On the Hardwood: Michigan State Spartans

July 23, 2014 by  
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A look back at the 2013-14 Michigan State Spartans basketball season.

Previously: PurdueNorthwesternPenn StateIndianaIllinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska Cornhuskers

Only four more to go! (I won't be doing Michigan because, well, you already know everything.) This week, I'll take a look back at the 2013-14 Spartans, who advanced to the Elite Eight before ultimately falling against the eventual national champion UConn Huskies.

So, what happened this season?

The 2013-14 season truly was a tale of two seasons, the epoch of belief and incredulity.

The Spartans began their season with a big win against a then-No. 1 (albeit very green) Kentucky squad, 78-74, at the United Center in Chicago, paced by huge games from the three-headed attack of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris.

From there, they cruised through the rest of the nonconference schedule, the lone blemish coming against an inscrutable North Carolina team by 14 at the Breslin Center on Dec. 4.

Nonetheless, the good times continued, with a 7-game winning streak to start the conference slate, which included overtime wins against then-No. 3 Ohio State and Minnesota.

Then the Wolverines rolled into East Lansing on Jan. 25, delivering the Spartans their first loss. However, they were without the services of Payne and rebounding and defensive specialist Branden Dawson.

With the paradoxical anger-relief that comes with that first loss, MSU then went to Iowa City and landed a big 71-69 overtime win, still without Payne and Dawson. Oddly, they then went on to bookend that win with a loss against a poor Georgetown squad at MSG four days later.

With that strangely placed nonconference tilt in the books, the Spartans then went 4-5 the rest of the way, with losses at Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and at home against Illinois and Nebraska. Payne was back for the second loss against Michigan-- Dawson's impact was perhaps only understood when he returned for the conference tournament.

There, the Spartans knocked off Northwestern and Wisconsin in impressive fashion, than thumped Michigan even more impressively in the final, holding the Wolverines to a measly 55 points. In that win, Dawson scored 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting and snagged six rebounds in 24 minutes.

Heading into the Big Dance at full strength, things looked far rosier than they did during that 4-5 stretch. There, they rolled through Delaware and Harvard, then squeaked by B1G-team-in-spirit Virginia, setting up a matchup with Shabazz Napier's Huskies.

Despite leading at the half, the Spartans were outscored by 10 in the second--Napier went off for 25 of UConn's 60 points. Harris was the only Spartan to play well on the offensive end, as Appling and Dawson were relative non-factors in the points column and Payne, scoring 13, shot just 4-for-14 from the field. Most importantly, the Spartans couldn't get anything going down low, instead launching 29 of their 46 shots from beyond the arc--not a bad strategy for a team that shoots it so well from outside, but that shot percentage forces you to live on the edge, especially in a high-pressure tournament setting in which the rims get smaller without warning and that orange orb can feel like a bowling ball.

While any season that doesn't end in a Final Four might be a disappointment for the MSU basketball program, a Big Ten tournament title and an Elite Eight appearance in the same season is nothing at which to scoff.

Numbers

  • Although the offense sputtered against UConn, MSU finished 4th in the league during Big Ten play in PPP (1.13). Meanwhile, they were third-best in PPP allowed.
  • They only trailed Michigan in eFG% (54.3).
  • The Spartans didn't much like the charity stripe this season--they were third-worst in the league in free throw rate (33.4).
  • From beyond the arc, however, they were lethal, with a conference-best team mark of 41.4 percent.
  • As usual, the Spartans cleaned up on the glass; they were fourth in ORB% and first in DRB%.
  • Despite boasting a senior point guard, MSU was tied with Nebraska at 9th in turnover percentage. On the defense end, they were fifth in turnover percentage, behind Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Ohio State.
  • At 38.8 percent, Harris was third in the league from beyond the arc. He was also a factor on the defensive end (4th in steal percentage).

Roster Shakeup

The big losses, of course, are Payne, Harris and Appling. In retrospect, Appling had a disappointing senior season, but a senior point guard is a senior point guard, not to mention the fact that he did come up big for MSU on numerous occasions this past season.

Returning are point guard Travis Trice, Dawson, forwards Kenny Kaminski (not that Kaminsky), Alex Gauna, Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello.

Denzel Valentine also returns; he averaged 8.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg last season, while shooting a sterling 37.7 percent from downtown.

In the 2014 class, Tom Izzo signed 3-star SF Javon Bess, 3-star SF Marvin Clark Jr. and 4-star PG Lourawls Nairn--Clark and Nairn both hail from the same school in Bel Aire, KS, so if at least one of these guys isn't dubbed the Fresh Prince, I will be very, very upset.

Standing at 5 feet, 11 inches tall, Nairn received Big Ten offers from Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana, plus Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Creighton. Trice will probably drive the car at first, but the expectations for Nairn will be high in 2014-15, as the Spartans look to replace a longtime starter in Appling. While Michigan has been lucky to have good to elite point guard play in recent years, that is more the exception than the norm.

He's not as tall as Appling, yes, but it does sound like he can bring some defense, which he will obviously need to do to play for Izzo:
Likely the fastest player in the class of 2014 with the ball in his hands. Not a great shooter, but he is all about getting others involved and is an intense on the ball defender. He's physical, can push tempo and rates highly as a leader.
Distribution from the point is key, but with the departures of big time scorers in Harris and Payne, the Spartans will have to rely on Nairn, eventually, to score some points. That's a tall task, even for the best freshmen.

What's next?

For the first time in this preview series, I have to say this: I really have no idea.

On the one hand, a world in which Michigan State is a bubble team is hard to imagine. On the other hand, losing players like Payne, Harris and a senior point guard in Appling (struggles notwithstanding) is no small matter.

Yes, Valentine has been a very solid secondary scorer--can he be a so called "first line" guy? Additionally, can Dawson stay healthy this time around? His injury was a non-basketball thing, so it's not like it's something that would lead to throwing around the term "injury-prone" or anything (whether you believe he actually broke his hand that way is another thing entirely).

The Spartans will likely still play defense and rebound, just like they always have. Offensively, however, a lack of starpower is concerning for the 2014-15 iteration of MSU basketball.

Regardless, if the Spartans finish in the top four, I'd have to consider this one of Izzo's best coaching jobs yet (which is saying something). Taking a team with multiple NBA talents to a league title and the Elite Eight is one thing, but doing something with a roster that doesn't seem to stack up with years past is another.

Wednesday Michigan Recruiting Roundup Features Timetables Galore

July 23, 2014 by  
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The WRR updates you on the latest with Michigan football recruiting. In this edition, Damien Harris sets a commitment date, Keisean Lucier-South is ready to narrow down his list of schools, Josh McMillon will not be at the BBQ, and Lavert Hill picks up an offer.

Damien Harris Sets a Commitment Date

Time to start saving dates.

Former Michigan Wolverines commit and 2015 five-star running back Damien Harris (Berea, KY) announced on Monday that he will be releasing his top five schools on Aug. 1 and choosing his program on Dec. 13. The announcement came via his Twitter account.

Even though he decommited from the program earlier this year, Michigan fans need not fret. The Wolverines should and will likely be included on this list, and the timetable for a decision actually works out in their favor.

While a reason outside of just opening things up and exploring all options for Harris was never really given, it's no secret that the lack of success for the Michigan football program over the last few seasons, coupled with coaching staff uncertainty, played a part in Harris' decommitment.

With a December announcement date now set in stone, this gives Michigan a chance to get back in his good graces by performing on the field and proving that the last two seasons were bumps in the road for this program going forward. The Wolverines have a ton to prove on the field in 2014.

It also works out perfectly for them in regard to four-star running back Mike Weber (Detroit, MI), who seems more and more like the guy that Michigan takes in the 2015 cycle. In a perfect world, it's Harris, but Weber is a very, very good consolation prize.

Weber wants to make his choice in January, so if Michigan does end up whiffing on Harris, they will be able to officially make Weber their guy going forward, which he may very well be already.

The favorite to land Harris seems to be Ohio State, so we'll see what happens with that. After previously stating he would be at OSU's Friday Night Lights and Michigan's BBQ, Harris will no longer be attending either of those events, so there's not much we're able to take out of that, either.

Lucier-South's Top Five Coming Soon

In related news, five-star 2015 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, CA) announced Tuesday evening that his top five list of schools will be coming on Aug. 8, per his Twitter account.

Michigan, barring an unforseen development, will be included in this grouping it appears, along with schools like UCLA and Notre Dame, who round out a list of three schools that I think are most likely to land Lucier-South.

A concrete date has not been given, but Lucier-South has stated that he wants to decide on or around National Signing Day 2015 in February, so a commitment is not around the corner by any means and a lot can change before that happens.

As I've stated before, I think he is the most important player that Michigan has recruited in the last couple of seasons, perhaps even more so than 2014's stud prospect Jabrill Peppers.

The Wolverines have missed out on some of their top pass rushers in the last few cycles, most notable five-star Da'Shawn Hand to Alabama. Lucier-South is in my opinion the best pure pass rushing prospect in the 2015 class, so adding him to the mix would be so huge for Michigan, and I think they have the goods to get it done.

We'll have to wait awhile to see what happens, but even though it will be difficult to bring him to the Midwest, Michigan has as good a shot as anyone on that list.

No BBQ for Josh McMillon

Many of the nation's most talented prospects will be on campus at Michigan this weekend for the annual BBQ at the Big House, but it appears that one of their top 2015 targets at linebacker will not be attending.

Four-star linebacker Josh McMillon (Memphis, TN) tweeted out on Monday that he will not be attending the event in Ann Arbor, citing that it is a long drive and tough trip to make.

I would not read too terribly much into this, as Memphis to Ann Arbor is not just some Sunday stroll through the park. If it was a place he was truly in love with, maybe he comes, but at the end of the day, you have to think of it as you would if you had a trip to make.

Is it really worth the 12 hour drive? Maybe, but apparently not for McMillon.

With that being said, I'm not really sure what Michigan's chances with him are anyways. He seems like a safe bet to end up at Alabama, but many insiders think that the Wolverines still have a chance. He won't be in Ann Arbor this weekend and it doesn't look like he has any visits planned any time soon, so we'll have to keep an eye on this one.

Michigan Offers Lavert Hill

In 2016 news, the Wolverines extended a scholarship offer today to four-star defensive back Lavert Hill (Detroit, MI), who many view as a rising star among prospects in that class.

Hill is from Cass Tech High School, which has traditionally been a strong Michigan pipeline over the years. With this offer, the Wolverines may be the team to beat, but of course it's still way early in the process.

He still has a ton of growing to do as a player, so we'll see how much higher he rises up boards by the time National Signing Day 2016 rolls around.

That's it for Wednesday. Come back Friday for the latest news and notes on Michigan football recruiting.

Be sure to follow Maize N Brew's Anthony Broome on Twitter, @anthonytbroome.

38 Days to Michigan Football

July 23, 2014 by  
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The 2014 season quickly approaches.

RS Sophomore Bobby Henderson, FB

Number: 37

Hometown: Hopewell Junction, NY (John Jay High School)

Height/Weight: 5' 11 / 239 lbs.

A Few Things to Know About Bobby

1. Exactly which position Henderson will play in the fall is unknown. Michigan's roster lists him at fullback, yet his recruiting profile designates him at linebacker. A quick visit to his Twitter profile shows a photo of him tackling a Nebraska player, but he appears to have moved over to offense for spring and summer camp.

2. His highlight video continues the longstanding tradition of recruiting videos having terrible RAWK music and/or LOUD NOISES.

3. This may be the greatest offseason photo to-date, and Henderson is part of the crew. NO ONE TOUCH JAKE RYAN'S KNEES.

Michigan Football Recruiting: Wolverines Offer 2016 CB LaVert Hill of Detroit Cass Tech

July 22, 2014 by  
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LaVert is the (obviously) younger brother of sophomore DB Delano Hill. It's a family thing in Ann Arbor, apparently.

Delano Hill probably used to give his little brother hell--in a good way, of course.

Imagine those noogies, those wedgies, those "Hey, let's see who can hit the lightest...I'll go first..."

(Thwap! Little brother cries, is declared instant winner)

Don't be surprised if they show flashes of sibling rivalry in the locker room one of these days. You know, kind of like Peyton and Eli did in that one ESPN commercial.

All jokes aside, Michigan made the right call Tuesday when offering the younger Hill, a 5'11", 165-pounder out of Cass Tech. According to 247Sports, LaVert is the No. 29-ranked CB of 2016. And as we all know, the secondary is becoming larger than life. Talent-wise, at least on paper, it's almost too good.

Blake Countess is regarded as one of the top corners in the game. Jourdan Lewis looked great during the spring game. Then there's Dymonte Thomas, Delano Hill, and some throw-in recruit from New Jersey...Jaleel something, I think.

Apparently Brady Hoke (Greg Mattison and Curt Mallory) really wanted this kid. After all, they offered scholarships an astonishing seven times. Wait, I think that he means that Michigan marked his seventh D1 offer. Yeah, that makes more sense.

OK, back to being serious. LaVert showed up at a camp in June and plans to attend the BBQ on Sunday in Ann Arbor. That's a great sign, plus there's the brother thing. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see a "LaVert Watch" this weekend--people sitting on pins and needles waiting for word of a commit--but I don't foresee a verbal just yet.

Let Delano work on him a little more, then it could happen.

According to 247, LaVert camped at Ohio State on July 25. He did the same at Penn State on July 20 but left with an offer.

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

Poll
Will LaVert Hill commit at the BBQ? As usual, feel free to start a conversation in the comments section.

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Michigan, ESPN hit home run with My Wish feature

July 22, 2014 by  
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The University of Michigan football program was recently featured on ESPN's "My Wish" series giving Stephen Loszewski a day to remember.

From Jake Long to Desmond Howard, the University of Michigan gave a young man a day to remember thanks to ESPN's "My Wish" series.

It was simply fantastic.

Stephen Loszewski grew up loving football and the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, during his freshman year of high school, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Now in remission and ready to put his days of being sick behind him, the Wolverines did everything they could to help speed that process up.

They knocked it out of the park.

Taking the tour of the facilities and having former Michigan legends make Loszewski feel special, the segment showed just how special the Michigan family is. Head coach Brady Hoke cares about the people, whether it's honoring an Ohio State fan who "beat Michigan". Hoke did more than simply put the football program in a positive light on national television, they also showed that they're human and care about other people as well.

One of the more powerful moments of the segment was when former Michigan All-American offensive lineman Long walked through the door to deliver mail to Loszewski. The happiness in his face and the tears in his mothers eyes signifies what the Make-A-Wish foundation is all about.

All the days spent wondering what happens next and all the hours spent in a hospital bed culminated into one beautiful segment on ESPN. To see a young man's childhood dreams come true is a beautiful sight.

Loszewski was more than a "five-star recruit" being hosted on a recruiting visit, he was a young man that could put the past behind for a moment in time.

Perhaps, just perhaps, he can put the past behind him forever thanks to ESPN and the University of Michigan's efforts.

To learn more about Loszewski's story, read more here.

MnB talks Michigan Football with The Michigan Man Podcast

July 22, 2014 by  
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Maize n Brew's Football Editor, Joshua Henschke, appeared on The Michigan Man Podcast with host Mike Fitzpatrick to discuss Michigan's upcoming season.

MnB B1G Preview: Three key players for Ohio State football

July 22, 2014 by  
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In continuance of our Big Ten preview, we take a look at the three key players for Ohio State football this upcoming season.

So close, yet so far away. That was the Buckeye national championship hopes in a nutshell -- no pun intended. A perfect regular season, their second in a row under head coach Urban Meyer, only ended in disappointment as Michigan State and Clemson caused a major dent in an otherwise sterling record.

Luckily for Buckeye fans, the team returns fully re-loaded and ready to make another run towards a coveted National Championship.

These three players will play a major role in helping the Buckeyes towards The Chase.

Braxton Miller - Quarterback

This one is a bit obvious, don't you think?

Clearly in the conversation for the best quarterback in the conference, Braxton Miller returns as a senior for one last shot at national success. As long as he can stay healthy, he can kill any defense with his speed and arm. Finishing 2013 with over 2000-yards passing with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also amassed over 1000-yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.

Could Braxton be a Heisman candidate in 2014? There is definitely a chance. However, Big Ten defenses across the conference are looking to make sure that doesn't happen.

Catch him if you can.


THE DEFENSIVE LINE

It is nearly impossible to whittle down the playmakers on the defensive line to one key player, so it is appropriate to make them a unit.

They will be scary in 2014, that is no joke.

Registering 42 sacks in 2013, the defensive line returns mostly the same with another offseason of seasoning. The cast of characters include: Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt and Joey Bosa among others. It is very possible that the line could be a very deep two-deep with an argument being made for a three-deep depth chart. Gaining a somewhat-fresh defensive line late in the game thanks to depth is a scary thought for opposing offensive lines.

11 Warriors presents the Ohio State defensive line perfectly. Our friends over at Land Grant Holy Land also have a great piece on the Buckeyes' defensive line depth.

Devin Smith - Wide Receiver

This was a tough choice. It was down to either senior Devin Smith or Tight End Jeff Heuermann. Both will be crucial targets for Miller in 2014, but this is Smith's year to break out.

Finishing 2013 with over 660-yards and eight touchdowns. Although the numbers do not look great on paper, Miller and back-up Kenny Guiton did a great job of sharing the football amongst the other receivers and tight ends. However, with Corey Brown no longer on campus, Smith should be the "next guy up" to be the main receiver.

Tuesday Morning Brews (7/22/14)

July 22, 2014 by  
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Without Braxton

The more that I absorb myself in football and be a part of it on a day-to-day basis, the more obvious it becomes how important the head coach is for the success or failure of a program. It's casually obvious already, but Ohio State under Luke Fickell is a very different program than Ohio State under Urban Meyer. Bill Connelly of SB Nation has a saying that the tough jobs remain tough, but the first link to that being true is an Ohio State's or a Michigan's ability to land an elite coach and maintain the level of play that they've come to expect. If a program like Boise State or TCU has a long run of great coaching, it slowly, steadily, inexorably rises the college ranks. If it came from further down the totem pole, it gets a little harder and takes a little longer, but any team can do it. Alabama had 10-win seasons in 1999, 2002, and 2005, but even so, their record in the decade before Nick Saban took over was just 67-55. From Saban's second season on, he is 67-9. Coaching is always the engine of a program.

The next most obvious link to success after that would be the quarterback. Everything a team does is predicated on the quarterback's skills, weaknesses, and ability to handle defenses. It's possible to take for granted when DG goes for 350 yards, but his ability to attack a defense creatively gives Michigan space to do some basic things more easily. With Shane Morris under center, some more of the playmaking will have to come from receivers and ball-carriers.

The Buckeyes, on the other hand, will continue their growing tradition of a mobile quarterback, likely with Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett. Cardale Jones will be a redshirt junior in 2015, with Barrett a class behind. (Their Class of 2015 recruit, Joe Burrow, is a three-star player, but the Buckeyes are still searching for a commitment from five-star quarterback/wide receiver Torrance Gibson.) Both players looked shaky during the spring game, where they quarterbacked opposing teams while Miller sat out with injury. Jones looked more like a complete quarterback, making audibles, reading progressions, and showing pocket presence against a pass rush. He occasionally showed a deft touch on deep throws, and could make all the easy throws. He's mobile, athletic, and Cam Newton-sized at 6'5", 250.

J.T. Barrett still looks a long ways off. He has all the physical tools to be successful - though he doesn't have the potential of Cardale - and the coaches have lauded his work off the field. He's coming off a redshirt, and he'll simply need more time to be able to judge what he brings to the table. Barrett has the distinction of being the first quarterback recruit under Urban Meyer, but he may not ever be a starter, if Jones does win the job for 2015 and '16 - by which point Barrett will be fighting Stephen Collier, Burrow and a couple others for the job, which he would only be able to have for one year anyway.

Yards % TD Int. vs. UM
Braxton Miller, '13 2094 63.5% 24 7 W
Braxton Miller, '12 2039 58.3% 15 6 W
Braxton Miller, '11 1159 54.1% 13 4 L
Terrelle Pryor, '10 2772 65.0% 27 11 W
Terrelle Pryor, '09 2094 56.6% 18 11 W
Terrelle Pryor, '08 1311 60.6% 12 4 W
Todd Boeckman, '07 2379 63.9% 25 14 W
Troy Smith, '06 2542 65.3% 30 6 W
Troy Smith, '05 2282 65.0% 16 4 W
Justin Zwick, '04 1209 52.4% 6 6 W

Michigan Man: Gary Moeller

Bo Schembechler's hand-picked successor, Gary Moeller, has quietly fallen into the shadows of Michigan's coaching lineage, a lineage that emphasizes Bo first and foremost but also saw two pioneers, Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler, roam Ann Arbor's sidelines. And, that's probably fine by Gary Moeller. For one, most of his career happened long before an era of information really took stride, and for another, he has a coach's innate ability to not really be informative or open in public. Still, his career is an interesting one, that spanned from Michigan to jail to the NFL.

First, his accomplishments: he went 44-13-3 over five years, won three Big Ten titles, a Rose Bowl, beat OSU by 28 - twice - and had an undefeated season (9-0-3) in 1992. His coaching staffs included Fred Jackson, Lloyd Carr, Les Miles, Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison, Mike DeBord, who would later be Michigan's offensive coordinator for five seasons, and Jim Herrmann, who was the defensive coordinator for Michigan for nine seasons. Moeller also hired Brady Hoke just before he was fired. He was a key piece to much of what we think of as Michigan football - not only the coaches that he hired, but the downfield passing, star wide receivers, and great defense he maintained. He was a tough man and could remember amazing details from years earlier about what certain teams tried to do or what had happened in games.

Five years after he took over the Wolverines, an altercation broke out between him and his wife that led to him getting drunk and disorderly at a Southfield restaurant. When police arrived, Moeller attempted to fight them, which forced his arrest. He was fired the next day. After being described as "broken" by Lloyd Carr afterward, 'Coach Mo' moved on to the NFL, landing on the Detroit Lions' staff pretty soon after he left Michigan. When Bobby Ross resigned suddenly in 2000, Moeller was chosen to lead the team. He compiled a 4-3 record over the final seven games, earning himself some support and an extension from owner William Ford. However, he would never coach another game. The Lions hired Matt Millen to run the team, and Millen fired Moeller and replaced him with a guy who lasted two seasons and lost 27 games. Moeller stands as the only Lions coach in the last forty years to have a winning record with the team.

It was a career unfulfilled at either the collegiate or professional level. Among all coaches who served at least five games, Moeller is fourth all-time at Michigan in winning percentage, but he is not one of the ten inducted into the Hall of Fame as either a player or coach. After having worked as the Wolverines' defensive coordinator for nine years, he switched successfully to offensive coordinator to make room for Lloyd Carr, a smart, rising defensive backs coach at the time. Carr's winning percentage over the thirteen years after Moeller's departure is almost on par, but Carr did not maintain what Moeller built: in Carr's first five years, Michigan won a national championship and had three 10-win seasons, while over the next eight, he would have just three more 10-win seasons while assistant coaches like DeBord and Herrmann were promoted and then left. Carr would go 6-7 in bowl games and against OSU, and Coach Moeller, who college and pro football left behind, faded into the background.

Hitting the Links Still Really Hates Notre Dame

Carlos Hyde is walking into a crowded station in S.F.

In Week 1, Gore will probably reach 10,000 yards rushing in his career. He was a freshman for Miami in 2001 when they won the title, as the back-up to none other than Clinton Portis. Then, in 2002, he beat out Willis McGahee for the starting spot until an ACL injury. No wonder the Canes appeared in national title games both years - the three backs have combined for 28,000 yards in the NFL.

Desmond Howard vs. Notre Dame

College football lends itself to iconic images and moments (see the duo above, for example). This was one of Desmond's, a miraculous catch against Notre Dame that snapped a 4-game winning streak against us by the Irish.

Notre Dame: The Five Worst Losses

OFD has been counting down the worst losses of all time, and we finally have come to the conclusion. Enjoy.

14 for 14: Showdown with Michigan

This is an interesting series that they're doing as well. Here's one of fourteen storylines for the Irish's upcoming season: playing Michigan.

One final Notre Dame link: Previewing the new turf

ND has a long tradition of natural grass turf, but a busy stadium schedule and upkeep have finally forced the Regents to make a change. It looks pretty sharp.

UCLA unveils alternate jerseys that make them harder to tackle

They will be worn at least once this season. The design is also an attempt to make them more connected to the city of L.A.

Utah's Strongest Position Group

The Big Ten is very strong at running back and defensive line; the Pac-12 is strong through the air, even beating out the Big 12 in that regard last year. Four teams in the Big 12 piled up 3,000 passing yards, but the Pac-12 had 8. Stanford threw for 2,771 yards last year, which put them second-last in the Pac-12 (only RichRod's run-heavy spread threw for less). But that total would beat out half the Big 12 schools.

Penn State lands another four-star player

Irvin Charles is a tall, fairly athletic receiver from New Jersey. The SEC is dominating recruiting of course, but other southern schools are in as well - 14 of the top 17 spots in Rivals' rankings are southern teams. The Midwest is actually faring better than anywhere else, though.

SB Nation's Washington Preview

Erm, my bad on this. Did not do my homework enough. Washington looks good on both sides of the line, and Bill also breaks down some of Chris Petersen's tendencies from his days at Boise. The Huskies could make some noise in the Pac-12 North despite losing their two stars on offense.

BTN's 10 Breakout Players

The most important of these would probably be Ezekiel Elliott or Darian Hicks - both are stepping into positions that are integral to their team's success.

Johnathan Franklin vs. Rice

The first play is a devastating delayed handoff; the three runs combined amount to 174 yards.

Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Mississippi State

Patterson, a rookie, mades waves in the NFL last year, coming in second to Devin Hester in kickoff return yardage. Another Vol won the MVP trophy, while Jason Witten passed Shannon Sharpe for the second-most receptions by a tight end in history. Arian Foster, though, played in only 8 games and suffered his worst year since 2009. But still, it was a pretty good year for the Vols in the NFL.

Drew Brees scores quickly against Chicago

I've mentioned that Brees, Manning and Brady are set to solidify their spots in the top five this season of all-time passing yards in NFL history. The next crop of star quarterbacks are more mobile (RGIII, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick), so it's possible no group of peers will ever accomplish what those three have done - at least not for many years. It's been fun watching them compete for Super Bowls.

And finally, welcome

This past week, SB Nation absorbed the blog site Inside NU, which will now be providing more coverage on Northwestern athletics. This is very exciting and I'm glad the people that covered Northwestern very well there are getting more attention. Inside NU was a quality source of information that was often the only source of in-depth information on the web regarding Northwestern's players.

39 Days to Michigan Football

July 22, 2014 by  
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Michigan football opens their season against (School Name Redacted) in a little over a month.

RS Sophomore AJ Pearson, DB

Number: 36

Hometown: Johns Creek, GA (Northview High)

Height/Weight: 6' 0 / 202 lbs.

One Big Thing to Know About AJ:

He may be a walk-on, but he has got the motivation and drive of a seasoned letterman. AJ comes to Michigan from an Atlanta suburb and appears to have instincts and ball-seeking skills like everyone's other favorite walk-on, Jordan Kovacs. What's not to love about a dude who not only works hard to make the football roster, but wants to get an awesome degree from the academic side of the university as well.

MnB talks Michigan Football with 104.9 The Horn

July 21, 2014 by  
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Maize n Brew's Football Editor, Joshua Henschke, speaks with ESPN's 104.9 The Horn's "Afternoons with Bucky and Erin" to discuss Michigan's upcoming season.

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