this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
From left: Brady Hoke & Jerry Kill in 2011 [Upchurch], Les Miles and Cam Cameron at the 1989 spring game [Bentley], and James Franklin as a coordinator [courtesy Maryland Athletics]
For HTTV this year I did a study on Big Ten and SEC, and the factors that led to a marked disparity in football success that grew up between them since 1999. One of the most stunning differences I found was in the splashiness of coaching hires.
Someone on the board early this morning asked whether high-profile candidates are such a big deal. The original study answered this emphatically: "Yes!" I thought I'd extend it to the rest of the Power 5 hires since '99 and see if that's still true.
Methodology: I looked at the circumstances at the moment of hiring of every coach (156 total) who started a tenure at a currently Power 5 program since 1999, and put them into one of three (plus one) categories:
- Strong: Stealing another BCS school's coach, or the heir apparent at a power program, or grabbing the year's hottest candidate, or being the school that finally pries a legendary mid-major coach away when everyone else has been trying for years. Universally, these are headline-grabbing guys who probably needed a major monetary incentive to pry them from their last position.
- Average: A guy who was obviously responsible for turning a mid-major into a perennial 9- or 10-win team, a successful NFL or power program coordinator, promoting your own heir apparent (not after firing his boss), etc. These are the hires that you nod at and say "that makes sense" or "B+".
- Cheap: Promoting a coordinator you didn't plan on, grabbing a mid-major coach with mediocre success or success that's not obviously his. Grabbing a washout from the NFL or the Power 5, or a guy who wouldn't have been on any coaching radar except yours.
- (Interim): Don't count unless they were made full.
- These are of course debatable, since they're the opinions of one dude who's been obsessively following college football over this time period, so you can only draw so much. I didn't remember all of them, obviously, but I was able to jog my impressions by reading articles on coaching searches around the time. This is one instance when my life was actually made better by the annual proliferation of "we grade this year's hires" articles from mainstream outlets. When I couldn't decide, I defaulted "average."
- I welcome your suggestions for changes, so long as they fit the criteria (hindsight must be irrelevant).
- The data:
[After the jump: what we learned]
Last week I did the thing you're not supposed to do: I got into an argument with a Tennessee fan about conference strength. Actually it started as a conversation about how cute my 1-year-old dog is but all conversations with SEC fans are really conference strength conversations. Before the inevitable deterioration into Woodson-Manning (which is particularly impossible with him because he knew Peyton in school and has an incredible story about how nice of a guy Peyton Manning was) I thought to test his assertion that the SEC has been dominant, except for 2005, since Bear Bryant's day.
Attempting to debate this, I stumbled onto sports-reference.com's SRS statistic. It stands for "Simple Rating System" and was borrowed from the NFL guys. What it represents is how much that team should beat an average team:
So every team's rating is their average point margin, adjusted up or down depending on the strength of their opponents.
This generally works for the NFL because of relative schedule parity. But it proved useless for comparing college football teams and conferences over history because they lacked that. I'll explain why, but first lets apply SRS averages of the conferences since 1964 to our debate, which demonstrates… that I just totally screwed myself:
Well yeah, but we admitted this: until Penn State joined and some of the dreks got their acts together it really was the Big Two-Little 8. Let's see mostly Michigan-Ohio State against Alabama et al.:
It stayed pretty even except when Michigan wasn't good. There's a reason for that: Michigan (35 times) and Ohio State (33) teams account for over two thirds of Big Ten's 100 representatives from the last 50 years. Alabama teams are counted 28 times, with Florida (18), Tennessee (15), Georgia (12), Auburn (11) and LSU (11) all ahead of the next Big Ten team, which is Penn State (8). Until the '90s, the bottom half of the Big Ten sucked way worse than the bottom half of the SEC, according to SRS:
What really happened here: the SEC teams were playing easier schedules until the Big Ten caught on and started scheduling bodybags, and then things were even until the Big Ten started actually sucking. I explain, after the jump.
[The jump, after which I explain, as I just explained]
Mailbag: Playing Early, SEC Basketball Vs Big Ten Football Derpoff, Press Pleas, Permissible Jerk Level
INSTANT IMPACT; LATER IMPACT
First, in terms of player development, which position is the hardest to develop a freshman at for them to see playing time immediately. Conversely, which position is the easiest for a freshman to make a significant impact at without needing to redshirt or know the system inside and out? (Excluding punter and kicker)
Offensive line is by far the most difficult. Most incoming offensive linemen are man-mountains who have never seen anyone on their level in an actual football game. That is why almost all OL redshirt even in times of extreme need. See: Michigan last year. The reason OL are so hard to project is because they are so much farther from finished products than everyone else, and technique is paramount.
After OL there is a big drop to the next most difficult spot, which is QB. Freshman quarterbacks are nearly always pick-laden disasters. Next is probably linebacker, which both requires a lot of bulking up to be effective and constant reading of plays to see whether it's run or pass.
The easiest spots to make a freshman impact are the ones where athleticism is paramount and intelligence a nice bonus instead of a requirement: skill positions on offense and cornerback. NFL Wonderlic scores by position are a good proxy for how difficult it is to play position X right away:
I'm surprised LBs aren't higher.
In fact, the post that comes from references Mario Manningham's 6 on that test; Manningham was Michigan's most productive freshman receiver in a long time. (Martavious Odoms has since surpassed his first year production, but in a context of total roster chaos.)
Secondly, which conference is worse: B1G at football or SEC at basketball? I was watching a Georgia vs LSU game and it was atrocious. However, a Purdue vs. Illinois football game would be just as bad. Which conference has the ability to turn the corner and be a nation powerhouse?
They're virtually identical: nationally embarrassing save a couple programs at the top. Big Ten football coaches don't complain nearly as much about their place in the firmament, so SEC basketball wins worst conference.
Seriously. Remember that bit last year where everyone in the SEC whined about their bubble teams getting shipped to the NIT, whereupon they would lose in the first round? It was recently compounded by Ole Miss's coach claiming the reason the SEC is perceived to suck is because they're too good at football:
“I just think it’s an easy company line, and I do think there is a bias in the national media. They get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football. They just get tired of talking about it, so when there’s an opportunity to talk about something else, that’s what they’re going to do,” said Kennedy, who went on to use Kentucky as an example of the nation’s perception of the league.
Kennedy complained that the SEC teams getting snubbed had similar profiles to the mid-majors that got in, which 1) well, yeah, that's what happens, and 2) one of those mid-majors that got in, LaSalle, beat 4-seed Kansas State and then his own damn team to reach the Sweet 16. The committee's decision to pass over SEC teams last year was vindicated in spades and they're still complaining about it. So, yeah. Worst conference: SEC basketball.
WHEN CAN WE JAM AND SLAM MAN
Seattle won the super bowl and (sigh) sparty won the big ten playing virtually the same aggressive, almost illegal, defense. Countess returns, they have two 5 star recruits in Peppers and Thomas, and they have several larger DB on the roster who have had game experience. Have you heard/do you think Michigan will be playing more an aggressive defense similar to those teams this football season?
I know what you're getting at but first let me note that MSU and Seattle run different schemes. MSU is an aggressive cover 4 that keeps two safeties at about nine yards and uses them to hammer down at runs. Seattle is an aggressive cover 3 that keeps one deep safety for centerfield purposes and runs a lot of press coverage on the outside because they can get away with it.
But they do share one very obvious commonality. They have their corners at the line of scrimmage, ready to get in the opponent's grill and reroute them against their will. In contrast, Michigan's defense was a passive bend-but-don't-break unit last year. As per every coordinator in the history of questions about desired changes, Michigan wants to get more aggressive. I bet you one dollar that something along those lines is said at the first spring press conference.
And in this case I think you can see the direction Michigan wants to go is big ol' corners that will put you on the sideline and be generally huge when you try to go over the top of this. Hoke has brought in the following corners after the grab-anyone transitional class:
- 2012: Terry Richardson (5'9")
- 2013: Channing Stribling (6'2"), Reon Dawson (6'2"), Jourdan Lewis (5'10"), Ross Douglas(5'10")
- 2014: Jabrill Peppers (6'0"), Brandon Watson(5'11")
Michigan also recruited Gareon Conley, another rangy 6'2" guy, and has seen enough from their current secondary that Douglas has been flipped to tailback after his redshirt year. Other than Richardson, who is the traditional tiny Cass Tech corner Michigan is duty-bound to take, the only other short corners were another Cass guy Michigan was duty bound to take and a guy no longer at the position.
While grabbing Peppers doesn't tell you anything other than Michigan is not run by complete nutcases, Michigan extending a camp offer to Watson while they still had a number of high profile DBs on the board does tell you something. Watson is a press fiend. Hit 1:40 on this video.
All the buzz from his commitment was that he was capital-P Physical and the only guy in camp with a prayer of checking Canteen, and "physical" is the first word out of the coaches' mouths when he comes up as a signee. That indicates the direction Michigan would like to go in, and it is towards MSU/Seattle-type defenses that are inviting you to try and throw a fade over a big corner.
HOWEVA, I'm not sure we see much of that nose-to-nose play this year. Michigan didn't like it with their personnel a year ago and that personnel returns. The addition of Peppers figures to be a nickel package thing at first, when press is often counterproductive. Even if Peppers emerges into a starter, press + freshman is playing with fire. Seems like Michigan will have to wait for 2015 to seriously amp up the pressure on the outside.
CAN I TELL AARON CRAFT HE'S ADOPTED?
The recent "Marcus Smart pushes loudmouth fan" incident has me ruminating on what is the ideal fan behavior at sporting events. Many of us often decry the laid-back atmosphere at football games with fans showing up late or presenting a "down in front!" mentality throughout, but at the same we look on in horror at stories of verbal assaults or flying trashcans we hear about at Ohio or West Virginia. Where is the line? (Obviously physical aggression is well past the line.)
Does calling someone a "piece of crap" rise to an egregious level where one should remove themselves from attending any live events for a year as the Texas Tech fan is doing or is that overly sensitive? Should sporting events exist in a weird other world where things that would otherwise be off-limits are somehow acceptable (the same way one can wear a bikini to the beach but would be fired instantly if they wore it to work)? And if so, should that be the case?
Basically, I'd appreciate your thoughts on how one should balance their impassioned fan-dom with common human decency.
First, there is no way that guy called Smart a "piece of crap" unless it was part of a larger stream of profanity. The guy in question is apparently a legendarily yappy guy. He got what he was coming to him.
In general, anything that you could fire off at one of your friends while giving them crap is in-bounds. Justin Beiber chants, deport Stauskas, etc.: fine. Anything about a person's game, or lack thereof, is fine. Generalized group insults like "ugly parents" are also fine. No one is going to lose their head over an obviously general comment not individually applicable. And if someone is acting seriously outside the bounds of propriety, you may as well tell them. The Auburn fans in the infamous Marshall Henderson GIF are giving him both verbal barrels; they've been provoked and anything they happen to be saying about Henderson is probably true. It doesn't change anything, but it feels good.
Just don't bring anyone's sister into things. Making things personal is where things start getting into Smart/jerko territory. You can only yell that Aaron Craft is adopted if he's not adopted. Or you're his secret biological dad, because funny is funny.
Once upon a time there was a pig.
We already have an Ace.
Dr. Hamlet was a very intelligent pig. One day he and his friend StephenRKass went to the Midwest Coach's Tour and met Brady Hoke, and heard Dave Brandon explain the annexation of Maryland and Rutgers as a population-grab, which any Europa Universalis player can appreciate. Dr. Hamlet and his friend cornered Laura Hoke, and Laura Hoke read all about Dr. Hamlet, and they became quite fond of each other. That adventure was front-paged and the whole town came out to enjoy it, because he enjoys all UM Alumni Club events (upcoming: John U Bacon in Columbus a week from today).
Then Dr. Hamlet heard a yell from the diaries section. "Dr. Hamlet!" it said. "Come see how Michigan has fared against everybody in head-to-head recruiting!" It was Dr. Hamlet's friend Coastal Elite! Dr. Hamlet loved the study and found it quite Informative, and gave it Diarist of the Week!
Seeing how much their friend Dr. Hamlet liked to read recruiting studies, his friends all got together and decided to throw him a recruiting study party!
- "I'll update my non-conference opponent recruiting watch!" said EGD.
- "I'll write a sequel to my expansion recruiting diary that covers Nebraska's shifting recruiting territory since joining the Big Ten!" said maizeonblueaction.
- "I'll tackle SEC recruiting the same way I did Big Ten recruiting with Rivals database, and print a bunch of charts that show each school vs. the conference average, and then post a lolcat!" said LSAClassof2000, and Dr. Hamlet said thank you for the pies:
- And even THE_KNOWLEDGE said "I will review the future for you!
But by that point even Dr. Hamlet had become distracted by the surprise release of a new installment in the great CRex Saga, though this one mostly made him a really sad pig because he's had bad experiences with stories about barnyard communism in the past.
Etc. The Blockhams got a pig too.
Best of the Board
ALAN BRANCH DID IT
Several weeks ago I asked in this space if the Photoshoppers could produce a full Alan Branch rampage. We were passing the phone around and refreshing the entire ride down to Kentucky over Memorial Day as they provided. We salute his victims: Anthony Morelli, Kikko Haydar, Patrick Roy, Maximus, Pablo Escobar, a Pamplona bull, Joe Frazier, Titanic, Kyle Larson's car, Mufasa, Claude Lemieux, Pisa's tower, the Death Star, and Morelli again on the rolling hills wallpaper.
Chunkums went in a different direction:
ALL THE PAHOKEEIANS
Brandin Hawthorne jumped on Vincent Smith's account to do his own hello to the board. We learn things like the difference between old coaches and new:
Hoke staff's just more on the coaching and teaching the players and with Coach Rod's staff it was hard to relate at times--and this tradition we speak of I'm curious to know what it is—yeah there were so new things that we did differently with the new staff but for the most part it was pretty much the same in that aspect
Hoke and Mattison do more teaching, draw from the well of Michigan: a pattern emerges. Also who on the team does the best Hoke impersonation and how fast Pahokee's rabbits are.
So fast that one of my high school teammates go by the name Jackrabbit in the NFL and i would have to say we've all caught rabbits except Richard.
Tsk tsk Mr. Ash.
JUST DIARY MAN!
Space Coyote is a great writer and is one of the best at talking Michigan X's and O's. But now to read his stuff I have to find a board entry that goes to his blog that goes to Maize n Brew, then come back to the board for the discussion. Here's the play as he draws it up:
ETC. Father-son Wolverines and other family connections discussed. Pick your favorite M quarterback (Denard, but I'd take Henson for this offense). Recruits in the 2012-'14 classes in the top 5 at their position on at least one site. Urban makes a funny face. Ed Hightower react has gifs of course. A discussion on Cass Tech and if there's a shift in the readiness of players coming out of Wilcher's program. Let's throw chickens at Notre Dame. Upchurch shot the moon.
Your Moment of Zen:
Things I have tried: jangling keys while listening to metal
You may be aware that the Big Ten has not been too good at football of late. You are probably also aware that Ohio State and Michigan are locked in a titanic struggle for the sexiest recruiting class, one featuring players like Jabrill Peppers, Vonn Bell, Derrick Green, and Jalin Marshall. The opposing sides in The Game had top five recruiting classes last year according to the 247 composite rankings, with OSU second and Michigan fifth. So far this year Michigan is first and Ohio State ninth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is flailing. The next Big Ten team on the list was #22 Nebraska; #30 Penn State—NCAA-crippled Penn State—followed. That concludes our list of Big Ten teams with better-than average recruiting classes amongst the 60 or so BCS teams.
Here is a team that finished higher than all but the mentioned Big Ten teams.
Kentucky. A team that stopped releasing attendance numbers. Mississippi State, Vandy, Baylor, and Virginia beat all these teams plus Penn State out. It was not so good out there last year.
Surely that's a flu…
Kentucky has six OH commits. Non-MI/OSU B10 combined: 7.
…mother of God. Everyone on that list has a Big Ten offer from a school that has been something other than a depressing blight on the idea of sport during the last ten years. (Ok, it depends on how you classify Illinois. They went to a Rose Bowl, but also: Illinois.) What's more, Tennessee has gotten in on the raiding, snatching three kids out of the Midwest.
What follows is a brief survey of the Big Ten's footprint recruiting areas. Prepare for carnage. Before we start, I should mention that despite being under extraordinarily punitive NCAA sanctions, Penn State has four-star recruits from Delaware and North Carolina and is currently holding on to a top 20 spot in the rankings. They'll slide back down to where they were last year before things are said and done because they will have a tiny class, but Penn State is retaining its recruiting cachet as well as—probably better than—they could have hoped. Once they're out from under the yoke they should quickly excise themselves from Little X talk.
Nebraska, too, consistently recruits at a level above most of the rest of the league even if they're off to a poor start this year. This is more about the conference's traditional middle class.
DeShone Kizer's top three is Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee. He has an offer from only the latter.
Ohio State is going for half of the 16 consensus four-stars, with six already in the boat and the probable acquisition of the two main Glenville kids this year. Michigan has one, Michael Ferns. Northwestern has one, Dariean Watkins. The four other guys are probably headed to Alabama or OSU (Derek Kief), ND or Kentucky (Darius West), Louisville (Daniel Cage), and somewhere in the SEC (DeShone Kizer).
Yes. There is one four-star in Ohio who will head to a Big Ten program not named Michigan or Ohio State.
It gets worse. One of the next nine guys (QB Chris Durkin, MSU) is committed to a Big Ten school. Three are headed to Kentucky or Tennessee. None of the other five have publicly stated a leader but Kentucky and Louisville are involved with three and two more are up in the air.
It is likely that only two or three of the top 25 guys in Ohio end up in the rest of the league.
TOP 25, APPROX. NUMBER OF RECRUITS HEADING TO VARIOUS PLACES:
- OSU/M: 10
- L12: 3
- GTFO: 12
top 100 linebacker Nyles Morgan favors… Vanderbilt
Illinois is going to be chaos and depression for the middle class of the Big Ten. The top ten kids are either headed to the Big Two (Bunting, Westphal, and Jamarco Jones), committed to another conference (Watson, Helm, Wilbon), or headed that direction (Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan, and Dewayne Hendrix are all headed south). Northwestern is the only L12 team to pick off a four-star kid from Illinois.
It's a little less grim as you head down to 25. Northwestern and MSU have five of those guys, OSU has one, and it looks like a few more will end up in the league. The top is just a disaster, though.
- OSU/M: 3
- L12: 10, 1 of them in the top ten
- GTFO: 12
Three of the four consensus four stars are off the board to M/OSU with Malik McDowell strongly expected to join the club. Michigan also has #10 Moe Ways. The Big Ten held on to most of the other guys in State except Chance Stewart, who bizarrely decommitted from Wisconsin and chose WMU shortly thereafter.
- M/OSU: 5
- L12: 4
- GTFO: 1
Michigan remains loyal, if a little talent-sparse.
Dominique Booth's top four: Tennessee, FSU, Vandy, Alabama.
The top player in the state has no Big Ten teams in his top four; OSU is the only one on the list of #2. ND and OSU have 3 and 5 committed, respectively. Louisville and Kentucky are heavily involved with #4. The next five guys are still fuzzy, with Purdue favored for a couple, if only because they seem interested while others are not.
- OSU/M: 2
- L12: 2
- GTFO: 6
if Dravon Henry stays in the B10 it will be at OSU or PSU
Pennsylvania has always been more up for grabs because anyone from the Eastern part of the state doesn't think of the Big Ten as local, so it's less of a surprise when things have a more national feel. Even so, only Penn State has made any headway in PA. They have 3 of the top 20. Michigan has one, and then Temple, BC, WVU and FSU also have one. The rest of the Big Ten? Zero. 247 projects that number will stay at zero, with Pitt, OSU, and Michigan cleaning up.
- OSU/M: 4
- L12: 8, almost all of them to Penn State
- GTFO: 8
WISCONSIN AND SMALL STATES
The top five players in Wisconsin are committed to the Badgers. Good job, Wisconsin. Here are some cheese curds for you.
Iowa is doing similarly well in Iowa, with three of the six guys 247 rates committed, and a fourth probably on the way.
Nebraska has a commit from one of the two guys they've offered in-state and should get the second.
Minnesota has a soft verbal from the top kid in the state and may lose the second; everyone else is not the kind of recruit that would make Minnesota anything other than Minnesota.
THE NEW FOOTPRINT
Big Ten schools not named Michigan and Rutgers have zero of the top 20 in NJ. Penn State has the #5 kid in Maryland, and that's the only B10 commit in that State. Maryland is supposed to get a couple, and PSU may get a couple more.
This is where I mention that recruiting is not destiny. Wisconsin has never been particularly good at it in the eyes of the gurus but has turned themselves into a major program by keeping everyone they have for five years—Bielema just had a class of 13 guys, because Wisconsin only had room for 13 guys—and hewing to a system that works for the kind of players they can access. It remains to be seen whether they can keep that going without a hand-picked transition like Alvarez-to-Bielema. Similarly, Michigan State's classes have been almost devoid of attrition and they have locked into a stable defensive style that has produced.
Recruiting is kind of destiny, though: Wisconsin has reached the last three Rose Bowls. It has lost all of them. Witness any Big Ten program against Alabama. Football is random and rankings are not perfect, but if you're at the bottom any success you have is pushing uphill.
The slope of that hill is about to become alarming. It bodes unwell for the Big Ten's middle class that the gap between themselves and the heavyweights is growing, especially when it comes not only from the two at the top improving on historically good classes but from the meat-and-potatoes kids they've relied on for so long opting to leave the conference. Every kid in Ohio who opts for Kentucky or Tennessee or Louisville is virtually irreplaceable for programs whose recruiting reach outside the Midwest is limited to scrabbling for guys without Vandy offers.
Northwestern is the exception. With their committed niche offense and recent success they'll be a thorn in the side of anyone whose defense can't handle the spread. If they can just get their defense to middling, it's on in the West.