who fails upward better: Whitlock, Kiffin, or Brandon?
Norm. Points for AJ Daulerio for locating Norm MacDonald's 1998 ESPY monologue, posting it, and making it un-destroyable. It's worth watching just for Ken Griffey Jr.'s reaction, but there is Michigan relevance here: Norm's closer is, as Daulerio says, an epically ruthless joke directed at Heisman winner Charles Woodson.
Personal anecdote: back around this time, Norm put on a show at Hill. At this show, 1) my friends and I started giggling as he walked out on stage, before he had even said a word, 2) he was obviously drunk, 3) at some point he said the words "see this cake here? Yeah, it's my girlfriend. I f---ed it last night." At some point early someone heckled him about his drunkenness and was ruthlessly dispatched of; at some point late he complained he wasn't feeling very good and someone, possibly the same person, shouted out "sobering up?" Norm, busted, had no reply.
For a certain type of person, Norm MacDonald is an American hero*, and I am one of those people. I even watched his sitcom.
*(even though he's Canadian.)
Porch couches shiver in the twilight, alone and flammable. We've established that I don't care whether or not you root for Michigan State tonight. For the record: I'm in the North Carolina camp, but I can understand people who want to see Digger Phelps eat his liver or for some good news in the midst of stories about the implosion of the auto companies and so forth and so on.
Pro- or con-, we can all look forward to the post game. This website will be relevant tonight:
I'm actually betting there's been enough shame beaten into the area that there won't be a riot, thus ending one of Michigan's most well-loved external traditions. But hope yet remains. Come on, Western students. It's not your town, and you don't care. Flip some cars.
Our only hope. Some more detail on what, exactly, Tate Forcier brings to the table:
[QB coach Rod] Smith likes his polished throwing mechanics -- "He's got a tight delivery, quick release, everything is nice and compact, it's out in a hurry and the kid's very accurate" -- and his willingness to study tape and prepare for practices. …
"He just seems to find people," Smith said. "Sometimes, you can't teach that. ... He understands when to step up, understands how to feel pressure, his eyes are always working forward even when he takes off. He's got a good feel, he really does, and that's important for that position."
Sounds like Michigan is going to incorporate a heavy dose of the rollout passes that were so infuriating for the defense a year ago; may they work as well.
Erm… come again? I don't want to alarm anyone, but Mark Snyder, or rather the guy who writes the headlines at the Free Press, has no such compunctions. Sims and Harris were supposed to be holy locks to stay. This is titled "Beilein not definite about Harris, Sims returning"…
Michigan coach John Beilein, interviewed Thursday on WTKA (1050-AM), was asked directly if Harris and Sims are coming back next year, bypassing interest in the NBA.
Beilein's answer was not definitive.
"There's a certain protocol you have to go through to end up doing that," Beilein said. "I can't answer that question just yet. I think it would be premature to answer that question. There are certain things we have to do to understand what happens with this whole thing. So we'll probably be able to give you more news on that in the weeks ahead. That doesn't mean people should start worrying out there, it just means I'm not going to talk about it."
The rest of it is basically Beilein being careful and is nothing to get alarmed about. Don't panic. The deadline to put your name in is April 26th, in case you're concerned.
Ohio, you disappoint but do not surprise. Barkevious Mingo is up for Name of the Year, of course. The site had a poll asking which member of the Mingo's pod would make the sweet 16 and their software has a cool state-by-state breakdown. Mingo was up against a plebian dick joke in the first round that Michigan rejected wholly but Ohio State ate up, as it were:
You can see in the results an obvious bias towards Mingo on the college football-obsessed sections of the country: outside of Louisiana, which is obviously in the tank, Mingo's biggest results are in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Georgia, and Michigan. (Montana and South Dakota both went 100% for Mingo but that probably represents one vote each.) Michigan has a sparkling 73% pro-Mingo number, of which we can all be proud.
Spring practice continues and there's the usual mix of unwarranted excitement and unwarranted doomsaying; that combined with the incestuous nature of the whole enterprise makes information wobbly. But wobbly is better than nothing.
A rundown of scuttlebutt received in my inbox and published elsewhere:
The conflicts start hot and heavy with Forcier, who has articles like this written about him:
"Coach Barwis, he's shown me a whole different life," Forcier said, chuckling. "But I'm getting a lot stronger, and that's a good thing."
On the field, Forcier, who is expected to compete with Nick Sheridan for the starting QB job, said one of the biggest challenges is adjusting to the snap, which he's had some trouble hanging onto during spring practices.
"It's just getting comfortable with how they snap it to you," he said. "In high school, you get these slow shotgun snaps. Here, these come back like rockets."
Yikes. There have been plenty of reports citing the usual harsh transition from college to high school, with balls zinged into linebackers' chests and hilariously arrogant attempts to reverse field resulting in 20-yard sacks.
On the other hand, multiple attendees have noted the positives to Forcier's game, especially in relation to Rodriguez's offense: he's elusive, extremely accurate on the run, and has enough zip to get the ball where it needs to go. Much of the practice time has been devoted to tougher passes—no bubble screens—and things the offense isn't good at yet, which makes them look worse than they might if they were operating with some of the easier stuff to execute.
At least that's the positive way to look at it. The other way to look at it is basically "we're going to die." One viewpoint is in relation to what happened last year—even skeptics have been very clear that the quarterback situation is vastly improved over DEATH. The other is comparing freshman Forcier to quarterbacks who are actually, like, good. The overall impression is that Forcier isn't a 9-3 QB, but neither is he a 3-9 one.
"Out of the freshman, they're all doing good, doing what I expect them to do, but Vincent Smith is showing a lot of potential. He's not backing down ... He's got real used to hitting early on. He does that very well."
"Vince, whewwwww. Vince Smith, he can move, he can run. He's out there running like the wind. He makes a lot of guys miss. I think we might be able to use him this year."
(Note the assumption in Forcier's quote there.)
"He's really come along," Rodriguez said earlier this week. "He's still confused sometimes, as all the freshmen would be, but he's shown some flashes in (Tuesday's) practice and he's a guy that's probably going to play some as a true freshman. I love his attitude, he loves playing and he's a quick learner on the field and he's got some natural ability, so I'm pretty excited about him."
This isn't wholly surprising. Smith's initially lukewarm reviews gave way to a more positive take after his impressive senior season. Though he didn't scrape his way out of the three-star ghetto, he moved way up on both major sites as they refined their rankings and Smith powered Pahokee to another state title. A couple of Florida correspondents said he was a terrific back whose ratings were held back by his size and a lack of pure white-hot speed, much like Oregon State's Jacquizz Rogers without the Name of the Year potential. (Vote for Mingo!)
Smith's got a number of veterans in front of him and isn't going to be an instant feature back with Minor looking like a beast and Brown (mostly) healthy, but it sounds like he's hopped in front of Cox and Grady and will spend this year vying against Michael Shaw to see who starts next year.
(At right: Brandon Smith tackling… uh… Brandon Smith? Is this like that A-Rod picture? Or one of those mirror universe episodes of any sci-fi show that goes on so long the writers get bored to tears with the characters?
One thing I definitely know: that's not some walk-on. Nope, it's definitely Brandon Smith in some sort of weird temporal vortex.)
This won't be surprising to anyone even vaguely familiar with Michigan football since Marcus Ray, but, yeah, argh safeties. Stevie Brown has been moved down into a nickel/OLB spot, much to the relief of everyone. This Free Press article says Brown "didn't have the impact many expected," which is a nice way of saying "had exactly the impact everyone feared." Now he's elsewhere:
"He's going to be a multipositional player for us," coach Rich Rodriguez said before practice Thursday. "Obviously, he's playing a lot of nickel back, in kind of a nickel-back situation. It's kind of a hybrid of an outside linebacker/strong safety position, which I think he's perfectly suited for."
Actually, he does seem well suited for that sort of role. Brown only got more frustrating last year when he started making the occasional sweet play to go with his free touchdown per game. Highly rated out of high school, Brown's a capital-a Athlete and seems an excellent fit for this coverage/blitz/tackle hybrid spot. An emailer reports back from the coaches' clinic:
Also there was some promising news on Stevie Brown. Greg Robinson talking about Stevie Brown said “He’s a hell of an athlete and he’s a hell of a lot better football player where we have him now (strong side LB)."
So hurray for all that.
However, moving him leaves just two returning players at the position: Mike Williams, who saw some playing time a year ago and didn't do anything of note good or bad, and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith. That's a horrifying lack of depth at a position we're all well aware can be an instant 60-yard touchdown for the opposition.
That was ominous enough. Then various reports came back that neither was starting. Longtime Michigan insider Maizeman:
Starting safeties (Thursday) were Woolfolk and Vlad. Yes, Vlad as starter. He looked, on Thursday, to be our best safety -- not even close.
Oy. That's a true freshman and a position switch starter at a position where Yards After Mundy can rack up in a hurry. When I profiled Emilien I noted he was an early enroller, an honor-roll student, and had a serious flirtation with Ohio State (which unearths functional-to-excellent unhyped safeties on a frustratingly regular basis). All of these things point to a sunny future for Emilien and I think sooner or later he'll be a good safety for Michigan. But by "sooner or later" I mean "later".
Woolfolk, meanwhile, was running at corner as of a week ago. With his departure the current two deep there is:
- Cissoko and Warren
- JT Floyd and Floyd Simmons, redshirt freshman walk-on.
Argh. It's hard to see the position switch as anything other than a condemnation of the projected starters at safety. The chatter now has Smith moving to linebacker eventually due to a lack of speed. You can see a hint of that in this Rodriguez quote:
"He has not played, he's a redshirt freshman, but he's got a lot of ability," Rodriguez said. "He's still got to get in shape to be able to play on the back end, like our safeties have to do sometimes. You've got to be able to run a lot, a whole lot, and they're still adjusting to that. But I think he's going to be able to help us in a lot of spots this year."
With Brown a senior and Smith a little ponderous for safety we might see the latter move to this hybrid spot during the year if Emilien and Woolfolk work out.
About That Defense
I got a number of emails from people smarter than me about football in regards to this 4-3/3-4 distinction; happily, none of them call me an idiot. A coach who attended the clinic a few days ago:
The report that the defense would come to resemble a 3-4 seems a little off base. After attending the Coaching Clinic and seeing the defense in action it is the same thing that you see at a lot of programs. First it is considered a 4-3 but it is a multiple 40 defense where you are going to see numerous adjustments (the same as any college program). They will slide into some 3-4 sets by dropping their Quick (strong side end speed rusher/lb hybrid) This can be called for coverage or zone blitz scheme.
The biggest improvement I believe you will see come in the form of tackling and angles. Greg Robinson has already overhauled the pursuit angles and has really stressed proper body mechanics when tackling. You could visibly notice the change in tackles and finish. Jay Hopson also commented that “Greg has really made a huge improvement to how we tackle. It’s night and day from last year.”
This sounds much like what was mentioned in What Is It. Michigan is basically going with a 4-3 that has the flexibility to drop into a 3-4 when the situation warrants it or Robinson just wants to throw a curveball. To do this you need a chunky linebacker at the standup end spot, a guy who can hold up (or penetrate) against a tackle on a run to his side, rush the passer, and credibly drop into a short zone. Shawn Crable would be an excellent fit. So would prospective recruit Will Gholston. (HINT HINT, MR. GHOLSTON.)
The closest analogue to what Michigan appears to be installing is the defense of the Arizona Cardinals, who run a "4-3 under" most of the time with a weakside DE/LB they call the "predator," thereby soundly defeating Michigan's nomenclature. As hybrids go, it's hybrid-y:
…in the 4-3 “under” front, like the Cardinals use as their base defense, which looks similar to the 3-4 to the naked eye, the biggest difference is in the outside linebackers. The strong-side linebacker is still outside the tight end. But the other outside guy — the Cardinals call this player their “Predator” — is almost always rushing the passer, although the Cards will occasionally drop him into coverage to mix things up. Other differences: The nose tackle shades to the A-gap (in between the center and guard) on the tight end side, and the end on that side moves between the tackle and tight end.
explained that the 3-4 defense creates the most confusion for the offense in terms of which outside linebacker is doing what, and the standard 4-3 offers the least unpredictability. The Cardinals’ 4-3 “under” scheme is somewhere in between the two in terms of causing the offense to guess who is rushing and who is dropping.
There is one uncovered linebacker—eg, "man who must take on unblocked guard"—in the 4-3 under, which is different from the 4-3 (none) and the 3-4 (two). That's the MLB, meaning Obi Ezeh. Onus, meet third year starter who's been fairly disappointing so far. You'll be good friends all year.
Also, here's Tyler Sellhorn, who's sent in an email or two before and contributed to Doctor Saturday, on what the whole "rush end/linebacker" thing was:
The Hermann era defense was better known in its day as a 5-2. 3 DTs and 2 DEs; however, the strongside and weakside specialized by personnel, tactics, or alignment. The weakside DE was called the "drop end" an excellent deployment of a SS type player (Stevie Brown). The strongside DE was called the "rush end", think Lawrence Taylor/Derrick Thomas. Calling it a 3-4 is "sexier" because safeties and speedy big guys would be prefer to be called linebackers than defensive ends. As an offensive line coach and former lineman, I hated playing "odd" fronts (with a nose guard). The angles for your usual blocks change significantly and when the defense chooses it is easier to bring up support from the outside and from the safeties. 3-4 is more flexible in the secondary as well because linebackers can be put in coverage much easier.
IMO, I think the (very) early returns are good for GERG.
So there you go.
A Brief Summary Of My State Of Mind
Look: we're not going to be good. There is a true freshman quarterback who, while as ready as he can be, is still not ready at all. The line is probably going to be okay, but not dominant. They're installing a new defensive package and holy God is the secondary thin. They'll get some reinforcements in the fall but it's like quarterback: when you've got six highly-rated options for two spots whoever wins that job is likely to be good. When you've got two, you're hoping that both pan out, stay healthy, and stay out of trouble.
Position switch starters—one of MGoBlog's primary "uh oh" heuristics—seem likely at safety (Woolfolk), DE/spinner (Herron), LB/SS (Brown), and LG (Schilling). None of those are huge deals in and of themselves as they don't involve flipping sides of the ball, like Ferrara did last year, and generally see players moving into spots where they are faster than the opposition or just plain better suited; together that's a lot of flux. Digging out of this hole is going to be a multi-year project, and I don't mean we'll only make the Alamo this year. Notre Dame went from 3-9 to 7-6 and though they had a bigger hole to dig out of they weren't starting over at quarterback. A similar improvement seems realistic.
If this post seems familiar, it's because Devin Gardner already sort of committed. He told his coach, and his coach told the world. But there's an official announcement today, so no better time than the present for a full-on googlestalk.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #7 QB, #77 overall||4*, #177 overall||150 watch list|
Devin Gardner is a prototypical spread 'n' shred QB: 6'4", 200 pounds, and quick like a jackrabbit. He is also, unfortunately, a little raw. Check ESPN's evaluation of him, which starts off with this backhanded compliment:
Gardner is a prospect that after viewing for some time you respect his overall production level once you get past the fact that his methods more often than not are going to be very unorthodox and at times not pretty.
IE: "I guess we have to rank him because he accounted for 48 touchdowns and has sweet offers." The rest of it is what you might expect:
He can cut, shows burst changing directions and could develop into a dangerous read-option operator. Gardner shows very good arm strength and when his feet are set he can drive the ball down field and shows very good RPM's on short and intermediate routes… However, for all his athleticism and arm strength, Gardner's mechanics need a lot of work. Fortunately he is blessed with height because he has a very low release point and is a side-arm passer that cradles the ball and tends to push it in his delivery. … Overall, you have to be impressed with Gardner's measurables and athleticism. He can make plays and possesses a lot of raw tools.
Okay, by "a little raw" we mean raw like sushi. Premium, premium sushi. Reinforcing that is this fluffy bit from Gardner's Elite 11 camp experience, where he was a ball boy:
After watching him during the week, Gardner will have to learn to be tall in the pocket and take advantage of his height. He says his biggest weakness is his accuracy, which is a direct result of arm placement and how the ball is released. He has a real bad habit of dropping his release point when throwing, as well as sinking his hips and knees when throwing. This happens more when throwing shorter routes, as he tries to guide the ball.
This fall, expect Gardner to be more comfortable under center as a result of his week in Southern California. Not only did he take full advantage of every rep on the field but he also improved greatly on the chalk board. When asked if he left the camp a better player, Gardner's response was "absolutely and hands down, my ability to read and recognize coverages are much better now."
Gardner on himself:
"I think I can fit into any offense, really," Gardner told SN Today. "I work with my coach every day to be a better passer. ... Going into (last) season, everybody was talking about how I'm a good athlete, but now everybody's saying I'm a real quarterback, too. I've evened out my passing and my rushing."
Gardner's got a year to work on that stuff before he hits campus.
And then there's the Ohio State issue. OSU was considered the early favorite for Gardner, as Gardner grew up a fan. That was eventually revealed to be overblown, but Ohio State was extremely interested and there were rumors Gardner would commit on an spring unofficial. The issue: no offer.
The Buckeye-insider supported theory is that Ohio State's inability to bring in Tajh Boyd—they were forced to snatch a fourth-choice guy away after getting shot down by Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) and Temple(!) commits just to get anyone on campus—put OSU in a tough spot. Believing Gardner to be a project and Pryor to be an early flight risk, they couldn't chance the future of the QB spot on he and Baylor Refugee. So they've focused on polished folk like Nick Montana, much to the surprise (and possible dismay?) of OSU bloggers. This is more evidence of premium sushi.
An impressive mix of run and pass:
Gardner rushed for 1,401 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior in 2008, while throwing for 1,886 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions.
Perhaps even more impressive is the carries that got him those yards: Gardner averaged 12 YPC.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout has him listed at 4.63, which is actually realistic.
You can just tell his delivery is messed up from the video. But you can also tell he's got that glide speed Young had.
(More video here.)
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The word of the day is "raw." Gardner appears to be a version of Terrelle Pryor that's a couple inches shorter, slightly less of an athletic freak, and less likely to draw shame upon himself at basketball games. Check it:
"He expects us to be a good person," junior Devin Gardner said of his coach. "It's those little things. At Inkster you have to be a good person."
Gardner may have even more work to do on his mechanics. The good news is that he's got another year of high school to develop, and he'll probably camp at Michigan so they can work on him hard, and, god willing, Forcier will pan out and he won't be thrust into the starting job on day one. In a perfect world, Gardner redshirts and is the heavy favorite to win the job after four years of Forcier.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's nice to get the top QB target onboard early. (Yes, insert decommit crack here.) Michigan remains in dire need of quarterbacks and will pursue and acquire a second, with GA QB Blake Sims the target with the most imminent decision on tap.
PROSPECTIVE SLIGHTLY ANNOYING MGOBLOG NICKNAME
There's a lot of dreck in the googlestalking, but sometimes there's gold, too. Someone named Devin Gardner co-starred in the straight-to-DVD disaster of a kiddie movie you see at right: A KID CALLED DANGER. The man in the binoculars to the left has a sweet buckstache and is clearly cursing whatever gods allowed this child named DANGER to interfere with his nefarious plans.
Obviously, Devin Gardner is this kid called danger.
Etc.: Trieu interview.
The more you hear about the defense, the more you hear about the 3-4. An example:
Ezeh said the team's defense under new coordinator Greg Robinson would mostly resemble a 3-4 ... One defensive player whose position has been adjusted is Stevie Brown. After playing (and often struggling) at safety last year, Brown will fill a hybrid outside linebacker-safety spot in the revamped defense
But I don't think it's an actual 3-4, by which I mean a Pittsburgh Steelers style 3-4 with big space-eating defensive linemen and havoc-wreaking linebackers. 3-4 versus 4-3 is often a proxy for a more fundamental distinction between defenses: one gap versus two. Wikipedia:
Sometimes the defensive scheme says he is responsible for only one gap - it's his job to make sure the running back can't come through his gap, and the other gaps will be someone else's responsibility. In this case we say the tackle is playing in a one gap defense. The tackle will line up right in the gap, not directly facing any offensive lineman.
In other schemes, the tackle will be responsible for two gaps. In this case the tackle will line up directly facing an offensive lineman, and his job will be to push that lineman backwards and make sure the running back doesn't run past on either side of his lineman.
If you want to play a two gap scheme, you need larger stronger defensive tackles who can control an offensive lineman or even two offensive linemen. If you want to play a one gap scheme you can use slightly smaller defensive tackles who are faster and more athletic and can penetrate into the offensive backfield more often. In a two gap scheme, the tackles are supposed to control the linemen, thus making sure that no one is blocking the linebackers behind them and the linebackers are then free to make the play and tackle the runner. So in a two gap scheme, you don't expect the defensive tackles to have a large number of sacks or tackles.
NFL style 3-4s are two-gap defenses with huge nose tackles and huge, mobile defensive ends who would probably be DTs in a 4-3. In college these sorts of folk are rare and the 3-4 is decidedly unpopular.
When it does emerge you get this a lot:
The picture is small, but that's USC in 2006. Note that the nearest defensive end is in a two-point stance.
You might recognize this defense because it's the one that blew up Michigan's zone stretch in the 2006 Rose Bowl. USC used Brian Cushing as a defensive end, but stood him up. This is basically a 4-3 defense with some extra frippery: you can back Cushing off or shift the line into another set of techniques or actually use it as a 3-4, or a 5-2 by moving the other linebacker up and loading the middle of the line:
That's what USC did in the Rose Bowl, putting one player on every gap and shooting it as soon as the line moved one way or the other.
So, it's a 3-4. Brian Cushing is technically a linebacker on the roster. But it's not a 3-4, as it's mostly a one-gap defense. In the NFL these days you're hearing a lot about "hybrid" defenses that shift from 3-4 to 4-3 based on situation, and that's what USC 2006 D was. They completely shut down Michigan's powerful rushing attack by shifting to a different front.
Given the wacky nomenclature of Michigan's Herrmann-era defensive line, which had a DE, an NT, a DT, and a "rush linebacker" I'm pretty sure that Michigan defenses from the era before I was paying enough attention to know were also flexible. This is what Robinson means by "multiple fronts."
Michigan is poised to go back to the future with three down linemen, two traditional linebackers, and a couple of hybrid folk. The "spinner" is a standup defensive end who plays on the weakside, and the "Stevie Brown isn't a safety" is a hybrid linebacker/safety sort who is probably going to function a lot like Brandon Harrison did under Ron English. Michigan had a specific spot they called nickelback; that guy always lined up over the slot receiver and blitzed a ton.
So it's going to look like a 3-4 at times, and there are only going to be three guys with their hand on the ground, and some announcers but definitely not Chris Spielman will talk about it as a 3-4, but I don't think it's really a 3-4. From my admittedly amateur perspective, it doesn't make any sense to take Mike Martin, a 290 pound penetrator, and turn him into a two-gap space eater. Nor does it make sense to take terror defensive end Brandon Graham and expose him to convenient double blocking on every play. Two gap defenses will probably be a changeup and nothing more. No matter how many people say it's a 3-4, don't believe them. It's not a 3-4.
Unless, of course, it is.
"Kelvin has asked for his release from the program and we will grant that to him," said Beilein. "Over the last two years, he has been a positive influence in helping build the foundation of our program. He is a wonderful young man on and off the floor. We wish him nothing but success in the future."
The writing was on the wall when David Merritt kept getting playing time over Grady. For whatever reason, Beilein would rather have gargled windex than play him, so he made the obvious move.
Effects for next year:
- Darius Morris has virtually no competition for the starting point guard slot.
- Uh… and there's no backup point guard with the walk-ons graduating. Stu Douglass? Laval Lucas-Perry?
- Michigan now has a third scholarship for the 2010 class. The class could grow to five if Anthony Wright isn't offered a fifth year—which was a near-certainty until the first half of the Oklahoma game—and Manny Harris leaves after his junior season.
Given Michigan's need for a big, Manny-Deshawn-replacing 2010 class this is probably a net benefit for the team long term. In the short term, Grady's absence puts the onus squarely on Morris.
Hockey summer. The hockey season is over, and that means one thing: months and months of waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to sign an NHL contract. There's always at least one, so let's run down the possibilities:
- Aaron Palushaj. Palushaj was heavily rumored to be out the door last year and is even more heavily rumored to be out the door this year. The Wolverine's Michael Spath is basically saying "he gone," as is (ugh) Hockey Buzz.
- Chris Summers. A first round pick entering his senior year is always a flight risk, but Spath says a projected second depature "isn't Summers." Also, when Jerry of the Joe Cribbs Car Wash was a Saline Reporter… uh… reporter he interviewed Summers and got the distinct impression he was in for the long haul. About that second projected departure…
- Scooter Vaughn. By the end of the year Vaughn was Michigan's eighth defenseman and was being tried out as a fourth-line forward. On the blue line the only graduation loss is Mitera. With Summers returning, no other defensemen seeming like huge flight risks (Kampfer, I guess, but there haven't been any rumblings to that effect), and freshman Lee Moffie arriving in the fall, Michigan will again have eight defensemen and Vaughn is staring at an uphill battle for playing time. Unsurprisingly, he might look elsewhere.
- Caporusso, Hagelin, and Rust. There hasn't been any buzz on these guys either way because none are expected to leave. Caporusso and his shiny point totals are the biggest threat, but he was a late third round pick and Ottawa is not a team with a rep for signing kids just for the hell of it. That said, this is Michigan hockey so someone will kill us with an unexpected departure.
If the only departures are Vaughn, who is probably going to spend most of next year in a suit, and Palushaj, who everyone had already written off, that would be a win.
Spot on. Joe Posnanski's blog post on what ails sportswriting is a version of my usual complaint, except much less snotty about the whole thing:
There is still great, great sportswriting being done in newspapers, I believe this with all my heart. But that professional thing — maybe in places, there is a lack of joy. Maybe in places, there is an honorable distance. Maybe in places, the professional skepticism that we have built up through the years turns our coverage of games into hard-nosed city hall reporting. And last I checked, nobody wears jerseys that say “City Hall” on them.
That's at least part of it, with a large section of the other part being blithering stupidity. (Of which the internet has none.) Elsewhere in the post, Posnanski—who is an Actual Journalist for the KC Star and SI, if you don't know who he is—relates a formative anecdote in which he won a team-sponsored raffle and had to give it all (cooler! golf trip!) back when his hard-nosed city hall editor took the stogie out of his mouth and muttered something dark and deflating. It's an excellent example of the culture that was installed way back when, and how it turns young bucks into bitter donut-inhaling old men.
Not that Posnanski is one; he's my favorite Actual Journalist because he's the kind of person who maintains a personal blog and gets it in a way people who think typing a gamer your browser window is being "internet savvy" don't.
For a section dubbed the "toy department," there isn't a whole lot of fun on the sports pages. The erratic attempts at it only serve to confirm that the worst thing in the world is someone with an inflated impression of how hilarious they are; they're more sad than anything else. The exceptions (Wojo at the News, for one) only serve to reinforce the dull stentorian grumbling of the rest of it.
Thank you. Y'all can stick little needles in your Jim Carty voodoo dolls as you read this, but the man has done us (or at least me) a service:
Kirk Bohls is a very good columnist for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Texas. We've been fortunate to meet and interact a little at the Rose Bowl. He's used Kentucky's recent firing of Billy Gillispie to compile a list of the 10 toughest jobs in college sports.Here's the excerpt for No. 8:
8. MICHIGAN FOOTBALL: Wolverines chased off proven winner Lloyd Carr for Rich Rodriguez, but the 108,500 fans who crowd the Big House won’t tolerate losses to Toledo — much less Ohio State — for long.We'll deal with why the contention Carr was changed off in a minute, but even more amusingly, Bohls lists the Texas football job behind Michigan at No. 10. The only problem with that suggestion, of course is ... well ... actual historical record. Michigan has had four coaches since 1968. None of them were fired. The only one who resigned under pressure did so for reasons that had nothing to do with football.
|Princeton, New Jersey - 6'6" 260
|Scout||4*, #15 DE, #116 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #11 SDE, #215 overall|
|ESPN||80, #13 DE|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida, Stanford|
|YMRMFSPA||Alain Kashama… except good!|
|AA game roundup. Hello: Anthony Lalota.|
|Notes||Early enrollment. Teammate (Tyler Stockton) committed to ND.|
Anthony LaLota came to the attention of college recruiters via a very strange and nasal route: Terry Bowden. Bowden met LaLota's father at some corporate event, got LaLota's film, and then devoted one of his columns to the kid and his upside. Key graf that's not getting ahead of ourselves at all:
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.
Yes, Chris Long as in the guy taken right after Jake Long in last year's NFL draft. Schwing.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. LaLota may have Chris Long upside, but his rep was that he was big and raw. Then he showed up at 230 pounds—which you'll note is a full 30 pounds less than the number above, which was harvested from dozens of internet links and Michigan's official site—and started practicing at Greg Robinson's DE/LB hybrid spot. He could probably snap 90% of this blog's readership in half, but he's not so big in context.
He's raw, at least. Notre Dame Scout.com guy Mike Frank:
"When you watch him, he's just an extremely athletic kid that just runs real well, plays aggressively, pretty big kid that just plays very well," he said. …
"I think he's one of those 'projectable guys,' a guy who's not ready to play from day one because I think he might need a little work on technique. But he's a guy that's got so much athletic ability that you think that it'll be a short time before you see him on the field," Frank said.
Frank also called LaLota "an ideal candidate defensively."
LaLota's coach echoed the sentiments about his athleticism:
“Just an endless amount of potential. Runs like a deer; doesn’t get tired. He’s relentless just keeps going after the ball. Could play offensive or defensive tackle. Ton of potential. Only played 12 games of football in his entire life. He continues to learn, and a kid that has Ivy League grades, as well.”
His position coach agrees:
"His upside is just absolutely out of sight," adds Law, who played at Rutgers. "Right now he's still learning, but he's learning fast. He has all the natural skills to be a big-time player in college."
When LaLota showed up at the Army game, he showed off his potential… and how far he has to go. He went mostly unmentioned, but Rivals' Barry Every filed this report:
ASSETS: Excellent height, great frame and long arms.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Really needs to work on pad level at the point of attack. He cannot get by on size and strength alone against this level of competition.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Seems to be a high-effort guy that really wants to get better as a defensive end.
CONCLUSION: Most likely a redshirt candidate next season as he continues to learn his position and acclimate to playing against stiffer competition. His excellent frame is meant for long-term success.
LaLota was the only Michigan commitment of the eight who attended an All America game to not impress. Rivals chucked him down 90 spots and Scout took back their fifth star after he struggled with more experienced opposition. He remains in the 100-200 range on all three sites, so that's not a disaster.
Obviously, the Anthony LaLota word of the day is "potential." Of this he has a ton. Despite having only a single year of college football under his belt, by March schools from every BCS conference had offered, including Penn State, LSU, West Virginia, and Boston College. By June, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida had added their names to the list. Yow.
Michigan will have to wait and see whether he's the guy who got all those offers or the guy who couldn't quite hack it at the all star game. Though his stock has dipped of late, LaLota's inexperiece means he's barely scratching the surface of his ability. Think of him as a 6'4", 230 version of Press Your Luck. No whammies.
Why Alain Kashama? Kashama, a Canadian, was also a very large, extremely athletic defensive end with little experience. He did exactly nothing in his Michigan career until the very end of it, when he owned Florida in the Outback Bowl, but his athleticism took him on a five-year tour of NFL practice squads. LaLota projects better because he's better scouted and had a boatload of offers.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though the guru reliability is "high," they all say LaLota is a boom-or-bust sort. We won't know what Michigan will get out of him for at least a couple years.
Projection: LaLota showing up 30 pounds light might actually be a boon for his chances at early playing time, as he's slotted into this spinner position and, given his athleticism, seems like an excellent fit for the spot. Still, he's so new to the game a redshirt seems likely, and preferable.
Added NJ OL Jake Kaufman, FL RB Roy Finch.
Editorial Opinion: A much more manageable set of items this week. The big news was Michigan picking up a commit from Dallas Skyline RB Tony Drake, which was covered earlier. With three senior RBs and transfers from McGuffie and Horn, Michigan will be in the market for probably three tailbacks this year. Drake is a smallish zone slasher; expect one angry moose type and a wildcard to round out the class.
He will battle the evil Mingovians
Okay, words: Legaux is a dual-threat QB who's obviously from Louisiana; he's a member of the Rivals 250 and completed nearly 70% of his passes last year. Michigan is his first big offer and that article comes from Sam Webb. So, yeah, heuristics and all that: Michigan leads for a quarterback named Munchie Legaux.
Let's do this.
MN OL Seantrel Henderson is currently the nation's #1 recruit to both Scout and Rivals. He's a mountain in a helmet, and last week he visited Michigan. The trip went well:
Cretin-Derham Hall's 6-8, 300-pound junior offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson was especially impressed with an unofficial visit to Michigan the other day.
And this appears to be the barest outline of a leader for Henderson, albeit an undeclared one:
GH: Which schools do you like right now?
SH: I like all schools, I don’t have a top three or four — Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame and Minnesota — those are some of the ones I like.
GH: Do you plan on taking all of your five official visits this fall?
GH: Do you have schools that you definitely want to go see?
SH: Michigan, for sure.
Schwing! There's a long way to go with Henderson—when you're the #1 recruit you can wait until signing day, or, like, a month after.
A couple things that may affect Henderson's choice are the fate of his friend JD Pride, who Henderson would like to go to school with, and the ability to play basketball in college. Pride, a dual threat QB, has a Minnesota offer and visited Michigan with Henderson.
A foot in the door
It's supposed to be a poor crop of defensive tackles this year, so this is welcome news:
An absolute beast is Johnathan Hankins out of Southeastern High School in Detroit, Michigan. He’s over 6-3 and 300, he dominates sort of like an ornery bear, a big one. Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State are after him, Florida’s offered.
A Florida offer for Hankins would be strange. IIRC Michigan is waiting on summer camp before deciding whether or not to issue an offer, and they've had plenty of opportunity to interact with Hankins. But the above-linked is part of Gator Country, the ESPN-affiliated Florida recruiting site, and is therefore likely to be accurate.
Despite the increased competition a Florida offer brings, I'd regard the above as extremely good news. Hankins has been rumored to be a Michigan fan and lean for a few months now, and if he's got the talent to reel in a Florida offer he's likely to pick one up from Michigan. Bonus: Hankins is a high school teammate of MI DE Will Gholston. Getting a commitment from him couldn't hurt in Gholston's recruitment.
Before: cute. Now: eh, not so cute.
An extensive Sam Webb article in the News on TX LB Caleb Lavey features this picture from the Lavey family archives:
Awww. Amazingly, Lavey comes up well short of the most adorable legacy-recruit-as-kid photo. Here's current Northwestern defensive back David Arnold, the son of former Wolverine Dave Arnold, a long time ago:
Those of you who managed to keep your brains from exploding should know that Lavey is now a 6'4" middle linebacker who racked up 200 tackles last year and has offers from Oklahoma, Penn State, Notre Dame, and others. He is no longer cute. This is good for his prospects.
Lavey hasn't come out and named a leader, but the unofficial visit and his dad's background have Michigan in good shape:
"I really like Coach Rodriguez," said Caleb. "He left me no doubt in my mind that he will be able to turn Michigan around. He's a great coach and a great guy. Me and my dad sat down and talked with him. We talked about the program and what his plans are. He has a great vision for Michigan and he'll be the coach that turns it around and turns it back into the national championship Michigan that it always has been."
Another trait that stood out was the vigor with which the players practiced. "It was just unbelievable how hyped up they were and how they were just getting after each other," Caleb reported. "It was great."
It still kills me a little that Arnold never got an offer; hopefully this one works out better.
Video of people and things
Rivals' move to Yahoo's video distribution system has been a godsend. Things are tagged and organized, they work cross-browser, and the free stuff is available for embedding. The old stuff was finicky—never worked in firefox for me—and way less functional. Yahoo FTW.
Anyway, embeds. This is FL RB Corvin Lamb, a teeny tiny jet engine from Miami Northwest:
Top five is a good place to be at that point; if there's a visit it'll get serious.
And while we're on video, please enjoy the most pointless content in the history of recruiting. It's highlight video of PA CB Cullen Christian's combine performance. Christian extends his arm! Is a certain height! Jumps! Continues jumping! Etc. The best part is that 1) this was evidently televised by Fox Sports, and 2) whoever did the televising thought his name was "Christian Cullen."
Etc.: M in SC RB Marcus Lattimore's top ten; MI QB Robert Bolden says he doesn't want to go "where they are recruiting two or three quarterbacks and have a bunch of guys already." The coming Gardner commit is probably the death knell for M's chances with Bolden.