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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harbaugh’

42 years later: Steve Strinko recaps graduation, recalls 12-year old Harbaugh, and looks forward to helping others

Friday, May 13th, 2016


Strinko and Harbaugh

Forty-two years after leaving Michigan for the National Football League, Steve Strinko can finally call himself a Michigan graduate. On April 29, Strinko donned his cap and gown and joined current U of M seniors in receiving a diploma. But he looked a little bit different than the other 110 student-athletes that walked with him.

“I got this wild idea on Wednesday because I don’t use a walker that often — only when I’m traveling and might walk a long distance,” Strinko said. “I got this idea to paint it maize and blue. Then I found a way to stencil an M on the seat. So as I walked across the stage I was pushing my Michigan walker along.”

Strinko with his Michigan walker

Strinko with his Michigan walker

While the age difference — and the toll it has taken on his body — set him apart, the 1974 Michigan football most valuable player was welcomed with open arms by the current team.

“Jehu Chesson came over and tapped me on the shoulder while all the seniors were getting to their seats and said ‘hey man, did you play football?'” Strikno recalled. “I said yeah, and he said we’ve got a spot over here with the team. So I went over there and sat with him and his roommate (fullback Sione Houma, who recently signed an undrafted free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints). He’s Tongan and had a leather skirt underneath his gown, which I thought was hilarious. I said ‘you’ve got to be pretty confident about your sexuality to wear a dress around’ and he started laughing and said ‘yeah, I’m pretty confident.'”

Strinko relished the comradre he shared with the current players who were joining him in graduation on a weekend in which he also reunited with some of his former teammates.

I was humbled with the number of people that showed up. Both of my roommates from college were there. Dave Metz was my roommate the first two years and he played guard. Mark Elzinga was a backup quarterback; he was my roommate for my junior and senior year.”

After receiving his degree, Strinko, who once watched a Super Bowl in Woody Hayes’ living room, was courted by Bear Bryant, and played for Bo Schembechler, was greeted by current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I went up to him and he said ‘Strinko, congratulations.’ And I said ‘better late than never. It only took me 42 years.'”

Strinko recalled his fondness of the Harbaughs, which spans nearly a half century. In 1969, Jim’s dad, Jack, tried to recruit Strinko to Bowling Green and was the first college coach to shake his hand and tell him he wanted him to come play for him. Strinko, of course, signed with Schembechler, and Harbaugh told him “you’re going to get lost in the shuffle because it’s such a huge school, such a big program.”

“The funny thing is in 1973, he shows up as an assistant,” Strinko said. “I will never forget going up to him and saying ‘coach, aren’t you afraid you’re going to get lost in the shuffle here?'”

As for Jim, Strinko remembers him as being a “12-year old kid bouncing off the walls when I played.”

“Jimmy was somewhat of a pest — he and his brother, both. I remember on several occasions when they duck-taped Jimmy to a locker just to curb his enthusiasm,” Strikno recalled, laughing. “It was clearly obvious at that age that he was passionate about the game. It was incredible.”

And here they are, decades later, at different stages in life, but both having returned to Ann Arbor. While Harbaugh is hard at work trying to bring Michigan back from years of malaise, Strinko can afford to pat himself on the back for overcoming hardship and achieving his degree.

Strinko and his brother, Greg, with Jehu Chesson

Strinko and his brother, Greg, with Jehu Chesson

“All my life, with what I had gone through with getting addicted to substances, it was a big deal for me to start at point A and have a point B out there somewhere in the future and actually get to that point. It gave me confidence that there may be some value to this old fart after all.”

Taking after Harbaugh’s enthusiasm unknown to mankind, Strinko isn’t stopping at just a Bachelor’s degree. He’s currently working on his Master’s degree via online courses through Liberty University. He admitted part of the reason for continuing his education was that he took so many classes that he wanted to make absolutely certain that he had enough credits to graduate from Michigan.

Strinko also looks forward to trying to help other former Michigan football players overcome the same types of struggles that tripped him up after his football career. His Foundation for Athletes in Need is in the process of obtaining 501c3 status in Missouri, where he currently lives, and he’s also in talks with fellow U-M football alum Jim Betts about pairing with the Michigan Football Alumni Network’s Team Big House, which Betts, Jim Brandstatter, and John Wanlger are organizing.

“I know we’ve got guys out there who are hurting,” Strikno said. “I know we’ve got guys out there addicted to Oxytoxins. I think it would be naive to think that kind of stuff isn’t happening on a regular basis, and if it’s happening with guys at Michigan that are former football players, then obviously it’s happening elsewhere.

“We want to create something at Michigan where we can have an organization that we get together when home games are in town and provide one free ticket to home games for all former players for the rest of their life and we step up to help when they’re struggling financially or otherwise.”

It has been a long and bumpy road for Strinko, but like the hard-hitting linebacker he once was, he prefers to charge ahead rather than dwell on the past. Now he can do so as a University of Michigan graduate.
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Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the backstory.

New in Blue: 2017 LB Ben Mason

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016


Ben Mason(H John Voorhees III, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Ben Mason – LB | 6-2, 247 | Sandy Hook, Conn. (Newtown)
ESPNN/A Rivals: 3-star, N/A 247: 3-star, #28 ILB Scout: 3-star, #32 ILB
247 Composite: 3-star #35 ILB
Other top offers: Wisconsin, Cal, Pittsburgh, Duke, Syracuse, Navy, Uconn, Boston College, Temple

Michigan picked up a 12th member of its 2017 recruiting class on Tuesday evening when Sandy Hook, Conn. linebacker Ben Mason picked the Wolverines during a ceremony at Newtown High School.

Mason is a three-star recruit according to 247, Rivals, and Scout, and the 247 Composite. ESPN hasn’t ranked him yet. 247 ranks him as the 28th-best inside linebacker in the class, while Scout ranks him 32nd. ESPN and Rivals haven’t released their position rankings to date.

Mason holds offers from Wisconsin, California, Pittsburgh, Duke, and Navy, to name a few, and feigned picking a Cal hat before he selected the Michigan one during the ceremony. He said he could play either linebacker or fullback for the Wolverines. He joins fellow linebackers Josh Ross and Chase Laseter in the class.

The 6-foot-2, 247-pounder recorded 113 tackles, 11 for loss, four sacks, and four interceptions last season. As a sophomore in 2014, he tallied 110 tackles, six for loss, 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a pick. Adding in his freshman season, Mason has already amassed 290 tackles and could surpass 400 with another similar season this fall before moving to Ann Arbor.

Satellite camp ban shines light on SEC’s, NCAA’s self-serving interests

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016


Mark Emmert(LM Otero, AP)

Last fall, I posted up in the Starbucks on State and Liberty for a full day of interviews. In search of new writers for Maize and Go Blue I spoke with several current Michigan students — aspiring journalists with The Michigan Daily and engineering majors who enjoy writing alike — and alums interested in voicing their opinion on Michigan athletics.

I did the same in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York, and when all was said and done I brought three new writers aboard. I considered it a success. Not only did I improve my team, but I also gave three college students a chance to cover their favorite team. A chance that comes with media credentials and insider access only a small percentage get.

As I was planning to make this fall’s hiring trip bigger and better, the fat cats at MGoBlog petitioned the World Wide Web to ban blogs from doing so. MGoBlog, of course, can sit back and wait for great writers to approach them, while blogs like us, Maize ‘n Brew, Maize ‘n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue News have to get creative in order to find good writers. They reasoned that they shouldn’t have to work harder to draw elite writers from their own territory of students and alums.

On Friday, the WWW approved a proposal that would require blogs to “hire only via the comments section on their own website or on websites normally used for blog hiring (Craigslist).”

The above scenario sounds completely absurd, doesn’t it? And while it’s completely fictitious, it’s exactly what happened with the NCAA’s banning of satellite camps last Friday. It’s not a perfect analogy given that student-athletes and prospective student-athletes aren’t employees. But that’s where the NCAA’s ruling is even more absurd than the fictitious blog scenario above.

The NCAA’s stated description is “a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletics.” One of the NCAA’s seven core values is “an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.” One of the main pillars of the NCAA’s web page is opportunity, with a description that reads, in part, “More than 1,100 member schools are united around one goal: creating opportunities for college athletes.”

Every one of the items listed above is a direct contradiction to the NCAA’s ruling to ban satellite camps. Rather than inclusive, opportunity-creating camps that help the pave the way for student-athlete well-being and lifelong success, the NCAA issued a self-serving, opportunity-limiting decree inclusive of only a select few.

The outcry from both high school and college athletes since Friday describing the opportunities that satellite camps created for them to be seen by a wider audience of coaches, and thus, broaden their opportunities has been backed by other college coaches as well.

“Those are the only two reasons, to selfishly guard your recruiting base — and that’s the major motive — or laziness,” said Washington State head coach Mike Leach. “OK, so we’re going to elevate those over the interests of, in particular, low-income student-athletes and providing them an opportunity? It’s by far one of the most absurd things ever. If we’re even close to who we say we are, this idealistic sport, student-athlete, college football — if we’re even remotely close to what we say we are, that needs to be overturned immediately.”

Leach also questioned the supposed vote that saw his conference, the Pac-12, along with the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt, approve of the ban. According to Leach, “the vast majority of the schools in our conference were in favor of the satellite camps.”

Jim Harbaugh, whose publicity of his own satellite camps led to the ban, has yet to publicly comment about the vote. But rest assured he has something up his sleeve to counter it.

“In my America, you’re allowed to cross the state borders. That’s the America I know,” Harbaugh said last June amid criticism of his Summer Swarm satellite camp tour.

The fact that a select few can get a rule changed simply because someone else’s ingenuity was threatening their cozy spot atop the landscape is deeply troubling. But even more so due to the fact that it flies in the face of what their profession pretends to serve. And it shines a large spotlight on what NCAA president Mark Emmert, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, ACC commissioner John Swofford, and others truly serve: themselves.

New in Blue: 2017 RB O’Maury Samuels

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016


O'Maury Samuels(247 Sports)

O’Maury Samuels – RB | 5-11, 190 | Los Lunas, N.M. (Los Lunas)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 247: 3-star, #25 RB Scout: 4-star, #23 RB
247 Composite: 4-star #21 RB
Other top offers: TCU, Arizona, California, New Mexico, New Mexico State

Jim Harbaugh landed a commitment for the third straight day and the fifth time in the past week when Los Lunas, N.M. running back O’Maury Samuels pledged his verbal to the Wolverines on Sunday afternoon. He announced his decision on Twitter.

Samuels is a four-star according to Scout and a three-star per 247. Rivals and ESPN have yet to rank him. Scout lists him as the 23rd-best running back in the 2017 class, while 247 ranks him as the 25th-best running back and 338th nationally.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back rushed for 1,306 yards for Los Lunas High School as a junior last fall, earning all-state honors. He then made his mark on The Opening Dallas regional last month, recording a 4.58 40-yard dash, 44.5-inch vertical, 4.14-second shuffle, and 43-foot power ball toss to post the nation’s highest SPARQ score, 138.30. That earned him an offer from Harbaugh — his only other offers at the time were in-state schools, New Mexico and New Mexico State — and also an invite to The Opening at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon.

When Michigan offered after his performance in Dallas, he was excited to get a big-time offer from a school like Michigan.

“I was very happy when Mr. Harbaugh offered me,” Samuels said. “Coach Tyrone Wheatley said I am a freak and I have a lot of great attributes. They said I would fit into their program. I was so happy because Michigan is a great program with some great coaches.”

Although California, Arizona, and TCU have offered since then, a visit to Ann Arbor for the spring game on Friday was enough to convince Samuels to go blue. He’s the 11th member of the 2017 class and joins fellow running backs Kurt Taylor and A.J. Dillon in the class.

New in Blue: 2017 DT Phillip Paea

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016


Phillip Paea(247 Sports)

Phillip Paea – DT | 6-4, 285 | Berrien Springs, Mich. (Berrien Springs)
ESPNN/A Rivals3-star #13 OG 247: 3-star, #25 DT Scout: 3-star, #26 DT
247 Composite: 3-star #32 DT
Other top offers: Oregon, USC, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Utah, BYU, Arizona

Michigan’s hot spring continued on Saturday afternoon with a commitment from Berrien Springs, Mich. defensive tackle Phillip Paea. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder posted a succinct and pointed tweet to announce his commitment.

Paea is a three-star recruit according to Rivals, 247, and Scout, while ESPN hasn’t ranked him yet. Ravals ranks him as the 13th-best offensive guard in the 2017 class, while 247 ranks him as the 25th-best defensive tackle, and Scout as the 26th-best defensive tackle.

While his rankings don’t stand out just yet, his offer sheet does. Oregon, USC, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Miami, to name a few, have offered him. Paea visited Michigan on March 24 and again for the spring game on Friday before committing the next day.

Paea is the 10th member of the 2017 class, joining quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs A.J. Dillon and Kurt Taylor, tight end Carter Dunaway, offensive lineman Ja’Raymond Hall, fullback Chase Lasater, linebacker Joshua Ross, and defensive backs J’Marick Woods and Benjamin St-Juste.

New in Blue: 2018 TE/DL Leonard Taylor

Friday, April 1st, 2016


Leonard Taylor(247 Sports)

Leonard Taylor – TE/DT | 6-6, 258 | Springfield, Ohio (Springfield)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 2474-star, #3 DT Scout: 4-star, N/A
247 Composite: N/A
Other top offers: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Nebraska, Louisville, Penn State

Less than two weeks after landing a commitment from 2018 linebacker Antwuan Johnson, Michigan picked up his teammate, Leonard Taylor. The Springfield, Ohio tight end/defensive end pledged his commitment to Jim Harbaugh following Friday night’s spring game.

Taylor is rated as a four star according to 247 and Scout, the only of the four major recruiting services to have released their 2018 ratings to date. 247 ranks Taylor as the third-best defensive tackle in the class and the 22nd-best overall player in the class. No other site has ranked the 2018 class yet.

As mentioned in Johnson’s New in Blue post, Taylor plays for former NFL safety Maurice Douglass, who sent Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, Brandon Moore, Mike McCray, and Reon Dawson to Ann Arbor while at Trotwood High School. However, given that Johnson and Taylor are among the best 2018 players in the state of Ohio, Harbaugh will have to fight to keep them away from Urban Meyer over the next 22 months. Still, it’s great early momentum, and Harbaugh can build on that with a great season this fall.

New in Blue: 2017 S J’Marick Woods

Monday, March 28th, 2016


J'Marick Woods(Scout.com)

J’Marick Woods – S | 6-4, 196 | Florence, Ala. (Florence)
ESPN3-star, #25 S Rivals: 3-star, #31 S 2473-star, #30 S Scout: 4-star, #22 S
247 Composite: 3-star, #26 S
Other top offers: Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Louisville, Duke, Kentucky, Penn State

Michigan continued its recruiting momentum with a second commitment before noon on Monday. Florence, Ala. safety J’Marick Woods pledged his commitment to the Wolverines just an hour and 23 minutes after Groton, Mass. running back A.J. Dillon did so.

Scout is the lone recruiting site to give Woods a fourth star at this point as they rank him the 22nd-best safety in the 2017 class. ESPN, Rivals, and 247 all give him three stars. ESPN ranks him as the 25th-best safety, while 247 ranks him 30th and Rivals 31st.

Woods received his Michigan offer last May, and after camping at Alabama last summer, took unofficial visits to Michigan in August and again in October for the Michigan State game. He took another visit to Michigan this past weekend and that was enough to convince him to give a verbal to the Wolverines over Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Louisville, and others.

At 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, Woods will provide a big presence in the defensive secondary as he’s already bigger than any safety on Michigan’s current roster. Dymonte Thomas is the most comparable in size at 6-foot-2, 195.

247’s Steve Wilfong agrees that Michigan got a good one:

“Woods is a very intriguing prospect for Michigan, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound free safety that is rangy and big playmaking ability, but it’s obvious to say he could develop into a unique and big-time linebacker on the next level. If Harbaugh and company could add Top247 safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell alongside Woods they’d be extremely happy with safety recruiting this cycle. The 247Sports Composite ranks Woods as the country’s No. 26 safety.”

Woods is the eighth member of the 2017 class, joining defensive back Benjamin St.-Juste and linebacker Josh Ross on the defensive side of the ball. The addition of Woods and Dillon propels Michigan’s 2017 class from 14th to eighth in 247’s team rankings.

New in Blue: 2017 RB A.J. Dillon

Monday, March 28th, 2016


AJ Dillon(Lawrence Academy photo)

A.J. Dillon – RB | 6-1, 230 | Groton, Mass. (Lawrence Academy)
ESPN3-star, NR Rivals4-star, #16 RB 2474-star, #18 RB Scout: 3-star, #41 RB
247 Composite: 4-star, #19 RB
Other top offers: Notre Dame, Florida State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi State

Michigan landed two commitments last week and wasted no time kicking off this week with another. A.J. Dillon, a 2017 running back from Groton, Mass., pledged his commitment to the Wolverines on Monday morning.

Dillon is a four-star according to both Rivals and 247 and the 247 Sports Composite. ESPN and Scout both rate him as a three-star. Rivals ranks Dillon as the 16th-best running back in the class, while 247 ranks him 18th. Scout ranks him 41st and ESPN does not have him ranked yet.

At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Dillon has college size already. He’s two inches taller than De’Veon Smith is currently and the same weight. He’s the same height and 20 pounds heavier than Drake Johnson and Kareem Walker. And he’s the same weight but two inches shorter than Ty Isaac.

Scout lists Dillon’s strengths as balance, change of direction, foot quickness, hands, power, size, tackle-breaking ability, toughness and vision. They list his areas to improve as acceleration, breakaway speed, cutback ability, and elusiveness. Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Dillon is a rugged, tough, between-the-tackles runner who is difficult to bring down on first contact. He is thick and strong in the lower body, and tackles often bounce off of him. He has good vision and quick feet. He is able to make subtle moves and change direction in short space. He is best moving up the field and is a downhill runner. He secures the football well and he can break tackles. He does not have breakaway speed, but that does not matter. His ability to find the hole and get through it, and to run in traffic, stand out.”

247’s Clint Brewster also has high praise for Dillon:

“Dillon has college-ready size at 6-foot-1, and around 230-pounds. He’s got a nice frame and a chiseled body type. Dillon’s a hard-charging downhill running back that really pounds the rock. He doesn’t waste time hitting the hole and can move the pile. He plays with an old-school ruggedness that would fit well in a downhill running scheme like Michigan’s. Dillon’s got a real fluid jump-cut and nice maneuverability to get skinny through the hole when he needs to.”

The Lawrence Academy star has averaged 9.3 yards per carry while rushing for 3,255 yards and 47 touchdowns in the past two seasons, according to 247. He picked Michigan over offers from Notre Dame, Florida State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi State, and Virginia Tech, to name a few. He received his Michigan offer on Jan. 27 and visited Ann Arbor last weekend, sandwiched in between visits to Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Dillon is the second running back in the 2017 class, joining three-star Covington, Ga. back Kurt Taylor. He’s the seventh member of the class as a whole, the fifth of which on the offensive side of the ball.

New in Blue: 2017 LB Josh Ross

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016


Josh Ross(Scout.com)

Josh Ross – LB | 6-2, 225 | West Bloomfield, Mich. (St. Mary’s)
ESPN4-star, #11 OLB Rivals4-star, #9 OLB 2474-star, #6 ILB Scout: 4-star, #10 ILB
247 Composite: 4-star, #7 ILB
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisville, Arkansas

Just a day after stealing a 2018 recruit from Ohio, Michigan landed a 2017 commitment from its home state. Josh Ross, the younger brother of James Ross, who played out his Michigan eligibility this past fall, announced his commitment to the Wolverines.

Ross is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. 247 ranks him the highest as the sixth-best inside linebacker in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as the ninth-best outside linebacker, while Scout has him as the 10th-best inside, and ESPN the 11th-best outside. ESPN ranks Ross the highest nationally at 162nd, while 247 has him 173rd, Rivals 189th, and Scout 228th. Per the 247 Sports Composite, he’s the seventh-best inside ‘backer and 188th overall.

Scout lists Ross’ strengths as instincts, shedding ability, and tackling technique, and his areas to improve as pass coverage skills. They also say that he has room to improve.

“Physical linebacker who is best when coming forward. Takes on blocks with aggressiveness and leverage and likes contact. Anticipates well and shoots gaps. A sure tackler who wraps up and drives through the ball carrier. Can continue to get quicker and improve in pass coverage.”

Ross has visited Michigan several times over the past few years thanks to his brother, but has also visited the other in-state school, Michigan State, nearly as many times. His commitment to Michigan is a big in-state recruiting win for Jim Harbaugh over Mark Dantonio. Ross also held offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisville, Arkansas, and received an LSU offer a month ago.

Ross joins quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, tight end Carter Dunaway, running back Kurt Taylor, offensive lineman Ja’Raymond Hall, and defensive back Benjamin St-Juste as the current members of next year’s class. With spring practice culminating with the spring game under the lights next Friday, this likely won’t be the last commit in the next couple weeks.

New in Blue: 2018 LB Antwuan Johnson

Monday, March 21st, 2016


Antwuan Johnson

Antwuan Johnson – LB | 6-1, 210 | Springfield, Ohio (Springfield)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 2474-star, #3 ILB Scout: N/A
247 Composite: N/A
Other top offers: Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Bowling Green

The 2016 class isn’t even two months old, but Michigan already picked up its first member of the 2018 class. Springfield, Ohio linebacker Antwuan Johnson pledged his commitment to Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines on Monday evening and announced it via Twitter.

247 Sports is the only recruiting site that has released rankings for the 2018 class so far, and they have Johnson listed as a four-star, the nation’s third-best inside linebacker, and the 82nd-best player in the class. ESPN lists his 40-yard dash time as 4.89 from Nike’s The Opening 2015 in Columbus.

Johnson visited Michigan last weekend along with teammate Leonard Taylor, one of the nation’s top defensive linemen in the same class. Their high school coach, Maurice Douglass — a former Chicago Bears and New York Giants safety — was the head coach at Trotwood-Madison High School from 2001-14 and sent several players to Michigan, including Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, Brandon Moore, Mike McCray, and Reon Dawson. Last season, he left Trotwood to take over at Springfield, where he took over a team that hadn’t won more than two games in a season since 2010. The Wildcats went 3-7 last fall.

Johnson is the first commit in the 2018 class and will have two more seasons of high school ball before he steps foot on campus.