I did not make this headline up
So, recently, there has been a lot of gibberish about Rich Rod's in-state recruiting, or lack thereof, the general grumbling being that he is abandoning the homegrown kids in exchange for those wild speed freaks from down south. Perhaps this is true, but only insofar as Rodriguez isn't beholden to players from the state of Michigan if they don't fit his needs. He has the luxury, as the coach of a big time program, to go outside his state or region in order to try to recruit talent to his school.
Now, the thing that many seem to be overlooking here is that Michigan's recruiting efforts haven't been dominated by in-state kids for a while now. Digging into the Rivals database, this has been the in-state haul over the last eight recruiting classes:
2009 - 4
2008 - 5
2007 - 5
2006 - 4
2005 - 6
2004 - 6
2003 - 6
2002 - 10
With the exception of 2002, this year's recruiting class, in terms of in-state players anyway, isn't that much different from what Michigan normally hauls in. And let's not forget that this year, Michigan landed the number one player in the state in William Campbell.
I think where people are getting antsy is in looking at Michigan State's class and seeing seven of the Rivals top ten in the state heading to East Lansing. Okay, fair enough, but one year does not a trend make. This year's recruiting class is likely going to be a bit of an anomaly when you consider that Rich Rodriguez just took over in January of 2008, had to work double time to get last year's class firmed up, and was probably behind the eight ball when it came to developing relationships with many of the state's high school coaches. This will likely change, and the balance within the state will probably normalize. It might not go back to exactly the way it was, but some differences are to be expected with a new coaching staff, particularly one that has preexisting relationships with high school coaches in other parts of the country. To not utilize those in some grand gesture towards provincialism would be asinine.
Michigan's recruiting efforts don't seem to be that far out of line with how they were under Lloyd Carr. I'm not going to worry about State's class or their success in the state because it's one year, and because Rodriguez or Michigan can't really control how State recruits. In 2007, of the Rivals top ten players in the state, only one chose Michigan, but only one chose State. Eight of them went out of state. That was one year. The next year, seven of the top ten stayed in state, four of them to Michigan, three of them to MSU.
Simply put, Michigan has often times looked out of the state for what they needed. This year is no different.
After watching the film of both of these guys, I was totally impressed with their skills at the HS level and I wouldn't be surprised if Robinson really pushes Forcier for the starter's spot. Robinson really has great passing skills and his mechanics are excellent for someone billed as a dual threat QB, but recruited by some to play defense. Forcier is no slouch in his mechanics nor his accuracy either.
If you watch the film on Robinson and focus on his footwork and mechanics when he's not running the ball, his release reminds me of Peyton Manning. Seriously, he has a high snap release just like Manning and their footwork is similar. Robinson almost always sets his feet and squares his shoulders to his target and then delivers the ball with that high release point. If you compare his film to T Pryor, Robinson is a much better passer and much more polished. You can tell Robinson has been coached well. If you factor in his speed and running ability, he's more of the QB that RR has had success with in recent years. I can't say enough how impressive his skills are as a passer. Watch the film again for yourself and watch the footwork and the release.
Tate is a little more of a scrambler than a runner, but he definitely a very accurate passer both standing in the pocket and on the run. He also has good fundamentals, but Robinson was more disciplined in his delivery and set up than Tate, but the end result was the same. It ain't broke don't fix it. I think Tate can kill you with his arm and he can also extend plays with his legs, which in a spread offense really puts pressure on the defense to cover longer. I would give an edge to Tate in his accuracy but arm strength was not noticeably different between the two. Both of them forced the ball at times in the face of pressure, but show me a QB that doesn't do that to some degree at that level.
I think we have two great QBs in these recruits and the future looks really bright. Threet has the experience, but I just don't see how he can keep these two guys off the field. Tate will get 19-20 practices in the spring so he'll have a leg up on Robinson, but by the mid point of the season he should see some snaps if he can digest the offense and adapt to the speed of the game. Both of these young guys will see the blitz early and often IMO. If Forcier can be enough of a running threat and can take the pounding of the Big Ten then we'll see more of RR's offense than we have to this point.
I still think we're a .500 team +/- a game due to the other questions on the team, but if these guys can come in and make a difference and the OL can show continued improvement; that number could jump to 7-5 or 8-4. You have to take into account that these guys are true freshman and the team overall will be pretty young, but the future is oh so bright on the offensive side of the ball. I can't remember the last time we had so many exciting guys on the offensive side of the ball. All of the little slot ninjas, minor's power run, brown's speed, big physical receivers, and QBs who have to be accounted for will really open up the field. The biggest wild card on offense is the line, but I've got to think that we've got some depth and some guys who can add to the unit and make a positive contribution. I'm a defensive coach, so I would be very worried having to scout this many play makers and an offense with so many weapons.
This is in response to DeadMan's recent diary, which I appreciated, but disagreed with quite a bit, especially in relation to the young players (he tended to dismiss them).
I don't aim to include every single guy on the roster, just the possible starters and key backups I foresee. [note that I removed special teams tackles, thus "non-ST tackles" for some of the guys who had stats strongly inflated by them]
Brandon Graham (20 TFL, 10 sacks)
Ryan Van Bergen (13 tackles)
Greg Banks (6 tackles)
Adam Patterson (1 tackle!)
Graham will be all-Big 10 and maybe an all-American. Van Bergen had a solid season as a fFr backup and should be ready to be a competent but not special starter as a third year soph. Those pointing to Banks and Patterson should keep in mind how little time they saw last year as third year players (especially Patterson!). There is decent chance someone else could see significant time in order to be a starter for 2010, then, such as a converted TE or Roh.
Mike Martin (20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
Will Campbell, Fr.
R Sagesse (3 tackles)
Martin played very well for a true frosh, and should be a competent starter, but not a stud (yet). Campbell will need to be a decent starter from Day One, as Sagesse barely saw the field, Kates left, and who knows if Helmuth can put on 30-40 pounds in a year. This position will clearly be a weakness, but hopefully not a 6.0 YPC size-weakness, and at least it is building for the future (better than a horrible DL with upperclassmen starters). Ferrara could come back from the OL if there is an injury. Others have mentioned the DEs, but they seem too undersized (260) to me. There would be less need for DTs if a 3-3-5 is frequently played, but a 5th DB isn't available that anyone would go out of their way to get on the field (if Turner is that studly, for god's sake please move him to FS).
Obi Ezeh (98 tackles)
Jonas Mouton (76 tackles)
JB Fitzgerald (2 non-ST tackles)
Marell Evans (4 non-ST tackles)
As was aptly pointed out, none of these guys have a David Harris 6th sense about LB playmaking. But with a 3rd year and a 2nd year starter, they should be solid. Fitzgerald should be competent at ILB while Ezeh (the leader of the group, obviously) moves to the outside. Demens, Evans and Herron are available, but none were able to break into (or stay in) the starting lineup last year, when the opportunities were golden. None of the true frosh seem to have the size or pedigree to play a significant role.
D Warren (52 tackles, 4 PBU)
B Cissoko (15 tackles, 3 PBU)
T Woolfolk (Mgoblue says 9 tackles, 10 of which were ST... ???)
J Turner, Fr.
Warren seemed to take a step back due to injuries, but should be a very good corner this year. Cissoko showed some flashes and some weaknesses, but he was only a true frosh. He should be competent (yes, that's my favorite weasel word) this year. Turner, being a borderline 5 star recruit, should be as useful as Cissoko as a 3rd corner and next option in case of injury, and maybe play some safety if the worst case scenario happens there. Hopefully Woolfolk (or JT Floyd or a position-switcher?) can provide another option for dime/quarter packages.
B Smith rFr
S Brown (64 tackles, 3 PBU, 2 int)
M Williams (7 non-ST tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack)
V Emilien, Fr
Brandon Smith was a very highly rated recruit who missed last year because of surgery. Plenty of good programs count on a guy like him to step up and be a decent starter as a rFr (Texas last year, for example, had two rFr safeties start, and they weren't higher-rated than Smith). I won't get myself started on Brown because I want to be positive about student-athletes, but... hopefully he can be somewhat better. Maybe Turner or Emilien could emerge, or Williams. Clearly the weakest spot, pending more information on the freshmen.
I'm more optimistic about youngsters like Van Bergen, Mouton, Fitzgerald, Cissoko and B Smith than DeadMan was. Nevertheless, this won't be even a very good defense, unless it lucks into some amazing sophomore starters like the 1997 team did. If Graham can command constant double teams, Warren shuts off WRs, and a safety emerges, it could be an average Big 10 defense. If it can simply be more consistent and slightly better than last year's--which I think it can--then the significant offense improvement should take this team to a 7-5 record with the weak non-conf schedule.
My summary of the starters:
All-Conference: Graham, Warren
Very Good: Ezeh, Mouton
Competent (replacement level): Van Bergen, Martin, Campbell, Fitzgerald, Cissoko, Smith
Frighten Me: Brown
When RR arrived here at Michigan, I personaly Liked the hire. I thought we needed a change of pace, an up to date offense, and a new attitude on the field. But as RR began to speak, I saw the hesitation to fire up the Big 3 rivals and the rest of the Big Ten. No punches toward OSU, No little brother jokes, never sent Notre Dame to hell, you know the stuff Bo was made of. Of course I know he will never be BO.
Then the team took the field and I saw why. The talent he needed wasn't there, the youth was spread all over, so it made sense that he left the trash talking to others. So I began to except it. I told myself " Thank the good Lord that he didn't go stating any stupidity". Maybe this guy that I thought had some flare, has more sense than flare. I like it!!!
Now this brings me to my reason of typing this. Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin has not once, BUT twice, ran his mouth and accused 2 of Tennessee Big rivals of cheating and even called out beating one. First with less than 2 days on the job he accuses Spurrier of recruiting violations, only to be told he was wrong in his accusations the same day.Strike 1. Then the other day at a breakfast he accuses Meyer of another Recruiting violation, only again, to be shot down and called out to apologize by Florida AD and SEC commisioner. Strike 2! In turn coach Kiffin doesn't know what kind of team he has yet, but come the Florida game he will find out the team isn't what he thought and blowout brings strike 3 thanks ti his comments.
So I sat back and told myself, this is the kind of guy I originally expected and wanted to take over my program. I wanted the "We will commit sins at ND, punch the little brother in the mouth, and crack open every Buckeye in November." But after watching how STUPID Kiffin is sounding right now, I thank Mr. Martin,and Ms. Coleman for making a choice that has some sense.
While we took our lumps on the field, the common sense of Coach Rod, kept us from taking lumps off of it. Now a year later, RR and Michigan are gaining momentum, and the respect of others. As everyone and every team can see the rise up again of The University Of Michigan and they fear it, with no trash talking attatched, just sense!
So thank you Coach Rodriquez, for having better sense than most, including me. The right man was hired and I am greatful we didn't end up with an idiot that makes this University look stupid and myself. I have learned something new. Knowing your boundries, makes you more sensable than others.
Our Time Is Coming. Go Blue!!!! Hail To The Victors!!!
First and foremost, I know it's been discussed here to some degree, and I'm certainly not going to list examples or try to flaunt it-- but I'm professionally involved in design and have done some sports branding and uniform design. I'm not saying that I know everything there is to know, and I certainly don't want to imply that no one else is entitled to their opinion.
BUT I have to say that uniforms, like anything really in the design world, can be a true art form involving sound decision-making with regards to aesthetic value, color balance, and innovation. It can ALSO be, and often is, an absolute train wreck when people with power make rash decisions without thinking things through-- remember the Islanders fisherman fiasco? Disasters can also happen when creative people are given the green light to run wild without proper respect to the brand-- i.e. Oregon State's sports bra look.
With that being said, let's be honest: THE HOME UNIFORM MUST NEVER CHANGE. No blue pants, no, maize jersey, nothing. It MUST ALWAYS be the same helmet, the blue jersey, and the maize pants. Period. We're one of the single most identifiable uniforms of the sport in any era, and must be respected as such. It'd be like the Yankees showing up in red dazzle.
Tradition in branding is something that cannot be invented nor neglected-- remember what happened when Coca-Cola traded in their tradition for something new? No matter how 'cool' you think it'd be to show up in black, or with maize shirts and blue pants-- we ARE tradition, and must be proud of that. The materials will change, the template of the shirt will be cut differently as pad design evolves, etc... but we must always wear a blue shirt at home with maize letters. To mess with this is to disgrace over 128 years of the winningest program the sport of football has ever seen. No one can boast that-- not even the Steelers.
Now, as for the AWAY jerseys, yes... I've been thinking about this recently myself. It's been established that the away will continue to change, simply because the icon is associated with the home design. We've seen many changes here, and we'll see more. I've been curious as to whether or not Rich will want to do something as early as next year, if only because he didn't actually have anything to do with the current design. It's also not uncommon to ditch a design after a particularly horrid year-- we see this alot in baseball. If Rodriguez did (or is) choose to ask for a new design, I suspect that in terms of simple sales strategy, Adidas will probably push to keep the same model on the shelves for at least one more year-- eating all of the replicas they've already produced would be a big loss. If they start designing now with regards to the 2010 season, they can assess their production budgets accordingly to phase the old design out.
Personally, my biggest beef with the current AWAY shirts is that they're a common Adidas template. Other than the maize piping below the back of the helmet, Arkansas wears the same shirt, albeit in a different color scheme. Other teams do as well-- Louisville? One of the biggest things that originally got me excited about the Adidas deal is that they promised exclusive Michigan designs-- things that would only be offered to us, like hoodies with winged helmet graphics, things like that. Then what do we do? Roll out in a stock Adidas jersey template that's just been re-colored to our specifications. Let's see something truly original, yet classy enough to hold a candle to our home shirts.
Either that or let's go back to throwback simplicity. Personally I've always loved the whites worn during the 80's, with the single color blue digits and the contrasting Northwestern stripes on the sleeves. Think classic Harbaugh on the road. We could possibly see an update on that basic idea. Who knows? I could even whip up some ideas just to illustrate my point. Either way, we have a reputation to uphold, and just throwing maize all over creation is not going to do it justice.
'N that's all I have to say about that.
While I am a relative neophyte when it comes to understanding how recruiting works, the one aspect that has really interested me is how the concentration of D-1 prospects breaks down amongst the states. Anecdotally, states like Florida, California, and Texas always seemed to create top-notch prospects, but that kind of made sense - those are three of the four most populous states in America. I always presumed, erroneously at it turns out, that fast, strong kids exist everywhere, and that the percentage of the population which embodied these desirable characteristics was pretty constant across the board. Thus, the reason the Big 3 fielded more D-1 football recruits than, say, Utah was more the result of population and "math" than something in the drinking water or the focus certain states place on football. Of course, there also seemed to be two glaring holes with this logic - the fact that many states in the Southeast (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, etc.) produce an inordinate number of recruits compared to their populations, and the fact that relatively populous states in the Northeast (New York and Massachusetts) produce far fewer recruits than their populations predicted. But was this really true, or did these two anomalies exist more as a figment of recruiting services and media hype than reality.
Now, I was going to do all of this research myself, but then I was luckily able to stumble upon this page that broke down each state by number of recruits, population, and ratio of people to recruits for 2004-2008. I then wondered how this translated to the NFL - in other words, were the states that produced a large number of D-1 prospects also sending kids to the NFL. So after some more scouring of the interwebs, I came upon this page, which provided a really awesome user-friendly chart. After some more finagling and Excel-assisted sorting, I came upon this chart:
Big Chart of recruits/NFL players home states 2004-2008
|State||College Recruits||State Pop.||State Citizens/Per Recruit||NFL Players||State Citizens/Per Pro|
|District of Columbia||27||591,833||21,920||3||197,278|
So that really wasn't that surprising. Presuming that the distribution of football players was constant across the population (i.e. for every x people, y recruits exist), the ratio should be 1:40,380 - in other words, the population at large holds about 1 D-1 recruit per 40,000 people. Similarly, of those kids who went to the pros, the number was truly astronomical - 1:241,575, an astounding number considering that some of those positions are held by international players that were not listed on my chart. And yes, this statistic is not perfect, since the actual number of high school boys every year who could become D-1 athletes, and thus future NFL players, is far less than the population at large, people move in and out of states, etc. But for illustrative purposes I think it still supports my points, and I don't have the time or inclination to peruse government population numbers for a more true number. Plus, I doubt the ratios would be so greatly skewed as to dramatically alter the clear trends present.
So these results alone somewhat shocked me, but it has more to do with the illogical hopes so many kids even becoming D-1 college recruits, let alone professional football players. To put this into perspective, there are about 3 people sitting in the stands during a Michigan home game, on average, who have or will become D-1 recruits in their lifetimes. In another way, my hometown of Royal Oak has a little over 60,000 people in it, or about 1.5 D-1 football recruits per year if the model holds true. As for those who go on to play in the NFL, the entire state of Vermont, if my model held true, would produce 3 NFL-quality players per year - and that really isn't even true over the 2004-2008 span (0 players over that span).
But clearly, football talent is not evenly distributed across the country. While some more populated states come pretty close to the proposed distribution, such as California, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, outliers exist in the expected regions of plenty (Southeast) and barren (NY, MA). Both Michigan and Illinois also seemed to produce far fewer recruits than their populations suggest while places like Hawaii and D.C. seem more fertile than expected, but not to an extreme degree that you see with some other states. And in Hawaii's case, a large percentage of those recruits are taken by University of Hawaii, so that situation is clearly atypical.
So what does this mean? - college
For one thing, some traditional "hotbeds" of talent may actually "under"perform their expected ratio of recruits given a linear distribution - I'm looking at you, Pennsylvania and California. At the same time, maybe some people are underselling certain areas, such as Virginia and Oklahoma/Kansas, who have decent-to-great in-state programs that recruit nationally but also seem to have pretty fertile backyards to pick from as well. But the real focus, though, must fall on the Southeast, where states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia continually churn out top-notch kids at a far greater rate than their populations suggest.
Despite what some Freep "columnists" opine as RR's apparent idiocy in not recruiting in-home talent at MSU's rate, it clearly makes sense to focus more of the staff's efforts on Florida and the Southeast compared to other regions in America. Sure, California and Texas are hotbeds that should be scoured, but the Southeast is where the money tends to be. Michigan produces a decent amount of recruits, but it is clear that outside of Ohio, the rustbelt just isn't a fount of top-notch talent the way some envision it. I'm sure there are a millions reasons why this may be, and I'll leave it to people in the comments to hash them out. My guess is that high school/college football has always been a more communal activity in areas of the South compared to the North, especially considering how few professional teams used to be located below the Mason-Dixon line compared to the population. Simply put, people "care" more about football down there, and that fervor translates to the youngest of children. They see football as a way to make a living, as a way to succeed and be a "god" in the community, and their environments seemed geared around making this dream a reality.
I don't think it has that much to do with the weather - sure, it helps to be able to play and practice outside more than in the north, but receivers can still catch balls, RBs can still squat and run wind sprints, and linemen can still work on their techniques indoors just as easily as outdoors. Plus, warm-weather states like New Mexico and Arizona produce recruits at a lower rate than expected, while some cold-weather states are able relative factories. To put it bluntly, I think kids in the Southeast "care" more about football than kids in the North. Now, that doesn't mean high school boys in Michigan and New York don't work hard or lack a will to win, but by and large I don't think the community rewards kids in the North as much for the success they experience on the football field as they do in places like Mississippi and Florida. I'm sure there are some socio-economic undertones to it, and some will say that kids in the Southeast see football as a way to escape the communities they are "trapped" in - see the Pahokee (?) pipeline as an example for crushing poverty pushing kids toward sports. But irrespective of the cause, it is clear that if you want the biggest payoff for your recruiting efforts, learning to whistle Dixie might as well become a requirement for major college recruiters. Now, that might not seem like a revelation to some, but it is interesting to see that anecdote play out in the numbers. I'm interested, though, to see how others feel.
So what does this mean? - NFL
As I mentioned above, I think a big reason more D-1 recruits emerge from the Southeast and Texas has to do with the relative importance the community places on football as a means to succeed. For better or for worse, a ticket to a D-1 school is viewed as a stepping-stone to playing in the NFL, and all the millions of dollars and notoriety that entails. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that the states which produce the most D-1 recruits per person also generate the most NFL players per person as well. Louisiana leads the way, with approximately every 82,000 residents producing an NFL player - a ratio about 3X greater than the expected! The same held true for most of the Southeast, with those states sending far more to pros than they have any business doing so. By comparison, Michigan is pretty average - it may be a little low on the D-1 recruits, but those who do emerge have a pretty average shot of making it to the NFL. So kudos to the Wolverine state.
By comparison, a pair of Ks - Kentucky and Kansas - seem to be the biggest "frauds" of the group in terms of overvaluing its D-1 recruits - both have pretty average or above-average number of D-1 recruits per population, but about half as many of those recruits wind up making it to the NFL as expected. So once again, Kentucky and Kansas underwhelm. As for New York and Massachusetts, they might as well focus on baseball - they just don't know how to create top-notch football talent.
But overall, this analysis proved what I expected - the Southeast produces a disproportionate number of D-1 recruits, and an inordinate number of these recruits are high-caliber enough to break into the NFL. Again, I have no scientific proof for the cause of this inequity, but I have stated my guesses. I am intrigued to see what other people believe is the cause, and I welcome anyone with more statistical knowledge than my one 400-level probability and statistics course to prove me wrong/drill down deeper.
What I'd like to do in the future:
* Breakdown for each state by high-school-aged boys, not the state population as a whole.