Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michigan @ Wisconsin Live Blog (UPDATE: Never Mind)

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

MGoBlog is hosting today ... didn't get that memo until I woke up. Head on over there to get your liveblog fix.

Basketball Live Blog Tomorrow

Hi everyone. I'm back from vacation. Since I haven't been blogging in a week (blame my computer dying and the beauty of Colorado for that) I've decided to come back with a bang: I'll be doing a live blog of Michigan @ Wisconsin starting tomorrow at 1:30 pm. Go Blue, and hopefully I'll catch you tomorrow for the live blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vacation Update


Sorry about the light posting recently ... I just finished my last midterm, and I'm flying out of town tomorrow. I'm going to the hoops game tonight, and hopefully I'll find time while packing to throw up a game summary of some sort.

I'll be bringing my laptop with me to Colorado (yes, the above picture does not accurately represent my spring break whatsoever), so if there's something major going on I'll try to throw a post up, or at least link to somebody else. However, posting will most certainly be sparse at best over the next week.

Shameless plug: If you're in the state of Michigan, check your local newsstand for the new issue of The Wolverine. It has an incredibly detailed rundown of this year's recruiting class, as well as a look ahead to the Class of 2010. Also, I have articles on pages 12 and 82, which is where the shameless plug part applies.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Reactions to the Threet Transfer


The blogosphere has now had sufficient time to react to the news that dropped late last night: Steven Threet will no longer be a Wolverine. Here's a roundup of the reactions from several Michigan and national blogs (I urge you to click the links to get the full picture from each of these blogs ... I'm obviously not going to copy and paste their entire articles):
MGoBlog: This is obviously not good for anything except my prediction that Tate Forcier would be the opening-day starter. For all Threet's faults he looked competent at times last year and could have been passable as a sophomore; Michigan is basically down to the two freshmen and then it's time to close your eyes, pick a walk-on, and pray.

Maize n Brew: While we at Maize n Brew respect Steven's decision to transfer and wish him the best in his future endevours, we're a little perplexed by his decisions. Watching Threet play this year, he's not really that bad a fit for the offense. He's got a live arm and decent speed for a gigantic honky. While he's not a prototypical "spread" quarterback, I can really name only protoytpical spread quarterback in college football. I'll give you a hint. His last name is Pryor. So if you're running the spread, chances are you're imporvising a tad with a quarterback that is spread deficient in some manner or another.

Varsity Blue: The Threet transfer probably does mean one positive thing for Michigan fans: that Tate Forcier has looked good enough in the training program and volunatary QB-WR workouts as to pose a significant threat to Threet’s starting position. Of course, it also means bad things, like “Michigan only has 2 quarterbacks between safety and Nick Sheridan.” The QB depth situation becomes almost as bad as it was last year, though the second option (likely to be Denard Robinson) is a step up from either Sheridan or Justin Feagin.

Michigan Sports Center: Aside from the effect Threet's decision to leave has on the team, this is yet another negative publicity type of moment for the Michigan football program. There have been plenty since Rich Rodriguez was hired, and until he starts winning, there will be plenty more. It's never usually good for a team's image when players leave the program, but when a quarterback leaves, that negative publicity is even worse.

The Diag: Of course, it's not like Threet lit the world up when he started last year (he won just one game as the starter), so to assume that there will be some gigantic drop-off is sort of silly. What Forcier and Robinson lack in game experience, they may make up for in versatility. All those QB running plays that went for naught in 2008 may prove very valuable in 2009 -- if nothing else, the playbook can open up.

More than that, this lets Rodriguez stop dancing around his QB issue. He does not have to force Threet, a drop-back style guy, to fit into his spread offense. With Forcier and Robinson he has more prototypical spread guys, so the pieces may simply come together better.

Dr. Saturday: The Wolverines hotly pursued and had commitments from a pair of primetime, athletic quarterback prospects last year, Shavodrick Beaver and Kevin Newsome, and lost both during the subsequent on-field collapse. Now their loss becomes clear: Threet's departure all but guarantees the offense is doomed to another rebuilding year, and that's only if Forcier is enough of a revelation to hit the ground running in 2010. If not, the spread 'n shred is stuck in the starter's block for the foreseeable future.

The general tenor of Michigan fans seems to fall somewhere between proclaiming doom and seeing the opportunity for Forcier or Robinson to open up the offense next year (with the caveat of AHHHHSHERIDANOOOOOOOOOOOO). This seems about right. U-M might have some early struggles with a true freshman quarterback, and those struggles may very well extend to the end of the season, so it would obviously be nice to have a competent guy under center who has some experience. However, it may be better for the long-term development of Forcier and/or Robinson to have the ball in their hands from day one. They'll almost certainly get the lion's share of practice snaps in the fall, and Forcier is already on campus and will get a ton of spring reps.

Threet's departure obviously doesn't bode well for Michigan. However, I'm not ready to jump off a bridge or anything. Remember, he struggled mightily last season, and there was no guarantee that he was going to be much better in 2009 (or even the starter, or even the backup if Robinson came on strong in the fall). The lack of depth and experience (besides Sheridan, but that doesn't really count) scares me a lot, but the prospect of Forcier getting even more time with the first team makes me more confident that he can have a solid freshman campaign, and the team can be back in the Big Ten title hunt in 2010.

Steven Threet Will Transfer


According to the Detroit News, sophomore quarterback Steven Threet will transfer from the University of Michigan, confirming rumors that had swirled around last season's starter during the past week.
"I've decided to transfer from the University of Michigan," Threet said, reciting from a prepared statement during a telephone conversation Sunday. "I have requested and received my release. I do not yet know where I will continue my collegiate career and will have no further comment until that decision is made."
This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson to step up and grab the starting quarterback job in 2009. I'm sure Michigan fans will not want to see junior Nick Sheridan under center again, and David Cone, who fans can only assume is nowhere close to being a viable option to play, is the only other quarterback on the roster.

Threet will transfer for the second time in his career. He enrolled early at Georgia Tech in the spring of 2007, but transferred to Michigan before the season started. He is a former Elite11 prospect and was rated the #9 pro-style QB by Rivals coming out of high school. However, it was clear that he didn't fit the spread-option system that coach Rich Rodriguez was implementing, and fans were clamoring for Forcier, an early enrollee, to start from day one.

The move certainly hurts Michigan's depth and experience at quarterback next year, and many expected Threet to at the very least start the season as the number one signal-caller next year. However, I'm not holding any ill will against Threet, and I hope he finds success wherever he ends up. By all accounts, he was a great guy and a true "Michigan Man", and he was caught in a tough situation in Ann Arbor. I wish him the best, and hopefully he'll find the kind of success that Matt Gutierrez achieved after leaving the Wolverines.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quick Note

Looking for a recap of last night's Michigan hockey game? Check out The Wolverine for a cover of the game written by yours truly.

Notes on UM/Northwestern


HUGE victory for the Wolverines, as they pull out a 70-67 overtime win at Northwestern to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Manny Harris carried the team to victory, scoring 25 of his 26 points in the second half and overtime, going 8-15 from the field and 9-10 from the line. Some thoughts from the game:
  • Manny was on his best taking the ball to the hoop. He went 7-9 on his two point shots, most from in close, and his ability to get to the line (and convert his free throws) was a huge reason why Michigan pulled out this game. After battling foul trouble in the first half, he played the best 25 minutes of basketball I've seen him play all season.
  • Michigan played a ton of man-to-man this game, and Stu Douglass did a great job of shutting down Wildcat sharpshooter Craig Moore. Moore finished with only six points, going 2-10 from the field, after averaging 15 a game this season.
  • I spent much of the second half screaming for a Kelvin Grady appearance. Watching C.J. Lee and Douglass attempt to beat a full-court press is not for the faint of heart. Lee is also developing the nasty habit of dribbling into the middle of a zone without knowing what he is going to do with the ball, which led to a couple bad turnovers. Douglass turned the ball over four times and went scoreless on 0-4 shooting.
  • However, Grady finally entered the game late in the overtime period, and possibly showed us why John Beilein has cut back his minutes. With the Wolverines clinging to a three-point lead with six seconds left, Grady got caught up on a screen and allowed Moore, a 42% shooter from downtown, to get an open look for the tie. Luckily, his shot caught iron and Zack Gibson pulled down the rebound, but Grady has got to play better defense in such a critical situation.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry had an up-and-down eight minutes of play. He broke double digits for the first time since January 7th, scoring 10 on 2-3 shooting and going 5-5 from the line. However, he also turned the ball over three times, and it was clear Beilein didn't trust having him in the game down the stretch.
  • The officiating was awful, but didn't seem to favor either team. The teams combined to shoot 50 free throws (Michigan with 27, NW with 23), with the officials calling a ton of ticky-tack fouls. They also blew a couple potentially game-changing calls, allowing Northwestern to get away with murder on Gibson on an offensive rebound (leading to a fast break on the other end) and calling a phantom shooting foul on DeShawn Sims on a three-point attempt for Sims' fifth foul in overtime.
Michigan improves to 16-10 overall, and 6-7 in the Big Ten. They host Minnesota on Thursday at 7 pm, and presumably needs three more victories over their next five games (MINN, @IOWA, PSU, @WISC, @MINN) to secure a spot in the Big Dance.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Forbes Tells Us What Michigan Fans Already Know


Forbes named Ann Arbor the best college sports town in the country, edging out Palo Alto (Stanford) and Madison (Wisconsin) for the honor. The list took into account the school's standings in the Director's Cup (which measure athletic achievement across the board) as well as the town's quality of life, crime rate, and public school quality.

As a person privileged enough to grow up and go to school in Ann Arbor, I couldn't agree more with the list. Most of my favorite childhood memories involve walking to a Michigan football game with my dad on a fall Saturday, or going to see a hockey game at Yost with a couple of friends, or bumming a couple of tickets to a basketball game at Crisler. It's hard to grow up in Ann Arbor and not have some Michigan sports experience; the school is woven into the town in a way that makes being an Ann Arbor resident synonymous with a passion for the Wolverines.


I can't image a better place to have grown up in. The town is beautiful (just walk down Main Street around Christmas and you'll agree), has the safety of a much smaller town (Ann Arbor had the fourth-lowest crime rate of any town on Forbes' list), and the schools are great (I'm proud to say I took advantage of the educational opportunities at both Pioneer and Community high schools).

Forbes' list justifies what I've felt for most of my life: It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine, and a resident of the City of Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Michigan Basketball and Schizophrenia


After starting the season with two upset victories over top-5 teams, a couple appearances in the top-25, and being recognized as one of the most surprising teams in the nation, the Michigan basketball team has dropped seven of their last nine and is perilously close to becoming irrelevant in the NCAA Tournament picture. Obviously, scheduling had a large part to do with Michigan's slide ... the Big Ten is tough top-to-bottom this season. However, I had the privilege of attending John Beilein's press conference before Feb. 5 victory over Penn State, and this quote really stuck out to me:
"As a team we've got to find different combinations on the floor that will flow better right now. There are just these little things – a defensive assignment and an offensive assignment – that we're mixing. We're going to continue to try different rotations. Having Zack [Novak] out one game and Manny [Harris] out a game, it showed some things, positively and negatively, on what we've got to do."
This wouldn't have much cause for concern if that quote came from, say, November or December, as the team tries to set a constant rotation before the Big Ten season. However, this is February, and the Wolverines need to make a run down the stretch to avoid another NIT appearance. I realize that missing Novak and Harris over the course of two games affected the regular rotation, except that there has been no regular rotation to speak of.

Kelvin Grady went from a 25-minute per game guy to playing eight minutes combined over the last three games (including a DNP-CD against UConn). Jevohn Shepherd started the season as a benchwarmer, played 32 minutes in the victory over Duke, fell out of the lineup completely, and now gets anywhere from 3-18 minutes per game. Besides Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims (and possibly Zack Novak), it doesn't seem like any player is sure how many minutes they're going to play during any given game.

Yes, the team is young, and the team's lack of size also means having to adjust the lineup based on the opponent. Still, I'm becoming a bit disturbed by the lack of a set rotation on Beilein's squad. I trust his judgment, and he has done an incredible job of turning around the program in less than two years. However, one has to think that the lack of consistency by the team has to stem in part from a lack of consistent playing time. I hope Beilein is able to figure out the right rotation before the team digs itself too deep a hole to climb out of.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Michigan 2, LSSU 1

Carl Hagelin (photo from MGoBlue)

I covered the Michigan/Lake Superior State hockey game on Saturday for The Wolverine, but because of a mixup the story wasn't posted on their site. Here's my recap in full, for your reading enjoyment:

Michigan bounced back from a sloppy start to earn a 2-1 victory over Lake Superior State and clinch a home sweep. Carl Hagelin’s first period goal, coming just 19 seconds after the Lakers took a 1-0 lead, ignited the team and Brian Lebler provided the game-winning tally in the second.

Brian Hogan faced a barrage of shots in the first period, stopping 12 Laker chances before former Wolverine Zac MacVoy knocked home a rebound chance with 47 seconds to go in the period. LSSU could not maintain their early momentum, as just seconds later Hagelin found space between the circles and snapped a wrist shot past goaltender Pat Inglis for his ninth goal of the season.

“That was a huge goal that Carl got,” head coach Red Berenson said. “It was kind of like [Matt] Rust’s goal last night to get us back in the game in the first period.”

The Wolverines struck again 6:25 into the second period, as Brian Lebler netted a rebound opportunity of his own after Aaron Palushaj’s slapshot handcuffed Inglis. It was Lebler’s fourth goal of the season, and the assist was Palushaj’s second of the night and 26th on the season.

From there, Michigan was able to shut down Lake State and control the puck, thanks in large part to 14 Laker penalty minutes over the final two periods. Hogan finished the game with 26 saves, only 14 coming after the first stanza.

The victory moved the Wolverines (21-9-0, 15-7-0-0 CCHA) into sole possession of third place in the CCHA, breaking a tie with Alaska-Fairbanks. Michigan is now just two points behind second-place Miami with six games to go in the regular season.

“As [Detroit Red Wings coach] Mike Babcock would say, it was an ugly win,” Berenson quipped afterwards. “But, we got through it. It was just one of those games. We weren’t in sync and we had to battle the whole way.”

“The games were important. It was an important weekend and we got the wins we needed.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Michigan Adds Delaware State to 2009 Schedule


The red and teal eyesores you see above are the Delaware State Hornets, a I-AA (screw that FCS/FBS bull) squad that went 5-6 last season. Yesterday Michigan announced that the football team will host the Hornets on October 17 at the Big House, filling in the last gap in the Wolverines' 2009 schedule.

Tim from Varsity Blue has a full rundown of Delaware State over at MGoBlog. This one should be a laugher, and if it isn't, cue the burning of the internets.

Projecting Michigan's 2009 Recruiting Class

Tate Forcier, 2009 starter? (photo from Varsity Blue)

Signing day has come and gone, and Michigan has the seventh-rated recruiting class in the country (based on Rivals' rankings). Last offseason, I spent way too much time combing through ten years of recruiting data to come up with a way to project the success of players in each recruiting class. A quick recap of that post:
I will be looking at Michigan's classes as a whole, so every player given a scholarship will be counted. This may be flawed, but it's the data I have to work with. My query is, out of every player Michigan gives a scholarship to, what are the chances the player:
  • Plays out his full eligibility
  • Sees significant playing time
  • Is an All-Big Ten/All-American performer
  • Gets drafted
  • Leaves early (and why they leave early, when that data is available)
For this, I used Mike DeSimone's incredible database of Michigan recruiting classes, which covers every player in every class from 1993 through 2008, and the Bentley Historical Library for data on starts and All-American and All-Conference performers. I will be looking at the classes from 1993 to 2003 (the last class in which every player has played out his eligibility or left the team). Tomorrow, I will be taking this data and doing my best to guess which players from Michigan's recruiting class of 2008 will fall into which category.

Overall, Michigan handed out 220 scholarships from 1993-2003. Of those players:
  • 106 (48%) started at least twelve games for Michigan
  • 48 (22%) were taken in the NFL Draft
  • 10 (4.5%) were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft
  • 50 (23%) were selected All-Big Ten at least once
  • 19 (9%) made an All-American team
  • Charles Woodson (.45%) won a Heisman Trophy
I made sure for the All-Conference and All-American players to not count the same players twice if they made the teams in multiple years. Even though Charles Woodson was All-Big Ten all three years he played at Michigan, he still counts as one.
Using that data, I projected the outcome for each player in the Class of '08. Things already hilariously wrong with those projections include expecting Sam McGuffie to become an All-American (Kool-Aid, anyone?), subsequently expecting Michael Shaw to transfer down the road, and placing Martavious Odoms in the "career backup" category. Did I get anything right? Well, I do like my placement of Boubacar Cissoko as a future All-Big Ten player, as well as guessing that Justin Feagin and Mike Cox will eventually transfer (Cox almost did already). It's not a lot to hang my hat on, but it's something.

Anyways, despite it being far too early to guess these things (who knows, we might still add some players), here's my rundown of this year's recruiting class. First, the numbers, adjusted for our 22-man class:
  • 14 play out their eligibility
  • 10.5 start at least 12 games(that half-player's fate will be decided later)
  • 5 players get drafted
  • 1 player gets taken in the first round
  • 5 players make at least one All-Big Ten team
  • 2 become All-Americans
I'm going to stick to the numbers, despite my optimism that every recruit Michigan ever hauls in will become the next Tom Brady/Charles Woodson/LaMarr Woodley etc. Realism sucks sometimes. Without further ado, let's start the show:

Does not play out eligibility, All-American (1):
  • DT Will Campbell (Rivals 5*, No. 26 overall): Consider me fully on the Big Will bandwagon. Thanks to a complete lack of depth at DT, he's going to see significant time (and probably start) from day one. He enrolled early, so he is already off to a head start. He is a prototype DT, at 6-5, 317 lbs. My guess is he'll be solid as a freshman, All-Big Ten as a sophomore, All-American as a junior, and a first round NFL draft pick after leaving a year early. No pressure.
Will Campbell (photo courtesy of the Detroit News)

Play out eligibility, All-American (1):
  • DB Justin "J.T." Turner (Rivals 4*, No. 3 Safety): Turner can play either corner or safety (he played corner in the Army All-America Bowl) and Michigan has a huge need for someone to step up at both positions. He can see the field as early as this year, and has tremendous talent. His size (6-2, 185) projects very well to any position in the defensive backfield, and he'll be a playmaker wherever he ends up.
J.T. Turner

Play out eligibility, All-Big Ten (3, assuming All-Americans will also make All-Conference, because duh):
  • QB Tate Forcier (Rivals 4*, No. 5 dual-threat QB): I have really high expectations for Forcier. If you watch his highlight tapes, you'll see a guy who makes plays, often out of nothing. He makes things happen with his arm and his legs. He is tremendously accurate (completing around 70% of his passes his last two years in high school) and seems like a perfect fit for the spread. It certainly won't hurt that he'll likely have four years of starting experience under his belt by the time he leaves Ann Arbor.
  • OG Quinton Washington (Rivals 4*, No. 8 offensive guard): Even with the big offensive line class of '08, Michigan is still pretty thin in the interior of the offensive line. Q fits a huge need, by all accounts has a ton of talent, and should be an anchor on the interior of the line down the road.
  • DE Craig Roh (Rivals 4*, No. 7 weakside defensive end): Roh needs to add weight (right now he clocks in at 6-5, 230), but when he does, I think he's going to be an absloute monster off the edge. This is exactly why we employ Mike Barwis. He is a great pass rusher, and with Mike Martin and Campbell eating space in the middle for the next few years, he should have ample opportunity to get to opposing quarterbacks.

    Craig Roh (photo courtesy of Rivals)
Play out eligibility, start at least 12 games (7 -- I cheated, but you'll see why):
  • RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (4* Rivals, No. 8 all-purpose back): Toussaint put up ridiculous numbers his senior year, amassing over 2000 rushing yards. He makes people look absolutely silly in his highlight tapes. Most importantly, he has an awesome name. This guy is destined for big things.
  • OT Taylor Lewan (Rivals 4*, No. 16 offensive tackle): Lewan was a relative latecomer to the national recruiting picture, but quickly worked his way up the recruiting rankings and onto the offer lists of prominent national programs (including Nebraska, Miami and Oregon). He only started focusing on the offensive side of the ball as a junior, and has the potential and frame (6-7, 272) to be another in the long line of great Michigan tackles.
  • WR Je'Ron Stokes (Rivals 4*, No. 14 wide receiver): Michigan needs outside receivers. Stokes, at 6-1, 180 with 4.4 speed, can play outside or in the slot. With the overabundance of tiny, fast slot guys (Odoms, T-Rob, Gallon, Teric Jones, Vincent Smith) he'll end up on the outside and have a chance to compete for playing time right away.
  • WR Jeremy Gallon (Rivals 4*, No. 11 athlete): The major caveat here is that Gallon has yet to qualify academically, which poses concern for his present and future. However, if he makes it on campus (and stays there), Gallon could be one of the most electrifying players Michigan has seen in a long, long time. He'll get playing time in the slot and possibly on returns as soon as this season, because there's just no way you can keep someone of his athletic talents off the field.
  • DE Anthony LaLota (Rivals 4*, No. 11 strongside defensive end): Faces little depth at DE, is enrolled early, and has the size (6-6, 260) to play right away. LaLota is raw, having not played varsity football until his junior season, but because of that inexperience has a ton of upside. He complements the smaller Roh quite well, and I could see Roh, Campbell, Martin, and LaLota being one of the best d-lines in the country in a few years.
  • S Thomas Gordon (Rivals 3*, No. 24 player in Michigan): I like the combination of Gordon's physical abilities (5-11, 200, runs a 4.6 40-yard dash) and his football knowledge (he played quarterback at Cass Tech). At safety, he'll be able to utilize his physical and mental abilities to their fullest extent, and the Wolverines need that kind of size, speed and skill at defensive back.
  • K Brendan Gibbons (Rivals 2*, No. 8 kicker): This is why I fudged the numbers ... I hated to knock off another guy so I could say the incredibly obvious: Gibbons quite possibly has the best shot of any recruit to start from day one. Let's hope he works out better than Bryan Wright. My guess is he will.
Fitzgerald Toussaint (photo by Cyle Nunemaker, via Rivals)

Play out eligibility, backup (3):
  • OT Michael Schofield (Rivals 4*, No. 18 offensive tackle): This is based on my guess that Lewan will be the best tackle in this class, and that Dann O'Neill will be a monster down the road (in last year's edition, I picked him as one of the future All-Americans). Assuming we pick up more 4-5 star OT's in the next couple classes, Schofield could get lost in the shuffle.
  • LB Brandin Hawthorne (Rivals 3*, No. 35 outside linebacker): He is only 6-0, 197 pounds, but he does run a 4.5. This seems like a guy destined to be an impact special teams player and a solid situational pass rusher, but his size might keep him from ever finding a permanent position on the field. If he fills out, this pick could make me look very, very dumb (who am I kidding, all these picks could/probably will make me look dumb).
  • RB Teric Jones (Rivals 3*, No. 37 running back): Jones looks like a guy who will end up playing in the slot, where Michigan is quickly becoming stacked. He can also play running back, obviously, but I'm he doesn't have the size (5-9, 191) desirable for a future every-down back. With 4.4 speed, he'll see the field somewhere, but I don't know if he'll find a place to start on the field.
This leaves seven guys who won't play out their eligibility (not including Campbell):
  • S Vladimir Emilien (Rivals 4*, No. 14 safety) and CB Adrian Witty (Rivals 2*): Both these players have a history of serious knee injuries, and in a list like this, that throws up a big red flag. I want, as much as anyone, for Michigan to have a strong safety named "Vlad the Impaler," so here's hoping that this pick is incredibly wrong.
  • WR Cameron Gordon (Rivals 4*, No. 36 wide receiver): Gordon will either play wide receiver or linebacker for Michigan. I'm sorry, but that combination sounds incredibly strange to me. For all I know, he could be a huge freak at either position, but I'm playing the odds here and guessing he has a hard time finding a position that he can outperform more traditional recruits at.
  • ATH Denard Robinson (Rivals 4*, No. 14 athlete): I REALLY hope I'm wrong with this pick, because I would love to see a guy with 4.4 speed taking snaps for the Maize and Blue. However, I'm guessing Forcier beats him out at QB, he sees spot duty taking snaps for a while, and then switches to the defensive backfield and gets buried behind guys with more experience at the position.
  • S Isaiah Bell (Rivals 3*, No. 26 outside linebacker) and S Mike Jones (Rivals 3*, No. 2 safety): Both these guys will come in as safeties, although Bell seems destined for a move to outside linebacker. Michigan is stockpiling guys at both safety and outside linebacker, and these guys might get lost in the shuffle.
  • RB Vincent Smith (Rivals 3*, No. 36 running back): I love watching little guys dominate college football, but 5-7, 159 is downright tiny. We all saw what the pounding of a Big Ten season did to Sam McGuffie, so there's no way Smith stays in the backfield. For the umpteenth time, I'll point out our tremendous depth at slot receiver, and guess that Smith doesn't see the field in any major capacity.
That's all for this year's opportunity to make myself look like a complete fool. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Content Update


I'm working furiously on my recruiting rundown for the Class of '09, which will be up either tonight or tomorrow. I also have a ton of work to do for the upcoming edition of The Wolverine Magazine, and I'm going to the basketball game tonight, but I'm doing my best to get content up on the blog as well. I should have another notes post on the UM/Penn State hoops game tonight or tomorrow as well.

To satisfy your signing day thirst, check out MGoBlog, Varsity Blue, Those Who Stay, Michigan Sports Center, and Maize n Brew.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'd Like Forde Seconds of My Life Back

Just "Forde" IQ points from making any sense.

That was the time it took to read this passage from Pat Forde's "Forde Minutes" piece on today:

Bad actors: Michigan 'bow-throwers Zack Novak (4) and Manny Harris (5).

Transgression: Wolverines freshman Novak nailed Ohio State guard P.J. Hill with a premeditated, intentional elbow along the free throw lane late in the Buckeyes' 72-54 victory Jan. 28. That earned him an ejection from the game, and then some. The school added a one-game suspension, removing the Chesterton, Ind., product from a semi-homecoming game Saturday at Purdue.

Transgression II: Harris was tossed from Michigan's 18-point loss at Purdue on Saturday when he crumpled Purdue pest Chris Kramer with an overloaded elbow while squaring up into triple-threat position. Wolverines coach John Beilein defended Harris, saying it was not malicious and deserving of an ejection, but that heat-seeking clear-through qualified as excessive force. The Minutes is a Beilein fan, but two ejections in two games is troubling. He's got to get his players to keep their sharp edges away from the faces of Big Ten opponents.

I'll give you Novak, Mr. Forde. But, as pointed out before, Harris should never have been kicked out of the game for swinging through Chris Kramer. Offensive foul, yes. Flagrant foul, no. If Kramer's face doesn't part like the Red Sea this isn't even news. To suggest that these two incidents are related is absurd. Kind of like his next statement:

Role model: Venus de Milo (6). She's never elbowed anybody.

(Florida guard Walter Hodge threw a similar, get-outta-my-grill elbow that dropped Tennessee's Scotty Hopson on Saturday night. That one drew a technical foul but no ejection and less outcry, largely because Hopson was not left in a pool of blood like Kramer -- and because there was no incident involving a Gator throwing a 'bow in their previous game.)

The Venus de Milo joke just hurts. However, we've all come to expect such painful attempts at humor from Forde. The comparison to the Florida/Tennessee incident is an example of the kind of flawed logic that gets Harris booted from the Purdue game. I can't find video of the Hodge elbow, but it seems to be quite similar to what Harris did. Whether or not a play draws blood should not determine the severity of the foul. There is nothing written in the NCAA rulebook saying that a player will automatically receive a flagrant foul if they draw blood. Refs need to be calling these plays based on intent, and not whether a player got opened up on the play. These things happen.

Also, how does Novak's elbow against Ohio State have any bearing on the Harris play? Officials should not allow a team's "reputation" to precede it. I highly doubt this came into consideration when the refs decided to give Manny a flagrant foul, but if it did, shame on them.

Alright, no more complaining about officiating or journalistic incompetence for a while. After signing day tomorrow, I'll be running down the Michigan football recruiting class.

Monday, February 2, 2009

On Elbows and Officiating

Yes, it is officially Bitch About Officiating Week in Ann Arbor. I may be late to the party, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to get whatever is left out of this Keg of Fury.

UM Hoops combed through the NCAA basketball rulebook and emerged with this:
Art. 7. When during the course of play, an individual strikes an opponent with the hand, elbow, arm, foot, knee or leg in a non-confrontational manner but the act is excessive or severe, it shall be ruled as a flagrant foul and not a fighting action. When a defined body part is used to strike an opponent but the contact is not severe or excessive, a judgment shall be made by the official as to whether the contact is intentional.
Watch these two plays, both from recent Big Ten games, and tell me which one constitutes a flagrant foul, as defined above. Hint: intention is very, very key.

1. Enormous white dude, Wisconsin (I'm pretty sure they clone these guys):

2. Manny Harris, Michigan:

Um, what? I expected to see CBS flash a giant "FINISH HIM" graphic after that Krabbenhoft pick/deliberate elbow to the face. Meanwhile, Chris Kramer (the guy who Manny elbowed), had this to say after the game (link via MGoBlog):
"Some people can say there are dirty plays in basketball, but I wouldn't go there and say that definitely was a dirty play," Kramer said. "He might have been frustrated, but it was just a basketball play."
What frustrates me even more than the level of incompetence among Big Ten officials (high) is the fact that the team that gets the calls is totally predictable. Krabbenhoft was at home: pick garners cheers, no foul. Harris was on the road: fans cry bloody murder, obvious personal foul call turns into intentional facial mutilation.

Am I crazy to think there's something very wrong when it is openly acknowledged that a large part of "home-court advantage" is the fact that the refs will give you 80% of the borderline calls? Booing every call against your team is not an obnoxious trait of an ignorant fan; it's a surefire way to help your team win.

[Steps off soap box, grabs lunch before punching hole in apartment wall]