The importance of coach background?
Patterson is a rare defensive HC standout
I know there are plenty of questions about the coaching search coming through, I'd hoped to give a different take.
In your opinion what is the preferable background of a coach. In the modern game with high powered, explosive offenses being the key to success, the trend seems be leaning towards guys with strong background in developing offenses (Tom Herman, Gus Malzahn, etc). I still maintain that the best background for a head coach is having a much stronger background on the defensive side of the ball. A top notch defense requires the ability to adapt to the offense (everyone runs the same offense week to week, defenses must adjust) putting a higher premium on extensive experience multiple jobs running multiple defenses.
The other key to success is recruiting (it seems you can out scheme your way to an effective offense, but a defense is more about the 'Jimmy's and Joe's). In my estimate, the best coach would be a guy with a lot of DC experience who knows what hates to defend and hires that guy. For instance, if Hoke had just admitted he didn't know anything about offense and spent the blank check Brandon gave him on the best guy to run a Denard led team (As I recall there were heaps of Oregonesque coordinators out there who would kill to walk into an experienced Denard job with money to spend on top assistants), we would probably be celebrating Hoke as a genius for not wearing the headset. I'm not sure Rodriguez hiring a stud D coordinator and letting them run the D the way they wanted would have worked because a number of his D recruits didn't pan out, which I believe goes to talent identification.
Please don't excommunicated me from the M family, I still think Harbaugh is the top candidate despite his offensive background!
You've got a pretty good case with "DC who knows what he hates to defend," as that's exactly what Bob Stoops did and he's been pretty successful. On the other hand, the top guys in college right now have a decided offensive bent.
Defensive guys at top 25 schools: Saban, Dantonio, Patterson, Snyder, Whittingham, Mora.
Offensive guys: Meyer, Helfrich, Fisher, Briles, Mullen, Freeze, Rodriguez, Johnson, Richt, Graham, Pinkel, Swinney, Andersen, Malzahn, Harsin, Petrino, Miles, Sarkisian, Kill.
A few of those are tenuous (Swinney was never a coordinator, Kill has been a head coach for so long he's just a head coach); even considering that it seems like the rapid evolution of offense has made OCs preferable to DCs.
And when DCs do have sustained success it's often because they have an oddball system they make work, whether it's Saban's NFL-style pattern matching, Dantonio's hyperaggressive cover 4, or Patterson's 4-2-5. Imposing your will is possible on defense; it seems to be a lot easier on offense.
I know you are being loaded with questions around the coaching search. My question is for after the search is over. The basis of the question is simple. How long do you think until Michigan is back to at least consistent 8 to 9 win seasons.
My personal belief is that with Harbaugh the chances are quick. But, what if it is not Harbaugh and someone who specializes in spread concepts to their offense, ie.) a Mullen or Herman? Do you think those hires would lead to as heavy an attrition as the Rich Rod transition did? If not how well would the current roster mesh with those schemes. Lastly if one of those two or another spread guy was hired, and the transition isn't a great fit, should we be prepared for Harbaugh, Harbaugh, Harbaugh, all over 4 years from now? Thanks in advance.
There wasn't actually that much Rich Rod-Hoke transition attrition. Most of the guys who left did so because they couldn't stay in school or find playing time. IIRC, Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal left with Tony Gibson to go to Pitt, but I don't think anyone else could be claimed to have left as direct effect of the changeover. (Check the most recent Attrition Watch and correct me if I'm wrong.) In general, transfers are rare. PSU had their program burned to the ground and open season declared on their players and they only lost a few guys.
Recruits who haven't signed LOIs are a different matter, but if Michigan has a coach in January they'll have about ten spots to fill.
As far as spread/not spread, the differences in personnel there are considerably overstated. OSU and Miss St run power-oriented spread offenses built on being beefy mean guys; that kind of offense would fit well with Michigan's recruits on the OL. Receivers are receivers; Michigan has a couple slot guys. Tailbacks like Brandon Minor and Carlos Hyde function in the spread; Michigan's current crew could do just fine.
QB is the big difference, and it's an issue. I do think Morris has sufficient wheels to be a keep-'em honest threat, and as OSU's shown over the past half-decade or so, a spread oriented system tends to keep reads for shaky QBs relatively simple.
Hoke did a very good job stocking the roster with guys who stick around and they are beginning to mature, so a relatively quick (read: year 2) turnaround is within the realm of possibility.
[After the JUMP: frankly, things get very silly.]
1976 Michigan Football Team
Circled are Jim Hackett, 53, and Jack Harbaugh, Bo assistant
I am not putting all the eggs in the ol' basket based on this. Maybe a few.
Chances of similar nepotism catastrophe?
Well, we've just witnessed the final episode of Brady Hoke in Michigan Stadium. It's very easy for some to feel anger at the head coach, but the more appropriate target(s?) are those responsible for elevating Hoke to a position he was incapable of executing. Beyond the anger, are the responsible parties still in a position of influence? Not Brandon, of course, my concern is more directed toward Schembechler Hall. Is there a risk of essentially repeating the same mistake of another Michigan Man, albeit a more competent version?
Uh… no? We have already plucked the last fruit off the Lloyd Carr tree, such as it is, and Michigan men available are:
- JIM HARBAUGH. Probably not a mistake.
- LES MILES. Questionable due to age and sketch, but even so not in Hoke's galaxy as in terms of qualifications, or lack thereof.
- NOBODY. There are no other Michigan-affiliated head coaches.
I guess Michigan could go way off the board and hire one of the near-rookie NFL coordinators who have ties, but you have to think that after the last search they would try to avoid the appearance of nepotism. I cannot say for sure, of course. Michigan could go with Harold Goodwin or Teryl Austin, because nobody knows anything about Jim Hackett.
I kind of doubt it, though. After the two obvious guys there isn't a midlevel head coach with an uninspiring record who you can just barely see as conceivable if you squint particularly hard.
Meanwhile the new president isn't a Michigan guy and seems kind of appalled by the current culture of the department; most of said department consists of Brandon-hired short-timers with no connection to Michigan. The guy dead-set on the nepotism hire has been flushed, and what are the chances Michigan hires two CEOs like… that… back to back?
Okay, okay: nonzero. But not high. If Hackett's anywhere near the meat of the bell curve the backup plan won't be hired because he knows six different places Encore Records has been.
[After THE JUMP: or where Le Dog went to]
Mailbag: Retaining Mattison, Coach Before AD, Hackett Long-Term, Braxton Transfer, Schlissel Concerns(?)
Left: via Eric DeBoer. Right: ICE ICE BABY TOO COLD
It seems very clear that Hoke is gone at this point. Is there a scenario in which we could fire Hoke, but keep Mattison at DC? This is a top 25 team with a competent offense. I actually like Nuss too as I believe the playcalling has been good and Gardner just isn't executing, but he also seems as good as gone right?
It's rare for assistant coaches to be kept on after a head coaching change. OSU kept Luke Fickell, but they've devolved his responsibility repeatedly and their defense is not up to par with their offense. You get the sense he's mostly around for recruiting. Other than that I can't recall a coordinator-level assistant who survived their head man getting axed.
Making an exception for Mattison depends on a lot of things. For one, is he pissed off enough that he just retires? Mattison's pressers have been feisty, full-throated defenses of Brady Hoke over the last couple months. It's clear Hoke commands seriously loyalty from him, and it was expected he'd be retiring in the somewhat near future anyway. He would take some convincing to stay, and making that pitch is a delicate thing I'm not sure certain targets *cough*HARBAUGH*cough* would be good at.
Meanwhile, there's the question of how good this defense actually is. Yeah, they're seventh nationally in yards per game and 12th in yards per play. They've also faced a selection of completely horrible offenses. Yards per play rankings of Michigan power 5 opponents, out of 128:
- NORTHWESTERN: 125th
- PENN STATE: 121st
- UTAH: 89th
- MINNESOTA: 68th
- INDIANA: 57th, but most of that is w/ Sudfeld
- RUTGERS: 50th
- NOTRE DAME: 38th
- MICHIGAN STATE: 12th
There are two teams in there that are better than average and if you take Indiana's QB situation into account (Indiana has averaged barely 200 yards a game since Diamont took over) there are three of the very worst teams in the country. #91 Maryland and… uh… #11 Ohio State are pending.
That plus Michigan's notoriously slow tempo means the advanced stats have a very different perspective on Michigan than raw ones. FEI has Michigan 35th(!) in the country, which is barely average in a schedule adjusted system. Michigan is 31st in S&P.
It's not hard to see why. They gave up 400 yards to Gary Nova, got plastered by David Cobb, and folded on the second drive in East Lansing against the one legitimately good offense they faced. The man press misstep was costly, and I don't have a lot of hope Michigan is going to throttle Ohio State.
So. Given that and the likelihood Mattison's going to call it quits sooner rather than later anyway, I wouldn't put a high priority on retaining him. It might be different if there was a guy on staff that looked like an heir apparent, but Mark Smith keeps getting bounced to other roles, Roy Manning is probably still too young, and Kurt Mallory was interviewing at I-AA schools last summer.
I don't see anyone sticking around after the transition except Manning, who's established himself a great recruiter and can go back to his natural LB spot. I still think Nussmeier's track record is an excellent one, especially in QB development, but it's going to be a hard sell to retain him after this year's performance.
[After the JUMP: AD hiring stuff, prez stuff.]
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2, Mailbag Part 1
Who will get the bulk of the minutes at center? The panelists disagree. [Fuller]
The preview is almost done, but first, Alex and I attempt to answer perhaps the longest mailbag question in this blog's history. Without further ado, a five-part query covering everything:
Can you predict the minutes by position for the roster this year given the unique nature of this team compared to the past rosters?
I'm very intrigued to see how Beilein deals with the youngest but probably deepest and most versatile roster he's ever had. For most years we were scrambling to find 8 usable scholarship athletes and this year we have 11 guys who could see meaningful minutes in any given game. How will he handle that? How will he handle the frustrations that come with so many freshmen learning a complex system? How will he handle the unique skills that guys like MAAR or Wilson offer if they aren't quite the fit into his system?
Ace: I'm going to start from the end—first of all, Wilson is an ideal fit in the system (more on him later), and second of all, if a player is good enough to get on the court, Beilein is going to adjust his team's approach to fit his personnel, as we've seen time and again.
Also, talk about good problems. There really are 11 players who could see at least a consistent bit role this season, though I highly doubt Beilein is going to go with an 11-man rotation; I think he'll whittle it down closer to eight or nine as the season goes on.
My best guess at how the minutes breakdown will look when this team settles into a rotation—in the early going, I expect some experimenting as Beilein figures out what his freshmen can and can't provide:
1) Walton - 30, Albrecht - 10
2) LeVert - 35, Albrecht - 5
3) Irvin - 30, Dawkins - 10
4) Chatman - 25, Wilson - 15
5) Doyle - 20, Donnal - 10, Wilson - 10
Positions matter less than minutes distribution here—Irvin and Dawkins can both play the two, and LeVert can play the three, for example, and those positions very similar in Beilein's system, anyway.
Of the freshmen, I think Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman is the most likely to fall out of the rotation. Michigan has plenty of guards that can handle the ball, Walton's ability as a spot-up shooter will allow for the Walton/Spike backcourt to get a good amount of run, and Rahk's iffy shooting is going to hold him back, especially once M hits the meat of the schedule—Beilein's system doesn't work nearly as well if defenses don't have to respect the outside shot of one of the guards.
Aubrey Dawkins, meanwhile, has the skill set to be an immediate bench contributor. He can defend multiple positions and he can shoot the three; add in his outstanding athleticism, which should make him a good finisher on the break, and it's easy to see a role for him as a three-and-D guy with some upside.
I'm of the mind that all three freshman centers, including DJ Wilson, will get extensive time, and their minutes will wax and wane depending on the matchup; Wilson should see more time at the five against smaller, athletic teams, while Doyle may be leaned upon heavily against a bigger squad like Iowa. I believe Doyle will end up playing the most minutes at the five; I'm a fan of his combination of size and ability to finish near the basket, and for some reason it doesn't feel like Donnal is currently living up to expectations.
[Hit THE JUMP for Alex's guess at the rotation plus our outlook on DJ Wilson, picks for this year's breakout players, and comparable players to this year's freshmen.]
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2
Improvement from the rest of the squad should help M's young centers get acclimated. [Fuller]
Michigan had their first and only exhibition of the 2014-15 season last night, and on Saturday the games start counting for real. Even by John Beilein Michigan squad standards, this is a young group facing a lot of pressing questions, and the answers will determine if the Wolverines continue the remarkable success of recent seasons or fall back to the pack a bit.
There are so many, in fact, that the preseason mailbag will be a two-parter. Today, Alex and I address your questions about the young group of centers, the possibility of more zone defense this season, and proper expectations for Zak Irvin's sophomore season.
The latest mailbag said you're looking for basketball questions, so here's my biggest wonder heading into the season: What should my expectations be for the production from the center position, a position that seems to be a weakness on an otherwise strong team?
Beilein said he wants Mark [Donnal] or Ricky [Doyle] to eventually emerge as The Guy, but if we consider them to be a platoon (can we call it Donnoyle?), what output should we be happy with and what should concern us? Will Mark Donnal be the perfect fit everyone's been talking about (I won't make the age-old comparison), or will he be overpowered by mean scary Big Ten centers? Will Ricky Doyle be a calming presence on the defense or will we see that classic freshman deer-in-the-headlights look too often?
This message got a lot longer than I planned, but it's just something that I've been discussing at length with the basketball beat writers, and I think it's something that a lot of the fan base is wondering. Let me know what you think!
Ace: Let's start with a point of reference. Last season in Big Ten play—which removes Mitch McGary's scattered nonconference minutes from the equation—the combination of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford averaged 11.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70.7% from the field.
A few of those numbers are unlikely to be replicated by a trio of freshman centers—while he'll see plenty of time at the four and maybe even the three, DJ Wilson will get a lot of run at the five—and Max Bielfeldt. Morgan and Horford were both very efficient finishers who didn't take jumpers; that's not the case for any of M's current centers—even Doyle is comfortable shooting from mid-range—and just by virtue of them taking more jumpers, that shooting percentage is going to dip. Replacing seniors with freshmen usually means rebounding will go down and turnovers up, too.
All three main center options have scoring potential, though. Donnal missed his only three-point attempt last night and wasn't a major factor on offense, but if he can consistently stretch the defense he should stick as the starter. Ricky Doyle could easily surpass him, however, and even provide the type of scoring that Morgan/Horford did. Doyle is the bigger guy and looks to have more potential as a rebounder—he had an impressive putback last night—and his tape from high school and the Italy trip shows he's adept at finishing near the basket with either hand. Wilson, when he's at the five, will really spread the floor, and he's easily the best passer and ballhandler of these three; he may also be the best outside shooter.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of this excessively long answer and much more.]
Could he keep his job?
You can't twirl a dead cat anymore without hitting someone claiming, "if Brady Hoke wins out he could keep his job." If you ignore the fact that at no point has this team even competed with a competent team, there is still too much against him, right? If somehow the stars align and a UM team that was embarrassed in New Jersey can beat an OSU team that will probably be favored by 20+, Hoke is still gone, right?
I'm terrified that all this smoke about him still having a chance means there's fire. The last thing UM needs is to have Hoke Wayne Fontes his way into another chance. Pleases just tell me that a New AD means a new coach and I can enjoy watching Drake Johnson run roughshod over NW.
-Dylan [Ed: not that Dylan]
It's worse than that, actually: there are a number of people asserting crazy things about what happens if Michigan squeaks into a bowl game.
First, that is not likely. Michigan is a dog to a Northwestern team that just got blitzed by Iowa, and they'll probably be a slight favorite against Maryland before being a two-TD dog against OSU. Going to a bowl at all is a 30% proposition.
Even if Michigan finishes the season "strong" I can't imagine Hoke returning for a thousand reasons we've all seen. The major one is what happens to the season ticket base. It has to take a significant hit if Hoke's back, and with Brandon expanding his expenses even more rapidly than he expanded Michigan's revenue that could see Michigan dip into the red. That's not tenable.
Neither is Hoke. Without a miracle upset against Ohio State this year's resume consists of wins over some of the worst teams Division I has to offer and comprehensive blowouts against any team with a pulse. In year four, with an offense that is more experienced than Ohio State's.
Are we going back to the Duderstadt attitude?
What's up mgoblog,
I have read a lot about " be careful what you wish for" in terms of firing Dave. I think all football fans agree that we need to pay our coaches competitive salaries and Dave was on the same page.
It has been discussed most recently by Sam Webb that Schlissel has little interest in paying a coach top dollar.
Do you think there is some truth to this or do you think this is just speculation.
I am worried Michigan will hire a decent coach and be content with 8-4.
Mike V in CT.
I don't have much to go on in this department and I don't think many people know what's going on inside Schlissel's head. But: I seriously doubt that Schlissel is going to say anything to his athletic director about appropriate salaries as long as the department stays in the black. He's a doctor and a biology professor; he's going to look at numbers and do the thing that makes sense.
Since one of the best ways to keep the department in the black is to hire a real good football coach, I doubt a couple million a year is going to make or break M's ability to get the right guy.
If there's anything resembling a reconfiguring of priorities I would expect it comes in the academic component of the athletic department. That's something I forgot about in the previous mailbag when I was searching for good things Brandon did—under his watch Michigan pulled out of the Rodriguez transition APR disaster and graduated literally every senior FB player under Hoke. I don't think an emphasis on getting plausible students is going to have a ton of impact since Michigan is avoiding borderline guys already.
Michigan might scale back some of the more extravagant building projects for non-revenue sports, but I'm of the opinion that's a good thing. Palaces make some sense for the revenue sports because they, you know, generate revenue. (And those are all done anyway.) Adding permanent maintenance and debt service costs to the U's bottom line puts more stress on the fans to provide money and reduces Michigan's ability to get quality coaches in all sports.
[After THE JUMP: student attendance against Indiana, turnaround timeframe, WHYYYYY]