landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
5/30/08 (and 5/31/08) - Michigan 7, Kentucky 5
5/31/08 - Michigan 3, Arizona 4
6/1/08 - Michigan 6, Kentucky 12 - eliminated
Surely a college first baseman has to be amongst the least likely athletes in all of sports to be struck down with injury. You're somewhere between 18 and 22, which means you can take a gunshot and be relatively chipper the next day. Your top speed is "saunter." Every once in a very long while you have to bend over or dive or something, but only just frequently enough to prevent wholesale muscle atrophy.
If you are bound and determined to get injured your options are limited to 1) having a runner plow into your arm after a poor throw, 2) getting drilled with a line drive, or 3) spontaneously combusting. If you consider poker a sport, sitting around a table riffling chips is probably less dangerous. It's hard to come up with anything else. Golfing, I guess, but there's always the chance your caddy goes insane and beats you with your five-iron.
So, yeah, Michigan's first home regional in over twenty years didn't go quite as planned. As per usual, I blame Angry Michigan Baseball All American Hating God, who rudely interrupted Zach Putnam's start against Kentucky with a thunderous barrage of rain, then had the audacity to actually break some part of Nate Recknagel's anatomy as he was standing on first base. Despite another cosmic middle finger, the difference between Michigan and these other teams was wafer thin until Maloney's weird decisions at the beginning of the Kentucky elimination game, about which more can be found in the bullets at post's end.
Tweak Recknagel's freak injury or any number of other fateful moments -- Adam Abraham's run-scoring error, Jason Christian swinging at ball four during the first at-bat, Chris Fetter leaving the Jeremy Bonderman impression on the shelf -- and Michigan could have gone into the ninth inning against Arizona with a slight lead, held it, and been the team to batter a wearied pitching staff in the late game Saturday.
Do they say "that's baseball"? If so, that's baseball. If they don't, good for them for avoiding easy cliches.
All that was mildly depressing and something of a letdown after the storybook finish of last year's regional. But it didn't feel like it walking out of the stadium after the Arizona game Saturday.
This is what happened in the ninth inning: the somewhat rowdy young folks in front of me stood up. Since this is Michigan, within nanoseconds a crabby voice grumbled "down in front," and when it was joined by several others the somewhat rowdy young folks begrudgingly sat down. Then Ryan LaMarre fended off a pitch and squeezed it through a gap in the infield for a one-out single. Fisher Stadium stood, and this time the somewhat rowdy young folks turned around and urged everyone to get to their feet, arms waving like storks with their wings on backwards.
I turned around just in time to see a ponderous elderly couple glance at each other in resignation. They arose, joints grinding ponderously, and it seemed like the birth of a new thing as they craned their necks to glimpse what they could.
- About those weird decisions: I know he has single-handedly turned the Michigan program into something worth paying attention to, but starting a guy with 15 IP all season is weird. Following him with another guy who had the third-highest ERA on the team is also weird, and following him with Canadian Mike Wilson, who was valiant last year but sported a 8.73 ERA going into the UK game is super weird. Travis Smith and Tyler Burgoon were fresh and had better stats both traditional and peripheral. OTOH, it's not like you can extrapolate anything useful statistically from 30 or 40 IP.
- Said group of mildly rowdy young folk included in their number two guys who periodically burst into little baseball chatter songs like "hey whaddya say one-nine, gotta be smart, be smart one-nine, hey whaddya say hey" and it kind of felt like a time warp every time they did that.
- Michigan returned every major contributor aside from one starting pitcher and the catcher for 2008; next year looks like a bloodbath by comparison. Seniors: VanBuskirk, Recknagel, Mahler. Draft-eligible juniors: Putnam (sandwich pick or second-rounder, likely gone), Christian (4th to 8th round, possibly gone), Abraham (?), Fetter (?). I know less than zero about how Michigan's recruiting. Does anyone out there want to fill me in? Send me an email.
- I wonder if Michigan's sustained success will spur Ohio State to beef up their program? They've scraped into the NCAA tournament of late by winning the Big Ten tournament from somewhere between third and sixth place but are basically Just Another Northern Team. Much like Notre Dame hockey hiring Jeff Jackson, anything that makes the Big Ten a more legit place to play is good by me.
- Holy crap is there a lot of ridiculous sacrifice bunting in college baseball. During the first Kentucky game Michigan had men on first and second with no outs and the guy with the highest BA on the team, Kevin Cislo, at the plate. He bunted. Later it became apparent that this was probably not a sacrifice attempt, as Cislo's fast as hell and in the Arizona game the corner infielders were about halfway to the plate during a Cislo at bat with no one on base. But still, man... the guy hits .350. Kentucky did it all the time, including consecutive bunts when down six runs!
I just don't get it, man. Baseball statheads are fervently against bunting in the majors, where a .300 batting average is pretty dang good. In aluminumbatland a .300 BA means you hit eighth. How can bunting be anything other than violent stupidity?
- Section Six has my back on this with its "Sac Bunt Irk Level":
Removed FL RB Mike Gillislee (Florida), NC OL Xavier Nixon (dropped us), FL DT Antwan Lowery (dropped us).
Added MD DE Jason Ankrah, TN CB Marsalis Teague.
Editorial Opinion: Short week because last week's recruiting post came out Wednesday, and a crappy one. I don't know what happened with Xavier Nixon after this:
Despite the long list of suitors, Nixon already knows that he'd like to visit Notre Dame and Michigan. "Those are the only two that are set in stone, but I don't know beyond that."
Highly coveted offensive tackle Xavier Nixon is now only considering North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Miami-FL, South Carolina, West Virginia and Notre Dame, the Fayetteville Observer reports.
...but whatever it was, it was lame. Meanwhile, a little darting RB who had nice things to say about M once commits to Florida, a FL CB Brandon McGee article passes with no mention of Michigan, and OH OL Marcus Hall reterates that three non-M schools lead for him. None of that except the Nixon thing is particularly surprising, but it's not good.
The one positive:
...according to these quotes, it appears as if [CA WR Shaquelle] Evans will visit one of his suitors, Notre Dame, in September. Plans are in the works for trips to LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee in the near future. UCLA and USC are among the other programs interested in Evans, who has said in the past that he'd like to make a verbal commitment before his senior season.
Evans is a big time recruit; it's nice to make a nominal top seven with him
Should have done this yesterday, but: have at it. Arizona pulled away from EMU in the eight inning yesterday and Michigan has just finished a 7-5 win over Kentucky after a rain suspension. EMU and Kentucky have an elimination game starting at 2; Michigan and Arizona play at seven.
Relevant pitching bits: Putnam had to leave after five innings due to the rain delay, leaving Eric Katzman (2.1 IP) and Michael Powers (1.2 IP) to finish the job. Neither is likely to be available for Arizona.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, saw their starter chased after just 4.1 innings and had to use all three of their big bullpen guys for more than an inning. It'll be interesting to see how effective they are.
One big downer for Michigan: Nate Recknagel left the Kentucky game with a hand injury; unconfirmed reports say it's a broken wrist and he's done for the year.
Update: M loses 4-3 to Arizona and will face Kentucky in an elimination game in a couple hours. The good news: Wildcat ace Chris Rusin, who got chased in the second inning of the Friday game and could hypothetically go again today since he had such a limited outing, is injured and won't be available. Also, with Chris Fetter going 8 full innings last night Michigan will have everyone except the two starters available. Game starts at 2.
In cool but not immediately relevant insider news: the Mets are planning on replacing their enormo-scoreboard sometime soon and Wilpon plans on donating it to Michigan if they can just figure how to move it cross-country.
Your warrior-poets were completely dominant against any team north of the Mason-Dixon line, setting a Big Ten record for most conference wins and sweeping through the conference tourney in three games. But college baseball being what it is, most of those teams suck hard. According to some guy named Boyd, Michigan's schedule ranked 114th -- actually not that bad since nearly 300 teams play D-I baseball. According to some guy named Warren, Michigan's schedule was #125 despite a challenging-ish nonconference schedule that featured four games against #1 seeds.
At this point, Michigan's program is the college baseball equivalent of Gonzaga in 2000. In 1999, Gonzaga's basketball team ignited by making a run to the Elite Eight; last year Michigan took out national #1 seed Vanderbilt and reached the super-regionals. Like Gonzaga, Michigan looks poised to totally dominate a mid-major conference, hover around the high teens in the polls with consistency, and totally rely on the NCAA tournament to validate its program as legitimate.
Michigan will trot out two excellent pitchers in second-team All-Americans Zach Putnam and Chris Fetter. Fetter had the slightly better year, going 10-1 with a 2.39 ERA and striking out 7.8 per nine innings. Putnam was slowed by injury early but recovered well, going 8-0 with a 2.64 ERA and striking out 9.4 per nine innings. Michael Powers also has a 2.64 ERA and is the primary reliever; expect to see a lot of him.
Past that, things get a little dicey. No Wolverine other than Putnam and Fetter started more than 9 games, and the nine game starter is Canadian Chris Wilson, who imploded this year after a promising 06-07. His 8.73 ERA is worst on the team. Eric Katzman (36 IP, 3.25 ERA) or Travis Smith (43 IP, 4.40 ERA) will probably get the starting not in a hypothetical third (or fourth) game as Michigan uses its bullpen liberally.
At the plate, first basemate Nate Recknagel is also a second-team All American; Kevin Cislo, Adam Abraham, and Putnam are the other big bats.
The baseball field is not strictly seeded like the basketball field, but if you extrapolate from Michigan's potential super-regional matchup with the winner of the Miami regional you can infer these things:
- Arizona is the last #1 seed (which is why they're the only one getting shipped).
- Michigan is the top #2 seed.
- Kentucky is the worst #3 seed.
I present the "worst #3": a 42-17 team that went 26-3 outside of the loaded SEC (which is so strong nine teams got bids this year). Yerk.
|Oakland||W 7-4||W 15-5, W 12-2|
|Eastern Michigan||W 5-3, W 20-5||W 18-5, W 8-6|
|Purdue||W 6-1, W 3-2||W 3-2, W 6-1, W 4-3|
Not much to choose from.
Michigan will be facing Friday night starter Chris Rusin, who's actually from Michigan. Baseball America on Rusin:
Rusin has a legit four-pitch mix highlighted by a plus curveball and a lively 88-89 mph fastball, and he gives Kentucky an experienced Saturday starter.
Rusin's 6-2 on the year with a 2.84 ERA, striking out 6.8 per nine innings; he sat out Kentucky's WLL performance in the SEC tournament and will be well rested for Friday's game. Read this if you want to be slightly depressed at both the vagaries of fate and the state of newspapers:
He'd grown up attending Michigan football games at The Big House, hailing the victors valiant. And when it came time to choose a college baseball program, the two-time All-State Dream Team member had hoped to sign with the Wolverines.
But, remember, things never actually work out the way you want them to.
There are two periods during which high school baseball players can sign national letters of intent.
Rusin was determined to sign with a university in the fall. The Wolverines, though, were in pursuit of a two-sport star who hadn't yet chosen between football and baseball scholarships.
Michigan asked Rusin to wait.
Even for the Wolverines, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"(UK) was the next-best school I was ready to go to, so I got it done," Rusin said.
I'm pretty sure the article is in error and two-sport star Michigan was courting was Adam Abraham, who could have been a mid-round NHL draft pick if he chose to play hockey. Abraham did sign with Michigan and is currently hitting .342.
Two big bats in the outfield power Kentucky's lineup. Sawyer Carroll leads the SEC in batting average (.416) and RBIs (77). This is his OPS: 1.172. Zounds. Colin Cowgill, meanwhile, returned from an injury that cost him the entire 2006-2007 season and bashed 18 home runs whilst batting .362. Baseball America mentions that UK's numbers are inflated by their 17-0 start against terrible competition, FWIW.
Michigan's main advantage over UK is their heavy reliance on lefthanded pitching. Rusin, their second starter, and their main reliever are all lefties. Michigan's big bats are all righthanded.
Earlier in the week I was concerned that Arizona would throw out their #3 starter against Eastern and give themselves a huge advantage against the rest of the field for the remainder of the regional. Baseball America, however, indicates that Arizona might not have much of a distinction between their top three arms:
the starters have had their ups and downs this season. Of particular concern is ace righty Preston Guilmet (6-4, 3.89), who went 0-2, 10.29 in his final three conference starts. Lefthanders David Coulon (7-3, 3.54) and Eric Berger (7-3, 4.53) both pitched well in wins against ASU in the final weekend.
(If none of those ERAs looks intimidating in relation to Fetter and Putnam, please keep in mind that Arizona's SOS is an outstanding 21st.) Arizona can either keep the ace on the shelf if they're eying a potential matchup with Michigan's aforementioned right-handed sluggers or they can get his wobbly pitching out of the way against Eastern. Either way, it looks like Michigan will be facing a lot of quality:
Arizona's calling card is its pitching depth, and it has an unrivaled trio of power bullpen arms in lefthander Daniel Schlereth (2-0, 1.73 with 73 strikeouts in 52 innings) and righties Jason Stoffel (3-2, 3.51 with 67 strikeouts in 41 innings) and Ryan Perry (5-3, 3.21 with 63 strikeouts in 67 innings). All three have mid-90s fastballs and devastating breaking balls.
That kind of depth doesn't get called into play much during the season; in the regionals, however, it can be critical.
Offensively, Arizona goes deep. Four players have more than ten home runs, led by first baseman CJ Zeigler's 19. Bryce Ortega and Colt Sedbrook are both averaging better than .340, but many of the BAs are low for college baseball. If Michigan can keep the ball in the park they might have a shot.
|Notre Dame||W 15-12||W 16-0|
|Arizona State||L 4-15, L 4-8||L 5-6, L 13-6, W 4-3, W 7-4|
Herein is the reason Arizona got the #1 seed in this regional over Michigan: a season-ending series against power Arizona State during which they took two of three games (the 5-6 loss was much earlier in the year). Michigan, playing on the road early in the season, got housed twice.
...should be happy to be here. In four games against Kentucky and Michigan, the Eagles were outscored 51-19. They're under .500 for the season and are only in the tourney because someone had to win the MAC tournament. Baseball is a weird game, but if they do anything other than two-and-out it'll be a minor shock.
I think Michigan has a slight advantage against Kentucky because of their predominantly lefthanded pitching. They were basically a .500 SEC team, and much of their record outside the league was built on teams like... uh... Oakland and Eastern Michigan. When they played Purdue the results were basically the same as when Michigan played Purdue. Anyone who expects Michigan to advance is being foolish, but it might be 55% or 60% instead of a coin flip.
If they win their first game they might have a decent shot at Arizona, either getting AU's struggling "ace" or another lefty. I would pitch Fetter in game one with the hope of getting Putnam up against Arizona's HR-heavy lineup. Putnam's a ground-ball pitcher with a killer sinker; he's only given up four HRs all year. Win that game and you're forcing Arizona to play another game against UK and killing their pitching depth. Lose either of the first two, and you're looking at a long, tough road with dodgy pitching.
So: I think Michigan has a pretty decent chance as long as they stay out of the loser's bracket, but Wilson's implosion has really stressed the pitching depth and if they have to eat an extra game's worth of innings as Arizona eats cheeseburgers they'll be scratching and praying in the finale, assuming they get that far.
The Big Ten Network couldn't scramble trucks or whatever to get the regional on the BTN, even though it was expected well ahead of time that Michigan would get to host, and there is thus no TV. Big Ten Network: minus 450 points.
But! If you don't mind staring at your computer, MGoBlue.com will stream Michigan games live. if that doesn't work, you can listen to a radio call. It's better than nothing. Unless it doesn't work, in which case it's just taunting evil.
Baseball regional preview comin' up. But now...
I GOTTA LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE! THESE ARE THE PROBLEMS I HAVE WITH YOU PEOPLE!
1. Creepily Stalking Hotties. Cheesecake is one thing. Everybody loves cheesecake. But when every other post of yours contains a picture of the same celebrity accompanied with some caption that generally boils down to "I tell ya I tell ya I tell ya... boy would I like to bone her!" you have crossed the line and entered the sad, depressing parts of the internet.
I'm looking at you, Roll Bama Roll and Dawg Sports. And, like... could you have picked less hot hotties? Okay, Kristen Davis is the only cast member of Sex In The City I wouldn't taze on sight, but there are dozens of better choices. And who is Katherine McPhee and why would anyone care to look at her?
WITH THIS WOMAN THAT'S JUST HOW GODDAMN
HETEROSEXUAL I AM BOY HOWDY I TELL YA
Exceptions: Creepy stalking of Scarlett Johansson is still creepy, but somewhat forgivable.
2. Erin Andrews. I mean no offense to Ms. Andrews, who is among the least annoying sideline reporters on television. Truly, her ability to get names vaguely correct places her leaps and bounds beyond Stacey Dales-Schuman, Stacey Schuman-Dales, Stacey Dales, Stacey Schuman, and the rest of the oppressive flock of somewhat pretty ex-cheerleaders that scour the nation's sidelines looking for the opportunity to ask Michael Vick what sort of hot wings he's eating. I appreciate anyone of this ilk who doesn't make me want to throw my shoe at the TV.
No, it's the rest of you lonely, sad perverts taking screencaps every time they show her ass that I've got a problem with. Erin Andrews is doing the spelling bee! Erin Andrews is photographed! Or smoking hot! Or winning a "would you do" competition! Or has twelve pages of Ballhype hits!
Yeah, there's a reason she thinks the internet is a perv factory: it is.
Exceptions: None. Keep it your pants, bucko.
3. Picks Columns. Picks columns suck almost without exception. The general format:
Team A vs Team B (-3). Here is the first poorly thought out sentence that reveals nothing you did not already know. Here is the second poorly thought out sentence; this one probably contains some completely unsubstantiated assertion. End thorough and useful opinion.
Repeat this ad naseuem, then stick in your (horrible) record from last week and add it into your season record -- always five games below five hundred. Then make the world's most hackneyed joke and move on. Nobody really cares about your two-line opinion on Ole Miss-Arkansas unless you are a professional handicapper.
Exceptions: obviously anyone who's actually beating the vig on sportsbetting is permitted the arrogance of one of these. Also those articles where people make obviously meaningless picks based on shoe color.
4. "BLANK Nation." I blame the 2004 Red Sox and Kos for this. There is no Spartan Nation. There is no UAB Nation. There is no Badger Nation. Unless you are named Chad and everyone on your team is also named Chad, there is no nation for you. BLANK Nation jumped the shark two seconds after the 2004 ACLS. Shut up about it.
Exceptions: Red Sox Nation, and Red Sox Nation only, and even then you kinda sound like a prick. Or worse: Dan Shaugnessy.
5. Countdown posts. You know the sort: 99 days until the season, and then it's tomorrow and the site does the math for you and helpfully informs you that there are 98 days until the season. These posts invariably contain a single picture with a short caption, communicate nothing, and jam my RSS feed something wicked.
Exceptions: I could see a seven day countdown the week before the season or something. 100 is pure sandpaper to the groin.
Banner contest reminder: Entries are due on Monday. Due to the large number of entries we'll have a two-stage polling process. Stage one will whittle down the entries to four or five, and stage two will pick a winner.
It begins. With Hail to the Victors 2008 mostly put to bed, attention now turns to the other major project of the offseason: getting MGoBlog off Blogger and onto a platform that supports a bunch of other features I've wanted forever-ever. After evaluating a bunch of blogging platforms and CMSes, I've settled on Drupal.
After a few days pounding away at MGoBlog 3.0, my initial reaction is: this is going to be so cool if I don't go insane and do something rash like challenge Charlie Weis to deep-fried-butter-eating contest or try to dunk on Jason Maxiell. If you've got mad Drupal chops and can answer questions like "Images: wtf?" and "WYSIWIG editors: wtf?" and "am I going to kill performance by enabling like 600 modules, wtf?" please drop me a line.
It's on. Michigan did get its regional, but the vagaries of the seeding were pretty harsh to their chances. After losing their first seventeen games of the year, Eastern Michigan ran through the MAC tournament to earn an autobid. They're still below .500; they're one of the worst teams in the tournament. They get Arizona in the first round. This is bad in two ways:
- Eastern's unlikely to do Michigan the favor of knocking off Arizona, and
- Arizona's likely to throw their #3 starter out against the Eagles in the hopes they can get their #1 and #2 in favorable matchups against Michigan or Kentucky.
The winner of this regional draws national #1 seed Miami's regional in the super-regional next weekend, which means Arizona is the last #1 and Michigan the top #2; unfortunately their relative paths are nowhere near equal. At least the Fish will have a vested interest in seeing EMU win in the early game.
Maloney talks smack:
"Everybody else is saying we don't have any chance," Maloney told the players in their locker room. "So we've got to go out and show them. ... They're crying because they have to come here."
Ticket information is here; if you're in town you should try to make it out.
Bring the barf bags. I probably shouldn't even link this since it will cause an eruption in the comments, but Jesus, man:
A palate cleanser:
Whoops! Due to Memorial day, forgot about the old recruiting update, not that there was much going on...
Update 5/26: Noted OSU lead for FL RB Jaamal Berry. Linked to articles on CA QB Tate Forcier, FL DT Antwan Lowery, MS S Dennis Thames, OH S commit Isaiah Bell, MN WR commit Bryce McNeal. Also linked a couple videos on OK RB David Oku and three on VA QB commit Kevin Newsome: Newsome, his track coaches, and his brother. (Via MSC.)
Added VA OL Morgan Moses, FL LB Brandin Hawthorne, NC CB Terry Shankle, MI OL Charles Chapman.
Removed MI QB Keith Nichol (MSU), LA OL Chris Faulk (LSU), MI OL Reid Fragel (OSU), MD DE Sean Stanley (PSU).
Didn't re-add FL WR Nu'keese Richardson, but he is deciding on the 30th between five schools, one of which is M, and he just dropped M again so bully for me.
Editorial Opinion: As speculated in a previous edition of Monday Recruiting, the Michigan State depth chart was indeed more appealing to Keith Nichol, especially once Conor Dixon transferred and especially especially after Nick Foles followed Dixon out the door, though Foles waited for Nichol to announce his transfer first.
Meanwhile, Faulk maintained LSU as a heavy leader from day one and Fragel really wanted to be a tight end; Michigan was maybe going to offer as an OT if he came to camp. Neither is an unexpected loss. MD DE Sean Stanlely, OTOH, had an offer, plays at a position of need, and had mentioned Michigan prominently as a potential destination.
The rest of this week's possibly useful information concerns commits. Scout interviewed Bryce McNeal's coach, who gave a lot of stock answers and a potentially illuminating scouting report:
"We have had several wide receivers play division one football, but Bryce is special. He is 6'2, 185 pounds, and to try to compare him to somebody that is in your backyard ... it might be a Mario Manningham type player. I know Bryce is a lot bigger, but he has that type of athleticism. He separated himself from what we have our program and what we ever had with his hands, his route running, and how he handles himself. That is really a tough question because I hate to put that type of pressure on Bryce."
GoBlueWolverine: How do you rank his different skills and abilities?
Coach Ohm: "His hands are legit and I would rank them number one overall, with his route running next, then his speed followed by his strength. He has good speed, but I want him to have that breakaway speed which he is working on, with 4.4 - 4.5 speed right now. If he can keep working on that, he will have that total package. You know how coaches are -- they are never satisfied and they always want more, so we want him to keep working hard. I might be 'dating' myself here, but he has those Lester Hayes type hands without the stickum where we just throw the ball up to him and he always comes down with the ball. It is very rarely that you see the ball hit his hands and see him drop the ball -- it is one of those things where he might hear footsteps or lose concentration, but it's very rare that we see that happen. Also, I forgot to add that his jumping ability is impressive as well. I am not sure what his vertical is, but we can throw that jump ball up to him and we know he will come down with the ball -- and in fact it happened twice last year at the end of the game for him to help win the game."
The above article also mentions that McNeal will not enroll early.
Meanwhile, ESPN put up some fluff on OH S commit Isaiah Bell. The article is unremarkable but for the release of Bell's panting scouting report into the wild. Here it is in full, with the most ridiculous parts bolded:
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, 200 pounds, he is a big safety.
He rules the secondary as a free safety. Has great instincts and plays outstanding zone coverage especially in the 3 deep. Should be a solid halves player also in two deep zone. A real competitor who can break a game wide open. Breaks quickly on the pass with a burst to the football. High points the football and has great timing on the interception. Makes things happen after the interception; not unusual for him to bring the pick back for a touchdown.
A magnificent kickoff return specialist; has good speed and can read his blocks. Has a second gear and can kick it in to blow by would-be tacklers. Has the courage to field the ball in traffic and bring it right back at the coverage team. A good open-field tackler who needs some work in terms of tackling fundamentals; would like to see him use his size when making the tackle on run support by being more physical. Very athletic football player who has good foot agility and shows flexibility in the hips. Can change direction without loss of speed or balance.
Bell will be a big-time player at a big-time college. Just a little fundamental work is needed.
That's so over the top it reads like a parody in sections; I eagerly anticipate the release of ESPN's top 150 to see just where Bell is slotted and how vociferously Scout and Rivals disagree.
Wobble? Unfortunately, two of Michigan's three top 50 commits bear watching for a potential decommit. One is Cass Tech DT William Campbell, who's always maintained he will go on official visits in the fall. In a recent interview, Campbell described himself as "open, but probably going to Michigan." He is a soft commit and should be regarded much like a kid who claims Michigan a heavy favorite, IMO. Don't think he goes elsewhere but the chances are better than 10%.
Also, there's some chatter that Kevin Newsome hasn't told other colleges to talk to the hand as much as you, the Michigan fan, might want. Penn State thinks they might get him up for an official visit in the fall, and Virginia Tech remains a presence. Something to keep an eye on. I'm not too concerned since the structural advantages Michigan had in Newsome's recruitment -- largely the existences of Jay Paterno and Tyrod Taylor -- remain intact.
Here's an interview, FWIW:
Aaand the track coaches:
One last bit, this on MS S Dennis Thames. This is what terrifies me about recruiting in the South:
Either way, in-state favorite Mississippi State is going to be hard to beat. "They are only 30 minutes away and I'd prefer to stay close," he said. "It would be nice to be able to come home during the weekends and have my family come see me play. That definitely helps."
Thames also says he likes the coaches at Mississippi State. "Coach Sylvester Croom is a great guy and he's a good coach," he said. "He's turning things around over there. Plus, I know a few guys there already and I'm real comfortable there and like the atmosphere."
Not so much on the "turning around" despite appearances, Mr. Thames. Some years ago Michigan was recruiting a highly touted corner from Mississippi -- Derek Pegues -- and thought they had an excellent shot at him; he went to Mississippi State, where he's been All-SEC in the service of the perpetually moribund Bulldogs. I think Jay Hopson's haul this year is going to be disappointing.
Thames on M, FWIW:
One school that Thames is looking forward to visiting in particular is Michigan. "They are a big school and I like the new spread offense they are gonna run," he said. "I think I'd fit in really well in their offense and I'd love to play receiver for them. They've talked about both offense and defense, so we'll see."
Indeed, we shall.
Now that Lloyd Carr is spending his days golfing and his nights at manga conventions, it's time to go over this career. First we play nice, assembling the Carr Era dream team. First up: the offense.
Rules: each season is judged independently. It makes no sense to compare one year of Drew Henson with four years of Chad Henne. Each player can only appear once: no receiving corps of Braylon, Braylon, and Braylon.
Update: Yes, NFL careers and draft positions do have some small bearing. These teams are based solely on college performance, but fans can wildly mis-rate players they've watched. NFL draft status and the performances they put in early in their careers can provide a valuable check.
Lamarr Woodley, 2006. Woodley was consistently excellent from the midpoint of his freshman year on, but it was in 2006 he did this:
co-captain ... Lombardi Award winner ... Ted Hendricks Award winner ... American Football Coaches Association All-America ... Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America ... Football Writers Association of America All-America ... Associated Press All-America first team ... The Sporting News All-America first team ... Rivals.com All-America first team ... Rivals.com National Defensive Player of the Year ... SI.com All-America second team ... CollegeFootballNews.com All-America second team ... Bednarik Award finalist ... Ronnie Lott Trophy quarterfinalist ... Bronko Nagurski Trophy candidate ... Outland Trophy candidate ... Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (coaches and media) ... Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year (coaches) ... consensus All-Big Ten first team selection (coaches and media)
The Ted Hendricks Award is another one of those fake-o awards that just popped up in the past few years and is awarded by the Upper Skokie Elks Club, but the Lombardi has been around a good long while and a Michigan player had never won it until Woodley reeled it in. Woodley was a killer pass rusher that year, tying David Bowens' school record with 12 sacks, and was also a major factor in Michigan's suffocating run defense. The only thing he couldn't do was run the 4.3 40 that would have gotten him to Troy Smith before he could get his passes to wide open WRs off.
MGoBlog is particularly indebted to Woodley, since it was his scoop-and-rumble to cap the f-ing beatdown of Notre Dame in 2006 that inspired "Brady Quinn for Heisman," which I can still watch six times in a row:
For this, and many other things, Woodley is the winnerest.
Glen Steele, 1997. Steele was one of a number of mid-nineties Michigan defenders with quintessential football names, (Jarrett Irons, Sam Sword, and Rob Swett were also charter members) and Steele lived up to his. The other All-American on the Michigan defense during the national championship season, Steele was a terror against both run and pass.
When Ohio State trailed Michigan by six points late in the 1997 edition of the Game, it was Steele who throttled the Buckeyes' final drive with two sacks and another TFL. It was also Steele, along with Swett, who forced Stanley Jackson into the worst interception ever (4:46 in) and gave Michigan the 20-0 margin they'd defend for the rest of the game.
Steele went in the fourth round to the Bengals and spent several years as a backup in the NFL.
James Hall was always terribly underrated. He didn't even make the All Big Ten team his senior year -- though, bizarrely, he was an All American to the Sporting News and a Butkus semifinalist -- and went undrafted. He's still in the NFL.
And, finally, the great disappointment of David Bowens, 1996. It was Bowens' record that Lamarr Woodley tied in 2006. Bowens' accomplishment may have been even more impressive since he did it in just eleven games (he missed the bowl game due to academic suspension, IIRC, and the twelfth game didn't exist then) and was just a sophomore when he did it. But he bombed out of school and ended up at Western Illinois. Rats.
Alan Branch, 2006. Defensive tackles are by nature statistical wastelands and must get by on reputation. Or, if you're Alan Branch, one of the most iconic photos in Michigan football history:
The 6'6" terror from New Mexico was statistically unimpressive during his final season in the winged helmet, racking up a paltry 25 tackles, 6 TFLs, and just two sacks, but the above impact and many others like it didn't register.
This is Alan Branch's impact, registered:
Every UFR that year was a rhapsody to Branch, and when I checked out Michigan's third down performance in 2006 this happened:
You can see 6'6", 330 of angry New Mexican hauling the tail end of that graph down like a black hole in spacetime. That's Alan Branch. 33 percent! On third and one! Six of eighteen! SIX OF EIGHTEEN!
When he entered the draft after his junior year, Michigan fans universally expected he'd be a top five pick and were notably disoriented when he fell to the first pick of the second round. No other Michigan defensive tackle under Carr has come close, statistics be damned.
Jason Horn, 1995. I confess I remember less than zero about Jason Horn. I was 16 when he was a senior and not quite the raving fanatic would become later. (When high school extracurricular events would interfere with games I would just find out what happened later I remember listening to Colorado try a Hail Mary the year after the one that worked in a car.) So when I perused the Bentley Library's records of the 1995 team and saw two All-Americans, one of whom was named "Jason Horn," I said "who?"
ell, in 1995 Jason Horn had 67 tackles, 11 sacks, and 18 TFLs and was named All Big Ten and All American by everyone. No Michigan defensive tackle can match that set of statistics and accolades, not even Branch.
Will Carr, 1996. For God's sake don't give him the ball. But, like, other than that Carr was pretty good, lodging an incredible 160 tackles over his last two years and being named a first-team All American in 1996.
Gabe Watson, 2005. It's either him, Rob Renes, or Josh Williams. Renes was an All American to TSN in 1999 and All Big Ten; he was drafted in the seventh round by the Colts and stuck around the league for a little while. Watson was a planetoid force of nature more interested in cheeseburgers than weights who spent half the game panting and half the game wrecking fools. Do you want the scrappy overachiever or the guy who kinda sorta wasted his potential? Maybe it's too much Fire Joe Morgan, but screw that Eckstein noise: I'm taking Watson.
David Harris, 2006. Harris will forever be the gold standard for Michigan middle linebackers. Agile, fast as hell, brilliant, and a crushing tackler, Harris probably should have won the Butkus his senior year. The insane badassery of Michigan's defense held his tackle numbers down, though, and the award went to some undeserving Penn State guy, like it usually does.
Harris started nine games in the NFL last year, racking up a season's worth of stats: five sacks, 127 tackles, and one traded Jonathan Vilma. Michigan's run defense took a spectacular nose dive.
Michigan listed two "inside" linebackers throughout most of Carr's tenure as Michigan stuck to Jim Herrmann's odd player designations that treated Michigan's players like they were in a 3-4, but in reality the two outside linebackers had more in common with each other than the true middle linebacker. Michigan would often flop players from the strongside to the weakside over the course of their careers, causing a logjam of killer weakside linebackers and a paucity of good senior guys on the strongside. So I'm discarding the distinction, declaring all OLBs OLBs, and picking two of these gentlemen:
|Larry Foote||2001||82||26||6||7||0||ABT, BT DPOY, 1 1st team AA||4th round, average starter|
|Pierre Woods||2003||67||14||7||N/A||2||ABT (2nd)||undrafted, end of roster|
|Victor Hobson||2002||99||17||6||1||0||ABT(1st), 1 4th team AA||2nd round #53, average starter|
|Ian Gold||1999||95||10||4||2||1||ABT(1st)||2nd round, #40, 1 Pro Bowl|
|Shawn Crable||2007||90||28.5||7.5||1||0||ABT(1st), many second-team AA||3rd round #78|
So there are two gentlemen here with eyepopping TFL numbers: Foote and Crable. Crable is out despite his Michigan record of 28.5. The defense this year was terrible against the run. Crable himself spent much of the year at defensive end against the spread, frequently gave up contain when not making his TFLs, took a bunch of personal foul penalties, and was the final goddamned nail in Michigan's coffin during the Horror. No.
Foote, on the other hand, is in, as the only Michigan OLB to come down with Big Ten defensive player of the year honors in Carr's tenure, and the only one to pick up a first team AA nod. For the other spot you're really splitting hairs between Hobson and Gold. My personal preference is for Hobson, who I remember being more of a safety blanket for me. Hobson was also the one really good player on a front seven featuring Zack Kaumfan as one of the other linebackers and a line of Rumishek-Bowman-Heuer-Stevens. Gold got to play with Dhani Jones, Rob Renes, and James Hall.
So there you go: Larry Foote 2001 and Victor Hobson 2002 join Harris.
In 1996, Jarrett Irons finished up this third straight year of more than 100 tackles and was named a first team All American by multiple outlets. Sam Sword ('97 and '98) and Dhani Jones (2000) can't measure up.
The outside linebackers: Gold and Woods from above.
Charles Woodson, 1997. This needs absolutely no justification, but I can give you plenty anyway. In 1997 Woodson had eight interceptions, second-most in Michigan history (Tom Curtis had ten in 1968) despite being avoided as much as humanly possible. Michigan finished #1 in total defense, scoring defense, and pass efficiency defense en route to a perfect 12-0 season and a national title.
And, like, all this stuff:
Update: oops... should probably include the Woodson highlights.
He also won that Heisman thing.
The obvious out of the way, we're left with two candidates for the other starting spot:
- Leon Hall, 2006. Hall was a Thorpe finalist and first-round NFL draftee and the best player in Michigan's secondary during their other great defensive year. Minuses: could to little to stave off Troy Smith's passing in the Ohio State game and got dusted by Dwayne Jarrett late in the Rose Bowl.
- Marlin Jackson, 2002. This was actually Jackson's sophomore year. In his first game he spectacularly battled Washington's Reggie Williams, who would be amongst the top receivers drafted that year, into an unproductive game. He would set a Michigan record for pass breakups in a single season.
Again, we're splitting hairs here. Both players were physical corners with great technique. Both were outstanding tacklers. Both were a little vulnerable deep. My slight preference is for Hall, who was slightly higher-rated by the NFL and made all manner of subtly excellent plays in 2006.
Jackson 2002, obviously, and then how about Jeremy LeSueur in 2003? LeSueur came a long way from his "brain freeze" against Michigan State in the Spartan Bob game. In 2003 he was second-team All Big Ten and Michigan's best corner on their excellent 2003 Rose Bowl team. He essentially shut out Mike Williams back when Mike Williams gave a damn. Unfortunately Markus Curry got burned twice by Keary Colbert, John Navarre was under siege all day, and USC got gifted a fluke touchdown when Braylon Edwards back-heeled a ball right to a Trojan defender, but none of that was LeSueur's fault. He was drafted in the second round by the Broncos.
This has been by far the weakest position over the course of the Carr era. The only All-American listed by the Bentley Library is Ernest Shazor, who was indeed an All-American up until the moment he disemboweled Dorien Bryant and saved the 2004 Purdue game. After that, uh...
And, like, there's more. (That first video was posted by a Spartan, who gloats that Shazor is slow and Spartan Bob must have crowned the field at the Big House... in a video from the 2004 Michigan-Michigan State game! Remind me how that turned out again? Sparty, no!)
Anyway, Shazor earned his rep the first half of the season and... er... blunted it in the second half. By the time the NFL draft rolled around, Shazor had plummeted all the way out of it. He cannot be added to the list.
Marcus Ray, 1997.
Ray's senior year in 1998 was marred by a six-game suspension for contact with an agent, so 1997 was it for Ray. It was a pretty good it, though: one #1 ranked pass efficiency defense, one SI cover, one national championship.
Jamar Adams, 2007. Don't get me wrong, Jamar Adams was a fine safety. I can tell because I didn't hate him despite his existence during the era when I carefully comb over every play the defense makes in case there's something to hate therein. Any college team would be totally satisfied to have him as one of their starters.
But Adams is the only player on the first team to never make first-team All Big Ten (he was second-team) and is one of very few to go undrafted. As one of Michigan's best safeties over a 13-year period, uh... that's depressing.
There is no second team. Seriously: Julius Curry? Tommy Hendricks? Ryan Mundy at West Virginia? There is no second team.
You ever notice that when a blogger puts up a post titled "Happy HOLIDAY X" it's just his way of copping out of a post that day? Yeah.
Happy Memorial Day!
Here's a conciliatory youtube video:
Also, Michigan's regional for the baseball tourney:
4. Eastern Michigan
The puck drops Friday at the Fish, and then they'll probably pick the puck up and play some baseball.
Apologies. Most of this UV is old news; I've been having increasingly severe computer issues over the last few days that have taken up large blocks of my time. I think I'm going to have to send Laptop 1 in; Laptop 2 may or may not be dead, in which case posting would be sporadic whenever Laptop 1 is getting fixed. FYI.
Hey, Desmond said stuff! Last person on the internet to remark on Desmond's remarks on Kirk Herbstreit (a "seemingly intelligent" guy) and Justin Boren (a "complainer"). Oh snap to both. The full smackdown on Herbstreit:
[Herbstreit's report] was wrong on so many levels. As a former player, unless I spoke to that coach and he told me it was cool, I would never have done that because he was still coaching a team that's about to play in a (SEC) championship game. ... His team, the first thing they saw when they woke up was that report. It was not fair to him and not fair to the players.
And on Boren:
At first, I was like, 'Wow, he's talking about family values.' And sometimes you use key words, and I read that, and I was like, 'Damn, this thing is just blowing up.' So I came up here (to Michigan) and I watched them practice. I was in the weight room working out, and two players started talking to me, and in general conversation they said, 'This guy, Desmond, was a complainer. He complained about workouts, he complained about practices.' And this is what they told me: 'Really, we're better without him.' I said, 'Wow, that's a different side of the story I hadn't even thought of.' I knew they were training in a way they've never trained before.
So then he went to Ohio State, and I was like, 'Well, how loyal can this guy be? All the colleges available to him, and he goes to Ohio State?' I talked to Rich, and Rich told me he talked to him, and Rich said (Boren) never was really happy no matter what they did. And Rich said, 'Desmond, I've got to do things my way.'
Howard also referenced the "raggedy" search process, which is kind, IMO.
The reaction here is, of course, "go Desmond." Rodriguez's lack of a family atmosphere has been so horrible it's run off exactly one player -- Mitchell, Ciulla, and Mallett all decided to pack it in before Barwis workouts even started. The manner and destination of his departure indicates a serious lack of character, and Michigan's not likely to miss him.
Hey! Gregg Easterbrook's a dummy! Remember this?
A preseason favorite for the BCS title, West Virginia was poised to qualify for the BCS Championship Game, needing only to beat 28-point underdog Pittsburgh in its final game, at home yet. The Mountaineers lost. We now know that in the days leading up to this huge upset, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez was negotiating for the Michigan job -- that is, was furiously engaged in stabbing his school in the back. The West Virginia team played very poorly in a game staged as the coach was working behind the scenes to shaft the school. Strange coincidence?
Easterbrook wrote this in a huffy section of his interminable TMQ in January without providing one shred of evidence this was the case. MGoBlog duly called him a loser.
Now, thanks to the magic of West Virginia's we want more money, guy campaign, there is rock-solid proof Easterbrook is full of it:
As part of the ongoing lawsuit filed by WVU to collect Rodriguez's $4 million buyout for leaving, the attorneys asked for all correspondence between Rodriguez, his representatives and Michigan regarding the position.
A representative of Rodriguez's contacted Michigan on Dec. 11, WVU attorney Jeffrey Wakefield said on Wednesday. The contact occurred three days before Rodriguez met with U-M president Mary Sue Coleman and athletic director Bill Martin in Toledo to interview for the position.
December 11th, ten days after the Pitt game, was the first contact between Rodriguez and Michigan. But why care about common sense or facts when you can leer at cheerleaders? As I wrote in January:
Scenario A: Rodriguez -- who doesn't care even a little bit about maybe winning a national title -- and Michigan secretly begin talks before the Pitt game. No insider gets wind of this and no one reports it during a period of time in which Michigan's athletic department was leaking like a sieve. He then spends every waking hour thinking about the Michigan job, thereby sabotaging WVU's preparations.
Scenario B: Michigan contacts Rodriguez in the thirteen days between the Pitt loss and the first meeting using a "telephone."
Scenario A is so unlikely that it would be dismissed by anyone except Easterbrook, who's the kind of pundit who will cram any available evidence into his extant theories no matter how square the peg and round the hole.
Expecting an apology from TMQ in 3... 2... 1... never.
And it begins. Not the streak, but the Penn State-Michigan series:
Michigan would lose the next three before embarking on its current 650-year win streak, which started when Joe Paterno was only 6,000.
Quiz for the future. Clay Travis is a young, bearded man who writes for CBS Sportsline. His latest column tackles the Buzz Bissinger thing -- which I really meant to say something about but never got around to -- in a way I wish I had. It's one of those columns that crystallizes something you've been kicking around in your head for a long time but never managed to figure out how to say. Key section:
What none of this banal criticism recognizes is that sports blogs exist -- and find an audience -- as a natural reaction to the patently false athletic images sold by the professional sports leagues and the majority of the mainstream media who cover these athletes. We know that athletes aren't saints and that in real life, outside the locker room, they don't walk around spouting the same tired responses to the same tired questions night after night after night.
Yet, athletes have become so coached in their responses to the media that it's the rare individual who is willing to step outside of the clichÃ© and say something interesting or revelatory. I challenge you to read the write-up of any game and see any quote by any player that you haven't seen a thousand times before. We've all been down this path before. Welcome to the sportswriting matrix, where we're all in crypto-sleep waiting for something to change.
I felt strongly about three things in the whole Bissinger meltdown:
- It was completely disingenuous of Will Leitch to claim "they're just commenters" when Deadspin is a Gawker blog that specifically picks people out of the rabble to be approved commenters and cultivates an aura of snark-snark-snark that leads to things like "Salisbury is a penis" or whatever. It's one thing if your comments are largely unregulated. Deadspin's are carefully groomed.
- Further, Leitch does the entire sportsblogging community a disservice by being presented as The Voice of The Internet when his blog is only tenuously a sports blog at all. I think of Deadspin as a Gawker blog about sports, with all that entails, more than a sports blog run by Gawker. Next time, Will, say tha
nks but no thanks and let Orson or Alex Belth or anyone else do it.
- A much more convincing defense of the Matt Leinart pictures would have been that for the majority of young people, those pictures make Leinart more likable because they are not pre-packaged "they played hard" comments.
- (four... four things I felt strongly about!) I kind of agreed with Bissinger, if you can agree with spittle. The whole Big Daddy Balls-Kissing Suzy Kolber aesthetic is a nihilistic and depressing thing unrescued by the blind hope of fandom, and I'm kind of embarrassed those guys get as much play as they do. This is also pretty much Will Leitch's fault.
This is not to say I don't like Leitch, a good writer with his heart in the right place, I just don't like Deadspin so much now that it's gone from the Leitch show to sometimes Leitch but quite often a bunch of other dudes who seem fundamentally meaner than him.
So... yeah, it's kind of awesome and kind of awkward that Clay Travis is trying to put together a five-on-five charity Quiz Bowl challenge with myself and Orson and Leitch and a couple of the KSK guys versus five blog-bashers. I was captain of the Quiz Bowl team in high school, you know. That's strictly Al Bundy small potatoes, though: one of the HSR guys won College Jeopardy(!), if Travis is looking for a ringer.
It's not me. Cris Carter wants to beat some Michigan blogger up because said blogger called him an asshole; this is not me. This a comprehensive list of all the people I've called assholes in this space:
- Mike Boren (indirectly)
- That guy who blocked that field goal during The Horror.
- Charlie Weis, which, in retrospect, is totally obvious
- Bret Bielema
- John Pollack, the hero of Tienanmen Square
- Terry Foster
- The ref who gave TJ a ten minute misconduct during the 2007 North Dakota game
- The universe
- yrs truly
- Coach K
- Alonzo Mourning ("our greatest asshole," according to Fictional Hubie Brown)
- Jason Whitlock
- Chris Webber
Other than Mourning and maybe Bielema and Boren, I feel pretty safe. The rest of them are either little dudes or so vastly out of shape I could just run away. (Chris Webber is neither but has no knees.)
Sword located. A "where are they now" on former MLB Sam Sword:
Sam Sword, a city recreation supervisor who played football at the University of Michigan and in the NFL, said preregistration was slow early in the week but the number of participants nearly doubled when youngsters showed up with parents on the day of the meet.
Sword lives in Palm Coast, Florida, and appears to be overcoming the indignities of his Michigan education quite nicely.
(Via Big House Blog.)
Etc.: Good piece in Slate related to Travis' "these guys are packaged and shiny" theory; Michigan has a German for next year or maybe the year after but he's six ten and can shoot. If you've got a hundred bucks you can sign up for Barwis' strength clinic and go "eeeeee" the whole time, or at least until he punches you in the trachea.