This may be more than anyone cares to read on the subject, but I thought the Board post from earlier this afternoon re: Rodriguez wanting less fat on the lineman raised an interesting topic worthy of a serious response.
First, I think the poster was correct that Rodriguez wants lineman that do not carry much body fat. I recall last year in his first spring he said (paraphrasing) "by summer even the O-linemen will want to take their shirts off, which is unusual."
Second, I think the poster was also correct that his desire to have O-lineman without much "extra" body mass is atypical. Not, mind you, that other coaches want fat, fat, and more fat, or don't care about being in shape. But fat is still generally forgiven, and mass (in good, neutral, or bad forms) is still generally praised on the offensive line. When I played offensive line (~10 yrs ago) coaches at both the HS and college level definitely felt the more weight the better. Recall that the number of 300 lbers used to be a status symbol, and that good lines would be ogled for their average weight. (This is still largely true) Why does our coach depart from this?
I think Rodriguez wants leaner linemen because
a) they will be better conditioned, and have a lesser drop-off in form and concentration as games progress, and
b) they will be quicker, helping them to reach-block and sprint out to second and third-level defenders in the stretch zone blocking schemes his offense employs
There is always some concern that if you are too light you will be susceptible to the bull rush. Molk toes this line; sometimes teams can back him up a bit.
But from my perspective, offensive lineman don't usually get beat because they get pushed around--they get beat because they get run around. In other words, the typical lineman is a lumbering guy who can make a DB go splat if he can ever make square contact, and he can easily hold ground against a straight up bull rush; but the second level guy can usually dance around him, and occasionally a quick D-lineman will speed rush around him or a blitzer will shoot his gap before he can slide. I think Rodriguez' ideal lineman is a bit quicker for having less weight, and the idea is that his increased quickness will allow him to make contact at the second level more often and protect more lateral space at the line of scrimmage.
And I think Rodriguez has a great view on this. Let a leaner guy put his helmet (more often) on the linebacker or safety. Let him keep up with a speed rusher a little better.
The vulnerability--that an interior D-lineman will drive his man into the offensive backfield--is not as pronounced in Rodriguez' offense. His quarterbacks do not take a 5 or 7 step drop and can see a collapsing pocket happen more quickly. They frequently are delivering the ball quickly, and swinging it outside the tackle-to-tackle box. In short, the ball moves quickly, and often sideways, and this makes a well-formed pocket less critical. And on those quick lateral passes our smallish center is not merely excused for not holding the pocket--he's trying to sprint over to the sideline to find a linebacker flowing toward the play so he can put a facemask on his pads and sweep him out to the sideline. When we have 3 or 4 quick lineman getting over to that area of the field on those quick screens it will be a nightmare for defenses. I think RR has dreams of Barnum making it over from the opposite-side Guard position to blow up DBs on that play. (or maybe only I have them?) Losing weight and building lean muscle mass is definitely a key part of getting to the point where our lineman have the speed to "get in the way" of tacklers up field, across the field, etc.
If you want one clear example of what athletic, downfield blocking from O-lineman can do, watch McGuffie's screen pass TD v. Notre Dame. That's how it should work. In theory, of course, if you can suck in 4-5 pass rushers and deliver the ball properly, your screen gives you 9 blockers (11 - ball carrier and QB) against 6-7 tacklers. Why does 9 v. 6-7 not always deliver a TD? Because the big guys have a hard time getting to, and locking up, a target several yards down the field. It is tough. But when we are sending 9 athletic guys down the field on plays like that, well...it will be fun to watch. So; I for one hope we continue to slice fat from the line and recruit backfield burners.
On a final note, people have said that Rodriguez' kind of lineman is not an "NFL" type but I think in truth the NFL is moving more toward Omamehs than Borens. Certainly at Tackle. (This is especially true at left tackle, but notice that even if he plays RT scouts want to see Andre Smith cut his fat.) I think he is actually (rightly) selling both current and potential UM lineman on the notion that every year the NFL will want its lineman quicker and leaner. A big stomach is not a good thing, and I think is no longer even a neutral thing. I think our approach is forward-thinking and right on the money.
Seantrel, I hope you're reading--we'll have you burying guys 30 yards down the field, with a body you can take to the swimming pool.
This post really came out of the diary on the Michigan standard since it almost begged the question of who you expect to finish in front of in the Top 25. For example, if I expect the Michigan standard to be a Top 10 finish, you sort of create your own pecking order of teams that you feel inferior and superior to. To that end, I would really like to know where you think we sit in regards to other teams. This would essentially justify the standard.
When I thought about this, I sort of put teams into buckets and worked backwards. Again this does not assume the mythical NC year, but more of an averaging over any given year.
Teams I Assume We Finish Behind:
*Texas/Oklahoma (1 or both depending on head to head)
*Florida/LSU/Georgia/Alabama (1 or 2 depending on the SEC)
With this assumption, Michigan would finish the season ranked 4-6 before counting the second group.
Teams We Fight to Stay in the Top 10 to 15:
*Boise State/Utah/Non-BCS team with a good record
*Florida/LSU/Georgia/Alabama non-choices (2)
*PSU or other Big 10
*Pick some other Big 12
*Pick some Pac-10 or Big East
I separated OSU from other Big 10 since I feel OSU has a better chance of excelling on an annual basis and we know we will for sure play them. We lose control of some teams in our conference due to rotation. I know this seems SEC heavy, but it is just where we are right now, you might be substituting Tennessee for one of those choices soon. Adding this next set puts us between 4-14 depending on how our record and other teams sort out in their head to head matchups. Essentially, that puts the Michigan standard at a top 15 finish with high expectations of Top 5.
This sort of matches our recruiting team ranking so you hope to finish somewhere near that mythical number with a chance to exceed that number with a special class or collection of classes. Obviously, the Epic Fail is always a possibility when games don’t break your way or injuries stack up so you under achieve. I see the NC scenario a much smaller possibility due to star alignment than a slide.
I would be interested in your thoughts.
It seems that when people are talking about Beilein's recruiting, the talk is one-and-done stars vs. "system" guys. However, a closer look at 5 of the last 6 national champions shows that they not only have talent, but experience. The schools that have all the one-and-done guys (bronxblue cited Memphis and tOSU), have fallen short. A look at the upper class talent on recent national champions:
If you look at 5 of the last 6 nat'l champions (2006 Fla the exception, there's a common theme; they had talent (high star rating out of high school, NBA potential), and experience.
Green - Sr 4* projected early 2nd round
Hansbrough - Sr 5* projected late 1st round
Lawson - Jr 5* projected lottery pick
Ellington - Jr 5* projected late 1st round
Thompson - Jr 4* projected mid-late 2nd round
Frasor -Sr 4*
Robinson - Sr 4*
Rush - Jr 5* lottery pick
Chalmers - Jr 5* early 2nd round
Jackson - Sr 4* mid-late 2nd round
Kaun - Sr 4*
Underclass Early Entry - Arthur - lottery
Brewer - Jr 5* high lottery
Noah - Jr 4* lottery
Horford - Jr 4* high lottery
Green - Jr 3* mid-late 2nd round
Humphrey - Sr 3*
Richard - Sr 4*
Manuel - Sr N/A
May - Jr 5* lottery
McCants - Jr 5* lottery
Felton - Jr 5* high lottery
J. Williams - Sr N/A
Underclass early entry - M. Williams - high lottery
Gordon - Jr N/A high lottery
Okafor - Jr N/A high lottery
T. Brown - Sr N/A
So while having good young talent was a part of many of these teams, their backbone was veteran, pro-caliber talent. So in order to be a serious contender for a national championship, Beilein (or any coach for that matter) will have to recruit players that
a) fit his system
b) will stay 3-4 years
c) are big-time talent.
That's a tall order for any coach, but more so for Beilein who runs such an unorthodox system, both offensively and defensively. Add to that a poor track record of sending kids to the pros (which can't really be expected at the places he was at, but will be used against him by other coaches on the recruiting trail), and Beilein faces an uphill climb if he hopes to bring One Shining Moment to AA.
This was going to be a comment under the article concerning Beilein's recruiting and Brian's response, but it went too long and I figured it might as well be a diary entry.
While I agree that this David fellow sounds pretty whiny, I do think he points out the one potential failing of Beilein - his system was designed to compensate for the lack of the "big time" star. The heavy reliance on three pointers that is a hallmark of his offense is designed to compensate for the lack of a post threat and/or a dynamic finisher around the basket. Similarly, the 1-3-1 was designed to create turnovers as a way to compensate for little interior defense from a dominant inside presence. And when Beilein was coaching at Canisius, Richmond, and WVU, that focus made sense, as he wasn't going to be able to nab the type of dynamic players teams like UNC, Duke, UConn, and MSU has that can take over a game. Instead, he recruited guys who could play in his system and flourish, trotting out a team that, when playing well, could beat a more talented collection of players.
Unfortunately, and I think this might have been a small component of David's rant, this type of system has a finite level of potential success - something I'll refer to as the Mid-Major Ceiling (MMC). Look at teams like Gonzaga (though their recruiting has gotten better over the years), Xavier, Creighton, and throw WVU into that mix (though they come from a major conference, they would never have succeeded in the Big East simply trying to out-recruit other teams). While they all are/were consistent NCAA teams, none ever made it past the Elite 8 (except George Mason, which was the flukiest of fluky runs), and even getting past the Sweet 16 was a crapshoot. The reason for this, at least in my opinion, was due to the fact that they inevitably ran into a team whose talent was great enough to expose the deficiencies each of those systems was designed to hide. In most instances, what exposed this MMC was a team that possessed a "superstar" or, at the very least, a combination of near-stars that could simply impose his/their will upon the game; basically, the talent beat the system.
Now, as a fan of basketball purity I don't see a major problem with this. I loved when Princeton beat UCLA, not because it was a huge upset, but because it showed that a good team could beat a collection of great players. Similarly, the Pistons in 2004 were great because they played a system that stymied the more talented Lakers. And maybe years ago systems won championships, when you didn't need to have the best players because your 1-5 played better together than anyone else's 1-5. But as much as I hate to say it, basketball has become far more about the dominant player(s) than the system.
Look at this year's NCAA championship - MSU has a huge amount of talent, but UNC was clear and away the most talented team in college basketball all season. Leading up to the final, you kept hearing that MSU could win if they played their "game", the Izzo system of tough defense, offensive rebounding, and opportunistic scoring with guys like Lucas and Morgan attacking the basketball with Suton firing from outside. UNC, by comparison, seemed to run a more fluid, less-defined system, where guys like Lawson, Hansbrough, and Ellington simply took over parts of a game with their superior talent. Well, UNC steamrolled MSU, like they did every other team in the tournament, and they did it by fielding a more talented lineup than anyone else.
And this wasn't a one-time shot - looking at recent NCAA finals participants, most of them sent numerous players to the pros and generally recruited the best talent every year. There's a reason that Duke, UNC, MSU, UConn, Kansas, UCLA, and Memphis (under Cal) are NC contenders every year, and it's not because they run a distinctive style - they trot out All-Americans and future pros and simply out-talent the opposition on most nights. And UM has been on the receiving end of this out-talenting firsthand - see Griffin taking over the game against UM in the second round this year. UM and OU (sans Griffin) were similar teams in terms of talent, and UM's system was better that OU's. But Griffin's talent exposed the chief deficiency of this team (no inside talent/defense), and as a result UM was sent home.
In fact, a good barometer of this phenomena is the Duke-UNC rivalry. Duke out-recruited UNC earlier this decade, and took command of the rivalry for years. Then, once Doherty left and Williams started to out-recruit Duke for key talent, the pendulum swung over and UNC has consistently beaten Duke the past 3-4 years. Now, I don't think that the programs drastically changed their offenses and defenses over those stretches; they simply out-talented each other during their up periods.
So what does this mean for Beilein and recruiting? In my opinion, you need stars in today's NCAA to break the MMC and compete for championships, both in conference and nationally. The concern I have, and I do think some others share, is that UM isn't WVU, Richmond, Gonzaga, Xavier, etc. - the school's name alone gives its coach a chance to recruit kids that would never consider those other program mentioned. UM should be able to recruit top-100 kids on a consistent basis (Amaker showed it was possible even while the team was hopelessly flailing). That said, you need a coach who is willing to do that, to go after some kids who might bolt after 1-2 years and who might not be the best fit for your system.
Listen, I don't want UM to go to the way of Memphis or OSU, with one-and-done super-talents comprising the bulk of the depth chart. At the same time, though, we've seen how far many of these "system" teams can go - the occasional Elite 8, usually at least 1 win in the NCAA tournament but rarely a threat to compete for the NC. And maybe I'm overreacting, and maybe this shows my arrogance, but I think UM can be better than that. This "hey, 9-3 is fine with me" mindset was what permeated the last few years of Carr's tenure (save 2006), and those years were tough to handle as peers (OU, OSU, USC, LSU, UF) rose to greater prominence. That's why Brian's claim that "Michigan will build up a program over Beilein's career and then be in a position to swing for the fences afterwards" troubles me so much. I don't want to leave such a transition to chance, to nabbing that hot coach with the ability to recruit nationally to push this team into the NC conversation. UM can and should be able to enter this conversation NOW, but it is going to take a concerted effort by Beilein and his staff to take some chances and build a team that not only runs his system to a T, but has that player/players who can take over a game or make a big shot when the system breaks down.
Ultimately, I think that Beilein is a great coach and I fully expect him to recruit great players for this program. I think UM will one day soon shatter the MMC and contend nationally, and I will be cheer on the program until my voice goes hoarse. Already he has recruited better players than he usually had at WVU, and this season's success should only help in these efforts. But until we see a consistent uptick in recruiting, these concerns shouldn't be shouted down as alarmist either.
As a professional, I know Iris is unrivaled in her ability to figure out what is most important and deploy the perfect approach to those issues. Her name is certainly beautiful and unique, but I ask for your vote because she's a genuinely beautiful person.
Yesterday, when sitting through a boring lecture on managerial accounting, I stumbled across an ESPN article titled, "Cheering for MSU from Ann Arbor", discussing how fans at Local Ann Arbor bars were being filled with people cheering for Sparty... I read it and I instantly threw up in my mouth.
Now I am not a Michigan student, or grad student, alumni nor will I ever be, But I was born and raised on M... Too me Ann Arbor is a sacred place... Look, I understand, the whole automobile crisis, the down economy, and the just natural crappy nature of the state, but after being held down by the shackles of what I reference as "The worst fall of my life" my shit talking to my friends who attend MSU is nominally subdued and I am left hearing irrational Spartan fans continuously telling me how M football is over and how much they loved beating M and will continue to do so for years to come. These are the same friends who expect me to cheer for MSU? I find that quite ironic. What does it matter that the game is played in Detroit? It has no baring on me nor do I think it should on anybody else. I am not a spartan fan I don't root for them against Ohio State I don't root for them ever... I am indifferent, but to actually verbally acknowledge any inkling that I want MSU to win is unacceptable to me. Even on a lighter note I rooted against Sparty for the fact that anytime anything cooler then a cow shitting ignites a riot. I was slightly concerned for my friends safety..What are your thoughts? Am I wrong or justified on my stance... Sorry for any rambling class sucks...