rundown of Michigan's riser
Sorry to interrupt your day of madness with more football right now, but since the Spring rosters were recently published it's time for that annual MGo-Tradition of way overanalyzing weights and numbers and stuff...which Brian just informed me he's working on too [ED: this was written on Monday] after I got most of this written so figure this is Part II to that. By request the Depth Chart by Class received a major overhaul. Clicking on a name will bring up their MGoRecruiting profiles, hovering over a name gives you the current height, weight, and the player he'd most resemble if everything works out.
Before we get to the new faces, let's pick through that video. Non-bullets:
Offensive Line-Up: Miller seems to be the #1 center. The first clip shows him snapping the ball to Gardner, who hands off to Justice Hayes. Later while Lewan is talking we see two snaps (both of them pulls to Schofield's side) where the 1st team goes and the second team steps up in order behind them. Screen grab:
Starters at the moment appear to be Schofield-Burzynski-Miller-Braden-Lewan. Second team is Gunderson-Kalis-Glasgow-Bars-Mateus. Magnuson (at RT), Ben Pliska (at C) and Bosch (at LG) are the guys walking up behind them. Chris Bryant appears to not be doing these things yet; I don't know where LTT is, nor preferred walk-on Dan Gibbs. I'm not so worried about Kalis since the coaches still love him and it's early enough in spring that you'd expect a freshman to be behind last year's first backup. That Braden's practicing with the ones ahead of the 5-star, and he's the guy pulling, seem to bode very nice things for him—like potential star things. I am worried that there may not be enough guys in the picture above to make two teams for a real spring game.
Thomas Gordon interview. He says this year's defense is much faster. Let's qualify that; here's our current expectations for new starters vs. the departures:
- Kovacs to winner of safety free-for-all: Thomas Gordon appears to be sliding down to strong safety but the other spot could be any of Jarrod Wilson, Josh Furman, Marvin Robinson, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, Allen Gant or Delano Hill, and if anything can be gleaned from Hoke's comments that list is a pick 'em through Thomas right now. Unless it's Clark or Gant the safeties are gaining a lot of speed, though that's overrated next to Kovac's intuitiveness.
- Demens/Morgan/Ross/Bolden to Morgan/Ross/Bolden. Ross and Bolden are the faster dudes, though apparent speed at linebacker is more instinctual than athletic. We're trading Demens's underrated coverage and size for a sizeable jump in response time, which should work out to better run defense offsetting the loss in pass pro.
- Roh/Campbell to Wormley/Heitzman/Black. But don't totally discount Godin, who's the guy in the video providing the requisite attack on a sled. I've got Wormley hype in my shopping cart and need just one more positive review to buy. It may seem weird that the coaches are still saying the 290-lb. redshirt freshman is an SDE while Jibreel Black, holding steady at 276, is the presumed DT, but remember they did the same with Heininger at 3T and RVB at 5T much of 2011. They're pretty interchangeable.
- JT Floyd to Blake Countess. An upgrade.
A more accurate description would be the further you get from the line the greater the intensity of a general shift from greater experience to greater talent. It's hard to say if the net will be a better defense until we see what kind of sophomore leap we got out of the Class of 2011.
Welcome, early enrollees and your numbers:
|Name||No.||Pos.||Ht.||Wt. (R/S/ESPN)||# Previously worn by|
|Kyle Bosch||65||OL||6'5||307 (285/280/311)||Patrick Omameh, Leo Henige|
|Jake Butt||88||TE||6'6||231 (230/220/231)||Jim Mandich, Mark Campbell|
|Taco Charlton||33||DE||6'6||265 (240/235/249)||Mike Taylor (LB), Carl Russ|
|Ross Douglas||7||DB||5'10||176 (180/180/181)||Alfie Burch, Mark Jacoby|
|Dymonte Thomas||25||DB||6'2||187 (175/180/180)||Ernest Shazor|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||72||OL||6'7||285 (321/295/314)||Dan Dierdorf, Jumbo Elliott|
The one that stands out obviously is Taco Charlton, whose camp measurements had him at linebacker size while his spring weight puts him already well within the bell curve for starting WDEs. Woodley and Jibreel Black are the only rush ends in recent memory to arrive over 260 but they're a lot shorter guys. The closer comparison is Glen Steele, who was 6'5/255 as a freshman in '93, redshirted, and got into the rotation in '94 at about 270. Before we were thinking Taco would be either redshirted or deployed as a kind of situational Shawn Crable while the coaches waited for him to grow into a regular down player, but if he's large enough already to stand up to OTs, that puts him squarely in competition with Beyer/Clark/Ojemudia.
The other guy significantly off from the services' numbers is LTT, who's down 36 lbs. from what Rivals said. We were rooting for this! Scouts said he put on some bad weight last summer and he's a project recruit who like Long/Lewan before him needs a redshirt to learn technique no matter what the OT depth chart looks like right now.
Dymonte Thomas is also 1 or 2 inches taller than the sites pegged him.
Somebody's an early '70s fan. That 33 for Taco stands out; I'm sure he'll have an explanation that isn't "Let me give you a history lesson." But if you blinked at a non-back wearing that number, you could use a little refresher on early '70s linebackers. Michael Taylor (NNMT) survived Bo's weeding out process to become an All-American inside linebacker, tallying 132 tackles his senior year. The number was immediately inherited by Carl Russ (right), who walked on to the '71 team and starred on the '73 and '74 defenses, two of Bo's best. Both 33s had short NFL careers.
As for Rick Leach's digit going to a defensive back, considering all the recruiting profiles of 6'2" corners you'll be seeing here this summer you might as well read up now on Alfie Burch, the early '90s prototype for big boy boundary cornerbacks who can stand up to blocks on the edge and neutralize tall/rangy receivers. Course Ross Douglas isn't that—he's more of a nickel type. In the '70s it was worn by Mark Jacoby, Bo's "Wolf" who played kind of a Shawn Crable role from what's technically the same field position (SAM) that the nickel corner plays.
There is also a new crop of walk-ons. Hello new walk-ons!
|Name||No.||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Elig.||Hometown (High School)|
|Brad Anlauf||49||WR||6'4||187||RS FR||Hinsdale, Ill. (Hinsdale Central)|
|Shaun Austin||15||QB||6'1||204||RS FR||Plymouth, MI (Plymouth)|
|Clark Grace||46||TE||6'3||228||RS FR||Tecumseh, Ontario (L'essor)|
|Bobby Henderson||51||RB||5'11||226||RS FR||Hopewell Junction, NY (John Jay)|
|Michael Jocz||95||TE||6'4||213||RS FR||Novi, Mich. (Novi)|
|Dan Liesman||66||LB||6'2||220||RS FR||Lansing, MI (Lansing Catholic)|
|AJ Pearson||36||DB||6'0||199||RS FR||Johns Creek, Ga. (Northview)|
Alex Mitropoulos-Rundus was on the roster last year as David. Internet search pulls up an interview with a really girlie site called Michigan: Her Campus where he's asked questions about what he looks for in a girl.
"I don't ever really think about a list of things that girls must have, I'm more of the type of guy that just knows when it's right or not. We all have that gut feeling."
Gals don't even know when they've been Sam Webb'd.
Position Changes: Only ones of note are Wormley is listed as a "DL" (was a "DE" last year) and Matthew Godin was a "DT", is now a "DE". Safeties Allen Gant and Jeremy Clark are back to the nebulous "DB" which means nothing. Interestingly redshirt junior Anthony Capatina, listed as a kicker last year, is now a "DB". Matt Wile is listed as a "PK" and preferred walk-on Kenny Allen is a "K/P" so Hagerup remains the only designated punter on the roster. Read into that what you will.
Non-Returning Walk-ons: You've heard of some of them but from last year's roster we're missing receivers Steve Wilson and Devon Micou, tight ends Nate Allspach and Chris Eddins, safeties Charlie Zeller and Andrew Offerdahl, and cornerback Chris Maye. Walk-ons who didn't return for a 5th year are onetime rotation Seth Broekhuizen, injured Nate Brink, and long snapper Curt Graman.
Number changes: None so far that I've seen.
Weight Gain 2013: Brian covered on Tuesday.
I'm trying out a new feature of mouse-over tags so readers who don't get some of our references can get caught up. Underlined text has a tag. If the tag is a link then you've found a link. I appreciate any feedback on its deployment.
Left: Young Wolverines some of whom were recruited for power (Upchurch). Right: Power.
Chris Brown's recent article on Smart Football included a link to a 1997-vintage article by Bill Walsh (YTBW). Chris included it as a way of crediting Walsh for correctly predicting Tony Gonzalez would become a great NFL tight end. With Michigan transitioning further toward a Walsh-ian offense, I thought I'd appropriate the whole article to see how well Michigan's 2013 offensive roster matches Walsh-ian archetypes.
Before we jump in, you'll recognize a lot of what's said here from like every NFL draft report ever. Walsh's coaching tree perforated the league for years, and that meant the things he tended to look for in players became what most of the people making draft decisions were looking for. They've been repeated so often as to become memes, however I still think going back to the source can provide some insight into how Michigan's players and recruits are being evaluated.
This is all intended to help you do your own scouting when we publish things like Hello posts (lots of those coming up) and positional previews.
Tom Brady prototype, Tom Brady, Tom Brady with legs? --Bryan Fuller
Walsh Says: 6'3, 210. Having a strong arm isn't as important as an "inventory" of passes, although decent arm strength is a necessity:
"Arm strength is somewhat misleading. Some players can throw 80 yards, but they aren't good passers. Good passing has to do with accuracy, timing, and throwing a ball with touch so it is catchable…
"Remember, the goal of passing a ball is to make sure it is caught ... by your intended receiver."
The most important characteristic for a quarterback is intuition/instincts. He has to be able to sense the rush, make the right decision quickly and get the ball "up and gone," and handle progressions and broken plays with grace as opposed to a sense of urgency.
"The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time."
Walsh wants his quarterback to be "courageous and intensely competitive." He also wants them mobile and defines it thus:
Mobility and an ability to avoid a pass rush are crucial. Some quarterbacks use this mobility within the pocket just enough so they are able to move and pass when they "feel" a rush. But overall quickness and agility can make a remarkable difference. As an example, there were some very quick boxers in Sugar Ray Leonard's era, but he was quicker than they were and because of that he became a great champ.
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Tom Brady, obviously. Tate Forcier.
What to look for in a Scouting Report: High accuracy plus high YPA. "Makes things happen."
What you can learn on film: Doesn't make you nervous. Escapes from pressure then seems calm, not rushed. Sees something and reacts quickly. Receivers aren't making tough catches or breaking stride.
What could signal bust potential: First a warning on this part not to take it as "anyone who exhibits this trait will bust." What I'm saying is beware a guy ranked highly because this feature he possesses, which is a good thing to possess, may be overrated. Here it's arm strength—more an NFL problem than college since college QBs can learn systems and Navarre their way to great college careers with only one type of pass. Arm strength with no accuracy and a terrible delivery can turn into a great player if he's got an innate sense (think Stafford), but more often a coach will try to fix it and end up with a Dontrelle Willis.
How our guys compare: So far only Devin Gardner has seen substantial play against college defenses but we've gotten about a game's worth of Russell Bellomy too. Gardner's inventory has passes for finding Gallon 40 yards downfield, zips that only Dileo can get to, and even that Stafford-y thing he flipped to Dileo in the Outback Bowl. He has ideal size, and wins the mobility category over everybody not named Denard Robinson. If you give him a lane to pick up yards with his legs he will take it. And he MAKES PLAYS, those coming first to mind being where he runs around in the backfield defying sack attempts until something worthy of forward progress appears.
His weakness so far has been in that crucial "up and gone" aspect. His delivery has a long wind-up and that exacerbates a medium-to-mediocre diagnosis-reaction speed. Previous spring games when Devin looked really bad at this suggest it wasn't a few months as a receiver to blame, although that obviously didn't help. Gardner will live and die by his scrambling and ability to make linebackers freeze in coverage when he takes a step forward. He's not Tom Brady, but Gardner's package can equal a helluvah good college QB. An offseason as quarterback in a system designed to his strengths puts the ceiling high for 2013, and off the charts if there ends up being a 2014.
Russell Bellomy (right-Upchurch) in his few appearances last year—mostly the 2nd half against Nebraska—gave us a fairly strong indication of his abilities. He wins Walsh points by having a catchable ball, but there it ends. His apparent lack of arm strength severely limits the inventory, his agility isn't anything special vs. Big Ten defenders, and while you can forgive a freshman thrust into starting for this, he showed a lot of panic. I am skeptical that he can contribute on this level unless his arm strength improves as much as I expect his comfort will.
Shane Morris, now. Other than every scouting thing they can do with high schoolers, it's hard to say what he will turn out to be. The senior year performance and the thing that guy said in the Elite 11 about his primary read being taken away are marks against the Walsh archetype, but the size and arm and full inventory are there. He's too young to know if he will develop the rest.
Terrance Flagler, A-Train, Toussaint –Upchurch
Walsh Says: Needs to be big enough to take punishment and always fall forward, but "some smaller runners play big." He uses James Brooks but of course we've got our own exempli gratia. The 1B for backs is again, instincts, though he emphasizes getting "the first four yards within the scheme and then rely on instincts to take it beyond that."
Walsh puts a high value on durability, which maybe isn't as important in college where the hits are lighter and the roster is deeper. The other thing he harps on is instinct, mentioning he got burned on this with Terrance Flagler. This is the difference between Michael Shaw and Mike Hart.
After that he goes into bonus features. If he can block he doesn't have to come off the field in passing situations. He has to be able to catch a screen and the further down the field he can threaten as a receiver the more "dimensional" the offense becomes.
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Anthony Thomas. Always falling forward, instinctual enough to be a kick returner before becoming the feature back.
What to look for in a Scouting Report: At least 185 lbs., thick and squat. Numbers don't tank against high-level competition.
What you can learn on film: Defenders look like bad tacklers (subtle movements by the RB make him tough to set up on). Falling forward, durability, operating in small spaces. Lots of D-I ticketed RBs will run sweeps all the time because their speed is just unfair against high school DEs. Watch the inside and zone running.
What could signal bust potential: Beware the big backs who wrack up huge high school yardage by running through terrible tacklers. It's hard to tell the guys who can subtly shift their bodies to make themselves difficult to bring down from the ones who just truck over a division full of future doctors and lawyers. One strong attribute can sometimes dominate a bad high school league, but D-I football requires several working together.
How our guys compare: Toussaint has shown the instincts and "plays big" at near the extreme for smallness. He looked on his way toward being a zone-style feature complement until having the unluckiest year in recent Michigan RB history. Justice Hayes is like Toussaint except he's yet to show those instincts. Dennis Norfleet has the playmaker thing down but there's a major difference in size between him and the other guys. Norfleet was listed at 5'7/161 last year, and Vincent Smith was put at 5'6/175. Hayes was 5'10/183 and Toussaint 5'10/202. Norfleet/Smith and Toussaint/Hayes are different tiers.
Among the plowshares, thick-trunked Thomas Rawls saw extensive action last year. The difference between him and Mark Ingram is Rawls seems to miss his hole a lot—that "first four yards" thing is a problem. I haven't seen enough of Drake Johnson yet to know if he brings anything different. None of the above (who are still on the roster) have yet to demonstrate they're any better than mediocre blockers.
Two incoming running backs come with the Walsh stamp of approval. Green is already 220 lbs. and his senior highlight reel shows him doing a lot of inside power running and finding his extra yards. Deveon Smith is already Toussaint-sized and seems to have that micro-instinctual quality that Hart had. No idea if either of these guys can block.
[The rest of the offense after you JUMP]
This week Michigan pulled in a commitment from another offensive lineman. That makes six for the 2013 class, with the possibility of a seventh, on top of four in 2012, on top of…well that's the point isn't it?
It's easy to point fingers […in the general direction of Tucson] for the dilapidation of M's o-line depth. Rodriguez did knowingly and willfully get too picky with his 2009 and 2010 recruiting, perhaps figuring the massive 2008 haul would tide him over until he was winning championships and could offer playing time and non-ridiculous uniforms to Oregon targets. The result was two great tackles in '09, just a center in 2010, and then much striking out in what was supposed to be the year of many Hobbis and Yruretagoyenas, the wanton whiffing exacerbated five times over by [the bad timing of…] The Process.™
A man cannot be faulted for the circumstances of his creation, and certainly Brady Hoke and co. have since done a bang-up job of finding large and talented young gentlemen willing to stand between us and the ill-begotten creatures that plague Big Ten defenses. That's not to say they'll be any good at it…yet. Like a basement full of wedding gifts without a house to fit them all, our future of wealth and comfort is all but promised but we wonder how long must we wait?
Answer: some time yet, sorry. I hate to bury the lede, so here's a great big spoiler. We're gonna have a little history lesson, and then you're going to find this:
Year in Program:
|Not on team||1||6||13||16||28|
|% Solid +||1.4%||9.5%||21.5%||33.8%||37.3%|
What the hell this is: It's me tracking the development of Michigan offensive linemen over the last 20 years based on how many years each has been in the program. It is subjective on the top and a bit accusatory in the middle and perhaps only a little bit useful on the bottom where I show things like just 1 in 5 of all the great centers and guards and tackles in two decades of Michigan recruiting end up ever becoming All Big Ten-level players. It seems to say that there's a lot that can go wrong between the gathering of the linemen and the deployment of the linemen.
It also says it takes time: in 20 years of OL recruiting just seven guys (Lewan, Molk, Long, Backus, Hutchinson, Jansen and Boren) were even ready to be okay starters by their second years in the program. If one guy from the 2012 class starts this year and is proficient, that's beating the odds; the chances of the 2012-'13 classes forming a proficient unit by 2014 are the chances of finding five NFL linemen in ten recruits.
A History of Michigan OL Recruiting, 1993-2011
I wanted to go back far enough to get a relatively large enough sample of Michigan offensive linemen and some idea of how a class of recruits matures into a line. Because this involved a lot of memory and subjectivity, I included my written impressions of all of these linemen below. That information was put into chart form to produce the above money chart.
For the years before Rivals-Scout these are general senses gleaned from Lemming, Prep Football Report, and one blogger's admittedly bad memory. They should not be trusted. From 2002 on it's an average of star rankings from Rivals, Scout, and after 2006, ESPN – positional rankings are composites of those available.
Also I'm going to ignore dudes who were defensive linemen for the majority and end of their careers because there's no way to say how good they would have turned out. They are: Will Campbell, Marques Slocum, Alan Branch, and Quinton Washington.
1993: Damon Denson (★★★★★) was Maurice Williams before it was cool, riding in on a wave of hype then wasting effectively two years (including burned redshirt) playing defensive line, having his eligibility run out just as soon as he was getting really good at donkey abuse. Unlike Williams he had a short and uneventful pro career. Zach Adami (★★★½) was a smallish three-year starter you could plug in anywhere who came in for one of those "your team won, here's some extra all-conference pins for your longtime starters" awards his senior year in '97. John Partchenko (★★★), and Joe Ries (★★½) never saw the field that I recall and neither made it to 5th years.
1994: Jon Jansen (right) (★★★★ as a TE) was also a great linebacker for Clawson. That athleticism plus his massiveness led to three years of starting, two All-B1G selections, and a long and productive NFL career. Noah Parker (★★★) was a small Floridian career backup at guard.
1995: Steve Frazier (★★★½) and Chris Ziemann (★★★★) were constant presences as injury starters on the '97 to '99 lines, both ending up okay-ish (Frazier's infamous snap over Brady's head in the '99 Illinois game notwithstanding) as 5th year seniors. Eric Moltane (★★★★) was an early medical loss, Jeff Potts (★★★) was buried on the depth chart.
[Pics of different dudes wearing 77, after THE JUMP…]
it worked out okay for everyone in the end
Position battles: exciting instead of terrifying?
Way too early 2013 depth charts are beginning to pop-up. It’s looking like the battle at linebacker this year will be a good one (and both lines in future years). What was the last position battle that got you excited? 2 plus players going for one spot or, like the LBs, 3 plus players going for 2 spots. There have been positional battles the last few years, but those have been between average, at best, players.
Mike in Ohio
I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but the last position battle I remember being pretty "whatever" about was Henne vs Richard vs Gutierrez at QB in 2004. In some order those were the #3, #4, and #5 QBs in their respective years, so I figured Michigan was going to be just fine no matter who ended up starting.
The Gutierrez injury threw that all out of whack, of course, and we had Henne starting as a freshman, but he had Braylon to throw to so that worked out just fine.
It's tough to remember any others. The age of roster hyper-awareness was just dawning in 2004*, and Michigan hasn't exactly had an embarrassment of riches since. The linebackers this year should be a preview of coming years when Michigan is choosing between something like Wormley/Hurst/Poggi/Godin at three-tech and I'm all like "confidence, it is something I have."
*[I remember Tim Biakabutuka's first carries of Michigan being met with general merriment at his last name. If that happened now, the extent to which it did would be greatly reduced since about 40% of the people in the stadium would be like "four star recruit out of Canada, tailback, 6'0", born in Zaire, did well at Army Bowl. BOOM KIPER'D."]
obligatory (The Wolverine/Tim Sullivan)
With Taylor Lewan returning for his 5th year, I've read quite a few message board commenters suggesting that Schofield move back to LG and Braden or Magnuson take over at RT.
My question is this: for sheer upside, wouldn't it make more sense to move Braden inside for 2013 than Schofield? Just looking at their body types, it seems to me that Braden is more suited to the power run blocking Michigan needs than Schofield is. I'd enjoy your perspective on what you would like to see happen with the OL and what you think will actually happen with the OL.
Thanks, and Go Blue!
It depends more on Braden's ability to pull than anything else. We've had some indication that Schofield is capable of it despite his tackle-like size, since he played guard effectively and Michigan spent chunks of the year pulling tackles on that sprint counter and an occasional sweep. In the event that Braden forces his way into the lineup, is he going to have that same ability? I don't know.
A point in your favor: with Lewan back Michigan gets plenty of power run blocking from one of their tackles. They can probably afford to have a non-devastating drive blocker at RT if he brings more pass protection to the table, and Schofield does bring a lot of pass pro. Remember that both of South Carolina's defensive ends are damn good and neither did that much in the bowl when they weren't ending Vincent Smith on a busted stunt pickup. By the end of the year, Schofield was pretty good.
What I think will happen and what I'd like to see happen are the same, and it's basically the five-guy lineup I posted yesterday: Lewan-Kalis-Miller-InsertGuardHere-Schofield. I assume Kalis and Miller are locks (though if you heard my segment on WTKA yesterday you heard Sam Webb rhapsodize about Patrick Kugler's ability to start early). The fifth guy is up in the air; I would prefer that guy to be a guard simply because it provides less uncertainty, and I worry less about guards getting the QB murdered.
As I'm sure we all were, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Lewan's decision to return next year. However, it seems like all non-Michigan sources (and I'm not talking about rival fan sites like 11W) have done nothing but trash his decision. Analysts at ESPN, some of the pay sites, Yahoo and others have all said he's making a terrible decision...given the insurance policy he will take out and other factors, what gives? Many of the sources are saying there's much more risk than Jake Long took, but given the new rookie pay scale, I actually think there's less. What say you?
Lewan didn't come back because it was the most profitable thing to do, so analyses of whether it's the most profitable thing to do miss the point. They do so very badly, so badly that I assume Darren Rovell has been cloned a thousand times and sent to draft chattering class.
Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important.
"You'll never play for a team again. You'll play for a contract."
It's a risk. But it's an opportunity as well.
but but but oversigning
Throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game, we have been subject to overwhelming Bama praise. “How much better are they than everybody else?” “Is this a dynasty?” “How many years until Michigan can compete on that level?” My constant mental response to this is: but, but, but…OVERSIGNING!
The morning following the Bama beatdown, there was an interesting blogger exchange on Twitter. Basically, a B1G blogger alludes to oversigning as a competitive advantage, then an SEC blogger trivializes oversigning’s competitive impact. Looking back, I see our friend Ramzy once called oversigning an “almost insurmountable competitive advantage.”
What say you? Are B1G fans making too much of oversigning by using it as an excuse for its poor brand of football? Are SEC fans ignoring it in order to maximize pride in their conference? What’s the best quantitative analysis out there that attempts to truly measure the impact?
It's an advantage, but it's only a small part of the reason that the Big Ten has fallen behind the college football world. Florida and Georgia don't do it, and they have been okay at playing football recently. Ole Miss seems to do nothing but, and they suck every year.
- Sucky management of the Big Ten's elite programs. Michigan has been wobbly at best since 2006 largely due to coaching and the program's remarkable ability to punch itself in the face. Penn State was operating essentially without a head coach for the past decade and has now been nuked by the NCAA. Ohio State has largely escaped these doldrums but was stripped of various key players last year en route to a .500 season and banned from postseason play this year. No other Big Ten team can really pick up the slack, except somewhat Nebraska, and this is only the second year they've been in the league. Of course the league is going to be bad when OSU and PSU can't play in bowl games and Michigan's sixth offensive lineman is a walk-on.
- Talent distribution. Not sure this is a huge-huge factor in the Big Ten's sudden decline since demographic trends are very gradual, but population shifts aren't helping. Notice that the powerhouse basketball conference is hugely dependent on basketball-mad Indiana. You have the in-state schools, of course, and then the best player on OSU (Thomas) and second-best on MSU (Gary Harris, and he may be better than Appling) are from Indiana along with the backbone of Michigan's resurgence—Novak, Douglass, Robinson, Albrecht, and incoming Irvin and Donnal. Michigan has one player from outside the Big Ten footprint—Hardaway. Indiana is the Florida of high school basketball. Wisconsin is a great program… for a bunch of guys from Wisconsin and Ohio leftovers.
- Sucky management of every Big Ten program. Bielema flees Wisconsin for an SEC also-ran. Why? I guess more resources. What's the difference between Wisconsin and Arkansas's revenue? Zero. Tim Brewster. Danny Hope. Ron Zook. Tim Beckman. Purdue just hired Darrell Hazell, a guy with two years of MAC head coaching experience. Again, compare that to basketball hires: Crean, Beilein, Tubby, and Matta had all run programs that established themselves perennial ranked teams in major conferences before getting snapped up by the Big Ten. That's not happening in football. Instead Bielema gets sucked away.
- Yeah, oversigning and whatnot. "Whatnot" == jamming a kid full of fake classes to get him eligible and keeping him eligible with the Tarheel curriculum. JUCOs and such. It's a factor. How much? It's not nearly as big a deal as the first bullet here.
That's good news. If Michigan can recruit at a level with Georgia and Florida and Stanford, they can play at that level. That's probably not enough to go up against an all-time dynasty like Alabama that cuts ALL THE CORNERS, but those things collapse eventually, and they can compete with just about anything else.
My thing with oversigning is not that it explains the gap between the conferences, but rather it's the ultimate dick move and should be stopped if the NCAA wants to consider themselves a snow-white organization with pure motives. The Big Ten has plenty of problems, most of which stem from the leadership of the conference (leaders and legends) and trickle their incompetence down from there.
I'm not even sure how you would be able to quantify the impact. But the fix is so, so easy: remove scholarship caps in favor of per-year caps. Move from a system that encourages attrition to keep costs down to one that isn't about athletes going pro in transferring to Kenesaw State.
Notre Dame == Michigan?
Is there any validity to an assertion that Michigan and Notre Dame were basically the same teams this year but for Notre Dame has an offensive coordinator that knows the spread and how to use a spread qb?
No. Notre Dame's defense was a significant cut above Michigan's until it got eviscerated by the Tide, and remains so: 7th in total D, second in scoring D. While their secondary was not good, neither was Michigan's, and while Michigan's front seven was surprisingly capable, Notre Dame's contains many highly touted recruits on their way to long NFL careers.
ND's offense was only slightly better than Michigan's. Moreover, it was much different. Gholson had just under 300 rushing yards on the year. It's a passing spread that keeps a little bit of QB run threat involved; it's not a spread 'n' shred. I could have given you partial credit if you'd said "an offensive coordinator more comfortable with his personnel," but again the ND line was nowhere near as problematic as Michigan's. Mark it zero, dude.
Now that Kovacs has graduated, we need a new #11. I say we give it to Desmond Morgan. That would leave us without somebody for #48, but the problem could be solved by giving BOTH numbers to Morgan. He could wear 11 on the front side and 48 on the back, or possibly reverse the order week to week.
This violates NCAA rules, you say? I have thought this objection through. The answer is to give him a special jersey where the numbers are the same color as the rest of the jersey -- dark blue numerals at home, white numerals on the road -- so the number is completely invisible. The officials will never find out.
Never let it be said that the Outback Bowl jerseys were a bad thing if ideas like this flow freely after seeing them.
Don't listen to anyone in the Netherlands who says otherwise: "Dennis Bergkamp neemt de bal aan" is Dutch for "Denard Robinson picks up a block!"
Between the WMU run and this week's bitterly unsatisfying conclusion we coined and created new uses for words like "Shoelace", and "Dilithium", and "ERMAGHERD", and "Eating" and "Robinson to Roundtree." Every sharp cut and rocket acceleration by his gangly, graceful legs created another moment pregnant with so much meaning you could utter gibberish about it in another language and the guy next to you would understand exactly what you're trying to say.
Think back on the Michigan you knew the moment before the camera first panned to 'Lace's shoes. Think how utterly un-Michigan it all looked: a Floridian freshman who couldn't throw the ball stepping into a role occupied by artillery pieces and disciplined option men since as far back as any reader of this site can remember, dropping the snap, wandering over toward the sideline, then hyperdriving through a field full of men bigger than he is. It used to be other teams' little jet mites doing that to our colossuses.* It was too astounding to be repeatable. How are we to crush souls if every few plays this sprite is jetting off to the end zone, then smiling at everybody? Doesn't he realize scoring touchdowns is just giving the other team more time of possession?
Here at the end we're all not sure what it is we just saw. The thing that turned some practice observers in 2010 into raving lunatics on these boards never stopped being a source of some sort of controversy, from spreadvocates who'd rather Borges run an offense he doesn't know than see him waste such a talent, to insufferable puritans who called him a running back.
To those last to whom circumstances and mankind's ill-planned brachial nervous system ultimately gave them their wish, I give you 100-ish yards on 23 carries, and a ho, and a hum, and a little secret…gonna have to lean closer…a bit closer…I need to whisper…DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP! AAAAAAAHHHHH!
*If I'd said "it used to be other teams' Vins doing that to our army of Koloss" would anyone have gotten the reference?
CHRISTMAS IS STILL RELEVANT. Enough so at least that there remains much to be gained in mistersuits's X-mas Eve basketball roundup, which does things like compare this team to last's, and compare this team to the Fab Five, and publishes the schedule reorganized by expected KenPom difficulty, and lots of analysis and good formatting and stuff. I was out on holiday (and watching SEC football) and missed the chance to bump it—even now it's front page material by a good margin, just a little bit outdated. The diary describes an SEC-like gauntlet of Top 15-ish teams that Michigan and Indiana will both have to navigate.
FILE UNDER NO FRIKKIN WAY: TSS has found an NCAA rushing stat that Michigan leads the country in. Seriously. He calls the statistic "open field rushing yards" and it tracks how many yards you got on top of every rush of 10 positive or more yards. Indeed when Michigan managed to get the ballcarrier into the secondary this year, more often than not he'd be going full DENNIS BERGKAMP! Or losing a shoe. Minnesota was second-to-last.
Actually that stat is just a byproduct of his real effort, which removes the Bergkamping after 5 and 10 yards and gives credit for the first bits back to the O-lines. Relevant results cropped:
Note Michigan's the huge outlier in "AOFY" which is "adjusted open field yards" to the OP, yet still hanging at the bottom of the conference with "AALY" which is basically how many yards per play the offensive line might take credit for. Of course they're also hindered by RBs missing cuts or being too small to carry momentum through a linebacker. Yeoman's work here, with scatterplots and a lot more than the above. Diary of the Week(s). Read it.
[The Jump: lots more diaries, and stuff, and stuff, and by now you should realize I always leave something nice for my clickers-through.]