mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
The ding: minor. Sheridan's injury won't last much past spring:
Nick Sheridan has suffered a non-displaced fracture of his leg that will not require surgery. He will be out 4-6 weeks, and will be back with the team in time for summer workouts.
React to that as you will. I have absolutely no emotion relating to that news.
Drop the puck. Yost Built has ten things about Air Force for you before today's 3PM puck drop. As always, I'm petrified. There is nothing more terrifying that single-elimination playoff hockey, and nothing more shattering than that moment when the knife twists and the wrong red light comes on.
That's a lot of hamburgers. The Frozen Four is coming to Ford Field next year, which is a lot of seating for a college hockey game even if they, as planned, cut the stadium in half and put up temporary bleachers. They have changed the plan:
The NCAA announced today that the rink for college hockey's championship event will be in the middle of Ford Field next April, just like the basketball court will be in a couple of weeks.
There had been talk of putting the rink in an end zone and curtaining off part of the stadium because of crowd-size and viewing concerns.
Uh… thumbs down. Are you really going to get 70,000 people at the Frozen Four next year? In Detroit? Very unlikely even if Michigan makes it. This seems likely to be a debacle that makes the committee avoid Detroit for future events. Hurrah.
Adios. Toney Clemons' departure was handled with slightly more class than that of Mr. Plow:
"I was recruited in to play in coach (Lloyd) Carr's more pro style offense and that was an offense that allowed me to utilize my talents, using my size and speed combination to stretch the field, run precise routes and make plays down field in the passing game," Clemons said. "The offensive concepts were very different than the ones that coach Rod (is) running now and that was a system that I feel I could go into and thrive in. I gave this new system a chance thinking that I could switch lanes and use my athleticism to excel in the system but it just didn't work out for me, I just had a feeling that I wasn't what they were looking for."
By all accounts, Clemons was an outstanding kid—Breaston's cousin, so not surprising—and someone with talent in the right system. Hopefully he lands somewhere he can use that talent.
Sucker bets. Bruce Feldman checks in with Vegas to see if there's been any recent movement in the BCS championship lines. He finds one particular team surging:
Apparently, there's some enthusiasm for Michigan in Year 2 under Rich Rodriguez. The Wolverines went from being a 200-1 shot to win the 2010 BCS title game (on Feb. 3) to a 100-1 shot as of March 24.
Feldman cites the usual jump Rodriguez teams in year two, the six redshirted offensive linemen, and the Tate/Robinson combo at QB as reasons this might have happened. But all these things were true on February 3rd except maybe Robinson. I credit (blame?) drunk Michigan fans in Vegas after the Clemson game.
Here's an education, sort of. The Globe and Mail took a look at the CHL's education packages, getting some quotes along the way from Red Berenson:
“I think what's happened is that the Canadian Hockey League has done a good job of contaminating these kids in terms of their eligibility,” said Berenson, a Regina native and former NHLer who has coached in the NCAA for 25 years. “They're drafting these kids at 14 out in Alberta and B.C. and 15 in Ontario, so they draft them and get them excited about playing in the O [OHL] or the Dub [the WHL] and they bring them up and play them in a game and they're done. Once they've played a game, they've lost their [NCAA] eligibility.
“They can tell the kids they're getting everything they're getting in the U.S., but they rarely do.”
This is correct: junior players can get scholarships but only one year for each year they play in junior. Even sketchier, as soon as you sign an AHL or professional contract the money is gone. Heck, if you sign an ECHL contract you have one year and then the money is gone. Only 32% of CHL players end up getting anything at all.
Junior advocates will tell you this is still a good bet for future stars, and it may be for the tip of the pyramid, the top-ten picks who aren't long for any junior league. But once you take the numbers and start creating league equivalencies, 1) the USHL has the same quality of play as any of the Canadian junior leagues, and 2) college hockey is considerably tougher. The case that waiting for college hockey will delay your development has been blown up by the move of the USHL to tier one and the corresponding increase in quality of play. Junior now provides zero advantages unless you just don't want an education, which the CHL is happy to not supply.
Elsewhere in the hockey blogosphere, Tom Benjamin says Berenson is "full of shit" and proceeds to completely misinterpret the above quote:
Every young player knows that if he plays a game of Major Junior he loses his chance at an NCAA scholarship. This rule has not changed in recent years and therfore this rule does not explain why fewer and fewer Canadians are opting for the NCAA. It is happening because the CHL offers better opportunities - a faster route to the NHL and the scholarship program - now.
Berenson's not saying the kids don't know they'll lose their eligibility, he's saying the CHL teams are getting kids to play in a game or two when they're too young to have any idea whether or not it's a good idea, when they're really vulnerable to the far-off and unlikely dream of making the NHL. Mudcrutch has an excellent rejoinder, and Benjamin gets pwned in his own comments:
It’s also worth noting that the CHL’s scholarship program is a lot less financially generous than is a full ride NCAA scholarship. The fact that the “full ride” in the OHL is limited to first round picks from the Midget draft is outrageous - no wonder guys like Berenson are miffed. If it is about education, then you extend the offer to all players, not just an elite few whom you are concerned might bolt for greener pastures. It also takes at least four years to get a degree, not two or three, and the fact is that the CHL is usually only paying for two years for many of the players.
Junior is a scam, man.
Um, Michigan offered a random 5'9" guy from Texas named Tony Drake and Drake duly committed. He's probably a corner or a slot. Informative update coming.
Dallas Morning News; Drake is #5
(Not Particularly) Informative Update: Okay, Drake is definitely a running back/slot sort according to his Rivals video, which I took the unusual (for me) step of actually watching because there's very little information available on who this guy is outside of some brief mentions in game recaps. I guess we'll go with the format, but it's going to be silly-lookin' and sparse:
Whee: Drake isn't ranked by anyone yet, except this guy at "Vype," who ranked Drake… uh… #13 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:
13. Tony Drake, Skyline The Raiders are in a situation where they are producing multiple Division I recruits each season, and Drake will be another. He only rushed for 300 yards last season, but remember again like White, he had limited opportunities because Skyline has so many talented skill players. Drake is another back with 4.4 speed.
But that's regardless of class, so… yeah, might be like the fourth or fifth best back in Dallas this year. Jim Stefani has him the #175 receiver nationally.
Michigan was his first.
See above: stuck behind two seniors at Dallas powerhouse Skyline, Drake saw limited time and only acquired around 300 yards.
FAKE 40 TIME
See above: 4.4. Fake!
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The flimsy evidence here is even flimsier than normal, so take the following with a grain of salt.
Michigan has offered the junior backup of a talented senior again—this is a virtual replay of the Teric Jones recruitment—and are taking chance on the sparse playing time Drake acquired last year being representative of his talent. This is a risk. Given the lack of attention so far and the spots in which Drake shows up when someone does notice him, he's a mortal lock for three stars unless he has a crazy Terrance Robinson senior year.
I did watch the video, though, and the good news is that Skyline basically runs Michigan's offense. If you're going to make an offer based on just film it's nice if you don't have to make a lot of assumptions. Here there are none: the coaches have seen Drake do exactly what they'll ask him to do. They unearthed Slaton and Reynaud and so forth and so on and this is one of those positions at which Michigan can take a guy others might not get a lot of use out of and turn him into a pain-dealing jet engine.
I'm much less bothered about random three star running backs like Drake and Vincent Smith than I am about linebackers and defensive backs who don't have an unusual system to dominate in. If Michigan's staff gets leeway in their recruiting at one spot, it's tailback. They've earned it.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
There's a certain genre of recruit that is going to play a running back/slot hybrid like Dorrell Jalloh or Darius Reynaud at WVU, and Drake will be one of those guys. With three running backs graduating this year there's still plenty of room for others to come in, though they'll probably be larger angry moose sorts.
Hopefully irrelevant. Normally the first-string quarterback going down with an injury rumored to be a broken leg—it's "serious" according to the Free Press—is time for PANIC(!). But when it's Nick Sheridan in question… eh. I wasn't planning on seeing Sheridan under center this year except in trauma-induced flashbacks, and I don't think losing some practice time is going to seriously impact his performance unless he gets bitten by a radioactive spider in his downtime.
However, the mere reminder that weird injuries happen is an ominous reminder of what coule happen once Forcier's spindly physique hits the field. All hail quick rhythm passing and a much improved offensive line.
The least correct thing. If you ever need a scale on which to measure truth and need labels for the extremes of that scale, "Mel Kiper's opinion of Carson Butler" should be the label for the bad end:
"Butler is going to block and get the job done there," Kiper said. "(Teams want) a guy who can block. You have to secure the edge. These 3-4 teams you're going up against, you have to be able to handle, (and) you handle with a blocking tight end. Carson Butler as a late-round pick for those types of teams would have some value."
WTF. No, wait. Mere letters are insufficient. I need a panda for this.
Kiper is now dead to me. In Mel Kiper's world, Carson Butler is useful as a blocker, Michigan State wide receivers can go a week without one of them ending up in prison, and candy tastes like ashes. I've always thought Kiper was sort of useful, but how can anyone take him seriously after that? Or after "Curtis Painter is a top-ten draft pick"?
Fourth-liners. The Daily reports that Ben Winnett is questionable for the weekend and the Scooter Vaughn experiment is unlikely to be repeated, leaving Luke Glendening, Danny Fardig, and Brandon Naurato on Michigan's fourth line.
Impact of this on Michigan's chances in the tourney: minimal. I did like Winnett more than the options to replace him, but that may have been residual prejudice about his NHL draft slot (too high, apparently) rather than anything that happened on the ice. Naurato's actually scoring at a higher clip.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Call for assistance. User Bleedin9Blue is embarking on a study of recruiting rankings and requires some extra hands. If you've got some statistical or database know-how and are interested in such a project, I'm sure he'd appreciate any assistance.
Twitterin'. Where Pete Carroll goes recruits and coaches follow, so Rich Rodriguez is now extraordinarily boring on Twitter. Check it:
Good work done at practice today. Watching film with the Coaches. Go Blue!
That's pretty much the extent of things: we practiced today, I am doing something, I occasionally capitalize something strangely, "Go Blue!" I count two posts without exclamation points so far, and no revealing personal details like "boy I miss OMC." As far as comedy value goes he's got nothing on Tim Brewster, who twitters like someone making fun of Tim Brewster:
JUST OFF THE FIELD FROM PRACTICE #1....GUYS SHOWED GREAT ATTITUDE AND EFFORT TODAY!
EACH GUY CONTROLS WHAT HE BRINGS TO THE TABLE EACH DAY ATTITUDE, EFFORT, TOUGHNESS AND PASSION NOT TAUGHT BUT BROUGHT!
WINNING ON AND OFF THE FIELD EACH AND EVERY DAY IS WHAT CREATES A CHAMPION!
TRY FIGHT BEST WIN indeed.
You can thank the NCAA for your insight into Pete Carroll's musical taste and Tim Brewster's FIGHTBRAIN: by shutting down texting they've sent coaches scrambling for another avenue via which to communicate with recruits. Twitter's broadcast nature means it should remain legit, and coaches' neverending desire to get a leg up on their competitors should keep the erratically spelled tweets flowing forevermore.
It's been a long time. It's time to remind you again what a weird, insecure hunchback of a man Charlie Weis is:
"My intent is to coach the game from the field That is my intent. Okay? As (Bill) Parcells said years ago, I reserve the right to change my mind, but that is my intent. I talked to people at the collegiate level and pro level, from Andy Reid right on down. By a very, very large majority, almost everyone I talked to were overwhelming thinking I was thinking way outside the box."
This passage is much, much funnier if you pretend Charlie Weis talks like Truman Capote.
That is all.
Etc.: Dhani Jones paints; the 2002-2003 class will help the graduation numbers considerably; Carty enraged by selection of some guy that knows Hagen to head academics stuff in the athletic department; back and forth in the comments is pretty interesting.
You may have noticed the absence of this feature the last two weeks. Brace for impact:
Update 3/17: Linked to video of MI LB Daniel Easterly, articles on GA WR Tai-ler Jones, FL WR Kenny Shaw, OH WR DJ Williamson, GA QB Blake Sims, VA LB Aramide Olayanian, FL S Marvin Robinson, OH DE Darryl Baldwin, OH LB Jordan Hicks, OH RB Spencer Ware, SC QB Cornelius Jones, MI DE Will Gholston, MI DE CJ Olaniyan, OH OL Matt James, GA QB Blake Sims, FL WR Kenny Shaw, FL CB Spencer Boyd, MI CB Dior Mathis, MI RB Austin White, FL QB Christian Green, MI DE Will Gholston, FL LB Jeff Luc.
Added PA DE Dakota Royer, SC DE Brandon Willis, OH DE Marcus Rush(offer), OH LB Jewone Snow, MI OT Jarhuar Jackson, LA WR Drew Dileo, FL OL Brent Benedict, MI DE Tremondae Branch, SC DE Corey Miller. SC S Bashaud Breeland, FL RB Nickell Robey, MN OL Seantrel Henderson.
Didn't remove VA LB Aramide Olaniyan. He committed to Duke but still plans visits, which I am now considering "says Duke leads."
Moved OH OL Skyler Schofner to offered($, IIH). Also moved OH OL Andrew Donnal to offered. Downgraded FL WR Kenny Shaw to yellow; FSU leads for now. Moved MI QB Devin Gardner, OH LB Antonio Kinard, and OH WR DJ Williamson to committed, committed, and committed. Linked to Rivals camp recap with mentions of MD LB Josh Furman and MD RB Zach Zwinak. Jim S content galore. Scout top 100.
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Jeepers. So, yeah, that's a ton of stuff. I'm going to ignore anything that's just "Recruit X has offers from team Y" and focus on things of more immediate relevancy.
Three folks have joined the fold: OH LB Antonio Kinard, OH WR DJ Williamson, and MI QB Devin Gardner. Kinard got a somewhat useless "Hello" post last week; profiles of Williamson and Gardner are pending.
Kinard and Gardner are the first recruits at their positions and don't require a lot of explanation: Michigan liked them, offered, and got commitments. Hurrah.
The pursuit and acquisition of Williamson, whose first and only offer is from Michigan, makes a lot more sense in the wake of Toney Clemons' departure, but that's still four receivers in this class, all of whom are 6'2"+ guys who aren't likely to end up in the slot. Even if Michigan uses a lot of receivers that seems like a larger than ideal haul.
There's a tendency for fans to overrate their team's early commits, but even accounting for that the results of the initial Rivals and Scout lists are disappointing. And strange.
Ricardo Miller, who Michigan fans expected to be a sure top 100 player and a potential top 50 guy, didn't make either top 100 list, ending up in the 100-200 range on both sites. Much-hyped Devin Gardner didn't make the Rivals 100 and checks in at just 77 on the Scout list. Marvin Robinson, who Michigan fans have been hearing about for two solid years as a rock-hard five-star lock, ended up #99 on Rivals and #182 on Scout.
Meanwhile, OH WR Jerald Robinson comes in at 149 on Scout, ahead of Miller. Robinson's offer list reads "Michigan" and ceases there; Miller has offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, and so forth and so on forever and ever amen. "Strange" doesn't quite cover it.
There weren't any pleasant surprises outside of Robinson: Jackson, Williamson, and Kinard don't rank at the moment. Unless they go to a lot of combines—unlikely since they've committed—or have blowup senior years they're likely to be three-star sorts in February. Jackson, who's supposed to have Texas, LSU, and Florida offers, might have upward mobility.
We're still in the phase of recruiting season when the board expands wildly with only the occasional early commitment helping reign it in, so there are many more guys entering your world than leaving. A couple departures, or guys who aren't quite departures yet but are 95% likely to be in the near future:
- VA LB Aramide Olayanian committed to… wait for it… Duke(!). He says he's solid but plans visits. If we have a better season than Duke he might reconsider or something. I've left him on the board because I'm irritated about deleting kids and then re-adding them once they open it back up; I don't think this one will matter.
- GA WR Tai-ler Jones doesn't have Michigan on his list of seven schools recently released. Given that, his dad's ND ties, and Michigan's jam-packed WR recruiting class, he's off the board.
- OH DE Darryl Baldwin is so under the spell of Tressel that he lists OSU first and Michigan State second, which is one "Notre Dame" away from being the world's most Michigan-unfriendly list. He is technically still listing M, so he remains on the board.
- OH OL Matt James has a top three of Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Cincinnati, which is another strong take on a Michigan-unfriendly list. .
- FL WR Kenny Shaw, Ricardo Miller's teammate at Orlando Dr. Phillips, had proclaimed Michigan his leader a few times, then said FSU was coming on, then said FSU and Michigan were his top two, and now says FSU leads($). Even though Michigan has a lot of receivers committed, that's a bit of a blow. Shaw's a talent with offers from the in-state Big Three and would play in the slot, a spot Michigan hasn't filled despite the receiver glut.
- FL QB Christian Green is sounding like an FSU lock despite the fact he'll play WR there.
Michigan is still looking for quarterbacks, as they can't decommit at the last second unless they've already signed up. GA QB Blake Sims, teammate of less-enthused WR Tai-ler Jones, has a top group of Michigan, Georgia, and West Virginia with the latter school trailing significantly. At one point he was favoring Michigan.
This is a place where Sims will be looking at a QB offer from M versus a sort-of-QB-sort-of-ATH offer from Georgia, which will help offset the negative geography we've got going on.
I'm not sure how verified Jim Stefani's statement about MI CB Dior Mathis is, but let's hope its "lots":
He has an early Michigan offer and Michigan has made a push to emerge as the prohibitive favorite over former leader Miami and several others.
Miami was the heavy leader until late in Mathis' junior year, when the Cass Tech thing took hold and he started looking more heavily at Michigan. This, then, certainly implies that Michigan is in strong position:
"Right now I know that I'm going to take [officials] to Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Ohio State, and I don't know the other one yet. It's going to be Miami or USC."Mathis was originally considered a heavy Miami lean, but he's not ready to decide just yet, "I'm high on Miami still but I don't want to just be on one school, I want to get to know everybody," Mathis said.
Mathis has already visited Miami, but unofficially, and actions seem to speak louder than words here. The 'Canes appear to be fading.
Elsewhere in Detroit, supposed Spartan lock Will Gholston may be more open than previously believed:
Gholston’s preference is to play linebacker at the college level and he feels the way Michigan would utilize him is similar to the position he played as a junior for Southeastern. That opportunity, along with the recent unofficial visits to Ann Arbor, has bolstered Gholston’s perception of the Wolverines.
"It's evolved a lot from where it was at first,” Gholston said. “I was looking, but I wasn't feeling them as much as I am feeling them now.”
Josh Helmholdt does declare Michigan State the "team to beat".
Despite that North Carolina chatter, Michigan remains the team to beat for FL S Marvin Robinson, though the lead is "slight." Quoth Robinson:
“I love the atmosphere at Michigan,” he said. “Also I have a good relationship with the coaches already. They’ve been recruiting me for a while and I’ve gotten to know them well.”
He says he’s being recruited by (quarterback) coach Rod Smith. “He’s a great guy,” Robinson said. “We’ve talked a lot about life and the little things too. He’s a good coach and I like how hard they are working to be on top again."
New Persons Of Note
A quick summary of where most of dozen-plus new additions to the board stand: "I have a Michigan offer and remain open." Persons about which we can get even slightly more specific:
- MN OL Seantrel Henderson, the nation's consensus #1 recruit, took a visit and deposited this tantalizing quote on Helmholdt: “Michigan was great. I loved it more than any other college I’ve been to so far.”
Other colleges on Henderson's visit list include Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan State, so Ohio State and Notre Dame and so forth and so on still lurk. Still, Henderson is now a possibility and hits the board.
- OH DE Marcus Rush picked up a Michigan offer, visited for Junior Day, and has declared Michigan his leader.
- MD LB Josh Furman's been impressive at various combines and picked up a Michigan offer a couple weeks ago. He's got a Dhani Jones vibe going:
So there's that. Watch out for him at the next Decemberists show you end up at.
via reader Will; click for big
The committee decided to avoid the first round intraconference matchups like prescribed and skipped the obvious switch of 12 and 13 in PWR and gave Michigan that sweet, sweet bracket projected last weekend:
4. Air Force
BU, the overall #1 seed, got hosed and has to face Ohio State in the first round. Michigan is on ESPNU at 3PM Friday.
Some details on the opposition in Bridgeport:
The Falcons are only the second* non-power conference team to rank high enough in the pairwise to warrant an at-large bid, though they don't need it after winning the Atlantic Hockey autobid.
Air Force finished #14 in the final pairwise, was 27-10-5, and ranks #29 in KRACH. That's the fifth best record in the country but it came against the #51 schedule. (D1 hockey has but 58 teams.) Teams of interest near them in KRACH include #27 UNO, #31 Western Michigan, and #32 Michigan State: if Air Force plays at all like any of those teams Michigan should outshoot them at least 2-1.
However, the Air Force nonconference schedule is actually pretty respectable:
- Wins: Bemidji State (2), Colorado College
- Losses: Denver, Quinnipiac, Yale
Both the Quinnipiac and Yale games were competitive, with Yale getting a GWG at 13:22 of the third and Quinnipiac tacking on an ENG in a one-goal game in which Air Force outshot them nearly 2-1. Though I'm happier Michigan faces them than Miami or Ohio State, this is not a pushover.
If there's one guy you want to know at the academy it's Jacques Lamoureux, the nation's leading scorer with a 32-20-52 line. Should it bother you that the best player on a military academy's hockey team is so obviously French Canadian? Yes, except he's from North Dakota so no.
*(A nascent Niagara program snagged an at-large in 2000. Though they won the CHA, the conference hadn't been granted autobid status yet. Even more impressive: the tourney was only twelve teams then. More impressive yet: the Purple Eagles downed New Hampshire in the first round.)
Yale won the ECAC this year with a 15-5-2 conference record and then won the conference tourney to boot. This constitutes possibly the best season in Yale hockey history. They, too, have a swanky overall record (24-7-2) run up against questionable opposition (SOS #43), but their record is swanky enough and their opposition robust enough to see them slot in at #10 in KRACH.
This would be an excellent draw as Michigan's two-seed except that Vermont, the three-seed in the regional, is #6 in KRACH so it's a wash. Also, KRACH doesn't take scoring Margin into account, and even if Yale played a weak schedule they crushed it: they're #5 in scoring margin. Vermont is #19.
I have this image in my head of successful ECAC teams that will never leave: they have a huge French Canadian guy, a goalie with a save percentage above .920, a thudding, defensive style of hockey, and very little offensive pop except for one leetle guy that's like a version of TJ Hensick interested in going to an Ivy League school.
Yale comes up empty on the huge French Canadian but goalie Alec Richards is at a .926 save percentage and the Bulldogs strike it big with the little guys: four of Yale's top five scorers are listed at 5'9" or less, which means they probably average about 5'7". Don't let the low counting numbers deceive you: though Yale's leading scorers only have 35 points, Yale is an Ivy and plays fewer games than the rest of the country. They currently stand at 33; Michigan's up to 40.
As for the offensive pop: Yale's actually got a decent bit. They're eighth nationally in scoring offense, with six players above 0.8 PPG. One is junior defenseman Thomas Dignard, undoubtedly the PP quarterback, and the rest are young forwards. Yale has no seniors until you get to Patrick Brosnihan's eight points.
Okay, this is not a Cornell or Colgate or whoever, this is a small team with some talent in their sticks.
BONUS: HSR on Yale.
As noted above, math thinks Vermont is the favorite in the 2-3 matchup. The Catamounts were 20-11-5 against the #11 schedule, but instead of flailing about with numbers and goal differential and the like, how about a scouting report from a close observer?
This is from reader Corey Griffiths and far outstrips any knowledge I've got about Vermont:
My alma mater causes me to bleed Maize and Blue, but I have also been going to UVM hockey games since I was half a year old, so I am very much looking forward to the possibility of the two teams playing (for the first time ever?). I figured it might be nice to actually provide some sort of useful scouting report for you, or at least get you on the right track in the event that U-M has to play them Saturday night. Here's what I've got on my perspective:
Vermont has a couple guys you need to watch out for:
- Victor Stahlberg is arguably the best player on the team. He's solid mentally and appears to provide great leadership for the team. His puck skills and playing ability will likely translate well to the NHL, and he reminds me a little bit of a not as good version of Kevin Porter. He's not one of those players that you notice all that much necessarily, but you know something is going to happen when he's out there. I think he plays bigger than the 6-3, 210 he's listed at too. I expect M would probably be pretty good at defending him since I think he actually plays the most like the kind of player Red Berenson goes for.
- I played both with and against Peter Lenes all the way through high school, and his playing style has changed very little. At a generous 5-6 160, students will be tempted to go with the "dirty hobbit" chant, but I would advise against it given his ability to make you eat words. I've never seen a player with a quicker or more lightning-fast reaction time, and you can expect one or more moments where a Michigan player winds up losing the puck for reasons he doesn't quite comprehend. He also has a way of taking shots that aren't unexpected; his favorite move is skating away from the net along one of the sides and taking a sharp turn with a wrist shot right on goal. His accuracy can be deadly both on the forehand and the back hand are deadly, too. The positives for Michigan are that his size makes him easy to lock up if you're able to get a body on him. The last few games of Vermont's season have seen opponents somewhat effectively reduce him to a fixture along the boards.
- Dean Strong is one more player I would watch out for. He's clearly a leader on the team, and though I would only say he's a little above average in the skills department, he plays hard enough to make things happen. You might say he fits the definition of a blue-collar hockey player. M shouldn't have a problem defending him, but if they try to sit back and play dainty hockey as they have done in the past, they'll get burned by him. I feel like he's gone and gotten his helmet knocked off enough times this season that I could even recognize him on the street if I ran into him.
- Vermont has a strange way of acquiring very very good goalies, and Freshman Rob Madore isn't an exception. I would say his 0.911 save percentage and 2.36 GAA are slightly worse than how he is capable of playing. I'm no goalie expert so I'm not going to comment much on his ability, but he just has the feel of a goalie that you can trust to keep the puck out of the net. Usually when he gets scored on it's because one of the blue-liners in front of him got burned.
They forecheck physically (often unnecessarily so) and always scrap for the puck in the corners. They cycle the puck well, and are very good at getting the puck to the net to try and cause something. The goals generally aren't anywhere near as pretty as what you might see at Yost, but that's because a lot of the goals they get are a result of putting a bunch of traffic in front of the net and firing a shot off just to see what happens. Again, beware the Peter Lenes sneak attack and what I might call above average strength in breakaway situations.
Honestly, there isn't a whole lot to get excited over here. If UVM's forwards aren't having a good day they'll probably be counting on Madore to keep them in the game. Their strength I think comes on the power play, where they seem above average at being able to get the puck around to the right guys. Recently much has been made of the lack of defensive effort on the part of the entire team, and you can expect Kevin Sneddon will have spent the last two weeks trying to get them to improve significantly. Exploits: Brayden Irwin, a very large but pretty immobile player who inexplicably scores or makes a brilliant move every few games.
On the power play the Cats have a17.7% success rate, good for 4th in the conference. Vermont has a pretty crappy penalty kill rate (only 80%, 9th conf), but that's partially because they only have about 480 penalty minutes (compare that to Boston University's 767), so you could make a case for sample size. Either way, their penalty kill isn't so good.
don't know if they do it on purpose, but you can bet that this team will go into a hole if they have a lead with 5-7 minutes remaining in the game. They very obviously play a 1-4 forecheck, and the defensive zone coverage starts resembling a penalty kill. Their tendency towards this is not so good for them when combined with the fact that their defensive coverage isn't all that great to begin with. This has killed them in games against UNH and UMass Lowell recently.
Michigan plays a much more organized style of hockey, which should be interesting against Vermont because their 5-on-5 style is a bit more "dump it, get it and see what happens" (Expect a much cleaner game on their power play though). Michigan could get flustered by the Vermont's in-your-face style, or Vermont could find themselves getting picked apart by precision offensive plays.
Vermont fans are generally very good-natured and supportive of their team. The students have recently developed a taste for crappy cheers like the usually badly-timed and over-used—e.g., the "Hey, you suck!" chant during Rock and Roll Part II. As much as I love UVM, their band is almost comically awful at times, though they have a selection of music that can be fun. So yeah.. students are kind of lamely rude as far as fans go, but the general population should be kind.
Corey's done. Hi. I'm done, too, but here's the HSR post on the Catamounts.
Normally the start of spring practice would have been a bigger deal around here, but the basketball team's late season push and 21st-century tourney debut relegated the football team to the back burner, which is a first for this blog.
Yes, spring practice has started. Get a load of our new savior at the gun show:
Vernon Gholston's got nothing on Tate Forcier. At some point this year when Michigan is flailing about in a fashion reminiscent of well, last year, keep this image in mind and think "he's just a freshman" to yourself over and over again. Apparently Forcier spent 100% of his time getting quarterback tutoring and 0% of it picking things up and putting them down, which is all well and good until someone snaps him in half.
But, hey, the news isn't all bad. Friend of blog and practice attendee Craig Ross:
Forcier’s arm is stronger than I thought it would be. Most of the balls he threw looked pretty crisp. He looked terrific in the drills. Running right or left he puts the ball on the money. I didn’t see him throw a poor ball.
And of course there's the other guy:
I felt Nick Sheridan looked better than last year at this time.
Woo! A roundup of other items:
- Toney Clemons is gonzo. See the previous post.
- So is Andre Criswell. He'll be a grad assistant. He was a fifth year senior, so that doesn't change your scholarship projections for the 2010 class.
- Adam Patterson got his redshirt. He is now a junior, which removes a scholarship from the 2010 class and reduces the urgency at DT and DE. Michigan is still waiting on word about Kenny Demens. That should be a formality
- Mouton and Shaw aren't participating. Also, Tim McAvoy has been out with an ankle issue. Ricky Barnum has a wrist issue he's playing through.
- Steve Schilling is probably moving to guard and Patrick Omameh is legit. Intermittent friend of blog and general correspondent Craig Ross has attended some of the sections of practice open to the media and reports that the apparent first-team offensive line reads like so from left to right, with changes from last year bolded: Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Moosman, Omameh.
Ross elaborates: "I was told by one media guy that Schilling asked for the move and so far it has worked out. RR talked briefly to the media and said that it seems likely "Schilling will stay at guard." Barnum is running at LG with the second team---or was this AM at least."
That fits with the practice buzz over the last year that had Barnum and Omameh closest to the field amongst the freshmen; you can pencil Omameh in at RG in 2010 if you want to get seriously premature.
Things That Are As Factual As Rosters Ever Get
- Anthony LaLota is pretty small. He's listed at 6'4", 235, which is not ready for primetime on the defensive line. Redshirt beckons.
- Junior Hemingway is crushing your head. 6'1", 226. Dang, man, hope you can still run.
- Vince Helmuth is on the Gabe Watson diet. Helmuth got up to 299, which probably bodes unwell for his shot at playing time. VB noted he looked "tiny for a DT," which means he'd be better served being quick instead of flabtacular. Rodriguez made a comment about his conditioning at the press conference. Sounds like he's unlikely to see the field.
- Kenny Demens seems field-ready. The roster has him at 237; at 6'1" that's pretty hefty.
- Smith: quarkback. We got ourselves another kid who can do a credible impression of Paper Mario: 5'6", 158 pound Vincent Smith. Hopefully this one doesn't get concussed into oblivion.
Position switches, or not position switches, or things that may or may not be position switches
- Brandon Hawthorne is running with the defensive backs. I said he was safety-sized, but I didn't actually expect he would be a safety. Blip or serious "what?" moment? Eh… survey says blip. Varsity Blue attended a Rodriguez presser at which the headman said Hawthorne is expected to be an outside linebacker.
This is more fuel for the fire of this spread-combating LB/S hybrid sort, FWIW.
- Ferrara is still on the OL. Given the sudden reversal in depth on the two lines—the defense has seen two starters depart and two recruits fail to sign while the offense gets six-count-em-six redshirt freshmen to play with—this may not last. But word is the coaching staff likes Ferrara's potential on offense more than they do on defense; a switch back would be an ominous indicator about the defensive line.
- Stevie Brown is sort of a linebacker. This will meet widespread joy, I'm sure, though it does beg the question "who the hell is going to play safety?"
- Steve Watson is doing okay at DE. I still think he's a longshot to contribute what with the move and all, but he's a high motor individual.
Something Not Particularly Fact-Like
You might remember defensive ends like James Hall and Juaquin Feazell—who should be referenced whenever the opportunity arises just so you can say "Juaquin Feazell" as mellifluously as possible—being listed as the "RLB" or "rush linebacker" during the heyday of Jim Herrmann's tenure at defensive coordinator. These folks were no more linebackers than your average defensive end. That nomenclature was a holdover from days when Michigan did actually have a "rush linebacker" that lived on long after Michigan had departed from the land of the hybrid 3-4.
This style of defense has worked in the Big Ten recently. You may remember Penn State deploying one of its many, many talented linebackers as a standup DE in a year when injury and malfeasance had robbed them of their standard complement of edge-rushing terrors. I think it was 2006. Though it was an ad-hoc solution to a severe personnel deficiency, at the end of the year Penn State's defense occupied its customary position near the top of the Big Ten rankings.
Word around practice is that Michigan is going to adopt something similar, with a lighter DE dubbed the "spinner" who can move around and play with his hand down or up. Or at least they're practicing it to see if it's a good idea.
Persons you might see do this: Steve Watson is practicing there along with a couple of the thicker linebackers—Evans and LaLota have been mentioned. This corresponds with other rumors to the effect that Adam Patterson and Ryan Van Bergen may end up as three-tech (i.e., penetrating) DT sorts, if not permanently than on an occasional basis.
Of course, this could all be declared a bad idea and shelved before fall until the Purdue game. But it's worth knowing.
The writing was on the wall for a while on this one, and recent reports that Toney Clemons wasn't at spring practice were the clincher. He's out:
"I had a long talk with (Rodriguez) and he wasn't too happy with me leaving," Clemons said. "I just don't want to play in a spread offense. This is best for me as an athlete."
Clemons had 12 catches last year as he was shoehorned into the slot behind Martavious Odoms; that move boded unwell. Clemons, at 6'3", is not your typical slot and Michigan was struggling to get production outside.
Michigan will go with Greg Mathews, Darryl Stonum, and Junior Hemingway on the outside; Odoms returns and will be joined by freshmen Terrance Robinson, who redshirted last year, and Jeremy Gallon.
One of the great complaints about Michigan football as conceived under Lloyd Carr was its distinct funereal air. I was a Carr proponent in many things, but at times it seemed like he barely tolerated the fandom that paid his salary.
This on display most obviously when it came to the spring "game," which Carr canceled a couple times due to stadium construction and downplayed at all other times. Never in its history was it, like, an event, and that seemed like a missed opportunity to have some fun. You know… "fun"? Ah, hell, forget it.
Rodriguez likes fun:
In hopes of enhancing Michigan’s annual spring football game, the athletic department will offer additional activities this year, including a flag football game featuring former U-M players.
The hour-long event, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. April 11 at Michigan Stadium, will feature former U-M head coach Gary Moeller coaching the maize squad and longtime assistant Jerry Hanlon coaching the blue team.
On Friday, the athletic department announced that fans will be able to tour the Michigan locker room and take photos from 8-10 a.m.
The cheerleaders and the band will be involved last year, unlike previous ones.
Rodriguez wants to break the all-time attendance record for the spring game. This is going to take some doing. Some showmanship. And so forth and so on. Even attempting such a thing will transform the Spring Game from a sleepy thing attended mostly by diehards into something that fosters a connection with the program. I am enthused and grateful for this sort of thing.
HOWEVA, an email:
I just happened to catch Rich Rodriguez at UMDM on the live video at www.umdm.org. He mentioned this: (allow me some room for error, I don't have a recording)
"We want to make the Big House the most electric atmosphere in the nation. We're obviously gonna keep the band involved, and we're gonna try and play a little music, do a few new things with the scoreboard and stuff like that."
Feel free to interpret that as you will, but I'm worried about a little sparty creeping into the Big House...
Yikes. This is the flip side of that coin. It's not easy to protest this sort of thing without emitting a "get off my lawn, kids(!)" air, but: dude, seriously, get off the lawn you hippies.
An attempt: one of the most powerful things that forges a fan community is the shared culture that naturally arises when you can say things like "one second left against Penn State" and know that the person you're talking to is thinking and feeling the exact same thing you are. It sets the group apart. This apart-ness is fundamental to the passion sports fans experience: it's us and them, and the more us our us is and the more them their them is, the more important the thing beneath us seems.
Michigan has a lot of culture. That, fundamentally, is its main asset. From that culture flows the passion, and from that passion flows the money. Part of that culture is a public address announcer who embodies neutral gravitas. Part of it is the lack of advertising in the stadium. And part of that is the way the game is presented inside the stadium, with no "NoISe!!!" signs or plastic chariots or electromagic Spartys with frickin' eye lasers.
I like it like that. I like my church with incense and deceased Jesus, my Christmas carols by Bing Crosby, and my Michigan Stadium without frickin' eye lasers.
It's safe to say I'm torn about what's going on here. I'd like it if the spring game was a game. And if it was worth going to. But that's not worth making Michigan Stadium chintzy. Any stadium experience revamp should be made with Michigan's existing culture in mind.
For example: Michigan debuted a hype video for the first time ever this year. It was fine. I thought it was pretty good. But it could have been a hype video for just about any school that had so few offensive seniors it had to drag Mike Massey into things. It would have been much better if it had taken some Michigan themes and integrated them. One such change: instead of "I am Michigan," or whatever, have people say "the team." There: done. Bo invoked, Michigan-specific, hurray.
Go ahead and change things, but please have a delicate hand. Let's not rush to join the great sweaty mass of brahs all around us. Let's not toss away something unique.
STAYING PUT: DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris said they will be back next year, Sims for his senior year and Harris for his junior season, putting off the chance at a pro career.
"I never even have thought about it," Harris said.
Awesome; expectations are now pegged at a tourney return at the least.
The news about the News:
The Ann Arbor News will close in July and will be replaced by a Web-based, media company called AnnArbor.com, Laurel Champion, publisher of The News, announced in a 9 a.m. meeting with staff.
Ah but not so fast: the "web based company" will be run by the same people, hire some of the same people, and put out print editions twice a week plus print a "total market coverage" thing, whatever that means, once a week. This is basically a rehash of the Free Press/News changes with some extra frippery I assume is a way of avoiding Booth Newspaper's longstanding no-layoffs pledge. Or something else that has to do with financial wizardry. In any case, the way the story is framed—by the newspaper itself!—is a little dramatic.
If you're interested in some serious back and forth sniping, check out Jim Carty's blog. Journo commenters can't just call you a d-bag, they have to write an article-length comment to do it. Fun for the whole family.
As for the Michigan sports upshot… eh. Chances are the new web-based company will focus about as much on Michigan sports as the existing newspaper; they'll actually have more motivation to do so as an online-oriented product.
I did love that mere days after interviewing Dylan of UMHoops for a story that mentioned he authored a Michigan basketball blog but didn't link to or even name it, the News managed to cram no fewer than eight links to their new URL in the story announcing the News' demise. Dips. I'm nofollowing links to the Ann Arbor News for the next week, starting with the above.
The above amply demonstrates that the current leadership of the News is extraordinarily ill-prepared to make this transition. They fail to understand the currency of the internet, that linking out spurs linking in. Trying to trap readers in a box made of a million holes is archaic; I wonder how long it will take for someone to thwack Unfrozen Caveman Newspaper Exec in the back of the head and stage a coup.
(Sorry if the tag seems insensitive; it's just what media discussion goes under around these parts.)