in town for free camps
1/9/2009 – Michigan 5, Miami 1 – 14-7, 9-5 CCHA
1/10/2009 – Michigan 64, Iowa 49 – 13-3, 3-1 Big Ten
1/10/2009 – Michigan 4, Miami 0, 15-7, 10-5 CCHA
So one of the parents in the Miami student section forlornly held the above banner aloft throughout Michigan's 5-1 asskicking on Saturday. About halfway through someone told her she was making an idiot of herself and she pointed it the right way, but it was too late: Fun With Palindromes was born.
Hello, weekend. You start late but finish smoooooth. Three Michigan sporting events lead to three blowouts, two of them absolutely critical, and it's all endorphins. I find it really hard to write columns I think are worthy of the "column-type thing" tag week in and week out during the longer and less intense hockey and basketball seasons, so this one's an assemblage of bullets.
Hell, yes. Michigan got a little lucky this weekend when Miami lost Carter Camper and Justin Mercier, their #1 and #3 scorers, for the Sunday matinee, but 9-1 over the course of the weekend brooks no serious "buts." Michigan owned the Redhawks, flat out, and that's a huge step forward from their series earlier in the year when it was the Wolverines scraping one goal across 120 minutes.
Michigan is still way, way behind Notre Dame in the race for the CCHA title, but they cleared one huge hurdle with that sweep. Sweep ND in a home-and-home in three weeks and Michigan is six back—assuming equal points in the next four—but with two in hand. That's a hill to climb; it's doable, though.
More realistically, the sweep puts Michigan in a strong position to finish top-four in conference and get a first round bye; it also will be very helpful at the end of the year when the pairwise somewhat arbitrarily hews the weak from the strong and assembles a tournament field. The PWR is still extremely unstable—even at the end of the year it's moderately unstable—but at the moment Michigan is a shocking sixth despite their rough start. If only Miami hadn't gacked away its holiday tourney despite outshooting their opponents by about 3-1 each night.
Hogan. This weekend was the first during which I felt Hogan seemed a superior alternative to Sauer. Lost amongst the Mingo-witnessed flurry of goals on Saturday was Hogan's solid play on a number of quality Miami chances that kept the door shut; that game could easily have been 3-3 after five minutes instead of 3-0. On Sunday Hogan didn't have a lot of rubber but when Michigan led 1-0 he made an outstanding stop moving side to side by closing the five-hole.
Yost Built mentioned this:
He's not remotely flashy, but he goes out and wins. Also, he hasn't given up a soft goal since the game at Munn over a month ago. Then again, he's only given up two goals since that game at Munn, which is kind of awesome.
Yes. Hogan was giving up a soft-ish goal per game early in the year, and now he's not, at all. I think that's at least somewhat luck; it's not all luck.
Skaters. I was feeling very good about calling Brandon Burlon the breakout player of the second half when he had a goal and an assist five minutes into the weekend, but did anyone else think the rest of his Saturday was kind of rough? Miami's heavy forechecking forced a lot of turnovers out of him, and the rest of the team. On Sunday it appeared that Michigan had figured it out (or Miami was tired or losing Camper and Mercier was a death blow) and was breaking the zone with ease; on Saturday there were a lot of ugly turnovers.
The other guy who leapt out did so on the penalty kill: Tim Miller, who got multiple standing ovations whilst sucking away Miami PP time in the corners. He would have had a great shorthanded goal if Langseth hadn't taken it away, which Miller was still bitching at him about as the team left the ice on Sunday. Miller was making a hockey stop as the pass came across the ice and deflected the puck into the net, a situation that is explicitly allowed by the change in the rule:
To make this rule as clear as possible, the group proposed adjustments to its rules that will allow all goals scored as a result of deflections. This will include deflections off an attacking player who is in the act of stopping, provided neither skate is used to direct the puck into the net. Pucks that are directed or kicked with the skate moving toward the goal will not be allowed.
Yost Built saw the thing many times on replay and sayeth:
Now, I can't remember how the rule reads, since I'm pretty sure they changed it after the title game last season. If the puck can't hit off a skate and go into the net at all anymore, then it was the right call, and just a stupid rule. If it's allowed to hit your skate and you just can't kick it, then it was a terrible call.
The rulebook sayeth: terrible call. Note: this is the second straight year Langseth cost Michigan a goal against Miami.
I bet this seemed like a good idea at the time. The program for the Miami game was very fussy about what you can call Miami of Oh—
Who's up for never calling Miami anything but Miami of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio)? This guy.
Strategy. Here's a tip I've picked up from the local scribes: if a team completely destroys a respectable opponent mere days after you question how good they are, claim it was your criticism that focused them, forging them into the towers of steel they became. Y'all can thank yrs truly for that performance.
More seriously: yes, that was more like it. Michigan made a concerted effort to go inside to Sims, and though the reward was a lot of shots that went down and then infuriatingly rimmed out, the overall quality of looks they got was greatly increased.
One downer, and I again hate to bring this up given the box score, but I didn't like Manny's game in this one much more than I did in the other Big Ten games. He took four three-pointers, each of them with a hand in his face when he just decided to chuck instead of drive, and a lot of his offense came off of turnovers. Take those away and his shooting percentage dips precipitously. OTOH: Harris was super-active in the passing lanes and was the cause of at least four Iowa turnovers that turned into fast-break buckets, mostly by Harris.
I just worry what happens to his offensive efficiency when the opponent isn't as generous, is all. He has not been effective in the halfcourt in conference play.
Stu and Zack. The relative stars of the two Indiana freshmen have crossed since it looked like Douglass was going to be a gritty, tough-nosed gym rat with a high basketball IQ and Novak couldn't buy a bucket. Now it's Novak destined for vaguely uncomfortable praise and Douglass who looks like he'll be in a battle for playing time when Vogrich and Morris arrive (and, hopefully, no one leaves unexpectedly).
This is a really easy observation to make after Douglass took a couple threes from 27 feet and seemed largely responsible for Iowa's garbage-time comeback, but sometimes you have to pick the low-hanging fruit. Douglass' basketball IQ doesn't seem particularly high.
Or, rather, it seems wildly variable. He made two excellent passes in this game, and seems to thread a needle or throw an accurate bounce pass on the break just about every time he gets an opportunity; he also made a great cut to the basket when Novak was trapped and got a layup for his troubles. His future is up in the air. If Good Stu wins I think he can be a significant role player the next couple years and a solid starter as a senior. If Evil, 27-Footer-Chucking Stu wins he's likely to get the Shepherd treatment.
Novak, on the other hand, is the unathletic white guy who actually deserves the "he's white!" praise that will no doubt be heaped on him the next three and a half years. He harasses people into bad decisions, rebounds very well, and does—ugh—the little things that don't show up on the box score.
Great, now I have to take a shower to wash off the sportswriter cliche.
Wha? That was a charge on Manny—you know what I'm talking about—and a blocking foul on Gibson—you also know what I'm talking about. Not like it mattered, but, man… Big Ten referees, folks. Also, what was with the foul on the follow-through of a Novak three that wasn't a shooting foul? Have you ever seen that before? Will you ever see it again?
The near future. With Michigan's two must-wins against the lower echelon of the Big Ten out of the way, they've got a tough road game against Illinois that seems like a freebie. Win and that's great. Lose and, okay, you're still on track.
After that, though, is four game stretch with two against a struggling, depleted Ohio State team that seems NIT caliber at best and one each against Northwestern and Penn State. 3-1 is good, but 2-2 against those four teams with a fairly daunting homestretch (Purdue x2, MSU, UConn, Minn x2, @ Wisconsin with PSU, NW, and Iowa sprinkled in) and it'll be touch and go. I expect/hope they'll be 6-3 in conference at the midway mark.
Your top ten:
|3||Southern Cal (1)||22.7||3.0||2|
Extracurriculars, a couple of Utah explanations, and the rest of your top twenty five (including the world's noblest CK Award) at CBS Sports.
There's a lot of news after an important official visit weekend, so it's back to Monday for the recruiting roundup.
Update 1/12: Linked articles on OH CB Mike Edwards (mention of OH OL Chris Freeman), SC OL Quinton Washington, FL CB Adrian Witty, MI DT Will Campbell, AZ DE Craig Roh, SC OL Quinton Washington, SC DE Sam Montgomery (two, three), OH LB Isaiah Bell, LA DT DeQuinta Jones, OH CB Mike Edwards (again), PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, PA LB Dan Mason, AL LB Tana Patrick, LA LB Barkevious Mingo, video of MI WR Cam Gordon.
Removed MD RB Tavon Austin (WVU), FL CB Mywan Jackson (UNC). Removed WR commit Dewayne Peace. Added OH WR Terence Davis.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Big official visit weekend coincided with 8-12 inches of snow and, perhaps fortuitously, one of Michigan's traditions most likely to appeal to muscle-bound 17 year olds: a bigass snowball fight. Various posters participated; there's an MGoBoard thread. (Poster MGoAndy took one for the team in a delicate area, which sucks for him but hopefully means good things for the baseball team.) Barkevious Mingo was also spotted at the Saturday hockey game.
Anyway, on with the show.
What say you, VA QB Tajh Boyd?
“They said they really need a quarterback and that I’d fit in really well and could play early,” he said. “I know it’s a big program, but I haven’t been looking into them much and don’t really know a lot about them or coach Rich Rodriguez. I’m really not considering them right now.”
Ah. You say "no." Moving on, then…
With rumors of a Eugene Smith visit proving unfounded the last real quarterback prospect Michigan has a shot at is FL QB/CB/WR Denard Robinson, who visited this weekend with teammate and FL CB Adrian Witty. Witty's got an offer now, and the hope is Michigan can sell the duo on a package deal:
“That’s a real good thing too, if we were both to go there, at least we’d know each other. We wouldn’t feel left out.”
Given the number of open scholarships available and the situation at both QB and corner I'd take Robinson even if he cost two scholarships; getting a potentially useful guy at a position of need is a bonus.
SC DE Sam Montgomery is one crazy cat, man. As of a couple weeks ago Michigan was a solid fifth on an ordered list of favorites. Last week, Michigan was even-ish with LSU and North Carolina. This week:
Michigan will play host to Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) for an official visit this week and Montgomery said on Wednesday night that the Wolverines may have pulled ahead a little.
"I am really liking (Michigan) right now," Montgomery said. "But LSU is in there as well."
Wha? Time for party hats? NSFMF!
Montgomery said right now LSU and Tennessee are tied as his favorites.
Okay, no quote, but that's from Phil Kornblut, who's pretty reliable about these things over at PalmettoSports.com.
But wait! There's more confusion! Kornblut strikes again!
"I was impressed by the bond of the players. They were all family. I loved them to death. There's no selfishness. They are all on the same page. They are ready to win some games. And playing opportunity is there. I'm high on Michigan right now. They are two steps ahead of everybody. But I'll wait and make my decision after all the visits."
You're going to love my nuts!!! Head asplode!
Okay. Okay. Okay. WTF? Let's attempt to synthesize this:
- Montgomery says random things. Every year there are a few guys who either change their mind every two days or just enjoy the chaos they can cause with a quote; Montgomery is one of those guys. Michigan fans were introduced to him when he said something like "I'm from Detroit! I love Detroit!" in a recruiting article; his mom would later laugh that off with something like "that boy ain't from Detroit."
Some crotchety folk might disdain this sort of showmanship, but I look on any Michigan recruit who might 1) be awesome and 2) give ridiculous, Irons-brothers-like quotes as a must-get. If his name lent itself to Mingo-stole-my-baby jokes I would cry if he went anywhere else.
But the downside (given the very latest on his recruitment): any sort of lead Michigan might have is ephemeral.
- One thing that does help is the uncertainty at LSU. Though DL coach Earl Lane isn't officially out the door, LSU sort of hired a guy to do his job. It would be awkward if Lane didn't, you know, do something else. And The Valley Shook is already talking like Lane is gone. There were a couple of damage control articles at LSU sites over the past few days in which Montgomery said more Things, but losing your recruiter is never a positive. All that stuff about LSU leading is at least doubtful.
- That is a really unambiguously "schwing" quote.
So. I think Montgomery is still more likely to end up at LSU or Tennessee or somewhere in the south than Michigan. If he gets through the next week without naming someone else his leader I'll feel much better; if he gets through an official visit without dropping a similarly schwing quote on another school I'll feel better still.
Jones on the roam
Elsewhere in uncertainty, LA DT DeQuinta Jones took a visit to Arkansas this weekend and offered up this less than reassuring quote:
"I'm still with [Michigan] right now, but I've been talking to my family," Jones said. "They've told me to make the best decision I can make for myself."
There is also this:
While Jones said distance to Ann Arbor, Mich., wouldn't be a factor in his decision, he said playing at Arkansas and in the SEC would allow his family to see him play more often and could factor into his decision.
As suggested earlier, Jones' commit is pretty soft.
Still more scouting
Last week's mondo scouting dump from the All-American games missed a couple stragglers. I thought OH LB Isaiah Bell wasn't going to get any traction from his showing at the UA bowl, but this may indicate otherwise:
After struggling through the first practice and temporarily moving to linebacker, Bell found his rhythm starting on Day Two. A big safety, he was able to come up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run as well as cover the inside receivers. Though he could add some bulk and be a very good outside linebacker at Michigan, he has the instincts of a safety in the passing game. Sunday's game proved that as he finished second on the team with five tackles and also added a pass breakup. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Rivals rated him the #8 player on his team at the UA bowl, one spot ahead of ninja quarterback Russell Shepard(!). ESPN already liked him, and the UA game didn't change things. They said Bell "opened up everyone's eyes with his coverage ability." While there's no chance Bell passes Shepard in the actual rankings, it sound like he's due for another star.
Meanwhile, more praise for AZ DE Craig Roh, who Rivals named the #5 player on his team:
After a somewhat slow start to the week, the future Michigan Wolverine really turned things up. He is the definition of a pass-rushing defensive end. He was able to use his athleticism and quickness against the much larger offensive linemen throughout the week's practices and did not give the quarterbacks much time to throw. Roh also showed a bit of surprising strength in being able to bullrush the offensive tackles at times. He had one sack and three hurries in Sunday's game.
ESPN was impressed enough to move him into their top 50:
Michigan commit Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) had a great week in Orlando and proved to be a dangerous pass-rusher. He is smart and possesses a wonderful motor. He will need to add bulk to his frame once he hits Ann Arbor, but he is still tough versus the run. He is very good with his hands, and his spin and counter moves will make him a handful as a pass-rusher. Roh rose from No. 87 to No. 48.
With ESPN's inexplicable disses of Justin Turner and Will Cambpell, Roh's the highest-ranked Michigan commit to them. (It's clear ESPN had no one at the Army game, as every big mover in their top 150 attended the UA game. Cutting off their nose to spite their face there.)
AZ OL Taylor Lewan also rose in ESPN's rankings, ending up at the fringe of the top 150 (link ibid):
A late bloomer at the offensive tackle position this season is converted defensive lineman Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz/Chaparral). Lewan, who wasn't initially on the radar, debuted in the ESPNU 150 at No. 147 thanks to his raw athletic talent and consistency in winning the vast majority of individual battles. He should be a very productive offensive lineman as he matures and his fundamentals sharpen.
Corners: yes-no-maybe, no (probably)
OH CB Mike Edwards named Tennessee his leader last week. This week, he claimed no leader…
"It looks like it will be Tennessee, Michigan or Cincinnati. I don't have a favorite. I've only visited Cincinnati."
…and then claimed Tennessee leader once more:
Tennessee solidified its standing as the top team on Mike Edwards’ list during an in-home visit from coach Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Stan Drayton on Thursday.
Or did he? That article contains no quote from Edwards to that effect, just a lot of boilerplate responses to stock questions. So, eh… eh? Eh. I call him mini-Montgomery.
Edwards will visit Michigan this weekend, at which point we'll have a much better feel for M's chances; at this point the declared Tennessee lead, even if it's been backed off on, seems convincing enough to me. And then there's the Glenville stuff. I'm slightly pessimistic here.
Meanwhile, this on FL CB Jayron Hosley is bad:
Jayron Knows Where He's Going
It is bad because Hosley just visited South Florida and that article comes from USFNation.com. The inescapable conclusion is that Hosley's headed to USF. He will still take the Michigan trip he has scheduled for next week. That's even more obviously a longshot than it was a few days ago.
It's even more likely now that Michigan takes a last-second flier on a corner with pretty meh offers.
Offensive linemen, once again
Everyone was very excited about man-mountain Chris Freeman earlier in the year, and since three of Michigan's teammates had just migrated from Trotwood-Madison to Michigan it looked like M had a pretty good shot. Then went months and months without much, if any, news on Freeman and now it looks like he and Michigan have parted ways:
"I know I want to go to Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee," Freeman said. "I'd like to get at least three visits in, but I don't know for sure. My favorite would be between Wisconsin and Tennessee."
That leaves Michigan with three shots at another OL in the class. One of them is SC OL Quinton Washington, who'll take a few visits and then decide:
Other programs have been working hard to establish similar relationships. They've also focused a great deal of effort on securing one of his remaining official visits. Three are now finalized -- Clemson this weekend, South Carolina on Jan. 17 and Tennessee on Jan. 24. According to Craig [Washington, Quinton's father], Michigan has set the visit-bar very high for those schools.
"I think for Michigan, being first was great," he said. "I am going to have schools that are going to have a lot of stuff to live up to. I don't know if anyone can do that. Honestly, I think Michigan has got just as good a chance as anybody right now."
Hard to parse that last quote: "I don't know if anyone can live up to his Michigan visit… they've got, eh, a chance." My general impression of the internet's general impression is that South Carolina is a slight favorite, but the internet isn't sure about that.
NC OL Travis Bond keeps waiting, but other schools aren't. Our semi-regular source on North Carolina recruiting chips in with this:
NC State is done with OL recruiting. They're out. Source said that Bond had been a silent commitment to UNC for a couple of weeks and would make it official after his 1/16 visit.
How in the hell UNC plans on fitting all these guys on campus, let alone in this recruiting class, remains unknown, but I'm sure it's totally on the up-and-up.
Finally, I have a well-elucidated stance on OH OL Marcus Hall: I will believe he is at Michigan when he is a redshirt sophomore living on Geddes. But I will point out that he did in fact take an official to Michigan and there is now a GBW article up from them asking "is there a new #1 for Hall?" and the answer to these questions is always yes. And then I'll point out that PA CB Corey Brown called Michigan his leader and then visited OSU and committed, surprising no one. Recruits will often shade their answers to please the person interviewing them. It's human nature.
But Bill Kurelic is a major Ohio State booster and, well:
Earlier today I posted the information about Marcus Hall after his visit to Michigan. Hall said the Wolverines may have pulled into a slight lead over Ohio State with Miami next.
Could this be something here? I'm not getting my hopes up but it's taking a bit more effort than it used to. One of the BuckeyePlanet mods says "think Campbell," FWIW, clearly implying that the shift in favorites is for drama only.
(Kurelic on a couple more visitors:
DE Sam Montgomery (S.C) told me Michigan is now in the race after his visit to Michigan, but he still has trips set to North Carolina, LSU and Tennessee.
QB Denard Robinson (Fla.) was impressed with Michigan, but did not commit. He says he is considering Michigan, Florida, Georgia and Kansas State.
Is that bad news on Montgomery since it's not as positive? Eh, maybe not, since the really good quote from Montgomery was given to a local reporter. It could be a representation of how negative Kurelic tends to be about Michigan and that means we're definitely getting Hall(!). Or it could just be way, way too much read into a random statement. (Hint: the latter.))
I just talked to Travante Stallworth, and he was very excited about the visit. Terrence Robinson was his host, and thought he was a cool guy. Travante has seen snow before, and watched the snowball fight. He said the best part for him was how family oriented everyone was, especially the coaches. He felt very comfortable with all the players, and more importantly the coaches. …
He said that all the recruits that were there were all excited to be there, and they all had an awesome time. He said, "We all talked among ourselves about a few things," and he felt like the vibe was good.
I've been optimistic about Stallworth since Tom's interview earlier, but Auburn hired Gus Malzahn in the meantime—defying Chizik's previous claim to be a "smashmouth" devotee—and is a more serious threat than they were before.
Stokes will make official visits to Michigan the weekend of Jan. 16 and Illinois the weekend of Jan. 23.
“I’m going to try and squeeze in Penn State,” Stokes said. “I won’t take more than four visits. The other school is Georgia, but right now it looks like Penn State will be the fourth visit if I take a fourth one.”
On the other hand, that does sound pretty good for Michigan. Stokes seems leery of Tennessee now they've dumped both their quarterback recruits—and have no one in last year's class to boot—which would leave Illinois as the only real competition if Stokes doesn't take a fourth visit.
Etc.: Yet another Campbell commit article. PA LB Dan Mason (no offer) "pretty much down to Pitt and West Virginia". No mention of M in this article on AL LB Tana Patrick. LA LB Barkevious Mingo has a coach; said coach believes he's going to LSU.
"After a discussion with our engineers late this afternoon, we are extremely confident that we are going to play in front of a sellout crowd at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday night," said associate athletic director Bruce Madej. "Safety was our first and foremost thought when we postponed tonight's game; it had to done."
Death to Miami, etc.
In such a cynical, sarcastic society, oftentimes looking for the negative on anybody or anything, if you're fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it.
"DECISION TIME! DO YOU GO FOR IT?"
"Go. Go. Go. Go. Go"
-Brennaman and Charles Rogers. On third and goal.
Ideally, football games are not opportunities to reflect on just why everyone under 35 has a protective shell of cynicism and sarcasm between the world and everyone's inner Beaver.* But this one was the BCS championship game on FOX, so it was either that or picture Thom Brennaman massaging lotion into Tebow's feet.
Anyway, the reason most of my generation raised outside the state of Utah and I are looking for the negative so often is people like Thom Brennaman, corporate robots who relentlessly praise anyone and anything they're directed to.
The annoying shilling doesn't stop at the commercial break's edge these days; in fact, that guy with the Boomhauer accent saying "that thur is purty dern cool" during one of the six hundred commercials for a pickup truck was probably the most genuine moment of the night. That guy actually believed tool boxes in the side of your pickup truck were purty dern cool, and he communicated that without sanctimony or idiocy. At no point did he turn to the camera and say that if you didn't think tool boxes on your pickup truck were purty dern cool then you are destined for the lake of fire.
If only we could say the same for FOX. I could write a bunch of stuff about what an embarrassment that whole thing was, but other people have taken care of this for me. Fanhouse:
Brennaman was so far over the top in his pro-Tebow hyperbole on Thursday that the game became darn-near unwatchable unless the volume was off.
Assumptions one should not make about this game: … 3) Fox puts on an incompetent broadcast. No. Incompetent doesn't cover how inept their clodfooted work on the BCS has been.
Awful Announcing, which must live for moments like this:
This is so bad, I really don't even have words to describe it.
According to Fox announcer Thom Brennaman—and if you don't agree with him, you must be some kind of deranged lunatic—Tim Tebow just may be the finest human being to ever live on this planet or any other.
Etc, etc, etc. The presentation was such a disaster that a lot of people have been complaining about how bad the game was when, really, it wasn't too bad. Julio Iglesias was nearly decapitated, and there was a critical fourth-down stand and a couple of miraculous interceptions and all in all it was a tense, well-played football game but for the context.
At some point, being directed to interpret everything as history in the making has a downside. Now we expect the Greatest Game Ever Played between the Greatest Players Ever Assembled every time out. And when that's not happening—which it wasn't—no one backs off. They just lie to your face.
So, yeah, I'm tired of all hype. I'm tired of having the "national championship" game between two teams virtually indistinguishable from a half dozen others on a random Thursday night in January on a network that never shows college football. I'm tired of how stupid it all is.
And I think I'm detecting a seismic shift in opinion out there. Bowl defenders outside of newspaper columnists who love them some junket are few and far between—and frankly, I'd rather have Stewart Mandel on the other side of any argument I'm having, thanks very much. Every year some coach and some president gets screwed and converts to the church of playoff. Last year, weirdly, it was Georgia. This year, obviously, it's USC and Utah and Texas. At some point things have to change, because last night felt more like a farce than a championship.
*(60s television version, not unwise quarterback version.)
Tebow must have raptured up some poor sap driving the Zamboni:
The University of Michigan ice hockey team's game against Miami University tonight (Friday, Jan. 9) has been postponed until Sunday (Jan. 11) at 4 p.m. Yost Ice Arena suffered weather-related damage during the recent snow and wind storms over the holidays.
Don't be there or be square.
I was going to let the enrollment of Ann Arbor Pioneer quarterback Nader Furrha, who's a preferred walk-on, go as just a sidebar link but then someone linked some video…
…and my friend who knows way more about local high school football than most people because he used to work for the Saline Reporter actually sent in a scouting report, so here you go, in the rich tradition of "hey, Eric Puls," and "hey, guy who's behind David Cone on the depth chart": hey, Nader Furrha.
The scouting report:
So I saw Furrha play three times against Saline the last couple of years and if any of you care what I think, I think it's not inconceivable he'll wind up contributing at Michigan.
He doesn't have a rocket for an arm and he doesn't have out-and-out sprinter speed, but his arm's definitely better than Sheridan's and he's a much, much better runner than either Sheridan or Threet. He's quick and slithery, really good in traffic, good at buying time in the pocket. His biggest problem is that he'd be a pocket QB only in the sense that he'd fit in your pocket: I had a laugh when I saw Scout had him listed at 6-1. I can't imagine he's any taller than 5-10, and he might be shorter than that. The first thing I thought when I saw him was "That dude's short," and I'm not even six feet.
It's too bad--his combination of legs and arm, if not spectacular, would be easily good enough to get him a D-I scholarship if he was 2-3 inches taller (he's also a little on the slight side at the moment, but Barwis should fix that). For whatever it's worth I can't possibly imagine him beating out a guru-approved dual-threat like Forcier, Threet's always going to be a thousand times better passer, and Feagin's the more explosive runner. But, if Forcier hurts himself and the coaches decide they're never going to let Feagin throw a pass, he might be a once-in-a-while change of pace from Threet as a kid who's a genuine threat to run but could also spring a SURPRISE throw further than 10 yards downfield. If Threet--who wasn't substantially more impressive than Furrha when I saw him in college, I didn't think--can become RichRod's starter, I would think a guy who more snugly fits the offense would have some kind of outside shot at at least seeing the field someday.
Much more likely, of course, is that he never earns a scholarship or makes the traveling 85.
And now I hope to never think about him again, no offense to the young man. It's just, well… you know.
Holy pants. I can't be the only person who exclaimed "WTF!"—yes, I speak in internet acronyms IRL LOL—when Beadie Russell from The Wire showed up on The Office. For some reason I expect that people on The Wire are real and that seeing, for instance, D'Angelo Barksdale's mother on an episode of NCIS* means Pure Evil has undergone a shocking career change.
So, yeah, this from reader Ba Orao was pretty freaky:
Clockwise from top left:
- DT commit Pearlie Graves, a dead ringer for Marlo muscle Chris
- WR commit Jeremy Gallon, who could not possibly look more like Marlo muscle Snoop despite the fact that Snoop is, you know, a girl
- DE commit Anthony LaLota, a pretty good facsimile of Nick Sobotka
- RB coach Fred Jackson, a less scarred version of Norman Wilson, the mayor's right hand man
The first two are astounding.
*(Watched involuntarily, in case anyone has actually seen that abomination and is now reconsidering their allegiance to this blog.)
I want your… nah, too easy. Penn State defensive line coach/recruiting ninja Larry Johnson is under consideration for the Illinois defensive coordinator job, which strikes Black Shoe Diaries as very bad news:
I don't have to tell you this is bad bad bad. With an 82 year old head coach who can't spend more than two hours sitting down in a car or airplane, the assistant coaches are our greatest asset when it comes to recruiting. And Larry Johnson is one of the best of them. … To lose him would be, in a word, disastrous for our program.
Johnson's a Penn State lifer—he's been there since 1993 and both of his kids played for PSU—but cash rules everything around us:
…as a defensive coordinator, Johnson would receive a salary increase from his estimated $200,000 salary. Penn State is not known for boosting its assistants' pay, and Illinois is apparently willing to pay what's necessary in the increasingly competitive world of assistant salaries. That might be even more true after it lost offensive line coach Eric Wolford, who will make $325,000 a year with his move to South Carolina.
So I'm thinking to myself "this would be a really good idea for Illinois; Johnson is a killer recruiter and have you seen Penn State's defensive line at any point in the past decade?" And it occurs to me: hey, would that be a good idea for us? Yeah, maybe. And maybe we're in on it. Same article:
Illinois is in discussions with Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson about becoming the new Illinois defensive coordinator, but Michigan also could be interested in hiring Johnson, sources said.
With Tom Bradley's status as the real ultimate power at Penn State, Johnson is going to be locked out of a coordinator spot until such time as Joe Paterno finally steps down, which could be never-ever-ever. Now might be the time to move.
I'd be a happy man if Johnson was the new DC, though the chances of that seem low. Dollars to donuts he uses the leverage to squeeze a raise out of Penn State.
Bob Knight, ladies and gentlemen. Zack Novak on the General:
"He'd usually tell us, girls are going to tear you down -- if you see a nice-looking girl, turn the other way because she's going to kill you," Novak said. "I remember thinking, I'm in third grade and he's telling me about girls. But I think that's kind of why you've got to appreciate him."
I always thought Knight would make a good Batman villain, no?
Yikes. I didn't mean for this to be Basketball Downer day, but, eh… yeah. Luke Winn busts out the tempo-free stats to evaluate overvalued and undervalued teams based on, you know, reasons. Key findings:
No Final Four team in the past five years has been ranked outside the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency (a competition-adjusted figure). And only two Elite Eight teams in the past five years have ranked outside the top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency. It's unlikely that a team will make a deep NCAA tournament run with just a good offense, and only a mediocre D.
The good news, such as it is: one of those two Elite Eight teams to flout Winn's cutoff was 2005 West Virginia, which finished 78th in adjusted D efficiency and was an overtime away from the Final Four.
The bad news:
Which teams in the AP's top 30 might be suspect in the postseason because of their lack of a quality defense? Eight ranked schools had adjusted defensive efficiency ratings outside the top 60. Unless they shape up over the next few months, the odds are stacked against them making deep NCAA tournament runs:
Team AP Adj. OffEff. (Nat'l Rk.) Adj. DefEff. (Nat'l Rk.) Oklahoma 6 117.7 (8) 93.8 (66) Notre Dame 13 119.7 (3) 99.1 (146) Boston Coll. 17 112.2 (32) 96.1 (86) Minnesota 22 109.4 (51) 96.1 (88) Baylor 23 117.0 (11) 95.4 (78) Michigan 26 116.6 (13) 101.2 (185) California 27 115.6 (20) 93.5 (63) Arkansas 28 106.2 (79) 96.8 (103)
That's pretty frightening right there: Michigan has by far the worst defense of any team in the AP top 30. That bodes unwell for the short term.
For the long term: I'm slightly concerned. Beilein's last two West Virginia teams were 53rd and 57th in AdjDE, and I think they're slightly underrated because his teams force a lot of turnovers, which in theory should lead to a larger than normal proportion of fast break buckets and higher offensive efficiency. The higher-quality recruits he hypothetically has access to at Michigan may allow the team to play better defense than he's thrown out there before.
But the concern comes in when Huggins arrives at WVA. In year one, defensive efficiency moves from 57th to 24th, and in year two they're second, using mostly the same players Beilein recruited. They're older and better, certainly. Is that the only difference? Probably not.
Well, at least we've been spared four years of tortured puns:
"To tell you the truth, I wanted to play wide receiver," Peace said. "I told the Michigan coaches that I wanted to play receiver. At the beginning of my commitment they said I could play cornerback or receiver. Then as time went on, I went on my visit and told them I just wanted to play receiver and if I could only play corner then I would look for another school to go to. They told me that it was fine and I could play receiver. Then something came up where they didn't land enough corners so that is where they wanted me."
And that is where he not wanted… him. Self. Or something. So he decommitted and is now favoring Kansas.
As usual, there are multiple ways to spin this:
- Michigan would rather have Travante Stallworth and Je'ron Stokes and Willie Haulstead instead of the #100 player in Texas, or
- They really really need corners.
Neither makes perfect sense, as Michigan isn't exactly overflowing with 2009 receivers of the not-slot variety and none of the receivers above look like locks or anything. But it's hard to interpret a conversation like "I know you told us if you had to play corner you would decommit, but we want you at corner" as anything other than a polite way to say goodbye.
That's fine if they replace Peace with an equivalent prospect. On the surface that shouldn't be too hard since Peace is a replacement-level Michigan recruit, but Chitownblue makes a good point when he notes that Michigan currently has no replacement-level recruits available at corner and will likely be offering a sketchy player or two at the position. The best case scenario appears to be an Adrian Witty (two star CB with KSU, FIU offers) commit that induces a Denard Robinson (big-time QB/ATH/DB recruit) commit. Then Tate Forcier becomes Colt McBabyJesus and Robinson is free to be a kickass corner.
That's a lot to ask for.
1/7/2009 – Michigan 72, Indiana 66 – 12-3, 2-1 Big Ten
image via jcmcmann @ flickr
Maybe Assembly Hall does have some sort of weird voodoo hex power that it uses for evil whenever Michigan shows up. After all, the last time Michigan won at Indiana there were actual Fab Five members still on the floor.
But it's more likely Michigan fans were just handed a harsh dose of reality made barely palatable by a Laval Lucas-Perry three that caught the front iron only to bounce straight up and through. Moments before Michigan had been down six to the worst team in the Big Ten and were fortunate to be that close. Then Manny Harris launched an ill-advised three, one of eight on the night, that went in, and Lucas-Perry launched a desperate three, one of nine, that got a friendly roll, and overtime was a mélange of more deep chucks and many, many missed IU free throws. At the end of everything they were up six, somehow.
Don't ask me how. It got so bad at one juncture in the second half when back-to-back possessions ended in horrible contested threes at the end of the shot clock that I thought to myself "this looks like an Amaker team." (I then immediately crossed myself and said four Hail Marys in penance.)
At one point they had launched 27 threes and made six. By the end of the game they had chucked up a prodigious 40—to only 21 two-pointers!—and made twelve. If they weren't playing the basketball equivalent of this year's Michigan football team they would have lost by double digits.
You can play this off as a hiccup, I guess, like rough games against Eastern Michigan and Savannah State and a housing at the hands of Wisconsin, but, man, has it ever occurred to you that maybe Michigan's shocking leap forward was at least somewhat illusory, man?
No. No, that had probably not occurred to you, unless it had. This is the same point I was trying to make about Michigan State football last week: we've been damn lucky. I didn't want to bring this up because it seemed like an unnecessary, party-pooping move, but Ken Pomeroy hates us. It's nothing personal, I promise. But the following graph from Big Ten Geeks, which measures the difference between a team's Pomeroy Rank and its average rank according to voters, was assembled before Michigan failed to achieve even in the modest goal of outperforming Lipscomb at Assembly Hall:
Yea, verily, on a difficulty-adjusted per-possession basis Michigan is one of the most overrated teams in the country. Two stellar games against UCLA and Duke coupled with a nonconference schedule featuring a wide array of teams not merely bad but outright awful have obscured the game-in, game-out struggles of the team. How many times has the general opinion after a game been "well, they won, but they really need to play better in the future?" By my count, about six.
Things get grimmer still when you focus on the Big Ten, where Michigan is not dancing with the angels, or the committee:
See, this is why I didn't want to bring it up. I sound like a negative old crank. Michigan is 12-3 with its first tourney bid in a decade in its sights and I'm sitting here telling you to turn off the lights, turn down the music, and go to bed.
And there are, of course, many disclaimers to that go here. Kenpom ratings are not perfect, they don't predict particularly strongly, and you can quickly pick out a half dozen "but what about…?" results if you want to. However, I do think they reveal something box scores and win/loss doesn't, and what it reveals is scary for Michigan fans dreaming of an eight seed in March.
What I'm trying to get at is this: this team is still painfully young, and is not as good as their record. They were extremely fortunate to scrape by a couple of very poor teams and also fortunate to catch Duke on a day when they were ice-cold from outside. They've not lost a close game and have won four. Brace yourselves, because it's going to be bumpy. I'm telling myself this as much as anyone reading this. I caught myself checking out Bracketology this week and thinking to myself "only a nine seed?"
Only a nine seed? Who am I, Jay Jacobs? The only senior who did anything yesterday was CJ Lee, a walk-on. Underclassmen sucked up 73% of the minutes. There are two players taller than 6'5". With Cronin redshirting, Michigan is playing short four scholarships.
"Only a nine seed." Does Michael Douglas sit around thinking to himself "if only I could have hooked up with Scarlett Johannsson?"
Bullets of EXTREME REASON
- I freakin' knew I shouldn't have talked up Manny Harris, because he's fallen apart since the Big Ten season hit. Yeah, 17 points yesterday but a lot of those were end of game free throws. He was 4/12 with four TOs. He's shooting 33% and has an A:TO ratio of 10:12. In this game he took a whopping eight threes and just four two-pointers, which is at least reversed. If Harris takes twelve shots nine of them should be twos.
What happened? You could see the frustration building in the Wisconsin game and after the third time he drove the lane and got hacked with no call he started going nuts, driving wildly and forcing the issue. Similar things happened against Wisconsin, and then tonight he gave up and started chucking. Late in the game Harris got yanked for CJ Lee and the team's performance actually picked up.
I'm not sure what you do if you're Beilein other than jump down the ref's throat every time they miss a foul call on a Harris drive. Harris really needs a 8-10 foot pullup jumper, because without it you just pack the lane and wait for chaos.
- One thing Harris hasn't fallen off in is rebounding. Eleven against IU, the last a monster board that sealed the game after a turnover and comical blocking call brought Indiana within three.
- What happened to Shepherd? I don't get it. People say he wasn't performing offensively; the stats don't bear it out. Small sample size and all that, but Shepherd has a higher offensive rating with more usage than either Novak or Douglass. He's 20-30 from 2 and almost 70% of his shots are from there. In a game where Michigan couldn't or wouldn't go inside, his game could have been used.
- Sims was the only player with more than two two-point baskets; he was 7/11 from inside the arc.
- I agree with The Hoosier Report's take: "I would have rather [Indiana] lost by 20." Also, this is nice:
As I was going to say in my gracious post-game victory post, it's an odd sensation to have a 17 point home lead and yet fear that Michigan's coach might engineer a comeback. I didn't feel that way when Michigan was good, let alone the last 10 years.
That may say more about Indiana's team this year than Michigan's, but I'll take it.
- No, the picture above isn't from the game. You can tell because of Thad Matta. And it's at Crisler. And David Merritt's wearing #11—apparently he changed numbers, who knew? I usually try to find an appropriate image from the game itself but I couldn't find one that summed the game up very well. At least the opponent is wearing red.