I GIVE UP ON HATING WISCONSIN
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
Will and Testament. Don Nehlen served under Bo at Michigan before embarking on a successful 21-year stint as West Virginia's head coach. From 1981 to 1984 Nehlen coached one Rich Rodriguez, then a walk-on defensive back. Nehlen on the Rodriguez move:
"I think it's a great, great, great opportunity for him," said Nehlen, who coached at Michigan under Bo Schembechler from 1977-1979. "I think it's tremendous. There are very few Michigans. When you coach at West Virginia you walk on water in West Virginia, but when you coach at Michigan, you walk on water, period. There's a difference. Some people around here don't want to believe that."
Nehlen, no doubt, was a major influence on Rodriguez's decision, and it's clear what he advocated. Bo imparted the above opinion to Nehlen and he's kept that for nearly 30 years; in a fashion the Rodriguez hire is Bo's last gift to the program.
Wither Mallett? "Eeeeek, Mallett" has been a major sour note in the media and on message boards since yesterday's hiring. Typical version of the concern:
What does that mean for the Wolverines' current personnel? It's possible freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett, this year's backup, could start thinking transfer, since this is not the offense he runs. For receivers Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham, both whom I've believed would leave anyway, this might be the sign they need.
Okay, sure, there's a chance Mallett will transfer. But, IMO, the chances of a transfer are lower now than they were under Carr, with whom Mallett had a rocky relationship. (Carr had good reason to have a rocky relationship with Mallett, but still...)
Quote from his father in an AP article:
Freshman Ryan Mallett gained experience this year with the Wolverines, filling in for banged-up Chad Henne, and his father said people shouldn't assume his son is transferring because he might not fit into Rodriguez's offense that features a mobile quarterback.
"I talked to Ryan today and he's going to keep an open mind and is looking forward to hearing what coach Rodriguez's plans are," Jim Mallett told the AP. "So, we'll just have to wait and see."
Rodriguez does prefer for his quarterbacks to run, but he isn't stupid. If Mallett's the best option, and given the makeup of the roster he's almost guaranteed to be, he'll start and the offense will be decidedly light on speed option. There are other things the spread can do than run and Mallett worked in a spread shotgun in high school; the offense will be Rodriguez' but the Shaun King version, not the Pat White one. This blog linked a New York Times article from Rodriguez's first quarterback yesterday:
Folks these days most readily associate Coach Rodriguez' Mountaineer offense with 400-yard rushing outbursts, zone-read running plays and explosive jaunts on the perimeter by guys like White and Steve Slaton. While things have no doubt changed a bit since the early 1990s at Glenville State when we were chucking the ball around to the tune of 50-60 times a week and our leading receiver once hauled in 144 receptions in a single season, the fundamental premise of Coach Rod's scheme remains intact: Spread the defense and take what they give you.
It's a chicken-and-egg argument: Rodriguez has not thrown the ball a lot, but he hasn't had a Ryan Mallett to work with. In the press conference, Rodriguez stated he was bringing the system he's used to great effect, but that system is not just runny runny run run. At Glenville State they were 65-70% run.
Fiesta or Siesta? Conflicting stories out there on whether Rodriguez will coach the bowl game. He reportedly told his players he would not, but this story suggests otherwise:
The Mountaineers play Oklahoma Jan. 2nd in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ. The early word is that Rodriguez wants to coach the bowl game.
That would create an extremely awkward situation, but what are the other options if, indeed, Rodriguez wants to stay until Jan. 2nd?
His letter to Athletic Director Ed Pastilong says resignation takes effect Jan. 3rd, the day after the bowl.
This is likely to be a negotiating ploy as Michigan attempts to whittle down Rodriguez's hefty four million dollar buyout. Beilein had a similar buyout in his contract and ended up paying far less than the contract stipulated after some legal wrangling. "CollegeFootballTalk.com" appears to be a spinoff of the ProFootballTalk whatever and has this to say about the buyout:
A source with knowledge of the situation tells us that Michigan is paying $3 million of a $4 million buyout of Rich Rodriguez's contract at West Virginia.
But then they immediately shoot their credibility into a million tiny pieces by saying this...
Our guess? He'll be there three years, at the most. Either he'll do well enough to jump to a $4 million-plus salary with an SEC school, or he'll do bad enough to get fired. If he was ever going to stay anywhere for the long haul, it would have been at West Virginia.
...so take that with an enormous grain of salt. (Also, Mike Florio: I will bet you ten grand Rodriguez is at Michigan longer than three years.)
Fawn, bitches! The national media gives a rousing thumbs up. Maisel:
Rodriguez made the leap. He brings with him the offense he has developed, a no-huddle spread that has worked everywhere he has tried it, from Glenville State in the NAIA to Tulane to Clemson to West Virginia. It will work at Michigan. He will open up the Wolverines in more ways than one.
How big is Rich Rodriguez to Michigan? In terms of the ramifications for both program and sport, it's college football's most significant hire since Florida landed Urban Meyer.
Allen Wallace of SuperPrep in that Mandel piece:
"Bottom line -- Michigan stepped up to the plate," said SuperPrep recruiting analyst Allen Wallace. "They've gone out and stolen one of the elite coaches in the game. If I were a Michigan fan, I'd be having a party tonight."
Urban Meyer in that Mandel piece:
"Rich is one of the best coaches in football," said Meyer, a friend of Rodriguez, whose own spread-option offense is based in large part on the West Virginia coach's. "Mic
higan's got great athletes and they're national recruiters. If everyone's healthy, they're the most talented team in the country."
Michigan hired a great football coach Sunday. Not a good one, like Greg Schiano. Not a very good one, like Les Miles. A great one.
"My first reaction is that (Rodriguez) is a good hire," said former Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin when reached by telephone in California. "It's sounds like the kind of system that Michigan could do really well in, provided they find the right people to perform. Michigan has had guys who sat back in pocket and could throw the ball a mile."
Audacity. One of this blog's main complaints against Carr was that his fourth down strategy -- which can be summed up in one word: "punt" -- was uncreative and suboptimal. One of the things that was exciting about Miles was his balls-to-the-wall approach in the Florida game, during which a series of fourth down conversions, one of them a fake field goal, turned 9 LSU points into 21 LSU points and defeat into victory. Rodriguez didn't have such an obvious come-to-Romer moment... or did he?
In the 2006 Sugar Bowl, West Virginia faces fourth and six with around two minutes to go. They lead 38-35; Georgia has burned their timeouts. Result:
But the Mountaineers saved their biggest surprise for the end. Georgia was poised to get the ball back when West Virginia dropped back to punt on fourth-and-six at the Bulldogs' 48. Phil Brady hauled in the long snap but took off running, gaining 10 yards on the fake and a game-clinching first down.
Obviously this is not the sort of thing that can become a pattern, but a game-sealing fake punt is most decidedly not in the Carr playbook.
Peanut Butter Jelly.
FYI: Rodriguez just referenced the Lion King in the press conference. Times they are a changin'. Sounds like he's not coaching the bowl game after all.
Bob Lichtenfels is inadvertently breaking all sorts of coaching news these days. From a premium article on Nebraska recruit (until Callahan got axed) turned West Virginia recruit (until Rodriguez left) turned kinda pissed off young man (resolution pending) DJ Woods:
"We did speak with Coach (Rich) Rodriguez today and told us he is taking most of his staff including S&C coach Mike Barwis with him," [Derrick] Woods said. "Barwis was one of the reasons that D.J. liked West Virginia."
Gittleson: gone, and with him goes the antiquated HIT system that only Michigan and Penn State still use. I've never known how much credence to give the S&C wailers, but I think we can all agree that when it's just you and Penn State doing something you're on the wrong end of the innovation bell curve unless the something in question is the Charleston. And every time Brent Musberger brought up Michigan's totally sophisticated system for beefing up Pat Massey -- literally "eat a lot of pizza, son" -- I wanted to throw a shoe at the TV, and then I wanted that shoe to magically transform into a defensive lineman who could stay within five yards of the line of scrimmage. So Git gone == good.
Who is this Barwis guy? Well, if you listen to the fluff put out by the West Virginia athletic department he's got the Ferrigno touch, turning everything he comes across into 230 pounds of twisted blue steel. Try not to drool, o wailers:
"I listen to people and they don't understand what it's like until they get here. They get here and they say, 'Oh my God, what I was doing was a joke,'" Barwis said.
One of those, Florida State transfer Barry Wright, has exceeded all of his personal training bests since he joined the Mountaineer program last fall as a walk-on.
"He told us he had never been through anything like this," said Barwis.
Today's strength and conditioning program is much more than simply lifting weights, says Barwis. It encompasses nutrition, flexibility, speed, agility and even psychology.
Fluff, perhaps, but this is not fluff, especially given the widespread internet rumor that Michigan's voluntary workouts were sparsely attended this offseason:
"Today starts full-go," he says of the team's eight-week voluntary summer training program.
The last two weeks following the conclusion of the spring semester was for informal workouts where the players could come in on their own three times a week.
"We had 90 during that time," Barwis says in his familiar raspy voice. "We had open lifts Monday, Wednesday and Friday and they finished last week."
During the same period last year, Barwis estimated about 50-60 players took advantage of the open period. When the conditioning program began last summer every single scholarship player was in town for the entire eight weeks.
Alex Mitchell is weeping softly into his cheeseburger milkshake.
Ryan Mundy transferred over the course of the offseason and had this to say in August:
As far as the strength and conditioning program is concerned, Mundy says West Virginia's program is much more intense than Michigan's. Other players that have transferred to West Virginia have said similar things in the past, explaining that at some other places the players coming into the program are physically bigger and more explosive. West Virginia develops it.
"Down here we do a lot of Olympic lifts â€“ squats, power clings, hang clings and things like that â€“ and I hadn't done that type of stuff since high school," Mundy said. "I had to get my body back used to doing those types of movements. As far as the practice down here we run after practice and we never ran after practice at Michigan."
No doubt this is part of how West Virginia got excellent results out of mostly average recruiting classes, and part of why Michigan disappointed in recent years. The two stalest parts of the Michigan program were its offensive philosophy and the S&C; both of those things have been swept away and replaced by cutting-edge innovation.
West F-ing Virginia fans turn out to be as socially maladjusted as Arkansas fans, but in doing so they provide some useful information for Michigan fans wondering about the composition of the new staff.
This purports to be a picture of Rodriguez, his wife and family, and a couple assistants boarding a plane for Ann Arbor (or Toledo or wherever). Obviously you can't make anything out in this picture and it could be of anyone anywhere, but this one definitely features Rodriguez's wife. These guys were at the airport as Rodriguez "snuck out of town" like "a snake in the night" by taking a plane. It must have been an invisible cobra plane.
Anyway, the two assistants (drumroll)... defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator Tony Gibson and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee (bios), which implies those two guys will be following RichRod to Ann Arbor. Which would mean that our current staffers in those positions will not be retained. Which is, depending on the position we are talking about, either mostly indifferent or totally awesome.
Bonus! I kind of hate quoting Anchorman -- played -- but there is only one possible response to these guys, who actually yelled stuff at Rodriguez as he left:
We did the O-H-I-O chant.
Asked him how it felt to betray the state. Told him he might have been born here, but he's not a Mountaineer.
Asked him how he would manage to be successful if he can't continue to live off of White's juke moves.
Told him he was outcoached by Wanstedt, the worst coach in football history.
More "living off of juke moves" comments.
Stuff like that.
ps. It will all be in the Dominion Post tomorrow.
And that is, of course, "you stay classy, Morgantown." Even more hilarious is the guy's signature picture, no doubt chosen to express a preference for a new coach: