Here are Urban's top 11 recruiting tips for fellow Big Ten coaches. I hope you dig.
11. Don’t reinvent the wheel. If ESPN says he’s a good player, why waste your time and resources to confirm what you already know? Look—I’ve met a lot of these recruiting guys. The ones from Scout, from 24/7, from Rivals. Are they geniuses? No. But think about the alternative. It’s not like the wide receivers coach at Minnesota is any secret genius either. It’s not like the linebackers coach at Iowa is all great shakes. Is some guy on your staff going to do a better job evaluating a prospect than the regional guy from Rivals? On our staff, maybe. On Brady’s staff, maybe. On anyone else’s staff, let’s face it: probably not. And even then, is the difference worth sinking the resources into sending your guys out to do those evals themselves? Opportunity cost, men. Don’t overlook what else you might be getting out of that time and money.
10. Now, lots of you guys may think, “well, this kid is only a 2-star, but he fits our system. He plays hard and has a good head on his shoulders.” Better not offer that guy a scholarship, because you know what? Rivals.com doesn’t care if he fits your system. Scout.com doesn’t care if he has a good head on his shoulders. It’s all about perception, gentlemen. If you want to catch the SEC, it’s gotta be 3-stars or bust.
9. Look, I know they can be a little unwieldy. They get in the way when you’re trying to eat, you don’t want to get them dirty, all that. But you just absolutely cannot be leaving your national championship rings at home when you go on these recruiting visits. It’s just plain dumb. I don’t care if it was way back in 2006. That’s not the point. These kids want to see the rings. You want the kids, you got to give them the rings. And that’s just common sense.
8. I see a lot of you guys out trying to sign offensive linemen, or giving scholarships to kickers—and even long-snappers. This has got stop. Nobody gets excited about linemen. A defensive end, maybe, but not some plain old guard. Specialists are even worse—the highest they can get on Scout is three stars, so they are just about guaranteed to bring your average down. Image is everything. If people see you bringing in an average of 2.65 stars, then guess what? Your name is “Johnny Two-Star.” The four stars aren’t even going to think about you anymore. The three stars? Maybe. But you’ll get all the two-stars you can handle. You want to be Indiana freaking University? Just keep giving scholarships to long-snappers, and you can be Indian—oh, sorry Kevin. But yeah, just keep giving scholarships to long-snappers, you can be the Mid-America Conference if you want to. You want to be Big Ten? You save those for playmakers.
7. You know, back when I was at Utah, I noticed a recruit’s mother seemed a little worn out because she was at work all day, the recruit had a little brother she was taking care of, it was late, you know. So I reached over and started giving the recruit’s mother a foot massage. Now you might think, “that’s really not appropriate,” but I assure you our compliance people checked the NCAA rulebook and there is absolutely nothing in there that says giving a recruit’s mother a foot massage is a violation. Now, sometimes a foot massage isn’t going to be enough. But I think you get the point, gentlemen.
6. So, I know that some of my players were previously committed to other coaches in this room and maybe a few of you might be a little disappointed about that. I just want to come right out and address it. No need to beat around the bush. See, when a player makes a verbal commitment to, say, the University of Illinois—what that really means is he’s committed to Illinois or Ohio State. It’s like he’s both of ours, you see? Now maybe it will come to pass that the Buckeyes don’t need him in our class, and then he’ll go to Illinois. But to go and use words like “poaching?” “Snake oil?” Well, that’s really not necessary. And really not accurate, to be perfectly honest.
5. Don’t cuss at the recruits. Yeah, this may sound funny, like “what, I can’t cuss at the recruits?” But seriously—kids these days don’t want to play for some purple-faced asshole. I know, I know—you all want to just ‘be yourself’ with the kids. Well, ‘being yourself’ got you the number thirty-fuck-what recruiting class on Scout, Bo. ‘Being yourself’ got you a class about as good as Middle-fucking-Tennessee, Mark. You don’t see the great recruiters out there screaming at kids. Lane Kiffin doesn’t do it. Kevin Sumlin doesn’t do it. Fred Jackson doesn’t do it. So get it in check, people.
4. I know most of you guys take junior college transfers, prep school guys. Some of you don’t. I can see if your institution doesn’t really accommodate that, but otherwise you’re killing yourself turning them away. And look—juvenile halls? Some of my best players at Florida came out of ‘the system.’ You want to recruit like the SEC? You can’t afraid to get down and dirty like the SEC.
3. Hand-timed 40s are sometime inaccurate.
2. Now, recruiting is hard work. It’s a difficult business. It can take a lot out of you. And some of you may have some health issues that you think might stand in the way of really getting on the recruiting trail. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can’t let that be an excuse. Look, Mark—I know you’ve got that heart thing. Jerry. Hey—I know exactly what it’s like. I’ve had my own “health issues” too—that Nick Saban, he’s a real pain in the ass. But you’ve just got to keep on. Perseverance. You can’t just take a year off in this business. You can’t just go do color commentary for ESPN and expect your dream job to fall into your lap. It’s rough. It’s a grind. But you just have to keep at it. ABR, gentlemen. Always be recruiting.
1. No matter what, make sure you don’t come across as a patronizing jerk. Recruits can see right through that. Parents too. Just never a good idea.
Remaining Games Chart:Difficulty calculated by averaging rankings and weighting for home/road/neutral game sites.
- MSU and Ohio are teams of indistinguishable difficulty albeit different playstyles. B1G is just brutal this year.
- Worst major conference record of a team that still made the NCAA tournament was 7-9. Illinois (3-7) has a good shot at breaking that record.
- Still have no clue what to make of upcoming series against MSU, hope for a split I think.
- Pitt and Arkansas both had big wins that don't so much help Michigan's SoS as it does help Michigan by keeping the 1-seed line a little bit more accessible.
- Michigan has 4 "tough" and 4 "winnable" games remaining.
- Upcoming Penn State games will be a welcome breather, should be able to get the team well rested for a strong homestand finish against MSU and Indiana.
- Michigan has the "best" losses among all of the top-10 teams in the country.
Path to B1G Conference Title:
- Beat Wisconsin.
- It's tough to envision a scenario given road game difficulty that doesn't land Indiana, MSU and Ohio all at 4 losses a piece.
- A big key will be getting Morgan healthy and back into game speed over the Penn State stretch.
- My earlier prediction was any team finishing 15-3 wins outright, 14-4 gives a shot at a split. This still looks to be precisely the case past the halfway mark in conference play.
- All of the top five teams in the conference are in the conference title race, it's any of those teams' to win.
- Beat Wisconsin. It will effectively knock them out of contention.
Special Feature - Path To The Most Wins In Michigan BB History:
In 1989 Michigan won 30 games en route to a National Title. In 1993 Michigan won 31 games (but later vacated the season).
Michigan sits at 21 victories with 8 regular season games remaining, a conference tournament that didn't exist twenty years ago, and a shot at a favorable seed for a deep NCAA run.
I'll let someone else run the win probabilities but eyeballing from the chart above Michigan can safely assume a worst case of 4-4 to end the year. They would then need to reach the BTT finals and the Elite 8 to tie for their best (non-vacated) win total in history. This is remarkably within reach.
If we assume a bit more optimism that Michigan will go .500 in their "tough" games and they finish out the season 6-2 they'll reach 27-4 and a shot at Michigan Basketball History will be well within reach.
The thing to take away from this Michigan team, about to face two more Big Ten contenders on the road, is that Michigan's only losses have come from the absolute best games from Top-10 rival teams on the road. And they kept it close both games despite absorbing (or allowing depending on your opinion) ridiculous runs to start each game.
Does Wisconsin (yielded 1.2ppp against Creighton and Florida) have an elite defender like Craft or Oladipo that can force Burke into an inefficient day? I personally don't think so.
I think Michigan wins for the first time in fourteen years up in Madison and carries the #1 ranking up into East Lansing playing with house money for the B1G Conference Title and a shot at their best season ever.
Greetings, faithful. Believe it or not it's the spring sports season already, and Michigan lacrosse will begin its second season as a varsity program this Saturday, the 9th, when they take on Penn State at Oosterbaan. That makes this a pretty good time to bring everyone up to speed on the opposition they'll face this season.
A guide to what you'll see:
|Preseason rank||Inside Lacrosse media poll and USILA coaches poll, respectively|
|2012 computer||LaxPower's computer ranking (out of 61 teams)|
|Last season||What we did to them or they did to us|
|2012 O-rating||see below|
|2012 D-rating||see below|
The O-rating and D-rating are something I've created to quantify a team's tempo-free performance. It's pretty good, if I do say so myself. It's SOS-adjusted and the numbers essentially represent how many goals a team would score or give up in a 100-possession game based on how they performed over the year. Last year's average comes out to an even 15 (ok, 14.99) and most teams are in the 10-20 range.
Getting on with it:
Penn State - Sat., February 9th - Home
|Last season||L, 16-9|
|2012 O-rating||14.61 (34th)|
|2012 D-rating||13.12 (15th)|
This is the first game of the three-way Creator's Trophy series between Michigan, PSU, and the Buckeyes. Penn State of late typically has been a team sitting just on the outside of the 16-team NCAA tournament - I do weekly lacrosse bracketology on my blog and Penn State was my first team out in last year's final projection. Always on the cusp, never quite there. The pollsters appear to have them there again this year. CAA coaches voted them second by a narrow margin in the CAA preseason poll, and if they can get past UMass they might win it. The CAA is a solid mid-level conference.
PSU is generally a better defensive team than offensive one. Their top returning scorer will be attackman Jack Forster, with 27 goals and 12 assists last year. Their foundation is their defense, though. Austin Kaut is the CAA's top goalie and one of the better ones in the nation, and Kessler Brown made the CAA preseason team as an LSM. Expect a difficult season opener. Also, Yak Fact: PSU has a guy named Tom LaCrosse.
Bellarmine - Sat., February 16th - Away
|2012 O-rating||13.20 (42nd)|
|2012 D-rating||15.18 (33rd)|
A piece of history here, really, since this is Michigan's first official conference game. Last year they played as a sort of provisional ECAC member and the conference tried to accommodate them by playing as many games as could be scheduled, but none of them counted in the conference standings. Now it matters. Michigan's team is a little bit of a wild card, and I don't think any of us will be able to make much of a guess about their quality til they actually hit the field. But this is a decent chance to pick up a win and start the season off right. Bellarmine has been slowly moving toward respectability lately, and is no longer a day off for the powerhouse schools, but they've so far managed only to lose close. Still looking for that signature win. They're a little bit offensively challenged, with attackman Michael Ward the only player that would strike fear in most opponents. Can Michigan open some eyes and sit atop the ECAC standings two games into the season? Possible.
Johns Hopkins - Sat., February 23rd - Away
|2012 O-rating||16.50 (18th)|
|2012 D-rating||10.66 (2nd)|
Even people who aren't big into this stuff know Johns Hopkins for two things: a medical school and a lacrosse team. Coach John Paul and JHU's coach, Dave Pietramala, are best buds, hence the scheduling of this game, which may turn into an annual series. This will be Michigan's brush this year with royalty, and it probably won't be pretty. Pierce Bassett is a top goaltender and Hopkins brings back the nation's top defenseman from last year, Tucker Durkin. Plus Hopkins returns six of their top seven scorers, led by Zach Palmer and Brandon Benn. They're a legitimate national title contender. The slaughter will be televised online by ESPN.
Army - Sat., March 2nd - Neutral
|2012 O-rating||15.66 (26th)|
|2012 D-rating||13.19 (18th)|
No doubt thanks to the influence of well-known Michigan grad Stephen Ross, Michigan will play a neutral-site game against the Black Knights of West Point at Ross's house. Well, his stadium, anyway; this game takes place in Miami at the home of Ross's Miami Dolphins. Army tends to make occasional appearances in the NCAA tournament but lately has been on the outside looking in - still, they're a good team. Garrett Thul is an all-American attackman and scored 39 goals last year. Army has problems in net and has been getting sub-par goalie play, but Brendan Buckley is an excellent close-in defenseman who caused 30 turnovers last year. The Black Knights will be a very stiff test.
High Point - Wed., March 6th - Away
2013 is High Point's first lacrosse season, so there's not a lot to go by. Michigan should probably expect to win; these southern mid-majors offer a very promising avenue of expansion for the sport at the D-I level, but none are very good. High Point has actually already played this season, a 12-10 loss to Delaware as the national season opener, but I think that speaks more to Delaware's fall from grace than any threat from High Point to make national waves. Michigan ought to win, or else maybe take some lessons from the Panthers on how to build a program.
Hobart - Sat., March 9th - Away
|2012 O-rating||15.69 (24th)|
|2012 D-rating||16.00 (38th)|
Hobart is a venerable, traditional old program that dominated D-III lacrosse in their day. They're less successful in D-I, obviously, but they'll expect to beat Michigan. Their 4-9 record is a little deceiving because they like to fight above their weight class, and always play Cornell and Syracuse, as well as a bunch of the better mid-majors like Robert Morris and Colgate. Plus the ECAC is starting to turn out some quality lacrosse programs.
I think Michigan has a smallish chance to surprise and pull off a win here, certainly more so than in games like Army, but it'll be tough. Hobart has a great combination of attackmen in Cam Stone and Alex Love; Stone had 29 assists in 2012. At 2.23 per game he was tied for 4th in the nation last year, and Love was 5th in goals per game. This is Michigan's second conference game, but conference play doesn't get any easier from here on out.
Fairfield - Thu., March 14th - Away
|2012 O-rating||16.15 (22nd)|
|2012 D-rating||14.02 (23rd)|
Time to start getting into the conference schedule for serious. Fairfield made a serious run at the NCAA tournament last year and almost made it, but they weren't quite strong enough to earn an at-large bid and they couldn't get past Loyola in the ECAC championship game. I think they take a step back this year, but they're still a formidable opponent for Michigan with 35-goal scorer Sam Snow playing offensive midfield and a terrific face-off guy in Michael Roe.
Colgate - Sun., March 17th - Neutral
|2012 O-rating||19.21 (3rd)|
|2012 D-rating||13.04 (12th)|
It's another installment in the "Filthy Rich Alums Want To See The Shiny New Team Without Going Anywhere" series. Michigan appears at the home stadium of Fred Wilpon's New York Mets this time, giving the sizable NYC diaspora a chance to see the team in action as well. Don't expect a fun result. By now the team will be good and tired of the road, and Colgate is one of the best offensive teams in the nation. They still have Tewaaraton Trophy (lacrosse's Heisman) winner Peter Baum, who stats are off the gobdanged charts: 67 goals, 30 assists in 2012. That wasn't a close Tewaaraton vote. Ryan Walsh scored 38 goals and 22 assists himself, which would lead most teams, and Brendon McCann and Matt Baker return as well, both dangerous scores. Colgate won't lose much firepower from 2012, and between that and the road-weariness, this could be the biggest or second-biggest slaughter of the year. It's also the other TV game, featured on ESPNU.
Loyola - Sat., March 23rd - Home
|Last season||L, 15-8|
|2012 O-rating||18.00 (10th)|
|2012 D-rating||11.54 (4th)|
Finally back at home, and outdoors; this one, as with the rest of the season's home games, will be at the Big House. It's no reprieve though: the Greyhounds are the defending national champions. That game last year wasn't really as close as the score indicates as Loyola let up off the gas in the second half.
The pollsters apparently expect Loyola not to lose much, because both votes made them the overwhelming #1. They had two 50-goal scorers last year, one of which (Mike Sawyer) is back this season, and they've got quite a lineup of good-looking players ready to step into the gap. Another laugher could be in the cards here.
Air Force - Sat., March 30th - Home
|Last season||L, 15-6|
|2012 O-rating||14.51 (37th)|
|2012 D-rating||13.69 (20th)|
Air Force had a rough conference season last year, but then, it was a tough conference, and the Falcons were a young team. I seem to remember going into this game thinking that we had a chance to steal one and coming out wondering what in the hell just happened. On the plus side, we don't have to play in the altitude this year; that trip to Colorado was pretty disastrous. On the minus side, Air Force should be better this year than they were last year. The record might not show it as the ECAC is pretty competitive, but this'll be a tougher game than the above numbers might indicate.
Delaware - Sat., April 6th - Away
|Last season||L, 11-7|
|2012 O-rating||14.90 (31st)|
|2012 D-rating||15.04 (31st)|
Historically Delaware is pretty good, but this season, I wonder. Winning by two points against High Point is a danger sign, and this is a very young Hens team. They were picked 5th of 7 in a conference where the #7 team is always the same, so, basically bottom of the barrel. None of their returning players had more than 20 goals last season, and letting in 10 goals to High Point could portend defensive troubles as well. Last year they were the very definition of the average team as quantified by O- and D- ratings, but Michigan played them tight. This may be the best chance we have to win a game against a "traditional" old lacrosse team.
Ohio State - Sat., April 13th - Home
|Last season||L, 12-9|
|2012 O-rating||14.11 (38th)|
|2012 D-rating||11.59 (5th)|
Boo this man. Ohio : lacrosse :: Wisconsin : basketball - a slow-it-down team that practically begs for a stall warning every time they get the ball. It'll be interesting this year to see what the 30-second shot clock following a stall warning does for (or to) their offense.
Like last year, this is the companion to the football spring game, which last year made for a decent Big House atmosphere. Michigan played a very competitive game against a team that had tournament aspirations at the time. They can score some; Logan Schuss is one of the better attackmen in the country. Pace aside, they're also a very, very tough defensive team. It'll take a pretty good effort to beat these guys, but even a repeat of last year would be fun.
Detroit - Wed., April 17th - Home
|Last season||L, 13-9|
|2012 O-rating||11.83 (54th)|
|2012 D-rating||16.14 (40th)|
This was the season opener last year, but Michigan's two D-I lax teams will wait til near the end of the season before renewing the instate rivalry. The Titans are definitely a low-major team, and the MAAC is the country's worst conference, but they have some players who can be dangerous. LSM Jordan Houtby has gotten some national recognition, and Shayne Adams was a 33-goal scorer. But UDM is not deep and if their primary scoring options are shut down, they don't have much else, and they're crap on faceoffs, one of the worst teams in the country in that area. One of Michigan's better chances at a win this year.
St. Joseph's - Sat., April 20th - Home
|2012 O-rating||10.23 (59th)|
|2012 D-rating||15.94 (37th)|
Outside of High Point, which is a wild card but likely to be awful, St. Joe's is the worst team on the schedule. Only Wagner and Mercer - which combined to go 2-26 last year - had worse O-ratings. Ryan McGee must feel awfully lonely on offense - he put up 38 goals last year, and only three other players were in double digits....and none more than 13....and most of them graduated. Defensively, the Hawks aren't awful, but they have a new netminder this year and likely will be worse. Their six wins in 2012 are impressive for as bad as this team is, but that was mostly against really awful competition and probably won't be repeated. This and High Point are the two games that Michigan should actually expect to win.
Denver - Sat., April 27th - Away
|Last season||L, 17-5|
|2012 O-rating||20.35 (2nd)|
|2012 D-rating||13.36 (18th)|
Happy time is over as Michigan heads back to Colorado for the season finale, probably to get killed like last year. Bill Tierney is showing everyone how to build a program without relying on the usual hotbeds for talent; most of Denver's team is from the west and Canada. Their top two scorers are gone, but Jeremy Noble, Wes Berg, and Eric Law all scored 20+ goals and scored on close to 50% of their shots, an excellent percentage. Plus Chase Carraro is a 60% faceoff man. They'll reload pretty well and be one of the top contenders in the ECAC again.
For quick reference, here's a table of the O- and D-ratings of all of Michigan's opponents, and Michigan at the bottom:
This is an, um, ambitious schedule. Michigan's opponents can be categorized like so:
Gonna get killed: Hopkins, Colgate, Loyola, Denver
Losses, most likely: Penn State, Army, Fairfield, Air Force, Ohio State
Outside shot: Hobart, Delaware
Decent shot: Bellarmine, Detroit
Favored: High Point, St. Joseph's
This of course presumes improvement over last year, which should be expected. Set the baseline expectation at three wins; I think we should definitely be disappointed with only one, and two would also be a little disappointing in that it wouldn't represent much if any improvement over last year. Remember that the lone win was over Mercer, another fledgling program, and the other mostly winnable game was an OT loss to Jacksonville, probably a better team than St. Joe's. Three wins is doable and it would almost definitely mean turning around a loss from last year.
What better way to make the most uneventful signing day imaginable for a major college program even more boring throwing a bunch more numbers at you. You already know the narratives, now let’s take a look at the numbers.
Once again, I will be using my personal accumulation of the rating services for the numbers. Players are given a score at each of the four major recruiting sites and. A consensus #1 player gets 99 points all the way down to an anonymous 2 star getting a point or two. No points are awarded for moons, sorry Jordan.
New Members of the Hall of Highly Touted
Last year I created the Michigan Hall of Highly Touted to honor the top Michigan recruits by their incoming accolades and ratings. This year’s class features two players that crack the first team and another 3 added to the second team.
RB Derrick Green narrowly edges Kevin Grady for the running back spot, pushing Grady down to the first team flex spot, Darryl Stonum to the second team and Jason Avant off the board.
OL Patrick Kugler joins 2012 signee Kyle Kalis on the first team offensive line.
OL Kyle Bosch and David Dawson are on the second team. 3 of the top 10 rated offensive linemen Michigan has recruited in the last 12 years are members of the 2013 class.
TE Jake Butt has the fortune of playing at the position that has the lowest bar to entry on the MHHT and enters as the second team tight end.
S Dymonte Thomas was Michigan’s second commitment of the 2013 class and bumps ahead of Demar Dorsey as the top rated safety of the second team.
Position Group Notes
Offensive Line – without a doubt the marquee group of this class. Michigan’s six signees racked up 319 points which was easily the most acclaimed group in this class. Only Stanford’s absurd haul last year and Notre Dame’s class of 2006 were more highly touted entering college.
Running Back – Derrick Green pushed this group from good to great. Michigan’s running back class was a universal third behind Alabama and Ole Miss. Alabama’s loaded class was the best class since Pete Carroll lined up five star running backs year after year (2003, 2006 & 2007 to be precise).
Defensive Back – Michigan’s third strongest group was defensive back where they finished 7th nationally as a group and second in the B1G to Ohio St which signed the fourth highest rated group of defensive backs of the last 12 years.
Quarterback – Shane Morris’s senior year slide wasn’t any fun to watch but as a testament to were he started, Michigan’s one man class still finished 10th overall. Conference rivals Penn State earned the top spot nationally and was the only conference program in front of Michigan.
Wide Receiver/Tight End – The lowest rated offensive group still almost cracked the top 10, finishing 11th. LaQuon Treadwell would have been enough for the Wolverines to crack the top spot, but Ole Miss took Treadwell and the top spot. Notre Dame and Ohio State both edged out Michigan.
Defensive Line – The class of 2012 was a top 6 group allowing Michigan to focus on other areas for this class. The Wolverines finished 17th with LSU leading the way and Ohio State, Notre Dame and Nebraska all exceeding the profile from Michigan.
Linebackers – Like the defensive line, Michigan was in a great position from 2012 on linebackers and focused elsewhere. Michigan featured a Top 10 average player rating but the limited quantity dropped them to 30th overall and near the middle of the conference.
National Team Rankings
As detailed last week, I am using a system that awards points to schools based on how their nth best recruit stacks up against other teams’ nth best recruits. Based on this here is my consensus Top 10 (the method is really only good at looking at the top classes) along with their player point totals using good ole’ fashioned addition.
|Rank||Team||Nth Points||Total Points|
Michigan wraps up the class tied for 5th with LSU, behind rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State, along with SEC powers Florida and Alabama.
Here is the chart for the top 3, Michigan and the two most interesting other classes.
Four of the programs, Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and USC recruited very well in the top 3-5 players of their classes. Alabama is able to then separate themselves from the field for recruits 5-15. Michigan and Notre Dame hold a consistent trend through the bulk of the class while the Buckeyes and Trojans finished somewhere between Alabama and the rest of the quality programs. Florida and LSU have trends very similar to Michigan.The reason I am not completely sold on Ole Miss’s class is that the depth really drops off quickly. After the top several recruits. There is a major devaluation of the Rebel recruits versus the other top programs.
The Rest of the Big Ten
If you follow recruiting much at all this year you’ve seen multiple mentions of the huge gap between the Big 2 and everyone else. Here is how the Future Big Ten teams fared in total recruit points accumulate in 2013.
|National Rank (Pts)||Team||Points|
You can oversign all you want and not get anywhere with totals like this. There is nothing about this arrangement that says the Big Ten is heading towards real depth.
The Accelerated Timeline
I haven’t been able to go back and add old signing dates, but based on BCS programs for the 2013 cycle, no team could compete with Michigan in terms of the speed at which this class was assembled. The average commit date for Michigan for the 2013 class was May 9th, nearly 9 months before signing day. Virginia Tech and South Carolina were the only other major programs to have their average commitment come in May. Of the top 20 programs, the five programs with the most late decision were all in the 11-20 range. Auburn was the king of late decisions with an average commitment coming two days before Halloween, which makes sense given the tumultuous season and coaching change they went through in 2012.
The biggest advantages for a fast developing class would seem to be the low drama signing day and a head start of the next season’s class. The no drama signing day was nice but hopefully the expeditious manner in which this class was assembled can yield some gains in 2014 and beyond. Otherwise, it might be worth it to go after a few more high end, late deciders, the only real gap between Michigan and the very top classes in 2013.
The Ole Miss Narrative
I don’t know if I felt like this got more traction around these parts due to losing long time Michigan lean LaQuon Treadwell and his instagram of Benjamins or just that the Rebels pulled in two really high profile recruits on signing day, but what originally looked like a whole lot of smoke seems a lot less suspicious to me after looking at the numbers. Aside from Treadwell’s quickly deleted picture, there are a number of signs pointing to Ole Miss being a legitimate player in the national recruiting scene.
Evidence #1: Their class isn’t as exceptional as its been billed.
ESPN called them a top 5 class and the top end is as good as anyone, but as good as the top was, as noted above, they very quickly return to their historical norms. So it then becomes a question of what happened with the top five or so recruits in the class. While back door dealing wouldn’t surprise me (it’s college football, nothing should surprise me) there did seem to be to be some genuine fluky connections surrounding some of their top signees.
Evidence #2: Hugh Freeze is a good recruiter
I don’t track assistants and recruiting, and with only full season as the head coach at Arkansas State, it’s difficult to track what he should be credited for. With that said, the class that signed as he was heading to Ole Miss, the class assembled during his only year at the helm was far and away the best class Arkansas State has had. The standard was low but the results do matter in context.
Evidence #3: Ole Miss’s class wasn’t as big of a deviation as has been claimed
Again, the top end is what is unique about Ole Miss’s class. Here is Ole Miss’s historical classes using the same format as the national leaders chart:
That is definitely a big gap. With that said, the Rebels’ 1,107 points were about 410 points higher than the average excluding this class. This ranks as the 19th largest spread in the last 12 classes and third largest of this year, behind Texas A&M and Alabama.
In fact the largest outlier of a class actually resides in the state of Michigan. Michigan State’s 2004 class was worth 1,072 points over 500 points higher than their historical average.
My personal take from all of this information is that I am less certain that Ole Miss had an unfair advantage in this recruiting cycle but still think it’s more likely that it happened than it didn’t. The class is unusual in its ability to draw elite level recruits and it is not easy to get 3 of the best 4 and 4 of the best 7 recruits your school has gotten in the last 12 years. Plus, its college football and college football in the southeast. If you don’t start with suspicion you haven’t been paying attention.
Apologies to AC1997, but my reply turned into a diary. There is a lot of snark here, it's not aimed at you, it's just because I'm snarky.
Brian's mentioned Bill Simmon's article about PEDs and its natural extension into college recruiting. Whenever a school, Ole Miss in this case, gets a recruiting windfall, illicit or otherwise, or has a sustained run of success at the top, like USC, lots of folks question whether or not the success is legitimate. Then, they openly speculate, often using terms like "U$C" or "Ole Mi$$," (AC1997 did not do this) why no one sheds light on the violations. Here's my take as to why really big recruiting violations rarely come to light.
First, let's set the scenario. Phil Philbert is a five star dual-threat QB from Springfield. Instead of staying home to play for Local U (LU), he instead goes to Football University (FU), which is on the other side of the country. LU fans cry foul and demand justice, but no one sheds light on why Phil was seen leaving town in a new Maserati.
In this scenario, I think there are three ways Phil and FU get caught:
- NCAA investigation.
- Concerned insider tells all.
- Investigative journalism.
First, we all know the NCAA isn't out to discover recruiting violations. If the NCAA is a part of a police force, its job is that of a detective. In other words, they here about something bad and investigate to determine what happened and who is responsible. This detective would be taking many of its calls from cops on the beat. The only problem is, there aren't any paid cops on the beat. If the NCAA and its members wanted that, there would be paid staff at FBS schools "patrolling." No one involved really wants that. Therefore, the NCAA is waiting by the phone for options 2 and 3 to call before starting an investigation.
The most obvious person to call the NCAA would be the concerned insider. They would have first-hand knowledge of the situation and could steer the NCAA toward FU's egregious violations. The problem is, who are these insiders with direct knowledge? The parties with direct knowledge are:
- Phil's parents.
- Phil's high school coach.
- FU's coach.
- The deep pocketed booster who bought the Maserati.
- The bagman.
None of these people has any incentive to talk. Phil and his family got a free car (or cash) and don't want to go to jail for not paying taxes on the gift. Phil's coach can't tattle or he gets fired and his high school becomes persona non grata in recruiting circles. FU's coach doesn't want a show cause penalty or to lose his buyout. The booster and the bagman love FU too much to tell. Anyone else who talks has circumstantial evidence unless Phil (or the bagman) is dumb enough to talk about their nefarious deed into a microphone.
That basically leaves investigative journalism. However, there are serious problems with developing these types of stories. Even disregarding the lack of actual journalists who have the skill and tenacity to run down these types of stories, they still have to get someone to talk. That's really hard. Additionally, which news outlet would run the story? The most obvious one is LU's home paper. However, LU's home paper probably isn't doing very well right now and is likely devoting their investigative stories (if there are any) to things like crime, serious corruption, or serious societal issues. FU's home paper is definitely out. Papers struggle for readers as it is, they don't need to anger their subscriber base by getting FU in a bunch of trouble.
That basically leaves Charles Robinson at Yahoo! and a few other journalists at big-time news organizations who have the time and organizational backing to do this type of work. I heard an interview with Robinson a year or two ago. In it, he basically said he has a bunch of Nevin Shapiro / Miami stories in the works at any time, but journalistic standards of prohibit him from publishing until he can get credible on-the-record conversations and / or a lot of verifiable evidence. Again, that's really hard to come by given the few people with insider knowledge and their lack of incentive to talk.
This is one guy's opinion as to why serious recruiting violations don't come to light very often. They're hard to find and hard to verify. Furthermore, I don't believe much really serious stuff actually happens anymore. It's too easy for someone to Tweet a picture of himself holding a stack of cash and add "loving FU right now, LOL." Cheating today is an incredibly short-sighted tactic that can't go on long. It would be impossible for wholesale, SMU-style cheating, to be kept quiet, just like it was then.
Since it was a slow (but happy) National Signing Day for Michigan fans, I thought I'd take on a related topic today regarding recruiting and our friends in SEC land.
As Brian briefly touched on during his NSD piece, Bill Simmons’ latest column dealt with the subject of steroids and how the media avoids speculation about who might be juicing. It is a really good piece that you should read. The message is this – we all have a mental list of players who we want to see pee in a cup to prove their innocence…..why not openly talk about those lists?
Many of us feel like NCAA corruption is a similar topic – taboo to the main stream media. Much like how the baseball writers looked the other way when McGwire and Sosa were “saving the sport” we see college media look the other way as Saban hands out medical redshirts like candy, Reggie Bush lives in free housing, Oregon pays a pseudo agent, or OSU lets players trade equipment for benefits around town. Why has there never been a “deep throat source” willing to blow up recruiting violations? John Bacon even touches on the subject in “Three And Out” when interviewing the quarterbacks, but doesn’t dig deeper.
In 2013 the obvious “pee in the cup” list for recruiting corruption starts with Ole Miss. This is a team with a mediocre recent past if we’re being generous. They haven’t won the SEC since the 1960’s and haven’t been relevant nationally except for their #20 finish in 2009. Yet this season they bring in a consensus top ten recruiting class and some of the nation’s best players. What gives?
It is easy to speculate about potential corruption but aside from a picture on LaQuan Treadwell’s twitter account of him holding several hundred dollars, there’s no way for us to have any evidence. So we could sit here and rant about it while sounding like Skip Bayliss debating the wonders of Tim Tebow, but then the message is lost. Can we find statistical evidence that something is deviating from the norm with Ole Miss?
I contend that there are several ways we can do this, and I’m going to start such a conversation. However, I have neither the time nor the skill to finish this scavenger hunt so I wanted to post this primer and then let the power of the Michigan blog sphere potentially dig further if there’s interest.
Below is a table summarizing Mississippi’s recruiting classes from the past several years along with their final record and rank:
Total # of
(# from MS)
(# from MS)
|n/a||7||27||3 (0)||9 (5)||7|
|2012||7-6||40||19||0 (-)||2 (1)||1|
|2011||2-10||19||27||1 (1)||5 (5)||0|
|2010||4-8||18||25||0 (-)||7 (6)||1|
|2009||9-4||18||37||1 (0)||8 (2)||7|
|2008||9-4||29||31||1 (0)||2 (0)||3|
|2007||3-9||27||22||0 (-)||6 (1)||5|
|2006||4-8||15||30||2 (0)||7 (4)||5|
|2005||3-8||30||28||1 (1)||2 (0)||2|
|2004||4-7||45||25||0 (-)||3 (3)||0|
|2003||10-3||38||21||0 (-)||2 (1)||1|
|2002||7-6||33||18||1 (1)||8 (7)||1|
Without running any data through statistical analysis, here are some observations:
- There were several good recruits in the state of Mississippi this season and historically players from that state stay home to play football. The Rebels deserve credit for signing those guys and that helps to tone down suspicion perhaps.
- Coach Hugh Freeze was hired before last season and did enact somewhat of a turn-around with a 7-6 record that included a bowl win. New coaches can sometimes lead to a bump in recruiting prowess. However, prior to this season he had a total of ONE YEAR of college head coaching experience…..at Arkansas State.
But there’s still something out of the ordinary going on here:
- Ole Miss has never had a class ranked higher than 15th….but this year they are 7th. It would also seem that their higher ranked classes from past years were based as much on quantity (37 recruits in 2009???) as quality.
- In the four previous seasons Ole Miss got a TOTAL of eight players ranked 4-star or higher to commit from out of state. In 2013 they have seven.
- Only one five-star recruit in four seasons has attended from out of state….three are coming this year.
- From 2010-2012 the Rebels had a record of 13-24 and pulled in a total of one 5-star and fourteen 4-star recruits, all but one of whom were from the state of Mississippi. This season they have signed twelve top recruits and just five are from the state.
It is very possible that Hugh Freeze is a great recruiter and has found a new method that is within the rules to attract this talent. It is also possible that this recruiting class had somewhat of a snowball effect and talent attracted talent. But there’s enough circumstantial evidence here for further investigation. This is where I turn it over to the talent on this blog. Here are some ideas for further analysis:
- Have other teams out-performed their historical trends by this much in the recent past?
- Based on the presumed correlation between record and recruiting success (probably 2-year record) has any other team out-performed their on-field success this abnormally before?
- Can we quantify the typical recruiting improvement a coach sees after his first year and compare it to what Freeze is doing?
- Has anyone on the blog been recruited and witnessed corruption first hand?
- Are there any theories on why this seemingly obvious corruption hasn't come out in the open at any school despite the large number of people involved and the fact that many of these people are teenage kids not being recruited for their ACT scores?
Maybe I'm alone in my frustration on this topic, but when you hear ESPN go on and on about the SEC and even Ole Miss specifically on signing day I'd like to hear someone at least ask the question - how are they doing this?