Preview: Akron

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10:30am – March 1, 2009

John Session Stadium (Jacksonville Campus)
Jacksonville, FL
Media: Live Stats and Live Audio
Home Team: TBA
Probable Pitchers: Kolby Wood (0-0) vs Andrew Brown (0-0)
Michigan Record vs Opponent: 0-0
Last Series/Game: This is the first


The Akron Zips of the MAC Eastern division have been a young team the last two years who are finally getting experienced veterans at the starting positions. Last year marked the first year since 1997 that Akron finished above .500 (25-24), with a final RPI of 148. This year they look to improve on that record with strong senior leadership and experience on the mound.

Akron was chosen to finish 5th in the Eastern Division this year, well behind nationally ranked Kent State. So far this season they have gone 0-6, facing a variety of competition. They have lost two close games in this tournament already, including a 9-7 loss to UW-M and a 6-4 loss to Jacksonville.


I’m going to shorten this section for teams we only face once. I don’t think you need to know much about the batters that don’t appear to be a huge threat, even if they may have an explosive game against us. So if I skip a player and he for some reason goes 6-6 with a cycle and 3 home runs and 14 RBIs, the guy just didn’t catch my eye based on his long term stats.

The Zips are lead by senior shortstop Kevin Haas. Haas lead the team with a .347 batting average, scoring 52 runs and hitting in 30 RBIs. Haas had a mix of average and power, shown in his 11 doubles, 3 triples, and 2 home runs. Haas is currently batting .346 with 4 runs and an RBI.

John Turk will start behind the plate for Akron, who a year ago hit .313 with 30 runs scored and 28 RBIs. He was able to catch 11 of 34 stolen base attempts against him, which isn’t that great. This year Turk is currently batting .350, with 3 runs and 4 RBIs.

The most improved fielder so far this year is Phil Bednar at second base. Last year, Bednar hit only .252 with 21 runs and 39 RBIs. This year, Bednar is leading the team with .474 average (9/19) and three doubles.

In the outfield, Brandon White has taken over starting duties after getting spot starts last season. This year has seen him hit .429 with a team leading 7 RBIs. He and first basemen Kyle Hallett (.412) have been hitting very well behind Bednar, offering him great protection.


Andrew Brown is the probable starter for this game. He is a right handed freshman checking in at 6’2″. This will be his second appearance of the season. The first came in relief against Wake Forest, going 2.1 innings and giving up 6 hits, 5 runs (3 earned), on 2 walks, a hit-by-pitch, and a strikeout. There isn’t much we know about him yet, so this will be a learning experience for everybody.

The relievers haven’t really done that poor of a job this year for the Zips. Three relievers ( Bassitt, Fawcett, Fleming) still hold a 0.00 ERA over a combined 6 2/3 innings pitched. Danzinger has 8 innings with 8Ks with 4 runs given up. After that we start stretching to guys who had one bad inning.


I’m not really certain about this one. Akron has been hit or miss (quite literally), but still can’t managed to pull out a W. Either way we need to salvage a victory just to keep face with some of the pollsters. We hopefully prove a little something to Coach Alexander of Jacksonville (one of the members of the coaches poll). I’m just not overly optimistic about it for some reason. Perhaps its the loss from Friday lingering? I don’t know.

Semi-Relevant Reading

I got nothin’

Posted under Baseball

UFR: Minnesota I

Shooting data can be found in .xls format here.

Half 1

1st Half
Lineup Time Score Differential
Lee, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 6:52 10-10 0
Lee, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Shepherd, Gibson 1:15 2-2 0
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Shepherd, Gibson 1:12 0-2 -2
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Lee, Novak, Gibson 2:14 8-2 +6
Lee, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Gibson 1:46 2-0 +2
Lee, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 1:26 5-0 +5
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Sims 5:06 13-9 +4
Merritt, Douglass, Lee, Shepherd, Sims :03 0-0 0
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Shepherd, Sims :06 0-0 0
Totals 20:00 40-25 +15

Half 2

2nd Half
Lineup Time Score Differential
Lee, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 4:18 8-8 0
Merritt, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 1:32 3-3 0
Merritt, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Sims :56 3-0 +3
Merritt, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Gibson :49 4-0 +4
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Lee, Novak, Gibson :33 2-3 -1
Lee, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Gibson :27 0-0 0
Lee, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims :49 0-3 -3
Lee, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims :56 2-5 -3
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Sims 3:36 6-4 +2
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Shepherd, Sims 1:16 0-0 0
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Sims 2:50 5-5 0
Grady, Lee, Harris, Novak, Sims 1:21 1-4 -3
Merritt, Lee, Harris, Novak, Sims :37 0-2 -2
Totals 20:00 34-37 -3

Individual Players

Stu Douglass 32min +17
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1/2 1/2
Midrange 1/1
3-pt 0/1 1/3 1/2

A pretty active day on offense. Did a lot of work on the fast break, as well.

Zack Gibson 8min +9
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Midrange 1/1
3-pt 2/2

Didn’t play too much, but made the most of his offensive opportunities.

Manny Harris 22min -6
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 2 0/1 0/1 2/2 0/2
Midrange 1
3-pt 1/1 1/1

Not a great day, but had his moments.

CJ Lee 37min +14
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1/1
Midrange 0/1
3-pt 0/1 0/1

Had a few turnovers late in the game, and didn’t shoot particularly well.

Laval Lucas-Perry 6min 0
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1 0/1

Hardly played at all.

Zack Novak 36min +10
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
3-pt 1/2 2/3 3/4

On fire all day.

Jevohn Shepherd 4min -2
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1/1 0
Midrange 0/1

Didn’t play much, and was pretty much the only guy in negative differential.

DeShawn Sims 32min +3
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1/1 0/1
Midrange 0/2 2/5 0/1
3-pt 1/4 1/2

DeShawn wasn’t really the featured player on this day. He shot a bunch from midrange, but didn’t make as many of them as he usually would.

David Merritt 9min +10
Quality 0 1 2 3 F

Handled the ball well enough to not be a liability.

Kelvin Grady 14min +3
Quality 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1 1/1
3-pt 2/2 1/1

Stepped up and got some significant playing time for the first time in a while.

Posted under Analysis, Basketball

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Preview: Jacksonville

Three Four things before I start the preview:

  1. I’ve got way too much work this week, cutting into my preview time for the weekend.
  2. Jacksonville’s website wasn’t very conducive for digging up information. So some areas are kind of light.
  3. As mentioned in a comment, it’s the Minute Maid College Classic in Houston this weekend, so I’m going to be at Minute Maid Park watching 5 top 10 teams (and UHouston) face off in the tournament of DEATH! Blood sport style. Posting will be light and I may or may not get the Akron Preview done.
  4. ARGH! Play better! [updated 10am]

Enjoy the weekend.

Image from

@Jacksonville, Doubleheader
3:30 & 6 pm – February 28, 2009

John Session Stadium (Jacksonville Campus)
Jacksonville, FL
Media: Live Stats, Live Audio, and Live Video ($)
Media (Game 2): Live Stats, Live Audio, & Live Video ($)
Home Team: I believe Jacksonville will be home both games
Probable Pitchers (Game 1): Chris Fetter (0-0) vs Billy Schlee (RHP, 0-1)
Probable Pitchers (Game 2): Eric Katzman (0-0) vs Carson Andrew ( , 1-0)
Michigan Record vs Opponent: 0-1
Last Series/Game: 9-2 L @ Jacksonville on 2/29/2000


Jacksonville is another middle of the road Atlantic Sun (woo they have pay per view for baseball!) team much like UNF during the midweek game. Jacksonville was picked to finish 5th in conference by the preseason coaches’ poll. They were 27-29 last year finishing with an RPI of 134. In conference, the Dolphins were 13-20, good for 10th of 11.

This year Jacksonville started the season with a three game series at Florida International. The Dolphins emerged 1-2 after the series, losing the opening two games by scores of 4-3 and 20-1. They did managed to pull out the last game however, by a score of 9-3. Florida International isn’t that good of a team for those wondering (finished 158 last year).

Offensive Stars

The leader of the Dolphins is catcher Jeremy Gillian. Gillian is all preseason Atlantic Sun for his efforts last year, hitting .377 with 60 RBIs including 9 homeruns and 10 doubles. He also is a force behind the plate, throwing out 17 runners last year.

The second leading hitter for Jacksonville last year was second baseman Chuck Opachich. Opachich hit .323 last year, only scoring 28 runs and 18 RBIs. That seems pretty low for that batting average. This year he is the lead off man, and he’s done alright in limited playing time. He’s 2/7 with a K in 2 games, only one a start.

Hitting in the two hole will be returning left fielder Kyle Fleming who is 2/7 with a run and RBI, and 2BBs this season. Last season he hit .313 with 40 runs scored. He’s the one setting up Gillian with RBIs.


Billy Schlee is a closer converted to starter for the Dolphins. Last season he was 0-1 with a 6.91 ERA with 6 savees. He only had 12 appearances for 14.1 innings where he gave up 17 hits and 11 runs, while striking out 11. In one relief appearance this season he went 3.2 innings, he gave up 3 runs on 3 hits, a walk, and striking out 5.

Carson Andrew was the second starter for the Dolphins a year ago, going 5-3 with a 4.61 ERA (2nd on team). In 18 appearances (11 starts) he logged 70.1 innings while giving up 53 runs (36 earned, which tells you about their fielding last year). Andrew did collect 7.67 K’s-per-9-innings which is respectable, and only walked 26. That’s pretty solid for college starters.

This year Andrew had the start in the team’s only win. He lasted 4 innings giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. He walked 2 and struck out 3 in the win. His statistics appear to point to him not lasting long into games (only about 5 innings per start).

There isn’t enough information about the relievers, and the 20-1 loss last week has all their numbers looking pretty poorly.

Semi-Relavant Reading

Got nothin’.

Posted under Baseball

Even the Clowns Have Bananas

Michigan 87, Purdue 78. And it wasn’t even that close.

The TV where I watched the game tonight had a terrible picture. The score was virtually incomprehensible all game, I couldn’t tell whether it was Laval Lucas-Perry or DeShawn Sims playing defense, and I undoubtedly missed several interpretive dances from Ed Hightower.

Somehow, that made it make more sense.

The Michigan Wolverines, losers in an embarrassing game at Iowa, in which (in my admittedly biased opinion, of course) the referees essentially decided the game with inconsistent officiating in the last minute of regulation, beat a top 25 team yet again. The Purdue Boilermakers, who escaped with a win against Michigan in their home arena thanks in part to an egregiously bad call against Manny Harris, fell to the Wolverines by a margin of 9 points, and the margin really felt much further apart. I don’t mean to make this post entirely about officiating in other games, because the Wolverines’ performance shouldn’t be diminished by focusing on things outside their control, much less those that happened days or even weeks ago.

DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris were the players we all know they can be tonight, and though Manny still wasn’t getting the calls that Michigan fans think he should be getting, the team leaders, both from Detroit (where John Beilein clearly will never be able to recruit), were able to put up big numbers against the Boilermakers and lead their team to victory. The role players, who until now have been taking turns with huge games, were able to each step up enough without any one player going ballistic from long range.

Michigan is back on the bubble, and Purdue’s chances of winning the Big Ten are reduced to basically zero. These stakes were set before the game, and Michigan was able to use the motivation to come away with a huge road win against a top-25 team, and Purdue was sent home knowing they heavily rely on Michigan State to choke in order to even have a chance to take the regular-season crown.

Posted under Basketball

Preview: Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Image from UWM.edu

1 pm – February 27, 2009
John Session Stadium (Jacksonville Campus)
Jacksonville, FL
Media: Live Stats and Audio
Home Team: TBA
Probable Pitchers: Travis Smith (0-0) vs Andy Hetebrueg (RHP, 0-1)
Michigan Record vs Opponent: 0-0
Last Series/Game: Never has happened (unlike UNF, I know this is true)


Friday Michigan will be playing the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, the only D1 baseball school in the state of Wisconsin as the Badgers in Madison cut the baseball team due to huge athletic deficits in the early 90s. The Panthers were a bad team last year, finishing 25-36 overall, 11-15 in the Horizon League conference, good for #258 in RPI. They did manage to make it to the championship of their conference tournament, but they ultimately would lose to Illinois-Chicago.

This year the UWM started off a series with #6 Arizona State. It didn’t start or finish well for the Panthers as Arizona State swept the 4 games by a combined score of 53-9. Obviously the numbers are going to be a bit skewed from facing such an opponent. The team is batting .128 and their ERA is 14.06. Tough start for the team picked to finish third in the Horizon League.

Offensive Players

The lineup for the Panthers has been shuffled quite a bit this year. No one has started in the 5/6/7/9 holes of the batting order more than once. Only the 1/2/3 batters have started in every game, and only lead off hitter and second basemen Andy Gerhartz has started each game in the same place in the order.

Gerhartz batted .288 last season while scoring 43 runs and collecting 13 RBIs. Gerhartz is a threat on the bases, stealing 15/18 last season. He’s started slow this year, at a nice .071 pace with 6 Ks. I guess I can’t make that much fun as our lead off hitter is batting .077 as I type this (pre-UNF game). Its also worth noting that Gerhartz is one of those ball magnets. He was hit 8th most in the NCAA last year (23 HBPs) and is on a solid pace this year with 3 in 4 games.

Image from

Cole Kraft will likely bat second in the order and play shortstop. He hit .295 last year making spot starts at second base. This year he has been less impressive (as the theme continues), batting just .167.

Behind Kraft will most likely be All Horizon League first basemen Shawn Wozniak. Wozniak had a break out season last year hitting .364 with 6 home runs and 26 doubles. He’s a third year starter and is the team “star.” Continuing the unimpressive theme, this year he’s started at .182 with 2 singles.

After that, you have a crap shoot on the order. My guess is Ben Long, the utility player, bats cleanup. Long has made a start at catcher, first base, and designated hitter this season already. He was the Second Team All Horizon League last year as a freshman DH. He hit .292 with 6 homeruns and 11 doubles on the year. Long is the only Panther batter currently hitting over .300 (3/9). He also is tied for the team lead in hits.

He’s tied with left fielder Tim Patzman (the only other batter batting above .200), who is also the thunder in the lineup so far this year. Patzman already has 3 runs and 2 RBIs thanks to his homerun and two doubles. He is a first year starter as a junior and may get bumped up a spot in the order to get more pop earlier.

Rounding out the outfield are center fielder Doug Dekoning and right fielder Johann Andes. Dekoning hit .305 last year (his freshman season) with 9 steals, earning him a spot on the “Newcomer Team” in the Horizon League. Andes may not actually start this weekend. He is a junior college transfer with only this year left in eligibility. So far on the season, he is 0/9 with a hit by pitch and sacrifice fly. Exepct both of these players, or their replacements toward the bottom of the order.

Shaun Wegner will probably do the catching for this game. The returning starter (Second Team All Horizon League) hit .329 last year with 35 runs and 23 RBI. He is more the offensive type catcher than defense. He had 22 pass balls in 50 games (43 starts) last year, and only threw out 30% of stolen base attempts. Hopefully this leads to some success on the basepaths that we could definitely use.

The last starter will most likely be Paul Hoenecke at third. Hoenecke is a true freshman who was one of the best prospects in the state of Wisconsin last year. So far this season, he’s hitting .091 with a double and RBI.


Image from

Starting in this game will be Andy Hetebrueg, a right hander who has had meh success in his career. Hetebrueg was 6-7 last year in 17 appearances (15 starts). His ERA last year was 6.57 in 86 1/3 innings of work, recording 50 Ks and only 34 BBs.

This gets encouraging from a Michigan standpoint. In his first start this year, Hetebrueg lasted 4 innings. In those four innings, he gave up 8 hits, 5 of which were home runs. Yes, you read that right. He gave up 5 homeruns(!) in 4 innings, with an opponent batting average of .421(!). On top of that, he also gave up 8 runs (all earned) and walking 3 and hitting a batter. Arizona State lit him up at the plate and took advantage on the mound, stealing 3 bases on 3 attempts. Lets see, something good about him this year… he struck out one batter? All that said, you have to imagine he’ll be looking to get back on the right side of things against Michigan.

The relief corp behind Hetebrueg has obviously gotten some experience already this season. It’s been about as ugly as Hetebrueg’s start. Ten different pitchers got work last week, only two of which didn’t give up a run. The ERA of the non-starters is currently 33.78. This is somewhat inflated due to a long relief appearance in game 2 vs ASU as Cuyler Franzke was forced into the game in the first inning due to an fast exit by starter Jeff Gordon. Franzke gave up 8 runs in the “non-start,” which is half the runs given up by the bullpen. If you exclude Franzke, the bullpen ERA is …only… 13.93. Having looked through their stats the last few seasons, I can’t even find anyone to even single out to tell you keep an eye on them.

Unless one of their pitchers has a career day or is just plain on, the top of the Michigan lineup should tear this pitching staff apart.

Semi-Relevant Reading

  • One of the assistants is keeping a journal for The College Baseball Blog. The most recent post was “wow, last weekend went poorly.” The post before has an interesting look on how smaller northern schools spend spring practice. Nothing enlightening, but interesting nonetheless.
  • The CBB also has their full preseason preview of UWM. It’s more in depth than I cared to go, detailing all of the position battles and mentioning some of the starters. It reaffirms the “bullpen-by-committee” as mentioned earlier, not just closer.

*Based from starting rotation last week. UWM’s site hasn’t prefaced the game as of yet.

Posted under Baseball

Mid Week Recap

Midweek games are the traditional trap games that really haunt the top ranked teams in college baseball. You generally schedule cupcakes, throw whatever you have left that resembles a starting pitcher, a few of your backup players to earn experience, and pray like hell the other team just doesn’t have one of those nights where they’re hot. College baseball, even more so than college basketball, has a much more even playing field. Teams like #3 Texas A&M (NBCWA Poll) can fall to teams like Centenary College. The midweek game is where depth is exposed. The underdog throws out the best they got to topple the Goliaths.

Michigan 9, North Florida 8
Box Score
Win – Wilson (1-0) Loss – Lott (0-1) Save – Burgoon (1)

Michigan just missed their first weeknight upset at the hands of the North Florida Osprey. In front of 762 fans in a meh attempt at a White Out, Michigan prevailed by the narrow margin of 9-8. If it weren’t for North Florida’s pitching collapsing a bit in the 4th inning, Michigan would have lost this game pretty badly.

Game Summary

North Florida jumped out to a early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on three straight singles and a sacrifice fly. Brandon Sinnery, in his first career start, managed to escape the inning from a great throw and relay, Urban to Cislo to Lorenz to get a runner taking too aggressive of a turn around third base. Chris Berset also had a throwing error in the inning trying to catch a runner stealing. His throw got away from him, but the runner would have scored anyways.

Sinnery was yanked after giving up a double in the 2nd inning with two outs. His final line was 1.2 innings pitched, 2 ERs on 6 hits with a strike out. That’s not what Maloney was looking for by any stretch. Hopefully the freshman picks it up when the midweek games pick up during the conference season.

Gerbe, who replaced Sinnery, pitched the next 1.1 innings, giving up a single, double, and sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning. He managed to only give up the single run but he was done for the night.

Michigan came in to the top of the 4 down 3-0. Ryan LaMarre lead off with an infield single to short stop; it was a slow roller that the defender had no shot at making a play with. With a full count, LaMarre went with the pitch, and Dufek grounded to the second baseman, who had no play on LaMarre. One out. McLouth then knocked a pitch to left field toward the line. LaMarre slipped rounding third, but probably wouldn’t have scored anyways. The throw went to the plate, allowing McLouth to advance to second. After an Urban fly out, the UNF pitching staff walked the next three batters forcing in two runs. With the bases still loaded, Kevin Cislo knocked a three run single to center. Cislo advanced to second on a passed ball then stole third, setting up a Toth RBI single. Michigan was up 6-3.

Michigan would tact 3 more runs on in the 5th inning. McLouth knocked his second home run of the season out to lead off the inning. After a Nick Urban single, Chris Berset knocked his own homdinger. That put Michigan up 9-3, to what one would think would be a safe lead.

Well not so fast my friend, North Florida added a run in the 6th from a pair of doubles. In the 7th, Michigan started with an error on Mike Dufek – its never a good sign when you give up an easy out to start an inning. Its worse when you walk the next batter, which we do. Wilson gets a ground ball that looks to be a double play, but we only manage to get the out at second. After giving up another single, Mike Wilson is pulled for Matt Miller. Miller gives up a walk and a single before striking out a batter. Enter Burgoon. After a walk and a hit by pitch, Burgoon finally gets Michigan out of the inning with a fly ball. It’s 9-8.

From here on out, it was pretty quiet. Michigan stranded a runner on third in the 8th. The Osprey just couldn’t get anything going against Burgoon down the stretch.

Well that was closer than it should have been.


  • We didn’t get caught stealing in either of our two attempts
  • Nick Urban extends his hitting streak to 5 games
  • A win is a win
  • This is the best start we’ve had to a season since 1991


  • Mike Wilson was Mike Wilson yeah of 2008, getting by in ugly ways
  • Kenny Fellows ends his hitting streak at 4 games (still batting .412)
  • Mike Dufek continued his struggles going 0/5 with 3 runners left on base
  • That was way too close for comfort

Notable Players

  • Chris Berset – 1/2 2 Rs, 2 RBIs, HR, 2 BBs
  • Jake McLouth – 2/5 R, 2 RBIs, HR
  • Kevin Cislo – 2/4 R, 3 RBIs, 2B
  • Tyler Burgoon – 2.1 IP, H, BB, K

Next game: Friday @ 1pm vs Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Jacksonville tournament. Preview will be out tonight.

Posted under Baseball

Preview: Purdue II

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Michigan takes on conference foe Purdue tonight at 9PM. The game takes place in Crisler Arena (if you have the opportunity, go. I’m sue there are plenty of tickets available) and can be seen on ESPN.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Purdue: National Ranks
Category Michigan Purdue Advantage
Mich eFG% v. Purdue eFG% D 162 93 P
Mich eFG% D v. Purdue eFG% 165 3 PP
Mich TO% v. Purdue Def TO% 17 39 M
Mich Def TO% v. Purdue TO% 167 37 PP
Mich OReb% v. Purdue DReb% 269 291 M
Mich DReb% v. Purdue OReb% 164 128 P
Mich FTR v. Purdue Opp FTR 330 220 PP
Mich Opp FTR v. Purdue FTR 27 46 M
Mich AdjO v. PurdueAdjD 72 3 P
Mich AdjD v. Purdue AdjO 71 79

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third.

When Last We Met…

Ridiculous Manny Harris ejection, team loses composure and game.

Since Last We Met…

Michigan has had spurts of brilliance (of course, most of them didn’t result in wins) and not-so-brilliance. Purdue has kept chugging along, getting away with being cheap players defensively, and have beaten up on some fairly high-quality teams, like Michigan State.

The Wolverines have pretty much maintain their rankings in tempo-free land from the previous meeting, and Purdue has gotten a little better offensively, while maintaining their lofty defensive standing.


I predict pain. The first half of the away game with Purdue should serve as an encouraging sign, but I question this team’s mental state following the Iowa debacle. A loss tonight would pretty much ensure a need to win multiple games in the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the Big Dance. Otherwise, reserve those NIT tickets.

KenPom predicts a 64-61 Purdue win in a 65-possession game.

Posted under Analysis, Basketball

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Where Does the Offense Go From Here?

Much to the delight of Michigan fans (or maybe just bloggers), Smart Football has taken a fairly serious interest in Michigan since Rich Rodriguez has been the headman. Of course, part of the reason that the Wolverines get mentioned time and again is the fact that everything is not all sunshine and lollipops in Ann Arbor. Of course, Rodriguez has never taken a significant interest in the defensive performance of his teams, so surely the focus of Smart Football is on that side of the ball, no?

Not So Fast My Friend. It is in fact the offense that Chris has taken an interest in. More specifically, it is the idea that Michigan’s offense is not as diversified or systematic as perhaps it should be. This is not an old issue for Chris, who has brought up the point before that the passing game is not conceptually designed. In the more recent post, he goes a little more in-depth:

If Rodriguez wants his offense to be truly elite again, it’s the passing game that has to be the source of innovation. The run game tools are largely in place. There’s some room for improvement all around, but, last season with general inexperience — and without a legitimate running threat at quarterback — the lack of a viable downfield passing attack worked to help cripple the Rodriguez offense. But the fact that this aspect never developed over the course of the season was what really troubled me.

There’s much more to say on this topic, but for now suffice to say that Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it’s of a slightly different order with Michigan.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Passing Game
Smart Football sez:

But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you’d think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall. The only hope is the increased athleticism masks these deficiencies.

Brian’s take on the matter is that Rodriguez hasn’t been forced to have a complex passing game, because with Pat White at the helm, a dominating run game and simple pass game will work just fine, thank you. I tend to agree with that assessment, and it better be true, because, as noted by Smart Football, the Wolverines are likely a year away from being able to add any complexity to the passing game.

With Pat White able to run the ball like he did, and probably not able to pass well enough to have a full pass game installed, it’s easy to see a potential reason the pass game stayed stagnant. Rodriguez’s recruiting has shown that he’s more interested in being able to throw the ball, however, and Tate Forcier may even be a better passer today than White, if not quite the runner:

Running Game
Smart Football:

Compare their offenses with Rodriguez’s: there’s not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure.

All due respect to Smart Football (and I may be wrong here, because he knows a hell of a lot more about the game than I do), but I’d be willing to say that even Rodriguez’s ground game, at least as implemented last year, is simpler than other spread teams, most notably Florida and Oregon. Again, part of that might have been players who were less-than-optimal for the spread offense, particularly at the quarterback position.

In the future, however, a diversification of the offense, perhaps including innovations like Meyer’s use of the H-back as a shovel option, or more counters, even the triple option/throwback pass that WVU used in the Meineke Bowl. Having better fits at the QB position, and not having to install just that base offense all offseason, will certainly help that in the future.

The Future

Perhaps Pat White got a bad rap as a passer, or maybe Bill Stewart actually knew what he was doing for WVU’s offense, thoughthe stats don’t agree – and that’s in a year where a senior Pat White was supposed to lead WVU to one of the most prolific offenses ever. However, with White looking more like a quarterback than a wideout or return man at the NFL (for better or for worse), it looks like Rodriguez’s schemes will be able to develop more complexity down the road.

As far as diversifying schemes goes, Chris points out that Oklahoma is an example of a spread team with a much more complex (and effective) passing game than Michigan’s. The use of the tight end is pointed out specifically. In fact, Rodriguez has reportedly planned to visit Oklahoma’s coaches in the offseason to trade information on the passing game, particularly the use of tight ends (of which Michigan has many who aren’t getting very much use).

In the future, I would love to see visits to Florida as well, for diversifying the running game a bit, along with figuring out other ways to use the tights ends effectively in the spread offense.

And, as pointed out by Smart Football, Oregon’s offense is one of the best-designed as well. I’ve pointed out in the past that I don’t think Michigan’s schemes are as creative as Oregon’s, and that’s one area where there is room for improvement. Perhaps in the future, Rodriguez can pick the brain of Chip Kelly.

And, most importantly for the future comes recruiting. Rodriguez has more resources available at Michigan than he ever did at West Virginia. White’s emergence as a possible NFL QB has to help recruiting as well. Even if he didn’t tweak his offense at all, if he continues to recruit like he has for the past two classes (or, more likely, improves it by having more success on the field), He could be able to usurp the quality of his offenses in Morgantown. With minor improvements to certain aspects of the offensive side of the ball, an outstanding offense is likely in the future of Michigan football.

Posted under Coaching, Football

Recruiting Catch-up Post

Last week TheWolverine’s Josh Helmholdt had a recruiting chat on the Freep website, and I was aware of it but without anywhere to put it. So, I’ll dedicate a post to it, parsing out all the details I think are relevant.

Michigan definitely has a good shot at Inkster QB Devin Gardner. He dropped Ohio State this past week and that was the team he grew up following, so that increases Michigan’s chances that much more. Right now they have a better shot of landing Gardner than [Robert] Bolden. I personally like Gardner’s upside best. He truly does have some of the characteristics that made Terrelle Pryor the No. 1 recruit coming out of HS in the 2008 class. Gardner is also one of the QB prospects who Michigan has the best chance of landing.

I spoke with Austin [Gray] last night and Michigan is definitely high on his radar. Michigan State and Illinois look to be on the verge of offering and Indiana, Toledo, CMU and others already have. He is not listing an outright favorite right now

I was down in Florida with Marvin [Robinson] last week, and I still feel good Michigan is the team to beat. Several others in Florida agree with me on that.

William [Gholston] did favor MSU and really still does, but he has been adamant in the last couple weeks that he does not want to make an early commitment because he has not visited very many schools.

Gholston, Derrick Bryant and Darryl Baldwin from Solon, Ohio, [are the main targets] at defensive end. At DT, there is a kid in Georgia they are taking a look at, but all in all the talent nationally at that position is weak this year. Most of those offers will come later in the process.

[Regarding adding players to the 2009 class] They took a look at Carolina ATH Larry Raper, but have not offered. There are a few three and four-star guys still left uncommitted and if they can get in with one of them, then maybe they add one more. I keep in close contact with Raper, and he has not been offered yet by Michigan. As the days go on, there is less of a chance he does get that offer. The lack of available talent at the DT left in the 2009 class makes it unlikely they will add another one in the 2009 class.

I really believe [Nick Hill] will [end up in Michigan’s class] Joe, and likely even before Michigan’s summer camp. Hill is short (5-6), but he has such unique abilities and brings more to the table than most HS backs. I am really high on Hill and rank him as one of the top 5 players in the state for 2010.

Most of that falls in the range of “not at all surprising if you pay attention,” but it’s still worth noting when there’s good recruiting content for free.Michigan State has since offered Gray, and I’ll try to sleuth out who the Georgia DT is.

And while I’m catching up on old recruiting information that wasn’t likely to end up having a home, DocSat talked most successful recruiting schools over the past two classes, and it’s pretty encouraging for Michigan fans:

Bama has reeled in 40 players rated four or five-stars by Rivals over the last two Signing Days. By comparison, the only other schools with more than 30 are USC and Michigan, with 31.

The big difference for Michigan, of course, is the lack of 5-star guys. USC and Bama have 6 and 7, respectively, while the Wolverines have only 1. Hopefully, more success on the field will allow the coaching staff to continue and accelerate the super-positive recruiting momentum they’ve managed to gain despite a 3-9 year.

Posted under Coaching, Football, Recruiting

UNF Quick Update

UPDATE (3:30pm):  Brandon Sinnery is starting for Michigan, he went 0.1 innings this weekend giving up a hit and a walk.  Also, I missed the 2000 game against the Osprey, who we are 0-1 against, so this is a vengeance game.  Oaks still isn’t listed on the depth chart, despite being listed in the weekly press release.  Seems odd.  Anyone with information, please leave a comment.

Baseball Stream – via Atlantic Sun IPTV, but it’s $5.99 pay per view.  Seems pricey, but at least its out there.

White Out the Wolverines – UNF is planning a White Out for the game tonight.  Make sure you fans going to the game wear something Maize as their colors are White and Navy.  You’ll stand out like a sore thumb, announcing the Michigan presence.  First pitch is 7pm, pitchers are still TBA.  I’m going to guess Mike Wilson for Michigan just because we haven’t seen him yet.

All BigEast/Big10 Challenge PlayersCollegebaseball360.com released their attempt at forming a 18 person all tournament team from the weekend. Not an easy thing to do when picking from 18 teams playing 24 games.

Notables for Michigan:

  • Starting Pitcher – Eric Katzman (Michigan, LHP, Jr.)
  • Relief Pitcher – Tyler Burgoon (Michigan, RHP, So.)
  • RF -Nick Urban (Michigan, Sr.)
  • DH – Jake McLouth (Michigan, Fr.)

Notably absent? Kenny Fellows. The guy bats .541 with a run, 2 RBIs, and 2 assists in the outfield and he gets nothing. Those 4 times being caught stealing hurt him as he lost the chance to score a few more runs.

Big10 Player of the Week – Nick Urban took Big10 POTW honors this week. Tyler Burgoon and Eric Katzman get the shaft. I can understand Eric Jokisch (NU) getting the nod for the complete game, but Drew Rucinski (OSU)? Let us compare:

Burgoon, Tyler (2-0)

Appearance IP H R ER BB SO AB BF
1 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3
2 4.0 3 0 0 0 4 14 14
Total 5.0 3 0 0 0 4 17 17

Rucinski, Drew (1-0, 1 Sv)

Appearance IP H R ER BB SO AB BF
1 3.1 1 0 0 1 3 1 13
2 3.0 2 0 0 0 3 10 10
Total 6.1 3 0 0 1 6 21 23

I mean the guy gave up a walk for crying out loud. And sacrifices? Burgoon scoffs at the sort. He just gets outs.

Poll Watching – Michigan slides up in most polls with the 4-0 start.

Poll Current LW
NCBWA 25 30
Collegiate Baseball 28 29
BaseballAmerica NR NR
Rivals NR NR
USA Today/ESPN 37* TBA

*In others receiving votes section

No love yet from Rivals, who generally is very reluctant about teams not from the SEC/Big12/Pac10/Big West/ACC. RPI hasn’t been posted anywhere I’ve seen yet (ncaa.com or boyd’s world), which isn’t surprising due to the minimal number of games so far. Coaches poll (USA Today) haven’t posted yet, it will be updated if/when it come in today

Posted under Baseball