The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
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.
I also think that my post is complimentary to Jamiemac's incredible post (http://mgoblog.com/diaries/harsh-message), but I had already finished my post, so I figured I'd throw it up anyways.
Looking back on the preseasons expectations thread (http://mgoblog.com/diaries/season-predictions-poll-projections-fan-expec...), the consensus was that most would be happy with Rich Rodriguez and the shape of our program if we were bowl eligible at the end of the season. This would have shown significant improvement over last year's debacle and it seemed as though this would enough to keep the masses happy.
Early Season Elation
After our first 4 games starting at a surprising 4-0 many adjusted their expectations skyward even though 2 of the games were close against mediocre competition (ND who barely wins every game and Indiana who is 4-5 (1-4 Big Ten play) and with Tate playing with fire-but somehow not getting burned-on many plays. His "guts" and "moxie" proved to be too much for every team and he seemed to have that "it" factor that many of us thought that we lacked. I think that the extremely lofty expectations especially by the ESPN hype machine only helped inflate our egos even more that "Michigan was back!"
Teams had more data points against our team and could key in on our weaknesses. They knew what to expect from our freshmen as they weren't unproven commodities anymore. I think that it is always easier for first year players to play well in the beginning of the year for two key reasons. Not only do expectations start to get the better of them after the early season honeymoon, but opposing coordinators can now plan against these youngsters and their lack of versatility and game experience. Note that it seems as though the season has taken its toll on Tate as he appears banged up.
Some have said that our offensive line has lost a lot since Molk has been sidelined with the injury. I would have to agree with them-his injury has really set back our offense and our team as a whole. I think that it is no surprise that our team has slid in his absence.
As far as the Illinois game goes...yes, Illinois is not a very good team this yea. But who thought that their team would be this bad? No one. This was a sleeping team that needed one play to really get its confidence. The goal-line stand was that one play.
It's not like Juice Williams is a bad player, or that Illinois has no weapons. Some at the beginning of the season were saying that Benn and Williams were the best tag team in the league and that Illinois would have one of the best offenses in the Big Ten. How they fell this far... well, I really have no idea. I haven't paid enough attention to their team. Illinois blogs lack the flair of our humble home. And if these past few weeks in the conference have taught us anything, it's that anyone can beat anyone in the Big Ten. Think Purdue beating OSU and then a few weeks later Purdue getting curb stomped by Wisconsin. The game would not have gone nearly as poorly (and, dare I say, we would have won easily) if we had scored on that goal-line series, or if Roy Roundtree were a few steps faster.
But as they say shoulda, coulda woulda. Someone even said that this was one of the worst losses by a Michigan team ever-and all that I can say to that is you must have a very short memory. Off the top of my head Oregon I, Iowa (same year as Oregon I), Oregon II, App State.
We are a young team that is prone to wild swings in play. To give up on coach Rod, our team, his system at this juncture is, in my opinion, ridiculous and short-sighted. I'm not saying that you cannot question the man and his play calling, because I would have liked to have seen a QB sneak on that goal-line series but anyone saying that I-Form was not the correct formation to run there is treading on shaky logical ground.
Signs of Progress
This team has made great strides in tackling, the offense has looked infinitely better than last year, the defense is showing signs of life, and when we can hang onto the ball in special teams, it's one of the most exciting units we've had in a long time. When was the last time we blocked a punt, or returned a TD on special teams?
Some people were even saying that our team cannot make half-time adjustments and again how quickly they must forget the beginning of the year where we made great adjustments at half time (particularly on the defensive side of the ball).
There were several generic comments that I wanted to call out-but here are 2 of many after the game that I wanted to call out that should NEVER be uttered by a supposed Michigan fan:
1. "Dick Rod" - This is your coach, this is what buckeyes, WV fans who are butt hurt, people who hate him call him. This should not even be in your vocabulary.
2. "He'll probably cry in the press conference because he knows he f'ed up the best job that he'll ever have"-no comment needed
These comments are getting out of control. Question the man's play calling, his coaching, or his decision making but it is NEVER acceptable to personally attack coaches or players. Grow up.
Finally, Rich Rodriguez is a good coach. Anyone saying "this isn't the Big Least this pussy type of offense will never work here he is in over his head" has apparently never seen the progression of coaches throughout college football. Urban Meyer was from Utah (not even a BCS conference... and I wouldn't say that he is over his head) Jim Tressel was from Youngstown State (Not even a FCS school). So to say that "this isn't the Big Least" is the most ridiculous thing to say and makes you look like an idiot (especially when the Big East looks like a better conference this year than the Big Ten). He has a great pedigree, great resume and there is absolutely no one that we could get that would be a better coach for any team. If we fired him he would be snatched up before we could even find another coach.
There is nothing that this team and program needs more than continuity. We need to recruit our asses off (especially on defense). If you think that we will be able to recruit at all if RR would be fired, think how much negativity would surround our program. Opposing teams wouldn't even have to negatively recruit against us. With 70% of the team as underclassmen it is unfair to not give him time until they mature.
In summary, let's keep in mind the big picture. RR isn't the anti-Christ, this program needs continuity or else we will suffer the fates of other teams that changed coaches frequently and never really found their footing for years (see ND). He didn't forget how to coach, turnovers were never an incredible problem under RR at WV, so what is the problem here?
I don't really know but I have the confidence in RR to know that he will sort it out.
I personally think that it speaks to the depths of the decline that our program had fallen to in the past few years. If or when a normal amount of players on the team are upperclassmen and we have these types of seasons, by all means I'll think that enough is enough. But right now, I think that the team needs and deserves our support now more than ever.
Go Blue, Always!
Yesterday's second half was the worst blow to a Revolution since:
A. The Winter of Valley Forge
B. The Seige of Vicksburgh
C. The Alamo
Well, it cant be the Alamo because thats what last week's game was. So that makes it either Valley Forge or Vicksburgh. And, really, right now, on the first day of November in Year 2 of the Rodriguez Revolution, it's hard to determine which is the more apt historical marker in light of yesterday's outcome and ensuing aftermath. It could be either one right now. A clear cut TBD.
If it's Valley Forge, its a cold harsh reminder of how long the struggle will be, yet a fact of life towards the eventual birth of a super power. If its Vicksburgh, its the beginning of an end, one that could be as drawn out with an ensuing upheaval and Reconstruction period that ultimately would set the program back farther back than any of us can possibly imagine.
Clearly, I hope its the former. Sadly, I can no longer expect that. I remain convinced Rodriguez can get it done in a big way here at Michigan. I am now, however, dubious that he can survive the noise that will envelop the program in the wake of the Illinois loss. The critics had been put away, but they seize on losses like this with the reactionary temper of a hyperbolic spastic hopped up on an eight ball. Those critics must be RIGHT becasue their OUTRAGE is LOUD and ANGRY and this is UNACCEPTABLE and they WONT TAKE THIS ANYMORE because this is not MICHIGAN FOOTBALL.
Well, I have two words for those hyperbolic reactionaries today.
Oh, and another sentence.
Go cheer for another team for awhile.
You should have left years ago. Let me clue you in on a dirty little secret: Your precious Michigan program has been fooling people for an entire decade. Any reference to It as contemporary elite program is rubbish. I hate to throw out the real F word, but they have been frauds for a long time now.
Do you want to know why your bowl streak didnt die sooner? The difference between some of the teams earlier this decade and 2008 is some got to sit next hot rollers while one sat next to an all-star cooler.
The 2004 team was the luckiest team in program history. 2005 might have been the second luckiest, despite its Infinite Pain lore. The 2005 team 's 7-5 record was much closer to the program's true identity, record wise, than the seasons immediately before and after it. The famed 2006 team almost lost to Ball State. In the tenth game of the season. A MAC team. With a losing record. Hokalicious!
Come on, we're talking about the same program that lost to Appalachian State in 2007. Even with an all-time group of upperclassmen, the program lost that game, were woodshedded by an Oregon team, and scored just three points against OSU. Not once that whole regular season did they play like a club worthy of even begin ranked. Those uppclassmen had been holding the program together by the skin of their teeth for years.
In the wake of their mass departure after the bowl win over Florida, the program was left with a stark reality nobody bothered to notice: The program had no depth. Ann Arbor claimed to be a place for the leaders and the best. But, instead, it had become a place where recruits went to get get slower and weaker. Folks, that was Michigan's reputation. And it was earned. Michigan was a fraud. That was the perspective from the outside looking in. But, it's easy to be blinded by reality when genuflecting at the church of Hart, Henne and Long.
A team with some all-program caliber players sprinkled throughout the roster almost lost to a woeful MAC team and did lose to a FCS school in embarassing fashion during their final two seasons in Ann Arbor. So, we're melting down in shock, horror and ALL CAPS because the team meshed virtually entirely of freshmen, sophomores and mid-level upperclassmen recruits left in their wake actually did lose to a bad MAC team and a terrible Big 10 team during their first two years? Really, you're surprised by this development? Folks, this is not 'what out of left field' looks like.
This stretch of poor seasons was a long time coming. It took an incredible amount of luck that it didnt happen sooner. And if you cant like Michigan in the bad times, then why do you like Michigan even at all? If you're not up for the long climb to the top, then I dont know what to tell you. If you're not aware of the mediocrity every other past elite program had to wallow through while it reinvented itself before it could become elite again, then crack open some college history books.
This 2009 team is basically where we all thought it would be back in the summer. We all, myself as much as anyone, let our minds get filled with big things this season after that September start. Maybe something like a nine win season could be in the offing. I am discouraged by the outcome yesterday, but certainly not disillusioned with where we are as a program today. Eight days ago, I was stoned enough on Maize and Blue bud and the Power of the Forcier to think the we were about to turn a corner. Today, I have been reminded just how long and hard it will be to take a fraudelent program and turn it into a super power in the current world of college football. And, make no mistake, that is indeed the charge of Rodriguez and he--or anyone else for that matter--aint doing it overnight.
When faced with the reality of yesterday you have to go back and remind yourself where you thought the team was in the summer. I hoped they could find seven wins on the schedule. I also said during one of our WLA Lives in August that I didnt like our chances to win any of the four road games this season. Part of my initial excitement about the Notre Dame win is that it opened the door for a bowl season that didnt include a win in any of these road games. I thought having QBs with the right skill set would enable a big improvement. But, I figured getting all your snaps from true freshmen QBs with this team would probably be enough to really limit the improvements as measured in the black and white world of wins and losses. The defense scared the crap out of me, especially if we had to do any lineup shuffling past our original first string. Can we kick a field goal? Or field a kick?
If you had told me back in the summer that Brandon Minor would be on pace for less carries, yards and scores than last year; and that our freshmen QBs would account for twice as many turnovers as TDs in Big 10 play; and that the defense, more youthful that last season, would be every bit as big play vulnerable and seive like as last years; and that walk ons would emerge as starters with lineup shuffles in the secondary virtually every week; and that after close to half a season of a return game that was impeccable, it would return to last year's lost fumble per game form......well, if you told me all that, I think I would have promptly scheduled and left for a three month Sabbatical to Australia or something.
But, if you had told me all that, and promised a winning record after nine games, I would have made that deal. And, here we are, with a winning record in November. Take it, or leave it.
Now, I had some issues with how Rodriguez handled the game yesterday. He coached poorly. The team has had no offensive identity the last couple of weeks, and its the burden of the coaches to cultivate that. I am surprised we're this confused about how are rushing carries are being distributed. And, I blame him for not being able to rally the kids yesterday in the second half. That goal line stand should not have been the knockout punch it so obviously was. They were unable to coach the kids up and Rodriguez personally seemed as stunned as the players after the touchdown was overturned.
Hearing him in the postgame presser talk about how he felt it was a TD reminded me of Mike Davis bucking for a 17-win Indiana team to make the tournament after a 25-point opening round loss to Minnesota in the Big 10 Tournament by pleading 'we were the fourth place team.' Yeah, they dont even have a color for fourth place ribbons, Chief. And, in case you needed to be told, when I get flashes of Mike Davis based on something you did, it is most definetly not good. No question.
So, Rodriguez has a big chore ahead of him and a lot that he has to achieve between now and the end of the season. He needs to get these kids back playing with confidence and an identity on offense. He cant let November spin out of control the way the second half spiraled last weekend. He has to recharge Forcier and get him back to early season form. He needs to establish some momentum of what a good-looking Rodriguez team will look like in the future. We'll see.
But, I'm not going to let one step back with what is still the youngest team in the Big 10, freak me out to the point, where I will back off on the sentiment that Rodriguez can get it done here. I remain certain of it. Maybe we ought to let him have a season with a legit returning QB before we even begin to dole out grades on his tenure? kthxbai.
I want to end with just a glimpse of what a more TL;DR answer would be to the question I see spread by some persistently loud posters around here dismayed at Rodriguez and wondering where the accomplishments are. Sink on these numbers, with all rankings per Rivals.
In 2005-07, Michigan brought in 23 five/four star players. Only 13 remain with the program. Eleven of those recruits came from the 2005 class, so that's just 12 five/four star recruits in our jr/sr classes right now.
In 2008-2009, the two seasons where Rodriguez had to get them to sign on the dotted line, Michigan brought in 31 five/four star recruits, with 26 still on the roster that are either sophomore, redshirt freshmen, freshmen or redshirting.
Rodriguez is stockpiling talent. Replinishing the lifeblood of a program that had received guru approvals in the past thanks in large part to brand name alone. It might not be a very savvy or seasoned team right now. I would even grant that it's not a very well coached team right now, either. But, the program has at least twice as much talent in the underclassmen ranks as it does in the upperclassmen ranks. These kids intend on being here for awhile. I hope the coach that brought him here gets the same chance.
Let It Grow. It will pay off. We'll come get you when we're in full bloom. I promise.
I thoroughly believe that whichever quarterback learns the read option first and can run it to near perfection first will be the starting quarterback in years to come. It is the basic running play of our offense. I don't care if that player is Tate Forcier, Devin Gardner, or Nick Sheridan; if that quarterback can run the read option so we are getting 4+ yards just about every time, they will be the starter.
I think we all know that neither of our freshmen quarterbacks has been able to make the reads quick enough to run the play yet. Is this because they haven't had enough time to practice it yet? Maybe. However, I think the bigger issue is the ability to execute a fake hand off. A good fake hand off does two things: it forces the DE to make a decision to go after the running back or the quarterback instead of sitting in a comfortable spot to stop either outcome and it gives the quarterback an extra split second to read that DE.
To illustrate this, I have compiled several Picture Pages for different read options from different teams around the country. Several things to keep in mind:
- These are to illustrate why the fake hand off is important...not the read option itself
- Because of this, these are all QB keepers
- These plays are not identical; will, therefore, not have the same results; and are not intended to be directly compared with the results of our play.
- These are to illustrate why the fake hand off is important
Also, all of these images, aside from the Michigan vs. EMU game, were taken from ESPN360 or YouTube videos so they aren't perfect quality, but they still get the point across. I will try to post video for some of these later.
Illinois vs. MichiganIllinois ran the read option perfectly on the first drive against Michigan. The net result was a 27 yard gain.
As you can see they have a RB on either side of Juice Williams, two WRs up top, and a TE outside the LT. It is important to note where that the backfield is lined up around the 12 yard line.
After the play starts, the RB runs behind Juice as he begins the fake hand off to the left RB. The OL blocks right and the TE goes out for a pass leaving Brandon Graham to defend as the unblocked DE. Donovan Warren begins his coverage of the TE, but keeps his eyes on the exchange.
You can see that Juice still has his hands in the RBs gut. They are a full yard ahead of where they started the play at. Brandon Graham is forced to choose which to go for and he picks the running back. Donovan Warren has moved down field in coverage but still is keeping his eyes on the exchange. Jonas Mouton has started to move inside to go after the RB.
Juice pulls the ball and he is already 2 yards up field from where he started the play. Brandon Graham is out of position for the play. Donovan Warren is 10 yards up field from Juice. Mouton is still in position to make a play but...
The LT is able to get a block on Mouton and Juice is to the LOS with lots of field in front of him. Donovan Warren has come back to make the play, but he has to guard against the option.
Donovan Warren correctly plays contain and takes away the option, which springs Juice into the open field, at which point it is a foot race. He is forced out of bounds after going 27 yards on the carry.
Had the option not been in this play and all other things being held equal, Donovan Warren would most likely have tackled Juice after a gain of about 5 yards, which is what you hope for every time this play is run.
Michigan vs. EMUI looked through a couple of drives for Michigan in the Illinois game and I couldn't find a traditional read option play. I am convinced at this point in the season that the coaches have removed this responsibility from the QBs and will look to install it again next year. I did see a fake hand off, but the line moved with the quarterback keeper instead of the hand off, which tells me that this is not what I am looking for.
So to get a good example, I went back to the last game that I downloaded: the EMU game.
This is our traditional 4-wide read option. Tate is lined up at the 48.5 yard line.
Tate pivots on his right foot and fakes the hand off. The ball never even makes it to the gut of the RB; he essentially just taps the ball to the side of the RB and then keeps. The DE is going for the RB right off the bat (so maybe this isn't the perfect example, but just wait).
The OLB sees Tate keep the ball and breaks to the outside. This doesn't allow our RT to seal him to the inside, which would allow Forcier to break free.
Instead what happens is Tate has to cut back to the inside. If he is able to get by this block, he is open for a first down, but the OLB gets a shoestring tackle and Tate goes down for a small gain.
Now that we have seen the good and bad of what I am referring to, let's take a look at some more examples of good fake hand offs from teams around the country.
WVU vs. USF
Notice that Brown, WVU's new QB, is lined up around the 29 with 4-wide Trips right.
Before the snap, a WR goes in motion for the end around. You can hardly tell, but the ball is in mid-air at this point.
Brown's right foot makes it up to the 27 yard line before he pulls the ball. The DE bites on the fake and rushes in for the RB. The LBs are starting to come in to stop the dive as well. The safety is starting to come in for run support, but he is far enough out that the fake actually puts him in better position to make the play. Meanwhile, the end around and fake are forming into a nice option as well.
Brown makes it to the LOS and the safety has a nice contain on him. He pulls up and begins the pitch to the WR.
The WR has a block down field and all of the other players are now out of position to tackle him. The blocked CB ends up forcing him inside and tackling him to save the TD, only after he gets a first down though.
Had Brown not had the second option to pitch the ball, he most likely would have headed for the sideline and been out after 4-8 yards.
Same game, other team:
BJ Daniels is at the 37 yard line. It is hard to tell but the ball has just reached his hands.
You can see that BJ Daniels is two yards ahead of where he took the snap from before he pulls the ball. The WVU LBs bite on the fake even though they see this every day in practice.
BJ Daniels gets into open space with no one left to defend him other than the safety 8 yards up field. Chalk this one up as another big gain.
Oregon vs. CalThis will be the last one. I tried to find some footage of Tim Tebow's fake, but I couldn't find any and I am sure all of you have seen enough of him anyway.
Here, Masoli is lined up around the 14 yard line with the RB about a yard behind him on his left, trips right, and the TE lined up outside the LT.
Masoli pulls the ball about a yard and a half ahead of where he took the snap from. The DE is waiting for the play to develop.
Masoli gets outside of the DE and is tackled by the safety for a 4-5 yard gain.
This is what the average play should look like when the Defense reads the play properly and is in position. The other plays are what happen when one person on defense makes a mistake. The one thing that all of the plays from other teams have in common is a great fake hand off. The QB needs to sell the DE to get him to bite on the play and/or give himself enough time to make the correct read.
Like I said, I think the Michigan QB who is able to do this the best will be our starter. From what I have seen so far, Tate is on his way to being able to make these reads, but he lacks the ability to sell the fake. If he can do this, I think he will continue to be our starter. However, if Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner can learn this before him, I don't know if a Big10 defense will be able to continuously stop this especially with their speed and play-making abilities.