The final number. Before the Ohio State game I mentioned a remarkable statistic: in this year of safeties living in the box and injuries and a makeshift offensive line and just all-around disaster on offense, Michigan actually had a higher yards per carry than they did the year before.
It was close, though, and Ohio State stomped that. Michigan finished the year averaging 3.91 YPC. 2007 beat that out by six hundredths of a yard. Okay, that's still pretty remarkable. Here's a pop quiz: where does that YPC rank over the past eight years?
Fourth! Above average!
If you needed any evidence that whatever Rich Rodriguez is doing on the ground is a pretty good idea, that should suffice.
A some serious newsbits from Rodriguez's recently completed press conference:
Brandon Graham should return. Rodriguez said he'd talked to Graham and he plans on coming back. Corroborating evidence:
"I'm going to eat it up right now and make sure it doesn't happen next year," Michigan junior defensive end Brandon Graham said. "This is motivation for next year to go out there and work even harder than we did this year.
This won't be official until January 15th, obviously, and I've heard that Graham will submit his stuff to the NFL's draft evaluation thingy. But, hey, thumbs up for now. That would be huge.
Corey Zirbel is done. They'd like to get him back as a grad assistant but his playing career is over.
Sam McGuffie was concussed again. This is not much of a surprise since McGuffie did not return after getting sandwiched on a kick return. This is, I think, McGuffie's third concussion of the year; we're now getting into the territory where this is a threat to end his career.
Eastern Michigan is the third nonconference opponent next year. Western and Notre Dame are the other two, if you didn't already know. Western's actually pretty good this year—they beat Illinois—and they return their star quarterback; Eastern should be dire as always. The bye week in the Big Ten schedule remains open and this year I'd be totally okay with something like The Citadel or Coastal Carolina or Southwest Canada State.
An unnamed fourth year senior was not at the team meeting. One guy with eligibility didn't show. Here are guys who could be redshirt seniors next year:
- Kevin Grady
- David Moosman
- LaTerryal Savoy
- Tim McAvoy
- Carson Butler
- Zoltan Mesko
- Mark Ortmann
- Andre Criswell
Ortmann, Mesko, and Moosman are obviously not the guy. It could be any of the others.
Your OL mentioned as potential contributors next year: Patrick Omameh was number one; he was on the travel team this year and was clearly the freshman they had the most faith in. Number two is Ricky Barnum; number three was Rocko Khoury. Other guys were not mentioned.
This will spur "what about O'Neill?" questions, no doubt, so a repeat of something I've said earlier: O'Neill came to Michigan in serious need of technique and strength work and was rated highly in high school mostly because he has that left tackle body (6'8", long arms, thick enough, etc). He retains high upside but I don't think you'll see him seriously challenge for a starting job until 2010.
The safety with the sweetest name and most ready-made nickname ("The Impaler") in the history of sweet names with ready made nicknames has committed to Michigan($). I know I'm late but Monday morning after the OSU game is a bad time to commit.
Informative update coming.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|3*, #41 S||4*, #16 S||80, #19 S|
Two sites say Emilien is a mid-to-low four star prospect; Scout says "meh." A possible reason for the disparity:
Plantation safety Vlad Emilien (6-1, 195) tore his meniscus in his right knee at the Nike Camp at UM this spring and tore his ACL during spring practices. He is hopeful to return in time for the playoffs.
"Spring practices" isn't quite right: the injury happened in July. Emilien has missed the entirety of his senior season to date. This makes him something of a risk, but as you'll see in the next section it's one a lot of schools felt was worth taking.
ESPN says the thing I most want to hear:
Comes up from the free safety position at proper run support angles and usually can react on the run.
Pass coverage is solid from both three deep and halves coverage. Makes a good break on the pass and times the interception well even though leaping ability is questionable. Physical when separating the receiver from the football. Emilien is a very good athlete that is a real competitor and gives super effort every play. Needs to keep working on strength and tackling techniques. He is a better strong safety candidate than free.
Here's a coach quote from before Emilien's injury:
Vlad is still just really developing,'' Davis said. ``He was a running back as a freshman. I think he has the potential to be just like [current Gator] Major Wright.''
Hey, that's a good comparison except that Wright was a fixture in Florida's nuclear wasteland of a secondary in 2007; with the injury to a "still developing player" I think early playing time is going to be limited to special teams.
We do have some evidence that Emilien has super healing powers like Wolverine (adamantium comic book guy version) or is just a maniacal worker:
“I’m way ahead of track, that’s what the doctors tell me,” said Emilien. “I just don’t want to risk coming back too early, so I’m trying to get it as strong as possible now. The whole thing (rehab) is going real fast for me.”
July ACL tear could lead to a November/September return? I think that would be some sort of record.
More evidence for the maniacal worker theory:
WHAT I DO TO STAY IN SHAPE: "I'm a workaholic; basically all I do is train, train, train. I wake up at 5 a.m. and go train. I run track, too, so I'm trying to keep myself in shape for that. I lift weights. Go on the track and do a couple of 400s to keep my endurance up. I run a couple of 110s, because that's what they run in college. I've got to get used to the college life and make sure my speed is up."
Emilien's recruiting was odd. He picked up an early offer from Ohio State in March and, along with his teammate Brandon McGee, seemed to be favoring the Buckeyes. Then OSU got a flood of defensive back commitments and had no room. They kept in contact with Emilien until his injury, at which point they backed off. Then OSU safety commit Bradley McDougald got in trouble for something or another and got his offer pulled, at which point Ohio State got involved again.
As late as August Michigan wasn't even in Emilien's top six, but then again no one other than Ohio State who ended up in his final four was in that top six.
Other early offers came from Tennessee, Auburn, Illinois, Purdue, South Carolina, Kentucky, and South Florida; Emilien picked Michigan over a final group containing OSU, Wisconsin, and Stanford.
Emilien missed his senior year with the injury; as a junior he picked up 93 tackles and three interceptions.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout lists Emilien at 4.5, which is so fake. The guy has a torn ACL, Scout.
I could not locate any free video, sadly.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The injury hurts Emilien's chances at early playing time; missing a full year in high school has to set you back experience-wise. The timing of the injury allows him to recover quickly enough to possibly participate in his team's playoff games, so he should be fine by January and can participate in spring drills. I'd still expect a redshirt, with Brown, Williams, and Smith rotating through the safety spots.
Past 2009, Emilien's got a clear path to playing time once Brown departs; he's rated on par with Williams, below Smith, and above everyone else at safety, and he's got a 3.8 GPA. I prefer my safeties with a grasp of geometry, thanks. OSU's early and continued, if intermittent, pursuit of Emilien is a good sign, too; despite having a ton of DBs committing they still made it clear he was wanted. Or made it sort of clear. Eh.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Emilien's commit is big in three different ways:
- He's a highly rated safety, and Michigan needs safeties.
- His commit makes it more likely Justin Turner can stick at corner.
- FL CB Josh Robinson might be more interested in coming north with his teammate already committed.
Michigan is probably done at safety but will take a commit from someone like MS S Dennis Thames if he decides on M; the big focus now is corner and offensive line.
We may get some news on that soon. Emilien's teammate, FL CB Josh Robinson, is deciding next week between UCF, USF, and Michigan. It's been the long held assumption of Anonymous that Robinson is staying close to home, but a couple recent premium articles were encouraging; we'll see.
Oh, and by the way, we've got some LOLSU re: nickname:
It's acctually Vlad Guerrero's nickname, but it sounds like a way better nickname for a ball hawking safety.
Wow. I always wondered where the name "Vlad the Impaler" came from. Who knew it was from a Major League Baseball player?
At least we've still got our sense of superiority, folks. Treasure it.
Etc.: Post-commit interview.
11/22/2008 – Michigan 7, Ohio State 42 – 3-9, 2-6 Big Ten
I gave you the emotional appeal for patience with Rich Rodriguez on Friday. Then Michigan went out and got clubbed to death like everyone expected, though the killing blows took a longer to get home. Michigan is 3-9, the season is over, etc.
So what happened? Who's at fault? How does this affect Rodriguez going forward?
What happened. In retrospect the optimism about the season was comical. At some point in fall camp it became clear the coaches did not think the one viable scholarship quarterback on the roster was obviously better than a walk-on who looks like the wimpy guy in a barbershop quartet. This should have been a HEAD FOR THE HILLS moment.
Instead, I saw (and participated in) a classic moment of irrational fan optimism: it's not that bad. He was injured as a senior, he could be okay. He slipped through the cracks. He's a better fit for the system. And so on and so forth.
Meanwhile, a defensive tackle was moved to the offensive line and ended up starting. Michigan lost one of its only viable starters in the preseason. Stevie Brown would reclaim a starting job, and the other safeties would be 1) a guy who had been playing corner and 2) a guy who couldn't hack it at corner.
People say "Michigan shouldn't be that bad with all that talent!" and I say "I would like to see some of this talent!" There is obviously none on offense except that which is underclassmen. Sure, the defensive line is great but it doesn't matter when none of your linebackers can cover worth a damn and the safeties give out long touchdowns like candy. This thing was doomed from the start, and even if Rodriguez screwed up all he did was make it slightly more doomed.
Who's at fault. Everyone:
- Lloyd Carr put all his eggs in Mallett's basket, leaving Michigan with David Cone as upperclass QBs this year. His recruiting was obviously rotting slowly, too.
- Angry Michigan Mobile Quarterback Hating God blew up Antonio Bass's knee.
- Bill Martin scheduled Utah instead of Sam Houston State.
- Rich Rodriguez thought Steven Threet was worse than Nick Sheridan.
- Angry Michigan Fan Sanity God also thought it would be funny to see Michigan fumble every ten seconds.
There's plenty to go around.
The one criticism being launched on the internet and elsewhere that I think has some validity is directed at the defensive staff. They had one and a half viable linebackers and a returning senior who spent the last two years of his career as a LB/CB/S hybrid. Maybe Thompson plays against UW, MSU, and OSU, but the switch to a nickel package against the spread took nine games and was only spurred by a move to a 3-3-5 that Justin Siller shredded for 48 points. Much of the year Michigan ran out three-man fronts on potential running downs and was gashed.
If they keep Thompson off the field and go with a nickel all year and never, ever go to a three man line on a potential running down Michigan probably wins another game or two more games and this year is not nearly as ugly. Is that on Shafer? I don't know. I suspect there was some major conflict between the various guys running the defense, as two of them were new to Rodriguez and two were holdovers.
I'm willing to grant a first-year coordinator a mulligan when he doesn't know the strengths and weaknesses of his players; next year I hope to see a more coherent idea of what Michigan can and cannot do and what players are good.
What now. A favorite media complaint of late has been that "it didn't have to be this bad," inevitably followed by "why didn't Rodriguez run Mike DeBord's offense?" The latter idea has already been debunked here. The former is not a complaint for Rich Rodriguez, it's for Bill Martin. If Martin wanted he could have hung on to an assistant or grabbed Brady Hoke or picked up any number of coaches who would have changed the culture and offense less radically.
Once you decide to bring Rodriguez in, though, you are committed to some degree of rebuilding, and when your hotshot QB recruit transfers leaving nothing behind him that degree is "lots." This is not Rodriguez's fault. I'm sure there were any number of things he could have done better, and that in some way he has personality flaws that make transition years under him more brutal than they usually are. Okay. Those are a sunk cost. 2008 is a sunk cost. This is a sunk cost:
In economics and business decision-making, sunk costs are costs that cannot be recovered once they have been incurred. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with variable costs, which are the costs that will change due to the proposed course of action…. In microeconomic theory, only variable costs are relevant to a decision. Economics proposes that a rational actor does not let sunk costs influence one's decisions, because doing so would not be assessing a decision exclusively on its own merits.
Even if Rodriguez did run off Mallett and Manningham and Arrington and Boren and various other players and is just really horrible at transitioning football teams, all that already happened. We suffered the consequences of it. Booting Rodriguez before he's been given a chance to show what he can do with a roster of his guys makes this year in vain.
I mention it because the ridiculous "BCS with a sophomore QB in 2010 or DEATH" meme has spread beyond the addled brain of the Worst Columnist in America and to some of the more Little Wayne-obsessed parts of the Michigan blogosphere:
We're predicting a sloppy 7-5 campaign … and a loss in the Alamo, setting up a situation in Year 3 that he MUST reach a BCS bowl. No pressure, though.
I generally like the Realests, but no. This horrible season should not have much bearing on Rich Rodriguez's job security. It's sunk and gone. As long as Michigan improves consistently and Rodriguez strides towards the excellent program he had at West Virginia, his job should be safe. Firing him after three years if he goes 3-9, 6-6, and 8-4 would be the first step towards the doming down of the program.
Because. Because I have to tell you, the state of the program right now is not good. 19 scholarship defenders return. Not on the two-deep. On the roster. In all likelihood, a freshman will start at quarterback next year and the skill position players will be mostly underclassmen. Michigan should obviously be better next year. They probably aren't going to be good.
I'm sorry to harp on this, but in my mind it's the primary danger facing the program right now. They've grabbed a high quality coach with 20 years of experience young enough to stay at Michigan for 20 years, which is a combination you never see. Getting rid of Rich Rodriguez for not moving the program in the right direction enough would be the biggest mistake Michigan has made in over 40 years.
Suck it up and ye shall reach the promised land. As Ninja Football says: WE ARE GOING TO BE A MACHINE.
Via the Palestra:
- Out: Threet, Schilling.
- In: McGuffie, Minor.
Minor "might start"; Expect Dorrestein to replace Schilling. (They might flip Ortmann to RT, but Dorrestein will be the guy off the bench.)