"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
this week's miniprogram:
As most people here are well aware the University's President Mary Sue Coleman is in the last academic year of her tenure and has announced her intent to retire in July 2014. Back on August 22nd I wrote my first installment of this diary with some fun wild speculation about possible candidates. At this point everything is based on semi-educated guesses and the fact that, as the University officially launches its "Victors for Michigan" campaign towards the goal of raising $5 billion before the University's bicentenial in 2017, they may want someone with previous University ties to seemlessly step into the campaign. Here's the link to the old Diary http://mgoblog.com/diaries/race-replace-mary-sue-coleman-%E2%80%93-odds-university-michigan%E2%80%99s-next-president
So logically candidates like Theresa Sullivan (former M provost, current Chancellor at UVA), Marvin Krislov (former General Counsel during NCAA investigation and Affirmative Action Supreme Court case, now President at Oberlin College) and Nancy Cantor (former Provost at Michigan and current President at Syracuse who is leaving in 2014) make some logical sense. The Regents have hired a search firm and the search is underway. Needless to say that so-called outsiders are certainly possible but the public would never get so much as a whiff of who those might be as those candidates will not want to endanger their current employment. When Mary Sue Coleman was hired away from the University of Iowa, all interviews and meetings were so secretive they did not occur in the State of Michigan.
So again, its all mostly speculation. That said, there are various factions who have championed certain possible candidates. Needless to say all of the aforementioned names have surfaced in certain discussions. One other interesting possibility that has been heard whispered in certain hallways is one Earl Lewis. Here are some links to familiarize yourself http://www.mellon.org/about_foundation/officers/earl-lewis and http://www.mellon.org/news_publications/announcements-1/earl-lewis-elected-next-president-of-the-andrew-w.-mellon-foundation/ . Briefly put, Mr. Lewis was previously the Dean of Rackham School of Graduate Studies at Michigan and a Vice Provost. He left Michigan after 15 years in 2004 to become the Provost (2nd in charge behind the President) at Emory (technically a better ranked/near Ivy League school). In 2012 Mr. Lewis left Emory to become the President of the Andrew Mellon Foundation which is one of the largest educational trusts/benefactors in the country. Mr. Lewis has an impecible academic record, has UofM ties, is fairly young in terms of candidates for this kind of position and could bring connections out the proverbial wazoo considering the people he has dealt with as President of the Mellon Foundation. Lewis would also be the first African-American President at Michigan. He's certainly an intriguing candidate and those who hear the name and credentials have had little argument that he'd make a good choice.
Further, a few more logs have been placed on the fire that perhaps an Obama Cabinet member looking towards their post-government career could be the choice. As many may note Janet Napolitano, the chief of Homeland Security, recently left her post to become Chancellor of the University of California system. Further, as some of you are also aware, Gordon Gee, the President at Ohio State University has announced his pending retirement and there has been talk that certain cabinet members have put out word that they may be interested. So, would Secretary of Education Arne Duncan or even Department of Justice Head Eric Holder or any number of other cabinet members make the jump a year early to set up their post-political life. Again, its safe to assume if rumors are coming out of Columbus that cabinet members are making themselves available, the same is happening here.
Finally, a late personal vote for Adrian College President Jeffrey Docking simply for the recent announcement of Adrian's new program that pays part or all of the student loan payments of any Adrian graduate who makes less than $37,000 a year. http://www.freep.com/article/20130918/NEWS06/309180024/adrian-college-loan-repayment-alma-college-student-loans-debt-college-affordability As we can all attest, the amount of student loan debt that college graduates are accruing plus the diminished number of jobs, and well-paying jobs and ever increasing cost of secondary education are creating an entire generation that is choking under their student loans. Props/Kudos/Raise a Glass to President Docking for stepping up for the students and graduates to try an innovative way of trying to alleviate some of that debt. As the University embarks on the Victors for Michigan fundraising effort, one can only hope a huge chunk of that money will head towards scholarships. While I certainly commend gifts of Stephen Ross and Charlie Munger, right now the students need scholarships a little more than we need new buildings. In that spirit, any of you who are reading this and agree with the latter assertions can help some Michigan undergraduate scholarships and get yourself some Michigan memorabilia at this online auction fundraiser http://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/AuctionHome.action?vhost=mgoauction which is running all fall.
If anything interesting comes to light, Part III of the Diary will rapidly be posted. In the meantime, Go Blue and Give Back.
With recruiting news beginning to pick up as prospects make official and unofficial visits during football season and as the early signing period for the 2014 class (Nov. 13–20) nears, this seemed like a good time for a baseball recruiting update, especially one focusing on 2014. Since I first posted the chart showing the 2014 commits in April, there have been two changes:
Michael Hendrickson: committed to the Wolverines in July (see Hello post).
Brandon Hughes: decommitted from Michigan and then committed to Michigan State in August. Hughes was the last of the Michigan commits who had originally pledged to former coach Rich Maloney, so this wasn't that surprising a development.
In the revised 2014 chart (posted in a reply for technical reasons), Hendrickson takes the place of Hughes, and the class remains nine-strong. I've updated the rankings as much as possible (lacking access to the pay-walled Perfect Game rankings, the only ones listed for that site are a couple that were reported at the time of the player's commitment). Michigan has three commits in PBR's overall top 50, covering a ten-state region:
- #18 Grant Reuss (#1 in Michigan)
- #46 Jayce Vancena (#7 in Ohio)
- #48 Rahman Williams (#11 in Illinois)
The chart includes a few new scouting reports (viewable by cursoring over the underlined text in the rightmost column), including this one for Williams, posted by Perfect Game in July:
Medium build with good strength in his lower half. Switch hitter, natural right hander, short rotational swing right handed, pull line drive contact, has some strength and bat speed. Open stance left handed, stays on his back side, short swing, contact approach. Sound infield actions, feet work well through the ball, light on his feet, shows good body control and range to the ball, good arm strength.
At least two of Michigan's commits appear to be in the conversation as potential 2014 MLB draft picks. Reuss is one, as PBR indicated in a June article on ten 2014 players "creating buzz on summer circuit":
Reuss continues to climb on Major league boards. . . . Really high ceiling. Arm works well. Up to 89mph for us. Command needs to improve to really be considered elite. Still feeling out his mechanics. Breaking ball spins well (71mph). Potential to be swing and miss pitch. Should be a high follow for major league scouts this coming spring.
Another is Drew Lugbauer. At the Nine Baseball site, Jeff Sullivan placed Lugbauer at #38 in his top 100 high school prospects for the 2014 MLB draft. Kiley McDaniel, a national baseball analyst for Scout, ranked Lugbauer #13 in his list of high school MLB draft prospects from the Northeast, projecting him as a potential 5th-rounder. Lugbauer was also included in Jonathan Mayo's rundown of top performers at a recent showcase hosted by the Mets at Citi Field:
Left-handed hitting catcher with power. Big and strong, good arm strength, other parts of his defense are developing.
Finalist for Ockimey
Michigan apparently still has scholarship money left for the 2014 class as they are in the final three for a top uncommitted prospect from Philadelphia, Josh Ockimey. A 6-4, 220-pound first baseman out of Neumann-Goretti H.S., Ockimey had originally committed to Arkansas but decommitted in August when the Razorbacks' associate head coach, Todd Butler, left to become the head coach at Wichita State. Not coincidentally, Wichita State is one of Ockimey's finalists, and he'll take an official visit there this coming weekend. He officially visited Michigan this past weekend and Indiana the weekend before. According to what he told Chris Webb in this blog post, Ockimey will choose from those three by October 5.
PBR has Ockimey ranked #6 in Pennsylvania and #53 overall, and they offered this assessment in a hot list posted earlier this month:
Ockimey is a physical beast in the box, standing at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He has some holes in his swing, but shows raw power and is athletic. He has capable actions at first base with the potential to put it all together and be a run producing, middle-of-the-order hitter at next level.
He's also slotted at #98 in that Nine Baseball list of top high school prospects for the 2014 MLB draft.
That post from Webb mentions some 2016 prospects who have visited Michigan recently, including Dion Henderson (see PBR profile), a left-hand pitcher out of Dearborn Divine Child ranked #4 in the state by PBR. He's planning to make his college choice by the end of 2013. He holds a Michigan offer, with other possible destinations including Kentucky, LSU, and Vanderbilt. Another prospect recently offered by Michigan is Henderson's high school teammate Collin Goslin (PBR profile), also a lefty but in the class of 2015. PBR has Goslin ranked #3 in the state and #41 overall.
Note on title: The usual "Baseball Recruiting Update" for the main title seemed boring, so I tried to come up with something different. Also considered "Fishin'"—any thoughts, other ideas?
AP FOOTBALL POLL CHECK - HOW WE’RE DOING WITH AP VOTERS
Granted, we’re only four polls into the season, but it might be a nice time to take a brief look at how we are doing and how the voters have reacted to Michigan thus far.
You’ll see this in the charts below, but in summary, the CMU game did not move the AP voters very deeply. The Notre Dame win impressed them enough that our average ranking was 4.65 spots higher than the previous week. The Akron win erased much of that momentum, but as you know, there are still nine games left.
AVERAGE RANK (ALL VOTES)
The distribution of those votes will be below, but as you will note, it is a decent spread. The distribution is skewed somewhat, but a fair number of the votes do stack up around certain ranks at this juncture. It has been noted on the boards, but the only voter to have us unranked more than once (there were a few of these in the preseason poll) is Drew Sharp. It is entirely possible, however, that he simply has an issue with turning in his ballots in a timely fashion, sort of like the guy in the basketball polls that literally never voted. Then again, maybe that’s how he feels.
For those of you who remember the basketball version of this, the votes have literally been cut and pasted into a copy of that very spreadsheet to create this distribution, so by my figuring, this is by far the easiest diary to create for me. It simply dawned on me that, if I can do this for one sport, I can do it for another.
Quarterbacks!: In 2011, quarterbacks were responsible for 19 of 21 turnovers. In 2012, quarterbacks were responsible for 23 of 25 turnovers. So far in 2013, quarterbacks are responsible for 8 of 8 turnovers. Any improvement in giveaways is squarely on Gardner's shoulders. If Michigan does not correct the turnover problem, it is likely that turnovers will be the primary cause of 1-2 losses this year.
Synopsis: Michigan's TOM for the game was – 2 and for the year it is now – 2 (– 0.67 per game) which is ranked #96. Turnovers were not a primary factor in determining which team won the game. In fact, the game would have been very close even without the turnovers. Michigan suffered a net disadvantage of just 2.72 expected points due to the – 2 turnover margin (see details below in section on Expected Points).
Countess picked up his third interception of the year and Wilson got his first. The Michigan defense has a total of 5 interception takeaways and is ranked #33 for interception takeaway percentage at 3.9%. Gardner threw three interceptions and now has 6 for the year. M is ranked dead last (#125) for interceptions thrown percentage at 8.3%. Devin also lost his first fumble of the year.
National Rankings: All rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
Expected Points: The impact of each turnover depends upon the down, the spot the turnover is lost, and the spot the turnover is gained. Although Michigan had a –2 TOM, two of the turnovers occurred on third down. None of Akron's turnovers occurred on third down. As you can see in the table below, both of Akron's turnovers were very costly with an EP of nearly 6 points each. Michigan had one turnover that was very costly at 5 EP, one at 4 EP, and two at just 3 EP. The result is a net disadvantage to Michigan of just 2.72 EP.
This chart shows Expected Points for various yard lines.
This chart shows the basis of EP calculations for each turnover.
There’s been a lot of talk about who or what to blame for the Great Akron Tire Fire of 2013. Is Akron actually good or are we actually not that good? Were we “outcoached?” Did Hoke, Borges and Mattison spend the week watching reruns of A-Team instead of film? Did Devin Gardner just have an off day? Why was this almost The Horror: Part Deux instead of the blowout every single one of us expected?
I don’t see a single culprit, but rather, a coincidence of factors—each of which had a negative effect on the outcome. No single one can, in my estimation, account for a 28-24 near loss to Akron, but each contributed in the way that rubber, oxygen and sparks contribute to a real tire fire.
The point of this diary is to try to determine the importance of the various factors involved, relative to one another. This is a qualitative analysis, but I’ve jazzed it up with some numbers to make things more fun. First I looked at the final score, 28-24, and the fact that there were a total of 52 points scored. I then decided (for the sake of pseudoscientific modeling, of course) that in a perfect game, we score all the points. Against Akron, that would be 52-0 us. Working from this assumption, every element of our near-loss should contribute some discrete number of points away from 52-0 and towards 28-24. I then looked at the one factor that can be quantified—points off of Gardner’s turnovers—and determined the points and approximate percentages attributable to other factors relative to that.
Without further ado, then, here’s what I blame, along with the percentage of blame I think they are accountable for, and why. I’ve also included an “adjusted score” to show what the final might have been like had this one factor not been a factor (and everything else held constant).
1. Akron – 15% [7 points.]
Adjusted Score: 31-20
Clearly Akron played better than we thought they were capable of—their 2 stars, walk-ons and JUCO transfers did nearly as well against us as Notre Dame’s parade of heralded 4 and 5 stars. It’s the coaching: Terry Bowden and Chuck Amato are unusually experienced for the MAC, and have enjoyed success at the highest level.** They weren’t intimidated, and clearly did their homework. As bad as they have been in the past, on this specific day they played better than anyone expected—appreciably better than, say, Central Michigan did a couple weeks ago. And it doesn’t hurt that they figured out our snap count. Of course, that probably would not have mattered had it not been for our…
2. Complacency – 40% [21 points]
Adjusted Score: 42–17 or 35-10
As much as Akron’s gameplan execution exceeded expectations, ours failed to live up to even the minimal standard. In some ways, the game resembled a bastard hybrid of Carr-era and Rodriguez-era demons—ultra-soft defense, conservative play-calling and a languid approach to an early-season opponent tied to soul-crushing turnovers, missed field goals and inexplicably stalled drives. Though I don’t know what went on during the week, it sure seemed like everyone, from the staff on down, figured this one would wrap up by the end of first quarter. We were content to line up with our most vanilla defense, expecting to get pressure from our front four against a max protect blocking scheme. Instead, Pohl had a lot of time to find the gaps in our soft zone. The offense was better, but there were too many DeBord-esque obvious runs on obvious running downs right into 9 dudes for -2 to 2 yards. That might have worked when we had Mike Hart or Chris Perry running behind a more experienced O-line, but we don’t, and so it did not. We could have gone more to the zone-read—when we did, it worked like a charm. But we didn’t.* The players don’t get a pass here either. A lot of guys just looked lazy and/or disoriented out there—guys who are pretty decent, like Michael Schofield, Joe Bolden, Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile. Maybe it was a “hangover” effect from last week, or simple overconfidence. I lean towards the latter—this was a team that wasn’t prepared for adversity, and consequently, wasn’t putting in much of an effort. Even when it was clear that more effort was needed, we were sloppy.
3. Devin Gardner’s Gameday Psychology – 25% [14 points]
Adjusted Score: 35-17
It’s apparently feast or famine with Rich Rodriguez-recruited quarterbacks, and in this sense Devin Garner appears no different than Denard Robinson or Tate Forcier before him. All have the ability to dazzle you with their improvisational skills on one play, only to crush your hopes and dreams will their gun-slingin’ ways on the next. In this game, Devin made four crucial, head-scratching errors. The fumble came because he couldn’t decide whether to keep or pitch on a speed option. The pitch was open for a TD, but instead he just sort of didn’t protect the ball and—whoops—there it went. And the INTs…oh dear—one returned for a touchdown and the other two almost converted into field goals. His turnovers accounted for 14 points, and nearly for another 6. And that’s not even taking into account the drive-killing throws to Tacopants. Despite what I said earlier, this is Akron. A MAC team. Put in the same position, Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio all make more than 14 points out of 4 turnovers.
4. Lack of Skill and/or Experience at Key Positions - 20% [10 points]
Adjusted Score: 31-17
We all worried about this in the offseason, but then against Notre Dame, it suddenly didn’t seem to matter. Well, it does. We missed an interior O-line that can get a push against an undersized and less-talented defensive front. We missed being able to get a pass rush with the front four. We missed Jordan Kovacs. We missed Jake Ryan. We missed having a reliable run game from the running backs. Still, we have enough talent and skill, distributed evenly enough and bolstered by good coaching, that this should not have greatly affected the outcome against Akron. Northwestern, Sparty or even Iowa, maybe, but not Akron. Never Akron.
What This Means Going Forward
Sometimes a bad game against an inferior opponent exposes certain flaws that will become unavoidable as you move to league play. Other times, it’s just one bad game—embarrassing, certainly, but not necessarily indicative of season-long trends. The two low points of the past 20 years of Michigan football are undoubtedly the 2007 “Horror” against Appalachian State and the 2008 “Nameless Embarrassment” against Toledo. The Horror was emblematic of the latter—sure we stank the following week against a very good Oregon team, but we did recover. We won 8 of our last 10 and then beat Urban Meyer’s Florida in the Capital One Bowl. By contrast, the loss against Toledo was pretty emblematic of who we were that year, i.e. the worst Michigan team since the 1960s, if not longer.
The good news is that, since we won this one, we will eventually forget it ever happened. I mean, how many of us remember that we had to come from behind to beat San Diego State in 2004? I didn't until I looked it up. By contrast, I will never forget losing to App State and Toledo. So there’s that. What really worries me, though, is that this one is more like the 2010 near-disaster against UMASS, or Ben Chappell’s one game Heisman performance of 2009—wins that expose fundamental flaws that will haunt us down the line.
I believe the evidence is unclear on this—certainly, the game did expose our weakness on the interior offensive line, as well as our inability to get pressure without blitzing. It also reminded us that creative, improvisational quarterbacks almost inevitably have off days, when the split-second, seat-of-your-pants decisions just don’t go your way. I imagine that we will have more days where our O-line can’t get a push and our D-line gets pushed. I also imagine that there is at least one more game left where Gardner’s penchant for turning the ball over puts the outcome in jeopardy.
The good news is that these are areas where we can improve over the course of the season. Kalis is a guy I expect to be a lot better by the end of the season than he is now—the talent is there; it’s just that the experience is not. Young, talented guys can learn from this embarrassment—Ojemudia, Clark, Bolden, Ross, Thomas, Hollowell. And Jake Ryan's return should help considerably.
The bad news is that improvement over the course of a season is often negated by injuries and often lost in the transition to better and more consistent competition. The young starters will almost certainly have another bad game before the season is done. Probably on the road, though as this game proves, it can happen at home too.
Gardner’s game-time psychology is an equal, if not bigger factor, for the simple reason that we ask him to do so much, and to paper over so many structural weaknesses in our roster. Of the three Rodriguez-era quarterbacks I mentioned above, Devin, I think, has the highest ceiling. He showed us that against Notre Dame, as well as last year when he filled in for Denard. In his weekly diary, Bronxblue pointed out that Devin is more than a bit like Vince Young—a supreme athlete who eventually turned into the most dominant individual player I’ve ever seen, but who first struggled with consistency in the passing game. Devin’s passing is actually better than Young’s was at this stage in his career, but he does have that problem with turnovers, and it’s a big one. As much as I love this coaching staff, it’s unclear whether they will be able to work the turnovers out of his system—Denard, as we all know, regressed in the INT department in the shift from 2010 to 2011. Since Devin better fits the Borges mold, I think they'll have better success with him on this front, but it’s still too much of an open question for my liking.
All that said, complacency was the biggest single ingredient of this tire fire, and I do not think this will be a problem again. Hoke and company dodged a bullet on Saturday, and do not think anyone will be looked past or given short shrift going forward. Take that out of the equation, and the next tire fire looks to max out at 60% of this one.
The bottom line is, we are unlikely to play this poorly against anyone else left on our schedule. Unfortunately, the rest of the teams on our schedule are all better than Akron. Still, if we can fix the complacency and preparation issue and halve the turnovers, that should be enough to win more games than we lose from this point forward. Unfortunately, this game also shows us that we're not quite ready for the big time yet. The saving grace is that we play in the Big 10, where arguably no one else is either.
*We did have some success under center, but my impression is that shotgun formations were more consistently successful. I’m looking forward to the UFR to see if that’s correct or not.
**EDIT: And let's not forget Jim Tressel, who unfortunately knows a thing or two about winning at Michigan Stadium.