Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Heismans past. College Football Live is going state-by-state and, I don't know, talking to people or something. It's the privilege of the internet that I don't have to watch College Football Live and find out about their latest programming initiative. Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard were the featured people when it came to Michigan. Here is their talking:
Reports from people who watched this say it seemed designed to blow a blood vessel in Mark Dantonio's head, BTW.
I do not know how alarmed you should be, but it appears the amount of alarm should, sadly, be nonzero. Incoming mega-recruit Justin Turner did not walk at his graduation because of what appears to be an inability to pass some statewide Ohio standardized test. Here's a really dumb thread on a Massillon message board about it. It's uncertain whether this would prevent him from enrolling at Michigan, as from other reports he's comfortably qualified, and it's also uncertain how an apparently-qualified person could not pass a test on which the questions were probably like so:
water : wet :: water :
C. noodly appendage
D. I hate Michigan
Unless, that is, he picked A when the right answer was D. Apparently there are further opportunities to take this thing and get it done, if it's an actual barrier to his entry. FWIW, Varsity Blue says Sam Webb says* this is a minor thing unlikely to be an issue:
Webb was not particularly pessimistic about Turner’s ability to still get into school, as he’s a pretty good student who’s already met the NCAA Clearinghouse’s requirements for eligibility, except the no high school diploma thing. There are alternative methods to diploma eligbility, and given Turner’s academic reputation, most don’t foresee him having difficulty there.
It's out there, but I wouldn't get too exercised about it. I'm more concerned about Fitzgerald Toussaint's status.
*(There's been significant backlash against GBMW on this, and while I agree they could use some serious writing lessons, I don't see how reporting something obvious like "Justin Turner didn't walk at graduation" is a big deal. Both premium sites had moderators address the issue before GBMW did and, while they like to hide behind the idea that what's behind the paywall is super secret just-between-us stuff, any information there is instantly transmitted to free message boards across the internet and thereby into the fan consciousness. Also: kid didn't walk at graduation; this is not a secret.)
Buryin'. If there's one lead guaranteed to be buried it's "here's this important rule change," which is inevitably preceded by 300 words about some director of officials who's very sorry about everything but has to ask you to go to hell. And it is so after the Big Ten meetings produced a couple notable changes:
A new rule states that once [rugby] punters are outside the pocket, the defense will not be penalized for running into them or roughing them. The rugby-style punters previously had the advantage of waiting until the last minute to choose whether to punt, run or pass and still draw penalties on the defense. "The defensive team never knew what to do because they didn't want to rough them," Carollo said.
This seems fraught with logistical issues. How is this mystical ability of a punter different from that of a quarterback? Can a punter now roll out, pull up to pass, chuck the ball, and get leveled way late?
Offensive linemen also will be allowed to move up to three yards down the field without being penalized.
I'm somewhat confused here; this sentence follows the previous paragraph immediately and either means 1) a slight change to punting rules or 2) a significant relaxing of prohibitions against linemen downfield. I'm betting it's 1.
Rose Bowlin'. The Rose Bowl is obligated to take a scrub team in the event that 1) A Big Ten or Pac-10 team is yanked into the NC game and 2) a scrub team ends up automatically qualified by finishing in the top 12. That's a somewhat unlikely confluence of events there, and even if it happens it will only happen once:
"It's only going to happen once if it happens at all," Hancock said.
And that's just a totally redundant blockquote but that's life. Totally redundant blockquotes.
Anyway: this places the change even more squarely into the realm of don't-sue-us CYA. The likely effect, if there even is one, is to replace the second-place Pac-10 team with a Utah or a Boise or whatever, which would be a wash in hypothetical opponent strength.
I don't get it, either. Earlier this year I touched on the ongoing Kiffin fiasco, and resolved that this could so either way, with the two ways being "John L Smith" and "Steve Spurrier." A couple months, a couple more inane secondary violations/diarrhea of the mouth incidents, and I've been pushed over the edge: I just think Kiffin is an idiot. I wasn't going to say anything until Get The Picture eloquently summarized the nagging problem I had with the recent spate of MSM articles which had "no, srsly, Lane Kiffin knows what he's doing" as their idiotically contrarian thesis:
If this is such a great approach to resurrecting a national powerhouse, how come the first guy to think of it is a 33-year old whose prior stop as a head coach was a miserable failure?
I just don't buy Kiffin's latest posture. Claiming "no, seriously guys, I meant to do it" is the last refuge of a guy caught with his hand in the idiot jar. True cleverness—see OBC—is apparent. Even if this supposed gambit works in the short run, in the long run Tennessee is going to be seriously hampered by their head coach's lack of intelligence. When the biggest accomplishment you can point to is locking down your hot wife, you have issues.
Oregon State's going to be pissed. So the SEC put an end to this ridiculous oversigning business after Houston Nutt pushed it past its logical extreme, adopting the same policy the Big Ten has by limiting LOIs to 28. They're going to attempt to make this a national policy, and the initial returns are good:
One Big 12 assistant who asked to remain anonymous said he hopes this will push the NCAA to make it a rule throughout Division I football. … "Generally when the SEC makes a push for changes in recruiting, things happen on the NCAA level. So there are a lot of us who believe that this will eventually become something everybody will have to follow, and I think that's a good thing."
Etc.: Daily continues murdering Detroit papers, this time landing an extensive interview with Toney Clemons. Oregon's rushing attack—which you may remember cowering from—in coachy detail. NCAA 10… worth buying? Michigan had "no chance" in '97 according to Corso. Patrick Lucas-Perry is rapidly developing into a major target.
Update 5/12: Linked to video of MN OL Seantrel Henderson, articles on FL RB Darion Hall(video), PA LB Ken Wilkins, FL DE Corey Lemonier (second), MI DT Jonathan Hankins (second), MN OL Seantrel Henderson, CA RB Brennan Clay, FL RB Corvin Lamb, IA QB AJ Derby, NY DE Dominique Easley, FL LB Jeff Luc (second), FL DT Richard Ash, SC OL Eric Mack, MD LB Troy Gloster, PA DE Ken Wilkins, MD LB Lamarcus Coker, FL CB Lo Wood, FL CB Spencer Boyd, IA QB AJ Derby, IL WR Kyle Prater, OH OL Christian Pace. Moved PA DE Jordan Paskorz to committed. Commit article on Paskorz. Moved OH OL Christian Pace to committed.
Prune time: removed TX QB Jeremy Johnson(WVU), FL CB Merrill Noel (dropped M), PA DE Dakota Royer (dropped M), GA S Daunte Carr(dropped M), SC DE Corey Miller, SC DE Brandon Willis (dropped M, both of them), FL QB Christian Green (dropped M), SC RB Marcus Lattimore (dropped M), GA RB Mack Brown.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Wow. That is a ton of stuff. A lot of it is not particularly newsy, so what's below just focuses on items of direct interest.
A bloody week as a number of prospects cut their lists and dropped Michigan. In groups:
- Southern longshots to shrug at: SC DE Corey Miller, SC DE Brandon Willis, GA S Daunte Carr, GA RB Mack Brown.
- Minor disappointments: FL QB Christian Green, SC RB Marcus Lattimore, PA DE Dakota Royer
- Probably wasn't feelin' the love: TX QB Jeremy Johnson.
Johnson committed to West Virginia; he claimed a Michigan offer but with Gardner in the fold Michigan is probably going to be selective with their second QB in the class.
Lattimore released a top eight that lacked Michigan about a month after saying he'd visit officially, so there's the disappointment. Green, meanwhile, apparently wants to be a wideout in college, which considerably changes the attractiveness of Michigan to him. Royer's higher-rated than Michigan's current and prospective OLB/DE commits and is likely headed to Penn State.
The other thing worth mentioning is that I did yank FL CB Merrill Noel after he announced he would announce, but then he announced he wouldn't announce; I haven't added him back. If something happens that suggests he should be re-added, I will re-add.
The BBQ weekend came and went without any immediate commitments but OH OL Christian Pace dropped Monday and PA DE Ken Wilkins has scheduled a press conference for next Tuesday at noon. MGoBlog recruiting heuristic #3 is "a recruit announcing soon after a visit to a school is likely to pick that school," and the reports from the BBQ reinforce that:
"I liked it a lot," Wilkins said when asked about his trip to Michigan over the weekend. "The coaches brought out their families to show they have a family atmosphere there. I liked the enthusiasm of coach Rodriguez. You could see he is ready to turn the program around."
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder has 27 scholarship offers including Michigan, Pitt, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.
"I'm going to decide (on a college) in the next week or so," Wilkins said. "Michigan and Pitt are my top two. They are dead even. I just have to see which school I like best."
Despite that public stance that Pitt is even, most observers are expecting he'll pick up a block M hat if he does the hat thing.
A few guys expected to show up didn't make it in, including MI DE Will Gholston, OH TE Dan Schneider (no offer, Pace's teammate), and OH DT Jibreel Black. Black says he was sick and will be up soon:
"I'll go up there on June 20," Black said on Sunday night. "And I'll try to make it to Michigan State, while I'm up there."
One surprising name was OH TE Alex Smith, a Cincinnati commitment. Visit = soft commitment; he'll be a guy to watch in the near future. Other big names of moderate intrigue include FL CB Tony Grimes, who made the long trip to participate and came away duly impressed, and IL WR Kyle Prater, who yes is an ACK WR but is also perhaps the best ACK WR available this year. I've bumped Grimes back up to yellow from red, and removed my mental red tint on Prater's existing yellow.
Prater, shockingly, is talking up Michigan considerably:
“I like Oklahoma,” Prater said. “I like Michigan, too. I went to the barbeque they had on Saturday (at the Big House). It was real nice. I liked the relationship the coaches had and the people around the coaches. I have a strong interest in USC, too. Tennessee is another one I like, and Miami."
Holy pants. That quote wasn't even provided to a Michigan site: it was something Bucknuts mainstay Bill Kurelic collected and posted on a Penn State site. Even with all the wide receivers in the fold, you have to take a guy like Prater; that would just about assure the move of OH WR Jerald Robinson to safety. It's not like that's going to happen any time soon, though: Prater intends to take all of his officials.
I'm not getting too hopeful on Grimes, as it appears a high school coach of his is posting on BuckeyePlanet occasionally. The ungrammatical upshot:
To be honest, in the beginning all he wanted was a offer from da U. I help convince him to open up to the possibility of leaving home and getting away. After an UGA visit he was in love them and really wanted an offer and to commit there. But now he's in a tough position he say. You already i talked up OSU for a couple of months so he was really trying to get noticed by them. Me and a couple of other coaches really pushed Hayes and Fricell (something like that) to come see him...and that was when he only had 1 offer from FAU. Im just glad the young man as options now. It's going to be hard turning down DA U for him.
That was posted pre-Michigan visit, so there's some chance the BBQ radically realigned his perceptions; until he comes out and says something to that effect, though, the expectation is he stays south.
MI DT Jonathan Hankins, an instate recruit at a position of need that's having a crappy year nationally, also turned up:
“Michigan has been my childhood favorite," said Jonathan to GoBlueWolverine. "I like them -- I mean it is Michigan and it helps that it is close to my home. They are in my top three.”
Hankins has offers from Oklahoma, Illinois, and Wisconsin already and plans to camp at Michigan, at which point you have to figure Michigan will extend an offer of their own unless some crazy awesome stuff goes down with PA DT Sharrif Floyd or something.
More on Paskorz
The Free Press did some reporting on new commit Jordan Paskorz—slow week I guess—and came up with some quotes from his coach:
DeMatteo was most impressed that Paskorz would often arrive at 6 a.m. for workouts.
"It's pretty tough for high school kids getting up that early," DeMatteo said. "He's the strongest kid I have had the opportunity to coach. On the field, he uses his strength very well and uses leverage to make him seem taller than 6-4."
Sure to burn the ears of Mountaineers fans is the revelation that Paskorz has a friend who played at West Virginia who "spoke very highly of Rodriguez." Also, the article claims an Illinois offer in addition to the trio of Pitt, Virginia, and Minnesota that had been previously reported.
MD LB Troy Gloster has a Michigan offer and M appears to be a contender:
“When I got the offer, I was very excited,” he told GoBlueWolverine. “I started thinking about all the tradition that Michigan has, and everything else. I’ve been offered by Boston College, West Virginia, Stanford, Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, and North Carolina. When I got the offer from Michigan, I felt like it was my biggest offer so far.”
Gloster plans on visiting M, Stanford, and WVU over the summer, with a decision to follow soon after. Those three schools plus local Maryland, where his older brother plays, appear to comprise a tentative top four.
Michigan is probably going to take a third tailback in the class, and CA RB Brennan Clay is perhaps the most likely. After an early period where it seemed like Clay would stay on the West Coast at all costs, he's settled on a top three of Oregon, Oklahoma, and Michigan, with Tate Forcier proving a major attraction for Michigan:
"I think it will be huge," Johnson stated. "The thing with Brennan and Tate is that they know each other. They know what each other can do on the football field. Tate being at the school is a huge factor in (Brennan) wanting to (possibly) go to that school. Tate is a tremendous athlete and Brennan and Tate kind of fit (together) because they are playmakers. I figure that if Brennan goes to that school it would be a really good show just like how it was here at Scripps Ranch."
Clay's certainly got chemistry with Forcier. Check his junior-year numbers:
During his junior campaign the 6-foot, 191-pounder amassed an impressive 1,486 yards on 170 carries and 27 TDs on the ground. He added another 1,055 yards on 70 catches and six TDs through the air. Then for good measure he returned two kickoffs for TDs as well.
One team to watch out for, if they offer, is USC. Obviously. Clay's already set up officials to his top three; Michigan will get its shot September 19th.
Meanwhile, FL RB Corvin Lamb is still, I believe, waiting on an offer, but Michigan remains strong with him. Try to reconcile this:
Who is coming after Corvin the hardest right now?
"Probably Michigan, North Carolina, and Ole Miss."
"I have not talked to Michigan in a while. I will probably call them soon. Torrian Wilson, my teammate, received an offer from them. We have been talking about them a lot."
…and, well. Uh. We're good with the emails, I guess? Either way, it seems Lamb is willing to wait on Michigan, and Wilson is probably still leaning to the good guys.
Rivals AMP going on; not a lot of news here:
Henderson came in for a mention in Mike Farrell's latest rumor blast:
Sources say there are a few schools to watch out for with Henderson. The schools that get mentioned the most when digging around for information on Henderson are Minnesota and Michigan, followed by Ohio State, Notre Dame and USC.
Minnesota is then named the "team to beat," which I guess if Baylor can pirate away a Texas safety commit anything is possible. That's based on their recruitment of local quarterback JD Pride, who Henderson would like to go to school with.
Michigan already had a pretty tough nonconference schedule lined up this fall, with a home game against UConn, BC in the B10/ACC challenge, and a serious nonconference tournament. Now, uh, well, here's another game:
A rematch of the 2008 NCAA National Championship Game against Memphis, trips to UCLA and Tennessee and home games against Cal and Michigan highlight the non-conference schedule for the Kansas University men’s basketball team in 2009-10.
Yipes. I'd rather fill out the schedule with some moderately difficult games—like the ND series I keep advocating—instead of death on a platter, but better a tough roadie against Kansas than IUPUI.
|#36 OG, 3*||#5 C, 3*||150 watch list|
The "150 watch list" was a much more exiting designation early last year, before it became clear that ESPN was putting almost 500 kids on it. Still, with a variety of Michigan prospects already evaluated and shoved outside of the list the implication is Pace will probably acquire the ESPN equivalent of four stars. Their reasoning for this:
Comes off the ball like a locomotive and derails the defensive lineman on run blocks. Really dominates the defender on base and drive blocks. Fires out low and hard with a flat back and strikes the defensive lineman across with a jarring first punch. Follows the initial blow delivery with great leg drive; churns legs like pistons. Impressive reach and zone blocker; uses excellent footwork in gaining position on the edge defender.
There are some concerns about pass protection, but the final words are "aggressiveness," "nastiness," and "pit bull." It's a very positive assessment.
Though Scout and Rivals are not as enthused, interior linemen often get short shrift—name a position other than kicker where the #5 player in the country doesn't get a fourth star—and as we'll see Pace has a solid offer list. I'm considerably less concerned with his ranking than I was for the various Michigan commits who play sexier spots and didn't have a lot of other schools clamoring for his attention.
Touch The Banner provides a more reserved scouting report:
Pace does an excellent job of finishing his blocks; the running back is sometimes seven or eight yards downfield and Pace is still latched onto his man. When he gets a pancake block, he often just lies on top of his man, which is demoralizing for a defensive player. He drives his legs and doesn't just use his mass to move smaller defenders.
When releasing to the second level, Pace plays a little high. He can probably outmuscle players on the second level, but the problem lies in a lack of agility when linemen get out in open space and play too high. Playing lower will give him more power, but it will also give him a better opportunity to stay in front of those smaller, quicker linebackers. He also needs to work on lower body strength, as he gets stalemated by smaller players at times.
And Ohio Varsity took a look($); it's premium so I'll quote sparingly:
His agility is what sets him apart from most linemen, as he has the ability to get out in space and execute blocks against smaller, faster defenders. Pace thrives as a pulling guard and his film features numerous plays where he rockets out of his stance and immediately becomes a dangerous 265-pound lead blocker.
…eh, not going to see a lot of pulling at Michigan but that agility and ability to operate on the second level will come in handy.
It's worth noting that Pace's size is up for debate. Some places have him as big as 6'4", 270, but Scout's profile lists him at a comparatively shrimpy 6'2", 252, and that's backed up by the weight of a combine appearance. If the latter is accurate—and I tend to believe it is, since, you know, they measured—that would push him more towards center and make this David Molk comparison stronger.
The full dossier as of a month and a half ago:
Pace' offer list also includes Michigan, Michigan State, Pitt, Louisville, North Carolina State, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Colorado, Wake Forest and a host of MAC schools.
Offensive linemen don't have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Pace is credited with a 5.22 from that combine, which gets zero FAKE out of three.
There is also Scouting Ohio video, and if you loved "Christian Cullen" jumping over stuff and sort of running places, you'll love the Pace Christian edition. Yeah, I watched it. It was 33 seconds of pure bliss.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As mentioned above I'm far less concerned about the three stars here because of Pace's offers and position; also he sounds like the kind of guy who's a good fit for the reach-heavy zone read game but not likely to blow collegiate linemen off the ball, which potentially makes him more valuable to Michigan than Random College Football Program.
Pace's size all but guarantees a redshirt. From there he'll have the opportunity to compete for Steve Schilling's vacated guard slot, but with Washington and Barnum and so forth and so on the most likely scenario in which Pace finds a starting job is by winning the center melee after Molk's departure.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Pace is the first offensive lineman in the class and won't have much of an effect on Michigan's strategy going forward. Keeping the numbers level would require another three players (McAvoy, Moosman, and Ortmann graduate and Wermers have transferred), at least one of whom should be a tackle. They'd obviously like to add MN OL Seantrel Henderson and FL OL Torrian Wilson; past that there are a couple of Ohioans, Andrew Donnal and Skyler Schoefner, and a vast sea of undifferentiated offerees that will likely develop into a few serious targets.
Kelvin Grady, who played the past two years as a backup point guard on the Michigan basketball team, is expected to join the football team. … Both U-M football coach Rich Rodriguez and Grady were unavailable for comment.
No quotes, no "sources"… eh, it's in a newspaper and serves as further confirmation. So, it's sort of official. Kind of.
Grady's scholarship is basically free this year since Michigan was five scholarships short of a full boat, and then he'll have two years to attempt to make an impact.
The BBQ has borne its first meaty fruits with the commitment of OH OL Christian Pace. This was going into Tuesday Recruitin' tomorrow but I might as well put it here:
Less definitive but still promising rumors are also swirling around OH OL Christian Pace, a four-star interior lineman who made it up for the BBQ and got the "decision imminent?!?!" question-that-contains-its-own-answer premium article. This from before the BBQ looks like a hint about Pace's interest:
While Pace has yet to name a favorite, it is safe to say he is very interested in Michigan.
A Florida State visit may happen before his commitment; if it doesn't dollars to donuts he picks M.
Think David Molk here: Pace is a solid, mobile interior lineman. He's in the ESPN 150 watch list, is Rivals' #5 center (and a three star), and had good offers: Florida State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Pitt, South Carolina, and Stanford amongst others. A full google-stalk will have to wait until tomorrow.
I'm still catching up after spending large chunks of the weekend away from precious internet access, so forgive if some of this is old.
Back like it never happened. So, yeah, Michigan might not be through with Gradys yet:
As Grady continues to evaluate his options, one of them is playing for the Michigan football team. He has spoken with the U-M staff regarding the opportunity. Grady, a 5-foot-10 standout running back/receiver in high school at East Grand Rapids, is considering a number of basketball and football options.
While the Free Press article above indicates Grady is still evaluating his options, a previously reliable source indicates this is a done deal and Grady will not be transferring.
As we've all learned from the Greg Paulus fiasco, players don't use up eligibility in any sport they're not actually playing and have a five-year period before they're ineligible, so Grady would be the functional equivalent of a redshirt sophomore if he was to join the team: three years to play three.
Grady's quick as hell and was a legitimate football prospect coming out of high school, so he could be of some use. No one has put a stranglehold on the slot position and the starting tailback job will be wide open next fall. Also maybe he can catch punts.
Nothing to see here. I really wish this wasn't cause to play officer Barbrady, but even if this is Terrelle Pryor (and it very probably is)…
The football player received a special, discounted hotel rate and free food while visiting Ohio State.
On Aug. 21, OSU declared the athlete ineligible and filed a violation report with the NCAA. He never missed a game, though. He paid back $158 for his extra benefits, and the NCAA restored his eligibility. He was a freshman at Ohio State last year. He was recruited by quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels.
…it's a minor NCAA violation that's been handled already. This, though fun, is also pointless to get excited about:
Since 2000, Ohio State has reported to the NCAA more than 375 violations -- the most of any of the 69 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that provided documents to The Dispatch through public-records requests. Most infractions were minor -- a coach called a recruit too many times, for example. Others, however, left athletes benched, fined or at least embarrassed.
If the NCAA hasn't deigned to slap Lane Kiffin's wrist, this won't bring any additional scrutiny. Especially since the list of violations is full of stuff like "player mentions ice cream shop where she worked" and—seriously—"hockey players sneak into Nickelback concert."
But the larger point in the Dispatch report is a good one: many schools now use any means possible to avoid or make useless FOIA requests by citing a federal law designed to prevent the public disclosure of student grades. An example:
We asked the eight Ohio schools eligible for the Bowl Championship Series for the list of people who flew on university airplanes to away football games. These records are used by the NCAA to determine whether boosters (people who give money to the university and whose actions are scrutinized) fly with the team.
Kent State University sent the entire list, with no names removed. Three schools blackened out the names of students. Four removed the names of students and some nonstudents.
Others just make it ridiculously costly. This includes Michigan, which asked for $850 to fulfill the Dispatch's FOIA request. Only Maryland's hilarious demand for over $35,000 beat that.
Urgh? Odd that Tony Barnhart is the guy to report on this change in the BCS selection process:
In past contracts if the Rose Bowl lost one of its traditional partners, the Big Ten or Pac-10 champ, to the BCS championship game, it could simply fill with another Big Ten or Pac-10 team that qualified. That’s how a 9-3 Illinois team got to Pasadena two years ago.
But in the new contract, I’m told, there is an interesting clause: The first time in the deal that the Rose loses one of its champions to the BCS title game, that opening will be automatically filled by a Coalition (non-BCS conference) team if one has qualified.
Barnhart interprets this as an attempt to not get sued, and okay maybe it is but why does the Rose Bowl get stuck with an automatic mid-major slot instead of losing its special ability to pick a totally undeserving Big Ten team? That seems like swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction.
After getting over the initial revulsion at the thought of Boise State in the Rose Bowl, though, I'm not too put out: better that than a barely-qualified* Big Ten team like Illinois leaping into the BCS, embarrassing itself, and giving the rest of the conference harder matchups in their bowl games. At least some part of the Big Ten's recent bowl struggles is due to the conference almost always getting a second team into the BCS whether it deserves it or not.
*(Literally: IIRC, there was great worry that year because Illinois needed an extremely friendly set of final-week results to even get itself into the top 14 of the BCS rankings.)
Ends to excellent season. The men's golf team made a late surge to squeeze into the top eight at the national championships, then won their first round of match play before losing a "heartbreaker" to Texas A&M in the semifinal. Michigan's top player, the spectacularly-named Lion Kim, is but a sophomore, so future success is a possibility.
Softball, meanwhile, won against Alabama but lost 1-0 against Florida and 7-5 against Georgia to exit the WCWS around 5th or 6th place. At least they're not Ohio State's baseball team, which managed to lose 24-8 and 37-6 this weekend. Even stranger: in between those two games they won twice.
Etc.: Hockey recruits do well at the NHL draft combine.
Apparently, this was the worst showing by U-M in the draft since 1994 when Derrick Alexander was the program's only player selected that year. People are using this as further evidence that the cupboard was bare when Rich Rod arrived on campus (as if anyone paying attention needed more evidence). But one draft doesn’t tell you much about the talent level of a particular team. For example, that 1993/94 team still finished 7-4 and 23rd in the Coaches’/AP. Why? Well, because that team also had three players who would be selected in the first round of the 1995 draft, and five players overall. If we want to know how bare the cupboard was when Rich Rod arrived, we also have to look at the 2010 draft. So, of the current players eligible for the draft next year, who other than Graham is likely to get drafted? What’s the fewest number of players drafted from a major program over a two-year period? Does this tell us anything about Rich’s cupboard that we didn’t already know? Obviously, it was bare but was it far worse than people realize compared with other major programs?
Yikes. A quick combing of Michigan's roster comes up with the following potential 2010 draftees outside of Graham:
- Greg Mathews: maybe a late pick? He doesn't have the speed to go very high.
- Minor/Brown: it's too early to tell with either but both have the raw physical ability to be drafted somewhere decent. One seems like a first day pick with the other going later.
- Ortmann/Moosman: probably not drafted.
- Stevie Brown: Lions first rounder.
- Zoltan The Inconceivable: likely to be the first punter off the board, whenever that happens.
So, yeah, it's Brandon Graham, a couple running backs, and the space punter. I don't know what the fewest number of players drafted from a power program over a two-year period is, but that's probably not the right question. The right question is "how many teams with like one high NFL draft pick and three or four mid-round picks are any good?" and the answer is "none, but there are plenty that didn't go 3-9."
This following one concerns variance, as discussed in the earlier post on Gladwell and basketball and Carr and the non-scoring offense. It's long, so I've chosen to respond after each paragraph. Though this looks fisk-y, it's not intended to be confrontational.
Your recent blog entry, detailing variance, risk versus reward, defense, offense and modern versus older systems, beginning with a basketball analogy, seems correct, but I have some issues. Your presumption seems to be that solid defense allows for a brute strength, low variance offensive strategy, in the style of Bo, and likewise with Carr. At the same time, however, you insinuate that a slow, grinding offense that keeps the other teams’ offenses off the field is of a critical nature towards that end.
I was not entirely clear about my thinking here. I do think that a really, really good defense allows for that sort of offensive strategy, and more specifically makes the run-run-probably-run-punt style of closing up a game make sense. In that sort of situation you're playing towards your strength.
However, when your defense is mediocre and you have a future NFL player at quarterback, shutting up shop and hoping your mediocre defense comes through is playing to your weakness. Carr did this a lot, if we're expansive about the word "mediocre".
As far as what sort of offense you want at the end of the game, yes, the sort of offense that can grind out a first down is nice to have, but if you don't have that offense—and not many do when they opposition is selling out like mad—you're doing yourself a disservice. There are specific situations where grinding it and punting makes sense, but none of them come with more than two minutes on the clock.
This is reasonable, as you can’t rely on a small lead and a low scoring game if you can’t keep the other team from scoring. The problem, however, comes in making the assumption that defense can’t be, or at least wasn’t, considered a weapon. Absolutely, using a prevent defense, clogging the running lanes, and keeping opposing offenses to short, clock eating runs between the tackles works towards that end. But what of the Michigan defenses through the years, especially in the early Carr era, that actually produced more variance, not less? Sacks, fumbles, and interceptions all increase variance in a game. Sudden turn-overs and backward yards are not supposed to happen on an offensive possession. I would say that in as much as a thundering, slow moving, ground based offense is designed to reduce variance, keep games simple and allow dominant talent to win out; the same strategy of good fundamentals (tackling, stripping the ball, pass coverage) has the exact opposite effect, creating lots of variance and unexpected.
Your definition of "good fundamentals" on defense varies from mine. When I think of good fundamentals, I think of a two-deep shell, minimal blitzing, and conservative strategies. Bend but don't break sort of things. A defense heavy on the blitzing and light on deep safeties is more prone to wild swings. And many of the things you cite as good fundamentals are zero-cost activities from a strategic standpoint: tackling, forcing fumbles, etc.
It seems that you’re positing that the more an offense scores, the more variable and therefore less predictable a game becomes. I think that’s the exact opposite of the truth. Offenses are supposed to score. To assume they will do ANYTHING but that is fallacy. I think the variance comes in when they fail to. Therefore, I don’t think that Bo’s and Lloyd’s game plans were low variance at all. I believe they simply tried to keep the variance, the sudden swinging changes, to one side of the ball. After all, if your defense FAILS to produce variance, the worst that will happen is the other team will score. That can be recovered. If your offense does produce variance, then the worst that will happen is you will lose your chance to score back. You can’t get that back.
This wasn't what I was getting at, but it wasn't the opposite of it either. What I was trying to say was this: all other things being equal, I'd rather Michigan play a game where both teams have sixteen possessions than eight. (Assuming that they don't suck, of course.) Michigan's more likely to come out on top in that situation. The way Michigan played under Lloyd, however, seems like it lent itself to a lot of long drives on both sides of the ball and generally depressed the number of possessions.
Simplified – You’re saying that offenses produce variance by moving quickly, scoring. As talent entropy occurs, this is harder and harder to stop, and so Bo and Lloyd saw their wins weaken, because their goals were to reduce variance. I believe that defenses produce variance by preventing scoring, and scoring on defense. We saw less success against higher level and middling teams in the last few years because talent entropy, and the coinciding spread of more complex, harder to stop offenses, has leveled the playing field, reducing defensive variance.
Different song, same title.
Okay, to properly address this we need to bring in variance's buddy: expectation. In layman's terms, expectation is the average of all expected outcomes. When you roll a die the expectation is 3.5. When you kick an extra point the expectation is 0.98. Variance is a measure of the average difference between trials. I could kick up the variance of the dice roll by turning 1 into –101 and 6 into 106 without affecting the expectation. I could kick it down by weighting it so that 3 and 4 came up twice as often as other rolls.
If you expect to win a game, variance is your enemy. I'm going to borrow some graphs from the excellent Advanced NFL Stats to demonstrate:
So here we've got two teams with the same variance in their play, one of which is a touchdown favorite. The underdog has about a 31% chance of winning.
Now the underdog has gone mad, probably going for it on fourth down a lot, inventing and deploying something called HELICOPTER PUNTING, and trying to block every extra point. They get blown out a lot more but also win more: 35% of the time.
This effect is powerful enough to overcome reductions in expectation:
But this time the underdog’s average is reduced from 17 to 16. The increase in variance still results in a slightly better chance of winning despite its overall reduction in average points scored. In this case, it's 33.2% for the underdog.
And it's the same for the favorite and reducing their variance: sometimes it's worth reducing expectation to get it, but only in certain situations and when you're a considerable favorite. In Bo's time, Michigan was a considerable favorite much more often and the game lent itself to low-variance moves: a 40-yard punt is much more valuable in an era when ten points is a potentially game-winning number.
Anyway, to the assertion above: modern offenses have more variance to them* because they score more. Don't lose sight of expectation here: Missouri had a lot of variance in their scores but that was because they averaged 42 points a game. Michigan had far less but they were averaging 20.
Offenses that do this quickly are actually more predictable because they get in more trials. Moving fast without sacrificing expectation is advantageous to the better team, which is why Oklahoma was in zero even halfway close games against the Big 12 rabble. (Texas is not rabble, obviously.)
Defenses reduce variance by, you know, having safeties that can tackle. The very best defenses are low variance because all of the outcomes have the same result for the opposition: shame and humiliation. In that situation, punting your ass off makes sense, because you're a big favorite, you're not giving the opponent much of an opportunity and you're reducing variance in a way that helps your overall chances of winning. The main problem with Michigan's defense over the last few years has been their suckiness, which by the way increases variance as your defense falls to a point where opponents can drive the field on them regularly.
I always go back here to the end of the 2005 Ohio State game: Michigan has a two point lead and drives down to the Ohio State 40. Facing third and ten, they run a wide receiver screen for six yards, and then punt on fourth and four from the 34, gaining 15 yards. Ohio State promptly drives the field for the winning touchdown. This came after a Henne-demanded fourth-and-short conversion on Michigan's 40 that led to an apparently-clinching field goal, and was interpreted by yrs truly as a panicked reversion to base instincts from another time.
*(The variance of something that's always zero is zero and it's not much higher for something that's almost always zero. As offenses move towards 50/50 efficiency the variance increases, but in a world like the 54-51 game against Northwestern the variance is low because everyone's always scoring touchdowns. An even distribution of probabilities is always more unpredictable than a set where most of the events are drawn to one or two outcomes.)
"We appreciate the efforts made by both UMass and Bowling Green to accept one-year contracts to play at The Big House," Athletic Director Bill Martin said in a statement issued by U-M. "The scheduling landscape is becoming more difficult and we discussed the open dates with a number of institutions and want to thank them for their time and effort during this process."
The Wolverines will welcome UMass to Michigan Stadium Sept. 18, a week after traveling to Notre Dame. U-M will then host Bowling Green Sept. 25 before opening Big Ten play Oct. 2 at Indiana. The Maize and Blue still have yet to fill the final open date (Sept. 4) on their schedule.
As you might remember, UMass was rumored to be the newly-renovated Michigan Stadium opener, but this will not happen. Martin on that date:
"We are working hard to line up an opponent for the opening game in renovated Michigan Stadium," Martin said. "We hope to have an announcement in the near future."
The implication behind Michigan's strenuous denials that UMass would be the opener was that they'd try to find an opponent that was appealing, or at least moderately interesting. We'll see if that comes to pass.