no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
On ignorance. Due to a personal obligation or two I missed most of this weekend's action, and since the only thing I did catch was the Friday night hockey game wherein Michigan was Bowling Green first CCHA win in seven attempts I rather wish I had missed the whole thing.
So I can't offer much other than a "WTF?" about said hockey game, which was just horrible to watch. No matter what happens the rest of the way out, Michigan is going to look back at this game and that 2-1 loss against Western ruefully. Yost Built has a recap of the Saturday game.
Meanwhile, the basketball team had a two point lead when I checked in with the internet and then proceeded to score once more before the game was totally out of hand, dropping M to 3-3 in the league and reviving panicked talk about the NIT. The Ace of Sports and UMHoops have a glimpse at what went down.
Also, I'm about to be in a car for an extended period of time so this and the TomVH interview I'll frontpage shortly are the sum of the day's content. On and popping, as the kids say, tomorrow, with Tuesday Recruitin' and all that jazz.
Return of the mack. The advent of the season had many, many deleterious effects on morale around these parts. One of the more underrated ones the discontinuation of articles about Mike Barwis making you vomit and then turning you into Teen Wolf. I guess the media decided to focus on things like "humiliating losses" and "the second worst season in eighty years" instead, because they hate Michigan.
It's now the offseason, though. What better time for a reprise?
One thing they’re not used to … Barwis Beach, a new sand pit in Oosterbaan Field House. They like it now, said Barwis, adding they won’t when they find out throwing up in sand is just as unpleasant as vomiting on a hard surface.
“It’s utilized for speed and explosive training,” said Barwis. “Forces dissipate more on sand than they do on a hard surface, a rigorous surface, so by doing explosive drills in there with extension we can make sure we really get triple extension from the ankle to the knee and hip to allow for the body to be its most effective running position. Doing acceleration drills in sand will allow them to do more things they can’t do on hard surfaces.”
Vomit, Teen Wolf, extremely reassuring mumbo-jumbo about explosive triple extension acceleration: it's good to have you back, Barwis Porn. I missed you.
Tangentially related. Rodriguez was invited to speak at the high school coaching convention and spent a lot of time attempting to explain that he's not Satan McRecruitsOnlyFlorida. The Battle Creek Enquirer has a brief story on and some video of the event—no embed possible, sorry—if you're interested.
This is the tangent: at the end of it, Rodriguez has finished his speech and is answering a couple questions from a reporter as someone else speaks to the coaches in the background. Someone very loud. Someone very distracting. Someone who sounds like he's gargling gravel. So I'm listening to this and getting sort of annoyed that it's hard to hear Rodriguez when I have an epiphany: holy pants, that's Barwis.
Meetings of doom(!). The NCAA's having one of their many annual meetings in which various ways to shorten football games without enraging the public are discussed. Other topics of interest this year include academics:
Two committees are looking into potentially startling remedies — a fifth year of playing eligibility, a non-playing "year of readiness" for junior college transfers and others with academic deficiencies, scheduling constraints in basketball — and will brief the Division I board of directors during the four-day gathering that ends Saturday.
Another, more radical measure being weighed by the football academic enhancement panel headed by Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione: earmarking a portion of revenues from non-conference "guarantee games" to cover summer school costs, add academic staff or provide other academic support. "We're certainly not trying to make institutional decisions," Castiglione says. "But we think people have to move away from the excuse of not having the necessary academic resources.
…and what to do with the coaches poll, including this horrible idea:
As for possibly going back to having every vote anonymous, Teaff said professional pollsters have told the AFCA there will be a more honest vote if the balloting is done without being attached to a name, as the final December vote is that helps determine the teams who play in the BCS title game. He said coaches might feel pressure to cover themselves with their conference teams.
The only thing worse than having a group of people suffused with naked self-interest vote on who should be in the national championship game is having that group of people do so anonymously. The coaches poll shouldn't be allowed to participate in the selection process unless it's willing to publicize their ballots, period. If that causes coaches to cover themselves with conference mates, the issue is not the open ballot, it's having vast conflicts of interest in your pollsters.
If Mack Brown or any other coach is serious about killing the BCS as quickly as possible he'll take the opportunity provided by the final ballot of the year and, for example, vote Texas #1 and not vote for Oklahoma at all. Coaches poll = dead. BCS = some wack computer rankings and a bunch of ancient men who don't even watch football.
As for the academic stuff: the fifth year of eligibility is academic reform? We have a situation now where a lot of schools are shuffling marginal players onto medical scholarships or encouraging them to transfer or outright cutting them (in Ray Ray McElrathbey's case) so they can cram more guys aboard the SS Sketchy; adding a fifth year of eligibility will only exacerbate this trend.
If you want real academic reform, remove the motivation to ever have a kid leave the program: once a player is signed or enrolled, his scholarship counts against your total for four years even if he fails out or transfers or shoots up a Dairy Queen or is lost to injury. Naturally, you'll have to increase the number of scholarships available to account for average attrition. This will never happen, obviously, but I'd encourage any portion of it: a two or three year commitment from a school for signing a LOI would be a step in the right direction, too.
Missed one. I mentioned the midterm Central Scouting rankings from the NHL last week, hitting on the whole of the 2009 class but missing one of Michigan's 2010 recruits: Mac Bennett. Bennett is a defenseman from Rhode Island ranked #63—third or fourth round—by Central Scouting. Also his hockey coach might have literary ambitions:
"I first saw Mac as an eighth grader competing in a bantam tournament at the Berkshire School and you could tell right away that he was the smartest player on the ice," White told NHL.com. "He had terrific vision, could pass the puck very well and made very good decisions. He's a tough kid in the sense that he never shies away. He's not afraid to go into the corner with anybody; he's comfortable in dark places."
That's part of an extensive article on Bennett from NHL.com. Michigan beat out Boston College for Bennett's services and he should be a fixture on the blueline upon arrival.
Cowherd: still stupid. Not that anyone needed confirmation of this, but to set the record straight on the Great Cowherd Douchebaggery of 2007:
Earlier this week Colin Cowherd was talking about the necessary separation of communication between fans and folks like owners and the media. The ESPN radio host discussed his own experience and loosely mentions the incident years back between he and the now defunct M Zone. He tells his listeners, “that guy, at the M Zone, is the reason you guys can send me emails all day and I can’t send them back.”
This is a warped version of reality. When you are an ESPN "personality" and you respond to a curt but basically correct email with this:
WE WERE SENT IT....WE HAD NO IDEA..BUT THE INCESSANT WHINING...MEANS I WON'T GIVE YOU CREDIT NOW..GET OVER IT
The reason you can't send emails to your readers is because you're a douchebag.
Etc.: This Bill James essay is 20 years old but remarkably prescient about "insiders" and "outsiders." MVictors has an interview with Pete Tiernan of bracketscience.com. Rumeal Robinson is not a fan of Steve Fisher. College hockey realignment seems to be coming, but UNO won't be a part of it.
Another name for DC has been unleashed into the wild, and it's, uh, well. Well, it's this guy:
- Former Syracuse University head football coach Greg Robinson may be headed to the University of Michigan to serve as defensive coordinator. One source said it's a done deal. Another source said they thought Robinson might be involved with UCLA.
This probably won't come as a surprise to those of you reading the diaries or the message boards, but up until now it's just been speculation: "done deal" is another level entirely.
I admit a sense of foreboding at this news. While Robinson is a man with much experience at both the NFL and college level, the results of that experience have been decidedly mixed. My impression of the man has been heavily influenced by Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. The site's proprietor, as you might imagine, is not a fan:
Wow, Michigan fans. I know we don't know each other all that well but you might want to pray that God will make you a bird so that you can fly far, far away from here.
TNIAAM's burning hatred for a man who went 10-37 may obscure rationality, but then again: 10-37 at a school that had gone 107-59-1 under Paul Pasqualoni with just one losing sesaon. Greg Robinson is a stunningly incompetent head coach.
(This is somewhat amazing to me: I actually watched the first game of Robinson's tenure at Syracuse, which also happened to be the first game of Pat White's career. It was a sleepy early-season game in a half-empty Carrier Dome between two nondescript Big East teams that I had no real opinions about. The only reason I watched it was because it was that giddy time at the beginning of the year when you're so excited to watch football that things like Mississippi State-South Carolina seem like a fantastic way to spend three and a half hours.
If you had stepped out of a time machine and told me that in four years Pat White would be governor of West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez would be head coach at Michigan, and Greg Robinson would win 25% of his games and then be under serious consideration for DC under Rodriguez, I would have punched you and stolen your time machine. But on the way towards a nondescript house in Mentor, Ohio, where Jim Tressel would conceived in approximately an hour, I would think to myself "wow, that's pretty far out."
Oh, yeah: West Virginia puttered along for a bit before getting some huge runs out of White and won handily; I thought to myself that gimmick offense will never work long-term.)
Anyway: being a stunningly incompetent head coach does not necessarily mean one is a stunningly incompetent coordinator. Numbers will have to make that case. Go, numbers, go!
I'm a little stressed out by that. Robinson walked into a good situation at Texas* and managed not to screw that up, then went to Syracuse, where he had an average defense on a horrid team (1-10), which he then proceeded to crater for the next three years. Before his brief, star-making turn at Texas—again, for doing nothing more than treading water—he presided over one of the worst defenses in the NFL, getting fired after three years. The last actual success you can plausibly attribute to Greg Robinson came during his tenure as the Denver Broncos' DC, when his defenses were top ten in the NFL and a significant aid in Denver's back-to-back championships. Since then it's been abject failure save the one year in Texas.
But but but but… is there a but somewhere in here? I don't think so. Robinson was a horrendous, horrendous recruiter. This year a kid decommitted from Syracuse to go to Central Michigan. He is old and his energy level will only dip. Rumor is that he doesn't swear and looks down on those who do, which, like… that whole "fit" thing mentioned earlier, right?
Maybe the abject failure at Syracuse was one of recruiting, motivation, and roster assembly, and not schemes, but since Rodriguez doesn't coach the defense at all he's really hiring someone to be head coach of half his team. In that context, Greg Robinson seems like a horrible choice. (Also in all other ones.)
*(The 2003 Texas defense was 32nd in scoring D and 25th in yardage.)
Elsewhere: New M blog Those Who Stay runs down the Robinson resume and comes out the other side not covered in sewage.
I was recently in a debate over the Rich Rodriguez hire in which my opponent stated that the spread offense has to have too many top tiered athletics in critical positions to work effectively, therefore believing Rich Rodriguez was a terrible hire.
He went on to say that you need to have a star QB & RB, a quick offensive line, WRs that can not only catch but who can run fast, and once one of those positions are taken out of the equation, the whole offensive system is dead. What are your thoughts on this? I truly believe that Rich Rodriguez is not only great for Michigan, but could ultimately strengthen the Big Ten with his progressive style offense, which in my opinion is greatly needed right now. Michigan could have hired 15 different types of Bo Schembechler who would have kept tradition and powerhouse football intact, but they didn’t. They took a risk, and hired outside of the box. I thought I would get your opinion on the spread offense and the argument above.
Your friend appears to be making the argument that for an offense to be effective it has to have good players. I agree. The larger theory—that Rodriguez's offense is more dependent on massive levels of talent than your average pro-style thing—is counter-intuitive at best. Rodriguez developed the system at Glenville State, won with it at Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia, and until he had the Pat White-Steve Slaton terror combo there's no plausible argument you can make for the superiority of the talent at Rodriguez's disposal.
If there are concerns with the spread 'n' shred they go in the opposite direction: it's an offense that can make do with iffy performers at a lot of spots (WR, OL, FB, TE) because it basically ignores them, so when you've got the talent there it's not going to help you. And even that criticism is tough to apply when the near future of the QB position is some combination of Threet and Forcier, guys who aren't going to win games like Vince Young did.
I noticed that Bryce McNeal mentioned that Christianity was a factor in his decision to commit to Clemson. I also recall Shavodrick Beaver citing God as one reason that he ended up committing to Tulsa instead of Michigan. Do you think that Michigan under Rich Rodriguez has a 'Jesus deficit' in recruiting and if so, how big of a problem is this? Is it possible that in addition to being a secret-file shredder and snake oil purveyor that RR is also Muslim or, even worse, Catholic? For what it's worth, my sister-in-law's cousin sings in the same church choir as Les Miles' wife. She reports that Miles regularly attends services, even the morning after away games.
Recruits commit to schools for their own private reasons. When asked about them, they come up with any old thing they think will sound good: God, family, national championships. When the real reasons are "my girlfriend is going there" and "I am afraid of Tate Forcier" and "cash money, homes" they get replaced with God, family, and national championships. Beaver's quotes were especially grating because he'd been giving similar quotes about Michigan for a long time and he had decommitted in favor of a coach who had spent all of one freakin' year at Rice. (Malzahn's immediate departure for Auburn was karma.)
But there might be something in this God deficit theory. Michigan hasn't fared too well against Notre Dame of late despite the presence of the great green goblin, after all, and Tressel participated in some sort of football-player-sponsored revival meeting at Ohio State's old basketball arena a few years ago. Michigan is highly secular compared to its two main rivals.
That hurts with some with recruits, but it probably helps with some others who may not walk around wearing Darwin fish but also aren't too enthused about getting evangelized for four years.
Do you think the amount of verbal de-commits is more of a philosophical difference between the recruiting methods of RichRod vs. Lloyd?
Wouldn’t Lloyd take a verbal commit from a kid only if he was not going to visit anymore schools; whereas RichRod may let a kid verbal commit & still visit other schools?
Also, hard to take a commitment seriously if the kid is from out of state & hasn’t visited the school yet. The de-commits do not bother me as much when it is a kid from Texas, or Virginia, as opposed to Michigan, or Ohio – harder to sell a kid if he isn’t from Big Ten country.
There are a number of factors at work in Michigan's tide of decommitments:
- Kids are committing earlier and earlier and decommitments naturally rise. Nowadays a lot of kids are committing just to reserve a slot and then keeping their options open. I've heard that one Michigan decommit never had any intention of signing with Michigan and just used the commit for leverage, publicity, and offers.
- A 3-9 season can't help things, and…
- …neither can the tidal wave of negative publicity that accompanied Rodriguez's move from West Virginia and the accompany Boren hootenanny.
The geographical thing is a red herring. Michigan's decommits almost all came from the Midwest (McNeal, Barnes, Campbell if you count him) or re-committed to a school no closer to them (Newsome and Fera both picked Penn State).
Only Beaver's bizarre Tulsa defection and the presumed commitment of Peace to a Big 12 school really fit that pattern. Two of seven isn't exactly definitive. With both DT recruits other than Campbell on the fence, that percentage may rise, but not to the point where it's going to be a majority of the issue.
A story I thought you and your readers may enjoy:
At the beginning of the school year, someone in our house bought a fish tank. We added a few guppies to the tank, and decided to honor the new football season by naming one lucky guppy "Sam McGuppy."
Over break, Sam tragically died. (fitting, no?) However, there is a new season of Michigan sports underway. So, when we bought a replacement for Sam, we decided to name him "DeShawn Swims."
We all enjoy your blog, thanks.
Marco and Chris
Yes, these are my readers.
It's January, which mean's it's time for the Big Ten's annual attempt to justify its existence after a dismal bowl season. In retrospect, everyone rooting for Oregon to beat Oregon State was asking for it, no? The Big Ten's image this offseason would be much, much better if these were the matchups:
- Penn State-Oregon State
- Ohio State-Georgia
- Michigan State-South Carolina
and so forth and so on. That looks like 3-1 at least.
Anyway, Dan Pompei has an article in the Sun Times describing the attractiveness of the Big Ten to NFL scouts:
In the last five drafts, 166 Big Ten players were chosen, third highest among conferences. The SEC led the way with 192 players, followed by the ACC with 176. The Pac-10 had 157 while the Big 12 had 143.
If you break it down to first-rounders, the Big Ten also fared pretty well. The conference has had 28 such players in the last five drafts, including one chosen first overall— Jake Long of Michigan by Miami last year. Only the ACC (39) and the SEC (37) have had more first-rounders. The Big 12 and Pac-10 each had 17.
It drives me crazy that the Sun-Times didn't take the simple step of dividing, but I guess that's what I'm here for. Setting aside the silly "most Super Bowl starters" metric, your numbers per team for each conference listed:
The Pac-10 looks much better once you adjust for the fact that there are, you know, ten teams in it, not twelve.
Despite Pompei's angle here, There is some evidence of a talent drought. The NFL starters metric is a lagging indicator that no doubt picks up on the fact the ACC was utterly horrible for the duration of the 90s, and in the other metrics the Big Ten is third or fourth of five conferences. The gap isn't large, but when you combine it with the other problems the Big Ten is up against you get a deck stacked against Big Ten bowl success.
- The games are all on the road. This is just true. Except for the who-cares Motor City Bowl, every Big Ten bowl game is either sort of a road game or absolutely a road game.
- USC manages to blow it once a year. Playing USC every year of late in the Rose Bowl has not been good for the league's reputation.
- The Big Ten gets the most attention and has the "best" matchups. The Big Ten's #3 team this year played Georgia. The Pac-10's #3 team goes to the Sun Bowl, where they take on Pittsburgh or South Florida or something.
The Big Ten plays one game against the nation's most top-heavy conference, the Pac-10, and gets its champion. They play two games against the nation's deepest conference, the SEC, and get that #3/#4 place where the SEC has an advantage over others.
- Michigan and Penn State were (are) not run with high energy. (Ohio State's BCS record under Tressel is not bad overall.) Two of the flagship programs in the league aren't performing on a regular basis. In Michigan's case, Lloyd Carr's energy flagged as he neared retirement and the Rich Rodriguez transition went less than smoothly. Joe Paterno, meanwhile, is a powerless figurehead occupying one of Penn State's precious slots for a coach that actually talks to his team and allowing the continued employment of his obviously-incompetent son. Both teams have been wildly variable of late and poor in bowls.
All that's quite a hurdle to overcome, though it's not enough to excuse the Big Ten's recently dismal record. In the near future, when Michigan is not a disaster zone and Joe Paterno finally shuffles off to eat brains in peace and quiet, things should improve. The Big Ten can't have two of its high-ceiling programs perform erratically and keep up with the rest of the country.
1/14/2009 – Michigan 51, Illinois 66 – 13-4, 3-2 Big Ten
Illinois' gumpy 7-foot center can ball, man. I was worried what he'd do to Michigan on both ends of the floor before Michigan's first game against the Illini only for Weber to take him off the floor much of the night because he was worried about Tisdale's defense. That was a mistake he didn't repeat.
Meanwhile, DeShawn Sims fell prey to some rim-outs, was bothered by Tisdale's length, and couldn't finish at the rim a couple times and ended up 3-14. That's the ballgame right there. If Sims isn't a major threat to produce inside and there's a 7-foot shotblocker lingering near the hoop no one is going to get an open three or a backcut and the team's going to shoot around 32.2%, give or take a tenth. This I retroactively predict.
Walkons and white guys featured for about four minutes in the first half and a couple in the second, and that seemed like a bad idea. Sims, Harris, and LLP all on the bench? Urgh. I guess it worked out, sort of.
Stu Douglass put in better minutes in this game than he had in other recent contests, coming up with a couple of good passes and a corner three, but he also took another inadvisable NBA-range three.
I was pretty frustrated by the lack of productive offense. I don't know nearly enough about basketball to tell you why Michigan couldn't get good looks, but there seemed like there was way too much one-on-one stuff, either because the ballhandler wasn't looking for teammates or those teammates weren't cutting to spots on the floor where they'd be useful. Team is still very young and all that, but the offense seemed more, you know, offense-y early in the season.
It wasn't bad luck that Michigan shot 27% from 3; the only really good looks I remember were Stu's aforementioned corner three and one LLP three in transition that didn't go down.