Update 9/15: Linked to articles on FL S Angelo Hadley, MN WR commit Bryce McNeal, VA DE Will Hill, OK RB David Oku (second, third, fourth, fifth), MI DT Will Campbell (second), MI S Thomas Gordon, MS S Dennis Thames, SC S Devontae Holloman, NJ WR Nyshier Olivier, SC DE Sam Montgomery. Moved NJ DE Anthony Lalota to committed.
Added FL QB Denard Robinson, FL LB Mike Marry, OH CB Mike Edwards, LA WR Rueben Randle. Re-added MA OL Brennan Williams, SC OL Quinton Washington.
Dropped VA QB Kevin Newsome, TN LB Greg King, AL CB Dre Kirkpatrick, IN OL Kyle Kohene, CA OL Everett Benyard.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Programming note: going forward, the recruiting posts will be on Tuesday, since Monday already has a game column and a presser bits recap as anchor content.
What has ESPN reduced us to?
The Beav was on the teevee on Thursday. If you missed it to do something more socially respectable like drink a fifth of Wild Turkey and throw up on a clown, Varsity Blue has your back:
Aren’t those otters, by the way? I’m pretty sure they’re otters.
Beaver’s final numbers were impressive: 21 for 33 for 249 yards and two touchdowns plus 18 carries for 84 yards; the rushing average goes up significantly if you cut out the sacks. There was a bad interception and a back-breaking fumble late when Beaver attempted to do too much with the ball.
The overall opinion on Beaver from people in the chat was positive with some reservations. Beaver showed excellent touch on his short passes and kept his eyes downfield while scrambling around, sometimes with spectacular results. His running between effective and dynamic. There were a couple Favre-ian moments where he ran around and threw a ball that looked like a terrible idea only to see it hauled in by an open receiver. The reservations: dude is a bit of a toothpick, he occasionally loops a pass he should rifle in, and general high-school-kid-doing-too-much stuff. He outplayed the Sulfur Springs quarterback, a top 100 player to Rivals.
Come home, prodigal Thor.
Everyone’s still a little freaked out about MI DT Will Campbell’s decommitment but I am telling you not to fret. So is Campbell’s mom:
"He's still basically committed to U-M, but I said there is nothing wrong with going to visit a few schools. There is nothing wrong with that."
Also, Mike Farrell says this:
Sources close to Campbell say that while he's going to enjoy the process, take his official visits and see some other programs, he is inclined to re-commit to Michigan in the end unless he's absolutely blown away by someone else. Michigan already has a commitment from Cass Tech running back Teric Jones and expects to add Cass Tech athlete Thomas Gordon soon, and you can bet both will be working on Campbell to stay home.
Insert default language about bler bler nothing’s settled until he’s signed a piece of paper in February; given this and other chatter from and about the Cass Tech guys I’ma keeping Campbell blue.
Other bits from that Farrell piece:
- MD DE Jason Ankrah tried to commit to PSU but got rebuffed and is now listing M, Tennessee, and VT. Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins, his teammate, will be in for officials October third.
- Michigan is “making a push” for FL CB Josh Robinson but the “smart money” is on UCF or USF unless one of the instate big three gets involved. Sounds like the kid wants to stay home. He will take an official.
Dude: Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been bludgeoning people. Killing them. Hopping up and down on his vanquished foes drinking mead out of their skulls and ravishing their women. And running. For touchdowns. Rivals’ All The Way To Friday featured Liberty last week; Toussaint went for 261 yards and four touchdowns. You can check out video here; you might have to find the Liberty game underneath the main window. It’s worth it: Toussaint hurdles a guy a la McGuffie and just generally looks sweet.
On Friday, Toussaint did this in a 32-14 win:
Toussaint opened the scoring with a 72-yard scamper in the first quarter, scored a second-quarter touchdown from 35 yards out, and added scoring runs of 57 and 37 yards in the second half.
The University of Michigan recruit carried the ball 19 times for 258 yard, boosting his rushing total to 843 yards after only four games.
Toussaint is averaging 13.5 YPC. Here come the fawning quotes:
Toussaint “ran hard, he ran through some tacklers,” Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker said. “He’s got great speed, great acceleration.” …
Toussaint “runs angry,” [Struthers coach Dallas] Saunders said. “He’s not brought down by first contact. Even when we were on him, he made things happen.”
A couple Rivals observers reported being very impressed; he’s one to watch for a possible flight up the rankings.
Update: highlights from that Struthers game:
With NJ DE Anthony Lalota in the fold, Michigan finally has a shiny defensive end prospect to show all the cool kids and is up to 17 commitments.
Up next on the watch list are MI S Thomas “Prison Abs” Gordon, who plans to decide between Michigan and Michigan State on the 26th, and AZ DE Craig Roh, who’s changed his visit plans up a bit and plans to decide sometime in the next few weeks. Michigan is believed to be in strong position for both.
Meanwhile, OK RB David Oku dropped Michigan, then re-added them, then said he would announce Wednesday and everyone said it was Tennessee, then publicly disavowed Tennessee, then moved his date back to October. OMG. Drama.
All of this is probably moot for Michigan fans, as M got the boot once before and seems to be on the list as an afterthought. Also: Michigan has two or three RBs already in the class, depending on whether or not Smith and Jones end up in the slot. Also also:
"I want an offense that I like and fits my style. Other than that I really don't care about anything else."
So what kind of offense is Oku looking for? "I really like the west coast offense," he admitted. "I think that suits me the best. I'm actually not too big a fan of the spread offense though."
Oku is not coming to Michigan unless he does a sudden 180. Given the events of the past week this will happen Thursday and he will commit. On Sunday he will decommit and announce he’s headed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; next Tuesday he will exclaim “too much nitrogen!” and commit to the moon.
A number of additions to the board: FL LB Mike Marry is a high three-star sort who claims to have picked up a Michigan offer. Meanwhile, LA WR Rueben Randle has long listed Michigan but I never bothered to put him on the board because I naturally assumed he would stay south. This remains the general feeling but he is planning an official, so on the board he goes. OH CB Mike Edwards picked up an offer.He goes to Glenville, which is normally a dead zone for Michigan recruiting, but Ohio State is full up on defensive backs and won’t be leaping in with an offer.
Two OL show back up because M recruiting sites put out articles on them, but we’re still a longshot for MA OL Brennan Williams and no one knows much about where SC OL Quinton Washington might like to go to school. FWIW.
Finally, FL QB Denard Robinson says Michigan’s recruiting him as a quarterback-plus-other-options. He seems like a longshot, too.
Etc. MS S Dennis Thames is kind of noncommital about schools; Michigan may be fading. Sounds like he really wants to go to LSU but isn’t likely to pick up an offer. SC S and Clemson soft commit Devontae Holloman says he’s “really only looking at SEC schools” for his visits; this conflicts with previous information indicating he would trip to M. MN WR commit Bryce McNeal comes in for some fluff.
The Rodriguez presser boiled down into notes of interest.
Steven Threet is your starter for Wisconsin.
- Huyge is “getting closer to being able to play”—not a useful comment but whatever—and Ortmann “will be limited this week” but may be available for Wisconsin.
- Later, Rodriguez mentioned that Huyge should be 100% this week or next week.
- Mathews was still dinged, “played more plays than we probably should have played him” (we’re from play!), but should be fine for next week.
- Terrance Robinson “was ready the first game” until his injury; he will be limited this week but may start seeing some snaps against UW.
- Cory Zirbel’s injury is “more than likely” season-ending.
- Freshman Brandon Smith had his appendix out and will redshirt.
As mentioned, Smith will redshirt. Robinson might be a candidate, as well: “there are guys that are right there, like Terrence Robinson, that we'll evaluate in the next two weeks.” It sounds like the only freshman OL with a chance to play are Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh(!)—Rodriguez would still like to redshirt them if possible and will only stick them in if the injury situation gets dire. With Huyge and Ortmann getting close to returning, that seems unlikely.
As it stands now:
- Have Played: Odoms, Shaw, Stonum, McGuffie, Martin, Cissoko, Fitzgerald
- May Play: Robinson, Koger, Roundtree
- Probably Redshirting: Smith, Moore, O'Neill, Wermers, Mealer, Barnum, Omameh, Khoury, Feagin, Floyd, Demens, Cox
Despite some offseason chatter that Rodriguez was as profligate with redshirts as late-era Carr, it’s hard to protest any of the guys who have seen the field except maybe Fitzgerald, and given the situation at linebacker even that seems reasonable.
You’re welcome to parse this on Stevie Browns every which way:
Some of them might not have been his mistakes, and it might have looked like his mistakes. There were a few plays I'm sure he'd like to have back. He also did some pretty good things.
Charles Stewart is a guy we probably want to play more in the secondary. He's been pretty consistent when he's had his chance in there. Brandon Harrison has been pretty consistent, too.
Also, the invisible Mike Williams was brought up:
Mike is playing a lot of special teams, he's making a few plays. He's getting closer to playing more. He's playing in some of our nickel packages.
We're getting more confidence to get him in there. He's a young guy who has never played. He's still learning some of the defense, but he's getting a little bit closer each week.
Rodriguez questioned the chop block call on Molk—he was asked about it directly—saying “Molk did go low but the guy was grabbing our guard, our guard wasn’t even blocking him.” When asked about the officials he said “there were a few I questioned.”
9/13/2008 – Michigan 17, Notre Dame 35 – 1-2
You either accept this or you don’t as it relates to football and, more generally, life: random events occur without reason. Around these parts, the following things are chalked up the general bloody-mindedness of the universe:
- unforced fumbles from Boubacar Cissoko, Michael Shaw, Steven Threet (x2), Brandon Minor, Donovan Warren
- Notre Dame fumbles miraculously bouncing back to the fumbler
- Greg Mathews’ borderline touchdown catch—which, IMO, was going to stand as called either way—being ruled incomplete
- Kevin Grady’s borderline fumble not being ruled down for forward progress
- some questionable officiating
- a pounding rain descending upon the players after a number of above events had combined to provide an 11-point deficit.
Michigan, of course, actively participated in a number of these events—in fact, they were the only participants in most of the fumbles—but suggesting that these represent a disturbing trend (or, if you’re Pat Haden, some sort of mystical ND juju) is a stretch.
The Wolverines hadn't lost four fumbles since 1995. They hadn't had six turnovers since 1992.
You can’t really say this because the “BUT” is enormous, but: Michigan significantly outplayed Notre Dame on a down by down basis but shot itself in the foot every two seconds. Yes, this is sort of like saying “these cookies are delicious except for the arsenic.” Yes, Notre Dame was relieved of the need to outplay Michigan on a down-by-down basis because they were spotted a 21-0 lead and a second-half rainstorm and could be content to run some clock and punt. But I’ll take a team that looks competent except for a few huge glaring errors over one that can’t complete a pass, and if the teams played again next week the line would be further in Michigan’s favor. [Rakes points out this is a confusing sentence. The team that can't complete a pass is Michigan in their first two games. I rejiggered this paragraph and it didn't come out quite right. -ed] Massive negative events have a distorting effect on game results out of proportion to their usefulness as predictors.
Some of these major negative events are not purely random and are going away. Kevin Grady is a fumbler. The execution errors that led to the Minor fumble will remain rife. Stevie Brown has moved from possible liability to definite liability. Carson Butler.
Others—many others—were random events highly unlikely to recur: Yakety Sax fumbles caused by a wet ball, the distribution of close calls in ND’s favor*, Brandon Harrison kicking a fumble otherwise surrounded by M players back to the wide receiver.
Since I am not an emotionless robot I screamed my half-dozen profanities and fantasized about breaking stuff during the game, but when the red mist passed I was strangely pleased with an 18-point loss to what looks to be a meh-at-best team. This year was never going to end in glory anyway. What’s more important is the development of the offense, the emergence of Sam McGuffie, and the amazing one-week turnaround of Steven Threet.
The most damaging part of the whole Terrelle Pryor/BJ Daniels/Justin Feagin fiasco was not necessarily the loss of player X or player Y but the crimp it put in Rodriguez’s development schedule. Until about 3:45 Saturday it appeared Michigan would have to suffer through this year with the Threet/Sheridan duo, then start all over in 2009 with freshmen at the most critical position on the field.
It was at that point Threet threw a third-and-long slant, moved the chains, and embarked on a 16-23 day in extremely unfavorable conditions. Though he fumbled twice and was partially culpable for the Minor fumble, he also looked like an actual Division I quarterback, and in ways that even a potentially horrible Notre Dame defense couldn’t distort: he threw balls to receivers. He made good decisions. He was a freshman in his first road game, played in Hurricane Katrina, and averaged 7.6 YPA.
Yeah, he’ll probably regress, probably play well only in fits and starts, etc., etc. He’ll also go into next year a threat to keep his starting job, giving Michigan a third shot at quarterback competence. That’s more relevant for the rest of this year and the next three than a slippery ball and Notre Dame waking up the Willingham echoes.
*(this is not to say that any of the calls were wrong, but virtually everything that could have gone either way went to ND; over time that’s unsustainable.)
BULLETS THAT ARE APPARENTLY SLATHERED IN BUTTER OR SOMETHING
- Hey, great, Carson Butler, let’s take a swing at a player. Butler’s provided almost nothing positive this year and should be encouraged to enter the draft this spring.
- One inexplicable carryover from the Carr era: the occasional Carlos Brown ISQD that goes for one yard.
- Speaking of Brown:
Another junior running back, Carlos Brown, said he was prepared for a bigger role in the game.
"It is what it is," said Brown. … Asked whether he'll be used more as a running back in the future, Brown said, "Hey, I'm clueless. You have to talk to coach Rod about all that."
This sounds like a guy who is not happy with his playing time.
No, I don’t think Michigan was taking any particular risk by putting a couple freshmen back to return kicks. They returned kicks in high school and it’s not like there’s anything different about it in college. Usually a KO fumble means some crappy field position; Michigan just got extraordinarily unlucky to have a muff like that.
- Speaking of muffs: the Donovan Warren punt return thingy has to be over, doesn’t it?
- The defensive line was somewhat disappointing, but on the long bomb they had eight guys in to block and a two-man route. That’s on the secondary.
- Stevie Brown turning a 10-yard slant into 60 yards by overrunning a guy Donovan Warren had brought to a near-stop was backbreaking.
- Also backbreaking: Grady fumble.
- Actually you could pick like eight different plays if we wanted to keep going.
ONE At irregular intervals, one of my girlfriend’s cats—yes, there are two and yes I realize this means I am playing with serious cat-lady-down-the-road fire—will face the wall or a window or a door and emit what is possibly the world’s most angst-ridden noise, somewhere between a meow and a strangled cry of existential dread.
Sometimes, the girlfriend will call out to the cat, acknowledging the deep roiling depths of his soul-dread. The cat will continue making the noise, unconsoled. Then, because it is a cat, it will completely forget about it and go do something else.
TWO Some years ago a strange literary conception popped into my mind in the course of writing twenty or so pages of a novel about the whittling of a set of five ninjas*: one of the characters in the book was subconsciously off-putting and consciously morose because instead of the usual organs and cells and atoms and subatomic particles he was comprised of layer after layer of tiny cats. Cat nerve cells stretched down his spine, each with their mouth on the tail of the adjacent cell; messages were passed when a sensory cat would be disturbed and bite down, causing the next cat to become impotently angry and use the only means of revenge at his disposal, which would be more biting. These cells had cat organelles and cat molecules all the way down to the frantically yowling electron cats and ovoid neutron cats that looked more like balls of yarn than cats and spent their time purringly content, &c.
I never got around to fleshing that idea out, but when I saw David Foster Wallace respond to a question posed by Charlie Rose with a sort of enraged incomprehension—literally saying “are we really talking about X?” before stammering out a spittle flecked, blindingly intelligent answer—I saw my man made of cats in the flesh. Wallace seemed repulsed by everything around him down to his own skin and torn between flight, murder, or suicide; lacking the ability to decide, he grit his teeth and soldiered on.
No more of that.
*(The ninjas were I dunno, symbolic of a friendship forged in one of those houses occupied by five to eleven guys in college and eventually ended up cinders as the people from the house splintered into their adult lives. It was (obviously) autobiographical and (equally obviously) embarked upon during that horrible post-college, mid-twenties lull where you are just getting used to the idea that you are not a special snowflake and all your friends moved, or you did, and your connections to the world are flimsy and unsatisfying.)
THREE I think, insofar as it is possible for anyone who really, really likes David Foster Wallace to think like this, that the aforementioned is pretty much #1 on my list of personal heroes. At this point, styles and formatting and idioms from his writing are so deeply embedded into mine that I’d forgotten where I got “&c”—DFW for etc.—from. “Bats” is my preferred term for insane. On Friday, I referenced Orin Incandenza, Wallace’s insanely valuable and accurate punter from Infinite Jest. In a 2005 post I urge you to not go back and read because yikes the prose, I riffed on a section of DFW’s brilliant article on fringe tennis player Michael Joyce. I’m extremely disappointed in myself because the season preview didn’t claim the offensive line gave me the howling fantods.
At some point a few years ago, I read the 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest in five days. When I was done, I was livid it wasn’t 300 pages longer. I went back to the beginning and read the first 50 or 100 pages again and realized that the book really was infinite: it was a loop. You could start from any point in it and end at any point and it would be the same: brilliant, infuriating, incomplete, and recursive. Wallace wrote a book on infinity and a thesis on modal logic and sometimes seemed more like a math genius with a side of authorial genius.
I mean, obviously, right? Obviously as soon as I picked something up.
FOUR Wallace would see-saw back and forth on a topic and in writing about one thing would invariably recurse his way into something entirely other, precisely define that, and then tie that back into the main thrust of his argument. Yesterday I re-read his review of a usage dictionary—usage! English usage!—and found this brilliant summation of why this blog is a successful endeavor:
…all the autobiographical stuff in ADMAU's Preface does more than just humanize Mr. Bryan A. Garner. It also serves to detail the early and enduring passion that helps make someone a credible technocrat — we tend to like and trust experts whose expertise is born of a real love for their specialty instead of just a desire to be expert at something. In fact, it turns out that ADMAU's Preface quietly and steadily invests Garner with every single qualification of modern technocratic Authority: passionate devotion, reason, and accountability, experience, exhaustive and tech-savvy research, an even and judicious temperament [uh… I try. –ed], and the sort of humble integrity (for instance, including in one of the entries a past published usage-error of his own) that not only renders Garner likable but transmits the same kind of reverence for English that good jurists have for the law, both of which are bigger and more important than any one person.
Probably the most attractive thing about ADMAU's Ethical Appeal, though, is Garner's scrupulous consideration of the reader's concern about his (or her) own linguistic authority and rhetorical persona and ability to convince an Audience that he cares.
He did this all the time, accidentally. Writing on lobsters, he defined the only morally and logically consistent position you can have on abortion. Writing on the Illinois State Fair, he defined an entire elusive section of the American populace. Writing on cruise ships, he defined his life: “a supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.”
FIVE DFW, like all of the people who have written truly great things about sports since I’ve been paying attention, was not a sportswriter. He was a writer whose attention occasionally turned to sports, mostly tennis, and people who invest their time in the intricately choreographed peregrinations of athletes were always better off for it. The last time Wallace touched upon the subject was a New York Times Magazine article on the 2006 Federer-Nadal Wimbeldon final. This I also read yesterday, after considering the vast array of brooding photos that accompanied news stories and tributes across the internet, after revisiting the Rose interview in which Wallace seemed like a preternaturally unhappy person.
Necessary background for what’s to follow: the piece is titled “Roger Federer as Religious Experience,” states its thesis thusly…
if you’ve never seen the young man play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of Wimbledon, through the literally withering heat and then wind and rain of the ’06 fortnight, then you are apt to have what one of the tournament’s press bus drivers describes as a “bloody near-religious experience.”
…and touches upon on a seven year-old boy named William Caines who was diagnosed with cancer at two and a half and served as Wimbeldon’s inspiring moppet du jour—my words, not Wallace’s.
In typically infuriating DFW fashion, Wallace buries the very crux of his piece—this cannot be disputed, it’s the title and thesis—in footnote #17. Perhaps he wanted to hide it. Didn’t know what to do with it. Wanted to say it but whisper it. Whatever. Midway through the third set there is a Federer Moment. DFW writes:
By the way, it’s right around here, or the next game, watching, that three separate inner-type things come together and mesh. One is a feeling of deep personal privilege at being alive to get to see this; another is the thought that William Caines is probably somewhere here in the Centre Court crowd, too, watching, maybe with his mum. The third thing is a sudden memory of the earnest way the press bus driver promised just this experience. Because there is one. It’s hard to describe — it’s like a thought that’s also a feeling. One wouldn’t want to make too much of it, or to pretend that it’s any sort of equitable balance; that would be grotesque. But the truth is that whatever deity, entity, energy, or random genetic flux produces sick children also produced Roger Federer, and just look at him down there. Look at that.
Everybody but everybody is dredging up the thousand and one points in Wallace’s writing that presage a premature, self-inflicted demise; this might be the one passage in his entire oeuvre that makes it shocking. And I think that sports may not be such a silly thing to make a career of describing and relating and experiencing.
SIX I even kind of look like DFW: tall, broad-shouldered, glasses, shaggy, shoulder-length brown hair, perpetual growth of stubble.
SEVEN I love that image of DFW at Wimbeldon, in the stands, those things converging on him, forgetting all the things that make his suicide so very unsurprising, thinking just look at him down there.
Look at that.
Take everything that follows under that context and realize these are solely our observations from moderating the live chat during the game and our goal is to make the chats better for everyone going forward.
1. This isn't as easy as it seems. We are putting lots of effort into making this an enjoyable experience for everyone, and sacrificing a bit of our own enjoyment of the game to do so. All we ask in return is the benefit of the doubt in that our actions are well-intentioned.
2. The number one complaint so far is "why aren't my posts being published?" There are 3 possible reasons for this.
First, we just didn't see it. This is highly likely if your comment is right after a big play.
Second, your comment is the same thing 5 other people said at the same time. In this case, we prefer to choose the clearest version of the comment.
Third, your post was neither witty, insightful, relevant, nor original (see next topic). Brandon Minor RAGES, we get it, everyone gets it.
Submitting "MINOR RAGE" clutters our view and limits what we can post. If someone makes a tackle or a pick, typing their name, "Graham!" is the same thing.
A list of common one-liners that destroy continuity:
<name of person involved in play>!
Those kill us. It kills the live blog. Please refrain.
Also, please please PLEASE do not submit a "why aren't my comments showing up?" comment. There is a well-intentioned reason, it's not a technical glitch, and all you're doing with this type of comment is adding to the clog that the moderators have to deal with and making it more likely somebody else's comment will get missed. Don't do this, or Big Gay Heart will come to your house and murder your puppies.
We aren't looking to accept paragraphs of technical analysis. One word posts aren't acceptable.
3. Technical problems crop up from time to time. Moderator computer crashes, stream violations, cil software freezing, all of these happen. Please be patient.
4. How to make your post better? The best thing you can do to make it easier on us and to increase the chances your post stands out is to make it look like you expended a small amount of effort. "stveie brown suckS1!!" will never be chosen over "Stevie Brown sucks." We realize it's a chat, but when 50 people are submitting comments and only 1 person is approving them, little things like that are used in order to reduce the need to read each comment in its entirety. We only see the first 10 words or so of the comment in the queue LiveBlog provides, and in order to keep the chat moving we can't really click and open each comment. LiveBlog software doesn't automatically scroll to the most recent comment. So when we click "accept", we're stuck there and have to catch up to more current action. That means we scroll all the way (sometimes quickly) to the here and now. Which means we skip over things. It's the way things are.
If your comments are "cleaner" it helps keep things orderly and on topic. During commercial breaks and halftime, this is definitely relaxed as there aren't as many comments to filter. Typical exclamations like "woo!" and "yes!" and "nice job!" are almost automatically glanced over, and approved only if the moderator is bored. Start your comment as if you're starting a sentence, and the moderator will assume your comment is worth reading.
5. Are we censoring comments? Definitely not. There were several viewpoints we disagreed with that we allowed through, and that will continue. Period.
1. Please keep the doom and gloom comments to a minimum, especially when we are winning the game. We're just as big a bunch of fans as you are, but piling on and bitching when we all know this is going to be a rough season really makes it less enjoyable for everyone. There were hundreds of comments ignored for this reason. Sarcastic, self-deprecating, and/or just plain funny doom and gloom, on the other hand, is encouraged (e.g. "my life is a rudderless, meaningless mess unless Stevie Brown screws up multiple times every Saturday")
2. Playcalling. The coaching staff only knows how the players performed in practice, and now in 2 live games. This is the information they have to make play calls. We guarantee you they aren't saying "Hey, this never worked in practice might as well try it now!" As a result, let's try to keep the bitching about playcalling to a minimum until we know a bit more about the team. Our biggest pet peeve is second-guessing play calls, but only after they go wrong. Second-guessing ahead of time, conversely, is somewhat allowed- as moderators it's a little annoying to click through everyone's "suggestions" for RichRod, but on the other hand it might spark good discussion and it's probably not negative, so we'll try our best to put it through. Bottom line: if you're in the mood to offer suggestions, then by all means give it a try but only before the play begins.
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Anthony LaLota announces his college decision at eight PM on CSTV. Just in case he picks Michigan, let’s google-stalk!
|5*, #3 OT, #42 overall||4*, #6 SDE, #120 overall||80, #13 DE|
LaLota gets the precious fifth star from Scout, though Scout is an easier lay than prim and proper Rivals—Scout always has exactly 50 five-stars; Rivals usually has 25-30. Rivals is a bit more reserved but still lands him just outside their top 100. ESPN is slightly less enthusiastic, placing him just outside their top 150. He’s the #13 DE to them and #12 is in the 150—he’s close.
You’ll note that Scout rates him an excellent offensive tackle prospect; ESPN also sees it:
LaLota is a pretty exciting prospect. He has good size and athletic ability and when you factor in that he is still pretty new to the game of football you realize this kid has a huge upside. A debate could get sparked over which side of the ball to play him on. A very strong argument could be made that you add 30-40 pounds to his frame and make him a left tackle.
They still see him as a defensive end but do mention that he has “value on both sides of the ball”, which should increase his chances of seeing the field since he’s got more than one place he can go. This is probably moot since LaLota’s been vocal about preferring defensive end and Michigan really needs defensive ends after picking up one in the last two classes, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
Also, there’s this from Tommy Bowden. Weirdly, LaLota’s dad ran into Bowden when he was giving as speech to pharmaceutical sales reps—the mind boggles—and offered Bowden some tape of his kid. Bowden looked at it, provided some advice, and made a sweet comparison:
I've broadcasted several University of Virginia football games over the last couple of years and he reminds me very much of Howie Long's son, Chris. Chris was an offensive and defensive lineman in high school at a small private school in Virginia (Anne's Belfield School) and Howie thought he was destined to be an offensive guard in college. Now, he is the top defensive end in college football and, according to several services, may very well be the No. 1 player taken in this year's NFL draft. Incidentally, in his senior year in high school, Chris had 92 pancake blocks as an offensive lineman.
If Anthony is intent on being a defensive end, and I think he has all the ingredients to be a great one, he just needs to make this very clear in the recruiting process. All I'm saying is that if Howie Long wasn't sure about what position his own son would play, I'm not about to guarantee your son or anyone else where they will eventually end up.
So, hey, that sounds good.
Lots and lots. LaLota’s final seven was M, Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Virginia, Florida and Rutgers. That’s pretty impressive and it’s even more so because his emphasis on academics caused him to drop a number of football powers, including Ohio State, FSU, LSU, and Tennessee.
LaLota’s only played one year of organized football—which means he’s raw but has the proverbial upside—and in that year racked up 10 sacks.
FAKE 40 TIME
Lalota’s listed at 4.6. He is also listed at 6’6”, 260. Fake! Fake, I say!
I can’t get it to work now, but Yahoo posted the LaLota highlight film given to Terry Bowden. The free intertubes turn up nothing else.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Given his lack of experience I assume he’ll redshirt. Barwis will have to keep him at a reasonable size for defensive ends—under the old regime I would have assumed he would put on significant weight and end up at OL or… ick… DT—but once he gets some technique and chocolate milk, he could be a monster. One year of organized football, 6’6”, 260, and those ratings and offers == major upside.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
LaLota is a major, encouraging pull for the Rodriguez regime. Just over a month ago Michigan was hardly being mentioned, the last school of his seven finalists to get an unofficial visit. LaLota had declared he would commit soon after the Michigan official, which usually means the prospect has a school or maybe two in mind and is just doing his due diligence on some others. Up until his visit, I had him colored red and thought Michigan had little chance.
One visit later, he announces he’ll delay his decision and eventually settles on Michigan, filling a major hole in the prospects coming up with a recruit everyone was after. Score.
Michigan now has one defensive end in the class and hopes to get at least one more; they’ll probably take two if they can get two they like. The buzz on top 100 AZ DE Craig Roh remains good, and MI DE Nick Perry is about to be a free agent after the NCAA Clearinghouse shot him down.
Run Offense vs. SSONIINI
With a 90% chance of heavy rains and wind tomorrow, this may be the game. Notre Dame lost second round pick Trevor Laws and some less heralded players from a defense that gave up 289 yards on a whopping 61 carries last year; Michigan returns… uh… Steve Schilling. And maybe Brandon Minor, who had 17 carries for 82 yards in late game action.
In action to date: Michigan was terrible against Utah but stepped it up—sort of—against Miami; Notre Dame allowed pass-heavy San Diego State to run for 4.7 yards a carry a week after a I-AA team shut them down. Safety Kyle McCarthy led Notre Dame with 14 tackles; safety David Bruton was second; corner Terrail Lambert was third. Over a season having three members of your secondary leading the team in tackles would indicate some unspeakably bad linebacking, but against San Diego State it mostly means they threw three times more often than they ran.
You can’t throw a rock in this down without hitting someone wailing about the Michigan offensive line’s lack of depth, experience, and talent, but the hidden story is that Notre Dame’s defensive line is in close the same place. Senior Pat Kuntz tries hard but spent last year’s game on rollerskates and is only in the lineup because the other alternatives are true freshmen. The same goes for the uninspiring combo of Justin Brown and Morrice Richardson on the other end. And NT Ian Williams was a good recruit but remains just a true sophomore; Brian from House Rock Built was pretty meh about his performance to date. I don’t see any walk-ons or anything, but there isn’t much: two freshmen are behind the starting trio at end and Paddy Mullen is the nominal NT backup.
Meanwhile, the linebackers seem okay. Maurice Crum—one of those Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth-Year Senior guys—is back after racking up 84 tackles last year; only 4.5 of those were for loss. People seem excited about sophomore Brian Smith after a promising freshman year; the outside linebackers are eh.
There’s not much here to base a prediction on other than 15 San Diego State carries that went well but could have been anomalous due to small sample size and were certainly more effective than they would have been if SDSU ran 75% of the time instead of threw.
Meanwhile, Michigan moves in fits and starts, gashing people when the little bastard guys get the corner or slice up into gaping zone holes and getting zero or negative yards when someone on the OL makes a critical mistake—which is often. You’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.
Key Matchup: I’ve hinted at this before, but here it is: IMO, the most important individual matchup in this game is Michigan center David Molk versus Irish NT Ian Williams. Both are in their second year in college—Molk redshirted, Williams did not—and both have gotten meh reviews so far, though neither has put in enough playing time for early impressions to be anything near conclusive. Against Utah, Molk got buried into the backfield the few times Michigan tried traditional zone running plays; against Miami Molk sealed off the DT to the playside time and again. Williams, meanwhile, had an impressive tackle count his freshman year and checks in at 310.
If he can drive Molk backwards we’re in trouble; if you can single block a nose tackle in the 3-4 you are destined for success.
Pass Offense vs. SSONIINI
N/A, next section.
What, seriously? Okay: Notre Dame lost Tom Zbikowski, who may have engaged in judo or MMA or something, I can’t remember, to graduation and rising star cornerback Darrin Walls to a “personal issue.” So they’ve got Terrail Lambert, who Michigan fans have a special Manningham-related soft spot for, and Raeshon McNeil, Notre Dame’s only four-star+ upperclassman not on the OL, at corner. At safety they’ve got David Bruton and the aforementioned McCarthy.
That’s turnover to an extent that makes last year’s stats mostly irrelevant. Against San Diego State’s short passing game they were good-ish, allowing SDSU QB Ryan Lindley 274 yards but requiring him to throw 59 times to get there.
Michigan, meanwhile, got a lot of guys open last week and missed them all by hilarious margins. Steven Threet is your starting quarterback; he’s got a decent arm and has made mostly good decisions thus far but he’s been terribly inaccurate. There was one beauty deep ball to Junior Hemingway in the Utah game, and a couple other decent throws then. Against Miami it was all wrong.
Key Matchup: Threet versus Jesus, Man, Just Throw To Them. Notre Dame players are kind of irrelevant if Threet doesn’t hit some guys.
Run Defense vs. SSONIINI
The run defense is not as good as you might think it is, as the avalanche of sacks the team has unleashed distorts those numbers considerably. Miami’s lead back averaged 3.7 yards a carry and Utah’s main two guys combined for 94 yards on 21 carries, 4.5 per. That’s slightly harsh because both teams occasionally used their quarterbacks as runners and got stuffed doing it, but the point stands: this is not the country’s fourth-best rushing defense.
Of particular concern was a series against Utah where their thudding power back ran Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws over and over and picked up big chunks of yards doing it. Michigan switched Johnny Thompson and Jonas Mouton in at linebacker and both seemed to outperform the Utah starters, but that concern is still there when going up against a team that promised to “pound the ball” behind a newly gargantuan offensive line. Notre Dame does have a couple of Matt Asiata-like beef machines in Robert Hughes and James Aldridge; the specter of those ISQD disturbs.
|Notre Dame Rushing|
|A. Allen Jr||17||59||3.5||0||14|
The numbers above were garnered against San Diego State, which
- was the third worst defense in D-I last year,
- gave up considerably more YPC to a I-AA team in the opener, aaand
- literally had its entire starting DL out with injury.
Also they had possibly the worst offensive line this reporter has ever seen and brought the line coach back. WTF.
If Notre Dame wants to run the ball, that seems amenable despite the issues against Asiata.
Key Matchup: Ezeh and Thompson tackling Hughes and Allen. Michigan linebackers have rarely delivered a blow this year, allowing opposing running backs to gain 2 or even 3 yards after contact with disturbing regularity. Hughes is the kind of guy who thrives on that to keep his YPA up.
Pass Defense vs. SSONIINI
This is where the avalanche of sacks comes in. Against Utah, Tim Jamison was unstoppable. Against Miami, it was Brandon Graham. Michigan is now second in the nation in sacks and goes up against that same Notre Dame offensive line, which managed to keep Jimmah clean for the first time ever against San Diego State but now steps up the level of competition considerably.
We have the metrics mentioned above in the run game to denigrate the Notre Dame line, and there are also these items when it comes to the pass:
- the left tackle was a crappy guard last year
- an already lumbering line was asked to put on 20-40 pounds each, so they could pound it.
It’s doubtful the sack parade stops this week.
Meanwhile, Jimmah(!) Clausen looked like an actual quarterback against San Diego State, hitting a bunch of slants and outs and flies and the like, completing 21 of 34 for 237 yards. Three touchdowns were offset by two interceptions, and to Michigan it doesn’t really matter if those interceptions were because Clausen screwed up (he might have) or Irish wide receiver Duval Kamara sucks and flails around like a six-year-old girl sometimes (he does), because it’s likely Kamara is still a major target.
Other guys of note: David Grimes is “solid” to Notre Dame fans and “wholly average” to everyone else; think Ron Bellamy minus-minus. Golden Tate was actually very impressive against SDSU, smoking one of their corners on a 38-yard go route touchdown and nearly making a spectacular diving catch on another bomb later; freshman Michael Floyd has a bunch of recruiting hype.
On the other side of the ball: the pass coverage has been poor underneath but decent deeper except when someone screws up and lets an opponent wide receiver run free through the poppies; Michigan has had difficulty tackling little quick guys underneath but Notre Dame doesn’t have any of those except maybe Allen, who figures to feature heavily in an extensive screen game.
Key Matchup: Graham and Jamison versus Turkovich and Young. Clausen did pretty well when afforded time last week, and Michigan’s secondary is prone to safety breakdowns. Michigan has to balance out the number of big plays Clausen makes with his arm with big plays Michigan makes by bruising his ribs.
You will be pleased to know that Notre Dame’s punter is not going to average better than 50 yards a kick. He’s Ben Maust and he did 42.1 last year. However… dammit… Notre Dame was 13th in net punting last year.
Zoltan, meanwhile, had a big game against Miami, though that may have been more due to some fortunate rolls on short-ish, angled punts than any sort of space mastery.
Michigan has a significant advantage at kicker with KC Lopata returning after going 11 of 12 last year; this year he has made field goals of 47 and 50 yards while missing from 41. (Michigan’s missed extra point against Miami was due to a faulty hold.)
Notre Dame’s Brandon Walker was only 50% last year and missed his first attempt of this year, that from 47 yards. There was also some Yakety Sax on a botched attempt against SDSU.
Key Matchup: Kickers versus the weather. Every field goal attempt will be critical.
- Molk gets bowled over.
- The fatties on the right side of the ND OL start bashing Michigan backwards.
- We don’t see more Cissoko/Woolfolk so Harrison can stay at safety.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan’s defensive line turns in a repeat of FBD II.
- Corollary: and Clausen looks just as bewildered by the idea of these chaps hitting him as he did last year.
- Michigan linebackers are sniffing out the screens.
- We complete a pass.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Wow We Still Suck, –1 for Wow They Still Suck, +1 for I Don’t Believe In Ghosts But I Do Believe Notre Dame Stadium Is Full Of Them And They’re Douchebags, +1 for Walk-on May Be Starting At Left Tackle, –1 for …And He’s Probably Better Than Sam Young, –1 for Weis E Coyote, +1 for We Literally Did Not Complete Two Passes Downfield Last Week.).
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Eff It, We Must Go To The California Raisin Bowl 7-5, +1 for Notre Dame Is So Annoying, –1 for General Ennui 2008, +1 for Vast Irrational Hatred Of Charlie Weis, +1 for …It’s Not Really Irrational But It Is Vast)
Loss will cause me to... really struggle to find six wins on the rest of the schedule.
Win will cause me to... enjoy deep draughts of schadenfreude on ND message boards for two solid weeks.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There is one bloody giant mismatch in this game and it’s the Michigan defensive line versus the Notre Dame offensive line. These are the same players that took to the field last year; when the dust cleared Clausen thought it was Shrive Tuesday 1936 and Michigan had a 38-0 win with Ryan Mallett at QB.
In the interregnum Michigan has acquired the services of (eeee!) Mike Barwis. Notre Dame, meanwhile, threw 40 pounds on an already ponderous Sam Young and kept John Latina, line coach of ultimate seduction, around. This seems like an idea on par with “spread ‘n shred versus Georgia Tech.”
Except, no, I lie: there is a second bloody giant mismatch in the game and it’s Michigan quarterbacks versus anything. What do you have? A souvenir shot glass from Casa Bonita? Good enough.
So… who do you pick? I figure Michigan swarming Clausen is good for a pick or fumble or three; I have also watched our quarterbacks. I figure Notre Dame will get someone deep several times because of safety malfeasance and Clausen will either have Tim Jamsion’s helmet in his chest or an excellent chance to score a touchdown that Michigan can ill afford to give up.
I mean… who knows? I don’t know if ND’s defense is going to be any good, if they can stop Michigan’s run game, if Threet will complete anything, if Walker makes any field goals, and the uncertainty is doubled because of the weather.
I do suggest, very tentatively, that Michigan is much better prepared to handle a world in which its offensive line has no idea how to block its opponent, and that the apparent thunderstorm brewing bodes ill for passing games, and that this is more relevant for Notre Dame, and I kind of expect Michigan to win.
But not very much. I expect several very high-variance things to happen and for a close game to be decided by something ridiculous.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Yes, we do complete a long pass. To Hemingway, even.
- Shaw and McGuffie get more evenly distributed carries.
- Michigan gets to Clausen five times.
- Michigan, 13-10.
Site note: I’ve gone back to the defensive UFR and done the cool popup video thing to it, if you’re interested.
Succor. I’d normally hold this until Monday for the weekly recruiting dump, but this news expires tonight so here you go from the front page of the Wolverine:
Michigan has been recruiting the defensive end ranks hard throughout the class of 2009 and tomorrow they will find out their fate with one of the top targets. Princeton (N.J.) The Hun School's Anthony Lalota will announce tomorrow night and Michigan's chances look good.
Lalota is a top 250 strongside defensive end to Rivals and a five star OT to Scout and would be a major relief at a position of significant need. Which one? I dunno, pick one. Michigan’s recruiting him at DE.
Now, there are various degrees of “look good”; this one is not a foregone conclusion like the two Pahokee guys were, but it is, as they say, looking good. Lalota announces at 8 PM on CSTV.
I’m sure there’s a flipside post somewhere, but I do like Rakes’ “Five Reasons Notre Dame Loses to Michigan.” Of note: their kicker’s been terrible and their punter isn’t Orin Incandenza. Meanwhile, BGS wonders why Notre Dame didn’t pound it over the right side of their line more. This seems like wishful thinking:
So perhaps all the running left was by design: if we can beat SDSU with the left hand, why show the big right hook to Michigan at all? Until we fell behind in the third quarter, we really didn't need to exploit the right side. Did Weis want to give Michigan, which has been absolutely dominant against the run, lots of looks at the left side of the run game, knowing full well that the right side is the true strength?
That's what I'm wondering. I don't know why else we would consciously run 10 times in a row to the left when you know the right side is more productive. It's crazy, isn't it?
Later, the author urges us to see the ploy as “deviously Weisian,” because against Michigan they’ll come out and run it right and Michigan will go “WTF I thought this was a NASCAR offense” and die. Because the only explanation for Charlie Weis doing something dumb has to be that he is secretly a genius.
We are talking about Charlie Weis here, right?
Weis loves doing things that are unexpected even more than he loves doing things that are correct according to game theory: fake punts, that idiotic QB draw against Georgia Tech two years ago, sending your national-worst offense onto the field to try and convert a fourth and eight when a reasonable field goal attempt is in the offing. Weis does dumb things to emphasize how smart he is.
Breakin’ it down. There’s a lot of fantastic Notre Dame preview content out there in the Michigan blogosphere. A sampling:
I meant to mention Genuinely Sarcastic’s Run Chart as part of the UFR but neglected it. Said chart (chart) is right in line with my expectations: +4 for Molk, an active but uneven day from McAvoy, concern about Nowicki, and appreciation for Moundros’s small but important role at fullback.
The Ace of Sports breaks down Clausen’s day against San Diego State complete with video clips; the general upshot is that Clausen’s arm and general competence have taken great steps forward but on the rare occasions the Aztec defensive line got anywhere near him he went “eeee I’m a little girl for something other than Mike Barwis” and chose… poorly.
The question with Clausen has always been his ability to make decisions under pressure; the SDSU game was probably a flashback to high school for him. This week will be the test.
Speaking of that defensive line: there have been reports that as many as seven Aztec defensive linemen were out or wounded for the Notre Dame game, forcing SDSU to start a linebacker at defensive tackle and a stack of post-it notes at end. Surely that a vast exagerration spawned in the wild outcroppings of the internet, where the truth bends like kelp at high tide?
Ah, well, not really:
The Aztecs, who concluded fall camp already thin across the defensive front, had no fewer than four more defensive linemen sustain at least some sort of injury in Saturday's season-opening 29-27 loss to Cal Poly.
Jebus! A dossier:
- DE Tony DeMartinis and DT Neil Spencer, both starters, are out for the year.
- Siaosi Fifita missed the opener with a knee injury
- DE Eric Ikonne and DT Jerome Long had ankle sprains.
- DeMartinis’ replacement suffered a concussion.
- DT Ernie Lawson aggravated a foot injury.
I’m not exactly sure how many of these guys played, but only Lawson was credited with a tackle.
Also, it’s kind of sad when even your official site disses you:
Brandon Sullivan was inches away from a 4-yard touchdown run and a two-score lead for the Aztecs. But safety David Bruton jarred the ball loose and recovered it in the end zone to help the Irish (1-0) avoid an embarrassing loss.
Et tu, goaztecs.cstv.com?
Even more fun is to be had. The forecast calls for whipping winds and rain and all that:
As of Wednesday night, the forecast for South Bend on Saturday called for high winds and scattered thunderstorms. That would be quite a departure from the clear skies the Wolverines.
Is this good? Or bad? Or what?
On the one hand, Notre Dame’s biggest advantage in this game is the ability to throw passes past the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, they’ve got a couple of big bruising backs who might be better suited to pounding ahead in Hurricane Katrina (MAKE PLAYS). On what appears to be a third hand—I’m just zis guy, you know—, sometimes those little nimble guys can make cuts no one else can because of physics. Remember the one awesome game Justin Fargas had? No? Well, it came against Northwestern in a driving rain and ugly conditions.
I tentatively suggest rain and winds are advantage Michigan because then it’s super hard to make the DL irrelevant, and from what I’ve seen of the Notre Dame blogs they seem to agree.