"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Upchurch – MGoBlog
Michigan’s first stroke of bad luck came late in November: the Wolverines had just lost a hard-fought contest to eventual 1-seed Villanova in Brooklyn, but starting point guard Derrick Walton suffered some sort of toe injury – one that would affect him for the remainder of the year, eventually sidelining him for good in late January. It was evident that the injury sapped Walton of his explosiveness, both vertically and running in the open floor, but he played through it until his other foot was injured, most likely due to overcompensation for his original injury.
After a disappointing sophomore campaign, it’s prudent to recall exactly how good Walton was as a freshman. He started all but one game for a team that would come to the brink of a return trip to the Final Four and excelled in a modest role on offense. Derrick got better throughout the season: he posted a gaudy offensive rating (120.8) on a not-insignificant usage rate (18.4) in conference play while posting the fourth-highest free throw rate of qualifying players in the Big Ten; he was arguably Michigan’s best perimeter defender; he shot 41% from three on the season on 105 attempts. Expectations were naturally quite optimistic for the highly-touted Detroit point guard entering his sophomore season.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of Walton’s struggles were due to his injury, the stark decline in talent around him, or the burden of an increased role on offense, but the drop-off was so severe that the injury is the best explanation. After shooting an impressive 59% at the rim as a freshman, he shot 41% inside the restricted area as a sophomore – evidence that his toe was clearly bothering him. Derrick was still called on to play just shy of 40 minutes a game (barring auto-bench foul trouble in the first half) and, even though Spike Albrecht played well down the stretch, Walton was clearly Michigan’s first option at the point guard spot before his season-ending injury.
* * *
[After the jump: let's go back to the beginning]
Oblig coach obit. Don't get on my case, man.
I mean, he gave Penn State a free shot at the endzone by taking a timeout with three seconds left in the first half.
What do you do with that? How do you put that into your ongoing calculations? Add that datum to the rickety mess that is your ever-shifting, often-hypocritical, prone-to-explode model of your favorite thing in the world, and what happens? I don't know. The brain elects not to travel down that path. The future ceases to exist, replaced by only the ever more nonsensical present. All series diverge. Projection is impossible.
Let's jam that thing in anyway.
Not an improvement, but not any worse either. At that point such a thing was almost expected, after the previous year's offensive line roulette and 27 for 27 and two minute drills that usually took five minutes. Time for some maniacal giggling, then.
On the bright side, even three-and-a-half years deep into a coaching tenure that resembled nothing so much as Wile E. Coyote sauntering off a cliff Brady Hoke still had ways to surprise you.
Brady Hoke should never have been Michigan's football coach. This was apparent from the start, as at the time of his hire he had two assets: the fool's gold of an undefeated MAC regular season and a reasonable, if truncated, turnaround job at San Diego State. Aside from that he had five seasons of average MAC ball and zero years as a coordinator. Even the breakout year at Ball State ended with consecutive blowout losses to Buffalo and Tulsa.
When you stake your program to a resume like that you're as likely as not to come out the other end with Tim Beckman or Tim Brewster or Darrell Hazell. An infinite number of nondescript gentleman have had the ball bounce the right way during the furball that is a season in the Mid-American. Some of them populate the lower rungs of the Big Ten when Purdue can't think of anything better.
And then there's Bo.
Bo was on another level, having gone 27-8-1 in league play in six years with Miami. Even he was widely derided. Here is that picture again.
In the center is a man who has made a Decision. It's no exaggeration to say that Michigan's best and… most recent athletic directors staked their careers on whether they could separate coaching talent from noise.
All these years later, you get why Canham rolled the dice on Bo. Bo was a legendary hardass who took nothing from anyone and comfortably existed atop the roiling mass of chaos that is any football program, successful or not. He chewed out players on the sidelines, sent them back in the game, and cracked impish smiles at the reaming he'd just handed to the young man. He has a gravitas that stays with the program—veritably looms—a decade after his death. Bo had the proverbial It, and you can understand how he communicated that to Canham in whatever passed for a job interview between them.
That understanding will permanently elude historians attempting to discern what comparable force of personality Brady Hoke brought to a press conference in the Junge Center in January 2011.
There was a moment, though. Now it's hard to remember that Brady Hoke had two years in which it seemed he was indeed gold that does not glitter. Hoke gruffly intoned "This Is Michigan, fergodsakes" in response to a question nobody remembers. He wore short sleeves in weather ranging from torrid to frozen. His matter-of-fact declarations and tough toughness were his tentpoles. We hung a great edifice of hope on it; Hoke going to and winning a BCS game in year one provided buttresses and filigree and whatnot to the structure.
At a few years remove it's clear that Hoke stumbled ass-backwards into that success. Few 11-2 seasons have been jankier than Michigan's 2011. The Notre Dame game that kicked things off was a deranged exercise in winning against double coverage; Michigan threw 41 times for 2.8 YPA against Michigan State; they had 166 yards of offense before chuck-and-pray time against Iowa; they were one overthrown Braxton Miller pass away from losing to a .500 OSU team; they won that bowl game with 184 yards of total offense.
The signs were all there, even in the moment ("lucky as hell," quoth this space in the aftermath of the Denard After Dentist game). I alternated between excitement at the idea of a head coach who had an innate aggressiveness on fourth down and wondering why the hell they thought Denard Robinson could be Tom Brady.
But the games were won, and the recruits rolled in. Hoke seemed to stroll through a garden of four-stars gathering what he would. For a year or two, everything seemed just fine. In 2013, Michigan beat Notre Dame rather easily. Michigan fans were walking on air. Then someone looked down.
Rarely in the history of college football has a fanbase been jerked so rudely to attention as already beleaguered Michigan fans were in 2013. The relatively straight line that was the Hoke era turned into a harrowing plunge straight into the bowels of second-and-eleven-play-action hell. Save for an inexplicable Ohio State game, Michigan became the most brutally unwatchable team in the country the instant they left the field against Notre Dame.
Hoke was the same person through the good bits and the bad. He was gruffly nonsensical to start and gruffly nonsensical to end. As success turned to failure, the things we liked about him became the things we hated about him. Remember when this was hilarious?
That joke isn't funny anymore.
Despite the fact that people will still swear up and down that Brady Hoke is a great dude, I have less charity in my heart for him than I did Rich Rodriguez when it came to write his obit. A slice from that piece:
Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit.
Hoke was that coachbot even in impossible circumstances. By the end so many indignities had piled up that I was waiting for him to snap.
It never came. He endured the brutally painful press conference following last year's Minnesota game as a coachbot. He released a statement apologizing to Michigan State for Joe Bolden putting a small piece of metal in their field. At no point did he bite the head off a reporter, or say that his boss had sold him down the river, or do anything at all other than repeat the same goddamn things he'd been repeating for two straight years.
I liked Rodriguez because he seemed like a person who reacted to stimuli. He reacted too much, but at least you could see that he was processing information and coming to conclusions about what it meant.
Hoke did not do this. Whether Hoke was stoic or insensate is in the eye of the beholder; given the chaos around the program my vote is the latter. He seemed to shut down in terror when his dream job turned to a nightmare.
As the competence of his team deteriorated, Hoke shuffled his coaching staff nonsensically instead of making real changes. He stuck with his terrible punt formation and a style of offense unsuited for his quarterbacks. Even after it was clear his disastrous program could not be allowed to continue—the financial ruin it would cause must have been apparent to even Michigan's most recent athletic director—nothing changed. If Hoke thought he had a chance, well, he also called timeout to give Penn State a free Hail Mary.
At least Nero fiddled. Brady Hoke stood there in the rain without so much as shaking a fist at the heavens.
After Tyus Battle took the last available scholarship in the 2016 class only to decommit and cause Michigan to lose out on fellow five-star wing Josh Langford, it looked like John Beilein's strict adherence to not oversigning—even in the attrition-heavy environment of major conference college hoops—cost Michigan their shot at an elite wing, especially after they accepted the commitment of three-star Ibi Watson last week.
Sam Webb hinted in the wake of Watson commitment that was not, in fact, the case. When Webb broke the news that five-star wing Miles Bridges, a Flint native who plays for Huntington (WV) Prep, would visit on Monday, the picture became clear: Michigan is changing their recruiting tack and they're not done recruiting wings.
Michigan had been the only school in Bridges' top five not to offer him, since he hadn't taken a visit to Ann Arbor yet. That changed following Monday's visit, according to Webb. While Kentucky and Michigan State are the favorites to land Bridges, there's reason for optimism. Bridges is AAU teammates with top point guard target Cassius Winston, and they've mentioned a desire to play together in college. [Insert caveat about package deals here.]
This is a significant shift for Michigan, as it'd mark a change in Beilein's willingness to project attrition when recruiting. The Wolverines need a point guard in this class; it's expected commit Austin Davis will take a prep year and reclassify to 2017 to make room for one. There isn't an obvious way to make room for one more, but Beilein isn't exactly at risk of going Full Crean (never go Full Crean); with the logjam at the three and the four, plus the potential for a Zak Irvin breakout year, it'd be a surprise if every eligible member of this year's team was back in 2016-17.
It's a lesson learned the hard way, but it looks like Beilein took note of what happened with Battle and is making the requisite adjustments to his recruiting strategy.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|Manlius, NY – 6'6", 260|
|Scout||4*, #279 overall
#25 DE, #1 NY
|Rivals||4*, NR overall
#13 TE, #1 NY
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#12 TE, #1 NY
|24/7||4*, #323 overall
#13 TE, #1 NY
|Other Suitors||Bama, UCLA, USC, UF, FSU, Oregon, PSU, Wisconsin|
|YMRMFSPA||Tyler Ecker or Levine Toilolo|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Semper Fi game. Son of—surprise!—Tyrone Wheatley.|
The second consecutive junior on our recruiting profile series is also the son of a Wolverine legend, one who happens to be the running backs coach. Tyrone Wheatley's kid is not a sprinter, though: he's a 6'6", 260 pound jumbo athlete who could play on either side of the ball.
This sounds like a person fated to play for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. It is possible Wheatley Jr's very existence set in motion the series of events that ended with Jim Harbaugh stumbling to the podium in January. But for the longest time it didn't seem like the younger Wheatley was particularly interested in Michigan. It was in fact USC, UCLA and Alabama that were thought to lead until his dad was hired. Michigan wasn't even on his list for a minute there.
But all's well that ends well, and Michigan has a… large gentleman. The recruiting sites don't really know what position he's going to be; neither do I. They generally came around to the idea he'd be a tight end late, with a couple flipping his position in their last updates. The impetus for this appears to be his appearance at the Semper Fi game, where he demonstrated a certain skill($) Michigan has been badly lacking in their tight ends for a while now:
He's a big, strong, physical tight end prospect … I talked to an analyst who watched him all week at the Semper Fidelis All-Star game practices and said he was knocking people off the ball and dominating other elite defensive end prospects at the line of scrimmage. … got the length and athleticism to block a speed rusher or a quicker outside linebacker and can hold his own against a big 3-4 defensive end. In the passing game, Wheatley is still raw but he's got very soft and secure hands.
Neither the blocking proficiency or the receiving inexperience is much of a surprise. Wheatley caught just 11 passes as a senior on a team that barely threw the ball. Just about all of them are in the reel above. The elder Wheatley talked to Sam Webb about it:
"…you really won’t see him blossom as a tight end because of the offense that they’re in. … when they do target him, he is double covered and the ball is sometimes overthrown, underthrown. You really won’t see him blossom in that regard. The kid has mitts. He can catch the ball. He has great range for a big fellow. He has great catching radius. He can catch the ball over his shoulder, adjust."
That was mostly confirmed by other scouting reports. This one is a bit wobbly but I mean basically:
Wheatley Jr. is a menace. He has a wide body and impressive strength. And while he usually shines as a blocker, he made his presence known in the passing attack on Friday. He didn't look pretty catching passes at all times. In fact, he fought the ball on occasions, but he always made the catch when targeted.
ESPN described something similar to "fighting the ball" in their report, citing some "tightness" when he tries to adjust to a ball in flight. That seems to be the inverse of when a guy gets praised for his body control. Wheatley might not be the most agile guy, and that is why the recruiting sites don't have a ranking for him commensurate with his offers.
I was under the impression that Wheatley Jr was a bigger deal in the rankings than he actually was. When you have an offer list like that out of New York you're usually a no-doubter. So it's a surprise that he makes a top 300 just once and ESPN offers up a three star rating.
Those offers were seemingly sincere. I went back and checked out some 247 articles from schools in pursuit and there was no mention of whether he was a "take" or not, just excitement and optimism they might lock him down. I mean, he took an official to Tuscaloosa in late January.
But I get it. If Wheatley's a TE there's a lot of projection you have to make from that particular offense in upstate New York to one that throws in college. Scout put him on their list of the top five kids "best served to redshirt":
… has a world of talent. If he plays tight end in college, he will have to drop some weight. If he plays defensive end, he will need to refine his technique.
And Wheatley does not demonstrate the ability to blow the top off the defense like a Fleener or an OJ Howard. (Or a Funchess, if Funchess was a tight end, which he is emphatically not.) ESPN is the only service to give him three stars and that lack appears to be their main issue with him:
very good height and a lengthy frame that can still support more good mass … Doesn't demonstrate the burst or top-end speed to stretch the field … Size and reach can make a tough match-up, but doesn't display great burst out of breaks to consistently run away from defenders and create separation. … good hands with the ability to extend and catch away from his frame. Displays ability to reach up and snag passes thrown above his head. …not always natural when having to open up frame and adjust.
The snippets of Wheatley as a receiver above confirm that, but there is still some upside here. Wheatley pushed up to 270 at points during high school before getting back down to 260. He is still developing physically, and might drop to 250 and up his quicks, or he might end up 280 and be a road grader (or DE).
And what about defensive end? Certainly a possibility. Both his dad and his coach think his maximum upside is there:
"His dad has been on record as saying he's a better defensive player. I would probably go there. I think he's an amazing defensive end. He's a great tight end as well, but the things he's able to do, he's able to dominate games at defensive end."
Early in his high school days he mostly chose DE when he went to camps, and his showings there spurred the flood of early offers from heavy hitters:
…far and away the best player at the camp. The Rivals250 defensive end has added a lot of strength to his core and it helped him play with good leverage. Wheatley used that strength to help push offensive linemen out of the way en route to the quarterback. He also showed very good technique, beating offensive linemen inside and outside.
His stats are certainly more impressive at that spot, although mostly because they don't hand out stats for making kids two dimensional.
Given what we saw this spring, I guarantee that in 2016 we get reports that Wheatley is playing on both sides of the ball. You know, just in case. Whether he sticks there will depends partially on how he's doing as a DE and partially on how much Harbaugh likes Bunting, Hill, McKeon, et al. versus Wormley, Johnson, Marshall, et al. Given the two DEs in this recruiting class and Harbaugh's predilection for TEs, the bet here is that he stays on offense. You never know, though.
Why Tyler Ecker or Levine Tiololo? Ecker is your Michigan comparison: a hefty but reasonably agile tight end able to be a dual threat. Ecker is infamous for the end of that Nebraska bowl game, but when he was not doing that he was a B+ athlete who was a solid starter for Michigan. Wheatley is a bit bigger, and Ecker was not regarded as an especially punishing blocker. Hopefully Wheatley would be Ecker++.
Tiololo is the Harbaugh comparison. At his Cardinal apex, Harbaugh's three-headed TE troika included Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, and Levine Toilolo, all of whom went in the the NFL draft. The 6'8", 260 pound Toilolo was the biggest and most ponderous of the group—Fleener ran a 4.52 40 at 250 pounds!—but still a highly effective weapon thanks to his catching radius and the fact that he could generally outrun people who started the play going the wrong way.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. General consensus seems based on a shruggie emoticon about where he'll play. Level of competition and style of offense makes TE evaluation difficult. Did hit a number of camps as an underclassman and played in Semper Fi game.
Variance: High. Could be a killer. Could be just okay.
Ceiling: High. At either end or TE has the ability to play in the NFL.
General Excitement Level: High. Harbaugh/Drevno TEs tend to be excellent and Wheatley provides enticing clay for them to work with. None of Harbaugh's NFL TE troika were ranked anywhere near Wheatley.
Projection: Likely he plays as a freshman. Harbaugh loves him some tight ends and Wheatley may be better prepared to be a second blocker than Ian Bunting, who is still listed 20 pounds lighter than Wheatley is. Khalid Hill was out this spring, as well, so Harbaugh is unfamiliar with him. Easy to see Wheatley as the second inline tight end in goal line/Harbaugh packages.
From there, he'll probably continue being the blocky sidekick to Michigan's slightly quicker tight ends. Butt has another year left after this one and Bunting should be rounding into a Michigan version of Fleener or Ertz; Wheatley will get a ton of time and will hopefully be the unsung hero that gets ++++ in UFR.
I'm going to try out a new feature on the site where we track the secondary ticket market. I've been coming to games on somebody else's tickets nearly all my life; in fact the last time I paid for my own season tickets was 2001, my last year as a student. Before that my dad and I went with various family friends, and since then I've used just about every method in the world to get into Michigan games. If you find this cheap, especially for someone who's such Wolverine nut he writes about it for a living, remember I write about Michigan for a living.
This hardly qualifies me as an expert, so this feature will lean on data and other experts, including our ticket partners TiqIQ, and you. I want to make this interactive. We'll watch the prices of upcoming games, share tips, and maybe give away some free ones that come by.
THE HARBAUGH EFFECT
Amidst THAT, last year was the easiest in history to get into the Big House. I personally found a free ticket for every home game I could drag myself to (I was at home for Utah and Maryland). Given the amount of seats given away to every local charity, church organization, and student group to pop their heads into Schembechler Hall, if you got your tickets for the price of two Cokes, you probably overpaid. Sites that had to stick to face value couldn't move any.
This is now different. Demand for Michigan football tickets on the secondary market is up an average of $100 per ticket from last year on TiqIQ's site, and it's the same story on Stubhub. Having Michigan State and Ohio State home of course affects that—the Penn State game was the only game that was even at $200 before the bottom fell out of the market after Notre Dame. Anyway last year was a historic, ridiculous low; this year seems about the Carr norm. Harbaugh!
THE NEXT GAME
I pinged the guy from TiqIQ about what's going on with those:
I would say to get them now as the average price for the Utah game has risen by $40 since July 28th from $343 to $385
For me those prices are "I guess I'm not going" level. The "average" price isn't a real price—the low of the market is where they're trading, not the middle—but the rise is real. That's a tiny stadium about to be descended upon by thousands of Harbaughians who want to see his first game.
It's a seller's season right now, with season tickets sold out and individual games already down to one or no seats available by the time it hit the open market. But August is also the "hey, let's plan our trip this year" month, so prices for marquee and even half-interesting games will slowly creep up between now and kickoff. It will take a loss to reset them (it always does).
In a week of tracking prices on TiqIQ (which collates all the smaller markets), Stubhub, and Craigslist (Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit), here's where prices stand, per ticket for two or more seats together:
|Season Tix||$900||$650||Now||You can turn OSU/MSU around for $500. Hype will build through August.|
|@Utah||$275||$142||at dip.||People traveling want to be sure they'll get in, small stadium.|
|Oregon State||$85||$62||tossup||If we lose to Utah these will drop to $30.|
|UNLV||$45||$33||at game||Hangovers are stronger than the will to see M play a high school team.|
|BYU||$72||$51||at dip.||Home game after two wins should be good.|
|@Maryland||$85||$56||Now||M fans are going to drive this market way up even if we lose to BYU|
|Northwestern||$80||-||wait.||See how the season's going.|
|MSU||$194||$130||at dip.||Always a hot ticket because in-staee brahs.|
|@Minnesota||$78||-||wait.||No idea how the Minnesota secondary market works now—last time I went was Metrodome, which had unlimited seats. Help?|
|Rutgers||$43||$33||at dip.||Ungh. Every year.|
|@Indiana||$63||$56||at game||M fans drive up price, Hoosiers will be in SELL SELL SELL mode by Nov.|
|@Penn State||$145||$125||Now||PSU fans on the other hand...|
|Ohio State||$217||$141||wait.||If the season's going Harbaugh, this will go up.|
The interesting one has been Oregon State. On one hand it's the first Harbaugh home game, so people are loathe to sell for less than face this far out. On the other hand, it's Oregon State. The market speaks loudly about which teams interest them—UNLV is already below face for any "get me in there" level. Rutgers is right there with UNLV—and we play them every year now!
Once the first game comes the market for the less marketable games is going to drop further, since the people who couldn't sell their season tickets will be getting what they can for OSU. Already Craigslist is filled with people offering "and UNLV!" with some ticket people want.
The least expensive ticket for almost any home game will be found within 10 minutes of kickoff at the corner of Stadium and Main. Other gates and the walk to them have a lot of the same types of "my wife stayed home with the sick one, so you'll be sitting with me and my son" last-second deals. Does not apply for any game selling over face, but that should only be the two rivals this year.
BEST DEAL RIGHT NOW (that I can find on the sponsor's site because let's support people who support us okay?)
Penn State or Michigan should be having a good enough season, and have big enough traveling fanbases, to make two lower bowl, center-end zone seats for $116 each out the door seem tempting as hell.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
This edition is kind of a test balloon for something I'll be running all season like every other week. What else do you want to see?
Hello. I badgered John Bacon for an advance copy of his new book BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS , and John said to me "that is not the title of the book," and I said back to him "yes it is," to which he said "no it is not," and so forth and so on.
Several hours later he agreed to provide me one if I would, just once, say that the book's title is in fact "Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football." The previous sentence has discharged that obligation.
Anyway, I tore through BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS in a couple days. Bacon asked me what he should cut, and I said nothing, and then he said seriously, and I told him to restore various things that had already been cut. I am extremely unhelpful.
I asked Bacon if we could run an excerpt. He said yes, but we had to wait for the people who pay money to have their window of exclusivity. I said well what else can we run, then, and we settled on a Gimmicky Top Five list of book revelations. This is that list. Bacon's got the text between the dashes.
1. Dave Brandon was highly controversial as an AD candidate.
Michigan had the luxury of choosing among three candidates who were experienced, successful Division I athletic directors with deep ties to Michigan. But President Coleman asked the committee to interview a fourth, less conventional candidate: Dave Brandon.
Because Coleman made it clear she wanted Brandon to be the next AD, one Regent asked why she didn’t just appoint him, but she insisted on having a search committee. The committee had trouble deciding who the most qualified candidate was, but not the least: Dave Brandon. More than one member of the search committee told more than one Regent that Brandon was the least impressive candidate on the list. Despite pushing back several times, the committee members finally acquiesced to Coleman’s wishes and picked Dave Brandon.
2. The 2011 pursuit of Jim Harbaugh was half-hearted at best.
Among insiders, it’s debated even now if Brandon really wanted Harbaugh to become Michigan’s next head coach in 2011. “I do believe Dave wanted Harbaugh,” one member of Brandon’s leadership team told me, “but he wanted Jim on his terms.”
Brandon waited six weeks after the Ohio State game to fire Rich Rodriguez, even though it would have benefitted almost everyone to make the decision sooner; he rarely contacted Harbaugh, and declined to visit Harbaugh in person—sending not Michigan’s highly paid search consultant Jed Hughes, either, but Hughes’s subordinate, a young man named Philip Murphy.
After Harbaugh signed with the 49ers, his friend Todd Anson asked Harbaugh if he really had been interested in the Michigan job. Harbaugh paused, then replied, “ I just wasn’t feelin’ the love.”
Hackett and others would take the opposite approach in 2014, to bring Michigan’s prodigal son home.
3. Will Hagerup and various other student athletes will vouch for Brandon forever.
Endzone starts following punter Will Hagerup from his official visit, when he decided minutes before driving back to Wisconsin to go back to Schembechler Hall and commit to Michigan. “I wanted to be there so badly, that I knew I was never going to leave.” He proved it by refusing to transfer even after three violations of the team’s drug test, which entailed working a brutal summer job in a steel mill to help pay for a semester of school himself. He straightened himself out, and persuaded Brandon to give him a fourth chance.
At the 2014 Bust, he told the audience, “I want to thank Dave Brandon, a guy who has my lifelong respect and allegiance. He stuck his neck out for me multiple times and believed in me.”
A majority of the football players and other student athletes supported Brandon, too, right to the end, not to mention top coaches like Red Berenson, Carol Hutchins and Bev Plocki.
4. The student government leadership drove circles around Hunter Lochmann.
One day after they won the election in 2013, student government leaders Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell started taking on the department’s General Admission seating policy for students. They put their education in statistics and public policy to good use, while pulling endless all-nighters, to prove empirically that General Admission was not only deeply unpopular, it didn’t achieve Brandon’s stated goals of getting students to the games, and on time. In fact, their surveys and analysis were more thorough and incisive than anyone else’s – including the department’s – and they handled themselves with more professional aplomb than most of the department officials in this story.
“Look, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a jerk,” Proppe told me, “but Hunter [Lochmann] and his group were not as sophisticated as we were about analyzing data. When I looked at this data for ten minutes on an Excel spreadsheet, I could figure out what the data really meant.”
During two dramatic public meetings, the idealistic duo convinced the faculty and Regents their conclusions had far more merit than the department’s, which cost Brandon crucial support.
5. Brandon sowed the seeds of his own destruction from day one.
Over his four-year tenure, Brandon removed the safeguards protecting Michigan from a public relations disaster, one by one—usually by letting experience staffers go, from equipment managers to sports information directors—until Michigan was finally exposed during the 2014 Minnesota game. ENDZONE explains what really happened before, during and after the hit on Shane Morris – including a marathon meeting that stretched from 8 a.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday. The outcome created a national embarrassment – one that was far more a PR problem than a medical one.
About twelve hours into the meeting, they called in former sports information director Dave Ablauf to the room. “I will not forget his answer,” one person in the meeting told me. “ ‘At this point, it doesn’t matter. You guys put a coach out there at noon, and you told him to keep telling them you were going to have a statement from Michigan officials as soon as he was done. That was seven hours ago.
“’We’re going to get roasted on this. But given all that, you might as well tell the truth. Not that it will help much.’”
Bacon says that "[BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS] tells the story of how the University of Michigan’s fundamental values were tested during the Brandon Era, and how the students, lettermen, alumni and campus leaders started a grass-roots effort to restore them – and succeeded, against long odds." That's true. After 300 pages of facepalm the last bits of the book are actually quite inspiring, as the Michigan community comes together and vows not to screw it up this time.
BONUS: Bacon has events coming up:
August 29th, Chicago, 12 PM: Bacon talks Endzone and takes questions at the Diag Bar & Grill.
Following Bacon's appearance a panel of lettermen will do a Q&A.
September 1st, Ann Arbor, 7 PM: Bacon has as presentation and Q&A at Rackham auditorium on Michigan's campus.
He's also got a half-dozen dates set up through the fall around the midwest. Someone's let him into a cathedral for one of them.
I'll be at the Rackham one as a spectator. Say hi.
[EDIT: The lettermen panel is taking place on August 27th at Rockit Bar in Chicago. The book event at the Diag Bar & Grill is set for August 29th.]
Well, of course. Mr. Harbaugh goes to Washington.
A software engineer named Nick Harris was visiting Washington, D.C. one morning in April when a stranger outside the Supreme Court asked him for directions to the White House. It was only a brief interaction, and yet Harris remembers it well.
“It was very odd,” he said. “Like, why am I running into Jim Harbaugh at the Supreme Court?”
Harbaugh met with five justices, coaching them on the finer points of fair use law.
Also of course. Mr. Harbaugh finds a friend.
Per his wife, Sarah, Jim Harbaugh recently caught a mouse ... while dining at a restaurant.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) July 31, 2015
That mouse is now the Seahawks' starting tight end.
The worst possible take. This guy covers Rutgers for a living so he knows real when he sees it. I mean, I guess?
It was a good show. But let's be clear: It was every bit a show. Harbaugh turned on the happy personality for the cameras, and he was so effective that it almost made you forget about the other Harbaugh. The one that Colin Cowherd had to hang up on during a radio interview. The one whose personality contributed to an implosion with the San Francisco 49ers.
The one a former player said might be "clinically insane."
That Harbaugh. Which Harbaugh is the real Harbaugh? I have no idea. I only know the guy, much like Flood, from what I've seen from afar.
But I do know this: The Kyle Flood who was talking with the Big Ten Network cameras rolling on Friday? He is the same Kyle Flood was was standing in the hallway a few minutes talking to me, and will be the same Kyle Flood if you run into him this weekend around Piscataway.
This, you should know, is by design. … putting on a show when the cameras are rolling? That's not Flood. He'll let the shiny new guy have the spotlight.
Observing Jim Harbaugh for a period longer than 20 seconds and coming away with the conclusion that any part of his personality is under control is… well, it's an opinion. It's an opinion like Kyle Flood's home state recruiting…
Rutgers is involved with just one of the uncommitted players
…but is definitely a thing someone thinks.
Dubstep ahoy. We have discussed it. We are still not sure if this is a joke.
We're leaning yes. But this is the place that hired Beck Man, so we can't be sure.
Not bad dot gif. Here is a small chart about dollars.
Louisville has really done a job making themselves a thing, I tell ya.
Note that USC and OSU aren't on these lists because they have differently styled deals in which they're given a floor and then get a royalty rate above that. OSU's 2012 deal is for a minimum of 9.7 million a year.
Nice guys. Man, there were a lot of quotes from Big Ten Media Days that set your teeth on edge about the state of the program under the previous administration. You don't want to read too much into them because every transition comes with talk about how now it's serious. But the results on the field are looking for an explanation, and some of it is in here:
"The practices in the spring were four hours," Ross said. "I remember a time where if practice ran a little longer than expected that we'd start sulking and complaining. Now, it's four hours and we're accustomed to it. We can work hard for as however long as needed, not "try to get it over" work. The seniors got everyone on path. In order to be successful we have to change what we've done in the past."
Previously, Michigan split their practice time between the field and film work and the like. Since stretchgate we're all experts on what a countable hour is, and a lot of that film stuff can be moved to non-countable if it's not with a coach. It's likely that Michigan was wasting countable hours under Hoke. That is not likely to be the case under Harbaugh.
In fact, he's encouraged everyone on the team to get jobs. Chesson:
"In my perspective and how I was raised, you have a certain responsibility to yourself to commit and to be a positive role model. What better way than to get a job and see how it feels to practice, go to school and then go cut fields and cut grass, come back and sleep and do it all the next day?" …
"I don't know a guy who doesn't have a job. When you're working, you're earning a wage. So many people in society don't have that opportunity. For us to do that is awesome."
People often compare college footballing to a full-time job that you have to go to college on top of; Harbaugh's like "and also you should have a part-time job."
Also with continued bizarre anti-mayonnaise stance. Andy Staples has a column on cord-cutting and the Big Ten's upcoming rights negotiations. He's referencing Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scot's contention that the Big Ten might get the short end now that ESPN is tightening its belt:
Scott is correct that rights fees won’t go up forever, but the Big Ten deal could be the last hurrah before networks get more cost-conscious because of cord-cutters. The Big Ten is going to get a massive deal because ESPN and Big Ten Network partner FOX need those rights to compete in the new marketplace. With deals for all of the other Power Five leagues, the NFL, NBA and MLB all locked down until at least 2020, the Big Ten’s deal next year is the biggest thing left. It might be the last one of these deals signed for a primarily bundled marketplace.
Which is all well and good for Jim Delany, who will flit off into retirement before that contract comes close to ending. Those of us still around in an unbundled world are going to be looking at a ridiculous 14-team conference that was foisted upon us in the pursuit of short term dollars.
Also, Staples continues slamming mayonnaise even in the context of a BLT. Apparently he hates tomatoes, too. Poor bastard.
This again. Michigan's basketball nonconference schedule:
That is Xavier and garbage at home. All six non-Xavier D-I opponents were 200+ in Kenpom last year. Football has seemed to figure out that giving people reasonable opponents is something that helps preserve the covenant between fans and the program. Hockey (which announced a schedule like this one minus Xavier) and basketball have not figured this out.
These are slightly different problems. Hockey needs any legitimate opponents to spark interest and help their strength of schedule in the dire Big Ten. Basketball has a respectable schedule, but they fill out the holes with the absolute dregs of D-I. This is bad for both fans and the team. The NCAA uses nonconference schedule strength as a metric, and they calculate it crappily, so taking on the truly awful teams hurts you disproportionately.
There are going to be a couple of duds every year—that game just before Christmas is always going to be against a team starting a 6'2" center—but upgrading some of those opponents from the Delaware State level to the Bradley level is preferable to the current situation.
This year is Breaston year. Next year is Denard year. Part of the NCAA's increasingly desperate attempt to keep the status quo:
The Nebraska athletic department is joining lots of other schools in limiting the numbers on the jerseys fans can buy. For this year, only No. 1 and No. 15 — as in 2015 — will be sold at the Huskers Authentic team store. Next year, it’ll be 1 and 16.
Licensees selling jerseys are limited to the same numbers, and nobody gets a grandfather clause.
And the change isn’t just for football, but for all sports that have jersey replicas for sale.
Michigan has not announced a similar restriction but they're probably thinking about it. So instead of fans buying the things they want and the players getting a portion of that, nothing for anyone.
Take it from Tyrone. PSA, 1993.
Via Dr. Sap.
Etc.: This week in Steve Patterson: ShaggyBevo has to change its name due to legal sabre-rattling. In lieu of actually writing a Gold Cup react I'll just endorse this one. The Broken Bits Of Chair trophy lives. Media day interview from the official site. The turkey is a prisoner. For now. Brady and his phone. ESPN asked Ian Darke to call college football. He said no because he knows his limitations, but I kind of want to see what that's like.
Mike Riley and Jim Harbaugh go back.
Got a bunch of events and site business to go over today:
See you in this: We FINALLY got the J-Mo one done and approved and for sale:
— Seth M. Fisher (@Misopogon) July 31, 2015
You have no idea how many conversations can be had about a bracketed 's'. Take the biggest number you could think of, then think of more. In two years we should finally have approval on the Harbaugh Pyramid of Greatness, by which time all of humanity will have weighed in on whether parentheticals are necessary.
See you Friday: We're going to be at Literati at 7 this Friday, doing whatever they do at book readings except this one we talk about Michigan football. But you can totally omit that last bit and sound cultured to your Ann Arbor friends when you say you want to be at this book reading downtown. If they press, it's the story of a lonely and misunderstood middle aged man who returns to his hometown from years of rule by a company that didn't know how to use guards correctly.
Brian will see you in D.C.: Brian will be there next week, speaking at the alumni association's get-together on Tuesday, August 11. While we're on the capital's alumni association club, if you're going to the Maryland game, that will be the association's big annual away tailgate.
See you for homecoming. We've been invited to the big homecoming tailgate with the alumni association, noon to 3:30 before the Northwestern game (10/10). We talked it over and decided not to ever get company polos for it, but we do have plans to wear snarky t-shirts. And to put Brian on stage. You'll find David and me over by the TVs since there are at least three noon Big Ten games.
Football on the decline? Is this a stupid question?
I didn't open any of the threads where this popped up this week (I think somebody had a poll), but BlueBlood2991 was recovering from surgery so he tried to answer it by comparing population shifts and economic changes to high school football participation.
There is of course some correlation, but he explains population shift as the primary factor behind huge leaps in football participation in Georgia and North Carolina. This could be a fallacy: Ad hoc, ergo propter hoc. It could be an effect of money moving into new-build suburban communities, and parents using sports to put their kids in social situations, or the kids using sports to prove their worth to their new schoolmates. Football interest is hard to show in participation except over longer than a decade periods. But who's participating is interesting:
Again, correlation does not imply causation. Less educated families may be poorer, thus less able to afford sports, especially football which does get quite expensive even if your school provides most of the equipment (very few do).
Etc. Alum96 is on to M00N with his previews. MaizeJacket had a counterproposal to my "let's everyone join one conference then dictate terms" plan—I like his "Challenge" idea but like a lot of good ideas it won't happen because teams want to schedule as many games as possible way ahead of time.
Best of the Board:
They don't mention puking on the recruiting trips:
From a story by Bennie Joppru about practicing with Carr. This part comes after four puking sessions:
I went back to the dorms in south quad and started to pack my clothes. "I'm heading back home to Minnesota and I'll walk on and be a Gopher". I knew I couldn't walk out the front on the dorm with my clothes so I threw my bag out the 12 floor window and walk down the stairwell, avoiding the elevator. I got the first taxi I saw and said "take me to the bus station".
I got to the bus station only to find out I was 25 dollars short of a ticket. This was 1998 so CD's were as good as money then and I had plenty. I told the ticket guy if he gave me the 25 dollars I needed for a ticket he could have any 10 CD's he wanted.
Of course he picked all of my favorite CD's, but I had my ticket, no more puking I thought to myself.
Then a man tapped him on his shoulder. For those who don't know already, Joppru is basically what would happen if a blogger had football talent.
Back when they could still get away with selling me the opportunity to play as Denard without paying Denard, EA would make some minor tweak to its NCAA game, maybe add some stupid feature like emails from your mom or mascot teams, and basically sell you the updated roster pack as a new game every year.
Since they're still working out how to make this game while paying the people who make it so valuable, the internet has taken over and done a better job for free. The roster pack is basically going to be this year's game. I'll have a full post on it. All hail those of you who worked on it.
Preposterous Stolen Victories Over Northwestern Now Worth Half
|Not all 50/50s are created equal: @Maryland is looking like 60/40, BYU/Utah the opposite.|
Saturdayedge's annual Big Ten betting prospectus (it's free but only with an email signup – NOW with non-depressing cover!) came out last week. The writing is very cliché, and they seem to be too fixated on recruiting stars, but I always value the betters' perspectives because accuracy really is their prime motivation. That Michigan averaged 5.25 points under the spread (by far the worst in the conference) should come as no surprise, nor that the two rivals, even at home, are the two near-guaranteed losses.
This is something I haven't seen in a Michigan preview in a long time:
Strength – The Running Game: Running backs De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Drake Johnson and Ty Isaac can all produce if they get the chance.
He mentions the O-line should be decent and Harbaugh teams always run well, but unless this means "knows how to run into a gaping hole (sometimes)" that seems overoptimistic. He also joins Shane Morris on an extremely short list of people who think Shane Morris might start. Anyway for those who can't corner Jamie Mac on the regular, a free and at least fly-by informed gamblers' perspective on the conference is worth your time.
Unless you're drafting against me in Draftageddon in which case you should read only preseason award watch lists and ESPN's Top 25 list. Tommy Armstrong's still on the board, Adam!
Not a new pos-bang record:
WD is an internet obsessive, which as an internet obsessive who is friends with many internet obsessives I have great appreciation for. But then, that was a bit much:
The post that currently holds the pos record is 465/0 to the turn-based RPG gif by chunkums. Chunkums is LEGEND. Upvotes go away after a time but I made sure to catch that one when it did so a few years ago.
Etc. Liz, our podcast sponsor, made a Top 5 hottest college coaches, because Liz.
Your Moment of Zen:
This guy does hype videos well.
|Philadelphia, PA – 6'4", 276|
3*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
#45 OG, #15 PA
3*, NR overall
#96 OT, #21 PA
3*, NR overall
#162 OT, #35 PA
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Son of—surprise!—Jon Runyan, Sr., Michigan All Big Ten tackle and longtime NFL player.|
Don't let the "none" in other suitors put you off too much. When Jon Runyan, Jr., camped at Michigan in 2013, an offer came. Runyan took approximately 1.5 looks at his dad, Jon Runyan, Sr., and committed. Nobody else had an opportunity to take a crack at him.
All OL take a lot of projection; when Michigan took Runyan the squinting at the future was even more strained than usual. Hoke and staff offered a 6'3", 245-pound sophomore based on his camp performance and the guy next to him in the picture above. Runyan didn't go to many camps—I found a mention of him at a local Nike camp and nothing else—and isn't the kind of player to physically wow you, so recruiting sites filed him as a generic three star and mostly forgot about him.
With Runyan mentions over the past few years generally limited to a sentence or two here and there, by far the most useful item we have is a Tim Sullivan visit to one of his games when he was a senior.
The good news is that Runyan made up about half the difference between the sophomore version of himself and a Big Ten offensive lineman, adding 30 pounds. Sullivan also listed Runyan at 6'5", which is just on the edge of "plausible tackle" territory. Sullivan still saw a future interior OL, one that needed to up the HULK SMASH:
In the run game, Runyan was solid at standing up the opposing defensive lineman, but didn't always get quite as much push out of a player headed to Michigan… has developed the physical attributes needed to become a top lineman, but doesn't always know exactly how to use them. …. too willing at times to deliver a blow with his forearm, letting the defender take control of their individual battle, rather than using his hands to move the defender where he wants him to go. … his positioning and angles left him chasing the linebacker, rather than getting between him and the play, walling off and creating a big hole.
That would be the less good news. There's still a lot of projection there.
Judging by the fact it's followed by an "underclassman evaluation," ESPN's undated scouting report does seem to be based on senior film. Here are a few of the bits that don't seem to feature in every middling OL prospect's profile:
…needs to add bulk while improving playing strength, pop and explosion when run blocking; his quickness, balance and agility allow him to play on his feet and adjust to tight space movement. …nimble feet and hand quickness are assets; sets quickly showing good flexibility; can bend and slide to the top of the pocket … needs to play stouter vs. the bull rush … athletic guy with a quick first step; can handle quick inside movement, protecting his inside gap; … initial pop and surge must improve;… effective trap blocker.
In that evaluation, Runyan sounds like a center, one that Rich Rodriguez would have enthusiastically recruited.
I'm not sure how much credence to lend scouting reports from 247 and Scout, as they are old. Brian Dohn had an evaluation post from October of 2013 that praised his athleticism and feet but notices that he is not 300 pounds. He's trying his best to project:
knows how to position his body and he does a fantastic job of recognizing whom to block, even if it is on the second level. …has the athleticism to play guard and be effective pulling as a lead blocker … His ability to move his feet and sit back in his base in pass protection is already an asset.
He took in a St. Peter's game last year as well, but was scouting a half dozen guys in that game. The resulting post only briefly touches on Runyan, mentioning that he was "solid, but not overwhelming" and offering a back-handed compliment that echoes what Sullivan said: "when he was able to engage the defensive player, Runyan did a good job of finishing the block."
Clint Brewster had a take based on junior film. His numerical evaluations are Lake Wobegone grades in which everyone's above average—it's a ten point scale and I can't remember ever seeing a 4 or lower—and the big question is right there first:
Frame gets a 7, though, so… yeah. Numbers are tough with recruiting because so many people are waiting to yell at you. More text-type stuff:
Runyan has plus athleticism but it looks as if he is still getting used to his body. … Very good footwork for a young player and always takes the right steps. He’s got a smooth kick back in pass protection and has pretty quick feet. He does great job of staying infront of his man in pass protection. …very smart player with high ceiling and great technique.
There's obviously some disagreement here about just how much of a technician Runyan is at this stage. Brewster's instant eval after his commit called him a "pure technician" who "does everything right with flawless technique," which is completely impossible. That was a discussion of a kid who had just finished his sophomore year of high school.
The more recent reports indicate a coachable kid who is going to need plenty of said coaching and time in the weight room. He has the genes; he's got a path to reasonable size; it is completely understandable that recruiting sites filed him in the vast pile of offensive linemen who have a chance but only a chance.
Etc.: If Runyan doesn't work out—or if, like, anyone doesn't work out, this will be your most longstanding ARRRGH BRADY HOKE issue. Runyan camped next to Chuma Edoga, future top 50 interior line recruit and USC commit, and Edoga was chomping at the bit to commit. But no offer came.
Why Dave Pearson? Pearson overcame some serious size limitations (he entered college 6'3", 240) to be a reliable, heady starting center in the mid-aughts. He was undrafted and had a cup of coffee in the NFL.
Pearson was actually a weakside end to recruiting sites before packing on the necessary weight to be an OL; Runyan has a head start on him in that department since he'll enter at around 275. Still, acquiring the necessary size and strength will be Runyan's biggest challenge.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Peripheral OL prospects don't get a ton of attention and a lot of the scouting here is really old. But they're all in approximate agreement and the things they say make sense.
Variance: High. Is OL. Is sleeper OL.
Ceiling: Moderate. Sounds like he's a better fit for a zone system; under Harbaugh he's probably a center and a center only, and one that gets by instead of being David Molk.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Those genes though.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt. Can compete for the starting C job as early as next year; more realistically that will be someone else's job—probably Patrick Kugler. Runyan's first real crack at time is likely to be as a redshirt junior, when he'll be big and strong enough to play for Harbaugh.
"We're Venture Capitalists"
Yesterday's BBQ at the Big House produced a commitment from Sir Patrick Scott and very positive reactions from those in attendance. The highlight was the scavenger hunt that doubled as a campus tour, and since Jim Harbaugh was involved, of course this happened:
— Brandon Peters (@Bpeters2118) August 2, 2015
While Scott ended up being the only commitment, Michigan made significant progress for recruits in several classes. Beginning with the rising seniors, four-star 2016 CO WDE/OLB Carlo Kemp sounds like a distinct possibility to fill a much-needed spot at BUCK linebacker, per Scout's Anna Hickey:
"It was just awesome," Kemp said. "I came in with very high expectations. When we finally got inside The Big House, it was different than anything I had ever experienced. All of my expectations were blown away. I saw the stadium when it was empty, and I can't even imagine what's it's like when it's full. That was my favorite part."
Kemp, who's eyeing an official visit for the BYU game, said the visit "definitely gave [Michigan] an edge" over fellow top schools Notre Dame and UCLA.
Much of the intrigue surrounding the event focused on four-star Detroit King prospects WR Donnie Corley and CB Lavert Hill, who not only made the trip but spoke highly of the program in the aftermath. Hill, who visited with both his parents, certainly didn't quell the rumors he could flip to Michigan soon with the wording of this statement to 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
“I feel wanted,” he said. “They’re recruiting me really hard with my brother and stuff like that.
“It’s a pretty good school with the academics and football but I’m committed to Penn State right now.”
Wiltfong also caught up with Corley, who acknowledged Michigan is making a move after his second campus visit in a week ($):
Corley’s recruitment as of late was linked to Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Wolverines are surging here.
“Definitely,” Corley said.
“Just everything they’re doing with the team and I can tell how the guys are talking and I talked to the guys, Harbaugh is changing a lot of things and I liked that about it.”
After initially wanting to make a decision before the season started, Corley is now discussing taking official visits before making a choice. It'll be a battle to beat out the four other programs mentioned, especially MSU and OSU, but after looking completely out of it for a long time M looks to have a legitimate shot.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]