The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 5A
Defensive lineman Alan Branch is projected to be a top-10 pick in next month's NFL Draft. Despite the hype, there are some who think Branch has more work to do.
Bra ch readiesfDraft
By KEVIN WRIGHT
Daily Sports Editor
INDIANAPOLIS - David
Terrell. Drew Henson. Ernest
What do these three former
Michigan football players have in
All of them left Ann Arbor early
to pursue a career in professional
sports. And none of them have
produced consistent numbers in
But come April, former Michi-
gan defensive tackle Alan Branch
would like to break the recent
trend of early-entry Wolverines.
After a disappointing loss in
the Rose Bowl, Branch didn't talk
to reporters. Instead, he held a
teleconference later in the month
to announce his decision to try his
luck on Sundays.
"It was a great opportunity for
me to leave right now, so I had
to put that into consideration,"
Branch said at the NFL Scouting
Combine in Indianapolis. "And
then I'm just a competitor, and
when it's all said and done, really
the best athletes in the world play
for the NFL. I felt that it would be
a great time for me to leave."
This past Friday, Branch partic-
ipated in Michigan's pro day, and
at the end of February, he traveled
to the RCA Dome to take part in
the NFL Scouting Combine.
Branch has drawn criticism
since declaring for the NFL Draft.
Already NFL.com senior analyst
Gil Brandt wrote in his NFL.com
blog that the Rio Rancho, N.M.,
native appeared out of shape at
Michigan's pro day.
But even with the criticism,
Branch brings flexibility to the
field in his ability to play multiple
positions along the defensive line.
He moved from defensive end to
defensive tackle this past season
for his third and final season at
"He's a nose tackle who can play
three-technique," ESPN analyst
John Clayton said. "Just with that
in mind, that's a rare commodity.
Movement-type of nose tackles
like that, those things are valuable
because he could play in a 3-4 ... or
just move him to three-technique,
he could shoot the gap."
At the combine, Branch partici-
pated in all of the defensive line-
men drills. He looked impressive
in the bench press, tallying a mark
of 33 repetitions of 225 pounds.
Many mock drafts and draft
experts have dubbed Branch a
top-10 pick, but others still have
"Alan Branch is top-10 ability,"
NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock
said. "Some people are going
to question his statistics; some
people are going to question his
motor. People are going to ques-
tion on a consistent snap-by-snap
basis. Is he a top-10 player?"
For Clayton, Branch was one he
circled as needing to perform well
"Not coming off the greatest
year, he needs a good workout,"
Clayton said. "He's one of those
guys you target as saying who
See BRANCH, Page 8A
to think over
By MARK GIANNOTTO the Horizon League, which doesn't
Daily Sports Writer boast any mid-major powerhouses
besides Butler. Coming from a mid
This week The Michigan Daily major, Lickliter hasn't had the
will profile 12 possible candidates chance to show if he has the ability
(three each day) to replace former to recruit at the highest levels.
Michigan basketball coach Tommy
Amaker. Athletic director Bill Candidate: Tubby Smith
Martin intends to name a new head Current Job: Kentucky head
coach by the middle of April. Today coach
we focus in on three more candi- Coaching Experience: 28 years
dates for the job. (16 as head coach)
Pros: Of all the candidates fea-
Candidate: Steve Lavin tured thus far, Tubby Smith is the
Current Job: ESPN college bas- only coach with a National Cham-
ketball analyst pionship, having led Kentucky to
Coaching Experience: 16 years one in1998 in his first season. Smith
(seven years as head coach) also guided Tulsa and Georgia to
Pros: As head coach at UCLA the NCAA Tournament before
from 1997-2003, Steve Lavin was arriving at Kentucky. He has took
known as one of, if not the best, Kentucky to five Sweet 16s and
recruiter in the nation. He con- advanced to the Elite Eight three
sistently piled up top-10 classes times. But with criticism mount-
during his tenure. A disciple of leg- ing from the Wildcat faithful after
endary Purdue coach Gene Keady, a few "down" seasons in which the
he has some Midwest ties and has team still made the NCAA Tourna-
been actively pursuing a job in ment, Smith may be growing weary
the Big Ten during his three years of the intense scrutiny in the Blue-
covering the conference for ESPN. grass State. Smith recruits in the
During his seven seasons at UCLA, same manner as former Michigan
Lavin made it to the Sweet 16 five coach Tommy Amaker did, focus-
times, including the Elite Eight in ing on players who will best rep-
his first year. Even though he has resent the program on and off the
been out of coaching for the past court. He is capable of recruiting
three seasons, Lavin is still a hot in Michigan's backyard, convinc-
commodity. He reportedly turned ing Detroit's own Joe Crawford to
down the North Carolina State job renege on his verbal commitment
last spring. with the Wolverines and come to
Cons: Lavin's three years out Kentuckyin 2004.
of coaching will more than likely Cons: If Smith decides to leave
doom him in the eyes of the search Kentucky, there are likely to be
committee. Martin has said that he countless suitors for what would
wants someone who is currently be the most accomplished coach on
in coaching. And the five Sweet the market. Therefore, itwill likely
16s are a bit tainted since UCLA take a large sum of money, promis-
didn't garner anything higher than es of a practice facility and a defini-
a No. 4 seed after Lavin's first sea- tive plan on renovating Crisler
son. For all of his positives on the Arena for Smith to come here. In
recruiting side, there are negatives recent years Smith's recruiting has
when it comes to in-game strategy. been average at best after being
Lavin has never been known as the burned by several AAU standouts
type of X-and-Os coach that Mar- who couldn't handle the rigors of
tin seems desperate to hire. college basketball. His assistant
coaches have also been criticized
Candidate: Todd Lickliter of late.
Current Job: Butler head coach AP PHOTO
Coaching Experience: 13 years Kentucky's
(six as head coach) Tubby Smith
Pros: Todd Lickliter has guided could be a
Butler to one of the more improb- candidate for
able seasons in recentmemory Not Michigan's
only did the Bulldogs garner a No. coaching
S seed in this year's NCAA Tour- vacancy.
nament, they beat a slew of quality
opponents during the season
(Indiana, Notre Dame, Ten-
Lickliter isone offour coaches
to lead a Horizon League team
to the Sweet 16 (where they face
Florida tonight) and has guided
the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tourna-
ment in three of his six years there.
He was also an assistant at Eastern
Michigan in 1990s, so he has ties
within the state.
Cons: Lickliter is from Indiana
and a Butler alum, so prying him
away might take alot of work. And
although his resume is impres-
sive, it has all been done within
In superstar's shadow, junior Porter shines
By IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Writer
.He is the nation's third-leading
scorer, has been one of the most
consistent players all season and
is a potent two-way player.
If he were on almost any other
team, these attributes would place
the bulk of the attention on junior
But not when he plays along-
side a human highlight reel in T.J.
Hensick, the nation's top scorer
and a Hobey Baker Award final-
It might be difficult to get out
from under the shadow, but that's
all right with Porter.
"He gets the attention, and it's
no big deal to me," Porter said. "I
don't like doing the media stuff,
doing the interviews. That's
not my type of thing, that's his
It's the same on the ice, too.
Hensick is more likely to do
something that will make your
jaw drop, but Porter also has a
knack for making the right play.
"T.J.'s more noticeable than
Kevin Porter, but Porter can be
just as productive," Michigan
coach Red Berenson said.
The chemistry between Por-
ter and Hensick has helped make
them college hockey's highest-
scoring duo. When the two enter
the zone on a 2-on-1 break, it's
almost a foregone conclusion that
one of them will light the lamp.
For Porter's role on the line
and everything else he does for
the team, Hensick said his buddy
should receive more attention
than he's gotten.
"I'm not sure why he doesn't
get the recognition he deserves,"
Hensick said. "In my eyes, he's a
top-10 candidate for the Hobey
And with the NCAA Tourna-
ment starting Saturday for Michi-
gan, Berenson couldn't be happier
one of his top two offensive pro-
ducers is retuning to early season
Porter started season with a
point in 27 of Michigan's first 31
games. Then, the Northville native
experienced a season-worst four-
game point drought after missing
an open-net opportunity on a pass
from Hensick in overtime against
Michigan State in February.
After ending the skid, he has
notched seven points in five
games, including three goals last
"Obviously the two of them are
much better than one," Berenson
said. "When you get the both play-
ing well off each other, then (it's
like) two horses can pull about 10
times more than the sum of each
one of them individually."
Since retuning to his scor-
ing ways, the most meaningful
of those goals might have been
the first of his two goals against
Michigan State last Friday, which
was a mirror image of the one he
miffed last month.
"I thought about that for a long
time," Porter said after Friday's
game. "Today felt like it was pay-
Actually, he showed some of
that Hensick-esque flash this
In one, he spun through traffic
to maintain possession before fir-
ing a backhand shot to the goalie's
short side with his back to the net.
In his other goal, he benefited
from a little puck luck but showed
his talent with a gorgeous shot.
He sent a long rebound back at
Notre Dame goalie David Brown
with a top-shelf wrist shot.
Even when Porter doesn't score
goals, he can still be a valuable
asset to the team. His work on the
power-play and penalty-kill units
can be just as important.
"The good thing about Kevin
Porter is that he is a two-way play-
er," Berenson said. "He doesn't
have to score for our team to win
because he does so many other
In the playoffs, preventing
another team from scoring can be
just as valuable as scoring. It can
also sway the game's momentum,
which is why Porter could be so
integral to Michigan's success.
Whether he's poking home one
of Hensick's passes or killing off
a penalty, he can demonstrate his
importance to the team.
"We're going to need him this
weekend if we are going to have a
chance," Hensick said.
Off the ice he has also proven
his worth to the team.
In the locker room, teammates
respect what he has to say and
take note of how he acts.
"He's a big leader on this team
and a future captain, in my eyes,
for this program," Hensick said.
[we're cool to hang with.]
Saturday, March24, mj
Michigan E ntre
" Ladies Day every Monday
@ 9-Ball tournaments every Tuesday
* Free Pool from 11am -3pm Wednesdays
* Unlimited pool for $3 Sun-Mon after 9PM
Group Reservations Welcome!
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