is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
Brian Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
to Ace, Heiko, Seth
Subject: Re: the draft in which whoever drafts denard wins
I've been enraged by the weird six-round BTN draft that makes no sense and want to do it for our site as a sort of All Big Ten preseason preview gimmick post.
Rules: Inverse snake. Everyone drafts a full team of 11 offensive/defensive players, two kickers, a FB/HB type (assuming 3 WR), and a nickelback. You can move people around within reason (OL, DL, LB) but those moves will be looked upon skeptically by your fellow drafters and viciously attacked when it comes to make a case for your teams. Once the three other players have drafted a position, the last to go must pick the last player at that position within two rounds*.
When we are done we put the thing to a user vote after making our case. Whoever has Denard wins.
*[to prevent QBs going 1st, 2nd, third, and dead last. Example: third tailback off the board is the second pick of the third round. Fourth player does not have to draft a tailback until the fifth round, but must do so.]
I used random.org to set the draft order, which is:
SETH, who will win since he will get Denard
ACE, who does not get Denard
HEIKO, who also does not get Denard
BRIAN, who also does not get Denard
Wait don't I get time to think...?
PICK: Denard Robinson, quarterback, MEEEEESHIGAN
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M)
CURRENT D: [players TBA]
BRIEF EXPLANATION: He can run. He can throw. And you can all eat crow. Not that this requires an explanation but I'll give one anyway: Robinson is a senior quarterback who might also be the Big Ten's best rusher. His passing game has suffered through growing pains of learning various offenses, which is to say the piper's bill has been paid and I get to reap the rewards of a more polished passer who understands many different concepts. The threat of him running opens up everything else, and now he has the experience to exploit everything else. He's a zero academic and personality risk, and the kind of guy you can build everything else upon.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: I'm gonna go giggle for awhile while you guys fight over Rex Burkhead or something.
PICK: Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin
BRIEF EXPLANATION: For starters, Ball tied a record set by Barry Sanders (39 TDs in a season), which doesn't happen every day/year/decade. Everybody knows that Wisconsin is going to line up and hand the ball to, er, Ball, but he still managed to average 6.26 yards per carry last season. He's remarkably consistent: his 109 total yards against South Dakota represented his lowest total in the 2011 season. Also, has not lost a fumble in 617 career touches. If I can't have Denard (*shakes fist in Seth's general direction*), I'll take being able to hand it off to this guy 25 times a game.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Ha, good one.
Current O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU)
Current D: Offense.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Braxton Miller should approach the production of 2010 Denard Robinson. OSU RB Jordan Hall will be iffy the first few games coming off a foot laceration, so Miller is going to have to account for a lot of the ground game because he is the team's other most effective rusher. He's also a quarterback (Dear Jim Bollman:
Surprise!). When he was actually allowed to throw during the most recent spring game, he went 24/31 for 258 yards. That's pretty good for having just a month to learn Urban Meyer's offense. With another fall camp's worth of practice and the luxury of a real defense, staying healthy will be Miller's only obstacle to having a monster season.
Yes I lifted this from 11W.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Shotty Zach Boren.
CURRENT O: Taylor Lewan (LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: With spread quarterbacks I actually want gone I'll go the Tony Gonzalez route and draft the guy with the most relative value left on the board. That's Lewan, the Big Ten's only elite pass protector this year. He also doubles as a donkey-mauling run blocker. He's deflecting NFL draft speculation before his junior year even happens, and he's an offensive lineman. Whoever I get at QB will have a clean blindside all day. And will suck. But whatever.
With the first pick of the second round, I'll grab John Simon, the muscle-bound OSU SDE who's the 2012 version of Mike Martin in terms of interior-ish defensive linemen who will not stay blocked. 17 TFLs a year ago and seven sacks, and he's poised to increase those numbers to the 20 TFL level as he moves from "LEO"—OSU's label for WDE—to the strongside position that's a better fit for him. He doesn't have NFL size but he does show up to work out at approximately the time I'm going to sleep.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Montee Ball is a product of the Wisconsin offensive line and is liable to have five unknown assailants tackle him for loss on any given play. GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AAAAAAAAHHHHH.
PICK: Taylor Martinez, quarterback, Nebraska.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QRB, Nebraska)
CURRENT D: Just you wait.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Whoa whoa whoa WHOA. Did I just draft two quarterbacks? [Pause for effect] Yes I did. But that's not allowed! Yes it is. You said we could move offensive players around within reason, so I'm drafting Martinez as a running back. So what if he had fewer than 1,000 yards as a rusher last season? He's clearly masteredthe art of the halfback pass. 3,000 yards of total offense? Yes, please.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: BWAHAHAHA bet you didn't see that coming.
CURRENT O: James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Montee Ball (RB, UW)
CURRENT D: [Functional equivalent of 2009-10 GERG outfits]
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I planned on going defense with my second pick, but after Heiko's one-man run on quarterbacks I wasn't willing to risk getting stuck with, like, Caleb TerBush. So, the pick is Vandenberg, the B1G's winner by default in the "best pocket passer" category. Aside from Denard, Vandenberg is the conference's returning leader in total offense and passing efficiency, and he also takes care of the football, throwing just seven interceptions in 404 attempts last year. With Ball in the backfield to take care of all the running, that's all I need from a quarterback.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Heiko's next pick will be Matt McGloin, cornerback, Penn State.
Holy hell guys, way to leave me dudes I never planned on getting, thus forcing me to re-think my entire draft strategy for all of three minutes before doing what I meant to do anyway.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (DT, PU), Johnathan Hankins (DT, OSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Running backs and running quarterbacks are flying off the board and I'm leaving the last Big Ten Heisman hopeful in order to make sure none of this so-called "rushing" goes down the middle of my defense. What I've won are the two most likely guys in the conference after John Simon to go in the NFL's first round to be my three-tech and nose tackle, respectively.
Kawaan Short is a Ndamukong Suh-like hell-raiser in the interior who sometimes lines up at end and is only limited by having to suck up doubles all the time. To that end I have given him Johnathan Hankins (damn Archie Collins to a special ring of hell), a true nose tackle who forced Ohio State's opponents to run outside all season. My defensive line is already up to 120 tackles, 27 TFLs, and 8.5 sacks (2011 stats), and I haven't even drafted the ends yet!!!
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Hey boss, I want you to know that I had nothing to do with this conspiracy to make you choose Nathan Scheelhaase as your 4th round pick (you made the rule!). Meanwhile Heiko has selected a QB controversy between two guys I wouldn't want, and Ace seems to be building something that has 4 tight ends.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Well, I had planned on taking a defensive tackle here, but Seth appears determined to recreate Michigan's 2010 offense of Denard left, Denard right, Denard up the middle. Instead, I'll happily settle for Borland, who amassed 143 tackles—19 of them for a loss—from the middle linebacker position in 2011. If my team ends up being comprised mostly of Wisconsin players, I like my chances at winning this thing, if there is indeed any way of winning besides "draft Denard, win" (I'm guessing not).
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Seriously, Heiko, I hear Nathan Scheelhaase is a beast at defensive end.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QRB, UNL), Kyle Prater(WR, NU)
CURRENT D: yawn.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'm at lab, so I don't have a whole lot of time to carefully mull over a decision, but I do know one thing: the B1G doesn't have receivers this season. While Prater is a completely unproven commodity, he is likely to immediately become the most dominant receiver in the conference. Given Northwestern's pass-happy spread (perhaps a little less pass-happy with the departure of Dan Persa), Prater's immediate debut at the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, and his 5-star ranking (which, according to the Mathlete, matters for receivers), what's not to like? Sometimes you have to invest in potential, and this penny stock is about to go Apple on all y'all.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Wisconsin's run defense was crap last year. Also, more than half of Borland's 143 tackles were assisted. They call him a "throwback" because pudgy 5'11 linebackers were last effective circa the Reagan administration. But I hear he's a beast at fullback, which is what you drafted him to be, right?
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, Ill), Taylor Lewan (LT, M)
CURRENT D: DE John Simon (DE, OSU), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Ace, what is going on, man? You could have had your QB on the way back since I'm the only one without one and not forced me to take... ugh... Nathan Scheelhaase in round 4/5. We could have merrily played chicken for round after round. Anyway: I am not that broken up about taking Scheelhaase since he's got good legs and completed 62% of his passes last year and is a third-year starter and... aw, damn my rules DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL.
Obligatory QB out of the way, I'm taking the actual best pass rusher on Michigan State's defense, LB/missile Denicos Allen. Unlike Borland, my 5'11" LB is fast as hell and has the eyepopping stats to prove it: 11 sacks, 18.5 TFLs, multiple frustrating forays directly past the center of the Michigan offensive line. This guy is Larry Foote again, and he was just a sophomore last year.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: I have no snark because I'm shaking my ragefist at Heiko for taking Kyle Prater, who was going to be my secret weapon six rounds from now. And Ace, for forcing me to take Scheelhaase this early, and Seth for getting Denard. I am a defeated man. GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AND AT WLB AAAAAAAAAH.
To be continued whenever Heiko figures out where he's going to put Rob Henry, Kain Colter, and Devin Gardner, Brian stops screaming "NO THROW IT FORWARD" at Scheelhaase, Ace gets the slightest grasp on game theory, and Seth decides his entire team will be fat guys from Ice Hockey.
You don't want to know what I had to do to secure that seat
The media day roundtable session took place just a couple of hours before Denard Robinson delivered his keynote address at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. This meant, unfortunately, that in my half-hour at Denard's table the majority of the questions related to the speech, how he prepared for the speech, his nerves before the speech, his pre-speech nerves compared to his pre-game nerves, Kirk Cousins's speech, and so on.* What follows is my best effort at collecting relevant, non-speech quotes, as the speech did a decent job of speaking for itself.
Was timing something that got sacrificed last year somewhat because you guys were learning a new offense?
I think that did hurt us. Us not having timing, that was a key issue. My footwork, I was thinking so much that my footwork was everywhere; throwing off my back foot was one of the things I messed up a lot on. That’s what I’m trying to change this year, I’ve been doing that [during the] offseason and working on that timing. Now we’re not thinking about the offense because we know the offense and we have confidence in ourselves. We know the offense and now we have the opportunity to have success in the offense.
Was the problem that you were thinking about too many other things last year, especially early?
Yeah, earlier in the season I was still learning the offense, trying to get the basis of the offense. Towards the end of the season, that’s when it started coming along, because I was in the offense enough to know the offense.
MGoQuestion: Compared to last year, now that you’re more comfortable in the offense, do you expect to have more input into the game plan? Will Coach Borges give you more input in terms of which plays to call?
I think so. I think Coach Borges, he’s always open-minded, he always asks, “what do you think about this?” That’s the kind of guy he is. If I don’t feel comfortable doing something, he would ask me if I feel comfortable doing it. That’s just Coach Borges, that’s just his personality, that’s the way he coaches.
MGoQuestion: The offense really seemed to evolve last year as you got more comfortable and as Coach Borges got more familiar with the personnel. How would you say the offense changed over the course of last year, and where are you guys today compared to where you were at before last season?
I think we’re way past what we were before [last season]. We’ve built this chemistry in the offense and we feel confident and comfortable with the offense. When it comes down to making the reads and making the right checks and getting us into the right play, I think we all know how to do it now.
MGoQuestion: Schematically, were there changes that Coach Borges made once he got more familiar with your game and the rest of the offense?
He made little tweaks, but I feel like he made game plans, and whatever he’d feel would be successful, that’s what he used.
MGoQuestion: Do you expect this year to be any more or less involved in the running game than you were last year?
I don’t know, you gotta ask Coach Borges. If you want me to run the ball a hundred-some times a game I’ll run it. Whatever it takes for us to win, that’s what I feel anybody on our team would do.
When you’re watching a defense—let’s say it’s Alabama—what do you look at? When you’re, as a quarterback, studying a defense just casually … what do you look at?
You look at the coverage. I’m a quarterback, so I look at the coverage first. You want to see little hints that they give you, like if there’s a safety coming down, how far is the linebacker up to the umpire, how close the safety is to the umpire—if the safety is right on the umpire he’s probably coming, or he’s got to cover somebody, stuff like that. You might see the corner bail before his time, so you can tell that’s probably a [cover] 3 or 4, something like that. Just looking at what kind of coverage they’re in, if the corner is flat-footed or is he on his toes, little things like that you want to look at.
UNEXPECTED ANSWERS TO CORNY QUESTIONS
Did you ever envision in your wildest dreams ending up where you’re at today?
Oh, man, to be honest with you I didn’t. I didn’t know how far I’d go. I was just telling Kovacs and Taylor last night, in high school I didn’t think I was a D-I athlete, so now I’m here and it’s like it’s all a dream.
You didn’t think you’d be a D-I athlete?
Yeah, in high school I really didn’t. I really didn’t think that until I got my first offer from Florida my junior year.
*I've unearthed exclusive footage of this portion of the roundtable.
Is on the tubes:
[Ed-H: Bump. There, I did it. No more Urban Meyer.]
I got a little busy at work during the winter, and then recruiting magic was happening, and then I figured it was too late for this post. But finally I got a day off, and it's raining, and I've had these screencaps online for 6 months, and I've got literally nothing better to do for a few hours on this sunday. So here is the Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)
That was kind of unexpected. AND AWESOME! It was without a doubt our best game of the year. Heck it was our best game IN YEARS. It was maybe the best team performance since the 1997 PSU game, although I'm probably forgetting some good ones in between.
During the game, I remember thinking the score was pretty close and anything could happen until the turnovers made it a laugher. But after watching it a few times since then, we really did dominate in all phases of the game.
By the end of the 3rd, the stat sheet was pretty one-sided. They really only had 2 great plays all game. (Two plays that I highlighted in the preview post.... so maybe I'm not completely stupid. Still, I did rag on MSU's O-line which gelled pretty strongly by mid-season. ooops.)
Defending the option
Like most of the Michigan fan base, I have huge man crush on Mattison. The things he and his staff are doing, and the performances they're getting from our players are out of this world. I would love to just sit at his feet, follow him around, and absorb as much football knowledge as possible.
If you've accomplished as much as this man, people won't make a big deal out of you using your moobs to signal the playcall. (This GA knowns that peripheral vision is sometimes a weird thing.)
Defending the option is so simple, yet so hard. You need your players to know their assignments and play with decisiveness.Here is Jake Ryan demonstrating the textbook definition of "forcing the pitch".
Nebraska has this play blocked pretty much as you would draw it up. Ryan is the 'optioned' man who is unblocked. Martinez doesn't see the whole open up on the backside, but he's running to where the play is called. He's supposed to read Ryan and "make him wrong".
Jake's first step is lateral as if he's going to squeeze the zone on the slot receiver. But when he sees the option motion coming towards him, he cuts upfield with authority. Martinez reads him correctly, and it looks like this should be a decent gain for the Huskers.
Meanwhile, Mike Martin has beaten his block and is pursuing to stop cutbacks, and the secondary is coming up in run support.
Ryan's change of direction is so fast that Martinez can't get a good pitch off with his left hand. Burkhead managed to fall on the loose ball, but if he hadn't we had two guys coming up quickly and there would have been no way for Martinez to get it with his face planted in the ground. The moral of the story is that one way to defend the option is to make those options keep the ball and get killed, or pitch the ball and get killed.
Another way to stop the option is to get an unexpected defender free. Nebraska comes out in a 4-wide set to try to get a good personnel matchup. But we just stay in our base 4-3 so it doesn't matter when the TE comes down to the line of scrimmage.
Mike Martin explodes through the line and forces the pitch FROM THE BACK SIDE. That's impressive.
Meanwhile, Kovacs is up in run support and all over his assignment as you would expect from a player of his intelligence. He reacts so quickly that the blocker whiffs on him. And the pursuit isn't giving Burkhead anywhere to go.
Getting a 5 yard TFL on first down against your opponent's bread and butter play ... that's a good a thing.
Getting off blocks
One of the stark differences between last year's defense and .... uh ... others... was how well they were getting off blocks and getting to the ball. I don't want to disparage former defensive coaches...BUT the improvement was remarkable.
We're in our zone blitz package with Martin dropping and Demens rushing. Demens gets doubled. That's a pretty big weight disadvantage for him.
So he squares up and gets some arm's length separation from the defenders, one of whom starts looking for someone else to block.
Martinez decides the coverage is too good and thinks he can squirt through that passing lane. But both Demens and Ryan see it, react to it, and clamp down on that hole.
Ryan slaps the ball out. Check out how far away from the ball Van Bergen is. But he's got his head up, he's disengaged from his blocker, and he's pursuing the ball.
One funny bounce later and it's in RVB's hands. Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens. In this case, we were a little lucky because Nebraska had more guys near the ball. But if RVB isn't hustling and getting off his blocker, our chances of getting that ball go from slim to none. So yes, luck plays a part, but I don't believe it's JUST luck or that it will always regress to the mean..
And lets not forget the good hustle and technique which caused the fumble in the first place. Strip that ball!
(The other 85% after the jump)
Pro combat. I have not linked any of the brilliant Pro Combat uniforms being proposed by BHGP yet. Let me correct that error now with the MSU edition:
I'll be on the floor over here trying to breathe for the next twenty minutes. Here's the Michigan edition, which is terrifying in its plausibility.
Down that path we should not tread… RossWB of BHGP takes down the 6-1-1 model currently on offer from the bigger and worser SEC:
There may be reasons to expand -- money, exposure, money, prestige, money -- but short of a radical transformation of college football scheduling (i.e., more conference games, fewer games with money-spinning non-conference patsies) the end result is going to be fewer games against the teams that (for the most part) we've been playing against for a century. Fewer games against the teams that we know, against the teams that we love to hate. The overall advantages of adding Nebraska (probably) outweighed the costs (although I'm still bitter about the damage it's wrought on the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry), but expanding past 12 teams would effectively be splitting the league in two. We'd be two leagues under one roof, with a rich, intertwined, and shared history... but a future that would share little but revenue statements and logos.
I'm done caring about money. No one gets the money. It does not go to players, it mostly comes from fans who are finding out exactly how much they will spend on this stuff, and it's not helping the league in its effort to compete nationally.
Take your annual story about the 26 million dollars that's being distributed, which is up X percent from Y dollars last year, roll it up, and use it to spank yourself. You've been naughty, droid putting out story about X million dollars. None of that money goes to anything other than an ever-expanding cadre of athletic department marketers and facilities for minor sports I'm indifferent to. I don't care if the TV contract is bigger. I do care that they've taken the OSU game and made it a cross-division game because they think maybe they'll get lucky once a decade and get a little more money. Football programs are not publicly traded corporations.
…but Brady says we will anyway. Hoke's opinion of where it's going:
“I think really in about three years you’ll see four super conferences, and I think the Big East will go away and maybe the ACC. But look, I’m just a coach. I don’t know all of it.”
The Big East has essentially already gone away, but I'm not sure how you get to the superconferences in the west. The Pac-12 would need to add Boise State and… then who? It seems like the best shot was annihilating the Big 12, leaving the SEC to pick up some pieces. Now you're talking about truly ludicrous geographic fits or extreme reaches on the part of the Big 12 and Pac-12.
Organizational side note. In the above post, Ross steals a Dawg Sports idea and suggests the Big Ten toss divisions entirely and instead play a schedule featuring three permanent rivalry opponents (Michigan's are MSU, OSU, and Minnesota) and rotate the other five games annually. The obvious problem with that is the NCAA's purposeless regulation dictating that championship games can only occur when your conference has two divisions in which everyone plays a round-robin.
If the Big Ten can work around that, it's interesting. The permanent opponents are not quite equitable—Minnesota's permanent rivals are Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan; Northwestern's are Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue—but it would mean Michigan would see the other opponents 5/8ths of the time (3/4ths if there was a ninth game) instead of the current system of playing some of the teams all of the time and others 40% of the time.
In the end, you cannot solve the problem without more games, as the SEC is finding out now…
So this is what things have come to.
@schadjoe LSU AD Joe Alleva said if Alabama wants to play Tennessee every year it could schedule a non-conference game
I wonder if Missouri’s AD still has the same rosy thoughts about how everyone in the SEC operates with the mindset of what’s in the best interest of the league.
I can’t speak for him, but if I still give a shit about college football in five years, I’ll be amazed.
…your choices are not playing the games, not playing the cupcakes, or coming up with a weird dynamic scheduling system. The guys in charge are going with door #1 because their brains are wired to believe they've got a quarterly report due Tuesday.
A year later, Jim Tressel has no ill will toward Ohio State
In other news, Mike Leach has no ill will towards bears.
This is not fluff? I really thought this article on Michigan's drop-in with the Navy SEALs was going to be fluffy fluff fluff but it's actually a detailed look at what went on that is worth a read. Example:
"Are you a better leader today than you were a year ago?" Harden asked.
About halfway through the players' answers, Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson offered a surprising response.
"I feel like I haven't grown," Robinson said. "For me to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan, I feel like I have to grow up a lot and be a lot more accountable."
Also it seems like Michigan is taking advantage of a soon-to-be-closed loophole here, as Schlabach adds in a sidebar that…
Michigan football officials told ESPN.com that Big Ten Conference compliance officials cleared their football team's recent senior trip to California because it involved leadership and life skills, which is permissible under NCAA rules. The Wolverines paid for the trip through a special fund in the athletics department's operating budget.
…so okay at least some of the money is going towards life skilling the players.
BONUS! The ND series has taken a turn, hasn't it?
Crane, who is from Arizona and served three deployments to Iraq, admitted to the Wolverines that he's a Notre Dame fan.
"Unfortunately, my team is Notre Dame," Crane said. "You guys have hammered them over the years. I'll try not to take it out on you on Friday morning."
should have sent… a poet
You 14-year-olds have no idea how good you have it in re: ND. Not so much with the MSU. There's going to be a point four or five years in the future when the student body has an inexplicably strong hatred of MSU.
UPDATE! I still don't care about 2014 football recruiting.
Wat. Via Midnight Maize, you can own this:
Whatever it is.
Chesson! I'm totally spoiling the surprise on the MGoSleeper of the year by constantly talking about Jehu Chesson, but oh well. Meinke follows up with Chesson in the aftermath of his impressive track performances and gets this quote out of him:
"It could just be a placebo effect, but I feel I can break tackles better because I have a stronger core," he said.
This is an impressive level of introspection from a high school kid, one the other quotes reinforce. Fast, tall, smart, and wears cool shades: good package.
Etc.: The USA took it on the chin from Brazil last night but at least Clint Dempsey's bitch please face is operating at full capacity. A national treasure, Clint Dempsey. Buckeye fan tweets at LTT collected. Nick Saban gets snippy. Graham Watson wonders if bidding out the title game is a bad idea because it's tradition to get ripped off by useless dudes. Les Miles rages against the LSU-Florida crossover game.
Michigan goes into 2012 with the rarest of all birds (recently at least): a senior returning starter at quarterback. Since we can't count half a season from an injured Henne, the last time we saw this senior-type thing under center was the last time a QB wore 16: Navarre. It's been nine years!
History too has been a bit rough on senior QBs. Brady shared much of his last season with Henson. Todd Collins played almost as much as senior Grbac, who took away half of Michael Taylor's seminal season, who nabbed the bulk of Demetrius Brown's last year.
Since Bo's first year Denard is the 14th senior starter at Michigan. The other 13, by stats:
I'll save you some of the suspense: those are good efficiencies. And when that starter wasn't dinged it made for awesome seasons. Even counting '07, over these 13 seasons Michigan went 127-26-3, went to Pasadena 7 times (plus an Orange and Sugar and no bowl one year when Michigan finished 3rd overall), finished in the Top 10 of the Associated Press 11 times (avg finish: 7th), and won a National Championship. Small sample size and whatnot, but special years do seem to follow the seniors around.
Let's all shake our fists at: Chad Henne shoulder-hating god. Three shakes!
You also probably already figured that since players generally improve year to year, that senior quarterbacks are best. What I'm looking at here is whether there's maybe something about being a senior, whether its age, or whether that mythical senior tag has some weight. To the charts!
Click embiggens. The mythical senior tag didn't seem to do anything except as a function of experience. When broken up by age it wasn't any different than when broken up by how many passes he threw before coming. What age does seem to do is reduce variance. Look at the grouping of 5th year seniors (light blue). There's not enough data here to make a conclusion but I am intrigued by this concept of 5th year players producing no worse than a rating
A better way to decide if age or class means anything at all would be to use the Mathlete's database. Mathlete: you should do this some day: chart year to year improvement of quarterbacks and see what the progression curve looks like. What I'm doing here is just working with Bentley numbers for Michigan quarterbacks, since at least for these guys I can trust we know most of the exigent circumstances behind different swings. Just pulling returning starters and major contributors. In: John Navarre's 77 attempts in 2000, Tate Forcier's 84 attempts in 2010. Out: Drew Henson's 47 attempts in 1998. Show things:
|Year||Avg. Eff Change||Denard|
Denard's freshman to sophomore leap was high, not unheard of. Rick Leach leapt a ludicrous 76.1 points in efficiency between his freshman and sophomore years, a matter of going from 32% completions and 3 TDs to 12 interceptions to 47.6% completion rating and a 13/8 TD/INT ratio. Michael Taylor made a leap similar to Denard's between his Junior and Senior seasons (first and second as at least a part-time starter). Drew Henson, Jim Harbaugh and Demetrius Brown also had huge leaps forward as juniors. If you're smelling a trend, these were all guys who to varying degrees considered "mobile" quarterbacks.
The way efficiency is wired, a shift in TD/INT ratio, a shift in completion %, and a shift in yards per attempt. Big chart of returning passers (either starters or guys who got a significant amount of playing time the year before) so we can see if any one of these factors might stand out. Bolding numbers that I think made the difference:
|1976||Rick Leach, So||105||+5||+15.6%||+10/-4||+2.5||151.1||+76.1|
|2000||Drew Henson, Jr||237||+147||+9.4%||+15/+2||+3.0||159.4||+49.6|
|1985||Jim Harbaugh, Jr*||227||+116||+9.8%||+15/+1||+2.2||157.9||+49.6|
|1988||Demetrius Brown, Jr*||84||-84||+9.5%||-5/-16||+1.8||158.2||+45.5|
|1991||Elvis Grbac, Jr*||254||-12||+6.7%||+4/-4||+1.0||161.7||+24.5|
|1989||Michael Taylor, Sr*||121||-1||-1.1%||+6/-1||+1.1||161.2||+22.8|
|1974||Dennis Franklin, Sr||104||+37||+2.0%||+4/0||+1.0||146.9||+21.4|
|1996||Brian Griese, Jr*||61||-177||+4.0%||-10/-8||+1.8||137.7||+19.0|
|2006||Chad Henne, Jr||328||-54||+3.5%||-1/0||+1.0||143.4||+13.8|
|2003||John Navarre, Sr*||456||+8||+3.9%||+3/+3||+0.8||133.6||+11.4|
|1999||Tom Brady, Sr*||341||-9||+1.6%||+5/-6||+0.1||142.3||+10.6|
|1978||Rick Leach, Sr||158||-16||-2.4%||+2/-3||+0.4||145.5||+10.6|
|1993||Todd Collins, Jr*||296||+195||-1.5%||+10/+4||+1.6||149.3||+9.4|
|1973||Dennis Franklin, Jr||67||-56||+5.8%||-2/+3||+1.3||125.5||+8.8|
|2002||John Navarre, Jr*||448||+63||+1.6%||+2/-6||+0.2||122.2||+5.7|
|1970||Don Moorhead, Sr||190||-20||-1.4%||+2/-1||+0.1||105.0||+4.6|
|1996||Scott Dreisbach, So*||269||+163||+2.6%||+9/-6||-0.5||126.7||+2.8|
|1997||Brian Griese, Sr*||307||+246||+5.5%||+14/+4||-0.9||140.0||+2.3|
|2010||Tate Forcier, So||84||-197||+5.6%||-9/-6||-0.2||130.2||+2.0|
|1982||Steve Smith, Jr||227||+17||+5.8%||-1/+2||-0.3||125.1||-0.6|
|1983||Steve Smith, Sr||205||-22||-0.3%||-1/-5||-0.7||123.0||-2.1|
|2005||Chad Henne, So||382||-17||-1.8%||-2/-4||-0.3||129.6||-3.0|
|1990||Elvis Grbac, So*||266||+150||-4.7%||-8/+6||+0.1||137.2||-3.0|
|1994||Todd Collins, Sr*||288||-8||+0.7%||-3/+4||+0.3||146.0||-3.3|
|1986||Jim Harbaugh, Sr*||277||+50||+1.1%||-8/+5||+1.1||151.7||-6.2|
|2011||Denard Robinson, Jr||258||-33||-7.5%||+2/+4||-0.4||139.7||-9.8|
|1992||Elvis Grbac, Sr*||199||-55||-0.1%||-8/+6||+0.0||150.2||-11.5|
|2007||Chad Henne, Sr||278||-50||-3.6%||-5/+1||-0.7||130.5||-12.8|
|1977||Rick Leach, Jr||174||+69||+4.1%||+2/+1||-1.5||134.9||-16.2|
|1980||John Wangler, Sr*||212||+82||-4.8%||+8/+2||-3.8||131.9||-30.1|
|2001||John Navarre, So*||385||+308||+1.8%||+11/+12||-1.2||116.4||-30.8|
Bolded things of note: If I bolded the name or the amount of attempts you can just discount that guy since his year to year stats are thrown off by a huge difference in his role, e.g. John Navarre went from a guy who murdered MAC teams to full-time Big Ten passer who chucked things in the direction of Marquise Walker. Rick Leach basically learned how to pass a football (to his teammates). Henson and Harbaugh had matching junior leaps as they grew from leggy guy who might throw to polished passers.
Demetrius Brown had his numbers saved by Bo halving the amount of pass plays and going full-tilt option. Tom Brady stopped had a major turnaround in TD/INT as a senior, while Todd Collins and Jim Harbaugh went the other way. Johnny Wangler looks to have suffered (EDIT: was this when Carter injured? This is before my time.) his senior season, as YPA dropped terribly and completion suffered a little. I'm not sure Grbac's TD-INT ration can be explained by the similar loss of Desmond Howard—it's possible Dez's Heisman campaign simply separated itself from two similar yet pedestrian seasons.
What does this all mean for Denard? Most of the seniors touched up their games. Most had their big leaps as juniors, but I should point out of the 13 guys to make the biggest one-year leaps, 8 of them were redshirt juniors or seniors, i.e. Denard's age. Also working for him is running the same offense that he did last year. The transition ultimately came more to him than the other way around, though, so don't expect miracles. Working against him will be the loss of his favorite target, and the effective replacement of a tight end for a second back, which isn't always great for the passing game. Unless a deep threat emerges from the unknowns in the receiver corps, expect his YPA avg. to dip again, with a corresponding rise in completion % (something most seniors seemed to have done). I'd also venture Denard will cut down further on his interception and probably get his TDs up the same as Michigan's mite-y backs and receivers score more with screens. +4/-4 would be excellent. Meanwhile the team will win 10 games, place in the Top 10, and end the season in Pasadena, because that's what Michigan senior quarterbacks do.