So, Greg Mattison. He's been a coach forever, starting out as an Illinois GA and winding his way through a half-dozen schools coaching defensive linemen with a brief stint as WMU's DC in the mid-80s.
In 1992 he moved from Texas A&M to Michigan, where he was the DL coach from '92 to '94; in '95 he was promoted to DC. Notable players he coached include All-Americans Chris Hutchinson, Will Carr, and Jason Horn, '93 team captain Buster Stanley, and the bulk of Michigan's terrifying '97 defensive line that featured Glen Steele.
Mattison's Michigan defenses were good even for the standards of the time. Opponents averaged 12.1 points per game in '95, and none of them scored 30. Michigan State got a punt return touchdown to get to 28 in a 28-25 win, the most points actually given up by the D that season were the 27 ceded Penn State. It was kind of good:
The team earned the fifth of six 1990s Big Ten rushing defense statistical championships for all games by holding opponents to 93.2 yards per game. The team also earned the fifth of five consecutive and six 1990s Big Ten rushing defense statistical championships for conference games by holding opponents to 88.1 yards per game. The team led the conference in total defense for conference games (314.5) and all games (284.8).
In 1996 the D took a moderate step back, giving up 15.3 PPG and twice allowing 29 points, one in a comfortable win over MSU and once in another loss to PSU. In Michigan's three other losses the offense scored 16, 3, and 14 points. The bit about M standing for "mediocre" was launched after that season but it wasn't because of the D.
After the year Mattison left to be Notre Dame DC under Bob Davie. At the time this was high treason, but now people are talking about how his kids got free tuition and back in the mid-90s that meant something for assistants. I'm all like whatever in re: this matter.
Mattison was the DC for the entire dismal Davie era, a stretch of five years from 1997 to 2001. The NCAA database kicks in in '99, so we can provide (most of) the 1,000 foot view for his last three years:
|Year||School||Rush D||Pass D||Pass Eff D||Total D||Scoring D|
[The 1999 stats don't have pass yardage D but we can surmise from the other numbers it was Not Good.]
At the time ND was playing legitimately brutal schedules—have fun storming Nebraska and Tennessee, kids—and in 2001 Davie saddled Mattison with the 110th-ranked offense in the country, so that last bit is something of an achievement. Caveat: it's hard to tell exactly how much influence Mattison had since Davie was a DC before he ascended to the top chair but given their respective career arcs it seems reasonable to assume it was Mattison doing the good things.
When Davie got broomed the next year Mattison was kept on but demoted to DL coach, where he remained until Ty Willingham got the axe. This could have been curtains for his career but instead he moved to Florida, where he operated as a co-DC with Charlie Strong. The rankings from that stretch:
|Year||School||Rush D||Pass D||Pass Eff D||Total D||Scoring D|
You may remember the '07 Florida defense from such bowl games as "Aargh You Could Have Been Doing This For Years." That season Florida's untenably young secondary spent the season getting toasted tasty-crisp; the next year they'd recover en route to a national title, finishing 9th in total D.
Mattison was in the NFL by then. He left Florida for to be the Ravens' LB coach and was quickly promoted from that spot when Rex Ryan left to coach the Jets after his first year. In both his seasons as Ravens DC Mattison's charges finished 4th in DVOA, an advanced metric from Football Outsiders that adjusts for schedule strength and other vagaries. That's actually a tiny step back from Ryan's tenure, when the Ravens were second, fifth, and first in the league in defensive DVOA, so that wasn't exactly a rebuilding job.
In fact, most of Mattison's career as a DC consists of him walking into established situations and maintaining high levels of play for brief periods of time. The exception is his run at Notre Dame, where there were obviously some things very wrong that Mattison (and/or Davie, but again career arcs) repaired as the Fighting Irish footbaw era drew to a close. He's never walked into Chernobyl and walked out with an extra arm for ass-kickin'.
That and a couple of years here and there where his defenses weren't at least good are about the only knocks. He toiled in the ND salt mines forever and when Willingham's staff got fired he got a promotion at Florida; he then was the instant choice in Baltimore despite only being around one year. Both the circumstantial evidence and number suggest that Mattison is for real and the kind of A-list hire that Michigan sorely needed after the GERG/surprise-3-3-5 era.
Greg Mattison is not a man with a stuffed beaver.
BONUS CONSPIRACY THEORY: Hoke hired Mattison just to fire him after this year. Mattison leaves Michigan: national title. Mattison leaves Notre Dame: BCS game after being terrible. Mattison leaves Florida: national title. Put your money on the Ravens next year.
With the wheels seemingly falling off the Class of 2011, it's going to take one heck of a finish for the Wolverines to end with a respectable commitment list. For current targets, commits, etc., check out the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have recruiting tips or questions, tweet @varsityblue or e-mail [email protected].
With only two weekends before Signing Day left for official visits, each one carries a lot of importance for Michigan's new coaching staff. Here's this weekend's roster:
- OH TE/LB Frank Clark (pictured at right). The Cleveland Glenville product was also a target under the former staff. Rivals got a reaction to the hiring of Greg Mattison ($, info in header), so it's safe to say the Wolverines want him on defense.
- MI CB Raymon Taylor. He's an Indiana decommit who has already visited once this winter, for a bowl practice. Former teammate of Devin Gardner.
- CA CB Stefan McClure. Offered by Michigan (see below). He is a friend of former Michigan DB Leon Hall, and was a target of San Diego State. He speaks highly of Hoke and it sounds like he may have even committed to the Aztecs if they had played in a more prestigious conference.
- FL OL Tony Posada. Visiting Michigan this weekend, and plans to remain committed to the Wolverines, despite listening to what other schools have to say. He took an official visit to Mississippi State last weekend, but still says he's a Wolverine if they'll have him (and use his talents properly).
- CA K Matt Wile. Michigan has offered Wile, and the Army All-American is a strong possibility - who Michigan saw in-home the other night. With Matt Goudis out of the class, Michigan is looking for replacements. Derrick Mitchell, currently a minor leaguer in the Philadelphia Phillies system, considered walking on, but it doesn't seem likely at this point.
As always, things are liable to change as the week progresses.
Commits, Kinda Commits, Ex-Commits
"I think it will have to be a really rare circumstance for Kellen to not be a Michigan Wolverine, but we have to be prepared.”
That article was published the day before Hoke was named, and after the naming of Greg Mattison as DC, Jones is excited about Michigan, canceling his upcoming visits to other schools.
MD CB Blake Countess seemed only a little iffy, but took an official visit to Penn State last weekend, and enjoyed himself enough to tweet about how it was better than expected, and "making this decision a lot harder." Michigan is in-home today, and Penn State tomorrow. By the end of the week, we should have a much better idea of Countess' ultimate plans.
MI OL decommit Jake Fisher visited Michigan State last weekend, and has Florida this weekend, and Oregon the weekend following that. If Brady Hoke wants to get him on campus before Signing Day, it will have to be on a midweek unofficial. Fisher has officially decommitted from Michigan, but the Wolverines are hopeful to re-secure him. According to his high school coach, he's still considering Michigan, but will take his remaining visits. Tom says it's not looking good for the Wolverines.
The next trio of former Michigan commits, on the other hand, are not going to come back to the maize-and-blue, as all have decided to take their talents to South Beach:
- OH LB Antonio Kinard probably wasn't going to be accepted as a class of 2011 commit.
- FL CB Dallas Crawford eliminated Michigan last week, and now he'll be a Cane.
- CA K Matt Goudis officially visited Coral Gables along with Crawford, and has also pledged to join Miami's class of 2011.
Finishing the Class
It sounds like Michigan is the favorite to land SC WR Hakeem Flowers. He announces on Sunday.
IL OL Chris Bryant was waiting to hear from Brady Hoke, and took matters into his own hands over the weekend. On his way home from a visit to Pittsburgh (where former Michigan assistants...), he talked with Coach Hoke, and things went well:
My parents are both comfortable, and so am I. They asked their questions and said it was a great conversation overall. I feel comfortable with him too. He was a funny guy, he's a player's coach. He's someone that you would want to coach you... I had a good relationship with the coaches there before, but coaching is a business. It's just an adjustment and you need to go on with it. Michigan is Michigan, and they're not going to just bring anyone in. I still really like Michigan.
Michigan may have extended an offer to Minnesota commit KS QB Max Shortell, but the kid says he's only interested in Minnesota. Sounds like a similar situation to FL DT Travarris Saulsberry and his teammate, DE Jordan Williams, both of whom are committed to Tennessee.
Among other new players on the radar, CA DB Stefan McClure and IL OL Pat Flavin (an Illinois commit) are now getting Michigan attention - with McClure already netting an offer.
Peace Out, Ya'll
Happy Trails, NJ TE Jack Tabb. He committed to North Carolina ($, info in header) after being unable to get in touch with Brady Hoke.
Auburn has accepted a commitment from NC WR/LB Kris Frost. Michigan might continue pursuing him ("hey, that other school doesn't even want you"), but he seems set on being a Tiger.
Last week, Tom said Michigan had "a great chance" with CA WR Devin Lucien, but Michigan now intends to recruit him only for defense, so it seems unlikely he'll end up a Wolverine. Lucien announces January 30th.
PA DE Deion Barnes will announce tomorrow between Georgia and Penn State. He crossed Michigan off his list with the coaching change.
Now that Mississippi State has been pointlessly scouted to death, Michigan fans have set to finding fans of every team Al Borges ever coordinated. Maize 'n' Brew put Cal up first despite the fact that Borges's tenure there consisted of a single star-crossed year; this is the view from the plains.
So, Al Borges. I won't bury the lede: after watching him for four years at Auburn, I don't think he's a particularly good fit for Michigan's current personnel, Denard Robinson most especially. He is as advertised: a veteran, pro-style, pass-first West Coast disciple. But there's a reason he's that veteran, namely that he's a whip-smart, clever, above-all solid offensive coordinator.
He might not be a Malzahn or Kelly-style miracle worker, but I can assure you he's not a Jeff Mullen or Steve Addazio or Patrick Nix, either. (No, I wouldn't expect the return of the Avalanche anytime soon.) Given the right tools to work with and a quality defense on the other side of the ball, there's no reason Borges couldn't be the coordinator for a championship-caliber Big Ten team.
Auburn fans would argue he proved that in 2004; it's a testament to how dominant that offense was (and how wretched it had been the year before*) that even after his final two teams finished 76th and 97th in total yardage, he remains universally respected and admired among the Tiger fanbase. Yeah, a well-trained sugar glider [ed: ?] could have turned Campbell, Williams, Brown, Marcus McNeill, etc. into a competent offense, but that 25th-place finish in total offense you mentioned doesn't come close to doing that unit justice. They finished fifth in yards-per-play, first in yards per-pass attempt (at 10.0 a pop), second in passing efficiency, all against an SEC schedule and all with Tuberville's Carr-like insistence on downshifting into clock-killing mode as soon as the lead hit two scores. (Which it did a lot that year.)
Before that year Campbell had been a head case who'd already gone through three coordinators in three seasons. Borges got his head on straight, deployed the two-headed monster of Williams and Brown to maximum efficiency, and even added in the occasional gimmick play to good effect. It really was a terrific coaching job, and a lot of Auburn fans will tell you his 2005 effort -- in which Auburn finished 24th in yards per-play and scored 27 or more points 9 times, despite replacing Campbell with Brandon Cox and and not discovering a running back until Kenny Irons emerged at midseason -- was even better. (They're exaggerating, but it was still awfully nice.)
So what happened after that? Certainly Tuberville's conservatism and the lack of help from the world's most mediocre set of position coaches (the same ones who eventually got Tony Franklin fired midseason) didn't help, but the principal problem IMHO was the collapse of the passing game. Cox's myasthenia gravis—a debilitating muscle disease—seriously reduced his effectiveness, a series of recruiting busts meant that there were no replacements for the two departed NFL receivers on the outside, and the loss of McNeill opened up huge problems in pass protection. For a coordinator who set up his running game with the threat of an efficient passing game (even in 2005, Cox threw 44 times against Ga. Tech, 40 times against LSU, 33 times vs. Wisconsin, huge numbers for a Tuberville team), this was DEATH.
So how much blame does Borges finally share for the downturn? Not that much; the lack of player development from the position coaches, Tubby's handcuffing, and plain old bad luck in Cox's downturn hurt more than anything Borges did. Nevertheless, he does share some blame for things getting as rocky as they got, there's some lessons for Michigan's expectations for Borges here:
- He needs the talent. Obviously, the array of tools at Borges' disposal in '06 and '07 wasn't nearly what it was in '04 and '05, but the cupboard wasn't as bare as to totally excuse the off-the-cliff plummet Auburn experienced. It may be fair to say that Borges is well-equipped to maximize a talent advantage over lesser opponents -- his success with a very talented SDSU offense by MWC standards this year would seem to be more evidence -- but isn't as effective "coaching up" lesser weapons. In the long term this is probably a good thing.
- He's not going to recruit that talent himself. Can't speak for what he's done at SDSU or his previous stops, but virtually any skill position player who truly shone at Auburn -- during his tenure or after -- was either recruited under his predecessors or after he'd departed.
- He's not super-flexible. Borges' schemes didn't change a whole lot as Cox's effectiveness decreased and his receiving corps began sucking. It was still the same array of mostly off-tackle and iso runs, play-action passes (yes, waggles!), and occasional pro-style passing concepts. They just stopped working. Borges made some offseason comments to the effect that Auburn would do more to get the running backs and tight ends involved in the passing game (as they had been in 2004), but that never really seemed to develop.
To that same point, Borges did precious little work at Auburn with a "dual-threat" quarterback, but what little he did wouldn't be very encouraging where Denard is concerned. That work came with Kodi Burns, who came to Auburn as a true freshman in 2007. Cox began that season completely out of sorts and Burns was brought off the bench in Weeks 2-4 to stop the bleeding. It didn't seem like Borges had made much of an effort to teach Burns the offense or develop a functional package to put his running skills to use; Burns seemed to mostly just take the snap and run around. A true freshman Kodi Burns might not have been able to do much more than that, but it still just didn't seem like Borges had much of an idea about what to do with him at that stage. Obviously Robinson is miles and miles ahead of where Burns was (or ever got to) as a quarterback, but maybe it's something to keep in mind all the same.
Again, none of that is to say Borges can't succeed at Michigan ... but the current situation just isn't in his wheelhouse. Based on the last half of 2005 (when Cox, Irons, and the AU receivers were at the height of their powers) and what he's done at SDSU this season with the Lindley-Hillman-senior wideouts package, I'd say the prototypical Borges offense is one with an accurate (and not necessarily strong-armed) pocket passer, big NFL-type receivers on the outside to stretch the field, and a single stud running back as a home run threat out of the backfield. It seems like aside from Darryl Stonum, Michigan doesn't have any of those things.
What's ironic, says Alanis, is that Michigan used to have those things in bunches. Give Borges Henne, Hart, Long, and Manningham/Arrington, and you're going to have one of the best offenses in the country, hands-down. And maybe he can work some magic with Denard (or Gardner), and Hopkins, and Stonum/Miller/Jackson/whoever. But I can't shake the feeling that Borges is the right guy in the right place at the wrong time.
*[Since you asked, sort of, and because it shows how deeply, deeply flawed Tuberville's understanding of offense is, in 2003 Auburn used co-offensive coordinators: quarterbacks coach Steve Ensminger and offensive line coach Hugh Nall. Tuberville asked them to operate the identical scheme run by Bobby Petrino in 2002, but with a twist: he would ask them for either a running play or a passing play as the situation demanded, and then Nall would make the playcall if Tubby had requested a running play, and Ensminger the playcall in the event of a pass. (I don't think this has been officially confirmed, but it's a matter of general understanding amongst Auburn fans.) And that is how you take Campbell, Williams, Brown, and like four other NFL players and wind up with a lousy offense. Nall wound up as a trucking company executive when he left Auburn; Ensminger's next job was as an assistant coach with a local high school.]
Jerry walked back what pessimism existed in the above—there but under the "this guy is pretty good" bit—in a brief addendum:
So I read back over what I wrote yesterday and it's too far on the negative side, I think. I don't mean to imply Borges can't/won't succeed at Michigan, I'm just worried it's going to take a couple of seasons for
1. Hoke and Co. to recruit the missing pieces for the offense (especially a load-carrying RB)
2. Borges to coach up the pieces he's got, like (hopefully) Gardner.
Given the state of the defense, I wonder if he'd really be given the necessary slack to survive a Rodriguez-like transition period. But Mattison ought to help. If he's Hoke's Malzahn, there's no question Borges can be his Ted Roof.
I think Borges will be all but forced to adapt when there turn out to be things that work with Denard and things that don't. In the Cox case above criticisms about not adapting to the situation might overlook the fact that there's no adaptation that turns suck into not suck. See Michigan's 2008 offense—when you don't have anything you can adapt all you want and you're still going to be hilariously bad.
our coordinators have the exact same hair. no nonsense hair.
no one will ever say their hair is the best part of them.
This seemed like a far-fetched rumor when it started buzzing but lo, it is true:
Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is expected to go the University of Michigan as their new defensive coordinator, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.
No deal has been formally reached, though.
He would likely be replaced in Baltimore by secondary coach Chuck Pagano.
UPDATE: Mattison has taken the job and Pagano has replaced him.
I“We’re excited for our defense and for Chuck, and we’re happy for Greg Mattison,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I will talk more about it tomorrow when we formally announced Chuck as our new coordinator in a press conference.”
Mattison is the best possible hire of all rumored names, a veteran with a history of excellent defenses in both college and the NFL. He coordinated Michigan's stout '95 and '96 defenses and can probably take some credit for the national championship-winning '97 edition. After leaving Michigan, Mattison was Notre Dame's DC for a few seasons, then moved on to be co-DC at Florida with Charlie Strong. He's been with the Ravens the last three years.
This isn't exactly hiring Gus Malzahn—Chizik was a great DC himself before becoming a head coach—but it's the closest possible thing, an indication that Michigan is no longer skimping on assistant salaries. When the above-linked article finishes "Mattison has been successful with the Ravens, so this is a bit of a surprise," you know you're dropping some coin.
Hope meter: incremented.
Also, there's an official release on much of the rest of the staff:
Hoke Announces Seven Staff Appointments
ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 18) the hiring of seven staff members to his Wolverine coaching and support staff. Hoke named six of the nine assistant coaching positions and the appointment of his strength and conditioning coach.
Six members of the San Diego State staff joined Hoke in Ann Arbor. Al Borges will coordinate the offense and work with the quarterbacks, Dan Ferrigno will coordinate the special teams and coach the tight ends, Darrell Funk will coach the offensive line, Jeff Hecklinski mentors the wide receivers and Mark Smith has been appointed linebackers coach. Aaron Wellman also joined the Wolverines’ staff as the strength and conditioning coach.
Hoke rehired long time Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson to the same position on the staff. Jackson will begin his 20th season as a member of the Wolverine coaching staff in 2011.
All but Ferrigno were already known, and Ferrigno was suspected. Borges is listed as QB/OC so that probably means Loeffler won't return—and that's how Michigan can afford an esoteric TE/ST coach.
Michigan still has two open assistant slots and holes at DB, DL, and QB. Since Hoke and Mattison both have extensive experience as DL coaches it's not 100% that QB is the spot that goes unfilled but it's probable. Bringing in another offensive coach would mean the staff had five offensive assistants and just two on D.
BONUS: Michigan's also hiring Hoke's director of operations, so this will probably be the first and last time you think about this name: Bob Lopez. May he be a thousand times more obscure than Draper and Labadie.
Sorry no Dear Diary this week -- was on a family trip through yesterday. Related: shout-out to the Michigan Ski Team -- I was that one guy at Crystal with the kickin' Fischer demos and a way of swinging my arms while carving that looks like I'm shtupping a donkey (thanks, cock-ass Winter Walden instructor in 1991).
Instead, I give you three new columns to the instant classic "Clans" breakdown by MVictors, Lew, and the Hoover Street Rag, referenced atop Tuesday's "Unverified Voracity" column. The new categories:
- Favorite Pre-Game Tradition
- Where to Watch an Away Game
- Every Michigan Fan Should Read...
Comments and suggestions for additional categories are very welcome. Chart made available on Google Docs if you want to make changes yourself (note them in the comments).
Enjoy. Update 6:30 p.m. songs now available too.
|Clan||Favorite Pre-Game Tradition||Where to Watch an Away Game||Every Michigan Fan Should Read...|
|Bo Clan (15%)||We barbecued these same ribs back in '73, an' I tell ya the stadium looks different and some o' th' buildings, but this spot hasn't changed a damn bit.||At home, with EVERYBODY over. This is the couch where we watch MICHIGAN football. Later in the year the wife makes chili.||Those Who Stay, by Curt Stephenson|
|The Rebellion (9%)||Beer Pong or 'U Honk We Drink' on the porch of a State St flophouse.||In the basement (because too emotional to watch with everyone upstairs) with laptops on their knees for Live-Blogging.||The Decimated Defense, by Misopogon|
|Corduroy Jacket w/ Patch Clan (1%)||Kerrytown Farmer's Market - it's so nice and peaceful downtown when all those football fans are at the game, isn't it?||Oh there's a game today? Are we good this year? How 'bout we take a walk in the Arb instead -- it's so lovely when the leaves change.||Fired Magic: Detroit's Pewabic Pottery Treasures, by Marcy Heller Fisher|
|In Rod We Trusted (5%)||Standing atop the little garden outcropping at Blimpy Burger and trying to engage the sadly misinformed Cotton Pickers waiting in line in an RR versus Carr debate.||At the Bo Clan guy's house, trying to convince everybody that THIS win over Notre Dame is going to be the start of something special. As RR becomes less defensible late in the year, take an increasing interest in the chili.||Denard: The Happening, by mdoc, or The Big Rodriguez, by Brian Cook|
|Lloyd Loyalists (20%)||The Broken Egg - we've been meeting here for breakfast every year since senior year, which was [1997+/- 3 years].||Local sports bar. Pray a member of the Rebellion comes in so you can kick his ass.||The Obscene Diaries of a Michigan Fan, by Craig Ross|
|Cotton Pickin’ Blues (45%)||The Golf Course.||At the home of the guy with the big TV sometimes if there's only going to be a few people over, but otherwise at home to facilitate that 3rd quarter nap.||If These Walls Could Talk: Michigan Football Stories from the Big House, by Jon Falk and Dan Ewald|
|Fierce Pragmatists (1%)||Dragging Misopogal to a different tailgate every week in the bare hopes of finding another Fierce Pragmatist, as opposed to the millions of Rebels and Rod-Trusters who think they're Fierce Pragmatists||Refreshing on the iPhone while stuck in Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur/Wife's Stupid Cousin's wedding.||Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace|
|The Second Estate (1.5%)||Giving the kids the insider passes so they can do the field tour during warmups, while you hold court in the important people rooms where everybody can see that you're an important person.||
The TV room of the cottage on Walloon Lake or Lake Charlevoix
|Bo's Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership, by Bo Schembechler and John U. Bacon|
|The Decatur Clan (2.5%)||Covering yourself in maize and walking down Hoover with the throngs all the way to the stadium, then turning back up to State St. and doing it all over again.||In West Lafayette, or East Lansing, or Columbus, or Evanston, or wherever the Wolverines may travel - probably next to Lloyd Brady.||100 Things Michigan Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, by Angelique Chengelis|
And with hats a-tippin' to the folks below, here's the music (after the leapin'):
Most of the questions in my inbox I don't have an answer to, but does that ever stop sportswriters? No.
1. With all the Hoke love from ex-players & everyone else for that matter, how could Bill Martin have misread the whole "Michigan Man" situation when he hired RichRod? He had to get some sort of vibe about supporting a MI Man & not an outsider. Did he ignore this, or was he ignorant of it?
Bill Martin seems like an affable sort of guy, but an affable sort of guy who wasn't actually on the football team and really likes sailing. I bet he was taken aback by the way Rodriguez's tenure developed. I think most people were surprised the vehemence with which Rodriguez was denounced once he started losing games.
But I'm not sure it really mattered, since at the time there were no Michigan Man options that were even vaguely plausible. Hoke—the sole Carr assistant to have a head coaching job at the time—was idling at 7-6 in his fifth year at Ball State. DeBord had failed miserably at CMU. Ron English was in charge of the defense that made The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game possible. Harbaugh was still unproven.
Even if Martin could anticipate a negative reaction from the Carr clan, it's not like there was anything he could do about it without producing a backlash 10 times as massive as this year's Hoke doubt.
2. With all the shouts of failure to hire a BIG name coach, looking at the hires of the last few years from "elite" schools: USC - Kiffin, Miami - Temple's coach, Florida - Tx D Coordinator, Florida St. - Jimbo Fisher, Notre Dame - Kelly, Tennessee - Dooley; big name coaches from big name schools rarely switch jobs within the college ranks - the last BIG name coach to do so would have to be RichRod - food for thought.
I guess that depends on your definition of the word "big." It's true that most jobs on the Michigan/Oklahoma/Florida/ND level are terminal destinations. But Stanford isn't, especially when the guy at Stanford is a famous Michigan alum. Harbaugh should have been poachable, and maybe he was but for the NFL. We'll never know. Meanwhile, there is a list of guys who are acquirable who may not be "big" names but seem like as good of any idea as possible when you switch coaches.
As for that list above:
- Fisher was a hot OC at LSU that was imported to be HC in waiting/by proxy in the same sort of transition that saw Bielema and Chip Kelly smoothly ascend to the throne and experience fairly quick success. (Bielema took a little while to get going.)
- Muschamp is an archetypical hot coordinator.
- Brian Kelly qualified as a big name in the mold of Urban Meyer after championship runs at two different schools experiencing their greatest success.
- Kiffin was the last act of an idiot and was met with the same sort of love at USC he was after his departure from Knoxville.
- Dooley was a last second desperation hire after Kiffin left that was like hiring Hoke in 2007.
I'd say the first three are good ideas, the fourth a bad idea, and the fifth the sort of thing that happens when your head coach leaves in early January. In Tennessee's case they were left in the lurch involuntarily. Michigan did it to themselves.
At least Dooley provides a hopeful example. Despite being in shambles in mid-January they recovered decently enough in recruiting and outperformed expectations down the stretch. Sometimes guys catch fire with more resources and a fortunate recruit—or existing player—and that can quickly erase their uninspiring previous record. One year after Tennessee's Maple Street Annual asked me to write a piece about how to cope with a 3-9 crater, there is palpable optimism in Knoxville.
In the presser introducing Hoke as HC, Dave Brandon mentioned that he was a "data guy," and that the data showed that when you bring in a HC w/no ties to the area and/or university, it usually doesn't work. However, a look at the top programs in recent college football history show important counterexamples:
- Urban Meyer, Florida: no ties
- Mack Brown, Texas: asst coach Iowa State 1 year, OC Iowa State 2 years (1980-81), OC Oklahoma 1 year (1984)
- Nick Saban, LSU: no ties
- Les Miles, LSU: no ties
- Pete Carroll, USC: OC U. of Pacific, 1 year (1983)
Did these guys have assistants on staff who had ties? What was the key to their success in winning over the respective fan bases?
Winning games? Those guys save Carroll and Meyer all came from BCS programs they had significantly outperforming their historical baseline, and Meyer had just turned Utah into the #2 team in the country after making Bowling Green a terrifying MAC opponent. And then they won immediately. Saban was 12-2 in year two. Miles lost six games in his first three years. The first time Mack Brown won fewer than nine games at Texas was this year. Meyer won the national title in year two.
Before any of these guys could be hated they were loved, and Rodriguez probably could have managed that trick if he hadn't presided over the worst three year stretch since Harry Kipke*.
If there's a common thread between these coaches it's recruiting, where all were monsters. You knew that's what you were getting with Brown, suspected it with Saban and Miles, and hoped for with Carroll.
*[I have your back, MVictors]
So, I've accepted the fact that we have Hoke and Borges (mostly). The offensive personnel is obviously geared toward a zone read option type of offense with athletic lineman, lots of slot ninjas and a running quarterback.
Two actual questions for you:
1 - How is this line at pass protection? Do the techniques change much between zone-read option spread teams and pro-style teams? I know Kerrigan, Liuget and Watt were blowing up our plays quite a bit, but I'm hopeful the assignments and techniques would not be very different. Now, Iso-blocks on runs plays....argh.
It was difficult to tell since teams spent most of the year deathly afraid of losing gap responsibility and letting Robinson slip into the secondary. Many opponents seemed content to let Denard sit and survey. In one on one matchups the line did very well against Iowa, Michigan State, and Penn State but not so well against Purdue (ie: Kerrigan) and Wisconsin. The numbers were consistently 1) low in amplitude and 2) good in percentage. The line wasn't asked to do a whole lot. They usually did it well.
It was a mixed bag, but they were starting a redshirt freshman and an injury-laden platoon at the tackles. I don't think there's much of a difference in pass protection between the two offenses in terms of technique, but pro-style attacks usually put a greater premium on five- and seven-step drops.
A bigger concern than this being an awkward transition is how much of the good pass protection last year was an illusion wrought by Robinson and the scheme.
2 - Thinking about a pro-style offense that employs slots and would fit fairly well.... What about the Patriots offense? Slot guys, undersized receivers and running backs....Obviously Tom never runs, but they could incorporate the single-wing QB runs and ISQD's pretty easily as well as roll-out run-pass option plays....Am I dreaming here? Is there any way with the Michigan connections over there that Borges/Hoke could go in this offseason pick Belichick and Brady's brains and/or outright steal some of that offense all together? What about the Eagles offense? It seems this would be a pretty good recruiting pitch - "You know Tom Brady? The Patriots? That team that crushes people all the time? Yeah - we're running their offense."
The Patriots may be pros but they don't really run a pro-style offense anymore thanks to Brady. Unfortunately for Michigan's immediate future, the things that make Brady one of the greatest QBs of all time—pinpoint accuracy and I'm-from-the-future coverage reads—are the things Robinson has in shortest supply.
Long term I'm down with what seems to be Borges's preference for a pass-slanted West Coast offense, which is a system that works and works well when you've got the right guy at the helm. One positive about returning to something resembling the old offense is that college football's tilt towards spread systems has made pocket guys more available, and Michigan's reputation was enough to lure Ryan Mallett north despite that not being the best idea in the world for him personally.