Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Hey guys, I appreciate the feedback on my diary entry. First, I want to re-iterated that I didn't say we are a lock to roll through teams like the Texas 06 team or the Oklahoma 07 team. I just wanted to provide an optimistic outlook because I have not seen one yet. I feel that the comparisons are very similar. I knew there would be questions regarding the offensive line. I didn't forget to account for them, I was actually just late for a work out and didn't have time to finish. Every time I'm late for a workout I get yelled at by the imaginary Mike Barwis in my head that I use to motivate myself. It's always something along the lines of...
Imaginary Mike Barwis: "Hey thanks for finally bringing your little baby nuts to the work out. I'm sure you have a lot of important things to do in your free time, all I do is breed wild wolves in my free time. No big Fucking deal or anything."
In terms of the differentiation between offensive lines, Texas' 06 team did return 3 starters, one of whom was an all-big 12 selection (Justin Blaylock). Meanwhile Oklahoma's team also returned 3 starters, one being all-worldy guard Duke Robinson. This is a huge discrepancy between the talent of our offensive line and theirs. I agree 100%, but I will explain to you why it is still a valid comparison in my mind.
Given our personnel, I believe when people talk about how bad and inexperienced our offensive line is, they are expecting a Notre Dame-esque collapse. No doubt, an offensive line performance similar to theirs would be disastrous. The Notre Dame offensive line frequently allowed opposing defenders to throw parties at Jimmy Clausen's house. Clausen even managed to become the first quarterback in the history of football to get sacked while attempting to take a knee (Just kidding... but seriously). Let me explain why this will not happen. First, I truly in my heart believe Mike Barwis would never allow his players to be pushed around and physically abused like the ND offensive line. Yes this line is inexperienced and yes this line has played very poorly when given the opportunity, but wouldn't you be slacking if you were a sophomore linemen playing behind Jake Long? I understand that Justin Boren and Stephen Schilling were able to leap frog this class of linemen, but it wasn't seniors getting beaten out by freshmen, it was a red-shirt freshmen and a true sophomore beating out red-shirt sophomores. And Boren (as much as I hate his guts) was a freak of athletic nature who was already the strongest person on the team, meanwhile Schilling was a 5 star recruit believed to have the best footwork of any linemen in the 06 class. Now that these linemen have the motivation (or had the motivation beaten into them), I believe you will see them perform at a much higher level than before.
So what if this new level still isn't that good? Well, fortunately that can also be accounted for. The spread offense preaches.... spreading. Before you stop reading, here me out. Although this offensive line is not as good as the last years, the funny thing is, they really don't have to be. Notre Dame's offensive line was ill- equipped to protect Clausen in pro-style sets with 5-7 step drops. Michigan's current offensive line is also ill-equipped to protect Threet in pro-style sets as well. However, Threet will be working out of the shotgun spread where the ball is delivered much quicker and where defenders will have to travel a farther distance to get to the quarterback. The emphasis on bubble and flanker screens will keep blitzers and defensive linemen honest (so would the zone read, to an extent, but I'm hoping you don't see Threet running that very often). Also, blitzers are easier to account for in the spread, as corners often have to start their blitz before the snap of the ball. Also, although the talent of Michigan's current offensive line is much weaker than previous years, the athleticism is not. Therefore, they will also be more capable of protecting Threet when defenders get tired from the no huddle hurry-up offense. Case in point, this past West Virginia team had only one linemen who was a first team all-big east selection (remember we're talking about the big-east) and yet they were still able to put up 48 points on Oklahoma, who many believed to be a top 5 defense. Obviously, Pat White/Steve Slaton/Noel Devine had a lot to do with that, but come on, I'm just saying. A dominant offensive line is not a pre-requisite for a successful spread offense. Do you want another example, how bout Florida, who's offensive line featured two true freshmen and a converted defensive linemen at the end of the year. They still managed to score a lot of points against very good defenses.
I understand that the discrepancy in offensive lines may seem to crack my comparison between Texas 06 and Oklahoma 07, but I just want to state that I believe the spread offense lightens the necessity for an absolutely dominant offensive line. I think people will be surprised at how good this team performs. I'm not saying 10 wins, but I'm sure we will get to a bowl. It seems silly, but a lot of people seem worried about our consecutive bowl streak.
Addressing other comments that I thought were interesting:
How will the line cope with the blitzing of Tenuta?
The answer is not very well. But what teams do handle the blitzes of Tenuta? No matter who they play, Tenuta will game plan a way to get to the quarterback.
The coaching change is also a big differentiation between Michigan and Texas 06 and Oklahoma 07:
This is also very true, but I just want to re-state that the Capital One Bowl proved we can run a spread. Yes, it is a new scheme, but so was the one we used in the Capital One Bowl. If you tell me that that is the offense we had all year, then you're wrong. They put together an offensive game plan in one month and could have used it the rest of the year if we would have played more games. There will be struggles adapting, but we're not going from a veer offense to a throwing spread. I don't remember anyone looking loss or confused during the bowl game. Even Carson Butler knew what he was doing, and we're talking about Carson Butler (Don't get it twisted though, I actually love Carson Butler, he's my wolverine and my tiger). Someone pointed out the even more drastic change in offensive schemes implemented at Cincinnati and the success that they had. In terms of personnel, we do recruit talent that can play in a spread. Tony Clemons, Daryl Stonum, and Junior Hemmingway have the speed to play in the slot. They may not have the wiggle to shake their way to 50 yard touchdowns off bubble screens, but they can get 10-15 yards. Also, a majority of high school players that we recruited come from offenses where they line up all over the field. Some play quarterback, running back, slot, flanker, and corner, so the adjustment from a 3 receiver set to a 3 receiver shotgun spread isn't too overwhelming for them. In fact, for players like Carlos Brown, it's all too familiar. There will be mistakes as the Michigan players learn the new scheme but the beauty is, opposing defenders have to learn our new scheme too.
With everyone searching for a silver lining or a comparable success story, the most optimistic comparison for Michigan's current situation would have to be Oklahoma's 2007 team and the 2006 Texas team. Both teams started Red-shirt Freshmen Quarterbacks (Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford) in spread offenses. Both teams had young, but outstanding skill positions and defenses that were suppose to support their young struggling quarterbacks. However, both quarterbacks ended up putting up cartoonish numbers as first year starters. Bradford threw for 3,121 yards with a 69.5% completion percentage and a ridiculous 36 touchdowns against only 8 interceptions. Meanwhile, Colt McCoy threw for a less but still stellar total of 2,570 yards with a 68.2% completion percentage and a 29-7 touchdown to interception ratio.
This is far and away the most optimistic outlook, but it is also the most comparable. The pre-season build up and quarterback spotlight was exactly the same for both teams. Texas had to replace the great Vince Young (no offense to Chad Henne, but a much more daunting task) and Oklahoma was left with a “bare cupboard” after the dismissal of former 5 star Rhett “I thought everyone at the car dealership got paid $1000 an hour” Bomar (similar to the departure of 5 star quarterback Ryan Mallet). The running back situation at Texas was also very comparable, as Texas implemented a running back-by-committee approach with Jamal Charles and Selvin Young splitting nearly the identical amount of carries (156 to 137) over the course of the season. Neither eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark and both had 7 touchdowns. Behind Charles and Young was a host of younger running backs whose carries ranged from 12-45. This is most likely to be the same case for Michigan this year, with Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor splitting a bulk of the carries while Mcguffie, Grady, Horn, and Shaw will likley receive carries somewhere between the 12-45 range. Texas’ top returning receiver, Limas Sweed, only had 36 receptions the year before (compared to Greg Matthews who had 39 receptions this past year). As you can see, the differences between Michigan’s team and Texas’ 2006 team are minimal if not completely non-existent. Oklahoma on the other hand had did have a returning running back, but also implemented a running back-by-committee approach with three running backs (Allen Patrick, Demarco Murray, and Chris Brown) getting over 100 carries. Oklahoma also brought back its two top receivers, but Juaquin Iglesias 2006 numbers were nearly the same as Matthews 2007 totals making both of them a wash comparably. Therefore Michigan’s only real difference with Oklahoma’s 2007 squad is a less talented but more experienced running back and one more returning receiver (you can put as much weight as you want into how significant an impact this could have played).
In terms of different offensive philosophies, you could argue that both Texas and Oklahoma implement more pass-heavy spreads, with Oklahoma also employing a jumbo pro-set with double tight ends. However, I totally believe Rich Rodriguez will adapt the schemes to the personnel. Who doesn’t? Even Jim Tressel (who we all criticized for winning the ugliest football games on earth) opened up his offense when he had Ted Ginn and Troy Smith. So why does everyone assume Rodriguez will attempt to stymie teams with a run heavy attack? He wasn’t considered an offensive genius because his spread ran 80% of the time; he was considered an offensive genius because he invented a system that allowed for his athletes to best excel in space. Therefore, you won’t see Threet pounding it up the middle 50 times this year. You’ll instead (hopefully) see an offensive style similar to Texas and Oklahoma’s offense. And you can’t argue that we don’t have the personnel to run a spread. Sure, ideally a more natural athlete at quarterback would be optimal, but we showed in the Capital One Bowl that we do recruit the personnel to run a successful spread. Rodriguez has also stated that he would like to get multiple tight ends on the field at the same time. It may not be in a similar Oklahoma pro-style jumbo set, but it shows his willingness to adapt to his personnel. In terms of talent, Threet was a 4 star quarterback (the #9 best quarterback in his class) while McCoy and Bradford were only a 3 star quarterbacks (the 15th and 12th best quarterbacks their years respectively).
I realize that this argument is more a collaboration of jumbled thoughts and I’m also not saying we will have the same 10 win success of Texas’ 06 team or Oklahoma’s 07 team. But I will dismiss people’s concern that we will lose our longstanding consecutive bowl streak. There is a precedent of teams with red-shirt freshmen quarterbacks leading their teams to respectable seasons. I believe we will surprise a lot of people, but not myself. Keep the faith.
This is probably more of a topic for the MGoBoard, but I can't put an image in a post there so it becomes my first Diary entry, mostly by default. Anyway, I was doing some photoshoppin' and, although the buzz on the new uniforms has mostly died down, I thought there would still be some interest in what our jerseys might look like in maize (since about 80% of people out there seem to think it's a foregone conclusion that the team will sport them at some point).
In my opinion, the jersey itself doesn't look so bad, but I don't think it would look that good in action. I never liked Cal's gold jersey/blue pants combo and the WV all-yellow uniforms are starkly reminiscent of a banana. Perhaps, after the Notre Dame game (the first time the new road unis will be worn in action), I'll work with the whole uniform, but, more likely, the presence of actual football will cause me to lose interest in such trivial matters as the uniform.
Note: the image is watermarked as "fake" not so much because of my own perceived photoshop prowess (anyone who takes a decent look can tell it's not real), but more because of my understanding that, the internets being the internets, these things tend to get out of hand; i.e.: "OMG! Michigan + RR = WVU, LOL", etc.
From my observations and what
has been written on this blog and in the MSM, I believe that we have changed our
recruiting focus from one that was more heavily focused on retaining all of the
talent within the State of Michigan and capturing what we can get in the
surrounding states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois) as well as a few athletes
from certain talent hotbeds (Florida, Texas and California) to a greater
emphasis being placed on recruiting from the talent hot beds. What are the ramifications of this philosophical
shift? And how have coaching changes
resulted in shifts in intra-region power?
- It is likely that MSU is going to recruit
better within Michigan
than they have in the past. My reasoning
is that as RR draws greater numbers of recruits from outside of Michigan and the Midwest
than the prior regime, more quality players will be available to the Spartans. In addition, Brian had a post some time back
describing how the change in the type of players we recruit will lead to
certain players that would have been a lock for Michigan, now being a better fit at State. I am not implying that we will not get the
guys we are interested in recruiting. That
will be dependent upon our continued success on the field and fostering relationships
between the program and the high schools within the state.
- MSU will likely become more competitive in
the Big Ten and nationally. The
increased talent level will have the potential to move them up into the second
tier of the Big Ten currently being fought over by Wisconsin,
Penn State, Illinois
- Assuming that RR is able to land better talent
from outside of Michigan than is available
inside of Michigan,
our overall talent level will rise, making us more competitive nationally. Hopefully, the relative talent level between
us and MSU will remain constant. This
should raise the absolute level of talent in the Big Ten at the expense of the
SEC and ACC (assuming our recruiting focus has moved towards Florida and the south east).
The risk is that we chase
windmills and fail to land equal or better talent in the southeast and cede talent
within the State of Michigan
talent to MSU. The Spartans then gain an
ability to win the recruits we want and there is a possible shift in power. As I stated before, the mitigant to this is our
continued success on the field and fostering relationships between the program and
the high schools within the state.
Observations and Parallels:
Is RR’s focus on talent
outside of the home state due to his time at WVU where there was far less
instate talent than in Michigan? I’m not implying that Michigan is OH, PA, FL, TX or CA, but it is
clearly better than WV. One thing that
seems clear, is that the tenures of Bobby Williams and John L. Smith (and the
Spartans refer to us as slappies??) decimated the in-state recruiting at
MSU. While there were not great numbers
of Plaxico’s and Duckett’s at MSU there were some clear examples of players we
wanted but State got. BW and JLS seemed
to have killed this very nicely.
There have been some
interesting changes in balance of power within different regions during the
last 10-15 years that may provide interesting insight.
- The fall of Washington
and the rise of Oregon. How much of the rise of Oregon as a national
power have to do with the influx of Phil Knight / Nike money versus the
missteps and poor coaching hires at UW? Has there been a re-routing of talent from Seattle to Eugene? Did the re-emergence of USC shut down UW’s
access to southern California
- The fall of Notre Dame, Illinois
and Michigan State
and the rise of Iowa and Wisconsin (and Northwestern and Purdue to a
lesser extent?). Did the inconsistency
of ND and Illinois cede some degree of control
over greater Chicago
recruiting to other Big Ten School? A
close analysis of the recruiting records (in particular recruit hometowns) for
each school over the last 15 years would yield some interesting insight. Did the Spartans losing Nick Saban to LSU and
the ensuing coaching chaos provide an opening to NU and Purdue?
- The fall of Nebraska
and the rise of Oklahoma.
- The fall of Alabama
and Tennessee (to a lesser extent) and the rise
of LSU and Auburn.
This post is to generate
discussion, as many of the ideas I have included have not been researched,
rather are observations of mine that seem to fit together with some degree of
press release from the BTN; Michigan games bolded.
Season two debuts at 6 PM ET on Tuesday, Aug. 26, with the 2000 Orange Bowl match-up between eighth-ranked Michigan and fifth-ranked Alabama. Tom Brady, who threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns, helped erase a 14-point deficit. The game went to overtime when a special teams blunder by the Crimson Tide gave Michigan a 35-34 victory.
The full schedule includes:
- Aug. 26 – 2000 Orange Bowl No. 8 Michigan def. No. 5 Alabama, 35-34 (OT)
- Aug. 28 – 1990 No. 21 Illinois def. No. 9 Colorado, 23-22
- Sept. 2 – 2000 Northwestern def. No. 7 Wisconsin, 47-44 (2 OT)
- Sept. 4 – 1998 Alamo Bowl Purdue def. No. 4 Kansas State, 37-34
- Sept. 9 – 1983 Sugar Bowl No. 2 Penn State def. No. 1 Georgia, 27-23
- Sept. 11 – 2000 No. 5 Wisconsin def. Oregon, 27-23
- Sept. 16 – 2005 Capital One Bowl No. 11 Iowa def. No. 12 LSU, 30-25
- Sept. 18 – 2003 No. 3 Ohio State def. No. 24 NC State, 44-38 (3 OT)
- Sept. 23 – 1981 Minnesota def. No. 18 Ohio State, 35-31
- Sept. 25 – 2005 Wisconsin def. No. 14 Michigan, 23-20 [yuck -ed]
- Sept. 30 – 1988 Indiana def. Iowa, 45-34
- Oct. 2 – 1995 No. 12 Penn State def. No. 6 Northwestern, 21-10
- Oct. 7 – 2003 No.4 Michigan def. Minnesota, 38-35
- Oct. 9 – 2006 Indiana def. No. 15 Iowa, 31-28
- Oct. 14 – 1989 No. 11 Illinois def. Indiana, 41-28
- Oct. 16 – 2005 Minnesota def. No. 11 Purdue, 42-35 (2 OT)
- Oct. 21 – 1999 No. 11 Michigan State def. No. 3 Michigan, 34-31
- Oct. 23 – 2004 No. 12 Michigan def. Michigan State, 45-37 (3 OT)
- Oct. 28 – 1981 No. 8 Ohio State def. Stanford, 24-19
- Oct. 30 – 1996 Minnesota def. Illinois, 23-21
- Nov. 4 – 1984 Penn State def. No. 9 Boston College, 37-30
- Nov. 6 – 2002 Iowa def. No. 12 Penn State, 42-35 (OT)
- Nov. 11 – 2003 No. 24 Minnesota def. Wisconsin, 37-34
- Nov. 13 – 2002 No. 2 Ohio State def. Illinois, 23-16 (OT)
- Nov. 18 – 1969 No. 12 Michigan def. No. 1 Ohio State, 24-12
- Nov. 20 – 1974 No. 4 Ohio State def. No. 3 Michigan, 12-10
Taking a look at the past 2 years of the rankings there are a few things of interest. Let's start with Coach Shafer at Western Michigan in 2006.
- 2006 W. Michigan Rushing Defense - Rating: 36 (17th in the nation)
- 2006 W. Michigan Passing Defense - Rating: 1 (57th in the nation)
- 2006 W. Michigan Total Defense - Rating 37 (23rd in the nation)
- 2007 W. Michigan Rushing Defense - Rating: -19 (79th in the nation)
- 2007 W. Michigan Passing Defense - Rating: 0 (62nd in the nation)
- 2007 W. Michigan Total Defense - Rating -19 (75th in the nation)
Everyone would expect the rushing defense to drop with less aggressive play calling. I was surprised that the passing defense also slightly dropped despite 4 returning starters in the secondary and corners that weren't being left on an island as often. How did things change for Stanford from 2006 to 2007? I'm glad you asked.
- 2006 Stanford Rushing Defense - Rating: -55 (115th in the nation)
- 2006 Stanford Passing Defense - Rating: 32 (15th in the nation)
- 2006 Stanford Total Defense - Rating -23 (85th in the nation)
The passing defense may be a result of a defense that let guys run through them like Paris Hilton. This is just speculation since I admit to not watching a single '06 Stanford game. On to 2007
- 2007 Stanford Rushing Defense - Rating: -20 (83rdh in the nation)
- 2007 Stanford Passing Defense - Rating:- 32 (107th in the nation)
- 2007 Stanford Total Defense - Rating -52 (104th in the nation)
Ouch, the rushing defense was about the same with a boost in ranking because of sacks. The passing defense was bad, ND bad (which by the way finished dead last in 2007 for total offense). But Stanford only had 1 returning starter in the secondary.
What does it all mean? I have no idea. But in a year when everyone is looking at the offense things should be just as interesting on the defensive side of the ball.