Preview 2016: Running Back

Preview 2016: Running Back Comment Count

Brian August 29th, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback.

21555418689_13cf1976d6_z

NOPE [Bryan Fuller]

[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]

FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR. SPREAD H YR.
De'Veon Smith Sr. De'Veon Smith Sr. De'Veon Smith Sr. Jabrill Peppers So.*
Ty Isaac Jr.* Kingston Davis Fr. Drake Johnson Sr.* Chris Evans Fr.
Drake Johnson Sr.* Ty Isaac Jr.* Karan Higdon So. Drake Johnson Sr.*
Jabrill Peppers So.* Kareem Walker Fr. Ty Isaac Jr.* Ty Isaac Jr.*

Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.

Large sections of your author's time were spent fighting with people about how bad it was or was not, so here's Dane Brugler on De'Veon Smith:

His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.

It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.

Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.

THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN

Rating: 4

Pasted-image-at-2016_08_01-09_38-AM_

[Seth Fisher]

After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.

Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:

Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.

That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...

...there was a truck lane ignored.

Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...

/spittle shields at 70% and dropping

Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complained about a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.

He did that on this one:

That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.

...or blackly grim:

I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.

Are they really diatribes?

YES

Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:

6_3084394[1]

The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.

But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:

[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]

Game Opponent + - TOT Pass- Team- Comment
1 Utah 5.5 7 -1.5 0   Cuts late let M down.
2 Oregon State 15.5 4 11.5 0 4 Brutal Legend
3 UNLV 2 8 -6 0   Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.
4 BYU 9.5 4.5 5 3 2 Beast mode.
5 Maryland           DNP
6 Northwestern 7.5 1.5 6 0   On just 8 carries.
7 MSU 5 5 0 0 2 Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.
8 Minnesota   2 -2 0 1 No YAC.
9 Rutgers 6 0.5 5.5 0   Good game.
10 Indiana 4.5 2 2.5 2 2 Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.
11 PSU 9.5 4 5.5 3   +2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.
12 OSU 7.5   7.5 0 1 Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.
13 Florida 15 2 13 0 1 I be like dang
  TOTALS 87.5 40.5 47 8 13  

That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.

This was clearest in the bowl game. Smith probed for holes, showed off a Mike Hart-level backfield stutter, and fired off a decisive backside cut on his first three carries. The stutter's probably the most impressive but the cut is the most important:

That's vision, and I was floored as it continued for an entire game against the #5 S&P run defense:

And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:

As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.

At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.

So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:

I have literally dozens of these clipped:

Smith grinds out yards after contact better than any back I've seen at Michigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.

Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:

Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:

Smith has power and agility and can pick guys up. Even big guys. … Then in this game he added a couple of dumpoffs on which he displayed that fun Smith-vs-defensive backs stuff. On back to back plays at the end of the first half he turned nothing into something, first getting a few when Rudock got nailed, and then plastering a DB across his windshield for a first down:

This is something you can work with.

His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.

As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:

De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect

His hands were good—one drop in 17 opportunities and a circus catch—and if not tackled immediately he's going to tack on 5 or so yards after contact.

In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:

After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:

I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.

He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.

Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:

"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."

It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.

[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Is Headed For The Green Room

Unverified Voracity Is Headed For The Green Room Comment Count

Brian August 23rd, 2016 at 12:44 PM

22603888477_496278ab4c_z

[Bryan Fuller]

Lot of talent, lot of talent. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler:

Per NFL scouts, Butt and Charlton(!) could be high first round picks:

Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.

Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…

Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected

…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:

  • #31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
  • #33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
  • #39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
  • #46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
  • #56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
  • #69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
  • #77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."

In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.

You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.

Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.

Sorry, no politics.

Anyway:

"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.

If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.

If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts. 

Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:

  • Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
  • PSU is considering starting true freshman Michael Menet, a five star guard type.
  • Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
  • MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
  • Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???."  Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
  • OSU may start true freshman Michael Jordan at guard. Jordan was a well regarded recruit but not so well regarded that you shouldn't expect Michigan to wreck that dude.

Etc.: What to expect from Ibi Watson. More Jabrill Peppers three-way-spreading-across-college-football stuff. Jarrod Bunch has a podcast. Brady Hoke in Oregon is going to be fascinating.

Comments

Fall Camp Presser 8-17-16: Drake Johnson and Erik Magnuson

Fall Camp Presser 8-17-16: Drake Johnson and Erik Magnuson Comment Count

Adam Schnepp August 18th, 2016 at 12:01 PM

22267366873_dbd25afd0c_z

[Barron/MGoBlog]

How’s the competition going?

“It’s going well. Typical camp stuff, so we’re supposed to keep it in house but everyone’s doing a good job. Everyone’s competing the way they should be. No one’s trying to back off. No one’s trying to give anyone any leeway. It’s just good, healthy competition.”

What’s the second camp [like] under Jim Harbaugh compared to the first one?

“Hmm. That’s a good question. Hold up with this. What he’s been stressing a lot is the toughness of it. The first camp, I think a lot of us were getting acclimated to his coaching style but the second one, now that we’ve been under his belt for a year-- even the young guys, they’re having to get this crash course in Harbaughism. I personally enjoy it. I’ve got no problem with it, but it’s definitely been an increase in I’d say intensity, maybe, is the best way to put it.”

Is it fun to watch the kids go through it the first time?

“Yeah! It’s always fun. Chris Evans is my roommate. I talked to him the first day of camp and I was like, ‘Hey, Chris. Ready for camp?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, dog. I’m so ready.’ I was like, ‘No, you’re not. You think you’re ready but you’re not. Just give it a couple days.’ But he’s doing well.

“I think all the freshmen are taking well, but there’s definitely those first few days where they’re like ‘What did I just get myself into?’ They’re adjusting well now. Everyone’s doing well.”

Is Chris working at running back and receiver or is he mostly at just running back?

“He’s been doing both. I kind of pay attention to him when he’s with us because we’re doing running back stuff. We get off from our play and we kind of huddle and talk about the play that just happened. I haven’t really seen him leave the running back huddle but if he has I’m typically not in the area where he would be there.I wouldn’t be surprised if he has.”

Jim said good things about him.
”Yeah, he’s a good guy.”

Jim said that about him as a player.

“Yeah, he’s athletic. Very athletic.”

You’ve been full go?

“Yeah, I’ve been through all the practices.”

Any discomfort with anything?

“Nah.”

Have we talked to you since the forklift incident?

“Media day-ish.”

For those of us who weren’t there, talk a little bit about—I mean, how did that happen? Give us the rundown on that.

“You know, I was stretching at the track and there was a [claps] incident. But I’m not supposed to talk about it. Coach said chill on it so I’m gonna chill on it, but it was just an unfortunate incident. It happened. I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.”

[After THE JUMP: A rejected Charizard tattoo; fat man 7-on-7]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Has Yet More Hot Takes To Deal With

Unverified Voracity Has Yet More Hot Takes To Deal With Comment Count

Brian April 14th, 2016 at 1:14 PM

Just another day in the life.

lake-invaders_0One of our photographers wrote a book. You've probably seen Bill Rapai's hockey photos around these parts. If you like those you'll no doubt love his new book, which is about invasive species in the Great Lakes. For some reason it has a picture of an SEC coach reacting to Harbaugh's latest antics on the cover. Bill on the contents:

It’s called Lake Invaders: Invasive species and the battle for the future of the Great Lakes and it explains how these little beasties got here, the damage they are doing, how they might be controlled, and why you should care. (Yes, you should care.) There’s even a chapter on everybody’s favorite invasives, the Asian carps.

It's available on Amazon for anyone who's interested.

DRAKE JOHNSON GOT RUN OVER BY A FORKLIFT!? Yes. He is apparently fine afterwards, if 1) very bruised up and 2) understandably pissed off.

Do not run people over in forklifts, people. I shouldn't have to tell you this.

Tick tock the hot takes don't stop. All it took was for Jim Harbaugh to say some pointedly critical, but true, things for people to lose their minds about the dude. NJ.com columnist Steve Politi has been a reliable source of humor ever since that "Jim Harbaugh may be flashy, but Kyle Flood is real" column, and he is undeterred by being as wrong as humanly possible about that. His reaction to Man Invited To Give Speech may even top his earlier opus:

Steve Politi, a columnist for The Star-Ledger and NJ.com, said Paramus Catholic should be ashamed for having Harbaugh give the speech. …

"The big problem here is Paramus Catholic president Jim Vail who, in announcing his decision to give an out-of-state football coach a free infomercial at his school, called Harbaugh a great leader and educator. Come on, Harbaugh speaking to your students is as much a recruiting advantage for your football program as it is for Harbaugh at Michigan."

I love all these accusations that PEOPLE might be DOING THEIR JOBS WELL. While there's no doubt an element of publicity and recruiting on both ends, Jim Harbaugh is also a very interesting and successful person who might want to give people some guidance. And he's sure as hell going to be more interesting than whoever my high school graduation speaker was. I have no idea if there even was one. Chris Ash is openly envious, and he's real, so…

This undercurrent of "wait a second… wait just a minute here! I see what you're doing! You are trying to make your football team good!" is a never-ending source of entertaining spittle these days. Remember that Alabama dude who clutched his pearls and fell over because Michigan's satellite camp at Prattville was really about recruiting? This is just the latest episode. Here's Mike Florio accusing Harbaugh of the blazingly obvious:

If we’re going to pull back the curtain on why the SEC and ACC coaches wanted to keep Harbaugh out of their backyards, it’s only fair to pull back the curtain on why Harbaugh wants to frolic in them. Although Rosenberg does his best to defend the satellite camp process by baking the concept into the apple pie of American dream chasing, it’s obvious that the camps had become at least in part a pretext for recruiting the best players in a setting that, from the perspective of a high school kid, doesn’t feel like recruiting. It all leads to a more organic, authentic, and visceral bond.

That's the point! Also it is good! We have reached the point in this dumb conversation where people are accusing Jim Harbaugh of trying to have a real relationship with the people he recruits. I feel like I am going crazy here.

Yes, e-goons of the world, people have motives. When they pursue those motives within the rules and without negatively impacting anyone, pointing at them and screaming "YOU ARE PURSUING YOUR GOALS" is literally the dumbest argument possible.

I mean, yeah, get on Harbaugh for the various decommits last year. That's a legit criticism. This stuff is moron central.

Shots fired. I assume you've all seen the Harbombing of the satellite camp decision in SI. While Harbaugh talking to a dude who tried to sabotage the program with bogus allegations of NCAA violations is a frequent irritation, I'll take it as long as he's willing to say the things that are true in public:

Says Harbaugh: "You've got a guy sitting in a big house, making $5 million a year, saying he does not want to sacrifice his time. That is not a kindred spirit to me. What most of these coaches are saying is they don't want to work harder."

Hugh Freeze responded to this with the time-tested retort of the smarmy gasbag: muh families.

"I'll never apologize for wanting to be a father and a husband," Freeze said when asked about vacation time. "I miss enough volleyball games (and other things), that is a priority for me. ... I think we work very hard, I don't think working hard is an issue. If you're asking me if I want to add more nights away from my wife and kids, I do not. That window is closing for me to be a husband and a father and I think the kids that play in our system need to see me in that role an awful lot."

When someone talks about being a family man in this way they are always attempting to shut down criticism by being holier than thou. See: Dave Brandon's "this hurts my family" talk on his last-ditch media spree after the Shane Morris incident. It also blows by a point: if you don't want to do them, don't do them. Nobody's making you. You are in fact making the demands.

Freeze then doubled down on the smarm by criticizing Harbaugh for being right, but in public:

Along with being recursively hypocritical, this is an admission that Harbaugh is correct but also mean. I like mean.

Elsewhere in shots fired. High school coaches are just as fired up about the ban:

"Realistically, I shouldn't have been surprised." said John Ford, the head coach at Roswell High School, which is located north of Atlanta. "The NCAA works in opposition to what benefits young kids and student athletes. They work to protect the few as opposed to protecting and promoting the many. The hypocrisy is pretty well known."  …

"I've been doing this for 15 years and I know it's really, really helpful for kids at these camps," [Toby] Foreman said. "It makes it extremely difficult, and I personally don't think the NCAA has kids interests at heart. You're almost punishing people for being proactive. Go out and recruit harder. Quit being lazy."

I wonder if the pushback on this is going to be sufficient to torpedo the rule change here. These days a lawsuit-stricken NCAA is very sensitive about public relations, and there are a ton of people on the warpath about this. It is really rare to see guys with skin in the game come out with these kind of statements, and the condemnation for the rule change has been near-universal. The only people sticking up for it are guys like Tony Barnhart who are more or less bought and paid for by the SEC and a less-than-lucid Dennis Dodd.

Tommy Tuberville, for one, thinks that the ban will not stand.

Elsewhere in how Freeze gets work done. Interesting little glimpse inside the sausage factory Freeze is running at Ole Miss from a doofus with money:

An Ocean Springs businessman claimed to have offered his guest house to unnamed college football players rent-free, only to later amend his story. But a source with knowledge of the situation said Scott Walker’s neighbors were told by the renters they paid for a two-night stay at his home last weekend.

Renting his home on a short-term basis would be a violation of local ordinances, and when first contacted by the Mississippi Press Walker said it was “four university players” who were “absolutely not paying” to stay in his guest house.

That raised red flags, because a booster (Walker is an Ole Miss grad and fan) offering free or reduced rent is a clear-cut NCAA violation.

Ole Miss cheats. Hardcore, all the time. That's how a nobody high school coach with one year at Arkansas State who arrives at a school with a fanbase that mostly still wants a plantation owner as their mascot and zero success in the past 50 years starts recruiting five-stars. I'm resigned to the fact that this will happen forever, and that the correct solution is to let people pay the players without repercussions.

But you run the cheatingest program in the country and you get sanctimonious about your free time? Harbaugh's just trying to level the playing field out a little bit here. Freeze can take his vacations and come back knowing that an Ole Miss offer has thousands of dollars behind it that a Michigan one doesn't.

That solution could be on the horizon. Via Get the Picture, this is a potentially huge move towards an Olympic model of amateurism:

Big East commissioner Val Ackerman told SI Now’s Maggie Gray on Friday that the NCAA is reconsidering allowing student athletes to sign endorsement deals.

Under the current rules, student athletes may not be paid for the use of their image or likeness or they would forfeit their amateur status and their collegiate eligibility could be affected. When Gray asked Ackerman why students shouldn’t be able to capitalize on the value they bring to their university, Ackerman responded that the NCAA is considering changing that rule.

“That’s one that’s actually under consideration I believe by the NCAA,” Ackerman said. “It’s actually a time right now where student athlete interests are being closely examined. I don’t have an answer for you on that one today but I will say that and a number of other topics are under review, and I think rightly by the NCAA and it’s very possible that over the course of the next year or two as these these ideas work their way through the legislative system you could see changes.”

In the next year or two! As always I will remind you that even if you don't like the idea of players getting paid directly by the university, opening up outside compensation is a very good thing when you command a money cannon like Michigan does.

Warde Manuel sticks up for his guy. Good to see that Manuel isn't shying away from the fight either:

“People say this is Jim Harbaugh, he wants to do it this way,” Manuel told the Free Press today. “No. This is a rule that has been allowable for a long time. With all due respect to … questions about not being able to recruit (during the NCAA quiet period), all that stuff was there before, and people did it. Now it’s no good? Some kind of way, it’s bad for the game? It’s crazy.”

That is direct and devoid of hand-waving CYA business speak, so bully for that.

Elsewhere in laziness. Iowa DE Drew Ott will not get a fifth year after a midseason injury. That's not much of a surprise since he played in six games a year ago and the NCAA does not budge on injury redshirts if you've played more than 30% of a season. The timing of the announcement, however, has irritated many since Ott cannot enter the NFL draft proper and will have to go the supplemental route. Why did this come so late? It's not on the NCAA:

In fairness to the NCAA, it does seem like the lengthiest delays in this entire ordeal were not their end -- it sounds like Ott's case wasn't even sent to the NCAA bodies that rule on this matter until late February.  His case was with Big Ten authorities until that point.  What took the Big Ten so long?  Good question -- and one that neither Ott nor Kirk Ferentz had an answer for during their press conference earlier today.  So perhaps our ire at the glacial pace of the decision-making in this situation should be directed at Jim Delany & Co. rather than the NCAA folks.

That is especially odd since Mario Ojemudia suffered a similarly ill-timed injury and found out he would not get an exception in December.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with MSU's attempt to get sixth years for three players, all of whom appear to have taken voluntary redshirts. MSU keeps telling people they'll be back but the NCAA is very strict about sixth years; going to be tough to come up with sufficient documentation about an injury when these guys have bios declaring they were scout team player of the week.

Etc.: FFS just fire Butch Jones already. Willie Henry getting talked up as a second rounder now. Cut off one of Harbaugh's heads and he grows two more.

Comments