to play football, not to play trumpet
My final entry for the preseason blogpoll.
A few responses to comments left for the draft ballot (and yes, a lot of them were legit comments related to the fact that I hastily assembled the draft).
USC is eligible for the blogpoll (to the best of my knowledge), but I made a conscious decision to exclude them. If they earn it over the course of the year, I'm not sure whether I'll rank them or not.
As for Oregon, the QB they plug in for Masoli should have at least some experience (Darron Thomas started part of 2007 after Jeremiah Masoli went down, redshirted 2008 and played backup last year, and Nate Costa is a 5th-year senior with some starting experience of his own). Plus, aside from the first game of last year, Chip Kelly's offense has rolled along, regardless of personnel.
I dropped Penn State way down, as I'm as down on them as anyone else coming into the year, but went with the familiar when scrambling to complete the ballot.
As for Alabama not being #1, I'm not a believer in "you stay at the top until you lose." They lost so much on defense, that even returning a running back with a Heisman (that he may or may not have deserved) can't overcome it.
I reserve the right to seriously backtrack on North Carolina if they end up losing players to eligibility problems. As of now, their defense is positively rockin', and as long as the offense doesn't screw everything up, they should be pretty good.
Bumped out Nevada, because their defense has been pretty bad. Still love Colin Kaepernick though. That made room at the end of the ballot for West Virginia.
The rest of the stuff is just minor shuffling. Feel free to comment on this ballot as well, so I can continue refining. Don't take it too seriously, of course, as preseason polls are a futile endeavor.
Back in April, I wrote a diary called Blue Moon in my Eye in which I developed a regression model that could be used to develop a projected win total assuming that reasonable estimates had been used as inputs. At the time I thought that the team would be capable of winning at least seven, probably eight, and maybe even nine out of thirteen games this season. Since then, things have, uh, how do you say … changed. With the loss of Woolfolk, how do those numbers change?
The New Blue Moon
Before I get to that, there’s a good reason to update the model. In April, I mentioned that turnover margin is meaningful factor in regard to outcomes, but I lacked enough data to break it out specifically and therefore decided to leave it as a lumped parameter; turnovers were doomed to fade into the ether that is Intercept. No more, the NCAA has finally included turnover data in its database and now there is enough data to mix into the model. The new model has an improved R-squared value (0.752 as improved from 0.675) using just three end-of-year factors: offensive yards per game, defensive yards per game, and total turnover margin. Last time I didn’t include the model because it was mine, my own, my … preciousss. That was incredibly lame and nerdy (both with holding the coefficients and referencing LOTR) but we’re talking stats here so no one should be surprised. Another reason for divulging the goods is, now that there are four dimensions, a chart would be useless. Behold, the Blue Moon Model coefficients:
- I left the P-Values in there for those who know what that is. For the rest of you, it suffices to say what I said last time: that ish be money, yo.
- The second column (Normalized Coefficients) is there to demonstrate the relative importance of each factor; in short, defense is a skosh more influential than offense and turnover margin is a little over half as important as both.
- The use of the model (first column) is simple, start with the intercept then multiply the other the coefficients with their interrogation values and add everything together. Use it to gamble at your own peril. Until such a time as you can accurately predict end of year stats for these categories, the model is only good for using as a platform to base sophisticated guesses off of.
Probable influential factors that are embedded in the 25% of the variation not explained by the model (1 – R_squared) are:
- Return Teams effectiveness. Good return teams will establish good field position thus reducing OffYds/G.
- Coverage Teams effectiveness. Bad units will allow the other team to establish good field position thereby reducing DefYds/G.
- Field Goal Kicking effectiveness. If you get into field goal position and miss, you’ll have a lot of yards but nothing to show for them.
- Penalties. Penalty yardage will increase/decrease your production depending on if they’re called on you or them but doesn’t necessarily change how effective each team is at controlling field position.
- In round terms, factor influence on winning percentage breaks down to 30% Offense, 30% Defense, 15% Turnover Margin, and 25% Other Things.
Shine Down on the Big Ten (and it’s self-absorbed neighbor)
Below is 2009 Big Ten Data and Blue Moon Model expectation (BMM Expect).
|Team||OffYds/G||DefYds/G||TrnOvrMgn_Tot||2009 Wins||BMM Expect.||Delta Wins|
Despite the coaching staff and team being in Europe, John Beilein still managed to snag a commit from 2011 OH SG Trey Burke today.
|3*, #22 PG||3*, #27 G, #127 Overall||95, #22 PG|
Burke joins fellow guard Carlton Brundidge in the 2011 class.
UMHoops does a much more thoroough writeup on Burke, so check it out (image also from UMHoops).
After Rich Rodriguez spoke to the assembled media on Sunday, I got a chance to talk to some of Michigan's assistants. I didn't talk to Calvin Magee or Greg Robinson because we've already heard from them in the past couple weeks, and I didn't get a chance to talk to Greg Frey or Adam Braithwaite.
Each of the three quarterbacks brings something different to the table. Tate's experience of starting 12 games is a significant factor, but the coaches need to make sure he stays disciplined. Denard is the most explosive of the three quarterbacks. As for passing, "he's worked on it, I don't want to say refined." He deserves a lot of credit for putting in the effort, and "he's picked up the offense a lot more than what he had last year." Gardner is a superb athlete who is getting better every day.
The competition is helping the team, because each quarterback has to work hard every rep or risk being replaced.
Though Tate acknowledged slacking a bit this summer, "He didn't come in bad shape. He passed all his conditioning tests." He's been willing to put in the work in practice so far: "I've been pleased with him this camp."
Denard has a much better idea of the offensive scheme and what the coaches are trying to accomplish. "You don't cloud your mind and slow up your feet, and that's what he was doing last year." Over-thinking contributed to part of his problems last year.
Denard does a lot of work in technique drills, but he's not consistent yet. The coaches work on tightening his mechanics from weight transfer to follow-through, which is the sort of stuff a lot of high school kids don't learn. He came in as an athlete trying to play quarterback, and the coaches are trying to turn him into a quarterback who's athletic. He's been willing to put in the work.
Denard's ability to pass will open up defenses, allowing him to rush for more than the 5.1 yards/carry he got last year. "Not just the passing, but I've opened up the playbook a little more to him. We knew what we were gonna do with him. I think defenses knew what was coming." He has the potential to score 4 out of every 10 times he touches the ball due to how explosive he is.
Both quarterbacks at reading the defensive end on the option play. They're prepared to make the read against all sorts of different defenses, so they'll be familiar with everything they face.
"I don't know yet" if Denard will be the starter. The coaches are repping all three quarterbacks while the media focuses on Denard.
Tate came in a little more polished out of high school. Denard and Devin have needed more work on their throwing mechanics out of high school. Both must have worked hard individually this summer to be where they are today.
The different skill sets among the quarterbacks all fit in with what the offensive staff wants to do. They don't want a guy to just stand there. All three quarterbacks have the necessary mobility.
(Short but sweet)
On Stephen Hopkins: "Before he's done here, he'll be another Chris Perry. Feet, shallow cuts, power. I mean, I don't know if Chris ever weighed 230 or not."
4-5 backs will get serious playing time this year.
"They're working extremely hard and doing well." Dews is a little more anxious to see how his guys can do compared to the past, because now there are people with three years in the system. They know the expectations of them.
Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum have been in the system since they were freshmen, and now they're able to help be leaders for the younger guys, because they've been there before.
As far as moving guys to the other side of the ball goes, Dews says "I don't worry about losing anybody if it's going to make our team better." It happens every year in college football, and if it's good for the team, "whatever's going to help us win and compete for BCS bowl games, I'm all for it."
Kelvin Grady has matured quite a bit. He's catching the ball well this camp. He looks a little bigger than last year, and is playing with more confidence. He is not one of the slot receivers who have gotten time on the outside.
Darryl Stonum "did come back in great shape. He's been kind of a piston. He's been out there rolling." Getting contacts has helped him catch better. He really started coming on in the spring, when he realized the opportunity he would have to be a starter. Wearing a cast on one arm helped train him to always catch with his hands. He understands the offense, but needs to refine his technique, and he's willing to do that. He's gorwn up and learned from his past mistakes.
Junior Hemingway has had a pretty good camp. "Junior has shown flashes for a couple years now. Obviously his biggest issue has been being on the field. Obviously when he's healthy and he's playing, he certainly can help us."
On Ryan Van Bergen - Works hard, always around the ball, "he's a great student of the game." He's bigger and stronger than last season.
Pass Rush with the three-man front is tough to evaluate right now. The Michigan offense doesn't have much drop-back passing, so they're hard to evaluate against. "It won't always just be three men rushing."
Craig Roh might be one of the guys adding pressure (from linebackers). GERG will put together some different packages to mix up pressure.
The freshmen have just finished school, and will be able to focus on football now. They're all doing well so far. Tall noted that there are five freshmen in his position group - Jibreel Black, Terry Talbott (Tall used to confuse the Talbotts' first names on recruiting visits), Richard Ash, Kenny Wilkins, and preferred walkon Chris Eddins.
Kenny Wilkins is working at defensive end. "He's pretty good-sized. He's probably up somewhere around 6-4, 270... He's got good size for a young player."
Tall wishes he could have picked a different number for Jibreel Black, so he wouldn't be compared to Brandon Graham so much. "55 was a very special player, and you don't want to put that on anybody."
Troy Woolfolk "was in great shape, he was having a great camp, you hate it for him." If there's any good to come out of his injury, it's that he gets to come back next year. It makes you sick to see a kid that's worked so hard go down.
"You know we can't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because nobody else is going to feel sorry for us."
All the freshmen are playing hard. At free safety, Carvin Johnson is "doing a great job and has great ball skills." Terrence Talbott has been a pleasant surprise, and Cullen Christian has been practicing at both corner positions. All of them need to keep growing, and work on their tackling.
James Rogers has been playing well, but the second starting corner position is still up for grabs. There are still two weeks to prepare the guys to play.
Pissin' on the First Amendment. A note on a new message board policy: threads about the Free Press are now banned. Details on the board. Most of them saw a piece of me die, a lot of them were full of the sort of ugly ad hominems I delete from my posts about the paper, and they were all redundant since at this point I'm pretty sure the blog's readership has formed their opinion of them.
This might seem hypocritical a day after I posted some ad hominem at the Free Press myself, but I can control the frequency of that (very rarely). I can't on the board (every damn day).
Never forget. The meaning of this should be obvious:
But in case you need a legend, MGoUser "MGauxBleu" has a legend. A salute to all those who have dared the wrath of Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God but not lived to tell the tale.
MOLK! Okay, I didn't listen to all of the Media Day videos, but some guys did and they caught David Molk tellin' it like it is:
Q. How excited are you to get back on the field after sitting out the last few games of 2009?
A. I can't wait. The reason I like football is that I like to hit people. I hate everything else. I like to hit people really f___ing hard (laughs), and I haven't been able to do that for a really long time.
In the wild. The FAU-Michigan State game at Ford Field provides an interesting test case of what a game against a tomato can is worth when not parasitically attached to a season ticket package. Because it's technically an FAU "home" game—they had to move it because their stadium won't be ready—State can't do the parasite thing, and ticket sales are going as well as you might expect. Under 10,000 tickets have been sold because though Spartan fans did go to Michigan State, they didn't go to Ohio State and can therefore count:
With a sideline ticket going for $69 (and the most expensive ticket topping out at $79 or $88.10 with fees) the game just may be a little steep for the citizens of Detroit, whose economy is in ruins.
Many of the grumblings from Spartan fans I hear from is that the tickets are the most expensive of the season – sideline seats at Spartan Stadium go for around $49 - and they consider this to be one of the worst games of the season.
Not wanting to shell out 70-90 bucks to see FAU play MSU is less about an "economy in ruins" and more about having a shred of sense. If Michigan was playing Bowling Green at Ford Field and it wasn't part of the ticket package I wouldn't pay 80 bucks to see it. I might play 30, and I run a Michigan blog. End zone seats have just been reduced to 20 bucks—it won't be long until the whole stadium is that price.
What a bizarre system: teams radically underprice games against actual opponents and try to make it up with body bag games.
Fiutakin' it. This one is a doozy. From David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press:
Forcier started every game last season. But he drew the ire of now-injured Troy Woolfolk when the senior cornerback chastised him publicly for skipping voluntary summer workouts, saying Forcier had lost respect of teammates and coaches, in part for practicing in a non-winged helmet.
If you are in disbelief this was actually written, a screenshot:
So… yeah. David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press thinks Tate Forcier brought an unauthorized helmet to practice.
So I find myself in an extremely bizarre position: Michigan had a semi-public scrimmage on Saturday that I and a few hundred others attended after donating to Motts or buying the big baller seats. If you've been on the internet since Saturday you've noticed probably dozens of reports on message boards, the diaries here, other blogs, and one local radio host's (pretty inaccurate) tweets. Also there's a highlight video from the official site:
But they specifically told myself, MVictors, Scout, Rivals, and Craig Ross that "nothing was to be reported" from the scrimmage. This worked as well as you might imagine, leaving us on the sidelines as everyone with a username throws vague information around. So here's a bizarre roundup of things other people said on the internets and in my inbox that doesn't involve personal reporting. This lion is caged.
Popular sentiment holds that Denard is the man:
looks comfortable, made some nice throws, seems in charge of the O. Wouldn't want to have to tackle him.
Unless something crazy happens between now and September 4, Denard Robinson is your clear starter at quarterback. The quarterbacks weren’t live today, but Robinson still managed to carve up the second-team defense (running the first-team offense, of course) with his legs and his arm. His made good decisions with the ball and his passes were on the money, and he took a QB draw 40+ yards to the house — only Denard makes that play, and he made it look easy.
He will absolutely start as he is clearly the leader on the team. He had the most energy during warm-ups, was the first one and the fastest one doing stretch drills, and was clearly the first-team QB of the day during the 'scrimmage'. He hit a nice 23-ish yard pass on a WICKED play fake to Grady. And then ran it in for another 25 or so on a QB draw, juking a DB as he went. Enough to even get the sidelines "ooh-ing".
Prior to seeing this scrimmage I was a fan of Tate and would tell anyone who asked, that Tate would be the starter. After watching the scrimmage, D-Rob will be the starter. He was much better in the pocket, made good decisions when faced with getting rid of the ball or being sacked with loss of yards, and his exchanges were very good. Think about some of the ball fakes that Juice Williams had. D-Rob isn't there yet, but he will be.
That longish pass was the a half-roll at about 2:00 in the highlights on which Robinson pulled up and nailed Terrance Robinson between the numbers and between levels in the zone. An emailer suggested that he wouldn't have believed it possible without the spring game. Also, at the end of practice they had the team run a lap around the field four times. It's "a little tough to tell" because each position group starts from a different place on the field, but 3 of the 4 times Denard was the first player on the team to finish. (Ray Vinopal seemed to win the last one.) That's "more a measure of endurance than speed."
Robinson actually got a lot less run than the other two quarterbacks, finding himself on the bench as Forcier and Gardner (and Jack Kennedy) alternated series late; when he did get on the offense would score quickly, further depressing his reps. To me that reads like the decision is already made and they are being somewhat cautious.
Conflicting reports on Gardner and Forcier. Ace's take:
Devin Gardner, running mostly with the twos, looked at times like a seasoned veteran, but he had a couple throws — including an ugly interception to Marvin Robinson — that reminded everyone he is just a freshman. His natural ability could lead to him seeing the field this year, but I think it’s safe to say he’s probably a year away from really pushing for the starting job. Really like his poise in the pocked and running ability, however, and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done if the quarterbacks were live. Tate Forcier started with the threes but saw snaps with the ones and twos as well — he looked solid throwing the ball, but made a couple poor reads on zone running plays.
Gardner came in for a lot of praise but a trusted observer in the inbox says "Gardner made a number of bad decisions under pressure." There that Marvin Robinson interception reminiscent of the slo-mo-nooooo plays last year; observer also cited a strong tendency for Gardner to panic and chuck off his back foot when blitzers got through. He suggested that in a scrimmage with more blitzing—it was exceedingly rare—Forcier would have probably looked clearly better than Gardner. While a few folk are saying there is "NO WAY" Gardner redshirts, TO thought he was at best even with Forcier and given that should watch from the sidelines. He made more big errors than anyone else.
In drills, Tate looked best, FWIW.
Hopkins was the name on everyone's tongue after a day spent running through arm tackles and showing surprising shiftiness. He "hit the holes and was a load to take down." Trusted Observer said he had a hard time picking out Hopkins before the scrimmage, as he looked like PJ Hill in the spring but after losing ten pounds and reshaping maybe a dozen others into muscle "now looks like a tailback" instead of a moonlighting fullback.
One negative note:
I didn't think Hopkins looked as great as everyone else did. Not a diss on his play - he ran very hard - but I didn't see the world beater others did. Much like the other scrimmages, all the RBs looked good, but none really stood out. We have options in Cox and Shaw. Though V. Smith, as reported, looks great - no noticeable effects from the injury.
Ace and others also noted that Vincent Smith seems 100% healthy; you can see him dance his way down to the two in the highlights above on one of his better runs on the day. TO said it looked like he was tentatively first team with Mike Shaw second but "both those guys fumbled and I wouldn't put much stock in that."
Mike Cox continued to show that he might be the best athlete amongst the running backs, but on two separate instances he caused Rodriguez to "lose it" by cutting way back against the grain, turning a modest gain into nothing by dancing at the line of scrimmage. On one "there was a gap on the frontside but he cut all the way behind the backside tackle," losing yardage and causing RR to chew him out; on the second "RR just dropped his headset in disgust."
Toussaint did not play due to an injury.
If you're looking at playing time in this scrimmage as a signal as to which freshmen wideouts will play, your "leaders in order" are Jerald Robinson, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, and finally DJ Williamson. Yeah, Dileo, who looked "natural fielding punts and catching the ball in drills" despite being "fricking tiny." Robinson got a lot of playing time but "dropped everything."
As for the veterans, the nominal first team was the same it was in spring with Martavious Odoms spending a lot of time outside with Darryl Stonum; Roy Roundtree was in the slot but "did not play much" probably because "they know he's the guy." In his stead Robinson and Grady got most of the playing time, with Gallon around but "not doing much." Hemingway was on the second team with Stokes.
At TE, Koger, Webb, and Moore "seemed even," with Koger suffering a frustrating drop. Robinson added one, but otherwise the starting WRs caught everything that came their way. It was mostly underneath stuff, probably because of the open nature of the scrimmage.
Not much here. Molk was in a green shirt and played only sparingly (this was "precautionary"); Khoury was his backup and there were several poor snaps, two or three of which led to drive-killing fumbles. Huyge (left) and Dorrestein (right) were tackles on the first team OL. Lewan was on the second team and played beyond the whistle to the point where he got a personal foul. TO noticed Quinton Washington struggling badly in the post-practice runs, finishing last. Someone, possibly Elliot Mealer, spent practice on the bike with a red jersey. Barnum was a second-team guard and the third-team center.
Coaches kept yelling at Schofield to keep his pad level down.
TO says he spent most of the scrimmage watching the offense and didn't have much on the D. He did note that Mike Martin finished first easily in the DL group on the runs with Will Campbell lagging behind. Ace highlighted Jibreel Black, who looks like a quick contributor. Another emailer said "Martin is a beast" and didn't get much playing time for precautionary reasons:
“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can do, but he’s been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
Campbell seemed to be on the third team. Sagesse sat out with an injury, though he was in green, not red.
It does not seem like Martin is moving, so everyone figure out who Greg Banks's backup is.
That stuff about Moundros possibly starting looks accurate:
Moundros starts in the middle, looks like he's been playing there for a while. A run stuffer certainly. Middle zone coverage? Not enough data. Ezeh also stuffed the run and took on blocks at Mouton's spot. Roh will be a beast, but given almost all of the throws were short, his pass rush didn't have time to get home.
Not much else here. Ezeh played WLB with Mouton in green. Davion Rogers is "a twig."
Ack. Cam Gordon, from reports ranging from some guy…
Vlad will hit you, but we all knew that. Cam Gordon is going to be very good, I think. Big boy. He was in position to make two great tackles, but unfortunately didn't wrapup and was pulled off the field. Later returned with the 1's. Going to take some time
…to the coach…
“Yesterday probably wasn’t his best day practice-wise, but other than that he’s had a really good camp,” Rodriguez noted.
“We were in position to make plays - I was in position - but we didn’t wrap up,” Gordon said. “I think we were all a little excited, especially us young guys to show what we could do and we had a breakdown in fundamentals. But those are easily correctable mistakes.
“Something Coach [Tony] Gibson said to me after our scrimmage was, ‘Cam, every hit doesn’t have to be a big hit.’ That’s a key for me and for all the guys. Any tackle is a good tackle. I don’t have to level somebody because in the stat book they all count the same way. I’ll get better and we’ll get better.”
…did not have a good day. Corners… not much detail. There's this:
JT Floyd looks good, Rogers looks big. Teric Jones and Christian are your 2's. Talbott and Avery don't look undersized, and don't look overwhelmed. Again, hard to judge corner play given the nature of the throws. But Christian has a way of moving that reminds one of Woodson.
If only. Floyd was pulled early, again likely as a precaution. Robinson looks good, a "big hitter and good tackler." Mike Williams spent a lot of time playing spur, not doing much of note. A push for a job or a sure starter (Thomas Gordon) getting held out of a high-contact scrimmage?
No worries at punter, where Hagerup's warmups were "just like Zoltan." The section of the practice dedicated to the punt team saw the punts "go straight" and were actually returnable. All were fielded cleanly except one fumble from Terrence Robinson. Here, too, Dileo "looked like a natural," executing a fair catch with aplomb and fielding an array of kickoffs and punts cleanly.
Field goal kicking was limited, with just two attempts. Meram missed from around 40, Gibbons hit from around 35. Kickoffs landed from the 2 to 10, which is about average these days. Kickoff coverage must be run at half speed because every one was returned to about midfield and then blown dead.