It's unfortunate that we all had to tolerate a difficult loss Saturday on national tv against a significant rival. It seems, however, that some are taking it harder than others with the poor overall performance apparently signifying huge deficits in team effort, coaching ability (offense + defense), defensive scheme (okay, maybe...or maybe it's the players) and recruiting. That is far from an entirely comprehensive list as it seemed there were various unrelated complaints as well as irrational coaching comparisons (here's looking at you Bill Stewart and Paul Johnson). I would say enough with the ACC comparisons but I'm sure I'm biased.
Of course, it's mere weeks since we had beaten Notre Dame and were undefeated. Tate was the toast of the town (and the nation to some degree) apparently almost a Heisman Candidate. Denard was then a nice change of pace (although he wasn't allowed to throw back then) and people made posts that spoke about 9-3 being reasonably possible. Posts were made with the phrases "dare I say" and "New Year's day bowl game" in the same damn sentence. Indeed, on Friday there were posts predicting blowouts for Michigan. I guess if you type it enough then hope becomes reality?
So here we are following a loss to a highly rated and credible Penn State team. This follows much closer losses to the litte brother and at Iowa. Thematically, I see turnovers (5 vs. Iowa; 4 vs. PSU) and inconsistent play as the culprits. That and a serious inability to get the defense off the field. But really, are these issues including the defensive lapses coaching incompetency or is the cause of this wildly inconsistent play the fact that +/- 70 pecent of the players are freshmen and sophomores who lack the maturity, physical/mental toughness and deep season experience needed to win consistently at this level. The fact is this team has proven they can compete with good to very good teams (ND, little brother, Iowa) but they are very young and will have huge variance in performance. It seems the hot early start and ND win got the hopes a bit crazily high; regrettably, the fall back to earth (and reasonable 7-5 predictions) is painful and eliciting a lot of debateably considered analysis.
This leads me to consider the concept of "rational thought" and whether or not it can truly coexist with the "loyal Michigan fanbase". If fan is short for "fanatic" and someone who is marked by an extreme and unreasoning enthusiasm then we're not off to much of a good start. I will apologize to the ivory tower crowd on my take on philosophical matters (I'm a therapist) but I will go with the modern view on rationalism meaning here a reliance on reason as the best guide for belief or action. I wonder if, in the heat of the game and for about the next 36 hours, "rational thought" is suspended. When we win it's 9-3, OSU dominantion, wine and Rose Bowls and when we lose apparently Paul Johnson, Brian Kelly or hell most anyone else coaching should have been hired.
I'm nobody's apologist but perhaps some rational thought looks at the young players we have, an incoming top 10-15 class, an expectation of freshman/sophomore variance (Tate's a freshman and while Denard has perfected running the throwing is not so much), improvement in defensive performance statistically (hell it couldn't have been worse), Barwis, and it being GERG's first year (the guy is not a defensive Messiah...) and you can reasonably expect some improvement over the rest of the year with decreased performance variance next year (meaning here more wins). Variance does not equal regression people.
Michigan is not about to lose all our remaining games...but we sure as hell were not winning 10 after the ND game either. Perhaps rational thought can win out but I'm not holding out too much hope.
Best wishes to all of you.
When we look at WV records below, we see a dramatic improvement from 2001 to 2002. After the 2002 season it remained pretty constant until 2005 when Slaton and White saw playing time.
My thoughts on the shift in records from 2001-2002 and from 2004-2005 are as follows: The first shift appears mostly do to RR's spread implementation and having the right players in the system (perhaps similar to what we are seeing in Michigan from 2008-2009). The 2004-2005 change is the one i find most interesting. It appears that until Slaton and White came to WV the team was stuck in 8-9 wins and could not muster enough to compete for a BCS title. After White and Slaton took over the offense, the team won 10+ games every year.
I make these points simply in observation because i see some posts that assume we should be competing for a BT title and the like by year 3. I am not saying we won't, but based on RRs trajectory at WV, it seems that he needs the right talent to work his voodoo magic with his offense. If that talent is not there, a linear projection of continuous improvement might be wishful thinking. And i say "right" talent because Slaton and White were both 3 star recruits even though Slaton ran a blazing 4.3 40.
Anyway, I'm I smoking crack or is there a valid relationship between the 2004-2005 jump in wins and the playing time of Slaton and White?
(Thanks to I Blue Myself for the content)
2001: 3-8 overall, 0-5 vs the top 30 and 0-2 vs the top 10.
2002: 9-4 overall, 3-3 vs the top 30 and 0-1 vs the top 10. WVU beat BC, Va. Tech, and Pitt.
2003: 8-5 overall, 0-3 vs the top 30, 0-3 vs the top 10.
2004: 8-4 overall, 0-3 vs the top 30, 0-1 vs. the top 10
2005: 11-1 overall, 2-1 vs. top 30, 0-1 vs. top 10
WVU beat SEC Champ Georgia, Louisville. Lost to Va. Tech
2006: 11-2 overall, 1-1 vs. top 30, 0-1 vs. top 10
WVU beat #12 Rutgers, lost to #5 Louisville (wow, how times have changed)
2007: 11-2 overall, 1-1 vs. top 30, 1-0 vs. top 10
WVU beat #5 Oklahoma, lost to #20 S. Florida.
I've heard a lot of excuses after last night's disaster; some valid and some not so much. My favorite was Tate isn't use to playing in cold weather. As all of you know, Michigan is the only northern team that recruits southern players. But I digress.
Last season was Paul Johnson's first year as head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. I guess I really never payed attention but I assumed Johnson had a lot of talent to work with. Afterall, he did go 9-4 his first year while RR went 3-9. So Johnson had to have tons of talent ready to go when he took over, right?
Not so fast my friend. Here's a little information from Johnson's bio:
"On December 2, 2008, Paul was tabbed ACC Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA). Georgia Tech, ranked 14th in the BCS standings and 15th in the Associated Press poll, finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, remarkably better than every preseason projection. Sports Illustrated predicted Johnson's first Yellow Jacket team would win just three games, and Tech was picked to finish fourth in the ACC's Coastal Division. With a 5-3 record in ACC play, the Jackets tied Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title."
"Johnson, who came to Georgia Tech in December after a highly-successful, six-year tenure at Navy, inherited a roster low in scholarship numbers and overloaded with youth. Only 76 players are on scholarship, including three senior walk-ons who were awarded scholarships prior to the start of the season, below the maximum of 85 scholarships. The roster includes 75 freshmen and sophomores, and 16 of 22 starters are either freshmen or sophomores."
So, Johnson had 76 players on scholarship and 75 were Freshman and Sophomores. Any coach who goes 9-3 with mostly Freshman&Sophmores would do so ONLY if the young players were made up of 4 & 5 star recruits. Right? Here is GT's recruiting rankings over the last few years.
2005 - 48th (two 4* & six 3*)
2006 - 49th (one 4* & six 3*)
2007 - 15th (nine 4* & nine 3*)
2008 - 37th (one 4* & sixteen 3*)
2009 - 32nd (four 4* & twelve 3*)
I think it's obvious that GT's recruiting classes over the past 5 years don't compare to UM's. Even with all of the departures, UM still has more talent on both sides of the ball. So why has Paul Johnson's transition been so smooth and successful while the Rich Rodriguez takeover has been nothing short of a disaster?
RR brought the spread to Michigan & PJ the triple wishbone to GT. Both are new and unique to UM & GT. So we can't really use the "not the right type of fit" excuse. So what is it? Maybe GT plays in a weaker conference. Maybe GT caught some lucky breaks. I don't know, but I do know GT is playing some damn good football right now while UM is struggling to not look like the football version of the Bad News Bears.
I'm not jumping off of the RR bandwagon and will give him my full support, but I can take my maize and blue goggles off long enough to see that there a quite a few new coaches who have won more with less. Paul Johnson, Brian Kelly & Jim Harbaugh all come to mind.
Thank you for your support,
Rich Rodriguez's first class shortly after taking over and Dantonio's first full class. The Dantonio effect is noticable as State pulls in 11 of the top 26 players in the state and also wins a couple head-to-head battles with Michigan. This will unfortunately be a trend in the next two years. Nick Perry was a HUGE loss, and I don't know what happened with Ingram. Perhaps he was long gone by the time RR came, but not quite sure why the previous staff wasn't in on the guy.
So basically what we've seen since Dantonio's taken over is an extreme focus on getting in-state talent. He's picked up 22 guys in the last two classes, but to be fair about half of those guys Michigan would never offer. Has it paid off for him? So far yes as Larry Caper was a guy we wanted, didn't get, and he scored the game winning TD on us. We'll have a better vantage point as these last two classes grow up, but as I said in the last post, when you get a guy from your own backyard not only is he on your sideline, he's not on the other one either.
Dantonio's had some success in head-to-head matchups with us, but I don't think that means we can't get more guys in-state. It's obvious that we don't have the same philosophy he does and I think he probably uses that as a pitch.
Here's my conclusion: '07&'09 were years the state was pretty deep in talent, and we struck out on most of those guys. There were 18 in-state recruiting battles in those years and we only won 7. 4 guys we won were 4-star and up, 3 were 3-stars. Here's the key: every player we lost was 4-star or higher, and we're not including '08 guys Nick Perry or Mark Ingram.
Keep in mind that '07 was Lloyds last year so that may have had a lot to do with the multitude of guys leaving the state. Also, transitioning head-coaches is a difficult thing, there's our 3-9 debacle, and a total offensive system change to keep in mind that would leave some kids out of the picture as bad fits.
We've always been able to recruit nationally, and we should always continue. We should get the best players possible for our team. But, there is something to what Dantonio is doing over there at MSU. Also, not to say Rich Rodriguez doesn't recruit Michigan, he does. The point is not to single out a coaching staff, but to demonstrate that us as a program have not been stellar in recent years at getting kids from our own backyard. It hurt us in the MSU game, and I think could be factor in years to come, especially in that rivalry game.
END NOTE: In '03 & '04, each year produced 7 in-state 4-stars. In '03 we got 4/7, none-went to MSU, and we didn't offer 2. In '04 we got 4/7 again with MSU picking up 2 and ND getting 1. We didn't offer any of the guys we didn't get. So from '03-'05 we went 4/5, 4/4, and 3/3 with in-state 4-star guys. That's 11/12 '03-'05. In '06-'09 we were just 9/24!!!
The actual quality of the game was OK. Not great, not horrible, just OK. I was expecting a little better than what the quality actually was because of the web sites claim of "games with a clarity that is comparable to high definition". The archived games have a little better quality but still not getting into the realm of comparable to high definition.
Commercials and breaks in the game when they go to the big ten studios are a little weird. During would-be commercials the screen changes to a message about the game returning after the break. They put a clock on the page and show the seconds counting which seems like not a big deal but actually is because the counting indicates that the stream is still going and your feed hasn't frozen. This isn't too bad except for half time. No half time show at all just the message and the clock. I would have at least like to see the band or something. The in-game breaks to show other game highlights aren't shown either. The feed just stays on the game and pans the audience. I realize that this is because the feed is from the game and not the actual TV channel but other highlights would be nice.
The archived games are nice but not complete at all. There is no UofM/ND game or UofM/Iowa and speaking of Iowa, they only have 1 game for viewing. I'm sure this has something to do with the TV contracts, but i figured all of the conference games would be available no matter what network it was shown on.
Overall I would say that service is worth it and hopefully will only get better over time.
If anyone has questions about it, let me know.
What this all means is that there are 6 guys who were 4-star or higher that we lost out on and should be playing for us right now. 5 of those guys would most likely start. Imagine this defense:
E - Brandon Graham
T - Mike Martin
T - Joseph Barksdale (If we kept him on D)
E - Nick Perry (will include him in Part II)
SLB- Stevie Brown
MLB - Chris Colasanti
WLB - Eric Gordon
CB- Donovan Warren
CB- Ronald Johnson (he'd probably have the Woodson role)/Dionte Allen
S Aaron Gant (why is safety always a weak point?)
S Troy Woolfolk
I believe if we want to be an elite program again, we have to start getting elite players, especially in-state. I like Dantonio's approach because when you get a player from your own backyard, not only are you adding him to your team, but keeping him off the other sideline as well. Rich Rod has said it's A priority, but I think it should be THE priority. It's clear that we can and should recruit nationally, but if we want to get back to prominence we need these guys we've been missing out on since '07. A good coach and a good system can only take you so far, you need good players.