there would have to be some to wash away
Most of the questions in my inbox I don't have an answer to, but does that ever stop sportswriters? No.
1. With all the Hoke love from ex-players & everyone else for that matter, how could Bill Martin have misread the whole "Michigan Man" situation when he hired RichRod? He had to get some sort of vibe about supporting a MI Man & not an outsider. Did he ignore this, or was he ignorant of it?
Bill Martin seems like an affable sort of guy, but an affable sort of guy who wasn't actually on the football team and really likes sailing. I bet he was taken aback by the way Rodriguez's tenure developed. I think most people were surprised the vehemence with which Rodriguez was denounced once he started losing games.
But I'm not sure it really mattered, since at the time there were no Michigan Man options that were even vaguely plausible. Hoke—the sole Carr assistant to have a head coaching job at the time—was idling at 7-6 in his fifth year at Ball State. DeBord had failed miserably at CMU. Ron English was in charge of the defense that made The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game possible. Harbaugh was still unproven.
Even if Martin could anticipate a negative reaction from the Carr clan, it's not like there was anything he could do about it without producing a backlash 10 times as massive as this year's Hoke doubt.
2. With all the shouts of failure to hire a BIG name coach, looking at the hires of the last few years from "elite" schools: USC - Kiffin, Miami - Temple's coach, Florida - Tx D Coordinator, Florida St. - Jimbo Fisher, Notre Dame - Kelly, Tennessee - Dooley; big name coaches from big name schools rarely switch jobs within the college ranks - the last BIG name coach to do so would have to be RichRod - food for thought.
I guess that depends on your definition of the word "big." It's true that most jobs on the Michigan/Oklahoma/Florida/ND level are terminal destinations. But Stanford isn't, especially when the guy at Stanford is a famous Michigan alum. Harbaugh should have been poachable, and maybe he was but for the NFL. We'll never know. Meanwhile, there is a list of guys who are acquirable who may not be "big" names but seem like as good of any idea as possible when you switch coaches.
As for that list above:
- Fisher was a hot OC at LSU that was imported to be HC in waiting/by proxy in the same sort of transition that saw Bielema and Chip Kelly smoothly ascend to the throne and experience fairly quick success. (Bielema took a little while to get going.)
- Muschamp is an archetypical hot coordinator.
- Brian Kelly qualified as a big name in the mold of Urban Meyer after championship runs at two different schools experiencing their greatest success.
- Kiffin was the last act of an idiot and was met with the same sort of love at USC he was after his departure from Knoxville.
- Dooley was a last second desperation hire after Kiffin left that was like hiring Hoke in 2007.
I'd say the first three are good ideas, the fourth a bad idea, and the fifth the sort of thing that happens when your head coach leaves in early January. In Tennessee's case they were left in the lurch involuntarily. Michigan did it to themselves.
At least Dooley provides a hopeful example. Despite being in shambles in mid-January they recovered decently enough in recruiting and outperformed expectations down the stretch. Sometimes guys catch fire with more resources and a fortunate recruit—or existing player—and that can quickly erase their uninspiring previous record. One year after Tennessee's Maple Street Annual asked me to write a piece about how to cope with a 3-9 crater, there is palpable optimism in Knoxville.
In the presser introducing Hoke as HC, Dave Brandon mentioned that he was a "data guy," and that the data showed that when you bring in a HC w/no ties to the area and/or university, it usually doesn't work. However, a look at the top programs in recent college football history show important counterexamples:
- Urban Meyer, Florida: no ties
- Mack Brown, Texas: asst coach Iowa State 1 year, OC Iowa State 2 years (1980-81), OC Oklahoma 1 year (1984)
- Nick Saban, LSU: no ties
- Les Miles, LSU: no ties
- Pete Carroll, USC: OC U. of Pacific, 1 year (1983)
Did these guys have assistants on staff who had ties? What was the key to their success in winning over the respective fan bases?
Winning games? Those guys save Carroll and Meyer all came from BCS programs they had significantly outperforming their historical baseline, and Meyer had just turned Utah into the #2 team in the country after making Bowling Green a terrifying MAC opponent. And then they won immediately. Saban was 12-2 in year two. Miles lost six games in his first three years. The first time Mack Brown won fewer than nine games at Texas was this year. Meyer won the national title in year two.
Before any of these guys could be hated they were loved, and Rodriguez probably could have managed that trick if he hadn't presided over the worst three year stretch since Harry Kipke*.
If there's a common thread between these coaches it's recruiting, where all were monsters. You knew that's what you were getting with Brown, suspected it with Saban and Miles, and hoped for with Carroll.
*[I have your back, MVictors]
So, I've accepted the fact that we have Hoke and Borges (mostly). The offensive personnel is obviously geared toward a zone read option type of offense with athletic lineman, lots of slot ninjas and a running quarterback.
Two actual questions for you:
1 - How is this line at pass protection? Do the techniques change much between zone-read option spread teams and pro-style teams? I know Kerrigan, Liuget and Watt were blowing up our plays quite a bit, but I'm hopeful the assignments and techniques would not be very different. Now, Iso-blocks on runs plays....argh.
It was difficult to tell since teams spent most of the year deathly afraid of losing gap responsibility and letting Robinson slip into the secondary. Many opponents seemed content to let Denard sit and survey. In one on one matchups the line did very well against Iowa, Michigan State, and Penn State but not so well against Purdue (ie: Kerrigan) and Wisconsin. The numbers were consistently 1) low in amplitude and 2) good in percentage. The line wasn't asked to do a whole lot. They usually did it well.
It was a mixed bag, but they were starting a redshirt freshman and an injury-laden platoon at the tackles. I don't think there's much of a difference in pass protection between the two offenses in terms of technique, but pro-style attacks usually put a greater premium on five- and seven-step drops.
A bigger concern than this being an awkward transition is how much of the good pass protection last year was an illusion wrought by Robinson and the scheme.
2 - Thinking about a pro-style offense that employs slots and would fit fairly well.... What about the Patriots offense? Slot guys, undersized receivers and running backs....Obviously Tom never runs, but they could incorporate the single-wing QB runs and ISQD's pretty easily as well as roll-out run-pass option plays....Am I dreaming here? Is there any way with the Michigan connections over there that Borges/Hoke could go in this offseason pick Belichick and Brady's brains and/or outright steal some of that offense all together? What about the Eagles offense? It seems this would be a pretty good recruiting pitch - "You know Tom Brady? The Patriots? That team that crushes people all the time? Yeah - we're running their offense."
The Patriots may be pros but they don't really run a pro-style offense anymore thanks to Brady. Unfortunately for Michigan's immediate future, the things that make Brady one of the greatest QBs of all time—pinpoint accuracy and I'm-from-the-future coverage reads—are the things Robinson has in shortest supply.
Long term I'm down with what seems to be Borges's preference for a pass-slanted West Coast offense, which is a system that works and works well when you've got the right guy at the helm. One positive about returning to something resembling the old offense is that college football's tilt towards spread systems has made pocket guys more available, and Michigan's reputation was enough to lure Ryan Mallett north despite that not being the best idea in the world for him personally.
On the candidate pool:
Several respected people, yourself included, have correctly bashed the concept of a "Michigan Man" being a criteria for coaching this job (especially since there are so few actual Michigan Men qualified for the job despite a 38-year era to cultivate it). But what about the feeling that the new coach must be a proven head coach at a decent school? Isn't that a bit elitist of our fan base and narrowing the field substantially?
Obviously having someone with a great track record in a BCS conference reduces the risk substantially, but we just spent 3-years learning that it doesn't eliminate the risk completely. Conversely:
- Florida has been the best program in the country the past few years and just hired an coordinator with no head coaching experience and no ties to the program.
- That same coordinator was being groomed to take over at Texas, another national power, despite only being their DC for two years.
- Nebraska is one of the all-time winningest programs and has returned to respectability (after a similar coaching debacle) by hiring a coordinator with no head coaching experience.
- Wisconsin has been a force in the conference since promoting a DC who had minimal experience.
- OSU has been one of the elite programs in the country after hiring a Div-1AA coach.
What makes us as a fan base require the candidates to be proven commodities at a big school? What about plucking an up-and-coming coordinator from somewhere who will work their tail off because it is their first job? Why aren't their names like that on all the list of candidates being thrown around?
When I put together a list of the six plausible-if-they-'d-come candidates a few days ago they were all D-I head coaches, but I was basing that off Dave Brandon's assertion in the press conference that they'd be looking for someone who's currently a college head coach. I'm not necessarily advocating it myself. In fact, with everyone on that list off the table or a real longshot to start, it's time to move on to hot coordinators at BCS schools.
You want a guy who is in the right age bracket with a track record of excellent performances on his side of the ball under a head coach that either specializes on the other side of the ball or is more of a CEO type: Pelini, Muschamp, and Bielema all fit that profile. So did Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, and Mark Richt. That's probably four of the fifteen most prestigious programs in the country plus knocking-on-the-door Oregon and Wisconsin. Hot coordinators aren't just for the middle of the pack.
Who's out there right now?
- Gus Mahlzahn, OC, Auburn. Turned down Vandy job for payday at Auburn but there's only so much you can pay an OC and Vanderbilt's a deathtrap he was probably using for leverage more than anything else. Obvious con is that he's a real Southerner from the South and this will set off fainting spells across the land.
- Brent Venables, DC, Oklahoma. A slight violation of the principles above since Stoops is a defensive guy but he's getting up there and has probably removed himself from the day-to-day operations enough that Oklahoma's consistently excellent defense is largely Venables. He's young (40) but has seven years as a DC under his belt. Midwest connections are lacking.
- Paul Chryst, OC, Wisconsin. Interviewed for but either didn't get or didn't take the Texas OC job, but has made the Wisconsin offense terrifying. At 45 about ready to move up after almost a decade as a successful OC. Downside: hard to think of a more extreme mismatch with Michigan's offensive talent. Actually five years older than Bielema so it would take an implosion in Madison for the fact Wisconsin's his alma mater to be relevant.
- Tom Bradley, DC, Penn State. I mean why not at this point, right? Bradley's interviewing for jobs left and right and if he's not actually the new guy at Pitt he clearly seems willing to move on. He's been the defacto head coach at Penn State for years, has been the backbone of their consistently excellent defense, and could bring along a big chunk of staff with him. Caveat: he'd have to agree to an exorbitant you-can't-go-home-again buyout.
- Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech. The backbone of the good bit of Virginia Tech. People have tried to pry him out of Blacksburg forever and he hasn't gone but they've been offering DC jobs, not the head chair. A glance at his stats is ridiculous: the last five years VT has been sixth nationally or better in yardage defense. Is 51, so if he's ever going to be a head coach now's the time. Has interviewed at Pitt.
That's a list not far off the list of head coaches with one important difference: Michigan's likely to get one of the above. Again, if Brady Hoke was a former Penn State assistant would he be more attractive than those guys? I prefer someone with a 20-year timeframe who's proven he can assemble half of a conference championship-caliber team in the BCS to someone who, you know, hasn't.
Malzahn might bring scoffs about Midwest ties and Southern oh noes and whatnot but look at him:
This man is kind of a dork. In certain shots he looks a bit like Alton Brown. The latest bit of fluff on him from Pat Forde deploys the phrase "impregnable earnestness." He's also 45 and was the guy in charge of three wildly different, wildly successful offenses in five years as a coordinator. The fourth and fifth years were not quite as amazing but still saw teams rocking Chris freakin' Todd and freshman Mitch Mustain at quarterback finish 18th and 29th in total offense. Brandon mentioned offensive flexibility in the press conference. Mahlzahn offenses have been run-mad (2006 Arkansas and 2009-10 Auburn), pass-mad (2007 Tulsa) or both (2008 Tulsa).
There will be questions about recruiting and ties and whatnot but with Harbaugh gone we're now picking between questions, and I prefer "will this guy with an awesome offense that fits Denard like whoah be able to recruit and find a DC?" to "how long will a pro-style rebuild take and how much of my soul will die watching Denard play for someone else?"
I mean, who would Jeremy Foley hire?
Why not Mike Gundy? Other than the presser blowup and the whole leaving your alma mater thing, he'd seem like a good hire.
He's a man and he's now 43, so he's in a good spot as far as longevity but I didn't throw Gundy on the list because the blowup seemed like it would be offputting in the aftermath of Press Consumes Rodriguez Alive As Family Watches In Horror. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens will match anything Michigan can put out there and there is the whole alma mater thing. I didn't think he was plausible since the situation was "Pat Fitzgerald except the school can pay him."
In the name of equal time, section in which Hoke is defended:
How you could advocate Patterson over Hoke is absolutely beyond me. Patterson has no ties whatsoever to the midwest. He has only recruited Texas, yes his schemes are fundamentally sound but as we saw with RR there is way more to football than that. I wholeheartedly disagree with you on that one. Give Hoke as much time as Patterson has had in the Mountain West and he will have as much success.
Seriously? How on earth are we supposed to expect that a guy who's had two years in eight above .500 is as good of a coach as a guy with 8 of 10 above .500, most of them featuring eleven wins—TCU has won 11 games six(!) times under Patterson. He's vastly more proven than Hoke, whose single comparable season ended with blowout losses against Buffalo and Tulsa. Patterson just beat Wisconsin. There is absolutely no comparison between their resumes.
"Ties to the midwest" are somewhat important, but a couple local assistants can help smooth over any minor recruiting bumps and shouldn't outweigh a record of 98-28 over ten years. Ten years! Averaging 9.8 wins per year! Flargabargaegabarb.
Despite my antipathy for him it's not like Hoke is a guaranteed failure. However, it's hard to see him not providing another awkward transition period and then being at the tail end of his career by the time he gets something up and going. The upside is low, and frankly I don't want to return to whatever philosophy Carr had at the end of his career when OSU zoomed by him and Michigan flailed about with no answers. Michigan is in this situation because the Carr coaching tree doesn't exist and his version of bringing in Bret Bielema (a wildly successful DC at Kansas State) or Chip Kelly was to gradually force out Terry Malone in favor of Mike DeBord. Look at what Mack Brown's doing at Texas and compare it to the way Carr went out.
I want nothing to do with anyone who was a part of that unless someone else has employed them in a similar capacity because it's clear who you know became more important than anything late. Michigan cannot go home again and would be making a mistake by trying.
This could be you!
Is it possible that Rich Rodriguez's style of offense doesn't give his defense enough time to rest between drives? Using numbers from cfbstats.com, I calculated the following "time per drive" stats for Michigan and three other Big Ten teams:
My edition of Windows Live Writer automatically links to a post discussing how I hate time of possession whenever I type the words, so I'm probably not the guy to make this argument to. While it is possible that Michigan's lack of rest between drives contributed to the terrible defense,the goal of Michigan's varying tempos and generally quick pace is to place stress on the opposing defense. Arguing that short drives stress the defense is one side of the coin; the other is that they contribute to the offense's success.
The actual difference in rest is lower, too. The 45 seconds on game clock Michigan's isn't running isn't much when you account for TV timeouts and stoppages for first downs and incomplete passes and reviews and etc etc etc. I'd guess the difference is considerably less than 30%. Amongst the many factors that led to the defense's demise this year, "tiredness because the offense has short drives" is well down the list.
I'm a lifelong Michigan fan and moderate supporter of Rich Rodriguez. Here is my question... What can happen with the D coordinator position? We know Robinson should be fired, who are some good candidates to replace him if they stick with RichRod? Also, with all the unknowns regarding RichRod, does this mean that Robinson won't be fired until there is a firm decision about Rodriguez? Do we really have to keep him until New Years? Thanks guys,
The answers change significantly based on what defense you want to run. If Michigan is sticking with a 3-3-5 they should get someone who knows how to, you know, run the defense. The old and proven version of this coordinator is San Diego State's Rocky Long*, the former New Mexico head coach. He had a fairly successful decade-long run before running out of energy a couple years ago. The younger and not so proven option would be someone like Louisiana-Monroe's Troy Reffett, who's about 20 years younger than Long and has bounced around smaller schools, coordinating 3-3-5s at UTEP, New Mexico, and now ULM. ULM was seventh in the Sun Belt in yardage when he arrived and has finished 2nd and 3rd in his two years as the coordinator.
I don't think that should be a factor, though. From the outside it looks like they brought in Robinson, let him do his thing for a season, realized he was Greg Robinson 2010—not 1997—and tried to triage as best they could. This went not so well. The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes like a human, bring in a guy with an actual track record of success and let him run the defense. The less wacky the better. This means changing the D for like the fifth straight year, but we're doing that whether or not Rodriguez is retained so you might as well get used to the idea now.
As for who those might be:
- Randy Shannon was discussed in a previous mailbag. As an unemployed guy with a recent barrage of defenses somewhere between good and great, he's obviously appealing. He'd help Michigan's Florida recruiting while running a defiantly Big Ten-style "this is our 4-3 cover two we run every play, try to beat it please" defense. Downsides: he's never done anything but coach at Miami and may call the fire marshal when he sees an actually full stadium, and other cultural whatnot. He may hold out for another head coaching job, or leave if he gets offered one.
- The other interesting unemployed college DC is Pitt's Phil Bennett, a 52-year old who was SMU's head coach before June Jones came in. In three years at Pitt he posted FEIs of 27th, 26th, and 31st. His SMU years were moderately successful until the 1-11 crater that cost him his job; before that he was the K-State DC from 1999 to 2001, during which time the Wildcats finished in the top five in total defense every year. All K-State stats under Snyder should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt, but that's still a pretty good record for an available guy.
- Mike Trgovac is the Michigan Man/chaperone option most commonly presented. He was the Panthers' DC for six successful years before turning down a contract extension and leaving to be a DL coach at Green Bay, which is bizarre but whatever. He's 50—the coaching sweet spot—but hasn't coached in college since 1994.
- Another option is throwing scads of cash at a guy whose existing school can't afford to keep him. This might bode unwell for our bowl game but Manny Diaz's maniacal maniacs at Mississippi State are 14th in FEI this year. He's working under an offensive-minded head coach and is obviously the motive force behind that ranking. Diaz is young and fiery. This is an upside, but the downside is he has only one year under his belt in the SEC. At Middle Tennessee his last three defenses were 44th(hey, pretty good for MTSU), 103rd, and 84th (not so good).
Depressingly, a scan down the FEI defense list for good units at schools Michigan can drown in 100 dollar bills doesn't hit much of interest past Diaz until you get to #34, which is Syracuse and Scott Shafer. Everyone else is either not happening, dodgy because the head coach is the defensive mastermind, or TCU's Dick Bumpas, who's probably not happening.
*(Savor long and deep the irony of the quintessential "Michigan Man" candidate running a 3-3-5.)
Do you and Tim have a pretty good idea of the total number of recruits we can sign this year? I've heard people say about 18-19, but with all of the unexpected departures (Vlad, Turner, LaLota, White, Rogers, Dorsey, CJones, Kinard) that last year's class was a lot smaller than originally thought and that there are more roster spots available.
The Depth Chart By Class shows 77 scholarship players, ten of whom graduate. I'm assuming that Jordan Kovacs is now on scholarship but Will Heininger, Kevin Leach, Seth Broekhuizen and the various fullbacks are not, at least not until Michigan ends up with fewer than 85 scholarship players. That would leave a class of 18. In addition, I think it's unlikely Steve Watson and Mike Williams get fifth years, bringing the total to 20. They've currently got:
- QB: 0
- RB: 1
- WR: 0
- TE: 0
- Slot: 1
- OL: 3
- DE: 2
- DT: 0
- LB: 2
- CB: 4
- S: 0
- K: 0
That's 13, leaving seven slots for a kicker, a safety, a DT, a guard, and then three slots that could go to whoever they want. Chris Bryant is likely to be the guard, and two of the wild-card selections seem likely to be DE/DT Anthony Zettel and WR/LB Kris Frost. There are no likely options at DT right now and the safeties Michigan is in on seem like longshots, though it's possible Greg Brown ends up at FS. I'm also guessing Cullen Christian moves to FS this spring.
Are you a student? Do you like costumes?
After watching the dissapointing Bball attendance, myself and another remote alum and bball fan would like to help support the team but unfortunately are too far to make it to the games. We'd like to sponsor tickets for 2 students for the remainder of games provided they wear Big Bird costumes and Blake McLimans jerseys or T-Shirts.
The problem is, we don't know where to start finding 2 students willing to go to the games dressed as Big Bird and take our sponsored tickets. After reading the blog, I feel like this is a project you could get behind.
Behind it I am. Email me if you're interested in being the Blake McLimans fan club and I'll send your information along to Dave. Anyone else interested in exchanging money for shots of someone looking silly at a basketball game should contact me immediately.
It is mailbag time, and this necessarily involves talking about the various job securities of the various coaches on the staff. Apologies in advance for this.
I've followed the program pretty closely for the last few decades through friends, family, and former players. Wondering if your general opinion of Brady Hoke's competence as a head coach continues to reflect your 2007 assessment?
That 2007 assessment was a "Profile in Cronyism" at the dark point of the coaching search when reasonable options were thin on the ground and names like Hoke and Jim Grobe were getting thrown around, and it laid out the case that no reasonable Big Ten program, let alone Michigan, could possibly consider Hoke for a head coaching gig. At the time he was 22-36 at Ball State and had just finished his first winning season, that a 7-6 campaign. "Evidence suggests Hoke is outclassed in the MAC," I said at the time.
So of course Hoke immediately ripped off the best season in Ball State history, finishing the regular season before inexplicably losing to Buffalo in the MAC championship game. San Diego State hired him away, whereupon former Michigan offensive coordinator Stan Parrish took over. Parrish wasted no time impressing his indelible stamp on the program by losing 45-13. Hoke took over a 2-10 program; in his second year they're 8-4. Since the four losses have come against Missouri, BYU, TCU, and Utah and the biggest deficit was five points against TCU(though that game wasn't nearly as close as all that), his resume is now a plausible Big Ten resume…
…at Minnesota, where he's a rumored candidate. I know the emailer wasn't suggesting that Hoke would be considered for the Michigan job, but it's worth mentioning that Michigan's coaching search got so desperate in 2007 that a guy who put up a 12-2 season and has turned around San Diego State but still doesn't have a reasonable resume was getting kicked around.
I know you briefly alluded to this on TWIS, but what are the chances that Randy Shannon could possibly come and be our defensive coordinator? There are SO many great reasons why:
- He graduates players (I believe he had one of the highest APR rates for a BCS school)
- Pipeline to the South, especially Florida, so we can get their recruits
- Much better than GERG
- Able to relate to all sorts of players with different backgrounds
- Players stayed out of trouble
The only thing is whether or not Rich Rod would be willing to forgo the 3-3-5 or if Randy Shannon can coach the 3-3-5.
Speaking of which – isn’t that the hinge question? Do we want someone who can actually coach the 3-3-5 or do we want someone to switch to the 3-4 or 4-3?
I made a joking reference to Shannon in TWIS without thinking much other than "this is a defensive coach who is not Robinson," but… yeah, seriously. Unlike Robinson, Shannon has a track record of recent college success. His current team is 16th in total D and 22nd in scoring, seventh in sacks, first in TFLs, and third in pass efficiency D. FEI has them third nationally*.
Downsides: they got bombed by Florida State and gave up 31 to Virginia Tech—both games featured rushes of over eighty yards, and Shannon's had access to the steady stream of insane athletes that just hangs out at Miami Northwestern so his defenses probably should be pretty good.
Still, Wikipedia sayeth:
During Shannon's six years as UM's defensive coordinator, his defenses ranked as follows in total defense nationally:
Dang. Once he got the top job at Miami there was some dropoff, as Shannon's Ds finished 33rd, 28th, 29th, and 16th in yardage. FEI has the Shannon defenses, 41st (2007), 65th (2008), 18th, and 3rd, which is really interesting since the conventional measure hardly differentiates between Shannon's first three years.
That's a full decade of defenses somewhere between bludgeoning and decent, mostly bludgeoning. And as anyone who's watched a Miami game in the last four years can tell you, Shannon is a great guy with a heartbreaking life story who graduated his kids and kept them out of trouble. He should help Michigan's Florida recruiting even further, as he's a guy respected across the state. If Michigan changes DCs again they could do much worse.
The 3-3-5 issue shouldn't come up. Shannon's spent his entire career playing and coaching Miami's basic 4-3 cover two; asking him to run anything else would be as nuts as hiring a guy who'd driven Syracuse into a crater and asking him to run a defense he doesn't know, and one of the preconditions to keeping Rodriguez around should be "no more transparently nuts decisions, okay?"
*(Guess who's #1: West Virginia. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU.)
On the inefficiency of the offense:
So I found out why we suck. Turns out it isn't our defense. The reason we cant win is because of the offense and whatever kicker we trot out there to kick FGs. Look at the comparison between yards/game rank vs. points/yd rank among the top 30 offenses (total offense by total yards, not yds/game). We rank #6 in yds/game but #26 in pts/yd. So we move a ton of yards without getting much in return. Well, i should say we don't get enough in return. You'd think or expect our yd/game rank to be in the neighborhood of our pts/yd rank....but we have the worst differential among the top 30 offenses (total yards). Who knows where we'd rank if I went to all FBS teams.
What's also interesting is who is at the top. Teams with a high negative delta (pts/yd rank minus yd/game rank) get more points than they should be expected to. This can be because of a number of factors--they don't turn the ball over, they don't miss field goals, and/or their defense forces turnovers and provides shorter fields for the offense. In any case we now know why such a boring Wisconsin offense scores so many fricking points. They are #1 in pts/yd. OSU is #5. Neither of these teams are prolific, but they are extremely efficient and they don't screw up. Oregon, Boise State, and TCU are just fricking awesome all around. Stanford is another team that makes the most of its chances. Michigan's delta goes in the other direction (yd/game is awesome...pts/game not so much). Obviously we need to move the two numbers closer together.
Oh, if we scored .0868366 pts/yd, which is what NIU got at #6 in pts/yd rank (and closer to where we should be) we would have scored about 110 more points this year. If we had Wisconsin's, we would have scored 167 more points this year...hopefully all against OSU, WISC, PSU, Iowa, and MSU.
In summary... our defense can continue to suck and there will still be hope. Our offense needs to perform on 8 cylinders all the time and we need to get a kicker...have we tried the women's soccer team?
TEAM YDS/G PTS/G pts/yd PPY RK YD/GM RANK Rank Delta Wisconsin 450.2 43.3 0.096 1 18 -17 Oregon 541.7 50.2 0.093 2 1 1 Boise State 525.5 46.4 0.088 3 4 -1 TCU 491.5 43.2 0.088 4 7 -3 Ohio State 448.8 39.4 0.088 5 19 -14 Northern Illinois 452 39.3 0.087 6 17 -11 Auburn 490.1 42.1 0.086 7 8 -1 East Carolina 445.5 38.2 0.086 8 22 -14 Stanford 467.3 39.8 0.085 9 14 -5 Oklahoma State 537.6 44.9 0.084 10 2 8 Southern Miss 458.2 37.6 0.082 11 15 -4 Nevada 536.9 43.3 0.081 12 3 9 Nebraska 424.3 33.8 0.080 13 27 -14 Alabama 435.6 34.4 0.079 14 25 -11 Hawaii 487.8 38.3 0.079 15 10 5 Houston 480.5 37.7 0.078 16 11 5 Tulsa 503.5 39.3 0.078 17 5 12 Oklahoma 480.1 37.5 0.078 18 12 6 San Diego State 448.5 35 0.078 19 20 -1 Arkansas 489.3 37.3 0.076 20 9 11 Kentucky 437.3 33 0.075 21 24 -3 Air Force 437.4 32.3 0.074 22 23 -1 USC 427.9 31.1 0.073 23 26 -3 Texas A&M 447.6 31.7 0.071 24 21 3 Texas Tech 452.6 31.9 0.071 25 16 9 Michigan 500.9 34.2 0.068 26 6 20 Baylor 478.5 32.6 0.068 27 13 14 Southern Methodist 422.8 27.9 0.066 28 28 0 Miami (FL) 422.6 27.1 0.064 29 30 -1 UAB 422.8 26.8 0.063 30 29 1
This is the thing about looking up at halftime and seeing around 250 yards and ten points in chart form: hoooo boy was Michigan bad at converting drives into points this year.
A chunk of this is on the kickers. I don't think Michigan made any calls a David Romer obsessive wouldn't regard as broadly correct because of their field goal situation, so all of the disadvantages going 4 of 13 provides should be encapsulated in FEI's kicking stat, in which Michigan has proudly reclaimed their crown as the worst in the nation. They're giving up an astounding 1.15 points relative to an average team every time they line up to kick. Pretending they're average closes the gap between themselves and puts them in a tie with A&M and Texas Tech; something in the 30s gets them slightly past.
Turnovers are another chunk. This one's not quite as easy to quantify. Michigan's 27 lost turnovers is 109th nationally. I'm going to take a wild stab at how much of Michigan's deficiency here is due to the huge TO rate that should be generally correct but vulnerable to a lot of niggling details, so bear with me. Michigan's drives last year excluding end-of-half situations that did not result in points:
- 43 punts
- 57 TDs
- 13 FGAs
- 27 turnovers
The national median in turnovers lost is 20. If we wave a wand and pretend this is Michigan's distribution, and leave the spread unchanged otherwise we get another 2.7 punts, 3.5 TDs, and eight tenths of a field goal. That's another two points a game, which gets Michigan up to… 22nd.
So then the rest of it is starting almost every drive at their 20 or worse thanks to a terrible defense, no punt return game, no kick return game, and everything else that goes into Michigan's average starting field position, in which Michigan ranks 92nd relative to the opponent.
If we're assigning blame, the the offense appear to be about 25% responsible thanks to those turnovers with special teams taking 50% and the defense 25%.
We have done this the last two years but it's worth noting that West Virginia was consistently positive in TO margin after Rodriguez's first year, so it's not like this is an artifact of the system. I know I keep saying this in defiance of persistently agonizing triple digit rankings. Maybe next year, when Rodriguez has an upperclassman at QB for the first time?
Do you weigh the fact that Harbaugh probably is available only this offseason in your calculation to retain RR for a fourth year? Does the presumed availability of a top-tier candidate with deep UM ties change the analysis of whether RR should be retained? It has to in my mind--I'm not sure what conclusion it leads me to--does it in your mind? Or do you challenge my assumption about only this offseason?
I'm not sure I agree with the premise. I can see Harbaugh sticking around for another year at Stanford if he knows he's got a shot at the job next year, or leaving his team a la Al Groh to coach his alma mater, or not actually getting a pro job offer for whatever reason. (Let's stipulate that there's no college job Michigan couldn't poach Harbaugh from and no college program is likely to be foolhardy enough to test that.) But it is accurate that Harbaugh is available now and might not be in the future.
Does that change the calculus? Yeah. Without Harbaugh sitting there with an 11-1 Stanford team he built by hand from the finest recruits known to Stanford, I don't think the conversation about Rodriguez's job security is anywhere near as intense. Who's the next hot guy? Patterson and Peterson seem married to their current schools, Chip Kelly isn't going anywhere. The two guys next on everyone's lips are Dana Holgorsen and Gus Mahlzahn, two offensive coordinators who have never been head coaches.
Sans Harbaugh, Michigan would probably take a look at the available options, glance back at Denard, and say "well, one more year probably can't hurt." With him, it's a choice between as-probable-as-it-gets long term success and an awkward fit with the Big Ten offensive player of the year, or hoping that someone can finally turn Rodriguez's defense at Michigan into something other than doom. There are worse spots to be in. There are better.
The diary on poor tackling got me thinking about Rich Rod's coaching philosophy. It's obvious that he recruits speed and athletes on offense at not only the skill positions but also the o-line where he likes guys who can get out and block in space. These are the guys who get all the attention and the playing time. They are "the game breakers" and the guys who can make a big play at any time. How can that not transfer over to the defensive side of the ball? So, in the spring, we heard rumors about Cam Gordon having a great camp because he probably delivered some big hit kill shots to 4th string RBs instead of learning how to play assignment football with fundamentally sound tackling.
Am I way off here? Every yard after contact I see Michigan allow, I can't help but think how much better a (I can't believe I'm saying this) Jim Herrmann/Ron English defense was at stopping the run. We can chart how few upperclassmen we have on D until we are blue in the face but you have to concede that something is fundamentally wrong with the program's defensive attitude and philosophy. I think it just may be the constant search for "big time players" rather than smart football players who can read and react quickly.
What do you think?
Well… yeah, I guess, but like everything else on the defense the lack of depth and experience makes it hard to tell whether we're just seeing what would happen if Virginia Tech threw out a secondary full of underclassmen or if there's a long-term talent development problem. Is it a recruiting issue? Don't know. Rodriguez recruits at Michigan are all freshmen or sophomores, and if none of them are very good there's a pretty obvious reason why. Very few can "read and react quickly" as underclassmen.
Something is wrong with the program's defensive philosophy. That much is obvious. To me that problem is an incoherent coaching staff that either forces the coordinator to run a scheme he doesn't understand or forces the position coaches to do the same. Why is it so important for the position coaches to know what the defense is doing instead of getting JT Floyd to exist? I don't know, but those meddling kids have put Michigan in some goofy variant of the 3-3-5 for three years running and it hasn't done anything but implode because the defensive coordinator isn't really on board.
The problem with Michigan's philosophy on D appears to be the lack of one.
While i think there are many things wrong with the Michigan football team right now, it seems like either the play calls or the reads have been restrictive in nature.
Last year, it seemed like on the read-option, there was a third option to pass to a receiver at the line of scrimmage that could catch and run for an easy 5 yds. Has this been replaced by the receiver running a skinny post?
Also, it seems a major component of any spread offense is the quick screens/pass to the slot receiver with the outside WR blocking down. The offense featured this last year but hasn't at all this year.
I believe the plays are in the offense's playbook. When Tate is in, there is a more even run/pass distribution. (ie- look at the easy 7 yds michigan could have had at the end of the Penn St game when Denard threw to Junior Hemingway and he dropped the ball)
The main point of all of this... It would seem that passing on the edge would open up the defense to make running in the middle a little bit easier.
Thanks for you coverage of Michigan. It makes my work day more enjoyable.
Opponents have been taking the bubble away by alignment. Iowa put a linebacker over him and managed to keep two-deep coverage. Penn State moved a safety down. When opponents have gone away from these schemes it hasn't taken Michigan long to hit the bubble for a nice gain, at which point they go back to taking it away. When Iowa started blitzing off the edge in the second quarter Michigan hit a couple bubbles and Iowa reverted to its previous scheme. Smart Football dubbed the bubble a "constraint play" way back in 2008, defining the concept like so:
What if your offense is based only on bubble screens and then you just run the ball or throw the ball as a counter to your bubble screen offense?
The difference is that the bubble screen is a play that really only works when the defense has made a structural choice or is out of position. Most commonly, you'll run when the bubble only when the defense has but two defenders to cover three receivers. You thus block the two defenders and the receiver has free yards. If the defense puts a third defender there they can take the play away, intercept it, or make the tackle.
Conversely, a well designed dropback pass play, a triple option play, or certain base runs will work every time you face a normal defense. The only time the play stops working is when certain defenders cheat on their assignments, either by alignment or aggressiveness.
You're right that the edge passing opens up the interior running, but it's already a reason Michigan's ground game has been so effective, and a reason that things like Kevin Koger 60 yard touchdowns happen.
The bubble option after a zone read keeper is still being run but it's not being thrown. I imagine they've de-emphasized it because when it has been thrown it's not usually getting more than a few yards and if that's your upside you might as well let Denard carry it. The equation changes radically when he's running the ball instead of Forcier.
Chip Kelly said a week or so ago he has nothing to do with his defense, he just leaves that side of the ball to his defensive coordinator. GERG has championship rings on multiple levels. Why can't RR just let him do his thing? It seems to me that if Rich Rod just worried about the offense and let GERG do the D, Michigan might be better off.
The other side of the complaint about Rodriguez not being involved enough in the defense. This is an unanswerable question. I'm not sure why there was an insurrection against Scott Shafer in 2008—well, okay, I have some idea since Michigan refused to put Brandon Harrison on the field—or why the 2009 defense spent most of its time in an eight-man front or why Michigan decided to install every front imaginable this year.
It's clear, however, that the position coaches are forcing the coordinators to adapt to them (again, this is exactly what happened in Tommy Tuberville's final year at Auburn) and the results are dismal.
Whether or not turning the defense over to Greg Robinson would help any is debatable. He has never built an effective college defense. After getting fired from the Chiefs he had a single year at Texas during which he turned in the same level of performance the DCs before and after him did. Then he went to Syracuse and could not field a minimally competent unit after his first year—the team went backwards fast and stopped in the triple digits. While he got a rep for being a good position coach last year it's obvious that the linebackers we can actually compare across '09 and '10 did not progress much over the offseason. Ezeh was the same, Mouton is a little better but still prone to the same mistakes he's made throughout his career. No one else has never seen the light of day before this year.
At this point there is no case for keeping him around. There is no reason to expect anything but failure from him; some good NFL defenses with the Broncos are now a decade old. All the reasons the defense should be bad are still valid, but the only way to salvage Rodriguez's job is to bring in a defensive coaching staff with proven recent success that cannot be undermined by whatever the deal is with the current assistants, whichever of them stay around.
In response to your recent post about the blood drive where you said: “I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up” there is indeed a slightly more noteworthy streak that is still intact. Michigan’s Mens rowing team has beaten OSU’s mens rowing team 14 consecutive years at their annual dual race. According to the team’s website this streak is the longest continuous streak for Michigan over OSU in any sport ever (at least where head-to-head meetings are applicable). The matchup takes place right before the annual football game (with the first win coming in November 1996), so in my approximation this streak is at about 5,085 days or so and counting. Thought you might like that nugget of info.
Woo! Also, sincere congratulations to the rowing team.
And at least no one broke this guy's nose:
I dressed up as everyone's favorite defensive coordinator for Halloween this year!
One guy I never met before came up to me and told me how much he hated me and how badly he wanted to punch me in the face.
One topic that was brought up during your WTKA segment today regarding special teams was, "what happened to the kickoff return game?' You never addressed it during the segment, so I thought I would throw this at you.
I haven't done my Mgoresearch, but wasn't there a rule change regarding kickoff return team blocking? IIRC, the NCAA has limited the number of return team players allowed in a blocking wedge or wall.
I would have to look up video from previous seasons, but I believe U of M utilized a 3 man wall in front of the returners with Kevin Grady and others.
David is correct: the NCAA banned wedge blocking this offseason, which at least partially explains how an effective kick return game has disintegrated. If Michigan was really good at the wedge and now it's gone they're starting over. That doesn't explain why they're really bad, but does get you to average.
That lack of effectiveness and Darryl Stonum's increased importance to the offense make his removal from kick returns less annoying than it was earlier in the year. With Odoms out there's not much depth on the outside and Stonum wasn't getting any returns; it's possible that one-cut-and-go type stuff is less effective and kick returners should be shiftier guys closer to punt returners.
What do you think of Devin Gardner's expected plea for a medical redshirt? It's suspicious he's only played 1/3rd of the season and is eligible for the redshirt. If this is RichRod bending redshirt rules for an extra year of eligibility from Devin, isn't this a bad thing, like Saban's redshirts? We're not gaming the system for more scholarships, but we are gaming it for a competitive advantage, right?
The difference is that I'm sure Devin Gardner is 100% on board with getting a fifth year of eligibility. The Alabama players "encouraged" to take a medical scholarship would like to keep playing football and are being presented with an involuntary choice: transfer or medical, take your pick. I'm not too concerned about skating the edges of NCAA rules when it doesn't have a negative impact on the student-athlete the entire enterprise is supposed to support.
The timing is convenient but unless Michigan has an inordinate number of medical redshirts per year I'm not sure the NCAA would even bat an eye at a documented injury. Like, say, this:
That looks like exploitation. Michigan's pattern probably isn't that blatant, so what can you do when they say he was hurt?
Finally, concerns about looking bad to the NCAA are overblown. The worst thing that can possibly happen is the NCAA says no.
The future of defense. Many questions answered piecemeal:
One of the potential "benefits" of having so much youth on defense is that they could potentially lock down their positions for years. If that happens in any cases, can you explain whether there is any positional flexibility with this 3-3-5 alignment we're using?
Could Carvin move to FS?
Doubtful. His strengths and weaknesses make him an excellent fit for the spot he's at right now and not so much of an excellent fit at FS, where speed and raw athleticism are more important. Not that our current FS has those in buckets, but moving Johnson doesn't really solve that issue.
How is Marvin going to see the field if he's behind Kovacs? (who expected us to say something like that?)
Possibly by trying out free safety? This is the weird thing called "depth."
Could Furman or Hawthorne see the field anywhere?
Hawthorne is the third team spur behind two guys younger than him. The most likely career outcome there is special teams only. Furman is likely to move to OLB, where he'll need another year or two of seasoning before breaking through. Remember he was super raw out of HS.
Would Roh move to a true DE in this scheme or stay in this hybrid LB situation?
He's already a DE (mostly) against conventional teams. Michigan is a 4-3 or 3-4 base against conventional pro-style sets and Roh puts his hand down more often than not. So the question is really "will Roh play DE against spread teams next year?" That depends on how Jibreel Black, JB Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron, and other OLB/DEs (Wilkins, Paskorz, Furman) develop. I think the ideal situation sees Roh add another 10-15 pounds over the offseason to hit 265—he's listed at 6'5"—and becoming a full-time DE. Before Herron went down Michigan was using him as a 3-3-5 DE to good effect against Notre Dame, and we've all seen him struggle in space against Indiana.
Roh will probably remain a hybrid against pro-style teams, playing clunky LB when Michigan drops into the 3-3-5.
Could Cam Gordon move down to another spot?
If you can find a suitable replacement at free safety, but who's that? Kovacs? No. Floyd? Really bad tackler. Vinopal's made a lot of hay out of one play against Bowling Green but remains a true freshman as well. Ideally he'd move down to spur or bandit (or even OLB) but unless Michigan snags someone ready to start at FS from day one it's hard to see him relocate.
That's why the recruit I'd most like to get in February is JUCO safety Byron Moore, who qualified out of high school and transferred away from USC after a redshirt season to get playing time and scout out a new destination not being cratered by NCAA sanctions. As a big time recruit two years removed from high school with a year of PT under his belt, Moore is the closest thing to a quick fix at FS Michigan will ever have.
But wait, there's Woolfolk, right? Well a bit more on him later.
How do you see the open positions being filled in 2011 on defense to see if there's hope? I assume Jones and Demens will be the LB (backed up by Ryan, Bell, and any freshmen)
Yes, though Jones might field a challenge from parts unknown. It's hard to see anyone displacing Demens if only because there almost literally isn't anyone behind him on the depth chart at the moment.
I assume Black will be the DE (backed up by Heninger and the RS-Freshmen)
Yes, unless they go with Roh there—Black will find plenty of PT platooning—and Herron/Fitzgerald at the other OLB spot. With the lack of depth at DT that might be a way to spot Martin with RVB from time to time, as well.
Does Woolfolk automatically go back to corner or deep safety? I assume corner, but with the time Avery and Talbott are getting could he be better served protecting the deep ball?
Up in the air, something that will be decided based on the potential acquisition of Moore, Gordon's play the rest of the season, and how things work out in spring. Right now I'd say corner since Michigan plays a ton of cover three and none of the freshmen looks like they should be starting next year. Even if one of them develops quickly you'd like to have some depth at corner for nickel and dime packages.
And then there's this:
I liken the "Angry M hating God" to Yukon Cornelius and Hermey Scrivello from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
For instance, the M defense is the Bumble, ready to devour talking reindeer and #1 wide receivers accross the land. Then Yukon and Hermey show up unexpectedly and ruin everything. They rip out your teeth (Woolfolk) and force you to do stupid shit like hang Christmas ornaments or run only zone because you have lost the only thing that instilled fear in your opponent.
Our defense is the Bumble without teeth. Right now our pass defense is being shoved off a cliff every week until we grow new teeth or we realize we have claws to gouge the eyes of our opponent. I'm just sayin'.
I have nothing to add.