Ticket deal. Hey, kids, if you're wandering around without basketball tickets for early January the athletic department has a deal for you: buy a $10 general admission ticket to either the Wisconsin (Dec 31) or Illinois (Jan 4) game and get a free one to the Ohio State (Jan 17) game.
Wunder Boner. I present this as a gift to our friends at the RCMB. A certain hat in this commercial will make it a staple of WalMart Wolverine threads for years:
You can show your appreciation by losing next year's football game. Thanks in advance.
Obsolete. I was about to mention this line in a Tom Deinhart article on coaching changes…
Don't be shocked if Michigan makes a change at defensive coordinator.
…when someone IMed me saying that Shafer was outtta heeeeere. But there are a couple interesting notes in it anyway:
EMU wants to hire a coach by Christmas
Word is Eastern Michigan would like to hire a coach by Christmas. The names floating around are Notre Dame defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, Grand Valley State (Mich.) coach Chuck Martin, Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell, New Orleans Saints tight ends coach Terry Malone, Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson and Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English.
All have University of Michigan ties except Martin.
That's what you get when you bring Lloyd on as a consultant, I guess. EMU is a death job so I seriously doubt someone like Brown or English—young up-and-coming sorts—would put their necks on the line for three years of failure, but Campbell and Jackson may never get another shot at a head job. Losing Jackson might ding recruiting—his son, of course, is a 2010 commit.
Also there is this on ND:
Charlie Weis survived at Notre Dame, but his staff may be shaken up a bit. Among those who could be gone are offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, defensive line coach Jappy Oliver and offensive line coach John Latina. Strength and conditioning coach Ruben Mendoza also may be gone.
I can't believe Latina still has a job after the disaster of a 2007 season, let alone this year.
And this on Clemson's DC search:
Chavis and Rhoads would be prominent names if Michigan decides to go outside the program for the DC hire.
Chizik would offer little insight to the makeup of his staff. The Birmingham News reported Monday he told Tuberville's coaches at a staff meeting Sunday night that they should seek jobs elsewhere. One source close to Chizik said, after that meeting, he talked to defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and linebackers coach James Willis about staying.
The post linked above also mentions that if Willis does decide to bolt he would be a tempting target for another SEC team:
Did I mention that Auburn's linebacker coach James Willis is probably available to help some lucky SEC school's LB corps play much better?
If Hopson is the guy at DC, Michigan will be looking for a linebackers coach (or, I guess, a secondary coach—current DL coach Bruce Tall has coached the secondary, LBs, and the DL in his career). Willis has the onfield chops and was reputed to be one of Auburn's better recruiting assistants; he's got a lot of Southern ties that Rodriguez treasures.
Etc.: Evidently Minnesota's recruiting class is quite a bit better than the average Glen Mason effort; mea culpa.
The recent happenings at Auburn have left a few of their commits looking for possible new homes. Louisiana receiver Travante Stallworth is still committed to Auburn, but will be taking visits to both Michigan and South Carolina. He's 5' 10" 180 pounds, and runs a 4.4 40. He's a dual threat quarterback for his high school, and has been recruited as a wide receiver by every school but one. Take a look at which school that is after Stallworth's highlight video:
TOM: So are you still committed to Auburn, since you’re now looking at other schools?
TRAVANTE: Yes sir, I’m still committed to Auburn.
TOM: When did you decide you wanted to start looking around?
TRAVANTE: I decided last weekend to take visits, when I found out who the new coach was. I just wanted to look at new schools, and make sure I was still in the best place.
TOM: Was that the main reason, or was there anything else?
TRAVANTE: Well, they fired the staff too, and I was real close to the TE/WR coach. I haven’t talked to anybody from Auburn since. My recruiting coordinator got fired, but he called me yesterday. That’s the only person I’ve talked to.
TOM: So what schools are you most interested in right now?
TRAVANTE: I’m highly interested in Michigan, I’m real interested in South Carolina, and I’m kind of interested in TCU.
TOM: Tell me what it is about those schools that stand out to you.
TRAVANTE: With Michigan there’s so much history. My coach called me two weeks ago and said Michigan is interested, and my eyes got big, because not everyone gets that opportunity. I already know what kind of offense they run, and it’s the same offense we run in high school. With South Carolina it’s still in the south, and kind of close to home. They also said I’ll get a chance to play early. Steve Spurrier is a great coach, and his son is the offensive coordinator. In their offense, they throw the ball a lot, so I like that.
TOM: What position are you being recruited at?
TRAVANTE: Everyone is recruiting me as a wide receiver, and Michigan said I can try quarterback if I want.
TOM: Are you going to make an announcement if you decide to choose schools?
TRAVANTE: I’m just trying to wait and see how everything goes, I’ll probably just wait until signing date to see where I’m going to go.
TOM: What if you go to one of these visits, and it blows you away, do you think you’ll make a decision on the spot?
TRAVANTE: Yea, if it blows me away, then yea I’ll make a decision right there. My mom is coming with me on the visits, so she’ll be there to help.
TOM: I’ve seen your highlight tape, and you look good, what do you think the reason some schools are coming onto you late?
TRAVANTE: I don’t know why they came on late. Michigan is just looking for more athletes. A lot of schools don’t have a lot of time to talk during the season, so I understand. I think my commitment had something to do with it too.
TOM: What were the reasons that you originally committed to Auburn?
TRAVANTE: I chose Auburn because it was close to home, my dad is in the military and stationed 30 minutes away. I also have family in Florida, and the last thing was the offense they were running.
TOM: You’ve mentioned a couple times about distance, and the south. Will that play into your decision?
TRAVANTE: No, distance won’t play in to it. I’m a military kid, so I’ve been moving a lot. My other relatives can watch me if I choose Michigan because they’re always on TV.
TOM: What do you say to coaches when they ask you what you bring to the table?
TRAVANTE: I’m a great kid, and I don’t get in trouble. I focus on my school work. I’m not going to be out worked on the field. My coach always tells us not to get out worked. I just want to be the best that I can be, and learn as much as I can.
TOM: What other teammates do you have that are going through the recruiting process as well?
TRAVANTE: Our running back, Michael Ford, he’s committed to LSU. Our safety is committed to Louisiana Tech. We have a LB/DL going to Grambling, and we’re trying to get another wide receiver and corner back to go somewhere. I introduce all the coaches to most of the people I play with, we’re all close so it would be nice to have someone come with me where ever I go.
TOM: When is your Michigan visit, and what are you looking for on these trips?
TRAVANTE: January 9th is the date to Michigan. I’m real high on facilities, and I already know Michigan has great facilities. I want a great degree in case football doesn’t work out. Just how the fan base is, and the people there. I want to play early too, so that will factor in as well.
TOM: A question I’ve been asking a lot of recruits is about Michigan’s losing season. How did that affect you?
TRAVANTE: The losing doesn’t affect me, because Coach Rodriguez is a great coach, and I know how fast he can turn things around. They’re trying to get their players real quick, and once he does they’re going to be real good.
WOTS is that yesterday's post on potential defensive coordinators is for naught and we are most likely looking at an internal hire: Jay Hopson, the linebackers coach and former Southern Miss defensive coordinator.
When it looked like Hopson was destined for the DC job last year I scoured Sunday Morning Quarterback for any information the internet's most prominent Southern Miss fan had provided on his defensive coordinator and assembled the results in "Jay Hopson Dissected." I also fired off an email to Matt Hinton himself, asking him for a take. By the time I got a reply Hopson was in, but as the linebackers coach, and the reply was no longer relevant.
Now it is, and I present to you Hinton's take on Hopson. Warning: it is not puppy dog tails. I'll let this stand on its own; further commentary in a separate post. Before we get to the nitty gritty, an update from Hinton:
Re: Hopson, I should add to that e-mail that over the last couple years I've come to really appreciate the talent on USM's killer defenses in 1999-2000, including Adalius Thomas and Patrick Surtain. The defenses immediately following those were anchored by a couple all-American linebackers, Rod Davis and Michael Boley, and a few other very good players. Hopson didn't have anyone of that caliber from 2005-07.
So, again, meh performance in the doldrum years of a coach heading out to pasture.
Hopson would make a lot more sense as a position coach at Michigan, as some of your commenters have noted. He’s young and didn’t distinguish himself in the job – his defenses occasionally looked good against some of the weaker teams in Conference USA, but I wouldn’t even read into the high finishes within the conference (first in scoring defense all three years of Hopson’s tenure, first or second all three years in almost every other relevant category) because USM is the only school in the league that still pretends to play a little defense, and certainly the only one that still played like it expected to win games with it. This year the “Nasty Bunch,” as the D was known in fatter times, allowed 24 points to Marshall, 34 to Central Florida, 29 to Memphis, 30 to UTEP and 31 in the disgraceful loss to Rice, the last game being the reason the entire staff is searching for work right now (though, to be as fair as possible about such a disaster, offensive turnovers were far more responsible).
It’s not fair to look at the outcomes against Tennessee, Florida, Virginia Tech, NC State and the like because of the talent deficit USM faces against those teams, although Southern Miss had a short stretch of better-than-respectable (if inconsistent) defensive success against much bigger schools in the late nineties, and the fact that we tasted the blood of annual top 10 national units in those years may have led to some unfair expectations towards the defense in the last few years - those teams had Adalius Thomas and Patrick Surtain, two future Pro Bowlers, and though there's been some excellent individual talent since, Hopson hasn’t even coached a player who’s landed a regular NFL roster spot (though current linebacker Gerald McRath will certainly change that in the next couple years). Again, though, USM has not consistently played well against C-USA offenses with comparable or lesser talent since well before Hopson was on board, and though his overall numbers were slightly worse than his predecessors’, he was just status quo. It’s putting it kindly to say his defenses in Hattiesburg were mediocre. Generally I’ll always associate him with underachieving teams, even if the defense was still always better than the wretched offense.
Michigan fans will not like this, but Hopson’s defenses seemed to suffer from complete paralysis, mental and physical, against offenses that require more discipline than baseline reading and reacting. The team is rarely on TV, and never against any quality opponent, so I don’t get to watch them week to week, but the few times USM has been on a midweek game the last three years have ranged from frustrating to embarrassing. I remember seething through a loss at Tulsa in 2006 because the Hurricane ran a dinky spread offense with no hint of a deep threat whatsoever, and Southern never adjusted to, looked prepared for or even aware of the existence of the possibility that Tulsa would keep running the same junior-high-basic read option play. Take this play from the 2006 C-USA Championship loss to Houston as a very extreme example of a trend against any kind of option – it’s not great quality, but watch the reaction of the safeties, #6 (walked up here like an OLB) and #15:
They react like they have never conceived of a very simple, old-fashioned triple option play. That game is another good example of the consistent failure to adjust, and to be content to sit in zones without much blitzing and refusal to put pressure on the dinky horizontal passing game teams like Houston run, instead letting them run for miles of yards after catch. This year, the loss to Cincinnati in the bowl appeared to be more of a talent issue (the speed that that happened is also disturbing, as USM owned Cincinnati in C-USA less than five years ago), because Ben Mauk had to make a lot of plays under pressure, but after some early problems he carved the Eagles up pretty easily. Boise State in September came out firing and doing whatever it wanted offensively from the first gun. Basically, I always felt Hopson’s defense were put on their heels easily, accepted trying to bend and not break and rarely tried to force offenses out of their comfort zone. But this could be more of a talent issue than I realize; USM has been very lean in the secondary and really struggled in man-to-man coverage when it wasn’t playing too soft. It’s hard to make the translation to Michigan’s players.
Schematically, USM’s base has always been a 4-3, but it’s also always shown a lot of variability – prior to Hopson, it was regularly in “organized chaos” mode, with two down linemen, sometimes one down lineman on passing downs, people hopping around and shifting irregularly before the snap and blitzes coming from god knows where. His units were very, very conservative by this standard. They were also regularly in the nickel, simply as a result of playing a lot of spread offenses in-conference. Most of the time, as you noted earlier from a previous post of mine, this was a three-down look, technically a 3-3-5 because one of the outside linebackers was a DB, but closer to a 3-4 in actuality – unlike the stack West Virginia ran under Rodriguez, which is an eight-man front with one safety deep and two up like linebackers (I think of it as a 3-5), Hopson’s 3-3-5 generally kept two safeties deep. It was much less effective against the run, but that apparently was the tradeoff he felt was necessary to protect the secondary. The numbers show a stronger pass rush than I remember in 2005 or 2007, but again, I only saw USM in person or on TV a handful of times in any of those years.
According to a very plausible though not at all confirmed first draft of Tommy Tuberville's exit from the Plains on Bleacher Report, Rane (rather than the much-loathed busybody Bobby Lowder, who notoriously orchestrated the JetGate scandal of 2003) is also the booster who set the dominoes in motion after the Iron Bowl.
I've seen this post pop up on a message board or two, but on the good Doctor's site? Say it ain't so.
First of all, that kooky conspiracy theory is obviously wrong to anyone who's read the contract. The key passage:
The night Alabama drilled Auburn 36-0, a prominent Auburn booster (not the usual bank-owning one but one who sells pressure-treated wood and wears a yellow hat) made a phone call. This may have been a $5.1 million phone call.
Since he knows most of the SEC coaches on a first-name basis and shoots ads with many of them, he has their personal private phone numbers. So he calls Houston Nutt over in Mississippi and asks what it might take to have Houston change his address again to Auburn.
Supposedly this triggers a "non-interference clause" in Tuberville's contract, puts Auburn on the hook for a lot of money, and precipitates the Jimmy Sexton-engineered firing/hiring double play. Except this theory relies on a rogue booster making an unauthorized phone call to Houston Nutt and the clause in Tuberville's contract reads like so:
Unless notice has been given by Coach to Auburn of his termination of this Agreement, neither the President nor the Athletic Director of Auburn or any person or entity acting at or under their express authority shall discuss or negotiate directly or indirectly Auburn's prospective employment of any other person as Head Football Coach of Auburn without notice to Coach.
IE: unless someone actually in the Auburn athletic department signed off on this call, this clause has not been violated. Rane is a trustee, but he is not the President, AD, or someone working at or under their authority, and certainly not their express authority. The theory is full of crap from the word go.
Which should be no surprise because it's post on the Bleacher Report, where absolutely anyone can post absolutely anything. This feels like a curmudgeonly complaint more suited to an elderly guy wearing a hat that says "press," I know, but I've seen this from time to time on message boards and other blogs: idiot writes something idiotic on the Bleacher Report, someone takes it more seriously than they should under the assumption that whoever posted it is some sort of professional or, you know, writer. (The mere fact that people can't immediately tell the difference between the dreck on the Bleacher Report and your average MSM columnist is perhaps the most damning criticism you can offer of MSM columnists.)
The Bleacher Report is an amorphous shifting population of people, all of whom seem incapable of dressing themselves. This differs from blogs, because Dr. Saturday is Dr. Saturday and EDSBS is EDSBS and MGoBlog is MGoBlog. Blogs build credibility over time. The Bleacher Report gets it from some nice software, I guess.
That doesn't mean anything on it is worth paying attention to. This hot rumor's source is this guy…
Larry lives with his wife, son and Pug [sic] (Baccardi [sic] the Wonder Dog)... [sic] He's a moderator at WWW.rollcrimsontide.com [sic] and a member of the rowdy bunch [sic] at [email protected] [sic], [sic](where the motto is "Wear [sic] a Cup [sic]"). He served several terms as a director in the Red Elephant Club and loves to meet with the Crimson Tide coaches and administrators. His Bama years were from 1976 to 1981 during the back to back National Championship [sic] years!
…who is not only a diehard Alabama fan but one who thinks [email protected] is, like, a coherent thing you can say. And has named his dog "Baccardi [sic] the Wonder Dog." And hasn't even read Tuberville's contract. And got this theory from emails and message boards. Under no circumstances should this man be taken seriously.
With the freedom that comes on a platform where anyone can post anything comes the chore of wading through the crap, of discerning good content from bad. Here's a primary heuristic: ignore the Bleacher Report.
Scott Shafer on his resignation/dismissal:
The two coaches had differing philosophies from the start as Shafer believed in a base 4-3 defense and Michigan began the season with that before morphing into Rodriguez's traditional 3-3-5 format late in the season.
"That’s kind of the reason the decision was made," Shafer said about their differences. "It's one of those deals throughout the whole deal (we debated.) We came up with that decision that it was time to go our own ways. It just didn't fit as simple as that is. I wish Michigan all the success in the future."
On the surface this seems like an indication Rodriguez desires the 3-3-5 to be Michigan's base set, but there's a possibility he wasn't speaking directly to that particular formation. If we had a transcript of the interview we would know; we do not.
One thing is clear. We did this:
That, as mentioned previously, is Tony Franklin's sad fugee face after his midseason canning. Franklin was brought in as Auburn's offensive coordinator to run a system none of his assistants ran—though surely they must have been more familiar with the 4-3 than Auburn assistants were with Franklin's Air-Raid-based spread—failed to get buy-in, suffered through an abysmal season, and were shuffled off after a brief period of time. That was a failure of management on Tommy Tuberville's part and it's a failure on Rich Rodriguez's part. Rodriguez will get an opportunity to try again; Tuberville was not so lucky.
Yesterday the internet rumor mill (and the above-linked article) were suggesting linebackers coach and former Southern Miss DC Jay Hopson would be promoted internally. My inbox also contains some Hopson chatter, though nothing definitive. That rumor has recently been downgraded from "near certainty"; it remains a strong possibility.
Picking Hopson makes some degree of sense. He was a grad assistant at Tulane when Rodriguez was the offensive coordinator there and seems to have fit in well after his first year; at Southern Miss he started moving towards the 3-3-5 towards the end of his term, albeit irregularly. If cohesion and the 3-3-5 are the top priorities he's the best choice outside of nabbing Jeff Casteel, who probably would have left WVU already if he was going to.
Outside of those guys, it's a bunch of gentlemen who haven't run a 3-3-5, because no one really runs the 3-3-5, and how well will that work out, etc.
If it's Hopson you are—read "I am"—in luck, because last year when Hopson was rumored to be the next defensive coordinator I analyzed him, complete with the two posts SMQ (now Dr. Saturday) had made about Hopson. The general upshot:
Hopson, if hired, would be a wildcard. He has some experience, some knowledge of/affinity for the stack, some success, and some decided meh going on in the doldrum days of a coach heading for pasture. Judgment is withheld.
This is no slam dunk, unfortunately.
I also pinged Mr. Hinton via email; by the time he responded Hopson was in but as the linebackers coach and the response no longer seemed relevant. I'll post it later today. It's interesting, if not particularly encouraging.
On said wacky defense.
Some people will criticize anything Rodriguez does at this point, so watch out for this outstanding hypocrisy sure to be unleashed if it is, in fact, Hopson or Casteel: the same people who are claiming the golden age of the spread has passed and it's all downhill now will dismiss the 3-3-5 as a defense that can't work in the Big Ten and cite the complete lack of "big time programs" running it as proof it's a guaranteed failure. The thought that maybe Rodriguez's desire to be innovative and unusual extends to the defensive side of the ball and may serve him well will not cross this sort of person's mind.
As far as my opinion: eh, whatever. The 3-3-5 has been pretty good at West Virginia the last few years and obviously can work as a base defense when, you know, you don't install it the week of a game with players who don't really know what they're doing. (Again: we Franklined it this season. Or maybe Weised it?) I tend to dismiss any and all "scheme X can't work in conference Y" arguments. I am a little concerned a flip to the 3-3-5 will be another painful transition in a year we kind of need to show improvement lest the banshees come out in force, but if that's what he wants to run that's what he wants to run.
Now watch all this be moot when Rodriguez hires your standard 4-3 defensive coordinator.
That crazy quote. It's hard for this not to seem sarcastic:
"Bottom line is, I take full responsibility for the demise of the Michigan program," Shafer, 41, said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "I accept all the responsibility."
Um… all of the responsibility? Surely some of it falls on the country's 109th-ranked offense or the gentlemen who fumbled the ball so often Michigan ended up 105th in turnover margin, Mr. Shafer.
Commenters seem sure that Shafer was genuinely attempting to take as much heat as he could. Shafer did bluntly state he had been outcoached after the Illinois game; maybe he's just prone to self-immolating quotes.
Whatever it is, it must seriously suck to be him right now. Earlier this year he joked with the media that his wife was none too pleased with the constant moving; this will be another year with the U-Haul, and very probably a step down the coaching ladder. All this after two years in which he went from Western Michigan to Stanford to Michigan. He must be crushed.
Recruiting fallout. I didn't get the impression that Shafer was heavily involved with a lot of recruits, but one he had a serious relationship with was Cass Tech safety Thomas Gordon, who posted something to his Facebook account saying he would open up his recruitment. There's a Scout article up on it, too, though a premium one.
This appears to be an immediate reaction that should settle down. Tom VanHaaren confirmed with someone close to Gordon's situation that he has not decommitted and as long as Michigan continues to assure him he's wanted he should remain a member of the class.
No one else has made noises like the Shafer departure seriously affects them, though it's early yet and we may get wind of someone who is displeased. As of yet: no change.
As you can probably tell by the USSR themed title, this is Wolverine Liberation Army joint. Go time is 8PM.