skill position recruiting under Brady Hoke
Where is the talent?
Hoke's recruiting classes were consistently highly ranked, bringing in 4 and 5 star athletes coveted by other reputable football programs, yet I keep reading that we lag many Big Ten teams in talent. I find it hard to believe Hoke is this bad at talent evaluation and missed on this many athletes. What do you think of the innate talent on the roster? Is this a pure development issue, or was Hoke that unlucky or bad at identifying talent?
Peter from Horsham, PA
It could be there, but concealed by the Hoke chaos.
Last year's D was 14th in yards per play and returns eight or nine starters, depending on how you define the term. The only personnel losses were Raymon Taylor, Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, and Brennen Beyer; Michigan gets Desmond Morgan off an injury redshirt and adds Wayne Lyons.
It didn't feel like that good of a defense, though. Part of that was the quality of competition. Michigan is 41st in FEI despite having shiny regular stats. (MSU is one spot ahead of them in 40th.) Part of that was the offense putting the D out there so often in bad situations that they were going to crack eventually. Many, many games over the past two years have had a similar pattern. The defense scratches and claws to keep Michigan in it and then they collapse in the fourth quarter because they're out of juice.
The other part of that was Michigan going to a man press defense their team simply could not hack. Blake Countess was exposed for half the season before they went back to their old ways. Is that "talent"? In some ways. But Hoke took an All Big Ten sophomore and destroyed him because he couldn't see that he was being put in a terrible situation for his skill set.
Meanwhile on offense… I got nothing. With the exception of projected TE Devin Funchess, Michigan recruited horribly at QB and WR under Hoke. The Chesson/Darboh class was all right, but they appear to have missed on all three guys they took the next year and the jury is very much out on last year's class. QB… I want to throw a rock in Hoke's general direction every time I think about it.
Recruiting very badly at QB is a way to have your recruiting rankings far outstrip your ability to play football. It's only one spot. Michigan's piles of OL are five. Michigan has nothing to show from the Hoke era other than a three star they took early with little competition and Shane Morris, who it is now clear was wildly overrated by the services. Morris is the kind of boom-or-bust guy you can take happily in a Harbaugh context where the roster has five or six or seven QBs on it; he is a disaster waiting to happen if the two guys in front of him are Russell Bellomy and air and the guy behind him is a middling three star. Harbaugh set about fixing that, at least.
Meanwhile the places Hoke did best—the lines—are the ones where you have to wait the longest to get a return on your investment. OL are particularly unpredictable.
And, yes, I do think Hoke was pretty bad at IDing talent. Look at the Dukes/Jones/York WR class, or the performance of the tailbacks he brought in, or the Wangler/Ferns/Furbush/Winovich LB class. Do not get me started on the tailbacks. Look at the decision to move to press man.
Defensive line is an obvious exception, where Michigan's turned two three-star Glenville projects into real players, but that just re-confirms that Hoke was a pretty good DL coach who ended up in way over his head.
Uppity so-and-sos with their thesauri
Excuse me while I correct your nerdom with my (apparently) superior nerdom. Ferret Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson would not be the correct name. What you are looking for is Ferret Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson. In the first Tecmo Bowl, Bo Jackson was just a man. It is in Super Tecmo Bowl that he became an unstoppable run-circles-around-the-cpu-god. Surely you did not mean to name the ferret after the lesser of the two Bo Jacksons.
Bro. I said I would brook no criticism about my asymptotically perfect ferret names, and yet here you are, brooking your ass off. Well, BEN, clearly "Ferret Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson" is clunky and unwieldy and stupid, as any six-year-old child could see. It is obvious to any Tecmo Bowl connoisseur that we are talking about the destroyer of worlds Bo Jackson, "Super" or not. Humor, prose, and lovemaking are all about omitting unnecessary flourishes. So too are ferret names.
[After the JUMP: Ben gets commuppanced hrrrrrd]
When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Frank Clark in the second round of last weekend's NFL Draft, the obvious question arose: how would organization handle Clark's November arrest for a domestic violence charge?
The details of the arrest report were disturbing; Brady Hoke called the incident "unacceptable" while dismissing Clark from the program; at the NFL Combine, Clark engaged in an unsettling bit of victim-blaming instead of shouldering the full responsibility for his actions.* Clark pled guity to reduced charges in April. For an NFL team looking to draft Clark, due diligence was required; this wasn't even Clark's first run-in with the law.
On Friday, Seahawks GM John Schneider said all the right things about the organization's investigation into the incident:
“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background,” Schneider told reporters in Renton after the second and third rounds on Friday. “We have done a ton of research on this young man. There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”
Schneider said, based on the team's investigation, he didn't believe Clark hit his girlfriend, and domestic violence issues were a deal-breaker when evaluating players. That revelation came as quite the surprise to many, including witnessess of the November incident—witnesses who, according to a bombshell report in the Seattle Times today, were never consulted by the Seahawks:
But the Seahawks made him the 63rd overall pick in the draft, saying team officials had conducted an extensive investigation of their own and felt confident that the 6-foot-2, 277-pound Clark had not struck his girlfriend. The team acknowledged on Monday that their investigation did not include interviews with witnesses other than Clark.
The police report describing the incident quotes Diamond Hurt, then 20, saying Clark punched her in the face. Hurt’s younger brothers are quoted saying the same thing.
When Babson and Colie found her, Hurt “was just laying there,’’ Babson said. “She looked like she was unconscious to me.
“The kids were saying, ‘He killed my sister!’ ’’
Colie added that Hurt “was on the ground, curled up and holding her head and stuff.’’
Both women gave written statements to police via email the following day. But they say they never heard back from anybody about the case until The Seattle Times contacted them on Monday.
The Seahawks didn't perform a thorough investigation. They didn't even perform a half-assed one. They talked to the person they wanted to play football for them, heard what they wanted to hear, and willfully ignored a great deal of evidence that directly contradicted their conclusions.
It's a remarkable failure that hurts all parties involved.
It's an unfortunate reality-check for the ever-increasing number of people hoping the NFL will actually take domestic violence seriously, instead of doing the bare minimum to avoid negative PR. I can't imagine how the victim must feel seeing Clark's new employer take her alleged assailant at his word and make no effort to get the full story, one corroborated by multiple witnesses.
It also does no favors for Clark. While his alleged transgressions—and his subsequent statements—leave little room for sympathy, he's had his day in court and isn't subject to further discipline from the NFL; he should be able to move forward with his career, ideally with the support of an organization that is there to help him learn from his past and become a better person.
Seattle's investigation and its backlash, which is only just beginning, cast that into serious doubt. If the Seahawks feel obligated to correct their mistakes with this investigation, Clark will be the one looking for a job, and while he has nobody to blame but himself for being in that position, that doesn't mean it's justified. Cutting Clark may save some face for the organization, but that's about it, and it certainly doesn't help Clark find his way to a better path. If Clark remains, on the other hand, Seattle's initial handling of this doesn't instill confidence they'll do a whole lot to support Clark's growth as anything but a football player.
The Seahawks hurt themselves, too—at the very least they're facing a major controversy, and at worst they'll cut a second-round pick before he ever suits up for them—but they've somehow set themselves up as the least sympathetic party in this most recent ordeal.
What's perhaps the most galling is how unnecessary this is. Clark's alleged assault was common knowledge heading into the draft, and most expected he'd still get drafted; I don't think the central issue here is with him getting a chance to play in the NFL, or even that he got selected earlier than expected for a player with his off-field history. What concerns me most is this: Seattle didn't take the issue seriously, no matter what they say, and in doing so they set everyone up for failure.
*Clark would later make a more contrite statement of apology (last paragraph). He still maintains he didn't strike the victim.
It's happening. Hail To The Victors is fully funded with two weeks left to go. I credit Harbaugh more than anything else. Thanks all the same; we will still be taking pre-orders through Kickstarter through the 18th.
Hail to the king. Oh nothing just Harbaugh hanging out with the first lady and Ciara.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) May 1, 2015
Soon he will start appearing in historically significant photos and no one will remember that he was not, in fact, present.
Also sick beatz yo
— Coach Erik Campbell (@ErikCampbell) May 1, 2015
Seriously. I want to know what a Jim Harbaugh stadium playlist sounds like. Other than silence and the sound of manliness.
Hutch points with the best of 'em [Paul Sherman]
Hail to the queens. Softball locks down its eighth-straight Big Ten title:
On Sunday, No. 3 Michigan softball won the conference's top spot outright, beating Penn State 9-2 to improve to 48-6. It was the program's eighth-straight championship and 19th all-time.
Christner hit a walk-off, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning to score Sierra Romero from second and end the game via the run-rule. Christner finished the day 2-for-2 with three RBI, and 8-for-9 in the series.
They will host the Big Ten championship and should get a home regional.
It could be happening? Michigan rattles its defection sabers in an interesting direction:
Michigan's process of figuring out whether or not it'll stick with Adidas or sign with a new apparel provider is ongoing. And this week, Michigan athletic department officials saw a pitch from Under Armour at its headquarters in Baltimore, a university spokesman confirmed.
A meeting is just a meeting and could be held for reasons other than "we are seriously considering Under Armour." I wouldn't read anything in particular into that. It is a move that implies Michigan is seriously considering a change despite having a contract that gives them Most Favored Nation status.
As for UA's pull, they just signed Wisconsin and their Notre Dame contract is rumored to be very big:
Under Armour has proven it can pay big money, too, though, as the supplier reportedly signed Notre Dame to a 10-year, $90 million contract in 2014. Though Notre Dame has never publicly confirmed those figures.
If money is the only factor it won't be Nike, which tops out at about half that. And if we're talking about Adidas versus UA my preference is for the latter.
Congrats draftees. Devin Funchess and Frank Clark went in the second round; Jake Ryan went in the fourth. Seems about right for Funchess and Ryan. Clark's spot is interesting for multiple reasons.
He got booted for a domestic violence charge, then failed to follow the contrition playbook in the aftermath. If you thought this might make the NFL wary you may have also had hopes the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight was going to be interesting. Nope.
The other interesting bit: that Clark got drafted in the second round, period. He was always a pretty good player who flashed high-level talent; he was not the kind of consistent threat I'd think is mandatory for anyone to be drafted as a DE in the first two rounds. I mean, Alan Branch went in the second round. I didn't think Clark was anywhere near his level in college. The Seahawks evidently did.
It sounds like they did do their homework. Nick Baumgardner has an extensive article on Clark's draft spot:
He said Michigan's staff and personnel were "shocked" by the arrest, and maintained that the team got enough information from U-M's staff to allow the team to feel confident in taking a chance on Clark in the second round. He also explained how there were a number of teams who were prepared to take Clark on Friday night, possibly early in the third round.
"It was a process," he said. "I was there two days after it happened. Our area (scout) went through there twice. Our regional scout went through there twice. We spent several days there. The easy thing to do was to dismiss this. But, over time and I don't want to get into specifics of it, things became clearer and clearer in the evaluation process.
"We brought him out here, he met with our sports psychologist. But to be there at the time, to see the secretary's reaction ... it was, like 'wow.' ... You get a really, really good feel for the individual (in doing that)."
As I said before, Clark's got an opportunity for a second chance that not a lot of people get. I hope he makes the most of it.
Etc.: MLive has video from a recent AAU tournament featuring commit Austin Davis and target Brian Bowen. Gardner pre-draft interview. He landed with Tom Brady, which is not a bad place to land. The NCAA's mission is disavowed by the NCAA.
[I forgot to turn my recorder on right away because I’m a doofus but the question was about Northwestern]
“I was very, very pleased with our players in that game and I have been for a while, and you know that. Our kids, they went out and they executed the gameplan and they played extremely hard. Didn’t matter where. They had their backs to the wall and they stayed in there strong, and that’s just kind of how they’ve been and i was just really happy for them because they really believe, they really want to be good and they’re starting to get some reward from it.”
When did you hear about Frank’s arrest and what was your reaction to it?
“Well, I heard about it I guess yesterday but Brady handles all that. And my reaction is always when a young man that is in your program that you’re very, very close to when something happens like this you feel very, very disappointed and you feel sad for the people that are involved and that’s about it.”
Brady was just talking about all the adversity you guys have gone through this year and how maybe he’s grown a little bit and learned from it as a coach. You’ve known him for 30 years. Have you seen it affect him, or how has he grown from this season?
“You know, I mentioned it before and that’s a great question. When you believe so much in a program like he does and like our staff does and you give everything you have to the program like he does, when things don’t go exactly like you want them to that’s hard. That’s hard, man. And I haven’t seen him- he never wavers. He’s the same guy every morning when he comes in. He’s the same guy when he dresses the players. Like I said before, I think he's done a tremendous job as the head football coach with some of the things that have happened."
Jake's [Ryan] preparation is evident when you see him on the field. I understand that you guys watch a lot of film together. Talk about how you've watched him grow as a student of the game and talk about how he goes about that [preparation].
"Well, I was fortunate enough. I think the first year I was here I had Jake, and he met in our staff room together and I said, 'Okay, let's go ahead and sit down and we'll start on film' and I looked and he was sitting in Brady's chair and I said, 'What are you doing!? You can't sit in that chair!' Well from that day on he's always sat in that chair. And Jake Ryan is a pleasure to coach, just like Joe Bolden is, just like- I could name a lot of guys in all they years I've coached. When you have guys who come to work every day like they do, and they come in those meeting rooms and you start showing film and you start talking about your opponent and they react and they study and they start taking notes like our guys do; then you feel really good about coaching. Jake's just one of those guys that you think about it [and] outside linebacker, that's all he'd ever played and we talked about it and said, 'Hey, listen. We're going to put you in the middle because we want you around the football a lot more. We want you to make sure that you're involved in it; that they can't run away from you' and in his senior year he does it. And he plays hard and unselfish and does everything you ask him to do and that's Michigan. That's what we hope this program's all about and we think there's a lot of players like that in this program."
[After THE JUMP: Thoughts on Maryland and the defensive line]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke said that domestic violence is one of the first things they talk about in team meetings at the beginning of the year and they talk to the team about it at least four times per year
Hoke said after they had received all the necessary information the decision to dismiss Frank Clark from the program essentially made itself
Hoke has not spoken with Clark but does plan to speak with him at some point
Mario Ojemudia will start at WDE with Taco Charlton behind him
Henry Poggi moves to SDE to back up Brennen Beyer
"Obviously you all know and we put a statement out, I put a statement out, let's put it that way, we had a situation during the bye week with a young man making a bad decision and after getting all the facts that we could get and I could get I made the decision to dismiss Frank Clark from the program. What was reported and all those things, and I'm sure you've been through it with a fine-tooth comb, was unacceptable and it was not what we want here associated with our program. I know in the statement I talked about it being tragic and domestic abuse is tragic. It's tragic on a national scale. It's tragic. Obviously it's somewhere in our society and we all need to do something about it, and being a husband and being a father [and] having two sisters it's a message that I send strongly to our football team about how we will handle ourselves with women.
"That being said we're excited about Saturday. We're excited about playing Maryland, and the biggest excitement is that we've got 12 kids who are going to play their last home football game here at Michigan. We have 12 seniors. Two of them will have graduated. One of them will have his masters. The others will graduate either this fall at the end of fall or at the end of winter and we're very proud of what they've done representing the University of Michigan, and hopefully people will be in the stadium early so they can be honored and then we've got a great football game with Maryland."
Maryland on film, especially defensively: what have you seen from them?
"Well, they do a lot and they've got a pretty big package, especially when you get into third downs. They've done a nice job of attacking the quarterback. I think they are one sack above us in the league when you look at it from a defensive standpoint. I think they run very well [and] I think they obviously if you watched Saturday night's game, which I know I did, that game was a heckuva game for a little while and then kind of got out of hand with the interception for a touchdown. But they're very impressive with what they can do. I think they've won three or four games on the road so they've played well on the road also."
In light of how big an issue domestic violence has been mostly in the NFL this year have you spoken to the team before this weekend about that issue specifically?
"We speak about it constantly. Believe me, at least four times a year. We have people from the University come in. I've told our guys since day one that it won't be tolerated. It won't be tolerated in this program. All you have to do is think about I have a daughter who's 29. I have a wife. I have two sisters, And so that's always been probably one of the first things I talk about with our team least a couple times a year."
You probably just answered that, but did the current climate with how big this issue has been influence how quickly you guys made a decision?
"No, it really didn't. The decision was made after getting all the information that we could and that I could, and in doing that there really was no decision to be made. I don't know if that sounded right but…"
[After THE JUMP: More on the Clark situation and young players who impressed in the intrasquad scrimmage]
Indoor soccer leagues are not particularly good about keeping things balanced. We were getting the shit kicked out of us because we were all 30 and out of shape and these kids were in high school. Since they were in high school, they were dicks. I'd just about gotten fed up when their goalie started making forays up the field in an attempt to score. Repeatedly. Just rubbing it in.
I started tracking him the next time he did it, with every intention of cleaning him out. As I reached him, he passed the ball. My fate was sealed anyway.
Without any semi-legal means of letting this guy have it, I punched him in the face. 30 seconds of rolling around later, my glasses were in tatters and I'd gotten a healthy suspension from an amateur indoor soccer league I didn't care very much about.
This is not at all what Frank Clark did. I am not drawing any sort of equivalence between the two events.
But I have been there, in the place where part of your brain that says "maybe we should think about this" is overwhelmed by a need for violence. I understand that many—too many—people come at this from the perspective of someone who has experienced or knows someone who has experienced the other end. That is valid. Of course it is. I come at it from the other end. I am a relatively normal person with a nice life, and there but for the grace of God and wife go I.
I struggle to say the appropriate things here because I think the idea of "thoughts" going out to the victims of such things is condescending at best. If you're ever in a position to help a person in that situation do it and if you're not then don't puff yourself up about how roundly you condemn such behavior. I don't see a whole lot of difference between people with the gall to blame the victim and those loudly proclaiming Clark a miserable waste of atoms.
This gets on my nerves because it's a quick leap from pointless moralizing to dismissing a guy forever as only that one thing in that one moment. I saw this picture and it took the wind out of me.
"Clark refused to look at the camera at the Perkins police station"
What did I do?
"Look at the camera."
That's not who I am.
"Look at the camera."
I thought I had left this behind.
Maybe Frank Clark's a bad guy. Or maybe one of the assholes waving him goodbye in the comments to make themselves feel better about themselves would have made the same screwup in the same situation, bottle-deep in a miserable football season after literally living a feral existence on the streets of Los Angeles for most of his youth.
It's not acceptable; Michigan had to make the decision it made. For once the program managed to handle something right. There have to be severe societal punishments for these things, and Clark's going through that.
He's got a choice now. He can be a guy that this happened to once, and he put it all away and forced all of that down as best he could and it never happened again. Or he can let it recur, and be the guy the internet says he is now. It's up to him. I don't know which way it will go, and that photo suggests he doesn't either.
I hope he makes it, and feel badly for him. Yes, as the perpetrator of a terrible thing. Yes. It is possible to be a bad person in a moment because you are wired to be angry, a wiring that comes easily when you've experienced way too much fear growing up. How many people are shitty all the time without tripping a line like Clark did?
It is heartbreaking for Frank Clark to almost make it. You should feel that part of this too.