Dan Dierdorf to join Michigan football radio broadcasts

April 17, 2014 by  
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Michigan announced Thursday that former Michigan offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf will be joining Jim Brandstatter on Michigan's radio broadcasts. Brandstatter will be doing play-by-play duties.

When Dave Brandon hinted at familiarity with the radio broadcasts, he wasn't lying.

In fact, former teammates will be reunited in the process.

The University of Michigan Athletic Department and IMG College announced Thursday that former CBS NFL color analyst and former offensive lineman for U-M Dan Dierdorf will be joining Jim Brandstatter in the radio booth for the upcoming season.

With this addition, it means that Brandstatter will handle play-by-play duties.

"Jim and Dan are hall of fame broadcasters and great Michigan Men," said Michigan coach Brady Hoke in a statement. "They will provide a unique perspective to the broadcasting booth that I’m sure our fans will enjoy on football Saturdays, and you can guarantee they will have a keen analysis of Michigan Football on each broadcast."

Dierdorf, who was teammates with Brandstatter during the 1969 and 1970 seasons returns home to where it all started.

"I’m so excited to be able to come back to my alma mater and contribute in this manner," said Dan Dierdorf in a statement. "This is the only broadcasting job that I would have considered after retiring from the network television. It’s a chance to return to the city where Bump gave me an opportunity to play for the greatest program in the world and Bo made me a man.

"I was always jealous of Jim calling games at Michigan and often said that one of my goals was to come back and call a couple of series with him. To work with one of my best friends, someone that I’ve known my entire adult life is really special, and I’m looking forward to getting in the booth with Jim this fall."

Brandstatter will be replacing longtime play-by-play voice Frank Beckmann who retired after last season.

"I’m really excited about the challenge of moving to play by play," said Brandstatter in a statement. "I have huge shoes to fill, but, I have learned so much from the great ones I’ve worked with and I can’t wait to get started. And, it’s Michigan Football….it doesn’t get any better than that!

"Dan knows the game inside and out and is an outstanding broadcaster. First and foremost, he loves Michigan Football, but he’s also a good friend, a teammate, an NFL Hall of Famer, and we have fun when we’re together. I just hope the listeners have as good a time as we expect to have broadcasting Michigan victories this Fall."

Michigan opens the 2014 season Aug. 30 at home against Appalachian State.

Be sure to follow Maize n Brew's Joshua Henschke on Twitter, @JoshuaHenschke.

Michigan Football 2014 Post Spring Game: Darrell Funk Discusses the Offensive Line

April 17, 2014 by  
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Michigan's offensive line is arguably the biggest question mark going into the 2014 football season. In a recent (rare) interview, embattled offensive line coach Darrell Funk offered a few statements to reporter Sam Webb. Here is what we can try to discern from that interview.

Head coach Brady Hoke typically doesn't let his position coaches do interviews outside of the normal fluff stuff controlled by the athletic department, but last Sunday, Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk managed to share a few answers with Scout.com reporter Sam Webb on the changes to the offensive line.

As expected, the interview itself is all-too-brief and hardly covers any of the "tough questions" about what went wrong with the offensive line in 2013 and what Michigan's coaches are doing to fix it. (Like many Michigan diehards, Webb operates under the assumption that Michigan's coaches know what they're doing, and thus he never pushes too hard in an interview. His interviews in general are typically positive.)

[Note by Big House Jack, 04/17/14 8:43 AM PDT: The interview does not appear to have been videotaped or recorded, so for the purposes of this analysis we are left to go primarily if not solely on Webb's written transcript. To the best of my ability I have kept everything sic erat scriptum. ]

Regardless, what Funk did offer can shed some light on Michigan's new offensive system heading into the 2014, at least partially. For instance, when asked about what adjustments/changes the offensive line had gone through -- that's about as "tough" a question as Webb posed -- Funk stated that he is having his players completely buy into Doug Nussmeier's new offense:

I think any time you have a change in coordinators, you have new terminology and that is a wholesale change. There are new words and a new system of calling it. That is the first thing that the kids had to memorize and we did. But once you learn Doug’s (Nussmeier) system and how he wanted it implemented and passed on to the kids. That’s the majority of learning is terminology. Then as far as the system and different things, there are so many ways to run zone plays and power plays and different things.

To the skeptic, this might appear like Funk is dodging the question. However, at least from what I'm seeing -- and admittedly this could be a reach on my part, Funk is first indicating the complete buy-in to Nussmeier's new offense. In so many words Funk is essentially saying "We're switching over to what Nussmeier wants to do, and that starts with teaching the players the specific terms that Nussmeier likes to use." So anyone who may believe that Nussmeier doesn't have 100% control of the offense going forward can now rest easy.

Why does this matter? So often we have heard from Michigan coaches when they've been asked if they're changing anything that they're not changing anything. How many times did we hear from Borges, after a bad game, "No, we're going to keep doing what we're doing, we just need to do it better"? Aside from the aforementioned statement by Funk, the only time I've really heard Michigan coaches say they're doing things differently is when wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said that the coaching staff is constantly looking to stay ahead in modern recruiting.

Furthermore, it also indicates -- again, perhaps I'm simply grasping at straws here, as a Michigan fan -- that Funk himself is buying-in, accepting his role as the position coach, and also accepting that he has some of the responsibility. This is perhaps most evident in the statement that follows, where Funk mentions that he's gone back and looked at the tape from Nussmeier's days with Alabama:

There are different emphasis that every coordinator emphasizes a little more than others. Of course, the tape that we’ve been watching, a combination of Alabama tape and things like that we’ve seen. Some of the same plays that we ran last year that we’ll have some carryover. It has been busy, been kind of crazy that way in terms of that the kids have transitioned into it well and have worked hard.

Again, this could be something innocuous. I didn't see the interview in person; I didn't hear the tone he used. This could be Funk just giving a generic, non-insightful answer in the dim vein of "We've worked hard." Or he might be saying that he's looked at the Alabama tape as a means to not only understand his new offensive coordinator's philosophy but also see how his own offensive line could be better. It's not like he said, "I don't need to look at the tape. We're just going to keep doing what we're doing."

The other element schematically that Funk emphasized in the interview is simplicity. Borges was criticized throughout a great deal of his career for having offenses that were sometimes too complex for college athletes to follow and implement successfully. (Some have argued that, ironically, Borges may have been better suited for the NFL, but his track record at this point is so poor that him landing an NFL coordinating job is even more of a longshot than us getting a re-commitment from George Campbell.) With Nussmeier, it has been said time and time again that Michigan is going to make things simple for the offensive line. Funk says that it starts with getting their "A-list" plays down (which we are assuming is running inside zone):

Your ‘A-list’ plays that you’re going to run every week versus anything, you get good at them and you rep those the most. The refinement of the skills, techniques and the different looks that we see, of course Greg (Mattison) gives you a lot of different looks. You get a chance to work against every type of defense possible in terms of fronts and everything. That has been the good part of what we’ve done. We’ve gotten better at those base plays. Some of the auxiliary plays and different things that you don’t rep quite as much, we at least get introduced and use them when we need them.

The rest of the interview consists of the usual questions about competition at the various positions, who's doing what, who's healthy, who's not healthy, who's improving, etc. This might appear like a bunch of generic coachspeak -- because who really cares which players are doing well when we want the whole unit to improve -- but one name in particular stood out to me when Funk was discussing the center position:

Patrick Kugler has got a million reps this spring, mostly at center. I’ve played him a little bit of guard out of necessity at different times. So he’s got valuable reps at center. He’s getting bigger and stronger. Last year, he came in with a shoulder injury and he recovered. He was going to be a little bit behind strength wise and he is starting to come on. He is really a savvy football player in just terms of technique and knowing how to play the game. So as he gets stronger, he’ll get better.

Kugler was a guy who I thought was mostly overlooked at the spring game (probably because everything on offense looked pretty terrible to most people), and so it's no surprise to me that he's thoroughly in the mix at center alongside Graham Glasgow and Jack Miller. (Funk also mentioned walk-on Ben Pliska.) At this point, Glasgow is still the most likely to start given that he has the most game experience, but for the most part everyone agrees that Kugler, largely based on his recruiting acumen, has the size, technique, and coaching pedigree to be a better option at that spot. Furthermore, it should be noted also that Glasgow 'repped' more at guard during the spring game.

With the departure of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to the NFL, both right and left tackle are clearly not solidified. Funk offered a few thoughts on who Michigan can expect to possibility fill that void:

Probably as a position group, those guys have gotten better from day one to day 13 at a higher rate than any of them, which is good because we need that. The two that we lost, obviously [they're] going to play on Sunday. You don’t just waltz a guy right in and replace those guys. What you can do at the tackle position, which I haven’t had to do with those two the last couple of years, you can help tackles… you can help young tackles.

...

The guy who has really come on and really should be getting ready for prom in a few weeks but is already here is Mason Cole. He has done a tremendous job at left tackle and we knew he was an excellent player coming in. He is very athletic. He is going to get bigger and stronger. He’s probably been as pleasant as a surprise as anyone. You really don’t expect, mid years guys when they come in, they sometimes struggle. Mason has come in and pretty much, I don’t want to say effortlessly, but including the academic, social, and football, and lifting that kid has done everything that we’ve asked. So I think we’ll see some nice things from him.

Webb goes on to ask if Mason Cole has a viable chance of starting as a true freshman at one of the tackle positions, to which Funk responds in the affirmative. That would be absolutely terrifying. (My hope is that Funk mentioned him largely as an example of great potential we could see in a year from now.)

Although I didn't reproduce it in the block-quotes, Funk basically mentions every single offensive lineman as an option for everywhere. David Dawson is working out at both guard and tackle, so is Logan Tuley-Tillman, who is currently playing with his hand in a cast (club). Blake Bars and Ben Braden are both options as well. (Right now we are at the point where coaches sum up their players without saying much other than "He's coming along nicely.") Finally, Funk lamented over not having Erik Magnuson for spring practice -- as we understand it, he would be the most logical choice to replace Lewan at left tackle.

Lastly, Webb ends the interview on a topic that should give Michigan fans at least some marginal semblance of hope: attitude. Any offensive line wants to have the proverbial "nastiness" that doesn't back down from whatever an opposing defense throws at it, and simultaneously also has the mental toughness to weather adversity, which, given the Michigan State game last year, would be a welcome sight.

Is Funk seeing a change in attitude?

I’m starting to see it. We’re starting to see it more and more often. Our defense plays with attitude and that has been a big deal for them and it always is. We’re starting to work on that up front and get a little bit more. We’ve had almost melee’s here and there, which is not that bad. You’ve got to have a little bit of that. You don’t want fighting and punching and all that, but you’ve got to have some guys that are going and push each other. We’re starting to see that. Not as consistent as I want, and we’ve got to work on getting our pad levels down and all of these things that come with the position but in terms of that attitude, it is getting better that way.

Here's hoping.

Conclusion

Okay, so Funk didn't really answer any big, burning questions -- again, not that Webb is the kind of reporter to really pose any, given his love for the Maize and Blue. So you can interpret this in a few ways. First, you can come to the completely reasonable conclusion that Michigan is pretty much where we all thought they'd be: tackle is unsettled, as is center, as is guard. We are still looking for those best five, and we've been hampered by Magnuson sitting out the spring. Nothing has really changed, and all we can do is wait, hope the players progress, and hope the coaches know what they're doing in the long run.

Second, you can argue that there is at least some sense of progress, some very marginal indications that the offensive line is moving in a positive direction. Michigan is going back to basics, Nussmeier is keeping things simple (or, simpler) while focusing intensely on Devin Gardner, and the offensive line coach who prefers to run inside zone is now for all intents and purposes paired with a coordinator who runs a lot of inside zone. So this could work. Will it work well enough to get to a Big Ten championship? Ask again later.

So how much optimism should you have? Well, obviously, I can't answer that for you. Some fans looked at this interview and had mixed reactions. That's understandable. I personally wasn't thrilled that Funk wasn't asked specifically what went wrong with the offensive line in 2013 and how, specifically, the offensive line in 2014 is going to be different. Of course, even if Funk would have answered that question (and are we really thinking his answer would have been anything other than the word "Youth"?), it still doesn't change the fact that the only real, unshakable, crystal-clear beyond a shadow of a doubt answer Funk can give is on the field.

That's all from me right now. Go Blue.

Have a thought? Share your opinions in the comments!

Underachievement and Red’s Return, A Hockey Postmortem

April 16, 2014 by  
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Michigan started out quite well, couldn't gain any consistency down the stretch, and dropped some key games to Penn State. Red will return for at least one more season, but 2013-2014 has clearly been a disappointing season.

Much like Zach did with his great basketball piece, I've been working on this for some time, but have let it just sit around for various reasons. Well, it's time for this thing to go, but it won't be nearly as eloquent as Zach's piece, and it isn't a paean to a program that is resurrecting itself. This is called a postmortem for obvious reasons.

--

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not watch Michigan hockey from the beginning of the season; it wasn't until the series with Ohio State that I started watching. And I started writing about what the other B1G teams were doing right around the same time. Much of the positive part of the season was gone--once I started watching, the team struggled. You can blame me, I suppose.

If you've ready any of my hockey posts, you may remember that hockey is a game I grew up with, but followed only here and there in recent years. Thanks to Zach, I got back into it. I seriously owe Zach a huge thank you for encouraging me to get back into a game I loved so much as a kid.

I don't know what kind of hype there was around this year's team; sure, I was fully aware of the struggles that led to missing the tournament last year, but I had almost no idea who was coming back, who was leaving, and who was new.

What I do know is that this year's team started out hot. Michigan was ranked #10 in the country when they shocked the #4 Boston College Eagles to open the season. They followed that up with a 7-4 destruction of RIT. After tying the first game against #13 New Hampshire, the Wolverines beat them 3-2 in OT the next night and then defeated the #14 Boston Terriers. Things were looking up. Six freshmen had played up to this point and accounted for 38 points. This team was going to be something special. Or was it?

After stumbling against UMass-Lowell, Nebraska-Omaha, and the U.S. NTDP Under-18 teams (hey, they weren't going to win every game, right?), Michigan was heading into the Great Lakes Invitational, and the de facto start of the Big Ten season, with a great deal of momentum.

Instead of taking advantage of that momentum, the Wolverines fell apart, losing the next four games to Western Michigan, a shutout loss to Michigan State, and a sweep by Wisconsin. The Wolverines were able to turn it around and give a little payback to the Spartans by sweeping them in a series that was held at the Joe and in E.L. They were also able to take advantage of the rapidly-rising Badgers' road woes and win the first game of their second series and win in the shootout the next night.

Then the wheels really came off.

Going 3-0-1 in their previous four games, it looked as though Michigan remembered who they were and how to win. A 7-3 victory over the Nittany Lions on February 7th was what we thought was the confirmation. But a 4-0 shutout loss to those same Nittany Lions brought up more questions. Had the team been overachieving? Was this a fluke? Was it time for Red to go?

If it was Red's time, it wasn't going to be before a meeting with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a team who had been a juggernaut at the #1 position for much of the season. Unfortunately, that juggernaut would continue on its path and sweep the Wolverines. Adding insult to injury, Michigan's Michael Downing and Andrew Sinelli were suspended for separate incidents against the Gophers. Not having these two men was going to have disastrous consequences.

Facing Penn State for their second series in two weeks, the absence of Downing and Sinelli was felt in yet another loss to the Lions. This time, PSU took down the Wolverines 5-4 in an overtime heartbreaker. Penn State had only two wins in the Big Ten, both of them coming at the expense of Michigan.

The loss to Penn State was the beginning of an up and down month to finish out the season. Michigan would come back and beat the Lions the following night. But with a shootout loss to the Buckeyes, followed by splits with the Spartans and Gophers, the regular season ended on a roller coaster the likes of which Cedar Point would be proud.

The lone bright spot to end the regular season was the finale win against the Gophers on senior night. Although Minnesota didn't necessarily have a ton to play for, it was still great to see Michigan have their way with the best team in the country. It was bittersweet, however: we knew it would be the last time in Yost for captain Mac Bennett, and the team's performance left us asking why we couldn't see that on a more consistent basis.

With the end of the regular season, there had been discussion and debate whether Michigan would make the NCAA Tournament. Some felt that Michigan would be out no matter how they performed. My opinion was that Michigan would have to get through Minnesota in the B1G Tournament; if they could do that, they'd be a sure-thing for the NCAA tournament. But they would have to face the Nittany Lions one more time in the opening round of the inaugural B1G Tournament.

After a scoreless first period, each team was able to score only one time the rest of the way. After one OT session, the score remained knotted at one, and the advantage should have been with Michigan as time went on. However, PSU's Zach Saar was able to send Michigan home at the 12:47 mark of the second extra frame. Just like that it was over, and I'll remember Zach Nagelvoort's slumping reaction to the end of my days. If you missed it, please share the pain at 3:50 of the video...

The NCAA bracket was announced on March 23rd, and for the second year in a row Michigan was nowhere to be found. What now? What did this season mean?

Since taking the reigns in 1984, Red Berenson has had nothing but success in Ann Arbor. Now he's missed the tournament in consecutive seasons. He had said that the last contract he signed would be the last one he would sign with Michigan, so we know the end is in sight.

We often talk about legendary coaches who have done so much for a particular program that they can decide when it's time to step down; no one is going to tell them when it's time. If Red Berenson doesn't fit into that category, I don't know who does. I was never a fan of calling for Red to walk away or for the university to fire him, and we now know that he will indeed return for what will probably be his final season at Michigan in 2014-2015.

So, the Red Baron is returning to Ann Arbor, but he'll be there without Alex Guptill and Phil DiGiuseppe who have departed early for the NHL. It is quite possible that those departures leave this team in better hands; let's debate that another day, though.

It is encouraging to see that Andrew Copp has been selected as the team's captain for 2014-2015.

In addition to Copp being the captain, senior Zach Hyman and sophomore JT Compher will be alternate captains.

Let's finally answer what all of this means for Michigan hockey going forward: it means that, no matter what happens, our favorite hockey team is still in very capable hands. Red Berenson has spoiled Michigan hockey fans during his tenure; a tenure that has built up more than enough good will to weather these last two seasons. We've seen baseball guys like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter go on "farewell tours", so maybe next season will be Red's "Hail!-well tour" sending one of the all-time greatest of the Leaders and Best out on top.

Michigan Basketball: Odds and Ends From Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III NBA Presser

April 16, 2014 by  
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Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas are off to the Association--as we all pretty much expected. This post features audio bits from the presser, as well as a few afterthoughts.

Tuesday was a somber yet celebratory day for Michigan basketball, which said goodbye to sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, a pair of Wolverines wingers bound for the NBA.

Throughout the festivities, I pretty much bounced around between GR3, Stauskas and coach John Beilein. Along the way, I asked some questions and got a few answers.

But I also joined conversations and recorded bits from other media members.

That said, here's what I have to offer:

(Get more below--two .wav files for your listening pleasure).

GR3 was asked about his game/confidence, and he said the following:

"I’m going to be a great overall player at the next level—I can play defense and offense. The sky’s the limit for my talent. With hard work, it’s going to come. I think people a lot of people are going to be surprised and shocked (with what they see)."

He went onto say that he didn't mind playing the 4 if it helped Michigan win. Also, he talked about influence from family and former players--namely Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.--and why he chose to skip his final two years and enter the draft.

Stauskas also talked about his decision. His mother and father, along with news from the advisory board, helped him make the right call.

I got all sappy with Beilein. We talked about dreams and all of that jazz. Same with Stauskas, who I thought showed a great deal of emotion and appeared to be on Cloud 9. I think he was envisioning his pro debut, but I could be wrong.

Nik, if you read this, hit the comments and let us know.

Audio: Beilein, Stauskas and GR3

Audio: Beilein on advancement

Oh, and I hope you like bad photos. I took a few with my phone. Gr3pressernba_medium

Stauskasnbapresser_medium

Beileinnbapresser_medium

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Wednesday Michigan Football Recruiting Roundup is All Over the Place

April 16, 2014 by  
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The WRR updates you on the very latest regarding Michigan football recruiting. Michigan is sending out more feelers on 2015 OLs, 5-star goodies and more visit news.

Michigan Offers 3-Star OL Henry Roberts

It appears the coaching staff have been busy sending out feelers on more offensive lineman for the 2015 class. Three-star Henry Roberts is the latest.

Although the offer was reported by the media late Monday night, an interview with ($) 247's Steve Lorenz proves that Roberts has held a Michigan offer for at least a few days now.

"They actually offered me on Friday," Roberts said. "My coach texted me to let me know Michigan had offered. I have been in contact with Coach Funk for a while now and they expressed how interested they were in me. I'm excited about the offer, but I have not talked to the staff since I got it."

Sitting right in Pac-12 territory, Roberts has earned scholarships from the conference such as Stanford, USC, Washington and Oregon. What makes Roberts' school so unique to Michigan, is not only is Bellevue one of the top programs in Pac-12 country, but it is also the home of former Michigan offensive lineman Stephen Schilling.

Though the Michigan offer won't dramatically change the course of Roberts' recruitment, the Wolverines are on the rise after he was offered.

"Michigan moves up for sure with the offer," he noted. "I still need to get to know them better and start to develop a good relationship with the coaching staff, but it's definitely a school I am going to take notice of. It'd be nice if I could get out to visit sometime this spring or summer, but if I do make it there, it will probably be for an official."

It appears that Roberts is still in the "feeling things out" stage of his recruitment process, so it's difficult to say whether Michigan has a legitimate shot here. Pulling a kid out of the West Coast is difficult, and it could be fairly difficult to do so in Roberts case.

We shall see what happens.

You can find highlights from Roberts, here.

DE Jashon Cornell Sticks With Decision Date

Things have gone a bit quiet between Michigan and 5-star DE Jashon Cornell as of late, but don't let the silence fool you. Michigan is still right in the pack with this one.

But, at any rate, Tim Sullivan from Rivals touched on Cornell and a August decision date in his latest recruiting notebook ($) post.

... Michigan is in a select group - along with Iowa, Notre Dame, and a couple others - of schools that he's most strongly considering. He's currently planning to stick to his original plan of an August decision, which does mean he'll make a commitment before Michigan has a chance to show it's "back" this fall (or, God forbid, fail to make that statement). I wouldn't read much into that one way or another, and Cornell will get back to Michigan at least once more this summer to evaluate before making his choice ...

At one point in time, right around when Campbell and Harris were both committed to Michigan (sigh,) I was fairly confident that Cornell would be a Wolverine was all was said and done. However, those feelings have changed a bit over the past few months. I still think Michigan could make his top three. With that being said, I would be shocked if he ended up anywhere else other than Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are relatively close to home -- as is Michigan -- and have been recruiting him very well.

Now, that doesn't mean he is signed, sealed and delivered to South Bend. If Michigan can get him to visit one last time before August, the coaching staff will throw up a half-court buzzer beater in hopes they can make a splash. I still think Michigan could make some moves here.

That was also an extremely bad pun, and I apologize for that.

Ferrell to Visit Friday + Names a Top 11

247's Clint Brewster broke the news ($) that 4-star DE Clelin Ferrell will visit Ann Arbor on Friday. Considering Ferrell is a Virginia native, and the coaching staff has done an excellent job at recruiting the state lately, I expect this to be another positive visit.

I think Michigan has a good shot here. It also helps to have another Virginia native, Garrett Taylor, recently on board to help recruit Ferrell to Michigan.

To coincide with this visit, Ferrell also released a list of his top 11 schools (FREE). Kind of a strange number, but to each their own.

Along with Michigan, these are the other 10 schools who made the cut:

  • Clemson
  • LSU
  • Miami
  • Michigan State
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio State
  • Ole Miss
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia Tech

For the rest of the schools that didn't make the list, thanks for playing.

Bonus: An Osa Masina Tidbit

According to 2015 4-star LB/RB Osa Masina's mom, who spoke to Lorenz, the Masina's plan on a summer visit ($) to attend the annual recruiting BBQ at the Big House.

"Osa talked with Coach last week," she said. "They would like him to come up for the BBQ in July and we are going to do what we can to make that happen."

Michigan is in good shape here. Also, having Sione Houma and Bryan Mone on campus helps immensely here. All three players are from the same general area and do talk frequently. Whether that leads to Masina coming to Michigan remains to be seen, but it puts them in good shape.

Be sure to follow Maize n Brew's Joshua Henschke on Twitter, @JoshuaHenschke.

Michigan Basketball: Don’t Pinch NBA-Bound Wolverines Sophomore Nik Stauskas

April 15, 2014 by  
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Hey, Nik! Destiny's on Line 1.

Audio: Michigan coach John Beilein on advancement

The seven-year-old Nik Stauskas can stop dreaming.

It's time for (little whatever-his-parents-called-him) to wake up and start living out that wild, never-going-to-happen childhood fantasy of playing in the NBA.

The Michigan sophomore isn't a pro yet.

But he inched one step closer Tuesday at the Crisler Center, announcing that he'll forgo his final two years of eligibility, sign with an agent and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

It takes careful planning to turn dreams into reality, and Stauskas wasn't about to gamble his future. No, he spent way too many hours in a slumber-induced paradise to compromise his ultimate goal.

"You know, I remember when I first committed to Michigan--I was 17 at the time--and I was thinking to myself 'is this the right decision?' You know, 'is this the best decision to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA?' Looking back at it now, I don't think I could have made any better decision than to come here," said Stauskas, who bid a fond farewell to the program that made him a collegiate superstar.

"These coaches have done wonders for me. On and off the court, I've made unbelievable relationships with my teammates and students at my school. I've got a first-class education here. My two years couldn't have gone any smoother than they went. I'm just so happy for everything that I've experienced and I'm really excited to see what these next years in the NBA will bring for me."

The 6'5," 220-pound Canadian Sharpshooter entered Ann Arbor with a storied history with the long ball. His YouTube videos served as proof--and there aren't many truer shooters than the kid from Ontario who ended up developing a well-rounded skill set complete with drives, dishes and dunks.

"We saw glimpses last year, " coach John Beilein said. "We thought he could be a special player. What he needed was an opportunity. With Tim and Trey going pro, he had a great opportunity."

Stauskas is projected to be a mid-first-round-pick in June's draft. In 2013-14, he averaged 17. 5 points per game and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year by coaches and media.

There was no doubt that he was No. 1 in the league. He proved it by playing some of his best ball against the top competition. He lit up Michigan State with games of 19, 25 and 17 points. As a result, the Wolverines won two of the three meetings (stats via ESPN).

In the tournament, he didn't dip below 14, and he put up 24 during a losing effort to Kentucky, which lost to UConn in the national title game.

Stats (via UM media release)

75 games, 69 starts

Career averages: 14.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game

61 double-digit games, 17 with 20-plus

83.16 free-throw percentage (No. 2)

44.1 three-point percentage (No. 5)

172 three-pointers (No. 8)

390 three-point attempts (No. 10)

1,060 points (No. 43)

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Frontcourt Depth In The Age Of Departures

April 15, 2014 by  
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Michigan has already lost Jon Horford and it reportedly going to lose Glenn Robinson III. What does this do to Michigan's lineup for next year?

Jordan Morgan was always there.  When you look back on this past season, that is, the more you think about it, one of the most important pieces in MIchigan's run.  Yes, development by Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert gave Michigan its primary scoring weapons, but without Morgan to help the team weather McGary's injury, things could have been much worse.

Of course, it was that McGary injury, the one that shelved him for the season back in December, that was supposed to be the death knell to Michigan's conference and NCAA tournament goals.  McGary was and is an intriguing prospect in the middle, a man-child full out boundless energy and a knack for highwire offensive rebounds, igniting the fast break, and "how'd he get there so quick" steals that quickly lead to layups on the other end.

What Jordan Morgan did (with the help of Jon Horford) wasn't so much replace Mitch McGary.  Morgan just brought a different skill set.  One that was played closer to the ground and relied less on beating people with energy than beating them to the spot.  Morgan's game is one that can be distilled down to bodies moving around a plane.  Take away the skills such as shooting and dribbling and make basketball a game about position, both offensive and defensive, and Morgan would be in heaven.

In the end, Michigan got its replacement up front by not really replacing what it lost with more of the same.  MIchigan adapted (albeit around a thoroughly known commodity to both coaches and players).  There will be less familiarity this time around as Michigan looks to once again replace its production up front without Jon Horford (for sure), Glenn Robinson III (very likely), and possibly Mitch McGary (we will have to wait until another day to find out this).

The McGary Question

Bear with me on this, because I know I am restating a tired, obvious point: Mitch McGary returning to Michigan for one more year would be a pretty big deal.

Let's skip over the obvious reasoning.  Mitch has, at least for a short stretch of his career that just so happened to fall during the NCAA tournament, put together something as close to an all-American caliber stretch as Michigan has seen from a frontcourt player in a long time.  Granted, there are sample size and injury disclaimers that abound, but those are better left for another day.  We know what Michigan could get out of Mitch, and that range falls between "all" and "nothing", and that even a semi-healthy McGary can be a big deal (look at the way he played early this season while working back from injury).

So yes, McGary skills are important, but what is perhaps more important is the versatility that this gives Michigan with its lineup.  McGary has a reliable 15 foot jumper, but he hasn't proven to have real stretch-four range yet, and Michigan would be better served keeping him close to the basket because of his offensive rebounding ability.

Thankfully, Michigan has another big man waiting in the wings to step up.  Mark Donnal redshirted this year and caught some buzz late for things he was doing in practice.  He came to Michigan as a true stretch-four, capable of shooting from outside and playing defense/rebounding on the interior, and if McGary sticks around next year it will give Michigan more versatility with its lineup.  WIth Donnal and McGary, Michigan has options to play either big or small.  When one of the two needs a break the other can play the five and Michigan could bring in one of its bigger wings like Zak Irvin or Kam Chatman to present a look more in line with what Michigan has shown on offense the last two years.  However, that also lets Michigan get 20-25 minutes of floor time with both of them playing, giving Michigan some badly needed size up front while still giving the Wolverines four shooters.

It would be a different look than what fans are used to, but it could also be brutally effective as well as a big step forward in rebounding for Michigan (an area that has routinely lagged behind on Beilein teams).

Bielfeldt An Option?

With Horford leaving, Michigan really has only one remaining post player on the roster that has both playing time and a certain future to be around next year*.  Bielfeldt is a 6'7 banger from Illinois that has gotten mostly garbage time minutes outside of a few occasions where injuries and foul trouble have stretched Michigan's frontcourt thin.  Of course, Bielfeldt's statistical output has been so small that he doesn't even register on Kenpom.

At this point Bielfeldt still seems like a guy best suited for a bench role that doesn't exceed 10 minutes per game.  While he has shown promise as a rebounder despite his size, it is too large a disadvantage defensively.  Furthermore, he doesn't have the outside shot to slide into the four position on offense which would give him a bit of protection in the form of another post defender to draw the toughest defensive assignments down low.

Michigan would need to see development in Bielfeldt's outside shot to warrant any consideration of larger scale playing time.

*(Yes, a transfer is technically possible, but Bielfeldt hasn't yet graduated so he is unable to transfer and play immediately, and since he has already taken a redshirt, he would lose one of his two years of eligibility if he left.  Seems unlikely he would leave, but stranger things have happened.)

Burning Shirts

So, say the worst case scenario happens and Mitch McGary decides to leave despite the uncertainty surrounding his draft status.  MIchigan will be thin up front, but it will still have a few bodies to move into the lineup.  Most of those bodies will be fresh out of high school.

The obvious candidate for early playing time is Ricky Doyle, a three-star forward recruit out of Florida that comes in with more of a big man, back to the basket game.  He had quite a bit of interest from some other solid basketball programs (Purdue, Stanford, Miami, Notre Dame) but has managed to stay under the radar.

It is unclear just what Doyle could bring to MIchigan's lineup.  In a perfect world, Michigan would be allowed to stash Doyle away on the bench for a year to develop his game a la Mark Donnal.  This world is not perfect, so the 6'9 230 lbs big man could be pressed into the rotation if Michigan is without McGary.  If Michigan gets McGary back and he is healthy through the year, the best guess is that Doyle redshirts.

Part of the reason Michigan will be able to do this is because Kam Chatman provides a bit of versatility on the wing.  Chatman isn't as strong as Glenn Robinson III, and would likely not directly impact the frontcourt lineup, but the 6'7 wing is lauded everywhere as a four-star prospect and in Rivals top 30 players nationally in the 2014 class.  He would be a hard player to keep on the bench, and working him into the lineup in a similar way Michigan did with Zak Irvin would help relieve pressure on the wings while also allowing Michigan to potentially go small with Zak Irvin stepping out and playing a bit of the four position.

This isn't ideal.  GRIII was a more physical presence on the boards and defense than Irvin last year, and while another year of development in the weight room will help, Irvin isn't really a stretch four just like GRIII was.  Only in GRIII's case, having NBA-caliber mesurables is a pretty good way to be effective just about anywhere on the court the coaches tell you to play.

However, as a stopgap for when McGary or Donnal need a rest, Michigan could get 10-15 minutes a game out of this lineup and it wouldn't look much different than Michigan's offense this year.

The last name to watch is DJ Wilson, a 6'8 freshman that looks to be a true four without a great outside jumpshot and also somewhat physically unimposing at this stage in his career (because, duh, high schooler).  Of all the incoming freshmen, Wilson most needs the redshirt year.

--

Michigan's frontcourt for next year will become clearer in the near future.  Once GRIII makes his decision official Michigan will wait on McGary.  If he too goes to the NBA, the Wolverines still have options, but that isn't necessarily comforting.

Unlike last year, Jordan Morgan isn't there waiting for an opportunity to write his final act.  Jon Horford will play out his final act elsewhere and Michigan will find out what life is like without a fifth-year senior to ride in and save the day.

Monday Michigan Football Recruiting Roundup Likes Its Chances

April 14, 2014 by  
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The MRR updates you on the very latest regarding Michigan football recruiting. Is more good news coming to Michigan in the coming days? Who is Michigan planning to see throw? That and more.

Hayes Sets a Date

2016 RB/LB Daelin Hayes announced on Twitter yesterday that he will be making his college announcement on April 27 at an upcoming camp hosted by Rivals.

Realistically, the only three schools who have offered is Michigan, Michigan State and Tennessee battle. Since the beginning of his recruitment, it has always been assumed -- but never confirmed -- that it would be a in-state battle between Michigan and Michigan State for Hayes.

Here's why I like Michigan in this case.

To simplify everything, Hayes has been a regular on campus for quite some time now. Even extending as far back as last year. In an interview Hayes did with 247's Steve Wiltfong when he first received his offer ($), Hayes made it clear he was very comfortable with the Wolverines already.

"This is a school I feel very, very comfortable at, and it’s one of the best school’s I can be at education wise, and that’s a huge thing for my decision-making process."

Now, less than a month later, Hayes will be announcing his decision.

Another potential selling point for Hayes to Michigan is the fact his cousin, redshirt junior RB Justice Hayes, plays for the Wolverines currently. This family connection doesn't necessarily mean it is a guarantee, but it certainly helps when Hayes has someone to sell the program to.

At the end of the day, I do expect good news for Michigan on the 27th. I think Hayes' pre-established relationship with the coaches, the quality of education and having a family member already on the team will help persuade Hayes to Michigan's corner.

Michigan Offers Haughton

It appears that defensive back help for the 2015 class is not over yet. At least for the safety position that is.

The coaching staff extended an offer to 2015 3-star S Kahlil Haughton on Friday. Haughton, a Texas native, does not know much about the Wolverines and discussed the offer ($) with 247's Steve Lorenz.

"I talked to Coach Manning, and they said they really loved my film," he said. "They asked me what my interest was in Michigan, and I told them that at this point, I don't know a lot about them but that I want to learn more."

Despite that, Haughton does know some about the program.

"They do have a lot of tradition and have always had an amazing football program," he noted. "Their fan base is amazing and is something that stands out. Playing in front of more than 110,000 people every home game is something that would be a lot of fun, so I definitely plan on looking into a visit to see what Michigan has to offer me."

This recruitment is one of the "wait and see" varieties. Texas and California are one of the more difficult states to recruit if you're Michigan because of the in-state powers who poach all of the talent in the state. In the case of Haughton, it is possible that he could very well come up for a visit, but it is also very likely he doesn't leave the state.

Haughton boasts around 16 offers from schools around the nation, but the one to keep an eye on would be hometown Baylor. The Bears have a fairly solid grip on the Waco area so it is tough to imagine him getting out of that area, let alone the state itself.

Nussmeier to Evaluate Malzone

It appears that Michigan is finally starting to get the ball rolling on evaluating quarterbacks for the 2015 class. According to Rivals' Andy Reid in a recent interview with 2015 3-star QB Alex Malzone, Michigan, along with 10-15 other schools, should be on campus today ($) to evaluate Malzone's arm.

"We are building a relationship and talking about his plan," Malzone said. "We talk a lot, and he is pretty pumped up about seeing me throw, and I am excited for it, too. That is the next step.

Does this mean an offer is on its way?

It's possible, but I wouldn't put much stock into it right away. This situation could be similar to what Wilton Speight's was last year, who received an offer after his live throwing session with the coaching staff. Or, it could be just another option for Nussmeier to add to his short list of quarterback options.

The quarterback recruitment has been a strange one. No one really knows which direction they are headed.

However, if Nussmeier wants to offer Malzone, he better do it quickly. He could possibly be making a decision in May. Unless another major program (like a Michigan or someone else) comes around and offers, then this process will slow down a bit for him.

Malzone touched on that briefly with Reid.

"I have been to a lot of places, and I feel like I have a pretty good hold on the colleges I like and where I feel good," he said. "I want to find a place where I can see myself going for four years. I have visited a lot of the colleges that are coming to see me throw. I have gotten a good look at the schools and campuses. I am looking for a football program that suits me offensively. A place that would be the right fit."

Be sure to follow Maize n Brew's Joshua Henschke on Twitter, @JoshuaHenschke.

Michigan starts out hot, but cools off in second half; loses to Ohio State 15-6

April 13, 2014 by  
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The Wolverines were looking to avoid a fifth-consecutive loss on Saturday, but got blown out in the second half.

It was yet another beautiful day for lacrosse in a sign that the long winter may finally be over. Please, please be over! Saturday's temps and conditions were great for everyone, but the game itself warmed up and became too blistering hot for Michigan to stay in it.

Although Carter Brown put the Buckeyes on the board first, Ian King and David Joseph followed up with scores of their own and gave Michigan the 2-1 lead. King's score came at the 8:40 mark of the first period and right from the top of the crease, while Joseph's score was at the 4:54 mark of the same quarter on a hands-free score after burning past his defender. Jesse king tied it up for Ohio State, but Riley Kennedy, Kyle Jackson, and David Joseph (for the second time) had Michigan rolling.

It looked like it was going to be yet another conference win for the Wolverines, but Ohio State played more consistently, the defense shut out the Wolverines in the second half, and the offense's 9-goal tear was a part of a larger 13-1 run from that aforementioned 13:27 mark in the second quarter. The lone Michigan score came out of the stick of Mikie Schlosser, who was able to beat OSU goalie Scott Spencer up high. Jesse King was the Buckeyes' leading scorer with 5 goals; Carter Brown, Ryan Hunter, and Turner Evans each had multiple goals for Ohio State.

Michigan Ohio State
Goals-shot attempts 6-26 15-49
Shot % .231 .306
Shots on goal 15 30
SOG% .400 .612
Man-up opps. 0-2 1-2
Ground balls 16 33
Turnovers 15 14
Caused turnovers 3 6
Face-offs 9-25 (.360) 16-25 (.640)
Clears 14-18 (.778) 13-15 (.867)
Saves 15 9
Penalities-Minutes 2-3:00 2-2:00

Michigan just could not get anything going on face-off. Brad Lott finished the day 9-23. Will Biagi got into the action, too, but was 0-2 when he was at the dot. I hate to think of how much better this team could be this year if only they had some consistency in this area. This is clearly something that will be a focus going into next season.

For some reason, Michigan was not able to maintain positive possessions in the second half, turning the ball over eight times, but what felt like a much higher number than that. In fact, I was surprised to see that it was "only" eight times, as I had actually lost track of how many times I saw a pass go past the intended player and out of bounds. The ground balls also dried up, with the Wolverines able to grab only six to Ohio State's 19 in the second half.

There were a few things to take away from Saturday's game:

- Well, Michigan started out hot. Although the Buckeyes struggled, credit should go to Michigan for being able to play consistently and find Scott Spencer's weaknesses, even if for a little while.

- With Bellarmine being a disaster in the ECAC, Michigan has a spot in the ECAC tournament that starts on May 1. Since the ECAC gets an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament, Michigan still has a chance, albeit remote, to turn this season into something very special.

- Much like in Michigan last week, this week's game in Columbus coincided with the football spring game. But, Ohio State does it right. Instead of playing the lacrosse game after the spring game, giving everyone a chance to leave the stadium, Ohio State held the lacrosse game before the spring game. Just look at the attendance numbers--Battle at the Big House: 1,636; Showdown in the Shoe: 17,641. And as the BTN crew pointed out, they stop counting people at halftime, so that number was very likely much higher by the end of the game. The Michigan athletic department should keep that in mind for next year; the best way to promote the program is to have eyeballs on the team. With next year being the first year of Big Ten lacrosse, perhaps a big-time match-up with someone like Hopkins or Maryland can be scheduled to generate excitement. If you need help with that, give me a call, okay Mr. Brandon?

Michigan's next opponent will be the 13th-ranked Yale Bulldogs in Michigan Stadium on April 19 at 4:00 ET. Preview to come later in the week.

Michigan Football: Justin Hilliard, Jashon Cornell and Darian Roseboro are Must-Gets for DC Greg Mattison

April 13, 2014 by  
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Michigan's loading the backfield, but the defensive front needs attention. Good thing for Michigan, Greg Mattison is a great recruiter and knows exactly what he wants for Team 136.

Note: Part 1 of this two-part post, which focuses on Michigan's top three 2015 offensive targets, can be found here.

Sculpting a program-best secondary seems to be the intent of Michigan's staff.

During the past few years, the Wolverines have collected '97-team-like defensive backs. The next wave--not to mention the developing youngsters already in Ann Arbor--may not top Chuck Woodson's buddies, but it'll certainly make an impact while carving out a name for itself.

Already stuffed with a pair of 4-star corners and a 4-star safety, Team 136's defensive backfield serves as yet another example of recruiting dominance by Brady Hoke and his staff.

Garrett Taylor, the most recent commit, is the No. 6-ranked corner of 2015. Shaun Crawford is No. 9. Tyree Kinnel is the No. 11 safety.

Thus far, they're the top three--and only--defensive commits. But they're already "here." So let's take a look at the best of the best available targets. Need, skill and fit will be taken into account.

And, as always, feel free to debate the choices in the comments section and cast a vote below.

Recruit info via 247Sports.

View Michigan's roster, via MGoBlue.

More Depth at LB, Please

Justin Hilliard.

Say it again: "Justin Hilliard."

If you're not already familiar with him, get familiar. He's definitely an up-and-coming star, and he's the type of Ohio linebacker who'll fit perfectly within Mattison's scheme.

Along with others, Iowa has jumped in the picture. But the Wolverines remain among Hilliard's top choices. Hoke can sell the linebacker history and potential to make an immediate mark--young linebackers, such as Ben Gedeon, are getting chances.

Why not Hilliard in the fall of 2015?

There is plenty of room in the rotation--which isn't really a rotation, it's more like a pool. As we all know, the position highlights the defense. Sure, the D-Line looked sharp during the spring game, but until proven otherwise, Mattison's muscle is at linebacker.

Goods on Hilliard

Ht./Wt.: 6'2"/230 (No. 2 OLB, No. 1 overall in Ohio, No. 26 nationally)

High School: St. Xavier (Cincy)

Interest: Warm

Strength: Runs, hits, makes plays--he's another Jake Ryan-type. But maybe slightly more athletic.

Hilliard is fresh off a visit to Notre Dame. Needless to say, the Irish have a lot to offer as well. He's expected to cut his list to five within the near future.

D-Linin'

Jashon Cornell remains in arm's reach for Mattison, who could certainly use more help at defensive end. By time 2015ers hit, Frank Clark will be gone and Mario Ojemudia will be a senior; and that'll widen the path to PT for youngsters such as Taco Charlton, Matt Godin and Henry Poggi, among others.

The defense is progressing, and stabilizing the ends of the line is always the key to run-containment and pass-rushing efficiency.

That being said, Cornell is just the type of guy made for the Big Ten. But maybe not. According to 247Sports, he has "warmer" interest in the Irish.

Goods on Cornell

Ht./Wt.: 6'4"/270 (No. 3 WDE, No. 1 in Minn., No. 30 nationally)

High School: Cretin Derham Hall (St. Paul)

Interest: Warm

Strength: Athletic enough to play outside and inside. Instinctual pass-rushing tactics.

Rosy for Michigan?

Darian Roseboro is a priority, especially from my perspective.

Battles are won in the trenches, and the Big Ten is one of the most physical leagues in the country. Mattison would be in DC Heaven if he lands the 6'4," 265-pound junior in 2015.

Lately, the Wolverines have been anything but intimidating up front. Given the recent signees, that's a head-scratcher that's difficult to comprehend.

Roseboro, a North Carolina kid, could stay down south and sign with Auburn, NC State, which seems like the favorite, or Duke.

Ohio State is after him, too.

Goods on Roseboro

Ht./Wt.:6'4"/265 (No. 7 SDE, No. 3 in NC, No. 109 nationally)

High School: Lincolnton

Interest: Warm

Strength: Disruptive, physically imposing, plays "bigger" than actual size.

Note: I searched YouTube for quality footage of Roseboro--couldn't find it. But check out his tape on Hudl.

There haven't been many rumblings about Roseboro and Michigan lately, but he recently said that he planned to visit. He hasn't yet. Kentucky just offered on March 26.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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