The Game 1974 via Bentley
With the new bowl lineup I thought I'd delve into the conference's history with the things this week. Chart of sane bowl names is here.
We whomped Stanford in 1901 so bad they canceled bowl games for a decade.
Rose or Bust.
For a time there was only the Rose Bowl. Then others began to pop up and the Big Ten wouldn't let teams go (Ohio State snuck over to Pasadena after the 1920 season but that was it). Then they said only one team may take a bid from the Rose Bowl.
It's been nearly 40 years and yet any Michigan fan over 50 still shakes with anger at it: In 1973 Michigan and Ohio State met in one of the more epic battles in that epic ten-year war. After Michigan missed three field goals in the 4th quarter the game—and thus the Big Ten title race—ended in a tie. In the process the Wolverines' starting quarterback Denny Franklin was busted up. Woody Hayes, never a particularly classy individual, made an uninformed remark to the media that he's sorry Franklin wouldn't be able to play in the bowl game. In part because they believed Michigan would be without Denny, the conference's athletic directors voted to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl.
The following year Michigan did make their game-winning field goal, but the officials missed it and there was no replay, and Ohio State again went to Pasadena. Since the Big Ten wouldn't let its teams attend any other bowl, both times a more deserving Michigan had to stay home. Overall Franklin and the Wolverines managed to go three years (1972-'74) without a bowl game despite going 30-2-1 over that span.
The whole concept was as mind-blowingly ridiculous as it seems, and the following year the conference finally got rid of the rule that had become outdated due to...
The conference deigned to allow its teams to go to bowls again only after WWII, and then it was "you can only go to the Rose Bowl if they invite you." Once the Big Ten released its members it sparked a new round of bowl expansion (click to inbigmatate):
Note the Y axis is "Bowl Teams" not games—divide by two to get # of games. Some oddities: Michigan wasn't in the Big Ten from 1907 to 1916, not that it made any difference. Having one yellow dot in the bowl picture looks ridiculous. Michigan State went to an Orange Bowl before joining the conference. Penn State and Nebraska obviously went to plenty of bowls before they joined. Ohio State turned down its Rose Bowl bids in 1960 and '61 because of academics(!); Minnesota went in their stead.
Since the bowl field expanded, the Big Ten's tie-ins have gone through a series of confusing shifts, order only recently having been brought into the process. Owing to its TV draw and instant draw the bowls have typically taken Michigan almost as soon as they're allowed to. As a result when you look at the conference's bowl history you can see Michigan tends to go early even in its rough years.
This is ordered by selection (starting from the left). Historically Michigan has been selected higher than its standing in the conference, the more so the lower down we get. For example in 1984 Michigan received an at-large Holiday Bowl bid—effectively the conference's third selector after the Rose and then the
Cotton Peach took Purdue as an at-large—despite finishing behind Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and tied with Michigan State, whom we lost to that year. Since then there have been progressively more stringent so-Michigan-State-won't-cry rules placed by the conference on the bowls for which teams they can select. Before it was they have to be within 1 or 2 losses of each other. Under the new system there's a tier:
The New Lineup and the Golden Vagina:
1. Teams selected by the playoff committee go to the Golden Vagina Playoff.
2. If the champion is still around they go to the Rose Bowl (vs Pac-12 or at-large), or the Orange Bowl (vs SEC or at-large) in years the Rose are the playoff hosts (2014 and every three years after).
3. BCS bowls can extend an at-large bid.
4. Citrus Bowl (SEC), Outback Bowl (SEC) and Holiday Bowl (Pac-12). Those bowls will unofficially switch off who gets first pick but really the conference will be sitting there negotiating who gets which school with the goal of rewarding better teams and changing things up a bit. Said Delany:
"Someone will obviously select first, but they may or may not get the team they want because that team may have been in that region two years in a row. We're trying to make sure there’s freshness. It's hard when a team goes to say Florida five times in six years to get them really excited."
5. Gator or Music City (SEC), San Francisco (Pac-12), and Pinstripe (ACC). The first two switch off with that bid.
6. Heart of Dallas or Ft. Worth Armed Forces Bowl (Big 12), Motor City Bowl (TBA)
The only way the Big Ten champ will play the Pac 12 champ is if both are seeded as such in the playoff, or both miss the playoff. I am guessing it will not happen very often. The tier system is a rather eloquent method of handling the problem of Michigan State's blubbering over bowls falling over themselves to avoid them. See? You're on the same tier. Everyone on the same tier is the same.
The new system does have its problems:
- Not all of the payouts on each tier are equivalent right now—that seems like it can be negotiated.
- In a scenario where Michigan State beats Michigan in the regular season, thus winning the tiebreaker to get into the Big Ten Championship Game, and MSU subsequently loses that game and is no longer BCS eligible because they're ranked too low now, and Michigan is still ranked high enough for a BCS bid and gets one, Michigan State will still cry.
- In any given scenario, Michigan State will find a reason to cry.
The narrative so far:
- Aug. 31: Devin Gardner is still really good! High five.
- Sept. 7: If Michigan wins, I would be totally okay with listening to Pop Evil.
- Sept. 14: Oh hey, DeAnthony Hardison. What’s up.
- Sept. 21: Still predicting 14-6. U mad, bros?
- Sept. 28: Bye.
Nobody puts Jerry Kill in a corner.
Minnesota went 6-7 overall and won just two games in the B1G. For a team that inspired GopherQuest: Worst Big Ten Team Ever the year previous, that was pretty good. Even the way they lost was much better. You saw glimpses of promise -- like maybe in three years they’ll be a Purdue when Purdue was decent or a Northwestern. They fell to Texas Tech 33-31 in the Texas Bowl, which was still a pretty impressive overachievement, if only for the fact that they made it to a bowl game in the first place.
Please be complete please be complete
Minnesota has clarity and reason for optimism at nearly every position on offense except for maybe quarterback. There is a lot of potential, though, and as rebuilding processes go, that’s a pretty good place to be. Kill and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover have a golden opportunity to build some momentum for the program if they can take the offense to the proverbial next level. It might be worth keeping an eye on the Gophers; this season will probably determine whether they become the next Northwestern or if their shadows force them back into hidey holes for 6 more weeks of Winter. However that analogy is supposed to work.
Sophomore QB Philip Nelson will be the guy under the microscope. He’s coming off a true freshman campaign in which he beat out MarQueis Gray midseason for the starting job. While his stats through seven games aren’t that shiny (49%, 873 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs), he performed well enough to beat Purdue and Illinois and clinch bowl eligibility. That’s something, I guess, and there’s not a lot of shame in playing poorly against Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
So we’ll see if he makes the sophomore leap. Nelson has a nice veteran supporting cast around him, so chances are he will. I mean, he gets all five offensive linemen back. From left to right: Ed Olson, Tommy Olson (Ed’s brother), Zac Epping, Caleb Bak, and Josh Campion. In more useful terms: 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, 6-5, all 300+ lbs. #B1G! Ed, the elder Olson, is the only senior in this group, which means their O-line continuity will span another season. Plus the fact that O-line seems to be Limegrover’s thing … Be afraid, B1G West Division. Be very afraid.
The running game should be much improved with RB Donnell Kirkwood returning. The 5-10, 230-lb bowling ball almost eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing last year with a 4.2 ypc average. Smart money says he breaks the barrier this season. RB Rodrick Williams, another bowling-ball sized object (5-11, 230 lbs), will be a solid backup. He didn’t get too many carries last season, but he made them count, averaging 4.6 ypc on 51 carries.
Of note to Michigan fans, Braylon’s little brother Berkley joins the Gophers roster as a freshman and will be pushing to be their version of Dennis Norfleet, excepted more utilized.
As far as receiver goes, well. This appears to be a touchy subject. Late last season the team’s No. 1 wideout A. J. Barker called it quits and blasted the coaching staff via the internet on his way out. That was not ideal, I guess. And Jerry Kill seems like such a nice guy.
Whether Minnesota’s passing game truly took a hit after that, no one knows because no one was really paying attention. But more to the point, playing Nebraska and Michigan State to close out the season can make any passing offense look bad. The Gophers didn’t have the best day through the air against Texas Tech, either -- not that they needed to with their running game that gained over 200 yards -- but it looked like there was a lot of reason for optimism. Well, there was one reason for optimism: Senior wideout Derrick Engel had himself a 4 catch, 108 yard day. He's now a bona fide deep threat.
Regardless, the wideouts should be just fine in 2013. Veteran contributor Isaac Freuchte (19 rec, 256 yards, 2 TDs) saw his production fall over the course of the season but is still an able body with a sweet name. The rest of the bunch has a lot of size, speed, and potential -- their development should be on the upswing with a more experienced, non-Freshman quarterback.
Let's block this guy next time.
They have one! Kind of? Sort of. They have Ra’Shede Hageman, and he’s probably the only name to know. Hageman is a 6-6, 310 lb nose tackle who came up with 6 sacks and 7.5 TFLs last season. Hageman probably should be playing either 3-tech or 5-tech, but when you’re Minnesota I guess you can’t afford to be so particular. Anyway, he’s very active and very good, not just by Gophers standards.
DT Cameron Botticelli returns on the interior next to Hageman. You won’t recognize his name (or anyone else’s) because he doesn’t do a whole lot other than exist. Having 21 tackles as a starting defensive tackle without any for a loss usually means that opposing running backs ran into him 21 times by accident.
The defensive ends will be dudes who have taken occasional snaps here and there, but unless one of them blows up at the beginning of the season, they’re not really worth keeping an eye on. I mean, really, the strategy here is clear: successfully block Hageman, earn $$$.
Minnesota can probably get by with a one-man show on the D-line if the linebackers are competent. That’s hard to predict at this point. The only returning linebacker is senior OLB Aaron Hill (74 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 INTs). They’ve got a converted running back and a pair of JUCO transfers competing for the interior spots. Word on the internet is that the JUCOs are good.
The secondary should theoretically be able to hold their coverage long enough for Hageman to do something. There’s plenty of experience. CB Derrick Wells (74 tackles, 10 PBUs, 2 INTs) will move from safety to replace departed star CB Troy Stoudermire. CB Martez Shabazz (6 tackles, 3 PBUs, 1 INT) was a backup last year but made clearly made some nice plays with limited opportunities. Brock Vereen (64 tackles, 9 PBUs, 2 INTs), and Cedric Thompson (43 tackles, 2 INTs) will form a nice safety blanket. The secondary overall was pretty good at limiting big plays against crappy Big Ten quarterbacks, so it’s reasonable to expect them to maintain status quo.
You know, Minnesota could actually field a pretty decent defensive unit. Player development will be key as always, but already the Gophers are in much better shape than the other B1G bottom feeders.
This team is kind of like: Remember the girl you never noticed in high school? Her name is Minnesota, and she drives a Kia.
Vs. Michigan: Over the last two years, Michigan has had a habit of destroying opponents in their B1G opener. Minnesota fell victim in 2011, and it's hard not to see that being the case again. Not that I’m predicting a 58-0 blow-out, but anything less than a multiple touchdown win margin would be kind of disappointing.
This is primarily because of that quarterback issue: the Gophers can grind it out all they want with the running game, but it’s going to be a tall order for their offense to try to keep up with what an experienced Devin Gardner is going to do against their defense. A mediocre non-mobile sophomore QB probably won’t cut it against Mattison’s defense in Ann Arbor.
Unless Philip Nelson plays out of his mind. We’ll have an idea of whether he has that ability when Minnesota plays Iowa the week before; not that Iowa is any good these days, but it’ll be their first competitive game all season (Way to go scheduling the Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks.) We’ll also get a good look at their receivers when they play Iowa. There’s a lot of unproven talent in that group, and they may given Michigan’s secondary some trouble with their size.
Either way, the Wolverines should have a field day on offense. Minnesota doesn’t have the athleticism to match up well against Michigan’s skill players, and questionable defensive line play will not last 60 minutes against two of the best tackles in the conference. The interior line just needs to keep Hageman blocked, and we’ll have a good idea of whether they can do that after the Notre Dame game.
Outlook: 6-6 overall, 2-6 B1G.
- Wins: Entire non-conference schedule, Iowa, Indiana.
- Losses: Michigan, Northwestern, Nebraska, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State.
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
The recruiting services are split on the #1 overall prospect in the 2014 class; Rivals and 247 give VA DE Da'Shawn Hand top honors, while LA RB Leonard Fournette earns that distinction on Scout and ESPN. Michigan is among the top contenders for Hand, of course, and Fournette is a lock to stay in the SEC, either at LSU or Alabama. Unless...
LSU and Alabama are the teams to beat for five-star New Orleans-St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette.
Except Fournette says it isn't so.
"That's not accurate," Fournette said Thursday, insisting he doesn't yet have any favorites among a list of offers so long he's stopped counting.
Well, then. The article by al.com's Mike Herndon names two other schools Fournette has visited—Florida State and Texas—as well as a certain program he's strongly considering for an official visit; yes, Michigan:
"You could say that (top prospects) pay attention to where other guys go," Fournette told Rivals.com. "I like Michigan. School-wise, they're more focused on grades than football. That's what I like about them. I think Jabrill made a good choice."
This is not happening. I refuse to believe this is happening. I will refuse to believe it even if Fournette makes it to campus, and will cease disbelief if—and only if—Fournette's name is signed in ink on a LOI faxed directly to Schembechler Hall in February. At that point, I'll still consider the whole thing a cruel hoax until Fournette actually suits up in a Michigan uniform.
[watches highlight tape again]
[counts plays before Fournette is tackled]
Apologies in advance for him committing to LSU and all of us feeling sad.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest round of underclassmen #JPTTA, updates on several top 2014 targets, and more.]
Bulking up. Glenn Robinson III posts his offseason workout results to the internet. He is a cyborg:
Not bad for under two months. Now, about creating those shots…
In similar news for the ladies, boy does Michigan like taking pictures of itself without a shirt on. Dennis Norfleet may have an eight-pack.
But he has eyebrows and can play basketball. NBADraft.net has joined Chad Ford in projecting Trey Burke to the Pistons; Hardaway also slips into the first round at #29.
There's another interesting name right after Hardaway's: Glen Rice Jr. You may remember Michigan passing over Rice when he was a recruit despite their apparent desire to lock down any NBA kids, Michigan alum or no, they can find. Despite Rice rounding into a potential first-rounder, that seems to have been the right call since for whatever mildly unsavory reason, Rice spent last year tearing up the D-League instead of helping Georgia Tech not be horrible.
Anyway: that rumor out there about how the Pistons would rather grab Cody Zeller than Trey Burke when they've got Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is so insane that it must be a smokescreen, but Joe Dumars is both the guy who put together the most unlikely championship team in… almost ever, I bet and the one who thought spending most of his cap space on a six-foot shooting guard and a guy without eyebrows was a good idea, traded Chauncey Billups for the ghost of Iverson and then couldn't even tank properly. I'm about fed up with Dumars at this point, and passing on Trey Burke (at eight!) is dead-to-me time.
What would happen if Trey Burke went up against NBA-level defenses? If only there was some way to tell… some way to tell… some way to tell…
5/10 from 2, 4/11 from 3, 10 assists versus Kansas
Dumars is eyeing this kid from Uzbekistan I bet.
Cry me a river of blood and transfers. Your unpaid student-athletes are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere in spite of the fact that you give them no money. You have done the same time and again to arrive where you are, the head coach of a basketball program. This is your hot take on that:
“It’s a bad rule,” Self says.
“It’s totally unfair to programs where they’ve worked with kids for four years,” Weber says.
Yes, that is the Bill Self at Kansas who just took grad transfer Tarik Black from Memphis, and Bruce Weber, the Kansas State coach who took Sam Maniscalco from Bradley. I'd like to say this is a surprising lack of self-awareness, but it's more required than surprised these days.
Elsewhere in the article, 16 players transferring up is an epidemic, with a transfer from Tulsa to Missouri highlighted as a negative ("I felt terrible for Danny [Manning]" says SIU coach Barry Hinson) after Tulsa fired its head coach. These days new head coaches feel free to cut loose anyone who doesn't fit their systems and these guys still have the gall to complain when players go where they know they're actually wanted. The article does, to its credit, suggest that actually offering those now-legal four-year scholarships would go a ways towards making the complaints something other than laughable.
Until then, lol. How many transfers of the 400+ this year were by choice of the coach, not the player? When that number is less than 16, call me.
Hello California. The Big Ten has called a press conference today with reps from the Holiday and Hunger bowls, which undoubtedly means they'll be affiliating with those folks. The Holiday is slated to get the third pick of teams left over from the big bowls (ie, 4th or 5th, mostly 5th); Hunger will be deposited into the Congrats On Going 6-6 range.
The Holiday is slated to be another one of those annoying play-up blows where the Pac-12 will send its second pick to the thing, not the third. That plus road game is not a good recipe for bowl success even if you aren't an epic pile of ever-growing suck. Remember that one time an Iowa team that went 2-6 in the Big Ten played Texas in Texas? Yeah. That's somewhat mitigated by the Big Ten having a stupid number of teams soon. Silver linings woo.
One hundred and forty two. Beilein talks retirement?
The soon-to-be seventh-year Michigan coach said Thursday he's got an idea of how many more years he'd like to coach before retiring, but isn't ready to announce those numbers publicly just yet.
"I have some numbers out there in my mind," said Beilein, who will turn 61 in February.
Prior to last season, Beilein said he still hadn't given retirement much thought, explaining how he'd just know when it was time to step away from the game. The 2013 season will be his 36th year as a head college basketball coach.
I suppose this is an inevitable thing. Guy will do so at Michigan, that's for sure, and hopefully not for another six or seven years.
Inflation. Lawyers Guns and Money takes a look at inflation-adjusted Michigan ticket prices over time, finding that things bounced around in a narrow range from 27 dollars (2012) to 47 for an entire century before the recent explosion to approximately 130 dollars, depending on how much of your PSL you're writing off.
Also included: why amateurism was basically fine in 1981 and is ludicrous now.
(3) Salary of Michigan’s head football coach, in 2012 dollars:
2012: $3.25 million
That is all you need to know. Related: 16 million of projects for field hockey, softball, and baseball approved.
OR: Hear, hear, let's have a hearing
People stood in front of a judge and talked yesterday, which happens all the time but only rarely is it the Ed O'Bannon case, which has been going on for years and will continue to go on until the sun is a feeble red dot in the sky* and people come to the conclusion that the NCAA is nuncupatory.
O'Bannon and his crew are trying to get a class certified, which would take their case from a few irritated dudes to everyone who has or is playing NCAA sports right now. Results are unknown at the moment, but the gist of it is that the NCAA is in trouble. The judge asked why the O'Bannon folk didn't have any current athletes as plaintiffs if they were trying to certify a class of NCAA athletes; O'Bannon's lawyers said flat-out they would add one. Cue the obvious reference:
The Curt Flood of major college sports is probably on a campus somewhere in America right now. He's probably participating today in some "voluntary" summer weightlifting or conditioning session. His head coach probably makes seven figures, and his school's conference probably signed a megabucks television deal in the past few years.
Curt Flood lost, which no one not actually employed by an athletic department wants to see happen here. The plaintiffs have been saying they have current guys interested for a while but have left them out so far because they didn't want to expose them to retaliation, which… honestly, would be the best possible thing for them. Can you imagine if a kid was added to the lawsuit and the NCAA took away his eligibility? The resulting war would make Helm's Deep look like a Kentucky home game.
SI says legal experts believe the class will be certified, and highlighted a Lionel Hutz argument from the NCAA:
"If you go in front of a camera and know you're going in front of a camera ... you're fair game for TV," Curtner said. "Cheerleaders, mascots, lots of people appear in these broadcasts, and there's a uniform practice in this country that these rights are not individually sold."
Curtner, in turn, drew a skeptical chuckle from the judge when Wilken subsequently asked, "So what is it the colleges are selling when they sell rights to show their games?"
"They are selling exclusive access to their stadium or arena," Curtner responded. "They're telling CBS, you can come in and broadcast this, and no one else can. ... That's all they're selling. They're not selling individual [players'] rights."
Sonny Vacarro said that's the dumbest thing he's ever heard, and while I've been on too many Ohio State message boards to concur it's up there.
The NCAA is going to lose this, right? I can imagine no other way it goes when almost a decade ago various people within the organization itself were asking the same question I have: when literally every move you make is focused on increasing revenue to the detriment of tradition and even common sense, how can you argue that amateurism is, like, a real thing?
"The biggest concern I have is that such a position really does allow for the maximum commercial exploitation of the [student-athlete] and if that occurs, will it be long before we can defend not giving them a piece of the profits?"
But weird stuff happens with lawsuits, I guess. If they do go ahead with the whole-enchilada lawsuit with current players and everything, it is a higher-risk strategy than going with the slow-and-steady approach other reformers have undertaken. But with NCAA correspondence consistently acknowledging the plaintiff's argument, risk seems a relative term.
"off the record, most of those I've spoken to at the NCAA and CLC are in favor of the players being more identifiable not less." –EA sports guy
*[astronomically incorrect, yes, I know.]
Matt Barkley, Giant Jimmy Clausen and Shane Morris
Up until late last season, most Michigan fans were preparing for the possibility of starting this season in the hands of a true freshman quarterback. Prior to last season’s Nebraska game, this season was shaping up to feature a quality quarterback competition. Devin Gardner was the former five star dual threat quarterback. He had looked shaky in his brief appearances and during the Spring Game. At the time, some were wondering if his current stop over at wide receiver could be a more permanent move. Russell Bellomy was the last minute addition to Michigan’s first recruiting class under Brady Hoke. His physical tools were limited but he had put up a solid showing in the previous spring. Bellomy and Gardner were still largely unknowns as college quarterbacks at the time, but what was known didn’t lead many to think there was a strong option on campus. For many, the hope for the 2013 quarterback position rested in five star commitment Shane Morris.
Everything changed at the Nebraska game. Denard Robinson was injured and with Devin Gardner largely at wide receiver, Russell Bellomy got his shot. Bellomy struggled mightily, Gardner was permanently moved back to quarterback and produced a fantastic closing stretch. Meanwhile, high school senior Shane Morris came down with a case of mono and saw his stock slide back with a limited senior year.
Now the picture is much clearer. Devin Gardner has locked down the starting spot, Russell Bellomy tore his ACL, and Shane Morris likely will miss out on a redshirt season, but will be able to spend some time learning from the sideline before being thrown into live action. MCalibur did a great job looking at what Devin’s season could look like. But what would the world look like if Shane Morris was in a position to take over just months after his Senior Prom.*
*This fulfills my professional obligation to reference Senior Prom in any article about true freshmen.
The Short History of Success
The answers aren’t pretty so there isn’t any point in sugar coating. I looked at true freshmen quarterbacks since the 2003 season that played at least 10 games and averaged at least 20 plays (passes+rushes). During that time only eight qualifying quarterbacks have had a positive PAN (Points Above Normal, Opponent Adjusted). Only three have been greater than +1. For reference, last year there were 58 quarterbacks who had positive PAN with at 20 plays per game. There obviously aren’t a ton of true freshman playing most of the snaps in a given year, but eight players in eleven seasons to be above average is a tiny number.
Four of the eight were from BCS programs and of those Robert Griffin, Tyrod Taylor and Terrelle Pryor all had a rushing portion of their game that really helped them. That leaves one pro style true freshman BCS quarterback in the last 11 seasons who had a positive PAN. That player was Matt Barkley in 2009. It should also be noted that the 2009 USC offense was the most highly ranked offensive unit in terms of recruiting profile in the internet era of recruiting. And it’s not that close. Surrounded by all of that talent a true freshman Matt Barkley had a PAN of +1.1. For a 2012 comparison, +1.1 is right between David Ash of Texas and Tevin Washington of Georgia Tech. Over 11 years, that is the best case scenario for a player in Shane Morris’ situation. And although the pipeline is beginning to fill up, the 2012 Michigan offense probably isn’t quite as loaded as Barkley had in 2009.
If you include the dual threat quarterbacks, the best BCS season was Terrelle Pryor’s first
professional season at +2.7. At nearly 3 points above average per game, Pryor’s value moved him into Top 30 range, along the lines of Matt McGloin at Penn State last season. Here is the full list of eight who managed positive territory.
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio St||2008||+2.7|
|Tyrod Taylor||Virginia Tech||2007||+0.4|
|Nate Davis||Ball St||2006||+0.3|
|Spencer Keith||Kent St||2009||+0.2|
The Long History of Failure
With only eight players passing the average mark, that leaves the rest to fall below. The average season for all other true freshmen quarterbacks was nearly –3. The worst was Jimmy Clausen’s 2007 season at –8. The average performance is on par with Zach Mettenberger’s performance at LSU and if you watched a good LSU team at all last year, you knew none of their success was due to him. Clausen’s awful 2007 would have barely edged out Sean Schroeder of Hawaii to escape being the worst quarterback performance of the season.
The lack of success of true freshman isn’t necessarily indicative of future failure. Even Jimmy Clausen made an All-American list and got drafted in the second round. Teddy Bridgewater, Braxton Miller, Chad Henne, Matthew Stafford, Brady Quinn and Josh Freeman all turned below average true freshmen seasons into great college careers and/or high draft selections.
What it Means for Michigan
Thank goodness for Devin Gardner’s breakout performances. No matter how good a true freshmen quarterback is and how good their supporting cast is, the first season they are going to be a limiting reagent for the offense. In the coming weeks I am hoping to get a look at quarterback career progression to see if there is any sort of an optimal career path where some experience can avoid some of the struggles noted above but still provide the opportunity to get elite talent like Shane Morris on the field as much as possible. Chances are Michigan’s current quarterback timeline should fit nicely into a high value historical path. A year or two to develop behind Devin Gardner combined with Morris’ strong recruiting profile mean that he should be in an excellent position to succeed when his time has come. Luckily for us, that doesn’t have to be this year.