I did not make this headline up
Update 3/31: Added NJ DE Anthony LaLota, OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, AZ DE Craig Roh (offer, USC lead), CA OL Everett Benyard, CA WR Shaquelle Evans, SC QB Stephon Gilmore (article header), FL S Frankie Telfort.
Removed KS LB Jaydan Bird (OK), OH FB Zach Boren (just a feeling), TX S Craig Loston (dropped us).
Editorial Opinion: Ok. Sorry this took so long. I eventually gave up on noting all the various additions and articles as I google many of the new names. At this point things are still very fluid and providing blow by blow updates on half the country is probably not a good use of your time. So how about a general feel as to where things are going?
Quarterback. No movement from that update a while back: Michigan's looking at a half-dozen dual-threat and has no clear #1 choice now that Russell Shepard is off the board. Tate Forcier and Kevin Newsome remain the most prominent names who've mentioned Michigan amongst a leading group. There are a couple more guys who claim offers but little is known about them so far.
One upcoming event (no permalink available) that is of interest:
Chesapeake (Va.) Western Branch quarterback Kevin Newsome has said in several interviews recently that visits will play a key part in his decision. Showing his interest in Michigan, the 6-3, 215-pound quarterback has made plans to visit Ann Arbor.
"Kevin, myself, Kevin's father and [his grandfather] will be coming up to Michigan on Saturday," reported Newsome's mother Sunday evening.
Tailback. Jones is in the fold and Michigan is looking for maybe one or two more. They could take some ridiculous number with the intent of throwing them all in a pile and finding a couple guys to play slot or in the secondary.
In fact, let's just pile them together...
Wide receiver. Also a huge area of focus. I thought Michigan's WR haul was pretty respectable last year but Rodriguez and co are going full-bore after ten or so guys. Bryce McNeal, about whom more later, seems the most likely to drop to Michigan, and that possibly soon-ish. Many others are just starting their recruitments.
Between these two positions there are about 20 kids with known offers, and this is a year after Michigan took nine RB/WR/TEs. Rodriguez has made noises about getting the numbers up at the wide receiver position and it's clear he means it.
Offensive Line. This will probably be another four or five person class; there's been little movement here except consistent articles on instate OL/TE Reid Fragel, who's 6'8" and 250. Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State are all feeling him out but there are no offers on the table yet.
Defensive Line. Five-star Will Campbell was Michigan's first commit but is a little soft in that commitment; picking up Jones will probably help with that. Other than that, little movement. Some more offers have gone out to defensive ends but none seems a high probability at this point. Jay Hopson's offered every kid bigger than 250 pounds in Mississippi, it seems, but I remain skeptical about Michigan's ability to pull kids out of a place that's as deep south as it gets.
Linebacker. A ton of players here a year ago makes this an area of only moderate need, which is good. Michigan hasn't appeared on the short lists of any good prospects yet -- though they are on the longer lists of a number of players who haven't started whittling.
Secondary. Two commits, one of them a top 50 player, is an excellent start; Michigan continues to pursue a bunch of other guys, too. They have offers out to and are getting vague mentions by most of the top guys in the country, most of whom will probably head elsewhere. If they get another blue chip to go with Turner that would be outstanding; I kind of expect a lot of strikeouts and a lower profile guy or two.
At safety, Isaiah Bell's guru ratings after his early commitment will be interesting to track. Though he's not rated right now, that gushing ESPN scouting report implies he'll be a member of their top 150.
One guy worth providing blow-by-blow updates on is MN WR Bryce McNeal. Allen Wallace on McNeal:
"I'm not sure why, but my parents really like four schools," he said. "They like Colorado, Clemson, Minnesota and Michigan. My dad lives in Chicago and I live with my mom so they each have different reasons for liking these."
While McNeal says he likes each of those, Michigan is likely the favorite of those four. "They have a new head coach (Rich Rodriguez) and I'm eager to see what kind of changes they make to their offense. Also, I want to see how they do under coach Rodriguez. I think he'll be a great fit for them."
McNeal visited earlier and was impressed; he plans a return visit after he checks out Louisville's spring game. Ron English is recruiting him, which is interesting. GBW's Sam Webb on McNeal:
Expect McNeal's name to be on the rise in the coming months. He stood out from many other receivers in attendance with his ability to get separation on defenders. He often ran wide open through the secondary after a good route or a burst of speed. He also displayed good leaping ability and strong body control.
He's currently in the Rivals 250 and upward mobility from there would be good, though his offer list (the above mentioned four, Nebraska, UNC, and Iowa are the biggest names) lacks the pop of a truly OMG shirtless five star stud freak stud.
It's a little hard to tell because the below video has about four frames per second and looks like it was processed with the Atari 2600 in mind, but I think this is an impressive eight minutes of highlights:
The above-linked "Wire" area of Rivals says the McNeal visit will be the weekend of the 18th; a commitment seems a real possibility.
Appalachian State. Every one of Michigan's rivals (and, frankly, the rest of the planet) loves them some Appalachian State after The Horror, but State fans latched on to it harder than anyone else. Ohio State fans have their own -- for a given definition of "own", anyway -- accomplishments to brag on. Penn State fans have a decade of futility against Michigan and shreds of dignity and self-awareness. And Notre Dame would have lost to Appalachian State by 30. After a brief whooping period they kind of got over it.
Not so at State. Running back Jehuu Caulcrick:
"It felt like we won two games today," he said.
State is long-plagued by similar upsets -- Louisiana Tech, Rutgers before that was respectable, Central Michigan, Central Michigan again -- and improbable snatch-defeat-from-jaws-of-victory losses -- oh, God, too many to name -- so for Michigan to finally get the short end of the stick was sweet, sweet justice. Go to Michigan State's campus in the fall and you'll see so many people wearing black and yellow that you'll pull out a roadmap and mutter "how the f&#$ did I end up in Boone, North Carolina?"
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Wooo, motherfuckers, woo.
Talking about how hot the chicks are. Approach any Michigan State fan, grad, or provost and mention the words "Michigan," "Ann Arbor," or "University," and you will immediately be regaled with a dual-part homily. Part A will describe the Michigan acceptance letter the fan, grad, or provost has framed upon their wall. Part B will be a rousing encomium to the ladies of Michigan State.
Even the women will do this. It does not matter that this fan, grad, or provost might, say, be a 180 pound 5'2" woman, or, more commonly, a moderately in-shape girl with a blond dye job and a face Sarah Jessica Parker would find unpleasantly equine. She will regale you with tales of all the hot poon available for any brah with a barbed-wire tattoo and a 30 of Natty Ice.
Do you think I'm kidding? I am not kidding. The first two identifiable Spartan comments on the EDSBS "Things Maize & Blue People Like":
>> Michigan may be rocking its fair share of beddable, biddable, beautiful women
You've never actually been to Ann Arbor, have you?
Comment by SpartanDan â€” March 26, 2008 @ 1:54 pm
Concur with #42. On my HS visit to Ann Arbor, I made a conscious effort to count all the beautiful women. There were about 3. The entire day.
Also Orson, there used to be layers. Now, the ladies wear tights posing as pants. It helps a little, but still, it's a cold, hard winter.
Luckily, Oberon just came out, signaling the start of spring.
Comment by Ground0EastLansing â€” March 26, 2008 @ 1:58 pm
Their degrees may be worth $6.25 on the open market, but by God they've gotten to look at the asses of women they'll never have a chance with* every day.
*(They post comments to college football blogs.**)
**(other than the virile, model-nailing populace of this fine establishment, that is. You go, model-nailing virile commenters!)
Notre Dame Stadium. Michigan State -- MICHIGAN STATE -- has not lost at Notre Dame since 1993, a streak of six games. During that time Notre Dame has usually been somewhere between mediocre and flailingly bad, but that still has to be one of the weirdest current records in college football. I haven't bothered to look this up, but I'm willing to bet the only other teams that share that distinction with Notre Dame are teams State hasn't played since '93.
Rioting. This was going to be a cheap shot based on some long ago Final Four shenanigans until some of the brahs obliged over the weekend:
There isn't a group this side of Palestine more acquainted with the sweet smell of tear gas. I hear the Dupont '95 is developing a lovely honeyed nose, but the East Lansing police insist on using crap from South America that's well past its peak.
Update: Dude, Brah, it was intense:
Strapped like the Navy. Make sure to check the comments out.
Basketball. This is natural when you're the "state" -- or, like, "commonwealth" in Virginia -- school in any state with a flagship U-of that consistently beats the hell out of you in football, but State fans take it to a preposterous extreme. Anecdotal evidence from just last week: after Michigan took out Clarkson we decided to hang around the bar we were at for a while to catch a portion of the CC-Michigan State game, Michigan State being the one team Michigan did not want to face at any point during the tournament. At the same time, Derrick Rose and company were busy beating the everliving hell out of Michigan State.
Ann Arbor is the reluctant home of many Spartan fans and the owners of this place are alums, I believe, so the place was packed with brahs, all of whom looked like... well, probably a lot like I did during this year's Ohio State game. They were purely miserable. Meanwhile, the hockey team was a huge underdog -- a third place CCHA team playing the WCHA champs at altitude on an Olympic rink on their home ice -- and scored. No reaction whatsoever from anyone except the Michigan fans still around. They scored again. No reaction. At this point we start pointing at the televisions carrying the hockey game and begging them to pay attention to their very successful hockey team that's about to pull off a killer upset. It's halftime. Michigan State is down 30 to Memphis. And no one even looks when State scores again, because hearing Clark Kellogg say something like "JESUS CHRIST, if there are any women or children watching please turn on EWTN" is more important than actual success.
Michigan State's hockey team is the defending national champions.
I'm not sure if this is a compliment or an insult or what, but at this point State basketball fans are basically Michigan football fans, except with more brah, brah.
Anyone who does anything that harms or slightly inconveniences the University of Michigan in any way. See: Appalachian State.
300. Every Michigan fan who made the unwise decision to watch "300" spent the entire running time thinking two things: "my God those are some oily, slow-moving sixpacks," and "goddammit I bet whenever I go to a Michigan State sporting event, party, or commencement they're going to reference this movie in a really annoying fashion."
Apparently they've got a big Hoohoohoo factory in East Lansing.
Next Year. Because, man, that's the year they beat Michigan.
Chris Graham has just had tragedy befall his family:
NFL hopeful and local son Chris Graham tragically lost his sister, Jacqueline Love, in a house fire this past week -- a portable kerosene heater was the cause of the accident. Jacqueline, a single mom, leaves behind her 10-year old daughter, Jada Love. The child escaped the fire with minor injuries, but lost all of her belongings. The family is now struggling to pay for a funeral and has asked for the public's help in raising funds.
Donations can be sent to this address:
c/o Jeff Terry
4345 Forrest Manor Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Glasnost. It's no secret that Michigan has, until recently, operated at a level of paranoia and secretiveness rivaled only by Scientology. What's a secret? Everything else. Enter Rich Rodriguez as Gorbachev, and the walls come tumbling down:
For decades, the program operated under a shroud of secrecy that led to extremely limited media access. Last week, however, this reporter was able to walk right into the Schembechler complex, speak with not only the head coach but also the assistants and -- drum roll, please -- watch an entire Michigan practice.
That's Stewart Mandel, who -- like many members of the media -- has long been crotchety about Carr's... uh... crotchet-osity. Or whatever. You try turning that into an object.
Fans have been clamoring for more openness for a long time, for selfish reasons like it's nice to hear things like this:
Led up front by veterans Tim Jamison, Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson and Brandon Graham, and with both Trent and freshman All-America Donovan Warren (by far the most impressive player in practice) at cornerback, a dominant defense will likely be Michigan's best hope for a respectable transition season.
Fans love any piece of information they can get their greasy mitts on; Carr and company thought it detrimental to the program. Why? I don't know. I don't think they considered Michigan's media profile particularly important -- which it wasn't in 1969, the last time anyone updated the drapes or changed the culture around these parts -- and were loathe to let anyone know about Michigan's very tricky secrets like "run left on first play of game every game".
In 2008, things are different. Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer turned their programs into media darlings by 1) winning and 2) being accessible and, in Carroll's case, thinking everything is awesome. That tie you're wearing? Awesome. The donut you're eating? Awesome. Snoop Dogg? Awesome. Result: Shelly Smith is surgically attached to Trojan football and recruits all over the country spurn the local schools to be sixth on the depth chart. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
A quick check of any message board on the planet will reveal that every fan thinks the media is biased against their team. Incontrovertible proof: You can go to NDNation and read not-irregular complaints that NBC is biased against Notre Dame. QED, MFer. In reality, the media is mostly biased in favor of itself. Carr made their job hard by staring holes in their face whenever they asked an impertinent question and hardly ever providing the sort of access that makes a good story. Result: generally negative coverage of the program in the media. Rodriguez says "come in and watch this and I'll tell jokes about the Lion King." Result: stuff like the Mandel piece above. Media-friendly is the way to go.
Speaking of the media... the Daily meta-interviewed some of the Ann Arbor News interviewees and turned up something unethical:
Kolarik said he was misled by Ann Arbor News reporter John Heuser, who interviewed him for the story, about the article's subject matter.
"He told me it was going to be a tribute to Hagen's retirement, because he retired from one of his jobs this past fall," Kolarik said.
Kinesiology sophomore Greg Mathews, a wide receiver on the Michigan football team who was also quoted in the story, said he too felt misled about the focus of the story.
Mathews said the Ann Arbor News reporter who interviewed him - he said he didn't know who that was - told him the story would be a tribute to Prof. Hagen because he had retired from his position in the Society for Research in Child Development in the beginning of September.
I wonder if I Are Serious Editor has stopped spending every moment agonizing over Michigan's "culture of denial" and can now focus some time on an investigation that turned up almost nothing, outed embarrassing GPAs of innocent students in violation of federal law, and used unethical reporting tactics to get incriminating quotes from students who thought they were doing a professor of theirs a favor.
The administration is also looking for whoever leaked student's transcripts to the press -- which, like keeping an amphibious rodent for, uh... domestic... within the city limits, isn't legal -- and will undoubtedly fire the guy.
You remember how the News complained about the University being unresponsive and turned down an interview with Mary Sue Coleman because the U wanted it over email?
Heuser did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.
Jim Knight, managing editor of The Ann Arbor News, did not return repeated calls for comment last night.
Mmm, like rain on your wedding day except actually ironic.
Side note: back in October, Heuser acted like a dick during a press conference and got snipped at by Carr.
Why not? Rakes of Mallow, in the midst of complaining about Notre Dame basketball's nonconference schedule -- 250th in all the land:
Big Ten teams- A few years ago, the Irish played both Indiana and Michigan, a trend that sadly stopped the last couple seasons. While the team may eventually face Tom Crean's Indiana Hoosiers in Maui (one NCAA win in five seasons! As long as he can get Dwyane Wade to come to Bloomington, great hire, Hoosiers!), what's the reason for not facing Michigan, Indiana and/or Purdue on a yearly basis?
Word. Michigan and ND just locked themselves into a football contract that expires when the sun does; they're also in the same hockey conference. Why don't they play Notre Dame every year? There's an existing rivalry between the schools, ND is nearby, and the ND program is respectable but not exactly Duke or UCLA.
I briefly inhabited the city of Cork, wherein an unpleasant woman showed me a room with black plastic where a window should go, the view was nice but I decamped to Galway and that was Cork. The most bizarre biographical factoid about MGoBlog bete noire John Pollack, he of "Save the Big House" and Tiananmen Square fame: he built a boat
out of wine corks and floated it down some river. No, seriously. If you don't believe me, believe 20/20:
Pollack's childhood fantasy was to build his very own boat and sail off on a magical adventure, and he made that dream a reality.
20/20 thinks this is cute; around these parts not so much.
Hockey FR. Yost Built has "Going Upstairs" posted for Michigan's regional games and plans like editions for Michigan's games against Notre Dame this year; surprisingly there was no mention of how frustrating the refereeing was during the Clarkson game. Clarkson, like Michigan State, specialized in "good defense," which means grabbing and clutching and grabbing and interfering juuust short of a penalty unless the game is undergoing one of its periodic crackdowns on obstruction. They also specialized in punching guys in the face, which only got called sometimes.
But he had the benefit of replay, and concluded:
I should also point out that I don't think the officiating was nearly as bad as I thought it was the first time I watched the game. Most of the ones we got replays for were legit calls. A couple of bad missed calls, but overall a pretty well-officiated game, despite my earlier comments.
Ohhhhhhhh... As mentioned on the sidebar yesterday, MSU's Jeff Abdelkader signed with the Red Wings and will not return for his senior season. Yost Built notes that there is a guy on the RCMB claiming sophomore defenseman Mike Ratchuk has signed with the Flyers. Since the same guy reported both the Abdelkader and Brian Lerg (who signed with Edmonton) signings hours before the news became public, it's probably legit.
With Tim Kennedy widely expected to sign with Buffalo, State will enter next year minus four of its top five scorers, three of its defensemen, and some pointless fourth-liner. If Jeff Petry -- who, IMO, was terrific in what I saw of him -- signs with Edmonton, they might have a rough year.
Oh... snap? Jim Tressel:
"Is there a gentleman's agreement between Big Ten coaches that once a player verbally commits to a school, the other coaches are supposedly hands off?"
This was Tressel's answer, after about a one-second pause.
"I guess only between the gentlemen."
OSU's Scout site refers to this as a "thinly veiled dig"; the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, linked above, is more circumspect. Is it? It seems remarkably hypocritical to imply you're ethically superior to another coach when you yourself just tried the exact same trick. (Columbus OL Patrick Omameh picked up an OSU offer the day before signing day, just like Michigan and snake-oil-eruption-causing Roy Roundtree.) And it seems out of character for Jim Tressel, Most Boring Man On The Planet.
It kinda sounds like a dig, though. And by God I hope it is. MGoBlog's policy on trash talk is "trash talk is awesome, always."
Etc.: Tyler Sellhorn explains the flexbone, may be of relevance to option-interested Michigan fans.
While Isaiah Bell and Teric Jones are "under the radar" "sleepers" at this point in time, Justin Turner is "wicked sweet" and "maybe the best prospect in Ohio." He's currently #42 in the Rivals 100, and #137 at Scout. ESPN has him on their watch list for their top 150, saying thusly($):
Great blend of size and speed at defensive back and possesses a coveted frame for a cover corner. ... Very athletic in deep coverage with proper positioning, good range and ball skills. Excellent leaper who knows how to high-point the football. ... Turner is blessed with great athleticism and could be molded into a good corner at the next level, particularly in zone schemes, but his measurables, range and physicality are exciting when projecting as a college safety.
Turner's a generic DB, I guess; with the commitment of Bell I've moved turner to corner on the board. If Turner can be an effective corner with his size (6'2") he's a potential high first round draft pick and All-American. Hey, take it from him:
Amazingly enough, Turner never played cornerback until last season. However, the switch from safety to cornerback proved to be almost flawless, as he finished with a team-best three interceptions to go with four pass break-ups, a forced fumble, 32 solo tackles and 12 assisted stops. He added five tackles for loss and a quarterback pressure.
"All of these coaches, they like big corners," Turner said. "You really don't see 6-3 corners. The corners are usually 5-10, 6-foot. Once they see a 6-3 corner on the field with good footwork, I think it catches their eyes."
The same article notes offers from Michigan, Ohio State, MSU, Illinois, Pitt, and West Virginia as of a couple weeks ago and states M, OSU, and ZookU were recruiting him as a corner. SI's Andy Staples mentioned him in an early look at 2009's top prospects:
Justin Turner from Massillon (Ohio), has safety size (6-2, 190) and cornerback speed. He's also an excellent kick returner.
The ESPN scouting report also mentioned he could be a special teams "stud" -- ooh la la -- FWIW. Michigan will be spoilt for choice on kick returners in the near future.
- There's an interview with Turner on what looks like a school-sponsored site devoted to Massillon basketball; in it you can discover his love for math, Madden, and spaghetti.
- Fluff article from Yappi.com, from his sophomore year.
- Tremendously long article from "Massillon Proud" after his freshman year. Mom, though misguided in her college preferences, is hard on him about grades:
"Grades is a number one priority and he must maintain a certain grade point average in the classroom. If he does not, there will be a problem," she said. "If he does not meet standards, he will lose some privileges such as no Playstation. Grades are #1."
"Right now, he has maintained a 3.0 average. When we went to parent-teacher conferences, his teachers all had good praise for him."
No playstation! Monster! Also, probably no issues with qualifying.
- Scouting Ohio, as per usual, has highlights.
Editorial Opinion: It's never bad to pick up a top 50 player, especially from Ohio, and it's good that Turner was quickly reassured about Michigan after the coaching switch. If Turner can hack it as a cornerback he's got NFL all-pro protential (obviously that's way, way off).
Potentially interesting side notes: after a huge post-Marlin-Jackson drought on top corner prospects this is the third year in a row Michigan's picked up a blue chip at the position. And of Michigan's 11 under Rodriguez, six are from Ohio. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida (where he's also had good success) were Rodriguez's main stomping grounds at WVU. Pennsylvania's lagging a bit here.
Finally, an update on Isaiah Bell. Helpful readers point out that ESPN just slapped up an evaluation of Bell, placing them on their top 150 watch list and gushing:
I don't know if the "I" in Isaiah stands for interception or the "B" in Bell means big playmaker, but one thing for certain, this guy is a good football player. He shows outstanding ball skills and at 6'2" and two hundred pounds he is a big safety. Rules the secondary as a free safety. ... A magnificent kickoff return specialist. ... Bell will be a big time player at a big time college.
Emphasis mine, cause, like, dude. ESPN's entry into college recruiting has been interesting contrast with Scout and Rivals. The latter are generally rah rah about everything and anyone; ESPN takes a much more critical look at players in their scouting reports. I've never seen anything so cheerleadery from them. Two possibilities: this guy will fly up recruiting boards or ESPN just hired a new guy who doesn't quite get it.
There's also this from Duane Long, now an analyst at Bucknuts:
29. **** Isaiah Bell (6-2, 215, S; Youngstown Liberty)
Simply put, Isaiah Bell is the best safety nobody is talking about.
He has the instincts of a linebacker against the run and is a very good sized safety. The 6-2, 215 pounds seems a bit on the small side. He looks to be a bigger kid but Liberty head coach Jeff Whitaker reports accurate heights and weights.
Bell has the wingspan of a lineman. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends up growing into a linebacker. He has a nice frame and I have noticed these long limbed kids tend to fill out a good bit. He is big enough to take on blockers and still make plays but he is fast enough to make plays in the open field. Once he finds the ball, he closes like nobody's business.
But Bell has such tremendous ball skills that he could just as easily be a free safety. He has the best ball skills I have seen from a projected safety in this class.
He returned two interceptions for scores last year, including one for 102 yards, and one punt. He has more return yards off of interceptions, punts and kickoff returns than any player in this top 100.
Maybe Michigan got their teeth into a real player before he got a lot of attention?
I was going to update the recruiting board but a computer crash ate it. So: #$*((#$. Delay.
Tickets. Have received several emails about the best ticket strategy for the Frozen Four, so: I'm not an expert since I've only gone to one, that in Buffalo in 2003, but that experience leads me to believe that tickets will be available in abundance. In Buffalo you couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone hawking 4 tickets; some guys were carrying around enormous packets.
We ended up buying lower-bowl seats right behind the net where Jason Ryznar's goal was waved off (woo!) for face value; when the immense depression of that game's OT loss combined with the lethal carnie strip of "attractions" on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls border to force us home ASAP we left our (stupidly, arrogantly purchased) tickets for the final with my brother, who ended up selling them for just over half of face.
With both Colorado schools bombing out in the regionals (thanks, MSU and Wisconsin!) the situation in Denver is likely to be similar. BC is half a continent away and Notre Dame fans barely know they have a hockey program. The other ND and Michigan figure to bring large contingents, but Buffalo was much closer to participating programs and the aforementioned scenario played out.
So given all that, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea of heading out there with the intention of buying tickets on the street. Unfortunately, this year the second semi ends within an hour of the first one and there is a single ticket for both. In previous years there had been separate tickets. This scuttles the post-semi dump wherein fans of the losing team sell tickets to the second semi.
We're going to print out a Pepsi center seating chart and go for the gusto. IIRC, the athletic department tickets were lower-bowl but in the corners in Buffalo.
What? Notre Dame is selling your standard a "woo frozen four shirt" on their official site. But apparently they got theirs from a mirror universe:
This seemed like an easy opportunity to make fun, but on closer inspection it's just weird. Michigan goes out in the first round to Northeastern, which didn't even make the tournament. Northeastern then plays Wisconsin, which beat UMass -- also not in the tournament. In fact, every first-round game is wrong and the only thing the shirt got right was a second-round matchup between ND and State going to ND. So that's... bizarre. It's as if they said "hey, no one's going to believe ND is in the Frozen Four anyway, let's just go all the way with this."
Movin' on up. I previously speculated that Brandon Minor might be headed elsewhere because of the shift in offensive philosophy; initial returns on that are as good as "Porter is a creation of Hensick":
Junior running back Brandon Minor and senior cornerback Morgan Trent have become early vocal leaders of the team, Rodriguez said.
That's a week or two old. This is new:
Defensive standouts: Rodriguez listed fifth-year senior John Thompson, redshirt sophomore Obi Ezeh and junior Stevie Brown as the defensive players who have stood out in the spring.
Thompson is trying to take the starting middle linebacker job from Ezeh, who was a Freshman All-American last year. Redshirt sophomore Jonas Mouton and sophomore Marell Evans appear to be leading the way at the outside spots. Rodriguez said the linebacker corps was one of the deepest units on the team.
How are these items related? Evans and Minor both attended Varina High in Virginia. Minor was generally well regarded -- a mid four-star, IIRC, though some sites rated him as fullback -- while Evans was virtually ignored. How ignored? He's the first two-star Michigan prospect (kickers excluded) since Andre Criswell two years before, and Criswell was a last-second edition. Michigan can get a commit from the most obscure Estonian and Rivals will give Argpan Ekerbajain a third star if given a couple weeks to re-evaluate him. Evans, not so much. Michigan recruited Evans specifically because Brandon Minor told them he outworked Brandon Minor; I probably should have given him more credit.
I find the leaders at linebacker interesting for these reasons:
- Jonas Mouton was just a redshirt freshman last year but I'm going to be pretty ticked if he has a good to excellent debut season; last year he was stuck behind a mediocre to bad Chris Graham. Since the coaches were willing to boot Graham to the bench in 2007 I think he got something less than the full-on Massey treatment and Mouton might have a year like Ezeh in 2008: "promising" but pretty meh.
- Johnny Thompson and Obi Ezeh both impressing and Evans being the leader at strongside linebacker. Ezeh was a SAM until the dire situation at MLB forced him over. Presumably either he or Thompson could shift back. So if Evans does get to start he's beaten out either a returning starter or (more likely) a fifth year senior with spot starts to date.
Varsity Blue has some video from spring practice. Remember that year in NCAA when 1) John Navarre was Michigan's quarterback and 2) the option was unstoppable anyway? Yeah, watching David Cone run a triple option brings back the memories:
There's another set of clips at VB. I watched them, for what little value that provided. Main impression: holy God, Jason Kates still blocks out the sun.
I usually don't go in for the predictable photoshopped baby in the aftermath of someone bailing or complaining or something, but good freakin' lord this is creepy:
Mmm, that's good nightmare fuel. Image you'll see in your sleep tonight prompted by this Matt Hayes article in which he checks out Michigan practice and finds a distinct lack of blood orgies.
Etc.: MVictors actually cased Saline High's football field in an effort to scout out spots from which you, the fre
nzied, BTN-less Michigan nut, can espy Michigan's spring game. The internet at its best.
Who is Isaiah Bell? A guy who's likely to play safety. This is about all we know at the moment. Rivals knew nothing of his existence until he committed to Michigan. ESPN doesn't have a scouting report. Scout is similarly silent.
There is this article from a local paper:
It's been hard for Liberty's Isaiah Bell to choose which team to root for in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry since he started watching football as a kid.
His mother is a Wolverine fan, while his father cheers for the scarlet and gray.
But after 16 years, he has finally picked a team in one of the biggest rivalries in college football.
Michigan's won two of these house divided situations in the past few days: OH DB Justin Turner's mom was pro-OSU while his father was pro-Michigan.
More useful items from the article: Bell didn't play offense last year, when he was 6'3" and around 180 pounds. This year he's around 215 and will get a shot somewhere, presumably wide receiver with two D-I prospects already vying for time in Liberty's backfield, about whom more later.
First, an awesome quote from the same piece:
''He can run the football, there's no doubt about that. We saw that when he returned kicks and punts. He's got great hands, we saw that in his interceptions. And he's also in the running for the quarterback spot. How that turns out is entirely up to how he and the team progresses.''
Bell, who had ''dozens of Division [-I, presumably, sic -ed]offers,'' according to Whittaker, said he wants to play safety at Michigan, and wherever else the Wolverines need him. He said first-year coach Rich Rodriguez was the primary reason he decided to play for Michigan.
''They remind me of the coaching staff at Liberty,'' Bell said. ''It wasn't just a coaching staff, they work like a family in terms and looking out for each other.''
Blood orgies are a family value.
Other pieces of information:
- Bell plays at Liberty High in Youngstown with two other potential D-I prospects, including a running back/slot guy fantastically named "Fitzgerald Toussaint." Though Michigan's luck with awesomely named running backs has been middling -- Mister Simpson transferred to Cincinnati after a year -- Toussaint is a pretty slick running back. Check out his Scouting Ohio video.
The other guy is Julius Ferrell, who will split time with Toussaint this fall. Ferrell is a fullback who "loves hitting" and may be a fit for the Owen Schmitt role; Michigan should be able to sell the idea he'll actually get carries, along with the presence of a teammate. Both are potential Big Ten prospects; Toussaint already has a Michigan offer.
Not exactly "I heart Hart."
Editorial Opinion: Likely to be an anonymous three-star safety recruit; I generally prefer to get my anonymous three star safety recruits early in the recruiting cycle since the early offer usually means greater confidence in the eyes of the staff. This one comes with a Trotwood-like bonus, as Liberty is in possession of two more kids who are potential Michigan recruits.
Who is Teric Jones? An enigma wrapped in a riddle covered in sinew and bone and tendon that moves fast.
The Jones experience in youtube summary:
One off-tackle run in a JV game.
Jones' junior year was spent as Indiana commit Cortez Smith's backup, limiting his guru exposure. Then he did this at the Army All-American junior combine:
Although small in stature, running back Teric Jones came up big everywhere else. His 4.47 40-yard dash time was the fastest heard about all day and he put those numbers to practice in the one-on-one drills, catching several long passes down the sidelines after leaving defenders behind.
"I wanted to let everyone know that I am one of the top backs in the nation," Jones said. "I wanted to show my speed and agility and show that I am a big playmaker."
That 4.47 has been quoted as a 4.37 elsewhere, but, as always, the actual 40 time isn't the important thing. It's your 40 relative to everyone else's, and amongst a sampling of the nation's best junior recruits Jones was #1. Interest picked up after that.
Scout put together some video:
Pete Carroll was TOTALLY STOKED ABOUT HIM:
Trojans Come Calling for Jones
Detroit Cass Tech RB Teric Jones gets some love from the left coast
-by MichiganVarsity.com Mar 5, 2008
And so forth and so on. Fortunately, Jones proved to be a non-communist and stayed home.
For those concerned about his lack of status on Scout and Rivals, ESPN is already on the ball with a highly positive scouting report($):
Can attack a defense in a number of ways as a runner. Perimeter speed to take it the distance on the outside, suddenness and body-tilt to slice through the small creases in-line and deceptive strength breaking tackles. Has a natural smoothness and fluidity to him as a runner and shows good body control. A true weapon and homerun threat in space with his great burst and acceleration.
There are some concerns about his apparently inability to fight through tacklers for extra yards, but we all know the Rodriguez offense is light on pounding interior runs for the Slaton-Devine "superback" sorts. Jones is in ESPN's top 150 watch list.
Editorial Opinion: Jones' lack of playing time makes him a small risk, but he seems like a perfect fit for the spread 'n' shred and has the potential to move way up in guru estimations with a breakout senior season. He'll probably be a three star until fall; if he does well he may end up in the 100-200 range.
A potential side benefit: OMG shirtless DT Will Campbell is a Michigan verbal, but makes noises about going on visits to USC and other warm places. This is probably only a minor concern -- Brandon Graham was also an all-everything five star, also committed early, also claimed he would take trips, and then didn't go anywhere -- but it's nice to have a friend and teammate in his ear about Michigan.
Let's map out this sequence of events:
1) Justin Boren decries a "lack of family values" in the Michigan program, citing Rodriguez's unusual practice methods...
...and decides to transfer.
2) OH DB Justin Turner commits to Michigan.
3) MI RB Teric Jones commits to Michigan.
4) OH S Isaiah Bell commits to Michigan.
Blood orgies are good for business.
3/28/2008 - Michigan 5, Niagara 1
3/29/2008 - Michigan 2, Clarkson 0
Frozen Four berth
What happened? The last two years Michigan hockey seemed in the early stages of a Michigan State basketball-like gradual decline into boring super-mediocrity. Two straight first-round matchups with North Dakota resulted in two straight first-round exits. Said first round exits were the first Michigan had ever experienced since the tournament moved to twelve teams. Michigan State added insult to injury by clutchigrabbing themselves the national title.
Then out the door went the shoulda-Hobey winner TJ Hensick, God himself Jack Johnson, and dynamic sophomore center Andrew Cogliano. Johnson and Cogliano spent the entire year in the NHL; Hensick got in 31 games. Three other defensemen, including captain Matt Hunwick, graduated, as did useful forward David Rohlfs. The media and coaches picked Michigan an apocalypse-inducing fourth in the CCHA.
Fast forward through a bunch of goals for, not many against, and you get this year's inexplicable finish: the top overall seed, 33-5-4, and favored to beat Notre Dame, make the NCAA championship game, and win Michigan's tenth national title.
Uh... what? What the hell happened here? And how can we make it happen to everything else? An exploration below.
But first, one thing that's not the cause:
TJ and Jack say seeya. Michigan looks like a quintessential Ewing theory team: lose the big stars, instantly much better. I am here to say bunko, pal. Bunko. The problem with last year's team was not the nation's leading scorer, his 45 assists, his +24, or his 19% shooting percentage. Nor was it Jack Johnson, his 16 goals and better than PPG scoring pace, and his 30-35 minutes a night.
Sometimes I read things on the internet and they often claim that one or both of the above guys was somehow selfish or lazy or was not properly leader-y, and I don't get it. Hensick killed penalties as a senior, was tied for third in shots despite having more ice time than any other forward, and had the highest plus minus on the team. Jack reigned in his wild freshman year, saw his PMs halve, and was just generally the best player -- period -- I've ever seen at Yost.
It wasn't them.
It was this:
Sauer. Obviously. When you go from a .896 save percentage to a .927, you have significantly increased your team's chance of victory.
How much of this is an improvement in Sauer himself and how much of it is a more committed team defensive effort? It's obviously a mix of both; Sauer has a hand in it. Check last year's stats:
With the same same roster -- I guess Michigan did lose the most statistically ineffective hockey player they've had in a decade when Jason Bailey left at midseason -- and only a modest drop in shots faced, Sauer went from eye-wrenchingly horrible (a save % of .884 would have been good for 66th of 73 goalies who registered enough minutes to qualify last year) to average (.914 would have been 27th, just ahead of Jeff Lerg). This was a quantum leap in performance largely obscured by Sauer's first-half performance. It's hard to say "hey, this guy is playing pretty well" when the statistics still have that ugly "8" after the decimal point.
When people did notice this they kept it under their breath in case, say, most of the way through the best game of his career he went for a stupid poke check and let in an ugly goal that cost Michigan the CCHA playoff championship and the ensuing mental trauma resulted in seven North Dakota goals in something like four minutes in the NCAA tournament. Hypothetically.
And this year?
Hey, good job Billy. And look at that, a significant drop in shots against. Hmmm...
The freshmen defensemen are outplaying last year's senior counterparts. I can tell because there is always at least one defenseman in my personal doghouse at all times. Said defenseman is responsible for all turnovers, goals, and undesirable global climactic
changes until such time as someone else enters the doghouse, they graduate, or -- in the case of Jeff Jillson -- a hockey team that drafted you way too high throws a bunch of money at you.
In that light, three enduring memories from the 2006 and 2007 teams:
- Michigan is tied or leads by a goal against some team late. I think they're leading, because it seemed at the time that caution was called for. The opposing team gains control of the puck behind their own net and throws it up the wall. The puck's a good foot or two off the ground and traveling at a high rate of speed; Matt Hunwick decides this is the perfect time to practice his I'm-a-ninja-let's-knock-this-blowgun-dart-away skills, rushing forward and taking a wild swing at the puck whizzing by him. The ensuing two-on-one results in a goal.
- Jason Dest blatantly crosschecks a guy to the ice while killing a penalty, drawing another penalty. Dest throws his arms in the air, disgusted. The guy he's crosschecked to the ice gets up and, unchecked, taps in a goal.
- Tim Cook, just in general.
Aside from a couple groan-worthy Langlais moments that were, IMO, not nearly enough to erase his consistently excellent play, has anything like this occurred this year? No. I literally cannot remember Scooter Vaughn or Tristin Llewellyn doing anything important all year. That's fantastic when you're freshmen defensemen on the #1 team in the country.
Do the stats back me up here? I think they do, at least slightly.
Dest last year: 1-10-11, +6. Cook: 0-4-4, +11. Hunwick: 6-20-26, +24
Vaughn: 0-4-4, +10. Llewellyn: 0-5-5, +9, Langlais 0-19-19, +20, "Other" (Quick): 2-2-4, +8.
That's about the same number of points and the same +/- (albeit in about 16 extra games between the four freshman) from four freshmen as the three seniors from last year. I know points and +/- are not great metrics -- if I had schmanzy stats like some of the NHL bloggers I would use them -- but there is also the lack of on-ice hatred for any of these guys.
Even if they're not actually better than the seniors, Chris Summers is better than he was as a freshman and so is Kampfer and so is Mitera.
I think there is one outstanding statistical anomaly that proves 1) it warn't Jack's fault, and 2) whatever the second and third defensive pairings were doing was messed up. This is it: Cogs last year: 23-25-48, +7. Kolarik: 18-27-45 +13.
Those two were the second line, basically. A rotating cast of Turnbull, Naurato, Miller, and others filled the other wing. Kolarik is awesome this year and was pretty darn good a year ago; Cogs has 45 points in the NHL thi
s year. Usually Jack came out with TJ and the first line, IIRC, and then saw another shift when the second or third line was out there. The second line was prime Dest-Cook territory, and those plus/minus results speak for themselves.
Kevin Porter was not a creation of TJ Hensick. One of the occupational hazards of putting your opinions on sports on the internet is that sometimes you write stuff like this:
We're about to find out if Kevin Porter, top five scorer, was entirely a creation of TJ Hensick. Survey says: hell yes. He's still probably the team's best player, but is uninspiring as those go.
Ha-HA! I suck.
Porter is the nation's leading scorer and since he hasn't taken any misconduct penalties will win the Hobey Baker on Friday. What's more, Red credits him with the work ethic and discipline shown by the entire team. When he missed practice Wednesday with a flu something or other, Michigan had what may have been its worst practice of the year.
And Chad Kolarik is just as good. Porter's going to win the Hobey, as he should, but Kolarik is the #6 scorer in the country and has transformed himself from a second-line offense-only forward (just +13 last year on 45 points) into a premiere penalty killer and effort guy. When he popped his hamstring against Lake State he new something was very wrong, but it was a five on three so he got to a knee and made himself a nuisance. Lake State did not score.
In both these guys, Michigan finally has a pair of senior top-liners on a par with the monster combos like Sertich and Sterling and all those guys from like UMD or Miami who are pretty good hockey players for a while until something finally clicks and they lay waste like McBain.
Virtually every freshman met or exceeded expectations. The jury is still out on Brian Hogan and Kevin Quick is an ex-Wolverine. I've discussed the defensemen. The forwards:
- Max Pacioretty. First line-mainstay who was a bit of a passenger for the first half of the season before having a TJ-like breakout second half. Now a PPG scorer.Superb passer, excellent size, good shot. Fits in with Porter and Kolarik beautifully.
- Carl Hagelin. Bork, man, Bork. 10-10-20 with almost no power play time. Lighting fast skater who works his ass off every shift; guaranteed to get in three or four "holy crap!" backchecks per game, and who says "holy crap!" after a backcheck? Right. Odds on favorite to be top line center at the start of next year.
- Aaron Palushaj. You can see he's right on the verge of using those slick hands to pour in goals; as it is he's 10-31(!)-41 without the luxury of playing with Porter and Kolarik much. Probable top-line winger next to Patch and Hagelin next year.
- Matt Rust. Also a wicked fast skater. 11-10-21 with hardly any power play time, good faceoff guy. Key second-line player, excellent defensively, played with broken leg the past couple weeks.
- Louie Caporusso. Missed a month with an injury; came back and had 12-9-21 in 32 games. Smallish, skilled centerman closer to Andrew Ebbett than Cammalleri in overall talent, still a good bet to be a second-line center next year. Needs a talented winger to go with Turnbull.
- Ben Winnett. Winnett was the only real disappointment this year. He had a nasty injury that cost him half of his last junior season but prior to that was scoring at nearly the same pace as teammate, first round pick, and Cornell freshman star Riley Nash. He went in the fourth round of the draft -- two rounds before Hagelin -- and ended up puttering around the third and fourth lines doing little. 6-5-11 isn't too bad for a guy who didn't get much time; it's the "didn't get much time" that's an issue. Showed some flashes of talent late in the season.
Everyone of these guys was a significant contributor save Winnett, and there are no Fardig-Bailey-Brown-Miller-MacVoy sorts in the bunch; every one is a potential scoring line player with offensive skill to spare.
The key to this recruiting class is the success of Hagelin, Langlais and Vaughn. All were relatively late pickups, which usually nets you questionable third or fourth line sorts and last pairing defensemen. Each of these guys showed up ready to play and will be mainstays for the next four years unless Hagelin gets really, really good and the Rangers sign him.
There are just a lot more good players. Okay, out went three excellent players: Jack, TJ, and Cogs. Out went two more good to average players, depending on how much you think of Matt Hunwick: Hunwick and Rohlfs. Out went three bad players: Dest, Cook, and Bailey.
I am of the opinion that Michigan picked up three excellent players -- Patch, Hagelin, Palushaj -- five good players -- Langlais, Rust, Caporusso, Llewellyn, Vaughn -- and one average one -- Winnett. Combine that with the slow and steady morph of Billy Sauer from an awful player to a good, maybe great one, and wham:
No, seriously. Flights out of Chicago are around 220 now -- yesterday there were in the 170s. Tickets will be available at face or below in Denver with both local schools knocked out. Hell, Notre Dame fans, it's your first Frozen Four ever. Go! Taste the sting of defeat, but go!
1) After a tense first period last night, Michigan blew the doors off Niagara and faces Clarkson (7 PM, ESPNU) in the regional final tonight.
2) Justin Turner, an Ohio DB from Massillion, Shawn Crable's old school, committed yesterday. Turner's currently in the top 50 at Rivals.
3) Teric Jones, a lightning-quick MI RB who turned in the fastest 40 at the Army All-American combine, just committed.
I'll have google-stalks of the new commits early next week; am in full-on-hockey mode.