mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
|WHAT||Michigan at Nebraska|
|WHERE||Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska|
|WHEN||9 pm Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -4 (KenPom)|
Right: Lil' Red status update—STILL TERRIFYING EVEN WHEN UPSIDE-DOWN.
Tim Miles is slowly extricating Nebraska from the darkest depths of major college basketball; while the Huskers still struggle to consistently hang with quality competition in Miles' second year, they're no longer a gimme win for half-decent teams—just ask Miami—and Michigan can't except tonight's game in Lincoln to be a cakewalk.
6'6" sophomore wing Terran Petteway leads the team in scoring (17.3 ppg) in his first year playing for the program after a transfer from Texas Tech. He does this largely by volume, taking 30% of the team's shots when he's on the court. While he's a solid outside shooter (40% 3-pt), his efficiency inside the arc (44%) leaves a lot to be desired, though he helps make up for this by getting to the line frequently and shooting a lights-out 87% at the charity stripe.
6'7", 219-pound sophomore Shavon Shields is the #2 offensive option in the starting lineup; while he's listed as a guard/forward on the official roster, he's the nominal power forward among the Husker starters. His best attribute is drawing fouls—a third of his points come at the free-throw line—and while he's a decent finisher at the rim (61%, per hoop-math.com), his shooting has been MIA this year (26% on 2-pt jumpers, 30% on 3-pt). Shields and Petteway both do a decent job of hitting the defensive boards, though neither is stellar in this regard.
The rebounding onus falls on the big man tandem of 6'10" sophomore Walter Pitchford and 6'8", 255-pound junior Leslee Smith; the two split their minutes pretty evenly and each brings something different to the table. Pitchford, the starter, takes nearly as many three-pointers (17/46 this year) as two-pointers (26/52), and does most of his damage as an inside/outside offensive threat; quite remarkably, he's the only qualifying player in the country who's yet to record a turnover this season.
Smith is the superior rebounder—ranking in the top 100 on both ends of the floor—and shot-blocker, in addition to being more efficient around the hoop, hitting 62% of his twos. Smith also draws far more fouls than Pitchford and converts at a solid 72% clip; however, he's not an outside shooting threat and has recorded half as many turnovers (20) as made baskets (40), which explains why Pitchford gets the starting nod over him.
The starting two-guard is 6'2" senior Ray Gallegos, whom you may remember shooting an astounding 4-of-16 on three-pointers against Michigan last year as Nebraska's top offensive option. Miles has reigned him in quite a bit this year; after being a high-usage, wildly-inefficient chucker last season (30% on 271[!] 3-pt attempts), he's now almost exclusively a spot-up shooter and doing well in that role, connecting on 40% of his threes this season—all but one of his makes has been assisted.
6'4" freshman Tai Webster, a native of noted basketball hotbed New Zealand, mans the point. Thus far he's been plagued by the usual freshman PG issues; his 30 turnovers nearly cancel out his 35 assists and his 39/21/58 2P/3P/FT splits are downright ugly. His length may give Michigan's point guards some issues defensively; otherwise, he's a weak spot in this lineup.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, the primary backup guards don't fare much better: 6'0" junior Deverell Biggs takes nearly as many shots as Pettaway despite shooting just 40% from the field, and 5'9" sophomore Benny Parker has a lower ORtg than Biggs while also being a presumed defensive liability at his height.
The Huskers are currently 8-6, though they're just 1-5 against KP100 teams, with that lone win coming at home against Miami; that stands as their only quality win unless you want to count a neutral-site victory over #138 Georgia—the rest have come against your proverbial slate of RPI anchors. They are, notably, still undefeated at home, though the schedule gets most of the credit for that. Their last three games have all been double-digit road losses against top-25 teams, culminating in an 84-53 blowout at Ohio State last Saturday.
Four factors (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||47.6 (242)||16.1 (51)||28.9 (251)||44.5 (104)|
|Defense||48.5 (135)||20.0 (92)||30.5 (132)||50.1 (304)|
Nebraska's offense, statistically, resembles a slightly more competent version of this year's Northwestern squad: sub-par shooting and rebounding, little in the way of turnovers, and a knack for getting to the line. The Huskers have been a better outside shooting team and don't get nearly as many of their shots blocked; otherwise the profiles are eerily similar.
The defense, as you can see, is very reliant on forcing turnovers, and they'll hack their way to the ball in an effort to do so. The Yin: Nebraska is 26th nationally in steal rate. The Yang: they cede the 54-most points at the line. In their two Big Ten games (at Iowa and at OSU) they've failed to force those turnovers (15.4%) while allowing a ridiculous 69.4 free throw rate; the Huskers were also bombarded from the field in those contests, allowing 53% shooting from two and 40% from three.
Attack, attack, attack. If their first two Big Ten games are any indication—not to mention Michigan's skill at holding onto the ball—Nebraska should give up a lot of a drives that end in layups, open outside shooters, or (most especially) free throws. Nik Stauskas should have a field day working off the pick-and-roll, GRIII can go to work on the block, and this seems like the right opponent for Caris LeVert to get his offensive game going again, as well. Michigan should look to drive and kick—or just drive and shoot—until the Huskers prove they're remotely capable of stopping it.
Hands off. This one should favor the Wolverines—Nebraska is heavily reliant on getting to the line to score points, while Michigan currently ranks fourth in the country in opponent free throw rate. Nebraska's ability to generate free throws has plummeted in their two Big Ten games (24.4 FTRate) against teams that foul slightly more often than Michigan. If the Wolverines simply play their normal defense, they should be able to shut down a big part of the Husker offense.
Force Petteway off the arc. Petteway is Nebraska's leading scorer by a wide margin and he's a much more efficient producer from the outside than he is once he gets inside the arc. Regardless of who's defending him, the strategy should be to close out hard and funnel him inside, where Michigan's size should give him issues (especially if Jon Horford, the team's one true rim protector, is on the court).
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 4
UMHoops preview. Two must-read UMHoops features on Stauskas—a look at his statistical progression and a breakdown of his versatility off ball screens and handoffs.
Austin Hatch returned to the court for the first time since the tragic 2011 plane crash, and what he did after checking into the game in the fourth quarter was something straight out of a Disney movie (video courtesy of UMHoops):
According to the LA Times, the jumper "caused his Loyola High coach and teammates to charge onto the court and pick up a technical foul."
Loyola won the game, 87-59.
"It was the best technical foul I've ever been a part of," Loyola Coach Jamal Adams told the Times.
Best news of the year, right there.
happier times with Heiko
Al Borges is gone from Michigan after three years. And I'm… relieved. Yes. I think that's right.
Not exactly happy, of course. A dude just got fired. This site had a bizarre frenemies relationship (see: all the tags on this post) with Borges that started with prodding about constraint plays from Heiko by my request. This developed into a press conference Odd Couple thing where Heiko would get crap from Borges and give a little bit of it back, all the while trying to gently ask about the latest debacle. The results were the most entertaining transcripts not involving Steve Spurrier ever.
Then last winter Heiko started agitating me about getting an interview with him. I thought it was a cockamamie idea that would never get past the gatekeepers. This take would have been accurate except for one thing: Borges wanted to do it. So Heiko eventually crept his way past the border guards, was promised 15 minutes, and got 45. The resulting interview ran on the site last summer and was a fantastic glimpse into the day to day experience of being Michigan's offensive coordinator.
Why is nobody else in mourning right now?
— Heiko Yang (@Heiko25) January 9, 2014
I also know that friend of the site Craig Ross did what he always does with Michigan coaches, which is badger them with paper until they are forced to respond. I don't know how he does this, but he does, and he dumped articles and questions on Borges until he eventually got a phone call one morning with Borges on the other end. A debate/harangue sort of thing occurred until Craig—Craig!—had to say goodbye because he had a mediation to oversee (the conversation made it into last year's book).
Personally, I took in Borges's session at the Glazier Clinic in Detroit a couple years ago and came away impressed by his command of the material and ability to communicate concepts.
Al Borges was not a bad guy, and helped us out. That he did so seemingly because Heiko's badgering amused him is the mark of a guy who can take some heat.
It's just that his goddamned offense didn't work.
THINGS STARTED INAUSPICIOUSLY, as Michigan found itself down 24-7 to Notre Dame three quarters into the first night game at Michigan Stadium. Michigan had 141 yards of offense nearing the end of the third quarter when the delirium kicked in. Robinson threw off his back foot just before getting sacked, Junior Hemingway skied for balls between two defenders, Gary Gray refused to acknowledge the existence of footballs, Jeremy Gallon engaged his cloaking device, and when the dust cleared Michigan had squeezed out one of the most bonkers wins in their history.
In the aftermath, things felt ramshackle, and I said as much. Michigan returned nine starters from Rich Rodriguez's final offense, the one that had seen Robinson set records, and this was not that:
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
The drugs did not really wear off for a while as the horseshoe stuck in Brady Hoke's posterior saw them through some rough spots.
Things only came to a screeching halt when Borges unleashed the first of his incredibly terrible gameplans at Michigan State. Faced with a howling maelstrom of trash and in possession of Denard Robinson, Borges featured a gameplan consisting mostly of deep throws as he alternated between Robinson and Devin Gardner. After a stirring opening drive, Michigan went nowhere. They did eat double A gap blitz after double A gap blitz thanks to the fact that their center was telling the entire world the exact moment he'd snap the ball, which he'd done the year before to similar effect. Had any of Michigan's new staff even watched the previous year's game?
Actually, here's a better question: were any of them watching this one?
For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.
TWO POINT EIGHT YARDS
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!
Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.
That was and is flabbergastingly stupid, but Borges managed to top that just a few weeks later when he ditched the spread entirely against Iowa, running a "pro-style" offense because that's what he wanted to do. This was tantamount to forfeiting.
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten.
A chastened Borges went back to the spread for the duration of the season as Michigan scored 31, 45, and 40 to finish the regular season. The 40, against Ohio State, was amongst the best performances Michigan's ever had against the Buckeyes, with Robinson ripping off inverted veer runs for big gains, including the iconic touchdown run to open things.
Michigan had just gutted Ohio State for 300 rushing yards while throwing 17 times. They did this despite running the veer wrong, blocking the guy who teams that actually know how to run the spread would option. It didn't matter. All they had to do was put Robinson in space against the guy they should be blocking, and magic resulted. That, and only that, concealed the rapid erosion of Michigan's ability to run the football. And when the bowl game rolled around, Virginia Tech knew how to defend a half-ass spread. Michigan managed to win that game thanks to the horseshoe; the offense played no part, acquiring under 200 yards of offense for the first time in the Borges era.
It would not be the last time.
ROBINSON HAD SHED THE MANTLE OF INVINCIBILITY acquired over the course of 2010, when he crushed records as a still-raw true sophomore. His interception rate skyrocketed, he lost a half-yard per passing attempt and a whopping 1.3 yards per rushing attempt. That was nothing compared to what awaited the next year.
Setting aside the Alabama debacle as a game Michigan entered with no intention of winning, Borges again reverted to 1990s-style offense completely unsuited for his personnel on the infamous series of plays on which Robinson threw interception after interception.
This is where I deviate from old school hardliners who foist the blame for Robinson's panicked throws on the quarterback who'd been brilliant and efficient two years ago in that very stadium, running the stuff he was good at running. Borges had him run waggles on which not one but two Notre Dame defenders came roaring up at the 5'11" Robinson. He made the results as bad as possible; Borges created a range of results that went only from interception to second and twenty. By that point watching Borges try to utilize Denard Robinson was like watching an otter try to bash open a clam with a shoe.
Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.
When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.
Robinson would go down with his elbow injury midseason, paving the way for Devin Gardner's insertion. This went better than anyone expected—including the coaches who had privately all but given up on him as a quarterback—and eventually Denard returned to the lineup as a slash player, which worked really well for about a game and a half until Ohio State figured out that Robinson at QB always meant run and played like it.
If you've poked around the flaming wreckage of the Michigan internet in the aftermath of Saturday, you have undoubtedly heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth because of that. But the thing is so stark it has to be marveled at again: when Denard Robinson entered the game against Ohio State, every play but one was Denard Robinson doing something. Once it was fail to chip Ryan Shazier and try to get out for a screen; all other times it was run the ball, sometimes with a pitch included. The fakeout was a six-yard completion to Mike Kwiatkowski in the first quarter, and there ended any attempt at deception.
Devin Gardner was at quarterback for three of these plays. Michigan held up a sign that said RUN or PASS, and didn't even try the token fakeout where Robinson goes over the top when the safeties suck up. Gardner ran three times. Denard passed zero. Ohio State figured it out. Surprise!
Most of the time the two quarterbacks weren't even on the field together.
Have I mentioned that Michigan's non-Denard running game was so bad we assumed it couldn't possibly be worse this year?
four DTs and an SDE
two turntables and a microphone
And then, this year. While the unacceptably stupid gameplans based around distaste for the only thing you can get your team to do right evaporated, that was only because Michigan could no longer do anything right at all. After the de rigueur exciting offensive performance against a Notre Dame team that got everyone's hopes high enough to crush Michigan settled into a pattern of ineptitude so vast as to be unbelievable.
Personnel issues contributed, but when the reaction to those issues was the looney-tunes decision to put Michigan's two best offensive linemen next to each other even if they both happened to be tackles, it was over. Michigan put it on film against Minnesota, wasted their bye week repping the never-before-seen tackle over offense, and proceeded to have their tailback rush for 27 yards on 27 carries. The tackle over was quickly dumped, but only after wasting three critical weeks of in-season development for a painfully young offensive line.
That that offensive line had been asked to run first the stretch and then a bunch of power before finally seeming to settle on inside zone—ie, run the full gamut of modern blocking schemes—compounded matters immensely. Borges treated a collection of pups barely out of high school like they were the 1998 Denver Broncos and reaped the whirlwind.
Except the Broncos did one thing and did it very well. Michigan did everything and in the in the end, Michigan did nothing. Two years after a broken version of the inverted veer performed well enough to put 40 points on Ohio State, Michigan had been forced away from it because the only play they could pair with it was a moderately successful QB counter. Not once in Borges's final two years could he run play action off that look, and teams eventually boa constrictored it out of the Michigan playbook.
That was emblematic of the offense as a whole: tiny unconnected packages unrelated to each other, all of which could have worked if Michigan would just execute that one thing they practiced three times last month. When things worked they worked briefly and then were held on to long after the opponent had adjusted, because Michigan never had enough in its arsenal to sustain a full game of production without its quarterback playing out of his mind.
As the tackles for loss mounted and the press conferences got shorter, "we didn't execute" became Borges's self-damning mantra. Michigan could not expect to execute. There is your firing in a sentence.
The firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges obviously shook things up among Michigan fans as Twitter and MGoBlog almost exploded once the news dropped. Then all that happened was a pluck-job of Alabama’s offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Again, the Michigan universe went into a frenzy. How is all of this affecting recruits? I was able to touch base with a few just to get an idea of how the decision is sitting with people who will and might wear the Maize and Blue.
2014 TE commit Ian Bunting
The Fire: Coach Borges did help recruit me so it’s obviously not the ideal situation but I trust that the staff is only making decisions that are in the best interest of the team. I’m still set on Michigan though! I have no idea who the replacement could or should be. Someone who likes to pass a lot, especially to the tight ends. Maybe the New England Patriots OC? (Laughs)
The Hire: It’s awesome! The OC from Bama? It’s sweet. It’s definitely encouraging. I just hope he likes throwing to his tight ends. I do know that he likes winning.
2014 RB offeree Vic Enwere
The Fire: Coach Borges getting fired changes things for me a little bit. It’s just going to take more time now to understand the new offensive approach. Coach Borges and I had a great talk when I went up there and a little bit before that too. We haven’t really talked since my last visit. I’m not sure if the words “hurt Michigan’s chances” are accurate but it does make it a bit tougher. Uncertainty just makes it tough.
The Hire: I honestly never heard his name before but I am familiar with his style. Being the offensive coordinator from Alabama definitely means something though.
2015 OL offeree Sterling Jenkins
The Fire: I definitely respect Coach Borges as a person but I hope I get to meet the new OC and I hope no one else from the staff goes. On my visit I mostly talked to Coach Borges and Coach Funk so we for sure had a relationship. Him being fired won’t really affect me. That has been happening all over the country. Michigan won’t hire someone who’s not up for the job. I think they’ll be okay, if not better from this move.
The Hire: I am looking forward to meeting him. He definitely has a good track record coming from Bama.
2015 WR offeree Christian Kirk
The Fire: I never got a chance to talk to Coach Borges during the bowl practice so I don’t really have a thought on him being fired. It doesn’t change anything for me in regards to Michigan.
The Hire: Interesting! We will see what he brings to Michigan! It helps Michigan’s case in my mind because I’m interested to see if he can turn it around. If he decides to come in contact with me it definitely helps Michigan’s chances.
2015 QB offeree David Sills:
The Fire: I’ve actually never talked to Coach Borges but I heard he was a great coach. He wasn’t personally involved with me and my offer. I’m not sure if I’m going to visit Michigan or not. Having two teammates up there means Michigan will always be an option. Right now though I am still with USC.
The Hire: I’m sure he will do great at Michigan. Michigan has always been attractive to me and always will be, so no real change.
2015 QB target Jimmy Fitzgerald:
The Fire: I just heard about Coach Borges being fired. I haven’t ever talked to him too much, Coach Mallory is my main contact. It doesn’t really change my view on Michigan. It’s not exactly the news I’d like to hear but Michigan is still a very attractive school both academically and athletically.
The Hire: That’s big time!
2015 QB target Kyle Kearns:
The Fire: Wow, I didn’t know anything about Coach Borges getting fired. I probably talked to him maybe 2 or more weeks ago. I’m still very interested in Michigan though, I’ll make sure to talk Coach Ferrigno about it the next time we talk.
The Hire: It’s awesome. I am really good friends with Coach Nuss. I have been in contact with him since last year.
2015 QB target Riley Neal:
The Fire: I had no idea they were thinking about firing him. I talked to Coach Borges maybe a week or two ago, but it’s crazy that he’s fired. Him getting fired doesn’t really change my view on Michigan. I liked Coach Borges but I still like the program they have at Michigan. I’m interested to see who they hire. I plan on calling one of the GA’s here soon to see if he knows anything.
The Hire: I think it’s a good hire for them. It should help Michigan in my eyes because he has won national championships and that’s always the goal so he brings that experience in with him.
2015 QB target Nick Johns:
The Fire: I heard about Coach Borges getting fired while I was at school. Now I’ll just wait and see who they hire. It doesn’t change anything for me right now. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked with Coach Borges. I kind of assumed he might be let go since he stopped talking to me. Hopefully Michigan will hire someone good.
The Hire: That’s a great move of power on Michigan’s part. It absolutely helps their cause in my eyes.
2015 QB target Alex Malzone:
The Fire: Man, I had no idea Coach Borges would be fired. I have always stayed in touch with Dan Ifft and then Coach Singletary a little bit so we’ll see who is brought in next. Obviously I’ve started to build a relationship with Coach Borges but it’s still Michigan football and they will bring in the right guy. I haven’t talked to Coach Borges since my Ohio State visit. I’m anxious to see who they hire.
The Hire: It’s a great hire, I’m excited about it. I’ve always been high on Michigan but it is a boost in my interest. I plan on calling Coach Ifft today to see what’s going on.
2015 QB target Zach Gentry
The Hire: (I didn’t hear back from Zach until news had surfaced that Nussmeier would be the replacement so we discussed only that) I think it’s a really solid hire! He balances the running and passing game well and he makes the system easy on the quarterback. I’d say it definitely helps Michigan in my eyes. I think it’s important that they have a really balanced attack. they seem to have the right players coming in that can help plus solid returning offensive guys. I’m still highly interested in Michigan. Coaching changes are going to happen everywhere. It doesn’t take anything away from Michigan and their tradition. I think I’ll probably try to reach out and get in touch with Coach Nussmeier and get established with him.
When you have success at the level that Alabama has, it carries a lot of weight and the reactions from commits and targets is clear evidence of that. The hiring of Nussmeier has already sent a shot of rejuvenation into the Michigan fanbase as well as potential Michigan players.
It is going to be really interesting to see how this hire affects recruiting as well. I’m very curious to see how the 2015 quarterback situation shakes out now, as Borges sort of ran the show on that evaluation. #1 2015 QB Ricky Town was recruited to Alabama by Nussmeier and while I don’t see him bailing on Bama, I’m sure Nuss will get in touch with him. Intrigue all around with a splash hire like this.
Sam Webb is a connected person, and it appears that the Michigan OC choice is a barely-hidden secret amongst the connected, so when he posts an article titled
Michigan's Ideal Candidate
With a picture of Doug Nussmeier and long discussion of Doug Nussmeier, who you'd think would be untouchable at Alabama, this is… unlikely to be a guess. And since it's followed quickly by Bruce Feldman confirming, it seems to be done. Informative update to follow.
INFORMATIVE UPDATE. So who is this dude? He started his coaching career in the CFL with a couple of years as a QB coach, then moved on to Michigan State in the same capacity for three years (Jeff Smoker as a senior and then two years of Drew Stanton), then the Rams for two years. Marc Bulger was an All-Pro in year 1, which was an 8-8 season, and then the Rams went 3-13 and everyone got fired.
Nussmeier landed at Fresno State as OC for one season, was immediately hired away by Washington, and after three years was hired by Saban. His numbers as an offensive coordinator:
|2008||Fresno State||56%||5||7.2||5.9 (28th)||387 (43rd)||59th|
|2009||Washington||49%||4.3||7.1||5.7 (48th)||376 (62nd)||41st|
|2010||Washington||56%||4.7||6.6||5.5 (67th)||362 (76th)||63rd|
|2011||Washington||53%||4.4||8.2||6.2 (24th)||410 (38th)||24th|
|2012||Alabama||63%||5.6||9.3||7.0 (5th)||446 (31st)||5th|
|2013||Alabama||56%||5.8||8.8||7.2 (5th)||454 (33rd)||9th|
It should be noted that the Washington job was massive reclamation project after Ty Willingham cratered the Huskies to 0-12. The year before Nussmeier showed up the Huskies were 118th of 120 in total yardage at 263, and their other stats were basically the same. With Jake Locker, Nussmeier popped the Huskies up to average and when Keith Price took over in 2011 they were legit. The caveat there is that Steve Sarkisian, an offensive guy, was his head coach.
Then he was hired by Alabama and everything got very shiny indeed. However, it is Alabama, and make no mistake: Nussmeier was not some pirate coup with Alabama desperately defending as Michigan thrusted and parried. Alabama boards have been buzzing for weeks about who their new OC would be. Saban told Nussmeier to look around for a nice landing spot and Michigan provided one. For whatever reason, Nussmeier was just not process-y enough for Dear Robot.
Nussmeier's got a pretty good resume both as an OC and a QB coach, what with Smoker/Stanton/Bulger/Price/Locker/McCarron on his resume, and quickly climbed the ladder. He's got a good rep as a recruiter and at 43 is relatively young for a BCS offensive coordinator; his Washington offenses were spread/pro mish-mash amalgams and then he seemed to do just fine with Alabama's pro-style attack. It's possible Michigan was going to ride with Borges for another year before the rarest commodity of all appeared: a proven college offensive coordinator with pro-style genes.
NOPE. / Please!
UPDATE: Kirk Herbstreit says it is a current college OC.
I'm going to try to keep this realistic, which means Oregon OC Scott Frost is out, RichRod OC Calvin Magee is out, and the two guys who have been in Manhattan, Kansas for 16 and 17 years as co-OCs are out. This puts me one step ahead of Coaching Scoop, which throws out Lane Kiffin as a name to watch.
The question is: how much control will Hoke cede and how married is he to manball? His coaching history suggests he's a "whatever works" guy, running a MAC-standard passing spread during his breakout year with Nate Davis and hiring Rocky Long to run the dreaded 3-3-5 at San Diego State. The fact that This Is Michigan seems to have given him the impression that he has to run Carr's mid-nineties offense. Has this season disabused him of that notion? Is he willing to hand the keys over to a proven offensive mind and say "go get it," even if it looks funky and does not abide by the Queensbury rules?
I don't know.
The problem with assuming that Hoke will look for a "pro style" coordinator is that they are increasingly hard to find. Looking at the top teams in yards per play this year is futile since they consist of guys Michigan cannot get to make a lateral move (OCs at Alabama, LSU, FSU, and Georgia aren't moving) or run offenses that would require a major philosophical shift(Oregon, Baylor, A&M, Auburn, Indiana) even if Michigan could hypothetically grab their OC. If we are sticking to manball, the field quickly narrows, leaving Michigan looking at candidates who are… uh… well, they're not slam dunks.
Current D-I coordinators who seem like they might fit are limited. Two that seem plausible:
Jim Chaney, OC, Arkansas. Chaney's been around the block, operating both Purdue's passing spread under Drew Brees and Tennessee's pro-style attack with Tyler "The" Bray. He just got hired at Arkansas by Bret Bielema and while Arkansas was in no way good, it is impressive that the Razorbacks had two 900 yard rushers and finished in the top 20 in YPC despite having a QB who completed fewer than half his passes for a Sheridan-like 6.0 YPC. Tennessee's offenses with Chaney were up and down; he did finish 2012 with the #19 YPP offense despite the turbulence at the end of the Dooley era.
Chaney's been around the block and has coordinated both spread and pro-style attacks; he knows the Big Ten from nine years as Purdue's OC.
Matt Canada, OC, NC State. Was Indiana's OC from 2007 to 2010, when Bill Lynch was swept out. Then started a Loeffler-like odyssey, visiting Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and NC State for one year stints. None of his stops have been that successful save the one year at Northern Illinois, but did blow up at Bielema prior to last year's Big Ten Championship game, a 70-31 explosion against Nebraska. Likes futzin' and hoodaddery, in a Fritz Crisler sort of way.
Neither of these guys do much for me, and often the smart answer is to dip down to lower levels and pick off the guys killing it down there. Oklahoma State keeps losing offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator to head coaching jobs, and the last time Mike Gundy had to pick a guy he went over to the NCAA's website and picked off the guy at the head of D-II stats. That worked out fairly well.
With the kind of money Michigan was throwing at Borges they might not have to look at lower-level OCs, they can take a shot at…
Rob Ambrose, HC, Towson. You may remember Towson as the team that had an easier time against UConn than Michigan did, or from that time their basketball team played Michigan and was just unbelievably bad. Towson ended up in the FCS national title game against North Dakota State, and that is an amazing accomplishment for a program that almost ended in 1990. Ambrose was Towson's OC for a while before moving into the head job; he is a former quarterback who coaches that position but has flexibility:
Combs said many former quarterbacks who become offensive coordinators or head coaches often stick with pass-heavy offenses regardless of personnel.
Not Ambrose, Combs said.
With Ambrose as offensive coordinator in 1999, the Tigers thrived behind quarterback Joe Lee’s school-record 4,168 passing yards. The following season, Towson built its offense around running back Noah Reed, who rushed for a Patriot League-record 1,422 yards.
After a rough start, Towson's gone 9-3, 7-4, and 13-3, and Ambrose has heard of Michigan:
For Towson, winning a national championship means making history, and that’s something Rob Ambrose plays up when he talks to recruits.
“You can go to Michigan and be on Page 7,000 of their history book or you can come here and write it,’’ he said.
The article describes battles won to get coaches' cell phones paid for by the school, so I don't think the demotion in rank is going to bother Ambrose, hypothetically.
Bob Stitt, HC, Colorado School Of Mines. Stitt got on everyone's radar after Dana Holgorsen shredded Clemson with a play Stitt gave him, and his work at CSM has been impressive over a long duration. Hoke would have to give him the keys entirely…
Stitt says he'd be willing to move up as an offensive coordinator, but only if the head coach would give him total offensive control. It's not difficult to see why he's so well-regarded in coaching circles, especially by those who run wide-open offenses. At 6-3, Stitt is closing in on his 11th winning season in 13 years. In all but a few of those years, the Orediggers, who play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, have ranked among the top-10 in Div. II in passing offense.
…but this is a guy widely known for not wearing a headset for most of the game, so… yeah. That's implied. In terms of consistent, long-term resume and success at a school with zero recruiting advantages(Mines consists of 5200 engineers), Stitt is tough to beat.
Troy Rothenbuhler, OC, Findlay. Three year record as OC with D-II Oilers is impressive. First year featured a bounce up from under 250 yards a game to nearly 400; year two was 437 yards a game, and year three saw Findlay crack 500. They do run a spread, but their plays per game of 75 is not super fast. Rushed for almost 2900 yards this year at 5.5 a pop. Is an OSU grad, with whom Michigan has done well with in the past.
Phil Longo, OC, Slippery Rock. Yeah, seriously. The main issue here is that he's a no-huddle Air Raid guy, but hear me out: He's in his third year at Slippery Rock, finding plenty of success, and spent two years at SIU in which the Salukies went 20-5. One year he lost his QB midyear and went from passing-oriented to spread 'n' shred. Kind of looks like Brock Lesnar, too.
The other option is to look up at NFL types. When not mentioning Lane Kiffin, Football Scoop throws out three NFL position coaches that induce varying levels of depression in the author:
Mike Groh, WR, Chicago Bears. The Jay Paterno of Virginia football under Al Groh. Was OC for three years at end of Groh tenure. In 2008, Virginia was 102nd in YPP, in 2007 they were 105th. CFB Stats does not have 2006, but I think the point is made. Groh's resume is terrible. DEPRESSION LEVEL: immense.
John McNulty, QB, Arizona Cardinals. A grad assistant at Michigan in the early 90s and has one year as an OC to his name, that in 2008 at Rutgers. Rutgers was good that year (20th in YPP) and he is a QB coach in the NFL. Track record very thin. DEPRESSION LEVEL: moderate.
Randy Fitchner, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Another guy who started as a grad assistant at Michigan, Fitchner in the mid-80s. He was a college OC for a decade at Arkansas State and Memphis, where he ran spread offenses rather effectively. This was the DeAngelo Williams era at Memphis, not the incredibly depressing stuff since. DEPRESSION LEVEL: minimal.
…and now Sam Webb's hinting strongly($) that the announcement will come tomorrow and crosses off Kiffin, Mazzone, and a few other possibilities that no one thought were particularly serious, so we won't have to wait long. To me this means none of these guys are particularly likely unless Hoke's been doing groundwork completely out of the public eye since AFAIK none of them have Hoke ties. I figured Michigan would vet and interview candidates at the big AFCA coaching hoo-haw this week; apparently not.
Per the Athletic Department, offensive coordinator Al Borges has been fired. Here's the entirety of the press release:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 8) that offensive coordinator Al Borges will not be retained for the 2014 season.
"Decisions like these are never easy," said Hoke. "I have a great amount of respect for Al as a football coach and, more importantly, as a person. I appreciate everything he has done for Michigan Football for the past three seasons."
Prior to joining U-M in 2011, Borges was a member of Hoke's staff at San Diego State in 2009 and '10.
The Wolverines will begin spring practice on Feb. 25 and finish with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 5, at Michigan Stadium.
The fallout will be covered in exhaustive detail in the coming days. One interesting candidate—coincidentally, from Borges' former school—is rumored to have been contacted by Brady Hoke regarding the now-open position, according to coachingsearch.com:
A source tells me that Brady Hoke has reached out to UCLA offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone and at least one NFL assistant, though Mazzone isn't likely to leave for Ann Arbor.
Mazzone runs an "uptempo no-huddle spread," according to Chris Brown (Smart Football); even if he's not interested in the job, moving in that direction would certainly please the people who write for this here blog. As for recruiting, it's unlikely the class of 2014 will be affected much, if at all, and there's plenty of time to make up any lost ground in the 2015 class. Again, we'll have much, much more on this in the coming days.