Mike Lantry, 1972
I mentioned this on the podcast, but here's a text version: the recent shuffling in the football program does not fill me with a feeing of warmth. Three things that have happened that make me frown about where we are right now:
Moving Jake Ryan to MLB. The linebackers were slightly disappointing last year but mostly because they ended up playing behind guys like Nose Tackle Jibreel Black and Richard Ash. They weren't kept clean, ate a lot of instant-release blocks, and tried to cope.
Desmond Morgan is a quality player and James Ross will be once someone blocks a dude in front of him; Michigan also returns both of their backups. There is zero reason to move Ryan to the interior.
Meanwhile, SAM is much closer to the WDE spot than either interior one. Michigan will flip its line on up to 40% of their snaps, whereupon Ryan essentially is the WDE. He has never had to read run/pass from behind a defensive line. He's is prone to breakdowns he can get away with on the edge, given his athleticism and time. He has a spot as a WDE in nickel packages that gets him rushing the passer, which he's really good at. He's not used to the zone drops he needs to take from the interior. His best asset—rushing upfield—is going to happen on way fewer snaps.
That move is flat-out nonsense. Who plays SAM now? Are they moving Ross there? Playing Gant? McCray? Any knowledge we don't have about why they're making this move is bad knowledge to have about the future: it basically means that the current returning starters on the interior can't play, unless you want to be a Mike McCray booster.
Reshuffling every defensive assistant. Cornerbacks coach Roy Manning, who has never played or coached cornerbacks, sounds… not good. I'm willing to throw anyone who can recruit at a RB or WR position, but corner seems like a thing that you should either have done yourself or have a heap of previous experience doing.
Other guys do have some experience with the roles they step into, but shuffling these guys around is redolent of panic and seems unlikely to do much of anything to help. They had something very good going with their DL development, something that personnel issues may have obscured last year.
And the defense was basically fine last year until the last two games, when they got ground down by the best rushing offense in the country and blasted off the field by Tyler Lockett. Neither was entirely surprising. Meanwhile, the offensive staff is sacrosanct save the coordinator.
Chris Bryant's departure. Not that I had much hope that Bryant was going to contribute once we'd heard about yet another surgery for the poor kid.
The issue here is that the exit, which Michigan certainly knew about or could predict before signing day, makes the whole no-commits-since August thing look even worse. It reinforces the toxicity that descended on the program midseason. It's one thing to lose the two DL you have on the hook because you can't run for yard one; it's an additional thing to replace them with air.
Depending on the status of a couple of special teams players, Michigan is one or two scholarships short and if inclined could have given a firm handshake to a couple of graduated fifth year guys. It's one thing to have a 16-man class when you've really only got 16 spots; it's another to leave three or four potential slots open, especially when you're the opposite of careful with redshirts.
That's why this class isn't quite what the star average makes it out to be, and why the recruiting tailspin hurts more than just on the defensive line.
These are the reasons I'm feeling nervous. But hey I was just feeling super optimistic in August so I'm probably totally wrong about this! That's the ticket!
Say uaaaahhh [Upchurch]
Last week when I was talking about the position moves—Jake Ryan to middle linebacker, Roy Manning to cornerbacks coach, etc.—I was mostly positive in the analysis portion, explaining the move as a reaction to having their best defensive player at a defensive role that's quickly becoming as defunct as the spinning fullback.*
In the podcast Brian and Ace expressed some heebies and jeebies over the moves. I can't speak to all of those worries; who knows whether Jake Ryan can read run/pass, or if maybe Desmond Morgan's pass defense was a gaping hole the coaches were covering up in other ways. I can't even give a full answer since Brian didn't do defensive UFRs for Michigan's last three games. But I thought we might use the data we have to see whether the strongside linebacker position in Michigan's defense has been phasing out.
Spread level: rising. The vagaries of year-to-year scheduling and missing UFRs may throw off the data but Michigan's opponents indeed have been throwing out more wide receivers in their base sets as of late.
|Average WRs in Formation by Situation**|
2008 was thrown off by teams going uber-spread: Minnesota, Northwestern, Utah, Illinois, and Miami (NTM) all averaged more than three wide receivers on normal downs, the former three going 4-wide more often than not. That's not too surprising given that defense had a plausible 4-3 run-stopping depth chart, but a huge dropoff if you could mitigate the DL and get past Warren and Trent on the CB depth chart. After that things normalized to a spread-leaning mix of 2- and 3-wide sets until last year.
I wish I had complete numbers. I can tell you that next year Michigan replaces CMU, UConn, Akron, Nebraska, and Iowa with Appalachian State, Utah, Miami (NTM), Maryland, and Rutgers. I can use 2013 stats (from cfbstats) to show you the playcalling breakdown of these offenses:
[If you jump first]
"After I hit that shot that day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the tunnel. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Washtenaw County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Michigan. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Michigan. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going." — Caris LeVert, probably.
Take a bow, JMo. [Bryan Fuller]
I repeat "PLAYIN' A LOT OF WEIRD GUYS" about 60 times in a three minute span. Stauskas goes off, LeVert goes off, no respect for Jordan Morgan. Foot blisters.
Man, I don't feel good about this. Moving around all the assistants, trying Jake Ryan at MLB… smacks of desperation. Which I guess, yeah, they might want to be desperate now but these moves do not inspire confidence.
"Across 110th Street."
"People Got A Lot Of Nerve," Neko Case
The usual links:
Junior Day: No Commits, Still A Success
Shaun Crawford (left) and Tyree Kinnel at the MSU game [Fuller]
Brandon continues to round up reactions from yesterday's Michigan State game/Junior Day, which featured high-profile visitors such as Damien Harris and Brian Cole. Michigan nearly secured their second commit of the 2016 class; while Traverse City West OL Thiyo Lukusa ultimately decided to take his time, the Wolverines are his team to beat:
OL Thiyo Lukusa – It was sweet, super fun! I decided to put my commitment on hold for now. I just have to be 100% sure. The visit and the activities were 1st class as always. I’m still all Michigan right now but I just want to enjoy my recruitment.
Lukusa understandably wants to see more schools before he makes a commitment at this early juncture; it's tough to see a school overcoming Michigan even with so long to go until he signs an LOI. Hit the link for more reactions from yesterday's visitors.
After hosting him last weekend for their Underclassmen Day, Michigan offered 2017 Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Josh Ross, the younger brother of Michigan LB James Ross. The younger Ross already holds offers from Oklahoma and Michigan State, and he told Steve Lorenz that U-M provides a point of comparison for the other schools pursuing him ($):
"I hear stories about [James's] work in the weight room and he is definitely enjoying his time at Michigan," [Ross] said of his brother. "It does give Michigan a bit of advantage because I've been around it a lot and know everyone in the program so well, whether it be players, coaches or even parents and all of that stuff. I know exactly what Michigan is all about and what they have to offer me. They give me something to compare other programs to going forward."
With his early offers and pedigree, Ross has the look of a national-level prospect—expect Michigan to have plenty of competition for his signature.
Offers keep going out to 2015 prospects, as well; four-star DC CB Marcus Lewis got one late last week and told Lorenz he plans to visit Michigan and MSU either this spring or summer ($). Curt Mallory has already established a strong connection with Lewis, including multiple in-school visits, which should help the Wolverines moving forward.
Michigan Adds Walk-On Long Snapper/Potential YouTube Sensation
Allen Trieu reports Michigan has added 2014 Troy Athens long snapper Andrew Robinson as a preferred walk-on:
"It is great to be given this opportunity. I have worked so hard and put so much time into my snapping, i would have never thought it could get me this far and especially to a school with such football tradition like Michigan. I never doubted myself, I just knew it was going to be a long process and I didn't know where I would end up at the end."
As you can see from the video above, Robinson has some skills—the coaches said he'll have the opportunity to compete for a starting job this fall.
Michigan's first 2017 offeree, OH OL Josh Myers, told Tim Sullivan about his reaction to getting offered by the Wolverines ($):
"My expectations were to meet the coaches, and have a good time and get to meet some of the other players that are getting recruited and are committed. I wasn't quite expecting an offer or anything going into it. With that being said, it surpassed my expectations bigtime. I couldn't really believe it to be honest. I had tears in my eyes. I thanked them - I couldn't thank them enough - and I was just really excited."
Michigan is the best program among Myers's five offers, though there's a long time to go, of course. He's still open to all schools and planning to visit Kentucky, Ohio State, and Tennessee over the new few weeks.
Fast-rising 2015 IN LB Josh Barajas put Michigan among his top schools after receiving an offer, per Allen Trieu ($):
Barajas also visited rival Michigan State and several new offers have come since. Even though he remains open, he does have a few programs he is liking.
"For the most everyone is on the same level but I'd say Michigan, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss are my top right now."
In variations on the same theme, coveted 2015 CA DE Keisean Lucier-South won't name leaders but did note the schools pursuing him the hardest, per Scout's Anna Hickey ($):
Though Lucier-South does not have any favorites at this point, he did name five schools that were recruiting him the hardest.
"UCLA, USC, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee," Lucier-South said.
This one won't end any time soon, as KLS plans to take all his officials before making a commitment. LSU just put forth an offer, as well.
If you missed it, Brandon got an offer reaction from VA CB Garrett Taylor, who's got Michigan among his top schools.
(Apologies if this belongs elsewhere, but I haven't seen this analysis done yet).
At 11-3, with a half-game lead on Staee and four games remaining, Michigan is obviously in the driver's seat for the B1G basketball title. Using the game predictions from KenPom's site, I've done a quick probability analysis to see what the odds are that there's a banner to be hung.
First, Michigan's expected record, along with a percent chance:
(I used two significant figures, since there were two in the KenPom data; obviously, they won't add to exactly 100%).
Here's Staee's expected record:
|10-8 or worse||12%|
|10-8 or worse||2.4%|
|10-8 or worse||23%|
|10-8 or worse||68%|
Put it all together, and you get the following possibilities (all chances here are conditional -- e.g., each line should add up to 100% within the limits of rounding and significant figures):
|Record||Outright Title||Shared Title||No Title|
|11-7||< 0.01%||0.20%||> 99%|
When you factor in the chances that Michigan achieves each of these records (from the first table), and add it all up, and there is a 75% chance of an outright title, a 19% chance of a shared title, and a 6% chance of being bannerless. (Coincidentally, I coded up a simulation using the same KenPom percentages, ran it 100 times, and got at least a share of the title exactly 94 times).
Long story short, even with a single loss, the odds are still in our favor to win the title outright, since KenPom doesn't think Staee is likely to run the table, and 2-2 down the stretch is likely to be enough to secure a share of the title. Like many of you, I never would have predicted this in December.