Steve Schilling, various, reaction to walk-on playing at left tackle.
Offensive line is the position group least understood by the average fan (and this blogger), but even the vast ignorance of the unwashed could not delude us into thinking this was a promising situation:
LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr. Mark Ortmann Jr.* Tim McAvoy Jr.* David Molk Fr.* David Moosman So.* Steve Schilling So.* Perry Dorrestein So.* Ricky Barnum Fr.* Rocko Khoury Fr. John Ferrara So.* Dann O'Neill Fr.
Perhaps the saddest indicator of the potential looming tragedy that is the Michigan offensive line is this: last year this depth chart went three deep. There’s no one but freshmen unlisted this year and, uh… four freshmen in the actual two-deep as hypothesized above.
One returning starter, one backstabbing departure, and one unfortunate knee injury left Michigan one mishap away from starting John Ferrara, defensive tackle until two weeks ago, at guard. This was grim.
A brief tour of individual expectations reinforces. At tackle, Steve Schilling was "frankly bad" as a freshman, though there were a lot of reasons to believe he would take a significant step forward. Mark Ortmann was "stuck behind the uninspiring Schilling" and the starting left tackle "virtually by default."
On the interior, there was hardly any data except "none of these players could beat out Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla." Moosman "could be good" given his guru ratings and experience; McAvoy got a "lord knows if he's going to be any good," and Molk came in for equal parts skepticism and hope:
He fits much better in this system than Carr’s, as it emphasizes his mobility and places a much smaller premium on size, but Rodriguez made it clear he was battling John Ferrara for a starting job. Two weeks ago Ferrara was a defensive lineman. Crap.
There are virtually no backups as long as Cory Zirbel's knee injury persists, and the word from Rodriguez is that could be the entire season. Mark Huyge exists, I guess.
And unto the breach they went.
That's Not Surprising At All, Unfortunately
Well, yeah, it was a disaster. The Utah UFR:
Offensive line: their overall suck was obviously part of the gameplan in a huge way; I expect that will seriously impinge on Michigan’s attempts to forge an offense all year. Like 2005 except worse.
…the offensive line is bad for reasons other than execution. It is bad because the players on it are small or underpowered or just plain bad.
But wait! We played Notre Dame!
Michigan had great success with the zone stretch and occasional dive because Molk and either McAvoy or Moosman spent the day crushing the playside DT downfield. With good kickouts from the tackles and Notre Dame defenders keeping contain on Threet, McGuffie got into the secondary time and again.
Everything was fixed forever until the next week against Wisconsin:
That was the story of Wisconsin's defense: their active defensive tackles murdered Michigan's interior line all day against both the pass and the run. Notice that Michigan's second-half run game was successful largely when it completely avoided Wisconsin DTs or fooled them into slanting away from the play. For example, the Minor touchdown run was a counter to the zone stretch the Wisconsin D was expecting.
That was the low point for the offensive line, as the interior got whipped all day and it was only some spectacular flukes that put Michigan's offense in gear at the end of the game. Oh, and an INT returned for a touchdown. From there things began to improve bit by bit.
Ortmann was not the answer at left tackle and is—along with McAvoy or Ferrara or whoever you consider to be the incumbent left guard—the starter with his job most under threat. In that surprisingly excellent performance against Penn State there was one sore spot:
Here's your PROTECTION METRIC: 15/21, Team –1, Ortmann -5.
That might look ugly, but –5 of that game on two plays where Ortmann was beaten badly by Evans, one of which resulted in the game-killing sack/fumble. Everyone else was actually pretty decent.
Meanwhile, against Michigan State he checked in as a "goat."
The left side of the line is killing Michigan; I'd be surprised to see Ortmann keep his job once Dorrestein his healthy, and they've been trying to replace McAvoy all year.
Ortmann will be a senior this year and probably won't improve a ton; if he's running at all close with Omameh or O'Neill or anyone younger than him it wouldn't be surprising to see Rodriguez go with the option who will be of some use down the road.
Schilling was better than he was a year ago, but he didn't make that great leap forward we were vaguely hoping for. His run blocking came in for praise against, uh, Toledo, but there were a lot of minuses assigned to him in protection. The Michigan State UFR was pretty ugly:
And PROTECTION METRIC: 34/47. Ortmann –6, Schilling –5, Team –1, Moosman –1. Note that the tackles were often put in tough spots by the snap-jumping. Also note that a lot of this was against three-man rushes and the overall picture was pretty grim.
(This is the same performance that got Ortmann chastized above, FWIW.) Though the team exploded for 35 points against Purdue—punt return TD, remember—even then I noted how freaked out the OTs made me:
I am leery of both tackles these days, BTW, and wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of reconfiguration that sees Schilling slide inside to guard next year. At least they'll have some options other than "you appear to be healthy and were not a defensive tackle two weeks ago."
I've moved more towards surprise as regards that a reconfiguration, but more because I doubt Michigan finds better options at tackle than anything else.
Anyone who read this blog over the season probably remembers its growing appreciation for relatively tiny David Molk, the nimble center who occasionally got blown back directly into the running back but more often just barely held his ground so that the ballcarrier could shoot through a crease (and more often than not into unblocked second-level defenders, be they safeties or linebackers).
His agility helped him make a lot of tough reach blocks. One particular QB off tackle against Penn State spurred a Picture Pages in which he was the focus. The summary:
I think Molk might be pretty good once he is enormous-er. I brought this up earlier in the year, but Molk was a fringe top-100 guy who was the only real OL recruit brought in after the shift to zone blocking. He got dinged later in the year for being small, but in a system like this where he's reach-blocking all day his agility is an asset. Time and again against Penn State he successful executed these blocks, springing people into the secondary. Against Notre Dame he did the same thing.
(FWIW, Molk had another good seal in a Toledo edition of Picture Pages.) Molk was just "all right" against Michigan State—depressingly, that statement showed in the "heroes" section—and was a major culprit in the hammering handed out by Wisconsin; increased size and strength are a must going forward.
Moosman was "all right" against Michigan State, too, and hardly comes in for mention in any of the post-game "you didn't read the play summaries because you're not insane" sections. This was because he was usually okay to decent, unremarkable in a year when most of the remarks were going to be negative.
And, well, I don't need UFRs to tell you that left guard Tim McAvoy wasn't particularly good. McAvoy got pulled in just about every game the last half of the season as Michigan rotated through Dorrestein, Ferrara, and I think I even saw Mark Huyge out there a few times in an attempt to find a suitable player.
2009, And Beyond
Everyone returns, and perhaps more importantly a fleet of redshirt freshmen will vie for playing time. Michigan will be more experienced and deeper; they will all have a year in the system under their belts. Coupled with the notable improvement at the end of the year, this presages a great leap forward. They could even be… sigh… average.
At left tackle, Ortmann and Perry Dorrestein will battle Patrick Omameh and possibly Dann O'Neill for the starting job. Though Ortmann was clearly the first-choice option a year ago, his uneven performance opens the door. Dorrestein was functional when forced into the lineup; the relentless, surprising practice praise for unheralded freshman Omameh indicates he may be a factor as early as next year. (O'Neill is generally believed to need another year of seasoning.)
Unless there's a miracle renaissance and there are a ton of good options on the outside, Schilling will return at right tackle. He did get better last year, and should get better still as a junior.
The interior will be in flux until the Western game and probably for several weeks after. Moosman and Molk return. Moosman seems safe, as he can play any of the three spots on the interior. My impression is that he was regarded Michigan's best offensive lineman a year ago. Molk will field a challenge from redshirt freshman Rocko Khoury, but I think he's done well for himself and will hold his job. Left guard will be a wild free-for-all between oft-pulled Tim McAvoy, former DT John Ferrara, redshirt freshman Ricky Barnum, and perhaps a cast of others including Khoury and the rest of the freshman brigade. I don't think it will be McAvoy; other than that I don't know if anyone can tell you who or what is going on.
At the very least, depth and experience will make this unit considerably more functional than it was a year ago. Further development under Barwis and the steps made late in the year under Frey are encouraging. This should be the most improved position on the team. God help us if it isn't.
1/29/2009 – Michigan Not That Many, Ohio State Many – 14-7, 4-5 Big Ten
You're just an old man. And you don't appear to be a 6'10" shotblocking menace, either. Jerk!
Well, that appears to be that. Other than Iowa and Northwestern there doesn't appear to be a game on the schedule Michigan should win. Michigan's schedule is way backloaded and they could not afford to lose to Penn State or get swept by Ohio State and lose at home to Wisconsin. It's asking too much of them to win another five Big Ten games and arrive at the magic .500 conference record: it's the NIT for us.
And that's disappointing, sure, but they were supposed to be an NIT team when the year started and will be one when it finishes. Ekpe Udoh's transfer left… well, you know the deal. You've seen the team play in the Big Ten. Sometimes it looks like a really good AAU team has wandered onto the court in Michigan's uniforms. Sometimes Kelvin Grady ends up trying to check a seven-footer under the basket. They're too small and young and all that.
There isn't that much more to say. The problems are glaring. The starting power forward is a 6'4" freshman. They were 0-11 from 3 in the first half and are now 222nd in the country in three-point shooting at a measly 32.5%. They're sixth in number of threes launched and that number keeps going up. (It's now at 47.3%.) Whatever mojo they had earlier is obviously gone and doesn't seem like it's coming back. The defense is really terrible for obvious reasons.
I feel like I'm repeating myself. Does it feel like I'm repeating myself? I don't have much to say about the team other than "well, obviously." That Indiana game was a clear as day warning, and I said this then and said it now. I appear to be out of things to say re: this team.
It's just too bad it was a mirage.
- Novak should be suspended a game for the elbow.
- Harris is proving he's a good player who's nowhere near ready for the NBA of late: 3-18 in his last two games and though he put up 22 and 12 against Ohio State those came with ten(!) turnovers. The ultimate crap scenario is for Michigan to miss the tourney and then for one (or even both) of the stars to leave. I think that's getting less likely as we continue and they play more and more poorly, but stranger things have happened.
- I guess I don't understand the offense when it so often finds one guy inside the arc and four guys spaced around the three point line. Other teams will cut to the basket with much greater frequency. Is that by design? Or does it just reflect on the general youth of the team?
- I don't even know if the team is going to be any better defensively next year. They'll get Morgan and McLimans and Cronin and should return everyone except the sparingly-deployed Jevohn Shepherd, but man, all three of those big men are major projects.
- What happened to LLP? Yeesh.
Hail to the Victors 2009 is on, and it will be like 2007 and 2008 except with more DEATH. This year I thought I'd do something novel: ask the world if they'd like to contribute. A lot of it is written by myself and a number of contributors are returning, so there aren't a whole lot of spots open, but there are a few.
If you're interested in contributing email me the following:
- An article proposal: basically an idea, some explanation, and a suggested length from 2200 to 4400 words.
- A writing sample or, better, a blog URL.
The writing sample doesn't have to be relevant; I just want to know you can write. If you can snag an interview with a current or former player or coach that would be a major selling point.
I'm also looking for someone who's good with Illustrator to help out with a few diagrams.
Indeterminate issue. RSS subscribers may have noticed the disappearance of the daily mgo.licio.us linkdump. This is an issue on Feedburner's end and I can't do anything about it until they fix it. Sorry. I assume it will magically resume working at some point in the near future.
Also, while I'm talking about site stuff: the twitter feed is usually just a repackaged RSS feed, but I've wanted to make it more newsy, too. One manifestation of this: on signing day I'll be twittering news as it comes in.
Pre-emptive bombing. Signing day approacheth, so it's time for Dr. Saturday to do yet more research on the accuracy of recruiting rankings in a futile attempt to forestall those annoying columns from cranky newspapermen declaring that "recruiting rankings don't matter because Utah," to paraphrase DocSat. As per usual, the finding is that they're somewhere between useless and gospel. They are worth paying attention to but not worth pulling your hair out over, as the following table suggests:
That's a breakdown of 332 games between BCS opponents organized by gaps in overall recruiting rankings. It's flat until you get to 400+ points per year, which may sound like a big gap but isn't really: current #1 LSU has about 2500 points this year, which puts them about 400 points in front of #6 North Carolina. North Carolina, in turn, is about 400 points in front of #12 Oklahoma. That's at the bottom end of the range where recruiting ratings really start to get separation, but even if you increase it to 700 points—the midrange—we're talking about the gap between #7 M and #22 Mississippi State.
I'd like to see these things take things like opportunity costs and attrition into better account, as raw numbers indicate the SEC is washing out 50% more recruits than the Big Ten is, which leads to inflated recruiting rankings just because they've got more d00ds in their base.
Kampfer stuff. Red has (reluctantly, I'm sure) addressed the issue:
It all comes down to intent. Sometimes it's not what you do, it's why you do it. Or what it appears to be. I think this was the issue. This was not a pre-meditated thing, but it was an instant reaction, and it was ... too serious to overlook. You can't just say drawing blood. I mean, I hate to tell you this, but I put a kid's eye out one time by lifting a stick. And he wasn't expecting it, I lifted it too high, he lost an eye, and it was an accident. Everybody felt terrible. But, boy, when you swing your stick at someone's head intentionally, when he's down, someone that hasn't even done anything ... Anyway, I don't think we need to revisit it, but that was a serious incident. Very serious, and the kid will never do that again.
There's considerably more from him in the above-linked article; the other item that jumped out was a response to the question "Has the CCHA issued a warning for the next time the teams play?" Red said "they don't have to," basically, and continued:
We're not carrying anything over, and personally, I don't think Michigan State will be carrying anything over. So if we do play them in a game, I don't think you'll see anything. ... I don't think there's any real serious animosity. I mean, Kampfer's gotta just accept that it was a bad deal, the players have been punished, let's move on.
As for moving on, eh, the attempt is being made. The Ann Arbor police are "investigating" the incident—which seems like a 30-second process consisting entirely of watching the video, but whatever. Kampfer didn't skate yesterday; he's expected to give it a go today.
Game on, I assume. Ohio State has cancelled classes for a reason other than "it's Wednesday again": there's a big damn ice storm in town. There's been no indication this will affect tonight's basketball game (6:30, BTN), but it may seriously depress attendance, for whatever small benefit that might provide. Previews are up at UMHoops and Varsity Blue; Ohio State is favored by six.
Livin' on the edge. I'm having a hard time figuring out whether Tajh Boyd's commitment to Clemson is a good or bad thing. Ohio State was the other major contender and the Buckeye depth chart outside of Terrelle Pryor currently reads: 26-year-old walk-on and former baseball player Joe Bauserman. That's it. If Pryor gets injured or shoots a dog or something, it's freak-out time.
On the other hand, Michigan and Ohio State are battling for 2010 MI QB Devin Gardner, and depth charts and all that.
Etc.: Mock Rock is on February 3rd this year. Prepare your cringing-from-afar muscles.
I was back visiting Michigan last weekend, and I was able to catch the hockey game on Saturday against Miami (of Ohio). I haven't seen any hockey games this season since I'm at a grad school where hockey doesn't exist. I was wondering about the addition of a second referee on the ice. My friend pointed that out to me at the beginning of the game, and I asked him if he felt more calls were made this season since there is another pair or eyes on the ice. He said that it didn't seem so, and someone around me said that it may actually make the game flow better(!?). Well, that didn't seem to happen as Michigan ended up with like 11 penalties.
So I was wondering if you could drag up the penalty minutes from the last couple of seasons and compare them to this season so far, and see if the extra ref has significantly impacted the number of calls or has changed the game somehow.
Via collegehockeystats.net, per-team penalty minutes per game the last three years:
|Year Before That||19.01|
Survey says… eh, not so much. While teams are taking most of an extra penalty a game this year the numbers are actually down from the two years previous. Of course, the NCAA's overreaction to the Robbie Bina hit, which led to virtually any hit along the boards being an automatic major for a year, and their intermittent obstruction crackdowns play a role in the numbers. The moral of the story appears to be "do not expect remotely consistent enforcement," which isn't surprising to anyone familiar with the travails of college hockey refereeing.
Recently, Sports Illustrated had a series of articles on recruiting and how Florida is a gold mine for D1 recruits. In one of those articles, Jimbo Fisher had this to say about recruiting:
Florida State's Fisher doesn't deny that he offers a chilly warning to southern skill-position players thinking of crossing the Mason-Dixon line. "I don't know if we ever said, 'You'll freeze.' But the landscape of playing, especially if you're a skill guy, is not as conducive as it is in The South," Fisher said. "The weather can prohibit you from using all your skills at times and prevent you from getting the numbers and recognition and things you want. I think it is a significant difference."
I have been a big fan of Rich Rod since the Clemson days and thought he was a top 5 coach in the country at WV. I even picked them to win the National Championship in 2007. Good ole' Wannstache…
During Rich Rod's top years at WV (05-07), I remember a few late season games where the Mountaineers couldn't hold on to the football and it cost them. I had a feeling that this was attributed to his recruits being from the Deep South and not being accustomed to playing in cold weather conditions. And then this year Odoms couldn't hold on to the ball for his life during that nasty NW game. So after Jimbo's quote, I thought that there may be some serious truth to this argument.
So I went back and looked at the stats from WV's 2007 November games (I didn't look up game time temperature but they were all November games in cold weather locations including three night games) and found that WV had put the ball on the ground 13 times in those four games while losing 8. Twice (including the infamous Pitt game that most likely led to our hire of Rich Rod instead of Les Miles) they had 5 fumbles, losing 3.
Would you review the games from 2005-2007 and see if there is any correlation between the late season colder temperatures and putting the ball on the ground. With RR ravaging Florida for recruits and Michigan being a colder place than WV, I am worried that this could be an issue for us in late season games.
First: the Jimbo Fisher stuff is just talk. If you can play, you can play. Even if it's cold. The parade of Michigan receivers in the pros (Toomer, Alexander, Edwards, Avant, Breaston, Streets, uh… Terrell nevermind) in recent years suggests that Fisher's statement is more snake oil than anything. The NFL will find your ass if you can play football.
As far as the fumble theory, it's going to be extremely tough to prove either way. We don't know how cold was for all these games. We're looking at extremely random events in just a few games. Statistical significance laughs at us from afar. But here you go:
No, wait, sorry. I tried, but the NCAA doesn't have the relevant 2005 games' boxscores up. Sorry. I did find that in 2006 WVU had 8 fumbles in 4 (possibly) cold weather games, but four of those game in a game against Cincinnati during which the Bearcats also fumbled four times so I dunno, maybe they didn't kill the ball properly and it was running around squealing all night or something.
Does this help your troubled heart any?
That's West Virginia's turnover margin in the last three years of the Rodriguez era, when Pat White was the quarterback and WVU was goooooood. Even when WVU coughed up the ball 15 times in 2007 they were still top-10 in TO margin because they ran so much and had so few interceptions.
I think people are attempting to come up for an explanation for last year's epic, defiant-Pharaoh-style plague of fumbles when the most likely explanation is that there just isn't one. It was mostly randomness combined with youth and poor talent level at certain positions like tackle and quarterback. There is no grand pattern of Rodriguez teams coughing up the ball a ton. In fact, the numbers above suggest the opposite*.
*(Although, again, TOs are rare and even the seemingly wow numbers above are by no means definitive.)
Tropp and Conboy are gone, at least for now:
EAST LANSING -- Michigan State hockey players Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp are no longer on the team after their violent actions in Saturday's game at Michigan, MSU coach Rick Comley said Tuesday.
"It was a tough decision, but the right decision," Comley said. "I don't think the kids are bad kids. I don't think (their actions) were premeditated."
It sounds like Comley booted them for the year but left the door open to a return; the article says Conboy "had the option to stay in school and talk about Comley about a potential return to the team." Tropp "might be allowed to return" if he stays in school. Conboy's decided to go according to the article, and his facebook now shows his school as Illinois-Chicago. Tropp's status is still undetermined.
This is the right move, and now that it's been made I hope everyone involved can move on. I'm sure both players are remorseful and will, like Todd Bertuzzi, bear a mark for the rest of their careers. That and never seeing them play Michigan again are enough for me. Comley and the State program handled it the right way, and hopefully the rivalry can settle back down to an acceptably intense level.