These days you can’t open your web browser without finding a discussion of the paranoia that awaits our fellow citizens in 2017……and by that I mean the Michigan offensive line depth chart. (No politics!) The dire nature of this situation really struck me this week after I saw the following things pop up on my favorite Michigan blogs:
- Touch the Banner posted about the fate of every OL recruit for the past several years. In that piece and also in the comments there were discussions about what went wrong.
- Then over at 247 you hear about the minimal chance of Newsome making it back on the field this year, robbing Michigan of its only true LT on the roster and some valuable experience.
- That results in Brian speculating that we’re in for a Bredeson/Kugler/Cole/Onwenu/??? starting five who are backed up with freshmen and guys that have never seen the field.
On top of that, in his “This week in MGoBlog History” piece Maize.Blue Wagner links to a post-Rose Bowl breakdown from Brian in 2007 that talks about the offensive line being the weak link on the team that USC was able to exploit.
Think about that for a moment. A full decade ago this very blog was wringing their hands about how our offensive line performance and recruiting had declined to become the weak link on the team. That was under late-era Lloyd Carr. How are we STILL talking about this ten years later???
To help put this in perspective, Michigan had three OL drafted in 2001 in the first 43 picks – Hutchinson, Backus, and Williams. All of those players went on to have long and productive NFL careers. In the 15 drafts since then, here are the draft picks from the OL position:
- 2004 - Tony Pape #221 (never really played)
- 2005 – David Baas #33 (solid NFL career)
- 2008 – Jake Long #1 (solid, if short NFL career)
- 2011 – Stephen Schilling #201 (brief NFL career)
- 2012 – David Molk #226 (brief NFL career)
- 2014 – Tayor Lewan #11 (off to a good start)
- 2014 – Michael Schofield #95 (too soon to tell)
- 2016 – Graham Glasgow #95 (too soon to tell)
So it took 15 years for Michigan to match the number of top picks that they had in 2001 and of the guys on that list there isn’t a single one that could match the careers of those guys from 2001 (pending the outcome of the young guys). Wow. Besides a few glimmers of hope during the Rodriguez and Hoke era we continue to find ourselves terrified of the depth chart and development of our OL headed into Harbaugh’s third year with the program, a full 15 years later.
Based on the links above, I set about trying to figure out WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN with our 2017 depth chart. I say “should” instead of “could” to make a specific distinction. Things like injuries and off-field issues are completely unpredictable and in an ideal utopia they SHOULD not happen. Things like “Kyle Kalis is the most sure thing OL prospect and will be awesome” COULD have happened, but it didn’t despite being healthy and available his entire career. In other words, what COULD have happened was for some of the recruits to be the studs we thought these past few years and we’d be entering a season with Kugler, Dawson, and other upper classmen dominating on the line. Likewise, we COULD have recruited Ethan Pocic or another star, but it didn’t happen.
Let’s instead look at more of the “fate” side of things and look at what the line SHOULD look like if all of the pieces fell in place due to things outside of the team’s control.
Left Tackle –
- Projected Starter = Ben Bredeson (So, 0.5 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Grant Newsome (Jr, 1.0 years experience)
- Comment = This assumes Newsome didn’t get the gruesome injury and would be entering his second year as a starter as a true left tackle prospect.
Left Guard –
- Projected Starter = Kugler (Sr, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Kyle Bosch (Sr, 2.5 years experience)
- Comment = Bosch left the team for off-field issues but turned into an all-B12 performer for WVU this past season. Had he worked things out at Michigan he would be entering 2017 as probably our best offensive lineman.
- Projected Starter = Mason Cole (Jr, 2.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Mason Cole
- Comment = Instead of partnering with Bosch to form a dominating pair of experienced upperclassmen, he’s the lone experienced starter on the line and has to be a star for us to have any hope of holding this together.
Right Guard –
- Projected Starter = Michael Onwenu (So, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu
- Comment = This gets a little tricky, but is actually a luxury. By having the other four positions locked down in this fictional universe, the RG spot becomes a free-for-all between the veteran Kugler and two top prospects coming off of their red-shirt years. The likely pick is Bredeson based on what we know. This has the added side effect that Onwenu could move to NT for a season to fill that void since he isn’t needed on the OL.
Right Tackle –
- Projected Starter = Uh…..Nolan Ulizio? (RFr, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-Be Starter = Logan Tulley-Tillman (Sr,1.0 years experience)
- Comment = LTT got into trouble and found himself off the team instead of being in line to be the starter at RT next year. He may have beaten out Newsome in 2016 had he not been stupid. He probably was not projected to be a star, but he at least projected to be a solid veteran starter.
There you have it. Brian’s projected line has three first-year starters, just 2.5 years of starting experience, and a guy playing out of position in Bredeson. In our ideal world situation, we have just one first-year starter that will emerge from a good battle, a healthy 6.5 years of starting experience, no one out of position, redshirts on all of the freshmen, and Onwenu available to play back-up NT.
While we know that OL projections from high school to college are probably the least accurate of any position, physical development is a wild-card, and coaching is critical……the conclusion from this analysis is that fate is also a bitch. This is why you always want 4-5 recruits in every class because you never know what will happen. Let’s hope Harbaugh and Drevno can work some magic this off-season with these guys.
January 3 - Wednesday
January 4 - Thursday
Brian recaps his experience at the Rose Parade. The whole post is entertaining.
7:52 AM. So you're walking down this parade route in front of people who have been dourly camped out waiting for something to watch for hours, possibly days. They watch you, and if they're USC fans they shout something like "WOOOO USC" and since it's really early in the morning and you feel silly because you thought California was much warmer at 6AM and you've spent the first hour of your day trudging from Rose Bowl to Rose Parade, your mood is black black black. The prospect of doing all this to sit down and watch a parade conjures up memories of boredoms past and generally ruins your day.
January 5 - Friday
Brief thoughts on the game. Henne played pretty well, the defense performed adequately, but the OL gave up pressure all afternoon. It was very reminiscent of 2004. Should Carr be fired? No. Should Andy Moeller be fired? Maybe.
January 8 - Monday
Unverified Voracity Tolls Stewie. The New York Times recognizes Brian’s nickname for Tressell “Cheatypants Sweatervest”.
Hello: Mike Williams. He has a rough few year ahead of him.
Alan Branch is having a press conference today to announce his draft intentions. He’s leaving.
January 9 - Tuesday
Recruiting Board Update with all star game updates. CBs Ron Johnson and Donovan Warren are two of the remaining targets on the board.
January 10 - Wednesday
Part 1 of the nominations for the CFB blogging community.
January 11 - Thursday
Brian’s final Maxwell pundit award ballot. His top three are: Reggie Nelson, Alan Branch, and Darren McFadden.
A recap of a couple rumors. Ryan Mundy will not be returning for the 5th year. Rumors persist that Andy Moeller will not return as OL coach. Instead it is said he might be joining new Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
January 12 - Friday
Unverified Voracity Sterilizes the BCS. Ryan Mallett, Vince Helmuth, Austin Panter, and Artis Chambers are early enrollees. I bet that will help their Michigan career. Also, Colt Brennan won the Maxwell pundit award. Brian is not pleased.
January 15 - Monday
Michigan sports has a rough weekend. The hockey team is struggling, the hockey team is falling apart, and IN S Jerimy Finch decommitted to go to Indiana. Not ideal.
January 16 - Tuesday
Mailbag with topics covering opponents and the ‘M’ bye week, Zoltan Mesko reading MGoBlog, and Lloyd’s perceived jet lag problems, i.e. the inability to win games west of the Mississippi.
January 17 - Wednesday
Unverified Voracity Probably Affected by Gravity. The first mention of new MSU coach Mark D’Antonio. He comes complete with new countdown clock.
Yes. That's exactly what Michigan State needs: more focus on the Michigan game to the exclusion of everything else on the schedule. Just in case they were ever thinking of winning a game after it ever again.
Query: what should this clock be labeled? ("Countdown to Disappointment" was a submission from the Victors, por ejemplo.)
Mmm yeah, not so much.
January 18 - Thursday
Safeties coach Ron Lee has left. No one is sure why.
The final preview review as Brian looks at his Big Ten previews from the summer. This was from the top of the conference and also represents his biggest miss. He had Iowa #2 in the country and going to the Rose Bowl; they finished 6-6.
January 19 - Friday
Recruiting board update. Here’s where things stand:
So... yeah, Finch. Even with a hypothetical RoJo commit he would have been easily the third best recruit in the class. His loss moves the class a fair chunk of the way from "disappointing" to "outright disaster." No RoJo == outright disaster, on a par with the 2000 class. If we do get him, we'll have addressed the crying needs at QB and CB from last year's excellent class and shouldn't have a Willingham-esque gap between quality recruits that's going to hammer Notre Dame's lines next year. (Other than the current gap at cornerback that's already hammering us.) There will be a lot of pressure on the Michigan staff to put together a 2008 class on a par with the 2006 group -- one bad recruiting class won't kill you but two in a row will cause problems.
January 22 - Monday
Hockey update. This past weekend was markedly improved on the previous one. Brian asserts that TJ Hensick might be the best player he’s seen at Michigan, outside of maybe Mike Comrie.
January 23 - Tuesday
January 24 - Wednesday
Unverified Voracity Avoids Draft-Related Puns with lots of updates on the prospects of ‘M’ players in the upcoming draft.
January 25 - Thursday
Liveblog of the basketball game against #2 Wisconsin. Brian stops when Wisconsin gets up by 20.
Unverified Voracity Moves On. There’s a link to Boubacar Cissoko’s Myspace page. The link no longer goes to his Myspace page. Also, there is a rumor that Ryan Munday will go to Pitt. This is possible because of a new rule that allows a player with an undergraduate degree to transfer without penalty.
January 26 - Friday
Unverified Voracity is Suddenly Frequent. There are stronger and more frequent signs that this will be Lloyd’s last year. Also, a video of the MacGyver theme on acoustic guitar.
At this point there is nearly a month long gap in posts on the current site. From here on we will switch to the old Blogspot site.
January 29 - Monday
Recruiting Board Update. Illinois commit Ronaldo Sagesse is a new name that has popped up as a possible add before signing day. Rashad Mason is a possibility at WR. Ronald Johnson made a trip to Florida, and the fear in his recruitment is starting to amp up.
The Detroit News is exploring who will Michigan’s 12th opponent in the upcoming season. This post has a great deal of sad irony as Brian refers to “Christian-Lion” matchups. At least that’s what the first game of the upcoming season is supposed to be. Brian will still go though.
There's no way around it: I'm a sap. A mark. A rube. The dirty Victorian era ne'er-do-wells in the athletic department have entwined me in a confidence scheme. (They call me "guv'nor" to my face, though.)
January 30 - Tuesday
Unverified Voracity Puzzled by Puzzlement. Some early speculation on who could replace Amacker. Billy Gillespie, Mike Montgomery, and Tubby Smith are a few of the names mentioned. Also, Vanderbilt won’t be Michigan’s opening opponent.
A link to a bracketology that is no longer from 10 years ago.
January 31 - Wednesday
More CFB blogger award announcements. This one is won by EDSBS.
Brian’s internet has been down, so he knows nothing about RoJo, but things are not looking good.
Anthony Cowan [Maryland Athletics]
Last Week’s Results
Indiana 72 - Maryland 75
Minnesota 47 - Michigan State 65
Michigan 69 - Illinois 85
Ohio State 66 - Wisconsin 89
Northwestern 69 - Rutgers 60
Purdue 78 - Iowa 83
Nebraska 85 - Michigan 91
Minnesota 50 - Penn State 52
Maryland 62 - Illinois 56
Rutgers 57 - Indiana 76
Michigan State 67 - Ohio State 72
Iowa 54 - Northwestern 89
1. Maryland (4-1)
2. Wisconsin (3-1)
T-3. Michigan State (4-2)
T-3. Northwestern (4-2)
T-5. Nebraska (3-2)
T-5. Penn State (3-2)
T-5. Purdue (3-2)
T-8. Iowa (3-3)
T-8. Minnesota (3-3)
T-10. Illinois (2-3)
T-10. Indiana (2-3)
T-10. Michigan (2-3)
13. Ohio State (1-4)
14. Rutgers (0-6)
A Dark Horse Emerges
Since joining the Big Ten for the 2014-15 season, Maryland has been one of the best programs in the conference, posting an impressive 30-11 record in league games and finishing in the top three in both seasons that have been completed with the Terrapins as a member. Despite losing four starters before this season, UMD is the surprising outright leader of the Big Ten early on this season (it’s worth noting that Wisconsin is tied in the loss column, but has played one less game than Maryland has). Non-conference play offered little indication that Maryland would get off to such a hot start; they barely beat a couple of bad teams and won three games against decent opponents by just a single point.
Melo Trimble has been a huge part of Maryland’s success, of course - although his offensive rating (92.9) and usage rate (30.7, third-highest among B1G players in conference play) likely aren’t sustainable. Freshman Anthony Cowan, who was correctly compared to Trimble often as a recruit, has arguably been better, as he’s been able to score at the rim and get frequent trips to the free throw line despite his lack of size. Another freshman - Kevin Huerter - has also excelled, shooting an impressive 46% from behind the arc with 13 made threes in five conference games. Damonte Dodd, a senior big man coming off of an injury-related absence, has been the cornerstone of Maryland’s excellent defense when he’s been on the floor; Ivan Bender and LG Gil also receive minutes at the five.
It’s difficult to assess how much of Maryland’s early success in Big Ten play is schedule-related: they’ve swept a mediocre Illinois team, beat Indiana at home in what was essentially a coin-flip game, and won on the road against Michigan. Their only loss came after blowing a double-digit lead late at home against Nebraska. While their remaining schedule is relatively unchallenging compared to those of other teams, it’s probably more difficult than the games they’ve already played. Kenpom has Maryland just inside the top 50 nationally - a far cry from the quality of supposed Big Ten title contenders. A lot of that is due to their non-conference schedule, which resulted in a lot of wins that weren’t well-regarded by his algorithm.
Whether or not the Terps regress to the mean will be a major storyline. Many people (including myself) have been predicting that regression for quite a while, only to see Maryland continue to put up wins on the floor. Since they’ve been so dominant since entering the Big Ten, there’s good reason to think that they might continue to flaunt statistical wisdom, despite their youth. Maryland’s an undeniably talented team and having an excellent point guard helps bring everything together.
More on Big Ten hoops after the JUMP
***I was cooking/eating a pizza during the 2nd, so my attention to detail was not as high***
(Patrick Barron) This does not mean what you think it means
FIRST: Michigan actually generated a little bit of offense in the first period. They had 15 attempts at the net! Cooper Marody dangled into the crease, but was harassed from behind and couldn't flip the puck into the open net. They also tied Minnesota in total shots at 7. However, aside from Marody's adventure, nothing was from a particularly dangerous position.
SECOND: Ummmmmm, NOPE. 7 attempts. 3 shots.
- THIRD: Michigan scored 2 goals in the 3rd! The first career goal by Stevel Merl was just thrown at the net from the sideboards (and I bet Schierhorn wishes he had that one back). The second was a shot from the point by De Jong that Evan Allen redirected past Schierhorn. That was the correct play by De Jong and great hand-eye coordination from Allen. Great goal. Piazza also rang the post, later, almost tying the game. I was unable to get a shot chart from the 3rd, so I cannot give data on location and corsi number.
FIRST: Feelingsball says that Minnesota didn't look very sharp at all in the first period. They threatened a little early and then again late, but nothing very consistent. Michigan's defense allowed 3 attempts from inside the dots, but the remaining 10 came from a distance. That's a nice improvement, so far. Michigan did have a couple of bad DZTOs and had a couple instances where they struggled to exit the zone. However, sign me up for more of these periods, instead of some of the other periods I've seen, lately.
SECOND: Well, back to the usual. Shots from everywhere! They allowed 18 attempts on net and 11 of them were shots. That's not the worst I've seen this year, but it makes sense given how the period played out. Michigan has had poor 2nd periods lately (sorta a hottaek but not really). They've just struggled to clear and control the puck. The goal was called a goal on the ice and it stood. If it wasn't called a goal, I'm not certain it would have been called a goal.
- THIRD: The defense didn't surrender a goal in the third, except for the EN at the end. I was unable to get a shot chart from the 3rd, so I cannot give data on location and corsi number. I will chart the 3rd myself, tomorrow, for the season stats but that doesn't help this recap.
FIRST: Until just under a minute to go, there were no special teams in play. Unfortunately, after an unimpressive beginning to the PP, Vinni Lettieri throws a seemingly harmless shot at the net, just inside the blue line and it gets past Lavigne. It seemed that potentially Piazza screened him, and if he did, that just sucks. If not, it was a very soft goal.
SECOND: No Power Plays for M. They will start the third on one after Minnesota gets the extra penalty in the scrum after the 2nd. Michigan took 2 more penalties but they were successful in killing them off. Lavigne made a terrific save during the 2nd penalty. Minn: 1/3 M: n/a
- THIRD: Michigan draws 4 penalties, including the man advantage awarded after the end of the 2nd period. They did create a few dangerous opportunities and even hit the post. Score, they did not, however. While on their 1st PP, the Wolverines surrendured a breakaway in which a penalty shot was called and converted. Michigan took 2 more penalties in the 3rd and killed off both of them. Warren drew a shorthanded penalty shot and ultimately missed it. In the end, it would up being the difference. Not a great night on special teams.
FIRST: Hayden Lavigne started in net, tonight, and looked very sharp early on. Minnesota got a few chances but ended up getting very few on frame. Still Lavigne looked in decent position and made the correct situational plays. The goal was either dumb luck or stupidly silly...depending on if he saw it. My initial thought was Piazza screened him, but its tough to actually tell. If he was screened, oh well. It happens and just another great period from a Michigan goaltender. If he saw the puck, that one would be pretty bad.
SECOND: A great period for Lavigne, including a great PP save from the slot on a one-timer. The goal came through traffic and got tucked in the top corner. It was a laser. I don't think he saw that one and I doubt he would have had the time to react to it. Great shot. Outside of that, he's kept Michigan in striking distance.
- THIRD: Lavigne had a solid 3rd period, as well. The goal was a penalty shot. Other than that, he gave Michigan a chance in a game that they were severly outplayed. Minnesota didn't seem as sharp as last night, but they still created more than Michigan did and Lavigne made a solid case for why he should be in net. Saved 25/28 shots.
ODD MAN RUSHES
FIRST: Minnesota had a 2v1 that their pass got deflected. Other than that, nothing.
SECOND: Distracted by some pizza, but I did not catch any.
- THIRD: Minnesota had a breakaway in which Lettieri was pulled down during an M PP and awarded a penalty shot. He then scored on said penalty shot.
- OMRs not a major concern tonight. Obviously, the breakway on a PP is not good. But looking at the game overall, there are bigger concerns.
FINAL CORSI SCORE
I had (through 2 periods): Minnesota 31, Michigan 22
www.collegehockeynews.com had: Minnesota 49, Michigan 32
(Patrick Barron) This is a great photo!
FIRST: The goal was very nice. Allen rushed the puck in behind the net, Winborg continued it on and found a cutting Shuart in the slot with a one-timer. Shuart also out-raced a Gopher Dman to create a breakaway but could not convert. Sanchez also got in alone after a terrible Gopher turnover, but he missed the net, as well. Other than that...there was very, very little. Three fantastic looks and not much else.
SECOND: At one point, M was being outshot 10-1 in the period. About halfway through the period, Marody put in a great shift and got a couple of attempts and drew a penalty. That was about it for the 5v5 offense. They were killing some penalties, but these forwards are generally looking overmatched, regardless of which line is on the ice. They had a period corsi score of 5.
- THIRD: Michigan had trouble touching and controlling the puck all night long. Penalties didn't help that, but even 5v5 was not that much of a better scenario. Michigan tallied 6 attempts on net in even strength play. That is quite poor.
FIRST: I'm honestly not even going to wait for the shot chart for this. The defense was not good. Surprise! The last 2 goals came from unchecked attackers in the slot or in the crease (ugh, how??). Those are the most critial places to mark someone, I would guess. Also, on the first goal, Lohan just got whipped. Pitlick just went right by him. Not to mention the usual inability to clear the puck, exit the zone, etc.
SECOND: Once again, not great. Minnesota registered 17 5v5 attempts. The goal should again be tallied to the defense. Three guys surrounded the goal scorer but didn't exactly harass him. Also, obligatory defensive zone turnovers, failed clears, and the like. Ben Clymer described it as "Michigan's defensemen watching each other watch the puck." YUP.
- THIRD: The third period was much like the previous couple. M takes a couple bad penalties because they can't get the puck out of their own zone and are now tired from chasing pretty much the entire game. They also give up some great scoring chances that Nagelvoort managed to paper over. Minnesota registered 12 more attempts on net, totaling 52. That's not the worst number they have given up, but after the PP goal made it 5-2, the Gophers played a little safer.
- FIRST: Michigan did not draw a penalty. They did go to the box once and managed to negate the Minnesota PP. The Gophers did look very dangerous and got multiple good looks. Nagelvoort bailed Michgan out more than once on the one PK. Minn: 0/1 M: n/a
SECOND: Michigan finally drew their first PP thanks to the best M shift of the night, so far, from Cooper Marody. Kile had a snipe goal stolen by Schierhorn that would've tied the game. Calderone also had a very good look. The Wolverines couldn't capitalize, but looked good and created a few chances. Unfortunately, they also took 3 penalties, but miraculously did not cede a goal, yet. Minnesota missed quite a few great looks and Nagelvoort swept away a few more. Seems like its only a matter of time if M keeps up the parade to the box. Brendan Warren DID however score the easiest goal of all time as a Gopher Dman coughed up the puck LITERALLY in his own crease. So, yay gift shorties! Minn: 0/4 M: 0/1
- THIRD: Michigan drew a penalty late in the third and created a few more great looks but did not score. The game was also effectively over at that point, anyway. They did, however take 2 more penalties, including a 5 min major that got De Jong ejected and a triping during that 5 mins PP. Not surprisingly, Minnesota picked a corner around a screened Nagelvoort and finally got a ST tally. Some of these penalties were just loose play, others were the result of bad positoning. They do find a way to kill most of these penalties, but top notch goaltending and bad shooting luck are large contributors, it appears. Minn: 1/6 M: 0/2
FIRST: Well, 3 goals isn't good. He did manage to keep Minnesota off the board for the first half of the period, despite Minnesota getting great look after great look. The first goal seemed to be short-side, despite Lohan just getting toasted. The last 2 goals came on a tip from an unmarked attcker in the slot and an unmarked attacker in the crease. I can't put either of those on him. The weird thing is that I spent a large part of the first period thinking about how great Nagelvoort's position was and how many saves he made just to keep Michigan level in this game. Regardless, other than the first short-side goal, I can't ask for much more.
SECOND: I thought Nagelvoort had another solid period. The first half of the period was definitely tilted towards him and he made more fine saves. I can't put the goal on him as Sheehy was surrounded by Dmen next to the crease (but none of them were actually checking him) and he batted the puck out of the air past Zach. Not a great position to be in. If he makes that save, it would be an SC Top10.
- THIRD: Zach looked very good, again, in the third. He made countless saves on the penalty kill, including a few flat-out steals. The 5th goal came on a 5v3 that he could not see and hit a top corner. That's just a great shot. He was under siege all night and honestly did his part. With the amount of time M spent in the attacking zone (not much) and lack of tight defense Minnesota attacker faced, I'm not sure what else a goalie can be asked to do. He faced 45 shots. All 3 M goalies have .900+ save %s.
ODD MAN RUSHES
FIRST: I am watching on TV at home, but I did not see any. A couple that were close to 3v2s, but nothing that gave a decided advantage.
SECOND: I still didn't find any Minn OMRs.
- THIRD: There was one 3v2 rush for Minnesota. They got a shot but nothing too threatening. OMRs held in check, tonight.
FINAL CORSI SCORE
I had: Minnesota 52, Michigan 25
www.collegehockeynews.com had: Minnesota 52, Michigan 32
If you prefer to regard our beloved Meeechigan football teams through rose-colored glasses, then maybe you should stop reading here. Otherwise, if you have the intestinal fortitude to take a long, hard look in the cold light of day while the bombs fall around you, then by all means, keep calm and carry on.
Now that a couple of weeks have transpired since the Charlie Foxtrot that was the Orange Bowl, a consensus seems to have emerged that the root cause of many of Team 137's deficiencies is associated with the Offensive Line. Alas, this is not a new story, and the explanations as to how Michigan's OL has reached such a state are well documented. Nonetheless, some folks might still contend that the OL has improved under the tutelage of the new coaching staff, and any underperformance is simply a reflection of the available talent having maximized its potential. Maybe, but then again, maybe not.
Anyway, to get to the point of this post, Bill Connelly of S&P+ fancy stats fame now has available the 2016 season wrap-up metrics for OL performance. What's more, the same metrics are also available for the previous 2 seasons. So, after a bit of mousing around in the Excel, the following chart captures everything S&P you'd want to know about the OL's of Teams 135, 136 and 137:
To interpret the data, the pseudo-color scale is based on the ranking range of 1 to 128 (green = 1, yellow = 64, red = 128). Averages for the run-blocking and pass-blocking metrics are also calculated to give some sense of aggregate performance. The trend lines are keyed to the raw values, with green markers denoting the best performance values; red markers, the worst.
What these results show is a nearly wholesale regression in performance from 2015 to 2016, both in pass-blocking and run-blocking. All pass-blocking metrics have declined, with the PD Sack Rate being the worst over the past 3 seasons. As for run-blocking, SD Line Yards, Opportunity Rate and Power Success Rate are improved, but to start, SDLY and Opp. % couldn't have gotten much worse. On the other hand, Stuff Rate, PD Line Yards and Adjusted Line Yards all hit 3 year lows. In a nutshell, the OL shows qualified improvement in pass-blocking over Hoke's last season, but a general decline in the run-blocking metrics.
Just looking at the raw numbers is somewhat stunning in a few cases. A PD Sack Rate of 9.2% means that the QB is getting sacked about 1 in every 11 drop backs on passing downs. With that sort of sack incidence, it's no wonder the PD Line Yards are nearly the worst in the NCAA. Also, a Stuff Rate of 19.5% means that a TFL occurs on about 1 in every 5 rushing attempts. Poor damn Fitzgerald Toussaint has been replaced by poor damn Deveon Smith (and just nevermind poor damn Thomas Rawls).
To sum up, the bubble-gum-and-bailing-wire approach to installing an Offensive Line can only do so much and last so long. Talent, depth and experience make up the three-legged stool on which an Offensive Line Program is established. Alas, UM is still early in the process of building an OL Program. One or two five-star recruits do not an OL make, because like a chain, the OL is only as strong as its weakest link. A key injury can lead to disaster without depth to backfill and experience that can span the gaps.
Yours in football, and Go Blue!