“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
In March, I posted Part 1, looking at the recruiting make-up of the last ten BCS Champion football teams. For those of you lost in the three week basketball coma, the key takeaways were:
- Defensive line is the position with the highest average rating (5th) of any position
- Offense (7th) and Defense (5th) are both important but defenses feature more highly rated recruits for national champions.
- No national champion has been crowned with a roster profile (Ratings + Age) outside of the top ten, a group Michigan will likely sit on the fringes of next year.
For Part 2, we’ll move to the on field performance. Looking at conversion rates and big play potential on both offense and defense as well as field position.
Some quick notes on methodology.
Conversion rate = [1st Downs gained]/[1st Down plays (including first play of drive)]. A three and out is 0/1. A one play touchdown is 1/1. Two first downs and then a stop is 2/3, etc.
Bonus Yards = [Yards gained beyond the first down line]/[Total plays from scrimmage]
This is an adjustment to how I have previously calculated, to account for the plays a team runs.
Field Position = The expected point difference per game for where a team’s offense starts and where a team’s defense starts. Each drive is given an expected value based on the start of scrimmage, all of the drives for the offense and defense are totaled and compared. This accounts for all elements of field position: turnovers, special teams, drive penetration etc.
I am only looking at teams from the BCS conferences since those are the only reasonably eligible team for the championship. To account for yearly rule changes and variations, I will use annual ranks for each season.
Median Rank: 5.5th, 76.0% conversion
Average Rank: 11th
Top 3: Texas 2005 (2), Auburn 2010 (3), Florida St 2013 (3)
Bottom 3: Florida 2006 (26), Alabama 2009 (23), Alabama 2011 (23)
2013 Michigan: 36th, 69.9%
Best Michigan Team: 2003, 3rd, 75.2%
Median Rank: 8th, 2.95 Bonus Yards per play
Average Rank: 11th
Top 3: Texas 2005 (1), Auburn 2010 (1), USC 2004 (3)
Bottom 3: LSU 2007 (26), Alabama 2011 (26), Florida 2006 (17)
2013 Michigan: 33rd, 2.35
Best Michigan Team: 2010, 3rd, 3.20
On the offensive side, there is a strong correlation between conversion rate and bonus yards among national champions. 6 of the 10 champions were in the top 8 in both categories while the other four champions where 13th or higher in both.
Median Rank: 10th, 59.9% conversion allowed
Average Rank: 12th
Top 3: Alabama 2009, Alabama 2011, Alabama 2012, Florida St 2013 (1)
Bottom 3: Auburn 2010 (52), Florida 2006 (18), LSU 2007 (13)
2013 Michigan: 24th, 68.9%
Best Michigan Team: 2006, 7th, 58.7%
Median Rank: 7.5, 1.75 Bonus Yards per play allowed
Average Rank: 11th
Top 3: Alabama 2011, Florida St 2013 (1), Alabama 2012 (3)
Bottom 3: Auburn 2010 (39), LSU 2007 (20), Alabama 2009 (12)
2013 Michigan: 12th, 1.98
Best Michigan Team: 2013
The last three champions have all been dominant on defense. Only 2012 Alabama wasn’t ranked first in both categories and they were first in conversion rate and third in bonus yards. Prior to that, the last seven champions have been ranked 10th or worse in at least one of the two categories.
Median Rank: 6th, +3.9 points per game
Average Rank: 8th
Runner-Up Average Rank: 11th
Top 3: Florida St 2013 (1), USC 2004, Texas 2005, Florida 2008 (2)
Bottom 3: Florida 2006 (21), Auburn 2010 (20), LSU 2007 (12)
2013 Michigan: 43rd, –0.9
Best Michigan Team: 2006, 4th, +4.5
Six of the top ten finished in the top 7 of field position. Field position is a pretty good approximation for offense, defense and special teams, with turnovers factored in. Other than a surprising 2006 Florida team and the 2010 offense-heavy Auburn teams haven’t been at the top end in overall field position.
While the last five Alabama driven years have pushed the needle toward the defensive side, the ten years as a whole are fairly balanced between offense and defense. One thing is clear, you have to be really good at least one side. Eight of the ten champions ranked in the top 2 in at least one of the five categories.
Five teams won the national championship with a higher rated defense than offense, three with a better offense than defense and two with units evenly matched. Overall the averages are roughly the same, largely thanks to the mediocre to bad Auburn defense from 2010 dragging down the averages.
Half of the teams that went on to win national championships were good at everything. 2004 USC, 2005 Texas, 2008 Florida, 2012 Alabama and 2013 Florida St all ranked in the top 10 in all five categories. 2009-2011 saw champions that were very strong on one side of the ball and 2006-2007 just saw a strange collection of champions. Since 2004 the only team to rank in the top 10 across the board and not win the championship was 2008 USC.
For Michigan, the roster look from Part 1 is a much more compelling case for Michigan’s readiness for the national elites than the on-field one. Only in defensive big play prevention was Michigan remotely at a national elite level last year. The other four categories are all several tiers away from the top teams. This is year probably won’t be a make or break year for the staff, that’s probably two years away barring a major disaster this season, but big strides will have to be made this season. The roster is there on the fringes of elite, 2014 will be the year the results should be ready to come into line, as well.
Name: Dre’Mont Jones
Position: Weakside Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6'4" / 250 lbs.
Location: St. Ignatius – Cleveland, OH (2015)
Offers: Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State
Rating: ★★★★ .8958 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #294 NAT / #14 SDE (247 Composite)
Michigan has been hosting a pretty large number of unofficial visitors each weekend throughout spring ball. Dre’Mont Jones, a 2015 defensive end prospect, had been on the radar of the coaching staff for a while and last Saturday while he was in Ann Arbor, the coaches decided it was time to offer him. Jones was on campus for about six hours and by the time he left he had an offer in hand.
I got to campus around 9 am. I was able to walk around and talked a lot about academics. I wasn’t there for very long but I wouldn’t call it just a quick little visit. (laughs) I watched a practice and, to make a long story short, Coach Hoke shook my hand and told me I had an offer while we were in Coach Mattison’s office. It was cool that the head coach did that. He told me it was for rush-end. That was toward the end of the visit and then I left at about 2:50.
Per the norm, Jones loved the way Michigan “felt”.
I liked the visit a lot. The coaching staff sees you as more than just a football player. They really show a family aspect to them.
Coach Mattison is Jones’s main recruiter and he, along with pretty much every other coach, has built a solid reputation for making recruits and their families feel welcome.
Michigan did well with Jones during his visit, but he didn’t pull any punches about the pecking order of his top schools.
Right now Michigan is one of my top choices. I have a top five right now of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Kentucky and that is in order. Ohio State is my straight up leader right now but I’m still very open to other schools. That’s the reason why I haven’t committed anywhere yet.
Jones seemed pretty firm on his top five and I’m not sure it will change much according to the plan he has moving forward.
I plan on visiting Michigan again, but I’m not sure when right now. I hope I can visit all of my top five schools at least one more time. I plan on committing in the beginning part of the summer, sometime in June or July.
Jones is a very talented player with good size and an exceptional burst. St. Ignatius has produced a lot of Division I talent over the years and contrary to popular belief, Ohio State doesn’t hog it all. In fact there are only two current Buckeyes from St. Ignatius, which is only one more than Michigan. Jones did openly say that he was favoring Ohio State and his planned decision is just a few months away. That being said, as soon as we finished talking, I submitted my Crystal Ball pick for the Buckeyes on 247sports.com and I’m not alone in that thought process as all 23 predictions see him wearing the scarlet and grey in the future. Unless Michigan can absolutely blow him away during a return visit, he’ll become a rival instead of member.
5 – Trending Blue
4 – Solidly in a top 2-3
3 – Contender in a top 3-7
2 – Among large (8-15) group under consideration
1 – Let’s see if he visits before we talk
0 – Passing interest or none
I have a copy of the Kentucky game. I went so far as to open it in the program I use to make GIFs, because despite the outcome I thought Caris LeVert's block/tie-up of Julius Randle was worth GIFing for future reference. Naturally, CBS showed one useless replay angle and cut off the second, useful angle halfway through the play.
There will be no Kentucky GIFs today.
Anyway, the Tennessee game worked out much better and also provided several great moments, none more important than the charge Jordan Morgan drew on Jarnell Stokes:
I know this is an utterly pointless exercise, but this call has been much-discussed—was it really a charge, or did Morgan just hit the deck at the first sign of contact?
Unless you want to argue that Morgan committed a blocking foul—dubious, in my opinion—then the answer is irrelevant. Watch Caris LeVert poke the ball away as the contact occurs; watch how the ball voodoo-spins and somehow stays inbounds, and LeVert making the heads up play to go after it until the whistle blows. If this had been a no-call, it would've been a steal, and the song remains the same.
Since Stokes lowered his shoulder like he was Marshawn Lynch in the open field against a safety, this whole aside was probably unnecessary.
[Hit THE JUMP for the bench mob ending the season in style, Nik Stauskas going Harlem Globetrotter, DEATH FROM ABOVE, and more.]
wait spring football is what again
It's this practice thing that we used to think was super super important because the basketball team was a wet cat and the spring game was in late April. Now we haven't even thought about it because the basketball team is IMPORTANT and also still playing and they've moved the spring game up despite having horrible weather for seemingly the last decade solid.
So… yeah. It is a glimpse into what the football team might be like next year.
So last year's was a constant parade of quotes about how everyone was getting tackled for loss?
Well… no. It is a Pravda-like glimpse weighted by both the program's desire to look good in the absence of actual games and your hope that the next football season will be a fulfilling exercise in fandom.
Consider that hope to be disposed of in a dumpster behind a Five Guys.
All right, then. Let's enter the realm of football with a properly jaundiced eye.
Things To Watch
Will they be a single thing? "Aggression" is the guaranteed defensive watchword every time a coordinator change is made, and "simple" is the equivalent on the offensive side of the ball.
Kyle Kalis says Doug Nussmeier is gradually installing the offense. Much simpler. 'Last year, you never knew what was going to be called.'
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 25, 2014
How much of this is standard boilerplate and how much of it is a real problem that Nussmeier is going to solve is pretty much the question for the season. (No, it is not "who is going to start at quarterback?" You are a silly person, person who thinks that.) Lord knows that this site spent most of last year—most of the last three years—blasting Al Borges for not having anything resembling a base offense in his time. Last year's wander from stretch to power to tackle over to inside zone and all things in between was particularly egregious.
It was hardly unprecedented. Michigan never figured out how to run play action off their best play, the inverted veer, never figured out that having mobile quarterbacks run the waggle is just asking them to eat defensive end as soon as they turn around, never figured out what, in fact, they were. Having an identifiable identity is step one towards having one of those offense things.
Let's try to keep me alive this play, gents [Bryan Fuller]
Is the offensive line… tolerable? Extant? Sieve sieve sieve sieve sieve? I can't say the good feelings are pouring out of spring. This is not a world in which claims that true freshman Mason Cole has a great chance to play the most important position on the line…
Another early enrollee opening eyes at Michigan is OL Mason Cole. Competing for starting LT job. Funk says Cole has great chance to play.
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
…can be dismissed as so much spring hogwash. I mean, yeah, it's almost certainly spring hogwash. But given the situation that buzz comes off as a negative thing about people not named Mason Cole as much as it is a positive one about Cole.
Meanwhile Graham Glasgow, the one returning guy who had a job for the entirety of last season, got held out for a while due to an issue that will also see him suspended for The Horror II, and oh good now I'm thinking about what might happen in The Horror II without Michigan's best interior lineman.
Thinking: try not to do it.
Anyway, injuries have held near-sure-LT Erik Magnuson out and forced Michigan to try a parade of guys probably better suited to play guard at that spot. Reading the tea leaves, the most likely starting line for the spring game reads:
- LT David Dawson
- LG Kyle Bosch
- C [Glasgow placeholder]
- RG Kyle Kalis
- RT Ben Braden
And in a perfect world that would remain the line through fall camp except for the insertion of Magnuson. When pinged for offensive line data, Hoke was his usual recalcitrant self but did not seem super enthused all the same:
"The physicalness isn't where we want it yet. I couldn't point out one guy who has been a great finisher.
"Probably Graham (Glasgow), as much as anybody, in some ways. Ben (Braden) is getting better. But we're not near where we need to be."
Not that they could be near where they need to be a few months after whatever that was.
Here's to this being the "before" picture. [Fuller]
Are Are De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green any diff—. Previous sentence was tackled for loss. Green's been tweeting out pictures of his weight as he strives to get back down to the bowling ball that was the #1 overall tailback in the country to a couple of different services instead of the bowling ball he was last year. Here is a swathe of boilerplate.
"De'Veon's had a very good spring, Derrick's had a better spring than he did in the fall," Hoke said last week. "Justice Hayes has done some really good things, and I'm really proud of him. Both carrying the ball and in the protection game. It'd be nice to get Drake (Johnson) back and put him in the mix."
Chances are it will be hard to tell much what with the offensive line coming together and folks looking confused, but give me one cut from Green that he probably couldn't have managed last year and I'll be happy.
Is Ross Douglas viable at tailback? I kind of think no if only because the Hoke era has expressed a preference for large men running the ball even if they bring little else to the table other than size. Meanwhile, Douglas's bounce to offense comes in the context of Taylor/Countess/Peppers/Lewis/Stribling, a veritable bounty at corner that Douglas didn't figure to crack any time soon. He's also down the depth chart on offense:
"Justice, De'Veon and Derrick are a little bit ahead still, but I think Ross is giving us a little bit more depth and that's really good for us.
"We'll do this through spring and see how he does, and then make a determination if he'll go back to DB."
This kind of positional uncertainty is never a good sign for a prospect's future. If Douglas was in the mix at corner he'd be at corner. Instead he's fourth at best at tailback and probably fifth when Drake Johnson gets back.
But there is a new offensive coordinator who may do things like see what happens if you give Dennis Norfleet the ball, so you never know.
But that probably means the secondary is loaded, right? At first blush Michigan has more corner depth than I can remember. They return both starters from last year plus a couple of promising freshman who did the really hard part—sticking with your man—last year before wilting at the last minute. And then there's that Jabrill Peppers dude. Douglas's positional vagabondery would not be taking place if Michigan didn't go five deep in solid options at corner.
Wide receiver war. With Devin Funchess entrenched at wide receiver, playing time there is now at a premium. The departure of Jeremy Gallon opens up scads of catches, some of which will go to Funchess and Jehu Chesson. The rest will get spread out. While a number of those will go to Amara Darboh, who was building up steam with his play in practice last year before a season-ending foot injury, Michigan is still being cautious with him. You won't see him on Saturday:
“Right now I feel like I’m 100 percent, but they’re keeping me out,” Darboh said Thursday. “By the time fall camp comes around I should be 100 percent.”
One gentleman you will see, and possibly see a lot of, is Freddy Canteen. The freshman early enrollee has been this spring's easy winner of the Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award. Almost literally everyone who has gotten practice buzz or been there themselves has come away talking about his quickness and advanced technique. One example of many:
WR Freddy Canteen creating a buzz this spring at Michigan. Players, coaches very impressed with early enrollee. Getting run with the ones.
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
"Running with the ones" is a slightly overrated concept since in the course of a spring or fall practice just about everyone will get their shot on the top team to keep folks motivated and just to see what happens. Even so the Canteen drumbeat has been so consistent that he will be the guy everyone is watching for.
One guy you shouldn't expect anything from: Drake Harris. Harris has been shut down for the rest of spring with a hamstring issue. He had a similar problem for his senior year of high school and at this point it seems like he might be headed for a redshirt with Funchess/Darboh/Chesson/Canteen and last year's three-man class potentially ahead of him on the depth chart.
I'm looking at the man in the mirror. Middle. Whatever. [Fuller]
And then the weird thing. Jake Ryan, middle linebacker. I'm skeptical Ryan will be able to transition to a very different spot that asks him to read and react and then shed responsibly. If he does manage it, it seems like a part of his barbarian nature will be lost. Ryan is a shocking vertical attacker; middle linebackers are not generally tasked with that. When Ryan has been drafted into read and react situations by defensive alignment, it has gone poorly.
But they're going to try it, and spring will be an opportunity to see what's going on with that.
Safeties: we have them? Michigan was clearly dissatisfied with Thomas Gordon midway through last year, which just goes to show that Brady Hoke was in Muncie or San Diego for the decade of Michigan safety play between Marcus Ray and Jordan Kovacs. Great he may not have been; he was pretty much good enough, and when other guys got in the game the step down from pretty much good enough to not was obvious.
Now Gordon is gone and the list of potential replacements is short (inexplicably so given Michigan's apparent need): sophomores Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Dymonte Thomas. Michigan barely has enough dudes to put together a two deep, and there are few candidates to move from corner. Stribling's 176-pound frame would get him run over; ditto Lewis; they're not moving Countess; Taylor's run support is not a strength. That leaves Peppers (moving him away from boundary corner would be a travesty of justice) and redshirt freshman Reon Dawson, who's super super fast but raw and skinny.
So finding someone to play opposite Jarrod Wilson is an important target to hit with few bullets. Here's hoping Clark wins the job with ease; he's got the most experience.
Can a tight end hit something? One of the underrated problems with Michigan's offense a year ago was the tight end spot's total lack of progress. Devin Funchess proved that as a tight end, he was a good wide receiver; more worryingly, AJ Williams was hardly better despite not being, you know, a game changing receiver. Jake Butt was probably the best blocker Michigan had available, and he promptly tore his ACL. Jordan Paskorz left the program.
So. Michigan will hope Williams makes a step forward and turn to two guys coming off redshirt: Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman. They've also converted former SDE Keith Heitzman to that side of the ball. The freshmen are more H-back types than inline ones; Michigan may end up playing them both places just because they have to. Shallman's flirtation with tailback seems over:
Shallman has taken a few reps at running back this spring, but Hoke said he envisions him as a tight end-fullback hybrid.
Given the depth chart that makes sense. I'll be looking for anything resembling a block out of this crew.
Weather. Let's hope it's nice.
It is spring, the season with all the rebirth and egg-laying rabbits and such. In this pastel, paschal period of the year, everything is positive. Your baseball team could win the World Series, your backups arrived with 20 lbs more muscle/less fat ready to decapitate enemies, and your linebackers exploding everything in the backfield says everything about your linebackers and nothing about your offensive line. So question:
I am about to devote all of my attention to Spring Football. What can I learn about this team with this exercise? Is there anything that my eyes can show me that the hype is hiding?
Ace: In previous years, I've had the opportunity to see a few spring practices (in the RichRod days, which coincided with my internship at The Wolverine) and get to know a few players both on Michigan's squad and at other levels of college football. Almost universally, the first thing I've been told about spring practices, and the spring game in particular, is to expect the defense to look well ahead of the offense—and that, if this is the case, it's a good thing. That's especially true when installing a new offense, as Michigan is this season.
|Mmmm true freshmen dominating walk-ons. [Fuller]|
If you're skeptical, think back to those Rodriguez spring games and the general excitement they brought as Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson slashed through the defense with ease. Those were fun games. Those were also bad defenses. It's a whole lot easier to install and run a base defense than to get the offense fully up to speed, even with a limited playbook; if the offense looks like they know what they're supposed to be doing better than the defense, it's a point of concern.
So, strangely, I'm hoping for an ugly spring game—if it even resembles a "game" at all, which it hasn't for years. That's not to say I hope the offensive line looks totally overmatched—quite the contrary—but with a Doug Nussmeier's system still being put in place, the defense should more than hold their own at this juncture. Since we'll be seeing a very unfinished product on offense, I think more than anything we'll learn where the defense stands as they also make a transition, albeit a smaller one, to playing more 4-3 over with a reshuffled coaching staff.
[After the jump: preparing for platitudes]
Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches? This was a board question I began answering there until I realized I had written half a column and not written my Tuesday column. Part I explains my subjective criteria and covers Mather, Oosterbaan, Strack and Orr.
So without further ado..
Show the candidates chart again.
- Wherever I list a year it means the season that began the fall in the year previous, e.g. 1969 = 1968-'69 seasion
- * Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.
- ** Average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.
- † Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.
Here's Part II. These got longer because now we're into my personal recollection period.
|Maloof is a skateboarding cup.|
Bill Frieder (1981-'89)
Career at M: 9 seasons, 189 wins (68%), 2 Big Ten titles
All-Americans: Gary Grant (1988), Glen Rice (1989)
Avg NCAA Tourney: 1.13
Pros he recruited (NBA games): Glen Rice (1,000), Loy Vaught (689), Terry Mills (678), Gary Grant (552), Tim McComick (483), Rumeal Robinson (336), Roy Tarpley (280), Sean Higgins (220), Demetrius Calip (7), and Richard Rellford. [EDIT: Eric Riley (186)] That's
10 11 guys and 4,249 4,435 games.
[Continued after the jump]