if you seek an image of the most Wisconsin OL ever, enter here
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2
Improvement from the rest of the squad should help M's young centers get acclimated. [Fuller]
Michigan had their first and only exhibition of the 2014-15 season last night, and on Saturday the games start counting for real. Even by John Beilein Michigan squad standards, this is a young group facing a lot of pressing questions, and the answers will determine if the Wolverines continue the remarkable success of recent seasons or fall back to the pack a bit.
There are so many, in fact, that the preseason mailbag will be a two-parter. Today, Alex and I address your questions about the young group of centers, the possibility of more zone defense this season, and proper expectations for Zak Irvin's sophomore season.
The latest mailbag said you're looking for basketball questions, so here's my biggest wonder heading into the season: What should my expectations be for the production from the center position, a position that seems to be a weakness on an otherwise strong team?
Beilein said he wants Mark [Donnal] or Ricky [Doyle] to eventually emerge as The Guy, but if we consider them to be a platoon (can we call it Donnoyle?), what output should we be happy with and what should concern us? Will Mark Donnal be the perfect fit everyone's been talking about (I won't make the age-old comparison), or will he be overpowered by mean scary Big Ten centers? Will Ricky Doyle be a calming presence on the defense or will we see that classic freshman deer-in-the-headlights look too often?
This message got a lot longer than I planned, but it's just something that I've been discussing at length with the basketball beat writers, and I think it's something that a lot of the fan base is wondering. Let me know what you think!
Ace: Let's start with a point of reference. Last season in Big Ten play—which removes Mitch McGary's scattered nonconference minutes from the equation—the combination of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford averaged 11.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70.7% from the field.
A few of those numbers are unlikely to be replicated by a trio of freshman centers—while he'll see plenty of time at the four and maybe even the three, DJ Wilson will get a lot of run at the five—and Max Bielfeldt. Morgan and Horford were both very efficient finishers who didn't take jumpers; that's not the case for any of M's current centers—even Doyle is comfortable shooting from mid-range—and just by virtue of them taking more jumpers, that shooting percentage is going to dip. Replacing seniors with freshmen usually means rebounding will go down and turnovers up, too.
All three main center options have scoring potential, though. Donnal missed his only three-point attempt last night and wasn't a major factor on offense, but if he can consistently stretch the defense he should stick as the starter. Ricky Doyle could easily surpass him, however, and even provide the type of scoring that Morgan/Horford did. Doyle is the bigger guy and looks to have more potential as a rebounder—he had an impressive putback last night—and his tape from high school and the Italy trip shows he's adept at finishing near the basket with either hand. Wilson, when he's at the five, will really spread the floor, and he's easily the best passer and ballhandler of these three; he may also be the best outside shooter.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of this excessively long answer and much more.]
Could he keep his job?
You can't twirl a dead cat anymore without hitting someone claiming, "if Brady Hoke wins out he could keep his job." If you ignore the fact that at no point has this team even competed with a competent team, there is still too much against him, right? If somehow the stars align and a UM team that was embarrassed in New Jersey can beat an OSU team that will probably be favored by 20+, Hoke is still gone, right?
I'm terrified that all this smoke about him still having a chance means there's fire. The last thing UM needs is to have Hoke Wayne Fontes his way into another chance. Pleases just tell me that a New AD means a new coach and I can enjoy watching Drake Johnson run roughshod over NW.
-Dylan [Ed: not that Dylan]
It's worse than that, actually: there are a number of people asserting crazy things about what happens if Michigan squeaks into a bowl game.
First, that is not likely. Michigan is a dog to a Northwestern team that just got blitzed by Iowa, and they'll probably be a slight favorite against Maryland before being a two-TD dog against OSU. Going to a bowl at all is a 30% proposition.
Even if Michigan finishes the season "strong" I can't imagine Hoke returning for a thousand reasons we've all seen. The major one is what happens to the season ticket base. It has to take a significant hit if Hoke's back, and with Brandon expanding his expenses even more rapidly than he expanded Michigan's revenue that could see Michigan dip into the red. That's not tenable.
Neither is Hoke. Without a miracle upset against Ohio State this year's resume consists of wins over some of the worst teams Division I has to offer and comprehensive blowouts against any team with a pulse. In year four, with an offense that is more experienced than Ohio State's.
Are we going back to the Duderstadt attitude?
What's up mgoblog,
I have read a lot about " be careful what you wish for" in terms of firing Dave. I think all football fans agree that we need to pay our coaches competitive salaries and Dave was on the same page.
It has been discussed most recently by Sam Webb that Schlissel has little interest in paying a coach top dollar.
Do you think there is some truth to this or do you think this is just speculation.
I am worried Michigan will hire a decent coach and be content with 8-4.
Mike V in CT.
I don't have much to go on in this department and I don't think many people know what's going on inside Schlissel's head. But: I seriously doubt that Schlissel is going to say anything to his athletic director about appropriate salaries as long as the department stays in the black. He's a doctor and a biology professor; he's going to look at numbers and do the thing that makes sense.
Since one of the best ways to keep the department in the black is to hire a real good football coach, I doubt a couple million a year is going to make or break M's ability to get the right guy.
If there's anything resembling a reconfiguring of priorities I would expect it comes in the academic component of the athletic department. That's something I forgot about in the previous mailbag when I was searching for good things Brandon did—under his watch Michigan pulled out of the Rodriguez transition APR disaster and graduated literally every senior FB player under Hoke. I don't think an emphasis on getting plausible students is going to have a ton of impact since Michigan is avoiding borderline guys already.
Michigan might scale back some of the more extravagant building projects for non-revenue sports, but I'm of the opinion that's a good thing. Palaces make some sense for the revenue sports because they, you know, generate revenue. (And those are all done anyway.) Adding permanent maintenance and debt service costs to the U's bottom line puts more stress on the fans to provide money and reduces Michigan's ability to get quality coaches in all sports.
[After THE JUMP: student attendance against Indiana, turnaround timeframe, WHYYYYY]
[ED: Hey guys! Ace is looking for a few good questions for a basketball season preview mailbag. Hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Meta-response about yesterday's post.
[ED: I normally hack out praise from these emails in an effort to be as concise as possible but it was not possible to do so here without making bronx sound like a jerk.]
I've been trying to think of a better way to ask this, but I can't so I'll just come out with it:
What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails?
Man, yeah, that comes across as condescending. Let me try to explain.
I'm not saying they shouldn't be given their due. and I respect the hell out of you and Ace putting in the effort to figure out their veracity; count me in the camp of people who doubted WD's initial post due to the inconsistencies in his story. Following through on the story and backing it up with multiple sources is the type of reporting you don't expect to see from a "fan" site, and yet you guys did better work than I've seen in a long time from more established media members in the community. Heck, it's basically you guys and the Daily kicking ass in that department.
But once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward? I've made my feelings known about Brandon and how, frankly, this really shouldn't accelerate his removal (I mean, if his handling of Gibbons, Morris, ticket prices, attendance, stadium experience, alumni relations, coaching snafus, losing, etc. doesn't do him in but bitchy emails do I'll be a bit disappointed in the administration for needing something so trivial to move them to action), but I honestly want to know your take. Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward?
For example, you mentioned in your podcast that fans' habits can be broken quickly and it can take a generation to get them back. You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away? Personally, I'm less and less excited to follow this team even this year because it is just a clown show made worse by the negative tone so many fans seem to hold toward it. My Facebook feed is full of people linking to articles calling for Hoke an co. to be booted (many to mgoblog), and lots of them were moderately-sane fans before the last couple of years. I'm not saying you and the site are to blame for any of it; you are just reporting and commenting on the shit show being trotted out every week. But do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?
And again, I'm conflicted even asking this, because you guys have a duty to ferret out these idiots and bring them to the public's eye, and you do a great job at capturing the Michigan zeitgeist effectively. But there's just such a toxic culture around the program, and I wonder even if they get some homerun hires (which I'm a bit dubious about), if some of this damage will linger.
Anyway, feel free to respond however you want; if part of this makes its way into a mailbag or something then by all means out me and respond how you wish. I'm fine with it. I honestly just want to know.
I made a decision to let the original Have A Happy Life email stand—in fact I made a decision to re-instate it after one of the mods pulled it 200 comments deep—and from there things proceeded inexorably to yesterday's post.
I let it stand because I thought it was true.
[After THE JUMP: a full run-down of the decision to run with this story and evaluation about whether this was in error.]
Henry was not the same kind of risk Chris Barnett was [Bryan Fuller]
Fliers actually a good thing?
You mentioned in the last UV that "If Michigan hangs onto 8-10 guys
they could add a few fliers and be fine. The guys they hang onto are
actually touted recruits instead of the mess that was Rodriguez's last
It seems like a large percentage of the big names on the team today
were fliers in the Hoke/RichRod class and Hoke's first class. Names
that immediately came to mind as late offers that panned out better
than expected are Norfleet, Morgan, Taylor and Henry. I wonder if
taking a few more chances on last-minute fliers wouldn't pay off for
this recruiting class?
There's a difference between late fliers you take after scouting them in secret for a while and the kind of late fliers Michigan took after Brady Hoke was hired and they needed to cram ten guys into Rodriguez's battered final class. Morgan was a Rich Rodriguez add after extensive scouting; Henry was a Hoke add after the same; Norfleet was a highly touted spread guy Michigan had room for on Signing Day; he was well known.
Here are the guys Michigan added after The Process concluded in early 2011 (minus Chris Bryant, because Bryant was on the verge of committing to Michigan for months beforehand):
- Chris Barnett (flamed out before fall camp)
- Frank Clark (check)
- Thomas Rawls (never played, now CMU feature back)
- Russell Bellomy (third string QB)
- Antonio Poole (pec injury forced retirement)
- Matt Wile (kicker)
- Keith Heitzman (backup to AJ Williams)
- Raymon Taylor (check)
- Tamani Carter (transferred after one year)
They got two players out of eight swings and they got one of those because Frank Clark went from 210 to 280 like guys who get drafted from MAC schools. That's not a great hit rate, and that hit rate was about as expected. Only Taylor, one of the two hits, had a recruiting profile even on the 3/4 star borderline. All others were fliers picked away from Vandy, Minnesota, Purdue, etc.
Now combine that with the rest of the class, which featured four more guys who didn't make it through year one (Greg Brown, Chris Rock, Kellen Jones, Tony Posada) and that's a 20 commitment class in a year you could have taken 25 that has way too many washouts.
This year is different. A guy coming in at the same time Hoke did last year would only need to add four or five guys and the guys already in the class aren't particularly likely to flame out, because that's the thing Hoke has been terrific at. They would not desperately need the the late flier guys to work out, and that's a good thing because they would not be likely to.
It shouldn't matter in a class that looks like it'll top out at 15. So I'm just sayin' if it's January 1 and Michigan has just installed a new AD I wouldn't necessarily think Hoke is safe.
[After THE JUMP: anti-mascot concept art]
Quarterback is not the only difference.
Something you may not wish to address in season but in watching this team I had this thought:
Solid run defense, inconsistent pass defense, an offensive line with talent struggling to gel, solid backs, receivers and tight ends. Hmmm, sounds like 9 or 10 wins from Carr again. What is missing is a solid, low turnover, accurate, quarterback. Completely unfair?
Cumong man, that's completely unfair. You're comparing this offensive line to those featuring Jake Long or a half-dozen other NFL players, with zero freshmen of any variety on them unless they're Hutchinson-level talents. The backs don't make the right cuts and almost never make yards on their own. The tight ends are not good right now except for Butt, and Butt is still working his way back from an ACL tear.
There's no part of this team not subject to mental breakdowns that are hard to accept four years in. This includes quarterback, but since it seems like any QB under Hoke goes backwards it all ends in the same place.
BUT IS HE BETTER THAN A WISTFUL ORANGUTAN?
In the wake of the ND game i have found my anger directed more at Dave Brandon than anything for whatever various and stupid reasons. The conventional wisdom seems to be, "hey, but revenues are increasing so, even though football is terrible and the stadium experience is horrible, Dave Brandon is great at growing the business." I think that is non-sense. I looked at revenues from 2002 through 2013 (graphs and numbers in attached spreadsheet) and the trendline attached to the revenue data shows Brandon has not out performed Bill Martin. Growth in revenue looks very on trend from Martin's tenure.
If you look at Michigan's AD revenue from 2005 versus some other athletic departments (texas, OSU, florida, Alabama, Oklahoma) our athletic department hasnt outperformed them either. Those five ADs revenue increased 84% from 2005 til 2013, Michigan's increased...83%.
Look, the data i gathered isn't perfect, I don't love the way USA today presented the 2005-2013 data. I've sort of cobbled together the 2002-2004 data from U-M budgets. The way i have presented the data is somewhat problematic (i should index 2005 to 100 then see the changes from there), but I don't think it changes the overall picture.
The point is I am really bothered with the conventional wisdom saying Brandon is doing really well increasing revenue. He is merely riding a wave that started long before here was hired and affects all of college football. Raising ticket prices doesn't make you a business genius. He gets zero credit for increased television revenues, which are the two overwhelming drivers of the whole enterprise.
These are things I am sure you are aware of but i have not seem them articulated on the blog.
It should also be noted that the portion of the surge from 2009 to 2011 not due to increased BTN payouts was largely the luxury boxes coming online. Michigan offered them for cheap the first year and then increased the price to the regular level in year two.
So even if you are measuring Michigan athletic department success by revenue—a completely bonkers thing to do—Brandon is completely average in this department while being literally the worst AD in the country at public relations. A wistful orangutan could have been Michigan's athletic director since 2010 and revenue would still be way up. And students would love him!
[After the JUMP: Manning plausible as a CB coach over time? Mysterious red clad team-thing. Where to go in the event of an apocalypse. (The real apocalypse, not bad football.)]
What will happen and when?
Obviously, the central issue to our entire fanbase is what is going to happen to Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, and if something is going to happen to either, when. You have obviously posted at length about your opinions about what SHOULD happen, and I am excited to see part II of your coaching candidates series. But, unless I missed it, I have not seen you post anything about what you believe WILL happen.
Specifically, based upon where we stand now (2-4, 0-2) what is your expectation as to (1) whether Brandon will be removed, (2) whether Hoke will be fired, and (3) if you believe that either is gone, when. I think that many of us would also be interested in your opinion as to how the events that will transpire over the remaining 8 weeks of the regular season could impact that decision. (For example, there is a thread on the board now asking what would happen if we win out).
I know that you are probably getting millions of emails on the topic, but I know that many of us would really be interested in knowing your opinions on this topic.
Thanks, as always, and despite everything, Go Blue!
I just don't know. I'm only answering this because I get a lot of emails to this effect; usually if I can't answer something reasonably I just say so privately and that's it. But… yeah, I don't know.
One thing I've learned is that insider information is often colored by the desires of the source; slap one degree of separation between that source and you and then it seems really true and important. This is not so important when someone has a broken bone; it is vastly so when political infighting is involved. So I don't take a whole lot of stuff about Hoke staying seriously; I know it's popped up on premium message boards here and there. There's a faction amongst the old program alums who can't stand to be as flagrantly wrong as they were and will swear up and down that Hoke can be saved.
He can't. Anyone who watches his team knows that this is a disorganized mess and in year four that goes back to one guy and one guy only. There is no expectation this would get better, and in that light the successful Hoke years look like flukes born of disproportionate talent and flat-out luck, as Michigan's 2011 was.
I guess Michigan could run the table but any reasonable season projection gets you to 7-6 at best and that is a firing, if only because whoever the AD is will know that continuing with Hoke is going to be an inflection point on season ticket sales.
As far as Brandon, I do not know. I've read all there is to read and heard all there is to hear and what is clear is that here is some sort of serious support for the guy that centers around Stephen Ross and his dollars and drops off almost immediately after that. If this was a democracy he'd be booted in an 80-20 election; it is not.
I would have faith that the people around the president who have his ear because of dolla dolla bill y'all would eventually be able to come to this conclusion:
- Someone else would be about as good at continuing the things who make the people in the AD support him
- Anyone else would be less toxic to fans and especially students.
Even if you somehow believe that guy whose PR stunts will literally go in a textbook under what not to do is the best guy for the job, the next best guy for the job is 99% as capable and isn't loathed by half the Michigan fanbase. This flies in the face of our nation's CEO fetishization, but here it's undeniable.
Logic then demands I say that both guys will be gone by the end of the year, but logic ain't got nothing to do with it.
As to the timing, Hoke's not gone until after the OSU game. If he was going to get the axe immediately it would have been after the Minnesota game. Short of that happening again, he's got the rest of the year. Michigan may announce he's done before OSU, a la Earle Bruce; functionally he's your guy the rest of the year.
Brandon could go at any time. I hear that there are some meetings coming up in the next week that could be the impetus for his dismissal, but as long as Stephen Ross is backing the guy it's going to be pulling teeth.
[After THE JUMP: define risk in re: coaching candidates.]