"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Kellen Jones M bowtie FTW.
Improving the not LOI. Compliance people complain to each other on twitter about people who abbreviate the "National Letter of Intent" as "LOI" instead of "NLI." Apparently there are other LOIs. You have been warned.
In any case they should be heavily reformed. Right now they're one-way binds with silly timing that have created a cottage industry of kids who attempt to reserve their spot by being "committed, but open." Paul Johnson's opinion of this is similar to Artur Boruc's about corn:
What I’d like to see happen, but I’m probably by myself: if you have 85 scholarships, and you can sign 25 a year or however many you have. When they commit, they sign the papers and you stop. It would stop all the verbal commitments and all the hats. The guys who weren’t ready wouldn’t commit. You’d call their bluff. They couldn’t make their reservation. We’ll talk to kids all the time, juniors right now, who are committing. We’ll say ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’
“Oh coach, I’m open.”
[HT: Get The Picture.]
I'm not really sure what the argument against early signing is. The way it's set up now everyone scrambles to get their class locked in on Signing Day, so someone like FL WR AJ King who has his scholarship pulled by Purdue is in a tough spot in his attempt to find a landing place. If he was signed, he'd be signed and hijinks both ways would be seriously reduced.
The Bylaw Blog has a few other suggestions, one of which I've made in this space before: the NCAA should implement a "no contact" agreement. That piece of paper would be non-binding but would allow the school specified by the player to contact the kid without restriction… and make it a violation for anyone else to. Official visits would also be off the table. That's a verbal commitment that actually exists and would help coaches figure out who's serious and who's just making a backup plan.
Heart-hurting. Remember that video of the Detroit Renaissance coach declaring Michigan's treatment of former Ren players "hurt his heart," thus explaining why Michigan couldn't get anyone out of there no matter what? Raise your hand if you're surprised that Ren's Lawrence Thomas recited the entire negative recruiting playbook:
"Why not Michigan? They had problems. There were some past experiences with other Renaissance players that I didn't like. Plus, Rich Rodriguez sent an assistant to our school to recruit me. He wouldn't even send the defensive coordinator, just an assistant. Then we'd hear that Rich Rod would be in Florida recruiting."
The Renaissance players were Andre Criswell, a last-second addition at FB who never saw the field and was kept on as a GA after leaving the team before his fifth year, and Carson Butler, the insane tight end who finally ran out of chances towards the end of Rodriguez's first year. Butler was treated so badly he stuck up for Rodriguez during the jihad. Michigan did as well by those kids as they could given the latter's hatred of nerds, be they in the wrong dorm room or playing for Notre Dame.
So… this was not a situation likely to produce a commitment even if Rodriguez showed up with every assistant he had, and one that would likely have continued under Hoke. Similarly, when Taiwan Jones complains about a lack of attention from Michigan during his visit to the UConn game he's complaining as a guy who had been a MSU commit for months already and who Michigan never even considered offering.
This continues the theme from these Blue Chip articles in the News since the beginning of time: Michigan commits asked about State say something short, polite and vague, State commits asked about Michigan rant about a lack of respect, and the guys towards the bottom of the list submit a tear-stained questionnaire because neither school thought they were good enough. This will happen next year, and the year after, and so on and so forth.
Adventures in re-evaluating wins. So… how about not losing to Iowa by twenty points? Yeah, got a whole new sheen on it today, that does.
I mention it by way of inserting this "Fran-graph" from BHGP:
Michigan's at the top and you can see the extreme focus on the rim or the three point line in Michigan's field goals. BHGP's Horace E Cow explains:
In men's basketball in the NCAA this year, players have made 34.5% of threes and 48.2% of twos. The average value, then, of a three-point attempt is 3*.345 = 1.04, and the average of a two is 2*.482 = .964. This fact has led many college (and pro) coaches to the reasonable conclusion that three-point shots are better bets than two-point shots, and that their teams should take as many threes as possible (Todd Lickliter was one of these coaches, actually).
Not all twos are worth less than threes, though: shots at the rim are usually made at a very high percentage (60-70%) and thus the average dunk or lay-up is worth 1.2-1.4 points, much more than the average three. Putting these two facts together (threes are better than most twos, but dunks are better than threes), coaches have developed what could be called a "hollowing-out" strategy on offense: threes and dunks are encouraged, anything in between in discouraged.
My first experience with this line of thinking was watching some Kentucky game back in the day when Pitino was coaching them and hearing the announcer go on about how Pitino loathed shots just inside the arc. Beilein's system is the logical extension of that thinking. Michigan's makes against Iowa: 14 threes, nine layups/dunks, and ten anything else.
If you can get it to work it's great, and it's not a strategy that seems to have a ceiling. One of this year's other proponents of the dunk-or-deep strategy is #1 and current opponent Ohio State. Because they have Jared Sullinger they aren't launching as many threes but both their 2PT% and 3PT% are off the charts—they're in the top ten in both nationally. They've got four guys who take a large volume of two-point shots, and two of them are shooting a Jordan-Morgan-like 59%. Ohio State's distribution isn't quite as extreme but it's essentially the same thing.
The slight difference between the programs is the ability to recruit Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas every damn year.
180 update. Media 180, Signing Day edition:
- Brady Hoke's first recruiting class looks like unqualified success
- Brady Hoke earns first win as U-M head coach — in recruiting
- Brady Hoke's first recruiting class adds toughness to Michigan football team
And I'm not even looking at the Free Press, which remains dead to me. I can only imagine the tiny drawings of angels.
I like the one that says there's more toughness now. That's definitely true. Being not tough was the problem, not the secondary being old enough to drive only if they all stood on each other's shoulders in a huge trenchcoat. Also that's the same guy who wrote about the "impossible expectations" driving Tate Forcier away. Pete Bigelow needs to make up his mind about toughness.
[Disclaimer section: Hoke did an okay job, but nothing that should push opinions either way. Not going into the year down eight kids is good. Losing Willingham to Central Florida(!?!?) is pretty wack, but being in a position to say that's wack is impressive since Michigan was nowhere with that kid before Mattison showed up. Losing Jake Fisher makes the tackle depth chart terrifying. I also don't understand telling Rivals 250 receiver Devin Lucien, a guy who was seriously looking at Stanford and silently committed to Rodriguez during The Process because he liked Michigan's academics, "defense or GTFO." Even if you don't want Hakeem Flowers, Michigan had room for another five players and has no receivers in this class.
Meanwhile, most of the guys picked up were of the low-hanging fruit variety: guys who were committed to Indiana or Minnesota or Vandy and didn't have a ton of other confirmed Big Ten options (Heitzman, Carter, Taylor, Bellomy) or guys who had been openly coveting Michigan offers (Poole, Rawls, Taylor again) but didn't get them until later. TX TE Chris Barnett is the exception.
This class is a wait-and-see sort of thing. We won't know if these late pickups were players RR and other Big Ten schools misevaluated or warm bodies for a while, and we won't know about Hoke's recruiting prowess until the 2012 commits start rolling in and he's competing against Ohio State. Not that Rodriguez won many battles against OSU.
On the other hand, a quarter of the class won't fail to show up or wash out by the end of spring like the last RR class so that's cool. Snatching Frank Clark away from MSU despite his existence in close proximity to Ted Ginn is promising. Also: kicker. Hoke uber alles.]
Etc.: Thomas Rawls may be a member of the Jackson family. The awkward Hoke-Rodriguez video. Going back to the 4-3. Michigan finishes 21st in the Rivals rankings. Hoke's got 8 years before the deck stacks against him significantly. Don't play the Hoke "toughness" drinking game. Nutt greyshirt hijinks.
Grant Wiley, Dee McCann, Quincy Wilson
So MGoUser fab5 found a West Virginia blog called Couch Fire Sports that had an interview with former WVU linebacker Grant Wiley—a totally unvarnished interview. The blog's managed to land almost a dozen of these interviews with former athletes and they're… blunt. A section of cornerback Dee McCann's interview:
CFS: Was WVU your first experiance with mass amounts of “white girls”?
DM: Yes it was, and I had fun.
CFS: Is it true you knocked out a younger star recruit at Hardees and sent him straight to Divison 2 ball over a very cute female athlete?
DM: NO COMMENT, Hahahaha. NO COMMENT !!!
These things have a zero BS rating, and a lot of them talk about Rich Rodriguez. The results follow.
Dee McCann [CB, JUCO, 2004-2005]:
CFS: How were the practices in the NFL compared to thoughs of Rich Fraud? Did he have you practice to many hours also?
DM: The practice hours were about the same but Coach Rods practice was more high tempo but he prepare me for the next level. …
CFS: If you could tell Rich Fraud one thing it would be … Hey Coach …
DM: THANKS FOR EVERYTHING.
Anthony Mims [CB, 2000-2005]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light being shed on WVU by Ex Coach Rich Rodriguez?
AM: I think it’s some BS, but not mainly on Rods part, but the NCAA. Those “violations” can be seen at any other school in the country.
CFS: If you talked to Coach Rod on the phone, you would say … Hey Coach ….
AM: I’d wish him luck on the upcoming season and thank him for everything he’s done for me.
Quincy Wilson [RB, 1999-2004]:
CFS: So is Rich Rod a dick? What are your thoughts?
QW: The whole Coach Rod thing was handled wrong on both ends. I never had a problem with Coach Rod. I think if you want to leave then fine will find a coach that bleeds blue and gold like Coach Stew.
CFS: What are your thoughts on the Super Bowl Shuffle?
QW: one of the classiest songs ever.
Vaughn Rivers [CB, 2003-2007]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light that is shed upon WVU with all the Rich Rodriguez drama?
VR: Alot of propaganda you know alot of behind the scenes issues the public really never knew about. Some things that never get brought to light but the loyalty of the West Virginia faithful is incomparable and I can also understand their feelings of betrayal.
CFS: If you talked to Coach Rod on the phone, what would you have to say to him? Hey Coach …
VR: I would tell him as I always have and always do, thank you for the opportunity you gave me and the work ethic you installed in us.
John Pennington [walk-on WR, 2000-2003]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light Rich Rodriguez has brought upon WVU with the investigations?
JP: I know Bill Stewart will do a great job handling the situation and I hope we can turn it into a positive.
Finally, Grant Wiley [LB, 2000-2003] wrote paragraphs and paragraphs, too many to replicate here. Here's a chunk:
Couch Fire Sports: First impressions of Rich Rod?
Grant Wiley: … Michigan players, fans, and alumni need to stop crying like a bunch of babies and turn on the 2007 Mountaineers so they can see their future.
I remember coming back to school after the Music City Bowl, on crutches, for our first meeting with Rich. I didn’t research him or read any of the papers so I really had no idea what to expect. I wouldn’t have known that I was Big East Rookie of the Year hadn’t it been for the trophy I was presented with. So Rich introduced the staff and very adamantly told us we were going to play like our hair was on fire or not play at all. From the start he was re-instilling the discipline I feel we needed at the time. The meeting ended and typically people were overreacting, trying to find their exit strategy, and a lot of guys were just ready to take that next step to win, coming off of destroying another SEC team.
Rich pulls me into his office and breaks me down like this. “Grant, you had a good year, and I think you are a good player. You didn’t really have to work for your position, it was kind of handed to you.” At the time I wanted to tell him to go fuck himself, but I knew what I went through to start as a freshman and the work I put in to be the best linebacker in the country. So I didn’t over react, I just took it as more motivation to prove this guy I was the best. Maybe that is what his objective was to begin with.
Wiley's "one knock" on RR was his lack of "truly genuine relationships" with the players he didn't recruit. Wiley says he's sure that's changed, but the transition at Michigan suggests it hasn't.
A second question about whether he'd rather play for RR or Bill Stewart has this section:
I loved the fact that Coach Rod’s in your face attitude was being embodied by guys I played with that naturally didn’t have that attitude, so in the end they were better players because of it. I mean the proof is in the pudding. Coach Rod wins games. No matter where he goes, he is going to win games. Coach Stew has been winning games as well. But, I don’t see the same attitude out on the field, offensively, as when Rich was in charge. You can teach technique until your blue in the face but if you don’t have that killer inside come out when you play, you won’t stand a chance.
You should probably read the whole thing; it's more insight into Rich Rodriguez's philosophy and program in a few paragraphs than we've gotten since his hire.
BONUS UNEXPECTED BEILEIN HATE. One basketball player who experienced the John Beilein era was interviewed, Drew Schiflino:
CFS – If you and Coach Beilein had a phone conversation how would it go, Hey Coach ….
DS – Hey coach you’re so fake and the biggest asshole ever, karmas a bitch … CLICK.
That's like… hanging up the phone, right? Not pulling a trigger?
UPDATE: should note that Schiflino was kicked off the team before his senior year. You could probably find some WVU football guys who did not complete their careers with unkind words for RR, too.
More meta UFR stuff. Biological fun fact: because of Chris Chelios, Mike Comrie, and my loose affiliation with the Wings due to a childhood spent in then hockey-free Colorado, I migrated my NHL fandom to the Edmonton Oilers a while back. How's that working out? Just fantastic, thanks.
One of the compensations of following the sort of team that would sign 70-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year deal without giving him a physical is that the blogging community around the team is spectacularly good. I've read Lowetide and MC79 for years and have just stumbled on the SBNation Oilers blog. It has a post called "Groupthink, Confirmation Bias, Hockey Fans And Microstats." I put in in the feed reader three times.
Anyway, here's UFR motivation in a nutshell:
In the world of sports fans, confirmation biases abound. It's impossible for individual fans to record, catalog, process, analyze and interpret the results of hundreds of independent events occurring constantly throughout a game, but it's much easier to pick out those events and sequences of events that support their conclusions. Any hockey fan that has sat silently shaking their head while the crowd piles on an undeserving player recognizes this immediately. It's a powerful psychological force, especially in a setting like sports. Fans can confirm their biases for themselves and immediately fall back on thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of fellow fans to confirm what they already know.
It seems that the Michigan fan's groupthink these days has been pretty accurate. Most of the people who have come in for internet horsewhippings have subsequently fluttered in and out of the lineup (Mike Williams, JT Floyd, Obi Ezeh, Jonas Mouton, Dorrestein/Huyge platoon) or been moved to less terrifying spots for their athleticism (Kovacs). Even so, it's nice to have UFRs around for when it's unjustified, like when Steve Breaston was getting killed for dropping about the same number of balls as any other receiver on the team.
And yes, I will UFR the Ohio State game, probably about a week after spring practice finishes up.
Right, I forgot about the pablum. So Da'Sean Butler suffered an ugly ACL tear in his Final Four game against Duke and then had that uncomfortable moment with Huggins.
But before that he said a bunch of nice things about Beilein:
"Everybody has to buy in, and you have to get the right people," Butler said, referring to Beilein's offense, which requires discipline and precise shooting. "You've got to get the absolute right people for that system, because if you have even one person that doesn't understand or doesn't care to understand, a cancer on the team of some sort, then it can throw everything off, honestly.
"The system works. That's the best system I've ever been part of in my life as far as just running an offense. It suited me so well. I think everybody kind of gets into, you've got to get all these five-star and whatever recruits, and for him, you just need to find the right players who can obviously make shots, but who will work hard. And if you find that right group, and not like prima donnas, it could be a very good system."
I guess that's nice but I bet the "whole lot of nothing" quote Butler dropped a few days ago resulted in a sharp thwack on the head and a reminder to never say anything that could be construed as not wildly positive. On the other hand, Huggins is still running Beilein's 1-3-1 regularly. That does seem meaningful.
Might be time for another "eeee" tag. Yes, more David Brandon hype ahoy:
“I don’t put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on any one year, but clearly this year was a year we hoped for better and certainly lost a little bit of momentum in terms of our improvement,” Brandon said. “But that doesn’t detract from my belief that going forward we can regain that momentum, and our program is going to get bigger and better and stronger when we get those practice facilities in, and we do some things that will afford us to be able to recruit a little more aggressively. It’s going to help both those programs a lot."
He manages to strike a balance between acknowledging things have been disappointing and offer public support of his coaches in response to the machine-gunned "when can we fire this guy?" questions he appears to field 24/7.
That comes from an article that focuses on the future of the basketball program with a couple of Brandon quotes that give an indication of what the U has planned for Crisler:
“We need wider concourses, we need more restrooms, we need better amenities in terms of food service and service opportunities for our fans,” Brandon said. “We need to re-seat the bowl, think differently about the kind of seating that we use and probably put in some kind of club-seating opportunities to give special experiences to people who are willing to take advantage of those.
“Probably come up with a different game plan as to where we put the media and just how we professionalize that arena.”
Emphasis mine. That sort of talk would be an anethma about Michigan Stadium—though it is basically undergoing the same process—but is welcome in reference to Crisler, which is what you'd get if you took Joe Louis Arena and turned off half the lights. If Brandon can fulfill his goal of having the broadcaster who declared Crisler one of the worst in the country return to eat crow*, Michigan's facilities renovations will be essentially complete. The last thing to do would be another Yost renovation that brought in video boards and some other things.
*(This has to be Bilas, right? I imagine this happened during one of his many defenses of Tommy Amaker.)
This was a Malcolm in the Middle plot. MVictors has detailed Michigan's tumultuous 1909 on his blog and in HTTV, and now we have a postscript thanks to mgouser and extremely unusual person Alaska Hokie. Michigan QB Joy Miller was the Demar Dorsey of his day, except with academic laziness (the classes: he had none) substituting for juvenile robberies. He was eventually booted from the team and ended up cleaning pots for a horrible woman in Alaska. Or something close to that:
QUARTER BACK LOSES HIS MIND
Famous Football Player on the Wolverine Team is Located at Walla Walla Working as Laborer.
HIS MIND IS TOTAL BLANK
Disappeared Months Ago From His Home and All Trace of Him Has Up to the Present Been Lost.
WALLA WALLA, March 19.—James Miller, the famous quarterback of the Michigan team last year, who has been missing from his home for several months, was located in this city yesterday working as a laborer. His mind is a total blank and he is quite unable to recognize his friends. He was elected to the captaincy of the Wolverine team for next season.
The end. It was Washington, but same difference.
Man-for-man, his isn't the most talented offense in the conference, but given the close-to-the-sweatervest approach at Ohio State and widespread inexperience at Penn State, I'd put my money on MSU leading the conference in scoring at a little over 30 points per game. Just like last year, though, part of that will be out of necessity, to overcome the growing pains of a pair of new and/or ineffective cornerbacks, specifically, and a back seven in general that just doesn't have the horses to seriously contend for the conference title or one of the floating BCS slots. Assuming the offensive line holds up, though, the passing game will have a few eye-popping afternoons, and a Gator or Outback Bowl bid likely awaits after a borderline top-25 finish in the neighborhood of 8-4.
That is not within a game or two of .500, which will be its undoing. Spartan .500 gravity is one of the universe's most powerful forces.
Etc.: Devin Gardner is walking around campus in a sling. He's still practicing, though. Canadian hockey writer/broadcaster person Bob McKenzie sent his son to St. Lawrence to play college hockey. The younger McKenzie has just played out his eligibility, causing the elder to post on his experience with college hockey. Browser-crippling version of Inside Michigan Football #3 up.