Mike Lantry, 1972
no, no, maybe
1. Does the CCHA rejecting Alabama's bid start to pave the way for Penn State to go varsity?
Probably not. All the reasons Penn State varsity hockey was unlikely the last time this blog addressed the topic still apply minus one: no conference to go to. Now Penn State could slot into UNO's spot in the CCHA and play a bunch a games against Big Ten teams and Notre Dame, which would put their program on decent footing financially. The CCHA, meanwhile, would be much more likely to accept a name school like Penn State.
That's a big hurdle gone and improves the chances of Penn State varsity hockey from 0% to something nonzero. But the rest of the pile of reasons it's not likely to happen—expense, Title IX, likely doormat status at the start—still apply. We can also toss "endowment-crushing economic collapse" on the heap now.
There is one wild scenario in which I could see some movement: the Big Ten Network wants content on Friday and Saturday nights and thinks that the CCHA with Penn State would be enough of a financial draw that they chip in.
[Side note/question: the CCHA's persistent attachment to Fox Sports Net is weird, since FSN craps all over college hockey whenever they've got a Wings game from 1985 to replay. I can only assume there's a contract that doesn't expire quite yet, because the BTN would be a natural fit for the league. Every team not in Alaska is in the footprint, and nothing else ever happens on Friday night.
Also, the glorious high definition of last year's BTN-broadcast Ohio State game left me crippled the next time I tried to squint at a Fox Sports' two-pixels-a-second stuff. Complicating factor: Fox is 49% owner of the BTN.]
2. Back in 2004, what (if any) were the reports out of practice in terms of the quarterback situation? I don't think it even occurred to me before he took the field that Henne might be the starter for the first game. All of the praise heaped on Tate so far made me want to check for a comparison.
Unfortunately, this blog started up just before the Rose Bowl that season and I can't go back and tell you definitively. What I remember (and this may be wrong; commenters are encouraged to provide their own take in the comments) is that Henne was recognized as an incredibly advanced high school quarterback and there was considerable uncertainty as to whether Gutierrez or Henne would get the job.
However, Henne was a surprise starter. I remember the muttering in the pregame warmups as it became clear that Gutierrez wasn't throwing and Henne was running the first-team offense. It was clear Gutierrez was injured and IIRC the base assumption was that Henne only had the job until such time as the real starter got healthy. This was not a correct assumption.
Just wondering, how many scholarships we have next year? I thought I heard we had 20, but then we had a whole slew of kids leave the program. Don’t we get those scholarships back? Shouldn’t we be thrilled when these kids leave the program when they can’t play for us anyway?
I just looked on Rivals and it says we have 18 kids committed. If we still stand at 20, that means we’ve pretty much hitched our wagon to these 3 star kids (who are probably better than that, based on their fit in our schemes) instead of waiting until some of the bigger name kids commit in Feb.
Do we have more than 20 scholarships?
Thanks for the help!
Yes, Aarronn—last name Herrmann FTW?—Michigan gets those scholarships back. Did you miss the constant bitching about this fact re: Alabama? This blog's current count stands at 20 but that's under the following assumptions:
Moundros and Kelvin Grady on scholarship until they graduate.
Morales and Sheridan are not.
All fifth-year players return.
No one leaves for the draft.
There's no other attrition.
Some of those are highly likely to be faulty: Bryan Wright and the Coner are not going to get fifth years unless they have incriminating photos of the coaching staff. And there's six months between now and signing day; it's likely a couple players leave the team for reasons of playing time, academics, or injury. (I had a dream last night that three more players left the team, FWIW, but I think they were all Marell Evans again.)
That will push Michigan's class to 23, 25, or even more. Add in a decommit or two and Michigan's still got a ways to go before its class is complete.
You're not wrong about hitching the wagon to three stars, though. This class is going to lag behind the average Michigan class, as discussed earlier. As long as Michigan fills their open scholarship and retains this class, though, it'll be a minor hindrance unless it happens again next year.
Brian,One thing I have noticed is that you freak out at the possibility of Nick Sheridan starting the season opener or any other game during the rest of his time at Michigan. My question is, Would it be all that bad if he did win the starting job come September 5th? Now before you wonder where I have been for the last 18 months, hear me out. If Sheridan has improved immensely during the spring, summer, and first few days of preseason and he outright beats both Forcier and Robinson, shouldn't that be encouraging? Now we do have 2 or 3 legitimate QB options. Wouldn't it be a good thing if Magee and Rodriguez could open up a majority of the playbook to a junior who actually has game experience and has started a D1 game?I was at the spring game and was able to see Forcier and I have been keeping up on what his teammates have been saying about him and I am very excited and I am trusting this year will be much better than last. However, they are saying good things about Sheridan as well. I think it would be great if Forcier was slowly worked into more and more snaps during games and by Eastern or Indiana, he's the starter.I guess I just won't be surprised if Sheridan or Forcier starts vs. Western.Your further thoughts and reasoning behind not wanting Sheridan to ever play again except in mop-up duty.Thanks,Adam
I don't mean to slam Sheridan, who's just a guy put in an impossible position trying to make the best of everything. And I don't mean to slam Adam, who seems like a perfectly nice, if insanely optimistic, guy.
That said: were you under a rock last year? Do you remember what happened? I hate Godwin's law right now. I mean, what is your instant reaction to this AnnArbor.com video headline:
Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan discusses - rather, avoids discussing - what he brings to the table
I know what it is. I know it in my bones. I know it in the bones of my bones. If you try to tell me it's not the cheap, obvious joke I will call you a liar.
I know you specifically disclaimed this sort of response, but… you're not allowed to do that. It is the correct, inevitable response. If Rodriguez chooses to play Sheridan at any point when Forcier is still mobile, that's either a huge failing in judgment or recruiting.
A brief recap of last year: 46% completion rate, 4.5 YPC, 2 TDs, 5 INTs. That's far, far worse than any true freshman starter in recent college football history save Jimmy Clausen, and Sheridan was a redshirt sophomore. He's a walk-on with zero recruiting profile with no indication he's got any upside. Why would he improve "immensely"? Why wouldn't Tate Forcier improve at a similar rate? Why isn't Forcier obviously ahead where Sheridan was last year given their vastly divergent spring games*? What part of the playbook can Sheridan, who's slower and has a weaker arm than Forcier, run that someone else can't?
Even immense improvement would only get Sheridan to the level of your average freshman quarterback. And even if that happens and it's close between Forcier, who should be better than your average freshman just because he's been bred to be a QB, and Sheridan—doubtful—you'd have to be nuts to go with a redshirt junior over a true freshman. You'd have to be triple nuts to go with a redshirt junior who completed 16 of 49 for under 150 yards in the last two games of the year and was clearly, totally inadequate in the process. You'd have to be sextuple nuts to go with him a year after you picked him over a superior quarterback based on practice performance that turned out to be a mirage.
Sheridan was asked if he felt he was being written off, and responded like so:
“No,” Sheridan said. “Not at all. Nope.”
Well… I'm writing him off. I am Time Warner. Sheridan is AOL. If he proves me wrong, well, fine. I suggest you join me in the most obscure country ending in –stan we can find.
But he definitely won't. Absolutely. I'm positive about this. Stop suggesting otherwise. Football coaches have to take team morale into account when they craft their public statements and have to keep their hotshot freshmen on their toes to keep them focused. That doesn't mean we have to believe them.
*(By this I mean Forcier's 10/13 + 50 yards rushing + 5 TDs in 2009 versus Nick Sheridan's interception-fest in 2008.)
I am in the process of analyzing our numbers for 2009 and 2010 for a diary post, and I was wondering what you think the preferred number of scholarships should be by position. Going through the allotment of 85 scholarships, I was actually surprised as to how many I had left over. I felt that all positions had adequate depth, and still had about 10 left over. In my opinion, I don't believe we need 5 quarterbacks, or 7 wide receivers and 4 slots, but the other positions seemed adequate, and it made more sense to me to give an extra scholarship to these positions than others.
My rough estimate is:
Offense QB 5 RB 7 FB 1 WR 7 SWR 4 TE 3 OL 15 42 Defense DE 7 DT 7 LB 12 CB 7 S 8 41 Special Teams K 1 P 1 2 Total 85
What do you think?
Thanks for your help,
That appears to be an ideal scholarship breakdown; if so it seems heavy on the linebackers and light on DL and CB.
If you hold a couple scholarships apart for kickers you have 83 spots for 22 starting slots, or about 3.75 scholarship per starter. A breakdown based solely on that metric, with the numbers rounded to the nearest whole- or half-number that makes sense, gives you the following (chart?) chart*:
|Pos||Slots||Ideal||2009||2010 (Est)||Pos||Slots||Ideal||2009||2010 (Est)|
|RB||1.5||5.5||8||8 or 9||DT||2||7.5||5||6 or 7|
|OL||5||19.0||15||14 or 15||S||2||7||4||6|
|Totals||11||42||42||44 to 46||Totals||11||39.5||32||41|
Impressions from the chart:
The offense isn't too far off ideal numbers now and won't push far above them next year. The biggest discrepancy between the "ideal" offense numbers and the existing team is about four offensive linemen who happen to be tailbacks. I don't think that's out of whack. Michigan's always carried six to eight running backs. They get injured lots. They get tired and platoon. They don't redshirt much. Meanwhile, with linemen their sheer number gives you more leeway. The proportions and numbers on Michigan's offense this year look about right to me.
You know, except for the fact that two of the quarterbacks are the Coner and Sheridan.
Next year Michigan will add three scholarships to the receiving corps at the expense of an offensive lineman (maybe) and/or a few defenders, but Jerald Robinson or Cameron Gordon or someone else could send up on the other side of the ball, which would bring the numbers in line with a reasonable distribution.
The defense, especially the secondary, is creepin' me out, man. I slanted the numbers a bit towards the offense and the current team still comes up about eight guys short, with the secondary alone accounting for seven of those folk. Great googly-moogly. If Justin Turner hadn't qualified I'd be freakin' out, man.
I'm not too worried about the low numbers at middle linebacker given the way college football is moving; you can see the disproportionate number of tweener guys in the OLB/DE numbers.
Next year the scary numbers should come up. I assume Michigan will take two more corners and at least one more safety; they graduate no one.
Michigan's operating at something like ten scholarships under the limit this year, and the defense has taken the entire hit. But said unit also graduates exactly two players, so even if this defensive class is only ten—less than half a class that will probably hit 22 or 23—the numbers should be a lot closer to even next year. And that's without taking possible position switches, all of which are likely to go from offense to defense, into account.
The upshot: yes, this class is a tad heavy on receivers—shock—but not to the point that it will be a major drag on available defenders going forward. This year's secondary, however, is last year's offensive line in terms of depth and huge scary dropoffs past the starters.
*(Notes on the numbers: in certain spots I moved players to positions other than the ones they occupy on the Depth Chart By Class. This mostly took OLBs to deathbacker, which for purposes of this chart I'm considering a DE. Herron and Evans were filed as DEs; Ryan Van Bergen was filed as a DT. You could probably move Banks or Patterson to DT, too. Also: Nick Sheridan was included in 2009 but not 2010; fullbacks are assumed to be walk-ons with one getting a slot at any one time.)
You can see in the pictures of the construction that the glass and brick structures that will be the club seats and suites in 2010 are almost complete (at least the exteriors). Do we think we'll see a huge change in noise level from this season to last?
Thanks, and Go Blue
This is a topic that comes up all the time and to which I can only say "I don't really know." Back in '07 some Russian guys ran out an oversized metallic dandelion-looking device at halftime of the Minnesota game and exhorted the stadium to cheer. "Taking measurements," they claimed. Either that's an elaborate coverup of a Russkie plot or it's true.
A few days later the Daily made this remarkable assertion:
When Navvab and his team took measurements during Saturday's halftime, they found that the sound - almost exclusively from the student section - was 100 decibels, or the equivalent of a chainsaw.
With the skyboxes, which will stand about 10 feet higher than the scoreboards and further enclose the stadium, the sound level of the stadium would reach 110 or 111 decibels, about the noise level of a loud rock concert, Navvab said.
Decibels are a logarithmic scale; moving ten decibels up is equivalent to doubling the perceived loudness, a jump too preposterous to believe. On the other hand, I've been high up in upper decks—it's like being in another world; all the noise just goes straight up—and I've long thought Ohio Stadium's relatively vertical construction helped them hold in sound. And Michigan's boxes are both very tall and angled in towards the field.
It'll definitely get better. How much only the Russians can tell you, and we evidently don't believe them anyway. One thing it's not going to do is replace a bunch of crabby down-in-fronters with drunk Cajuns. Michigan fans will remain Michigan fans, and with that comes a certain level of posh. Michigan Stadium doesn't get fired up much. When it does, though, it does a credible job.
The proof will be at next year's Big Ten Media Days; MGoBlog will seek out visitors from any and all close home games and ask if they thought the stadium had gotten noticeably louder.
Some Penn State Fan who works with Anonymous Blog Reader, you have been pwned:
A remote co-worker of mine is a PSU fan. I spent last week in his location, in his cube to be exact since he was on vacation. His entire cube is decorated in PSU memorabilia, quite nice if you're a PSU fan, however I am not
I took the liberty of modifying the August page of his official PSU calendar. My only regret is that I can't be there when he flips that page on August 1st and is greeted by one of the greatest college football pictures ever snapped.
That is all. Carry on with your weekend.
Any news regarding the possible eligibility of Jason Forcier for this upcoming season? Any idea when we might hear from the NCAA and any conjecture as to what the outcome might be? I’m guessing (based on the fact we haven’t heard anything) that this probably won’t happen.
I’d sure breathe easier with an experienced backup to the freshman tandem we are fielding.
Thanks! Best, Mark
No, not really. The elder Forcier's transferred to Michigan and applied for the semi-repealed Mundy waiver; a decision has to be coming in the next couple weeks since fall drills start in mid-August. I don't know how likely a waiver is, and neither does the athletic department. I asked Bruce Madej about it; the response: "we have not had this before so there is nothing to draw from."
As far as breathing easier… while it'll be nice to have Forcier around for multiple reasons—can't hurt Tate's adjustment to college, for one—I'd be mildly surprised if he ended up above Sheridan on the depth chart. He's had little time to learn the offense and at this point has far less D-I playing time than Sheridan. Even if he does win the third (second?) string spot, if he sees the field it will be time for serious panic.
The tight end position and the slot receiver position look as though they will have more competition and more depth this year. From early reports both Koger and Webb are some of the most athletic players on the team. Odoms will have his hands full trying to keep his starting slot position with Stokes, Roundtree, Gallon and Robinson behind him. Do believe this added depth will create changes in which formations are used. Maybe two TEs with Koger and Webb or could two slots be on the field and that the same time to make bubble screens to either side of the ball? Thanks.
You'll definitely see some formations with four wideouts and two slot guys; Rodriguez went to that frequently at West Virginia. As you note, that will prevent defenses from cheating on the bubbles and hopefully add some variety. And it might not end there. Gallon, Robinson, and Teric Jones all spent their high school careers in the backfield, and thus might be better candidates to go from the backfield to the slot or pull up to provide option pitch guys on QB runs. Gallon's got a pretty accurate arm for a 5'8" guy; I have waking dreams about Gallon pulling up to pass a la Antwaan Randle El in that Super Bowl.
As far as dual TE sets… well, I don't know. At West Virginia, Rodriguez would move Owen Schmitt around as an H-back and that was it as far as TEs went. So he's already in unexplored territory here. If I had to guess, though, I bet he tries it. He's an inveterate tinkerer and likes to mix up some I-form and whatnot to catch opponents off guard; if he's got two tight ends there will probably be a game in which we see a change-up dose of twin-TE ace sets. They can run zone stretches from that, too. I also bet that at least one of the hyped tight ends falls a little flat, causing significant separation between option A and option B and that twin TE sets never make it out of the exotics phase.
Those will feature more this year but It's another new formation I expect will emerge in the fall: a 1TE 2RB shotgun set with Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor in the same backfield. Michigan showed this in the spring game with some frequency and it promises to be difficult for opposing teams to defend as long as both seniors remain healthy.
Though we all know July is a complete and utter dead zone as far as college football is concerned, I thought of a question to occupy our time that hasn't really yet been asked. With everyone under the sun making predictions about how next season will go, no one has really considered or elaborated on what effect, if any, this season could have on the current 2010 class coaches are compiling. You, and several others, have mentioned that a 3 and 9 season caused an understandable dip in recruiting, perhaps prompting coaches to widely pursue more players (some of lower rank) while turning higher rated players off on Michigan, etc. Though rankings aren't everything.
But, if 2009 goes the way of 7 and 5 or even 6 and 6, do you see a potential increase in interest from guys either on the fence about Michigan or turned off by the Wolverine's 2008 season. Basically, can success in 2009 win over 2010 guys currently not on the board? If so, who? Or with this summer almost in the bag, are recruits starting to finalize their decisions and close the door on schools they haven't yet considered?
Eh… not much. By the time it'll be clear Michigan has improved and Rodriguez isn't a dead man walking, 99% of Michigan's targets will have already made their decision re: Michigan. For one, there won't be many slots in the class even midway through the fall. Michigan will add maybe 7 or 8 players before February, and by mid-September they'll probably have half of those guys. A competent season could collect one or two guys who might have gone elsewhere, and that effect is pretty marginal.
Where you would see a bounce is in the 2011 class.
Through The Wolverine Blog I saw a link to the Bentley image bank library at UM. I was checking out team photos from throughout the years (which is awesome) and came across this photo that appears to have the team wearing three different jerseys.
Any info on what the deal is with this? Is this just what they wore at practice back then? Would love to see some striped throwback jerseys sometime at Yost. These are nice too:
I have no answers for Gabo here, but I figure someone out there might. What's the deal with Michigan's motley collection of jerseys here? It's the Great Depression, so maybe they didn't sell enough pencils to get a unified kit. The guys on the right appear to have eaten their shirts entirely.
I have read recent posts that you believe on some level 3-9 has contributed to not getting more *4* stars, etc. I don't want to get into the star debate but I do want to ask you a straightforward question.
If your argument is correct..give me an example of higher ranked guy(s) that bypassed UM because of last year.
Who basically dropped us or would have inevitably committed to UM but decided not to because of record? Gholston..MSU guy. I know your argument is going be that UM had to offer 'lesser' prospects..I disagree.
I think these prospects commit depending on the depth chart and playing time. Why would a guy commit to UM when he sees Stonum and Stokes? Why would a top rb commit when he sees Toussaint and White on the horizon or for that matter..Shaw and Hopkins. This is before we take into account the offensive scheme.
Remember, a lot of these RBs are downgraded because they aren't every down backs or NFL prospects. The star thing can be deceiving for certain positions.
Why would a top DL come to UM... so they can back up Campbell, RVB and Martin? You see a lack of DBs..hence a guy like Christian and Avery are willing to commit.
I see absolutely NO evidence that the record has had any impact. Now, if UM has another dismal record this year… I could definitely see a downturn. But I don't see mediocre recruits coming to UM.
Cordially and Respectfully, John Weiss
Well, the thing is: I don't think I can give you your example of a guy who said he wasn't considering Michigan because of their terrible record a year ago. It doesn't work like that. Usually what happens is a player talks about teams he's interested in for whatever reason and does not mention why the rest of college football isn't on his list. So the evidence is more circumstantial: fewer players listing Michigan, Michigan pursuing prospects further down the line, and so forth and so on.
I get your point about offensive fit and three stars and whatnot. I don't care that Christian Pace is (right now) a three-star on Rivals. From what I've read and heard—there will be more on Pace in the week's recruiting roundup—I'm convinced he's a perfect fit for Michigan's offense and will be very successful here, barring injury. But it's not like Rodriguez didn't immediately start racking up four stars upon arrival at Michigan. Seven of the nine recruits he finished Lloyd Carr's last class with were four stars on one site or the other, and the bulk of Rodriguez's first full class sported four stars. There seems to be a clear correlation between players the recruiting gurus are high on and ones Rodriguez likes to acquire.
It's also hard to argue that the real problem with Michigan's recruiting is the vast depth when 1) the depth on defense is actually terrifying, which is where the recruiting is most concerning and 2) Michigan was 3-9 last year.
There will be a dip in Michigan's final recruiting rank this year, and that will be meaningful. But it's not fate or anything, and strong classes on either side of it coupled with good retention will see Michigan through just fine.
I'm a longtime Wolverine fan who's lived near West Virginia for much of my life, so I'm familar with Rodriguez and his offense.
My question is this, without a Pat White (at least now, Devin Gardner/Robinson are similar) do you see the Michigan offense becoming more passing oriented in a few years? Obviously Tate can scramble but he's more elusive than speedy. And Rodriguez isn't filling his entire offense with 5"7, 170 lb Jock Sanders types (but a few), rather, a lot of different athletes (Je'Ron Stokes, Jeremy Gallon, Ricardo Miller)
Well, no, not in a few years. Retroactively, even. Last year when Michigan was flailing at 2-4 and the sharks* in the media were asserting that Rodriguez should have kept Lloyd Carr's offense despite not knowing how to run it and having vanishingly few players who knew how to run it, I noted Michigan's run/pass breakdown in response to a particularly ignorant assertion that Rodriguez hadn't changed his offense from his West Virginia days:
Yes, exactly like the West Virginia spread:
- WVU, 2007: 26% pass, 74% run.
- Michigan, 2008: 46% pass, 54% run.
This only looks "exactly like the West Virginia" spread if you have literally no memory for play proportions and sequencing.
This was at the absolute nadir for the offense. As discussed here and at Varsity Blue earlier this offseason, this was the point at which the run game became functional. As you might expect when the alternative was Threetsheridammit, the play distribution shifted to the things less likely to end with a punch to the face. Michigan ended the year with a 42-58 pass-run split. I didn't get the exact play counts here but it's a reasonable assumption that about half of the plays came before MINOR RAGE was instituted and half after: the pass-run split in the second half of the season was 38-62, which is veering towards Pat White territory.
That's run-heavy, but not run-insane. The play breakdown demonstrates two things:
- Rodriguez is not an idiot dedicated to run or die trying; he does the things that the situation calls for.
- His offense is naturally going to be run oriented for the same reason a Texas Tech offense is pass-oriented: that's what it's good at, that's why it exists, that's what gives the whole thing its extra savoir faire.
When nothing worked, the run-pass breakdown was about even. When running worked and passing remained Russian roulette, Michigan ran about twice as often as it passed.
So, yes, the Michigan offense is going to be more passing-oriented. That doesn't say much, though, when you're comparing it to an offense on the order of Navy or Georgia Tech when it comes to bombing away. But what you're probably asking is something closer to "will this offense approach balance?"
I submit that the answer is yes, because you don't recruit a guy like Tate Forcier as determinedly as Michigan did—remember that Forcier was already coming in for an official on the opening weekend of the season when Newsome decommitted—without intending to take advantage of his unique skills.
Your point about the diverse and sundry skill position athletes is also well-taken: when Rodriguez had the one NFL receiver he'd ever acquired on his roster, he bombed it to Chris Henry whenever he was out of jail/trouble. He will take advantage of talented players, and given that the possibly-unwarranted offseason hype is focused squarely on tight ends Kevin Koger and Martell Webb, you're definitely going to see a wide array of formations and plays Rodriguez never dreamed of deploying at West Virginia.
*(whale sharks, specifically: bloated, toothless, and only capable of skimming the surface for the easiest prey imaginable.**)
Given the number of commitments at this juncture, are you starting to worry that RichRod will oversign and then engage in the dubious practices for which you have blasted other programs? I think he may prove to be closer to Saban than Carr in this respect. Hope I'm wrong.
No. I got similar questions last year about the… er… colorful characters that dotted Rodriguez's rosters and recruiting classes—mostly the latter, as you could be sure that any four-or-five star who ended up at WVU had emotional problems that most certainly did not include pacifism—at West Virginia arriving in Ann Arbor with scimitars between their teeth, asking about the wenches.
I answered those in a similar fashion to what I'll say now: even if Rodriguez brought those guys in by choice instead of necessity at West Virginia—doubtful—the institution's standards override Rodriguez's and they get the final say as to what is an acceptable practice. Outside of the standard "fifth years are optional" policy, Michigan would not find that acceptable practice.
SNARKY ALTERNATE ANSWER FOR STATE/OSU/ND FANS: Rodriguez would have to not have 20 guys leave the team every year to even get in that situation, so no.
Good point on teams maybe being a bit more versed in how to defend the UM offense/running game this year. At the same time though, if Forcier is decent that should at least keep the defenses honest and have to respect the mid to long range passing game.
In addition, considering how inept the UM passing offense was last year, how much of the playbook did we even get to see? Now granted Forcier is a true freshmen, but if he can show that he's comfortable with some of the basic offense (particular the passing game), we might see the playbook expanded a bit more then we saw last year. Considering that Sheridan wasn't much of a passer at all, and Threet had problems completing even the simplest of passes, I can't believe that we saw very much of the passing game that RR hopefully has in his playbook.
Keep up the good work!
This was spurred by an earlier mailbag in which I expressed concern that teams would not be caught quite as off guard as they were last year in the Penn State game when Michigan flashed capabilities opponents did not realize were options.
I basically agree on all points: the mere threat of a competent downfield passer should force defenses to lay off the running game more, the incompetence of the quarterbacking limited Michigan's options last year to wheel routes, screens, and the occasional ineffective go, and there's reason to believe Michigan's offense hasn't shown all that much of its true capabilities.
All those positive factors plus the return of everyone on offense save the nominal, ineffective starting quarterback from last year's train wreck should easily overwhelm the familiarity factor. The main reason I brought it up was the extreme dip in the running game from 2006 to 2007.
In 2006, Mike Debord returned to his post as offensive coordinator/mgo-bete noire. He brought a radical shift in Michigan's ground game by installing the zone-stretch-heavy (in fact, near-exclusive) ground game that propelled Mike Hart to an excellent junior year. Michigan finished 21st in rushing yardage and averaged 4.9 YPC once you remove Chad Henne rushes that were either sacks, scrambles or sneaks.
In 2007, the same ground game with similar personnel fell to 47th nationally and saw their non-QB YPC dip to 4.7… which, actually… you know what? I think I just disproved this theory in my own head. Mike Hart missed significant chunks of the season, the offensive line got considerably worse if you look at the sack numbers and this mournful, muddled lineup of right guard starts…
Jeremy Ciulla (5)
Alex Mitchell (5)
Stephen Schilling (1)
Tim McAvoy (1)
Mark Ortmann (1)
…and multiple opponents got the opportunity to tee off on Ryan Mallett as directed by Carr and Debord instead of a healthy Chad Henne. In the Ohio State game the Buckeyes quickly figured out that Chad Henne's arm was hardly attached to his body, too. Despite all that the YPC of actual rushing plays only dipped 0.2 yards.
Nevermind, then. Viva the run game.
Does it concern you that Michigan takes verbals from kids who have never even been on the campus in Ann Arbor? I noticed on your blog that a recent comment mentioned that he's been to EMU, but never U-M. This doesn't appear to be normal to me and may be cause for some kids to decommit at a later date.
I wasn't sure if this was due to RR pressuring kids into committing or if it's just due to young, inexperienced kids making sudden reactive decisions. Whatever the RR method is, I would like to see him go after some better players. The Big Ten isn't going to improve much with one of their benchmark schools continually fighting over most of their recruits with powerhouses such as Tulsa, Duke, and Rutgers instead of Texas, USC, and Florida.
FTR: the player you're talking about is TX DE Holmes Onwukaife, who is apparently not committed after all. But the point stands.
I don't have any hard numbers on this, but just as a guy who follows recruiting pretty closely I can tell you my impression is this is a nationwide phenomenon as players get more used to the idea of a verbal commitment being more of a reservation than a, you know, commitment. Michigan is more exposed to this than most under Rodriguez because they recruit a lot from distant areas of the country.
As far as concern goes: it doesn't register. I think you have to take such a verbal commitment lightly and recruit as if the player in question is uncommitted but has a declared leader, but taking the commit certainly doesn't reduce your chances of landing him. I guess it might reduce the chances of landing another player at the same position, but everyone has to deal with this in a new era of early verbals and frequent decommits.
I would also like to see Rodriguez nail down a wide variety of the country's best players, and I don't think this year is representative of his recruiting: in RR's previous 1.5 classes at Michigan he's brought in a large number of four stars with good offers. This year's parade of middling sorts is a natural consequence of going 3-9.
That was an interesting stat about UM beating the other teams rushing defense per average in all of their last 6 games other then MSU.
Initially, I wondered if that was due to the high volume of carries but I looked it up and in 4 of the last 6 games, UM's yds/rushing attempt was actually higher then the opponents average too. The two that weren't were MSU and OSU. OSU gave up an average of 3.5 yds/rush attempt and UM averaged 2.7 yds/rush attempt.
What makes these stats even more impressive was that you know the defenses were focused on shutting down the running game and the short passing game until Threet/Sheridan proved they were viable threats in the downfield passing game.
It does bode well for 2009, especially if UM/Forcier can improve in the passing game (could it be worse?).
Keep up the good work.
This isn't so much a question as an addendum, I guess, but some commentary: Michigan's rushing game went from a train wreck to silently competent by the end of last season despite the quarterback fiasco, which is an impressive accomplishment. With literally everyone who had a significant hand in that back for a second year in the system, the arrow points resolutely up here.
HOWEVA, I am a bit concerned that part of the success was due to novelty and that next season won't be quite as fruitful as the numbers above and the returning starters imply. In the second half of the Penn State game Michigan got shut down when PSU adjusted to the MINOR RAGE, and the efficiency of the offense dipped. Michigan won't get that advantage of surprise this year.
Also, FWIW, it does sound like that round of cuts Calipari executed at Kentucky weren't quite as bad as it sounded:
I agree with you that Calipari's over-signing and the inevitable cuts associated with it will be ugly. I don't find the first three to go to be upsetting or nearly as despicable as being Sabanized, though. I know that you pride yourself in being a very informed person, so if you have a minute to read over the following and take it into consideration the next time you write something about Kentucky basketball, I'd appreciate it.
Jared Carter didn't apply for a 5th year medical redshirt. He'd already participated in Senior Night, because it was already known that he would not be back next year. I see no difference in that and the handful of football players that don't come back for a 5th year at any given school in the country.
Donald Williams was in a weird situation. I think Gillispie picked him up at a bar somewhere at the 11th hour. (He commited on 8/27/08.) UK had an extra scholarship available, so they took a shot on a guy with offers from UAB, New Orleans, St. John's and the like. He showed up and ended up redshirting, and Gillispie told him that his scholarship would likely just be a one year deal, because he had an extra available for that year only. Again, it's no surprise that he would not be on scholarship at UK next year, regardless of who the coach was.
The third person to be "cut" was A.J. Stewart. If any of these three were politely given the boot, it was he. A.J. had been suspended for falling asleep in team meetings, missing class, and he even quit the team at one point last season. He was reinstated after a player vote to give him yet another chance. He was going to have to miss the first semester of next season because of academic issues. This guy will be better off transferring somewhere and getting his stuff together.
The next round of cuts is where things will probably get interesting, and I'll probably email you again with all sorts of justifications and ridiculousness, but I honestly feel pretty good about these first three.
Thanks for your time,
Jeremy Herrmann (Yes, that Herrmann)
So what sounded like three guys getting axed was more like one with a Reed Baker and an Amadou Ba thrown in. With Jodie Meeks is in the draft for good, Kentucky is now waiting on its recruits to qualify; if they do there will be one more outright cut.
Is this good? No. It is still worse than Alabama by a long shot, and if there's any justice in the APR Kentucky will find themselves looking at scholarship penalties in the near future—losing a guy who's ineligible is a double hit. But it's not as bad as it looked earlier.