I did not make this headline up
Right, that other sport.
John Beilein's picked up a commit recently and stands to get another one soon. The commit is UD-Jesuit forward Jordan Morgan, a 6'8" power forward who's a three star recruit not currently listed in anyone's top 150.
The pending recruit is Arizona freshman Laval Lucas-Perry, who's set on transferring and will get his release from the Wildcats. Lucas-Perry was scheduled to decide between Wake Forest and Michigan, but...
The Arizona transfer, a 6-foot-3 guard, on Tuesday cancelled a visit to Wake Forest. ...
"I would say this is a good sign for Michigan, that's for sure," Laval Perry told The Detroit News about his son's cancelled visit.
Lucas-Perry would be eligible next January as a mid-year departure. (Via the Diag.)
Though he was listed as a point guard by recruiting services (which had him at the tail end of their top 150s), Lucas-Perry is more of an undersized shooting guard, reputed to be an accurate three point shooter. He was averaging about ten minutes a game at Arizona.
Here's a student newspaper article on him from Arizona. Highlight video:
Coach's reaction upon his departure:
O'Neill said he didn't try to persuade Lucas-Perry to stay, but "I didn't want him to leave. I would have loved to see him stay. He's a great kid and a good student. He's a good player.'' Lucas-Perry, from Grand Blanc, Mich., has appeared in five of the team's eight games, averaging 4.0 points and 9.8 minutes
Lucas-Perry fills the departed Kendrick Price's scholarship slot; Michigan still has two scholarships to give in the '09 class.
It's back. Sort of.
This space lost track of recruiting news during the rollercoaster ride of the coaching search; now that things are resolved and the program has a direction again we can focus on college football slightly sleazy underworld with a clear conscience, or at least the faith that whatever we're doing isn't going to be completely invalidated in two weeks.
Instead of an incremental change/update like was usual in the offseason and, to a lesser extent, during the season, we require a total reset as a reminder.
Probably not that much except a more diverse approach to quarterback recruiting and perhaps an increased emphasis on picking up little darty guys like Steve Breaston, Darius Reynaud, and Cameron Saddler. Offensive linemen still have to block. Receivers still have to catch. Defenders still have to tackle.
Rodriguez did mention his intention to bring the 3-3-5 stack to Michigan when it was appropriate, but Michigan is no stranger to sort of personnel grouping, at least situationally. (I remain unclear on what, exactly, the stack entails and how it manages to be a decent run defense; this is an area for offseason study.) With the prevalence of spread offenses this year, Michigan spent large swathes of the season in a nickel package with a designated "nickelback" who might be a "hero" or "bandit" to other programs. The scheme might change a bit, but the recruiting is unlikely to shift much. We'll still recruit Detroit DE Nick Perry, but he's probably going to be Detroit LB Nick Perry. Etc.
IL QB John Wienke is definitely gone, having decommitted in favor of Iowa over the weekend.
MI CB Boubacar Cissoko claims he is still committed but also claims he is down to a final two of Penn State and Michigan; he'll visit PSU the weekend of January 11th. It seems like Ron English will not return, so he might be a battle. PA H-back Christian Wilson had started to look around and is understandably concerned about his role in Rodriguez' offense; hopefully some Owen Schmitt highlights...
...will set him back on the path of righteousness. (Might not want to show this one to your mom, though.) As mentioned this morning
Various recruiting sites and local newspapers have gotten hold of most of the rest the class; everyone seems to be more or less solid. The Free Press got Kenny Demens, Brandon Moore, and Dann O'Neill on the record as still committed and have indirect indications from those three that McGuffie, Wilson, JB Fitzgerald, and Mike Martin are on board, though the McGuffie thing remains a question as mentioned above. There's also a Grand Haven Tribune article on O'Neill's conversation with Rodriguez:
"We actually just chatted, getting to know each other," O'Neill said. "I thought that was impressive. Most coaches would call and talk business. He called to find out who I am. He said he wanted to get to know me and my family, and wanted me to get to know his family."
Bill Kurelic has been in contact with IN OL Kurt Wermers; he remains a firm commit.
There might be some wiggle when and if certain position coaches get replaced, but as of right now the only casualty is Wienke and that list is unlikely to grow by more than one or two players. Potential casualties are more likely on the offensive line and at linebacker.
Well, that Terrelle Pryor guy. Pryor is this year's consensus #1 QB recruit and has drawn comparisons to Vince Young for three years. (He's also a top-25 basketball recruit, a small forward.) When Rodriguez left for Michigan, Pryor might have been the first guy to know. Pryor called up Bob Lichtenfels, told him the news, and said "put Michigan on my list." Some low-level internet buzz suggests he's not just interested, but likely to commit.
There's also OH WR/DB DJ Woods, a guy who badly wanted offers from Ohio State and/or Michigan earlier in the year. When he didn't get those, he committed to Nebraska, only to watch Bill Callahan and company implode and leave. He then switched his commitment to West Virginia, only to see Rodriguez leave. Michigan has now offered him and intends on pursuing him heavily; he seems a good bet to end up here.
A wide array of prospects committed elsewhere during Michigan's monthlong coaching search. Many of them were thought to be longshots, but a fair number seemed good possibilities before the turmoil:
- PA WRs Jonathan Baldwin and Cameron Saddler committed to Pitt (Baldwin then donned a stupid-looking hat), as did PA TE Hubie Graham. Graham was a longshot, but the other two seemed to have high interest in Michigan at one point. West Virginia was thought to be a strong contender for Saddler and the spread offense is one in which his talents will be maximized, so Rodriguez will probably take a run at him despite the commitment.
- PA DE Shayne Hale dropped Michigan and is apparently leaning to Pitt. Given this reaction upon Rodriguez's hiring, he's probably not rushing to put on a winged helmet:
"I was still considering West Virginia, so this is a big shocker," Hale said. "Personally, I didn't expect him to be leaving. He was telling everyone that he was going to be there for a while and that he wasn't going anywhere. This makes him look like he lied."
Four-star safety Spencer Adams took an official visit to Clemson last weekend.
"I'd definitely give the visit to Clemson a 9.5," he said. "It's Clemson and North Carolina, with Florida and Michigan trailing. I have my last visit to NC State on Jan. 18, and then I'll make my decision sometime in January."
Maybe the Rodriguez hire will change things, but as of now he's a longshot.
What's the upshot?
Michigan's done a good job of holding together its existing class. Uncommitted recruits, on the other hand, have dropped Michigan left and right, leaving Rodriguez with a good base but little opportunity to bring in more highly rated guys with the obvious exception of Pryor. We'll know more in a couple weeks when the dead period ends and Michigan's recruiting priorities re-assert themselves. The most likely outcome of the next couple months: Michigan picks up a bunch of three-stars and sleepers to fill out a class that ends up less than great, with Pryor being an enormous swing between a to
p ten class and a top twenty one.
More specifics as things become clear; I'm going to hold off on changes to the board for a week or two.
Spread 'n' Shred.
"As far as my reaction to that job, we are Michigan State. So that's my reaction."
A portion of the first sentence was omitted: "...so we're going to lose at least three of four no matter who they hire."
Watch me zoom. Michigan's posted an overview of the renovations that provides a bunch of flyby stuff so you can see the artist's rendition of the new facilities from every angle:
(If the embedding isn't working -- and it isn't for me -- here's a link .)
I know some have objected to the project's aesthetics, but IMO the end result is a huge improvement over the current facade, which is mostly exposed girder and gray metal. Also interesting that the new structures appear to extend to Main Street on one side and the stadium steps on the other.
I still wonder what they're going to do about season ticket holders, many of whom have been sitting in the same place for decades, when they re-do the benches. I hope they figure out that no one's going to be too peeved if they end up two rows further back, but a move from the 20 to the 10 might spur a trip to Ann Arbor Torch and Pitchfork -- if they don't go bankrupt by 2010, that is.
McGuffdate! Sam McGuffie's status may hinge on that of RB coach Fred Jackson:
"I don't know what he [Jackson] is going to do. I am real interested in what he has to say," McGuffie said in an interview with Scout.com.
He remains committed to Michigan pending resolution of the staff shakeup. Cissoko from the NYT:
Detroit cornerback Boubacar Cissoko, who has committed to Michigan and is ranked as the nation's third-best player at his position by Scout.com, described the hiring of Rodriguez as a "good choice," but said he was eager to talk with him.
Since Carr announced his retirement Nov. 19, Cissoko said he had been bombarded by calls from many programs, including Tennessee, Virginia, L.S.U., Alabama, Penn State and Miami.
"I want to find what he's all about before I can make any moves," Cissoko said of Rodriguez in a telephone interview.
He seems likely to stay.
West Virginia: pissed, in pockets. The above picture comes from the Charleston Daily Mail. The paper headed out to Grant Town, the tiny hamlet that claimed Rich Rodriguez as its favorite son. The signs proclaiming that have been shoved in a garage. Unofficially replacing them:
To an outsider, it doesn't seem like much happens in Grant Town, which is about 10 miles northwest of Fairmont in Marion County.
Abandoned storefronts dot the main drag.
Locals say the town formerly hosted 15 bars, two garages, a movie theater, schools and a St. Anthony's Catholic Church, which Rodriguez and his family attended.
The closure of Eastern Associated coalmine in 1985 produced a domino-like effect on the rest of the town's economy, they say.
Cell phone reception here is spotty, at best, and there's nowhere to gas up or grab a bite to eat.
... and the bitter feelings some harbor.
Direct that bitter. According to a set of well-connected WVU boosters, the person WVU fans should be mad at is not Rodriguez but athletic director Ed Pastilong. For all the complaining about how Michigan would not shell out for a coach, it was WVU's inexplicably miserly behavior that spurred a move:
"I tell you what, I've never seen anything mishandled as much as this was," Bob Reynolds, former chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments, said yesterday. "Here's a university that made a $200,000 decision -- it probably could've cost less than that [to keep Mr. Rodriguez] -- and it's going to cost them millions" in booster support, potential bowl money and revenue from football success.
"I've had calls from at least six major contributors to the program, and they're all done [donating] because they know the Mickey Mouse things that have gone on there," Mr. Reynolds continued. "I've been in business 36 years, and it's the worst business decision I've ever seen. I've been the COO of a 45,000-person company. When somebody's producing, you ask, 'What can I do for you to make your life better?' Not 'What can I do to make your life more miserable?' They have no idea how big this is. It's frightening."
Rodriguez's simple list of requests:
In separate meetings with Athletic Director Ed Pastilong, Chief of Staff Craig Walker and, finally, late Saturday night with newly installed President Mike Garrison, he asked the university to do the following:
â€¢ Allow at least an additional $100,000 in bonus money for his assistants.
â€¢ Allow scholarship players to retain possession of textbooks at the end of each term, which meant they could have sold them, as apparently happens at other programs.
â€¢ Waive a $5 ticket fee for each high-school football coach attending Mountaineer home games, a fee that generates an estimated $5,000 for the university each season.
â€¢ Hire seven graduate assistants and a new recruiting coordinator, to ease the duties performed by secondary coach Tony Gibson.
The same set of boosters now complaining about Rodriguez's exit offered to pay for the requests; they were turned down. Suddenly, sailboating seems a minor offense indeed. The West Virginia message boards were full of dark speculation about a rift between Rodriguez and portions of the AD; that speculation appears t
o be true. Without some personal emnity between Pastilong and Rodriguez you have to assume these ridiculously minor issues would have gotten resolved.
This is just one side of the story, sure, but several different boosters are quoted here and all are seriously pissed off, you guys. I think we managed to run across the Isaiah Thomas of athletic directors here, and fleeced him twice.
(Via Michigan Tailgate.)
Playbook. A copy of West Virginia's 2005 playbook exists online. How it got there and how damaging that is to the spread's efficacy is unknown (though survey says "not much" on the latter, as WVU was top 20 in both total and scoring offense the past two years; Rodriguez is also remarkably open with his system), but it is a fascinating document. Page 20 contains the lyrics to "Country Roads" -- check here for a refresher on the blog proprietor's strange relationship with that piece of Americana -- but it's page that thrills and amazes:
You have to be a deeply pathologized Michigan fan for this to be exciting: guilty. I plan on reviewing it in-depth as time allows (and promise to stop mentally copyediting things like "physicalness" to "physicality"); probably sometime in the new year.
Adios, Les. If you believe the remarkably persistent internet rumors that even after multiple denials Les Miles was a prime candidate for the job, there's only one conclusion you can make: Miles really, really wanted to come home. The one sour note in yesterdays press conference came when Rodriguez said Michigan-Ohio State was one of the country's best rivalries, something that is true if you're from West Virginia but a heinous undersell to anyone from Michigan or Ohio -- you mean "best rivalry in anything anywhere ever". At that moment, I thought of Miles, and was a bit melancholy for him.
At his press conference yesterday, Miles put on a JoePa-style standup comedy exhibition:
"I know it's disappointing to some of you that don't like me," Michigan alum Miles said as laughter broke out, "and really wish that I had taken the Michigan job that was not offered. I couldn't get them interested in me, so you're stuck with me."
Amongst the roiling cauldron of conflicting desires I'll have during the national championship game -- OSU should not win, the Big Ten should, the SEC loons should shut up -- will be a desire to see Les do well.
Etc: Jon Runyan was a major motivating factor in Brian Westbrook's smart (but fantasy-owner-maddening) decision to take a knee at the one; check mgo.licio.us on the sidebar for a regular stream of articles that come in.
Word: MGoStore can still get you the shirt you need before Christmas or the Bowl game. Last chance to express your Mike Hart mancrush.
Yes, "In Rod We Trust" tshirts are coming ASAP.
A team source said Magee and Gibson will join Rodriguez's staff in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Rodriguez was introduced this morning at a press conference. The source said Rodriguez is also interested in retaining defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jeff Casteel, safeties coach Bruce Tall, associate head coach/special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Bill Stewart and strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Barwis.
That would presumably mean the end of English, Szabo, and Bedford. Andy Moeller is not expected to be retained, especially in light of his recent legal issues; perhaps Stewart would take over on the OL. Stripling, Loeffler, Jackson, and Campbell appear to be candidates to stay.
|OC @ Clemson||2001-2005|
|OC @ Tulane||1995-2000|
|HC @ D-II Glenville State||1993-1994|
|West Virginia defensive back under Don Nehlen, 1981-1984.|
Rich Rodriguez was, until recently, the coach of West Virginia. Now he is the coach of Michigan. Should this make the tingly bits tingle as they do?
Survey says yes. Our default Stassen comparison for the ten years prior to Rodriguez' arrival:
For those who weren't paying attention in the 90s -- guilty -- it comes as something of a surprise: the Mountaineers are in fairly good company here. Rodriguez did not take over a program in shambles, as Don Nehlen was finishing up a 21-year term at WVU when Rodriguez arrived. Like Ferentz, RichRod was preceded by a coach somewhere between very good and excellent, though by the time Rodriguez arrived West Virginia was in a bit of a rut, coming off 7-5 and 4-7 seasons.
Rodriguez did not immediately fix said rut -- West Virginia bombed its way to an ugly 3-8 year in 2001 -- but after an initial adjustment period the program ignited in two phases. Phase 1: West Virginia turns into a consistent winner that hovers at the edges of the top 25 from 2002 to 2004, winning eight or nine games and losing four or five. Phase II: The White-Slaton rocket fuel era that features 10 and 11 win seasons, BCS berths and bowl victories, and one really ill-timed thumb dislocation. In seven seasons at West Virginia, Rodriguez is 60-26. That's a 69% winning clip at a school with some history of success but nothing like the sustained powerhouse status Rodriguez (and White and Slaton) brought to town. If you forgive Rodriguez his ugly transition year, he's winning at a 76% rate -- better than Lloyd Carr.
Caveats should be mentioned: the Big East got a lot easier in 2004 when Miami, BC, and Virginia Tech took off for the ACC. West Virginia did not depose the reigning king, but rather stepped forward into a power vacuum. And since the Big East is stuck at 8 teams, West Virginia can schedule a fifth nonconference game against a tomato can, an opportunity the Mountaineers have seized with gusto. As far as back-to-back-to-back ten win seasons go, WVU's are somewhere between LSU's and Boise's in terms of impressiveness.
But, right: in terms of back-to-back-to-back ten win seasons.
Xs and Os Proficiency: The things that spring to mind when Rich Rodriguez is considered are Pat White and Steve Slaton and that crazy run-oriented spread option that shreds defenses like Ginsu. The table at right shows the Rodriguez offense in its nascent glory; aside from the ugly first year, West Virginia has been at worst 40th in scoring offense and, aside from a poor 2003, has never been a below average offense in terms of yardage. The last two and a half years have been truly remarkable displays of offensive exploditude interspersed with the occasional worrisome clunker, though those have usually come when either Slaton or White is injured.
Though the NCAA doesn't provide stats this far back, Rodriguez had two successful stints as an offensive coordinator. The first was coordinating the explosive 1997 and 1998 Tulane offenses that saw Shawn King develop into a peripheral Heisman threat (he finished tenth in '98). The Green Wave went 12-0 in '98 thanks in large part to Rodriguez's offense, and unlike the West Virginia spread, the Tulane spread was pass oriented. King was only mobile-ish. While Rodriguez used what mobility he had -- King had 600-some rush yards at 4.1 YPC -- the heart of the offense was King's arm. He completed 67% of his attempts, threw for almost 3500 yards, and had 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
After the '98 season, then-Tulane head coach Tommy Bowden was hired by Clemson. Rodriguez followed and worked further magic. After a tough 1999, the 2000 Clemson team was 9-2 in the regular season, 10th in total offense, and 16th in scoring offense. Woody Dantzler was a Pat White-esque run-pass threat who finished with 947 yards on 172 rushing attempts and 1600-some passing yards.
Everywhere Rodriguez has gone he has installed the spread offense he first devised, then continued to tweak and tweak until it turned into a ball of knives and 60-yard touchdown runs. Everywhere he has been has found success, and with generally marginal talent. He can take his and beat yours; give him yours and he'll beat his.
Recruiting: Unfortunately for Rodriguez, West Virginia is located in West Virginia, a talent-barren state that has as many in the NFL as American Samoa. The Georgia Sports Blog took a look at the remarkable job Rodriguez did with zero available local talent when it looked like he would be the Alabama head coach, concluding:
The entire state of West Virginia has produced only 4 players that are on current NFL active rosters. By comparison, the State of Georgia has 90 players on active rosters, and the state of Alabama has 44. The island nation/province of American Samoa has produced as many NFL players on active rosters as West Virginia.
Rodriguez has to travel all over the country to attract talent without an "Instate" recruiting pitch. He almost never gets to talk to kids about the pride of staying at home and playing in front of your own fans. His current recruiting class only has 3 of 18 players from the State of WVa.
(Image: Pat White is from Daphne, Ala.)
Last year's recruiting class had ZERO in state kids. There weren't any worth offering. This year, the state has only 2 players rated above 3 stars. He's signing both of them. He normally has to go into Pennsylvania and battle with Penn State. He has to go into Ohio and battle with Ohio State. Or get their left overs.
All of this with crap facilities in a Tier 2 conference. That's more time on the road. That's less time knowing kids b/c you're spreading your relationships thinner. That's just tougher recruiting.
It's therefore tough to point at Rivals recruiting rankings and say Rodriguez can or can't recruit. But the data:
The anomalously poor 2006 class was a very small one. Since recruiting sites senselessly add up all your dudes without taking opportunity cost into account, WVU took a hit. Other than that it's a consistent story: virtually no instaters, many kids from Pennsylvania (especially Western PA) and Ohio, a presence in Florida that went from minimal to critical in 2005, and a thorough sprinkling of JUCOs, diamonds in the rough, and knuckleheads. In recent years Rodriguez started picking up national recruits like Jason Gwaltney and Noel Devine, but those guys often came with warning labels. Devine's grades were highly questionable (for a long time he looked destined for prep school); Gwaltney was just sort of an all-around nutcase who ended up a legendary recruiting bust. This year RR was finally making headway with non-questionable blue chippers like national #1 recruit Terrelle Pryor and PA LB/DE Shayne Hale; we'll see how he closes now that he's pitching winged helmets.
Though Rodriguez has struggled to bring in high profile recruits while at West Virginia, he was playing with awful hole cards. With no instate talent, little in the way of national profile, and facilities that were falling well behind in the ongoing arms race, RR had to be content picking off the overlooked. He obviously has an eye for talent -- West Virginia has regularly outperformed guru projections -- and the dedication required to unearth under-the-radar gems. Can he rack up blue-chippers? That's another matter, but the initial returns with Pryor seem good.
Another benefit of hiring Rodriguez: though his hunting around PA and OH has mostly turned up OSU and PSU leftovers, the years of scouring have undoubtedly forged an extensive network of connections in two of Michigan's primary recruiting areas. In particular, Rodriguez has pounded Pittsburgh, an area Michigan has also recruited heavily (and with success: Marlin Jackson, Steve Breaston, Ryan Mundy); Western PA recruiting should be a particular strong point.
Potential Catches: Maybe it's unfair to tar the coach when a couple of guys he got through school turn out to be world-class knuckleheads, but the idea of a Pacman Jones or a Chris Henry at Michigan is unsettling. It's not like Michigan's team is full of Mother Theresa's -- indeed, this year the team racked up arrests at a near-Zookian pace -- but there are some limits. Rodriguez also availed himself of JUCOs and academic risks that might not fly at Michigan. Though he dismissed academic concerns at the press conference by citing uniform NCAA standards, Michigan likes its high graduation rates and excellent APR numbers. If those start to come down he'll catch heat.
Is this likely to be a major concern? No. When Rodriguez invented(!) the spread offense at Glenville State it was out of necessity; when Rodriguez took fliers on a wide array of kids that, for whatever reason, were passed over by bigger schools it was also out of necessity. At Michigan he'll have access to a much wider pool of potential recruits and won't have to take a Chris Henry (or, say, Eric Knott and Damon Dowdell) when a Braylon Edwards or Jason Avant is available.
And then there's the Mallett issue. Mallett can get out of the pocket and improvise; he's not exactly John Navarre. But he is also not exactly Pat White. That's an understatement. If you were sent on a scavenger hunt for "the two college quarterbacks least like each other," Mallett-White would be a strong entry. Michigan can't just transplant the spread-n-shred.
There is something to be concerned about here. Since 2004, West Virginia quarterbacks have run for 861, 952, 1219, and 1185 yards. At Clemson Dantzler went for nearly a thousand. Even Shawn King was deployed frequently at Tulane. Rodriguez wants his teams to run and wants the quarterback to do a fair bit of the running; anyone who saw the Brady Leaf era at Oregon knows this is not generally compatible with Lurch-style pocket passers. When the Rodriguez offense has operated at maximum effectiveness, it has always used the quarterback as a runner.
On the other hand, when Rodriguez had King he threw with abandon. King averaged 30 attempts per game as a senior and racked up 3500 yards; both sets of numbers would have been higher if Tulane wasn't well ahead in many of their games that year. In the press conference today he promised to adapt his offense to the personnel he inherited and talked about the flexibility the spread provides. He's not stupid and he'll have the most talent he's ever had over the next few years; continued success is likely.
Would He Take The Job? It's peanut butter jelly time!
Overall Attractiveness: There were three, maybe four, obvious A-list candidates who seemed feasible going into the year: Miles, Tedford, Rodriguez, and possibly Schiano. After flailing about for a solid month, they locked down an A-list candidate. There are no complaints from this sector. There is an apology pending.
Rodriguez is a proven winner and offensive innovator who will drastically alter the culture of the program. I haven't seen enough of West Virginia to tell you if he's a Romer disciple, but the Sugar-s
ealing fake punt is a salutory indicator and the man does not have anything approximating the current Michigan staff's outdated philosophy. He is an offensive innovator who hold clinics on his offense every year -- the Great White Fail himself paid a visit to RR before last season's disastrous Georgia Tech game -- and a guy who has consistently gotten his teams to outperform their talent levels. He has extensive recruiting ties in fruitful recruiting areas for Michigan, is young enough to stick around for 15 to 20 years, and is a true outsider who will bring Michigan into the 21st century.
Rodriguez is everything a Michigan fan could want in a hire; to get him after the month-long disappointment train that was the coaching search is manna from heaven.
Better that Debord? YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES