Just a quick point/question about Shafer's "success" against the run: do we know if Shafer's defenses are actually successful in stopping the run, or are the numbers against the run artificially inflated as a result of how well his teams do in sacks (because sacks count as negative rushing yards)?For example, in 2007, Stanford was 77th in run defense, and 11th in sacks. That seems to indicate that his run defense was really, really crappy, but would up with a not-that-crappy 77th because they did so well in sacks.Any thoughts?- Scott
That had not occurred to us, dude. Scott's got a good point here: Shafer's aforementioned predilection for blitzing then, now, and in the future has led to a lot of sacks, some wildly variable pass efficiency metrics, and probably-overrated run defenses.
How big of an effect can this be? Let's take the most extreme example, Shafer's 2006 Western Michigan defense. That year the Broncos finished #1 in sacks and #6 in rush defense. How much of an impact did the sacks have? Quite a bit. WMU yielded 1316 rushing yards that year, but the NCAA only records 989 in its official record books because of WMU's 46 sacks.
Strip the sack yardage out and WMU falls all the way to... 18th. Which isn't actually that far to fall, and we've let everyone else keep their sack yardage. (This was also a fun exercise for Michigan fans in the midst of 2006: strip all Michigan's sack yardage and yup, they're still the best rush D in the country by a mile.) If we give WMU that year's NCAA average for sack yardage, they shoot right back up to #6 in the country, although #7 Florida gets a lot closer. WMU's in a unique spot here where they're 100-some yards in front of their nearest competitor; in a normal year they'd get knocked back a few slots.
Yes, Shafer's sack happy ways do have a distorting effect on the rush D, but it appears to be a marginal one. Unfortunately, since the NCAA only has sack data for the last three years we don't have enough data to perform a conclusive study.
More on Shafer from a guy who's watched him for a year:
My name's Daniel Novinson, I'm a longtime reader, first-time caller. I'm a lifelong Michigan resident (Farmington Hills) and fan, but right now am out in California finishing my senior year at Stanford. They've let me serve as the lead football and basketball beat writer at the Stanford Daily for three years now, so I figured I'd be in as good a position as anyone to comment a little bit on Shafer.
I think the best thing about Shafer is that he shuttles plays to his best players. Stanford had one safety (Bo McNally) and one linebacker (Clinton Snyder) who were light years better than any of our other defenders, and actually were decent in absolute terms (they're marginal All Pac-10-level guys) and Shafer exploited the hell out of it. Schematically, I don't know how in the world he did it, but they were always the ones sent on blitzes, they were always in the position to make the key open-field tackles or picks, and our Todd Howard-equivalents always seemed to be safely hidden 40 yards off-ball. That's a big part of how we forced four USC interceptions and held them to a season-low 23, or held Cal to 13 in our upset. (That, and luck. A lot of luck.)
I talked to one of our defensive players tonight. He was visibly bummed and said Shafer was a good X and Os guy who knew his stuff and got his guys to play hard. He also said the players found out the same way we did â€“ reading it online this morning, before a hastily-called team meeting confirmed the news this afternoon. That leads me to speculate that Shafer must have moved pretty quickly after Rodriguez called â€“ think he's pretty excited to be in Ann Arbor?
I want to challenge two of your interpretations of Stanford's defensive statistics under Shafer. First, you kind of shrugged your shoulders and said "Meh, the numbers were only slightly up this year from last," which I think sells Shafer vastly short. We lost our best two or three players from the 2006-07 defense (including a third-round draft pick, which don't grow on trees out here) and were starting seven, let me repeat, seven underclassmen on defense this year, so for the numbers to improve slightly is incredible. Also, the offense has been consistently awful, especially in the running game, for the entirety of my four years here, so the defense is on the field longer than almost any other, which also depresses the defensive numbers.
Second, you mention, rightfully, that he blitzed a lot at Stanford, but that's partially out of necessity: he knew that our secondary is awful and was going to get torched if the opposing quarterback had time, no matter how many guys were back there. At Michigan, we should have the players, so while he'll still bring it more than the old staff, I wouldn't assume it will be every single down.
We went from the worst combination of basketball and football coaches, given our prestige as a program, to one of the best in the country. But still, let's face it, we're going to take a major step back next year. We lose, I believe, the school's all-time leading passer, all-time leading (and, in my opinion, best-ever) rusher, best-ever lineman, at the most important position no less, our top two receivers and the returning defensive talent is not where it used to be a few years ago (though count me a huge Warren fan.)
Beilein's been a great coach his whole life and didn't suddenly forget everything once he got here, yet we're losing to Harvard and Central Michigan. So I'm expecting the same thing with Rodriguez, especially if a big change is strength and conditioning. That especially is going to take time to reap dividends, and in the short term, switching training regimens probably sets us back. And, despite all the hubbabulu over a guy who runs on opponents helmets (McGuffie) and a guy we might not even get (Pryor), this recruiting class is nothing special.
The positive notes on Shafer are accepted for the record.
Some responses to the "Debbie Downer" portion of the post, as Daniel referred to it: there is a comparison to be made between the basketball and football programs but I think that's going a bit too far. The basketball team currently has two upperclassmen; said upperclassmen are role players if you're being kind. The rest of the roster is a mishmash of questionable recruits and like two guys anyone had any expectations for. The football team's talent level is nowhere near as depressed as the basketball team's, and comparing Carr to Amaker... well... no. The football team is not coming from the very depths of incompetence and does not have to learn everything from scratch.
First let me say you have a really good and informative blog about UM. I started reading it when I thought you guys were going to take our coach. My email is to give you maybe a little different perspective on your new coach. I work in
I always liked Tulane and was shocked the Rich wasn't hired when Tommy Bowden left. He was on the search committee for a new coach, so I asked him why they didn't hire Rich? His response was that Rich was an excellent football coach, but every once in a while, just did someone stupid and illogical. There were some others small things, but basically they just didn't feel comfortable about the guy. My boss still follows Rich (they are friends) and when this happened, his first response was, "he's not a
Michigan football, as you know, is what most programs strive to be. You run a good clean program with an exc
ellent reputation and win lots of football games. Lloyd Carr was a very good coach and probably knew it was time for him to leave. I may be wrong, but unless winning is everything, you guys may have happened on the wrong coach. I truly hope not.
Also, I bet you guys wanted the football program going in a different direction, you didn't expect all this hullabaloo. [It's the "multivariate spellings of hullabaloo" mailbag -ed]
Good luck and I hope it all gets down to football soon.
FWIW. The "occasionally does something stupid and illogical" thing would be a character flaw that fits in with a couple of the minor faux pas Rodriguez has committed.
Surely the NCAA can't continue to keep National Signing Day in early
February. Ever since (ironically) Tommy Bowden left Tulane before its
bowl game in 1999, we've had to deal with a string of high-profile
coaches leave one school for another, angering fans of said programs and
further reducing bowl games to consolation contests. Teams who do not
make bowl games and fire their coach or, like in Michigan's case, have
retiring coaches on the way out, do not have anybody to look after but
themselves as soon as the regular season is over. Once the bowls were
reserved as rewards for a good season; now they are extra days of
practice so a team can build toward next year.
Why should Michigan, Houston or SMU worry about other programs when they
have themselves to look after, when next year is the most important?
Michigan nabbed Rodriguez from West Virginia, who was in preparations for
a BCS bowl - this didn't matter to Michigan, because it had recruits to
get for 2008. Quiet, dead period or not, there's recruiting to be done,
and nobody wants to lose a step. This trend has gotten worse and worse
over the last few years and will continue to get worse unless the NCAA
moves Signing Day back until at least March or April. That way, bowl
games will be played without interim coaches and the tension between
schools, such as U-M and WVU, will be considerably less because they
wouldn't need to keep looking over their shoulders and worry about their
coach leaving during the season. There's such a long 'offseason' in
college football. Why cram everything into December?
That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it would actually work. Schools would still fire coaches in the interim between the regular season's end and the bowl game, and would still frantically search for their saviors in the meantime. Perhaps a recruiting day three months from signing day is less valuable than a recruiting day one month from signing day, but it's still valuable and sitting around without a head coach is still throwing those days away.
Rodriguez from a WVU perspective:
It's odd that I care so much about West Virginia sports: essentially, I'm rooting for (a) 100 college kids I'll never meet and (b)blue and gold laundry. But I grew up in the Mountain State, and WVU football is the easiest way to start off a conversation with half of the people most dear to me, so care I do.
I was bummed about Rodriguez's relocation to A2--for about a week. After that, I had holidays to navigate, a bowl trip to drink through, and work to get back to.You and Mandel have pretty much correctly estimated the "jihad" perpetuated by the jilted WVU folks; I only harbor two Rod-related grudges:
- He took the U-M job, notified the WVU team, and resigned (kind of a bush move to do it through a GA, but I don't think I would seek out the partner I hate the most upon quitting my firm, so whatever) on 12/16. The next morning he was introduced in the Junge Center as the new U-M coach. Cool; it's just that he resigned effective 1/3/08. It took two more days for him to amend his resignation to become effective at 12:00:01 AM 12/19. Perhaps he had no intention for the post-Fiesta Bowl resignation date to handcuff the WVU team or program, but the seeming motive is that Rodriguez wished to be asked to leave WVU before actually resigning, so that WVU could get on with the bowl preparation and overt search for a successor, and so that Rodriguez would have a little extra ammo for the buyout contest. Thank goodness he had a change of heart (or was coaxed by someone at U-M...or something) and just got out of the way, but to start out with the 1/3/08 resignation date was something south of honorable.
- He left right after the stomach-punch Pitt game means the era during which WVU football reached its zenith--forget that Beilein's boys concurrently produced the best WVU basketball run since Jerry West--is punctuated by a mustard-colored, catastrophic loss. It's a bitch that we remember and place so much stock in the beginnings and ends of things; I hate remembering the Rod era by the Pitt game instead of by the teary-eyed phone call with my dad after the Sugar Bowl.With that said, the WVU AD should just try to recover as much of the buyout as possible and move on. I harbor only a sliver of resentment toward Michigan, but I'm just rooting for Pryor to go to the University of AnywherebutMichigan; I figure that's a fair thing to root for.Your blog is fantastic; I wish I had become interested under different circumstances.Josh Ellison
Josh has a point here with the resignation date. Though this space defends him regularly, he's not totally clean in this ugly divorce. Calling Pryor was a little iffy, and the resignation date thing was also a bit disingenuous. Michigan did not hire a perfect angel. They hired a kick-ass football coach who happens to be holding a major grudge against the West Virginia athletic department.
As far as the Pitt thing... sure. The 'Bama flirtation, the Pitt loss, and the Beilein hiring set the table for an unprecedented wave of anger from West Virginia. Youtube is full of seriously pissed off now 'Eers burning things, asserting that Rodriguez is a pedophile, and the like. This says more about West Virginia than it does Rodriguez.
It's January, late January, and that can only mean one thing other than constant Terrelle Pryor fretting: college football blogger awards. Full details can be found at Rocky Top Talk and Every Day Should Be Saturday; things are much the same as they were last year: open nomination process, final voting open to college football bloggers only.
There are a few changes. Some awards required sufficient research on the part of voters to educate themselves that the nefarious cabal behind them felt they were better off as jury prizes. We have a realistic view of the amount of effort -- zero --that will be put into the voting by most participants, and the end result is usually Big Blog reining victorious no matter the merits of the smaller blog's offerings. By getting even more elitist we hope to make things more democratic. Or at least more interesting than "hey... this also goes to Orson."
There is also a second national championship award offering, because it wouldn't be college football without multiple, contradictory votes on the same damn thing. The "People's Champ" award, so named to make fun of Auburn fans and not to honor The Rock, is another national championship sort of award with one exception: final voting is open to all, not just bloggers. As such, Orson will obviously win it but what the hell.
Readers will probably be a little pissed off they can't vote on the final ballots, but you have an opportunity to contribute now. There is a nomination gizmo for you use. Therein you can vote for any number of things once per day; the final numbers spat out by the gizmo will heavily influence the award nominees. This is especially important in the more specific categories like "Best Post" or "Best Multimedia Thing"; everything that's nominated will get dug out and reviewed by the award committee. So if there's some post you remember being awesome, please point it out to us. If you can't remember the URL, hell just describe it and we'll find it. If you are so incredibly opposed to PHP that you can't bear to use the gizmo, leave a comment. Just please help us in the gargantuan task of winnowing the ever-expanding blogosphere into a few shiny nuggets.
Update 1/21: removed TX CB Adrian Bushell, CA OL Vaughn Dotsy, a couple WRs. Added OH LB Taylor Hill as committed. Bumped SC CB JT Floyd to blue. Moved PA HB Christian Wilson from committed, downgraded to yellow based on mother's comments on message board.
Editorial Opinion: Pryor was in town. When he texted an AP reporter that Michigan was "cool," said text message became a national headline.
What do we know now that we did not know before? Nothing. Pryor did show on his official visit and had a fine enough time. Ohio State fans fail to see Michigan as any sort of threat to win his commitment. ESPN has reported a couple times that Pryor is choosing between Michigan, Oregon, and LSU. The Michigan camp seems cautiously optimistic. Pryor will decide on signing day.
From the hilarious wrongness of ESPN on down this is all status quo despite rumors flying around every which way from a guy who met a guy on the team at a party, etc etc etc. Pryor obviously wants maximum drama and is going to get it on Signing Day.
Is this interesting?
"I think I know where he's going, but I'm not saying where," [live-in godfather(???) Willie] Burns told The Detroit News Friday evening. "I think he's a made a decision, but he doesn't want to tell the media until signing day."
Maybe, but you could read it either way:
- Jonas Gray's prediction that Michigan would get him if Mallett transfered, gathered after talking with Pryor at the Army game, has come true yay yay yay.
- If he's decided without visiting Michigan he's obviously going to Ohio State boo boo boo.
I dunno, and doubt anyone will until February 6th.
The rest of the world. We should know shortly about the future of slot WR DJ Woods, choosing between Michigan and Cincinnati. On the surface, this should not be a competitive battle but if Woods feels snakebit by Rodriguez maybe he'll flee to the arms of Brian Kelly, who is totally guaranteed to leave Cinci before he does.
JT Floyd came in for an official and seems to have enjoyed himself:
It went great, I loved it," Floyd said. "I found out this South Carolina guy can take the cold. They explained to me if I come in and work hard, there's an opportunity for a lot of playing time as a freshman. I like Michigan. I enjoyed the program, every aspect of it."
Floyd must have antifreeze in his veins, because it was downright arctic this weekend. He's planning a visit to Tennessee next week, after which he'll decide. Floyd's technically a UT commit -- committed to them midway through his junior year, actually -- but given the quote above seems very likely to end up at Michigan.
Less salutary news on PA HB Christian Wilson. Earlier this year Wilson's mom popped up on an outlying Michigan message board to chat about her son's then-pending decision. She was looking for reassurance that this h-back position Michigan was recruiting him for actually existed. Concerns assuaged, Wilson committed to Michigan shortly thereafter. In the aftermath of the coaching changeover, however, those concerns have re-asserted themselves, and the coaching staff isn't being comforting:
I will choose my words wisely as to not cause Christian any backlash. As everyone knows Christian LOVES MI. He has never waivered from that. He told me that he took these visits just to reconfirm his decision and to make sure he could say Mom, I weighed all options and I stand by my decision. Very smart for any 17 year old.
Now, where I need to be careful, He has yet to Have RR visit him in person. We have never met him and Christian has only talked to him over the phone once. Though we heard he has been in Pittsburgh 3 times. (I assume for Terrelle) Next, 4 coaches came recently and asked Christian not to take visits or they would need to open their recruiting.
Is that normal practice?
Now, in the spread an H-back is not really used, so the coaches are explaining to him how they would try and use him, but it keeps sounding like Owen Schmidt style of position and Christian is not a "beer Truck" as he was referred to. He is more agile and has a better eye for the field (so they say)
I agree, I would love to talk with RR and will be in AA on Monday for business.
Here is my last question, Christian has spoken to about 8 of the other recruits who have been taking official visits the past 2 weeks and none of them have been told what Christian has been told. Why is he being asked not to take anymore but these other kids haven't? I don't want to mention names because they told him this in confidence.
I just want him to be happy and MI makes him happy, the players, fans, area all of it. But lets face it, 70% of his days are with the coaches and at this point he really feels they don't want him. All these other back s they are looking at are 6 foot and under (Let's face it they all exaggerate their heights) and less than 190lbs. Christian is s true 6'3" kid and does weigh 235lbs.
Wilson's status is questionable despite an article earlier this week in which he claimed he was a solid verbal. If the coaching staff wants him, they'll have to start paying him significantly more attention; if they do so he'll stay a commitment.
More targets. Right, TJ Lawrence is a Florida safety visiting next weekend and Desmond Johnson is a sleeper guy from Mississippi; Michigan is also on the verge of (or already has) offered a number of guys from Ohio and Mississippi, former home of LB coach Jay Hopson. As these guys start getting official offers I'll add them; expect at least three "who?" commits over the next week or two.
Yes, recruiting update coming. Your Pryor update: everyone says everything.
Ugly. Calvin Magee, Michigan's new offensive coordinator, believes he was not a serious candidate for the West Virginia head coaching job because he's black:
"For seven years I was told that once you're a Mountaineer, you're always a Mountaineer," said Magee, a Wolverine now after resigning Jan. 4 to become Rich Rodriguez's associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Michigan. "I bought into that. But I found out ... that isn't true."
He understands that some people, especially those who harbor resentment for all things Rodriguez, will consider his viewpoint jaundiced because he is so aligned with the new Michigan coach. Magee doesn't back down from his support for and gratitude to Rodriguez. Yet he feels stereotyped as a minority coach -- "racial discrimination and harassment" was how his and Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown, described West Virginia's handling of Magee in the end -- and thereby disappointment about West Virginia administrators and for other qualified potential coaching candidates who happen to be a minority.
Who's up for another round of recriminations? Super!
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article is a good one, deep and balanced with quotes from both sides. It's all very complicated; from this vantage point the inevitable reaction (which you can already see swinging into action in Ivan Maisel's piece) is going to be of the "over-" variety. Maisel leads with an incident in which a member of WVU's athletic department told Magee that in his opinion he would not be a serious candidate because of his excessive melanin content. This constitutes one dude's thought processes about other people's thought processes and is not indicative of anything except said dude's general cynicism about race relations at WVU. It is not actual evidence of racism.
Is there evidence? Well, yes and no. The embarrassing paucity of black D-I head coaches would be a lot simpler to address if people went around being flagrantly racist in ways that yielded a firing and a spanking. It is not so. Each decision to hire a Not Black guy is individually reasonable and defensible; it's only in the seven-of-119 aggregate that there's clear evidence of a problem.
In this situation there's a reason Magee was passed over that has nothing to do with his race and everything to do with his decision to get on a plane with Rich Rodriguez and go to Michigan's introductory press conference. Given WVU's deep draught of Rodriguez haterade, anyone who publicly affiliated himself with the Great Satan was dead in the eyes of WVU's athletic department. Witness the petulance in the immediate aftermath of the plane flight:
"Two days later [Dec. 19], I got my phone confiscated from me and was told not to make any recruiting calls. So immediately after seven years of service, I thought, 'Why are they doing this to me?' On their behalf, I got an apology the next day [from Athletic Director Ed Pastilong] and given all the stuff back."
Magee, still employed by West Virginia and planning on coaching the bowl game, was hassled as he tried to prepare his team. This was probably not because of his skin tone.
Ultimately, WVU made a stupidly emotional decision, and while it is kind of funny that these stupidly emotional decisions usually end up with a completely unqualified white dude in charge in this WVU is no different than most schools. What happened to Magee could have happened anywhere.
And the timing? Makes this look like a counter-smear of the Rodriguez smear, which seems petty and vindictive. To be clear: Magee doesn't come off like that in the article; he has a legit beef with the way things ended at WVU. But from the aerial view it's just going to look like a bunch of douchebags covered in mud. Can all this end, like, now? The next I'd like to hear about Rodriguez and West Virginia would be "lawsuit settled for undisclosed amount of dollars," and then we can move on with our lives.
Matters of state. West Virginia governor Joe Manchin:
"As far as everyone I know -- and that includes the president and the athletic director and most of the staff -- there is no smear campaign,'' Manchin told The Charleston Gazette. "The facts are simply what they are.''
Yes, the "facts" like "Rodriguez shredded the entire building! We're very cold now! And the heating bill is super high!"
Jennifer Granholm has not, as of yet, offered her opinion on the controversy. Probably because she's the governor.
Two established sources indicate that both members of Michigan's 2007 right guard platoon will not be returning for fifth years due to medical issues. (Yes, medical issues beyond Mike Barwis.)
Though neither exactly shone in '07, losing both leaves Michigan's offensive line in a precarious position. Justin Boren and Steve Schilling return. Mark Ortmann is a good bet to start at one of the tackle spots. Past that it's all question marks; Michigan's inability to get more than two offensive linemen in the '07 recruiting class doesn't help.
Purely speculative, but based on buzz I would guess Michigan opens 2008 with a line like so:
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle|
|Mark Ortmann, Jr*||Justin Boren, Jr||Dave Moosman, So*||Steve Schilling, So*||Perry Dorrestein, So*|
At this point looks like Michigan's 2008 offense will have zero senior starters.
Yes, Terrelle Pryor will be in town this weekend and will be attending various things at which point you, the interested public, can express your desire for him to attend your school. (Keep the signs vague, though -- anything with Pryor's name on it will get confiscated due to NCAA regulations. I suppose you could slap Richard Pryor's picture up on the signs, but I doubt that will fly.)
But may I suggest that perhaps some of the proverbial "love" be spread to the other recruits in attendance? '09 Beilein recruit Jordan Morgan will be there, as will a number of other football recruits including Kenny Demens, Mike Martin, DJ Woods, JT Floyd, Brandon Moore, Michael Shaw, and Boubacar Cissoko. Martin, Woods, Floyd, and Shaw are all either uncommitted or visiting elsewhere; let 'em know they're wanted too. Just look for the enormous dudes in varsity jackets.
A final suggestion: Elliot Mealer is also supposed to come up. Mealer's going through a tougher time than I and likely 99.9% of this blog's readership have ever or will ever experience; some positive reinforcement for the kid is in order.
Maze Rage, I charge thee with this task. Go unto Crisler and make it happen.