Pop in the DVD of the 2004 Michigan/MSU game? Scour the internet to discover if any former D1 athletes have a year of eligibility left and might be interested in enrolling at UM and trying out at QB? In honor of this year's Michigan Football Solstice falling on April 15th, maybe we could have a Teabag Paulus Party? Can we institute some kind of MGoBlog approved ritual for Michigan fans to celebrate this solemn occasion every year?
- Daryl Vautour
Well, hopefully Michigan football solstice isn't ever on April 15th again. This is usually going to be an early summer sort of event, so early summer sorts of activities would be best: grilling outside, having a beer, maybe lighting a squirrel on fire with a magnifying glass.* Most of the suggestions above are sad or temporary things, but setting aside some time to watch an old glory past sounds good. So: grill tubes of meat, drink beer, and watch… uh… something uplifting from the 1985 season, if available. And you're not doing anything RIGHT NOW.
*(Just me? Oh.)
Whoah, nellie. The basketball teams is popping up on a number of early top 25 lists, which seems justifiable with only walk-ons and noncontributors on the way out and someone, anyone taller than 6'4" on the way in. I'd slot them just outside, but I can see sticking them in towards the end. Or, if you're Andy Katz, the beginning:
11. Michigan: John Beilein has made the Wolverines relevant again. He got the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament and won a game. Expect even more from Michigan with a true Michigan State-Michigan rivalry in hoops. These should be the two top teams in the league. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims might flirt with the NBA draft, but both are unlikely to stay in it. If they return with sharp-shooting guard Stu Douglass and quickly developing players Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry, the Wolverines will be a good watch.
!?!?! Uh… Purdue? Illinois? Pending NBA departures, no Big Ten team that picked up a bid loses more than a couple spare parts except Wisconsin and maybe the Illini, who lose a lot of minutes but from low-usage guys who can't be that hard to replace. State loses Suton but they'll live; BJ Mullens is in the draft but was a major disappointment last year and Ohio State gets David Lighty back anyway. Minnesota returns everyone of note.
If Michigan finishes second in the Big Ten next year I'll be ecstatic.
Moving on up, mostly. The final CSB rankings are out. F Chris Brown remains Michigan's top-ranked player eligible for the draft, dropping one slot to #30. Others:
- 2010 D Mac Bennett moved up from 63 to 40.
- F Kevin Lynch slid from 83 to 100, though his smokin' hot international tourney(pdf; Lynch leads the USA team in scoring) may reverse that trend.
- D Lee Moffie moved way up from 210 to 135.
- F AJ Treais moved up from 205 to 170.
That's a significant uptick in the draft stock of Michigan's incoming class (and a small chunk of 2010). Moffie is now in an area where he'll definitely get drafted; Treais is the only incoming recruit likely to slip through the cracks.
"We talked about all that as a family, and we felt that we didn't want to leave that way," Weis said during a recent 35-minute interview with the Tribune. "That would have been the easy way out. That's not why we came here."
What was that conversation like?
WEIS: I'm thinking about quitting, 5'3", 78 pound son of mine with a 3.7 GPA and 20/80 vision.
SON: Isn't that--
WEIS: Also you were born at 1:18 AM on February 17th.
SON: Isn't that--
WEIS: In a hospital. With doctors. Who had heads and legs and arms.
SON: –the easy way out?
WIFE: That's not why we came here. Also you would be walking away from enough money to buy Slovenia, whereupon we could deport simple goatherd Drew Sharp to a far more unpalatable nation.
WEIS: By jove, you're right.
SON: Speaking of easy ways out, I'm going to skip the next three days of school because you couldn't beat Greg Robinson.
WEIS: That sounds totally reasonable. Do you want to be the offensive line coach?
This has been picked up by College Game Balls and Dr. Saturday as something to note. They forget the #1 rule of Charlie Weis: everything that comes out of Weis' mouth is designed for the self-aggrandization of Charlie Weis. The "easy way out" involves forfeiting some fifteen million dollars; the hard way involves Weis being paid more than the GDP of Sri Lanka to lead Notre Dame to a ill-gotten BCS blowouts every few years. Weis' decided schematic advantage here is with the millions of dollars.
Elsewhere in Notre Dame: Dallas is trying to steal away the College Football Hall of Fame from South Bend, which pays the organization for the privilege of hosting. Yes, it's so perfectly Notre Dame to pay the CFHOF to stay in your decrepit one-moose town just for the vague prestige it brings in your own mind.
If you're like me, the only time the CFHOF has ever crossed your mind (other than articles about its potential move, which come out seemingly every year) was during this blessed event:
So, yeah, I'm onboard with moving it anywhere else. Dallas kind of sucks as a destination, but it's just wrong for the thing to be in the worst college town on the planet.
Seconded. Interesting proposal put forth by a member of Michigan's compliance staff in re: coaches' phone calls:
Judy Van Horn, the associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Michigan, wants to abolish rules about phone calls she feels are unenforceable. “If you have a coach who is intent on cheating, all they have to do is not give you all the phone numbers,” said Van Horn, who is also president of the National Association for Athletics Compliance.
Van Horn’s idea is to put the power into the hands of the student-athletes. Athletes who are inundated by calls or have coaches contacting them from universities they are not interested in attending would be able to go to the N.C.A.A.’s online eligibility center and pull up a list and click on those programs with which they no longer wanted to be associated. An e-mail message would be sent to compliance officers at those universities and the coaches would be told to stop calling. If the calls continued, the recruit could report it to the N.C.A.A.
Van Horn then raises the specter of unscrupulous coaches using disposable phones to avoid detection, which is like… really? Is this The Wire? Who is Ron Zook's Stringer Bell? Is Juice Williams going to get sick of going to every convenience store in a two-state radius and just buy a bunch from one store at the prodding of his annoying girlfriend?
Anyway, this is a limited version of the idea that recruits should be able to sign non-binding letters of intent. This got a fuller discussion before, but the general idea:
- Allow kids to sign LOIs before signing day.
- Anyone who's signed a LOI can't be called by opposing coaches.
- Kids can't take officials.
- Players can withdraw the LOI at any point until signing day.
Either would be a good idea; the NBLOI would allow kids to opt out of a potentially annoying recruiting process and provide some meaning to the idea of a "commitment" without locking kids in any earlier than they already are.
(HT: The Ann Arbor Chronicle.)
Aaaargh. My relationship with Tom Deinhart is a rocky and foreboding one. Despite being apparently subliterate when asked to give an opinion, any opinion, he pwned me like whoah during my attempt to play journalist at last year's Big Ten Media Days. So I had to consider the possibility that Deinhart could dress himself, drive a car, etc etc etc.
…he just released a ranking of the Big Ten coaches, and it was so ridiculous we planned on ignoring it until multiple people sent it to us. Here's how he ranked them:
- Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
- Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
- Jim Tressel, Ohio State
That's Iowa blog Black Heart, Gold Pants in the midst of tearing Deinhart a new one for his obviously stupid opinion. Various Ohio State blogs have ceased feeding on the souls of little children long enough to lol, too, but none so entertainingly. And here's a Michigan blog chiming in: dude, wrong.
BHGP settles on the idea that Deinhart doesn't have severe brain damage, is just being a provocateur for attention, and quotes Fire Joe Morgan in superior fashion, all of which is excellent. Read it. All of it is good. But I mostly want to highlight the words that should go on Pete Fiutak's gravestone:
This puts Dienhart in a different league than, say, CollegeFootballNews.com, who just plain never know what the fuck they're talking about. CFN is to actual analysis what ramming two GI Joes together is to MMA. It's only the same to 7-year-olds.
Etc.: Weird goings-on at the Freep's story on Paulus. Someone fooled them into thinking the Paulus report was an April Fool's joke. Someone get them a calendar. Also: a spring game boxscore; SMQB considers the "Rodriguez Leap" and its achievability this year; Brandon Smith is now a linebacker.
Judging by the relative volume of email I've gotten on this, the entire universe read this FoxSports story and went "wha?"
The Green Bay Packers aren't the only ones who are interested in Greg Paulus.
According to sources close to the situation, the former Duke point guard was in Ann Arbor on Tuesday meeting with Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez about the possibility of playing this season for the Wolverines.
How can Paulus have eligibility at all, let alone this year? Apparently NCAA transfer rules don't apply if you switch sports and neither do eligibility limits. There's just the five year "clock" that starts when you enroll in college.
Though bizarre, this isn't totally insane. Paulus was actually a big time football recruit with offers from a number of major powers, including Michigan, before he chose the dark side. (And poorly: how many 6'2" white point guards are in the NBA?) Since he's got only one year left Michigan could put him on the team without adversely affecting next year's recruiting class. It's basically a free quarterback.
The only downside is being associated with this:
The great worry is that four years at Duke have burned this sort of behavior in Paulus' head and he'll fall over when pass rushers come upfield or, you know, the running back brushes him when he's trying to get the handoff.
Paulus hasn't played a down of football in four years, so the article's suggestion that he could "come in and play immediately" is more foreboding than a hopeful. Forcier isn't losing his job to this stopgap unless he's miraculously good. If Paulus comes and if he sees the field he's probably going to be really bad, but since there's a chance his really bad is less really bad than some walk-on's really bad there doesn't appear to be a reason to say no*.
If he does come don't revise your season projections either way.
*(Except for aesthetic ones embedded above.)
Update 4/7: Video on FL OL Torrian Wilson. Articles on SC RB Marcus Lattimore, MD LB Josh Furman, GA RB Mack Brown, PA CB Cullen Christian, MI QB Devin Gardner, MN OL Seantrel Henderson, CA RB Brennan Clay, TX RB Stephen Hopkins, OH S LaTwan Anderson, FL S Marvin Robinson (more), FL OL Torrian Wilson (more($)), FL DE Delvin Jones, FL WR Chris Dunkley, SC QB Cornelius Jones, PA DT Sharif Floyd, FL RB Corvin Lamb($), FL DE Lynden Trail. Moved TX RB Stephen Hopkins to committed.
Removed NC OL Robert Crisp(NC State), MI LB Austin Gray(Iowa).
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Gentlemen exiting the board, or at least probably exiting the board soon:
- Michigan isn't in SC DE Brandon Willis' top five. He's bumped down to red and one confirming article away from the boot.
- NC OL Robert Crisp committed to NC State.
- I've left MI LB Austin Gray on the board in case Michigan offers down the road, but he committed to Iowa.
- USC, Oregon, and Florida lead($) for FL DE Delvin Jones. Michigan has no special connection here and he's likely to get dropped soon.
- Michigan isn't in GA RB Mack Brown's early top four.
Spring Game Payoff Part II
Part I was, of course, the commitment of TX RB Stephen Hopkins.
Part II: FL OL Torrian Wilson goes to Miami Northwestern. Northwestern is probably the most iconic feeder school in the country, shoving player after player into the clutches of the 'Canes, and the acting assumption is anyone from there with a Miami offer ends up at Miami. But Wilson was interested enough in Michigan to make the cross-country trip to the spring game. After it, he dropped a bomb of a quote:
"Michigan is number one – they're my top school."
"No, just Michigan."
You can tell by the header on their article that he told Rivals the same thing($). Hello?
Maybe. An eager Michigan fan ran over to SoFlaFootball.com to ask resident guru Luke Stampini, and Stampini echoed the conventional wisdom:
I just don't see that one happening. I think Torrian is Miami's. Crazier things have happened in recruiting though. … Torrian's text on his visit to Michigan "It was exciting. I had a lot of fun with the coaches and players."
We'll see if Wilson's interest holds up. Wilson already has a Miami offer, so the proclaimed Michigan lead isn't a ploy to get another school's interest up. In cases like this you can often tell how genuine the interest is within a couple weeks. Sometimes after the buzz of the trip wears off things return to an ante bellum state; sometimes the reconfiguration sticks. If Wilson's still listing Michigan first in a couple weeks they're the legitimate favorite.
Here's some AMP video on Wilson; his parents are pushing for the 'Canes:
Also note that Wilson is teammates with FL RB Corvin Lamb, a tiny speedster with a Michigan offer. Lamb says Michigan's in his top two($); the prospect of both guys coming up can't hurt.
Spring Game Payoff Part III
I'll admit some nervousness when FL S Marvin Robinson's commitment didn't go public during a visit last fall. A series of articles in which he claimed no leader from a leading group of four followed, and so forth and so on. If you're also in this camp, the aftermath of his spring game visit should reassure:
“It was wonderful,” Robinson said. “Basically I liked the whole thing. I liked the fans, I talked to different recruits and the coaches, and I talked to the players on the team. Everything was wonderful.” …
“Michigan right now is definitely my leader,” Robinson said. “After Michigan are Georgia and Alabama. Tennessee is next, then South Florida. I might decide during the spring. I could commit to Michigan in the next couple weeks.”
Nervousness dispelled. Expect Robinson to move into the committed category soon.
Half-make up your mind or something
CA RB Brennan Clay has made it clear he wants to stay on the West Coast in every interview he's given to non-Michigan sources, listing Michigan towards the trail end of an ordered top five and almost committing to Oregon and all that jazz. But this quote was gathered by a national recruiting sort:
"We are trying to figure everything out economically right now, but I'm really hoping I can make it there [to the spring game]," he said. "Michigan, it's been there from the get-go and it is in my top five. They are definitely going to have a fair shot at me, and I'll be able to visit out there sooner or later." …
"I'm open to going anywhere — West Coast, East Coast," he said. "It really isn't important. I just want to find a coach that will be real with me, on and off the field. That's what's important with this whole thing."
Clay did not make it out for Saturday's festivities, but that's a positive. If Clay makes it out Michigan and Forcier, his high school teammate, will have a chance to work their magic.
SC QB Cornelius Jones still maintains Michigan is his leader, though it might not be for quarterback exclusively:
ATH Cornelius Jones (6-2 185) may be headed to the Big Ten for his college football career. "Michigan is probably my top school." … he plans to visit Michigan this summer. He is being recruited as an athlete.
Michigan tossed Jones an offer, or at least waggled its eyebrows strongly in the direction of one, before his junior season and have retained a place of prominence in his recruiting since. If he's coming in as an athlete he could end up almost anywhere: receiver, quarterback, defensive back.
Meanwhile, Michigan's been the heavy leader for PA CB Cullen Christian for a while now. Christian's just put a number on it:
Christian likes the Wolverines so much he says there’s now an “85-percent chance” he’ll end up at Ann Arbor. “Distance doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’d actually kind of like to get away and become my own man. “I really like that they are showing me the most love,” he said. “I want to go where I feel that I’m wanted and needed and I get that feeling from Michigan. Plus, I know the coaches would get me in good shape to go to the next level.” Instructions for the reader: tent fingers, emit Burnsian "excellllllent." MD LB Josh Furman has his eight offers about equal at the moment, but this Allen Wallace article doesn't talk about Michigan much. Furman's planning visits but this did not happen, AFAIK: “I really like both positions but I think I prefer running back,” he said. “I love having the ball in my hands and feel like I’m explosive enough to do a lot with it.” In addition to going to the West Virginia practice next week, Furman also hopes to visit Michigan for their spring game. “They came out of the blue and offered me,” he said. “I hadn’t gotten any mail from them or anything and didn’t think they even knew who I was until they offered.” He says the Wolverines want him on defense, as do both North Carolina and LSU. I assume Furman will make it up sometime this summer. Furman's dad played for Maryland, FWIW.
Dhani The Second
Christian likes the Wolverines so much he says there’s now an “85-percent chance” he’ll end up at Ann Arbor. “Distance doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’d actually kind of like to get away and become my own man.
“I really like that they are showing me the most love,” he said. “I want to go where I feel that I’m wanted and needed and I get that feeling from Michigan. Plus, I know the coaches would get me in good shape to go to the next level.”
Instructions for the reader: tent fingers, emit Burnsian "excellllllent."
MD LB Josh Furman has his eight offers about equal at the moment, but this Allen Wallace article doesn't talk about Michigan much. Furman's planning visits but this did not happen, AFAIK:
“I really like both positions but I think I prefer running back,” he said. “I love having the ball in my hands and feel like I’m explosive enough to do a lot with it.”
In addition to going to the West Virginia practice next week, Furman also hopes to visit Michigan for their spring game. “They came out of the blue and offered me,” he said. “I hadn’t gotten any mail from them or anything and didn’t think they even knew who I was until they offered.”
He says the Wolverines want him on defense, as do both North Carolina and LSU.
I assume Furman will make it up sometime this summer. Furman's dad played for Maryland, FWIW.
Son of a…
I thought we were going to get one recruiting cycle without having to waste time on from Glenville that keeps listing Michigan even though he'd rather eat a landmine than actually sign with M, but OH S LaTwan Anderson's rumored destination has come to fruition: it's Ted Ginn Cash Money Academy.
Texas running back Stephen Hopkins did, as threatened, commit to Michigan over the weekend. Brace yourselves for Ohio State uniforms:
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|NR||NR||77, no position rating|
ESPN gives Hopkins a meh grade of 77 and provides a scouting report that makes him sound eerily similar to a current player:
Hits the hole fast and does a job getting north quickly; does not take a lot of wasted lateral steps but shows he can bounce it outside to daylight without losing a lot in transition. At his best when he plants and accelerates downhill behind his pads. Tends to run high but still is very sturdy and strong at the high school level and breaks consistent first contact. Determined back who keeps his legs driving in the pile and fights for extra yards. Difficult for smaller defensive backs to arm-tackle when he gains momentum through the second level. However, his high running style hinders his balance, often chopped down low, and yards after contact production.
Would you change a word of that if you were adapting it to fit Brandon Minor? I don't think so.
The Dallas Morning News named Hopkins the #1 tailback in the area for 2010, declaring him "the true definition of a workhorse"; he checks in at #76 on Inside Texas' statewide top 100. All these things point to a mid-three-star ranking. Given the extensive knowledge about Hopkins' game—he's racked up almost 600 carries already—that's not likely to change.
While those ratings and rankings aren't particularly exciting, there's an informative thread at 5ATexasFootball.com in which a variety of fans who saw Flower Mound Marcus grind their team into dust offer up homage. An admin:
He is a very impressive player. His size is rare with RBs today. He can run for speed and power. I didn't see him on one of his better production days, but he's one of those guys you know is a player just by watching him operate for a few plays. Physically, he is ahead of the game for his age.
When we played them in 2007 we got the ball first and went 3 and out, or close to that. They then ran about 9 minutes off the clock and scored. Pretty much every series was like that. When the other team has the ball for 9 minutes of every 12 minute quarter scoring chances are few.
The guys is IMO the best back in the DFW area. … The off-season between his sophomore and junior year saw him put on some size and gain in speed. He has developed into a very patient runner that will wait for the hole to develop and then explodes. His power is unmatched by any back I saw last year. … Marcus added a inside/outside running game last year and was able to do that with Hopkins. The year before he was limited to getting his yards between the tackles due to not having the game breaking speed, last year that changed and Marcus was able to break the big one on sweeps, off tackles and power plays. One of his strengths is his ability to hold onto the football too.
That's echoed several times, with the only downer being someone who mentions he "lacks the speed to be an elite back"; I'll let this guy have the final word from the fans:
Hopkins is not that good. After he went over 200-225 yards against us he started to wear down
After he wore down, We stopped him COLD after only 7 or 8 yards.
Meanwhile, Hopkins' coach before his junior year:
"He's one of those classic downhill runners that gets stronger as the game wears on," Marcus coach Bryan Erwin said. "But at the same time, he does all the other things that you need from an every-down back. He can block. He can catch passes. Whatever you need him to do, he can do it."
And Hopkins himself:
"If you need me to pick up a first down in a short-yardage situation, I'm your man, but I don't want to be just a power back," Hopkins said.
"Adrian Peterson can run over you, but he can also take it 80 yards if he gets an opening. So I've really been working hard on improving my speed. I think you're going to see a lot more big plays from me this year."
As you'll see in the stats, he made good on that.
Hopkins' full slate as of a couple weeks ago, complete with pretty FAKE-ish 40 time:
Hopkins, 6-0, 220, 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has scholarship offers from Michigan, Texas A&M, Stanford, Kansas, Kansas State, SMU and Texas Tech. He's attended junior day at Texas A&M, SMU, Baylor, Nebraska, Connecticut, Texas and Texas Tech.
Though Michigan is clearly the biggest name on that offer list, that's a decent assortment for April.
The stats indicate a pounding, frequently-used back. This guy did the division for me:
But Marcus' Stephen Hopkins? That boy was proving it every Friday. Hopkins racked up 275 carries in 2008, netting him 1,689 yards and 22 touchdowns -- and that's just in 11 games! How many guys can carry the ball almost 300 times and still maintain a 6.0 YPC average?
In high school, probably lots. But it's a significant bump from Hopkins' sophomore stats:
The incoming senior has been making a name for himself since his sophomore year, when he rushed for 1,663 yards and 16 touchdowns on 343 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
That's a ton of carries. He's durable, and probably low upside, by which I mean he's not been overlooked for any reason. Recruiting gurus know all about him and say he's a middling prospect.
FAKE 40 TIME
As above, 4.6 for a 220 pound high school junior. Eh… probably not.
Try to suppress your natural desire to see the man with the ball fumble, get blown up by the safety, or go on a crazy rampage with an armory's worth of guns, an axe, and a lint roller:
There's not a lot of wow there, but Hopkins isn't a wow sort of back. He picks a hole and runs through it as hard and fast as he can.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
This one's easy: Brandon Minor. I've actually deleted Minor's name three different times as this post has come together and the redundancy became more obvious. Minor, a low four star, was slightly higher rated as a recruit, but everything else is almost identical.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has one scatback and one thunderous moose to fill the slots vacated by Brown and Minor; a third back in the class is likely to keep the numbers up, as Michigan has already lost two tailbacks to transfer and will lose the aforementioned seniors and Kevin Grady after 2009. At this point you'd hope they'd sit tight and swing for the fences (GA RB Mack Brown, SC RB Marcus Lattimore) but if MI RB Austin White wants to jump aboard soon—doubtful but not impossible—they'd probably take him.
Is instate RB Nick Hill going to get an offer at this point? I think he'll at least have to wait for summer camp.
OTHER GUY NAMED STEPHEN HOPKINS
He was a Pilgrim, except not really since he wasn't a member of their goofy religious cult:
Stephen Hopkins (born about 1582 – 1644), was a tanner and merchant who was one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, settling in Plymouth Colony. … Hopkins was one of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact and was an assistant to the governor of the colony through 1636.
Spring games don't lend themselves to narratives, so how about some bullet points? Bullet points.
Media explosion. If you missed it, there's a torrent. This would be a good moment to consider how vastly different the world is now than it was five years ago. There is a torrent of Michigan's spring game.
If you don't want to bother with that, four minutes of highlights from the Big Ten Network:
Also, Brandon Minor and his sweet beard talk to Shireen Saski: "that's like a real quarterback." Other interviews:
Photo galleries exist from the Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News, and various places on flickr: user dennisdolan3, the Daily's photostream, user snotzzz73, and Alex Karpowitsch. MVictors has photos of the locker room if you skipped the Line That Never Ends. Notice the U in "honour." Weird. Also from MVictors are alumni game photos.
Pleasantries dispensed, away we go:
Most encouraging development: The general existence of Tate Forcier. Forcier chucked one pass into a linebacker's pads but other than that was worlds better than anything Michigan's seen at quarterback since Lloyd Carr rode out of the Citrus Bowl on the shoulders of his team. Forcier was as advertised: quick and scrambly in the pocket, accurate on the run, worryingly small, &c.
He's not going to be great but his slipperiness and ability to operate out of a moving pocket—which should simplify reads, mitigate whatever issues his lack of height brings, and prevent his head from being taken off—should allow him to be effective without having total command of the playbook. Early competence beckons with the possibility for more down the road.
As always, you take intrasquad scrimmages seriously at your peril, but let's discount the effect of the defense and just look at the opportunities presented:
- Roy Roundtree bursts open deep and Forcier hits him between the numbers for a touchdown.
- Roundtree works free on a slant, upon which Forcier hits him between the numbers, on time.
- Forcier throws an okay fade to Mathews, which he brings down.
There was one overthrown screen and the shoulda-been interception, but other than that he was dead on. Unofficial stats had him 11/14 for 130 or so yards. That's worlds different from last year's spring game, in which both quarterbacks threw multiple interceptions to legends like Artis Chambers and everyone started panicking in earnest about what fall would bring. Forcier's first excursion as Michigan's quarterback could not have been more reassuring.
The final word goes to Greg Mathews:
"The fans were cheering his name before the game, and I said, 'Don't get nervous, Tate,' and he said, 'I'm not nervous. There's some times he gets confused out there, but he's a high school senior. But his poise is definitely what stands out about him. His command when we huddle up, or on the sideline, he's focused in practices instead of goofing around."
A close second most encouraging development: Insert praise about Lloyd Carr here but, man, am I glad Rodriguez has done a 180 on the spring game. That felt like an event. It was fun, and though the 50k reported seemed a little generous—I and most around me thought it was 40k—it was probably about four times the number who attended Carr's last spring game. The line to see the locker room snaked all the way around Crisler and might have impeded traffic on Main.
Least encouraging development: Stevie Brown put a stake through the now annual "this is Stevie's year!" meme by getting juked out his jock by the Coner. Coner has mad flow, and since he was a 6'5" option QB with all the mobility of John Navarre in high school he must have a wicked option fake, but… yeesh, man. At least we're going into the fall with our eyes open.
A close second least encouraging development: the second-team offense, led by the aforementioned Coner, drove the field for touchdowns a couple times despite Cone amply demonstrating why anyone who talks about him starts his paragraph with "Cone is a terrific human being." They did this against the first team defense. Yerk.
This isn't totally unexpected. When the second team running backs are Grady and Brown and Vincent Smith and the second team defensive line includes 5'7", 249 pound Dominic Ware, the talent is not exactly balanced. Once Van Bergen went out with a knee injury (it's minor; six weeks and he'll be fine) the first team defense was missing four sure starters to injury (RVB, Warren, Martin, and Mouton) and using another sparingly to prevent injury (Brandon Graham), putting further pressure on that lack of depth. Said lack of depth is severe, though, and Michigan looks like it will be facing huge dropoffs from the first to second team if they can't remain unusually healthy next year.
What it is. Staying with the defense, the projection about the new scheme was that it would look like a 4-3 with a standup defensive end, and this was for the most part true. Like the spread 'n' shred they're going to look pretty limited early, what with the lack of talent and the missing starters and the new alignment, but GSimmons picked out even, under, and 3-4 fronts even this early. Also picked out: very bad linebacker play from walk-ons.
Obviously. Martavious Odoms fumbled Michigan's first punt return attempt of 2009.
Ok, Carlos, now it's time to pull a hamstring. Tantalize us one last time, Carlos Brown. For old time's sake.
I was going to fret about the defense on this play and then I was like "oh those guys are all walk-ons." So, yeah, if walk-ons play they will not be good. This lesson you have already burned into your brain, so we'll skip the rehash.
A first depth chart bitch of the year. Junior Hemingway, stuck on the second team, had ample opportunity to prove he has nice body control and hands by flagging down a number of Coner ducks. Meanwhile, Darryl Stonum made one spectacular leaping grab… and dropped a screen right in his hands. I'm betting Hemingway emerges as the #2 outside receiver early.
As long as we're on receiver depth chart stuff: Terrance Robinson was also as advertised, quick but with a significant case of the dropsies. Odoms didn't feature much, leaving much of the work in the slot to Roy Roundtree, who looked excellent, sure handed and good with his routes. His rep is as a fearless possession receiver lacking in the speed, so I don't know if we'll see a whole lot of deep seams unless he has the good fortune to be going up against walk-ons in Big Ten play, but a reliable receiver is a reliable receiver.
Also, if Roundtree doesn't already have a nickname…
Roundtree had difficulty focusing on passes this Spring because he had trouble seeing the ball. The U-M staff ordered him contact lenses, which arrived just in time for the spring game. Roy put them in and then put on a show for the Michigan faithful, making big plays and catching a handful of touchdown passes, including a big 60-yard touchdown from Forcier.
"All Spring ball my coaches have been asking me when I'll get my contacts, when I'll get my contacts," laughed Roundtree. "I got my contacts today. I couldn't see the long balls in practice, but today I saw them just fine."
…he should be "Wild Thing". Rodriguez on this impossibility:
"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.
"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."
How does a guy go an entire year at Michigan before anyone realizes he can't see? This is symptomatic of the chaos that went on last year. Deeply symptomatic.
Either that or Roundtree was afraid Carson Butler would give him a wedgie and leave him hanging on a bathroom hook.
Overly-optimistic post-spring chatter. (HT: Dr. Saturday.) I didn't watch Mark Huyge enough to confirm this for myself—and, honestly, I'm an amateur who needs to go over running plays a half-dozen times before I can form an opinion on who did what right—but the general opinion on his play was hugely (HA!) positive. Even without the benefit of tape review I can say this: if Huyge has surged in front of Perry Dorrestein, who was functional last year, and the much-hyped Patrick Omameh that bodes well for his future and for Michigan's line.
With the influx of the redshirt freshmen, maturation of John Ferrara, and healthy return of Huyge there are now a lot of lottery tickets on the line and chances are the guy who lays claim to the right tackle spot is going to be pretty good, at least eventually. This is a situation more akin to Chad Henne beating out Clayton Richard and Matt Gutierrez (sort of; labrum and all that) than Nick Sheridan beating out Steven Threet and No One.
Vincent Smith, on the other hand, was pretty easy to evaluate since he's a running back. He looked small and darty, tougher to tackle than you might imagine but not an instant impact sort. Smith has flashed Mike Hart's crazy ability to defy tackling in practice; too bad he didn't have some crazy spinning run for the crowd to ooh and aw at.
Vlad Emilien is the safety taking a poor angle and trailing Carlos Brown all the way to the endzone in the video above, but, again, people seem highly encouraged by his play. I've had Michigan safety skepticism beaten into me by Angry Michigan Safety Hating God and will remain skeptical until such time as I can't anymore.
Walk-on quarterback Jack Kennedy is so obscure that he sported a regular contact jersey and was used as cannon fodder repeatedly, but… uh… he looked way better than Cone.
The incoming and signed. Denard Robinson made his way up to check out the competition:
"I came up just for the spring game," Robinson said. "I wanted to see the game and the fans and stuff. It's good. It's got me speechless."
That article has an outstandingly FAKE 40 time for Robinson: 4.38. Justin Turner, Isaiah Bell, and Brendan Gibbons also stopped by to see the festivities.
The incoming but unsigned. This will get more coverage tomorrow in Tuesday Recruitin', but the recruiting weekend was a successful one. Thumping Texas back Stephen Hopkins committed. Four star Miami offensive lineman Torrian Wilson left saying Michigan was his leader. So did FL S Marvin Robinson. Unconfirmed chatter on MI CB Dior Mathis and—surprise!—presumed Spartan and MI RB Austin White was also highly positive.
Also hanging around was another Forcier: Jason, MGoBlog's favorite backup quarterback of all time. He's graduating from Stanford and plans to enroll in grad school at Michigan. Presumably he'll try to get on the football team, but he's only got one year of eligibility left and will have to jump through—or, more accurately, create—the proper NCAA hoops if he's going to be able to participate. If you recall Ryan Mundy's immediate playing time after his fifth-year transfer to West Virginia, also recall that the NCAA immediately repealed that rule after Florida pirated one of Utah's starting cornerbacks. He'll have to apply for some super secret waiver, which I don't think he'll get.
Okay, we've got zero additional organization from the thread, but some people are bringing beverages and food and a grill, so what the hell it's a go: there will be an MGoTailgate (wsg Varsity Blue!) at approximately 9AM tomorrow. Location is in the general vicinity of the bus stop near Crisler in the Blue Lot.
I am relatively easy to spot. My hair is basically configured like this:
…so there you go. See you there.
|Scottsdale, Arizona - 6'5" 230
|Scout||4*, #8 DE, #67 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #7 WDE, #156 overall|
|ESPN||83, #4 DE, #48 overall|
|Others||#87 to Takkle.|
|Other Suitors||USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, rest of Pac-10|
|YMRMFSPA||Crab People. Also Shawn Crable.|
|Hello: Craig Roh. TomVH interview. Roundup of All Star fawning.|
|Notes||Teammate of Taylor Lewan.|
Dude check that crazy stance. Craig Roh wishes to prove the maxim about pad level's all-importance on every play. Crab defensive end is in your base, killin' your d00dz. Here he is wreaking havoc:
This may be another instance of ESPN overrating its own all star game, where Roh owned(video), and ignoring that other one, but he's Michigan's highest-rated recruit over there. Their post-All-Star take:
…a wiry and muscular defender who plays the defensive end position well. He has the frame to pack on more weight and showed on film and at the Under Armour All-America Game that size is not a serious concern. He is an excellent prospect who plays smart and uses good technique to his advantage. He has an excellent motor and is good with his hands. Roh is a disruptive pass-rusher who has a good spin move and will work a counter off of it. In a conference in which teams still like to run the ball, Roh will need to get bigger, but the kid is a fine football player; he should be able to at least contribute as a pass-rusher early on.
Craig Roh DE (Michigan)
Straight baller that showed a Dwight Freeney spin on Kelley for a sack and sacked/tackled Russel Shepard in space. Had a handful of QB pressures over the course of the game. Rich Rod got himself a good one.
Scout agrees with ESPN's extremely positive take; Rivals isn't quite as enthused but they like him pretty well just the same. A roundup post in the aftermath of the UA game collected a wide array of praise from all corners, each of them saying something similar to "needs a year in the weight room but I wouldn't want to try and stop him after that."
In addition to all that, Roh was the Arizona high school player of the year, beating out ASU commit Corey Adams and USC commit Devon Kennard. His junior year Roh racked up 99 tackles and 15.5 sacks and was first team all state; as a senior he had 14.5 sacks. Offers came from Notre Dame, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, the entire Pac-10 except, weirdly, Washington—Ty must have been working on his short game—and many, many others. Yes, USC is included in that number. Roh was a national recruit. By May, when he accepted the UA game invite, he had 32 offers.
How about a tantalizing, Feagin-esque quote?
"My strengths are my ability to read an offense. My biggest asset is my mind. I study a lot of film. My speed is also a strength. Getting off the edge is important for a defensive end.”
Do work. "Motor" is constantly mentioned when Roh's talents are discussed, by both himself and talent evaluators. Technique, effort, and natural ability fuse into one package of complete awesome. If there was a fey little South American kid around they could summon forth Captain Planet. Let an MGoBlog reader who attended one of Roh's games sum up:
Just watched Craig play a rare Thursday game against Paradise Valley, their rival in Scottsdale. Having seen the kid go gimpy two weeks earlier with a turned ankle, it was great to see his influence back here tonight. He went on both sides of the ball, usually strong side DE but played a good deal of TE on the "O" side and just barely missed grabbing a very low thrown pass that would have been a TD.
Paradise Valley was determined to stay away from Roh and it became obvious this was planned during their prep for the game.
The play that sealed Chaparral's victory was a fourth and goal from the two yard line. Craig blasted into the right side of PV's "O" line, knocking the runner backwards and popping the ball into the backfield where his Firebird teammates ended any chance of a Trojan victory.
Okay. Roh has talent, and lots of it. Where will that apply on the field? In a traditional 4-3 Roh would be a weakside end, tasked with getting to the quarterback and given relatively simple tasks against the run. In this hybrid 3-4 Greg Robinson is installing, Roh is one of the hybrids. Rodriguez doesn't expect him to get huge:
"He’s got a great motor. … He’s going to be a guy that will grow to 250-some pounds and be a great pass-rusher for us. I think he’s got an opportunity to make an immediate impact."
A 250-pound edge-rushing terror is exactly what Robinson wants at the hybrid spot. This would be much more clear if he had the good sense to call it the "Deathbacker," as commenters suggest, instead of the "spinner," but that's life.
The one hitch in this deathbacker plan: Roh has no experience dropping into zones and will require work before he can be an every-down player. He's also got that crazy crab stance and it seems like taking him out of it would make him considerably less of a threat.
That lack of experience and the weight issue—he's currently about 20 pounds short of the 250 Rodriguez would like to see him at—means he won't leap directly into the starting lineup. But I don't think it'll take long.
Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.
Etc.: Likes Mozart and the Lord of the Rings? Maybe you'll see him at GenCon. Article on the pressure of being a top recruit. If eyebrows are any indicator of future performance he'll be a beast. Video interview at Max Preps, where even he falls into the trap of comparing himself to another white guy.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Roh has the guru rankings, the offers, an impressive All Star performance, the drive, and the intelligence to be an impact player. There are no red flags anywhere.
Projection: I was pretty sure Roh would function as a situational pass rusher as a freshman, but the move to this spinner thing and a hybrid 3-4 complicates matters. He should get immediate use as a situational pass rusher and could move into the starting line up by midseason. It might take longer but I don't think Evans, Watson, or Herron is going to keep him off the field for much more than a year.
The previous mailbag was, uh, abbreviated. And caused great discussion about whether I should call people who send in emails dicks, to which I respond: probably not.
Anyway. This is a good question I don't have an answer to:
After Spring practice, exactly what do the players do (supervised or unsupervised) until official fall practice begins? I know there must be some restrictions on coaching but I'm very interested to know exactly what does go on.
Thanks, Marc ' 71
I am pretty sure S&C programs can continue being S&C programs year-round, so players will get a faceful of Barwis this summer. As far as what technically-not-but-actually mandatory, organized-but-not-technically summer sessions are and what, exactly, are the things prohibited… I have no idea. Anyone out there know the details on what college programs do when practice is officially verboten? What is Tate Forcier going to be doing in June related to his football pursuits? What about Will Campbell?
I saw that you thought Forcier will only get about half a dozen carries or so/game.
Do you think the QB/Forcier will be less involved in the running game this year? Sheridan and Threet combined for 118 carries last year - about 10 a game (I didn't include Feagin's runs cause I'm assuming the reason the coaches put him in was for him to run). A lot of complaints I read about Threet was that he didn't make the correct read on the handoff and should have kept the ball some more (to keep the defensive end honest and stop him from crashing in hard on the play).
I honestly don't care how much the QB carries the ball, it just seems that Forcier only getting a half dozen carries a game would a good decrease (assuming Threet should have carried the ball more).
Well, by half a dozen carries I mean voluntary carries. A significant number of those Sheridan/Threet carries from a year ago were sacks or scrambles, which should rightly be considered passing plays.
Also, the effectiveness equation is considerably different with Forcier. Forcier who presumably can throw better than the two guys from last year and Minor—now the undisputed #1 tailback—is way more effective than McGuffie was. So it'll make more sense to throw and run tailbacks than have Forcier keep the ball.
Reading between the lines, I sense some concern that Michigan's reluctance to run their only hope will make the offense less diverse and correspondingly less effective, and I agree. Last year teams ignored the quarterback on zone read handoffs to the point where I was typing "KEEP THE BALL DAMMIT" into the Purdue liveblog after every play. Michigan's fear of the great murky unknown behind Forcier will make their offense less effective. But that's a necessary tradeoff given the cliff Michigan steps off if Forcier is injured.
I do think you'll see Michigan try to make up that decrease with Feagin/Robinson packages. Those may be completely ineffective because of their predictability, but for some reason this wildcat thing seems to work well so maybe it'll do ok.
Speaking of Robinson:
I think we’re generally missing the boat on D Rob when we compare him with TF. I’ve watched all of the highlight films and I actually think D Rob has some very good skills as a QB. I think where we’ll see a separation between the two is the run game. TF is not built to run it 10-15 a game, but he could be enough of a scrambler to constantly keep a defender assigned to him, which opens up some underneath stuff for slot ninjas, TEs, and RBs out of the backfield. D Rob does have some excellent mechanics for a guy not highly touted as a QB.
I get blasted for this, but his foot work and release remind me of Peyton Manning when he’s pressured in the pocket. No, I’m not saying he is the second coming of PM, as some said when they read my post in the diaries, but there is some good things happening with D Rob in the pocket. He sets a good base and delivers the ball with a high and crisp release. The one thing they both did consistently in their highlight films was throw balls into tight coverage, lock onto one receiver, and hold the ball way too long. I think you’ll still see that this year no matter how much they get coached up. It’s just a lot to learn when it comes to reading defenses and then being able to process that information quickly enough to be able to make the correct decision. Again, I am going to the Spring Game to see how the team looks in person, but I think we’re realistically going to be a .500 team, plus or minus a game.
All in all, by the 4th game, I think D Rob gets some significant snaps because he brings the run dimension that RR so badly needs to make this offense work.
Steve's not alone in his assessment of Robinson. ESPN also thought his QB skills were underrated:
Robinson is just a flat out playmaker in every sense of the word and he will surprise you with his production in the passing game. If he were taller, there is no doubt he would be a serious QB prospect, but his overall skills will likely land him somewhere else. Has a quick, live arm and is very effective in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Can throw the ball vertically with touch and lay the ball in, but does not have the powerful arm to drive the ball 50 yards on a consistent basis.
Add that to his rushing stats—85 carries for 462 yards, which is actually less than Forcier rushed for—and it is possible we've got a completely incorrect idea about what sort of player Robinson is going to be. But then you've got the passing stats:
Key Statistics... completed 100-of-231 passes for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior ...
There's a big, big gap between those numbers and Forcier's. That's a 43% completion rate. I know that high school passing is often a whole lot of bombing downfield (18 yards per completion!), but those numbers say "project" to me.
I'm noticing a disturbing trend with the '07 recruits transferring at a much more alarming rate than the usual fourth-string running back bolting for a D-2 school. How do you think this will impact the team in two years or so, when most of these players like Mallett, Boren, Clemons, Horn and others would have been seniors?
For the record, transfers out of the 2007 recruiting class; Mallett, Horn, Clemons, Babb and Chambers. (JUCO Austin Panter has also departed; Boren was part of the 2006 class.) Five guys gone in two years is somewhat alarming, but you can file Horn and Babb under the "fourth string player bolting for D-II." Mallett's departure is obviously a huge negative; Clemons was highly rated but ill-suited for the spread 'n' shred; Chambers was kind of an eh recruit but was getting a significant amount of practice buzz.
But I don't think the problem with the 2007 class is the transfers as much as that it just wasn't very good. Once you got past the two five stars there were a ton of reaches: Horn, Babb, Watson, Huyge, Sagesse, Evans, Herron, Panter, Woolfolk, and Rogers were low-rated players with virtually no offers comparable to the Michigan one. Watson was pursued by Colorado and Minnesota, Herron had a Nebraska offer, Sagesse was initially ticketed for Illinois, and that's it. Picking up the occasional sleeper isn't a bad thing, but this was class with really poor depth masked by the two big stars at the top of it. And now one of those guys is gone.
Combine that with a complete change in offensive philosophy and you're going to be looking at a lot of guys who are noncontributors. Michigan's already moved Watson and Helmuth to the other side of the ball.
So, yeah, I agree with you. Michigan's 2007 class is well on its way to bust status, one of a number of factors that will see Michigan struggle to put together an elite program until probably 2011. Fortunately, it appears both offensive linemen are panning out and most of the other guys who look to be contributors (Hemingway, RVB, Webb) have redshirted, so they've got some time.
Someone tattoo this man extensively.
Massachusetts small(-ish) forward Evan Smotrycz has committed to Michigan, annoying both that guy from the mailbag yesterday and bloggers who have to spell "Smotrycz" for four years. In this, we are united. UMHoops has your googlestalking profile; this is what leapt out at me:
While Smotrycz finished with 18 points & 10 rebounds, how he got those numbers were even more impressive. He knocked down a one-dribble step-back three-pointer, went to the low block and showed a polished jump hook, got to the rim off the dribble a few times, and even rebounded in traffic.
Versatility and overall hugeness is an excellent fit for the Beilein system. Smotrycz sounds like a 6'9" version of Zach Novak. You can see where this is headed: last year's team is going to be by far the smallest of Beilein's Michigan career; in the future Michigan is going to have like one 6'3" point guard and then an assortment of 6'4"-6'9" wings and like one post on the floor. Smotrycz is going to be a very large wing sort.
Offers were not impressive, with Oregon State his biggest other than Michigan, but there was interest of unknown intensity from a half-dozen bigger schools. Despite that, scouting reports about Smotrycz sound a lot more positive than those on incoming posts Blake McLimans and Jordan Morgan.
As for the rest of the class: Michigan has two scholarships open; ideally they would fill those with Buffalo PF Will Regan—considerably more of a post than Smotrycz—and MI SF Trey Ziegler. I'm still betting that Anthony Wright is not given a fifth year (and is brought back as a grad assistant) and Michigan will have a fourth scholarship to give; that would also go to a guard sort.