"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Weekend Visitors: KLS "Really Excited" To See M
Before the season went south in a hurry, Michigan was supposed to host a handful of uncommitted official visitors this weekend for their marquee home game. That number has dwindled to one, but it's the one everyone's been waiting for: five-star CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South, who confirmed to 247's Steve Lorenz that he and his parents are "really excited" for the trip to Ann Arbor ($):
"Everyone keeps assuming that I'm losing interest in Michigan because they've started out badly, but it's not true at all," he said. "I still really like Michigan a lot. They haven't been as good as I thought they were going to be this season, but football is only part of the equation for me. I want to see the rest of what they have to offer me. You play football for about three months of the year, so it's things like the campus and school itself that will make a major difference for me. I just need to see if I feel comfortable there and see how much I like it."
I'm still quite skeptical KLS ultimately ends up at Michigan, but he's saying all the right things heading into his official, at least.
The rest of the offered, uncommitted visitors are from the 2016 class, headlined by a couple blue-chip offensive lineman in Ben Bredeson and Clark Yarborough. 247 and The Wolverine have both put together full visitor lists for your perusal. One of the other top targets slated to be on campus this weekend is four-star 2016 IN WR Austin Mack, who took a big picture approach when discussing the program with The Wolverine's Brandon Brown ($):
"Michigan is one of the powerhouses in the Big Ten and has been for many years," Mack said. "Every organization has to fall a little bit eventually. I mean Alabama has fallen before, they just lost somewhat unexpectedly. You can't be perfect continuously. Other teams start to catch up. There's so much talent out there that it will happen. Michigan is always going to have talent but sometimes it just doesn't work out. I feel like Michigan is going to be just fine. Even if it is a couple of years, it's just a matter of time, they'll be back on top."
It'll be very interesting to see if Mack continues to exhibit high interest in Michigan after a potential (okay, exceedingly probable) coaching change. Four-star 2016 GA RB Elijah Holyfield, who's had Michigan in his top group for a while, is already contemplating that possibility, per Brown ($):
"I like the school itself a lot. That's one of the reasons I'd wait and see what happens. At some schools if the coaching staff was to leave, I'd probably not be into that school anymore. Michigan is one of those schools that I like for the school itself. I like it up in Ann Arbor, I like the field, I like the town and everything about Michigan. Regardless of what staff is there I'm sure Michigan would still be in my top group until I commit so we'll see."
Holyfield is also expected to be on campus this weekend, and the above quote is quite a good sign for Michigan's chances of eventually landing him.
A small group of current commits will also be in attendance, including both QB commits from the upcoming two classes (Alex Malzone and Messiah deWeaver) and, notably, Darrin Kirkland, who's visiting unofficially after checking out Notre Dame last weekend. The Irish appeared to make a big move for him, so a good visit is paramount if M wants to keep him in the fold.
Commit Updates: Taylor Plans Officials, Malzone Fielding Interest
Add CB Garrett Taylor to the list of players who's setting up officials to other schools:
"It's a little shaky (at Michigan), I know people are bouncing ideas of whether coach Hoke is going to get fired at the end of the season or not," Taylor said. "I know Michigan's program isn't where people thought it would be or where coach Hoke wants it to be. We'll see how things go.
"Hopefully they can turn it around."
Taylor says he's "pretty sure" Penn State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and "maybe" Tennessee will get official visits from him between now and signing day.
Notably, Michigan is not on the list of planned officials, and Lorenz confirmed that if Taylor is taking an official to Ann Arbor at all, it'll be after the season ($):
"Maybe in the winter," [Taylor] said. "I still am committed at this point, but it could change depending on how the coaching situation ends up and how the rest of the season ends up."
It probably goes without saying that this isn't a good sign. I'd be surprised if Taylor ended up in the class come Signing Day.
TomVH reports that multiple schools have reached out to Alex Malzone, including Penn State, which is now looking for a 2015 QB after Brandon Wimbush flipped his commitment to Notre Dame. Malzone appeared to be as solid a commit as one could get, so if he starts looking around, all bets are off on keeping this class together; so far, though, he hasn't set up any visits elsewhere.
This was inevitable: Wisconsin is taking a look at 2016 commit Erik Swenson, and while Swenson remains firmly committed for now, he's keeping an eye on the situation in Ann Arbor, per 247's Evan Flood ($):
"I just want to see how it goes this season and see how next season goes," he said. "After this season, I'll probably take some unofficial visits. I think Michigan is going to get a new coach next year, if not this year. I want to see how the coaching staff is. I just want a backup plan in case it doesn't work out with Michigan."
This is going to be the MO until a coaching change occurs; there's far too much uncertainty surrounding the program for commits to ignore—it's impossible to blame them for this—and coaches looking to reel in big-time prospects see the opportunity to poach them while Michigan's in a state of flux.
From left #3, #24, #23. [Fuller]
Come tailgate, support kids. A reminder that you can join us and former players tomorrow at the Go Blue Bowl Tailgate organized by Marlin Jackson's organization (specifically through the efforts of an extraordinary lady named Kat Mills). This is for charity so suggested minimum donation of $5 if you're just coming for the Q&A and more if you plan to drink beer and hang for awhile.
A couple of Marlin's high donors deserve recognition: Huron Valley Financial, the Bank of Ann Arbor, and MDen. Christians Catering is bringing food, and the Beer Grotto in Dexter is providing the beer. Full details at the link.
If you ask me, it's better to go. Everyone wants to do something to demonstrate that Michigan fans are fed up with a director who treats this program like his personal play toy, and that the public who do own this public institution are sick of it being hoarded, and its name besmirched by dishonesty and obfuscation (Best & Worst).
But for the record, I'm not in favor of boycotts, walkouts, late arrivals, or any other form of protest in which the protestors miss a snap, because I think it misses the target while undermining the one thing we all care about the most.
I know after the Minnesota game that Brian called for a boycott of Maryland if Brandon and Hoke were still here, and I know what name's on my paychecks. I know the players aren't made of glass, and that they're well aware that the vitriol toward the people in charge is not directed at them, although they generally take attacks on their coaches personally (they chose them after all).
But I didn't know until fairly recently why it's so important to them that fans show up: To a player, fans equal energy. Human brains are not wired to grant conscious access to the body's full capacity. Put a hungry lion behind the 20th fastest man on the planet and Usain Bolt will be left in his dust. Whatever our expectations for athletes we paid massive sums to see, they cannot escape their own psychology.
CSG president Bobby Dishell's heart is in the right place, but he's wrong: you're not hurting the players; you're hurting their performance.
Athletes draw motivation from the crowd. Michigan Stadium's size is a huge recruiting tool because an athlete brain understands intuitively that 109,000 shouting faces will get more out of him than 84,000. The number gets in their heads, but empty seats do as well. Go watch September baseball at a bad team's venue long after they've been eliminated: it's crap. Every play that your seat is empty contributes a tiny bit to Michigan (and, coincidentally, their opponent) playing a bit worse.
Weigh that against the maximum that you will realistically move the decision of Mark Schlissel. Your empty seat speaks, but you can also be in that seat screaming "Go!" at Blue to the furthest extent of your vocal capacity whenever they take the field or need a boost, and screaming "Fire Brandon!" whenever he starts trying to blast you. I think we can get that message across while taking a cue from old blue, and using this weekend to show the players we haven't checked out on them. You can make a statement with where you choose to put your ass, but that's hardly the most effective communicative tool in your anatomical package.
Here's what I suggest we do tomorrow: From the moment the band finishes marching off until kickoff chant "Let's Go Blue!" as loud as you fucking can. At the end of the the game, win or lose, stand in your seat and chant "Let's Go Blue!" AS LOUD. AS. YOU. FUCKING. CAN. In between, scream your head off on Penn State 3rd downs, boo the attendance lie, and sprinkle in "Fire Brandon!" as necessary.
Let's leave Hoke alone, since it does us no good if he loses the team now, and his fate is sealed to his record (Ron Utah with some candidate grades) so any more dogging from us is superfluous. ST3 made the case that the coaching staff has cost Michigan perhaps three wins with strategic errors: dumb-punting vs. Utah, starting Shane, and giving Rutgers that end-of-1st-half drive. I think it's more accurate to say that these coaching errors put Michigan at a small strategic disadvantage, and that the team is not so good that it can win without every scrap of advantage it can get.
Yes, showing up and laying off the coach is what Dave Brandon wants you to do. Fuck him; we come to root for Michigan.
[Jump: clans, coaches, etc.]
FORMATION NOTES: Rutgers did some weird stuff. On a number of snaps they'd start off looking like an over, then move a LB down into a three-tech like spot while flaring a DE out. I called those under fronts, and since Rutgers is pretty small all over it was just a way to sow confusion. An example; Rutgers shifted from this:
There's a standup 3-tech and an "ILB" who is actually a cornerback. It's a bit weird.
They also ran some more conventional under looks.
For its part Michigan went back to a heavy dose of gun. Removing three goal line plays, Michigan had 42 shotgun snaps to 13 under center. (A couple of those were goal to go runs from the 5 and 2, respectively, FWIW). This was not a panacea but did happen to coincide with Michigan's best rushing output against a Power 5 team not named Indiana in a long time.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was Cole/Glasgow/Miller/Kalis/Braden the whole way. Green got the bulk of the RB snaps until he was knocked out; Smith and Hayes got the rest. WRs and TEs as usual, though Butt is working his way into considerably more playing time as the season progresses.
[After THE JUMP: torchclowns, multiple torchclowns]
Previously: Penn State Offense
Anthony Zettel had himself a day.
While Penn State's offense isn't faring well this year, the opposite is the case for the defense, which ranks 17th in Football Outsiders' S&P+ rankings—9th in rushing and 21st in passing, so they're balanced, as well. They looked the part against Rutgers, picking off Gary Nova five times, shutting down a Rutgers running attack that still boasted Paul James at the time, and ultimately holding the Scarlet Knights to a mere ten points.
Personnel: Unlike the offense, this is a very experienced group, with only one underclassman even cracking the starting lineup. DE Deion Barnes is, in fact, a returning starter (his circle is left unfilled in the diagram, but that's a mistake on our part), while both DTs saw extensive action and a couple spot starts in 2013 [click the diagram to embiggen]:
There's plenty of talent on this group, too, with three former top 250 recruits and a couple others who didn't miss that distinction by much.
Base Set? 4-3 under, though PSU doesn't bother to denote a strongside and weakside linebacker. OLBs Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman are pretty much interchangeable—both will line up as the nominal SLB and they can each play over a slot receiver—so they just stick to the left and right side, respectively. When PSU goes nickel, usually against 4 WR sets, strong safety (and former corner) Adrian Amos moves into the slot, with backup safety Malik Golden taking his place on the back line, like so:
For the most part, PSU keeps their base set on the field—they run enough zone coverage that it isn't a big issue for their outside linebackers to play over slot receivers.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
The old king is dead; long live the king Mike Pettigano is the Penn State blogfather; it was he who years ago united much of their internet presence into the now-defunct LinebackerU. Most of those guys, including Mike, have retired from blogging for real-ish jobs. For the last couple of years we've been publishing an HTTV-like book for PSU fans together. So I hit him up for a VEQ/sadface party.
The old king is dead; long live the king
Mike Pettigano is the Penn State blogfather; it was he who years ago united much of their internet presence into the now-defunct LinebackerU. Most of those guys, including Mike, have retired from blogging for real-ish jobs. For the last couple of years we've been publishing an HTTV-like book for PSU fans together. So I hit him up for a VEQ/sadface party.
I am bolded, Mike is not.
Before we spend too much time on this, do you have a fully operational football team that can play football? Because if the answer's "Yes," we can stop now and all get a full night's sleep.
No. Let's proceed...
Let's talk about that offensive line. What happened? Did you, like, spend two years firing Rich Rodriguez, then try to install an offense that isn't anything like what the sparse upperclassmen were recruited to run, and is too complicated for the young guys to figure out?
[inhales deeply] When Bill O'Brien arrived in 2012, Penn State had 15 offensive linemen, too many for BO'B's taste, so he recruited only 5 over the next two classes. One of those five guys moved to defense after arriving at PSU. That's four OL's signed in two classes. When the sanctions hit and the free-transfer went into affect, 4 linemen transfered or left the team, another in the 2012 class transferred, and one from the 2013 class left the team. This spring, Anthony Alosi was kicked off the team. That's 7 scholarship linemen gone out of 13 over the last three years.
The biggest blow to this position actually came when Miles Dieffenbach, a 23-game starter at guard, tore his ACL. If you're remembering correctly, it was the guard that blocked his own man vs Northwestern two weeks ago. Dieffenbach could have potentially changed the entire composition of this year's offensive line. This week he won't' be back, but possibly for Ohio State, not that it'll matter. Penn State is now hoping to get through this season with a few more wins, while frantically figuring out which of this year's freshmen could start next year. Herb Hand is an unbelievably talented offensive line coach. But dude, I feel bad for him this year.
Today was ugly...that is MY fault. We WILL get better because we have GREAT young men w/ POSITIVE attitudes that aren't afraid to WORK.
— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) September 27, 2014
[After the jump: this all sounds very familiar]
What will happen and when?
Obviously, the central issue to our entire fanbase is what is going to happen to Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, and if something is going to happen to either, when. You have obviously posted at length about your opinions about what SHOULD happen, and I am excited to see part II of your coaching candidates series. But, unless I missed it, I have not seen you post anything about what you believe WILL happen.
Specifically, based upon where we stand now (2-4, 0-2) what is your expectation as to (1) whether Brandon will be removed, (2) whether Hoke will be fired, and (3) if you believe that either is gone, when. I think that many of us would also be interested in your opinion as to how the events that will transpire over the remaining 8 weeks of the regular season could impact that decision. (For example, there is a thread on the board now asking what would happen if we win out).
I know that you are probably getting millions of emails on the topic, but I know that many of us would really be interested in knowing your opinions on this topic.
Thanks, as always, and despite everything, Go Blue!
I just don't know. I'm only answering this because I get a lot of emails to this effect; usually if I can't answer something reasonably I just say so privately and that's it. But… yeah, I don't know.
One thing I've learned is that insider information is often colored by the desires of the source; slap one degree of separation between that source and you and then it seems really true and important. This is not so important when someone has a broken bone; it is vastly so when political infighting is involved. So I don't take a whole lot of stuff about Hoke staying seriously; I know it's popped up on premium message boards here and there. There's a faction amongst the old program alums who can't stand to be as flagrantly wrong as they were and will swear up and down that Hoke can be saved.
He can't. Anyone who watches his team knows that this is a disorganized mess and in year four that goes back to one guy and one guy only. There is no expectation this would get better, and in that light the successful Hoke years look like flukes born of disproportionate talent and flat-out luck, as Michigan's 2011 was.
I guess Michigan could run the table but any reasonable season projection gets you to 7-6 at best and that is a firing, if only because whoever the AD is will know that continuing with Hoke is going to be an inflection point on season ticket sales.
As far as Brandon, I do not know. I've read all there is to read and heard all there is to hear and what is clear is that here is some sort of serious support for the guy that centers around Stephen Ross and his dollars and drops off almost immediately after that. If this was a democracy he'd be booted in an 80-20 election; it is not.
I would have faith that the people around the president who have his ear because of dolla dolla bill y'all would eventually be able to come to this conclusion:
- Someone else would be about as good at continuing the things who make the people in the AD support him
- Anyone else would be less toxic to fans and especially students.
Even if you somehow believe that guy whose PR stunts will literally go in a textbook under what not to do is the best guy for the job, the next best guy for the job is 99% as capable and isn't loathed by half the Michigan fanbase. This flies in the face of our nation's CEO fetishization, but here it's undeniable.
Logic then demands I say that both guys will be gone by the end of the year, but logic ain't got nothing to do with it.
As to the timing, Hoke's not gone until after the OSU game. If he was going to get the axe immediately it would have been after the Minnesota game. Short of that happening again, he's got the rest of the year. Michigan may announce he's done before OSU, a la Earle Bruce; functionally he's your guy the rest of the year.
Brandon could go at any time. I hear that there are some meetings coming up in the next week that could be the impetus for his dismissal, but as long as Stephen Ross is backing the guy it's going to be pulling teeth.
[After THE JUMP: define risk in re: coaching candidates.]