Most of the questions in my inbox I don't have an answer to, but does that ever stop sportswriters? No.
1. With all the Hoke love from ex-players & everyone else for that matter, how could Bill Martin have misread the whole "Michigan Man" situation when he hired RichRod? He had to get some sort of vibe about supporting a MI Man & not an outsider. Did he ignore this, or was he ignorant of it?
Bill Martin seems like an affable sort of guy, but an affable sort of guy who wasn't actually on the football team and really likes sailing. I bet he was taken aback by the way Rodriguez's tenure developed. I think most people were surprised the vehemence with which Rodriguez was denounced once he started losing games.
But I'm not sure it really mattered, since at the time there were no Michigan Man options that were even vaguely plausible. Hoke—the sole Carr assistant to have a head coaching job at the time—was idling at 7-6 in his fifth year at Ball State. DeBord had failed miserably at CMU. Ron English was in charge of the defense that made The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game possible. Harbaugh was still unproven.
Even if Martin could anticipate a negative reaction from the Carr clan, it's not like there was anything he could do about it without producing a backlash 10 times as massive as this year's Hoke doubt.
2. With all the shouts of failure to hire a BIG name coach, looking at the hires of the last few years from "elite" schools: USC - Kiffin, Miami - Temple's coach, Florida - Tx D Coordinator, Florida St. - Jimbo Fisher, Notre Dame - Kelly, Tennessee - Dooley; big name coaches from big name schools rarely switch jobs within the college ranks - the last BIG name coach to do so would have to be RichRod - food for thought.
I guess that depends on your definition of the word "big." It's true that most jobs on the Michigan/Oklahoma/Florida/ND level are terminal destinations. But Stanford isn't, especially when the guy at Stanford is a famous Michigan alum. Harbaugh should have been poachable, and maybe he was but for the NFL. We'll never know. Meanwhile, there is a list of guys who are acquirable who may not be "big" names but seem like as good of any idea as possible when you switch coaches.
As for that list above:
- Fisher was a hot OC at LSU that was imported to be HC in waiting/by proxy in the same sort of transition that saw Bielema and Chip Kelly smoothly ascend to the throne and experience fairly quick success. (Bielema took a little while to get going.)
- Muschamp is an archetypical hot coordinator.
- Brian Kelly qualified as a big name in the mold of Urban Meyer after championship runs at two different schools experiencing their greatest success.
- Kiffin was the last act of an idiot and was met with the same sort of love at USC he was after his departure from Knoxville.
- Dooley was a last second desperation hire after Kiffin left that was like hiring Hoke in 2007.
I'd say the first three are good ideas, the fourth a bad idea, and the fifth the sort of thing that happens when your head coach leaves in early January. In Tennessee's case they were left in the lurch involuntarily. Michigan did it to themselves.
At least Dooley provides a hopeful example. Despite being in shambles in mid-January they recovered decently enough in recruiting and outperformed expectations down the stretch. Sometimes guys catch fire with more resources and a fortunate recruit—or existing player—and that can quickly erase their uninspiring previous record. One year after Tennessee's Maple Street Annual asked me to write a piece about how to cope with a 3-9 crater, there is palpable optimism in Knoxville.
In the presser introducing Hoke as HC, Dave Brandon mentioned that he was a "data guy," and that the data showed that when you bring in a HC w/no ties to the area and/or university, it usually doesn't work. However, a look at the top programs in recent college football history show important counterexamples:
- Urban Meyer, Florida: no ties
- Mack Brown, Texas: asst coach Iowa State 1 year, OC Iowa State 2 years (1980-81), OC Oklahoma 1 year (1984)
- Nick Saban, LSU: no ties
- Les Miles, LSU: no ties
- Pete Carroll, USC: OC U. of Pacific, 1 year (1983)
Did these guys have assistants on staff who had ties? What was the key to their success in winning over the respective fan bases?
Winning games? Those guys save Carroll and Meyer all came from BCS programs they had significantly outperforming their historical baseline, and Meyer had just turned Utah into the #2 team in the country after making Bowling Green a terrifying MAC opponent. And then they won immediately. Saban was 12-2 in year two. Miles lost six games in his first three years. The first time Mack Brown won fewer than nine games at Texas was this year. Meyer won the national title in year two.
Before any of these guys could be hated they were loved, and Rodriguez probably could have managed that trick if he hadn't presided over the worst three year stretch since Harry Kipke*.
If there's a common thread between these coaches it's recruiting, where all were monsters. You knew that's what you were getting with Brown, suspected it with Saban and Miles, and hoped for with Carroll.
*[I have your back, MVictors]
So, I've accepted the fact that we have Hoke and Borges (mostly). The offensive personnel is obviously geared toward a zone read option type of offense with athletic lineman, lots of slot ninjas and a running quarterback.
Two actual questions for you:
1 - How is this line at pass protection? Do the techniques change much between zone-read option spread teams and pro-style teams? I know Kerrigan, Liuget and Watt were blowing up our plays quite a bit, but I'm hopeful the assignments and techniques would not be very different. Now, Iso-blocks on runs plays....argh.
It was difficult to tell since teams spent most of the year deathly afraid of losing gap responsibility and letting Robinson slip into the secondary. Many opponents seemed content to let Denard sit and survey. In one on one matchups the line did very well against Iowa, Michigan State, and Penn State but not so well against Purdue (ie: Kerrigan) and Wisconsin. The numbers were consistently 1) low in amplitude and 2) good in percentage. The line wasn't asked to do a whole lot. They usually did it well.
It was a mixed bag, but they were starting a redshirt freshman and an injury-laden platoon at the tackles. I don't think there's much of a difference in pass protection between the two offenses in terms of technique, but pro-style attacks usually put a greater premium on five- and seven-step drops.
A bigger concern than this being an awkward transition is how much of the good pass protection last year was an illusion wrought by Robinson and the scheme.
2 - Thinking about a pro-style offense that employs slots and would fit fairly well.... What about the Patriots offense? Slot guys, undersized receivers and running backs....Obviously Tom never runs, but they could incorporate the single-wing QB runs and ISQD's pretty easily as well as roll-out run-pass option plays....Am I dreaming here? Is there any way with the Michigan connections over there that Borges/Hoke could go in this offseason pick Belichick and Brady's brains and/or outright steal some of that offense all together? What about the Eagles offense? It seems this would be a pretty good recruiting pitch - "You know Tom Brady? The Patriots? That team that crushes people all the time? Yeah - we're running their offense."
The Patriots may be pros but they don't really run a pro-style offense anymore thanks to Brady. Unfortunately for Michigan's immediate future, the things that make Brady one of the greatest QBs of all time—pinpoint accuracy and I'm-from-the-future coverage reads—are the things Robinson has in shortest supply.
Long term I'm down with what seems to be Borges's preference for a pass-slanted West Coast offense, which is a system that works and works well when you've got the right guy at the helm. One positive about returning to something resembling the old offense is that college football's tilt towards spread systems has made pocket guys more available, and Michigan's reputation was enough to lure Ryan Mallett north despite that not being the best idea in the world for him personally.
The Clans. This is an awesome post that you must rush to read right now drop everything. Look:
You want to know where you fit. Everyone does. Everyone thinks they're a fierce pragmatist. Seriously, check the comments.
Mike Hart is the master. If Mike Hart is serious about going into coaching after his NFL career is done and eventually returning to Michigan, he's already got the bit about expertly defusing tricky questions down pat. Via a recent radio appearance:
"I think that any Michigan man that would've came in would be hard to be mad at because I think people have been complaining so bad these last three years that – 'Hey, we want a Michigan guy here. We need a Michigan guy. Rich-Rod doesn't respect the traditions.' (For) guys that have been saying those things, Coach Hoke was the perfect hire because he brings back that Michigan legacy."
I eagerly await the day he's cut. No offense, Mr. Hart, it's just… you know.
and the hoke-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee
Needs moar tremendous.
Not much of substance, but I'm not a big fan of the Vick comparison. When Vick got to the NFL he was shepherded in a run-heavy, simple system that wasn't very good. It takes time, and while Denard will progress I think it'll take more than a year. There will be a larger post on this later.
Calling Brandon a liar. Is what LSU's doing:
"He was offered more than 4 million to become the Michigan coach," LSU Board of Supervisors member Stanley Jacobs said Friday. "When he said no, they came back and offered him more. And he said no again."
Miles is apparently set to sign an extension that does not raise his salary. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the buyout. Miles has made a lot of money already but seemed to be lacking in job security early this year when LSU was surviving by the skin of its teeth. He may not have leveraged the Michigan job into more money, but he may have leveraged it into making it very difficult to get rid of him if LSU fails to live up to expectations next year, which is totally going to happen because LSU fans are expecting a national title.
I can see Miles doing this because he's 57—a primary reason he should never have been considered for the job in the first place—and knows this is his last head coaching job at a premiere school. He's probably eyeing retirement in the not too distant future and would like to make sure he chooses the "when."
As for the Michigan side of things, I'm not sure what to believe. It would be stupid for Brandon to waste time playing footsie with Miles when he had no intention of tabling a serious offer, but it would be stupid to table a serious offer. So I guess it doesn't matter. The LSU guys think this game of semantics is silly:
"Well, if Hoke was his first choice, he could've signed him up prior to ever talking to Les or Harbaugh," LSU chancellor Mike Martin said. "Don't you think?"
One way or the other, they're right.
You are heartfelt but uninformed, LSU chancellor. Brandon, meanwhile, set to compounding his arrogant father-knows-best press conference by putting this out later in the day:
"I got inundated with advice," he admits on WDFN-AM 1130. "A lot of people with very good hearts, and who care a lot, and with a lot of passion, came at me with their point of view. And I respect that, and I certainly tried to show them a courteous reply whenever I could because those passionate people are what make Michigan football special.
"However, most of them are very uninformed, and in most cases, they were recommending people they had never met. Or been in the same room with. Or ever had a conversation with. And interviewing a candidate for an important job like this is about sitting down and talking about specific issues, and getting to know them at a completely different level than blogs and statistics and images that, in many cases, are shaped by PR more than reality. [ed: the noise you heard was my irony meter exploding.]
"So, I didn't pay a lot of attention to those recommendations – even though they came from people with good hearts, they just weren't all that helpful."
This falls in line with Brandon's comments during the press conference that "all that glitters is not gold" when it comes to some coaches and that "the hype or the PR doesn't match the real person." To me, that came off really, really poorly. I was pretty sure everyone was in the same boat—I especially liked the bit at the end that signaled the program's return to barely tolerating its fans—but apparently not. The Wolverine Blog says to give credit to Brandon for "putting himself on the line," which he's certainly done by making his decision on explicitly faith-based grounds. I'm not so much with the crediting bit.
One, attempting to paint the internet's problem with Brady Hoke as a matter of "statistics" is… well, the main statistics people have problems with are "record: 47-50" and "age: 52," neither of which is a particularly advanced metric.
Two: does this relate in any way to Brandon's passive-aggressive comments about Jim Harbaugh when Rodriguez was fired? It doesn't seem very leader-y to take shots at the people you interviewed and didn't hire. It implies everyone other than Brady Hoke is not fit to coach Michigan, and attempts to dismiss an awful lot of evidence that suggests Hoke is kind of a desperate hire by saying "you have not sat across the room from this man."
It's not reassuring to envision Brandon's interview process. Braves and Birds blows up this line of reasoning from Brandon real good; suffice it to say that Brady Hoke would have to be vastly worse than expected to sink to the level of Brandon's performance over the last two months. It looks like we'll have tangible evidence of that in two weeks.
EXPLICIT SECTION: Here's the tedious section in which I explain this is not a criticism of Brady Hoke but the athletic director that hired him at a terrible time for not particularly good reasons and told anyone who said words to that effect that they were "uninformed."
I expect Hoke will have enough success at Michigan to stick around a while; when he retires whether he was a good idea is likely to be a matter of heated and interminable debate. I hope I am wrong and am willing to give Hoke the proverbial "chance." I hope that Dave Brandon sets the world record for smug pats on the back when Hoke retires. For the record.
BONUS: Expect to read this disclaimer dozens of times!
1/14/2011 – Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 – 14-6-4, 11-4-1 CCHA
1/15/2011 – Michigan 6, Ferris State 1 – 15-6-4, 12-4-1 CCHA
It's hard to get any emotional mileage from a game you saw on Comcast Local in a bar. The audio was trying to ignore Joe Buck calling an NFL game, the picture quality was 70s-vintage, and the camera was placed so close to the ice that not getting seasick was the main goal. Also it was a blowout.
Friday night, on the other hand, Michigan fell behind 2-0 and looked like they had let whatever momentum they'd gathered towards the back half of 2010 slip away. Commence well-practiced emo time.
Over the next four periods later they outscored a decent Ferris State team 8-0 en route to locking up a home-and-home sweep that sees them top the league* for the first time in over a year. Their goal differential is the best in the league. They're knocking on the door of a #1 seed in the tournament. And it's all a bit mystifying how.
At midseason it seemed like this team was just another middle of the road bunch that would make the tournament but didn't seem like much of a threat to do anything once there, as has been the MO for most Michigan teams since Red's great asskickers of the late 90s. It still kind of seems like that, but something else is creeping in: doubt.
I have the paradigm of a great Michigan team in my head. It has a 5'8" guy who could stickhandle through the Red Army. It has another guy who is a scoring machine thanks to the midget. It has a great craggy mountain of a defenseman who is impenetrable and another defenseman who is a completely insane goal pirate and therefore my favorite player on the team. It has Jed Ortmeyer, who is also my favorite player, and a goalie that everyone is secretly suspicious of.
This edition has some of those pieces, but lacks the magic midget, the mountain, and the swashbuckling nut. The midget is a loss keenly felt by everyone who sees Lindsay Sparks do something surprisingly dangerous and remembers Hensick/Cammalleri/Comrie et al. But the defensemen… in the defensemen may lie the secret of Michigan's success. Specifically, John Merrill.
Merrill came to Michigan with a ton of hype, surviving as the one member of Michigan's incredibly awesome 2010 recruiting class that arrived on campus with his draft status close to intact. That hype still fell far short of Jack Johnson's, and Merrill hasn't spun past an opposition forward on a routine breakout or murdered three guys on a single shift yet. His dad does not dance during the second intermission, not that anyone would notice if he did these days.
Despite that, Jon Merrill is a about ten times better than Jack Johnson was as a freshman. Johnson was insane even for my tastes. As a freshman he racked up an incredible 149 penalty minutes, most of them due to insane aggression. When it came to penalties Johnson was Tristin Llewellyn on speed, and that extended to the rest of his game. When he wasn't doing something ridiculous, he was doing something ridiculous.
Jon Merrill has four penalty minutes this year. Four! He plays all the time, against the top line, and has as many penalty minutes as Shawn Hunwick. That kind of brilliance only becomes apparent over time. Merrill takes tough situations and handles them elegantly in ways that his senior defense partner doesn't always. (Langlais had a rough first period on Friday.) He's emblematic of the entire corps, which consists of Merrill and Burlon and Langlais and Pateryn not making the sort of mistakes that made my veins throb in years past, or at least not many.
Michigan has always been the hare of college hockey, a high-tempo, high-variance team that racks up goals and penalty minutes. Their assets have always been obvious—that guy who can shoot the puck through a donkey, that first round draft pick. This is not a vintage Michigan team, but what it lacks in JMFJ thunder it may make up for with subtler qualities.
*[By winning percentage. Michigan is a point back of Notre Dame but has two games in hand—with conference wins worth three Michigan actually has a somewhat significant lead. Also if you're down here the next sentence says something about goal differential, by which I mean conference goal differential. Miami is better all things considered.]
Non-Bullets Of Well, Now
Though it's not that different. Michigan's ninth in GPG this year, just a tiny pip behind Miami and North Dakota. Most of the other big scorers are Air Force or locked in the insular (and usually not very good) ECAC, leaving just two teams—BC and Notre Dame—significantly outscoring them. Who knew?
Enter the Moffie. Man, Lee Moffie can sneak them in from the point, can't he? Twice in two games this weekend to go with a couple from his freshman year. If he could just play some defense he'd be in business.
Caveat: in a game earlier this season Moffie was a turnover machine and was subsequently benched for a good long time. He nosed himself ahead of Mac Bennett when Kevin Clare rotated in on Saturday but is liable to collapse.
This years Rolfe Memorial Who-Dat Senior. Will be no surprise, but it's Scooter Vaughn, who scored Saturday to reclaim his spot as the third leading goalscorer on the team behind only Hagelin and Wohlberg.
Pairwise watching, still in vague mode. Michigan moved up one spot to sixth with their sweep. You are now rooting for the Bulldogs to destroy the rest of their schedule; at 11-10-4 they're actually pretty good (11-7-3) when not playing Michigan and if they can nose their way into the top 25 in RPI Michigan's Pairwise comparisons will get a major bump. Ferris is currently 28th.
How bizarre. Michigan hosted a fascinating recruiting visitor on the Michigan State weekend: Max Domi. Yes, that Domi. The younger guy is a highly skilled forward who would be a top pick in the OHL draft if his dad wasn't worried about OHL kids seeing the name on his back and wanting to make a name for themselves. They're making seemingly sincere college noises, but as always with these things it's hard to tell if the interest is real or if it's just posturing for the draft.
Domi's still a couple years from college, FWIW, and won't help fill in the two or three blanks at forward in next years class.
Also bizarre. Miami has the sixth-best goal differential in the country—Michigan is eighth—but finds itself 18th in RPI and outside of the tourney in PWR. Their record isn't very pretty so they must be obliterating teams in their wins and losing narrowly in losses.
Kicking yourself. Michigan's non-wins this year include a tie after being up 4-0 on Mercyhurst, blowing two third period leads against UNH, and two losses in OT. OTOH, they scored with under a minute left to send one of those games to OT and got a tie out of Ferris State via the same Houdini act.
Comment over/under. Twelve, in marked contrast to anything about football these days.
A lot has changed since last week, some for good some for bad. I will try to keep you up to date the best I can, and here's a look at what we know so far. Remember if you ever have any recruiting tips or questions you can always email me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter to get more recruiting updates as they come through.
We might as well start with the ugly bits and talk about the recent decommitments. K Matt Goudis recently took a visit to Miami and decided to commit to the Hurricanes. Al Golden has some weird obsession with Michigan recruits. He's pursuing Goudis, Dallas Crawford, Kellen Jones, and Kris Frost.
DB Dallas Crawford officially decommitted from Michigan, and it's looking like it's over. Who Brady Hoke hires as his defensive coordinator could still make an impact on Crawford. We'll have to wait to see who the new DC is to know, but it's looking very grim.
OL Jake Fisher decommitted yesterday, and has decided to open everything up after visiting Michigan State this past weekend. He's saying everyone is even and could end up taking visits to Oregon, Florida, and Notre Dame. It's not looking good for Michigan to get him back.
Those three are officially decommited and a few more are on the fence. OL Tony Posada took a visit to Mississippi State this past weekend, and there's a rumor that he loved it. Posada is supposed to visit Michigan this coming weekend. We'll see how Tony feels after that. DB Blake Countess also took a visit to Penn State, but has been vocal about his love for Michigan so there may not be much to worry about there. LB Kellen Jones recently took a visit to Colorado and may end up taking a visit to Miami as well. We'll see if that materializes.
Now that Matt Goudis has decommitted, Michigan would still like to land a kicker in this class.
There were rumors of former high school kicker Derrick Mitchell potentially walking on at Michigan. I spoke with his father to see what the situation was, and he had this to say.
(Former Michigan kicker) Mike Gillette knew about Derrick and connected him with Coach Rodriguez. They said they needed a kicker and had a spot for him if he wanted it. The problem is that Derrick is in the minor leagues right now with the Phillies. He had a pretty good season last year, so I don't know if he wants to give that up just to be a kicker.
The strange part is that the Phillies would pay for part of Mitchell's tuition if he were to come to Michigan. He's getting paid 5th round money right now and is moving up to AA ball so it's not likely he'll come to Michigan this year.
6'2", 210 lbs.
San Diego, California
Wile received an offer from Michigan, which makes sense because he also had an offer from San Diego State. Wile was an Army All American, and would help fill the void Goudis' decommitment left.
Connor Loftus could still an option since he already had a Michigan offer, but the recent offer to Wile probably means the new coaches want him instead. Michigan will have to compete with Air Force and Nebraska. Wile will be in Ann Arbor this weekend.
New Offers and New Contact
The new Michigan coaches have started to reach out to recruits and extend new offers as well. Besides WIle here's a look at some new recruits that Michigan is now targeting. There will be plenty more of these as the coaching staff fills out and we get closer to signing day.
- DT Travarris Saulsberry (6'4", 252 lbs, Florida) - He's reporting he has an offer, but it's an odd offer because Saulsberry is committed to Tennessee, and has been since August. He told me he's 100% committed to the Vols and isn't considering Michigan.
- DE Jordan Williams (6'4", 240 lbs, Florida) - Williams is a teammate of Saulsberry and also committed to Tennessee. He also told me he's 100% with the Vols.
- DB Stefan McClure (5'11", 170 lbs, 4 Star, California) - McClure was just offered and plans on visiting Michigan this weekend. I spoke with McClure recently and I got the feel that he was genuinely open in his recruitment. If Michigan can impress him they'll have a shot.
- OL Pat Flavin (6'7", 260 lbs, 3 Star, Illinois) - Flavin has not been offered yet, but he did receive a call on Sunday from Michigan's OL coach Darrell Funk. He missed the call initially but called Coach Funk back and was told the situation is fluid right now. No offer was extended, but Funk wanted an update on where he was at. Probably means the coaches are waiting to see who decommits, and stays committed.
January 21st Visits
This weekend will be the first visit weekend hosted by Brady Hoke and company. Here's a list of visitors so far. This list will continue to change:
- TE/LB Frank Clark (6'2", 210 lbs, 3 Star, Ohio) The Glenville prospect has showed genuine interest in Michigan, and there is an even greater need for his services with the switch in offensive philosophy.
- ATH Raymon Taylor (5'10", 165 lbs, 4 Star, Michigan) The former Indiana commit has always been a fan of Michigan. He does like the new Indiana staff, so we'll see what happens.
- DB Stefan McClure (5'11", 170 lbs, 4 Star, California). As mentioned.
- OL Tony Posada (6'6", 315 lbs, 3 Star, Florida) Fresh off a visit to Mississippi State, we'll see if he makes the trip.
- K Matt Wile (6'2", 210 lbs, 2 Star, California) Just offered two days ago, will be visiting Ann Arbor.
- WR Hakeem Flowers had a phone call scheduled with the new Michigan coaches on Sunday. He is announcing on the 23rd and it's down to Oregon, Michigan, and LSU. Michigan is still in great position with Flowers.
- WR Devin Lucien is announcing on the 30th. Brady Hoke hasn't contacted him yet, so the interest is starting to fall.
- WR/LB Kris Frost is still waiting to hear back from Auburn on whether his commitment will be honored. He's not graduating early anymore, so he might end up taking more visits. Miami is coming after him, but if the Michigan coaches get in contact with him and push they will still have a good chance.
- OL Chris Bryant took an official visit to Pitt, where former Michigan coaches Calvin Magee, Tony Gibson, and Tony Dews are now coaching. He swung by Michigan on the way home to meet with Brady Hoke. The meeting lasted long enough to require Bryant and his dad to have to get a hotel for the night. I'll try to catch up with Bryant on Monday to talk about the visit.
Because the logical thing to do these days is expect everything will be DOOM forever I was waiting for Denard Robinson to say something about not transferring (instead of people who have talked to Denard Robinson) before declaring ollie ollie oxen free. This would be that:
I'm still expecting a couple weeks of terrifying rumors in May, but I think it's safe for the kids on the diag to put their candles out and head home.
There have been kids on the diag with lit candles, right?
[New media looking-glass bonus: this is a snippet of a longer interview posted by the official site, clipped by a television station, placed on youtube by the roving band of Michigan video maniacs, and embedded by yours truly.]