While Baxter's name doesn't sound even a little like a law firm, he's got a ton of experience. He's 52 and started coaching in 1981, and he's had special teams in his title since 1986. From 1997 to 2009 he was a mainstay of Pat Hill's Fresno State tenure as a special teams coordinator and, depending on the year, either the TE or WR coach. His record there was excellent:
During his time, Fresno State blocked 84 kicks and punts (including a national-best 49 from 2002 through 2009) and scored 39 special teams touchdowns (with 3 safeties). The Bulldogs topped the nation in fewest punt return yards allowed in 2004 and 2005. A.J. Jefferson led the nation in kickoff returns in 2007. Clifton Smith's 189 punt return yards with 2 touchdowns against Weber State in 2005 were Fresno State game records, while his 5 career scoring punt returns also was a school mark. Six of Baxter's Bulldog kickers and punters earned All-Western Athletic Conference first team honors.
In 2010 USC hired him away to be their special teams coordinator; he would later add TE responsibilities. The results were similarly excellent:
USC was second in blocked punts and fourth in blocked kicks during the 2013 season.
The success in 2013 was hardly an anomaly, either, as Baxter had earned the 2011 FootballScoop.com Special Teams Coordinator of the Year award after overseeing a group that produced seven blocked kicks for the second consecutive year. During those two seasons, USC also managed a punt return for a touchdown, two kickoff returns for touchdowns, two converted fake punts, a converted fake field goal, and six two-point conversions.
He's also held an associate head coach title since arriving at Fresno.
Baxter received "rave reviews" and players' parents asked Steve Sarkisian to keep him on but Sarkisian preferred to import guys from his Washington staff. That didn't go so well for Sarkisian, as USC ended up tenth or worse in the Pac 12 in kickoff coverage, punting, and KO returns—punt returns were middling.
Baxter didn't coach last year after he was a casualty of the Steve Sarkisian transition, but he was seemingly sought after. He interviewed for the Colorado State head job and was high on Texas's list after Charlie Strong axed their WR and TE coach,
Baxter is also noted for his Academic Gameplan, which evidently works miracles:
When I went (to Fresno State), we were ranked 112 out of 112 in graduation rate – dead last in the country. I started doing it there, and that's about the time I realized it had nothing to do with football; it just had to do with students. I published it in '99. And I've just continued to do it ever since.
When I (first) went there, there was an average student who shouldn't have been average named Lane Kiffin going through it. I wouldn't say underperforming. But then again I would, for his intelligence level. He had back-to-back over-3.0 semesters and did great.
Michigan did good work in that department under Hoke and Baxter will help continue that.
Here's Baxter talking:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Looks good to me. Baxter has a terrific track record.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE STAFF
There's a Football Scoop report that Jimmie Dougherty is also going to be hired that may or may not be true. Given their record on Michigan events I'm going to wait until someone reputable confirms that before repeating it in earnest.
I did make a mistake on the Guessochart this afternoon, as I only listed eight assistants. Michigan does have room for both Morton and Dougherty in some configuration. I'd be a bit surprised if they added guys who were effectively both WR coaches isntead of adding another defensive assistant or give Drevno some aid on the OL, but as it stands there's not much chatter about other guys. The current guess:
|OC||Tim Drevno||lock||DC||DJ Durkin||lock|
|QB||Jim Harbaugh||lock||DL||Greg Mattison||lock|
|WR||John Morton||probable||OLB/DE||Roy Manning||probable|
|TE||Jimmie Dougherty||probable||ST||John Baxter||lock|
Steve Lorenz is reporting that all of this is just about done($), FWIW, with Jackson "confirmed" and Manning "very likely."
UPDATE: Webb($) and Lorenz are both reporting Jackson is done. Updated him.
HIGHLY IMPORTANT UPDATE
Yes, he's a spread punt guy.
Brian: How will you sign off when the world ends (Deadspin for the idea)? You get one Michigan thing and one off-topic thing. Go.
Ace: For Michigan, it can only be this...
...because we must be reminded that at its finest, mankind could do the seemingly impossible, like jumping 15 feet in the air, spearing a ball with one hand, and stabbing a foot inside the playing area said ball was specifically intended to exit.
For off-topic, it can only be this...
...because we must also be reminded that mankind was a hilariously failed experiment. We stuck a real, almost certainly woefully underpaid human being into inflatable dinosaur costume with a comically oversized head on rollerblades and expected it to turn out not like that, and for that we probably deserve whatever horrible fate awaits us. Until then, let's laugh uproariously at that tail.
[After the jump: various responses to the apocalypse.]
I know I'm a millionaire many times over but let's go to Red Robin anyway
IT'S NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE… YET. Sam's source on Tyrone Wheatley is Tyrone Wheatley, so in a case of conflicting information I'm inclined to go with him, and we have that. Rivals' Brandon Brown reported that Wheatley was in the boat, signed, etc., last night, and then the above picture of Harbaugh and Wheatley hanging out at… sigh… Red Robin popped onto the internet and everybody's like WOOOO. Sam has some not so fast my friend:
Wheatley arrived later in the afternoon.He met with the offensive coordinator. It got late so he didn't have the chance to interview with Harbaugh, so they caught dinner. The interview with Harbaugh was then pushed to today. …
No contract. No done deal yet.
I think the reason Sam is putting this out there via Wheatley is that Wheatley doesn't want to give the wrong impression to the people who might be hiring him. It would be awkward to walk into a job interview and be asked why people think you already have it when you do not.
I don't think the cold water means anything other than that; Wheatley's going to be as serious and professional as a boss could want and this is part of the process of getting a job. I'd be surprised if he wasn't brought on in the near future—it makes too much sense.
…when he takes a job, he already has his plan in place for his next job. Let me say this to you: I've said this before -- self-centered, selfish, greedy. He'll get a job because there's not enough qualified people with head coaching experience to get these jobs.
If Marrone did just pull an all-time employment boner that would mean Wheatley would not have the opportunity to continue as a part of Marrone's staff. Marrone's getting four million dollars this year either way.
DURKIN OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL OFFICIALLY, AGAIN. Is DJ Durkin official yet? Has he been official for weeks? I don't know. Last night saw another flurry of people confirming that DJ Durkin will be the Michigan defensive coordinator, something I thought we'd already… like… confirmed. Apparently not.
Anyway, it is officially official that DJ Durkin is Michigan's defensive coordinator. I look forward to the next and presumably last time it becomes official, when Michigan issues a press release on the staff.
We've also officially reconfirmed that Mattison is staying on. Someone reconfirm Harbaugh to Michigan. Not because we need it, but because it feels goooooood.
MICHIGAN'S DIRECTORY SERVERS ARE WORKING OVERTIME. Someone in IT who doesn't care about football is looking at a usage spike and wondering what the hell everyone is fingering everyone else about:
So there's a Greg Jackson in the directory now. Lotta dudes named Greg Jackson. But it's a new entry.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) January 6, 2015
Jackson served as Harbaugh's DBs coach with the 49ers, and reportedly contacted LA DE Jalen Bates on behalf of Michigan recently. With no other DB coaches popping up on the radar that hire seems highly likely.
THE OTHER JACKSON. Maize and Brew has some scoop on the other Jackson, the comparison-makin', beverage-coordinatin' one:
I asked my source whether Jackson has indeed retired and received the following: "He isn't sure yet. It's a possibility unless anything changes. He's not stressed about anything though."
With Wheatley closing in on the RBs job, Jackson's likely to stay retired unless Michigan has a DeBord-esque administrative position for him.
I HOPE THIS GUY KNOWS THE COLLEGE RULES AND HOW TO COUNT TO 11. Sam on the wildcard spot:
Look for Michigan to hire an assistant that will coach special teams exclusively. No position
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 7, 2015
That's interesting. It means that Drevno is likely to be the primary OL coach and that TEs are likely to get folded in with either the WRs or OL on someone's title. A couple of people have suggested that the gentlemen who would get that job is Florida ST coordinator Coleman Hutzler. Unless that's a law firm. Which it definitely is.
HARBAUGH HIRES ENTIRE FRIGGING LAW FIRM TO COACH SPECIAL TEAMS. You heard it here first.
Anyway: Hutzler is barely 30, spent three seasons as a GA under Harbaugh at Stanford, probably needs a job after Muschamp got axed, and is rapidly moving up the ranks. Also popular with the ladies.
Please tell me we're keeping hottie Coleman Hutzler in our coaching staff. He's the only reason I want to go to the Women's Football Camp
— Leslie T (@lab0822) January 3, 2015
So he's got that going for him.
NO. Expert type guy Scout Roussel says SJSU OC Jimmie Dougherty has been offered a spot as the QB coach, which isn't likely. If he does come in it would be as a WR coach—the position he had at Washington—unless Sam's wrong about the ST guy. Harbaugh does QBs anyway.
GUESSOCHART. Getting to the end here:
|OC||Tim Drevno||lock||DC||DJ Durkin||lock|
|RB||Ty Wheatley||probable||LB||Greg Mattison||lock|
|WR||John Morton||maybe||OLB/DE||Roy Manning||probable|
OTHERS: Jimmie Dougherty (WR)
Meta: Hokepoints is now alternating bi-weekly features. Jimmystats is the one where we play with Excel, H4 is the one where we play with Playmaker or get misty-eyed. Thank you readers who submitted name ideas.
Not all upperclassmen are good, but having upperclassmen is good. [Fuller]
I keep a few different databases on Michigan players for various uses, and Bosch's transfer initiated a two-day time sink into updating the big roster one. It now includes number of starts each guy since the 1993 class had in his career, along with the recruiting profile and career summary. Have at it, diarists:
Some stuff I generated with it:
The Holy Balls 2010 attrition chart:
Bigging it makes it clicker.
The retention rate isn't the number of players who stuck, it's the number of total eligible seasons the class would have produced if every freshman played four (and every junior transfer played two, etc.). If somebody ever says there was nothing good about the Hoke era, point at the 2012-2014 classes. I do expect the transition costs and other levies of time will reduce those triple towers eventually, but that is a very good start, especially the 2012 group who came in after 11-2 and got not that since.
The flipside of course is that 2010 class, which spent exactly half of its eligibility not on Michigan's roster. And that was followed by the 2011 "process" class, which more on that in a minute. I also tracked the reasons for losses:
[Jump for that a bunch more charts and tables you can use to wow your friends, like the average number of starts for a 5-star recruit]
The Penn State student section is rocking. pic.twitter.com/gZuYDPnhbf
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) January 7, 2015
Michigan and Penn State both entered tonight's game coming off ugly losses in which their respective offenses disappeared. The Bryce Jordan Center crowd was anything but raucous. Both teams' lone offensive creators battled foul trouble throughout.
Surprise! This game was ugly.
The Wolverines overcame 15 turnovers to pull away late thanks to six straight points from Caris LeVert, who led the team with 18 points on 6/8 shooting, and a couple critical buckets from Zak Irvin, who added 17 and a game-high nine boards.
Derrick Walton once again struggled from the field, going just 2/7, though he went 7/7 from the line and made a big impact on the boards; he still didn't look close to healthy, having one seemingly open driving layup blocked when he wasn't able to cover ground and lift like he does at 100%. Michigan got just enough secondary scoring from Ricky Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins, who chipped in eight points apiece, to make up for Walton's scoring struggles and an 0-fer from Spike Albrecht, who started in place of Kam Chatman.
After getting crushed on the boards in the first half, Michigan evened out the rebounding battle in the second, and a late switch to the 1-3-1 zone gave Penn State fits as they were unable to keep pace. While DJ Newbill scored 20 points, he got no help from the PSU frontcourt, and the Nittany Lion offense stalled when Newbill—who often plays wire-to-wire—had to sit six minutes due to foul trouble. A surprising 16-point performance from backup John Johnson wasn't enough to overcome the frontcourt no-show, especially that of forward Brandon Taylor, who went just 1/10 from the field.
The bright spot for Michigan was their shooting—they went 9/15 from beyond the arc, and some nifty second half work from LeVert, Irvin, and Doyle managed to drag their two-point percentage up to 50% after it languished well below that for most of the game.
It wasn't pretty, but a road win is a road win, and this Michigan team will certainly take it.
Michigan (8-6, 1-1 B1G) at
Penn State (12-3, 0-2)
Bryce Jordan Center,
University Park, Pennsylvania
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||Penn State -3 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
Right: Portrait of a head coach losing to Rutgers. (via)
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open.
|G||33||Shep Garner||Fr.||6'1, 185||66||19||No|
|Good shooter, mostly sticks to outside. AST:TO fits FR PG archetype.|
|G||2||DJ Newbill||Sr.||6'4, 210||92||29||No|
|The lynchpin. Impressive efficiency despite astronomical minutes and usage.|
|G||13||Geno Thorpe||So.||6'3, 180||54||22||Yes|
|Decent finisher, gets to line often, not a good jump shooter.|
|F||10||Brandon Taylor||Jr.||6'6, 225||71||22||Kinda|
|Solid def. rebounder and shot-blocker. Very inefficient offensively.|
|C||32||Jordan Dickerson||Jr.||7'1, 245||37||11||Very|
|Solid rebounder, blocks lots of shots. Tiny usage. Foul- and turnover-prone.|
|F||43||Ross Travis||Sr.||6'7, 235||62||15||Yes|
|Excellent rebounder on both ends having atrocious year offensively.|
|G||1||John Johnson||Sr.||6'1, 185||50||18||Kinda|
|Bouncing back from awful 13-14 by getting to line a ton.|
|F||5||Donovon Jack||Jr.||6'9, 210||39||16||Yes|
|Solid rebounder on both ends, decent finisher, very foul-prone.|
Penn State nearly worked their way through a nonconference slate of tomato cans unscathed, even knocking off #37 George Washington at home in the only game they played against a top-100 opponent. They did, however, trip up in a neutral site tourney game against a mediocre Charlotte squad. Know that feel, bros.
The start to Big Ten play hasn't been so kind. They predictably got blasted at Wisconsin in their conference opener before less predictably losing by four at Rutgers on Saturday. Coach Pat Chambers had a tough time explaining away the latter:
"Coming to New Jersey, for us, is a challenge, because we've got a lot of Philly kids and a lot of New Jersey kids. Got a lot of people in the stands. I hope that wasn't the reason our energy was low."
So, a border rivalry is a plausible reason for low energy?
"But I just think Rutgers' energy was that high. I thought they came out and played with a lot of fire."
For the record, school was not in session at RU and the baseline student section was largely barren except for the band. It was by no means an intimidating atmosphere.
Sometimes coaches would be better served to throw up their hands and say "college basketball is weird," because that's the damn truth.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]