this may be of some local interest
Despite losing star guard Caris LeVert for a month due to injury, Michigan currently sits in fourth place at 7-2 in the Big Ten; after a so-so non-conference showing, the Wolverines’ strong start to conference play has allayed any concerns about missing the NCAA Tournament. Still, there’s a lack of clarity with this team – even disregarding the uncertainty regarding LeVert’s return and ability to quickly and seamlessly reintegrate into the lineup.
With the notable exception of the win over Maryland, Michigan still is essentially a team that’s beaten the teams they should’ve beaten and lost to the teams they should’ve lost to (two neutral site games, UConn (loss) and Texas (win), were the only two against opponents close to U-M in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings). For the most part, the Wolverines’ wins in the Big Ten have been rather pedestrian: Rutgers and Minnesota were uninspiring home victories over terrible teams, sweeping Penn State isn’t a notable resume event, and the road wins in Big Ten play – over Illinois and Nebraska – were against teams that will surely miss the NCAA’s.
Still, between that win over the Terrapins, the complete lack of bad losses, and the tantalizing potential of adding an All-American level player to a team that’s already playing pretty well, there’s reason to hope that Michigan can round into a formidable squad heading into postseason play. The schedule from here on out in the Big Ten is undeniably harder – starting this week with home contests against Indiana and Michigan State. After Michigan’s solid start to the conference season, there are a few things we can point to as pretty important moving forward:
[After the jump, those things]
MOD EDIT - Moved to diary section. - LSA
[UPDATE: Yes, I understand the snark regarding length. I apologize that this diary length entry is not in the diary section; however, I was unable to post on the diary. Read or do not, I understand the mistake in location for post. Sorry in advance for length!]
A Brief Essay About Harbaugh, Recruiting In The Modern Age
At the risk of revisiting a topic that my fellow Wolverines have already buried in their proverbial backyards, I will attempt to provide my own sentiment on the recent “blemishes” on the record of Michigan Recruiting. I present to you a two-fold argument for accepting, and even appreciating, the current state of affairs. First, I submit that I have no problem with any actions on the part of our coaching staff and recruiting department given the current trends in modern football recruiting and my own goals for the Michigan Football program. Secondly, I support the notion that if one does share my desires for the University of Michigan to win a National Championship, then that person must also accept that there is no other way for our coaching staff to operate when it comes to recruiting.
On The Actions Of Harbaugh and The Knights Of The Prolate Spheroid-Shaped Table –
In today’s world, there seems to be a “lose-lose” scenario when it comes to recruiting high school-aged student athletes. On the one hand, you can show interest in a young man, tell him that you are avidly recruiting him to come to your university and offer him a spot in the class early on in the process. Doing so shows a sign of good faith and builds a positive rapport with said young man. On the other hand, you wait until the recruit has proven he will develop mentally and physically to become an asset to your football program on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
By being the first coach to show interest in a specific football player, you impress on this student athlete his importance to you, your coaching staff and the university which you represent. However, as the head coach, you are taking a major risk by accepting a commitment from this person. Should this young man commit and then rest on his laurels or not develop as expected, then a pivotal place in the recruiting class could be wasted on a non-contributor that has shown a lack of drive. By waiting, you risk having other coaches swoop in, thus handicapping your chances of securing that individual as a scholarship athlete. The head coach must balance this risk and do his best to evaluate which sixteen and seventeen-year-old boys he will offer a two-way commitment to for a spot in a very, very finite group.
Once the offers have been handed out, the “lose-lose” scenarios continue. As the recruiting class fills up, head coaches of elite programs need to make tough decisions about young men that they had previously show interest in. To shed some light on this, let’s examine recent events.
There are two outcomes when a student athlete is told that his spot in a recruiting class is in jeopardy. That student can either bank on getting into the class and cease taking official visits or they can continue to visit other schools until National Signing Day. Basically, you can either be Erik Swenson or you can be Nate Johnson. Either the student athlete looks flaky and takes heat from national media and fans for “committing, but…” The alternative is that athlete makes the school look bad when he is finally confronted by the coaching staff and asked not to come on his upcoming official visit. That student can make comments about how he is “shocked,” that “this came out of nowhere” and that “the coaching staff never mentioned anything” about his position being in jeopardy.
I understand that if a student athlete can be told that there will not be space for him in November it would be more convenient for him than if he is told in January. But I, personally, do not care. I do not think our coaches are employed to pander to, nor coddle young men. I do not think that reserving a spot in a recruiting class for an inferior athlete is healthy for our program or that individual, regardless of when that determination is made. For that matter, I do not think it is a bad thing to disappoint hopeful recruit! Harbaugh said himself, “It’s a meritocracy. Only the best players will be here.” He is not hiding from his recruiting tactics. In fact, he is proud of them. I am too. It should be an honor to be included in a recruiting class at Michigan and these athletes should have to fight the whole way, from the beginning of the recruiting process through graduation, to prove they belong.
Even if you believe some horrible wrongdoing took place in the example of Erik Swenson, think about the case of Eric Fisher. Fisher was either an undersized offensive lineman, or a slow tight-end. He had few offers and eventually landed at Central Michigan. There he developed into a STUD. He was the first overall pick in the NFL draft and was awarded a contract worth $22.1 Million with a $14 Million signing bonus. How about JJ Watt? Would he have ever developed into the man he is unless he was told “no” by all the top programs when he was eighteen-years-old? Possibly, but we will never know for sure. Some young men use the rejection and disappointment of the recruiting process to fuel their desire for greatness. Greatness is a thing only achieved with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Often times the athletes that possess the “obsession for greatness” gene cite rejection and doubt as the primary stimulus for their drive.
I understand the inherent difference between never receiving an offer from Michigan and having one pulled three weeks before National Signing Day. I do suggest that if Erik Swenson is a great football player, there will be a program with room. He is already taking visits to Wisconsin and Oklahoma. If he is not a great player, then he does not have business going to Michigan. He would never see the field and he would ultimately transfer. In either case he benefits. I am not apologetic for his circumstances. I expect that things like this will happen as Jim Harbaugh does his job of weeding out the pretenders and stacking up the contenders. Ultimately, in life, sometimes you get notified in November and sometimes you get notified in January. Sometimes you get hired into a new promising position and the company goes out of business two weeks later. Sometimes you take all your vacation time for a golf trip to Florida and it rains the whole time. Sometimes your flight gets cancelled and you miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. When it comes to recruiting, some will be offended. Haters gon’ hate.
I guess the opinion I have formed is that what happened to Erik Swenson might be the best thing to ever happen to him, rather than the worst. Instead of being a backup-transfer type, maybe he finds a program where he can see the field and develop as an athlete. Maybe he uses the missed opportunity to fuel an inner fire to prove his doubters wrong. Maybe he learns that nothing in life is granted and that in future decisions, he creates backup plans rather than expectations. If you see the positive in this scenario, and you see the positive for Michigan replacing him with someone we expect to be a viable contributor, then you understand my point of view. I wish Erik Swenson the best. I am sorry he had to choose between being taunted by uninformed fans or making Michigan look bad. I am happy for him because he has been given an opportunity to learn important life lessons, he has been given fuel to fire his drive for success and he had been given an opportunity to take a spot in a class where he is wanted, needed and will have a better chance to develop and grow. I hope that one day he looks back and thanks Jim Harbaugh for doubting him as he collects his $15 million signing bonus.
On Competing For A National Championship In The Context Of The Modern World Of Recruiting -
As fans, we will likely never completely understand the conversations between recruiter and the recruited. We will never know who is told to keep their options open, who is told his offer is no longer committable nor, for that matter, when during the process a recruit is told such information. Therefore, we must understand one key piece of the puzzle: that each spot, in every recruiting class, must be reserved for a potentially elite student athlete that will likely contribute to the team’s quest for a National Championship. Some people may disagree with this sentiment. Some people may believe that Michigan should be able to win without operating like all of the other national contenders. In my opinion, those people are incorrect.
Michigan cannot compete for a National Championship without playing the game as it is played today. The way it is played today is that teams like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Auburn and Clemson are going to fill classes with future NFL athletes from top to bottom. They are not going to reserve a spot for a “locker room guy” or grant a scholarship to a legitimate two-star athlete. In my opinion, the stratification of recruiting classes today is remarkable. The top three are in rarified air. Usually, the top five are elite and will produce a class that can add to the efforts of competing for a playoff spot. The next five classes in the top ten will not be the cornerstones of championship runs. They will be the supporting casts and they might have several future contributors. Teams have competed for National Championships with recruiting classes ranking between ten and twenty. Clemson is one of them. However, Clemson did not win and they had many players in those classes that were far underrated, including Deshaun Watson. Anything outside the top twenty will not help a football team reach for the coveted Promised Land. Top 25 recruiting classes might allow for a run at a B1G championship or a shot at a New Year’s Day Bowl Game.
Take Michigan State for example. Their recruiting classes over the past 5 years have roughly ranked 33, 35, 25, 22 and now they are poised to finish near 15th overall. With talent outside the top ten recruiting classes, Michigan State worked tirelessly to develop its players and compete for several B1G titles. Upon reaching the playoffs, they met Alabama. Alabama’s recruiting classes over the last five years have roughly ranked 1st ,1st ,1st and well… you see where I am going with this. Please, do not think that I am trying to diminish the importance of player development. In fact, given my assertions above, it is clearly my opinion that Mark Dantonio and his staff got his players to reach as high as they possibly could with the materials they had to mold. Alabama was simply able to Reach HigherTM. When you are working with better Legos, you get better final product. It is fairly straight-forward.
I, like many Michigan fans, want my alma mater to win. I want them to produce fine young men, I want them to espouse the virtues of the Michigan Man. But first and foremost, I want them to compete and win. If we want that, we must play the recruiting game. We must not take a single position in any recruiting class for granted. In some ways, the lack of an exact science in the recruiting process leads to the necessity for a shotgun-method-like approach to bringing in the right raw materials to mold into a football team. With that in mind, it seems illogical to bring in a player that you feel will not add to the run for a championship. It does not matter when you finally come to that decision. As I stated before, it might even help a young man develop further if he is turned away. It does not matter when it happens. It does not matter how it happens. It is not our coaches job to appease high school kids and their parents. Our coaches are paid to develop a National Championship-bound football team that bulldozes opponents, supports the community and dominates in the classroom. Anything short of that is a disservice to the University and the fans. I support everything our staff has done in this recruiting cycle and will continue to do in future recruiting cycles. Furthermore, I expect and hope that it will continue and I am proud to say that my team is hungry for the spotlight of the College Football Playoffs.
Supporters of Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon State, Eastern Carolina, Houston, Colorado State, Boston College, BYU and even schools the likes of Michigan State in all likelihood, will NEVER understand this dilemma. They will probably not have to tell four-star football recruits to continue to take visits because there might be a better option for them and for us. Because those programs cannot fit in our shoes, they will always attack how we wear them. It is a burden that all of the elite football programs in the country face. I welcome it with open arms. Just remember, haters don't really hate you, they hate themselves; you are a reflection of what they want to be.
Now that we have reached the halfway point of the Big Ten season (9 games done, 9 to go) I wanted to briefly reflect on what’s happened and then spend some time analyzing the remaining Big Ten schedule.
We have gone 7-2 over our first nine games, with home wins over Penn State, Maryland, Minnesota and Rutgers, road wins at Illinois and Nebraska, and a neutral site win over Penn State. We have two road losses at Purdue and Iowa.
Our remaining home games are Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa. Our remaining road games are Minnesota, Ohio State, Maryland, and Wisconsin.
For the purposes of analysis, I split the Big Ten into three tiers (I didn’t place Michigan into one of these):
· Michigan State
Middle of the Road (not threats to win the conference, but have a reasonable chance to knock off some of the top tier teams on a random day or two, especially on their home courts. Unlike the true bottom dwellers, they have at least a few games where they have looked decent, despite some others where they looked bad):
· Ohio State
True Bottom Dwellers (teams that Michigan/any other top half team should beat with ease, home or away):
· Penn State
Our entire schedule has 8 games against the Top Tier, 5 games against the Middle Tier and 5 games against the Bottom Dwellers. At the halfway point we are 4-0 against the Bottom Dwellers, 2-0 against the Middle Tier, and 1-2 against the Top Tier. We are also 4-0 at home and 3-2 at away/neutral site games).
Overall, our schedule has a bimodal l distribution, if you will; the teams that we play twice are either in the Top Tier (Iowa, Purdue, Maryland) or the Bottom Dwellers (Penn State, Minnesota), so I think our schedule is on the hard side of average due to us having more Top Tier games than basically any other team, but not overwhelmingly so because we also get a few more bottom dweller games than most teams. (On the other hand, you have Michigan State on the absolutely easiest side of the schedule distribution; they also play two Bottom Dwellers twice but only play Indiana, Purdue, Michigan and Maryland once. MSU gets to play a lot of the middle tier schools twice and only one of the Top Tier teams.)
At this point, I consider Michigan having about an 80-85% chance of making the tournament. We have a few good wins (Maryland, Texas, at NC State) and our losses are all to top 30 ish teams. I don’t think we’re locks yet though. If we go 5-4 in our remaining BIG games or better, I’d think we’re in. 4-5 looks iffy/would probably depend on BIG Tourney performance and anything 3-6 or worse would likely disqualify us. While I don’t think this is likely, our February schedule is very difficult so it remains an unlikely possibility that Michigan could collapse.
· We have more home games remaining than road games (5 home, 4 away).
· We only have one ROAD game remaining against a team that would be favored against us on a neutral court (@Maryland). Playing in Madison and Columbus certainly are not easy tasks, but this year we are a better team than either the Badgers or Buckeyes, so it will not present the same challenge as past years (even though those are still losable games, especially Wisconsin, imo). This is one marked improvement over the first half of the schedule, where we had two road games against teams that would be favored against us on a neutral court and we lost both of them.
· Nearly all of our remaining games against the Top Tier teams are at Crisler Center (4 out of 5; basically a combination of the first two points).
THE BAD (not actually bad, just challenging)
· We must still play ALL FIVE Top Tier teams. Therefore, games against the upper echelon of the Big Ten constitute a majority of our remaining schedule. Overall, 8 of our 18 games are against the top tier, but only 3 were in the first half of the season and 5 are in the upcoming half.
· We only have one game remaining against the Bottom Dwellers, and it’s a road game so marginally harder (@Minnesota). This means that in between Top Tier teams we won’t be able to have “off games” as Middle Tier opponents are more than capable of taking down Michigan if we have a bad night (unlike how we were able to survive Minnesota and Rutgers when we shot horridly).
My personal take on the schedule:
I do not think there is a single more important week on the schedule than the one immediately upcoming and I don’t think this is due to some sort of myopic bias.
We have two home games against ranked teams in Indiana and Michigan State. Not only that, but of our 5 games against Top Tier BIG teams, I think these are the ones we have the best shot at. While you could argue MSU and/or IU is better than Purdue, Purdue is the worst matchup for Michigan style wise, a road game at Maryland is harder than either IU or MSU at home, and Iowa is the best team in the Big Ten.
Go 2-0 this week and we are in second place in the Big Ten and firmly in the title race. Go 1-1 and we hold serve and probably guarantee a tournament bid. Go 0-2 and we could start a complete collapse. There are only 2 games left that I feel very confident about (Minnesota and Northwestern) and if negative momentum starts to build who knows what could happen in the tossup games (at the moment I consider 7 of our remaining 9 games as relative tossups, with OSU being the most likely to win and Maryland the most likely to lose. I still deem Maryland as a relative tossup because, hey, we already beat them and I still deem Iowa as one because, hey, in Ann Arbor anything can happen and we fought them pretty hard the last time).
Anyone else have any schedule thoughts? Do you think we have a hard or easy schedule? Which games are you most concerned about? How do you feel about our tournament chances? Do we have a shot at the BIG Title?
In the comments of an earlier diary post Ohiowild asked if MIchigan rushers showed an upward trend in yards per carry as they gain experience. I used the same top 200 rushers history to plot yards per carry vs. games played and then ran a regression so see if there was any indication of an upward trend.
The verdict: not so much.
[EDIT] I made some changes to the chart based on the comments.
How do we define experience? The data I have provides average yards per carry for each game in which the rusher has at least one attempt, so I have to define experience within that constraint. The Maizer pointed out right away that there were some big outliers and Nogit suggested filtering out games with only a few carries. So I arbitrarily filtered out any game with 5 or fewer attempts. Therefore, for this analysis I've defined a significant-experience game as one in which the rusher has more than 5 attempts.
For each player the chart plots the series of average yards per carry for each significant-experience game. So if a player had 30 significant-experience games in their career there would be 30 dots plotted at tick mark 1 through 30 on the x-axis.
Click here or on the snapshot below to see the full graph.
First (maybe only) diary, but why not. I was curious.
*** Also, updated with the Eubanks news...***
So... I've been fiddling around with excel based on the available 247 composite data out there. We have a number of excellent targets and the 2016 class is far from closed. If attrition, gray-shirts, and expectations fall as expected, we could take up to 8 more recruits to get to the total of 30 expected in this class. To give credit, this info is all available on the class calculator at 247sports.com:
As I understand, the following are still viable targets to land in Michigan (with corresponding 247compositive score)*:
*We may be out for those in italics, really out of it is
I may have left off an option or two, but these should blanket the majority of our possibilities. I did leave off Elliott, I think he gone. Sad. He dominated at the All-Star game. I can't remember which, but I think I heard one of Metellus or Gil are a known (happy) gray-shirt ... so they were left off.
So, where does that leave us. Well, I made a cumulative chart using the information on the 247 class calculator. My goal was not to see our cumulative score. Others brighter than me have already noted we are unlikely to clear 300 points (even with Rashan Gary), so we aren't necessarily breaking any records here. However, what is our average recruit composite ranking? This isn't available on the calculator and is fun to mess around with.
I can't upload the excel sheet (or I would), but here is the chart with my best-case-scenario class inserted (bold = EE):
***Allen instead of Eubanks:***
|Adj (top 20)||93.2185|
|Adj (top 24)||92.1475|
|Adj (top 26)||91.63692|
***EUBANKS In, Allen out:***
|Adj (top 20)||93.2305|
|Adj (top 24)||92.22542|
|Adj (top 26)||91.70885|
First off... that is a lot of names.
Secondly, there are some interesting things in there. For instance, I adjusted the rankings to see how our average varies depending on the total class size (ie just keeping the top 20, 24 etc). This is a simple average feature on excel (cell = sum(b1:b20)*100)
Alabama (the pinnacle of mathematical recruiting prowess), had 24 total recruits in the 2015 class with an average of 93.64... so we'd be close, but no cigar. Ohio, on the other hand, finished with the #7 ranked composite class with 26 total recruits and an average rating of 90.19 ... so yeah, we'd be competitive.
Below is the trend (top = with Allen, bottom with Eubanks). Unfortunately, did not have time to chart this against past teams or opponents. I'll leave that to the professionals after all is said and done.
Aside from that, this is just speculation. Just fun with charts a la Ross Perot in election season. The class may not reach this apex, but should still be excellent. Go blue and best of luck to all the young men either way.
Despite being fun to always play the best-case-scenario, the below may be a more likely final class:
|Adj (top 20)||92.056|
|Adj (top 24)||90.99875|
|Adj (top 26)||90.55154|
Still beating 2015 Ohio in a National Championship year. I'll happily take that, plus a slight bump expected from the Eubanks addition. This doesn't mean we'll win actual football games, but it does mean we'll be competing from a talent standpoint. That's an advantage that Harbaugh didn't have at Stanford.
This is a good trend. Our top 20 is talented on an elite level and the next ten all have potential to be strong contributors at the next level. The comparison to Bama / OSU are more to say Michigan recruiting is strong like bull.
I'm aware this isn't anything earth shattering. But, it was informative and aided in my chronic procrastination.