Mike Lantry, 1972
Yup, Still Want
Damien Harris headlined last weekend's Best of the Midwest combine, and for good reason—no matter where you look, he leads off the list of top performers. Scout's Allen Trieu broke down his overall combine MVP performance:
One of the headliners was Madison Southern (Ky.) running back Damien Harris, a four-star junior who will challenge to be the top running back in the country on Scout. We all know Harris is fast and he proved that again by clocking in the 4.3s in his 40 yard dash. But he also showed grit, toughness and great technique when it came to the pass blocking drills. He took on some of the camp's most physical linebackers and won his reps. We also had a chance to see him catch the ball a little bit, something we had already known he could do from past events. He has shown time and time again that he is a complete all around back and did nothing to diminish his standing as our top prospect in the Midwest.
247's Barton Simmons called Harris "dominant" and stated Michigan and Ohio State are on top in Harris's recruitment right now. Another program recently entered the picture, however. Harris is slated to visit this weekend for Michigan's Junior Day; his other planned trip is to the latest school to enter the picture, Alabama, per Trieu ($):
The Wolverines are one of the schools he will visit in the near future. The other school is Alabama, his most recent offer.
"I'm going up to Michigan on the 23rd of this month then I'm taking a visit to Alabama on March 1st but after that I don't really know. I haven't made any plans for spring or who I'm going to check out for spring ball. I'll probably do that soon."
With Harris planning to extend his recruitment until Signing Day, the Tide have plenty of time to work their way towards the top of his list. Based on the quotes Harris has given since his decommitment, however, including this one to Land Grant Holy Land (SBNation's OSU outlet), Michigan will still be the team to beat going forward:
"Like I said earlier, my interest in [Michigan] hasn't gone down. I don't not like them as much as I did before, there's really nowhere I like more than that. But with coach Borges being gone, it's hard going somewhere with someone who didn't recruit you."
The latter part is why Harris took a step back; if he develops the a similar comfort level with Doug Nussmeier as he had with Al Borges and sees improvement in Michigan's offense, he should end up back in the fold.
Meanwhile, Michigan is making a strong push for 2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, who visited campus last weekend. He said as much to 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
"Yeah," Weber said on Wednesday when asked if the Wolverines are trending with him. "They are on me hard."
The Wolverines looked to be the clear leader early in Weber's recruitment before Harris committed and interest between both parties seemingly waned, allowing Michigan State to become Weber's leader; he even considered committing to MSU back in November. With Michigan redoubling their efforts to land Weber, however, the battle between the two in-state powers is pretty even at this point.
One 2015 running back you can cross off your wish list is recently offered TX four-star Ronald Jones II, who gave this refreshingly honest quote to Scout's new Midwest intern, Eric Rutter ($):
“[Michigan] probably won’t [be visited] to be honest,” said Jones. “If there is a great opportunity away from home then I would take it, but I would say location would be a factor.”
[Hit THE JUMP for new offers, visit reactions from last weekend, Shaun Crawford runnin' real fast, and more.]
For a brief period a few years ago, there was some weirdo in the student section who would head up to the concessions at halftime, drop fifty bucks on hot dogs, return to his seat, wave his arms about, and chuck foil-clad meat missiles at the most enthusiastic folks around him. He was a hero. A couple games into this era, the students started a rhythmic chant for him.
"HOT. DOG. GUY."
"HOT. DOG. GUY."
This was fun! It was ours.
Michigan kicked him out of three consecutive games, until he stopped. Or stopped coming.
It's time for another internet-wide fret about the kids and how they don't like the live football anymore, this one spawned by a Darren Rovell article. (I know, I know. This article is good and does not expose you to Rovell's personality.) In said article, there's the usual platter of disturbing stats…
Arizona sold 10,376 student season tickets this year. But 47.6 percent of those students, for an average game, didn't even show up.
This year, the University of Michigan drew the most fans of any school for the 16th year in a row. But 26 percent of students who paid for their tickets didn't show up at an average home game this season. That's an increase from 25 percent last year and 21 percent in 2011.
"We have to solve this because we are talking about the season ticket-holders of tomorrow," said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. "But interests and attitudes are changing so rapidly it's not easy to quickly identify what we need to do."
…and the hope that having wifi will fix everything, which it won't. (But don't let that stop you.)
While this is a nationwide problem, Rovell's article touches on Michigan specifically in a couple spots. He talks to a reasonable-sounding Michigan senior:
"I've kind of accepted that I'm not getting reception in and around Michigan Stadium," [Adam] Stillman said. "The problem is in all the other areas. There's nothing to do while I'm waiting on line for an hour to get into the stadium, and there's little added value from being in the stands watching the game."
I was pro-general admission when it was announced, but if its goal was to get more students to the game on time, it is a failed policy. The slight increase in no-shows is worse than it looks—possibly much worse. 2012's home schedule had one attraction, Michigan State. The other games were against Air Force, UMass, Illinois, Northwestern, and a 4-8 Iowa. 2013 had a night game against Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. The only games after the season took a turn for the grim in East Lansing were those Nebraska and OSU games. What is the no-show rate going to be next year? I'd be shocked if Michigan doesn't crack 30%.
Is there anything that can be done about this? I mean, you're just not going to reach the people I had to deal about ten years ago who would wander in during the second quarter smelling like an overturned truck of Jack Daniels. Those folks seem to be proliferating, and the only thing you can do is figure out ways to punish them and drive them away.
The university's attempts to rein in bad actors with first the validation program and then general admission have made it difficult to flip student tickets and then made them unattractive to non-students. Tickets remain cheap enough that a large chunk of the students don't care about wasting that money. The result is large pockets of empty seats.
It's time to end the war on crappy student fans
Yes, some of these 18-year-olds are intolerable. But fighting them doesn't do anything for you. The main thing it does is make things worse for the 75% who do show up. Michigan has continually raised the bar on the students at the same time their interest level is dropping. The results are, in retrospect, predictable.
The alternative is to offer carrots instead of sticks. Michigan tried that with the "HAIL" program, which was a failure in year one, totally revamped in year two, and is probably two or three years away from being quietly assassinated in an alley. This is because it offers you a t-shirt; it was always an attempt to give the appearance of a carrot without spending any money.
The right move is to be good to your fans. Michigan has gotten continually worse. Blasting an ad—and yes, it is an ad—for renting out the stadium or exhorting people to follow you on twitter is unpleasant. Having to scream at the person next to you to be heard is the kind of thing that makes you walk out of a restaurant. Michigan does that at every available opportunity. Ever-increasing prices, hour-long waits to get into the stadium, ushers who kick you out for throwing marshmallows… all of these things are a drag on your future revenue base.
It's time to be less focused on the next quarter's budget and more focused on building an environment that will induct the next generation into your cult.
Instead, the athletic department is more concerned with policing behavior that they cannot change. The current generation of suits spent their days at Michigan buying tickets for their kegs and throwing toilet paper willy-nilly. These days, a weirdo who buys hot dogs at halftime and tosses them around the section gets kicked out.
Football is supposed to be fun, and it's not really that much fun these days. The athletic department took the initiative to stomp on every student tradition they found 1% threatening. Now the students have taken the initiative away from the athletic department by not caring anymore. They win.
I'm not sure trying to make Michigan athletics the most awesome place in the country to see a game is going to work, but it's clear that something has to change if this slide is going to be arrested. Being mean didn't work. Try being nice. Meaningfully.
No he's not facepalming; he just can't see. [monuMental's classic]
Once more under the lights, dear friends. To the surprise of exactly nobody the final Michigan-Notre Dame meeting will be at night. Via MGoBlue:
The University of Michigan football team will face Notre Dame in a night game for the fourth consecutive season. Notre Dame and NBC Sports announced Thursday (Feb. 20) the Wolverines and Fighting Irish will play at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
The primetime game will be televised nationally on NBC, and is the last scheduled meeting between the two rivals.
I don't think we can avoid it: we're going to have to have an official MGoBlog tailgate now. Yes, probably with at least one former player. Yes, I've been talking to Jared.
Committed tailgaters (and people with incomes tied to ratings) are asked to do their rejoicing away from the MGoshutterbugs, since it's ND's policy to make the away team's photographers stand on the sideline opposite the press box and shoot directly into the lights.
Upchurch—let it not be said I'm looking out for you man.
The helmets are made extra shiny for maximum glare.
SOUNDS ENCOURAGING. Oy.
Michigan OL coach Darrell Funk says young linemen must move forward, 'we don't have any choice'
I already bombarded you with grim news about the OL yesterday, so I'll forgo that today.
Ten second impact: minimal. Patrick Vint went back to a few games of a hyperspeed nature to find out how many penalties would have been issued if you couldn't snap the ball until 29 seconds were left on the shot clock. Answer: a few. Auburn would have gotten hit four times in the Alabama game, presumably just by a second or two. It's really hard to get a play off within ten seconds of the previous one's end.
It still seems virtually guaranteed that the rule won't pass; even if it does it's not a huge shift in the game.
Stats by conference. They now exist on Kenpom and validate the steep drop in shot-making you have probably perceived in Big Ten games this year. The league is 30th of 32 leagues in eFG%. They're also 28th in FT rate. Even last year's Best League Ever was 28th and 25th in those metrics, but in 2012 the B10 was 8th in eFG.
The moral here is probably that these margins are very thin. The difference between the top power conference in eFG, the Big East, and the bottom, the SEC, is about two percentage points. IE, you'd see one extra make in 50 Big East shots.
One other notable thing: home dominance has plummeted this year. Home teams are at a 55% clip compared to 64% last year and 62% the year before. That's a big ol' swing.
The other side of the pit. Bill Connelly's OL stats applied to the defensive line reveal that Michigan was slightly below average at rushing the passer, good at preventing runs of more than five yards, and bad at holding up in short yardage and getting TFLs.
IE: their defensive line was bad. That's not a huge surprise given the obvious things like playing former WDEs at nose tackle and the still-inexplicable absence of Quinton Washington.
It's not good. Gasaway's Tuesday Truths have one over-arching truth for Michigan fans:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Iowa 8-4 68.5 1.13 1.00 +0.13 2. Michigan St. 10-3 63.7 1.10 0.98 +0.12 3. Wisconsin 8-5 62.9 1.12 1.03 +0.09 4. Michigan 10-3 61.8 1.15 1.07 +0.08 5. Ohio St. 7-6 63.7 1.02 0.97 +0.05 6. Minnesota 6-7 62.9 1.06 1.07 -0.01 7. Purdue 5-7 64.7 0.99 1.03 -0.04 8. Indiana 4-8 64.9 0.97 1.02 -0.05 9. Nebraska 6-6 63.9 0.96 1.02 -0.06 10. Penn St. 4-9 66.2 0.99 1.08 -0.09 11. Illinois 3-10 63.8 0.94 1.04 -0.10 12. Northwestern 5-8 60.9 0.88 1.02 -0.14 AVG. 64.1 1.03
That is: they are the worst defense in the league save for Penn State.
Oh no. Please don't. No one else can possibly wear a suit. Iowa's athletic director preserves the Big Ten's most precious tradition: making grandiose promises to quit if players get a larger slice of the revenue pile.
Barta suggests a pay-to-play system would force schools to put a monetary value on the different levels of competition in all collegiate sports.
"And I'll probably choose to do something else for a living if we ever had to go that route because it's so complex," Barta says. "Do you pay the Division III football player as an employee? Do you pay the tennis student athlete as an employee?"
I should probably be his replacement because I can figure out those two answers immediately: no, and no. Neither is involved in economic activity for their school since their programs are not making money and are therefore charity cases instead of employees.
[HT: Get the Picture.]
Defensive rotation. With Michael Downing and Andrew Sinelli both suspended for Friday's game after hits to the head against the Gophers, Michigan really needs some help. They will get it in the form of Kevin Lohan, who returns from injury after missing 19 games. Mike Chiasson will also draw in to a struggling blue line. Also returning is Alex Guptill and his wildly varying levels of involvement.
Etc.: Women's gymnastics beats Nebraska to take the Big Ten lead. Softball kicks off their season with a 4-1 trip. Dee Hart booted from Alabama for a pot possession charge. Lists of top recruiting classes over long periods of time always point out Michigan as a good recruiting school that sucks despite the recruiting; there really needs to be a recruiting + attrition study.
OR: JABRILL PEPPERS AND COMFORTING UNCERTAINTY
Three receivers make this post. This guy isn't one of them.
For the first time in years, Michigan's depth chart isn't patched together with duct tape and hope, so the incoming freshmen of 2014 don't have as many opportunities for early playing time as past classes. This is worth celebrating, especially when one particular freshman is poised to make a big impact at a position with some experienced depth anyway.
After Jabrill Peppers, there isn't a clear role for any of the incoming freshmen, and getting this list up to five involved a few reach picks. Again, this is good. Without further ado, here's the list.
1. JABRILL PEPPERS, CB/KR/PR (6'1, 210; 5*, 247 Composite #1 ATH/CB)
Surprise! Despite the presence of four older cornerbacks with significant game experience (Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling), Peppers is simply too talented to keep off the field. He should see immediate time in Michigan's nickel package, either as the nickelback or playing on the outside with Countess in the slot, and as the season progresses he'll challenge Taylor for a starting spot—with his size, athleticism, and ability in run support, Peppers is an ideal fit on the boundary.
With apologies to Fearless Leader, I believe Peppers will make an instant impact in the return game, as well. While Dennis Norfleet consistently threatened to break long returns, they rarely materialized last year. Michigan had just one kickoff return of 40+ yards (T-89th nationally) and none of 50+; just two punt returns went for 20+ (T-58th), one 30+, and zero 40+. Averages were middling at best: 49th in kickoff returns and 91st in punt returns. Fielding kickoff returns, at the very least, would be a great way to get Peppers the ball without overwhelming him with too much responsibility. If he has a role on offense this year, it'll likely be limited to just a handful of plays.
2. FREDDY CANTEEN, SLOT (6'1, 170; 4*, #41 WR)
Canteen is the player going solo/the one with insanely quick feet
Slot receiver is one of a small number of spots with total uncertainly on the depth chart. Just two players return there: Norfleet (six career "catches" that were actually end-arounds) and sophomore Da'Mario Jones, who only saw time on special teams last year. While Doug Nussmeier may have a different outlook, thus far the coaches have been hesitant to give Norfleet a significant role. A relative unknown committed to Central Michigan before Michigan came calling, Jones never rose above middling three-star even after flipping his commitment. This spot is wide open.
Enter Freddy Canteen, who went from completely off the radar when his high school didn't play actual games in 2012 to a hot camp commodity with ever-rising rankings in 2013. At 6'1, he's got the size this coaching staff covets, and his route-running is very advanced for an incoming freshman. On top of that, he's got speed to burn and a phenomenal name. What more can one ask for? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Canteen, an early enrollee, is the starter in the slot from day one.
3. IAN BUNTING, TE/FUNCHESS (6'7, 233; 4*, #11 TE)
Photo credit: J. Geil/Chicago Sun-Times
Bunting wouldn't have cracked this list a couple weeks ago; then Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Now Michigan is down to one tight end that actually catches passes, and that's only if you believe Devin Funchess is still a tight end. AJ Williams is almost exclusively a blocker (and he's still working on that), while Jordan Paskorz is a former linebacker without a catch to his name. Khalid Hill comes off a redshirt and could factor in as an H-back, but that's about it as far as tight end depth goes. There's room for another pass-catcher.
The question is whether or not Bunting will be at all ready to put his hand in the dirt; even in high school, he did most of his damage split out wide. At 233 pounds (on a 6'7 frame), he needs to bulk up significantly to be able to hold his own as a blocker. As an enormous receiver with great hands, however, he can at least see the field as a third-down/red-zone specialist; putting him on the field with Funchess poses major matchup problems for opposing defenses.
4. BRYAN MONE, NT (6'4, 328; 4*, #8 DT)
Another player on the list due to injury on the current roster, Mone could be forced into duty at nose tackle if Ondre Pipkins is limited in his return from a torn ACL. The only other true NT on the roster is redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, who was listed at 270 pounds on last year's roster.
Mone's stock fell from near-consensus top-50 player to borderline top-100 prospect (or, in Rivals' case, flat-out three-star) after he looked overweight and out of shape at the Under Armour game. Mone put on a ton of weight in a short period of time before his senior season and it clearly affected his conditioning. Luckily for Michigan, he's enrolled early, so efforts to turn bad weight into good are already underway. It's highly unlikely Mone is ready to play a major role, but Michigan might need him to hold his own in sporadic rotation snaps and short-yardage situations.
5. MICHAEL FERNS, ILB (6'3, 235; 4*, #6 ILB)
Another early enrollee, Ferns isn't likely to see much early action on defense. James Ross and Desmond Morgan have the two ILB spots locked down, and both have viable backups with playing experience in Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden. If there's an injury, however, Ferns is the incoming linebacker best suited to see the field with his size and status as an EE.
Ferns also fits right in on special teams—with his athleticism, he could make an immediate impact on coverage units. This will be a frustrating way to burn a redshirt if Ferns doesn't get some in-game experience at linebacker, but it's inevitable that the coaches will burn a linebacker's redshirt for special teams, and it may as well be the one most ready to see the field.
HONORABLE MENTION: WRs DRAKE HARRIS & MOE WAYS
Both Harris and Ways look like college-ready receivers; Harris benefits from enrolling early, while Ways has the bulk and blocking ability to see the field as a freshman. They'd be higher on the list if playing time on the outside wasn't so hard to come by. Funchess and Jehu Chesson should lock down the starting spots, Amara Darboh is another starting candidate now that he's healthy, and two other options come off redshirts in Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.
Harris is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him his entire senior season. Ways made great strides from his junior to senior seasons but could still use some, er, seasoning. It'd be great if Michigan was able to redshirt both of these guys, especially if Canteen can also contribute on the outside.
Matt Hinton has annually done the yeoman’s work showing year after year showing how recruiting rankings matter. Brian linked to this year’s edition already and it’s worth taking a look at. Building off of that idea, I wanted to look at which teams and coaches were the biggest over and under achievers in the business.
Every recruit gets a numerical rating from 0 (anonymous MAC recruit) to 99 (consensus #1 rated recruit) based on all available recruiting services.
Each player on the roster is given an adjustment factor based on how old they are. 75% reduction for first year players up to a 60% bump for upperclassmen.
This generates a total point value for each roster based on attrition, age/experience and recruiting rankings. The top teams since 2003 are dominated by Pete Carroll era USC. His 2005-09 teams take up 5 of the top 7 spots along with 2006 LSU and 2006 Miami.
Each game since 2003 is then compared against each team’s roster rating and the final score. The resulting best fit is 0.007 * (Home Team’s Roster Rating – Road Team’s Roster Rating)+4 –> Final margin. The R squared is .17.
There is obviously a lot of variance that goes into every game but there is no doubt that there is a strong correlation between recruiting success and team success. Today we’ll take a look at the teams and coaches that have maximized and wasted their talents the most.
Stars Don’t Matter (In a Good Way)
Using the above calculated fit, I looked at each true home game since 2003 and compared roster predicted results with actual game scores.
Over the last 11 seasons, the biggest overachieving teams have been:
|Team||Points vs Recruiting|
Not a lot of surprises on the list, five teams that have certainly had success beyond their recruiting profiles. Boise dominates the list with their amazing run of late and little to no major recruiting wins.
Northern Illinois made the list with four different coaches while TCU did it all under Gary Patterson.
Here is how the Big Ten stacks up (Big Ten games only):
|Team||Points vs Recruiting|
Wisconsin has been the clear leader and right behind are Iowa and the Big Ten’s biggest cheerleader for Star’s Don’t Matter, Michigan St. Despite being the Big Ten’s strongest recruiter, OSU has still managed to generate above average results from their talent. Michigan sits at the low end of the spectrum, down over 5 points per game versus talent and ahead of only Indiana and Illinois.
Other conference results from conference games only:
Best: Texas A&M (+13), Missouri (+7), Alabama! (+7)
Worst: Tennessee (-10), Ole Miss (-5)
Best: Missouri (+9), Oklahoma St (+7)
Worst: Kansas (-7), Texas A&M (-6)
Best: Oregon (+13), Oregon St (+9)
Worst: Colorado (-19), UCLA (-6)
Best: Virginia Tech (+11), Georgia Tech (+7)
Worst: Miami (-9), Duke (-5)
Best: West Virginia (+10), Virginia Tech(+9)
Worst: Syracuse (-7), Pitt (-3)
Ranking the Coaches
For some programs the coach and the team are interchangeable but here are how the 2014 Big Ten coaches have done as head coaches at all of their D1 stops since 2003.
|Coach||Team||Points vs Recruiting|
|James Franklin||Penn St||+12.0|
|Urban Meyer||Ohio St||+6.7|
|Mark Dantonio||Michigan St||+4.3|
The East and the West may be highly imbalanced in terms of recruiting profile but they are pretty balanced in what the coaches have done with the talent. James Franklin has the second shortest head coaching tenure on the list, so there are some sample size issues, but James Franklin has so far proven himself to be a significant over achiever with his talent. Coach Hoke sits in in the middle of the back at slightly above average. Hoke’s numbers have progressed at each stop in his career, going from –0.4 at Ball St, +1.0 at San Diego St and +4.9 so far at Michigan.
Lloyd Carr’s five eligible years would have put him towards the bottom of the list at –2.9. Carr presided over some stacked teams and Michigan’s style often meant closer games than the talent would dictate. Of all the disastrous metric for RichRod, this may be the worst. After going +14.5 at West Virginia, his three years at Michigan inverted and were –13.9 versus what the roster would project. In his two years Arizona he has moved toward the middle at +4.3.
Here are your top rated coaches of the last 11 seasons with at least 4 season.
|Coach||Points vs Recruiting||Primary School|
|Chris Petersen||+20||Boise St|
|Kevin Sumlin||+15||Texas A&M/Houston|
|Jimbo Fisher||+11||Florida St|
|Paul Johnson||+10||Georgia Tech/Navy|
|Frank Beamer||+10||Virginia Tech|
Looking Ahead To 2014
I am hoping to have a post up later this offseason about the “secret sauce” for BCS champions, but one thing they all share is a place in the top 10-12 spots of roster success. As noted above, there is lots of variance in the middle, but if you want to play for a championship, you have to have an elite roster. Projecting 2014 rosters is a bit tricky on a large scale, but here are my early projections for roster strength for this coming season.
|Projected Rank||Team||Conference||Coach Rating|
|5||Ohio St||Big Ten||+6.7|
Each of the five auto-qualifying conferences have at least one team on the list and the Pac 12 is the only one with a single entry. Unsurprisingly, the SEC leads the list with five entries.
If you are looking for early title favorites, take the top coaches ratings for the 12 on this list and that leaves Texas, Bama, Ohio St, Auburn and Florida St as the first teams I would look at.