a terrible blight on our fine country
Spring games don't lend themselves to narratives, so how about some bullet points? Bullet points.
Media explosion. If you missed it, there's a torrent. This would be a good moment to consider how vastly different the world is now than it was five years ago. There is a torrent of Michigan's spring game.
If you don't want to bother with that, four minutes of highlights from the Big Ten Network:
Also, Brandon Minor and his sweet beard talk to Shireen Saski: "that's like a real quarterback." Other interviews:
Photo galleries exist from the Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News, and various places on flickr: user dennisdolan3, the Daily's photostream, user snotzzz73, and Alex Karpowitsch. MVictors has photos of the locker room if you skipped the Line That Never Ends. Notice the U in "honour." Weird. Also from MVictors are alumni game photos.
Pleasantries dispensed, away we go:
Most encouraging development: The general existence of Tate Forcier. Forcier chucked one pass into a linebacker's pads but other than that was worlds better than anything Michigan's seen at quarterback since Lloyd Carr rode out of the Citrus Bowl on the shoulders of his team. Forcier was as advertised: quick and scrambly in the pocket, accurate on the run, worryingly small, &c.
He's not going to be great but his slipperiness and ability to operate out of a moving pocket—which should simplify reads, mitigate whatever issues his lack of height brings, and prevent his head from being taken off—should allow him to be effective without having total command of the playbook. Early competence beckons with the possibility for more down the road.
As always, you take intrasquad scrimmages seriously at your peril, but let's discount the effect of the defense and just look at the opportunities presented:
- Roy Roundtree bursts open deep and Forcier hits him between the numbers for a touchdown.
- Roundtree works free on a slant, upon which Forcier hits him between the numbers, on time.
- Forcier throws an okay fade to Mathews, which he brings down.
There was one overthrown screen and the shoulda-been interception, but other than that he was dead on. Unofficial stats had him 11/14 for 130 or so yards. That's worlds different from last year's spring game, in which both quarterbacks threw multiple interceptions to legends like Artis Chambers and everyone started panicking in earnest about what fall would bring. Forcier's first excursion as Michigan's quarterback could not have been more reassuring.
The final word goes to Greg Mathews:
"The fans were cheering his name before the game, and I said, 'Don't get nervous, Tate,' and he said, 'I'm not nervous. There's some times he gets confused out there, but he's a high school senior. But his poise is definitely what stands out about him. His command when we huddle up, or on the sideline, he's focused in practices instead of goofing around."
A close second most encouraging development: Insert praise about Lloyd Carr here but, man, am I glad Rodriguez has done a 180 on the spring game. That felt like an event. It was fun, and though the 50k reported seemed a little generous—I and most around me thought it was 40k—it was probably about four times the number who attended Carr's last spring game. The line to see the locker room snaked all the way around Crisler and might have impeded traffic on Main.
Least encouraging development: Stevie Brown put a stake through the now annual "this is Stevie's year!" meme by getting juked out his jock by the Coner. Coner has mad flow, and since he was a 6'5" option QB with all the mobility of John Navarre in high school he must have a wicked option fake, but… yeesh, man. At least we're going into the fall with our eyes open.
A close second least encouraging development: the second-team offense, led by the aforementioned Coner, drove the field for touchdowns a couple times despite Cone amply demonstrating why anyone who talks about him starts his paragraph with "Cone is a terrific human being." They did this against the first team defense. Yerk.
This isn't totally unexpected. When the second team running backs are Grady and Brown and Vincent Smith and the second team defensive line includes 5'7", 249 pound Dominic Ware, the talent is not exactly balanced. Once Van Bergen went out with a knee injury (it's minor; six weeks and he'll be fine) the first team defense was missing four sure starters to injury (RVB, Warren, Martin, and Mouton) and using another sparingly to prevent injury (Brandon Graham), putting further pressure on that lack of depth. Said lack of depth is severe, though, and Michigan looks like it will be facing huge dropoffs from the first to second team if they can't remain unusually healthy next year.
What it is. Staying with the defense, the projection about the new scheme was that it would look like a 4-3 with a standup defensive end, and this was for the most part true. Like the spread 'n' shred they're going to look pretty limited early, what with the lack of talent and the missing starters and the new alignment, but GSimmons picked out even, under, and 3-4 fronts even this early. Also picked out: very bad linebacker play from walk-ons.
Obviously. Martavious Odoms fumbled Michigan's first punt return attempt of 2009.
Ok, Carlos, now it's time to pull a hamstring. Tantalize us one last time, Carlos Brown. For old time's sake.
I was going to fret about the defense on this play and then I was like "oh those guys are all walk-ons." So, yeah, if walk-ons play they will not be good. This lesson you have already burned into your brain, so we'll skip the rehash.
A first depth chart bitch of the year. Junior Hemingway, stuck on the second team, had ample opportunity to prove he has nice body control and hands by flagging down a number of Coner ducks. Meanwhile, Darryl Stonum made one spectacular leaping grab… and dropped a screen right in his hands. I'm betting Hemingway emerges as the #2 outside receiver early.
As long as we're on receiver depth chart stuff: Terrance Robinson was also as advertised, quick but with a significant case of the dropsies. Odoms didn't feature much, leaving much of the work in the slot to Roy Roundtree, who looked excellent, sure handed and good with his routes. His rep is as a fearless possession receiver lacking in the speed, so I don't know if we'll see a whole lot of deep seams unless he has the good fortune to be going up against walk-ons in Big Ten play, but a reliable receiver is a reliable receiver.
Also, if Roundtree doesn't already have a nickname…
Roundtree had difficulty focusing on passes this Spring because he had trouble seeing the ball. The U-M staff ordered him contact lenses, which arrived just in time for the spring game. Roy put them in and then put on a show for the Michigan faithful, making big plays and catching a handful of touchdown passes, including a big 60-yard touchdown from Forcier.
"All Spring ball my coaches have been asking me when I'll get my contacts, when I'll get my contacts," laughed Roundtree. "I got my contacts today. I couldn't see the long balls in practice, but today I saw them just fine."
…he should be "Wild Thing". Rodriguez on this impossibility:
"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.
"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."
How does a guy go an entire year at Michigan before anyone realizes he can't see? This is symptomatic of the chaos that went on last year. Deeply symptomatic.
Either that or Roundtree was afraid Carson Butler would give him a wedgie and leave him hanging on a bathroom hook.
Overly-optimistic post-spring chatter. (HT: Dr. Saturday.) I didn't watch Mark Huyge enough to confirm this for myself—and, honestly, I'm an amateur who needs to go over running plays a half-dozen times before I can form an opinion on who did what right—but the general opinion on his play was hugely (HA!) positive. Even without the benefit of tape review I can say this: if Huyge has surged in front of Perry Dorrestein, who was functional last year, and the much-hyped Patrick Omameh that bodes well for his future and for Michigan's line.
With the influx of the redshirt freshmen, maturation of John Ferrara, and healthy return of Huyge there are now a lot of lottery tickets on the line and chances are the guy who lays claim to the right tackle spot is going to be pretty good, at least eventually. This is a situation more akin to Chad Henne beating out Clayton Richard and Matt Gutierrez (sort of; labrum and all that) than Nick Sheridan beating out Steven Threet and No One.
Vincent Smith, on the other hand, was pretty easy to evaluate since he's a running back. He looked small and darty, tougher to tackle than you might imagine but not an instant impact sort. Smith has flashed Mike Hart's crazy ability to defy tackling in practice; too bad he didn't have some crazy spinning run for the crowd to ooh and aw at.
Vlad Emilien is the safety taking a poor angle and trailing Carlos Brown all the way to the endzone in the video above, but, again, people seem highly encouraged by his play. I've had Michigan safety skepticism beaten into me by Angry Michigan Safety Hating God and will remain skeptical until such time as I can't anymore.
Walk-on quarterback Jack Kennedy is so obscure that he sported a regular contact jersey and was used as cannon fodder repeatedly, but… uh… he looked way better than Cone.
The incoming and signed. Denard Robinson made his way up to check out the competition:
"I came up just for the spring game," Robinson said. "I wanted to see the game and the fans and stuff. It's good. It's got me speechless."
That article has an outstandingly FAKE 40 time for Robinson: 4.38. Justin Turner, Isaiah Bell, and Brendan Gibbons also stopped by to see the festivities.
The incoming but unsigned. This will get more coverage tomorrow in Tuesday Recruitin', but the recruiting weekend was a successful one. Thumping Texas back Stephen Hopkins committed. Four star Miami offensive lineman Torrian Wilson left saying Michigan was his leader. So did FL S Marvin Robinson. Unconfirmed chatter on MI CB Dior Mathis and—surprise!—presumed Spartan and MI RB Austin White was also highly positive.
Also hanging around was another Forcier: Jason, MGoBlog's favorite backup quarterback of all time. He's graduating from Stanford and plans to enroll in grad school at Michigan. Presumably he'll try to get on the football team, but he's only got one year of eligibility left and will have to jump through—or, more accurately, create—the proper NCAA hoops if he's going to be able to participate. If you recall Ryan Mundy's immediate playing time after his fifth-year transfer to West Virginia, also recall that the NCAA immediately repealed that rule after Florida pirated one of Utah's starting cornerbacks. He'll have to apply for some super secret waiver, which I don't think he'll get.
Okay, we've got zero additional organization from the thread, but some people are bringing beverages and food and a grill, so what the hell it's a go: there will be an MGoTailgate (wsg Varsity Blue!) at approximately 9AM tomorrow. Location is in the general vicinity of the bus stop near Crisler in the Blue Lot.
I am relatively easy to spot. My hair is basically configured like this:
…so there you go. See you there.
|Scottsdale, Arizona - 6'5" 230
|Scout||4*, #8 DE, #67 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #7 WDE, #156 overall|
|ESPN||83, #4 DE, #48 overall|
|Others||#87 to Takkle.|
|Other Suitors||USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, rest of Pac-10|
|YMRMFSPA||Crab People. Also Shawn Crable.|
|Hello: Craig Roh. TomVH interview. Roundup of All Star fawning.|
|Notes||Teammate of Taylor Lewan.|
Dude check that crazy stance. Craig Roh wishes to prove the maxim about pad level's all-importance on every play. Crab defensive end is in your base, killin' your d00dz. Here he is wreaking havoc:
This may be another instance of ESPN overrating its own all star game, where Roh owned(video), and ignoring that other one, but he's Michigan's highest-rated recruit over there. Their post-All-Star take:
…a wiry and muscular defender who plays the defensive end position well. He has the frame to pack on more weight and showed on film and at the Under Armour All-America Game that size is not a serious concern. He is an excellent prospect who plays smart and uses good technique to his advantage. He has an excellent motor and is good with his hands. Roh is a disruptive pass-rusher who has a good spin move and will work a counter off of it. In a conference in which teams still like to run the ball, Roh will need to get bigger, but the kid is a fine football player; he should be able to at least contribute as a pass-rusher early on.
Craig Roh DE (Michigan)
Straight baller that showed a Dwight Freeney spin on Kelley for a sack and sacked/tackled Russel Shepard in space. Had a handful of QB pressures over the course of the game. Rich Rod got himself a good one.
Scout agrees with ESPN's extremely positive take; Rivals isn't quite as enthused but they like him pretty well just the same. A roundup post in the aftermath of the UA game collected a wide array of praise from all corners, each of them saying something similar to "needs a year in the weight room but I wouldn't want to try and stop him after that."
In addition to all that, Roh was the Arizona high school player of the year, beating out ASU commit Corey Adams and USC commit Devon Kennard. His junior year Roh racked up 99 tackles and 15.5 sacks and was first team all state; as a senior he had 14.5 sacks. Offers came from Notre Dame, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, the entire Pac-10 except, weirdly, Washington—Ty must have been working on his short game—and many, many others. Yes, USC is included in that number. Roh was a national recruit. By May, when he accepted the UA game invite, he had 32 offers.
How about a tantalizing, Feagin-esque quote?
"My strengths are my ability to read an offense. My biggest asset is my mind. I study a lot of film. My speed is also a strength. Getting off the edge is important for a defensive end.”
Do work. "Motor" is constantly mentioned when Roh's talents are discussed, by both himself and talent evaluators. Technique, effort, and natural ability fuse into one package of complete awesome. If there was a fey little South American kid around they could summon forth Captain Planet. Let an MGoBlog reader who attended one of Roh's games sum up:
Just watched Craig play a rare Thursday game against Paradise Valley, their rival in Scottsdale. Having seen the kid go gimpy two weeks earlier with a turned ankle, it was great to see his influence back here tonight. He went on both sides of the ball, usually strong side DE but played a good deal of TE on the "O" side and just barely missed grabbing a very low thrown pass that would have been a TD.
Paradise Valley was determined to stay away from Roh and it became obvious this was planned during their prep for the game.
The play that sealed Chaparral's victory was a fourth and goal from the two yard line. Craig blasted into the right side of PV's "O" line, knocking the runner backwards and popping the ball into the backfield where his Firebird teammates ended any chance of a Trojan victory.
Okay. Roh has talent, and lots of it. Where will that apply on the field? In a traditional 4-3 Roh would be a weakside end, tasked with getting to the quarterback and given relatively simple tasks against the run. In this hybrid 3-4 Greg Robinson is installing, Roh is one of the hybrids. Rodriguez doesn't expect him to get huge:
"He’s got a great motor. … He’s going to be a guy that will grow to 250-some pounds and be a great pass-rusher for us. I think he’s got an opportunity to make an immediate impact."
A 250-pound edge-rushing terror is exactly what Robinson wants at the hybrid spot. This would be much more clear if he had the good sense to call it the "Deathbacker," as commenters suggest, instead of the "spinner," but that's life.
The one hitch in this deathbacker plan: Roh has no experience dropping into zones and will require work before he can be an every-down player. He's also got that crazy crab stance and it seems like taking him out of it would make him considerably less of a threat.
That lack of experience and the weight issue—he's currently about 20 pounds short of the 250 Rodriguez would like to see him at—means he won't leap directly into the starting lineup. But I don't think it'll take long.
Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.
Etc.: Likes Mozart and the Lord of the Rings? Maybe you'll see him at GenCon. Article on the pressure of being a top recruit. If eyebrows are any indicator of future performance he'll be a beast. Video interview at Max Preps, where even he falls into the trap of comparing himself to another white guy.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Roh has the guru rankings, the offers, an impressive All Star performance, the drive, and the intelligence to be an impact player. There are no red flags anywhere.
Projection: I was pretty sure Roh would function as a situational pass rusher as a freshman, but the move to this spinner thing and a hybrid 3-4 complicates matters. He should get immediate use as a situational pass rusher and could move into the starting line up by midseason. It might take longer but I don't think Evans, Watson, or Herron is going to keep him off the field for much more than a year.
The previous mailbag was, uh, abbreviated. And caused great discussion about whether I should call people who send in emails dicks, to which I respond: probably not.
Anyway. This is a good question I don't have an answer to:
After Spring practice, exactly what do the players do (supervised or unsupervised) until official fall practice begins? I know there must be some restrictions on coaching but I'm very interested to know exactly what does go on.
Thanks, Marc ' 71
I am pretty sure S&C programs can continue being S&C programs year-round, so players will get a faceful of Barwis this summer. As far as what technically-not-but-actually mandatory, organized-but-not-technically summer sessions are and what, exactly, are the things prohibited… I have no idea. Anyone out there know the details on what college programs do when practice is officially verboten? What is Tate Forcier going to be doing in June related to his football pursuits? What about Will Campbell?
I saw that you thought Forcier will only get about half a dozen carries or so/game.
Do you think the QB/Forcier will be less involved in the running game this year? Sheridan and Threet combined for 118 carries last year - about 10 a game (I didn't include Feagin's runs cause I'm assuming the reason the coaches put him in was for him to run). A lot of complaints I read about Threet was that he didn't make the correct read on the handoff and should have kept the ball some more (to keep the defensive end honest and stop him from crashing in hard on the play).
I honestly don't care how much the QB carries the ball, it just seems that Forcier only getting a half dozen carries a game would a good decrease (assuming Threet should have carried the ball more).
Well, by half a dozen carries I mean voluntary carries. A significant number of those Sheridan/Threet carries from a year ago were sacks or scrambles, which should rightly be considered passing plays.
Also, the effectiveness equation is considerably different with Forcier. Forcier who presumably can throw better than the two guys from last year and Minor—now the undisputed #1 tailback—is way more effective than McGuffie was. So it'll make more sense to throw and run tailbacks than have Forcier keep the ball.
Reading between the lines, I sense some concern that Michigan's reluctance to run their only hope will make the offense less diverse and correspondingly less effective, and I agree. Last year teams ignored the quarterback on zone read handoffs to the point where I was typing "KEEP THE BALL DAMMIT" into the Purdue liveblog after every play. Michigan's fear of the great murky unknown behind Forcier will make their offense less effective. But that's a necessary tradeoff given the cliff Michigan steps off if Forcier is injured.
I do think you'll see Michigan try to make up that decrease with Feagin/Robinson packages. Those may be completely ineffective because of their predictability, but for some reason this wildcat thing seems to work well so maybe it'll do ok.
Speaking of Robinson:
I think we’re generally missing the boat on D Rob when we compare him with TF. I’ve watched all of the highlight films and I actually think D Rob has some very good skills as a QB. I think where we’ll see a separation between the two is the run game. TF is not built to run it 10-15 a game, but he could be enough of a scrambler to constantly keep a defender assigned to him, which opens up some underneath stuff for slot ninjas, TEs, and RBs out of the backfield. D Rob does have some excellent mechanics for a guy not highly touted as a QB.
I get blasted for this, but his foot work and release remind me of Peyton Manning when he’s pressured in the pocket. No, I’m not saying he is the second coming of PM, as some said when they read my post in the diaries, but there is some good things happening with D Rob in the pocket. He sets a good base and delivers the ball with a high and crisp release. The one thing they both did consistently in their highlight films was throw balls into tight coverage, lock onto one receiver, and hold the ball way too long. I think you’ll still see that this year no matter how much they get coached up. It’s just a lot to learn when it comes to reading defenses and then being able to process that information quickly enough to be able to make the correct decision. Again, I am going to the Spring Game to see how the team looks in person, but I think we’re realistically going to be a .500 team, plus or minus a game.
All in all, by the 4th game, I think D Rob gets some significant snaps because he brings the run dimension that RR so badly needs to make this offense work.
Steve's not alone in his assessment of Robinson. ESPN also thought his QB skills were underrated:
Robinson is just a flat out playmaker in every sense of the word and he will surprise you with his production in the passing game. If he were taller, there is no doubt he would be a serious QB prospect, but his overall skills will likely land him somewhere else. Has a quick, live arm and is very effective in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Can throw the ball vertically with touch and lay the ball in, but does not have the powerful arm to drive the ball 50 yards on a consistent basis.
Add that to his rushing stats—85 carries for 462 yards, which is actually less than Forcier rushed for—and it is possible we've got a completely incorrect idea about what sort of player Robinson is going to be. But then you've got the passing stats:
Key Statistics... completed 100-of-231 passes for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior ...
There's a big, big gap between those numbers and Forcier's. That's a 43% completion rate. I know that high school passing is often a whole lot of bombing downfield (18 yards per completion!), but those numbers say "project" to me.
I'm noticing a disturbing trend with the '07 recruits transferring at a much more alarming rate than the usual fourth-string running back bolting for a D-2 school. How do you think this will impact the team in two years or so, when most of these players like Mallett, Boren, Clemons, Horn and others would have been seniors?
For the record, transfers out of the 2007 recruiting class; Mallett, Horn, Clemons, Babb and Chambers. (JUCO Austin Panter has also departed; Boren was part of the 2006 class.) Five guys gone in two years is somewhat alarming, but you can file Horn and Babb under the "fourth string player bolting for D-II." Mallett's departure is obviously a huge negative; Clemons was highly rated but ill-suited for the spread 'n' shred; Chambers was kind of an eh recruit but was getting a significant amount of practice buzz.
But I don't think the problem with the 2007 class is the transfers as much as that it just wasn't very good. Once you got past the two five stars there were a ton of reaches: Horn, Babb, Watson, Huyge, Sagesse, Evans, Herron, Panter, Woolfolk, and Rogers were low-rated players with virtually no offers comparable to the Michigan one. Watson was pursued by Colorado and Minnesota, Herron had a Nebraska offer, Sagesse was initially ticketed for Illinois, and that's it. Picking up the occasional sleeper isn't a bad thing, but this was class with really poor depth masked by the two big stars at the top of it. And now one of those guys is gone.
Combine that with a complete change in offensive philosophy and you're going to be looking at a lot of guys who are noncontributors. Michigan's already moved Watson and Helmuth to the other side of the ball.
So, yeah, I agree with you. Michigan's 2007 class is well on its way to bust status, one of a number of factors that will see Michigan struggle to put together an elite program until probably 2011. Fortunately, it appears both offensive linemen are panning out and most of the other guys who look to be contributors (Hemingway, RVB, Webb) have redshirted, so they've got some time.
Someone tattoo this man extensively.
Massachusetts small(-ish) forward Evan Smotrycz has committed to Michigan, annoying both that guy from the mailbag yesterday and bloggers who have to spell "Smotrycz" for four years. In this, we are united. UMHoops has your googlestalking profile; this is what leapt out at me:
While Smotrycz finished with 18 points & 10 rebounds, how he got those numbers were even more impressive. He knocked down a one-dribble step-back three-pointer, went to the low block and showed a polished jump hook, got to the rim off the dribble a few times, and even rebounded in traffic.
Versatility and overall hugeness is an excellent fit for the Beilein system. Smotrycz sounds like a 6'9" version of Zach Novak. You can see where this is headed: last year's team is going to be by far the smallest of Beilein's Michigan career; in the future Michigan is going to have like one 6'3" point guard and then an assortment of 6'4"-6'9" wings and like one post on the floor. Smotrycz is going to be a very large wing sort.
Offers were not impressive, with Oregon State his biggest other than Michigan, but there was interest of unknown intensity from a half-dozen bigger schools. Despite that, scouting reports about Smotrycz sound a lot more positive than those on incoming posts Blake McLimans and Jordan Morgan.
As for the rest of the class: Michigan has two scholarships open; ideally they would fill those with Buffalo PF Will Regan—considerably more of a post than Smotrycz—and MI SF Trey Ziegler. I'm still betting that Anthony Wright is not given a fifth year (and is brought back as a grad assistant) and Michigan will have a fourth scholarship to give; that would also go to a guard sort.
Note: I've extended the number of posts listed on the message board at the request of some users. Also, the eye-burning white sidebar problem should be fixed. Lo siento.
Arriving. Incoming hockey recruit Chris Brown is Michigan's highest-ranked NHL draft prospect this year at #29 on the CSB's list of North American skaters. This corresponds to a solid second-rounder and brings with it inevitable questions about whether or not the player in question will actually play college hockey. Brown's answer:
"I signed a national letter of intent and I'm sticking to my word," Brown said. "I can't turn down an education like that and attending that school is a once in a lifetime opportunity. What happens, happens in the draft, but that'll be down the line."
There's even a bonus quote implying Brown is thinking long term:
"I'm excited to live (in Michigan for what will be) seven years, but Texas will always be home through and through," Brown said. "
A lot of kids say that and (understandably) change their minds later when someone offers them hundreds of thousands of dollars to, but there's also another class of kids with no plans on staying the full four and it's always nice to hear a well-regarded prospect falls into group A.
Making a move. Most of the discussion at tackle has focused on the upperclass duo of Ortmann and Dorrestein being pushed by redshirt freshman Patrick Omameh. A little-regarded recruit would like to say not so fast, my friend:
Question: Who has impressed you at right tackle out of the guys?
Coach Rodriguez: “It’s been a battle. Pat Omameh has been there, Perry Dorrestein has played on both sides. Schilling (has played guard and tackle) but the guy who has a pretty good spring so far is Mark Huyge. He’s a guy that’s played guard, he’s played on the left side and right side. He’s practicing like he wants to take that job. It’s going to be wide open. The competition will continue in August.
For now, Huyge's actually displaced Dorrestein and Omameh as the extremely nominal first team guy. Given how much we've heard about Omameh and Dorrestein's functional play last year I think Huyge stepping up to play with those guys is a good sign. At the very least he's turned himself into a potentially useful player and increased the chances Michigan finds a solid starting five on the line.
Huyge was the second and final member of Michigan's disastrously small OL class from two years ago, but if he steps up and establishes himself a starter that class will have an impressive track record. The other member is potential four-year starting center David Molk. Molk was a solid four-star; Huyge was a guy Michigan located at camp and offered midway through his senior season, snatching him from the MAC. Having him pan out is a bonus.
Theory: Michigan had moved to a zone running game the season in which Molk and Huyge were recruited. While Michigan's current run game is somewhat different than the DeBord-installed zone stretch, it prizes the same sort of things in its linemen: mobility, second level blocking, and quick thinking. That could be a reason they have an advantage over older linemen recruited for a different style of running.
Also broached in that Rodriguez press conference was the idea of adding a player or two before fall:
Question: Is there any chance of adding any scholarship players before the fall?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah. We signed 22, so we really have three spots that we can sign with this year’s class coming up. We’ll wait and see in the next couple of weeks or month and see if anything happens.”
I have no idea who that might be other than a late-qualifying guy who didn't sign with anyone, a la Tank Carradine, or one of the rare JUCO transfers who Michigan will admit. Chances anything comes of this are low.
BOOM. Ryan Mallett is probably going to start for Arkansas this year, and good luck with that. He's also in the running to be probably the tallest punter in NCAA history, and the guy tutoring him is a blast from the past:
Arkansas special teams coach John L. Smith has no doubts about Ryan Mallett's ability to be a college punter. "If he were not a quarterback and could spend more time working at it, he could probably be a heck of a punter, maybe even punt at the next level," Smith said.
The entire state of Michigan just gave that paragraph the middle finger.
Also, I know Petrino and Smith are homies and all, but you put your special teams in the hands of this man?
This may be more interesting than that year Arkansas had a punter who would do yoga before the snap.
Lockdown. Michigan's making the spring game a big recruiting weekend and there's a good chance a couple commits drop. One guy to keep an eye out for is TX RB Stephen Hopkins, who named Michigan his leader according to Tom and is making quite a trek to see campus. A&M, Nebraska, and a number of other Big 12 schools not named Oklahoma or Texas have offered Hopkins; he's a Minor sort.
Also—and you can file this under meaningless Facebook stuff—but a reader reports that Dior Mathis is urging folks to head out this weekend. He'll be in attendance; no one expects a commit or anything but it's trending positive with his recruitment.
Etc.: SI's Richard Deitsch, in town as a Knight Fellow, on the new AnnArbor.com thing. MVictors scores an excellent interview with Nick Sheridan; also sports a sweet new Brown Jug favicon. Michigan Stadium is amongst the sites being considered for a USA World Cup bid; commenters are skeptical the field can be wide enough.
Still Tom doing these, obviously. Next up: Michigan's attempt to extend their rich history of guys named CJ.
CJ Olaniyan is a defensive end prospect from Warren Mott, and will be visiting Michigan this weekend. CJ has gotten national attention, holding offers from Michigan, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and Oregon to name a few. As a junior he had 85 tackles and 9 sacks.
Take a look at our conversation, and the bold statement he makes about his recruitment.
TOM: You’re heading up to Michigan for the spring game, what are you most excited to see? What are you going to pay attention to the most?
CJ: I want to see the coaches mostly, and how the defense is coached. I haven’t gotten to see that yet, and that’s what’s most important to me.
TOM: Is anyone coming with you, or any other recruits you’ve been talking to about the game?
CJ: Martez Kelly might come with me, and there have been a few guys I’ve spoken to, like Austin Gray. [Probably not since he committed to Iowa since this interview took place. –ed] Everybody thinks it’s going to be a good time.
TOM: Have you been in contact with Greg Robinson, or any of the defensive coaches?
CJ: We just email really. I talk to the coaches about what kind of defense they run, and how I would fit in there.
TOM: What kind of defense are you familiar with, or what would you like to play in?
CJ: We run a 4-3. It doesn’t matter to me what kind is run at different schools. Just as long as I can play, and I get a chance to show what I can do.
TOM: You’ve been getting a lot of attention lately. What school surprised you the most, or intrigues you the most?
CJ: My coach gave me a break down of what was going to happen, and what schools would probably offer, so I haven’t’ really been surprised necessarily. He did a good job of prepping me.
TOM: Is it going to be important for you to stay close to home?
CJ: Not necessarily. I’m not going to look at that when I decide. It’s just going to be about where I fit in, and how comfortable I feel.
TOM: Is there a kind of pride thing with staying in state? Have you talked to any of the other recruits about staying in state?
CJ: Yea, I mean it would be cool to have my family stay, and to play where you’re from. I’ve talked to a couple of the instate guys about it. Austin Gray, and I talked about it before, and thought it would be pretty cool. I don’t know if they will or not, but we’ve mentioned it.
TOM: What are your strengths, what do you think you do the best?
CJ: I just make plays. I do what I’m told, and make the play. I would say my pass rush is the best part of my game though.
TOM: What areas are you going to try to work on this season?
CJ: I’m mostly going to work on my hand work with my stances, getting the right positions, and fundamentals down. I’m going to get bigger, so I always need to work on the fundamentals.
TOM: What’s your top 3 look like right now?
CJ: I think about everybody the same. I don’t want to name any tops right now, I’m not too sure.
TOM: When will you make your decision? Is there a possibility you could make one this weekend?
CJ: My goal is to have it done by the beginning of the season; the middle of the season at the latest. But, yea there’s a possibility one could come this weekend, I’m not sure yet.
Is there any hope of Michigan capitalizing on its NCAA appearance, where it could possible snag a decent current senior or a quality junior recruit?
I'm so tired of 2-3 star white guys from out of state. It's getting old. Darius Morris is a rivals 4-star (minor miracle), but it burns me to see a PSL junior like Keith Appling already fitted for green and white. Does Beilein even care about the PSL? Sure he recruited the 2-star stick-figure tall kid out of U-D Jesuit for next year, but that doesn't remotely count.
I guess my question boils down to, can he recruit?
Beilein can obviously recruit at some level. He's taken four separate programs to the NCAA tourney, unearthed Gansey and Pittsnogle and Joe Alexander and so forth and so on and has generally taken the Gonzaga-Butler route of finding under the radar kids who can play in his system. He can obviously do that, and that should be good for tourney bids most years.
But given the hostility above—way to enjoy the season, dude—I don't think that's the question. The question appears to be "can Beilein recruit like Izzo/Matta/whoever," and the answer is very probably not. That's what Michigan signed up for when they hired Beilein: low downside, low upside. Beilein's not the sort of coach to upset the instate balance of power or hire some random AAU guy for the privilege of getting your one-and-done kid. He's not that guy. He is a guy who will bring guaranteed respectability, likeable teams, and a host of tourney bids with some fun runs to the Sweet 16 or whatever. Michigan basically abdicated on being a powerhouse when they hired Beilein.
David Komer, who seems like a dick, might not like this. After Ellerbe and Amaker I'm fine with it. Michigan will build up a program over Beilein's career and then be in a position to swing for the fences afterwards. Fine.
That said, Beilein didn't leave West Virginia because he wanted to build Michigan into West Virginia. WVU is the kind of place only someone thoroughly down and dirty like Huggins can recruit to. As we saw with Rodriguez, there is virtually no instate talent and people from outside the state aren't exactly dying to go to Morgantown. Morgan's higher rated than any recruit Beilein's ever gotten. So is Matt Vogrich. Beilein probably disagrees 100% with the abdication stuff above and is going to go for bigger, better recruits than he ever landed at WVU. You can see the uptick from his first class to his second; 2010 promises to be another step forward.
As far as specifics: Michigan's 2009 class is done. They were looking at Aussie center Angus Brandt, but he committed to Oregon State. There are few recruits left and no one on Michigan's radar.
As far as 2010: we'll see. Michigan is in on a number of highly rated recruits, the most prominent being MI SF Trey Ziegler. Ziegler is ranked slightly lower than Manny was by the time his senior season ended and keeps listing Michigan strongly. There have been erratic rumors Michigan leads but nothing solid; he's a keystone recruit for Beilein. Michigan's also in on a few guys who either aren't quite as highly rated or don't seem like strong possibilities:
- Tim Hardaway Jr. and Morgan Moses are both 2/3 sorts who have visited and are strongly considering Michigan. Moses is a top 100 kid to Rivals but not Scout; Hardaway is a high three star and the son of that other guy named Tim Hardaway. Neither is white. This is probably not a surprise about Hardaway.
- Casey Prather is a mondo recruit listing Michigan who will visit but seems ticketed elsewhere.
- Will Regan is a skilled post guy hanging on the bottom of top 150 lists who's getting interest and offers from some pretty big schools now. He's from Buffalo, Beilein's old stomping grounds, and Michigan's supposed to be in excellent position.
- There's also this Evan Smotrycz guy, but he's an under the radar tall white guy who can shoot and will probably only serve to enrage you.
Getting Zeigler and another talented, non-role-player wing is extremely important in 2010. Michigan is (probably) going to have to replace Sims and Harris and no one they've recruited so far is going to be the sort of guy to get his own shot or draw the focus of the defense save maybe Morris. But let's see how things fall out before we shoot ourselves in the head.
Also: Appling? We're seriously complaining about Beilein losing recruits to Michigan State? Izzo has been to the Final Four five times! When Appling committed Michigan was still in the midst of a decade-long tourney drought and Beilein was just a new guy with no connections in state. If you insist on comparing Michigan's program to MSU you're going to be very disappointed, and that was obvious from the first day Beilein was hired. MSU is going to remain the dominant instate program until Izzo retires or gets hired by Alabama (which lol). Period. Michigan is going to have to build slowly; let's not be State football fans here.
Michigan Hockey Summers. (ZING!) Excellent Daily article discusses Chris Summers, named captain of next year's hockey team already, sort of buries the lead in the very last paragraph. Chris Summers sounds like a Berenson-bot in this reassuring quote:
“I think (Berenson) says it best: you’re preparing for a life after hockey,” Summers said Sunday. “There’s more to the world than just skating on the ice every day. It’s a game. It should be enjoyed. And I think that’s what a lot of players miss out on, that it should be fun.
“It’s unfortunate that it turns into a business once you get to the professional rankings, but that’s the way it is.”
That very much sounds like a guy who wants to stay. Some insider scuttlebutt confirms that but also says Summers is getting pressure from the Coyotes and is not a 100 percent lock. "80-20" was the number; I expect Summers to return.
The only time I'll ever say this. I wish this goofy Free Press error was a Drew Sharp column…
…because then its one sentence glory would be the best Sharp column ever. It's close to but not quite the best possible Sharp column. That's also one sentence, but the sentence is "I've been fired, put in a box, and shipped to Slovenia, where I will live out my days a simple goatherd."
Ways to feel old. Michigan has launched Twitter accounts for a dozen sports and plans to fill them with breaking news and stuff, which means they officially get the microblogging service better than I do. Here's the football feed.
Stop, please. Don Banks is running down NFL draft sleepers and Carson Butler features:
Only 21, the Wolverines junior opted for the draft in part because his role in Michigan's offense disappeared when head coach Rich Rodriguez brought the spread offense to Ann Arbor.
The spread offense might be 10% of the reason for Carson Butler's departure, with 90% being Carson Butler. At least Banks doesn't cite Butler's mad blocking skills, he just notes his tantalizing combination of size and speed. Too bad you can't put someone else's head on it.
(Also, the picture is of Charles Stewart, who shared #5 with Butler last year. I blame Getty, which occasionally mislabels things.)
Etc.: Michigan lands at #18 in Rivals' pre-pre-preseason basketball poll; don't know how you can even put a list together before the NBA draft deadline. Varsity Blue breaks down their basketball UFR numbers.
Some questions in the inbox about the events/time/date/style of the Spring Game. The details can be found on the official site. The summary:
- 8-10 AM: tours of the locker room.
- 9:00 AM: MGoTailgate(?). Tentative. Probably a fiasco.
- 9:30 AM: Gates open.
- 10:00 AM: Alumni game scheduled to start.
- 12:00 PM: Spring game-type substance.
- 3:00 PM: Baseball and softball games start at their respective fields.
Hopefully next year they'll bump things back a few hours to provide more time for pregame festivities. There is also a baseball game at 7PM Friday and baseball/softball games at 1PM Sunday for anyone in town or making an extended trip.
Parking is free except at Pioneer, where it's five bucks. The golf course is not open.
Is it a game? Sadly, no:
What fans won't see, however, is a true game among the 2009 players. Second-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said before practice Tuesday that Saturday's event will be a scrimmage in which certain proven players (like senior defensive end Brandon Graham) will see limited action, while others (like freshman quarterback Tate Forcier) may perform with both the first and second units to gain additional experience.
…and because he's the only healthy quarterback not named Cone. It'll probably be more like Michigan's final spring game under Carr, in which there was a controlled, unscored scrimmage that wasn't much fun. But Michigan's not really in a position to split into two competitive teams.
Weather? Should be quite nice. Currently projected to be 51 and sunny.