So we did the meet and greet Q&A thing, and other than the liveblog portion being pretty much a disaster, A+++ would do again. I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with all the good info in the Q&A so below I've written up those answers plus some we answered after the fact via email.
We're tentatively talking another one the Friday night before the Notre Dame game, so calendar that. If you're coming in from out of town, Jared of Sports Power Weekends, who sponsored this whole thing, mentioned he's putting together a trip for that weekend that includes tickets for the game and a private tour of the Big House before we do drinks and ALL THE SHANE MORRIS.
Some things went way better than expected and other things not so much. Didn't go well: We had no way to plug our mic into the speaker system, fortunately remembering just in time that bartenders have friends with guitar amplifiers. The other thing that could have gone better is we forgot to warn Brian that Jehu Chesson was in the audience before your favorite blogger launched into his heuristic reasoning as to why Amara Darboh would be more effective this year because Chesson is still a waif.
New heuristic: Chesson sitting = Heiko standing minus an inch.
Did go well: lots of luminaries showed up. Players current and former included Chesson, Countess, Donovan Warren, and John Duerr. An incomplete list of bloggers: Bryan Mac (aka BiSB), MGoPhotographers Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller, Burgeoning Wolverine Star, Lloyd Brady, M-Wolverine, Craig Ross, and LSAClassof2000. Epic shirts: Heiko's bubble screen smile, and a Branch-Morelli sweatshirt.
In things that surpassed all expectations, let me being with actual nicest guy in the universe Marlin Jackson himself. Walking out of the game to his car took about 25 minutes because he signed every hat, helmet, t-shirt or whatever thing put before him. We talked NBA decisions, how the Jake Butt TD was on Jarrod Wilson's as-yet-unadvanced field awareness, and that the biggest difference with this staff is they "teach football."
After being introduced by Brian as "the man who still has Reggie Williams in his back pocket," to kick off the Q&A Marlin talked about his Fight for Life Foundation. He was candid about his youth: Jackson grew up in the projects with a mother addicted to drugs and a father he never met. As you can imagine this isn't the best way to learn things like accountability, the value of an education, or even your own value and that of others. Marlin learned these things through Michigan; it's the goal of his foundation to give similarly underprivileged kids the opportunities he received because of his athletic talents.
Fight for Life runs three programs: Field of Dreams (link) is an in-school and after school program that basically helps get the kids back up to speed with their classmates. Seal the Deal (hyperlink)is a series of leagues and football camps for youth through high school with an educational/character-building component. R.A.P. (reach out and access your peers – url) is an SEL* program that gets kids to open up through, e.g. a discussion of their future aspirations or by presenting a paper on their favorite song lyrics. They need to raise about $200k per year to fund these programs.
* Social and Emotional Learning, the spread offense of education. Full context is linked above but you may cognate as learning that's the opposite of 'Another Brick in the Wall.'
We then talked about things like that one year the Colts paired Manning with a real defense, which receivers were the hardest to cover, and his impressions on the young defensive players at Michigan today. That after the jump. But first here's three generations of next-Woodsons:
Beginning my freshman year (1998), we started referring to highly touted young cornerbacks for Michigan as the "Next Woodson." The first was James Whitley, a freshman who played semi-extensively in 1997 and looked good when the supporting cast made his job easy. We were quickly disabused of Whitley=Woodson in 1998 when Notre Dame shredded him.
This is of an impossible comparison; players who can reasonably be considered the best at their position ever don't exactly replicate. But we humans get sentimental about things we had and like to envision never losing them (there's some psychological term for this I believe) so we pretend like the new thing is going to grow into the old thing. It didn't hurt that after a few painful years of Whitley we got, if not exactly Next-Woodsons, a string of really good cornerbacks we could call Next-Woodsons:
Archived from MGoBlue.com
They were tall like Woodson, and came with very high recruiting accolades like Woodson. But the first thing we noticed about them was that as freshmen they were tackling kind of like Woodson. With Woodson as a freshman I remember being excited as hell because he really popped almost right away. I don't remember him against Virginia that year, but he was active every game thereafter and a star by the end of that season. We're not going to compare Blake to Woodson because he's not that. The question is whether he might be the next in the line of future NFL-ish dudes we had from Law through Warren.
Since pledging to Michigan in a deep and dark December when everyone figured Rich Rodriguez was unlikely to survive, then giving out quotes attuned to our particular type of arrogance, this was a guy we all liked. Countess, who's about 5'11 now, i.e. average height, started the last six games, and played his best one in the Sugar Bowl, suggesting enticing levels of future ability. (Photo: Upchurch------------->)
I don't think we were expecting such big things right away. Tim wasn't in the Hello: post:
After a redshirt year (or a year spending time almost exclusively on special teams), he'll slowly work his way into the lineup over the course of a couple years. He probably won't have a chance to be one of the starting corners until he's an upperclassman, but there are so many variables between now and then that it's hard to project.
Brian called him Courtney Avery++ and was more positive in the predictions:
Projection: His height will always be a hindrance but if I had to bet he starts for three years and ends up an All Big Ten sort of player. Will not redshirt since he's polished and will probably be better than anyone behind the starters on day one; solid favorite to take over for Woolfolk next year.
Nobody said "would bounce Woolfolk back to safety halfway through his freshman season en route to being Michigan's star field corner in 2012." Blake on Blake:
See if you can guess the freshman corner since 1990 by his basic stats:
I know, I know: stats do not a cornerback's story tell. A tackle could mean a perfectly defended edge or a deep pass badly defended followed by a defensive back draped over the triumphant receiver. They don't say how often they were targeted or whether he whiffed on a key third down that cost the game. Anyway:
Countess is sized more like Todd Howard than the giants above him on this list, but in case you missed the play of a certain DB of Virginia Tech, corners his size can do just fine in college, even against Big Ten receivers. And in case you missed Blake in that game, he had eight tackles (six solo), so we're hardly talking about a pure cover guy. The stats do seem to tell a story beyond "just a guy playing cornerback," but they should not alone be trusted.
We really only have UFR data from two of these seasons, and since they're separated by four years this too is going to be fraught with inconsistencies. Here's Countess's 2011:
Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.
Lost leverage on big run.
Also had a jumped Jenkins PBU.
Great day except for the 44 yards that were all on him.
No one was really tested back here.
Not Woodson yet.
Beaten deep once, but also a push.
Think we may have something here.
Not as rapturous as we thought but still pretty good, full stop.
Not rapturous. Here's Warren, and remember, the 2007 scale is not comparable to the 2011 scale—the comments are probably more informative than the numbers.
Just the one PI.
Relatively tough day.
Still can't believe that PI call.
Minnesota attempted to pick on him all day and mostly came up empty. Already a standout, IMO, and poised to have a huge career.
Quickly becoming a typical Warren day: three instances of blanket coverage that become incompletions, one badly missed tackle. I'll take it.
Big bounce-back day.
Needs to work on his tackling.
Long handoff whiff was disappointing; rest of it was pretty okay.
Came in for Sears
Warren got in a few games earlier than did Countess but if Blake was 2nd on a depth chart when Johnny Sears was getting torn up by a I-AA team he'd have gone in as well. Likewise Leon Hall's ability to earn his way onto the field in the apparently strong 2003 backfield itself was an accomplishment. Donovan had some tackling issues in the UFR that I didn't remember; Countess did seem to do better holding the edge. What I'm looking at is Donovan's game against Minnesota, where he was targeted relentlessly and came out of that convincing Brian we had a Next-Woodson on our hands. Put that against Countess's first and second games, when, likewise, we had collective visions of Next Woodsonism when he was targeted by SDSU and Minnesota.
Overall the scant evidence from our eyes and available reviews suggest a guy probably in striking distance of the Next-Woodsons. If I told you this time last year that a guy already on the roster projected at the tail end of a group of Ty Law, Marlin Jackson, Leon Hall, and Donovan Warren, would you take that?
This one goes to thirteen because we aren't dead yet. Again, a combination of overall impact with a heavy emphasis on how awesome that moment was—if eligible the Donovan goal against Algeria would be the perfect candidate. #13 is admittedly valedictory.
Michigan State, 2007: Mike Hart scoops up a Mallett fumble and conjures a first down from air.
If Mike Hart did anything other than run for thousands of yards at Michigan it was pick up blitzers on the most famous Michigan plays of the decade. There weren't any Mike Hart runs on this list because the guy always got caught from behind and Michigan's offense was set up to get its big plays from the passing game for the duration of his tenure, but Hart will block on three of the top four. This had to be rectified, but how? There was that eight yard run against Penn State, but that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It was in the first half, for one.
How about this rescue instead?
This may be the most Mike Hart play of Mike Hart's career. Ryan Mallett's come in the game for one play after Chad Henne limped off, and Mallett does what he always did, which was fumble. Michigan's about to be facing a second and forever even if they get the ball back when Hart pops out of the pack, ball in hand. He then jukes one Spartan out of his shorts and plows over two more for a game-changing first down. He then heads to the sideline because he's so injured he shouldn't even be in the game.
12. Black Jesus
2003 Illinois: Steve Breaston fields a punt on one sideline and glide-cuts his way all the way across the field, juking six separate Illini before finding a seam and setting sail for the endzone.NOTE: Unfortunately, I can't find this in an embeddable form. It is 15 seconds into this Breaston highlight reel. Picture not relevant.
…was the name message board posters sarcastically bestowed on Steve Breaston as he redshirted and reports of his practice exploits became progressively more ludicrous. "Freshman you've never heard of fails to live up to epic practice hype" is perhaps the most common fall storyline across the country, and Michigan has had more than its fair share of epic busts from Grady Brooks to David Underwood to Kevin Grady. The nickname was a shield against disappointement
When Steve Breaston took the field, though, he somehow managed to exceed the expectations built up over the offseason. This return was the crowning glory; after a half-season full of almosts where he'd get tackled at the five or have something called back on a penalty he didn't need, he waited and waited, making two of those looping back-cuts that would become so familiar and exploding up the sideline.
For the most part teams stopped punting to him after this play, and though he remained amongst the country's most dangerous returners for the duration of his career he never quite recaptured the magic of the first two-thirds of his freshman year. At the moment he did this, though, he could do anything.
11. Ernest Shazor just killed a guy. No, seriously, he's dead
Purdue, 2004: Michigan has a narrow lead in the dying minutes but Purdue wins with a field goal and is driving. Dorien Bryant, then merely a freshman and not yet the Brooks Bollinger memorial eighth year senior, grabs a ball over the middle and starts picking up tons of YAC. Purdue is already in field goal range when Brandon Williams grabs at Bryant's feet, sending him into the air. This is where Ernest Shazor murders him. Bryant coughs up history's most understandable fumble; Leon Hall recovers, ending the game.
I've seen a lot of murderous hits in football, but they're mostly for show. Football's violence is a thrilling, sometimes sad sideshow to the main event; only rarely does the sheer intimidating force of a guy running directly at another guy matter immediately. Not so here. This hit turned a very likely loss into a sure win and ranks as the most CLICK CLICK BOOM play of the decade.
After the hit Shazor evaporated, providing only theoretical resistance against the first terrible appearance of That God Damned Counter Draw in the Michigan State game, about which more later, and entering the NFL draft early only to be passed over entirely. Despite being dead Bryant would go on to be probably Purdue's finest receiver of the decade, though I'll leave that judgment to the Purdue blogs' decentennial glazomania.
This play is lower than I expected because the feelings were more relief and frustration at the defense. A close call against a Purdue team that wasn't at all good (7-5) nearly derailed Michigan's season. Other plays in crappier seasons were fraught with less expectation and more enjoyable, like for instance…
Wisconsin, 2008: Donovan Warren breaks up a slant, sending the ball on that parabolic trajectory that screams interception but often ends up hitting the turf. In this instance, Johnny Thompson is in the right place in the right time, catching the ball and picking up a defense's worth of escorts.
Exactly one good thing happened in the entirety of 2008, and this was it. Michigan had just gotten a touchdown thanks to a supremely ill-timed Wisconsin blitz that set Brandon Minor free. One play later Michigan would be in the lead:
Michigan would add another touchdown thanks to a 60-yard Steven Threet read option keeper and hang on for dear life, surviving a two point conversion that tied the game thanks to an illegal formation penalty and stuffing the second attempt.
At the time, the win over a top-ten Wisconsin team seemed like an indicator that even in this season of transition and quarterback incompetence something of Michigan would persist. It seemed super important, and then Toledo blew everything to hell.
Michigan State, 2007: Chad Henne completes his transformation from inept and injured to flawless robot incapable of understanding pressure by shouting "reprise" and pretending Mario Manningham is Braylon Edwards, completing an improbable Michigan comeback.
I'd somehow managed to get tickets on the 50 yard line in the Michigan student section at Spartan Stadium, and things were tense. Some unlit-cigar-chomping State fan was in my seat and insisted it was his seat to the point where he called the cops over so they could look at my ticket and shrug. He'd eventually switch places with a few Michigan fans outside of the section. At some point early in the second half a woman who looked like she watches a lot of Jenny Jones turned around and screamed something incomprehensible but very angry. She proceeded to do this every five minutes until someone figured out the thing she was saying was "Art Fag U," at which point the guy standing next to me went off about how bigoted that was whenever given an opportunity for the rest of the game, which was every other play.
Meanwhile on the field, Michigan was busy blowing a 14-3 lead in the immediate aftermath of Mark Dantonio's "pride" comments. They gave up three straight touchdowns while managing only one play of significance, a hopeful downfield jump ball that Mario Manningham came up with. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan was cooked.
In my head, this is when Hart went over to Henne and slapped him really hard. Michigan State backed off their coverage and Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown, dodging the Mallett disaster above, got the ball back, drove some more, and then decided to inflict the maximum amount of pain by joining the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society:
This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant.
Notre Dame, 2009: leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan faces a 4th and 3 in the no man's land where field goals are dodgy and punts get you put on the Worst Plays of the Decade list. Michigan goes for it, calling a bootleg pass for Forcier. Notre Dame's Stephen Filer cuts off the angle, so Forcier breaks his ankles and cuts up into the wide-open middle of the field.
This could have been one of Forcier's scrambles on the game-winning drive or the touchdown that won the game or Charlie Weis's decision to call a 40-yard fly route during Notre Dame's attempt to kill the game—miss you, big guy xoxo—but for sheer impact it's Forcier rewarding Rich Rodriguez's ability to do math:
Forcier's moxie would see Michigan through another two games of desperate fourth-quarter action before disintegrating in overtime against Michigan State and the fourth quarter against Iowa. In this it's similar to the Thompson interception, where early-season hope gave way to the cruel reality of the situation and the opponent turned out to be something less than they were supposed to be.
Citrus Bowl, 2007 season: with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne takes a snap and falls to the ground.
The definition of bittersweet.
Michigan had just finished racking up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State, so of course they come out in a shotgun spread attack and put up 41 points on Florida en route to yet another bowl victory over the SEC. Every downfield strike conjured forth a cauldron of mixed emotions: immediate joy. Fist-shaking at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Depression about the missed opportunity represented in Chad Henne's healthy shoulder. An entire extra layer of confusion about Mike DeBord. It was like being 15 again, like being 15 again and stuck in a never-ending afterschool special.
But when Henne kneeled and Marques Slocum, of all people, was the first to get Lloyd Carr up on his shoulders, well… IT IS VERY DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR AIR FILTERS. I have allergies, you know. Severe allergies.
At some point you just have to let that frustration go and accept the program for what it is, accept Carr for who he is, and say thanks. He did hole up and punt with a six point lead against Tim Tebow, but how could he go out any other way?
Slam dunk locks and mirror images, Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley set the standard for Michigan quarterback terror in the aughts. Wildly hyped in-state recruits and five stars, both spent a couple of years as underclassmen playing here and there and making people wonder if and when they would live up to their billings; both did so emphatically as juniors and then managed to top those performances as seniors. A large portion of last year's defensive UFRs not given over to rending of garments was spent wondering whether Brandon Graham was actually better than Woodley.
I think Graham is better. I haven't gone over the UFR numbers yet—slightly busy this time of year—but I know Graham set a record against Michigan State earlier this year and has been owning offensive tackles all year. Woodley set standards by being consistently around +8 or +9 with forays up to 12; Graham's baseline is around 12 and ranges up to 18.
Though he didn't win the Lombardi like Woodley did his senior year, Graham led the nation in TFLs and was drafted about a full round higher by the NFL. While Woodley was more heralded in the award department, that had a lot to do with the other guys on defense. Woodley's compatriots will pepper the rest of this list. Graham's not so much. Woodley lined up next to Alan Branch, Terrance Taylor, and a senior Rondell Biggs; Graham's bookend was a true freshman and his other linemates were just sophomores.
Lamarr Woodley, meanwhile, did with the Lombardi in 2006, the first and to-date last time a Michigan player has won it. His season was statistically frustrating since, like Graham, he was close to a dozen additional sacks that a competent secondary would have seen him put up truly ludicrous numbers. Even so he had 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles; outside TFLs were low (just three) but that can be chalked up to the rest of the defense taking up that burden. As mentioned above, he was the original gangsta of the UFR, averaging close to double-digit plus ratings on a weekly basis.
But all that pales in comparison to the play that finished the "Oh Wide Open" game in which Michigan established itself a contender. By scooping up an unforced Brady Quinn fumble and fending off ND tight end John Carlson all the way to the endzone, Woodley inaugurated the Yakety Sax era:
I just watched that three more times.
Second Team: Dan Rumishek (2001), Tim Jamison (2007 or 2008, take your pick)
It gets muddy past the slam dunks. Michigan's quasi 3-4 from the beginning of the decade makes decisions difficult, as does that one year Michigan switched to an actual 3-4. In 2001, Dan Rumishek was on the All Big Ten team with just 22 tackles. Seven were sacks, but man. That same year Shantee Orr managed 35 tackles with six sacks and 10 TFLs, but didn't show up on all conference teams. Later editions of defensive ends would have almost identical big play numbers but way more tackles. Tim Jamison had 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks as a junior and senior but had 52 and 50 tackles.
Past Rumishek, Orr, and Jamison pickings are slim. Rondell Biggs was the unheralded guy on the 2006 line, a decent plugger but nothing special. A post-career steroid bust also gives his career an unpleasant sheen. Larry Stevens's career was very long but largely anonymous. He's best remembered for being hog-tied on the Spartan Bob play.
We'll go with Dan Rumishek, the only other Michigan DE to get on an All Big Ten team this decade, and one of Tim Jamison's upperclass seasons. Which is entirely up to the reader since they are essentially identical; I lean towards '07 because Graham was not yet a beast and Jamison saw more attention.
Alan Branch (2006) & Gabe Watson (2005)
That will do.
His statistics were not ridiculous (25 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks in '06) but when he left for the NFL draft I thought to myself "this is a logical thing because he will go in the top five." Surprisingly he did not, falling to the top of the second round, but when you are primarily responsible for opponents going six of eighteen on third and one you get dropped onto the All Decade Team no questions asked.
Watson will be a more controversial choice but the guy was a two-time All Big Ten selection and is currently an NFL player. At Michigan he never quite lived up to his copious recruiting hype but he did have some pretty nice statistics for a nose tackle: 40 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 sacks as a senior with almost identical numbers from the year before. The primary issue with Michigan's run defense in '05 was that Watson would drive his guy yards into the backfield, forcing the tailback to cut upfield into the gaping hole left because Pat Massey was 6'8" and therefore getting crushed backwards as far as the guy futilely attempting to contain Watson.
The year before Michigan had their one-off experiment with the 3-4, leaving Watson all alone in the middle, where he dominated. In the aftermath of Watson's one-game suspension for being approximately spherical to start the '05 season, I attempted to adjust for Michigan's tendency to give up a lot of nothing and then a lot of huge runs in the spirit of Football Outsider's "adjusted line yards" and came up with the number 2.5, which was better than anyone in the NFL by three tenths of a yard. (Schedules are much more balanced there, FWIW.) Watson may have been an overrated recruit, but his Michigan career has been underrated.
Second Team: Terrance Taylor(2007), Grant Bowman (2003)
This is actually Taylor's junior season, when he lined up next to Will Johnson, a sophomore Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison and managed impressive-for-a-DT numbers: 55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks. He'd drop off considerably in his doomed senior year; whether that was a falloff in play or just collateral damage from the wholesale implosion around him is in the eye of the beholder. My opinion is the latter since Taylor tended to beat a lot of blocks only to see poor linebacker play rob him of opportunities in the run game; he was never much of a pass rusher.
We'll go with Taylor's statistically productive 2007 over 2008 because he was just about as good via the eyeball then and had more to show for it. Either way he is an easy pick.
The last spot is not easy. Early in the decade, Michigan defensive tackles were excruciatingly bored guys who spent football games blocking offensive lineman and letting linebackers take all the glory. In 2001 Shawn Lazarus started 12 games and managed 16 tackles. In the absence of accolades, statistics, or personal remembrances I can't put Lazarus or Eric Wilson or Norman Heuer in here even though I couldn't tell you whether or not those guys were even good. The guys not on the list who I do have personal remembrances of were not very good or are still on the team.
It's a debate between GrantBowman, who I don't remember much about other than his mother was attacked by the usual band of Columbus idiots one year, and… yeah, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Bowman's 2003 featured 36 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 3 sacks; Van Bergen had 40, 6, and 5; Martin 51, 8.5, and two sacks. Bowman's defense was infinitely better (22nd nationally in rush defense) than either Martin's or Van Bergen's but without the UFRs sitting around it's hard to tell how much of that had to do with Bowman and how much was the contributions of Pierre Woods, Carl Diggs, Lawrence Reid, and the profusion of non walk—ons in the secondary.
The tentative nod goes to Bowman if only because the rest of the line that year was Heuer, Massey, and someone the Bentley doesn't even bother to list but is surely Larry Stevens. Even if he had more help behind him, being the best player on a line that did pretty well against the run is a tiebreaker here.
David Harris (2006), Larry Foote (2001), Victor Hobson (2002)
A couple years ago I was editing a Hail to the Victors article about the considerable difference between David Harris and Obi Ezeh that referenced a couple plays from the '06 season. The diagrams, as diagrams are often wont to be, were confusing so I set about looking at the play myself so I could break the diagram out into three or four separate ones that would explain things in a more leisurely fashion. This was the result:
I swear to God I saw David Harris read not only the direction of a run play, the blocking scheme of that play, and which offensive lineman was assigned to him but modeled the lineman's brain and duped him into thinking the play had cut back. I found this terribly exciting.
That was just another boulder on the pile of reasons I love David Harris. He looks like Worf. He tackled everyone all the time and never did not tackle anyone. He was the first player I felt I was ahead of the curve on thanks to UFRing the games—like David Molk I think I was the first person in the media to recognize that this unheralded player was the balls, which made me feel like Dr. Z. And he kept tackling people. At some point in 2006 the Greek gods descended from the clouds and borrowed him for a while because the eagle that eats Prometheus's liver was on strike.
Then the Lions passed on him and Lamarr Woodley to take Drew Stanton, guaranteeing that the pair would instantly become two of the best defensive players in the league. Yeah. David Harris. I miss him so much.
Larry Foote had a less tangential connection to the worst franchise in sports, but outside of that one-off decision his career has been a good one. As an upperclassman he was an all-around terror, notching 19 TFLs in 2000 and 26 in 2001 at the same time as he picked up a total of 16 PBUs. In 2000 he actually had more of the latter than Todd Howard, and Todd Howard got some of his when the ball deflected off the back of his helmet. Foote was what Jonas Mouton was supposed to be.
We'll go with Foote's senior year when his sack total leapt from one to six and he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year en route to a smattering of All-American honors. A fourth-round pick of the Steelers, Foote's NFL career has been long and productive; he gets a small dollop of bonus points for being one of the current NFL crew frequently seen hanging out with Barwis.
The final member of the first team had to beat out stiff competition but Victor Hobson gets the nod because he was by far the best player on his front seven (Rumishek, Bowman, Lazarus, Stevens, Orr, Diggs, and Zach Kaufman(!) were the other major conributors) in 2002 and racked up the best all-around numbers of any linebacker under consideration: 99 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. One of those was the Outback-sealing reverse pass interception. Hobson was deservedly All Big Ten on a team that finished 9th in the final rankings and 31st in rushing defense despite having zero future NFL players other than Hobson and an injury-stricken Orr.
Second Team: Pierre Woods(2003), Shawn Crable(2007), Lawrence Reid(2004)
Pierre Woods did something almost but not quite bad enough to get booted off the team after his breakout sophomore season (68 tackles, 14 TFL, 7 sacks) and spent the rest of his career playing sparingly—probably the only thing that has infuriated both Ted Ginn Sr and myself—until injury forced Michigan to deploy him extensively in the '05 Iowa game, whereupon he totally saved Michigan's bacon. Though he'd moved to defensive end by then, his bust-out year was at linebacker so here he goes.
Poor star-crossed Shawn Crable will go down in history as the best player to ever put on a winged helmet who Michigan fans have exclusively terrible memories of. In the span of three games at the end of the 2006 season and beginning of 2007, Crable delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scrambling Troy Smith that turned a fourth-down punt into first down and eventually the winning points for OSU and failed to execute a simple blocking assignment on the field goal that could have turned The Horror into the worst win ever.
When he wasn't doing either of those things, though, he was a unique weapon. He is the current holder of Michigan's TFL record and spent his college days bouncing from linebacker to defensive end to crazy 6'6" chicken-legged defensive tackle in certain spread packages, finding ways into the backfield wherever he lined up. He also was the Ryan Mallett of defense as an underclassman, overran a bunch of plays even after he got his head on straight, and appears twice on the upcoming Worst Moments Of The Decade list. That disqualifies him from the first team, but not the second.
Finally, Lawrence Reid saw his career end prematurely as his back went out; late in the 2004 season it was clear he was laboring. Despite that he finished with 70 tackles, 12 for loss, 3 sacks, and an interception. Without the injury his senior season could have made it on to the first team… and seriously aided the 2005 team's efforts to not play the unready Shawn Crable.
Marlin Jackson(2002), Leon Hall(2006)
Leon Hall was sneaky great, one of the few players that the NFL ended up drafting well before I expected them to. Before Hall went halfway through the first round I'd pegged him as another LeSueur sort who'd go in the second and have a decent career; instead he's kind of ridiculously good. Hall leapt into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year an continued improving until he was a hidden beast on the '06 team. Hall's tackles declined from 61 to 45 as teams targeted neophyte Morgan Trent and whichever slot receiver Chris Graham had no hope of covering. At the same time his PBUs leapt from 5 to 15(!). That's impressive. Hall was a deserved Thorpe finalist.
Jackson, meanwhile, has the rare privilege of being the only sophomore to feature in the All-Decade first team. His opening-day matchup against Reggie Williams, Washington's star receiver and a player who had seriously considered Michigan before choosing to stay home, was electric. Jackson got in Williams's grill all day and the Huskies would not back off; by the third quarter he'd set an all-time Michigan record for pass breakups.
By the end of the year he was a second-team All-American to the AP, third team to Sporting News, and (whoopee!) first team to College Football News. He would spent his junior year at safety, battling injury, and though a return to corner as a senior found him on All-America teams again, Jackson never quite recaptured that sophomore magic.
Second team: Jeremy LeSueur (2003), Donovan Warren (2009)
LeSueur was a true rarity on the Michigan roster: a kid who managed to escape the state of Mississippi's immense gravitational pull. He started off slightly wonky—it was his face-mask penalty on Charles Rogers that extended Michigan State's final drive in 2001, setting up both the Spartan Bob play and Lloyd Carr's public dressing-down of Drew Sharp—but finally developed into the guy I thought Leon Hall was: an All-Big Ten type of player destined for a solid NFL career. That wasn't quite the case—LeSueur is currently playing for Bon Jovi, but no one else from the decade comes close.
The final spot is a tossup between Morgan Trent in the one year he wasn't clueless or unmotivated (2007), Donovan Warren this year, Grant Mason's year that exemplifies totally average play, and the nine starts James Whitley made in 2000 before succumbing to his personal demons. The vote here is for Warren, who I actually thought was good, over Trent, who I thought was okay trending towards good.
SAFETY… SORT OF
Jamar Adams (2007), Julius Curry (2000)
Michigan fans will be unsurprised to find a wasteland here after nine defensive positions occupied by world-wrecking All-Americans who have embarked on long NFL careers—everyone on the first team to this point is still in the NFL and almost all will start this year. Safety? Well, Cato June is still kicking around as a linebacker, but at Michigan he was a wreck thanks to an ACL tear that took years for him to fully recover from. And that's almost it.
The almost: Jamar Adams, bless his heart, was the closest thing to a star safety Michigan had in the aughts. He was actually good. Not good enough to get on the All Big Ten first team or get drafted, but good enough to be on the second team two years running and stick with the Seahawks long enough to actually get on the field in six games last year. This makes him a slam-dunk lock as the best safety in the last ten years of Michigan football.
And now: guh. After Adams it's a choice between the most massively overrated Michigan player of the decade—Ernest Shazor—or the guys towards the beginning of the aughts that no one remembers being specifically terrible. You can feel free to disagree but there is no way I'm putting Shazor here. While he did decapitate Dorien Bryant in that one Purdue game, his Michigan career ceased there unbeknownst to the coaches and most of the fans. He was about 80% of the reason Braylon Edwards had to hulk up and smash Michigan State in the Braylonfest game and when he entered the NFL draft he went from a projected second-round pick to totally undrafted, but not before various organizations made him a first-team All American. I will exercise my Minute Observer of Michigan Football privileges and say this: ha, ha, ha.
The problem then is that as I went through the names that vaguely occupied the safety spots for Michigan over the last decade I thought to myself "I should probably write down Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon." Sadly, I cannot vouch for two guys who couldn't stay healthy or maintain their starting jobs, nor can I seriously support anyone I've seen take the field in the UFR era. So let's reach back into the long, long ago when memories are fuzzy and haul out easily the most unlikely member of the All Aughts: Julius Curry.
I can't tell you that I have detailed knowledge of Curry's play anymore, but I do remember liking the guy a lot and being seriously disappointed when his junior and senior years were wrecked by injury. As a sophomore in 2000, he put up an impressive collection of statistics: 59 tackles, 5 TFLs, 5 PBUs, and 3 forced fumbles, plus two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Ohio State in a 38-26 win. Michigan managed to scrape out the 49th-best pass efficiency defense despite deploying Todd Howard and a very confused James Whitley—this was the heart of the "suspects" era—thanks to Curry's unregarded efforts. Maybe he never decapitated anyone, but by God he definitely would have tackled DeAndra Cobb by the second time.
Second Team: DeWayne Patmon(2000), Ernest Shazor(2004)
Patmon was the second member of the safety unit I remember not being specifically terrified about; Shazor was discussed above. He does deserve to be here because even if he gave up a ton of big plays he made more big plays in Michigan's favor than the other safeties kicking around this decade, and those guys gave up about as many plays.
Garrett Rivas (2006)
Rivas never had a huge leg but he was good out to 47-48 yards and stands as the most accurate kicker of the decade, hitting 64 of 82 in his four years as Michigan's kicker. That's a 78% strike rate; in 2006 he checked in at 85%. He was reliable, and that's all you ask for in a college kicker.
Should we be depressed watching this draft seeing very limited Michigan players taken? I mean I know we haven't been a good football team lately, but I look at a guy like Donavan Warren. Couldn't SOMEBODY have told him he wasn't ready for the pros? Unless I'm way wrong and he is ready? I just wanted to get your thoughts on when it makes sense for a junior to declare early. It seems to me that if you aren't a lock in the first 3 rounds, it's just not worth it. I could be wrong on this, that's why I'm asking your opinion on it.
Thanks man, Chris
Chris: if you are surveying the recent history of Michigan football and deciding that this year's NFL draft is the reason to be depressed, you are the modern day equivalent of one of those guys on the cross singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
As far as Warren goes, I touched on it briefly when Mark Carrier went to the well and declared the Michigan Warren signed up for "wasn't there anymore," but to expand on it: there were a lot of different factors that went into Warren's unwise decision to declare. Conventional wisdom held that Warren was looking at three years and out from the moment he stepped on campus. All the coaches he signed up to play for were broomed. Then he got a mid-round-at-worst grade from the NFL Advisory Committee—basically a "lock for the first three rounds." His decision was an expected outcome. The unexpected bit was not getting drafted.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said in a radio interview Monday he wishes cornerback Donovan Warren would have got more information before declaring for the NFL draft.
"I probably would have preferred to wait until I get the NFL advisory committee information back, which I have not gotten back yet," Rodriguez said on WDFN 1130-AM. "I don’t know if he talked to enough people yet or not, but he feels he has. I kind of wish he got a little bit more information so he would have been sure before he made his declaration."
He took off anyway. It happens from time to time—remember Shantee Orr?—but less frequently when you haven been placed in a situation someone else chose for you.
I had a discussion w/ Jon Chait about the 2 QB system. I personally feel that it is a bad idea but I don't necessarily always agree with the platitudes spun on ESPN ("if you have 2 QBs it means you have none"). Is there any evidence of a 2 QB system really being bad? Jon brought up the Leak/Tebow duo and the 1982 Miami Dolphins. Certainly 2 teams in 25 years is not much of a success rate but I was hoping you or Mathelete might have some more detailed data.
I could probably dig up some evidence that two QB systems are less effective than your average one QB system but that's a lot of effort to state something logically obvious: the chances of having one excellent quarterback are low. The chances of having two are vanishingly small. Therefore, playing two quarterbacks means you do not have an excellent quarterback. QED.
HOWEVA, this assumes that quarterback excellence comes in one shape, something that was 100% true for the duration of the Carr regime. The shape was a 6'5" fixed artillery piece 50% as white as We Are ND.
that's really, really white
When Carr experimented with his Henson-Brady platoon, that was something he'd promised Henson to prevent him from signing an enormous baseball contract. Even that petered out as Michigan began to realize what it had in Tom Brady. They were running the same stuff with both, so it made no sense to go with the guy who wasn't a crazy accurate cold-blooded senior.
The situation in 2010 is a lot closer to Leak/Tebow (minus the hellacious defense) than Brady/Henson. Michigan's two quarterbacks are radically different players. In that case it makes sense to use them in different situations. On third and one, Denard is a better option. On third and fifteen, Tate is. On first and ten it will depend on who the opponent is and how the quarterbacks are playing that day.
I have a feeling that by midseason it will be clear one or the other is the starter, but I also think both QBs will see snaps in every game this year.
I was wondering if you could help me understand something. How does this deal between ESPN and SEC affect the amount of Big 10 games that are televised on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2? In terms of football, is the SEC really getting that much more coverage on ESPN compared to the Big 10 on Saturdays (the Big 10 doesn't really play games any other day of the week too often)?
Up until now, I have been able to watch tons of Big 10 games on these channels (I live in Boston), but now I am afraid that they are going to be playing more SEC games and I will only get the 1 game at a time I get on the Big 10 Network. Everything I read makes it sound like ESPN bought the broadcasting rights to all these SEC football games and other athletic events and that they will be dominating the ESPN airwaves, but if it started last fall (2009), I sure didn't notice a difference because they still played pretty much every Big 10 game not on the Big 10 Network (Indiana vs. Minnesota aside).
Any ways, just wondering if you have any insight on this. Thanks, Brian
The SEC deal has no impact on the Big Ten/ABC contract. ABC always gets first choice of Big Ten games every weekend, then ESPN, ESPN 2, and the BTN have a complicated system in which they alternate the second pick. The BTN gets two or three opportunities to go second—which is how they scooped up the M-MSU game in year two of the network, causing mass panic at the prospect it might not be on television in the state.
In fact, the much-hyped SEC deal is now coming in for local criticism because MLS and women's basketball have more pull than SEC gymnastics. The net effect has been to move the crappy SEC games from Raycom syndication (the ironically beloved "three Daves" setup) to the obscurer reaches of the ESPN dial (U and Classic). Since Big Ten games were never played on those networks, the impact on the conference is nil. I don't think the SEC pact actually does much of anything for the league other than fill their pockets: ESPN isn't going to stop televising good Pac 10/ACC/Big 12 games.
The Big Ten's ABC/ESPN deal is even better than the SEC deal in one critical respect: it mandates that any regional broadcast is "reverse mirrored" on another channel. End result:
The Boilermakers appeared on National or National/Regional Television for every game (12) [ed: thanks for the game count protip, marketing droid!] during the 2009 season. Boiler Up!
That's really cool for Purdue. It is also true for every Big Ten team, even Indiana. There is no such thing as a Big Ten football game you cannot get nationally. The genius of the Big Ten network is matched by the genius of the reverse mirror. Whoever got that inserted into the Big Ten TV contract earns his keep.
BONUS: how huge is the ESPN/SEC contract going to look in 15 years? Not very huge. The Big Ten is already matching or exceeding it and their deal with FOX includes profit-sharing that has already kicked in. When not speaking publicly, Jim Delany is a ninja.
It seems to me that if we are going to poach from the Big 12 -- it makes the most sense to make a play for Texas as taking 2 teams from the conference makes its demise all but certain and could push Texas into the SEC or Pac-10.
If we are going to be Machiavellian a la Notre Dame, it makes no sense to pursue two decent Big 12 schools when doing so pushes the crown jewel (athletically, academically, and demographically) into a rival camp. Thoughts?
Relatedly, what is the basis for the comments that the TX legislature would only permit that if the Big 10 took A&M too?
Thanks for humoring me.
Daddy, would you like some sausages?
I don't know what the basis for the TX legislature road block meme is Austin seem like the active sort and I buy it. Besides, A&M is a fine school in its own right.
Anyway: I'm with you. It's been universally agreed that Texas is the biggest fish in the pond. The problem with Texas is that it's geographically isolated from the Big Ten and beholden to a state legislature that somehow finagled perpetually useless Baylor into the Big 12. They've got power and they're nosy enough to use it.
But if this 16-team Big Ten is actually going to transpire, is that relevant? If the Big Ten grabs five teams they can lop off Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma in one enormous western surge. Big Ten Manifest Destiny seriously reduces the geographic implausibility and provides the Big Ten the most sheer intimidation possible. If we're putting the Big Cthulhu on the table, I don't see why the Big East has to be involved at all, or Notre Dame for that matter. It makes more sense to dismember one conference in its entirety.
I know that Oklahoma's academic standing has been widely declared a nonstarter for the Big Ten's ivory tower types. If that's the case, grabbing Colorado or Kansas has almost the same effect—Texas tentacles—with considerably less chewing tobacco at conference meetings.
Exactly what happens between now and August? I really mean EXACTLY, not just "they do some conditioning and stuff". Someone out there (football coaches or maybe former players) must know the answer.
I can't give you an all-caps EXACT answer, but I did ping Tyler Sellhorn for a moderately detailed one. Without further ado:
While school is still in session, the program can require attendance at conditioning. When school lets out the players voluntarily submit themselves to The Church of Barwis, take 4-6 credit hours of summer school (so that most players, i.e. general studies majors, can take a minimum full-time courseload during the year and still be on track to graduate), most student-athletes will spend a week at home, and then Fall camp starts in August. Also, the quarterbacks and defensive leaders are usually encouraged to organize skeleton passing sessions as well, but as we know too well now, coaches are not permitted to even witness said seven-on-seven sessions.
That is not an exactly, but a general overview that should answer less curious minds than Marc71.
Site stuff. I fixed a few performance issues* and have convinced myself the site is noticeably snappier afterwards. At this point I've knocked out almost all of the low-hanging fruit and am down to things like "serve static content from a cookieless domain" that 1) WTF and 2) don't promise much more than a few percentage points here and there. So… yeah.
Moving on in annual Brian Beats On The Site stuff: I'm also working on—and at this point it's far enough along that I think I can announce it because it will happen—a searchable UFR database. If you want to see all the video I clipped in which Tate Forcier throws the ball on third down, that can happen. Etc. Content over the next few weeks might be a little sparse as I attempt to beat that into submission.
I am still planning a spring game UFR, which is about half done. I totally forgot about converting the file into something I can clip—which is a day-long process, basically—and then converted the wrong file entirely. I am not in midseason form.
Right and just forever. "We Are ND" was begging for this but I didn't realize it until someone put it on the youtubes:
Tying that in with Brady Quinn for Heisman and Jimmy Clausen For Heisman: perfect. Also reason to go back and revisit "we have not said one word about Michigan. We have not talked about their players; we have not talked about their coaches. We'll talk tomorrow." I miss Charlie Weis intensely already.
MGObama. Yes, I just did that. Obama descended upon commencement this weekend and many people were very excited. I wasn't except insofar as being the sort of university where the sitting president drops by to give a commencement speech might help with offensive linemen in the 2011 class. (Priorities, people.) Even so, I did watch the thing so I caught what I'm pretty sure was an MGoBlog reference in the student speaker's address:
As a nation, we have found that changes can bring us together, but they can also tear us apart. We can see our ambivalence in that change here on campus as well. After the horror of a certain football game played here a few years ago, many were thrilled when Michigan hired a coach who would bring a new energy and style of football to our school. But after two seasons, change has been slow [audience laughter] and full of growing pains. [more audience laughter] Today, we must re-examine our views toward change.
Gotta be, right? Alex Marston gets 100 mgopoints.
OHL Draft. It was mostly good news from the annual exercise in subterfuge that is the OHL draft. Michigan's two 2012 commits, Boo Nieves and Connor Carrick, both went in the late rounds to teams that don't have a reputation for attracting high-end talent not already headed for the OHL. Those are pure flier picks, and we should expect to see both at Michigan in a couple years.
Other players of interest:
Matia Marcantuoni, who supposedly had a deal with Oshawa, fell to 18th after telling OHL teams he would not sign. Kitchener picked him, though, and Kitchener is one of those teams that games the draft all the time. Marcantuoni subsequently announced he would report. It would have been nice to grab the kid, but no one was banking on it.
D Grant Webermin, who had been talking up Michigan, went to Windsor at the end of the first, and everyone expects he'll report. Webermin was ranked in the 70s by scouting services, so this was the opposite of a reach: guy will sign.
Kitchener also took D Jacob Trouba in the third round. Trouba has already committed to the NTDP and the third round is late enough to suggest that Trouba—a universally acclaimed top-ten talent—will be a tough sign for Kitchener. I think at this point there's a substantial financial penalty if Trouba were to defect, and if he's going to be in the NTDP for a couple years why bother with the OHL after?
G Dalton Izyk, a Nieves teammate and high profile 2012 goalie prospect, went in the 11th as well and should be headed to college.
Jon Merrill, LD -- USA Under 18 Regarded as one of the best defenseman prospects coming out of the US this year, Merrill looks to have leapfrogged his competition and could be debated as being one of the top three best defensive prospects in the entire draft. Merrill was simply dominant in Belarus and his ability to play in all situations, including running the power play, certainly makes him all the more valuable. Merrill is explosive, gets the puck on net and creates lanes all over the ice. He is effective and reliable defensively and proves to be very difficult to win space against. Scouts are salivating at the chance to add Merrill to their rosters, as he is already a dominant player but still has a lot of room for improvement. This kid is for real.
"Merrill was never under the radar. Everyone knows how good of a player Jon Merrill is," Kleinendorst said. "But he really stepped his game up. He probably helped himself more than anybody over there as far as what he did, how he played. He went out and controlled every moment, whether it was with the puck or without it. He saved his best hockey for Belarus, no question. It was almost like he was just waiting for that tournament to start. So what you got to see was what his true potential really was. He contributed as much as anybody."
If he lives up to that hype, Michigan shouldn't experience any dropoff on the blueline despite losing Summers and Kampfer. Still nothing on Moffatt, unfortunately.
Just one more year of this. Donovan Warren, of course, did not get drafted after putting his name in early. This requires damage control from the folks around him who thought entering early was a good idea:
“Every decision is a gamble,” said Warren’s godfather, Mark Carrier, who was hired as the Jets’ defensive line coach this offseason. “I don’t think he regretted it. Obviously, I think he wished things worked out a little bit different for him. But . . . the Michigan he went to wasn’t there anymore. For him to go back, was that going to be more of a burden?”
Maybe this is true. Maybe it is not true. I would just like to reach the point where that is no longer an excuse for anyone, where people leave the program and don't have an easy, program-bashing excuse as to why they didn't get drafted. At some point it's on you, right?
APR, now with slight teeth. The NCAA just officially enacted a few rules changes. Foremost among them is a move to a 68 team tournament, but there are changes of slight interest when it comes to college football academics:
Endorsed a recommendation that will require football players to complete a minimum of nine credit hours during the fall semester to remain academically eligible for the following season. The board said studies show players who complete at least nine hours in the fall are more likely to be academically eligible in the spring. Players who fail to meet the requirement would have to sit out four games, but could reduce the penalty to two games if they complete 27 credit hours by the end of the next summer session.
Endorsed a recommendation from the Committee on Academic Performance to eliminate waivers for penalties assessed to Football Bowl Subdivision schools that have players leave school after completing their eligibility and are not academically eligible. That's a problem for players who leave school to attend pre-NFL combine workouts. The board agreed that eliminating the waivers would be an incentive to improve retention and eligibility issues.
There are APR waivers for players who don't graduate after finishing their playing career? Yeesh. I've praised the APR for bringing some accountability to schools but there's still a long way to go. For example, the Bylaw Blog sort of fisked one of the annual "grraaaah NCAA" columns that fruit like morels every March. Point 1 from graaah MSM columnist:
Kentucky’s graduation rate scorecard for its black players for the last six years reads like this: 18, 17, 9, 17, 17, zero. Over the last 10 years, its black player graduation rate has never risen above 29 percent. Its overall graduation rate passed 50 percent only once, in 2001.
I thought this might be cherry-picking the federal graduation rate, which counts eligible transfers against you, but Kentucky's most recent graduation success rate is 31%. More like graduation FAIL rate, amirite? (BONUS: Kentucky's team GPA of just above two is a seven year low.)
Point 2 from Compliance Guy:
Kentucky’s most recent multiyear APR for men’s basketball is 979. That puts them within the top 10% of all Division I basketball programs and above the median for all Division I sports. So by the measure the NCAA uses to determine penalties, Kentucky basketball is not just getting by, rather it is thriving.
WTF? 979? Waivers are making a mockery of the APR. A 925 is supposed to represent a 60% graduation rate. Kentucky is barely clearing half that and they have a 979! While the thing isn't totally toothless—Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State have all seen their basketball programs lose scholarships—any system that can produce that kind of divergence is broken. Hit that Bylaw Blog post for all the waivers that have been instituted; they make my persistent concern that Michigan might find itself in the redzone laughable.
Tangent: Notice that the two changes above are football programs getting tougher on themselves. Basketball couldn't care less, evidently. The Bylaw Blog gets ornery about that, too.
Etc.: Misopogon's Decimated D Diaries get a shout-out on ESPN. Remember the epic ESPN/SEC deal that would CHANGE COLLEGE SPORTS FOREVER? Yeah, it's basically just a TV deal, one that gives the SEC the same amount of money for the next 15 years, in which time the BTN will grow until it is the size of Cleveland. You don't need me to tell you that Jeff Defran is an idiot and WTKA should can his ass, but Bruce Madej will explain it to you if you want. Michigan will wear throwbacks at the Big Chill.
Yesss. Ace's burgeoning tradition of releasing exciting Spring Game footage of a hot new quarterback comes in two steps. Step 1: video. Step 2: video with Christopher Walken. This one even has the 97-yard touchdown inexplicably omitted from the first video:
The new Shazor. So… yeah, Donovan Warren did not get picked in the NFL draft this year, causing Maize 'n' Brew to dissect his decision. I'm all like "what the hell?" I don't think anyone thought Warren was going in the first round, but to fall out of the draft entirely is a Shazor-like collapse. It's actually worse. Shazor's fall was obvious in retrospect: the guy imploded over the second half of his junior season, failed drug tests, and got tagged with major character issues. All Warren did was run a couple of crappy 40s on gimpy ankles. I'm not sure if you can blame Warren when he was told he'd be a mid-round pick at worst. The advisory board did both Warren and Michigan a major disservice here.
Warren said in announcing his decision to turn pro Sunday that the committee gave him "a broad range, rounds 1 to 3."
"Rounds one to three" is way different than round one. Don't let those facts prevent you from getting your furrow on, yo. The actual facts are pretty damning in this case… why exaggerate?)
Exeunt Morris. Jamie Morris's departure from the athletic department hit the papers yesterday, drawing terse statements from the athletic department and no comment from the people who knew about this a week ago but decided not to tell you.
I don't want to air dirty laundry without cause, but Morris is being tossed around as THE MOLE or held up as a representation of Dave Brandon cleaning house against the Rodriguez resistance. So: Morris was dismissed as a result of some bad decisions about use of an athletic department car and a subsequent attempt to conceal those bad decisions. It doesn't have anything to do with Rodriguez.
If you think it's possible that someone could have skated for a similar offense under Martin (maybe) or Goss (definitely), this is an improvement. Personally, I'm waiting to hear exactly what happened with Michigan's CARA forms—and what happens to the people who failed to file them—before proclaiming the New Era of Accountability nigh.
Morris still plans to be on WTKA this fall with John U Bacon; his takes promise to get more interesting now that he's not employed by the AD.
Auburntron will be ours. Michigan's scoreboards are increasingly outdated in a world of advertising-plastered Godzilla-trons. I would like one Tron, sans advertising, please. Dave Brandon, what say you?
"The reality is those scoreboards are old. They're old technology and they're old."
This is a man who will bring crazy HD replay boards to Michigan stadium, all the better to see Armando Allen stepping out of bounds. The last thing on the hit list: video replay at Yost.
Somewhat thunderous. We have a final number on the effect of Michigan's boxes on the noise level. Somewhat oddly, it comes from an article on the noise level at Beaver Stadium:
A similar reflected-sound effect was measured at the University of Michigan stadium by architecture professor Mojtaba Navvab. He found that the recent addition of skyboxes there created a wall that reflected sound from lower seats onto the field. That meant an increase of 4 to 5 decibels in on-field noise.
DBs are logarithmic (and base ten) so a 4-5 decibel increase is actually something close to triple(!) the volume. Sort of. A fruitless journey through wikipedia indicates that loudness is a fuzzy concept and an increase in sound pressure does not have a one to one correspondence with the perceived loudness. Until such point as we can blow out the opposing quarterback's eardrums on a critical third down, perception is where it's at. As best I can figure, the luxury box-spurred increase is significant but not game-changing.
Implosion continues apace. Both Detroit papers got hammered over the past six months, with the News falling 10.1 percent and the Free Press 13.3, both considerably in excess of national averages. The web numbers are even more slanted towards the News:
Web traffic has been strong as well. Unique traffic to detnews.com increased 26.4 percent to 4.3 million readers in March compared with a year earlier. Unique visitors to freep.com increased 2.2 percent to 4.7 million, Harshbarger said.
Losing 13 percent of your circulation and gaining two percent on the web is a nasty blow. Extracting a moral from the story is an exercise left to the reader.
(Side note for Mitch Albom: "Uniques" are a wildly varying metric, but in case you're curious Quantcast's guesstimate as to the number of people who visit the Free Press monthly is about 1.3 million. This blog is currently at 10% of that.)
Programming note: I am headed out of town for the annual approximately week-long Christmas vacation. I'll check in periodically but posts are not likely unless there is major news. I return on the 30th. Update: Tim will be around until Wednesday.
Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren has declared for the NFL draft.
Warren told The Associated Press on Sunday he believes it’s the right time to take his game to the next level.
“I’m confident in my ability,” he said. “I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”
There was a brief window in which it seemed that Warren would come back because Warren said words to the effect of "I'll probably come back," but at the Bust he said he was "heavily" favoring the NFL and after that it seemed like a matter of time. It was.
…the vast seeping hole full of pus and regret he leaves in the secondary has elicited a similar reaction. Justin Turner, now is the time to pupate.
About 14. The thing about 14 teams is at that point it's hardly a conference, it's two conferences with a scheduling agreement and a weird playoff at the end. Two divisions of seven have you face everyone in your division and then just two teams from the other division. We'd go from playing Penn State and everyone else in the other division 75% of the time (there are eight teams in the league that aren't protected rivals and we miss two of them every year) to playing them 29% of the time, and there's no way you can protect a rivalry game in the opposite division without making the situation even worse.
Unless you go to nine or even ten games there's just no way that makes any sense. So then you're trying to coordinate three new schools and take away at least one precious nonconference cupcake and argue which team goes in which division and trying to get eight of eleven votes to approve all this.
I guarantee, and you can write a story, Penn State basketball will never be successful in the Big Ten. I will give you my heart if they are. I’m talking ever. Just not going to happen.
The whole discussion came from talking about Miami coming to the Big East and how that saved us [Syracuse] from maybe having to go to the Big Ten. What I said was, there is no way Syracuse [football] could win in the Big Ten or the ACC. And I’m talking Syracuse. And now that Penn State is going, they would have an even lesser chance.
Wonk suggests that Boeheim won't be heading up the "Let's Join The Big Ten" committee any time soon, and that would just about preclude their entry into the conference. Playing Villanova and UConn and all those other schools in the Big East in basketball is more important than anything else. We can scratch them off the list of programs to assimilate.
Mizzou may get approximately $9 million in television revenue, all things being equal, and Texas would be about $12 million. Then Baylor would be around $7.5 million.
That gap is there, but more importantly, let’s take a look at Illinois. We’re not only competing against our league, we’re competing against Illinois. The question is, what is the difference between what Illinois is getting in revenue distribution from the league — that’s television, basically — and what Mizzou is getting? Ours is $9 million. Illinois’ is $21 million.
And maybe we should be giving Jim Delany more credit for the aspects of his job that do not involve speaking to the media. I'd like to cut this answer but it's all interesting so here you go:
Q: What was the sticking point for the Big 12 [creating its own network]?
A: It had to do with revenue distribution and fear of the unknown. The unknown being that a network had never been done with college athletics before. We had heard rumors about the Big Ten getting ready to do it. So various voices in the room were concerned that we were going into uncharted waters. We have this pretty good contract with ABC, ESPN and Fox, and why would we want to give up a sure thing for a speculative deal? By us backing away from that, the Big Ten went forward with that. It was fear of the unknown. We had the same presentation at the same time by CSTV. CSTV had talked to us at the same set of meetings about starting our own network based upon the theory of ESPN Classic. When ESPN Classic was started, everybody said, “Who’s going to watch this? Old video of teams that used to play, 24-7? How is this going to be successful?”
The same people that started ESPN Classic came to us as a league and wanted us to use a similar model to start our own network, based upon this pro forma that had been shown. And we couldn’t come to a consensus. It was pretty frustrating. So we stayed the course and continued the same direction we were, and what we found is we found today that the SEC contract is worth $205 million per year, the Big Ten contract is worth $190 million per year — and both of those leagues share equally — and the Big 12 Conference contract is worth $80 million per year and we don’t share equally. That is a significant gap.
Back to the topic at hand. Missouri prefers to stay where it is:
We need to keep making Mizzou stronger and stronger and making the Big 12 stronger and stronger. We need to keep saying — and we are — proud members of the Big 12 Conference. We’re fortunate to be associated. If you’re asking me personally, my preference would be to do everything you can to strengthen the Big 12. That’s what you’ve got to do.
But given the whole "freakin' Illinois gets more than double what we do from the conference" thing, they'll listen. Given that and the Big Ten's academic attractiveness, which is something certain folk might not be taking totally seriously…
[Former Big 12 commissioner] Kevin Weiberg was quoted as saying this a few days ago in USA Today — he was commenting on the Big Ten — he said, “Rest assured, this will not be about athletics.” Everybody in our world thinks this is about athletics, but it’s not. Conference realignments are always based primarily on academics.
…but that doesn't mean people suggesting schools that have nothing to offer except academics haven't swung too far the other direction.
Anyway, read the whole thing if you're interested in the subject since it's one of the best interviews I've read recently.
Digression about those numbers above. Why isn't the Big Ten picking off successful Big 12 coaches? IE: why is Gary Pinkel still at Mizzou? Though I basically dismissed Braves & Birds' SEC fixation relative to expansion, he does have a point about Big Ten schools' hiring decisions. Minnesota fired its coach and hired a TE coach. Not even a real position coach! Illinois hired Ron Zook. Michigan State hired a .500 Big East coach with two years of head coaching experience. Purdue brought in Danny Hope, coach of Eastern Kentucky. EKU made the playoffs once in his five-year tenure, losing in the first round. There are a couple of coaches in the league who were elevated in trying circumstances—Fitzgerald and Lynch, but the guys before that were elevated internal hires or MAC coaches.
The one actual A-level hire* in the league the last decade or so was Rich Rodriguez—not exactly setting the world on fire—and the transitions that seemed like the best decisions other than that were Wisconsin grabbing Bret Bielema, who had been a superb defensive coordinator at Kansas State for almost a decade, as a coach in waiting, and Jim Tressel's hiring at Ohio State. (Tressel may have been a I-AA coach but he was a guy who'd won multiple national titles.) The overall picture is of the exact opposite sort of thing going on in the SEC.
Evidence: an Outside the Lines bit from Mike Fish detailing the absurd lengths SEC teams have gone to with their coaching hires. Some of them border on the insane, most prominently the huge outlay Tennessee has made to hire an idiot:
Tennessee was so hot to rid itself of Phillip Fulmer after a 5-7 record in 2008 that it paid a $6 million buyout. This came a year after a 10-win season for which Fulmer had received a contract extension. Then, UT hustled to sign a deal with his successor, guaranteeing Kiffin $14.25 million through the 2014 season. Kiffin will be due $7.5 million if he is fired without cause.
That's actually not quite as outrageous as it's framed, as Fish loves to give overall numbers instead of yearly ones so they seem crazier. But at almost $3 million a year for a guy that definitely wasn't going to get that much from anywhere else—IIRC, Washington was the only other school interested—is an unnecessary outlay before you get to the unprecedented money given to the assistants:
The elder Kiffin is the highest-paid assistant in college sports, guaranteed $1.5 million this year. His $300,000 retention bonus alone, due after the season, isn't far from the interim president's annual salary.
Two other Tennessee football assistants, Ed Orgeron ($1.95 million) and Jim Chaney ($1.17 million), are guaranteed more than $3 million between them for the next three seasons.
Again this guy doesn't do us the service of dividing, but Orgeron is making over 600k per year. And yet if you look at the revenue numbers, Big Ten schools aren't far off the SEC folk.
There's a gap here. I'm not saying I'd like Big Ten teams to blow as much money on questionable hires as the SEC does, but surely they can make better stabs at winning coaches that Tim Brewster. Why is Brian Kelly at Notre Dame? Because half of the Big Ten passed him up.
*(Conventionally defined as a guy who's built a top ten-ish program himself, right?)
Bler recession bler. The Wiz digs up an article noting that schools are actually spending money to lobby congress in favor of the freaking BCS:
Politico reports that Purdue and Michigan have spent $515,000 and $415,000 respectively, to lobby this year against a bill that aims to cut federal money for colleges that participate in a Division I-A season without a playoff.
I tend to blame whichever congressman no doubt from Texas or Utah decided that screwing with federal funding for universities because of sports is a great idea more than either university; obviously a bill like that would be a disaster. It's one thing to goof around with an annoyance bill; this is on another level.
Delicious. If you're like me and still harbor bitterness towards former ESPN exec Mark Shapiro for things like "I'd Do Anything," Sports Media Watch's list of the ten worst sports shows of the decade is fantastic. Most of the shows on it were his idea, and most include brilliant quotes from Shapiro like so:
"Stephen A. is ringing a bell. People like him and dislike him, but they still watch him. These days, it’s hard to find a talent who strikes a chord that way" (SBD, 8/1/05). (On a related note, Shapiro reminisced about lobbying for Smith's hiring in '03: "There were 28 people in the room, and they were all vehement: ‘No way, never, never!’ I said, ‘We’ve gotta get this guy in here.'"
In fact, no one wanted to watch a shouty dwarf and Quite Frankly was an epic bomb.
Etc.: Despite rumors about seemingly every viable Michigan assistant coach out there (Corwin Brown, Vance Beford, and Scot Loeffler), Buffalo goes with Cincinnati offensive coordinator and presumptive future ND OC Jeff Quinn to replace Turner Gill. Quinn had been with Kelly forever, so this is good. Van Damme anger fairy. Vada Murray's latest update is excellent.
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.
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.
"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.
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.