so much for that
Bielema, on Saban:
"... he can't compare."
That's not all, but it's the best part. You can read the rest here:
Sitting at my desk and waiting for the next “Hello” post to arrive, I have been studying the recruiting success we've had since Hoke & Co's arrival and trying to figure out how excited I should be about 2013 and beyond. The goal, obviously, is to build a program that is competing for B1G and National Championships every year. But how good does our recruiting have to be in order to accomplish that?
In Part I, I took a look at how the dark lord himself managed to put together one of the most dominant runs in college football history. Nick Saban's Alabama teams are loaded with blue chip recruits, but he also oversigns every year. To him, a scholarship is really just an offer to try out for the Crimson Tide, and kids that aren't cutting it are sent packing for whatever reason Saban can use to justify booting them (his favorite is “violating team rules”). I hope Michigan never uses the oversigning methods of the SEC, but we will have to find players that make a similar impact if we're going to compete with those programs.
So what does it mean to have a roster that can compete with Alabama? CHART!
These charts represent Saban's '07-'09 classes, with the bars representing the IMPACT rating. Like Hoke, Saban's first class was composed almost entirely of his predecessor's recruits. And, like Hoke, Saban's next two classes were relatively large and represented a significant improvement over his first class.
For the time period, the average Saban recruit was a 5.78 Rivals Rating. This is roughly equivalent to a low four-star recruit. And as the chart shows, the rankings do matter. Referring back to Part I, this chart compares the impact of recruits with their Rivals Rating. Briefly, a high impact is better; a “1” is a player that did not contribute during his career at 'Bama, a “2” is a minor contirbutor or role player, and a “3” is a solid starter or better. Perhaps the most important thing about the rankings is that there is a clear trend that the higher you are ranked, the less likely it is that you will end-up a non-factor (IMPACT of 1). On a percentage basis, the 5.8 players actually out-performed the 5.9 and 6.0 players, but the general trend is that the more highly-rated players are more likely to contribute.
It helps Saban that the sample size of 5.6 or lower recruits is very small. His roster is composed, almost exclusively, of very highly-rated three-star or better recruits (5.7 or better). His reputation for finding diamonds in the rough—as far as I can tell—is complete myth. His highly-rated prospects produce; his lower-rated prospects (the few that even stay in Tuscaloosa) generally do not contribute.
So how does this compare to Michigan? Chart? Chart!
|Blake Countess||DB||5'10"||171||4.5||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Raymon Taylor||ATH||5'10"||167||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Desmond Morgan||LB||6'1"||225||4.7||3 stars||5.5||3|
|Brennen Beyer||DE||6'4"||222||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Frank Clark||LB||6'2"||210||4.5||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Thomas Rawls||RB||5'10"||214||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Matt Wile||K||6'2"||210||2 stars||5.3||2|
|Justice Hayes||RB||5'10"||175||4.4||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Chris Barnett||TE||6'6"||245||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Chris Bryant||OL||6'5"||330||4 stars||5.6||1|
|Kellen Jones||LB||6'1"||209||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Delonte Hollowell||DB||5'8"||162||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Antonio Poole||LB||6'2"||210||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Rock||DE||6'5"||250||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Greg Brown||DB||5'10"||180||4.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Tamani Carter||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Tony Posada||OL||6'6"||315||5.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Russell Bellomy||QB||6'3"||178||4.6||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Keith Heitzman||DE||6'3"||237||4.9||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Jack Miller||DE||6'4"||268||4.8||3 stars||5.5||1|
Michigan's 2011 class numbered 20 recruits. I would expect that classes will average 20-24 recruits under Hoke (mean of 22). This accounts for attrition, and basically divides the team into five classes: RS Freshmen, Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Saban, working with the same number of scholarships, averaged 27.7 recruits in his first three classes, and has averaged exactly 25 commitments per class since then. That means he's getting three extra chances at a good player every year. This is a big difference, but not insurmountable.
The 2011 Michigan class was damaged by transfers, but nothing like Saban's 2007 group. Ten (!) players from Saban's first class did not finish their careers at 'Bama. Hoke, so far, has lost six of his first class to transfers, and it appears unlikely he'll lose any more: of the remaining 14 players, 11 have played and two are front-runners for starting positions on the 2013 O-line (Jack Miller and Chris Bryant). That leaves only Antonio Poole, who was a 5.7 (highest 3-star) on Rivals and a 4-star on Scout. With Michigan loaded at LB, Poole may end-up transferring due to a lack of playing time—there's about a 50-50 chance of him contributing in some way during his career.
The 2011 Michigan class' average Rivals Rating was 5.62. Take out the kicker (Wile) and the average jumps to 5.64 ('Bama did not recruit a kicker in '07). This is a clear disadvantage compared to 'Bama's 5.70 average.
But the real bottom line is production. Saban turned 9 members of that class into contributing players, and four of those were all-stars. Will Michigan find similar success? I actually think we'll do better on average, if not at the top. Here are the guys and their projected IMPACT at the end of their careers:
- Blake Countess - 3
- Ramon Taylor - 3
- Desmond Morgan - 3
- Keith Heitzman - 3
- Brennen Beyer - 2
- Frank Clark - 2
- Thomas Rawls - 2
- Justice Hayes - 2
- Chris Bryant - 2
- Jack Miller - 2
- Delonte Hollowell - 1
- Antonio Poole - 1
- Russell Bellomy - 1
- Matt Wile - 3
That's 10 productive players (11 counting the kicker), four of whom I believe have a good chance of being drafted. I also believe my grading has been pretty harsh—several of those 2's could be 3's, and only one of the 3's (Heitzman) is a guy who hasn't fully proven himself. Bryant, Miller, and Beyer seem the most likely to become 3's, but Rawls, Hayes, and Clark all have game experience and are certainly not out of the running. That said, RB's usually show something early in their career if they will have an impact later in their career. 2013 is likely their last chance.
The final verdict is that this class appears poised to produce a lighter top than 'Bama's 2007 group, but a thicker middle. The group will probably be more productive on paper, but lacks the All-American types. On to class #2...
|Joe Bolden||LB||6'2"||225||4 stars||5.8||2|
|James Ross||LB||6'0"||209||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||5'7"||170||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||6'3"||215||4.7||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Devin Funchess||TE||6'5"||205||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||6'3"||325||5.2||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||6'5"||302||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Erik Magnuson||OL||6'6"||275||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Jarrod Wilson||DB||6'2"||190||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Terry Richardson||DB||5'9"||160||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Tom Strobel||DE||6'6"||245||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||6'2"||215||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Blake Bars||OL||6'5"||275||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Amara Darboh||WR||6'2"||190||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Jeremy Clark||DB||6'4"||205||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Christopher Wormley||DE||6'6"||270||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Matthew Godin||DT||6'6"||270||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||6'0"||219||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Ben Braden||OL||6'6"||285||3 stars||5.7||1|
|A.J. Williams||TE||6'6"||260||4.9||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Allen Gant||DB||6'2"||210||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Willie Henry||DT||6'2"||270||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Drake Johnson||RB||6'1"||200||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||6'3"||182||4.5||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Sione Houma||RB||6'0"||211||4.5||3 stars||5.5||1|
Saban's second class was epic in terms of quality and quantity—like the extended version of Return of the King—loading-up 32 recruits with an average Rivals Rating of 5.81. Hoke's second class follows the trend of his first, with 25 commitments averaging 5.75—the same difference in average rating as their first classes. 15 'Bama players from the 2008 class were contributors, and ten earned an IMPACT value of 3. All ten of those guys are in the NFL or headed there. Seven more players from Saban's group busted at 'Bama, and the rest were sent out to pasture. Will Hoke's first full class produce ten NFL-bound starters and five role players? This group requires a bit more explaining:
- Joe Bolden - 3 – Already demonstrated ability to play at high level
- Dennis Norfleet - 3 – Value in return game will skyrocket, but will he play much otherwise?
- James Ross - 3 – Either Ross or Bolden will probably be a 3-year starter...maybe both
- Devin Funchess - 3 – Best receiving TE talent at UM in recent memory
- Mario Ojemudia - 3 – Showed flashes in 2012, IMO will pass Beyer and Clark on depth chart
- Ondre Pipkins - 3 – Highly-touted recruit has controlled his weight and should start in 2013
- Kyle Kalis - 3 – Beast projected to be a four-year starter
- Erik Magnuson - 3 – Giving the highest-rated lineman the best chance to end-up a multi-year starter
- Amara Darboh - 3 – Burned redshirt because of physical talent; either he or Chesson will likely start multiple seasons
- Jarrod Wilson - 3 – Starting in 2013? Maybe, but almost certainly starting in 2014 and beyond
- Blake Bars - 2 – One more lineman from this class will have to contribute
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2 – RJS is a solid four-star whose biggest challenge is the loaded LB depth chart
- Terry Richardson - 2 – 50/50 on whether or not this 5.8 recruit pans out
- Tom Strobel - 2 – The 2012 class will need at least one more contributor on the D-line; Strobel and Wormley seem like the best candidantes
- AJ Williams - 2 – Will probably spend career as a blocker
- Ben Braden - 2 – Which BB will contribute? Ben Braden or Blake Bars?
- Sione Houma - 2 – Likely a blocking FB who now must compete with Shallman.
- Christopher Wormley - 2 – Massive recruit who may have helped this year if not for injury
- Jehu Chesson - 2 – System change gives Chesson and Darboh the opportunity to play early
- Jeremy Clark - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Matthew Godin - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Allen Gant - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Willie Henry - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Drake Johnson - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Kaleb Ringer - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
That's ten 3's—the same number as 'Bama—and I believe all could be successful playing on Sundays. As for the 2's, AJ Williams and Terry Richardson seem like locks to be multi-year contributors if not starters, and the rest will probably end-up splitting 50/50. That means four or five will wind-up helping the team and the rest—along with the 1's—will probably not offer much.
It's VERY important to me that no one takes this the wrong way. I am not, in any way, predicting that specific kids will end-up as busts. I use the names only because it makes the numbers real, but the truth is that my predictions are based on limited evidence and my statistical analysis. I sincerely apologize to any player or person who is offended by these projections; again, it is not personal, just my best attempt to predict recruiting success at Michigan.
The bottom line for this class is, IMO, very good. I believe that, compared to 'Bama's '08 class, we'll get similar numbers in terms of quality contributors and role players, despite having seven fewer recruits. But will this group have star power to compare with the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Mark Ingram? I don't see a Heisman winner on this list, but Ross, Bolden, Funchess, Kalis, and Pipkins all have a very good chance at being All-B1G and first-half NFL draft choices, IMO. Time will tell if they compare to 'Bama, but the numbers are kind. The average Rivals Rating of 'Bama's ten players who earned a 3 is 5.82; Michigan's average of the players I have projected to be 3's is 5.85. Hoke's first haul lacks stars at the skill positions like Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, but it may be just as productive and yield early draft choices on the lines and at LB.
|Derrick Green||RB||6'0"||220||4.4||5 stars||6.1|
|Henry Poggi||DT||6'4"||260||4 stars||6|
|Patrick Kugler||OL||6'5"||280||5.1||4 stars||6|
|Shane Morris||QB||6'3"||183||4.6||4 stars||6|
|Jourdan Lewis||DB||5'10"||159||4.7||4 stars||5.9|
|Dymonte Thomas||DB||6'2"||192||4.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Mike McCray||LB||6'4"||230||4.6||4 stars||5.9|
|Kyle Bosch||OL||6'5"||311||5.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Chris Fox||OL||6'6"||297||4 stars||5.9|
|Jake Butt||TE||6'6"||235||4 stars||5.9|
|Ross Douglas||DB||5'10"||180||4.4||4 stars||5.8|
|Delano Hill||DB||6'0"||198||4.4||4 stars||5.8|
|Taco Charlton||DE||6'6"||249||4.9||4 stars||5.8|
|Ben Gedeon||LB||6'3"||215||4 stars||5.8|
|David Dawson||OL||6'4"||282||5.5||4 stars||5.8|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||OL||6'7"||307||4 stars||5.8|
|Wyatt Shallman||RB||6'3"||245||4.7||4 stars||5.8|
|Channing Stribling||DB||6'2"||170||4.5||3 stars||5.7|
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||6'2"||305||3 stars||5.7|
|Deveon Smith||RB||5'11"||218||3 stars||5.7|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||6'4"||197||4.6||3 stars||5.7|
|Csont'e York||WR||6'3"||185||3 stars||5.7|
|Reon Dawson||DB||6'2"||175||4.4||3 stars||5.6|
|Dan Samuelson||OL||6'5"||275||5.3||3 stars||5.6|
|Khalid Hill||TE||6'2"||230||3 stars||5.6|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||6'2"||185||4.4||3 stars||5.6|
|Scott Sypniewski||OL||6'1"||230||2 stars||5.2|
The 2013 class is, by far, the most difficult to project. Obvious is obvious—these guys have not yet seen the field as college players and all of my predictions will be based on pure speculation. But how does Hoke's third effort compare to Saban's 2009 class?
To review, Saban's '09 class was another big one—27 recruits following the 33 from '08—and was chock full of talent, producing an average Rivals Rating of 5.83 with four 5-star (6.1) players. The class delivered in a big way, with all of those 5-star players earning 3's, and three of them becoming absolute studs. Six more players from Saban's third class earned 3's (for a total of ten) and the class had all-stars Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, AJ McCarron, DJ Fluker, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Chance Warmack. Three more players earned 2's, giving the class 13 total contributors. Those 13 players had an average Rivals Rating of 5.9—a top 150 recruit.
Michigan's 2013 class also had 27 recruits. The average Rivals Rating for Team 134 commitments is 5.79—just .04 below 'Bama's third class. Take out of long-snapper ('Bama had no specialists in its '09 class) and the average jumps to 5.81—a ridiculously good average that is basically equivalent to a low 4-star recruit. Will Michigan's class produce ten players who earn 3 IMPACT ratings and a handful more of 2's? I believe so. Will Michigan's class produce star power similar 'Bama's '09 group? I doubt it. Saban reeled-in four 5-star (6.1) recruits, one 6.0, and seven 5.9's. Michigan had just one 6.1, but did have three 6.0's to go with six 5.9's. That means Saban's class had two more blue chip recruits, which is a significant statistical advantage in that it probably means one more all-star or high impact player. But from a total team perspective, the difference is smaller. Michigan's group should still produce a similar number of 2's and 3's on the IMPACT scale. Here is my ridiculously uninformed, way-too-early, obnoxiously long, and somewhat offensive projection for each Michigan recruit:
- Derrick Green - 3 – Seems like a perfect fit for the system and the depth chart is shallow at RB
- Henry Poggi - 3 – Worst-case scenario (if healthy), Poggi is Ryan Van Bergen
- Patrick Kugler - 3 – Son-of-a-coach at a position where 2013's projected starter is a converted D-lineman
- Shane Morris - 3 – Shane or Wilton Speight is likely to be a multi-year starter; could be #2 in 2013
- Dymonte Thomas - 3 – If it's possible to a sleeper as a 5.9 recruit, he is; already enrolled
- Mike McCray - 3 – Could follow Jake Ryan as the next great Michigan SAM
- Kyle Bosch - 3 – Nasty man with college size and an early enrollee
- Chris Fox - 3 – We are still a bit short OT's after 2013; likely multi-year starter
- Jake Butt - 3 – Early enrollee will almost ceratinly play significant minutes in 2013
- Taco Charlton - 3 – Will Taco be the best pure pass-rusher on the 2013 team? Already enrolled.
- Jourdan Lewis - 2 – Not tall; great athlete but IMO a 50/50 shot at becoming starter
- Ross Douglas - 2 – Another 50/50 player; he or Lewis probably pans out; already enrolled
- Delano Hill - 2 – Safety is actually becoming a pretty loaded position; Hill has a 50/50 shot
- Ben Gedeon - 2 – Like this kid's character, so he's a 3 in my heart, but LB is loaded
- David Dawson - 2 – Great prospect, but our O-line is suddenly loaded on the interior
- Logan Tuley-Tillman - 2 – Massive man who will benefit from his early enrollment
- Wyatt Shallman - 2 – Probably destined for FB or DT; will probably be a great role player
- Maurice Hurst Jr. - 2 – I believe this kid is a sleeper
- Deveon Smith - 2 – More suited to Michigan's style than current backs
- Jaron Dukes - 2 – Conspicuously good production in HS against good DB's
- Khalid Hill - 2 – TE is still a thin position for Michigan; Hill will have a chance to contribute
- Da'Mario Jones - 2 – Only the recruiting services thought this kid was a 3-star
- Scott Sypniewski - 1 – Long snappers are long snappers
- Csont'e York - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Reon Dawson - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Dan Samuelson - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Channing Stribling - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
Of the twelve players that were projected as 2's, it's likely that about half will end-up as non-factors. The other half will be some combination of 2's and 3's, and a couple of the projected 3's will end-up as 2's or busts. That leaves this class with about ten 3's, five 2's, and twelve 1's. This is roughly equivalent to what 'Bama produced from their third class in terms of IMPACT.
Hoke's recruits from these first three classes will probably be more productive than Saban's because the Michigan roster was in much worse shape for two reasons: 'Bama's '06 class was loaded with talent while Michigan's 2010 group was a 3-star party; and Saban inherited a roster much more suited to his style than did Hoke. So while it may seem like my projections have been generous, I do believe Michigan will crank out 3's and 2's at a high rate from these first three classes, partly out of necessity. But the numbers indicate that these players will be highly productive, but not quite the all-stars that the Tide crank out year after year.
Michigan has some important statistical disadvantages. The first is pure numbers: Saban brought in 11 more commitments than Hoke did in his first three years. I believe this comparative weakness will be mostly—if not completely—overcome by the character of the Michigan commits. Not only does Saban dump players who are less talented, he also loses more guys to crime and grades than does Hoke, and my guess is that Hoke will probably have fewer pure busts. I do believe Hoke can overcome the roughly three player per class disadvantage. Overall, just looking at limited numbers, I would guess that the actual advantage is only about one extra player per recruiting cycle due to the Tide's willingness to take kids that are good at football but not so good at life.
The second difference is the talent of the recruits. Saban's first three classes hold a .05 average Rivals Rating advantage over Hoke's, and the chart above tells the story: Saban got more top level recruits in his first three classes. Notice the big differences in 5.9, 6.0, and 6.1 recruits. Saban had 29 commits fall into those categories—more than a third (35%) of his '07-'09 commitments. Hoke has had just 14, representing less than 1/5 (19%) of Michigan's signees. In fact, the only ratings in which Michigan picked-up more recruits than 'Bama are the 5.5 and 5.6 levels, which are low-to-mid 3-star types.
Michigan also has underwhelming talent and/or depth at a couple of positions where the Tide is loaded: RB and WR. Treadwell chose the Ole Miss snake oil, leaving Michigan with only 3-star recruits at WR (though I believe two of those prospects were underrated) and 'Bama grabs 4-star WR's on a consistent basis. At RB, Michigan's 2013 class is excellent, but it will take another year or two of classes like that to have comparable talent to 'Bama.
D-Line is another spot where Michigan is still thin; the Heininger Certainty Principle helps here, but we'll still need pass-rushers. Saban recruits DE's to play OLB in his 3-4 scheme, so he uses different bodies in different ways, but he recruits DE/LB types very heavily, and 2-3 DT's every year as well. I expect Michigan to be recruiting 3-5 D-line prospects every year going forward
Saban tends to take lots of lower-rated OL recruits and still turns them into stars. His strategy seems to be to simply get five or six OL commits every year and turn a couple into All-SEC types while the rest land on the trash heap. Positionally, that seems to be the only real difference among Hoke and Saban's targets—Michigan's focus on the best possible O-line players and 'Bama's relative ignorance of that position in terms of Rivals Ratings.
The bottom line is that Saban signed more players and got better talent in his first three tries than did Hoke. That said, Hoke's focus on character mitigates those disadvantages by having fewer misses and getting more out of his players. But in order to build a juggernaut, we will probably need classes that are consistently as strong as our 2013 haul. And while Hoke's latest effort is on par with Saban's early classes, 'Bama has continued to improve the quality of their recruits: 2013 is Saban's best class yet.
The talent gap is still there, but it seems to be closing. Can character and coaching help build a national champion in Ann Arbor? Time will tell.
We have moved into recruiting season--a time when Michigan fans can tell their wives, girlfriends, and whomever else that there will be less to read about with football season over. Of course, the way Hoke and Co. recruit, this is perhaps the most exciting time to be checking MgoBlog, as “Hello” posts are more common during this stretch than any other. So instead of watching and re-watching every snap from games, we'll be ogling recruits and commits on youtube, critiquing the professionals' evaluations of high school football players, and arguing over the deeper meaning of a seventeen-year-old's tweets.
And on that note, I thought it would be interesting to see just how Michigan is doing in building a perennial B1G—and perhaps national—Championship contender. As the saying goes, “It's not the X's and O's but the Jimmies and Joes.” This is, of course, a reference to the fact that talent trumps scheme. And while I certainly believe a better-coached and prepared team can defeat a more talented sloppy team, the field is always tilted to the side with the better athletes.
I have broken this into two parts—both are VERY long. The first (this one) is a look at how the game's unquestionable hegemon built a behemoth program from the ashes of Alabama football. Do NOT mistake this for an endorsement of Saban's methods—as this diary will point out, they are somewhat deplorable. It is, however, a valid reference point for the construction of what we all hope will be our own Juggernaut, and these comparisons will be explored in Part II.
So, on to
satan's Saban's story...
Alabama's championships have come in 2009, 2011, and 2012. There is no doubt that Saban's first three classes formed the core of his 2011 and 2012 championship squads, but they were also HUGE contributors to his 2009 crystal football. This gives us some hope for our own 2013 campaign, but, more importantly offers context for expectations in 2015, when the Hoke recruits will form the entire team.
|Kareem Jackson||DB||5'10"||185||4.5||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Marquis Maze||ATH||5'9"||160||4.4||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Rolando McClain||LB||6'4"||240||4.6||4 stars||6.0||3|
|William Vlachos||OL||6'2"||287||5.1||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Josh Chapman||DT||6'1"||280||4.9||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Luther Davis||DT||6'4"||254||4.8||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Nick Gentry||DT||6'1"||265||4.8||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Darius Hanks||WR||6'0"||168||4.6||3 stars||5.5||2|
|Alfred McCullough||DT||6'3"||297||4.9||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Patrick Crump||OL||6'3"||285||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jeremy Elder||DE||6'3"||270||4.9||2 stars||5.4||1|
|Nick Fanuzzi||QB||6'3"||200||4.6||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Tarence Farmer||DB||6'1"||190||4.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Brandon Gibson||WR||6'2"||190||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Demetrius Goode||RB||5'11"||200||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Jeramie Griffin||RB||6'0"||230||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jennings Hester||LB||6'3"||228||4.7||2 stars||5.4||1|
|Chris Lett||DB||6'2"||195||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Kerry Murphy||DT||6'5"||315||5.1||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Michael Ricks||DB||6'2"||195||4.4||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Jamar Taylor||RB||5'9"||204||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Underwood||TE||6'4"||202||2 stars||5.3||1|
|Alex Watkins||DE||6'5"||225||4.7||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Chavis Williams||DE||6'5"||220||4.6||3 stars||5.5||1|
Saban's first class (2007) is his worst, and it's not even close. This is to be expected, since he was hired January 3, 2007. The majority of that class was already in place, and not even Saban's snake oil could yield a single five-star player. The average Rivals rating of that class was 5.70, which is the equivalent of a high three-star recruit.* Compare that with his ridiculous 2013 haul (probably his best class) that has an average rating of 5.87, which is basically a top-150 recruit. Think Joe Mathis. That's their average recruit.
*Rivals ratings were used. For Rivals, a 6.1 is a five-star; 5.8-6.0 is a four-star; 5.5-5.7 is a three-star; 5.0-5.4 is a two-star. Click here for more information.
But alas, 2007 was the recruiting class of a mere mortal, with 24 commits (low for Saban). Ten of those commitments would not finish their career at 'Bama, and five more would flame-out as non-contributors. But even this relatively paltry group produced a few stars: Kareem Jackson, Marquis Maze, Rolando McClain, and William Vlachos all went on to great things with the Tide and now get (legally) paid to play. In fact, four more players from that class have signed with NFL teams, though none of them were stars at 'Bama.
This brings me to the “IMPACT” column on the charts. IMPACT is my very imperfect measurement of a player's on-field contributions to his team. Briefly, a “3” is a solid starter to All-American type; a “2” is a contributor to spot starter; a “1” is bust for whatever reason. As has been pointed out to me, a four-tiered system would be better, giving two “middle” grades and one “all-star” grade. The trouble with that system is that it requires intimate (hmmm...maybe I could have picked a better adjective there) knowledge of a player's performance in order to make an accurate judgment, especially for lineman. For example, Ryan Van Bergen appears to be just a solid starter when you look at his stats, but we know that he was much more important to our team. And it's even harder with the O-line, where there are no real stats. This system results in a low number of “2” players, because the guys that were good enough to be minor contributors and spot starters as sophomores and juniors usually go on to be solid starters by their senior year, the IMPACT rating basically measures their performance in their best year. This is fine for our purposes, as what we are really trying to determine is how many recruits are contributing in a meaningful way to a championship team.
Back to 'Bama. While the '07 class was definitely Saban's weakest, seeing a large percentage of players not finish their careers with the Tide is commonplace. One thing is undeniably clear when you look at the data: a scholarship offer from Nick Saban is actually just an offer to tryout for the Alabama football team. This part of the SEC's infamous “over-signing” practice. Every year, guys that aren't getting it done to Saban's liking are sent packing and their scholarship is offered to a high school kid. If you aren't performing, your spot and your scholarship are going to be handed to someone else. I really want Michigan to be great, but if we ever pull this kind of crap I will be livid.
|Julio Jones||WR||6'4"||215||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Barrett Jones||OL||6'5"||271||4.9||4 stars||6.0||3|
|Mark Barron||ATH||6'2"||202||4.5||4 stars||6.0||3|
|Courtney Upshaw||LB||6'2"||220||4.7||4 stars||5.9||3|
|Don'ta Hightower||LB||6'3"||248||4.7||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Mark Ingram||ATH||5'10"||195||4.4||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Robert Lester||DB||6'2"||205||4.6||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Marcel Dareus||DT||6'4"||277||3 stars||5.7||3|
|Terrence Cody||DT||6'5"||395||5.5||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Brad Smelley||QB||6'3"||220||4.7||3 stars||5.5||3|
|Jerrell Harris||LB||6'3"||220||4.5||4 stars||6.0||2|
|Michael Williams||DE||6'6"||240||4.7||4 stars||5.9||2|
|John Michael Boswell||OL||6'6"||290||5.2||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Damion Square||DT||6'3"||270||4.8||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Corey Smith||K||6'1"||208||4.7||2 stars||5.4||2|
|Burton Scott||ATH||5'11"||194||4.4||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Tyler Love||OL||6'7"||285||5.1||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Alonzo Lawrence||DB||6'1"||187||4.4||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Kerry Murphy||DT||6'5"||325||5.3||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Melvin Ray||WR||6'2"||185||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Star Jackson||QB||6'3"||182||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Brandon Lewis||DE||6'3"||260||4.7||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Chris Jordan||ATH||6'2"||201||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Destin Hood||WR||6'3"||190||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Devonta Bolton||ATH||6'4"||220||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Glenn Harbin||DE||6'6"||250||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Robby Green||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Ivan Matchett||RB||5'10"||206||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jermaine Preyear||RB||5'11"||205||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Undra Billingsley||DE||6'4"||260||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Jackson||WR||6'0"||187||4.5||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Wesley Neighbors||DB||6'1"||190||4.5||2 stars||5.4||1|
2008 was Saban's first full cycle. Alabama's '07 was campaign was less than impressive: the Tide finished 7-6 including an upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe. An Independence Bowl win over Colorado was the only thing keeping them from a .500 season. Somehow, Saban parlayed that into a stellar recruiting class with 32 (!) recruits. The crown jewel of that class was 5-star Julio Jones, who absolutely lived-up to his billing and has gone on to NFL stardom. The two other 5-star players in that class—Burton (BJ) Scott and Tyler Love—would both fail to produce at 'Bama. Scott was a bust, and Love was injured. But here's a list of the guys from that class that ended-up with an IMPACT rating of “3”:
- Julio Jones
- Barrett Jones
- Mark Barron
- Courtney Upshaw
- Don'ta Hightower
- Mark Ingram
- Robert Lester
- Marcel Dareus
- Terrence Cody
- Brad Smelley
Brad Smelley was a high school QB who was converted to a bad ass TE. Only two other players from that group—Dareus and Cody—were three-star players. It's interesting to note that this class was a HUGE part of the 2009 championship team, with Julio Jones, Barrett Jones, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Marcel Dareus, and Terrence Cody all getting starts and being major contributors to Saban's first crystal football at 'Bama. From the '07 class, only Vlachos, McClain, and Jackson would make comparable contributions to the championship run.
|D.J. Fluker||OL||6'7"||350||4.9||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Nico Johnson||LB||6'3"||226||4.6||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Dre Kirkpatrick||DB||6'2"||180||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Trent Richardson||RB||5'11"||210||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Eddie Lacy||RB||5'11"||210||4.4||4 stars||5.9||3|
|AJ McCarron||QB||6'4"||189||4.8||4 stars||5.9||3|
|James Carpenter||OL||6'5"||305||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Ed Stinson||DE||6'4"||227||4.6||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Anthony Steen||OL||6'4"||297||4.9||3 stars||5.7||3|
|Chance Warmack||OL||6'3"||329||5.5||3 stars||5.7||3|
|Kevin Norwood||WR||6'3"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.9||2|
|Kenny Bell||WR||6'1"||160||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Quinton Dial||DT||6'5"||308||5.1||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Tana Patrick||LB||6'3"||215||4.5||4 stars||6.0||1|
|Michael Bowman||WR||6'4"||206||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Kendall Kelly||WR||6'4"||210||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Darrington Sentimore||DT||6'3"||265||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Rod Woodson||DB||5'11"||200||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|William Ming||DE||6'4"||265||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Brandon Moore||OL||6'5"||313||5.2||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Kellen Williams||OL||6'3"||295||5.2||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jonathan Atchison||LB||6'3"||216||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Bonds||DT||6'4"||262||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Anthony Orr||DE||6'4"||260||4.8||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Petey Smith||LB||6'0"||230||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Darius McKeller||OL||6'6"||280||5.1||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Mike Marrow||RB||6'2"||240||4.7||3 stars||5.5||1|
The 2009 class saw another increase in its average Rivals Rating, this time bumping-up to 5.83. Even more impressive, the four five-star recruits—DJ Fluker, Nico Johnson, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Trent Richardson—all went on to become high-impact players for the Tide. That said, none of the 2009 class would earn starting roles on the 2009 championship team; Richardson was the most significant contributor but was playing back-up to Heisman-winner Mark Ingram. It would take more time for this group to become stars, but this smaller class (27 commitments) still produced 10 players (same number as the 2008 class) who earned a “3” IMPACT rating:
- DJ Fluker
- Nico Johnson
- Dre Kirkpatrick
- Trent Richardson
- Eddie Lacy
- AJ McCarron
- James Carpenter
- Ed Stinson
- Anthony Steen
- Chance Warmack
Only two of that group were 3-star players: O-linemen Steen and Warmack. All of those guys will almost certainly be drafted—Richardson, Kirkpatrick, and Carpenter are already in the league.
It took Saban three years to build a championship team, but the machine wasn't really in full gear until 2011. The 2010 Tide squad lost three regular season match-ups (South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn) before thumping STAEE in the Capital One Bowl. There is no doubt that his first three classes—especially his second and third—were the foundation of the '11 and '12 championship teams. What is interesting is how much those early classes got to contribute compared to his recent, even better classes. Even with a consistent exodus of talent—many of those drafted players left early—'Bama is fielding fewer freshmen now than it did in 2009. That '08 class really had the best opportunity to start early—since then only a handful of freshmen have seen significant playing time.
Below are the charts for 2010-2013. The IMPACT ratings are obviously incomplete, since most of those guys still have a chance to contribute. What you will notice is that the quality of Saban's classes has improved (though I'm not sure it can get much better than a 5.87 average rating). The Alabama Juggernaut has become and unstoppable force, and it's likely that only scandal or Saban's exit will stop it.
|DeMarcus Milliner||DB||6'2"||180||4.5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Dequan Menzie||DB||5'11"||200||4 stars||5.9||3|
|C.J. Mosley||LB||6'2"||212||4.5||4 stars||5.9||3|
|Deion Belue||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||3 stars||5.6||3|
|John Fulton||DB||6'1"||180||4.4||4 stars||5.9||2|
|Jalston Fowler||RB||6'0"||240||4.8||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Adrian Hubbard||DE||6'7"||227||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Nick Perry||DB||6'2"||195||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Blake Sims||ATH||6'0"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Brandon Ivory||DT||6'3"||330||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Cade Foster||K||6'1"||215||3 stars||5.5||2|
|Alfy Hill||DE||6'4"||222||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Arie Kouandjio||OL||6'6"||314||5.2||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Phillip Sims||QB||6'2"||209||4.8||4 stars||5.9||1|
|DeAndrew White||WR||6'0"||170||4.4||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Jarrick Williams||DB||6'2"||205||4.6||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Corey Grant||RB||5'10"||186||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Keiwone Malone||WR||6'1"||165||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Brian Vogler||TE||6'7"||248||4.7||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Ronald Carswell||WR||6'0"||180||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Harrison Jones||TE||6'4"||230||4.8||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Brandon Lewis||DT||6'3"||275||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chad Lindsay||OL||6'3"||307||5.4||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Austin Shepherd||OL||6'5"||316||5.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Wilson Love||DE||6'4"||235||4.8||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Jay Williams||K||6'4"||220||2 stars||5.3||1|
|Hasean Clinton-Dix||DB||6'2"||190||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Cyrus Kouandjio||OL||6'7"||322||5||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Quinton Dial||DE||6'6"||315||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Vinnie Sunseri||LB||5'11"||193||4.6||3 stars||5.6||3|
|Jeoffrey Pagan||DE||6'4"||272||4.6||4 stars||6||2|
|Jesse Williams||DT||6'4"||330||4 stars||6||2|
|Xzavier Dickson||DE||6'3"||238||4.8||4 stars||5.9||2|
|Trey DePriest||LB||6'2"||231||4.6||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Chris Jones||DB||6'0"||185||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|D.J. Pettway||DE||6'3"||255||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Demetrius Hart||RB||5'8"||190||4.4||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Brent Calloway||LB||6'1"||210||4.6||4 stars||6||1|
|Marvin Shinn||WR||6'3"||177||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Aaron Douglas||OL||6'6"||280||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Malcolm Faciane||TE||6'6"||265||4 stars||5.8||1|
|LaMichael Fanning||DT||6'6"||285||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Bradley Sylve||WR||5'11"||175||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Danny Woodson||WR||6'2"||200||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Phillip Ely||QB||6'1"||186||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Ryan Kelly||OL||6'5"||270||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Isaac Luatua||OL||6'2"||299||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Jabriel Washington||ATH||5'11"||165||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Duron Carter||WR||6'2"||195||3 stars||5.6||1|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB||6'2"||205||4.4||5 stars||6.1||3|
|Amari Cooper||WR||6'1"||175||4 stars||6||3|
|Kenyan Drake||RB||6'1"||195||4.4||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Deion Belue||DB||6'0"||170||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Landon Collins||DB||6'0"||199||4.4||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Eddie Williams||ATH||6'4"||204||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Chris Black||WR||5'11"||170||4 stars||6||1|
|Travell Dixon||DB||6'2"||200||4.5||4 stars||6||1|
|Reggie Ragland||LB||6'4"||245||4 stars||6||1|
|Ryan Anderson||LB||6'3"||250||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Cyrus Jones||ATH||5'11"||183||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Dillon Lee||LB||6'4"||220||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Geno Smith||DB||5'11"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Denzel Devall||LB||6'2"||236||4.6||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Brandon Greene||OL||6'6"||280||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Tyler Hayes||LB||6'3"||215||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Korren Kirven||DT||6'4"||272||5.2||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Dalvin Tomlinson||DT||6'2"||270||4.9||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Dakota Ball||DT||6'2"||292||5.2||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Kurt Freitag||TE||6'3"||245||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Brandon Hill||OL||6'6"||352||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Alphonse Taylor||DT||6'6"||340||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Caleb Gulledge||OL||6'4"||255||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Darren Lake||DT||6'3"||330||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Alec Morris||QB||6'3"||235||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Adam Griffith||K||5'11"||175||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Jonathan Allen||DE||6'3"||263||4.5||5 stars||6.1|
|Reuben Foster||LB||6'1"||244||5 stars||6.1|
|O.J. Howard||TE||6'6"||235||4.5||5 stars||6.1|
|A'Shawn Robinson||DT||6'4"||320||5.1||5 stars||6.1|
|Robert Foster||WR||6'3"||187||4 stars||6.0|
|Derrick Henry||RB||6'3"||243||4.5||4 stars||6.0|
|Grant Hill||OL||6'6"||301||4 stars||6.0|
|Tyren Jones||RB||5'9"||215||4 stars||6.0|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||5'10"||197||4.5||4 stars||6.0|
|Dee Liner||DE||6'3"||281||4 stars||6.0|
|ArDarius Stewart||ATH||6'1"||190||4 stars||6.0|
|Altee Tenpenny||RB||6'0"||212||4.5||4 stars||6.0|
|Maurice Smith||DB||6'0"||180||4.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Tim Williams||DE||6'3"||235||4 stars||5.9|
|Cooper Bateman||QB||6'3"||215||4.8||4 stars||5.8|
|Raheem Falkins||WR||6'4"||195||4.5||4 stars||5.8|
|Darius Paige||DT||6'4"||314||4 stars||5.8|
|Jonathan Cook||DB||6'0"||185||4.5||3 stars||5.7|
|Brandon Hill||OL||6'7"||390||3 stars||5.7|
|Eddie Jackson||WR||6'0"||175||3 stars||5.7|
|Walker Jones||LB||6'2"||234||4.6||3 stars||5.7|
|Leon Brown||OL||6'6"||300||3 stars||5.6|
|Cole Mazza||OL||6'1"||240||3 stars||5.6|
|Parker McLeod||QB||6'3"||190||3 stars||5.6|
|Anthony Averett||ATH||6'0"||170||4.4||3 stars||5.5|
I would tend to say he's gone, but the control he has at Alabama could be too much to give up. He wasn't wildly successful at Miami, but this is a deeply arrogant man, who probably thinks he can win at every level. Thoughts?
Some say the blobs on the beach of Mobile can be chalked up to the tar balls BP donated. In reality, it was the stain and sludge finally surfacing and left behind when Nick Saban crawled upon the shores of Alabama. The man has an automatic “Montgomery Burns” edition of automatic doors and a whole other string of players on medical redshirts. There is no doubt that after this essence of evil was suppressed by a lackluster program on the banks of the Cedar, his bad voodoo has been in full force. He has humiliated and tortured other teams in his conquest of the NCAA.
The man has a disgraceful persona so heavy that even he cannot celebrate his biggest wins. He retires to his lair and begins the planning of world domination after every game in the belly of a Greyhound bus. Michigan is coming from a complete different 270 degree position where they have not had the luxury of enjoying the knee knocking fear displayed on their opponent's face, but instead this once great program that suffered a great civil war and limped along in life. Then a man of mutant stature Hoke emerged from the killing fields of many MGoBlogger meltdowns, détente treaties, radioactive topics that were not safe to traverse in conversation, and a hungry loyal following. Jimmy Carter got booted for a said malaise in the country, as did another southern gentleman by the name of Rich Rodriguez for a football program in the same state.
What followed was thought to be as possible as Luxembourg touting a basketball team in the Olympics to defeat the U.S. Dream Team II. Regardless of the impossible odds of an 11 win season and a Sugar Bowl victory, Michigan did it. The offense had more control of the offense as to sustain lasting drives and the defense look as if they did cage fighting over the previous summer with Liam Neeson to toughen their resolve and TUFFness. As the season progressed, the team, the team, the team began to congeal into a deadly opportunistic football team. GoBo finally shaped the offense around Nard Dog’s strengths along with taking some pressure off him with a respectable running game. The juggernaut in a pumpkin carriage capitulated with a defensive victory over a team that would have taken Michigan behind the woodshed in years prior. The sugar poured, and the people roared.
My only logical and reasonable reasoning comes from last year’s Penn State and Alabama game. Alabama wasn’t coming off a National Championship, but heading into one. Given that Penn State was a heavy underdog in the souls of the Nittany Lion hearts same time last year, some of the more “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” crowd in Ann Arbor can relate to the angst and guttural fear of being more meat in the Saban grinder. Although Alabama controlled most of the game, the beating wasn’t as severe as once thought. Penn State suffered through the pain of dying a thousand paper cuts. Michigan’s offense is arguably much more dynamic and able to strike than the Penn State team of a year ago. There are some questions of holes being filled on the O-line and receiving corps. There is also a numbing knowledge of an almost certainly suspended Toussaint that could put the responsibility of winning the game on the lone shoulders of D-Nard. This could lead to the irisless peepers of the Crimson Tide defense on the same person. On defense, the anticipation of how well the D-Line will do without Mike Martin anchoring the buffet busters of 2011 is at its peak. There are glimmering prospects with Will Campbell taking advantage of a Groupon coupon to the Barwis Boot Camp training. The senior is a story in the making of a senior that finally gets what his place is in the team and becomes a one man tsunami on the defensive line. Craig Roh may also get to show that he saved the best for last.
With all the potential outcomes, I think it will boil down to a Michigan team with some questions on replacing key players and possibly being in a unfortunate position of actually having to deal with the new feeling of having a high bar that came unexpectedly last season. Can Michigan focus on having a whole new year ahead of them with the loss of an “us vs. the world” mentality they used as tacklin fuel last year? Can the holes be filled with the unknown and compete at an equal or even better level? These things will be made perfectly clear September 1st, 2012. I do think it is entirely possible for Michigan to catch a rusty and hungover Alabama team with stellar performances by their own offense and defense and pull a wet dream of an upset. But this is Alabama. Premier, Nikolas Saban at the helm. The man has created a machine that even would make Neo pee a little. It is for this reason of shadowy practices and ESS EEE SEE culture of moral fortitude in following every loophole that allows me to believe that a valiant attempt will come up short to the meat processing plant built in the West Nile infested swamp of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It will however, be the very circumstance in where being wrong is much better than being right.