The look of a man who knows something you don't
One of the worst things about freedom of speech is spin. The media is so focused on a game of "gotcha" that anyone with a remotely public profile has to be careful about how honest they are. It has created a world where back-door dealings are the ONLY way to conduct any business that is even remotely interesting to the public. You can say anything in the world, and get in trouble.
So I have decided to start a regular feature here on MGoBlog called "If They Could Say It." The idea is that I will say what I believe the public figures would say--through their voices--if they could be honest without penalty. It will be irregular during the off-season, but closer to weekly during the season.
I am not a reporter. I don't have sources. I will base these statement purely off of what happens and my interpretation of personalities and events. I will use supporting information, statistics, and quotes, but the ultimate result is just my guess at what these people would say, if they could say it.
The first episode is a belated look back at the CC...
Seems like a good place to start
During a coaching search, nobody tells the whole truth. Nick Saban repeatedly denied he was interested in the Alabama job just days before he took it. But what's clear in this case is that Michigan never seemed to get serious about a Plan B, because they knew they didn't need one. I believe Hackett was working with Harbaugh's back channel by the time he took the podium to give his now famous "swim lanes" speech.
Furthermore, Harbaugh did NOT take the contract he certainly could have gotten. While his pay is high, he could have gotten Nick Saban money. He turned that down, and I think he would say, "Because I don't want to be the highest paid coach in college football until I've proven I'm the best coach in college football." But this is more evidence that Harbaugh wasn't spending December trying to get himself a deal, but rather negotiating the details of the deal.
"Although we never really needed a back-up, we had several candidates in line, including Doug Marrone. But we also had a guy whom we knew would accept the job if it was offered to him: Dan Mullen."
Jim Hackett is intelligent, organized, and methodical. Even though he knew before he even started the search that he was likely to get Harbaugh, he was working on back-up plans. The Cutcliffe call controversy is some evidence that Michigan was, in fact, asking who might be interested in being a candidate. But having a short list would not have been good enough for Hackett, who knew there was a chance, however small, that he might not get Harbaugh when December 30th finally arrived. With a search lasting that long, he would have needed a surefire candidate ready to take the job if offered, and I believe that was Dan Mullen. Why? While Marrone and likely several other NFL types might have been called first, they would have had to accept the job immediately--a sticky situation if you're in the playoffs or if you just want some time to kick the tires at Michigan. Mullen has a proven track record, knows the area, and would have created some immediate buzz as the Bo to Urban's Woody. Brian agrees.
2011 was magical, but the delay in instituting "his" offense likely hurt Brady Hoke
Sometimes a good coach doesn’t work out because the pieces don’t fit. There is little doubt that the transition to a spread offense was tougher than even Rich Rod himself could have predicted. And while bringing power offense to Michigan in 2011 would have meant sacrificing the talents of Denard Robinson (who likely would have transferred if asked to play RB) and our only bowl win since 2007, I wonder if it would have been better for Hoke (not for us as fans)? If Brady Hoke had gone 5-7 in his first year with a new offense, is it plausible that the 2014 version would have looked much better?
I am NOT making the case that Brady Hoke should have been retained. I am pointing out a fact in college football: Change is hard.
Brian wrote an impassioned case for Dan Mullen yesterday, whom I believe would be a very good hire for Michigan. There is, however, a big risk: the transition to Mullen’s offense takes too long and the impatient fanbase forces another coaching change.
What I wanted to do was to breakdown every player on our offense’s two-deep and to what system/style I believe they are best suited. Keep mind that every program mixes elements of different systems, but the most successful outfits have an established identity with corresponding constraints that can maximize their personnel. Part I is a brief breakdown of the systems, part II will explore which players fit each style.
Power football says, "I am going to punch you in the face," then does it
Power Running: The hallmark of any “power” running team is using an extra blocker at the point of attack to open lanes for the ball-carrier. In today’s college football, that almost always means using pulling offensive linemen, since fullbacks are less and less common. Motioning TEs and H-Backs are also used. Power can favor both power and speed backs, and makes the reads for the ball-carrier simpler. Increasingly, however, these schemes are mixed with zone blocking. Examples: Stanford and Wisconsin
Zone concepts threaten multiple gaps on every play
Zone Running: Simple to explain, hard to master. Just the block the guy in your zone, and, if that defender is secured, move to the next one. The zone system is popular because of its versatility: nearly every play gives the ball-carrier at least two choices (and a cut-back) and forces defenses to play very controlled, or risk giving-up a big play. The drawback is that a good guess by a defensive coordinator or player can blow-up a play, since the O-Line is moving laterally off the snap. Many offenses focus on either inside zone or outside zone. Examples: Alabama and Iowa
Spread-to-Run can be smashmouth and fullbackian
Spread-to-Run: Spread offenses all have one thing in common: their intent to force the defense to “declare” itself pre-snap. A spread-to-run team utilizes a mobile QB to add an extra blocker for the defense to deal with, and then tilts the math further in its favor by optioning off defenders. While the O-Line predominantly uses zone blocking in most schemes, there are lots of programs (Auburn, Miss. State) that incorporate power and lead concepts as well. The passing game is set-up by the run, and usually involves simple plays and patterns that allow the QB to make his decision pre-snap, or set-up the defense with play action. Examples: Auburn and Ohio State
160 feet never looked so wide
Spread-to-Pass: Bias alert! This is my favorite college offense. The wide hash marks of the college field force a defense to show its hand pre-snap. A QB in the shotgun can see the whole field, and, by using receivers spread to the sidelines (or close) can determine with a high rate of success what type of defense (man, zone, help over the top) he is looking at. Of course, having a mobile QB certainly helps add another element to this offense, but its primary function is to open the field for easy yards and chunk plays with those pre-snap reads that often come from the sidelines. Examples: Baylor and Notre Dame
Most "pro-style" college offenses are actually hybrids
Pro-style: This scheme mimics the multiple formations and concepts used in the NFL. There is a lot of under center work for the QB, and route combinations (triangle, high-low, smash, levels, etc.) set-up challenging scenarios for the defense to read-and-react to quickly by threatening multiple layers of the defense and forcing uncomfortable match-ups. When run correctly, I believe these are the most difficult offenses to defend. The trouble is, they’re awfully hard to run correctly. QBs are required to make multiple reads on each pass play and routes must be run with extreme precision. Pro style offenses can use the pass to set-up the run, or vice versa. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find a pure pro-style offense in the college game. Examples: LSU and Michigan State
The truth is that all offenses use some combination of these concepts, but, again, most build off of a single style and related constraint plays. Establishing that identity early in a coach’s tenure is vital, because repetition is a player’s best friend. Next week I'll match each player on our offensive two-deep with a system that I believe fits him best.
On a week with no news (other than bad news), I thought I'd share some of the interesting numbers about Michigan and B1G football that have caught my eye.
Devin Gardner before he was 98, which now feels like his age and his number
- 12...or is it? I'm not sure if Brady Hoke was still counting Frank Clark as a senior or not when he mentioned the "12" seniors we'll be honoring this week, but there are only 11 on the roster, and that includes Desmond Morgan. If there were actually 12, it would be the same number of seniors we had on the roster in RR's final season (2010).
- Eight. The number of seniors on the depth chart, including the kicker and punter. Of course, that doesn't count Clark.
- Four. There are four seniors on the defensive depth chart, with Beyer, Ryan, and Taylor as starters and Hollowell as a back-up.
- One. There is only one senior starting on offense (Gardner), and only one other senior on the offensive depth chart (Burzynski).
TFLs were the trademark offensive play in 2013
- 4.51. Michigan's YPC is a full 1.23 yards better than 2013's pathetic 3.28 per carry mark. That's good for 57th in the country, compared to 115th in the country last year.
- 3.23. Against Minnesota, Michigan's YPP (yds/play). It's the worst of the season so far, although 3.26 against MSU is awfully close. Last year, U-M was under 3 YPP three times--Iowa, MSU, and Nebraska, with a low of 2.77 vs. Iowa.
- 113. At 8.96 TFLs allowed per game, Michigan's total of 113 for the 2013 season was the worst (125th) in college football. This year's current total is 54, which is 54th in the country.
- 5.28. Michigan's 5.28 YPP (85th) on the season is worse than 2013's 5.44, 2012's 6.07, and 2011's 6.23. That's an easy (and awful) trendline to draw in your head.
- 117. Michigan's rank in YPG this year. We are also 112th in scoring offense, one spot better than Northwestern. We were 46th in scoring offense in 2013, 57th in 2012, and 26th in 2011. We are just barely over 20 PPG this year. Melvin Gordon averages 15 PPG by himself.
- 114. Michigan's rank in passing YPG. We finished 2013 at 51. Shockingly, there are three teams in the B1G with lower ranks (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana) and two of those teams have better records than Michigan. The B1G has six teams ranked 94th or lower in passing YPG.
- 4. The B1G has four teams (OSU, MSU, Wisc, Neb) ranked in the top 15 in scoring offense this year, more than any other conference.
This guy still has four years of eligibility
- 36. According to Rivals, the number of four and five star players Michigan has recruited since 2012. ALL of those players are still on the roster, and all had offers from top-tier programs.
- 13. The number of returning scholarship OL in 2015, 16 total.
- 6. The number of four-star (Rivals) players who committed in 2011. Two are starters (Beyer and Taylor)--the same number who are no longer with the team (Barnett, Bryant).
- 3. In what should be the class's RS SR year, only three commits from the 2010 class remain on the team.
Please come home. Or send your brother.
Embracing Mark Dantonio for an extended congratulatory message, I have little doubt that Coach Hoke whispered something graceful, complimentary, and kind. I also think he said something else.
Few things make Mark Dantonio smile. He is the grumpy cat. But beating Michigan has always been one of them. That's why it was surprising to see Dantonio look so distraught after today's win. The interviewer had to ask him if he was happy, and, finally, Dantonio smiled. He was so aware of his unusually grumpy (even for him) face that he said, "It may not look it, but I'm happy."
I believe Coach Dantonio--who has proven himself to be one of the nation's best college football coaches--was actually sad. Not about beating Michigan (he'll always relish that) but about the final postgame handshake with a man he wants to hate but simply can not.
"Real recognize Real"
I believe Brady Hoke is a great man. Despite not being able to produce a coherent offense in four seasons at Michigan--even with an MNC-winning OC--he has still continued to reel-in top talent on both sides of the ball. This, in my opinion, is almost wholly attributable to his genuine love for the young men he coaches. He cares about them as people, not just as football players. He is concerned about their character, not just their statistics. When Jabrill Peppers committed to U-M, he said, "Real recognize real," referring to the sincerity of the coaching staff. I unreservedly agree completely with John Beilein: Brady Hoke is the type of man I would want to coach my son.
The Shane Morris concussion issue did not make me doubt Brady's concern for his players' well-being. It wasn't a coach who didn't care about a player's health; it was just another symptom of a coach who couldn't manage the myriad details involved with running the winningest program in college football. If Brady knew there was any real possibility of Shane being seriously injured by playing, he would not have played him. That wasn't the problem. The problem was he didn't know; he wasn't aware, and that problem has extended to field on too many occasions.
Brady's last UTL was a win
It's a small miracle that this team continues to play as hard as it does. The defense, once again, played with heart and character against an extremely efficient MSU offense. Their never-say-die attitude lasted well into the fourth quarter. The whole team fought tooth-and-nail to squeak out a win against a below-average Penn State team. I believe this Michigan team, like all teams, reflects the attitude of their leader: high-character, high-motor, high-intensity...and imprecise. Over and over today small things made big differences: passes just a bit off, receivers dropping the on-target efforts, runs just a bit too impatient, a quarterback feeling pressure when there was none, a tackle just missed. These are not new problems. It's not youth, it's imprecision, and it has plagued our team (and especially our offense) since Hoke's arrival. And these small things have added-up to big numbers in the loss column. And so Hoke must go, and I am calling for his replacement as loudly as anyone.
But let's never forget that this man's character was enough to inspire Greg Mattison to come back to Michigan from the Ravens. This man was charismatic enough to lure Doug Nussmeier to Michigan. This man is genuine enough to pull-in the highest average recruiting class in the country, even though he can't win at Michigan. Let's always remember that while Coach Hoke did not cut it on the scoreboard, that his integrity is an example of what a Michigan Man should be.
Denard Robinson's mythical talent, combined with freakish turnover luck, was enough to propel MIchigan to an 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl victory. And let's give credit where credit is due: Hoke and Mattison field competent defenses, and, with more time and a developing team, I think Brady could probably keep Michigan in bowl games for the foreseeable future (after this year). But that's not good enough. That's NOT Michigan.
Chris Spielman--somewhat surprisingly--said it well: "I believe Brady Hoke is a good man and a good football coach...but the results aren't good enough." And I believe that part of Brady's message to Mark Dantonio tonight wasn't just congratulating him; it wasn't just genuine admiration of how well Dantonio runs a team (in almost the exact way Hoke would like to run his team); it wasn't just well-wishes for the rest of the season. It was good-bye.
I think Brady Hoke knows his time is up. I think he told Dantonio as much tonight after the game. And I believe that Brady Hoke is such a good man that even Mark Dantonio, who hates all things Michigan with an immeasurable, dyed-in-the-wool passion, was nearly brought to tears by a Michigan Man's farewell.
I'm excited about the possibility of a Harbaugh, or even someone not quite as perfect. I'm eager for a coach that is demanding, detail-oriented, and relentless in his pursuit of victory. And while I'm quite certain we can and must find a more capable coach to lead our program, I'm just as sure we won't find a better man than Brady Hoke.
I wish him and Laura all the best.
Inspired by Eye of the Tiger 's wish list, I decided to put together what I'm hoping for in the next head football coach at the University of Michigan. And, rather than say it all myself, I'm calling on some ultra-successful coaches to help me explain what I want.
“We’re not sustaining a gosh darn thing. We despise the word sustaining. We despise the word satisfaction.”
Appropriately, I'll open with a Jim Harbuagh quote. Michigan football has a rich tradition, and that tradition was not built by repeating the past, but by surpassing it. We should not stubbornly adhere to old strategies or only consider coaches who have spent time at U-M. What made Michigan great is what will make it great again: being willing to push outside the box to do whatever is necessary to achieve success.
I want more than B1G championships--I want CoFoPo appearances, All-Americans, Heisman contenders, and coaches that are the envy of the nation. That's what it means to be the Leaders and Best.
"Schemes and play calls don't win games, Execution wins games."
Chip Kelly knows scheme matters. The guy is a football mad scientist who cooks-up complimentary plays better than anyone else in the business--pro or college. What he means is that no matter what system you run and no matter how witty the play call, the players must be able to execute the play.
I would love a spread, no-huddle offense. I would prefer a blitzing, hyper-aggressive defense. But whether we get that or I-form and Cover Two, all I really care is that our players can consistently and effectively execute the scheme. Everyone can run the plays Chip Kelly runs, but few coaches can get their players to execute the way he does. Building a system that fits your players and makes it as easy as possible for them to be successful is what coaching is all about.
It's important to note that Kelly's attention to detail and specific instruction, combined with fast, high-stress training methods are essential to his success. He creates an environment where the players can learn quickly and builds a culture of attention to detail. It's that laser-like focus on execution that separates Kelly from his peers, and he simply uses the scheme that he believes makes it easiest for his players to execute.
Player development is not about telling a player he MUST do thing X or he will be benched. It's about getting a player to see what he's capable of and putting him in a position to capitalize on his talents. This means high expectations and demands are put on players, but that it's done in a constructive way that fits your roster.
Part of this is impatience--you must ask your players to do what they're capable of each and every day, and not be satisfied with less. Plenty of programs around the country are getting big contributions from younger players by showing them how they can be successful right away, not just as upperclassmen.
"You can't afford to have one bad coach on your staff."
Loyalty is a virtue, but if not you're being loyal to anything less than excellence. Jim Harbaugh knows that, and it's why many of his assistants are talked about as some of the best in the business. Building a great staff is vital when you have 100+ players to manage, and the next coach should expect and demand results every day. If it's not working, find some one who can make it work.
Bielema didn't hesitate to fire his O-Line coach when his O-Line wasn't producing. Beilein made drastic changes when his staff wasn't getting it done. While Hoke did fire a friend and hire what appeared to be the ideal fit, he only did it at one position. We need a coach that will find the right leaders for the team at EVERY post.
While I don't necessarily think we should stick with MANBALL and "physicalness" as the cornerstones of our program, we should always have a coach that understands college football's greatness is rooted in getting a bunch of young men to work as a team. This means self-sacrifice, integrity, and hard work. It means playing not just with each other, but for each other.
There are some winning college coaches out there I wouldn't want (Saban, Meyer) to coach at Michigan because they have reputations that are focused on individual, win-at-all-costs success instead of building a program of young men that carry each other to victory. It's a lot to ask, but I want a great coach who also understands Bo's ultimate speech--and that it applies to the coaches as well as the players.
These five quotes sum-up what I'm looking for in the next Michigan Head Coach: a willingness to adapt to think outside the box to find success; a detail-oriented culture with a focus on designing a scheme that compliments the talents of the players; player development that helps players see and realize their potential, and starts doing that as soon as they arrive on campus; a staff that is second-to-none in the country with no weak links; and a commitment to team that fosters a high-character environment where nothing but success is tolerated.
And as you can tell from my quotes, there seems to be one guy that certainly meets that criteria. But I'm not stubborn--I'll take any coach that can do all these things, win the B1G, go to the CoFoPo, produce All-Americans consistently, and have regular Heisman contenders. Oh yeah, and winning the playoff--he should do that, too.
Foster just beat Meyer; Pruitt has the Dawgs defense among the nation's best
You could do a lot worse than this pair of defensive coordinators. Pruitt is the young, up-and-comer who has been dynamite, but has done it with top talent at 'Bama, FSU, and now Georgia. Foster is the uber-loyal Beamer disciple who has demonstrated sustained success with meh talent.
Jeremy Pruitt, DC Georgia
Track Record: B. Hard to say here. He was at 'Bama from 2007-2012, and coached the DB's, which is where Saban injects himself the most. He probably learned a ton, but how much of the success is his? Then he went to FSU and won a championship, taking over the #6 scoring defense and making it the #1 scoring defense (they've dropped to #35 without him). Now he's at Georgia, the #19 scoring defense vs. #79 last year. Looks pretty good, for a limited sample.
Michigan Ties: D. Was the DB coach at 'Bama for Nuss' first season as the OC. Other than that, nada.
Recruiting: B. Was the recruiter of the year in 2012. Could not be better here, but his expertise is in the south.
Chances/Loyalty: C. A southern guy who has build a network and recruiting empire along I-10, he probably fits best as a coach down there. But he clearly wants his own program, and U-M is one of the best jobs out there, and is, in many ways, the U-M of the south.
Demeanor: B. 40. Presents well. Extremely demanding, high-energy coach who pushes his players for 60 minutes. Admires Richt's character, and that bodes well for his ability to meet Michigan's morality standards.
Three Phases: C+. Never been a HC at any level. Purely a defensive guy...my first question if we interview him is, “Who is your OC?” Might bring good friend and Georgia O-Line coach Will Friend.
Roster Fit: B-. Georgia runs a multiple offense not dissimilar to Nuss' system, and FSU runs a passing spread. 'Bama runs manball. Uses multiple defensive strategies. I do think U-M has the personnel to run a 3-4, FWIW.
OVERALL GPA: 2.43 (C+/B-). Pruitt is a fast-rising DC that will run his own program someday, and I think he could be very good. But he's probably best fitted to the south, and I'm not sure he'd stay at Michigan. That said, it's hard to find things not to like about him.
Bud Foster, DC Va. Tech
Track Record: B+. Has done more with less talent than almost any DC in the country, and he's done it for a long, long time.
Michigan Ties: D. Raised in Nokomis, IL. Has been at Va Tech since 1987, before that was at Murray State, which is in Kentucky, so...D seems about right.
Recruiting: B. Very strong recruiter that has reeled-in some top defensive talent.
Chances/Loyalty: C+. Bud is 55, and if he wants his own program, Michigan would have to be attractive. The athletes are already there for his defense. Would he go back to Va Tech when Beamer retired? Maybe, but not if it were 5 years down the road, IMO.
Demeanor: A-. Polished presenter, and players love him and play hard for him.
Three Phases: C+. Another purely a defensive guy. Would need an established OC to be a good fit...and would probably bring Loeffler. On the plus side, Va Tech's special teams are some of the best in the business, so hopefully he's learned from that.
Roster Fit: B-. Michigan has the athletes to run his defense, and Loeffler's offense is another multiple scheme that has lots of similarities to Nuss' system.
OVERALL GPA: 2.61 (B-). Foster used to be talked about everytime there was an opening, and has said he'd like his own program. He's also said his dream job is HC at Va Tech. If he would commit to Michigan long-term, there are many, many worse options out there. His defensive gameplan vs. Ohio State this year was magic, and hiring a guy who just beat Meyer might please the fanbase.