Michigan needs to fill another offensive coaching position. Per multiple reports Tyrone Wheatley Sr. has accepted the Jaguars running backs coach job—yes the one where he gets to spend all day with Denard Robinson ahh now you understand! Here’s Rapoport, who had it earlier than most:
As the #Jaguars wait for an OC, they have hired Tyrone Wheatley as the team's running backs coach.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 17, 2017
Wheatley coached with new Jags HC Doug Marrone at Syracuse and followed Marrone to the NFL’s Bills in 2013 and 2014. When Marrone parted ways with Buffalo Michigan scooped up their old running back star, signing Wheatley to a two-year contract. It was assumed at the time that Wheatley would leave after that if a better job came along.
Returning to the League probably does help Ty move forward with his career, since it’s been no secret that Wheatley would like to eventually run a unit or a team. If running backs coach for Jacksonville’s NFL team seems like a lateral move to Michigan fans, it’s probably not as much to NFL GMs. With no OC signed as of yet, it’s also possible Wheatley could be more involved in the offense there than he was at Michigan.
One of Michigan’s best recruiters (he departs ranked 7th nationally on the 247 recruiter rankings) and a living legend in his own right from his playing days, it’s a loss for Michigan, if not an entirely unexpected one: Wheatley was recently interviewing for the Western Michigan head coaching job. For many reasons—former Michigan star, Denard, expanding Harbaugh coaching tree, universally acknowledged good person—we wish him the greatest success.
Running backs coach is reputedly easier to replace that most positions, though recent experience in Ann Arbor demonstrates the importance of a good one. Mike Hart, who’s served as running backs coach at EMU and WMU and is currently in that role at Syracuse could be one candidate. Thomas Wilcher, the longtime head coach of Cass Tech, is also available. Harbaugh might even look at someone who isn’t a former Michigan running back. His track record says whoever it is will be good.
Per Adam Schefter, Michigan has its Jedd Fisch replacement, and it's a doozy:
Former Browns Asst HC Pep Hamilton had accepted an offer to become Michigan's Asst HC/passing coordinator, per school source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2017
Like Fisch, Hamilton has been a college and NFL offensive coordinator. Unlike Fisch, he is leaving his current job of his own volition, probably because it's the Browns.
In 2011 and 2012 he was David Shaw's offensive coordinator at Stanford; the Cardinal finished 8th and 29th in S&P+. (That second year was post-Luck, FWIW.) After 2012 he followed Luck to Indianapolis, where he was the OC for three years. The Colts finished 13th, 17th, and then imploded thanks to a spate of Andrew Luck injuries and poor play when he was available. Hamilton was fired midseason in what was widely regarded as a Jed York-esque scapegoating. Hamilton was well-regarded around the league just a few months before he got the axe.
That's a pretty good resume for a coordinator; Hamilton is coming in as a co-co-coordinator. Meanwhile any QB coaching issues that may be inferred from Luck's terrible no-good 2015 should be obviated by his head coach. Also he might make a good head coach candidate when Harbaugh leaves for the Rams. (Did the Rams already hire a coach? Does it matter?)
Michigan is in the market for a new offensive assistant. FoxSports's Bruce Feldman reports that passing game coordinator and QB/WR coach Jedd Fisch will be UCLA's next offensive coordinator.
It was only a matter of time before Fisch climbed the ladder. He joined Jim Harbaugh's first Michigan staff after a two-year stint as offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Due in part to circumstances beyond his control, he's never spent more than two years at the same job since 2007, when he finished off a three-year assistant stint with Baltimore before working his way up the coaching ranks with the Denver Broncos, Minnesota (B1G), Seattle Seahawks, Miami (YTM), and Jacksonville.
Harbaugh will have some flexibility with his next hire because of his ability to handle the quarterbacks himself if need be. He could look for someone from his coaching tree; Greg Roman, Harbaugh's offensive coordinator for the 49ers who's looking for a new gig after an abbreviated stint in Buffalo, is already being put out there as a potential candidate, though his specialties (OL and TE) overlap with Tim Drevno's. If Harbaugh desires a more passing-oriented coach, he could go for a coach without a previous connection to him; that worked out rather well when he took Fisch two years ago.
Fisch played a big role in Jake Rudock's remarkable in-season development in 2015 and had plenty of input as a playcaller the last two seasons. We'll always have "good shit, Jedd":
Fisch will now get to work with a potential #1 draft pick in UCLA QB Josh Rosen. Best of luck to him.
So this happened. This is going to get out of control.
@Thatboylid80 lol don't start with this hammer shit
— David Dawson (@DamanteDawson) October 9, 2016
I'm warning you to brace yourselves for how out of hand this is going to get.
Y'all give bro @Thatboylid80 a name he gone run with it lmao he just yelled downstairs that he's the hammering panda
— David Dawson (@DamanteDawson) October 9, 2016
This is where we got involved.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) October 9, 2016
And then Smoothitron from the top rope:
— Abraham May (@Smoothitron) October 9, 2016
I hope you lashed yourself to the deck before reading this collection of tweets.
A coaching carousel on deck. At the midway point of the season it's looking like this could be an interesting December:
- Les Miles is already gone from LSU.
- Brian Kelly is 2-4 at Notre Dame, is definitely losing to a service academy, and is unlikely to make a bowl.
- Charlie Strong is running out of rope at Texas, now 2-3 and 0-2 in the Big Twelve while playing horrendous defense.
- Baylor still needs a long-term coach.
- Oregon is 0-3 in the Pac 12 and may be thinking about pulling the trigger on Mark Helfrich.
- Both LA schools have two conference losses already and sit at 3-3; wholesale collapse from one or the other isn't out of the question.
All of these schools will be pitching Tom Herman, and either all but one or all of them will end up disappointed. Once you get past Herman, up and coming candidates include... uh. Harbaugh acolyte Willie Taggart's turned USF around, PJ Fleck's itching to move up for anyone who's a boat enthusiast, and that's about it. Gonna be some weird guys getting head coaching jobs at major schools this offseason.
The situation in East Lansing. It's not good if you're a Spartan fan, but you're not no matter how much you're scouring the RCMB for hilarity and then emailing me when Google naturally responds by popping up MSU ads on this here site. (You know who you are. You are legion.) So it is good.
Bill Connelly had a deep dive into the decline from a team that was technically invited to the playoff to one that S&P+ currently has at 20% to make a bowl game. I jokingly referenced it in the game column but it deserves some actually attention. The problems in approximate order of severity:
- The OL is a "sieve." This has led to some ugly rushing stats ("85th in Rushing S&P+, 101st in rushing success rate, only 18 rushes of 10-plus yards (119th)") despite having LJ Scott, who I continue to believe is the truth. It is also getting Tyler O'Connor sacked a ton.
- The DL is a nonentity, deep into the triple digits in sack rate and largely responsible for a rushing S&P+ that is just as bad as their offenses's. This was predictable to some extent since MSU took not one but two grad transfers on the DL in an effort to shore up their line after Craig Evans and Montez Sweat got booted.
- It's an old team not likely to have a midseason turnaround as the youth gets their heads on straight.
The numbers figure to get a bunch worse next week, when S&P+ finishes whittling away the preseason projections that still make up a portion of their rankings. Without those projections MSU, currently 60th, would be 84th. Even now S&P+ has Michigan a 25-point favorite(!!!) on the road in East Lansing.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the season?
A couple more things about MSU. Their depth chart this week features an OR between their top three QBs. Also, instagram sleuthing by iSportsDave seems to indicate that Riley Bullough is out for the season. Or possibly another one of their linebackers.
Weekly fancystats love us update. Michigan is now 85%+ to win each game before OSU and an 18-point favorite against Iowa, the toughest remaining game before Football Armageddon II. S&P+ sees that as a dead heat, with OSU getting a slight edge because the Game is in Columbus.
In other S&P superlatives, Michigan is #1 nationally in:
- field position
- opponent success rate (at 19% Michigan is giving up less than half the number of successful plays than an average D-I D)
- points per trip allowed once the opposition gets inside the 40
- rushing defense, rushing success rate, and adjusted line yards
- passing defense, passing success rate, and adjusted sack rate
- standard down D, success rate, and line yards per carry
- passing down D (they're top five in every other passing down category but not #1, shame)
- third down D
- havoc rate
The D is on pace to be historically good.
Ross Fulton on OSU's (relative) struggles against Indiana. OSU still won comfortably, but under 400 yards against a hurry-up team like IU is a sign that the Buckeyes are indeed mortal. Ross Fulton examines why that was so:
The simplest explanation for Ohio State’s passing problems was that J.T. Barrett was off. ... As he admitted after the game, he again refused to take the open underneath routes. For instance, below he does not get the ball to Curtis Samuel out of his break.
He instead tried to force mid-range passes. But such throws were often late and with too much velocity, leading to inaccuracy high and outside. ... The game became reminiscent of other contests where Barrett was off, such as Penn State in 2014 or Michigan State last year, when Barrett missed open deep throws. As Meyer reiterated in his Monday press conference, Ohio State’s offense is based upon running the football and hitting vertical shots off play-action. Without such completions, opponent safeties can play aggressively downhill, resulting in a lower rushing success rate and a less efficient offense.
Things went from bad to worse last year because Barrett was decidedly not off, hitting two heavily contested bombs. Even so, if Michigan can put the game on his passing chops their chance to win goes up a great deal.
Perspective. The Rutgers game continues to generate thinkpieces, like this one from Inside NU:
The Romans at the Battle of Cannae, for example, were outsmarted and then completely destroyed by Hannibal’s Carthaginians. Rome’s armies took a full decade to recover. At the English victory over the French in the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, the entire French army fell apart and the French king was captured. Significant parts of France would remain under English rule for nearly a century.
Michigan 78, Rutgers 0 is worse than any of that. At least the French could claim that they brought an army to Poitiers. At least the Romans can take pride in the fact they had a plan whatsoever, even if it was incredibly dumb. Rutgers could not do anything. It was immobilized through lack of competence. The closest historical comparison is the Battle of Ulm, in which Napoleon was able to capture a huge Austrian army simply through highly skilled movement over the course of three days. And even then, it’s hard to compare. It took Michigan three hours.
Yes, it's a very Northwestern piece. I can't wait for The Only Colors to write one through the lens of the greatest Jerry Springer episodes they've seen or participated in.
NLRB is coming at the NCAA again. With the O'Bannon case now finished with no clear victory either way, but the NCAA did take hit as an antitrust violator. The National Labor Relations Board has now handed down a ruling that refers to football players as employees and bans certain practices:
In an unprecedented foray into college sports, the National Labor Relations Board has declared that Northwestern University must eliminate "unlawful" rules governing football players and allow them greater freedom to express themselves. The ruling, which referred to players as employees, found that they must be freely allowed to post on social media, discuss issues of their health and safety, and speak with the media.
The new rules apply to the football programs at the 17 private universities that play in the FBS, including schools such as Notre Dame, Stanford and Baylor -- but not public universities.
This is not a big thing right now but might open the door to more seismic items.
(HT: Get The Picture.)
Long-time reader, second time emailer. I sent you a fake inspirational poster featuring Tate Forcier when those were still things. You used it. Good times.
I have the following mailbag questions:
1. With the departure of Durkin, Baxter, Jackson, et. al, do you see the revolving door continuing for assistant coaches? I don't have a problem with it because HARBAUGH and it means they are poach worthy. What about Drevno? He seems unlikely to leave anytime soon. I guess my question is: how much of the offense is Harbaugh, and how much is Drevno/Fisch? Would there be a big change if one of the latter left? Butt's comments about not having to learn a new offense this year were nice to hear just for continuity's sake.
This offseason's turnover was a bit extreme. Maryland hiring Durkin after one year as a defensive coordinator actually in charge of his defense—at Florida he was under Will Muschamp—was unexpected. I figured we'd get a 3-5 year run from him before he was established enough to make the jump. Losing Baxter and Jackson is actually more of a worry for me. Baxter went back to California, which is understandable if you're sawft because you've spent your time in that climate. Jackson may have decided he's more of an NFL guy.
Harbaugh seemed to make a conscious decision to reduce staff turnover with his picks for replacements. College DC lifer Don Brown is past the point where he'd be a head coach candidate; Chris Partridge and Brian Smith are young guys moving up who will probably stick around a while before any potential bump to quasi-co-psuedo associate head coach and run defense coordinator. Michigan's defensive assistants should be set for a few years, with a Mattison retirement the next likely swap.
On the other side of the ball it's murkier. It's Harbaugh's offense, of that there is no doubt. Coordinators on the same side of the ball as a heavily involved guru head coach often take a significant amount of seasoning before they are targeted for a move up the ladder. (See: Pat Narduzzi.) Drevno had not been a full OC prior to the Michigan move and has been with Harbaugh for a long time; he doesn't seem like a threat to depart for a few years yet, and when and if he does it'll be because Michigan's offense is shredding opponents.
Meanwhile Fisch is set to negotiate an extension that should bump his salary up significantly after a buyout year when Michigan was more or less paying the Jaguars. He seemed to get on with the staff and clearly had OC-type input in the passing game…
"good shit, Jedd" pic.twitter.com/6LKlSnY7Qp
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) October 6, 2015
…so I wouldn't expect him to leave for anything short of a full OC spot. That may very well happen—before he was cursed to work in the mines of Jacksonville he had a pretty good run at Miami—but I think he'll be around for a while yet.
The guy to watch for a departure is Tyrone Wheatley, who has ambitions to be a head coach. He has a powerful motivation to stick around for four more years; after that I would not be surprised to see him look for an OC spot no matter where it is.
2. What about Chesson for the #1 jersey? Has that been officially retired? If so, I don't remember hearing much about it. I can't remember a better candidate in recent years than him.
#1 is not retired and shouldn't be. Devin Funchess just wore it, remember? The fact that this guy didn't remember that and I wrote most of this response before remembering that an NFL player wore #1 two years ago is… Brady Hoke, man.
Anyway: no retiring more numbers please. #21 getting retired is kind of a bummer, man, and I can't imagine #1 or #2 goes by the wayside for practical (running out of numbers) and recruiting (here's Charles Woodson's number) reasons. But I don't expect Chesson to take it. He is in a pretty famous WR number (86) already and he doesn't seem like the type of guy to care much either way.
Beilein status, part 1
Hey Brian. I see you trying to walk the line of criticizing U-M basketball while not calling for Beilein's head. Here's the issue to me...
it's easy to compare Beilein to what came before and say look at his improvement. But the "fire Beilein" says "Well, that's not good enough." The better comparison isn't to what came before but to what would come after. What are the odds of replacing Beilein with someone who runs a clean program, fits culturally with the university, and achieves more success on the court? I put it at about 10%. That's not a chance worth taking for someone who may be marginally better. But the only thing that would satisfy these guys is if we were dominating the Big Ten. So then you need to consider the odds of getting the coach who runs a clean program, fits in culturally and consistently out-performs Izzo, Crean, et al. I put those odds under 1%.
So it's a shame that Beilein isn't a slightly better coach than he is, but Michigan's biggest obstacle is that our rivals' programs are just consistently too good.
I mean, yeah. I think we're all pretty disappointed where the program is right now but that's largely an artifact of Beilein's insane level of success over the three years from 2012-14, which went
- Big Ten Title
- National Championship Game
- Outright Big Ten Title & Elite Eight
Frankly I didn't expect that level of performance from Beilein when he was hired. I just wanted to make the tournament most of the time and Pittsnogle some higher seeds. Take that expectation and remove the team's star for consecutive years and this is what you get.
That said, the trend here, especially on defense, is alarming. It's not really about the level of the program, it's about the direction of the arrow. If Beilein's projected performance going forward is the average of his Michigan career minus his first year (which I think we can issue a mulligan for given the state of the roster) then yes, it will be very difficult for Michigan to match or exceed that. If it's the last two years, even considering Levert's injury, then the pool of candidates who can expect to match or do better expands considerably.
I don't think that's clear yet. I do think we're going to see an offseason shakeup and hopefully a defensive specialist brought in. I am still resigned to the fact that Beilein's peak is likely to have already passed and that we'll probably be gunning for a Sweet 16 or two before he retires, not a title.
[After THE JUMP: more Beilein feelingsball, PWO pickin', can the Big Ten replicate the Harbaugh model?]
Former Gilman (MD) head coach Biff Poggi seemed to be moving on to another high school head coaching gig after an odd parting of the ways from his long-time post, but Sam Webb reported last night that Michigan had found a role for him after all:
Biff Poggi has been brought on as the assistant head coach in charge of special projects.
Poggi is of course the father of Henry; Michigan recruited Stephen Spanellis from Gilman last year and had Devery Hamilton committed for a while until a sudden Stanford flip.
Poggi may just be passing through; in January he told the Baltimore Sun he had a job offer from Michigan but that his staff would be relocating to St. Frances and that Poggi would likely return to high school coaching in the future:
Turner said someone from the Gilman staff would be the head coach in the fall. He also said he expects Poggi to return to Baltimore to take over the program at some point.
FWIW, Gilman has QB Kasim Hill in the 2017 class. He has a Michigan offer and is considering M, but there are a couple of obvious complicating factors in Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey. No doubt MSU fans will fly off the handle about this anyway.