Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Defense

Submitted by Ace on June 11th, 2012 at 4:32 PM


The Ballad of Boubacar is brief and unfortunate

This is the second part of an in-depth look at the 2008 recruiting class, and more specifically Brian's recruiting profiles for that class. You can find part one, covering the offense, here. If you'd like to peruse the recruiting profiles yourself—a highly recommended time-waster—you can find links to each position group here. Without further ado, let's look back at the eight-member defensive class of 2008. This one's not for the squeamish.

Mike Martin Wrestles Not Mike Martin, Which Goes As Expected

Let's start with the good, yes? Mike Martin not only stands as the clear-cut best player in the class, but outside of two-star Patrick Omameh may very well be the only player to surpass expectations from when he hit campus. Those expectations, at least from Brian, were pretty high:

Guru Reliability: High.
General Excitement Level: High. The highlight reel is totally impressive, there are zero questions about work ethic or how in shape he is, and he's got pretty good guru rankings.
Projection: Will play in the DT rotation immediately, and will probably leap past Ferrara, Kates (if Kates remains on the team), et al to claim a starting spot once Taylor and Johnson graduate.

The remarkable strength that helped Martin excel for four years at Michigan was also on full display during his high school wrestling career, and fortunately there is video evidence of a young Martin perfecting his Hulk Smash. A Simmons-style running diary follows:

0:00 — Martin and his opponent—"Mo" is his name, judging by the cheers from people around the cameraman—jog onto the mat.
0:07 — Mo removes what appears to be an ankle tether, so maybe this is just an elaborate criminal punishment that almost certainly violates the 8th Amendment.
0:14 — Martin shakes Mo's hand. Martin releases his grip and Mo's hand goes limp, never again to function properly.
0:16 — The match begins. Martin begins stalking his prey, who ignores his coach's cries to "circle, circle!" and instead backpedals furiously to avoid Martin's grasp. Within seconds, Mo finds himself out of bounds.
0:36 — At the restart, Mo goes for an ill-timed high-five. Martin ignores this desperate plea for peace and immediately dives for a single-leg takedown.
0:44 — Mo manages to ward off the takedown, but once again backs himself out of the ring. When facing Mike Martin, this is not cowardice, but simply a display of proper survival instincts.
0:56 — On the second restart, Mo lightly pats Martin on the head. If you consult page 56 of your Worst Case Scenario handbook, you know this is the last thing you want to do when encountering a Mike Martin in the wild.
1:12 — Martin gets his hands on the back of Mo's head then explodes for a takedown, knocking Mo to the very edge of the mat. Mo sees an opportunity for escape and frantically crawls for the exits. Mike Martin is having none of that:

1:20 — As Mo's compatriots cackle at his misfortune, Martin assumes control and pins his convulsing opponent, ending this match with relative humanity.
1:50 — The two shake hands as Martin is declared the winner. Martin goes on to star at Michigan. Mo reattaches his ankle tether, vows to straighten his life out, and hastily seeks both physical and emotional therapy.

This Did Not Go As Planned, Part I

The first, and highest-ranked, of the Cass Tech Lollipop Guild line of cornerbacks was Boubacar Cissoko, a top-50 overall recruit to every site save ESPN, where he was outrageously(!) pegged as the nation's #28 corner. Regrettable statement goes here:

Guru Reliability: Maximal. The unified chorus: this is a perfect cornerback except he's 5'8".
General Excitement Level: High. Obvious physical limitation aside, the perfect corner.
Projection: Plays as a freshman and is starting next to Warren by his sophomore year.

Cissoko flashed promise as a freshman in 2008, even starting two contests. Then Michael Floyd and Golden Tate lit him up again and again in 2009 before Cissoko went on a crime spree that quickly found him off the team and then incarcerated. While Cissoko obviously never reached anything close to the potential that had Brian so excited, his recruiting profile did feature one bit of eerie foreshadowing [emphasis mine]:

A couple years ago, I watched [current Detroit Lions CB Chris] Houston and Arkansas play South Carolina. Redshirt sophomore Sidney Rice was the Gamecock's big star and Houston lined up nose-to-nose with Rice in eff-you press man on every single play. Spurrier went after him again and again; sometimes he won and sometimes he lost, but usually because Rice reeled in a perfectly-thrown fade. It was a fantastic individual battle and I came away impressed with both players. So did the NFL: Houston went with the eighth pick in the second round; Rice went just four picks later.

Maybe this isn't the most reassuring comparison, as Rice did end up with 7 catches for 128 yards and Arkansas lost, but... hey... free second round pick!

Michael Floyd vs. Michigan, 2009: 7 catches, 131 yards, and a touchdown. Somehow, the Wolverines won anyway.

Instead of 3-4 years of Cissoko stardom, this was the guy who ended up as a multi-year starter at cornerback:

Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be under the radar; offers about commensurate with ranking.
General Excitement Level: Meh.
Projection: Though he's being brought in as a corner a move to safety is likely given the above, where he'll probably end up buried behind Stevie Brown, Artis Chambers, Stewart, and maybe Brandon Smith until his junior year, at which point he might develop into a contributor.

If you read that and went "sounds like J.T. Floyd," give yourself a cookie. At least, "meh" was most everyone's general impression of Floyd until last year's Illinois game; his emergence as a reliable starting corner means he's surpassed most reasonable expectations for his career.

The final secondary recruit was safety Brandon Smith, whose guru ratings took a Marvin Robinson-like dive for very similar reasons:

Smith looks like a prototypical collegian at a strapping 6'2", 210, but the lack of big time offers is telling. It's easy to believe Smith could lure the gurus in with his impressive frame at various combines and inflate his ranking while leaving college coaches relatively unmoved.

Excitement level was only "moderate" and a move to outside linebacker predicted. Smith moved to linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer before the end of the 2009 season. He landed at Temple and is not listed on the 2012 spring roster.

This Did Not Go As Planned, Part II

Michigan's recruiting haul included four linebackers rated as four-stars by Rivals, providing promise of much-needed depth and versatility for the position group going forward. The class included New Jersey's Marcus Witherspoon (Spoon!)...

An explosive edge rusher who's probably too small to be a fulltime defensive end in college? Add four inches and some chicken legs and that sounds like Shawn Crable, who actually spent quite a bit of time as a defensive end anyway.

...as well as Youngstown product Taylor Hill:

What does Michigan have in Hill? The comparison above, Larry Foote, is a strong one. Like Foote, Hill is an undersized WLB who played his high school ball as a defensive end and specialized in getting into the backfield.

As you know, the Wolverines did not end up with new versions of Crable and Foote. Instead, Witherspoon hit a snag with the NCAA Clearinghouse and eventually signed with Rutgers, while Hill was on the team for all of one game before transferring to Youngstown State.

Fellow linebacker recruit J.B. Fitzgerald—"a good bet to be a multi-year starter"—also joined the ranks of the disappointing. Kenny Demens is the only class of 2008 linebacker to make a significant impact despite being pegged as a "low upside sort" and getting a less-than-complimentary player comparison:

Chris Graham may not be the most appealing comparison, but the elements are all there: a little undersized (I am of the belief the 6'1" frequently thrown around as his height is overstated), has difficulting getting through traffic, praised for his short range burst and thumping tackling. Graham never figured out how to play in control or get to the right place at the right time and was thus a disappointing starter; if Demens can play smarter he could be anything from a decent starter to a borderline all Big Ten pick.

Admittedly, that's a pretty accurate assessment. Now let's try to forget about the carnage of this class, which featured the legal adventures of Justin Feagin and Cissoko, not nearly enough Sam McGuffie YouTube magic, transfers from several critical commits, the hope that Witherspoon could mitigate the loss of Nick Perry to USC, and no Terrelle Pryor. Though, on second thought, that last bit turned out just fine.

Unverified Voracity Withstands Sophomoric Indignities

Unverified Voracity Withstands Sophomoric Indignities

Submitted by Brian on October 22nd, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Hard edge. Via Martell Webb's twitter, here's Webb and Devin Gardner in their CB4 phase:

devin-gardner-martell-webb-cb4

Needs moar jericurl but pretty good otherwise.

Pay your rent, eh? So Kenny Demens and Boubacar Cissoko have gotten sued for not paying rent. Like, any rent:

Hidden Valley Club Apartments is suing Demens and Cissoko for $9,925, plus interest and attorney fees. The suit, filed in 15th District Court, alleges Demens and Cissoko signed a lease, agreeing to pay $850 each month for an apartment from May 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010. The apartment complex “fully performed all of its obligations under the lease,” the suit claims, but Demens and Cissoko “failed to pay the agreed upon rent.”

Demens was served with the suit Sept. 27, court papers filed this month say. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

…and Demens being locked on the bench for the first six games gets a lot less mysterious. They're suing for 11.5 of 13 months worth of rent, so they probably paid a security deposit and then never wrote another check. Maybe the details will again point to Boubacar Cissoko and his sad disintegration, but it's probably hard to put your faith in a guy who's involved in a suit like that.

Hockey time. It's a bye weekend for football but Michigan has a key nonconference series against UNO coming up. UNO recently left the conference for the WCHA and so far they're the top-scoring team in the country; that's a little worrying after Michigan gave up more than 40 shots and required what sounded like a stand-on-your head performance from Shawn Hunwick to tie UNH 3-3. UNO is #10 in the most recent polls and pounded Michigan last year in the series that finally killed Michigan's flickering at-large hopes.

The games figure to be choppy. Via Yost Built:

They're also 10th in the country in PIMs at 20.5 per night. That's still far behind Michigan's national lead at 26.2 minutes a night. You know the CCHA officials are salivating. Don't expect much flow to these games.

Hopefully that's an aberration born of small sample size for Michigan. Even if it is, special teams will be key.

sophomoric-indignitiesOld school. I link a lot of MVictors stuff on the sidebar but every once in a while it's good to put it on the front page in case anyone's new and hasn't been brought up to speed on the awesome historical content provided by Mr. Dooley. A post earlier this week on the 1910 season is extensive and awesome, as you can see at right.

"They are the men who stayed indoors during last year's underclass war." "Outrages of a further and still more vicious character were being planned and executed." This is why Mad Men is such a cultural touchstone. I miss newspapers that wrote like that and people who talked like that, or newspapers that massaged quotes so it seemed like they did. Same difference.

Michigan punched Ohio State to death 33-6, by the way, and slid by Michigan State 6-3 in a game the Daily headlined like so: "VARSITY BESTS FARMERS IN HARD-FOUGHT BATTLE." The Notre Dame game was cancelled because of a dispute over ineligible players, causing the Daily to sub-hed their article "Cancellation of today's game probably ends relations with Catholics." Sure, polio and whatever, I don't care: 1910 was awesome. Michigan even won the national title.

Ban Salsua Secundus. If you were doing that thing where you knew you'd seen that Oregon team before but couldn't quite put your finger on it, I can help you out: they are Sardaukar—relentlessly drilled, elaborately and garishly costumed, and completely without mercy.

/nerdcore

Old stuff you've probably already seen. Wojo interview with Rich Rodriguez is frank:

Q: But most of the criticism is simply based on your won-loss record (13-18).

A: No question. That's the reality of it. OK, but why are the wins and losses there?

Q: Tell me, what are people missing?

A: In football, it's not as easy as saying, 'OK, you go to a place like Michigan that has so much winning tradition, you can screw up and win eight or nine, right?' Maybe that's not the case.

I think every program nowadays, it's not as easy to win. It doesn't automatically happen. I'm not making excuses, I'm just telling the truth. We haven't been good enough, but we're getting closer, and we'll get there. But it's gonna take longer than anybody wants, especially us.

So was Rodriguez's joke about Vince Lombardi not having a magic wand that he can come in and wave to make Avery, Talbott, and Cullen Christian juniors, but that didn't prevent Drew Sharp from calling Rodriguez Bobby Williams or this guy with a wicked leather jacket from writing something that I can link because it's not (quite) stupid enough to kill the elderly:

In the midst of a two-game losing streak where your team is giving up an average of 36 points, and with your defense ranked in the bottom 20 of college football, the best thing to do is joke about it.

Not so subtly hidden in all the knee-slappers Rodriguez delivered Monday was him taking zero responsibility for his defense's short-comings.

Behind closed doors, he can talk about his lack of contributions to the defense all he wants. To the media and Wolverine fans, Rich Rod has to be accountable for everything his team does.

Media people of earth: words said in press conferences do not matter. Rodriguez is fully aware that he needs to win games to keep his job. "Taking zero responsibility" is just answering your inane questions for the tenth time in a half hour with something other than Senator Tressel's ray of infinite boredom. This guy with a wicked leather jacket later fulminates that "this is not the time for levity." John McKay disagrees, and everyone's better off for it. Rodriguez should have gone with this after the 605th question about Denard's durability:

Following a game in 1967 in which O.J. Simpson carried the ball over 30 times, Mckay was asked "Why are you giving the ball to Simpson so often?" McKay replied, "Why not? it's not heavy, and he doesn't belong to a union."

But no. Press Conference is Serious Business.

serious-business

This is what happens when you don't actually have anything useful to say. It's also why newspaper commentary is down to cheap outrage and the Washington Post making a content-sharing deal with Bleacher Report makes sense. Who can tell the difference? One RABBLE is like any other once it passes through an editor that turns it into English.

Kicking argh. I thought this was going to be a Rivals article from The Wolverine, but it turns out to be an incredibly well-timed article from the AP about kickers and how college kids are basically on their own:

Many coaches admit they don’t have any expertise in kicking and say they can’t devote an assistant coach solely to teaching it. The NCAA limits schools to one head coach, nine assistant coaches and two graduate assistants, and most programs choose to focus their staffs on positions from quarterback to defensive tackle to fullback.

That means the kickers end up coaching themselves to a large degree.

“A lot of them have got to be masters of their own trade, and that’s a discipline part of being a kicker at this level,” said Eric Russell, the Tennessee special teams coach who splits time between the kicking game and supervising tight ends.

“You’ve got to be able to correct yourself,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of one-on-one attention, and you’ve got to be able to adjust on a dime.”

Michigan's stellar 2 for 8 is mentioned. I'm not sure what Rodriguez can do about the current situation except spend another scholarship on a kicker this February and hope. That would have Michigan in the unusual situation of having two guys on scholarship at the same time, but is there any other freshman who can come in and radically improve his position from day one? Other than Dee Hart?

Etc.: "Superdenardman and Young Tatewalker." OSU blogs break down what went wrong against Wisconsin, and also what went wrong against Wisconsin. General replicability of these things by Michigan: minimal. Holdin' the Rope takes a breath and looks around.

Unverified Voracity Has No Cones

Unverified Voracity Has No Cones

Submitted by Brian on June 29th, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Cone deficiency. The news that Conelius Jones will not be with the program this fall is not exactly news today, but permit me a day to recover from my World Cup hangover. This is the reason:

According to Brown, Jones went through a rough stretch with personal issues over the winter. Although he graduated with the rest of his class and maintained a 2.5 grade-point average, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jones struggled with the SAT, which kept him from qualifying.

That must have been a rough stretch with grades almost at rock bottom, since Jones claimed he had a 3.7 GPA and offers from Wake Forest, Duke, and Stanford when he committed to Michigan. A decline that steep probably means the initial GPA report was a bit inflated.

Unlike Dorsey and his immediate enrollment at Louisville, Jones will head to Fork Union in an effort to get qualified, at which point he'd come in as a mid-year enrollee. This means he's honestly just a hair away from qualifying—the NCAA severely restricted how much grade magic prep schools could work a couple of years ago—and has a decent chance of getting in in January. Michigan has taken kids from prep schools, although not particularly successfully: Marques Slocum spent a semester at Milford and Arizona CB Quinton McCoy spent a prep year before ending up on campus. Neither lasted two years.

As far as the 2010 team goes, Jones's absence creates a distressing lack of Cone in the hairy depths of the quarterback depth chart, and that's about all.

I don't think Dorsey's situation is at all related to Jones and Kinard. Dorsey was qualified; the other two guys are headed to prep school. That doesn't have anything to do with hypothetical anti-Rodriguez forces executing their dastardly master plan. And even if the academic side of things is cracking down, they have a very good reason to do so: Michigan's latest transfer-saddled APR score is ugly, and Michigan is going to have to put up a major improvement lest they fall below the 925 line of doom.

Meanwhile, the other blame meme floating around is that Rodriguez is bringing in a lot more kids at academic risk. That may or may not be true but unless Jones's transcripts and offers were just totally fictional this doesn't seem like an example. It's one thing to take a guy who has a lot of work to do, and another to take a guy well above the minimums only to watch him collapse.

What happened with Cissoko? In other happy news about never-were kids, Boubacar Cissoko pled guilty to four separate counts of robbery and faces sentencing that won't be 45 years but hypothetically could. The News takes an in-depth look at what happened to a high school kid no one thought would have problems until he got out of this protected environment:

He was intentionally protected, growing up on Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit, a neighborhood that was rough-and-tough 40 years before Cissoko got there.

"He came from a sheltered background," Willis said. "By 10:30 he was in, home. He was driven to school, driven home. We are a close-knit family, we were tight on him."

Even the history of the riots which began along what was then known as 12th Street was kept from Cissoko, by the family.

"He's a good kid," Willis said. "When he left, he was praying five times a day."

Isn't there a show about Amish kids who head out into the world for a year or two and go totally nuts? In this case it seems that protecting Cissoko from negative influences left him unprepared to deal with them. He was unvaccinated. Bonus points to the News for deploying one of those beautifully dry newspaper sentences that radiate detached authority:

Less than worldly, he was suddenly thrust into a scene in Ann Arbor in which young adults believe they have achieved a level of sophistication that they may well never attain in life.

oh-snap

Oh, snap.

Another oddity: court documents show Cissoko's age is actually two years older than Michigan (and Cass Tech) listed him, which might explain why he didn't live up to the recruiting hype.

Burn the regionals down. It takes some doing to make me livid about something that won't happen until 2012 and involves a committee making a decision, but holy aarrgh I want to punch a wall:

First, the announcing of four more regionals means we won't be seeing the slightly less moronic proposed tournament format, which at least included one playoff round that made some sense.

The second problem is the hosts themselves.  The hosts will be Minnesota, Michigan Tech, Holy Cross, and Fairfield/Yale. If it feels like a repeat, it's because it pretty much is. The two eastern ones aren't that big of a deal. They're sure to be boring, empty arenas for critically important games, but there aren't really any better options. Plus, with now-defunct Fairfield helping host in Bridgeport, you get the joy of the 17 people in attendance saying, "What the hell is that deer doing in here?"

Tech is hosting in Green Bay, which is WCHA territory. This will be the fourth consecutive year that Minnesota hosts something. They were awarded regionals in 2009 and 2010, get the Frozen Four in 2011, and now have another regional in 2012. WCH points out that over that time span the entire CCHA gets to host three events.

It is ludicrous that the next two years will see zero regionals in CCHA territory. I hope the St. Louis regional is attended by five people. Are any CCHA teams even bidding for these things? Why hasn't Michigan put in a bid using the new rink in Toledo? I'm not sure where the breakdown is, but something's got to change.

Solar domination. The American Solar Challenge is Michigan's. If you don't think this is a big deal, look at the size of the trophy:

solar-car-win

It's a big deal. From the looks of it, it's about three times as big a deal as the World Cup. This is Michigan's third straight national title. Seriously: Directors Cup this event, yo.

An actual loss on the tubes. EDSBS found 40 minutes of youtubery not posted by WolverineHistorian. It's the 1988 Michigan-Miami game that Michigan ended up losing 31-30. Though it is depressing, the pants are very tight and Al Trautwig's doing his very best Data impression:

Draft disappointment. We knew that Michigan's 2010 hockey class had collectively slipped in the eyes of NHL evaluators, but the extent to which they did still surprises:

  • Jon Merrill fell into the early second round, going #38 to New Jersey.
  • Alex Guptill went in the third round to Dallas.
  • Luke Moffatt and Lee Moffie were both seventh-rounders.
  • Clare, Fallon, and Deblois did not go.

That's disappointing from a talent standpoint. At least Merrill and Guptill went to generally patient, NCAA-friendly organizations. Michigan might get an extra year out of Merrill and stands a good chance of hanging on to Guptill.

Etc.: Nebraska fans are preparing for Big Ten hate. Michigan is not featured. Woo 8-16!

Unverified Voracity Watches TV, Apparently

Unverified Voracity Watches TV, Apparently

Submitted by Brian on January 21st, 2010 at 1:17 PM

Hey, how about that labrum? File under "Lincoln hunts dinosaurs," probably, but yeah Tate Forcier's shoulder was a bit more exploded than anyone let on last year:

The shoulder injury Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier played through last season was a slightly torn right labrum, a person familiar with the injury said Friday.

Forcier was diagnosed with the injury when he underwent an MRI while home for Christmas break. He’s rehabbing the shoulder now and doesn’t need surgery, and he’s also recovering from a staph infection in his right knee, the person said.

Tate's older brother Jason said something to the effect of "Tate is hurt more than people let on," and this is evidently what he meant. Not that he knew that at the time. Tate did have good games against Purdue and Wisconsin late—even his Ohio State game was physically capable, if interception fraught—so it was probably healed up enough as November progressed.

Optimistic take: he should be better when healthy. Pessimistic take: what do you mean "when"?

Fight!

Good decisions are for people taller than 5'6". Boubacar Cissoko got caught with pot and admitted to police he intended to sell the stuff. This closes the door on Cissoko's vaguely possible return to the team; Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said said door is now "bolted on both sides."

Meanwhile… man, if you are going to make the life choice that finds you arrested for possession of marijuana you should probably make the life choice to tell the police it is for your personal consumption. Or better yet don't consent to a search of your car when it has pot in it. I don't get people sometimes.

Hopefully moot. So… yeah, Jim Harbaugh turned down overtures from the Raiders and Bills. Unless Mike Garrett is insane he also shot down USC before they went with Kiffin. (Other people Garrett called before placing his bets on Hello Kiffin: Chan Gailey, Shamwow Vince, myself, and the skeleton of a paleolithic deer.) Meanwhile around these parts, Rich Rodriguez is going to be under serious pressure to get to a bowl and have a winning record.

I have a Sporting Blog take on these developments, but in short: turning down the Raiders job merely means you have the will to live; turning down a functional, if somewhat moribund, Bills franchise kind of implies you're sticking around to see what opens up in the next couple years. If Rodriguez doesn't make it—which seems like a 50-50 proposition nowadays—there are going to be some hellacious internet fights about the forgivability of Harbaugh's shots at Michigan's academics.

We are very watched. The Big Ten's lasting television appeal—enough to have its own damn network—is something of a mystery. If the population drain in the Midwest is so severe and 94% (or whatever it actually is) of Alabamans identify themselves as foamingly rabid college football fans, how this?

bowl-ratings

Seriously: how this? I guess the SEC is hauled down by the fact that they managed to horn ten freakin' teams into bowls and they've got more lame games where Kentucky takes on East Albania State, but still. Also, DETROIT = RATINGS:

The most unusual rating may belong to the Little Caesars Bowl, previously known as the Motor City. Played the day after Christmas, Marshall-Ohio drew a 2.6. That beat four bowls featuring two BCS-­conference teams: Indepen­dence (Georgia-Texas A&M), Music City (Ken­tucky-Clemson), [PizzaWebsite.com] (South Carolina-Con­necticut) and Insight (Iowa State-­Minnesota).

That's kind of what I'm saying, I guess: Kentucky Clemson and UConn-South Carolina should outdraw Marshall-Ohio. (Iowa State and Minnesota… not so much.)

(HT: EDSBS.

Hockey recruiting news of a decidedly weird variety. So Michigan's got a boatload of kids coming in from the NTDP next year, except one of them isn't with the program any more and two are currently suspended. The suspended guys are Kevin Clare and John Merrill, both highly touted defensemen. The departure is Jacob Fallon, a forward, and it's unclear as to whether he's involved in the thing with the suspensions or not:

Jacob Fallon, a 5.10 forward who had committed to Michigan for next season has left the program. According to a USA Hockey official Fallon left the team and program voluntarily. I've read some scouting reports that have compared him to Patrick Kane, however most rankings I've seen have him as a mid 3rd rounder right now. Fallon, who hails from Texas, was listed by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Fallon was reportedly not suspended, but chose to leave the program after speaking with the coaching staff. I'm just guessing here but it sounds like this could be the Seattle Thunderbirds gain.

Ugh. Options here are either this guy is wrong and Fallon's departure from the program was less than voluntary—which was , in which case he's mixed up in seemingly serious team rules violations, or he's just taking off for the CHL. A later post says Seattle has been in contact with him but have not gotten a response.

Mike Spath of The Wolverine says that Michigan will not stop recruiting any of the kids; the issue for Fallon will be his patience. He can either sit out the rest of the season or play with Seattle right now.

In slightly more positive news, Mac Bennett is in the USHL All-Star game.

Etc.: Matt Hayes, yes, a man I once called "Horseface," has a sympathetic piece on Rodriguez with reference to stupid pills. Phil Brabbs talked with the football team a couple days ago. If you ever wanted an up-to-date breakdown of where NFL players come from, Drill provides a wall of text for you. This NSFW recounting of one guy's trip to the national championship-type game glories in paint and is awesome. MVictors interviews Sam Webb. UMHoops goes in depth on Zack Novak.

Unverified Voracity Revolves In The Secondary

Unverified Voracity Revolves In The Secondary

Submitted by Brian on December 18th, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Quick reminder. If you haven't filled out Toby Hopp's survey about social media in the sports blogosphere, you should even if you never comment/diarize around these parts. It'll help me as I direct the future evolution of the site, and reward/punish the progenitor of the naked man banner, whichever you prefer.

Confirmation, unfortunately. As Tom VanHaaren and this site mentioned a couple weeks back, Brandon Smith is looking for the exit:

Receiver Roy Roundtree confirmed an Internet report from earlier this month that linebacker Brandon Smith is considering a transfer.

Roundtree, one of about 10 players and staff members to volunteer at The Salvation Army of Washtenaw County’s toy shop for needy families Wednesday, said he hasn’t talked to Smith recently, but Smith missed a team meeting earlier this week and it’s “looking like” he’ll leave.

AA.com even linked it. I feel all legitimate. To restate the previous opinion: losing a highly-rated guy at a position of need is obviously bad. At least we have clarification now that Michigan will be able to bring in a recruit to replace him.

On the other hand. At the same event, Rodriguez cracked the door open for Boubacar Cissoko:

"I'm under the impression he's trying to work his way back," said Wilcher, who speaks to Cissoko a few times each month. "I know he's working hard at school."

Wilcher said Rodriguez should be applauded for at least giving Cissoko an opportunity to potentially rejoin the team.

"I think the most important thing is that Rich Rodriguez has opened up the door to the thought of letting the kid entertain the thought of working his way back," said Wilcher, who played running back for Michigan from 1983-86. "That should be focused on -- how Rich Rodriguez is not going to turn his back, and at least lets you try to crawl back and prove you can get back by going through the proper procedures."

Michigan obviously needs help in the secondary even of the very short and somewhat toasty variety, and if he manages to limp through the rest of this year without getting in a hint of trouble there might be a rewarding comeback story in there. I've gotten a couple of independent, consistent reports that Cissoko's troubles weren't limited to missing class or practice, so he should have a long way to go. I still think he's a longshot to get back on the team and a longer shot to be a contributor, but I'd love to see the guy work through this and stick, if only for his own sake.

Also, Donovan Warren is at least keeping his options open when it comes to a return:

Michigan’s defensive backfield for next year is still in flux. Teammates have raved about freshman Justin Turner, but cornerback Donovan Warren could return after flirting with the NFL. Rodriguez told people last night that Warren is keeping in contact with the coaches while gathering information.

So I'm saying there's a chance.

Kiper == Gladwell. What do you do when Mel Kiper is seemingly wise by rating Zoltan Mesko and Brandon Graham the best available players at their positions but at the same time declaring this:

Redshirt junior guard Steve Schilling is the No. 4 performer in his class at the position, while redshirt junior Obi Ezeh is the No. 5 inside linebacker among those with a year of eligibility remaining.

This isn't even an old rating; Kiper published this list two days ago($). Has anyone ever made it in the NFL after being benched for a walk-on?

Word. A couple of Florida recruits saw a small sports blog dig up photos they posted on MySpace in eighth grade. In one the kid in question is holding a plastic gun and sixteen dollars. In another, he is wearing a bandana and throwing up an ooh scary gang sign. Naturally, this was picked up by the two big sports blogs that strive daily to become Perez Hilton, with Deadspin's Barry Petchesky opining like so:

"Not for nothing have they garnered the "University of Felons" nickname," Deadspin's Barry Petchesky wrote. "I'm not saying a top recruit posing with a gun and $16 is necessarily a crime, but it's not going to change any impressions."

Raise your hand if you thought you were hard in eighth grade. Thought so. SI's Andy Staples does something unusual and fantastic by getting in touch with the two kids to get their side of the story:

Trail said he's heard from plenty of people about the hand gesture in his picture. "That supposed gang sign I'm throwing up? That's where I stay. That's my neighborhood," he said. "I've thrown that up on the field a lot, and no one has said anything." …

Trail said he couldn't believe an adult would scour recruits' social networking pages looking for embarrassing photos. "If you really care about me that much to go on my MySpace to get a picture of me, point blank, get a life," Trail said.

Where is the right place to draw the line here? The City Boyz Inc. social media pictures were newsworthy because they were current photos of Hawkeyes who had just been arrested for credit card fraud doing unsanitary things with large amounts of money. At that point it's reasonable to say "hey, look at this picture of a guy with thousands of dollars in cash." Scouring the internet for pictures of a kid with sixteen dollars and a plastic gun… eh… not so good.

Since I do a lot of media bashing around here, let me praise Andy Staples: he's been consistently useful since his hiring at SI and is a guy I look forward to reading. With Luke Winn diving into Kenpom stats on a regular basis, SI has a great 1-2 punch in college sports.

Etc.: If you have ESPN insider, Bruce Feldman asked me to argue that Notre Dame should have taken a bowl bid this year. Apologies in advance: it's strictly above the belt. Steve Hutchinson and Jake Long make SI's All-Decade team.

Wednesday Recruitin'

Wednesday Recruitin'

Submitted by Tim on October 29th, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Somewhat light update this week, though delayed until Thursday due to a busy Wednesday. All-time updates can be found on the 2010 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. Don't forget about the 2011 Michigan football Recruiting Board, although there is no 2011 news in this update.

Up Front

beachum.jpg

I've added TX DT Jatashun "Big Tex" Beachum (pictured at right) to the board, as he plans on visiting Michigan ($, info in header). He's currently committed to Arkansas as a running back(!) and is a 280-pound dual threat QB(!) in high school. That's one heck of an athlete that the Wolverines are pursuing on the defensive line.

Both MN OL Seantrel Henderson and PA DT Sharrif Floyd opted against visiting Michigan last weekend, which seriously damages Michigan's chances at both of them (though it may be a better thing that they didn't sit through the rain to see Michigan get pounded). The Daily Gopher thinks Michigan is hanging on near the back of Henderson's top schools, though that was with the assumption he would visit Ann Arbor. As for Floyd, he went to Ohio State instead, and he has a new top five:

In no particular order, they are: Florida, Ohio State, North Carolina, South Carolina and USC.

Last Line of Defense

Michigan's woes in the secondary, compounded by the dismissal of Boubacar Cissoko from the team yesterday, have a number of recruits giving Michigan a hard look. CA CB Tony Jefferson, currently a UCLA commit, plans to take a Michigan visit for next week's Purdue game, as mgoblog's own TomVH said Tuesday. UCLA (where he is currently committed), Florida, and Miami are his other finalists.

johnson wilkins.jpg

Added LA S Carvin Johnson to the board, as he took an official visit to Ann Arbor for the contest against the Nittany Lions ($, info in header). He really enjoyed the visit, as well ($, info in header). Johnson has a Michigan offer, and favors the Wolverines pending a couple more official visits. Carvin is on the left in the photo, next to Wolverine commit PA DE Ken Wilkins (image courtesy of Josh Helmholdt in the Detroit Free Press).

FL CB Tony Grimes has had Michigan near the top of his list for quite some time now, and the Wolverines may be in a similar position for his teammate, FL DE Clarence Murphy. However, neither is ready to make a decision any time soon:

"I'm just letting things come to me in recruiting," Grimes said. "I'm more focused on my play on the field, but I am staying in touch with certain college coaches. The recruiting stuff will all play itself out in the end. I'm in no hurry to make a decision."

Added Murphy, "We are probably just going to continue to focus on high school football right now and then once it gets towards that deadline, we are going to put our heads together after we take our officials and (determine) where we want to be the next three to four years."

Grimes is one of Michigan's top prospects at corner, and adding a pass-rusher would be icing on the cake.

Elsewhere in Michigan leans, PA CB Cullen Christian enjoyed his visit to West Virginia. The Mountaineers are probably Michigan's biggest competition for Christian.

Moving to a prospect that the Wolverines don't have a great chance with, CA S Dietrich Riley is favoring Tennessee, Notre Dame, Florida, and USC. I think the title "Riley Down to Four" might be overstating the case, but any other school is definitely facing an uphill battle. Michigan is one of four schools vying for his final official visit.

Etc.

OH LB Steve Mehrer visited Ann Arbor last weekend ($, info in header). His best current offer is Bowling Green, so he's probably way down the list of possibilities. OH TE Alex Smith has Michigan in his final two with Cincinnati. ESPN has (rather unwisely) made it impossible to link to their "On the Trail" recruiting updates, so no link, but CA RB Anthony Barr has eliminated Michigan, and I've removed him from the board.

Wednesday Presser Notes 10-28

Wednesday Presser Notes 10-28

Submitted by Tim on October 28th, 2009 at 4:21 PM

Cissoko and the defensive backfield

  • Boubacar violated team rules, and Rich Rodriguez simply enforced Boubacar's decisions by removing him from the team. Players know that's it's a privilege to play on the team, not a right.
  • It wasn't explicitly asked, but Rodriguez's tone made it seem at times as though the window was still open for Cissoko to be reinstated. However, he said that they would help him try to get his career back on track at another institution, with no mention of a potential return. Further inquiries received the "let's talk about guys who play for Michigan" response.
  • Despite losing Cissoko, Justin Turner is still on track to redshirt this year, and he's practicing exclusively at cornerback. Troy Woolfolk will stay at corner full-time, and James Rogers has moved to the position (which we knew a few weeks ago). JT Floyd is starting to get healthy again.
  • Defensive back is still an area of concern for the team, but at this point, it will have to be addressed through recruiting.

Injuries

  • Brandon Minor practiced very little yesterday. That is related to the ongoing ankle sprain, not the bruised heel from Saturday's game.
  • Odoms didn't practice yesterday, but he responded well to treatment, and is expected to practice today.
  • Junior Hemingway practiced full contact yesterday.
  • Tate mentioned that his shoulder was a little sore following the PSU game. However, he's fully healthy and will practice this whole week.

Etc.

  • It's better to have 2-3 backs that can carry the load than having to rely on one guy and being in trouble if he goes down. Minor's injury is part of the reason there has been so much rotation at RB.
  • Greg Mathews had his best game against Penn State, and has been playing well overall lately. He's usually a quiet guy, but has been a more vocal leader in practice this week. RR speculates that may be due to seeing his career coming to an end.
  • Carlos Brown was put at kick return to have two explosive options, and prevent teams from being able to just kick away from Stonum. He will stay on kick return.
  • Odoms was removed from punt return only because of injury. When healthy, he will probably go back there.
  • Despite having two different styles of QB, Illinois won't change their schemes too much on Saturday. They'll still have a spread offense, but probably run a little more with Juice, because he has a lot of running ability.
  • The team's focus has been good all season. Even when they don't play well in games, it isn't due to a lack of focus or preparation.
  • Kevin Leach and JB Fitzgerald got a little more playing time at linebacker on Saturday than they had been. That will probably continue.

Boubacar Cissoko Dismissed

Boubacar Cissoko Dismissed

Submitted by Brian on October 27th, 2009 at 7:02 PM

The writing was on the wall for this one, but some playing time against Penn State made it seem like Cissoko had come through his recent issues and would rejoin the team in good standing. Not the case, unfortunately:

Michigan sophomore cornerback Boubacar Cissoko has been kicked off the team.

Coach Rich Rodriguez, through a team official, confirmed Tuesday he dismissed Cissoko for a "violation of team rules."

That's obviously a severe blow to Michigan's already paper-thin secondary, both for this year and going forward.

UPDATE: Details from Wilcher:

Cissoko's high school coach, Thomas Wilcher of Detroit Cass Tech, said Cissoko was dismissed from the team for missing class, missing workouts and missing study table.

"That's what he was suspended for in the first place," Wilcher told The Detroit News. "He's upset. He's going to transfer as long as he can meet the requirements."

Wilcher said Cissoko had a difficult time handling the "social structure" at Michigan.

"He couldn't handle it," Wilcher said. "He's always been a quiet kid. (But) he needs to do what needs to be done as a student-athlete. Nobody is bigger than the program."

He was probably on zero-tolerance and missed something, or somethings, yesterday and or today. I really hope he does manage to transfer somewhere; if he doesn't and he leaves ineligible that's another double-blow to Michigan's APR.

Wednesday Presser Notes: 10-21

Wednesday Presser Notes: 10-21

Submitted by Tim on October 21st, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Personnel

  • David Molk practiced in pads yesterday. He will start against Penn State on Saturday. David Moosman will move to right guard, with Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge competing for the right tackle spot.
  • Tate Forcier and Carlos Brown should be fully recovered from all their injuries. Minor's injury is still nagging, but he should be healthy enough to play (as he has been despite the injury in the past couple weeks). The running back starter will depend on Minor's overall health (they'll know after tomorrow) and what play the coordinators want to start the game with. Minor's physical presence will be important against a team like Penn State.
  • JT Floyd feels better, after he suffered through the flu last week. He should be able to play this week. Troy Woolfolk will remain at corner, where they like him better overall, unless there are injuries to the safeties (Jared Van Slyke and Vladimir Emilien are the primary backups at safety now). Boubacar Cissoko's suspension is still a day-to-day affair.
  • The offensive line gave a good effort against Iowa, and Mark Ortmann is a leader of that group. They'll have another good challenge against Penn State.
  • Renaldo Sagesse was not injured against Iowa, but he's a developing player who is getting the first serious playing time of his career, which takes some time to adjust to. Greg Banks is another solid backup on the defensive line. He's the first backup in, and has played as well as the starters at times.

Bill Martin

  • Bill Martin always said he would work at Michigan on a short-term basis, so it's surprising that he was the Athletic Director for a full 9 years. He did a lot of important things at Michigan, including improving facilities, balancing the department's budget, and making a lot of coaching hires.
  • Rodriguez had some good times and some bad times with Bill Martin (no opportunities to go sailing though), and Rich will be sad to see him go. He'd like to provide a few more good moments in Martin's last 10 months on the job.
  • He will be able to give some input in the search for a new director, and his priorities are in getting someone who loves Michigan, understands athletics, and knows how to address the needs of student-athletes.
  • With so much responsibility on ADs today - from athletics, to finances and fundraising, to media - it's a tough job to do, and to find the right person. Mary Sue Coleman is one of the best university presidents in America, and she'll get the job done.

Unverified Voracity Eschews True Style

Unverified Voracity Eschews True Style

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2009 at 1:34 PM

cancer-kicker

Annoying reminder. Acquire your cancer kicker bracelets by donating on the right sidebar and help out Phil Brabbs. You will feel like much less of a heel after you do this. Brabbs and his wife also have a video blog up about their first week with Brabbs on chemotherapy.

Oops. You know, I saw this Daily article detailing this new pitch play Michigan was working on, and I thought "that's really cool, I wonder why more practice articles aren't this specific":

In a rotation that was repeated about four times, a quarterback and running back lined up to practice a simple outside pitch play. Though the play was basic, the pairings were different than usual.

And then Michigan ran that pitch play to pretty good effect against Iowa and then Rodriguez closed practice for the rest of the year. Oh, that's why.

FTR: Rodriguez apparently mentioned "blogs" a couple times when announcing that practice is closed. I'm not sure why, since this place hasn't detailed any specific plays Michigan was running during the open section of practice. Any mentions I've made of plays I'd like Michigan to run (tight end shovel! Denard as Percy Harvin!) are total speculation. Total speculation that should be immediately inserted into the playbook, but total speculation nonetheless.

Hanging by a thread, but possibly a thick one. Boubacar Cissoko missed the Iowa game, of course, and has been indefinitely suspended by Rodriguez for matters on the practice field and in the classroom. Weird little fib here:

Cissoko told a reporter earlier in the day he didn't travel with the team because he was "banged up," but would return in the next game.

I guess that's good? Like Cissoko wants to be on the team and might pull out of his tailspin? Or it's bad because he's a nasty fibber. I don't know. Cissoko Transfer DEFCON should be set at 3. He is still practicing with the team:

"Playing football is important to him," Rodriguez said. “And I think his academics are important. But to what level? It has to be at the right level."

I should clarify something I said on the radio yesterday that caused a message board thread; if I said a Cissoko transfer is "likely" that was in error. I meant to say it seemed possible without putting any sort of spin on how likely, or unlikely, that was to occur. Sometimes in the talking you say things less precise than you want to.

(Side note: every time someone shows up on MGoBoard with inside information they're roundly laughed at and negged, and then their info turns out to be accurate. This has happened with Craig Roh starting, Forcier's shoulder injury being more than a bruise, about which more later, and Cissoko not making the trip to Iowa City. MGoBlog is way more locked down that MLive; yes lol Chris Perry's broken leg but let's take context into account. Even someone with 50 points has put in 100x times more cred than an anonymous poster somewhere else. Information on the internet is usually good.)

The Salters thing. There's been quite a bit made of the Lisa Salters quote about Forcier's interaction with Rodriguez on the sideline just before he got pulled. The exact words, according to AA.com:

When a rattled Forcier came to the sideline, Salters said, “He kind of looked over at Coach saying, ‘I don’t know what you want me to do.’”

That sounds like speculation to me, not a direct quote.

The shoulder thing. Jason Forcier is pinged by the Daily and spills a bit more on Tate's shoulder injury:

His shoulder is more injured than I think the public realizes," Jason said. "It's the same thing (Oklahoma quarterback) Sam Bradford did. Maybe not as severe, but an AC joint is an AC joint. Once you injure it, it's hurt for the rest of the year." …

"(Tate)'s being tough," Jason said. "But he's playing against guys that are over three times his size."

Um… that would make Tate approximately 110 pounds. Which seems less improbable when you're talking about Forcier than any other quarterback hanging around, but still pretty improbable.

Meanwhile, this Rodriguez quote on Forcier's practice time from the same article confirms one of this site's theories about the super-lame offense against Michigan State this year:

"His shoulder really limited his practice time the last couple of weeks, but it didn't bother him too much in the game," Rodriguez said. "

This no doubt slowed Michigan's piecemeal installation of the vast and multivariate spread 'n' shred, allowing Michigan State to tee off on the plays they'd already seen with impunity and preventing Michigan from providing the sort of counter-punch they'd like to. A game against a 1-3 I-AA team should allow Michigan a couple weeks to put in new stuff for Penn State, and Forcier's shoulder should continue to get more cooperative as the year goes along.

Brunnnndidge. Our 2011 PG/SG commit is on the youtubes, pretending to get interviewed by ESPN:

HE LIKES MATH! This actually took place after Carlton's freshman year, FWIW, and two months ago someone called him a lawya in the comments. Law on, lawya.

I'll fight the bear. Iowa's evident effort at targeting Donovan Warren was weird to me, and weird to Troy Woolfolk:

Woolfolk, who made four tackles Saturday, said he was surprised Iowa didn’t challenge him more.

“I was like really shocked,” he said. “I asked myself, 'Why aren't they attacking me, the fresh, young blood in the water.' They just kept going to Donovan.”

Iowa got some completions on Warren but it cost them, and the stuff they did get was often of the miracle-throw or safety-bust variety. It seemed foolhardy. Iowa did chuck a couple fades at Woolfolk but neither was completed.

Flowers for Algernon. Michigan Monday is getting pretty stupid of late:

For the game, the Wolverines carried the ball 45 times for 195 yards, a decent 4.3-yard average. Last week Michigan State held Michigan to 28 yards on 28 carries, so obviously things were better than the last time out, but I’m far from convinced that the Wolverines’ running game is “back”.

Of those 195 yards, 53 of them came on a drive in the third quarter where the Wolverines ran the ball almost exclusively from under the center. The drive ended in a touchdown, but the fact that Michigan had to go away from their true running style should be cause for concern. To further badmouth the running game, we need to also mention Michigan’s final two drives of the game, which saw Denard Robinson inserted for a benched Tate Forcier. Michigan started the first drive with 7:42 remaining, down by nine points. Iowa was more than happy to let the Wolverines run the ball the rest of the game, and that’s essentially what they did, rushing for 50 yards on their last two drives.

Basically, over half of Michigan’s rushing yards came when Iowa was happy to see the run or when Tate Forcier was under center, meaning the zone read was pretty well shut down again.

Blather about "true running style": inane.

Rodriguez's true running style is "whatever works," and I kind of doubt Iowa was happy to have Michigan run the ball down the field for a touchdown on a drive that started with eight minutes left, especially once the ball got inside the 20. Michigan didn't turn in a dominating day but consistently creased the Iowa OL and got good yardage all night; they did not break big runs because part of the reason for the consistent success was Iowa laying back with two deep safeties and waiting for Michigan to screw up, which they did. There's plenty to criticize about a Michigan team likely headed for a December bowl game of no note, so why twist yourself into knots in an attempt to knock down the one consistently good aspect of the team?

Outside perspective. Okay, we're off the high of the Notre Dame game and discontent and arguing with people who are yet more discontent still. At this point, though, it's clear that the true disaster projections—which seemed a possibility as Michigan nervously prepared for the Western Michigan game—have gone by the wayside. We're left with those preseason projections, which built in the information that Rich Rodriguez is a very good football coach. Doctor Saturday provides some perspective:

The fact that the Wolverines were banged up, outgained, and reckless with the ball and still only fell by two with a realistic to chance to knock off a conference frontrunner on the road would have been regarded as a very optimistic step five weeks ago, when we were unsure of Rodriguez's grasp on the team. Premature Heisman sites were launched and visions of New Year's Day had begun to dance in September, but this was supposed to be a 7-5 team struggling through growing pains en route to the Champs Sports, and it's beginning to shape up as exactly that.

Whee bowls. The Big Ten has picked up the Gator Bowl, which will be a boring SEC-Big Ten matchup but at least it's a boring SEC-Big Ten matchup that's slanted in the Big Ten's favor. And then they're adding some new thing in the Cotton Bowl:

A new bowl game to be played at Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas will have the No. 7 pick from the Big Ten, which likely will face a team from the Big 12 or Conference USA. The Cotton Bowl Classic will move to Dallas Cowboys Stadium beginning in January, and the new bowl is expected to be played around Jan. 1.

This bumps the Motor City down to #8 and essentially cancels any relationship between the Big Ten and it unless there's just a glut of 6-6 teams one year. Hopefully this is never relevant.

Concussion pants. Notes on Michigan's concussions: both Tate and Brown are good to go for Delaware State.

Etc.: Bowl projections have Michigan in the Champs, Insight, or Alamo against Kansas, Wake, Oklahoma State, or UNC. Bowl projections aren't very useful right now. MSU folk have put up their UFR-O equivalent; this one's way less depressing than the one that handles the other side of the ball.