Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sometimes Lightning Strikes Twice

Austin Hatch was aboard a plane that
crashed in northern Michigan yesterday.

Michigan basketball commit Austin Hatch is in critical condition.

Tragic events of any magnitude can be difficult to convey.  Even as I write this, the keyboard seems less responsive than usual.  Each key offers more resistance than it should.

Yesterday afternoon a flight took off from Fort Wayne, Indiana carrying three passengers.  Dr. Stephen Hatch, his wife Kim, and their son Austin were all aboard a 1975 Beech A36 fixed wing, single engine aircraft when it crashed into a residential garage in Charlevoix, a small town in northern Michigan.  

1975 Beech A36 fixed wing aircraft
Piloted by Dr. Stephen Hatch.
Although the aircraft was capable of transporting up to six passengers, it does not appear that anyone else was on board when rumored engine problems claimed the lives of Dr. Hatch and his loving wife (Austin's stepmother).  The 6'6'' wing who committed to play for the Wolverines last month was the only reported survivor.

Losing family in a plane crash is a devilish and uncommon catastrophe, like lightning boiling from somber skies to strike a tender spot of the world's benevolence.  Sometimes, lightning strikes twice.

Eight years ago, Austin lost his mother, sister, brother and family dog in a similar plane crash.  It is a fate so oppressive that one can hardly be expected to endure it once.  By not only leading a productive life in the years since the first accident but excelling as he has in the face of such crushing adversity, Austin has already exhibited a distinguished strength.  

He will need every ounce of that strength over the next critical days of recovery, and again during the weeks, months and years of learning to cope with a loss so unfathomable that words cannot describe, let alone fill, the void now tearing into the fabric of his life.

But Austin is not alone.  His commitment last month was more than a pledge to play basketball.  He joined a brethren tens of thousands strong, a family who will nurture, embrace and cherish him as its own for the rest of his life.  In these troubling times, we support you Austin.  Now and forever. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Colors That Float In A Slightly Different Order

Michigan will wear these on September 10, 2011.

The jerseys Michigan will be cloaked in for the first night game ever played in Michigan's home stadium have finally been unveiled.  MGoBlog is in an uproar, brandishing a pitchfork in one hand, a gauze-enveloped flaming stick in the other, and believes that any non-athlete caught wearing one of these should be shot.  I respectfully disagree.

Some teams adorn a new, eye-soretastic uniform virtually every game.  Oregon fans, I hate you.  When it was first announced that the Wolverines would embrace throwback jerseys to commemorate their first home night game, the general reception was strangely positive.  It also left people scratching their heads because the Michigan uniform has remained largely unchanged since Eli Whitney demonstrated the use of his cotton gin to applauding men in wigs.

The reason there has been so little change over the years is simple:  the basic tenants of the uniform are essentially perfect.  A classic blue jersey blemished only in those places where absolutely necessary to satisfy NCAA-mandated identification requirements (and occasionally sporting a subtly placed block "M").  A pair of maize pants artificially enhanced by the rays of the sun and the advent of Photoshop to achieve the ideal hue for high-definition television.  And of course, the winged helmet.

Michigan is not adopting a new uniform, it is not undermining tradition.  For one game, the team will wear a few stripes on its sleeves and people will be outraged and it will be an image loosely adapted from historic renditions like this one:

Like many Michigan fans, I consider myself to be a traditionalist.  The thing about traditionalists is that as soon one of them breaks from habit, everyone takes notice.  While this can be a restrictive curse, it can also be a powerful attribute.

Imagine for a moment an elderly man who regales you with stories of his life as a Michigan fan.  For the last 75 years, he has bled blue and filled urinals with maize, and around his neck he wears an iron key on a faded leather strap.  "I want to show you something," he whispers, and as usually happens with old iron keys it is accompanied by an equally old dusty trunk.

The man carefully unlocks the trunk and lifts the lid, rummaging to the bottom before finally withdrawing an unfamiliar football jersey.  The cloth is faded and ripped and unmistakably old.  It has a yellow block "M" and player numbers, but bears a pattern that is entirely foreign to you.  "They only wore those for one game," he mentions.  "Tom Harmon's last in the stadium."  From his beaming smile, it's obvious that he cherishes the aged fabric.

My reaction to this man would not be one of accusation or disdain but admiration and envy.  I would yearn for his experiences and the rare treasure he had to remember them.

This year under the lights, the players will don jerseys that have a special character, one that is both a tribute to the past and a step toward something new, a novel chapter in a storied history that will be read and retold for decades.

I plan to purchase a replica of the 9/10/11 jersey.  And, as it happens, I hope one day to be an old man.  If you are a supporter of the University of Michigan in any of its many facets and endeavors, including the fleeting appearance of the night game jerseys, chances are you'll be welcome on my lawn.

Monday, June 6, 2011

ESPN: The "E" Stands For "Fail"

Today on College Football Live, ESPN ran a story about the West Virginia football program.  In an effort to inject actual insight into something produced by ESPN, a writer from the Charleston Daily Mail was asked to provide his opinions.

I have no idea what West Virginia beat writer Mike Casazza might look like, but I'm willing to bet that's not his scowling face in the image above.

The reason I'm so sure is because that particular scowling face belongs to this man:

Mike Barwis, former strength and conditioning
coach for the University of Michigan.
Keep up the good work, ESPN.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What Happened With Wayne Morgan?

Wayne Morgan is a highly coveted, four star defensive back from Brooklyn who fell in love with Michigan.  Today was to mark the announcement of his long-anticipated commitment to the Wolverines.  That announcement never came.

What really happened?

  • Fact #1:  On or about May 23, 2011, Morgan announced that the date of his official decision would be June 1, 2011.  It is widely-believed that Michigan was his first choice.
  • Fact #2:  One week later, on or about May 29th, Morgan moves the decision back a day from June 1st to June 2nd.
  • Fact #3:  That same day (May 29th), defensive back Anthony Standifer schedules an impromptu Michigan visit for June 1st.
  • Fact #4:  On June 1st, Anthony Standifer commits to the Wolverines as a defensive back.
  • Fact #5:  On June 2nd, Wayne Morgan announces an indefinite delay of his decision.

Disclaimer:  I have no inside information, and the conclusions drawn may very well be inaccurate.  Based upon the facts above however, the most likely scenario may unfortunately be the one that follows.

It appears likely that Wayne Morgan decided to attend the University of Michigan on or before May 23rd.  He would have notified the coaches immediately and scheduled a public announcement to occur shortly thereafter.  In this case, that announcement was scheduled for June 1st.  

While the Michigan coaches would be happy to accept a commitment from Morgan, they had also become enamored with fellow class of 2012 defensive back Anthony Standifer.  Since the coaching staff arrived earlier this year, a figurative mountain of circumstantial evidence suggests their propensity for using the commitment or impending commitment of one player to incite additional commitments at the same position from other players.*  In other words, the coaches engage in the age-old tactic perfected by salesmen everywhere that posits the following:  if you don't buy this thing now/book your trip today/commit to Michigan immediately, your opportunity will be forever lost.

It seems more than plausible that during the week between May 23rd and May 29th, the Michigan coaches contacted Standifer to advise him that his spot on the roster would evaporate on June 1st (the day of Morgan's announcement) unless he acts promptly and commits beforehand.  Standifer thereafter scheduled an emergency visit to Ann Arbor for June 1st.  Based on the timing of Standifer's visit, the coaches may have asked Morgan to delay his decision until the following day.

Standifer surprised almost everybody by pledging to the Wolverines well earlier than even his own timeline had suggested by committing on June 1st.  

Immediately following Standifer's commitment, and the very day Morgan was set to announce his decision, Morgan instead postponed his decision indefinitely.  He also announced that he would be taking visits to several other schools.

While Michigan may yet take another defensive back in this class, the circumstances of the last week raise some questions as to the strength of Michigan's interest in Morgan.

If Morgan is not a Wolverine when all is said and done, it may not have been by his own volition.

*For reasons too lengthly to discuss here, this has become popular belief for good reason.  Suffice it to say that in an uncanny new tradition, the commitment of one linebacker, defensive end, or offensive lineman has invariably been followed immediately by a commitment another player at the same position.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bump in the Road

Somewhere in California, two attorneys were laid off last week (see approximate visual representation above).  Their work has been redistributed.  Most of it is now on my desk.  Until somebody new is hired or people stop suing one another, posts will occur with less frequency.

Apologies for the bump in the road.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mike Hart's Time Machine: Just In Time To See The Bus Fly By. . .

When he breaks out of the huddle 
And the play clock starts to dwindle 
I don't think he'll ever make it on time.
But when Henne starts to cook, 
And then I see the look, 
I'm at the corner just in time to see Mike Hart fly by. 
It's alright 'cause I'm saved by the bell Mike Hart and his effing time machine. 
Thanks for being everywhere, big guy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Men of Many Talents

Ever wonder what other sports these guys played in high school?

Disclaimer:  As much as I wanted to emphasize Erik Gunderson's contributions as a 265 pound swimming machine, the following is presently limited to scholarship athletes; before you complain about the inclusion of Jordan Kovacs, please understand that it is no longer 2009.  Incoming freshmen and recruits have not yet been added.  Feel free to point out anything I may have missed.

Devin Gardner
Drew Dileo
Mike Martin (shot put & discus)
Mark Huyge
Mike Martin
Brendan Gibbons
Marell Evans
Rocko Khoury
Josh Furman (100m, 200m, 4x100, 4x200)

Thomas Gordon
Jordan Paskorz
Je’Ron Stokes (100m, 200m, 4x200, 110m hurdles)

Kelvin Grady

Terrence Robinson (4x100)

Isaiah Bell

Teric Jones
(60m, 100m, long jump, 4x100, 4x200)

Jordan Kovacs

Thomas Gordon
(4x100, 110m hurdles)

Ryan Van Bergen

Denard Robinson
(100m, 4x100)

Patrick Omameh

Michael Shaw
(200, 4x200, 4x400)

Mark Huyge

Terrence Talbot
(100m, long jump, 4x100)

Craig Roh

Darryl Stonum
(100m, 200m, 400m, 4x200, 4x400)

Jordan Paskorz

Mike Jones
(200m, long jump)

Fitzgerald Toussaint
(100m, 4x100)

Troy Woolfolk
(100m, 200m, 4x800)

Jordan Kovacs

Ryan Van Bergen

Rocko Khoury

Patrick Omameh

Michael Schofield
(Hurdles, relays, shotput, discus)

Quinton Washington
(Shotput, discus)

Jordan Paskorz

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Six Word Memoirs: Rich Rodriguez's Tenure

Previously:  Michigan football.

The challenge was to capture the good, the bad and at least a flavor of the memes.  This comes close:

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Godin We Trust

Matt Godin is probably bigger than you.  At 6'5, 267 pounds, he can play either the defensive tackle or the strongside defensive end position.  

Despite his imposing physical measurements, Godin's film exposes a few weaknesses.  

He has a tendency to play high (even if this did help him leap over the helmet of at least one offensive guard last season it will hinder him against more disciplined competition), and he can have difficulty shedding blockers when his lateral quickness fails to deflect the initial impact, leaving him vulnerable to single-blocks at the next level.

Godin has plenty of strengths, including...well, strength.  He shows above-average instincts and awareness of the game, and doesn't relent on the play.  In many ways, he is reminiscent of three-year starter Ryan Van Bergen.  Or at least Ryan Van Bergen's slightly less athletic younger brother.  

"X" always stands for either x-treme
or treasure, and Godin isn't a loot piƱata.

As with Van Bergen, Godin is suited for the 5-tech defensive end/tackle hybrid position, but he also has the frame to carry the additional 30-35 pounds that serve as a rudimentary prerequisite for interior, 3-tech defensive tackles in Mattison's 4-3 under.

With limited roster slots in this year's recruiting class, heavy needs at several key positions, and strong interest from top players across the nation, Michigan can afford to be particularly selective with defensive line recruits.
In this context, defensive line gurus Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Godin join the Wolverines next fall.  He will take time to develop, but already he has acquired a vote of confidence from some of the best in the business at his projected position.

Until then, it is in Godin--and the coaching staff who selected him--that we trust.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Content Update: Simpsons-Denard

I am out of town for a few days, so content will resume next week. . .

. . .in the meantime, allow Simpsons-Denard to keep you company.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Morris Plenty

Some of these pictures are probably of QB Shane Morris.

Michigan picked up a huge commitment on Tuesday from Shane Morris, a quarterback in the 2013 class and the erstwhile father of Stephanie Tanner.

Morris may seem like just another pledge along Brady Hoke's whirlwind, "holy cow, this guy is good" recruiting marathon, but he will have plenty to offer the Wolverines.  Although he hasn't started his Junior year of high school, Morris is already receiving acclaim as one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation.  Not to let expectations run rampant, but MGoBlog is already projecting his entry into the NFL.

The reasons are abundant.

Morris has good footwork and a strong arm.  His mechanics still need refinement, but generally he has a quick release and potent accuracy.  At 6'3'' and only sixteen, Morris may grow another inch or two before he steps foot in Ann Arbor and should have ideal height for a quarterback in Hoke's offense.

Morris is good.  Observe for yourself:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pharaoh Mounta' Defensive Recruits

Pharaoh Brown, Ruler of the Defensive Line and parts of Thebes.

For Pharaoh Brown, I tried to dig deep for the worst pun ever conjured by a native English speaker.  I think mission pretty much accomplished.  For the record, it narrowly beat out a bottle of Greg Mattison's patented Pharaohmones.

Pharaoh Brown does his best J.J. Barea impression.
Unlike the swat that caused Bynum's ejection against
the Mavericks on Sunday, no foul was called on #40.
Brown is a two-way athlete for Brush High School in Ohio, playing both basketball and football for the Arcs.*  As a basketball player, Brown occasionally led the team in scoring despite playing alongside excellent talent in Curtis Oakley Jr., nephew of former NBA star Charles Oakley.  Brown was particularly effective when he was not the face end of a two party face palm (pictured).

In football, Pharaoh has played a peculiar trio of quarterback, tight end and defensive end.  Michigan has recruited him for the defensive end position, so he can be expected to add nearly forty pounds to his 220 pound stature before taking the field.  Unlike the other defensive end picked up by the Wolverines last week, Brown has a long frame that can carry additional mass with ease.

As with most quarterbacks-turned-something-else, Brown will need time to fine-tune his new position.   Like Ojemudia, he is a defensive lineman selected early in the recruiting process by a coaching staff that specializes in the defensive line:  he should be very good.  With his raw physical gifts, Brown has a higher ceiling than recent commits at the position, but I expect it to take at least two years for the final product to begin to take shape.

Assuming Pharaoh remains dedicated in the weight room and on the defensive side of the ball, there may be more than a few plagues unleashed on Big Ten quarterbacks by 2014.

*Brush High School's official mascot is "Arcy the Arc Lamp."  Seriously.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Super Mario 2

Mario Ojemudia committed to Michigan on
May 7, 2011 to play on the defensive line
and possibly to thwart King Koopa.
Mario Ojemudia is a lightning-quick defensive end and one of the best in the nation to play his position.  Had he committed to any other program, he might have been dubbed "Super Mario."

"Super" Mario Manningham
Ability to fly confirmed.
Unfortunately for Ojemudia, star wide receiver and current New York Giant Mario Manningham claimed that title for the Wolverines years ago; fortunately for Ojemudia, Super Mario 2 proved to be a far more dynamic experience than its least until you invested countless and irreplaceable hours of your childhood attempting to reach an end ruined by the regrettable discovery that the entire paper-thin plot was no more than Mario's stupid dream.  I blame you, Japan.

Super Mario 2, Mario Ojemudia
Ability to fly presumed.
Unlike the storyline to the successor title of the acclaimed video game, there are actual reasons to believe that the surmounting hype and high praise surrounding the 6'2'' version of Super Mario 2 is something more than a fleeting, transparent, worthless figment of the imagination.

On film, Mario looks absolutely devastating to offensive lines.  For what it's worth, he also looks rail-thin, like a Davion Rogers who has eaten a hamburger in his life.  Although he will inevitably sacrifice some speed for an additional 20-30 pounds of mass at the next level, he is explosive enough to remain productive and overcome some of the limitations of his smaller frame.

Despite questions about his size and eventual position, there is one nearly-universal truth supporting Ojemudia:  recruits taken nine months before national signing day are hand-selected from coaches' early wish lists.  If there is one thing Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison have learned from more than three collective decades coaching the defensive line, it's how to evaluate a defensive end.

Make no mistake, Super Mario 2 is no dream.