So after the win against OSU, I've decided to take my first bit of optimism about Michigan basketball this year and blow it way out of proportion. I'm asking the big question:
Can we make the tournament?
Obviously for this exercise I'm going to assume we don't win Big Ten Tournament, because if we do, we're in no matter what. So I'm looking purely at an at-large bid.
We are currently 14-13 after the win. But since we're not winning the Big Ten Tourney in this exercise, that means we have at least one more loss on our resume. This means we'll have to be a 14 loss team looking for an at-large bid.
So the first thing to look at:
How often do 14 loss teams get at-large bids?
To answer this I looked at every at-large team's record that has recieved a bid since 2007. The results are very interesting.
In only 2 years in that time span has team with 14 losses recieved an at-large bid.
19-14 Arizona was a 10 seed.
20-14 Marquette was an 11 seed
19-14 Tennessee was a 9 seed
19-14 Penn State was a 10 seed
19-14 USC was an 11 seed
19-14 Michigan State was a 10 seed.
Wow. I really wasn't expecting many 14 loss teams to have gotten at-large bids, and I was pretty correct except for 2011.
Looking at it, 2011 must have had an incredibly weak bubble if that many 14 loss teams made the tourney. I don't think we can expect that weak of a bubble this year, and it will be discussed further down in the post.
On the plus side since 2011, an extra 3 at large bids have been added, so it will be a little easier to make the tournament.
I bolded 2011 USC because I just wanted to point out their resume.
In 2011, USC had one win over a ranked team. That was an Arizona team that ended up being a 5 seed.
Of their loses, here are some notable ones:
23-11 Rider Broncos: Lost in the first round of the CBI
12-20 Bradley Braves: No post season tournament
11-22 TCU Horned Frogs: No post season tournament
19-13 Nebraska Cornhuskers: Lost in the first round of the NIT
21-18 Oregon Ducks: Won the CBI (they were 16-17 at the time of selection)
11-20 Oregon State Beavers: No post season tournament
Now that I looked at 14 loss at-large teams, I wanted to do the same with 13, to see what difference that extra loss makes.
How often do 13 loss teams get at-large bids?
Using the same time frame as before:
21-13 Arkanasas was a 12 seed
18-13 Oregon was a 9 seed
20-13 Michigan was a 10 seed
19-13 Arizona was a 12 seed
20-13 Maryland was a 10 seed
21-13 Minnesota was an 11 seed
20-13 Michigan was an 8 seed
19-13 Illinois was a 9 seed
20-13 South Florida was a 12 seed
20-13 Texas was an 11 seed
19-13 West Virginia was a 10 seed
20-13 Connecticut as a 9 seed
20-13 Villanova was a 9 seed
21-13 NC State was a 12 seed
So at least one 13 loss team every year I checked has gotten an at-large bid, with the most being 4 in 2012.
So after looking at historical precedent, we need to see how Michigan compares. As I said earlier, our record is 14-13 (7-8). If we're looking for an at-large, we're going to essentially be at least 14 loss team however.
Looking above, it's pretty clear that the odds are slim as it is, but if we lose another game we have 0 chance at an at large. This means winning out in the regular season. That would put as at 17-13 (10-8), with wins @ Maryland, @ Northwestern, and home vs Rutgers.
In conference, we would probably finish right in the middle of the pack, getting a first round bye. For Big Ten Tournament purposes, a 10-8 record, winning % wise, would be the 7 seed, so for simplicities sake I'll put us there, and leave everyone else where they are now.
In the first round we would play the 10 seed who also has a first round bye, which in this case would be Nebraska. We beat Nebraksa 58-44 in our only regular season matchup.
After that we would play the second seed, who has a double bye. In this case, that would be Maryland, although Purdue has the same conference record currently.
Then, assuming seeds hold, we would be playing the 3 seed in the semi-finals, which would be Purdue.
Finally, assuming a loss in the finals (since in this scenario we are not getting an auto-bid), we would probably lose to the 1-seed Wisconsin. Our final record would be 20-14.
So assuming all of this happens as layed out above, we would be 20-14 (10-8), which would be more wins than any of the previous 14 loss teams to make the tourney except for Marquette, who also had 20.
We would be 2-4 vs the RPI top 25 (both wins against Maryland), 4-10 vs the RPI top 50, 8-12 vs the RPI top 100, and 12-2 vs the rest.
We would also be 4-6 on the road, and 4-2 on a neutral site.
We currently have an SOS of 11 and RPI of 89, but both those would change depending on these results, mainly the RPI increasing.
Now it's time to look at the teams Michigan is competing against. According to Joe Lunardi, the last 8 teams in the tournament are:
17-9 Illinois Fighting Illini: 2-2 vs RPI top 25, 1 loss vs RPI 100+, 1-1 vs Michigan
16-11 NC State Wolfpack: 2-4 vs RPI top 25, 1 loss vs RPI 100+, 1-0 vs Boise State
17-9 St. Johns Red Storm: 2-6 vs RPI top 25, 2 losses vs RPI 100+
17-9 Stanford Cardinal: 0-3 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+
20-7 Boise State Broncos: 1-1 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+, 0-1 vs NC State
18-9 Cincinnati Bearcats: 3-1 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+
19-8 LSU Tigers: 1-1 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+
16-12 UCLA Bruins: 1-6 vs RPI top 25, 1 loss vs RPI 100+
Obviously keep in mind that the resume for Michigan is theoretical while these resumes are concrete, so more wins and losses will be added.
So after all of this typing and time I've wasted, what's the final takeaway?
Well, I'm sure you could have guessed this, but if Michigan wants to make the tourney, they're gonna have to win the Big Ten Tourney. Even assuming Michigan does finish out how I assumed above, Michigan would at best be a last 4 in type team, which does not bode well.
Also, this post is assuming that Michigan wins @ Maryland, which no team except for Virginia has done, so good luck with that. And expecting this team to win 7 straight for any other purposes besides me avoiding studying is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Reasons to be Semi-Optimistic
If you do want to hold out hope, however, here are a few things that might make you feel a bit better:
- A 14 loss team can make the tournament. It's happened before, so 14 losses isn't the kiss of death for an at-large bid. It makes it very tough however.
- The bubble isn't too strong. Granted, I don't think it ever is, but UCLA, for example, only has one less loss than Michigan, only has one RPI top 25 win, and is projected to be in the tournament.
- If Michigan finishes as assumed above, that would mean we would be 8-2 in our last 10 with an 8 game win streak. The committee likes to look at how you finish, and that's the best way Michiga could hope.
- Along those lines, the injuries to Walton and Levert. I know it's weird to think of those as positives, but they could be for Michigan's chances. Whenever a team suffers key injuries, the committee wants to see how they do without the missing players. If Michigan ends strongly, they can say the inuries to Walton and Levert were the cause for the poor play, and once the team had experience playing without those two, they finished very strongly.
- Our bad losses aren't THAT bad. Losing to NJIT and EMU are clearly part of Michigan's problems right now on the resume. But you saw USC's resume in 2011 when they made, and there are teams projected in the tournament right now with more losses than Michigan against sub RPI 100 teams, so the loses can be overcome.
- We'd essentially be a 13 loss team. I know this is weird because I've been saying we're a 14 loss team the entire time, but the Big Ten Tournmanet Final ends a few hours before the field is announced. By that time, the committe has most likely made their decisions, so while losing that game would make us a 14 loss team, the committee would be evaluating us as a 13 loss team. And you can see from past years, 13 vs 14 losses makes a big difference. We might get lucky and by the time that 14th loss comes, their minds will have already been made up, and if that's the case, it's good news for us.
Your Rooting Interests
If Michigan has any chance at an at-large bid, the following things are what you want to happen
- Win @ Maryland. While winning the next 7 is going to be hard no matter what, this next game @ Maryland is by far the most difficult. If we can somehow pull the upset, this gets that much more realistic.
- Root against all bubble teams, especially the ones mentioned above. For obvious reasons.
- Root for Michigan State or Indiana to get the 3 seed. At this point, we need wins against as many top teams as possible. Our most likely route in the Big Ten Tourney runs through the bottom half, against the 2 and 3 seeds. Of the teams left battling for those seeds, Purdue would be the least helpful for our resume, and they are currently the 3 seed. Root for Indiana or MSU to take that spot, as beating them would be a lot more helfpul and give us an extra RPI Top 50 or 25 win.
- Root for Penn State ad Nebraska. Their RPI ranks right now are 106 and 108 respectively right now. Getting them in the top 100 would be another benefit to our resume.
- Root for NJIT and EMU. Just to make our bad losses less bad.
Northwestern isn't the only conference school to have seen a significant student riot back in the good ole days, and the U-M fraternity numbskulls who trashed the resorts up north last month aren't the only U-M students to have gotten seriously out of hand. On Monday, March 16, 1908, the old Star Theater on Washington Street was the site of the what is probably the worst student riot in U-M history. Curiously, there is more than one account for the origin of the disturbance, and one of them has a connection to Michigan football.
This is the front page account from the Cornell Sun:
"STUDENT RIOT AT MICHIGAN.
Two Thousand Go on Rampage and Demolish Theater despite the Police-Militia Called Out.
Ann Arbor, Mich., March 17.
Two thousand Michigan undergraduates battered down the Star five-cent theatre here last evening, avenging an attack on a student in the College of Forestry there Saturday night and ending their attack on the building with a riot in which police, firemen and finally the militia took part. Twenty-two undergraduates spent the night in jail.
News of the 'trouble on Saturday night, when a special policeman inflicted painful wounds on a student who was said to have been the cause of slight disturbances, spread among the undergraduate body on Sunday and Monday and last evening reprisals against the theatre were planned. Marching through the student rooming district shouting "All out for the Star Theatre," the procession of students were joined by hundreds of others who poured out of the houses on the line of march. A crash of glass, as a brick tore through the front doors of the theatre, announced the arrival of the students and with a fusillade of rocks and clubs, pandemonium broke loose. Rails completed the destruction of the front of the building, the piano, seats and moving picture machine went by the board with the rest of the wreckage while the police, powerless in the hands of the mob, were not even able to retain possession of their helmets and uniforms.
In the height of the uproar, President Angell and several of the University deans appeared upon the scene but their pleadings for quiet could not be heard above the roar of the turmoil, and seeing that protest was useless the faculty members retired. With the police put to rout, the fire men were ordered out but had no sooner coupled their hose to the hydrants, than the students swept them off their feet, made away with the hose and reduced the fire chief to abject terms, as he feared to leave 'the city unprotected without the fire apparatus.
A hurry call was sent to Governor Warner asking that the militia, who were in readiness in their armory, be called out, and bugle calls aunouncing their preparation to march marked the end of the disturbance. Minor injuries were reported among police, students and firemen but no one was seriously hurt. The theatre, however, is a complete wreck.
Later—All the University of Michigan students arrested Monday night are at liberty. Fifteen of them had to furnish $1,000 bail each, after being led into Justice Doty's court and back to their cells handcuffed and under a heavy police guard. Three students pleaded guilty to a charge of loitering and were fined $4.65 each. The fifteen, for whom bail was furnished by Ann Arbor businessmen, will be given a hearing on Friday. There is no indication of a recurrence of Monday night's disturbance."
The Ann Arbor News printed an account of the event 34 years later on March 17, 1942:
This version differs from the Cornell account in several instances. The date of the riot is given as Tuesday, March 17, and the origin of the incident did not involve a "special policeman," but an usher at the theater. Moreover, the assault on the student which was supposed to have happened on Saturday, March 14, in the Cornell account occurred on the day of the riot in the AA News account.
In general, though, the overall nature of the incident in the two accounts is the same: there was an assault on a student for some alleged misbehavior by an employee of the theater, and a destructive student response followed, in spite of pleas by President Angell and other faculty members to halt the disturbance.
However, the online history section about the AA police department contains a very different telling of the event:
"One of the biggest events in the early years of the Ann Arbor Police Department was a student riot at the Star Theatre. This riot took place on March 16, 1908.
The riot occurred as the manager of the theatre and a pool room operator, approached a “star” University of Michigan football player and asked him to “throw” a game. The two men would bet heavily on the opposing team, therefore winning a great amount of money, of which the player would receive a share.
The football player refused and this information was kept quiet until the following spring. Somehow students learned about this and told the manager to close the theatre for good. Evidently the students felt so aggrieved that they did not want the theatre operating. The manager did not heed their warning and one week later the theatre was still in operation.
On the evening of March 16, the students assembled downtown and walked to the theatre. When they arrived, they demanded that the manager come outside and speak with them. The manager obviously felt the students wanted to do more than “talk” and ran out the back door of the theatre.
When the manager did not appear, the students began to throw bricks at the windows of the theatre. A building across the street from the theatre was under construction and there were truckloads of bricks sitting in front of the structure.
These bricks were promptly used to destroy the outside of the theatre and once this was done, their anger was turned on the interior. The riot lasted all night and futile efforts were made by police, fire and university officials to stop it. Sixty-two arrests were made and numerous officers received injuries along with torn, damaged and lost uniforms."
This is the only source I've come across for the story that the riot was precipitated by an attempt to bribe a U-M football player, and there's no verifying information provided in the aadl.org account, either. Given that the alleged bribery angle doesn't appear in the contemporaneous account in the Cornell newspaper or in the AA News version, I doubt it's the accurate explanation.
Regardless, it's a historical fact that on a mid-March night in 1908, several scores of Michigan students went on a violent rampage and essentially demolished a prominent local business. The fact that they were apparently let off from prosecution after they paid a then-subtantial amount of damages is interesting in light of the ski resort damage earlier this winter season.
Craig Ross must love scavenger hunts. On yesterday's WTKA MGoBlog Roundtable, he suggested that I look into Wu Tingfang, the Chinese minister who attended a Michigan football game in Detroit at the turn of the century. This is therefore something of a follow-up of the story of the 1925 Michigan-Northwestern game and the riots that followed (LINK).
The New York Times (November 3, 1901) preserves the basic facts (LINK):
MICHIGAN, 22; CARLISLE, 0.DETROIT, Mich.. Nov. 2.-The University of Michigan defeated the Carlisle Indian School football team at Bennett Park this afternoon before 8,000 people, by the score of 22 to 0. Wu Ting-Fang, Chinese Minister to the United States, occupied one of the boxes with former secretary of War Alger, who, at the close of the game, in response to the demands of the spectators, addressed them, congratulating Michigan on its victory.Michigan made three touchdowns, Shorts kicking goal twice, and scored five points on a place kick. Two of the touchdowns and the place kick were made in the first half. The Indians braced up wonderfully in the second half, and it was only by the hardest kind of line-bucking that Michigan scored one touchdown. Line-up:
Michigan (22.) Position Caslisle, (0.) Redden, Knight Left end Beaver, Bradley Coleman. White Left tackle Lubo McGugin Left guard Phillips Gregory Centre Schouchuk, Chesaw Wilson Right guard White Shorts Right tackle Dillon Hernstein Right end Hare Weeks Quarter Sheldon, Johnson Heston Left half Johnson, Beaver Sweeley Right half Yarlott, Saul Snow Full back WilliamsReferee--Louis Hinkey. Umpire--Ralph Hoagland. Time of halves, 27 1/2 minutes.
Minister Wu Ting Fang of China witnessed the football game between the University of Michigan and the Carlisle Indians, October 2. It was his first game and he certainly made satisfactory progress in knowledge of the sport. He entered the grand stand just after Michigan had pushed the ball over the line, leaving two redmen overcome on the ground.'"Are they dead yet?" queried Mr. Wu with polite solicitude, as he surveyed the spectacle."Oh, no!" said one of the party's student guides. "Look, they are getting up.""Marvelous tenacity of life," commented the distiguished visitor. "How many sudden deaths would it take to postpone the game?"Presently, as the game went on, Mr. Wu became philosophical."It is a beautiful thought," he said sententiously, after watching the game fora time, "to think that the fathers of these red men, a few years ago, were being shot down and hunted, and now their sons are taking strides in civilization, are given a helping hand by a mighty government, and, ---"Just at that moment the Indian full back, scopped in a hot punt, and had started up the field when the two Michigan ends came thundering down on him and dragged him back toward his own goal."And," continued Mr. Wu, "taken in the arms of the white man like a brother. There is no discrimination because of his color. It is a truly beautiful thought."Everybody agreed with Mr. Wu. After the game, won by Michigan, the minister made a little speech of congratulation to the victors, and condolence to the vanquished.
[Mr. Wu] laughed heartily when General Alger suggested that he was the mascot and brought victory to the Wolverine camp.
We have nothing corresponding to tennis and other Western ball games, nor, indeed, any game in which the opposite sexes join. Archery was a health-giving exercise of which modern ideas of war robbed us. The same baneful influence has caused the old-fashioned healthful gymnastic exercises with heavy weights to be discarded. I have seen young men on board ocean-going steamers throwing heavy bags of sand to one another as a pastime. This, though excellent practice, hardly equals our ancient athletic feats with the bow or the heavy weight. Western sports have been introduced into some mission and other schools in China, but I much doubt if they will ever be really popular among my people. They are too violent, and, from the oriental standpoint, lacking in dignity. Yet, when Chinese residing abroad do take up Western athletic sports they prove themselves the equals of all competitors, as witness their success in the Manila Olympiad, and the name the baseball players from the Hawaiian Islands Chinese University made for themselves when they visited America. Nevertheless, were the average Chinese told that many people buy the daily paper in the West simply to see the result of some game, and that a sporting journalism flourishes there, i.e., papers devoted entirely to sport, they would regard the statement as itself a pleasant sport. Personally, I think we might learn much from the West in regard to sports. They certainly increase the physical and mental faculties, and for this reason, if for no other, deserve to be warmly supported. China suffers because her youths have never been trained to team-work. We should be a more united people if as boys and young men we learned to take part in games which took the form of a contest, in which, while each contestant does his best for his own side, the winning or losing of the game is not considered so important as the pleasure of the exercise. I think a great deal of the manliness which I have admired in the West must be attributed to the natural love of healthy sport for sport's sake. Games honestly and fairly played inculcate the virtues of honor, candidness, and chivalry, of which America has produced many worthy specimens. When one side is defeated the winner does not exult over his defeated opponents but attributes his victory to an accident; I have seen the defeated crew in a boat race applauding their winning opponents. It is a noble example for the defeated contestants to give credit to and to applaud the winner, an example which I hope will be followed by my countrymen.
- Carlisle was paid $2000 for the game (Gerald Gems, For Pride, Profit and Patriarchy: Football and the Incorporation of American Cultural Values , pp. 119-120)
- Michigan had trouble with Carlisle's "move over" play, "in which the entire team is shifted to one side of center, thus confusing and weakening the enemy" (LINK)
- Redden, Michigan's left end, "was knocked breathless, but was ready and snxious to play ten minutes after the injury." (LINK)
- One of Carlisle's best players, Louis Leroy, didn't play in the game because he deserted the team on the day of the game, something that he did four times while at Carlisle (Jeffrey P. Powers-Beck, The American Indian Integration of Baseball , pp. 105-106)
I'm a big Michigan fan, and also a big fan of the NFL and the Lions. I wanted to follow the NFL combine to see how Devin Funchess, Jake Ryan, and Frank Clark do. Like many people, i read about the "newly important" personality tests, that will supposedly be of great value to NFL scouts. The importance and value of these tests has increased due to the large presence of domestic violence cases in the NFL this season. I just don't believe scouts will really value these tests, and don't believe that they understand the importance of character in a football player.
Our late great coach Bo Schembechler, whom my father actually played for in the early 70s, understood character. He valued every player on the team, from all-american to walk-on. Coach Schembechler would actively work towards building character in every player on his teams. He would personally go to bars on friday nights and do night checks in every player's room, to make sure their lights were out at 11:00 pm. Coach Schembechler once said "When someone uncovers a scandal in their company, I don't think they can say, "I didn't know that was going on." They're just saying they're too dumb to do their job! And if they really are too dumb, then why are they getting paid millions of dollars to do it? They know what's going on.”
What Coach Schembechler was saying is that people have to take responsibility for all their actions. He was saing that if someone screws up, they have to on up to what they did, and if they don't, they don't deserve to play at a higher level. Now, i see that Frank Clark is blaming his domestic dispute on his girlfriend. What Clark said goes against Coach Schembechler directly. If Coach Schembechler had found out what Frank Clark did, or what Brendan Gibbons did last year, he wouldn't fret over them, just to win a few more games. He would kick them off the team on the day itself! You don't see a lot of football coaches like Coach Schembechler anymore. Nowaday's, coaches are preoccupied in winning more than character, and that's a huge problem.
Nowaday's, with the exception of this season, coaches play players who get into problems. They don't spend enough time to get to know a player, so they don't know if he has good character. A great example, albeit not a recent one, is Eugene Robinson. The night before Super Bowl XXXIII, Robinson won the Bart Starr award for "outstanding character and leadership both on and off the field." He solicited a prostitute that very same night. While any other person would be in jail, Robinson was allowed to play, and played awfully. His falcons lost, and he would go on to return the award. Coaches don't spend enough time evaluating the character of their players; they just want to win.
I'm disgusted that Frank Clark got invited to the Combine. If you read the police reports, his domestic dispute looked especially heinous. While he's taking personality tests, Devin Gardner is going to be working out and doing everything he can to be drafted. Devin Gardner deserved the invitation that Frank Clark got, but now has to sit at home, getting texts from Jake Ryan and Devin Funchess about the combine. Heck, Devin will probably be working out when those guys are doing drills at the combine. Guys like Devin, who have great character (most notably what he did for J.T. Barett) aren't rewarded for character. They have little chance of getting drafted, and try their hardest in their limted amount of time with scouts, but still aren't rewarded. Roger Goodell hasn't made any of this better. He promises that the NFL will represent a higher standard, and that he will try to fix these issues that we've seen in the last year, but the only thing that's come about from this are these personality tests.
The NFL has huge issues with character.
Just looking forward in a dead period of news and thinking out loud. And yes I fully realize for most its laughable to think out to 2017 when we still have 2015 and 2016 to get through but I've noted in the past we may have some "OL of 2012/2013" issues coming down the pike on our 2017 defense so thought I'd quantify it and have some discussion. Of course 2 years is an eternity in football but math is math. And UM is simply lacking headcount due to our recent classes - much like the failures of 2010-2011 recruiting classes hit Hoke in 2013-2014, we may face some similar issues on D down the pike just from sheer lack of number of defensive recruits.
How did we get here?
If you are unfamiliar with our sordid past the easy explanation is one of the worst classes in UM history (if not the worst class) of 2010 combined with a transition class of 2011 (RR+Hoke) led to a lot of flameouts and attrition. And that attrition came very fast in many cases - in my world view "very fast" in college football is when a player is out of the program within 2 years. This led to very large 2012 (25 players) and 2013 (27 players) classes. With low attrition in those 2 classes; a testament to Hoke in a time when not many football related things were in the positive column for him. I believe only 4 players have left from those 2 classes (1 not by choice), leaving very few scholarships for 2014-2015. So we had a 2014 class of 16 combined with a 2015 class of 14 = 30. Compare that to our 2013 class of 27.
Specific to the defense we only recruited 9 defensive players in 2013 and 4 in 2014. That's a middling 13 players - of which one is already gone (Ferns). 12-ish defensive players is what you generally get in 1 class, not combined in 2. Why do you care? It's going to lead to a lack of upperclassmen down the road throughout our defense.
Here is a table comparing UM v OSU v MSU in 2014/2015 recruiting - overall and defensive player specific. (Please note I do not know if MSU or OSU has suffered any attrition in their 2014 class ala Ferns)
|Total recruits||Total recruits||Total recruits||Def recruits||Def recruits||Def recruits|
|Deficit v OSU||-24||-12|
|Deficit v MSU||-13||-10|
While we have an astounding 24 (!!!!) players less than OSU in these last 2 classes that's a topic for another day. Let's focus on the far right 3 columns - UM lags OSU by 12 players in these 2 classes on D and MSU by 10. That means each of those two programs have 10 to 12 more "lottery tickets" towards valuable contributors on defense. And if you account for UM's loss of Ferns it is really a 11 to 13 player defict. That's an entire starting defensive unit worth of "chances" vs UM over 2 years.
My general (pulled our of rear end) rule is out of every 10 recruits you hope 5 become front line 2 deep contributors and 7 help the team (i.e. can do some work on special teams). 3 will flame out, leave, just not be good enough, be injured. Maybe that is optimistic and the real number is 4 and 6 (rather than 5 and 7) - I've never looked at the %s long term for UM. But the reality is UM is way behind these teams in these 2 classes - we only have 12 candidates in total (with Ferns gone) to make it through the program and become upperclassmen vs 25 and 23 for OSU and MSU respectively.
Using my "70% rule" that means 8 of those 12 guys will be meaningful contributors by the time we get to their JR and SR years for UM, whereas OSU will have 17 and MSU 16. That's a massive deficit for one side of the ball down the pike.
Won't this balance out down the road?
Yes it will - at least vs MSU. The current count for 2016 scholarships is 14ish but assuming post spring attrition and some other losses next year of 5th year seniors etc we probably have a class near 20ish. Then we have a huge class coming in 2017 if all other things hold steady - which they won't. So we'll have some large classes leading to experienced teams in 2019-2020 (similar to having an experienced team in 2015). But this discussion is for 2017.
OSU? Difficult to say - they somehow have recruited 108 guys in the past 4 years so will it ever really "balance out" vs them? In theory yes - in reality not so much as they move players thru their system very quickly (wink wink).
Our "old guys" in 2017:
Let's look at the depth chart for 2017 with upperclassmen + the four 2015 recruits. Keep in mind this assumes 100% retention and 100% contribution. Which won't happen. Right now (pending any loss of redshirts of the 2015s) we have 11 upperclassmen in total (1 deep, 2 deep, 3 deep, whatever deep) for 11 defensive positions in 2017 - that stinks.
My assumptions (which may or may not be correct):
- I believe S Jabrill Peppers will be in the NFL in 2017. If he is still with UM that is probably a very good thing for UM in 2017 but not such a good thing in 2015 and 2016 as it would mean - realistically - he fell short of his 5 star status. He is not on my 2017 depth chart.
- I have not include Brian Cole at S as Harbaugh indicated he will be a WR. I do believe simply from a numbers perspective Cole someow makes it back to S down the road from a need perspective even if WR is his better position but for now I go with the Harbaugh statement.
- I assume NT Mone will remain at UM in 2017. He has early promise and with NFL size already, 2 good years as a true SO and true JR could have him in the NFL draft as an early entry. I have assumed not for this exercise; he remains on the depth chart.
- We have four (!) defensive players in the 2015 class. Obviously it is difficult to project who doesnt redshirt but based on need and experience of players in front of them I have taken the redshirt off only 1 of them - Shelton Johnson. Reuben Jones is too small and Washington is a project ala Stribling. Ty Kinnel would be the other guy we could take off the redshirt BUT unlike Johnson there seems to be a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart so I would not understand wasting a year like that unless Hill and Thomas are deemed to be busts by this staff. I hope they dont waste guys like this as true freshman running around on special teams and doing nothing else like Hoke did, hence losing a RS SR year.
|RS SR||SR||RS JR||JR||RS SO|
Let's look at it position by position
I'll do best case, and (my) reality. (I'll skip worst case) You may disagree with my reality. But the math is the math - it will be a young defense overall.... and the secondary in particular brings up visions of the 2012 OL. Other areas could also be troubling depending on development.
- Need (4)
- On roster (4)
General comment: The reason I pulled off Shelton Johnson's redshirt is because aside from Mario O and Taco Charlton we have nothing in concrete behind them and Shelton is 6'5 250ish (allegedly). So he has the size to play immediately as opposed to Reuben Jones. Poggi was a high level recruit (Alabama offer) but thus far has created little buzz. This is a position that it is tough to be impactful early but unlike Taco at this stage he has barely played. We'll know better after this year what he is. Marshall took his redshirt as he should have and hopefully shows us something as a RS FR in the pass rush. But the door is open for Johnson as a backup and you have to account for injuries - any of these 4 guys goes down and you no longer have a 2 deep due to the misses of Malik McDowell and Hand in 2014.
Best case 2017: Poggi and Marshall begin to have impact this year as key backups. Marshall takes over the 2016 starting WDE and Jones is his backup. Johnson battles Poggi for the SDE in 2016, the better guy emerges as the starter. Some 2016 recruit will be "5th man up" at DE as a RS FR.
More realistic case 2017: One of these 4 players will not pan out either due to injury or just not cutting it at this level - that's just the odds. A 2016 DE recruit will be in the 2 deep as a RS FR and be counted upon. He could even be a starter if enough things fall the wrong way.
- Need (4)
- On roster (3)
|Pallante||2016 RS FR|
General comment: DT should /could be the best position of the UM D the next 2 years with Henry, Mone, Wormley, Glasgow, et al. But could become a very troubling position post 2016 as almost everyone graduates and there is no 2015 recruit in the assembly line. Pallante - a lightly regarded recruit - was the only 2014 recruit so that is back to back years without an "A list" recruit at these 2 DT positions. Seems like we should have landed a higher level 2014 DT recruit - not sure what happened.
Mone is the one sure thing in 2017. As long as he is on the UM roster. Like Pipkins before him he played as a true freshman but unlike Pipkins it felt more like due to beating out people rather than a dearth of alternatives. While his stats were not off the charts dude was a true FR playing a beastly position and seemed to hold up. Hurst Jr is still a young buck and has been passed by other players at this point for playing time. You sometimes hear good things about him - i.e. leading up to the bowl game in 2013 - but he remains largely a mystery.
Best case 2017: Mone stays and is a first team All Big 10 type player. Hurst Jr develops nicely. Pallante is a revelation in a Glasgow type development. Even if all that happens you are stuck playing a 2016 recruit RS FR DT in your rotation. That's not the end of the world - especially if he is another Mone type. If it's a developmental player that's not good.
More realistic case 2017: Very tough one to figure out as DTs usually don't show their face this early in their career so projecting a few years out is tough. But lets say 1 of Hurst Jr or Pallante doesnt work out as a serious contributor. It would mean both your backups are 2016 RS FR types. And if there is 1 injury here you'd potentially be starting a 2016 RS FR. Not ideal at this position. Mone leaving early for the NFL would be a major issue.
- Need (6)
- On Roster (4)
|2016 true SO||2016 RS FR||Wangler|
General comment: 2015 will give UM a very experienced LB corps - then 2016 is going to be a mystery. With Ferns gone (a player I really liked out of HS), 2016 looks like Ben Gedeon and... welp. Will Gant ever see the field? There has been no talk of him in 3 years. Will McCray? He is still quite young, but little talk of him. It would be nice to see some of these guys get on the field at some point in 2015. 2017 is very difficult to project since we (properly) redshirted our 2014 class and we have barely seen anyone not named Gedeon out of the underclassmen. And he will be gone by 2017. Unfortunately Kirkland Jr decommited from 2015 and R. Smith never seemed like a legit option so the 2015 class brings nothing to LB.
Best case 2017: Magnus is wrong on Mike McCray and he becomes a legit Big 10 starter at MLB. 2 of the 3 of Winovich Furbush and Wangler become legitimate Big 10 starters and not starters only due to default (i.e. no one else on the roster). Whichever of those 3 does not start is a valuable relief man. We get two studs in the 2016 class, one of which will probably not redshirt in 2016 due to lack of depth chart. Those will be backups in 2017 and/or 1 could be a potential starter in case of injury.
More realistic case 2017: Realistically speaking we grabbed 4 LBs in 2014, and you have to assume one just won't contribute. Ferns was the most "sure thing" of the 4 and is out of the program. So my hope is 2 of the 3 remaining can be viable Big 10 players and not be out there because we literally have no one else. I expect one of our 2016 LBs to not redshirt in 2016 and if a "top 50" type recruit potentially start over one of the 2014s - or at least push very hard. It's a shame Kirkland or Smith did not commit - they almost certainly would have had a huge role on the 2017 LB core. The 2016 LB recruits are critical and will be playing in some role - and not just one of them. If Mike McCray does not work out this LB core will be super young and a potential big issue.
- Need (5/6)
- On Roster (3)
|Watson||Washington||2016 true SO|
|2016 RS FR||2016 RS FR|
General comment: Things get much more troubling in the secondary. UM went in for a lot of 2015 CB recruits and missed on most. The loss of Garrett Taylor in particular stings IMO; on paper he looked like a plug n play 2017 starter. Instead we have Washington who is more in the Stribling mode - a good raw athlete with light offer sheet that needs a lot of coaching, 20 lbs, and a lot of weight room work. Reon Dawson is a lot like a Tom Strobel and Blake Bars - you never hear anything about him so while on the roster I simply cannot project him as a contributor unless something changes in 2015. That leaves Brandon Watson who has great size and I hope pushes Blake/Lyons* for a starting role this year as it would bode well for 2017.
Best case 2017: Brandon Watson is a legit Big 10 starter. Keith Washington has a "MSU CB" like development where they find great athletes who are raw at CB, RS them, and develop them into very good press corners. UM lands a superstud 2016 recruit - said superstud would play in 2016 in a backup role or competing with Watson/Stribling across from Lewis then start in 2017. Two other high level 2016 CBs redshirt and are ready to be backups in 2017. Maybe Reon Dawson can help?
More realistic case 2017: Well I don't have much different than the best case here. The main positive here is CB is a position an athletic stud could come in and play early and not kill you too often. Especially in a press scheme which UM is headed towards. It should be easy to recruit stud CBs in 2016 - you can offer them almost immediate playing time.
- Need (4)
- On Roster (1*)
|Kinnel||Cole* or 2016 RS FR|
|2016 RS FR||2016 RS FR|
General comment: Welp. It's never a good thing when your only proposed starter (or in fact player) at a position in 2 years has no photos in actual UM gear other than on a recruiting visit. Unlike CBs where pure athleticism can get you through, S is a place you'd like some experience. One blown read/assignment and Gary Nova is throwing for 45 yards on you or generic Minnesota RB is running for 50. As a field general it is critical they understand the game - not just have the physical attributes. UM has recruited this position badly for a decade in my estimation. And of all the Hoke head scratchers - one that befuddles to this day - is dropping the recruitment of S Montae Nicholson in 2014. He'd be the only sure thing on the 2017 roster at S - in fact the only upperclasssmen safety. Instead he played as a true freshman for a staff that is extremely stingy with letting freshman play - not only that he even started a few games. *Bang head vs wall*.
Best case 2017: Jabrill Peppers is not good enough to go to the NFL early. Yes that's the "best case scenario".
Jordan Kovacs 2.0 enrolls at UM this fall. Yes that's the second "best case scenario".
I have to think Brian Cole becomes a safety in 2017. But if he is trainning as a WR in 2015 and 2016 I dont know how much that really helps. It's a position you really need to understanding the whole defense and spending 2 years running routes then being asked in year 3 to convert to S doesnt make much sense to me. But if not Cole it's basically a RS FR next to Kinnel. Backed up by a RS FR and another RS FR.
More realistic case 2017: I do think Ty Kinnel - as best as you can tell by reading about players - has the highest floor of our whopping four 2015 defensive recruits. No idea on his ceiling but he already has NCAA size and has the luxury of RSing this year behind Wilson, Peppers, Thomas, and Hill. (Clark I assume is the 5th S or will enter the CB competition). So even in my realistic case I don't think Kinnel is a non contributor. But if an injury occurs here and Peppers goes to the NFL you are facing a 2012 OL situation with 2-3 2016 recruits and a true freshman 2017 recruit as our S rotation. Potentially bracketed by a bunch of young CBs.
- No easy solutions
- Our 8 remaining 2014 defensive players must have a high hit rate.
- While this sounds tongue in cheek it is not... our four 2014 defensive players must have a high hit rate. Like, err.... 3 of them must be starters.
- The 2016 class must be loaded with near immediate contributors on defense, especially in the secondary. A stud OLB who can immediately push for playing time would help too.
- We are going to be young on defense in 2017 - at some places extremely. 2018 will be better to a degree if the 2016 class is very good, but will lack seniors ala the 2014 offense. Then we go back to an experienced defense in 2019-2020 ala 2015.
- UM needs to find high end skill players on offense soon to alleviate the issues - as we saw with OSU in 2014, special players at QB/RB and a stout OL can take pressure off your D. When you score a bazillion points with NFL talent all over your offense, your D screwing up doesnt hurt so bad. We need to follow that gameplan post 2015 until 2019ish when both sides of the ball should be more equivalent in experience.
A closer look at age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in NFL players
This is in part a response to a thread a couple weeks back where I posted a link to the new study by Robert Stern and Julie Stamm et al in the journal Neurology that shows an apparent causal relationship between age of first exposure (AFE) to football and cognitive impairment in NFL players. The comments to the original thread hit a full spectrum that can be honed by a close reading of the study and past work on CTE. A few things have happened since that post that make this more interesting; the Super Bowl for one, John O’Korn transferring into Michigan for another and a civil lawsuit filed against the national office of Pop Warner football for the wrongful death of Joseph Cernach. I’m going to take a closer look at the actual data from the new study to refute some points made in the previous thread (including my own). Then, I’m going to apply this new data to previous studies and finally I will present my opinion as to where these and other recent events are leading.
First the latest CTE news story in which a suit has been brought in a federal court in Wisconsin against The Pop Warner Foundation stating that Pop Warner failed: to train coaches, to use safe helmets, to limit contact in practice, to teach players to use safety equipment and finally, failed to follow established concussion protocols dating back to 1997. The suit was filed by Debra Pyka, mother to Joseph Chernach who suffered from CTE having been diagnosed after he committed suicide at the age of 25 in June of 2012. Joseph played Pop Warner from the age of 11 in 1997 to 14 in 2000.
This is Joseph (a Michigan fan) with mom on the left and Joseph in happier times on the right. Photos are taken from Joseph's donor page at the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) website and from photos supplied by the family to news outlets.
Fixed tissues from Joseph were examined by Ann McKee at the Boston University Center for the study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE.) His case was classified as stage 2 - possibly stage 3 and remarked as one of the worst for his age. Joseph’s complete brain was evidently not sent, preventing definitive staging.
This wasn’t the only suit filed in the last weeks but it got my attention and brought back the issues put forth by the CSTE study that came out on Jan 28th. It is important to grasp what that study is saying if only because we are likely to get many more lawsuits like the one above in the near term as well as a continued flight from youth football (participation already being down 29% since 2008.) But these are not the only reasons.
The study in question is entitled
Age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in former NFL players
If you haven’t read it and are able to do so… just do it. It’s not that technical. Pundits in the media, however, and others continue to misconstrue its conclusions and validity which is another reason for this diary. What follows here is my understanding of the data presented with sincerity if not authority. It’s clear from the comments to the original board post that many were interested in the work but didn’t have the time to research the journal article.
The study is a cross sectional analysis for causal factors to explain actual cognitive impairment found in a sample of NFL players. The researchers pulled only from those players who were known already to exhibit cognitive, behavioral or mood symptoms in the 6 month period prior to participating. That is what a cross-sectional study is – a cross section of a population. There is no control group. A control is not needed for this sort of examination.
The subjects were pulled from a group of about 150 players who were vetted so as not to have any previous central nervous system (CNS)disorders (no Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy or any other incoming disorder.) That cuts out quite a few.
The remaining subjects were then paired by similar age and different AFE to FB (one <12 the other >=12.) Current 10 year old (y.o.) FB players get different coaching and different equipment than 50 y.o. ex-FB players did 40 years ago. This pairing controls for the era of football – as the game has evolved year to year since it was first played but specifically in the living history of the NFL players in the study. The older players did not have as much opportunity to play youth football which further limited the possible pairs.
After all the selection is done only 42 players remained in the study population, 21 in each AFE group. There has been much talk about what exactly you can determine from a sample size of only 42 players. Well it turns out you can do quite a bit. Below is the breakdown of the demographics in the study taken from the article.
Looking over the demographics AFE to FB is the primary discriminate along with lesser but significant difference in duration of play(DOP). The confounding nature of DOP and AFE is a valid caveat to any conclusion drawn from this cross section of subjects. Maybe instead of the AFE it is the total number of hits taken that determines later life cognitive impairment. DOP (and age – which is not confounded due to the paired experiment design) was however accounted for and adjusted for in the analysis to focus on AFE.
Three tests were chosen for the analysis (given their focus on the theoretical cognitive deficits expected in CTE) and these were summarized in 9 scores. These are below in unadjusted and adjusted form in the exact data tables published in the journal Neurology.
All the tests are significantly lower for the AFE <12 group. While any significance is interesting, all of the measured outcomes being significant and lower is even more so. Yes, there are only 21 players in each group, but the significance of each of these scores is very high. Suppose you flipped a coin nine times and it came up heads all nine times… you would look at the other side of the coin wouldn’t you? Suppose it came up heads 189 times. That is all this preliminary study is saying. Youth football is a factor in the type of cognitive impairment associated with CTE in NFL players.
In retrospect this confirms a previous study on CTE in December of 2012 done by Ann McKee and Robert Cantu et al though the age of first exposure to the repetitive head injury was not suggested there. Let me suggest that now. That study was appropriately entitled
The spectrum of disease in chronic traumatic encephalopathy
The study included 85 recently deceased subjects known to have suffered repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) along with a control group of 17 subjects with no history of the mTBI. The brains of these subjects were donated to the study for neuropathological evaluation along with an independent and blind parallel series of post mortem interviews with next of kin to determine case history.
68 of the 85 subjects showed signs of CTE(80%), while 51 of the 85 subjects were diagnosed with CTE exclusively(60%.)
From the pathology a staging system is laid out to which the behavior and historical data are spliced. Part of this historical data is the age at time of death. I took the liberty to put that into an excel table below.
Here is the same data graphically represented next to the iconic images of the staging done by Ann McKee in this study.
What hadn’t occurred to me (and isn’t done in McKee’s analysis either for that matter) was to take this age at time of death data and extrapolate back to stage 0 which given the progressive model for the disease would be the time the CTE started.
Here’s the same data with a linear regression.
Admittedly this is an N of 51 and only 33 of these are NFL players. The implication, however, is that CTE started at age 11 and 3/4 years old on average. This is a possible reason for the new study in the first place.
All the studies are calling out for more longitudinal designs to be funded and carried out. That would be about right if two sorts of people were doing the calling out. One would be the scientific sort who are careful with their claims and mindful of their funding. The other sort would be the watchdogs of the sport. That would be the NFL executives and owners.
For the rest of us these cross sectional studies will do just fine. There is no way I would ever ever let my son play the game of football as long as he was a minor in my charge. You don’t need broad based studies to find cause. It wouldn’t take too much convincing if he showed resistance.
There is obviously much more to these studies than I’m relating here. I encourage you to look for yourself to ferret out the details you might be interested in.
Cherry picking studies and data from science journals is a good way to get off base and picked off on a college football blog. I do want to present this table however, again from McKee and Cantu’s spectrum snapshot in 2012.
This is tying together the case histories (gathered by Robert Stern who is another author of the Spectrum paper.) From this chart you can begin to get a clinical take on what the progression of this disease is like. I’m showing this because there were some people who responded with either denial, disdain or ignorance to the dangers here.
This is from the FAQ at BU CSTE
The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and, eventually, progressive dementia. These symptoms often begin years or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.
Roger Goodell in the many interviews from Super Bowl week was happy to point out that hits to defenseless players are down 68% in 2014 (yes they track that), concussions were down 25% and that concussions in the past three years have dropped from 173 a season to 111. I doubt they track or could track the sub-concussive blows that are likely the true culprit in CTE.
Still we got the Edelman hit with 11 minutes to play in the 4th with no concussion protocol or independent review during or after the game. It’s going to be impossible to take the football out of football no matter how much you deflate it.
This has already gone too long. I’ll save you my thoughts on where we’re going from here. But I do think Harbaugh took O’Korn and Oregon took Adams for reasons that aren’t entirely unrelated. You can’t have enough QBs in the games to come.