so much for that
via the always brilliant Prevail and Ride. Warning: cartoon genitalia ahead.
Should the Late Carr Malaise be re-evaluated in light of the fact that USC and Ohio State were cheating on epic scales?
The Horror, 2007 Oregon and 2005 Minnesota still happened, of course. But 2003 and 2006 might look very different to us if USC and OSU hadn’t been quite so stacked—in which case we might see 2005 and 2007 as off years rather than symptoms of a systematic decline.
Yours in Michigan Football Historiography,
Possibly? It's impossible to tell how much of an advantage Ohio State got with its Tats For Everyone program and USC got with its Look, Snoop Dogg(!) program, and the list of knocks against Lloyd Carr's career gets a lot shorter if you remove "could not beat USC or Jim Tressel" from the list.
Carr might be regarded on par with Bo today if he'd flipped some scores in USC Rose Bowls and 2006's Football Armageddon, during which Troy Smith torched Morgan Trent. Troy Smith got a wrist-slap for taking 500 bucks, but given what we know now it seems improbable that was all he did. If he was in the supplemental draft, Michigan plays for a national title with Jake Long and a bizarre dominance of Florida instead of still-drunk-from-last-night Alex Boone and a paralyzing fear of the SEC.
However, while Carr's career might have been truly legendary without Cheatypants Sweatervest and Pete Carroll tag-teaming the NCAA rule book, the degradation at the tail end of his career wouldn't have changed. No one did The Horror to Michigan except Michigan; no one else lost that bumper crop of instate talent and left the program with six offensive linemen and only one primadonna itching to leave between Michigan and total quarterback implosion; no one else provided Michigan zero plausible in-house options in a program that evidently needed one.
HOWEVA HOWEVA, a hypothetical win in one of those Rose Bowls or Football Armageddon might have avoided that fate because it would have caused Carr to retire earlier, avoiding a good chunk of the nastiness comprising the last four years. Sans cheating, Carr probably has two or three more wins that swing public opinion of him from solid B+ to Bo 2.0.
I was having a facebook conversation with a guy I played football with in high school. He played at a moderately successful IA school from a non-BCS conference, and made the comment that "this goes on at every big-time school." It's important to note that he is NOT any kind of an OSU fan, and that when he said "big-time" it was to note that it didn't happen at his school. Now if "this" means the ebay and the tattoos, I don't really care too much. But if "this" refers to raiding the equipment room and the improper benefits, than I'd like to step off my high horse.
I know he's not really in a position to know, and I know neither are you - but please speculate for me. When the Reggie Bush thing broke, everybody said "well that's how USC dominated." When the Cam Newton thing broke, it was "that's how the SEC dominates." Not it's Ohio, and people say the same thing. But at the same time - Rich Rodriguez did convince an awful lot of people from the south to come to Michigan. Most southerners I know bristle when they hear the word "Michigan" just because of the thought of cold. Maurice Clarett and Terrelle Pryor both took official visits to Michigan. Am I just being paranoid when I get nervous about Brady Hoke kicking butt at recruiting?
I say that we just had NCAA investigators pore over our program, brick by brick. I say that similar scandals to the tattoo scandal broke with AJ Green and at UNC without it implicating the institutions as a whole. But I can't help but be a little nervous - do we have anything to worry about? Do all the "big boys" do this kind of thing?
I think the eBay thing in general has started talk about reforming college sports scholarships and restrictions on activities. But if the shadier parts, of agents and boosters, is widespread - if all the major programs have their own Ed Martin - then can college sports as we know it continue to exist as we pretend it does?
Sorry for the long email - please tell me there are no monsters under the bed.
I can't flat out say "there are no monsters under the bed" after the Jihad. During that I repeatedly assured everyone that Michigan's compliance was Serious Business that would have all this stuff amply documented. Instead we got a lot of emails from Ann Vollano to Brad Labadie and zero in return. Things can break down; what we saw during the Jihad was a broken system that needed a revamp. It could have exposed Michigan to something serious if they had recruited a 6'6" sociopath instead of the world's nicest cheetah strapped to a jet engine and pushed out of a plane.
HOWEVA, in the aftermath a large number of people lost their jobs (or sought other opportunities or whatever other euphemism you would prefer—I like "succumbed to gumball addiction"). With Michigan on probation and Dave Brandon acting as new sheriff* things are on lockdown right now as they're ever going to be. When things are on lockdown the worst thing that happens is some kid does something wrong with some agent and gets suspended a la Marcus Ray or AJ Green. (I'm not so sure UNC is going to get off with just their suspensions, FWIW. Wasn't John Blake in some serious dirt?)
As to your larger point, no, I don't think This Happens Everywhere. That Texas walk-on's story demonstrates there are places that are serious about compliance. Here's beloved MGoStoryteller CRex with a local example:
As someone who once helped a football player fix his car, Michigan compliance was so far up my ass there was a blue lot in my lower colon and I almost got my own blue bus stop. The player bought the tie rods and I did the labor since I knew how and had the tools. He paid me for my time in beer and pizza. Compliance jumped all over this and figured out the hourly rate for a mechanic was greater than the cost of the beer and pizza, thus he still owed me money. I attempted to lowball my time estimate for doing the job, they talked to a real mechanic and got the official time estimate for tie rod replacement. They were also unimpressed by the fact I helped all my friends fix their cars in exchange for beer and pizza. So they basically stood over him while he wrote me a check for what they demanded the difference was. They also made him pay my uncle who let us use the lift in his garage.
I tossed the check aside and figured "I might cash this if he gets drafted, maybe". Someone though noticed the money never came out of his account and started calling me about cashing the damn check. This was old school Carr era though.
The next time I worked on his car I sarcastically sent them an invoice (six page writeup for helping him replace two brake pads) "for their records", they crosschecked all my time estimates and sent me back an approval letter and a genuine thank you for the paper...
While it's impossible to prevent local restaurants from giving players extra chicken wings or free cover, there is a level of shadiness that can be effectively regulated. A debate about whether amateurism is ethical is outside the scope of my brain right now because I'm so happy I'm not wearing pants.
*[While it's obvious I'm ambivalent about Brandon these days what with the whole creeping advertisements, night game uniformz, and failure to put Special K's head on a pike two minutes after taking the job, the way he handled the NCAA investigation both during and after is a huge, huge positive. Our athletic director may suffer a curly fries mascot in Michigan Stadium and refer to the department as "I" but…
…it could be so much worse.
Also, video replay in Yost.]
How does Tresselgate (and rumors of systemic NCAA violations) compare to the Fab Five fiasco in terms of sheer magnitude, and in terms of discredit they bring to the university in question?
They're pretty similar. In both you have guys taking extra benefits from guys who may or may not technically be boosters, and in both the violations stretch over some years with multiple players. (With way fewer players on scholarship, four basketball players is approximately equal to the 28 Buckeyes SI say are trading stuff for tats.)
The major differences:
- Tressel lied to the NCAA multiple times; Fisher didn't.
- Michigan fired Fisher immediately and without regret, then went into their Day Of Great Shame routine. Ohio State tried to convince everyone this was worthy of a two game suspension.
- Ohio State had plenty of warning in the public eye from the Clarett accusations and the Smith handshake. Michigan had never brushed up against similar allegations.
I'm guessing Tatgate will be worse from an NCAA standpoint. In the end, Michigan got one year of postseason ban and a one scholarship penalty for four years. If Ohio State gets off with the equivalent they'll be skipping and everyone will be outraged. From a program standpoint, it won't be as bad because Ohio State isn't going to hire Brian Ellerbe. From a shame standpoint, probably worse since at least Michigan didn't go around pretending everything was cool.
State turdstorm UPDATE! Yesterday Eleven Warriors graciously posted that Maurice Clarett might be a troubled weirdo who tried to take down Ohio State after he got the boot, but at least he's a trying troubled weirdo and he's not all bad. This is a level of understanding I do not have with Tractor Traylor even after the guy died tragically.
11W's reward for this understanding is to have Ray Small go MoCo:
"We have apartments, car notes," he said. "So you got things like that and you look around and you're like, ‘Well I got (four) of them, I can sell one or two and get some money to pay this rent."
The wheeling and dealing didn't stop with rings. The best deals came from car dealerships, Small said.
"It was definitely the deals on the cars. I don't see why it's a big deal," said Small, who identified Jack Maxton Chevrolet as the players' main resource.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on May 7 that OSU was investigating more than 50 transactions between OSU athletes and their families and Jack Maxton Chevrolet or Auto Direct.
Representatives for Jack Maxton Chevrolet did not return repeated requests for comment.
NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from benefiting from the sale of their merchandise. Small said he wasn't the only one.
"They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody," Small said, "cause everybody was doing it."
Man… Ray Small. That guy was in trouble from day one at OSU, threw regular public hissy-fits about it, and he wasn't even that good at football. If I was an Ohio State fan he would be in my circle of the damned. Their term for this rapidly expanding category that includes Kirk Herbstreit and (to the truly deranged) Chris Spielman is "Fake Buckeye."
You can add Mark "Club Trillion" Titus to that list after he posted there was definitely something "shady" going on with football players' cars, then followed it up with a rebuttal saying that he shouldn't get death threats because that's mean. Titus claims the shadiness was to the point where most students knew or should have known what was going on.
Meanwhile, the local news station is investigating the Gibson thing and while that transaction continues to get more complicated it's not getting proportionally more explicable:
10 Investigates [sic] found that Gibson had a trade-in. He traded in a 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that BMV records showed he bought for $15,400 just seven months earlier.
But the dealership may have given him only $1,000 toward the trade-in, [instead] dropping the sales price of the car he was buying by a substantial amount.
10 Investigates [sic] has learned that's what Kniffin has told investigators with the BMV.
The trade-in business materializes as predicted; an explanation for how Thad Gibson scraped together enough money to buy two cars worth a total of 30k in less than a year is yet to be explained. Along The Oletangy responds to the investigation apparently clearing the transactions:
In any case, it doesn't matter what the BMV finds when they analyze Jack Maxton Chevrolet's tax forms as long as no special treatment was given to Ohio State football players.
It's obvious plenty of special treatment was provided, but where is the smoking gun?
Position paper on demolition of Ohio State program and whether it is good or bad. If Ohio State was going to fall apart by Notre Daming themselves with a series of coaching hires ranging from questionable to insane, that would be a thing to be conflicted about in the same way certain Ohio State fans are bored with a terrible Michigan team they're just going to blow out.
This is a different thing entirely since it suggests the fence Tressel legendarily put up around Ohio's borders is one based on massive NCAA noncompliance. Meanwhile, thanks in part to this (and in part to Michigan imploding) they've gone 9-1 and turned the Big Ten into their personal playground. If the NCAA finds proof of this massive noncompliance and OSU gets bombed into the stone age and is no longer any good, there's no conflict there. It's an unadulterated good. Michigan has been hypersensitive about this stuff since the Ed Martin Day Of Great Shame, and it's obvious their main rival hasn't. Putting that on even footing will help put the rivalry there if it doesn't swing it all the way back to the Cooper days, which fine by me.
Hot under the collar, part II. ESPN's Mike Fish, you may remember from the above-referenced Maurice Clarett bombing, has a new article. This is the header image:
Africa basketball charity, AAU player headed to Indiana, Tom Crean, Indiana AAU coach. This can't be good. Not pictured: involuntary adoption. Hooray Beilein.
Hey let's rehash this again. MZone noticed that I hadn't mentioned Lloyd Carr's election to the College Football Hall of Fame and asks why I hate Lloyd Carr, complete with requisite psychoanalysis and link to me being mad in the immediate aftermath of the Hoke hire when everyone was mad, something I've obviously backed away from in multiple column-length pieces since.
To defend myself: I don't take the CFHOF seriously. It just elected Deion Sanders. When Tom Curtis was elected it warranted about two sentences. For better or worse, I am totally uninterested in the charity work of rich people. I've also said my bit about Carr as Michigan's coach over and over again. Contrary to two-bit psychoanalysis it was not negative, or at least it was far less negative than many.
And I am pissed off at the hostility to change that's obvious every time any former Carr player says something about anything. We've got a program of Joe Morgans. I'm worried how that will manifest itself on the field. It's not hard to draw a contrast between what's gone down the last three years and what would have gone down if Bo was still around. Bo would have been on the warpath; he probably would have dropped by to scream at Rodriguez some. The impression we've gotten from every one of Carr's former players is that there is exactly one person responsible for Michigan's decline—Rich Rodriguez—and not only is that incorrect (Horror, DeBord, Tressel vs Carr) but it's detrimental to Michigan's future. If we got back to the days where every bowl opponent laughs at how predictable we are that will not be good.
(I don't think that's happening because Borges is a real live offensive coordinator and not a broken robot that only calls zone left. Hoke uber alles.)
Eyerolling reorg. Adam Wodon on the inevitable hockey realignment coming sounds like anyone talking about anything last year when talking about conference realignment:
It all starts with Notre Dame. (Well, it all started with Penn State and the Big Ten, but that's already happened.) Think about it — you're Notre Dame's president. Your sports teams all play in the Big East, or, in the case of football, is the most storied program in college sports. You fire up CHN's iPhone app one morning to check the hockey standings, and what do you see? You see Notre Dame competing against some MAC and D-II schools. You recoil. This is not what Notre Dame does. This is not what Notre Dame is.
That is not a knock on the other schools, it's just reality. There is no way that Notre Dame is staying put. That means that the CCHA is certain to lose its remaining powerhouse (from an institutional, NCAA-wide standpoint), and fall further to seven teams. That means the CCHA is in trouble, as a whole.
Maybe Wodon's got some inside chatter on this that he's refusing to mention in an effort to make his column as annoyingly speculative as possible, but this is the impetus for an elaborate reorganization scenario that sees Notre Dame move to Hockey East because they'd rather play Merrimack (seriously) than Ferris State.
Notre Dame is choosing between some games against BC and then a bunch of schools no one at Notre Dame has heard of plus flying for literally every road game and staying in the CCHA. While ND has money, are they going to spend it on that for no real benefit? And will Hockey East expand to an eleven teams just for the dubious benefits of having ND in the conference? Travel costs matter in hockey, the longest season in the NCAA, and no one is going to make enough money on an ND move to justify the increased costs even if "this is not what Notre Dame does." Yeesh.
So of course it didn't work out. This piece on the rise of the spread offense comes in anticipation of tonight's spread-mad national title game and recommended by Herb Hand, a branch of the Rich Rodriguez coaching tree. In it Rodriguez is approvingly cited multiple times:
Kelly constantly visited other staffs, including Clemson, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Oregon and West Virginia. When Kelly visited West Virginia, he was most intrigued by the speed of Rodriguez's offense, Hand said.
When Hand was at Tulsa a couple years ago and watched film of a future opponent playing New Hampshire, he immediately noticed the West Virginia tempo.
"You cannot relent on the tempo," Hand said. "When you first install some of this stuff, you've got to understand it's going to be very ugly early. We used to say you have to coach in short verbal blasts.
"It's not like you're going to have 35 seconds to make your point. The execution is eventually going to catch up to the speed. Now, when you combine the tempo with the execution, then it's a beautiful thing. That's where Chip and Gus are at."
And we're where we are. I think Rodriguez did have to go after the bowl game but that was with the assumption Jim Harbaugh would be the next coach. With our current situation leaning towards either Les Miles or the guy who thinks zone running is insufficient for the needs of MANBALL, I wonder how many Michigan fans are having firer's remorse as they watch the recruiting class disintegrate and Michigan seemingly poised for plan C at best. It's not like Brandon had any good options after the bowl game, but whatever this is seems like the worst possible outcome.
Michigan will have to be more patient with whoever the new guy is than they were with Rodriguez if they want to get out of the massive hole they continue to dig themselves. Hiring a spread guy to continue the transition they've started seems like the best approach—possibly a reason why Miles and his flexibility with offensive styles would be preferable to Hoke.
Part of that rift has been the alienation former players have felt from the football program. Rueben Riley, an offensive lineman from 2003 to 2006 who later played three years in the NFL, said former players have not been included in the program as they have been in the past.
“When I was around, you’d see guys like Hutch (Steve Hutchinson) come back and talk, (Gary) Moeller come back, and you could just see their passion,” he said.
“For a coach to have Lloyd Carr on campus and never have him back to talk to the team? That’s unbelievable to me.”
That is unbelievable. Almost as unbelievable as Michigan's head football coach coming under constant assault and getting nothing more than a single tepid statement of support from Carr over the course of his tenure, or various former Carr players badgering Brandon to fire Rodriguez on a near-weekly basis, or Mike Barwis's testimonial page having quotes from dozens of Michigan athletes who didn't play for Rodriguez, some of whom (like Jack Johnson) didn't even play football. Feeling "disconnected" from Michigan football is the flip side of Carr-era players largely treating Rodriguez like crap.
But wait, there's more!
Shea said it rubbed him the wrong way when Rodriguez disregarded the team’s traditional offense and installed the spread upon his arrival. He’d like to see the next coach return to running the football, playing stout defense and employing a fullback.
“And multiple tight ends,” he said.
“I think the most important thing, whoever it is, I want a guy that understands what Big Ten football is,” he said. “That’s the criteria, along with knowing the pressure that the job entails.”
This is the genesis of all the Hoke stuff, no?
Hockey bits. Michigan split with Michigan State last over the weekend thanks to a combination of stupid penalties and terrible refereeing that saw Michigan end up down 5-on-3 twice late, with State converting both times against Shawn Hunwick. Michigan's erratic offense got a few goals on Saturday and that played out much like the Big Chill did.
Just past the halfway mark it's time to start looking at RPI and the Pairwise—though the latter should be taken lightly given how much jitter it has. Michigan finds itself in a solid position, seventh in the PWR and eighth in RPI. Shockingly, if the season ended today Western Michigan(!) would probably make the tourney at 14th. With the dissolution of the CHA there's only one small-conference autoo-bid and the ECAC actually has some respect in the PWR this year so it's unlikely more than one autobid results in a team that otherwise wouldn't make it. Perpetual HE bottom-feeder Merrimack is also tenuously in the tournament, and Yale is far and away the #1 overall seed at the moment. Weird year.
Michigan also filled in another hole in its 2011 recruiting class by adding forward Phil Di Giuseppe from the Villanova Knights of the OJHL—the same league that sent Brandon Burlon and Louie Caporusso to Michigan. Yost Built has a recruiting profile on him; he's got a 14-30-45 line in 36 games and is the third-leading scorer on his team. The two guys in front of him are three years older, though, so he's obviously the best prospect his team has. He's the league's leading scorer in his age bracket. Here's Di Giuseppe throwing down:
Di Giuseppe's about a month too young for the upcoming draft so he's not on the CSB radar yet. It's hard to tell how big of a land this is for Michigan as a result. His coach provides a little scouting report:
"He is very coachable and more than willing to take advice from others," said Baker. "Phil is a very offensively gifted hockey player his speed and stick skills are second to none. He has made major improvements this year in his defensive play."
At the very least Di Giuseppe sounds like a scoring line type, though maybe not right away.
Goldilocks. If 113k was silly and 85k equally so, then this number—the final one—for Big Chill attendance seems just right:
Resolution to the attendance drama per Sara Wilcox at Guinness World Records PR: “Final number is: 104,073”
And lo, it shall stand for all time unless Michigan does this again at some point.
Etc.: Perry Dorrestein may have a gig waiting for him at the Milwaukee police department. Maize 'n' Brew spends a lot of time fisking Michael Rosenberg, which like… what's the point? Section 1 will love it, at least.
2007: The Disaster
I was scanning some message board or another and came across a statement about the '07 recruiting class and how it was dooming Michigan this year, so I took a look. The conclusion: holy pants, what a disaster. Here they are by position group they'd are or would be playing on this year's team, with available players bolded.
QB: Ryan Mallett is doing well… at Arkansas.
RB: Vince Helmuth transferred to Miami(Not That Miami), where he has zero carries. Avery Horn left school and was at Reedley CC in California last year. He's not there this year, but he's not anywhere else, either.
WR: Junior Hemingway is a starter. Zion Babb landed at a JUCO after getting the boot and was supposed to transfer to Colorado but didn't make it. Toney Clemons did make it to CU; he's their second-leading receiver with 18 catches for 219 yards.
OL: David Molk is going to be a four-year starter. Mark Huyge is the first guy off the bench at either tackle position and started all of last year.
TE: Martell Webb is a co-starter with Kevin Koger and has been a four-year contributor but not a star.
DL: Ryan Van Bergen is an above-average Big Ten player. Renaldo Sagesse is a backup who gets spot snaps. Steve Watson moved from TE to DE and is this year's David Cone.
LB: JUCO Austin Panter is out of eligibility. Marell Evans transferred to I-AA Hampton. Brandon Herron is Craig Roh's backup when he's healthy.
DB: James Rogers is a very bad starter. Donovan Warren was a multi-year starter who made a bad decision to leave for the NFL. Michael Williams is buried on the depth chart and headed for a medical hardship because of concussions. Artis Chambers transferred to Ball State but is not on the roster. Troy Woolfolk's ankle exploded.
Total contributors from the redshirt junior/senior class
WR: 1, Hemingway.
OL: 2, Molk and Huyge.
TE: 1, Webb.
DL: 2, Van Bergen and Sagesse.
LB: 1, Herron.
DB: 1, Rogers. (Woolfolk was a success but would displace Rogers from this list if healthy.)
Of the guys who are gone, exactly two contribute to a I-A team: Mallett and Clemons. That's like six genuinely good football players out of 20 (Mallett, Hemingway, Molk, RVB, Warren, Woolfolk). That is not a successful recruiting class.
2008: The Divide
2008, divided into Rodriguez and Carr sections. JT Floyd and Brandon Smith committed post-RR but had Michigan as their leader for so long before that they are categorized as Carr guys. The two decommits aren't considered, but Wienke is a third-stringer at Iowa and TE Christian Wilson has eight catches in his career at UNC.
The Rodriguez dossier
QB: Justin "Win At All Costs" Feagin got in trouble and is gone.
RB: Michael Shaw is probably the starting tailback if healthy.
WR: Terrence Robinson is a marginal contributor. Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree are productive starters when healthy.
OL: Patrick Omameh is starting as a redshirt sophomore. Ricky Barnum is the primary backup at guard and should be a two-year starter.
LB: Taylor Hill transferred two weeks after arriving. He is a productive player at I-AA Youngstown State.
Six of eight guys are still around with five of them looking like successes, pending Barnum moving into the lineup next year.
The Carr dossier
RB: Mike Cox is fourth string behind Shaw and younger folks. Sam McGuffie got concussed three times in his freshman year and transferred to Rice, where he's their leading rusher.
WR: Darryl Stonum is a starter.
TE: Kevin Koger is a co-starter with Webb; Brandon Moore is still on the team but has not seen meaningful snaps.
OL: Dann O'Neill transferred to WMU, where he is a starter. Kurt Wermers transferred to Ball State after flunking out and complaining about how RR was bringing in people who "weren't his kind of crowd." Rocko Khoury is Molk's backup and did okay against Iowa. Elliot Mealer looks like a career backup at guard.
DL: Mike Martin is awesome.
LB: Marcus Witherspoon never enrolled because of a Clearinghouse issue. Kenny Demens just got his first start and looked pretty good. JB Fitzgerald has been buried behind Mouton and then Roh.
DB: Brandon Smith was too slow to play DB, didn't want to play linebacker, transferred to Temple, and promptly washed out. Boubacar Cissoko got pulled from the starting lineup for performance reasons, was kicked off the team, and saw his life spiral out of control. JT Floyd is in the starting lineup by necessity.
Ten of sixteen guys are still around with… uh. Stonum, Koger, and Martin are obvious successes. Demens and Floyd are contributors. Fitzgerald, Cox, Moore, Khoury and Mealer are looking like either career backups or meh senior starters on par with Greg Banks, though in Khoury's case he's locked behind a very good player.
This isn't a Yet Another Defense Of Rich Rodriguez post, it's Yet Another Roster Implosion Explanation post. (All right: some of both.)
In retrospect the #12 2007 class was overrated. Vastly so.
At the time the line was about the two hyped five stars and the "high upside" guys behind them who were underrated by the services and so forth and so on. The two five stars mostly lived up to that hype, but Mallett did it at Arkansas because of the coaching transition* and Warren took off for the NFL because he thought he was still that good. Meanwhile, the high upside guys mostly can't play football. Even if everyone from the class was still around Michigan would be suffering. Save Mallett, no one who left would see the field. Maybe Artis Chambers would provide some help in the secondary, but he moved to linebacker before his transfer and washed out at Ball State—it's hard to see him displacing Kovacs.
It should have been obvious that recruiting was going in the toilet when Michigan made two desperate reaches at linebacker, grabbing a JUCO guy and a two-star with one other offer(Temple), then made a desperate reach to get a second offensive lineman in the class. But three different groups are proving that subscription models can work on the internet because hope is impervious to reason.
Michigan bounced back in 2008, but a lot of that was the late Rodriguez additions. One man's listing of the top ten recruits in that class, Rodriguez guys bolded:
- Mike Martin
- Patrick Omameh
- Roy Roundtree
- Martavious Odoms
- Kevin Koger
- Michael Shaw
- Darryl Stonum
- Kenny Demens
- Ricky Barnum
- Rocko Khoury
RR's strike rate on 2008 recruits was considerably higher than Carr's, as Michigan seemed like a magnet for overrated guys. Witherspoon, Cissoko, Smith, O'Neill, McGuffie, Fitzgerald, Moore, and Stonum have all under-performed relative to expectations, with only Martin exceeding them. You can make a case that coaching has something to do with it but I believe evaluations are a major factor. From time to time a guy who knows an NFL scout relays his impressions (this year's theme: "Michigan has nothing on defense except for Martin. Who is this Rogers guy?") and from day one this guy said O'Neill was way too stiff and would not work out. Similarly, it's hard to imagine just what position Brandon Smith was going to play in the Big Ten.
Class of 2008 departures who might see the field this year are… well… Cissoko? Definite nos: Wermers, O'Neill, Feagin. Very probable nos: Hill (OLB; would not beat out Mouton or Roh), Witherspoon (could not find the field at Rutgers and washed out), and Smith (like Cam Gordon except worse).
So. Michigan's 2007 class was a disaster and attrition from it did not matter save Warren's early NFL entry. The two thirds of Michigan's 2008 class acquired by Carr was appreciably better but still not so good; Rodriguez's late additions brought it up to something approximating an average Michigan recruiting class when it comes to on-field success.
(By the way: Rodriguez's second class is looking divergent as hell. Massive nuclear strikes at QB and OL, yet another disaster of a DB class—Witty, Emilien, and Turner are all gone and Mike Jones is a linebacker.)
This one goes to thirteen because we aren't dead yet. Again, a combination of overall impact with a heavy emphasis on how awesome that moment was—if eligible the Donovan goal against Algeria would be the perfect candidate. #13 is admittedly valedictory.
Michigan State, 2007: Mike Hart scoops up a Mallett fumble and conjures a first down from air.
If Mike Hart did anything other than run for thousands of yards at Michigan it was pick up blitzers on the most famous Michigan plays of the decade. There weren't any Mike Hart runs on this list because the guy always got caught from behind and Michigan's offense was set up to get its big plays from the passing game for the duration of his tenure, but Hart will block on three of the top four. This had to be rectified, but how? There was that eight yard run against Penn State, but that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It was in the first half, for one.
How about this rescue instead?
This may be the most Mike Hart play of Mike Hart's career. Ryan Mallett's come in the game for one play after Chad Henne limped off, and Mallett does what he always did, which was fumble. Michigan's about to be facing a second and forever even if they get the ball back when Hart pops out of the pack, ball in hand. He then jukes one Spartan out of his shorts and plows over two more for a game-changing first down. He then heads to the sideline because he's so injured he shouldn't even be in the game.
2003 Illinois: Steve Breaston fields a punt on one sideline and glide-cuts his way all the way across the field, juking six separate Illini before finding a seam and setting sail for the endzone. NOTE: Unfortunately, I can't find this in an embeddable form. It is 15 seconds into this Breaston highlight reel. Picture not relevant.
…was the name message board posters sarcastically bestowed on Steve Breaston as he redshirted and reports of his practice exploits became progressively more ludicrous. "Freshman you've never heard of fails to live up to epic practice hype" is perhaps the most common fall storyline across the country, and Michigan has had more than its fair share of epic busts from Grady Brooks to David Underwood to Kevin Grady. The nickname was a shield against disappointement
When Steve Breaston took the field, though, he somehow managed to exceed the expectations built up over the offseason. This return was the crowning glory; after a half-season full of almosts where he'd get tackled at the five or have something called back on a penalty he didn't need, he waited and waited, making two of those looping back-cuts that would become so familiar and exploding up the sideline.
For the most part teams stopped punting to him after this play, and though he remained amongst the country's most dangerous returners for the duration of his career he never quite recaptured the magic of the first two-thirds of his freshman year. At the moment he did this, though, he could do anything.
11. Ernest Shazor just killed a guy. No, seriously, he's dead
Purdue, 2004: Michigan has a narrow lead in the dying minutes but Purdue wins with a field goal and is driving. Dorien Bryant, then merely a freshman and not yet the Brooks Bollinger memorial eighth year senior, grabs a ball over the middle and starts picking up tons of YAC. Purdue is already in field goal range when Brandon Williams grabs at Bryant's feet, sending him into the air. This is where Ernest Shazor murders him. Bryant coughs up history's most understandable fumble; Leon Hall recovers, ending the game.
I've seen a lot of murderous hits in football, but they're mostly for show. Football's violence is a thrilling, sometimes sad sideshow to the main event; only rarely does the sheer intimidating force of a guy running directly at another guy matter immediately. Not so here. This hit turned a very likely loss into a sure win and ranks as the most CLICK CLICK BOOM play of the decade.
After the hit Shazor evaporated, providing only theoretical resistance against the first terrible appearance of That God Damned Counter Draw in the Michigan State game, about which more later, and entering the NFL draft early only to be passed over entirely. Despite being dead Bryant would go on to be probably Purdue's finest receiver of the decade, though I'll leave that judgment to the Purdue blogs' decentennial glazomania.
This play is lower than I expected because the feelings were more relief and frustration at the defense. A close call against a Purdue team that wasn't at all good (7-5) nearly derailed Michigan's season. Other plays in crappier seasons were fraught with less expectation and more enjoyable, like for instance…
10. The Blip
MGoRetro: We're From Phoenix
Wisconsin, 2008: Donovan Warren breaks up a slant, sending the ball on that parabolic trajectory that screams interception but often ends up hitting the turf. In this instance, Johnny Thompson is in the right place in the right time, catching the ball and picking up a defense's worth of escorts.
Exactly one good thing happened in the entirety of 2008, and this was it. Michigan had just gotten a touchdown thanks to a supremely ill-timed Wisconsin blitz that set Brandon Minor free. One play later Michigan would be in the lead:
Michigan would add another touchdown thanks to a 60-yard Steven Threet read option keeper and hang on for dear life, surviving a two point conversion that tied the game thanks to an illegal formation penalty and stuffing the second attempt.
At the time, the win over a top-ten Wisconsin team seemed like an indicator that even in this season of transition and quarterback incompetence something of Michigan would persist. It seemed super important, and then Toledo blew everything to hell.
9. Chad Henne robot apotheosis
Michigan State, 2007: Chad Henne completes his transformation from inept and injured to flawless robot incapable of understanding pressure by shouting "reprise" and pretending Mario Manningham is Braylon Edwards, completing an improbable Michigan comeback.
I'd somehow managed to get tickets on the 50 yard line in the Michigan student section at Spartan Stadium, and things were tense. Some unlit-cigar-chomping State fan was in my seat and insisted it was his seat to the point where he called the cops over so they could look at my ticket and shrug. He'd eventually switch places with a few Michigan fans outside of the section. At some point early in the second half a woman who looked like she watches a lot of Jenny Jones turned around and screamed something incomprehensible but very angry. She proceeded to do this every five minutes until someone figured out the thing she was saying was "Art Fag U," at which point the guy standing next to me went off about how bigoted that was whenever given an opportunity for the rest of the game, which was every other play.
Meanwhile on the field, Michigan was busy blowing a 14-3 lead in the immediate aftermath of Mark Dantonio's "pride" comments. They gave up three straight touchdowns while managing only one play of significance, a hopeful downfield jump ball that Mario Manningham came up with. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan was cooked.
In my head, this is when Hart went over to Henne and slapped him really hard. Michigan State backed off their coverage and Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown, dodging the Mallett disaster above, got the ball back, drove some more, and then decided to inflict the maximum amount of pain by joining the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society:
This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant.
8. "I Saw Cover Zero"
MGoRetro: Moxie and MacGyver.
Notre Dame, 2009: leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan faces a 4th and 3 in the no man's land where field goals are dodgy and punts get you put on the Worst Plays of the Decade list. Michigan goes for it, calling a bootleg pass for Forcier. Notre Dame's Stephen Filer cuts off the angle, so Forcier breaks his ankles and cuts up into the wide-open middle of the field.
This could have been one of Forcier's scrambles on the game-winning drive or the touchdown that won the game or Charlie Weis's decision to call a 40-yard fly route during Notre Dame's attempt to kill the game—miss you, big guy xoxo—but for sheer impact it's Forcier rewarding Rich Rodriguez's ability to do math:
Forcier's moxie would see Michigan through another two games of desperate fourth-quarter action before disintegrating in overtime against Michigan State and the fourth quarter against Iowa. In this it's similar to the Thompson interception, where early-season hope gave way to the cruel reality of the situation and the opponent turned out to be something less than they were supposed to be.
7. A Knee On The Ground
Citrus Bowl, 2007 season: with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne takes a snap and falls to the ground.
The definition of bittersweet.
Michigan had just finished racking up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State, so of course they come out in a shotgun spread attack and put up 41 points on Florida en route to yet another bowl victory over the SEC. Every downfield strike conjured forth a cauldron of mixed emotions: immediate joy. Fist-shaking at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Depression about the missed opportunity represented in Chad Henne's healthy shoulder. An entire extra layer of confusion about Mike DeBord. It was like being 15 again, like being 15 again and stuck in a never-ending afterschool special.
But when Henne kneeled and Marques Slocum, of all people, was the first to get Lloyd Carr up on his shoulders, well… IT IS VERY DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR AIR FILTERS. I have allergies, you know. Severe allergies.
At some point you just have to let that frustration go and accept the program for what it is, accept Carr for who he is, and say thanks. He did hole up and punt with a six point lead against Tim Tebow, but how could he go out any other way?
This one goes to 11 despite my intention to make it a top ten list because I wrote them up piecemeal and at some point after too much effort had been put into each to throw any away I realized I had an extra item. This is obviously fate, so here they are.
These are ranked by gut because you can't put a number on the special sort of misery football can inflict. How to rate high on thie list:
- Represent a major missed opportunity. Games from the Year of Infinite Pain do feature prominently but towards the end of the list because reversing any one of them means you went 8-4, which BFD.
- Be an easily preventable error. Sometimes bad stuff happens. Sometimes you do it to yourself.
- Be the obvious start of something terrible; some individual plays on the list were moments when it became clear a large number of plays later were going to be very bad.
And now on with the hairshirts!
11. Unblocking That Field Goal
Dusty Magnum lines up for a 38 yard field goal on the last play of the 2005 Rose Bowl. Michigan charges hell-bent after the kick and gets two players in position to block the thing, but the ball manages to split Ernest Shazor's arms, taking a deflection off his elbow. The slightly redirected ball squeezes through Prescott Burgess's hands and through the uprights. Michigan loses 38-37.
A lot of these moments to come are going to be events that cost Michigan some opportunity in the future. This one was simple: if Shazor's dive takes him an inch to the left or right, Michigan wins one of the classic Rose Bowls of all time and I don't spend a couple hours making "The Five Stages of Vince Young" in a South Park character generator.
Despite that, the play is mostly notable for how close Michigan came to doing something that is hard to do, does not involve a Michigan player or coach making a terrible decision*, and did come at the end of a classic someone had to lose. I don't know… it just doesn't rate compared to the rest of the stuff enclosed herein. Losing a close Rose Bowl is hardly the worst thing that's happened to Michigan in the last ten years.
*(Michigan did not attempt to save itself any time in case the field goal was good but Mangum was somewhat shaky and Vince Young was unstoppable the whole night; if Texas was willing to take a 38-yarder I would have been happy enough to let them if I was coaching.)
Late in the 2005 Minnesota game, Jim Herrmann lines up LB Prescott Burgess as a DE opposite the Gopher right tackle. With face-crushing tight end Matt Spaeth also to that side of the field, a 230 pound linebacker who's never played DE is one-on-two versus the best run-blocking line in the conference. Herrmann's playcall is a blitz from the other side of the field that sucks the safety on Burgess's side back into a centerfield position, and a simple off-tackle run goes for 60 yards, allowing Minnesota to kick a game-winning field goal.
Unquestionably the dumbest single playcall any Michigan coach made during the last decade. Michigan was tied with Minnesota 20-20 when Lamarr Woodley decapitated Gopher quarterback Brian Cupito. Minnesota ran a couple times with the backup quarterback, punted, and got the ball back after Michigan's drive stalled out. Stuck around their own 20 with around three minutes on the clock, Minnesota runs twice more, petrified of letting backup and redshirt freshman Tony Mortenson do anything other than hand off.
Mortenson's career numbers: 14 of 39 for 179 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs. At the time his most extensive run had come in an 0 of 4 performance against Florida Atlantic. Since Cupito has gone out Minnesota has run six straight times. It's third and ten. Minnesota is clearly playing for overtime and will just run it off tackle and punt. An injury to Willis Barringer has forced true freshman Brandon Harrison into the free safety spot, where he pairs with true freshman Jamar Adams.
Jim Herrmann decides to put Burgess in as a down lineman in a nickel package, lines him up on the strong side of the formation, and blitzes away from Burgess. The rest is Gopher history:
Burgess ended up ten yards downfield and still couldn't get off his block, but that was not exactly his fault.
In the long run this did not matter since Michigan stumbled to 7-5 in and though they could have easily won three more games, this one included, they could easily have lost three more. Herrmann would be shipped off to the NFL after the season, clearing the way for Ron English to give everyone the wrong idea for ten games. Speaking of Jim Herrmann's failings during 2005…
9. Carr punts from the Ohio State 34
Leading 21-19 in the dying minutes of the 2005 Game, Michigan has a first down on the Ohio State side of the field. Two runs to bleed OSU's timeouts get nowhere. They're followed by a six-yard WR screen that uses the last OSU timeout. On fourth and four from the OSU 34, Carr brings out his kicker to do the fake-kick-actually-punt thing, which goes out of bounds at the OSU 12.
Of all the awful math-spurning things I ever saw Lloyd Carr do this was the worst. Ways in which it was a terrible idea:
- The clock was hovering around three minutes and OSU had no timeouts. If you get the first down the game is essentially over. If you give the ball back OSU is not under any serious time pressure. Indeed, they scored and Michigan had 20 or so seconds to respond.
- Michigan's defense had crumbled on three separate score-or-die drives earlier in the year, four if you count the one Michigan had ceded to OSU just moments ago. On each they had played soft, ensuring that when the opponent scored Michigan would have no opportunity to respond.
- OSU was down two points and only needed a field goal.
- The fake field goal punt was so obviously coming that OSU put a returner back. If the punt had been slightly better that guy was off to the races.
- You spurned the opportunity to get a first down on third down for a more makeable fourth down so you could take away OSU's meaningless final time out.
Instead of taking a solid shot at ending the game, Carr chose 22 yards of field position that Michigan gave back in three plays by playing soft. I shorted out in the aftermath. Under pressure Carr reverted to the sort of call that hadn't been right since 1979 and it cost Michigan its best shot to put a dent in this agonizing OSU winning streak.
8. Pitch it to Breaston!
Michigan's attempt to replicate The Play is 15 yards from working when Tyler Ecker runs directly into a Nebraska defender on the sideline instead of pitching the ball to Steve Breaston, a man with a plan in the open field. Panama.
We end our Year of Infinite Pain trifecta with this:
I actually ended up at a tailgate that Tyler Ecker was at once, and all I could think was "why didn't you pitch it?"
Michigan was really, really good in 2003. John Navarre had molted from an inept flamingo into a laser-chucking flamingo. Chris Perry made one of those senior-year explosions you always hope will happen but almost never does. Braylon Edwards announced his presence. The defense featured Marlin Jackson, Ernest Shazor before he went up in smoke, Pierre Woods before he went up in smoke, and Lawrence Reid before his back imploded. (Unsurprisingly, the yardage defense would sag from 11th to 33rd the following year.) They were good.
But it all blew up on special teams. A grad assistant named Jim Boccher was placed in charge of it; by the end of the year he'd be in real estate and (probably) therapy. Things first went poorly against Oregon. Oregon blocked an Adam Finley punt for a touchdown. A fake punt attempt ended in a fumble. Oregon returned a punt for a touchdown. Despite getting a special teams touchdown of its own on a blocked chip-shot field goal, Michigan gave away ten points on special teams in a four-point loss.
That could have been random fortune, but what happened against Iowa was not. Boccher was an eager beaver who was actually ahead of the rugby punt curve that has spread through college football; stodgy Michigan was one of the first teams to try this high school thing out. The announcers openly wondered what the heck was going on. The intervening years have proven that it's a good idea if you can do it right.
Michigan could not, and was immediately reminded of why it liked being stodgy. Iowa almost blocked a punt, then almost blocked another one, then deflected a third; Michigan was fortunate that the deflection was partial. Along the way Michigan had given up a 43-yard punt return to Ramon Ochoa that set up a nine-yard Hawkeye touchdown drive. When Rivas wandered out with five minutes left in the third quarter, the whole stadium could feel it coming, and it did: Iowa finally returned one to sender, setting up a one-yard field goal drive. Michigan lost by three despite outgaining Iowa 463-295.
Boccher sought other opportunities before Michigan fans had the opportunity to seek him; the 2003 team would go undefeated outside of games in which their special teams cost them at least ten points until meeting USC in the Rose Bowl. That was the year in which USC got booted from the title game despite being #1 in both polls; if Michigan's special teams hadn't imploded so spectacularly an undefeated Michigan would have featured in the national title game against an Oklahoma team that had just blown the Big 12 title against Kansas State; Kansas State got blown out by an OSU team that Michigan had just handled. Competency on special teams could have resulted in a national title.
Tomorrow: The top six. Wear a cup.