I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
This could be you!
Is it possible that Rich Rodriguez's style of offense doesn't give his defense enough time to rest between drives? Using numbers from cfbstats.com, I calculated the following "time per drive" stats for Michigan and three other Big Ten teams:
My edition of Windows Live Writer automatically links to a post discussing how I hate time of possession whenever I type the words, so I'm probably not the guy to make this argument to. While it is possible that Michigan's lack of rest between drives contributed to the terrible defense,the goal of Michigan's varying tempos and generally quick pace is to place stress on the opposing defense. Arguing that short drives stress the defense is one side of the coin; the other is that they contribute to the offense's success.
The actual difference in rest is lower, too. The 45 seconds on game clock Michigan's isn't running isn't much when you account for TV timeouts and stoppages for first downs and incomplete passes and reviews and etc etc etc. I'd guess the difference is considerably less than 30%. Amongst the many factors that led to the defense's demise this year, "tiredness because the offense has short drives" is well down the list.
I'm a lifelong Michigan fan and moderate supporter of Rich Rodriguez. Here is my question... What can happen with the D coordinator position? We know Robinson should be fired, who are some good candidates to replace him if they stick with RichRod? Also, with all the unknowns regarding RichRod, does this mean that Robinson won't be fired until there is a firm decision about Rodriguez? Do we really have to keep him until New Years? Thanks guys,
The answers change significantly based on what defense you want to run. If Michigan is sticking with a 3-3-5 they should get someone who knows how to, you know, run the defense. The old and proven version of this coordinator is San Diego State's Rocky Long*, the former New Mexico head coach. He had a fairly successful decade-long run before running out of energy a couple years ago. The younger and not so proven option would be someone like Louisiana-Monroe's Troy Reffett, who's about 20 years younger than Long and has bounced around smaller schools, coordinating 3-3-5s at UTEP, New Mexico, and now ULM. ULM was seventh in the Sun Belt in yardage when he arrived and has finished 2nd and 3rd in his two years as the coordinator.
I don't think that should be a factor, though. From the outside it looks like they brought in Robinson, let him do his thing for a season, realized he was Greg Robinson 2010—not 1997—and tried to triage as best they could. This went not so well. The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes like a human, bring in a guy with an actual track record of success and let him run the defense. The less wacky the better. This means changing the D for like the fifth straight year, but we're doing that whether or not Rodriguez is retained so you might as well get used to the idea now.
As for who those might be:
- Randy Shannon was discussed in a previous mailbag. As an unemployed guy with a recent barrage of defenses somewhere between good and great, he's obviously appealing. He'd help Michigan's Florida recruiting while running a defiantly Big Ten-style "this is our 4-3 cover two we run every play, try to beat it please" defense. Downsides: he's never done anything but coach at Miami and may call the fire marshal when he sees an actually full stadium, and other cultural whatnot. He may hold out for another head coaching job, or leave if he gets offered one.
- The other interesting unemployed college DC is Pitt's Phil Bennett, a 52-year old who was SMU's head coach before June Jones came in. In three years at Pitt he posted FEIs of 27th, 26th, and 31st. His SMU years were moderately successful until the 1-11 crater that cost him his job; before that he was the K-State DC from 1999 to 2001, during which time the Wildcats finished in the top five in total defense every year. All K-State stats under Snyder should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt, but that's still a pretty good record for an available guy.
- Mike Trgovac is the Michigan Man/chaperone option most commonly presented. He was the Panthers' DC for six successful years before turning down a contract extension and leaving to be a DL coach at Green Bay, which is bizarre but whatever. He's 50—the coaching sweet spot—but hasn't coached in college since 1994.
- Another option is throwing scads of cash at a guy whose existing school can't afford to keep him. This might bode unwell for our bowl game but Manny Diaz's maniacal maniacs at Mississippi State are 14th in FEI this year. He's working under an offensive-minded head coach and is obviously the motive force behind that ranking. Diaz is young and fiery. This is an upside, but the downside is he has only one year under his belt in the SEC. At Middle Tennessee his last three defenses were 44th(hey, pretty good for MTSU), 103rd, and 84th (not so good).
Depressingly, a scan down the FEI defense list for good units at schools Michigan can drown in 100 dollar bills doesn't hit much of interest past Diaz until you get to #34, which is Syracuse and Scott Shafer. Everyone else is either not happening, dodgy because the head coach is the defensive mastermind, or TCU's Dick Bumpas, who's probably not happening.
*(Savor long and deep the irony of the quintessential "Michigan Man" candidate running a 3-3-5.)
Do you and Tim have a pretty good idea of the total number of recruits we can sign this year? I've heard people say about 18-19, but with all of the unexpected departures (Vlad, Turner, LaLota, White, Rogers, Dorsey, CJones, Kinard) that last year's class was a lot smaller than originally thought and that there are more roster spots available.
The Depth Chart By Class shows 77 scholarship players, ten of whom graduate. I'm assuming that Jordan Kovacs is now on scholarship but Will Heininger, Kevin Leach, Seth Broekhuizen and the various fullbacks are not, at least not until Michigan ends up with fewer than 85 scholarship players. That would leave a class of 18. In addition, I think it's unlikely Steve Watson and Mike Williams get fifth years, bringing the total to 20. They've currently got:
- QB: 0
- RB: 1
- WR: 0
- TE: 0
- Slot: 1
- OL: 3
- DE: 2
- DT: 0
- LB: 2
- CB: 4
- S: 0
- K: 0
That's 13, leaving seven slots for a kicker, a safety, a DT, a guard, and then three slots that could go to whoever they want. Chris Bryant is likely to be the guard, and two of the wild-card selections seem likely to be DE/DT Anthony Zettel and WR/LB Kris Frost. There are no likely options at DT right now and the safeties Michigan is in on seem like longshots, though it's possible Greg Brown ends up at FS. I'm also guessing Cullen Christian moves to FS this spring.
Are you a student? Do you like costumes?
After watching the dissapointing Bball attendance, myself and another remote alum and bball fan would like to help support the team but unfortunately are too far to make it to the games. We'd like to sponsor tickets for 2 students for the remainder of games provided they wear Big Bird costumes and Blake McLimans jerseys or T-Shirts.
The problem is, we don't know where to start finding 2 students willing to go to the games dressed as Big Bird and take our sponsored tickets. After reading the blog, I feel like this is a project you could get behind.
Behind it I am. Email me if you're interested in being the Blake McLimans fan club and I'll send your information along to Dave. Anyone else interested in exchanging money for shots of someone looking silly at a basketball game should contact me immediately.
It is mailbag time, and this necessarily involves talking about the various job securities of the various coaches on the staff. Apologies in advance for this.
I've followed the program pretty closely for the last few decades through friends, family, and former players. Wondering if your general opinion of Brady Hoke's competence as a head coach continues to reflect your 2007 assessment?
That 2007 assessment was a "Profile in Cronyism" at the dark point of the coaching search when reasonable options were thin on the ground and names like Hoke and Jim Grobe were getting thrown around, and it laid out the case that no reasonable Big Ten program, let alone Michigan, could possibly consider Hoke for a head coaching gig. At the time he was 22-36 at Ball State and had just finished his first winning season, that a 7-6 campaign. "Evidence suggests Hoke is outclassed in the MAC," I said at the time.
So of course Hoke immediately ripped off the best season in Ball State history, finishing the regular season before inexplicably losing to Buffalo in the MAC championship game. San Diego State hired him away, whereupon former Michigan offensive coordinator Stan Parrish took over. Parrish wasted no time impressing his indelible stamp on the program by losing 45-13. Hoke took over a 2-10 program; in his second year they're 8-4. Since the four losses have come against Missouri, BYU, TCU, and Utah and the biggest deficit was five points against TCU(though that game wasn't nearly as close as all that), his resume is now a plausible Big Ten resume…
…at Minnesota, where he's a rumored candidate. I know the emailer wasn't suggesting that Hoke would be considered for the Michigan job, but it's worth mentioning that Michigan's coaching search got so desperate in 2007 that a guy who put up a 12-2 season and has turned around San Diego State but still doesn't have a reasonable resume was getting kicked around.
I know you briefly alluded to this on TWIS, but what are the chances that Randy Shannon could possibly come and be our defensive coordinator? There are SO many great reasons why:
- He graduates players (I believe he had one of the highest APR rates for a BCS school)
- Pipeline to the South, especially Florida, so we can get their recruits
- Much better than GERG
- Able to relate to all sorts of players with different backgrounds
- Players stayed out of trouble
The only thing is whether or not Rich Rod would be willing to forgo the 3-3-5 or if Randy Shannon can coach the 3-3-5.
Speaking of which – isn’t that the hinge question? Do we want someone who can actually coach the 3-3-5 or do we want someone to switch to the 3-4 or 4-3?
I made a joking reference to Shannon in TWIS without thinking much other than "this is a defensive coach who is not Robinson," but… yeah, seriously. Unlike Robinson, Shannon has a track record of recent college success. His current team is 16th in total D and 22nd in scoring, seventh in sacks, first in TFLs, and third in pass efficiency D. FEI has them third nationally*.
Downsides: they got bombed by Florida State and gave up 31 to Virginia Tech—both games featured rushes of over eighty yards, and Shannon's had access to the steady stream of insane athletes that just hangs out at Miami Northwestern so his defenses probably should be pretty good.
Still, Wikipedia sayeth:
During Shannon's six years as UM's defensive coordinator, his defenses ranked as follows in total defense nationally:
Dang. Once he got the top job at Miami there was some dropoff, as Shannon's Ds finished 33rd, 28th, 29th, and 16th in yardage. FEI has the Shannon defenses, 41st (2007), 65th (2008), 18th, and 3rd, which is really interesting since the conventional measure hardly differentiates between Shannon's first three years.
That's a full decade of defenses somewhere between bludgeoning and decent, mostly bludgeoning. And as anyone who's watched a Miami game in the last four years can tell you, Shannon is a great guy with a heartbreaking life story who graduated his kids and kept them out of trouble. He should help Michigan's Florida recruiting even further, as he's a guy respected across the state. If Michigan changes DCs again they could do much worse.
The 3-3-5 issue shouldn't come up. Shannon's spent his entire career playing and coaching Miami's basic 4-3 cover two; asking him to run anything else would be as nuts as hiring a guy who'd driven Syracuse into a crater and asking him to run a defense he doesn't know, and one of the preconditions to keeping Rodriguez around should be "no more transparently nuts decisions, okay?"
*(Guess who's #1: West Virginia. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU.)
On the inefficiency of the offense:
So I found out why we suck. Turns out it isn't our defense. The reason we cant win is because of the offense and whatever kicker we trot out there to kick FGs. Look at the comparison between yards/game rank vs. points/yd rank among the top 30 offenses (total offense by total yards, not yds/game). We rank #6 in yds/game but #26 in pts/yd. So we move a ton of yards without getting much in return. Well, i should say we don't get enough in return. You'd think or expect our yd/game rank to be in the neighborhood of our pts/yd rank....but we have the worst differential among the top 30 offenses (total yards). Who knows where we'd rank if I went to all FBS teams.
What's also interesting is who is at the top. Teams with a high negative delta (pts/yd rank minus yd/game rank) get more points than they should be expected to. This can be because of a number of factors--they don't turn the ball over, they don't miss field goals, and/or their defense forces turnovers and provides shorter fields for the offense. In any case we now know why such a boring Wisconsin offense scores so many fricking points. They are #1 in pts/yd. OSU is #5. Neither of these teams are prolific, but they are extremely efficient and they don't screw up. Oregon, Boise State, and TCU are just fricking awesome all around. Stanford is another team that makes the most of its chances. Michigan's delta goes in the other direction (yd/game is awesome...pts/game not so much). Obviously we need to move the two numbers closer together.
Oh, if we scored .0868366 pts/yd, which is what NIU got at #6 in pts/yd rank (and closer to where we should be) we would have scored about 110 more points this year. If we had Wisconsin's, we would have scored 167 more points this year...hopefully all against OSU, WISC, PSU, Iowa, and MSU.
In summary... our defense can continue to suck and there will still be hope. Our offense needs to perform on 8 cylinders all the time and we need to get a kicker...have we tried the women's soccer team?
TEAM YDS/G PTS/G pts/yd PPY RK YD/GM RANK Rank Delta Wisconsin 450.2 43.3 0.096 1 18 -17 Oregon 541.7 50.2 0.093 2 1 1 Boise State 525.5 46.4 0.088 3 4 -1 TCU 491.5 43.2 0.088 4 7 -3 Ohio State 448.8 39.4 0.088 5 19 -14 Northern Illinois 452 39.3 0.087 6 17 -11 Auburn 490.1 42.1 0.086 7 8 -1 East Carolina 445.5 38.2 0.086 8 22 -14 Stanford 467.3 39.8 0.085 9 14 -5 Oklahoma State 537.6 44.9 0.084 10 2 8 Southern Miss 458.2 37.6 0.082 11 15 -4 Nevada 536.9 43.3 0.081 12 3 9 Nebraska 424.3 33.8 0.080 13 27 -14 Alabama 435.6 34.4 0.079 14 25 -11 Hawaii 487.8 38.3 0.079 15 10 5 Houston 480.5 37.7 0.078 16 11 5 Tulsa 503.5 39.3 0.078 17 5 12 Oklahoma 480.1 37.5 0.078 18 12 6 San Diego State 448.5 35 0.078 19 20 -1 Arkansas 489.3 37.3 0.076 20 9 11 Kentucky 437.3 33 0.075 21 24 -3 Air Force 437.4 32.3 0.074 22 23 -1 USC 427.9 31.1 0.073 23 26 -3 Texas A&M 447.6 31.7 0.071 24 21 3 Texas Tech 452.6 31.9 0.071 25 16 9 Michigan 500.9 34.2 0.068 26 6 20 Baylor 478.5 32.6 0.068 27 13 14 Southern Methodist 422.8 27.9 0.066 28 28 0 Miami (FL) 422.6 27.1 0.064 29 30 -1 UAB 422.8 26.8 0.063 30 29 1
This is the thing about looking up at halftime and seeing around 250 yards and ten points in chart form: hoooo boy was Michigan bad at converting drives into points this year.
A chunk of this is on the kickers. I don't think Michigan made any calls a David Romer obsessive wouldn't regard as broadly correct because of their field goal situation, so all of the disadvantages going 4 of 13 provides should be encapsulated in FEI's kicking stat, in which Michigan has proudly reclaimed their crown as the worst in the nation. They're giving up an astounding 1.15 points relative to an average team every time they line up to kick. Pretending they're average closes the gap between themselves and puts them in a tie with A&M and Texas Tech; something in the 30s gets them slightly past.
Turnovers are another chunk. This one's not quite as easy to quantify. Michigan's 27 lost turnovers is 109th nationally. I'm going to take a wild stab at how much of Michigan's deficiency here is due to the huge TO rate that should be generally correct but vulnerable to a lot of niggling details, so bear with me. Michigan's drives last year excluding end-of-half situations that did not result in points:
- 43 punts
- 57 TDs
- 13 FGAs
- 27 turnovers
The national median in turnovers lost is 20. If we wave a wand and pretend this is Michigan's distribution, and leave the spread unchanged otherwise we get another 2.7 punts, 3.5 TDs, and eight tenths of a field goal. That's another two points a game, which gets Michigan up to… 22nd.
So then the rest of it is starting almost every drive at their 20 or worse thanks to a terrible defense, no punt return game, no kick return game, and everything else that goes into Michigan's average starting field position, in which Michigan ranks 92nd relative to the opponent.
If we're assigning blame, the the offense appear to be about 25% responsible thanks to those turnovers with special teams taking 50% and the defense 25%.
We have done this the last two years but it's worth noting that West Virginia was consistently positive in TO margin after Rodriguez's first year, so it's not like this is an artifact of the system. I know I keep saying this in defiance of persistently agonizing triple digit rankings. Maybe next year, when Rodriguez has an upperclassman at QB for the first time?
Do you weigh the fact that Harbaugh probably is available only this offseason in your calculation to retain RR for a fourth year? Does the presumed availability of a top-tier candidate with deep UM ties change the analysis of whether RR should be retained? It has to in my mind--I'm not sure what conclusion it leads me to--does it in your mind? Or do you challenge my assumption about only this offseason?
I'm not sure I agree with the premise. I can see Harbaugh sticking around for another year at Stanford if he knows he's got a shot at the job next year, or leaving his team a la Al Groh to coach his alma mater, or not actually getting a pro job offer for whatever reason. (Let's stipulate that there's no college job Michigan couldn't poach Harbaugh from and no college program is likely to be foolhardy enough to test that.) But it is accurate that Harbaugh is available now and might not be in the future.
Does that change the calculus? Yeah. Without Harbaugh sitting there with an 11-1 Stanford team he built by hand from the finest recruits known to Stanford, I don't think the conversation about Rodriguez's job security is anywhere near as intense. Who's the next hot guy? Patterson and Peterson seem married to their current schools, Chip Kelly isn't going anywhere. The two guys next on everyone's lips are Dana Holgorsen and Gus Mahlzahn, two offensive coordinators who have never been head coaches.
Sans Harbaugh, Michigan would probably take a look at the available options, glance back at Denard, and say "well, one more year probably can't hurt." With him, it's a choice between as-probable-as-it-gets long term success and an awkward fit with the Big Ten offensive player of the year, or hoping that someone can finally turn Rodriguez's defense at Michigan into something other than doom. There are worse spots to be in. There are better.
The diary on poor tackling got me thinking about Rich Rod's coaching philosophy. It's obvious that he recruits speed and athletes on offense at not only the skill positions but also the o-line where he likes guys who can get out and block in space. These are the guys who get all the attention and the playing time. They are "the game breakers" and the guys who can make a big play at any time. How can that not transfer over to the defensive side of the ball? So, in the spring, we heard rumors about Cam Gordon having a great camp because he probably delivered some big hit kill shots to 4th string RBs instead of learning how to play assignment football with fundamentally sound tackling.
Am I way off here? Every yard after contact I see Michigan allow, I can't help but think how much better a (I can't believe I'm saying this) Jim Herrmann/Ron English defense was at stopping the run. We can chart how few upperclassmen we have on D until we are blue in the face but you have to concede that something is fundamentally wrong with the program's defensive attitude and philosophy. I think it just may be the constant search for "big time players" rather than smart football players who can read and react quickly.
What do you think?
Well… yeah, I guess, but like everything else on the defense the lack of depth and experience makes it hard to tell whether we're just seeing what would happen if Virginia Tech threw out a secondary full of underclassmen or if there's a long-term talent development problem. Is it a recruiting issue? Don't know. Rodriguez recruits at Michigan are all freshmen or sophomores, and if none of them are very good there's a pretty obvious reason why. Very few can "read and react quickly" as underclassmen.
Something is wrong with the program's defensive philosophy. That much is obvious. To me that problem is an incoherent coaching staff that either forces the coordinator to run a scheme he doesn't understand or forces the position coaches to do the same. Why is it so important for the position coaches to know what the defense is doing instead of getting JT Floyd to exist? I don't know, but those meddling kids have put Michigan in some goofy variant of the 3-3-5 for three years running and it hasn't done anything but implode because the defensive coordinator isn't really on board.
The problem with Michigan's philosophy on D appears to be the lack of one.
While i think there are many things wrong with the Michigan football team right now, it seems like either the play calls or the reads have been restrictive in nature.
Last year, it seemed like on the read-option, there was a third option to pass to a receiver at the line of scrimmage that could catch and run for an easy 5 yds. Has this been replaced by the receiver running a skinny post?
Also, it seems a major component of any spread offense is the quick screens/pass to the slot receiver with the outside WR blocking down. The offense featured this last year but hasn't at all this year.
I believe the plays are in the offense's playbook. When Tate is in, there is a more even run/pass distribution. (ie- look at the easy 7 yds michigan could have had at the end of the Penn St game when Denard threw to Junior Hemingway and he dropped the ball)
The main point of all of this... It would seem that passing on the edge would open up the defense to make running in the middle a little bit easier.
Thanks for you coverage of Michigan. It makes my work day more enjoyable.
Opponents have been taking the bubble away by alignment. Iowa put a linebacker over him and managed to keep two-deep coverage. Penn State moved a safety down. When opponents have gone away from these schemes it hasn't taken Michigan long to hit the bubble for a nice gain, at which point they go back to taking it away. When Iowa started blitzing off the edge in the second quarter Michigan hit a couple bubbles and Iowa reverted to its previous scheme. Smart Football dubbed the bubble a "constraint play" way back in 2008, defining the concept like so:
What if your offense is based only on bubble screens and then you just run the ball or throw the ball as a counter to your bubble screen offense?
The difference is that the bubble screen is a play that really only works when the defense has made a structural choice or is out of position. Most commonly, you'll run when the bubble only when the defense has but two defenders to cover three receivers. You thus block the two defenders and the receiver has free yards. If the defense puts a third defender there they can take the play away, intercept it, or make the tackle.
Conversely, a well designed dropback pass play, a triple option play, or certain base runs will work every time you face a normal defense. The only time the play stops working is when certain defenders cheat on their assignments, either by alignment or aggressiveness.
You're right that the edge passing opens up the interior running, but it's already a reason Michigan's ground game has been so effective, and a reason that things like Kevin Koger 60 yard touchdowns happen.
The bubble option after a zone read keeper is still being run but it's not being thrown. I imagine they've de-emphasized it because when it has been thrown it's not usually getting more than a few yards and if that's your upside you might as well let Denard carry it. The equation changes radically when he's running the ball instead of Forcier.
Chip Kelly said a week or so ago he has nothing to do with his defense, he just leaves that side of the ball to his defensive coordinator. GERG has championship rings on multiple levels. Why can't RR just let him do his thing? It seems to me that if Rich Rod just worried about the offense and let GERG do the D, Michigan might be better off.
The other side of the complaint about Rodriguez not being involved enough in the defense. This is an unanswerable question. I'm not sure why there was an insurrection against Scott Shafer in 2008—well, okay, I have some idea since Michigan refused to put Brandon Harrison on the field—or why the 2009 defense spent most of its time in an eight-man front or why Michigan decided to install every front imaginable this year.
It's clear, however, that the position coaches are forcing the coordinators to adapt to them (again, this is exactly what happened in Tommy Tuberville's final year at Auburn) and the results are dismal.
Whether or not turning the defense over to Greg Robinson would help any is debatable. He has never built an effective college defense. After getting fired from the Chiefs he had a single year at Texas during which he turned in the same level of performance the DCs before and after him did. Then he went to Syracuse and could not field a minimally competent unit after his first year—the team went backwards fast and stopped in the triple digits. While he got a rep for being a good position coach last year it's obvious that the linebackers we can actually compare across '09 and '10 did not progress much over the offseason. Ezeh was the same, Mouton is a little better but still prone to the same mistakes he's made throughout his career. No one else has never seen the light of day before this year.
At this point there is no case for keeping him around. There is no reason to expect anything but failure from him; some good NFL defenses with the Broncos are now a decade old. All the reasons the defense should be bad are still valid, but the only way to salvage Rodriguez's job is to bring in a defensive coaching staff with proven recent success that cannot be undermined by whatever the deal is with the current assistants, whichever of them stay around.
In response to your recent post about the blood drive where you said: “I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up” there is indeed a slightly more noteworthy streak that is still intact. Michigan’s Mens rowing team has beaten OSU’s mens rowing team 14 consecutive years at their annual dual race. According to the team’s website this streak is the longest continuous streak for Michigan over OSU in any sport ever (at least where head-to-head meetings are applicable). The matchup takes place right before the annual football game (with the first win coming in November 1996), so in my approximation this streak is at about 5,085 days or so and counting. Thought you might like that nugget of info.
Woo! Also, sincere congratulations to the rowing team.
And at least no one broke this guy's nose:
I dressed up as everyone's favorite defensive coordinator for Halloween this year!
One guy I never met before came up to me and told me how much he hated me and how badly he wanted to punch me in the face.
One topic that was brought up during your WTKA segment today regarding special teams was, "what happened to the kickoff return game?' You never addressed it during the segment, so I thought I would throw this at you.
I haven't done my Mgoresearch, but wasn't there a rule change regarding kickoff return team blocking? IIRC, the NCAA has limited the number of return team players allowed in a blocking wedge or wall.
I would have to look up video from previous seasons, but I believe U of M utilized a 3 man wall in front of the returners with Kevin Grady and others.
David is correct: the NCAA banned wedge blocking this offseason, which at least partially explains how an effective kick return game has disintegrated. If Michigan was really good at the wedge and now it's gone they're starting over. That doesn't explain why they're really bad, but does get you to average.
That lack of effectiveness and Darryl Stonum's increased importance to the offense make his removal from kick returns less annoying than it was earlier in the year. With Odoms out there's not much depth on the outside and Stonum wasn't getting any returns; it's possible that one-cut-and-go type stuff is less effective and kick returners should be shiftier guys closer to punt returners.
What do you think of Devin Gardner's expected plea for a medical redshirt? It's suspicious he's only played 1/3rd of the season and is eligible for the redshirt. If this is RichRod bending redshirt rules for an extra year of eligibility from Devin, isn't this a bad thing, like Saban's redshirts? We're not gaming the system for more scholarships, but we are gaming it for a competitive advantage, right?
The difference is that I'm sure Devin Gardner is 100% on board with getting a fifth year of eligibility. The Alabama players "encouraged" to take a medical scholarship would like to keep playing football and are being presented with an involuntary choice: transfer or medical, take your pick. I'm not too concerned about skating the edges of NCAA rules when it doesn't have a negative impact on the student-athlete the entire enterprise is supposed to support.
The timing is convenient but unless Michigan has an inordinate number of medical redshirts per year I'm not sure the NCAA would even bat an eye at a documented injury. Like, say, this:
That looks like exploitation. Michigan's pattern probably isn't that blatant, so what can you do when they say he was hurt?
Finally, concerns about looking bad to the NCAA are overblown. The worst thing that can possibly happen is the NCAA says no.
The future of defense. Many questions answered piecemeal:
One of the potential "benefits" of having so much youth on defense is that they could potentially lock down their positions for years. If that happens in any cases, can you explain whether there is any positional flexibility with this 3-3-5 alignment we're using?
Could Carvin move to FS?
Doubtful. His strengths and weaknesses make him an excellent fit for the spot he's at right now and not so much of an excellent fit at FS, where speed and raw athleticism are more important. Not that our current FS has those in buckets, but moving Johnson doesn't really solve that issue.
How is Marvin going to see the field if he's behind Kovacs? (who expected us to say something like that?)
Possibly by trying out free safety? This is the weird thing called "depth."
Could Furman or Hawthorne see the field anywhere?
Hawthorne is the third team spur behind two guys younger than him. The most likely career outcome there is special teams only. Furman is likely to move to OLB, where he'll need another year or two of seasoning before breaking through. Remember he was super raw out of HS.
Would Roh move to a true DE in this scheme or stay in this hybrid LB situation?
He's already a DE (mostly) against conventional teams. Michigan is a 4-3 or 3-4 base against conventional pro-style sets and Roh puts his hand down more often than not. So the question is really "will Roh play DE against spread teams next year?" That depends on how Jibreel Black, JB Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron, and other OLB/DEs (Wilkins, Paskorz, Furman) develop. I think the ideal situation sees Roh add another 10-15 pounds over the offseason to hit 265—he's listed at 6'5"—and becoming a full-time DE. Before Herron went down Michigan was using him as a 3-3-5 DE to good effect against Notre Dame, and we've all seen him struggle in space against Indiana.
Roh will probably remain a hybrid against pro-style teams, playing clunky LB when Michigan drops into the 3-3-5.
Could Cam Gordon move down to another spot?
If you can find a suitable replacement at free safety, but who's that? Kovacs? No. Floyd? Really bad tackler. Vinopal's made a lot of hay out of one play against Bowling Green but remains a true freshman as well. Ideally he'd move down to spur or bandit (or even OLB) but unless Michigan snags someone ready to start at FS from day one it's hard to see him relocate.
That's why the recruit I'd most like to get in February is JUCO safety Byron Moore, who qualified out of high school and transferred away from USC after a redshirt season to get playing time and scout out a new destination not being cratered by NCAA sanctions. As a big time recruit two years removed from high school with a year of PT under his belt, Moore is the closest thing to a quick fix at FS Michigan will ever have.
But wait, there's Woolfolk, right? Well a bit more on him later.
How do you see the open positions being filled in 2011 on defense to see if there's hope? I assume Jones and Demens will be the LB (backed up by Ryan, Bell, and any freshmen)
Yes, though Jones might field a challenge from parts unknown. It's hard to see anyone displacing Demens if only because there almost literally isn't anyone behind him on the depth chart at the moment.
I assume Black will be the DE (backed up by Heninger and the RS-Freshmen)
Yes, unless they go with Roh there—Black will find plenty of PT platooning—and Herron/Fitzgerald at the other OLB spot. With the lack of depth at DT that might be a way to spot Martin with RVB from time to time, as well.
Does Woolfolk automatically go back to corner or deep safety? I assume corner, but with the time Avery and Talbott are getting could he be better served protecting the deep ball?
Up in the air, something that will be decided based on the potential acquisition of Moore, Gordon's play the rest of the season, and how things work out in spring. Right now I'd say corner since Michigan plays a ton of cover three and none of the freshmen looks like they should be starting next year. Even if one of them develops quickly you'd like to have some depth at corner for nickel and dime packages.
And then there's this:
I liken the "Angry M hating God" to Yukon Cornelius and Hermey Scrivello from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
For instance, the M defense is the Bumble, ready to devour talking reindeer and #1 wide receivers accross the land. Then Yukon and Hermey show up unexpectedly and ruin everything. They rip out your teeth (Woolfolk) and force you to do stupid shit like hang Christmas ornaments or run only zone because you have lost the only thing that instilled fear in your opponent.
Our defense is the Bumble without teeth. Right now our pass defense is being shoved off a cliff every week until we grow new teeth or we realize we have claws to gouge the eyes of our opponent. I'm just sayin'.
I have nothing to add.
This week's enormous concern is something of a surprise, as I got a ton of emails about how terrible defenses from 2011 to 2014 may or may not be. I'm a little more concerned about Indiana, Michigan State, and Iowa, but I just answer 'em:
Here's the problem as I see it for next year.
Proven folks, either this year or the past (at least 70+% of snaps)
7. T. Gordon
Possibly semi-proven by end of year - have played meaningful snaps with game still in balance (at least 20-30% of the snaps in a game)
1. J. Black
2. C. Johnson
3. B. Herron
The rest of the lot do not seem to be seeing the field in a meaningful way to be considered remotely ready to play next year at a high level. So by my count we will have 8 EXPERIENCED, 3 SEMI-EXPERIENCED, rest is anyone's guess.
I'm worried that next year will not be better unless some of these backups get much more meaningful game play.
I think you're overrating time on the field as a way to develop when it's 39 hours out of a year. I'm sure it accelerates things to get personal experience with how opposing offenses vary, but when you're not playing games eight months of 12 and even when you are you're spending far more time practicing and working out the bulk of a player's improvement must come from off-field activities. For the best example in the history of the world:
That did not happen because Robinson got on the field last year, it happened because he spent eight months with his eyes taped open, jamming football into them 25 hours a day.
The real question is "how much experience, playing or not, will Michigan have in the two deep?" The answer should be considerably more. In the secondary:
- Free safety will go from two freshmen to two sophomores(+2)
- Bandit gets Kovacs and Robinson back(+2)
- Cornerback will replace Rogers with Woolfolk and get the four other guys another year of experience(+3)
On the line:
- Martin and Campbell will be the two deep at DT, replacing Martin and Patterson this year (-1)
- RVB and Black will be back; Sagesse and Banks will be replaced by redshirt freshmen (-6)
- Roh, Herron, and Jones return (+3)
- Spur gets Johnson and Gordon back(+2)
- Ezeh, Mouton, and Moundros are replaced by Fitzgerald, Demens, and I guess Leach(-2) but maybe a freshman, redshirt or true.
That's a ton more experience everywhere except DE, where one starter will presumably be a true sophomore and the backups will be redshirt freshmen or senior guys with no profile (Heininger and Watson). That goes double for many spots since the difference between a freshman and a sophomore is usually much greater than the difference between a junior and a senior.
Attrition can blow this all up, of course, and has already cost Michigan a number of guys who would be entering upperclass years in 2011. If Mike Martin goes pro early, it could have the same effect on the D that Donovan Warren's departure did (though I bet a dollar Martin gets drafted).
I thought the D would be considerably better this year than last. It's still got a shot, but the personnel issues are bleeding into the Rodriguez classes and depressing the outlook.
Would it be fair or unfair to conclude that at this point Coach Rodriguez hasn’t grasped the difference in admissions from WVU to UM or is all this continued attrition in year 3 kind of random and hard to explain?
At this point most of the blame for the excessive number of Clearinghouse issues in the most recent class has to fall on Rodriguez. Four players bombing out in one class with a few more on the borderline (Terry Talbott and IIRC a couple others, though I couldn't find any confirmation in a cursory googling) is too many. Carr had the occasional Quintin Woods or Marques Slocum, but they were, you know, occasional. They weren't 20% of a desperately needed influx of defensive talent. And with Demar Dorsey still not enrolled at Louisville, it's clear that none of the borderline guys were denied admission based on anything other than their ability to get past the Clearinghouse; this is not a communication issue.
I can't blame Rodriguez for taking a swing at Dorsey but he can't be surprised when it doesn't work out. Meanwhile, picking up Davion Rogers when you probably could have gotten a guy with about the same rankings and a better chance of getting in is unwise, as is offering and accepting a commitment from Antonio Kinard when his grades are such an issue. (Conelius Jones is an odd case since when he committed his grade point was supposedly 3.7.)
I'm guessing that when Michigan blew up last year pickings got slim as players questioned how long Rodriguez would be around and opposing coaches used that uncertainty like a sledgehammer, and so the staff decided to take a few more longshots. Hopefully that won't happen this year if Michigan rides a wave of Denard hype to a decent bowl and enters 2011 with expectations Rodriguez will be around for the near (and possibly distant, robot-filled) future.
Speaking of a distant, robot filled future…
(1) We've been losing some players early this season to transfers / etc. How does this play into pre-season predictions about our defense regarding 2011 and onward? (I think we already have some evidence about this year will go...) Is it remotely possible or likely to have one of the big ten's best 3 Ds by, say, 2013 or '14? EVEN IF we can get a couple 5-star corner and defensive backs for next year, would that make much of a difference given the learning curve for all freshmen?
(2) I note Michigan's conspicuous absence over the last couple recruiting class rankings at ESPN. I am not the "sky is falling!" type, but is this a case of "WAAAAAAY to early to tell"—ie, fear not, RichRod will deliver in due time—or can we assume a worse-than-michigan-average recruiting class this cycle? Does it depend more than we'd like to admit on the # of wins this year? Or, the timing of those wins? It would be bad to start 5 or 6-0, only to finish 6-6, where the losses are more recent in recruits' minds on Feb 1 signing day...
1) This was mostly answered above. About a top three D in the conference: 2013 is a long way off—this year's freshmen will be seniors. Anything's possible that far in the future. I doubt Michigan will have an outstanding D that year if only because there aren't many guys in that row of the depth chart by class who seem like obvious stars, and Michigan already lost a lot of guys who would be towards the top of the depth chart.
2) The contrast between Rodriguez's first recruiting class and a half—the whole one was ranked in the top ten by most services, the half mostly four-star guys—and his most recent one is obvious. This makes me believe the 2010 class, which was decently ranked but lost too many guys to be top 15, is an effect of a 3-9 season and the never ending torrent of negative media attention that Michigan fans know and loathe; that would also explain a chunk of Michigan's merely okay start to the 2011 class. If RR establishes himself long-term we should expect Michigan's recruiting to jump back up to the Carr level.
But not in 2011. At this point in the year a lot of recruitments are already wrapped up or moving towards it, so success this year will have more of an impact on 2012. If Michigan secures RR's job they will pick up kids like Zettel and Hart who would have already committed if this was a normal year, but it will be tough to go from where they are now to the usual array of four-stars.
In sum: defense not great for a while, but you knew that. Have I told you about the Denard?
I'm sure that you have been over this a million times as well, but what exactly is the redshirt rule? I mean is it "time played" related or is it snap related? Or is it something completely different? Sorry this may be a very stupid question, but I figured id go to the man to find out the correct answer.
This confusion is largely my fault for repeated suggestions that I'd still like to see Gardner redshirt despite his presence on three Michigan snaps thus far. The rule is: if you play at all, no redshirt. There is an exception for players who get hurt. If you are hurt in the first 30% of the season (rounded up, so the first four games) and are then injured, you can get an redshirt. Junior Hemingway got one, Mike Jones will get one, Brandin Hawthorne got one… etc.
So if Devin Gardner was to come down with tendinitis or something after the BG game, he could get an injury redshirt. I'm not sure about this but I think it's not uncommon for a player to get "injured" after a few games. I don't think that's going to happen with Rodriguez going all out to win games this season and apparently believes Devin Gardner is his second-best quarterback. Maybe next year? I'm still crushing on the idea of fifth year senior Devin Gardner being the starting QB in 2014.
Meanwhile in Devin Gardner's potential relevance
I I’ve been having a heated debate between some friends about Denard’s durability. I’m worried that opponents are going to take away the running backs in the run game, cover all the receivers and then let Denard run, therefore giving the defense an opportunity to pound and pound him again to see how durable he is. While I’ve been given all the “well, you can’t hit what you can’t catch” retorts, I am worried that against a very disciplined and physical defense, let’s say Iowa, that they’re going to let Denard run in the first half on purpose just so they can keep hitting him so he wears down in the second half. I feel like ND tried to do this and it didn’t work out too well for them, but they did manage to get some hits on him. I appreciate that Denard is taking what the defense is giving but at some point, I feel that a defense will let him run so much because they just want to hit him over and over again.
Am I being paranoid and there’s already a response in place (i.e. the plays where he runs and then throws to wide open receivers like Roundtree and T. Robinson) or is this a legit concern?
Keep up the great work.
This probably stems from Fred Jackson's comments after the ND game asserting that Notre Dame was responsible for Robinson running so much by their formations and alignment and defenses and whatnot. That sounds implausible on its face and didn't seem like it was happening when I UFRed the game. Michigan's zone read metric was 5-2=3, and about half of those were handoffs. Notre Dame may have encouraged Robinson runs by hauling ass after those flare screens and giving an occasional keep read on the ZR, but that was the difference between 28 carries and maybe 22.
- Robinson's going to run a lot on plays without even a read anyway.
- Any defense that tries to get Robinson to keep the ball when he does have a read is insane, and…
- Will probably only give themselves a few extra chances to hit Robinson at the expense of first downs.
I guess you could try it but since the chances of actually hitting the guy hard enough to impact his performance on any individual carry are very low, that's a gameplan that only the truly stupid would adopt.
Meanwhile in dilithium studies
intrigued by the raw speed we witnessed on Denard's scamper in South Bend (not to mention the unbelievable blocks --Omameh sledding Teo 7 yards through a safety AND throwing him down five-star-pancake-style! Roundtree blasting his dude! etc.) I felt compelled to apply some simple math to break down how quickly Robinson covered the 93 yards.
logic: Denard starts the play in the shotgun standing on the left hash of the 7 yard line
he receives the snap and darts off the right tackle with a jab step in/out of the hole, proceeds to the edge of the numbers at the 20 yard line, then sets his sights for the tuba on the other end of the field.
my simple math approximates a 27.295 yard hypotenuse from the snap to the twenty yard line (using sportsknowhow's ncaa field dimensions). add the remaining 80 yards and it's 107.295 yards or 98.11 meters.
I've run a stopwatch on this a few times and average 12.11 seconds which calculates to a 12.34 100 meter with pads, pigskin, jukes, and dreads. that's dilithium.
enjoying the ride,
so there you go.
Meanwhile in other paranoias
Hey Brian –
I am wondering what your thoughts are on the recent comments from incoming NCAA President Mark Emmert about him being in favor of handing out more harsh penalties for NCAA rule offenders. And if this in any way, shape or form could impact how the NCAA punishes Michigan?
I am slightly concerned about this. While our offenses are IMO, are much less egregious than what transpired at USC or what's currently going on at UNC, and do not involve allegations of receiving improper benefits or dealings with agents, how would you gauge the likelihood that they [the NCAA] might be looking to make a "punishment statement" with Michigan and really hit us with more harsh penalties than we might be anticipating?
Thanks in advance for your input / insights on this.
I think the level of concern expressed—slight—is about right. The NCAA has obviously stepped up its investigations, but nothing they've done so far is out of line with historical precedent. Marcus Ray missed half the '98 season because of contact with an agent, so holding out AJ Green or Marcell Dareus or everyone on UNC's defense doesn't represent a move to Xtreme Nforcement. It just seems like more of it. USC's penalty didn't seem harsh to me, it seemed just right. Meanwhile USC's basketball should have been obliterated and was not.
Michigan, meanwhile, has had some minor overages in a well-established category of offense and has proposed the same punishment everyone does: 2-for-1 giveback, restrictions on the number or abilities of coaches who did bad things. The NCAA might add a year of probation or something else comparatively minor, but that should be it, and then we can all move on.
Meanwhile in road games
FYI, U-M partnered with Zimride to provide an easy and convenient way to share a ride to away games. It's a private site or U-M and requires a university email address to post. Filling our cars = filling the rival's stadium with blue and maize!
It's free to use, check it out.
That is all.
Meanwhile in crazy hybrids
Ideally speaking, What kind of a quarterback do you think Rich Rodriguez wants for his offense? Denard Robinson, Terrelle Pryor, Pat White, Vince Young, Michael Vick, etc. Thanks!
Aren't those all kind of the same guy? I mean, Pryor and Young are taller, Robinson shorter, but all of them are kinda sorta the same guy. I think ideally Rodriguez would like a 6'4" or 6'5" guy who can stand in the pocket if he has to, but he'd also ideally like a guy with the explosive ability of Vick or Robinson. Problem is those guys essentially never come in the same package. The offense works either way, as Young, Vick, White, and Robinson have shown. And now I do something stupid and pick:
- Michael Vick
- Vince Young
- Denard Robinson
- Pat White
- Terrelle Pryor
Robinson's already a far more accurate passer than White ever was and seems about Pryor's equal (Pryor is more erratic but has more throws in his toolbox); he's more dynamic on the ground than both. Young was eventually an all-around passer while still maintaining that terrifying glide speed; Vick was probably the most dynamic quarterback in the history of the spread 'n' shred. Disclaimer: we have way more info on the four non-Robinson QBs here and he's liable to move down (or up!) based on future performance.
Michigan seems to be moving more in the Pryor/Young direction with Gardner and Kevin Sousa, both strapping lads in the 6'4"-6'5" range, but if Robinson 2.0 comes along Rodriguez will recruit that guy, too.