...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
I figured this would happen. In the comments to "Destroy Harbaugh" there first came a pebble:
No mention of the 38% stat, I see. Because lets be honest, it doesn't matter what major you are if you don't actually graduate.
And then another...
Etc. These claims invariably come from Notre Dame fans. What can I say? Their obsession with Michigan knows no bounds. They even harass innocent bloggers who don't even cover their team.
This is the sort of criticism that only the truly deranged could come up with. While Michigan has spent most of the past decade fighting a protracted court battle against anti-affirmative-action groups, eventually winning and sort of losing at the same time, and has vowed to do everything in its power to keep the undergraduate population representative in the wake of Proposal 2's passage last fall. Michigan's administration had a deep-seated and continuing freakout over losing the ability to consider an applicant's race when it comes to admissions. In January they said race would still be a part of the application but that admissions officers could be trusted to ignore that information. The university stepped up its outreach and recruitment efforts so much that applications actually went up five percent:
According to preliminary admissions data, a total of 2,460 underrepresented minorities had applied to the University by the beginning of February - a 5 percent increase from the same point last year.
The increase in applicants may have been due to the fact that Proposal 2 was looming. Students at Cass Technical High School in Detroit said that before the initiative passed, University admissions officers encouraged them to apply as early as possible because it would be harder to get in if Proposal 2 was approved.
"Admissions officers came to our school and told us to apply early," said Cass Tech senior Dwayne Riley, who has already enrolled at the University for next year.
Admissions officers visited Cass Tech - a major feeder school for underrepresented minorities who attend the University - frequently throughout the fall.
Ashley Grant, also a senior at Cass, said the University's image may have even improved since Proposal 2 passed.
"I definitely don't think Proposal 2 hurt Michigan's image," said Grant, who is still waiting to find out whether she's been admitted to the University. "If anything, I think it made the school look a lot better because it was trying to do everything in its power to admit as many students of color as possible."
Meanwhile, Notre Dame admits virtually no black students. A minuscule 3.6% of the undergraduate population is black, and the only reason it's that high is because of varsity athletics. One third of the black males on campus have letter jackets. A third! Without varsity athletes there would be 102 black undergraduate males at Notre Dame, 2.4% of the male student body. If you had a scavenger hunt on the Notre Dame campus, "black undergraduate male" would be tough. I don't mean to imply any racism on the part of the administration or school itself; far more likely is that an expensive Catholic school in South Bend, Indiana doesn't appeal to black students very much. (Its appeal to others remains a mystery.) As a private Catholic school their admissions policies are their prerogative. But it's clear that Notre Dame doesn't really care to change that perception or the composition of their student body.
So to be subject to a constant fusillade of racial criticism from fans of this school that suffers less than four percent of its student body to be black is amazing and infuriating, because the implication is always that Michigan is a racist institution that doesn't care about graduating people who aren't white. One school bends over backwards to help black students be the first in their family to go to college; the other virtually ignores them unless they can help out their sports teams... and it's Michigan that's criticized?
But it is leveled time and again, so it may as well be addressed.
1. 38% is a fictional number. I don't know where it came from or if it was a low ebb or what, but at the very least it's not current. The most recent NCAA data:
Three numbers, none of which are 38%, though one
is uncomfortably close to it. Which do we use? Well, 99-00 is just one class and the 4-class and GSR rates encompass a large number of athletes so we should prefer them. And the difference between 4-class and GSR or "Graduation Success Rate" is that the GSR removes "permissible exceptions" like religious missions or, um, death as well as players who transfer out of the program in good academic standing. It's more accurate, as it doesn't punish Michigan for losing a guy like Cobrani Mixon. That number: 50%. Obviously this is not ideal, but let's at least talk about a real number.
2. It is hard to graduate black men.
I'm not going to speculate on the reasons for this, but Michigan -- a school that we've seen wants to do everything in their power to get black kids on campus, and presumably graduate them -- only gave degrees to 61% of the black males it admitted over the four-year span in which our 50% number applies. This is a nationwide phenomenon:
Troubling, but not a symptom of wanton disregard from the university.
So it's not surprising that a group of black males with lower GPA and test scores than the general population, which already graduates at a lower rate than any other group, have an even tougher time getting out of college with a degree. Especially what with that full time job on the side. Of course, is that degree as valuable to varsity athletes?
3. Graduation is not a priority for many of Michigan's black athletes.
Some leave early: Woodson, Terrell, Branch, Shantee Orr, etc. Others, like Lamarr Woodley and David Harris, stay four years but are clearly going high in the NFL draft. They may not graduate because they choose to spend their final semester preparing for their chosen (and extremely lucrative) career instead of picking up a cosmetic diploma. This is clearly a larger effect for black players than white players. Despite an approximately 50-50 split between white and black players on Michigan's team, two-thirds of the draftees in the past ten years have been black.
And because whites are disproportionately concentrated on the offensive and defensive lines, tight end, linebacker, and quarterback -- all positions that tend to see redshirts a plenty -- they get a critical fifth year in the program much more often than black players do. An excellent comment (<-- also where the above referenced draft stat comes from) from Jim Carty's blog breaks down the details:
Of those drafted, % who were in school 5 years (really 4 and 1/2 since the guys preparing for the draft do not go to school second semester of their 5th year):
Black: 29% (9/31)
White: 87.5% (14/16)
Michigan's graduation rate for black males in school for four years hovers around 42%. (The 61% is the five-year graduation rate, from appearances.) Again I would like to stress that this is an outlier in no way whatsoever; this is a nationwide phenomenon.
This is only a subset of the total number of athletes, but it's a significant subset. Mike DeSimone shows 200 players signed in the previous decade, four of whom never got to campus and shouldn't be counted. Approximately half of them were black; approximately 31% percent of Michigan's black players ended up in the NFL over the past decade. This is a significant drag on their graduation rates, as a 1996 paper by Lawrence DeBrock, Wallace Hendricks, and Roger Koenker demonstrates. In it, they do a sophisticated statistical analysis of a set of variables. Their findings: when controlling for other factors, average GPA and SAT scores were not indicators of likely graduation or not, but four of the five professional success metrics were highly negatively correlated with graduation rates for an obvious reason: the acquisition of a degree is not as economically significant.
In each of our structural equations, our measure of the value of a degree from the institution had a strong positive impact on the graduation rate of scholarship athletes. This result was robust for all specifications, sports, and genders. In addition, we found evidence that the alternative economic opportunity of professional sports plays a significant role in the decision of scholarship athletes to stay in school. In both of the sports that had professional leagues, the opportunity to play in these leagues had a significant impact on graduation rates. In the case of women's basketball, where no such opportunities exist, those athletes who we predict would normally leave school early for this career are more likely to stay in school.
Alternative labor market opportunities are very real for this segment of the student body. These opportunities have significant impacts on graduation rates in football as well as men's basketball. The athlete's choice of a college is certainly driven by how the particular school will influence future financial returns; this is the same for nonathletes. The difference is that for athletes, this income stream is not as contingent on graduation as it is for other students. The strong implication is that movements to mandate graduation rates are misguided.
The market forces that lead some schools to have lower graduation rates among the student-athletes will continue to cause many students to rationally leave school early. Just as it is impossible to attempt to impose cross-institution equalization of graduation rates for the overall population of students, restrictions on graduation rates of scholarship athletes across campuses would be equally inefficient. While there is some informational content to raw graduation rates, it is considerably smaller than either the U.S. Congress or the media seem to believe.
Ironically, graduation rates are depressed because Michigan's elite football players are no fools: they have little use for a degree, at least not within the narrow five year band in which graduation rates are declared and discarded.
To paraphrase Kanye West, does Michigan care about black people?
You can't just add 50% and 31% to get a healthy 81% of Michigan's black players who end up either with a degree or in the NFL, as there's undoubtedly some overlap... but it probably isn't much given early departures, the prevalence of four-and-out NFL draftees, and the powerful economic disincentive provided by the potential of an NFL career -- Michigan will always be there, but your NFL combine comes but once a lifetime. Even if the overlap is quite large, Michigan's athlete success rate climbs above its non-athlete success rate. Peg it at around 50% of NFL players and Michigan athletes are at 65%, above the 61% of your typical student. That's estimating conservatively. Add in previous studies indicating that athletes are generally better off than non-athletes after graduation even without the pro sports option and it's clear that Michigan has little to apologize for. The goal here is not necessarily to rubber stamp some diploma. It's to provide these players a foundation from which they can live their life. Michigan does that by all accounts save one man who's got an obvious ulterior motive.
Is there room for improvem
Yes. Michigan makes an awful lot of money off these guys and owes them more than a typical student, who provides only tuition. Unless Michigan starts handing out degrees like candy the graduation rate is not likely to exceed 70-ish percent even in optimal cases. Ideally, everyone in the program is either degree-bearing or in the NFL minus a certain number of washouts that will happen naturally. Without a radical change in the philosophy of the university, 65% is a point the U should aim for an attempt to reach in the next few years.
What about Notre Dame?
This is about Notre Dame since it is always Notre Dame fans that bring this up, probably because they're about the only school that's appreciably better at handing kids degrees than Michigan is amongst national powers. Oh, and since they haven't won a bowl game in nearly 15 years. Or been among the top 25 programs in the last decade. Or finished with fewer than the three losses they deride Lloyd Carr for accumulating since 1993. When you can't talk about results on the field, talk about results off of it.
Anyway, according to the latest numbers ND has a GSR of 90%. Great! Good for you. But please realize that once you get into Notre Dame it is nearly impossible to not get a degree. One of eight Michigan undergraduates fails to graduate; that number at Notre Dame is one in 20. You can explain this gap any number of different ways, from the culture -- or lack thereof -- at Notre Dame to an Ivy League-like refusal to not pass people. I don't know which it is, but don't try to tell me that a school that recruits Tony Rice and Robert Blanton (810 SAT!) and the like but still graduates virtually everyone is particularly strict. Call this the Aaron Taylor Theory: if Aaron Taylor holds a degree from your university, chances are a sizable number of six-year-olds could also manage said feat.
Postscript. I'm tired of talking about this, but there is no one in the media who's willing to look at this any deeper than the surface level. Those that try, like Jim Carty, have put their muckraker hats on and are just digging for dirt without any consideration of complicated things like economics or common sense. Carty's perpetual assertion that it's way sketchy to have 60% of your declared majors in a particular program -- not an actual major -- which spans the entirely of LS&A but totally un-sketchy to have 60% of your declared players in only four majors, like Stanford does, is Carty at his worst. He did this "why won't Michigan answer my questions" junk after the Year of Infinite Pain, too. It's a common rhetorical device: assume Michigan's desire to avoid someone clearly looking to paint the university in a poor light is a virtual admission of guilt.
It's clear why Michigan is not going to talk about the subject: the last time they did they got an ill-considered Pat Forde article down their throat and Carty complaining about "silence." Since the media can't be trusted to do anything except rub their nonexistent goatees and try to impress chicks with their deep concern for Serious Issues instead of actually taking a point of view that's something other than willfully naive, they have no incentive to actually talk. In the end, the answer to "why won't Michigan talk to Jim Carty?" is "because he's Jim Carty."
Now: on to actual football. I have said my piece. I would appreciate it if commenters would link this whenever some daft Notre Dame fan runs into the comments and accuses Michigan of being the Josef Mengele of universities; nothing more on this topic will be published. Probably.
Clarification: Yesterday I told people wishing to enter the BlogPoll that they should contact me, but I was not entirely clear. The BlogPoll is a college football poll much like the AP or Coaches polls (except, like, thousands of times better) voted on by college football bloggers. You have to have a blog. Sorry for the confusion.
Noooooo, my precious piÃ±atas. Every once in a while -- usually when it's slow -- I come across something that reduces me to a gibbering rage machine. When this happens the result is usually something like "Matt Hayes looks like a horse" or "Stewart Mandel wants to sexytime Troy Smith" or "Tom Dienhart should be tasered and locked far away from the internet." These are not productive, per se. They do not advance the general understanding of football. And Peter Bean's got a point when he winces at them:
I sometimes cringe these days at some of the more inflammatory posts in the blogosphere these days - at least the ones which purport to be criticisms of mainstream media.
Mainstream media criticism is an important part of what a lot of sports blogs do these days, but I really do wonder whether it does anyone any good to write that ESPN "licks monkey balls" or something like that. Unfortunately, that's more the norm than the exception.
I think the next big step for sports bloggers will be to maintain their edge and personalities but to get over the little guy complex that seems to motivate so many to lash out angrily at the big kids in the park.
Sometimes even I wince at the nasty things I write even before I publish them. But once the red mist has lifted it's like 1:30 and I've got this screed and my blog has seven mouths and no bottom so up it goes. So, yeah, I see where he's coming from. But but but... someone randomly linked an old post of mine in the comments at EDSBS and I went back and read it. "Litmus Lloyd" deals with the odd response to the mild opprobrium Carr offered Urban Meyer in the wake of the BCS fiasco:
I just think that based on some of the comments the Florida coach has made in the last two weeks, he has been campaigning strenuously for a berth in the championship game and making some statements about Michigan that I think were inappropriate. That certainly is going to stir a controversy, and who knows what that's going to lead to.
Mandel made this into something else indeed:
I wasn't particularly thrilled with either coach's approach, and I think the whole exchange marked a particularly ugly moment for the BCS. ... [Stuff criticizing Meyer snipped]
All that said, I thought Carr's response to Meyer went completely overboard. Never once during the final two weeks of the season did Meyer say anything derogatory about the Wolverines. He never even said his team was better than Carr's. All he said was that Michigan had its shot at Ohio State and that he felt his team had earned the right to get its shot at the Buckeyes. So don't give me this "Carr took the high road" nonsense.
This was totally wrong. Meyer:
Should the Wolverines upset the Buckeyes in a rematch, Meyer would not consider Michigan the champions.
"Absolutely (there would be no national champion)," he said. "If I'm Ohio State, I go get a bunch of rings and say, 'We won the national championship.' That's not right."
And I read this over again and just.... ooooohhh. Mandel had no idea what the coaches were saying in the biggest story of the year. WTF. This is a highly visible national columnist who has no idea what's going on.
See, the thing is: there are no Ivan Maisel rip jobs floating out there. No one's fisking Bruce Feldman or Pat Forde (at least not on a regular basis; exceptions made for credulously following Jim Harbaugh around on a leash) every time they publish something. The guys who really get it on a regular basis -- Mike Freeman, Dennis Dodd, Mandel, maybe a few others -- deserve it. They aren't getting heat out of some little guy persecution complex (which I do think is responsible for 90% of the Simmons complaining), they're getting heat because they suck so badly that college football would be covered better if they evaporated and were not replaced. They get more stuff wrong than right, constantly use the most banal shtick available to lend their opinions weight without actually doing any of that research stuff, and permanently implant memes into your rival's fans that will never go away despite their total lack of validity. Who looks worse: the blogosphere for caterwauling about it or the actual employers of these guys? I dunno. I feel that every time someone points out that Stuart Mandel never writes anything worthwhile is an opportunity for someone with some power to read it, agree, and send him to prep volleyball.
Hey, I'm with Peter: blogs versus MSM is tired. I don't have a problem with beatwriters or even most columnists. But I do have a problem with wastes of time and space and think they're worth a pillory or two every once in a while, if only because one of these days Mandel's head will split and tootsie roll pops will come spilling forth.
Beilein out on the town. Fluffy video from a Detroit charity basketball thing featuring Beilein and Duke's coach:
No big deal, but he's certainly more visible than Amaker ever was.
SMQB considers the Brennan. He asks "How good is Colt Brennan?" He concludes "not amazingly" after checking out the stats he put up against actual teams, of which he faced three:
More than anything, Brennan is a product of his environment and its benefits, namely a week-in, week-out dose of the crappiest defenses the Bowl Subdivision has to offer.
Why SMQB didn't come to this conclusion months ago when he voted Brennan the second best player in all the land and helped contribute to his totally unjustifiable victory in the inaugural MaxwellPundit we'll never know. What we did know at the end of the year: certain players were very good indeed against other players who were quite good themselves. You knew Darren McFadden and Reggie Nelson and Calvin Johnson and Alan Branch were amongst the best football players in the college ranks last year; all one knew about Brennan is that he was an improved version of Timmy Chang who is way better than the very worst defenses in I-A, which means we knew nothing.
If only SMQB had come to this epiphany in time and dumped Kliff Kingsbury 2006 off his ballot, the eminently deserving and completely awesome Reggie Nelson would have won, Sports Illustrated would have collapsed, and blogs would have overrun the mainstream media, triumphant. Or something like that.
This is a long way of saying that I don't care what Brennan does against this schedule...
Northern Colorado: I-AA (1-10 last year as "re-classifying/provisional" from Div.
Louisiana Tech: 118 [<---pass efficiency D] UNLV: 113
Charleston Southern: I-AA (68th; allowed 300-plus yards to Wingate and Coastal Carolina)
Utah State: 119
San Jose State: 67
New Mexico State: 111
Fresno State: 107
Boise State: 30
...I ain't voting for him for anything, not even "Best Brennan," as there's no way he can prove as much as a dozen players around the country who will face actual competition and excel against it. Brennan's victory last year was so dumb it made me weep. Mandel could have done that! We did something that Mandel could have done. Fie on us if we allow it to happen again.
Well, yeah. Kirk Bohls has an on-point column about the whole Texas-Big Ten thing, though I'd like to see this report:
Texas was immediately rushed to the forefront as the prime object of the Big Ten's affections, even though there wasn't a single credible source behind it. One circulated report hinted that it was a 95-percent certainty the Longhorns would be swapping leagues.
Um... circulated where? I hate blind leads like that. A circulated report hints there's a 95 percent chance Jim Tressel is an alien from Trafalmadore. A circulated report suggests there's a 95 percent chance monkeys are made from rubber bands. Etc. Anyway, it tells everyone what we already knew -- no Texas -- suggests Missouri, and is generally reasonable aside from that. Note of particular interest to Michigan fans:
"We're happy," DeLoss Dodds says.
The athletic director says Texas hasn't even been able to persuade Michigan to schedule it in a home-and-home series. And frankly, Texas would never think about bolting to the Big Ten because of the excessive rigors such a move would place on its athletes and fans.
I wish we could make this happen, especially in like 2009 or 2010 when Mallett and McGuffie and maybe Stonum are Michigan's new era Hart-Henne-Manningham. Chances of that: zero. Sigh.
(Someone else's) mailbag! The Game addresses that traffic stop from earlier in this year:
So I remember hearing at the beginning of the summer that there was a random traffic stop in Michigan that apparently had Mr. Manningham in the car along with what was suspected to be prescription drugs and maybe marijuana. Did anything ever come of this? I remember most of that story was pure speculation but didn't some local news station report that the drugs were Mario's but not in his possession? Was Mario not in the car afterall? Is this still under investigation?
The incident Matt is talking about is linked here. As you can see in the somewhat vague write-up, Manningham's name isn't listed, nor are any of the players'. That's because names were never put on police reports, nor were formal charges ever filed. At the time, I spoke with an athletic department spokesperson, who assured me that charges had not been filed and that I'd be notified if they were. There were some reports in blogs (I don't think any actual newspapers speculated it was Manningham, though a few newspaper personalities may have hinted Manningham's involvement on local sports television shows), but nothing has come from it.
Whether I think Manningham was actually involved in this incident would be strictly my opinion and I don't think it matters. I don't know if he was in the car, and speculating further would blow things out of proportion â€” kind of like what happened in May when the story was first reported. To my knowledge, the case is essentially closed.
So that's good. Nothing came of the stop, but since I was the guy who said it was Manningham I feel I should defend myself. A few days before the incident became public knowledge with the publication of an article in a local newspaper, I received a tip from someone stating details confirmed by that article -- three guys, football players, traffic stop in Monroe county, some drug suspicion -- that named Manningham as one of the players. Even though this seemed totally credible I didn't want to just run with it in case it was an elaborate hoax; a friend and I spent a couple hours calling the various law enforcement branches of Monroe County attempting to verify. We could not, so I sat on it until the publication of said article proved the source's validity beyond a shadow of a doubt; thus the post from which that impression was gleaned.
This blog does deal in rumor, as internet rumors have proven to be highly accurate predictors of future events, but those things are always denoted as such and when I come out and break something -- these posts are tagged "actual news" -- it's because I have multiple sources or one proven source indicating the same thing. My credibility is critical for this endeavor, and I want to make it clear that I do not run around printing stuff without good reason. End unnecessarily paranoid self-defense.
(Side note: MGoBlog welcomes all tips, no matter how peripheral or totally unusable due to salacious content, and the proprietor thinks well of the tipsters during his nightly prayers. Email address can be found on the left sidebar near the top, or: email@example.com.)
Etc: MVictors points out a rip job from the husband of Michigan academic support honcho Shari Acho -- often approvingly cited as a major factor in impressing recruits' parents -- that is way over the line. I mean... I called Harbaugh a name or two, but... wow.
If you are in the poll and did not receive an email from me, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to be in the poll and have not sent me an email or have and have not heard back from me, send me an email now. Note that unless there are special circumstances all blogs must be six months old to join to prevent the flameouts that so often occur.
The first poll: the 22nd. The intervening week: discussion of over- and under-rated teams and (perhaps hopefully maybe) some shifting in Preseason Poll #2, to be released the 29th. Gird thyselves. Prepare for the Pollening!
Brown, a sophomore from Franklin, Ga., broke his hand in practice this week and is expected to have surgery today.
"He's really disappointed," said Tim Barron, Brown's high school coach at Franklin Heard County. "But he's very upbeat."
There's no timetable given for his return, but a broken hand doesn't seem like a season-ending injury if past experiences -- like Tim Massaquoi's -- are any indication. (Hopefully the coaches won't start Brown and throw him three balls a game he understandably drops.) He might be okay for a midseason return.
As far as impact: Michigan is now frighteningly thin at tailback. Hart and Minor are one and two; true freshman Avery Horn is now the only other healthy tailback on the roster. Hart's been an adamantium workhorse two of his three seasons but was a frustrated observer for large sections of the Year of Infinite Pain. He's not indestructible. Also damaged: Michigan's prospects for an interesting return game. Brown was thought to be the frontrunner at KR and possibly PR; now Doug Dutch, Greg Mathews, and an array of true freshmen will duke it out. Hopefully Dutch can grab the job -- no offense to Mathews, but I didn't want to see Jason Avant return punts either.
There is the possibility of a redshirt here, which would probably be good for class balance purposes. Grady's enforced redshirt with his own medical issue has created a knot of three backs who will have junior eligibility next year. It would be good to get Brown an extra year so that the turnover isn't so great after '08. A lack of depth could nix that, however. Kevin Grady's rehab also becomes more important in case there are late-season injuries to Minor and/or Hart.
Wheeeeee. I was hoping someone would put this on youtube, and the internets have come through. I posted pictures of Sam McGuffie leaping over buddy/future hated rival JB Shugarts; this is video:
Oh, I hope he lives up to the hype.
Legal arrghdate. The AA News provided more detail on the Ezeh and Savoy issues a couple days ago. Ezeh's OWI happened in May and has already been dealt with internally. It shouldn't affect his status as he battles for the starting MLB spot. Meanwhile, Savoy's lawyer, Nick "Counterpunt" Roumel, -- busy summer for Counterpunt, eh? -- says his arrest is No Big Deal:
According to university police, a 21-year-old Ann Arbor woman was inside the stadium at about 7 p.m. when a man she knew, Savoy, unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Savoy pleaded not guilty to the charge, according to court records.
His attorney, Nicholas Roumel, said the exposure was accidental.
"In order for this to be a crime, this has to be done knowingly,'' Roumel said. "I get the impression he just forgot to zip up his fly.''
Uh... that seems pretty dubious justification right there. Savoy isn't practicing with the team.
Le sigh. Notre Dame had a (semi-?) open practice a few days ago, which is something I wish Michigan would do but doesn't. Anyway, there are some reports both amateur and professional. The recurring themes from the fans:
- Jimmah is trailing in the QB race and his arm may still be damaged or healing.
I personally think it looks like a race between Sharpley and Jones.
CW has got to be couching Clausen in an open practice. He threw 2 screens and only a couple of other mid-range passes. Even if CW does decide to not start Clausen or redshirt him, I think that Sharpley showed enough tools to be the starter, at least in practice today.
From what I saw today, Sharpley is the best passer of the group. From what I saw, I expect him to start against Georgia Tech. While Jones does bring a "playmaking" ability, there is a dropoff in passing ability from Sharpley to Jones.
After watching Clausen I don't think he is at full strength. When throwing warm up passes he seems to shake his right elbow out after most throws.
If Clausen's arm isn't head and shoulders above Sharpley's, a guy who Michigan totally ignored, there's got to be something wrong with his arm still. Or he was just massively overhyped.
Weis is all over it as a perfectionist. Leadership is his strong suit. He even lit up an on-field security guard near us for not wearing a specific hat, as had apparently been agreed before.
The rest is stuff that's of questionable validity in an intrasquad session. Is the OL good or the DL bad? Or vice versa? Etc. It does sound like there's no clear leader at RB, FWIW. My favorite part was the headline on the SBT article: "Can Weis shock world again?" Um... remind me what the previous world-shocking was... a win over a 7-5 Michigan team?
Etc.: Braves & Birds has its annual "Charles Rogers Theorem" post, which is one of my favorite pieces that leads into each season. Georgia gets red-flagged; Penn State gets a yellow; The Cal Scout site eviscerates the nonsense Harbaugh's been talking about the Bears; Peabody, a former student manager at Michigan, gives his perspective on the academic emphasis of the program at MATW; Drew Henson's still hanging on.
If you were looking for a brief summary of the last thirty years of Spartan football, 2006 was your lucky year. It had everything you could want: a bizarre upset and collapse all wrapped up in one package against Notre Dame, a 35-point comeback against Northwestern just when you thought they were dead, a crushing at the hands of Michigan, an incredible -- in the "this is too strange to possibly believe" sense -- talk radio meltdown by Mike Valenti, an unexpected victory over what seemed a quality opponent (Pittsburgh), and a complete and total rival-inspired meltdown that submarined both their season and their coach's career. It had just the right mix of burgeoning hope with soul-mangling incompetence, the right mix of surprising success with surprising failure, the right mix of Duffy Daughterty with Bobby Williams. Michigan State's porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just mediocre. On a micro level MSU is completely unpredictable week-to-week. On a macro level it's always Same Old Spartans.
You may recognize the above from previous efforts:
If you were looking for a brief summary of the last thirty years of Spartan football, 2005 was your lucky year. It had everything you could want: a humiliating 35-point loss to Northwestern, heartbreak at the hands of Michigan, an incredible -- in the "this is too strange to possibly believe" sense -- special teams meltdown against an OSU team they should have beat, an unexpected victory over a quality opponent (Notre Dame), and a final collapse that prevented Michigan State from going to a bowl game -- one that involved a loss to Purdue and a 41-18 waxing at the hands of Minnesota. It had just the right mix of burgeoning hope with soul-mangling incompetence, the right mix of surprising success with surprising failure, the right mix of Duffy Daughterty with Bobby Williams. Michigan State's porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just mediocre. On a micro level MSU is completely unpredictable week-to-week. On a macro level it's always Same Old Spartans.
And if you are the type of MGoBlog reader I need to consider a restraining order against, you recognize the previous paragraph as a near-doppleganger of last year's Spartan intro:
If you were looking for a brief summary of the last thirty years of Spartan football, 2004 was your lucky year. It had everything you could want: a loss to Rutgers, heartbreak at the hands of Michigan, two totally unexpected crushings of quality opponents (51-17 over Minnesota and 49-14 over Wisconsin), and a final collapse that prevented Michigan State from going to a bowl game--one that involved giving up 37 points to one of the worst offenses in the nation and a late-game implosion against Hawaii. It had just the right mix of burgeoning hope with soul-mangling incompetence, the right mix of surprising success with surprising failure, the right mix of Duffy Daughterty with Bobby Williams. Michigan State's porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just mediocre. On a micro level MSU is completely unpredictable week-to-week. On a macro level it's always Same Old Spartans.
And thus ends the John L Smith era. A pity, but his death spiral provided recompense in plenty. It started in 2005, when Michigan State planted the flag at Notre Dame Stadium.
There was the halftime meltdown against Ohio State.
There was the loser vigil at midfield after last year's implosion for the ages against Notre Dame.
There was the mini-brawl after the Illinois loss that, yes, involved a flag planting.
And then there was the grand bull-moose of ridiculous public display.
Yeah... about that. Unsurprisingly but much to the chagrin of everyone except Michigan State fans, John L is gone. Into his cowboy boots steps Mark Dantonio, formerly of Cincinnati and Ohio State. He is the antithesis of JLS: a defensive coordinator from a traditional power who is as exciting as toast. JLS spent his offseasons climbing Kilimanjaro or jumping out of planes; Dantonio's summer was highlighted by an appearance in Faith Magazine, which is unfortunately not a Georgie Michael fanzine but rather a bonafide religious magazine my mother gets. According to Faith, Dantonio has his priorities straight:
Faith is more important than winning to Michigan State University's head coach
If he turns out to be something less than Nick Saban, that's probably a good philosophy to take into the job. Dantonio now sets to the task of transforming Michigan State football into something that will require the construction of a new preview format, but with zero talent on defense and an offense that looks capable at best chances are Michigan State's '08 preview gets triple nested.
Even though Michigan State returned virtually all of its key actors from a breakout 2005, including terrifying quarterback Drew Stanton and nippy tailback Javon Ringer, production dipped significantly. Some of this was because the aforementioned stars missed significant portions of the year with injury, as did important sections of the offensive line, but even fully healthy versions of Michigan State struggled to recapture the cowboy bravado that led the Spartans to some gaudy numbers in 2004 and 2005.
If John L Smith was still around some speculation on the causes of this regression would be warranted. (D
id the Big Ten catch on to counter draws and rolling pockets? Did Stanton just regress?) But he's out the door, so who cares? Dantonio's offense will be a run-heavy thing reminiscent of those grinding Ohio State teams pre-Smith. Past results will have little bearing on future performance.
Rating: 3. Redshirt junior Brian Hoyer is the guy and while he's no Drew Stanton there are some positive indicators on him. He was a four star guy to the gurus and was decent when pressed into action late last year as Stanton added to his already brimming collection of injuries. He played virtually all of Michigan State's final two games of the season and threw so often (111 attempts) that the acquired experience was closer to four games. Throw in 24 other attempts across three games where things got out of hand or Stanton got dinged up and Hoyer picked up a half-season's worth of experience in 2006. He's a new starter but not an entirely green one. Except in that obvious Michigan State way.
And, well... from what I've seen I think he's going to be at least okay. I have some explaining to do: he completed 57% of his passes last year (bad) and only managed 6 yards per attempt (also bad). An attempt: being thrown into your first serious action in the death throes of a dying regime will distort your numbers, especially when your receivers aren't any good and you're playing in front of a patchwork line. Hoyer's not going to wow anyone with his footspeed, but at his best he can be something similar to the traditional Michigan quarterback. With three years in college, a modicum of on-field experience, and a new offense that promises to put much of the heat on the run game, Hoyer should be a competent game manager in the mold of a John Stocco.
Tailback & Fullback
Rating: 4. It's the same cast of characters here: the elusive but flimsy Ringer (@ right), Christian Okoye-wannabe Jehuu Caulcrick, and meh AJ Jimmerson. If Ringer's limbs remain intact, he'll be the primary threat with Caulcrick acting as a short yardage battering ram and change of pace, although not a change of direction. Caulcrick is a more extreme version of Tony Hunt, faster and angrier and even less able to take his steamroll in another direction once it gets up to cruising speed. This was effective at times when the JLS offense managed to crease the line and give him a chance to get moving forward, most notably when he rumbled past the Notre Dame defense time and again in the aforementioned upset/collapse. However, he's a guy who absolutely needs a hole to be created and for that hole to be in the right spot. Against even decent run defenses, this did not happen:
That might be understandable, but seven carries for eight yards against Indiana? Five for eight against Minnesota? This is cherry-picking stats a little bit, but excise the nonconference schedule (rush defenses faced: #98 Idaho, #107 Pittsburgh, #61 Notre Dame; Caulcrick DNP versus EMU) and Caulcrick's YPC drops to a paltry 3.2. He's not much more than a third and short specialist.
Ringer, meanwhile, is a darting runner capable of juking someone out of his jock and getting to the corner. Across two seasons of intermittent productivity he has 1,314 yards at 6.3 yards per carry; if he can stay healthy and do that in, like, one season he'll be amongst the best backs in the country. A caveat: most of Ringer's production last year was against the above-discarded nonconference schedule. Twenty-five carries for 59 yards in the final three games of the season is something of a red flag, and on closer examination there's a similar lack of productivity against premiere foes going back a while. I still like him and think he's one of the most talented backs in the league, but there's a nonzero chance his pretty average is a mirage that evaporates in the heat of a full season's carries.
Jimmerson was a moderately well regarded recruit who redshirted and got spot playing time a year ago; as third backs go he's all right.
Wide Receiver & Tight Ends
Rating: 3. Massive turnover here. Matt Trannon's epic (as measured in length, not titanic deeds; think "Ishtar") career has finally clattered to its stone-handed conclusion; the erstwhile power forward plans on joining Greg Oden at AARP meetings this fall. Also gone are rangy JUCO transfer Kerry Reed, by far MSU's most effective receiver a year ago, and RB/WR/disastrous-trick-play-QB Jerramy Scott. Remaining players with experience are senior Terry Love (@ right), a slight and not particularly fast receiver comparable to Penn State's Deon Butler, and sophomore TJ Williams. Williams showed significant promise as a freshman with 25 catches for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns and will be the primary threat in the passing game if he's allowed on the field. That goes for Love, too. Neither projected starter started practice on time. Love has academic issues he's working to resolve; Williams is in "timeout*" until August 27th for unspecified team rules violations.
Devon Thomas and Deon Curry are the starters in their absence, but it's freshman Mark Dell who bears watching. Dell was well reviewed by the recruiting services and steps into a situation in which there is plenty of opportunity for playing time.
There's also tight end Kellen Davis, an all-catch no-block sort of tight end who doesn't do much in the way of catching. Davis' six reception, 61-yard outburst against Penn State in the finale doubled his numbers on the year. He finished with 12 catches for 125 yards.
*(perhaps the most positive indicator for Dantonio's future is that he seems to treat MSU's existing players like kindergarteners... wise move after last year's ongoing fiasco.)
Rating: 3. Inexplicable guard Roland Martin -- #2 ranked his recruiting year and a starter as a redshirt sophomore -- is the anchor of a line that returns four of five starters. New center John Masters replaces All Big Ten honorable mention Kyle Cook; he's a senior who started three games last year. The line is experienced, with three seniors and two juniors, and has a modicum of talent in Martin and left tackle Mike Gyetvai, finally healthy after offseason surgery. It appears to be a strength.
A parade might not be called for, though. Rust-laden Gyetvai is no lock for the starting job; his replacement would probably be a dropoff. Michigan State finished 81st in sacks allowed despite having a mobile quarterback and rolling pockets much of the year and 65th in rush offense despite having a talented set of running backs and the aforementioned mobile quarterback. When Stanton went out against Minnesota, Gopher defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg shot up the ranks of the
overrated by teeing off on Hoyer, racking up four sacks. Without Stanton providing an extra threat, the run game was totally abandoned in favor of Hoyerpalooza the last couple games of the year. Some skepticism is warranted, especially as Michigan State moves away from the JLS offense and picks up an entirely new set of angles to learn. Rocky times may be had at the start.
A vaguely average rush defense was for naught as the Spartans turned in their usual matador job in the secondary and once again established themselves one of the worst defenses in the country. Anyone with a semblance of an offense -- this preview excludes Illinois and Penn State from that category -- lit Michigan State up like whoah last year. One particularly ugly four game stretch tells the story: it's understandable, maybe, to give up 31 points to Manningham-led Michigan and 38 to Troy Smith's aerial fireworks. Those are two tough weeks. But when you march into subsequent games against Northwestern and Indiana and give up 38 and 46 points, respectively, you suck.
(Sidenote: Purdue is the exception here. They managed just 17 points against MSU... more fuel for the Painter Sucks fire? He did go 21 of 30 for 286 yards, two TD, and no INT, so not really. But it is an inexplicable lack of output given the quality of the defense faced and the quarterback yardage.)
Rating: 1. The spring is a time for love, Dairy Queen openings, and relentlessly implausible optimism from coaches across the country. These previews are built on several principles, one of which is this: assume postive reports are 75% false; regard anything negative as the holiest gospel truth. With that in mind, I present Dantonio's take on the Spartan defensive tackles:
"We're extremely thin at defensive tackle. It's extremely tough to play inside as a true freshman, but we might not have a choice this fall. We might be forced to get the job done by freshman committee this fall."
He's right to be wary. Both of last year's tackles were adequate players -- Clifton Ryan was probably the best defender State had -- who are now gone. In their stead are Justin Kershaw, a converted DE who managed two TFLs in extensive playing time last year, sophomore John Stipek (four tackles a year ago), senior JUCO Ogemdi Nwagbuo, and true freshmen. One of these freshmen, Ohioan Antonio Jeremiah, got positive reviews from the recruiting services; the rest are leftovers.
This position group is going to be terrible. Everyone is undersized. Both Kershaw and Stipek are trying to bulk up from 250 pounds a year ago and will be fortunate to play at an effective 270 or 275. If Kershaw tries to play at the 260 this Scout article projects him at things will be even worse. (The article says Kershaw should "start quickly," which is right if it means he'll get hurled five yards downfield faster than you can say "Mike Hart 200 yard day.") There's virtually no experience: with Kershaw moving in from end, only Nwagbuo has seen appreciable time. And there's no raw talent outside of Jeremiah. Spartan DTs are liable to get tossed around the field all year.
Things are less dire at end. Well, at one end. JUCO transfer Erwin Baldwin had one hilarious interception return touchdown, that in the totally fun MSU-ND game last year, and four sacks as part of six and a half TFLs. A significant but not implausible step forward would yield something approximating an average Big Ten defensive end. On the other side, juniors Brandon Long and Jonal Saint-Dic will attempt to hold off JUCO transfer Michael Jordan. Long and Saint-Dic's sell-by dates have expired. Both were mediocre recruits -- Long picked MSU over a selection of MAC schools, Saint-Dic was a lightly-regarded JUCO -- who couldn't bust into a crappy defensive line in two years of trying. Long retains a bit more upside as a true junior, but he'll be a vastly undersized defensive end if he starts. Either projects to be bad.
On the other hand, Jordan, a Spartan true believer from Grand Rapids Creston who didn't make the grade out of high school, is a major wildcard. He's listed at 6'6" and anywhere from 270 to 300 pounds and acquired four stars from Rivals, who rated him the #24 JUCO coming out last year. (By way of comparison, Austin Panter was #18.) He played both inside and outside in JUCO and figures to find his way to the field somewhere. He has the physical tools lacking elsewhere on the line; it remains to be seen if that will translate to Big Ten play.
It's never a good sign when a starting safety leads the team in tackles, and it's especially nasty when said safety has, like, way more tackles than your middle linebacker, but that was the case last year: Otis Wiley's 94 tackles dwarfed Josh Thornhill's 68. Heck, if you combine Travis Key and Nehemiah Warrick's tackles -- reasonable since they platooned -- those guys come in at 87. Michigan State's two leading tacklers last year were essentially the starting safeties. This means the front seven is not getting its job done; part of that is the defensive line allowing blockers to get through; part of that is a subpar linebacking corps. With the graduation of SLB David Herron, the best player in the unit last year, things will get worse.
Don't believe me? Everything you need to know about the Spartan linebackers in three handy sentences:
Every college football team has one - a 200-pound starting linebacker with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, clinically diagnosed hyperactivity, classical piano skills and absolutely no interest in sports. On second thought, Jon Misch has to be the first. ... Misch was the surprise of spring ball, and he enters fall camp solidly entrenched as the starter at strong-side linebacker.
Every indicator indicates that Jon "Samurai" Misch is going to suck and suck hard. He was a two star recruit out of metro Detroit power Orchard Lake St Mary -- no reason he'd be overlooked like a guy from Houghton or Guatemala or something -- who was credited with a 4.7 40 at 195 pounds. That 40 has not improved:
The 6-foot-2 Misch - who gleefully weighed in Tuesday at an all-time high of 207 - runs the 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds.
He had one other offer: Eastern Michigan. Now he's a starting linebacker at 200 pounds as a redshirt freshman. Not only that, a starting strongside linebacker! If he's not awful I'll eat my hat. Hidden upside: slight but real chance he flips out and gets a bu
nch of personal fouls for ninja kicking various people in the head.
Starters return at middle and weakside linebacker. Senior MLB Kaleb Thornhill has been pedestrian thus far in his career -- those 68 tackles are a weak number for his position. Add in a distinct lack of playmaking (just 2.5 TFLs and no sacks) and a picture of a heady, hard-nosed football player who just wants to play football he's a warrior comes into focus. Unfortunately, said football player is not good at the football and will struggle to do anything positive in front of the ragdolls at DT.
The other returner is WLB SirDarean Adams, though he was deployed as the "bandit" in JLS's 4-2-5 scheme and may have to get used to some new responsibilities. That remains speculation since no one, especially Adams, could ever figure out exactly what the bandit was supposed to do. The Spartans are either relying on Adams to be their big playmaker in the front seven or demoting him to second-string behind redshirt freshman Eric Gordon, depending on what day of the week it is. Adams has picked up a rep for being a freaky stud freak of an athlete whose on-field irresponsibility drives coaches mad; Gordon was actually a well-reviewed recruit who might have picked up a Michigan offer if he was patient but decided to end his recruitment early. Adams' demotion is universally regarded as just for show, so Gordon will have to wait. If Adams doesn't show up in the right places at the right time he might not wait long.
Rating: 2. The most reliably awful secondary this side of Northwestern has actually found a player or two. Safety Otis Wiley (@ right), as mentioned, led the team in tackles by a wide margin as a true sophomore. He also added 6.5 TFL and 10 pass breakups. He appears to be an All Big Ten safety this year. His partners on the Spartan's oft-tested last line of defense were JUCO transfer Nehemiah Warrick and Travis Key. Warrick received a considerable amount of spring hype that didn't translate to the field, where he had a few TFLs and 3 pass breakups in an unremarkable season. Key, a senior, also returns. Last year he split time with Warrick, picking up a sack, 3.5 TFL, and an interception to go with 45 tackles.
While safety is something of a strong point on the Michigan State defense (see also: "great moments in French military history"), corner remains a Keystone Kops operation. Michigan State's secondary managed three interceptions all of last year; two of those depart with Demond Williams, leaving Key's lonely pick as the only one wandering back to a Michigan State sideline this fall. Junior Kendall Davis-Clark and sophomore Ross Weaver are the projected starters. Davis-Clark managed to go all of last year without picking off a pass or even breaking one up; Weaver sat out the year with injury. There is a reason the Spartans finished the year 109th in pass efficiency defense, and these guys are a major part of it. The potential for improvement is here, but Michigan State is firmly ensconced in a I'll-believe-it-when-I-see it era at corner.
Rating: 3. Brett Swenson's successful freshman year might not have erased the terrible memories of whatever that Goss kid's name was -- seriously, folks, keep people named "Goss" away from your athletic programs -- but it was a Rivas-esque turnaround. A year after an epic special teams disaster, Swenson went 15 for 19. He projects as one of the Big Ten's better kickers.
Punter Brandon Fields finally graduates; it's MGoBlog policy not to speculate on unknown punters. Whoever the replacement is will probably not replicate Fields' performance: 19th in gross average at 43.2 yards per kick, helping Michigan State to 23rd in net punting.
The return game was dismal for Michigan State last year. Love, the primary punt returner, averaged under five yards an opportunity. Kickoff return man Demond Williams graduates; he was also awful. Maybe they'll unearth one of those undersized scat types or a JUCO jet engine like Deandra Cobb, but the current projection is below average.
The theory of turnover margin: it is nearly random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are highly likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|2006||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|-0.08 (70th)||8||12||1.33 (103rd)||13||8||2.33 (81st)|
MSU was -1 a year ago and has new systems on both sides of the ball. No conclusions can be drawn here.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
Justin Kershaw moves from defensive end to play undersized defensive tackle because the Spartans are desperate for anyone big enough to play the position. A major red flag for the defensive line. SirDarean Adams is technically no longer a "bandit," but, as mentioned, no one really knows what that was supposed to be anyway.
Dumbest Thing In CFN Preview
The first sentence!
John L Smith crashed and burned, sure, but what he had built was a pretty good Conference USA program, not the Big East power of today. Bobby Williams' only talent was looking like he was about to cry at all times (except when actually crying), and the man before him is Moneybags Nick Saban, who parlayed one good year at MSU into jobs at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and Alabama. He can now buy large portions of Southeast Asia. One does not make a trend.
(and it says it succinctly)
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
The line is experienced and not devoid of talent. Last year their results were skewed by injuries to key actors. They've got a deep, talented backfield and a quarterback who won't throw games away. But where is the upside on defense? Sure, if true freshman and undersized players everywhere combine to form some sort of Christmas Miracle Voltron it could avoid bein
g totally terrible, but it would still be bad. The offense doesn't have the horsepower to keep up with most of the Big Ten thoroughbreds, but it's possible Michigan State squeezes out an undefeated nonconference schedule. Pitt's no good and if Notre Dame's offense is in disarray they could squeak by the Irish (and win for the sixth straight time at ND -- the one aspect of the MSU program I envy). In conference, though... 3-5 at best. 7-5.
There's no bottom here if the offensive line is weak. Hoyer's a pocket passer, unlike Crazy Legs Stanton, and if he's not protected he will die. If the offensive line also submarines the running game, both sides of the ball could be vastly below average. They'd still probably win three games somewhere along the line. 3-9.
It's going to be a long, painful year for Michigan State. Dantonio's renowned for being a defensive strategist but he has nothing to work with here save Wiley and maybe a competent player here and there who will emerge as the season progresses. The defensive line projects to be Indiana bad, a 210 pound freshman who runs a 4.9 is the starting strongside linebacker, and there's little hope for competence at cornerback. Forget spinning straw into gold. If Dantonio can take these raw materials and make them merely bad it would be an accomplishment.
Things are brighter offensively. There's a real chance of competence here if Ringer and Gyetvai stay healthy. Hoyer's not likely to tear up defenses across the conference but he is a good bet to be average. Although the wide receivers are questionable they won't be asked to carry the offense like they were in previous years. Michigan State will be able to move the ball against most teams; the highs won't be as high with Dantonio's old school approach but the lows won't be as low, either. Anyone who can consistently stuff Ringer without committing an extra safety will make it very tough on the Spartans, but that won't be many teams outside of the big four. Adequacy is probable.
Still, adequacy opposite incompetence adds up to dismal results.
|9/8||Bowling Green||Probable win|
|9/22||@ Notre Dame||Probable loss|
|10/20||@ Ohio State||Auto-loss|
|10/27||@ Iowa||Probable loss|
|11/10||@ Purdue||Probable loss|
Whiffing on Minnesota and Illinois is a tough break; expect lots of tough breaks this year. I expect 2-2 out of conference, 2-6 in it, and a 4-8 year overall, though I'm tempted to consider Michigan State's inherent Michigan State-ness and predict one massive upset that gets them within a game of .500.
But... no. I think Dantonio could be a good hire if he uses his OSU contacts to rip away the B-level Ohio recruits that populate the rosters of Wisconsin and Iowa and Minnesota and etc etc etc, but he hasn't displayed the sort of tactical moxie that could rescue a team as talent-bereft as this one in three years at Cincinnati.