This week: This one is the most fun. I'm looking for the single best highlight produced at each position. It's also going to require the most help from the crowd. If you've got a reel that beats what I've listed, please share in the comments!
Rules: Best single individual highlight, regardless of context, although there's naturally going to be a lot of rivals on here because duh. If there are multiple contributors who made a play great I'll try to have it go to the guy who was most responsible. I might also stretch the rules so that it's not just a "best highlights ever" list.
Quarterback: To Kolesar With Love, by Jimmy Harbaugh
A quarterback touches the ball on almost every offensive play, so to avoid having to just pick the greatest play in Michigan history I tried to focus on the quarterback doing something completely magnificent with only a little help from his friends.
Ohio State was climbing back into The Game in 1985 and with a cold stop to bring up 2nd and 7 you could feel the Buckeyes starting to feel like the chips were ready to fall their way. Eager to cash in on that momentum, Earl Bruce called for a safety blitz. What he wasn't counting on was a stone-faced Jim Harbaugh sitting across the table, ready to call his bluff, or, you know, take a safety in the chin while dropping an inch-perfect ball into Kolesar's bucket over OSU's best defender.
Quarterback Again: Shoelace, by Denard Robinson
Shut up I couldn't leave it out. It's his first snap. They start by explaining why his redshirt was lifted. Then you see his smile. Then they're focusing on his shoelaces, like this is the quirk that will define him. Then he drops the snap. Then he picks it up and runs around some, probably to the sideline. Then he cuts, and it's Rookie Mode to the endzone. I've still never seen anything like it.
Mulch Madness at the Beilein Residence today 15 yards of Mulch delivered In just over 2 hrs the huge pile was gone and put in the beds Thx to Austin , Isaiah , Jon , Jordan , Drew, Zach and Nolan Loved working side by side with these guys again #GoBluepic.twitter.com/XalInNCGo6
I HAVE QUESTIONS. When did Beilein think up "Mulch Madness" and how excited was he to send that tweet?Why does John Beilein need 15 cubic yards of mulch? I need 15 cubic yards of mulch because my entire yard is mulched. Does John Beilein also have a no-grass yard? Did he clear this with compliance? (A: Yes, obviously.) Did that mean the players couldn't have snacks?
Where did he get his mulch? How much did it cost? Is it cheaper than the mulch I buy? What's with the pitchforks, doesn't the mulch fall through? Is it stupid to use a snow-shovel instead of these pitchfork things? That's what I do. Will I force Ace to ask all these questions at a press conference? (A: Yes, obviously.)
He said Saturday he feels the game hasn’t been emphasized enough by Michigan.
“To be quite honest I really feel like over the years, in recent years, there hasn’t been the emphasis that I’m used to being put on that game,” Woodson said.
“Every game has been out on the same level of that game and that’s not the way we were brought up, that’s not the way we were raised around here. And we had no shame in saying it.”
Michigan lost by a literal inch in 2016 and last year had a brilliant gameplan undone by a third string quarterback playing like an eighth string one. Also they went and grabbed a defensive coordinator who runs a 4-2-5 as a base and has a 3-3-5 changeup in an attempt to tackle OSU's spread offense. There have been cracks in the Harbaugh façade—cough cough Drevno—but "doesn't prepare enough for Ohio State" is not one of them.
Sources told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that Northwestern and Purdue are two possible destinations for Johnson. His brother Cole played in few games as a reserve for Northwestern a few years ago.
This is against the natural way of things where failed Purdue quarterbacks inexplicably go start for major programs in the south, but I suspect Boiler fans will accept this violation of tradition if in fact they do land Johnson. If the Boilers can hold onto Jeff Brohm, who was a candidate during Tennessee's crazy search, they could be in for some Tiller-era seasons. Large ifs, but with Nebraska finally hiring someone who is a good idea the West could be substantially less sad in the near future.
Or Johnson could be so definitively behind Trevor Lawrence he transfers after one spring session because he's not actually that good. Peters's team blew his out, after all.
Camp Sanderson now has data behind it. Moe Wagner came back to Michigan in part because he wasn't an NBA-ready athlete. The bits of this that can be fixed seem to have been fixed, emphatically:
But other assertions are more interesting and less directly contradicted by data. Both guys think Colin Castleton has a chance to be elite:
Bossi’s take: “Castleton is a guy that we gave a pretty big bump to after his senior year because he has always been able to move really well for a kid his size … but what really stood out to me is how quickly his skills emerged. He's become reliable as a 10- to 12-foot jump shooter. He's got a little jump hook, and the production on offense that wasn't really there last spring and summer has started to come on during the high school year. I think he's got confidence now.”
Snow’s take: “Colin is a kid who can really run the court, has good hands and good shooting touch. He's physically not strong yet but he does compete. I think he has a chance to really improve as the years go along. He's going to have to get stronger and spend a lot of time in the weight room, but he's a good athlete, he can block shots, he can score inside, from the mid-range and even step out to 3. He might not be ready for big minutes right away, but I think this is a kid who down the line has a chance to be a special player.”
Brandon Johns is also proposed as a potential 4/5 combo, which would be another way for Michigan to get some stretch 5 minutes even after Wagner's departure.
But at least he made logical hires! So this guy still had a job?
Kansas football went 12-72 during Zenger’s stint as AD. They’ve lost 60 of their last 63 Big 12 games. https://t.co/eekObJ3OnF
It was perhaps the greatest Heisman field in the history of that award. It included a generational quarterback and a guy everyone thought would be. It had the most talented receiver the game had ever seen. It had the most productive rusher college football had ever seen. And Twenty years ago today the award for the “most outstanding player in college football” finally went to a primarily defensive player. He was just that good.
In 1997, two-way stars like Tom Harmon were a thing of the past or it was something “cute” that guys like Gordie Lockbaum did in D2 football. As Warren Sapp correctly pointed out a few years earlier, the bronzed Heisman statue has a player carrying the ball, not swatting it down.
Charles Woodson challenged that paradigm. You didn’t need to be a senior anymore to win the award. You didn’t need to be a quarterback or a running back, either. The trophy is engraved thusly: “The outstanding College Football Player In The United States.” The instructions given to voters are to choose…
The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.
It doesn’t say anything about being an offensive MVP; but that was the paradigm. Paradigms had changed before in the history of this award—it used to be so Domer biased that QB Paul Hornung won it in 1956 while going 2-8 and throwing 13 INTs to 3 TDs (Jim Brown finished third). It says outstanding.
Woodson was. Leave aside the highlight reel and look at the effect he had on that defense. Michigan’s D spent most of that season in a Cover 1 with the free safety either shaded over the side opposite Woodson, or running around in a robber. Students made a shirt (now available on the MGoBlogStore) that noted “75% of the Earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by Woodson.” They weren’t far off. Ask any coach if he thinks he could get away with this:
Back in 1997, few in America believed the 1,000 voters had finally figured out what that truly meant, especially when they had a nice, easy senior career candidate who “deserved” it for turning down the NFL and virtually repeating his 1996 performance.
also also not that it should matter but just in case “undefeated” Nebraska tries to stake a bogus claim to a championship that shoulde be Michigan’s and Michigan’s only, a struggle vs unranked team ought to take care of that, and lo and behold: #3 Nebraska 27, Colorado 24
Back in 1997, there was no B1G Conference Championship Game. That meant THE GAME between Michigan and Ohio State was going to be for all the marbles – sort of.
It was #1 UM (10-0) going against #4 OSU (10-1). It was essentially for the Rose Bowl, with a slight twist. If Michigan won, they would be the outright Big Ten champs and go to the Rose Bowl. If Michigan lost and Penn State defeated Wisconsin and Michigan State -- there would be a three-way tie for the Big Ten title (with OSU & PSU) -- Michigan would still go to the Rose Bowl under the Big Ten tie-breaker rule, unless Ohio State was ranked #1 or #2 in either major poll, in which case the Rose Bowl would be obligated to take OSU.
Got all that?
[Hit THE JUMP to go back to that cold terrifying morning]
[Ed-Seth: This being the 20th anniversary of the 1997 National Championship, Michigan historian Dr. Sap offered to revisit a game a week so you can re-live it all in real time. These articles are part-story, part videos so make sure you watch those.]
Michigan turned to Woodson when the offense needed a spark. [Bob Kalmbach, courtesy UM Bentley Library]
A team is a team, a win is a win, and it’s hard to find fault in a team that wins 38-3. But after a brilliant opening game against an expected national power, Michigan did not exactly thrash an overmatched opponent like they were expected to. The offensive line could not get much push against an overmatched DL. The passing game felt clunky. The defense were playing on their heels. Getting past their big opener might have revised expectations to three losses instead of the usual four, but watching them the next week you’d think it would take a miracle machine to take down the monsters on the back end of the schedule. But then, the Baylor game was also the moment you realized Michigan might have one of those. Offense, defense, or special teams, when the Wolverines needed a big play they could get one. It wasn’t luck. It was the most outstanding player in college football. It was Charles Woodson. And it was totally unfair.
After looking so good against Colorado the week before and moving up in the national Rankings to #8, the game against Baylor was supposed to be no contest. While it pretty much was, looking back, it also proved to be a microcosm of the 1997 season for Lloyd Carr’s team.
Sure Michigan won, 38-3, but to say that the Maize and Blue didn’t look as crisp and as sharp as they did against the Buffaloes was the understatement of the year. The defense held up their end of the bargain by not giving up a touchdown for the second straight game. Even though Chris Howard was moving the chains and freshman Anthony Thomas was moving the pile, the offense was getting bogged down with penalties and dropped passes. It was painfully evident that there was no playmaker on that side of the ball who could hit the homerun. The Special Teams were anything but, as they dropped a snap from a punt, missed a field goal and Charles Woodson even fielded a punt inside the UM 5-yard line and was tackled for no gain. There was plenty of work to do coming out of this game, as the Wolverines looked nothing like a National Championship team at this point in the season.
[Hit THE JUMP unless you are the mother of a Baylor receiver]
Don't tell the SEC, but Charles Woodson has been on something of a satellite camp tour of his own lately, crossing the country to meet fans and talk wine. Woodson's the proprietor of Charles Woodson Wines, and he and director of operations Rick Ruiz have been holding events where fans get a chance to taste some of the company's offerings (like the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which made Wine Spectator's 2014 Top 100 list) and purchase autographed bottles of said wine. Woodson and Ruiz were in Ann Arbor for an event at the new Plum Market near North Campus yesterday, and I had the opportunity to sit down with Woodson for a few minutes to talk about some of his memories of Michigan.
If you're beating yourself up because you missed the event yesterday you should stop, but you're going to need to cancel your plans for this afternoon: Charles will be at the Plum Market in West Bloomfield (6565 Orchard Lake Rd.) from 4-6PM; there's no tasting event today, but you can purchase a bottle of the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, get it autographed by Woodson at no additional cost, and ask that burning question you've had since '97.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Michigan?
"My favorite memories? I don't know. I mean, of course it all revolves around football, you know. [laughs] But really it was, let's say memories of dorm rooms all of us stayed in, because most of us were in West Quad or South Quad. So it was just the times that we all spent together in the dorms. We were all kind of close knit, especially your class. The times we spent together in our rooms, whether we were partying or whatever it was, it was always great."
The [annual West Quad v. South Quad] snowball fight?
"Snowball fight, mmhmm. And then of course the games. My first time running out in '95, running onto the field and kind of losing my breath that first game because I had been in the Big House before but never as a player, and all of a sudden I'm a player and it's like 'oh, wow.' Kind of the magnitude of it hit me. Then of course the Ohio State game with a chance to go to the Rose Bowl, winning that game, the punt return, and the rose in the mouth. I'd say that's five things right there."
In that game, did you allow that receiver a free inside release to bait Stanley Jackson into throwing an interception in the endzone?
"Well, it wasn't deliberate to let him inside, but it was deliberate to undercut him because it was in the endzone and you're always taught, you know, in the endzone the guy's not running a deep route- there's nowhere to go. So you undercut the route and the quarterback threw it right to me, so it worked out."
Did you have a favorite defensive play call or coverage that you guys ran when you were in college?
"No, I didn't. I mean, it was pretty simple what we did. Either I was in man-to-man or it was Cover 3 for the most part. But I played on the wide side of the field most of the time so no, I didn't have a favorite call."
Was there any receiver you had a bigger rivalry with in college than David Boston?
"Uh, no. Yeah, he was the biggest. He was the one that talked the most noise, you know, on that team. He was their star receiver and of course me being on defense, it was kind of a natural thing. So yeah, he would have been my biggest competition."
How did you get into wine and winemaking?
"So I spent a lot time in Napa Valley as a result of being picked there. The Oakland Raiders' training camp was in Napa Valley, and so as a result of being there three and a half-four weeks every training camp I used to spend a lot of time in the Valley at different restaurants just kind of watching people interact with wine, and I became very interested in it. I decided a few years after that that I would get into it."
As always, click the links/stills to open each GIF in a lightbox.
I attended my first Michigan game in 1994, at the tender age of six. One year later, Charles Woodson made his debut in Maize and Blue.
Yesterday, Woodson announced his impending retirement. In the interim, he put together arguably the greatest career by a defensive player in football history. Those of us lucky enough to watch him at Michigan are hardly surprised.
I could talk about how Woodson changed the game of football at the college and NFL level, how he became the archetype and the prototype of a spread-killing defensive back. Today, though, I'd rather remember how he changed the games in my backyard. In my first couple years in Michigan, I'd run through the yard as Tyrone Wheatley or Tim Biakabutuka, scoring touchdowns against imaginary defenders. After seeing so many athletic feats of this ilk, however...
...I spent much more time crouching down, backpedaling, and jumping imaginary hitch routes. Woodson made defense cool. How could you not want to be this guy?
As Woodson's Michigan career wore on, imitating his greatest moments required an increasingly versatile imagination. Doing so also had some unintended consequences. My mother always wondered why we had so much trouble growing a patch-free lawn in the backyard. My attempts to replicate cuts like this didn't help the cause.
Then, of course, there was his most famous moment as a Wolverine.
Throw the ball as high as you can, catch it clean, take off towards the fence, cut up towards the house, cut back to the fence, then make sure not to trample the garden/bench while sprinting up the imaginary sideline. I did that more times than I could count.
With Woodson, though, some moments transcended imitation even by the most imaginative of grade-schoolers. I could not fly 15 feet in the air, so I didn't attempt his Michigan State interception. I could not float for an eternity, so I was content to leave his final collegiate pick as a memory.
20 years after he first arrived in Ann Arbor, Woodson is still making awe-inspiring plays. Just two days ago, the 39-year-old met 220-pound James Starks—ten years his junior—in the open field; while Starks had a full head of steam, Woodson's perfectly placed shoulder jarred the ball loose. I watched the play unfold on my television, and while I didn't head to the nearest park to replay it, the thought crossed my mind.
As I write this, I'm sitting on the couch in my parents' house, the same I house from which I walked to the Big House with my dad on so many football Saturdays growing up, with the very backyard in which I tried with all my might to be Charles Woodson. We're sitting down to dinner soon. While sports are rarely the foremost topic of conversation in the Anbender household, there's no doubt Woodson's retirement will come up; the only question is how long we'll swap stories once it does.
Perhaps, once the food has settled, I'll sprint aside that fence one more time.
Jabrill Peppers was constantly surrounded by cameras and sound recorders, but he answered every question with candor typically reserved for one-on-one interviews. Below he addresses the Woodson comparison, playing offense, defense, and special teams, and critics of the program. Note: the following questions were from a media scrum and aren’t MGoQuestions.
On deleting his Twitter:
“Camp, I don’t want any distractions. I don’t want any distractions from camp.”
Where’d you get the idea? Someone else do it and you said ‘I should do this’?
“No, it’s just for me, man. These past couple months I’ve noticed that they look at my Twitter a lot.”
You’ve been vocal on lots of issues.
“Yeah, so for me it was just a kind of thing where I don’t want anything that can put a negative connotation on or anything that they can spin or do anything with. We just as a whole are going to go complete darkness. Let them speculate what they want- how good we are, how good we aren’t. We don’t really care what anyone else thinks. We care what the guy next to us thinks. We care what our coaches think, what our family thinks. All of the outside outliers, you know, we could really care less about. We just want to put the ball down and play football, you know. That’s it.
“We didn’t come here to worry about the media or how good they think we are. The only thing that I would tell people is this is Michigan and this is always going to be Michigan. That’s it.”
"People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be."
Ace: Which Michigan alum—aside from Tom Brady—most surprised you with his NFL/NBA/NHL success, and which most surprised you by not panning out?
David Nasternak:Jamal Crawford. This is probably a controversial choice for several reasons. A). He only played about half a year at M. 2). His M career ended rather notoriously. C). He's kinda the forgotten man, associated with M, that just keeps churning out respectable NBA years.
The thing I remember most about Jamal Crawford is the way the NCAA handled him was the moment that separated me from the NCAA party line on extra benefits, as it was so obvious the NCAA was way more the bad guys than the players they went after.
Never known for his defense, Crawford has found his niche coming off the bench and providing instant offense, over the last half-decade or so. He's a career 35% 3PT shooter, hits 86% of his FTs, and has never averaged less than 13.9 ppg since 02-03, his third year in the NBA. Crawford has been a little hard to keep track of because of the six different uniforms that he's worn. He reinvented himself with his stellar bench play in 09-10 with Atlanta, winning the 6th Man of the Year. He also won it again in 13-14 and was highly considered two other times (10-11 and 12-13). Crawford also passed Reggie Miller for most career 4 point plays...he is sitting at 44, currently. Until 2010, he had the record for longest tenured player to never make the playoffs. Once breaking into the postseason, Crawford showed he belonged, averaging 15.0 ppg off the bench in 42 games.
I don't think that Jamal Crawford is/was one of the best players in the NBA at any time during his career. He was never an elite shooter. But he could always find a way to score the ball. After embracing his 6th man role, Crawford became a very credible asset. His numbers have continued to remain steady with the Clippers in his 16th (!!!) year in the NBA (only one significantly shortened to 11 games). Jamal Crawford has been M's longest presence in the NBA since Juwan Howard (who somehow managed to play 19 years??? Although, the last 7 years of Howard's career didn't touch any of Crawford's stats, including Games Played). Watching him play, I still think Crawford has a couple solid years left...even at the young age of 35. Love him or hate him, Dude just keeps contributing.
Ace: Mundy isn't a star by any means, but he's started 28 games over the last three seasons, including all 16 last year for Chicago. Anyone who remembers Mundy's much-maligned stint as a starting safety—before he played his fifth year at West Virginia—is probably surprised by this. While the Bears defense was bad last year, Mundy managed to be something of a bright spot with over 100 tackles and four interceptions. Just by remaining in the league this long, he's surpassed most expectations; not many undrafted players get starts at age 30.
Not literally a comic book. 28 minutes of Charles Woodson highlights from high school do not quite feature him bounding over a tall building:
Full go minus one decision. John Beilein doesn't see anyone transferring this offseason:
"Everybody seems to be all onboard 100 percent," Beilein said Monday after attending a USBWA Final Four luncheon honoring freshman Austin Hatch. "Obviously, we're not with them 24 hours a day, but I love their attitude right now."
That does not include Caris LeVert, who is deciding on the NBA draft. It seems that people around the program are cautiously optimistic he will stay for his senior year, but we won't have certainty until the early entry deadline, April 26th.
That would leave Michigan with zero scholarships this year and two plus any attrition after next season in 2016. Unless Hatch goes on a medical scholarship that would cut out Mike Edwards, the various transfers looking at Michigan, and Jaylen Brown.
Meanwhile, another one bites the dust at Indiana. The Hoosiers get a commitment from prep post Thomas Bryant, bringing the number of Indiana players guaranteed to get run off this offseason to three. Someone please fire Tom Crean.
Spike surgery. Spike Albrecht will have surgery on both hips to eliminate the pain he played through this season. His projected return is in four or five months, which cuts him out of all the summer stuff but should have him back on the court a couple months before the season. That should be enough time to knock off the rust.
Soon, a fully healthy Spike will also be dunking on fools.
"The legal system has got as much hanging over his head as anybody else could possibly put on him," Harbaugh said. "There's nothing more that I, or the football program or the university could have on Graham right now than what (the courts) have.
"This is somebody who is taking a breathalyzer every morning and every night. He's got to be clean, 100 percent clean, not a drop of alcohol. And he'll either do it, or he won't. I believe in him, I believe he will. But we'll all know, there will be no secrets on that. Whether he does it or he doesn't, it'll be for public consumption."
He will have to do this through January, so he will either be clean as a whistle or you'll know he wasn't.
Threes and throwdowns. He was excellent at the threes, average at the throwdowns, which still means he was extremely efficient. Next year's project is getting some of those hexagons to be larger without changing their distribution. Oh, and doing the defense and rebounding stuff.
Adjusting for the matchups and expected points in each game, scoring in the smaller tournaments has been about 5.6 ppg more than the NCAA tournament. This is 2.4 ppg higher than the typical difference in these events. That's not something that will transform the game, but if you assume that boost applies to the entire 2015-16 season, it would take the sport to scoring levels not seen since 2003. (That statement excludes last season, when scoring increased dramatically, partly because a bunch of fouls were called.)
Not surprisingly, most of the scoring increase can be attributed to an increase in pace. Accounting for the teams involved and the increase in tempo normally seen in lower-level events, there have been two additional possessions per 40 minutes than we'd expect under normal rules. This is a more modest change compared to scoring and only turns the clock back to 2011 in terms of pace. This suggests simply reducing the shot clock to 30 won't produce significantly more up-and-down basketball. A surprising finding here is that slow-paced teams were affected as much as fast-paced teams were.
One of the concerns of the 30-second clock is that it may make offenses less efficient, but the postseason experiment isn't providing much evidence of that. Accounting for the quality of the teams and the usual increase in efficiency seen in the lower-level events, efficiency was actually up, though by a miniscule 0.6 points per 100 possessions.
The efficiency thing is almost certainly noise, but it looks like any effects are going to be minimal in that department. I don't think there's much wrong with college basketball other than the fact that block/charge is impossible to call and the refs are hilariously bad in general—but that's not something you can wave a wand and fix.
Final CSS rankings out.Minor movement for most players. Zach Werenski is 9th, down from 6th. Kyle Connor moves up a spot to 13th. 2016 recruit Cooper Marody moves up ten spots to 53rd. There were some more significant moves:
NTDP forward Brendan Warren dropped from 34th to 66th, which is an early third round pick to the fifth or sixth. He had an okay year only with the U18s.
Incoming defenders Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka went in opposite directions; Cecconi dropped from 70 to 88 and Boka shot up from 176 to 117.
Given Michigan's needs next year I'm happy that Boka's stock has apparently surged, even if Warren is less of a prospect than you think he might be. I wonder if Michigan will try to bring Marody or another 2016 recruit in now given Copp's departure.
The Hockey Writers have an extensive breakdown of Werenski that compares him to Trouba. I know I'm seeing Werenski a year younger, but he is not Trouba. Trouba was a commanding defenseman at both ends of the ice. Werenski really came on in the offensive zone late in the year but was a significant source of defensive problems.