a terrible blight on our fine country
On first glimpse the idea of hiring a man who says things like "it can maybe snowball into something that can catch fire" after he cratered a traditionally respectable-or-better program seems pretty dumb. I said so myself. But Rodriguez done did it anyway, so it's time to talk ourselves into it, or at least try to.
A Syracuse-oriented reader opines:
As a member of the Orange Nation, I can state that the Greg Robinson years were hard and lean. In part, that was due to a growing talent deficit that Pasqualoni left behind. Coach P's numbers look impressive until one takes into account the fact that SU went into a pretty serious decline after Donovan McNabb graduated. He was running on empty by the time he left.As for Robinson, his teams proved to be maddeningly inconsistent and just plain bad. By all accounts, he was a decent guy. His players never quit on him. But he was not up to the head coaching task. As a DC in the college game, he might be better judged by his last 2 years at SU (when, I think, he handled most of the defensive coordinator's job) and his 1 year at Texas. SU's defense improved the past two years but was still pretty bad.Would he fare better with others handling the recruiting and with a better talent pool at Michigan? Probably. Would he be much different from Jim Hermann or Ron English? Who's to say?Coming from the Big East, he and Rich Rod might have an affinity that would work at Michigan. But that seems a pretty risky move for a team that just went 3-9 and had its worst defensive season in program history. . . .
As noted in the above-linked MGoBlog post, Robinson's last two years at Syracuse were pretty atrocious, and the evidence from his brief Texas posting (via Varsity Blue) does not suggest competence above and beyond:
|Year||Total D||Rush D||Pass D||Scoring D|
That's about par for the course at a school that regularly out-talents all but one or two opponents a year. A couple commenters noted that my dismissal of his year at Texas was a bit harsh since a guy who turns in a really good defense when blessed with more talent than his competition is likely to find it nice and comfy at Michigan.
Point taken. Texas fans seem to remember Robinson fondly, at least. Various posts in highly positive thread on Hornfans:
He is a good guy and a good pick-up for UM. … I thought he improved our D when he was here. … Good hire. Our D definitely improved while he was here, and no doubt he was helped a lot by Tomey. I loved Robinson's sideline demeanor. That. as much as anything else, reminded me how great it is to have fired up coaches roaming the sidelines. … I think he will do a great job at Michigan.
Also Texas coaches and players. Angelique gets fawning quotes from Mack Brown…
"They're (U-M) getting one of the best defensive coordinators in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Greg's a high-energy, creative, hard-working guy who has had success at both the NFL and collegiate levels. He's a veteran coach with a wealth of knowledge who the players really respond to."
…and Derrick Johnson, Texas' horrifying, bolo-punching linebacker demon from that 2004 team:
"He's a players' coach who is very patient with his players and works well with everyone," Johnson said. "He knows how to get his point across about what he expects and has you prepared for everything on game day. ... He was great for Texas."
HOWEVA, the defense Robinson inherited was pretty good and he held it at that level for a year. He didn't build anything up or (probably) have to coach anything up and that data point seems less relevant than the three disastrous years at Kansas City that preceded it or the four disastrous ones at Syracuse that followed it. Longtime college DC Carl Reese preceded Robinson and this guy followed him…
…suffice it to say that being Texas' defensive coordinator isn't the hardest job in the world. (Side note: Texas had better hope like hell the current guy is a bit better in the head job than the two men who preceded him.)
This table, on the other hand, was totally omitted from the first go-round on Robinson:
|Year||Total D||Rush D||Pass D||Scoring D|
After a ramp-up year that's (almost) four consecutive years in the top ten in total defense in the NFL. At the very least that indicates some level of competence.
So… what do we have? A guy who performs with talent and doesn't without it. Yeah, Greg Robinson and every other coach on the planet. This causes Orson Swindle, writing as someone named "Spencer Hall," to muse on fate at TSN:
Greg Robinson, fired Kansas City defensive coordinator, former Texas coordinator, and complete failure of a head coach at Syracuse, is firmly at fate's mercy now: he's the new defensive coordinator at Michigan, a move that has some Michigan fans near seppuku and others merely sighing and shrugging their shoulders. It would be very, very easy to pronounce this as a stillborn HR move from the start, a mistake taking a flyer on a guy who while good when surrounded by obvious, glaring talent -- see his successful stint in 2004 at Texas -- can be very, very bad, as anyone who saw his work at Syracuse can attest.
The whole fate thing weighs heavily on any Michigan fan contemplating Mallett or Pryor or the circumstances that led to David Cone being one of two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. If Rodriguez had walked into a viable dual-threat quarterback, or even just a viable single-threat one, his still toddling regime at Michigan would be far less precarious. Michigan's hope here is that Robinson was a product of his circumstances, and while he may be very, very poor at assembling advantageous circumstances for himself that won't be a problem where the four-stars flow in from the sea.
Orson, for his part, says that Michigan's "considerable talent on defense"—er?—combines with the mediocrity of the Big Ten and provides "good odds for a happy outcome." I'm less certain, but since I have a good friend who hired that guy on a coin above I'm very familiar with the process that gets you to "hey, this isn't so bad!"
Barwis' final employment agreement with WVU, drafted in July 2005, said Barwis is to pay WVU a $50,000 buyout for terminating his contract without cause by the university. Sources said university officials are now looking to collect, but a lawsuit is not presently in the works.
That's right: West Virginia Buyout Wrangling with its sidekick, Accompanying Hysteria. I can't wait for the newspaper column describing the vast damage this upcoming dispute will do to the university's reputation.
(HT: Big House Blog.)
Close but no dice. One of the common anti-playoff arguments is basically "The Cardinals." IE: one of the costs of a playoff is that sometimes it throws away the much more reliable results gathered from a regular season of 16 or 162 games and gives you the Cardinals, be they the 9-7 variety from Phoenix slated to participate in the upcoming Super Bowl or the 83-78 variety from St. Louis that won the 2006 World Series.
Such champions are not particularly fulfilling, and they throw the whole playoffs thing into doubt. Get The Picture applies this to college football:
Make the postseason pool big enough and you’ll get your Cinderellas every year, in one form or fashion. Statistical anomalies mean more in the postseason. But some of that success, while inspiring in the short term, often winds up being little more than a mirage. That’s a helluva tradeoff for a diminished regular season.
This is an accurate complaint when leveled at the 12th best team in a league of 32 clawing to the championship or a system which throws away 162 games in which you're doing stunningly well to win 62.5% of them in favor of brief, near-random playoff series. It is not when applied to college football, for the following reasons:
- Any playoff field would be dramatically more restricted than that of most professional leagues. There are about 120 D-I college football teams, and even if you toss out 50 or so as not serious contenders (ie, most of the MAC, CUSA, Sun Belt, WAC, and Mountain West) an eight-team playoff contains approximately the same percentage of teams as a four-team NFL bracket would. The Cardinals problem does not occur in a world where the entire bracket is Pittsburgh, Tennessee, New York, and Carolina.
- Any reasonably-constructed CFB playoff champion has, basically by definition, the most impressive resume. College football programs play so much creampuff and have so few opportunities to play real teams from any other conference that a three-game win streak over elite competition—coupled with losses from the rest of that elite competition—would render the playoff result un-controversial. IE: even if the playoff was mere exhibition with no official bearing on who gets a crystal football, the playoff winner would virtually always be voted #1 anyway, especially if lower-seeded teams have to play on the road, auto-bids are not handed out to weak conferences, and the field is constructed with byes.
As an example of #2, put together any reasonable pre-bowl eight team field from this year (1 Oklahoma, 2 Florida, 3 USC, 4 Texas, 5 Penn State, 6 Utah, 7 Alabama) take your worst-case #8, which this year would be Cincinnati (other contenders: OSU, Boise, Texas Tech) and give that worst-case scenario road wins over any three of the above teams. You've assembled the best resume in college football.
The Cardinals issue does not apply to college football. It, perhaps alone amongst American sports, would have a much more legitimate champion every year if it had a playoff.
(BTW: European soccer has a great compromise where there are no playoffs—except for the last promotion slot in lower leagues—but there are, simultaneous to the regular season, a number of single-elimination knockout competitions of varying prestige.)
Basketballin'. I'm late on this, but, yes, the regents gave preliminary approval to a 23 million dollar basketball practice facility to be built adjacent to Crisler. Beilein boilerplate:
"Having our coaches' offices, strength training, video theatre, training room and practice court all connected to Crisler Arena will only enhance student-athletes' development and our efficiency as a staff," Beilein said. "Having consistent practice times will assist players academically in terms of scheduling their classes and allowing them to choose any major of interest to them. We are obviously thrilled with the positives this new facility will bring, and appreciate the support of President Mary Sue Coleman, and the hard work of Bill Martin and Mike Stevenson in making this project become a reality."
Martin's forging ahead with the project despite not having a major donor:
"We want to get this done, so we're getting the word out that we're going for it," Martin said, saying a practice facility is overdue. "I couldn't wait any longer. We don't have a major donor for this project, but the regents all understand the value. I'm pleased we're able to move on this."
That's a commitment to the basketball program, and yet another chunk of Martin's legacy salted away. When he steps down as athletic director he'll have quite a list of accomplishments to point to, especially if (when) Beilein and Rodriguez work out.
It's like a laser. Smart Football considers Curtis Painter and Purdue's notable inability to do anything against actually good teams in the waning years of the Tiller administration, and in doing so reiterates a theory from 2006:
The offense has arguably become the opposite of an equalizer, it has become an amplifier: if you are talented you can really rack up the points because no one can cover Vince Young, Ted Ginn or the like one-on-one, but if you're not, you just get sacked and no one gets open.
Extremely prescient, and you're already replacing Vince Young with Nick Sheridan in your head and possibly trembling. In this we might have a general theory about why the first year of Rich Rodriguez has been such a disaster every time: it's not like Dantonio's caveman offense that shortens games and, even when bad, isn't bad quickly. The spread, when bad, is bad fast, allowing more time for the opponent to implode your head.
Well, we could be. For some reason, Varsity Blue just tackled Dan Wetzel's column comparing Michigan and Alabama from October. They attempt to tamp down expectations, which is good. Because for Michigan to be "this year's Alabama" they would have to improve their record by 4.5 games, which would get them from 3-9 all the way to 8-5.
Suffice it to say this would probably not be met with the hosannas Nick Saban has received in his second season. Also, Alabama QB: senior multi-year starter. Michigan QB: either sophomore Steven Threet or a true freshman. Or a suicidal kitten.
Getting out of this hole is going to take some digging.
Etc.: The NYT finally has their ombudsman tackle the ridiculous Jamarcus McFarland article. Texas blogs, as you might expect, are not impressed.
1/20/2009 – Michigan 58, Penn State 73 – 13-6, 3-4 Big Ten
How's this for some trenchant analysis you can't get anywhere else: that was brutal. Let us never discuss it again.
Moving forward, the last two games have blown whatever margin of error Michigan had in their effort to make the tournament. Even if you assume wins home and away against Northwestern and away against Iowa—potentially dodgy but absolutely necessary to make the tourney—you have to find three wins in these games to get Michigan to .500 in conference:
Home: Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue
Away: Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota
Is that doable? I don't know anymore. Maybe they can split with Minnesota and beat Penn State and home. Then it's a matter of getting really hot in one other game and stealing it. It won't happen when the team shoots 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half. Would that get Michigan in? If they beat UConn, obviously. If they don't that leaves them at 19-12 and fifth or sixth in the #2 league in the country, so yeah.
I guess the question is: will the team shoot as horribly as they have in the future? There's no chance they all grow three inches by Tuesday, and even if they did that would probably throw off their coordination significantly. You're going to see Michigan continue to get crushed defensively. Against Illinois (and, I guess, Ohio State) Michigan was overwhelmed by height that took away their inside game—Sims, their inside game, was 7 for 27. Against Penn State they weren't overwhelmed by height and still got crushed in the paint and on the offensive glass. This is the Beilein system taken to extremes, and that's understandable given the composition of the team. This was expected to be an NIT team for a reason.
I've been beating this drum since the Indiana game: it's been clear for a while now that the Duke and UCLA wins raised the profile of and expectations for the team disproportionately. Struggles against a wide array of very bad teams and near-implosions against Indiana and Savannah State didn't have the same impact because "a win is a win"* and all that, leading to a lot of irrational exuberance.
Welcome to the crash.
- UMHoops: "The numbers don’t lie, Michigan shot 39.3% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc tonight. Michigan has shot over 40% just twice in the last 10 games after shooting over 40% in 7 of their first 8 (the only game under 40% was the win over UCLA). At the end of the day winning basketball games comes down to making your shots. It doesn’t matter whether they are two point shots or three point shots; an open shot is an open shot."
- Beilein: “We had some great looks early, couldn’t hit any of them, and had a chance to get out early enough on them because we played good defense on them early. But we couldn’t make any shots. Once they got it going in the second half it was lights out.”
- Don't really have much other than "yeeaaargh" on this one.
- I would like to point out that everyone would take this if magically given the option at the start of the year. I was hoping for slightly above .500 and an NIT bid, and that was before it became clear the Big Ten is way, way better than it was last year.
- I want Manny Harris to commit a charge per half the rest of the season.
*(For the past, yes. For the future, no: past performance is a better predictor of future performance than past results.)
Game at nine, show slightly earlier, let's get ready to rumble. The Wolverine Liberation Army hosts.
Two reliable sources are reporting that Greg Robinson is indeed the guy at defensive coordinator; unless there's an unexpected derailment an official confirmation should come sometime soon. (Bonus, ethically dubious confirmation can be found at Maize 'n' Brew, which relays some goings-on at the premium sites.)
I've said my piece on Robinson already—in a word: yikes—and am pretty skeptical of the hire. However, I am not a football coach or even that familiar with Robinson's work except in a macro "holy God what happened to Syracuse?" sense. Rich Rodriguez is, and he's basically gambled his career on his future performance. All hail Gamblor!
Also: Michigan might not be done searching for coaches. LBs coach Jay Hopson is apparently searching for a job closer to home, further proving that nothing escapes Mississippi's inexplicable gravitational pull.
Yes, this would make it a seriously uphill battle to retain the services of either non-enrolled DT commit.
Update 1/19: Linked articles on FL QB Denard Robinson, SC DE Sam Montgomery (another, another), OH OL Marcus Hall, LA DT Dequinta Jones (another), LA WR Travante Stallworth, SC OL Quinton Washington, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes.
Removed LA WR Kenny Bell (once again solid to LSU), FL DE Alex Williams (we out), FL CB Jayron Hosley(dropped by M), NC OL Travis Bond (UNC), AL LB Tana Patrick (dropped us), MS S Dennis Thames (MSST), FL LB Mike Marry (not visiting). Added LA QB Brandon Mitchell, then immediately removed him because he committed to Arkansas. Thanks for nothing, buddy! (omg jk)
2010 stuff: FL CB Lo Wood has an offer, as reported by TomVH, and looks like a good bet to commit on an upcoming unofficial.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Many, many guys go off the board this week and a few of them hurt:
- MS S Dennis Thames failed to escape the mighty gravitational pull of the Black Hole of Starkville.
- NC OL Travis Bond decided to cram into North Carolina's phone booth.
- FL CB Jayron Hosley, well…
Okay, on Hosley. He visits USF, says he's basically going to USF, and now isn't even visiting. The reason is odd:
It appears Michigan and Ohio State have told Hosley they are full at cornerback, and no longer have room for him in their respective classes.
That could be cover. Michigan might not want to bother paying for a visit for a guy who's all but stated he's going to South Florida. But OH CB Mike Williams of Glenville apparently doesn't have a M offer, either. What? Michigan's got one excellent corner in each of the last three classes but these days you need four or five competent corners to deal with four- and five-wide offenses. Corner is definitely not full, but M is acting like it.
If they've got silent commits from FL CB Adrian Witty and FL QB/ATH/CB Denard Robinson, okay, they're full. But, uh… AFAIK most think Robinson is still ticketed for Florida. I don't get this.
Rivals has put out their final rankings for the year, and with them comes the usual celebration and rage. A summary:
Campbell and Lewan were basically static; Schofield, Forcier, Gordon, and Toussaint all fell about ten spots because they didn't participate in all-star games. (They didn't necessarily get downgraded, but several players were impressive and flew up the board, necessitating small drops for those who would otherwise remain in place.
Those changes are basically in line with expectations, if a little less enthusiastic than Michigan fans might like. Turner's leap up the board is the most impressive move, as that's rarefied air he's approaching. He's two spots away from five stars.
Slightly disappointing: OH LB Isaiah Bell didn't get that fourth star we thought he might after showing well at the UA game.
It's hard to call either LA DT DeQuinta Jones or OK DT Pearlie Graves commitments anymore given what they've been doing lately: taking visits and talking up other schools. Jones stopped in at Auburn last weekend and now lists Arkansas, Auburn, and Oklahoma along with Michigan. Jones visits Michigan on the last recruiting weekend, so they've got a chance to re-sell him. But, uh:
"It [the trip to Arkansas] exceeded my expectations," said Jones, 6-4, 302, 4.9, who orally committed to Michigan last summer. "The weight room was 110 yards long; it was fantastic. I liked the stadium and the academic center. I loved everything."
"I might wait until signing day and surprise a lot of people." Jones said.
This is not much of a commitment.
Also Wavering, But Wavering For Justice!
Michigan is no stranger to the recruit piracy game, of course, and they're taking shots at a number of receivers who are technically committed elsewhere. One is LA WR Travante Stallworth, the military kid who's still committed to Auburn but open to a couple other schools. He took a visit to M two weeks ago and last week it was South Carolina's turn:
"My trip to South Carolina went well," Stallworth said. "I spent a lot of time with Coach (Steve) Spurrier and his son, who is the offensive coordinator. They want me to come in and replace Kenny McKinley, who was their all-time leading receiver there. They told me I could play the slot and get the ball on screens and use my speed."
Compare that to his quote on Michigan from the same article…
"At Michigan, it was different than any other college campus I've ever been to," he continued. "They have outstanding facilities and the academics are top of the line. Coach (Rich) Rodriguez wants me to come in as a slot receiver and even said I could try quarterback. If it didn't work out, I could switch to receiver. They just want to get the ball in my hands in the open field."
…and it sounds like South Carolina isn't the choice. Auburn is a more significant hurdle than they were before, though, with the hiring of Gus Malzahn, and will get a shot at convincing him to stick next weekend. That's his last visit.
Another is PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, a nominal Tennessee commit also considering Michigan, Illinois, and maybe Penn State. He visited Michigan this weekend. Quote:
"It went good," Stokes said. "It was definitely a fun trip. I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't been to Ann Arbor or Michigan. I got all my questions answered."
Then parse this one closely:
"After Tennessee I don't know who would be next," Stokes said when asked who his second choice is. "It is between Illinois, Michigan, Penn State and Georgia. I'll announce on signing day at my school. I want to do it around noon."
Given Stokes' earlier comments about Tennessee I think that's more a "…but I'm still committed" statement than a real claim that UT is most likely to sign him.
FL WR Willie Haulstead is committed to Florida State but took a Michigan visit and may end up signing with Michigan; Helmholdt says Michigan is still "very much in contention," continuing a recent trend of vague optimism in his recruitment.
Haulstead's commitment may not be honored by Florida State for an unpleasant reason (at least for Seminole fans): increased scholarship reduction stemming from the department-wide cheating scandal that engulfed Florida State before their bowl game last year. Tomahawk Nation and Scott Carter theorize thusly:
AC would not be surprised to see the scholarship losses double from 5 over 2 years to 10 or so over 3 years.
We told you about this last week. Carter and I probably share similar sources on this, though I can't be sure. As previously reported, Carter and I agree on the certainty of increased scholarship reductions.
(IMO, Florida State would be within their rights here to pull an offer from Haulstead since his "commitment" is obviously not that strong and he took a visit elsewhere; this would be something different than South Carolina yanking an offer from an already-committed player.)
Florida State's already got two other wide receiver commits in the class, and before Willie Downs lit up the Army game as a cornerback most also considered him a wideout. WR would be an obvious place from which to cut.
Okay, so Bond is gone and two major targets remain on the line.
OH OL Marcus Hall of Glenville made quite a ruckus when he visited Michigan after months of waffling and then named M his leader. I'm still not quite sure how to take it, but I think this from longtime Ohio State insider-type guy Unionfutura is about right:
The biggest problem is he already took his visit to OSU, to me all this means when Marcus hits the south on his recruiting swing those teams will trash Michigan more. I still think he'll end up a buckeye. We'll know more after the Miami trip. If Michigan's still his leader after Miami then we're in trouble.
Co-sign from the opposite perpsective.
SC OL Quinton Washington also visited South Carolina this weekend. The resulting quote:
Washington has been strong on USC for several months.
“I can’t say they’re No. 1, but they will be in my top group when I finish my visits,” Washington said. “I really do like it. It’s just a great place to be.”
South Carolina is presumed to be the top competition for the quiet Washington; I don't think that provides any illumination either way.
SC DE Sam Montgomery visited North Carolina—still inexplicably not full—this weekend. His mom provides a quote:
"We're still taking visits and he has not make a commitment,' Mrs. Montgomery said. "We were very impressed with the Carolina business school and facilities. We enjoyed spending time with coach Davis and coach Blake. Everybody was friendly and very enjoyable. The accomodations were first rate."
That's not "two steps ahead of everyone else" but it's also not the loquacious Montgomery. The quote from mama Montgomery does highlight one tough thing to overcome for Michigan: she did not come on the trip to Ann Arbor. Montgomery has a busy week ahead, with LSU on the weekend, a midweek trip to Oregon, and a final visit to Tennessee.
Etc.: LA LB Barkevious Mingo visits LSU, doesn't say much, still presumed to be Tiger lock.