I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
This might be the worst t-shirt ever
I still remember the first time someone asked to see my ID. I was a junior in college, and walking into a casino. I proudly withdrew my Michigan driver's license and handed it to the bouncer. He looked at me, saw my beaming face, and chuckled. He knew what I didn't: that I would start to hate being asked for ID after it happened approximately twice more; by then I just wanted to get where I was going or buy what I was buying without having to reach into my pocket and pull my ID out of my wallet. Leave me alone, man. I'm old enough.
Of course, these days, I take more pleasure in being carded. It rarely happends, but when it does, I'm pleased to reveal that I have been older than 21 for...a long time.
This diary will examine the experience of our overall roster. I decided I wanted to go beyond the O-Line and look at the whole picture. This concept basically occurred to me when I realized I was no longer completely committed to BRADYHOKE4EVER. I love the guy, and think he can be successful, but our offense is approaching the ineptitude that our defense achieved under RR, and that is indefensible. But I want the facts before I judge.
I'm wading into some dark waters here. Some people are going to see this diary as an effort to indict (again) Rich Rodriguez. Right here it says that's not what I'm doing--in fact, RR is a great coach, and I wish he had succeeded at U-M. Others will see it as an apology for Al Borges; NO. Al Borges deserves no apologies. After Saturday, I am no longer in favor of giving AB another year. Don't get me wrong--I'm not calling for him to be fired, but I'm not against him being put out to pasture. If he's replaced, however, it better be with someone who has a similar philosophy, because, as this diary shows, transitions can SUCK.
Here are the raw numbers for Michigan:
|Yr||# of players||%||Walkons||Scholars||%|
On their own, these numbers seem almost self-evident: RR and The Process left us with a roster that is almost completely useless for Hoke's philosophical brand of football. But how do they compare with other schools, and how do they compare with other schools that have recently undergone a coaching staff transition?
Because I have a life and lots of work to do that I can only justify avoiding for so long, I only studied the data of five other schools (because they were easy to find with the Googles): Wisconsin, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Ohio State, and Florida State. All of these programs have had coaching changes since 2008, and they are all relatively strong programs that compete for conference championships. Here are their breakdowns:
This is just for the scholarship players. While there is some variance across these five programs, there are some stark differences when comparing any of them to the Michigan roster. Only Texas A&M has a higher percentage of first-year players, but their second-year percentage is tiny. Ohio State is the only school to have more than two-fifths of their roster devoted to first and second year players, but at 54%, they are still 6.7 percentage points (12.4%) below Michigan. Here are the averages for the five, including the totals for players in their first two years and players and in their last three years:
|Yrs||Sample Five||2/3 totals|
Not surprisingly, players in their first and second years compose roughly 2/5 of the roster, with players in their third year or later accounting for about 60%. For Michigan, though, these numbers are drastically--and alarmingly--different. Over 60% of our roster is composed of guys who have been with the program for two years or less. Our roster is upside down. Here are the deltas for our roster versus the average:
|Yrs||Delta||% diff||2/3 delta||% diff|
Basically, we have almost 50% more youth and one-third less experience. We will require baby-sitting for another year.
What's even more striking is our dearth of experience on defense: we have just eight scholarship players in their fourth or fifth year in the program. Mattison has turned us into a competent defense despite lacking seasoned veterans, and next year he'll once again have just three fifth-year players.We have, on average, 28.4% more first-year players and 76.5% (!!!) more second-year players. The third year is the least significant difference, where we are about 19% behind the average. In years four and five the difference is vast, but nothing like year two.
Conclusions and Error Sources. We are ridiculously young. Our proportionally gigantic second-year class will be helping to even things out next year, but we'll still be real short on fiftth-year players.
For me, this gives me hope for Hoke. I like Brady; I think he's a genuine, good-hearted man with a teacher's heart. He's a strong recruiter, and he doesn't make the public misstatements that so often tripped-up his predecessor, but he must get this offense turned around or he'll face the same fate. To be honest, I'd rather have a good man as our head coach than a douche who can win games. The trick is finding both, and both you must be if you want to satisfy perhaps the most demanding fanbase in all of college football.
Obviously, youth alone is not enough to tell the story. But it obvious that Hoke inherited a roster that was ill-equipped to handle his demands. I belive that must be a factor when judging his performance.
The obvious error source is the small sample size of the average. That said, Wisconsin has a brand new coach, Ohio and A&M have second-year HCs, and Jimbo started at Florida State in 2010. Only Bo Pelini has more than four years on the job (started in '08). I suspect, if anything, these rosters are more youth-slanted than average, especially when you consider the impact of Ohio State's switch to the spread-no-huddle.
TL;DR - Michigan is extremely inexperienced, and only next year will we have a roster of normal proportions. Greg Mattison has made it work anyway. Hoke has a valid reason for under-performance so far, but starting next year that begins to fade. At this point, even accounting for youth, I can't stand behind Borges anymore.
Running for our lives...against UConn
2013. The season of Manball. The season of Devin Gardner. The thumping of CMU. The return of Ol' 98. The full bucket of KFC after Notre Dame. The...WTF just happened?
Brady Hoke appeared poised to repeat the third-year success of past Michigan coaches with more of his recruits taking the field and the full installation of his offensive philosophy of MANBALL. An easier schedule meant 9 wins was almost a worst-case-scenario. Ohio at home was going to be the most significant edition of "The Game" since 2006.
Is it time to throw all of that away?
Michigan is 4-0 heading into its first bye week, but never has undefeated felt so much like a funeral. CMU went as expected, Notre Dame was pure joy; now there is an anxious certainty that armageddon is just around the corner.
You know it's bad when the gif is from The Shining
But I thought, "Maybe it's not as bad as it looks. Maybe there is some semblance of hope in the numbers that I'm just not able to see now." So I set out to find solace in statistics, in search of some great white buffalo to sooth my soul.
Let's start with Akron. We're talking about a team that has picked-up only 17 recruits ranked above two stars on rivals in the last five years. To put that in perspective, Michigan had 17 players with FOUR stars or better in the 2013 class alone. Saying there is a "talent gap" is like calling the Grand Canyon a pothole.
Maybe a chart will make me feel better:
|Date||Opponent||Surface||Result||Rush Yards||Pass Yards||Plays||Total Yards||Yards/Play|
|08/29/13||@ UCF||Grass||L 7-38||134||116||60||250||4.17|
|09/07/13||James Madison||Turf||W 35-33||69||287||57||356||6.25|
|09/14/13||@ 18 Michigan||Turf||L 24-28||107||311||79||418||5.29|
This is Akron's offensive output through their first four games. UCF held Akron to 168 fewer yards and 1.12 fewer yards/play. How bad is 5.29 yards/play? Last season, only Alabama, Northwestern, Ohio State, and South Carolina averaged more yards/play against us. All of those teams finished the season ranked #17 or higher. UMass averaged 3.92 yards/play; Purdue 3.49; Illinois 2.53. Even Nebraska only posted 5.02, while Air Force managed 4.63.
Not since GERG has a cupcake been able to move the ball so effectively against Michigan, and even the 2008 defense had a better average yards/play than 5.29. So yeah, that's really bad. I'm not feeling any better yet. Maybe another chart?
|Date||Opponent||Surface||Result||Rush Yards||Pass Yards||Plays||Total Yards||Yards/Play|
|08/31/13||Central Mich.||Turf||W 59-9||242||221||68||463||6.81|
|09/07/13||22 Notre Dame||Turf||W 41-30||166||294||72||460||6.39|
|09/21/13||@ Connecticut||Grass||W 24-21||192||97||72||289||4.01|
That's better. Our offense cranked out 6.85 yards/play vs. Akron--even better than we did against CMU. Sure, there were some negative plays and the MANBALL didn't really get going until late, but you can't argue the offense wasn't productive when it piled-up 425 yards on just 62 plays. The real problem was the 62 plays--a number indicative of bad defense and turnovers. If we get to 70 plays--roughly our average in the three other games--we're looking at about 480 yards of offense.
But there was something in that chart that bothered me...
HOLY $#!%!!! We only managed 4.01 yards/play agasint UConn? The only game we did worse than that in 2012 was Nebraska. We put up 4.80 yards/play agasint 'Bama, 5.26 against MSU, and even managed 4.53 against ND. Only MSU and VaTech held us under 4.01 yards/play in 2011 (3.73 and 3.54, respectively) and NO ONE kept us that low in 2010. In 2009, Penn State held us to 3.42. Three teams did in 2008--but those three teams had a combined seven losses. In 2007, Penn State allowed just 3.91, while Ohio didn't let us move: we averaged just 1.49 yards/play.
What do you notice about all those teams? They're good. Most of them were really good. I am not willing to go back further than 2007, but I seriously doubt Michigan has ever had such a poor offensive performance against a cupcake. We averaged 6.22 in The Horror.
I need more chart.
|Date||Opponent||Surface||Result||Rush Yards||Pass Yards||Plays||Total Yards||Yards/Play|
|09/21/13||18 Michigan||Grass||L 21-24||47||159||57||206||3.61|
UConn managed just 3.61 yards/play against us. That's basically what MSU and VaTech did to us in 2011, and it's far better than Towson or Maryland fared against the Huskies. It's even better than the 3.68 yards/play we allowed to CMU. Only Purdue and Illinois were held to lower yards/play in 2012, and only Illinois in 2011. Miami (NTM) and Delaware State were the only teams held under that average in the RR era, and in 2007 we held Minnesota to 3.50 and Notre Dame to...1.44.
In the Akron game, the defense was really, really bad. Against an opponent whose players barely make the Rivals rankings. In the UConn game, the offense was even worse. While UConn's 40 three-star recruits (and one four-star!) in the last five classes make Akron jealous, they're hardly a football powerhouse.
The good news is that only one side of the ball sucked in both games (although special teams certainly haven't helped much). That kept us from a second-coming of The Horror. The bad news is that we are capable of playing at historically bad levels on both sides of the ball. Elite teams don't do that.
Based on the last two weeks, it's hard to look at any of our remaining games and feel totally secure. We're not playing anyone as bad as Akron or UConn the rest of the way. If our offense plays like they just did, Minnesota could beat us. If our defense plays like they did against Akron, Indiana could beat us. I just threw-up in my mouth thinking about that.
If we can get the team to play to its potential on both sides of the ball, we could definitely still get to double-digits in the win column. That's a big "if". For now, I'm revising my 10-2 prediction to 8-4. We could easily lose four-out-of-five in November, or Penn State could trip us in October.
It's frustrating that I am this nervous/anxious for the Minnesota game as a measuring stick.
Apparently UConn football fans placed a lot of hope in new OC T.J. Weist this year. Not going very well thus far, but interesting interview here from The Hartford Courant:
"I'm just like any player who doesn't make a play," Weist said. "I have to evaluate, did I make the right calls at the right time, what do I have to adjust to? I've got a whole new set of play-calls, a whole new set of situations coming for Michigan so I have to say, how am I calling plays? Am I calling them fast enough? Are they clear enough, are they adjusting to the defense the correct way. I think we're coming together as an offensive staff, as a full staff, me getting to know all the guys, how we handle game situations and my players."
Michigan was blessed with some impressive WR talent during that period: Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, Walter Smith, Mercury Hayes, etc.
"It was an honor being there, to be a part of that tradition whether it was playing Ohio State, playing Notre Dame, being a part of those great rivalries, they taught me a lot as a coach, so sure it's special," Weist said. "I'm coaching against friends and one of the better teams in the country and one of the best programs, if not the best program in the country. None of that matters. We still have to go out and win."
David Harris, Greg Mattison, Brady Hoke, Al Borges and David Brandon all joined "The Rundown" sports radio show on WBBL The Ball this morning for their Michigan Wednesday of their tailgate tour.
Dr. and Bently are pretty terrible to listen to, but Mattison had some good nuggets when talking about the defense, specifically the players we could see a lot of. Nothing earth shattering, but worth the listen.
Thankfully the Michigan Men make it worth listening to.
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
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.