is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
Using this article from the Wall Street Journal (hat tip to Adam Rittenberg's Big Ten blog on ESPN for pointing it out), and knowing that Michigan is locked in to at least one "name" non-conference opponent for the foreseeable future, what kind of opponent, were you given your druthers, would you like to see for next season's 12th game? Similarly, do we know if the season can begin on August 29th or must Michigan, if wanting to play the 12th game, must use its Big Ten conference schedule bye week in October?
For those who don't want to read the WSJ article, it's a well-argued complaint about the lack of data points via which to compare teams in different conferences. I agree with it totally.
On to the questions: Michigan must fill its bye week this year. As far as who that should be, that's obvious: the worst team they can find. Northern Colorado. Coastal Carolina. Some reclassifying provisional I-AA team from Spain. Some team that would take one look at Nick Sheridan and say to themselves "damn, I wish we had that kid." Michigan's already done well to get Eastern in for a (God, let's hope) drubbing.
I say this because of the media environment around Rodriguez and the state of the roster. Everyone adores Beilein now because he's beating UCLA and Duke; the football team is not likely to turn around so nimbly.
If basketball programs, with their 13 scholarships and rapid turnover, are Ferraris, football programs are dump trucks. Sometimes you get remarkable season-to-season turnarounds but in cases like that it's often random stuff—turnovers—obscuring a more gradual improvement. See Minnesota, 1-11 and possessors of one of the nation's worst turnover ratios in 2007, bouncing up to 7-5 on the strength of a +12 TO margin. Minnesota is still more than 50 yards per game worse than their opponents and is going to get its head caved in by Kansas; they're not much better than they were a year ago, but no one knows it.
So the football team is likely to be pretty bleah next year, too, especially with uncertainty at quarterback, and something like Toledo redux is a possibility. See: Minnesota, again. If that happens and Michigan misses a bowl again Rodriguez might actually find himself in serious hot water, which I think would be the worst thing that could happen to the program.
So: do not schedule a team that could possibly beat Michigan. This is shameless and I feel vaguely guilty about it, but that's life. If the media isn't going to go any deeper than surface level, surface level is what we shall give them.
More generally, I'm resigned to at least two cupcakes a year, one in the opener and one in the Big Ten bye week. Notre Dame is the third spot and that's fine. What rankles is that fourth game, which looks to be yet another cupcake unless Michigan accidentally schedules a top ten Utah team. Michigan should be scheduling competitive programs from various BCS conferences and playing the occasional road game in there. Utah is fine. BYU or Boise or TCU would be fine. Clemson or South Carolina or Oregon State or Rutgers or Cincinnati or Stanford or Kansas State or would be fine. Games against actual opponents that, in most years, Michigan will be solid favorites in.
There is zero chance of this actually happening, of course.
I noticed that after last year we had a major void in depth on the D-Line after not landing any DE's last year. This year, we have commitments from LaLota, Roh, Schofield, Graves, Jones, and we look very good for Pernell McPhee, very good for Big Will, and good?(not sure) for Taylor Lewan. Quite an impressive list of Lineman commits, including that we look alright for Sam Montgomery and Quinton Washington.
With all these excellent lineman, do you think any will move to O-Line(big will? Lalota? as both project to O-line as well..i think..)? Also, i think it is good to note that football is won in the trenches, and this is building a great foundation for especially the Offense but also the Defense(as long as we can pick up some viable Linebackers..hopefully Jelani, but i dont know).
In a word: no. While the offensive line was so thin last year it necessitated John Ferrara's move from defensive tackle, Michigan loses no one this year and now has a fleet of six redshirt freshmen to add depth and challenge for starting jobs. Offensive line suddenly has a two-deep.
The defensive line, however, is extremely thin. The departure of Kates and Slocum leaves only Mike Martin and Renaldo Sagesse at DT. The DE whiff last year leaves Ryan Van Bergen as the only underclass DE. Everyone Michigan is bringing in on the defensive line is going to have to stay there.
I know lots of sites seem to track what school is in the running for what player, but going back to last year, when RichRod used the snake oil for a lot of last minute commits : Did yourself, or any other recruiting sites, track that UM was in the running for any of these players (ie Shaw, or Roundtree) and don’t you think that RichRod may use the snake oil again and pull in some last minute recruits that no one seems to be tracking?
Last year was a special situation, as Michigan suddenly found itself sporting a different coach, different offense, and different priorities. This naturally changed the opinions of various recruits and, with some prodding, resulted in a number of snake-oil heists.
Example: Michael Shaw was offered by Michigan as an "athlete", not a running back, and decided on a place that recruited him as a running back. When Rodriguez came that changed his status in Michigan's eyes, and, eventually, vice versa. If Rodriguez had been around for the whole year Shaw probably would have committed to Michigan in the first place.
So we're probably not going to have the flood of signing-day decommits; players that want to go to Michigan are more likely to just commit to Michigan. On the other hand, "commitment" gets to be a shakier word every year, and Michigan is recruiting a number of guys who are technically committed to other schools. The difference is that we have a good idea who these guys are (McPhee, Stokes, etc) already. I think you'll see a surprise or maybe two; four is highly unlikely.
This next is just something to read:
As a WVU fan, I am struck by your description of the ten-year drizzle cloud lifting from the Michigan hoops program. The state of Wolverine basketball in the beginning of the second year of the Beilein administration is eerily analogous to that of the WVU program early in Beilein's Morgantown tenure. To wit:
- The last four years of Beilein's WVU predecessor, Gale Catlett, were an abject horror. You have little reason to know anything about this, so Google "Jonathan Hargett", "Drew Catlett", "Coliseum asbestos", or "Gale Catlett routinely wore a leather blazer during games". Michigan had post-sanctions stress disorder and was choked by Tommy Amaker's turtlenecks.
- Beilein's first season at each stop was interminable, featuring attrition galore. In WVU's case, the departed players would have improved that season's record, but had they remained, the youngsters who spent the season potty training (Jo Herber, JD Collins, Pat Beilein, Tyrone Sally) would not have received the season necessary for to make them the nucleus--after adding Gansey and Pittsnoggle--of the 2005 and 2006 NCAA runs. It sounds like M will come to rely more on guys who weren't meaningfully around last year, but the early returns for '08-09 sure seem to indicate that last year's nuclear aftermath of a season was not in vain. Plus, there may be a pithy comparison to make between Lucas-Perry and Gansey.
- In the second years, each team stole wins over highly touted foes: WVU beat Florida (thought to be really good at the time but turned out to be just good) and a meh Maryland, whereas Michigan beat UCLA (thought to be really good but would project to turn out better than just good) and lies in wait for the next conquest.
- Second-year NIT berths--should Michigan fall short of 65 next March--following barrel-bottom first seasons.
Whether the result of the Taylor-Traylor-Amaker calamity or of hoops not being football, it seems that you don't like Michigan basketball so much as tolerate it because you crave a major-sport, maize-and-blue squad to root for in the winter. I identify with the hoops toleration and both motives. Because of Beilein and the similarities in the rat nests he inherited at WVU and UM*, I feel a kinship with Michigan fans. (Gasps understood, and no, I don't take your vomiting personally.) And trust me, you will love rooting for Beilein's teams.
The successes will sneak up on you. When Beilein's teams are hot, they are exhilarating. Even his best teams--though I suppose his hypothetical, great M teams may change this--will inspire frequent rending of garments. But I am roughly your age and, before Rich Rodriguez and JK Rowling gave birth to Pat White, watching Beilein's 2005 and 2006 teams on their tournament runs was the greatest sports-fan experience of my life. Sure, the athletic traditions of Michigan and West Virginia are comparable only to facilitate the demonstration that Michigan's is far richer, but still. You will love Michigan hoops under Beilein, and the leaps forward will happen sooner than appears possible and drown out by far the maddening aspects of his regime like rebounding and fickle substituting. The conductor is only rehearsing now, but the symphony will open without notice, and you will be mesmerized.
* What is the preferred, abbreviated nomenclature, dude? Is "U-M" just an unfortunate freep.com sports-page construction?
As to the question: AFAIK the standard abbreviated nomenclature is UM, with the dash some editor's affectation. I actually prefer just "M," which plays off Michigan's iconic block M logo and prevents confusion with Minnesota and Miami.
As to the point about my personal relationship with basketball: no, I don't much like Michigan basketball, but that's more a function of the uniquely soul-crushing miasma that lingers over the program a full decade after any funny business went down than anything inherent in college basketball*. And the turnovers. Jesus holy God, the turnovers. I don't think anyone really liked Michigan basketball in the Ellerbe/Amaker eras because it was unlikeable. They played hideous basketball and they lost. Ellerbe stacked his teams with jerks (Ingerson, Gaines, Searight, Moore, Taylor, Traylor, Bullock). Amaker didn't have that problem, but you try watching this:
Even when they were pretty okay, Michigan was a brutally coached team. That gets to you. Couple that with a funereal atmosphere at Crisler and, well… it's not an attractive product. However, I did go to about half the games last year and plan on getting to that many this year. And I'm not defensive about this at all.
*(Well, okay, I will admit that the shot clock is too long and the three point line is (still) too close.)
In the last mailbag there was some discussion of Georgia Tech and why they didn't suck nearly as hard as Michigan did. Nate Fowler, GT fan and erstwhile blogger, provides the GT perspective:
Saw your mailbag comments on the PJ/RR comparison ... and the Nesbitt v. Sheridan/Threet/DEATH rotation was certainly a huge difference in the two teams. Couple of other comments I had:
#1 - GT came into the season with far better personnel than UM did, not just "for the system" but overall.
The defense has 3 and possibly 4 future 1st/2nd round draft picks (Morgan Burnett - S, Michael Johnson - DE, Derrick Morgan - DE, Vance Walker - DT) and they won games for GT during the first half of the season as the offense found it's legs. I never got the impression that Michigan's defense was capable of carrying the team to wins the way GT's could/did.
The offense as well had plenty of young talent that had all had some experience to boot. Jonathan Dwyer is Beanie Wells on steroids [isn't Beanie Wells "Beanie Wells on steroids"? –ed] and had rushed for 9 TD's as a true freshman backup, he was ready to breakout in a big way. If you are a run based offense, having one of the 5 best RB's in the country on the roster is a huge trump card for you.
Demaryius Thomas was an athletic 6'3" 230lb WR who already had a season as the #1 WR under his belt. Even Nesbitt had taken snaps as a true freshman and was ready to step in full time. Michigan had no RB's even close to Dwyer's class, and had a lot of inexperience across the board on offense, especially at the skill positions. Chan Gailey's 2007 recruiting class was ranked #15 overall. It was clear even by the end of last year that that class was more like a top 5 overall class with the way everyone panned out, and that group of sophs carried this GT team in 2008. I know what the rivals/scout rankings for the past 5 years say about the talent levels, but my eyes tell another story - I wouldn't trade GT's roster in 2008 for UM's under any circumstances - GT was more talented across the board.
I think Michigan did find a pretty good running back but it took them half a season to do so because of unfamiliarity and a host of nagging injuries that held Brandon Minor out (and, of course, Minor got knocked out a couple weeks after establishing a hold on the starting job, allowing Carlos Brown to have a standout game against Northwestern).
#2 - Johnson recruited well as soon as he took the job. Even with Nesbitt on the roster, he went out and got another QB who could play - and play right away - in Jaybo Shaw. Good thing he did, because Nesbitt missed all of 2 games (Mississippi State and Duke) and parts of several others. Shaw played well in his absense and won a couple of games for GT. When he got hurt too and we had to play the 3rd stringer - we saw a frightening glimpse Sheridan/Threet hell with Calvin Booker and nearly lost to Gardner-Webb.
I think that Rodriguez really dropped the ball by not finding a QB anywhere, somewhere he could lean on if he had to. Shaw was only committed to MTSU when Johnson got him, but he was an option QB and a smart kid who could step in and beat Duke if he had to. That was key to the season. Johnson also got a couple of other kids (Cooper Taylor and Marcus Wright, in particular) who stepped in as true freshman and were big time contributors. His recruiting from the very moment he stepped onto campus filled some very important holes.
Rodriguez's failure to acquire a passable freshman quarterback is the biggest failing in his Michigan career to date, but he did try. Feagin didn't work out and BJ Daniels went to South Florida after Michigan hurriedly backed away; GBW hinted at shenanigans, which is pretty common, but when Rivals suggested the same thing in no uncertain terms that's eyebrow-raising. Then, of course, Pryor: Rodriguez's focus on a guy who, in retrospect, was just playing with him was fatal to this season. That was a major error.
#3 - Johnson is just a heck of a coach. The dude has been a monster winner everywhere he's been, and I doubt there's anyone else who could have pulled off a season like this under the circumstances. Comparing him to most every other college coach isn't a "fair" comparison. I can't say enough good things about the way he totally changed the entire GT football program and culture in under 12 months. The man is a magician.
#4 - As a side note - don't bash the ACC schedule - GT played 7 bowl teams, 5 of which were on the road (@BC, @VT, @UNC, @UGa, @Clemson, FSU, Miami) and won 5 of those games. The ACC was a better and much deeper league than the Big 10 this year.
"Bowl teams" is such a goofy metric these days, but Nate's last point does stand: Sagarin has GT's schedule #32 and Michigan's #24. There's not a huge gap there.
Hey, this is stupid. I am, of course, deliciously anticipating any article titled "What Notre Dame football doesn't understand." The possibilities are endless:
- How to hire coaches
- How to schedule Washington State in a way that makes the slightest sense
- Run blocking
- Why giving your head coach a ten year, no-buyout extension after half a season is sort of unwise
- and so on.
Instead, ESPN contracts a professor of comparative literature to tell us that the reason Notre Dame sucks is because there are a lot more people in the Sun Belt than there were in the past. This ignores the one thing Weis has done well: recruit. It, in fact, is about the only way you could write a column slamming Notre Dame and be wrong. Syracuse, New York, is not noted for its balmy climate and sunny future prospects.
If there are structural changes that have seriously hurt Notre Dame football they have more to do with the increasing secularity of the country, increased coverage of sports erasing ND's attention advantage, and the flaming stupidity of the men in charge of the athletic department.
Suggestion: no more comparative lit professors in ESPN the Magazine.
T-minus ten days. Exactly what to expect from freshman* transfer Laval Lucas-Perry remains unknown, but the hype is building. BTN announcer/Wolverine alum/man with lack of historical perspective Tim McCormick said Perry would be Michigan's best point guard "since Rumeal Robinson," which, like, even if you consider Jalen Rose a wing or a shooting guard there is that Daniel Horton guy to consider. If LLP is better than Daniel Horton…
- I will eat my hat.
- It will will be the best-tasting hat ever.
- Mmmmm delicious awesome point guard hat.
All this for a guy who was the #138 prospect (to Rivals) in the class of 2007 and a three-star. In his five games for Arizona LLP averaged 4 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in ten minutes a game. Projected out to 32 MPG you get nothing because of SMALL SAMPLE SIZE GOD.
Okay, we'll do it anyway: 12.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.6 APG. Or "the third best player on the team," which is what everyone's been calling him since he transferred. Diarist Bleeding Blue provides some open scrimmage notes:
I attended the open practice/scrimmage after the northwestern game this fall (I think I get a double black belt or something...anywho) and this kid is legit. The practice and scrimmage were intense. Obviously, things can change 'when the lights come on' but nothing suggests he won't be able to perform at the same level or better in games.
Notes on the scrimmage - He absolutely drained a three from the top of the key. nice stroke and very confident. He also jumped into a passing lane, stealing the ball, taking about three dribbles and jamming it home on the other end before anyone really had time to react. My friend turned to me eyebrows raised and said 'shot out of a cannon'. Notably - he 'ran with the ones' as they say the whole time as well, which was a little surprising to me, but obviously speaks to what Beilein thinks he will contribute.
This is an excellent point, as well:
Third - Defensive Impact - this has been the most talked about aspect of his game is his voracity on the defensive side of the ball. He will immediately give the team the ability to play significantly more effective man-to-man defense if he is in at the two guard and Grady is at the one. If he is at the point, he also gives the baseline man in the 1-3-1 significantly better height/more of a presence running out to challenge the corner three pointer.
Perry is a half-foot taller than Grady and should be able to harry those corner threes that killed Michigan in the first Duke game (and would have killed Michigan in the second one if Duke didn't have a ridiculously cold shooting night) more effectively.
Friend of blog Craig Ross also took in a couple open gyms, and spake thusly:
LLP and KG battled in a couple of the games. It was pretty close. I think KG is faster (not quicker) and my guess is he has a more consistent outside shot---though KG always seems a little slow to look for his own shot. LLP is bigger, stronger and more adept at taking the ball to the basket. LLP did hit a couple of threes, but his shot dynamics look a little frail. I would give a slight edge to LLP at this session, though both showed ability. I think UM should be, at least, average or better than average in the BT at point.
"Slightly better than Kelvin Grady" seems like much higher praise than it did in the preseason. And he's not going to be taking Grady's minutes. He's going to be taking minutes from Merritt and Lee—currently seeing 25 minutes per game between them—and maybe a little from Harris since the idea of sitting Manny down won't be quite as terrifying with LLP available. In terms of VORP he will be a massive upgrade.
Actually, if you listen to all the reports being batted around Perry's skillset seems closest to Harris: a slasher who can get to the basket, slightly dodgy outside shot. He's more of a combo guard than a true point.
If you're interested, Perry features in a five minute highlight video from Arizona open scrimmages. He hits everything and does everything, because it's a highlight video, but you can glean some useful information anyway: there are a lot of tough finishes in traffic, some slick, Harris-like ballhandling, and a definite tendency towards steals.
*(Freshman transfer? Well, it went down like this: LLP spent a semester at Arizona, then transferred because of the whole Lute Olsen fiasco. His transfer-enforced redshirt then spanned the last half of last season and the first half(-ish) of this season. Normally this would make him a sophomore by eligibility—national letter of intent rules are what they are—but LLP's appeal to the NCAA was upheld and this is basically the second half of his freshman year he's about to start.)
Smoking. I mentioned Rick Leach's strident support of Rich Rodriguez earlier. The stridency has gotten more strident of late. Highlights from Leach's latest WTKA appearance:
"I've got to say, because everybody around this town, around this country and in this profession had so much respect for Bo Schembechler. If you think for a minute that he didn't use language behind the scenes or on the sidelines -- we all saw some of the tirades.
"What a joke. It's just another log on the fire that they try to throw at Rich Rodriguez. I've been to practice. They talk about family values? Well, guess what? He allows his wife, the coaches' wives and their children to come to practice, and they coach the way they coach.
"Was I a little shocked and surprised when I first saw it? Absolutely. But if it's that big an issue -- they have their wives and children witness that, so it can't be too big an issue.
"They coach how they coach. Every coach has his own style and his own way of doing things. My whole point is, if you don't want to hear that kind of language and be coached aggressively for a staff that just wants to try to get the best out of your ability, then go to Trinity Baptist College and see how their football program is."
There is considerably more in the link above. Leach is on the warpath.
No. Not to piss off a reader or anything, but this is a fine example of my least favorite anti-playoff argument:
Sure, the BCS causes controversy, but it’s that controversy that fans the flames of fans passion:
It’s the endless debate of which team deserves it more.
It’s that the stakes are so high, and the system is so subjective.
It’s the debate between co-champions. Michigan-Nebraska in 97-98? Yeah, it would have been great for them to play each other and decide it all, but if they did, we wouldn’t still be talking about and passionate about it now. Auburn in 04-05? They can still complain about being screwed. If there was a playoff, who would still be talking about that year?
I was all ready to dismiss this in logical fashion and then I got to the comments, wherein Dex beat me to the punch:
What I Heard:
"I'd rather argue with other football nerds about hypothetical games than actually get to see these awesome teams play each other."
If we had a playoff, we could have actually seen Auburn-USC play. I don't really care about determining the "ultimate" champion or anything - I just want to see good football teams play. In our current system, we get 4 super meaningful non-conference games against shit opponents, a conference season featuring half shitty teams, and, if you are a lucky, a competitive match-up in the bowl game.
I want football games. Between good football teams. Not bar-stool debate.
Absolutely, and the BCS diluting itself by adding another game has killed the football games between good football teams even further. When the BCS three double-digit spreads and one Cincinnati-Virginia Tech, something is wrong.
Who likes arguing better than football games? I thought it was just sportswriters who don't actually like the game itself enough to be entertained by it, and sports radio guys with dead air to fill. I can't imagine anyone who actually likes college football enjoying the "controversy" of the BCS. (I can understand someone who regards it as an acceptable cost.)
And I don't buy the "devaluing of the regular season bit" either. Seth Davis goes way, way too far in his defense of college basketball's regular season, but by saying something preposterous he does something useful:
when Ohio State got blown out by USC on Sept. 13, that essentially eliminated the Buckeyes from the championship race. Whatever glimmer of hope remained was squelched by Penn State with four games still left to play. If the Ohio State-Michigan game is the biggest rivalry in college football, what exactly were those two teams playing for this year? Nothing.
Imagine if Ohio State needed to win that game to get into an eight-team playoff. Now that would mean something.
I certainly hope everyone who reads that blog stifled a laugh there. Seth Davis clearly does not grok college football. Michigan played Ohio State to beat Ohio State. That is all. Sometimes there are bonuses like the Rose Bowl or a national title or something on the line, but Michigan plays Ohio State to beat Ohio State.
What makes regular season college football so important is its scarcity. There are just twelve games and usually about half of those are against hopelessly overmatched opponents. Every game is meaningful because it is a rare thing.
Elsewhere, Davis does make a good point:
We just finished one of the greatest college football weeks in years -- that SEC championship game was certainly appointment viewing in my house. Yet out of the 16 games played last week, only three had an impact on the national title chase. (And I'm being generous by including USC-UCLA. When a team wins and still has no shot at the big trophy, it's hard to call the game significant.) That left 14 games that meant absolutely nothing.
Two weeks ago, with a fuller national schedule, there were 41 games played in Division I-A football. At most, five of them mattered: Texas-Texas A&M, Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Florida State, USC-Notre Dame and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State. That's 36 worthless games, if you're scoring at home. This is a compelling regular season?
Again, "worthless" goes way too far, but the larger point is a good one: when more teams have access to the playoff at the end of the year—the BCS is a playoff—there are more compelling games. This is another reason for a playoff to omit autobids: if Cincinnati had already locked up a spot by winning the Big East their game would have indeed been kind of meaningless. No one should be safe.
There's your top ten after a week in which there were few notable events; full monty can be found over at CBS Sports.
Update 12/10: Linked to articles on AZ DE commit Craig Roh, MI WR Cameron Gordon, FL CB Jayron Hosley, LA WR Rueben Randle, NC OL Travis Bond, GA S Darren Myles, MD LB Jelani Jenkins, MD RB Tavon Austin, SC OL Quinton Washington. Linked to video on FL WR commit Jeremy Gallon.
Removed GA WR Donovan Tate (UNC), GA LB Devekeyan Lattimore (no mutual interest), MI TE Dion Sims (ditto).
Also: scouting report on Inkster's (Gardner, Gordon) championship game loss. What's up with Bryce McNeal? Not adding MS DE Josh Boyd back in yet but he may be looking around. Helmholdt article on the visit weekend. As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Gallon goes wild.
Six minutes of Jeremy Gallon housing fools:
Towards the end you get a bunch of Gallon tossing up accurate fades and such off play action and even some trick plays. Hopefully we get a regular dose of gadget plays over the course of Gallon's career, because who doesn't love gadget plays? Communists, that's who.
Michigan schedules monster recruiting weekend for Duke game, Michigan scores monster upset of Duke for Duke game, commits rain from sky, right? Eh… not so much. Unfortunately a lot of official visits originally scheduled for last weekend got moved and very few non-commits made their way up. According to this Helmholdt article, the only uncommitted recruits to visit were MI DT Will Campbell and JUCO DE Pernell McPhee.
You know about Campbell; everyone is still saying the right things and unless there's a major change he should be recommitting to Michigan in a suspense-free announcement at an All-Star game. (Since Campbell intends to enroll early, he'll be in a student database by that time.) McPhee is a new name. He's Rivals' #3 JUCO player this year, a former Pahokee Blue Devil who knows Martavious Odoms and company, and a very soft Mississippi State commit.
Michigan's admissions department and JUCOs have a long history of non-cooperation; it's really tough for anyone to get enough credits to transfer in to get on the team. I assume there's been some groundwork laid with McPhee and the coaching staff thinks they'll be able to get him in or they wouldn't be chasing him. For McPhee's part, there's a GBW article titled "Does McPhee have a new leader?" that even novice-level deducers can extrapolate from. His recruitment will be touch and go until he gets word on admissions, though. He plans a January enrollment and has three years to play two.
There was an assortment of underclass in-state players, at least. Detroit Southeastern DE/LB Will Gholston is actually the kid in purple (SE's primary color is purple, in case you thought he was a big fan of the Roman empire or something) next to Brandon Graham in this picture:
Gholston's supposedly favoring Michigan State at this juncture, as Southeastern is turning into something of a feeder school to State. Michigan lost Southeastern WR Fred Smith to State last year. Obviously there's a ways to go in his recruitment. BTW, former OSU terror Vernon is his cousin.
Many of the guys who had to reschedule were longshot WRs: GA WR and Stanford commit Jamal Patterson, PA WR and Tennessee commit JeRon Stokes, and a couple others were scheduled to come up but had to delay them. Those guys remain distant possibilities. I think Patterson's interest is just a contingency plan in case Stanford doesn't admit him, and Stokes seems to be happy with the Kiffin hire.
So that leaves a big hole at outside wide receiver. Currently, Michigan has a commit from TX WR Dewayne Peace, but Peace is a soft verbal and may end up at cornerback and isn't rated that high. It's a gap.
Enter Inkster WR Cameron Gordon, who's suffered a severe lack of offers for a guy in the Rivals 250. Michigan hesitated, preferring him at linebacker, until recently. Gordon's now got the offer and looks like the best bet for an outside receiver in the class. With 2010 commits from Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson the need here isn't severe; at least one would provide class balance, though.
He won't wow you with his speed, but I was surprised how good his hands were (especially after hearing they may be something of a liability). He was definitely Inkster's go-to receiver, and made a few good plays and showed no fear going after the ball in traffic. Defensively, he showed that he can lay a pretty big hit, though he wasn't a huge factor on that side of the ball. I still think that, if he wants to play receiver at the next level, whichever team he picks will see enough skill to give him a chance there.
Inkster, of course, is also the home of 2010 dual-threat QB Devin Gardner, who's already got OSU, MSU, and Michigan offers. Picking up Gordon would help out in that recruitment.
Iowa is the main competition here, it appears.
A lot of new faces on the board about whom little is known. A rundown:
- LA DE Benny Logan just picked up an LSU offer, too, and will probably commit there soon.
- FL DE Alex Williams was favoring Ole Miss and Arkansas a couple weeks ago; we'll see if the M offer changes anything.
- FL DE Pernell McPhee you know about.
- TX CB Demontre Hurst favors Miami.
It's not a huge leap to conclude that Michigan is not done on the defensive line even if Campbell recommits (as, yes, is still expected): three DE offers, one of them a rare run at a JUCO. That should tell you how Michigan feels about their chances with SC DE Sam Montgomery and MD DE Jason Ankrah: not super.
We'll see how stuff goes with the new guys; I'm not optimistic on any of them. Here's Hurst on M:
The school that is on the outside looking in right now is Michigan. "They are another school that offered me late," he said. "Michigan is Michigan. I can see they started slow this year and didn't do too well, but I don’t look at it as a failure.
"Coach Rich Rodriguez is a new coach there and he's gonna rebuild the program back," he said. "I don't see them going down or getting worse."
The Wolverines have also told Hurst that he'd be able to see some early playing time. "They said I'm a perfect Big 10 lockdown corner and that there's a good chance that I could start as a freshman."
Standard stuff, really. In that article he states Miami leads.
Michigan's pursuit of MD RB Tavon Austin seems lacking. Austin is one of those 5'8" jet engine sorts Rodriguez likes so well, and he's a well-regarded one: four stars from Rivals, five(!) from Scout, four-ish from ESPN. He was scheduled to come in for a visit a month ago and never made it; now he's repeatedly asserted he's down to Michigan, WVU, and UNC, but Michigan seems uninterested. He's still telling people he plans on making it out:
After today's game, Austin will play in an all-star game and then spend January visiting colleges. He plans official visits to Michigan, Maryland and North Carolina.
Michigan's already got Fitzgerald Toussaint, Teric Jones, and Vincent Smith in the class, so even with the departure of Avery Horn and Sam McGuffie's questionable status there's probably not room for him. He says WVU leads, anyway.
Remember Darren Myles?
You probably don't, since even I barely remember him. Anyway, he's a Georgia safety who listed Michigan amongst his early favorites, then virtually disappeared. The AJC caught up with him, and he said this about Georgia:
“I guess they found someone they liked better for that other scholarship at safety, I don’t really know.”
If UGA tried to get back into the picture, would Myles be interested? “No, I don’t think so. Georgia has moved on, and so have I.”
Michigan's got a shot, but it doesn't seem like a good one:
Myles was visited by Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on Wednesday and agreed to take an official visit to the ACC school in January. Myles will make recruiting trips to LSU this weekend and Alabama on Jan. 9. He is also considering Michigan, West Virginia and Purdue.
That's three schools in the South guaranteed officials and Michigan trying to get one of the remaining two: tough pull, this one.
Bond of brothers
H!IKM. Anyway: a standard Scout article on NC OL Travis Bond, thought to be favoring UNC after Virginia Tech lost interest. Here's the summing quote:
He says he won't make a decision until late January. "It's kind of close right now," he said. "They are all giving me a lot of attention and they all have everything I'm looking for. I think it'll just come down to what feels most like how.
"I really want to feel like the players are my brothers, not just teammates," he said. "It's really important to me."
NC State and East Carolina (I guess) are the other finalists along with UNC and M. Here's some inside info from the source in NC on Bond:
UNC is now up to 24 commitments. You can only sign 25, although obviously some guys can enroll early and count towards last year. Carolina is also about 10 over the limit for next year's total enrollment of 85 scholarship players.
Obviously, some guys aren't going to qualify and some guys will transfer, etc. But the word going around is that they are slow-playing Travis Bond. They have other people that they want and believe they can get ahead of him. If UNC gets a couple of more guys, they'll probably have to pass on Bond.
He's visiting ECU on Jan. 10, but Skip Holtz was rumored to be going to Syracuse...so that might scratch them from the list. That would leave him down to Michigan, NC State and possibly South Carolina.
This one might be trending to the good.
Michigan needs a corner or two to fill out the secondary recruiting, and this sounds encouraging on FL CB Jayron Hosley:
“Right now I have Michigan set up for January 16th,” said Hosley.
Hosley went on to discuss what he hopes to accomplish on his visit to Ann Arbor.
“I’m just seeing what Michigan has to offer, see the campus. I’m excited to go up to see new things. I’ve never been up there before. It’s the first time for me, so just get up there, see the sites and enjoy it.”
South Florida, Vandy, and Ohio State are also trying to get visits set up; Hosley went to Louisville in September.
Roster confirmations. For the second straight year reporters descended upon Rich Rodriguez at a basketball game and Rodriguez confirmed that various players had left the team. Last year it was Ryan Mallett and Adrian Arrington. This year it's Butler, Horn, and maybe McGuffie:
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez expects Brandon Graham to return, Carson Butler to enter the NFL draft and Avery Horn to transfer.
Rodriguez did not clear up Sam McGuffie’s future with the team Saturday, but did say the freshman running back is still enrolled in school and coping with family matters in Texas.
I think the writing is on the wall for McGuffie, but as long as Rodriguez isn't saying he's gone there's still a chance for return.
The Graham stuff seems as solid as it can be until January 15th comes and goes:
Junior defensive end Brandon Graham told Rodriguez he would be back. Rodriguez said he didn’t think Graham had even filed paperwork to be evaluated by the NFL to see his draft options. “I think he’s going to have a fabulous senior year,” Rodriguez said.
Bonus confirmation: an emailer says he saw Graham on campus recently, asked him if he was coming back, and got a direct affirmative answer from him.
I mentioned this in my post on the matter last week, but if the roster attrition is limited to Babb, Chambers, Horn, Butler, and McGuffie and they get Brandon Graham back, that's a net win as far as next year's performance goes.
He's Charlie Weis if Charlie Weis was Charlie Weis. Oh, and not a big jerk. The remarkable thing about John Beilein is how consistently other coaches praise him. It is near-universal, and he's got the track record to back up their praise. Now, a lot of times you'll get generic blah blah about whoever they're talking about because it's TV and everything is positive, but with Beilein it seems genuine. He's not a good coach, he's the best, they say, and though I'm sure their evaluations leave out the most critical part of the job (recruiting) having the bar-none best coach in the country as acclaimed by other coaches is probably a good thing, right?
I mention it because here's Fran Fraschilla's take on M's win over Duke($):
I coached against John Beilein for four years when were in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at Manhattan and Canisius, respectively, from 1992 to 1996. Usually, I needed two game tapes of an opponent to figure out what they were trying to accomplish on offense. With Canisius, I was watching every tape we could get our hands on.
No coach gave us as much trouble preparing for his team as Beilein did. What started out as an offensive experiment at places such as Erie Community College and LeMoyne College with athletically challenged players became -- slowly -- a work of art at Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and now Michigan.
If he can recruit at a Michigan State sort of level, the sky is the limit. Even with success it will take time to ramp that sort of thing up—Michigan isn't going to take Huggins-esque shortcuts like hiring the AAU coach of Michael Beasley—but at Michigan he's got a brand name he never had before. If he pulls in Trey Ziegler or Sykes or Morgan Moses or some combination of the three, we're cooking. (Michigan has 3 scholarships to give in 2010 if they want; either Manny Harris will go to the NBA or Anthony Wright will not get a fifth year.)
We've been here before, of course, with countless Amaker recruits and even a guy like Nate Lubick, who looked to be in the bag before he decided on Georgetown. But now Beilein has something to sell.
Like this. Hopefully this quote from DeShawn Sims plays in Detroit:
"Coach Beilein believed in me. He's building a foundation and I'm glad I'm a part of it. He puts the c, the o, the a , the c and the h in coach. And he coaches you on an interpersonal level. It's amazing. I'm a better player than I've ever been and I know more than I've ever known."
And this in, uh, Germany (hey, we almost got Robin Benzing*):
Mike Gansey's e-mail came in from Germany moments after Michigan knocked off Duke yesterday for the Wolverines second win against a Top five team this season.
"Coach Beilein is a genius," wrote Gansey, who starred on Belein's teams at West Virginia a couple years ago.
*(Don't look at these stats unless you want to break something.)
Aw, nuts. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has been kind of good the past couple years, and for a brief moment Michigan was going to get involved with his recruitment:
…Michigan’s quarterbacks coach at the time, Scot Loeffler, watched Bradford throw. He, too, promised a scholarship offer the next Monday from Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines’ coach at the time.
But Carr did not call that Monday. On Wednesday, Loeffler called Wilson and explained that Carr did not call because one of his grandchildren had been born over the weekend.
Loeffler told Wilson that Carr would call the next Monday with a scholarship offer. The next day Bradford had his meeting with Stoops and Long. He committed to the Sooners before Michigan made an offer.
“There was no question we would have loved to have him,” Carr said in a telephone interview. “We felt in evaluating him that he was going to be a great player.”
Not like it would have mattered if Carr called, since he committed so quickly. Michigan ended up with the Coner in that class.
Plaxico? Rogers? And This? And, finally:
Did you get to the end? The part where he "earned a football scholarship from Michigan State University?" Probably some walk-on, but this obviously means something. This is important, people. Very important.
12/6/2008 – Michigan 6, Michigan State 1 – 10-7 (6-5 CCHA)
12/7/2008 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 3 – 11-7 (7-5 CCHA)
Oh and the hockey team swept Michigan State this weekend, which would normally be a much bigger deal than whatever the basketball team did but there was the whole Duke thing and Michigan State is the hockey equivalent of Michigan's football team this year: shockingly terrible. No grand sweeping column but how about a series of thoughts and so forth and so on:
Brandon Burlon! No one had seen much from Michigan's highest-touted incoming recruit because of an ankle sprain that held him out of the first month and a half and then a series of road games but holy cow, man. Burlon was sick the entire weekend. At Yost there was a sweet behind-the-back pass to an open guy in the slot as Burlon was heading behind the Michigan State net and a sick, sick goal in which he undressed a defender and roofed a backhander shortside. I cannot believe it didn't make that night's highlight reel. Which is here:
Then at Munn he's a critical part of the game-tying goal, leaping into the rush to create a two on one and sliding the puck over to Hagelin for him to bork in to the open bork. He was a second-round pick for a reason; that reason appears to be "is sick with puck."
David Wohlberg! Is also on fire. You can see some of his fine work from Friday night above. On Saturday he combined with Aaron Palushaj to create the game winner; Wohlberg's slick tape-to-tape pass to Caporusso gave him a wide open net to leisurely shoot into for the winner. I think he's found a home on the top line.
Aaron and McInchak. Oh, holy God. This was the sort of thing I was fearing when I heard college hockey would move to two referees. It honestly hasn't been that bad when the CCHA has deployed a crew with one old hand and a promoted linesman. The linesman usually stays out of the way and makes only the really obvious calls.
This abortion of a crew contains two proven incompetents and they reffed like it. Yost Built:
A few minutes later Tristin Llewellyn absolutely planted Crowder as he brought the puck into the zone. He then threw an elbow to Crowder's head for good measure. Crowder retaliated and punched him in the face a few times. Llewellyn did nothing after the initial elbow but was still assessed a Roughing ATW penalty to keep the MSU power play in tact. It was absolutely ridiculous and MSU scored on the subsequent power play, a great shot by Petry over Hogan's shoulder.
Thankfully Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber gave it right back to us a few minutes later. Petry hit Naurato with what looked like a hard, but clean, check and eight seconds later (keep in mind MSU had the puck the whole time) the back referee whistled Petry for elbowing. Petry was all the way at his bench when the whistle went, and he started cracking up. I haven't seen a look of disbelief like that since Jack Johnson's "For what?!" reaction after he got tossed for not hitting Howells from behind.
Word. The game at Yost was incredibly chippy largely because Aaron and McInchak refused to send players for the extra two when they deserved it. David Wohlberg was dragged to the ground by his face mask and then had the crap beaten out of him and there was no power play because Wohlberg did some shoving after he was extricated. That guy should have been gone for fighting; instead he gets a coincidental minor and the rest of the game continues being a bitch-fest. When a freshman skill forward like Czarnik ends up with a misconduct for telling you what an idiot you are, you've probably screwed up.
Negatives. I was not much of a fan of Llewellyn's weekend. His screwup towards the end of the five-minute major Friday sent State on a 2-on-1 and
I have your hat. If you are the intrepid Michigan fan who tossed his hat on the ice after Turnbull's game-clinching empty-netter, I have it. We ate at a place near the arena after the game and happened to sit near the guy who runs the penalty box (and Jeff Lerg), and he bestowed it unto me. So, yeah, if you want it email me and we can arrange a dropoff.
Airing of grievances. All right, it must be said: "Can't Turn You Loose" (the Blues Brothers song) is out of control. Believe me, no one loves it more than I do but there's something wrong when you're playing it during the first intermission and then in the second intermission it lasts seven minutes. It is way too much and actually verges on annoying, which is sad because in proper doses it's one of the best traditions at Yost. Just not for 30 minutes every game.
Also, the "everyone dances" thing was cool at the end of last year but I miss it when there was one cajoled fat guy or nutball in a costume who would dance for our amusement. Now it's just "hey look at everybody moving around sort of." Even the return of Superfan could not restore order.
Also also what in the hell is with the band director deciding that "Let's Go Blue" really needs to be played at triple speed? The whole band has been a disaster this year. The student section can hardly hear it in its new location. The director is killing Can't Turn You Loose, thinks playing "YMCA" is a good idea, and has for some inexplicable reason decided to make it impossible to clap along with Michigan's oldest cheer.
And no one is yelling at him to dance. This is letting the terrorists win. When Michigan is winning comfortably you yell at the band director to dance. He won't until this Haithcock guy is gone, but one day the students will be yelling at the band director to dance because that's what they always do despite the fact that he never dances and the band director will dance and cancer will be cured. Do not let terrorist cancer win. Yell at the band director to dance.
The situation. Michigan has hit the halfway point and it's amazing how much that one stupid game against Western changes the situation. Win that and you're 12-6, well on track to make the tournament and still in with a chance at the CCHA. At 11-7, though, it's kind of ugly. Michigan needs to get their crap together and make a push starting now otherwise making the tournament will be touch and go all season. It's ridiculously early for this sort of thing, but Michigan sits #18 in the current pairwise rankings. (Top four: Northeastern(!), Princeton(!!), Vermont(!!!) and Cornell(!!!!)).
The next four games will be huge. Michigan rolls into the GLI with the best record of any of the participants. They open with Tech, which has gone from respectable back to awful (2-13-1 and a –33 goal differential) and then face either Michigan State, who you know is struggling, or North Dakota. North Dakota is normally a bear of an opponent but this year they're just 7-8-1 and have a goal differential of +1 and that's after murdering Harvard 10-1 on Friday. They'll be down Rust and Palushaj but it's not exactly a loaded tournament this year.
Then they get Miami at Yost in January, which will be the biggest series of the year by far. Sweep them and Michigan is suddenly five points back with two games in hand and is in the thick of the CCHA race. Get swept and they're out of it, looking for home ice in the first round, and staring down the barrel of a tourney miss. Much hinges on the next four games.
12/6/2008 – Michigan 81, Duke 73 – 6-2
A little under a year ago I wrote one of MGoBlog's top five emo posts ever after a midweek loss to Minnesota in an mostly empty Crisler arena. About 100 Minnesota students with way too much free time were present and responsible for the only noise in the arena.
At halftime, there was a big to-do about Crisler's 40th anniversary and brought back most of the guys from the 1968 team, including Cazzie Russell. Crisler is sometimes called "the house that Cazzie built" and they told him this and I had this reaction:
So he stood with his bearing, and listened to his accomplishments -- which are many -- and was then told he stood in the House Cazzie Built and that seemed like kind of a cruel thing to tell a nice old man who never did you any harm. The House Cazzie Built is half-empty, overrun by bums from half a continent away, and home to a team likely to set records for futility.
Michigan has not so much as reached the NCAA tournament since 1998, an impressive feat matched by an ever-dwindling list of maybe ten major-conference teams. Being there is an act of masochism. But hey... new lights!
Beaten down by it all, I left halfway through the second half. Michigan trailed by 20.
On Michigan's last possession of the first half, DeShawn Sims got loose—barely—on a back cut and Jevohn Shepherd zipped a seeing-eye bounce pass through two Duke (Duke!) defenders. Sims threw it down with a roar, Crisler exploded, and Jay Bilas exclaimed "that is Michigan basketball!"
YEAH MICHIGAN BASKETBALL WOOOOOO—
This is Michigan basketball:
This is Michigan basketball: 226, 283, 199. That's Michigan's rank in turnover percentage in the final three years of the Amaker era. This is Michigan basketball: 1998.
I know this. I have seen my share of the stuff. I've created rules like "I stop this liveblog once we go down 20." I've specifically avoided any sort of drinking game involving number of turnovers or possessions that aimlessly pass it around the perimeter until someone has to chuck up a contested three as the shot clock expires because dying of alcohol poisoning after watching a Michigan-Boston U game seems like the most pointless way you could possibly go. Michigan basketball doesn't beat Duke, it starts a game down 34-2.
When you find a guy who can coach, things change. DeShawn Sims and, even more remarkably, Jevohn Shepherd have changed for the better. Crisler is on its way. It was sold out and raucous on Saturday. In January the regents will vote on first-stage approval of a practice facility. Next year the program will use its allotted 13 scholarships for the first time in recent memory. Shepherd is the only senior on the roster.
When you get a win like Duke a couple weeks after a win like UCLA, people call it a "program building" win. Programs are all about perception. What is Michigan basketball? Back door dunks and the 1-3-1 and wide open threes and great turnover margins and horrible rebounding. Floppy-haired white kids from Indiana and inexplicably faithful black kids from Detroit. Brandon Graham rushing the court…
…and DeShawn Sims finding his mother afterwards to hug her and cry.
This is Michigan basketball. That other stuff is the past, finally.
- Okay, now for the coldly rational section of the post: this whole tourney thing isn't in the bag. I think you're going to see this team gack up a couple Big Ten games it "shouldn't" because Manny has an off day and the interior defense gets crushed and the rebounding gets crushed and so on and so forth. I think we've seen Michigan play over their head a couple times and reality will settle in at Illinois or Iowa or Wisconsin or whatever.
They can go .500 in conference now, though, and probably get a bid, and 10-8 with a BTT win is a lock. 20-10 major conference teams with wins over Duke and UCLA get in.
- Those of you who took the under on patently false Bilas accusations that Tommy Amaker wasn't given enough time at Michigan get a dollar. I don't know if he just got over it or he was told, point-blank, to get over it, but there wasn't a peep about it all game.
And, like, good. Bilas occasionally latches onto something and just won't let go but other than that he's the best color analyst in college basketball outside of Bill Raftery (onions!).
- Sims and Harris were obviously brilliant. Somewhat less hyped: that was Kelvin Grady's best game ever. No one on Duke could stay in front of him and he used that to set up the back-to-back ONIONS threes from Novak, a Sims dunk when time was running out, and a sweet layup on which he looked off a Duke defender. Of course, there were also about three missed layups in there. If the guy can just learn to finish…
- Speaking of back-to-back ONIONS threes: Novak can play. He and Douglass are those guys who start for Butler for three years and are the stars of the show when they're seniors and everyone's like "how did this mid-major get so good?" Or they're Mike Gansey. Or Joe Alexander. I cannot stress this enough: when it comes to talent evaluation Beilein is as many standard deviations above the mean as Amaker was below it.
- Anthony Wright's second-half contribution was brief: comes in game, gets extremely unwise loose-ball foul that sends Duke to the line, exits game. The rotation changes I was complaining for (Shepherd for Wright, Grady for Merritt) were mostly executed, though Merritt continued starting.
- Football Muppet posts: 2. Basketball Muppet posts: 2. I think basketball is going to win.
Wooo! Eat it! NCAA Tournament here we come! Someone get me a Klingon battlecruiser! What does that even mean? Who cares?
And, of course, you can't have one without the other…
This is ridiculous.
A position-by-position look at Michigan's 2009 season.
The season preview's section on quarterbacks was pretty grim. The main comparison point was the 1995 season, when Scott Driesbach started as a freshman and was knocked out for walk-on Brian Griese. In retrospect, that's freakin' eerie, man. If the coaching staff hadn't inexplicably decided to go with Sheridan at the beginning of the year it would be a virtual carbon copy of that season's QB situation, except for the fact that Sheridan isn't going to lead a national championship team, get drafted in the third round, and have a decade-long NFL career.
That didn't mean 1995 was any good:
Michigan quarterbacks combined for 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, completed about 53% of their passes, and struggled to crack seven yards per attempt with an All-Star cast of future NFL receivers: Amani Toomer, Jay Reimersma, Mercury Hayes.
That set the stage for a discussion of the three options. Sheridan:
He’s the son of Bill Sheridan, currently the linebackers coach for the Giants and for three years a defensive position coach under Lloyd Carr. He was honorable mention all conference in high school. He’s about six foot, maybe six one, supposedly more mobile than the competition but more limited in terms of arm strength. And that’s all anyone knows about him.
What limited intelligence we have from practice reports indicates Sheridan is a typical Northwestern quarterback, noodle-armed but bright and mobile-ish. He’s been more consistent than the competition, throws well on the run, and contrary to rumor can heave the ball farther than five yards, as this video of the “Beanie Bowl” indicates. He could be a non-liability who successfully keeps the heat off the other skill position players, and how’s that for Backhanded Compliment Of The Year?
Threet is a classic dropback artillery piece in the Navarre/Mallett/Grbac mold, 6’5” and ponderous. He was a well-respected recruit, getting four stars from the gurus and landing in the top ten pro-style quarterbacks, but reports from practice have him tentative, erratic, and slow both mentally and physically. In the winter he was lauded as an emerging leader who the team actually liked, unlike that Mallett guy; this has not translated to the field. Sheridan’s likely to struggle at some point and Rodriguez keeps saying he wants “two guys he can win with,” so Threet will see the field at some point. He’s reputed to have a bigger arm and more big-play potential… for both teams.
He’s a heck of an athlete, the small-school player of the year in Florida last year and third in their Mr. Football voting. LSU and Miami offered him as a WR/DB.
Unfortunately, he does not appear to be much of a quarterback at this point. Rodriguez claimed Feagin would “have to make an impression in the first two weeks” if he was going to be a serious candidate for playing time; a recent curtailment of his snaps indicates this impression has not been made. A week or so ago, Rodriguez made it clear he was not an option early: “He's not close to being ready.”
I do have some inside baseball indicating that the coaching staff expects to work him in at some point during the season just to see what he can do; the most likely outcome is a few drives here and there that end poorly and a position swap once Beaver and Newsome hit campus in January.
When pressed (by myself) for a definitive answer on the quarterbacking situation in the "five answers, five questions" post, I provided this:
It is possible this ends well. Michigan will surround Sheridan with a deep and varied set of receiving targets, and the spread ‘n shred can turn a wobbly-armed but heady passer into Zak Kustok or Bret Basanez. It doesn’t demand the precision howitzer Carr’s pro-style system did. The physical limitations (and senior year injury) that forced Sheridan to walk-on somewhere don’t have to be fatal.
But if we’re being honest with ourselves there’s little chance it starts well. The note of distress coming from practice observers and press conferences is clear, and the scary thing is a lot of the reported problems are things like “throws bubble screens backwards.” (Michigan fans are going to find out how spoiled Chad Henne’s unerring accuracy on screens made them.)
(Oh Holy God how I wish that sentence was not 100% accurate. Also the sentence before it.)
Though practice reports got less alarmed as fall camp progressed—there was even video evidence of Sheridan completing passes farther than six yards downfield—Michigan's best hope here is for something functional, a guy who can throw a bunch of screens and keep the offense moving.
This was the best hope. It did not come to fruition.
The Horrible Truth
It was immediately, bloodily obvious that whatever hopes Michigan had for the quarterback situation should be tossed out the window. The Utah game aftermath:
Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.
We have seen it in action. It could have gone better.
There was a single-sentence bullet that's so very poignant now:
Feagin? I mean… he couldn’t have been worse.
Thus dies optimism in the House of Bo.
Threet then came in as a starter for the Notre Dame game and played spectacularly given the situation:
…that was a massive step forward from Threet, a performance virtually any freshman would be pleased with. Threet was confident, mostly accurate, and mostly right. Mental mistakes were limited to a couple of open receivers he passed up for more difficult throws and that one pass that should have been intercepted. (The other BR was a fly route on third and long which would have been a punt if intercepted.) He looked like a viable quarterback now and for the future.
That didn't last, though. Wisconsin:
As far as how the day went? Poorly. In past years we've had a metric where you add up all the good (CA+DO), add up all the bad (everything else other than PR), and take out all the screens to come up with a Competence Ratio. Threet's competence ratio in this game is 48%, which is below the 50-50 Mallett line and well short of the 2/3rds ratio that is a normal good quarterback. This was a major step back from the Notre Dame game.
Toledo was bad, too, but I chalked that up to Threet being injured, and that was obviously accurate. This from the Penn State game was, too, except I had to go back and chart him after the Minnesota and Northwestern (and upcoming Ohio State) games:
I'm not charting Sheridan anymore, by the way, as there's no point. We're very clear on his deficiencies by now and he won't see the field again after this year unless he's the last survivor of a meteor impact.
Threet returned for Michigan State:
So, yeah, ugly, ugly performance from Threet, back on the downswing from a good half against Penn State. I don't think this is all on his head, though. As Sean McDonough noted, it looked like Threet was really looping passes out to his receivers. He reminded me of no one so much as deposed Auburn starter Chris Todd, who can rainbow slants. I saw it, man.
Anyway, that elbow is obviously still bothering Threet.
And then Sheridan came in, got nicknamed Death, defied that nickname by going 18 for 30 in a dominating win over Minnesota, got re-nicknamed Suicidal Kitten in the aftermath, and didn't defy that nickname at all. Exeunt 2008.
2009, And Beyond
I mean no offense to Nick Sheridan, a scout-team quarterback pressed into service by a series of unfortunate events so vast in their scope as to be unprecedented at a program like Michigan, but God willing we never see him on the field again. And The Coner(!) is behind him. And Justin Feagin is a slot receiver.
So. We are left with this guy:
Steven Threet. At times (specifically, the Notre Dame game and the first half of the Penn State game) Threet looked like a D-I quarterback you can make a New Year's Day bowl with. He looked bonafide. And some of his less stellar moments can be blamed on youth, a new system, a shaky line, a horrible set of receivers, rain, elbow injuries, and the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. He even proved somewhat nimble.
You are waiting for the "but." Okay: but I just don't see it. On those keepers he was somewhat nimble on he was injured, twice, and that seemed like no accident. Threet's reaction to incoming defenders was to sort of slow down and attempt to Heisman them or juke them or something—what, exactly, was never clear—and that lead to a lot of incidents where Threet's upper and lower bodies were in extreme disagreement as to which direction the whole should be going. Separated shoulders and elbow injuries and concussions followed. There's a reason football put in that slide rule for quarterbacks, and it's because of guys like Steven Threet. He gon' die if asked to run 15 times a game.
And I don't think that's fixable. That's an instinctual thing. Running back is the spot in both college and the NFL at which you can throw in a freshman or rookie and do pretty well for yourself. You are trying not to get yourself killed, and you revert to base instincts.
So can Rodriguez deal with a quarterback who will die if you ask him to run 15 times a game? Probably not. Or, at least, there seem to be no point when you've got a couple guys who can do that and probably won't be that far off him in the passing game, at which Threet was incredibly inconsistent last year.
I'm not writing him off. Threet, unlike Sheridan, will be a viable competitor for the starting job next year. I even expect him to be the opening day starter. I don't expect he'll make it through the year as the starter, though. A discussion of Shavodrick Beaver and Tate Forcier is more properly executed in a recruiting post, but suffice it to say both are guys Rodriguez brought in for his system, and they'll get a spring to see what they can do.
(Threet picture found with aid from the indispensable Mike DeSimone.)