Mr. Turnley said he was granted unprecedented access to the team: He went into locker rooms, he was present at workouts, practices, drills, and he attended every game, including on the road, all so he could capture images unlike those expected of sports and football photography.
“I’m not standing on the sideline,” said Mr. Turnley, who did not use long lenses. “I’m literally in the scrimmages. I’ve been known to be in the huddles and to lay prone in the middle of a play, because I want you to understand and feel what that’s like to be in the midst of that struggle.”
During practice, I imagine? I don't remember a photographer laying down under Graham Glasgow last year. I think I would have picked up on that.
Injuries both ways. Harbaugh said he was "very hopeful" Jourdan Lewis would return this weekend. He did dress against Colorado, so he must have been available in some capacity if there was an emergency. Taco Charlton seems to be dropping hints that he's good to go this weekend as well:
Mone is expected to be out this week with a possible return either next week or the week after. Per Sam Webb, Drake Johnson is exploring the possibility of a sixth year, which necessarily implies we won't see him in 2015. Three weeks in that's a relatively clean bill of health.
Unfortunately for Penn State but encouragingly for people who can add two and two together about Joe Paterno and the kind of people who would honor him, the Nittany Lions cannot say the same thing. Starting linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda missed the Temple game. Nyeem Wartman-White left the game with an apparent knee injury and was spotted in a large brace afterwards. PSU just announced he's done for the year, for the second consecutive year.
WR Saeed Blacknall, CB Grant Haley, and DE Evan Schwan also missed the Temple game; as per usual there's no timetable for any of these guys to return. The only guy certainly out is Wartman-White; I wouldn't be surprised if PSU only gets one or two guys back.
Saquon Barkley also left for a period of time, but… uh…
Worst third down vs. Best third down Penn State's the worst third down team in the Big Ten -- again. After converting just 27 percent of their third downs in 2015, the Nittany Lions have converted -- wait for it -- 27 percent of their third downs so far in 2016. Penn State wants to play with tempo, but it has trouble staying on the field -- as the Nittany Lions are averaging just 4.4 plays per possession. And that's not because they're hitting big plays, as each possession is netting an average of about 26 yards per drive.
Meanwhile, Michigan's defensive is No. 1 nationally on third down. The Wolverines have allowed opponents to convert just 10.5 percent of their third down attempts (4 of 38). Opponents are facing an average of 3rd and 9 against Michigan so far this season, which is rather difficult time and time again.
PSU's OL is just as much of a mess as it was last year, so expect a lot of players in the opposition backfield.
Idiot, diagnose thyself. If you're not aware of David Jones, think Central Pennsylvania's Drew Sharp. He wrote some standard-issue newspaper yammer about Harbaugh. It boils down do "this is just, like, my opinion, man," but holy crap this is some noteworthy lack of self-awareness:
The Wolverines will not win the Big Ten title while Harbaugh is coaching at Michigan. I don't even think they'll win the division.
How can I be so sure? I can't. In a world where being noticed is trumped only by the blatant seeking of full-on notoriety, you can never count out a guy who does it as well as Sharkface.
Jones is a professional troll, and yet. Also that sentence is a disaster barely worthy of a college freshman cramming a ten-page paper the night before.
Jones's theory is that Harbaugh will make MSU and OSU work harder to defeat Michigan. Seriously. The man manages to cash checks, so you have to respect the hustle. Or lack thereof, in this case.
“It was a windy day, raining, a tough day to control the football and I was having a bad day; ended up falling flat on my face literally and figuratively,” he recalled. “Javier Arenas, from Alabama, was the returner and I shanked the ball a little bit inside, a 35-yard punt into the wind, and he catches it on the run and takes off to my left.
“I have him to the sideline, but one of my teammates is in pursuit as well and pushes me in the back. As Arenas steps out of bounds, my arms go out by my side, and from five feet up my head hits the turf hard. I drag my helmet into the rubber for about 3-4 yards. I looked like a rag doll.”
Mesko said he blacked out for “about two seconds” and couldn’t feel temperature the rest of the game. He never reported the concussion, in part because he didn’t want it to affect his NFL chances, despite experiencing headaches that night and the next morning.
Momentarily blacking out and then returning to a world without temperature must have been terrifying, and Mesko kept his issue a secret because of the prevailing culture at the time. Reminder: Zoltan Mesko is a punter, who mainly enters a football field to do something opponents are prohibited by rule from hitting during. And yet.
Mesko, now retired, has a startup that's trying to mitigate head impacts:
What Mesko and Rizzo came up with is an impact reduction device they call the EXO1 (it is patent pending). Their project now has a team of six Harvard MBA, medical and law students working on it in the form of a company called Impact Labs.
Good luck to him.
Hockey recruits ranked. ISS offers up a top 30 of incoming college hockey players. Michigan lands four on the list: #6 Luke Martin(D), #19 Nick Pastujov(F), #25 Jack LaFontaine(G), and #29 Will Lockwood(F). That's good, and the best haul in the Big Ten, but rather pales next to BU's ridiculous class featuring three of the top four and two more further down the list.
"It's a little bit easier in the slide technique," said Stribling. "You open up, and since you are going back into coverage at an angle, your (belt) buckle is to the ball, and so you see the whole play develop. It's a great technique, and if you go back to a back pedal, that's easier. But we don't back pedal any more.
"The advantages are that if somebody runs a go route, you're already opened up to the quarterback. If somebody breaks down for a curl, you're already open."
Adjustments to receiver routes can be made quicker if the technique is done right.
"You have to make sure your feet are right," said Stribling. "You have to make sure you are low to the ground and not too high."
That article features some detail on Lewis's injury issues as well:
"He probably worked a little too hard in the summer," said Zordich. "That was probably a little too much torque on his body. Some of the issues he's had in the last couple weeks might have come from that. He had a hell of a camp, but then his back started tightening up and affected his hamstring and quad. He's fighting through these things."
ATTN: New Yorkers. Rather large game approaching on the 23rd. If you seek the camaraderie of your fellow Michigan Man, here is a thing you might do: hang out with Zoltan Mesko and two small dogs at Professor Thom's, with proceeds going to a good cause. Details:
Professor Thom's, February 23rd, Noon.
Happy hour drink specials, complimentary appetizers, door prizes & more! A $10 donation at the door (or online) to benefit the Zoltan Mesko Foundation will be your ticket to the event. If you can't make it, but would still like to donate please do so at zoltanmeskofoundation.org
Just the worst. If you follow me on twitter you already know about this, but since many people don't for excellent reasons like "tends to go on rants about Penn State bench players," let me introduce you to John Johnson, a guy getting ten minutes a game for Penn State who drives me completely insane because:
His ORTG is 87, which is actually up two points from last night.
Despite this he takes 23% of PSU's shots when he's on the court.
He has an assist rate of 4.6 and TO rate of 20.
His parents named him "John Johnson," which is… wow. Also what happens when he finds out about Major Major Major Major? Exactly.
I have to tell you about this here because BISB stole my platform to lob statistical oddities at you and now I just track Illinois defensive rebounding anomalies in my basement.
Did you know the Big Ten now has TWOguys named Maverick? Or that Purdue has only three guys playing more than half their minutes, and nobody (NOBODY) averaging 30 minutes a game? Or that Northwestern starts a guy, Sanjay Lumpkin, who takes fewer than 10% of available shots? Only me and the basement elves did.
By the way, do we have a Reggie Cleveland All Star team for guys who should be oompa-loompas but are in fact 6'6" half-Indian dudes? Because… well, you see where I'm going with this.
OTHER THING. Rewatching the Ohio State game made one thing clear: Amir Johnson tries to block everything. I mentioned the Morgan basket on a missed Albrecht shot that was functionally equivalent to a pass as Williams came over. That is a canonical example but far from the only one. About ten minutes into the first half it became clear that OSU's defensive rebounding problems were about 80% Williams attempting to swat everything, leaving Michigan bigs all alone on the weakside.
The offensive rebound numbers don't even tell the full story, as there were a number of instances in which Michigan was in position to add to their totals until funny bounces intervened. The numbers back this up, especially if you tick over to the conference only Kenpom stats. Ohio State is 11th in the league at defensive rebounding. And it doesn't even help their defense. In league play OSU is 10th at defending twos.
OTHER OTHER THING. What, you want links to things? Oh fine. Here is your Indiana schadenfreude after they managed to lose to Penn State despite being up 11 with three minutes left.
This is absolutely 100% unacceptable. This team is hot garbage with a bevy of talent. Seriously, I'm not going to talk any crap about youth or inexperience. That had nothing to do with the non-stop disasters that we've witnessed this year. I even want to try and blame this most recent egg on Tom Crean and I can't find where I actually feel he had a problem in this game.
Win chart? Hell yes.
I'd like to thank the Nittany Lions for doing that to someone else this year.
New rules. The NCAA proposes allowing replay booths to not only overturn targeting expulsions but also the targeting penalties, which was always going to happen once it became clear that leaving half of a non-penalty to stand was rage-inducing. So hooray.
The committee also recommended a rules change that will allow defensive units to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, with the exception of the final two minutes of each half, starting with the 2014 season.
If a team snaps the ball before 29 seconds on the play clock they will be hit with a five yard delay of game penalty.
More offensive yet is the stated reason for these changes:
“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” said Calhoun.
Nobody buys this. A player who is hurt or in trouble can fall over and the game will stop to accommodate them.
Speedy coaches have texted any reporter they know expressing their skepticism/disgust, and some guys have even taken to twitter to express something than bland positivity. "Think of the children" isn't flying in this case. The pushback here exceeds anything I've seen in the last decade or so. Even the hated clock rules that got rolled back after one season didn't get public heated disagreement from coaches.
But… Matt Hinton does point out that very few snaps would have much chance of running afoul of the rule. Oregon averaged 20 seconds per snap, so how many would actually be under ten? Not many.
I went back to the the canonical example of lightspeed, Indiana, to find out. Specifically, I wondered if that play on which Indiana's tempo burned Ray Taylor for a touchdown would have been affected. You know, this one:
That play was snapped exactly eleven seconds after the previous one ended. IE, it would have been legal, probably. Indiana may have had to wait a beat if the play clock took a second to reset.
Ten seconds is not many seconds. It may not even be enough to substitute confidently. If the rule does get passed it's probably not going to have the huge impact people fear it will.
It goes without saying that getting the rule change passed would be good for Michigan, which regards speed as a distasteful attempt to gain advantage.
It sucks you have to say this, but yeah you have to say this. Welp:
Goal No. 1 for Doug Nussmeier at Michigan? 'We're not going to go backwards'
May you succeed in this task, for all of our sanities. I'm encouraged by what this quote implies about Nussmeier's approach to data:
"There's a number of different things, you wish you can pinpoint one thing, but we need to get our players to understand how their success rate decreases with loss yardage plays," he said. "You look at statistical football, it doesn't add up. We've got to stay on schedule, within the sticks. We'll talk about that and it'll be a big part of the spring.
"We'll talk about our goals with down and distance, what we're looking for from each play yardage-wise. And what a negative play does to you as far as your percent chances to score and how our negative plays hurt our chances to score last year."
That sounds like a guy who's willing to look at stats to see if there's anything he can learn from them, which is a change of pace from the fancy-stats-are-for-losers approach of his predecessor.
Spartan health update. Izzo had the "feeling" Keith Appling was out a couple weeks as of February 9th, which would make his return for the Michigan game in some doubt. I mean, no doubt, really. But he might not be full go. Well, of course he won't be full go. No Michigan State player will be. For one, they'll be trying to cope with the emotional havoc associated with having a 14 year old call you names on twitter*.
I've had grown men (my players) in my office in tears because of what's being written.
The things these guys play through are insane. It's Iwo Jima out there.
Meanwhile, the Fist of Stupidity gets its pins removed on the 20th, which makes fist owner Branden Dawson hypothetically but not necessarily available for Michigan. Anyone ever had pins taken out of their hand? Would you be ready to play basketball three days after? Seems unlikely to me, but maybe they're really tiny or something.
*[First sentence of first comment: "Social Media is bringging this Country to its Knees."]
Zoltan ponders how the gradient potential of his latest punt lines up exactly with that of collateralized debt obligation investment products in the 2008 bubble, and if they are correlated, could this end prostate cancer and teach cats to play ping-pong?
Somewhere in the Pisces-Cetus Supercluster complex, about a Yottameter from the Great Attractor, on a wet, rocky satellite of a smallish yellow star on the belt of a medium-sized Virgo Complex galaxy, there was a football game. In the first half, despite the best efforts of their opponents, Michigan's offense gained enough yards to traverse the Hoover Dam; in the second half they barely made it the length of a 747.
Millions who witnessed a representation of this occurring on stacked LCD pixels went online to find the similarly sized (and metaphorical) grain of salt, or compare the offensive coordinator's brain to the like-massed Paramecium. They tore out hair follicles, pounded their couches to release thousands of silt and skin particles which had settled there, and angrily flicked the transistor gates deep within their electronic devices to exclaim how this loss hurt to their very DNA.
In the abstract, a loss to Ohio State, even if largely expected, was too horrible to countenance. And so the Diarists burned glucose deep into the night while attempting to make sense of what was essentially the movement of a whole lot of atoms but to us a whole lot of matter. Zoom far enough in or out and you no longer have to see it.
The whole gang was back, to give the OSU faithful one more opportunity to cheer on a myth, a delusion about its history that seems painfully obvious to everyone not wearing crimson and grey.
So between the first and second quarters of the final game the 2012 Buckeyes will play, a premature finale caused by Mr. Tressel’s behavior during his years in Columbus, the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation, one of the biggest cheers of the day. … The narrative went, at least in some circles, that most schools would have done the same, that fans love to cheer on winners and that most of those players were completely above board and played fairly, won every game that season, and, let’s be honest, Miami was no saint either. The thinking went that this was a team that the school should be proud of, or at least should be able to recognize publicly.
…who is going to keep winning Diarist of the Week until such point as BlueSeoul comes back to game wrap (with pics). I sat high up in the student section where freshmen who were probably 7 years old for 2002 cheered louder than the alumni. One kid in a black longcoat who spent most of first half with cheap nacho cheese on his chin yelled "Fuck Michigan!" at us through it all. This is Ohio State in a nutshell: cartoon bad guys oblivious to how stupid they look.
ST3 boiled Inside the Box Score down to Borges quotes. On the boards, Profwoot narrowed it to the script. And caup took it to the O-Line coach. Hypothesis: the more you know about football the deeper down the coaching ranks you can find blame. Theory: the 2003 team would have been national champs if it wasn't for (student mgr) Jeff Levine. Damn you, Levine!
Between National Signing Day and the Superbowl, we are in the last little oasis of The Footballs before the other things take over again. Then comes the long months before little bits of spring trickle in. So let's with the footballs! The footballs last year! The footballs this year! The footballs in four years!
Maize_in_spartyland put a lot of time into using this year's success as a predictor for next year's strengths of schedule across the conference, including early 2012 projections for each team. Michigan's schedule is up there but Nebraska and Penn State seem to have the toughest roads ahead, not that you have any sympathy for either of them.
CRexcontinued (2002-2005) and then concluded his year-by-year study of Minimum Playoff Size, with 2006 through 2011. He's got a 5-team playoff for 2006 that doesn't include Michigan, which highlights the problem with doing this with hindsight (ie including the bowl results) instead of looking at the pre-bowl situation and saying "THIS would settle it."
He also put together a long review of Coaching the West Coast Quarterback, a book by one Al Borges and his brother Keith in 2002 while they were at Cal. If you're the kind of person who buys coaching books by your team's coordinators* there's one new one left at a reasonable price on Amazon. Or you could read the diary. Combined effort nets this man Diarist of the Weeks.
With NSD passed we really are into next year now. One last trip, then, into that which was 2011, courtesy of Eye of the Tiger, who after a bolded "But" with an ellipsis and its own line goes on to make a good point that V-Tech ended up looking eerily like Mississippi State 2010. The offense scored a few more points but wasn't as good as expected. The defense was WAY better than we dreamed. Brunette girls fixed the kicking problems (Misopogal: "We are awesome like that") and we all converted back to the church of…Time of Possession?!?
What I learned this season was that ToP may not matter in many cases, but it sure does when you're exactly the kind of team that has close to zero depth on defense. Then you really should keep them off the field if you can. Oregon can do the uptempo thing because they have lots and lots of depth on defense. They may not be Alabama, but they have a legion of solid dudes they can substitute in and out, and that's exactly what they do.
This makes sense. Let's recruit like 10 DL/LB this year so we don't have to … oh we did that. Carry on.
The Footballs, Recruiting is Perspective:
RJS and the Temple of Zooms
Well you know how National Signing Day went down. In case you missed some of the lead-up, Ace interviewed 2012 commit Royce Jenkins-Stone, the No. 1 player in the home state according to Scout (but not Dantonio). And you figure he's run out of funny names for 2013 prospects, but there's still one (Florida OT) Laremy Tunsil to go along with a boring old electric 6'4 receiver from Jersey named Charlie. Six Zero turned the microphone around and interviewed the weirdly named Ace Anbender.
WolverineBlue took Scout's recruiting scoring system and tried to predict where Michigan would land. It's as of 1/24, so needs updating after we know what the OL are doing, but he's accurate as of this writing. WolverineLake went backwards in time, grabbed a bolded personality, and showed the Scout recruiting rankings are predictive but the margin for error is big enough to drive Wisconsin's offensive line through it.
So the plan this year was to lean on the front court while breaking in a new PG so he's not overwhelmed with responsibility an…hey, this freshman IS our offense:
% Team FGM
So Trey Burke is right there among the leaders for this metric.
Raoul goes on to compare him favorably against the best point guards in the country in how much of his team's offense is generated by the 1.
AC1997 has put together a fantastic and nice-looking study on Michigan's season to date. This is outdated post-Indiana but still very good and very relevant as it breaks the schedule into good wins, good losses, bad losses, and what various outcomes of what cometh would mean.
Hey, what was up with our Power Play vs. Notre Dame eh? Yesman2221, our resident hockey guru other than that Cook guy, PP'ed Michigan's PP.
Etc. In the fall your blood is for beating Ohio. But in hockey/hoops season, you can put it all toward beating State. M Wolve with a list of places to donate. If your name is Zack Novak you are welcome to give directly at Breslin. A couple of Blockhams.
I would also like to send out my deepest condolences to the Facebook friends of Florida Blue and Wolverine In a Bag. Once there were epic Youtube links, lolz pics from George Takei*, and breaking Michigan news—no more. As of now the baby has probably already taken over the profile pic and will be the subject of every update until at least 2016. In other M legacy recruits, Madonna's pushing her daughter to choose Michigan.
*Damn you Takei, another hour of my life. Sigh. Urban Meyer in college:
YOU'RE FOR THE G-MEN SUNDAY RIGHT? YOU'RE WHAT? HHHMMMMMMM.
No Dave Baas, I'm not rooting for your team, and not just because the Giants' whites look like a certain group of unmentionables when your helmets are off. I'm sure the readers have some sort of deep-seated reasoning, or office squares, or deep knowledge about the Pats and Giants, but since the Lions have never sniffed such a thing in my lifetime, in Superbowls I root for whoever's got the most Michigan guys and/or fewest Buckeyes, with ties going to the most favoritists of M players, or guys who haven't won before. This year the Giants have Super Mario and David Baas of the Daves*, versus Tom Brady and Zoltan the Inconceivable. The former link there is 12 trivia about Brady. The latter is a link to a link to a Romanian Space Emperor/Epic Punter/Business Major doing Borat. For this, I wish him great success.
*My senior year Michigan ran most of its plays up the middle behind an interior line made up entirely of guys named Dave. Since I didn't have access to a blog at the time I just tried to get my section to call them things like "Dave Petruziello of the Daves" or "Dave Pearson of the Daves."
NO LEGS? NO VAK!
Indiana's comeback explained: Novak played most of the second half without his legs. Crean is looking into whether Zack should be suspended for this. MGoBoard is already photoshipping.
MGOBLOG: THE MAGAZINE RETURNS
As Brian announced in a meta thread, we are bringing back "Hail to the Victors" this year, and for the first time producing it independently. Look for future updates on this as we use your support to prove we can afford to do it. There's still some time to submit your ideas of things you would pay for to help support the launch effort.
NFL's new rookie cap might drive more players to the NFL faster. Future Museday: how many 4- and 5-stars make it to NFL Contract #2. If you've caught yourself double-posting something and want us to erase your heinous, unforgiveable crime for all time, you can change the title to "Mods Please Delete," or you can invoke the Space Emperor (of Space).
Slam dunk locks and mirror images, Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley set the standard for Michigan quarterback terror in the aughts. Wildly hyped in-state recruits and five stars, both spent a couple of years as underclassmen playing here and there and making people wonder if and when they would live up to their billings; both did so emphatically as juniors and then managed to top those performances as seniors. A large portion of last year's defensive UFRs not given over to rending of garments was spent wondering whether Brandon Graham was actually better than Woodley.
I think Graham is better. I haven't gone over the UFR numbers yet—slightly busy this time of year—but I know Graham set a record against Michigan State earlier this year and has been owning offensive tackles all year. Woodley set standards by being consistently around +8 or +9 with forays up to 12; Graham's baseline is around 12 and ranges up to 18.
Though he didn't win the Lombardi like Woodley did his senior year, Graham led the nation in TFLs and was drafted about a full round higher by the NFL. While Woodley was more heralded in the award department, that had a lot to do with the other guys on defense. Woodley's compatriots will pepper the rest of this list. Graham's not so much. Woodley lined up next to Alan Branch, Terrance Taylor, and a senior Rondell Biggs; Graham's bookend was a true freshman and his other linemates were just sophomores.
Lamarr Woodley, meanwhile, did with the Lombardi in 2006, the first and to-date last time a Michigan player has won it. His season was statistically frustrating since, like Graham, he was close to a dozen additional sacks that a competent secondary would have seen him put up truly ludicrous numbers. Even so he had 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles; outside TFLs were low (just three) but that can be chalked up to the rest of the defense taking up that burden. As mentioned above, he was the original gangsta of the UFR, averaging close to double-digit plus ratings on a weekly basis.
But all that pales in comparison to the play that finished the "Oh Wide Open" game in which Michigan established itself a contender. By scooping up an unforced Brady Quinn fumble and fending off ND tight end John Carlson all the way to the endzone, Woodley inaugurated the Yakety Sax era:
I just watched that three more times.
Second Team: Dan Rumishek (2001), Tim Jamison (2007 or 2008, take your pick)
It gets muddy past the slam dunks. Michigan's quasi 3-4 from the beginning of the decade makes decisions difficult, as does that one year Michigan switched to an actual 3-4. In 2001, Dan Rumishek was on the All Big Ten team with just 22 tackles. Seven were sacks, but man. That same year Shantee Orr managed 35 tackles with six sacks and 10 TFLs, but didn't show up on all conference teams. Later editions of defensive ends would have almost identical big play numbers but way more tackles. Tim Jamison had 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks as a junior and senior but had 52 and 50 tackles.
Past Rumishek, Orr, and Jamison pickings are slim. Rondell Biggs was the unheralded guy on the 2006 line, a decent plugger but nothing special. A post-career steroid bust also gives his career an unpleasant sheen. Larry Stevens's career was very long but largely anonymous. He's best remembered for being hog-tied on the Spartan Bob play.
We'll go with Dan Rumishek, the only other Michigan DE to get on an All Big Ten team this decade, and one of Tim Jamison's upperclass seasons. Which is entirely up to the reader since they are essentially identical; I lean towards '07 because Graham was not yet a beast and Jamison saw more attention.
Alan Branch (2006) & Gabe Watson (2005)
That will do.
His statistics were not ridiculous (25 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks in '06) but when he left for the NFL draft I thought to myself "this is a logical thing because he will go in the top five." Surprisingly he did not, falling to the top of the second round, but when you are primarily responsible for opponents going six of eighteen on third and one you get dropped onto the All Decade Team no questions asked.
Watson will be a more controversial choice but the guy was a two-time All Big Ten selection and is currently an NFL player. At Michigan he never quite lived up to his copious recruiting hype but he did have some pretty nice statistics for a nose tackle: 40 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 sacks as a senior with almost identical numbers from the year before. The primary issue with Michigan's run defense in '05 was that Watson would drive his guy yards into the backfield, forcing the tailback to cut upfield into the gaping hole left because Pat Massey was 6'8" and therefore getting crushed backwards as far as the guy futilely attempting to contain Watson.
The year before Michigan had their one-off experiment with the 3-4, leaving Watson all alone in the middle, where he dominated. In the aftermath of Watson's one-game suspension for being approximately spherical to start the '05 season, I attempted to adjust for Michigan's tendency to give up a lot of nothing and then a lot of huge runs in the spirit of Football Outsider's "adjusted line yards" and came up with the number 2.5, which was better than anyone in the NFL by three tenths of a yard. (Schedules are much more balanced there, FWIW.) Watson may have been an overrated recruit, but his Michigan career has been underrated.
Second Team: Terrance Taylor(2007), Grant Bowman (2003)
This is actually Taylor's junior season, when he lined up next to Will Johnson, a sophomore Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison and managed impressive-for-a-DT numbers: 55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks. He'd drop off considerably in his doomed senior year; whether that was a falloff in play or just collateral damage from the wholesale implosion around him is in the eye of the beholder. My opinion is the latter since Taylor tended to beat a lot of blocks only to see poor linebacker play rob him of opportunities in the run game; he was never much of a pass rusher.
We'll go with Taylor's statistically productive 2007 over 2008 because he was just about as good via the eyeball then and had more to show for it. Either way he is an easy pick.
The last spot is not easy. Early in the decade, Michigan defensive tackles were excruciatingly bored guys who spent football games blocking offensive lineman and letting linebackers take all the glory. In 2001 Shawn Lazarus started 12 games and managed 16 tackles. In the absence of accolades, statistics, or personal remembrances I can't put Lazarus or Eric Wilson or Norman Heuer in here even though I couldn't tell you whether or not those guys were even good. The guys not on the list who I do have personal remembrances of were not very good or are still on the team.
It's a debate between GrantBowman, who I don't remember much about other than his mother was attacked by the usual band of Columbus idiots one year, and… yeah, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Bowman's 2003 featured 36 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 3 sacks; Van Bergen had 40, 6, and 5; Martin 51, 8.5, and two sacks. Bowman's defense was infinitely better (22nd nationally in rush defense) than either Martin's or Van Bergen's but without the UFRs sitting around it's hard to tell how much of that had to do with Bowman and how much was the contributions of Pierre Woods, Carl Diggs, Lawrence Reid, and the profusion of non walk—ons in the secondary.
The tentative nod goes to Bowman if only because the rest of the line that year was Heuer, Massey, and someone the Bentley doesn't even bother to list but is surely Larry Stevens. Even if he had more help behind him, being the best player on a line that did pretty well against the run is a tiebreaker here.
David Harris (2006), Larry Foote (2001), Victor Hobson (2002)
A couple years ago I was editing a Hail to the Victors article about the considerable difference between David Harris and Obi Ezeh that referenced a couple plays from the '06 season. The diagrams, as diagrams are often wont to be, were confusing so I set about looking at the play myself so I could break the diagram out into three or four separate ones that would explain things in a more leisurely fashion. This was the result:
I swear to God I saw David Harris read not only the direction of a run play, the blocking scheme of that play, and which offensive lineman was assigned to him but modeled the lineman's brain and duped him into thinking the play had cut back. I found this terribly exciting.
That was just another boulder on the pile of reasons I love David Harris. He looks like Worf. He tackled everyone all the time and never did not tackle anyone. He was the first player I felt I was ahead of the curve on thanks to UFRing the games—like David Molk I think I was the first person in the media to recognize that this unheralded player was the balls, which made me feel like Dr. Z. And he kept tackling people. At some point in 2006 the Greek gods descended from the clouds and borrowed him for a while because the eagle that eats Prometheus's liver was on strike.
Then the Lions passed on him and Lamarr Woodley to take Drew Stanton, guaranteeing that the pair would instantly become two of the best defensive players in the league. Yeah. David Harris. I miss him so much.
Larry Foote had a less tangential connection to the worst franchise in sports, but outside of that one-off decision his career has been a good one. As an upperclassman he was an all-around terror, notching 19 TFLs in 2000 and 26 in 2001 at the same time as he picked up a total of 16 PBUs. In 2000 he actually had more of the latter than Todd Howard, and Todd Howard got some of his when the ball deflected off the back of his helmet. Foote was what Jonas Mouton was supposed to be.
We'll go with Foote's senior year when his sack total leapt from one to six and he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year en route to a smattering of All-American honors. A fourth-round pick of the Steelers, Foote's NFL career has been long and productive; he gets a small dollop of bonus points for being one of the current NFL crew frequently seen hanging out with Barwis.
The final member of the first team had to beat out stiff competition but Victor Hobson gets the nod because he was by far the best player on his front seven (Rumishek, Bowman, Lazarus, Stevens, Orr, Diggs, and Zach Kaufman(!) were the other major conributors) in 2002 and racked up the best all-around numbers of any linebacker under consideration: 99 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. One of those was the Outback-sealing reverse pass interception. Hobson was deservedly All Big Ten on a team that finished 9th in the final rankings and 31st in rushing defense despite having zero future NFL players other than Hobson and an injury-stricken Orr.
Second Team: Pierre Woods(2003), Shawn Crable(2007), Lawrence Reid(2004)
Pierre Woods did something almost but not quite bad enough to get booted off the team after his breakout sophomore season (68 tackles, 14 TFL, 7 sacks) and spent the rest of his career playing sparingly—probably the only thing that has infuriated both Ted Ginn Sr and myself—until injury forced Michigan to deploy him extensively in the '05 Iowa game, whereupon he totally saved Michigan's bacon. Though he'd moved to defensive end by then, his bust-out year was at linebacker so here he goes.
Poor star-crossed Shawn Crable will go down in history as the best player to ever put on a winged helmet who Michigan fans have exclusively terrible memories of. In the span of three games at the end of the 2006 season and beginning of 2007, Crable delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scrambling Troy Smith that turned a fourth-down punt into first down and eventually the winning points for OSU and failed to execute a simple blocking assignment on the field goal that could have turned The Horror into the worst win ever.
When he wasn't doing either of those things, though, he was a unique weapon. He is the current holder of Michigan's TFL record and spent his college days bouncing from linebacker to defensive end to crazy 6'6" chicken-legged defensive tackle in certain spread packages, finding ways into the backfield wherever he lined up. He also was the Ryan Mallett of defense as an underclassman, overran a bunch of plays even after he got his head on straight, and appears twice on the upcoming Worst Moments Of The Decade list. That disqualifies him from the first team, but not the second.
Finally, Lawrence Reid saw his career end prematurely as his back went out; late in the 2004 season it was clear he was laboring. Despite that he finished with 70 tackles, 12 for loss, 3 sacks, and an interception. Without the injury his senior season could have made it on to the first team… and seriously aided the 2005 team's efforts to not play the unready Shawn Crable.
Marlin Jackson(2002), Leon Hall(2006)
Leon Hall was sneaky great, one of the few players that the NFL ended up drafting well before I expected them to. Before Hall went halfway through the first round I'd pegged him as another LeSueur sort who'd go in the second and have a decent career; instead he's kind of ridiculously good. Hall leapt into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year an continued improving until he was a hidden beast on the '06 team. Hall's tackles declined from 61 to 45 as teams targeted neophyte Morgan Trent and whichever slot receiver Chris Graham had no hope of covering. At the same time his PBUs leapt from 5 to 15(!). That's impressive. Hall was a deserved Thorpe finalist.
Jackson, meanwhile, has the rare privilege of being the only sophomore to feature in the All-Decade first team. His opening-day matchup against Reggie Williams, Washington's star receiver and a player who had seriously considered Michigan before choosing to stay home, was electric. Jackson got in Williams's grill all day and the Huskies would not back off; by the third quarter he'd set an all-time Michigan record for pass breakups.
By the end of the year he was a second-team All-American to the AP, third team to Sporting News, and (whoopee!) first team to College Football News. He would spent his junior year at safety, battling injury, and though a return to corner as a senior found him on All-America teams again, Jackson never quite recaptured that sophomore magic.
Second team: Jeremy LeSueur (2003), Donovan Warren (2009)
LeSueur was a true rarity on the Michigan roster: a kid who managed to escape the state of Mississippi's immense gravitational pull. He started off slightly wonky—it was his face-mask penalty on Charles Rogers that extended Michigan State's final drive in 2001, setting up both the Spartan Bob play and Lloyd Carr's public dressing-down of Drew Sharp—but finally developed into the guy I thought Leon Hall was: an All-Big Ten type of player destined for a solid NFL career. That wasn't quite the case—LeSueur is currently playing for Bon Jovi, but no one else from the decade comes close.
The final spot is a tossup between Morgan Trent in the one year he wasn't clueless or unmotivated (2007), Donovan Warren this year, Grant Mason's year that exemplifies totally average play, and the nine starts James Whitley made in 2000 before succumbing to his personal demons. The vote here is for Warren, who I actually thought was good, over Trent, who I thought was okay trending towards good.
SAFETY… SORT OF
Jamar Adams (2007), Julius Curry (2000)
Michigan fans will be unsurprised to find a wasteland here after nine defensive positions occupied by world-wrecking All-Americans who have embarked on long NFL careers—everyone on the first team to this point is still in the NFL and almost all will start this year. Safety? Well, Cato June is still kicking around as a linebacker, but at Michigan he was a wreck thanks to an ACL tear that took years for him to fully recover from. And that's almost it.
The almost: Jamar Adams, bless his heart, was the closest thing to a star safety Michigan had in the aughts. He was actually good. Not good enough to get on the All Big Ten first team or get drafted, but good enough to be on the second team two years running and stick with the Seahawks long enough to actually get on the field in six games last year. This makes him a slam-dunk lock as the best safety in the last ten years of Michigan football.
And now: guh. After Adams it's a choice between the most massively overrated Michigan player of the decade—Ernest Shazor—or the guys towards the beginning of the aughts that no one remembers being specifically terrible. You can feel free to disagree but there is no way I'm putting Shazor here. While he did decapitate Dorien Bryant in that one Purdue game, his Michigan career ceased there unbeknownst to the coaches and most of the fans. He was about 80% of the reason Braylon Edwards had to hulk up and smash Michigan State in the Braylonfest game and when he entered the NFL draft he went from a projected second-round pick to totally undrafted, but not before various organizations made him a first-team All American. I will exercise my Minute Observer of Michigan Football privileges and say this: ha, ha, ha.
The problem then is that as I went through the names that vaguely occupied the safety spots for Michigan over the last decade I thought to myself "I should probably write down Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon." Sadly, I cannot vouch for two guys who couldn't stay healthy or maintain their starting jobs, nor can I seriously support anyone I've seen take the field in the UFR era. So let's reach back into the long, long ago when memories are fuzzy and haul out easily the most unlikely member of the All Aughts: Julius Curry.
I can't tell you that I have detailed knowledge of Curry's play anymore, but I do remember liking the guy a lot and being seriously disappointed when his junior and senior years were wrecked by injury. As a sophomore in 2000, he put up an impressive collection of statistics: 59 tackles, 5 TFLs, 5 PBUs, and 3 forced fumbles, plus two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Ohio State in a 38-26 win. Michigan managed to scrape out the 49th-best pass efficiency defense despite deploying Todd Howard and a very confused James Whitley—this was the heart of the "suspects" era—thanks to Curry's unregarded efforts. Maybe he never decapitated anyone, but by God he definitely would have tackled DeAndra Cobb by the second time.
Second Team: DeWayne Patmon(2000), Ernest Shazor(2004)
Patmon was the second member of the safety unit I remember not being specifically terrified about; Shazor was discussed above. He does deserve to be here because even if he gave up a ton of big plays he made more big plays in Michigan's favor than the other safeties kicking around this decade, and those guys gave up about as many plays.
Garrett Rivas (2006)
Rivas never had a huge leg but he was good out to 47-48 yards and stands as the most accurate kicker of the decade, hitting 64 of 82 in his four years as Michigan's kicker. That's a 78% strike rate; in 2006 he checked in at 85%. He was reliable, and that's all you ask for in a college kicker.
Training day. AnnArbor.com talks with Brandon Graham about his prep for the NFL combine. Includes interview segments with Graham and a look inside what Barwis's program is like. Graham also makes a huge array of pained faces:
Graham's running 4.58 40s and doing linebacker drills. I feel a RBUAS piece referencing this video in the future.
In other NFL draft news, Zoltan Mesko is interviewed by the Boston Herald and references a name from the past you might be surprised is hanging around the program again:
“I thought he [Pats special teams coach Scott O'Brien] was very knowledgeable in the special teams game,” Mesko continued. “I know we have our own Michigan guy that takes special teams really seriously, Pierre Woods, and basically, I never knew… When Pierre came back this past month, he’s training up at Michigan again to stay in shape, the amount of knowledge he’s picked up from the special teams coach there is unbelievable. You can really make or break yourself as a linebacker… you’re going to play special teams at that level.”
Woods got in some trouble after a breakout sophomore year and barely hung on with the program after that; many people believe that's where Michigan's rift with the Glenville program that pumps out players year after year started.
Hunwick! After last night's hockey game I bet my friend a dollar that Shawn Hunwick would get the first star despite not facing much in the way of scoring chances, or even shots, from Notre Dame. Lo, it was so. That capped what was probably the best game at Yost all year, a 4-0 win over Notre Dame that saw loveable tiny walk-on get (split) a shutout and two of the four seniors score. Carl Hagelin even added the sort of pretty goals that have been sorely lacking all year when he danced around an ND defenseman and set up Matt Rust for a slam-dunk on a two on one.
Hogan, who has made 41 straight starts in net, is listed as doubtful for Saturday's regular-season finale at Notre Dame.
I know I've been pretty down on Hogan of late—so has Red—but Hunwick's a 5'7" walk-on. That's a major blow.
Michigan is now sixth in the league. Four and five are done with conference play and Michigan can pass them with a win Saturday. If Northern gets five points or more out of their weekend (ie: win both nights and win one in regulation) against Lake State, they'll pass Michigan. Anything less and M will sneak into the fourth spot and grab the first-round bye that comes with it.
Will it matter? Eh… probably not. Unless MSU or Ferris State is upset, Michigan would reach the Joe as the lowest remaining seed and have to take out #1 Miami, a team that's lost all of two conference games this year. Doing that full strength is difficult enough, and now with Hogan questionable it's even more doubtful.
Side note: excellent work by whoever slid this game to Thursday night. I assume it was to make sure the students were present for senior day, something that's been exceedingly rare for a long time. Usually the students are on break and senior night is a flat affair.
Recruiting cavalcade. This didn't get mentioned in Thursday Recruitin'—which we promise will return to Wednesday when things are less insane—but this weekend Michigan is hosting a massive "Showcase" for high school recruits at Oosterbaan and Newsterbaan. They're not officially involved because they can't be, but having what seems like half of the Midwest's big recruits take an unofficial visit to Michigan's shiny new practice facility can't hurt.
Scout has a couplelists of all the folk coming in. Prepare for the begats. Notable names include MI RB Justice Hayes, MI WR DeAnthony Arnett, commit Shawn Conway, OH WR AJ Jordan, MI LB Lawrence Thomas, OH LB Antonio Poole, 2012 MI LB James Ross, commit Greg Brown, commit Delonte Hollowell, MI WR Valdez Showers, MI OL Anthony Zettel, OH OL Chris Carter, OH OL Aundrey Walker, IL OL Chris Bryant, and many others. It's like a super-massive junior day on Michigan's campus, the equivalent of getting a NIKE camp. The difference: NIKE camps are rare appearances and this is going to happen every year.
I'll be most interested to see how the current Michigan commits do. Zettel's already torn up a lineman camp and seems like he'll be an easy four-star, but Hollowell, Brown, and Conway haven't been to a senior camp yet IIRC and this will be a first read on where they'll end up in the rankings.
Expansion dampening? Yes, another Big Ten expansion article. This one has a couple of interesting quotes about the issue of buying into the Big Ten Network. New members are probably going to have to operate at a lower revenue level to start:
"You just don't jump into the league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time," Alvarez said. "I think someone has to buy their way into the league." …
"We've created such an asset in the Big Ten channel," Outgoing Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said, echoing Alvarez. "I cannot see our 11 institutions simply saying we're going to divide our pie up into more pieces from Day 1."
That will dampen enthusiasm from potential additions, but it might not matter. This is the first time I've seen these numbers for the BTN's second year and holy crap:
But according to tax forms the nonprofit conference is required to make public, it generated $217.7 million and paid each school about $18.8 million in 2007, the most recent year for which tax forms are available.
The next year, according to the Sports Business Journal, the new TV network added another $66 million to the pot. That pushed the per-team payout to about $22 million each, a figure officials from several Big Ten schools confirm remains accurate.
The next most prosperous conference, the SEC, paid its member schools about $11 million each in 2007, according to tax documents.
I'm pretty sure that latter distribution is way up since the SEC's blockbuster ESPN contract kicked in, FWIW, but I also think the SEC is going to have a static amount of money for the next 15 years; the Big Ten is half-owner of its network and will see increasing revenue shares over the course of that time.
Yes that again. The WLA has a piece similar to the one I just posted, but when I said "I cannot emphasize enough" I was not kidding. Money grafs:
They certainly didn’t know their statements were true either. Is strongly asserting something you know could theoretically be true but might also be false a lie? If you don’t offer up any qualifications to your assertions (I didn’t see any), then I say yes, especially in the case of Rosenberg.
I suppose the best we could say about Snyder is he was totally ignorant of the subject on which he was writing and he didn’t know he was uttering falsehoods. So yay for being a dumbass, Mr. Snyder. But with Rosenberg, we know from his opinion column that he disapproves of the job Rodriguez is doing. For him to write falsehoods that also denigrate someone he disapproves of is just a bit too much of a coincidence for me to believe. Rosenberg knew what he was doing, IMO.
They lied. In the days and months to come regarding the story about “Michigan Players Practice A Lot,” let us not forget the fact that Rosenberg and Snyder lied to their readers.
University of Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez announced Thursday (Nov. 19) following practice the four permanent captains elected for the 130th team in school history. Linebacker Stevie Brown (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East HS), defensive end Brandon Graham (Detroit, Mich./Crockett Technical HS), punter Zoltan Mesko (Twinsburg, Ohio/Twinsburg HS) and left tackle Mark Ortmann (Klein, Texas/Klein HS) were selected by their teammates as captains of the 2009 football team.
“Our players have selected four student-athletes who represent our program at the highest level both on and off the field,” said Rodriguez. “Stevie, Brandon, Zoltan and Mark have played at a high level all season and received the greatest honor that a player can receive, selection as captain by your peers. They, and our other seniors, will lead us into Michigan Stadium Saturday to play the greatest rivalry game in college football.”
Brown joins Graham as a defensive captain. He is the team’s leading tackler with 73 stops and is second with eight tackles for loss, both career highs. Brown has also contributed one sack, one forced fumble, one interception and four pass breakups. He has started all 11 games at linebacker and will see action in his 50th career game when U-M faces Ohio State.
Graham is the most dominant defensive lineman in the Big Ten, racking up a league and NCAA-best 21 tackles for loss. He has 8.5 sacks on the year and has contributed at least one quarterback stop in six of the past seven games. Graham has recorded a career-best 57 tackles, two PBUs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He has also contributed on special teams, blocking two punts and returning another for his first career touchdown. An All-America candidate, Graham is second all-time at Michigan in sacks (27.5) and third in tackles for loss (51).
Mesko is one of the nation’s top all-around student-athletes, excelling on the field, in the classroom and the community. He leads the Big Ten and is sixth nationally in punting with a career-best 44.7-yard average this season. A semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the second straight season, Mesko has punted 46 times for 2,054 yards. He had 16 fair caught, 15 boots of 50 yards or better and 13 downed inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Mesko is a finalist for the Lowes Senior CLASS Award, the Danny Wuerffel Trophy and has been named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. He earned CoSIDA Academic All-District IV first team honors and is top candidate for Academic All-America honors.
Ortmann has started all 11 games at left tackle and helped anchor the Wolverines’ offense that is rated top in the Big Ten in scoring (31.3 points per game) and is second in rushing offense (195.8 avg.). He has started 24 contests and played in 35 games during his career.
The captains will lead the Wolverines against No. 9 Ohio State Saturday (Nov. 21) at Michigan Stadium. The 106th meeting will be televised nationally by ESPN on ABC at noon EST.
Following is the team’s injury report for the game against the Buckeyes:
David Molk (knee)
Brandon Minor (shoulder)
Doubtful (25 percent chance of playing)
Mike Williams (ankle)
Probable (75 percent chance of playing)
Martavious Odoms (knee)
Most obvious captaining ever, but good for them. I really wish Brandon Minor could, like, play against OSU. They've appreared to have left injured people off the report, but the coaches have never listed someone as out and then played them. Damn.
Tate suffered a minor concussion on his last play against Iowa. It was not the reason he sat out the last two drives, however. That was a coaching decision. He is still expected to start against Delaware State, but that's up to the team's medical staff. Both Tate and Denard are still pretty small guys, so the coaching staff is trying to limit the contact that they have to take. People need to remember that they are just freshmen, so a mental mistake here and there is inevitable. Most freshmen, especially QBs, have the luxury of redshirting. Part of what makes Tate and Denard so good is their ability to improvise. Like Pat White, Rasheed Marshall, and Shaun King, they need to be able to improvise within the system.
The outside receivers are doing a good job blocking, but the team needs to do a better job of getting them the ball as well. Inside receivers are also doing well. Martavious Odoms is very physical despite his size, and Kevin Koger is probably on pace to get a record number of receptions for a tight end under Rich Rod.
The offensive line played solidly, but they didn't have their best game. That's understandable, because Iowa is one of the best defensive fronts they'll see all year. There are some technical and fundamental things that need to be improved still. The trainers will let Molk run a little this week to evaluate his discomfort.
Moving Woolfolk down to corner enabled Jordan Kovacs to move to strong safety. Rish first thought about the move after the MSU game, though the defensive coaches may have already been giving it some thought.
Boubacar Cissoko's suspension is to due academics and other things. He's only practicing with the scout team at this point. He knows what he has to do in order to get back on the field.
There's still no guarantee of a redshirt for freshmen who haven't seen the field yet. There are 6 more weeks to go, and you never know what can happen. The Cissoko suspension will leave the door open for Justin Turner, in particular.
It's hard to keep the team emotionally prepared for the Delaware state game, especially coming of a the primetime showdown with Iowa. They need to remember that they'll get DSU's best shot. The reason for games like Delaware State is to get the 8th home game. Hopefully in the future, Michigan will be able to get a bit better competition for that game - though they'll probably stay within the 1-AA ranks. Rodriguez would probably rather have a bye week.
Moosman and the entire offensive line were "great, but not perfect" against Iowa. The snaps have improved, and Moosman feels like he's finally in a groove at the center position. Moosman is a less intense player at center, and that intensity is what makes Molk great.
Young QBs are going to make mistakes. They just need to remember that they aren't the only ones: "everyone makes mistakes, they're just in the spotlight."
Halfway through the season, you'd prefer not to have the two losses, but they've come out and played hard in all 6 games. They've already done better than ;ast year, but there's still a lot more work to do. "We're ready to go."
Zoltan's mom called to make sure he knew he was selected Big 10 special teams player of the week. It's an honor, but he's not too happy about it because he wanted the team to win.
Zoltan needs to manage his emotions, and not get too high after a good performance (i.e. against Iowa), nor too low after a bad one (against Michigan State). On the fake against Michigan State, Zoltan said he thought he should punt it, but by the time he had made a decision, he was past the point of no return.
Zoltan doesn't feel good about the team being 4-2, mostly because of the way it happened. Starting 4-0 then dropping a couple games is a damper. everyone would prefer to be 6-0.
Troy is happy at either corner or safety, whichever will help him get on the field. He's not sure which is his more natural position, but moving from safety to corner is easier, because he needs to only worry about his guy, and not the entire defensive scheme. When Coach Gibson texted him during class that they needed to have a meeting, Troy thought he did something wrong. He was relieved that it was just about a position switch.
Soup Campbell always gave Troy a hard time when he was coaching at Michigan. He wanted to talk some trash to soup before the game, but couldn't find him. He thought that Iowa would pick on him all game, but was surprised to see they mostly attacked Donovan.
Cissoko has responded well to his suspension. He's headed on the right track, and he knows what he did. "Boubacar: He's a fighter, he'll be back."
Minor's health is improving each week. The only thing that's still bothering him is that he's unable to explode out of his cuts. Still, he's getting pretty close to 100%.
The offense keeps improving from week-to-week. They need to continue fixing the little things to achieve what they want.
Though he's a skill-position player, Minor savors contact. He likes to deliver the hit rather than receive it.
Regardless of the situation, Minor talks to the QBs and keeps their heads on straight. Minor has faith in anybody the coaches throw in there. Denard's pick was a common freshman mistake.
The team needs to be able to play all 60 minutes of a game in order to win. It's tough to think about being just a couple plays from a 6-0 record. They've lost, however, so 10-2 is the new goal.
Graham has accepted a more vocal leadership position this year. He still sometimes gets nervous about what exactly he's going to say. Gotta go out there and keep leading, keep practicing hard. Leaders can't be down because the team loses. They have to be the ones to keep the guys up.
RVB and Mike Martin said sorry to Graham: Don't want him to lose another game in his senior year.
3rd down defense is kinda bad, but they're trying to get it together. Sometimes, it's just good plays by the opposing offense. "I don't wanna say lucky, but 3rd and 24? Man, luck has gotta be on your side."
How does a 5'9" guy get four stars from recruiting services and offers from Michigan, Iowa, and Notre Dame? Running an electronically-timed 4.25 forty (check the linkfest) at the OSU Nike camp will just about do it. It also helps to lead your team to a 9-4 record by playing corner, free safety, running back, wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner after the other D-1 prospect on your team, Michigan State commit Javon Ringer, goes down with a knee injury midway through the season.
Harrison committed to Notre Dame early in the recruiting year but reopened his recruiting when Tyrone Willingham was shown the door. He quickly picked the Wolverines over Iowa. OSU showed little interest throughout his recruitment, possibly because they recruited 8,000 defensive backs the past two years.
Harrison is clearly physically limited. That 5'9" is more like 5'8.5", and as anyone who watched Braylon Edwards annihilate 5'9" Jaren Hayes during this year's MSU game will tell you, when you're a cornerback size does matter. Harrison isn't a Marlin Jackson type player you can throw out against any receiver you want to erase, but he's no scrub either. Look at this video from Insiders (free): whenever he's challenged by an opposing team he is in great position, looking for the ball and making a play on it. If he was three inches taller he'd be Justin King.
He isn't three inches taller. He isn't Justin King or Marlin Jackson, but he should be the kind of player you can line up over a slot receiver like Dorien Bryant or Bam Childress. He's certainly going to be fast enough to play corner and will probably have to do so very shortly after arriving on campus (no pun intended).
JOHNNY SEARS - CB - Edison(CA)
Height: 6'1" Weight: 178 Lemming: NR Rivals: ***, #26 CB, #56 CA Scout.com:***, #31 CB Projected Role: Boom or bust at CB
More on the movie poster later. Sears is one of two California sleepers (Chris Richards is the other) that will make or break this recruiting class and possibly the Michigan defense. By the time Sears stepped onto the field to play his first varsity football game--he transferred to Edison for his junior season and was forced to play JV due to California transfer rules--he was already a Michigan commitment. He had never set foot on the Michigan campus. Late his junior year, his appendix burst at a track meet. In the aftermath, he lost 30 pounds.
So it may be a bit of an understatement to declare Sears a risk. When Michigan took him they undoubtedly thought they would receive a commitment from Justin King or Victor Harris and that if Sears took a couple years to find his way at the Big Ten level that would be fine. Neither of those five-stars ended up leaving home, however, leaving Sears all by his lonesome in this year's cornerback class until Ty Willingham was unceremoniously dismissed by ND and Harrison fell into Michigan's lap.
Recruited as an athlete, Sears played like a big-time corner this year, racking up 103 tackles and 7 interceptions for Edison. He's still got the impressive combination of size, speed, and leaping ability that prompted Michigan to offer a kid who had never attended a Michigan camp or played a down of varsity football. There's certainly a possibility that Sears was overlooked by the big time schools in the area due to his low profile. He could be a Braylon Edwards-type athlete at corner. Or he could be not much at all. (How's that for a nothing statement? Pretty good, I think. But it's true.)
CHRIS RICHARDS - CB - North Hills Monroe(CA) (Greyshirt)
Height: 5'10" Weight: 170 Lemming: NR Rivals: ***, #61 ATH, #71 CA Scout.com:***, #55 CB Projected Role: See you in two years, kid
For some reason, typing "chris.richards" into Google's image search yields a the "Undercover Brother" promo poster seen at left on page five or six. Serendipity indeed, because Richards is indeed undercover. And a brother. Just like Johnny Sears. In fact, Richards' recruitment was eerily similar to Sears'. Both California sleepers that Michigan jumped on very early, Richards and Sears both drew late interest from big Pac-10 programs. Both freaked out Michigan recruitniks with their flirtations--Sears visited Oregon State; Richards actually was a Cal commit for 24 hours. Both are reservoirs of untapped potential.
Richards is a year young for his high school graduating class and will be taking a greyshirt to catch up physically. He may not need that long, as showed up at the CaliFlorida bowl weighing 170 pounds--up from the slender 155 he played his senior season at--and played very well against a set of Florida receivers including Fred Rouse, one of the top recruits in the country. Richards picked off a pass and could have had two more. It is unwise to place too much stock in all-star game performances but history has proven that good ones (Ginn, Breaston) are often indications that the player's athleticism is sky-high. Richards didn't exactly dominate like Ginn or Breaston but he did prove that he is certainly capable of competing with top flight athletes.
Richards is more raw clay for English. He won't play next year. He may even redshirt the following year (otherwise, why bother with the greyshirt at all?). But there's something there already which is only going to get bigger, stronger and faster. Dude is dedicated to his cause. He put on those 15 pounds in only a few months between the end of his high school season and the CaliFlorida All-Star game. Like Sears, Richards is high risk, high reward.
NIC HARRIS - S - Alexandria(LA)
Height: 6'3" Weight: 208 Lemming: #11 S Rivals:****, #94 overall, #5 S, #3 LA Scout.com:****, #92 overall, #14 LB Projected Role: Search and destroy
Check out the Nic Harris linkfest for a few action photos of him. It's telling that in two of three (including the one at left) he's murdering some poor Louisiana kid who was in the wrong place (anywhere around the ball) at the wrong time (any time Harris is on the field).
Harris is a package of physical ability, intangibles, and academic performance that doesn't come around very often. Harris is 6'3, 210, with a 35 inch vertical leap and that ubiqitous 4.5 forty time. He is also tougher than most, playing most of a first-round playoff game after taking a vicious cheap shot while attempting to fair catch a punt. Harris picked off a pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the game away. Then he went to the hospital. He also has a 3.4 GPA.
Harris is a relative newcomer to defense, having only played it for his final two years in high school. He adapted quickly, however, intercepting 10 passes as a junior. As a senior, Harris gathered 71 tackles, 11 interceptions, three sacks, and the LA class 4A defensive MVP award. He returned 9 of his 21 career interceptions for touchdowns, returned punts and kicks, and took the occasional handoff as a tailback.
Harris may end up at linebacker at Michigan, but will start out at safety. No matter where he ends up his nose for the ball and tendency to show up at the point of attack with malicious intent will be welcome.
ZOLTAN "THE INCONCEIVABLE" MESKO - P - Twinsburg(OH)
Height: 6'4" Weight: 220 Lemming: NR Rivals:***, #2 K/P Scout.com:***, #4 P Projected Role: Program savior
Best. Punter. Ever. Ever!!!
Seriously. Lemming called Mesko the "best high school punter in the last ten years." As a senior he averaged 43.6 yards a kick with 4.4 seconds of hang time. At the Army All-American game people stopped practicing to watch him punt (and he beat Iowa QB recruit Jake Christensen in a QB skills competition). At Michigan camp, well (lifted from the linkfest):
...the stakes were raised a month later when he [Mesko] attended the Michigan camp, averaged 48.5 yards per kick with an average hang time of 4.6 seconds and was offered a scholarship as a punter on the spot -- which he accepted less than a day later.
The hang time is the most critical aspect of his game, especially since Michigan's punt coverage has been notoriously bad for a while. The half-second or so that separates Mesko from your average punter probably means 40 percent fewer returned kicks, a comforting thought with Ted Ginn looming the next two or three Novembers.
Mesko will punt from day one at Michigan and will likely handle kickoffs as well, as he put 85 percent of them into the endzone as a senior. If he can pooch punt he really will be the best punter Michigan has had in forever. Even if he's not particularly good at that he should singlehandedly move opposing offenses back a few yards a possession and almost eliminate opponents' kickoff returns, which is well, well worth one scholarship out of 85.
MGOBLOG Editorial Stance
Defensive Backs: B-. Michigan needed a sure thing and had two five-stars in its sights but could not close the deal on either. The three corners they did get all have serious question marks: Harrison is undersized and both Richards and Sears are sleepers--cynics would say "risks."
The news isn't all bad, though. Nic Harris is a big get, a prototypical SS with a propensity to leave opposing players face-down on the field wishing they were dead or at least unconscious. Harrison probably is as fast as reputed. His much-publicized 4.25 was a Nike camp thing. Even if the track was a little fast that day, he still beat every other attendee and won the camp's MVP award. Sears and Richards both got chased by Pac-10 schools all year (USC and OSU for Sears, Cal and WSU for Richards), were impressive enough to offer very early, and seem to have high ceilings. Sears' lack of experience and Richards' youth and small size make them risky prospects, but the fact that despite those drawbacks Michigan offered both of them very early implies that they have enough athleticism to make those concerns secondary.
How much you like this class of defensive backs is probably a reflection of how much you trust Ron English's ability to identify raw talent and coach it up... certainly a question mark since his tenure at Michigan has been very brief. At the very least, the Undercover Brothers look promising. The fact that Pac-10 teams made late-season runs at both of them is encouraging, as was Richards' bravura performance in the CaliFlorida All-Star game. The way they were recruited makes it look like English pulled a fast one, locked up a couple guys when their stock was low, and managed to hold on to them when they blowed up. Brandon Harrison looks like the kind of player who can step in quickly and hold his own. He's not the next Woodson but it looks like he has a nose for the ball and will be a productive player. Harris has all the physical tools to become a great safety. He may not have the coaching, but that's a separate issue.
Kickers:A. Michigan has a new attitude about special teams that is beginning to pay dividends. Mesko is the latest piece of evidence, and possibly the best. Michigan's net punting was 77th in the country last year, due to a variety of factors: Finley's propensity to line-drive long punts and boom short ones into the end zone, a block against MSU, Michigan's inability to deal with Ted Ginn or Ryne Robinson. Mesko won't solve those problems by himself but should move Michigan up the list with his hangtime. One opposing high school coach said he was a "weapon" when it came to pinning opposing teams inside their 20, so he has to be better than Finley.
Compare Michigan's punting statistics with Tennessee's Dusty Colquitt, a Mesko-like punter who will go in the second or third round in the upcoming draft. Michigan's opponents returned 56% of Finley's punts and averaged 13.1 yards a return. Tennessee's opponents returned 40% of Colquitt's punts and averaged 3.7 yards a return.
Michigan punted 66 times last season and kicked off 70 times. As near as I can figure, opposing teams started at about their 25 off of kickoffs. If Mesko can bump up the net punting three yards and bump back the opposing team's kickoff start three yards, he'll account for almost 420 extra yards of field opposing teams will have to travel to score. If he can get every kickoff into the endzone and get his net punting stats up to Colquitt's level, he'll account for almost 700 yards. That's huge.
Yes, I'm going to track this next season. No, I am not a virgin. (Unless my mom is reading, in which case, I am.)