New Rules: No More Restricting Transfers And Redshirt Freedom

New Rules: No More Restricting Transfers And Redshirt Freedom Comment Count

Brian June 13th, 2018 at 1:15 PM

[lead image: Bryan Fuller]

Two fairly major NCAA rule changes just came down the pipe, and both are unambiguously good. #1 is an elimination of most transfer restrictions:

The Division I Council adopted a proposal this week that creates a new “notification-of-transfer” model. This new system allows a student to inform his or her current school of a desire to transfer, then requires that school to enter the student’s name into a national transfer database within two business days. Once the student-athlete’s name is in the database, other coaches are free to contact that individual.

The "most" in the previous sentence is because of this: "Conferences, however, still can make rules that are more restrictive than the national rule." Many conferences had extra restrictions against intra-conference transfers as of about a decade ago; as anyone who's followed the success talismans known as Beilein grad transfers knows, the Big Ten did away with theirs in 2012. I'm not sure if other conferences have followed suit. I kind of doubt the SEC has since bolting for juco for one year and then bouncing back to another conference school is a fairly common practice.

This hereby ends the irritating news cycle that goes:

  1. Player Wants To Transfer
  2. School Says Player Can't Go To Various Schools
  3. Outrage!
  4. "Sorry, Sorry, I'm Trying To Delete It" Says School
  5. Player Goes To Iowa State Anyway

So it's got that going for us. Also a slight inch away from NCAA serfdom.

[After THE JUMP: suspense! what's the other rule change! crap i shouldn't have mentioned it in the title]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Cut Half The Team!

Unverified Voracity Cut Half The Team! Comment Count

Brian April 25th, 2018 at 2:31 PM

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yes, i am available to give your Blue Ribbon Committee a sheen of respectability

I mean it wasn't going to be any different. The NCAA's Look We Hired Condi Rice Again commission has delivered their deliverable, a 52-page report about "putting the 'college' back in college basketball." As with all these things it's more of a CYA activity than a genuine attempt to address the problems inherent in a system that prohibits compensation for people who other folks would really like to compensate. Some major takeaways include "end one and done"—which the NCAA has no control over—and "enforce rules better"—good luck.

But! Even in this document there are some grudging concessions:

Rice expressed tacit approval for providing athletes with a cut of the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses, which is currently before courts.

“Most commissioners believe that the rules on name, image and likeness should be taken up as soon as the legal framework is established,” she said. “It is hard for the public, and frankly for me, to understand what can be allowed with the college model — for the life of me I don’t understand the difference between Olympic payments and participation in ‘Dancing With the Stars’ — and what can’t be allowed without opening the door to professionalizing college basketball.”

Unfortunately, the "professionalizing college basketball" has already happened in every meaningful way. TV now dictates game times. Revenue is ruthlessly maximized. Players get more or less cut annually. The only way in which college basketball has not professionalized is in the literal paying of their workers, so we get all the downsides of it without even the compensation of thinking "well, at least it's sort of fair now."

The NCAA will not meaningfully change in the near future unless Jeffrey Kessler's lawsuit is an end-of-Cretaceous event.

"These are great, and no one is holding a gun to my head." The National Association of Basketball Coaches has issued walking orders for the rank and file:

Under the heading “A Message to NCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches," the document signed by NABC executive director Jim Haney and deputy director Reggie Minton declares, “In short, it is imperative that the Commission’s recommendations be met with unequivocal support from each of us.”

The NABC even listed a series of “Key Talking Points” for members to follow.

— “Change was necessary, and we knew that change was coming. As coaches on the front lines, we are uniquely positioned to offer valuable insight as the Commission’s recommendations progress through the legislative process.”
— “As coaches, we are committed to working with the NCAA in evaluating the recommendations and will provide appropriate input as legislation is drafted.”
— “We are appreciative of the Commission’s efforts to address necessary change, and for welcoming the input of the NABC.

The commission doesn't actually advocate any meaningful change. Coaches are currently the main beneficiaries of amateurism and must support a document that waves hands at everyone around the sport without actually affecting their bottom lines. But they have to make it look like they are supporting Change, Which Is Good.

The stick and ball games are doing fairly well. Softball is currently on a 14-game winning streak, which isn't that unusual. Freshman pitcher Meghan Beaubien is crushing the competition:

Beaubien, who leads the nation in wins, improved to 27-2 and lowered her ERA to 0.74, which is sixth in the NCAA. She threw a one-hitter against Maryland on Friday, striking out seven in seven innings in a 6-0 win.

One thing that is unusual: there's a Big Ten team within shouting distance. Softball takes on Indiana in a critical three game series this weekend; the Hoosiers are just a half-game back.

Another thing that's unusual: that's not the longest winning streak on south campus in late April. Baseball is up to 20 straight, largely because Eric Bakich pulled off an unprecedented recruiting class:

ANN ARBOR -- The 2017 recruiting class for Michigan's baseball team was the highest ranked ever for a Big Ten team.

Its 10th overall ranking by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper created high expectations for the 13 incoming freshmen and two junior college transfers.

With the Wolverines coming off a 42-win season, their first 40-win season since 2008, many of the newcomers would be counted on to fill key roles after the team lost 15 players from last season, including a program-record 11 MLB Draft picks.

Although some of them struggled to start the season when the team lost 11 of its first 15 games, the freshmen, most notably pitchers Ben Dragani, Jeff Criswell and Angelo Smith, along with first baseman Jesse Franklin and outfielder Jordan Nwogu, have been key contributors during the Wolverines' 20-game win streak, the program's longest since 1987.

The pressure is still on because of that rough start. Baseball bracketologists usually have Michigan in the field but as one of the last four teams.

Another transfer pass. Sophomore SG Austin Reaves is leaving Wichita State and has mentioned Michigan amongst 22 schools in contact, leading to the usual "!?!??" articles and message board threads about the possibility of adding him. Folks, Reaves is Just A Shooter who must sit a year before playing two.

Does Michigan need a 6'5" JAS shooting guard? Not really. Would he be better than Adrien Nunez? Maybe, maybe not. Would Reaves occupy a 2019 scholarship in a class that's looking like 2 or 3 tops? Yes.

This one is better than the sit-one-play-two guy with a 102 ORTG in the NEC, at least. Reaves is still not a fit unless Michigan wants to stop swinging at the top 50 guys in the 2019 class they seem to have a lot of traction with.

Quite a disconnect. Most Michigan fans high fived themselves when they saw next year's single plays

MICHIGAN
Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue
Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers
Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

…and so did the MGoSlack. Skipping road games against two of the four tourney teams from last year and one of the two NIT teams seems pretty good. But not so much, says Bart Torvik:

Best guess at the discrepancy: Michigan misses three of the easiest games in league play. From a tourney resume perspective that's good; from a league title perspective not so much. At least this year the 20 game schedule means the schedule gap is significantly smaller than it was a year ago, when MSU was handed a dubious banner.

Again, small hockey schools can pound sand. Niagara fired its hockey coach and replaced him. His first act? Cutting eight guys. Eight! Niagara says they'll honor scholarship commitments, largely because they have to say that, but chances are these guys are headed elsewhere. It's one thing to have to squeeze out another year of junior for a player because of college hockey's crazy recruiting environment. Cutting eight guys is entirely another. This only happens in college hockey because you can import a bunch of 21-year-old freshman-type substances, another small-school innovation.

This is not an isolated incident. When UMass-Amherst cut ~nine guys last year. When you hear people complaining about Michigan flipping recruits, tell 'em to get stuffed! Get stuffed, I say!

Etc.: Don't click here. Intact coaching staff? Wagner scouted. Economist makes the case that the sports EMU is cutting are actually profitable for the school because it is not full on students. Maybe it's okay the USMNT didn't make the World Cup! /sits weeping in corner

Comments

Ole Miss's Petulance Shouldn't Matter To The NCAA

Ole Miss's Petulance Shouldn't Matter To The NCAA Comment Count

Brian April 10th, 2018 at 1:05 PM

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i don't even own a gun, Ole Miss, let alone the many guns it would take to necessitate an entire rack. what am i gonna do with a gun rack? [Bryan Fuller]

The various single elimination tournaments are over. The spring game is this weekend. And Shea Patterson remains in eligibility limbo a month and a half after Michigan's case for his immediate availability went to the NCAA. Every so often someone asks me if this is a bad sign.

It's not. The delay is entirely because Ole Miss is doing everything they can to continue screwing the 2016 recruits they lied to just before the relevant Signing Day. Michigan gave Ole Miss the whole package before they even sent it to the NCAA; Ole Miss, like the Michigan FOIA department, took every last nanosecond available before filing a reply. Their reply then required a reply:

Michigan’s petition to the NCAA on Patterson’s behalf was sent to Ole Miss, according to standard practice. Ole Miss had the option to not respond but chose to file its objection to the NCAA on March 28. Patterson has since supplied answers to questions the NCAA asked regarding issues Ole Miss raised.

And so we're here, waiting for Shea Patterson and summer. When Shea Patterson is eligible it will stop snowing.

But none of this should impact what looks like a slam dunk. Ole Miss's problem—one of Ole Miss's many problems—is that they didn't just lie to their recruits. They lied to anyone who would listen, planting a series of credulous stories from friendly local reporters. This move backfired spectacularly when Houston Nutt sued Ole Miss, winning a settlement and a public apology for lying about their NCAA troubles. This is literally a thing Ole Miss said in public because of a lawsuit:

“Certain statements made by University employees in January 2016 appear to have contributed to misleading media reports about Coach Nutt,” Ole Miss said in a statement without a specific name attached. “To the extent any such statements harmed Coach Nutt’s reputation, the University apologizes, as this was not the intent.”

In addition to this, Michigan submitted reams of communication between Shea Patterson and various other Ole Miss athletic department employees; five other 2016 recruits seeking immediate eligibility are telling parallel stories to the NCAA.

Ole Miss's NCAA case is over. The NCAA itself has declared that Ole Miss was lying. Hugh Freeze is fired, in part because of Ole Miss's institutional decision to lie about that case. Ole Miss can gain nothing by denying the obvious, and after discovery in the Nutt case it is very, very obvious:

In Mars’ work as counsel for Nutt and, later, the transfers, he revealed Freeze’s misinformation campaign was initiated when Ole Miss received a notice of allegations from the NCAA two years ago. Mars uncovered through text messages, phone logs and interviews, how Freeze and the athletic department launched a plan to mislead media and football recruits — including Patterson — telling them the bulk of the violations involved women’s basketball and track and that Nutt was responsible for issues regarding the football program.

This has been to NCAA court. It has been to real court. Ole Miss has gotten a pie in the face both times. Even the wildly unpredictable NCAA shouldn't be able to screw this up.

The length of time here is more about the unprecedented amount of information that's been submitted here, the likelihood that the NCAA is regarding these six appeals as one larger decision, and Ole Miss's final middle finger to college football before once again descending into irrelevance. If Patterson doesn't get a waiver nobody can ever get a waiver.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Does Not Mention Any Nuns

Unverified Voracity Does Not Mention Any Nuns Comment Count

Brian March 30th, 2018 at 12:49 PM

Let's all sit quietly and think about the near future. SOUNDS GOOD GUYS NOBODY'S EXPLODING KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

OH NO

A HYPE VIDEO

SEVERAL OF YOU HAVE NOW EXPLODED MY BAD SPONGEBOB MEME?

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"you can attack their bigs" [Patrick Barron]

A much better anon coach quote article. Yahoo's was extremely silly, but ESPN's version is on point. On Michigan:

"They've got three really good on-ball defenders," one coach said. "Most teams don't have two, or even one. They have three. [Zavier] Simpson, [Muhammad-Ali] Abdur-Rahkman, [Charles] Matthews can really guard the ball. You don't have a matchup on the perimeter you can attack. They're handsy, they're physical in all the right ways. How handsy and chippy they are, in itself is very anti-Michigan-like. They're well-schooled. They're so good at putting their hands on or getting an armbar into you and then taking it off, then beating you to the spot." …

"If you're a traditional defensive team, you've got no chance of guarding them," one opposing coach said. "The teams that have slowed them down the most are teams that are nontraditional, that can switch a lot. You've got no chance of defending them if you don't switch ball screens."

Dollar says the latter quote there is from Matt Painter.

On Loyola:

"Everybody on their team is an above-average passer and can shoot it, so they have spacing," another head coach in the league said. "They don't take bad shots. They really work together as a team to get great shots every possession. They have an inside presence, but most of their offensive attack is transition or through spacing. Offensively, that's what makes them really good." …

"They ice ball screens and try to keep Krutwig in the paint defensively," he said. "So they've got some real tough decisions to make. You can't keep Krutwig in the paint against Wagner, so how they guard those actions, the pick-and-rolls in the middle of the floor. They can bring [Aundre] Jackson off the bench, but they need Krutwig on the floor. That's a real interesting thing for me."

Much more that's interesting at the link.

Yak's got this. Of all the reasons hiring Luke Yaklich might have benefited Michigan, "he'll have lots of experience against the MVC team Michigan sees in the Final Four" is the least likely. And yet:

Prior to joining the Wolverines, the defensive maestro went 7-1 against the Ramblers in his four seasons spent at Illinois State as an assistant coach and is familiar, at least fundamentally, with coach Porter Moser’s style of play.

“Coach Moser is an unbelievable coach ... you have to be locked in on both ends of the floor,” Yaklich said. “It’s gonna be a dog fight. His teams reflect his personality. They’re prepared, they get better, tough and they have a bunch of really great kids that have been through the Missouri Valley and non-conference wars.

“Loyola is obviously gonna have our full attention all week, and we’re thrilled with the opportunity to play in the Final Four against a really good and well-coached team.”

If Michigan wins on Saturday, before the final they need to hire an assistant from a team they can beat easily. How about Dane Fife?

One and done done? Syracuse recruit Darius Bazley has decided to blow off college hoops in favor of a year in the G league, because he's a serious dude.

“I’m self-motivated because I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is how I want to make a living. This is how I want to provide for my family, and provide for my love of basketball. I’m not playing any games with this. I’m attacking this straight forward. I’m not maneuvering around this, take any side steps. I’m taking this head on. This is the decision that I made, and I know it will work. I know what I’m capable of doing, and I’m going to do just that.”

Fair enough. Is this THE END for the current regime in college basketball? Maybe, maybe not. Bazley's salary in his sole G League year is apparently going to be a comically low 26k, and while he can sign with an agent and get some shoe money he'd probably be better off in the long run with the fame an NCAA tournament run could generate. And it's not like the shoe people can't just give his family money already.

On the other hand:

Bazley won't be wasting his time perfecting a defense that's illegal in the NBA and driving wildly into the lane hoping that this heavily contested shot miraculously falls. Why Bazley—or anyone cough cough Tyus Battle—with a potential NBA future would sign up for that remains a complete mystery. How a team stacked with NBA lottery picks could lose to that team is an even greater one.

PREPARE THE NELSON MEME. Oh and also this:

Or possibly the Sideshow Bob Steps On Rakes meme.

Would the end of one and done be bad for Michigan? Or good? I lean towards good. While the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world would start picking off guys outside the top 25 and might land on a guy that Michigan would otherwise get, the relative gap between those dudes and the dozen-or-so genetic lottery winners available annually is bigger than the 25-50 cohort and the next tier down.

Meanwhile the shoe money that funnels kids towards that restrictive list of bluebloods would now just be signing the top guys outright. The guys at the next level down would be choosing lower levels of bag if they eschew being developed by Beilein. I don't think it would upset the apple cart in college basketball that much; it would kill accidental superteams like "Anthony Davis and four other guys." Since Michigan was never going to get that guy, good.

PFF on Mo Hurst. They like him.

They like him almost as much as I do.

Mid-majors: yes. 8-10 P5 teams: no. Rodger Sherman on the dwindling role of the underdog mid-major:

Twenty years ago, in 1998, the committee gave out at-large bids to Western Michigan (from the Mid-American Conference) and Illinois-Chicago and Detroit-Mercy (from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now called the Horizon League). When George Mason stunned the world by reaching the Final Four as a no. 11 seed in 2006, it did so thanks to an at-large bid, having failed to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Same goes for 11th-seeded VCU in 2011, also an also-ran from the CAA. Between 1995 and 2005, UNC Charlotte made the tournament eight times despite winning the Conference USA tournament only twice. UNC Charlotte got six at-large bids in a span of 10 years!

If you’ll allow me to temporarily use a clumsy definition of “mid-major” for the purposes of this piece, let’s say the “mid-major” label applies any school that isn’t in one of the five football power conferences, their predecessors, or either the defunct or current versions of the Big East. In the 20 NCAA tournaments from 1995 to 2014, the selection committee extended at-large bids to an average of 8.9 schools fitting that definition, the high being 12 in 1995, 1998, and 2004. In half of those years at least 10 such teams landed at-large invitations. Since 2015, the committee has invited no more than seven such teams in a given year, bottoming out with last year’s four. You’d think this trend would be reversed, considering over that time frame the number of at-large bids has increased from 32 to 36 as the size of the tournament field has grown from 64 to 68. But no: With more available spots, the committee has rewarded fewer teams from mid-major leagues.

The NCAA should mandate no at large bids for a team that couldn't even win half its conference games. Only one good thing has ever happened because an 8-10 ACC team got in.

Lame. Michigan cancels the 2020-21 VT series, paying 400k to get out of it. In VT's place in 2020: Arkansas State. Something something it's smart because playoff, you say. And I say something something it's dumb because playoff, and we both have exactly the same amount of evidence.

Poole on JJJ. Jordan Poole and Jaren Jackson Jr played together at La Lumiere last year, and Poole thinks he knows that Jackson's out the door:

"I'm pretty sure I already know what his decision is," said Poole.

So, will the 19-year-old Jackson turn pro?

"For sure, I definitely think so, only because it’s an opportunity that not a lot of people are able to pass up. Being able to be in a situation like this, especially being in the lottery as a freshman and getting paid to play basketball, (which) is a dream, that’s definitely an opportunity that you have to take advantage of," Poole said.

You'd think this obvious since he's a top five pick who played fewer minutes in an NCAA tournament elimination than Ben Carter, but MSU people are putting it out there that Jackson is leaning towards returning. Izzo getting a lottery pick to return for more rebounding drills in football pads is almost as baffling as "anyone plays for Syracuse."

Etc.: How Villanova became VILLANOVA. KRACH tourney odds. Beilein, post-crash. Amateurism and Loyola. Title IX is no barrier to ending amateurism.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Is Waiting For The Package

Unverified Voracity Is Waiting For The Package Comment Count

Brian March 14th, 2018 at 1:51 PM

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Oguine is excellent both ways

Montana scouted. Andrew Kahn interviews the Eastern Washington head coach a couple days after EWU went down in the Big Sky title game:

The Grizzlies won the league with a 16-2 record not just because they're well coached but because of their athleticism, according to Legans. Michael Oguine, a 6-foot-2 guard, was the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference. "He's quick, athletic, and can guard anybody on the perimeter." …

"If you can pull their bigs away from the basket a little bit, then you make them play small and beat them up inside. I see those problems occurring with this game because Michigan's size and skill could hurt them bad."

Oguine combines that DPOY status with excellent offensive efficiency and will be the main guy to watch for the Griz.

Final pre-tourney shot volume. Michigan finishes 13th amongst P5 teams, and coupled with Michigan's stellar transition D this rather validates the approach:

For example, you’ll hear during the tournament that Duke is a swaggering beast of offensive rebounding might, and, sure enough, the Blue Devils do fit that description perfectly. But did you know that, with all those spectacular offensive boards, Mike Krzyzewski is merely equaling what a certain Big Ten coach is already doing with his less eye-catching yet highly effective low-turnover ways?

                         TO%     OR%     SVI
12. Duke                18.3    36.4     98.0
13. Michigan            13.6    24.5     98.0

So, yes, this can be a nifty item at times.

Potential S16 opponent North Carolina, unfortunately, finishes first.

Find me a single-atom violin. Ted Valentine will not be theatrically incorrect on your television sets this weekend:

Well-known NCAA referee Ted Valentine, who officiated the Final Four last season, will not be working NCAA tournament games this year -- and he told ESPN it's because of fallout from the incident in which he turned his back on North Carolina's Joel Berry II during a game in January.

"This is not right, it's just not fair," Valentine told ESPN. "It hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm being punished unjustly."

It is absolutely right, and absolutely fair, for the NCAA to make an example of Valentine after he did the Joel Berry thing. That was the worst breach of ref impartiality I can remember, and it came from a guy who fills out the rest of the top ten personally.

He'll no doubt be back next year unless his repeated public bitching sours the powers-that-be permanently. Any coach who talked about Valentine like Valentine has twice talked about his employers would be fined. Here he is complaining that the Big Ten is not professional enough for Ted Valentine:

Valentine, who had considered retirement after the Berry incident, said he was pulled off a pair of Big Ten games earlier this year because of the episode. Valentine had officiated primarily Big Ten games for 34 years, but said he began doing more ACC games two years ago because he lives in South Carolina and the travel was easier as he approached his 60s.

"It had nothing to do with the Big Ten," Valentine said. "The ACC handled it in the utmost professional manner. It was overblown, and no big deal."

Fire that guy into the sun and never have him work a Big Ten game again.

When the FBI can inject sensibility into your enterprise… The divers alarums and excursions you've been hearing from the direction of NCAA boardrooms has finally resolved itself into that greatest of problem solvers: the Task Force. The Pac-12 put one together; it put together a 51-page PDF that's actually kind of interesting* in that it acknowledges the relative helplessness of the NCAA and then puts forth a collection of proposals that sort of acknowledge this. Large themes:

  • Restrictions on coach-prospect contact should be significantly loosened. This includes allowing prospects to take an additional five official visits as a junior and
  • Agents should be more tolerated. Hockey and baseball have allowed formal contractual relationships with agents recently; the report suggests basketball should do the same. This is vastly overdue for a thousand reasons.
  • Eligibility should be less fragile. The reports specifically reference baseball as a sport where players retain eligibility "after being drafted," and later directly calls for the NBA to adopt the baseball model where you can go pro immediately out of high school but if you don't you're in college for at least three years. Chance NBA adopts this: zero. Maybe draft and follow would be a compromise?

The report also calls for an NCAA enforcement arm separate from the NCAA, which sounds like rearranging deck chairs to me.

The Task Force doesn't go anywhere near something radical but it is a baby step.

*[A sports car races by. I am pelted in the head with a snowball. A bro in a white baseball cap screams "NEEEEEEEEERD" as the car peels out, careening wildly.]

Shea in limbo. Shea Patterson's lawyer is also spearheading five other applications for immediately eligibility and tells CBS that Ole Miss is being rather petulant about all this:

Ole Miss actually received that [waiver-request] package as a courtesy from Michigan. Because it didn't officially come from the NCAA, the 10-day clock did not start ticking.

"So, from a technical rules perspective, despite having all the information for the past two weeks, Old Miss could continue to keep its position on the Shea Patterson waiver request to itself for at least another two weeks," Mars said.

"In the meantime, as everyone knows, the process is at a standstill."

For whatever reason the NCAA has not sent the package to Ole Miss, so it will be at least another two weeks before a determination is made, and probably longer than that.

This is not a Dave Brandon story. Toys R Us is going to liquidate. Whenever there's a Toys R Us story several people send it to me. Please stop doing this. I am aware of goings on at Toys R Us that reach the media. The thing about Toys R Us is that it's not a story about one man's over-arching incompetence setting everything on fire. It's a story about a patsy being installed at a doomed company so he can leech millions of dollars out of it for doing nothing:

In 2005, the Toys R Us board of directors sold the company for $6.6 billion to the private equity firms Bain Capital and KKR and the real estate investment firm Vornado. The firms put up about 20 percent of the total and borrowed the rest.

Toys R Us became a private company with more than $5 billion in debt. And then things went off the rails.

“The beginning of the problems for Toys was that Amazon.com exploded,” said Charlie O’Shea, lead retail analyst at Moody’s.

During the next five years, sales at Amazon quadrupled to $34 billion.

“Amazon went into the toy sector in a big way,” O’Shea said, and it “added one more big competitor for Toys R Us.”

To compete, Toys R Us would have had to invest significantly in its website and stores. But the retailer was using most of its available cash to pay back its debt. …

The private equity firms’ investors haven’t made money off this deal. But the firms themselves have. It’s unclear where Vornado ended up. But after collecting fees from Toys R Us, Bain and KKR each took home at least $15 million.

Brandon, the chump installed on this sinking ship in 2015, was compensated ridiculously:

Toys ‘R’ Us is seeking bankruptcy court permission to pay Dave Brandon, the company’s chief executive officer since 2015, a cash bonus of as much as $12 million for 2017, on top of a $2.8 million “retention” bonus he received just before the company filed for bankruptcy in September, according to court filings.

Moreover, Mr. Brandon would be entitled to receive 40% of that bonus, or $4.8 million, within the first quarter of 2018.

A Toys “R” Us spokeswoman said that the company’s plan to pay millions of dollars to Mr. Brandon is in line with common practice in restructurings. “This type of plan is standard practice for a company involved in a restructuring and in this case rewards team members at all levels of the company,” she said.

You know this guy is an idiot, and it is crystal clear that nothing he did at a doomed company helped it an iota. But because he's bros with Mitt Romney he gets an eight-digit payday. That is one of many reasons income inequality has skyrocketed. Because it doesn't matter if you'd lose a spelling contest to a mop once you've got cronies high up.

Etc.: Fergus Connolly makes an entrance, also an exit. Shooting talent and FTs. The story of how the FBI got on the trail of college basketball is a typically bizarre one. Daily profiles Cooper Marody. Scrimmage observations.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Sticks Around

Unverified Voracity Sticks Around Comment Count

Brian June 15th, 2017 at 12:28 PM

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Harbaugh goes to Washington. I would have enjoyed the look on his face if a senator asked him to stick to sports:

"Many of you are probably wondering why a football coach is speaking at an event like this. I may be a football coach, but I am an American first and foremost -- and all Americans should care about equal access to justice," Harbaugh said. "To me, it's not just about Michigan -- go blue -- it's about 'go red, white and blue.'

"The issue is about fairness, fundamental fairness. As I see it, if you have money, you have access to justice. If you don't have money, you have less access to justice. That's not the way it should work."

Harbaugh, who says he's always been a fan of lawyers -- from several of his personal friends to the famous "Judge Judy" -- said he became involved with LSC after attending a forum that showed him how many Americans are "left out" of the justice system due to their inability to afford proper legal representation.

Jim Harbaugh has to be the only guy on the planet who can say "I've always been a fan of lawyers" with seeming sincerity.

Bakich stays. Erik Bakich led Michigan to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years and got 11 Wolverines drafted this offseason, a program record. This got him an interview at South Carolina and a job offer from Stanford. He turned the latter down:

I'm not a baseball guy but the impression I get is that this is somewhere between a surprise and a shock. Zach Shaw has a post at 24/7 with some details:

1) This can be considered a huge win for Michigan: As blunt as it sounds, I liken Michigan baseball to a BYU or Minnesota football. It has some history to it, but generally a fringe top-25 finish and semi-regular postseason play is probably the highest realistic expectation thanks to geography, scholarships and other factors. Anything above that should be seen as truly special.

In baseball, out-of-state recruiting is extremely tough at Michigan; thanks to the low scholarship limit (12.5 scholarships for a 33-man roster, per the NCAA) teams often use a half-scholarship option. But if a player from, for example, Georgia is offered a half-scholarship to Michigan (cost of attending would be about $23,000), it would much cheaper for him to walk-on at Georgia (about $12,000). ….

Factor in the fact that few elite players come from the state of Michigan, and the Wolverines are at a huge disadvantage. Somehow, Bakich bucked that trend, pulling in top-25 classes every year (depending on the site, of course, but even being in the ballpark is unprecedented territory) and consequently a top-25 team this past year. The team went from 22 wins pre-Bakich to 29, 32, 39, 36, 42 in his first five seasons.

Simply put, if you luck into a coach like that — let alone one that isn't even 40 years old — keeping him away from more established programs with more baseball success (and money) is an exception, not a rule.

The general reaction to the Kendall Rogers tweet asserting that Bakich turned down Stanford is "WTF?!" Suffice it to say that this is a weird one. But a good one. (Also Big Ten baseball should leave the NCAA and play through the summer with full rides for all, but I say that every time baseball comes up.)

Bombs away. Oh look, Don Brown:

The other teams on that list are desperately undermanned outfits blitzing out of desperation. Michigan is the only team that is actually good at D.

Prelude to an 18-team conference. The Big Ten is thinking about extending the conference schedule to 20 games. That barely dents the huge imbalanced schedule issues going to 14 imposed: you'd still play half the league once annually instead of twice. That might create enough room to protect rivalries like Indiana-Purdue and Michigan State-Common Human Decency, and therefore slightly juice TV revenues. There might be other reasons to do it but none that the front office gives a good goddang about.

The real solution is to add one game, not two, and play it Scottish Premiere League style:

Alternative: 19 game conference schedule.

PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin. Rutgers is relegated to the Big East every year.

PROS: Absolutely fair. Winner is undisputed. Makes Big Ten title a huge important deal. Final six games for teams that make upper half would be knock-down drag out brutal free-for-all for league title. Would give top teams impregnable schedule strength. You could televise the schedule draw with Ronaldo and Messi in suits.

CONS: May cost league NCAA bids if the best team in the bottom half can't get any marquee wins in the last six games or the worst team in the top half just gets blitzed. Bottom half is just kind of sadly playing out the string. Uncertainty about final three home games may impact ticket sales negatively. Extremely distant possibility that the 8th best team 13 games in can climb all the way to the top.

In conclusion, anything that amps up the value of the regular season is good. Play For Stuff.

Or you could fix 2/9ths of the problem.

Rome costs. To the university, zero. To the anonymous donor, 800k. Manuel did a good job pre-empting complaints that this was a waste of money:

“It will be about $5,000 to $6,000 a person, so it was a great investment. It was just terrific. We pay them through an educational experience like Michigan does all the time. I don’t think about it in terms of paying our athletes but if people want to say we should give something to our students of value, I can’t think of a better way to invest in them for their lifetime and their experience.”

Manuel said the donor still does not want to be identified. Donors often make large contributions to athletics, and the donor can specify where the money should go or it’s used at the discretion of the department.

“We utilized the money he gave us,” Manuel said. “It was an unrestricted donation.”

Big time athletic programs spend a lot of money on diamond waterfalls and the like; this was much more educational and directly beneficial to players. Michigan shouldn't apologize for offering them whatever they can. They're not.

The loophole. You can't hire a football coach associated with a prospect, at least not if you want to recruit that high school for four years. (Two prior to the hire, two after.) But you can hire a dude's dad. I'm not trying to imply MSU did anything shady here because the dude in question is clearly qualified, but they signed Cody White this year; the year before they hired his dad as a staffer. Sheldon, the elder White, is coming off two decades for the Lions and is thus 100% qualified to join a trainwreck. It did jump out at me when MSU shook up its staff.

So. Actual football coaches cannot get entry level jobs because it might taint recruiting. But stuff like Ole Miss hiring Shea Patterson's brother or Tennessee hiring Trey Smith's sister(!) is still fine and dandy per NCAA rules. I'm not surprised, but I feel like I should be.

Etc.: Jordan Morgan back in the area after a 3-year Euroleague stint. This quiz is absurd but it only wants you to get five right. I got 9.5, because this is my job. I am angry at myself for knowing where Pop Evil hails from.

Harbaugh still not a fan of playing on Friday. VICE on amateurism. Spoiler: still a scam. Ian Boyd ranks college DCs; Don Brown comes in second to Brent Venables.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Humps The Shark

Unverified Voracity Humps The Shark Comment Count

Brian June 5th, 2017 at 12:44 PM


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Jim McElwain, right. Used vacuum salesman, left.

Oh, man, this one's a doozy. I stopped calling people "horseface" around the time that Dennis Dodd toned it down sufficiently to blend in with the great mass of lukewarm take columnists. There has been a long hiatus from "look at this crazy thing Dennis Dodd wrote," then. That détente can last no longer after this:

"I think its an indictment upon society to be honest with you," he said during the SEC spring meetings here at the Hilton Sandestin.

Of course it is. The man who has won consecutive SEC East titles -- a family man with a couple of national championship rings -- suddenly found himself disproving a negative.

" … It effects family, it effects my employer because of something that is totally not true or has any basis," McElwain continued. "I will say this: At least it [looked like] me and not someone else in our program. I'll take [the hits]."

When Naked Shark Guy hit CFB twitter his vague resemblance to Jim McElwain was a covfefe: a short-lived, timeline-intensive twitter joke that burns itself out in a day or so. Nobody ever seriously thought that Naked Shark Guy was McElwain—his hair is too curly and his teeth insufficiently alarming. And yet here's this Dennis Dodd column that takes McElwain's strained protestations with the seriousness of a threat on the Queen's life:

McElwain, 55, is a stand-up guy like most coaches in his position. He's used to putting out fires, making snap decisions, taking blame when it is fair. But in the blink of moment, he became a social media victim.

The photo, of course, was not of McElwain. One report said had he had been "vindicated." Of what? Vindication is defined as, "clearing someone of blame or suspicion."

Except there was no blame to clear, no crime committed. The only connection was our brains seeing a resemblance and somehow believing McElwain was capable of such a pose. 

Unfortunately, the default setting on the Twitterverse was that had to be Florida's coach. Right?

No, you complete ninny, no. Dodd manages to get so upset about people making jokes about someone who nobody thinks is humping a shark that he self-refutes:

What's the big deal jumping to conclusions about a shark, a boat and a coach?

Common human decency, for one thing. When it was determined the man on the shark was reportedly a former NYPD officer, one wag wrote, "We finally have proof of what appears to be McElwain's innocence."

What about assuming his innocence instead of what looked like a badly Photoshopped pic? Instead, that indicted society McElwain spoke of took it way too far.

The whole thing is a magnificent edifice of farts based on a deliberate misunderstanding of jokes on twitter. Spurred by McElwain, certainly. His reaction to the situation improves my opinion of Michigan's chances this fall—this is not the reaction of the sharpest knife in the drawer…

"Ultimately, what do you want me to say?" McElwain said. "It's not me. I felt bad for my family and the university because … really?

"Here I am getting some real bad personal attacks. How ridiculous is that?"

…but there is some water too silly to carry. Or at least there should be.

Follow Harbaugh around and he gives you news. Jim Harbaugh can be odd and standoffish at press conferences—or even entirely absent, as he was after the spring game—but if you travel a long distance to be where he is, he spits out newsbits like mad. Satellite camp season is an opportunity to do this, and sure enough we've got some extra insight into next year's team.

We've mentioned walk-on slot receiver Nate Schoenle as a potential contributor; Harbaugh offers up some additional information on him:

"Nate Schoenle -- he continues to grade out as the top guy right now," Harbaugh said. "The competition is really going to rage on."

Harbaugh further confirmed that Ben Mason was a fullback and Brad Hawkins was maybe probably definitely going to play defense. On Hawkins:

"Brad Hawkins could be a safety." …

"What's transpired though: Don Brown got to him," Harbaugh mused. "Don Brown said that he talked to Brad and Brad wanted to play safety. I accuse Don Brown of some recruiting going on there. We haven't investigated the whole thing yet. But I think it's a little of both."

The WR flood and relative dearth of safeties always made that move likely, especially after Michigan realized it wasn't going to cram its class full with other guys and circled back on Oliver Martin. It's official enough that we've moved him to safety on the Depth Chart By Class.

FWIW, Hawkins did play both ways in high school, making 53 tackles as a senior at Camden.

Finally, Harbaugh announced that Grant Perry had rejoined the team:

"He's back working out with the team," Harbaugh told reporters following a coaches' satellite camp at John Carroll University, according to the Detroit Free Press.

He has a court date July 17th. I'd imagine that will be some sort of plea or diversion.

Two conferences with a scheduling agreement. The current state of the 14-team, 8-game SEC:

To be fair to Alabama, Nick Saban appears to be the only coach in the league who actually wants to go to nine games. (Because playing Tennessee is basically the same as playing Chattanooga to Bama.) That is still mindblowing. The problem is extensive and has no solutions. Auburn's trying to find one by moving to the East, where Alabama would not be a perpetual roadblock to the championship game, and that causes more problems than it solves.

The Big Ten going to 14 was immensely dumb but at least they didn't compound that error by continuing to have eight-game conference seasons with protected crossover games.

Real Housecoaches Of Destin. Meanwhile in the SEC, everyone is livid with the new, very boring recruiting rules, and they've got laughably flimsy reasons why!

Bielema said it wasn’t smart to host official visits during the spring of a prospect’s junior year, which is arguably the most important one academically.

They've got an astounding lack of perspective!

"I think it's reckless, really," Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze said.

They haven't yet muzzled their commissioner!

"I just fail to see how those things are the right decisions for football overall," Sankey said. "Those are the things that I'm not sure we got right."

They have even more flimsy reasons!

"December is a pretty busy time in the world of college football from a hiring standpoint," Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. "And you're now going to introduce that in the middle of young people making decisions? Plus you're pushing up the evaluation process, which I can't see how that's good for the young person or for the team."

Would Bret Bielema allow a recruit to visit Arkansas unofficially during the new official window? Dozens do annually. Do SEC coaches offer and accept commitments from kids two or three years out from this December signing window? Dozens annually. Does Greg Sankey interpret "football overall" as "the SEC"? Absolutely.

It's nice to see Waffle House Nation splutter about rule changes they don't like instead of rules Jim Harbaugh isn't breaking for a change.

Last one out of East Lansing please conclude the investigation. MSU has lost another couple members of the secondary:

Sophomore safety Kenney Lyke told ESPN on Saturday that he planned to transfer to Mississippi Delta Community College in hopes of eventually landing at an SEC school in the future. A day earlier, Michigan State confirmed that redshirt sophomore Kaleel Gaines was also leaving the program.

Rumor has it that several more folks are on their way out. There are the three players under sexual assault investigation and a couple more potential academic casualties. There's a real possibility MSU goes into this year with 75 scholarship players, the last eight or so freshman who MSU picked off from the likes of Temple in their late scramble to fill their class. Prospects for a bounce-back are dim.

Zaire incoming. The SEC did tweak their transfer rule so that former ND QB Malik Zaire could land at UF; he duly announced that was his destination shortly after. This is of interest to Georgia blog Get The Picture for obvious reasons, so Mr. Blutarsky took a look at Zaire's relatively brief on-field history:

He was spectacular in that Texas game, no doubt, finishing with a passer rating over 250.  It was all downhill from there, though, as he only threw one more pass in all of 2016 than he did against the Longhorns, on his way to posting a 106.73 passer rating as the back up.

He does bring something to the position that Florida’s lacked under McElwain:  mobility. …

if Zaire is supposed to usher in a new era, there isn’t a lot of time to restructure the offense to tailor it to his strengths, or, alternatively, for Zaire to learn Nussmeier’s system.  None of which is to say it’s not useful to sign an experienced quarterback.  Before Zaire’s arrival, Florida was looking at a choice of Luke Del Rio, himself a transfer, recovering from an injury that caused him to miss half the regular season, and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who had a nice spring game, and… did I mention he had a nice spring game?

This would terrify me if it was ten years ago, when Michigan was still deep in their total inability to defend a mobile quarterback. It's still unsettling: first game with ten new starters, one returning starter is not a great space player. Don Brown has shifted Michigan to a 4-2-5 featuring a bullet LB in Devin Bush, though. Hopefully those issues will be mitigated even when Michigan's defense isn't the overwhelming unit they were a year ago.

I'll take it. Chris Dilks profiles Joshua Norris, NHL draft hopeful, and comes out with an encouraging comp:

As a player comparison, Norris reminds me a lot of JT Compher. Both are super-competitive two-way centers. Compher was ranked right around the same range for the NHL Draft(he ended up going 35th overall in 2012) after putting up similar numbers with the NTDP. Compher blew up offensively in his junior season at Michigan, thanks in part to some great linemates, but still projects as more of a solid role player at the NHL level. The same is likely true for Norris. He projects as a nice player at the NHL level, especially if he can remain at the center position, but one that probably tops out as a second or third line player, rather than a true star.

Adding a Compher-alike to any team would improve it, and Michigan more than most after last year's disaster. FWIW, Norris just competed at the NHL draft combine and killed it:

image

I don't think the combine is a big deal for draft position but that should at least indicate that Norris is ready to make an immediate impact.

Etc.: NCAA rules kill Sound Mind, Sound Body. Signs you may be in the middle of a Florida football season.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Wants Stanford To Go Away

Unverified Voracity Wants Stanford To Go Away Comment Count

Brian May 10th, 2017 at 1:15 PM

i (2)

GO AWAY

Early signing react: meh? I'm generally opposed to moving up the football signing period because it does little other than accelerate decisions that could use some more time, but adding a 3-day window in late December is a nothingburger. Almost all firings happen immediately after the regular season, so the chance players get locked into the wrong coaching staff is minimal. (Assistants can leave, of course, but they do that in the immediate aftermath of the February signing day now and will continue to do so.)

There is some clarity for soft commits and guys who are about to be processed: even Erik Swenson would probably get the hint if Michigan did not send him a LOI in December. That's a minor positive.

More important for Michigan is an ancillary change:

Northern teams could benefit, since in conjunction with the new date, the NCAA includes a rule that prospects will be allowed to take official visits (paid for by the school, and accompanied by a parent or high school coach) in April through June. This allows schools in cold climates to show a different, warmer side to top recruits.

I don't think the weather is the biggest thing for Northern teams. Kids from the South do understand that summer exists, I imagine. The biggest thing is just getting kids on campus. Talent is concentrated in the south, and many kids try to get decisions out of the way before their senior years. That change makes taking a trip to Ann Arbor much easier financially.

Also in slight boosts, Stanford might be hurt by the change:

For Stanford, an early signing period could indeed be catastrophic. It would face a situation in which talented, smart players want to sign early and take advantage of strong academics and be a part of the burgeoning football program, but could not allow them to sign because they are still far from clearing admissions. Those players, not willing to wait around, would lock up spots at other schools and Stanford's recruiting would take a hit.

These days virtually every player Stanford takes is a guy who would otherwise be a strong candidate to end up in Michigan's class. I keep waiting for them to implode, but nah.

There's also another NCAA proposal in the works that would slightly tighten up oversigning restrictions:

The legislation would limit to 25 the number of prospects whose aid is initially offered in the fall term of an academic year. Current rules limit to 25 the number of prospects allowed to sign from Dec. 1 through May 31.

A prospect whose scholarship paperwork specifies that he’ll be offered aid in the second or third term of an academic year may count toward the current academic year or the next year.

Transfers and walk-ons count. That ends "blueshirting", wherein a player does not sign but is promised a scholarship immediately on arrival. Blueshirting is a way to dodge these signing limits. This would make the 25 cap have more teeth, though early enrollment makes it a soft cap.

Michigan took advantage of that softness the past two years, taking 26 and 30 kids. They backdated six kids from the 2016 class and five from the 2017 class so that their initial counters in both years were exactly 25. They're now out of room to do that so 25 should be a hard cap for them this year—not that they're expected to get there.

Withdraw! Withdraw! ESPN had a draft conference call yesterday to plug the fact that they're televising the NBA combine—wonders never cease—and both guys on it were pretty blunt about what Michigan's two potential early entries should do:

Goodman: “The NBA guys I talked to said, ‘Moe Wagner, come back.’ It’s great that he played well at the end of the year, but it was a small sample size and they said, ‘He’s got good upside, but come back and become a better rebounder, become a better defender.'”

Fraschilla: “Neither (Wilson nor Wagner) is physically ready for the NBA. … DJ is really interesting because he’s the quintessential ‘3 and D’ big guy right now. He shoots threes and he’s got great length to defend. But even he got bullied inside. DJ could get drafted in the first round, late, but he ain’t playing in an important NBA game for at least a couple of years.”

We had an animated Slack conversation about this yesterday: Wilson would start his clock earlier if he entered this year, and some second round picks are getting guaranteed contracts these days. But if Fraschilla's right and he's going to spend a couple years not even playing that gives him a relatively narrow window to establish himself before he'd be a free agent. If the financial argument is relatively close, Wilson may want to spend a year playing for a Big Ten title and NCAA tournament run than hanging with the Fort Wayne Mad Antz or watching from the bench.

While we're on basketball rostering stuff, Rivals' Corey Evans talks to OH SF Jerome Hunter:

Michigan: “Me and coach Saddi Washington, we are real close, too. I talk to him pretty much every day about life. I like Michigan. They have good facilities and good academics."

He said nearly identical things (minus the academics) about OSU, Xavier, and Pitt; Evans says it's "anyone's guess" where he lands but most of the chatter at Spiece was about Michigan.

OH PF Pete Nance draws some lofty comparisons in this Andrew Kahn article. Michigan has a guy in their corner in his recruitment: Pete Hassinger, Jon Teske's former coach and a guy who has coached Nance on the AAU circuit:

Hassinger has gotten to know Beilein well over the past few years and admits he is biased towards the Wolverines. “It’s a great basketball program and great university. You come out of there with an unbelievable degree; it’s so prestigious.”

Nance "doesn't want to post up 50 times a game," sooooo... yeah. /waves

Five out. Kevin O'Connor writes about the evolution of the NBA 5, and it looks very familiar. Al Horford, a center and career 35% 3-point shooter, is the focus:

“[Al Horford’s] value to this team — you can’t describe it. It’s bigger than the stat sheet.” This was Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, speaking after his 53-point performance in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington last week. Thomas got all the glory. Statistically, Horford was ordinary, scoring just 15 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and handing out three assists. But Horford was anything but a big-money bystander: The center’s play beyond the box score was an example of the immense impact stretch 5s can make across the league, even when they aren’t posting lofty numbers.

In previous eras, contenders relied on big men as a consistent source of offense. But in the new league, the most important thing someone like Horford can do for his team is to space the floor and make plays when he needs to. Young bigs across the league could learn a lot by watching Boston’s big man.

It is not a coincidence that Derrick Walton, who was terrible inside the arc as a sophomore and junior, had a huge uptick in his ability to get to the basket with the advent of Michigan's all stretch five lineups. Any center Michigan put on the floor, whether it was Wagner, Wilson, or Donnal, was not a person you should leave open from three. Pick and pop became a bigger facet of the offense than it had been under Beilein and the lane became a cavern.

Hopefully Nance (and Mo Bamba) are perusing this article as we speak.

Wayne Lyons 2.0? Michigan is looking for a grad transfer or two, and they've apparently settled on a target:

Wiggins started as a nickelback in 2014, missed 2015 with an ACL tear, and was sparingly used a year ago. Michigan is apparently set at the various spots Wiggins might fit in at but they have nothing but true freshmen behind the projected starters and could use a dime back a la Tyree Kinnel a year ago.

I'm still a little puzzled they didn't go after one of the tackles on the market. Must not have liked their film at all.

Yes please. I can't actually read this article because I don't subscribe to "Columbus Business First" but apparently OSU is considering a 4k seat rink for its hockey programs. This would be a massive improvement over the current situation where OSU plays in their basketball arena, which is almost as empty as your average NCAA regional game is.

Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all sporting new coaches who should be an improvement over the previous regime's performance during the Big Ten era; OSU appears to be fixing the biggest problem with their program; Notre Dame joins next year. Big Ten Hockey is set to go from a joke to a powerhouse. And they even fixed the playoff system (for the most part)!

The problem. Think of all the stuff ESPN televises. Surely no one live event is a significant part of the whole, right?

On the flip side, ESPN’s costs for content have skyrocketed to well over $7 billion a year, more than any competitor, according to projections from Boston Consulting Group and SNL Kagan. That compares to $5 billion by Netflix and $4.3 billion by NBC. Rights to “Monday Night Football” alone cost ESPN $1.9 billion a year, not to mention hefty deals with the NCAA and NBA.

More than a quarter of ESPN's rights fees are for one game a week, for one third of the year. And those games are chosen before the season! That is nuts. [HT: Get The Picture.]

Etc.: Spread offenses make more cornerbacks appear. Channing Stribling on Michigan's fractured locker room and repairing it.

Comments

Rome Wrap: Feelingsball, Offense

Rome Wrap: Feelingsball, Offense Comment Count

Brian May 1st, 2017 at 1:34 PM

One of the nice things about Michigan dragging reporters a long distance is that Harbaugh has pity on them and opens practice. Last year the IMG trip saw three or four practices open to the public, and the just-concluded Rome trip finished with three as well. The first day in Rome was just shells and a walk-through since the team had downshifted from full-on padded practices after the spring game, but there's a fair amount of useful intel coming out of the latter two.

Feelingsball section

It would be hard for a trip to Rome to not look pretty cool for the croots; Michigan really hammered it home with all-access media coverage and an itinerary that ranged from seeing the sites to drinking out of public fountains...

...to paintball (in khakis, naturally)...

...to hanging with the Pope...

-cfe2dc7d77b923ed

...to coach-versus-coach gladiatorial contests:

It looked better than any vacation I've ever taken by an order of magnitude.

All of this was documented by Michigan's own social media team and a legion of reporters, with an embedded ESPN guy.

Quite a turnaround in public relations skills from the last regime, and all of it pushed by a guy who is also the football coach.

This no doubt had various SEC coaches seething in rage and there will be a proposal to ban or limit such things as soon as possible. Michigan chose wisely by going to the center of Western Civilization(tm) and meeting the freakin' Pope, but no educational argument is going to withstand the white-hot fury of a bunch of dudes who can't imagine why you'd ever go anywhere but Waffle House.

That would be sad, since this seemed like a life-enhancing experience in a way a week in central Florida is not.

Most of the players had never been overseas.

Senior fullback Khalid Hill, a Detroit native who attended East English Village, said his biggest takeaway from the trip was the learning experience.

“Coming over here, learning different things, seeing different things, it’s amazing,” Hill said. “It’s something you don’t usually get a chance to do. I can go back home and say, ‘Man, I’m a kid from Detroit that got a chance to come over here and play and practice.’

“Not too many kids from Detroit can say that, even kids from Michigan. To do that is amazing. I love the experience of my last spring ball.”

We'll see what happens, but when the NCAA's official site is promoting your trip...

ncaa

...you might have a shot. This is supposedly part of the NCAA's core mission.

Harbaugh’s motivation for the trip was to, as he has said on multiple occasions, put the student back in student-athlete. He has seen college football become a 12-month a year sport, and wanted the players to have some breathing room in May.

Many of the players are venturing off on backpacking trips for a few days before returning home, while others are leaving for three-week study-abroad programs.

Michigan plans to go to South Africa next year; let's hope they get to go.

Football section

Not enough data to go position by position but some additional practice buzz from folks who were in Rome mixed in with some standard insidery takes follow. There wasn't much on either line because of the nature of the practices, in which a lot of 7-on-7 was played while the linemen did drills.  7-on-7 is a lot more immediately comprehensible than line drills and thus understandably drew the bulk of attention from observers.

Nick Baumgardner's headliner was WR Tarik Black, who showed he can run a lot more than fade routes:

He caught a crossing route over the middle that was thrown high and behind him, with a defender on his hip, where it was simply all hands. The ball looked like a sure incompletion -- and in a live setting, maybe worse. But he was able to time his leap right, reach back and just glide through the catch. He has a unique ability to make difficult receptions look relatively easy.

For a first-year receiver, this seems rare. I've seen so many freshman receivers get into a camp -- whether it be in the spring or the fall -- and just look lost with their fundamentals. Black is not one of those guys.

Baumgardner threw in another Black mention in a subsequent article to emphasize his take, and Black also led Sam Webb's practice take roundup. Good news with a "right, still a freshman" twist:

Tarik Black looked impressive once again. At this point the coaches are really working him hard on route precision. Rounding off routes... standing up at the top of routes... things that he will improve upon in time. He's trying to learn the playbook while working on those things, so it's going to take some time. But he's too good right now to not see the field. He'll play. A lot.

Players ranked in Black's range are even less likely to be year one contributors than five-stars that hit at only a 33% rate (in year one), but enrolling early and impressing are big steps. One insider report has Black, not Donovan Peoples-Jones, starting next to Crawford if the season started today. It does not, and DPJ was limited for much of the spring with a series of minor injuries so he is a candidate to surge back into the lead. Black's prominence is worse news for Drake Harris and Moe Ways, neither of whom generated any spring buzz.

Quarterback is in a bit of a weird spot where... well, here's Sam describing the situation in an extensive board Q&A:

If you're asking me if what I've seen is further confirmation that Brandon is the most talented quarterback on the roster, my answer would be yes. No one is disputing that.  I don't think the quarterbacks themselves would dispute that.

Despite that everyone has Wilton Speight the clear leader for the job, as rising juniors who finished in a dead heat for second in the Big Ten in passer rating tend to be. A couple of turnovers he coughed up while playing with a busted collarbone and a big-time spring game from Brandon Peters have everyone and their mother clamoring for the backup. The many upward pointing arrows on various parts of Peters's profile don't mean he's a favorite, or even particularly likely, to wrest the job away this fall. If Speight struggles or get hurt, I don't expect last year's Indiana game.

As far as the projected starter goes, he was locked in on Friday for the second practice:

On Friday, though, he was dealing.

Once Michigan cranked up the intensity of practice and got a little bit more live, Speight seemed to settle right into a groove and made some really, really impressive throws.

He hit a 25-yard corner route to a receiver in stride -- inside an air-tight window -- on an absolutely beautiful throw.

Pep Hamilton thought so, too.

"That's what we gotta do," Hamilton belted, pumping his fist into the air and slapping Speight on the back after the throw.

From there, he was on the money the rest of the day.

This is both a reminder that the spring game is a weak indicator and a throwback to last year, when Speight had spurts where he looked like the best QB in the country... and spurts where he looked like Michigan's biggest problem. I may be thinking of several deep balls that landed about four yards too long one night in Iowa City.

My operative theory last year was that the Harbaugh-ized version of Speight is a very, very good QB but he reverted to previous bad habits too often. If that is the case and the guy who is spooky accurate goes from 40 of snaps to 70% this year Michigan will have a hell of a passing game. Don't write off Speight yet.

Finally in passing game notes: Ian Bunting is still the expected starter as an inline TE, with Tyrone Wheatley's blocking still inconsistent.

Interestingly, Zach Gentry was mentioned as the starting FLEX, which is probably good news. Nick Eubanks has looked impressive this spring, so Gentry potentially forcing his way onto the field says good things about his ability to deliver matchup problems to opposing defenses.  He's not far off Mike Gesicki, the Penn State tight end. Gesicki is the only football player in history worse at TE blocking than Devin Funchess, but 48 catches for 679 is outstanding receiving output.

Offensive line is status quo: Cole/Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu/Runyan, with JBB held out of contact in Rome. Per Baumgardner, Bredeson did take some tackle snaps but his impression was that Michigan was relatively set with that line, give or take a freshman at right tackle. Per Webb there's good news and bad news here, with Cole "going toe to toe with Rashan Gary" and Ben Bredeson improving a great deal. On the downside, Mike Onwenu's weight is still an issue and Michigan is insisting he get down to 360.

I have a dollar on Andrew Stueber as the opening day RT, FWIW.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Underestimated The Power Of The Mississippi State Legislature

Unverified Voracity Underestimated The Power Of The Mississippi State Legislature Comment Count

Brian January 19th, 2017 at 2:42 PM

26099363392_e81e040ed3_z (1)

[Eric Upchurch]

Going to be a dodgy year on the OL. Steve Lorenz reports that Grant Newsome has a "minimal" chance of playing in 2017. That is not good. If that's the case you just about have to slide Ben Bredeson outside and run with something like Bredeson/Kugler/Cole/Onwenu/Somebody.

You'd think the leader to be Somebody would be redshirt sophomore-to-be Nolan Ulizio. Ulizio didn't look particularly good when he got in this fall; I've heard that he had mono and was down to 260 at one point. He bounced back during the fall but only to 280. He could surge forward once he gets to the right weight.

A bountiful draft. The NFL's website names Michigan the team poised to send the most talent to the NFL draft:

Early rounds: EDGE Taco Charlton, CB Jourdan Lewis, S Jabrill Peppers, DE Chris Wormley
Middle rounds: TE Jake Butt (injury), WR Amara Darboh, OT Erik Magnuson, RB De'Veon Smith
Late rounds: OG Ben Braden, WR Jehu Chesson, LB Ben Gedeon, DT Ryan Glasgow, S Delano Hill, OG Kyle Kalis, CB Channing Stribling, S Dymonte Thomas

I'd be surprised if Braden and Kalis got picked but everyone else has a real shot of going off the board. Charlton appears to be surging up draft boards to the point where debatably silly things are being said about him:

This is a draft with Myles Garrett in it, so that's a thing.

Harbaugh stories. Chase Goodbread collects them from Michigan players at the Shrine game:

"One time, he told us as a kid he got hit by a mail truck and was in a cast, and was still playing football with it. Then they had to rebreak it -- I can't remember if it was his foot or his arm -- because he kept playing on it and made it worse. I mean, who gets hit by a mail truck? It could only be you, coach Harbaugh." - DB Dymonte Thomas

Screaming works? 538 tracks penalties by which sideline they're thrown on and the results are not encouraging if you're the kind of person who believes people are in charge of things for a reason:

lopez-sideline-1

lopez-sideline-2

This is NFL data and so not directly applicable to college, but you'd think college refs would be even more susceptible to these sorts of things since they're drawn from a wider pool and are probably less capable on average than NFL refs.

So: the defense gets called for "aggressive" penalties ("unnecessary roughness, personal fouls, unsportsmanlike conduct, and horse-collar tackles" per the article) 30-40% more often when there are people complaining nearby.

Meanwhile the holding graph is very strange since the effect inverses once you approach the goal line. The only mechanism there is revenge(!) as side judges who are now far away from the screaming maniacs exact their price. Maybe it evens out for holding.

Not that anyone calls holding anymore. This was one of the main takeaways from the Film Room broadcast of the national title game: Alabama scores thanks to an edge block on which a defender is yanked to the ground; someone exclaims that is a hold; the assembled coaches all laugh about the fact that nobody calls holding any more.

Tracing Michigan's ground game issues. De'Veon Smith is performing impressively at the Shrine game practices:

One of the best players at the East-West Shrine this week has been Michigan running back De'Veon, Smith and he had a tremendous practice on Wednesday. ... Both his route and the blocking earned Smith some a lot of praise from the coaching staff. In the team scrimmage, he also broke off a few chunk runs, weaving his way through defenders with quickness, balance, and vision.

Scouting sources told WalterFootball.com that Smith could be the best offensive prospect on the East team, and he has had a tremendous week to help his draft stock.

Also:

It would be nice if Michigan's problems were because of Smith since he's out the door and Michigan has a number of guys who look like viable replacements; I don't think that's the case, and his rising draft stock concurs. Michigan has a major build job on the offensive line to undertake. Related: TTB has a breakdown of the guys who Michigan recruited and their destinies.

I guess this is fine. Football is set to get a slightly early signing period:

The Division I Football Oversight Committee is moving forward with a proposal that would open a 72-hour signing period for high school recruits in December. The timeframe would correspond with the current December signing time for junior college recruits.

But the committee isn’t recommending an early-signing time for recruits in June.

That "early" period is still after everyone's season, so most of the coaching changes will have already transpired. I didn't like the rumored June signing period since it was inane to lock guys in before they could take official visits and before the firing season.

While the June date didn't make it, an artifact of those earlier discussions may have wormed its way through anyway:

As part of the committee’s proposal, rules on official visits for recruits would also be modified. Recruits would be allowed to take official visits from April-June of their junior years, two months earlier than initially proposed.

That's good for Michigan, which will be able to get early-deciding kids on campus more easily now.

Midterm CSB rankings. Michigan-relevant players ranked by the NHL's central scouting board:

  • F Josh Norris: #46
  • D Luke Martin: #67

...and that's it. Mike Pastujov, who was hyped as a potential first-rounder, is not on the list. The cavalry is not coming next year.

Shooting a gun with no bullets in it. There is a Mississippi state senator who thinks he has a magic wand:

Mississippi Rep. Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia) has proposed a new House Bill that would surely benefit Ole Miss’ current recruiting woes: The National Collegiate Athletic Association Fairness in F.A.C.T Investigation Act of 2017.

Lamar, a former Rebels walk-on running back from the early 2000s, is pushing a bill giving the NCAA one year to complete its investigation once it notifies a school of possible rules violations, according to a report from WCBI News.

NCAA: "Or what?"
TREY LAMAR:  "Or I shall name a bill at you a second time!"

This is not how state government works, Trey Lamar. FWIW, various coaches at AFCA project that Ole Miss will find out their fate in 2-3 months, and that it will not be pretty. Or it will, because NCAA.

Etc.: Fired Alabama DL coach Bo Davis talks to AL.com, attempts to spin a tale about how his firing was for one violation of the bump rule, cumong man. Analyst Rick Finotti gets the head job at DIII John Carroll. Dumb, but important. The playoff is good. Willis Ward and the track captaincy. Recruiting rankings are getting better because of Hudl. Yost, 1946.

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