At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Austin White is a 6'0", 180 pound tailback from Livonia, Michigan, who's just committed to Michigan. Google, I stalk with it.
|4*, #17 RB||3*, #32 RB||77, no position ranking|
White first served notice he'd be a Big Ten level recruit at a camp shortly after his sophomore year:
A future Rivals100 candidate Austin White of Livonia (Mich.) Stevenson put on a show at the camp.
Claiming early oral offers from Michigan and Michigan State White, a running back, was asked several times to go up against the top linebackers in the camp and every time he came out victorious in the one-on-ones. He was even held so bad on one play that his jersey almost ripped off, but it couldn't stop the 6-foot, 185-pounder from still making a big catch.
Michigan and State followed up with official offers the first day they could do so, at which point Helmholdt said people should expect White to be "one of the top running back prospects in the country" and "challenge for top honors" in Michigan's 2010 class.
As you can see above, that didn't exactly happen. Though White checked in fourth—ahead of Robert Bolden—in a February ranking of the state's top ten players, two of the three scouting services put White amongst the three-star rabble when it came time to assign the stars. (FWIW, he didn't he didn't miss four by much on Rivals.) While the third, Scout, has him well within their top 300 they also have him considerably lower than analysts suggested he'd end up after White's initial burst onto the scene.
Wha' happen? It appears White didn't end up as big or as fast as you need to be to end up an elite prospect. ESPN's middling evaluation touches on his "great receiving skills" but kind of sounds McGuffian in its concern for his head:
White is a productive, well-rounded back with good upside when projecting for the next level. Has a taller frame for a back and needs to watch his leverage but has good muscle tone and the room to add 10-15 pounds of bulk to increase his power and durability. … not a burner with a great second gear or overly explosive. For a bigger high school back he goes down frequently on first contact and legs can go dead when wrapped up. At times, his high running style hinders his balance, running strength and ability to avoid trip-up tackles. Durability could be an issue at the next level as well if he does not run more behind his pads. … could eventually develop into the complete package at the next level if he can add the bulk and power to carry the load.
The traditionally reserved Touch The Banner's scouting report also notes the receiving ability and says he has the tools to be a read option back or receiver in the spread offense, but says he's not a gamebreaker and that he lacks the "speed and moves to be a finesse rider." The upshot:
Projection: White will be a solid but unspectacular back in a BCS-level program.
Reminds me of: Jerome Jackson.
I always liked Jerome Jackson, actually, and think he might have established himself a decent starter if not for his incredibly ill-timed injury at the beginning of the 2005 season that opened the door for a guy named Hart. Jackson was reduced to playing Wally Pipp until he came off the bench in the 2005 Iowa game.
I'd love to hear Scout's more positive take, but there's not much explanation behind their rankings. His profile is all you get:
An explosive back who can be used in a variety of roles. Has great feet and change of direction ability and makes many people miss in the open field. When he finds a crease, burst and acceleration are good and has breakaway capabilities. Is a fine receiver out of the backfield and has experience playing slot and split.
White might have some upward mobility yet after a positional MVP performance at the Illinois Nike camp:
White was the top running back at the camp. He flashed his excellent speed, has a powerful looking frame and can catch the ball. White, who has a dozen scholarship offers including Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Illinois and Wisconsin, left no doubt on Saturday that he is a Big Ten-type prospect.
Helmholdt on the same camp:
Livonia Stevenson’s Austin White took home the MVP honors at the running back position with considerable ease. The 6-1, 185-pound White was nearly unstoppable in the one-on-one portion of the camp, using his speed to outrun would-be defenders. White’s footwork and agility in the drills portion of the camp also solidified his MVP honors.
We'll see that take effect, if it does at all, in the next Rivals re-rank. If he doesn't bounce up there he's a three-star unless his senior year is preposterous.
FWIW, recently the News named him the #2 playmaker on the West side of Metro Detroit going into 2009—Devin Gardner was #1, obvs—stating he is "one of the most dynamic running backs the last four years or so."
White's picked up an impressive but not quite world-beating assortment of offers: Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, LSU, and Iowa are the most prominent.
His junior year landed him on the Free Press's All West team, which gave them cause to sum the stats:
Austin White, Livonia Stevenson: One of the most dynamic backs in the state, White rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore and this season he became a more complete player. He rushed for 1,610 yards and 28 touchdowns on 228 carries. He returned nine kickoffs for 279 yards. White also had 21 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns. He even threw a touchdown pass. "It's almost like there's nothing he can't do," coach Tim Gabel said.
FAKE 40 TIME
What's the deal with the lack of fake 40 times of late? Not one article had a preposterous listed speed that would put a high school kid on par with Usain Bolt. All I've got is a camp-measured 4.58 from the Scout profile. What happened to the 4.16s of yesteryear?
This is a Livonia Stevenson highlight reel, not an Austin White one, but when you run for 1,600 yards your team's highlights tend to feature you heavily:
There is also the "Hammertime Play of the Week" from some week in the past. Please, Austin, don't hurt 'em.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
My thinking in this case has really latched on to TTB's Jerome Jackson comparison. And I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Jackson was similarly sized and a mid-to-low four star on Rivals—I don't recall his Scout ranking. And while he wasn't Mike Hart he had a promising freshman season and once inserted into the lineup in that Iowa game he proved effective, far more so than Grady, at least.
White's a guy that most of the Big Ten wanted; the lone exceptions were Penn State and Ohio State. Add in the LSU offer and that's a serious argument White can be a productive back at the Big Ten level. His less than ideal size and speed combo would ideally see him function as the second back in a platoon system headed by a star back.
White's versatility will serve him well, though. He can function as a multi-purpose player that opponents will have a hard time preparing for when he comes in the game. Put him in space against a linebacker and it's advantage Michigan; line him up in a twin back set with a pounder like Minor or Cox against a nickel or dime and it's advantage Michigan.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
I addressed this in detail just yesterday, but to repeat: Michigan loses three tailbacks and Michigan's got two or three replacements in the class now. They'll be very picky the rest of the year, with Eduardo Clements and Brandon Gainer the only folks who seem like they'd be offered a spot no matter what. (If Brennan Clay decides to ditch Oklahoma, add him to the list.) Your Jamaal Jacksons and Cassius McDowells are out of luck.
Etc.: Tom VanHaaren interviews White.
[Editor's note: Hi. The following scouting report is from MHoops1, a respected poster on Michigan message boards across the internets. It's been posted on a premium board and another other place that sees links expire in a matter of hours, so I asked MHoops1 if it was okay to repost here; he said okay.]
I have now watched Tim Hardaway Jr. play four times in the past two weeks. Those who believe that he was coveted because he was riding on the coattails of his NBA father are, in my view, either mistaken or being incorrectly swayed by his standing outside the Rivals and Scout Top 150s (he's #93 in the ESPN rankings, but I digress). The kid has the ability to be very, very good at the high major college level. He's very raw, which leads to inconsistency, and if you only watch him on a single day where he's missing shots and forcing things, I can see where you might wonder what the fuss is about--hell, after seeing him on the first night of the Elite Camp, I was pretty ambivalent. Two weeks later, after seeing him enough to fully understand where he's at in his development, I'm very excited about getting him.
Much has been made of his ball handling issues (some of it by me), but last night, when he was pressed into service at the point because of an injury to a teammate, he responded by scoring on three separate drives to the hole, once off a between the legs and spin move which left the college coaches sitting nearby saying "Whoa, I hadn't seen that from him before." It appears that when he establishes a dribbling rhythm, such as when he brings the ball up the court or catches it in the open court in transition, he handles very well and can attack the basket or dish off the bounce. He also hit a nice pull-up off penetration.
What he lacks at this time is the confidence to trust his ability to withstand pressure before he's gotten comfortable. That fits with his other major deficiency as well--he's a little too hyper and doesn't always let the game come to him on either end of the court. When things are flowing well, he's great, and I do not mean great lightly--the Illinois friend I watched with was very impressed, and Hardaway played on a team with 5 consensus Top 100 kids (including two top 20 in the class of '11) and two or three other kids who could go high major, and he was the second or third best player out there for long stretches. When things go badly, though, he gets a little frustrated and can disappear, particularly in an AAU/All-Star setting where everyone tends to go one on one (one college coach commented that AAU should stand for All About You). That's where I think the rankings variances come in to play.
One thing no one seems to question is Beilein's ability to develop talent. With coaching and development, Hardaway is going to be very good, and the question, to me, isn't if but when. The length, shooting ability and quick release, passing ability (he's very good in that area) and basketball IQ are there--the consistency and confidence are not yet.
MHoops also answered some follow-up questions from another poster:
How well does he fit in with a player like Morris? Do their talents mesh well (or can be molded to mesh)?
Really well. Morris' ability to attack the rim and pass are going to lead to a lot of open shots for our wings. Hardaway can knock those shots down. In addition, they both have the ability to tip balls and disrupt on defense because of their length, which should lead to turnovers and transition baskets.
How does Hardaway fit in with the likes of Douglass and Novak (I'm assuming Novak won't be a PF his entire career at UM)?
He's different--longer, more athletic, not as confident, better with the ball than Novak but not, at this point, than Douglass (although more upside in terms of penetration), not as good a rebounder as Novak, range and release like Douglass (better than Novak).
Can Hardaway make an impact as a freshman?
I don't know. He's very raw. If they were to get Ziegler, it might be in Hardaway's best interest to redshirt and get stronger.
Lastly, is he good chemistry guy?
Yes. Very good. He plays on an AAU team where everybody else is local and has known and played with each other forever, whereas he's from 1000+ miles away, playing here because his dad's from here and the guy who runs the AAU program is the father of one of his dad's best friends growing up (former NBAer Byron Irvin was the best friend). He clearly fits in well, and is liked and respected by the kids on that team.
[Me again: If you think MHoops is being generous here, note his earlier, mostly recanted skepticism and yesterday's UV, which notes that an observer from the Sun-Times took in the same tourney I believe MHoops was at and raved.]
Update 7/14: Linked to articles on OH DT Terry Talbott, PA OL Robbie Havenstein, CA S Sean Parker, OH OL Skyler Schofner, OH S Latwan Anderson, FL RB Corvin Lamb, SC QB Cornelius Jones, MI P Mike Sadler, CA LB Tony Jefferson, PA DT Sharrif Floyd, MN OL Seantrel Henderson (and PA S Brandon Ifill), CT LB Khari Fortt.
Video of SC QB commit Cornelius Jones.
Added FL RB Brandon Gainer.
Removed FL DE Delvin Jones, OH OL Andrew Donnal (Iowa), OH OL Travis Jackson (MSU), TX LB Corey Nelson (A&M).
Some links from Bleed Scarlet.
Jones was a tremendous longshot from day one and Jackson camped at Michigan but failed to get an offer. BFDs—sarcastic BFDs—both.
OH OL Andrew Donnal, on the other hand, is a highly-regarded kid and should have been one of Michigan's priorities at tackle this fall; he's now off the board. And TX LB Corey Nelson had Michigan as his leader for about ten minutes in March, but Michigan quickly fell off the radar. Linebacker options are thinning.
Imminent, Impending, Etc.
I talk to Coach Rod Smith and Jackson the most. I really like that I’ve built a good relationship with all the coaches, not just my position coaches. It’s good to get to know all of them, and see that they all have the same goals. That’s kind of what has them [Michigan] as my favorite.
White's currently sporting blue on the recruiting board. The LSU visit did not come off and State's opinion of their chance became clear when they offered Nick Hill. Everyone expects he will put on a block M hat tomorrow.
The Spartan spin machine will get engaged now; I can't wait to hear what Valenti and the rest of the short bus crowd come up with to explain State losing a guy who's got two brothers on the MSU team and was the preferred choice of both instate schools.
Done, or no?
With TX RBs Stephen Hopkins and Tony Drake in the bag—though a lot of people are saying Drake will end up a slot receiver woo don't we need some more receivers—and the likely addition of White, Michigan is close to done at tailback. There are still a couple guys out there that Michigan would just about have to make room for, though.
One, FL RB Eduardo Clements, camped at Michigan, claims an even top three of Miami, Georgia, and Michigan, and has seen Georgia take two high-rated tailback commits in recent weeks. Even so, most observers think Michigan remains a longshot. An official visit is on tap if his recruitment goes that long.
The other is a new, surprising name: FL RB Brandon Gainer. He's got a top two that includes M:
… Gainer is a true running back prospect and ranked as the No. 12 player at the position nationally by Rivals.com. Michigan has made a big jump on his list in the last few months and now joins Florida State atop his list. He plans to take an official visit to Michigan this fall and decide soon after where he will attend school.
Gainer's name had hardly come up before that announcement, so I don't know much about him yet. He's a member of the Rivals 250.
White's commitment will likely end the recruitment of everyone else, including two more Florida tailbacks: Corvin Lamb now says LSU leads($) and Cassius McDowell always seemed like a plan B option.
Your Verging-On-Creepy Gardner Update
Have I gone a week without mentioning enormous, fleet-footed, charming, handsome MI QB Devin Gardner? No? Well, this won't be the week either. Gardner's made the Elite "11"* passing camp:
Devin Gardner (Committed to Michigan)
Gardner is raw and mechanically unorthodox, but he's extremely productive and talented. Plus he possesses a great work ethic-- he wants to be good. Gardner is big, athletic and the perfect fit for the spread with upside to develop and refine his passing skills.
The usual, right? At the very least Gardner's invite provides another venue via which to scout and compare Michigan's prize against the rest of the country's top recruits, including fellow instate quarterbacks Robert Bolden and Joe Boisture. If Gardner comes out of the camp on par with the rest of those guys that's a major win since the remainder of the invitees aren't 6'5" gazelles. (Except maybe for 'Bama commit Phillip Sims (Not That Phil Simms).)
That Other Guy
Michigan does have another quarterback committed: South Carolina's Cornelius Jones. Jones has been a mystery man thus far in his recruitment, ignored by the in-state schools and devoid of video or rankings on the recruiting sites. That void of information has begun to be filled. Unfortunately, I can't embed AthleteVault's highlight video, but it does exist and you can check it out. All you can tell is he's got the usual athleticism.
Meanwhile, his local paper has been giving Jones some attention of late. His Spartanburg team flew to the final of a local 7-on-7 tournament thanks in large part to his play:
“Cornelius made some phenomenal throws,” [Spartanburg HC Freddie] Brown said. “Defensively, Coach (Mark) Razzano made some good calls in tight situations, and the kids made some big plays with games on the line.”
Along the way Spartanburg downed big programs like Olive Branch (Miss.), Hoover (Ala.), and Independence (NC). In the final, Spartanburg fell to a loaded Byrnes team that features like three top-100 recruits, including Marcus Lattimore.
And a little earlier the same paper took a look at Jones' redemption story:
“I just was surrounded by a bunch of negative things. I was getting in trouble,” Jones said. “I never saw myself being around any of this (now).”
Jones was out of the public school system for 18 months as a result of his troubles.
At some point he woke up, decided he didn't like the direction things were going in, and hooked up with Spartanburg's new head coach—the previous coach had banned him from the team. From there, it was one highlight video and Michigan had an offer for him. He'll be a kid to root for once he arrives, and he will: despite his time in the wilderness Jones has a 3.7 GPA.
Michigan's in a good spot with PA S Brandon Ifill, who's yet to visit Michigan's campus but still says this about his leaders:
When asked if he has a favorite school, Ifill said, "It's probably between Michigan and Maryland. I've been to Maryland twice. I feel comfortable with the coaching staff. Michigan has been recruiting me the longest. Coach (Rich) Rodriguez has been recruiting me since he was at West Virginia."
Ifill's scheduled an unofficial at the end of the month, at which point we'll have a better grasp on how much mutual interest there is between the parties. Ifill is the teammate of PA CB Cullen Christian, who maintained a loud and proud Michigan lead for months now, and the pair could extend Rodriguez's streak of locking down teammates to a third year.
That article has some less salutary news, too…
MN OL Seantrel Henderson's dad says his son has a slate of officials he's planning. They don't include Michigan:
"I know his five official visits. He will definitely visit Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and Florida. Florida State is one that could change. He might decide to visit somewhere else besides Florida State. He could visit both the Florida schools or he might just take one to Florida." …
When asked about the four definite official visits, Seantrel said, "That might change, but right now that's it. Florida State might be the fifth one."
Urgh. One way to look at the schedule: he's going to places he hasn't gone to before and can't afford to get to on his own time. Michigan, Notre Dame, and Minnesota did get mentions amongst the "six to eight" schools Henderson is still considering, and Henderson has already been to all three of those. As we're about to see with a kid in California, sometimes the lack of an official isn't all that telling about who leads.
That's more boosterism for the local school, though, and if that visit schedule isn't modified to include Michigan I doubt Henderson ends up at M.
*(taking a page from the Big 10, the Elite 11 actually invites 12 quarterbacks but chooses the name that sounds cooler.)
West Coast Folk
A couple of highly-touted Californians have announced plans to take officials to Michigans. CA S Sean Parker sort of has a top two:
"I'm going to Notre Dame (Sept. 4)," Parker said. "I'm also setting a visit to Michigan, but I haven't locked in the date yet. After that, I'm pretty open and really don't know who will get my last three visits but I do plan to take all five."
Aaaand CA LB Tony Jefferson sort of has a top seven:
"I have my first two visits lined up right now," Jefferson said. "I'm going to Florida (Sept. 18) and Oklahoma (Nov. 13). My last three visits will be to Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State and I'll do unofficial visits to USC and UCLA.
Jefferson claims everyone wants him as a safety so I might have to move him in the near future; he claims early playing time is extremely important and that's why big early leader USC has dropped back to the field.
Parker, who's stated he would like to get out of the state several times, is a considerably more likely option. Either would be a strong addition to the class.
Punting With Birds In
MI P Mike Sadler has picked up a State offer and now bears an impressive list:
Last week, Michigan State offered punter Mike Sadler (Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern). With the offer, the Spartans joined the likes of Alabama, LSU, Purdue, Northwestern and the Air Force Academy, all schools which had already offered him a scholarship.
Meanwhile, Michigan appears to be chasing WI P Will Hagerup above all others. Sadler grew up a Michigan fan and had some quotes earlier in the year that suggested an offer would be highly likely to end up in a commit, but if Michigan keeps holding off there's always the chance he gets ticked off and heads elsewhere. Apparently Sadler had a rough outing in front of Michigan's coaches but with specialists, especially punters, I'd trust a half-dozen other teams' evaluations over one or two afternoons.
I hope Michigan tells Hagerup they'll give him a brief window in which to commit before they offer Sadler; I'd rather take the almost-as-meaty bird that would really like to leap into your hand than the Wisconsonian in the bush. Eh… you know what I mean.
OH DT Terry Talbott had been reported as a Michigan offeree earlier, but apparently that's not quite the case:
“I know Wisconsin has offered me, Purdue and Illinois, a couple more Big Ten schools, UCLA, Kentucky, Arkansas, and North Carolina State too. Michigan hasn’t really offered me yet. I’m just trying to see when I can get a chance to come up there. We’re having trouble with our cars, but I want to come up and visit.”
Talbott has a (slightly) younger brother who's a cornerback; naturally they'd like to go to the same school. As per usual, a visit will tell.
Etc.: CT LB Khari Fortt remains a considerable longshot but this article claims he's got a visit to Michigan planned and where there's a visit there's a (vague, probably not worth mentioning) chance. PA DT Sharrif Floyd has Michigan in his top six but Penn State sounds like the leader. OH S Latwan Anderson still favors WVU. OH OL Skyler Schofner hasn't heard from M "in a while"; may not be a priority.
I run mgoblog. I will bet you your entire year's salary that Rich Rodriguez does not get fired after this season. Since you believe it's "obvious" he will be fired, this is an opportunity for you to make a cool fifty bucks.
It's satisfyingly goading, and when the twit in question fails to respond it's a tacit admission that the assessment in the subject is correct.
First, it's pretty obvious to me this is going to be Rich Rodriguez's last season as the head football coach at the University of Michigan.
The rest of it is a bunch of one-sentence paragraphs that end up with Rodriguez landing at Marshall. It's not coherent enough to bother fisking, but one of the sentences says the alumni "hasn't" warmed up to Rodriguez. (No, guy on the message board thread, that's not proper usage. Alumni is a plural noun—alumnus is the singular version—instead of a singular noun (like "flock") that describes a group.)
We'll see if he takes me up on the offer. I bet he doesn't.
O'Neill, a Grand Haven product and the younger brother of current Bronco tight end James O'Neill, said Saturday that he's been granted his release to WMU and will join the football program this August.
There are quotes about O'Neill thinking he fits better at Western and all that. From what'd I'd heard (repeatedly and well in advance of O'Neill's transfer) it wasn't so much an issue of fit but one of technique and talent.
Eyeing talent. John Beilein swooped in on Evan Smotrycz ten seconds before he blew up, and there have been some scouting reports on Tim Hardaway Jr in a similar vein. The Chicago Sun-Times reports back from a local AAU tourney:
Speaking of the Mac Irvin Fire, the Hoops Report continues to be impressed with Tim Hardaway, Jr. The Class of 2010 2-guard out of Miami will be a perfect fit at Michigan. If Hardaway were in the state of Illinois he would certainly be one of the top five prospects in the senior class and probably check in at No. 3 overall behind Richmond and Leonard.
That's quite a statement. Illinois has nine kids in the Rivals 150, and if they happened to agree with the Sun-Times guys' assessment they'd have to slot Hardaway somewhere between #61, where Leonard sits, and #86, where the next Illinois player—PG Crandall Head—is ranked.
"He's done the unexpected, and he's really turned it up a notch," Daniels said. "At some big-time events, he proved himself against top competition. His performance at the NBPA camp was tremendous, and he showed parts of his game I didn't know he had."
Smotrycz's ability to handle the ball in the open floor and his passing ability was especially surprising.
"People are starting to catch on with him," said Daniels, who reiterated that Smotrycz is still solid with the Wolverines. "I'm sure some college coaches are sorry they missed out on him."
More of the same: skilled 6-9 forward who can handle, pass, and shoot.
Inflate, calculate. 1) Patrick Omameh is in engineering. 2) He is now much huger:
"I feel I play a whole lot stronger than when I came in, and I've put on about 30 pounds," Omameh said. "I weighed about 250-251 coming in, and the heaviest I've been since I've been here is 287. I still move as well as I ever did. ... I feel I'm ready to (compete for a starting job). Competition is always good."
Zounds. It says a lot about both Omameh and the shocking lack of depth on last year's offensive line that Omameh was on the travel team at whatever his weight was mid-season last year, which was not 287, or probably anywhere particularly close.
Boise? We will know about Boise State as the 2010 opener soon:
Boise State is close to finalizing a deal to fill the final slot in its 2010 nonconference schedule, and all signs point toward it not being UC Davis. With the Broncos already full up with nonconference games in weeks two through four, the thinking is that Boise State will be scheduling its big-time opponent for opening week, September 4, 2010.
The announcement should be sometime this week. Though Michigan, as discussed earlier, would make sense as an opponent I haven't heard anything specific in this instance. There have been general rumblings that Michigan is looking to upgrade the nonconference schedule a little bit with respectable-not-enormous opponents to go with ND and the usual rotation of MAC opponents and whatnot.
Assessed. Michigan has come in for evaluation by the good Doctor, and the upshot is pretty much what everyone's upshot is: eh, 7-5 and an uninspiring bowl game against an ACC also-also-ran. There's not a whole lot to disagree with, but I do think this is an excessively pessimistic take on the offensive line:
The '08 offensive line was an unmitigated, all-hands-on-deck disaster that sent the offense spiraling into one of the deepest, darkest holes in the universe -- last in the conference in passing, pass efficiency, scoring and total offense, and truly among the worst overall units in the country. So this is one area where returning seven different players who started multiple games last year -- four of whom began the season as backups, including one who entered fall camp as a defensive tackle -- is equal parts blessing and burden.
It may be some comfort that this isn't a young group: Six of the seven returnees, all but redshirt sophomore center Dave Molk, are in their fourth or fifth years, and should be further whittled into the nimble zone blockers Rodriguez's scheme requires, as opposed to the steamrolling grinders they were recruited to be.
This has been asserted before: there was a major difference between the all-and-by-all-we-mean-desperately-few-hands-on-deck disaster that the offensive line certainly was early in the season and rather non-disastrous performance of the offensive line the second half of the season. The tackles' pass protection and guards' second-level blocking remained issues, but those issues should both be mitigated by Steve Schilling's move inside. And to those seven returners Michigan adds five able bodies (the four redshirt freshmen and injury-stricken Mark Huyge), amongst them the two tackles who allowed Michigan to move Schilling inside and salve the most consistently irritating rash of a position.
I use the same heuristic DocSat does here—large numbers of returning starters are not necessarily good when they are upperclassmen who have proven extremely poor—in season previews, but usually reserve it for the Indianas for the world. I don't think it applies here. Michigan doesn't just return a bunch of sucky players, it adds significant depth and enters its second year in a new system on and off the field. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance.
[Editor's note: I am headed to a wedding in Milwaukee this weekend, and thus won't be able to put together mgo-worthy content for the rest of today. Instead, enjoy this excellent, research-heavy diary.]
First time poster, long time lurker. While procrastinating on various work projects, I’ve been dithering around with a data set on college football win-loss records. I’m the sort of guy who actually thinks HBS case studies are kinda neat, so futzing with this seemed like fun in its own twisted way. Then one of our fellow mgobloggers put up a really nice monte carlo simulation of the 2009 season (using a $500K piece of software no less) and I felt a little guilty about not posting some of my stuff online. So, here goes …
What sent me down this path was the whole topic of what our expectations should be for next year’s win total. Seems like the general consensus is somewhere between a 3-5 win improvement for next year. I am a Bill James devotee, so I began to wonder how realistic that was in a historical context (i.e., how many teams really improve that much in one year). My instinct was such occasions were not all that common. So, I spent a couple of hours pulling some data (30 years worth of W-L records for every D1A team, to be exact). Here are some summary conclusions and some things that I intend to research a little further and post about whenever the procrastination bug strikes again.
Turns out that big improvements in win totals from one year to another are more common than I thought. There were roughly 300 such cases since 1980. Considering that the data set is about 3300 team seasons, I thought this was pretty remarkable. In essence, the average team has at least one 4+ win improvement season every decade. Score one for optimism here.
Digging a little further, I took a look at extreme win total improvements (+6 wins or more). There were quite a few of these as well – 63 (or more than 2 per season). And they weren’t all MAC and Sun Belt teams either. 28 of those seasons were from teams in one of the six BCS conferences. The Big Ten had 6 such seasons:
- Northwestern 95
- Purdue 97
- Ohio St 02
- Penn St 05
- Illinois 07
- Minnesota 08 (EDIT: Missed the MN season in the first draft).
For those dreaming about the possibility of warm weather for New Years, at least there’s some historical precedent. Also, RichRod is responsible for one of those 63, West Virginia '02, which was +6. Which also happened in his second year after a 3-8 first season. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ …
For those who are curious, the biggest turnaround in the study (and most likely in college football history) is Hawaii 99 (+9). At +8 were Florida 80, San Jose St 86, Bowling Green 91, South Carolina 00, and Central Florida 05.
I also was wondering if the optimism about a BCS game in two years was rooted in reality. [Editor's note: I would have gone with "vague hope" instead of optimism.] For this, I am assuming the requirement is an 11+ win season. So, if we start with the assumption that this year ends up at 7 wins, we need another 4 win improvement next season to reach that.
Here, the historical precedent is less encouraging*. In the study there are only 5 cases of teams recording 2 consecutive seasons of 4+ win improvements: Colorado St in 89 and 90, Fullerton St in 84 and 85, Georgia Tech in 89 and 90 (culminating with a shared national title), UNLV in 83 and 84, and one other.
This last one should be your reason for optimism, as it is Tulane in 97 and 98. With OC Rich Rodriguez. 2-9 Tulane 96 became 12-0 Tulane 98 under that offense. The historical numbers may be stacked against us, but this staff has defied them once before.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight the three Michigan seasons that were caught by this analysis: 85, 97, and 06 (all +4).
See any themes here? If you named the three best defensive teams of the last 30 years, this is probably the list (with the possible exception of the 80 team). Does this sound like the 09 team to you? Yeah, me neither. Bummer.
I do see some decent parallels to the 85 and 06 teams, though. Both the 84 and 05 teams were plagued by injury hell and were extremely young, as was 08. Both the 85 and 06 teams ushered in a new era of offensive strategy (Bo discovered the forward pass with Harbaugh in 85, the zone stretch changed the running game in 06). For all intents and purposes, 09 is the first real glimpse we’ll have at RichRod’s full playbook so I’m willing to buy that as a philosophical change.
The defense going into both 85 and 06 had only two established stars (Mike Hammerstein/Brad Cochran, Lamarr Woodley/Leon Hall) and a bunch of question marks. Could Graham/Warren count as established stars? The 85 and 06 teams had unheralded defensive players become stars (Mark Messner, Andy Moeller in 85, Alan Branch, David Harris in 06). Could that happen here? Mouton? Martin? Spinner/deathbacker to be named later? Surprise freshman stud (Turner? Campbell? Emelien?) Maybe it’s a stretch, but if you want to be an optimist, I think this is what you look to …
So, that’s all I have for now. I am going to take a closer look at the impact of coaching changes on the big spikes in W/L. Current hypothesis says you get the biggest pop in year 2, but let’s see what the data says. Also going to look at the other side of this coin, seasons of -4 wins or more. Could give some retrospective insight into the whole WTF situation that was 08. If you want me to look at anything else, I am open to suggestions.
* Really this should look at 8+ win improvements over two years, not just consecutive 4+ win years. However, it is late and I’m too tired to do that now. Maybe next time.
[Editor's note: Something struck me as I read this: check out those bounce-back seasons there. Minnesota was 1-11. Illinois was 2-10. Northwestern was 3-7-1, Purdue 3-8, Penn State 4-7. Only OSU -- 7-5 in 2001 -- went from mediocre to very good, and the 2002 OSU team were the luckiest sonsabitches in recent college football history.
Everyone else was bouncing up from horrible to average, which seems much easier to do than to go from average to very good. So, yeah, a crappy bowl beckons.]