in town for free camps
Where I'm at. The previous "when can we fire this guy" post?
(illustration via reader Brian Louwers)
I promised I wouldn't talk about Rich Rodriguez's job status until the season was over but apparently I'm going to. I blame everyone.
Too many posts in the Fire RR vein argue things no one is disputing. This one titled "The Buck Stops at Rodriguez," argues that a head coach is in charge of his program. This is not very enlightening. Neither is restating his record. We're all aware of Rich Rodriguez's record. We watched it. Saying "but this happened and I was sad" means you're answering the wrong question. You're answering the question "what will make me feel better?" Sometimes you're answering the question "who would have been the best choice for 2008?"
These are the questions I'm interested in:
- Which football coach will give Michigan the best record in 2011?
- What about 2012?
- What about 2015?
You hire a coach for the long term. I think you fire a coach for the short term, though, and the point at which you boot the last guy is when you think the next year isn't going to meet a reasonable minimum threshold of progress. I completely understand people who have hit that point. You can save your comments about how he needs to go—neither I nor anyone else cares to hear it for the one millionth time in the last three days. It's an understandable position. If Rich Rodriguez is cut loose after the season and Jim Harbaugh comes in I will not be in the streets with a bullhorn.
But I wouldn't endorse that move (at least not right now), because I think the answers to questions one and two are conditionally "Rich Rodriguez."
Upperclass Denard: How Does It Work?
Michigan has a unique talent on its hands in Denard Robinson, and they've acquired a mobile offensive line, slot receivers, and tailbacks to complement him. Some of these players can easily transition to another scheme. Stephen Hopkins can I-back with anyone. The outside receivers are just outside receivers. Taylor Lewan is going to hate donkeys in any scheme.
Others can't. The gaggle of tiny waterbug types—including Dee Hart, though he probably won't end up at M if there is a change—are going to be marginalized. I'm not sure how well the offensive line will hold up in an offense that prizes power over movement. Michigan isn't going to be able to materialize an excellent fullback and tight end depth out of nothing.
And then there's Denard. He could move to receiver or tailback, I guess, or more likely transfer, or you could bring in a spread guy, or you could try to keep Magee, or you could just ride with the guy who has already made Denard the all-time leading QB rusher in the Big Ten, will make him the all-time leading QB rusher in NCAA history, and turned Pat White into one of the best quarterbacks in college football before that. One of the "Smiths or MGoBlog" posts contains an argument I've made before:
For everyone that wants RR gone, I submit a short rebuttal.
1 Oregon 8 2488 2095 625 4583 7.3 572.9 2 Oklahoma State 8 1471 2747 615 4218 6.9 527.3 3 Nevada 8 2407 1754 584 4161 7.1 520.1 4 Michigan 8 2204 1943 563 4147 7.4 518.4 5 Boise State 7 1500 2111 473 3611 7.6 515.9
This team (could) return 22 of 24 starters next year. The #4 offense in the country will return every skill position player except Martell Webb and the offensive line should improve even with losing S. Schilling. The 2011 schedule is set up for a Big 10 Championship. Rodriguez will finally have experience and depth at his disposal on offense. No freshmen(even redshirt freshmen) save possibly Hart will see the field. Don't you want to see what could become of this offense and the stars it could attract with stability up top? If you broom RR then what? If you bring in Harbaugh, Denard is either gone or a slot back. I have no idea how much attrition you get but this offense has been molded by RR for 3 years, it will not be as good.
I think that's indisputable: you will lose offensive firepower by making a change. Over the course of his career Rodriguez has established he is standard deviations above the mean as an offensive coordinator. Criticisms about the offense exist but are limited to suggesting that this group featuring two seniors and a sophomore quarterback isn't really the fourth-best offense in the nation because they're not scoring enough. That's true—Michigan is only 19th in scoring offense—but the blame for that rests largely with a defense that doesn't force turnovers (or punts) and the nation's worst kicker situation. If you adjust for all the vagaries that make straight yardage and scoring statistics unrepresentative, pile on a strength of schedule factor, and average it all out this is not, in fact, the fourth best offense in the country:
Michigan is still ranked #2 nationally in rushing and #3 overall in Points Above Normal but the game scores are coming down.
While Michigan's performance over the last three games is not that good, it would still be top 25. If you're wantonly throwing that much data away to make that your conclusion you've just gone Nanking on math for little reward.
Whatever you lose had better be made up for by better play from special teams and defense, but if we're rebooting the defensive coaching staff what does it matter who's doing ninja stuff on the other side of the ball? Unless Anonymous New Coach, who we'll call "Jim Harbaugh" for simplicity's sake, brings in someone who can play instantly the only way that will happen is by bringing in a better defensive staff. Michigan can do that without disrupting something that looks like it's going very right on the other side of the ball.
The obvious argument against that is Scott Shafer, Jay Hopson, and Greg Robinson. That's why the conditional case for bringing RR back rests on either 1) grabbing Jeff Casteel, probably in the event of a Bill Stewart firing, or 2) clearing everyone (or almost everyone) out, bringing in a defensive coordinator with a track record of established recent success on the college level, and giving him carte blanche to bring in the people he wants to bring in. This will be expensive but I hereby volunteer a dollar from each Michigan season ticketholder to make it happen.
The Convincing Argument Against
I AM SO PUMPED ABOUT THIS SMOOTHIE I'M THINKING OF
I AM TOTALLY GOING TO KICK THIS SMOOTHIE'S ASS
WHAT IS YOUR DEAL, BANANA AND WHEATGRASS?
i hope i'm not having an aneurysm—YEAH SMOOTHIES
Recruiting, basically. Rich Rodriguez is chased around by a horrendous narrative caused by a lot of losing and a lot of other stuff. Jim Harbaugh has to deal with a DUI and some self-serving statements about Michigan's academics—these don't live up. If Michigan goes 9-3 next year under Harbaugh, people are delighted. If Rodriguez does it there remain many, many grumbles. Michigan can throw away the last three years and start over.
Even if this reduces expectations short term, the narrative is totally different and recruits might be more amenable to jumping on board. Fuzzy Dunlop, who amazingly does not have a tennis ball avatar:
Many of those saying the defense is not Rodriguez's "fault" miss the essential point. It doesn't matter whose fault it is. What matters is who has the ability to rectify the situation. And we are fast approaching the point where Rodriguez will no longer have that ability (if he ever had it).
The defense sucks. Let's say it's not Rod's fault. Fine. So how does he fix it? Get great defensive recruits? If we lose out, or eke by Purdue, what makes anyone think the good defensive recruits will be rushing to come to Michigan this year? Perception becomes reality -- our defense is perceived to be a joke, with terrible coaching -- this is not a situation talented players are going to rush into.
He gets a little more negative than I am but the point is valid. Unfortunately, at some point the baggage in your past becomes an active detriment to your future. Rodriguez is either already there or one season from it.
The Gibson Issue
Defensive backs coach Tony Gibson is a lightning rod for criticism because the secondary is a disaster zone and the internets have it that he and Rodriguez have a Clinton-Blair style "special relationship," with all the charges of cronyism that brings. Even Michael Rosenberg is making that argument after years of blithely ignoring the DerpBord era. (Q: What's the difference between a Free Press columnist and a message board poster? A: Editors.)
Unfortunately there's no statistic you can point to that definitively says he's good or bad but the vague outlines provided by the NCAA's site aren't exactly damning:
|Pass Eff Rk||28||63||30||20||45||47||8|
That's not great aside from the bizarre first year (West Virginia was terrible at run defense so teams just ran) but it's consistently above average. In six years Gibson had three players drafted, one of them (Ryan Mundy) a guy who transferred away from Michigan because he wasn't going to get playing time. That's about one per slot he was in charge of, assuming that the spur and bandit were not his responsibilities. The rest of WVU's team saw eight guys drafted across nineteen spots.
None of this is definitive but it's at least an indication that Gibson isn't the anchor certain FFFFFUUUUUUU sorts make him out to be. The debacle here could be a coaching issue, but Occam's razor suggest it's talent (and attrition). Cbuswolverine put up a diary looking at the experience of the top five and bottom five secondaries in the country with the expected results—everyone but LSU averages at least 3.5 years on campus, and LSU is at 2.75. It is possible that Tony Gibson is a huge problem, but even if he was we wouldn't know. His reputation as a great recruiter is commonly stated, but we have even less data on that.
I put in a Mathlete request for a fancy math version of the above statistics that would adjust for schedule strength and maybe parse out the sacks in the three years they're available.
The Most Insane Thing Ever Said About Me
It's days like this that I envy Brian.
What I'd Do At 7-5 Or 6-6, Probably—I Mean If We Lose By A Billion In Three Games, Probably Not, But Let's Just Say If The Season Plays Out Like It Looks It Will
I'd fire Robinson. Then I'd bring in Casteel if he's available post Stewart firing or broom most of the defensive staff and bring in someone making SEC dollars along with two other established position coaches, and then I'd give Rodriguez 2011 and hope like hell. Michigan's in a bad spot either way, but at least Ivan Maisel's with me.
Yeah, that's right: Ivan Maisel.
Other bits: for folks complaining about the O/D coaching breakdown, Touch The Banner surveys the Big Ten and finds that literally every team in the league has four defensive assistants and all but one (Purdue, which has a dedicated ST coach) has five offensive assistants, or would if they hadn't fired their head coach already. Maize And Go Blue is here:
Wojo on matters:
Rich Rodriguez didn't fire or demote his defensive coordinator Monday, and to some, that's a sad surprise. Frankly, I'm not sure it makes a big difference.
Greg Robinson has done a poor job, and his position certainly should be in jeopardy. But full accountability sits where it always sits, where it now shifts uncomfortably — on the coach.
For live updates of the games I'm attending, follow me on Twitter @varsityblue. If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, @reply me on Twitter or e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
Performance of the Week:
FL RB Demetrius Hart
Last Week: Dr Phillips pastes Gateway 59-0.
Senior Demetrius Hart ran for 187 yards and five touchdowns in two quarters...
Hart,a Michigan oral commit, had three scoring runs of more than 40 yards. Eric Harrell, a sophomore, relieved Hart in the second half and rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The Sentinel also provides video. The video shows that Hart also had an interception viciously stolen from him by teammate Roderick Ryles. Stats below (and photo at right) from the Dr. Phillips website:
|Demetrius Hart 2010|
|Cypress Creek||W 52-0||14||168||4||12.00||1||7||0||7.00||3||24||0||8.00|
|Oak Ridge||W 56-28||21||126||3||6.00||4||37||1||9.25||1||5||0||5.00|
This week: Dr. Phillips travels to Freedom on Friday at 7:30.
FL QB Kevin Sousa
Last week: Lake Nona is held off by Tenoroc, 20-26. Sousa's coach tells Tom that Kevin finished 19/24 passing for 389 yards and 2 TDs with a pick, while rushing 13 times for 121 yards and another score.
|Kevin Sousa 2010|
|Oak Ridge||L 0-48||6||13||46.15||34||2.62||0||1||7||31||4.43||0|
|Lake Wales||L 6-42||14||21||66.67||199||9.48||0||1||13||64||4.92||1|
This week: Lake Nona visits Winter Haven on Friday at 7:00.
OH OL Jack Miller
Last week: St. John's defeated Toledo Catholic Central 39-14 in the Hardcore Football Game of the Week. Video:
This week: 9-1 St. John's hosts Greg Brown's Fremont Ross in Round 1 of the State Playoffs. The game is Saturday (time TBD) at BGSU's Doyt Stadium.
MI OL Jake Fisher
Last week: TC West fell to Rockford 14-35 in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
On defense, Jake Fisher led the way with 12 tackles.
WZZM has video highlights:
This week: Traverse City West's season has ended with a 6-4 final record.
OH DE Chris Rock
This week: 5-5 DeSales faces rival Bishop Watterson in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer
Plymouth’s defense also flourished, with Fox and senior Brennen Beyer doing serious damage on Saline quarterback Trey Heren and Hornet running backs throughout the game...
Beyer had one sack and half of another, along with several crisp tackles. Beyer had one sack and half of another, along with several crisp tackles. “I just got off the ball really well and got to the quarterback,” Beyer said.
Local fluff on Beyer and his teammate, ND commit K Kyle Brindza.
This week: The 8-2 Wildcats will face cross-campus rival Canton this weekend.
TX LB Kellen Jones
Last week: St. Pius X beat Houston Christian 49-7. Jones's coach tells Tom that Kellen had 8 tackles, 1 for loss with a sack. He also blocked a punt for St. Pius X.
|Kellen Jones 2010|
|Trinity Christian||W 33-7||11||5||1||0|
|Worthing||W 20-12||DNP - ankle|
|St. Thomas||W 28-10||11||3||1||0|
|Houston Christian||W 37-13||9||3||1||0|
|Houston Christian||W 49-7||8||1||1||1*|
* Blocked punt.
This week: St. Pius rematches St. Thomas on Friday at 7.
OH CB/S Greg Brown
Last week: Fremont Ross defeated Sandusky 21-7.
Just 2:08 later, Fremont Ross would take its first lead of the night when Greg Brown took a reverse 20 yards for the score.
This week: 9-1 Ross faces Jack Miller's St. John's Jesuit team on Saturday at Bowling Green.
MI CB Delonte Hollowell
Last week: Cass Tech beat Southeastern 35-0 in Round 1 of the State Playoffs. Link has video, but no Hollowell.
Next Week: The 10-0 Technicians host Dearborn Fordson in Round 2 of the State Playoffs on Friday.
FL OL Tony Posada
Last week: Plant had a bye week.
Next week: Plant faces Chamberlain on Friday.
MI WR Shawn Conway
Seaholm's season is over, with a 4-5 record. Conway finished the year with about 22 catches for 375 yards, and 11 kick/punt returns for 393 yards. Seaholm's coach resigned following the final game.
The diary on poor tackling got me thinking about Rich Rod's coaching philosophy. It's obvious that he recruits speed and athletes on offense at not only the skill positions but also the o-line where he likes guys who can get out and block in space. These are the guys who get all the attention and the playing time. They are "the game breakers" and the guys who can make a big play at any time. How can that not transfer over to the defensive side of the ball? So, in the spring, we heard rumors about Cam Gordon having a great camp because he probably delivered some big hit kill shots to 4th string RBs instead of learning how to play assignment football with fundamentally sound tackling.
Am I way off here? Every yard after contact I see Michigan allow, I can't help but think how much better a (I can't believe I'm saying this) Jim Herrmann/Ron English defense was at stopping the run. We can chart how few upperclassmen we have on D until we are blue in the face but you have to concede that something is fundamentally wrong with the program's defensive attitude and philosophy. I think it just may be the constant search for "big time players" rather than smart football players who can read and react quickly.
What do you think?
Well… yeah, I guess, but like everything else on the defense the lack of depth and experience makes it hard to tell whether we're just seeing what would happen if Virginia Tech threw out a secondary full of underclassmen or if there's a long-term talent development problem. Is it a recruiting issue? Don't know. Rodriguez recruits at Michigan are all freshmen or sophomores, and if none of them are very good there's a pretty obvious reason why. Very few can "read and react quickly" as underclassmen.
Something is wrong with the program's defensive philosophy. That much is obvious. To me that problem is an incoherent coaching staff that either forces the coordinator to run a scheme he doesn't understand or forces the position coaches to do the same. Why is it so important for the position coaches to know what the defense is doing instead of getting JT Floyd to exist? I don't know, but those meddling kids have put Michigan in some goofy variant of the 3-3-5 for three years running and it hasn't done anything but implode because the defensive coordinator isn't really on board.
The problem with Michigan's philosophy on D appears to be the lack of one.
While i think there are many things wrong with the Michigan football team right now, it seems like either the play calls or the reads have been restrictive in nature.
Last year, it seemed like on the read-option, there was a third option to pass to a receiver at the line of scrimmage that could catch and run for an easy 5 yds. Has this been replaced by the receiver running a skinny post?
Also, it seems a major component of any spread offense is the quick screens/pass to the slot receiver with the outside WR blocking down. The offense featured this last year but hasn't at all this year.
I believe the plays are in the offense's playbook. When Tate is in, there is a more even run/pass distribution. (ie- look at the easy 7 yds michigan could have had at the end of the Penn St game when Denard threw to Junior Hemingway and he dropped the ball)
The main point of all of this... It would seem that passing on the edge would open up the defense to make running in the middle a little bit easier.
Thanks for you coverage of Michigan. It makes my work day more enjoyable.
Opponents have been taking the bubble away by alignment. Iowa put a linebacker over him and managed to keep two-deep coverage. Penn State moved a safety down. When opponents have gone away from these schemes it hasn't taken Michigan long to hit the bubble for a nice gain, at which point they go back to taking it away. When Iowa started blitzing off the edge in the second quarter Michigan hit a couple bubbles and Iowa reverted to its previous scheme. Smart Football dubbed the bubble a "constraint play" way back in 2008, defining the concept like so:
What if your offense is based only on bubble screens and then you just run the ball or throw the ball as a counter to your bubble screen offense?
The difference is that the bubble screen is a play that really only works when the defense has made a structural choice or is out of position. Most commonly, you'll run when the bubble only when the defense has but two defenders to cover three receivers. You thus block the two defenders and the receiver has free yards. If the defense puts a third defender there they can take the play away, intercept it, or make the tackle.
Conversely, a well designed dropback pass play, a triple option play, or certain base runs will work every time you face a normal defense. The only time the play stops working is when certain defenders cheat on their assignments, either by alignment or aggressiveness.
You're right that the edge passing opens up the interior running, but it's already a reason Michigan's ground game has been so effective, and a reason that things like Kevin Koger 60 yard touchdowns happen.
The bubble option after a zone read keeper is still being run but it's not being thrown. I imagine they've de-emphasized it because when it has been thrown it's not usually getting more than a few yards and if that's your upside you might as well let Denard carry it. The equation changes radically when he's running the ball instead of Forcier.
Chip Kelly said a week or so ago he has nothing to do with his defense, he just leaves that side of the ball to his defensive coordinator. GERG has championship rings on multiple levels. Why can't RR just let him do his thing? It seems to me that if Rich Rod just worried about the offense and let GERG do the D, Michigan might be better off.
The other side of the complaint about Rodriguez not being involved enough in the defense. This is an unanswerable question. I'm not sure why there was an insurrection against Scott Shafer in 2008—well, okay, I have some idea since Michigan refused to put Brandon Harrison on the field—or why the 2009 defense spent most of its time in an eight-man front or why Michigan decided to install every front imaginable this year.
It's clear, however, that the position coaches are forcing the coordinators to adapt to them (again, this is exactly what happened in Tommy Tuberville's final year at Auburn) and the results are dismal.
Whether or not turning the defense over to Greg Robinson would help any is debatable. He has never built an effective college defense. After getting fired from the Chiefs he had a single year at Texas during which he turned in the same level of performance the DCs before and after him did. Then he went to Syracuse and could not field a minimally competent unit after his first year—the team went backwards fast and stopped in the triple digits. While he got a rep for being a good position coach last year it's obvious that the linebackers we can actually compare across '09 and '10 did not progress much over the offseason. Ezeh was the same, Mouton is a little better but still prone to the same mistakes he's made throughout his career. No one else has never seen the light of day before this year.
At this point there is no case for keeping him around. There is no reason to expect anything but failure from him; some good NFL defenses with the Broncos are now a decade old. All the reasons the defense should be bad are still valid, but the only way to salvage Rodriguez's job is to bring in a defensive coaching staff with proven recent success that cannot be undermined by whatever the deal is with the current assistants, whichever of them stay around.
In response to your recent post about the blood drive where you said: “I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up” there is indeed a slightly more noteworthy streak that is still intact. Michigan’s Mens rowing team has beaten OSU’s mens rowing team 14 consecutive years at their annual dual race. According to the team’s website this streak is the longest continuous streak for Michigan over OSU in any sport ever (at least where head-to-head meetings are applicable). The matchup takes place right before the annual football game (with the first win coming in November 1996), so in my approximation this streak is at about 5,085 days or so and counting. Thought you might like that nugget of info.
Woo! Also, sincere congratulations to the rowing team.
And at least no one broke this guy's nose:
I dressed up as everyone's favorite defensive coordinator for Halloween this year!
One guy I never met before came up to me and told me how much he hated me and how badly he wanted to punch me in the face.
This weekly update will be a little sparse. Since there was a bye then an away game, there wasn't much that happened that I haven't reported already. This weekend should be a good one, however, with the Dr. Phillips clan coming to town.
As usual I will post this in a separate diary since the names will change as we get closer to the date. This is the only thing I'm going to say as far as everyone asking about a potential "secret recruit' visiting this weekend. I have confirmed he's coming, and I will let you know who it is when they give me the OK to tell you.
- Safety Roderick Ryles (6'1", 185 lbs, 3 Star): Currently committed to Arkansas, but he has said numerous times that anything can happen. If he likes this visit, I would expect Michigan to be a heavy contender.
- Linebacker Darryl Monore (6'1", 215 lbs, 3 Star): Darryl has not been offered by Michigan, but will be making the trip up this weekend. Currently committed to Washington State, he has said that basically means nothing and it's as soft a commit as you can be.
- Running Back Demetrius Hart (5'8", 190 lbs, 4 Star, Commit): You already know.
- Safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix (6'2", 190 lbs, 5 Star): Alabama commit coming up for the second time. I was a little optimistic until I spoke with someone in Florida that I trust. They said Ha'Sean is definitely committed to Alabama, and it would be hard to get him away from that. We'll see what happens.
- Wide Receiver Chris Gallon (6'5", 205 lbs, 3 Star): Chris does not have an offer, although the coaches have told him they're reviewing his film. It seems as though Chris may be a back up plan for Michigan at wide receiver.
- Quarterback Nick Patti (5'10", 180 lbs, 2012 Recruit): Nick has consistently said that Michigan is one of his favorites.
5'11", 205 lbs.
Will Mahone was in Ann Arbor this year to watch a Michigan game already, and this week traveled to Pennsylvania to see the Penn State game. He got a two for one, as he got to check out both the Lions and Wolverines offense.
It's great to have a quarterback like Denard, we have a versatile quarterback, too, so that's good. (Michigan's) running back (Vincent) Smith looks like he's good too. They had a rough game, but they made a little comeback too.
Mahone plays in a spread offense now that uses a lot of read options, much like Michigan. The new recruiting rules have slowed down offers, but Will is still hearing from a good amount of big time schools.
Alabama, Penn State, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Michigan and Notre Dame are all still sending letters. I have an offer from Cincinnati, too.
While running back may not be a big priority for Michigan in the 2012 class, Mahone would be a good option.
With only one day to accept comments, I'll cut right to the chase:
A few notes:
- A case can definitely be made for TCU jumping Boise at this point. I erred on the side of status quo, but if they can beat Utah, they'll definitely jump the Broncos.
- I think I'm satisfied with the order of the Big Ten teams. Although Michigan State got stomped by Iowa, they have a (convincing) head-to-head against Wisconsin, who has the same over Ohio State. The Hawkeyes' out-of-conference loss dooms them to fourth place.
- At the end of the poll, I wasn't scrambling for teams to fill in, but rather had to leave a potentially-deserving team (Nevada) out. I think there's a case to be made for 3-loss USC to be bumped in their favor, no?
- Baylor definitely deserves to be ranked, but the lack of a big win (which, lol that Texas doesn't qualify) leaves them near the end of the list.
All other comments are welcome, and the resume chart lives here.
Schadenfreuede starring you. You may be featured in TWIS…
It's time to play "MGoBlog Content Or Smiths Song?"
…but so am I so it's only fair. Also the first one isn't actually MGoBlog content, it's from MGoFootball, but it was too perfect.
What happened when that other thing was happening. If you weren't one of the sixteen people at Yost on Saturday this is what happened:
That completed a four point weekend after Michigan's last-ditch tying goal led to a shootout loss in Big Rapids. The NCAA does not use shootouts as part of the PWR formula so to them it's just 1-0-1, which is a decent enough weekend against an opponent that traditionally plays Michigan very tough at home.
Michigan heads up to Fairbanks this weekend for a tough series against Alaska (That Alaska):
The Nanooks are 5-2-1 on the year and have a win over Colorado College; they've beaten some weak teams and lost to North Dakota at home and had a 0-1-1 trip at Munn in their first and only weekend outside of Alaska. After that Michigan gets a rejuvenated Notre Dame program at Yost; the next two weeks will go a long way towards establishing just what Michigan is this year after a slightly shaky start.
Brian Kelly terror level: reduced. I'm on record saying that in Brian Kelly Notre Dame had found a real coach who was likely to whip the talented but lost Weis leftovers into a formidable team sooner or later, likely sooner. Eh… not so much. The decision to have your freshman backup toss a fade to Michael Floyd when you need a field goal to win and a Groza candidate at kicker is Weis-level outsmarting yourself. Also it was against Tulsa.
So that's one thing. More damning still was what happened in the Navy game. At halftime Brian Kelly mumbled something incoherent about the "veer" to the sideline reporter, implying that the Mids had brought out the fireworks for their big game against Notre Dame:
If you saw the game you might have thought this was weird since the Navy offense looked pretty much like the Navy offense always does except the fullback wasn't getting tackled until he was 20 yards downfield. Navy blog The Birddog, which breaks down Navy games in detail equivalent to UFR, explains what the fancy new scheme was:
Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works.
Navy started the game in the heavy formation, with two tackles lined up on one side and a wide receiver in the tackle position on the other side. Contrary to Kelly’s comments, this isn’t unusual at all for the Navy offense. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper frequently uses the heavy formation when the defense has an inside linebacker with exceptional playmaking ability; in Notre Dame’s case, that would be Manti Te’o. … The first down lineman on or outside the B gap is still unblocked as the quarterback’s first key, and the next player out is still #2 in the count. Since it is the lineman in the B gap that is left unblocked, that’s the path that the fullback takes on his run. If that lineman steps upfield and takes the quarterback, that’s where the running lane will be.
That isn’t something new that the Navy coaches saved for Notre Dame. That is Navy Offense 101. It’s the absolute basics; the bread and butter play run in every game out of every formation. If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through.
The Birddog explains Kelly's odd veer comment as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Navy offense based on the idea they run the midline a ton (they did run it against ND, but only twice). Which fine he's an offensive guy but that's got to be the explanation he got from DC Bob Diaco, then, so you're just devolving the gaping incompetence to the coordinator level. (This does not sound familiar at all.) So Notre Dame goes in at halftime aware they've made a fundamental mistake when it comes to the Navy offense and they change their scheme up like so:
Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
That's how you lose 35-17 to Navy. Navy then went out and lost to Duke, rushing for 148 yards at 4.0 a pop. So… yeah. As long as Diaco's around I'm not going to be that terrified of Brian Kelly. (This is not a criticism you can level at Michigan.)
Give me back mah bukkit. Elsewhere in Charlie Weis comparisons, Danny Hope is one easily-peeved walrus:
After Purdue cut its deficit to 37-10, Illinois threw three passes on a 57-yard scoring drive, including a 15-yard scoring strike from Scheelhaase to Chris James with 1:36 left.
"I probably would not have done that but I’m not going to cry about it," Hope told reporters after the game. "That's their choice, their call. I would not have done it. He’s the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, call it, chuck it and run it up."
Unlike former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who had a heated postgame exchange with Wisconsin's Bret Bielema after an Oct. 9 game in Madison, Hope doesn't intend to confront Zook.
"Why would I say something about that?" Hope said. "Game's over. It's his call. It’s done. I'm not going to cry about it."
Charlie Weis press conferences were laden with statements like "I'm not going to blame Jimmy Clausen for overthrowing Golden Tate, I take that responsibility myself. Another thing I'm taking responsibility for: our defensive line being comprised of mewling kittens. That's on me, and does not reflect poorly on the character of Ian Williams." Here Hope repeatedly states he's not going to cry about the thing he is crying about.
Etc.: 2011 PG commit Trey Burke continues to play well in local tournaments, going head to head with a top-50 player and coming out almost even in points (33 to 34) and seeing his team pick up the W.