I keep hearing a lot of things said about our dearly departed QBs of the last couple years, and some of the assumptions don't make sense to me. This is the way I hear the story told, without dates but in chronological order:
1. Threet chooses Georgia Tech and Mallett chooses Michigan
2. Threet chooses to transfer to Michigan
3. Mallett doesn't like Michigan and decides to transfer to Arkansas
4. Threet chooses to transfer away from Michigan
Tell me if this doesn't make more sense. Bear with me as this is intricate:
1. Mallett grew up a Razorback fan but he wouldn't start over Mustain (or he assumed as much), so he goes to the next-best statue-QB school available: Lloyd Carr's Michigan Wolverines
2. Threet grew up a Michigan fan, but knowing that Mallett would be there, he shied away
3. Mallett doesn't like Michigan and Michigan doesn't like Mallett. Even the football seems to hate Mallett, as it finds ways to slip out of his hands time and time again.
4. Mitch Mustain transfers to USC. Mallet transferring to Arkansas becomes a question of when, not if. Carr knows this.
5. Carr looks furiously for the best available option. He knows Threet would transfer if he knew that Mallett was leaving, so he tells him that. Threet can't tell anyone that he knows Mallett is transferring, though.
6. Michigan has a bad season, Carr is gone, Rodriguez is hired.
7. Threet sees he's not in our long term plans anymore. His transfer is a question of when, not if. The wide open starting job of last season kept him at bay for a year.
8. Rodriguez knows the situation and looks furiously for two QB recruits. He is telling them that Threet is as good as gone. (How do you get two comparably talented QBs to be part of the same class, with last year's starter returning? Perhaps the reason we kept losing commits was because they kept being assured Threet was transferring, but it wasn't happening.)
9. Threet transfers; hello starting freshman QB! (edit:
Notice that we had no more QB decommits as soon as the transfer was made public.)
The big difference in timeline 2 is that everyone's actions are reactions to something external rather than unprovoked. What do you think? Is there evidence that Threet really opted to transfer to a volatile coaching situation, knowing he would sit behind a 5-star QB for four years? That makes no sense to me, especially since he transferred again this offseason because he doesn't want to be a benchwarmer.
Let me start by saying that while I trust Rodriguez has a plan and knows what he is doing, some of the early commits have been perplexing. Not that I can’t see a reason for taking a kid not highly sought after by top programs; only that I don’t necessarily see the reason for taking those kids early. Like many, I always follow recruiting in hopes of a super class; a “top 10” group consisting of 4 stars, with one or two 5s, and a few unavoidable 3s as the sprinkles on top. Our sundae is slightly sprinkle-heavy at this date. I get some of the angst. But honestly, I like the kids we have. In particular, I like Dileo. Please allow me--in meandering fashion--to explain why.
Applying the bandaids
If you put yourself in the shoes of our coaching staff and imagine what it was like to live through last season (yes, it was even worse for them) a few areas emerge as the most frustrating and painful. (1) QB play, (2) OL inexperience, (3) turnovers, (4) Kick returns, and (5) pitiful WR blocking.
1. QB play is being addressed as best it can, with excellent recruits coming in, and a no-stone-unturned approach to immediate help that has bordered on appearing desperate (yes, I am referring to the short, chuckling Dukie who shall not be named--I am not interested in reopening that--just saying we are busting it to find help here, thought it will unfortunately remain a bit of a waiting game)
2. OL inexperience has been addressed mostly by allowing the earth to circumnavigate the sun. We will also be unleashing the redshirts, receiving dividends for good efforts already made on this front. (Both QB and OL will be improved this year, but much better still in years to come)
3. Turnovers. All you can do is teach proper technique, stress security, and instill some confidence. I am sure that is happening.
4. At this point you may think I have forgotten little Drew Dileo--I have not. He is a direct response to items 4 and 5. I am not sure I have seen a better kick returner on film. Don’t take that statement with the weight of a recruiting guru--I am a casual fan. But this does not look like a fast, star player who was asked to run to the 10 yard line and catch the kickoff. This looks like a kick returner. Lots of kids are fast and have a bit of wiggle--Ted Ginn comes to mind--and this is enough to make them a pretty good returner. Dileo actually has the intangible instincts. He follows the wedge and hits seams with exactly the right timing. Watch his kick returning on film--he is outstanding.
5. What I appreciated even more about his Scout film is that the opening plays were WR blocks. I do not recall ever seeing a recruit's film begin with downfield blocking. This is not your usual guy. He is tiny, but this kid craves contact. When you watch his film you see someone who cannot wait to throw himself into somebody. No disrespect, but this is not the sense you get watching Matthews, Stonum, et al. Our WR blocking last year was not bad. It was awful. That destroys quick screens and runs outside-of-tackle. And indeed, we watched those plays regularly get destroyed. Dileo gets after it. He will embarrass starters by out blocking them in practice. I hope it shames them to improve.
How Dileo will be useful
In short, Dileo is a kid who excels in exactly the spots where we are weak. We may not be sorely in need of a kid who can return kicks--it seems like 2-3 guys each year are now tabbed as having great kick returning potential--but he could really be at home in the role, and avoid opening ourselves to injury risk by putting a core positional starter back there (e.g. Cissoko, Shaw).
And he may help us more when other teams are holding the ball. Remember that he also plays corner. Quickness and collision-loving are not ill-suited there, and that could also be his spot. Even more likely, I think we will see him running people down for tackles on special teams. His size and skin tone are going to evoke Wes Welker comparisons--I think he is actually more like that unfathomably annoying (but annoyingly great) special teams walk-on from Notre Dame last year. (Someone else recall his name?) That guy killed us at the beginning of that game. The first quarter was typified when Shaw lost a kick, went slowly to pick it up, and had modern day Rudy’s helmet crash through his knees for a turnover. I expect Dileo to be a special teams gunner; he was born for it. I expect him to make a difference there in games.
Recruiting Services and Specialists
And this spotlights one area where recruiting has clouded perception when it comes to the worth of players. (Note: this is not a general anti-recruiting rant; just an observation about their valuation of role players and specialists) Talent matters; and star ratings are fairly accurate. But guys with super bodies and super potential will always claim the top spots, while a lot of useful non-star players will drag a class’s “rating” down. Taylor Lewans and Anthony LaLotas come with incredible potential, but guys with even more hype have sometimes struggled to find the field. “Upside” guys are high-risk, high-reward. I love them, don’t get me wrong. I want as many as we can take each year. But I also like guys you can count on to contribute by playing a minor role and playing it very well.
Imagine how much worse last year could have been if we did not have a great punter. God bless Zoltan. But kickers and punters illustrate this point perfectly--they never help the overall stature or rating of a recruiting class. You can take Rivals' 3rd best kicker and he’ll drag down your class with his 3-star rating. If you are gunning for overall star ratings/rankings, you may be better off putting up fliers on campus for a walk on rather than taking the best high school kicker in the country. That is sort of dumb. But it is how the rankings metrics work. A special teams gunner is even less important in the eyes of talent evaluators, and understandably so. They are an afterthought. But as ND found out last year, having a great one can make a real difference. That is what I think we are getting with this kid. Someone who will fight like hell in practice and become a star on special teams.
The bottom line
Is he a boon to our recruiting class? Does he add momentum and help us lure top talent? No. Does he provide an opportunity for people longing to see Michigan’s demise to point and laugh? Perhaps. But let them. We are building, and a guy like Dileo is an important piece. Sometimes you find a guy like him as a walk-on and strike it big. I don’t mind spending a scholarship to not take that chance. Damn the perceptions. Watch his film ($)--he is 160 pounds of skills we are missing.
Multiple Choice (Choose all the apply)
Question 1: How do I deal with Michigan recruits dropping places in the rankings?
A) Bitch about them dropping for being already committed.
B) Fret about not having any top 100 recruits in May.
C) Get enraged that Rivals sucks at ranking players and isn't fair, then shamefully realize my last post was demeaning Rich Rod for offering 'middle of road' WRs, where middle of the road is determined using rankings like Rivals. Oops.
D) Point out RR track record in excelling with recruits that are low ranked, and hell, it's only fucking May, these kids are juniors in high school and this addiction is borderline pedophilia even to the greeks/spartans (the ancient ones, not the rollerbladin' brahs in the EL).
E) Just D.
Question 2: How do I communicate my feelings about reduced rankings to said recruits?
A) MySpace. Immediately. I'm friends with them all.
B) Facebook wallposts. It makes me feel connected to 16/17 year old freak athletes I have nothing in common with.
C) What are MySpace and Facebook?
D) Whooaa, people actually friend recruits and then talk to them? That's really fucking creepy.
F) Do I get extra credit for interviewing recruits?
Question 3: My next post on recruiting will be about -
A) How Scout is better than Rivals because they rank current Michigan recruits higher.
B) How Star Ratings don't matter because Pat White.
C) How Star Ratings don't matter because Kevin Grady.
D) OMG 2 mny slot recevers!!11!!!!
E) I recruit "Talent", if you know what I mean (/wink /ninjafootball).
Question 4: I spend too much time following recruiting.
Question 5: My wife would divorce me if she knew how much time I dedicated to 17 year old boys.
Question 6: I am aware that Michigan is at a huge disadvantage in recruiting to the Southern schools, and at a smaller disadvantage to OSU.
Question 7: I now realize how much better my life was before I followed recruiting. Finding out about who was recruited to Michigan only when they hit the field was much less involved.
B) I'm in Denial.
Question 8: In 54.7 words or less, justify how questioning Michigan's recruiting strategy (eg, questioning if RR knows he needs defensive recruits) two months into the first full cycle RR is part of (among other evidence proving it's not RRs first rodeo) does not make you some kind of reverse sycophant that is still 100% pure fail.
Kirby Line Breaks
1. D or E. We would also have accepted "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize."
2. C (half credit) or D (full credit)
3. Kate Beckinsale, Rachel McAdams, or Elisha Cuthbert.
4. A. We also would have accepted "I spend too much time criticizing people for following recruiting."
5. A or B.
6. Answering E$$-EEE-CEE, O$UCK$, or U$C results in immediate death by harpoon.
7. A, or if you opened up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program immediately after.
Today on ESPN.com I read an article discussing Joe Paterno's comments on the expansion of the Big Ten to 12 teams. The winningest coach wants to get more TV time for the conference at the end of the season and reduce the length of time between the end of the season and the Bowl season. He suggests some north east teams like Syracuse, Rutgers, or Pitt. Would this be a possibility? I think that it would do the Big Ten some good to have some later games, as far as exposure and adding to strength of schedule. However, I feel it is really unlikely that it will happen at all, much less bringing in a team like those mentioned. It would more likely be a team from a mid -major and they would be a punching bag for a few years for the other teams in the Big Ten. I do not see any conference willing to give us a team, and geographically any team that would benefit from a conference change wouldn't make sense. It would be nice to bring in the Golden Domers, unfortunately the chance of changing the tradition of the Big ten and Notre Dame is even more improbable than any other suggestions made on this topic.
I do think that this idea has it good points, one being that it is backed by a coach who has been around since before the forward pass.
When at West Virginia, the coaching staff had a certain set of players available to them as potential recruits. Because of the limitations inherent in that set of players, they would quite often have to take risks on kids with baggage of one kind or another, or they would simply have to take a flyer on some kids with potential who may have been overlooked. “Talent + issues” or “10% chance of being an overlooked 4-star player” simply equated to being better in the overall analysis than “mediocre but serviceable boy scout.” West Virginia’s set of potential recruits is inherently riskier than, say, USC’s. Another way to put it is USC is looking for ways to pare down their universe of recruits, while West Virginia is looking for ways to expand theirs. In the end, USC’s batch of incoming recruits typically has a smaller zone of variability than West Virginia’s does.
Then WVU clearly made two other decisions to help mitigate the limitations of their recruiting pool.
First, they decided to outwork the other guy, or at the very least not allow the other guy to outwork them. Enter Barwis and the OL running to the line of scrimmage in the 4th quarter, etc. I’m not suggesting this was successful or not, just that they clearly believed it to be something they had to do. When you have less talent overall, or more inherent variability, you have to wring out every last drop of effort.
Second, they implemented a particular specialized offense. The WVU spread is even different than other spreads. Why? I would argue it is another attempt to expand the set of potential recruits. By taking some subset of your 85 scholarships (15? 20?), and making them fit characteristics of players that other teams don’t value, you’ve just dramatically reduced the amount of work you need to do to fill a roster with 85 good athletes.
Let me explain that some more. The slot receiver characteristics seem to be fast, fast, good hands, fast (in that order.) When that is your only criteria, and the offense is designed to make that profile of kid succeed, you don’t need the #3 wide-out in Florida. You can take Rivals’ #93 WR from wherever and you’ve probably filled that need with a 5-star for your system. WVU just made a 5-star recruit from basically nothing, because they changed their objectives and recruited a kid who has a high probability to succeed in that particular role. Now you have just reduced the risk of recruiting failure by looking for something (someone) different than the other guy.
Now, is that philosophy going to beat USC? I don’t know and neither do you, but it beat the snot out of Oklahoma once. The risk of pursuing this strategy is that the system you crafted can be attacked or beaten in some fashion, that is, it is a weaker overall offense than something else. But so far, so good for the spread.
What does that mean for Michigan?
I think the mindset to outwork the other guy is going to be a major factor in the program’s future success. As much as I love the Wolverines, I think we had lost something somewhere and this coaching staff will bring it back. They clearly believe they will, at the very least, not be outworked.
I do not believe they have fully adjusted to their new recruiting reality. This is not to say I think they are doing a bad job, I don’t. But I also don’t think that they realize they can recruit a fast, fast, fast, tall or at least not short slot receiver yet (and lots of other recruiting possibilities as well.) I say this because those philosophies were very deeply ingrained and it is very difficult to change your paradigm that quickly. As they become accustomed to Michigan’s set of potential recruits, they will begin to manage the risk differently. I interpret the commitment of Drew Dileo as the coaching staff not yet properly managing the risk of their new situation. They don’t have to take a flyer on this kind of player, they can get someone more dynamic for that specialized position, or change the position's role in the offense entirely, and they simply haven’t realized that yet. They will.
A week after talking a solid 3 star DB out of signing with us we follow that up with a marginal (as soon as we saw he was a white boy playing receiver we knew that) 3 star recruit that only has one other choice, Stanford? Really, that is the direction we want to go? Out of our 20 recruiting class we are going to have 4 good WR, and 4-5 marginal WR/RBs, 2 QB's, and a small assortment of others? Really? Again we have to remind Belein and Rodriguez that they are at a major university. Maybe even a top 5 University and penciling in just anyone who actually has their picture on Scout/Rivals is not satisfactory. Look at what those losers in Columbus are doing? They have a ton of kids begging for a scholarship offer right now, but they are going to make sure every 4-5 star they can wring out of this recruiting class signs first, and then give the 2nd string a chance. 150 scholarship offers out there, Really? What happens when all we have signed is the 130-150 of that list, and we don't have room for the top 130 that actually have people competing for them, so they can't make a decision yet. Someone call Torrian Wilson and ask if he has a little brother we can recruit in a couple years, because by the time he gets around to selecting a school, because he actually has alternatives, the best we are going to be able to do is preferred walk-on status. Really, Torrian, we can sign you as preferred and if you play your cards right you may get a scholarship by your Sophmore year, Really.