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One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Emptying my notebook on a Friday morning

It's unfortunate the NCAA approved the measure it did Thursday banning text messaging as a recruiting tool beginning next school year. Having investigated the matter thoroughly for a column I wrote last year, I understand the concern that texting can be invasive to prospective athletes, but an outright ban is an overreaction by an organization that continues to operate in the dark.

I could write for days about how foolish the new policy is, but the bottom line is texting is the primary means of communication for today's high school- and college-aged kids in all walks of life not just recruiting circles. I don't buy the argument that it's a financial burden to families (unlimited text plans are like $5 and whoever pays the bill can always have texting turned off) and I think the benefits (ease of communication, ability by the recipient to control the message) far outweigh the downsides. A more simple solution would have been to restrict texting's use to after-school hours on weekdays and from 8-8 on weekends. With any luck, the suits who dreamed up the legislation will be scrolling through their BlackBerrys one day when they realize just how stupid it is. ...

Good to see John Beilein settled his buyout with West Virginia for what amounts to the after-tax money he would have made had he stayed on as Mountaineers coach. This could have got messy for both sides, though Beilein has no one but himself to blame for sticking such a strict buyout in his contract.

I know Beilein has said he'll be the one paying West Virginia its $1.5 million, but deep down I have to believe Michigan or some well-to-do booster will come through with the funds. In fact, it's stunning that an athletic department like Michigan's would make its second most-recognizable employee pay his own buyout. I thought that's what signing bonuses were for. ...

Lastly, got an email from a reader the other day with a link (see below) to a website listing the spring football game attendances for every school in the country. Michigan State checked in tied for 11th with 25,000 people. I was there, that was an accurate estimate, and when you realize that's more people than showed up for the games at Georgia, Oklahoma, Clemson, LSU, Tennessee, USC and Michigan (by about 20,000) you realize just how impressive that was.

I'm draft duty the rest of the weekend and will try to blog from the Lions' Allen Park facility, but there's no wireless there so that makes it tough. If nothing else, I'll check back in next week before I head off for a little vacation.


Draft dodging

Be sure to pick up a paper tomorrow when our draft preview series begins with a look at one of the top local-college prospects inching up draft boards everywhere, Central Michigan tackle Joe Staley. The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder appears to have worked his way into the late first round with a great pro day last month. He's as athletic a tackle as there is in the draft (he ran a 4.8 40 at his workout) and he should be the first of potentially three Chippewas taken (defensive end Dan Bazuin and center Drew Mormino also could be late-round picks).

Michigan has two probable first-rounders in cornerback Leon Hall and defensive tackle Alan Branch, and David Harris could go as early as the second pick of the second round to the Lions, who need an inside linebacker if they don't trade down and draft Patrick Willis in Round 1.

Another candidate to go to Detroit in Round 2 is MSU quarterback Drew Stanton. Stanton said Tuesday he's "prepared for the worst-case scenario" though he and most others expect he'll be the third or fourth quarterback off the board.

"It's just got to a point now where I'm more concerned with going to the right fit, the right team," Stanton said. "I'm confident I can play in this league, with the right coaching and the right situation I can be successful. So that's the biggest thing that I'm worried about."

The Ravens and Dolphins have had Stanton in for individual workouts, and the Patriots and Vikings are among other teams who have shown interest in the Farmington Hills Harrison product, who could be the only Spartan drafted.

Defensive tackle Cliff Ryan is a potential late-round choice because of his versatility — he could play end in a 3-4 defense or tackle in a 4-3 — while Matt Trannon is likely to go unselected despite saying at Saturday's Green and White game that he's been projected as high as the second round (by friends or family members, no doubt). Neither player appeared in ESPN analyst Todd McShay's complete seven-round mock draft last week.


MSU musings

Sorry, everyone. Haven't blogged in a while. Been both busy and sick, but I'm back with a few random Michigan State thoughts as the Spartans are about to close spring practice a few days after they got a huge basketball commitment.

First on the recruiting front, Ohio forward Delvon Roe is a big get for Tom Izzo, who's put together a roster that will be in the mix for at least the next three Final Fours. I missed Roe when he was in town last week with his AAU team, but people who have seen him play multiple times say he is a legit lefty combo forward who's skill set is pretty unique to the Spartans. As much of a force as he is inside, he's not your Zach Randolph-type post player. He's also got a solid face-up game with mid-range jumper and can get to the basket off the dribble. He's a consensus top-10 player nationally, one who most expect will start as a freshman even though Marquise Gray and Goran Suton will still be in East Lansing.

When you look at the talent MSU has back next year — everyone but Maurice Joseph, who continues to work out with the team until his transfer becomes official, plus three blue-chip recruits — you have to believe the Spartans are a favorite to win the Big Ten title. Ohio State will be good even if all three of its freshmen go pro as expected, and Indiana with D.J. White back and Eric Gordon incoming also is a contender. I know it's projecting ahead, but with three preseason top-15 teams plus an above-average Illinois squad, whoever wins the Big Ten should get the Midwest's No. 1 seed. If you're MSU, that would come with a home crowd at Ford Field.

I can't offer projections too far ahead without a crystal ball, but I've already heard from Spartan fans who have every right to believe they'll reach the Ford Field Final Four in 2009 (when Roe's a freshman and only the Drews, Neitzel and Naymick, have left the roster). Throw in some great '09 preps the staff is already in on and it's not out of the realm of possibility to think a turn-of-this-century-like run when MSU made three consecutive Final Fours could be in store again.

As for spring football, which wraps up with the return of the Green and White game Saturday, I must say there is a totally different feel around the Duffy Daugherty Football Building this year. High school coaches, recruits and former players are bouncing around daily, banners commemorating Spartan successes of the past are hanging from the practice facility's rafters, and players seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves.

I stopped in for the team's Spring Football Draft yesterday, where players chose up sides by drafting their teammates. It's a genuinely unique idea first-year Spartan coach Mark Dantonio has been doing since his days at Youngstown State, and I've never seen a group of players more excited for an exhibition game. Next year, when there's more depth across the board, I imagine the game itself will be better, but this way sure beats the tired, bland scrimmages every other college in America plays.

I've said this on various radio shows I've done and in private conversations with colleagues. I don't believe MSU is headed for a knock-out, 10-win, BCS 2007, but I do believe the foundation for a consistent, winning program is being put in place. Injuries to either line could derail this final thought, but if I were a betting man I'd take the Spartans to win six games and make the postseason this fall.


Time keepers

Good decision by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel today to approve several proposed rules changes submitted by the Football Rules Committee. Specifically, the committee made two changes that revert to time-keeping rules last observed two seasons ago. After a one-year hiatus, the clock will start on the snap after a change of possession (last year, it started on the referee's signal) and on the touch on kickoffs (last year it was on the kick).

Both rules were widely panned last year for eliminating too many plays from games, though they made good on their intention of cutting down on the time of play.

To help keep games on a timely pace, the committee also moved the kickoff back five yards to the 30-yard line (a change that should result in more returns, thus more time lapsed) and limited the play clock to 15 seconds (in televised games) following TV breaks.

I was one of many who slammed football's rules makers for its decisions last year, and I'll be the first to applaud them now. All four changes will keep the game progressing in a timely manner while not intruding on the game itself.


Mojo leaving?

Got a couple E-mails and phone calls this evening about Maurice Joseph and his possible transfer from Michigan State and I can confirm that Joseph is gone. The sophomore hasn't found a home yet — though calls already have been placed to former MSU assistants Brian Gregory at Dayton and Doug Wojcik at Tulsa — but both his mother and former youth coach say it's just a matter of time.

"He'll definitely land somewhere that's a quality school and a quality basketball program," said Henry Wong, Joseph's one-time coach. "Mo's got two years left. He wants to make the most of it."

Wong said Joseph's decision comes down to playing time. As much as he's enjoyed his two years at MSU, he'll likely be squeezed out of the rotation next season with the arrival of blue-chip backcourt recruits Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen and Durrell Summers. Wong said Joseph is looking into schools that are "mid-major and higher" and all in the United States.

If something doesn't work out, if Joseph can't find the right fit, there'll be a spot open for him at MSU. But expect him to find a new home by the end of the month.

Manny happy returns

Manny Harris' revelation that he's sticking to his commitment is good news for Michigan, but not all that surprising. I know Harris made some waves last week when he said he was re-opening his recruitment, but people who know Harris tell me he's been a Michigan guy all his life and there was little fear he'd leave. When new Michigan coach John Beilein rehired Mike Jackson as an assistant, that all but sealed his stay in Ann Arbor.

Jackson is an ace recruiter who's got plenty of ties in and around Detroit. Keeping him on staff is a big win for Beilein, who's a native of upstate New York and has barely recruited Michigan in his nearly 30 years as a head coach. That fact aside, I don't doubt for a minute Beilein's ability to recruit Detroit. He's wearing a big block M now, and that opens lots of doors. Will he get every Big Ten-caliber player in the PSL? No, and he doesn't need or want to, but he'll win his share of battles.

Speaking of battles, there's one more left for Beilein to win, and that's the Alex Legion sweepstakes. Like Harris, Legion committed to Michigan under Tommy Amaker but wavered in the past couple weeks. Rumors had him headed for UCLA, Syracuse and a number of other programs. I don't think it's a done deal he stays yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if he said as much in the coming days. He's a local product, his mom's always been a Michigan fan, and with Harris and Kelvin Grady, the third member of Michigan's 2007 class, in the fold, Legion looks like the bad guy if he bolts. UCLA is all the more intriguing now that Arron Afflalo is off to the NBA, but Legion is a better fit at Michigan. I just don't see him playing enough defense to star in Ben Howland's system.


Making a Beilein

Just got back from John Beilein's press conference and the first thing that struck me is how different he appears to be from Tommy Amaker. It's no surprise I guess. As Lee Corso told me during the Michigan State football coaching search, you can expect the next guy to be completely different from the last guy. That's usually how it works in coaching searches.

The little I knew of Tommy — I don't think anyone in these parts knew him real well — I liked. He seemed to be a sincere man, and he had a passion for the game, his players and the program that didn't always show through in the public eye. He didn't particularly care for public appearances, let his assistants do his radio show, and wasn't the fund-raiser the program needed to get things done like a practice facility or updated arena.

Beilein's not the slick car-salesman sort by any means, but he does have an every-man approachability about him. He took time to sit down with the beat writers privately after the main press conference broke up, did one-on-one TV interviews with all four Detroit stations, and Michigan athletic director Bill Martin hinted that a real coaches show (both a radio and TV version for the Big Ten Network) would return next fall.

I still think the Wolverines have a ways to go to get back in the NCAA tournament, but I don't doubt Beilein can at least get them there. He's innovative, proven and confident in what he does.

Two other things you might find interesting. Michigan forward Ekpe Udoh said last year's playbook consisted of five plays in the halfcourt offense. Beilein said he uses more concepts than plays, but I bet the Wolverines run five different sets (he has one called Best Play Ever) in their first five possessions next year. Also, Udoh confirmed that he considered transferring immediately after Amaker was let go, but has no plans to now.


Beilein a safe, not slam-dunk choice

A few quick thoughts on what appears to be the pending hire of John Beilein as Michigan basketball coach.

First, the man can coach, and after watching Michigan lose too many games it should have won in recent years — and with all the great coaches in the conference — his sideline presence will be a welcome addition to Crisler Arena. That said, I don't think the hire is a slam dunk on the level of a Tubby Smith, John Calipari or Jay Wright. Those coaches had the potential to make the Wolverines national contenders again. Beilein can and should be successful in the Big Ten, but this smacks of a safe, solid move rather than the bold hire the program needs to attain greatness.

Rumors already are flying that Beilein will run into resistance recruiting the PSL. I'm sure he'll get his share of Detroit kids, but it wouldn't surprise me if the city's top talent continued its exodus towards more glamourous programs like Oregon, Memphis and Tennessee. (How bad is it when those places are more glamourous than Michigan?)

Beilein runs a gimmicky 1-3-1 zone and high-post offense that relies heavily on the 3-point shot (the bigger the shooter, the better). Not everyone fits into his system, including most of the talent currently on Michigan's roster. If I'm a Michigan fan, I can live with the growing pains that look to be around the corner (especially if Alex Legion tries to back out of his letter of intent as expected) so long as I see a successful reconstruction project ahead. That'll be the key thing I'm listening for if/when Beilein is officially introduced. In addition to paying his $2.5-million buyout, did athletic director Bill Martin guarantee Beilein a new practice facility, arena or some other upgrade to the infrastructure of the program? If not, this whole exercise was fruitless.

As for the championship game tonight, I've been on the Florida bandwagon since the start of the year and I'm not getting off now. Greg Oden's been in foul trouble half the tournament and it's hard not to imagine him on the bench tonight going against Al Horford and Joakim Noah. Mike Conley is the best guard on the floor, but Florida is the best team. Let's call it, Gators 74, Buckeyes 67.


NBA Bucks?

I know Mike Conley's already said he plans on returning for his sophomore season, but the more I watch Ohio State's talented point guard the more I'm convinced he'll be a mid-lottery pick if he turns pro now.

Conley's helped his stock more than any player this tournament. His jump shot still needs work - whose doesn't? - but he played a tremendous first half against Georgetown Saturday when his running mate Greg Oden got in early foul trouble. His ability to get in the lane is unmatched in college basketball, and that 14-foot floater with either hand will be just as deadly in the NBA.

If Ohio State wins the championship Monday, I can see Conley and Oden pulling a Florida and trying to come back and repeat as champions. They've been close friends for years and OSU will enter the season an easy No. 1 with Ron Lewis the only real contributor gone and a great freshman class on the way.

But I can also see Conley and Oden packing up shop for the NBA. Really, the decision could come down to Oden's alone. His fragility's already been exposed with a wrist injury that kept him out the first month of the season, and he doesn't stand to gain any draft status (he's already the No. 1 pick) by waiting an extra year. Conley probably wouldn't either, especially if Oden leaves. While this year's freshman class (and, in turn, NBA lottery) is loaded with post and wing players (Oden, Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright) next year's is stocked with guards (incoming freshmen Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo). With so many high-pick teams in need of point guards (the Bucks, Kings, Timberwolves and Grizzlies to name a few) and so few good ones available (after Conley, Texas A&M's Acie Law, Oregon's Aaron Brooks and USC's Gabe Pruitt are the best of the bunch), what would you do?