"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
The recent spate of instate commits and the buzz that Michigan has two or three more likely on the way in the near future caused me to wonder if Michigan hypothetically pulling eight of the top ten players in the state was unprecedented in the star era of recruiting. As almost always happens when I do something like this it got long, then got longer, and then I split it into two parts. This part covers the late Carr period from 2003 to 2008*; tomorrow's bit will cover what happened under Rodriguez and how Hoke appears to be doing so far.
*[By the time Carr announced his retirement in late 2007 Michigan had acquired all the instate prospects they were going to. Rodriguez didn't lose any, so there aren't any ambiguities there.]
2003-2004: The Old Boss Is The Old Boss
Lamarr Woodley, Jake Long, Will Johnson (with hair!)
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2003||4||0||3||5||0||1, 3, 6, 7, 8||13, 17|
|2004||3||2||1||4||1||1, 2, 3, 7, 8||4, 5, 10, 13-16, 25|
(MSU H2H win: TE Kellen Freeman-Davis.)
Yea, the long long ago when Michigan had a half-dozen four stars on an annual basis and Michigan picked who they wanted unless they were a bit weird. In 2003 Michigan locked down the top eight with the exceptions of Illinois-bound Lonnie Hurst and Purdue-bound Doug Van Dyke and Garret Bushong. Bushong would later find fame as the "'we run this place" [Ed-M: link was broken, hope I got it right] guy; Van Dyke would have some sort of freakout and leave school to work construction; Hurst had three career catches after a nice freshman year. Meanwhile, Michigan State's haul consisted of Kaleb Thornhill, Derek Outlaw, and a couple of guys who didn't make the top 25. (One, Will Cooper, was a former Michigan commit who didn't qualify.)
The next year was much the same. Michigan got five of the top eight. The escapees did not have Michigan offers and didn't do much in college. Carl Grimes had seven career catches; Justin Hoskins transferred to CMU from Notre Dame; Dwayne Holmes bounced from TE to DE and finished his career with a 14-tackle season.
This year did see instate #10 Kellen Freeman-Davis pick MSU over a Michigan offer; in college he dropped the "Freeman" and was honorable mention All Big Ten as a senior. You may remember him as a two-way player—he was a pass-rush specialist DE, too. Michigan's main whiff in this class, though, was physical freak Vernon Gholston. Michigan was tardy with an offer and lost him to Ohio State, whereupon he turned into a monster until people started testing him for steroids.
This period and the many years before it in which recruiting rankings weren't as codified represent Michigan fans' opinion of The Natural Way Of Things. Michigan gets who they want. When they pass over a four star sort they're generally right about it. Every once in a while something slips through their fingers, but that's life.
2005-2006: The Great Wasteland
Brandon Graham, Patrick Rigan, Antonio Bass
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2005||3||0||0||1||0||1, 2, 3, 7, 12||4, 5, 8, 11, 13|
|2006||1||3||1||2||0||1, 6, 11, 12||2, 3, 4, 15|
This period of relative fecundity was followed by a couple years in which no one wanted anyone. In 2005 only three players picked up four stars and it's not like the offers defy that. #4 Ryan Allison had a smattering of mid-level BCS offers of which MSU, BC, and Wisconsin were the best; #5 Andrew Hawken had only MSU, Wisconsin, and Indiana; #6 Evan Sharpley ended up at Notre Dame, but this was during the Great Willinghamming when a Notre Dame offer was more indicative your ability to caddy than anything else. The rankings were largely borne out—thanks to Antonio Bass's mysterious leg explosion only #3 Terrance Taylor and #11 Otis Wiley were all-conference-ish players.
2006 was probably worse. After Brandon Graham the top three players in the state were Charlie Gantt, Eric Gordon, and Patrick Rigan. All went to Michigan State. Michigan didn't offer any, and neither did anyone else. Gordon had one other BCS offer, that from Missouri. Rigan had one from Indiana. Gantt had Duke and UNC. While Michigan screwed up their talent evaluation by taking Obi Ezeh and Quintin Patilla over Gordon, it's not like there were a bunch of other schools who were vying to prove Michigan wrong. Talent evaluators were again validated: other than Graham, Gantt, and Gordon the only player to start in at a BCS school was Ezeh, and we know all about him.
These years sucked, but Michigan got everyone they wanted and picked off a few sleepers here and there. That their sleepers were not useful may have been the first sign of the degradation the program was to endure over the next half-decade. "Trust the coaches" was no longer in effect. The Natural Way Of Things seemed to be, however.
Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen, Joseph Barksdale
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2007||2||1||10||2||0||10, 12, 19, 23, 25||7, 21, 24, 27|
The next year Michigan rebounded massively with 13 four-star-or-better guys. Michigan got all of two: #10 Ryan Van Bergen and #12 Martell Webb. Michigan State did worse with one. While both would eventually reclaim four-star QB prospects from the class when Keith Nichol and Steven Threet transferred home, Nichol eventually ended up a WR and Threet a Sun Devil. Everyone else was all like "I'm GTFO."
Michigan botched the recruitments of Joseph Barksdale, Mark Dell (who didn't even get offered because Michigan was after Zion Babb and Toney Clemons, although FWIW Clemons was highly ranked), Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen, and Chris Colasanti. They wisely avoided Taurian Washington and Cedric Everson and never really had a shot at Nichol, who didn't fit Carr's offense, or Darris Sawtelle, a third generation Vol. They filled in their class with sleepers who did not pan out. Meanwhile, Michigan State grabbed #27-ranked Kirk Cousins.
The end result for Michigan was the infamous class that's been dissected ever since. Four years later it's clear this was the moment when Wile E. Coyote ran off the cliff. While the legs still pumped a while longer, inexorable gravity was now in control.
Fred Smith, Mike Martin, Nick Perry
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2008||4||1||3||3||2||1, 2, 7, 8, 11||5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17-20, 25, 26|
(MSU H2H wins: Fred Smith and Tyler Hoover, though Hoover is disputed.)
Michigan maintained most of its gains in the evaluators' eyes the next year with seven four-stars and a number of additional guys with solid BCS offers. Michigan grabbed their usual number of four stars. They passed on Jonas Gray in favor of Mike Cox, lost Nick Perry to USC, and lost Southeastern WR Fred Smith in a "shocker"—yes, people can be surprised by high schoolers with hats on the table—that was the first indication Detroit Southeastern had been colonized by Spartans.
When Rodriguez came aboard he had to re-recruit Mike Martin; everyone else stuck around. Gray is in about the same place on Notre Dame's depth chart as Cox is on Michigan's. Smith decided he liked ham more than football and is now a fullback or something. Perry was a freshman All-American but has only played part-time since because of concerns about his size.
While Perry represented the continuing bleed of talent outside state borders and Smith was a harbinger of things to come, this wasn't too far off the early years. The problem was that instead of getting great players at the top Michigan's guys blew up: Boubacar Cissoko hates cabbies and Dann O'Neill was massively overrated and transferred to WMU. Meanwhile, Michigan ignored Mark Ingram and Keshawn Martin, and probably passed on Hoover. Michigan was got no one of note from the bowels of the Michigan rankings except for the occasional interior OL.
But whatever combination of bad luck, bad scouting, and bad recruiting affected Michigan in 2007 and 2008 was nothing with the rain of hellfire* Michigan would experience in 2009.
*[I believe this is called "the hard sell."]
Probably no reason to be alarmed. This popped up over a busy weekend: that thread on the message board has validity to it. There was an incident at Scorekeeper's over the weekend between a few football players and (presumably gel-haired) ruffians. You can extrapolate the names from context if you want.
Anyway: a couple sources indicate that the incident is very unlikely to end up in court or anything; suspensions are therefore unlikely and the punishment will probably be handled by Barwis.
About whom eeee. Will Johnson remains the scariest bald 22 year old on the planet:
Defensive tackle Will Johnson turned in the day’s most-impressive performance, wowing the scouts and onlookers with an eye-popping and record-setting 47 reps of 225 pounds. The effort eclipsed anything that has been previously achieved by a Wolverine and broke what was believed to be the NFL Combine record, 42 reps set by former U-M left tackle Jake Long last season. Johnson also clocked 4.9 second in the 40-yard dash.
Johnson's given up on the receding hairline and gone for the wholly bald look, which usually makes white guys look like cancer patients. Johnson, however…
…eh, not so much.
Marve? More like No-rve. Miami transfer Robert Marve, he of the father that really hates Randy Shannon, has a final list of schools he's considering:
Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, who left the Hurricanes after his redshirt freshman season, hopes to choose a new school after visiting Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Texas Tech, South Florida and UCLA.
Uh, one of these schools is not like the other when it comes to "enjoys pocket passers": Michigan. Marve has to sit out next year and will be a redshirt junior when eligible, so bringing him in would be like taking a JUCO QB in the 2010 class. A pocket-passing JUCO who wasn't very good and has a tendency to blow up in a program-embarrassing fashion when not anointed the starter.
Michigan doesn't need drama or pocket passers who won't be eligible this year. I don't have any inside info here, I seriously doubt Marve even takes a visit, and if he ends up transferring to Michigan I'll eat my hat.
Goodbye, beautiful antagonist. Le Anne Schreiber's two-year run as ESPN ombudsman has come to an end. She was excellent, if almost always ignored, and her final column aptly sums up the frustrations many sports fans have with the Worldwide Monolith:
the message from fans that I have found hardest to impress on ESPN's executives and talent is this: The predictable day-after-day dominance on ESPN of certain marquee teams and players is making a lot of fans both heartsick and cynical.
The rest of it is right on and worth reading, especially if you're the guy who directed the Michigan-Iowa game and thought it would be a fantastic idea to miss game action for fake Tom Izzo hairstyles.
Dhani Jones: famous! True story: once when I was in college Dhani Jones came to a performance of the sketch comedy troupe I was writing for. At the time he had just had some sort of shoulder surgery and was beslinged. After the show I approached him, said hi, asked him how the arm was doing, and actually sort of patted him on the back, if I remember correctly. It was creepy. This was mortifying about 5 seconds after the fact, and remains so to this day.
Anyway, Jones is now on the TV, and if he ever mentions "random Albanians" that's probably my doing. Also he won't ever do that. But he'll do other things:
Jones, a former Michigan and current Cincinnati Bengals linebacker -- and bow tie designer -- brings a nice light touch to his new Travel Channel series, which premieres at 9 p.m. Monday. [uh… yesterday.]
In future weeks, he'll take on nine more sports, including rugby in England, dragon boat racing in Singapore, Schwingen wrestling in Switzerland, hurling in Ireland and jai alai in Spain, while sampling the local culture in beautifully shot travelogues.
"They're all amazing sports," Jones said. "It's hard to say which one I enjoyed more than the others. Some are more intense than others, some are more enjoyable, but they all were life-changing."
Jones rugby exploits for the show were featured here a while back.
Etc.: Wojo on Manny and Sims.
Part of an erratic series. Check the comments for potential corrections from gsimmons and others who are actual coaches.
Notre Dame didn't have a ton of success running the ball against Michigan, but their performance against Michigan State—2.0 YPC for the running backs—indicates they suck and that any amount of success is disturbing.
Notre Dame's run strategy last Saturday was to double the hell out of the defensive tackles and exploit Michigan's crappy linebacking. Time and again ND would leave Michigan linebackers totally unblocked and still pick up plenty of yards; they did this mostly by crushing Johnny Thompson with their fullback. An example follows.
It's second an nine on ND's first drive of the third quarter; they come out in an offset I and Michigan has their base set on the field.
The play is pure caveman: an iso up the gut. Will Johnson is doubled; this one of the rare times that Taylor doesn't get the double himself. Johnson's holds up decently on the initial play and Jamison isn't upfield so the hole Thompson has to deal with is manageable.
Thompson meets the fullback and makes a critical mistake: he lets the FB get outside of him, losing leverage on the ball and opening up a hole outside. There's no one outside of him: he's the outside linebacker.
Meanwhile, Johnson has slipped and is going to the ground; Ezeh has to watch a cutback lane opened up and is hesitant; he still needs to read the RB's cut faster than he does. (It wouldn't have mattered much because of Thompson's failure to get to the outside shoulder of his blocker.)
Thompson is now getting shoved backwards by the FB, and Johnson is finished getting wiped out. Note that Taylor has beaten his blocker and slid down the line; if Thompson had done his job and funneled the tailback inside there's a good chance he's making a tackle right now.
Thompson did not do his job and is now three yards downfield; Hughes takes it up into a sizable hole, gaining seven. Notre Dame would run the exact same play on second and three, gaining thirteen as Thompson repeats the performance encapsulated here.
This play highlighted a number of themes from the day: Taylor crushed single blocking whenever Notre Dame provided it, which was rarely. Johnson did okay against a wide array of double teams but not great. Thompson was owned by the fullback, and Ezeh was hesitant.