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Posts Tagged ‘Stanford’

History says Michigan’s “Harbaughfense” will be more explosive in Year 2

Thursday, September 1st, 2016


Last week we looked at how Don Brown’s scheme might affect Michigan’s defense. We learned that while it is indeed very aggressive, it is not a high-risk defense. I surmised that we can expect Michigan’s defense to eliminate roughly one big play allowed per game, which would theoretically result in three to seven points fewer per game, potentially taking an already very good Michigan defense into the elite stratosphere.

So of course this got me thinking about how Jim Harbaugh’s offense might develop from Year 1 to Year 2. Sadly, CFBStats does not have big play stats prior to 2010 so I couldn’t compare all of his Stanford teams. But we can still look at the 2010 team, or FULL Harbaugh as I’m going to call it, because it was his fourth season there and he had fully implemented his system with mostly his players. For good measure, and to give us a better idea of year to year progress, I also looked at his first two years in San Francisco and the year prior to his arrival.

Here is what I came up with.

The 2010 Stanford Cardinal offense averaged 5.8 big run plays per game (27th nationally) and 3.7 big pass plays per game (18th) for a total of 9.5 big plays per game (21st). The Cardinal’s big play percentage (total big plays divided by total offensive plays) was 13 percent, which was good for 22nd nationally. Not bad for something that looks like an offense from 1973, eh Joey Galloway? Oh, and by the way, Stanford went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl that season, dominating Virginia Tech 40-12 — the most points the Hokies allowed all season.

Stanford’s 2010 toxic differential (big plays for, minus big plays against, plus turnover margin) was 3.5 on a per game basis, which was good for 16th nationally. The BCS title game participants that year, Oregon and Auburn, were tied for second in toxic differential at 6.1. Teams that are around at the end tend to rank highly in this metric.

Obviously, these numbers don’t give us much context on year to year improvement without comparing them to his earlier years at Stanford but I’ll go out on a limb and say he made significant improvements across the board from 2006 (pre-Harbaugh) to 2010.

Now on to his San Francisco years. Disclaimer: The stats I will use here consider big runs as 10 or more yards, as we’ve already used, however they use 25 or more yards for big pass plays as that is what the NFL stats consider big pass plays. I also understand that comparing college to NFL is not an insignificant factor but it will illustrate my point just the same: Harbaugh’s teams get drastically better Year 1 to Year 2 and beyond. No, this is not an unheard of concept, but people like Paul Finebaum didn’t get the memo. I assume he’s an avid reader of this blog.

Side note: I did not break these stats down into per game as I did with the college stats as all NFL teams play the same amount of regular season games.

The season before Harbaugh arrived, the 49ers had 40 big run plays (24th in the league) and 36 big pass plays (5th) for a total of 76 big plays (17th) with a big play percentage of 8.04 percent (15th). In other words, the running game did not generate many big plays but the passing game did. Overall, the Niners were a very middle of the road team in terms of generating big plays.

Enter James Joseph Harbaugh. The 2011 49ers had 56 big run plays (9th) and 28 big pass plays (19th) for a total of 84 big plays (13th) with a big play percentage of 8.46 percent (12th). A massive improvement in the run category, a regression in the passing game, but overall it was a jump up just outside the top third of the league.

Year 2 of Harbaugh — 2012 — saw the 49ers break out with 81 big run plays (2nd) and 33 big pass plays (11th) for a total of 114 big plays (2nd) with a big play percentage of 11.76 percent, also good for 2nd best in the league. Year 2 saw another big improvement in the run game as well as the pass game.

To recap, from 2010 (pre-Harbaugh) to 2012, our guy took San Francisco from 24th in big run plays to 2nd in just two seasons. The passing game saw a dip from 5th to 19th before recovering back to 11th. And the overall big play percentage went from a middling 15th to a whopping 2nd. If that’s what a 1973 offense looked like, I’ll take that any day!

Standard caveats apply, but let’s look at San Francisco’s toxic differential from that time period too. In case you forgot, toxic differential is big plays for minus big plays against plus turnover margin — a useful measure to help further see the big picture.

Harbaugh’s first three seasons in San Francisco
Year Toxic Diff. Big Play Diff. T/O Margin Result
2010* 11 (9th)* +12* -1* Missed playoffs*
2011 56 (1st) +28 +28 NFC Championship Game
2012 72 (1st) +63 +9 Super Bowl Appearance
*Pre-Harbaugh, no playoff appearances in 9 seasons before Harbaugh arrived

I’m no rocket scientist but I think those numbers and results are pretty solid.

What does all this mean for Michigan? A few things. First, it means that Michigan’s offense is very likely to improve in the big play stat categories. Here’s a look at their 2015 offensive big play stats.

In 2015, Michigan had 3.6 big run plays per game (118th) and 3.7 big pass plays per game (40th) for a total of 7.3 big plays per game (100th) with a big play percentage of 10.49 percent (98th). Big plays in the passing game were solid but big plays in the running game and overall left much to be desired.

It won’t be hard to improve upon the pedestrian rushing and overall numbers, but I’m not so sure we can expect significant jumps, especially in the running category. Why not? For as much as I like De’Veon Smith he is not an elite running back. No one will confuse him with Toby Gerhart or Stepfan Taylor and most definitely not Frank Gore. I do think we will see improvement (only eleven teams had fewer big run plays per game than Michigan last year) but I don’t think they’ll crack the top 50. But as I said last week, an improvement of one big play more per game could, in theory, yield more points.

In conclusion, as if we didn’t already know, Jim Harbaugh’s teams get much better (what a novel concept) year to year. Now while I don’t expect this to be an explosive offense I fully expect the man who attacks each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind to take his offense to the next level. Combine that with a high-pressure, low-risk defense, and it backs up the expectation that Michigan could be in for a very special season.

New in Blue: 2016 CB David Long

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

David Long(247 Sports)

David Long – CB | 6-0, 175 | Los Angeles, Calif. – Loyola
ESPN: 4-star, #5 ATH Rivals: 4-star, #9 CB 247: 4-star, #8 CB Scout: 4-star, #5 CB
Other top offers: Washington, Stanford, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, Utah

With less than two weeks remaining until National Signing Day, Michigan picked up another piece of the puzzle with a commitment from Los Angeles, Calif. native David Long. The Loyola High School cornerback and U.S. Army All-American announced his commitment to Michigan over Washington on Thursday afternoon.

Long was previously committed to Stanford on Aug. 6, but that lasted just four months as he decommitted from the Cardinal on Dec. 18. Long officially visited Michigan for the Michigan State game on Oct. 17 and Michigan coaches have gone out to California for in-home visits with Crawford a few times since. After his decommitment from Stanford, it became a two-horse race between Michigan and Washington, where Crawford has visited twice in the past month.

Long is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting sites. Scout and 247 rank him the highest nationally as the 64th-best player in the class. Scout lists him as the sixth-best cornerback and 247 as the eight-best. Rivals ranks Long the ninth-best corner in the class and 91st overall, while ESPN lists him as the fifth-best athlete and 104th-best overall player in the class.

Long played in the U.S. Army All-American game on Jan. 9 and recorded an impressive interception.

Scout lists Long’s strengths as anticipation, change of direction, and hands, while noting that his main area to improve is coverage awareness. They expand on that with a nice breakdown.

“Long is a two-way player who emerged this past spring as an elite cover corner. Has all the physical tools you could want in a next level DB including size, quickness, top end speed, instincts and toughness. He’s a smart player with a high understanding of how to play the game and always competes at a high level. He’s smooth in his backpedal, shows explosiveness getting in and out of his breaks and has excellent recovery speed as well.”

At 6-foot, 175-pounds, Long has a couple of inches on Michigan’s All-American corner Jourdan Lewis, but is a couple inches shorter than Channing Stribling. Michigan returns all of its corners next fall, so Long won’t need to play a big role as a true freshman. But with Lewis and Jeremy Clark departing after next season, Long will have a chance to work into a starting role at that point.

New in Blue: 2016 WR Dylan Crawford

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

Dylan Crawford

Dylan Crawford – WR | 6-1, 186 | Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. – Santa Margarita Catholic
ESPN: 4-star, #23 WR Rivals: 4-star, #25 WR 247: 4-star, #21 WR Scout: 4-star, #23 WR
Other top offers: USC, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, Oklahoma, ND, Tennessee, Utah

Michigan’s impressive recruiting class continued on Saturday afternoon with a commitment from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. receiver Dylan Crawford. The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder chose the Wolverines over home-state schools USC, UCLA, and Stanford during the first quarter of the US Army All-American Bowl.

Crawford is a consensus four-star by the four major recruiting sites. All four have him ranked between the 21st and 25th best receiver in the class. Although Rivals ranks him the lowest at his position (25th) they have him the highest nationally as the 115th-best overall recruit in the class. Scout and 247 both list Crawford 131st overall and ESPN has him 179th.

According to MaxPreps, Crawford caught 54 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2013 for St. Francis High School. He transferred to Santa Margarita Catholic for his senior season this past fall where he caught 51 passes for 822 yards and seven touchdowns from four-star Stanford quarterback commit K.J. Costello.

247 Sports ranks Crawford’s best skills as agility and route running, giving him rankings of nine for both, with yards after catch, change of direction, ball skills, and hands right behind with eight each. Size (six) is his lowest attribute, though he’s currently about the same size as Michigan freshman wide receiver Grant Perry, who caught 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdowns this season.

With a loaded receiving corps returning for Michigan next fall, Crawford will have the opportunity to redshirt and learn from Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Perry before battling for a spot in 2017.

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 28

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Cardinals Stadium

Michigan’s College Football Playoff dreams took an enormous hit Saturday night when Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal split the uprights and cracked the Buckeyes in Columbus. The Wolverines not only lost a chance to control their own destiny in the Big Ten race, they also missed out on perhaps two opportunities to play against undefeated, top-five opponents.

Now everything falls into the hands of a Penn State that doesn’t look capable of keeping its star quarterback upright, let alone pulling off a monumental upset. Barring something insane, Michigan will have to settle for a nine or 10-win season, which is pretty incredible, considering the direction the program was trending the last seven years.

But until the final game clock hits zero, we’ll keep pursuing those slim championship hopes.

“I really, really need you”

In honor of Sanka Coffie from Cool Runnings, these teams completely hold Michigan’s fate in their hands. These are the teams that Michigan absolutely needs victories from on Saturday in order to keep the Wolverines’ CFP hopes alive. If even one of these teams falls, Michigan’s CFP dreams die.

No. 10 Michigan (home) over No. 8 Ohio State (12pm, ABC): As always, Michigan has to take care of its own business for any of this to even matter. Jim Harbaugh’s team has done nothing but improve all season and looks like it can compete with almost any team in the country. A win over Ohio State would make the 3:30 kick in East Lansing worth a glance.

Result: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 13

Penn State (away) over No. 5 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): This one probably isn’t happening. Michigan State looks to have really hit its stride heading into the final weeks of the season, and Penn State is just limping toward the finish line. If the Spartans win, it’ll be a Big Ten East title for Mark Dantonio.

Result: Michigan State 55 – Penn State 16

“It could happen!”

In honor of JP from Angels in the Outfield, this is the “It could happen” group. These are the teams Michigan is rooting for that have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday. Wins by these teams either help the Wolverines move up in the rankings or improve their resume (in order of kickoff time).

No. 4 Iowa (away) over Nebraska (3:30pm, ABC, Friday): On the off chance that Michigan does get into the Big Ten Championship game next week, it needs an undefeated Iowa, ranked in the top four, to boost its resume. A title game of that magnitude would really propel Michigan into the conversation during the final rankings.

Result: Iowa 28 – Nebraska 20

No. 19 TCU (home) over No. 7 Baylor (8pm, ESPN, Friday): This might be Michigan’s last chance to jump Baylor, as the Bears have only a home date with an awful Texas team remaining. A loss to TCU would put three of the four Big 12 contenders behind Michigan.

Result: TCU 28 – Baylor 21 (2OT)

No. 23 Utah (home) over Colorado (2:30pm, Pac12): Utah has been killing Michigan the last two weeks. Back-to-back losses to Arizona and UCLA has the Utes clinging to the edge of the top 25 and threatening to turn Michigan’s opening loss into a weak one. They cannot afford a loss to Colorado.

Result: Utah 20 – Colorado 14

No. 16 Northwestern (away) over Illinois (3:30pm, ESPNU): The Wildcats have done nothing but help Michigan since being blown out in back-to-back games to the Wolverines and Hawkeyes. Northwestern needs only a win over Illinois to cap off a 10-win regular season and give Michigan one of the best wins (considering the 38-0 score) of the entire football season.

Result: Northwestern 24 – Illinois 14

No. 13 Florida State (away) over No. 12 Florida (7:30pm, ESPN): Since Florida State’s resume pales in comparison to Michigan’s I don’t think a win over Florida would propel the Seminoles into the top 10. Florida, on the other hand, still has the slim chance to jump Michigan if it somehow knocks off Alabama in the SEC title game. A loss to FSU would take care of that worry.

Result: Florida State 27 – Florida 2

No. 9 Stanford (home) over No. 6 Notre Dame (7:30pm, FOX): This is a tough one, because Michigan should pass the loser no matter what if the Wolverines knock off Ohio State. But if Stanford beats Notre Dame, there’s still a chance the Cardinal might lose to UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 title game. That would lift Michigan over both teams if it wins out. Also, Stanford has no business being ranked above Michigan in the first place.

Result: Stanford 38 – Notre Dame 36

No. 11 Oklahoma State (home) over No. 3 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): There’s definitely a chance Oklahoma State would jump Michigan with a win over vastly over-ranked Oklahoma, but there’s also a chance the Wolverines would hold serve with a win over Ohio State. This is the only scenario that gives Michigan a legitimate shot to shoot above all four Big 12 contenders.

Result: Oklahoma 58 – Oklahoma State 23

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

In honor of Pepper Brooks, from Dodgeball, these are the true underdog stories. These teams have almost no chance to win, but if they do, it would really help Michigan.

South Carolina (home) over No. 1 Clemson (12pm, ESPN): Hey, it’s the last week of the regular season, why not root for some chaos? It’s not likely that Clemson can do anything to fall below Michigan at this point, but in a rivalry game, on the road, to a team coming off a loss to The Citadel, anything can happen.

Result: Clemson 37 – South Carolina 32

Auburn (home) over No. 2 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS): The Iron Bowl is one of the biggest crapshoots in college football, and a loss to a bad Auburn team would really put pressure on the committee to (finally) punish Alabama. Would the Crimson Tide fall below Michigan? It would certainly have to be under consideration if Michigan beat Ohio State.

Result: Alabama 29 – Auburn 13

North Carolina State (home) over No. 14 North Carolina (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): Despite two FCS games and a laughable loss to South Carolina in the nonconference season, North Carolina has ridden a 10-game winning streak over unranked opponents right into the top 15. If the Tarheels did the unthinkable and won the ACC, they might vault Michigan in the rankings. A loss to rival N.C. State would erase any chance of that happening.

Result: North Carolina 45 – N.C. State 34

Alarming CFP ranking mistakes cast shadow over wonderful weekend

Friday, November 20th, 2015

CFP banner

Week 12 of the 2015 college football season embodied everything that’s great about college sports. Four of the top 10 teams fell in upset fashion and seven additional games featuring ranked teams were decided by a single score. Two teams, Michigan and Utah, played into double overtime on the road. Kansas, 0-10 on the season, had three chances to knock off one of the Big 12’s best teams on the road.

The weekend was perfect, but Tuesday night was not.

At this time of year, Tuesdays become almost as important as what happens on the field on Saturdays. Tuesday nights are when the College Football Playoff committee releases its weekly rankings and reveal which teams have the chance to play for the National Championship.

The committee is given the most important job in college sports. I won’t bore you with details, but thousands of students and coaches dedicate their lives to each season. Hundreds of millions are spent (and more importantly, earned) through games, travel, television deals and merchandise. This entire process is held together by the common aspiration of every major program in the country: To win championships.

Despite all the chaos that happens on the field, the committee’s job is relatively simple. They put two resumes next to each other, and the better one is ranked higher. Is it the committee’s job to guess which teams are the best? No. The ranking process should be all about resumes. If it’s not, then what’s the point of playing the games?

In spite of the beautiful simplicity of this process, the committee still manages to make baffling mistakes each and every week. It harks on criteria like head-to-head outcomes, scores against common opponents and strength of schedule, yet when the rankings are released, those factors seem to take a back seat to a more ambiguous placement process.

It’s not the committee’s job to get most of the rankings right, it’s the committee’s job to get all of the rankings right. If you disagree, just talk to the players who poured their hearts and souls into 12 fall Saturdays only to finish below a team that didn’t have as strong of a season. When the committee can’t correctly rank Nos. 10-25, why should we have any faith it’ll pick the right teams for the final four?

Before you read any further, remember: This is my opinion on the rankings, and yes, I know only the final top 25 matters. But the weeks leading up to that reveal are important because they set the stage and give us a look at how the committee operates.

Take a look at some of the problems I found in this week’s rankings.

(3) Ohio State ranked above (5) Iowa
Ohio State logo new  Iowa logo
10-0 (6-0) Record 10-0 (6-0)
0-0 vs Top 25 2-0
59 SOS 53
22.6 Scoring Margin 15.2
1 Record vs P5 teams over .500 3
Penn State
N. Illinois
W. Michigan
Best Wins at #20 Northwestern
at #25 Wisconsin

One of the simplest mistakes the committee has made in the first three weeks concerns the Big Ten, which features four top-12 teams.

The conference’s remaining undefeated teams, Ohio State and Iowa, would eventually have to meet in the conference championship game, should they both continue to win. But even so, their placement is an example of the committee refusing to use solid evidence in the rankings.

Do I think Iowa is a better team than Ohio State? Absolutely not. But Iowa has three wins over power five teams with at least seven victories, two of which came against ranked teams on the road. Ohio State, on the other hand, has only one win against a winning power five team: A home win over 7-3 Penn State. The best three wins on Iowa’s resume came at (20) Northwestern and (25) Wisconsin and against Pittsburgh. Ohio State’s best three wins came at home against Penn State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

So how does Ohio State land in the top four while Iowa sits on the outside looking in? There really isn’t a good answer. The Hawkeyes went on the road and dismantled the 20th-ranked Wildcats by 30 points last month. The only teams Ohio State beat by 30 were Hawaii and Rutgers.

Sure, this will work itself out on Dec. 5 if the teams meet in Indianapolis. But what if these teams weren’t in the same conference? It’s alarming that the committee feels it can take matters into its own hands instead of letting the play on the field determine who makes the top four.

(11) Stanford ranked above (12) Michigan
Stanford Logo Maize M
8-2 (7-1) Record 8-2 (5-1)
2-2 vs Top 25 1-2
40 SOS 37
15.0 Scoring Margin 17.8
at #22 USC (41-31) Best Win #20 Northwestern (38-0)
at #20 Northwestern
#23 Oregon
Losses Current #13 Utah
#9 Michigan State

Here’s the most indefensible example of the committee completely whiffing on teams with identical records and completely different resumes.

Let’s break down both bodies of work. Michigan’s two losses came to the 9th and current 13th-ranked teams in the country and Stanford’s two losses came to the 20th and 23rd-ranked teams in the country.

Was Stanford more competitive in those loses? Well, the Cardinal lost its season opener by 10 points. The Wolverines lost their first game of an entirely new system by a touchdown. Stanford lost to Oregon after being outplayed from start to finish. Michigan lost to Michigan State after outplaying the Spartans start to finish.

Okay, so it’s not because of the losses.

Maybe Stanford has a better win? Strike two. Stanford’s best victory came over the 24th-ranked team in the country. Michigan blew out the 20th-ranked team in the country.

How about their performances against common opponents, which is specifically outlined as one of the main criterion of the rankings? Michigan finished 2-0 against the common opponents (Northwestern and Oregon State) with a combined score of 73-7. Stanford finished 1-1 with a combined score of 48-40. The Wolverines beat Northwestern by 38 points and Stanford lost to Northwestern by 10 points. That’s a 48-point difference.

But it’s not enough for the committee. Jeff Long and company can’t even build a top 25 by the standards they created. Michigan has a far better resume than Stanford, but the committee threw the Cardinal one spot ahead of the Wolverines. Strike three.

(17) North Carolina ranked above (20) Northwestern
 UNC NorthwesternLogo
9-1 (6-0) Record 8-2 (4-2)
0-0 vs Top 25 1-2
101 SOS 21
22.6 Scoring Margin 15.2
at Pittsburgh (29-16) Best Win #15 Stanford (16-6)
South Carolina Losses at #14 Michigan
#6 Iowa

Now I’ll give you an example of the committee completely overreacting to one week. On Tuesday, it announced that North Carolina, previously ranked 23rd, jumped up six spots to 17th.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Wow, which top 10 team did the Tarheels knock off to earn such a jump?’ Actually, all UNC did was knock off one of the biggest dumpster fires of the season, Miami, at home. How does a win over a team that’s lucky – and I mean LUCKY (see Miami’s win over Duke) – to have an above .500 record vault North Carolina over a team like Northwestern?

North Carolina hasn’t played a single ranked team this season. In fact, UNC’s best win came over a Pittsburgh team that has one win over an above .500 team. The Tarheels spent their preconference season playing two FCS schools and two bottom-feeder power five teams. Oh yeah, and they lost to a 3-7 team.

Meanwhile, Northwestern already played three teams ranked in the top 12 of the playoff rankings, including a comfortable 10-point win over Stanford. The Wildcats also won at Duke before the Blue Devils had the wind taken out of their sails by the officials in the Miami game. For good measure, Pat Fitzgerald’s team won at Nebraska and knocked off seven-win Penn State.

Sure, Northwestern has two losses and North Carolina only has one. But as we’ve seen in Alabama’s rise to No. 2, that isn’t the most important factor in the rankings. It’s flooring that a win over a team as bad as Miami can boost North Carolina over a team that’s played a much better schedule and has much better wins.

(21) Memphis loses… but doesn’t fall

When I saw Memphis ranked at No. 21 in this week’s polls, I couldn’t help but laugh.

After getting dumped by Navy – by a score of 45-20 – Memphis fell eight spots to No. 21 in week 11. This weekend, the Tigers blew a huge 4th-quarter lead to Houston and lost their second straight game. But despite the two-game losing streak and the clear exposing of this team’s defense (80 points allowed in the last two weeks), Memphis didn’t fall a single spot in the rankings.

Here’s the kicker: Memphis didn’t even lose to a team ranked higher in the rankings. The committee ranked undefeated Houston 24th in week 11 and Memphis lost to Houston. Clearly, that means Memphis isn’t as good as the committee thought. But there isn’t any accountability for the loss.

How can you lose a game and not be penalized? That’s a world of college football I don’t want to live in. Most of these teams will have a chance to move up over the next few weeks, but that doesn’t change the clear miscues the committee has made through three weeks.

College football deserves a committee that can get this right. Every season is a clean slate and teams that earn the right to compete for a title this year should be given the chance to do so by the committee. If not, the playoff is no better than the BCS.

New in Blue: Stanford CB transfer Wayne Lyons

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Wayne Lyons

Wayne Lyons – CB | 6-1, 193 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Dillard (Stanford University)
ESPN: 4-star, #7 Saf, 81 grade Rivals: 4-star, #6 Saf 247: 4-star, #4 Saf Scout: 4-star, #8 Saf
Other top offers: Stanford, Nebraska, UCLA, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida
*Class of 2011

Wayne Lyons became the second transfer to sign with Michigan since signing day Tuesday, joining D.J. Durkin’s defense as a fifth-year cornerback. Lyons spent the last four years at Stanford University, playing 41 games from 2012-2014 after his freshman season was cut short due to a broken foot.

Lyons’ calling card is his athleticism. He played both linebacker and cornerback in high school, so his tackling and ball-hawking skills help him stay with bigger receivers. He also ran track and specialized in hurdles, giving Michigan a dangerous speed combination to go with Jourdan Lewis.

Lyons picked up 30 tackles in 13 games last season, breaking up three passes and forcing a fumble. He recorded 69 tackles as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

As a four-star recruit, Lyons was a top-10 cornerback out of Florida. He joins a Michigan secondary that lost starting cornerback Raymon Taylor to graduation and returns 2014 standout Lewis, senior Blake Countess, and gets mega-hyped Jabrill Peppers back from injury.

Harbaugh comes home

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Harbaugh 49ers(Getty Images)

Michigan’s football season ended nearly a month ago, but the program landed its biggest win of the season on Monday when San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh landed in Detroit with his family to accept the same position at Michigan.

The move had been rumored for weeks as Michigan insiders gradually raised their odds with each passing day and NFL insiders maintained their stance that other NFL teams would swoop in and land the former Michigan quarterback. But John U. Bacon tweeted the first solid confirmation on Saturday night, ESPN’s John Clayton stated on Sunday morning on ESPN Radio that Harbaugh had begun contacting possible assistants, and Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman confirmed on Sunday afternoon. Harbaugh himself made it official on Monday, a day after closing his 49ers tenure with a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 19th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 20th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in his four years in San Francisco, taking the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVIII, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship game in 2011 and 2013. His winning percentage of .698 ranks fifth in NFL history behind only Guy Chamberlain (.784 from 1922-27), John Madden (.763 from 1969-78), Vince Lombardi (.738 from 1959-69), and George Allen (.712 from 1966-77).

Prior to the NFL, Harbaugh turned around a suffering Stanford program, taking a team that went 1-11 in 2006 to four straight seasons with improving records. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 in his second, 8-5 in his third, and 12-1 in his fourth, finishing second in the Pac-10 and beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He jumped to the NFL following that season, but the roster he recruited went on to records of 11-2, 12-2, and 11-3 in the next three seasons.

Harbaugh did the same at the University of San Diego before Stanford, taking a team that had achieved just 10 seven-plus win seasons since 1956 and going 7-4, 11-1, 11-1 in his three seasons. The latter two were USD’s first double-digit win seasons in program history.

Harbaugh also spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for his father at Western Kentucky while finishing his NFL playing career, and officially began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002-2003.

As a player, Harbaugh started 140 games in 14 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers. He totaled 26,288 passing yards and 129 touchdowns and ranks second in Bears history in completions (1,023), attempts (1,759), and third in yards (11,567). He was also inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2005.

Harbaugh is most beloved in Ann Arbor for his playing days at Michigan under Bo Schembechler when he led the Wolverines to a 24-4-1 record as a starter. He led the nation in pass efficiency in 1985 while leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and Fiesta Bowl victory. The following season, he finished third in the Heisman trophy voting and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He became the first Michigan quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game and finished his career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdown passes.

Harbaugh becomes the 20th head coach in the 136 year history of Michigan football, replacing Brady Hoke, who went 31-20 in four seasons. He will reportedly be officially introduced on Tuesday at a 12 p.m. press conference and again during that afternoon’s basketball game against Illinois, which tips off at 3 p.m.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis in the days to come.

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman Aubrey Dawkins

Monday, November 10th, 2014


Michigan Basketball is right around the corner, and it’s time now to start looking at the new and returning Wolverines as we begin to preview the upcoming 2014-15 season. As in the past, we will begin by taking a look at the unknowns – the freshmen – and continue with position-by-position breakdowns featuring the rest of the squad and conclude with a complete season preview, including our picks for breakout players, team MVP, record, postseason finish, and more. Get excited!

Next up is freshman wing Aubrey Dawkins.
Previously: Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

#24 Aubrey Dawkins
Measurements 6’6″, 190 7/18/14 Men's basketball promos
Hometown Palo Alto, Calif.
High School Palo Alto HS
High School Stats (2012-13) 18.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists per game
Prep School New Hampton Prep
Prep School Stats (2013-14) 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists per game
AAU Arizona Magic
Projected Position(s) Wing
Committed April 28, 2014
Major Suitors Dayton, Rhode Island
Chance of Redshirt 40 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals NR
Scout 3-star – NR
ESPN 2-star – Overall: NR, Position: 101, State: 53 (Calif), Grade: 65
247 3-star – Overall: NR, Position: 71, State: 8 (N.H.), Grade: 84
247 Composite 2-star – Overall: 385, Position: 88, State: 11

Background: Aubrey Dawkins is the son of former Duke great and current Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins, but he certainly didn’t achieve the fame his father did before stepping on campus.

In high school, Aubrey was dwarfed by his 6’2″ father. Standing at just 5’8″ through his sophomore season at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California, Dawkins was less than a blip on the recruiting radar of any colleges. In the blink of an eye, however, Aubrey shot past his dad, growing to 6’5″ by the time his senior season hit full stride at Palo Alto High, and 6’6″ today. After putting up strong scoring and rebounding numbers in his final two years of high school, Aubrey Dawkins was yearning for more interest from the next level.

Instead, however, the younger Dawkins, like Spike Albrecht before him, had to go to prep school after graduating from high school to attract major college attention. He chose to fly coast-to-coast to powerhouse NEPSAC program New Hampton Prep in New Hampton, New Hampshire — the one-time home of former Wolverine Evan Smotrycz.

In prep school, Dawkins’s game continued to evolve, and his shooting and athleticism, along with his ideal size, pedigree, and exposure, figured to turn him into a more coveted prospect.

But the season in New Hampshire merely turned up mid-major offers from the likes of Rhode Island and Dayton — respectable programs, to be sure, but far from elite.

Enter John Beilein’s watchful eye.

With a few roster spots still available on Michigan’s 2014-15 roster, Beilein kept his options open and reached out to Dawkins after the Maize and Blue’s Elite Eight finish in March. The scouting and scouring paid off, as Dawkins didn’t take long to buy what the Wolverines were selling despite having been recruited much longer by the Flyers of Dayton.

On April 28, Dawkins pledged to spend his college years in Ann Arbor and signed in the late signing period a little more than a week after. With his prayers answered, Dawkins’s future is now his own to write.


What He Will Provide:

1. Athleticism: Michigan lost hyper-athlete Glenn Robinson III to the NBA this offseason, but Dawkins should be able to replace a good deal of that. It’s not hard to see in any of his highlight videos that Dawkins can simply jump out of the gym. Beilein’s offense has developed more and more over the years to include increased fast break and alley-oop opportunities, as he’s recruited better athletes, and it should be no different this year. With a very young team, the coach will obviously be quick to pull the leash on anyone throwing up wild alley-oop attempts, but with the way Dawkins jumps, he won’t miss many. Dawkins’s quickness and prep school experience should also help him develop into a plus-defender in time.

2.Shooting: At this point in his career, Dawkins is not the most comfortable player with the ball in his hands driving to the basket, but he will benefit immensely from players like Derrick Walton, Caris LeVert, and Spike Albrecht, who will all be able to find him sitting on the perimeter waiting to kill the defense for leaving him open. Dawkins possesses an easy stroke and a quick release that doesn’t need much work. If he can knock down his outside shots with consistency, he’ll work his way into minutes, and he looks capable of stretching the defense at this point.

What He Will Have to Work On:

1.Ball-handling: There’s plenty of video on Dawkins out there, but there’s not a whole lot of him dribbling. That’s usually a sign that a player has work to do on his handles, and ESPN’s scouting report says as much:

“If Dawkins wants to take his game to another level, he must get better handling pressure while dribbling. His handle can get sloppy when defenders get into him-especially when he goes left.”

2. Strength: It’s great to be a shooter in Beilein’s offense, and it’s always a plus to be an athlete, but to excel at the highest level, Dawkins will need to be comfortable putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hole on occasion as well. With guys like Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin in front of him, Dawkins has to provide something those players can’t to see significant time this season. Both of them can shoot as well as, if not better than, Dawkins at this point, and are probably better slashers as well. Look for Dawkins to really focus on becoming a lockdown defender and diversifying his offensive game.

Burning Question: Can Dawkins win the back-up spot to Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert?

It’s safe to assume right now that LeVert and Irvin will both be starting on the wings and play 30+ minutes per game. But that leaves probably 10-15 minutes a night. Aubrey Dawkins has the size, shooting, and athleticism to compete for that handful of minutes, but he’ll be going against fellow freshmen Kam Chatman and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Spike Albrecht on occasion.

Stat Predictions: 1.0 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 turnovers, 45% FG, 36% 3pt., 75% FT, 5 minutes per game

Bottom Line: Dawkins is very similar to a freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr. a few years back, but he doesn’t have as easy a path to playing time as the NBA sophomore did. John Beilein certainly loves Dawkins’s shooting and leaping abilities right now, and like Abdur-Rahkman, I think Dawkins will play spot minutes, but he’ll be hard-pressed to find consistent playing time with a few experienced guards in his way.

Holding On: Michigan 68 – Stanford 65

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013


Michigan and Stanford faced off in Brooklyn on Saturday night, the former looking for a quality non-conference win to add to its resume and the latter seeking a second straight quality win. For much of the game, Michigan fans were surely seeing flashbacks to last Saturday’s narrow loss to top-ranked Arizona.

The parallels were there. Michigan held a close lead for most of the game, was finally able to widen the lead a bit midway through the second half, but the opponent came back in the closing minutes.

This time, however, the Wolverines were able to close out the game and come away with a 68-65 victory. Though not the signature victory beating Arizona or Duke would have been, it will be favorable on Michigan’s NCAA Tournament resume come March, and even more so if Stanford (8-3) challenges for the Pac-12 title as is certainly possible.

Michigan was held scoreless for the first 4:15 as Stanford jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Glenn Robinson III finally got Michigan on the board with a jumper and Nik Stauskas followed that with a three to tie the game. Robinson split a pair of free throws on each of Michigan’s next two possessions  to give the Wolverines a 7-5 lead. Stanford tied it up after a nearly seven minute scoring drought, but Zak Irvin hit a three to put Michigan back on top, 10-7.

Nik Stauskas led the way with 19 points (

From there, Michigan never relinquished the lead, although Stanford prevented the Wolverines from pulling away. Every time Michigan threatened, the Cardinal responded. A Jordan Morgan layup and another Irvin three put Michigan ahead 15-9, but Stanford got a pair of threes sandwiched around two Robinson free throws.

Michigan scored the next six to take an eight-point lead, but once again Stanford pulled within two. Irvin answered with his third three of the day and Morgan slammed home a dunk and Michigan took a 30-27 lead into the half.

Stanford scored the first points of the second to cut the lead to one, but Derrick Walton Jr. answered to preserve the lead. With just over 16 minutes remaining, Stanford once again pulled within one, but over the next five minutes Michigan widened the lead to nine at 51-42. Four minutes later, a Spike Albrecht three gave the Wolverines a double-digit lead at 56-46. With just seven minutes remaining it appeared Michigan had taken control of the game.

But Stanford wasn’t done. The Cardinal started chipping away at the lead. A Chasson Randle jumper at the 2:21 mark made it a two point game. Albrecht hit a pair of free throws, but Caris LeVert fouled Randle as he drove to the basket. Randle made one of two. On the other end, LeVert was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. On the rebound, Morgan fouled out and Stanford made one of two to pull within 64-62.

Robinson III got the ball at the top of the key and the rest of the team spread out, allowing Robinson to drive to the basket. He made a left-handed layup to put Michigan ahead by four with 14 seconds remaining. Randle answered with a layup and was fouled by Irvin. He made the free throw to pull within one with nine seconds left.

Stauskas was fouled on the inbounds pass and he calmly sank both free throws. A last second heave by Randle was no good and Michigan hung on for the three-point victory.

Stauskas led all scorers with 19 points, while Robinson III added 17 and Irvin was the only other Wolverine in double digits with 12. Robinson and Irvin each added six rebounds, while Stauskas dished out four assists and grabbed two steals. Morgan scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds in 24 minutes of action in place of the injured Mitch McGary. Jon Horford, who got the start, fouled out in just six minutes while scoring just two points and grabbing no boards.

As a team, Michigan shot just 40.4 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from downtown. Irvin made four of Michigan’s eight threes. Michigan equaled Stanford on the boards at 32 despite a size disadvantage. The Wolverines had a 16-8 assist-to-turnover rate while forcing 12 Stanford turnovers.

At 7-4, Michigan will close out the non-conference portion of its schedule next Saturday at home against Holy Cross (6-5). The game will be televised on Big Ten Network at 6:30pm EST.

Final Game Stats
01 Glenn Robinson III* 6-10 1-4 4-8 2 4 6 0 17 2 0 0 1 36
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 2-5 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 2 4 1 1 0 0 21
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-11 2-7 9-9 0 1 1 0 19 4 2 0 2 36
05 Jon Horford* 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 5 2 1 0 0 0 6
23 Caris LeVert* 0-7 0-3 1-4 0 4 4 1 1 5 3 1 2 30
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 1-3 2-2 0 0 0 3 5 2 1 0 0 17
21 Zak Irvin 4-9 4-8 0-0 2 4 6 2 12 0 1 0 0 18
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 2 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 12
52 Jordan Morgan 3-5 0-0 2-2 2 3 5 5 8 1 0 0 1 24
Totals 21-52 8-27 18-26 9 23 32 22 68 16 8 1 6 200
Stanford 22-48 4-10 17-20 5 27 32 19 65 9 12 4 2 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Stanford

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Michigan entered this 2013-14 college basketball season as a consensus top-15 squad, but so far, they have not lived up to the lofty expectations. After making it all the way to the NCAA Championship game earlier this year, the Wolverines are clearly missing their star point guard from a year ago and have yet to record a noteworthy win on the season. Now with four losses already in the books, Michigan needs to start digging themselves out of the small hole they find themselves in. The first opportunity to start that journey is tonight, as the Wolverines travel to the Barclays Center for a clash with a quality 8-2 Stanford Cardinal team (8:30pm on Fox Sports 1). Here are my three thoughts on tonight’s match-up.

Contain Chasson: Much has been made recently of the struggles of this Michigan team in finding a reliable point guard. Freshman Derrick Walton has started every game of the regular season thus far, but his inability to facilitate strong offense in the half court has become increasingly apparent and his turnovers are also concerning. Spike Albrecht is the other option, and while the offense seems to run smoother with the native Indianan on the floor, Michigan becomes vulnerable to attacking guards with the sophomore running the show. John Beilein’s solution to the problem thus far has been to ride the hot hand, and we should see much of the same tonight. With Stanford’s size, however, a bigger lineup featuring Caris LeVert at point guard and two bigs could be deployed frequently this evening.

Johnny Dawkins' squad picked up a signature win at #10 UConn on Wednesday (Jared Wickerham, Getty Images)

Stanford, on the other hand, has had no problems figuring out who their contributors are, and it all begins at the point guard spot. Sophomore Chasson Randle has been money all season, averaging 18.6 points per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from downtown. At just 6’2″, Randle is Stanford’s shortest starter by four inches and would normally draw the opposing team’s point guard, but the answer tonight might be to put LeVert on him and hope to limit his shots. In Stanford’s blowout loss to Pittsburgh, Randle only mustered 10 points on eight shots, but in this week’s massive win over UConn, Randle poured in 22 on 16 shots. Three other Cardinal players, Anthony Brown, Dwight Powell, and Josh Heustis, are also consistently good scorers, but Randle is the one to get everything going. If Michigan can successfully limit Randle’s looks, the Wolverines should pull out a victory, as the Stanford star only tallies two assists per game.

Want it More: Sometimes a basketball game simply comes down to willpower. Tonight, Michigan finds itself in what most are calling a must-win game, and with a crowd that should favor the Wolverines, the Maize and Blue need to bring lots of energy. Mitch McGary has been the guy to bring that energy seemingly everyday, but with a recent spat of injuries, McGary will most likely not be 100 percent tonight. Michigan can ill afford to lose five games before Big Ten season even rolls around, and while three of Michigan’s losses so far have been to high-quality opponents, the time is now for Michigan to show that it can win a game from start to finish. The loose balls, hustle points, and free throws all need to be going Michigan’s way if this team is to compete in the long haul.

Shoot the Lights Out: In losses to Iowa State, Charlotte, and Duke, Michigan’s struggles can basically be boiled down to poor shooting, as the Wolverines never shot better than 27 percent from deep. Tonight, Nik Stauskas and company are going to need to let it fly from long range with confidence. On paper and on film, Michigan is the better team, but their road woes so far are cause for concern. Last season’s games at the Barclays Center saw Michigan shoot very well, but the Wolverines simply haven’t found their offensive groove away from Crisler. With Stanford turning the ball over 12 times per game, and 30 total times in their two losses, Michigan needs to create some havoc on defense, run the floor, and find easy fast break layups and threes.

Prediction: A loss tonight for Michigan could potentially spell doom for their postseason aspirations, but a win would give them a quality neutral court win that should give the Wolverines some confidence with just two weeks to go until conference play begins. I think Nik Stauskas scores 20-plus and Michigan plays two bigs with LeVert at the same time for extended periods of time. It should be a competitive game for a while, but Michigan pulls away midway through the second half for a 78-67 win.