I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Apparently, this was the worst showing by U-M in the draft since 1994 when Derrick Alexander was the program's only player selected that year. People are using this as further evidence that the cupboard was bare when Rich Rod arrived on campus (as if anyone paying attention needed more evidence). But one draft doesn’t tell you much about the talent level of a particular team. For example, that 1993/94 team still finished 7-4 and 23rd in the Coaches’/AP. Why? Well, because that team also had three players who would be selected in the first round of the 1995 draft, and five players overall. If we want to know how bare the cupboard was when Rich Rod arrived, we also have to look at the 2010 draft. So, of the current players eligible for the draft next year, who other than Graham is likely to get drafted? What’s the fewest number of players drafted from a major program over a two-year period? Does this tell us anything about Rich’s cupboard that we didn’t already know? Obviously, it was bare but was it far worse than people realize compared with other major programs?
Yikes. A quick combing of Michigan's roster comes up with the following potential 2010 draftees outside of Graham:
- Greg Mathews: maybe a late pick? He doesn't have the speed to go very high.
- Minor/Brown: it's too early to tell with either but both have the raw physical ability to be drafted somewhere decent. One seems like a first day pick with the other going later.
- Ortmann/Moosman: probably not drafted.
- Stevie Brown: Lions first rounder.
- Zoltan The Inconceivable: likely to be the first punter off the board, whenever that happens.
So, yeah, it's Brandon Graham, a couple running backs, and the space punter. I don't know what the fewest number of players drafted from a power program over a two-year period is, but that's probably not the right question. The right question is "how many teams with like one high NFL draft pick and three or four mid-round picks are any good?" and the answer is "none, but there are plenty that didn't go 3-9."
This following one concerns variance, as discussed in the earlier post on Gladwell and basketball and Carr and the non-scoring offense. It's long, so I've chosen to respond after each paragraph. Though this looks fisk-y, it's not intended to be confrontational.
Your recent blog entry, detailing variance, risk versus reward, defense, offense and modern versus older systems, beginning with a basketball analogy, seems correct, but I have some issues. Your presumption seems to be that solid defense allows for a brute strength, low variance offensive strategy, in the style of Bo, and likewise with Carr. At the same time, however, you insinuate that a slow, grinding offense that keeps the other teams’ offenses off the field is of a critical nature towards that end.
I was not entirely clear about my thinking here. I do think that a really, really good defense allows for that sort of offensive strategy, and more specifically makes the run-run-probably-run-punt style of closing up a game make sense. In that sort of situation you're playing towards your strength.
However, when your defense is mediocre and you have a future NFL player at quarterback, shutting up shop and hoping your mediocre defense comes through is playing to your weakness. Carr did this a lot, if we're expansive about the word "mediocre".
As far as what sort of offense you want at the end of the game, yes, the sort of offense that can grind out a first down is nice to have, but if you don't have that offense—and not many do when they opposition is selling out like mad—you're doing yourself a disservice. There are specific situations where grinding it and punting makes sense, but none of them come with more than two minutes on the clock.
This is reasonable, as you can’t rely on a small lead and a low scoring game if you can’t keep the other team from scoring. The problem, however, comes in making the assumption that defense can’t be, or at least wasn’t, considered a weapon. Absolutely, using a prevent defense, clogging the running lanes, and keeping opposing offenses to short, clock eating runs between the tackles works towards that end. But what of the Michigan defenses through the years, especially in the early Carr era, that actually produced more variance, not less? Sacks, fumbles, and interceptions all increase variance in a game. Sudden turn-overs and backward yards are not supposed to happen on an offensive possession. I would say that in as much as a thundering, slow moving, ground based offense is designed to reduce variance, keep games simple and allow dominant talent to win out; the same strategy of good fundamentals (tackling, stripping the ball, pass coverage) has the exact opposite effect, creating lots of variance and unexpected.
Your definition of "good fundamentals" on defense varies from mine. When I think of good fundamentals, I think of a two-deep shell, minimal blitzing, and conservative strategies. Bend but don't break sort of things. A defense heavy on the blitzing and light on deep safeties is more prone to wild swings. And many of the things you cite as good fundamentals are zero-cost activities from a strategic standpoint: tackling, forcing fumbles, etc.
It seems that you’re positing that the more an offense scores, the more variable and therefore less predictable a game becomes. I think that’s the exact opposite of the truth. Offenses are supposed to score. To assume they will do ANYTHING but that is fallacy. I think the variance comes in when they fail to. Therefore, I don’t think that Bo’s and Lloyd’s game plans were low variance at all. I believe they simply tried to keep the variance, the sudden swinging changes, to one side of the ball. After all, if your defense FAILS to produce variance, the worst that will happen is the other team will score. That can be recovered. If your offense does produce variance, then the worst that will happen is you will lose your chance to score back. You can’t get that back.
This wasn't what I was getting at, but it wasn't the opposite of it either. What I was trying to say was this: all other things being equal, I'd rather Michigan play a game where both teams have sixteen possessions than eight. (Assuming that they don't suck, of course.) Michigan's more likely to come out on top in that situation. The way Michigan played under Lloyd, however, seems like it lent itself to a lot of long drives on both sides of the ball and generally depressed the number of possessions.
Simplified – You’re saying that offenses produce variance by moving quickly, scoring. As talent entropy occurs, this is harder and harder to stop, and so Bo and Lloyd saw their wins weaken, because their goals were to reduce variance. I believe that defenses produce variance by preventing scoring, and scoring on defense. We saw less success against higher level and middling teams in the last few years because talent entropy, and the coinciding spread of more complex, harder to stop offenses, has leveled the playing field, reducing defensive variance.
Different song, same title.
Okay, to properly address this we need to bring in variance's buddy: expectation. In layman's terms, expectation is the average of all expected outcomes. When you roll a die the expectation is 3.5. When you kick an extra point the expectation is 0.98. Variance is a measure of the average difference between trials. I could kick up the variance of the dice roll by turning 1 into –101 and 6 into 106 without affecting the expectation. I could kick it down by weighting it so that 3 and 4 came up twice as often as other rolls.
If you expect to win a game, variance is your enemy. I'm going to borrow some graphs from the excellent Advanced NFL Stats to demonstrate:
So here we've got two teams with the same variance in their play, one of which is a touchdown favorite. The underdog has about a 31% chance of winning.
Now the underdog has gone mad, probably going for it on fourth down a lot, inventing and deploying something called HELICOPTER PUNTING, and trying to block every extra point. They get blown out a lot more but also win more: 35% of the time.
This effect is powerful enough to overcome reductions in expectation:
But this time the underdog’s average is reduced from 17 to 16. The increase in variance still results in a slightly better chance of winning despite its overall reduction in average points scored. In this case, it's 33.2% for the underdog.
And it's the same for the favorite and reducing their variance: sometimes it's worth reducing expectation to get it, but only in certain situations and when you're a considerable favorite. In Bo's time, Michigan was a considerable favorite much more often and the game lent itself to low-variance moves: a 40-yard punt is much more valuable in an era when ten points is a potentially game-winning number.
Anyway, to the assertion above: modern offenses have more variance to them* because they score more. Don't lose sight of expectation here: Missouri had a lot of variance in their scores but that was because they averaged 42 points a game. Michigan had far less but they were averaging 20.
Offenses that do this quickly are actually more predictable because they get in more trials. Moving fast without sacrificing expectation is advantageous to the better team, which is why Oklahoma was in zero even halfway close games against the Big 12 rabble. (Texas is not rabble, obviously.)
Defenses reduce variance by, you know, having safeties that can tackle. The very best defenses are low variance because all of the outcomes have the same result for the opposition: shame and humiliation. In that situation, punting your ass off makes sense, because you're a big favorite, you're not giving the opponent much of an opportunity and you're reducing variance in a way that helps your overall chances of winning. The main problem with Michigan's defense over the last few years has been their suckiness, which by the way increases variance as your defense falls to a point where opponents can drive the field on them regularly.
I always go back here to the end of the 2005 Ohio State game: Michigan has a two point lead and drives down to the Ohio State 40. Facing third and ten, they run a wide receiver screen for six yards, and then punt on fourth and four from the 34, gaining 15 yards. Ohio State promptly drives the field for the winning touchdown. This came after a Henne-demanded fourth-and-short conversion on Michigan's 40 that led to an apparently-clinching field goal, and was interpreted by yrs truly as a panicked reversion to base instincts from another time.
*(The variance of something that's always zero is zero and it's not much higher for something that's almost always zero. As offenses move towards 50/50 efficiency the variance increases, but in a world like the 54-51 game against Northwestern the variance is low because everyone's always scoring touchdowns. An even distribution of probabilities is always more unpredictable than a set where most of the events are drawn to one or two outcomes.)
I was wondering if you follow the Director's Cup at all and if you think Michigan should expand its number of varsity teams (even though only 10 are counted for each gender in the standings). Stanford has dominated the cup basically since its inception, then followed by UCLA. In third place I would put either Michigan or North Carolina, followed by Texas and Florida.
Michigan seems to have a budget surplus every year and there are a few possible teams that could really make an impact (Men's Rowing and Women's Lacrosse). I am not sure how funding of varsity club teams works, but I once heard students have to pay to play on those teams (although that may only be true for club teams like Rugby). If that is true for varsity club teams, then with funding the students on those teams wouldn't have to worry about financial issues and have the potential to be better.
I realize the budget surplus helps with the renovations and that the smaller sports are not money makers, but it would be nice to see Michigan compete with Stanford for the title, even though it really doesn't mean much. Your thoughts please.
I found this article on MGoBlue.com about club varsity status from Sept. 2000.
On "club varsity": I believe the point of the status is to officially support those teams so that participants don't have to pay. Michigan is basically running a well-supported D-III varsity program. In fact, all club teams get some level of financial support from the U, though in the case of things like synchronized swimming it's not much. (I had a friend on the team.)
As far as the personal value of the Director's Cup to me: it doesn't have much. There's a certain brand of college football fan also that really likes soccer—especially the international variety—and I'm a part of this group, as is Orson Swindle. What do soccer and college football have in common? Infrequent competition, unfairness, insane fans, and life-and-death hanging over every moment. Gunmetal gray skies and the clash of civilizations. The sort of emotion that makes non-sports fans recoil in genuine horror instead of that mock NPR stuff.
My fandom is heavily dependent on the crazed excess of others, with a few exceptions: baseball is often just sitting outside in nice weather eating peanuts and requires little onfield motivation to enjoy, and that sort of stuff.
When the Director's Cup standings come out and Michigan is high up in them but not #1, I make some vague mention of it and go on with things. I mean no offense to the various athletes that compete in sports where parents make up a significant portion of the viewing public, but I just don't get into it that much. I'd rather Michigan focus its effort and money on sports that promise to build a fanbase, which they've been doing by renovating the Fish and building an actual soccer stadium.
In this downtime of UM sports, I assume you get 10 questions a day about this topic. By the looks of your last 4-5 mailbag posts, I bet I am on target.
Anyway, I was never good at math so maybe you can crunch the numbers and tell me what a terrible idea this is…
What is the net profit of 1 home game against Nobody U? Revenue is easy – 100K or so times $50 or 5M. Then tack on parking, concessions, etc. But then factor out costs. I wonder what the net comes out to be…
If I was Bill Martin, I would then say we make XXM on our 8th home game. Let’s say it’s 8M. Could be totally wrong – who knows. Then, say to all of the alumni/fans/etc. – “OK you want a quality road game, have the season ticket holders cough up an additional XX per game and jack concessions up by XX% to get him there. I know I would pay an extra $100 or so total not to have a UMass or Toledo ticket in hand and instead watch UM play at say Georgia.
A back of the envelope calculation:
Two games against Delaware State:
100k times 50 bucks is 5.5 million, minus about 500k that the visiting school gets paid. Random guess as to ancillaries – costs: 1 million, bringing the gate to around 12 M.
Two games against Georgia:
0 from the Georgia game but an extra half-million from the home game, so 6.5 M. There would also be incrementally increased TV revenue but, frustratingly, in the Big Ten all TV revenue is split, even nonconference games.
So you're looking at around a $55 surcharge to bring a big opponent to down. It would probably be somewhat less than that since Delaware State games don't bring the sort of excitement a big nonconference opponent would, which would help sell suites and the like, especially in years when Michigan has ND/PSU/OSU on the road and the big home game is Michigan State.
The TV revenue is a killer: since it's split, you're giving 90% of the benefit of your real opponent to Indiana and their matchup with Murray State. If there was a way around this, you'd have to think it would be worth a couple million for a big game when there's little else to show. ESPN should start making multi-million dollar donations to scholarship funds.
Would I do a $55 surcharge? Yeah, probably. Would I do $25? Absolutely.
This was on the long-ago post about Rodriguez offering like a maniac:
Interesting read. However, I'd say that while you never like to see a Coach make an offer to a player and then for one reason or another and in one way or another, back off/rescind that offer, it works both ways.
What happens with the recruits who verbal to a school and then rescind that verbal? I'm sure there might be others but Beaver is the first one that comes to mind. RR thought he had his two QB recruits all sewed up, only to find out in December that Beaver was switching his verbal. Luckily, he was able to scramble and land Robinson, but if Beaver had said 'no thanks' earlier maybe RR would have targeted and gotten a higher rated QB (not that Robinson is awful).
Like you, I hope RR doesn't make it a habit of offering scholarships, getting a verbal and then in one or another pulling that offer, but unfortunately, it's probably going to happen on occasion.
It doesn't really work both ways in game theory terms. Since universities have to recruit year after year the sort of scholarship sleight-of-hand that seems necessitated by this flood of offers has the potential to damage your reputation and hurt your ability to acquire players. Individual players' reputations might be hurt by a sudden decommit—I for one don't think much of Beaver—but that doesn't hurt their ability to do anything except be friends with certain people he doesn't know.
I'm all for Rodriguez keeping his options open after receiving a commitment, as he did with Tate Forcier despite two "commitments" from other quarterbacks, in case one or the other falls through. And if there are a few players Michigan has recruited and later realize they've made a mistake on, it's probably best for both parties if Michigan communicates that, whether it's directly or not. Better to know before you sign a LOI.
But like the Saban thing, the sheer numbers suggest that sooner or later there's going to be some ticked off recruits.
A long email about scheduling in parts:
1. Martin maintains that they need the revenue from the home games to help out with the budget. Seems to me Martin is running the department like a business. That being the case, if you own a business that has a number of different departments and some of those departments are not producing revenue, aren't there three options? 1. Try to increase revenue in the revenue producing departments, which he's trying to do. 2. Try to increase revenue/cut costs in those departments that are not producing revenue. 3. Ax those departments that are not producing revenue.
The third option is rather severe since it is college athletics we're talking about. So I'd be interested to see/know what Martin is doing to try and increase revenues in the other sports as well as reduce costs in the other sports. Hopefully, if Beilien keeps the basketball moving in the right direction that will help the revenue stream coming in from bball.
Michigan doesn't have much leverage via which to increase revenues in other sports. When you're trying to fill Crisler by selling five-dollar seats to nonconference games there's not much you can do to milk the season ticket holders without risking rebellion. And those home nonconference games aren't raking it in like a football game would. Hockey's about break-even now and stuck there; everything else, well… revenue is sparse.
As far as reducing costs in other sports: Michigan fancies itself to be Stanford of the East when it comes to its athletic department and wants each and every one of its programs to be competitive, many of them nationally. Mike Bottom, the swim coach, is probably making bank relative to his peers. Same with the women's soccer coach, who is late of the national team. For most Michigan fans the only benefit this produces is a ceremony wherein a bunch of teams you've never seen walk across the Michigan Stadium turf after winning the conference.
But they're not really the problem. This is a situation analogous to pro sports, where people complain about how much money the players are making as if it has an impact on ticket prices when in reality the relationship is reversed. Michigan has been very good at extracting revenue and that money goes somewhere. In 2003, Michigan paid athletic department employees a total of 19 million dollars. They budgeted 27 million for 2008. That's twice the revenue of one home game.
Would life be vastly different at major college athletic programs without the 12th game? No. Coaches would have slightly less spectacular salaries. The end.
2. The thing that gets me with the scheduling is why does he feel the need to schedule 1-AA schools? If he'd do the schedule a few years in advance, he probably wouldn't have to. With the ND contract, ND will be on the schedule for a while as well as a couple MAC schools. Why not look to the some of the other lower level D1 conferences for games? The lower level Conference USA schools, some lower level WAC schools and maybe some Sunbelt schools. I'm guessing a good amount of those schools wouldn't mind having a visit to Ann Arbor on their schedule to use it as a recruiting tool.
I understand the reasoning for wanting as many home games as possible, but waiting until there's less then a year away from the start of the season to finalize your schedule really leaves you with limited options. It's poor planning on Martin's part imo.
To the average fan there isn't much difference between UMass and Middle Tennessee or Memphis or San Jose State, and, honestly there isn't much of one to me. They're just teams Michigan should crush no matter what. They'll have a tepid crowd with plenty of no-shows, be televised on the BTN, and be immediately forgotten unless something terrible happens.
In that context, I understand reaching for I-AA teams. They're cheaper and the chance you get upset is lower. The issue here isn't really which overmatched team you bring in, it's the entire concept. People would be rolling their eyes just as fervently if it was Louisiana-Monroe or Idaho being kicked around as a potential opponent.
I can't speak to the poor planning, as I don't know the specifics of what's going on.
p.s. - If RR continues to be successful in promoting the spring game, could that help with freeing up money for home and homes? Even if you're only charging $10, if you get 60-70,000 people through the gate by the time you add on concessions, parking, etc. that's probably over a million dollars in revenue.
Probably not. Michigan got 50k this year for free… how many would they get if they ticked people off by charging?
I thought the big fix to the nonconference problem would come from television revenues, but Bruce Madej says that all revenues, including nonconference ones, are split evenly with conference members. So Indiana is making just as much from Texas-OSU as Ohio State. This is obviously a huge disincentive to schedule a real opponent.
This question is another question and not an insane leap from Scott above:
First, what differentiates an OL recruit/player from tackle/guard/center? Right or left side? Certainly some players can handle multiple positions, but how is their ideal position determined?
Second, why are slot receivers typically short? Isn't the key attribute being fast? Would an equally fast but tall player work just as well or better?
One: Mostly height. Ideal tackle height is from 6'6" to 6'9". Interior linemen can be much shorter: David Molk is listed at 6'2" and may be even smaller.
Why should tackles be so tall? Height usually brings long arms with it, and long arms help contain outside pass rushers and generally do wonders in pass protection. Michael Lewis tackles (ha!) the subject in The Blind Side:
The ideal left tackle was big, but a lot of people were big. What set him apart was his more subtle specifications. He was wide in the ass and massive in the thighs: the girth of his lower body lessened the likelihood that Lawrence Taylor, or his successors, would run right over him. He had long arms: pass rushers tried to get in tight to the blocker's body, then spin off of it, and long arms helped to keep them at bay. He had giant hands, so that when he grabbed ahold of you, it meant something.
But size along couldn't cope with the threat to the quarterback's blind side, because that threat was also fast. The ideal left tackle also had great feet. Incredibly nimble and quick feet. Quick enough feet, ideally, that the the idea of racing him in a five-yard dash made the team's running backs uneasy. He had the body control of a ballerina and the agility of a basketball player. The combination was incredibly rare. And so, ultimately, very expensive.
I've seen Jake Long, perhaps the ideal left tackle, in action and at no point did he remind me of a ballerina but set aside that bit of fluffery and there you go.
On the other hand, in the interior space is restricted. Unless something strange happens no one is going to run right by you, and therefore you can put guys who are just about as nimble but squatter and more powerful there. In a traditional running game* guards and centers would like very much to take a defensive lineman and blow him off the ball. That requires leverage: the #1 line cliché of all time is "low man wins". Being (sort of) short is a head start on being low. Think of Pat Massey, and then think of Terrance Taylor.
As far as right or left side: at tackle the guy on the left is the star because he's protecting the quarterback's blindside (unless that QB is left handed). So the best pass protection guys go there, the guys with the most experience and most ideal tackle physique. The guy on the right has a lot of responsibility there too but usually ends up being less slanted towards pass protection just because most teams don't have two Jake Longs.
*(What about Michigan? Michigan's more about cutting linemen off and getting guys in space against one guy who's not quick enough to cut up with you. Rather than driving the defender backwards your main priority is to either 1) get on the right side of him and prevent yourself from getting plowed into the tailback or 2) take your man's existing motion to the ball and shove him right past the action. Guards are still shorter because it's a lot easier to find a 6'3" guy with the requisite agility than a 6'6" guy.)
Two: The key attribute in a slot receiver is not raw speed but quickness. While a slot receiver is rarely going to get his tiny little legs moving at full cartoon speed, he is going to have 210-pound linebackers attempting to put their helmets through his ribcage plenty. Once you catch that swing pass or bubble screen, the ability to juke the first guy out of his jock is way more important than what your velocity is after ten yards in a straight line.
I'm sure Rodriguez wouldn't mind a 6-foot slot a la Peter Warrick, but those guys are rare. 5'8" guys with dreads who can teleport short distances are in better supply and less demand. So it's considerably easier to get the best or second-best 5'8" guy in the country, as Michigan did with Jeremy Gallon, than the best 6-foot one.
Brian, I liked your spring summary and I agreed with most of the points.
However, I left the spring game wondering if the performance of our offense (and Forcier, to be more precise) was more indicative of our lack of depth on defense. They played the second team defense and generally had their way with them. Considering how bad our offense was last year, does this just show that our defense has bad depth or that our offense (and Forcier) will actually be serviceable/good next year?
Obviously, this is the million dollar question, but I honestly left the spring game more worried about our defense than impressed with our offense.
Please allay my fears! Thanks.
I will attempt to do so via the magic of bullet points:
- That wasn't the second team defense, it was somewhere between the second and third team defense with half of the starters injured or largely held out.
- Depth should improve in the fall when the freshmen arrive.
- The defense is adapting to a new scheme, their third in three years. While this isn't good they should improve more quickly than a team that knows what it's doing and still sucks.
- Forcier may have had a lot of opportunities he might not otherwise but at least he took advantage of them in a way that I don't think Sheridan or Threet would have, at least not so consistently.
While I don't think Forcier is going to finish many games 11/14 with three touchdowns against no interceptions, the thing to watch for are things that don't depend on the defense: when a slant comes open does Forcier see it and throw it on time and accurately? When Roundtree bursts open deep does Forcier hit him? How many horrible interceptions, or balls that should rightly have been horribly intercepted, did he throw? By this measure, Forcier did very well.
Your larger point about the seemingly huge dropoff to the second-string defense, well… yeah. I got nothing for that.
This next one caused this late mailbag to be posted today, because today is "Michigan Football Solstice":
Today (April 15) is the longest possible point between actually, non-scrimmage Michigan football games.
There are 288 days between Nov. 22, 2008 (when Michigan last played, @ OSU) and Sept. 5 (when they next play, at home against Western.)
Nov 22. was 144 days ago.
Sept. 5 is 144 days from now.
We’re now closer to the next Michigan football game than we were to the last one.
I've got a listserv with fellow alumni where we're discussing how to celebrate. Pop in the DVD of the 2004 Michigan/MSU game? Scour the internet to discover if any former D1 athletes have a year of eligibility left and might be interested in enrolling at UM and trying out at QB? In honor of this year's Michigan Football Solstice falling on April 15th, maybe we could have a Teabag Paulus Party? Can we institute some kind of MGoBlog approved ritual for Michigan fans to celebrate this solemn occasion every year?
- Daryl Vautour
Well, hopefully Michigan football solstice isn't ever on April 15th again. This is usually going to be an early summer sort of event, so early summer sorts of activities would be best: grilling outside, having a beer, maybe lighting a squirrel on fire with a magnifying glass.* Most of the suggestions above are sad or temporary things, but setting aside some time to watch an old glory past sounds good. So: grill tubes of meat, drink beer, and watch… uh… something uplifting from the 1985 season, if available. And you're not doing anything RIGHT NOW.
*(Just me? Oh.)
The previous mailbag was, uh, abbreviated. And caused great discussion about whether I should call people who send in emails dicks, to which I respond: probably not.
Anyway. This is a good question I don't have an answer to:
After Spring practice, exactly what do the players do (supervised or unsupervised) until official fall practice begins? I know there must be some restrictions on coaching but I'm very interested to know exactly what does go on.
Thanks, Marc ' 71
I am pretty sure S&C programs can continue being S&C programs year-round, so players will get a faceful of Barwis this summer. As far as what technically-not-but-actually mandatory, organized-but-not-technically summer sessions are and what, exactly, are the things prohibited… I have no idea. Anyone out there know the details on what college programs do when practice is officially verboten? What is Tate Forcier going to be doing in June related to his football pursuits? What about Will Campbell?
I saw that you thought Forcier will only get about half a dozen carries or so/game.
Do you think the QB/Forcier will be less involved in the running game this year? Sheridan and Threet combined for 118 carries last year - about 10 a game (I didn't include Feagin's runs cause I'm assuming the reason the coaches put him in was for him to run). A lot of complaints I read about Threet was that he didn't make the correct read on the handoff and should have kept the ball some more (to keep the defensive end honest and stop him from crashing in hard on the play).
I honestly don't care how much the QB carries the ball, it just seems that Forcier only getting a half dozen carries a game would a good decrease (assuming Threet should have carried the ball more).
Well, by half a dozen carries I mean voluntary carries. A significant number of those Sheridan/Threet carries from a year ago were sacks or scrambles, which should rightly be considered passing plays.
Also, the effectiveness equation is considerably different with Forcier. Forcier who presumably can throw better than the two guys from last year and Minor—now the undisputed #1 tailback—is way more effective than McGuffie was. So it'll make more sense to throw and run tailbacks than have Forcier keep the ball.
Reading between the lines, I sense some concern that Michigan's reluctance to run their only hope will make the offense less diverse and correspondingly less effective, and I agree. Last year teams ignored the quarterback on zone read handoffs to the point where I was typing "KEEP THE BALL DAMMIT" into the Purdue liveblog after every play. Michigan's fear of the great murky unknown behind Forcier will make their offense less effective. But that's a necessary tradeoff given the cliff Michigan steps off if Forcier is injured.
I do think you'll see Michigan try to make up that decrease with Feagin/Robinson packages. Those may be completely ineffective because of their predictability, but for some reason this wildcat thing seems to work well so maybe it'll do ok.
Speaking of Robinson:
I think we’re generally missing the boat on D Rob when we compare him with TF. I’ve watched all of the highlight films and I actually think D Rob has some very good skills as a QB. I think where we’ll see a separation between the two is the run game. TF is not built to run it 10-15 a game, but he could be enough of a scrambler to constantly keep a defender assigned to him, which opens up some underneath stuff for slot ninjas, TEs, and RBs out of the backfield. D Rob does have some excellent mechanics for a guy not highly touted as a QB.
I get blasted for this, but his foot work and release remind me of Peyton Manning when he’s pressured in the pocket. No, I’m not saying he is the second coming of PM, as some said when they read my post in the diaries, but there is some good things happening with D Rob in the pocket. He sets a good base and delivers the ball with a high and crisp release. The one thing they both did consistently in their highlight films was throw balls into tight coverage, lock onto one receiver, and hold the ball way too long. I think you’ll still see that this year no matter how much they get coached up. It’s just a lot to learn when it comes to reading defenses and then being able to process that information quickly enough to be able to make the correct decision. Again, I am going to the Spring Game to see how the team looks in person, but I think we’re realistically going to be a .500 team, plus or minus a game.
All in all, by the 4th game, I think D Rob gets some significant snaps because he brings the run dimension that RR so badly needs to make this offense work.
Steve's not alone in his assessment of Robinson. ESPN also thought his QB skills were underrated:
Robinson is just a flat out playmaker in every sense of the word and he will surprise you with his production in the passing game. If he were taller, there is no doubt he would be a serious QB prospect, but his overall skills will likely land him somewhere else. Has a quick, live arm and is very effective in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Can throw the ball vertically with touch and lay the ball in, but does not have the powerful arm to drive the ball 50 yards on a consistent basis.
Add that to his rushing stats—85 carries for 462 yards, which is actually less than Forcier rushed for—and it is possible we've got a completely incorrect idea about what sort of player Robinson is going to be. But then you've got the passing stats:
Key Statistics... completed 100-of-231 passes for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior ...
There's a big, big gap between those numbers and Forcier's. That's a 43% completion rate. I know that high school passing is often a whole lot of bombing downfield (18 yards per completion!), but those numbers say "project" to me.
I'm noticing a disturbing trend with the '07 recruits transferring at a much more alarming rate than the usual fourth-string running back bolting for a D-2 school. How do you think this will impact the team in two years or so, when most of these players like Mallett, Boren, Clemons, Horn and others would have been seniors?
For the record, transfers out of the 2007 recruiting class; Mallett, Horn, Clemons, Babb and Chambers. (JUCO Austin Panter has also departed; Boren was part of the 2006 class.) Five guys gone in two years is somewhat alarming, but you can file Horn and Babb under the "fourth string player bolting for D-II." Mallett's departure is obviously a huge negative; Clemons was highly rated but ill-suited for the spread 'n' shred; Chambers was kind of an eh recruit but was getting a significant amount of practice buzz.
But I don't think the problem with the 2007 class is the transfers as much as that it just wasn't very good. Once you got past the two five stars there were a ton of reaches: Horn, Babb, Watson, Huyge, Sagesse, Evans, Herron, Panter, Woolfolk, and Rogers were low-rated players with virtually no offers comparable to the Michigan one. Watson was pursued by Colorado and Minnesota, Herron had a Nebraska offer, Sagesse was initially ticketed for Illinois, and that's it. Picking up the occasional sleeper isn't a bad thing, but this was class with really poor depth masked by the two big stars at the top of it. And now one of those guys is gone.
Combine that with a complete change in offensive philosophy and you're going to be looking at a lot of guys who are noncontributors. Michigan's already moved Watson and Helmuth to the other side of the ball.
So, yeah, I agree with you. Michigan's 2007 class is well on its way to bust status, one of a number of factors that will see Michigan struggle to put together an elite program until probably 2011. Fortunately, it appears both offensive linemen are panning out and most of the other guys who look to be contributors (Hemingway, RVB, Webb) have redshirted, so they've got some time.
Is there any hope of Michigan capitalizing on its NCAA appearance, where it could possible snag a decent current senior or a quality junior recruit?
I'm so tired of 2-3 star white guys from out of state. It's getting old. Darius Morris is a rivals 4-star (minor miracle), but it burns me to see a PSL junior like Keith Appling already fitted for green and white. Does Beilein even care about the PSL? Sure he recruited the 2-star stick-figure tall kid out of U-D Jesuit for next year, but that doesn't remotely count.
I guess my question boils down to, can he recruit?
Beilein can obviously recruit at some level. He's taken four separate programs to the NCAA tourney, unearthed Gansey and Pittsnogle and Joe Alexander and so forth and so on and has generally taken the Gonzaga-Butler route of finding under the radar kids who can play in his system. He can obviously do that, and that should be good for tourney bids most years.
But given the hostility above—way to enjoy the season, dude—I don't think that's the question. The question appears to be "can Beilein recruit like Izzo/Matta/whoever," and the answer is very probably not. That's what Michigan signed up for when they hired Beilein: low downside, low upside. Beilein's not the sort of coach to upset the instate balance of power or hire some random AAU guy for the privilege of getting your one-and-done kid. He's not that guy. He is a guy who will bring guaranteed respectability, likeable teams, and a host of tourney bids with some fun runs to the Sweet 16 or whatever. Michigan basically abdicated on being a powerhouse when they hired Beilein.
David Komer, who seems like a dick, might not like this. After Ellerbe and Amaker I'm fine with it. Michigan will build up a program over Beilein's career and then be in a position to swing for the fences afterwards. Fine.
That said, Beilein didn't leave West Virginia because he wanted to build Michigan into West Virginia. WVU is the kind of place only someone thoroughly down and dirty like Huggins can recruit to. As we saw with Rodriguez, there is virtually no instate talent and people from outside the state aren't exactly dying to go to Morgantown. Morgan's higher rated than any recruit Beilein's ever gotten. So is Matt Vogrich. Beilein probably disagrees 100% with the abdication stuff above and is going to go for bigger, better recruits than he ever landed at WVU. You can see the uptick from his first class to his second; 2010 promises to be another step forward.
As far as specifics: Michigan's 2009 class is done. They were looking at Aussie center Angus Brandt, but he committed to Oregon State. There are few recruits left and no one on Michigan's radar.
As far as 2010: we'll see. Michigan is in on a number of highly rated recruits, the most prominent being MI SF Trey Ziegler. Ziegler is ranked slightly lower than Manny was by the time his senior season ended and keeps listing Michigan strongly. There have been erratic rumors Michigan leads but nothing solid; he's a keystone recruit for Beilein. Michigan's also in on a few guys who either aren't quite as highly rated or don't seem like strong possibilities:
- Tim Hardaway Jr. and Morgan Moses are both 2/3 sorts who have visited and are strongly considering Michigan. Moses is a top 100 kid to Rivals but not Scout; Hardaway is a high three star and the son of that other guy named Tim Hardaway. Neither is white. This is probably not a surprise about Hardaway.
- Casey Prather is a mondo recruit listing Michigan who will visit but seems ticketed elsewhere.
- Will Regan is a skilled post guy hanging on the bottom of top 150 lists who's getting interest and offers from some pretty big schools now. He's from Buffalo, Beilein's old stomping grounds, and Michigan's supposed to be in excellent position.
- There's also this Evan Smotrycz guy, but he's an under the radar tall white guy who can shoot and will probably only serve to enrage you.
Getting Zeigler and another talented, non-role-player wing is extremely important in 2010. Michigan is (probably) going to have to replace Sims and Harris and no one they've recruited so far is going to be the sort of guy to get his own shot or draw the focus of the defense save maybe Morris. But let's see how things fall out before we shoot ourselves in the head.
Also: Appling? We're seriously complaining about Beilein losing recruits to Michigan State? Izzo has been to the Final Four five times! When Appling committed Michigan was still in the midst of a decade-long tourney drought and Beilein was just a new guy with no connections in state. If you insist on comparing Michigan's program to MSU you're going to be very disappointed, and that was obvious from the first day Beilein was hired. MSU is going to remain the dominant instate program until Izzo retires or gets hired by Alabama (which lol). Period. Michigan is going to have to build slowly; let's not be State football fans here.