Monday, November 26, 2007

Coach - O - Rama

Since the retirement of Lloyd Carr, the rumors of who is to be the new coach of Michigan have kicked into full gear. Most recently, apparently false rumors of Kirk Ferentz accepting the job and being on the verge of an announcement have swept around in the last 48-72 hours. Brian knows his stuff and I think I know where he got some of his information from. As best I can tell there have been some actual serious looking at Ferentz as a candidate by Michigan combined with some Iowa fans spreading some false rumors of Ferentz as accepting the job. I think the two are totally unrelated and the timing is ironic and kind of funny. So where does Ferentz stand in the Michigan head coaching search? I think he is still a candidate, though I don't think any decisions have been made yet.

So here are some of my thoughts on some potential names I have seen kicked around in various locations. Some are more likely than others. We'll start with the 500 lb gorilla in the room.

Les Miles - I think everybody knows the story. Former OL under Bo Schembechler who also had 2 stints in Ann Arbor as an assistant coach. He had some success at Oklahoma State including some big wins over rival Oklahoma and he has had more success at LSU taking over for Nick Saban.

What are some of the pros for Miles? Well, he's a "Michigan Man", whatever that means. He certainly knows what it takes to be successful in Ann Arbor and he certainly loves the school. He also has had success as a head coach in both the Big Twelve and the SEC. LSU finished 6th in the AP poll his first season and 3rd in the AP poll last season. This year they were at or near the top until their recent triple OT loss to Arkansas. You still have to figure they are a good bet to once again finish in the top 5 nationally. Miles also is not afraid to gamble on the field which is a little different than Lloyd Carr. He is not afraid to fake field goals and punts and just go for it on 4th down over and over. There is definitely a little riverboat gambler mentality in Les and that's not a bad thing.

Some of the cons? He has a big mouth and will say some un-PC things to the media. Who can forget "we have a new rival in fucking Alabama"? He also didn't profess to be a fan of the Pac Ten while ridiculing the USC schedule. After 13 years of listening to Lloyd Carr extoll the virtues of every single opponent he plays and talk them up left and right, are Michigan fans ready for a coach that will pop off at any time about any topic and risk offending lots of people? I'm not sure, though I admit it would be fun to listen to him talk about his true feelings about Ohio State. There are also some folks that feel Les has never had a truly great season losing some games each year that he shouldn't. However, you can say that regarding just about any coach in the country. Given the tough schedules he has faced at LSU, I'd say he has handled himself quite well in the W/L category. Also various rumors about Oklahoma State players being surprised they had to go to class and attending meetings and other such routine things after Coach Gundy (he of the press conference tirade) replaced Miles.

The bottom line is that Miles is a good coach and would likely have Michigan routinely in the top 5 or 10 in the country and in the hunt for national titles. How many times he'd embarrass himself by saying something dumb in the media would be up to speculation.

Kirk Ferentz - former player and assistant coach at Iowa that has been the Hawkeyes' head coach since 1999.

Pros? Mary Sue Coleman (the Michigan prez) apparently still loves him from her days at Iowa. Personally, that does nothing for me because she doesn't know anything about sports. His star was much brighter a few years ago when Iowa had three straight #8 rankings in the final AP poll. Lloyd Carr is also a fan of Ferentz.

Cons? Too many to list them all. For one, Iowa has struggled mightily the last three years and has lost some horrible games. If you thought losing to Appalachian State was bad, imagine losing a home game to Western Michigan in the season finale with a bowl on the line. That's the ultimate "what the fuck" moment for a coach. It's also not so hot to go 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten this past year when he got to skip Ohio State and Michigan on the schedule. And can you say "off field problems"? Iowa's got way more than I can count with Ferentz at the helm. And don't get me started on the bend but don't break and don't ever blitz philosophy that Ferentz and Norm Park love on offense combined with the run, run, and run some more style he likes on offense.

Kirk Ferentz has a stellar reputation as a head coach. He unfortunately has not had much results recently and there is no great explanation why. In a best case scenario if hired, he could bring some changes off the field in terms of strength and conditioning, but it would realistically be like hiring a younger Lloyd Carr. I would hope he could keep the off the field problems away, but his track record isn't great. I'd also hope he would take a few more chances on the field but I wouldn't hold my breath. It would be a thoroughly boring choice and my only hope would be that he could prove me wrong on the field. My biggest hope would be that he would hire an offensive coordinator that had some cajones in playcalling and we'd have to wait and see who that would be.

Mike DeBord - Lloyd's buddy. You probably know him as the current (or is that soon to be former) offensive coordinator for the Wolverines. He was previously seen as the Central Michigan head coach from 2000-2003 when he lead them to a thoroughly unimpressive 12-34 record.

Pros? None. Lloyd likes him. Probably a nice guy. Wouldn't get lost driving to work in Ann Arbor. He also wouldn't need to look for a house.

Cons? Horrible resume as head coach against bad competition. I shutter to think what he'd do against the big boys.

DeBord would be perhaps the only candidate who's name has been tossed around that would make me instantly call for the heads of everyone responsible for the decision from AD Bill Martin to University presient Mary Sue Coleman.

Ron English - the current defensive coordinator for the Wolverines. English was a long time west coaster before coming to Ann Arbor having played and coached at Cal and coach at Arizona State prior to being named DBs coah for Michigan. This is his 2nd season as DC replacing Jim Hermann.

Pros? English definitely has a different attitude than Carr. He's a young and energetic coach that demands excellence from his players. He's also african american for whatever that is worth.

Cons? His defense was dominant in the first 11 games last year, but has not been nearly so hot the last 13 games. Coaching? Players? Both? I don't know, but his star has lost a little luster.

Ron English might be a very good head coach some day. I'm just not sure Michigan wants to roll the dice on him right now considering he has a total of 2 years of experience as a coordinator.

Brian Kelly - Kelly is currently in his first year at Cincinnati after guiding Central Michigan for 3 years and 13 years at Division 2 Grand Valley State.

Pros? He wins games. In his final 3 years at GVSU, the Lakers went 41-2 including a 32 game winning streak and 2 national titles. At Central Michigan, he cleaned up Mike DeBord's mess going 4-7, 6-5, and 9-4. In his last season, the Chips were the MAC champions. Now he's got Cincinnati in the top 25 in the Big East in his first season. Kelly also is a fan of a wide open attacking offense and he is not afraid to take chances. His style of play would be a welcome change of pace from what Michigan fans are used to watching.

Cons? Not many. This is his first year in a BCS conference level school at Cincinnati, but he does have plenty of coaching experience. He has also been successful everywhere he has gone. One little incident that is a knock on his resume were some comments he made to the press after some players at CMU were involved in an incident at a bar that left one man dead. Kelly made some remarks about how some of the players (who were black) were raised in a culture of violence. He later apologized. Depending on who you talk to this is either a really big deal or a really small deal. The only certainty is that nobody around the country knows or remembers this and it's really only in the minds of those looking for it.

Chris Peterson - the current head coach of Boise State, Peterson will be an intersting candidate for some big jobs over the next 1-2 years.

Pros? He lead Boise State to a 13-0 season in 2006 (his first as head coach) including a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma and was later named national coach of the year. Not a bad debut season. He has a pretty lengthy career as an assistant coach under his belt, however. A former QB at UC Davis, he coached quarterbacks at Portland State and Pittsburgh and Oregon. He also served as offensive coordinator at Boise State under Dan Hawkins for 4 seasons, twice being named a finalist for national assistance coach of the year (Broyles Award). He is a fantastic offensive mind and definitely not afraid to take chances to go for a victory.

Cons? A grand total of 2 years now as a head coach at a small school in a small conference isn't exactly the best way to prepare to jump into one of the biggest fishbowls in the country. I'm not saying he wouldn't be successful, but he would have to make major changes to what he is used to doing. Recruiting against Ohio State for a kid from Cleveland is a little different than pitching Boise State football to a kid from Pocatello or a juco transfer.

Peterson would be an interesting hire. I'd rather go for Brian Kelly if they were really looking to make a splash because of his lengthy track record as a head coach, however Peterson is a dynamite offensive playcaller. I doubt he gets an interview, but it's not totally out of the question.

I might get into some more names later like Butch Davis, but that's I'll I've got for now.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hoops and Hockey

The John Beilein era is well under way as the Wolverines got off to a 2-0 start this weekend with wins over Radford and Brown. You can easily say that it is just Radford and Brown, but Michigan looked much different on the court compared to previous years. And I'm not just talking turtlenecks...

Freshman Corperryale (aka Manny) Harris and sophomore DeShawn Sims both got off to good starts and should be quite the dynamic duo this season. Through 2 games, Sims is averaging 20.0 points and 5.5 rebounds while Harris is scoring 17.5 points and dishing 4.0 assists per game. There are enough role players around them that the Wolverines could give some top teams some real problems this year. Player by player brief previews:

#1 Jerrett Smith - the 6'3" junior point guard is still limited in foot speed, but is a good passer and can knock down the open shot

#2 CJ Lee - a 6'0" junior point guard that transferred from Manhattan. He's got speed and is looking to force his way into the lineup.

#3 Manny Harris - reportedly up to 6'7" with long arms, this kid is multitalented. His strongest suit is defense, but he is also dynamic taking the ball to the rim. Once his outside shot rounds into form more consistently, he will be one of the best players in the Big Ten.

#5 K'len Morris - the 6'4" redshirt freshman can play almost anywhere on the floor and he figures to be a valuable player off the bench this year. A natural passer with good basketball smarts.

#12 Anthony Wright - 6'4" redshirt freshman with broad shoulders (he outweighs Morris by 50 pounds) and a smooth outside jumper. He'll be battling Ron Coleman for PT at the 3/4 spots.

#15 Jevohn Shepherd - 6'5" junior with outstanding athleticism. He's a great defender, but struggles mightily to contribute on offense. It will be interesting to see if Beilein can improve him.

#22 Ekpe Udoh - 6'10" sophomore center with long arms and a knack for blocking shots. He has decent range to about 1o or 12 feet, but he will not be shooting three pointers this year. He should provide very solid defense on the interior.

#24 Ron Coleman - 6'6" senior (the only one on the roster) is mostly a role player. He can knock down open shots and can grab some defensive rebounds, but that's about it. He is a poor passer and is slow and subpar defensively.

#32 Zack Gibson - 6'10" redshirt sophomore transfer from Rutgers is a big kid with a good shooting touch out to three point range. Can you say Kevin Pittsnogle? Well, I won't. But he will provide some scoring touch.

#34 DeShawn Sims - 6'8" sophomore is a dynamic talent that can score both inside and out and might be one of the tougher covers in the conference.

#44 Kelvin Grady - 5'11" freshman point guard that has blazing speed in the open court and a good shoot touching behind the arc. He figures to challenge Jerrett Smith and CJ Lee for most of the point guard minutes this season. He could be a Dee Brown type player as he gains experience.

I'm giddy with excitement that Michigan basketball will once again be worth watching.

On to hockey...

Michigan swept the UAF Nanooks this weekend at Yost to improve to 9-1-0 on the season including 6-0-0 in CCHA play. It's too hard for me to follow the hockey team from a distance, but suffice to say they are off to a great start. Considering they weren't picked to do much this year, Red Berenson is doing a great job so far. It will be interesting to see how they do in the Showcase against Minnesota and Wisconsin and also how they fare against current #1 Miami in CCHA play.

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Game Time

Now that the formalities are out of the way (Michigan's stinker in Madison), it's time to find out if this team can win the Big Ten and represent in the Rose Bowl again. Ohio State didn't fare so well in their warm up either, but they still had the national title on the line so that was a head scratcher.

No worries, though, as Michigan is just rounding into health for the Ohio State game and it'll be nice to not see Troy Smith out there again. Chad Henne barely played and Mike Hart didn't play at all against the Badgers so that both can be as close to 100% as possible for The Game.

What did I learn from the Wisconsin game?
  • Ryan Mallett is still nowhere close to being a prime time performer. He makes a mental mistake almost every other time he drops back to pass and some of them are devastating.
  • I also learned that nobody can hope to cover Mario Manningham and he's the best route runner I've ever seen at Michigan.
  • It's also painfully obvious that Michigan has no ground game without Mike Hart. His continual ability to make something out of nothing is missing in both Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.
  • Michigan's run defense has struggled mightily the last 6 quarters against MSU and Wisconsin and the LBs need to get it straightened out ASAP.
  • Tyler Donovan made some nifty moves in the pocket, but it's still frustrating to watch the pass rushers just whiff time after time when they have a QB in their sights. Fortunately Todd Boeckman is a big target that should be easier to get a hold of.
The season was a disaster following the 0-2 start, but this team has rebounded and has a chance to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl and that kind of toughness has to be appreciated. It would also be nice to send Lloyd Carr out with a win over Ohio State and Jim Tressel in his final attempt.

Thoughts on the hockey and hoops teams later today after Beilein's squad improves to 2-0...


Monday, November 05, 2007

Next on CBS: Big Brother!

So apparently Mark Dantonio doesn't take kindly to Mike Hart referring to his program as the little brother in the state. I don't know much, but I do know that it is HI-LARIOUS to watch a rival coach have Mike Hart get so far into his head that he feels the need to comment on it at his press conference two days after the fact.

Let's just run through a little time line of sorts to provide a background to this and some other nonsense.

September 17th, 2005 - Michigan State beats Notre Dame and proceeds to plant a flag at midfield in South Bend (HT for the reminder of this to MGOBLOG).

September 1st, 2007 - Mark Dantonio offers to have a moment of silence for Michigan after being informed that they just lost to Appalachian State. Here's a thread at the RCMB pretty much dedicated to how awesome that quote was and how much they love their new coach.

October 30th, 2007 - Coach Dantonio, the same guy that installed a clock counting down to the Michigan game before the season even started, asks his players if they are ready to stop bowing to Michigan.

November 3rd, 2007 - Michigan beats Michigan State 28-24 on the field, once again coming from behind to beat MSU in dramatic fashion.

November 3rd, 2007 - Michigan celebrates the victory by having a mock moment of silence on the field for the Spartans and then bowing to Dantonio.

November 3rd, 2007 - Mike Hart in the postgame press conference...
"I was just laughing," Hart would later say about the crazed crowd when MSU was leading. "I thought it was funny. They got excited. It's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and let him get the lead, then you just come back and take it back."

November 3rd, 2007 - Jehuu Caulcrick's postgame press conference where he whines that "You don't have to rub it go off the field, you celebrate with your don't try to rub it in, that's a lack of respect". Sorry Jehuu, after planting a flag at midfield you aren't allowed to complain about this EVER.

November 5th, 2007 - Mark Dantonio goes off about everything except the beating his team took in his weekly PC...
“I find a lot of the things that they do amusing,” Dantonio said on Monday. “They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall.” Dantonio also addressed Mike Hart’s comments after the game in which he referred to MSU as the “little brother” of U-M. “Does Hart have a little brother or is he the little brother?” Dantonio asked. “I don’t know, he’s…” Then Dantonio placed his hand up to his chest to illustrate Hart’s stature.

I mean where do you even begin commenting on this stupidity? Caulcrick having the stones to criticize the way Michigan celebrated their victory after his showmanship a few years back? Dantonio making fun of Mike Hart's height two days after the game? Anybody having the balls to criticize Michigan's moment of silence after the wise cracks coming from the MSU side when Michigan lost to Appalachian State? It's insane. The entire Michigan team from coaches to players kept the mouths shut all season long regarding MSU. They didn't say a word about the Spartans, while MSU continued to take little shots here and there. Then Michigan wins (AGAIN) and let's the Spartans know what they thought of their antics before the game and the entire Spartan world takes offense to this?


Don't whine about being called Little Brother if you can't stop obsessing over every little detail of your latest loss to Michigan. Don't go bragging about how Michigan will get theirs and about the latest round of revenge you'll be seeking next year after Mike Hart tells you all about what he thinks of your program. Guess what, for the rest of his life he's 4-0 against Michigan State with a pair of 200+ yard games on the ground and a pair of 100+ yard games on the ground. From here to eternity, he can always point to the scoreboard.

Oh, and it might help if you got a head coach that didn't insist on trying to piss off Michigan. I got news for you, taunting them in the papers and threatening swift revenge next year isn't going to make winning any easier.