Posts of the Week
Each week, we will highlight a few entertaining and/or informative posts from the previous week. Please keep in mind that it is hard to keep track/prioritize all posts so we would welcome input from all Booties. You can make a "Bootie Selection" post as a response to any post that you deem worthy or you can email a link (to the nominated post) to me at email@example.com.
Below are the posts that made this week's list:
Subject: Lemmings as "Booster": A Bill of Particular
Tom Lemmings "handpicked", according to the Bowl
website, the rosters for this year's All American Bowl, from a
list of several hundred nominees, including all the familiar
Among his final 75, he named the following:
Scott Rairdon (Rivals #15 OG)
Marcus Freeman (Rivals #26 TE)
James Bonelli (Rivals #13 OG)
Bob Morton (Rivals #1 C)
Chris Frome (Rivals #11 WSDE)
Anthony Fasano (Rivals # 8 TE)
Jake Carney (Rivals #30 S)
Had Burton and Crabtree of Rivals chosen the teams, it appears only Morton would have been named. None of these seven players ranks among Allen Wallace's Top 50. Only Bonelli and Morton would be listed in a consensus top 200 list--never ming top 75.
Yet for his top 75 US players, Tom Lemming named these seven.
What do these seven young men have in common? All were Notre Dame verbals at the time of the game. All but Marcus Freeman had verbaled at the time they were selected. Seven of ND's 12 verbals, six at the time of their selection, in were named to the team.
Also exceeedingly curious is a Notre Dame verbal who was not invited. It's curious, because he is Derek Landri, widely considered to be one of the top players in the country at any position, by every observer (Wallace ranks him the #2 OL, and the #35 player in the country--on a top 50 list that includes only four offensive linemen.) Now, what was Derek Landri doing at the time this All American team was chosen?
He was considering reneging on his verbal to Notre Dame and going to Michigan instead, to join his teammate Matt Gutierrez. One could argue that a possible turncoat in the midst might not be good publicity for Notre Dame, and for that reason Landri was deemed not to be one of the top 12 offensive linemen in the country. Maybe not--maybe he had a conflict.
Now , there may be an innocent explanation for Landri's omission. The entire Poly team, for example, opted for another all star game, and some schools and state associations had regulations that led to some players not being available or eligible. And you could argue that an objective observer would deem Bonelli worthy of mention, and perhaps, by a stretch, Raridon and Fasano, too. But Marcus Freeman, who my friends across the river say is a merely a very solid Divison One prospect? Jake Carney, as much as we liked him, one of the six best safeties in America? Chris Frome, who most West Coast programs looked at and passed on without inviting for a visit?
Curious, too, is the absence of anything approaching critical mass for any other school. Texas, Michigan, Ohio State and UCLA jumped out to fast recruiting starts, with classes considered superior to Notre Dame's at the time of these selections. So surely they have several players, too--right?
Well, Michigan had two, but only one of the two had verbaled to Michigan when Lemming chose him. UCLA had just one: Eric McNeal. Lemming invited just one Texas verbal: Marquis Johnson, who lived just down the road from Lemming, in Champaign, Illinois. Curiously, Lemming chose not to name the number one prospect on Texas's list of verbals at the time of the team's selection, OG Neal Tweedie, Rival's #4 ranked OG in the US. Interesting note: Tweedie had chosen Texas over guess who: Notre Dame.
Lemming did name Texas's future verbal, Larry Dibbles to the team. Interesting note: At that time, Dibbles had scheduled his last official visit to be to South Bend on January 25. He was still a strong Notre Dame prospect, capable of being influenced by seven future teammates at a prestigious all star game.
So of Texas's top-ranked class of 15 prospects who had verbaled at the time of selection, just one was invited. UCLA and Michigan right behind, just one each. But of Notre Dame's class of 12 verbals, six players plus an imminent verbal, 13th verbal Marcus Freeman, were chosen.
Notre Dame 6-7, Michigan 1, Texas 1, UCLA 1--at a time when all three of those programs were considered to be outrecruiting Notre Dame.
Now, one thing we know about these games is that they influence other prospects. Mike Craven made that point last year when he said "I went to these all star games and didn't see other Stanford guys. That made me worry." These undecided players, as well as the many juniors invited to the combine during the All American Bowl festivities, see seven Notre Dame guys and decide the Irish must be the looming next great power, Lorenzo Booker runs behind these buys as his line and decides he could get some good blocking at ND; Booker said exactly that when recently asked about his growing interest in Notre Dame. Booker would not be visiting Notre Dame but-for his experience in playing in this game.
Josiah Vinson, on the fence but thinking about ND, also was invited and played alongside these guys, and got a chance to bond with them, and be sold by them. We know verbals try to sell uncommitted prospects on their school, as they should.
What is the message here to a senior who verbals to Notre Dame? Well, among other benefits, you have an inside track to being named to the All American Bowl--a seven in 12 chance. Pledge anywhere else and your odds actually may be reduced; to Texas, one in 15. The game clearly prefers players who have chosen either Notre Dame, or no school at all.
But wait: it's also a good alternative to at least be visiting Notre Dame before the teams are chosen. Here's a partial list of Lemming's picks for the team who had officially visited Notre Dame or who scheduled an official visit to Notre and still were considering the Irish at the time of the nominations:
A.J Davis, Thomas Clayton, Travis Leitko, Derek Morris, Dominique Byrd, Dedrick Harrington, Brian Mattes, JeJuan Rankins, Larry Dibbles, Lorenzo Booker, Nate Schicattano, Maurice Stovall, Buster Davis and Josiah Vinson.
So seven current Notre Dame verbals and at least 14 official Notre Dame visitors--21 ND prospects in all--were invited to play in the game--by Tom Lemming. (The All American Bowl website stresses that each player is "handpicked" by recruiting guru Tom Lemming.)
In other words, more than one in four players invited to the game (21 of the 75) were serious enough Notre Dame prospects to have either verbaled, officially visited, or scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame--including several committed ND prospects who are not regarded by any other person as worthy of being included in a game involving the top 75 available high school seniors in the country. No other school comes remotely close to this representation.
Is Lemming trying to help Notre Dame's recruiting by inviting a dispropottinate share of its players to these games, while making sure that no other program has signficant representation? There's circumstantial evidence that he is.
There is evidence that Lemming is literally and technically a ND booster, which among other things bars him from contacting recruits for the school he boosts. At the least, his efforts smack of subversive--though not hard-to-detect--support for a particular program, from a vantage point of apparent objectivity. At the least, it appears suspicious and worth more--and official--examination.
I say call the NCAA.
Poster: Roscoe Maples
Subject: I'm not CJ, but...
1. First of all, there were plenty of games in the last two
years in which JB didn't play outside of garbage time. JB was
recruited to be a point guard in MM's grand two year cycle.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but guys like Art Lee and Mike McDonald
were the primary backup points in their first two years in
preparation for the starting job as upperclassmen (except when
they were injured, as Mike McD was for a good part of his
freshman year). In a way, these guys knew Monty's intentions from
the day they signed with the team, and they were groomed as heirs
to the starting position all along. Of course, I don't guarantee
that JB would be a rock of consistency now if he had received
backup minutes in his first two years, but I don't believe they
would have hurt his development, either. In JB's freshman year,
both he and Tony were poor shooting backup points with imperfect
handles (and they've each improved with time)... but if this was
the case, and JB was not only the more athletic player but also
recruited as the next-in-line PG, why did Monty give TG so many
minutes at JB's expense? I don't think either guy would've
singlehandedly lost games for us in those double-digit wins we
had over the Oregon schools, Washington schools, Cal's and ASU's
of the world the last two years. So why not give JB more runs
with the other starters at that time?
2. There's this other complaint with JB's point guard play. Some say he's erratic, others say he's wild and out of control, and still others maintain(ed) that he "can't run a team." We all know that Monty is a fan of "system" point guards like Mike McDonald and Tony, but he also realizes that athletic, penetrating point guards can carry him a long way. In my mind, Monty was torn between these two ideals and thus never established a consistent methodology for teaching Julius. Monty could either try to tame the horse or let it run wild, but I think he didn't implement either of these strategies. For sure, Monty had a quick leash when Julius played erratically against an Oregon or ASU, but against athletic teams like Arizona, Duke, and St. Joe's, Monty suddenly "needed" JB's athleticism and basically told him to do his thing. While others have lauded these moves as pragmatic and our best shot at winning each single game (let the ever-"steady" TG play in slow-tempo games we knew we'd win, JB play when we were out-quicked), I think we did so at the expense of developing a strong starting point guard for this year and the next. JB must've been as confused as any of us, since he never knew when to "put his palm out and slow down" and when to put the ball behind his back and penetrate. Monty's adjustable-length leash (depending on the athleticism of the opponent) must have been equally confusing. As a player, it's fair to ask, "Hey coach, why'd you pull me for one dumb turnover in this game when we were up 20 but leave me in after a similar turnover in this more competitive game when we were down by 1? What do you want me to do?" In my mind, these questions are still unanswered. My best guess is that Monty wanted to turn JB into a PG who could run the system without cutting off his instincts to drive. He didn't want JB to become a Mike McDonald-- a guy who didn't take full advantage of his athleticism. But in doing so, I think Monty never established a direction for JB's development.
3. By now, I think just about everyone here agrees that JB needs a lot of confidence to play well. Believing that he was the better player all along, how confident could he have been the last two years when he was sitting the bench in favor of TG? Monty's short leash didn't help-- he was out of the game before he had really been given a chance. JB never really got the opportunity to learn how to play with the other guys in game situations. So why'd he play so well against Duke? It's Hillcrest's argument, and he's said so a thousand times, but in the Duke game, Monty had no alternative at point, and JB knew it. No one was looking over his shoulder, and Monty wouldn't pull him for one small mistake. Suddenly, JB had all the confidence he could ever need, and he played about as well as you could ask. And, perhaps most disturbingly, (and we've seen the same thing this year,) Monty didn't go back to JB after such a fine performance (was he even the primary backup point in the very next game after we beat Duke?). When you look back at the inconsistencies of the last few years, and even the fact that JB didn't start for the first several games this year, I'd say JB was hardly given an opportunity to establish and build his confidence.
4. In short, I'm criticizing Mike Montgomery for the inconsistent approach to development he used on JB. In doing so (and since I know I'm going to catch the wrath of many for disagreeing with our coach), let me say that Monty IS a great coach and there is absolutely no chance that I could do his job better than he does it overall. And to be fair, it's difficult to establish a vision for a team that will be playing together several years down the road and develop your players accordingly, especially with the scarce minutes available to bench players. However, just because Monty's a terrific coach doesn't mean that he's always right. With regard to JB, I think Monty was wrong in failing to annoint him the "PG of the Future" title so many others have received, in giving TG almost all the backup minutes for the last two years, in his "adjustable-length leash", his constant indecision about what position JB would eventually play, whether JB could "run a team", whether JB would be a pure system guy or something closer to Brevin Knight, and in failing to bulid on JB's successes against teams like Duke. While JB is ultimately responsible for his own performance, I think it's been awfully difficult for him to both play his best game and please the coach. And when you play something other than your best just to please someone, something is wrong with the situation... and something is lost.
Subject: on MM (detailed)...
I refrain from commenting on recruiting, because many of the
facts are not publicly available. (I too wish we had CT's
freshman) I can only assess based upon games, practices, and
analyses by those I respect.
1. I think MM is the best coach of fundamentals in the US. Even our fast breaks are taught with precision...
2. He is a fabulous evaluator of every player's talent, abilities, and idiosyncratic flaws and strengths. He notices very obscure differences and highlights them for improvement or takes advantage of them. The subtleties he observes during the game, before consulting film, are awesome.
3. As a result, every player in his 16 years has improved to the cap of their abilities by the time they graduated, with the exception of Tim Young and (maybe) Kris Weems.
4. I am a strong proponent of his system, of power basketball, etc. I do think that we had more astute play calling from the bench when Doug Oliver was the assistant in charge, and that we are not nearly as sharp these days with play-by-play calling.
5. We are so well prepared due to his abilities that the aberrant game (like USC) where we look weak is so striking. In contrast, how many times during the last 15 years have teams like UCLA, AZ, etc. been upset?
6. He coached fabulous games in losses to UMassII and Utah, which was perhaps the most talented team we have ever played. The win vs. Wake Forest was highly dependent on strategy, as is our unprecented five game streak at UCLA.
8. I am a major proponent of his honest and blunt sytle. IMO this transcends basketball--the only way people improve is by working with mentors, coaches, and bosses who are rigid, fair and frank in their assessments.
1. He allowed Art too get too far out of control during his senior year. Art was reading too many press clippings and needed to be reigned in.
2. He needs to discipline JB ruthlessly. JB needs to be planted on the bench everytime he commits a mental (NOT PHYSICAL) mistake. JB has proven he has the talent to be great, but needs to prove he has the mental discipline and team-first mentality to play major minutes. Negative reinforcement is the best way here...
3. I would have played CH a great deal more against USC. If MM reviews the USC film, I am confident he will see the same thing.
4. He made a mistake of staying with Weems too much against KY (6-23), otherwise he probably would have won a NC. Nonetheless, Pat Riley who is an awesome coach by any metric made the same mistake with John Starks in Game 7 in 1994.
Poster: Mike McLaughlin
Subject: Academic Situation- long
Hulk, no offense taken, just ribbin' ya...
In terms of the academic situation, I have a real hard time with that question. One side of me says that I want Stanford to keep its rep in keeping academic admission standards high, both for athletic and regular admissions. I enjoyed being in an environment, both in the classroom and in the locker room, where everyone wasn't a dolt. One of the most interesting things I can tell people is that in our locker room, we had regular discussions on politics, race relations, economics, as well as how hot Brittney Spears looked on the cover of Rolling Stone. All the guys on the team, even some of the ones we would tease constantly for being a little clueless here and there, were smart and well versed in many topics. Also, the guys are really talented. Chad Hutchinson and I used to have dueling guitar contests, and John Ritchie, Jon Hebert and I formed a band and used to play all the time. So keeping the admission standards high like it is made college really enjoyable and fun. Being able to be around people like that made me think more, and have a lot of fun.
On the other hand, sometimes I wish we could have a consistent year in and year out chance for the nat'l championship. Sure, we had our shot this year, and the year we went to the Rose Bowl, but honestly, no one takes Stanford that serious, which is unfortunate. To get that level of respect (which means you get ranked higher) you need to have several good years in a row. To have several good years in a row, you need the players, and most of the players are not going to match up to the admission standards.
I'm torn, but since I've been through it, I would have to say, we really need to be proud of what Stanford represents. Class-act student-athletes who play well on the field, but then contribute to society once their football careers are done. I know some that have come through the ranks haven't exactly lived up to that standard, but on the whole, I would say most do. Just because we don't compete for a shot at the title 8 years out of 10, as most of the continual top 10 schools do, doesn't mean we should sacrifice our heritage. My boss is a Cal grad, and a big football fan. He hates that the football program has sunk to such low levels in terms of recruiting, and yet they still suck. Not trying to pick on Cal, but it's true. They've tried that avenue, and have failed.
Another thing to think about is, no matter who you let in to Stanford, they still have to get passing grades. Most Stanford professors don't give a rat's ass how good the football team is. If they see a player who got in on less then steller grades, they are going to ride him. I had some tough professors who were extra tough on athletes, and I don't blame them. They have a rep to keep too, and they are not just going to let some player slide through. They don't want a bunch of under-educated people out there in the world with Stanford degrees, it looks bad for them. Plus, the whole Stanford population doesn't want that. I don't want that. I want Stanford to symbolize the highest excellence in both academic and athletics.
I honestly believe we can achieve great success on the football field even with our current standards. We may not win a national championship, maybe not ever, but we will be a school that is considered a great school to play football at. On top of that, kids who are 1)smart and 2) want to do something with their life other then play football, will naturally be drawn to Stanford, and that is what I think is best for Stanford. I think over time, things will change around Stanford. If you look at every college program, they most have at least 1-2 players who are perfect Stanford material. I believe over the next few years or so, with the program under Teevans, most of these players are going to migrate to Stanford on the selection. Once this has set precendence, we will start to have recurring years of great success, and an eventual nat'l championship.
I'd rather take that approach then the dot-com, easy way out of things, such as cutting admission standards to horrifying levels. Just my opinion, for what it's worth.