The Daily has a book. It is a collection of their coverage from the 2016 season, and it's cheap at just $7.50. Marvel at things Peppers does, grapes that have been removed from existence, and the appallingly excellent skin of the youths who insouciantly bring it to you!
If you're in town you can stop by the Maynard building and avoid shipping costs. There's also something in the draft copy about bringing them a pizza from NYPD so you can see all the things they stole from road games but that's CLEARLY a joke so please don't do that and also don't tell me what it is afterwards. (Operative theory: Michigan State's dignity.)
Not a starter, technically. PFF lists the best returning players in the Big Ten. Michigan has a member of the DL land at #3 despite graduating all four starters, and you already know who it is:
Michigan’s defensive line was so loaded in 2016, Hurst was technically not considered a starter. This year, however, he is the clear leader of the unit, as three likely top 100 picks will be moving on to the NFL. In terms of production amongst his returning peers, Hurst has no equal. His 34 total pressures in 173 pass-rush reps last season ranks him first in pass-rush productivity among 2017 defensive tackles, and his 18 run stops on 155 run downs ranks him eighth in run-stop percentage within the same group.
Expect a lot of "where did this guy come from!?" next year as Hurst's increased snap total results in some silly numbers.
Everyone quote tweet tonight. About a dozen people on my timeline quoted this Bruce Feldman tweet to let their followers know it was a good idea:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 6, 2017
They are not wrong. Hoke plucked Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, and Frank Clark out of obscurity; even the touted recruits he grabbed frequently outperformed their rankings. Chris Wormley(composite #129), Taco Charlton (#132), and Mo Hurst (#258) are all potential first-round NFL draft picks. There were some busts in there, but Hoke recruited seven of the eight guys on Michigan's best-ever defensive line.
I'd take him back in Ann Arbor as a DL coach if that wouldn't be super weird. In this instance, Butch Jones's weird tendency to get the Lloyd Carr band back together is not clinically insane.
Early enrollment is a thing. College football already has an early signing day of sorts:
The 2017 recruiting class seemed to have less late drama than years past, and that could have something to do with the growing number of early enrollees. Among the top 50 prospects in this class, 26 were midyear enrollees, which included 11 of the 15 five-stars. And of the top 150 prospects, 54 enrolled early.
Michigan had a whopping 11 guys enroll early, a program record. The large numbers of Michigan seniors ready to graduate and start prepping for the NFL draft full time created a bunch of openings that freshmen gladly filled.
Haves vs Have Nots: Fight! It's going to be a short fight. Michigan has some analyst spots to fill, as they usually do, and they're going after this gentleman:
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that Hawaii DC Kevin Lempa met with Michigan over the weekend about a "non-coaching" position in Ann Arbor.
Lempa already resigned as the Warriors' DC to take a 'worse' job once before, when he departed the islands to be a DBs coach at Boston College in 2002. He's in his mid-60s so this won't be a play to move up at Michigan if it does indeed happen; it would be about dollars and the opportunity to participate in Championship Football(tm).
FWIW, Don Brown is the connect here. Lempa was on his staffs at Maryland and UConn.
OL exit... MSU OL Thiyo Lukusa has left MSU's program, reportedly to retire. Lukusa played last year as MSU tried to find any combination that would work and was widely expected to compete for and probably win a tackle spot. Not good for the Spartans as they try to pick themselves up after a 3-9 season.
And it might get worse, with rumors flying that a number of other MSU players are off the team. Nothing definitive yet but there is a lot of smoke out there.
...OL entrance? Cal starting left tackle Aaron Cochran plans a grad transfer, and he was definitely a part of a thing that did things:
Cochran was an integral part of an offensive line that paved the way for a nationally ranked offense and numerous school records the past two seasons.
Everyone's nationally ranked, sir.
Anyway, Cochran is enormous at 6'8", 350, and has 16 starts under his belt at a Power 5 team. Cal was third in adjusted sack rate last year so he can't be horrendous. He only pops up once on PFF, but it's an encouraging note: he graded out well in Cal's loss to Washington, the #5 sack rate team last year. He is vaguely draftable per NFL Draft Scout.
Isaiah Hole reports that Michigan is "actively seeking" guys who could help them out but hasn't decided to pursue any particular player yet, including Cochran. If Michigan has the spot it would seem like a no-brainer to add a Pac-12 starter, even an iffy one, at a position of yawning need. Do they have it, though? Right now they're two over their scholarship limit. (Publicly, anyway. It's likely that Michigan knows of a couple departures already.)
Keeping the hype contained. Charles Matthews is profiled by Brendan Quinn, and John Beilein would like to keep expectations reasonable.
Beilein is careful not to preordain Matthews. One of the grand traditions in college basketball is for the redshirt player -- the one no one gets to see -- to be billed as a team's best player. Beilein avoids the pitfall.
...by turning into Fred Jackson:
"He's probably a combination of Hardaway and Glenn Robinson III. That's a good combination to have."
Frustration, defined. John Gasaway's Tuesday Truths column from before the MSU game:
|Big Ten||W-L||Pace||PPP||Opp. PPP||EM|
Michigan's offense is as good as anyone in the country in conference play. They have the same points per possession as Villanova, WVU, Kansas, and anyone in the ACC not named North Carolina (1.16). Only the Pac-12 has teams doing better on offense. Even a meh defense gets Michigan into the tournament with ease.
Or you could boot them for Houston, just sayin'. The Big Twelve has voted to dock Baylor a quarter of its annual payout until such time as "proper institutional controls" are in place and vetted by a third party. That's about six million dollars a year and is probably sufficient to get what the Big 12 wants out of them. But you could, I dunno, boot Baylor from your conference for cause and add a school in a much bigger media market? That's both ethical and a financial win.
FWIW, this is a measure of revenge for Art Briles in a mutually-assured-destruction sense. He tried to bilk some money out of Baylor with a lawsuit, causing the Baylor regents to assemble a pile of texts (and submit them to court!) that definitively expose Briles and former AD Ian McCaw as the worst kind of one-dimensional B-movie villain:
When a female student-athlete reported that a football player had brandished a gun at her, the court paperwork said, Briles texted an assistant coach: "what a fool -- she reporting to authorities."
In another case, a masseuse asked the team to discipline a player who reportedly exposed himself and asked for favors during a massage, the document said Briles' first response was, "What kind of discipline... She a stripper?" ...
In one text exchange, after a player was arrested for assault and threatening to kill someone, the paperwork said Briles texted athletic director McCaw that he had just talked to the player, who said Waco police had agreed to "keep it quiet." Briles promised to ask Shillinglaw to check in with a local attorney.
"That would be great if they kept it quiet!" McCaw allegedly replied. He is now the athletic director at Liberty University in Virginia.
Briles had to drop his lawsuit but the revelation of what actually went on was probably a spur for the Big 12's financial penality. In his accidental way Briles actually did some good here. So he's got that going for him.
Etc.: Various croot profiles include Joel Honigford, Cesar Ruiz, PWO and Air Force decommit Sean Fitzgerald, and fellow PWO Jared Davis. Lorenz picks some underrated Michigan recruits. Hugh Freeze is mad that other schools mentioned the obvious thing they should mention about Ole Miss. Vincent Smith profiled by MGoBlue. More mock drafts.
WOOP [Eric Upchurch]
Exit Shane Morris. Per Tom Van Haaren, Shane Morris will pursue a graduate transfer. CMU is the most likely destination.
Morris never lived up to the titanic hype that his arm strength generated when he was a high school junior. First, a bout of mono his senior year put him behind the development curve; second, Al Borges finished the job. An inexplicable start against Minnesota in 2014 resulted in a probable mild concussion, setting off a firestorm of controversy Dave Brandon's incompetence stoked until it resulted in both his and Brady Hoke's firing.
Morris will, but shouldn't be, remembered mostly for that. He was a Michigan kid through and through, to the point where he played slot receiver in the spring and was happily a lead blocker on sweeps. It didn't work out at M; here's hoping he goes Thomas Rawls at CMU.
We were already banking on Morris's departure in our recruiting calculations, so that won't affect the size of the class.
PFF's All Big Ten team. Michigan folks:
- Offense: Amara Darboh ("highest-graded run blocker among Big Ten receivers ... 2.65 yards per route run average ranks second in the conference"), Khalid Hill, Erik Magnuson (2nd), Mason Cole (2nd).
- Defense: Taco Charlton ("absolutely dominant force in Big Ten play"), Ryan Glasgow("posted four sacks and 14 total pressures to go with nine total defensive stops" in final four games), Maurice Hurst(2nd), Mike McCray("24 total pressures on just 77 reps"), Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling (2nd), Jabrill Peppers (as a slot corner), Delano Hill(2nd).
Peppers was obviously the punt returner; Jordan Glasgow was their All Big Ten special-teamer. Entertainingly, OSU punter Cameron Johnston was the ABT punter and was graded out at –13.8 before the Michigan game. PFF hates specialists, like any red-blooded American.
You'll notice a few omissions: Mackey winner Jake Butt, Chris Wormley, and Ben Gedeon. Wormley scored around +31(!), basically level with Charlton and Hurst and a hair behind Glasgow. He got left out because of Jake Replogle's existence and some guy named Steven Richardson from Minnesota. Butt got a bunch of pass blocking minuses(?!) and didn't have the same kind of receiving impact he did a year ago. (If we're being honest, he should have won the Mackey last year; getting it this year is a bit of a lifetime achievement award.) Gedeon was +12, so he was on the verge. There were a ton of good linebackers in the league.
So you're saying there's a chance. Jabrill Peppers made an appearance on the Dan Patrick show ("THAT'S RIDICULOUS," exclaim Ohio State fans, "MALIK HOOKER SHOULD HAVE MADE AN APPEARANCE ON THE DAN PATRICK SHOW"), and on that show he denied that he'd made an NFL decision:
During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Patrick asked Peppers -- who is eligible for the NFL Draft this year -- why he would stay at Michigan?
"To get a degree, to try to finish some unfinished things here, to keep getting better at my craft," Peppers said. "I don't know, man. I've got a tough decision to make."
I... no. I am not taking this seriously, but I appreciate Peppers making it sound like a hard choice. FWIW, Peppers also said he'd vote for Deshaun Watson for Heisman.
This is probably fine. Buried at the end of an Ole Miss press release about Hugh Freeze dumping his offensive coordinator:
Ole Miss announces OC/QB coach Dan Werner will not return. Also, at the end of the release, Asst. AD Barney Farrar no longer part of staff.
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 8, 2016
No word about the "assistant athletic director for football operations," John Miller, who directed Tunsil to talk to Farrar about getting some more money.
I throw many shades at uniformz so only fair to acknowledge the flipside. These are gorgeous.
— Nanooks Hockey Blog (@NanookHockey) December 7, 2016
I miss playing Alaska-Fairbanks, for the 8-0 wins Friday and inexplicable 2-1 losses Saturday, and for the two free games Michigan got whenever they went up there. Also I cannot figure out how to buy this jersey.
Knives out for Butch Jones. 247's Travis Haney has a feature article featuring an absolute ton of people slamming Butch Jones as not up for it:
“You talk about the time and place to say something like that - and that is not what our fans wanted to hear,” one Tennessee administrative source told 247Sports, referring to the “champions of life” comment. “That will never go away. That soundbite will never go away.” ...
“It’s like he doesn’t think he should be there,” [another] source said. “It’s like he doesn’t think he belongs. And that permeates through the program. Everyone feels that.” ...
“The culture is a disaster,” said someone who works in the football building.
There are many more quotes from different people; even the supportive folk on the record are mostly talking about how Jones's accomplishments, such as they are, have not been fully appreciated. Add in Jalen Hurd's highly unusual midseason transfer and it looks grim for the future of the Jones regime. Regardless of the veracity of the claims in the article the number of people saying those things, even anonymously, for publication gives off a strong Rich Rodriguez vibe. He has problems of his own making, and now that he's down in a hole the rest of the program is digging for him.
This is of tangential interest to Michigan fans because of two things: Marcus Ray's bizarre insistence that Jones should have been the man instead of Harbaugh and Jones topping that hot take by hiring Michigan Olympic sports administrator Mike DeBord as his offensive coordinator. The parallels between Tennessee's breakdown of culture and discipline and those of the late Carr era are obvious.
More Butch Jones. Tennessee just got a commit from Trey Smith. Depending on who you listen to Smith is the top OL and possibly the top player in the country. Tennessee's sales pitch?
— Rhiannon Potkey (@TennesseeBeat) December 6, 2016
As Get The Picture points out, their real sales pitch was "we will give your sister money to be executive assistant to the head coach." At least Michigan hires actual football coaches.
Also knives out for someone you may know. Also in bad-idea coordinator hires:
Wow. The Oregon president is out here taking shots, says the only advice he can give is to "Go out and find a great defensive coordinator."
— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) December 8, 2016
I confess that I thought hiring Brady Hoke might not have been the worst idea in the world—look at his track record with under-recruited Michigan DL. It turned out to be... unhelpful. At least. It's possible that he took over a unit so far away from competence that he was doomed either way; it is extremely unlikely anyone will take that chance. Tell you what, though, whoever hires him as a DL coach is not wrong.
The Counterfactual. The #1 alternate universe of the past ten years in college football: what if RichRod takes the Alabama job? Nick Saban goes... somewhere. Michigan hires... somebody. He probably still fails extensively. John Talty looks back at one of the most fascinating coaching searches in CFB history.
Etc.: Excellent scouting report on Will Lockwood, one of the bright spots on the hockey team. A major reason Willie Taggart got the Oregon job: Jim Harbaugh. Lane Kiffin still the frontrunner for the Houston job. Me, I'd just hire their DC. Assistant salaries skyrocket, they have the money to pay players, etc.
Sponsor note. If, say, you ran over Scott Frost on Saturday—just speaking hypothetically here—and are now in possession of a reckless squashing of man who will not shut up ticket, your insurance will note this and jack up your rates. Persons who run over Scott Frost are liable to get nasty letters from Scott Frost's mom, after all.
To prevent this, you can go to Defensive Drivers Group, take their online course, complete it as 99% of applicants do, and get the states of Michigan, California, and New Jersey to wipe your record clean. It's normally 39.95; five bucks off for responding to this ad, and no hidden fees.
No mercy. I'm completely fine with John O'Korn throwing garbage-time bombs into the endzone with Michigan up multiple scores:
— Colorado Buffaloes (@cubuffs) September 12, 2016
This is poking the bear. Colorado, consider the bears poked.
Meanwhile, the bear. PFF's early-season take on Michigan is off-the-charts optimistic. Notes from a meaty piece:
- Michigan is their top defense so far. The competition has not been great, obviously.
- The OL is second(!) in pass protection.
- Kyle Kalis was one of PFF's worst returning guards nationally. (I wonder what PFF would have thought about Michigan's 2013 line if Kalis's shaky 2015 was that bad in their eyes.) He's up to seventh nationally(!!!) in their grading. That's sure to slide backwards as Michigan's schedule gets tougher, but as I mentioned UCF actually has a player or two on their DL. If Kalis manages to hang onto a top 30 spot it's time to buy Tim Drevno an above-ground outdoor pool.
- Newsome's been great as a pass protector and okay on the ground; I'm seeing more or less the same thing. Newsome's having some mental issues on plays to the edge and he has a tendency to pull so deep that he runs himself out of any chance to block someone.
- Speight is well ahead of Early Season Jake Rudock, which is 1) not a surprise and 2) faint praise. OTOH, PFF has him accurate on 28 of 36 opportunities from the last game and I think they're grading as harshly as possible there—I wouldn't knock Speight for that attempted dumpoff to Evans that Evans couldn't get out on, for one.
- Speight's efficiency has gone through the floor when he gets pressure.
- In a separate article on their top 25 they note that Ryan Glasgow has posted bonkers 86 and 84 grades so far; they rank Glasgow as one of their top five NFL draft risers: “Glasgow’s consistently defeated one-on one blocks, and opponents haven’t been able to move him off the line of scrimmage on double teams. In addition to his dominant run play, he’s averaging a pressure once every seven pass rushes, an impressive ratio for a nose tackle.”
All of that is very positive, especially Kalis. In the season preview I mentioned that he was the one returning player on the line who could take a major step forward. Early indications are that he has, and again since so many of his problems last year were mental the kind of improvements he's made are ones that translate to tougher competition.
I'm not sure there's much to read into Speight's issues against pressure yet. I'd expect that he remains iffy in that department because he's not that mobile; eight attempts is not a sample size worth getting exercised over.
I'm over it. I'm mostly over it. Speight on the fading days of the Hoke era:
"When I came in during the winter (of 2014) and redshirted that season, I didn't know what was going on that year and not many people did. It was kind of a messy year, it didn't end well at all," Speight says. "I just kind of skated through that year without much discipline (with) football. It was kind of a rude awakening when (the new staff) came.
"I realized I needed to change some things."
While he tried to soften it…
Speight wants to make it clear. Brady Hoke -- the coach who recruited him to Michigan -- and his staff gave him plenty of coaching in 2014. He says he just wasn't in the mood to listen.
…I mean come on. It wasn't just Speight who wasn't in the mood to listen. It was team-wide. A couple weeks ago Kalis said something wistful about how he wished that he'd had five years under Drevno instead of two.
I'm a little surprised that guys are throwing the old staff under the bus in press conferences, but also… not surprised. I was there, and bitter. I can't imagine how bitter I'd be about the Hoke chaos if it was eating through my eligibility with nothing to show for it.
Anyway, Speight's starting now and good at throwing balls.
ALSO IN WILTON SPEIGHT TALKING.
“There was one UCF player who was trying to talk smack at me, and I just started dying laughing, because we heard him from the huddle. And there were other times that we’d be up on the line of scrimmage and I’d think something was funny.”
Speculation on what this laughter-inducing smack was:
- "Got my crampons on, gonna scale your ass"
- "I am going to camp out halfway up your surface."
- "Ed Davis got a sixth year"
- "I may be the size of a flying squirrel but sir, I propose to embark on a climbing expedition lo these many months. And yea, I will harvest your acorns. Mark these words. Acorns. Harvested. Eventually."
Now in something other than Speight talking. Rich Eisen talking:
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) September 12, 2016
Injuries. As near as I can tell:
- Probably back Saturday: David Long.
- Could be back Saturday, could be another week or two. Taco Charlton, Jourdan Lewis. Lewis's injury was described by Harbaugh as a "muscle strain" unrelated to the issue that kept him out of the opener. He "did some things" and ran around on Monday. Charlton had a slight limp after getting his ankle rolled. Michigan could keep both guys on the bench in a game they expect to win.
- Definitely another few weeks: Bryan Mone.
- Unknown but doesn't look great: Noah Furbush and Drake Johnson. Radio silence on Furbush's issue probably isn't good. Johnson has similarly been out of uniform without much in the way of explanation.
Etc.: Ross Fulton on OSU's early offensive struggles against Tulsa: didn't want to get the QB hit and Tulsa banked on this. Won't apply for M. Chase Winovich on his first start. Matt Godin on his last go-around. NCAA removes events from North Carolina. Colorado plays fast and has a good secondary. When you have two quarterbacks and one of them is a Purdue transfer, you have zero quarterbacks. Possibly negative one quarterbacks. Urban Meyer on his brain and how he fixed it.
Two quick mailbag questions for you during this recruiting season.
1 - How would you describe Harbaugh's recruiting philosophy?
I think Hoke's was pretty easy to understand. If you got an offer from Hoke, it was a commit-able offer. If you wanted to take visits after accepting an offer, then you were no longer considered committed and they would consider you just a recruit competing for a spot in the class.
Rodriguez was somewhat similar to Harbaugh i think, but there are some subtle differences. Rodriguez would fire off a ton of offers and sort out how "official" they were as they learned more about grades, etc. I think he had less consideration for class distribution by position and that may have gotten him in trouble, but he also chased some of the top players regardless of fit.
Harbaugh seems to be something along the lines of this:
-- An offer is conditional upon certain requirements (curious your opinion on those)
-- If you commit, that doesn't mean that either you or Michigan is married to another. Visits are still allowed and Michigan may still explore options for your spot.
-- Until you sign the LOI or enroll, consider things a soft commitment.
Harbaugh sends out "offers." Hoke did not do that. If you had an offer from Michigan under Hoke you could commit to it. Harbaugh does the thing most people do these days and fires out offers in name only. To date he's been less than circumspect when it comes to allowing kids to commit to those offers (though sometimes that's not his call; some kids announce commitments to uncommitable offers).
A commitment is still mostly a commitment. Of the guys who left Michigan's class only two, Swenson and Weaver, were instances where Michigan flat out didn't want a guy because of their perception of his talent level. It's been more or less directly stated by guys like Steve Wiltfong that other players who decommitted had academic benchmarks they didn't reach or were 100% the player's choice. And Swenson was a unique situation since he was a highly-rated commit who was offered before his sophomore year by Brady Hoke. Michigan evidently made it clear they wanted to see him in action to confirm but didn't make it CLEAR, if you know what I mean. That's an error Harbaugh admitted to and hopefully won't be as much of a thing going forward.
I expect that Michigan will continue to have a few speculative commits who may or may not end up in the class for reasons academic and otherwise. Their offers will continue to keep pace with the state of the art in mangling the English langauge for marketing purposes. Some guys will take those offers. Michigan will make things clear to them, and some of them will end up in the class while others either use their status as a springboard, as Weaver did, or end up where they were going to end up anyway.
[After the JUMP: a graph, 2017 DL worries, 2016 LB worries, and HOW INSANE WAS THIS COACHING HIRE]
We had a survey, 3,556 people responded to it. We learned some things about them:
1. They only get to a few games
The average was two a year but the split is more like 26% go to no games, 36% get to one, and 38% get to more than one.
2. Most don't have season tickets
Four in five (79%) responders don't. Also, when these were run against the previous question season, ticket holders averaged 5.05 games a year, while non-season ticket holders went to 1.11 per year. Season ticket holders were then asked if they would have renewed if Michigan had kept Hoke. Most (68 percent) would but even 32 percent "no" is ominous:
3. There's a clear preference for ADs
On overwhelming majority (almost 90%) of respondents gave Brandon a 1 or a 2. Conversely, Hackett cleaned up; among Michigan fans just 17 people who are impossible to please out of 3400 is some kind of magic. Brian demanded I combine these in a bar graph.
Ace: "That is beautiful."
Brian: "See? Bar graphs!"
Harbaugh has some catching up to do on his boss, at a still really positive approval rating of 4.27 out of 5. Then again Hackett has already reeled in a 5-star while I guess Harbaugh has yet to do so.
5. As for his predecessor
6. They'll pay more for better opponents, but not too much.
What they have now is about what the market wants to bear.
7. What they want to wear
Either the readership didn't understand that Underground Printing is our t-shirt guys and this would essentially mean MGoBlog gets to design all the uniforms, or they understood too well. Anyway UGP barely beat Under Armour, probably because they're the only company other than Nike that spells their name right.
8. Who they'd like to play
You're going to have to click this one I think:
Notre Dame is the obvious one, and the next-most popular was Harbaugh taking a shot at his old team. Stanford makes a lot of sense in fan type, location worth visiting, old history, and a team we haven't seen much of. LSU would be great too though it probably will be less fun (and less easy) once Les and Cam are out of there. The Pac and SEC were easily the most desirable conferences. A breakdown:
|ACC (no ND)||1312|
The games already scheduled weren't included, otherwise I'm sure the interest in Texas and Oklahoma would shoot the Big XII back up to at least ACC levels, while Washington and Colorado could put the Pac 12 on equal footing with the SEC.
Oblig coach obit. Don't get on my case, man.
I mean, he gave Penn State a free shot at the endzone by taking a timeout with three seconds left in the first half.
What do you do with that? How do you put that into your ongoing calculations? Add that datum to the rickety mess that is your ever-shifting, often-hypocritical, prone-to-explode model of your favorite thing in the world, and what happens? I don't know. The brain elects not to travel down that path. The future ceases to exist, replaced by only the ever more nonsensical present. All series diverge. Projection is impossible.
Let's jam that thing in anyway.
Not an improvement, but not any worse either. At that point such a thing was almost expected, after the previous year's offensive line roulette and 27 for 27 and two minute drills that usually took five minutes. Time for some maniacal giggling, then.
On the bright side, even three-and-a-half years deep into a coaching tenure that resembled nothing so much as Wile E. Coyote sauntering off a cliff Brady Hoke still had ways to surprise you.
Brady Hoke should never have been Michigan's football coach. This was apparent from the start, as at the time of his hire he had two assets: the fool's gold of an undefeated MAC regular season and a reasonable, if truncated, turnaround job at San Diego State. Aside from that he had five seasons of average MAC ball and zero years as a coordinator. Even the breakout year at Ball State ended with consecutive blowout losses to Buffalo and Tulsa.
When you stake your program to a resume like that you're as likely as not to come out the other end with Tim Beckman or Tim Brewster or Darrell Hazell. An infinite number of nondescript gentleman have had the ball bounce the right way during the furball that is a season in the Mid-American. Some of them populate the lower rungs of the Big Ten when Purdue can't think of anything better.
And then there's Bo.
Bo was on another level, having gone 27-8-1 in league play in six years with Miami. Even he was widely derided. Here is that picture again.
In the center is a man who has made a Decision. It's no exaggeration to say that Michigan's best and… most recent athletic directors staked their careers on whether they could separate coaching talent from noise.
All these years later, you get why Canham rolled the dice on Bo. Bo was a legendary hardass who took nothing from anyone and comfortably existed atop the roiling mass of chaos that is any football program, successful or not. He chewed out players on the sidelines, sent them back in the game, and cracked impish smiles at the reaming he'd just handed to the young man. He has a gravitas that stays with the program—veritably looms—a decade after his death. Bo had the proverbial It, and you can understand how he communicated that to Canham in whatever passed for a job interview between them.
That understanding will permanently elude historians attempting to discern what comparable force of personality Brady Hoke brought to a press conference in the Junge Center in January 2011.
There was a moment, though. Now it's hard to remember that Brady Hoke had two years in which it seemed he was indeed gold that does not glitter. Hoke gruffly intoned "This Is Michigan, fergodsakes" in response to a question nobody remembers. He wore short sleeves in weather ranging from torrid to frozen. His matter-of-fact declarations and tough toughness were his tentpoles. We hung a great edifice of hope on it; Hoke going to and winning a BCS game in year one provided buttresses and filigree and whatnot to the structure.
At a few years remove it's clear that Hoke stumbled ass-backwards into that success. Few 11-2 seasons have been jankier than Michigan's 2011. The Notre Dame game that kicked things off was a deranged exercise in winning against double coverage; Michigan threw 41 times for 2.8 YPA against Michigan State; they had 166 yards of offense before chuck-and-pray time against Iowa; they were one overthrown Braxton Miller pass away from losing to a .500 OSU team; they won that bowl game with 184 yards of total offense.
The signs were all there, even in the moment ("lucky as hell," quoth this space in the aftermath of the Denard After Dentist game). I alternated between excitement at the idea of a head coach who had an innate aggressiveness on fourth down and wondering why the hell they thought Denard Robinson could be Tom Brady.
But the games were won, and the recruits rolled in. Hoke seemed to stroll through a garden of four-stars gathering what he would. For a year or two, everything seemed just fine. In 2013, Michigan beat Notre Dame rather easily. Michigan fans were walking on air. Then someone looked down.
Rarely in the history of college football has a fanbase been jerked so rudely to attention as already beleaguered Michigan fans were in 2013. The relatively straight line that was the Hoke era turned into a harrowing plunge straight into the bowels of second-and-eleven-play-action hell. Save for an inexplicable Ohio State game, Michigan became the most brutally unwatchable team in the country the instant they left the field against Notre Dame.
Hoke was the same person through the good bits and the bad. He was gruffly nonsensical to start and gruffly nonsensical to end. As success turned to failure, the things we liked about him became the things we hated about him. Remember when this was hilarious?
That joke isn't funny anymore.
Despite the fact that people will still swear up and down that Brady Hoke is a great dude, I have less charity in my heart for him than I did Rich Rodriguez when it came to write his obit. A slice from that piece:
Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit.
Hoke was that coachbot even in impossible circumstances. By the end so many indignities had piled up that I was waiting for him to snap.
It never came. He endured the brutally painful press conference following last year's Minnesota game as a coachbot. He released a statement apologizing to Michigan State for Joe Bolden putting a small piece of metal in their field. At no point did he bite the head off a reporter, or say that his boss had sold him down the river, or do anything at all other than repeat the same goddamn things he'd been repeating for two straight years.
I liked Rodriguez because he seemed like a person who reacted to stimuli. He reacted too much, but at least you could see that he was processing information and coming to conclusions about what it meant.
Hoke did not do this. Whether Hoke was stoic or insensate is in the eye of the beholder; given the chaos around the program my vote is the latter. He seemed to shut down in terror when his dream job turned to a nightmare.
As the competence of his team deteriorated, Hoke shuffled his coaching staff nonsensically instead of making real changes. He stuck with his terrible punt formation and a style of offense unsuited for his quarterbacks. Even after it was clear his disastrous program could not be allowed to continue—the financial ruin it would cause must have been apparent to even Michigan's most recent athletic director—nothing changed. If Hoke thought he had a chance, well, he also called timeout to give Penn State a free Hail Mary.
At least Nero fiddled. Brady Hoke stood there in the rain without so much as shaking a fist at the heavens.