This week: Previously we did the five-stars so “Only recruiting rankings matter!” guy can send that to his three-star-loving pal. Now it’s “Recruiting rankings don’t matter!” guy’s turn to forward a link that proves nothing except we’re short on #content in the offseason. Also it’s badly named because I’m including 2-stars. Also also it’s going to be more focused on their recruiting stories since you probably know enough about their Michigan careers.
Rules: There are two ways to make an all-under-recruited list: a) the best of all those who qualified, or b) performance relative to recruiting rankings. I think b) is more fun, but you end up leaving off too-obvious candidates. I’m going with a combination of both: best eligible player for how I construct my team, but if it’s close the lower-ranked recruit gets in.
Also it’s by college production, not NFL.
Cutoff Point: Had to be less than a 3.9-star based on my composite recruiting database—which goes back to 1990—who earned a scholarship. For reference that means Carlo Kemp is eligible and Jibreel Black is not. To avoid guys that one scouting service just ignored we’re leaving out anyone who made a top-250 list for two or more services or anyone’s top-100 (which means Mike Hart is disqualified because HE WASN’T A THREE-STAR except to the two services that left online databases.) Also not doing special teams because they’re always rated 3-stars.
Preemptive Shut Up, Stars Don’t Matter Guy: There were 278 players who fit the criteria in my database, compared to 93 who got any kind of fifth star, so if you’re comparing this team to the team of blue chips remember you have to sing three times as many players to get this level of quality. For reference here are the fates of Michigan recruits 1990-2018 by recruiting ranking:
Rating as Recruit
2- or 3-star
Conclusion: Recruiting rankings matter, but they’re just a guideline
Quarterback: Tom Brady
Yes I did say this is only based on college production. I admit to being a “Put in Henson” guy, right up until a few games into 1999. Michigan that year had OL problems due to injury and Tom Brady was surviving while Henson was constantly getting driven from the pocket. The MSU game—a loss—sealed it as Brady nearly brought Michigan back from a massive deficit.
As a recruit he was on the borderline between three and four stars. His video is out there too if you want to see what the scouts did, which was a crisp passer with a great feel for the game and tiny chicken legs you’re afraid will snap the first time he’s sacked. USC had first pick of Cali QBs, could get five-star Quincy Woods, and over the strong objections of OC Mike Riley, took local boy John Fox as their second dude even though then-USC head coach was, like Brady, a Serra alum. UCLA took Cade McNown so Brady’s second option was out. Stanford was in the area but chose Chad Hutchinson and Tim Smith, whom Lemming rated just behind Brady.
By then however Brady was a senior and Michigan had had him on campus and made him their first target for 1995 QB. Moeller (Excalibur was a few months in the future) and QB coach Kit Cartright already had a stocked QB room between Scot Loeffler, Jay Riemersma, Brian Griese, and Scott Dreisbach, so they were staying out of the crazy battles over Dan Kendra and Bobby Sablehaus, the #1 and 2 overall players, in the class. Michigan’s other real target was Chad Plummer, who went to Cincy.
Honorable Mention: John Navarre, Brian Griese (who technically walked on but only because his dad offered to pay), Wilton Speight, Scott Dreisbach, Jake Rudock
[After THE JUMP: I post the 313 video again, twice]
Last call for XMas tales. PEOPLE OF EARTH: FAILURE IS IMMINENT. No, this isn't about Dave Brandon. This is about YOU. If you order TODAY a copy of Hail To Old Blue will get to its proper location by Christmas.
Or you can pick up a copy at Underground Printing, Literati, or Nicola's. All of them are fine establishments containing our book. Literati also has unauthorized copies of Crag Ross's books. (To be clear: they are unauthorized by Literati, because Craig just signs them and drops them off.)
The inscrutable crocodile. As the kind of person who sits in his bunker and plots various ways to destroy my mortal enemy Instagram whilst almost entirely ignoring the NFL, this insane thing has eluded my attention for far longer than anything that could cause this picture to exist should:
Tom Brady's slow descent into madness is now manifesting itself as a series of bizarre webcomics that involve centaur, jockey, and Captain Planet versions of Brady himself, some sort of pudgy leprechaun who is about to touch his nipples, Walker Space Ranger, a crocodile dressed like Captain Picard during a holodeck episode, several anime animals engaging in some sort of... activity, and—most bizarrely—Gronk in a lab coat pouring what I can only assume is trademarked, patented GronkJuice(tm) onto a chicken wing.
That paragraph was one sentence.
Anyway. This clearly needs a crack investigative team breaking down the ins, outs, what-have-yous, and thoughtcrimes being committed. Charlotte Wilder was born for this job.
Speaking of lasers, the plans inside the Dolphins’ briefcase appear to be for some sort of giant, inter-galactic laser.
Oh my god, do you think that because I’ve been imagining that the social media room underneath a TB12 workout facility looks like a lair, they drew a lair?
Sorry, I know this isn’t about me.
Is that guy wearing a lab coat by the picture of Ben Steeler Gronk?
Yes, because in the comic after the Houston win, Gronk showed up wearing that same lab coat. He’s also wearing glasses and says, “the computer data is telling me...”
Get it? It’s funny because Gronk is not generally seen as a rocket scientist. They were in space then. Now they’re underwater. Or possibly underground.
I think that's a compliment? I don't know. She did a really good job analyzing this nonsense Tom Brady webcomic? Hell, I've covered the last 14 years of Michigan football. I have no room to criticize.
Speaking of NFL things that don't make any sense. This isn't a catch, people! Why are you mad about this?
Any player that hasn't clearly established themselves as a runner has to maintain control through contact through the ground and this dude certainly did not do that. Even the current 65-page version of the catch rule the NFL deploys isn't at fault here. This particular incident was even explained with poetic beauty!
“The receiver, in the end zone, did not survive the ground,” was the explanation on the field by referee Tony Corrente.
Damn, Tony Corrente.
The problem is nobody knows what a damn catch is. Here's a four part catch rule that is as unambiguous as is possible (for the NFL) and solves many many problems:
A receiver has to secure the ball and get both feet down in bounds to start the catch process.
Once he takes a step after both feet come down he is a runner and has caught the ball.
Receivers who do not take a step between possessing the ball and either going to ground or touching out of bounds must maintain possession through contact with the ground.
Maintaining possession means the ball does not touch the ground. If the receiver is now out of bounds and he bobbles the ball, forcing the catch process to start over, it's incomplete.
The end. The above-linked SBN article has a controversial Dez Bryant non-catch that this version of the rule makes crystal clear:
Catch, step, runner, complete. No controversy. Steelers' play above: no step, ball touches ground, incomplete, no controversy.
There will of course be edge cases where the situation at the moment of possession makes it unclear whether a catch is a catch, but those four steps are the clearest and least controversial a catch rule can be. If you wanted to go even farther towards clarity you could let a catch stand if 1) the WR got his feet in bounds and 2) the ball never hit the turf even if there was a bobble after the WR went out. I think that's not a catch but if you said it was then it's pretty simple: did you keep the ball off the ground after establishing a foot (or two) in bounds? Yes? Catch.
Really interesting and effective pressure concept from Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. The Wolverines are in a 3-3 nickel personnel package.
The Rush: The front slides the 3 down linemen to the strong side and has all 3 LB's walked up to the weak side. The Mike is initially in a 3 point stance. The effect is a 4 man version of America's Blitz. The Will wraps around to the fill the role of the inside rusher in the America's blitz concept. Because the defense bluffs the weak side overload the protection doesn't identify the concept as America's blitz and pass it off. The RB is forced into a really difficult block, scanning all the way back across the formation to pick up the Will as he wraps around.
Frequently the "N" was actually Noah Furbush, but that wrap blitz was largely responsible for Bush's blazing start to the season. Teams did adapt, but then Michigan threw other stuff—largely Khaleke Hudson—at the opposition.
To be fair, this is correct about 20% of the time. Whoops, Tampa Bay Times:
Although... that appears to be an ad, which means the Outback Bowl itself doesn't know who's in this year's game. Which is fine. I mean. It's the Outback Bowl. No1curr. Except MSU fans.
"The athletic department there is perceived there as a cluster," Sun Devils athletic director Ray Anderson said. "Their athletic director, now Phil Fulmer, in the athletic director's world is a pariah. It is not a good situation."
Their AD is a cluster? Bruh.
Do I hear a senior season? ESPN's latest draft rankings have Mo Wagner #68 despite his clearly improved rebounding and... possibly improved defense. We've seen guys (GRIII most prominently) leave one year after they put their name in but withdrew, and that's always a possibility. But if Wagner's leaving after the year it's probably not for the lottery.
Some bad grades. Since all we get these day from PFF are glimpses you don't get a lot of negatives unless the situation—cough cough, OL—absolutely demands it. South Carolina's 24/7 site is looking for weaknesses in the Michigan D, though, and they came up with:
Defensive end Carlo Kemp (49.9) - A sophomore who is listed as a backup, Kemp has played 367 snaps on defense. He has graded out at 48.2 against the run and 55.6 in pass rush.
Linebacker Noah Furbush (50.6) - Furbush is also listed as a backup and has played 138 snaps this season. He’s performed much better against the run grading out at 64.6 and has struggled in coverage at 45.9.
Two backups. (I think they might have flipped those snap counts, FWIW. Furbush got way more snaps than Kemp this year.) The conceit of this post is "three at the top and three at the bottom," but...
The “Three at the top” needed to be expanded to five as each player listed graded out as “elite,” a designation given to players who achieve an 85.0 or higher. The “Three near the bottom” was cut to two given that no other player with 75 or more snaps played had a grade below 70.
...ain't nobody else at the bottom. The five elite guys are Hurst, Winovich, Hudson, Bush, and Hill, all of whom are at 87 or better.
Yes, this means that PFF is also grading Michigan's safeties well. Metellus's rough OSU game had a lot of internet people waving Brian Smith goodbye happily because they thought Metellus and Kinnel were bad. They were not. They were good. A B+ unit.
"Brandon's kind of always been the same, sort of even-keeled," senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said after Saturday's game.
"It's just Brandon. I don't think he gets too high or too low, and I think that's a good thing to have when you're a quarterback."
He is also studious and paying attention.
"He's been preparing since camp," Gary said. "I walk by the quarterback room, I peep in just to mess with him. He's in his books and he's paying attention.
"Just how he prepared, I knew when he got his chance he was going to do what he did (Saturday)."
After he throws an interception he will return to being aloof and disconnected, and then he will throw a touchdown with a steely nervelessness, and then he will take a sack because of the crushing ennui he endures in his day to day life, and then he'll have a third down conversion that shows mankind is doomed because robotkind is superior. Looking forward to it. Except for the part with the interception.
Congratulations to men's soccer. They're the Big Ten champs after a barn-burning final day that saw Michigan pass three other teams, including their opponent Maryland, with this double OT(!) Francis Atuahene goal:
Michigan Soccer Now has more details; if you care about UM soccer at all you should be following them. Also here is the Daily's Kevin Santo:
Billy Stevens still hadn’t let go of the trophy.
Not when he got on the bus to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Not when he landed in Detroit. Not for the bus ride back to Ann Arbor, either. He said he couldn’t let it out of his sight.
And really, can you blame him?
A steady, sustainable uptick. BISB's been unable to Opponent Watch because sometimes his job strangles him by the throat but he did put together this little, encouraging graph of Michigan's line yards this year:
At this point it's more about maintaining that number than continuing to improve it. Last year's #1 team in line yards was somehow UNLV with 3.8. Michigan is approaching an effective maximum. Michigan's surge has taken their rushing game up to 21st in S&P+, so Michigan now has three good to very good aspects (rush offense, rush and pass defense) and one terrible one (pass offense). The PSU game knocked Michigan's defense out of the top ten; they're now 15th.
Is there a Haters Gonna Hate ladder? This guy is in strong contention for greatest hater in the world:
"I tolerate everything except racists and Tom Brady" is strong work.
Exit Jim McElwain. I have never had a better take than "Jim McElwain's response to the shark thing proves he's going to fail." That is right up at the top of the Takes Nobody Talks About Because They Are Correct Board for one Brian Cook. McElwain failed and is now fired. Spencer:
Categorically, the best McElwain seemed capable of was mediocrity. That mediocrity came at a time when his competition locally was as weak as it could be, and when the University was more willing than ever to spend on facilities, brand-building, and all the other accessories needed to keep a program competitive and happy. Unlike his predecessor Will Muschamp, he got free rein in hiring the staff he wanted to hire. Unlike his predecessor, he had actual head coaching experience coming into the job. Unlike Muschamp, McElwain won the SEC East, and did it two years in a row despite losing a starting quarterback to injury in both seasons.
May the football gods be kind to Spencer and bestow him with Jeff Brohm.
The Purdue situation. You've probably already seen this but in case you haven't, Angelique Chengelis talked with Wilton Speight's father about what happened after Speight's frightening injury against Purdue:
“What an absolute train wreck,” Bobby Speight said of the experience. ...
“We take off with no escort,” Bobby Speight said. “We can’t get through because there are barricades up and (the van driver is) directing people to move them.”
They reached the Purdue University Student Health Center and headed downstairs.
“They take us in the basement,” Bobby Speight said. “It’s very dimly lit. Halfway down the hall, there’s a (radiology) technician. Wilton is in (partial) uniform and still wearing cleats, and she asks Wilton his name. The (van driver) says he needs an X-ray. (The technician) looks at me and says, ‘I need your insurance card.’”
Harbaugh's been to Purdue before. He couldn't have been surprised by what he found, probably because it was exactly what he saw back in the 1980s. He was clearly cheesed by the ham-handed response to the Speight injury, and used that as a platform to talk about the beyond-gamesmanship visiting locker rooms in West Lafayette.
Hockey continues recruiting. Three recent commitments of note. One is 1997 Jimmy Lambert, who will arrive in Michigan at 21. Usually this means a guy heading for the checking line but one of the scouting services thinks otherwise:
4.25⭐️ prospect is one of the top '97 prospects in US & CAN. The creative forward has dynamic hands & hockey sense. A at BCHL Showcase. https://t.co/4vToa7sB0q
Lambert was supposed to head to Alaska Fairbanks this fall but changed direction after a coaching change. He had a PPG in the offense-mad BCHL as an overager last year and usually that means bottom six—Dakota Raabe is the same age and had a PPG last year—but I guess maybe not? I don't know.
On the other end of the spectrum, 2002 Cole Perfetti is a 15-year-old currently projected in the 2020 class who just committed. One OHL scouting service has him the #6 guy available for this year's edition of the OHL draft because he's a "shifty skater with extraordinary playmaking vision." (Commit Antonio Stranges, an "electric skater with game breaking one-on-one play" is #4, FWIW.) Also:
Great gain for Michigan and a tough loss for the OHL if Cole Perfetti indeed chooses to play at Michigan. An absolute wizard of a playmaker
Groll was the best forward here. He has good speed, but he plays a smart and complete game. He has a sneaky release and is able to get a lot of shots off by being around and possessing the puck a lot. His puck support is strong and he makes plays.
Michigan now has a whopping 25 commits across four recruiting classes, 16 of them in the four months since Mel was hire. Eleven of them are tentatively slated to enter next year. Michigan loses six seniors, and probably only four guys pulling significant scholarship money (Niko Porikos and Alex Roos probably aren't getting much.) Attrition is always looming, and I'm sure Michigan has an understanding with a couple of kids who might get pushed out a year. That's still a lot of guys to cram in.
Trying to optimize a hockey roster without screwing someone over seems like the most difficult logistical challenge in the world today. Good luck.
This year’s event seemed to be focused more on the internal stars, if you will—brining out the coaches, introducing the alumni, all that. What was the decision behind that and what do you think of this event compared to last year’s?
“Yeah, that was really it. It was just a thought that I had, we had, to make it more about Michigan, from the band, the cheerleaders, the drum line, coaches, players, parents. Just make it about the family, make it about the family that we are at the University of Michigan.”
Why did you want to make that change compared to last year?
“I just thought it’d be better. Not comparing the two; I think they’re both great. Just kind of the direction—it just felt right. That was the ‘why.’”
Does that reinforce the family atmosphere here at Michigan?
“It means so much to me. Never has that resonated more; brought home our seventh child yesterday. Came right out, gave it to Eddie McDoom on a fly sweep. They were giving it to us. Had to take it. There’s no better word in the English language to me than ‘family,’ this family of ours, the University of Michigan.”
/Ambry Thomas sneaks up behind Harbaugh
“Compete, Coach! Compete!”
JH: “Compete! Compete! Compete! Was that good? Good job, Ambry.”
You touched on it up there, but the combination of this receiving class you’re brining in and Pep Hamilton moving forward with that group.
“It’s a very dynamic group. Wonderful guys, you know. Really talented people, and just thankful. Today is a day I thank the guys. I thank ‘em for coming to the University of Michigan, for choosing Michigan. I thank the parents for trusting us with their children. So, it’s a day to be thankful. It’s a day to celebrate, and very happy. I mean, this is Michigan. I want just to come be great. I want them to take advantage of everything Michigan has to offer. So, a lot of emotions, but mostly joy.”
Can you talk about the trip to Italy and your reaction to the NCAA ruling that this is the last year of spring break camps?
“Yeah, we’re not going during spring break, so…[/smiles]. We’re going at the end of the term, so it’s compliant with all rules or new rules that have been made. And let’s talk about what mainly it is: it’s an unbelievable opportunity for all of us—youngsters and adults alike—to have an educational opportunity, to connect with the people from another country, to study in terms of study abroad. Most all our players are going to have that opportunity to study abroad, do internships, do service.
“We’re going to Italy, we’re gonna be there for a week, we’re going to practice, but from there all our players are going to be able to branch out all over the world. Thinking that the classroom—the world is our classroom. And they’re going to be going to Iceland, Belgium, Japan, Israel, South America, Puerto Rico, all over the world to do their classes in May. It’s so phenomenal that I can’t wait to get there.”
[After THE JUMP: Tom Brady, HC; loading the Jim Harbaugh Coaching Express; future trips abroad]
FOR SCIENCE! Bakers And Best compiled 36 different combinations of cereal and gatorade into POWER RANKINGS:
1. Trix with Cool Blue - This was the second one we tried and unfortunately it was all downhill from there. We had both assumed the ‘fruit’ flavored cereals would taste best and for the post part this was true. I’m not going to start eating this for breakfast, but if you asked me to eat a bowl of it I wouldn’t protest.
36. Frosted Cheerios with Strawberry Lemonade - We kept notes as we tasted. I ended up with 2.5 pages single spaced. My notes for this were relatively short, because we wanted to forget it ever happened and move on. They read, “NO. NOPE NOPE NOPE.”. It so grotesquely intensified the taste of the strawberry lemonade, which yes, as you’ll notice according to the rankings is worse than rotten chocolate yogurt.
Now you know. Interestingly, the "Cool Blue" flavor—blue is not a flavor—scored three of the top four combinations but finished 33rd when paired with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Anyone who wants to remain un-banned will agree Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the king of breakfast cereals.
Hey… uh… nevermind. Ace dutifully compiled a commitment post for three-star CA WR Deontay Burnette after various outlets reported he'd flipped his commitment to Michigan. That is apparently not happening.
WTF happened? Nobody really knows, but Sam Webb says that there was a "miscommunication"($) and that Michigan won't actually take a commit from him. If that sounds weird… yeah, it's weird. You'd think by this point anyone coming in with a pulse who wants to commit would be greenlit.
Hopefully that's a sign that Signing Day is going to be fruitful. Michigan does have an option in its back pocket in case things go south and they want to pick up a three-star-ish WR: Brother Rice's Grant Perry, an Alex Malzone teammate currently committed to Northwestern.
WHAT. So… the Super Bowl. I understand the nation is aghast at the decision to throw the ball from the one on second and goal when you have Beast Mode, but let's not forget that Bill Belichick—indisputably the greatest coach of his generation—had two timeouts in his pocket and was content to take them to the locker room if that's what it came to. He was bailed out by a terrific play, but it truly boggles that there is literally no football team in the universe that would not be improved by importing a 14-year-old who plays Madden 16 hours a day to work clock strategy.
That is no longer hypothesis, but fact. Yeesh.
Looked pretty good though. Can't really blame Wilson for the decision.
The thing about the INT is Seattle got what it wanted with play-call. Unbelievable break on the ball by Butler. pic.twitter.com/zNEfTn8NfZ
What was bad was the placement: Wilson put the ball a yard behind his guy instead of a yard in front, allowing the DB to make a play on the ball. If the ball is out front the DB has zero chance at an INT no matter how well he reads the play. At best he breaks it up. But that's why not everybody is Tom Brady.
Not many options? Harbaugh's first game is against Utah, which is a much more interesting opener than they usually are. Utah underwent a spasm of turmoil last month, losing both coordinators and almost their head coach. They've found a new DC: Brent Pease, who's exiting retirement for the second time to take the job.
Hello: Partridge family. Michigan hires former Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge for that job a previous UV speculated was right up his alley. Partridge was apparently in Ann Arbor interviewing for four days before getting officially hired. NJ DT Rashan Gary, by some accounts the #1 kid in the 2016 class, is currently at Paramus:
Paramus Catholic features one of the top recruits in the country next year in junior defensive tackle Rashan Gary.
Not surprisingly, Gary recently received a scholarship offer from Michigan.
“Chris would never steer him to a school,” Russo said. “Rashan is going to go visit places in the spring. He has a lot of things set up. At the end of the day, if Rashan’s mom and him and his support staff here at Paramus Catholic feel like [Michigan] is the best place for him, then it is. He will do great wherever he goes.”
All year long I've been playing the NFL games of our fantasy partner Draft Kings, and every time I've pulled up a game I see the same four dudes vying for a sixth of my salary allotment. Even more than college (thank goodness) the pro game is a quarterback game, and picking the right one for your fantasy team will make or break your week.
A quick rundown of the buttons: Rodgers has the same calf injury, Peyton's got a thigh bruise, Brady's ankle's still bothering him, and Andrew Luck reports he is so distracted by the whole "that was Peyton's team" angle that he's considering quitting the NFL, tracking down his old college coach, and enrolling at whatever school that is under an assumed name.
I'd tell you to choose somebody else, but it's probably worth a grand of fantasy bucks not to be against the Seahawks' defense right now. Russell Wilson against Carolina is intriguing if he wasn't the same price as the guy in New England, what's his name?
Pre-playoffs you can go cheap but since the big-money QBs are the ones who get this far, you're gonna have to try to get value. That's why I'm rolling with Brady: in these big leagues (this one has 57,500 entries max and is well on its way there) you're hoping to explode—you need to get past 200 fantasy points to win the big bucks—and except that one day a year Flacco goes off Touchdown Tom is the only QB capable of putting up a 40 spot who's not on the elite cost tier. Give him a crisp, clear day in Foxborough and he's been money this year.
Immediately place your mouse here, tap your index finger, and be whisked away to my all-time favorite series of preview diaries: EGD’s Four Plays. He draws up two base offensive plays for Michigan and two base offensive plays of the opponent, shows how each team defends those plays, and then breaks down the individual matchups. A sample:
WDE Frank Clark: Gap-exchange with WLB Joe Bolden; backside pursuit of RB Devontae Booker
NT Ryan Glasgow: Defend backside A-gap against LG Junior Salt
DT Willie Henry: Defend playside B-gap against RG Isaac Asiata, constrict playside A-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: Defend playside D-gap (outside TE) vs. TE Westlee Tonga; backside pursuit if QB keeps, set edge point and force run back inside if QB gives
WLB Joe Bolden: Gap-exchange with WDE Frank Clark; defend backside C-gap vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi, set edge point and force back inside if QB keeps, backside pursuit if QB gives
By year four most guys in the study had their programs in better shape than the previous three seasons. Also very few of them were still around:
Only half the coachs on our list of 36 are still at their schools. It gets worse as you go farther back in time. Of the 8 coaches hired for the 2007 season, Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio are the only ones still around. A whopping 5 were fired and another (Harbaugh) left for the NFL.
Even among the 14 “winners” covered above, the story is not much better. 5 guys capitalized on their success and moved on to other positions, and 2 were fired (one scandal, on failed to sustain their initial success), only 7 remain (Snyder, Saban, Briles, Hoke, Kelly, Fisher, Cutcliffe).
I did a somewhat similar study of Big Ten and SEC coaching hires since 1999 in this year’s HTTV, breaking them into categories of “Strong” (like stealing another BCS team’s HC for unholy money), “Average” (like upgrading a proven mid-major coach or BCS/NFL coordinator) or “Cheap” (what Purdue does). Of the SEC’s 30 head coaching hires, 18 were in the “Strong” category, while economy class was reserved for only Vandy, Kentucky, and Arkansas needing a one-year stopgap; only three (Rodriguez, John L. Smith, and Urban) of the Big Ten’s 22 hires rated that, and 13 were on the cheap.
The game. We kicked off the college season last week. Next in MGoPools with our official fantasy partner, it's NFL time.
And that means I have to justify taking Tom. Wes Welker is gone (and suspended besides), and the last thing we remember from a Miami-New England duel is Tom getting outdueled by Ryan Tannehill. In such an environment they say Brady is no longer such a sure thing, or at least he ain't no Peyton, or Brees, or Stafford, or Luck, or Rodgers, or Kaepernick, or Foles.
I'm going in with the belief that Miami's new up-tempo offense is going to create more plays for both sides, and Tom's receiver depth chart is deep (Jeremy Gallon couldn't even keep a roster spot) and most of those guys are in a contract year. The spread may have finally gained a foothold in the NFL, but don't count out Touchdown Tom.
N.O. spent all preseason trying to pretend like Brandin Cooks ain't no big thing..
The prize. It's Mystery T-Shirt time. Okay so giving $5 off the store to everyone who beats me turned out to be not so good an idea because my team was terrible.* We're trying to track down who among the people in the pool used the MGoBlog link to send the code. So instead we're just gonna give a t-shirt to the top scorer from the site. Which shirt? It's a mystery. Mystery shirt.
The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.
Locks To Make It
Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.
Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.
Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.
Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.
Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.
Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans.According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.
David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.
Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.
Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.
LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.
Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.