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.
What does cute baby have in common with our offense vs. MSU? They both suck!
Al Borges is easily the most hated man on the Michigan staff. Darrell Funk may be gaining some ground in that department, but he has a long way to go. Even Brady Hoke--the man who has delivered Michigan's best recruits in over a decade--is facing some heavy criticism.
I get it. Saturday was painful in so many ways. It's hard to watch your QB run play action from under center and get sacked almost before he turns around. It's hard to watch your team's championship hopes vanish in game that wasn't a contest. It's hard to know you can't beat the best, or even the very good.
Every story is made better with a villain. This is our national mode of thinking now--in politics, in business, and in sports. It's just so much easier to blame someone than to actually look at the complexity of an issue.
And to be sure, Al Borges does deserve blame. As does Funk, and, yes, even Hoke. Coaches are responsible for the product on the field. Period. Our product sucked with the fury of a black hole (yes nerds, I know they don't actually "suck") on Saturday, and it's natural to want bastards to pay for that.
But, just for a moment, let's look at how we could have attacked that MSU defense, instead of focusing on our complete inability to do anything resembling offense on Saturday.
This is right off of Brian's picture pages. It is a very typical alignment for MSU, although the field (don't want to argue about strong/free) safety is a bit deeper than usual at ten yards; it's often closer to eight. Michigan is in a pretty standard 3WR Shotgun look. Sometimes, that slot LB is actually a LB, sometimes it's a LB/S hybrid. Doesn't really matter.
How do you attack this defense? Let's examine a few possibilities:
- Quick pass/extended hand-off. Outside press coverage eliminates this possibility for the X and Z (outside receivers). You could look to the H (slot), but that LB or LB/S thingy is definitely close enough to tackle almost immediately. As soon as DG turns his head there and Funchess turns to catch the ball, that LB is in KILL! mode. He knows he has safety help over the top if he's wrong, so there's very little risk form him. He would attempt decapitation. Even if Funchess can shake him, that safety is there--and this assumes the TE blocked the middle LB. So basically, this option sucks.
- Slants/hitches/crosses. We're going to assume this is man coverage, since that's what MSU runs most of the time. First of all, it's terribly difficult to beat press coverage on a three-step drop, especially when the corners are as accomplished as Waynes and Dennard. This is made even more difficult by the fact that their corners are playing "inside technique," meaning they are a half-step inside the WRs, trying to force them to the outside. But let's assume, just for fun, that our guys beat their guys. The WR on the left side is now running right into that slot LB, who is reading the H. A common antidote to this would be to send the H on a flat route, attempting to pull the LB with him. That might actually work. The problem, though, is that MSU's safeties use a technique called "pattern reading." Basically, they are watching the first few steps of those slot/TE types, and reacting. If the slot/TE dudes don't stretch the field, the safety crashes down to try and help in coverage. MSU's safeties will make this ready quickly. A best-case scenario is a perfectly executed slant that gets thumped by the safety after a five or six yard gain. But this is a high-risk play: if the LB reads the QB's eyes and sinks, it could be a pick-six. I didn't mention the hitch, but it's real tough against press man, and the crossing routes are even MORE susceptible to LB INTs, which MSU does well.
- MANBALL. Run the ball, damn it! Well, even if we had a good O-Line, this is tough. A give to the RB means our six blockers are up against their six plus"two halves" in the box. That LB over the slot and the boundary safety are both on the edge of the box, ready to pounce on a running play. Even if we leave a backside guy unblocked, MSU will have numbers in the box very quickly, and our best-case is a three-yard gain (which we actually mustered a few times). BUT, even this will be inconsistent, because sometimes those LBs blitz and that safety crashes even before they know if it's run or pass, and in that case the slower-developing run from the shotgun is dead to rights. This, by the way, is why AB and Hoke want an under center game: your RB can immediately get to the business of running when the ball is snapped, rather than waiting for the snap to get to the QB and for the QB to handle the snap and then hand it off to a guy who is right next to him. From under center, the RB can (and does) start to move at the snap, and gets the ball closer to the LOS and with a some steam. It's not a huge difference, but it is significant and it is why RB runs are often more effective from under center.
- Option run. Yeah. We tried a few of these. You saw what happened. MSU makes quick, aggressive reads on almost every play. They blitz frequently, and they slant, stunt, and twist all the damn time. If even one of these guys gets free--which they almost always did against us--you're looking at a five yard loss. Even in a well-designed play (which Brian covered in the picture pages) the MSU defense collapses fast, gets off blocks, and gobbles-up your RB or QB. They get nine guys in the box (the safeties crash fast) as quickly as any team I've ever seen. Their DE's are also athletic enough to trouble the option on their own. All that said, a finely-tuned and perfectly-blocked option scheme would give them trouble, as it would anyone.
- Deep passing game. Without even the slightest doubt, this is where MSU is susceptible. IF Ohio beats them, it will be with big plays in the passing game, IMO, and perhaps some read/option stuff with probably the best running tandem QB and RB this side of Oregon. But, schematically, there is no doubt that this defense is susceptible to the deep pass, especially off of play action. You can get single coverage on your H (slot), your Y (TE), and your X and Z (outside WRs) against this defense. There are two problems with this: MSU's one-on-one coverage is really good; and MSU's blitzes and pass rush are even better than their coverage. I believe Denicos Allen is the best blizting LB in the country, and Bullough isn't far behind. Your QB needs a 7-step drop for these routes; your line needs to hold-up; and your RB probably needs to block (since that's one of the only ways to shut down the double-A blitz). We had open receivers against MSU. Other teams have also had wide open dudes. But when the QB's face is in the turf--or he's worried about his face being in the turf--it's awfully hard to read the defense and make the perfect throw required to beat the coverage (see Gardner's INT). Max protect should give you the time you need, but you still have to execute against an excellent blitz and stellar coverage, and MSU's safeties do a good job of reading three-man routes and helping their CB's where they can.
- Play action. For the record, I hated the play action calls. Having Gardner turn his back when his line can't block just sucks. But I understand why Borges calls them. MSU does read-and-react, and their LBs and safeties do hold a beat on play action. The run/pass conflict is there. That said, they are often blitzing a LB no matter what, which has the potential to blow-up your play before it gets started. So there's a bit of roulette there. But if you can block it, the opportunities for deep passes will be there, and pop passes to the slot from the shotgun or pistol (which we did) can be effective. That said, it's a slow-developing play that requires more blocking, and MSU is betting that you can't beat them in that department. Yet another reason to run play action is to set-up the run. Yep, you read that correctly. When a defense gets burned on a PA pass, they naturally slow their reaction to the run. This is why you might run a PA pass before you run the base running play. There is yet another reason Borges calls these PA passes and under center runs: he's preparing the team for the future. If we don't run under center until we're good at it, we'll never be good at it. Borges would get (rightfully) bashed for bringing out the 2015 team and expecting them to run under center stuff if they'd never done it before. Like it or not, it's part of our future, and we need experience doing it some, even if we suck at it.
TL;DR - MSU's defense is really good, and very difficult to attack. When you can't block their blitzes, you are left with few or no good options. This is not an excuse for the coaches--they need to get their kids to block. But the two best strategies against this defense require good, sustained blocking, and they are the only way to open up the running game.
We simply aren't good enough to execute against this defense. And that falls on the coaches just as much (if not more) as it falls on the players. Better play-calling couldn't have helped much.
Is Borges TRYING to do this on first down?
Much has been made of Al Borges using first down much like the CFL uses fourth down. I wanted to know exactly what has been happening to us on first down this year. Is the play-calling really that bad, or is AB hamstrung by a turnover-prone QB? How stubborn is the play-calling? Are we a bad passing team on first down?
What's open for debate is whether or not Hoke is mandating the first down MANBALL attempt. What's not open for debate are the results:
Chart? Chart of 1st down rushing attempts. NYP = Negative Yardage Plays
This is the story you know. For me, it was even worse than I thought in one respect (NYP%) and better than I expected in another (YPP). The 3.5 YPP feels high, but that's because nearly one in five times we go backwards. And, 11 more times, we gained nothing. That means that 27.3% of the time--more than one in four plays--we end-up in 2nd and 10 or longer. Those are drive killers.
But that average still feels high...what's brining it up? Glad you asked. Gardner has only had one NYP on his first down attempts, and averages 4.9 YPA when he runs it. When you add in the WR runs with DG, the YPA jumps to 6.6. What this means is that if you remove the 21 attempts by non-RBs on first down, you end-up with 2.9 YPA. That's more like it.
So, 59% of the time, we're running our RBs on first down, and averaging 2.9 YPA. Even that sounds good (isn't that three yards and a cloud of dust?) until you remember that only TWO of the NYPs happened between the QB/WR carries, and there was one bad snap. That leaves 22 NYP out of 110 RB attempts--an even 20%--that we go backwards with our RB on 1st.
Want me to make it hurt more? Okay. Add-in the zero yardage plays, and it's 33/110 (30%) NYP. Yep. We have a 30% chance of ending-up in 2nd and 10 or longer when we run with a RB.
Should we be passing more? I really wasn't sure about this. Can we trust DG to be throwing on first down? There's only one way to know...
THIS! This is much, MUCH better than I thought it would be. In fact, it's TOO good (I'll explain in a moment). We only pass 29.4% of the time on first down, but man, does it work. We average a ridiculous 12.6 yards per play (this includes scrambles), have only 14 incomplete passes (25%), and DG is MUCH less turnover-prone, throwing INTs at a rate of only 3.6%. There have been only three negative plays (sacks or TFLs).
It is obvious that our tendencies set us up for big passing plays on first down. But is it worth it? To end-up in 2nd and 10 or worse 30% of the time we try MANBALL? We end-up at 2nd and 10 (or worse) 34% of the time when we throw (including INTs), so the risk is almost exactly the same. The reward is more than four times better. That's a good investment.
The reason I believe these numbers are too good is that they indicate that our run tendencies on first down are so strong that there is wide open space to be had in the passing game. I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know, but now it's quantified into a ridiculous 12.6 YPP.
This is a problem because it means that defenses are staying in stacked fronts against us and betting we simply won't even try to pass. We aren't good at run-blocking, but we're REALLY bad at run-blocking against stacked fronts. Against both Akron and UConn, the running game took off when the defenses backed out of their stacked fronts when they had the lead late.
And what about those two INTs? Both were on go routes way down the field. AB dials-up bombs on first down, which is fine, but I think it's clear there's room for some short-to-intermediate stuff.
Furthermore, if you want your QB to stop turning the ball over, stop putting him in 2nd and 3rd and long--ALL of DG's INTs have come with distances of 5 yards or more to go.
TL;DR - While passing more on first down is likely decrease its effectiveness, it is still FAR better than running with our RBs, and it should open-up some space to be better at that.
"I'm unhappy because we sucked." - Al Borges did not say this, but was thinking it.
As we continue our transition to "MANBALL," I was curious to see, statistically, how that transition is going. The questions I'm trying to answer are: "What is this team good at? What are they bad at? What is the logic behind the play-calling? Are we ready to be a MANBALL team?"
What follows is a chart (based on Brian's UFR) of all the formations used against UConn, the type of plays that were run, and the averages. It's a big chart. It's also copied from my post in the UFR thread, as are most of my comments below it. A few notes:
- Plays that had a pre-snap penalty or penalty other than pass interference are not counted.
- Pass interference is counted, since it is assumed the play was successful enough to draw a penalty
- Sacks are rightfully categorized as passing yards
- Yes, I'm aware that this analysis has limited variables and misses important data points. If you want to add something, please do.
|Ace H twins||1||0||0.0||1||0||0.0|
|Ace twin TE||2||17||8.5||1||0||0.0||3||17||5.7|
|Ace twins stack||1||0||0.0||1||0||0.0|
|Ace twins twin TE||2||16||8.0||1||-16||-16.0||3||0||0.0|
|I-Form twins stack||1||2||2.0||1||2||2.0|
|Pistol FB twins||1||-1||-1.0||1||-1||-1.0|
|Shotgun 2TE twins||1||9||9.0||1||9||9.0|
|Shotgun 3-wide jet||2||14||7.0||2||14||7.0|
|Shotgun 4-wide tight||2||14||7.0||2||14||7.0|
|Shotgun double stacks||2||20||10.0||2||20||10.0|
|Shotgun empty TE||1||6||6.0||1||6||6.0|
|Shotgun trips TE||5||27||5.4||5||27||5.4|
|Shotgun twin TE||1||0||0.0||1||0||0.0|
While it doesn't take into account some easy missed plays and some heroic efforts to make something out of nothing, the chart does show that we seem to be much more successful when we're not under center. We ran 35 of our 68 plays from the pistol or shotgun, and the shotgun was our best bet.
I agree with Brian's conclusions that this team benefits greatly from being in the gun. I'd love to see more MANBALL out of the Pistol, but the under center stuff didn't work for most of the game.
That said, the Ace formation gave us critical rushing yards during our comeback. I believe it was effective because UConn feared we might actually pass when we were behind in the 4th quarter. When they know we're going to run, the under center stuff just doesn't work.
For those of you calling for more simplicity--you have a point. We used 26 different formations for 68 plays.
Some interesting data points:
- We are really efficient in the goal line set. That's because DG is running, and he's good at it.
- The Ace set worked fine for running (mostly late), but the passing ruined it. Some of that is on DG, so this set might improve.
- The I-Form was generally bad, and the Big set was terrible. A big play on a PA pass was missed by DG though, so it's not quite as bad as it looks.
- Shotgun was our most common set with 31 plays.
- Not much Pistol at all, and from the plays we did run, it doesn't look like we're practicing this much.
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.
How long should we wait for this guy?
There is constant chatter on this board and in the media about how freshmen RBs should be able to contribute right away. The basic tenet of this belief is that if a RB is athletic and is any good, he'll be able to produce right away. Sure, he might not have the nuances of pass protection and route running down, but he should at least be able to pick-up some yards on running downs as a true freshman. Guys like T.J. Yeldon make this easy to believe.
So, I decided to find out how true this is. If you suck as a freshman RB, are you likely to be any good at any point in your career? If Derrick Green doesn't contribute significantly this season, should we ? Going even further, is Rawls a lost cause at this point? Hayes?
Having a little less time than I'd like to do a thorough examination of the data, I used a somewhat limited sample: the top 40 RBs in terms of yards/game from 2012. I broke seasons into three categories: Primary starter (PS), significant back-up (SB), and insignificant season (IS).
These categories are actually surprisingly simple to define: Primary starters are obvious, and guys that are significant contributors at the position are equally easy to separate from the dudes that get trash-time and spot carries. Insignificant seasons also include redshirts, but not medical redshirts. I also took out JUCOs.
Here are the top 40 RBs from 2012 (NOT in order of production):
|2||1||0||Le'Veon Bell||Mich St||JR|
|2||1||0||Joseph Randle||Okla St||JR|
|2||0||0||Jahwan Edwards||Ball State||SO|
|1||0||0||Kenneth Dixon||La Tech||FR|
|2||0||1||Giovani Bernard||N Carolina||SO|
|1||2||1||Kerwynn Williams||Utah State||SR|
|3||0||1||Robbie Rouse||Fresno St||SR|
|1||1||1||Dri Archer||Kent State||JR|
|1||1||1||Carlos Hyde||Ohio State||JR|
|1||0||2||Antonio Andrews||Western Ky||JR|
|1||1||2||Kasey Carrier||New Mexico||JR|
|1||1||2||D.J. Harper||Boise St||SR|
|1||0||3||Zurlon Tipton||C Mich||JR|
|1||0||3||Cody Getz||Air Force||SR|
I have to admit, I was pretty surprised. Only 15 (37.5%) avoided having insignificant or redshirt seasons their first year on campus. And only six (15%) were the primary starters as true freshman, leaving nine (22.5%) as back-ups. That means the vast majority, 25 players (62.5%) spent at least one year doing nothing or next-to-nothing. Of those 25, only four (10%) went from insignificance to starting in one season. The rest (21, 52.5%) spent at least two years developing before becoming starters. And nearly as many (14, 35%) spent multiple years doing almost nothing as jumped right in as contributors (PS or SB) in their true freshmen campaigns. Heck, even Eddie Lacy redshirted.
This is admittedly a small sample size, but it's enough to draw some basic conclusisons:
- Plenty of talented RBs have insignificant seasons; many have more than one
- RARELY does a freshman RB burst onto the scene as a primary starter
- About half of these guys spend at least two years developing before they start
- The experts are idiots (of course, I must admit that I believed the "if they're any good they'll contribute as true freshmen stuff before I looked at it)
And some Michigan-specific conclusions:
- If Green and/or Smith doesn't contribute significantly this year, he's unlikely to start next year
- We shouldn't worry if Green and/or Smith doesn't contribute significantly this year
- Hope is not lost for Hayes, Johnson, or even Rawls.
It's worth noting that a few of the guys that spent multiple seasons developing turned out to be pretty darn good players. Guys like Eddie Lacy, Venric Mark, Carlos Hyde, Kenjon Barner, and Stefphon Jefferson all spent at least a couple seasons as insignificant contributors. On the flipside of that coin, lots of the best talent contributed early: Ka'Deem Carey, Le'Veon Bell, Montee Ball, Johnathan Franklin, and Todd Gurley.
Basically, we don't need to worry if Green and Smith don't contribute this year. It's definitely a good sign if they do, but there are much better things to be concerned about (S, OG, OC, and now WR) in 2013.