"I don't know how it happened," said Atkins, a tight end from Dixie Hollins High School. "I did everything USF asked me to do. The committee said my grades were on a downward trend, but they improved my last semester. I don't understand the process."
That's a who-dat two star tight end who's suddenly on the open market—not exactly the crown jewel of the class—but it's also the third player who's been shot down not by the NCAA Clearinghouse but by USF admissions.
Why would USF suddenly get religion about this sort of thing? I'm guessing its their BCS-worst APR. USF's been the caboose the last two years but has miraculously escaped sanctions via unexplained waivers. They managed to get a waiver this year despite seeing their APR fall eight points. Unless the Bulls get their numbers up now they will feel the NCAA's boot, and now USF must take a hard look at players at risk of failing out.
I'm not sure if this is a positive development or not. On the one hand, USF is experiencing difficulties with recruiting because the NCAA isn't going to put up with terrible graduation numbers any more. On the other, three kids have had their plans disrupted. The first two players to get rejected have landed at Southern Miss and Louisville (and Atkins is also rumored to be headed to UL), so they're still getting D-IA scholarships.
And the smoking gun. New Golden Eagle Alonzo Lawrence on his violation of team rules, or lack thereof:
He was expected to see playing time as either a cornerback or safety for the Crimson Tide this season, but Saban said this week that Lawrence was one of four players who violated a team rule and were not invited back to the team.
“That’s something that isn’t true, but I’m not going to say anything about that,” Lawrence said.
Ah, the classic comment-but-no-comment. Very passive-aggressive. Lawrence is one of eighteen Alabama players to leave the team this offseason and amongst 30 in two years. Fully 13 Alabama players who completed spring practice are off the team. Saban again brought in way more players than his roster could theoretically handle, guaranteeing these departures in February. At some point the sheer numbers defy explanation.
Again: a school shouldn't be able to sign someone to a LOI unless it can show where the money is coming from.
I have read recent posts that you believe on some level 3-9 has contributed to not getting more *4* stars, etc. I don't want to get into the star debate but I do want to ask you a straightforward question.
If your argument is correct..give me an example of higher ranked guy(s) that bypassed UM because of last year.
Who basically dropped us or would have inevitably committed to UM but decided not to because of record? Gholston..MSU guy. I know your argument is going be that UM had to offer 'lesser' prospects..I disagree.
I think these prospects commit depending on the depth chart and playing time. Why would a guy commit to UM when he sees Stonum and Stokes? Why would a top rb commit when he sees Toussaint and White on the horizon or for that matter..Shaw and Hopkins. This is before we take into account the offensive scheme.
Remember, a lot of these RBs are downgraded because they aren't every down backs or NFL prospects. The star thing can be deceiving for certain positions.
Why would a top DL come to UM... so they can back up Campbell, RVB and Martin? You see a lack of DBs..hence a guy like Christian and Avery are willing to commit.
I see absolutely NO evidence that the record has had any impact. Now, if UM has another dismal record this year… I could definitely see a downturn. But I don't see mediocre recruits coming to UM.
Cordially and Respectfully, John Weiss
Well, the thing is: I don't think I can give you your example of a guy who said he wasn't considering Michigan because of their terrible record a year ago. It doesn't work like that. Usually what happens is a player talks about teams he's interested in for whatever reason and does not mention why the rest of college football isn't on his list. So the evidence is more circumstantial: fewer players listing Michigan, Michigan pursuing prospects further down the line, and so forth and so on.
I get your point about offensive fit and three stars and whatnot. I don't care that Christian Pace is (right now) a three-star on Rivals. From what I've read and heard—there will be more on Pace in the week's recruiting roundup—I'm convinced he's a perfect fit for Michigan's offense and will be very successful here, barring injury. But it's not like Rodriguez didn't immediately start racking up four stars upon arrival at Michigan. Seven of the nine recruits he finished Lloyd Carr's last class with were four stars on one site or the other, and the bulk of Rodriguez's first full class sported four stars. There seems to be a clear correlation between players the recruiting gurus are high on and ones Rodriguez likes to acquire.
It's also hard to argue that the real problem with Michigan's recruiting is the vast depth when 1) the depth on defense is actually terrifying, which is where the recruiting is most concerning and 2) Michigan was 3-9 last year.
There will be a dip in Michigan's final recruiting rank this year, and that will be meaningful. But it's not fate or anything, and strong classes on either side of it coupled with good retention will see Michigan through just fine.
I'm a longtime Wolverine fan who's lived near West Virginia for much of my life, so I'm familar with Rodriguez and his offense.
My question is this, without a Pat White (at least now, Devin Gardner/Robinson are similar) do you see the Michigan offense becoming more passing oriented in a few years? Obviously Tate can scramble but he's more elusive than speedy. And Rodriguez isn't filling his entire offense with 5"7, 170 lb Jock Sanders types (but a few), rather, a lot of different athletes (Je'Ron Stokes, Jeremy Gallon, Ricardo Miller)
Well, no, not in a few years. Retroactively, even. Last year when Michigan was flailing at 2-4 and the sharks* in the media were asserting that Rodriguez should have kept Lloyd Carr's offense despite not knowing how to run it and having vanishingly few players who knew how to run it, I noted Michigan's run/pass breakdown in response to a particularly ignorant assertion that Rodriguez hadn't changed his offense from his West Virginia days:
Yes, exactly like the West Virginia spread:
- WVU, 2007: 26% pass, 74% run.
- Michigan, 2008: 46% pass, 54% run.
This only looks "exactly like the West Virginia" spread if you have literally no memory for play proportions and sequencing.
This was at the absolute nadir for the offense. As discussed here and at Varsity Blue earlier this offseason, this was the point at which the run game became functional. As you might expect when the alternative was Threetsheridammit, the play distribution shifted to the things less likely to end with a punch to the face. Michigan ended the year with a 42-58 pass-run split. I didn't get the exact play counts here but it's a reasonable assumption that about half of the plays came before MINOR RAGE was instituted and half after: the pass-run split in the second half of the season was 38-62, which is veering towards Pat White territory.
That's run-heavy, but not run-insane. The play breakdown demonstrates two things:
- Rodriguez is not an idiot dedicated to run or die trying; he does the things that the situation calls for.
- His offense is naturally going to be run oriented for the same reason a Texas Tech offense is pass-oriented: that's what it's good at, that's why it exists, that's what gives the whole thing its extra savoir faire.
When nothing worked, the run-pass breakdown was about even. When running worked and passing remained Russian roulette, Michigan ran about twice as often as it passed.
So, yes, the Michigan offense is going to be more passing-oriented. That doesn't say much, though, when you're comparing it to an offense on the order of Navy or Georgia Tech when it comes to bombing away. But what you're probably asking is something closer to "will this offense approach balance?"
I submit that the answer is yes, because you don't recruit a guy like Tate Forcier as determinedly as Michigan did—remember that Forcier was already coming in for an official on the opening weekend of the season when Newsome decommitted—without intending to take advantage of his unique skills.
Your point about the diverse and sundry skill position athletes is also well-taken: when Rodriguez had the one NFL receiver he'd ever acquired on his roster, he bombed it to Chris Henry whenever he was out of jail/trouble. He will take advantage of talented players, and given that the possibly-unwarranted offseason hype is focused squarely on tight ends Kevin Koger and Martell Webb, you're definitely going to see a wide array of formations and plays Rodriguez never dreamed of deploying at West Virginia.
*(whale sharks, specifically: bloated, toothless, and only capable of skimming the surface for the easiest prey imaginable.**)
Given the number of commitments at this juncture, are you starting to worry that RichRod will oversign and then engage in the dubious practices for which you have blasted other programs? I think he may prove to be closer to Saban than Carr in this respect. Hope I'm wrong.
No. I got similar questions last year about the… er… colorful characters that dotted Rodriguez's rosters and recruiting classes—mostly the latter, as you could be sure that any four-or-five star who ended up at WVU had emotional problems that most certainly did not include pacifism—at West Virginia arriving in Ann Arbor with scimitars between their teeth, asking about the wenches.
I answered those in a similar fashion to what I'll say now: even if Rodriguez brought those guys in by choice instead of necessity at West Virginia—doubtful—the institution's standards override Rodriguez's and they get the final say as to what is an acceptable practice. Outside of the standard "fifth years are optional" policy, Michigan would not find that acceptable practice.
SNARKY ALTERNATE ANSWER FOR STATE/OSU/ND FANS: Rodriguez would have to not have 20 guys leave the team every year to even get in that situation, so no.
Good point on teams maybe being a bit more versed in how to defend the UM offense/running game this year. At the same time though, if Forcier is decent that should at least keep the defenses honest and have to respect the mid to long range passing game.
In addition, considering how inept the UM passing offense was last year, how much of the playbook did we even get to see? Now granted Forcier is a true freshmen, but if he can show that he's comfortable with some of the basic offense (particular the passing game), we might see the playbook expanded a bit more then we saw last year. Considering that Sheridan wasn't much of a passer at all, and Threet had problems completing even the simplest of passes, I can't believe that we saw very much of the passing game that RR hopefully has in his playbook.
Keep up the good work!
This was spurred by an earlier mailbag in which I expressed concern that teams would not be caught quite as off guard as they were last year in the Penn State game when Michigan flashed capabilities opponents did not realize were options.
I basically agree on all points: the mere threat of a competent downfield passer should force defenses to lay off the running game more, the incompetence of the quarterbacking limited Michigan's options last year to wheel routes, screens, and the occasional ineffective go, and there's reason to believe Michigan's offense hasn't shown all that much of its true capabilities.
All those positive factors plus the return of everyone on offense save the nominal, ineffective starting quarterback from last year's train wreck should easily overwhelm the familiarity factor. The main reason I brought it up was the extreme dip in the running game from 2006 to 2007.
In 2006, Mike Debord returned to his post as offensive coordinator/mgo-bete noire. He brought a radical shift in Michigan's ground game by installing the zone-stretch-heavy (in fact, near-exclusive) ground game that propelled Mike Hart to an excellent junior year. Michigan finished 21st in rushing yardage and averaged 4.9 YPC once you remove Chad Henne rushes that were either sacks, scrambles or sneaks.
In 2007, the same ground game with similar personnel fell to 47th nationally and saw their non-QB YPC dip to 4.7… which, actually… you know what? I think I just disproved this theory in my own head. Mike Hart missed significant chunks of the season, the offensive line got considerably worse if you look at the sack numbers and this mournful, muddled lineup of right guard starts…
Jeremy Ciulla (5)
Alex Mitchell (5)
Stephen Schilling (1)
Tim McAvoy (1)
Mark Ortmann (1)
…and multiple opponents got the opportunity to tee off on Ryan Mallett as directed by Carr and Debord instead of a healthy Chad Henne. In the Ohio State game the Buckeyes quickly figured out that Chad Henne's arm was hardly attached to his body, too. Despite all that the YPC of actual rushing plays only dipped 0.2 yards.
Nevermind, then. Viva the run game.
Holy pants. YouTube HD, people!
Sweet. Someone lock Wolverine Historian in a room with a computer and a stack of videos. (This may be redundant, yes.)
Pah. The New York Times' bottom-to-top rundown of I-A football has reached Michigan at an uninspiring #57. The meandering glory of the thing has 100 words in German, mentions Elroy Hirsch, cites Varsity Blue, and desperately needs more paragraph breaks. It > CFN.
But the thing that sticks out to your correspondent:
Who is No. 56?: The name of its first president graces our next university’s football stadium and library. There is no memorial to Jimmy Bob, his ever-present parrot.
A commenter solves the riddle:
#56 is Western Michigan, home of Waldo Stadium and Waldo Library.
Awwww, come on. There is no way that's not a hook for the WMU preview.
Up-and-coming. This doesn't come as a surprise to me since the Doc pinged me to ask whether Boubacar Cissoko was a reasonable pick for the team—I replied "if you don't have anyone truly inspiring," to which he said "I do not"—but Michigan features twice on Dr. Saturday's up-and-coming defense. You'll be able to guess the other member without reading the post, but what the hell:
Defensive Tackle: Mike Martin • Michigan
Aside from punting, run defense was the only halfway respectable aspect of the entire Wolverine operation last year, and the best aspect of the run defense may have been that Martin held his own as a regular part of the rotation as a true freshman -- with both starters graduating, the middle of the line remains one of the team's many red sirens. Most importantly, Martin earned the MGoBlog seal of approval, which is no small feat.
Hey, now: the rushing offense was (very, very slightly) above-average. That linked caused me to return to the Wisconsin UFR, in which Martin thwarted Wisconsin's second attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion by escaping a double team and crushing the QB as he released the ball; he is kind of a great interior pass rusher already. I just hope he can hold up against the consistent pounding of the ground game.
The Doc's offensive team is hyah; call me skeptical about the inclusion of a no-block tight end from Ohio State on the list. Ohio State tight ends have to block because they do little else except get death threats. One dollar says that Kevin Koger has more catches than Jake Stoneburner at the end of the year. (Stoneburner, naturally, will blind more messiahs.)
Find Pierce Brosnan. Jewel Hampton is the tailback on that DocSat up-and-coming offense, but his knee may have up and left:
Multiple Web sites are reporting that Iowa football running back Jewel Hampton sustained a knee injury during non-contact drills Friday. If confirmed, that would put a damper on the 4th of July weekend for Hawkeye fans.
BHGP links to stuff that suggests the injury is a torn ACL, which would knock Hampton out for the year. Yea, if there is any Angry BLANK Hating God as wroth as Angry Michigan Safety-Hating God, it's Angry Iowa Tailback-Hating God.
However, the second-wave word on the thing is much friendlier to Iowa and Hampton:
"I'm OK," he said.
When the 5-foot-9, 210-pound sophomore-to-be from Indianapolis was asked whether he would play in the fall, Hampton said with a grin, "Don't know yet."
Dude NFW. You know what? I really don't want to get into this again. But I find it amazing that this happens to be true:
Almost there! With two graduated, third-team seniors predictably (and acceptably) having left the team over the past week, Bama Sports Report reports that the Tide only has ... 10 more scholarships to free up over the rest of the summer! That's not too bad! Here, here's a handy alphabetical run-down of how many scholarships each SEC team still has to clear off the existing roster to bring in their full signing class in fall camp:
Mississippi St.: 0
South Carolina: 0
Say what you want about the man, Saban stands by his principles, such as they are.
Etc.: You will be SHOCKED at the #1 players on Ace's list of the top 15 players on both sides of the ball from the past 15 years.
Heismans past. College Football Live is going state-by-state and, I don't know, talking to people or something. It's the privilege of the internet that I don't have to watch College Football Live and find out about their latest programming initiative. Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard were the featured people when it came to Michigan. Here is their talking:
Reports from people who watched this say it seemed designed to blow a blood vessel in Mark Dantonio's head, BTW.
I do not know how alarmed you should be, but it appears the amount of alarm should, sadly, be nonzero. Incoming mega-recruit Justin Turner did not walk at his graduation because of what appears to be an inability to pass some statewide Ohio standardized test. Here's a really dumb thread on a Massillon message board about it. It's uncertain whether this would prevent him from enrolling at Michigan, as from other reports he's comfortably qualified, and it's also uncertain how an apparently-qualified person could not pass a test on which the questions were probably like so:
water : wet :: water :
C. noodly appendage
D. I hate Michigan
Unless, that is, he picked A when the right answer was D. Apparently there are further opportunities to take this thing and get it done, if it's an actual barrier to his entry. FWIW, Varsity Blue says Sam Webb says* this is a minor thing unlikely to be an issue:
Webb was not particularly pessimistic about Turner’s ability to still get into school, as he’s a pretty good student who’s already met the NCAA Clearinghouse’s requirements for eligibility, except the no high school diploma thing. There are alternative methods to diploma eligbility, and given Turner’s academic reputation, most don’t foresee him having difficulty there.
It's out there, but I wouldn't get too exercised about it. I'm more concerned about Fitzgerald Toussaint's status.
*(There's been significant backlash against GBMW on this, and while I agree they could use some serious writing lessons, I don't see how reporting something obvious like "Justin Turner didn't walk at graduation" is a big deal. Both premium sites had moderators address the issue before GBMW did and, while they like to hide behind the idea that what's behind the paywall is super secret just-between-us stuff, any information there is instantly transmitted to free message boards across the internet and thereby into the fan consciousness. Also: kid didn't walk at graduation; this is not a secret.)
Buryin'. If there's one lead guaranteed to be buried it's "here's this important rule change," which is inevitably preceded by 300 words about some director of officials who's very sorry about everything but has to ask you to go to hell. And it is so after the Big Ten meetings produced a couple notable changes:
A new rule states that once [rugby] punters are outside the pocket, the defense will not be penalized for running into them or roughing them. The rugby-style punters previously had the advantage of waiting until the last minute to choose whether to punt, run or pass and still draw penalties on the defense. "The defensive team never knew what to do because they didn't want to rough them," Carollo said.
This seems fraught with logistical issues. How is this mystical ability of a punter different from that of a quarterback? Can a punter now roll out, pull up to pass, chuck the ball, and get leveled way late?
Offensive linemen also will be allowed to move up to three yards down the field without being penalized.
I'm somewhat confused here; this sentence follows the previous paragraph immediately and either means 1) a slight change to punting rules or 2) a significant relaxing of prohibitions against linemen downfield. I'm betting it's 1.
Rose Bowlin'. The Rose Bowl is obligated to take a scrub team in the event that 1) A Big Ten or Pac-10 team is yanked into the NC game and 2) a scrub team ends up automatically qualified by finishing in the top 12. That's a somewhat unlikely confluence of events there, and even if it happens it will only happen once:
"It's only going to happen once if it happens at all," Hancock said.
And that's just a totally redundant blockquote but that's life. Totally redundant blockquotes.
Anyway: this places the change even more squarely into the realm of don't-sue-us CYA. The likely effect, if there even is one, is to replace the second-place Pac-10 team with a Utah or a Boise or whatever, which would be a wash in hypothetical opponent strength.
I don't get it, either. Earlier this year I touched on the ongoing Kiffin fiasco, and resolved that this could so either way, with the two ways being "John L Smith" and "Steve Spurrier." A couple months, a couple more inane secondary violations/diarrhea of the mouth incidents, and I've been pushed over the edge: I just think Kiffin is an idiot. I wasn't going to say anything until Get The Picture eloquently summarized the nagging problem I had with the recent spate of MSM articles which had "no, srsly, Lane Kiffin knows what he's doing" as their idiotically contrarian thesis:
If this is such a great approach to resurrecting a national powerhouse, how come the first guy to think of it is a 33-year old whose prior stop as a head coach was a miserable failure?
I just don't buy Kiffin's latest posture. Claiming "no, seriously guys, I meant to do it" is the last refuge of a guy caught with his hand in the idiot jar. True cleverness—see OBC—is apparent. Even if this supposed gambit works in the short run, in the long run Tennessee is going to be seriously hampered by their head coach's lack of intelligence. When the biggest accomplishment you can point to is locking down your hot wife, you have issues.
Oregon State's going to be pissed. So the SEC put an end to this ridiculous oversigning business after Houston Nutt pushed it past its logical extreme, adopting the same policy the Big Ten has by limiting LOIs to 28. They're going to attempt to make this a national policy, and the initial returns are good:
One Big 12 assistant who asked to remain anonymous said he hopes this will push the NCAA to make it a rule throughout Division I football. … "Generally when the SEC makes a push for changes in recruiting, things happen on the NCAA level. So there are a lot of us who believe that this will eventually become something everybody will have to follow, and I think that's a good thing."
Etc.: Daily continues murdering Detroit papers, this time landing an extensive interview with Toney Clemons. Oregon's rushing attack—which you may remember cowering from—in coachy detail. NCAA 10… worth buying? Michigan had "no chance" in '97 according to Corso. Patrick Lucas-Perry is rapidly developing into a major target.