in town for free camps
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.
I want to start with a quick apology for missing last week. I was on afternoons, ticked about losing the game at the Joe and PISSED abouit the fiasco that was scheduled for last Saturday.
On with the show. Week 21:
Froday February 13
6:30 #55 Wisconsin @ #38 Ohio State
7:00 #20 Penn State @ #36 Michigan State
7:00 #15 UMass-Lowell @ #44 Mass
7:00 #54 Brown @ #42 RPI
7:00 #40 New Hampshire @ #3 Boston College
7:00 #8 Bowling Green @ #41 Ferris State
7:00 #21 Colgate @ #16 Harvard
7:00 #17 St. Lawrence @ #13 Quinnipiac
7:30 #19 Vermont @ #11 Boston College
7:30 #10 Providence @ #35 Notre Dame
8:00 #21 St. Cloud State @ #5 Minnesota-Duluth
8:30 #9 Denver @ #2 North Dakota
8:30 #25 Western Michigan @ #4 Nebraska-Omaha
9:00 #12 Michigan @ #13 Minnesota
9:00 #58 American International @ #51 Air Force
9:30 #7 Miami @ #48 Colorado College
11:00 #6 Michigan Tech @ #49 Alaska-Anchorage
11:00 #1 Minnesota State @ #32 Alaska
- Penn State travels to East Lansing trying to hold onto their Top 2 spot in the B1G standings (Top two seeds get first round bye in Tournament). Both teams play a defensive style of hockey with Penn State throwing anything and everything at the net in the offensive zone. Hildebrand will be in for a tough matchup against one of the top scoring players in the country (Casey Bailey). PSU should win both of these games this weekend and pick up 5 to 6 points but as we all know from the Duel in the D MSU just needs to block shots and play their crappy style of hockey and get lucky offensively.
- UMass-Lowell needs to rebound from a very tough stretch of games and keep themselves in the tournament picture. Lowell winning helps Michigan marginally as Michigan has played and beaten them this season.
- New Hampshire (a team Michigan holds a winning record against) goes on the road against a top five team in Boston University (a team that holds a winning record over Michigan). The odds of NHU pulling off this upset aren't good but if it were to happen it would help Michigan's RPI.
- Denver at North Dakota provides us with a top 10 matchup that could lead to Denver falling enough that Michigan could leapfrog them if everything goes our way (UND and Michigan sweep)
- Michigan @ Minnesota is the top series in the B1G. It is a matchup of top 15 teams (in the Pairwise rankings). Michigan needs to win at least one to boost their ranking back into the range where they are competing for a favorable seed in the tournament (being swept will hurt chances of at-large bid so much so that I think they'd need to win out). My prediciton for this series is that Michigan picks up 4 points (a win and shootout loss that counts as a tie in NCAA's eyes).
- 2 top ranked teams travel out to Alaska for series this weekend which always causes me a little concern.
Saturday February 14
6:00 #20 Penn State @ #36 Michigan State
7:00 #55 Wisconsin @ #38 Ohio State
7:00 #44 Mass @ #15 UMass-Lowell
7:00 #3 Boston University @ #40 New Hampshire
7:00 #18 Yale @ #42 RPI
7:00 #19 Vermont @ #11 Boston College
7:00 #8 Bowling Green @ #41 Ferris State
7:00 #33 Clarkson @ #13 Quinnipiac
7:00 #27 Cornell @ #16 Harvard
8:00 #12 Michigan @ #13 Minnesota
8:00 #9 Denver @ #2 North Dakota
8:00 #10 Providence @ #35 Notre Dame
8:00 #21 St. Cloud State @ #5 Minnesota-Duluth
8:00 #25 Western Michigan @ #4 Nebraska-Omaha
9:00 #58 American International @ #51 Air Force
9:00 #7 Miami @ #48 Colorado College
11:00 #6 MIchigan Tech @ #49 Alaska-Anchorage
11:00 # 1 Minnesota State @ #32 Alaska
Other Key Games:
- Wisconsin travels to Columbus in a matchup of the bottom 2 teams in the conference. Ohio State winning would be better for Michigan as we still have a road game down there and the B1G can't afford to have another team drop in the rankings. Wisconsin being so bad means its actually best for the conference if they lose out as they can't really climb in the Pairwise enough to help anyone.
- Ferris State has two shots to knock off a Top 10 team at home which would help Michigan's RPI.
- Boston College, who is currently ranked one spot ahead of Michigan hosts a hungry Vermont squad who are sitting just outside of the top 16. Vermont winning a game or sweeping will result in a great chance for Michigan to jump into the top 10 if they take care of business.
3 Things Michigan "NEEDS"
- A split on the road at Minnesota is crucial for a shot at a 2 seed going forward and obviously a help in the B1G standings
- Ohio State needs to sweep Wisconsin on home ice
- UMass-Lowell sweeping Mass and getting their season back together.
With the news of Peppers and Morgan getting a medical redshirt, it got me thinking about who of our current players saw action as true freshmen, and whether or not in hindsight it was a smart decision. I left out players who played as true freshmen but ultimately received a redshirt at some point (Morgan, Darboh, Peppers, Richardson).
Shane Morris (Jr): Was thrust into the backup position in 2013 for multiple reasons (Bellomy injury, no QB in 2012 class). He saw time stepping in for Gardner when he lost his helmet, and started the BWW Bowl. He was not redshirted out of necessity, and laregly based on what we saw this year, he could have used an extra year of development.
Derrick Green (Jr): Was the top rated RB in the '13 class. Started to show flashes towards the end of the season once his conditioning improved. Was the backup for most of the season, and started a few games at the end. His experience seemed to help him as he looked pretty promising this season at times before injury. Based on that, it was probably the right decision.
DeVeon Smith (Jr): At the beginning of 2013 season it didn't make much sense to burn his redshirt as he was behind Fitz, Drake, Green, Rawls, and Hayes; and we did not take a RB in the 2014 class. He saw pretty much exclusive special teams duty until later in the season. Looked like our best RB against OSU and ran with more power than Green. That experience seemed to help him out of the gate this season as he competed for the starting spot; eventually getting it after Green's injury. At the time burning his redshirt didn't make a whole lot of sense, but now with Isaac and the glaring evidence that Smith is who he is (good short yard back who runs with power but lacks speed) it isn't detrimental that he burned his RS.
Freddy Canteen (So): Massive-hype out of camp about him. Saw some time at WR making little impact. Too early to say whether or not he should have RS this past season.
Damario Jones (Jr): Appeared to be the WR with the most upside from our not-so-exciting class of '13 receivers. Did not contribute on offense. Only time his name was called was when a punt bounced off his leg vs UCONN and when getting a personal foul vs MSU. Jones doesn't appear to be a major contributor, so it is tough to say whether or not a redshirt would have made much of a difference.
Dennis Norfleet (Sr): Brought some excitement to our KR game as a true freshman, but ultimately didn't have too much of an impact as a true frosh. Dileo/Gallon could have done what he did in the return game in '12. Should have redshirted
Jake Butt (Jr): Strong production as a true frosh. Saw increased duty once Funchess moved to WR.
AJ Williams (Sr): Saw time at TE as frosh being used primarly as a blocker. Has been underwhelming in 3 seasons so far. At this point, he is who he is, and a RS would not have probably made much of a difference.
Mason Cole (So): Played exceptionally well for a true frosh at LT. Appears to be headed for All-B1G in the coming years.
Mario Ojemudia (Sr): Lack of depth led for him to have to play in the rotation back in '12 even though he was extremely undersized. Looking at DE depth it would be nice to have him as a RS Jr right now.
Taco Charlton (Jr): Same as Ojemudia. Would be nice to have him as a RS So now, but lack of depth led to him playing (sometimes quite well) as a true frosh.
Bryan Mone (So): Made an impact as true forsh. Appears to have a bright future ahead.
Ondre Pipkins (Sr): Another highly-touted recruit who saw quite a bit of action in his first season. Injuries have played a major part in his career.
James Ross (Sr): Rotation LB as true frosh. Showed a lot of potential (which he hasn't really improved on a whole lot in the past two seasons)
Joe Bolden (Sr): Same as Ross. Showed potential as freshman, has turned out to be a solid LB.
Ben Gedeon (Jr): Showed flashes as a true frosh, but looking at our LB depth, would be nice to have him with 3 yrs of eligibility left.
Royce Jenkins-Stone (Sr): To be honest, I don't remember him even seeing the field at all in '12. Should have redshirted.
Jourdan Lewis (Jr): Rotation CB in '13. Experience appeared to help him a lot for '14.
Channing Stribling (Jr): Like Lewis, saw quite a bit of PT as frosh in '13. Seemed to show flashes of potential. Playing time diminished this season.
Delano Hill (Jr): Only memorable moment from playing in his freshmen season was throwing a punch at an OSU player. Should have RS.
Dymonte Thomas (Jr): Super-hyped player out of HS. Made next to no impact as a frosh. Hard to believe he is a junior now.
Jarrod Wilson (Sr): Saw some time backing up Kovacs in 2012. Looking at how thin our depth is at Safety after this year, and judging by the minimal impact he made as a freshmen, it would be nice to have him as RS Jr now.
I know this is all hindsight, but I thought it was interesting to see how many of our players saw action as true freshmen, and how in some cases their contribution was minimal. I think with a largely upperclass team this year, we will not see as many true frosh playing this season, and hopefully as we move forward.
This week, I decided on a short diary outlining the probability of various scenarios in remaining games using the estimated probabilities provided at Massy Ratings. As you know, there are six games left, so there are sixty-four possible outcomes for the remainder of the season at present.
What that means, of course, is that looked at individually, many scenarios have similar chances of happening, but there are a few that stand out as more likely than others, although again none are good bets at this particular point. As for ones that currently stand out (if you can call it this – I wouldn’t):
1) 2-4, with the wins coming against Northwestern and Rutgers – 9.805%
2) 1-5, with the sole win being Rutgers – 8.695%
3) 3-3, beating MSU, Northwestern and Rutgers – 7.397%
4) 2-4, with wins against MSU and Rutgers – 6.559%
Conversely, there are some which are seemingly in statistical dreamland:
1) 4-2, with the losses being Northwestern and Rutgers – 0.060%
2) 5-1, with the sole loss being Rutgers – 0.068%
3) 3-3, with wins against Illinois, Ohio St. and Maryland – 0.080%
4) 4-2, with losses to Michigan St. and Rutgers – 0.090%
As you might have guessed, the opposite of the most likely scenarios are in fact the least likely in this case. Is this cumulative probabilities based on remaining wins:
Yes, at present it is more likely based on these numbers that we run the table than only losing to Rutgers down the stretch. One thing that came up, however, when I did one or two such diaries for football is that there is an assumption here that the outcomes are independent, and that’s for ease of calculation here, although Massey’s model does account for the interconnected nature of the season somewhat, as I recall.
So, looking ahead and pretending we beat Illinois – the picture would change only slightly. We would still would stand a decent excellent chance of going 3-2 or 2-3 in the remaining five games, ignoring changes to other teams’ numbers just for ease for a second. The individual scenarios above would see their relative likelihoods increase, but it would be approximately the same top and bottom four (some slight alterations allowing for eliminated scenarios), barring other changes.
NSD is over and it's basketball season, so of course I'm going to post a very belated and unprofessional football "analysis". But hey, the basketball team is rebuilding and spring practice is still weeks away so here goes.
I pored over Seth's "Run Fits" column partly because of the Harbaugh hype and partly because I wanted -- confession of selfishness here -- vindication of my indictment of Borges. If I'm right in comparing Borges' "27 for 27" to Black Adder's portrayal of Field Marshal Haig (clip since taken down), then Harbaugh should be the opposite, MANBAUGH be damned. I definitely enjoyed the read and agree with every bit of Seth's analysis, but I kind of saw things a bit differently. Harbaugh has this reputation for being an XXXTREME MANBALL coach, and the reason is far from inexplicable. Just a glance at his formations screams old-school, smash-mouth, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust SPARTAAAA:
Thing is, these offenses are notorious for being predictable in an era of S&C parity. So why does it work? Granted you can just re-read Seth's tactical breakdown, but I wanted to examine this offense from a more strategic perspective, so I took another look at Stanford's 2011 Orange Bowl. First, the opening five drives:
Naked bootleg LEFT* for 11 yards
Tailback flat route for 6 yards
I-form run stuffed behind LoS
I-form pass blitzed, Luck rolls right and turfs it
I-form play-action blown up, Luck runs OOB
I-form quick pass to TE complete for 6
Pistol, go route caught OOB
Fake punt stuffed
I-form run left for 4
Pistol PA screen pass for 1
Pistol, out route + YAC for 20
I-form DOOM** left for 60-yard TD.
I-form run stuffed
I-form run left stuffed
1-back under center pass derped, safety
I-form run left for 5
I-form run right for 3
1-back under center pass to TE for 4
I-form off-tackle DOOM left for 26
I-form off-tackle left for 4
Wildcat right stuffed
Pistol 4-wide, 25-yard pass TD to TE
*Luck is right-handed, so I think VT was caught flat-footed.
**Seth explain this in detail but it's so much fun I'll say it again: Stanford shifted into an unbalanced formation, motioned the TE and then pulled the RG, launching well over a half ton of meat at VT's back seven.
Here's the rub: A stereotypical "MANBALL" team with a right-handed QB typically has a run-blocking RT and pass-blocking LT, sending the TE, FB, RB and a puller to the right side of the formation to create a meat avalanche. Stanford handed off three times in the first three drives, and while they were technically strongside runs, none of them went right. How is this an "XXXTREME MANBALL" team? The answer is, it isn't. Hoke is MANBALL. DeBord is MANBALL. This is what I refer to as SunTzuBall:
"Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend."
I'm not a coach, but if I was one, this would be my philosophy. Don't settle for predictable. Don't even take what the defense gives you. Make them think, "Ogod I don't know what's coming." (Edit: Got a bit flippant here.) Every OC says they want that, but some are better at poker than others.
This was NOT a bunch of brutes mindlessly slamming into each other, or even coached to "execute" mindlessly slamming into each other. Harbaugh's offense looks like MANBALL but is actually balanced. I don't think Harbaugh does anything to dissuade the perception; he wants people to think they're cavemen. His assistants will blather on about being a "physical" team and show that I-form heavy all day until your safeties are 6 yards off the LoS, but he's not going to give you what you want. If he runs the ball 10 straight times, it's not because he's willing it to work; it's because you're doing the damage to yourself:
"For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left."
The keys here are misdirection and mismatches. Borges tried to create misdirection but was downright infantile at it; Nuss used constraints but didn't exploit mismatches. In modern offenses overall, the "spread" is such a generic term that it hardly means anything anymore, but to pick on one aspect, the slotback is a mismatch against linebackers and safeties. It's tough for defenders who bulk up against the run to keep pace with a shifty slotbug in space. Combined with the zone read and the O-line splits, the essence of a spread is that heavy guys aren't quick. As Seth points out, MANBALL is the opposite: multiple TEs and a FB put the secondary in a bind because the defense doesn't have enough meat to go around. The defense compensates with speed, getting to the point of attack before the play can develop, but this means they have to act fast and make decisions faster. That's easy when the OC kindly gives you what you want, but MANBAUGH is none of that nonsense.
Here's Some Rope, Now Hang Yourself
With that in mind, let's look at a particular play in the second half of the Orange Bowl (jump to 1:33:38). Up 19-12 late in the 3rd quarter, Stanford is pinned on their own 3-yard line and shows their classic I-form. Unlike in the first half, the TE motions to the right side. The situation calls for a conservative play and the formation is MANBALL to end all MANBALL. VT's defense had been torched several times, but also scored on a safety and otherwise kept Stanford in check. So they're wary of strongside runs, but they're not scared of Stanford imposing their will, toughness, physicality, blah blah blah any of that stupid crap we've heard for the last four years. Nope, they're champing at the bit to swarm whatever gap that FB is going. Marecic is going to eat helmet. The ghost of the still-living Borges is blushing with pride. Only problem?
It's the wrong read. In the mic'd up clip at 1:21, Harbaugh's yelling "backdoor". Harbaugh knows VT is overplaying (also mentioned in MGoPodcast 6.15, 9:00-11:00), but I don't think Taylor is even reading this -- they're deliberately running a bait-and-switch. On the snap, the FB runs strongside and VT follows. Marecic is working his way outside and can't find a gap. Even the RB's track is initially to the right, but (I think) this is a feint because after the mesh he immediately cuts around Luck -- no bounce -- and past the edge blocker (LT?) who casually escorts his defender into the mosh pit to create a gap even the legendary Yoh Momma could fit through:
The result is a 56-yard run. The next play Stanford again shows a heavy formation, then tosses the first of three long TD passes to the TE. VT does not have enough defenders to stop everything Stanford's throwing at them, and it's game over.
"If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us."
Space Coyote will probably be the first to point out that fundamentally, these are all plays available to a conventional "pro-style" offense, and I don't dispute that. The killshot was just a backdoor cut. We can also digress into an argument about execution, and I do have my thoughts on that as well (might post them later). But to stay on point, I don't consider Harbaugh's plays "exotic". The ball still goes in any direction available to a venerable pro-style offense. The important aspect is that, contrary to his MANBALL reputation, he doesn't "impose his will" or use some plays only as constraints to "keep defenses honest", but do him a favor and go right on telling people that. His strategy is physically less stubborn and mentally more vicious. He doesn't pound his head against brick walls or even take what you give him. He gets inside your nightmares, and if MANBALL is your bogeyman then he'll happily wear that mask.
Jamie Moyer is a retired MLB pitcher who reignited his career in his mid-30s by inverting his approach. A formerly washed-up power pitcher, his repertoire wasn't different from his peers -- fastball, curve, changeup. But whereas most "power" pitchers try to blow by hitters with a fastball to set up off-speed "out" pitches, Moyer realized he was terrible at that. So used his changeup to set up his fastball en route to sub-4 ERAs in 7 of 8 of the most home-run happy seasons in MLB history, culminating with a 3.27 ERA and 21-7 record in 2003. That is an elite season, and he did it in the boomstick American League, and he did it at age 40 with an 85mph fastball.
As I've said here and there, "3 yards and a cloud of dust" was not a conservative offense; it was an aggressive approach during a bygone era based on the premise that overwhelming talent can turn a predictable run into a sure thing. There was no need to do anything else. Today, it's the "washed up" power pitcher. Except in rare cases, you can't get away with it. You can't dare everyone with fastballs down the middle any more than you can run into a stacked box over and over again. Stanford didn't. They didn't overpower anyone with their roster of 2- and 3-star recruits. It's not imposing will, toughness, blah blah. Their "MANBALL" was the football equivalent of an 85mph heater thrown from a 40-year-old arm with veteran sagacity and exquisite precision. Harbaugh is the Jamie Moyer of the pro-style offense. That fastball may be 85mph, but you won't be able to hit it because he's smarter than you.