Plinko Preview

Plinko Preview Comment Count

Brian February 20th, 2012 at 4:52 PM

2/17/2012 – Michigan 4, Northern Michigan 1 – 19-10-4, 13-8-4 Gongshow
2/18/2012 – Michigan 3, Northern Michigan 2 (OT) – 20-10-4, 14-8-4 Gongshow

senior-night-hockey

Too many of these flags without a banner
AnnArbor.com

Inevitably, Michigan's come down a bit from its dominating post-Merrill streak. After a month of games rarely competitive enough to require the opposition goalie to be pulled, Michigan's won two of the last four in overtime. A third they lost; the fourth was a one-goal game with five minutes to go before a power play goal gave Michigan room to breathe.

While they remain one of the hottest teams in the country—probably still the hottest team—it's just that… man, they are mortal. Very much so. Saturday confirmed that. Watching Mac Bennett cough up an unbelievable turnover gets that point halfway home; cowering after Jon Freakin' Merrill got ostentatiously walked for a goal drives it the rest of the way. And don't get me started on the third pairing.

It is easy to construct ways in which Michigan gets beaten in the tourney. Maybe it's better to know that going in, to not be regarding the NCAA tournament as anything other than sport's most terrifying random number generator, but dammit I've been watching Michigan play hockey for 13 years and every year my soul has ended up sobbing on the floor of a Steak 'n' Shake bathroom. I don't like reminders of the ways in which these things happen.

I'm getting plenty of those of late. Both overtime winners were plinko specials. A puck slides under a Michigan State defenseman despite that guy dropping to one knee and Michigan's fourth line sweeps one in from point blank range. Northern throws a puck up the boards that just happens to hit Glendening in the tape and he flings it cross-ice to Treais, who does what Treais does and fires a laser-guided missile into the net.

It's great to get wins like that, sure. You are either unfamiliar with college hockey or a great dirty liar if it doesn't make you nervous, though. In April this team is going to be going up against team after team like they have in the second half of the season. They'll never meet last year's North Dakota. There is no last year's North Dakota. This means however they lose, if they lose, will be brutal.

Michigan's looking good for a one seed but we've seen puck after puck that cares nothing for expectation and craves only chaos, and it's getting to be that time of year. Prepare the antacid and whiskey: playoff hockey is around the corner.

-----------------------------

It's impossible to think things like the above and look at Michigan's RPI chart within minutes of each other without saying a little prayer of thanks that this…

image

…was not the season*. But now we're over it and have been talking about what Michigan needs to be a one seed for two months. Michigan has been as close to a dominant team as you can be for a long time now, and instead of being grateful to extend the tourney streak I'm steeling myself for the usual combination of anticipation and dread that accompanies single elimination hockey.

This is probably why I advised everyone to savor the final few games of basketball season. That team can be happy with being there. Hockey can't even if the above stretch threatened the tourney streak. Hockey has become a ghost-ridden thing over the past dozen years. Once recovery is in the rear view the tournament looms ahead, silent, red-haired, and wild-eyed. Loki is coming, and he has been kind recently. Be afraid.

*[How bizarre is that Ferris State sweep in retrospect? Ferris is going to win the league bar a sweep by Western and is in pretty good shape for a one-seed itself. Michigan destroyed them in the midst of their horrendous stretch.]

Highlights

Friday:

Saturday:

The latter does a great job of emphasizing how frequently Pateryn was annihilating various Wildcats.

HT: Michigan Hockey Net.

Pairwise

Michigan moved up to second on the weekend but still loses comparisons with two teams, BC and UMD. Thanks to Michigan's GLI win over the Eagles, passing BC is a simple matter of finishing ahead of them in RPI. Any other scenario that sees Michigan take the comparison also has M ahead in RPI, so that's easy enough.

UMD is a tougher, more annoying matter. They're getting significantly beat in RPI but win both COP (thanks to M's split against Western) and TUC. They're about a game in front there despite the RPI gap. Michigan will need them to limp down the stretch.

UMD is the only comparison it looks like Michigan can lose based on RPI right now thanks to BU's loss to BC in the Beanpot. That evened Michigan's COP with BU and there's nothing the Bulldogs can do about that except make it worse until the playoffs.

Playing BG is good and bad. They should be easy to beat but they provide no upside. A sweep barely budges Michigan's RPI; a split will see them drop.

Upshot for the people who don't care about the details: Michigan should finish at most one spot below their RPI ranking, which is currently second but could drop to fifth or sixth if they don't play well. If they take care of BGSU this weekend they will probably get a one seed as long as they reach and go 1-1 at the Joe. You hate Duluth and want them to die.

BONUS: Remember how I said Northern was on the bubble despite being ninth last week? At 16th they'd be out of the tournament if it started today. Do not look at bracketology columns. They are more pointless than college hockey polls.

Bullets That Could Go Anywhere

glendening-northern-michigan

AnnArbor.com

Revisiting Luke Glendening. After Glendening had a bad weekend in which he seemed at least partially responsible for three separate Notre Dame goals, I pointed out that he'd been dragging in +/- terms and scoring and that he'd have been exiled to the fourth line if he wasn't the captain.

This had the same effect as painting 1,181 across your hairless chest might. Since then he's had points in 5 of 6 games and has a 1-6-7 line as the second line has scored every night. Yeah, he's benefiting from AJ Treais's insane run of top shelf snipes, but he's getting Treais the puck in situations where he can unleash his shot. See: OT winner last night.

I got AJ Treais all wrong. I called him a less dynamic TJ Hensick, but this is not right. Right now he's a less dynamic Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri is the magic midget with the most lethal shot in MGoMemory, and Treais is a threat to water bottles all over the Gongshow at the moment.

Wait… what? A quick glimpse at Michigan's stats shows Lee Moffie at the top of the scoring charts with 6-23-29. That is a lot of points. He, too, has been on a mighty run the last three weekends, scoring three goals and assisting on six others. I say Michigan shortens its bench considerably in the playoffs and rides their top two pairings extensively.

Speaking of… Michigan tried to mitigate the issues with their third pairing by breaking Merrill and Moffie apart so that there was always at least one guy Red trusts on the ice at all times. This did not go so well. Chiasson had a couple of brutal turnovers, Merrill made some plays in his defensive zone that clearly indicated he had no faith in the freshman, and pairing Moffie with Serville was asking to die along the boards. Michigan eventually went back to their earlier plan and now seem stuck with it.

This seems like a situation where Michigan should go full Krug with their top four guys, no?

This can backfire. I remember a certain game against Maine back in the day—Comrie's last game, so 2000—during which Michigan rode five defenseman until the fifth got injured. They had only four and Bob Gassoff*—and by the end of that game Mike Komisarek could barely move. After Comrie got a half-breakaway and converted five-hole, Maine got Michigan stuck in their own zone and wore them down in the third period. The goals that followed felt inevitable.

So you have to get some shifts for the third pairing guys in, but offensive zone faceoffs only against guh opponents only, please.

*[Bob Gassoff is now a Navy Seal and could probably rip my head off with two fingers. So it is with some trepidation that I reveal that as a student I once cried out "WHY EVEN GIVE HIM A STICK?" when Red iced Gassoff at some point that year. He was a guy with no discernible skill except fighting people, which is discouraged. If you think this year's defense is frighteningly thin you have no idea. Just no idea at all.]

Third line. Still bupkis. They'll get something against BG, right? I mean, they have to one of these days.

Elsewhere

CenterIce breaks down Michigan's goals. The Deblois semi-break:

I predicted that Jon Merrill would have a bounce back series after last weekends MSU fiasco. The thing that has always separated Merrill from others is his hockey I.Q. You either have it or you don't, things like this can't not be taught.

This play starts out as a regular clear for the Wildcats, nothing special just a puck sent out of the zone.

Head up the whole way Merrill gets the puck from Moffie and finds Deblois cutting through the middle.

The Northerners are all kinds of confused, obviously since the blueliner has closed his legs like he's in shot blocking position.

As you can see they are caught way out of position.

The only play left for NMU is to go for the hook, bring him down and try your luck on the PK. Deblois does a great job of keeping the puck and staying on his feet to finish the play off.

Whole thing highly recommended.

AnnArbor.com game recap. Pateryn:

“The way he’s been putting the puck in the net, I kinda was a little premature on my celebration,” Pateryn said. “My gloves weren’t off, but hands went up. ... Thankfully, he put it in.”

Press conference recaps from Friday and Saturday from Michigan Hockey Net. I was surprised that Berenson was so down on the Friday performance; I felt like they were mostly dominant 5x5 and got screwed on penalties. They got caught in their own zone three or four times and gave up scary chances but I don't think that's a matter of toughness; it's just that the third pairing is scary.

Matt Slovin on Hunwick's Hobey hopes. Tiny Jesus reference included. Daily recap.

Comments

Dear Diary Predicts the Past III: Linebacker

Dear Diary Predicts the Past III: Linebacker Comment Count

Seth July 3rd, 2011 at 5:04 PM

JonasMoutonObiEzeh

Previously: The Offense, The Defensive Backs

Dear Diary,

In 2006, David Harris never came off the field for a single defensive play. Then he (and Prescott Burgess) graduated, and the Ezeh/Mouton era was born.

The cheapest thrill in MGoBlogging from '07 to '10 was making an Obi Ezeh joke. Here was a guy with limited ability who was subject to terrible coaching and forced into the center of Michigan's defense – wearing David Harris's number no less – for four terrible years because until Kenny Demens there was no alternative. Since linebacker mistakes are harder to spot than, say, free safety mistakes, you could get a lot of internet cred by intelligently pointing out the flaws in Ezeh's game.

If you hang around enough program insiders, you already know that in all of the important things in life, Obi Ezeh is a spectacular success. On the overwhelming majority of the plays he was involved in, Obi did something other than fail spectacularly. And then there were those times on the field when he failed, spectacularly.

That it took until midway through his senior year to displace Ezeh says a lot about the depth of Michigan's linebacker recruiting, and probably more about the coaching. Four years ago, was this the future we expected?

Depth Chart:

WLB Yr. MLB Yr. SLB Yr.
Chris Graham Sr. Johnny Thompson Jr.* Shawn Crable Sr.*
Jonas Mouton Fr.* Obi Ezeh Fr.* Marrell Evans Fr.
Brandon Logan Jr. Austin Panter Jr. Brandon Herron Fr.

Incoming: (Marcus Wither-)SPOON!

Expected: AUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

But that AUGGGHHHH was a long time coming. M had a string of bad linebacker recruiting years that ended up giving playing time to a Sarantos and the vastly overrated McClintock a few years earlier before the enterprise was saved by Burgess panter-093008_300moving in from safety and a Grand Rapids 2-star running back emerging as all-world MLB David Harris. By 2007 those guys were gone and it was the undersized seniors Graham and Crable, then hope.

The story of 2007 recruiting, other than "PLZ moar DBs!" was "PLZ moar LBs!" Then the LB haul turned out to be a JUCO junior and two fliers, and two of the freshmen transferred, and crippling fear set in. Little bits of happy flakes like "maybe Chris Graham will have a Bennie Joppru renaissance" and "Obi Ezeh practice hype!" and "Jonas Mouton's recruiting pedigree as a safety" were used to provide the necessary optimism to balance the previews that start with a tiny linebacker with Tyrannosaurus arms, yappy trash-talking spear, and blitz-only knife, and end with one guy down the depth chart with any hope of being good.

Tyranno-arms was Chris Graham, who was terrible as a sophomore, didn't play behind Burgess, and came into his senior year expected to raise even more internet ire. The expectation here was for Mouton's loads of talent to push Graham out of the way.

At MLB, Thompson and Ezeh were in a battle. What little had been seen of Thompson led Brian to conclude he was a guy born a generation too late, medium_UM FBC EZEH LONthe best case scenario a Sam Sword who needs to come off the field on passing downs. Ezeh was our knight in Harris-ian armor:

Nobody's seen redshirt freshman Ezeh in the flesh yet, but the indicators on him are good. For one, he is David Harris: a nothing running back recruit out of Grand Rapids who Michigan unearthed and brought in as a linebacker. He even took the newly hallowed #45 once Harris graduated. In the fall he was moved to middle linebacker to compete with Thompson and Panter so he wouldn't spend his year idling behind Crable. Whenever people try to get you on the field, that's a good sign.

We now know that whenever people try to get you on the field, that could be a good sign for you, or a bad sign for the entire unit.

Crable? Ah, Crable. Expert attacker, not made for regular linebacking duties. The SAM position that kind of became Spur and is now again SAM was exactly what Crable was good at. He essentially made Michigan's defense a 5-2, with Crable serving as a sharp knife to terrify bludgeoning offensive linemen and wreak backfield havoc. When he's not doing this, Michigan would go to the nickel, with Brandon Harrison in for Crable. Brian in aa13the preview:

As a 6'6" linebacker with chicken legs and a high center of gravity, he's not the sort to defeat a block and close out a hole. He doesn't make tackles three yards downfield. It's either in the backfield or after long pursuit.

As for depth and future: negligible or less after Mouton and Ezeh. The team was sucking up the departure of Mixon and Patilla, and Brandon Graham's move to DE, leaving just 9 scholarship players, of whom Mouton was the only consensus 4-star or higher. Logan was already a clear Anton Campbell Memorial Special Teamer. Pessimistic practice reports ruled out any immediate usefulness from Panter. Evans was a 2-star reportedly offered on advice that he had a better work ethic than Brandon Minor, according to Brandon Minor. Herron was an athletic project recruit who looked like a receiver. On July 31, 2007, until help arrived from the 2008 class, the future was Ezeh, Mouton, and bleakness:

Mixon transferred, Patilla is likely gone, and Graham is a defensive end. Mouton (who moved down from safety) and Ezeh are both drawing very positive reviews and are odds-on favorites to start next year, but past that we have only the two freshmen, one of whom was a two-star and the other a three-star regarded as a combine freak who needs a lot of work. Depth is also going to be an issue at linebacker going forward; we need at least three in this class.

As for those 2008 recruits, SPOON! was Rival's 160th overall at the time, and the board was full of linebacker prospects. Taylor Hill, a 3.5-star-ish guy was apparently off to Florida (the RR hire turned him back), but M was in good position for 4-star J.B. Fitzgerald, anMarell-Evansd Christian Wilson was close to coming in, but as an H-back. Because the offer list was so rich and large and positive feeling-y, in-state Kenny Demens didn't have an offer from Michigan, and insiders expected him to end up at that school people go to when they want to go to Michigan but don't have a letter of acceptance from Michigan.

All told, expectations were for a dark period that hopefully saw Mouton emerge as a killer to cover up deficiencies in the Ezeh/Thompson platoon, while the coaches schemed around the 3rd LB spot with two-LB sets (nickel/5-2) or sets that basically act like two-LB (3-3-5, 4-3 under) until the fruits of the 2008 haul ripened. The 2008 preview gave a kind 2 out of 5 rating because if Ezeh got better (rather than worse) each year, he'd be Schilling minus the recruiting hype. At that point Mouton was beaten for the starting gig by the workmanlike (pre-transfer) Marrell Evans, and Panter was your 2008 starting SLB. By Penn State '08 it was Thompson at SAM, Mouton terrible in coverage but awesome at blitzing, and Ezeh a convenient focal point for power running teams, which the Big Ten has those, and we talking about how we totally called it.

Ultimately this meant 'eh' to mediocre linebacker play for 2007-09, and then something approximating good in 2010 when Mouton and Ezeh are 5th year seniors with loads of experience, and the 2008 guys were upperclassmen.

How Did that Turn Out?

mouton-angle-3

This is a picture taken from Brian's picture pages of Mouton losing contain again. RB#32 will now cut behind LT#77 and probably have enough time to cue a celebratory animation as he waltzes toward the end-zone as you throw your controller and curse the EAsshole who programmed suction blocking.

Then you realize this is real life and you go looking for a coach to throttle.

The depth chart at the beginning of 2007 fall practice tells a story, but the rest of the tale of linebacker in the 2007-10 is the clearest case in M history since DeBordian offensive playcalling in which the coaches failed their players.

Whereas the defensive backfield suffered from a lack of guys, the linebacker corps had a some guys with wildly varying abilities The truth of that statement can be found in the era's picture pages that weren't about bad DB play, bad backup DL play, or some bit of insight into the Offensive Genius of Mr. Rodriguez, from lining up Demens incorrectly to the consistent fundamental mistakes made by experienced 5th year seniors. It can be confirmed by the incredibly short careers of various linebacker coaches in this time:

2007: Steve Szabo – Former LB's coach for Jacksonville Jaguars ('94-'02) and DC for B.C. and Colorado State before that. Michigan's LB coach from 2006-'07, was let go with rest of Carr's staff when RR took over, and joined the Carr's-Michigan-in-Exile project of Ron English down the road in Ypsilanti.

2008-'09: Jay Hopson – A favorite MGoWhipping Boy, this Mississippi import couldn't a.) coach linebackers, or b.) recruit Mississippi. He was the fall-guy for the 2009 defense. Brian on Hopson postmortem:

Now that he's actually gone, it's no sugarcoat time: Hopson failed at all aspects of his job at Michigan. At least Tony Gibson can point to the walk-ons and whatnot when attempting to explain what went wrong with his section of the defense; Hopson had two redshirt juniors with three years of starting experience between them. They went backwards, and the big-time recruit backing them up also proved unready.

Meanwhile, a—possibly the—primary reason Michigan lacks depth on the defensive line and might have to turn down a couple of recruits who want to come was Hopson getting "commitments" from two defensive tackles who eventually went to Arkansas and Texas Tech on signing day.

This makes Rodriguez 0/2 on his new hires since coming to Michigan, with Greg Robinson currently sporting an incomplete. If Rodriguez doesn't make it at Michigan the guys he picked to run his defense will be a primary factor.

    If the link to that Christmastime '09 post is purple on your browser, it's because I've linked it several times before thanks to this famous bit of prophesy fulfilled: 2010: GERG – You see a man with fantastically groomed white locks who takes the opportunity afforded by his first linebacker ward performing a linebacker play correctly to rub said linebacker's face with a beaver beanie baby. Throttle this man? Y/N
    That's not to say they were working with a roster full of Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnsons (like some people). The transfer bug continued, as Evans and three of the '08 commits (Hill, SPOON!, and former safety Brandon Smith) followed Mixon and Patilla out the door. The recruiting story under Carr was, if you can believe it, even more desperate than the defensive backs, evidence: Panter. But where you can't get away from playing 4 DBs on most downs, you can get away with 2 every-down linebacker-y linebackers if you scheme for it, and that's what Michigan essentially did.
    The result: zero depth behind the two summon creatures played above. At various points along the way, tiny walk-on Kevin Leach became a nominal starter, and not because of injuries to guys ahead of him. Suboptimal options J.B. Fitzgerald, Craig Roh, Brandon Herron, Mark Moundros and Brandon Smith were all forced into the lineup in hopes of plugging some of those holes between Adam Patterson and wherever Adam Patterson's shoes were landing. If the Opong-Owusu family had produced any more sons, they probably would have played as well.
    The real story of 2007 to 2010 though was Mouton and Ezeh. Mouton came to be known in my (fantasy nerdy) head as the Goblin Sapper, equally liable to cause massive to enemies and his own party. Since the NFL apparently thinks they can make a linebacker out of him, and he was actually getting really good coverage drops whenever he knew to do so, I tend to blame the coaches more than Mouton for his 'define erratic' play. We can only wonder if he would have been our best WLB prospect since Dhani. Ezeh? At this point let's just and wish him luck in everything he does.

That's 2/3 of the tale. The third LB position, strongside, turned out fine. Crable was Crablicious in limited duty for English's nickel-happy '07, and in '08 John Thompson got to do his neaderthalish thing when the occasion called for it (which was basically just Wisconsin and MSU). In 2009 the SAM spot became Spur, a straightforward hybrid position that basically combines Brandon Harrison and Shawn Crable into a player who stays on the field for every down. In '09 it turned out to be Stevie Brown's lifetime calling. In 2010 it was the home of a rotating cast of freshmen: two redshirted Gordons and Carvin Johnson, who were not at all disappointing.

5 Point Scale of Expectation vs. Outcome: 3. We knew things were gonna be Mouton, Ezeh and pray for rain, and only hoped that experience, recruiting, plus a breakout or two from among the 2- and 3-stars, would be able to fix that. Ezeh got a little bit worse every year. Mouton had a major regression as a junior from a promising but mistake-y sophomore year, before getting a bit better as a senior. The recruits came but didn't develop. What really nailed this unit was the coaching, both the effects of changing schemes every year, and the overall poor quality of the Hopson/GERG coaching experience. Heading into 2011, the outlook isn't all that different, depending on your excitement level over Kenny Demens in a sensical defense (Brian: high, Misopogon: medium) and trust that one of the WLB guys will be serviceable (Brian: low, Misopogon: medium). For the future, the "I coached Ray Lewis" pitch seems to be working like free ice cream as Mattison has grabbed first dibs on a loaded regional LB class, and Mark Smith, who has followed Hoke around since '03, would really have to work to match the record incompetence of his last two predecessors.

Next week is the d-line and I promise it won't be this depressing again. Look: Biakabutuka going for 313.

Diaries after the jump.

Comments

Dear Diary Predicts the Past, Part II

Dear Diary Predicts the Past, Part II Comment Count

Seth June 19th, 2011 at 12:07 AM

DBackfield

Michigan's defensive backfield, 1879-2006 RIP – Upper left: Box Safety; Upper right: Free Safety; Upper middle: Dime; Lower left: Shortside CB; Lower Center: Nickel/Spur; Lower Right: Wideside CB.

"Every setback is a setup for bad cornerbacks."

---Anonymous, as amended after watching Michigan for a few years.

Dear Diary,

Since you all failed so miserably at convincing me not to do a follow-up for the defense, here is Part II of my Predicting the Past series, where we measure optimistic expectations during the summer against cold hard reality, which hates us. With defense it's going to be less useful – if Hoke and Mattison are as blitheringly incompetent defensively as their predecessors then there's no point to anything anymore – so I'll spare some of the detail.

Either way, we are foraying into the defense of 2007-2010, so this is going to get very ugly very quickly. Some of you in the comments thought that last week's tale of offensive destruction and redemption was depressing. Well if that's depressing, this is going to be more like the kind of torture that requires a large white room and lots of sharp-looking instruments. You will be stabbed, axed, shot, cut into a million tiny pieces, and those will be stomped on. Then we'll do the linebackers.

Let's just get the agonizing part over with.

Defensive Backs:

DBackfield2

Inevitable, no. But as of June 2007, we were well on our way.

Depth Charts:

  • Cornerback: Morgan Trent (Jr/Sr), Johnny Sears (So/Jr), Donovan Warren (Fr/Fr), Doug Dutch (Jr/Sr), Troy Woolfolk (Fr/Fr), James Rogers (Fr/Fr), Anton Campbell (Sr/5th)
  • Nickel: Brandon Harrison (Jr/Jr)
  • Safety: Jamar Adams (Sr/Sr), Stevie Brown (So/So), Brandent Englemon (Sr/5th), Charles Stewart (Jr/Sr), Artis Chambers (Fr/Fr), Michael Williams (Fr/Fr)

Incoming: Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith

Expected: I skipped NCAA 2007 and '08, mostly because I loved the cover of '06, so I don't know how they (over-) rated our DBs. I do very much remember trying to keep the rosters of my dynasty kind of accurate as the years progressed, but by '07 feeling really stupid when re-naming and re-sizing a 5-star recruit to Stevie Brown. Yes, Virginia, in June 2007 we knew we were in trouble. Not so much trouble that we freaked about losing Chris Richards to the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, but such that the need for talent and bodies at these positions was the main theme of MGoBlog recruiting boards in 2006 and 2007.

More after the jump

Comments

Dear Diary Predicts the Past

Dear Diary Predicts the Past Comment Count

Seth June 14th, 2011 at 9:00 AM

quarterbacksi

Mallett/Wienke/Beaver/Newsome/Threet/Sheridan/Forcier/Denard/Gardner. Not pictured justcuz: Notorious C.O.N.E., Feagin, Conelius, Bellomy, President Kennedy & various other walk-ons, and Nachoshorts, brother to Tacopants, who is 4 inches tall and made of puppy dreams and snowflakes and was the guy Moosman was always snapping to in 2009.

Dear Diary,

It's about expectations. Among the very few diaries this week was Gordon's highly debatable retcon of recent Michigan history if the sweatervest had remained folded in a Youngstown drawer. That's about what might have happened. My diary's about what we thought would happen.

You've probably done this same exercise a million times after commitments (and 16 times since March): look at the current depth chart for that guy's position, toss in the current commits, and predict a monster future for Michigan, or wonder how in the world we will find playing time for all of these guys. Well things don't always work out how you expect, in fact they never do.

Over the next few weeks I will attempt to review our past expectations for Michigan's position groups at this time in Year X. Hopefully the knife of attrition will be much more lenient in the coming years than it was over the last few. Maybe there's something to be learned here about adjusting expectations. Maybe this is just a colossal thought loop. Either way it's not about OSU's scandal, and will hopefully make for an entertaining walk down memory lane. If it sucks, feel free to eat me alive in the comments. I'm told I taste like chicken.

This week: 2007 Offense.

What was going on:

It was a lazy offseason in pre-Apocalyptic Ann Arbor. I mean really lazy: we had like 3-6 commits at this point (Cissoko, Wermers, Moore, Witherspoon and Mike Martin) but led with plenty more, and thought '08 recruiting was just dandy. Baseball made its run on the national stage (the peak was a 2-game sweep in the regionals over No. 1 Vandy) to get us all excited-like. Mostly we sat around watching Sam McGuffie YouTube highlights and hoping Comcast wouldn't kill our ability to watch Michigan play football. Will Campbell committed for 2009, and early speculation had Larry Capers coming eventually. Cobrani Mixon became our first Facebook transfer. Comcast and the Big Ten were having their great phallis-off. On a way smaller scale John Pollack and Jim Carty were having theirs with the university over plans to install (gasp) luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium. Brian got really excited over the possibility of games on Torrents (MGoVideo debuted June 18), and spent much of the summer trying to figure out why Jonas Gray (and to a lesser extent his teammate and "package deal" Kenny Demens) didn't have a Michigan offer. Autumn Thunder made epic comparisons of people to Lord of the Rings villains, with Jim Tressel cast as Saruman. Crystal ball? Try internet connection.

We were not Harbaugh fans.

Quarterbacks

QBs in 2007

Depth Chart: Chad Henne (Sr/Sr), Ryan Mallett (Fr/Fr), David Cone (So/Jr)

Incoming: Steven Threet (4-star, 2007 Transfer/Fr from Georgia Tech), John Wienke (3-star)

Expected: Going into what everyone knew was Lloyd's last year, Michigan was the NFL's quarterback factory, having produced an unbroken line of pro passers dating back to the stone age. That such a legacy would continue was a certainty with 4-year starter and robot Chad Henne mentoring 2007 uber-recruit Ryan Mallett (who survived transfer rumors to Arkansas in late April). In the event of near disaster, Navarre-like object Cone was on the roster. Homecoming transfer Threet and the statuesque southpaw Wienke – who received his camp offer a year ago today – would be on hand if (God forbid) anything happened to Mallett from 2008-'10, or else to mop up the blood from the star's latest aerial assaults.

How'd that turn out? Ha. Henne was iffy and frustrated in the HORROR then had his shoulder blown up in the Oregonian Disaster—the rest of his heroics would be gutting it out with that shoulder to Little Brother little brother, and the legendary dismantling of Florida in the Cap One Bowl. The bubble burst on this dream with the hiring of Spread 'n Shredder Rich Rodriguez. The writing was on the wall for a 3-star pocket passer, and Wienke wisely bolted (for Iowa). Mallett transferred to Arkansas and went on to a productive career with lots of character questions. Cone stuck around to give us a fantastic YouTube video and a few garbage time cheap thrills. Threet emerged from his transfer purgatory to find himself fighting a duck-tossing walk-on for the right to get beaten up in the worst Michigan offense in ever ever. He spent the season in and out of the lineup with assorted injuries, and later transferred to Arizona State so the Richrodigan freshmen could play.

5 Point Scale of Expectation vs. Outcome: Does this scale have a zero? Way Zero.

More after the jump.

Comments

Life As A Vole

Life As A Vole Comment Count

Brian April 8th, 2011 at 1:46 PM

4/7/2011 – Michigan 1, North Dakota 0 – 29-10-4, national championship berth

[Ed-M: M 2, NoDak 0 if you count the empty-netter but it felt like 1-0]

image

little pimpin'

42:40: The first time I looked at the clock. You'll note this is still in the first period. At this point I was a bit uncomfortable with the way things were tilted and wanted them to get to the locker room to regroup so they could get back on the relatively even footing it seemed they'd grasped. I mean, North Dakota seemed better but there was a bit in there where this looked like a plausible hockey game.

40:59: Ref gives Michigan embellishment call as player tries to hop around defender to grab the puck. Furious.

40:00: Exhale. Pop on twitter to complain about Rust's elbowing call. Think back to the 2003 Yost regional final when Mark Mink turned a harmless shorthanded CC turnover behind their own net to a wrap-around goal. Remember shouting "you haven't done anything all year but I FORGIVE YOU" at Mink. Half wince at persistent complaints about amount of playing time handed over to Ben Winnett over the years, half take credit for goal since universe tends to say "oh YEAH" at blog assertions.

39:30: This isn't going well. Already.

36:55: Derek DeBlois is headed off the ice when the puck approaches the bench; he hesitates for a second, looks like he's going to play it, and then continues. They call too many men.

34:55: Michigan kills another power play without really letting North Dakota get set up. That's their third; at no point has UND looked dangerous.

35:00: Still not going well at all.

33:03: Ref fails to call a matching minor on a Sioux slash. Power play.

29:50-ish. Hunwick robs Chay Genoway as he plunges into the slot, Eric Werner-style. He receives a cross-slot pass. A pass that goes from one prime shooting area from another is completed and Hunwick makes the save with his body. He's outside the crease as he does this.

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29:05: The point at which I look at the clock and say "over half this period is gone" with sudden relief and realize I have been looking at this hockey game as the world's longest penalty kill since the 42:40 mark. I admit this to myself now. We are going to look like Wayne State against Colorado College the night before Mink scores the goal that forgives all: lined up on the blue line like men being executed for treason.

25:00-ish: Gregoire turns Langlais and comes swooping in on net right-to-left. He's on his forehand and has the entire net; Hunwick slides with him and stones him.

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24:12: Hunwick drinks water. A friend who sits in the end zones at Yost told me that Hunwick is finicky about his water. Whenever a ref comes by to drink some his body language reads "why do you have to be like that?"

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20:00: Exhale. Type "shitshitshitshitshitshitshit" into twitter because at this point analysis is impossible. I'm pretty sure Clare isn't playing much and there have been points when the fourth line has gotten trapped in its own end against the Frattin line that I can remember now but it's fight or flight.

18:00: Ten percent.

16:00: Twenty percent.

15:51: Frattin plays in on Malone as Glendening gets beat around the corner. Hunwick goes for a poke check and gets it; I realize this about five seconds later since the animal terror had been focused on the area behind Hunwick where the puck would pop out as the inevitable, devastating five-hole goal was scored. imageimageimage

I think about how I've seen this story before.

In 2004 Boston College was bombing Al Montoya but Michigan was hanging on to a one-goal lead thanks to goals from Mike Brown and Andy Burns—basically Winnett, except Burns was a defenseman scoring his first of the year. After a hectic nine-minute stretch without whistles in which Michigan finally started playing BC even, Michigan gave up a goal off an offensive zone faceoff. Whole self deflated, etc. BC won in overtime; shots ended up 42-15 BC.

12:33: I am being hunted. A shadow passes to my right as I scurry, tiny legs whirring through wildflowers. The shadow is getting larger.

10:01: AAAAAIIGH FRATTIN—HUNWICK!

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AIGH MALONE

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I have no idea where the puck is but I don't care because it's not in the net. Air Force did this to us. God, we were good that year.

When I came home my then girlfriend had someone over. I said nothing, went into the bedroom, and closed the door. She silently brought me a glass and some whiskey, and I thought she was as wonderful as anything could be in a universe of total blackness.

Fifty percent.

9:32: Nothing much is happening righ—DON'T EVEN THINK THAT

8:50: Merrill holding call. This is all my fault.

6:50: Merrill comes out of the box without North Dakota getting much more than a point shot, but Michigan gets stuck in their end just as the penalty expires and is clearly gassed. I remember a game against Maine in which Michigan was down to five defensemen, one of whom was a walk-on, but not like Hunwick is a walk-on. Like a walk-on walk-on. They mostly played four guys. Mike Komisarek was a giant, a future pro who was unbelievably good, but by the end of the game he could barely move, and Maine put the Comrie era to bed.

The puck slides to the blue line, but not out. The linesman doesn't see it that way. Good linesman. I take back everything bad I've ever said about offsides.

5:00: Seventy five percent.

4:00: Now counting in minute increments. At 3:14 I decide there are three minutes left. I hate that 2:37 is still three minutes. 2:16: two minutes. Kill one power play. Come on.

1:13: Goalie gone. "Get it out," someone screams. The puck does not get out.

57.5: A pass slithers out from behind the net and manages to avoid the mess of sticks and skates camped out there. This memory does not require a refresher from wikipedia because it's terrifyingly recent: UMD just scored into a wide-open net against Notre Dame on this exact same pass. Hagelin throws himself at the shot and blocks it. The puck turns heel and ends up right back on Trupp's stick. He walks into the slot and lets it loose; Pateryn has thrown himself at this one and the puck deflects into the corner. It's thrown back out into the same spot on the ice, where Trupp waits; Hagelin has recovered and chucks the puck into the other corner.

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44:1: UND recovers and throws a couple passes around the perimeter. The second one is one-timed; Hagelin is again there. He blocks it. Puck turns back into an American hero by somehow lying directly at Hagelin's feet after the block. He's attacked by the defenseman who just fired it; Hagelin evades him; Michigan breaks to center ice three on two; Hagelin passes it over to Caporusso as another Sioux player comes up to stop him; Louie does the same when the last remaining defender approaches him at the blue line; Scooter—of course it is Scooter—slides the puck into the empty net.

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Someone tries to shake my hand or something and is hugged.

0:00. 60:00.

Photoshop Espectacularrrrr

I didn't want to lead the post with this but there was quality work done on the board last night, most of it inspired by this guy:

NORTHDAKOTABIRD.gif.pagespeed.ce.LV0aMSQ8oF

[click for big]

Usually bird-flipping maniacs don't look like accountants. Our previous experience tends more towards lawyers:

steve-breaston-gets-the-fin

Two things to note:

  • Louie Caporusso giving him the bird right back—I didn't even know you could do that in a hockey glove.
  • See the guy in the white giving a death stare that moves from Scooter to the bird-flipper? Yeah, if you watch the Winnett goal that guy flips off Winnett. North Dakota fans: classy.

Anyway:

michigandiff

And:

hunwick-troll

Complete this photoshop espectacularrrrr.

Hell Yes Bullets

Random guys who played well unexpectedly. Luke Moffat had as much of a game as you can have as a third/fourth liner in a game where you're pinned in your own end most of the time. Melrose was all about Rust, and with reason. Moffie was not exploited—he went with Frattin in the first period and tied up his stick, turning what looked like it was going to be a dangerous chance into a weak shot Hunwick had no problem with.

Rust. RUST. I think we're getting a sense of just how silently good he is. Michigan's late-season renaissance has come with Rust logging huge minutes against top lines and it doesn't seem to matter who's on his wing. A win tomorrow makes Shawn Hunwick a legend and it should probably make Rust one too—Schwartz, Frattin, and UNO's big guns have little to show in three nerve-wracking games. If UMD says the same tomorrow he instantly becomes the most underrated Michigan player in the last decade.

Ref complaint. Seriously, the reason people say "keep your head up" is so you can get hit in the head with someone's shoulder, and calling a charge on Michigan after an obvious charge on North Dakota makes me want to die, not to mention a trip on the goalie late in the game that was totally ignored. Yost Built heard it was Scott Hansen from HE and immediately said "that's the guy who waved off the Ryznar goal in Buffalo"—so, yeah, basically any time Michigan gets a HE crew they will have screwed Michigan at some point in the past.

ESPN non-complaint. Melrose was all about North Dakota last night and people were all about ripping Melrose, but he was right. This was a "sometimes the best team doesn't win situation" and it was obvious on the ice. Kudos to Michigan for doing what they needed to but asking Melrose not to marvel at the Sioux is asking him to turn a blind eye to reality. Red agrees:

“I’ll tell you, they’ve got to be stunned,” Berenson said. “I know we were in '97. We were stunned. There’s so much momentum built up in your season. They rolled through the season, they rolled through their playoffs, they rolled their playoffs, they rolled through the first regional.

“But they’re stunned. They can’t believe it. They’re going to second guess themselves.”

Michigan just beat '97 Michigan. That team was stacked, and saying so doesn't make you a bad dude.

Also, I love Gary Thorn so much.

Gurrrrrgh. Someone retweeted Lee Moffie apologizing for nailing some dude in the crowd:

I want to apologize to the guy I hit in the face today in crowd. #toughmits #peterpanic #bouncingpucks

I followed Moffie since that's entertainment right there, and then it suggested I follow "ajtrea23," which is obviously AJ Treais even if the number is messed up, and I clicked through. Treais's bio:

University of Michigan 13'. The Andover High School 09'. A less dynamic version of TJ Hensick.

My spidey sense told me to Google this and sure enough:

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Tell Winnett I'm so so sorry.

Elsewhere

The highlights in non-picture format:

Yost Built on the flipper:

didn't you feel like that when Andrew Volkening shut us out 2-0, despite the Wolverines outshooting Air Force 43-13? Didn't you feel like that when Ryan Miller beat us 1-0 in a game that we outshot Michigan State by a 31-13 count?

This is how it feels to have the goalie that makes opposing fans do...well...that.

Sioux fans are going to think about this game--this season--for the next decade as the one that got away. This is going to be their 1997. The year their team was near unbeatable during the year, actually unbeatable for the 2 1/2 months heading into the tournament, and that damn tiny walk-on goalie slammed the door on them.

I don't even blame the guy, really. HSR. You can stream the game again if you want. Blazefire says that was Lloydballed—I wonder how much of it was optional. Daily coverage includes:

"Kevin Hunwick" reigns supreme. Mets Maize on blind terror.

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