I did not make this headline up
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, and DT Terry Talbott.
|Pahokee, FL - 6'4" 300|
|Scout||4*, #25 DT|
|Rivals||3*, #52 DT|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #55 DT|
|Other Suitors||WVU, USC(?), Florida(?), Florida State, UCLA, South Carolina|
|YMRMFSPA||The Fat Elvis edition of Brandon Graham, or a less severe Jason Kates|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Pahokee has sent Martavious Odoms, Vincent Smith, and Brandin Hawthorne to Michigan in the last couple years.|
For a brief moment, Richard Ash was white-hot. In early July of last year he added a USC offer to go with his Florida, Tennessee, and Florida State ones, establishing himself as one of the top defensive tackle recruits in the country. A couple months later, with those offers seemingly off the table he committed to West Virginia. Two weeks later, Doc Holliday was Marshall coach and Ash was on campus committing to Rich Rodriguez.
Michigan fans will be interested, then, in determining which Ash is the real one. All-conquering fire hydrant that uses centers as shot-put practice, or just another guy who could be second-team All Big East some day? There's a long way from favoring Florida in May to two of three scouting services giving you a ranking of "meh."
The internet's conventional wisdom is that Ash's appearances at various camps, most prominently Florida's, disappointed. "Work ethic issues" are commonly cited. I can't vouch for that opinion from a random South Carolina message board, but that's as good as a narrative as we're going to get until Urban Meyer opens up Jerry Jones-style about a random three/four star recruit. A couple other sources with a bit more credit do have the same story. This appears to be a Q&A session with some Rivals guy replicated on a Florida message board:
No idea where this is from but it looks like a Q&A on some Florida site or another:
I did talk to someone who recently spoke to Ash, and he said Ash’s workout at Florida’s camp might not have been to the coaches’ liking.
I watched Ash at Florida’s camp a couple weeks back and yes, he didn’t look as in shape, but it’s also the summertime and spring football has been over with for a while. He looked a little slow and tired, but displayed a frame that probably builds a lot of muscle fast. Not everyone was in the best shape and that’s to be expected in June. Things change when kids start going to more camps as the month progresses and July comes around. Speaking of July, Ash was supposed to work out at Friday Night Lights, and when I spoke to him last that was the plan. I haven’t heard anything different, but anything could happen between now and late July.
That's followed up with an assertion that Florida's DL coach was "pushing him harder" than other guys in the camp, with his "focus for the afternoon" mostly on Ash and uber-recruit Ronald Powell. After that hard look, Florida decided to move another direction.
Finally, when FlaVarsity.com analyst Michael Langston evaluated Ash for the Wolverine($) he flatly stated that Ash "started the season off way too big" because he didn't "take care of his body in the offseason." His fluctuating weight provides supporting evidence. At the time of the Trojan offer he was listed at 263 and was being recruited as a three-tech:
He runs a 4.85 40 and is known for his combination of speed and strength. The Trojans are recruiting him for the three-technique position and he has been recruited to USC by defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.
(QFJ: Quote for Jethro.) That number was not fictional. It was measured at '>the Nike camp early in his recruitment that put him hunting lists of big time schools. One of the skeptical reports from summer camps noted he wasn't in great shape because he had reached "265-270 pounds." By December he was telling folk he was 290($) and in May he reported to GBW that he was an even 300. Even without the reports that he was out of shape last summer, it's impossible that Ash put on 60 pounds of good weight in a high school program.
So there's your script: very promising prospect from Pahokee who fell off the radar because of too much ham and should spend the next twelve months in a sweat lodge with Barwis communicating with his workout chi.
As to why he's promising, that aforementioned Nike camp had observers all a-flutter. Ironically, the first positive scouting-type mention of him on Rivals notes his frame($):
Chandler and Lemonier were the top defensive linemen along with a very strong performance out of Pahokee (Fla.) High School's Richard Ash. Ash has the body to carry a lot of weight and maintain his athleticism and his aggressiveness and explosiveness was evident on Sunday.
Rivals analyst Barry Every took in the same camp, praising Ash's "great body structure and really long arms," declaring him "easily the best-looking interior lineman physically," and projecting he'd triple his offers by the end of May. Every also projected that he would grow into a DT, although he didn't say this would happen by August.
ESPN makes the chorus complete($):
…a bit of a 'tweener between the tackle and end spot. He could start off in college as a defensive end, but in the long run we think he projects as a defensive tackle or at least as a swing guy like he is now. He has good size and should be able to add more good bulk. He has a good get-off and is a kid capable of getting some quick penetration. He is a physical kid at the point of attack. He does a good job of using his hands to create some separation and he can hold his ground. … We feel he will grow into a defensive tackle and his skills will be better used there, but he offers some versatility also.
Scout's version of that:
Ash is an excellent athlete and has terrific size for a DT prospect. He has a quality first step and gets into the backfield quickly while having the speed to pursue to the edges. Ash needs to continue to develop his technique, particularly his ability to disengage blockers. He should add plenty of size which will help him against the run.
So in three years Ash could be 300 pounds and everyone would be happy with that, especially a nose-deficient Michigan defensive line. Depending on how 3-3-5 Michigan's new 3-3-5 actually is, he could find himself in the lineup anywhere in the front three.
For his part, Ash on his own game:
“I’m quick off the ball. I have a good first step and have great hands. I use them good and have great technique. I like to play quick and fast.
“I want to run better and get faster in the forty. I’d like to be more explosive because that would help me get more sacks.”
The analysts disagree about the technique, with many reports citing his tendency to get high and failure to use his long arms as effectively as he should. Langston suggests($) he needs to gain more upper body strength but has good burst and that Michigan told him that they wanted him as a defensive end because "they told him they needed a pass rusher like him, a guy … with speed around the edge."
For what it's worth, even after the drop Ash was still a guy worth pursing. In July he was the #27 player in Florida—which would be solidly in the top 250 range nationally—to the Orlando Sentinel. There were a number of BCS teams willing to overlook whatever issues caused the Floridas and USCs of the world to back off. He took officials to UCLA and West Virginia, committing to the latter and aborting a planned Rutgers visit. South Carolina was trying to get him on campus. LSU was in his top two (with USF) as late as mid-October.
Michigan probably won't know what they plan to do with Ash for a year, maybe two, as they figure out what weight they actually want him to play at and what his strengths indicate the best spot for him is. Ideally, he'd end up an angry, lithe 280 and play as the three-tech DT/3-3-5 DE Ryan Van Bergen or Mike Martin could end up as. With the roster in the state that it is and Ash's apparently ability to get up to three bills in both good and bad fashions, he may be drafted to play nose tackle. Whatever he ends up as, there's a lot of work to do to get there.
Why Fat Elvis Brandon Graham or Jason Kates? Graham was a vastly touted high school middle linebacker who claimed he wanted to play LB in college, too then showed up to Michigan at 290 pounds. He burned his redshirt (not that he would have used a fifth year anyway) coming in as a nose tackle on passing downs and spent some of his sophomore year on the interior, looking ponderous, until Barwis came in and shaped him into Michigan's golden calf. Ash briefly had the same sort of hype but added his weight earlier and fell down boards as a result; he may have the same sort of trajectory as Michigan takes the time to turn him into the player that could have gone anywhere he wanted in May.
Jason Kates, meanwhile, was a frighteningly large DT prospect who got four stars from Scout… and two from Rivals, which explicitly expected him to wash out of football because he could not get his weight under control. Rivals won. Ash is 50 pounds lighter than Kates entering college and doesn't have that same sort of explicit risk, but the sort of thing where he's always a "yes, but what if he wasn't carrying around a small child too" is possible.
Which will it be? Well, Langston said the reason he switched to Michigan is that "he feels the best chance" of getting to an impact level is with this staff. Kates, on the other hand, was a last-second add, not a hotly pursued prospect.
Guru Reliability: Only moderate. Boom/bust sort of player, one that the sites may have fairly ranked despite his high upside.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. On the one hand, Ash's physical potential combined with Barwis's wolf run ("You are covered in pork fat, some of it applied by us. Run away from the wolves.") could yield a crushing destroyer of a defensive lineman. On the other hand, Jason Kates.
Projection: Probably a redshirt as Barwis will have to mold this clay into something less clay-like. Bad sign for this year if he sees the field but possibly good for Ash long term. Redshirt sophomore year earliest projected effectiveness. From there will either go HAM or just ham.
Time-lapse photography. Ace has compiled a slideshow of Bo's team pictures over the years. It's like the Johnny Cash "hurt video" but team-specific:
They multiply and are fertile. We should film a version of that Nike ad with a bunch of soccer players thanking the US team for being inspiring. Ours would have folks in front of spreadsheets running regressions thanking Misopogon and the Mathlete. MCalibur's latest was FPed yesterday and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention El Jeffe's study of how important first down yardage is. It is very math-heavy, but here's a straightforward analysis of Michigan versus itself under Carr, WVU under RR, and OSU:
Note how small the margins are here despite the huge differences in the aggregate and observationally. This is the '09 team, remember, not the Threetsheridammit '08 offense, which would make your monitor bleed in strategic points like "-4 to –1" yards on first down.
The biggest difference? "Turnover on series," which is almost double for '09 than it was in the staid Carr era and considerably above either the OSU or WVU lines. The other figure that jumps out is the percentage of plays that lost yards: almost 15 for Michigan '09 and around 9 or 10 for everyone else. If Michigan can stop those two things they can have an excellent offense. That will depend largely on the performances of both tackles and both(?) quarterbacks.
Gah, that's not how it's supposed to work. After a brief period of salivating over the USC defensive backfield when the Trojans' sanctions were announced, things went quiet on the yo-ho-ho front. Then a couple of backups started lighting out for greener pastures, and one of them is going to show up in Michigan Stadium next year. He won't be playing for the right team, though:
Junior fullback D.J. Shoemate told ESPN Thursday night he is transferring to Connecticut.
He said he is making the move because he wants to play running back, and because USC has such depth at the position, he didn't think he would get the chance. USC has used him as a wide receiver and at fullback. He was expected to compete for the starting spot in 2010.
Connecticut returns leading rusher Jordan Todman and his 1188 yards but loses Andre Dixon and his 1093 yards. UConn runs a lot. Shoemate was a Rivals 100 guy as a recruit and could see a few carries against Michigan. Hopefully none of them will go for 85 yards.
- Free parking at Pioneer.
- Enter through Gate 2 on the south side of the stadium.
- WTKA will broadcast live from the event.
There is no word on whether the troughs have returned to the men's bathrooms, but I'm guessing no.
It is more meaningful to score. Hockey numbers guy Gabe Desjardins maintains "NHL equivalencies" lists for all the major feeder leagues that supply hockey's big time with players. These have long maintained that an NCAA point is worth considerably more than a CHL point when it comes to projecting that player's NHL scoring. This has something to do with the average age of both the player in question and his opponents, which are both on average older in the NCAA.
Oilers blog the Copper and Blue has drilled down with some additional age breakdowns that have very low sample sizes but are interesting nonetheless:
Once you get past 21, jumping directly to the NHL becomes rare and generally unsuccessful. Before that the players (all forwards in this study) maintain their scoring rate considerably better than juniors of an equivalent age. Again, low sample size due to the focus on jumps to the NHL. Would be interesting to see about AHL equivalencies since that's a far larger pool of players.
This won't happen. USC's proposed 2011 Kiffin Bowl with Tennessee in Atlanta isn't going to happen for obvious reasons—Tennessee is pretty full up on real games already and is in a position to lose most of those—so the organizers are casting about for someone else. Cue the sexy names and entire conferences:
Regardless of the opponent, Kiffin still wants to bring the Trojans to Atlanta, hopefully for the 2011 kickoff game.
“They’re interested in playing people other than Tennessee," Stokan said.
But who? Notre Dame, Michigan, Big East and Big 12 schools are under consideration.
Notre Dame's presence of a list of potential USC opponents instantly invalidates said list, but it says Michigan there so here's this blurb. Michigan does get the ND/PSU/OSU trio at home in 2011 and could conceivably head to Atlanta without killing the home schedule, but if they were going to schedule USC they'd probably just order up a home-and-home instead of playing thousands of miles away from either campus.
Rub those barrels. Remember last year when Lane Kiffin was running around doing very derp things and otherwise well-adjusted UT folk were sounding increasingly unhinged as they attempted to justify Coach Derp's derpity doo*? Tables have turned. Here's a Conquest Chronicles response to the release of Seantrel Henderson:
Coachspeak aside, this remains a small victory for USC. Even more so in the wake of the NCAA sanctions, USC remains a "big boy" program reserved for athletes with killer instincts and intense competitive spirits, who are driven and motivated to become the best players possible. The right players for this program are not, however, motivated by the possibility of playing in one or two bowl games, as Kiffin echoed the other day.
That statement must have been made with a shotgun in the author's lap. He caresses it gently, telling Wallace the Gun that, coachspeak aside, he remains a very good gun with shiny barrels. One day Wallace might make a very loud noise, and that, too, will be a small victory for USC.
Rocky Top Talk is staging an intervention:
We know from experience the dilemma a fan experiences when Lane Kiffin takes the reigns of your beloved program and that it can drive you to the edge of insanity, but hopefully you come to your senses before walking off the cliff.
*(Att'n Penn State bloggers: you could successfully lob the irony grenade at me here.)
Cancer updates. The latest on Vada Murray is up at their Caring Bridge site. They're on vacation in the UP:
We are making a trip to a local hospital up here every day for bloodwork. Vada's liver enzymes normalized last week and he was able to go back on the trial, but promptly taken off again two days later. Vada's oncologist is able to monitor him closely from afar and although it sucks to have to go to a hospital while we are on vacation, it's just what we have to do.
Vada is slightly better since my last post. The challenges we currently face are controlling his pain, his liver enzymes, & his cancer.
Phil Brabbs, meanwhile, has gotten a second bone marrow transplant and did an interview on WJR fresh out of the hospital. The interview is on WJR's site. Meanwhile, his blogging pace will be slowing down as he recovers from the various treatments he's undergone. Alarm not necessary.
Etc.: Tennessee probably just landed a major violation.
Jordan Walsh, out of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. He's the sixth best offensive guard, according to Rivals. Walsh has had interest in Michigan since his visit for Junior Day, and that interest is still growing. Here's his sophomore film (his junior film isn't on YouTube), then our conversation.
TOM: Let's start with where your interest in Michigan started from.
JORDAN: I was getting some mail from them, and then I got a junior day invite. I went up there, and they saw my film somewhere, and that's how they offered me. They offered me when I was up there. It was just amazing there, too. The trophy cases, the championships, the coaches were awesome, and Ann Arbor, the town was awesome. I really felt a lot of interest being there.
TOM: Was that where all of this stemmed from? Just from a visit?
JORDAN: Well, my mom always liked Michigan. She was a big Michigan football fan, and she told me when I was younger that I should go to Michigan. When we went there, I really liked it. She loved the junior day visit, too. When Coach Rodriguez offered me, she started crying. I guess my mom saying that all those years really got me interested initially. She's a fan of everybody now, though. She wants me to make my own decision, so she's a fan of everybody.
TOM: So is your Mom coming with you on any other visits then?
JORDAN: We might be coming back up to Michigan on the 13th (Tuesday). I really want to see the academic side and the support system they have. I want to check if I went there, if they would help me out. I have around a 3.7 GPA right now, so that's important to me. I'm not 100% sure if we're coming because I was talking with one of the (Michigan) coaches, and he gave us two dates. I'm not sure which date me and my mom are going to choose yet.
TOM: Do you have a top list right now, or are you looking to narrow it down?
JORDAN: I have a top eight. It's (in no order) Michigan, Iowa, MSU, Northwestern, LSU, USC, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. To summarize them all, I felt comfortable with all of them. I'm interested in all of them, and I like all the coaches.
TOM: Do you know when you're going to make your decision then?
JORDAN: I don't really have a timeline set. I really just want to see everything I'm looking for. If I see and hear the stuff that I need to, then after that I'll make my decision. I don't really know when that will be.
TOM: For the fans that don't know too much about you, tell us who you are as a football player.
JORDAN: Some coaches say that I finish my blocks, and I'm nasty on the field. To be honest, I just love the game of football. I'll do anything a coach ask me to do. I block, so I obviously can't ask for the ball, or anything. The offensive line is a cool position. You don't really get the glory, or praise, but you get to hit a lot of people.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, and DE Jibreel Black.
|Huber Heights, OH - 6'3" 245|
||Scout||3*, #41 DT|
|Rivals||3*, #61 DT|
|ESPN||3*, 75, #97 DT|
|Other Suitors||North Carolina, Wisconsin, UCLA, Michigan State|
|YMRMFSPA||Grant Bowman or Scooter Berry|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom interviews Talbott. FNL takes in a Wayne game.|
|Notes||Brother of CB recruit Terrance Talbott.|
Also 2008 highlights exist.
Terry Talbott is the older and much larger of the Talbott brothers. Born nine months and one day(!) before his brother Terrance. For a detailed psychoanalysis of the naming process there check Terrance's profile, or you can just take the mother's word on it:
"I was crazy in the hospital. They had me medicated up when they asked me for a name. Terrence just came out."
Thus are legends born. Terry, the elder, ended up a half-foot taller and close to a hundred pounds heavier. He's fortunate. My younger brother is currently 6'4". I am not.
Anyway, despite Terry's massive size advantage over his brother his relative lack of it compared to, say, Will Campbell is the main drag on his recruiting rankings above. You can either look at pictures in which he looks more like a tight end than a DT or listen to any of the many evaluations that mention the word "tweener," but the story is the same. ESPN's version($):
Talbott plays a little out of position in high school as a defensive tackle. In college he could be looking at a move to defensive end though he could still project to tackle. If he stays inside he will need to add serious bulk to his frame. Looks on film to have the build to be able to add more good size. … While build wise a move to end may be a better fit, long term skill wise staying at tackle may be better. … Talbott is a solid prospect, but a bit of 'tweener position wise right now.
When not talking about his inconvenient size, the evaluator praises his "ability to explode off the ball" and criticizes various technique issues with his hands and lowing his head. The word "adequate" pops up more than once, which is never a good sign, and the 75 rating he ended up with makes him the third lowest-ranked recruit in the class (Ray Vinopal and Courtney Avery are lower). Rivals's Greg Ladky caught a game during his senior year:
PERFORMANCE: He made a couple of tackles early, sprained his ankle late in the second quarter and played through obvious pain the rest of the way. While he wasn't as productive as he was in Week 1, he perhaps was more impressive due to his effort playing through an injury.
STRENGTHS: He's quick off the snap and has the eyes and recognition skills to finish plays.
WEAKNESSES: He does not have ideal size for a defensive tackle or the best frame for a defensive end. I would rather not call him a "tweener" because I think he is good enough to succeed at either position and "tweener" is often construed as a negative term. Talbott just doesn't have the eye-opening size that other elite defensive linemen have.
More of the same there, with Ladky's assertion that he doesn't want to use "tweener" unconvincing given the rating he ended up with.
That's the downside. The upside is his ability to get into the backfield. As a high school player he is crushingly effective. His coach:
"He's very big, very explosive and has a great change of direction," Minton said. "He's got an uncanny ability to get to the football and control the line of scrimmage. He creates a new line of scrimmage."
Ohio football observer Duane Long on Talbott's performance at OSU's camp:
Huber Heights Wayne defensive tackle prospect Terry Talbott has come in and put on a show. … Notice how often he does not use his hands. Needs a lot of work. He is just beating his opponents with elite level explosion off the ball. I have not heard measurables listed yet but the words "physical specimen" are being thrown about. We are kicking around a lot of names right now with the camp but I am not going to be surprised to see this one as the next Buckeye offer.
Meanwhile, his Scout scouting report mentions a high motor, excellent work ethic, and coachability. In a Rivals article($), an opposing coach who runs the option declares he "couldn't imagine" attempting to run an offense in which you'd actually have to block him, declaring "You'd need to dedicate two or three blockers on every play just to have a shot at defending him." Talbott is compared to Spartan DT and fellow Wayne HS alum Jerel Worthy, who you may remember tearing through Michigan's offensive line last year en route to freshman All-America recognition. Michigan State currently lists Worthy at 292, FWIW—Talbott has a long ways to go if he's going to get there.
In addition to all this, this blog's own Tim took in last year's Wayne-Princeton game, a 21-4 Wayne victory, and came away impressed:
Talbott was the Warriors' defensive MVP, e-fact. He was constantly in the opposing backfield, whether he was lined up at tackle or end. He was a quick penetrating type, and even when the Vikings started trying to counter against that (eventually), he was harassing QBs, forcing running backs into his teammates, and generally being a disruptive force. He doesn't have the biggest frame in the world, but there is certainly potential to add some mass and be a quick-penetrating "SEC-style" (ugh, shoot me) defensive tackle when he arrives in Ann Arbor. Trust me, he may be a little underrated because he's a tweener, but I think this kid is an absolute steal.
That combination of explosion, potential, and effort saw Terry pick up offers from Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, UCLA, Arkansas, NC State, Kentucky, and "a couple of other Big Ten schools" by July. Michigan hadn't yet pulled the trigger. When Michigan did, it didn't take long for the brothers to reciprocate. By August both were committed. Terry had a late flirtation with North Carolina, but stuck with Michigan and his brother on Signing Day. The Fax of Destiny is pictured above. I like to think whoever took it said "fax for the camera, baby."
At Michigan, Talbott steps into a situation where there are just two NT/DT types on the roster who will be around after what will presumably be a redshirt year. He has potential if he can add weight and maintain his quickness, but the skeptical rankings above seem about right to me. Adding 50 pounds and still being fast is quite a trick.
Etc.: Terry on his younger brother:
"If I'm down, he'll pick me up," Terry said. "If he's down, I'll pick him up. In football or not, I'm his big brother. I'm going to be on his side if anything's wrong and see if he's OK. We'll keep going through the good times or bad times."
Why Grant Bowman? Bowman was an active, effective three-tech defensive tackle despite checking in at just over six feet tall. By the time he was flitting around NFL practice squads and the World League he was up to 290, but as a recruit he was considerably smaller.
That's the Michigan connection, but a more recent and perhaps more accurate comparison is with current West Virginia senior DL Scooter Berry, who was a 245-pound fullback recruit back in high school and now pushing 290. Berry redshirted and then was an instant starter despite his lack of size. As a sophomore he was second-team All Big East; his junior year was marred by a shoulder injury. Fun biographical fact: Berry is the half-brother of legendary bust Jason Gwaltney. And yes, he's in that infamous picture.
Guru Reliability: Just less than high. Consensus on his ability, but apparently no combines.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. If Talbott was Warren Sapp's size he'd be Warren Sapp but the reason Warren Sapp is Warren Sapp is that people Warren Sapp's size don't move like Warren Sapp. Deep breath. Anyway: it's a tough choice between Talbott's ability to crush competition ranging from good high school opponents to various D-I prospects at Ohio State's camp and the idea that he's a 6'3"-ish defensive tackle who may need to put on 50 pounds to play consistently in the Big Ten. Will Talbott come out the other end of the Barwis machine anything like the player he went in?
Projection: Obvious redshirt on both size and technique grounds. Will probably mostly watch his second year as well. From there, could be one of those very good college players with no real NFL future—see that entire Bowman-era DL—or could fade away due to size limitations.
As a reminder, recruiting updates are saved for posterity on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board.
About To Drop?
FL OL Tony Posada may be getting close to a Florida offer ($, info in header). He just needs to lose 10 pounds and the Gators have promised he'll receive one. [Ed: Or that could be a slow-play and Florida isn't going to offer.] Florida was his childhood favorite, so that could dampen his Michigan lean. Posada and MI OL Jake Fisher (pictured at right) are both deciding soon.
If one or both of them pick(s) Michigan, that would be a fine start to Michigan's offensive line haul in the class. The Wolverines are the favorite for both, but Fisher plans to check out Michigan State once more before making a decision, and Posada is searching for that Florida offer.
Much, much more on their ability to play football if they commit.
Tops In State
Scout has released its Top 80 List for the state of Michigan. The Top 10, and other recruits of interest (or who might be at some point):
- 1 LB Lawrence Thomas (MSU Commit)
- 2 WR DeAnthony Arnett
- 3 DE Brennen Beter (Michigan Commit)
- 4 OL/DE Anthony Zettel
- 5 RB Justice Hayes
- 6 OL Jake Fisher
- 7 CB Valdez Showers
- 8 RB Onaje Miller (MSU Commit)
- 9 LB Ed Davis
- 10 CB Delonte Hollowell (Michigan Commit)
- 11 WR Shawn Conway (Michigan Commit)
- 13 RB Thomas Rawls
- 16 LB Taiwan Jones (Michigan State Commit)
- 21 DE Damon Knox
- 22 TE Ben McCord
- 35 TE Nate Dreslinski
- 46 FB Joey Kerridge
- 59 RB DaShawn Bell
- 66 LB Dwight Trammer
- 73 OL Bryan Bell
- 74 OL Willie Beavers
Right now, it appears as though Michigan State has the slight edge in-state, but the Wolverines have a good chance to close out strong.
In the same vein, Sam Webb's weekly Detroit News column runs down a few of the top guys in the state who are uncommitted. The main prospects of interest in that story are OL Jake Fisher and LB Ed Davis, but it sounds like RB Thomas Rawls could pick up a Michigan offer somewhere down the line.
Scott Burnstein of the Oakland Press runs down a couple in-state sleepers who impressed at Michigan's summer camp.
Assume The Position: Tight End
The times, they have changed since I last broke down tight end recruiting. With the number of offers Michigan's coaching staff has out at the position, I think it's pretty clear that they want one in this class (though they could be offering some guys with the intention of moving them to the defensive side of the ball).
The biggest recent news is OH TE Ray Hamilton's commitment to Iowa. Michigan had appeared to be very strong in his recruitment until he joined the Hawkeyes' class of 2011. Though his commitment seems firm, his dad's connection to Rich Rodriguez could help Michigan stay in the picture with a good season.
SC TE Jerrell Adams seems to have a Michigan offer, and the Wolverines are definitely in the picture ($, info in header). He's definitely a possibility for the spot.
NJ TE Taques Franklin has legit Michigan interest, and plans to take an official visit. However, a little birdie tells me that he has some work to do in the classroom to ensure that he will qualify to play at the next level.
NJ TE/QB Tanner McEvoy (maybe intent on being a QB?), NC TE Drew Owens, FL TE Brandon Fulse, and OH TE Austin Traylor and are guys that Michigan tossed an offer to, and haven't seemed to talk about the Wolverines too much since. I'll assume they're pseudo-longshots.
Happy trails, NY QB Ashton Broyld. Though he's visited Michigan, he's not hearing from the Wolverines.
Happy trails, NJ RB Savon Huggins, who released a Top/Final 10 list without Michigan.
Happy trails to FL LB Kent Turene. For whatever reason, the staff never offered Turene, even as it became clear that Demar Dorsey's former teammate was going to wind up as a big time prospect. With adequate time to evaluate him (and obvious hints that he was interested in Michigan), I'll trust their opinion in not offering him. He's now committed to USC.
NC QB Marquise Williams is still planning to decide soon ($, info in header). Michigan was already slipping, and the commitment of FL QB Kevin Sousa is another indication that he won't put on the maize and blue cap.
As The Demetrius Turns... FL RB Demetrius Hart still has Michigan and Auburn on top. Those two and Alabama are still the main contenders for his services. He's considering multiple Michigan visits this fall, and there's no reason to believe the Wolverines have slipped.
OH WR AJ Jordan plans to trim his list soon ($, info in header). Jordan is probably the hottest prospect on Michigan's board at wide receiver, as most expect him to end up donning the winged helmet. AJ should commit before the season starts, and could join his former teammates (Roy Roundtree et al) in Ann Arbor.
MI WR Willie Snead hasn't been hearing much from Michigan, but is getting attention from... Florida? I wonder if things will pick up with the local schools. If not, he'll slip right of the ol' recruiting board.
Though some Michigan fans have been expecting an early decision from MI OL Anthony Zettel, he tells ESPN that's not going to happen. He's considering a couple official visits, mainly to check out Penn State and Iowa (and maybe UCLA), schools on his favorites list that he hasn't had a chance to see. The Wolverines and Spartans still have a healthy lead on the rest of the field. Zettel seems like one of the many prospects that Michigan should land as long as they start the season strong.
Shoutout to MGoUser JC3 who brought this to my attention: IL OL Chris Bryant recently received a Big Ten offer ($, info in header), and Tom confirmed via Twitter that it was from the Wolverines . He'd been openly campaigning for such an offer, so does that mean he might join Michigan's class? He won't decide for a while, but the Wolverines are probably near the top of his list.
Though this local fluff on VA LB Curtis Grant (pictured at right) doesn't mention Michigan, it does say he's planning to take his time making a decision - and he has interest across the country.
In came Grant, a freshman who had played sparingly up to that point in the season for Richmond-based Hermitage. On the conversion attempt, Highland Springs' quarterback rolled to his right and stopped before attempting to catch Hermitage's defense by surprise with a pass back across the field. Grant batted the pass down to negate the threat.
"I was like 'Wow, the first play we send him in and he makes an impact play'" Kane said. "From then on, he was not afraid of competition. He just went out there and played. That was pretty special for a kid of that age — a ninth-grader coming into a playoff game to replace a senior."
Yay fun anecdote. VolNation doesn't mention a Michigan visit, but I think he's planning to take one in August.
PA CB Kyshoen Jarrett has released a top/final 9, with Michigan, Illinois, MSU, UConn, Penn State, Pitt, Stanford, Virginia, and Wisconsin. He plans to trim again in about a month, and take a few official visits before coming to a decision.
TomVH's weekly update has all the latest news on AZ OL Cyrus Hobbi, FL OL Tony Posada, GA S Avery Walls, and a couple more prospects. Check it out for the news. Speaking of Walls, he comes in for some local fluff. He genuinely enjoyed his Ann Arbor visit, and the coaches will be all over this top safety.
[Ed: MCalibur, apparenly an economist found himself collateral damage on today's shotgun blast at "X is stupid" sports economists. Maybe I should have come up with a label like "freakonomists" so as to not implicate people who are just interested in the numbers without the look at me pub. Anyway, here's an excellent diary on what your goals should be on second and third down. Implications for a second and medium are interesting.]
A while back The Mathlete sent out a Thundercat signal for some help shucking data for his database; at least that’s how I remember it. Any un-lame kid of the 80’s knows that when you see the Thundercat Crest you put on your spiked suspenders, pick up your laser shooting panther paw nun chucks, jump into the tank you built singlehandedly, and you roll; that’s all there is to it. I had no choice.
Anyway, we voltroned* our abilities together and came up with something pretty sweet. I have put together my own database, with Mathlete’s help, and can now do some of the same tricks he can. I’ve focused onto BCS-BCS matchups extending the thought of excluding mismatches; Michigan v. Eastern Michigan is still a significant mismatch.
*Oops, wrong cartoon but, then again, you simply cannot over-reference 80’s cartoons/shows. I pity the fool that disagrees. I feel bad for youngins that don’t know the glory of 80’s children’s programming. Also, am I the only one who thinks that Voltron and Zoltan might be related?
When I’m not eliciting unreasonable responses from otherwise reasonable people, I’m usually crunching numbers of some kind as if they were a motley band of mutants and aliens led by a grody and ancient mummy demon priest. Very often the numbers have something to do with football in general and, most often, Michigan football specifically. This time I wondered “how do we know if a play was successful or not?” This question has been asked and answered by some smart people before, but being the curious little twit that I am, I wanted to gauge it on my own.
One way to go about it is Mathlete Style: Expected Points, a good but abstract method. One potential problem with focusing on EP is that doing so can drive you to scoring points where as the real goal is to win. It’s a subtle but important distinction. Depending on the situation, maximizing EP might not be the same as maximizing the probability that you will win. Maybe you would rather not score if doing so means giving Peyton Manning the ball back with 25 seconds left and less than a 1 score deficit. Besides, The Mathlete has this beat covered.
Another method is to use 1st Down Probability, the likelihood that a team will convert a new set of downs given the current down and distance. I think this is more appropriate to the microcosm of a play because the goal of a play is not necessarily to score it is to keep the ball and move it forward, in that order. Scoring is the goal of an entire drive. To calculate 1DP, you do the same thing you would to derive EP, except you keep track of first downs instead of points.
Whenever you have a mountain of data, you need a way to focus your attention on what matters while still maintaining the value of having so much data in the first place. For this study, I’ve filtered on the following criterion:
- Exclude plays involving a penalty of any kind.
- The game must be close. My arbitrary definition is: all plays in the first and second quarter, third quarter plays where the lead is less than 17, and fourth quarter plays where the lead is less than 10. These values are arbitrary, but there are so many plays available that the sample sizes are still large enough that any additional precision is of negligible value. Also, any unimportant plays are swarmed by a large number of plays that are important, then math deals with the noise.
- Results of the play are limited to –10 and +25 yards. The logic here is two fold. On the negative side, the average sack is good for about 6 to 8 yards, anything bigger than that is a fluke play (botched snap for example). On the positive side, most plays aren’t designed to go for huge gains. However, there are instances when an OC calls a play like that in order to exploit an advantage and not necessarily as part of a base strategy. Though relatively infrequent, both types of plays happen with enough regularity that they significantly shift the averages even though they are vastly outnumbered by more typical gains. This filter only excludes about 0.5% of all plays to the negative side and about 5.3% to the positive side.
Each play in the database has been assigned a 0 or 1 depending on whether or not it was part of a first down series, touchdowns are counted as first downs in this survey. Essentially, every play in a four down sequence is counted as a being part of a 1st down unless a punt or turnover occurs before a new set of downs is achieved. Filtering the plays that made the cut (over 105k) by down results in the following scatter plot:
Every point on the chart above has at least 15 samples, most have several hundred, some have several thousand, and 1st and 10 has almost 42,000 samples. The trends are self evident and really, really, strong. A few comments on other decisions I’ve needed to make here:
- The small black dots represent 4th down plays. They are essentially overlaid with the 3rd down plays which makes sense, the objectives in both cases is the same, convert to a 1st Down. If you’re in a 4th down decision, use the 3rd down line.
- The curves for 1st and 2nd Down were both pegged to 100% probability of converting a new set of downs at zero yards to go; pretty obvious as to why, it’s the rules. On 3rd Down however, I opted not to peg it to y3 = 1 at x = 0 because even though the R-squared value doesn’t suffer by much (0.005 lower), the resulting curve significantly over estimates 3rd down success inside of 3rd and 5. Also, I think the gap could be real; how much error is there in spotting the ball (especially on QB sneak type plays)? To me this data implies that the ball is mis-spotted to deny a 1st Down conversion approximately 9% of the time. The incremental error of spotting the ball doesn't matter until you end up at 4th and inches.
- For 1st down plays, I intervened on behalf of noise reduction by only including plays where the distance was in multiples of 5. The reason is that the rules say you start at 1st and 10 and the only way you end up with 1st and something other than a multiple of 5 is A) you’re inside the opponents 10, and B) multiple penalties or 1st down repeats after spot fouls. Plays that were rejected are largely noise; the legitimate plays (ex. 1st and X inside the opp. 10) act like 2nd down plays, so use that in those cases.
Generating Hard Targets
Now that we have a survey, we can use the information to answer the question I asked “what makes a successful play”? The question has been tackled before in the seminal tome The Hidden Game of Football. The DVOA system developed by Football Outsiders is based in concepts discussed in Hidden Game. Hidden Game presents the following goal schedule:
On first down, a play is considered a success if it gains 45 percent of needed yards; on second down, a play needs to gain 60 percent of needed yards; on third or fourth down, only gaining a new first down is considered success.
So, the goal schedule by down should be 4-ish yards on 1st Down10, 3 yards on 2nd and 6, and 3 yards on 3rd and 3. I haven’t read Hidden Game but this doesn’t look right, particularly in short yardage situations. For example, 2nd and 1 is a failure if you do not convert a new set of downs. Sure, the consequences of that failure are small because you are virtually guaranteed another chance to convert but gaining zero yards (we only have whole yard resolution) is failure by definition.
Brian Brown of Advanced NFL Stats fame has a better definition: a play is a success as long as your chances to convert a new set of downs are not hurt by the result of a play. The great thing about this definition is that it considers the opportunity cost of running a play. This simple idea probably explains why a lot of OC’s call conservative plays on 1st and 10, if you don’t advance the ball by about 4 yards, you’re worse off than you started. Brown focuses his work on the NFL and has done this work for the League but he stopped at the first chart leaving the answer to the question abstract-don’t hurt your chances of getting a new set of downs. OK, but how do you avoid that?
Running an optimization routine on our curves gives us the concrete answer, a goal schedule by down and distance in chart form.
- 3rd down is obvious, you need to gain all of the yards remaining or you’ve failed. Fourth down decisions should be avoided.
- The 1st down requirement is virtually flat at a 37% yield, lower than what Hidden Game suggested.
- The 2nd down requirement is asymptotic to 65% yield but reaches a requirement of 80% yield by 5 yards to go. Essentially, you need at least 4 yards on 2nd and 5 to not have wasted the down.
First down is all business, you must move the ball 37% of the way or you’re screwing yourself. Third down is also all business, you need to convert or risk deciding which poison tastes the best. Second down however, depending in the situation, that’s a down you can get jiggy with.
On a generic 1st and 10, there’s a 64% chance of converting a new set of downs. So, as long as you end up with about a 64% chance of converting on 3rd down, you can do whatever you want on second down as long as you don’t lose yards or give the ball away. That means, you need to end up at 3rd and 3 or better. On 2nd and 3 or better call in the B2s and Outkast, baby, ‘cause it’s time to drop bombs (over Baghdad).