this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Number one breakout. ESPN's Travis Haney compiled a list of 50 breakout players for the upcoming season based on "a lot of input from coaches" and your new favorite quarterback is #1:
“I recruited him,” said one of the Big Ten coaches who played against Gardner late last year. “I know how good he can be. I would say I have been looking forward to him getting his chance, because he’s a really good kid, but they’re on the schedule again this year.”
Frank Clark also features at #35.
Swag. We are totally losing Michael Ferns to Mississippi State, you guys.
Following up on earlier assertion. I mentioned in passing in a previous post that I felt Bill Connolly was way underrating LeVeon Bell and way overrating Michigan State's offensive line in his Spartan preview for the year, and as I was looking up various things about Derrick Green I came across a stunning stat on Bell:
Le'Veon Bell gained 921 yards after contact in 2012, most among players from AQ schools. Bell gained more than 50 percent of his yards after contact and averaged 2.4 yards after contact per rush.
Bell got 2.3 yards before contact and 2.4 after. That is a man doing work to clean up for a terrible offensive line. And quarterback: Bell's 382 carries led the nation by 26.
Countdowns to kickoff. Taylor Lewan:
Lewan is a thousand times more boring than he used to be. Leadership!
Also Quinton Washington and Jeremy Gallon. True story: bought a chair at Art Van this summer, marveled at the size of the guy they had hauling stuff around, realized that I knew who this was: Quinton Washington. Woo minimum wage, for one more year.
Also, the first day of practice:
Derrick Green's first carry went for 50 yards and birthed a unicorn.
Wide receivers block, then they receive. In-depth ESPN article on the blocking aspects of playing out wide comes highly recommended for interesting quotes and such. Minnesota safety Brock Vereen is either worried about his knees or an expert at backhanded compliments:
“They act as if they are more excited to block than they are to catch a pass,” Minnesota safety Brock Vereen said. “Sadly, I’m not even exaggerating.”
Michigan's dumped cut blocking for a lot of reasons, but the primary one is the fact that defensive backs just get up too darn fast these days:
“They are like those Weeble Wobbles that you had growing up,” Hecklinski said. “You can throw a great cut and he’s right back up making a play and golly, that’s a great cut."
"Golly," says the man eating everyone's lunch on the recruiting trail. #TheMichiganDifference.
The article gestures at one of the main reasons Michigan's wide receivers were so pumped up to block: with Denard Robinson on your team, any play could be a 20 yard run you fail to turn into 80, and then your ass is roasted. Hopefully they maintain the same urgency as Michigan moves to a system more likely to get you five (after contact, and by "contact" I mean "safety murder") than 50.
Hoke advocates earlier official visits. Makes sense, will never happen for the same reason a baseball season that makes sense will never happen:
“Having an official visit date in June would help football,” Hoke stated. “I know some of our friends in the Pac 12 and the SEC probably don’t want the young man and his family coming up to Michigan during the first two weeks in June, because they’re hoping it’s 10 below zero when those official visits take place.”
A rather large win. Wolverine Historian puts up the '95 Minnesota game:
Mack Brown offer letter. I just find this interesting. It's an official offer letter from Mack Brown to a guy named Lorenzo:
- The first bullet is basically Michigan's much-discussed and much-misunderstood "policy" about commits taking visits: you are committed if you are not taking visits, and if you visit elsewhere Michigan will not consider you committed. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll pull your scholarship offer, but your spot is no longer reserved and they may recruit someone else or just reconfigure their class. Why recruiting sites, opposing fans, and Michigan fans keep going on and on about it is a mystery to me.
- Texas is explicitly offering four year scholarships, and seems to state that a fifth year is also guaranteed… but I think the fine print there means the firm handshake is still an option if the Head Coach wants it to be.
- The pointlessness of the rule where players cannot get written offers before August 1st of their senior year is brought home in the first paragraph: Texas is "pleased to reconfirm our commitment to the football athletic scholarship you committed to earlier this year." The lack of written offers has led to the rise of the incredibly annoying "uncommittable offer" and prevents players from getting the exact stipulations of their scholarship offer in writing until long after many of them have committed. And it obviously does nothing to slow down the pace of recruiting.
The only way to slow down the pace of recruiting, by the way, is to let kids sign whenever they want. Eighth grader offers will come to a screeching halt, for real.
SBNation has a roundup of offer letters from around the country, featuring Comic Sans from Virginia Tech, "formally" spectacularly misspelled as "formerly" by Virginia, and Illinois claiming that those who attend there will play "championship football." That latter might be true if in fact the Big Ten has been relegated to the second level of English soccer. Which it probably has after last year. We done got relegated you guys.
Quite a rise. Four Michigan players make the final roster at the USA World Juniors evaluation camp: JT Compher, Tyler Motte, Boo Nieves… and Andrew Copp. I think 14 of the 18 forwards on the roster will be on the WJC team, so Copp's gone from JJ Swistak But Big to a guy with a very good chance of making the WJC team in 12 months. Wow.
Amen. Hoke on ND:
"I do not like the fact it's going away," Hoke said.
Asked who is a fault for all this, Hoke responded simply: "We would like to continue the series."
Realignment has replaced the ND game and games against Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northwestern with Rutgers and Maryland.
Etc.: Harmon Of Michigan's theme song is a "Hollywood-style rendition of the Victors," and MVictors has it. Michigan Hockey Net posts the famous 2002 Denver-Michigan West Regional Final at Yost. Michigan players on the O'Bannon case.
Well, I'll be danged. I think this is the first documented case of a recruit stating he picked a school because he wanted the security of a long-term scholarship. He's Dyshon Sims, a 3.5 star OL recruit who just picked Georgia over Alabama:
“I also like how you get a four-year scholarship at Georgia. That’s one of the main reasons I picked it. From my understanding, you get three years at Alabama, and you only get a scholarship for each year. If you don’t show enough progression, then your scholarship is pretty much gone at Alabama.”
Nick Saban is probably not quaking at this development, but it's nice to see someone is paying attention to the fact that they can get a four-year ride guaranteed if they ask for it.
don't mention Woodson… don't mention Woodson… don't mention Woodson
Gardner camping. Devin Gardner was at the Manning QB camp thing over the weekend. That was mostly notable the general public for the fact that Johnny Manziel was bootted for showing up late, apparently hung over. Dollars to donuts as he was leaving he made several Heisman poses and rubbed his eyes theatrically in the general direction of Peyton.
Anyway, Gardner was either impressive or raw depending on who you talked to. Mike Mayock named him first when asked about juniors who impressed:
"Gardner came in at the end of the year, he's 6'4", 210, he's got a buggy whip [ed: ?] for an arm, he's highly athletic, he's raw as can be, but trust me—this kid's got some ability. I'm really anxious to watch him develop this year.
Mayock clarifies that this was not actually football, so don't think it's football.
Mayock wasn't the only guy to notice Gardner. According to Bruce Feldman, he was generating quite a bit of buzz:
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks also noted Gardner:
@dg1two might be the next Ryan Tannehill. Limited experience, but athletic and a ultra-talented passer. Great physical tools. Big arm.
If you missed al the Tannehill references last year around this time, Tannehill switched to WR for Texas A&M, was successful there, went back to quarterback for his last couple years, and was a first round NFL draft pick.
Brooks noted that there were 41 college starters showing out at this thing, so for Gardner to be a must-mention for everyone is a good sign.
Whoah. Someone pays 860 dollars too much for a ring commemorating the Mississippi State slaughter; the ring is Kelvin Grady's. Why would you put up a memento like that, other than a desire to never think about that game again?
Kevin Grady Sr. is now in federal prison for 14 years after he was convicted last year on multiple charges of bank and wire fraud and lying to federal authorities as part of a $3 million mortgage scheme. … The sons were left holding the bag on a $45,000 judgment which will be only slightly reduced by the auction, according to Visser, who represented Reitberg Realty and Rusty Richter in the court action that began in 2008.
Whoah. The piece dryly notes that "it is unclear if the buyer of the ring is a Wolverine fan or not."
Yeah, I would have bought this. ARGH CLASSY SHIRT THAT IS NOW ADORNING UGANDANS
Slight difference between this and the immature cheese BCS t-shirts from a couple years back—you know, ORANGE you glad we won, hur hur.
Yes, yes please. Smart Football makes some suggestions to improve the box score, starting with the obvious (sack yards are not rushing yards) and moving on to some good stuff I hadn't thought of:
Completions Behind the Line: Bubble screens, rocket screens, now screens, touch passes and swing passes are an increasingly large part of offenses, and, given that these plays are nominally forward passes but are typically “packaged” with running plays, they really should be their own quasi-run/pass category.
Also suggested is the addition of yards after catch, which yes.
- I'd like to see punts divided into air yards and ground yards, so I can stew over that 30-yard duck that rolled 20 more.
- QB hurries are a legit stat that should be tracked.
- WRs should be charged with drops and have their targets tracked.
Uh-oh. Luke Kennard picked up MSU, Duke, and Kentucky offers this weekend. Kentucky is a particular issue, as Kennard said he grew up a fan of the Wildcats. What is with Kentucky getting all up in Michigan's recruits? Isn't there some 6'7" guy who does not acknowledge the effects of gravity to recruit? Leave us our wonky-form shooter plz.
Hopes: nope. I'm not going to get my hopes up about Kevon Looney. I'm not going to get my hopes up about Kevon Looney.
The mutual interest comes from what Looney watched Michigan do during this past season — specifically, he saw the success Robinson experienced as a first-year player.
“I could be next,” Looney said. “When you see someone that’s built like you, has a style of play like you, and you see he’s going to get better, you sort of put yourself in that position.”
Looney knows what he’s looking for in a school.
“The best situation for me,” he explained. “The best situation where I could come in and play, where I could come in and develop. The best college atmosphere, I want to go to a real college town.”
I'm not going to tell Kevon Looney that he's like three inches taller than GRIII and GRIII's usage rate was in the Brent Petway range.
You should be Trey Burke as well. Derrick Walton, just dribbling stuff.
The NCAA repealed a longstanding prohibition on multi-year scholarships a couple years back. Uptake has been surprisingly slow, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details:
…nearly two years after that legislation, multiyear scholarships are rare, not publicized by universities and largely unknown by the athletes. According to data of 82 universities at the Division I-A level obtained by the Post-Gazette through open records requests, only 16 have offered more than 10 multiyear scholarships. Thirty-two of the universities have offered between one and 10, and thirty-four have not offered any.
Ryan Squire, the associate athletics director for compliance at Illinois, remembers that when the legislation was passed in 2011 many schools "were all calling around saying, 'What are you going to do, what are you going to do?' And they said, 'We're kind of going to hope other schools aren't doing it.'"
Ryan Squire can get away with saying that because Illinois is an exception to the rule, giving a "majority" of its athletes four-year deals. Fresno State has gone all-in. Michigan State has gone four-year-exclusive in football. Most everyone else has tried to avoid the topic altogether.
This is an issue that shouldn't exist at all anymore. Schools should no longer have a total limit of scholarship athletes in any sport, but rather yearly caps that encourage retention instead of summary execution. In an environment where every stakeholder with an ounce of power is busy holding down costs that aren't administrator salaries, that's never going to happen.
There is a point in time during which the students have the power: when they're being recruited. If Jabrill Peppers wants a four-year deal at Michigan, or anywhere else, Michigan will trip over itself to get him the proper paperwork. If a marginal recruit isn't offered one, he knows the deal. The common theme in these stories, however, is that players—and I imagine by extension their parents—are at best vaguely aware of the terms of their scholarship:
"The multiyear, the first one, I think," said Boyd, a Clairton High School student who signed with the Panthers in February.
He thought about it for a moment longer. He then asked his coach, Tom Nola. Boyd reconsidered. In fact, he thought, his scholarship lasted for only one year with a renewal option.
"I've never had a parent bring it up to me and I'm around a lot of people," says Montour High School football coach Lou Cerro. "I'm not sure why the NCAA and the coaches are keeping this a secret. It doesn't make any sense."
"I'm not sure," tight end Brent Wilkerson said. "I hope I'm on scholarship for four years."
Penn State safety Malcolm Willis said he was on a renewable scholarship and preferred it this way, saying, "you have to earn your scholarship."
“The bigger failure is not that the school isn’t adopting” multiyear aid, John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State University, told us, “but that we’re not seeing this market develop where kids know there is the potential for multiyear scholarships and negotiating for that.”
So what to do?
Well, isn't this somewhat on recruiting reporters? Recruiting reporters are the number one avenue that recruits have to express themselves in the media; I'd guess the ratio of reporter contact to coach contact most recruits have is 10:1. Coaches are obviously loathe to mention the possibility of multi-year aid; reporters shouldn't be.
But I have literally never seen an article in which the reporter asked whether Recruit X is seeking a multiyear scholarship and which schools are amenable to that request. Not only is that information interesting, but by asking the kids you get the kids to ask the schools and hopefully chip away at the gap between the rules and recruits' knowledge of them. This goes triple for anyone covering Michigan State or Illinois or Fresno State (if recruiting reporters covering Fresno State exist), schools that will look on that sort of question as beneficial to their interests.
Ask the kids about which schools are offering them four-year rides, and the mystery of slow uptake will resolve itself either way.
Brief vacation note. I'll be limited Friday and Monday as I visit some friends. I don't think it'll be that noticeable Friday but it's likely there aren't going to be any major columns Monday or Tuesday. I won't be able to catch the hockey game since they're not on TV, but I will write something up on the Purdue game whenever I get a chance.
Northwestern. Via mgovideo:
Podcast. I guested on The Solid Verbal. They asked me if I could think of anything wrong with Brady Hoke and I came up empty. It's been a good 13 months.
Beilein recruiting vs. development. I'm not entirely clear on whether Dan Hanner's recruiting and coaching rankings have methodology gaps that would particularly affect John Beilien but the general idea is to evaluate a coach's recruiting on the ORtg of his freshmen and his development of players on the movement of that ORtg as the players age. Survey says:
|Thad Matta||Ohio St.||8||10||3rd||12th||2nd|
There are some obvious holes in the evaluations here since they only take offense into account, they assume a guy like Burke's performance is all recruiting and no development when he's had on average a half-year of development by the end of his freshman year, etc. But they do make the case that Beilein's recruiting at Michigan has been horrendously underrated, especially since the defense is more than holding its own in this year's Big Ten. Throw it on the pile of evidence indicating Beilein has a great eye for players.
See also: Trey Burke, nation's #3 freshman according to CBS.
It might behoove us to move to a less three-mad offense. Emphasis on "might"—obviously there is something going on with Beilein's offense that works. But in Ken Pomeroy's ongoing quest to discredit defensive three point efficiency, he's doing collateral damage to offensive three point efficiency:
Oh dear. The defensive plot is just a random scattering of data, as has been discussed previously, but the offensive version isn’t much better. If you shot 45% in the first half of the 2011 conference season, you’d be expected to shoot about 35% in the second half. If you shot 25% in the first half, you’d be expected to shoot 33% in the second half. A difference you couldn’t notice with your eyes. I don’t know exactly what implications this has on strategy, but when evenly-matched teams get together, action happening beyond the 3-point line is like a lottery. You take a shot and a third of the time you have success.
In contrast, two-point shooting correlates well. Pomeroy admits he doesn't know what the impact on strategy is, and neither do I. This could be an argument for Michigan to move its game inside the line, but it's not hard to see Michigan's #6 two-point shooting as a number that benefits greatly from Michigan's long-range bombing. As long as Michigan is going four-out, one-in they're going to have to take a lot of threes to stretch opponents into giving them decent opportunities from two.
Thirty-eight is way too many, though. Right now the Wildcats are obviously right with Michigan; in the future when McGary, Horford, Glenn Robinson, and Stauskas give M a huge size and athleticism advantage bombing it from the outside is asking to get upset. I wonder if we see Michigan cut back on the bombs in their new era of talent superiority.
Meet the new GERG? Iowa's new offensive coordinator:
If you were hoping that the Greg Davis rumors were nothing but smoke and disinformation, well, today is not your day. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, a gentleman who is about as well-connected to the Texas football program as Mack Brown himself, reported today that Greg Davis had accepted the Iowa offensive coordinator position.
Davis was run out of Texas on a rail after Colt McCoy graduated and the offense collapsed. Before that he'd told Vince Young to run around out there to good effect and transitioned to a pretty good McCoy-led passing spread, so this is not exactly hiring a guy whose only success in the past ten years was a one-year blip (Greg Robinson).
Still, a 61-year-old retread who cratered that much talent has Iowa fans shrugging. The consensus at BHGP is "decent"; if things go south this fall they'll turn quickly. Looks like Jacobi had to rewrite his headline after his initial take:
Also on the url of the above Prevail and Ride cartoon as uploaded to SBN:
Mattison is probably not quaking at the hire.
Elsewhere in Iowa blogging. The High Porch Picnic evaluates Michigan's recent recruiting from an Iowa POV and is a bit bothered that Hoke and Ferentz seem to have a lot more overlap than the Hawkeyes did with the previous Michigan regime. If I was Iowa I'd be more concerned with Michigan's sudden relevance in Illinois, a place they've struggled in for the past five years.
This reminds me to elaborate on something I mentioned in passing on the Solid Verbal: the current configuration of offenses in the Big Ten footprint is advantage Michigan recruiting. The two schools who do the best job of competing on the trail, Notre Dame and Ohio State, are now spread offenses. The second tier run pro-styles. Michigan looks like it's in a phase where it's rarely going to lose a battle against the second tier; meanwhile they should have an advantage with certain recruits in hostile territory simply because their opponents won't have a good place to put them.
Michigan's in a good position to starve Michigan State and, to a lesser extent, Iowa of offensive talent while bolstering their class with a guy like Jake Butt who Ohio State might have been pursuing hotly if they were still running a Tressel offense.
Side note: the impressive thing about Hoke's progress in Illinois is beating out ND. Remember when going up against Notre Dame was totally pointless, especially in Illinois? Yeah. We'll see what happens with Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell; if Michigan lands them that will be a huge statement.
List o' jerkos. CBS's Eye on College Football lists the 30 BCS schools who voted to override the multi-year scholarship legislation and points out that their real desire is to avoid giving out multi-year scholarships themselves:
The motivation in Austin, Baton Rouge, Knoxville and Norman isn't that they can't hand out four-year scholarships, it's that they simply don't want to.
Of course, the legislation doesn't mean any school -- BCS, mid-major, or otherwise -- is required to offer multiple-year scholarships. But since that might put the schools that don't at a recruiting disadvantage against schools that do, the Texases (and USCs, and Alabamas) have tried to prevent anyone from offering them.
In short: because these schools don't want to promise their athletes a full four-year college education, they've decided the athletes at other schools shouldn't have the benefit of that promise, either.
But whatever, they failed. Wisconsin was the only Big Ten school to ask for an override. Their football team signed up with most of the rest of the conference in offering four-year rides, though, so why is unknown. IIRC, their hockey team has a bit of reputation for cutting kids loose. That might be it.
Now the Free Press won't exist for anyone else, either. Gannett hastens its own decline:
“We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers,” said Bob Dickey, [Gannett] president of community publishing. The model is similar to the metered system adopted by The New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month. That quota will be between five and 15 articles, depending on the paper, said Dickey. Six Gannett papers already have a digital pay regimen in place.
The Free Press is a Gannett paper, so to get your Drew Sharp fix you'll have to start kicking in subscription dollars. I'm sure the line will be lengthy: Gannett projects they'll increase subscription revenues by 25%—$100 million per year. Think of all the press conference rehashes, trolling, and Mitch Albom columns about angels you'll be missing out on.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not going to steal Ace's recruiting roundup thunder entirely but just… holy hopping ham sandwiches:
The Levenberry family is looking for a paternal figure to guide son E.J.'s career. It's found him in Ann Arbor.
E.J. Levenberry Jr. said this week that Michigan is the lead school for his services. The ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker prospect from Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton referenced Wolverines coach Brady Hoke as one of the primary reasons why.
"He kind of reminds me of my dad, the way he carries himself," Levenberry said.
Add Levenberry, Isaac, Treadwell, and O'Daniel—all players who Michigan reputedly leads for now—and that's nine Rivals 100 recruits, three guys who would be consensus five-stars if rankings hold, and a class that will compete for the best in the country. They'll probably lose at least one of those guys and rankings do not hold*; even so… good God.
*[Because there's not many places to go but down and as the year goes along recruiting analysts will turn up top flight talent they missed the first time around. See: Ondre Pipkins. Even if Rivals's opinion of Jake Butt doesn't change at all he's likely to slide 20-30 spots by Signing Day.]
Briefly. Ohio State fans are now the ones annoyed by the "spread can't work in B10 lol" meme propagated by hobos, people who think wrestling is real, and newspaper columnists—all the same people. They get bonus annoyance because Rich Rodriguez just "proved" this by having a quarterback run for 1700 yards. As I said: people who think wrestling is real.
So they're trying to dispel the Rodriguez stink:
Rodriguez largely failed to evolve his offense past the spread's origins. Chris Brown, for instance, prophetically predicated at the beginning of Rodriguez's Michigan tenure that Rodriguez's passing game lacked the conceptual nature necessary to succeed as teams adapted to the spread's basic tenets. Nor did Rodriguez (for the most part) diversiify his offense in the way an Oregon has to counteract things such as scrape exchanges. Michigan never embraced plays such as the midline option, inverted veer, power or counter trey like others. The upshot is that, while Michigan's offense was largely succesful once Denard Robinson was in place, it never hummed in the way Oregon's offense did (particularly against better teams) to overcome Michigan's defense or special team liabilities.
That's not really true. Rodriguez adapted his system to use Lloyd's collection of tight ends, burned many defenses with plays specifically designed to blow up scrape exchanges, and eventually shelved large sections of the old playbook in favor of having Denard Robinson run QB isos and stretches, pairing those with "aigh he's open" moments when a Robinson run turned out to be a pass. The reason 31 points against Penn State and 28 with a missed chip shot field goal against Wisconsin were bad performances didn't have much to do with the offense.
Rodriguez's offense never reached the high-pitched hum of Oregon's because he never had a returning starter at quarterback and the only non-freshman was a breathtakingly green Denard Robinson. Also his tailbacks were pretty bad. If OSU fans are looking for narratives to combat hobos, "we'll have an assload of talent relative to Rodriguez" is your best bet.
Etc.: Tremendous has an even more detailed breakdown of Hoke's appearance at the Glazier Clinic. Rodger Sherman narrowly survived the Michigan-Northwestern game but the prognosis is grim. Michigan's off to a healthy lead in the name-based recruiting class derby but there's a "Zanquanarious Washington" out there—they will not win. Blue wall! You've already seen Luke Winn's decision to put us in SI's "magic eight" teams from which a national champion will come. That seems like a bad bet to me, but whatever. TTB interviews Jehu Chesson, who I will probably call "Jehuu Caulcrick" at some point during his career.