this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
The BBQ has borne its first meaty fruits with the commitment of OH OL Christian Pace. This was going into Tuesday Recruitin' tomorrow but I might as well put it here:
Less definitive but still promising rumors are also swirling around OH OL Christian Pace, a four-star interior lineman who made it up for the BBQ and got the "decision imminent?!?!" question-that-contains-its-own-answer premium article. This from before the BBQ looks like a hint about Pace's interest:
While Pace has yet to name a favorite, it is safe to say he is very interested in Michigan.
A Florida State visit may happen before his commitment; if it doesn't dollars to donuts he picks M.
Think David Molk here: Pace is a solid, mobile interior lineman. He's in the ESPN 150 watch list, is Rivals' #5 center (and a three star), and had good offers: Florida State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Pitt, South Carolina, and Stanford amongst others. A full google-stalk will have to wait until tomorrow.
I'm still catching up after spending large chunks of the weekend away from precious internet access, so forgive if some of this is old.
Back like it never happened. So, yeah, Michigan might not be through with Gradys yet:
As Grady continues to evaluate his options, one of them is playing for the Michigan football team. He has spoken with the U-M staff regarding the opportunity. Grady, a 5-foot-10 standout running back/receiver in high school at East Grand Rapids, is considering a number of basketball and football options.
While the Free Press article above indicates Grady is still evaluating his options, a previously reliable source indicates this is a done deal and Grady will not be transferring.
As we've all learned from the Greg Paulus fiasco, players don't use up eligibility in any sport they're not actually playing and have a five-year period before they're ineligible, so Grady would be the functional equivalent of a redshirt sophomore if he was to join the team: three years to play three.
Grady's quick as hell and was a legitimate football prospect coming out of high school, so he could be of some use. No one has put a stranglehold on the slot position and the starting tailback job will be wide open next fall. Also maybe he can catch punts.
Nothing to see here. I really wish this wasn't cause to play officer Barbrady, but even if this is Terrelle Pryor (and it very probably is)…
The football player received a special, discounted hotel rate and free food while visiting Ohio State.
On Aug. 21, OSU declared the athlete ineligible and filed a violation report with the NCAA. He never missed a game, though. He paid back $158 for his extra benefits, and the NCAA restored his eligibility. He was a freshman at Ohio State last year. He was recruited by quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels.
…it's a minor NCAA violation that's been handled already. This, though fun, is also pointless to get excited about:
Since 2000, Ohio State has reported to the NCAA more than 375 violations -- the most of any of the 69 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that provided documents to The Dispatch through public-records requests. Most infractions were minor -- a coach called a recruit too many times, for example. Others, however, left athletes benched, fined or at least embarrassed.
If the NCAA hasn't deigned to slap Lane Kiffin's wrist, this won't bring any additional scrutiny. Especially since the list of violations is full of stuff like "player mentions ice cream shop where she worked" and—seriously—"hockey players sneak into Nickelback concert."
But the larger point in the Dispatch report is a good one: many schools now use any means possible to avoid or make useless FOIA requests by citing a federal law designed to prevent the public disclosure of student grades. An example:
We asked the eight Ohio schools eligible for the Bowl Championship Series for the list of people who flew on university airplanes to away football games. These records are used by the NCAA to determine whether boosters (people who give money to the university and whose actions are scrutinized) fly with the team.
Kent State University sent the entire list, with no names removed. Three schools blackened out the names of students. Four removed the names of students and some nonstudents.
Others just make it ridiculously costly. This includes Michigan, which asked for $850 to fulfill the Dispatch's FOIA request. Only Maryland's hilarious demand for over $35,000 beat that.
Urgh? Odd that Tony Barnhart is the guy to report on this change in the BCS selection process:
In past contracts if the Rose Bowl lost one of its traditional partners, the Big Ten or Pac-10 champ, to the BCS championship game, it could simply fill with another Big Ten or Pac-10 team that qualified. That’s how a 9-3 Illinois team got to Pasadena two years ago.
But in the new contract, I’m told, there is an interesting clause: The first time in the deal that the Rose loses one of its champions to the BCS title game, that opening will be automatically filled by a Coalition (non-BCS conference) team if one has qualified.
Barnhart interprets this as an attempt to not get sued, and okay maybe it is but why does the Rose Bowl get stuck with an automatic mid-major slot instead of losing its special ability to pick a totally undeserving Big Ten team? That seems like swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction.
After getting over the initial revulsion at the thought of Boise State in the Rose Bowl, though, I'm not too put out: better that than a barely-qualified* Big Ten team like Illinois leaping into the BCS, embarrassing itself, and giving the rest of the conference harder matchups in their bowl games. At least some part of the Big Ten's recent bowl struggles is due to the conference almost always getting a second team into the BCS whether it deserves it or not.
*(Literally: IIRC, there was great worry that year because Illinois needed an extremely friendly set of final-week results to even get itself into the top 14 of the BCS rankings.)
Ends to excellent season. The men's golf team made a late surge to squeeze into the top eight at the national championships, then won their first round of match play before losing a "heartbreaker" to Texas A&M in the semifinal. Michigan's top player, the spectacularly-named Lion Kim, is but a sophomore, so future success is a possibility.
Softball, meanwhile, won against Alabama but lost 1-0 against Florida and 7-5 against Georgia to exit the WCWS around 5th or 6th place. At least they're not Ohio State's baseball team, which managed to lose 24-8 and 37-6 this weekend. Even stranger: in between those two games they won twice.
Etc.: Hockey recruits do well at the NHL draft combine.
Apparently, this was the worst showing by U-M in the draft since 1994 when Derrick Alexander was the program's only player selected that year. People are using this as further evidence that the cupboard was bare when Rich Rod arrived on campus (as if anyone paying attention needed more evidence). But one draft doesn’t tell you much about the talent level of a particular team. For example, that 1993/94 team still finished 7-4 and 23rd in the Coaches’/AP. Why? Well, because that team also had three players who would be selected in the first round of the 1995 draft, and five players overall. If we want to know how bare the cupboard was when Rich Rod arrived, we also have to look at the 2010 draft. So, of the current players eligible for the draft next year, who other than Graham is likely to get drafted? What’s the fewest number of players drafted from a major program over a two-year period? Does this tell us anything about Rich’s cupboard that we didn’t already know? Obviously, it was bare but was it far worse than people realize compared with other major programs?
Yikes. A quick combing of Michigan's roster comes up with the following potential 2010 draftees outside of Graham:
- Greg Mathews: maybe a late pick? He doesn't have the speed to go very high.
- Minor/Brown: it's too early to tell with either but both have the raw physical ability to be drafted somewhere decent. One seems like a first day pick with the other going later.
- Ortmann/Moosman: probably not drafted.
- Stevie Brown: Lions first rounder.
- Zoltan The Inconceivable: likely to be the first punter off the board, whenever that happens.
So, yeah, it's Brandon Graham, a couple running backs, and the space punter. I don't know what the fewest number of players drafted from a power program over a two-year period is, but that's probably not the right question. The right question is "how many teams with like one high NFL draft pick and three or four mid-round picks are any good?" and the answer is "none, but there are plenty that didn't go 3-9."
This following one concerns variance, as discussed in the earlier post on Gladwell and basketball and Carr and the non-scoring offense. It's long, so I've chosen to respond after each paragraph. Though this looks fisk-y, it's not intended to be confrontational.
Your recent blog entry, detailing variance, risk versus reward, defense, offense and modern versus older systems, beginning with a basketball analogy, seems correct, but I have some issues. Your presumption seems to be that solid defense allows for a brute strength, low variance offensive strategy, in the style of Bo, and likewise with Carr. At the same time, however, you insinuate that a slow, grinding offense that keeps the other teams’ offenses off the field is of a critical nature towards that end.
I was not entirely clear about my thinking here. I do think that a really, really good defense allows for that sort of offensive strategy, and more specifically makes the run-run-probably-run-punt style of closing up a game make sense. In that sort of situation you're playing towards your strength.
However, when your defense is mediocre and you have a future NFL player at quarterback, shutting up shop and hoping your mediocre defense comes through is playing to your weakness. Carr did this a lot, if we're expansive about the word "mediocre".
As far as what sort of offense you want at the end of the game, yes, the sort of offense that can grind out a first down is nice to have, but if you don't have that offense—and not many do when they opposition is selling out like mad—you're doing yourself a disservice. There are specific situations where grinding it and punting makes sense, but none of them come with more than two minutes on the clock.
This is reasonable, as you can’t rely on a small lead and a low scoring game if you can’t keep the other team from scoring. The problem, however, comes in making the assumption that defense can’t be, or at least wasn’t, considered a weapon. Absolutely, using a prevent defense, clogging the running lanes, and keeping opposing offenses to short, clock eating runs between the tackles works towards that end. But what of the Michigan defenses through the years, especially in the early Carr era, that actually produced more variance, not less? Sacks, fumbles, and interceptions all increase variance in a game. Sudden turn-overs and backward yards are not supposed to happen on an offensive possession. I would say that in as much as a thundering, slow moving, ground based offense is designed to reduce variance, keep games simple and allow dominant talent to win out; the same strategy of good fundamentals (tackling, stripping the ball, pass coverage) has the exact opposite effect, creating lots of variance and unexpected.
Your definition of "good fundamentals" on defense varies from mine. When I think of good fundamentals, I think of a two-deep shell, minimal blitzing, and conservative strategies. Bend but don't break sort of things. A defense heavy on the blitzing and light on deep safeties is more prone to wild swings. And many of the things you cite as good fundamentals are zero-cost activities from a strategic standpoint: tackling, forcing fumbles, etc.
It seems that you’re positing that the more an offense scores, the more variable and therefore less predictable a game becomes. I think that’s the exact opposite of the truth. Offenses are supposed to score. To assume they will do ANYTHING but that is fallacy. I think the variance comes in when they fail to. Therefore, I don’t think that Bo’s and Lloyd’s game plans were low variance at all. I believe they simply tried to keep the variance, the sudden swinging changes, to one side of the ball. After all, if your defense FAILS to produce variance, the worst that will happen is the other team will score. That can be recovered. If your offense does produce variance, then the worst that will happen is you will lose your chance to score back. You can’t get that back.
This wasn't what I was getting at, but it wasn't the opposite of it either. What I was trying to say was this: all other things being equal, I'd rather Michigan play a game where both teams have sixteen possessions than eight. (Assuming that they don't suck, of course.) Michigan's more likely to come out on top in that situation. The way Michigan played under Lloyd, however, seems like it lent itself to a lot of long drives on both sides of the ball and generally depressed the number of possessions.
Simplified – You’re saying that offenses produce variance by moving quickly, scoring. As talent entropy occurs, this is harder and harder to stop, and so Bo and Lloyd saw their wins weaken, because their goals were to reduce variance. I believe that defenses produce variance by preventing scoring, and scoring on defense. We saw less success against higher level and middling teams in the last few years because talent entropy, and the coinciding spread of more complex, harder to stop offenses, has leveled the playing field, reducing defensive variance.
Different song, same title.
Okay, to properly address this we need to bring in variance's buddy: expectation. In layman's terms, expectation is the average of all expected outcomes. When you roll a die the expectation is 3.5. When you kick an extra point the expectation is 0.98. Variance is a measure of the average difference between trials. I could kick up the variance of the dice roll by turning 1 into –101 and 6 into 106 without affecting the expectation. I could kick it down by weighting it so that 3 and 4 came up twice as often as other rolls.
If you expect to win a game, variance is your enemy. I'm going to borrow some graphs from the excellent Advanced NFL Stats to demonstrate:
So here we've got two teams with the same variance in their play, one of which is a touchdown favorite. The underdog has about a 31% chance of winning.
Now the underdog has gone mad, probably going for it on fourth down a lot, inventing and deploying something called HELICOPTER PUNTING, and trying to block every extra point. They get blown out a lot more but also win more: 35% of the time.
This effect is powerful enough to overcome reductions in expectation:
But this time the underdog’s average is reduced from 17 to 16. The increase in variance still results in a slightly better chance of winning despite its overall reduction in average points scored. In this case, it's 33.2% for the underdog.
And it's the same for the favorite and reducing their variance: sometimes it's worth reducing expectation to get it, but only in certain situations and when you're a considerable favorite. In Bo's time, Michigan was a considerable favorite much more often and the game lent itself to low-variance moves: a 40-yard punt is much more valuable in an era when ten points is a potentially game-winning number.
Anyway, to the assertion above: modern offenses have more variance to them* because they score more. Don't lose sight of expectation here: Missouri had a lot of variance in their scores but that was because they averaged 42 points a game. Michigan had far less but they were averaging 20.
Offenses that do this quickly are actually more predictable because they get in more trials. Moving fast without sacrificing expectation is advantageous to the better team, which is why Oklahoma was in zero even halfway close games against the Big 12 rabble. (Texas is not rabble, obviously.)
Defenses reduce variance by, you know, having safeties that can tackle. The very best defenses are low variance because all of the outcomes have the same result for the opposition: shame and humiliation. In that situation, punting your ass off makes sense, because you're a big favorite, you're not giving the opponent much of an opportunity and you're reducing variance in a way that helps your overall chances of winning. The main problem with Michigan's defense over the last few years has been their suckiness, which by the way increases variance as your defense falls to a point where opponents can drive the field on them regularly.
I always go back here to the end of the 2005 Ohio State game: Michigan has a two point lead and drives down to the Ohio State 40. Facing third and ten, they run a wide receiver screen for six yards, and then punt on fourth and four from the 34, gaining 15 yards. Ohio State promptly drives the field for the winning touchdown. This came after a Henne-demanded fourth-and-short conversion on Michigan's 40 that led to an apparently-clinching field goal, and was interpreted by yrs truly as a panicked reversion to base instincts from another time.
*(The variance of something that's always zero is zero and it's not much higher for something that's almost always zero. As offenses move towards 50/50 efficiency the variance increases, but in a world like the 54-51 game against Northwestern the variance is low because everyone's always scoring touchdowns. An even distribution of probabilities is always more unpredictable than a set where most of the events are drawn to one or two outcomes.)
Sort punchy posts today, I guess, but a reminder: softball takes on Alabama in their WCWS opener tonight at seven EST on ESPN. Varsity Blue has a thorough preview.
"We appreciate the efforts made by both UMass and Bowling Green to accept one-year contracts to play at The Big House," Athletic Director Bill Martin said in a statement issued by U-M. "The scheduling landscape is becoming more difficult and we discussed the open dates with a number of institutions and want to thank them for their time and effort during this process."
The Wolverines will welcome UMass to Michigan Stadium Sept. 18, a week after traveling to Notre Dame. U-M will then host Bowling Green Sept. 25 before opening Big Ten play Oct. 2 at Indiana. The Maize and Blue still have yet to fill the final open date (Sept. 4) on their schedule.
As you might remember, UMass was rumored to be the newly-renovated Michigan Stadium opener, but this will not happen. Martin on that date:
"We are working hard to line up an opponent for the opening game in renovated Michigan Stadium," Martin said. "We hope to have an announcement in the near future."
The implication behind Michigan's strenuous denials that UMass would be the opener was that they'd try to find an opponent that was appealing, or at least moderately interesting. We'll see if that comes to pass.
John Calipari, folks:
UK announced Tuesday that three scholarship players will not be back on the team next season.
The three were A.J. Stewart, Donald Williams and Jared Carter.
Each of them has been told to play nice or else and has quotes thanking everyone for the opportunities, but privately they must be seething. By the numbers this is vastly worse than the Alabama stuff, as Calipari signed the class in the full knowledge he'd have to boot almost a quarter of his team to do it, without the luxury of medical redshirts. And he's not even done: if Jodie Meeks comes back and there are no academic issues, two more guys will have to get show the door. It's indefensible. Kentucky should be ashamed they allowed it to happen.
Meanwhile, a walk-on was taking about a scholarship with Gillespie and then got the cold shoulder. This doesn't come close to the level of the departed above since the player didn't come to UK under the impression he could spend four years there and end up with a degree, but the manner in which it was handled is revealing. The JCCW on that:
Time for tweeting? Check. Time to give a good kid, a lifetime Kentucky fan and Kentucky native, the common courtesy of telling him he's not needed in person? Or even over the phone? No dice.
These guys got cut so Calipari could cram his five-member recruiting class, which will no doubt feature a number of one-and-dones, on campus, and the idea of the "student-athlete" dies a little more. Calipari's now two for two on abandoning schools just as they get nailed with major sanctions for activities that—like Steve Fisher—the headman didn't know about because he didn't want to. Add in his record as an assistant at Kansas and Pittsburgh and Calipari has been at four schools, all of which have been hit with major infractions stemming from his time there. (Here's the NCAA database for these things; unfortunately it's impervious to links.)
Yeah, John Calipari had no knowledge of (probably) Derrick Rose's fraudulent test score, but that's sort of the point: he didn't know. And he didn't know Marcus Camby and the agent blah blah blah. He's not an idiot and neither are the people at Kentucky. And neither is the public. We're all terribly cynical now.
I find this stuff hugely depressing. Calipari can't take his two recruits and coach the guys he's got and wait a single year to graduate some kids, he's got to boot upstanding players off the team now so he can win now because that's just what he does, and the Kentucky administration just watches. All Kentucky has to do is wait and they'll have their full compliment of NBA-focused players who regard school as a nuisance and Kentucky as a marginally preferable alternative to Europe. Not even that's good enough.
I wonder about people who don't care about anything past the final score, don't care how that stuff goes down. I'd hate to be the guy behind A Sea of Blue right now, as he's not one of these people:
What he has done is effectively turn UK into an NBA franchise, and while that might be good for wins and losses and national championships, it isn't going to be welcomed everywhere. Some people are going to be very upset with how this is going down, and they have every right to be. UK has historically honored its scholarships, and has only rarely (if ever) done what is going on right now -- forcing players to transfer in order to make room under the "scholarship cap."
He excuses this behavior in two ways: blaming the athletic director for letting it happen and citing the massive contract Calipari signed, which "demands immediate results."
Why? It doesn't, of course. It demands eventual results, or at least it would if anyone at Kentucky gave a tenth of a crap about the players currently on the team.
I look at the rest of that guy's post, which is filled with halfhearted defenses of Calipari's long and checkered past and just cringe. I'd hate to wake up and see my basketball team filled with mercenaries and the country's biggest asshole on the sideline, winning the hollow victories of the morally bankrupt. What's the point of pretending Kentucky's basketball team is wing of the university anymore?