rundown of Michigan's riser
Sitting at my desk and waiting for the next “Hello” post to arrive, I have been studying the recruiting success we've had since Hoke & Co's arrival and trying to figure out how excited I should be about 2013 and beyond. The goal, obviously, is to build a program that is competing for B1G and National Championships every year. But how good does our recruiting have to be in order to accomplish that?
In Part I, I took a look at how the dark lord himself managed to put together one of the most dominant runs in college football history. Nick Saban's Alabama teams are loaded with blue chip recruits, but he also oversigns every year. To him, a scholarship is really just an offer to try out for the Crimson Tide, and kids that aren't cutting it are sent packing for whatever reason Saban can use to justify booting them (his favorite is “violating team rules”). I hope Michigan never uses the oversigning methods of the SEC, but we will have to find players that make a similar impact if we're going to compete with those programs.
So what does it mean to have a roster that can compete with Alabama? CHART!
These charts represent Saban's '07-'09 classes, with the bars representing the IMPACT rating. Like Hoke, Saban's first class was composed almost entirely of his predecessor's recruits. And, like Hoke, Saban's next two classes were relatively large and represented a significant improvement over his first class.
For the time period, the average Saban recruit was a 5.78 Rivals Rating. This is roughly equivalent to a low four-star recruit. And as the chart shows, the rankings do matter. Referring back to Part I, this chart compares the impact of recruits with their Rivals Rating. Briefly, a high impact is better; a “1” is a player that did not contribute during his career at 'Bama, a “2” is a minor contirbutor or role player, and a “3” is a solid starter or better. Perhaps the most important thing about the rankings is that there is a clear trend that the higher you are ranked, the less likely it is that you will end-up a non-factor (IMPACT of 1). On a percentage basis, the 5.8 players actually out-performed the 5.9 and 6.0 players, but the general trend is that the more highly-rated players are more likely to contribute.
It helps Saban that the sample size of 5.6 or lower recruits is very small. His roster is composed, almost exclusively, of very highly-rated three-star or better recruits (5.7 or better). His reputation for finding diamonds in the rough—as far as I can tell—is complete myth. His highly-rated prospects produce; his lower-rated prospects (the few that even stay in Tuscaloosa) generally do not contribute.
So how does this compare to Michigan? Chart? Chart!
|Blake Countess||DB||5'10"||171||4.5||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Raymon Taylor||ATH||5'10"||167||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Desmond Morgan||LB||6'1"||225||4.7||3 stars||5.5||3|
|Brennen Beyer||DE||6'4"||222||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Frank Clark||LB||6'2"||210||4.5||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Thomas Rawls||RB||5'10"||214||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Matt Wile||K||6'2"||210||2 stars||5.3||2|
|Justice Hayes||RB||5'10"||175||4.4||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Chris Barnett||TE||6'6"||245||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Chris Bryant||OL||6'5"||330||4 stars||5.6||1|
|Kellen Jones||LB||6'1"||209||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Delonte Hollowell||DB||5'8"||162||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Antonio Poole||LB||6'2"||210||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Rock||DE||6'5"||250||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Greg Brown||DB||5'10"||180||4.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Tamani Carter||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Tony Posada||OL||6'6"||315||5.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Russell Bellomy||QB||6'3"||178||4.6||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Keith Heitzman||DE||6'3"||237||4.9||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Jack Miller||DE||6'4"||268||4.8||3 stars||5.5||1|
Michigan's 2011 class numbered 20 recruits. I would expect that classes will average 20-24 recruits under Hoke (mean of 22). This accounts for attrition, and basically divides the team into five classes: RS Freshmen, Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Saban, working with the same number of scholarships, averaged 27.7 recruits in his first three classes, and has averaged exactly 25 commitments per class since then. That means he's getting three extra chances at a good player every year. This is a big difference, but not insurmountable.
The 2011 Michigan class was damaged by transfers, but nothing like Saban's 2007 group. Ten (!) players from Saban's first class did not finish their careers at 'Bama. Hoke, so far, has lost six of his first class to transfers, and it appears unlikely he'll lose any more: of the remaining 14 players, 11 have played and two are front-runners for starting positions on the 2013 O-line (Jack Miller and Chris Bryant). That leaves only Antonio Poole, who was a 5.7 (highest 3-star) on Rivals and a 4-star on Scout. With Michigan loaded at LB, Poole may end-up transferring due to a lack of playing time—there's about a 50-50 chance of him contributing in some way during his career.
The 2011 Michigan class' average Rivals Rating was 5.62. Take out the kicker (Wile) and the average jumps to 5.64 ('Bama did not recruit a kicker in '07). This is a clear disadvantage compared to 'Bama's 5.70 average.
But the real bottom line is production. Saban turned 9 members of that class into contributing players, and four of those were all-stars. Will Michigan find similar success? I actually think we'll do better on average, if not at the top. Here are the guys and their projected IMPACT at the end of their careers:
- Blake Countess - 3
- Ramon Taylor - 3
- Desmond Morgan - 3
- Keith Heitzman - 3
- Brennen Beyer - 2
- Frank Clark - 2
- Thomas Rawls - 2
- Justice Hayes - 2
- Chris Bryant - 2
- Jack Miller - 2
- Delonte Hollowell - 1
- Antonio Poole - 1
- Russell Bellomy - 1
- Matt Wile - 3
That's 10 productive players (11 counting the kicker), four of whom I believe have a good chance of being drafted. I also believe my grading has been pretty harsh—several of those 2's could be 3's, and only one of the 3's (Heitzman) is a guy who hasn't fully proven himself. Bryant, Miller, and Beyer seem the most likely to become 3's, but Rawls, Hayes, and Clark all have game experience and are certainly not out of the running. That said, RB's usually show something early in their career if they will have an impact later in their career. 2013 is likely their last chance.
The final verdict is that this class appears poised to produce a lighter top than 'Bama's 2007 group, but a thicker middle. The group will probably be more productive on paper, but lacks the All-American types. On to class #2...
|Joe Bolden||LB||6'2"||225||4 stars||5.8||2|
|James Ross||LB||6'0"||209||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||5'7"||170||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||6'3"||215||4.7||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Devin Funchess||TE||6'5"||205||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||6'3"||325||5.2||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||6'5"||302||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Erik Magnuson||OL||6'6"||275||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Jarrod Wilson||DB||6'2"||190||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Terry Richardson||DB||5'9"||160||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Tom Strobel||DE||6'6"||245||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||6'2"||215||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Blake Bars||OL||6'5"||275||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Amara Darboh||WR||6'2"||190||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Jeremy Clark||DB||6'4"||205||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Christopher Wormley||DE||6'6"||270||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Matthew Godin||DT||6'6"||270||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||6'0"||219||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Ben Braden||OL||6'6"||285||3 stars||5.7||1|
|A.J. Williams||TE||6'6"||260||4.9||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Allen Gant||DB||6'2"||210||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Willie Henry||DT||6'2"||270||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Drake Johnson||RB||6'1"||200||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||6'3"||182||4.5||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Sione Houma||RB||6'0"||211||4.5||3 stars||5.5||1|
Saban's second class was epic in terms of quality and quantity—like the extended version of Return of the King—loading-up 32 recruits with an average Rivals Rating of 5.81. Hoke's second class follows the trend of his first, with 25 commitments averaging 5.75—the same difference in average rating as their first classes. 15 'Bama players from the 2008 class were contributors, and ten earned an IMPACT value of 3. All ten of those guys are in the NFL or headed there. Seven more players from Saban's group busted at 'Bama, and the rest were sent out to pasture. Will Hoke's first full class produce ten NFL-bound starters and five role players? This group requires a bit more explaining:
- Joe Bolden - 3 – Already demonstrated ability to play at high level
- Dennis Norfleet - 3 – Value in return game will skyrocket, but will he play much otherwise?
- James Ross - 3 – Either Ross or Bolden will probably be a 3-year starter...maybe both
- Devin Funchess - 3 – Best receiving TE talent at UM in recent memory
- Mario Ojemudia - 3 – Showed flashes in 2012, IMO will pass Beyer and Clark on depth chart
- Ondre Pipkins - 3 – Highly-touted recruit has controlled his weight and should start in 2013
- Kyle Kalis - 3 – Beast projected to be a four-year starter
- Erik Magnuson - 3 – Giving the highest-rated lineman the best chance to end-up a multi-year starter
- Amara Darboh - 3 – Burned redshirt because of physical talent; either he or Chesson will likely start multiple seasons
- Jarrod Wilson - 3 – Starting in 2013? Maybe, but almost certainly starting in 2014 and beyond
- Blake Bars - 2 – One more lineman from this class will have to contribute
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2 – RJS is a solid four-star whose biggest challenge is the loaded LB depth chart
- Terry Richardson - 2 – 50/50 on whether or not this 5.8 recruit pans out
- Tom Strobel - 2 – The 2012 class will need at least one more contributor on the D-line; Strobel and Wormley seem like the best candidantes
- AJ Williams - 2 – Will probably spend career as a blocker
- Ben Braden - 2 – Which BB will contribute? Ben Braden or Blake Bars?
- Sione Houma - 2 – Likely a blocking FB who now must compete with Shallman.
- Christopher Wormley - 2 – Massive recruit who may have helped this year if not for injury
- Jehu Chesson - 2 – System change gives Chesson and Darboh the opportunity to play early
- Jeremy Clark - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Matthew Godin - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Allen Gant - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Willie Henry - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Drake Johnson - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Kaleb Ringer - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
That's ten 3's—the same number as 'Bama—and I believe all could be successful playing on Sundays. As for the 2's, AJ Williams and Terry Richardson seem like locks to be multi-year contributors if not starters, and the rest will probably end-up splitting 50/50. That means four or five will wind-up helping the team and the rest—along with the 1's—will probably not offer much.
It's VERY important to me that no one takes this the wrong way. I am not, in any way, predicting that specific kids will end-up as busts. I use the names only because it makes the numbers real, but the truth is that my predictions are based on limited evidence and my statistical analysis. I sincerely apologize to any player or person who is offended by these projections; again, it is not personal, just my best attempt to predict recruiting success at Michigan.
The bottom line for this class is, IMO, very good. I believe that, compared to 'Bama's '08 class, we'll get similar numbers in terms of quality contributors and role players, despite having seven fewer recruits. But will this group have star power to compare with the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Mark Ingram? I don't see a Heisman winner on this list, but Ross, Bolden, Funchess, Kalis, and Pipkins all have a very good chance at being All-B1G and first-half NFL draft choices, IMO. Time will tell if they compare to 'Bama, but the numbers are kind. The average Rivals Rating of 'Bama's ten players who earned a 3 is 5.82; Michigan's average of the players I have projected to be 3's is 5.85. Hoke's first haul lacks stars at the skill positions like Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, but it may be just as productive and yield early draft choices on the lines and at LB.
|Derrick Green||RB||6'0"||220||4.4||5 stars||6.1|
|Henry Poggi||DT||6'4"||260||4 stars||6|
|Patrick Kugler||OL||6'5"||280||5.1||4 stars||6|
|Shane Morris||QB||6'3"||183||4.6||4 stars||6|
|Jourdan Lewis||DB||5'10"||159||4.7||4 stars||5.9|
|Dymonte Thomas||DB||6'2"||192||4.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Mike McCray||LB||6'4"||230||4.6||4 stars||5.9|
|Kyle Bosch||OL||6'5"||311||5.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Chris Fox||OL||6'6"||297||4 stars||5.9|
|Jake Butt||TE||6'6"||235||4 stars||5.9|
|Ross Douglas||DB||5'10"||180||4.4||4 stars||5.8|
|Delano Hill||DB||6'0"||198||4.4||4 stars||5.8|
|Taco Charlton||DE||6'6"||249||4.9||4 stars||5.8|
|Ben Gedeon||LB||6'3"||215||4 stars||5.8|
|David Dawson||OL||6'4"||282||5.5||4 stars||5.8|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||OL||6'7"||307||4 stars||5.8|
|Wyatt Shallman||RB||6'3"||245||4.7||4 stars||5.8|
|Channing Stribling||DB||6'2"||170||4.5||3 stars||5.7|
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||6'2"||305||3 stars||5.7|
|Deveon Smith||RB||5'11"||218||3 stars||5.7|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||6'4"||197||4.6||3 stars||5.7|
|Csont'e York||WR||6'3"||185||3 stars||5.7|
|Reon Dawson||DB||6'2"||175||4.4||3 stars||5.6|
|Dan Samuelson||OL||6'5"||275||5.3||3 stars||5.6|
|Khalid Hill||TE||6'2"||230||3 stars||5.6|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||6'2"||185||4.4||3 stars||5.6|
|Scott Sypniewski||OL||6'1"||230||2 stars||5.2|
The 2013 class is, by far, the most difficult to project. Obvious is obvious—these guys have not yet seen the field as college players and all of my predictions will be based on pure speculation. But how does Hoke's third effort compare to Saban's 2009 class?
To review, Saban's '09 class was another big one—27 recruits following the 33 from '08—and was chock full of talent, producing an average Rivals Rating of 5.83 with four 5-star (6.1) players. The class delivered in a big way, with all of those 5-star players earning 3's, and three of them becoming absolute studs. Six more players from Saban's third class earned 3's (for a total of ten) and the class had all-stars Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, AJ McCarron, DJ Fluker, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Chance Warmack. Three more players earned 2's, giving the class 13 total contributors. Those 13 players had an average Rivals Rating of 5.9—a top 150 recruit.
Michigan's 2013 class also had 27 recruits. The average Rivals Rating for Team 134 commitments is 5.79—just .04 below 'Bama's third class. Take out of long-snapper ('Bama had no specialists in its '09 class) and the average jumps to 5.81—a ridiculously good average that is basically equivalent to a low 4-star recruit. Will Michigan's class produce ten players who earn 3 IMPACT ratings and a handful more of 2's? I believe so. Will Michigan's class produce star power similar 'Bama's '09 group? I doubt it. Saban reeled-in four 5-star (6.1) recruits, one 6.0, and seven 5.9's. Michigan had just one 6.1, but did have three 6.0's to go with six 5.9's. That means Saban's class had two more blue chip recruits, which is a significant statistical advantage in that it probably means one more all-star or high impact player. But from a total team perspective, the difference is smaller. Michigan's group should still produce a similar number of 2's and 3's on the IMPACT scale. Here is my ridiculously uninformed, way-too-early, obnoxiously long, and somewhat offensive projection for each Michigan recruit:
- Derrick Green - 3 – Seems like a perfect fit for the system and the depth chart is shallow at RB
- Henry Poggi - 3 – Worst-case scenario (if healthy), Poggi is Ryan Van Bergen
- Patrick Kugler - 3 – Son-of-a-coach at a position where 2013's projected starter is a converted D-lineman
- Shane Morris - 3 – Shane or Wilton Speight is likely to be a multi-year starter; could be #2 in 2013
- Dymonte Thomas - 3 – If it's possible to a sleeper as a 5.9 recruit, he is; already enrolled
- Mike McCray - 3 – Could follow Jake Ryan as the next great Michigan SAM
- Kyle Bosch - 3 – Nasty man with college size and an early enrollee
- Chris Fox - 3 – We are still a bit short OT's after 2013; likely multi-year starter
- Jake Butt - 3 – Early enrollee will almost ceratinly play significant minutes in 2013
- Taco Charlton - 3 – Will Taco be the best pure pass-rusher on the 2013 team? Already enrolled.
- Jourdan Lewis - 2 – Not tall; great athlete but IMO a 50/50 shot at becoming starter
- Ross Douglas - 2 – Another 50/50 player; he or Lewis probably pans out; already enrolled
- Delano Hill - 2 – Safety is actually becoming a pretty loaded position; Hill has a 50/50 shot
- Ben Gedeon - 2 – Like this kid's character, so he's a 3 in my heart, but LB is loaded
- David Dawson - 2 – Great prospect, but our O-line is suddenly loaded on the interior
- Logan Tuley-Tillman - 2 – Massive man who will benefit from his early enrollment
- Wyatt Shallman - 2 – Probably destined for FB or DT; will probably be a great role player
- Maurice Hurst Jr. - 2 – I believe this kid is a sleeper
- Deveon Smith - 2 – More suited to Michigan's style than current backs
- Jaron Dukes - 2 – Conspicuously good production in HS against good DB's
- Khalid Hill - 2 – TE is still a thin position for Michigan; Hill will have a chance to contribute
- Da'Mario Jones - 2 – Only the recruiting services thought this kid was a 3-star
- Scott Sypniewski - 1 – Long snappers are long snappers
- Csont'e York - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Reon Dawson - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Dan Samuelson - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Channing Stribling - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
Of the twelve players that were projected as 2's, it's likely that about half will end-up as non-factors. The other half will be some combination of 2's and 3's, and a couple of the projected 3's will end-up as 2's or busts. That leaves this class with about ten 3's, five 2's, and twelve 1's. This is roughly equivalent to what 'Bama produced from their third class in terms of IMPACT.
Hoke's recruits from these first three classes will probably be more productive than Saban's because the Michigan roster was in much worse shape for two reasons: 'Bama's '06 class was loaded with talent while Michigan's 2010 group was a 3-star party; and Saban inherited a roster much more suited to his style than did Hoke. So while it may seem like my projections have been generous, I do believe Michigan will crank out 3's and 2's at a high rate from these first three classes, partly out of necessity. But the numbers indicate that these players will be highly productive, but not quite the all-stars that the Tide crank out year after year.
Michigan has some important statistical disadvantages. The first is pure numbers: Saban brought in 11 more commitments than Hoke did in his first three years. I believe this comparative weakness will be mostly—if not completely—overcome by the character of the Michigan commits. Not only does Saban dump players who are less talented, he also loses more guys to crime and grades than does Hoke, and my guess is that Hoke will probably have fewer pure busts. I do believe Hoke can overcome the roughly three player per class disadvantage. Overall, just looking at limited numbers, I would guess that the actual advantage is only about one extra player per recruiting cycle due to the Tide's willingness to take kids that are good at football but not so good at life.
The second difference is the talent of the recruits. Saban's first three classes hold a .05 average Rivals Rating advantage over Hoke's, and the chart above tells the story: Saban got more top level recruits in his first three classes. Notice the big differences in 5.9, 6.0, and 6.1 recruits. Saban had 29 commits fall into those categories—more than a third (35%) of his '07-'09 commitments. Hoke has had just 14, representing less than 1/5 (19%) of Michigan's signees. In fact, the only ratings in which Michigan picked-up more recruits than 'Bama are the 5.5 and 5.6 levels, which are low-to-mid 3-star types.
Michigan also has underwhelming talent and/or depth at a couple of positions where the Tide is loaded: RB and WR. Treadwell chose the Ole Miss snake oil, leaving Michigan with only 3-star recruits at WR (though I believe two of those prospects were underrated) and 'Bama grabs 4-star WR's on a consistent basis. At RB, Michigan's 2013 class is excellent, but it will take another year or two of classes like that to have comparable talent to 'Bama.
D-Line is another spot where Michigan is still thin; the Heininger Certainty Principle helps here, but we'll still need pass-rushers. Saban recruits DE's to play OLB in his 3-4 scheme, so he uses different bodies in different ways, but he recruits DE/LB types very heavily, and 2-3 DT's every year as well. I expect Michigan to be recruiting 3-5 D-line prospects every year going forward
Saban tends to take lots of lower-rated OL recruits and still turns them into stars. His strategy seems to be to simply get five or six OL commits every year and turn a couple into All-SEC types while the rest land on the trash heap. Positionally, that seems to be the only real difference among Hoke and Saban's targets—Michigan's focus on the best possible O-line players and 'Bama's relative ignorance of that position in terms of Rivals Ratings.
The bottom line is that Saban signed more players and got better talent in his first three tries than did Hoke. That said, Hoke's focus on character mitigates those disadvantages by having fewer misses and getting more out of his players. But in order to build a juggernaut, we will probably need classes that are consistently as strong as our 2013 haul. And while Hoke's latest effort is on par with Saban's early classes, 'Bama has continued to improve the quality of their recruits: 2013 is Saban's best class yet.
The talent gap is still there, but it seems to be closing. Can character and coaching help build a national champion in Ann Arbor? Time will tell.
We have moved into recruiting season--a time when Michigan fans can tell their wives, girlfriends, and whomever else that there will be less to read about with football season over. Of course, the way Hoke and Co. recruit, this is perhaps the most exciting time to be checking MgoBlog, as “Hello” posts are more common during this stretch than any other. So instead of watching and re-watching every snap from games, we'll be ogling recruits and commits on youtube, critiquing the professionals' evaluations of high school football players, and arguing over the deeper meaning of a seventeen-year-old's tweets.
And on that note, I thought it would be interesting to see just how Michigan is doing in building a perennial B1G—and perhaps national—Championship contender. As the saying goes, “It's not the X's and O's but the Jimmies and Joes.” This is, of course, a reference to the fact that talent trumps scheme. And while I certainly believe a better-coached and prepared team can defeat a more talented sloppy team, the field is always tilted to the side with the better athletes.
I have broken this into two parts—both are VERY long. The first (this one) is a look at how the game's unquestionable hegemon built a behemoth program from the ashes of Alabama football. Do NOT mistake this for an endorsement of Saban's methods—as this diary will point out, they are somewhat deplorable. It is, however, a valid reference point for the construction of what we all hope will be our own Juggernaut, and these comparisons will be explored in Part II.
So, on to
satan's Saban's story...
Alabama's championships have come in 2009, 2011, and 2012. There is no doubt that Saban's first three classes formed the core of his 2011 and 2012 championship squads, but they were also HUGE contributors to his 2009 crystal football. This gives us some hope for our own 2013 campaign, but, more importantly offers context for expectations in 2015, when the Hoke recruits will form the entire team.
|Kareem Jackson||DB||5'10"||185||4.5||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Marquis Maze||ATH||5'9"||160||4.4||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Rolando McClain||LB||6'4"||240||4.6||4 stars||6.0||3|
|William Vlachos||OL||6'2"||287||5.1||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Josh Chapman||DT||6'1"||280||4.9||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Luther Davis||DT||6'4"||254||4.8||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Nick Gentry||DT||6'1"||265||4.8||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Darius Hanks||WR||6'0"||168||4.6||3 stars||5.5||2|
|Alfred McCullough||DT||6'3"||297||4.9||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Patrick Crump||OL||6'3"||285||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jeremy Elder||DE||6'3"||270||4.9||2 stars||5.4||1|
|Nick Fanuzzi||QB||6'3"||200||4.6||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Tarence Farmer||DB||6'1"||190||4.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Brandon Gibson||WR||6'2"||190||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Demetrius Goode||RB||5'11"||200||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Jeramie Griffin||RB||6'0"||230||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jennings Hester||LB||6'3"||228||4.7||2 stars||5.4||1|
|Chris Lett||DB||6'2"||195||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Kerry Murphy||DT||6'5"||315||5.1||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Michael Ricks||DB||6'2"||195||4.4||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Jamar Taylor||RB||5'9"||204||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Underwood||TE||6'4"||202||2 stars||5.3||1|
|Alex Watkins||DE||6'5"||225||4.7||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Chavis Williams||DE||6'5"||220||4.6||3 stars||5.5||1|
Saban's first class (2007) is his worst, and it's not even close. This is to be expected, since he was hired January 3, 2007. The majority of that class was already in place, and not even Saban's snake oil could yield a single five-star player. The average Rivals rating of that class was 5.70, which is the equivalent of a high three-star recruit.* Compare that with his ridiculous 2013 haul (probably his best class) that has an average rating of 5.87, which is basically a top-150 recruit. Think Joe Mathis. That's their average recruit.
*Rivals ratings were used. For Rivals, a 6.1 is a five-star; 5.8-6.0 is a four-star; 5.5-5.7 is a three-star; 5.0-5.4 is a two-star. Click here for more information.
But alas, 2007 was the recruiting class of a mere mortal, with 24 commits (low for Saban). Ten of those commitments would not finish their career at 'Bama, and five more would flame-out as non-contributors. But even this relatively paltry group produced a few stars: Kareem Jackson, Marquis Maze, Rolando McClain, and William Vlachos all went on to great things with the Tide and now get (legally) paid to play. In fact, four more players from that class have signed with NFL teams, though none of them were stars at 'Bama.
This brings me to the “IMPACT” column on the charts. IMPACT is my very imperfect measurement of a player's on-field contributions to his team. Briefly, a “3” is a solid starter to All-American type; a “2” is a contributor to spot starter; a “1” is bust for whatever reason. As has been pointed out to me, a four-tiered system would be better, giving two “middle” grades and one “all-star” grade. The trouble with that system is that it requires intimate (hmmm...maybe I could have picked a better adjective there) knowledge of a player's performance in order to make an accurate judgment, especially for lineman. For example, Ryan Van Bergen appears to be just a solid starter when you look at his stats, but we know that he was much more important to our team. And it's even harder with the O-line, where there are no real stats. This system results in a low number of “2” players, because the guys that were good enough to be minor contributors and spot starters as sophomores and juniors usually go on to be solid starters by their senior year, the IMPACT rating basically measures their performance in their best year. This is fine for our purposes, as what we are really trying to determine is how many recruits are contributing in a meaningful way to a championship team.
Back to 'Bama. While the '07 class was definitely Saban's weakest, seeing a large percentage of players not finish their careers with the Tide is commonplace. One thing is undeniably clear when you look at the data: a scholarship offer from Nick Saban is actually just an offer to tryout for the Alabama football team. This part of the SEC's infamous “over-signing” practice. Every year, guys that aren't getting it done to Saban's liking are sent packing and their scholarship is offered to a high school kid. If you aren't performing, your spot and your scholarship are going to be handed to someone else. I really want Michigan to be great, but if we ever pull this kind of crap I will be livid.
|Julio Jones||WR||6'4"||215||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Barrett Jones||OL||6'5"||271||4.9||4 stars||6.0||3|
|Mark Barron||ATH||6'2"||202||4.5||4 stars||6.0||3|
|Courtney Upshaw||LB||6'2"||220||4.7||4 stars||5.9||3|
|Don'ta Hightower||LB||6'3"||248||4.7||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Mark Ingram||ATH||5'10"||195||4.4||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Robert Lester||DB||6'2"||205||4.6||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Marcel Dareus||DT||6'4"||277||3 stars||5.7||3|
|Terrence Cody||DT||6'5"||395||5.5||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Brad Smelley||QB||6'3"||220||4.7||3 stars||5.5||3|
|Jerrell Harris||LB||6'3"||220||4.5||4 stars||6.0||2|
|Michael Williams||DE||6'6"||240||4.7||4 stars||5.9||2|
|John Michael Boswell||OL||6'6"||290||5.2||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Damion Square||DT||6'3"||270||4.8||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Corey Smith||K||6'1"||208||4.7||2 stars||5.4||2|
|Burton Scott||ATH||5'11"||194||4.4||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Tyler Love||OL||6'7"||285||5.1||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Alonzo Lawrence||DB||6'1"||187||4.4||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Kerry Murphy||DT||6'5"||325||5.3||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Melvin Ray||WR||6'2"||185||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Star Jackson||QB||6'3"||182||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Brandon Lewis||DE||6'3"||260||4.7||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Chris Jordan||ATH||6'2"||201||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Destin Hood||WR||6'3"||190||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Devonta Bolton||ATH||6'4"||220||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Glenn Harbin||DE||6'6"||250||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Robby Green||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Ivan Matchett||RB||5'10"||206||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jermaine Preyear||RB||5'11"||205||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Undra Billingsley||DE||6'4"||260||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Jackson||WR||6'0"||187||4.5||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Wesley Neighbors||DB||6'1"||190||4.5||2 stars||5.4||1|
2008 was Saban's first full cycle. Alabama's '07 was campaign was less than impressive: the Tide finished 7-6 including an upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe. An Independence Bowl win over Colorado was the only thing keeping them from a .500 season. Somehow, Saban parlayed that into a stellar recruiting class with 32 (!) recruits. The crown jewel of that class was 5-star Julio Jones, who absolutely lived-up to his billing and has gone on to NFL stardom. The two other 5-star players in that class—Burton (BJ) Scott and Tyler Love—would both fail to produce at 'Bama. Scott was a bust, and Love was injured. But here's a list of the guys from that class that ended-up with an IMPACT rating of “3”:
- Julio Jones
- Barrett Jones
- Mark Barron
- Courtney Upshaw
- Don'ta Hightower
- Mark Ingram
- Robert Lester
- Marcel Dareus
- Terrence Cody
- Brad Smelley
Brad Smelley was a high school QB who was converted to a bad ass TE. Only two other players from that group—Dareus and Cody—were three-star players. It's interesting to note that this class was a HUGE part of the 2009 championship team, with Julio Jones, Barrett Jones, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Marcel Dareus, and Terrence Cody all getting starts and being major contributors to Saban's first crystal football at 'Bama. From the '07 class, only Vlachos, McClain, and Jackson would make comparable contributions to the championship run.
|D.J. Fluker||OL||6'7"||350||4.9||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Nico Johnson||LB||6'3"||226||4.6||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Dre Kirkpatrick||DB||6'2"||180||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Trent Richardson||RB||5'11"||210||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Eddie Lacy||RB||5'11"||210||4.4||4 stars||5.9||3|
|AJ McCarron||QB||6'4"||189||4.8||4 stars||5.9||3|
|James Carpenter||OL||6'5"||305||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Ed Stinson||DE||6'4"||227||4.6||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Anthony Steen||OL||6'4"||297||4.9||3 stars||5.7||3|
|Chance Warmack||OL||6'3"||329||5.5||3 stars||5.7||3|
|Kevin Norwood||WR||6'3"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.9||2|
|Kenny Bell||WR||6'1"||160||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Quinton Dial||DT||6'5"||308||5.1||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Tana Patrick||LB||6'3"||215||4.5||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Michael Bowman||WR||6'4"||206||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Kendall Kelly||WR||6'4"||210||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Darrington Sentimore||DT||6'3"||265||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Rod Woodson||DB||5'11"||200||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|William Ming||DE||6'4"||265||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Brandon Moore||OL||6'5"||313||5.2||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Kellen Williams||OL||6'3"||295||5.2||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jonathan Atchison||LB||6'3"||216||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Bonds||DT||6'4"||262||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Anthony Orr||DE||6'4"||260||4.8||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Petey Smith||LB||6'0"||230||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Darius McKeller||OL||6'6"||280||5.1||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Mike Marrow||RB||6'2"||240||4.7||3 stars||5.5||1|
The 2009 class saw another increase in its average Rivals Rating, this time bumping-up to 5.83. Even more impressive, the four five-star recruits—DJ Fluker, Nico Johnson, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Trent Richardson—all went on to become high-impact players for the Tide. That said, none of the 2009 class would earn starting roles on the 2009 championship team; Richardson was the most significant contributor but was playing back-up to Heisman-winner Mark Ingram. It would take more time for this group to become stars, but this smaller class (27 commitments) still produced 10 players (same number as the 2008 class) who earned a “3” IMPACT rating:
- DJ Fluker
- Nico Johnson
- Dre Kirkpatrick
- Trent Richardson
- Eddie Lacy
- AJ McCarron
- James Carpenter
- Ed Stinson
- Anthony Steen
- Chance Warmack
Only two of that group were 3-star players: O-linemen Steen and Warmack. All of those guys will almost certainly be drafted—Richardson, Kirkpatrick, and Carpenter are already in the league.
It took Saban three years to build a championship team, but the machine wasn't really in full gear until 2011. The 2010 Tide squad lost three regular season match-ups (South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn) before thumping STAEE in the Capital One Bowl. There is no doubt that his first three classes—especially his second and third—were the foundation of the '11 and '12 championship teams. What is interesting is how much those early classes got to contribute compared to his recent, even better classes. Even with a consistent exodus of talent—many of those drafted players left early—'Bama is fielding fewer freshmen now than it did in 2009. That '08 class really had the best opportunity to start early—since then only a handful of freshmen have seen significant playing time.
Below are the charts for 2010-2013. The IMPACT ratings are obviously incomplete, since most of those guys still have a chance to contribute. What you will notice is that the quality of Saban's classes has improved (though I'm not sure it can get much better than a 5.87 average rating). The Alabama Juggernaut has become and unstoppable force, and it's likely that only scandal or Saban's exit will stop it.
|DeMarcus Milliner||DB||6'2"||180||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Dequan Menzie||DB||5'11"||200||4 stars||5.9||3|
|C.J. Mosley||LB||6'2"||212||4.5||4 stars||5.9||3|
|Deion Belue||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||3 stars||5.6||3|
|John Fulton||DB||6'1"||180||4.4||4 stars||5.9||2|
|Jalston Fowler||RB||6'0"||240||4.8||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Adrian Hubbard||DE||6'7"||227||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Nick Perry||DB||6'2"||195||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Blake Sims||ATH||6'0"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Brandon Ivory||DT||6'3"||330||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Cade Foster||K||6'1"||215||3 stars||5.5||2|
|Alfy Hill||DE||6'4"||222||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Arie Kouandjio||OL||6'6"||314||5.2||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Phillip Sims||QB||6'2"||209||4.8||4 stars||5.9||1|
|DeAndrew White||WR||6'0"||170||4.4||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Jarrick Williams||DB||6'2"||205||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Corey Grant||RB||5'10"||186||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Keiwone Malone||WR||6'1"||165||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Brian Vogler||TE||6'7"||248||4.7||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Ronald Carswell||WR||6'0"||180||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Harrison Jones||TE||6'4"||230||4.8||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Brandon Lewis||DT||6'3"||275||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chad Lindsay||OL||6'3"||307||5.4||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Austin Shepherd||OL||6'5"||316||5.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Wilson Love||DE||6'4"||235||4.8||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Jay Williams||K||6'4"||220||2 stars||5.3||1|
|Hasean Clinton-Dix||DB||6'2"||190||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Cyrus Kouandjio||OL||6'7"||322||5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Quinton Dial||DE||6'6"||315||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Vinnie Sunseri||LB||5'11"||193||4.6||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Jeoffrey Pagan||DE||6'4"||272||4.6||4 stars||6||2|
|Jesse Williams||DT||6'4"||330||4 stars||6||2|
|Xzavier Dickson||DE||6'3"||238||4.8||4 stars||5.9||2|
|Trey DePriest||LB||6'2"||231||4.6||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Chris Jones||DB||6'0"||185||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|D.J. Pettway||DE||6'3"||255||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Demetrius Hart||RB||5'8"||190||4.4||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Brent Calloway||LB||6'1"||210||4.6||4 stars||6||1|
|Marvin Shinn||WR||6'3"||177||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Aaron Douglas||OL||6'6"||280||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Malcolm Faciane||TE||6'6"||265||4 stars||5.8||1|
|LaMichael Fanning||DT||6'6"||285||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Bradley Sylve||WR||5'11"||175||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Danny Woodson||WR||6'2"||200||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Phillip Ely||QB||6'1"||186||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Ryan Kelly||OL||6'5"||270||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Isaac Luatua||OL||6'2"||299||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jabriel Washington||ATH||5'11"||165||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Duron Carter||WR||6'2"||195||3 stars||5.6||1|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB||6'2"||205||4.4||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Amari Cooper||WR||6'1"||175||4 stars||6||3|
|Kenyan Drake||RB||6'1"||195||4.4||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Deion Belue||DB||6'0"||170||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Landon Collins||DB||6'0"||199||4.4||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Eddie Williams||ATH||6'4"||204||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Chris Black||WR||5'11"||170||4 stars||6||1|
|Travell Dixon||DB||6'2"||200||4.5||4 stars||6||1|
|Reggie Ragland||LB||6'4"||245||4 stars||6||1|
|Ryan Anderson||LB||6'3"||250||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Cyrus Jones||ATH||5'11"||183||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Dillon Lee||LB||6'4"||220||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Geno Smith||DB||5'11"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Denzel Devall||LB||6'2"||236||4.6||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Brandon Greene||OL||6'6"||280||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Tyler Hayes||LB||6'3"||215||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Korren Kirven||DT||6'4"||272||5.2||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Dalvin Tomlinson||DT||6'2"||270||4.9||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Dakota Ball||DT||6'2"||292||5.2||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Kurt Freitag||TE||6'3"||245||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Brandon Hill||OL||6'6"||352||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Alphonse Taylor||DT||6'6"||340||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Caleb Gulledge||OL||6'4"||255||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Darren Lake||DT||6'3"||330||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Alec Morris||QB||6'3"||235||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Adam Griffith||K||5'11"||175||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Jonathan Allen||DE||6'3"||263||4.5||5 stars||6.1|
|Reuben Foster||LB||6'1"||244||5 stars||6.1|
|O.J. Howard||TE||6'6"||235||4.5||5 stars||6.1|
|A'Shawn Robinson||DT||6'4"||320||5.1||5 stars||6.1|
|Robert Foster||WR||6'3"||187||4 stars||6.0|
|Derrick Henry||RB||6'3"||243||4.5||4 stars||6.0|
|Grant Hill||OL||6'6"||301||4 stars||6.0|
|Tyren Jones||RB||5'9"||215||4 stars||6.0|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||5'10"||197||4.5||4 stars||6.0|
|Dee Liner||DE||6'3"||281||4 stars||6.0|
|ArDarius Stewart||ATH||6'1"||190||4 stars||6.0|
|Altee Tenpenny||RB||6'0"||212||4.5||4 stars||6.0|
|Maurice Smith||DB||6'0"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Tim Williams||DE||6'3"||235||4 stars||5.9|
|Cooper Bateman||QB||6'3"||215||4.8||4 stars||5.8|
|Raheem Falkins||WR||6'4"||195||4.5||4 stars||5.8|
|Darius Paige||DT||6'4"||314||4 stars||5.8|
|Jonathan Cook||DB||6'0"||185||4.5||3 stars||5.7|
|Brandon Hill||OL||6'7"||390||3 stars||5.7|
|Eddie Jackson||WR||6'0"||175||3 stars||5.7|
|Walker Jones||LB||6'2"||234||4.6||3 stars||5.7|
|Leon Brown||OL||6'6"||300||3 stars||5.6|
|Cole Mazza||OL||6'1"||240||3 stars||5.6|
|Parker McLeod||QB||6'3"||190||3 stars||5.6|
|Anthony Averett||ATH||6'0"||170||4.4||3 stars||5.5|
An informational post about the Rivals 100 players Michigan has recruited since 2002 got me thinking, and in this relatively quiet period, I decided I wanted to dig a bit deeper.
The question I set out to answer: How do these guys turn out? At what rate do top recruits become top players in our program? And how does that compare to other programs?
Given limited time, I compared us to only one other program: Ohio. I used Rivals 100 data for position, stars, and rank. The "Impact" data point is my subjective interpretation of a player's career impact; 3 is a high impact player (Solid starter to All-B1G type), 2 is a role player (contributor to starter), and 1 is a low impact player (did not produce for whatever reason). These ratings are NOT based on talent or careers at other schools--only the player's impact where they signed their LOI. Players who have not yet had the opportunity to demonstrate a rating are designated "n/a". Players with an asterix have not yet signed. And yes, some of you will argue with me, but my overall ratings are close enough to make some good starting points for conversation. Here is the data, followed by conclusions:
|Derrick Green (*)||RB||5||8||2013||VA||n/a|
|Henry Poggi (*)||DT||4||70||2013||MD||n/a|
|Shane Morris (*)||QB||4||81||2013||MI||n/a|
Let's start by looking at Michigan's "gets". There are some definite correlations. A higher national rank does indeed give a player a higher likelihood of making an impact. Of the 36 players who received a rating, nine were 3's (high impact), eight were 2's (role players), and 19 were...not so good. That gives Rivals 100 players during this period a 25% chance of being great, a 22% chance of being okay to good, and about a 53% chance of not being helpful at all. Basically, it's about 50/50 on whether or not these kids make a positive impact at Michigan.
That said, of the nine players who were 3's, 6 were five-star players. Two more five-star players made a 2 rating (Burgess & Campbell), and many would argue Burgess was a 3 (erroneously, but they would argue). That means roughly 80% of your five-star players end-up solidly contributing, and of the two that didn't--Mallet and Grady--only Grady was a complete bust, as Mallet went on to SEC stardom.
Of the 20 players who were 1's, 10 were ranked 80th or lower nationally, and only six were ranked higher than 40th.
I think it's important to consider that this time period includes two tumultuous coaching changes and a year of "lame-duck" coaching from Carr. I do not believe it will be representative of our success going forward, but it's the data we have.
|Theodore Ginn, Jr||DB||5||2||2004||OH||3|
Ohio's data gives us 35 rateable recruits to our 36. They show a similar correlation, with higher rankings and five-star players much more likely to be 3's. Of their 35 rated players, 17 were 3's, 4 were 2's, and 13 were 1's. That means roughly half (49%) of their rated players were 3's, and about 37% were 1's. Interestingly, many of their 1's were players who had trouble with the law--an issue that was much less prevalent with Wolverines.
The comparisons are pretty obvious: Ohio has gotten much more production out of their top recruits. This is, no doubt, partially attributable to mostly consistent coaching through the period by one of the best in the game (even if was a lying cheater). Ohio also had higher-ranked recruits--their average national ranking is 45.9 to Michigan's 55.2--and were much more geographically concentrated in Ohio and the midwest than Michigan's players.
Another interesting bit of data is that position does not seem to make much of a difference. LBs are probably the most successful recruits, but it matters very little. National ranking seems to correlate with impact regardless of position.
Going forward, my expectation is that roughly two-thirds (60-66% would be good) of Rivals 100 recruits end-up as solid contributors or better for Michigan, with about half becoming impact players. Unfortunately, the lower rankings of this year's four Top 100 recruits (Morris is 81 and Kugler 82) would suggest they have a smaller chance of being successful, while Poggi is most likely to be at least a contributor and Green has a 50/50 chance of being great. If Green finishes his career as a 3, and we get two 2's out of the other three, it will have been a very good year. If there are two 3's, it's a great year, and if there are two or three 1's, things didn't go so well.
I do believe our success with top talent will say a lot about or staff and look forward to revisiting this in 2016, when Hoke has had a full five-year cycle to demonstrate how well he can maximize talent.
EDIT: After some honest thought and good criticism, I bumped Will Campbell up to a "2". It's a "meh" difference statistically, but he probably earned it this year.
After a disappointing end to a disappointing season I found myself looking for answers beyond "Al Borges just doesn't know how to use Denard!" and "ESSSSSEEEEEECEEEEEE!" I was curious what, if anything, tangibly separated the two-loss BCS Bowl winning season of yesteryear from the five-loss fumble that saw us fall to (almost) everyone that had a legitimate chance to beat us. Of course, obvious is obvious, and the schedule was unkind, but what else happened? And what does it mean for 2013?
|1st Downs (Rush - Pass - Penalty)||112 - 113 - 24||116 - 101 - 20|
|Rushing (Att - Yds - Avg - TD)||502 - 2389 - 4.76 - 27||514 - 1957 - 3.81 - 9|
|Pass (Att - Comp - % - INT - TD)||318 - 169 - 53.1% - 19 - 20||330 - 198 - 60.0% - 7 - 16|
|Total Offense (Att - Avg - Yds)||820 - 6.07 - 4980||844 -4.93 - 4160|
|Punt Returns (Att - Avg - TD)||16 - 8.81 - 0||20 - 10.15 - 1|
|Kick Returns (Att - Avg - TD)||42 - 22.05 - 0||48 - 23.25 - 0|
|Punting (Att - Avg)||44 - 42.59||58 - 42.36|
|INT (# - Yds - TD)||7 - 127 - 1||19 - 225 - 2|
|Fumbles (# - Lost)||17 - 8||22 - 11|
|Penalties (# - Yds)||62 - 641||84 - 719|
|Time of Possession||30:10.38||29:49.62|
|3rd Down (Att - %)||173 - 50.29%||178 - 35.96%|
|4thd Down (Att - %)||13 - 69.23%||21 - 42.86%|
|Red Zone (Att - %)||46 - 93.48%||42 - 80.95%|
|FG (Att - Conv - %)||21 - 18 - 85.7%||30 - 21 - 70%|
|PATS (Att - %)||46 - 100%||25 - 100%|
|2 Pt (Att - Conv - %)||2 - 0 - 0%||3 - 1 - 33%|
|Record (Home / Away)||6-0 / 2-5||0-6 / 5-2|
|1st Downs (Rush - Pass - Penalty)||148 - 97 -25||94 - 115 - 15|
|Rushing (Att - Yds - Avg - TD)||560 - 2884 - 5.15 - 31||429 - 1712 - 3.99 - 14|
|Pass (Att - Comp - % - INT - TD)||284 - 155 - 54.6% - 16 - 22||374 - 221 - 59.1% - 9 - 12|
|Total Offense (Att - Avg - Yds)||844 - 6.23 - 5261||803 - 5.22 - 4188|
|Punt Returns (Att - Avg - TD)||22 - 9.00 - 0||21 - 9.19 - 0|
|Kick Returns (Att - Avg - TD)||35 - 18.43 - 0||57 - 21.44 - 0|
|Punting (Att - Avg)||46 - 38.04||66 - 39.70|
|INT (# - Yds - TD)||9 - 163 - 1||16 - 121 - 1|
|Fumbles (# - Lost)||19 - 6||25 - 20|
|Penalties (# - Yds)||53 - 458||92 - 802|
|Time of Possession||31:15.15||27:28.31|
|3rd Down (Att - %)||168 - 47.02%||173 - 36.42%|
|4thd Down (Att - %)||17 - 58.82%||21 - 38.1%|
|Red Zone (Att - %)||58 - 84.48%||41 - 68.29%|
|FG (Att - Conv - %)||17 - 13 - 76.5%||15 - 12 - 80%|
|PATS (Att - %)||55 - 98.2%||26 - 100%|
|2 Pt (Att - Conv - %)||1 - 0%||1 - 100%|
|Record (Home / Away)||8-0 / 3-2||0-8 / 2-3|
A lot of this is just useless numbers; much of the difference can be attributed to quality of opponent and the number of road games. A quick look at the non-conference schedule basically has Alabama replacing Western Michigan and Air Force replacing San Diego State--both significant--with UMass roughly equivalent to EMU and ND = ND. That said, ND and 'Bama are #1 and #2, and both of those games were away from the Big House. Ohio is now coached by one of the top 3 coaches in the game (like him or not) instead Finkel and Einhorn. Taylor Martinez learned how to throw. Denard got hurt. Blah, blah, blah.
But I do believe there are some golden nuggets (or perhaps corn nuggets, depending on your half-full/half-empty attitude on Monday Morning) that help explain what went wronger (to quote Kanye) this year. Here are the highlights:
- Turnovers. It's more more than a little disturbing that our turnover margin went from +7 to -9. I did not realize the difference was so vast. This is a -16 swing in the margin category, and could explain the difference in our success all by itself. One of the huge factors here was our mythical fumble recovery rate in 2011; we scooped-up 80% of our opponents dropsies last year and returned to a normal 50% this year. If you replace last year's fumble recovery rate with this year's, however, the difference between the two margins is still is -8.5. We forced more fumbles last year, had two more INTs, and threw three fewer INTs. Not having Countess certainly factored-in here, and I have a conspiracy theory that I will reveal later about the INTs.
- Rushing. It is inconceivable that Borges got dumberer between this season and last. With a year under his belt and an off-season to think about ways to use Denard more effectively, I was hoping for better. That said, the O-line performance was dramatically different. RR is quoted as saying that Molk was worth two wins; I'm sure I did not believe that when I read it, and I'm sure I do believe it now. The Barnum & Mealer circus on the interior O-line did us no favors here, and my conspiracy theory factors in as well.
- Passing. This, to me, is one of the pivot points. I was shocked to see that our 2012 passer rating was actually lower than 2011. Where is the DG effect? Well, it's there. DG posted an astounding 161.66 rating in 2012, with 9.7 yds/att. That puts him in elite company. Only five teams posted better passer ratings than DG this season -- Georgia, 'Bama, San Jose State, Clemson, and West Virginia, and only Georgia had a higher yds/att. Denard's rating, on the other hand, dropped from 139.73 to 126.63. This is a sizeable decrease in rating, and makes no sense when you consider Borges' history of improving passers. Some of this can be attributed to a weaker O-line, but I believe the lion's share is more about...
- CONSPIRACY THEORY. During the off-season and before the 'Bama game, I often said that I believed our success in 2012 would hinge on Denard's progress as a passer. With a year of Big Al's grooming, I was sure Denard would take at least a large step forward, if not a leap. There was no doubt in my mind that using slants, curls, and other quick routes to some effect would open-up some much needed space for Denard to be Denard without 8-9 defenders keying on him. This, of course, didn't happen. Why not? Here is my theory: Denard's nerve injury was affecting him all season long. My evidence is certainly not conclusive, but we do know that Denard had dealt with numbness in his throwing hand in previous seasons, and we are certain that the play on which the nerve finally said "UNCLE!" against Nebraska looked super-ultra-mega-hyper-tetra-uber-harmless. Further evidence showed-up in Denard's passing, even early on. Against 'Bama he missed some easy slants in the first quarter that had been his bread-and-butter in previous years, and his downfield passing was bad this year even if you count Taco Pants as an eligible receiver. I do not believe that Junior Hemingway would have helped Denard much this year; his passing was just bad. And I do not believe that our WRs were that much worse this year. My theory is that Denard's ulnar nerve degraded during camp, and even more so during the season, and that what happened at Nebraska was simply the final straw. Don't get me wrong--I don't think they were giving him cortizone shots just so he could play, but I do believe the injury may have been affecting him all season and the subtle difference it made significantly impacted Denard's already shaky passing ability. The silver lining here is that Denard was never going to be an NFL QB, and now that is not even an option. He's also had almost half of a season to learn how to play not QB (not sure what position he did learn, though) and I look forward to watching him on Sundays.
- Defense. Both the stats and the eyeballs tell you that the defense was not significantly different year-over-year. That said, eight fewer sacks and 11 fewer turnovers are game-changing differences, and while quality of opponent is a factor here, so is luck (fumble recoveries), injuries (Countess), and pass rush (RVB, Martin). It simply is not fair to lay all of the blame for this year's record at the feet of the offense--the defense did not create enough turnovers. The defense MUST make more game-changing plays in 2013 if we are going to have a successful (B1G Championship) season.
- Schedule. Obvious is obvious, but it's worth mentioning that while Hoke hasn't yet lost at the Big House, he's 5-7 on the road. Yuck.
Outlook and mandatory 2013 predictions:
Extrapolating the data points and eyeball examinations leads to lots of different conclusions: some pretty obvious, some hopeful, and some "I have no freakin' idea where that came from." Of course, since this is an internet blog, I'll give you all of them, even though they are entirely amateur. But as a sort of CYA disclaimer, I'll add a DGuarantee 1-5 scale: 5 meaning you can bet the farm it will happen, and 1 being more like a Mayan calendar-type prediction.
- Offense: 3. This one lands squarely in the middle on the DGuarantee scale, which is about as courageous Lloyd Carr on 4th down, but my reasoning (excuse) is solid. I believe you can bet all of your possessions and everything in East Lansing that our passing game will be vastly improved next season. Give that a 5. DG will have a full year to play QB, and he will be the man for the whole year. He was playing at a high level this season, and loses only Roy Roundtree as a WR. While I do love Roy, I believe the incoming Darboh/Chesson effect will more than replace his production. Gallon, who ended the year on a tear, will be a year better and will be dominant. Dileo is The Threat. The O-line is a little bit questionable, but Schofield will hold his own at LT in the passing the game, and given the talent we have replacing the other four spots, I just don't see a dramatic drop-off in pass-blocking performance. There will be some head-scratching sacks as freshmen act like freshmen and do some matador-style blocking on missed assignments, but we had plenty of that this year too, and DG is good on the run. The running game is a 1. I don't have a freakin' clue. It's not going to have Denard anymore, and that's obviously a blow. But it will also be rid of the interior O-line, and will filled with huge, strong, talented players. My prediction here based on flimsy evidence is that our YPC stays in the same 4.75 neighborhood (putting us around 40th nationally) but includes fewer big plays (Denard, duh) and far fewer negative plays. The RB situation is as big a question mark as the O-line--Rawls showed promise but never more than that, Hayes really hasn't had a chance yet, and Toussaint was pretty lousy before his Tarantino-esque injury. Is Drake Johnson going to prove the rating services wrong (I doubt it)? Is Norfleet a DB for good (probably)? There is a very good chance that Derrick Green and Deveon Smith are both on the depth chart next year, and freshmen are always a question mark. All-in-all I expect our total production to look similar to this year in yards, points, and 3rd down conversions. RANDOM SIDE NOTE: Say what you will about Al Borges, the guy converts 3rd downs. Michigan was 6th(!!!) nationally this year, and two teams ahead of us were MWC and CUSA flukes. Only Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Clemson were better in the real world.
- Defense: 4. Yum Yum. Even setting aside the fact that our schedule is much more favorable in 2013, I believe our defense is poised to take a big step forward. Only 5 players are coming off of the entire depth chart, and, while all five were starters, only Kovacs was irreplaceable. Campbell's back-up at DT (Black) might be an upgrade, and the depth with the 2012 and 2013 recruting classes is solid. Craig Roh has a veritable platoon of capable back-ups, headlined by Keith Heitzman, with Wormley and Strobel right behind, to say nothing of the 2013 class. Demens' experience gives way to Bolden's athleticism and instincts (and plenty of snaps) with Ross and RJS available as well. JT Floyd + Raymon Taylor < Blake Countess + Raymon Taylor, and the depth should be FAR better in 2013, with another year of experience for everyone else and an absurdly good recruiting class. Kovacs is the guy that we'll miss the most; his leadership, intelligence, and fearlessness were invaluable. But his replacement will be bigger, faster, and stronger, and Jarrod Wilson got some snaps this year and Furman and M-Rob are waiting in the wings. This is, without a doubt, the most concerning position, as inexperience at safety often equals big plays for the opposition. That said, Beyer, Clark, and Ojemudia are all back at WDE and I believe they'll actually produce a pass rush next year. Black was on a hotstreak at the end of the season can really get after the passer. QWash is a beast and has Pee Wee behind him; Jake Ryan is, well, JMFR. Morgan has turned into a very good player whom I believe is NFL-bound, and T. Gordon returns at safety to hopefully create turnovers ala 2011. I expect both the run defense and the pass defense to improve, the latter more than the former. I think point and yardage averages similar to 2011 will return, with more takeaways than in 2012, and double-digit INTs for the first time under Hoke/Mattison. The only thing keeping this from a 5 is the youth and Kovacs effect.
- Special Teams: 4. What's sad about our 2012 special teams is that they were almost universally better than our 2011 effort and still weren't very good. Our punt return average would be about 40th, but we don't return very many punts (damn you spread punt!). Norfleet was 47th in kick returns. I have to say that of all of Hoke's units, this is the least impressive. But The (other) Threat returns in Brendan Gibbons, and Matt Wile is a more than capable back-up at both K and P, and could start if Hagerup gets kicked-off the team (and I believe he will). Our kick and punt coverage is okay; the guys playing there were mostly young, so I expect improvement.
- Overall: 4. Depending on how you define success, this is either a 5 or a 3. I took the average. If success is more than wins than 2012, it's a 5. The schedule alone should get us two more wins. If success is winning the B1G, it's a 3. The uncertainty at O-line and RB is too much to overcome what should be a much improved passing game and a better defense. Even though the schedule is easier, we still have to beat Ohio and Nebraska at home and Penn State and MSU at on the road. And don't sleep on Northwestern. That said, the non-conference schedule is marshmellow soft and should give the younger players some time to find their rhythm, and opening conference play with Minnesota at home is generous. I believe the biggest hurdles are Nebraska and Ohio, and Nebraska doesn't have to play Ohio (stupid divisions!) but does have Penn State on the road (as do we). The good news on the Corn Huskers side is that they will have faced no one that is good at football before they come to our place; Northwestern the previous week will be the closest thing.
The final verdict is that I believe we finish 9-3, with our youth showing-up just enough to keep us out of the B1G Championship game as Ohio looks poised to win the conference. I think we'll lose to Ohio, and 2 more losses coming from possibly ND, Nebraska, MSU, Penn State, or Northwestern. All that said, a 10-2 finish with losses only to ND and Ohio is very possible, and 11-1 is not out of the question. Beating Ohio is certainly not an impossibility, but I'm not confident a team as young as ours will be next year can go undefeated, and beating them twice seems pretty daunting (a re-match with Ohio in the Championship game seems like a lock if we're able to get there). Our bowl game is anywhere from the Rose to the Outback; with a BCS NCG (at the Rose) an unlikely outlier. 2014 has road games at Nebraska, Ohio, and Notre Dame, but the team should be in full gear by then, and that is when I expect Hoke to raise another banner and challenge for the NCG.
There is a myth that lives on this board that Denard was a better passer in 2010. This post is not meant to excuse Al Borges' playcalling, or bash Rich Rod, or elevate Lloyd Carr's run-run-run-punt strategy. It's just a look at the falsity that Denard was a better passer in 2010.
The unfortunate, painful truth that this diary reveals is that our passing offense is not much better than it was in 2010, when it wasn't very good at all (when it mattered).
Let's throw out the garbage games and focus on Michigan's games against opponents that had respectable defenses in 2010:
- Ohio (3rd in total yds)
- Iowa (16th in total yds)
- Wisconsin (23rd in total yds)
- Michigan State (32nd in total yds)
You might be wondering, "Where is Notre Dame and Penn State on that list?" Well, I'm glad you asked. They were 46th and 48th...behind powerhouses like San Diego State, Hawaii, and ILLINOIS!!! (the team we scored 67 points against). So they sucked. But we still lost to Penn State. Even though they sucked. Because our defense was, well, worser.
I don't need to lay out the stats from the ohio game. They trounced us, and Denard got pulled in favor of Forcier at the end of the game. We couldn't move the ball at all, and scored only 7 points.
Let's move on to Iowa...
Their defense was ranked 16th in 2010, and yet we were able to score 28 points. This is actually the best comparable for this weekend's Notre Dame game, since ND is ranked 17th in total defense right now. Yes, we lost the game by a score of 28-38, and those four TDs sure do look good...but only because you either don't remember what happened or judge a book (or score) by it's cover (or...score). Here are some relevant stats:
- Denard 13/18, 98 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Forcier 17/26, 239, 1 TD, 2 INT
But here's the most important stat: We only scored 7 points when Denard was on the field. Denard get could get yards (108 on 18 carries) but not points. Iowa was stacking the box, and all the offense could muster was a TD on a drive when Denard threw three passes: one was incomplete, one was for a 6 yd. loss, and the last was a screen to Smith for an 8 yd. TD. Denard got hurt in the 3rd quarter and in came Forcier.
It was Forcier that brought the team back in that game, and Forcier that sealed our fate with his INTs. It's worth noting that completing passes underneath when you're behind by 21 points is MUCH easier. In fact, that leads to lots of confusion about the effectiveness of Denard's passing and the 2010 offense in general: we got loads of "soft" yards because we were hopelessly behind and our opponents played softer coverages and lighter fronts.
Wisconsin has a similar storyline, except that Denard played much more that game. We scored exactly ZERO points in the first half (although we did miss a 30 yd. field goal). With a 24 point lead, Wisconsin converted to prevent defense, and allowed us back in the game. Denard stayed in this time, and racked up a nice, meaningless statline: 16/25 for 239 yds, 2 TDs, and, of course, 1 INT. The important part: Denard was 4/9 for 22 yds passing in the first half. When Wisconsin was playing their base defense, Denard couldn't pass. Only the gooey butter cake version of Wiscy's D allowed DR some meaningless passing yardage. Further proof of this came in the fourth quarter, when we had come back to make it a 21-31 game. Denard couldn't move the ball anymore.
The final example is, perhaps, the most damning. Michigan State had a good-but-not-great defense in 2010. Their success was largely a result of their schedule and some good defensive coaching. They lost badly to Iowa (and 'Bama), snuck by a pretty lousy ND team in overtime, and narrowly edged out a VERY average Penn State team. Their only quality win was against Wisconsin, and that game was played in East Lansing. Despite their easy schedule, the Spartan defense was still only ranked 32nd in total yds. Michigan actually had the lead twice in this game, up 3-0 in the first quarter and 10-7 in the second. Denard was 6/8 for 51 yds in the first quarter, but threw an INT in the endzone. In the second quarter, Denard shined again. He was 4/6 for 81 yds and a TD. At the half, Michigan was down 10-17.
The second half was a very, very different story. Denard was 7/15 for 82yds and 2 INTs. The same guy we saw against ND. Only against a defense that wasn't nearly as good. And we were at home. The 4th quarter TD was only scored after MSU had rung-up a 21 point lead.
So here's the bottom line: Denard has never been a good passer, or even an average passer. And against good defenses, we won't win until he's able to throw the ball somewhat effectively. Maybe that's why Borges keeps making him throw, especially before the B1G season starts.
So what's the difference between now and 2010? The defense. Because our Greg defense is not our GERG defense, we are in every game, and teams don't stop stacking the box against Denard. They don't stop blitzing. They don't play soft coverage. So Denard never gets to ring-up his stats, and looks even worse.
I certainly won't excuse Borges' playcalling on Saturday--it needed to be better. But the fact is that our only quality wins have come when Denard has been able to make plays in the passing game (or Hemingway was able to bail out Denard) and I expect it stay that way. If Denard can't pass, we're screwed, and 4 or 5 losses is our best case scenario.
After watching the UMass game I went through a series of strange feelings:
- Relief. Game never in question, easy opponent dispatched, spread covered.
- Anxiety. The D-Line didn't look that good. Come to think of it, neither did the run-blocking.
- Relief. 2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
- Anxiety. 2013 isn't far away, and we'll be transitioning from Borges-Denard Fusion to Manball.
Yes, the last two are the same. No, it's not a mistake. Here's what happened in my brain:
- I sure will miss Denard next year, but we'll be back to Michigan Manball without him. And our offensive line will be much better at run-blocking.
- Wait, why will it be better at run-blocking? Who will even be playing O-Line for us next year?
- SHUT-UP! SHUT-UP! SHUT-UP! Enjoy the win. Just pretend that Hoke will sprinkle magical Manball dust (wait, that doesn't sound right) and everything will turn out fine.
- No, you shut-up. I have to research this so I can sleep. Or so I can't sleep. AAARRRGGGGH!
Suddenly, I'm lying awake in bed, and going through the depth chart in my head. The one guy that seems to be playing good football on the O-Line is Taylor Lewan, and it's no secret that he's projected to get a 1st round NFL draft grade. We have to assume he's gone. Also gone from the line is...EVERYONE. Except Schofield. He'll stick around for his fifth year. Right? RIGHT?!!! And it's good that he stays...right? RIGHT?!!!
Let's just assume the whole line, except Schofield, is gone. Our new O-Line looks like this:
LT Erik Magnuson; LG Chris Bryant; C Jack Miller; RG Kyle Kalis; RT Michael Schofield
Maybe Joey Burzynski sneaks in there, but we're likely going with four (FOUR!) players with
little or no playing experience. And Schofield.
And I think, if we're geing honest with ourselves, that line doesn't look much better than this year's version. Sure, Bryant and Kalis should be better people-movers than Barnum and Omameh, but they'll be learning the position as they go. And a redshirt freshman left tackle? Ummmm...
Oh, and did I mention that Jack Miller is currently 6-4 and 288 lbs? Not exactly the size we're looking for at center.
My point is that our O-Line will be far from "Manball-Ready" and that we have much to fear about their abilities. Maybe we'll get some better natural push, but we're trading that for what will likely be a drop-off in pass-blocking. Erik Gunderson is currently listed ahead of Ben Braden, so I'm not holding my breath there. Blake Bars isn't currently listed on the depth chart.
On the other side of the ball, things don't look much better. BWC and Roh are gone. Pipkins should be seasoned, and hopefully in shape. Brink, Washington, Black, and Ash are all back, but like, seriously.
Our hopes will be tied to Pee Wee (NT) and Frank Clark (WDE), with Heitzman/Brink/Wormley/Strobel at SDE and Black/Washington/Ash/Brink at DT needing to just not screw it up.
The only logical conclusion is that next year will require the same patience with our lines as this year. This issue will be exacerbated by the lack of Denard...whether it's Bellomy or Gardner running the offense, it will be an offense that is trying to be pro style, and won't have a premier QB to run it. Gardner's growth will be stunted by his time at WR, and Bellomy looks like a solid-but-not-spectacular player. Navarre Light, if you will, with more mobility and a not-as-good arm.
I guess what I'm saying is that we'll really have to wait until 2014 before we have our Manball lines in place, and maybe then we can go back to complaining about the secondary.