Hitting the Links Goes Hollywood
I'll admit, this was very impressive.
For a program that does not have Michigan's boosters, this is smart money-raising. It also begs the question what colleges sign up for when they try to compete in the world of Division-I athletics.
Auburn was the second school to install an HD display in 2007, after Texas's 'Godzillatron.' Also, fun fact: Jordan-Hare was almost named Petrie Stadium in 1947.
Some people have worried about a sizable number of commitments - in fact, much more than we have room for - but part of that is simply that Harbaugh, unlike Hoke, will plan for and protect himself from all the future curveballs that come about during recruiting. Creating a class that can handle attrition keeps pressure on the commits, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and encourages recruits to keep their options open if Michigan does, at a later point, back off. By itself, aggressive recruiting is above board, as long as everyone does their homework and has a back-up plan.
The situation with Ondre Pipkins, though, is a different ball game, because he was already a member of the team and living in Ann Arbor for several years. Some fans have said there are no benefits to pressuring Pipkins into signing a medical scholarship, but that's not really true. Harbaugh could have pursued another graduate transfer, or more likely, he could have backloaded a scholarship from 2016 - which is looking like it might blow past the limit of 25 for one class. Other fan bases who are not fans of Michigan took notice of the Ondre Pipkins situation, and if Michigan is going to be doing questionable practices, they certainly won't have any high ground to attack SEC coaches who do the same thing ... or SEC fans who believe their programs are inculpable.
Regardless of all the various mud slinging involved (and that certainly seems to take over conversations like this), no one will actually know the details that led to Pipkins' departure because of patient privacy and the complicated nature of doctors' decisions. No one will know if Harbaugh is really just looking out for his player, or how healthy Pipkins really is. But this begs a certain change in the system. Multiple times, college football players have turned to the media this off-season to express their displeasure with program politics that leave them uprooted and having to change colleges. This is an NCAA issue, not a media issue; there is no way that even dedicated fans can discern who's right and wrong is an argument that arises between coach, doctor, and player.
Instead, there has to be a qualified medical board, organized by the NCAA, that a player can appeal to when they feel their case has been unjustly handled. (There should also be a minimum level of education about a player's options when working through medical decisions that could affect him for the rest of his life.) The media, and fans, are woefully under-equipped to put on a stethoscope and play doctor in situations like this. That's not the fans' job. It is the NCAA's job, however, to maintain a level of safety for student-athletes and give them a basic college experience. And if one player is a victim of an 85-person max and a stiff knee (and many, many players will find themselves there at some point), he shouldn't have to leave town or sign away his ability to play the game because there's a hot new prospect in town. That's true for Michigan, and the SEC, and everyone else.
ESPN talked to James Franklin about taking Penn State from old-school to new cool, while SI gets into more detail about the technology available at programs' disposal.
Alabama and Florida State have won recruiting day convincingly for years now, but both schools have had more than a couple issues in spite of it; ranging from depth in the front seven (Florida State, where almost everyone last year was a blue-chip), the secondary (Alabama, same), and quarterback, where depth has looked shaky for both schools. Alabama suddenly has worries at running back, of all positions, because Tyren Jones was arrested and dismissed, DeSherrius Flowers was ruled academically ineligible, Bo Scarbrough tore his ACL and Altee Tenpenny transferred.
Shaw admitted to not using his offense properly last year, when the play-making came on the outside rather than up the middle. There's little to indicate they've diversified their playbook since then, though. Instead, the Cardinal are hoping that another year of work means a successful return to five yards and a cloud of dust.
Michigan and Alabama are anything but rivals; they've only faced four times, and are 2-2 in those games. Still, the games tend to be memorable, and the fans seem to remember each other. Maybe it's the historic nature of both programs, or the streak of pride that goes a long way to defining each fan base. Maybe it's the culture differences. Regardless, somewhere in the recesses of this non-rivalry, both schools like aiming at each other.
The 1987 Wolverines beat the Crimson Tide by four, capping a 7-4 season led by Gary Moeller and 1,700-yard rusher Jamie Morris. In 1996, the Tide beat Michigan by three, in a game where the dagger came on a 46-yard run by Shaun Alexander, a future NFL MVP. In 2000, Tom Brady threw for 369 yards in a comeback, overtime thriller. Only the most recent 41-14 drubbing was an easy win, and it turns out every Bama offensive starter in that game is now in the NFL.
If SEC recruiting interests you, the tables on each page are very informative. LSU is good for some star-gazing; they also have two commits in 2017, both of whom are composite five-star defenders.
Landon Collins and Ereck Flowers are finding the League is a very different beast than the SEC or the ACC.
Battle isn't especially strong, relying instead on his great agility and length. In that way, he's the inverse of this year's #5 pick, Iowa's Brandon Scherff, whose road-grading may suit him better at guard at the next level. Still, Battle's potential is on par with that of Scherff, in my opinion. He's a very good, pure tackle.
ESPN is taking a new vehicle for a spin, their Future Power Rankings. Still, the conversation that's come from it has been worthwhile, none more so than this look at SEC football in the modern (2015-2020) world.
I had a feeling 2015 might end up as the year of the running back, not just in the Pac-12 (as this article wonders) but throughout college football. Rarely have there been this many legitimate Heisman candidates: Leonard Fournette leading LSU's offense, Nick Chubb directing Georgia's attack, and Ezekiel Elliott capturing hearts and minds at OSU. Oregon and Florida State have quarterback voids as well as sophomore dynamite in Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook. Michigan will be bringing clouds of dust back in style, and Alabama might be forced to turn more to the ground game - with their top three wide-outs and their starting quarterback gone.
Both teams wear black and orange, are overshadowed by a big in-state brother, have played an almost identical number of games (1,114 for OSU, 1,129 for OSU), and boast a single Heisman winner but zero national titles. It's as if Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Javier Bardem married Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry.
This fall, a hilarious new comedy is coming to BTN. A five-star quarterback down on his luck, an Australian-born punter adjusting to America, and a wallaby try to figure out the nuances of college life, love, and how to revive a proud, historic program from knee-slapping, groan-worthy ineptitude. Also starring Kaley Cuoco.
Before he was the Rock, Johnson was a college football player for the University of Miami. When he was with the Canes, they won a national title in 1991.