Scott Shafer on his resignation/dismissal:
The two coaches had differing philosophies from the start as Shafer believed in a base 4-3 defense and Michigan began the season with that before morphing into Rodriguez's traditional 3-3-5 format late in the season.
"That’s kind of the reason the decision was made," Shafer said about their differences. "It's one of those deals throughout the whole deal (we debated.) We came up with that decision that it was time to go our own ways. It just didn't fit as simple as that is. I wish Michigan all the success in the future."
On the surface this seems like an indication Rodriguez desires the 3-3-5 to be Michigan's base set, but there's a possibility he wasn't speaking directly to that particular formation. If we had a transcript of the interview we would know; we do not.
One thing is clear. We did this:
That, as mentioned previously, is Tony Franklin's sad fugee face after his midseason canning. Franklin was brought in as Auburn's offensive coordinator to run a system none of his assistants ran—though surely they must have been more familiar with the 4-3 than Auburn assistants were with Franklin's Air-Raid-based spread—failed to get buy-in, suffered through an abysmal season, and were shuffled off after a brief period of time. That was a failure of management on Tommy Tuberville's part and it's a failure on Rich Rodriguez's part. Rodriguez will get an opportunity to try again; Tuberville was not so lucky.
Yesterday the internet rumor mill (and the above-linked article) were suggesting linebackers coach and former Southern Miss DC Jay Hopson would be promoted internally. My inbox also contains some Hopson chatter, though nothing definitive. That rumor has recently been downgraded from "near certainty"; it remains a strong possibility.
Picking Hopson makes some degree of sense. He was a grad assistant at Tulane when Rodriguez was the offensive coordinator there and seems to have fit in well after his first year; at Southern Miss he started moving towards the 3-3-5 towards the end of his term, albeit irregularly. If cohesion and the 3-3-5 are the top priorities he's the best choice outside of nabbing Jeff Casteel, who probably would have left WVU already if he was going to.
Outside of those guys, it's a bunch of gentlemen who haven't run a 3-3-5, because no one really runs the 3-3-5, and how well will that work out, etc.
If it's Hopson you are—read "I am"—in luck, because last year when Hopson was rumored to be the next defensive coordinator I analyzed him, complete with the two posts SMQ (now Dr. Saturday) had made about Hopson. The general upshot:
Hopson, if hired, would be a wildcard. He has some experience, some knowledge of/affinity for the stack, some success, and some decided meh going on in the doldrum days of a coach heading for pasture. Judgment is withheld.
This is no slam dunk, unfortunately.
I also pinged Mr. Hinton via email; by the time he responded Hopson was in but as the linebackers coach and the response no longer seemed relevant. I'll post it later today. It's interesting, if not particularly encouraging.
On said wacky defense.
Some people will criticize anything Rodriguez does at this point, so watch out for this outstanding hypocrisy sure to be unleashed if it is, in fact, Hopson or Casteel: the same people who are claiming the golden age of the spread has passed and it's all downhill now will dismiss the 3-3-5 as a defense that can't work in the Big Ten and cite the complete lack of "big time programs" running it as proof it's a guaranteed failure. The thought that maybe Rodriguez's desire to be innovative and unusual extends to the defensive side of the ball and may serve him well will not cross this sort of person's mind.
As far as my opinion: eh, whatever. The 3-3-5 has been pretty good at West Virginia the last few years and obviously can work as a base defense when, you know, you don't install it the week of a game with players who don't really know what they're doing. (Again: we Franklined it this season. Or maybe Weised it?) I tend to dismiss any and all "scheme X can't work in conference Y" arguments. I am a little concerned a flip to the 3-3-5 will be another painful transition in a year we kind of need to show improvement lest the banshees come out in force, but if that's what he wants to run that's what he wants to run.
Now watch all this be moot when Rodriguez hires your standard 4-3 defensive coordinator.
That crazy quote. It's hard for this not to seem sarcastic:
"Bottom line is, I take full responsibility for the demise of the Michigan program," Shafer, 41, said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "I accept all the responsibility."
Um… all of the responsibility? Surely some of it falls on the country's 109th-ranked offense or the gentlemen who fumbled the ball so often Michigan ended up 105th in turnover margin, Mr. Shafer.
Commenters seem sure that Shafer was genuinely attempting to take as much heat as he could. Shafer did bluntly state he had been outcoached after the Illinois game; maybe he's just prone to self-immolating quotes.
Whatever it is, it must seriously suck to be him right now. Earlier this year he joked with the media that his wife was none too pleased with the constant moving; this will be another year with the U-Haul, and very probably a step down the coaching ladder. All this after two years in which he went from Western Michigan to Stanford to Michigan. He must be crushed.
Recruiting fallout. I didn't get the impression that Shafer was heavily involved with a lot of recruits, but one he had a serious relationship with was Cass Tech safety Thomas Gordon, who posted something to his Facebook account saying he would open up his recruitment. There's a Scout article up on it, too, though a premium one.
This appears to be an immediate reaction that should settle down. Tom VanHaaren confirmed with someone close to Gordon's situation that he has not decommitted and as long as Michigan continues to assure him he's wanted he should remain a member of the class.
No one else has made noises like the Shafer departure seriously affects them, though it's early yet and we may get wind of someone who is displeased. As of yet: no change.