Bob Lipson, the most interesting man on a blue planet
Through various iterations of music players I have had a Game Day mix that I play on the drive from metro-Detroit to Ann Arbor. It's organized in a specific order to mimic the Michigan experience, beginning with a track imploring that the band take the field, and the whole pre-game concert, plus a bunch of Victors trios, Let's Go Blues, a halftime show, the hospital's string instrumental, and Temptation/Hawaiian WC. It concludes as any rightful Michigan weekend must, with Across 110th Street.
Michigan Replay ran from 1975 through 2008, beginning on Channel 7, moving to 4, and then back to 7 before ending up at Fox. The Sunday show spanned three coaches, two hosts, and six athletic directors. In some ways it was the spiritual predecessor to MGoBlog, in that its calling card was picking apart the plays from a wide angle, and using the latest available medium—television—to bring fans closer to the program than they'd ever been before.
Many people made the show what it was—from the coaches who finished their game days with after-midnight taping sessions an hour's drive away from their wives and beds, to the humble Jim Brandstatter, to the camera guys and crew like Pierre Woods and MGoReader Mike Berens.
But if you narrow Michigan Replay down to one guy, that guy is producer Bob Lipson. I recently had the great pleasure to sit down with Bob and ask him to tell the story of the show that for 33 years became part of the fabric of Michigan football. What follows are Bob's recollections of three wonderful decades, as recreated from notes written by a poor blogger trying to scribble while listening to one of the most fascinating stories in Michigan football, much of it not at all the way you imagined it happened. I know some people will remember things differently. What I have tried to present is the tale as Bob told it to me.
Live from WXYZ Channel 7: 1975-1979
In 1975 there were basically three networks. Michigan was as big as any team but still had its games broadcast about four times a year—when it was the ABC Game of the Week. At this time Bo was doing a Sunday TV show on Channel 4 that the people at Michigan weren't very happy with. Bob Lipson was working for Channel 7, under a general manager who was also head of Michigan State's alumni association (Bob refers to them only as "Sparty").
Lipson, a Michigan fan though not an alum—he's a Wayne State grad—had an idea to take over the program with a better format, and got the principals, including Bo and, somewhat reluctantly, athletic director Don Canham, to agree (Lipson spoke with great respect of Canham, even though they butted heads, and later listed him along with Jerry Hanlon and Elvis Grbac as the three people who left the strongest impression on him of all his years with the show). As payment Bo got whatever sponsorships they could sell in the credits scroll. The first host was Larry Adderley, another Sparty, who got the gig by nature of being WXYZ's main sports broadcaster (Larry later became the Tigers' play-by-play man).
The theme from a Blaxploitation flick and its now iconic percussion/horn funk melody was chosen mostly by happenstance: "I was frantic to find a theme song right up to the last minute of the first show back in '75," Bob recalled. "I just stumbled upon it while trying everything in the channel 7 library and settled on it the night before the first show."
The first episode aired after the first game of the '75 season, at snackycake Wisconsin (two traditions we all miss: early season conference games, and Wisconsin being a pushover). From the start it was a ratings success; it helped that Michigan was No. 2 in the country. The myriad Sparties around the network—specifically Jim Osborn who was president of the MSU Alumni Association—wanted, and created, their own show to run after Michigan Replay, however Sparty wasn't much to look at in the '70s so the network was essentially taking a loss to make sure everything stayed square.
Doing the show live had its funky moments. Back then Bob would pick out cuts directly from the coaches' (all-22) film on Saturday nights and have them ready to go for the Sunday filming. One time a crew member put the double-perf (meaning it has holes on both sides, people born after 1990) film into the machine backwards while playing it back during the taping, with the effect that everything was flipped horizontally. As Adderley professionally acted as if nothing was amiss, while breaking down a play Bo decided to point out that despite appearances, quarterback Rick Leach is indeed left-handed.
Here I'd like to mention that Bob shares our distaste for EXTREME CLOSE-UP footage whose analytic value is limited to ENT doctors.
Bob's Show, Bo, Budweiser, and Brandy: The 1980s
What's a Valhalla?
After five years of producing the show for WXYZ, Lipson knew he had a success and wanted to leave Channel 7 and own the show himself. He found a new home at Channel 4, the NBC affiliate. Since Adderley was Channel 7's guy Bob got a new host from Channel 4, that station's number 2 sports guy behind Al Ackerman (and a former player for Bo) Jim Brandstatter. Brandy got the call that he'd be coming on board for Michigan Replay while he was on his honeymoon, and canceled the trip to come back immediately. As you can see above from the early Brandy episodes, the rapport with Bo was an instant fit, as Jim, more so even than Adderley, had the humility to let the coach and the game be the story each week.
Former Eastern Michigan athletic director, Alex Agase, who holds the interesting distinction of being an All-American at two Big Ten schools (Illinois, then Purdue while training for WWII), was by this time a volunteer assistant for Bo. Among his duties were driving the head coach of Michigan to Detroit and back to do the shows. In true Schembechlerian fashion, after spending all day Saturday coaching football, and the hours after each game on Saturday night breaking down football film with his coaches, and the half hour talking about football on TV, what Bo wanted to talk about most on those hour-long rides was, of course, football.
The sponsors that Lipson drew were mostly clients from (I'm going to spell this wrong) PR firm Darcy, McManus, & Bowles, who, as was standard practice in advertising for the day, got a few Michigan perks (like Bob's seats) with their deals. In return Bob got three main sponsors: Pontiac, Cadillac, and Budweiser. Bo didn't mind the cars; he hated Bud. Hated it. Hated the very idea of alcohol mixing with his clean-cut Michigan show. Finally Lipson jokingly promised Bo if he could get the Michigan Milk Producers to come on board he'd drop Bud.
In 1984, Lipson moved again, this time back to Channel 7 but with the ability to reach a far greater audience through their network affiliates. Meanwhile the network was pressuring Channel 4 to get rid of Brandstatter, who didn't fit the hip '80s ideal of a program host. It was unrelated but perfect timing that when NBC pulled the plug on Brandstatter, Lipson was packing for Channel 7, and could thus bring his host with him.
Michigan Replay already reached homes across the state and into Toledo (and trebled Sparty's show's viewership in East Lansing) but this got Bob's little show all over the region, perhaps an understated part of how Michigan became one of the first truly national collegiate brands. People were tuning in every Sunday as far away as Tennessee to have Bo break down the latest game. The show was now an integral part of the Michigan football experience, a weekly tradition for more people in the state even than going to the football game, a perfect match for its era. But then came 1989.
End of Part I. Sorry to break this up, but Hail to the Victors is shipping at the end of this week and I have to get back to it. Coming up next week: how Fox changed everything and nothing, tapings at 2 a.m., Mo, Lloyd, the studio in Crisler, what do you do with 10,000 square yards of used stadium turf, and what really happened in 2008.
Michigan goes into 2012 with the rarest of all birds (recently at least): a senior returning starter at quarterback. Since we can't count half a season from an injured Henne, the last time we saw this senior-type thing under center was the last time a QB wore 16: Navarre. It's been nine years!
History too has been a bit rough on senior QBs. Brady shared much of his last season with Henson. Todd Collins played almost as much as senior Grbac, who took away half of Michael Taylor's seminal season, who nabbed the bulk of Demetrius Brown's last year.
Since Bo's first year Denard is the 14th senior starter at Michigan. The other 13, by stats:
I'll save you some of the suspense: those are good efficiencies. And when that starter wasn't dinged it made for awesome seasons. Even counting '07, over these 13 seasons Michigan went 127-26-3, went to Pasadena 7 times (plus an Orange and Sugar and no bowl one year when Michigan finished 3rd overall), finished in the Top 10 of the Associated Press 11 times (avg finish: 7th), and won a National Championship. Small sample size and whatnot, but special years do seem to follow the seniors around.
Let's all shake our fists at: Chad Henne shoulder-hating god. Three shakes!
You also probably already figured that since players generally improve year to year, that senior quarterbacks are best. What I'm looking at here is whether there's maybe something about being a senior, whether its age, or whether that mythical senior tag has some weight. To the charts!
Click embiggens. The mythical senior tag didn't seem to do anything except as a function of experience. When broken up by age it wasn't any different than when broken up by how many passes he threw before coming. What age does seem to do is reduce variance. Look at the grouping of 5th year seniors (light blue). There's not enough data here to make a conclusion but I am intrigued by this concept of 5th year players producing no worse than a rating
A better way to decide if age or class means anything at all would be to use the Mathlete's database. Mathlete: you should do this some day: chart year to year improvement of quarterbacks and see what the progression curve looks like. What I'm doing here is just working with Bentley numbers for Michigan quarterbacks, since at least for these guys I can trust we know most of the exigent circumstances behind different swings. Just pulling returning starters and major contributors. In: John Navarre's 77 attempts in 2000, Tate Forcier's 84 attempts in 2010. Out: Drew Henson's 47 attempts in 1998. Show things:
|Year||Avg. Eff Change||Denard|
Denard's freshman to sophomore leap was high, not unheard of. Rick Leach leapt a ludicrous 76.1 points in efficiency between his freshman and sophomore years, a matter of going from 32% completions and 3 TDs to 12 interceptions to 47.6% completion rating and a 13/8 TD/INT ratio. Michael Taylor made a leap similar to Denard's between his Junior and Senior seasons (first and second as at least a part-time starter). Drew Henson, Jim Harbaugh and Demetrius Brown also had huge leaps forward as juniors. If you're smelling a trend, these were all guys who to varying degrees considered "mobile" quarterbacks.
The way efficiency is wired, a shift in TD/INT ratio, a shift in completion %, and a shift in yards per attempt. Big chart of returning passers (either starters or guys who got a significant amount of playing time the year before) so we can see if any one of these factors might stand out. Bolding numbers that I think made the difference:
|1976||Rick Leach, So||105||+5||+15.6%||+10/-4||+2.5||151.1||+76.1|
|2000||Drew Henson, Jr||237||+147||+9.4%||+15/+2||+3.0||159.4||+49.6|
|1985||Jim Harbaugh, Jr*||227||+116||+9.8%||+15/+1||+2.2||157.9||+49.6|
|1988||Demetrius Brown, Jr*||84||-84||+9.5%||-5/-16||+1.8||158.2||+45.5|
|1991||Elvis Grbac, Jr*||254||-12||+6.7%||+4/-4||+1.0||161.7||+24.5|
|1989||Michael Taylor, Sr*||121||-1||-1.1%||+6/-1||+1.1||161.2||+22.8|
|1974||Dennis Franklin, Sr||104||+37||+2.0%||+4/0||+1.0||146.9||+21.4|
|1996||Brian Griese, Jr*||61||-177||+4.0%||-10/-8||+1.8||137.7||+19.0|
|2006||Chad Henne, Jr||328||-54||+3.5%||-1/0||+1.0||143.4||+13.8|
|2003||John Navarre, Sr*||456||+8||+3.9%||+3/+3||+0.8||133.6||+11.4|
|1999||Tom Brady, Sr*||341||-9||+1.6%||+5/-6||+0.1||142.3||+10.6|
|1978||Rick Leach, Sr||158||-16||-2.4%||+2/-3||+0.4||145.5||+10.6|
|1993||Todd Collins, Jr*||296||+195||-1.5%||+10/+4||+1.6||149.3||+9.4|
|1973||Dennis Franklin, Jr||67||-56||+5.8%||-2/+3||+1.3||125.5||+8.8|
|2002||John Navarre, Jr*||448||+63||+1.6%||+2/-6||+0.2||122.2||+5.7|
|1970||Don Moorhead, Sr||190||-20||-1.4%||+2/-1||+0.1||105.0||+4.6|
|1996||Scott Dreisbach, So*||269||+163||+2.6%||+9/-6||-0.5||126.7||+2.8|
|1997||Brian Griese, Sr*||307||+246||+5.5%||+14/+4||-0.9||140.0||+2.3|
|2010||Tate Forcier, So||84||-197||+5.6%||-9/-6||-0.2||130.2||+2.0|
|1982||Steve Smith, Jr||227||+17||+5.8%||-1/+2||-0.3||125.1||-0.6|
|1983||Steve Smith, Sr||205||-22||-0.3%||-1/-5||-0.7||123.0||-2.1|
|2005||Chad Henne, So||382||-17||-1.8%||-2/-4||-0.3||129.6||-3.0|
|1990||Elvis Grbac, So*||266||+150||-4.7%||-8/+6||+0.1||137.2||-3.0|
|1994||Todd Collins, Sr*||288||-8||+0.7%||-3/+4||+0.3||146.0||-3.3|
|1986||Jim Harbaugh, Sr*||277||+50||+1.1%||-8/+5||+1.1||151.7||-6.2|
|2011||Denard Robinson, Jr||258||-33||-7.5%||+2/+4||-0.4||139.7||-9.8|
|1992||Elvis Grbac, Sr*||199||-55||-0.1%||-8/+6||+0.0||150.2||-11.5|
|2007||Chad Henne, Sr||278||-50||-3.6%||-5/+1||-0.7||130.5||-12.8|
|1977||Rick Leach, Jr||174||+69||+4.1%||+2/+1||-1.5||134.9||-16.2|
|1980||John Wangler, Sr*||212||+82||-4.8%||+8/+2||-3.8||131.9||-30.1|
|2001||John Navarre, So*||385||+308||+1.8%||+11/+12||-1.2||116.4||-30.8|
Bolded things of note: If I bolded the name or the amount of attempts you can just discount that guy since his year to year stats are thrown off by a huge difference in his role, e.g. John Navarre went from a guy who murdered MAC teams to full-time Big Ten passer who chucked things in the direction of Marquise Walker. Rick Leach basically learned how to pass a football (to his teammates). Henson and Harbaugh had matching junior leaps as they grew from leggy guy who might throw to polished passers.
Demetrius Brown had his numbers saved by Bo halving the amount of pass plays and going full-tilt option. Tom Brady stopped had a major turnaround in TD/INT as a senior, while Todd Collins and Jim Harbaugh went the other way. Johnny Wangler looks to have suffered (EDIT: was this when Carter injured? This is before my time.) his senior season, as YPA dropped terribly and completion suffered a little. I'm not sure Grbac's TD-INT ration can be explained by the similar loss of Desmond Howard—it's possible Dez's Heisman campaign simply separated itself from two similar yet pedestrian seasons.
What does this all mean for Denard? Most of the seniors touched up their games. Most had their big leaps as juniors, but I should point out of the 13 guys to make the biggest one-year leaps, 8 of them were redshirt juniors or seniors, i.e. Denard's age. Also working for him is running the same offense that he did last year. The transition ultimately came more to him than the other way around, though, so don't expect miracles. Working against him will be the loss of his favorite target, and the effective replacement of a tight end for a second back, which isn't always great for the passing game. Unless a deep threat emerges from the unknowns in the receiver corps, expect his YPA avg. to dip again, with a corresponding rise in completion % (something most seniors seemed to have done). I'd also venture Denard will cut down further on his interception and probably get his TDs up the same as Michigan's mite-y backs and receivers score more with screens. +4/-4 would be excellent. Meanwhile the team will win 10 games, place in the Top 10, and end the season in Pasadena, because that's what Michigan senior quarterbacks do.
Unattributed from Colley Matrix computer poll / Archived from MGoBlue.com
Earlier this week Brian discussed the latest iteration of college football's playoff structure. While the commissioners try to get a ratification whip count from the states and techs etc., we're now left with a far narrower scope of playoff possibilities to argue, opine, and get ignored about. The number of teams is probably four. The parameters:
- Site: Current bowls or home games for higher seeds.
- Decision Process: BCS-like system or committee
At the moment I'm much more concerned with the first. Fortunately we have an entire BCS history's worth of trials to test these things. So let's just imagine that a four-team playoff was instituted in 1998 instead of the BCS.
Actually I did something similar last December to decide how big the field should be (answer: six). The point of this exercise is a little different in focusing on a four-team system; hopefully it'll give us a preview of what we're getting into. Perhaps by running through BCS history we can anticipate the kinds of controversies a four-team playoff will generate, and which iniquities of the current system will be eradicated.
Fortune Favors Where the Heart Is
Brian's all for home games and so am I, but that's because I'm a college football fan who likes campuses and pageantry and bands playing associative 19th century marching tunes and sidelines where the subs aren't $3.99 sandwiches. Fortunately money is on the side of home games too. Travel costs are at least halved, yes, but the capacities also increase by an average of 10,000 per game.
I got that number by re-seeding the last 14 years of BCS playoffs as if it was a four-team instead of two-team playoff, and showing the capacities of the home stadia they might have played in versus the bowl games they would have been assigned via a host's tie-in system:
|Year||Game||Game||Venue||Host Capacity||Bowl||Bowl Capacity|
|1998||#1 v #4||Ohio St @ Tennessee||Neyland||102,455||Sugar||76,468|
|1998||#2 v #3||Kansas St @ FSU||Doak Campbell||82,300||Orange||76,500|
|1999||#1 v #4||Alabama @ FSU||Doak Campbell||82,300||Orange||76,500|
|1999||#2 v #3||Nebraska @ Va Tech||Lane Stadium||66,233||Fiesta||73,227|
|2000||#1 v #4||Miami @ Oklahoma *||Gaylord||82,112||Fiesta||73,227|
|2000||#2 v #3||Washington @ FSU †||Doak Campbell||82,300||Orange||76,500|
|2001||#1 v #4||Colorado @ Miami||Dolphin Stadium||76,500||Orange||76,500|
|2001||#2 v #3||Oregon @ Nebraska ‡||Memorial||81,067||Fiesta||73,227|
|2002||#1 v #4||USC @ Miami||Dolphin Stadium||76,500||Orange||76,500|
|2002||#2 v #3||Georgia @ Ohio St||Ohio Stadium||102,329||Rose||94,392|
|2003||#1 v #4||MICH @ Oklahoma§||Gaylord||82,112||Fiesta||73,227|
|2003||#2 v #3||USC @ LSU||Tiger Stadium||99,500||Sugar||76,468|
|2004||#1 v #4||Utah @ USC ‖||LA Coliseum||93,607||Rose||94,392|
|2004||#2 v #3||Auburn @ Oklahoma||Gaylord||82,112||Fiesta||73,227|
|2005||#1 v #4||Ohio St @ USC||LA Coliseum||93,607||Rose||94,392|
|2005||#2 v #3||Penn St @ Texas||Darrell K Royal||100,119||Fiesta||73,227|
|2006||#1 v #4||LSU @ Ohio St||Ohio Stadium||102,329||Rose||94,392|
|2006||#2 v #3||Florida @ MICH ¶||The Big House||109,901||Sugar||76,468|
|2007||#1 v #4||Oklahoma @ Ohio St||Ohio Stadium||102,329||Rose||94,392|
|2007||#2 v #3||Va Tech @ LSU||Tiger Stadium||99,500||Sugar||76,468|
|2008||#1 v #4||Alabama @ Oklahoma||Gaylord||82,112||Fiesta||73,227|
|2008||#2 v #3||Texas @ Florida||The Swamp||88,548||Sugar||76,468|
|2009||#1 v #4||TCU @ Alabama||Bryant-Denny||101,821||Sugar||76,468|
|2009||#2 v #3||Cincinnati @ Texas||Darrell K Royal||100,119||Fiesta||73,227|
|2010||#1 v #4||Stanford @ Auburn||Jordan-Hare||87,451||Sugar||76,468|
|2010||#2 v #3||TCU @ Oregon||Autzen||54,000||Rose||94,392|
|2011||#1 v #4||Stanford @ LSU||Tiger Stadium||99,500||Sugar||76,468|
|2011||#2 v #3||Okla St @ Alabama||Bryant-Denny||101,821||Orange||76,500|
* Miami finished 4th and Washington 3rd in the BCS standing, but I swapped them to avoid an FSU-Miami rematch.
† 10-1 Washington is in over 10-1 VT and 10-1 Oregon State.
‡ Nebraska/Colorado/Oregon is a mess. I figured 2 losses mean Colorado takes the back seat, and Oregon gets screwed by the committee who don't want a game in Eugene if they can avoid it.
§ Another mess. The committee could as easily put USC here to face Michigan.
‖ Texas and Cal were both ranked higher than Utah, but Utah gets nod so that 4/5 undefeated teams are in the playoffs Boise State is out.
¶ I put Michigan as the No. 2 and host since bumping Florida no longer avoids a rematch.
And the numbers:
|% of Games < 80k||21.4%||78.6%|
In 1998 a difference of 10,000 seats might have been made up for by the bowl venues because of their luxury boxes and better concessions, but since then the big-time collegiate venues, i.e. the ones most likely to be ranked in the Top 2 at the end of the regular season, have more than caught up to the pros in every regard except in-stadium advertising (for good reason). Meanwhile the only bowl venue comparable to the homes of D-I power programs is the Rose (a college stadium).
There were some calls I had to make in there, for example LSU won't increase its capacity to 99,500 until 2014 (they're at 93,000 now). And U-Phoenix Stadium was listed at its maximum football capacity to date, not the one they say they can get to with their ultra-hydro-matic seating expansion system™, because if they couldn't whip them out for the Superbowl why would they have them for an NCAA semi-final?
Sanity-checking, I did this initially using real numbers—taking the largest announced capacities for each host's and bowl's venue for that year (example: Neyland Stadium's 107,653 in 1998 is from the '98 Florida game)—and the numbers barely moved. Avg. capacity for home games: 88,489; Avg. capacity for bowls: 77,877. Same difference.
Future-proofing the dolla dolla bill y'all advantage, college football stadiums are growing in capacity while the bowl stadiums aren't.
I emphasize this because the bits of conversation leaking from the commisionerati keep fearing things like Cincinnati (Nippert Stadium: 35,097) finishing in the Top 2. Looking above there are just four games in 28 in which a stadium of under 80,000 capacity would have hosted: Autzen's 54,000 once, Virginia Tech's 66,000 once, and two games at Miami (YTM)'s home, which is the same place they play the Orange Bowl.
This is our concern Lebowski
I don't believe the dreaded small venue is that much of a threat. Paul Brown Stadium is three miles away from Nippert and is tapped often for "big" games like West Virginia and Louisville. TCU is in Fort Worth, spitting distance from JerryWorld. Boise State sneaking in after trouncing the now mid-major Big East is the real concern, but they've been handily kept out of the Top Two so far; if it actually comes down to undefeated Boise getting a home seed, either suck it up and let them have the most important event in Idaho history they deserve after being so good so long, or find a way to slide a 2-loss SEC team ahead of them and ride out the now-standard outrage.
Brian mentioned the bowl games aren't worried about selling out since they sell mostly to scalpers who then assume the risk/reward of the eventual matchup, but this also creates a middle-man scenario. The reason scalpers do this is the market is almost always higher than the face value once the teams are decided, with fans commonly paying three times the initial value. If you want to know how to flow this price variance to the athletic departments instead of the scalpers, just have Dave Brandon give his seminar on Creating the Future™ to ADs; a huge donation to get on the waiting list for season tickets feels like fleecing, but if I'm paying $300 on Stubhub now, why wouldn't I donate $200 to the university to reserve my $100 seat?
There Is a Downside to Home Games
And I just hinted at a big one just now: any controversy a four-team field avoids over a two-team field, it gains back again by having either pollsters, computers, or committees parsing between nearly identical seasons to decide who hosts the #2-#3 game. All it takes is one petulant Dantonio (or Urban Meyer PR campaign, or Fulmer with Heisman envy) to swap Gators in the Big House for Wolverines in the Swamp.
Add that to the fact that you just swapped the "who's in" wrangling from 2-3 to 4-5, and now there's at least two teams every season likely to believe they got screwed. Neutral site games at least neutralize any advantage gained by being #2 rather than #3. Of course it also neutralizes the advantage of being #1 versus #4 (except for a vaguely easier matchup in the first round). There is a possibility of a compromise solution here where #1 plays #4 at home but the 2-3 game goes to a predetermined neutral site. Of course now you're just shifting that argument to 1-2.
Another advantage of using the bowls—to the ADs, not the fans—is that home games at college stadiums invite the nasty beast of student tickets. Students pay more now than they ever did (my senior year was $85) but it's still way less than alumni. Make them buy general admission for a semifinal game and you invite the inevitable Daily column and Diag outrage. Give 'em the student discount and you just wiped out much of your 10,000-toushie advantage. Go to a bowl and the question is moot.
ADDED: I forgot (and meant to) mention that another consideration against home sites is that the teams themselves would probably rather travel. The big schools use their bowl trips and bowl swag to reward the players and recruit new ones. Roy Roundtree (just using him as an e.g. senior everyone likes) would probably take the free trip to Pasadena over another home game in Ann Arbor if you put it to him that way. The big thing the bowls have going for them is that the teams themselves love traveling to the bowls.
What happened: Tennessee came in 12-0 and an obvious No. 1, but there was some debate about who should play them. Florida State, near the peak of their powers, was the most sensible pick. Other claimants included one-loss Kansas State and Ohio State, both behind FSU more for the timing of their one loss than anything else. Tulane went undefeated spread 'n shredding a Conf-USA schedule. Arizona and Wisconsin also went 11-1.
And then we had a big debate about: Mostly that Kansas State wasn't invited to any BCS bowl; they ended up losing to Purdue in the Alamo.
If we had a playoff: Tennessee hosts Ohio State, Kansas State visits Tallahassee, and nobody complains but Tulane. The normal tie-ins for bowls fit just as nicely.
Outcome: Few thought Ohio State or Kansas State were better than Florida State so this works out either way.
What happened: Oklahoma was undefeated and an obvious #1. After that it was an inbred mess of one-loss teams. Florida State's loss was to one-loss Miami (YTM), as was V-Tech's only loss. Miami only lost to Washington, who only lost to Oregon, who had two losses one of which being to Oregon State, who only lost to Washington. FSU got the nod because they're Florida State.
And then we had a big debate about: If only Henson had been healthy all year. And the whole head-to-head-to-head thing.
If we had a playoff game: Well you leave out Oregon State and VT, though everyone but the fans of those teams could be down with that. But now you need to do some fiddling to avoid a rematch in the semifinals. For this reason you want FSU playing Washington, but which one hosts? Probably Florida State, and Miami has to be content with facing Oklahoma when they thought they should be hosts themselves.
Outcome: This illustrates the playoff problem of rematches, which if not controlled by a committee of sorts would become twice as likely now that twice as many teams are in the playoffs.
What happened: Similar situation as the previous year, fewer teams, more debate. Miami was obviously #1 and mentioned among the best teams ever. Nebraska thought they might be in that conversation until losing to Colorado, who went on to win the Big XII championship but had two losses. And then there's Oregon, as justifiable and as ignored in the year-long, racial-overtoned Huskers vs. Canes fest as Joey Harrington's Heisman-level campaign. Nebraska got the nod, and got demolished.
And then we had a big debate about: If you don't even win your conference… Nobody mentioned Oregon, which I thought was very weird and spent most of a night trying to convince the Daily sports editor to back over Colorado.
If we had a playoff game: Hooray they're all in. Again there's the rematch situation that's easily solved by having Colorado be the fourth seed and Oregon visit Nebraska. We all win.
Outcome: Here we see how a neutral site isn't necessarily a home game, since a Miami home game and the Orange Bowl are the same thing. On the other hand you're trading Tempe for Nebraska in early January.
What happened: There were three viable one-loss teams and only two spots. The BCS used computers to judge the strength of a season to make up for pollsters' obsession with shiny things and whatever happened three seconds ago, and this resulted in LSU and Oklahoma playing with USC left out despite being #1 to both polls of people who are easily distracted by Reggie Bush. The AP rebelled and said it would stick with USC if they beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
And then we had a big debate about: How computers and statistics and the hard realities of the world around us are not nearly as important to the greater human experience as the world that we perceive, that what makes us human is this capacity for fallibility, that we can make choices of the heart even in the face of concrete logical evidence. If you think otherwise then you're a pointy-eared bastard.
If we had a playoff game: Well there's three one-loss teams and then a whole slew of relatively even two-loss teams. However the 5th ranked one had just lost to the 4th ranked one, which was Michigan. So John Navarre and co. travel to Norman while USC faces LSU.
Outcome: I actually like our chances against Oklahoma. Not love, but like better than USC. Oh right, hypothetical. Well USC going to Baton Rouge instead of staying in L.A. because of a computer would bother them just as much as going to New Orleans instead of the Rose Bowl because of a computer.
What happened: Virtually the same thing, different result. Three undefeated teams on top plus two undefeated mid-majors, and two one-loss teams between them.
And then we had a big debate about: How Auburn could be left out because pollsters don't care about strength of schedule and the computers were neutered.
If we had a playoff game: Well now Auburn is in but who plays USC? Can Mack Brown downvote Cal to get the Longhorns into the playoffs instead of the Rose Bowl? Or do they take the Bears for having lost only to USC (and do they play at USC again, or do we move the #1 seed so now Auburn's playing USC? Or do we take 11-0 Utah and skip the be-loss'ed teams? Then what about Boise State? Eh, screw Boise. Oklahoma gets Utah and Auburn visits USC.
Outcome: This is a classic example of how odd numbers screw with playoffs. A two-team playoff left out Auburn; a four-team playoff now elevates the Texas-Cal dishonesty to playoff proportions. That's why I said they ought to take Utah. What I don't want to see is for the system to force them to take an undefeated 6th seed over a 1-loss four-seed. I'm pretty sure by this point that I'm for a committee, not a ranking system, determining the seeds.
What happened: You already know about [deep echoey voice] FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON and the result.
And then we had a big debate about: You know that too.
If we had a playoff game: Now the question is which two-loss team between LSU and USC? And down the line there's still one-loss Louisville, one-loss Wisconsin, and undefeated Boise State. This time I invite the Broncos, because there's such a clear line between Michigan's season and LSU's (at this point anyway).
Outcome: Here's the 2 or 3 problem. We know Florida got in when Michigan's prima facie case was far stronger, but that was to avoid a rematch of [deep voice] FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON. Would they do the same just to avoid a January date in the vicinity of Great Lakes?
What happened: Final BCS Standings: 1. Oklahoma (12-1), 2. Florida (12-1), 3. Texas (11-1), 4. Alabama (12-1), 5. USC (11-1), 6. Utah 12-0, 7. Texas Tech (11-1), 8. Penn State (11-1), 9. Boise State (12-0)
And then we had a big debate about: All of the things.
If we had a playoff game: Half of the things.
Outcome: Expanding to four teams does not guarantee a national champ.
What happened: Five teams finished undefeated, and Florida had only lost to Bama in the SEC championship game. Since only two of the undefeated teams were from real BCS conferences (We had to be reminded multiple times that season that Cincy was in the Big East. q.v.) it was an easy choice.
And then we had a big debate about: How mid-majors who play perfect seasons always get screwed, even after they are careful to add at least one football team to their schedules full of Rocky Mountain mime schools.
If we had a playoff game: Boise still gets left out, Bama and Texas munch on snackycake undefeated teams before the inevitable matchup between them.
Outcome: You got the idea awhile ago. The following year TCU was undefeated and left out of an otherwise obvious matchup of Auburn and Oregon.
What happened: LSU was 13-0, and had already beaten No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Okie State and Stanford made one-loss runs that nobody thought were as good as Bama's season. So we played the rematch nobody wanted to see outside the SEC, and horror of horrors the original loser won by enough to win the battle of "my win over you was better than your win over me, let's lolz at everyone else who is puny for not cutting their bad players and replacing them with robots! lolz lolz lolz S-E-C!"
And then we had a big debate about: How we need a playoffs.
If we had a playoff game: For the first time it would have been almost perfect.
Outcome: As with every other BCS season, the perfect system for any given year is the one implemented next year.
1999, 2000, 2002, and 2005 are examples of when a four-team playoff would have overly complicated a relatively simple field of two. This ought to be a greater concern than whether a school that seats 35,000 and doesn't have access to an NFL venue nearby will end up ranked in the Top 2. I believe an option to skip the semifinals in obvious situations would ensure they have the right playoff every year, but that creates its own problems.
Birthday shout-out to my little brother. You're getting MGoShirts again.
(Archived from MGoBlue.com)
Sometimes I go to write something, then mid-way through researching it I get completely turned around on the point I was trying to make. This one started with a conversation between me and Ace trying to compare the 1999 offensive line to the 2012 one. My recollection (which was wrong) was that the superbly talented and experienced starters were backed up by air and freshmen, and that when one went down for injury or an off-campus thing this drew in an Elliott Mealer-type who was moved all over the place as the coaches played "find the weak spot" with the defense. Unfortunately this dude had his own number and looked totally different than a Backus or Hutchinson, and therefore was easy to find. Anyway, they're not comparable, but I figured you'd still find the trip down memory lane interesting and perhaps draw some of your own comparisons.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, offensively speaking. Best of times because Michigan was going into the season with an experienced, senior quarterback, a junior running back who had flashed his star potential while seizing the starting job the year before, and an offensive line littered with future longtime NFL starters and returning starters, backed up by an entire class full of hyped O-line. It was the worst of times because they couldn't run the damn ball.
It was 1999, one year removed from the best recruiting class in school history, two years removed from a national championship, and three years removed from a class so full of touted offensive linemen Darrell Funk would call it greedy. This was also about the point in my fandom where I was just starting to know the names of offensive linemen, mostly because it was my first offseason on campus and everyone was saying the line is stacked.
Left tackle was Jeff Backus, who foreshadowing his long and healthy NFL career didn't miss a snap for two and a half years. Steve Hutchinson, a team captain as a junior, had started since the '97 team at left guard. David Brandt had started all of 1998 at center. Senior guard Chris Ziemann had 10 starts between '97 and early '98 and was returning from an injury. Right tackle was to be Maurice "Mo" Williams, who had drawn into the lineup for Ziemann late the previous year and promptly started pancaking fools.
However Mo Williams (NTMO), along with roommate and backup guard Jonathan Goodwin, was spending the first half of the season on double-secret probation (known then as "Carr's doghouse") for the K-Mart thing.
Thus drew in Frazier, the guy Maurice had to displace. Steve Frazier (right, via), last popped up in these pages when Brian, in the midst of excoriating Harbaugh for the 2007 General Studies tiff, quoted some guy who noted Frazier was a commercial airlines pilot. LinkedIn says he's still there. Before that he tallied up 18 starts on Michigan's offensive line, including 10/13 in 1998. The thing about him was it was impossible to guess, any given week, where on that line he would appear. In '98 it was four at center, six at guard (when Ziemann was hurt. In his senior season, Frazier started three games at center, three at right guard, and two more at right tackle.
Frazier came to my attention during that Illinois game for orchestrating the last and most memorable of the comedy of 4th quarter errors that turned a ho-hum stomach settler into Michigan's second straight loss. Brady was in his element, taking snaps in the shotgun down late and picking his way through a prevent D. At this point Frazier snapped a ball several feet over the head of the 6-4 quarterback. Brady fell on it 25 yards behind the LOS, then threw basically a Hail Mary that was picked off.
Throughout this exchange I was arguing with the guy who used to invite my father to games about whether Michigan was smart to let Illinois score a long rushing TD to go up by eight when the likely scenario otherwise was getting the ball back with less than 20 seconds and no timeouts down by one. For some reason I wouldn't let this go, but I believed him when he said the offensive line was way weak behind the starters.
You hear this and immediately think of 2012, with Lewan, Omameh, Barnum, Mealer and Schofield, then air and true freshman. This was actually not at all the case in 1999, since Michigan had an entire line's worth of highly rated redshirt sophomores. Few written records survive from the recruiting Dark Ages except the manuscript of the Venerable Vijan, so here's Vijan on that ridiculous haul:
Maurice Williams, OL/DL, Detroit, MI. 6'6", 275 lbs, 4.9 40. Williams is the top player in the state of Michigan and is one of the top line prospects in the nation on either side of the ball; he is one of the top 100 players in the country. Played primarily on offense this year, but was a dominant DL as a junior. He chose Michigan over MSU, Florida St., Washington, and Ohio St., and is an excellent student with a 3.5 GPA. Was rumored to have committed to Michigan in July, but did not make a final announcement until his official visit on the weekend of 12/6. Could play either OL or DL at Michigan, depending upon his preference and the needs of the team.
Todd Mossa, OT, Darien, CT. 6'3", 285 lbs, 4.9 40. Mossa is one of, if not the, top offensive guard prospects in the nation. He was rated the number 1 overall OL prospect by SuperPrep in the preseason, and was a post-season All-American on most recruiting lists. Led his high school to the state championship, and graded out at over 90% in his blocking assignments as a senior. In addition to football, Mossa plays goalie for his lacrosse team. He is a tremendous drive blocker with great feet who was also recruited by Penn St., Syracuse, and Boston College.
Jason Brooks, OL, Cleveland, Ohio. 6'4", 270 lbs, 5.1 40. Brooks is from an outstanding high school program in Cleveland St. Ignatius, which has won the last two state championships in Ohio. Brooks is the top OL prospect in Ohio, and one of the top 5-10 OL prospects in the nation, as well as a top 100 overall player. Rated the top prospect in Ohio, and the top lineman in the nation by the NRA, with a rating of 6.1 ("franchise player"). Brooks graded out at over 90% in his blocking assignments as a senior despite suffering a leg injury early in the season. Despite rumors to the contrary, never wavered on his commitment; he visited Colorado only to be sure that he had a school that he could compare with Michigan.
Ben Mast, OL, Massillon, Ohio. 6'5", 275 lbs, 5.0 40. Mast is another top OL prospect from Ohio, and is considered by many to be the best prospect out of traditional power Massillon in several years. He is considered one of the top OL's in the midwest, and was recruited heavily by schools throughout the nation. Ranked as one of the top 10 linemen in the nation, and as one of the top 100 overall players by several recruiting services. Mast's other in an OSU grad, but he has always been a fan of Michigan.
Adam Adkins, OL, Troy, Michigan. 6'3", 265 lbs, 5.1 40. Adkins has been described as a dominant player from yet another traditionally strong football program. He has played on both sides of the ball in high school, but projects to be a center in college. He is generally considered to be one of the top two OL prospects in Michigan. Adkins is also the top-rated heavyweight wrestler in Michigan.
Kurt Anderson, LB/TE/OL, Glenview, Ill. 6'5", 225 lbs, 4.8 40. Kurt is the younger brother of Michigan Butkus Award winner Erick Anderson. He is one of the top prospects in Illinois this year; he set a school record for solo tackles as a junior and broke his brother's record for total tackles in a career. Followed it up by having a great senior season, making 142 tackles, with 6 sacks and 2 interceptions; he is considered an All-American by several recruiting services.
Around the time President Clinton was congratulating the national champs in football (and the hockey team was winning one themselves) in spring of '98, Brooks had his thing which eventually saw him removed before '99. The rest of the guys were still there and rotated in. Ben Mast started most of '99 at right tackle, and drew in for Hutchinson at guard one time. Adkins got two starts early in the season at center. Mossa didn't pan out—he now lives in Vail and tweets clever things. Anderson would start later in his career.
So this was a deep team. But it couldn't run. Minus sacks, but including David Terrell's five end-arounds for 17.8 yards a pop, Michigan in 1999 averaged just 3.4 yards per carry (with sacks it was 3.2). Part of that, from recollection, was that A-Train was playing hurt, and barely ever coming out. His 301 carries were 10 times that of backup Walter Cross. The five aforementioned end-arounds made Terrell the second leading rusher on the team (he had 89 yards).
That also counts a lot of 4th quarter saltings and 1st quarter running into piles, and if the game was exciting by the 4th quarter (about half the time), we'd suddenly got to a shotgun and let Brady or Henson toss to Walker and Terrell and Knight and Diallo Johnson until the ledger tipped our way again. It was typical DeBordian offense which set the tone for people of my generation to despise DeBordian offense. If you go back and watch this team on Wolverine Historian clips you'll see plenty of screens. I believe this was because when Maurice wasn't at right tackle, everybody else they had there were guards, so defenses who knew when a pass play was coming just as well as every sophomore in Row 83 couldn't completely tee off on Brady.
How relevant is this to today? Little, except if you squint really hard. What I'm saying is despite the recruiting profiles and the age, once Goodwin and Maurice were removed from the depth chart (and that was only for half the season), given what we know about them later, starting Ben Mast in '99 is not all that different from starting Kalis in '12, in a best-case Kalis scenario. On the other hand Frazier was more of a Barnum than a Mealer. I had forgotten the '97 class was mostly still on hand, but I had good reason to: other than the can't-miss guy and the flier who made good as a serviceable senior later on, you don't see the next generation (Stenavich, Pape, and the Daves) on this depth chart. They were on the team as some type of freshmen, or they were recruits, and considering they ended up starting over Mast and Adkins and Mossa, technically they might too have been the best options.
No there isn't a point in here. Like I said, I thought I had something that might be a preview of what it's like living on the edge with great starters and freshmen behind them. Instead I only found more evidence that getting lots and lots of O-linemen is important because you really don't know which ones will work out, which can best serve the team as depth, and which are really just giant intellectual future ski bums.
All-Americans and presidents: the future of ALL our recruits.
Every year during Spring Practice, because I'm exactly that kind of geek, I start trying to predict what the jersey numbers will be of incoming freshmen. This probably started back when I was still buying annual versions of the EA Sports game that they're still labeling a year off, which meant my virtual freshmen needed to be in iconic jerseys while real freshmen were in prom suits/coed naked t-shirts/whatever they're wearing these days.
This is an exercise fraught with danger, and likely to be 80% to 90% incorrect given all of the variables like current players changing numbers, walk-ons getting shoved out of the way, numbers with special meaning, and the randomness of the universe, etc. What we have to go on are the traditions of the coaching staff (for example Rodriguez was much higher on repeating digits between units; Hoke seems more like Carr in limiting these), high school numbers, birthdays, actuary tables, and the general availability of digits.
Let's start with what's not available. I'm guessing it's unlikely that a freshman is going to receive a "Michigan Football Legend" number (so far that is just 21). I'm also giving walk-ons the benefit of the doubt if someone from another unit is already wearing their number. (Right: from SI's best college player for each number)
Numbers they can't have: 1 (Edwards scholarship goes to current players), 4 (Steve Wilson and Cam Gordon), 5 (Justice Hayes and Courtney Avery), 7 (Gardner and Hawthorne), 8 (Bellomy and J.T. Floyd), 11 (retired for Wisterts), 14 (Jack Kennedy and Josh Furman), 27 (Jon Keizer and Mike Jones), 38 (Thomas Rawls and Al Backey), 40 (Nate Allspach and Antonio Poole), 47 (retired), 48 (retired), 57 (Elliott Mealer and Frank Clark), 87 (retired), 98 (retired).
Special Teamers' numbers: You can't have two players with the same number on the field at the same time, so very rarely will you see a special teams starter's number shared with another player, else that player might not be able to play on special teams if needed. The exception here is quarterbacks (e.g. former KOS Troy Nienberg shared 10 with Clayton Richard in 2003 and '04). Special teamers who don't start don't count (e.g. Nienberg shared 6 with Victor Hobson and Alijah Bradley in '01 and '02). This year those numbers are 34 (Gibbons), 43 (Hagerup), 45 (Wile), 46 (Broekhuizen), and 54 (Jareth Glanda, long snapper and sometime immaculate receiver).
How Do the Football Legends Work Now? 21 is open on both sides of the ball.
Available on Defense Only: These are the numbers already held by scholarship players on offense. They are unlikely to be used because Hoke doesn't seem to like repeating numbers across units: 2, 10, 12, 16, 17, 26, 28, 33, 36, 52, 56, 58, 60, 65, 75, 77, 80, 83, 89, 94.
Available on Offense Only: 3, 6, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 30, 32, 35, 37, 41, 44, 49, 55, 67, 73, 76, 88, 90, 92, 95, 97
Just a Walk-On in the way: Walk-ons who make the two deep often change their numbers; those who don't often have a scholarship player take their numbers. There are exceptions; for example Mike Kwiatkowski is working his way into the tight end rotation and it's not like anyone desires 81 that much. I left out Burzynski who's on the projected two-deep already. The rest: 13 (Alex Swieca), 19 (Charlie Zeller) 23 (Floyd Simmons), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 61 (Graham Glasgow), 69 (Erik Gunderson), 70 (Kristian Mateus), 81 (Mike Kwiatkowski), 85 (Joe Reynolds), 93 (Chris Eddins), 96 (Baquer Sayed), 99 (Paul Gyarmati).
Currently Unused (Most Likely to be taken): 9, 15, 29, 31, 39, 50, 51, 53, 59, 62, 63, 64, 66, 68, 71, 72, 74, 78, 79, 82, 84, 86, 91
So here's the dudes who need numbers:
|Name||Pos.||# in HS||Tea Leaves||Best Guess|
|A.J. Williams||TE||88||n/a||88 – Open on offense; Roh will be gone next year.|
|Allen Gant||S||7 and 14||Father Tony wore 14||14 – Not filled with confidence re: Furman (I don't know any more than you do)|
|Amara Darboh||WR||15||Wore 415 at Nike Camp, favorite athlete is Carmelo Anthony who wore 15 in Denver||15 - book it.|
|Ben Braden||OL||51||Wants to play right away||51 - it's open now so why not|
|Blake Bars||OL||67||Wore 542 at Army game||72 - Honestly I'm just assigning OT numbers.|
|Chris Wormley||DE||47||Wore 842 at Nike camp, 44 in hoops||84 or 68 – This one has me stumped.|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB/KR||21||Wears 2 for hoops team, wore 80 at BoMW camp. Received his Michigan offer on 2/1. Born on 2/8||21 if available, or 31 - I don't know how they'll use Legends numbers now. If freshmen can have them it's an easy pick.|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5 and 15||No. 5 TE according to ESPN||85 - Move over Joe Reynolds.|
|Drake Johnson||RB||2 and 18||Was a QB at first and chose 18 for Peyton Manning, then 2 for Woodson. His college # will be someone good||32 or 6 or 23 - Drake is well versed in M RB lore|
|Erik Magnuson||OL||77||77 in US Army game, 714 at NFTC, 74 at Nike camp, 31 in hoops||78 - See Bars|
|James Ross||LB||6||Born 6/26. Wore 34 at Intl Bowl||36 – Going out on a limb with this one.|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||5||Wants the 1. Wore 357 at Army Bowl, 164 at NFTC||82 - with an eye on changing one day?|
|Jeremy Clark||S||2||Born 6/29||29 - Woolfolk-ish player, birthday, open, fits.|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||67||67 here, 67 there, 67 everywhre.||67 - Brink has it on D so no problem|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||53||Twitter (when he had it) was @akaRio53||53 - Another easy fit.|
|Matthew Godin||DT||62||Was 774 at Nike, 408 at Army Combine||62 - it's available|
|Ondre Pipkins||NT||71||Publicly says he will wear 56 for Woodley||56 - book it|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||10||Wore 10 at Army Game. Twitter handle has 10 in it. Wore 54 at Intl Bowl||10 - seems special to him for some reason.|
|Sione Houma||FB||35||Is a fullback.||41 or 32 or some fullbackian number|
|Terry Richardson||CB||3 and 6 and 9||Wore 28 in Intl Bowl., #1 at UA Bowl. One of 9 kids.||9 – pretty good guess.|
|Tom Strobel||DE||36||40 and 52 in Basektball.||63 or 93 or 86.|
|Willie Henry||DT||74||Not much out there on him.||74 or 68 - (YMRMFSPA Mike Martin) so why not.|
Guess away. If we can be 50% correct when these things are announced in late July/early August, well, we'll be really special nerds.
Little boxes on the grid-iron, little boxes made of football players, little boxes for positions, little boxes some the same. There's a tall one and a short one and strong one and speedy one and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all seem much the same.
Football positions are things that fans learn very young. Everyone knows who the quarterback and running back and linebackers etc. are. But then coaches start talking, and like any expert they designedly do so with such abstruse and recondite specificity as to elicit from the lay audience a greater appreciation for the mysteries of the speaker’s craft and complexities of the imbroglio of disagreements wherein than said audience might have been provisioned in elucidation—much like a writer who uses lots of SAT words to say "they’re being pretentious." Not that our coaches do this; Hoke’s staff is remarkably candid as coaches go.
Anyhoo, as with the penultimate sentence of the previous paragraph, more obscure lexemes, when understood, can communicate greater subtleties as well as pedantry. So that you too can cognize the nuances, or just sound like an insufferable know-it-all during the Spring Game (that’s what you're here for anyway right?), hither a glossary of Michigan’s various names, past and present, for eligible receivers; would that the Oxford was so concise.
Football allows four players of any type in the backfield ("backs") plus the two guys lined up on the extreme edges of the line ("ends") to be eligible receivers. A QB, RB, TB, HB, TB, WB, SB, FB, UB, YB, FL, Z, SR, or R is technically a back, while a TE, SE, X and Y are ends.
Quarterback (QB): Is an effin quarterback. Mr. Lewan would you kindly show the audience what this look li…
Ah. The first quarterback at Michigan was on Team 2 (1880): Edmund Barmore, though Elnathan Hathaway played some QB as well. Why "quarter?" When the game was young they played a lot like rugby, with rushers and a goalkeeper and innings and such. The recognizable part of this was that the rushers (blockers) were meant to plow the way forward, and a couple of ballcarriers stood half-way back from that. When the line of scrimmage and downs were established teams lined up in a diamond behind the line with a quarterback, two half-backs, and a full-back. Here's Stanford doing something like that under Harbaugh if you can imagine Luck is lining up in front of the 40 yard line:
The story is more complicated and took half a century but if you look at this you can see why the quarterback got the ball first. Now imagine the two halfbacks are receiving a lot of lateral handoffs and speeding for the edges more often, while the guy all the way back is set to plow straight forward.
Running Back (RB) is Michigan’s current preferred term for the traditional (first appeared in 1880) Halfback (HB), though RBs can often include fullbacks, e.g. Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson. Scatback or Powerback are unofficial labels that refer to skillsets, i.e. backs who, respectively, might run around or through attempted tackles. Tailback (TB) is slowly becoming an anachronism which seems to have made it into Michigan’s lexicon with Bo’s arrival and left shortly after the 1997 season; Manus Edwards in 1998 is the last player to be listed as "TB" in the Bentley database. That database phased out Halfback in the '60s.
Superback (SB) generally means an RB/WR hybrid. Rodriguez threw it around in 2009 to essentially mean Carlos Brown when Brandon Minor was in there too. It makes more sense the way Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern uses it to mean an RB who can split out to be a receiver, thus creating matchup problems for defensive coaches who prefer to match personnel (one LB per backfield member, one DB per receiver). All-Purpose Back is something I think Rivals.com made up.
Fullback (FB) is now the misnomered blocking back.
An H-Back is a fullback/tight end hybrid. An H-Back will line up behind or outside a tackle and usually goes in motion before the snap. A Wingback (WB)—on the far right of the pic at right—is another anachronism from when Single-Wing and Wing-T formations ruled the game and passing was for communists and differs from the H- in that he's lining up outside the ends. Michigan has WBs listed from '69 through '79. This differs from an H-Back in that he lines up outside the tight end—this is Pop Warner-style with no receivers remember. An A-Back is another term for this.
Hoke's staff has been recruiting a position they call the U Tight End or more often just "U" which is almost indistinguishable from H- or A-Backs except that it's much closer to a tight end in the hybridization scale. Calling him an "end" is a misnomer because he's not on the line, therefore he's not any kind of end.
You may remember the U from such Minnesota tight ends as those other Minnesota tight ends who were not Ben Utrecht or Matt Spaeth. Michigan did it too with Massaquoi and Ecker (right: from MGoBlue.com file, 2004). Nebraska has a U under Bo Pelini (Ben Cotton last year, Mike McNeill before) which he calls "The Adjuster" because he can be a FB, TE, or WR of the converted quarterback variety. Gruden calls this the "joker." In the play that had Greg Mattison cackling maniacally during the latest Spring Scrimmage overreaction you can see Ricardo Miller lined up as a U, which may be a nod toward more WR alleles this year, but Khalid Hill, a fullback-ian recruit, was offered at the 'U' and A.J. Williams came in as one too so Miller is not the coaches' ideal there.
Also Syracuse used this position under Doug Marrone, which I only know this from scouring 'Cuse articles during various GERG-related panics. The thing about the U is you don't know where he'll line up (backfield or as a true TE) until after he breaks from the huddle, so it's kind of a personnel gimmick.
Tight End (TE) is normally an end who lines up flush with the tackles. They used to be just called "ends" before a distinction needed to be made between them and wide receivers; the last ends on Michigan's rosters—OEs to the Bump Elliott era—were phased out in the middle of the 1960s. To Hoke the typical tight end spot is the Y. This is where I would expect Ricardo Miller to line up, and where The Funchess and other more receiverish TEs will end up, since he has a clearer release to receive, and because he can line up flush or as a receiver (ends can't move before the snap).
That label comes from receiver nomenclature: X, Y, and Z. The letters come from reading across the formation most typical when receivers began needing special designations:
Wide Receivers (WRs) are backs and ends lined up outside the box. Having the Y move to the right turns him into the slot receiver. Having him split all the way out makes him a wide receiver. He also would then be outside the Z and screw this up, but NFL players seem to be able to keep straight who's who:
"Some teams, mostly in collegiate and high school football, use route trees and route numbers for play calls. So you might hear a play such as "Spread right, Z zoom, 821 H-swing on two." Knowing what you know now, the play call should make a lot more sense. Spread right is the alignment, Z zoom is the motion, 821 are the pass routes in the order of "XYZ." So X runs an 8, Y runs a 2, and Z runs a 1. H-swing tells you what the H man runs (the running back or often the "H" back in two tight end sets) out of the backfield."
It seems Y and Z don't care who lines up outside; Z is the one that has to line up at least a yard off the line of scrimmage and who's counted as a back. If you turn the fullback into a slot receiver on the other side or bunch him up or whatever, that receiver is the R.
Split End (SE) is the X and was where you'd normally put the 'No. 1' receiver. The nomenclature appeared on Michigan rosters with Bo and lasted a year longer than his career; Greg McMurtry was one of the last listed starters at "SE" in Bentley, although my 2003 program has Braylon as it. Michigan didn't really have a Braylon or McMurtry last year so this fell to Roundtree. As an end the X needs to get out of bump coverage but doesn't go in motion. The Z last year was mostly Junior Hemingway. This is the Flanker (FL) position, and is typically the Jason Avant to the SE's Braylon. That's what Roundtree means by doing more movement before the play; he's kind of the possession guy now; he has moved from an end position to technically a back.
This is where it gets confusing, because the Flanker or the Y or the R can both be the Slot Receiver (SR) or Slot Back. This is because the slot comes from spread formations which differentiate from slot and wide. The slot refers to the area on either side of the line about mid-way between the wide receiver and the tackles. If the FL is inside the Y, he's the slot. If the Z is inside, he's the slot. SR as an official roster position came and went exactly as quickly as Rich Rod did; the leftover guys like Gallon and Dileo are now, with the rest of the receivers, listed as WR.
As Borges, a West Coast guy, well knows, where the slot lines up matters much to the receiver in his area, since they will run routes off of each other to flood a zone or clog the lane for man defenders.