finally people are complaining about us
Michigan Hockey Summers. (ZING!) Excellent Daily article discusses Chris Summers, named captain of next year's hockey team already, sort of buries the lead in the very last paragraph. Chris Summers sounds like a Berenson-bot in this reassuring quote:
“I think (Berenson) says it best: you’re preparing for a life after hockey,” Summers said Sunday. “There’s more to the world than just skating on the ice every day. It’s a game. It should be enjoyed. And I think that’s what a lot of players miss out on, that it should be fun.
“It’s unfortunate that it turns into a business once you get to the professional rankings, but that’s the way it is.”
That very much sounds like a guy who wants to stay. Some insider scuttlebutt confirms that but also says Summers is getting pressure from the Coyotes and is not a 100 percent lock. "80-20" was the number; I expect Summers to return.
The only time I'll ever say this. I wish this goofy Free Press error was a Drew Sharp column…
…because then its one sentence glory would be the best Sharp column ever. It's close to but not quite the best possible Sharp column. That's also one sentence, but the sentence is "I've been fired, put in a box, and shipped to Slovenia, where I will live out my days a simple goatherd."
Ways to feel old. Michigan has launched Twitter accounts for a dozen sports and plans to fill them with breaking news and stuff, which means they officially get the microblogging service better than I do. Here's the football feed.
Stop, please. Don Banks is running down NFL draft sleepers and Carson Butler features:
Only 21, the Wolverines junior opted for the draft in part because his role in Michigan's offense disappeared when head coach Rich Rodriguez brought the spread offense to Ann Arbor.
The spread offense might be 10% of the reason for Carson Butler's departure, with 90% being Carson Butler. At least Banks doesn't cite Butler's mad blocking skills, he just notes his tantalizing combination of size and speed. Too bad you can't put someone else's head on it.
(Also, the picture is of Charles Stewart, who shared #5 with Butler last year. I blame Getty, which occasionally mislabels things.)
Etc.: Michigan lands at #18 in Rivals' pre-pre-preseason basketball poll; don't know how you can even put a list together before the NBA draft deadline. Varsity Blue breaks down their basketball UFR numbers.
Some questions in the inbox about the events/time/date/style of the Spring Game. The details can be found on the official site. The summary:
- 8-10 AM: tours of the locker room.
- 9:00 AM: MGoTailgate(?). Tentative. Probably a fiasco.
- 9:30 AM: Gates open.
- 10:00 AM: Alumni game scheduled to start.
- 12:00 PM: Spring game-type substance.
- 3:00 PM: Baseball and softball games start at their respective fields.
Hopefully next year they'll bump things back a few hours to provide more time for pregame festivities. There is also a baseball game at 7PM Friday and baseball/softball games at 1PM Sunday for anyone in town or making an extended trip.
Parking is free except at Pioneer, where it's five bucks. The golf course is not open.
Is it a game? Sadly, no:
What fans won't see, however, is a true game among the 2009 players. Second-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said before practice Tuesday that Saturday's event will be a scrimmage in which certain proven players (like senior defensive end Brandon Graham) will see limited action, while others (like freshman quarterback Tate Forcier) may perform with both the first and second units to gain additional experience.
…and because he's the only healthy quarterback not named Cone. It'll probably be more like Michigan's final spring game under Carr, in which there was a controlled, unscored scrimmage that wasn't much fun. But Michigan's not really in a position to split into two competitive teams.
Weather? Should be quite nice. Currently projected to be 51 and sunny.
Event! Okay. It has been proposed that there should be an MGoBlog tailgate before the spring game. I am amenable, and Varsity Blue is also onboard. The current, extremely tenuous plan is to meet at 9 AM by the bus stop outside of Crisler. I fear that some guy will show up with emo hair and talk like people in Idiocracy speak and he will be set upon and eaten, but that's the chance you take.
I have no idea if this plan is feasible or not. At every previous spring game ever, it obviously would be because there would be no one else there but there's a chance people might be enthused this year or something and space might be limited. Also we need, like, food equipment beer etc. There is an official organization thread. Hopefully in a couple days it will come to some sort of consensus and I'll post final details later in the week.
I bet this is going to be a fiasco.
Dammit, Western. You've failed me for the last time. I don't know what's more surprising: friendliness between riot cops and State students or a girl at State who doesn't bleach her hair in an effort to look like a sad Midwestern version of a UCLA student.
Elsewhere in Michigan State getting housed, Orson obliterates the annoying "this will save Michigan" meme.
Name partisanry part two. Yesterday I pimped Barkevious Mingo in the Name of the Year competition several times. This is right and just. But a reader points out that we have another rooting interest: Iris Macadandang. Ms. Macadangdang is the #1 seed in the Crotchtangle regional and a recent alum. (An unusual one, too. How many people are involved with the College Republicans and Amnesty International?) She's in the sweet 16, where she is currently trailing Dr. Shasta Kielbasa.
Vote for Iris. Shasta Kielbasa is only around because of the "Dr." in front of her name and that's a title, not a proper part of the name.
(If you were wondering: yes, this section is a dense thicket of squiggly red underlines.)
Manny Harris is sticking to his story. Michigan's star wing has no current plans to leave Michigan this spring, following his sophomore season. But that doesn't mean he's totally ignored his future, either.
"It's an option, but not really that serious though," Harris said Monday regarding the buzz about him exploring his NBA options. "If it's something to look into, then I will, but I haven't even thought about it much. I doubt I'm going."
Okay, still not particularly worried and he should be back. Snyder does mention that Sims can put his name in and withdraw it without consequences since he's a junior. There's no reason for him not to, so he might apply, go to the draft camps and such, and withdraw.
He lurks. In the days of Gittleson there was a group of Michigan fans with thick necks and GNC memberships dedicated to the proposition that all men trained under Git were, well, gits. Or at least more git-like than they would otherwise be. One of their favorite talking points was that only two programs in the country used the machine-heavy High Intensity Training: Michigan and obviously archaic Penn State.
[PSU] Strength coach John Thomas brought a graduate assistant and some weight equipment into Holuba Hall. They did a session of manual resistance training, in which the GA did various exercises while Thomas used his strength and body weight to work him to failure. For example, the GA did pushups while Thomas pushed down on his back; the kid looked like he hated him for it.
The funny thing was that Thomas mentioned four or five times that he had learned some of these techniques "from a guy who's probably going to hate me saying his name, and that's Mike Gittleson." He looked over toward the opposite corner from me, as if Gittleson were over there somewhere. Of course, most of the coaches at the clinic were from Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey, so I don't know if anyone else recognized the name. But I immediately started looking for someone who might be Gittleson. I couldn't find him initially, but I eventually saw him. I spoke to him for a minute about resistance training, but I didn't mention anything about Michigan, since I thought that might bring up bad memories. Interestingly enough, when I got home and Googled John Duncan, one of the first hits I came across was this article in which ex-PSU players suggested that players were actually getting fatter and weaker under Duncan; those are the exact same criticisms that Gittleson suffered from fans, although I'm sure many S&C coaches face the same questions.
Penn State's been hugely erratic of late and it's impossible to tell why. They've had their share of throbbing destroyers on the lines, some excellent tailbacks and so forth and so on, so it's not like the old style can't produce some excellent players. But, hey, no one's ever accused Barwis of making them into anything other than indestructible death machines.
A delicious side note: at the open scrimmage TTB attended, freshman QB Kevin Newsome hit 3 of 15 passes.
Behind enemy lines. This is a bit strange for me, but, uh: I'm posting this weekly thing at Bucknuts now, keeping them up to date on various things Michigan. Oh, and mocking. Mocking it hard. Here's the first one. If you feel the need to bring a stone to the tailgate/disaster/fiasco, feel free.
Update 4/7: Linked to video of MI QB Devin Gardner, FL QB Jeffrey Godfrey, and FL CB Spencer Boyd, articles on SC RB Marcus Lattimore, TX RB commit Tony Drake, FL WR commit Ricardo Miller, OH S LaTwan Anderson, MI QB Devin Gardner (more), CA RB Brennan Clay, LA QB Munchie Leguax (more), LA S Ronnie Vinson, OH DE Jibreel Black.
Removed TX DE Jackson Jeffcoat (no interest in M), GA QB Blake Sims (Bama).
Moved MI CB Mylan Hicks to offered.
Article on Trovon Reed and Lache Seastrunk; I'm close to dropping both since there's been little recent indication Michigan is under consideration for either. Helmholdt article mentioning FL S Marvin Robinson and OH S LaTwan Anderson. Bizarre assertion that Michigan offered five-count-em-five kids at one Maryland high school.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Lame development of the week: GA QB Blake Sims, publicly favoring Michigan and Georgia and planning a Michigan trip in the near future, committed to Alabama over the weekend. Sims was Michigan's best shot for a high-profile second quarterback commit in the near future. Not a huge deal with Gardner aboard.
Meanwhile, CA RB Brennan Clay says nice things to Michigan folk but in more neutral settings he expresses a clear preference for the West Coast. The latest is an "almost commitment" to Oregon. He lists M, plans a trip, and was a teammate of Forcier, so he remains on the board but I'd be super surprised to see anything come of it.
Happy Trails, High School Edition
Two transfers of interest:
- OH S LaTwan Anderson, currently favoring M, MSU, and WVU, is leaving St. Ed's because he "didn't like it real well over there" according to his father. Dreaded Glenville is the potential destination.
- FL WR Ricardo Miller is probably now MI WR Ricardo Miller, as his transfer to Huron is official. Miller plans to enroll early, as well.
You, Too, Can Go To Michigan, 5'4" AP Chemistry Student
Michigan has been offering and offering and offering and offering and offering; these days instead of having some kid say he'd like to go to Michigan and adding them to the board and waiting for an offer 90% of the guys who show up on the board do so because they say Michigan has an offer for them. I don't buy it. This is the last straw:
Michigan had a busy day on Thursday - offering five DeMatha [MD] football players. Michael Cooley, Lorenzo Waters, Ari Kouandjio, Marcus Coker and Jeff Knox all received offers from the Wolverines.
In a TLA, NFW. I don't think two guys who don't even have Rivals profiles are going to be amongst five kids Michigan offers in one go.
What is probably happening here: Michigan is chucking conditional offers out to all these kids with the clear implication that you are here on the pecking list and we will accept a commit from you in certain circumstances. In Devin Gardner's case those circumstances are "you do not shoot a hobo." In the case of random Maryland guy without Rivals profile those circumstances are probably "your father donates one million dollars moohahahaha /evil." (Or in reality: several other kids commit elsewhere first.)
Anyway, kid gets a warm fuzzy, kid gets to report an offer, Michigan can work their mojo, and (hopefully) no one hops on Marcus Lattimore's scholarship. Snake oil picture goes here.
You'll note that the reported offers locally are far more circumspect: MI DT Jonathan Hankins doesn't have one, nor did Austin Gray before he committed to Iowa. Anyone who's been to campus and is a threat to drop as soon as his sweaty mitts get a letter is being evaluated carefully. Random kids who haven't thought about Michigan for two seconds and aren't going to commit without a visit (and if they do won't stick to that commitment) get offers like candy.
DE Avalanche Aieee
No position has seen the offer avalanche more than defensive end. You can see four new additions above to just one removal. The board now shows fifteen offers to various folks, among them OH DE Jibreel Black…
Black estimated his scholarship offer total stands at 18. It includes Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Kentucky, South Carolina and a host of MAC schools such as Miami (Ohio), Ball State and Ohio University.
"I haven't started to narrow my list down yet," Black said. "I've just been focusing on our season."
…who's 6'2", 260, and may be a DT at the next level, which would be good since Michigan 1) needs DTs and 2) can't find anyone to offer at the spot. There had been reports that Michigan had offered PA DE Dakota Royer, but that same article doesn't mention Michigan in its Royer blurb. He's visiting many places, none of them Michigan, and is bumped down to red.
The guy most likely to drop soon is OH DE Marcus Rush, who's declared Michigan his leader and is coming back for a second official visit in less than a month. That bodes well. Rush is an OLB/DE sort destined for the spinner and my god we need a cooler name for that.
The most important recruit in the history of the universe since Barkevious Mingo has declared Michigan his leader over a vast pack of the country's finest programs:
Athletic signal-caller Munchie Legaux has Michigan as his current leader, ESPN affiliate Web site InsideTheU.com reports. In addition to the Maize and Blue, Legaux's holding scholarship offers from Virginia, Tulane, Louisiana Tech and Florida International.
Well, Virginia was good once, I think. No need to fret about Michigan's offer, though. Legaux showed at a local combine and did very well:
The top player at quarterback was clearly Munchie Legaux of Edna Karr. There were some questions about him coming into this combine about his ability to stick at quarterback on the college level, but he answered everyone of them. Legaux made all the throws – from the three step drop to the seven step drop to the quick slant to the fly route. He showed touch, arm strength, nice footwork, and he threw a nice spiral. He is thin and will need to add weight to compete on the next level, but he showed on Sunday that his future position is going to be under center. He was outstanding all afternoon when he knew a lot of eyes were on him.
The top player at quarterback was clearly Munchie Legaux of Edna Karr. There were some questions about him coming into this combine about his ability to stick at quarterback on the college level, but he answered everyone of them.
Legaux made all the throws – from the three step drop to the seven step drop to the quick slant to the fly route. He showed touch, arm strength, nice footwork, and he threw a nice spiral. He is thin and will need to add weight to compete on the next level, but he showed on Sunday that his future position is going to be under center. He was outstanding all afternoon when he knew a lot of eyes were on him.
He's also in the Rivals 250, so chances are he picks up some more impressive offers soon. Unfortunately, chances are his leaderboard changes then, too: it doesn't mean much to be leading that motley crew of midmajors—by which I mean "teams that should drop to I-AA"—and Virginia. If (probably when) SEC teams come calling the bet here is that Michigan slips into a leading pack and is eventually discarded.
The South Will Be Mentioned Again
Elsewhere in Louisiana, I'd considered LA S Ronnie Vinson a considerable longshot but he does have Michigan in a leading group:
However, there's not a whole lot of meat here:
“They have great tradition so I think they’ll be able to get things going again,” he said about the Wolverines.
Despite his offer from Michigan, he says he hasn’t really gotten to know the coaches very well yet. “I haven’t talked to coach Rich Rodriguez at all and am still learning more about them.”
Lousiana kid with LSU and USC offers… eh… still a longshot.
That's also the conventional wisdom on SC RB Marcus Lattimore, but he's going to take a while and he's got a curious pair of officials scheduled for a guy staying home:
Lattimore has 25 offers with the latest from Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. His top-10 list includes Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn, Duke, Georgia, Florida State, LSU, Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina.
However, he says revisions could be made as new offers come in. “Those 10 schools will be my focus, but I’ve got to look at Penn State now,” Lattimore said. “That’s tradition there.”
Lattimore will take official visits to Penn State on Nov. 7 and Michigan on Nov. 21.
50-50 those officials actually come off. As of now, though, Michigan is definitely in the running. This is the second time Lattimore's asserted he'll take an official, so it's true until it isn't.
Love The Drake
TX RB Tony Drake is pretty fired up about his commitment:
Drake (5-9, 175), a Michigan fan since he was 5, rushed for 429 yards and three touchdowns in 2008 while splitting time in the backfield with James White. Drake, who averaged 7.8 yards per carry, chose Michigan over Georgia, Kansas, Texas and Boise State.
"I've always loved Michigan. I'm really ready to play against the Buckeyes," Drake said, referring to Michigan's top rival, Ohio State. "Playing Big 10 football is going to be really interesting. I think I'll be all right, because Michigan's offense is like Skyline's. We have the same plays."
Wouldn't get too hyped about the "chose Michigan over" section since I believe that's interest, not offers. Reinforcement for the Skyline-M offense conjunction, too.
The spread brings an interesting dynamic in recruiting: NFL coaches aren't big fans, but in high school the offense is even more ubiquitous than it is in college. Expect a lot of post hoc ergo propter hoc justifications from kids in the future. I committed to spread offense: I know all the plays. I committed to pro-style offense: I want to make the league. In reality kids are choosing based on academics. Never forget this.
Etc.: FL S Marvin Robinson coming up for the spring game. Will he commit? Eh, I'm betting he waits until football season is over because of his batty Buckeye head coach.
Norm. Points for AJ Daulerio for locating Norm MacDonald's 1998 ESPY monologue, posting it, and making it un-destroyable. It's worth watching just for Ken Griffey Jr.'s reaction, but there is Michigan relevance here: Norm's closer is, as Daulerio says, an epically ruthless joke directed at Heisman winner Charles Woodson.
Personal anecdote: back around this time, Norm put on a show at Hill. At this show, 1) my friends and I started giggling as he walked out on stage, before he had even said a word, 2) he was obviously drunk, 3) at some point he said the words "see this cake here? Yeah, it's my girlfriend. I f---ed it last night." At some point early someone heckled him about his drunkenness and was ruthlessly dispatched of; at some point late he complained he wasn't feeling very good and someone, possibly the same person, shouted out "sobering up?" Norm, busted, had no reply.
For a certain type of person, Norm MacDonald is an American hero*, and I am one of those people. I even watched his sitcom.
*(even though he's Canadian.)
Porch couches shiver in the twilight, alone and flammable. We've established that I don't care whether or not you root for Michigan State tonight. For the record: I'm in the North Carolina camp, but I can understand people who want to see Digger Phelps eat his liver or for some good news in the midst of stories about the implosion of the auto companies and so forth and so on.
Pro- or con-, we can all look forward to the post game. This website will be relevant tonight:
I'm actually betting there's been enough shame beaten into the area that there won't be a riot, thus ending one of Michigan's most well-loved external traditions. But hope yet remains. Come on, Western students. It's not your town, and you don't care. Flip some cars.
Our only hope. Some more detail on what, exactly, Tate Forcier brings to the table:
[QB coach Rod] Smith likes his polished throwing mechanics -- "He's got a tight delivery, quick release, everything is nice and compact, it's out in a hurry and the kid's very accurate" -- and his willingness to study tape and prepare for practices. …
"He just seems to find people," Smith said. "Sometimes, you can't teach that. ... He understands when to step up, understands how to feel pressure, his eyes are always working forward even when he takes off. He's got a good feel, he really does, and that's important for that position."
Sounds like Michigan is going to incorporate a heavy dose of the rollout passes that were so infuriating for the defense a year ago; may they work as well.
Erm… come again? I don't want to alarm anyone, but Mark Snyder, or rather the guy who writes the headlines at the Free Press, has no such compunctions. Sims and Harris were supposed to be holy locks to stay. This is titled "Beilein not definite about Harris, Sims returning"…
Michigan coach John Beilein, interviewed Thursday on WTKA (1050-AM), was asked directly if Harris and Sims are coming back next year, bypassing interest in the NBA.
Beilein's answer was not definitive.
"There's a certain protocol you have to go through to end up doing that," Beilein said. "I can't answer that question just yet. I think it would be premature to answer that question. There are certain things we have to do to understand what happens with this whole thing. So we'll probably be able to give you more news on that in the weeks ahead. That doesn't mean people should start worrying out there, it just means I'm not going to talk about it."
The rest of it is basically Beilein being careful and is nothing to get alarmed about. Don't panic. The deadline to put your name in is April 26th, in case you're concerned.
Ohio, you disappoint but do not surprise. Barkevious Mingo is up for Name of the Year, of course. The site had a poll asking which member of the Mingo's pod would make the sweet 16 and their software has a cool state-by-state breakdown. Mingo was up against a plebian dick joke in the first round that Michigan rejected wholly but Ohio State ate up, as it were:
You can see in the results an obvious bias towards Mingo on the college football-obsessed sections of the country: outside of Louisiana, which is obviously in the tank, Mingo's biggest results are in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Georgia, and Michigan. (Montana and South Dakota both went 100% for Mingo but that probably represents one vote each.) Michigan has a sparkling 73% pro-Mingo number, of which we can all be proud.
Spring practice continues and there's the usual mix of unwarranted excitement and unwarranted doomsaying; that combined with the incestuous nature of the whole enterprise makes information wobbly. But wobbly is better than nothing.
A rundown of scuttlebutt received in my inbox and published elsewhere:
The conflicts start hot and heavy with Forcier, who has articles like this written about him:
"Coach Barwis, he's shown me a whole different life," Forcier said, chuckling. "But I'm getting a lot stronger, and that's a good thing."
On the field, Forcier, who is expected to compete with Nick Sheridan for the starting QB job, said one of the biggest challenges is adjusting to the snap, which he's had some trouble hanging onto during spring practices.
"It's just getting comfortable with how they snap it to you," he said. "In high school, you get these slow shotgun snaps. Here, these come back like rockets."
Yikes. There have been plenty of reports citing the usual harsh transition from college to high school, with balls zinged into linebackers' chests and hilariously arrogant attempts to reverse field resulting in 20-yard sacks.
On the other hand, multiple attendees have noted the positives to Forcier's game, especially in relation to Rodriguez's offense: he's elusive, extremely accurate on the run, and has enough zip to get the ball where it needs to go. Much of the practice time has been devoted to tougher passes—no bubble screens—and things the offense isn't good at yet, which makes them look worse than they might if they were operating with some of the easier stuff to execute.
At least that's the positive way to look at it. The other way to look at it is basically "we're going to die." One viewpoint is in relation to what happened last year—even skeptics have been very clear that the quarterback situation is vastly improved over DEATH. The other is comparing freshman Forcier to quarterbacks who are actually, like, good. The overall impression is that Forcier isn't a 9-3 QB, but neither is he a 3-9 one.
"Out of the freshman, they're all doing good, doing what I expect them to do, but Vincent Smith is showing a lot of potential. He's not backing down ... He's got real used to hitting early on. He does that very well."
"Vince, whewwwww. Vince Smith, he can move, he can run. He's out there running like the wind. He makes a lot of guys miss. I think we might be able to use him this year."
(Note the assumption in Forcier's quote there.)
"He's really come along," Rodriguez said earlier this week. "He's still confused sometimes, as all the freshmen would be, but he's shown some flashes in (Tuesday's) practice and he's a guy that's probably going to play some as a true freshman. I love his attitude, he loves playing and he's a quick learner on the field and he's got some natural ability, so I'm pretty excited about him."
This isn't wholly surprising. Smith's initially lukewarm reviews gave way to a more positive take after his impressive senior season. Though he didn't scrape his way out of the three-star ghetto, he moved way up on both major sites as they refined their rankings and Smith powered Pahokee to another state title. A couple of Florida correspondents said he was a terrific back whose ratings were held back by his size and a lack of pure white-hot speed, much like Oregon State's Jacquizz Rogers without the Name of the Year potential. (Vote for Mingo!)
Smith's got a number of veterans in front of him and isn't going to be an instant feature back with Minor looking like a beast and Brown (mostly) healthy, but it sounds like he's hopped in front of Cox and Grady and will spend this year vying against Michael Shaw to see who starts next year.
(At right: Brandon Smith tackling… uh… Brandon Smith? Is this like that A-Rod picture? Or one of those mirror universe episodes of any sci-fi show that goes on so long the writers get bored to tears with the characters?
One thing I definitely know: that's not some walk-on. Nope, it's definitely Brandon Smith in some sort of weird temporal vortex.)
This won't be surprising to anyone even vaguely familiar with Michigan football since Marcus Ray, but, yeah, argh safeties. Stevie Brown has been moved down into a nickel/OLB spot, much to the relief of everyone. This Free Press article says Brown "didn't have the impact many expected," which is a nice way of saying "had exactly the impact everyone feared." Now he's elsewhere:
"He's going to be a multipositional player for us," coach Rich Rodriguez said before practice Thursday. "Obviously, he's playing a lot of nickel back, in kind of a nickel-back situation. It's kind of a hybrid of an outside linebacker/strong safety position, which I think he's perfectly suited for."
Actually, he does seem well suited for that sort of role. Brown only got more frustrating last year when he started making the occasional sweet play to go with his free touchdown per game. Highly rated out of high school, Brown's a capital-a Athlete and seems an excellent fit for this coverage/blitz/tackle hybrid spot. An emailer reports back from the coaches' clinic:
Also there was some promising news on Stevie Brown. Greg Robinson talking about Stevie Brown said “He’s a hell of an athlete and he’s a hell of a lot better football player where we have him now (strong side LB)."
So hurray for all that.
However, moving him leaves just two returning players at the position: Mike Williams, who saw some playing time a year ago and didn't do anything of note good or bad, and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith. That's a horrifying lack of depth at a position we're all well aware can be an instant 60-yard touchdown for the opposition.
That was ominous enough. Then various reports came back that neither was starting. Longtime Michigan insider Maizeman:
Starting safeties (Thursday) were Woolfolk and Vlad. Yes, Vlad as starter. He looked, on Thursday, to be our best safety -- not even close.
Oy. That's a true freshman and a position switch starter at a position where Yards After Mundy can rack up in a hurry. When I profiled Emilien I noted he was an early enroller, an honor-roll student, and had a serious flirtation with Ohio State (which unearths functional-to-excellent unhyped safeties on a frustratingly regular basis). All of these things point to a sunny future for Emilien and I think sooner or later he'll be a good safety for Michigan. But by "sooner or later" I mean "later".
Woolfolk, meanwhile, was running at corner as of a week ago. With his departure the current two deep there is:
- Cissoko and Warren
- JT Floyd and Floyd Simmons, redshirt freshman walk-on.
Argh. It's hard to see the position switch as anything other than a condemnation of the projected starters at safety. The chatter now has Smith moving to linebacker eventually due to a lack of speed. You can see a hint of that in this Rodriguez quote:
"He has not played, he's a redshirt freshman, but he's got a lot of ability," Rodriguez said. "He's still got to get in shape to be able to play on the back end, like our safeties have to do sometimes. You've got to be able to run a lot, a whole lot, and they're still adjusting to that. But I think he's going to be able to help us in a lot of spots this year."
With Brown a senior and Smith a little ponderous for safety we might see the latter move to this hybrid spot during the year if Emilien and Woolfolk work out.
About That Defense
I got a number of emails from people smarter than me about football in regards to this 4-3/3-4 distinction; happily, none of them call me an idiot. A coach who attended the clinic a few days ago:
The report that the defense would come to resemble a 3-4 seems a little off base. After attending the Coaching Clinic and seeing the defense in action it is the same thing that you see at a lot of programs. First it is considered a 4-3 but it is a multiple 40 defense where you are going to see numerous adjustments (the same as any college program). They will slide into some 3-4 sets by dropping their Quick (strong side end speed rusher/lb hybrid) This can be called for coverage or zone blitz scheme.
The biggest improvement I believe you will see come in the form of tackling and angles. Greg Robinson has already overhauled the pursuit angles and has really stressed proper body mechanics when tackling. You could visibly notice the change in tackles and finish. Jay Hopson also commented that “Greg has really made a huge improvement to how we tackle. It’s night and day from last year.”
This sounds much like what was mentioned in What Is It. Michigan is basically going with a 4-3 that has the flexibility to drop into a 3-4 when the situation warrants it or Robinson just wants to throw a curveball. To do this you need a chunky linebacker at the standup end spot, a guy who can hold up (or penetrate) against a tackle on a run to his side, rush the passer, and credibly drop into a short zone. Shawn Crable would be an excellent fit. So would prospective recruit Will Gholston. (HINT HINT, MR. GHOLSTON.)
The closest analogue to what Michigan appears to be installing is the defense of the Arizona Cardinals, who run a "4-3 under" most of the time with a weakside DE/LB they call the "predator," thereby soundly defeating Michigan's nomenclature. As hybrids go, it's hybrid-y:
…in the 4-3 “under” front, like the Cardinals use as their base defense, which looks similar to the 3-4 to the naked eye, the biggest difference is in the outside linebackers. The strong-side linebacker is still outside the tight end. But the other outside guy — the Cardinals call this player their “Predator” — is almost always rushing the passer, although the Cards will occasionally drop him into coverage to mix things up. Other differences: The nose tackle shades to the A-gap (in between the center and guard) on the tight end side, and the end on that side moves between the tackle and tight end.
explained that the 3-4 defense creates the most confusion for the offense in terms of which outside linebacker is doing what, and the standard 4-3 offers the least unpredictability. The Cardinals’ 4-3 “under” scheme is somewhere in between the two in terms of causing the offense to guess who is rushing and who is dropping.
There is one uncovered linebacker—eg, "man who must take on unblocked guard"—in the 4-3 under, which is different from the 4-3 (none) and the 3-4 (two). That's the MLB, meaning Obi Ezeh. Onus, meet third year starter who's been fairly disappointing so far. You'll be good friends all year.
Also, here's Tyler Sellhorn, who's sent in an email or two before and contributed to Doctor Saturday, on what the whole "rush end/linebacker" thing was:
The Hermann era defense was better known in its day as a 5-2. 3 DTs and 2 DEs; however, the strongside and weakside specialized by personnel, tactics, or alignment. The weakside DE was called the "drop end" an excellent deployment of a SS type player (Stevie Brown). The strongside DE was called the "rush end", think Lawrence Taylor/Derrick Thomas. Calling it a 3-4 is "sexier" because safeties and speedy big guys would be prefer to be called linebackers than defensive ends. As an offensive line coach and former lineman, I hated playing "odd" fronts (with a nose guard). The angles for your usual blocks change significantly and when the defense chooses it is easier to bring up support from the outside and from the safeties. 3-4 is more flexible in the secondary as well because linebackers can be put in coverage much easier.
IMO, I think the (very) early returns are good for GERG.
So there you go.
A Brief Summary Of My State Of Mind
Look: we're not going to be good. There is a true freshman quarterback who, while as ready as he can be, is still not ready at all. The line is probably going to be okay, but not dominant. They're installing a new defensive package and holy God is the secondary thin. They'll get some reinforcements in the fall but it's like quarterback: when you've got six highly-rated options for two spots whoever wins that job is likely to be good. When you've got two, you're hoping that both pan out, stay healthy, and stay out of trouble.
Position switch starters—one of MGoBlog's primary "uh oh" heuristics—seem likely at safety (Woolfolk), DE/spinner (Herron), LB/SS (Brown), and LG (Schilling). None of those are huge deals in and of themselves as they don't involve flipping sides of the ball, like Ferrara did last year, and generally see players moving into spots where they are faster than the opposition or just plain better suited; together that's a lot of flux. Digging out of this hole is going to be a multi-year project, and I don't mean we'll only make the Alamo this year. Notre Dame went from 3-9 to 7-6 and though they had a bigger hole to dig out of they weren't starting over at quarterback. A similar improvement seems realistic.
If this post seems familiar, it's because Devin Gardner already sort of committed. He told his coach, and his coach told the world. But there's an official announcement today, so no better time than the present for a full-on googlestalk.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #7 QB, #77 overall||4*, #177 overall||150 watch list|
Devin Gardner is a prototypical spread 'n' shred QB: 6'4", 200 pounds, and quick like a jackrabbit. He is also, unfortunately, a little raw. Check ESPN's evaluation of him, which starts off with this backhanded compliment:
Gardner is a prospect that after viewing for some time you respect his overall production level once you get past the fact that his methods more often than not are going to be very unorthodox and at times not pretty.
IE: "I guess we have to rank him because he accounted for 48 touchdowns and has sweet offers." The rest of it is what you might expect:
He can cut, shows burst changing directions and could develop into a dangerous read-option operator. Gardner shows very good arm strength and when his feet are set he can drive the ball down field and shows very good RPM's on short and intermediate routes… However, for all his athleticism and arm strength, Gardner's mechanics need a lot of work. Fortunately he is blessed with height because he has a very low release point and is a side-arm passer that cradles the ball and tends to push it in his delivery. … Overall, you have to be impressed with Gardner's measurables and athleticism. He can make plays and possesses a lot of raw tools.
Okay, by "a little raw" we mean raw like sushi. Premium, premium sushi. Reinforcing that is this fluffy bit from Gardner's Elite 11 camp experience, where he was a ball boy:
After watching him during the week, Gardner will have to learn to be tall in the pocket and take advantage of his height. He says his biggest weakness is his accuracy, which is a direct result of arm placement and how the ball is released. He has a real bad habit of dropping his release point when throwing, as well as sinking his hips and knees when throwing. This happens more when throwing shorter routes, as he tries to guide the ball.
This fall, expect Gardner to be more comfortable under center as a result of his week in Southern California. Not only did he take full advantage of every rep on the field but he also improved greatly on the chalk board. When asked if he left the camp a better player, Gardner's response was "absolutely and hands down, my ability to read and recognize coverages are much better now."
Gardner on himself:
"I think I can fit into any offense, really," Gardner told SN Today. "I work with my coach every day to be a better passer. ... Going into (last) season, everybody was talking about how I'm a good athlete, but now everybody's saying I'm a real quarterback, too. I've evened out my passing and my rushing."
Gardner's got a year to work on that stuff before he hits campus.
And then there's the Ohio State issue. OSU was considered the early favorite for Gardner, as Gardner grew up a fan. That was eventually revealed to be overblown, but Ohio State was extremely interested and there were rumors Gardner would commit on an spring unofficial. The issue: no offer.
The Buckeye-insider supported theory is that Ohio State's inability to bring in Tajh Boyd—they were forced to snatch a fourth-choice guy away after getting shot down by Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) and Temple(!) commits just to get anyone on campus—put OSU in a tough spot. Believing Gardner to be a project and Pryor to be an early flight risk, they couldn't chance the future of the QB spot on he and Baylor Refugee. So they've focused on polished folk like Nick Montana, much to the surprise (and possible dismay?) of OSU bloggers. This is more evidence of premium sushi.
An impressive mix of run and pass:
Gardner rushed for 1,401 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior in 2008, while throwing for 1,886 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions.
Perhaps even more impressive is the carries that got him those yards: Gardner averaged 12 YPC.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout has him listed at 4.63, which is actually realistic.
You can just tell his delivery is messed up from the video. But you can also tell he's got that glide speed Young had.
(More video here.)
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The word of the day is "raw." Gardner appears to be a version of Terrelle Pryor that's a couple inches shorter, slightly less of an athletic freak, and less likely to draw shame upon himself at basketball games. Check it:
"He expects us to be a good person," junior Devin Gardner said of his coach. "It's those little things. At Inkster you have to be a good person."
Gardner may have even more work to do on his mechanics. The good news is that he's got another year of high school to develop, and he'll probably camp at Michigan so they can work on him hard, and, god willing, Forcier will pan out and he won't be thrust into the starting job on day one. In a perfect world, Gardner redshirts and is the heavy favorite to win the job after four years of Forcier.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's nice to get the top QB target onboard early. (Yes, insert decommit crack here.) Michigan remains in dire need of quarterbacks and will pursue and acquire a second, with GA QB Blake Sims the target with the most imminent decision on tap.
PROSPECTIVE SLIGHTLY ANNOYING MGOBLOG NICKNAME
There's a lot of dreck in the googlestalking, but sometimes there's gold, too. Someone named Devin Gardner co-starred in the straight-to-DVD disaster of a kiddie movie you see at right: A KID CALLED DANGER. The man in the binoculars to the left has a sweet buckstache and is clearly cursing whatever gods allowed this child named DANGER to interfere with his nefarious plans.
Obviously, Devin Gardner is this kid called danger.
Etc.: Trieu interview.
The more you hear about the defense, the more you hear about the 3-4. An example:
Ezeh said the team's defense under new coordinator Greg Robinson would mostly resemble a 3-4 ... One defensive player whose position has been adjusted is Stevie Brown. After playing (and often struggling) at safety last year, Brown will fill a hybrid outside linebacker-safety spot in the revamped defense
But I don't think it's an actual 3-4, by which I mean a Pittsburgh Steelers style 3-4 with big space-eating defensive linemen and havoc-wreaking linebackers. 3-4 versus 4-3 is often a proxy for a more fundamental distinction between defenses: one gap versus two. Wikipedia:
Sometimes the defensive scheme says he is responsible for only one gap - it's his job to make sure the running back can't come through his gap, and the other gaps will be someone else's responsibility. In this case we say the tackle is playing in a one gap defense. The tackle will line up right in the gap, not directly facing any offensive lineman.
In other schemes, the tackle will be responsible for two gaps. In this case the tackle will line up directly facing an offensive lineman, and his job will be to push that lineman backwards and make sure the running back doesn't run past on either side of his lineman.
If you want to play a two gap scheme, you need larger stronger defensive tackles who can control an offensive lineman or even two offensive linemen. If you want to play a one gap scheme you can use slightly smaller defensive tackles who are faster and more athletic and can penetrate into the offensive backfield more often. In a two gap scheme, the tackles are supposed to control the linemen, thus making sure that no one is blocking the linebackers behind them and the linebackers are then free to make the play and tackle the runner. So in a two gap scheme, you don't expect the defensive tackles to have a large number of sacks or tackles.
NFL style 3-4s are two-gap defenses with huge nose tackles and huge, mobile defensive ends who would probably be DTs in a 4-3. In college these sorts of folk are rare and the 3-4 is decidedly unpopular.
When it does emerge you get this a lot:
The picture is small, but that's USC in 2006. Note that the nearest defensive end is in a two-point stance.
You might recognize this defense because it's the one that blew up Michigan's zone stretch in the 2006 Rose Bowl. USC used Brian Cushing as a defensive end, but stood him up. This is basically a 4-3 defense with some extra frippery: you can back Cushing off or shift the line into another set of techniques or actually use it as a 3-4, or a 5-2 by moving the other linebacker up and loading the middle of the line:
That's what USC did in the Rose Bowl, putting one player on every gap and shooting it as soon as the line moved one way or the other.
So, it's a 3-4. Brian Cushing is technically a linebacker on the roster. But it's not a 3-4, as it's mostly a one-gap defense. In the NFL these days you're hearing a lot about "hybrid" defenses that shift from 3-4 to 4-3 based on situation, and that's what USC 2006 D was. They completely shut down Michigan's powerful rushing attack by shifting to a different front.
Given the wacky nomenclature of Michigan's Herrmann-era defensive line, which had a DE, an NT, a DT, and a "rush linebacker" I'm pretty sure that Michigan defenses from the era before I was paying enough attention to know were also flexible. This is what Robinson means by "multiple fronts."
Michigan is poised to go back to the future with three down linemen, two traditional linebackers, and a couple of hybrid folk. The "spinner" is a standup defensive end who plays on the weakside, and the "Stevie Brown isn't a safety" is a hybrid linebacker/safety sort who is probably going to function a lot like Brandon Harrison did under Ron English. Michigan had a specific spot they called nickelback; that guy always lined up over the slot receiver and blitzed a ton.
So it's going to look like a 3-4 at times, and there are only going to be three guys with their hand on the ground, and some announcers but definitely not Chris Spielman will talk about it as a 3-4, but I don't think it's really a 3-4. From my admittedly amateur perspective, it doesn't make any sense to take Mike Martin, a 290 pound penetrator, and turn him into a two-gap space eater. Nor does it make sense to take terror defensive end Brandon Graham and expose him to convenient double blocking on every play. Two gap defenses will probably be a changeup and nothing more. No matter how many people say it's a 3-4, don't believe them. It's not a 3-4.
Unless, of course, it is.