Rule: This team is for those who made their contributions off the field. I don’t mean being a quiet model citizen; I mean doing things that we found entertaining, insane, or otherwise meme-worthy.
Cutoff Point: Had to exist in the Michigan consciousness during the Time of Blog (2005-present)
Quarterback: David Cone
Please still exist please still exist please still exist DAMMIT.
Why you gotta use MySpace, Notorious C.O.N.E.? Since stone age social media no longer hosts, former WR Toney Clemons filmed roommate/former QB David Cone in their apartment laying some sick rhymes (free mgoshirt to whoever can track down a copy of the album for us).
Fortunately MVictors still has the audio, if the vid is gone for all time. But that video was so good.
Honorable Mention: Denard. How do you separate Brian’s kid’s name, Shoelace, the smile, Whaaaaat?!?, the cover of the last NCAA edition for a decade, and a crumpled up mailbox from the actual dilithium? You can’t, and the purpose of this list is to honor the Coners because these lists otherwise exist just for an excuse to put Denard at QB when you wouldn’t otherwise.
Improving the not LOI. Compliance people complain to each other on twitter about people who abbreviate the "National Letter of Intent" as "LOI" instead of "NLI." Apparently there are other LOIs. You have been warned.
In any case they should be heavily reformed. Right now they're one-way binds with silly timing that have created a cottage industry of kids who attempt to reserve their spot by being "committed, but open." Paul Johnson's opinion of this is similar to Artur Boruc's about corn:
What I’d like to see happen, but I’m probably by myself: if you have 85 scholarships, and you can sign 25 a year or however many you have. When they commit, they sign the papers and you stop. It would stop all the verbal commitments and all the hats. The guys who weren’t ready wouldn’t commit. You’d call their bluff. They couldn’t make their reservation. We’ll talk to kids all the time, juniors right now, who are committing. We’ll say ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’
I'm not really sure what the argument against early signing is. The way it's set up now everyone scrambles to get their class locked in on Signing Day, so someone like FL WR AJ King who has his scholarship pulled by Purdue is in a tough spot in his attempt to find a landing place. If he was signed, he'd be signed and hijinks both ways would be seriously reduced.
The Bylaw Blog has a few other suggestions, one of which I've made in this space before: the NCAA should implement a "no contact" agreement. That piece of paper would be non-binding but would allow the school specified by the player to contact the kid without restriction… and make it a violation for anyone else to. Official visits would also be off the table. That's a verbal commitment that actually exists and would help coaches figure out who's serious and who's just making a backup plan.
Heart-hurting. Remember that video of the Detroit Renaissance coach declaring Michigan's treatment of former Ren players "hurt his heart," thus explaining why Michigan couldn't get anyone out of there no matter what? Raise your hand if you're surprised that Ren's Lawrence Thomas recited the entire negative recruiting playbook:
"Why not Michigan? They had problems. There were some past experiences with other Renaissance players that I didn't like. Plus, Rich Rodriguez sent an assistant to our school to recruit me. He wouldn't even send the defensive coordinator, just an assistant. Then we'd hear that Rich Rod would be in Florida recruiting."
The Renaissance players were Andre Criswell, a last-second addition at FB who never saw the field and was kept on as a GA after leaving the team before his fifth year, and Carson Butler, the insane tight end who finally ran out of chances towards the end of Rodriguez's first year. Butler was treated so badly he stuck up for Rodriguez during the jihad. Michigan did as well by those kids as they could given the latter's hatred of nerds, be they in the wrong dorm room or playing for Notre Dame.
So… this was not a situation likely to produce a commitment even if Rodriguez showed up with every assistant he had, and one that would likely have continued under Hoke. Similarly, when Taiwan Jones complains about a lack of attention from Michigan during his visit to the UConn game he's complaining as a guy who had been a MSU commit for months already and who Michigan never even considered offering.
This continues the theme from these Blue Chip articles in the News since the beginning of time: Michigan commits asked about State say something short, polite and vague, State commits asked about Michigan rant about a lack of respect, and the guys towards the bottom of the list submit a tear-stained questionnaire because neither school thought they were good enough. This will happen next year, and the year after, and so on and so forth.
I mention it by way of inserting this "Fran-graph" from BHGP:
Michigan's at the top and you can see the extreme focus on the rim or the three point line in Michigan's field goals. BHGP's Horace E Cow explains:
In men's basketball in the NCAA this year, players have made 34.5% of threes and 48.2% of twos. The average value, then, of a three-point attempt is 3*.345 = 1.04, and the average of a two is 2*.482 = .964. This fact has led many college (and pro) coaches to the reasonable conclusion that three-point shots are better bets than two-point shots, and that their teams should take as many threes as possible (Todd Lickliter was one of these coaches, actually).
Not all twos are worth less than threes, though: shots at the rim are usually made at a very high percentage (60-70%) and thus the average dunk or lay-up is worth 1.2-1.4 points, much more than the average three. Putting these two facts together (threes are better than most twos, but dunks are better than threes), coaches have developed what could be called a "hollowing-out" strategy on offense: threes and dunks are encouraged, anything in between in discouraged.
My first experience with this line of thinking was watching some Kentucky game back in the day when Pitino was coaching them and hearing the announcer go on about how Pitino loathed shots just inside the arc. Beilein's system is the logical extension of that thinking. Michigan's makes against Iowa: 14 threes, nine layups/dunks, and ten anything else.
If you can get it to work it's great, and it's not a strategy that seems to have a ceiling. One of this year's other proponents of the dunk-or-deep strategy is #1 and current opponent Ohio State. Because they have Jared Sullinger they aren't launching as many threes but both their 2PT% and 3PT% are off the charts—they're in the top ten in both nationally. They've got four guys who take a large volume of two-point shots, and two of them are shooting a Jordan-Morgan-like 59%. Ohio State's distribution isn't quite as extreme but it's essentially the same thing.
The slight difference between the programs is the ability to recruit Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas every damn year.
And I'm not even looking at the Free Press, which remains dead to me. I can only imagine the tiny drawings of angels.
I like the one that says there's more toughness now. That's definitely true. Being not tough was the problem, not the secondary being old enough to drive only if they all stood on each other's shoulders in a huge trenchcoat. Also that's the same guy who wrote about the "impossible expectations" driving Tate Forcier away. Pete Bigelow needs to make up his mind about toughness.
[Disclaimer section: Hoke did an okay job, but nothing that should push opinions either way. Not going into the year down eight kids is good. Losing Willingham to Central Florida(!?!?) is pretty wack, but being in a position to say that's wack is impressive since Michigan was nowhere with that kid before Mattison showed up. Losing Jake Fisher makes the tackle depth chart terrifying. I also don't understand telling Rivals 250 receiver Devin Lucien, a guy who was seriously looking at Stanford and silently committed to Rodriguez during The Process because he liked Michigan's academics, "defense or GTFO." Even if you don't want Hakeem Flowers, Michigan had room for another five players and has no receivers in this class.
Meanwhile, most of the guys picked up were of the low-hanging fruit variety: guys who were committed to Indiana or Minnesota or Vandy and didn't have a ton of other confirmed Big Ten options (Heitzman, Carter, Taylor, Bellomy) or guys who had been openly coveting Michigan offers (Poole, Rawls, Taylor again) but didn't get them until later. TX TE Chris Barnett is the exception.
This class is a wait-and-see sort of thing. We won't know if these late pickups were players RR and other Big Ten schools misevaluated or warm bodies for a while, and we won't know about Hoke's recruiting prowess until the 2012 commits start rolling in and he's competing against Ohio State. Not that Rodriguez won many battles against OSU.
On the other hand, a quarter of the class won't fail to show up or wash out by the end of spring like the last RR class so that's cool. Snatching Frank Clark away from MSU despite his existence in close proximity to Ted Ginn is promising. Also: kicker. Hoke uber alles.]
I've yet to hear a logical explanation for why ESPN has chosen to relentlessly interweave snippets from sappy 15-year-old Dave Matthews songs like Ants Marching into its college football broadcasts. It's true that when I hear that familiar fiddle, I do think of college -- as in, people blasting Under the Table and Dreaming in my freshman dorm hall at 7:30 in the morning -- but not football.
It's hard to think of an act that would be more ill-suited to hype me up for college football than Dave Mathews Band. It is wussy music. Every commercial break should be filled with snippets from Pat Benetar's Heartbreaker:
You're the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be
The Chesney has stopped, though, which means at least one person at ESPN isn't a lizard monster from the fourth dimension whose five senses replace hearing with evil. And thank God for that. Seriously, was that just an opening weekend thing or did ESPN see what they had wrought and repent?
Lines of note. Michigan is –18 against Indiana—vote of confidence. Illinois is –15 against Ohio State, Wisconsin –3 against Michigan State, Notre Dame –7 against Purdue (road game, implies that Michigan should be a 10 point favorite at home given the ND line pending changes in opinion on the two teams and since that's minus Mike Floyd it'll probably be more than ten, though that's obviously a long way off and this entire highly speculative aside is of debatable value), and Penn State a whopping –11 against Iowa, which uh?
Don't football coaches have a right to seek the best mortgage for their homes they can find? The News' argument is that Martin might not fire those coaches if he thinks it's in Michigan's best interests, because maybe they'll end up defaulting on their loans without employment. Another example of why some distrust the media.
That's strange enough. The stranger part: I don't agree with him. The News article was something worth publishing a story on, as it does represent a mild conflict of interest and apparently caught Bill Martin contradicting himself. It did not get splashed across the front page and turn into a national news story. The thing properly frames the importance of its content:
"In the scheme of conflicts of interest, this doesn't seem that major," Lowenstein said.
I guess you could interpret the article's attempt to justify its existence (noting that Martin's ability to make decisions about firing any of the coaches who have loans out could be compromised) negatively, but I didn't and neither should the fanbase at large. If Michigan fans complain about everything we just come off like whiners.
Q. What’s your reaction to the allegations from former Michigan players that Coach Rich Rodriguez required players to work out more than N.C.A.A. rules permit during the off-season?
A. I don’t believe that guys are working extra hours. Everybody works hard. For this to happen like this and get out, that’s not the case. I don’t believe it to be the case. I believe that this is an inside plot to get him fired. I went to Michigan. I’ve been to college and everybody works hard.
The only thing left to discover is which message board lunatic Braylon is.
Band stuff. Whenever I write about the band the comments turn into a war zone and people send me emails ranging from "word" to "I have lost all respect for you," and it generally seems not worth it. So I'll refrain from offering further opinions, but I will clarify some old ones and point you to some good work elsewhere.
The clarification: man, I don't know about bands. I don't know if piccolos are loud or quiet or if the band can or should increase the brass. I do know that a lot of different people who do know about bands say that there's no reason the band can't be louder, and I have been around plenty of bands that seem louder than Michigan's. So I don't think it's impossible. It's just about what you want to prioritize.
The other work: Hoover Street Rag pinged both Haithcock and Boerma. There's plenty of news in it, couple with denials that they've decreased emphasis on noise and some indications that the prevalence of piped-in music is beyond what the band was told would occur.
One thing I will note: I hate that "Thunderstruck" plays before the teams runs onto the field. Previously, the crowd chanted "let's go blue" as one of the drummers beat out a slow, menacing beat. I like that better than wishing Michigan Stadium's speaker system didn't suck.
Mr. Punchypants. Not to further NDNation's delusion that Michigan possesses less sportsmanship than their personal-foul-magnet warrior-poets by bringing up last year's incident, but remember this?
Rodriguez said Monday morning that he wasn't sure if Butler would face further disciplinary action, since the Big East officials working the game did not specify, in writing, the reason for the ejection. Later in the day, though, a Michigan sports information official spoke was told by the Big Ten that Butler was flagged for a flagrant foul, and will not face an automatic suspension. If Butler had been ejected for fighting, he would have been suspended from the first half of the team's next game.
The math here: ejection for fighting = 1/2 of next game. Ejection for flagrant foul = no suspension. Act that should have drawn a flag—not an ejection—but didn't = 1 game.
“It’s not a football act,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not what we’re about. And it hurts the team when you do that, and Jonas understood that. He understood it hurt the team and that you could be penalized.”
No one's claiming he's somehow ennobled the game. But these sorts of things happen in the game all the time and it's idiotic to single out Mouton for punishment when far more dangerous acts have escaped punishment, especially when the only reason people are talking about it is because a coach outside the conference is running down the professionalism of your officials. It's even more bush league to do it on Friday at 4 PM. Jim Delany's talent for terrible PR is unmatched.
“We’ve got a few guys banged up, but I think most of them should be okay,” said Rodriguez. “[Freshman quarterback]Tate [Forcier] bruised his ribs, got the air knocked out of him. The biggest concern is David Molk. He said his foot was bothering him, and it must have been early in the game … first half, whatever. But now it may be even more serious. We’ll know a little more if he broke it or whatever as we go along. That would be a big loss.”
Moosman is expected back this week, said Rodriguez, and would be the next in line at center if Molk couldn’t go, with redshirt freshman Rocko Khoury behind him.
Good that Moosman will be available; hopefully he can just get a half and some new blood can take the rest. Sounds like another light week for Minor, too.
And a tip of the hat to Rodriguez for throwing Tate out there one more time to handoff, thus reassuring 107,000 some people that they didn't need to find a luxury box to jump off of.
Treat it like Muppets. I tried this last year and got nowhere, but I'm with the Daily's Andy Reid on the "It's Great to Be A Michigan Wolverine" cheer:
My family has had season tickets to Michigan football games since I was two years old, and despite the myriad games I have attended, I’ve only heard that chant a select handful of times. Not coincidentally, all of those games are among the best I’ve ever seen.
Iconic Michigan games that deserve an extra bit of special celebration — 1997 Ohio State, 2004 Michigan State, 2005 Penn State.
And that’s the way it should be.
I was pretty surprised when I heard the chant surface during the post-game celebration after Saturday's 45-17 shellacking of Eastern Michigan. Sure, it’s cool when the Wolverines head over to the student section after each win. But the crowd should sing the fight song, chant “Let’s Go Blue” or something — instead of busting out the big guns for nothing.
Word. That chant first existed in the fan consciousness after the '97 Ohio State game and should be held in reserve for actually stirring events, not four-touchdown wins over MAC teams. Also, get off my lawn.
Etc.: Andy Staples has an article on the steep costs of unofficial visits and how officials should be moved up, which I'd be fine with since Michigan is increasingly recruiting kids from far away. Dior Mathis' mom is quoted. Daily continues what's apparently a series of profiles akin to the massive Pahokee piece. This latest is on Trotwood, Ohio, the home of Roy Roundtree, Mike Shaw, and Brandon Moore. Throw the English-Rodriguez postgame handshake onto the Weis-Miles/Carr-Belotti memorial Pile of Awkward, Probably Misleading Handshake Photos. Michigan State has thrown tickets to the Michigan game(!) open to the public. Right now they require you to buy a ticket to another State game; on Wednesday they'll be totally open.
Site note. I've gotten a lot of reports that certain ads served by the third-party provider I use have been popping up antivirus notices about malware. I've been told this issue has been killed dead, so if it happens to anyone else please let me know immediately.
I noticed a few people in the comments helping others out with the program by recommending adblock, which is fine by me; I use adblock. Just one tiny ripple-of-guilt note: last I checked, about 20% of expected ad revenue gets eaten up by it. If you'd like to avoid that feeling of regret and horror currently racing through your body, you can either turn off adblock for this site or chuck ten or so dollars at the beveled guilt donation button.
WTKA-in'.My appearance on WTKA in one section thanks to Paul. John U Bacon is the host, as he often is, and the third guy in the booth is Wayne Drehs of ESPN.com, who's in town for the year on a Knight-Wallace fellowship. You should skip to six minutes in because the first caller goes forever.
Bonus: I'll be on WJR today at 5:15 with Mitch Albom.
I'm also scheduled for a Thursday appearance on WRIF, a Saturday morning appearance on WJR, and I will be rocking it at WCBN on a regular basis this fall.
For the record. You could attempt to deal with the specific points and accusations leveled by this here blog, or you could try to paint the author here as an anonymous internet nutjob and avoid any substantive discussion. The Free Press chooses Door Number B, link omitted for obvious reasons:
Twitter is also being used to pass links to the petition as well as share links to mgoblog.com, which has emerged as a go-to place for displaced U-M fans who have given up on the Free Press.
In a blog post on Monday, the site said traffic was temporarily crashing the server.
The Michigan fan blog has branded its coverage of the Free Press report as "Jihad the second," alluding to a holy war on the behalf of Islam.
Most of the posts are written by someone who identifies himself as Brian.
No contact information is given.
I don't know, guys… is the link that says "contact" on top of the blog too obscure? I know it's not huge and red and blinking. For the record, I identify myself as "Brian" because that is my name. My last name is Cook. I even have a bunch of biographical details up. My email address—which plenty of people seem able to find—is [email protected]. If you click the link, it will email me.
Detroit Lions rookie Carson Butler, who played at Michigan, said he didn't think players had to do a lot more work for Rodriguez last year when compared with previous seasons under Lloyd Carr.
"It was just a different structure," Butler said.
Butler said it didn't seem as if the players were forced to spend excessive time training and practicing.
"I don't know all of the exact rules, but I don't remember anything that seemed like it was too much," Butler said. "If the weight room was open, you went. If there was a run, you went. It's just what you do to be a better football player."
I… you… how? What? I can't comprehend this. If Carson Butler, who was basically told to enter the NFL draft because he was not welcome back, has Rodriguez's back here, I need to find anyone who will take bets on Michigan picking up a major violation and put the farm on "nay."
"My wife [Juanita] and I talk to Je'Ron every day. We follow him through the internet, by phone, and we've been up there on a couple of occasions," he said. "We spent an entire Thursday through Monday up there, and I'd see guys voluntarily go into that weight room on Sunday and Saturday and put in extra work.
"I know [the allegations] are not true, because I know how [strength coach] Mike Barwis cares for these kids. He's taken my son to bible study and to church. These are the kinds of things that impress us about the program and Rich Rod and his staff. They are good people, and I hate the fact that every negative thing put out there brings the wrong perception to the Michigan program.
University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez is being sued for defaulting on a real-estate loan to build high-end condominiums in the shadows of Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.
Rodriguez's financial advisor says he's the "victim of a real-estate Ponzi scheme," FWIW.
Recycle. I'm sure Tim will cover this in Tuesday Recruitin' but it's worth a mention here, too: Devin Gardner's bounced up to the #53 player in the Rivals 100, which makes him the #1 QB in the country of any variety. This is where I remind you that MGoBlog got swank HD video of Gardner from Saturday's Inkster-Pioneer game. Yes, we are going to link this until everyone who reads this blog watches the video.
Back and forth. I never actually got around to addressing the ethics of the whole Rodriguez thing, instead choosing to focus on the potential penalties and overall picture, and now I don't have to because the WLA has a couple of articles on the thing that cover it. CFaller's is required reading:
Workouts are voluntary, but so is playing time” is not, in my e-pinion, a wink and a nod to the NCAA rules, but an actual credo embraced by most of these kids. The way I see it the coaches don’t say this as a way to force kids into “volunteering” for workout, but rather to remind them of the environment they are part of.
Times and dates. A press release containing every exciting Big Ten matchup against Towson has been C&Ped into the diaries. Michigan games listed:
Western Michigan at MICHIGAN, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
Notre Dame at Michigan, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
Eastern Michigan at MICHIGAN, Big Ten Network, Noon ET
MICHIGAN at ILLINOIS, ABC, 2:30 p.m. CT
Yes, Western Michigan at Michigan is a 3:30 ABC game. Woo! It's not like there's anything else going on but Jebus. If the rest of the schedule wasn't dire enough to get WMU @ M on ABC I'd put in my usual complaint about a home 3:30 start really impinging on my ability to see games around the country.
Also: was it widely known that the Illinois game would be a 3:30 ABC affair?
We were good except for the eighty yard touchdown we gave up six times. I couldn't dig up a specific instance of this concept in the archives, but I'm pretty sure at various times last year I described the defense as doing pretty well except for the four long touchdowns. Michigan wasn't a team you drove the field on, it was a team you mostly failed against until someone in the secondary or one of the linebackers screwed up and then you ran for a long time and got seven points. Sometimes this happened most of the day (Illinois), sometimes it didn't.
The most interesting name on this list is Michigan. They were seventh in Success Rates+ but 62nd in PPP+ [Points Per Play]. That suggests that they played pretty efficient defense overall, not giving up consistent gains, but the breakdowns they did suffer were large ones, and they gave up far too many big plays.
There aren't any helpful glossary links that explain exactly what goes into these metrics, unfortunately, so I can't tell you if they attempt to account for the terrible field position Michigan found itself in time and again, but even that can't explain all of this discrepancy.
So: the stats point a finger squarely at last year's safeties, with some bonus points accruing to the sloppy linebacking.
Steele predicts an improved season for the Wolverines, the fourth-most improved season nationally, trailing only Illinois, Ohio and UCLA. He also sees them in the Champs Sports Bowl against Miami (Fla.).
Raise your hand if you'd take that right now. That appears to be everyone.
Another bullet in the head. Man, this coaches poll thing… eh… not so good:
the Coaches poll is a different story. Only 5 of the 18 non-BCS teams have a positive average, meaning that the overwhelming majority of non-BCS teams drop further in the Coaches poll after a loss than the average team does. (It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots.) In fact, the Coaches dropped non-BCS teams more than the average in nearly 2/3’s of their losses. Looking at it one final way, all of the BCS teams combine for the average 0.0 in the Coaches poll – non-BCS teams combine for a -1.6 average, losing a spot and a half more per game than BCS teams.
And Carson went forth amongst the Hittites, and slew many, and gloried in the destruction, whereupon he was released from the football team to the annoyance of his high school coach.Minor PR fire at Detroit Renaissance arising from an interview with its head coach. First, the facts: Ren's Antonio Watts is being interviewed by "Hondo," who's a Spartan-slanted (and apparently unemployed now) TV guy the RCMB mocks.
First he references Carson Butler—"now with the Green Bay Packers"—as one of the major athletes in Renaissance's past, at which point Hondo asks why everyone loves Dantonio, at which point Watts says, in effect, "Dantonio shows up."
Then there's some garbled ungrammatical stuff from Hondo about the current Ren kids at State; Watts launches into this apropos of nothing—Hondo never mentions Michigan:
"I had two kids who went to the University of Michigan with Lloyd Carr and when Rodriguez took over last year, in my opinion they weren't done well. They weren't treated well. Carson had to leave early… to the NFL, and Andre Criswell, who's still up there, he's a graduate assistant who's not doing anything. And that hurt my heart. And I have a kid at West Virginia who's not very happy there. And I feel that."
Well, then. One: don't expect anyone out of Ren to go to Michigan in the near future. But let's not confuse this coach's slant with reality. Criswell is a great guy but he was the last guy in his recruiting class, a guy Carr offered on signing day because he had an extra scholarship. He came in as a fullback, never played under Carr in three years, and never played under Rodriguez. As mentioned, he's currently a grad assistant. I'm finding it difficult to see how that can be spun as anything negative. I'm even assuming his withdrawal from the program was entirely his decision: Michigan has extra scholarships this year. So what the hell?
And Carson Butler… well. Carson Butler is the most embarrassing program alum in the last decade. He punched a Notre Dame player last year. The year before that he participated in the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, was kicked off the team by Carr, and only let back on after he managed to evade legal consequences. At the time it seemed clear that Carr would have rather washed his hands of him then and there but couldn't justify it since he was acquitted. On the field the guy was a false-start prone headcase whose interest in blocking was nil.
And the stories that have hit my inbox about him have been either hilarious or disturbing, or both. There's a typical Carson Butler story in that thread linked above; I've heard three or four others of similar vintage. Unless this is an amazing hoax, the guy is a sociopath who got far more consideration than he deserved from Michigan.
So over it. A couple of weeks ago, Rich Rodriguez called up a couple of guys in West Virginia in an attempt to bury the hatchet. Here's how that went:
My wife is not a sports fan.
Recently, though, she read the front page article by the Daily Mail's Jake Stump about Rich Rodriguez, the one where the former West Virginia University coach said how much he loved West Virginia and hoped the tension between him and hard-core Mountaineer football fans was fading.
Her observation after reading the article was, "Who is this man? What a pitiful, whiny, self-serving creature."
You, sir, have a very dramatic wife. Who likes adjectives.
Teeny tinies are the trend. Some of the roiling sea of consternation about Michigan's future is about the tiny wide receivers and their unsuitability for the NFL and that sort of thing. Maybe this helps?
Though there were no wide receivers taken in the first round in 2008, 10 went in Round 2, and a quick look at their first-year statistics paints an interesting picture. The success among the smaller guys was led by 5-10, 182-pound Eddie Royal of Denver, who embarrassed then-Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener on Monday Night Football to the tune of nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. That was just the opening salvo in a season that saw Royal finish with 91 catches for 980 yards in 15 games.
Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is another example of a small receiver having a big impact as a rookie. At 5-10, 175, he finished with 62 catches for 912 yards, but only two touchdowns. Even the surprise first receiver taken in 2008, 5-11, 184-pound Donnie Avery of St. Louis, had a stellar debut. He had 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns, not too shabby for a 'rook.'
Meanwhile, all the big guys from that draft haven't done anything. Now, none of these guys are 5'2" or whatever Jeremy Gallon is, but they are in the range that of a Je'Ron Stokes. And if you're one of these guys you're probably going to go to the school that can best deploy your tiny windmilling legs, right?
NHL draft bits. McKenzie has released his annual, accurate list of the top prospects in the draft. It finds Mac Bennett and Chris Brown in the second round, with Kevin Lynch an "honorable mention."
Michigan Hockey Summers. (ZING!) Excellent Daily article discusses Chris Summers, named captain of next year's hockey team already, sort of buries the lead in the very last paragraph. Chris Summers sounds like a Berenson-bot in this reassuring quote:
“I think (Berenson) says it best: you’re preparing for a life after hockey,” Summers said Sunday. “There’s more to the world than just skating on the ice every day. It’s a game. It should be enjoyed. And I think that’s what a lot of players miss out on, that it should be fun.
“It’s unfortunate that it turns into a business once you get to the professional rankings, but that’s the way it is.”
That very much sounds like a guy who wants to stay. Some insider scuttlebutt confirms that but also says Summers is getting pressure from the Coyotes and is not a 100 percent lock. "80-20" was the number; I expect Summers to return.
…because then its one sentence glory would be the best Sharp column ever. It's close to but not quite the best possible Sharp column. That's also one sentence, but the sentence is "I've been fired, put in a box, and shipped to Slovenia, where I will live out my days a simple goatherd."
Ways to feel old. Michigan has launched Twitter accounts for a dozen sports and plans to fill them with breaking news and stuff, which means they officially get the microblogging service better than I do. Here's the football feed.
Only 21, the Wolverines junior opted for the draft in part because his role in Michigan's offense disappeared when head coach Rich Rodriguez brought the spread offense to Ann Arbor.
The spread offense might be 10% of the reason for Carson Butler's departure, with 90% being Carson Butler. At least Banks doesn't cite Butler's mad blocking skills, he just notes his tantalizing combination of size and speed. Too bad you can't put someone else's head on it.
(Also, the picture is of Charles Stewart, who shared #5 with Butler last year. I blame Getty, which occasionally mislabels things.)
Etc.: Michigan lands at #18 in Rivals' pre-pre-preseason basketball poll; don't know how you can even put a list together before the NBA draft deadline. Varsity Blue breaks down their basketball UFR numbers.
Hopefully irrelevant. Normally the first-string quarterback going down with an injury rumored to be a broken leg—it's "serious" according to the Free Press—is time for PANIC(!). But when it's Nick Sheridan in question… eh. I wasn't planning on seeing Sheridan under center this year except in trauma-induced flashbacks, and I don't think losing some practice time is going to seriously impact his performance unless he gets bitten by a radioactive spider in his downtime.
However, the mere reminder that weird injuries happen is an ominous reminder of what coule happen once Forcier's spindly physique hits the field. All hail quick rhythm passing and a much improved offensive line.
The least correct thing. If you ever need a scale on which to measure truth and need labels for the extremes of that scale, "Mel Kiper's opinion of Carson Butler" should be the label for the bad end:
"Butler is going to block and get the job done there," Kiper said. "(Teams want) a guy who can block. You have to secure the edge. These 3-4 teams you're going up against, you have to be able to handle, (and) you handle with a blocking tight end. Carson Butler as a late-round pick for those types of teams would have some value."
WTF. No, wait. Mere letters are insufficient. I need a panda for this.
Kiper is now dead to me. In Mel Kiper's world, Carson Butler is useful as a blocker, Michigan State wide receivers can go a week without one of them ending up in prison, and candy tastes like ashes. I've always thought Kiper was sort of useful, but how can anyone take him seriously after that? Or after "Curtis Painter is a top-ten draft pick"?
Fourth-liners. The Daily reports that Ben Winnett is questionable for the weekend and the Scooter Vaughn experiment is unlikely to be repeated, leaving Luke Glendening, Danny Fardig, and Brandon Naurato on Michigan's fourth line.
Impact of this on Michigan's chances in the tourney: minimal. I did like Winnett more than the options to replace him, but that may have been residual prejudice about his NHL draft slot (too high, apparently) rather than anything that happened on the ice. Naurato's actually scoring at a higher clip.
Call for assistance. User Bleedin9Blue is embarking on a study of recruiting rankings and requires some extra hands. If you've got some statistical or database know-how and are interested in such a project, I'm sure he'd appreciate any assistance.
Twitterin'. Where Pete Carroll goes recruits and coaches follow, so Rich Rodriguez is now extraordinarily boring on Twitter. Check it:
Good work done at practice today. Watching film with the Coaches. Go Blue!
That's pretty much the extent of things: we practiced today, I am doing something, I occasionally capitalize something strangely, "Go Blue!" I count two posts without exclamation points so far, and no revealing personal details like "boy I miss OMC." As far as comedy value goes he's got nothing on Tim Brewster, who twitters like someone making fun of Tim Brewster:
JUST OFF THE FIELD FROM PRACTICE #1....GUYS SHOWED GREAT ATTITUDE AND EFFORT TODAY!
EACH GUY CONTROLS WHAT HE BRINGS TO THE TABLE EACH DAY ATTITUDE, EFFORT, TOUGHNESS AND PASSION NOT TAUGHT BUT BROUGHT!
WINNING ON AND OFF THE FIELD EACH AND EVERY DAY IS WHAT CREATES A CHAMPION!
TRY FIGHT BEST WIN indeed.
You can thank the NCAA for your insight into Pete Carroll's musical taste and Tim Brewster's FIGHTBRAIN: by shutting down texting they've sent coaches scrambling for another avenue via which to communicate with recruits. Twitter's broadcast nature means it should remain legit, and coaches' neverending desire to get a leg up on their competitors should keep the erratically spelled tweets flowing forevermore.
"My intent is to coach the game from the field That is my intent. Okay? As (Bill) Parcells said years ago, I reserve the right to change my mind, but that is my intent. I talked to people at the collegiate level and pro level, from Andy Reid right on down. By a very, very large majority, almost everyone I talked to were overwhelming thinking I was thinking way outside the box."
This passage is much, much funnier if you pretend Charlie Weis talks like Truman Capote.
Though you could somewhat reasonably grade this position "incomplete," the preseason sunniness…
Despite the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to the NFL, Michigan has stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at wide receiver and tight end and the dropoff shouldn’t be severe. There will be a dropoff, though, as no one on the roster save maybe Darryl Stonum can hope to replicate Manningham’s explosive deep routes, and Stonum is just a freshman.
…was obviously too sunny. Greg Mathews starred as Jason Avant 2.0:
The upside here is Jason Avant, a reliable guy on a variety of short routes with outstanding hands and the strength to get off a jam. (We haven't actually seen the outstanding hands, yet, as Mathews has been reliable but unspectacular in the catching-stuff category, but Avant's reliability was only a theory before Braylon left.)
Toney Clemons, Junior Hemingway, and Darryl Stonum were all mentioned on the outside. This was wrong as hell:
Normally the most optimistic projection for Stonum’s freshman year would be something similar to that turned in by Mario Manningham—27 catches, 433 yards, 6 touchdowns—but the early enrollment should help him see the field earlier and more frequently. Forty or even fifty catches is not out of the question.
No, this did not happen. I didn't fall for the LaTerryal-Savoy-is-starting bait, though, saying "the bet here is that once Hemingway’s injury and Stonum’s inexperience subside so will Savoy’s prominence on the depth chart."
In the slot, Martavious Odoms was declared the man. This was not a tough call since Michigan had zero other oompa-loompas on the team with functioning appendages. The praise came in on the high side:
Unlike many guys Odoms' size, he's always been a receiver, and few players can claim to have the extensive in-game experience he has. Practice reports have been universally positive, praising his hands, toughness, silky-smooth moves and ability to make the first tackler miss. I go back to what a Floridian high school football veteran and Friend of Blog told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
Watch out for him; this is one of those guys you see named “Moss” playing for Miami and think to yourself "goddamn why can't we ever have kids like that?" Practice reports are very encouraging; he sounds like a Steve Breaston if Breaston had been a natural-born receiver. He’s listed as the starter in the slot for Utah. You will see plenty of him.
At tight end, Carson Butler was declared to have "the potential to be ridiculously good as long as he’s not asked to block anyone ever" and the preview basically threw up its hands:
I have no idea what to expect out of Butler this year. He could be an All-American caliber performer (he’s unlikely to get enough catches to be an actual All-American) in a contract year for him. He could lose his job in week two.
It was door #2 for Butler. Backup Mike Massey got a thorough "meh":
In three years of sporadic onfield action, Massey hasn’t done much except almost make a couple of spectacular catches. He was the tentative starter last year until the injury in the Northwestern game. He seems totally average, a guy who will catch the balls he should and make most of the blocks he should but excel in no way whatsoever.
Kevin Koger, meanwhile, was declared likely to receive "a smattering of snaps in preparation for a starting job next year."
Well, that happened, I guess
It's hard to judge this group on their own merits when balls were so often whizzed (or floated) well over their heads and a series of wide receiver screens against Minnesota qualified as the most competent series of passes over the whole season. Receivers without quarterbacks are ornaments, and the stats bear this out.
Not much to go around, really, with the 0/2 in Clemons' 2 category the biggest issues. It's hard to blame Clemons for either, really, but I think Avant makes those catches. Or Mathews, actually.
You get the idea. Not enough data so I make big.
In the slot, the job was Odoms' as soon as Robinson went down. He quickly proved to be Michigan's most versatile and reliable receiver, catching a wide variety of bubble screens and having good success on wheel routes until opponents figured out that that was about the only thing Michigan's passing game had going for them. He still ran a bunch of routes that weren't quite right and dropped a few balls, most notably in the horrible frigid pounding death rain that suffused all things during the Northwestern game. That game also featured a series of increasingly spectacular Odoms fumbles.
Those fumbles and his general absence during the Ohio State game have soured many folks on Odoms going forward; projections that Robinson or incoming recruit Jeremy Gallon will wrest the job away are common on the internets, but Odoms is going to have a lot of experience on both those guys, both of whom were primarily high school quarterbacks. He remains the heavy favorite to be the top slot guy this fall.
On the outside, Mathews was a constant and basically lived up to expectations. In tough conditions against Notre Dame he came through with a couple excellent catches and was a razor-thin review away from a circus catch touchdown. Later against Minnesota there was this note:
Also note that Mathews is the only guy to have hauled in any "1s" so far this year (other than Butler, who no longer plays offense); he's the guy with the hands.
He's not electric and he doesn't dust people by five yards but most programs would be perfectly happy to have him as their possession go-to guy.
As for the other guy on the outside, well… Clemons ended upOdoms' backup in the slot because of the Robinson injury. Hemingway had a promising start but was shut down by mono on top of his shoulder and ankle injuries. (Yes, this blog has considered changing Angry Michigan Safety Hating God's name to Angry Junior Hemingway Hating God.) Stonum was a starter much of the year but dropped a lot of balls, picked up a DUI arrest, and was generally disappointing. The real answer to "who is Michigan's second outside receiver?" was "nobody." If pressed further you'd have to go with Stonum's 14 catches and one touchdown.
At tight end, Butler quickly played himself out of the starting job, moved to defense midway through the season, was rumored to have challenged Rodriguez to a fight, and "entered the NFL draft," by which we mean "was basically kicked off the team." If Butler has a future in doing athletic-type things, it's as a heel professional wrestler. Just ask cruiserweight champion That Kid Who Wants To Borrow An Iron.
Also, poor Mike Massey. It's not like he ever did anything positive in his time on the field, but whenever he had the opportunity someone else had to go and screw it up:
[Against Northwestern] Mike Massey was targeted three times, all of them uncatchable. This is the Golden Law of Mike Massey: whenever he is open for a touchdown, the ball will be overthrown. Mike Massey could be open by ten yards against OSU and the quarterback will throw it so high it hits a bird.
Massey's career expired with nary a catch his final year. He has a future as a stockbroker or something, I guess, so it's not too bad.
Your unexpected King of the Royal Tight End Rumble was actually Kevin Koger, who reeled in… uh… six catches. But one of those was a touchdown, so that's cool.
2009, And Beyond
Despite a bevy of transfer rumors, the whole gang is scheduled to return in 2009. Greg Mathews is what he is: a quality possession receiver who's not going to stretch many defenses. Mathews in a nutshell:
That's one-on-one press coverage against a crappy Minnesota cornerback. He gets very little separation, forcing him to make a spectacular catch, which he does. Ideally he'd be a #2 receiver on a good team; on this one it looks like there is no true #1.
Other contenders on the outside are Stonum, who did not have a Manningham-esque freshman campaign, Hemingway, Clemons, and possibly James Rogers or a freshman. At this point most hopes are pinned on Hemingway, who looked like the sort of explosive leaper who can catch himself some downfield jump balls, and by God Michigan can throw a downfield jump ball with the best of 'em. The other hope is that Stonum gets a lot better and fast. At this point I don't think much is expected from Clemons or Rogers. Joining the fun this year is redshirt freshman Roy Roundtree, who's supposed to be a twig-sized version of Mathews.
In the slot, Odoms returns. He'll be joined by Robinson and Jeremy Gallon, the Apopka single-wing quarterback and star of Army All-American practices. Having multiple slot threats should improve performance from the spot, as in four-wide packages two can show up at the same time, forcing the defense to defend against screens on both side of the field. If Odoms is hurt or not performing someone can step in for him.
At tight end, Koger returns and should/may/could have help from redshirt sophomore Martell Webb, who played some as a true freshman before wholly disappearing last year, and redshirt freshman Brandon Moore, who could end up anything from a hulking 6'6" receiver to an offensive tackle.
Everyone returns, so production should be better, but unless Stonum takes a great leap forward or Gallon is just ridiculous it looks like a corps closer to the just-okay 2005 unit, which had Avant and Breaston but no real deep threat.