Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
If you're reading this site, you're a true Michigan fan. The type that yells "Go Blue" at anyone with two legs and block M on her shirt.
Your commitment goes beyond packing the Big House on Saturdays each fall. You still remember how the sun set over the Rose Bowl in 1998 as Michigan beat Washington State to capture a national title.
Michigan football has rewarded your commitment by winning a lot of football games. The program has the most wins and best winning percentage among all college football programs. This success has been consistent, well, except for a recent 3 year stretch.
The bottom panel shows how a computer algorithm viewed Michigan football each year. The Power Rank algorithm takes a team's margin of victory in each game and adjusts it for their schedule. It makes a difference whether a team plays in the Big Ten or MAC. Last year, Michigan was rated higher (26th) than Northern Illinois (44th) despite having a worse record.
The rating for each team gives an expected margin of victory against an average FBS team. The difference in ratings of two teams gives a predicted margin of victory on a neutral field. For example, Michigan was predicted to beat Michigan State by 5.7 points (including 3 points for a home game at the Big House) last season. Michigan won 12-10. While the visual shows year end ratings, the calculations from before bowl season have predicted 62.8% of bowl game winners over the last 11 years.
These insights into Michigan football jump out from the visual.
23 Years of Sustained Excellence
In 1984, sophomore QB Jim Harbaugh got hurt in the fifth game of the season. Bo didn't have a suitable replacement. Michigan struggled to 6-6 record, finishing 36th in The Power Rank.
For the next 23 years, Michigan football never finished out of the top 25 of the rankings. The teams coached by Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr showed remarkable consistency.
The Rich Rodriguez Years
This consistency came to an abrupt halt when Carr retired and Rich Rodriguez took over as coach. The dip in rating over these 3 years looks like the Grand Canyon compared with Michigan's results on both sides of this era. Rodriguez's teams won more games as the offense picked up his spread scheme. However, the poor defense kept team rating negative during those 3 years.
Michigan had a terrible time with turnovers under Rodriguez. Turnover margin in football is like flipping a coin. The randomness implies that a team with poor turnover margin should do better the following season. However, regression to the mean does not rescue every team. Rodriguez's teams had a consistently terrible turnover margin, with 10, 12, and 10 more giveaways than takeaways in his 3 years.
Boring wins football games
Lloyd Carr did not play the most exciting brand of football. Run, run, pass on offense. Very predictable and boring.
But Lloyd Carr won 122 football games in his 13 years as head coach. He claimed 5 Big Ten titles and a national championship in 1997.
How did he do it? Craig Ross, author of The Obscene Diaries of a Michigan Fan, told me that Carr attempted to "minimize the vagaries of talent and injuries". He probably had turnovers on his mind as well.
To a mathematician like myself, this quote means he understood randomness and tried to minimize its impact on his team. The calculated ratings from 1995 to 2007 show the consistent results from this philosophy. Similar to the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, Carr put his team in position to win every year. He broke through with a national championship in 1997. Who cares that the algorithm thinks the Big Ten had a down year?
And for anyone who doubts boring wins football, just remember what happened when the exciting spread offense showed up after Carr retired.
The hidden strength of 2005 team
The remarkable 23 years in the top 25 of the rankings includes 2005. Most fans will not remember the 7-5 season fondly, but Michigan finished 10th in The Power Rank.
How can a team with 5 losses get ranked so highly? The Power Rank considers margin of victory and strength of schedule in ranking teams. A team gets credit for staying close with good teams. In 2005, Michigan lost by 4 points to 3rd ranked Ohio State, 7 points to 6th ranked Notre Dame, and 3 points to 19th ranked Wisconsin.
The 2005 team was much better than their record indicated. The Power Rank rated them two touchdowns better than the average FBS team. The core of Jake Long, Chad Henne and Mario Manningham along with a healthy Mike Hart would lead Michigan to an 11-0 start the following year.
Bo's best team was in 1988
Of the last 7 years of Bo Schembechler's coaching tenure, which team was the beat? The 1985 team that beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl? Or the 1986 team that finished with 11 wins?
Actually, the ranking algorithm gives a slight edge to the 1988 team. Michigan opened the season with a 2 point loss at Notre Dame. The following week, the Wolverines lost an agonizing 1 point game to Miami when the Hurricanes recovered an onside kick to set up a winning field goal. However, The Power Rank considers margin of victory and strength of schedule in rankings teams. Miami and Notre Dame would finish the season 1st and 2nd (Notre Dame won the national title with an undefeated season).
Michigan went on beat USC in the Rose Bowl and finish 4th in the rankings. The algorithm states they were a point and a half better than the 1985 team. However, the algorithm does not make any kind of definitive statement on the best team. To put this in perspective, the 1988 has a 53% chance of beating the 1985 team on a neutral field.
Get a free postcard of the Michigan visual
As Michigan enters the third year of the Brady Hoke era, the program appears to be climbing out of the Grand Canyon of the Rodriguez years. The Power Rank will continue to use analytics and visualization to break down the program in detail. For example, I apply the algorithm to yards per play to account for strength of schedule in ranking offense and defense.
The best way to keep up to date with this analysis is my free email newsletter. If you sign up, I'll send a postcard of the Michigan visual to you and the next biggest Michigan fan you know. To check it out, click here.
Rich Eisen had Brady on his podcast for a good, long segment. Brady opened up a little more and shared a few stories, one of them a little physical altercation he had with John Harbaugh when they were coaching together at WMU under Jack.
Also of note, we've heard before but when asked about Jake Ryan, Brady said - "he'll be back by October."
Brady talks about his relationship with "Tommy" Brady, who will be coming back "to do some things" at Michigan at some point.
Brady likes Duck Dynasty.
Laura Hoke also doesn't wear red. The Hokes generally don't wear green either.
Definitely worth a listen.
With the recent commitment of Peppers, I thought it'd be interesting to see how many of the last 2 (edit: now 3) classes of recruits were considered top 5 nationally at their positions by at least one of the services. This is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, and actually leaves off a decent amount who are top 10 at their position nationally, but here's what we've got. Services listed in order of highest ranking for each player:
2012 (thanks to user Allin4Blue)
Ondre Pipkins #3 DT - Rivals
Sione Houma #4 FB - ESPN
Kyle Kalis #4 OG - 247
Joe Bolden #3 OLB - 247, #4 OLB - Scout
Royce Jenkins-Stone - #2 MLB - Scout
Chris Wormley #4 SDE - 247
Terry Richardson #5 CB - ESPN
Devin Funchess - #5 TE - ESPN
Kyle Bosch #3 OT - Scout, #4 OG - 247
Taco Charlton #3 WDE - 247
Derrick Green #1 RB - Rivals, Scout, #5 RB - ESPN
Shane Morris #3 QB - Scout, #4 QB - Rivals, 247
David Dawson #3 OG - 247, #2 OG - ESPN
Patrick Kugler #1 OG - Scout, #2 C - 247, #3 OG - ESPN,
Jake Butt # 4 TE - ESPN, #5 TE - Scout, Rivals
Dymonte Thomas #4 S - Scout
Jabrill Peppers #1 CB - Everyone save Scout at #4
Drake Harris #4 WR - 247, #3 WR - Scout
Bryan Mone #5 DT - 247
Ian Bunting #5 TE - ESPN
3 TE - 1 H, 2 Y
When: June 5th, 6-9pm
Where: Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. 540 N. Michigan Avenue, 5th floor ballroom.
Cost: $40 for Alumni members, $55 for non-members.
The Coaches Tour returns to Chicago June 5th. Come enjoy a night out with fellow Alumni, as Brady Hoke, John Beilein, Dave Brandon and other speakers talk about their plans for the 2013-2014 seasons. A silent auction will take place at the end of the night, featuring one of a kind Michigan items.
Last year was the first year I attended and it was a blast. Come out and have a great time listening to out fearless leaders from the gridiron and the hardwood, as well as Dave Brandon's vison of the future.
Yes, I have an addiction. Yes, it's March. Some choose to build tiny wooden ships in bottles, I intricately break down defensive lineman technique from spring practice videos frame by frame.
Here's the set-up, Pipkins vs. early enrollee Kyle Bosch and a running back who I don't even bother identifying because Pipkins plays this so well that it doesn't matter what the running back does. Besides, his job is to just pick a side and hit it hard.
Here, Pipkins has a pretty good stance, wide base, on the balls of his feet, athletic posture and good knee bend. Low for a big man - that small human he shed this offseason seems to have helped with that some.
Right after the snap, Pipkins has fired of his left foot and is already bringing his hands, preparing to make contact with Bosch. At first glance he appears to come out a little high, but as we'll see, his hands, strength and quick feet help him overcome that. The ideal first step (my understanding) is to be quick, low to the ground, forceful and almost a jab - generate force but reset to be able to drive off again.
As he makes contact with Bosch, Pipkins has already driven off his right foot as well, generating more power and force into Bosch. His hands have shot inside very quickly and, as we'll see, will allow him to control Bosch.
Here, Pipkins has reset both feet and will again drive through them to push Bosch back. They're pretty much at the line of scrimmage - Bosch has not fired off the ball nor has he moved his feet, except laterally. I think he should be drive blocking here, but I could be mistaken. Maybe his job is just to seal off Pipkins. Regardless, the young buck won't win this battle. Bosch has his hands in pretty poor position, as Pipkins has him basically by the collar and Bosch would need to hold to really have his left hand be any use to him at this point.
This time as Pipkins generates more power into Bosch with his legs, he clearly has leverage. Just compare the angles of their bodies to the ground - Pipkins is firing out and up, Bosch is sitting back down onto his heels. His feet are again driving for power, and as we'll see in a second, he's about to explode upward with his feet and hips, while also extending his arms and pressing Bosch away from him.
He's pushing off the ground hard enough that both feet are (minorly) airborn. His hands are extended, they're even with his eyes. Ideally they will end up above his eyes when he extends, but this a strong punch he delivers. Keep in mind this has all happened in a few split seconds as we are just now seeing the ballcarrier enter the frame.
Here, Pipkins has his left arm free with his right fully controlling Bosch, further pushing him back on his heels. The running back has already decided to go left, so that's where Pipkins will meet him with great haste.
Contact is made with the ballcarrier at about the line of scrimmage, as Bosch is finally leaving his heels. He's also managed to grab a little cloth with his lefth and, proving that Pipkins hands were far better on this occasion. I'll give him credit for trying to finish the block and driving through Pipkins, but it's already over.
Tackle made - 1 yard gain.
Here's the video of the whole thing, starts at about 2:28.
If you start a second before you can see how much taller Devin is than Gallon which is both awesome and depressing at the same time. Let me know if you see any mistakes or glaring oversights or crap I just made up.
Sitting at my desk and waiting for the next “Hello” post to arrive, I have been studying the recruiting success we've had since Hoke & Co's arrival and trying to figure out how excited I should be about 2013 and beyond. The goal, obviously, is to build a program that is competing for B1G and National Championships every year. But how good does our recruiting have to be in order to accomplish that?
In Part I, I took a look at how the dark lord himself managed to put together one of the most dominant runs in college football history. Nick Saban's Alabama teams are loaded with blue chip recruits, but he also oversigns every year. To him, a scholarship is really just an offer to try out for the Crimson Tide, and kids that aren't cutting it are sent packing for whatever reason Saban can use to justify booting them (his favorite is “violating team rules”). I hope Michigan never uses the oversigning methods of the SEC, but we will have to find players that make a similar impact if we're going to compete with those programs.
So what does it mean to have a roster that can compete with Alabama? CHART!
These charts represent Saban's '07-'09 classes, with the bars representing the IMPACT rating. Like Hoke, Saban's first class was composed almost entirely of his predecessor's recruits. And, like Hoke, Saban's next two classes were relatively large and represented a significant improvement over his first class.
For the time period, the average Saban recruit was a 5.78 Rivals Rating. This is roughly equivalent to a low four-star recruit. And as the chart shows, the rankings do matter. Referring back to Part I, this chart compares the impact of recruits with their Rivals Rating. Briefly, a high impact is better; a “1” is a player that did not contribute during his career at 'Bama, a “2” is a minor contirbutor or role player, and a “3” is a solid starter or better. Perhaps the most important thing about the rankings is that there is a clear trend that the higher you are ranked, the less likely it is that you will end-up a non-factor (IMPACT of 1). On a percentage basis, the 5.8 players actually out-performed the 5.9 and 6.0 players, but the general trend is that the more highly-rated players are more likely to contribute.
It helps Saban that the sample size of 5.6 or lower recruits is very small. His roster is composed, almost exclusively, of very highly-rated three-star or better recruits (5.7 or better). His reputation for finding diamonds in the rough—as far as I can tell—is complete myth. His highly-rated prospects produce; his lower-rated prospects (the few that even stay in Tuscaloosa) generally do not contribute.
So how does this compare to Michigan? Chart? Chart!
|Blake Countess||DB||5'10"||171||4.5||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Raymon Taylor||ATH||5'10"||167||4 stars||5.8||3|
|Desmond Morgan||LB||6'1"||225||4.7||3 stars||5.5||3|
|Brennen Beyer||DE||6'4"||222||4.5||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Frank Clark||LB||6'2"||210||4.5||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Thomas Rawls||RB||5'10"||214||3 stars||5.6||2|
|Matt Wile||K||6'2"||210||2 stars||5.3||2|
|Justice Hayes||RB||5'10"||175||4.4||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Chris Barnett||TE||6'6"||245||4.5||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Chris Bryant||OL||6'5"||330||4 stars||5.6||1|
|Kellen Jones||LB||6'1"||209||4.6||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Delonte Hollowell||DB||5'8"||162||4.7||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Antonio Poole||LB||6'2"||210||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Chris Rock||DE||6'5"||250||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Greg Brown||DB||5'10"||180||4.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Tamani Carter||DB||6'0"||175||4.5||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Tony Posada||OL||6'6"||315||5.4||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Russell Bellomy||QB||6'3"||178||4.6||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Keith Heitzman||DE||6'3"||237||4.9||3 stars||5.5||1|
|Jack Miller||DE||6'4"||268||4.8||3 stars||5.5||1|
Michigan's 2011 class numbered 20 recruits. I would expect that classes will average 20-24 recruits under Hoke (mean of 22). This accounts for attrition, and basically divides the team into five classes: RS Freshmen, Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Saban, working with the same number of scholarships, averaged 27.7 recruits in his first three classes, and has averaged exactly 25 commitments per class since then. That means he's getting three extra chances at a good player every year. This is a big difference, but not insurmountable.
The 2011 Michigan class was damaged by transfers, but nothing like Saban's 2007 group. Ten (!) players from Saban's first class did not finish their careers at 'Bama. Hoke, so far, has lost six of his first class to transfers, and it appears unlikely he'll lose any more: of the remaining 14 players, 11 have played and two are front-runners for starting positions on the 2013 O-line (Jack Miller and Chris Bryant). That leaves only Antonio Poole, who was a 5.7 (highest 3-star) on Rivals and a 4-star on Scout. With Michigan loaded at LB, Poole may end-up transferring due to a lack of playing time—there's about a 50-50 chance of him contributing in some way during his career.
The 2011 Michigan class' average Rivals Rating was 5.62. Take out the kicker (Wile) and the average jumps to 5.64 ('Bama did not recruit a kicker in '07). This is a clear disadvantage compared to 'Bama's 5.70 average.
But the real bottom line is production. Saban turned 9 members of that class into contributing players, and four of those were all-stars. Will Michigan find similar success? I actually think we'll do better on average, if not at the top. Here are the guys and their projected IMPACT at the end of their careers:
- Blake Countess - 3
- Ramon Taylor - 3
- Desmond Morgan - 3
- Keith Heitzman - 3
- Brennen Beyer - 2
- Frank Clark - 2
- Thomas Rawls - 2
- Justice Hayes - 2
- Chris Bryant - 2
- Jack Miller - 2
- Delonte Hollowell - 1
- Antonio Poole - 1
- Russell Bellomy - 1
- Matt Wile - 3
That's 10 productive players (11 counting the kicker), four of whom I believe have a good chance of being drafted. I also believe my grading has been pretty harsh—several of those 2's could be 3's, and only one of the 3's (Heitzman) is a guy who hasn't fully proven himself. Bryant, Miller, and Beyer seem the most likely to become 3's, but Rawls, Hayes, and Clark all have game experience and are certainly not out of the running. That said, RB's usually show something early in their career if they will have an impact later in their career. 2013 is likely their last chance.
The final verdict is that this class appears poised to produce a lighter top than 'Bama's 2007 group, but a thicker middle. The group will probably be more productive on paper, but lacks the All-American types. On to class #2...
|Joe Bolden||LB||6'2"||225||4 stars||5.8||2|
|James Ross||LB||6'0"||209||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||5'7"||170||4 stars||5.8||2|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||6'3"||215||4.7||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Devin Funchess||TE||6'5"||205||3 stars||5.7||2|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||6'3"||325||5.2||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||6'5"||302||5 stars||6.1||1|
|Erik Magnuson||OL||6'6"||275||4 stars||5.9||1|
|Jarrod Wilson||DB||6'2"||190||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Terry Richardson||DB||5'9"||160||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Tom Strobel||DE||6'6"||245||4.8||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||6'2"||215||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Blake Bars||OL||6'5"||275||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Amara Darboh||WR||6'2"||190||4.4||4 stars||5.8||1|
|Jeremy Clark||DB||6'4"||205||4.5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Christopher Wormley||DE||6'6"||270||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Matthew Godin||DT||6'6"||270||5||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||6'0"||219||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Ben Braden||OL||6'6"||285||3 stars||5.7||1|
|A.J. Williams||TE||6'6"||260||4.9||3 stars||5.7||1|
|Allen Gant||DB||6'2"||210||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Willie Henry||DT||6'2"||270||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Drake Johnson||RB||6'1"||200||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||6'3"||182||4.5||3 stars||5.6||1|
|Sione Houma||RB||6'0"||211||4.5||3 stars||5.5||1|
Saban's second class was epic in terms of quality and quantity—like the extended version of Return of the King—loading-up 32 recruits with an average Rivals Rating of 5.81. Hoke's second class follows the trend of his first, with 25 commitments averaging 5.75—the same difference in average rating as their first classes. 15 'Bama players from the 2008 class were contributors, and ten earned an IMPACT value of 3. All ten of those guys are in the NFL or headed there. Seven more players from Saban's group busted at 'Bama, and the rest were sent out to pasture. Will Hoke's first full class produce ten NFL-bound starters and five role players? This group requires a bit more explaining:
- Joe Bolden - 3 – Already demonstrated ability to play at high level
- Dennis Norfleet - 3 – Value in return game will skyrocket, but will he play much otherwise?
- James Ross - 3 – Either Ross or Bolden will probably be a 3-year starter...maybe both
- Devin Funchess - 3 – Best receiving TE talent at UM in recent memory
- Mario Ojemudia - 3 – Showed flashes in 2012, IMO will pass Beyer and Clark on depth chart
- Ondre Pipkins - 3 – Highly-touted recruit has controlled his weight and should start in 2013
- Kyle Kalis - 3 – Beast projected to be a four-year starter
- Erik Magnuson - 3 – Giving the highest-rated lineman the best chance to end-up a multi-year starter
- Amara Darboh - 3 – Burned redshirt because of physical talent; either he or Chesson will likely start multiple seasons
- Jarrod Wilson - 3 – Starting in 2013? Maybe, but almost certainly starting in 2014 and beyond
- Blake Bars - 2 – One more lineman from this class will have to contribute
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2 – RJS is a solid four-star whose biggest challenge is the loaded LB depth chart
- Terry Richardson - 2 – 50/50 on whether or not this 5.8 recruit pans out
- Tom Strobel - 2 – The 2012 class will need at least one more contributor on the D-line; Strobel and Wormley seem like the best candidantes
- AJ Williams - 2 – Will probably spend career as a blocker
- Ben Braden - 2 – Which BB will contribute? Ben Braden or Blake Bars?
- Sione Houma - 2 – Likely a blocking FB who now must compete with Shallman.
- Christopher Wormley - 2 – Massive recruit who may have helped this year if not for injury
- Jehu Chesson - 2 – System change gives Chesson and Darboh the opportunity to play early
- Jeremy Clark - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Matthew Godin - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Allen Gant - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Willie Henry - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Drake Johnson - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
- Kaleb Ringer - 1 – Not all recruits will pan out; lowest-rated guys being given 1's
That's ten 3's—the same number as 'Bama—and I believe all could be successful playing on Sundays. As for the 2's, AJ Williams and Terry Richardson seem like locks to be multi-year contributors if not starters, and the rest will probably end-up splitting 50/50. That means four or five will wind-up helping the team and the rest—along with the 1's—will probably not offer much.
It's VERY important to me that no one takes this the wrong way. I am not, in any way, predicting that specific kids will end-up as busts. I use the names only because it makes the numbers real, but the truth is that my predictions are based on limited evidence and my statistical analysis. I sincerely apologize to any player or person who is offended by these projections; again, it is not personal, just my best attempt to predict recruiting success at Michigan.
The bottom line for this class is, IMO, very good. I believe that, compared to 'Bama's '08 class, we'll get similar numbers in terms of quality contributors and role players, despite having seven fewer recruits. But will this group have star power to compare with the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Mark Ingram? I don't see a Heisman winner on this list, but Ross, Bolden, Funchess, Kalis, and Pipkins all have a very good chance at being All-B1G and first-half NFL draft choices, IMO. Time will tell if they compare to 'Bama, but the numbers are kind. The average Rivals Rating of 'Bama's ten players who earned a 3 is 5.82; Michigan's average of the players I have projected to be 3's is 5.85. Hoke's first haul lacks stars at the skill positions like Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, but it may be just as productive and yield early draft choices on the lines and at LB.
|Derrick Green||RB||6'0"||220||4.4||5 stars||6.1|
|Henry Poggi||DT||6'4"||260||4 stars||6|
|Patrick Kugler||OL||6'5"||280||5.1||4 stars||6|
|Shane Morris||QB||6'3"||183||4.6||4 stars||6|
|Jourdan Lewis||DB||5'10"||159||4.7||4 stars||5.9|
|Dymonte Thomas||DB||6'2"||192||4.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Mike McCray||LB||6'4"||230||4.6||4 stars||5.9|
|Kyle Bosch||OL||6'5"||311||5.5||4 stars||5.9|
|Chris Fox||OL||6'6"||297||4 stars||5.9|
|Jake Butt||TE||6'6"||235||4 stars||5.9|
|Ross Douglas||DB||5'10"||180||4.4||4 stars||5.8|
|Delano Hill||DB||6'0"||198||4.4||4 stars||5.8|
|Taco Charlton||DE||6'6"||249||4.9||4 stars||5.8|
|Ben Gedeon||LB||6'3"||215||4 stars||5.8|
|David Dawson||OL||6'4"||282||5.5||4 stars||5.8|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||OL||6'7"||307||4 stars||5.8|
|Wyatt Shallman||RB||6'3"||245||4.7||4 stars||5.8|
|Channing Stribling||DB||6'2"||170||4.5||3 stars||5.7|
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||6'2"||305||3 stars||5.7|
|Deveon Smith||RB||5'11"||218||3 stars||5.7|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||6'4"||197||4.6||3 stars||5.7|
|Csont'e York||WR||6'3"||185||3 stars||5.7|
|Reon Dawson||DB||6'2"||175||4.4||3 stars||5.6|
|Dan Samuelson||OL||6'5"||275||5.3||3 stars||5.6|
|Khalid Hill||TE||6'2"||230||3 stars||5.6|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||6'2"||185||4.4||3 stars||5.6|
|Scott Sypniewski||OL||6'1"||230||2 stars||5.2|
The 2013 class is, by far, the most difficult to project. Obvious is obvious—these guys have not yet seen the field as college players and all of my predictions will be based on pure speculation. But how does Hoke's third effort compare to Saban's 2009 class?
To review, Saban's '09 class was another big one—27 recruits following the 33 from '08—and was chock full of talent, producing an average Rivals Rating of 5.83 with four 5-star (6.1) players. The class delivered in a big way, with all of those 5-star players earning 3's, and three of them becoming absolute studs. Six more players from Saban's third class earned 3's (for a total of ten) and the class had all-stars Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, AJ McCarron, DJ Fluker, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Chance Warmack. Three more players earned 2's, giving the class 13 total contributors. Those 13 players had an average Rivals Rating of 5.9—a top 150 recruit.
Michigan's 2013 class also had 27 recruits. The average Rivals Rating for Team 134 commitments is 5.79—just .04 below 'Bama's third class. Take out of long-snapper ('Bama had no specialists in its '09 class) and the average jumps to 5.81—a ridiculously good average that is basically equivalent to a low 4-star recruit. Will Michigan's class produce ten players who earn 3 IMPACT ratings and a handful more of 2's? I believe so. Will Michigan's class produce star power similar 'Bama's '09 group? I doubt it. Saban reeled-in four 5-star (6.1) recruits, one 6.0, and seven 5.9's. Michigan had just one 6.1, but did have three 6.0's to go with six 5.9's. That means Saban's class had two more blue chip recruits, which is a significant statistical advantage in that it probably means one more all-star or high impact player. But from a total team perspective, the difference is smaller. Michigan's group should still produce a similar number of 2's and 3's on the IMPACT scale. Here is my ridiculously uninformed, way-too-early, obnoxiously long, and somewhat offensive projection for each Michigan recruit:
- Derrick Green - 3 – Seems like a perfect fit for the system and the depth chart is shallow at RB
- Henry Poggi - 3 – Worst-case scenario (if healthy), Poggi is Ryan Van Bergen
- Patrick Kugler - 3 – Son-of-a-coach at a position where 2013's projected starter is a converted D-lineman
- Shane Morris - 3 – Shane or Wilton Speight is likely to be a multi-year starter; could be #2 in 2013
- Dymonte Thomas - 3 – If it's possible to a sleeper as a 5.9 recruit, he is; already enrolled
- Mike McCray - 3 – Could follow Jake Ryan as the next great Michigan SAM
- Kyle Bosch - 3 – Nasty man with college size and an early enrollee
- Chris Fox - 3 – We are still a bit short OT's after 2013; likely multi-year starter
- Jake Butt - 3 – Early enrollee will almost ceratinly play significant minutes in 2013
- Taco Charlton - 3 – Will Taco be the best pure pass-rusher on the 2013 team? Already enrolled.
- Jourdan Lewis - 2 – Not tall; great athlete but IMO a 50/50 shot at becoming starter
- Ross Douglas - 2 – Another 50/50 player; he or Lewis probably pans out; already enrolled
- Delano Hill - 2 – Safety is actually becoming a pretty loaded position; Hill has a 50/50 shot
- Ben Gedeon - 2 – Like this kid's character, so he's a 3 in my heart, but LB is loaded
- David Dawson - 2 – Great prospect, but our O-line is suddenly loaded on the interior
- Logan Tuley-Tillman - 2 – Massive man who will benefit from his early enrollment
- Wyatt Shallman - 2 – Probably destined for FB or DT; will probably be a great role player
- Maurice Hurst Jr. - 2 – I believe this kid is a sleeper
- Deveon Smith - 2 – More suited to Michigan's style than current backs
- Jaron Dukes - 2 – Conspicuously good production in HS against good DB's
- Khalid Hill - 2 – TE is still a thin position for Michigan; Hill will have a chance to contribute
- Da'Mario Jones - 2 – Only the recruiting services thought this kid was a 3-star
- Scott Sypniewski - 1 – Long snappers are long snappers
- Csont'e York - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Reon Dawson - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Dan Samuelson - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
- Channing Stribling - 1 – They can't all work out; just trying to make the numbers accurate
Of the twelve players that were projected as 2's, it's likely that about half will end-up as non-factors. The other half will be some combination of 2's and 3's, and a couple of the projected 3's will end-up as 2's or busts. That leaves this class with about ten 3's, five 2's, and twelve 1's. This is roughly equivalent to what 'Bama produced from their third class in terms of IMPACT.
Hoke's recruits from these first three classes will probably be more productive than Saban's because the Michigan roster was in much worse shape for two reasons: 'Bama's '06 class was loaded with talent while Michigan's 2010 group was a 3-star party; and Saban inherited a roster much more suited to his style than did Hoke. So while it may seem like my projections have been generous, I do believe Michigan will crank out 3's and 2's at a high rate from these first three classes, partly out of necessity. But the numbers indicate that these players will be highly productive, but not quite the all-stars that the Tide crank out year after year.
Michigan has some important statistical disadvantages. The first is pure numbers: Saban brought in 11 more commitments than Hoke did in his first three years. I believe this comparative weakness will be mostly—if not completely—overcome by the character of the Michigan commits. Not only does Saban dump players who are less talented, he also loses more guys to crime and grades than does Hoke, and my guess is that Hoke will probably have fewer pure busts. I do believe Hoke can overcome the roughly three player per class disadvantage. Overall, just looking at limited numbers, I would guess that the actual advantage is only about one extra player per recruiting cycle due to the Tide's willingness to take kids that are good at football but not so good at life.
The second difference is the talent of the recruits. Saban's first three classes hold a .05 average Rivals Rating advantage over Hoke's, and the chart above tells the story: Saban got more top level recruits in his first three classes. Notice the big differences in 5.9, 6.0, and 6.1 recruits. Saban had 29 commits fall into those categories—more than a third (35%) of his '07-'09 commitments. Hoke has had just 14, representing less than 1/5 (19%) of Michigan's signees. In fact, the only ratings in which Michigan picked-up more recruits than 'Bama are the 5.5 and 5.6 levels, which are low-to-mid 3-star types.
Michigan also has underwhelming talent and/or depth at a couple of positions where the Tide is loaded: RB and WR. Treadwell chose the Ole Miss snake oil, leaving Michigan with only 3-star recruits at WR (though I believe two of those prospects were underrated) and 'Bama grabs 4-star WR's on a consistent basis. At RB, Michigan's 2013 class is excellent, but it will take another year or two of classes like that to have comparable talent to 'Bama.
D-Line is another spot where Michigan is still thin; the Heininger Certainty Principle helps here, but we'll still need pass-rushers. Saban recruits DE's to play OLB in his 3-4 scheme, so he uses different bodies in different ways, but he recruits DE/LB types very heavily, and 2-3 DT's every year as well. I expect Michigan to be recruiting 3-5 D-line prospects every year going forward
Saban tends to take lots of lower-rated OL recruits and still turns them into stars. His strategy seems to be to simply get five or six OL commits every year and turn a couple into All-SEC types while the rest land on the trash heap. Positionally, that seems to be the only real difference among Hoke and Saban's targets—Michigan's focus on the best possible O-line players and 'Bama's relative ignorance of that position in terms of Rivals Ratings.
The bottom line is that Saban signed more players and got better talent in his first three tries than did Hoke. That said, Hoke's focus on character mitigates those disadvantages by having fewer misses and getting more out of his players. But in order to build a juggernaut, we will probably need classes that are consistently as strong as our 2013 haul. And while Hoke's latest effort is on par with Saban's early classes, 'Bama has continued to improve the quality of their recruits: 2013 is Saban's best class yet.
The talent gap is still there, but it seems to be closing. Can character and coaching help build a national champion in Ann Arbor? Time will tell.