Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Signing Day, As I Peel Myself Away From Chair and Keyboard

At about 8:00 tonight, I finally reached my limit of all things football for one day. After waking up at 6:45 a.m. like a kid on Christmas, I've spent most of my day in a chair strategically positioned in front of a laptop and a tablet with multiple tabs opened, in view of the TV (CBS Sports Signing Day, muted) and the radio tuned to WTKA 1050 and the Michigan Insider. I broke away for just an hour to go outside and run the snowblower - and a few minutes here and there to feed and water myself. I can honestly say, I gave far more attention for a longer period of time to NSD than I do anything in my real job! Hopefully Sparty boss never figures out who MGoGirl really is.

So, I'm signing off after recording a few thoughts on Jim Harbaugh's first Michigan NSD. I guess if I have to summarize my feelings in a couple words it would be content and hopeful.

I know. That doesn't sound like over-the-moon joy, but I don't want it to sound like I'm upset either. It was harder than I thought to take the advice of my own previous post and feel "serenity now." I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind that Chris Clark and Mike Weber were making big mistakes. I also found myself assuming the defensive Brandonesque posture a couple times today: "I'm glad you found a new team [you ungrateful little punk]. We'll be fine without you [we really didn't want you anyway]. Have a happy life [pulling pine splinters out of your butt riding the bench]." But in the end, I did heed my own advice and I'm rather happy with our little 2015 class. And 2016 should prove even better.

Here are a few of my Signing Day take-aways: 
  • Where do I Sign? Several commits signed very quickly this morning and according to Harbaugh, some have adorable childhood Michigan "love" stories. Their urgency to say "yes" reminded me of my own quick turnaround after getting the acceptance letter I'd been watching for in the mail like a L'il Orphan Annie Decoder Ring. For some of these guys, they're living a childhood dream. And that's something everyone should experience.
  • Kate Upton's Is Bigger. Many talking heads call the loss of Clark, Weber, and several other "stars" a tragedy for Jim Harbaugh's first class - making it sound like the whole effort was one big bust. I beg to disagree. I think with the talent Hoke already committed and the additions Harbaugh snagged, we'll be fine. If Dantonio can coach up a 3* and win, I'm fairly confident our coach will do even better. 
  • Chris Clark - if he wants to play a lot as a TE at UCLA and play 4 years with Mora as HC, he may be deluding himself. I hope Jay Harbaugh's juvenile tweets didn't scare him away from Tight End U. It helps getting Wheatley and something tells me, Ty Jr. won't be slacking. 
  • Mike Weber - it was almost sad watching his announcement and he looked tired, confused, and detached. I think he was stressed to the max, getting pulled in two directions by friends, family, and two of the most intense CFB coaches on the planet. It was also a weird setting. On one hand, Iman Marshall has a flashy, professionally produced music video to announce his decision to go to USC. Contrast that to Weber being led by the hand past a wall of white poster boards with pictures of school monograms or mascots pasted on them. Standing in front of the poster signified a selection. It was all strange and completely disappointing. Later he blamed Michigan signing 3* RB Karan Higdon when he though he was the only RB in the class. I doubt that's all of it. It's not like he'll displace Ezekiel Elliot at OSU this year and who knows who his future competition will be. He's banking on becoming an Urban Legend, but he could have disillusionment in his future just like Clark. Or he could win the Heisman and a National Championship. Whatever. Not even looking in the rearview mirror on this guy after today.
  • Iman Marshall - any fan who seriously thought he would come to Ann Arbor to play was smoking a pipe dream. This became very evident upon viewing his rap video commitment announcement. The one in which he filmed 6 different endings. Just that bit of self-absorbed hype alone made me glad he stayed on the West Coast. I couldn't help imagining Bo Schembechler's reaction to that dramatic effort. It screams prima donna and means he's better off anywhere but here. 
  • I Like My Recruits Lightly Poached - Harbaugh got flips today from Cal, Iowa, and Florida State. Keith Washington, Karan Higdon, and Shelton Johnson committed to Michigan from these schools and considering the short time he had to work with recruits, this is a big deal and adds to his list of flips that started strong with Zach Gentry (ex-Texas) and Reuben Jones (ex-Nebraska.) I like that he doesn't honor any gentlemen's agreement not to poach others' commits. He said today "That's the way the pickle squirts." Okay, then. I'll just leave it at completely nice guys finish last. 
  • Michigan University may be back in the mix! With UCLA DC Jeff Ulbrich mulling over a last minute offer to join the Atlanta Falcons, OLB Roquan Smith, may be back in the hunt for a place to land. He never turned in his LOI to firm his commitment to UCLA ... hopefully Harbaugh and Durkin can get him back in play for Michigan University. Yep, that's one of the schools he thought offered him. Go Blue for Michigan U! (If he decides to come, he can call us whatever he likes!)
  • Déjà vu all over again. Brady Hoke interviews Jim Harbaugh about Signing Day on CBS in an eerie replay of his own strange interview by Rich Rodriguez just a few years earlier. I didn't find this one awkward at all, though, and I can tell both Brady and Jim respect each other. Hoke took it all in stride and even laughed off earlier rumors that had him taking a DL assistant job at Notre Dame. It was good to see him doing well and he handled the day gracefully. It was also nice to see he didn't want to work for chickens. 
And now I'm off to bed. It's back to work tomorrow and I'm not planning to attack it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. 

Sweet Michigan dreams, new Wolverines... and you experienced ones, too. 

Serenity now, Michigan Fans

National Signing Day starts in a few short hours and it'll be the most anticipated event for Michigan football fans since our shiny new coach got settled in and we realized (after much pinching) that it did happen, he really is ours, and nobody has it better than us.

Most of us replaced our worn out F5 keys after the intense, month-long Harbaugh Watch. After a moderately "refreshing" pace watching the coaching staff come together, F5 will face another real workout as we anticipate the results of that new staff's first signing day. And I hope that whatever the outcome, Wolverine fans don't go off the deep end over the final flips or flops of Harbaugh's decidedly short recruiting season.

I think we've already seen the power of his reputation - and that of his staff - in the recent favorable changes of heart that landed us some top players formerly committed elsewhere, including QB Zach Gentry (Texas),  Grant Perry (Northwestern), and Reuben Jones (Nebraska.) We've also seen that the Harbaugh Effect isn't a seductively intoxicating brew to everyone. Some targets have stuck with their original commitments even after positive discussions with the staff and eye-widening visits to our humble little athletic campus and that, you know, world-class university associated to it. Harbaugh's crew didn't have much time to establish the relationships that coaches normally build years before a top recruit approaches NSD. We'll win some and we'll lose some in this strange, transitional recruiting year. It's a normal progression through an abnormal time. Not the end of the world at all.

What I hate to see as I spend time F5ing my way through a variety of Michigan blogs and Twitter feeds is the number of hair-trigger fans already freaking out and getting down on Harbaugh because a few recruits have said "no thanks" for 2015. I read a comment made by some armchair expert after Chris Williamson chose the Florida Gators. This guy was mad because "we were told Harbaugh could recruit." One month on the job and the man's skills are being questioned by people whose last social media rant was probably posting hateful performance reviews directly to Devin Gardner's Twitter or questioning John Beilein's coaching genius as his young team struggles to find it's way after 2014's early departures and a slew of injuries.

Michigan fans, and I use that term with some doubt, you need to relax now

Harbaugh's 2015 class already has some very good commits and Jimmy will know what to do with both them and the stable of talent Hoke left behind. In my way of thinking, if a kid doesn't want to be here, I don't want him here. Seriously, do you want someone who: 
  • Can't look past the recent state of Michigan football to see the opportunity in front of him to work with the cream of CFB and NFL coaching talent in a legendary program? (No vision)
  • Is mad because Brady Hoke got fired and isn't blown away by getting Jim Harbaugh and his rock star staff instead? (No sense)
  • Believes and tells the world on TV that Greg Mattison, an ace recruiter, says he's essentially too stupid and poor to get into Michigan without football? Knowing the NCAA forbids the school to counter. (No scruples)
  • Sincerely has a passion for playing somewhere else, respectfully declining the Wolverines? (No calling)
  • Has gone through life being called Messiah? (Cosmically big shoes to fill!)
When the dust settles after Signing Day, Michigan will be fine. Whether we win the battle for the likes of Mike Weber and Chris Clark, or we miss out, Harbaugh will make the most of every weapon he gets or inherits. Just having him here is the home run recruitment of the year. If it was a class of one and that one was Harbaugh, we're already winning.

So as you pretend to work all day, peeking at NSD feeds and alternating between ESC and F5 (depending on the location of your boss,) relax and take it all in. Be thankful for the commitments. Be understanding of the misses. Just don't doubt Jim Harbaugh. 

Serenity now. Insanity later. (The celebration kind. The glorious victory kind.) 

Go Blue!