Mike Lantry, 1972
Life After Hand
It goes on, believe it or not. Michigan responded to missing out on Da'Shawn Hand by immediately offering Berrian Springs (MI) DE Jhonny Williams, a Missouri commit since September, and judging by his comments to Brandon he's taking his new opportunity very seriously:
Williams wasn’t shy about being excited to hear from Michigan for the first time just recently when we first spoke. After receiving his offer, Jhonny texted me last night with a very respectful message as he sorts through his options.
"I’m not ready to comment on the recent events. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I gather them. I need time. Thank you."
He didn’t hide the fact that he’s juggling some thoughts now that Michigan has offered and I expect the Wolverines to get some consideration.
Williams is a three-star, #42 strongside DE, and #15 prospect in the state according to the 247 Composite; while the rankings are middling, interest in him has picked up of late, as Notre Dame offered him last week. He looks impressive, albeit against relatively low-level competition, in his senior highlights on Hudl.
Shooting Down ALL THE RUMORS
Lose out on a top prospect in the midst of a very ugly stretch for the football team and now even the most outwardly faithful commits have to deny rumors of jumping ship. Rivals posted clickbait so obviously clickbait that I refuse to link it in which they suggest that Jabrill Peppers could join Hand at Alabama despite acknowledging in the very same article that Peppers hasn't spoken with the Tide in months. It even features speculation by a certain national analyst with the quote "I have nothing to back that up."
Meanwhile, Scout's Brian Dohn actually talked to Jabrill Peppers—a novel concept—and Peppers shot down the notion that he's looking around at all ($):
“I’m going to try to go out there for the game against that down south team,” Peppers said. “Everybody is worried about all of the recruits because of the losses, but that is why it’s called rebuilding. We have a new coach (Brady Hoke). He’s bringing in the talent.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to make sure we bring Michigan back to the Michigan we knew before.”
Not only is Peppers remaining a part of the class, he's planning to head to Ann Arbor for The Game. He's even giving quotes to the Daily about his future role on the team:
“I love (playing both ways),” Peppers said. “I love being able to have as many big-impact plays on the game as I possibly can. I definitely would love doing that, but first I want make sure that I’m fully committed and understand the defense and what coach Mattison is trying to do before they start moving me around to the offensive side of the ball.
“I’m all for it and want to do it and try to make as many plays as I possibly can.”
Decommitment pending, I'm sure.
As for Mason Cole and George Campbell, Sam Webb caught up with them after their regular season finale a week ago; they seem solid, as well ($):
Before departing the field both future Wolverines posed for photos that demonstrated their Maize & Blue pride in the form of Michigan caps and ‘M’ gestures with their hands. Upon putting on his hat, Campbell offered up an emphatic ‘Go Blue!’ When asked if that meant his commitment is solid, he didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he responded. “I am not listening to the calls (from other schools).”
Another "Go Blue", this time in tandem with Cole, hammered that point home.
Various tweets from other commits over the past couple weeks have driven this point home—the 2014 class is remaining firm in their commitments, at least for the time being, and there's nothing but pure speculation to suggest otherwise.
[Hit THE JUMP for a roundup of commit performances from last weekend.]
11/16/2013 – Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT) – 7-3, 3-3 Big Ten
In the long history of clock-running fire-drill field goal attempts there has been only pain and misery. When the game's about to end and you're trying to fling six guys on the field and take six off and align your kicker such that he can calmly take two steps and boot, you're gonna die.
Everyone knows this. Pac-12 refs know it so well that they don't even bother with last second field goals anymore as long as the defense squats on the ball like a hobo over a purloined chicken. Northwestern's student section knew it and was counting the clock down to their first Big Ten victory.
That's something I missed live and had to pick up on replay because I was dumbly staring at a horde of people exiting, a horde of people entering, focused on a line that I knew for a fact would not be set. So I also missed Drew Dileo sliding into his holder spot and recovering an instant before Glanda snapped it to him, possibly tipped off to exactly when he needed to get the ball off, set or not, by the numbers ringing out from the students.
Michigan's not set, in all probability, but there's no flag and Dileo's recovered from his sprawl and Gibbons ceases moving backwards, which oh by the way he is at the snap. Moving backwards. This is just an indicator of the doom to come—catch, placement, kick, overtime, whereupon it was ordained by fate that Michigan would pull this game out of their butt. Like it was nothing. Like it was always going to happen like that.
Because This Is Michigan, and That Is Northwestern.
The time for turning up your nose at any win, no matter how alarming, is past. Michigan could beat Akron on a triple reverse Hail Mary that Akron intercepts and fumbles out of their own endzone for a safety and it would be time to wave the flag and say hurrah.
So let us duly wave the flag. It is good to see the team happy. In the aftermath, various players tweeted out "Go team," each instance more delightful than the last, and then Taylor Lewan got piled on for following the crowd. Kyle Bosch did this.
— Kyle Bosch (@Kyle_Bosch65) November 17, 2013
And this time, Gardner destroyed the jumbled heap of pointy bits and gristle he calls a rib cage for a purpose. That purpose is looking an awful lot like not being in Detroit for a bowl game—SORRY, right, waving the flag.
While unit X's shocking incompetence is a callback to the Rodriguez days, so is feeling good for the put-upon players after a narrow win against a bad team. Even if I am in a emotion deprivation chamber for the rest of the year for my safety and that of people around me, the way you get out of those is by having good things happen, and that was a good thing.
It was also an obvious thing. My game previews have always been made in a spirit that says predicting things is dumb (thus the weird scores), but damn if this wasn't easy to call:
Michigan wins! On some bulllllllllshit that causes Northwestern fans to self-immolate.
Sippin' On Purple's Rodger Sherman has questionable taste in hats
This is what Northwestern does. Sometimes it's in the service of preventing a Big Ten championship game appearance, like it was last year; sometimes it's keeping you winless in that Big Ten. Either way, you could feel both sides of that stadium preparing to lose as Michigan embarked on the dread two minute drill. This one ended in chaos and fiasco, as they all do, but at the end Michigan managed to pull itself together and execute. Northwestern's bad mojo still trumps all.
That's not going to lead anywhere important—this season ends with an abattoir named Braxton Miller. In a landscape as bleak as the weather on Saturday, though, any ray of light is a welcome one. Let us forget about our worries and stare blankly into the butt of next week, ignoring what that hammering sound ahead might mean. It's probably meant for some other cow. Yeah. Otherwise I would not be so calm and tranquil.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. This is a tough one because while the defense held Northwestern to nine points in regulation, nobody really stood out as the single best guy on that unit. I think we will go with James Ross, though; Ross had an important sack and nine solo tackles amongst 13 total; his speed and ability to get to the right place was a major factor in Michigan suppressing Northwestern's option game.
Honorable mention: Jeremy Gallon had ten catches. Brendan Gibbons was perfect on the day. (Matt Wile missed the 51-yarder.) Wile dropped punt after punt inside the 20 and had a 50-yarder. Collectively, Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith had a stat line that looked like an actual running back: 27 carries for 120 yards.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska), James Ross (Northwestern)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Michigan executes the first and only successful clock-running end of game field goal fire drill in the history of football. Go team!
Honorable mention: Jibreel Black sacks Siemian to put Northwestern in a deep hole in the third OT, Jake Butt's one-hand stab gives Michigan a torchclown, Joe Reynolds flags down a punt at the one, subsequent Northwestern punt goes out at the ten, Derrick Green runs through a guy for a 20-yarder, Gardner leads with his ribs into the endzone.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.
11/16/2013: Michigan executes a clock-running last-second field goal to get the game to OT.
[AFTER THE JUMP: decisions, waggles, I hate Illinois rollouts, a brilliant GIF, and physics.]
|WHAT||Michigan at Iowa State|
|WHERE||Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa|
|WHEN||5:00 pm EST, Sunday|
|LINE||Iowa State –1 (KenPom)|
With Melvin Ejim likely sidelined, Georges Niang is Iowa State's lone returning starter set to take the floor today.
Fred Hoiberg's merry band of transfers and castoffs had to replace three starters from last year's team—one that gave Ohio State a very close game in the second round of the NCAA tournament—and they'll likely face Michigan without one of their two returners, senior forward Melvin Ejim, who's doubtful to play due to a hyperextended left knee. [UPDATE: Ejim will play, giving ISU a second post presence and their best rebounder. More importantly, however, Mitch McGary is suited up to make his season debut.]
That leaves sophomore forward Georges Niang as the lone returning starter—though, with Iowa State's usual reloading via JuCo and grad-year transfers, that belies the Cyclones's on-court experience. Point guard DeAndre Kane is a fifth-year senior who was immediately eligible to play this season after graduating from Marshall, while junior forward Dustin Hogue was a JuCo standout at Indian Hills C.C. the last two years—those are two "new" starters for ISU.
Niang was the team's third-leading scorer last year despite coming off the bench in 12 of their 35 games, averaging 12.1 points while shooting 57% on two-pointers and 39% from downtown. At 6'7", 240 pounds, he's the team's largest player to play a significant number of minutes; he's also posted below-average rebounding numbers for a big. Yes, Iowa State is a perimeter-heavy team. How did you guess?
In fact, Kane—a 6'4" point guard—is currently the team's leading rebounder after two wins against non-conference cannon fodder (KenPom #280 UNC Wilmington and #326 Texas A&M Corpus Christi), averaging an even nine(!) per game in addition to his 14 points and 5.5 assists. While Kane's rebounding is bound to fall off—his rebounding percentages are double what he posted at Marshall—his passing is for real: he posted the nation's ninth-best assist rate last season. He's not a great shooter, but he can get the offense going, either through his distributing or knack for drawing fouls (6.2/40 mins).
With Ejim sidelined, Hogue has taken on the role as the team's primary defensive rebounder (24.6 DR%) and rim protector (uh, two blocks in two games) despite standing at 6'6", 215 pounds. Thus far this year, he's shot 100% at the rim, where he's taken half his shots, and 0% on two-point jumpers, which make up the other half of his attemps. Only 1/3 of his baskets have been assisted, so he fits the profile of off-the-dribble threat; keeping him away from the basket is obviously a priority.
The team's leading scorer is sophomore guard Naz Long, who's hit 9/14 three-pointers through two games. He hails from Mississauga, Ontario, the same hometown as Nik Stauskas. Mental note: investigate what's in the water in Mississauga. Long played sparingly last year and was 5/18 for three on the season, so it's unlikely he'll remain ISU's top scorer; even during this hot streak, he's averaging just over 20 minutes per game and hasn't added much to the box score aside from the avalanche of threes.
Rounding out the starting five is 6'3" freshman guard Matt Thomas, who's been content to gun from the outside so far this season: he's 5/13 on threes and 4/5 on twos through two games. ISU's top backup is another freshman guard, Monte Morris, whom you may know as the guy who beat out Derrick Walton for Michigan Mr. Basketball honors last season. Thus far Morris is actually averaging more minutes than starters Hogue, Long, and Niang; he's connected on 4/6 three-pointers and hit just 1/5 twos.
The first big man off the bench will be 6'8" JuCO transfer Daniel Edozie, who's hit all three of his shots this season while pulling in nine rebounds (one offensive) in 31 minutes; Detroit Southeastern product Percy Gibson should also see time up front. Guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker, a redshirt freshman from Detroit Pershing, has played limited minutes so far this season.
I should start with this: Mitch McGary hasn't been ruled out of this game, though I'm pretty skeptical that he'll return this early. This preview presumes he'll be out; if he's not... hooray! I'm happy to be wrong.
UPDATE: HOORAY, I'M WRONG
Control the pace. The Cyclones under Hoiberg aren't dissimilar from a Beilein squad—undersized, very efficient offensively, average defensively—with one marked difference: they play at a very high tempo, 34th nationally last year. Michigan wasn't challenged much in transition so far this year, and ISU is much more prepared to run off missed shots and turnovers. Luckily for Michigan, the Cyclones have been below average at creating the latter (18.6 TO% last year, 13.2% this year); a matchup between a freshman point guard and a fifth-year senior, however, is a little worrisome regardless of Walton's talent.
Work the pick-and-roll. Iowa State is small and, if their past numbers hold, not particularly strong defensively. In addition, without Ejim they've got one big with any significant experience at this level. Drawing Niang away from the basket and forcing him to be active defensively—and potentially commit critical fouls—should be a priority, especially with how well Stauskas and Caris LeVert have been running the high screen game this year.
Go big. Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan should be able to rebound well against this small Cyclones front line; against a perimeter-oriented team that can really shoot, though, I don't want to see both of them on the floor at the same time. To counter the rebounding, strength, and passing of Kane, however, I'd like to see Beilein work in some lineups featuring LeVert at the point, especially if Walton is struggling out of the gate.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT
THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Michigan by 3
While there's no doubt McGary is the better player, I think the loss of Ejim matters more to Iowa State because of their lack of size/depth up front. Michigan matches up well with the Cyclones, and while it's always tough to come away with a win on the road against a viable opponent, I think depth and rebounding are the difference in this one.
via @cjzero, obviously
I can't. I just... I can't. Thank you, Northwestern, for being Northwestern.
Consider this an open thread to celebrate(!) a victory(!!) featuring multiple touchdowns!!!
(Shhhhhhh, don't ruin it by mentioning the multiple overtimes part.)
A moment comes when you first start listening to minimalist music—for some people it comes quickly, for some people it never clicks at all—when your perception of time changes. As a musician famously described his first exposure to a Philip Glass opera; his initial boredom was transformed as...
I began to perceive...a whole world where change happens so slowly and carefully that each new harmony or rhythmic addition or subtraction seemed monumental...
...he said as the rhythmic woodblock...no, it's Adams not Glass...the woodblock crack of the pulling Stanford guard's pads as he thumped the Oregon SAM out of the hole play after play after play after...
NO! I will NOT spend my Thursday evening in an altered state of consciousness. So I started using the media timeouts, and then the time between plays (well, at least when Stanford had the ball, which thankfully was just about always) to work on a project I'd started a few days earlier during the Gameboy diaries, pulling participation reports for all 125 FBS teams and pulling roster/bio information to get the classes of their starters on the o-line.
And some of you people think huddles serve no purpose.
Honestly, the Horse Wasn't Dead When I Started
The results are here, usefully tabled in a spreadsheet to save some work for the next sap that starts on one of these projects.
Of course, as I sat down at my computer to do some regression analysis on the data I opened the blog and saw Gandalf's diary covering most of what I was planning to do (and doing a better job of it I might add). But I was taking a slightly different tack and found a couple of wrinkles, so for the sake of the eight of you that are still interested I'll continue on....
First a couple of comments about the dataset (feel free to skip the rest of this section, but it might be important if anyone uses the data for further analysis). Gandalf took his data from depth charts at the ourlads.com scouting site; mine come from the starting lineup listed in each school's participation report in the official game stats for their most recent game against FBS competition (sometimes coaches play with their lineup for games they're treating as exhibitions, give a start to a loyal walk-on for example, so if the most recent game was against a Delaware State I pulled the lineup for the week prior).
The official reports have the virtue, or defect, of being precise accounts of who was on the field. Sometimes that was a problem because everyone doesn't actually use five offensive linemen all the time. Idaho started a game with four, presumably spreading the field with covered, ineligible tight ends and wide receivers. Somebody else came out heavy and listed six. There were also some schools that simply listed their linemen as “OL” without assigning specific positions.
Where possible I straightened those situations out by using the schools' published depth charts. When that didn't work either I looked at third-party depth charts and did my best to reconcile them with the actual starters. It's possible there are a couple of players out of position here, but I don't think it's material.
For teams, usually pistol teams, that flop their line, I assumed the tight end would line up to the right and assigned the quick tackle and guard to the left side and the strong tackle and guard to the right.
For obvious reasons, service academies don't redshirt players. If an academy lineman's bio showed a year in which he didn't see game action, I counted that year as a redshirt and subtracted the year from his class. The point after all was to look at experience, not remaining eligibility.
Additive and Multiplicative Measures of Experience
My starting point was two proposals in the Gameboy diaries. Gameboy himself proposed assigning a value to each player (one point for each year, half a point for a redshirt) and adding them (well, averaging them, which of course is the same thing but for scale). That average appears in the spreadsheet as the GLEM (Gameboy Line Experience Metric).
In a comment to one of the diaries reshp1 suggested an alternative: assigning a value to each player based on experience (conceived as the probability that the player in question will successfully carry out his assignment) and multiplying those values and subtracting the product from one to get the probability that an assignment will be busted on a given play. That probability appears in the spreadsheet as the RBI (Reshp Bust Index). It's basically the weakest-link theory with the additional recognition that anyone might turn out to be the weakest link on a given play.
I focused on the latter metric because conceptually it makes sense to me and because it wasn't treated in Gandalf's diary. Reshp1 pulled the probabilities out of the air, or his hat, or somewhere, but the analysis doesn't seem to be sensitive to the particular choices here. The values are in a lookup table on page 2 of the spreadsheet if anyone wants to play around with alternatives.
Before I go on, a sanity check on Reshp1's metric—a list of the ten youngest lines:
- UCLA (7-2, 4-2)
- Idaho (1-9)
- California (1-9, 0-7)
- Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5)
- Eastern Michigan (2-8, 1-5)
- Western Kentucky (6-4, 2-3)
- Tulane (6-4, 4-2)
- Maryland (5-4, 1-4)
- Arkansas (3-7, 0-6)
- Michigan (6-3, 2-3)
Not a list you want to be on; those are some bad teams right there, combining for a 16-37 record in their respective conferences and that's flattering because it leaves out independent Idaho, who's probably the worst of the lot. (You can point to UCLA if you like as proof that, if everything goes right, you can survive starting multiple freshmen. Arkansas fans are probably pointing to Michigan and saying the same thing.)
The Running Game
Sanity check #2 is to redo Gandalf's work, but with Reshp's metric. Here's a graph of yards per carry vs. RBI:
That looks familiar. R2 is .058; the correlation coefficient is -.24 (these coefficients will all be negative because RBI is smaller for more experienced lines). And if we strip out the tackles and just look at the interior?
R2 is .084, the correlation coefficient is -.29, and it's not a coincidence that this looks an awful lot like Gandalf's chart using “youngest interior lineman”.
Weakest link, check. Experience matters more on the interior than at the tackles, check.
But what I really wanted to do was to look at the impact of o-line experience on an offense as a whole. To do that I've used the offensive component of the Fremeau Efficiency Index, which looks at all offensive drives (except for clock-kills and garbage-time drives) and compares the results to expectations based on the starting field position. By its nature it's pace-adjusted and independent of the effect of the team's defense; they also apply a strength of schedule adjustment.
Here's the chart:
R2 is .026, the correlation coefficient is –.16. The effect’s not as large, but a young line impacts the whole offense, not just the run game.
It made some sense that in the running game experience would matter more in the interior than at the tackles since it's an interior lineman that makes the line calls and the assignments tend to be more complicated inside. It wasn't so clear that this would still hold when the passing game was added in:
but that's what we find. The correlation is greater when we only look at the interior. R2 is .048, the correlation coefficient is -.22.
It's on the interior that experience really matters. And Michigan's interior RBI ranks 123rd of 125 FBS teams.
How Large an Effect?
A lot was made in Gandalf's diary, and especially in the comments, about the low R2 values here, which were seen as a demonstration of the relative unimportance of experience vs. other factors, like coaching.
I see it differently. This is an extremely diverse universe of teams we're looking at here. There are differences between Michigan and Eastern, or between Ohio State and Ohio U., that can't ever be overcome by something as simple as inexperience on the line. A lot of the scatter in these charts is just a matter of big programs being big and small programs being small. Given those enormous differences in baseline levels of the various FBS teams it's amazing to me that we could see anything like 5-8% of a performance difference being credited to any one team demographic, especially when the difference is measured using an SOS-adjusted metric like Fremeau.
And the slopes of these trend lines aren't small. The expected oFEI difference between 2012 Michigan and 2013 Michigan is .32; the actual difference is .197. The expectation, just correcting last year's performance for the youth on the field this year, was for a worse offense than we've actually seen.
Put another way, if you use that trend line to adjust for this year's lack of experience, add the missing .32, Michigan's offense goes to 19th in the nation, right behind Stanford and Louisville. UCLA turns into Oregon. Eastern becomes Bowling Green and maybe English keeps his job. Everybody's happy.
Good Teams are All Alike, Every Bad Team is Bad in its Own Way
I thought I'd try to get a handle on that by comparing each team's performance to the baseline they've established historically. I've averaged the oFEI's for each program for the five-year period from 2008-2012, then calculated the deviation of this year's performance from that average.
Basically, we're now looking at year-to-year deviations in performance within each program.
On the one hand, this gets rid of the scatter due to the vast discrepancy in baseline performance expectations from the top to the bottom of the division.
On the other hand, this also filters out any effect from programs like Wisconsin whose strength largely comes from the fact that they always field powerful, experienced lines. There's not much year-to-year variance there—they're always old, always good.
So it's possible we won't see any bigger correlation here than before...
...what happened? R2 is .009. Two-thirds of the effect is now gone. (A result, by the way, that's consistent no matter what metrics I use for line experience.) Apparently, only a third of the effect we’re looking at is a matter of one-off bad seasons due to a young line; most of the effect is systematic, inherent in particular programs. It's almost as if there were a correlation between poor past performance and current youth, and that's because there is:
There's the missing two-thirds. Historically (well, over the last five years anyway) bad teams are on the left, good programs on the right. There's less current youth (lower Bust Index) as you move right.
A look back at the teams listed earlier provides a clue. It's a mix of historically bad programs like Eastern, struggling FCS converts like Idaho, and programs that have suffered some sort of recent calamity, the kind that makes you decide to hire John L. Smith to be your substitute teacher for a year. Some had horrible recruiting, some had retention problems…each one has had its peculiar issues but every one of them is a program in disarray—some recovering, some not. Teams don’t field multiple freshmen because they want to; they do it because things fell apart.
We'll know more if someone does the study suggested in the comments to Gandalf's diary, looking at overall roster depth instead of just the age of the starters, but I think what's happening here is that the Wisconsin effect is the dominant effect in the study. Good programs don't suffer from youth on their lines because (a) it doesn't happen to them and (b) when it does, it's not a sign of weakness. When Andrus Peat finds his way to the top of the depth chart as a sophomore it's because he's beaten out multiple upperclassmen and won the position. When Kyle Bosch find his way to the top of the depth chart it's by default; the juniors and seniors he's supposed to be competing against aren't on the roster.
I think the next thing I might try, if I were of a mind to keep flogging this, is to do something so straightforward and blunt as to look for a correlation between offensive efficiency and the number of scholarship upperclass o-linemen on a roster (more telling than the percentage, I would guess).