i shouldn't get my hopes up but there they are
Also Previously: Podcast 5.0.
I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.
We stared at each other. Nobody moved.
This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.
Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.
All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.
Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.
Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.
This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.
This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.
But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.
On fourth down, they're going.
Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.
In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.
The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.
Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.
This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.
User 'jonvalk's tribute to the seniors. Anime Novak needs moar blood. And blue hair. Gotta have blue hair.
First to anyone in Ann Arbor, I hope you're safe from the heavy stuff last night, when mother nature decided to go all Notre Dame on State Street while drafting Haylie Wagner to hail softballs upon ye. That thread also has a video of people watching a tornado from the disc golf course at Hudson Mills. I'm sure the bathroom's safe guys.
Of the century all time recently. The storm of the century is the worst segue ever into the last
week's two weeks' three weeks' (sorry: vacation) discussions of all-century things that took place in the last 30 years or so. The all-times are collected by 'justingoblue', who went around the internet to collect a comprehensive list of Michigan championships in all sports. Brian's query on an MGoBlog Hall of Fame led to a diary by 'Tom from AA' with year by year nominees. And 'saveferris' took us back to the year Ferris Bueller came out (1986) to relive the Super Bowl Shuffle, Never-Nervous Purvis, and one of Bo's best teams, featuring Harbaugh and Morris and Rivers and Elliot. I've got three Diarists of the Week(s) to give out, and one goes to saveferris to encourage him to keep doing these.
The basketballs. Hoops nerdery these days seems to revolve around two questions: can I write the definitive piece on Rasheed Wallace, and three-pointers. On the second we've got you covered by ehatch who absolutely drained a Diarist of the Week(s) by parsing through available data to find out if more than 20 treys starts to negatively affect your offensive efficiency. Conclusion:
So as we go into the post season:
- Cackle with knowing glee if Michigan is driving the basket
- Worry if we draw a zone team that forces us to shoot a lot of 3 pointers.
There was also a temporally useful rooting guide for selection sunday 'mistersuits' deserves some credit for. OHIO, or THE University of OHIO, or whatever you know the green one, was one of the cackle with glee draws.
All the recruits.
It is a period of in-state war.
Michigan staffers, striking from an arboreal
hidden base, have won their first victory against
the evil empire of Port-a-Cool defecators. During the
battle, Rebel spies managed to steal highly rated recruits
from the heart of the Empire with enough talent to destroy
the entire Big~Ten Conference.
Pursued by the Empire's sinister lackey, Darthtonio, King Hoke races home
aboard his starship (hey we have to spend the budget on something), custodian
of the stolen talent that can save the Wolverines and restore freedom to the galaxy…
Let's let 'maizedandconfused' tell you what happens next. I promise no gungans or Jake Lloyd.
Michigan has locked up what's already an end game Top 5 class (Ace's conf update) almost a year before NSD. I'm at a loss for appropriate metaphors and thus devolving into a puddle of ectoplasm that relates everything to Star Wars. This is eee-cause if you put the last year in recruiting against your expectations, the only thing comparable is Memorial Day Weekend of '77. At least there's 'turd ferguson' to provide composite rankings from the sites that have bothered to even rank guys this early.
At this rate we're going to have to put up the 2014 Offer Board pretty soo…what? 'Bluestreak' already did that.
The hockeys. There's four great articles, all by the last Diarist of the Week(s), CenterIce, most linked to and discussed already by Brian in his hockey columns or bumped by me. But here they are again in case you missed them.
: A look at the line combinations and whether they're working.
: A recap of each player's performance during the regular season.
: Notre Dame Picture Pages
: A preview of that game.
The LAX. Here's 'MaizeAndBlueWahoo' with Michigan Lacrosse at the half-way point of its inaugural varsity season. He has efficiency stats. Efficiency stats? Srsly? Siri: set reminder, watch a friggin' lacrosse game already.
Etc. At first 'BlueDragon' was like "tennis?" and then he was like "tennis!!!" If you can Google things, please help The Mathlete. We will all benefit. Blockhams can't tell the difference between Ohio and OHIO; Blockhams get romantic after B1G titles, Blockhams rock the RVB flow. Silly Blockhams.
Best of the Board
ALL THE BANNERS (ALL THE BANNERS!)
'Wolverine Devotee' is trying to redesign Crisler's banners to go with the new digs. I like the idea of offsetting Cazzie (the only retired number) and putting Sweet 16 and Elite 8 appearances on collective banners. These were emailed to Dave Brandon who promptly wrote back "NEEDS MOAR Ms!!!!"
WD also stumbled upon the '98 Big Ten championship banner that upperclassmen held over my head for matriculating after the year of money sport awesome. Since basketball was wiped from the books* the search is on for the best year ever. 'AC1997' is defining this as football/basketball, so I guess the standard is '88-'89: 9-2-1 with close shouldn't-a-been losses to #1 and #2, and won the Rose Bowl, plus the hoops NC.
YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG
The limits of my computer skills are I subscribe to the NewEgg newsletter and once installed Ubuntu: not high. But even I got this xkcd:
… so it's scaring the hell out of me that the people who are actually in charge of machines that everyone in the world wants to break into are all like "dude, Microsoft Security Essentials—it's free!" Fortunately for democracy the University of Michigan is here to hack through the hack software they put in e-voting machines. I'll let 'DubbaEwwTeeEff' take it from here:
The news articles at the time reported that they had hacked the system to play "The Victors" after a vote was cast - but that was only the first sign of infiltration. They also managed to add an "OWNED" picture to the logout page, discover the authentication codes for every DC voter, and modify every ballot to be write-ins for fictional computers and robots. (Bender beat Skynet for head of the school board.)
Several other schools were trying but were fended off by the Michigan students, proving once again that the best way to protect the sanctity of our republican system is to have Wolverines protecting the voting machines. I've been saying this a long time.
A BETTER SON OR DAUGHTER TO A BETTER SON OR DAUGHTER
Sometimes when you're on, you're copying When You're On:
PAIRWISE PAIRWISE PAIRWISE AHHAHAHAHAHAH
If you're obsessive over figuring out scenarios for College Hockey Plinko Tournament 2012, or you just get perverse joy from having Michigan come up a 1 seed all the time, USCHO has the pairwise predictor up. User 'goblue7612' puts up a worst case scenario and challenges you to see if you can knock us from the 1 seed. User 'turd ferguson' could drop us as low as 6th in a world where Miami beats Bowling Green in the CCHA championship Saturday. I'm planning on being at the Joe tomorrow night so please let's not (Michigan plays BG in the semifinal at 8:00 tonight).
STILL ADDICTED TO SOFTBALL LINES
Our ridiculous (read: awesome) pitchers are ridiculous (read: awesome):
I didn't update after the Oklahoma game last night but these stats are good through the 2-1 victory over Notre Dame in Game 1 of the Judi Garman Classic. (Update: they lost to Okla, but the stats are hardly different). They need the bats (including Wagner's) to give them some support. Next week the gals come home to start Big Ten play.
ETC. Check in with your football background on this thread by 'jasputan.' Sparty copped "Facepalm" guy with "Owmyoccipital" guy; he gets photoshopped. People with umich.edu accounts spent a night ignoring Reply-All email etiquette to pass around MGoMemes. Kids these days—I went to school before people respected the awesome power of reply-all. And we used PINE.
* In light of UNC and Ohio State recently joining the ranks of teams which O'Brien is helping me remember anew, it's as good a time as any to remark again that I hate this particular form of "punishment." I get that it's shaming for the ineligible player and the program but in essence it's a group of America's best academic institutions rewriting history.
New Weekly Feature: Your moment of zen:
right via Indy Star
In the last 24 hours the belief that Mitch McGary will end up at Michigan has spread from local guru Sam Webb to large hunks of the basketball recruiting world. McGary just announced he wouldn't be visiting Kentucky or anywhere else and plans to come to a decision in a month.
While his blog post on ESPN mentions a desire to run and (fairly) leaves Michigan out when discussing the teams that do run, that hasn't stopped the train of positive mojo Webb kicked off on a WTKA recruiting roundup a couple days ago. Dave Telep:
If I set the odds, I'd install Michigan as favorite w/McGary at this juncture. College recruiters concerned about UM the most.
Scout's Brian Snow:
Word on the street is that Michigan has emerged as a leader for 2012 big man Mitch McGary, who was supposed to make an official visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness. Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels reported on Sunday night that he was hearing Michigan was a "major favorite." There is also some speculation now that McGary, a native of Indiana, won’t make any more visits.
The twitter feed of one Bacari Alexander:
Boy, I hope that's about recruiting and not baseball.
Title note: Since Brian moved this column to Wednesday morning, "Museday" is now "Hump Hypotheses," until that name also becomes stupid. New format, same old Miso soup.
Question: Against SD State we finally got to see Michigan play a full game against a pass-oriented offense. Against this Michigan usually sent four rushers, occasionally more. Last year I seem to remember this being three (out of a base 3-3-5) more often. I wonder if the extra rusher is making Michigan more effective against the pass this year?
Declaration of biases: Eeeeee Mattison.
Research: Thx Brian for adding rush stats to UFR since ND 2010. Yoink. Since it's not available yet I had to do my own SD State charting. From this I took out anything that looked like an end-of-half/4th quarter prevent, plus all of the runs, big play-action, waggles, and any plays from inside the 10, which make it hard to gauge if there were any late blitzers. I also excised last year's game against Purdue because that was played in a monsoon against Perry the Torn ACLephant.* Then I went about determining if each of those plays was a "Win" for the defense, defined thusly:
- 1st down: If the offense gained less than 1/2 of the yards for a first down (so 5 yards from 1st and 10) that's a "Win"
- 2nd down: less than 2/3 of the yards to first down=Win
- 3rd or 4th down: if the offense does not get the 1st down
- Turnovers are obviously Wins.
Incompletes go for zero yards—if the pass went to Tacopants, well it's results-based charting. Have at it.
*Michigan spent the whole day rushing three and this worked pretty much 90% of the time.
Hypothesis: We were right to be saying "Michigan sends 3 ARRRGGGHHH!" last year. Sending four this year is helping the defense improve.
Let's test that: In case your eyes haven't picked this up already, Mattison sends more guys after the passer. He's averaging about 4.5 rushers per pass play, versus GERG's 3.9 among those we count from last year. Here's a tendency chart:
This is not just a difference of a 4-3 defense versus a 3-3-5. Mattison has called a lot of zone blitzes where a DL backs into coverage, and the 3-3-5 is designed to often have one or two guys coming. Michigan's defense in 2011 is more aggressive than it was last year. Using the W/L formula above, let's see how much more effective it is because of that:
GERG in 2010:
Contrary to my memory, Robinson's 3-man rushes were kind of effective by this simple win/loss method. Everything else was flipping a coin.
I counted this as sending five; Gordon was covering the RB and
stepped up when he saw his man was in pass pro.
Mattison in 2011:
He's definitely sending more guys. Effectiveness seems to be..wait, down?:
AAHHHHHHH this isn't right. This can't be right. Well for one Mattison barely ever sends three. He did it once versus SDSU, and that when Michigan was up 28-7 with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. It went for 15 yards. However when I look at the wins and losses when the game is within 8 points it's still way favoring GERG:
AHHHHHHH. This is literally not what I expected. Maybe my Wins and Losses thing is just stupid. Let's do this by simple yards per play when Michigan rushes…
And there you see it. I may have found what's throwing me off here. The Pass/Fail nature of my system was not showing that when GERG's defense failed, it failed BIG. Look what happens to yards per pass when I only count the "Loss" plays:
|Rush 3||Rush 4||Rush 5||Rush 6||Rush 7|
When the 2010 pass defense failed, it didn't just give up the first down, but often a good chunk afterwards. The 2011 defense is still 50/50 to get the job done on any given passing play, but at least they're living to see the next series more often than not. That means more chances per drive for a turnover.
Last bit, just to see if this is changing running stats:
|Rush YPC||Rush YPG||Rush TDs/Game||Pass TDs/game|
|2010 (All of it)||4.4||188.9||2.6||1.6|
|2011 (4 games)||4.7||156.0||0.5||1.0|
Er. My expectation here was that Rushing YPC would be way down due to an extra rusher being around when a running play is called, but they're actually up a good bit. However the TDs given up are way way down. That combined with not once have we seen a freshman corner vacate his zone in dime, and this defense looks like it's already at mediocre and learning things that might make them good.
Holding this to 15 yards maybe should be a win.
Draw a Conclusion: Mattison hasn't even faced the best teams on his schedule yet so I can't claim anything is better or fixed. What I can say is the theory that the huge flip in turnover margin this year and/or improved defensive back play is probably having a bigger effect on Michigan's apparent defensive improvement than line scheme/aggressiveness. The data are way too close and inconclusive to draw anything for certain, and four games is not enough to assess, especially considering it's the first four games with this defense. But it is kind of interesting to see that rushing the extra guy seems to be doing a better job of keeping down the big plays than having eight men in coverage. That was really unexpected, though again it probably has a lot more to do with the efficacy of the specific defensive backs in coverage more than scheme.
Bonus: here's how they do on each down:
Let's all not panic. Uni-watch reports that the piping is dead:
(As per usual, do not be alarmed at the white pants.) I was never a piping fan—too West Virginia—so its removal is welcome.
(HT: the board's JeepinBen.)
Quote of win. Patrick Omameh on Denard Robinson speech patterns:
“He just has to do everything fast, and I don’t know why,” Omameh said. “I think we’ve kind of adapted to his … I guess, uh … method of speaking. We say he be speaking Florida.”
Yes, I'm a sucker for ungrammatical uses of "be." Also I find it hard to believe why Omameh thinks Denard Robinson doesn't have to do everything fast. He completed a Rubik's Cube before it was invented. He can't eat eggs. When he gets in a Ferrari the car tries to shift him. He's too fast for eggs! What does that even mean HE'S TOO FAST TO FIND OUT
“It’s just real fast,” Omameh said. “Everything is just super sped up. I’m like, ‘You know, you can slow down a little bit if you want us to run the play right. But, you don’t have to.’"
Even better quote. Manny Diaz on BYU's fullbacks:
They've got fullbacks that want to block your soul.
That is all.
More McGary. Sam Webb's latest article in the News is on Mitch McGary with more from McGary's (and Glenn Robinson's) tough-talking AAU coach Wayne Brumm:
"The post player is intimately and intricately involved in John Beilein's system," Brumm explained. "I don't know anybody who runs a better offensive system for a post player than Michigan. So I have to say, why not (Michigan as a possible destination)? Everybody else is (analyzing McGary's recruitment) like they're a friggin fan. We're trying to pick a school that is in Mitch's best interest."
Brumm added: "John Beilein can flat-out coach. The people I talk to and the coaches I talk to, I'll flat-out tell you — they are scared of John Beilein. They are worried about the day he starts getting the talent that they've got (at their schools). He's been at a bunch of places that he couldn't recruit high-major talent. Now he's at Michigan and it looks like he is making some headway there. When he starts with an even slate in terms of talent, look out! Look what he did last year. Look what he did with Darius Morris, Timmy Hardaway, and look what he has done with Jordan Morgan. My goodness, isn't anybody paying attention?"
That sounds like a guy who would like McGary to hit up Ann Arbor. On this morning's WTKA recruiting roundup, Webb delivered the "gut feeling" on McGary's top three: Michigan, Maryland, and Florida. No disrespect to those programs but that's a lot less of a mountain to hurdle than UK, UNC, and Duke, the other schools he plans to visit. I'm kind of thinking this is going well. Listen to the roundup—Webb won't say it (specifically disclaims it, actually) but it sounds like he believes this is happening.
Brumm also literally states that Bacari Alexander "gets it." WOO!
Mattison on the trail. Wolverine Nation—how is that URL even available?—has launched. They've put Tom behind a paywall and don't have an RSS feed, but here's this excellent article from Mike Rothstein on Greg Mattison's recruiting style:
"He didn't realize at the time just how expensive they were," former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Bob Davie said. "The business manager brought him in and they could have bought a new car with how much he spent on that mobile phone. I'll never forget that.
"That's just how he does it. He's going to work harder than anybody."
Rothstein hits up Mattison's head coach from back in the day when he was a D-line coach at Northwestern and various players from his Notre Dame days.
The other guy. ND DC Bob Diaco on Denard:
"Unfortunately it just is what it is," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "We need to be perfect, because any little crease and it's over, he's gone. It's not like, somebody hits a crease and he rattles for eight, 10 yards and you get him on the ground. This guy hits the crease and he can punch a hole in the top of the defense like that." …
"It's just a monumental task defending a runner at quarterback in particular, that it almost gives you the feeling like they're playing with 12," Diaco said. "It's a problem."
This game will not only be the first real opportunity to see what Borges does with Denard, it will be a major hype-check on Diaco. After his defense gave up 35 in a humiliating loss to Navy that had option-savvy Middies in disbelief that anyone could be so incompetent:
Navy wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works. …
If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through. That just made those LBs easier to block as either the fullback or quarterback ran right by them and into the secondary. …
What’s almost as incredible as this horrible game plan is the fact that despite Kelly’s assertion to the contrary, Notre Dame never adjusted. Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
Diaco appeared clueless in a media interview soon after. The next week his D gave up almost 400 yards and 28 points in a loss to Tulsa and people were screaming for his head. The next four games were all wins in which ND game up 17 or fewer points.
- Three points ceded to Utah, a mediocre offense.
- Three against Army, whatever.
- 16 against USC in a driving rainstorm slopfest in which the Trojans were helmed by Mitch Mustain.
- 17 against Miami in a game where Jacory Harris threw three picks on seven attempts and was yanked for Stephen Morris, who averaged 8.5 YPA but threw a pick of his own.
Last week USF only got 250 yards but BJ Daniels is horrible. Is the improvement real or a mirage? No idea.
I'm like what? Your game programs for ND are going to be electronical:
Each gameday program includes an audio file of "The Catch," Desmond Howard's famous touchdown against Notre Dame twenty years ago.
But it's not just the audio of the call, from the announcers that day — Frank Beckmann for the Michigan Sports Network and Brent Musburger for ABC — it also includes the play call from Michigan's head football coach at the time Gary Moeller and sound from Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac in the huddle.
That's kind of cool. Fifteen bucks cool? I'll listen to yours.
BONUS: Darren Rovell suggests there is a person in this world whose "dream" was to "embed the audio file of a famous play into a gameday program." Reach for the stars.
Blog content. NKOTB From Hope There Is Glory is not a Notre Dame blog, but a Michigan blog sporting statistical breakdowns of the WMU game. Here's a section:
Passes attempted against
Passes completed against
Etc.: WMU stunt blitz picture pagin' from BWS. Vincent Smith picks it up. MVictors on Michigan's first night game. Jerry Palm projects us in the… Fiesta Bowl? Good lord. Very cool Mike Leach interview from a technically oriented football site. HT: Smart Football.
Sippin on Purple breaks down a That Goddamned Counter Draw the Wildcats ran against BC. Why don't we use this for good? Denard rollout will make this enormously successful.