"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
[Ed-S: This series has now reached the Bump Stage. Part I is here.]
"I have never considered leaving Oregon a mistake," [Borges] says. "I consider going to Cal a mistake."
That is a quote from a November 2004 Seattle Times article about former Bellotti assistants. The article is largely about Borges, and is a pretty good read.
Al Borges left UCLA for a $50,000 raise, a two-year contract, and the opportunity to be the OC for the first D1-A program that gave him a shot as an assistant (1982 season). Born in Salinas, CA, Cal is pretty close to home for Al and must have had a special place in his heart. That special place led him down a deep, dark tunnel.
Whatever his reasons, Borges headed back to Cal...but it didn't last long. Tom Holmoe had been the HC at Cal since 1997. He had been a pro football player, and had coached under Bill Walsh and George Seifert, winning a superbowl as the DB coach for the 49ers in 1994. In 1996, he became the DC for Cal under HC Steve Mariucci. Quite a coaching tree, that.
When Mariucci left for the 49ers in 1997, Holmoe got the HC job. It appeared to be a perfect match. But the Bears were bad news, and went 3-8, 5-6, 4-7*, and 3-8 the next four years, and won a total of nine Pac-10 games during that span. And oh, the asterisk. It turns out that in 1999 a teacher retroactively added football players to a class to keep them eligible, and the athletic department knew it. Cal forfeited all four of their wins from the '99 season, got hit with five years probation, and lost nine scholarships over four years.
This was the mess Borges walked into. This is where you have to wonder if $50,000 is enough.
The schedule was brutal--ranked 4th in SOS--and the team was bad. Holmoe, a defensive coach, allowed a brutal 39.2 pts/gm (6th worst) and resigned after eight games--all losses. The offense wasn't much better under Borges:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
Those numbers equated to 18.3 pts/gm (#90 nationally) and exactly one win in eleven attempts. It is notable that the QB that season was third-year starter Kyle Boller, who posted a 110.3 rating and a 49.1% completion rate. Tedford would turn Boller into a winner in 2002, but Borges was fired with the rest of the Cal staff.
Jobless, Borges was also obviously desperate, since he accepted an offer from Gerry DiNardo to be Indiana's OC in 2002. Bellotti interviewed Borges for the Oregon OC job, but Borges took the offer from DiNardo, and left the west coast for the first time in his D1-A coaching career.
This is a long way from UCLA
After a stint at Vanderbilt, Gerry Dinardo turned around LSU. Before DiNardo's hire in 1995, the Tigers had suffered six straight losing seasons and had not been ranked in the AP Poll since 1989. DiNardo had immediate success, going to a bowl game in his first season where he beat Michigan State--coached by Nick Saban. '96 was even better--LSU finished the season ranked #12--and 1997 was magical, beating #1 Florida and thumping Notre Dame (after losing to them during the season) in the Independence Bowl. But then he sucked ('98-99), and Saban took over. We know how that ended.
After a year in the XFL as the HC of the Birmingham Thunderbolts, DiNardo took the HC job at Indiana in 2002, and he snapped-up Al Borges. DiNardo was an offensive-minded coach, having been a QB, and an OC at Colorado (including when they won the National Championship in 1990). He had been in college football coaching since 1975 when he got his start at the University of Maine. But, Indiana.
The Hoosiers were bad, and Borges could do nothing about it. In his first season as OC under DiNardo, Borges led the offense to 21.5 pts/gm (95th nationally) despite a pretty easy schedule (#52 SOS). Here's the breakdown:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
Actually, one could make a good argument that Indiana's passing offense was better than it should have been. The O-line was bad, and QB Gibran Hamdan--who had the unenviable task of replacing Antwaan Randle-El--spent a good chunk of the season on the turf. Despite that, the Hoosiers managed over 3,000 passing yards and had two WRs with over 50 catches. Courtney Roby had 59 recs and 1039 yards.
2003 brought in a new QB. Matt LoVecchio had transferred from Notre Dame, and had to sit out in 2002. As it turns out, there's a reason he left ND: he wasn't very good (he had actually transferred after a disastrous performance against Oregon State in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl). LoVecchio threw 3 TDs and 9 INTs. No, I did not get that backwards. The Hoosiers would sink to 14.8 pts/gm and manage only two wins. Here is the evidence, and it is damning:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
I'll go into more statistical analysis in Part III, but this was Borges' most run-heavy offense to date both in terms of percentage of plays and percetage of yards. I guess that's what you do when your QB throws more INTs than TDs by a 3:1 ratio. Courtney Roby's amazing-ness wasn't even enough to get the passing offense going, and he did not have a single TD catch (there were only four by anyone). BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the starting RB, but split carries with two other guys, all of whom averaged over 4 yards/carry. DiNardo would last one more season at Indiana. Borges wouldn't stick around for it.
Tuberville, I'm going to mind-trick you into hiring me from Indiana
How that performance gets you a job at Auburn, I'm really not sure. But that's what happened. In 2004, Tommy Tuberville had to replace Hugh Nall. After nearly being replaeced by Bobby Petrino in a secret coup (no joke, this is the SEC, after all), Tuberville had to make some changes, and Borges won the job. Auburn was coming off a disappointing 8-5 season, and Tuberville was definitely in a win-or-go-home situation.
Well, 2004 was a magical season for the Tigers. Scoring 32.1 pts/gm (#18 nationally, #1 SEC) in the SEC is a good accomplishment. Coaching a QB to a 172.9 rating the year after he posted a 132.6? WOW. Jason Campbell was a talented player, and Borges seemed to get the best out of him. Averaging an absurd 10.0 yds/att with a 69.6% completion rate and 20/7 TD/INT, Jason Campbell earned himself a first-round trip to the NFL. Numbers:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
The Tigers went undefeated and beat VaTech in the Sugar Bowl, but that wasn't the National Championship game. Unbeatens USC and Oklahoma played a boring game in which the Trojans dimantled the Sooners, and Auburn fans will forever bitch (I don't blame them).
Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown split carries and produced a combined 2,078 yards on the ground, and also pulled-in 55 catches for another 465 yards through the air. The leading WR--Courtney Taylor--had just 43 catches for 737 yards. It was Borges' most run-heavy offense (beating his 2003 total) by percetage of plays (not yards) and with good reason: he had two of the best RBs in the game.
The famed "Gulf Coast Offense" had the country buzzing about Borges, and his name was being thrown around for head coaching positions, including at San Diege State. Yes, 2004 truly was a magical season for Auburn and Al. The magic would never be repeated.
The 2005 Tigers had lost their QB and two starting RBs. Their 2002 recruiting class had been strong (one 5* and nine 4*), but their fortune had been steadily declining since then, and the '04 class brought just four 4* players and 15 players with 2* or less. There was still talent at Auburn, but Tuberville wasn't recruiting as well, and the talent was trending downward.
Starting QB Brandon Cox was a four-star recruit and had some skills. Kenny Irons had transferred from South Carolina after growing frustrated with his role in Lou Holtz's offense, taking his four-star talent to Auburn. Five-star Ben Obomanu was in his senior season. And, while the offense took a step back, it wasn't bad at all--32.2 pts/gm actually bested the previous season's average (though the rank dropped to #30, still #1 SEC) and the Tigers went 9-3, with a shocking opening season loss to Georgia Tech, a 3-point squeaker to LSU, and a tough loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Here are the numbers:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
This was an extremely successful running game. In fact, it was a half-yard better per carry than the 2004 version, and Kenny Irons did most of the work, racking-up 1,293 yards and 13 TDs on 256 carries. Brandon Cox finished with a 132.6 rating, and no receiver had more than 33 catches or 494 yards. This was a good, balanced offense, but it didn't have Campbell, Williams, and Brown. It was, for the second consecutive year, the #1 scoring offense in the SEC. And for his good work without the departed stars, Borges was named the Rivals 2005 OC of the Year.
For whatever reason, things started to head south in 2006. Certainly, recruiting was part of the problem, as Auburn's 2004 class was pretty thin (but the 2006 class would be very, very good). Also, the strength of schedule jumped to #22 from #55. There is no doubt that the O-line play suffered, but that alone doesn't explain a drop to 24.8 pts/gm (#56) when you are returning your starting QB and RB. Here are the numbers:
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
Brandon Cox did see his rating rise a bit to 138.7, and passing game improved in yards/att. But the running game was not as strong, and three RBs got at least 50 carries, including freshman Ben Tate. Courtney Taylor reprised his role as leading receiver with 54 catches for 704 yards and 2 TDs.
2007 would be Al's last at Auburn. His fall from grace would include bad QB play (Cox's rating dropped to 116.0, mostly due to a 9/13 TD/INT). With Kenny Irons gone to the NFL, Ben Tate took over as the lead RB. Courtney Taylor had also been drafted. The schedule got even tougher, moving up to #13. It's worth noting that SOS probably underrates SEC teams, since they beat each other up so badly. That said, a loss to USF in week two followed by a stunner against unranked Mississippi State were unforgiveable, even though the Tigers upset #4 Florida and beat hated rival Alabama. Borges would resign before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory over Clemson.
|Plays||%||Yards||% of Yds||Yds/Play|
The problem for Borges wasn't just the drop in efficiency--the offense scored 24.2 pts/gm (#85)--but also the great defense. Auburn allowed just 16.9 pts/gm, good for #6 in the country, and their defense kept them in every game save a 25 point loss to Georgia. The offense had almost 900 plays and sputtered along at just 4.90 yds/play. That is not good. The ground game had four rushers with over 200 yards, but limped along in yards/carry. Rodgeriqus Smith led the receivers with 52 catches for 705 yards and 5 TDs, but there was no Robin to his Batman.
In short: Borges probably deserved to be fired. He wouldn't be hired again until a guy named Brady Hoke called from San Diego State.
The narrative so far:
- Week 1 - Michigan plays an easy breezy beautiful home opener against Central Michigan. We find out whether Shane Morris will lose his redshirt. Prediction: he does.
- Week 2 - Notre Dame comes to town, chaos ensues under the lights, we awake Sunday morning in a stranger's backyard and discover that we are missing a shoe.
- Week 3 - Fitz Toussaint and Derrick Green each rush for 100+ yards.
Since this is part 2 of a home-and-home, I think we should go back a few years to get the proper context.
Michigan and UConn agreed to play a short series with each other in 2009. At the time the matchup was intriguing because of three things: Rich Rod’s ties to the Big East (and undefeated record against Randy Edsall), UConn’s apparent emergence in being okay at football (8-5 in 2008), and the basketball team’s own series with the Huskies. In addition to the fact that the 2010 game would be a home opener in a freshly renovated Big House, the anticipation for part 1 of the home-and-home was significant because none of us really thought the Wolverines, still smarting from a 5-7 season, would do all that well.
That was until Brock Mealer, Denard, and 60 minutes of domination happened. You can relive the best moments here:
The pure awesomeness on display (and the awesomeness the following week) is the sort of thing that makes you think Michigan would play in the Rose Bowl, Denard would win the Heisman, and Rich Rod would be our coach forever and ever.
By the time we realized none of those things would come true, UConn and 2013 seemed a million years away. When your fandom devolves into stalking Dave Brandon while listening to songs by the Smiths on repeat, you’re not in a place to properly consider other people, or the future.
Did you know that the Huskies actually went on to win the Big East that year?
They did (or at least a share of it) and had a better resume than anyone else in that conference, so they got the auto-bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where they were summarily executed by No. 9 Oklahoma. Edsall bolted for Maryland pretty much the next day, and he has since been spending a lot of time there designing uniformz and losing. See you next year I guess.
So UConn hired Paul Pasqualoni, a former Syracuse head coach who lost his edge in the early ‘00s, left Syracuse, and floated around the NFL for a couple years. After taking over the Huskies, he's led them to back-to-back 5-7 seasons. Rebuilding, yes, but the outlook does not appear to be bright.
Had Edsall stayed in Storrs, the rematch with Michigan would have been a lot more intriguing, and the game would probably be a lot more competitive. Now it's just kind of sad.
Okay, the real recap part. Let’s keep this brief: last season the Huskies were an unpredictable outfit that beat Maryland, Louisville, and Pittsburg, but lost to nearly everyone else, including Western Michigan. Defensively they were okay, limiting opponents to under 20 ppg. Offensively they were horrible, scoring 17.8 ppg. If the Big East were the Big Ten, UConn would be Michigan State.
Being horrible on offense is what usually happens when you break in a new quarterback. Whether he’s sufficiently broken in or just broken, he’s likely to be the guy Michigan will see on Sept. 21.
A/S/L: Chandler Whitmer, junior QB. Not much of a runner, not much of a passer. Last season he completed 57.6% of his passes for 2664 yards, 9 TDs, and 16 INTs. This year he’ll have back his leading receiver, junior Geremy Davis (44 rec, 613 yards, 1 TD). Junior Deshon Foxx is another name to be on the lookout for. Reports from their spring game say that he caught a bunch of 70-yard bombs and was the only player to score in a 6-0 affair.
The run game was also pretty disappointing last season. Lyle McCombs, the team’s top running back, will return as a junior and try to make things better. McCombs is a durable but limited guy. He’s small -- listed at 5-8, 169 lbs -- and not all that quick or speedy, which kind of defeats the point of being small. Regardless, he's got good enough vision and takes the bulk of the handoffs, which has earned him the "workhorse" monikor. In fact, he's one of a small collection of FBS players to combine for more than 500 carries over the last two years. Last season he got 243 carries for 860 yards, which comes out to about 3.5 yards a carry. Not bad but not great, considering he broke the 1,000-yard mark as a freshman.
The offense will probably improve. Most of the line is returning, and UConn picked up a new offensive coordinator in T.J. Weist from Cincinnati. Weist had been with the Bearcats since 2010, and his pass-happy offense there led the conference in a bunch of categories. I doubt they’ll find their rhythm by the time Michigan rolls into town, however. Either way it'll be interesting to see what Mattison thinks of Weist's offense.
The narrative here is kind of opposite that of the offense: really good last season but not returning a whole lot of guys. Of UConn’s top 10 tacklers in 2012, more than half of them were seniors.
At least the top tackler is coming back. The name to know here is Yawin Smallwood, a 6-3, 244-lb middle linebacker who was named the Defensive Scout Player of the Week as a redshirting freshman right before the 2010 Michigan game. Smallwood had 120 tackles, 15 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks last year. He’s pretty high up on draft boards, so his production is likely not just a byproduct of “plays in the Big East.”
The Huskies’ defensive line is fairly experienced in the interior, less so on the outside. DT Shamar Stephen was a solid contributor last year with 26 tackles, 2 for loss, and Angelo Pruitt looks like he’ll probably slide inside (he played end last year). For what it’s worth, these guys aren’t small. Stephen is 6-5, 320 lbs, and Pruitt is 6-3, 300. That could be a problem for Jack Miller and whoever the two new guards are. At end, UConn is getting a sixth-year rush end back from injury, and they have another guy on the strongside who is 6-5, 301. Again, not small. At least their athleticism won’t be nearly as terrifying like Notre Dame’s line is, so Lewan and Schofield should be able to handle them without too much trouble.
Things are a little fuzzier in the secondary. From what I can tell it looks like UConn is set at safety, at least. They bring back three guys with varying degrees of experience and a hefty collection of career tackles. The cornerback situation is not good though (when is it ever? I mean, seriously). I think at this point they still have no idea who's going to start, so they're move their most experienced safety, junior Byron Jones (87 tackles, 1 INT), to corner while the other guys figure themselves out. Best 11, I say.
The Huskies’ defense will probably be pretty competent even with six new starters, but they'll be imminently beatable. In 2012 they put five of their guys on the all-conference roster, and when a defense produces multiple honorees that usually means the coaching staff is doing something right. Will they simply reload in 2013, or must they rebuild? I guess we’ll find out!
This team is kind of like: A rock.
Is it too early to bring out the rock? Maybe, but I glanced at Michigan’s B1G schedule and no one else fits the bill.
Vs. Michigan: Michigan’s non-conference slate is awfully reminiscent of the one they played in 2011. If so, UConn is this year’s version of San Diego State, with major differences being only that the game is away and Hoke didn’t coach any of these guys.
The Wolverines shouldn’t have much trouble stopping the Huskies offense. Whitmer, if coached properly, will probably top out around where Ryan Lindley ended up. That kind of development takes a while though. When Michigan visits he’ll probably struggle with Mattison’s nefarious schemes, and once the Wolverines pass rushers break through it’ll be game over. The Heininger Certainty Principle says that Frank Clark and/or Taco Charlton will have a good game.
Offensively Michigan will probably struggle with Smallwood. Hoke and Borges seem to prefer a safe, run-heavy approach on the road, and against that defensive line I can’t see any of the Wolverines interior offensive linemen getting to the second level on a consistent basis. If Michigan’s defense plays well, it won’t matter. Borges can keep running his new toys up the middle until the game ends at 14-6.
Sensible ideas. From the hockey committee even. USCHO reports that the hockey rules committee is looking at ways to make the infamous TUC cliff in the pairwise less of a cliff and more of a gradation:
“We’re looking to see if there’s a way to reduce the variability that seems to happen as people watch that at the end of the year,” said committee chair Tom Nevala, senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame.
“It’s going to happen a lot early, but by the end of the year it seems like it should be a little bit more cut-and-dried. So we’re going to see if there’s some options there.”
This is a crew that still uses RPI, so don't expect anything too clever. Maybe they'd have a tier in which games count for your TUC record at half-weight, that sort of thing. While that still has cliff issues that turns it into more of a large step than a cliff.
In other news, the committee is going to ask future regional sites not to ask for 90 dollars for three hockey games featuring teams from across the country, which is an insignificant step in the right direction. Tom Nevala, an associate AD at Notre Dame, is still sounding a call for sanity:
“The fans who come and support us all year are in and around our campuses,” Nevala said. “Whether it’s east or west, at least I’m not satisfied looking at the numbers that have generally appeared at regionals.
“Whether we’ve considered some of the eastern regionals well-attended or not, I think you could still do better. And hopefully the ticket pricing and the things that they’re going to attempt to do in the next cycle will help. But I’m convinced that we would be better off on campus in general.”
Unfortunately, this is the last year Nevala is going to be on the committee. At least there's one guy saying the most obvious thing that would help college hockey.
At least it won't die. Some terrible person broke a chunk off Howard's Rock, which Clemson touches before each football game. This is why we can't have nice things.
I just… I mean. People.
Jamarco comin'. Whatever prevented Jamarco Jones from taking his planned weekend swing through his three finalists has been resolved, so he'll be on campus Saturday. This is good for Michigan, which is generally regarded as trailing but in possession of a puncher's chance. Mom's apparently in Michigan's corner, because obviously.
FREDS ON FREDS ON FREDS. Filing this under Fred Jackson hyperbole and thus yoinking it from recruiting roundup deployment: Fred Jackson on 2015 FL RB Jacques Patrick.
"I talked to Coach Jackson for about 45 minutes, I was in there for a while. He was telling me he's watched around 50 running backs and I'm one of the best he's seen," he said. "That means a lot, because he's been doing this for a while."
Yes, for all possible definitions of "this." FWIW, Patrick held FSU and UF as leaders before trips to OSU and M. He now says he's going to open things up some, but the smart money still has him staying in Florida.
I know a guy who thinks of ghosts. Denard will make you breakfast. He'll make you toast. He don't use butter, he don't use cheese. He uses?
[Eddie] Lacy - who's about to get his first taste of cold weather football as a Green Bay Packer - then asked what Robinson's method was for staying warm "up there in the snow".
"What I did was put vasoline on, a lot of vasoline," Robinson said showing Lacy how he used to coat his arms with the petroleum jelly.
"So the vasoline keeps you warm?," Lacy asked cynically.
"It keeps the heat inside your body," Robinson told him. "It closes your pores up, that's what it does."
I know a guy who goes to shows. Tim Hardaway Jr has cracked Hated Chad Ford's Big Board, coming in #30. His game does transition neatly to an NBA environment, so there's that. Meanwhile, Ford is muttering about Michael Carter-Williams still, which screams smokescreen to me but hey if Burke slips to the Pistons I get a free pro sports team to care about again.
I know a guy who's going down in a flaming barge made of flames. His name is Mark Emmert, recently buffeted in an SI article that made him look like a clueless twit:
In many interviews with NCAA officials about enforcement, the topic quickly shifted back to the leadership of Emmert, who is known internally at the NCAA as the "King Of The Press Conference." That's not a compliment.
With high-profile members of the enforcement committee fleeing for individual schools as fast as they can, this is the state of NCAA enforcement.
One ex-enforcement official told SI, "The time is ripe to cheat. There's no policing going on."
So why hasn't this guy gotten fired?
"If you force him out, you're essentially telling everyone he has failed," one NCAA president told Sporting News. "When you're dealing with (litigation), it's not prudent to admit failure at the highest office."
Lovely. People in charge of things are just in charge of them, often for no reason.
JESSE. WE'LL COOK IN THE ABANDONED NCAA ENFORCEMENT OFFICES.
Devin Gardner speaks, is spoken about. On Toussaint:
"I've been watching Fitzgerald Toussaint throughout his whole (leg) rehab and everything," Gardner said Tuesday during an appearance on SiriusXM radio. "He's running faster, he looks way stronger. Fitzgerald Toussaint is going to be our guy.
"But we have a young guy coming in (also)."
And an interesting listing of the receivers:
"Our receives are doing really well, catching the ball, running fast and they look stronger and bigger," Gardner said. "Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and obviously Jeremy Gallon (Michigan's leading receiver in 2012).
"I feel like we're in really good shape."
Darboh and Chesson in front of potential mentions of Jackson and Dileo.
Gardner also says people are almost pissed off.
"The finish we had in the (Outback Bowl loss against South Carolina on Jan. 1) was really beneficial for us even though we lost," Gardner said. "Because you've got a lot of guys that are hungry, almost pissed off, that it ended that way."
Gardner also mentioned the offense will be "more of a pro-style deal" with spread elements to take advantage of his athleticism.
Meanwhile, Borges has been taking Fred Jackson pointers and compares Gardner to RG3:
Q: Who does Devin Gardner remind you of?
A: He’s not really like anybody I have had. I’ve had so many prototype drop-back passers. He isn’t like (former Auburn quarterback) Jason Campbell, who was athletic but he really wasn’t a runner. I haven’t had a lot of real runners. He’s different. He’s hard to compare to someone else. He’s more like an RG3 type of guy. He’s a little taller than RG3 but plays a lot like him.
He also suggests he wants a 50/50 run/pass split perhaps a little biased towards the run; he, too, mentions Darboh and Chesson first when wide receivers come up (though he later flat-out states Gallon is their #1), then amazingly refers to Dileo and Jackson as "our two slots." Jeremy Jackson, slot receiver, Rich Rodriguez's head explodes.
Etc.: Attempting to explain Kentucky's recruiting (which isn't like fourth as the sites have it since they're out in front, but they will finish top 20, so still). 83% of SEC fans say the average fan has been priced out from attending games.
The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. [Points to sword]. This you can trust.
-Conan’s Father, Conan the Barbarian
I loves me some prognosticationatin. Sure, Its imperfect and makes you look like a daggum moran when you’re wrong which is the majority of the time. Even when you’re right, folks will just ask you to do it again, and then again before they even consider listening to you next time. Heads: you’re wrong; Tails: you’re lucky. And its nowhere near a fair coin. Bloody infidels. You’re left with the choice of making peace with being considered either a fool or a crackpot. Its almost all downside. The prudent thing to do is just wait for things to play out and slap hands when things go well.
Maybe so, left brain, maybe so… But [screw] that. This is the internet for Pete’s sake. If you cant be wrong here, then what is it good for??? And everyone thinks we’re a crackpot already. Oh noes, another jerk I’ve never met thinks I’m an idiot. Woe is us. I pray my fragile psyche will some day recover from the indignation that is internet shame.
Aren’t we here to have fun? Isn’t it more fun to invest internet cache in a prophecy and see if you’re right. Its a simple social contract pick a side and to victors go the spoils of watching the losers eat crow. Even those who aren’t as in-your-face about it all…they know. They know they were right and the others were wrong. There is nothing sweeter than being able to say “I told you so” even when you choose not to say it. Its about that which is best in life: to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their bloggers. Indeed.
Last week my man Ron Utah had the onions to put out a diary that set the stage for Devin Gardner to the best QB in history next season. Damn near guaranteed it. Relax Ronnie; I keed, I keed. Devin put up a 160 passer rating against solid competition over a 5 game stretch. I think its safe to assume he could up good or better performances against Air Force, UMass, Purdue, and Illinois. Five games of data isn’t exactly nothing but it’s not a whole lot either.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Prior to the 2010 season I spent a lot of time studying Quarterback statistics and progression in an effort to get some insight into what would be reasonable and maybe not so reasonable to expect to see that coming season. Over the course of those writings I made a bunch of prognostications on various QBs relevant to Michigan that year. I’ll suppress the desire to assess each statement player by player in this space but I’m pretty proud of those pretty specific predictions. I was wrong about Ricky Stanzi, but I claim everyone else as a prediction of reasonable to uncanny accuracy or uncallable. I’m claiming a 10 right, 1 wrong, and 5 no calls. Word. /appeal for authority
White Rainbow Reprised
Anyway, I’ll get back to Devin in a minute but I need to lay some groundwork down first. Gots to hit ‘em with a…
Chart. Actually, four charts. These are the components of Passer Rating. The data is compiled from 951 QB seasons from 2003 to 2012. The point is to show the relationship between each factor and the overall rating. The interception rate chart is interesting because the slope hooks up when you start dropping below 100. That makes sense because sometimes when you suck, you really really suck and your foes all go hyuk ‘cause they hate you…or something like that. Just remember to switch lines down there.
The the high quality fits present here are no surprise: passer rating is a linear mathematical equation. But, these fits are useful because we can use them to evaluate how “legitimate” a given player’s performance was. For example, Denard Robinson’s 2010 Passer Rating was 149. Typical components for that rating are shown in the second line of the table below, his actual values are shown in the first line. Denard’s Completion percentage was inline with his final rating but everything else was either slightly out of whack (TD%) or WAAAY out of whack (YPA, INT%).
|Denard Robinson 2010||Cmp %||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||146.09||160.00||141.72||105.37|
A reasonable cynic would say: so what; it counts. Indeed and we should make no apologies. But understanding these gaps helps us understand if there are any areas of improvement or if a guy is overly dependant on big plays and such. This was exactly the case with Denard in 2010. Remember all those “Oh, wide open” seam throws he made to Roundtree that year? Those big plays were generated by the offensive scheme and the threat he posed as a runner, not by the threat he posed as a passer. So, when the scheme went away, so did his performance. When an opponent was able to neuter his running threat, the offense sputtered. Capice?
What’s Your Rainbow Got To Do With Me?
Finally we get to Devin. Devin posted an overall passer rating of 161.7 in the 5 games he played QB in last year. His stats illustrate the “White Rainbow” Effect of the Passer Rating formula beautifully. None of the components were typical of that passer rating, the great cancels out the terrible and we end up with a number that doesn’t quite mean anything in and of itself.
|Devin Gardner 2012||Cmp %||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||132.84||176.28||176.97||98.33|
Devin’s completion percentage was fine, but nothing special really. His INT rate was flat out terrible, better than Denard’s but that's not saying a whole lot. This isn't a surprise given the fact the Devin had never seen significant PT at QB and then spent spring, summer, and damn near two thirds of the season practicing at WR. Those numbers are inline with reasonable expectations given his circumstances. Actually, he probably out performed reasonable expectations given those circumstances and the inferable information that comes along with a position switch.
On the other hand the TD rate and YPA numbers are both ridiculous. In fact, they’re so ridiculous that given the context of the other two components, they reek of unrepeatability. AhOOOOga! Dive! Dive! Dive! [Everything starts shaking.] WHAT THE [HECK] IS HAPPENING!?!?
Relax, that’s just the mean reversion alarm. I’m reprising a chart I’ve previously discussed in this space which shows the mean reversion effect in a forecast able format. This chart suggests that we should look for Devin to register a legit 145 in passer rating next year. Uh, that’s a damn fine rating, folks. Here’s a stat line about your QB that you just might like:
|Devin Gardner, 2013||360||225||2900||23||10|
Sure, that’s not the 3600 yds and 33 TDs Ronnie promised but its not 15 INTs either. That level of performance is typical of a seasoned veteran QB and given Devin’s performance last season it’s totally reasonable to expect him to perform at this level. If he were to underperform that expectation the world would not end but I’d be disappointed. If he over performs then gravy. This is the reasonable and prudent outlook for Devin Gardner’s performance for this coming season.
Reasonable. Prudent. Pfft, those words suck. They aren’t sexy at all. They aren’t fun. They’re words Brady Hoke would use to describe Notre Dame. A seasoned veteran QB will do in a pinch but I want to plan on hearing the lamentations of all of those that oppose us. No, to lay those plans we need a monster. We need an expectation that we’ll have a performer at QB that will dominate. We need what Ron Utah has promised us. Surely there must be a way to construct a plausible expectation for domination given the data available. Indeed, but we need some abstract thinking. Shamalong to the right side of knowledge.
What if those numbers for YPA and TD rate weren’t an accident and are actually evidence of elite playmaking ability. Numbers like those are characteristic of system, support, or flat out skillz; usually a combination of the three.
System: We’ve seen what system can do for a player. We need look no further than Denard Robinson. In RichRod’s system Denard rated out at about 150, in a more typical system he rated out 20 points lower. In Devin’s case, he’ll be playing in a familiar system with more time to learn and refine his understanding. Borges will be able to game plan around a playing style he’s more experienced with and I see no threat to Devin’s performance being affected because of system factors next year.
Support: A quarterback can benefit from the players around him. I submit freshman Chad Henne. Having Braylon Edwards to throw to and Mike Hart around certainly helped his numbers. That O-line wasn’t too shabby either. So the question is: did Devin’s numbers get a boost from the players around him that will suddenly not be there anymore? The receiving corps returns mostly intact and as much as I enjoyed Roy Roundtree as a player, I don't think he was a transcendent talent that cant be replaced by Chesson and/or Darboh. Who is to say that they wont be better?
As to support from the running game, again I don't think there was anything there that made opposing defenses think twice. Michigan was aiight running the ball last season. Fitz’s production seemed to pick up when Devin stepped in for Denard but then he got injured so its tough to say if that's a trend or not. Here again, support from the running game should at the very least stay where it was and maybe it picks up a bit.
Finally, the offensive line. Michigan loses some solid players but retains its best player. Also, some high powered recruits from Hoke first few recruiting classes may finally be ready to contribute even if its just to add depth. It’s possible that the o-line could be touch weaker with the addition of new blood but I have no idea how to gauge that. I’m not going to worry about it.
In terms of support, Devin should have everything he needs and maybe even have an overall better receiving corps and stronger running game.
Skillz: Everyone around these parts know Devin Gardner was a high high level recruit. Once he got to campus and we saw him in Spring Games it was like, well, not that great and when he got moved to wide receiver last year I, for one, kind of convinced myself that maybe he was just another talented athlete with poorly developed QB skills. But, the numbers he put up when given extended playing time, while rusty, against not to be scoffed at defenses…jeepers. Maybe Scout was onto something when they gave him that 5th Star.
Its not crazy to think that Devin Gardner is that good. He might just be a monster. The only thing that prevents anyone from saying that confidently is sample size. So, as is my way, I try to look into the future by looking into the past. What does Devin Gardner the Monster look like?
|Devin Gardner, 2013||360||235||3200||27||8|
Yeah, baby. Lather up. Dennis Dixon. Troy Smith. Vince Young. What’s up with all those guys wearing #10 anyway? What’s up with all those guys murdering my team? Whatevs, Devin Gardner the monster looks like Michigan’s Revenge.
See, the only thing that makes this a difficult thing to believe is that posting a 160 passer rating is a difficult thing to do. But, its possible and what fundamental reason is there to say that Devin lacks the wherewithal to post that type of performance in the coming season? Depending on which set of assumptions hold, Devin will be either a really good QB or a devastating one.
If Al Borges says Devin plays like RGIII, I believe him.
Where on the internet can someone say…
Aren’t we here to have fun? Isn’t it more fun to invest internet cache in a prophecy and see if you’re right? It's a simple social contract: pick a side and to the victors go the spoils while the losers eat crow.
..and then uses their self-granted rhetorical leeway to make completely data-driven conclusions? In the MGoDiaries, this happens. MCalibur made his glorious return to the diaries to back up his man Ron Utah. Together they make some interesting studies for prognosticating Devin Gardner this year and beyond.
M's method is to look at things like completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown % and interception % on a scale of passer ratings. So like if you take Denard his passer rating was 149, but for a 149 kinda guy he had standard accuracy, an extra half a yard per play, a slightly lower TD% and had way more interceptions.
So now apply that to Devin's five games last year and you get a yards and TD machine who gets his one WTF interception per game down to 0.8 WTF interceptions per game. You know, like a 5-star entering his redshirt junior season.
Also love this line:
sometimes when you suck, you really really suck and your foes all go hyuk ‘cause they hate you
And the Ron Utah thing MCalibur brought up? What that does is look at Borges's last QB at SDSU to extrapolate Gardner's five-game stats into a more throweriffic offense. He winds up with 3600 yards, 33 TDs and 15 INTs on just 28 attempts per game. That's…well that sounds crazy. That's more yards than Navarre or Henne ever threw. That's at least one interception per game. That's a lot of passes over 20 yards. That's…
…a pretty good lead-in to Ron Utah's other diary this week, titled Who is Al Borges Part I? Now that we're transitioning to the Full Borges offense Ron is taking us on a tour of Borgesian offenses past. Round 1 goes through early UCLA. Of note: his run-pass ratio varied between 42% run and 61% run, but he never had less than 60% of his yards come from passing. That's a mark of the run setting up the other. Ron is your diarist of the week.
Talk to the Hand. Brian's linked to it in like four recruiting posts already but if you care about Da'Shawn Hand or anything you should read this first-hand account from a guy who went with Hand on his OSU trip (for The Game) and on his ensuing Michigan trip. Canzior had trouble posting his photos from Dropbox so I've uploaded them here; click on the pics to get a full-size version:
Items of interest:
- Hand is a great kid
- Urban was approached by Brandon for the Michigan job in 2011 but it got no further than interest gauged (this we kinda figured)
- Hand was turned off by the OSU players, not so much the coaches. Not in a "they're dicks" sort of way, but didn't click with them.
- Hand drove home from that visit with The Victors on repeat in the car.
- Mattison used the Ray Lewis pitch.
- Mattison knows Rihanna songs.
- Michigan's recruiting presentation is very geared toward academics
- [After the jump: another Michigan-Band of Brothers connection, and the Best of the Board]
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler.
|Detroit, MI – 6'4", 285|
4*, #144 overall
4*, #165 overall
4*, #91 overall
4*, #65 overall
OSU, Bama, Florida, FSU, USC, MSU
|YMRMFSPA||Chris McDonald (MSU)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post. Hello post the second. Ace scouts Cass versus OLSM and Renaissance. Oh and Brother Rice. Ace interviews Dawson at SMSB.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (all people ever). Twitter.|
Spent his junior year in Houston, which is why this doesn't look like Cass:
David Dawson's soap opera recruitment was explosive and momentarily depressing but worked out for the best in the end. An early Michigan commit, Dawson had other coaches in his ear and gave into their pitchfork whispers, taking a visit to Florida that the Michigan coaches were blindsided by. They yanked his scholarship offer, Florida seemed not to have room for him—or he just didn't like it much and wanted to stay close to home—and a reeling Dawson started saying unwise things on twitter and putting Ohio State and Michigan State at the top of his list. The jilt was on.
Meanwhile all of this was happening in the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of Dawson's father, a Department of Transportation employee who was struck and killed by a motorist as he attempted to help a guy pulled over to the side of the road. If any recruit has ever deserved a vision quest, it's Dawson.
Dawson's emotions were on his sleeve on Twitter, and eventually they moved away from jilted to regretful. His heart was still in Ann Arbor. So he did a thing. He sucked it up, talked to the coaches, and got them to offer once more. Hatchet buried, Dawson took a moment for dignity and committed shortly after. And they lived happily ever after.
What the last six months have been like for him: It has been crazy. I'm glad it's over. I'm not going to miss this. I'm thankful for the coaches that talked to me, but I'm so happy with Michigan.
If you talked shit to Dawson on twitter, learn.
This is good because Dawson is really good. You can see by the rankings about that the sites have him in the top handful of guards in the country, and since he was a Cass kid those rankings are backed by camp after camp after camp. He was excellent at all of these. I was checking out some 1-on-1s for the Taco Charlton post and stumbled onto a few Dawson reps mixed in. At this point I've seen a fair share of those things and as you might imagine, that's a drill heavily slanted towards the defense. So when Dawson stoned—like, stood up and slow-danced with—OSU commit Billy Price, my interest was piqued.
But don't take my word for it. Take everyone's. Steve Wiltfong($) caught him at SMSB last year, when the main event was Dawson versus touted CA DE Joe Mathis:
David Dawson is one mean cuss. The Michigan commit violently took it to sought after defensive lineman Joe Mathis in two easily won matches of tire tug-a-war. In 1-on-1s, he was a bully of an offensive lineman, going back and forth with Mathis and dominating nearly everyone else he faced. He delivers a good punch and has a great base. Has really reshaped his body from the season and is down 25 pounds to 280. You could tell the nation’s No. 9 offensive guard is not carrying much extra weight on his 6-foot-5 frame.
One mean cuss! If only this had been said about Chris Fox we would be in business, man. I might call Fox "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" anyway. Someone call him a mean cuss.
This was far from an isolated evaluation. Both ESPN and 247 named him the top overall performer at the Columbus NFTC camp (the one that happened mere days after his father passed). 247:
1. David Dawson, OL, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech. A player with good length, Dawson showed good athleticism as an edge protector in one-on-ones but really separated himself with his finisher’s mentality. Dawson really fought to win his reps in one-on-ones and many of those reps he won with authority.
The nation's No. 1 offensive guard dominated during one-on-ones, earning MVP honors. Quite possibly there has not been a lineman this year that showcased the power and quickness Dawson did with his initial punch. The future Wolverine is ahead of his years, demonstrating nearly flawless technique in his pass-protection setting.
Various other reviews talk about Dawson in terms that would be uncomplimentary if we were not talking about a football player. 247's Clint Brewster:
Dawson is a bully. Dawson is tough as nails and wont shy away from anyone. He has a great base and an extremely strong core. His technique is nearly flawless and he does a great job with hand-placement and just simply overpowering his opponent.
Tim Sullivan noted he'd move up after leaving a "trail of destruction($)" in multiple camps:
Dawson looks thin at 6-5, 305 pounds - almost like a linebacker - and if that weight is accurate, he has the frame to play at well over 320 pounds in college without sacrificing any of his athleticism. … nearly-dominant in one-on-one drills, pancaking defensive linemen on occasion (something that's not all that common in these drills), and only losing a couple reps, both when he was wrong-footed by a speed rush.
You get the idea. A mean cuss with dominating strength. Probably. ESPN's evaluation is kind of meh for a guy who they rate the #2 guard in the country—a symptom of their fire and forget evaluation style, perhaps:
… very good size, looks to have a thick lower body and the room to potentially add some more good mass… displays the tools to be a productive run and pass blocker. In the run game, he does a very good job with hand placement and will work to reroute his hands when he can't initially gain positioning. He maintains a good base and can generate good leg drive to create push. … playing with his hand down more in the run game could help him to regulate his pad level better. He displays good pull/trap ability and is able to stay under control, locate and get a hat on active second level targets. … doesn't wow you in any particular way, but he is a big kid with the tools to be a good, well-rounded and productive college lineman.
I'm just excising all the stuff about playing lower from now on, as we can agree that there has never been an OL or DL evaluation that does not mention pad level.
Dawson's abilities extended to actual football in pads last fall. Since Dawson was a Cass guy and not Delano Hill (ie, committed to Iowa during the season), Ace had multiple opportunities to check him out. Ace, like everyone else, was a fan. Dawson versus Orchard Lake St. Mary's:
OL David Dawson (2013 commit): Dawson has reached the point where I almost assume that he'll dominate. While the Cass Tech line as a whole struggled, Dawson was a bright spot, getting huge push in the run game and holding up well on the edge in pass protection. His mean streak was once again on full display as he consistently played to—and through—the whistle, and it was obvious that OLSM defenders were frustrated going up against him.
… repeatedly paved the way for big run and physically dominated the man across from him. Dawson has outstanding technique, getting his hands right into the defender and knocking him off the ball. He's also one of the quickest linemen I've seen off the snap; at times, it looked like he was false-starting, but it was just a really good jump. On nearly every play he was the first lineman on either side to get off the snap and set.
… stellar at left tackle, as usual, paving the way for a big day on the ground and keeping QB Jayru Campbell upright in pass protection. … Cass Tech actually pulled Dawson on several run plays—linebackers had little hope of shedding his blocks and often found themselves being escorted several yards downfield. Dawson's reputation of playing to—and through—the whistle is well-earned.
If we can't call him The Fantastic Mr. Fox we might go with David "To And Through" Dawson. Sonny, you don't know about mean cusses these days. Let me tell you about Ol' To And Through. Must have been dickety-six or dickety-seven when he staved a cow's face in on the field. You see, the 'hioans were so desp'rate to prevent their tackles from being flung into the stands like so many Joe Bauserman passes that they press-ganged any livestock they came across, hopin' Ol' To And Through wouldn't stave their faces in. No such luck. Cartilage everywhere. That's why 'hio State changed their nickname to the Bleeding Sobbing Noseless Cows. True story. Fetch me my robot arms, boy.
Dawson did have some technical issues, but ones he worked through. When Mike Farrell caught him at the Rivals Five Star Challenge last year he noted that Dawson tended to dominate reps or get blown through:
Dawson showed a great punch off the snap, and when he got his hands on opponents, he dominated them. However, when his first punch wasn't effective, defensive linemen went past him with ease. With Dawson, it was either win or lose within the first few seconds of each rep.
A couple weeks later at the Opening, Dawson had corrected that:
Dawson has become more patient in two short weeks…. showed the ability to get out, move his feet, keep his arms extended and not rely on a big punch off the snap. This allowed him to effectively ride defenders outside the target area and let him use his long arms much more effectively.
Tim Sullivan also noted that sometimes Dawson's aggressiveness was a detriment:
Dawson has a nasty attitude, and wants to see the player across from him humiliated by the time the whistle blows. Unfortunately, his aggressiveness gets the better of him sometimes, and he'll lunge for the defender instead of locking on and driving. It's effective at the high school level, but he won't be dominant in college without better technique.
That stuff will get hammered out, as Dawson seems to be a coachable guy. You've got the quick-turnaround development story just above and another couple notes about Dawson picking things up quickly as he moved around in various camp environments and across various OL positions. Another Five-Star note:
Though pass protection on the interior is completely different than at tackle he made a seamless transition. He has a strong base and used his lower body strength to hold the big noseguards at bay. Dawson should prove to be invaluable in Ann Arbor because of his versatility and willingness to play wherever he is needed.
And this from the UA game:
…impressed in a very important way Tuesday. It's one thing to have the physical talent the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder possess, but he very much impressed from a cerebral standpoint. Dawson knew assignments, and received praise for that from the coaching staff in a setting in which many linemen look lost on day one and two.
While we are lacking the rapturous quote from the coach about how this guy should be raffled off to the most eligible debutantes in a three-state radius, evident coachability is at least a nod in that direction.
Why Chris McDonald? I had to give up on a reasonable Michigan comparison here. There hasn't been a Michigan guard this century that seems even a little like Dawson except Baas, who I just used for Kugler, and Hutchinson, who I used for Kalis last year. I mean: Heinige, Moosman, Lentz, Kraus, Omameh, Mitchell… none of these folks really evoke mean-cuss run-oriented guard.
So, McDonald. Dawson has higher upside than McDonald, who topped out as an honorable All Big Ten, undrafted FA type, but in terms of how they might play it's a decent fit. TFY Draft's scouting report on McDonald:
Positive: Athletically limited offensive lineman who gets the most from his ability. Strong, stays square, and controls defenders at the point of attack. Keeps his head on a swivel, shows good awareness, and works well with linemates. Keeps the defender in front of him and jolts opponents with good hand punch.
Negative: Gets tall, which robs him of leverage. Stiff and ineffective blocking in motion.
Dawson has more athleticism than a guy ranked in the teens in Michigan his recruiting year; other than that, seems accurate. McDonald was a good pass protector for a guard—one sack allowed in his final two years—and was pretty much the only consistent player on MSU's line the last couple years, earning a reputation as a hard-nosed drive blocker first and foremost.
I did think about re-using the two stars above, particularly Hutch, but I like to keep the bazooka in the holster as much as possible.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Consensus, high profile, camps, All Star game.
Variance: Low-plus. I never give OL a "low." Other than that, Dawson is already an advanced technician, comes with a mean streak attached, and doesn't have to add too much weight or reshape his body much.
Ceiling: High. Maybe lacks perfect NFL size. Maybe. He's a guard and it seems like you can't give a guard "vast" for a similar reason you can't give it to a middle linebacker. But I mean. You guys.
General Excitement Level: Very high. He has all the things you want. Usually I look owlishly at guys who waver all over the place, but I mean… if you don't have your decisions go a little wonky when you're 17 and your dad dies, you are a robot.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
After that he will probably have to push past an established starter if he wants to see playing time. He's rooting for Ben Braden to win the left guard job, as Braden will move outside next year. If it's Glasgow he's got a tougher road to hoe.
Either way it' going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight with Kyle Kalis presumably on track to being a four-year starter, Kyle Bosch equally touted and already on campus, Chris Bryant still being huge, Blake Bars existing, and Glasgow being just as large and possibly more experienced than anyone. Oh and Mason Cole is coming in behind this madness with plenty of recruiting credentials to his name.
I have no idea who wins that melee. I do know that whoever does is going to kick ass. Gun to my head, I cower, void my bowels, and accept my fate. And bet on Dawson. Or Bosch. Please don't put a gun to my head about this.