I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
UPDATE: Part II lives here.
California, Texas, Florida: these are the Big Three states for college football recruiting. No. 4: Ohio. Yet unlike other talent-rich states, the Cradle of (generally bad) Presidents lets little of it escape, despite having just one major college program within those borders. Virtually alone among schools that can penetrate those borders, Michigan has long made Ohio not just its natural enemy but also its favorite resource for out-of-state talent.
Ohio blood ran through the veins of Woodson, of Desmond, and of course Bo, as well as hundreds of other legends associated with the University of Michigan. Furthermore, every highly rated recruit stolen from the State of Ohio's borders has been less guy in the pool for Ohio State.
I realized the other day that when I heard a recruit was from a program in Ohio, I couldn't visualize what that meant. Is that school near Toledo, where kids are as liable to grow up Maize and Blue as Scarlet and Gray? Or did we pull them directly away from the Columbus area? What about Cleveland? Do players from Cincinnati tend to head south to the SEC more than other Ohioans? Some of our readers and staff are certifiable Ohio prep experts, but I'm not.
So I split up the state into 7 regions, then went over the 4- and 5-stars since 2002 (based on Rivals.com) to see if there's a regional difference in how Michigan recruits, and also if there are any opportunities I can see where the Wolverines could do better. Ultimately, my hope is that this could serve as reference for future discussions of Michigan's Ohio recruiting. If you're really interested in this stuff, ScoutingOhio.com is a recruiting site devoted to it.
For our purposes, I did like Tim and counted Notre Dame as a Big Ten school. For those of you who know more about this stuff than I do, I very much welcome your criticism and suggestions – I'm sure I've missed something, and plan to edit it as omissions or mistakes become apparent. By "2012 Prospects" I mean "mentioned on main page of MGoBlog this month." Spreadsheet lives here.
UPDATE: Right, so immediately after I posted this, Rescue_Dawn put out his latest recruiting map. Use together.
Note: I think he's got Ifeadi Odenigbo in the wrong Centerville. Also: lol at states that have three towns called Centerville.
Notes before you start: Figures given are for 4- and 5-star recruits from 2002 through 2011, based on Rivals. "5-Star Recruits" are those given 6.1 on Rivals Scale, if available. Current and former Wolverines include all recruits I could remember or find because a good way to get the blue chips interested in your school is to have their old teammates come and have a good experience there. Conferences without a percentage in the Conf. Breakdown got one guy.
Notes so you don't complain about arbitrary regional divisions: Where the "Steel Corridor" is separated is up for debate: I put Cleveland and Akron together as I might include Ann Arbor as part of Detroit, and made a separate region for Wayne County, Canton, Warren and Youngstown. I made the cutoffs based on regional dialect, which I felt reflected cultural differences between Cleveland/Akron/Elyria, which are Lake Erie oriented, and Canton/ Warren/ Youngstown, etc., where you start getting a Pennsylvanian orientation. The OHSAA Div. 1 map is of no help since it puts Youngstown and the Cleveland schools in one division so the Massillon and Canton schools can be together. In the southwest, Cincy (with its own cultural image) is separated from Dayton, which though an hour's drive away is more aligned with the areas you pass when heading down I-75 after Findlay (the US-23 towns counted for Columbus).
Northwest Ohio: 7 Players, 28.6% Ohio State
The region closest to Michigan is naturally split between those two programs, with a third going elsewhere. In this part of Ohio, it's almost expected that grade school classes, families, and towns would be bitterly divided between Michigan and Ohio State. Being Ground Zero for the biggest rivalry in American sports, unsurprisingly a lot of highly rated recruits end up at a Big Ten school, and almost two thirds at M or OSU. The Toledo (e.g. Whitmer) area mostly dominates the region, with Maumee, Perrysburg, and Bowling Green all nearby. Wauseon is a middle-of-nowhere program that's easy to get to from Ann Arbor and just about nowhere else. Once past Findlay, the further down I-75 you get, the more Buckeye the territory becomes. Farm towns near Lima like Delphos (St. Johns) and Kenton have successful programs that pump out 2- and 3-stars but few blue chips. The Sandusky-Fremont rivalry lives here. There isn't much more the Wolverines can do here that we aren't doing already. However this year the region seems to be stronger than previous years, with at least three prospects expected to be 4-stars or higher.
- Current Wolverines: Kevin Koger, Elliott Mealer, Greg Brown, Jack Miller
- 2012 Prospects: DE Chris Wormley (Toledo-Whitmer), QB Maty Mauk (Kenton), QB Tyler O'Connor (Lima)
- Former Wolverines: Willis Barringer
- Notable Recruiting Sites: Toledo (Whitmer), Wauseon, Delphos, Kenton
- FBS Schools in Region: Toledo (MAC), Bowling Green (MAC)
- Other FBS Schools nearby: Michigan (Big Ten), Ohio State (Big Ten), Notre Dame (Ind.), Miami-OH (MAC), Eastern Michigan (MAC), Kent State (MAC)
- 5-Star Recruits: Fred Davis (USC)
- Conference Breakdown: 71.4% Big Ten (Pac Ten, ACC)
- School Breakdown: Ohio State 2, Michigan 2, Notre Dame 0
The Dayton region and areas north of it are much like Indiana which borders it. More basketball than football stars have come out of the area. The Trotwood-Madison pipeline (Shaw, 'Tree, Moore) has helped Michigan, but Ohio State dominates the area with strong ties to Northmont in Clayton, and Wayne HS in Huber Heights. That last is a football factory which has sent a few kids to Michigan State recently, and most recently supplied Michigan with the Talbotts. Wayne fed Braxton Miller, Donnie Evege and Marcus Freeman to Ohio State, so establishing a strong connection there could be an opportunity to make some headway against the Buckeyes.
It should help that our new head coach is himself from Dayton. Mid-power programs from Middletown, Centerville, and SmackdabintheCenteroftheMedialofMiddlecity (We're from Middle!) would be a good place to start.
- Current Wolverines: Michael Shaw, Brandon Moore, Roy Roundtree, Terrence Talbott, Terry Talbott
- 2012 Prospects: S Bam Bradley (Trotwood-Madison), OL Benny McGowan and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (Centerville), CB Cody Quinn (Middletown)
- Former Wolverines: Brandon Harrison
- Notable Recruiting Sites: Trotwood-Madison, Centerville, Kettering (Archbishop Alter), Middletown, Springfield, Dayton, Clayton, Huber Heights (Wayne)
- FBS Schools in Region: Miami-Ohio (MAC)
- Other FBS Schools nearby: Ohio State (Big Ten), Cincinnati (Big East), Ball State (MAC), Bowling Green (MAC), Toledo (MAC)
- 5-Star Recruits: (none)
- Conference Breakdown: 82.6% Big Ten, 8.7% Big East (SEC, ACC)
- School Breakdown: Ohio State 14, Michigan 4, Notre Dame 0
Cincinnati/Southwest: 26 Players, 26.9% Ohio State
Cincinnati is located on the river across from Kentucky. Other than the stopover for Midwest head coaches in town, the closest BCS school is actually Louisville. Tressel made a point of trying to improve OSU's notoriously mediocre recruiting in the region, but it's still the least Buckeye-ical part of the state. Notre Dame and Boston College have longtime pipelines out of the Cincy-area Catholic schools Elder and St. Xavier. Colerain (Mister Simpson, Cobrani Mixon) popped out a lot of talent in the middle of the last decade. A lot of Cincy blue chips have headed to SEC schools like Tennessee, LSU, and Kentucky. Those that haven't (e.g. Greg Jones of MSU) have a tendency to outperform their ratings. Very few 4- and 5-stars end up playing for the hometown Bearcats. There's room to improve, particularly by following Dantonio into his old stomping grounds and offering the same guys.
- Current Wolverines: Antonio Poole, Jibreel Black
- 2012 Prospects: WR Dwayne Stanford (Taft), WR Monty Madaris (Moeller), OL Caleb Stacey (Oak Hills), DE Ryan Leahy (La Salle)
- Former Wolverines: Cobrani Mixon, Mister Simpson
- Notable Recruiting Sites: Cincinnati (La Salle, Taft, Princeton, Colerain, St. Xavier, Moeller, Winton Woods, Oak Hills), Lakota West, and Hamilton
- FBS Schools in Region: Cincinnati (Big East)
- Other FBS Schools nearby: Ohio State (Big Ten), Miami-OH (MAC), Louisville (Big East), Ball State (MAC)
- 5-Star Recruits: Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame), DeVier Posey (Ohio State), Jordan Hicks (Texas), Spencer Ware (LSU), Ben Martin (Tennessee)
- Conference Breakdown: 57.7% Big Ten, 19.2% SEC, 11.5% ACC, 7.7% Big East (Big XII)
- School Breakdown: Ohio State 6, Notre Dame 4, Michigan 1
Central Ohio: 20 Players, 45% Ohio State
You would think that the region closest to Ohio Stadium would send the most players to Ohio State. Yet for many who grow up in Columbus and the surrounding environs (Ohioans call these "corps" for some reason), when it comes to signing their L.O.I.s, they choose to follow Marcus Ray the hell out of Dodge. This is called the "Buckeye Proximity Effect," where by growing up in constant contact with the worst fan-base on the planet (that doesn't have self-proclaimed "hooligans") half of Columbians will give in and join them, and the other half will leave the moment the opportunity presents itself. The Buckeye Proximity Effect accounts for half of the 4- and 5-stars produced in Central Ohio not signing with Ohio State. Of course, since few in Columbus ever learn there's something else other than Buckeye football out there until college, a whopping 87.5% stay in the Big Ten, giving them an opportunity once a year to come back and try to convince friends and loved ones to leave the cult. Notre Dame pulled 2006 Heisman candidate Brady Quinn out of enemy territory, for example.
Michigan has had success, mostly in turning up diamonds among the "Corps" off the beaten path (most recently: Omameh, Avery). A full-scale invasion into the heart of enemy territory is certainly doable, as myriad 4-star signings with MSU, Illinois, Wisconsin and Notre Dame attest. Michigan has traditionally done well stealing away some 3-stars spurned by the Buckeyes (Mike Boren was one such back in the day), but beating Ohio State head-to-head for the blue chips is a rare feat.
- Current Wolverines: Chris Rock, Patrick Omameh, Keith Heitzman, Courtney Avery, Tamani Carter
- 2012 Prospects: (none?)
- Former Wolverines: Justin Boren, Mark Bihl
- Notable Recruiting Sites: Pickerington (Central HS), Lancaster, Columbus (Bishop Hartley, Watterson), Hilliard-Davidson, Dublin (Coffman)
- FBS Schools in Region: Ohio State (Big Ten)
- Other FBS Schools nearby: Cincinnati (Big East), Miami-OH (MAC), Bowling Green (MAC), Toledo (MAC), Kent State (MAC), Akron (MAC), Ohio (MAC)
- 5-Star Recruits: Mike Adams (Ohio State)
- Conference Breakdown: 85% Big Ten (SEC, ACC, Big XII)
- School Breakdown: Ohio State 9, Michigan 1, Notre Dame 2
Next Week: This thing was getting long, and I'm one week into a four-weekend stretch of Grand Rapids-Bachelor Party-Europe-Europe, so next week you get Part II, with Cleveland/Akron, Eastern Ohio (Massillon/Canton to Youngstown), a reminder that Southeast Ohio exists, and analysis. Onto diaries:
When You Should Fire That Guy?
In most cases, the answer isn't "before his squad plays one down."
Undefeated dream season of 1992 went back and revisited his Canning Your Coordinator piece from last December, this time by implementing FEI rankings:
For the same reasons discussed in the previous section, we'll evaluate the hypotheses based on the change in a unit's FEI rank from the previous season to the current season. And looking at our three years of data across 120 FBS teams get this:
It is far and away the Diary of the Week. It's long, and not so relevant to Michigan now that we have a new staff (e.g. ninja recruiter Mattison) but well, well, well worth the read.
The Same Thing As Mine, But Not:
I was writing this before blublooded put together a shorter, similar thing on Michigan in-state recruiting:
There has been some variation from year to year in U-M’s success in securing top in-state talent. Some attribute this variation to the head coach’s recruiting prowess, our on-field success, or the historical relationship between recruits’ high schools and U-M. The table below shows the college destination of top in-state talent by year from 2002 to 2011.
Also, airvipermb quickly profiled three Michigan Pipelines.
Catching Up on Other Sports
: MaizeAndBlueWahoo runs down PORPAG ratings for Big Ten players, plus our guys.
AceUMer gives a preview of the matchup with Michigan State.
UMDrumline does the same for Women's Tennis versus Stanford.
mfan_in_ohio does a good job of updating us on Michigan's current Pairwise situation, and includes an explanation of what that is for those perpetually confused as to how NCAA selects teams and seeds for the tournament.
(Moychendising): MGoShoe dissects the press releases on Michigan's new guru of press releases to try to figure out what the new marketing guy is going to do. Maybe a Dominos-like program of "Hey, we found out we suck; let us show you how we're going to not suck from now on?" Or maybe they'll pull the walls down at the Spring Alumni Game to reveal an actual rematch of 2006 Michigan and 2006 Ohio State? Or maybe Lochman will increase multimedia M brand advertising. Sounds like the latter, dammit.
Drive safe, MGofans. If you're bored and snowed in, why not write a diary?
[We'll always cheer for you, oh Var-si-ty!]
You're back! After a bumpy ride following the Great Burn All of 2011, the diarists of MGoBlog have crawled out from whatever rocks, firewalls, and corporate office policies they were under and returned to populating the area right about THERE---->
with a new crop of 200+ word thoughts. Miracle Planet was right: no matter what you do to the Earth, life will always find a way to survive, repopulate, and thrive again. On the other hand one extinction-level event per billion years is plenty kthx.
In celebration of the return of you, I'm going to give you a break from me and head right into the diaries. Save your "tl;dr"s for next week, 'cause it's a biggun'.
Michigan Men's Football (Varsity)
He works for TomVH. He knows the minds of 2012 recruits before they do. He was front-paged twice in successive weeks, and is your Diarist of the Week. Meet (you've met him already) JC3, who provided a fantastic two-part rundown of 2012 prospects.
QBs: Gunner Kiel (IN – pictured right), Rob Gregory (IL)
RBs: William Mahone (OH), Juwan Lewis (MI)
WRs: Aaron Burbridge (MI), Amara Darboh (IA), Stefon Diggs (MD)
TEs: Sam Grant (OH)
Ath: Drake Johnson
OL: Jordan Diamond, Kelby Latta (MI), JJ Denman (PA), Jake Meador (IN), Caleb Stacey (OH), and Ben Bradem (MI)
S's: Bam Bradley (OH), Deshaun Hall (OH)
LBs: Royce Jenkins-Stone (MI), Laron Taylor (MI)
DTs: Vincent Valentine (IL), Danny O'Brien (MI), Matthew Godin (MI)
DEs: Evan Winston (MI), Tom Strobel (OH), Chris Wormley (OH)
If you missed the articles, get your 2012 stalker on now and hit those up. Also: use the comments below to pick your favorite name from above. I can't decide between a quarterback named Gunner and a safety named Bam. Can I have them both?
Also in things you must read if you're a Michigan football fan already thinking about 2012 is umhero's awesome "Roster Balance and the 2012 Class." This hero broke down the dispersion of talent (by eligibility) on the current M roster and compared it with an ideal 85-man breakdown, showing very clearly where our recruiting needs and soft spots are. A sample:
Yes, not kidding, that awesome…like that-screen-you-always-have-to-keep-checking-when-you're-doing-offseason-recruiting-in-EA-Sports-NCAA-Football-[One-Year-in-the-Future] awesome (or at least you did when it was 55 men –signed, guy who keeps going back to 2004 whenever the latest gets too frustrating).
In more general football discussion, the oversigning issue that's now old news at this blog is generating more traction in the news that's not this blog, and in the diaries section, which is this blog reflected. The one to read is JeepinBen's explanation of the difference between a Medical Redshirt and a Medical Exemption. The other one is Zone Left's proposal to stop oversigning by…um…letting kids transfer? You know what: let him explain.
Football etc.: The_Knowledge stopped by to look back in time at The Process, which depending on how far into the future he's from, could mean he's looking back into history, or looking back into a less distant future, or look into the present. One thing's for certain: in the future, people really don't know shit about early 21st century Michigan football.
Michigan Men's Basketball (Varsity)
Beating the Spartans during their Year of Infinite Pain if Spartans Felt Pain felt really damn good. Continuing to beat Big Ten teams since is making the Crisler bandwagoners like me (apologies to any long-sufferers I'm crowding) jump back on board for the ride. Of course, it's hard not to be a cagers junkie once the MGoDiarists have at it. For example, I must now watch basketball because I know things about PORPAG:
A cursory glance shows what Brian alluded to in the front page post, Darius Morris is the sixth most valuable player offensively in the Big Ten, behind Wisconsin's excellent Jordan Taylor, a future top-5 pick, and three seniors. Another glance shows that Tim Hardaway Jr. is the third-most valuable freshman according to PORPAG, behind Sullinger and Wisconsin's role player, Josh Gasser (this statistic loves the Badgers, they have the 1st, 2nd, 14th, 25th, 34th, and 39th best PORPAG players, part of this is probably due to the slow deliberate pace at which they play, and the fact that everyone's non-conference schedule is included in this compilation of this stat, so a team like Wisconsin would be given an advantage over a team like MSU. Still, Wisconsin's numbers are impressive here, near miss against Iowa notwithstanding).
That's the_white_tiger pouring through basketball sabermetrics and coming back to say we're good at basketball.
Another reason to watch this team: unlike the Ellerbe squads that coincided with my Michigan years, this team is really likeable, from honest and intellectual Coach Beilein to a bunch of names matching my 1992 Donruss cards, to Shoot More On The Run You Cocaine Zombie (third reason: can't let such an awesome mnemonic by antoo go to waste). If PORPAG ain't your bag, Michigania (you're thinking: does he know Dan Glasser?) has a the Cliffs Notes of how this team came together.
Michigan Dancing (March Sport)
Just kidding, it's still hoops. Yes, when the wins start coming, we start thinking maybe possibly there could be a spot for us among the
32, 65, 68, 2.6 million squads invited to the NCAA Tournament. Or even the NIT. Both were out of reach at the start of the year, but you know, we won some games, so we can wonder…
What will it take to make the Dance?
Um, chart guy?
No. Well, yes, I'm normally the bolded subconscious of the main page who asks for charts at the end of bad UFRs, but this time I was just telling you the name of 2012's article.
That's what I'm trying to find out.
That's the name of his diary.
2012: What will it take to make the Dance?
Who's talking about the dance in 2012?
Aw, forget it…chart?
As of now the first two are taken care of, but those were the easiest. From here, hoops needs to win 3/5 out of @Ill, @Iowa, Wisconsin, @Minn, MSU. Kenpom has us favored in only one of those games, that being Michigan State's season-ending visit to Crisler (and MSU is in a statistical trough right now that's probably not sustainable). Signs point to this simply being basketball's version of the week after we beat Purdue last year, with Wisconsin and Ohio State on the horizon. But hope springs eternal.
If you'd rather skip to the end of the story, Blazefire has provided a glimpse into the Headlines of the Future. Let's hope his future has more accurate accounts of contemporary Michigan athletics than that of The_Knowledge.
Michigan Women's Softball (Varsity)
Looking for a Michigan sport that won't make you drink and do nasty things to your head? Want a pastime where Michigan just dominates, reloads, and dominates again, all while showing such exuberance and joy in their sport? Is Misopogon trying to screw with you with all of these rhetorical questions just so he can say "broomball" or something when there's two softball pictures above?
But man you're still going to love our softball team, as only South Bend Wolverine can bring it to you.
Last year, Dorian Shaw lead the way for Michigan in the home-run department, going deep 21 times. One of those shots broke the letter A on the now-rechristened "lumni Field" scoreboard. And while Nemitz was the senior pitcher on staff, Taylor led the way for much of the year, going 26-4 with an ERA of 1.44. The highlight of her year came in April when, on the 10th she tossed 5 perfect innings as Michigan mercy-ruled Minnesota 9-0. Not two weeks later, Taylor was on the mount again, and once again was perfect through 5, as UM mercy-ruled PSU 8-0.
All you need to know is Michigan mercy-ruled 19 games last year out of 57 played. Let me rephrase: a full third of the Softball team's games ended with the Wolverines winning by so much so early the other team cried uncle (actually, it's a rule, but still!). The girls also beat Ohio State in football, shut out the Packers in Green Bay, and brokered an intergalactic peace treaty with Zoltan's space empire. Taylor and slugger Dorian Shaw are both pre-season player of the year candidates, and either is likely to beat out Denard for the Heisman.
The ladies won their first two games of this season – the first in a mercy – this weekend.
Michigan Men's Ice Hockey (Varsity)
Unfortunately nobody wrote a diary about the hockey guys. But then no other Michigan sport, varsity or otherwise, swept Ohio this weekend. This was utterly necessary. Also: mmmm beating Ohio State at things: this be a wonderful Valentine's gift, si Caporusso?
Two wins against Ohio State in two nights – thanks, Louie, it's just what I wanted!
Michigan Men's Aerial Flyovers (Club?)
So the story goes, Orson of EDSBS, styling himself Earl of Blogville, found a form for requesting a flyover for his son's 1st birthday.
So of course some Michigan fan who has to actually answer such paperwork all the time is going to come along and write a Diary about how he's doing it all wrong. Follow Zone Left, not Orson, if you are serious about getting one of our military's planes to buzz your locale. Please coordinate with me before planning anything…Zone Left, the paperwork should be on its way, along with a million gajillion MGoPoints to cover any expenses.
Michigan Men's Wrestling (Varsity)
…is really good this year we hear. AceUMer has a loooooong diary that breaks down every match. The Wolverines went into this weekend with a lot of promise, but Iowa can scrap, man. The full preview is worth checking out.
Michigan Paintball (Club)
What's awesome is he named the one on the right "Crippleboy.jpg"
I am 100% not kidding. There's a diary (again) this week on our Paintball team. In fact, it's a really long diary: a 1,700 words-long diary. And it's also really interesting, with detailed rundowns of each game from Michigan's latest tournament. Our paintballers even got their own Angry Michigan [Position] Hating God when the "Snake" position claimed both the team's best player, and then subsequently its captain. Can they recover from such devastating blows and fight their way back to win the match that gets them to the Championship round? Nope. They totally lost that game.
Michigan Water Polo
It's on the board.
People, this athletic department is huge! No wonder Brandon didn't have time to interview more than one candidate –ZING!
Michigan Bloggers Etc.
I don't quite know what to make of J.Swift's humor piece where Wiki-Leaks supposedly turns up dirt on The Process in Wyoming and it's…poetry?
I do, however, know what to make of this from-the-board parody of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by MGoBLueForLife. I'm re-naming it "The Wreck of the R.R. Fitzgerald" because 39 people apparently read the name of the post and figured it was an attack on our former coach. It's not – as the 33 people who read it can attest it is a work of brilliant entertainment that captures the fan experience of spending the last three years aboard a high-tech vessel (that did have some flaws) that was wrecked by an indomitable shitstorm. Bonus: I crap on the SEC in the comments.
(LONG … LEWAN)
Last October, in an effort to get a better handle on what our starting defense looked like compared to past defenses, I put together a depth chart-long “You Might Remember Our Starters from Such Players As…” comparison…thingy. At the time people requested a second version for the offense, but I figured what’s the point? The active period I was pulling YMRMFSPAs was ’96 to ’07, when the offense was substantially different that that of 2010.
Well now that’s changed, and other than talk about the Class of ’11 recruits (about which among the MGoTeam I’m the least qualified) we’re in a dead period where there’s not a lot to muse upon. On the other hand, finding comparisons among the DeBord/Malone band of Daves (Pearson, Baas, Petruziello) for a roster generated in three years of heavy Rodriguization is going to lead to some very non apple-y conclusions. I’m going to need some help in the comments for nominees before I put that together. For now, here’s a projected depth chart:
(Returning starters in bold, * means redshirt, all images courtesy of MGoBlue.com.)
|Quarterback||Tailback (Speed)||Tailback (Rage)||Fullback|
Denard Robinson (Jr)
Vincent Smith (Jr)
Stephen Hopkins (So)
John McColgan (Sr*)
|Devin Gardner (Fr*)||
or M. Shaw (Sr),
F. Toussaint (So*)
|Mike Cox (Jr*)||Joey Kerridge (Fr)|
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle|
Taylor Lewan (So*)
Ricky Barnum (Jr*)
David Molk (Sr*)
Patrick Omameh (Jr*)
Mark Huyge (Sr*)
|Mike Schofield (So*)||Rocko Khoury (Jr*)||Christian Pace (Fr*)||/||/|
Note on O-Line: The backup situation is anybody’s guess. This blogger’s guess is that Barnum replaces Schilling, but Khoury is in the mix as well. An injury to either tackle could mean Schofield replaces them or Omameh slides over and a guard moves in. Khoury is probably the first guy in at any guard or center position, and has been a center thus far, but I slid him over only so we could mention Pace.
|X||Y||Z (Slot)||Tight End|
Darryl Stonum (Sr)
Martavious Odoms (Sr)
Roy Roundtree (Jr*)
Kevin Koger (Sr)
|Junior Hemingway (Sr*)||Jeremy Jackson (So), et al.||JeRon Stokes (Jr)||Brandon Moore (Jr*)|
Note on Receivers: I wouldn’t know where to begin if I ran everybody here. Hemingway might as well be a starter too. I’m basing this off of the concept of the 2003-’07 three-wide offense but chances of this being the depth chart are slim. Left out are Kelvin Grady, Terrence Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, D.J. Williamson, Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, any of whom could play this year.
We’ll get to candidates in a moment. Before that, though, let’s just sit back and enjoy something here: this is the best-looking offensive depth chart we have seen since 2000. Better than 2007, since there aren’t any Mitchells, Ciullas, or freshman Borens and Schillings anywhere to be found. Not to sound too Jacksonian, but the best way to describe this depth chart is 2003, only faster.
…and a hell of a lot smaller.
This roster is pretty much the exact opposite of the 2010 defensive depth chart, and likewise the exact opposite of the 2008 offensive depth chart, and likewise the exact opposite that day your favorite pet died. There are longtime returning starters and upperclassmen who have played at a high level all over the place, from the stocked receiver corps to the junior quarterback who spent the first half of his first year starting as the presumptive Heisman frontrunner.
The Possibly Depressing Thing: Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee spent three years finding all of these round pegs to fit his offense’s round holes. The stupid but ultimately irrepressible meme of the 2008 offense was that Rich Rod was trying to play an offense that didn’t match the talent. That was true for the Loeffler-ish quarterbacks* but nobody else – we are talking about a team playing a total of one guy (Greg Mathews) at the same position he had occupied the previous year.
* That means Threet and Cone; I really don’t want to get into Mallett again here.
Let’s examine those round pegs, and the concerns they present:
The O-Line Are a Bunch of Zone Pansies
Borges says he plans to run an offense that best fits the talent on hand. On the other hand, Brady Hoke seems to favor man blocking over zone (a meme based mostly on a San Diego columnist that (the meme) makes user S.G. Rice go “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH”). Hoke’s disdain for the spread is probably overblown (and the suggestion he means to make us into Wisconsin even more so), but neither does anyone think he’s planning to run the spread ’n shred. Which means that to a degree, these players may have some edges exposed when they’re inserted into square-ier holes. That starts on the offensive line, where the last transition didn’t go so well.
The story of the 2008 offensive line was the coaching staff being so desperate to sit McAvoy they inserted a fall position switch DT at guard, and Angry Michigan Offensive Line Hating God parrying with successive injuries to Zirbel, Huyge, Schilling, Dorrestein, Molk, and several lawn chairs before Rodriguez/Magee/Frey finally cried uncle.
Brian said this in the 2008 preview when the position’s Angry Hating God was just getting underway:
“The line took a hit it could not afford to sustain when certain starter and once upon a time touted recruit Cory Zirbel went down with a knee injury, forcing either David Molk or hastily converted defensive lineman John Ferrara into the starting lineup. Michigan is now one injury away from serious issues indeed.”
…penned a ‘Decline and Fall’ declamation after just one game:
“Blame goes to Carr, who recruited so erratically, Andy Moeller, who was the line coach, Rodriguez, who has no family values, and whoever was identifying linemen to go after. To me this list goes “miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, Schilling maybe, miss, miss, miss, miss, guys Moeller couldn’t destroy.”
…and in the position’s post-mortem, gave a positive review to all of one guy on the entire unit: redshirt freshman David Molk. That’s the same David Molk who will be your 5th year senior, 4th year starting center this year. The other guy who showed promise on the field in ’08: Huyge, who four years later (and with no discernible regression) is projected to be either our worst offensive lineman, or backup to a hyped redshirt sophomore whose time has come.
Molk and Huyge were the first two guys recruited when Carr took us to zone blocking. Molk especially turned out to be great at using his agility to open up the Spread ‘n Shred. He has come a long way from the time Penn State linemen were picking him up and depositing him in the backfield. Huyge at tackle has been just a guy. To them have been added Omameh, who struggled inside at times as a redshirt sophomore but has a true knack for knocking defenders’ heads together on the 2nd level; and Taylor Lewan, now entering his (RS) sophomore season, who claims to be a clone of Jake Long and just might be. Ricky Barnum, who saw some playing time last year, is probably the guy who most looks like a typical Hoke blocker, but his recruiting pedigree said agility. The staff kept after Rod’s similar recruits. Guys, I don’t think this is becoming the Wisconsin line, or at least it isn’t this year.
The Wisconsin game last year might be instructive, since RR ran a more “nose to nose” blocking. If you’ve suppressed that game from memory, here’s how the blocking turned out:
|Huyge||2.5||0||2.5||Run game seemed to tilt the other way.|
|Molk||7||1||6||No reaches but some good blocks otherwise.|
|Omameh||10.5||3||7.5||Surprisingly the focus of the run game. Executed a lot of grinding double teams.|
|Koger||2||2||0||Also the usual.|
|TOTAL||33.5||23||20.5||Solid blocking day.|
You can open your eyes now. Look up…yeah, see? “Solid blocking day.” The worst guy was Dorrestein, who’s now gone. Lewan didn’t play, and this we said was bad. Note Omameh’s “executed a lot of grinding double teams” and Molk’s “7-1-6” day without any of his signature reaches.
Denard Isn’t Built for This Offense
The tea leaves (important: at this point all we have to go on is tea leaves, which are nearer in predictive accuracy to banana peels than facts) suggest the plan to deploy Denard is something between Frank Beamer’s use of Michael Vick, and “run around and stuff.” The upside might be something akin to 2006 Ohio State, when diminutive Troy Smith won the Heisman on lucky, back-shoulder tosses to guys better than Junior Hemingway but not that much better. Among the weaker points in Denard’s game:
- Accuracy? I went back to the formula I used for Data-Mining the HenneChart, an early 2009 “Wow Tate” piece that might give some perspective. I didn’t want to go over the whole thing again, but I plugged Denard’s 2010 season through Wisconsin (last game UFR-ed) and tried to pull some useful things out of it. Results:
Per 100 Attempts:
|Quarterback (Year)||Dead-On||Catchable||Marginal||Incomplete||Bad Read|
Sorry I didn’t include 2009 – I only have partial info for that. The star is because Brian didn’t chart marginals before 2008. The thing to notice is that out of 100 throws, the Incompletes for Denard were really low – closer to Henne’s best year. Those are given out for winging uncatchable passes. Also the bad reads are spectacularly low, almost as good as Henne’s senior year. At this point, however, you are screaming at me because “threw two steps behind his receivers in end-zone to cue Day of the Jugalos.” From that UFR:
That success rate has to be wrong.
It's not wrong, it just doesn't weight passes based on how damaging the particular inaccurate ball is. Against MSU, Denard threw the following balls not to his receiver:
- Endzone interception #1 on route Roundtree had two steps on. [Zero points]
- Wide open Stonum on fly route about 20 yards downfield that's airmailed. [Three points]
- Hitch to Odoms on second and nine from the 11 that would have been first and goal. [Zero points]
- Endzone interception #2 on slant that Hemingway was open on. [Zero points]
- Covered slant zinged over Grady [Zero points]
- Bubble too far in front of Roundtree. [Seven points]
- Other interception on route where Grady had plenty of room to the inside of the field but the ball was way, way too far outside, allowing sinking corner to react and intercept. [Zero points]
How big of a deal is it to throw a bubble screen a step in front of a receiver? One unit of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw a makeable 20 yard touchdown over someone's head on third and three? Two, three units of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw endzone interceptions when you have open receivers? Five units of big deal.
The reason the rate is the rate is because a bad pass is a bad pass; in reviewing a performance we're trying to strip out the emotion from the game and use it as a predictive measure. If Robinson had thrown those balls out of the endzone instead of behind the receivers Michigan would have had maybe seven more points but the QB play would have been equivalent.
- So continuing with this bullet, there isn’t evidence that Denard is inaccurate. On the contrary, he’s among the most accurate passers we have had in the UFR era. I would suggest that fear of Denard’s legs make his reads a lot easier, but then again, they’re his legs. When I run the rest of the metrics from ‘Data-Mining’ Denard jumps out as Michigan’s best passing quarterback by far, with attempts comparable to a full Henne year. That threat isn’t taken away unless Borges trains him to sit in the pocket with timer like Henne – and no, he’s not going to do that.
- Scrambling. Through Wisconsin Denard had four charted scrambles. Most of the time he kept the play alive and looked downfield. Often this led to bouts of, to paraphrase something I’m sure Brian wrote, “Run! Run! Run Damn You!” [Faerie Magic] “YAY!” It’s hard to complain too much when this ends with Junior Hemingway dipsying around four Illinois defenders at the sideline for an unlikely touchdown, but maddening nonetheless. Perhaps if he’s not counted on to run the ball as much, plus with another year of experience, Denard will take greater advantage of his speed when the holes are there.
- Size. Yes. I ended up talking myself out of the first two pretty handily but that ends here. This is Denard’s problem, and it will be more of Denard’s problem in a West Coast offense, because he starts his sidearm-y throws a good foot below where the tropospheric statues of yore released the ball. This is why passes zinged over wide open Stonum 20 yards downfield when pressure broke through. It’s also probably why Robinson’s dilithium seemed to get diluted later in the year, as his small frame took pounding after pounding. He’s a tough sonofabitch, but also took a lot of shots to his throwing shoulder from other tough sonsofbitches.
The Receivers Are Too Small
A few years ago, I suggested Rodriguez’s secret plot to develop a vertical game. A lot of attrition followed, but then were replaced by plenty of targets, meaning whatever Rich Rod was up to, he didn’t just stock the cupboard, but filled an entire larder. The concern, of course, is that he stocked it with lots of smurfs on jetpacks, or slot ninjas, or midgets on rollerskates, or pick your trochee-containing metaphor. Let me show you something:
The right side is Michigan’s projected 2011 depth chart:
As for the left side, it’s the Top 13 receivers in FCS last year by total yards:
|6'1||207||Greg Salas, Hawaii|
|6'1||205||Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.|
|5'11||183||Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma|
|6'4||233||Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina|
|6'1||215||Jordan White, Western Mich.|
|6'0||195||Vincent Brown, San Diego St.|
|5'11||205||Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii|
|5'10||178||Aldrick Robinson, SMU|
|6'4||210||Juron Criner, Arizona|
|6'2||205||DeMarco Sampson, San Diego St.|
|5'11||170||Titus Young, Boise St.|
|6'3||205||Leonard Hankerson, Miami (FL)|
|5'10||186||Cody Wilson, Central Mich.|
They’re a bit bigger and taller than our depth chart, especially as you get lower, but remember most of them are upperclassmen, and they were the most productive receivers in the game – our freshmen and their 2010 weights shouldn’t even be that close. And in case you’re wondering if these guys are the results of wily Air Raid systems, two I’ve highlighted played for Brady Hoke and Al Borges at S.D. State last year, and might as well have been less heralded versions of Stonum and Hemingway (except smaller, and not as fast, and against WAC corners).
The tall guys like Jackson, Ricardo Miller and Hemingway should do just fine. As for the tweeners -Stonum, Roundtree, Stokes, D.J. Williamson and J.Robinson – they’re certainly within the size range of successful NCAA receivers at any school.
Among our roster players, only the bugs recruited for slot ninja will lose some value because they “don’t fit the scheme.” That means Gallon, Dileo, Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson won’t be as effective in an offense not designed to get them in space, unless, say Gallon, can become the kind of deep threat that forces corners into giving ground for the West Coast’s beloved stop and out routes (Grady and Robinson probably are what they are now). Odoms could be in that group too, but his effectiveness last year as an outside receiver makes me think he can thrive as that rare small guy (obvious analogue not mentioned due to Ohio State connection) in a red light/green light possession role – his downfield blocking is an unquestionable asset.
All told, this looks like a great offense no matter the scheme. Obviously they’re used to the spread ’n shred, but it’s not like taking Northwestern and suddenly asking them to play Bielema Ball. This is the opposite of 2008: If they can’t score next year, it’s on the coaching staff.
The good folks are still coming out of their holes after the site attack: there are four over the last two weeks and they’re all still on the sidebar, and as I’m writing this I’ve already missed most of a half of the Superbowl. Read all of them. I’m going to roll those into the next one for “of the week” purposes.
See You in Washington, Mr. President.
Congratulations on your Superbowl ring, Heisman Winner, Champion, Wolverine.
[Snare-Tom!] WEEEEEEEEEE WEEEEOOOOOOO WEEEEOOOOOOoooooh
Once upon a time you said our team looked fine.
We'd score points on dime with Denard in his prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, we're bound to fall."
You thought they were all kiddin' you?
We used to laugh about, the very concept of Hoke bailing us out.
Now we don't talk so loud. Now we don't seem so proud,
About having to be scrounging around, for our next meal.
How Does It Feel?
When last we met, it was January 9, Rich Rodriguez had been let go, Harbaugh was off to the NFL, and we were left hoping for one of those things like when the AD gets back from a sailing trip to pilfer a man who'd turned down Alabama. Those of us who never really clean out our Bookmarks found the link to Flight Tracker right where we left it and started doing the digital stalker thing. Two days later, Michigan named Brady Hoke the 19th head coach of the Michigan Wolverines varsity football team. Nobody quite knew how to process this hire, especially the kind of folks who frequent this place, so I guess everyone's therapists suggested catharsis by Diary. Below is a sampling of some of the different types of responses. They're ordered in my opinion of their usefulness (this is a matter of taste), and in all cases, the diaries are better than my portraits of them.
Things of General Use:
If you're picky about your diary content, these are the ones you might like.
- "How do I ever explain the Hoke hire to my kids?" by bronxblue
- "I'd like a short review of every game Hoke has coached against a BCS team ever kthx," by CRex
- "Let's have a levelheaded review of the upsides and downsides of Hoke hire," by OregonWolverine
"I wonder what Hunter S. Thompson would say about all this?" by jhackney (plus I loved the Hokemania pic:
- "This isn't about us, but about people like the proprietor of Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork, a sidewalk t-shirt vendor, and MGoBlog's server," by bronxblue
- "When RR games were bad, they were historically, epically bad," by Brady2Terrell
- "Now's a good time to revisit this blog's original take on the RR hire," by stubob
Shared Thought Loops:
There were plenty more where these came from. They're conversation starters. Click if you agree, or if you disagree and need to say so in the comments.
- "Let's give Brady a big Michigan hug because families stick together you guys," by MrWoodson
- "Changing coaches like underwear is okay because everyone but Mack Brown wins in their first 4 years anyway," by Wereverine
please kthx," by 3rdGenerationBlue
- "I'm sorry – I can't get that excited over this Hoke guy, but I'm rootin' nonetheless," by OregonWolverine
- "This diary really isn't about why we should have hired Bob Stoops," by ish
- "All we are sayin', is give Hoke a chance. All we are saaaaayin'…," by Lordfoul
- "Here's four really trite reasons to be cool with this hire. And in college football, trite works," by michiganfanforlife
- "Brandon et al. are probably better at this than we are," by JeepinBen
- "We tried change, and it sucked, but a return to the norm is a return to mediocrity," by Big Bird
- "The Hoke hire makes a lot of sense, if Dave Brandon was in a frat," by sammylittle
- "It wasn't going to happen under Rich Rod anyway," by Blazefire
Someone Had to Say It:
Forget analysis entirely, and go with your gut feeling. Your gut is saying:
"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
by Flyin' Blue
." by THE_KNOWLEDGE
- "FUDGE! FUdge clock asp Fuuuuu balls ship cocker spaniel dam asp hit bite hole fockahhackaloogie Shrew Darp Fudge!" by BlueSeoul
So ends Post-Bo-Era Coaching Search II. If you want a recap of how emo things got, due51 took a canvas of headlines. To summarize the consensus view, Rich Rodriguez's offenses were great but his defenses were doom-worthy. As for Coach Hoke, he's not the glamour hire that brings the kind of recruiting windfall that accompanies such folk, but he's a good cushion for the parts that were rubbed raw the last few years. My guess is it's a long way to Oxford Town from here. For 2011 benchmarks, I say "Blowin' in the Wind," but West Texas Blue thinks it's more like Notre Dame 2010 and 8-5.
Hope That the Roof Stays On
Hoke takes over a program that was just two wins behind that Rich Rod inherited, and is probably in much better shape for talent, though much further from competing.
By the end of this year you were probably (not) saying to yourself "W.T.F.W.C.W.T.A.T.Y.?" I know, right, what the F, why couldn't we tackle anybody this year? Well, maizeandconfused has the answers in this Diary of the Week-winning look at every tackle attempt made by a Wolverine in 2010. Skipping to the efficiency chart:
FTR, this is bad. Read the man's diary, and give him a medal while you're at it for suffering through the worst defense in Michigan history to bring this to you. Only bad thing I can say about it is he uses "gritty" for Vinopal without mentioning David Eckstein.
Also in Reasons Why 2010 Can Bite Me: Special Teams. This is why msoccer10* is so happy we have a special teams coach now. So is justingoblue, who found some numbers for new Michigan ST coach Dan Ferrigno dating back to 1999 with Cal.
* in case you asked: No. 10 on Michigan's men's soccer team is Fabio Pereira Villas Boas, a freshman midfielder from Brazil. For the ladies it's Meaghan Hennessey. I have no idea if that's what he's referencing.
The good folk of the MGoBlogosphere have also started getting into the new offense, with eyes of course fixated on Denard and whether Borges will be able to properly deploy our new weapon of mass dilithium. Auburn blog Wardamntailgate.com did a 2004 review of the Borges offense shared by snoopblue. Resident coach steve sharik says he doubts we'll be a spread option offense, for about (one third of) the same reason Rich Rodriguez didn't run a pro-style offense in 2008.
Gonna Change My Way of Thinking
Who was that guy who was sneaking into Michigan Stadium every night for a year and practicing in the bare hopes of one day being part of the Michigan football team? This guy, right here:
If you think you love Michigan football, you've got nothing on backup (to the backup to the backup) quarterback Jack Kennedy. Walk-ons often have stories of bewildering allegiance to their teams but having snuck into Michigan Stadium a few times in my day I know a.) how not easy this is, and b.) how cool it must feel. Sharing a name with a president is now the second-coolest thing you know about Kennedy.
Meanwhile, that moment when (again) it seemed like Les Miles was the money bet for Michigan's head coach elicited a couple treatises on over-signing in FBS. The first, from remdies, is a pretty good rundown of the ethical problem it creates. The second, from mejunglechop investigates whether this can be applied to LSU under Miles. Answer is yes.
Oh, and I feel bad for putting this way down here… Wait…I know..
Hoops fans – stop scrolling & look here!
Average Star Ranking by Year
DeuceInTheDeuce gave Beilein a job performance evaluation based on three criteria:
- Academic progress rate
The conclusion: keep him.
In etc., erik_t thinks there's evidence that the layoff makes bowl games sloppy in the first quarter (reason for playoff? /Wetzel). BeileinBuddy tries to construct a Big Ten hockey conference. And MGoBorracho is even more obsessed with the Alaska-Fairbanks Space Bear than you are. Unfortunately he's not the most obsessed person in the world with Ice Bear; that honor goes to 2-and-a-half-year-old Isabella May of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has apparently asked daddy to play that video on YouTube 11,847 times. Congratulations Isabella; this one's for you:
Other Guys Quoting Bob Dylan This Week:
What happens when you leave Dylan's collected works on random play while writing a dear diary:
: Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all of your thoughts. Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissinger’s got you tied up in knots. When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up? When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?
: Well, I’m tired of talking, I’m tired of trying to explain. My attempts to please you were all in vain. Tomorrow night before the sun goes down, if I’m still among the living, I’ll be Dixie bound. I just don’t know what I’m gonna do. I was all right ’til I fell in love with you.
: I hate myself for lovin’ you and the weakness that it showed. You were just a painted face on a trip down Suicide Road. The stage was set, the lights went out all around the old hotel. I hate myself for lovin’ you and I’m glad the curtain fell.
: While some on principles baptized, to strict party platform ties, social clubs in drag disguise, outsiders they can freely criticize, tell nothing except who to idolize, and then say God bless him (except, actually, the opposite of that).
: You say you’re lookin’ for someone who will promise never to part, someone to close his eyes for you, someone to close his heart. Someone who will die for you an’ more. But it ain’t me, babe. No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.
: Look out kid, they keep it all hid. Better jump down a manhole, light yourself a candle. Don’t wear sandals. Try to avoid the scandals. Don’t wanna be a bum. You better chew gum. The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles.
I know you're here today to find out who Michigan's next coach will be. I don't know. This is mostly eulogizing the last guy.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Ohio State game, I left Craig James and rivalry week results on the flickering telly and moved to my computer to post one of my first-ever diaries, a short train of thought called "Cue the Coping Mechanisms." The relevant pieces:
Now is the time for coping mechanisms. If you have the ability to cry, take this opportunity to lock yourself in a closet with your favorite Sheridan throwing chart and let it all out. If you're more Type A, head to the gym and repeat "3 AND 9" until you break your max rate.
Or if you're like me, find the woman you love, sit her down, and see how long you can try to explain why this losing won't be permanent before her level of really not caring or understanding what the hell you're talking about overpowers her concern for your mental health.
Probably because Misopogal and I bought the DVD of Across the Universe the night before, the whole time I was writing that, other than utter despair, my internal DJ was filling my head with "Strawberry Fields Forever."
The fields: Ohio Stadium. The bleeding strawberries: Ohio State's uniforms and the smeared and splattered plasma of once great Michigan left twitching amongst a five-year losing streak that seemed, at the time, destined to go to at least six.
We knew there was something terrible going on the world, where George Lucas could ruin Star Wars, where Henne and Hart could graduate without beating Ohio State, where a man from the land of Yost with Crisler's offense and Bo's will was greeted by the establishment of our side with contempt and disdain for not having the transitional loyalty of Kipke, or the eloquence, affability, and talent of Lloyd Carr. 2008 had ended 3-9, and somewhere Mike Valenti was giddily preparing for months of grave-stomping, and somewhere Drew Sharp was rubbing his hands at the glorious opportunity it provided to piss good people off.
At least there was solace:
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.
It's just sports, right? Everyone's alive. Everyone has their health. Except that doesn't work, because in 2008 I felt real despair, and in 2009 I felt real disappointment, and in 2010 I felt real shame, and a quick glance at my browser history will make the panic of 2011 immediately apparent. So if we are to get hung about this stuff, it'd be well to have some justification. The best I've heard yet is the following, from Brian's masterful eulogy of Bo/preview of the most important Michigan game ever:
And then you try to figure out why the stakes are so high in the first place. Why this entire week you haven't been able to concentrate on anything by war by proxy. Fake war by proxy. Meaningless war by proxy. You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area. It's ridiculous. Intelligent people do not spend a goodly swath of their life pouring emotion and precious time into a contest that affects no one and changes nothing except some inky scribbles in media guides.
You wonder why. It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?
The answer seems clear.
Now the man who took that rudderless program and gave it -- gave you -- all the things you like and don't like is dead. In 1969, it all started with a victory over #1 Ohio State.
…and ended with a loss to it. I posit that sports is not just war by proxy, but also politics by proxy, and value judgment by proxy, a binary system to serve as metaphor for any argument which in life is never resolved to any one side's satisfaction. A Michigan football game is won or lost. A recruit commits or doesn't. A coach is fired or retained, hired or left to pursue other opportunities.
In that battle, the aforementioned traits held dear – loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory – were defeated on the strawberry fields of Columbus, and Pasadena, and finally brought home in the twin horrors of early 2007. Those traits, adopted from Bo to represent the conference, were too drowned amidst the raucous choruses of "S-E-C."
That year went out with Lloyd carried upon the shoulders of star receivers and forgettable trenchmen, followed by a first overall NFL draft pick, and Robo QB, and led by a running back who was more Jamie Morris than Jamie Morris. But the most lasting image of 2007, in my mind, is neither the exeunt nor the scoreboard of the Horror, but a cold, sleeting day in Michigan Stadium when Henne's shoulder and Mike Hart's ankle and justice itself abandoned us, and Tressel Corp. made it four.
The years since have seen the rewarding of the villainous. It witnessed the rise of the Alabama and the SEC, a school and conference predicated on the concept of professionalizing college football, and witnessed the apogee of USC, the unapologetic Hollywood party. And it witnessed the continuing reign of Ohio State.
To view Michigan as the paragon of collegiate virtue is so much sanctimonious bunk, but to discount it entirely is to ignore sport's appeal as argument by proxy. This is what we believe about ourselves, why probation for a clerical error is a big deal here while Buckeyes can drive around in "borrowed" vehicles for a decade before someone bats an eyebrow, and schools, conferences, bowls and NCAA officials can excuse anything short of murder by its moneymakers to protect a BCS bowl and a Heisman run.
Right or wrong, we look at a Spartan and wonder how they can claim association with Dantonio without the shame. Our credulity is sincere when a Bama fan defends Saban's blatant ethical violations. We wonder how Ohioans can tune into the Sugar Bowl knowing most of their own conference is rooting against them, or at least that we see little difference between a Buckeye and the conference that's given them their widely publicized fits.
It's real because we make it so. And so, it follows, are the expectations of our head coach. Many of us naively believed that the Rodriguez hire was a chance for a new Bo to redefine Michigan in his own image and traits, some familiar, others not: honesty, hard work, openness, building a greater whole through the sum of specified parts. We saw ourselves beaten by Wildcats and Ducks and worse, and said "howcome we don't get one of those guys?" Well we got one of those guys, and we ran him out of town.
Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see..
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me.
So if you don't really think about what's going on in college football, if you take your platitudes with your visuals of man-beasts rumbling up and down a televised rectangle of gridded turf, then this is fine. The local papers, the talking heads, much of the fanbase, living easy with eyes closed, will bring up the values instilled by Bo, describe how Rodriguez didn't measure up, and conclude a "Michigan Man" is required to coach Michigan. This is a script, and it is misleading, for it supposes that the first three values of Bo – loyalty, honesty, tradition – were RR's greatest transgressions. That's because they're writing for a fanbase that believes our program, unlike the field, cares as much about that trio as for the fourth, victory.
Rich Rod was fired for two reasons: he didn't win, and Michigan fans were irreparably split over him. The first is mostly on him, but since he only had three years to accomplish a dramatic shift, it's not absolute. Most of the fault can be found in his handling of the defense, which fell far below even our modest expectations from '07. Shafer's apparent resurgence as a viable DC, and GERG's obvious inadequacies and unfamiliarity with the 3-3-5 put the defense in this position. To that you can add recruiting, which RR used his short '08 recruiting time to bring in a fine offensive class but merely held onto some Lloyd defenders. The defense he inherited was short on underclassmen and in desperate need of new blood and player development; instead we witnessed upperclassmen making freshmen mistakes and freshmen put in position to fail.
The split in the fanbase comes back to the winning – put it this way: Spartan fans aren't enamored with Dantonio because he's a good person, ye kennit? But this was also stoked by local media. Most notoriously, the Free Press published a total hit job that led to NCAA "major violations" that will never be severed from the Legend of Rich Rodriguez. Perhaps exoneration is in the future (probably when he turns whichever school hires him into a national power in four years); then again, "Remember the Maine…" remained a rallying cry against Spanish atrocities for half a century.
Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder can take personal responsibility for a part of Rich Rodriguez's failure, and by accounts of facial expressions and the atmosphere at Dave Brandon's press conference/execution, at the end they did. The investigation and sanctions created a cloud that hung over recruiting and the program. How big a cloud is difficult to say. What's fair to say is that it would be hard to find a coach given less of a benefit of the doubt from Year 1 by the prevailing local media than Rich Rodriguez. Rosenberg may have disliked the hick from West Virginia from the start, but really it was going 3-9 in 2008 that opened the door. Forget the early snafus over the No. 1 jersey and team captains – if you take away the practice scandal that has made Rosenberg, onetime alum, a disgrace to my profession and enemy to the University of Michigan, it was about the wins; it was always about the wins.
No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.
It's December 2008 and I can't wait for it to be 2011, because that's when Rich Rod would finally have a few upperclassmen on the two deep, and the prospect of getting better for a third year in a row would be enough to get some of the glibslingers to back off. But Craig James is still talking. Michigan State has forward momentum. Ohio State has consolidated its evil grip on the galaxy and unleashed its most monstrous creation, an erstwhile Jedi named Terrelle Vader.
In retrospect, we knew Anakin Pryor had some inclinations toward the dark side – driving a car borrowed from a Columbus dealership to Jeanettte, murdering younglings (but everybody murders), etc. Truth be told, the Emperor must have been rather disappointed with young Vader's inability to live up to his lofty expectations, that he would turn out to have serious personality problems, his loyalty to the Empire only going so far as the power and notoriety it brought him. In what was meant to be his great coming out party, the young Sith lord went and got his arms and legs chopped off and his torso burned. The Emperor would thereafter deploy his great weapon in a debilitating suit; keeping up the pretense that the guy is anything but evil would be all but impossible.
Still, for the duration of Vader's career, the Jedi came out far worse.
It's hard to find a more appropriate metaphor for the opposite directions taken by Michigan and Ohio State since Pryor's late decision day than Pryor himself. The unlikeable quarterback did finally exorcise the demon of SEC dominance over the perennial Big Ten Champion, but only after the NCAA passed down an utterly indefensible decision to let Pryor and a who's who of his hyped classmates defer their suspensions until next season. In typical fashion, Senator Tressel offered promises from Pryor and his teammates that they would come back next season to accept their punishment.
Meanwhile, Michigan left one of its most important players, Tate Forcier, at home for a bowl game about as important to the Rich Rodriguez project as any game prior, because of grades. That would hardly have fixed the entirely theoretical defensive effort, but it's emblematic of decisions consistent with the expectations of the Michigan fanbase. There are very few schools in our tree. Stanford is one, which was a big reason Harbaugh's success there had Michigan fans looking wistfully westward. Others are BYU, Notre Dame, and Penn State. That's not a conclusive list, but it does make a coaching search at Michigan exponentially more difficult, since outside of a small and shrinking minority of schools, which side of the force you use – unless it results in suspensions/violations – isn't a big deal.
Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know when it's a dream.
I think I know I mean a 'Yes' but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree.
When "Strawberry Fields Forever" was recorded in '66, it prefaced the most visible shift in the Beatles' musical direction, the unveiling of Tate before the Sgt. Pepper's of Denard. It was also pre-"Revolution" adjuration from John to the Great Society/Lord Wilson establishment that the young and liberal were moving away from their patronizing Democrat/Labor leaders.
Two years later the split was a fait accompli, or mostly. The potential for reunification came in the guise of Robert Kennedy, the right hand man of the last unifying figure, credible to both the elder and younger factions of the party. For years the spectre of Bobby was a kind of increasingly valued insurance policy should LBJ go sour. Then they killed Bobby.
What followed was a mess of a convention, a one-side-pleasing candidate, and Nixon. If you're an RR-hater smile now because if you take the analogy to its logical conclusion, Rodriguez is probably LBJ and the spread transition is the Vietnam War. I make no such assertion, mostly because I don't believe it one bit. What I do believe is that Michigan, internally and externally, has been functioning for the last several years with a mindset of "if Rich doesn't make it, at least we have Jim." This might even have been entirely true until last week, when the blood was spattered.
Absent Harbaugh, we're now thrown into a '68 scenario in one of the most critical times in our program's history, with only a vague hope of emerging with a candidate who can reverse the decade of the damned. Our best shot to unseat Ohio State in 2011 was the baby tossed with the bathwater of Rodriguez, and even a best-case scenario imagines Michigan just a middle of the conference team next year, with another exodus-enabled 3-9 the floor. The only way this isn't another rebuild is if they find a spread guy who's better than Rich Rodriguez (unlikely) and a defensive staff that can work miracles. Whatever name next comes out of Dave Brandon's lips, he'll at least be the first Michigan coach since 2008 to hit the trail without the cloud of "will he be here?" I wish I could say that Michigan gives you four years out of hand, but that's obviously no longer true. Among the plausible, I'm personally rooting for Tom Bradley, provided he agrees to a "no return" clause in his policy. If it's Les Miles, I'll do my best not to Rosenberg him until something more real than 20 minutes of practice materializes; FTR I'm not sure I like the combination of a man who weekly plays the Devil's odds and Michigan's consistently terrible luck.
Meanwhile, it's 321 days until the counter either goes to eight in a row, or I release the most jubilant noise in human history (yes, over the outcome of a sporting event!). Given the tenor of all things recently, you can forgive me if my expectations are more Strawberry Fields forever.
The diaries after the jump.