this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers the conversation has centered around
WHY, WHY, WHY, TV sets and whether or not this was just a cover for Delaney to ditch Leaders and Legends. MGoUser trppwlbrnID asked the question that should always be asked, what about recruiting?
With the addition of the two schools, I dug into their recruiting bases and how much opportunity there might be for Michigan to jump into some new territories.
Home state of Maryland recruits (2009-2013 classes) weighted by consensus rating
Nearly half of Maryland’s last five classes have come from Maryland and Washington, DC. These two regions would have the most likely opportunity for Michigan. Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida are regions that aren’t going to give any advantage because Maryland has joined the Big Ten.
Home state of Rutgers recruits (2009-2013 classes) weighted by consensus rating
Over half of Rutgers’ recruits came from the home state of New Jersey. Like Maryland, Rutgers has looked to Pennsylvania and Florida as key secondary regions. So that leaves just the home regions of New Jersey, Maryland and DC as areas that Maryland and Rutgers have had success that seem viable for Michigan to make new inroads into.
Over the last five years, there have been 73 players from New Jersey, Maryland and DC that have garnered a consensus 4 star level rating. Five schools have signed at least four of these players. Penn St has signed 9 of these players while the new members of the Big Ten have signed 7 each. Florida and Michigan have each signed four. When you look at the totals by conference (excluding Maryland and Rutgers from any conference) the Big Ten is already the leading team in recruiting these key regions.
The Big Ten is already getting about a third of the players not going to the new members. Adding Maryland and Rutgers into the Big Ten count gives them 45% of the top recruits from the region. In terms of quantity, there doesn’t seem to be much upside for Michigan in the newly acquired regions on a quantity basis. Some of the ACC signees may end up going B1G but even taking a third of these players is still just one extra recruit for the conference per year.
The Elite Opportunity
During the same five year period, the Maryland/Rutgers region has produced 15 players who were consensus Top 100 level players only one signed with a Big Ten team (Eli Apple, OSU) and Maryland (Stefon Diggs) and Rutgers (Darius Hamilton, Savon Huggins) were each only able to sign three of the fifteen. Of the other 11, four went to other ACC schools, 3 to the SEC, 3 to the Pac-12 (one of which was the embattled Yuri Wright) and one to Notre Dame.
Overall, the Big 10 and Michigan already have a solid presence in the local areas where Maryland and Rutgers have the most success. The area that seems the most likely for Michigan to gain a new advantage will be the elite level recruits that have been avoiding the Big Ten presently.
The Michigan Opportunity
As noted above, Michigan is already doing better than most at signing 4 star talent from the region. There is certainly an opportunity to do more, but this shouldn’t be a major change for Michigan. The biggest windows of opportunity are probably in some of the Top 100 type players. Recent names such as Stefon Diggs and Kendall Fuller are players who Michigan might have had a better shot at with the new footprint (although Fuller’s recruiting did overlap with the news). This isn’t a massively talent rich region but it has enough to produce a couple elite prospects annually. Michigan and Ohio should be most poised to step in and take advantage, especially with Penn State buried for the next several recruiting cycles.
The more difficult to quantify opportunity is probably Virginia. Maryland isn’t a major player in the state, but with the Derrick Green commitment and the recruitment of Da’Shawn Hand the opportunity to play two games in neighboring Maryland should definitely help solidify Michigan’s position as a major player in Virginia recruiting.
Football commentators regularly talk up the value of the bye week or a big early season game for the opportunity to add extra preparation from a coach staff. This week I dug into the data to see how much of an effect bye weeks and openers had on team performance and which coaches are the best and worst at using the bonus time to their advantage.
As usual, I looked at all FBS games from 2003-2012. If a team played an FCS opponent as an opener or after a bye week it wasn’t included but it wasn’t treated as a bye for the next week’s game, either. I compared how each teams EV+ (points better/worse than an average team would have done, opponent adjusted) was in openers and post-bye versus how they did overall for that season. I then assigned those numbers to the head coach and looked at how head coaches have done, under the assumption that any strengths or weaknesses under these conditions would be more coach than program. So Brady Hoke is evaluated from Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan.
Over nearly 1500 post bye week games evaluated, a small benefit did emerge. The average team performs 1 point better post bye week than in regular weeks. 53% of teams performed better than their expected based on full season performance. The data closely matches a normally distributed outcome with an average benefit of 1 point and a standard deviation of 11.5 points.
Distribution of points versus average for post bye week games
Openers were about a wash. The typical team performs about 0.2 points worse than expected in openers. Openers feature a lot more variables than just extra preparation time. The standard deviation for opening games is the highest of any week during the regular season (but lower than bowl games). That variance is pretty low however. Teams have the most deviation from their season average in week one (11.9 points) but the low point has a deviation within 1 point (11.0) that occurs during week one. So teams are most likely to have an outlier game in week one or for their bowl but overall, most weeks have a pretty similar level of deviation.
To see how current Big Ten coaches have done, I looked at their track records for both openers and after a bye week to see who has done the most and least in each situation. The bubbles are color coded based on the team and all of the reds are team coded because there are too many red teams in the Big Ten.
Positive numbers are good and bubble size indicates sample size
Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz have both been able to start the year off strong with strong opening performances. New Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen along with small sample size guys Bill O’Brien and
Curtis Kyle Flood both have the best results after a bye week. Coach Hoke’s openers have been mildly below average but his bye weeks have been the most productive of any coach with a larger number of games. Urban Meyer has seen his results after bye weeks on the other end with his squads playing 3.6 points per game worse than they do in a normal week.
Other Notable Coaches
Openers on the x-axis and post bye week on the y-axis
Charlie Weis has seen his career reflect his seasons at Notre Dame. A first season/game that was significantly better than what happens afterwards. I guess his decided schematic advantage expires after one week. Barry Alvarez is apparently the king of the bye week as his teams turned 3 bye weeks under him into a +21 advantage, even after accounting for opponent and team strength. Joe Paterno was the opposite case. His Penn St teams played over two touchdowns worse after a bye week. Mack Brown and Jim Tressel also had teams that have found bye weeks to be counter-productive. The only entry several points worse on both standards was GERG Robinson during his tenure at Syracuse. LLoyd Carr’s openers were never great, even when The Horror is excluded but his teams where some of the best coming off of a bye week.
As always, let me know about any request for off-season material you would like to see.
The Michigan Difference: seeking input on offseason article topics and the first request being about punting and then getting a quick second! Ask and you shall receive.
MGoUser stubob asked whether or not outkicking the coverage on punts was a real thing and if there was an optimal distance to kick the punt. To look at this I looked at all “returnable” punts. Punts kicked from at least the 20 yards and that did not go further than the opponent’s 10 yard line and occurred in the first half of the game unless otherwise noted.
Unsurprisingly from the original hypothesis, the longer the punt, the longer the average punt return.
Average return yards/punt given punt distance
Initially, it does look like longer punts yield longer returns. Of note though is that the slope is significantly flatter than a 1 for 1 trade. The rough slope is that for every four yards of distance you add to the punt, you give back a single yard of average return (not counting touchbacks). This accounts for the average case, but doesn’t address the risk and variance.
The Big Return
Percent of returns going 10+ yards (Blue) and for TDs (Yellow)
Again, the data backs up the conventional wisdom on long punts. A 55+ yard punt has a one in four chance of coming back at least 10 yards. With an average return of 7+ yards this isn’t much of a surprise. The longer returns aren’t just a function of more space between the punting team and the return team. But even with smaller sample sizes, there is a strong trend between likelihood of a touchdown and the length of the punt. Even though the total odds of a 55+ yard punt getting returned for a touchdown is about 1 in 75, that is about 3 times the rate of a 30-35 yard punt.
If you look at the net implications of these two charts, the long term strategy clearly points to kicking it as far as you can, concerns be damned. Even when you factor in touchbacks, the odds of a punt netting 40 yards goes up dramatically the longer the kick.
Percent of punts netting 40+ yards by punt distance
55+ yards net over 40 yards nearly 9 out of 10 times, nearly 50% more than a 40 yard kick. Outkicking the coverage isn’t a valid enough fear to push for any decision other than kicking it long, except possibly in a late game situation where the small but increased risk of a touchdown on the return becomes more highly leveraged.
The Spread Punt
One of the few questionable decisions the Hoke era has produced has been the refusal to move to the spread punt. While I don’t have data on which teams have converted to the spread punt when, but if you trend punting data over the last 10 years, its clear that something is happening.
Average return yards per punt by season, excluding touchbacks
Over the last ten years, the average return yards per punt has decreased by 42%.
Percent of punts returned 10+ yards (Blue) and TDs (Yellow)
Just like above, the move towards lower return yards corresponds with a lower rate of long returns. The real indication of change comes next.
Gross (Blue) and Net (Yellow) punting (including touchbacks)
This generally otherwise uneventful chart shows that over the last ten years both gross and net punting have improved nearly every season. Not only has net punting improved, but it has improved at a rate faster (10.3% cumulative) than that of the gross punting (5.6%), which is the exact opposite effect you would expect based on the fundamental connection between punt distance and punt return yardage. This indicates that over the last 10 years there has been a shift in the basic nature of both the punt and the punt return. Correlation and causation and all that, but this is a pretty clear indicator that the widespread adoption of the spread punt formation has been a huge win for the punting teams.
If we make the weak but directional assumption that 2003 = Traditional Punt and 2012 = Spread Punt, the formation is worth about 3.5 yards per net punt and a 50% reduction in punt return touchdowns. Otherwise of note is that the block rate has dropped along a similar slope from 2.6% in 2003 to 1.0% in 2012. So net punting up, gross punting up, punt returns down, punt returns touchdowns down and punt blocks are down. Whatever has happened between 2003 and 2012 let’s hope Michigan is on board.
Last month on signing day I posted on the top classes looking at how they stacked up down the line, top to bottom. Several people requested a picture of Michigan’s classes and how each of the classes stacked up.
Carr’s classes definitely held their own throughout his final six years at the helm. From 2003-2006 Michigan’s classes were virtually identical through the top 12. 2004 was probably the lightest at the top but showed a tremendous level of depth through the top 20. 2003 was the opposite. Top of the line talent through the top 12 or so and then a fast drop off. 2005 is the most representative class of this range, with 2006 looking very similar to 2003.
Based on the narrative of Carr’s waning interest in recruiting at the end of his career, it looks better than I expected but there is solid evidence that a drop off was real. 2006 was solid at the top but had a poorly rated back half. In 2007 the dropoff occurred much sooner. Ryan Mallett and Donovan Warren were worthy headliners but from there the class was significantly lower rated than the previous Carr classes.
Of all the debatable aspects of the Rich Rodriguez era, his effectiveness as a recruiter was one of the most clear cut cases against him. 2008 and 2009 were very similar classes, but both were significantly below the Carr standard. Of the top 20 rated Michigan recruits from 2002-2010, only two RichRod recruits made the list. Darryl Stonum in 2008 and Will Campbell in 2009 came in at #18 and #19, respectively.
By the time the 2010 class signed, the pressure on the program was immense and the uncertainty produced a class significantly below anything in the internet era.
For all the ugliness of the 2010 class, the transition class was even worse. Justice Hayes was the most highly regarded in that class, and he didn’t even crack the top 50 of the prior 9 years. The transition class quickly became ancient history. Six players from 2012 would have been the highest rated for the 2011 class. From there things only got better. Last month Brady Hoke signed the highest rated player to the program since Ryan Mallett in 2007 and the class was across the board a step up from the already outstanding 2012 class.
The latest class is still in its infancy Michigan has received commitments from three players who are currently rated at levels consistent with the back half of the Top 10 of last year’s class.
Head to Head
Like any good recruiting battle, you have to be able to win the head to head matchups to take home the top spot.
Average recruit by Nth position
Hoke’s three year average is strikingly similar to Rodriguez’s low standard. However, when you remove the transition year things jump up considerably. Carr still holds the edge at the top range. Whether that is a reflection of Hoke versus Carr or just the emergence of the SEC that Carr came before, the top end is owned by Carr. The theme that seems to come through with Hoke’s classes so far, is their depth. Michigan’s 2013 class was one of the deepest in the country. When compared with very strong classes from Lloyd Carr, there is a clear separation from Hoke’s last two classes at from the tenth spot forward.
What better way to make the most uneventful signing day imaginable for a major college program even more boring throwing a bunch more numbers at you. You already know the narratives, now let’s take a look at the numbers.
Once again, I will be using my personal accumulation of the rating services for the numbers. Players are given a score at each of the four major recruiting sites and. A consensus #1 player gets 99 points all the way down to an anonymous 2 star getting a point or two. No points are awarded for moons, sorry Jordan.
New Members of the Hall of Highly Touted
Last year I created the Michigan Hall of Highly Touted to honor the top Michigan recruits by their incoming accolades and ratings. This year’s class features two players that crack the first team and another 3 added to the second team.
RB Derrick Green narrowly edges Kevin Grady for the running back spot, pushing Grady down to the first team flex spot, Darryl Stonum to the second team and Jason Avant off the board.
OL Patrick Kugler joins 2012 signee Kyle Kalis on the first team offensive line.
OL Kyle Bosch and David Dawson are on the second team. 3 of the top 10 rated offensive linemen Michigan has recruited in the last 12 years are members of the 2013 class.
TE Jake Butt has the fortune of playing at the position that has the lowest bar to entry on the MHHT and enters as the second team tight end.
S Dymonte Thomas was Michigan’s second commitment of the 2013 class and bumps ahead of Demar Dorsey as the top rated safety of the second team.
Position Group Notes
Offensive Line – without a doubt the marquee group of this class. Michigan’s six signees racked up 319 points which was easily the most acclaimed group in this class. Only Stanford’s absurd haul last year and Notre Dame’s class of 2006 were more highly touted entering college.
Running Back – Derrick Green pushed this group from good to great. Michigan’s running back class was a universal third behind Alabama and Ole Miss. Alabama’s loaded class was the best class since Pete Carroll lined up five star running backs year after year (2003, 2006 & 2007 to be precise).
Defensive Back – Michigan’s third strongest group was defensive back where they finished 7th nationally as a group and second in the B1G to Ohio St which signed the fourth highest rated group of defensive backs of the last 12 years.
Quarterback – Shane Morris’s senior year slide wasn’t any fun to watch but as a testament to were he started, Michigan’s one man class still finished 10th overall. Conference rivals Penn State earned the top spot nationally and was the only conference program in front of Michigan.
Wide Receiver/Tight End – The lowest rated offensive group still almost cracked the top 10, finishing 11th. LaQuon Treadwell would have been enough for the Wolverines to crack the top spot, but Ole Miss took Treadwell and the top spot. Notre Dame and Ohio State both edged out Michigan.
Defensive Line – The class of 2012 was a top 6 group allowing Michigan to focus on other areas for this class. The Wolverines finished 17th with LSU leading the way and Ohio State, Notre Dame and Nebraska all exceeding the profile from Michigan.
Linebackers – Like the defensive line, Michigan was in a great position from 2012 on linebackers and focused elsewhere. Michigan featured a Top 10 average player rating but the limited quantity dropped them to 30th overall and near the middle of the conference.
National Team Rankings
As detailed last week, I am using a system that awards points to schools based on how their nth best recruit stacks up against other teams’ nth best recruits. Based on this here is my consensus Top 10 (the method is really only good at looking at the top classes) along with their player point totals using good ole’ fashioned addition.
|Rank||Team||Nth Points||Total Points|
Michigan wraps up the class tied for 5th with LSU, behind rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State, along with SEC powers Florida and Alabama.
Here is the chart for the top 3, Michigan and the two most interesting other classes.
Four of the programs, Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and USC recruited very well in the top 3-5 players of their classes. Alabama is able to then separate themselves from the field for recruits 5-15. Michigan and Notre Dame hold a consistent trend through the bulk of the class while the Buckeyes and Trojans finished somewhere between Alabama and the rest of the quality programs. Florida and LSU have trends very similar to Michigan.The reason I am not completely sold on Ole Miss’s class is that the depth really drops off quickly. After the top several recruits. There is a major devaluation of the Rebel recruits versus the other top programs.
The Rest of the Big Ten
If you follow recruiting much at all this year you’ve seen multiple mentions of the huge gap between the Big 2 and everyone else. Here is how the Future Big Ten teams fared in total recruit points accumulate in 2013.
|National Rank (Pts)||Team||Points|
You can oversign all you want and not get anywhere with totals like this. There is nothing about this arrangement that says the Big Ten is heading towards real depth.
The Accelerated Timeline
I haven’t been able to go back and add old signing dates, but based on BCS programs for the 2013 cycle, no team could compete with Michigan in terms of the speed at which this class was assembled. The average commit date for Michigan for the 2013 class was May 9th, nearly 9 months before signing day. Virginia Tech and South Carolina were the only other major programs to have their average commitment come in May. Of the top 20 programs, the five programs with the most late decision were all in the 11-20 range. Auburn was the king of late decisions with an average commitment coming two days before Halloween, which makes sense given the tumultuous season and coaching change they went through in 2012.
The biggest advantages for a fast developing class would seem to be the low drama signing day and a head start of the next season’s class. The no drama signing day was nice but hopefully the expeditious manner in which this class was assembled can yield some gains in 2014 and beyond. Otherwise, it might be worth it to go after a few more high end, late deciders, the only real gap between Michigan and the very top classes in 2013.
The Ole Miss Narrative
I don’t know if I felt like this got more traction around these parts due to losing long time Michigan lean LaQuon Treadwell and his instagram of Benjamins or just that the Rebels pulled in two really high profile recruits on signing day, but what originally looked like a whole lot of smoke seems a lot less suspicious to me after looking at the numbers. Aside from Treadwell’s quickly deleted picture, there are a number of signs pointing to Ole Miss being a legitimate player in the national recruiting scene.
Evidence #1: Their class isn’t as exceptional as its been billed.
ESPN called them a top 5 class and the top end is as good as anyone, but as good as the top was, as noted above, they very quickly return to their historical norms. So it then becomes a question of what happened with the top five or so recruits in the class. While back door dealing wouldn’t surprise me (it’s college football, nothing should surprise me) there did seem to be to be some genuine fluky connections surrounding some of their top signees.
Evidence #2: Hugh Freeze is a good recruiter
I don’t track assistants and recruiting, and with only full season as the head coach at Arkansas State, it’s difficult to track what he should be credited for. With that said, the class that signed as he was heading to Ole Miss, the class assembled during his only year at the helm was far and away the best class Arkansas State has had. The standard was low but the results do matter in context.
Evidence #3: Ole Miss’s class wasn’t as big of a deviation as has been claimed
Again, the top end is what is unique about Ole Miss’s class. Here is Ole Miss’s historical classes using the same format as the national leaders chart:
That is definitely a big gap. With that said, the Rebels’ 1,107 points were about 410 points higher than the average excluding this class. This ranks as the 19th largest spread in the last 12 classes and third largest of this year, behind Texas A&M and Alabama.
In fact the largest outlier of a class actually resides in the state of Michigan. Michigan State’s 2004 class was worth 1,072 points over 500 points higher than their historical average.
My personal take from all of this information is that I am less certain that Ole Miss had an unfair advantage in this recruiting cycle but still think it’s more likely that it happened than it didn’t. The class is unusual in its ability to draw elite level recruits and it is not easy to get 3 of the best 4 and 4 of the best 7 recruits your school has gotten in the last 12 years. Plus, its college football and college football in the southeast. If you don’t start with suspicion you haven’t been paying attention.
Back in August I posted a Stock Watch article on the teams I thought where significantly over or under valued entering the season. In the spirit of accountability here they are again with appropriate amounts of gloating and denial as to their accuracy.
Like Buying Pre-Ipod Apple Stock
Underrated: Ohio State, Notre Dame,
Overrated: Michigan State, LSU, West Virginia, Arkansas
For all three of Michigan’s main rivals, I thought the season would deviate from preseason conventional wisdom and for all three I was surprisingly dead on. All three of them were pushed to extra limits of their deviation due to some extreme luck/variance but all predictions proved true. This is what I had to say entering the season:
Their defense will keep them afloat but unless Michigan St breaks in a new crew on offense at an unprecedented rate, the offense will be this team’s limiting reagent.
If the bounces go Notre Dame’s way this season they have a shot to be a top-10 team.
The Buckeyes are set up for Urban to get credit for an upswing they probably would have had anyway, but it will probably take some significant first year growing pains to keep Ohio from a great theoretical bowl game.
Like the BCS Championship Game.
I correctly pegged LSU to be good but largely out of the title picture, West Virginia’s defense to be a tire fire and Arkansas to be an out and out disaster.
Like Buying Enron Stock in the Summer of 2000
Underrated: Texas, Missouri, Tennessee
Overrated: Kansas State
Texas was the most consistently great team of the 2000’s but the 2010’s have been a different story. I predicted a return to the past glory but with three consecutive data points now, I think its finally time for me to admit that Texas ain’t what it used to be.
I thought Missouri and Tennessee could break into the middle of the SEC this season but between the two of them they finished with two fewer SEC wins than Vanderbilt and Tennessee saw its orange-pant clad coach on the outs.
Never bet against Bill Snyder, never bet against Bill Snyder. Living in Kansas most of my life I should have known better. I thought this year’s squad would be better but have a worse record than last year’s lucky team but I was only half right. The Wildcats were substantially better and came within a rough night in Waco of playing for their first national title.
Like Cash Stuck Under the Mattress
Overrated: South Carolina, Boise State
Both of these teams essentially finished about were they were predicted to.
In Hail To The Victors I predicted 9-3 (6-2). The numbers behind were more in the 8.5 range. That seems about right. Michigan finished within the low end of the range that I (and I think many others) expected entering the year.
Outback Bowl Thoughts
A lot of big swing plays (obviously)
The biggest plays of the game:
1. –67% Thompson to Ellington for the game winner
2. +42% Gardner to Gallon to give Michigan the lead late in the fourth quarter
3. –27% Clowney
4. +20% Connor Shaw sacked to give South Carolina 3rd and 10 on their final drive
5. +19% Craig Roh stops Dylan Thompson for one yard in the final minute
6. –17% Michigan fails to convert the final two point attempt
7. –17% Shaw hits Sanders for a 31 yard touchdown
8. –15% Thompson to Byrd picks up a first down right before the final touchdown
9. –13% Nick Jones is brought down at the 4 after a 70 yard completion in the second quarter
10. +12% Michigan blocks a 42 yard field goal attempt
As you can see from the chart above, there are a lot of big drops and a lot of slow climbs. In some ways this was the reverse of what a lot of us expected. Going in the conventional wisdom was that Michigan might hit some big plays but would be unable to sustain drives. In fact, South Carolina churned out big plays all game long while Michigan put together several nice drives.
Denard Robinson: +1 EV and +0% WPA on 24 plays
Devin Gardner: +7, 58% on 48 plays
Jeremy Gallon: +7, +53% on 17 targets (8.5 yards/target)
Connor Shaw: +11, +27%, 36 plays
Dylan Thompson: +8, +67%, 12 plays
Ace Sanders: +8, +30%, 9 plays (+5, +10% on three punt returns)
I really thought Sanders should have gotten game MVP.
Game Theory Note
I really didn’t like going for two in the third quarter. With that much time left there are too many scenarios where losing that point can come back to get you. While the touchdown alleviated the direct impact of the eventual loss of two points, I think its entirely possible Mattison’s approach changes knowing that a field goal would only tie the game on the final drive.
I’ll get deeper into the numbers throughout the offseason but here are some key areas I see for next season:
- Schedule. No Alabama. All other losses from this season are home games in 2013.
- Not breaking in a new quarterback. Michigan is in the rare situation where they lose a three year starter but are able to transition to an experienced replacement. Definitely a silver lining for this season.
- Key returners outweigh losses. Denard and Lewan will certainly be losses, but its hard to pick a position group that will be worse in 2013 than 2012.
- Borges unleashed. I still have some major reservations about him, but being more in his comfort zone can only be a good thing.
- Quarterback depth. If Devin struggles or gets hurt it becomes very scary. We all have high hopes for Shane Morris, but I’ll have a post later this year showing the total lack of success from true freshman quarterbacks.
- Final year of Rodriguez recruiting/attrition mess. A lot of the high level metrics see next year at a similar level to this one in terms of talent with 2014 being the year that the Hoke era really begins in terms of upper class recruits.
- Offensive line. They’re gonna be young.
Hit up the comments or twitter if there is anything you would like to see from these posts over the course of the off-season.