there would have to be some to wash away
regression + old-timey Greg Mattison = ?
Let it breathe. So how about that diary this morning? Man. I'm heartened by the idea that the admittedly rough model contained in it thinks Michigan's defense will bubble up to 71st even though it asserts changing coordinators/coaches is a worth an eight-spot hit to your final rankings.
In this case you can—are compelled to—argue that if anything it will swing the other way once Michigan decides to run one sane defense instead of a mélange of incoherent ones. Regression to the mean is our most favorite friend:
Top Underperforming Defensive Years
Florida State 2009
San Jose State 2009
Not only are we bad and expected to regress upwards, we were much worse than expected. Expectations will deflate but even so they will come in well above our finish last year.
The main argument against this is the impact of Michigan's recruiting rankings on the model (quite positive) versus their impact on the field (not so much). The list of the departed is depressing and extensive: Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, Taylor Hill, Justin Turner, Vlad Emilien, Cullen Christian, and Demar Dorsey are a big chunk of Michigan's four and five star defensive recruits; none are around. Will Campbell and JB Fitzgerald, two of the thin remainder, are badly underperforming expectations. Attrition from the underclass has also hurt.
The numbers point towards a two-year project. Like the 2009 offense, the 2011 defense should be worlds better than its predecessor. Unfortunately that will only get them to average, which isn't that average for a BCS team that will play cupcakes who can't compete with it.
The other interesting thing from the model was a quantification of how important the quarterback is: getting a returning starter there is more than four times more valuable than an average non-QB offensive starter. Guess who's got a returning starter at QB for the first time since 2007? Michigan. You can even argue that 2006 was the last time Michigan really got to use a returning starter to his full capabilities—Chad Henne missed big chunks of 2007 and was never fully healthy until the bowl game.
Oh snap. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is itching for a duel. His statement on Larry Dee:
"If the allegations prove true," he said, "the words irony and hypocrisy don't seem to go far enough."
These corrupt NCAA functionaries would do their cause a favor if they at least required some caricature before they looked like Thomas Nast cartoons. I, mean, seriously:
That Junker guy That Junker guy also looked like a walking editorial cartoon. This is not helping their public image.
Oh snap part II. I was going to make this comparison myself but Grant Wahl beat me to it:
FIFA and NCAA are almost exactly the same in their complete inability to police themselves.
When you can compare an organization to FIFA with little, if any, hyperbole and don't have an obvious breaking point in 2014 there is trouble.
Yahoo continues strafing runs. It's a good combo they've got going at Yahoo: Charles Robinson flies over in the B-52 dropping the big bombs while Wetzel swoops in to pick off any survivors with a machine gun. This time Wetzel's plinking away at the whole damn system:
Guys wanted to party on a yacht. Guys wanted to drink free in a VIP section of a nightclub. Guys wanted some cash, or a mansion to hang out in, or some extra money for a big hit, or maybe even the wildest of parties.
It’s not abnormal behavior from 20-year-olds.
Except in the mind of the NCAA, which is so far backward, it’s wasting time arguing over whether offering players a minor monthly stipend will cut too far into the adults’ gravy train.
Would it be so bad if this stuff was okay? Not the prostitutes, but just hanging out maxing all cool with guys who want to be your pet ATM? I guess that's not in the Spirit of Amateurism but even the Olympics have given up that ghost. Adam Jacobi asked much the same question at CBS, and the only objections I have to it are purely selfish: I don't know if Michigan boosters can dole out the rewards with the same kind of élan other schools can.
I've advocated something less holistic in the past in regards to basketball: let kids enter the draft whenever they want, let them play summer ball with teams, let them sign with agents, let the NBA teams sign them—and then let the kids go back to school and play if the NBA doesn't think they're ready. Where's the harm in that?
The NCAA continues to pretend like it's 1955, and that there wasn't rampant cheating in 1955, and that everyone has the morals of 1880. They could go a long way towards making the system fair without unbalancing it just by acknowledging that pro leagues are not evil. The last people to have that notion rode bicycles with one enormous wheel and one tiny one and thought Irish people were basically livestock. They also looked like Paul Dee—ohhhhh. I get it now.
But it's not so they must burn. A bit more on Pryor getting paid by Sarniak:
Pryor said he and his mother received cash and assistance with car payments from Ted Sarniak, a businessman in Pryor’s hometown of Jeannette, Pa., sometime before leaving school in June, lawyer David Cornwell told ESPN.
Cornwell, who is representing Pryor in his bid to be declared eligible for the NFL supplemental draft, said Pryor informed the NCAA and provided documents in May. As Pryor was being recruited in 2008, the NCAA told Ohio State that Sarniak could not provide anything of value to Pryor once he enrolled.
It's Big Brother-y, but NCAA teams can view the bank accounts of their players, which is probably why AJ Hawk and friends had three thousand dollars in cash on them when they got robbed that one time. Smart people keep their booster money in hard currency. Terrelle Pryor put it in a bank, one that OSU had access to, after his controversial recruitment found that he had received extra benefits in high school from Sarniak. Sarniak was in frequent contact with not only Tressel but the head of compliance at Ohio State. Pryor had lots of suspiciously nice cars. At no point did anyone in the compliance department add two and two together.
Brace yourself for this bit of spin:
Phone records also show that Ohio State compliance director Doug Archie stayed in regular contact with Sarniak.
“It’s expected that a compliance officer is calling constituents involved with the athletics department,” Lynch said. “It speaks to the compliance department’s thoroughness in monitoring such matters.”
Available for viewing at the cube. Three Michigan commits made the NTDP U17s: Evan Allen, JT Compher, and Tyler Motte. This was already known, so it's a bit disappointing a couple of the other guys didn't slide their way onto the team. Three is still a good number. No other school has more than two.
Also, the U17 team is an indication of how much college hockey recruiting has accelerated. Only four of the twenty skaters are uncommitted. These guys are 2013 commits with two years of junior in front of them—that's like 80 of the top 100 guys in Shane Morris's football class already being committed.
By that time Michigan will be in the Big Ten, so you can ignore the Miami guys on the list. The only player from the U17 Michigan will see down the road is Michigan State commit Mike McCarron.
Waiting it out. Michigan would very much like to add U18 defenseman Jacob Trouba, one of those weird guys who waits it out. Trouba is a potential first rounder in next year's draft and has yet to make a decision because he plans on sticking to it:
"That's sort of why I haven't (committed), because I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," said the 17-year-old on Wednesday. … "My family and I have always been like that -- my parents have always told me that if I make a commitment, that I have to stick with it, at least until the end of the year and then I can do whatever," said the 6-foot-2, 193-pound blueliner. "So, I'm going to wait until I know for sure what I want to do and then I'm going to choose."
Michigan is "in the equation" along with Notre Dame and the OHL's Kitchener.
Etc.: A third oh snap: Braves and Birds defines Clay Travis by calling him "embarrassingly self-congratulatory." Also he demolishes the silly argument about lawsuits he's making in re: Texas A&M to the SEC. (Remember when people cared about that?). Rock M Nation/Football Study Hall/Football Outsiders guru Bill Connolly is profiled by Vox Magazine.
A whole lot of "defense will be better" diaries this week. Rather than steal their thunder, HIT PLAY to listen to my favorite song off my favorite album of all time, and once the strings and charts come in, start clicking things. (Mp3 courtesy of band's official page)
Your gentleman caller
Well, he's been calling on another
He loves his forbidden fruit
And as it dribbles down his chin
"Baby I've been drinking with some friends now how about a little kiss"
Rub his nose in it, what a mess
And he's playing dumb
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
I'm not looking for a lover
All those lovers are liars
I would never lie to you
You say you wanna get even
Yeah you wanna get your bad man good
Well, are you in the mood?
You bad girl
Does it feel good
Being bad? and get worse
do do do do do do do do
But in the morning
On the sober dawn of Sunday
You're not sure what you have done
Who told you love was fleeting?
Sometimes men can be so misleading
To take what they need from you
Whatever you need to make you feel
Like you've been the one behind the wheel
The sunrise is just over that hill
Whatever I said to make you think
That love's the religion of the weak
This morning we love like weaklings
The worst is over.
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
- NCAA Total Defense: 110th (of 120)
- NCAA Scoring Defense: 108th
- Rushing Defense: 95th, but that's just to set up the…
- Passing Defense: 112th
- Turnovers Gained: T-77th
- 3rd Down: 95th
- Red Zone: 87th
- Fremeau: 108th
The worst is over.
Let's take some small sample sizes and extrapolate wildly. It will be fun. Here's Bill Connolly breaking down expected improvement from teams that return varying numbers of defensive starters:
So Cincinnati returns 11 defensive starters. That's probably a good thing, right? But how good? And how much can a bad defense improve in one offseason just because of experience? Let's take a look, shall we?
Average Change In Def. F/+, Last Three Years Starters
N Avg Chg in
1 1 -12.4% 2 4 -10.9% 3 10 -8.4% 4 32 -2.1% 5 53 -1.1% 6 69 -0.5% 7 85 1.1% 8 56 1.5% 9 37 4.2% 10 9 6.0% 11 3 5.4%
So basically, if you return between five and eight starters, you are likely not going to change much, but three or fewer is a problem, and nine or more is a good thing.
F/+ is Connolly's advanced metric; it's play-based instead of drive-based like FEI. Don't be fooled by the % symbol—the metric is percentage based and from context it's clear the difference is meant to be added to the score, not multiplied. Since the best defenses are around +17% and the worst around –13%, 6% is about a fifth of the entire scale.
Michigan is, unsurprisingly, right at the bottom of that scale at 115th. They were 12% worse than an average defense down-to-down. The good news is they return 9-ish starters, losing Greg Banks, James Rogers and Jonas Mouton while reacquiring Troy Woolfolk. (They also lose Ray Vinopal and Obi Ezeh, but Ezeh had been replaced and Michigan should get JT Floyd back so let's call it a wash.)
The numbers are thin at both ends of the spectrum but, hey, extrapolating wildly from small sample sizes. Doing so says Michigan's defense will storm forward from 115th nationally to…
I have no source for this, unfortunately.
But wait! Our sample sizes are not small enough and our extrapolation is not making out with other nubile young extrapolations in front of a television camera. Bill added a second factor, the previous year's defense, and finds that a defense with an F/+ under –10% that returns nine starters should expect (for a given confidence level that is not high at all) to improve by 8.6%, which would see them get to…
You might be able to argue that Mike Martin wasn't right and the team was even younger than the average team that returns nine starters and GERG is rubbing stuffed animals on the faces of other stuffed animals at a tearful tea party and for the first time in a long time they'll just run one damn defense per year and that they should expect to improve even more. You're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Like installing the spread 'n' shred, digging out of a hole this big is a multi-year project.
A guest post from Craig Ross, who took in the coaches' clinic this year, as he does most years. If you're not sure what "technique" means or the basics of cover X defenses the UFR FAQ should be of some assistance.
Greg is not impressed, GERG
On a personal level Mattison is charismatic and impressive. I can’t imagine that he won’t be a absolutely great recruiter. His enthusiasm is manifest. He isn’t a defensive personality (I don’t mean football defense) in the slightest. Media guys kept asking him about his salary (incredibly rude, I thought) and he just said he didn’t want to talk about. Not mean. Not tired. Not nasty. Just matter of fact. But after the second “no,” these reporters got it.
Unlike GERG he has patience with questions, especially football questions. GERG wanted little to do with the press and had no patience with anything resembling a football question. [I asked whether he would be playing “one or two gap” a couple of years ago. He looked at me like I was crazy (maybe I am/was, probably the question was idiotic) but he responded (and repeated himself) with “Let’s just say by the end of the season you’ll be happy with our defense.” Uh, well, not exactly.
I don’t want to beat on GR. The media can be pretty awful and he had a right to some disinclination to talk about anything other than superficial sound bites. But even in coaching clinics he seemed loathe to talk about defensive structure, which he perceived as overrated (maybe he is right). His obsession was technique, notably tackling technique—stunning given what our defense did the last two years. But Mattison is a whole different deal. He gives smart questions their due. He gives sloppy questions more thought than they probably deserve. And, yeah, he isn’t above the ordinary sound bite to the ordinary sorta-non-question.
The Ravens were a 3-4 team until Mattison took over the defense. In 2009 he changed the Raven to a 4-3 look and there is every reason to believe he will attempt to mimic the success he had in Baltimore. Mattison’s overall philosophies are
- stop the run,
- take away the offense’s best receiver (I assume this means the D may tend to roll a bit to the best WR’s side of the field), and
- keep the defensive formations stable but mix pressures and coverages.
Mattison will run a 4-3 with some nickel as a primary defense*. He was adamant about four things.
- Martin (or any NT) will never play right over the center, zero tech, that he will be shaded into the A gap, even if slightly**.
- He always wants four guys down. Always. He said “If I have to limp in there we are playing 4 guys on the line.” (A couple of times in the spring game it looked like we had three guys down. Reviewed this. On play one he had Big WC at NT and Mike Martin standing up on the edge. Denard breaks the play for 55 yards. Of course, we did have 4 DL in the game so he didn’t violate his abstract principle. Also, as noted, against spread looks he went with three DL. [Ed: my impression was that these sorts of games were reserved for passing downs, when run soundness goes out the window and you're just trying to hassle the QB.])
- GM prefers (strongly) that the defense generally have the same look. He stated that his defense will not “stem” into different looks. That said, he wants the defense to have variations out of the singular defensive formation.
- As every coach on the planet says and means, he wants the D to pressure the QB.
Mattison stresses that he has been left with attentive kids. He talks about their seriousness, that they have behaved and been supportive of each other. Unlike Borges, who spent a lot of time looking at last year’s offense, Mattison claims he did not watch “one minute” of last year’s tape. (I wish I hadn’t.) There are two reasons for this. First, he didn’t want to bias his impressions of the players. He preferred that he and his staff make their own valuations, as opposed to those that accrued in a different system. Second, he was going to run a different system anyway. Looking to last year’s model wasn’t going to provide any information likely to have value.
This is a treacherous judgment—my understanding of the lingo may hamstring my perceptions—but it looks to me like Mattison will to use a 4-3 under as his base defense. The NT will be shaded into the A gap toward the TE, the defensive end in 5 technique but slightly shaded to the outside, and the SAM lining up near the LOS outside of the tight end, assuming there is a TE on the field. On the weak side the tackle will be in 3-tech and the rush end will shaded slightly outside of the offensive tackle***. Basically this:
I think Michigan will look like this a lot but the black “elephant”—the rush end for UM [ed: around here we called it Deathbacker when Greg Robinson was trying to use that guy as in coverage more]—might be a bit closer to the tackle. Mattison’s drawing also had the Mike (Middle LB) and Will (Weakside LB) slightly more shaded to the TE. In the diagram above the Mike has the strongside B gap and Will the weakside A gap. The Will just has to make sure his gap isn’t threatened and then can flow to the ball.
Coverage: The field (wide side) corner and safety will often play “quarters,” while the other safety will be responsible for half the field. [ed: This is also known as quarter-quarter-halves. It's a cover three that splits the field unevenly. Hit up this Smart Football post for more detail—look for the first diagram with color in it.] If there is a receiver to the boundary (short side) that corner will squat, but if there is no WR he may have a “fire” read, rushing the passer or having weakside run support.
A couple variants: A primary variation of this will be the DL all slanting to the weak side of the formation, the Mike and Will dropping into hook and curl coverage, with the corners and weakside safety splitting the field into thirds and the strong side safety having responsibility in the flat. Note that this comes out of the same 4-3 under look. I assume, on this choice, the Sam (Strongside LB) has edge integrity and the Mike and strong safety have primary run support to the play side.
Mattison didn’t mention the 4-3 over but they definitely played a bit of that in the SG. In that the NT shifts to a shade into the weakside A gap and the linebackers are more balanced. I have to look back at the tape some---pretty sure they played a bit of it, at least late in the SG.
It also looks like they will play some “Bear” defense, bringing the Will down into the gap between the End and the SAM. In such instances he said they will always be in man defense, they won’t try to zone. Mattison also stressed that “setting an edge” to the defense is always important and on their base defense that’s up to the Sam on the field side. He said this was “a huge deal.”
In terms of personnel note that Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd were out in the spring, as was Kenny Demens. In a surprise Marrell Evans started with the ones (I didn’t know he was on the team until 10 days ago) in the Spring Game. Herron was there, too. Herron was shucked by Cox on his long run. I thought Evans played pretty well.
Tony Anderson and Avery both played pretty well at corner (or was this just the weakness in our passing game?) so with Floyd and Woolfolk healthy in the fall, there should be a lot of competition there.
In a huge surprise to me, I saw some really good play from Greg Brown—at corner—in the last Saturday scrimmage [ed: ie, the Saturday before the spring game]. This was mentioned by the coaches, so it is not a secret or my insanity. Brown did give up the TD near the end of the spring game but he was in great position and just misplayed the ball. Right now Carvin and Kovacs are running with the ones at safety, but Marvin Robinson is going to be a monster if he can learn the D. Parents of a player mentioned this to me, that Marvin had the chance to be awesome, once he steps up his understanding of the playbook. Josh Furman made a couple of plays but I didn’t focus on him so I can’t evaluate his play yet. Marvin made numerous big plays in the last weekend scrimmage.
The DL looks set with Van Bergen at DE, Roh at rush end, Big Will at the three tech and Martin at NT. However, Martin was moved around a bit in the SG so I have to look at the tape of that. Depth is thin, but I saw some good play from Black (inconsistent, but flashes), Wilkins (big plays in the SG) and the other Will (Heininger) who has been moved inside to NT.
The LBs were Jones (Will) and Cam Gordon (Sam) and I thought they did OK. Jake Ryan just stood out on the last scrimmage (with the 2s)—he made play after play—and he did the same thing in the SG. He was a way under the radar recruit but he really looks like he will be a player.
This was the worst defense in the history of the galaxy (maybe not universe, there may be a planet where some team was worse) last year so I am surprised by what I saw this spring. It was a more ordinary spring--- the UM defense making the offense struggle to get any run game going (except for Denard), though maybe two big plays were broken by the RBs. I predicted before the SG (based on the prior week’s scrimmage) that this would be an average or above average defense. I still think that. Something in the back of my head thinks it might even be an “almost good” defense but I suspect this is delusional. Now the coaches seem nervous. Mattison was unhappy after the SG but they sure seem ahead of anything I have seen for a few years.
*[Editor's note: given how much we saw Thomas Gordon in the spring game I'm guessing the nickel will be the base defense against spread looks.]
**[During the spring game it seemed like were pretty close to a zero technique at times, something he seemed to disavow. From the endzone, where I sat, there always seemed some shade. But on the Tivo of the game (from the side) of course, it seemed like we had a NT in zero tech every now and then. I reviewed it. Seems like this was when the offense was in a spread, when GM went completely odd with a 3 man front—as George Halas suggested against the single wing.]
***[Mattison is concerned that too many rush ends tend to get too wide as they attempt to speed rush the tackle. He thinks this is too easy a mark for an offensive tackle unless the end is a blur. He wants him closer to the tackle. He especially wants Craig Roh to not get too wide, allowing him to probe in either direction.]