Monday, January 30, 2012

A State Of Civil Disunion

[Guest Post Alert: Big thanks to Jeff C., former blogger at The Wolverine Blog, for posting here at Maize Pages. You can follow Jeff (so many Jeffs) on Twitter--@JContiz3--as he'll have some pretty good insight heading into NSD.]

TE Sam Grant to Oklahoma
If for some reason you haven’t been connected to the Internet for the past two days (trust me, it happens), then you’ll be surprised to know that Michigan went on a brief and extremely painful 0-for-4 stretch on recruits. Last week, touted Washington lineman Joshua Garnett spurned Michigan for Stanford, while Massachusetts CB Armani Reeves chose Ohio State over the Maize and Blue as well. Then, late last night, Colorado OL Alex Kozan committed to Iowa, and today Ohio TE Sam Grant committed to Oklahoma. To call today “Meltdown Monday” may be an understatement. 

It’s important to remember that Michigan isn’t going to land every recruit that the coaches pursue, but fans felt that Michigan had a great shot at Garnett, who chose to stay close to home, and Reeves, who chose to play with his brother instead of against him. Kozan, on the other hand, was always a tough pull from Iowa, despite a late push by Michigan. Grant was the surprise, especially with Oklahoma taking three tight ends already, and Michigan’s numerous advantages (Kalis, academics, location) it offered.

This was a strange end to an exciting recruiting cycle. And I don’t think it can all be blamed on the Michigan coaches. For one, Michigan probably should have landed Armani Reeves, were it not for his brother Camren Williams committing to OSU last week. As for Garnett, it seemed like he was mostly pandering to the Michigan fan base, namely OL commit Erik Magnuson, his close friend.

Alex Kozan never seemed to be a huge priority until late, and as for Sam Grant, I can’t even fathom what happened there.

Michigan will still finish with a top 10 class regardless of what recruiting site you read and subscribe to. The offensive lines and defensive lines are being rebuilt and reloaded, and overall the class is very impressive. The only criticism I have is a lack of a true tight end (Grant) and maybe another receiver, but overall Michigan’s 2012 haul is excellent.

The future of the Michigan football program is bright as well. If there is any doubt in anyone’s mind about the ability of the coaching staff to recruit, and more importantly coach, look at the immense progress Michigan’s players made in year 1. 11-2, Sugar Bowl Champions, a top-20 offense and a top-20 defense.
Hold on a sec, Urban. Let me show you how it's done...

What exactly is included in that future? One of my very close friends and Michigan blogger Brian Kudron posted an interesting thought or two on twitter late last night. I won’t repost them here, so you’ll have to check them out instead.

There have been some questioning on whether Michigan wants to become the “Stanford of the east” and that the AD is directly affecting the recruitment (or lack thereof) certain “questionable” recruits.

In light of several terrible APR scores and transfers over the past few years, Michigan cannot afford to take a lot of risks and academic fliers. That’s why you’ve seen some highly touted recruits simply dropped by Michigan. And while I don’t have a problem with it now, I will have a problem with it going forward.  Don’t mistake my hesitation for a lack of love for Michigan or a desire to cheat.  I want Michigan to win, and I don’t want the school to ever develop a bad reputation like Ohio State already has. 

But even Lloyd Carr recruited a few academic risks and players with character issues; in fact, it was probably more than many of us assume. For the most part, Lloyd was able to help these players out and get their lives on track, and you didn’t see Michigan’s academic reputation falter one bit. No team is ever going to have a perfect 85-man roster with no problems, no academic issues, or transfers. That’s life in competitive football.
...BOOM.

And unlike Urban Meyer and his SEC method of running a football program, Michigan has a capable leader in Brady Hoke who appears to be similar to Carr in many respects, and running his football program is one of them. Nobody is perfect, and Hoke will make mistakes with players, but I also trust him to do the right thing. I just want him to be able to recruit all the players he and his staff want, and not be handicapped by an elitist Athletic Director.


Backing In

Hokeamania knows no lows. Or does it?

Hoops aside, it's been a pretty rough few days for Michigan. Starting on Thursday, 4.5-star OL Joshua Garnett chose Stanford when many considered him a Michigan lean for a majority of his recruitment. Last night, we lost 4-star DB Armani Reeves to OSU--the first true head-to-head recruiting battle with Urban--and 4-star OL Alex Kozan to Iowa. I didn't talk specifically about Kozan on my last recruiting post, but he's up there with Garnett and Reeves as big targets. Add that to OL Caleb Stacey decommiting last week and Hoke's incredibly fast start to the 2012 recruiting class has officially come to a screeching halt, if not sliding backwards a bit. Michigan started the 2011 season with 22 verbals; after a football season and Sugar Bowl win, there are 23 today. And with no real decision dates of any known targets within the next few days other than maybe TE Sam Grant (OL Jordan Diamond decides on February 3), Michigan will likely back into NSD.

But what does backing in even mean? While there's certainly disappointment among Michigan fans, the source of it stems largely from how high the bar was set by Hoke this summer when he and Mattison went on what can only be described as a recruiting blitz. With all the momentum, Michigan saw its class rank shoot up among recruiting sites. The expectation was to flip a Kyle Kalis. The expectation was that we'd land an Ondre Pipkins. And as we near NSD, the expectation is that we'd land a Garnett or a Reeves or a Kozan or all 3. Certainly the addition of them, especially Garnett, would help Michigan maintain a Top 5 class. But backing in this year means we'll have to settle for a Top 10 one instead. If that's what not meeting expectations means, I still like where our expectations are. Let's remember this class is still pretty strong on its own right now.

Jordan Diamond went from possibly 7th OL to hopefully 5th.
That's not to say the last few days still didn't hurt. Garnett, Reeves and Kozan are good players and  therefore palpable losses. Probability, or the mice we chase in our heads, told us that we should have landed at least 1. But if you evaluate them individually--Garnett is from Washington and wanted his parents to see him play at Stanford; Reeves' best friend, Cam Williams, committed to OSU and they previously committed together to Penn State; Kozan is from Colorado and Michigan recruited him heavier much later in the process--each of them have a story that makes sense. For the most part, these aren't Midwest guys that had strong ties with Michigan the whole way. While Michigan has the ability to recruit nationally, it doesn't necessarily mean it's an easy task. Distance is distance.

Moving forward, with 4-5 spots still left to fill, even the assumption of Grant and Diamond will leave some open spots for late comers. You'll likely hear names and rumors tossed around--none of which have any real credibility. Most are banking on the fact that NSD flips exist, and hope Hoke points at something soon to make it happen. But while Michigan may grab a OT Chris Muller or a DT Willie Henry over the next few days, my focus is on making sure the 23 verbals on board right now have a great experience this Wednesday; that fans join me in welcoming and supporting them during one of the most important days of their lives. This class features a loaded defensive line, 4 all-conference caliber LBs, Kyle Kalis, Eric Magnuson, Ondre Pipkins, Jarrod Wilson among many others. I'd back in with them any day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Closing the 2012 Class

Participating in Tremendous' Michigan Recruiting Roundtable last week kicked off what should be a pretty exciting week as we approach National Signing Day. The Michigan recruiting world is abuzz with guys like OL Joshua Garnett, CB Armani Reeves, TE Sam Grant, OL Jordan Diamond, WR Jordan Payton among others. Furthermore, it seems every year Michigan seems to pull a fairly big name off everybody's radar on NSD. It's still very much an open field.

Two weeks ago, when Gunner Kiel switched his commitment from LSU to ND literally while packing to leave for Baton Rouge AND immediately enrolled at Notre Dame shows that anything's game. Schools in session mow so nobody's flipping and enrolling early at this point, but the tides are certainly turning for many of our targets. While Michigan lost OG Caleb Stacey over the weekend after a change of heart to play closer to home in Cincinnati, we also "gained" the decommits of TE Sam Grant (from BC), CB Armani Reeves (from PSU) and WR Jordan Payton (from Cal) -- all of whom are strongly considering Michigan.

With the departure of Stacey, Michigan currently sits at 23 recruits leaving 4-5 spots open. Here are some quick thoughts on a few targets in order of confidence (after the jump):

Sunday, January 22, 2012

RIP Joe Paterno

This morning's accurate reporting of Joe Paterno's passing brings a close to an extremely unfortunate and bizarre Internet frenzy over the last 12 hours. For now, the main take away should be that one of college football's greatest icons has died, hopefully peacefully with his family and friends at his side, after battling a recent diagnosis of lung cancer and, let's be honest, unbearable life without football.

If you found out via Twitter last night or received an inaccurate text from friend regarding JoePa's death, it likely stemmed from premature and irresponsible report by CBSSports.com, who claimed he had died while other news sources only went so far as to say critical condition. As you'd expect, the CBS report spread like wildfire on Twitter, instantly trending nationally and triggering obituary posts left and right. At 8:57pm, Dan McGinn, the Paterno family spokesman, reported that CBS' report was "Absolutely not true". Roughly a half hour later, two of Paterno's sons, Jay and Scott, tweeted that their dad Joe was still alive and continuing to fight. The conflicting reports sparked what can only be described as a Twitter play-by-play of Joe Paterno's death. And it made me sick.

Regardless of what you think of Joe Paterno--good or bad--nobody deserves a Twitter death. CBSSports.com issued a brief public apology to the Paterno family last night. It just goes to show you it's always better to be right than first; people don't remember who breaks a story like this first, they just remember if you get it wrong. And boy did CBS get it wrong--something I'll remember for a long time. The other side of this story is the Twitter effect. We're all aware that Twitter is basically designed to spread information, regardless of accuracy, at lightning speed. When that information is wrong, combined with the sensitivity of the death of a college football legend, it's an ugly site. As Brian @ MGoBlog tweeted with maximum pithy: "Note to self: never ever report anyone is dead."

The Internet sadly said goodbye to JoePa probably the only way it knows how: chaotically. I hope the Paterno family found a little bit a peace through it all. My thoughts are with them.

Rest in peace, Joe Paterno.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stonum Dismissed

Per Everybody, but here's MGoBlog, Stonum is gone. His comments:

"I appreciate everything the University of Michigan, Dave Brandon and Coach Hoke have done for me," said Stonum.  "I look forward to continuing my football career down the road, but more importantly, right now I'm focused on graduating from Michigan this Spring.  I understand only I am responsible for my actions. I'm sad about how all of this turned out, but I completely understand.  I love this school and my team and will miss them all greatly.  But I'll always be a Wolverine.  I know I have grown and matured as a person over the last nine months, and I will continue to learn and grow every day.  I want to thank everyone for all of their support, and I hope they will support me in the future."

Reading Stonum's comments at the end of the release really makes you feel for the guy. If you follow Stonum on Twitter, you'll know he was patient and supportive all year, and extremely excited to rejoin the team after the Sugar Bowl. Then this. Given Hoke's silence through Stonum's jail time and how minor this particular incident was, I thought he might be given another chance. But it's also really hard justify an additional suspension--say 4 games or all of non-con--on top of a year-long suspension stemming from a 4th violation related to all his previous incidents. Stonum's been given more than his fair share of chances; he was on zero-tolerance policy and broke it probably by the thinnest margin. Hoke is setting the moral tone for Michigan, which is ultimately a good thing.

On the field, however, it undoubtedly hurts. Stonum's release probably changes recruiting a 3rd WR from Want to Need, further justifying 4 more recruits in the 2012 class. An Arnett, who is currently enrolled at MSU post-#FreeArnett campaign, or a Stefon Diggs were probably the only 2 players who could make the immediate impact that we are looking for. Targets on the radar: if immediate playing time is important to Jordan Payton, we're a pretty solid candidate at this point.

No matter how you slice it though, the depth chart looks really thin at outside WR next year. As Mike just pointed out to me via email: "Jump as high as you can, Jeremy Gallon."

Monday, January 16, 2012

This is Tremendous

Isn't he Tremendous?
The newest blog to hit the Michigansophere, appropriately named Tremendous, recently asked MGoShoe and I to participate in a Michigan Recruiting Roundtable. Keith Thompson, who runs Tremendous and has landed some pretty sweet interviews over the past few months, gathered some of the best blog brains out there including Ace from MGoBlog, Magnus from Touch the Banner, DGDestroys formerly from The Wolverine Blog, SimplyComplex from MGoRecruit and MGoShoe from here. And when you're all like who's this dude with all the wrong answers -- that's me.

Anyway, check out the post here. Keith's doing a great job over there -- highly recommended. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your RSS feed accordingly.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Arnett Granted Full Release

Some justice after all.

After learning last week that true freshman WR and Saginaw native DeAnthony Arnett would be limited in his transfer options to MAC-only schools by Derek Dooley, the Vols made a 180 today and granted him a full and unconditional release. This allows Arnett to transfer to any school, including Michigan or Michigan State, to be both closer to his father and family, and continue playing at a high level.

While I don't think the #FreeArnett Twitter campaign was the only reason--far from it--for Tennessee's change of heart, it was really cool watching it grow and bring light to a situation. Several people began tweeting the Vols' official football account about their thoughts, and national players like Joe Schad of ESPN and Graham Watson of Yahoo! Sports' Dr. Saturday blog wrote about the subject as impartially as journalistically possible. This was a PR blunder from the start by Derek Dooley, bringing not only negative light to him and the program, but also to his abysmal 5-7 (1-7 SEC) season and recent recruiting woes. Dooley has other things to worry about, like his job.

While I doubt the flip came from Dooley's personal conversations with Arnett and his family--probably pressure from the top--I do give him credit for reconciling the situation and ultimately doing what's right. As I've said before, I've followed this story because of its affiliation with the Wolverines, and obvious benefit should he decide to transfer, but this is ultimately about him and his family. It's about celebrating that he's coming home should he even decide to transfer to Michigan State.

Allen Trieu recently tweeted that Arnett will make a speedy decision regarding where he will transfer. I imagine he wants his academic and athletic life settled as soon as possible so he can get back to his personal life. Whether he picks Michigan or Michigan State, great news the kid's coming home.

#Well...


Hey team,

So I recently joined Twitter which hasn't really affected anything other than our friend Timmy's dating life and my productivity at work. That all changes tonight as I will once again dress up as our fine coach Brady Hoke for the Sugar Bowl. I will be live tweeting his/my thoughts as the game happens.

Follow me at @michroar1. I will be mainly hitting on that Brady isn't sure what Borges will call, talking about all of the Gumbo I have ate the past few days and it will just degenerate into this. I look forward to giving you insight and Go Blue.

Michael

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bowl Pick 'Em: BCS

Mike and I probably should have known better than to sprinkle in Big Ten bowl wins in our picks last week. Last year, the Big Ten laid a big goose egg on New Years. This year? Well 5 out of 6 bowl games today feature Big Ten teams and we're currently 1/4 heading (Sparty!) into the Rose Bowl -- set to kick off in just a few minutes. This isn't exactly the best start to 2012.

Next up are the big boys: BCS games, including Big Ten reps Wisconsin and Michigan. It would go a long way for us to pick up a pair of wins in these games, helping erasing some of the bad memories of today and the last few years, honestly. If we don't, then the Big Ten deserves the criticism coming: we just can't win bowl games and particularly not against the SEC. It'll be pretty sad of Purdue, Illinois and State come away as the only victors of the Big Ten bowl season. Let's not.