I got a little sad when you say we still have a talent deficit and will for another season or two. I do think that as Wisconsin and Iowa both seem to prove, with good coaching you can overcome some of this.
Lloyd’s Cliff and RichRod’s Plateau: Michigan’s Roster Over the Years
Close followers of this site are well aware that for all his faults, Rich Rodriguez was not handed a classic, loaded Michigan roster when he arrived. If you followed his recruiting at all you know he didn’t do the Wolverines any favors with his recruiting during his three years in Ann Arbor. Based on 11 years of recruiting and roster history, I have compiled a look at how Michigan’s talent and experience have ebbed and flowed since 2006 and how many elite caliber classes like the currently assembled 2013 class it will take for Michigan’s talent base to catch up with the nation’s best recruiting programs.
For those interested in how the roster values were calculated, I’ve added a section to the end to explain the methodology.
The Lloyd Peak
How long before he retired he knew when the end was is hard to know, but Lloyd Carr certainly had the roster set up for a great 2006 and 2007. In 2006 Michigan entered the season with the highest rated roster in the Big Ten and trailed only LSU and Miami (YTM) for top marks nationally. Both sides of the ball were well represented, ranked third nationally on both offense and defense. The stacked lineup led Michigan to the brink of their first BCS National Championship game before losing to top ten talent teams in the final two games of the season.
After a disappointing finish to 2006, the roster was even more setup for a big send off for Lloyd Carr in 2007. The roster trailed only USC in terms of overall talent and the offense had a sizeable lead as #1 nationally. Unfortunately, the losses on the defensive side dropped the defense out of the top 10 and were exposed in the first two games, ending Michigan’s national title hopes before the calendar turned to October.
The RichRod Hangover
The 2008 version of Michigan was not a team lacking talent (except for quarterback), but it was a ways from the talent level in Ann Arbor the previous two seasons. The defense rose a bit to sneak back into the top 10, where the loss of the Henne/Hart/Long dropped the offense from #2 in the nation to #16. By the 2010 season things hadn’t gotten better but they hadn’t gotten worse, either. The offense and the defense consistently ranked in the top 15 nationally but the results, especially the GERG effect on the defense never matched up with the talent-level on campus. The roster left for Rodriguez didn’t do him any favors but it was also far above the record and defensive performances that came from it.
The High of Hoke…
…will have to wait. As great as the Hoke recruiting era has begun, it will likely be a few seasons before the dividends begin to payout. The next two seasons will be the two where the roster effects of the Three and Out era will come due. This season the talent level will drop down into the 20s overall and likely stay there for the 2013 season as well before a big jump two years from now when the majority of the Hoke classes move from observers to contributors.
Michigan Vs The Rivals
Michigan dominated the end of the Lloyd era versus all the big three rivals but by 2008 Ohio and Notre Dame both moved into a better roster position. Despite the head to head losses, Michigan maintained an overall roster advantage over Michigan State. That nearly closed over the next two seasons, before the Hoke recruiting pushed Michigan out front once again. By 2015 Michigan should move close to par with Ohio and Notre Dame for the first time since 2008.
Michigan Vs The Best
Despite a lull coming up over the next two seasons, Michigan is poised to move into the upper echelon of national programs in terms of overall program talent. If Michigan can maintain top 5 level classes, by 2015 Michigan will move into the elite group of rosters in the country. Michigan’s projections begin to look a lot like that opening day opponent, with a five year delay. Nick Saban had similar rosters his first two seasons that Michigan is facing in the coming years, before taking off into elite status. Hopefully Michigan doesn’t need to go through the roster manipulation to get there, but with the first two Hoke classes, Michigan is making the first step to achieve a similar roster look as the team that has won 2 of the last 3 national championships.
What it All Means
Even the most die-hard numbers guy like myself knows that at the end of the day these are just numbers on a computer screen and the game is played on the field. The numbers are far from everything. Coaching, luck, player development and other factors are all major contributors to team success. With that said, the composition of the roster does mean a lot. As far back as I have reliable data for roster composition (2005) only Auburn has won a National Championship and not been ranked in the Top 10 for roster talent, and it took one of the greatest individual single-season performances ever for that to happen. Conference championships can be won with middle of the road talent for the conference. Last year Wisconsin won the Big Ten with the 7th highest rated roster in the conference. But over the long haul talent will win out.
Michigan will have more to overcome in the talent department than at any other time in the internet era. 2012 and 2013 will be lean years by Wolverine standards. Thankfully, we have the kind of coaches that have a high likelihood of mitigating that drop through their other talents of player development, in game coaching and for the future with recruiting.
Unlike Lindy’s I’ll do my best to give you a rundown of how I arrived at the valuations for each roster. Each player when recruited is ranked by each service. If they fall out of the Top X for any site, I do my best to approximate a ranking based on stars, position rank and grade where available. That rank is then translated into points. The formula I use is -4.5*ln([Rank]+11)+36. The specific formula was generated to more heavily weight the top players and produce an output where a consensus #1 rated prospect is worth a total of 99 points (summed across the four sites) and bottom of the barrel anonymous 2 stars are worth only a couple points.
Using this system, Michigan’s highest rated recruit was Prescott Burgess in 2003 at 90 points, Kyle Kalis was tops for the incoming class at 69 points and Shane Morris is currently at 79 points. Players are then weighted based on years in the system. Freshman only add 25% of their points to the roster total. 2nd year players (red-shirt freshmen or true sophomores) add 75% of their recruiting value to the overall total and all players in at least their third year in college football get 160% of their recruiting value. These numbers were derived based on actual usage of running backs (split of carries), quarterbacks (split of attempts), receivers (split of catches) and defenders (split of tackles) and then normalized so that the total roster number would approximately equal the sum of the unweighted recruiting points.
The total only counts players still on the roster at the beginning of the season. On the recruiting side a thousand points is usually at least a top ten or better class (The 2013 class is sitting at 1034 points). From the charts above you can see that the best rosters reflect 4-5 great classes and are 4-5,000 points.
I really hope that Mattison especially makes a huge difference in the play of guys who aren't quite as talented. The Mathlete's post is a great reminder that we really have a long way to go.
was that it was more of a "talent + experience" deficit, since the Mathlete (rightly) doesn't factor underclassman talent as much. But we may see more young players getting playing time in the next couple of years (more than they would have during Lloyd's tenure, when the roster was more stocked). That may lead to growing pains, but in the long run it may pay off. The obvious examples are guys like Desmond Morgan and Jake Ryan; I think we're all thrilled to see what they can do as a returning starters, although they are only (RS) sophomores.
As much as I hate Mork and Co. he must be a good coach to overcome such a talent deficit. / I can't believe I said that.
The trends look good. I think Hoke will have us back in business(consecutive Rose Bowl/Playoffs?) no later than 2014. 2013 if DG can step in and ride a 5th year Fitz and young but talented offensive line to a B1G championship. The road gets tougher though with Wisconsin and PSU coming on the schedule.
...largely through the efforts of one player (Cam Newton) perhaps we can win the MNC, largely through the efforts of Dilithium.
I'm a little surprised at how big the drop off is this year. By sheer numbers, we didn't lose that many players, but I can see that the players we lost were highly rated coming out of HS. Is that the big reason for the drop, or is there something I'm missing?
fluid however. As you stated, luck and player development can change things considerably, and prediciting the future would be absed on an assumption of minimal (?) turnover and reasonable player development right? Could Brian Kelly not lasting past this season change ND's fortunes? Thats a strong possibility...what about Ohio recruiting spread players that don't succeed in Minnesota in November? I think we all know something about a spread not working in the BIG...I think just like with Iowa, the ability to get players to play beyond they rankings while difficult to predict, should be considered right?
is that it works, and has worked pretty well for a few teams in the B1G, including M.
/June is the time to rehash old arguments
National Champions. Favorable home schedule re key opponents, fifth year in the Hoke system, mature linemen, experienced top flight QB, best set of LBs in the country, and time to add a stud RB and WR in the 2013 or 2014 recruiting class.
The talent level guarantees nothing but affects probabilities of success. I'm the furthest thing from the Mathalete math-wise, but I felt intuitively that last year was an outlier (or charmed season, however you want to put it). What was it – 30 recovered fumbles!? That's not gonna happen again, as Brian repeatedly points out. We were very fortunate in avoiding major injuries last season. Depth is frightening, especially on the OL. We need to be prepared for reversion to the mean this season and next.
I'm not saying Hoke and Mattison and Denard aren't going to pull a bunch of rabbits from a bunch of hats again. I can't wait to see them try. I'm just not counting on it.
A reversion to the mean at Michigan means 9 or 10 victories.
And there's no reason Michigan cannot recover just as many fumbles this year. Many were caused by opposition incompetence, and many were caused by Michigan's excellent fundamental play (rip the ball out, have 6 players in place to recover said fumble).
You're right that a low year-to-year correlation in turnover margin means, by definition, that it's hard to predict what M's turnover margin will be. But (a) it was so stellar that the chances of it going up or staying the same are a lot lower than the chances of it going down, and (b) the remarkable part about last season was not the caused fumbles, it was the recovered fumbles. Of all the stochastic parts of turnover margin, that's the stochasticest.
I'm thinking 8-4, which is worse than regressing to the mean (exactly 9.0 wins a year since Bo took over), but I also think that 9-3 is more likely than 7-5. With this schedule and lack of a fully operational Hokeattle Station, I still think 8-4 would be a good season.
... just due to schedule difficulties, and losing three dominant linemen in Martin/Molk/VanB. It all starts from the lines - if Denard doesn't have room to run or time to throw, the offense isn't going anywhere. If we can't get pressure without blitzing, we're going to get burned from time to time.
8-4 with wins over MSU and OSU would be a successful season. That's what I'm kind of hoping for, with a return to the 10-2/11-1 range in 2013 and beyond.
If we beat MSU and OSU, what 4 games are we going to lose?
Regardless, this is a great effing piece.
Thanks for the nice work.
In no way was I expecting last year to turn out the way it did what a great ride it was. The home schedule was definitely favorable with the big games at home and the road games being tough but managable or possible wins. Thats where we lost managable road games that we just didn't come out on top. This year the schedule looks very scary with the tough ones on the road and teams we want to beat all the time at home. This year could be one of those wait till next year.
Regardless of the recruiting rankings I think we're bound to have a pretty good season in 2012. While I agree that last year (2011) was something particularly magical and this year won't necessarily work out so well (especially given the shifts on the D-line) I actually have a better feeling going into this season than going into last.
Last year, even when things were going well early I kept waiting for the bottom to drop out. When it did against Michigan State I remember being in a terrible mood because I was quite convinced that the season was going to go into a slide just like 2009 and 2010. When we recovered against Purdue it meant nothing to me; we recovered against Illinios and Purdue in 10' and it didn't make Wisconsin or Ohio any better. The loss at Iowa pretty much confirmed my fears but rather than fold like wet paper team 132 galvanized and put together three incredibly solid performances (on defense against Illinios, on offense against Ohio, with a brilliant complete performance against Nebraska in-between). I was in awe. For the first time since 2007 we were clearly good. For the first time since 2006 we were good, and not injury-prone.
I think that a 9-10 win season; and a B1G title, is in reach this time. A loss or two will not shake this team's head-space and I think 2/3 of our toughest games are out of conference: Alabama in Dallas and Notre Dame in South Bend. Ohio in the 'shoe is the last one, but even that could go horribly wrong and still send us to Indianapolis. After 2011, and given their key losses on defense, I expect Nebraska won't go down without a fight; but they'll still go down. Then we have Iowa and Michigan State, the thorns of the 2009-2011 seasons, at home on a down year for both of them; it's time for a lil' pay-back. The best team with any post-season prospects in the Woody division remains Wisconsin, and even they have potential holes on defense, a new QB and a new offensive coordinator.
Maybe we'll only see team 133 pick up 8 or 9 wins. But if they're the right 8-9 those wins still smell of roses.
I really thought that 2007 was going to be the year for a run at the National Championship. Boy, was I wrong.
Henne as a fourth-year-senior-starting QB, Hart as a workhorse fourth-year RB, the two alliterative recievers for catches. I remember feeling like we were on the verge of greatness.
Between The Horror and RR Michigan lost more talent than USC did after the biggest NCAA sanctions in recent memory. Oh the injustice . . .
The doom and gloom for 2012 is vastly overstated, and I think shows the flaw of using recruiting rankings as a metric like this. David Harris and Obi Ezeh just aren't the same player. Using the ranking of guys who happen to see the field also misses a lot about depth and competition.
For example, if 4-star Cam Gordon is playing as a RS freshman, that looks better than (as was the case last year) if 3-star Jake Ryan is playing as a RS freshman. But when Ryan is playing because he's beaten out Gordon for the spot AND is playing at a very high level right out of the gate (not to mention you now have both guys on the roster), things have actually improved quite dramatically. There is also a big difference between 3-star senior James Rogers playing because he's the only upperclassman on the roster in the entire secondary, and a returning starter like Floyd next year (or even someone younger who might potentially beat him out) who has to be better than a number of other guys if he's going to see the field. A system that values 4-star Adam Patterson finally seeing the field as a senior over 2-star, 3+ year starter Patrick Omameh isn't really giving us a clear, nuanced view of the talent pool.
Next year's team returns a record setting QB, a 1,000 yard RB, a 4-star WR who led the team in receiving his freshman and sophomore years (and another without whom we don't beat ND last year), 4 talented, experienced starters on the o-line (and probably the best tackle combination in the conference by a wide margin), both kickers, and loses only two of the eleven guys who started on defense in the Sugar Bowl (one of whom is replaced by a 4-star, 4-year starter who is changing positions from the one where he received all conference honors last year) and only 3 of 18 who played in the game (Woolfolk is the other). The one real hole is being filled with a 4/5 star, 300+ pound DT in each of the four classes (Campbell, Washington, Ash, Pipkins). Throw in the expected leap in year 2 of the offense and the loads of emerging super-young talent on defense just beginning to scratch the surface on their ability (Morgan, Clark, Countess, Beyer, Ryan, Gordon x2, Avery, Ash, etc.) and don't be surprised when once again people are amazed at how easily this Michigan team runs through the rest of the Big Ten.
because the Mathlete is trying to measure the overall talent on the field. Talent doesn't necessarily equal playing effectiveness, right? A player might be ranked 3 stars because although he's good, his upside is limited, but that 3-star player might outplay a 4-star kid who's raw but incredibly athletic.
He's also trying to assess the overall talent of the team, not how good it will be (although those two are related). It may be that Michigan is super-successful next year -- I hope so! -- while the overall talent level of the team decreases.
You're not getting what I'm saying. The problem is that the system he's using only looks at the individual players who happen to be playing, and that is a very small part of the picture. Iowa and Wisconsin aren't just turning 2-star guys into stars. They have a bunch of 2-star guys and the guy who ends up being the best out of that large group at each position is usually a pretty solid player.
There is a huge difference in the talent level of a team when you have four or five guys at a position (no matter their recruiting ranking) than on a team where you just have one or two who are going to play no matter how good they actually end up being as players. Volume matters and this doesn't take that into account in any way (unless I'm missing something when he talks about distributing things based on carries, passes, tackles, etc.). Michigan is going to be much stronger next year with returning starter JT Floyd (a 3-star senior who received all conference honors the year before) or someone who is capable of beating him out from a group of two juniors with playing experience (Avery and Talbott), two sophomores (one a 4-star), and a 4-star freshman than it was in 2010 with James Rogers (a 3-star senior who had never played before) and a bunch of true freshmen, yet this system treats the situations as identical (or potentially worse in 2012 if say Avery beats out Floyd for a starting spot). In fact, one situation is far superior. When a method of evaluation can view the two situations as identical, it isn't very explanatory and can lead to just the kind of mistaken conclusions the Mathlete has reached (namely that next year's team won't be that talented, when in fact it will almost certainly be the most talented in the Big Ten).
You seem to think that the Mathlete "only looks at the individual players who happen to be playing." Why do you say that? My impression was that his statistics counted all players "still on the roster at the beginning of the season." If so, then your objections above are unfounded.
In fact, that the Mathlete counts EVERY recruit is the only reasonable interpretation of his conclusion of the methodology:
On the recruiting side a thousand points will is usually at least a top ten or better class (The 2013 class is sitting at 1034 points). From the charts above you can see that the best rosters reflect 4-5 great classes and are 4-5,000 points.
EDIT: The titles of his charts also clearly state that he is measuring the overall roster, not the starters.
completely agree. You also look at a school liek Iowa to see how big of a difference solid coaching makes. Comparitively speaking did the defensive players play to their expectations under Gerg or Greg? One is obviously an outlier than is possible in any system or undera ny coach. Maybe not to the same extent, but certainyl enough to have 4 star talent playing at a 2 star level.
I fall in the middle, so I'm not going to jump in the discussion. But I'm interested to see how it plays out. I just hope "coaching" doesn't become the answer to whoever was "wrong". "Oh, the talent WAS down, but great coaching elevated bad players" vs. "Oh, the talent was there but the coaches screwed it up." When, of course, it's all a mix of all of the above.
How come he's not on the "NEVER FORGET?"
He's not that good. It's OK to forget him.
First of all - as usual, good work, and thank you for the effort.
One question regarding the formula translating Rivals ranking to "points" in your system - was this formula the result of an empirical optimization test (i.e. what weighting best correlates to team or offensive/defensive success) or was the formula based on your best guess? I appreciate your methodology section at the end - especially knowing that it was based only on players still on the roster at the beginning of the season (an important adjustment) - but if you can clarify how the conversion formula was developed that would be great.
was how the coaching staff turned around the defense. We ended up improving exponentially in total defensive ranking last year compared to 2010! I'm sure having some talented kids being coached well helped out a lot. Our weakness early in the year may be our DL but if some talented players step up to or above their potential, like BWC, we could improve quite rapidly on the DL as the season progresses. I don't see a big drop off this year at LB's or the secondary. I hope injuries are minimal on the offensive side and a decent WR emerges!
I still see a worse case season of 7-5 and a best case season of 10-2 possible. Probably will end up 9-3 or 8-4. I just hope we can beat MSU at home!
Mathlete shows that if Coach Hoke continues to recruit well, he will have this team as a consistent top 10 team in a few short years.
Hey Mathlete, this was one of your all-time great posts. Can you please do an 2013 update to annual roster values?