I did not make this headline up
In my last diary I suggested that there might be some room for extra defensive improvement due to the upgrade at DC from Greg Robinson to Greg Mattison. Although I am in general agreement with Brian that massive improvements in the defense should not be expected, I began to wonder what was possible--that is, in the past 5-6 years, has a team improved its defense by leaps and bounds? To that end, I looked at scoring defense ranks of all 120 FBS teams from 2003-2010 to see how teams improved from year to year. Based on the numbers at Rivals, here is how the data shake out:
Note: the x-axis represents changes in rank (negative is good), the y-axis number of examples (out of 840 [120 teams * 7 years]). So the distribution is more or less normal, with a change of 80 rank positions (in either direction) being the maximum, more or less. The largest improvement in our dataset is 94 positions, so if that is the maximum possible then Michigan in 2011 could move up from the 102nd scoring defense (in 2010) to 8th (in 2011). HOORAY!
I had originally suggested that this level of improvement was unlikely, but turd ferguson pointed out that my percentages were misleading, because middling- to highly-ranked defenses simply cannot improve by a large margin. Looking at teams ranked 91st or worse in scoring defense, then, we get the following chart:
You can see that teams with bad defenses improve 20 ranks on average, in part because they have more room to improve than they do to regress. 31% of the time teams ranked 91st or worse improve 30 ranks or more; and 17% of the time they improve 50 ranks or more. To get into the top quartile of defenses, a team ranked 102nd (like Michigan) needs a 70 rank (or more) improvement, which has happened 5% of the time. Looking at the teams with huge improvements, it is difficult to generalize about how they did it. Here are the most improved teams in each year for which we have data (bolded numbers represent the year in which the big improvement was made):
In some cases they seem based on the emergence of a superstar player on defense. For instance, Suh for Nebraska in 2009, which jumped from the 84th scoring defense to 2nd, or Von Miller for Texas A&M, which jumped from the 104th scoring defense in 2009 to the 27th in 2010.
In other cases you have teams that are consistently fairly good who for some reason have a collapse but then recover to their old form. UConn, for instance, usually has a pretty good scoring defense. In 2005, they were 21st, and in 2007 they were 11th in the country, but in 2006 they were 94th. Likewise, TCU has a pretty amazing scoring defense but in 2004 they were 106th in the country. The year before they were 27th, the year after they were 12th. They had some NFL talent, but all 2nd day draft picks or free agents.
Michigan is obviously not in the second type of team. Our defense hasn't been top 20 since 2006. It seems likely that for Michigan to have a good-to-great defense next year, something unexpected will have to happen. The most probable in my opinion is that one or two of our defensive players becomes dominant. Note: my excel spreadsheet is available for download here.
Taft High prospects WR Dwayne Stanford and DE Adolphus Washington have been the subject of much conversation between Michigan fans. Both targets would help fulfill big needs for Michigan's 2012 class. The duo is yet to take an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor, but have seemingly been trying to schedule a trip for some time. I caught up with their coach to talk about their summer plans and where they're both at in the recruiting cycle.
TOM: I know there has been a few weekends where we thought Dwayne and Adolphus were going to make it up to Michigan. Are they going to get up to Ann Arbor any time soon?
COACH MARTIN: I don't think they'll be taking any more visits because of AAU basketball. I know they go away next week and when they come back we'll be in two a days so it will be tough for them to make it to places. As of now they have nothing else scheduled.
TOM: Do you know where both are at in the process?
COACH MARTIN: Michigan is in their top five, I don't know what their top group is off hand but Michigan is in it for both. Right now neither have a clue when they'll decide. I think once they start taking official visits they'll start to figure it out. They don't want to commit to anybody right now.
TOM: They originally had said that they wanted to be a package deal and then that started to fade a little bit. Do you think their recruitment will end up being more individualized or will they stay together?
COACH MARTIN: I think it's going to be more individualized. If it happens it happens, I don't think they're planning on it right now. I know their top five lists have a couple schools that are not in the others.
TOM: Since you're around them the most what kind of people are they going to be at the next level? What is a program going to get from these two?
COACH MARTIN: They're going to get two hard working guys. With all types of guys that get in trouble you never have to worry about that with these two. From an academic and football standpoint they'll be everywhere they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be. Both will come in and contribute early. Whoever gets them is going to get quality people.
Early Look to Next Season
Michigan hired two new coaches. Sean Bormet and Donny Pritzlaff.
Sean Bormet – One of the nations top freestyle coaches who has been involved coaching with multiple world teams and was on the latest Olympic team staff. He holds the 2006, ’08 and ’10 USA Freestyle Coach of the Year titles. He’s a former Wolverine as well. 2 time All-American and 2 time Big Ten Champ while at Michigan. I think his strong freestyle experience will help draw interest of recruits nationwide. That Olympic style presence seems to have been missing.
Donny Pritzlaff – He is coming over from his associate head coach position at his alma matter, Wisconsin. He specialized with middleweights. The Badgers have been a surprise team the past few years, flying up the ranks. He served as the recruiting coordinator while they brought in 3 top 20 classes, including the #2 class in ’08 and #4 in ’11. He was a two time NCAA Champ and 3 time Big Ten Champ himself.
These are two big additions Michigan needed. With the Newer Wrestling Center and strong season, they needed something like this to continue the momentum.
2011 – 2012 Outlook
Key Losses: Anthony Biondo(197)
Returning Starters: Sean Boyle(125), Zac Stevens(133), Kellen Russell(141), Eric Grajales(149), Brandon Zeerip(157), Dan Yates(165), Justin Zeerip(174), Hunter Collins(184), Ben Apland(Hwt)
As you can see, Michigan returns almost the entire team that made a good run last year taking 5th in the Big Ten and 15th Nationally. Kellen Russell is the returning 141 NCAA Champion. I’d expect him to stay at 141. It created a tough spot for RS FR Grajales last year, since 141 would probably have suited him better. Grajales still managed Big Ten runner-up at 149 and should be a strong member for next year.
7 returners made the NCAA tournament last year with only a poor late showing from then FR Brandon Zeerip preventing an 8th.
Additions: Camryn Jackson (Lansing Eastern HS)
Jackson will redshirt IMO. He claimed his first State Championship as a senior this last year. A very athletic, but, raw wrestler that will need to get adjusted to college competition.
Michigan’s recruiting has not impressed for the 2010 or 2011 class with 0 top 150 kids and being ranked out of the top 25 both years. That can be turned around quickly with a strong 2012 that they have I commit already (Jordan Thomas ranked #22) and some more top talent they are eyeing.
Teams Michigan is Chasing
Iowa and Penn State were two young teams last year that will be plugging any losses with top talent again. Iowa’s recruiting has been the #1 class in 2010 and #20 last year. They also got a big transfer in that plugs their biggest hole right away. Penn State’s classes have been #2 in 2010 and #4 last year. Michigan was a noticeable step behind these programs and they haven’t done anything to show they are making up the difference.
Minnesota fell short of the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions, but, were a clear #3 in the B1G. They will be looking to replace some lost senior leadership. They ranked #5 in 2010 and #15 last year in recruiting. If they stay healthy, they will keep themselves above Michigan.
Wisconsin survived on top individuals and not a strong team as showed by there loss to Michigan in the dual, but, higher placing in the tournament. They lose one B1G champ from last year that I think opens the door for Michigan to separate themselves from the Badgers. They have recruited well, but, no game changers that will make an immediate impact.
Newcomer Nebraska took 12th last year nationally, just above Michigan(15th). They lose some pieces, including the #1 wrestler in the nation, but, their recruiting (#7 in ’10, #2 in ’11) will help that out. They will be a good test for the Wolverines. To bad they don’t dual with us next year.
Northwestern has been a solid team of late. They had a #3 recruiting class in 2010. The losses they take this year will be too much to keep up.
Look for Ohio State to make some big strides. They took 8th last year in the B1G. Injuries hit them hard with some incoming freshmen. Taking a look at their recruiting and you’ll see they have the talent. 2009 class - #11, 2010 class - #8, 2011 class - #1. How all these unknowns work out determines their season.
Michigan is working with a strong returning team. They just haven’t been able to string together enough things to compete for team championships. Kellen Russell(141) will anchor this group. Justin Zeerip(174) needs to put together the senior season he is capable of. After that, I look at Eric Gajales(149) and Brandon Zeerip(157) to be able to big players. Boyle(125), Stevens(133), Yates(165) and Apland(Hwt) need to be consistent pieces to have success. Hunter Collins(184) was last years weak point. He needs to take a big step forward. 197 will be filled by either Matt Hart(RS FR) or Max Huntley(RS FR). Huntley comes from powerhouse Blair Academy and has a decent HS profile.
The Wolverines lose key guys after this year (Russell, J. Zeerip and Stevens). So it’s important they make the most of this roster. After this, recruiting needs to improve and quickly. I would like to see them push Minnesota for the 3rd place spot, but, I don’t know if they are capable of it. My worry is that any slip-up opens the door for a line of 4 or 5 solid teams capable of passing them up. I am penciling them in early at 4th.
Personal Note: I enjoyed updating on the Wrestling Team last year and was sorry to cut it short for family reasons which I can’t thank the MGO community enough for their thoughts and prayers for us. Things have progressed well in that area and I’m excited for another good wrestling season.
I've had a lot of questions about where Michigan's 2012 recruiting class will be ranked come February. This is almost impossible to predict since there are no constants in the recruiting world. Since that won't satisfy anyone though I figured I would give you a projection based off of past years, and what Michigan's class could potentially look like around signing day.
This is all conjecture based off the assumption that nothing will change with Michigan's current commitments. It's more or less for fun. Don't take it too seriously.
Michigan currently has 19 commitments not counting greyshirt Jeremy Clark. There are 10 four star prospects committed and 9 three stars. We'll also assume that Michigan is going to take 25-26 prospects, just for argument sake meaning there are 6-7 spots left. In order to project where the class will be ranked let's first look at how the class could close out [For simplicity all star rankings are per Rivals].
|Jordan Diamond||Illinois||6'6", 289 lbs.||4|
|Josh Garnett||Washington||6'5", 275 lbs||4|
|Adam Bisnowaty||Pennsylvania||6'6", 275 lbs||4|
|Zach Banner||Washington||6'9", 310 lbs||4|
Michigan is only taking one more prospect from this group. I kept these names on because these are the most likely prospects to choose Michigan. We'll project Michigan will land one more 4 star prospect for the class from the offensive line.
|Aziz Shittu||California||6'3", 275 lbs||5|
|Ondre Pipkins||Missouri||6'3", 325 lbs||4|
|Danny O'Brien||Michigan||6'2", 293 lbs||
The coaches have told some of these prospects that they will only be taking one more interior lineman, but I still think there's a good chance they take two. We'll just assume for this exercise that they'll take two. The most likely from that group are Pipkins and O'Brien, so let's add two 4 star prospects to the list from the defensive tackle group.
|Adolphus Washington||Ohio||6'4", 230 lbs.||4|
|Chris Wormley||Ohio||6'4", 255 lbs.||3|
You're probably only looking at one prospect from this group if you want two defensive tackles. Until Adolphus Washington actually visits I'm not sure where he actually has Michigan ranked. We'll go with Wormley and say that Michigan adds one 3 star prospect to the commit list. [ed: It's worth noting that 247 and Scout both have Wormley in their top 100s.]
|Aaron Burbridge||Michigan||6'1", 175 lbs.||4|
|Dwayne Stanford||Ohio||6'5", 185 lbs.||4|
|Jordan Payton||California||6'2", 199 lbs.||4|
|Amara Darboh||Iowa||6'2", 190 lbs.||4|
|Jehu Chesson||Missouri||6'3", 182 lbs.||3|
There's likely three spots left in our scenario, so let's say the coaches will take two receivers from this group. There's a possibility that we could see other receivers earn offers if Michigan doesn't land anyone from this list. This group is a little tougher because Burbridge has grade issues. For our purposes though let's include Aaron Burbridge/ unnamed four star, and one other prospect.
Jehu Chesson, Jordan Payton, and Dwayne Stanford have shown the most interest from the rest of the group. I'll go on the conservative side here though and say Michigan lands a 3 star receiver. So we have one 4 star and one 3 star. It's too early to tell if that's likely, but like I said it's on the conservative side. The scenarios within this group are tough to predict.
|Bri'onte Dunn||Ohio||6'2", 215 lbs.||4|
|EJ Fatu||Texas||5'10", 235 lbs.||3|
|Juwan Lewis||Michigan||5'11", 208 lbs.||3|
|Sione Houma||Utah||6'0", 211 lbs.||2|
Given that we took two wide receivers we only have room for one from the running back position group. That was partially why I added a 4 star and a 3 star to the receivers, because the 3 star receiver could potentially be interchangeable with a fullback.
This is also a hard group to predict because of the uncertainty with Bri'onte Dunn. As I reported earlier in the week I don't think Dunn's recruitment is over. With Michigan landing Kyle Kalis that helps their chances. However, I'm going to go conservative again, and this time just take the average stars rating of 3. There's too many factors that could play into this and it's too hard to predict. I left Greg Garmon off this list because he still doesn't have Michigan as his leader even after a visit to Ann Arbor. He did tell me that he loves Michigan, but at this point I left him off. So Michigan adds a 3 star from this group.
The projected class above leaves Michigan with a total of 26 prospects. The new prospects that we've added to the list here are as follows:
- One 4 Star Offensive Lineman
- Two 4 Star Defensive Tackles
- One 3 Star Defensive End
- One 4 Star and One 3 Star Wide Receiver
- One 3 Star Running Back/Fullback
If you add these numbers to the current class, it looks something like this:
Just to reiterate, these projections are assuming there is no change in the current state of the recruiting world, there are no re-ranks, players don't move up or down, etc. We know that's not the case, so there is certainly a chance that a few Michigan commits could move up or down. Both Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson for example have been mentioned as potentially moving up to 5 stars. That would change things, but I can't predict if that happens.
In order to project a final ranking we'll have to look back at where previous teams were ranked after signing day that have similar classes to Michigan. For a somewhat realistic comparison I'll give a little leeway in the stars. I'll include classes that finished with one or two 5 stars and similar 4 stars, just to show a broad spectrum.
Here's what other teams have finished with star wise and where they ranked out according to Rivals:
|Year||Team||Total Commits||5 Stars||4 Stars||3 Stars||Rank|
It's important to note that these rankings aren't just factored in by star rankings. Rivals uses a number of different factors that includes class size and their individual scores as well. Again for simplicity will just compare classes off of somewhat similar size to Michigan's 2012 class and their star rankings.
As you can see from the chart the highest ranked classes that Michigan could potentially compare to are the 2011 Texas and 2009 Ohio state classes that were both ranked third. Texas had one 5 star and Ohio State had two, so in order for Michigan to get up to that type of ranking they would most likely need to either add a five star or have a few of their prospects reranked into that status. [Ed: if Kalis remains 18th he he will almost certainly grab a fifth star. Rivals averages around 35 per year and have only handed out half of those so far. Magnuson will also be on the cusp if he maintains his current status.] Another good comparison would be Tennessee's 2010 class which ranked number 9 overall. They have a similar number of total committed prospects and somewhat comparable number of stars.
Tennessee had an outstanding class in 2011 as well, ranked 13th overall. If nothing were to change then that's a pretty good comparison for the range that Michigan could be in. Since the Vols had around the same number of prospects committed with around the same number of 3 and 4 stars I'd be comfortable putting Michigan in that range. Since Michigan has two more 4 star prospects committed [in our hypothetical scenario] I would also feel safe moving them up to around the 10-11 range. That's based off of the assumption that Michigan does not add any five stars.
As of right now I would say that the class could finish out in the 7-13 range. If they get a little lucky with Dunn and some guys moving up when the class re-ranks (Ondre Pipkins seems due for a major surge) they'll crack the top five.
I hope this kind of analysis hasn't been done already; if so, my apologies. I was wondering, in light of Brian's analysis of the defense, if we could quantify the effect of having Mattison rather than GERG as our defensive coordinator. To that end, I have tried to quantify the effect of having Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator: the GERG effect. I looked up the scoring defense ranks of Michigan, Syracuse, and Texas for 2003-2010 (data from Rivals). They are as follows:
GERG was DC at Texas in 2004, HC at Syracuse in 2005-2008, and DC at Michigan in 2009-2010. We can therefore display the data graphically as follows (note that the Y axis is team defense scoring rank): We can also try to calculate a crude GERG effect by comparing the average rank of these defenses with and without GERG. This yields the following:
Note that positive is bad and negative is good. So GERG's Texas defense was 11 ranks better than the non-GERG average, whereas his Michigan defenses were 60 ranks worse than the non-GERG average.
To calculate the overall GERG effect, we simply multiple the differences in rank by the number of years at each school, divided by the total number of years (7), to arrive at our overall GERG effect of 29.77 [this figure has been updated]. That is, on average, GERG adversely affects the scoring rank of the defenses he is associated with by 30 positions.
If we take Brian's projection of Michigan's 2011 defense (82nd), and subtract 30 ranks to adjust for the GERG effect, we get to 52, a ranking that a number of commentators were predicting based on their "gut" feeling of player development and the new coaching staff's abilities (particularly Mattison).
Again, this is wild speculation, and incredibly simple -- hopefully it is not completely misguided. Other more advanced metrics should also be used. I am aware that there are far more variables at work that determine how good a defense is--and it is almost certain that GERG was not allowed to run his defense at Michigan. Also, it is likely that Mattison is an excellent DC, something that this analysis does not account for. I was still curious to see if anything could be done to account for the coaching change.
UPDATE: I made an arithmetical error which has been corrected. Also, I ran the same analysis with S&P+ play-by-play ratings from Football outsiders and got a GERG effect of 27.75 ranks (using only Syracuse and Michigan; S&P+ data are only available from 2005 and later).
[ed: We should be taking all of this, including my original post, with a grain of salt because of sample size issues.
That said, Michigan was an the extreme outlier because of its youth and trying to run two different schemes, one of which was something no one's ever tried before, and could expect to rebound further with Mattison--and more importantly, sanity--hanging around campus. The numbers offered here in the two posts (54 using S&P+ data and 82) seem like the ends of a range of reasonable expectations.
The moral of the story is the same one learned by the offenses of Notre Dame in 2008 and Michgian in 2009--you're going to be a lot better but still very far from good.]
[Ed-M: Bumped to Diaries]
(Click for larger)
I looked at the coaching records of new hires since 2001. There's a pretty wide spread. I looked at returing starters vs. this data but the data I have is incomplete. Hopefully this comes out. My wife is about to pull the plug on me.
I don't have time to play with the sizing here. This has some value maybe. If I come back to this I'll add more detail.
The negative 10 outlier is Stan Parrish following Brady Hoke at Ball State...
[Ed-M again: Adding some thoughts so I can get this to 200 words and bump to Diaries.
The bell curve here suggests the data are pretty solid, but a Delta of +0.5 or 1 wins for a new coach seems really really good. Reason being, look at the third chart, with the coaches who took over 12-win teams. We're not talking about replacing just fired guys, but also those who moved up or moved on after dream seasons. Michigan is in that 7-win area where only two teams improved.
So is there an advantage gained from having a 1st-year coach? This doesn't say, but it's not a massive disadvantage, which is what I kind of expected would happen.
I think this needs to show the difference between coaches replacing a fired guy (which suggests there was a level of suspected incompetence) versus a coach brought in to replace a legend or retiree, who in turn was followed out the door by most of his starters. In other words, it's gotta pull out the noise. There's plenty of that around, since we can expect the circumstances of the team that lost 10 more games from the year before had a lot more going into them than Stan Parrish (meh) taking over for Brady Hoke (RAWR!)].