FWIW. Michigan doesn't seem inclined to get re-involved.
soak it in
This week in limited concessions to SEO. So it turns out Esquire googled AJ Daulerio and found this site's bluntly titled piece on him in the aftermath of the ESPN sex tantrum that outed some woman no one had ever heard of for dating some guy no one had ever heard of. They quoted me, so score. That makes me essentially Tom Brady. If I was not getting married in five months this might have had some utility.
I unsubscribed from Deadspin's feed a while ago when they removed full feeds because there was too much junk to wade through just to get to "Dead Wrestler of the Week" or Tommy Craggs writing something long, so I've lost track of what's going on with athlete dongs. Apparently this is:
The topic turned to a video Deadspin had posted of a drunk girl having sex in a bathroom stall at a sports bar in Bloomington, Indiana. After a few days of trading emails with the girl, who was begging to have the video taken down, he refused to take it down. Then the girl's father contacted Daulerio to let him know "You gotta understand, I've just been dealing with watching my daughter get f---ed in a pile of piss for the past two days."
So, awesome. We've moved beyond the thin veneer of "making ESPN acknowledge its sexism" or "Josh Hamilton is a hypocrite" or "Brett Favre is someone you've heard of" and we're just randomly holding up unfortunate young women not connected to sports in any way for internet leers. At least no one's pretending anymore. Except of course Daulerio is, so here's Tom Fornelli ripping him for it.
We'll always have Notre Dame. Tate Forcier transferred, completing his destiny. He used Twitter to make his announcement. It's sad and obviously omits "class" when it talks about the various places he worked hard. In retrospect it's all just so obvious. Homeschooling, yo. It either turns you into Tim Tebow or… not Tim Tebow.
This was cosmically ordained. Now Tate Forcier is the avatar of the Rodriguez era: high expectations, fun here and there, eventual letdown, premature termination. I'll miss the moxie. In memoriam:
BONUS INCEST SPECULATION: I wonder if he'll end up at San Diego State? He's from San Diego. He has a redshirt year, and SDSU's QB graduates after 2011. Those Montana rumors from earlier now have a lot of credence, but if he's willing to sit out a year home seems like an attractive option.
This is hard, veteran fluff. Mattison is saying some awfully nice things about Brady Hoke:
"When Brady got the job (at Michigan last Tuesday), I said to myself, 'If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this with Brady,'" Mattison said. "I wouldn't have gone to any other college team. I wouldn't have changed what I was doing for anybody but Brady.
And you can't have a defensive coordinator hire without the magic word:
"You put the best front and the best coverage out there, and the intention is to be aggressive," Mattison said.
Jarrett Irons also says Mattison is a "helluva" recruiter.
Speaking of recruiting, not to be, like, you know but… Michigan has eight coaches. Seven are white and one is Fred Jackson. Most are old, and even the young-ish ones look like old white guys spiritually. This 1) is bad, 2) looks bad, and 3) can be offset if the last two guys are "energetic recruiters" in the same way Zack Novak is "heady."
If Vincent Smith is having problems I'm not sure he's got anyone he can talk to with any clue what it's like to be a poor black kid:
I am sorry to hear your troubles. In these times I always turn to the advice of Robert Goulet.
The only thing separating this staff from your local realtor is Mark Smith's terror at being photographed. For a lot of reasons, we need some people on staff who know who Waka Flocka Flame is. (No points awarded for knowing of the existence of a "Small Wayne.")
I've heard the last two assistants are likely to be guys without ties to Michigan but there's a guy out there who seems like a natural fit: Corwin Brown. He's a secondary coach, and Michigan needs a secondary coach. He's currently with the Patriots but his role one of those assistant (to the) position coach roles the NFL invented to give anyone who gets fired a job. He's probably not making an exorbitant amount of money.
Brown wasn't a good defensive coordinator but ND defensive backs developed pretty well under his guidance and he was a monster recruiter for them. Since I have mentioned him as a plausible candidate there's no way he gets hired, but the fit seems obvious.
The DL coach, meanwhile, can barely know what a defensive line is since Hoke and Mattison are on staff and should only touch down in Ann Arbor to drop off signed LOIs. Beyonce for DL coach?
[Side note on yesterday's post on Mattison: the 12.1 PPG number I cited isn't right. It was around 17 points per game. Oddly, I got this erroneous info from M's own database, which said opponents scored 157 points in '95.]
All tapes have not been erased. If you're wondering, there will not be a Gator Bowl UFR because what's the point? I do have the Utah-SDSU game from this year and I'll do the offense from that game after Signing Day. I might pull some Picture Pages from the defense if I can find something that illuminates the difference between Greg Robinson running a 3-3-5 he doesn't understand and Rocky Long running the D he invented, too.
But anyway someone did bother to look at the tape of Michigan's bowl demolition. Here's Craig Roh playing DT on first and goal:
This would be a seven-yard touchdown up the gut. Surprise. That play features errors by Mouton, Demens, and Kovacs and is yet another item to add to the pile of reasons Greg Robinson was a bad idea.
Not a feature. I'm arrogant. I know this for a lot of reasons but there's a statistic to back it up: the Michigan version of quiz bowl (a dynasty, BTW) held intramural tournaments occasionally and my first couple years in college I played in them. They kept extensive stats, and I was in the top five in correct answers. I was number one by a mile in incorrect answers*. Arrogance is not a feature, it's a bug.
There's a response to my post about Will Smith and robots and Michigan's hidebound image of itself on Maize 'n' Brew that "loves" the arrogance of Michigan fandom that I can't disagree more with. Arrogant fans are above all unpleasant to be around, no matter if they're on your side or not. When I was in Chicago for Blogs With Balls there was barhopping wherein I hung out with various Chicago based bloggers. One was Brian Stouffer of House Rock Built. I'm not sure who the other was. Stouffer's a really nice guy. The other guy was ND Nation in the flesh, a guy who actually brought up the African-American grad rate canard in a conversation with a stranger he'd just met. That sort of clueless insecurity is arrogance.
We are an arrogant program, and I am an arrogant fan. I don't argue with Brian's awareness of the arrogance, but I think there's more to it than that. He's right - "certain outsiders" can't really teach me, or many of us, anything. Yes, many of the things rivals say about Michigan are true. And yes, our bowl game opponents and OOC opponents will say Michigan just "lines up and comes after you" because that's what Michigan does. Sure, we haven't won a majority of those games (even in the past thirty or so years, Michigan's bowl record isn't fantastic) but the formula works.
Ned Flanders: Pardon me, neighbourinos. Some of our boys are lost in your town. You wouldn't have happened to see them, by any chance?
Shelbyville Guy #1: Sounds like Springfield's got a discipline problem.
Shelbyville Guy #2: Maybe that's why we beat them at football nearly half the time.
The post is neatly summarized by Shelbyville Guy #2. This is not so good.
*(Which cost five points if offered before the question was over.)
Etc.: Kellen Jones reconfirms commitment, if you missed it in yesterday's recruiting post. Oversigning picks up steam as a media concept. JMFJ on JMFJ. Holdin' the Rope on the early days of Hoke—boy, is that blog name going to be one to explain in a few years.
Well... this one caught me by surprise. The Wolverine is reporting that OH CB Tamani Carter (a recent commit to Minnesota) has switched his commitment to the Wolverines. Carter hails from Pickerington Central, the Columbus suburb that gave us the likes of Justin Boren (who attended North).
|3*, #104 CB||3*, 5.5, NR CB||2*, 74, #151 CB|
The recruiting sites are in sliiiight disagreement on his height, with the majority coming to a consensus of about 5-11. All three sites list his weight as 175 pounds. We'll start with ESPN's evaluation:
Carter is a quick-footed skill prospect with very good athleticism... On defense, he transitions and closes the cushion quickly. Shows good underneath burst jumping routes in zone schemes... Has good extension, timing and leaping skills making him a very effective defender on the jump-ball. While fluid with good footwork, we do feel like he will be challenged in man-to-man coverage at the major college level. Appears quicker than fast and lacks great explosiveness and top-end speed needed to recover vertically. May struggle to press and set the edge on run support until he builds up his upper-body... Overall, Carter is a fluid athlete with great ball skills. Lacks game-changing attributes when projecting for major college level but will add good versatility and athleticism to a future roster.
They also evaluate him as a slot receiver on offense, but believe me, Michigan doesn't need more of those. Their overall evaluation seems to be "solid, BCS-level talent, but not a difference-maker at the BCS level." This is an odd evaluation considering their rankings of "hey, maybe this guy can play D-1 football." I imagine the lower end of their rankings are still being updated (the new 150 came out yesterday).
Scout has comments from the kid himself:
“I cover really well. I have great hips and closing speed. I also play offense and I’m very explosive. I want to improve my speed. And I’m still working on my feet. Overall, I’d like to get bigger and stronger.”
That's right in line with ESPN's evaluation, right down to saying he's quicker than he is fast.
Tamani also has his own website, praising mostly his work ethic, intensity, and academics. It also clips a few reviews of his game:
He's quick, changes directions well and showed good ball skills, making the breaks without drawing interference... He's a guy who we may have underrated some...
Carter may be one to watch in the future.
Yay for that. GopherHole's interview states that he also runs track.
Carter was committed to Minnesota before switching to Michigan, so he obviously held an offer from Jerry Kill's Gophers. Rivals also lists Air Force, Arizona, Iowa, Kent State, Stanford, and 1-AA Youngstown State.
A couple schools on that list (most notably Iowa and Stanford) have a recent history of developing under-the-radar prospects into stars, particularly in the defensive backfield in Iowa's case.
Scout has senior stats:
Tamani Carter finished his senior season (11-1) with 55 tackles and three interceptions. Two of those were returned for touchdowns (one of 96 yards and the other for 34 yards). He also caught 25 balls for over 300 yards.
Those are solid numbers, but it's hard to evaluate the stats of high school defensive backs, since there is such a wide variety of offenses faced.
ESPN says he had 5 picks, including one returned for a touchdown, as a junior.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals and Scout both list him with a precise 4.48 40-yard dash time. That's quite good, but not exceptional, for a defensive back. Considering the book on Carter (very quick) and the level of agreement between the sites, I'm forced to give a mere one FAKE out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan started several freshman defensive backs last season, and Carter's scouting reports say that he needs to bulk up before being ready to contribute at the next level. That screams "redshirt," and I think that's a likely outcome for Carter's freshman year.
Even as a redshirt freshman, I think Michigan has enough athletic guys that even time on special teams will be hard to come by. As a redshirt sophomore, however, he might start getting serious special teams time, and as a redshirt junior and redshirt senior, he should work into the rotation on defense.
He's a solid player who will probably never be a star, but rather a role player.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
As Tom tweeted, this is an odd commitment, considering Michigan has multiple DBs visiting in the next couple weeks. Those guys are more ready to contribute immediately, and unlike Carter, are not similar body types to several of Michigan's DBs already on the roster (Terrence Talbott and Courtney Avery are both average-to-small corners that are pretty thin).
This likely means that Michigan only feels good about their chances with, say, one of those defensive backs, and that somebody we haven't been expecting to play safety - either somebody on the roster (Cullen Christian) or a commit (Greg Brown) - will do so. Remaining DB commits in this class are likely to be looked at for safety as well.
Via weird Twitter release (@qbforce) last night:
-Immediate Press/Sports Release: January 20, 2011- Robert “Tate” Forcier University Of Michigan Sophomore Quarterback
Why do we all wait until we are at our lowest point to seek God’s help?
I’ve been kicked, pushed, knocked down, publicly berated, belittled, emasculated and more. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to give up or feel the victim. The humility of it all is indescribable and that is exactly my point. I had to reach rock bottom in order to see the light, and for that, I am thankful. It was not until then, I realized that it was my lack of accountability and maturity and not to pass blame.
I do hope all my young fans forgive me and benefit from my lessons that I have learned. Be grateful for what you have and be humble for your successes. Don’t wait to ask God into your life as he will help you see things clearer.
In summary, I believe, I will become a better student and a person of stronger character from these experiences at Michigan. I can proudly state,“I worked hard on the practice field, in the film room and at meetings” after all, football is my passion. I had fun celebrating with the fans. I even competed hard while injured as a true freshman through the last (8) games in 2009, but I always played the game giving it my all.
I am proud to have been part of Michigan Football history and will always cherish the memory. The last few weeks I worked extremely hard to catch back up. I really wanted to stay. I was not giving up on Michigan, but in the end, it was made clear they had given up on me.
With that being said, its time for me to go. I promise the Michigan family and fans I will make you proud again.
Tate Forcier #5 - A Michigan Man Forever - Go Blue
This has been rumored for weeks, and confirmed, in part, by David Brandon at the Brady Hoke introductory presser. From the looks of things, his dad's statement that he'd try to return to the team is no longer an option, and Tate is permanently gone.
This makes Michigan's need for quarterbacks in the 2011 and 2012 classes enormous, as Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner are the only signal-callers left on the roster. An elite player is reasonable (and necessary) in the 2012 class.
So, Greg Mattison. He's been a coach forever, starting out as an Illinois GA and winding his way through a half-dozen schools coaching defensive linemen with a brief stint as WMU's DC in the mid-80s.
In 1992 he moved from Texas A&M to Michigan, where he was the DL coach from '92 to '94; in '95 he was promoted to DC. Notable players he coached include All-Americans Chris Hutchinson, Will Carr, and Jason Horn, '93 team captain Buster Stanley, and the bulk of Michigan's terrifying '97 defensive line that featured Glen Steele.
Mattison's Michigan defenses were good even for the standards of the time. Opponents averaged 12.1 points per game in '95, and none of them scored 30. Michigan State got a punt return touchdown to get to 28 in a 28-25 win, the most points actually given up by the D that season were the 27 ceded Penn State. It was kind of good:
The team earned the fifth of six 1990s Big Ten rushing defense statistical championships for all games by holding opponents to 93.2 yards per game. The team also earned the fifth of five consecutive and six 1990s Big Ten rushing defense statistical championships for conference games by holding opponents to 88.1 yards per game. The team led the conference in total defense for conference games (314.5) and all games (284.8).
In 1996 the D took a moderate step back, giving up 15.3 PPG and twice allowing 29 points, one in a comfortable win over MSU and once in another loss to PSU. In Michigan's three other losses the offense scored 16, 3, and 14 points. The bit about M standing for "mediocre" was launched after that season but it wasn't because of the D.
After the year Mattison left to be Notre Dame DC under Bob Davie. At the time this was high treason, but now people are talking about how his kids got free tuition and back in the mid-90s that meant something for assistants. I'm all like whatever in re: this matter.
Mattison was the DC for the entire dismal Davie era, a stretch of five years from 1997 to 2001. The NCAA database kicks in in '99, so we can provide (most of) the 1,000 foot view for his last three years:
|Year||School||Rush D||Pass D||Pass Eff D||Total D||Scoring D|
[The 1999 stats don't have pass yardage D but we can surmise from the other numbers it was Not Good.]
At the time ND was playing legitimately brutal schedules—have fun storming Nebraska and Tennessee, kids—and in 2001 Davie saddled Mattison with the 110th-ranked offense in the country, so that last bit is something of an achievement. Caveat: it's hard to tell exactly how much influence Mattison had since Davie was a DC before he ascended to the top chair but given their respective career arcs it seems reasonable to assume it was Mattison doing the good things.
When Davie got broomed the next year Mattison was kept on but demoted to DL coach, where he remained until Ty Willingham got the axe. This could have been curtains for his career but instead he moved to Florida, where he operated as a co-DC with Charlie Strong. The rankings from that stretch:
|Year||School||Rush D||Pass D||Pass Eff D||Total D||Scoring D|
You may remember the '07 Florida defense from such bowl games as "Aargh You Could Have Been Doing This For Years." That season Florida's untenably young secondary spent the season getting toasted tasty-crisp; the next year they'd recover en route to a national title, finishing 9th in total D.
Mattison was in the NFL by then. He left Florida for to be the Ravens' LB coach and was quickly promoted from that spot when Rex Ryan left to coach the Jets after his first year. In both his seasons as Ravens DC Mattison's charges finished 4th in DVOA, an advanced metric from Football Outsiders that adjusts for schedule strength and other vagaries. That's actually a tiny step back from Ryan's tenure, when the Ravens were second, fifth, and first in the league in defensive DVOA, so that wasn't exactly a rebuilding job.
In fact, most of Mattison's career as a DC consists of him walking into established situations and maintaining high levels of play for brief periods of time. The exception is his run at Notre Dame, where there were obviously some things very wrong that Mattison (and/or Davie, but again career arcs) repaired as the Fighting Irish footbaw era drew to a close. He's never walked into Chernobyl and walked out with an extra arm for ass-kickin'.
That and a couple of years here and there where his defenses weren't at least good are about the only knocks. He toiled in the ND salt mines forever and when Willingham's staff got fired he got a promotion at Florida; he then was the instant choice in Baltimore despite only being around one year. Both the circumstantial evidence and number suggest that Mattison is for real and the kind of A-list hire that Michigan sorely needed after the GERG/surprise-3-3-5 era.
Greg Mattison is not a man with a stuffed beaver.
BONUS CONSPIRACY THEORY: Hoke hired Mattison just to fire him after this year. Mattison leaves Michigan: national title. Mattison leaves Notre Dame: BCS game after being terrible. Mattison leaves Florida: national title. Put your money on the Ravens next year.
With the wheels seemingly falling off the Class of 2011, it's going to take one heck of a finish for the Wolverines to end with a respectable commitment list. For current targets, commits, etc., check out the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have recruiting tips or questions, tweet @varsityblue or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
With only two weekends before Signing Day left for official visits, each one carries a lot of importance for Michigan's new coaching staff. Here's this weekend's roster:
- OH TE/LB Frank Clark (pictured at right). The Cleveland Glenville product was also a target under the former staff. Rivals got a reaction to the hiring of Greg Mattison ($, info in header), so it's safe to say the Wolverines want him on defense.
- MI CB Raymon Taylor. He's an Indiana decommit who has already visited once this winter, for a bowl practice. Former teammate of Devin Gardner.
- CA CB Stefan McClure. Offered by Michigan (see below). He is a friend of former Michigan DB Leon Hall, and was a target of San Diego State. He speaks highly of Hoke and it sounds like he may have even committed to the Aztecs if they had played in a more prestigious conference.
- FL OL Tony Posada. Visiting Michigan this weekend, and plans to remain committed to the Wolverines, despite listening to what other schools have to say. He took an official visit to Mississippi State last weekend, but still says he's a Wolverine if they'll have him (and use his talents properly).
- CA K Matt Wile. Michigan has offered Wile, and the Army All-American is a strong possibility - who Michigan saw in-home the other night. With Matt Goudis out of the class, Michigan is looking for replacements. Derrick Mitchell, currently a minor leaguer in the Philadelphia Phillies system, considered walking on, but it doesn't seem likely at this point.
As always, things are liable to change as the week progresses.
Commits, Kinda Commits, Ex-Commits
"I think it will have to be a really rare circumstance for Kellen to not be a Michigan Wolverine, but we have to be prepared.”
That article was published the day before Hoke was named, and after the naming of Greg Mattison as DC, Jones is excited about Michigan, canceling his upcoming visits to other schools.
MD CB Blake Countess seemed only a little iffy, but took an official visit to Penn State last weekend, and enjoyed himself enough to tweet about how it was better than expected, and "making this decision a lot harder." Michigan is in-home today, and Penn State tomorrow. By the end of the week, we should have a much better idea of Countess' ultimate plans.
MI OL decommit Jake Fisher visited Michigan State last weekend, and has Florida this weekend, and Oregon the weekend following that. If Brady Hoke wants to get him on campus before Signing Day, it will have to be on a midweek unofficial. Fisher has officially decommitted from Michigan, but the Wolverines are hopeful to re-secure him. According to his high school coach, he's still considering Michigan, but will take his remaining visits. Tom says it's not looking good for the Wolverines.
The next trio of former Michigan commits, on the other hand, are not going to come back to the maize-and-blue, as all have decided to take their talents to South Beach:
- OH LB Antonio Kinard probably wasn't going to be accepted as a class of 2011 commit.
- FL CB Dallas Crawford eliminated Michigan last week, and now he'll be a Cane.
- CA K Matt Goudis officially visited Coral Gables along with Crawford, and has also pledged to join Miami's class of 2011.
Finishing the Class
It sounds like Michigan is the favorite to land SC WR Hakeem Flowers. He announces on Sunday.
IL OL Chris Bryant was waiting to hear from Brady Hoke, and took matters into his own hands over the weekend. On his way home from a visit to Pittsburgh (where former Michigan assistants...), he talked with Coach Hoke, and things went well:
My parents are both comfortable, and so am I. They asked their questions and said it was a great conversation overall. I feel comfortable with him too. He was a funny guy, he's a player's coach. He's someone that you would want to coach you... I had a good relationship with the coaches there before, but coaching is a business. It's just an adjustment and you need to go on with it. Michigan is Michigan, and they're not going to just bring anyone in. I still really like Michigan.
Michigan may have extended an offer to Minnesota commit KS QB Max Shortell, but the kid says he's only interested in Minnesota. Sounds like a similar situation to FL DT Travarris Saulsberry and his teammate, DE Jordan Williams, both of whom are committed to Tennessee.
Among other new players on the radar, CA DB Stefan McClure and IL OL Pat Flavin (an Illinois commit) are now getting Michigan attention - with McClure already netting an offer.
Peace Out, Ya'll
Happy Trails, NJ TE Jack Tabb. He committed to North Carolina ($, info in header) after being unable to get in touch with Brady Hoke.
Auburn has accepted a commitment from NC WR/LB Kris Frost. Michigan might continue pursuing him ("hey, that other school doesn't even want you"), but he seems set on being a Tiger.
Last week, Tom said Michigan had "a great chance" with CA WR Devin Lucien, but Michigan now intends to recruit him only for defense, so it seems unlikely he'll end up a Wolverine. Lucien announces January 30th.
PA DE Deion Barnes will announce tomorrow between Georgia and Penn State. He crossed Michigan off his list with the coaching change.
Now that Mississippi State has been pointlessly scouted to death, Michigan fans have set to finding fans of every team Al Borges ever coordinated. Maize 'n' Brew put Cal up first despite the fact that Borges's tenure there consisted of a single star-crossed year; this is the view from the plains.
So, Al Borges. I won't bury the lede: after watching him for four years at Auburn, I don't think he's a particularly good fit for Michigan's current personnel, Denard Robinson most especially. He is as advertised: a veteran, pro-style, pass-first West Coast disciple. But there's a reason he's that veteran, namely that he's a whip-smart, clever, above-all solid offensive coordinator.
He might not be a Malzahn or Kelly-style miracle worker, but I can assure you he's not a Jeff Mullen or Steve Addazio or Patrick Nix, either. (No, I wouldn't expect the return of the Avalanche anytime soon.) Given the right tools to work with and a quality defense on the other side of the ball, there's no reason Borges couldn't be the coordinator for a championship-caliber Big Ten team.
Auburn fans would argue he proved that in 2004; it's a testament to how dominant that offense was (and how wretched it had been the year before*) that even after his final two teams finished 76th and 97th in total yardage, he remains universally respected and admired among the Tiger fanbase. Yeah, a well-trained sugar glider [ed: ?] could have turned Campbell, Williams, Brown, Marcus McNeill, etc. into a competent offense, but that 25th-place finish in total offense you mentioned doesn't come close to doing that unit justice. They finished fifth in yards-per-play, first in yards per-pass attempt (at 10.0 a pop), second in passing efficiency, all against an SEC schedule and all with Tuberville's Carr-like insistence on downshifting into clock-killing mode as soon as the lead hit two scores. (Which it did a lot that year.)
Before that year Campbell had been a head case who'd already gone through three coordinators in three seasons. Borges got his head on straight, deployed the two-headed monster of Williams and Brown to maximum efficiency, and even added in the occasional gimmick play to good effect. It really was a terrific coaching job, and a lot of Auburn fans will tell you his 2005 effort -- in which Auburn finished 24th in yards per-play and scored 27 or more points 9 times, despite replacing Campbell with Brandon Cox and and not discovering a running back until Kenny Irons emerged at midseason -- was even better. (They're exaggerating, but it was still awfully nice.)
So what happened after that? Certainly Tuberville's conservatism and the lack of help from the world's most mediocre set of position coaches (the same ones who eventually got Tony Franklin fired midseason) didn't help, but the principal problem IMHO was the collapse of the passing game. Cox's myasthenia gravis—a debilitating muscle disease—seriously reduced his effectiveness, a series of recruiting busts meant that there were no replacements for the two departed NFL receivers on the outside, and the loss of McNeill opened up huge problems in pass protection. For a coordinator who set up his running game with the threat of an efficient passing game (even in 2005, Cox threw 44 times against Ga. Tech, 40 times against LSU, 33 times vs. Wisconsin, huge numbers for a Tuberville team), this was DEATH.
So how much blame does Borges finally share for the downturn? Not that much; the lack of player development from the position coaches, Tubby's handcuffing, and plain old bad luck in Cox's downturn hurt more than anything Borges did. Nevertheless, he does share some blame for things getting as rocky as they got, there's some lessons for Michigan's expectations for Borges here:
- He needs the talent. Obviously, the array of tools at Borges' disposal in '06 and '07 wasn't nearly what it was in '04 and '05, but the cupboard wasn't as bare as to totally excuse the off-the-cliff plummet Auburn experienced. It may be fair to say that Borges is well-equipped to maximize a talent advantage over lesser opponents -- his success with a very talented SDSU offense by MWC standards this year would seem to be more evidence -- but isn't as effective "coaching up" lesser weapons. In the long term this is probably a good thing.
- He's not going to recruit that talent himself. Can't speak for what he's done at SDSU or his previous stops, but virtually any skill position player who truly shone at Auburn -- during his tenure or after -- was either recruited under his predecessors or after he'd departed.
- He's not super-flexible. Borges' schemes didn't change a whole lot as Cox's effectiveness decreased and his receiving corps began sucking. It was still the same array of mostly off-tackle and iso runs, play-action passes (yes, waggles!), and occasional pro-style passing concepts. They just stopped working. Borges made some offseason comments to the effect that Auburn would do more to get the running backs and tight ends involved in the passing game (as they had been in 2004), but that never really seemed to develop.
To that same point, Borges did precious little work at Auburn with a "dual-threat" quarterback, but what little he did wouldn't be very encouraging where Denard is concerned. That work came with Kodi Burns, who came to Auburn as a true freshman in 2007. Cox began that season completely out of sorts and Burns was brought off the bench in Weeks 2-4 to stop the bleeding. It didn't seem like Borges had made much of an effort to teach Burns the offense or develop a functional package to put his running skills to use; Burns seemed to mostly just take the snap and run around. A true freshman Kodi Burns might not have been able to do much more than that, but it still just didn't seem like Borges had much of an idea about what to do with him at that stage. Obviously Robinson is miles and miles ahead of where Burns was (or ever got to) as a quarterback, but maybe it's something to keep in mind all the same.
Again, none of that is to say Borges can't succeed at Michigan ... but the current situation just isn't in his wheelhouse. Based on the last half of 2005 (when Cox, Irons, and the AU receivers were at the height of their powers) and what he's done at SDSU this season with the Lindley-Hillman-senior wideouts package, I'd say the prototypical Borges offense is one with an accurate (and not necessarily strong-armed) pocket passer, big NFL-type receivers on the outside to stretch the field, and a single stud running back as a home run threat out of the backfield. It seems like aside from Darryl Stonum, Michigan doesn't have any of those things.
What's ironic, says Alanis, is that Michigan used to have those things in bunches. Give Borges Henne, Hart, Long, and Manningham/Arrington, and you're going to have one of the best offenses in the country, hands-down. And maybe he can work some magic with Denard (or Gardner), and Hopkins, and Stonum/Miller/Jackson/whoever. But I can't shake the feeling that Borges is the right guy in the right place at the wrong time.
*[Since you asked, sort of, and because it shows how deeply, deeply flawed Tuberville's understanding of offense is, in 2003 Auburn used co-offensive coordinators: quarterbacks coach Steve Ensminger and offensive line coach Hugh Nall. Tuberville asked them to operate the identical scheme run by Bobby Petrino in 2002, but with a twist: he would ask them for either a running play or a passing play as the situation demanded, and then Nall would make the playcall if Tubby had requested a running play, and Ensminger the playcall in the event of a pass. (I don't think this has been officially confirmed, but it's a matter of general understanding amongst Auburn fans.) And that is how you take Campbell, Williams, Brown, and like four other NFL players and wind up with a lousy offense. Nall wound up as a trucking company executive when he left Auburn; Ensminger's next job was as an assistant coach with a local high school.]
Jerry walked back what pessimism existed in the above—there but under the "this guy is pretty good" bit—in a brief addendum:
So I read back over what I wrote yesterday and it's too far on the negative side, I think. I don't mean to imply Borges can't/won't succeed at Michigan, I'm just worried it's going to take a couple of seasons for
1. Hoke and Co. to recruit the missing pieces for the offense (especially a load-carrying RB)
2. Borges to coach up the pieces he's got, like (hopefully) Gardner.
Given the state of the defense, I wonder if he'd really be given the necessary slack to survive a Rodriguez-like transition period. But Mattison ought to help. If he's Hoke's Malzahn, there's no question Borges can be his Ted Roof.
I think Borges will be all but forced to adapt when there turn out to be things that work with Denard and things that don't. In the Cox case above criticisms about not adapting to the situation might overlook the fact that there's no adaptation that turns suck into not suck. See Michigan's 2008 offense—when you don't have anything you can adapt all you want and you're still going to be hilariously bad.