this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
WOW. This was really bad, worse than I expected even. Even if exclude the 0-4 at the goal line, its still a -1 on the day for a matchup that should have been annihilation. It turns out it was, just in the wrong direction. Michigan's rushing performance on the day was the second worst (before adjusting for competition which won't help them much here) performance of the weekend. This was a full 2 TD swing, one on the goal line and another TD throughout the rest of the game.
Hey look a win! But not as much. The bomb to Roundtree on 3rd and 11 was worth 5.6 points by itself. Beyond that single play, the passing offense was nearly -2, or 4 points below expectation. If big plays are now back in the passing playbook than this is a slight reason for optimism, if it was just a single fluke (in so many ways) play then it signals that things are absolutely not progressing in the passing game.
So let's add this up. Michigan should have been +7 in the combined ground games but in the end they finished -23. A full 30 point swing on the ground. At half time, both Illinois and Michigan were right at +2 in the ground games. A draw was a win for Illinois, but it wasn't yet a disaster. Then the third quarter happened. Michigan went -9 for the quarter while Illinois went +8. This is just on the ground and this is without any turnovers!
In a game where black was white and up was down, the pass defense was no exception. The line on Illinois coming was that their passing defense stats were meaningless because no one had to pass against them. That's exactly what happened to Michigan on Saturday. Illinois had very little need to push the ball through the air because they were getting what they wanted on the ground.
The pace and field position lined up just where Michigan wanted it. Michigan had a field position edge of 22 expected points vs Illinois' 20. Michigan had 12 drives for the game which is right at their season average. Everything in this game played out just as predicted but with the role of Illinois played by Michigan and the role of Michigan played by Illinois.
Special teams were a lone bright spot for Michigan on Saturday. Olesnavage had another solid day and the blocked punt could have been a big play.
My Michigan prediction looked very good if you switch the two teams. Unfortunately my bookie wasn't too keen on that idea.
Iowa vs Indiana - The final spreads ended up matched up pretty well, just didn't see all the points and turnovers showing up.
Michigan St vs Minnesota - Didn't have Minnesota to pull this one out, but did have them to cover and the over.
NM St vs Ohio St - The sweatervest kept the foot on the gas a while longer than I though, going two TDs further and enough for the cover.
Penn St vs NW - Kind of like the Iowa/Indiana game. I had the final spread reasonably close but it was a different route than expected to get there.
Purdue vs Wisconsin - Had Wisconsin as a slight cover and obviously they blew the doors off the Boilermakes for a big win.
Very possibly. More so the latter than the former, but still. We're not good. Not even that close, really. We'll get better and better, but if the attrition rates continue to be what they are, it might be some time before we're going to have a double-digit win season.
I know the issue of attrition has been beat to death lately, but I figured I'd take one more whack at that dead horse with some colorful, insightful-
Original table and rankings is derived from Scout's ranking service, and the Modified Rankings I did by myself. If you don't agree, that sucks. Make your own damn diary.
NC stands for "Not Contributing" and can mean anything from "transferred" to "kicked off the team" to "buried so deep on the depth chart we're not even sure he still plays for us".
2006 Recruiting Class
Not a bad class by any means, half of the 20-man class was 4 and 5 star prospects. Then this happened:
Schilling- 5* to 4*
Graham- LB to D-Line
Mouton- 5* S to 4* LB
Brown- 4* DB to 4* LB
Cone- 3* to 2*
Mathews- 3* to 4*
Ezeh- 3* RB to 4* LB
Wright- 2* to 3*
Andddd we got this:
We lost nine players, including four 5*s and both secondary players. Some pretty good foreshadowing for a few years down the line. And this is after both Greg Mathews and Obi Ezeh were bumped from 3*s to 4*s.
2007 Recruiting Class
Another pretty darn good recruiting class, with 14 of the 20 prospects rated 4* or higher. I wonder how this could get messed up. I mean even losing a few players here and there.. we had 12 4* prospects for god's sake- OH DEAR GOD
Williams- 4* to 3*
Webb- 4* to 3*
Herron- 4* to 3*
Huyge- 2* to 3*
Sagesse- 2* to 3*
And that led to this:
We dropped from fourteen total 4 and 5*'s to FOUR. I mean jesus. That's just awful. Half of the entire 2007 recruiting class is either gone or not being used. And besides Donovan Warren, the last two recruiting classes have now combined for a grand total of two 3* players in the secondary. Again, I am starting to see why we're not doing too well this season.
2008 Recruiting Class
Again, not a bad class at all. Fourteen 4* prospects alone in this one. And a nice, big 25 player class. Things are looking up in Ann Arbo- SWEET JESUS NOT AGAIN.
Smith- 4* to 3*
Fitzgerald- 4* to 3*
Robinson- 4* RB to 3* WR
Cox- 4* to 3*
Floyd- 3* to 4*
I don't want to look at it, either. But that led to..
Ten fewer players yet again, zero 5*s (thanks, Boo-Boo) and six 4*s. And that's because I gave JT Floyd a fourth star. Just horrendous stuff.
So in those three recruiting classes (I'm not doing '09 just yet), the eight 5*s are now two, the thirty-one 4* players are now sixteen, and the 65 players total are now 36. Not exactly what anyone had in mind when the classes were actually coming in.
If the '09 class turns out to be a good one, and we lock up a few high-caliber players in 2010, I think we'll be alright in a few years. For this season (and potentially next), however, it's kind of easy to see why we're struggling against the likes of Indiana and Illinois.
We don't have the depth that we should because our stellar signing day lists are down to almost nothing a few years down the line. I don't know what RichRod or any of the coaching staff can do to make sure future players stay out of trouble and on the field, but if these numbers don't improve significantly over the next few years, it's going to be a while before we're playing in January.
Any and all comments are welcome. Thanks for reading.
This, of course, is an emotional reaction. So let's put away the pitchforks (for the pissed off out there) and the shotguns (for the depressed out there) and take a step back, and just look at this team's progress towards its goals.
Before the season, I openly predicted that we would go 6-6 in a diary.
Of the commenters that predicted, the breakdown went as such:
9+ wins (3)
8 wins (4)
6 wins or less (7)
Five of the seven commenters predicting 6 or less predicted 5 wins, nobody predicted 4 or less. So including myself, 8/23 or more than a 1/3 predicted a season to finish 6-6 at best. Over 2/3 predicted a best-case scenario of 7-5. Granted, 23 is a small sample size, but it's what I have.
Midway through the season we were 4-2 heading into a game against Delaware State, also known as the School for the Blind, so 5-2 was a given. It was at this point that I cautioned everyone to remain realistic about the team, and maintained that I felt 6-6 was likely. http://mgoblog.com/diaries/mid-season-analysis-how-are-we-doing
Far fewer member made predictions, but the general attitude in the comments was, "You're an idiot, Illinois is garbage, you're an idiot, we finish 8-4 at least, maybe 9-3, you're an idiot, neg-bang neg-bang neg-bang neg-bang neg-bang.... you're an idiot."
Again, this sentiment was based on emotion. Everyone was still high off the win over Notre Dame and the gutsy performance against Indiana. Nobody was taking into account that of 5 wins, two were against Michigan Directional, one was against Indiana, and the lone quality win was against Notre Dame.
'Lo and behold, after drubbing the blind kids from Delaware and losing to an Illinois team that either A.) finally played up to their potential, B) isn't very good but killed us anyway, or C) all of the above people are again reacting emotionally.
So, just for a moment, calm down everyone, and realize that our team is right where we thought we would be. If we beat Purdue next week,like I think we will, that will put us at 6-4 with two tough games against Wisconsin and Ohio State, teams that should beat us if they play well. So we end 6-6. Right about where 2/3 of us thought we would be.
As I said last June, "This [6-6] might seem bad, but considering a brand new scheme on defense and a reliance on young players, it’s not too bad. Especially when a few games could go our way (ND, Iowa, and MSU) and quickly change it to a 9-3 record. Realistic expectations are important."
Well, ND went our way, I was wrong on Penn State, and we almost pulled it off against Iowa and Michigan State. We have a new scheme on defense with limted talent, and our young players are playing like young players. 6-6 is realistic, and let's not lose our shit if that happens. The nature of college football lends itself to highly emotional reactions, and that's okay. But if we slow down enough to use calm objectivity, we see that we're living up to expectations.
In any case, I thought some humor might help alleviate the dong punch that was Saturday's game. So I went and did a little research of my own, and found some interesting historical tidbits that might shed some light on why what happened actually happened. Are any of these true? Only time will tell, my friends. Are any actually humorous? Probably not.
Roy: I used to be happy
First up: Roy Roundtree. Turns out this is not the first time he's been caught from behind. Research reveals the following telling incidents from his past:
- Age 3. Roy spills milk on the kitchen table. Mama Roundtree chases as Roy heads for the front door and freedom. Mama catches him just as he was about to get out. Result: spanking. Also, the children lose all momentum in the constant struggle between parents and children.
- Age 10. During a spelling bee, Roy gets nervous as his word is "does not have elite speed" (ok, actually it is a phrase). He bolts for the exit, only to be caught by the lunch lady, who runs a 5.5 forty (FAKE!). He is forced to spell the phrase, which is unfortunately quite easy for him.
- Age 17. Girlfriend wants to "have some experiences together". Roy is nervous, as he has never done stuff like that before. Roy bolts for his car, but the girlfriend catches him just as he puts the keys in. Result: Roy loses virginity.
- Age 18: And then there was the polar bear incident...
Roy getting chased by a polar bear. It also ends poorly.
So, as you can see, getting caught from behind isn't always a bad thing. It's too bad Roy's girlfriend doesn't play for Michigan too. She has top-end speed. Same for the polar bear.
Also unearthed: a famous series of chess matches between Coach Rod and the Zooker. Little known fact: both are chess grandmasters. More known fact: neither seems much like a chess grandmaster. Here is a recap of their games:
- Game 1: Zook throws rook at Rich, catches him in the eye. Result: Rich forfeits (can't see the board).
- Game 2: Rich attempts to move pawn one square ahead for four straight moves. Unfortunately, Zook has entire defensive line there, including an extra pawn.
- Game 3: Rich moves queen into winning position. Unfortunately, Queen fumbles the ball. Zook's bishop scoops it up, only to be punched in the nuts by an angry pawn.
They even made a movie about them: Zooker (left) and RichRod
So in all cases, had we known of these chess games, we might have guessed that the Zooker had the strategic edge on Coach Rich. Who would have thunk it?
Finally, we have the dong punch. Brian already mined this for all it is worth, but who can leave a nut crack like that alone? As it turns out, the U of M players have been nut punching each other all year in what Barwis calls "our new way of saying 'well done, mate!'" For example:
- After the winning TD pass in the Notre Dame game, Shoelace went up to Tate and "congratulated" him right in the scrotum.
So that's it. With all the calls for Rich's head and the decay of Michigan football, let's keep in mind: "it's only football". Which means of course "it's only really important to a bunch of us who are not really affiliated with the team in any meaningful way, but it sure can ruin our saturday." So, a saturday was ruined. Now for the good news: only three more saturdays left.
I have been an avid RR supporter since he was hired. I think he has a great track record. I think he is a moral and ethical leader of young men. But, after the Illinois game, I began to realize something that might be his biggest coaching flaw thus far at Michigan: his coaching-style is counter-productive to the kids on this Michigan roster. (I am not talking about spread v. pro-style, just the general way he coaches kids up.)
Let me explain. We all know winning is everything to RR. He pushes his players. But, it may be the WAY he is pushing his players that is the problem.
He rides them. He bi*tches them out on the sidelines and in practice. This caused some players to leave. Fine. They were probably soft anyway.
BUT, this team is extremely young. This team has A LOT of people who didn't sign up to get yelled at every day. This team is still a work in progress with pro-style players and a spread offense melding together. Plus, there is already intense media scrutiny on Michigan and its players. Put it all together and you have kids facing more pressure than most of us ever face.
RR's style isn't to quietly support his players after a mistake. You can see this when he publicly degrades them. You've seen it on the sideline like you never see it in other big-time programs in the current era. (Michigan coaches are also yelling at each other A LOT - weird.) I think that yelling and berating makes the players "tight." It causes nervous fumbles and mental errors. It builds on itself with these young kids. A bad game and you're benched... for a walk-on.
Its almost as if the team is taking on RR's problems (the pressure he faces at Michigan) and cracking because they are too young to deal with it.
RR may have been successful at WVU because the overall level of pressure on him and the players was lower. If the team had trouble, the seat didn't get too hot and RR could still coach 'em up. WVU was lucky to have him. Plus, RR loved WVU as a former player. He could share in that love of WVU with his players. It may have motivated them. Whereas, here, they may wonder whether is yelling is "tough love" from a fellow Wolverine or just a hired-gun screaming at the top of his lungs.
To me, this SOMEWHAT explains this Michigan team's turnover problems. This SOMEWHAT explains the team's second half implosions. This SOMEWHAT explains the mental errors.
Now, some of you may lament "going easier on kids." You may think kids are GENERALLY soft today anyway. And, you might be right. But, that is reality and he has to be a realistic coach. In the era of intense recruiting coverage, nationally televised high school games and "announcements," the fact that kids are a little soft is just something we have to live with. Now, RR doesn't have to start holding hands with the kids, but he needs to understand the REALITY of the generation.
Of course, this might not be the WHOLE new generation and could be a Carr-recruit v. RR-recruit situation when it comes to "toughness." Time will tell. Maybe in the swamps of Pahokee and the hills of WV, there are still a lot of tough kids that respond well to being "chewed out." The problem is that, if so, they are true freshmen on this team.
My suggestion: RR's coaching style needs to progress. He needs to adapt to talented kids who may need a different form of motivation, maybe kids who didn't grow up getting yelled at every day. He needs to adapt the pressure he doles by understanding the high level of pressure his players already face at Michigan. He needs to stay tough, but adapt to what works to motivate and instill confidence in the young kids on THIS roster.
[Editor's note: holy hell, man. This is like a PhD thesis.]
It hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can't breathe. You can't think. At least, not about anything but the pain.
I'm searching for a metaphor.
Amidst the phantom flags and the Angry Michigan Hating Bounces and the dropping of babies on 3rd down on Saturday you could not possibly have missed a notable lack of competency in the 11 guys tasked with making sure the other guys score less than we do, otherwise referred to as "Michigan's Defense."
This is Part II of the afore-bumped diary "The Decimated Defense," a look at what has happened to turn Michigan's once vaunted defense into..
I don't have a metaphor...
Something that has a lot of really shiny beautiful parts, that ostensibly looks like something grand and wonderful, but like with some major defect or hole in it, from which pours in death and destruction...
In the wake of, well, that, I'm sure that you, as I, need to understand what happened to Michigan's defense, how we got here, will it get better, and can it be avoided again?
In the first of this series, I went through Michigan's last five classes to see if we could find where and what went wrong in defensive recruiting to lead us to a day when Jordan Kovacs was all that stood between the program and the bottom of the sea. We looked at the cheap rivets, the lack of safety training, and missing life boats, while Brian UFR'ed a really big iceburg.
It was long, and mostly stuff you already knew, and at one point you had to fix yourself a sandwich, but at the end we identified two factors that were very likely contributors:
- Small classes
- High attrition
Today we put that in context. I compared the current rosters to the recruited rosters of Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State and Alabama, to see how each of these teams were built, and what was lost along the way, in order to understand why should so many other luxury liners and loveable tugboats and whatnot stay dry as we face a watery grave?
(Excel spreadsheet lives here.)
Recruiting: Quantity and Quality
Rose: The fall alone would kill you.
Jack: It would hurt. I'm not saying it wouldn't. Tell you the truth, I'm a lot more concerned about that water being so cold.
Here's how Michigan stacked up in pure defensive recruiting from 2005 through 2009 (Rivals ratings used):
|Michigan||Alabama||MSU||Notre Dame||Ohio State||Penn State|
This counts every recruit that came in ready to play defense, except athletes who played their entire careers on offense. It also includes offensive recruits later moved to defense. It excludes walk-ons.
Many nuggets here. Let us bullet:
- Notre Dame fans who blame recruiting for some of their woes have a beef. Their classes have been highly ranked, but even smaller than paltry Michigan's!
- Bama LOL
- Michigan and Penn State recruited pretty similarly. The big difference was that PSU brought in 7 more 2-stars.
- Michigan and Ohio State both recruited 20 players of 3-star caliber, and 3 blue chips, but OSU had 9 more 4-star players during that time.
- Michigan State clearly isn't in the same recruiting league as these others. They're basically averaging one lower star per recruit
- ...but out of a respectable class size.
- Even so, Alabama had more 3-star defensive recruits over this time than Michigan State.
Michigan's closest recruiting analogue here is Penn State, with the high-end (4-5 star) recruiting separated by one more 5-star guy for us. You can call Notre Dame basically a Michigan-light. If anything, the Fighting Irish have been even pickier about talent than U-M, OSU and PSU, except they haven't been as successful at reeling in the big fish as any of the major schools profiled.
For these schools, the distribution seems weighted slightly toward the top, but their bell curves are only slightly ahead of OSU and Bama. However, when placed beside each other, it's easy to see how large amounts of recruits can generate a much more sizeable talent pool from which to draw starters.
So recruiting tells a story, but certainly not the story. Certainly, Alabama and Ohio State recruited the most 4- and 5-star players, and subsequently have great defenses.
Michigan and Penn State should, just going by recruiting, have about the same level of defense, with maybe one more NFL-bound player in Ann Arbor, and maybe a bunch of 2-star guys backing up at Penn State instead of Michigan's walk-ons. Or it would be, if attrition was constant. We will see in the next section that it isn't. But you knew the problem wasn't just recruiting, anyway, since you know that Penn State's defense is legitimately good, and Michigan went into this season steering a pre-WWI luxury liner.
First, though, while we're on pure recruiting, let's look real quick and see if it's actually the age of the recruits that matter. Since they should be theoretically the heart of a great defense, and since the distribution among all schools except Michigan State was fairly equal when it came to 4- versus 5- stars, let's just look at those two groups, and when they came in for each school (MSU left out to spare them the indignation of looking like Antarctica):
|Michigan||Alabama||Notre Dame||Ohio State||Penn State|
[At this point I would ask everyone else to pause for a moment while we give Irish, who has been waiting patiently all this time, an opportunity to assign righteous blame on Ty Willingham. HE did this, precious!]
Okay, so other than an '05-'06 "Domer LOL," did we get anything out of this?
Penn State's great defense has a lot of high-rated juniors and seniors on it -- more than any other school. Michigan was kind of even, but actually should have had more upperclassmen than Bama or Notre Dame. Ohio State has been strong all the way through. Alabama is going to be really really good in a few years.
There's nothing here to suggest Michigan should be really bad. Not yet.
The Other Shoe, of Which Its Current Gravity Situation You Were Well Aware
Rose : Don't you understand? The water is freezing and there aren't enough boats. Not enough by half. Half the people on this ship are going to die.
Cal: Not the better half.
Cal, if you make it off that ship, and if that whole heir-to-a-robber-baron thing doesn't work out for you, you might make a fine SEC recruiting coordinator.
What I'm talking about is Alabama's over-signing strategy, which has been covered many times on this blog. In short, the Crimson Tide under Saban have recruited more guys than they have scholarships for, expecting enough will find reason to get themselves expelled or booted off the team before the count becomes official. The ultimate effect is that Saban has a strong incentive not to keep troubled players, particularly less talented troubled players, in school.
I bring it up now because:
|Def. Recruits||On Roster||On Roster %|
- Michigan has had higher attrition from 2005 to 2009 than Alabama.
- Let's rephrase: Michigan has had higher attrition than a team that has been TRYING TO SHED PLAYERS.
- If Ohio State is pulling a 'Bama, there is zero evidence for it here. They have a reasonable number of recruits, and very low attrition.
- Penn State, as I mentioned before, is a much older team, and therefore has had a lot more time to lose guys to graduation and leaving early for the NFL and whatnot. In that light, their retention rate is pretty darn good.
- Michigan State and OSU ended up with about the same number of recruits on their respective rosters, while Bama was just a bit higher.
- Notre Dame's team is much, much younger, hence the high retention rate.
- Attrition has generally been higher for the teams with coaching changes in the last few years.
- Michigan's 28 scholarship athletes on defense may work on your pre-2005 EA Sports video game (which had a 55-player limit) but is way, way below the competition.
- 58.33 percent, as it turns out, is in fact quite putrid.