and... i like them? I think I like them.
Note: During the season I plan to post this kind of stuff on Tuesdays but since Aug. 30 set a new MGoRecord for total words on the front page, I waited.
On Monday Brian posted the secondary preview for 2011. It had its share of woe, and the "Never Forget" poster again. But among the now-usual fits of "this can't go well" at FS, tiptoeing around Kovacs's Ecksteininess, and general radioactive fallout from when having a pulse put you on the cornerback 2-deep, there were things that are not so familiar: a capable senior cornerback rescued from a bunker, returning starters, a few guys here and there playing positions that suited them.
Attrition was hell (see: Google doc) but the unit has begun the slow climb back:
|Team||Recruited||Diff v '09||Retention||Diff v '09|
The retention % is that of total defensive recruits '07-'11 still on the roster. Under two thirds is still bad but it's not worse than a team which signs five guys for every four available scholarships, like it used to be. Also when I first did this Michigan had lost 2 of 5 guys from a starting position more like Penn State. We needed dudes. As the secondary depth chart says, we now have dudes.
That's not to say everything's hunky dory in Hiroshima '46. Most of the casualties were upperclassmen and Michigan's more highly rated players.
|Team||Best 22||Best 22 left||Diff.|
I'll explain what these are in a second but you're meant to read it thus: imagine the two-deep of each team is made up of all upperclassmen with the above rivals ratings. So attrition has taken Alabama from a team full of Top 100 guys to a team of Top 250 players.
This is my attempt at taking the noise out and looking just at how much performance loss is caused just by attrition itself. It's a hack combination of Rivals Rating with the value of underclassmen adjusted down so that a 6.1 (5-star) is worth 5.7 (= a high three star) as a freshman, 5.9 as a sophomore, 6.0 as a junior, his full ranking thereafter, and on down. Then I just took the highest 22 scores for each team before and after attrition. It's a cheap formula that rates a player 80% by his rivals rating and the rest on account of his age but the image at right shows the concept works: the higher up the depth chart, the higher the ratings.
The thwack that Michigan took is more visible when you look at it from a depth chart perspective:
Click that to get it readable if you can't see it all from a glance. Also note the scales are a bit off; Bama goes up to 6.1 but OSU and ND stop at 6.0, PSU and MSU at 5.9. The visual here is you want your secondary color (attrition) to the left (see the devastation wrought on Bama 3-stars) and your starters to the right.
Bama took some big hits to its 4-stars but retains the highest value among starters. Michigan meanwhile seems like we were facing that guy with the unlimited airstrikes hell bent on killing any worm named "Safety*".
The result is a two-deep that doesn't really have options until the 3-star level whereas the other guys only have a few odd dudes who weren't heavily recruited on the field:
(Again, click = big). That's not…terrible. Given the players who've made it far enough to likely see the field, even with all the attrition Michigan could be expected to field a defense not so different from that of MSU, who should be…okay. Okay is better than we're predicting now. Then again, don't confuse this year's young MSU defense with last year's Greg Jones-inclusive defense:
Yes that's Michigan (demonstrating perfect pad level) with more 5th year seniors than anybody save Penn State, whose starting 11 have been around long enough to remember when their coach built the pyramids. And that's MSU starting a lot of sophomores and true freshmen. Bama, OSU and ND are mostly upperclassmen (ND is weird about redshirting still). Michigan leans much more sophomoric. This is a huge improvement from last year when the seniors were few and the freshmen were legion. Young means high variance—some days may go very well, others very not well.
..and there's the cheap flight. You can't blame Kovacs; I took out the walk-ons for this specifically because his walk-on-iness isn't the glaring problem. Sophomore 3-stars are. Now guess where Michigan was hit the hardest by attrition?
That shows the sum total of the projected value of middle-3 stars (5.6 to rivals) and higher recruited for each position. The primary color bits are the guys who are still around; the maize those who are gone. The Ohio Bobcats' colors are green and peach I think.
Unlike some other peoples' versions, my N.F. poster has Cullen and Vinopal on it!
Did we learn anything here, other than that you can print a chart to pdf in excel? Well yeah: attrition was a great big nuclear blast that will take years to recover from. Even if the talent on hand doesn't regress or get hurt, thus exposing further weaknesses, the starting point for this Michigan defense is that of a Same old Spartans unit.
Blame is a bit less easy to assign, though some of the flameouts and underclassman transfers in '09-'10 were either directly or indirectly pinnable on the old staff.** Two years of recruiting after bad years (2008 didn't seem to have the same effect) and some resulting recruiting holes at MLB and WDE make any climb back among elite D's a long-term project—probably not until 2015.
Yet there is hope all over the place, thanks to there being dudes. To some degree players retain most of the traits that went into their rating (Jordan Kovacs can't develop into Marcus Ray), but there will always be 3-stars who grow into defenders more than capable of playing, as Hoke/Mattison call it, "Michigan defense." The chances that 2/3 of Christian/Talbott/ Avery would be capable last year of said 'Michigan defense' was near nil. The chances that one or two decent players emerge opposite T-Woolf among five 3- and 4-star-ish freshmen, two 3-star sophomores and a 5th year walk-on is much higher. Eight shots in the dark (several after practice shots) are better than three.
And next year more dudes arrive. Hugely hyped, turned-down-offers-from-all-of-the-above dudes at defensive end and middle linebacker, and a smattering of the same at the other spots so that 2014 gets a nice selection (MOAR DTs please, kthx).
And though the odds be against us, you never know: Michigan could not have its best two defensive players knocked out by injury this year. Maybe (a planetary version of) Heininger or Brink will be the next Kovacs. Maybe Greg Mattison is a wonderful teacher who, like Pelini in '08 and Dantonio in '07, gets a few lights to go on from previously unheard of sources.
* Pro Tip: Don't name your worms for Michigan Heisman winners unless you want your MSU alum opponents to gang up on you (as if Desmond hasn't had enough harassment from that ilk!)
** Things you can blame on RR & Co.: 1) Not getting enough interior linemen after the two soft guys flipped in '09, 2) Recruiting four guys (Witty, Dorsey, D.Rogers, and Kinard) who couldn't get past the NCAA Clearinghouse or M's higher standards, 3) sucking so hard that by the Class of '11 the top regional recruits were looking elsewhere, and 4) A string of the worst LB coaches in M history and a manic concept of positional switching so that the guys on hand were hardly given opportunity to improve at any one position in one defense.
The Spring Roster has been updated again. It still doesn't list new weights so I'm not going to bother with Weight Gain 2011 for now, but it's excuse enough for me to do a little delving. First, a couple of tidbits:
- Jihad Rasheed!
- Ricardo Miller is listed as a TE (and 6'4, 215). As with all things Ricardo-related, please mentally insert "Ninja." Too early for YMRMFSPA Tim Massaquoi? Yes.
- There are still 12 scholarship players still listed at receiver.
- Mike Williams is no longer on the roster. As expected, the concussion last year ended a disappointing career for a by accounts good guy. I hope he finds success in life after football, and that his dreams aren't too haunted by visions of 11 foot tall robot Juice Williams.
- Safety watch: M-Rob, Furman, Hawthorne, Carvin, Prison Abs, and Kovacs are your scholarship players listed as "S."
- Heininger back on the 2-Deep: It's a good thing we're recruiting defensive ends. RVB and Roh are the only scholarship upperclassmen on the roster; Jibreel Black is the only other schollied-player listed. Wilkins, Talbott the Elder, and Ash are listed as DTs; Jake Ryan and Paskorz are LBs. Since Steve Watson is back at TE, at least one and most likely two of the freshmen Beyer, Rock or Heitzman will need to play this year. If Roh or RVB miss any extended time, file the transfer of Anthony LaLota as a greater-than-zero bad thing.
- Marell Evans is officially back and wearing his old No. 9. Evans was a 2- or 3-star linebacker recruit in Lloyd's "oh god we need LBs and DBs" class of 2007, and started a few games as a redshirt freshman in '08 in a Ray Vinopal-is-your-starting-FS kind of way before falling behind Thompson, Ezeh and Mouton. He transferred the summer before the 2009 season on "good terms" but left pointing out he had three DCs from '07-'09 and didn't fit with GERG's system. Marell rather quietly returned to the program this winter (not because Rich Rod's gone) and is listed as a 5th year senior.
- Nobody minded the decision at the time, but in retrospect the decision to make Shafer the goat after '08 rather than butt out of the defense may have been the crucible of the RR era.
- Evans:In/Vinopal:Out could be a microcosm of the dichotomy between the RR and Hoke/Lloyd regimes: one early playing 2-star is a tiny speed bug; the other is a 6'3 sure tackler who can't move laterally. This would be a good lead for a "Hoke = Return to Pre-Rod" column…if you're Lynn Henning.
- Attrition on the defensive side is still going to be hurting M's defense this year.
- Did someone say "defensive attrition?"
- Here we go again…
The Decimated Defense Revisited
Yes, I'm going there again. We have two more years of data to see how things have progressed, for one. We have a wide disparity in expectations for next year's defense, for two. And three: I now know how to use pivot tables on Excel – that would have been really helpful last time. This week I'm going to go through Michigan's 2007-2011 classses to re-establish our baseline. I'll also link you to my full list of attrition and retention in case you can add any thoughts before next week.
The Expectation Tracker is an estimate of how much the class is contributing compared to the average of five other schools for which I tracked attrition: Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Alabama. The baseline is the average number of defensive players left from that class between those five schools.
Class of 2007 (5th Year Seniors)
Attrition: 4/9 recruits remaining (Avg. retention = 4/10)
Position Breakdown (DL-LBs-DBs): 2-3-4 recruited / 1-2-1 remaining (Avg. = 1-1-2) So running count, we're up a linebacker and down a DB.
Star Breakdown: 4-3-3-2 remaining (Avg. = 4-4-4-2)
Gone: Donovan Warren (Early NFL after '09), Michael Williams (bust, injury, unrenewed 5th), Artis Chambers (transfer in '08), Renaldo Sagesse (Graduated after '10), Austin Panter (JUCO, Graduated after '08).
Walk-On: Kevin Leach (backup MLB)
Discussion: I think you would expect the 5th year class to leave a few B+ guys with a few years of starting experience. The trueborn talent probably found their ways to the NFL, either through early entry or contributing since their true freshman seasons. The 2007 class, recruited from the tail end of the "Year of Infinite Pain" and through the undefeated-till-OSU 2006 season, leaves two such players on defense: Woolfolk and Van Bergen.
Warren was the surprise "horray" commit of the year. Van Bergen was a Zettel, i.e. a 4-star who would be the highest rated player of a typical State of Michigan crop. Michigan whiffed on a lot of top players, and the fallbacks were uninspiring or worse: UCLA and Oregon had backed off from Michael Williams, so there were some red flags around him long before Juice Williams shattered him. Chambers was a 2-star early enrollee who transferred Ball State and couldn’t crack the two-deep.
Panter was a stop-gap JUCO for a scary-thin depth chart, Evans a low 3-star from Brandon Minor’s school who saw the field a few times before losing his job to Mouton in 2008; he transferred to Hampton (FCS) and was eh before returning this year. Herron was a 3-star boom-or-bust from the Shawn Crable school of athletic DEs too small to play DE. Renaldo Sagesse was a 20-year-old Canadian. Troy Woolfolk was a legacy whom the big local Texas schools didn't offer.
So if you'd asked me to predict in 2007 what that class would leave for 2011, a B+ defensive back and a B+ lineman plus some depth guys would be on the low end but still within expectations. On the other hand, for a class recruited after an 11-2 Rose Bowl season, you would expect a bit more.
Expectation Meter: 3. Baseline 4. +1 for Woolfolk, –1 for Williams, –1 for recruiting whiffs at LB and not getting some backup CBs.
Class of 2008 (Seniors, RS Juniors)
Attrition: 4/8 recruits remaining (Avg. retention = 9/12) (!)
Position Breakdown (DL-LBs-DBs): 1-4-3 recruited / 1-2-1 remaining (Avg. = 3-3-3). Running: –2 DL, +0 LB, –3 DB
Star Breakdown: 4-4-4-3 (Avg. = 4-4-4-4-4-3-3-3-2)
Remaining: J.T. Floyd (Starting CB), Mike Martin (Starting DT/NT), J.B. Fitzgerald (Backup SLB, possible starter), Kenny Demens (Starting MLB)
Walk-On: Jordan Kovacs (Starting SS)
Discussion: The meat of a starting group ideally comes from the 4th and 3rd year ranks. To compete for a Big Ten title in '11, the '08 class would preferably contribute at least four starters, one or two of them NFL-bound stars. The hybrid Lloyd/RR class was mostly Carr’s on defense; RR recruited Taylor Hill, who stepped on campus, presumably met the coeds, and took the first bus out of town. The rest were players recruited primarily by the old staff, even if some signed after an heir was announced. Bloggers clamored for more cornerbacks (and got the first wave of slot ninjas).
At points during the ensuing three years this class looked more and more like Mike Martin and disaster. The late emergence of Demens last year means we got at least one Big Ten player out of the four linebackers. Martin is fantastic, even when playing a position that doesn't best take advantage of his talents. Floyd seemed to regress before his injury in 2011, but at his best (see Ohio State 2009) he's a not-fast cornerback who survives on brains, effort and grit. When he's not his best, he misses open field tackles and gives up huge plays. Fitz will have the inside shot at the SAM linebacker position but was so bad at it last year he ended up rotating with Obi Ezeh. Cissoko's story is of the Kelly Baraka variety (kid with no prior problems who develops lots on campus) that nails any school every decade or so. Smith hung around then departed when it was clear the defense was going to be terrible until he was a senior (at which point he would have probably been really useful at the Will spot).
Expectation Meter: 3 - Guh. Baseline 9. –5 for attrition. +1 because Martin is a beast, –1 J.B. Fitz is underwhelming so far, –1 hey, while you're out there trying to convince Pryor that winning the Heisman is better than a free Corvette, could you maybe try and get us another cornerback?
Class of 2009 (Juniors, RS Sophomores)
Attrition: 6/10 recruits remaining + 2 pos. switches, so 8/10 (Avg. retention = 9/10)
Position Breakdown (DL-LBs-DBs): 3-3-4 recruited / 3-4-1 retained (Avg. = 3-3-3) Running: –2 DL, +1 LB, –5 DB (!) and (!) again!
Star Breakdown: 5-4-4-4-3-3-3-3 (Avg. = 5-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-2)
Gone: Justin Turner (transferred before '10), Vlad Emilien (transferred before '10), Anthony LaLota (transferred before '10), Adrian Witty (did not qualify)
Remaining: Will Campbell (Starting DT?), Craig Roh (Starting WDE), Mike Jones (Starting WLB?), Brandin Hawthorne (backup WLB), Isaiah Bell (backup SLB), Thomas Gordon (Backup S)
Moved from Offense: Cam Gordon (Starting WLB?), Quinton Washington (backup DT)
Discussion: The juniors are the guys expected to make the big leap close to their ultimate effectiveness. The class was kind of weak against previous Michigan classes, and really strong for teams that finish 3-9. Given this class was entirely recruited by Rodriguez's staff, the high attrition (40%) due to playing time (!), is really irksome. Two 4-star position switches add depth in the box, but three defensive back losses were not replaced. So the Class of '09 held serve on the d-line and got some linebackers, but ultimately contributed only "Prison Abs" to the secondary. Here you see the genesis of Secondary Disaster 2009-'10.
Turner, if you believe unsubstantiated rumor, turned out to be the cautionary tale of the kid who wanted to be Woodson, but without all that effort. Emilien had an injury that scared away Ohio State and made him look awful in two Spring Games, but board insiders claimed his speed was back. I have no idea if he would have helped; his own assessment was that Cam Gordon would hold down free safety for his entire Michigan career. LaLota was a project recruit who also looked bad in Spring. Witty was the DeVito twin to the Denard's Schwarzenegger, but raise your hand if you'd have taken a 2-star junior cornerback on this depth chart?
Among positives, position switcher (WR) Cam Gordon was epic bad at free safety but has the knack for hitting that could see him turn into a mean Will linebacker, which is where everyone expected him to end up, even during his recruitment. Q has come in for practice hype and wasn't awful at NT after a mid-season position switch from offensive guard. Roh is the kind of high-motor end that has been Iowa's secret weapon for years. Mike Jones was a 3-star S/OLB who generated some practice hype as an outside linebacker before losing the 2010 season to injury.
The 5-star is Big Will Campbell, who looked ineffective at NT, got moved to guard last year, and now is back to the DL as 3-tech. In a spring of precious little breakout player hype, Campbell probably leads the team in positive mentions (and leads the 3-tech battle), but that's also probably because Hoke is most often asked about the defense's lone blue chip in his break-or-bust offseason.
Thomas Gordon was somewhat effective though small at Spur, and is in the mix for free safety or backing up Kovacs. Isaiah Bell was a talented/raw DB in high school but outgrew safety and is rumored to have a bit of the Turner syndrome. Hawthorne is the opposite: his talent level is meh but he's a good roster guy and special teamer. If you think Campbell and Turner were overrated coming out of high school, there's a recruiting/scouting problem with this class; if you think it's due to bad luck or bad coaching there's plenty of that to go around. Anyway, unless maybe Roh pops this year there doesn't seem to be a star in the group. If you're looking for unsubstantiated hope for 2011, it's probably one of the low 4-star guys making that big leap, plus the standard "THIS time the new DC is going to fix all!" that we seem to get every year since Jim Hermann.
Expectation Meter: 3 - Double-Guh. Baseline 9: –1 for attrition. –4 because there are no starting DBs left. –2 Big Will disappointment thus far, +1 Roh=Crab People,*
* Giving a +1 Roh's dad is disingenuous to the mission of this exercise but don't think I didn't think of it.
Class of 2010 (Sophomores, RS Freshmen)
Attrition: 12/16 remaining (Avg. retention = 9/10)
Position Breakdown: 6-3-7 recruited / 4-2-6 retained (Avg. = 3-3-3) Running: –1 DL, +0 LB, –2 DB
Star Breakdwon: 4-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3 (Avg. = 5-4-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3)
Remaining: Cullen Christian (nickel CB), Marvin Robinson (Starting FS?), Ken Wilkens (Backup DT), Richard Ash (Backup DT), Carvin Johnson (Starting FS?), Jibreel Black (Backup SDE), Terry Talbott (Backup DT), Josh Furman (Backup S/Starting FS?), Courtney Avery (Starting CB?), Jordan Paskorz (Backup LB), Jake Ryan (LB), Terrence Talbott (Backup CB)
Discussion: By 2010 it was finally obvious to the coaching staff that warm bodies were needed at defensive back, and warm bodies were attained. This is consequently the first class where Michigan didn't match its rivals in recruiting quality; the result going into their sophomore season is two more 3-stars on the roster instead of a 5-star. The desperate staff, which by this point was recruiting with a few clouds overhead, also perhaps relaxed academic expectations, resulting in three DNQs.
The players still around are too young to grade: you'd expect a typical 4-star who eventually ends-up-being-RVB kind of guy to get some rotational playing time, but you wouldn't expect that guy to be a starter without some growing pains along way. Because of the Decimated Defense (TM) that went before them, a lot of this class got playing time when by all rights they should have been redshirting, giving us a peek at their respective abilities. However, I'm wary of judging too harshly for play by true freshmen thrown into a bad situation. Of those who changed opinions, I think M-Rob downgraded a bit from high expectations, Cullen was much worse than a 4-star cornerback should be even as a freshman, Black flashed ability as a pass rusher (caveat: major liability size-wise vs. run) and Avery didn't look like the next Leon Hall but sure looked a lot better than you'd expect of a 3-star fall arrival who was a high school QB. Conversely, Terrence Talbott looked exactly like a 3-star true freshman cornerback should look.
Expectation Meter: 11! Baseline 9: +3 for Dudes! –2 for low-rated recruits. –1 M-Rob did not play like a guy with 5-star offers, +1 Carvin Johnson showed promise, +1 Jibreel Black too, +1 Courtney Avery, –1 Cullen.
Class of 2011 (True Freshmen)
Position Breakdown: 3-4-5 / 3-4-5 (Avg. 5-3-3) Running: –3 DL, +0 LB, –1 DB
Star Breakdown: 4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3 (Avg. = 5-4-4-4-4-3-3-3-3-3-3)
Gone: Nobody – it's been two months; what do you think this is, 2008 through 2010?
Remaining: Greg Brown (CB), Raymon Taylor (CB), Blake Countess (CB), Delonte Hollowell (CB), Tamani Carter (S), Brennan Beyer (DE), Chris Rock (DE), Keith Heitzman (DE), Kellen Jones (LB), Antonio Poole (LB), Frank Clark (LB), Desmond Morgan (LB)
Discussion: With the world waiting for the axe to fall on RR, and no coach until mid-January, this class was a sunk cost. There's a few low 4-stars but if any of them end up contributing this year, that guy was either very underrated (YAY!) or something has gone horribly, Cone-is-your-starting-QB wrong (again). Since only Brown is on campus so far, there's zero rating. Michigan made up some ground on personnel with this class, but it's even less highly rated than 2010, on par with a good year for Michigan State and an NCAA infraction at other schools. This is the direct result of "The Process," specifically the part about waiting until Winter Semester of their senior years to tell prospective recruits who their coaches will be. No 5-stars, and short a 4-star as well next to comparable teams, but that's somewhat made up for by four more 3-stars than normal.
Defensive line and defensive back are still priorities to recruit beyond normal this year (if you're a DE in Ohio and you haven't received your Michigan offer yet, please contact us). The next step is lots of quality, since the last two classes really should only be expected to do a good job of producing depth and a few upperclassmen starters.
Expectation Meter: 8 Baseline 11: +1 for Dudes!, –4 for low-rated recruits.
Need the dudes: Scout via Maize&Blog
Attrition Total: 40/57 = 70.17% of D recruits still here
I mean: Horray, we're over 10 clicks higher than the Alabama-like losses that haunted 2009 and 2010. Then again, what did we lose?
Star Breakdown Total:
- 5 Stars: 1/2
- 4 Stars: 14/23
- 3 Stars: 24/29
- 2 Stars: 2/3
Gawddammit! M retention versus the field:
- 5 Stars: 1/2
- 4 Stars: 14/17
- 3 Stars: 24/20
- 2 Stars: 2/2
The damage doesn't look as bad from out here.
Position Breakdown Total: 14 DL, 12 LB, 14 DB (Avg. = 17-12-13)
Why more DL and DB? The way I handled transitions to offense is to simply pull guys out (so you don't gain or lose from it) and more DLs ended up as offensive players. Converse: more are recruited. At defensive back, there seems to be, in general, a greater attrition rate for DBs across schools. No idea why this is.
Next week I'll get into the direct comparisons and play the blame game. For now, feel free to check my work.
Diaries of Darius and Decimation
It's Darius Morris week in the diaries while Darius decides whether he's worthy of this year's NBA draft. While Morris explores, let's talk about how much better he makes Michigan.
Raoul has been active in threads discussion DM and decided to try using a simple WSJ formula to show that Morris is actually the key to Michigan's offense:
His 201 field goals and 235 assists mean Morris was involved in 436 of the team's field goals--or 51.5% of the 847 total.
- [Rumeal] Robinson in 88-89 was involved in 432 of his team's field goals (199 FGs + 233 assists), or 32.6% of the team total
- [Gary] Grant in 87-88 was involved in 503 of his team's field goals (269 FGs + 234 assists), or 42% of the team total
This stat raises the Morris quotient in my hoops heart to 31.4% It's low, but I've got a Hardaway man-crush, and gotta save some for the bench.
Say Soyonara to Da U.P. eh
Meanwhile mfan_in_ohio scooped all of us in Michigan media by breaking the news that U.P. may be sayin' ya to da Cheese State eh?
Upper Peninsula can’t be sure it’s staying in Michigan
BY MARK SNYDER
DETROIT FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Upper Peninsula said all the right things.
It said it would “definitely” be back next year. After all, it is geologically attached where it is, and already has the Mackinac Bridge connecting it to the rest of Michigan.
But the UP will investigate other options.
The piece, which I bumped from the boards took a shot at the Freep's Mark Snyder for (at the time) jumping the gun with Morris-to-NBA speculation minus, you know, evidence.
The Schwartz is With Him
In Things Not Morris, denverblue put together an extensive (and mostly correct) puck preview of Colorado College, right before Michigan beat the Tigers to advance to the Frozen Four. Since I can't tell the difference between Denver and North Dakota (they've played each other tight all season), I'm down for rooting for Denver if it means I get another write-up like this Diary of the Week.