Joe Paterno's death was a hugely misreported fiasco of the sort that is inevitable given the speed of information in the internet age. This post is an attempt to provide a framework for existing in a world of uncertain information.
This is what happened: Onward State, a blog/online newspaper run by PSU students, reported Paterno's death based on an email sent to Penn State players that turned out to be a hoax. This was good enough for a local radio station and StateCollege.com. It hit twitter and was then picked up without attribution by CBS Sports. It took off from there once the imprimatur of a major news agency was on it. Black Shoe Diaries has a detailed chronology of the mass screwup if you're interested in details. Shirtless Mark Twain isn't sure if he approves of this whole business or not, but would like you to know that rumors of his rippling pecs have been sorely undersold.
It's a story about the internet screwing up in very understandable ways. Onward State had what seemed like reliable information, and it passed their threshold for reporting. It is not a good threshold, but not everyone has one these days. CBS's Adam Jacobi did something unwise and sloppy. Pagewhoring Huffington Post saw an opportunity for views and cares about nothing else.
We've seen this happen before when a newspaper intern replicates an internet rumor on one of the dingy blogs shuffled off into the corner of large metro papers: as soon as a rumor gets paired with header graphics associated with a real newspaper, everyone else is confirming it via "sources." In this instance, CBS's screwup was compounded because they didn't even provide a link to the primary source; Huffington Post did the same thing, but that's just their MO. Jacobi is a BHGP founder and should have known better.
I've screwed these things up myself. Earlier this year I erroneously reported that Kaleb Ringer had been booted from his high school team based on information that seemed solid but obvious was not. By contrast, a couple years ago I had the sense not to run anything about the serious car accident that Jon Bills and Mark Moundros were in despite having a ton of solid sources telling me about it. That seemed like a place to let journalists be journalists.
As I go along here that realm has steadily expanded. I probably won't report something like the Ringer thing again for a lot of reasons. Michigan playing Alabama is one thing to be wrong about; a high school kid's problems or lack thereof is another. This leaves windows open for crass opportunists like Ace Williams, but it's the internet. There's always going to be a bottom of the barrel.
Anyway, these things evolve naturally. As this site expands it has more at risk and becomes more cautious. People just starting out have little to lose and have not experienced the backlash from being wrong—or the frightening period between your post and official confirmation of it. Also some of them are total idiots.
From the user's perspective, the thing to do is maintain a Bayesian approach. Phil Birnbaum explains what that is:
Generally, Bayesian is a process by which you refine your probability estimate. You start out with whatever evidence you have which leads you to a "prior" estimate for how things are. Then, you get more evidence. You add that to the pile, and refine your estimate by combining the evidence. That gives you a new, "posterior" estimate for how things are.
You're a juror at a trial. At the beginning of the trial, you have no idea whether the guy is guilty or not. You might think it's 50/50 -- not necessarily explicitly, but just intuitively. Then, a witness comes up that says he saw the crime happen, and he's "pretty sure" this is the guy. Combining that with the 50/50, you might now think it's 80/20.
Then, the defense calls the guy's boss, who said he was at work when the crime happened. Hmmm, you say, that sounds like he couldn't have done it. But there's still the eyewitness. Maybe, then, it's now 40/60.
And so on, as the other evidence unfolds.
That's how Bayesian works. You start out with your "prior" estimate, based on all the evidence to date: 50/50. Then, you see some new evidence: there's an eyewitness, but the boss provides an alibi. You combine that new evidence with the prior, and you adjust your estimate accordingly. So your new best estimate, your "posterior," is now 40/60.
So if some guy with 50 followers claims Armani Reeves is headed to Michigan because Urban was late for his in-home visit, you might increment your 50% to 51%. If Mike Farrell says its 52-48 you might bump it to 52%, but if Farrell said he thought Reeves was definitely headed to Michigan you could push it up further. You base your confidence in the opinion on previous accuracy, with a list like this…
- TomVH/Sam Webb
- Established message board posters
- National analysts
- Random message board posters
- Raving lunatics
- People who don't know what football is
- Fictional races from another galaxy
- Hyperintelligent tacos
- Regular tacos
- Tacos that aren't too bright even for tacos
- Ace Williams
…and change your baseline confidence based on the information and your confidence level in it. This is something people do naturally, but too often the weight they put on the information is either 0 or 1 when it should be somewhere in between.
For purveyors of information, it's time to put an explicit confidence level on what you're relaying. My mistake with the Ringer thing, other than mentioning it at all, was saying something was the case when I should have said something less certain. When I got tips about the Michigan-Alabama game I erred by saying with certainty a contract would be signed on a certain date when the people involved with the thing probably didn't know that.
I try to follow a policy of revealing as much as I can about the nature any information I pass along without exposing a source, and that added transparency is necessary in an age when information—valid information—can come from anywhere or anyone. I still make mistakes. That's inevitable. I'm trying, though.
However, not even linking to the original report is a mortal sin. If you are going to run something based on someone else's reporting it is vital that you explicitly tell readers that. Otherwise one report from a little-known online news source turns into multiple reports, some of them from organizations with people paid to do reporting, and the echo chamber starts going exponential. If you do not link, you are telling people that you are reporting it, and when it turns out to be wrong you can't point the finger at anyone but yourself.
You can't throw a rock today without hitting a piece on Joe Paterno, and I'll add my bit. I've read a half-dozen of them and feel myself drawn to the portions that focus on his ignoble demise at the hands of a long-overdue grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky. The ones that skip it entirely, as many PSU-based POVs do, or attempt to put it "in perspective" seem to be succumbing to the same disease that felled everyone when Nixon died and people scrambled for good things to say about him other than "he's dead."
Paterno is not Nixon, obviously. Nixon is the most obvious public funeral held in which ill things were not spoken of the dead due to social taboo, rather than reason. I dislike that natural impulse to whitewash. When Christopher Hitchens died I spent a lot of time reading his withering obituaries just to watch him stick the knife in and twist. If that makes me ruthless, okay.
I just can't get over how it all came crashing down. Not only did Paterno and the culture he created shelter Sandusky, Paterno did not seem to feel remorse for half a second. Maybe this is just an addled old man speaking but it is appalling that this came out of his mouth at the impromptu pep rally at his home in the immediate aftermath of the grand jury's testimony:
The kids that were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. Tough life, when people do certain things to you. Anyway, you’ve been great. Everything’s great, all right.
Virtually the entire media edited Paterno's statement into a less awful version because their sense of propriety could not grasp the words that had actually come out of his mouth. This was Joe Paterno. He couldn't have said that. He shouldn't have said anything. He should have been in his house crying to his wife, finally realizing the monstrous consequences of his inaction.
Instead he seemed to think of himself as a victim. A lot of people find ways to blame themselves for massive tragedies they are not responsible for. Paterno was oblivious to his role to the end. Maybe that's forgivable to some people who look at the donations and the football coaching and the Great Experiment. Not me. I have great respect for Chris Grovich of Black Shoe Diaries but I can't read this…
Behind Joe Paterno's Beaver Stadium statue are the words, "Educator, Coach, Humanitarian." They really could have been arranged in any order.
…without inserting "child rape enabler" in any order. That phrase overwhelms the rest. If he did lead a program that strove to prove it was capable of operating at a higher plane that just makes it worse. He was held up—he held himself up—as a man who could achieve success on and off the field in a way that others could not.
Maybe any one of us would have done the same thing if confronted by the terrible truth about a long-time friend. Maybe 90% of people would not have had the courage to blow up a reputation so carefully crafted over such a long period. Maybe Joe Paterno was just being human.
That's not enough when you have a statue. Paterno wasn't supposed to be human, he was supposed to be Joe Paterno. He wasn't and now he never was. He had over a decade to do something about Sandusky and did not. That is no mistake, or misjudgment, or error. It is immensely sad, but in the end Paterno failed his charge more spectacularly than a man who dared less would have. You can call him Icarus if you want; I'm not inclined to give him that benefit of the doubt. The costs were not worth the attempt.
The statue is Joe Paterno now. The man is dead. Hopefully the idea behind the statue can help people be better than the man turned out to be.
[Editor's note: Orson and I both go for the statue conceit. We've seen people crying or overturning news vans in its vicinity it every 30 seconds over the past few months, so maybe not a huge surprise.]
This is very important. Fitz Tous is a much weirder name than Gerald Saint.
An image. This was on the internet, but not widely enough. Undoubtedly from this year's Big Ten Media Days, the family portrait:
I'm just posting this for Pelini.
WHAT ABOUT MY SOUL
Where have you been all my life. I can't believe this guy has been doing this for three years and no one has found him before MGoVideo stumbled across him this weekend:
A check of his account reveals he's done this exact same thing dozens of times over the past three years for things as insignificant as victories over Hillsdale. There is no corresponding "BOO" for losses, unfortunately.
NoPa. Whoever wins the league this year won't have to pick up their trophy with tongs:
Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's name has been removed from the Big Ten's football championship trophy, league commissioner Jim Delany said Monday.
“We believe that it would be inappropriate to keep Joe Paterno’s name on the trophy at this time,” Delany said. “The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial. We believe that it’s important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game.”
They're going with just "Stagg." Now all we have to do is tie the division names into a horrible crime and we're set nomenclature-wise. Paterno is kind of a leader and legend all wrapped into one, isn't he?
Legal argh. Marvin Robinson's concussion turns out to be one that causes bad decisions:
Robinson, 20, was arraigned last week on a charge of second degree home invasion and released on a promise to appear. He is accused of breaking into a locked dorm room at 10 p.m. Sept. 29 and stealing the game.
After getting some time early in the year Robinson mysteriously disappeared; now we know why. There's a lot of speculation about this being the end of MRob by mysterious insiders; I find that odd. Unless he's had previous incidents this seems like a first strike type event. Previous Michigan players in the same level of trouble have been able to return after doing penance.
"(They) gave me some freedom to call some stunts up front that coaches wouldn’t typically do, but they trust that I’m smart enough to make the right calls," Van Bergen said. "We didn’t actually get the green light, we just started doing it. Take a risk. Why not?
"It worked the first two or three times, and the coaches were just like, ‘Call ‘em when you feel like calling ‘em.’"
Remember a couple years ago when Indiana ripped off an 85-yard touchdown because RVB missed a check? That doesn't so much happen anymore. Seniors. I like them. We should try to have more of them. You, Desmond Morgan: be a senior with four years of eligibility starting now.
A note on Denard fumbly bits. While it's frustrating to endure a game in which Denard fumbles turn two drives in field goal range to dust, the team's overall trend is still highly positive:
|Year: 2011||Thru: 11/12/11|
The noise you hear is Rich Rodriguez screaming "oh, of course this happens the year after I get fired." Denard coughed it up twice against Illinois and had the elaborate-sack-escape fumble against Iowa; the other two lost fumbles were from Smith and Hopkins against SDSU. Robinson's had 330 events this year; losing three fumbles on them isn't that bad.
Last year Michigan lost 14(!) as a team. The improvement here has been significant enough to more than combat the increase in interceptions.
Complicated bits. Smart Football's Grantland work seems specifically targeted at things we've been discussing about Michigan's offensive transition. There a post about how Jim Harbaugh has dumped sight reading from the 49ers offense and thereby aided them in their transformation from chumps to 7-1. At first they were like this:
And then they would change to this when they got a blitz:
But now they're like this:
They always have hot routes built into the play. Michigan has gone the other direction. Unfortunately you're thinking of Vincent Smith not running a slant against Michigan State right now, but I can't do anything about that. Chris Brown's take on this adaptation:
It's my personal view, but I think NFL teams rely too much on sight adjustments. There are two reasons for this: First, these plays were far more straightforward a decade or two ago than they are now, and second, coaches who spend nearly all their waking hours thinking about football tend to forget that it's not how many X's and O's they know but what they can teach their players. To the first point, sight adjustments are old — at least 50 years old, if not more. But they arose before zone blitzes became popular. Against a blitz with man-to-man coverage in the secondary, sight adjustments made perfect sense. They were extensions of backyard football — throw a quick one to the fast guy and let him run with the ball before the blitz overwhelms the offensive line.
Now it's not so simple. With the rise of the zone blitz, the fact that three defenders might rush from one side tells the offense almost nothing about where the coverage will be. This is why, when zone blitzes first became prominent, you saw quarterbacks throwing awful passes directly to defenders who weren't even close to receivers. This is not to say that sight adjustments are impossible in today's environment, but they require an almost telepathic relationship between quarterback, receiver, and even the offensive line.
Borges and Hoke have been grumbling about wide receivers being hidden issues in the passing game for chunks of the year and I think this is what they're talking about. In the spring game Gardner missed Gallon three times when Gallon pulled up short and Gardner threw long or vice versa; the Smith interception happened; Denard has often been under pressure without anywhere to go with the ball because everyone's 30 yards downfield. That seems nuts so my assumption is when that happens it's because the receivers have not read the play correctly.
While this should get better next year when Gallon, Roundtree, and Stonum all have a year of experience under their belts I'm a little leery of Michigan using sight reads extensively—and they seem like an all-or-nothing proposition like being a triple option or Air Raid team. You're either 100% committed to it or you suck. I'll figure out more about this over the offseason—I've signed up for some clinics featuring Michigan's coordinators that will hopefully shed some light on what Michigan's trying to do.
BONUS relevance: Brown also breaks down one of Oregon's long runs against Stanford with a focus on the alignment of the line and how Oregon forces you to respect the bubble. I'll probably tackle that in greater detail in a picture pages.
Yost attendance problem mitigation. If you have tickets, need tickets, need a rideshare, or require any other thing that will get you to Yost there is a Children of Yost facebook page that can help you with these matters. I don't think their services extend to calling you up at 7:15 and screaming "PUT DOWN THE MW3 AND LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW," unfortunately.
More Trouba. Via NHL.com:
"He has offense skills and he really does defend well," Gregory said. "You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well. He loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he's not disappointing early on this year, either."…
"He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up the ice with the puck and with good speed," he said. "He's very confident, has great agility, is strong physically and is always alert. He's done a good job in 1-on-1 situations against opposing forwards and contained his man very well."
(HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
This week in going for it. Advanced NFL Stats has a go-or-not 4th down calculator, but I think it's broken. When I punch in the situation from the weekend, it says 100% of 92 is 93. As a result it says M should have kicked.
I think it means the decision to go was correct since it says you have a 70% chance of success and your WP goes from 92 to 93 if you get it right. Expected points are massively in favor of going, FWIW: 4.5 to 2.4.
The mid 90s summed up. Midnight Maize brings us this shirt, which should be the student T this year and for all time:
That is wicked off the hook but inexplicably managed to escape its ebay auction unsold.
Etc.: Toussaint interviewed by TIM DOYLE OMG. Says "I'm just a big fan of fashion." Toussaint, not Doyle. Dreaded Judgment gets on the "third down == awesome" bandwagon. MGoFootball Illinois bullets arrived too late for yesterday's game post.
Iowa fans think Michigan State got fainting disease last Saturday, which I point out mostly to marvel at the idea anyone would have to slow the Hawkeyes' tempo down. I guess they were down a billion.
the 2009 Penn State Behrend Sports Camps flyer.
The elephant in the room. Everyone else feels compelled to write something on the events unfolding at Penn State, and I do too. I don't have much to add to the universal revulsion and calls for firing:
In response, Penn State did not call the police. They did other things, but they did not call the police. Joe Paterno did not call the police, and Tim Curley did not call the police, and Gary Schultz did not call the police. The graduate assistant who witness the act did not call the police. Penn State President Graham Spanier did not call the police. A reported child molester and rapist was living and working in their midst, and working in a program that brought him into contact with boys, and not one person called the police.
Co-sign. Penn State fans are right there, too, FWIW. There's a small band of holdouts but it is a distinct minority.
The reason I'm writing this bit is not the actions in question but the reaction of the major players once they became public. While the actions themselves are terrible the ass-covering reaction of the school's president and Paterno are at least 341st on the list of terrible things that have transpired. This is part of Paterno's statement:
If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can’t help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred. …
As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.
No. When you heard the sad thing about your former DC, knew goddamn well this was a second offense after a 1998 incident that is likely the reason for his sudden retirement, and decided it wasn't worth talking to the police because your mind rearranged it into something "inappropriate" instead of evil, you gambled. When a kid was raped after you gambled, you're done. You did not "do what you were supposed to." You were supposed to call the police.
As for Spanier, Black Shoe Diaries already lost its mind for me:
"Unconditional support"? "Complete confidence"? "Highest levels of honesty, integrity, and compassion?"
Seriously? It was appropriate that these things were investigate thoroughly a decade ago. Regardless, this is a completely abominable response to any crisis, most especially this one.
These are obviously vetted and carefully chosen words, which have the added effect of making Graham Spanier look like an idiot -- and that is casting Spanier in the most favorable light. I don't think he's an idiot, for the record, but the remaining alternatives are much more sinister.
Even after it is crystal clear huge chunks of PSU's athletic department were complicit in Sandusky's activities they still go this route:
Who do you think you're kidding? At least own up to your massive, incomprehensive failure. Or cancel your press conference an hour before it is supposed to happen. Is there an athletic department in the country that can say "we were wrong"?
Paterno's apparently gone, as was inevitable the moment the grand jury report was released. His name should be off the Big Ten championship trophy. Either that or I want one of the post game interviews to go like this:
Q: You've won the Big Ten championship! What are you going to do now?
A: Spend a decade enabling a child rapist!
If they could stop running that Big Ten ad where Paterno says "we believe in people" (except when they are reporting serious crimes) that would be cool, too. His legacy is now Pedobear wearing JoePa's glasses.
Is this fair? Should we forget all the good Paterno has done in our "rush to judgment"? Yes, and yes. This is a failure so massive it wipes out every positive thing about JoePa, of which there were many.
Forget with consumption. Now that we've talked about horrible crimes you're probably in the mood to buy a shirt. I know I am. You are in luck, as three fabulous options have been added to the MGoStore:
I find it odd that people want to commemorate a concept that means Michigan's quarterback is throwing the ball five feet over his receivers' heads, but commemorate away. Also I'm going to pitch Underground that all MGoShirts should feature someone pointing at something.
Good news for people who love bad Seinfeld references. I just wanted to type that header. Now I've done it so I guess I have to say something about the unexpected commitment of Pioneer RB/WR Drake Johnson. That thing is: reminds me of James Rogers. Instate sleeper with excellent straight line speed but reputed to be more of a track star than a football player, recruited as a RB, may actually end up at WR (or, you know, in the secondary after a five year sojourn across every position on the depth chart).
Weird commit to take before figuring out where Bri'onte Dunn is going to end up, but my moles tell me Fred Jackson says he can transform into a helicopter. That will be helpful on short yardage. But seriously folks, it'll be interesting to see how Johnson and Thomas Rawls work out as the first of the Hoke tailbacks. Both are major sleepers, but running back is a spot where sleepers seem to do better than they should at a position that prizes athleticism—Hart, Le'Veon Bell, Wisconsin person du jour.
All 22… [Homer noise]. Dedicated NFL followers are peeved at the league's implausible reasons for not releasing the endzone camera angles that show every player on the field ("fans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games"). Smart Football:
The proffered reason — that it would result in too much criticism — is so silly that it can’t possibly be true. But if it’s not true, then what is the real reason? … two possibilities: first, either we really would fail to comprehend the complex array of movement on the field by twenty-two supremely athletic but human men, and thus we need the gentle paternalism of the cameraman and producer to show us, in a kind of cinematic baby talk, “See, with this close-up the quarterback throws a pretty spiral to the receiver”; or, second, football isn’t even a game so much as it is a product to be branded in a particular way, and by restricting the All-22 the NFL can by Orwellian imagery of extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots emotionally convey to us the narratives solely how they want to in the way they want to. In either case, there it’s control of the message; the only question is why, and all the answers are depressing.
This is the same attitude that leads to the Paterno reaction (not the action, the PR): belief that enough people will be snowed that you don't have to care about the ones who aren't. It works enough to be the default strategy even when no one in the world is going to believe you, like in the recent OSU and PSU cases*. That's the only play in the playbook.
On the other hand, it's not like anyone's offering views of the whole field to me. I asked the SID about it a few years ago and got a polite, expected rejection. I think the thing the NFL fears is fans making criticisms that aren't ignorant.
*[Because I don't want to find @ramzyn leaping out of my mailbox with a machete tomorrow, let me clarify that I'm not comparing the two actions that led to the PR blunders, just the PR blunders themselves. The reaction to both the Gee/Smith circus and the Spanier stuff was "who do they think they're kidding?" The PSU stuff has an order of magnitude of extra rage on top of it, obviously.]
What is a catch anymore? Additional Hoke comment on the Hemingway 49% touchdown:
"I thought Junior made a catch," Hoke said Monday during his weekly news conference.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I thought he caught the ball (and finished the play)."
Hoke downplayed the significance of it after making that statement, FWIW, and that's about what I want from the coach: an honest opinion delivered calmly.
Anyway, this section is not about that. It's about what constitutes a catch these days. It used to be, sonny, that if the ball hit the ground it was not a catch. Nowadays there's the whole control-to-the-ground, ball-not-moving, is-it-or-isn't-it-thing. And I don't like it. Back in my day, these things were clear. Now anything close gets sent up and then sent back inconclusive.
I'd prefer it if a ball that hits the ground before the receiver has the opportunity to make a football move with it was just incomplete. That's clear. If that was the rule we wouldn't be talking about the Hemingway non-catch because it would have been obvious.
Iowa skill position coveting update. Patrick Vint of BHGP relates that McNutt was an athletic quarterback until year two at Iowa, when it was discovered his hands are covered in a mild adhesive and he is pimp. Also he explains the Coker recruitment:
…he committed to Iowa between his junior and senior seasons at Dematha. You were right on the offers, but only Minnesota and Iowa were recruiting him as a full-time halfback; everyone else saw him as a fullback/h-back. Obviously, we know how that works out. But the other thing is that he wasn't necessarily "missed" as much as completely under the radar. He was injury-prone as a sophomore and junior, and his numbers weren't that impressive. Both Rivals and Scout had him as a low-3*. His senior year was monster, though, getting him the fourth star and some late attention from VT/Miami/Auburn (IIRC on war eagle), but Iowa had an ace in the hole: Dude's an astrophysics major, and Iowa's been all over that s--- since Van Allen in the 50's.
Yes, our beast of a starting halfback is an astrophysics major.
Must be nice to watch your meh tailback recruit hulk up during his senior season.
JoePa as Rivers Cuomo.
Apparently JoePa is a closet hipster. I knew it all along! Just look at his shirt in the golf cart at practice. Couple that with the short pants, white socks, thick-rimmed glasses...hipster all the way. Thoughts?
Paterno vs Hipster: FIGHT
Emailer: flawless victory.
A manball transition theory.
After reading your posts on Denard and the shotgun, I began thinking about what might be an appropriate Way Forward for Hoke, Borges, Denard and U-M fandom.
I agree with most everyone that last year's spread-and-shred offense was very good despite having a first-year QB starter, turnover issues and the lack of a consistently dependable RB in the backfield. However we all know that was last season, and the new coaching staff isn't going that same route. I think a three-year transition from spread to West Coast offense is what Borges needs to consider. It could go something like this:
2011: passing spread, a la Missouri with Chase Daniels or the Michigan-Florida Cap One Bowl game in 2007. Plenty of shotgun, still plenty of Denard dilithium. The distribution of running/passing plays goes from 60/40 last year to something approaching 50/50. Borges gets the benefit of the short passing game that he desires, takes advantage of a very skilled WR group and the learning curve for the whole offense is a lot less steep.
I'm not sure anything featuring Denard Robinson at quarterback can ever be described as a "passing spread," but it stands to reason that as he develops he'll throw more. In any case I'm less concerned with the development of the passing game than what happens on the ground. While what Denard ran last year was effective in the structure of the offense—how many times did he have nowhere to go?—I got the impression it wasn't very sophisticated. They kept updating it. That's fine as far as it goes. I'm guessing Borges's system is more robust.
The ground game is more of a concern. It was pretty good a year ago and with everyone save Schilling and Webb back it should be better this year. It seems doubtful they'll be able to take that incremental move forward if they're changing their bread and butter.
2012: West Coast/spread hybrid, a la last season's Philadelphia Eagles with Michael Vick at QB. A senior Denard should be able to handle most anything thrown his way by this time, and hopefully a consistent threat at RB emerges. Meanwhile, Devin Gardner is getting ready for the spotlight because the transition is nearly complete.
Where are they going to get the personnel? With Barnett out they've got very little at TE/FB. They'll be choosing between Moore/Miller/Kerridge and a third or fourth WR. It's hard to see two of those three on the field for big chunks of the game when the WR options beyond Stonum and Roundtree will be veteran and decent: Gallon, Jerald Robinson, and Dileo will all be juniors—you can split Hayes out as well. The WRs have been getting talked up while no tight end save Koger is mentioned.
Unless Moore and Miller come on big time, Michigan will be all but locked into three-wide sets in 2012.
2013: full-blown West Coast offense. Devin should be ready to take the reins of a team that might resemble last season's San Diego State offense, or U-M teams from the early 2000s.
This seems like the first year they could plausibly run most of their offense from under center. Gardner's big enough to be comfortable in the pocket, they'll have some sophomore tight ends at their disposal, etc.
Maybe this is something that Hoke and Borges are considering and for their sake I hope so. This seems plausible to me but I'm no coach. What do you think?
I don't know yet. We'll have a much better idea when we see this year's offense. If it's as spread-like as Dinardo keeps saying and it performs well it's hard to see them moving away from it for Denard's senior year.
If I had to guess I'd say they are installing a pro-style passing tree right now and will use the parts of it they can with Denard and a bunch of short receivers. By next year that will be almost totally installed. We won't see a drastic shift in the run game until 2013, when the entire interior line ages out and is replaced by Hoke-recruited beef machines. That will be the dawning of the age of Manball.
Someone asks about technique.
I apologize in advance for not already knowing this, but my time on the football field was limited to middle school. I hear Hoke…
Excerpt from interview on Scout.com: "Ryan has been playing the three, Mike Martin has been playing the shade, the one and then a combination of guys, Will can play both the three and the five and the three and the one. Will Heininger can play all three and has.
…talk all the time about the different places our D-linemen can play, but what is the difference between all the different Techniques?
Techniques are addressed in the incomplete but not totally useless UFR FAQ. Here's a recap/primer for people who haven't been around for one of the previous explanations. First, the explanatory image:
Your question addresses the leftmost DE, the NT, and the DT. Bullet time:
- THE FIVE TECH: The leftmost—strongside—DE lines up shaded outside of the strongside tackle. He's a defensive end but he's half DT, too: he often has to take on double teams as teams try to hook him and get outside. When doubled on the line he's usually trying to fend off a TE as the second guy so his task is not quite as difficult as the NT in this regard, but when the offense goes to a spread look he's got a lot more pass rush responsibility. The ideal guy here is someone like Brandon Graham, equally capable of ripping through that double or annihilating the tackle if left alone on pass protection.
- THE ONE TECH: This is the nose tackle. He is supposed to be enormous and immobile. If he's not you can still get a lot of production out of the spot if the guy can split doubles. Martin is the latter variety. "Shade" is a synonym for one-tech/NT—shade means he's not directly lined up over an opponent but he's not halfway between two. In the diagram above the NT is shaded left of the center.
- THE THREE TECH: This is the DT on the weakside. Because of the alignment of the defense he usually gets a one-on-one matchup with the weakside guard. He's got to win that battle for the defense to be effective. Usually this is the smaller, quicker DT, but the best ones are huge and quick. If we had a nose tackle Mike Martin would murder folks here. Being able to go one on one with the G is how Warren Sapp was so much of a factor in the backfield.
The oft-mentioned Theory Of The 4-3 Under states that the five tech and three tech are somewhat interchangeable. Both need to be tough run defenders with a secondary focus on pass rush. They're big hulking plus-sized DEs or somewhat smaller DTs; sitting and anchoring against doubles is less important than getting penetration by beating your opponent. The strongside DE is usually a more important run defender because he's vulnerable to a lot more double teams.
Are we still better than State at basketball?
Michigan swept Michigan State last year. (awesome)
Compared with last year, how does Michigan match up with Michigan State this year? More favorably, worse, or about the same? I know it is way early, but considering player losses, incoming players, and current player development.
That depends on how much value you place on Darius Morris and how well you think Trey Burke can replace him.
In terms of players, minutes, and usage lost Michigan has an advantage. Michigan lost only Morris, who was on the court 86% of the time and used 29% of possessions when he was out there. Michigan State lost:
- Kalin Lucas (83% minutes, 27% possessions)
- Durrell Summers (73%, 21%)
- Garrick Sherman (30%, 14%)
- Mike Kebler (24%, 9%)
At first blush that's encouraging, but losing low-efficiency usage is not a big deal. Morris combined massive usage with a high ORtg (109); all of the players State lost save Lucas had turrible numbers. The departures are a push at best. State's only going to miss one of the absent. Both teams replace their offense's main engine. Michigan's engine was significantly better.
Year-to-year improvement should be advantage Michigan. As we've discussed over and over again, last year M was one of the youngest teams in the country. Michigan State was about 70th percentile. Juniors like Draymond Green and Delvon Roe are not likely to get a ton better; freshmen like Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Smotrycz, and Jordan Morgan are. State has a couple wildcards in Keith Appling and Adriean Payne. Michigan has the above three plus the ever-expanding Jon Horford.
State's best argument is their recruiting class, which includes five star Branden Dawson. Depending on the service you prefer, Michigan can match the rest of the class with Brundidge, Burke, and Bielfeldt. Not Dawson. He's kind of a big deal.
I'd guess Michigan is narrowly better next year unless State gets an extra quantum leap from one of their young guys. Burke and Dawson's adjustments to college will be the biggest factor.
UPDATE: I totally forgot MSU's addition of Valpo grad-year transfer Brandon Wood, an All-Horizon first team player who might swing the advantage to MSU. /shakes fist at grad transfer rule
RC Slocum, man about town. This doesn't have anything to do with anything but here's Joe Paterno doing the limbo:
Sort of, anyway. I don't think you're supposed to go that way. Paterno probably thinks going backwards is a Hun affectation. Also prepare for the OBC to burn himself into your retinas:
These are from a recently unearthed cache of photos of former Texas A&M coach RC Slocum that features both Gorbachev and Mathew McConaughey, although not in the same picture. Barking Carnival theorizes that Slocum is the most interesting man in the world, and it's hard to disagree. Gorby!
OTL on oversigning. ESPN's put out what's hopefully part one of an extensive series of interviews with college athletes who have been screwed out of scholarships and swept under the rug. It's LSU again:
So Les Miles…
- Runs a program that oversigns and cuts players who don't seem useful.
- Doesn't bother to tell players they've been cut in a face to face meeting.
- Relies on someone else to send a letter to the kid.
- Refuses to meet with the kid after he's received the bad news.
- Baldly lies about the kid at media day.
Then Elliot Porter shows up and says he had to be a man about getting cut by Miles, demonstrating more maturity than his erstwhile head coach. Unfortunately for those of us making huge "Please Be Our DC, Randy" signs for the bowl game, Randy Shannon's rep as an awesome dude also takes a huge hit.
Not to beat this dead horse for the thousandth time, but this is some bullshit right here and should be a major target for reform. ESPN's doing the Lord's work, and I hope they continue.
The inevitable redshirt. To reiterate something from Tim's presser recap, Devin Gardner's back problems held him out of the last eight games and have set him up to take a (surprise!) redshirt this season:
“His back has been better, and he’s been able to do most of the stuff today,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Saturday.
Should a medical redshirt be granted, Gardner would, in theory, have two years to hold the starting quarterback job. Denard Robinson is penciled in as the starter through the 2012 season.
Yes, the nature and timing of Gardner's injury is unbelievably convenient, but if they've got documentation they've got it and the NCAA will have to grant Gardner his redshirt. We should all go back and undo the Great Gardner Non-Redshirt Infighting, since it looks like Michigan's going to have its cake and eat it too… unless Rodriguez gets fired and everyone transfers and we're starting Jack Kennedy next year.
Gwaltney in repose. A Bruce Feldman article on well-travelled former blue chip recruit Jason Gwaltney, who I remember openly campaigning for Rivals to raise his ranking as just another message board plebe, has a random quote about Rich Rodriguez($):
He says he did learn how to practice full-speed from his days at WVU. "They chiseled that into my brain," he said. "Coach [Rich] Rodriguez instilled something in me. I still owe that man a lot."
Gwaltney ended up at a D-III HBCU in New Jersey and is in an upcoming all-star game with fellow spectacular flameout Fred Rouse. His brother Scooter Berry was an afterthought throw-in but developed into an All Big East defensive lineman as Gwaltney toured the lower divisions of college football, so he's got an obvious what-could-have-been in his own family.
Hello Georgia? After UGA's athletic director was pulled over for DUI with a girl in the passenger seat and her panties in is lap, UGA has a new athletic director. His first scheduling actions were cancelling games against actual opponents that the old guy had put in place, so it seemed like Georgia's brief glastnost period wherein they were prepared to end their infamous policy of never leaving the South was over. This, then, is a surprise:
Preliminary discussions have taken place with Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State about the prospect of one or more of them scheduling a home-and-home series with Georgia in the future, UGA athletics director Greg McGarity confirmed to Dawgs247.
“We’d love to do a home-and-home with a Big Ten or Midwestern school that has a rich tradition,” McGarity said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.
“Hopefully, within the next year, we’ll be able to have something in writing.”
Georgia and Clemson have a series that extends until 2014, so any series would have to wait until at least then. McGarity says the series would be "way down the road" so one school or the other would have plenty of time to cancel it.
Would Michigan be interested? I'd hope so. Dave Brandon's already set up a neutral site matchup with Alabama that's slightly cool but also thousands of miles from either campus in a generic, if swanky, corporate stadium. From a fan's perspective having a home and home with Georgia is way cooler than a one-off in Dallas. From a financial perspective not so much—Michigan's getting a home game's worth of revenue from the Jerryworld game—but money isn't everything and Michigan needs something to spruce up the schedule in years when Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are all road games. Of course, "sprucing up" the schedule in those years means "making it brutal," so maybe not.
Would they be more interested than the other three schools listed? Probably not. I'd bet Michigan is the least likely of the four to actually land a series with Georgia. Because of their Notre Dame series they have to work in games against actual opponents where they can; Penn State and Ohio State don't have any annual commitments and Notre Dame has to fill twelve games every year.
Limbo update, or backdate, or whatever. Yesterday Tom's recruiting post quoted Darian Cooper saying Tony Dews told him Michigan coaches would "know January first" whether they'd be around next year. Recent commitment Desmond Morgan was told something similar with more confidence but something less than rock-hard certainty:
“I’ve talked with coach Rodriguez and the rest of the coaches and they’re pretty confident he’s going to be there after the season,” Morgan said. “I’m pretty confident as well. No matter what happens, Michigan’s a great football program.”
So that's Morgan and Countess in the boat no matter what. Picking up two commits during this time of uncertainty is a nice insurance policy against the uphill battle a January coaching change would see the new guy fight.
Bang-bang. Soony Saad's been called in to the U20 team, whereupon he scored in a dismantling of Canada and essentially announced he'd be back for 2011:
Philadelphia Union striker McInerney scored in the 50th minute while Saad also notched an impressive 25-yard half-volley score in the 34th.
It's nothing new for Saad, one of the top strikers of the ball in the country, who helped lead unsung Michigan to the College Cup as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. "It was nice being in camp. It was kind of a tough adjustment coming off the college season," he said.
When the subject turned to the College Cup, where the Wolverines suffered a semifinal loss to eventual champion Akron, Saad declined to comment.
"Not until we win the College Cup next season," he said.
The usual disclaimers apply.
Etc.: Zac Ciullo comes in for an extensive profile in the News. Random New Yorker poem about Michigan. Jason King drops some positive fluff about the basketball team along the same lines as my column but with far fewer references to the DOS command line. Might want to update that photo, though.