well that's just, like, your opinion, man
please stop yelling at me about Gary starting, you win [Eric Upchurch]
Care to offer your guess on how the snaps will be distributed along the defensive line?
I would guess something like this:
Strongside End: 40% Gary, 20% Wormley, 20% Godin
Nose: 55% Glasgow, 45% Mone
3-Tech: 45% Wormley, 45% Hurst, 10% Godin
Weakside End: 65% Charlton, 25% Winovich/Jones/Kemp, 10% formations with only 3 down lineman.
Obviously this exercise assumes no injuries, and I ignored Lawrence Marshall who'll probably see some playing time.
Interested in your take,
Other than the fact that you project only 80% of the strongside end snaps that seems about right to me. (I assume that was meant to be 60% Gary.)
Over this offseason I've gotten a bunch of pushback about my assertion that Gary probably won't start, pushback that now seems on point after various insiders have asserted that Wormley will stick at 3-tech and Charlton will move over to WDE. But that was always a distinction without much of a difference. Even if Gary was nominally behind Wormley at SDE there would be sufficient snaps available when Wormley rests or Michigan goes to a pass rush package for Gary to make an impact. We're talking about a half-dozen snaps per game going to one guy or the other guy.
The only slight corrections I'd make would be to bump Glasgow up to 60 or 65% and bump Charlton to 70% at the expense of three-man lines.
No doubt there's been a recruiting uptick since Harbaugh came aboard....Rashan Gary is nice. But what about our lower ranked pickups? I seem to remember you comparing the success of Tressel 3-stars to Carr 3-stars, and the difference was stark.
Without the benefit of seeing how they pan out, how do you think JH's less-heralded guys will stack up to those of previous regimes? vs. Tressell/Urban? Curious if you've noticed a difference in talent/potential based on film and summer camp performance.
I don't remember that post but there is certainly a difference in quality amongst the vast plain of three-stars, one that's relatively easy to discern. However, that difference isn't based on evaluations I make with my amateur read on Hudl highlight films. It's more about the shape of a kid's recruitment.
There are three stars who end up on the radar of major schools, and three stars who do not. Maybe a Josh Uche or a Nate Johnson comes with sufficient questions for a rating service to correctly peg them a three-star, but it's also correct for teams like Florida or Notre Dame to go after those guys when their plan A gentlemen are uncertain or head elsewhere.
When we're talking about Michigan commits the players in question have tautologically garnered big time interest. That's one vote of confidence; it's better to have other votes from top 25 schools. There's a set of three stars who are targets of multiple big schools and a set who are not. My read on how the 2016 composite three-stars fit in those bins:
- Multiple options: Nick Eubanks, Khaleke Hudson, Nate Johnson, Josh Uche, Eddie McDoom, Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Michael Dwumfour.
- Hard to tell: Kingston Davis.
- Not so much: Sean McKeon, Devin Gil, Josh Metellus, Stephen Spanellis.
I believe everyone in the "multiple options" section could have gone to one of PSU, Florida, Auburn, or Oregon, along with a number of other schools on that level. Davis almost certainly could have gone to Nebraska and maybe LSU or Florida but probably not. The four guys in "not so much" didn't field much if any interest from top-half Power 5 schools. Four guys out of a class of 28 is quite good.
It's hard to get a solid read on the number of comparable prospects in earlier classes. Awareness of the "offer"/OFFER distinction has crept across college football gradually and many earlier recruiting assessments take listed offers at face value when they probably shouldn't. There's more wobble in older assessments, but here's my estimate of the number of Michigan three-stars that didn't seem to get a whole lot of interest from top 20 programs. (I'm not counting MSU here since they only started recruiting like a top 20 team last year and are no longer.) You'll find some excellent players on these lists, but all told it's better to be noticed by more than one big program:
- 2012 (9/22): Matt Godin, Kaleb Ringer, Sione Houma, Jehu Chesson , Drake Johnson, Willie Henry, Ben Braden, Jeremy Clark, Blake Bars. Godin and Bars might have had real interest from Notre Dame.
- 2013 (7/28): Jaron Dukes, Csont'e York, Channing Stribling, Khalid Hill, Da'Mario Jones, Reon Dawson, Scott Sypniewski. I'm leaving out kickers but counting Sypniewski here since long snappers are usually walkons; Harbaugh just got the #2 guy in the country as a PWO. Dan Samuelson and Ross Douglas were Nebraska and PSU decommit three-stars and the only guys in that range who had big time offers.
- 2014 (6/16): Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Wilton Speight, Maurice Ways, Noah Furbush, Brandon Watson, Brady Pallante. Jared Wangler was a PSU decommit.
- 2015 (5/14): Karan Higdon, Grant Perry, Keith Washington, Jon Runyan Jr, Nolan Ulizio. Shelton Johnson was a battle against FSU; Reuben Jones against Nebraska.
Lone wolf fliers comprised over a third of the four Michigan classes before Harbaugh got a full recruiting cycle, and just 14% of the 2016 class. So yes, the 2016 class's three stars are a different caliber.
Given Harbaugh's tendency to rack up decommits it's too early to state with any confidence how many will be in the 2017 class. As of right now I'd put Joel Honigford (Oregon), J'Marick Woods (VT, maybe LSU), Phillip Paea (Oregon), and maybe Andrew Stueber (Tennessee) into the "major target" category" and Ben Mason, Carter Dunaway, Chase Lasater, and Kurt Taylor into the "not so much" category. (I'm assuming Benjamin St Juste ends up a composite four star.)
[After the JUMP: Notre Dame resumption!]
I’ve been mulling this over for a bit and I don’t know it makes for a mailbag question, a separate post or even just a “here are some helpful links Dana” reply but here goes;
How would you guys explain (REALLY explain) college hockey to someone new to the sport? I’m not a complete layman, I follow the team through MGoBlog and even spent a couple summers at Red Berenson camp years ago, but when it comes to Michigan athletics it’s definitely Football, Basketball and Hockey in that order that I follow.
So again, how would you guys explain college hockey to a layman or someone who wanted to know more;
- Conference makeup and where the power in college hockey lies (who is the SEC of hockey, etc) -
- RPI (convenient way to rank all 60 teams or nah?)
- Recruiting (where do US College Hockey players come from I guess…did I mention I’m Canadian?)
Time to break out some bigger headers.
Penn State blew it up, but it needed to blow up [Bill Rapai]
College hockey is a bifurcated sport with two main areas of interest: the East, which consists mostly of New England and the occasional Pennsylvania team, and the West, which is concentrated in Minnesota and Michigan with scattered outposts in Nebraska, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. There are also a couple of Alaska teams funded largely by the state's desire to have local sports of any variety and two weird outliers: Arizona State just started a program, and Alabama-Huntsville has one for… reasons.
The East is more or less static with some minor movement. From top to bottom:
- Hockey East contains almost all of the big state schools in New England plus various private institutions that fit in for historical reasons. BU and BC are the perennial powers with a rotating cast of other teams who are good enough to make the tournament. UNH and Maine used to be powers but have fallen off a bunch recently. ND joined up and is quickly departing because HE is kind of perfect.
- The ECAC is about half Ivy League schools and half academically respectable schools in upstate New York and environs. Historically they've been a weak league with one bid more often than not, but in recent years surges from Union, Quinnipiac, Yale, and Harvard have seen them lock down high seeds in the national tournament and even a couple of national titles. Sustainability of this surge is in question.
- Atlantic Hockey is a one-bid league that does not offer the full scholarship complement of 18—I think it's 12 for them. They're the Horizon League, basically.
The vast majority of these teams are smack on top of each other. HE and the ECAC are bus leagues in which most weekends see two different teams come to town. AH is a little more spread out with teams in Pittsburgh (Robert Morris, Mercyhurst) and Colorado Springs (Air Force, which wants to be in the same conference as Army and Navy).
The West is now all over the place. There used to be two conferences, the WHCA and CCHA. The CCHA was all the Michigan teams save Tech and everything else in the Midwest. The WCHA was all the Minnesota teams, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and the two Colorado teams. Those conferences split the Alaska teams. The Big Ten blew this all apart a couple years ago, and now:
- The NCHC is more or less the top half of the old WCHA (minus Minnesota and Wisconsin) plus WMU and Miami from the old CCHA. This means they have a couple of major powers and a large number of respectable outfits. They are probably the best conference in college hockey at the moment. They just added Arizona State, an upstart program that just finished its first season.
- The Big Ten is a six-team league consisting of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State. It is currently in a down phase since Michigan is in Berenson limbo, Minnesota had an off year, Wisconsin took too long to replace Mike Eaves, and Michigan State spends every day of every year spitting on their rich heritage. Wisconsin is going to get real good real quick here and once Mel Pearson (knock on wood) comes back from Tech, Michigan will also get back to what it was. ND, who will be good as long as Jeff Jackson is around, joins next year.
- The WCHA got stuck with the leftovers from both the CCHA and WCHA. There are some good teams in there, but it's more mid-major than major.
The West is far more spread out than the East. The addition of the Big Ten was deeply controversial, especially in Minnesota, but once Penn State added a program it was a fait accompli.
One benefit of shakeup: the addition of a conference now gives new programs a landing spot. Previously the WCHA and CCHA were both full at 12 teams; new programs eked out an existence as an independent or in the ever-shifting, now-defunct College Hockey America. Many of them failed. Without the Big Ten it's tough to see an Arizona State adding a program. Also, Penn State has been a great success. They just missed the tournament this year and play to a sold-out rink.
I believe hockey is unique amongst NCAA sports in that they select and seed their tournament exclusively by a formula. The Pairwise used to be a complicated pile of factors that overweighted some things (recent games, nonconference schedule) and underweighted others (how good you are at hockey). Elements of it were gradually pared away until the current version, in which there are three factors. One of those, head to head, usually doesn't apply. RPI breaks ties when it disagrees with the other factor, common opponents. So these days with very limited exceptions RPI == Pairwise.
College hockey RPI is okay. They do some home/away weighting that is out of whack with stats and they have a quality win bonus for beating top 20 teams. (This is approximately the top third of D-I.) That latter plus the relative lack of true tomato cans means a lot of the issues basketball RPI has do not apply. The end result makes enough sense that people don't complain about it much.
There is a competing ranking system called KRACH that is more mathematically rigorous but tends to overrate schedule strength; the differences between the two are a lot more muted now that the WCHA, which was by far the best conference before the shakeup, is no longer in its Voltron form.
Teams play 34 or 36 regular season games plus a conference tournament and an NCAA tournament. (You get a couple extra games if you go to Alaska.) Games are usually on Friday and Saturday nights with the occasional midweek or Sunday game. Somewhere between 20 and 28 of these are conference games, depending on the number of teams in each. Conference tournaments generally have a round or two of best-two-of-three matchups and then a single-elimination final 4 (or 5).
TV coverage is poor unless you're Minnesota or Notre Dame. Regional sports networks were generally carry a handful of games. FSN covers every Minnesota game that the BTN does not; NBCSN picked up a bunch of ND games because ND. The Big Ten Network covers a reasonable number. Full coverage is rare, and smaller schools often rely on streaming. Even megapower North Dakota struggles to get TV coverage, with only 4 national games a year ago.
Hockey has a 16-team single elimination tournament held at four regional sites and then a Frozen Four modeled after… well, you know. The Frozen Four is a successful and well-attended event that will draw a full house or something near to it even when it's thousands of miles away from the nearest hockey program. The regionals are half meh and half a disaster.
The meh half is in the East, where the teams are so close together that the NCAA can rotate through a more or less defined collection of mid-sized arenas that will all be reasonably full because at least two fanbases will be right on top of them. Atmospheres are still muted for the most part.
Neutral site college hockey is not well attended [Jason Coller]
The West is the disaster. Michigan has seven college hockey teams and hasn't seen more than one NCAA regional in a decade; instead the committee keeps putting regionals in places like Fort Wayne, St. Louis, and even Omaha, in buildings way too big and with ticket prices way too high. A second West regional is generally in the WCHA footprint, Minneapolis as often as not. These regionals are almost universally attended by marching bands and crickets and are loathed by literally everyone in the college hockey world except a plurality of coaches who either think playing in a tomb gives them a better chance to win or are in the East and therefore don't care.
There have been some rumbles that the NCAA will finally move away from the failed regional model in the next few years, but I'll believe it when I see it. It's a shame, because Yost hosted a couple of regionals a decade ago, and they were insane. So insane that the rest of college hockey got mad and more or less banned campus sites. The leadership of college hockey has failed massively in this department.
On the other hand, college hockey has pioneered most of the rules that the NHL adopted over the course of the past decade. These include no-touch icing*, two refs, and getting rid of two-line passes. The main differences between the NHL and the NCAA that remain are
- fighting is five, a game, and a suspension in college
- there is no goalie trapezoid behind the nets
- five-on-five OT, with shootouts only applicable to conference standings**
- no handpasses, anywhere
- Olympic rinks are allowed
Also you have to wear a full shield.
*[The NCAA had pure no-touch icing until a few years ago, when they went to the same hybrid icing the NHL did.]
**[A game that ends in a shootout is treated as a tie for RPI purposes.]
These days a plurality of players come from the USHL, a "Tier 1" junior league spread throughout the Midwest. The USHL and NAHL, another junior circuit with two main hubs in the upper Midwest and Texas, were about on par until a decade or so ago when USA Hockey created the Tier 1 designation and the USHL went after it. In general this means a higher level of facilities and support for the players. If you believe in point equivalences—ie the idea that a league can be judged by how well its players' scoring translates to higher leagues—USHL to AHL/NHL point transitions are more or less on par with the CHL. The NAHL is some distance back and their players usually populate lower-tier teams and fourth lines.
USA Hockey's National Team Development Program also plays in the USHL but is a thing apart. They have U17 and U18 teams that play a variety of international tournaments and, for the U18s, a ~30-game schedule of exhibitions against college teams. The U17s draw the majority of USHL games and generally get cranked due to the age gap. The NTDP gets about 80% of the first round NHL draft picks who are headed to college.
Minnesota and New England both have high school hockey that is good enough to produce a lot of recruits, and the NCAA recruits from various non-CHL junior leagues across Canada, the most prominent of which are the BCHL and OPJHL, if the latter is still called that. Per the most recent NCAA data 24% of NCAA hockey is played by "nonresident aliens," the vast majority of whom are Canadian.
One key difference between Canada and the US is that US players will often stick with their junior teams after high school. USHL teams can have players up to 20 and for many teams their answer to recruiting deficiencies is to bring in older and older players. There was a recent kerfuffle when the Big Ten, which generally recruits right out of high school, introduced a proposal to reduce eligibility for players who enter college older than 20. Everyone yelled at them and it was withdrawn.
Level of Play
More variable than the CHL but likely to be better overall. In large part this is due to age. College hockey players are on average much older than CHL players, and now college alums make up about 30% of the NHL. While the CHL has more NHL prospects per team—both leagues have about 60 teams total—the NCAA's are more concentrated, so unless you have a lot of Atlantic Hockey teams on the schedule that gap between future NHLers is smaller. The NCAA also has a significant edge in point equivalencies. Three years is apparently more than enough to bridge the gap in relative NHL draft status.
Mailbag: Unbalanced Classes, Hockey vs Basketball, Further Hockey Expansion, Defensive Coach Turnover
If you're doing a mailbag any time soon, a potential question: does all the defensive coaching turnover dampen your expectations for the defense? Having three new coaches, including a new DC, has to impose some kind of transition cost, right? It would be frustrating to have what might be an excellent defense undermined by coaching changes.
On the whole, no. For one, while Chris Partridge is a new coach he's replacing John Baxter, who did not work with last year's D. There are only two guys being replaced. Losing Greg Jackson is a blow, as by all reports the players loved him. The secondary's performance last year was a major step forward from everybody—even Peppers, who we had not really seen before, developed over the course of the season. It's likely that Jackson is very good at his job, and you always hate to lose a guy like that after just one year.
I have zero concerns about replacing DJ Durkin with Don Brown. Durkin's defense last year was very good until it collapsed late, and while part of that was on Glasgow's injury it was very frustrating watching Michigan play a spread option team with a safety lined up 18 yards off the LOS. You can't do that when the opposition has an 11-on-11 run game, and Michigan found that out the hard way. Since that was a thing that even a blogger was warning about…
So it's up to Michigan: ride with what got you here and try to hold up, or go to more of a zone based look in an attempt to replicate what just happened [against MSU]. The bet here is that Michigan enters with the latter in their pocket but tries to go toe to toe, combating zone with the addition of a safety to the end of the LOS and the corresponding blitz.
…and Michigan emphatically had nothing in their back pocket in the second half, I'm happy to see Durkin at Maryland. He could be a great coach, sure. He could be a guy who hung on to Will Muschamp's coattails and got exposed by Urban Meyer.
Meanwhile Brown has an excellent track record:
Bolded years are Don Brown; others are there for comparison. YPP is raw yards per play. FEI and S&P+ are advanced metrics that attempt to take schedule strength and various other factors into account.
It is possible that there's a settling-in period where Brown's D isn't as effective. The data don't show anything conclusive about that, with Maryland and UConn both getting significantly better in advanced metrics in year one despite a drop in yards per play. Meanwhile last year Michigan's defense was very good despite being in its first year of a new system.
Michigan can't get significantly better in advanced metrics and should expect a backslide just from regression to the mean, so I won't be judging Brown on how he does relative to last year's D… except against Ohio State. The absolute best news of the offseason to me is that Don Brown spent his time at Michigan's coaching clinic ranting about run defense…
Coach Brown believes that it all starts with run defense, “Check our record, 4 out of the last 5 years, nobody runs the ball. I don’t give a crap what I have to do, we’re going to stop the run.” Don Brown’s defenses finished #2 in 2011 (UCONN), #3 in 2012 (UCONN), #2 in 2014 (Boston College) and #1 in 2015 (Boston College) in run defense.
…and detailing the varied and intricate responses he's developed to zone read including inverted veer or "power read," as coaches seem to be calling it.
The result of last year's Game (and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that) cried out for a defensive coordinator who is awesome at stopping a power spread attack. Don Brown looks like the ideal candidate. I was getting pretty nervous for a couple weeks there when Rivals kept bringing up NFL guys—exactly the wrong kind of candidate for the biggest game on the schedule—and couldn't be happier with the way things worked out.
I'll be keeping a wary eye on the developments in the secondary but at least Brian Smith is a DB by trade and a DB coach until he was shoehorned in at linebacker a year ago; this isn't going back to Roy Manning, lifetime LB, as a CB coach. As far as the DC trade goes, I give it an A++++++.
[After THE JUMP: Jim Delany and the satellite camps, college hockey realignment stuff, hockey and basketball expectations.]
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?]
Offense impressions, year one
I attended the DC event you did over the summer where you talked about what to expect from a Harbaugh offense. Now that there is a season's worth of data, do you have any plans to revisit and do a compare and contrast on that? I'm curious what new wrinkles can be attributed to Fisch, opponent specific stuff, or just flat out integrating plays he likes, as a way of understanding how he evolves his approach.
That's a conversation for next year. It will be interesting to see how Michigan's philosophy changes going forward; right now I the only things I have to compare it to are NFL offenses in a vastly different competitive environment and a five-year-old Stanford team with a largely different braintrust.
Meanwhile it'll probably take another year before the Death Star is even vaguely operational. You could see the outlines of the things Harbaugh wants to do, but it's always much easier to see what the shape of a thing is when it works as intended. Michigan's ground game didn't do that enough to get a feel for the shape of he whole thing.
One thing that did stand out was the week-to-week diversity of formations and plays. Michigan had a T-formation package last seen in college football decades ago; they had a week where they ran a handful of zone read; they fiddled with some diamond formations. While the wrinkles didn't always add up to much in year one, they do speak to Harbaugh's philosophy: he wants to constantly show you things that make you uncomfortable and get you to bust a run fit.
It's mostly the same for the offensive line. They get a call and they execute the call. Those calls are almost always standard power, inside zone, or outside zone. The only things that Michigan did that they didn't do much under previous staffs were quick trap pulls.
Harbaugh puts a bunch of window dressing around it and uses his blocky/catchy types to spring the surprises. Going forward I am guessing you are going to see a high priority put on RB/TE/FB types who are highly intelligent, because the bulk of the week-to-week changes are on them. I think that's a major reason Michigan's PWO class is heavy on high-academic blocky/catchy types—there might be an Owen Marecic lurking in there.
[After THE JUMP: extensive takes on the envelope pushing and overall grades for Hoke]
Two quick mailbag questions for you during this recruiting season.
1 - How would you describe Harbaugh's recruiting philosophy?
I think Hoke's was pretty easy to understand. If you got an offer from Hoke, it was a commit-able offer. If you wanted to take visits after accepting an offer, then you were no longer considered committed and they would consider you just a recruit competing for a spot in the class.
Rodriguez was somewhat similar to Harbaugh i think, but there are some subtle differences. Rodriguez would fire off a ton of offers and sort out how "official" they were as they learned more about grades, etc. I think he had less consideration for class distribution by position and that may have gotten him in trouble, but he also chased some of the top players regardless of fit.
Harbaugh seems to be something along the lines of this:
-- An offer is conditional upon certain requirements (curious your opinion on those)
-- If you commit, that doesn't mean that either you or Michigan is married to another. Visits are still allowed and Michigan may still explore options for your spot.
-- Until you sign the LOI or enroll, consider things a soft commitment.
Harbaugh sends out "offers." Hoke did not do that. If you had an offer from Michigan under Hoke you could commit to it. Harbaugh does the thing most people do these days and fires out offers in name only. To date he's been less than circumspect when it comes to allowing kids to commit to those offers (though sometimes that's not his call; some kids announce commitments to uncommitable offers).
A commitment is still mostly a commitment. Of the guys who left Michigan's class only two, Swenson and Weaver, were instances where Michigan flat out didn't want a guy because of their perception of his talent level. It's been more or less directly stated by guys like Steve Wiltfong that other players who decommitted had academic benchmarks they didn't reach or were 100% the player's choice. And Swenson was a unique situation since he was a highly-rated commit who was offered before his sophomore year by Brady Hoke. Michigan evidently made it clear they wanted to see him in action to confirm but didn't make it CLEAR, if you know what I mean. That's an error Harbaugh admitted to and hopefully won't be as much of a thing going forward.
I expect that Michigan will continue to have a few speculative commits who may or may not end up in the class for reasons academic and otherwise. Their offers will continue to keep pace with the state of the art in mangling the English langauge for marketing purposes. Some guys will take those offers. Michigan will make things clear to them, and some of them will end up in the class while others either use their status as a springboard, as Weaver did, or end up where they were going to end up anyway.
[After the JUMP: a graph, 2017 DL worries, 2016 LB worries, and HOW INSANE WAS THIS COACHING HIRE]