Friday, December 30, 2011

#FreeArnett

The bigger things get, the easier it is to sweep stuff under the rug. When it comes to college football, I sometimes forget exactly who's providing such an entertaining product: 18-22 year old young men, 16 or 17 when it comes to recruiting. For us, they are coming of age in front of our eyes on the TV screen or on Internet boards but for them, they are real people with real lives and real problems. I was reminded of this yesterday when Vols head coach Derek Dooley denied WR DeAnthony Arnett the option to transfer to Michigan or Michigan State, restricting him only to MAC schools.

To provide some backdrop, Arnett chose Tennessee over Michigan and Michigan State last year and appeared in all 12 games for the Vols this season, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and 2 TDs as a true freshman. Recently, Arnett's father suffered 2 heart attacks and underwent dialysis. Given the fact that his father's health is quickly deteriorating and his family needs him, Arnett has responsibly and reasonably requested a transfer. Arnett would like to play for either Michigan or Michigan State so he can continue advancing his athletic career on a high level while, you know, being a great son and taking care of his family. In his full statement to Scout, he explains that Coach Dooley denied him the right to transfer to any school Tennessee either plays or recruits against. Look at what Arnett writes at the end: "I don't know what's next. My family can't afford to pay for school, but my father's poor health isn't a good enough excuse for me to attend a BCS close to home."

Derek Dooley, you are a dick.

Out of either bitterness or unfounded principle, Dooley is basically saying that Tennessee football, in all its 5-7 (1-7 SEC) glory, is bigger than this kid's personal life. He's saying that it's worth sticking it to Arnett on the offchance Tenneesee ever plays Michigan or Michigan State in the near future. News flash Dooley: the Vols will not be in a bowl game near Michigan's (or Sparty's for that matter) caliber--at least not while you're coaching there. Furthermore, as Alex Cook of MaizeNBrew and Jeff Contizano of The Wolverine Blog pointed out on Twitter, the Michigan high school coaches are a tight group and they'll certainly remember this when Dooley ever steps foot in that state. Good luck trying to recruit there. Dooley's actually probably doing more harm than good if his policy is not to allow transfers to schools Tennessee recruits against. What's the benefit in doing this?


And this isn't even about me wanting Arnett to come to Michigan either. Obviously, I've followed this story closer because it pertains to the Wolverines but I'd be just as happy (just not ecstatic) to see Arnett, a Saginaw native, go to Sparty if that's where he chooses is best for him and his family. So if there's anything State and Michigan fans can agree upon, it's that this kid needs to come home. Arnett has done nothing wrong. In fact, he's transferring for all the right reasons, not just changing his mind randomly. And he's being punished for it. 

What's worse is that Dooley's decision, with the assumed support of the athletic department and University president given their silence on the issue, also represents the height of hypocrisy. The Vols benefited from a similar situation just a few years ago. In 2007, hoops star Tyler Smith was granted a full release by Iowa so he could be closer to his family since his father was battling cancer. Smith, who grew up a Vols fan, also requested and received a waiver from the NCAA not to sit out a season due to "extenuating family circumstances." Iowa did what was right for the student-athlete; Bruce Pearl and Tennessee happily took him in. 

The conditional release of Arnett is the latest example and reminder that these kids have life to deal with in addition to football. If the NCAA, University of Tennessee or anybody with a soul has a say in this matter, they should step in and do what's right. #FreeArnett is trending a little on Twitter; I'd encourage you to check out some of the links/posts on this issue. Dooley's decision will likely stick but it certainly won't be forgotten. Here's more reason to hate him and Tennessee. And every reason to root for Arnett no matter where he lands. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bowl Pick 'Em: Big Ten

I'm baaaaaaaaack.

First off, a big thanks to MGoShoe and guest poster Ryan for keeping the site not only up and running, but also flowing with great content through the holiday season. The "Wolverines on Twitter" tab up top somehow keeps improving and expanding (now w/ hockey!); reading the Virginia Tech breakdown made me feel like I followed the Hokies all season. Now that I'm finally settled, maybe I should start contributing the blog? Sounds reasonable.

With bowl season upon us, the Big Ten kicked off with a win on Tuesday -- Purdue over Western Michigan 37-32 -- which a good start to what should be a pretty challenging bowl schedule. Mark Schlabach at ESPN does a good job capturing the sentiment heading into the New Year. 2011 was already a rollercoaster year, including several negative stories impacting the conference, but 2012 is shaping up to be even crazier. A strong bowl performance will go a long way in helping rehabilitate the Big Ten's image in 2012 and beyond.

In keeping with tradition, Mike (yes, he's actually on Twitter) and I are doing Bowl Season Pick 'Em again this year, except only Big Ten and BCS in a 2-part series. Pretty sure Mike took off his pants to do his picks. Though, it doesn't take much for them to come off. On with the show after the jump (also let's pretend I posted this on Sunday, you know, before the Purdue game):

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Specialists

Guest poster Ryan provides his fifth and final Virginia Tech Hokies position group review.  Previously: offensive backfield, receiving corps, offensive line, defensive front seven and defensive secondary.


Virginia Tech Specialists 
Virginia Tech’s nationally recognized brand of football, known as “Beamerball,” prides itself on a strong, physical running attack that controls time of possession while playing good defense and pinning the opponent deep in its own territory with effective special teams play. Over the course of the 2011 season the last third of that equation has been less than ideal, which is an unusual sight in Blacksburg. The recent dismissal of starting placekicker Cody Journell certainly does not help the Hokies’ cause.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Defensive Secondary


Guest poster Ryan provides his fourth Virginia Tech Hokies position group review.

Previously: Offensive backfield; Receiving corps; Offensive Line; Defensive Front Seven.


Virginia Tech Secondary
Year after year, Virginia Tech’s secondary is arguably the team’s strongest position group and this season has been no exception. Despite allowing an average of 206 passing yards per game, which is fifth in the ACC, the unit leads the conference in opponent completion percentage rate at 50%. But the main indicator for how Foster’s unit is playing is the number of interceptions they produce. The Hokies as a team are second in the conference with 15 with defensive back starters recording nine of those 15 picks. Since Denard Robinson has demonstrated a predilection for throwing interceptions, recording 14 picks on the season, the Hokies will rely on their front seven pressure to set up opportunities for their secondary to make plays and record turnovers.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wolverines on Twitter - Now With Hockey

Check out the Maize Pages Wolverines on Twitter page. I updated it today with the accounts of current and past hockey players and Michigan's 2012 and 2013 hockey recruits. 


Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Defensive Front Seven


Guest poster Ryan provides his fourth Virginia Tech Hokies position group review.

Previously: Offensive backfield; Receiving corps; Offensive Line.

Virginia Tech Front Seven
Led by one of the best defensive minds in the nation in Bud Foster, Virginia Tech’s “Lunch Pail Squad” ranks second in the ACC in scoring defense and total defense and are third in the conference in rushing defense. They also rank third in opponent’s first downs and first in opponent third down conversion percentage. The defense is even stingier in the redzone, ranking first in the ACC in redzone percentage and third in opponents’ touchdowns allowed. Considering that three of the five Hokies that were lost for the season were defensive starters in the front seven, while many other key players suffered some sort of injury over the course of the season, you start to really appreciate and respect Foster, who is almost as legendary as Frank Beamer in Blacksburg.
Foster runs what he calls an “attack defense,” which is a variation of the 4-3 designed to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Foster’s defense is fast, athletic, relentless, and extremely aggressive. Most of the attacking comes from the front seven with linemen controlling the line of scrimmage and getting penetration, allowing for blitzing linebackers to fill up the gaps and make plays in the backfield. The defense leads the ACC in total sacks with 38 and will look to continually be in the face of Denard Robinson throughout the game.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jehu Chesson Blue Himself

(Per TomVH, Jehu Chesson committed to M today. From here on, I'll provide a recruiting profile of M commits. No promises, however.)

Jehu Chesson (Ladue Horton Watkins HS)

St. Louis, Missouri
Height: 6’3 Weight: 180* 40 time: 4.5 sec (unofficial)
Offer Sheet: Michigan, Oklahoma St., Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Purdue, Northwestern, UCLA, Cincinnati (Florida, and The U also showed interest)

Best Case Comparison & Projection: Adrian Arrington

Most Probable Comparison & Projection: Mark Dell
McGuffie Rating**: 3.5 ‘Guffies (out of 5)

PROs: Shows good body control, concentration on catches, and an ability to grab balls thrown behind him. Has excellent burst out of his stance does a good job using his height and wingspan to his advantage against defenders. Fluid route runner with good coordination and often catches balls at its “high point.” 300m hurdles state champion.

CONs: Chesson has good vertical speed given his long strides but by comparison it is average to above average for D1 level. He doesn’t seem to use his route running ability or quickness to set up defenders rather often uses his physically to outplay defensive backs for the football. Although Jehu doesn’t shy away from contact during and after the catch, physicality and power is not his strong suit. His speed and his ability to adjust to playing defenders who are faster and more physical will ultimately determine Chesson’s success in the next level.

Obligatory Hype Video:

Quote from Chesson: “Anywhere I chose to go there will be talent in front of me. The receivers in front of me will obviously have seniority, but in college football, anything can happen. Freshmen win jobs sometimes. I’m not worried about how good they are; I’m focused on how good that school can make me. I’m willing to compete for a position. I can only control one thing: getting better.”

Bottom line: Chesson is a big skilled receiver who makes plays with his athletic ability. Against high school competition, he can outplay defenders with either his athleticism or skill-set. His track and field results and highlight tapes are solid evidence to indicate that speed will be good to good enough for the Division 1 level.

Chesson is ahead of the learning curve compared to many raw receivers who are too dependent on their athleticism in high school. His fluid route running^, ability to react to defenders and field awareness will continue to improve in the next level. Routine catches are not and will not be a problem for Chesson. His frame has potential to allow Chesson grow into a physical receiver that can often outplay defensive backs for the football, but unlikely. I won’t be surprised to see Chesson making highlight reel catches at the next level if he is able to adjust to the speed. The question will be: at what consistency? Do not let the recruiting sites fool you. If he is able to out-compete the more highly-touted recruits on the Michigan roster, Jehu has potential to become a very good #2 receiver similar to Adrian Arrington. It’s difficult to determine consistency with highlight clips. There is really not enough evidence to say Chesson is a sure-fire recruit. His hurdle accolades earns him an extra half 'guffie and he really is a border-line 4 star recruit. I award him 3 and one-half Mcguffies out of five. The upside is there.

^- After watching his senior highlights, it seems Chesson is playing faster but his route running isn't as sharp as his junior year. FWIW.

* - I averaged the 4 recruiting sites (ESPN, 247 sports, Rivals, & Scout) to determine weight and height if there is any inconsistency.

**- McGuffie Rating? Think of stars ratings in any recruiting website. For those who followed Sam McGuffie's recruiting know about the ridiculous "McGuffie Mixtape" and facebook group leading many to believe that he will be the Eminem of the Michigan backfield. For those that know me, you know how much I bought into the hype. Of course I'll name my recruiting rating after him.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Offensive Line

Guest poster Ryan provides his third Virginia Tech Hokies position group review.

Previously: Offensive backfield; Receiving corps.


Virginia Tech Offensive Line
Although the Hokie offensive line is not bred of the corn-fed big men that populate many of the BIG’s lines, they still love battling in the trenches, especially in the run game. Averaging a bit over 6-4 and 302 lbs., the line consists of four redshirt senior starters with the same unit starting all 13 games. When called upon in the running game the unit delivers, averaging 189 yards per game. Logan Thomas also has felt very comfortable when he drops back to pass since the unit has allowed 15 sacks, which is tied for the second-fewest in the ACC with Virginia (Georgia Tech allows the fewest due to their triple-option attack). If the unit is effective in establishing the run then it is hard to break their rhythm and if they establish a groove, then it makes the Hokies’ offense play well. Therefore, if Michigan is to neutralize Logan Thomas and David Wilson, in turn keeping the ball away from the playmakers at wide receiver, then they must win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Receiving Corps


Guest poster Ryan provides his second Virginia Tech Hokies position group review.
Virginia Tech Receiving Corps
When discussing the most dangerous pass catching groups in the ACC, Clemson’s group certainly gets the most attention. While the Tigers’ personnel might be more explosive, Virginia Tech’s receiving corps should not be discounted. They are a highly experienced and consistent group with precise route runners, great speed and outstanding blocking skills. Like Denard Robinson, Logan Thomas has many weapons to target on a given play. 
Wide Receivers: Jarrett Boykin - #81; Danny Coale - #19; Marcus Davis - #7; D.J. Coles - #18
Jarrett Boykin, WR
Senior Jarrett Boykin is Virginia Tech’s all-time leader in both receptions and yards and serves as Logan Thomas’s go-to receiver. In his career at Virginia Tech, Boykin has hauled in 180 receptions with 2,854 receiving yards. He also has 18 career touchdowns and has averaged just over 54 yards per game and 16 yards per catch in his career.
This season Boykin has 57 receptions for 731 yards and five touchdowns. His best game came against Wake Forest where he hauled in 7 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown. With a 6-2 frame, long wingspan, huge hands, great route running, and good leaping ability and fundamentals, Boykin is the Hokies’ most complete receiver.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech Backfield


To assist your preparation for the Sugar Bowl, I asked my son Ryan to pen a series of Virginia Tech Hokies position group profiles. Ryan is the sports news director for WUVT-FM, the VT student radio station. In that capacity, he covered the Hokies’ home games this season from the press box of Lane Stadium. Ryan was raised a Michigan fan and would root for them against anyone other than his Hokies.
Virginia Tech Backfield
Michigan fans are rightly proud of their talented backfield combo of Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint.  That said Virginia Tech possesses its own dynamic duo in first year starting quarterback Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson. Thomas and Wilson are their squad’s most recognizable players for national audiences and while there are plenty of other playmakers on the team, without effective play from this group, the Hokies’ offense gets stuck in neutral. For the Hokies to defeat the Wolverines, Thomas and Wilson must be productive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Monty Hall Problem

(Hello world. I am Alan. I used to be Jeff’s RA in the dorms when he was in college. Jeff’s been busy with real life so I asked him to give me access to the blog to help fill in.)

The MSU faction, ever since Sunday, has done everything they can on my Facebook wall to attest to the fact that they are more deserving to play in a BCS bowl than Michigan. Columnist Drew Sharp, who still believes that a Big 12 championship game still exists (it doesn’t), and others argue that common sense dictates that the winners of both B1G division should go on to the two most prestigious bowl games. Thus, MSU getting snubbed out of going to the Sugar Bowl speaks to the abomination of the BCS system as well as the fact that biased towards Michigan’s elitist stature in the college football world.

Unlike Jeff and Mike, I grew up in Michigan. So I must tolerate this talk but I do want to take this opportunity give a reasonable response to their grievances.

In elementary probability, there is classic example called the “The Monty Hall Problem”. Crudely explained, it demonstrates that intuition, or common sense, can often fail in mathematics.

The restless MSU faction, along with other columnists like Drew Sharp, says that anyone with any common sense can see that the BCS has screwed over teams like Oklahoma State and most importantly all those who bleed green and white. Sorry, but you’re barking up the wrong tree. It is the human polls, not the BCS, which screw you over, if anything.

I will start by addressing the root of the problem- on Sunday MSU was not eligible for a BCS bowl invitation. Thus, if we still believe BCS has screwed everyone, then the fault must lie in the computer rankings.

To quickly summarize, BCS rankings is a weighted average of both human polls (two-thirds of the overall weight) and 6 computer formulated rankings (each one-eighteen of the overall weight)

Without getting into too much detail*, the averages of the six BCS formulas acts similarly to college’s basketball’s RPI- it rates the entire body of work of a football team. Looking at MSU’s nonconference schedule (Youngstown St, FAU, CMU, loss to ND), it is easy to see why the computer rankings punished MSU. Honestly, if this is college basketball, MSU would be a bubble team with an iffy resume. That is not the problem.

MSU fell victim to the reality that it is counter-intuitive for anyone that understands competition to vote a team higher than the previous week when it loses. Other teams, who performed poorly last Saturday, along with MSU, also dropped. Thus, M moves up by a process of elimination in the human polls, which is then weighted as two-thirds of its BCS rankings. If there is any blame to be passed around, it is the structure of the AP and USA polls in relations to the BCS rankings. It is the human polls that cost MSU more than anything else, not the BCS. As the matter of fact, problems as such has exists decades before the invention of the BCS (most notably, 1973 in the Big Ten).

So blame Art Briles, Doc Holiday, and Kevin Sumlin for voting MSU #21 on their ballots (by the way Nick Saban voted MSU #17). It isn't about the fallacy of the BCS system, nor is it about Michigan.

Complaints are much more valid when it is directed at the actual problem, or if Drew Sharp is not your advocate.

*(because I don’t really have much of it- all but one BCS formula has been released to the public. I know enough to understand these computer formulas are more consistent and objective than any human polls, simply due to the fact that computers, unlike coaches, are not in a conflict of interest.)