it worked out okay for everyone in the end
Position battles: exciting instead of terrifying?
Way too early 2013 depth charts are beginning to pop-up. It’s looking like the battle at linebacker this year will be a good one (and both lines in future years). What was the last position battle that got you excited? 2 plus players going for one spot or, like the LBs, 3 plus players going for 2 spots. There have been positional battles the last few years, but those have been between average, at best, players.
Mike in Ohio
I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but the last position battle I remember being pretty "whatever" about was Henne vs Richard vs Gutierrez at QB in 2004. In some order those were the #3, #4, and #5 QBs in their respective years, so I figured Michigan was going to be just fine no matter who ended up starting.
The Gutierrez injury threw that all out of whack, of course, and we had Henne starting as a freshman, but he had Braylon to throw to so that worked out just fine.
It's tough to remember any others. The age of roster hyper-awareness was just dawning in 2004*, and Michigan hasn't exactly had an embarrassment of riches since. The linebackers this year should be a preview of coming years when Michigan is choosing between something like Wormley/Hurst/Poggi/Godin at three-tech and I'm all like "confidence, it is something I have."
*[I remember Tim Biakabutuka's first carries of Michigan being met with general merriment at his last name. If that happened now, the extent to which it did would be greatly reduced since about 40% of the people in the stadium would be like "four star recruit out of Canada, tailback, 6'0", born in Zaire, did well at Army Bowl. BOOM KIPER'D."]
obligatory (The Wolverine/Tim Sullivan)
With Taylor Lewan returning for his 5th year, I've read quite a few message board commenters suggesting that Schofield move back to LG and Braden or Magnuson take over at RT.
My question is this: for sheer upside, wouldn't it make more sense to move Braden inside for 2013 than Schofield? Just looking at their body types, it seems to me that Braden is more suited to the power run blocking Michigan needs than Schofield is. I'd enjoy your perspective on what you would like to see happen with the OL and what you think will actually happen with the OL.
Thanks, and Go Blue!
It depends more on Braden's ability to pull than anything else. We've had some indication that Schofield is capable of it despite his tackle-like size, since he played guard effectively and Michigan spent chunks of the year pulling tackles on that sprint counter and an occasional sweep. In the event that Braden forces his way into the lineup, is he going to have that same ability? I don't know.
A point in your favor: with Lewan back Michigan gets plenty of power run blocking from one of their tackles. They can probably afford to have a non-devastating drive blocker at RT if he brings more pass protection to the table, and Schofield does bring a lot of pass pro. Remember that both of South Carolina's defensive ends are damn good and neither did that much in the bowl when they weren't ending Vincent Smith on a busted stunt pickup. By the end of the year, Schofield was pretty good.
What I think will happen and what I'd like to see happen are the same, and it's basically the five-guy lineup I posted yesterday: Lewan-Kalis-Miller-InsertGuardHere-Schofield. I assume Kalis and Miller are locks (though if you heard my segment on WTKA yesterday you heard Sam Webb rhapsodize about Patrick Kugler's ability to start early). The fifth guy is up in the air; I would prefer that guy to be a guard simply because it provides less uncertainty, and I worry less about guards getting the QB murdered.
As I'm sure we all were, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Lewan's decision to return next year. However, it seems like all non-Michigan sources (and I'm not talking about rival fan sites like 11W) have done nothing but trash his decision. Analysts at ESPN, some of the pay sites, Yahoo and others have all said he's making a terrible decision...given the insurance policy he will take out and other factors, what gives? Many of the sources are saying there's much more risk than Jake Long took, but given the new rookie pay scale, I actually think there's less. What say you?
Lewan didn't come back because it was the most profitable thing to do, so analyses of whether it's the most profitable thing to do miss the point. They do so very badly, so badly that I assume Darren Rovell has been cloned a thousand times and sent to draft chattering class.
Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important.
"You'll never play for a team again. You'll play for a contract."
It's a risk. But it's an opportunity as well.
but but but oversigning
Throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game, we have been subject to overwhelming Bama praise. “How much better are they than everybody else?” “Is this a dynasty?” “How many years until Michigan can compete on that level?” My constant mental response to this is: but, but, but…OVERSIGNING!
The morning following the Bama beatdown, there was an interesting blogger exchange on Twitter. Basically, a B1G blogger alludes to oversigning as a competitive advantage, then an SEC blogger trivializes oversigning’s competitive impact. Looking back, I see our friend Ramzy once called oversigning an “almost insurmountable competitive advantage.”
What say you? Are B1G fans making too much of oversigning by using it as an excuse for its poor brand of football? Are SEC fans ignoring it in order to maximize pride in their conference? What’s the best quantitative analysis out there that attempts to truly measure the impact?
It's an advantage, but it's only a small part of the reason that the Big Ten has fallen behind the college football world. Florida and Georgia don't do it, and they have been okay at playing football recently. Ole Miss seems to do nothing but, and they suck every year.
- Sucky management of the Big Ten's elite programs. Michigan has been wobbly at best since 2006 largely due to coaching and the program's remarkable ability to punch itself in the face. Penn State was operating essentially without a head coach for the past decade and has now been nuked by the NCAA. Ohio State has largely escaped these doldrums but was stripped of various key players last year en route to a .500 season and banned from postseason play this year. No other Big Ten team can really pick up the slack, except somewhat Nebraska, and this is only the second year they've been in the league. Of course the league is going to be bad when OSU and PSU can't play in bowl games and Michigan's sixth offensive lineman is a walk-on.
- Talent distribution. Not sure this is a huge-huge factor in the Big Ten's sudden decline since demographic trends are very gradual, but population shifts aren't helping. Notice that the powerhouse basketball conference is hugely dependent on basketball-mad Indiana. You have the in-state schools, of course, and then the best player on OSU (Thomas) and second-best on MSU (Gary Harris, and he may be better than Appling) are from Indiana along with the backbone of Michigan's resurgence—Novak, Douglass, Robinson, Albrecht, and incoming Irvin and Donnal. Michigan has one player from outside the Big Ten footprint—Hardaway. Indiana is the Florida of high school basketball. Wisconsin is a great program… for a bunch of guys from Wisconsin and Ohio leftovers.
- Sucky management of every Big Ten program. Bielema flees Wisconsin for an SEC also-ran. Why? I guess more resources. What's the difference between Wisconsin and Arkansas's revenue? Zero. Tim Brewster. Danny Hope. Ron Zook. Tim Beckman. Purdue just hired Darrell Hazell, a guy with two years of MAC head coaching experience. Again, compare that to basketball hires: Crean, Beilein, Tubby, and Matta had all run programs that established themselves perennial ranked teams in major conferences before getting snapped up by the Big Ten. That's not happening in football. Instead Bielema gets sucked away.
- Yeah, oversigning and whatnot. "Whatnot" == jamming a kid full of fake classes to get him eligible and keeping him eligible with the Tarheel curriculum. JUCOs and such. It's a factor. How much? It's not nearly as big a deal as the first bullet here.
That's good news. If Michigan can recruit at a level with Georgia and Florida and Stanford, they can play at that level. That's probably not enough to go up against an all-time dynasty like Alabama that cuts ALL THE CORNERS, but those things collapse eventually, and they can compete with just about anything else.
My thing with oversigning is not that it explains the gap between the conferences, but rather it's the ultimate dick move and should be stopped if the NCAA wants to consider themselves a snow-white organization with pure motives. The Big Ten has plenty of problems, most of which stem from the leadership of the conference (leaders and legends) and trickle their incompetence down from there.
I'm not even sure how you would be able to quantify the impact. But the fix is so, so easy: remove scholarship caps in favor of per-year caps. Move from a system that encourages attrition to keep costs down to one that isn't about athletes going pro in transferring to Kenesaw State.
Notre Dame == Michigan?
Is there any validity to an assertion that Michigan and Notre Dame were basically the same teams this year but for Notre Dame has an offensive coordinator that knows the spread and how to use a spread qb?
No. Notre Dame's defense was a significant cut above Michigan's until it got eviscerated by the Tide, and remains so: 7th in total D, second in scoring D. While their secondary was not good, neither was Michigan's, and while Michigan's front seven was surprisingly capable, Notre Dame's contains many highly touted recruits on their way to long NFL careers.
ND's offense was only slightly better than Michigan's. Moreover, it was much different. Gholson had just under 300 rushing yards on the year. It's a passing spread that keeps a little bit of QB run threat involved; it's not a spread 'n' shred. I could have given you partial credit if you'd said "an offensive coordinator more comfortable with his personnel," but again the ND line was nowhere near as problematic as Michigan's. Mark it zero, dude.
Now that Kovacs has graduated, we need a new #11. I say we give it to Desmond Morgan. That would leave us without somebody for #48, but the problem could be solved by giving BOTH numbers to Morgan. He could wear 11 on the front side and 48 on the back, or possibly reverse the order week to week.
This violates NCAA rules, you say? I have thought this objection through. The answer is to give him a special jersey where the numbers are the same color as the rest of the jersey -- dark blue numerals at home, white numerals on the road -- so the number is completely invisible. The officials will never find out.
Never let it be said that the Outback Bowl jerseys were a bad thing if ideas like this flow freely after seeing them.
Programming Note: No Dear Diary next week unless you guys spend Christmas making diaries or something.
Trevor Miller of Hammer and Rails this week queried the bloggerati of ESDBS's boards to create a programming schedule for a fictional BTN2. Among shows like Hoarders: Jim Delaney Edition and a thing where Rutgers fans run around Manhattan trying to find someone who knows they exist, there was this idea:
11-midnight - "Why We’re Your Rival, Now." - Each school gets to explain why they are a Most Hated Rival of another.
I pointed out in the MGoBoard discussion that this would quickly turn into a Jerry Springer episode where Michigan's in the chair while they keep trotting out progressively more disgusting ladies who say they're our girlfriends.
That thread was perhaps was the impetus behind MGoSoftball embarking on a quest to ask every Big Ten (plus Notre Dame) blog to rank their rivalries. I'm excited for the results, though I don't think any fanbase is truly united on this front. For example Brian would put Notre Dame 2nd, while I think he needs to step outside of WTKA's signal for a day and see what's it like among the Sparties. One man's Michigan rivalric rundown:
- Actual Rivals: Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Minnesota.
- One-way hate, them: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, OHIO!, West Virginia, Princeton, Delaware, Rich Rodriguez, SEC, the Cleveland Indians
- One-way hate, us: USC, Wherever Nick Saban is coaching, Lou Holtz, Duke, Notre Dame's president and athletic department.
- Schools who aren't rivals but we have that one thing we'll never agree on to provide an infinite hate well: Nebraska ('97 N.C.), Tennessee ('97 Heisman), Penn State (JoePa, and because we each find each others' fans completely insufferable).
- Rivals only in the sense that one can be rivals with a paraplegic neighbor who's always asking you to punch him in the face: Eastern Michigan
- Hey, you forgetting someone? Like YOUR BIGGEST RIVAL who you got players suspended for and beat you that one time with a totally unsuspected onside kick???: …? On to the diaries. Where there were only three diaries, plus something I bumped from the boards, and they're all still on top. On to the rest of the board.
The Rest of the Board
THE MAYANS WERE RIGHT!
The world did not end in fire or flood or the mountains caving in; it ended it matte. Futzing with the helmet is a sure sign of the end times, as if maize numbers with blue trim wasn't. Relive the freakout above, or join the mass hysteria in threads dedicated to changing the look of the end zones, or defending David Brandon.
On that last, a suggestion for those about to start threads they think will be unpopular: don't lead with "I know you're all going to neg me for this," or by telling everyone who disagrees with you that they're Brian Cook's sheeple. Make your points, address only the best possible form of the opposing argument, and then stand by to politely debate your assertions, being ready to modify, improve, or even back off your position if you get stumped. Cypress has a valid argument that maybe we've been too hard on Dave Brandon for turning our favorite amateur team into the 2nd biggest franchise in college athletics, since all of those nickels and dimes are building cathedrals for sports most schools can't afford to carry (and consequently giving M the inside track for the Directors Cup). But then the OP's presentation of that argument is overly contentious. It's exactly this kind of contempt for people with other opinions that makes the difference between a great debate thread and a messy flame war the moderators have to clean up.
THE THING I BUMPED FROM THE BOARDS
Your diarist of the week is Asgardian for picking through the last four classes worth of Rivals rankings to find positional trends in who gets the higher stars. For some reason Midwest offensive linemen are getting proportionally higher rankings. It could just be the biases of recruiting analysts who think skill players have to come from the Southeast (imagine the difference in Toussaint hype if he was from Florida instead of Ohio) or it could be they're sick of Iowa and Wisconsin consistently pumping out NFL linemen from guys they rated a 2 or 3, and are making an adjustment. I'd like to see the sample extended back to 2002.
[After the jump, NCAA may be letting Oregon off the hook or taking the first steps towards finally nailing Ohio State for the stuff everyone knows about, and I seriously consider buying something Brian is totally going to make fun of me for.]
Running a route. That is the takeaway from the Outback Bowl practice video: a ball thrown downfield to Denard Robinson, who is playing wide receiver.
Hopefully that did not six takes to get right.
Also they took the uniform mannequin to the Outback Steakhouse on Ann Arbor-Saline, because he was getting sick of staring out the window of Schembechler Hall. Good to see him get some air.
The matte finish is a first for the U-M headgear. Back in the 70s and 80s there was no gloss finish on the Michigan helmets. Much like their coach, there was no flashiness to them – they were maize and blue and that was that. You’d be surprised at how basic and crude those old helmets look compared to the newer ones of today. From 1977:
If you wanted the old ones to look shiny, you would have to rub some car wax on them!
The yellows on the new jersey definitely do not match the helmet, which is a very Sparty thing to do.
Tom From AA rounded up reactions on Facebook and found that most people bothering to insert a comment are opposed:
I went through and tallied 665 of the comments. That's not all of them, but after a while the percentages stayed the same, so I'm saying this is a SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND representation of the FB page's population. It took far too long to go through 650+ so I decided not to keep going through the now 3000 comments. Like I said, the percentages started holding pretty strong around n=300, so should be representative. I ignored trolls and unrelated posts.
Like 102 15.3% Dislike 378 56.8% Helmets: Yes! Uniforms: No! 154 23.1% Meh 13 1.9% Helmets: No! Uniforms: Yes! 18 2.7%
I had other categories as well, such as "Sarcasm" and "slappy." The former of which generally disliked the jerseys, the later of which said "anything Blue wears is good" so I did not include them in the "Like" category.
People in favor seem—how to put this gently—brain damaged.
Representative "Like" Comment
SWAGG! Matt finish to the helmets!! And the jersey is to fly!
You have brain damage and/or are 14, sir. Some responders in the comments here note that incensed people are much more likely to leave a comment than people mildly in favor, and that's true. Whenever a Picture Pages post has 100 comments around here, 80% of them will be complaints. So take it with a grain of salt. Except don't because if you do like the jerseys your brain is probably melting as we speak.
Hmm. Not that it's a surprise, but Taylor Lewan doesn't sound like a guy who's planning on a return:
Even though the Wolverines face replacing a good portion of the offensive line next season, Lewan said he's confident things will work out.
"I don't think Michigan will have a big problem with the offensive line next year," he said.
Maybe that's reading between the lines too finely. No one thinks he'll be back, though.
In other NFL news, Illinois's Akeem Spence declares. Michigan wasn't going to play them next year anyway.
It's gotta go somewhere. The coffers overflow, and the latest beneficiaries:
Clemson’s assistants — at a combined total of more than $4.2 million, including outside income — are the highest-paid group among the 102 public schools for which USA TODAY Sports could obtain 2012 pay information for at least eight of the nine assistants generally allowed by NCAA rules. There are 124 FBS schools.
LSU’s assistants also are collecting more than $4 million. Seven other schools have assistants totaling more than $3 million in compensation: Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon, Florida State and Oklahoma State.
Last year, six schools had $3 million assistant-coaching staffs. In 2009, there was one: Tennessee’s, at $3.3 million.
I'm surprised Michigan isn't on that list with both coordinators now pushing into the upper six figures.
The pictured coaches are Chad Morris, Clemson's $1.3 million offensive coordinator and… I'm not sure but some guy at USC. This is a very silly graphic.
[HT: Get The Picture.]
A good hire? After some confusion it does appear that Wisconsin's new coach is Gary Andersen, lately of Utah State. Andersen doesn't have massively more experience than the latest fliers the conference has taken on MAC coaches, but in four years he turned Utah State from a national doormat into an 11-2 outfit that lost its two games to Wisconsin by two and BYU by three. They took out a BCS team in Utah and annihilated Toledo for a bowl win. The last two years of Idaho Potato bowls were the first winning seasons in the I-A history of the program. That's a pretty solid resume.
The reaction of his players on twitter is also a good sign—various takes on "The only man I want to play for." You never know, but it seems like this has a decent chance of working out as long as the offensive transition isn't too harsh. Utah State is a spread 'n' shred type outfit.
Despite that, tentative thumbs up for a Big Ten hire. Strange days.
Last night in Big Ten hoops sponsored by Barbasol. Close shaves abounded. Both Michigan State and Ohio State were dead even with BGSU and Winthrop for about 30 minutes before pulling away late, and Nebraska managed to turn a 15 point lead against Jacksonville State with seven minutes left into a tight contest. Close shave, (terrible parts of) America (and Nebraska)!
Here's an MSU fan freakout from the first 30 minutes of last night's game against BGSU. I don't think it should impact how you interpret MSU in the league, unfortunately. By the end, Kenpom was eerily close on the score (it was a road game). It feels better to leap out to that ten point lead early and play most of the game comfortably ahead, but all the possessions are worth the same.
Transition efficiency. Dylan gets some stats from Synergy sports and notes a massive improvement in Michigan's transition offense:
According to statistics from Synergy Sports, Michigan is scoring 1.31 points per transition possession – a dramatic improvement from the 1.09 points per possession that the Wolverines netted on transition possessions last season. That number ranks in the 96th percentile nationally and compares favorably to the rest of the conference.
Team % of Poss. in Transition Points Per Transition Poss. Minnesota 15.3% 1.35 Michigan 17.2% 1.31 Ohio State 18.2% 1.30 Indiana 20.4% 1.19 Wisconsin 7.0% 1.16 Purdue 11.3% 1.15 Illinois 13.0% 1.01 Michigan State 20.2% 0.98 Iowa 16.6% 0.96 Penn State 13.1% 0.94 Nebraska 8.1% 0.94 Northwestern 8.8% 0.82
Source: Synergy Sports
Good things happen when Michigan pushes the ball in transition. Obviously there are more easy opportunities in transition (the Wolverines average .96 PPP in half court sets – a very good figure in its own right) but the Wolverines have maximized their transition effectiveness.
Northwestern's transition offense is much worse than their half-court sets, which is kind of amazing. Meanwhile, Michigan's boost this year does not appear to be about schedule strength—most teams haven't played a schedule as good as Michigan's.
Dylan credits Burke and that's obviously a big part of it. Another is the fact that if you lose Stauskas in transition he will put a three on your face. In your face. Speaking of, I found this:
And now I wonder why it took so long to happen.
Etc.: Missouri safety gets the boot for having a small amount of pot, but really I just want to note that his name is "Ka'ra," which sounds like an ancient Egyptian god from a Saturday morning cartoon. Horford's painful looking injury is a dislocated kneecap, which is a very good thing since he should be able to return in a few weeks. Derrick Walton is doing good things. Quinton Washington profiled by his hometown newspaper.
Hey. Life rolls on. Thank you to those who have expressed condolences.
One of the running jokes on the podcast this year has been theorizing that the athletic department has someone specifically dedicated to trolling me. Evidence: "In The Big House" did not return until after the nonconference season had convinced me it was gone, and Michigan waited until the last possible moment to change Jordan Kovacs away from #32. Taken with the deployment of Denard and Devin against Ohio State, this is strong evidence indeed.
If they are deep enough inside that they knew what I was writing up this morning and chose that hour to release the latest in the ever-growing line of uniformz, I am terrified because the sleeper agent is probably me.
Anyway. We knew this was coming because Michigan's promise after they announced the Alabama uniformz was that they would not screw with the jerseys during the regular season. They are here. If you have not been on the internet, here they are:
They finally screwed with the helmet. Also Ramzy pointed out that there seem to be four different shades of yellow on this thing.
Yes, yes, the kids love it, which is why Alabama and USC are struggling to recruit these days. It is possible the kids are not quite so stupid as that meme thinks they are and make decisions based on things other than wearing goofy alternates a couple of times a year. Your assertion as to what the kids love does not seem to have much bearing on where they go to school. Alabama did not need fancy duds to annihilate Michigan earlier this year.
What gets me is that many iconic uniforms are not being futzed with, including the aforementioned teams plus Texas, Florida State, Penn State, and Oklahoma*, but the people running those athletic departments must be wrong and the man who brought us pasta inside a bread bowl must be right. I do not agree that this is necessarily the case, Kids Love It Arguer Guy.
I mean, the brand-manic NFL has strict restrictions on third jerseys, with many of the teams deploying them once or twice… ever. NFL teams are prohibited from wearing alternates in the Super Bowl, and only the Chargers have ever deployed them in a playoff game, probably because the Chargers' alternates are themselves a great tradition revived from the 1960s.
It's no real loss if Michigan looks dumb playing in Tampa, but I'll be sad if Michigan plays a Rose Bowl in anything other than classic Schembechler blue. And if you wouldn't want to wear it at the Rose Bowl, why would you want to wear it anywhere?
I promise to write another version of this post in August when alternate uniforms for the ND game are announced, because it is tradition, and tradition is important. #thisguygetsit
*[All of those teams have largely if not entirely opted out. Oklahoma wore some all-whites that were roundly panned in 2009 and scrapped the concept, and Texas altered their helmets to honor Darrel K Royal this year but that's a whole different thing everyone should be okay with. IIRC Alabama did have some sort of subtle houndstooth thing in one game. In each case any uniform alterations were one-offs or close to it, not Michigan's parade.]