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 The elder Forcier's transferred to Michigan and applied for the semi-repealed Mundy waiver; a decision has to be coming in the next couple weeks since fall drills start in mid-August.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.
1. Any discussion on MSM- or corporate-owned blogs, e.g. Yahoo! Sports' SB nation? How does the company interface? Do the bloggers get a salary? Do they sell their own ads or focus on material? Are they profitable? Who gets the money?*
As mentioned, I missed a good section of the panel, but I have talked to a number of SB Nation bloggers and they report back that they get very little money from SB Nation. This is probably because of their low traffic numbers. Even the busiest college football blogs I've seen over there—SBN makes all their traffic data public—are doing like 2-3k pageviews per day, and at current CPM rates offered by ad networks that's somewhere between 3 and 10 dollars. Still, even on the low end you'd probably be making $100 a month from that much traffic, and then you've got other opportunities like text link ads and so forth and so on. I highly doubt SBN is profitable at the moment, as they took venture capital in January.
OTOH, Fanhouse and TSB and the Yahoo blogs just pay people as 1099 contractors and take the burden of monetization upon themselves.
My biggest problem with the SBN model isn't the lack of pay, as most people haven't put themselves in a position where that's the main thing to worry about. Until you're getting five digits of traffic daily, your monetization strategy should be "ignore monetization," as the rewards aren't worth the time and traffic, in my experience, grows geometrically. No, my biggest issue with SBN is lock-in: they own the URLs and the (sweet, sweet) software, so if you do happen to make a name for yourself and do happen to build a worthwhile enterprise, it's their enterprise. Leaving it means you leave behind all that linkage and archived content and brand equity and start all over. Let me tell you as a person whose ghostly old blogspot blog occasionally wins google fights and gets linked on other blogs: this sucks. They've got all the leverage.
There is a hard example of this kind of suckage, too: when Matt Hinton went from Sunday Morning Quarterback to Dr. Saturday, SMQB up and died. Hinton (and I, and everyone else) lost his entire archive. No one who is career-serious about blogging should ever cede control of their URL or their archives to anyone else.
2. Software. Software? Software... Software! Software [insert punctuation]
The full suite of stuff I use to make this blog go:
- Drupal is my CMS of choice, but I couldn't tell you if it's better or worse than Joomla or Plone or whatever since I've never used them. If you're not a developer (half-assed in my case), go with Wordpress.
- The posts are written in Windows Live Writer, which is by far the best desktop blogging software. It's not even close, and I've tried a number of them. I'm pretty sure UMHoops and MVictors have switched to it as well—there are telltale drop shadows on their images now.
- WLW has obviated the need for 90% of simple photo-editing—which is half the reason it's so good—but when I need for more detail on a picture I use an ancient version of Photoshop. GIMP is a free alternative I've used but it sucks unless you're used to UNIX conventions.
- Bittorrent supplies the games I cut up for UFRs, and I discovered after an inexplicably long, horrible search that various "AimOne" products were the simplest way to slice out individual plays from those videos. I watch the games in Media Player Classic, which has the best hop-ahead-hop-back hotkeys and convenient screenshot-grabbing abilities.
3. What's a click? What's a read? What kind of read generates revenue for advertisers? You say 2 M pageviews, but how do you check for bots, etc.? Anybody getting themselves reviewed? Web analytics, bler?
There are three main metrics simple enough to have passed into the general consciousness. They are:
- Pageviews. Hit F5. You've given me a pageview, and somewhere between a tenth and a half of a penny.
- Visits. You did not increment the visits, however, and won't do so until you visit again in at least 30 minutes. (I think. It may be less depending on who's tracking it.)
- Uniques. You certainly didn't increment uniques, and won't do so for a month.
4. Out-of-Blog Experiences: how do you translate 2 million blog readers into an active community? What kind of events work? Anything that generates revenue? Anyone have a successful "conference" of readers yet?
Well, 1) that's not two million readers. If I had two million readers I would currently be dictating this to my Wednesday eunuch whilst the most comely of my harem fed me pre-peeled grapes. Monthly uniques around here, as calculated traditionally, are around 100k, and Quantcast thinks about half of these are duplicates, so on average about 50k people check out the blog at least once in a given month. It's been dropping as the hard offseason hits, as per usual.
I am not aware of any successful reader conference in the sports blog world. MGoBlog had a spring game tailgate that featured about 10 people standing around freezing their asses off, though, and that was declared a success because no one got throttled.
As far as revenue: an active community certainly helps with pageviews. Since I moved from Blogger to Drupal and added the diaries and message board pageviews per visit have gone up about 30%. The goal there was to leverage (and focus) the community, though, and the pageviews were just an ancillary—though expected—side benefit.
5. Blog-to-Print: Who's exploring? Case stories? Does it translate? Is it worth it?
A few bloggers have published books, most prominently Will Leitch, a couple of the KSK guys, Orson Swindle, and Free Darko. Since none of those people are me I can't tell you how well they've done. More personally, Maple Street Press has been deploying bloggers to write an ever-expanding set of season preview magazines of which HTTV was the second variety to be published. They appear to be profitable.
One thing I've been considering is a Simmons-esque repackaging of blog content into a book heavy on annotations and explanations from the cold, hard distance of time. With e-publishing, finding the time to do such a thing is the main barrier there.
6. Web Sponsorship -- what's the value for the advertiser?
I'm not an ad guy, but my intuition: if we're talking about display ads like MGoBlog currently sports, the main value is in branding. It's the same sort of stuff that causes Coke to carpet-bomb the Super Bowl and the like. Clicks are nice but by this point are sort of peripheral to the cause. If we're talking about big takeovers like Gawker's successfully deployed, that's much the same thing only far less ignorable. It's all about getting your message in front of a viewer.
If you're talking about serious sponsorship, where one brand becomes a sort of flagship "brought to you by" thing, there I think the corporation is trying to leverage the positive associations readers have with a blog. As a consumer it's pretty easy to be dismissive of the Weed Eater Bowl but considerably harder when the Weed Eater guys are putting money on the table to keep the one guy who you really like up and going. It's one thing to buy space via which to distract a reader from his goal—most of the time the ads on this blog are a necessary evil of minor interest to the reader—and another entirely to buy a small portion of the reader's loyalty by allowing the blogger in question to go (or stay) full time.
I haven't seen any examples of this sort of thing AFAIK, but assume that it's coming. The catch is that it's the internet and certain people who don't like the opinions purveyed by your sponsorship or advertisement might not appreciate it. A brand sponsoring this here blog would have to consider what an Ohio State fan would take from it. The Maker's Mark kerfuffle is a good example of this: I just won't buy it now, no matter how stupid and irrational that is.
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.