I'm out for the fourth tomorrow. See you Monday.
I get an email that starts like this about every week:
So I'm searching for reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming football season.
I got the first one ten seconds after Manningham, Mallett, and Arrington all lit out for the NFL or Arkansas. Each one drips through my consciousness, leaving a residue of paranoia. We can't really lose to Utah, can we? Or Minnesota? Or Notre Dame?
SMQB says... maybe!
The main reason I'm so much more skittish about the Wolverines, maybe the sole reason, is because of their nearest parallel entering the season: 2007 Notre Dame. This is not a logical comparison based on probabilities. ND was in the same kind of woeful shape, personnel-wise, heading into last season, and everybody knew it; the Irish didn't get a vote in anyone's preseason top 25, either, off back-to-back BCS games. Losing a slew of quality career starters will do that for a team. But it won't necessarily result in the worst record in school history, or one of the worst offensive performances of all time; there are no demerits for failure to predict depths so completely outside of anyone's experience. Applying the same pessimism to Michigan based on one nearby, at-the-ready example is beyond hyperbole, if for no other reason than the Wolverines won't be facing ten straight bowl teams to open the season; even if they did, two of them would play in the MAC and another from the Mountain West. It's not the kind of schedule that will let any halfway respectable outfit bottom out that quickly.
The incredibly incompetent Notre Dame team of last year also pops up in the season prediction of Nittany White Out, though as a Penn State blog that actually posts things like "Rich Rod is a traitor and a snake" their opinion must be taken with a grain of salt large enough to encompass a decade-long losing streak.
This is what every emailer that starts off with some plea to reassure him wants to know. Nobody expects to beat Ohio State or even make a New Year's Day bowl, but Jesus, did you see Notre Dame last year? Humans are exceptionally good at modeling others' emotions, especially when said others are rivals of yours, and it takes little cognition to arrive at the conclusion that Notre Dame 2007 was Not A Good Time.
Under a pale November sky in Palo Alto, Jimmy Clausen accepted a snap from center, trotted back a step or two, and dropped his knee to the ground, sending the final dozen or so seconds of the game clock spinning off into the history books. A strange, sullen silence draped itself over the Irish fans in a crowded bar on the north side of Chicago as it slowly dawned on everybody that the season was finally over. Thank you, sweet merciful Heaven, I thought to myself, taking a long swig from my tenth or fifteenth beer of the night, this godforsaken season is finally over.
Michigan fans appear to be kept up at night by the spectre of that emotion at year's end. And it's not just the Notre Dame parallel that many of the college football digerati draw that bothers. No one outside of East Lansing and Ann Arbor paid it any mind, but the Michigan basketball team just hired an offensive genius from Morgantown, bestowed upon him a rickety roster that was a poor fit for the genius's genius system, and had a Notre Dame of a season.
After a midweek game against Minnesota that saw 100 weirdly enthusaistic Gopher fans outcheer the entirety of a dismal Crisler arena, I wrote a post titled "It's Only Dark In Your Hearts" that concluded like so:
I have four more tickets sitting at a drawer at home; I don't know how many more of them I'll use. [I turned out the answer was 'all of them', by the way. I'm a sucker. -ed]
The idea of feeling like that after a football game against Minnesota haunts many.
So why won't this happen? First... it might. Michigan is unlikely to sink to the horrific depths Notre Dame did solely because of math -- hooray Gaussian distributions -- but failing to reach a bowl would be a real blow to the internet argument capabilities of Michigan fans. And that's totally within the realm of possibility, especially since the Big Ten mandates all 7-5 teams have to be picked before 6-6 teams. So this is not a "ha, that won't happen, you are stupid for attempting to predict the future because my ability to predict the future is much better than yours."
HOWEVA, I don't think it will. And I think so for these reasons:
1. Rich Rodriguez is not Charlie Weis. Charlie Weis is an immensely overweight sociopath who had never coached a team stricken by youth or, really, accomplished anything whatsoever without the aid of the opponent's defensive signals. Rich Rodriguez forged West Virginia into a national power despite operating with recruits far less highly touted than the ones Michigan has at his disposal.
This is by far the number one reason available. Outside of ludicrous pipe dreams like Urban Meyer or Mack Brown or Pete Carroll, Rich Rodriguez was perhaps the bar-none top candidate for any college looking for a coach. The only reason he was not a ludicrous pipe dream was the poisonous relationship Rodriguez had with West Virginia's dysfunctional leadership. He is proven. Over seven years at West Virginia he took a program that had fallen considerably during the last few years of Don Nehlen's tenure and turned them into West Fuckin' Virginia, and he did it with his system and his coaches and his players as the head coach. Charlie Weis was a below average offensive coordinator who left his team no worse off after he left.
Raise your hand if you think the Bill Stewart era is going to go well at WVU. Yeah.
How did Rodriguez do this? I don't know. I do know that some people can relate to the sort of people who end up as really serious college football players, can motivate them and organize them and inspire them, and that this is a real skill possessed by a very small number of very rich people.
Weis, meanwhile, implemented a half-ass version of the spread 'n' shred he would abandon a quarter into the season, neglected fundamental things like teaching people how to block, and alienated his players to the point where several of them bolted the team midseason despite plenty of opportunities for playing time. It was without question the most abysmal coaching performance at a BCS school since John Mackovic experienced armed insurrection at Arizona. It was three standard deviations below the mean.
2. Lloyd Carr was not Tyrone Willingham. Notre Dame fans' favorite excuse for the failings of Weis E. Coyote -- Tyrone Willingham likes golf -- was legit. The 2004 Notre Dame recruiting class was almost impossibly atrocious:
|SIGNED LETTER OF INTENT||Pos||Stars||Ht||Wt||40||RR|
Take away the names and this could be Michigan State or Oklahoma State or any crappy team that manages a couple of good athletes and backs it up with garbage. It gets worse when you consider that two of the very few contributors were the first rats to flee the Good Ship Weis: Darius Walker entered the NFL draft early (in the same way I could enter the draft: he was undrafted) and Ronald Talley decided he'd rather start at Delaware than start at Notre Dame.
But wait! It's still worse: in reality the class was worse than that as a lot of the guys in it got overrated because they committed to Notre Dame. There is one area in which recruiting sites do fudge rankings, IMO, and that's with the tail end of the class at big deal schools. Almost anyone who commits to Michigan as an unranked or two-star player will end up with three stars if the services have time to rerank them. Normally this is a small effect, but when ND starts bringing in a full class of questionable recruits the big school bump becomes a major factor.
These guys were the seniors and fourth-year juniors on last year's team, and the class after them -- the Willingham-Weis transition year -- was hardly better. Michigan's recruiting has never been close to that dire. The 2005 class was #6 nationally; 2006 was #13. Even with the outflux of talent to the NFL and Ohio State's bench, Michigan has far more talent than Notre Dame did last year. The Willingham classes started out with hardly any talent and then experienced major attrition; at least Michigan is starting from a lofty perch.
The magical 2007 Notre Dame season was a lethal combination of awful coaching and awful talent. Michigan has excellent coaching and okay to good talent. I'm not saying you should make plans for New Year's Day, but this ain't gonna happen en route to 3 and 9:
Clearly, there will be growing pains. A season like Tressel's initial foray at Ohio State -- a bleh 7-5 that would have been 6-6 without JohnNavarre's exceptional generosity -- is well within the realm of possibility. And by that I mean "is the most likely outcome."
This should be fine with you. Michigan needs a year to pupate, and then?
Fixes. I've created a Crude Bug Tracking page, which can be found under "useful stuff" on the nav bar. It contains all known bugs and feature requests, plus a list of stuff I've fixed. The latest fixes:
- you don't have to preview comments or message board posts anymore
- comment threading options enabled for message board
- ticket ads now less ugly
- Brian @ AOL posts now visible to plebes
- message board restyled so it doesn't bleed into the right sidebar
If you're sending a bug in (which should be done whenever there is a bug SUPPORT THE CAUSE), do me a favor and check the page to see if it's listed or not. Also, if I missed anything in the whirlwind last few days, please remind me.
Solicitation. Also, I'm not married to "diaries" as the name of the things you see on the right sidebar. If you've got anything better, let me know.
The home uniform has not changed with the exception of the logo and the away uniform has been modified slightly in comparison to the Nike design that has been worn the past few seasons. The uniforms were approved last fall and have been in production well in advance of the hiring of Coach Rich Rodriguez.
This contradicts both the women's academy jerseys (road jerseys only slightly different) and the UMGoBlue thread (home jerseys untouched) referenced earlier today in exactly the ways most Michigan fans would want those data points to be contradicted, so it is undoubtedly accurate by fiat.
At this point we should probably just wait for the damn things to come out.
I got my philosophy. Bo Schemblogger has some notes from a recent coaching clinic that are basically a bulleted version of Rodriguez's offensive philosophy. I actually found the Magee bullets more interesting:
-- 1. make defenses defend the entire field ... QB has presnap and post snap reads
-- 2. Always play at multiple tempos to keep defense off balance and control their substitution patterns
-- 3.make defense prepare for dual threat QB, both run and pass
-- 4. EXECUTION- You want a simple, not predictable offense (most of you should love this one, LOL).
-- 5. Execute your base plays to perfection: Reps and Reps, and more reps, get good at something!
-- 6. numbers game
----- a. 1st key number is 1 or 2 safeties. This is from my personal experience, this read is the single most important in this offense ... it tells you what OLBers and CBs are going to do. All 3 Coaches, RR, MaGee, and Frey, said the OLBers are the most dangerous defenders to this offense
------ b. How many defenders in box is next read
-- 7. Create best angles to block, both linemen and SEs
-- 8. And the final one - Find Empty Grass!
I bolded four things for two different reasons. Four and five are bolded because the emphasis on execution is something most decidedly old in the context of Michigan football. These are the things that Charlie Weis has no idea how to do.
Two and eight are new. Eight is a pithy three-word summary of the spread 'n' shred. Two is something I'm excited about not because ramping tempo up and down will have that much of an effect on the game, but because it's another indication the staff is looking for an edge wherever it can get one.
This was the theory expounded in the post Northwestern's ballboys: Rich Rodriguez is an expert at taking limited resources and stretching them. From Glenville to Tulane to Clemson to West Virginia he has taken less and done more, and for most of this time he has been the head of the pyramid. Now he has more.
Por ejemplo. Bruce Feldman's latest article for ESPN the magazine probably doesn't have anything in it you don't already know, but it's an impeccably-written overview of the goings on. Relevant to our Unified Theory of Rodriguez is this passage:
Still, the new staff knew they'd get a better read on guys at Rodriguez's spring practices. The tempo change was dramatic. "If Bo could see these practices, he'd love it," says Jim Brandstatter, a lineman on the 1969 team. "It's eerily similar to the culture shock when Bo took over. They're being physical. They hit. They wear pads every day."
Among the new Michigan mandates: Practices double as conditioning (no walking-even linemen sprint into stances), and a QB is live in drills until he proves in a real game that he can handle pressure.
...or the OL is so sieve-like it gets him hurt.
Snark aside, I hadn't really considered the impact of the high tempo in practice that way. I had just figured it was a way to make the most of your limited hours. It is that; it's also yet more conditioning for guys who are running everywhere. The thing that leapt out at me from the Rodriguez paraphrase linked above: "conditioning is the most underrated aspect of football." Insert "eeee" here.
Etc.: Dex is ripping off the Dugout to good effect in the diaries, and QB Waggle tackles Michigan's NFL draft class of 2007. This Smart Football post on pass protection is pure football nerd porn. I've ripped Tom Deinhart before, but his preview of M for Rivals is shockingly accurate, like "mentions Marell Evans correctly" accurate. GS has a super recap of Mario Manningham's career.
A day after I trash the Free Press for focusing on things like Tae Bo instead of information, Mark Snyder puts out an interesting piece about the '97 championship and the ballboys that saved it. This is literally the headline: "How 2 ballboys stopped opponent's signal stealing, saved UM's 1997 title."
The story: two student managers ferret out that Northwestern has somehow stolen Michigan's offensive signals, and run over to the other side of the field at half time to urge Lloyd Carr and company to change things up. After being bottled up in the first half, scoring thirteen points, Michigan explodes for... uh... ten in the second. Without the student manager's contribution, Michigan could have lost to Northwestern by negative one touchdown. The final score was 23-6.
Okay, so the story is oversold. It's still pretty interesting as a tall tale from the past, and you should read it if you've got a few minutes. My take-home message was vastly different from what was intended, I think.
Some key passages:
"There was a guy on their sideline that day, and he had our signals down pat," Datz said. "Every time, he would scream into the defense what we're going to do -- pass or run -- and he was almost always right. ...
"They were blowing up draws, calling our counters and destroying our screen passes -- all a big part of our plays that year. I was just screaming mad. Youtan and I are thinking to ourselves, 'This guy has us.' "
Raise your hand if you think you could predict with 80% certainty whether a Michigan play would be a run or pass. It is possible they just co-opted a cranky 50-something Michigan fan.
Anyway, the kids run across the field and tell Carr early in the third quarter. This is the result:
"I absolutely remember that," Carr said recently. "The reason I do remember it is I don't ever remember anybody else offering advice or information during a game.
"Those are all bright guys that get into those positions. But that's the only time I remember one telling me something."
But that still wasn't enough for the coaches to change their signal calling. So later in the quarter, Datz said he ran around the field to repeat the message to Magnus.
The play that finally sold the U-M coaches on the need to adjust came on a third-and-25 with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. That's when U-M tailback Clarence Williams ran a sweep -- an odd call for that down and distance -- and two Wildcats grabbed him behind the line of scrimmage.
It's only after this play that Michigan grabs Jason Kapsner and starts sending in multiple sets of signals. But this is the kicker:
In 1995 and '96, Hansburg said, all he had to do was watch U-M center Rod Payne, a one-handed snapper who apparently placed his opposite hand on the ground for a running play and on his thigh for a passing play.
This was the plot of an episode of Coach. When the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles play for the national championship in the Pioneer Bowl, ditzy assistant coach Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke) gets concussed and has to watch from the hospital, where he notices one offensive lineman has totally different stances for run and pass. He calls in the tip and Hayden Fox gets a Gatorade bath. I was 14, and 14 years later I remember this clear as day.
Reading Johnny's piece yesterday was the love side of my love-hate relationship with Lloyd Carr. This is the hate side. ONE: Michigan didn't bother employing multiple signal-callers -- a zero-cost activity -- from day one. TWO: It took them a full quarter and a second prodding to actually act on the information provided by the student managers when the cost of listening was zero. THREE: They ran a sweep on third and twenty-five. FOUR: Michigan football was outsmarted by Jerry Van Dyke.
Silver spoon, coal spoon
None of this should surprise you. This was a program that would run 95% of the time it lifted its starting wide receivers. Lloyd Carr thought deception and trickery had their place in football, and that place was Northwestern.
When you are at a place like Michigan and you have been inculcated in the culture of the program for the vast majority of your coaching career, I think you take certain things for granted. One of them is the belief that a paramount focus on execution is enough. That if you motivate and educate and drill better than the other team, you will win. It did very well for Bo until he got to Pasadena, and it did pretty well for Carr until Tressel showed up (and, it must be said, Carr had a real run of rotten luck re: actually getting to use his senior quarterbacks), but it was always giving something away. You have a limited amount of time with your charges every week; there is always time to work on your poker skills. Michigan's been bad at poker forever.
Rich Rodriguez focuses on execution and motivation -- see Barwis -- but he also makes deception his stock-in-trade, creating a modern version of the triple option that has intricate variations and one end result: linebacker confetti. In a way, the spread 'n' shred is terribly predictable. They run, they run, they run. But you do not run more than all but five other teams and finish top five in YPC three years running unless you know when to bluff and when to raise.
Rodriguez comes from a wholly different background than Carr, coming up through the ranks at NAIA schools and Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia. Until Pat White showed up he never had a significant talent advantage agaginst the vast majority of opponents. He never, ever had the luxury of lying back and thinking to himself "if we out-execute the opponent we will win," and it shows. He invented a whole new offense and used it to exploit inefficiencies in recruiting. To seal the Sugar Bowl against Georgia he called a fake punt, exploiting inefficiencies in fourth-down playcalling. For the past seven years he has played Moneyball at West Virginia.
To me, the exciting thing about Rodriguez is not necessarily his system but his mindset. He's looking to squeeze out every ounce of expectation, make every resource stretch as far as he can, and now he's been provided resources few other coaches have. When Moneyball moved to Boston in the personage of Theo Epstein, Pedro Martinez got a hat:
Rich Rodriguez has embarked on a nationwide goodwill campaign during this new spring dead period in recruiting, and several MGoBlog readers have attended the show in various locales. Several were kind enough to pass along impressions and information.
Also, one did this:
Anyway, on with the reports:
Went to go see coach Rodriguez in NY tonight. A few highlights:
Lamar Woodley made a cameo with his chick, and spoke for about 3 minutes about his workouts with Barwis. He made it pretty clear that this will not be the Michigan we're used to seeing.
Braylon Edwards dad was present, which further shows alumni support
for the new regime.
Coach said we will be starting 6-7 true freshman next year. He really
said this and said "true". Who are the most likely candidates?
An interjection: Aaron Rennie, the perpetrator of the above and host of CFB Weekly, taped the Rodriguez speech and reports that Rodriguez said M would "play" seven or eight true freshmen. I don't know Rodriguez means by "play". Does he mean "will see significant playing time on offense or defense" or "will blow a redshirt by running downfield and watching other people make special teams tackles"? If it's the latter, Rodriguez plans on reducing the number of true freshmen on the field -- last year only eight players redshirted, two of them OL and one a transfer who had to. If it's the former, there will be a significant uptick in contributions from freshmen. Given Rodriguez's apparent distaste for redshirting, I'm betting it's the latter.
As to who:
- Slot receivers Terrance Robinson and Martavious Odoms are holy locks to play early, especially if one wins a job returning punts or kicks.
- Darryl Stonum enrolled early and is the highest-rated WR recruit on campus at the moment; he'll play.
- CBs JT Floyd and Boubacar Cissoko will probably see the field as Michigan prepares to lose two of its top three corners after the season.
- At least two freshman linebackers will play, probably Marcus Witherspoon and JB Fitzgerald.
- Sam McGuffie(!) or Michael Shaw will also compete in the slot or function as a third down back.
Another possible true freshman to see the field: DT Mike Martin. Michigan goes four or five deep there, but it is a position that sees a lot of rotation and if any recruit if physically ready to play college football it's workout freak Martin, who isn't even scared of Mike Barwis. word.
Said defense was solid, QB is not yet settled, and "I didn't remember to bring my wizard hat with me tonight," which 50% of the audience thought was hilarious.
Alluded to Boren saying the media focuses on 1 or 2 guys who don't want to work hard 100% of the time, but never mentions to 99 players who do. ["A lot's been made about maybe one or two guys that did not buy in. Not a lot has been made about the 99 others that did," according to Mr. Rennie -ed] Says we will be the most intense, best conditioned team in the country. "Summer conditioning is voluntary, but so is playing time."
Said he was proud of Long, but it was no coincidence that Stephen Ross purchased the Dolphins. ([??? -ed])
They showed a video at the start of the speakers portion that was beyond intense. It had to have been a recruiting video because it made my scrawny, jewy ass want to strap on pads and sack Anthony Morelli. I can't even describe how amazing the video was.
Video comes in for further praise elsewhere:
Towards the end of the event, they played on the projection screens a video used during recruiting that was all Michigan Football. It was amazing! Everyone was so pumped up and going nuts it was really incredible. I had chills.
Then, Bill Martin spoke for a little and talked about the direction of the Athletic Dept. and how excited they were to have Rodriguez on board. Then LaMarr Woodley spoke for a little about training w/ Barwis during the offseason and his meetings w/ Rodriguez. He was very excited for the program and had a lot of good things to say. Then Rodriguez spoke for about 20 minutes or so and he was just awesome. He was talking about the transition and how excited he and the coaching staff are. Told a bunch of funny stories and just kept hyping everything up. He seems like a real down to earth guy, very southern, and incredibly personable.
I put two videos i took from the even up on youtube because they were just too big to send over to you. One of them is Coach in the middle of his speech talking about recruiting and mentioning that he forgot his wizard hat and the other is Rodriguez, Woodley, and the Alumni President leading the whole place in Hail to the Victors!
A couple additional choice quotes transcribed by Rennie:
"We do go (recruit) by the rules, by the way."
"We'll go out and meet some folks, especially my first year, and especially while I'm still undefeated. ... If we lose a few, you won't see my ass around here next year."
Your daily dose of "eeeee":
"Mike (Barwis) got enough education to get accepted to med school, but instead he became an ultimate fighter. So he's wired a little bit different, if you know what I mean."
And one final thing on some guy:
"If a guy starts to stray, you try to pick him back up. If he won't allow you to pick him back up, you gotta let him go."
Those were all attendees of the New York event. Another reader attended the Chicago edition and returned with some sad news on scheduling:
First, I was surprised to learn the extent to which the event is mostly a networking function for alums and boosters. I guess I expected more football and more presentation. I made some nice business contacts, as did my girlfriend. That aside, I spent some time speaking with Bill Martin. I wrote you last summer about an e-mail exchange he and I had about the Big 10 Network (he vowed that Comcast and Time Warner would pick it up by the beginning of football season; he was decidedly incorrect). I reintroduced myself and talked with him for awhile about the exciting world of commercial real estate, of which I am a sleepwalking member.
I moved on to football-related matters, asking him whether there are plans to upgrade Michigan's nonconference schedule. Much hemming and hawing ensued, followed by these key words: "Probably not." He explained how big the Notre Dame series is to the TV people. I patiently and in a roundabout way explained that, while nobody has a problem with the Notre Dame series, many are hoping the fourth nonconference game will be reserved for a home-and-home with a competent SEC/Big 12-type team. Again: "Probably not." So that's that. More chump/chump/chump/ND slates for the foreseeable future.
So then we move into the formal part of the evening. Alumni Association guy introduces Bill Martin. Martin introduces Rodriguez. Rodriguez moved into a speech you've read elsewhere. It was funny, charming and encouraging; I knew
most of it from the report of the speeches he's given in the last week or two. I was left feeling that Michigan football is in good, competent hands. After his 20 or 30 minutes at the podium I introduced myself to Rodriguez and gave him my welcome to the program. He smiled, asked me a bit about myself, etc. There was a mob behind me so I elected to get out of the way ... but not before a football question.
I asked him what the strongest position group on the team is so far; I was hoping he'd reply "defensive line" or "tailback" because that'd at least confirm my hope that U-M will be kickass at something this year. He leaned back and scratched his chin and told me he'd not thought about it like that, but he'd have to say: linebackers. I was a little surprised. My girlfriend told him that I'd been expecting he'd say "defensive line." He said, "Yeah, but your boyfriend's not thinking about some of those freshmen we have coming in." How to take that? I don't know. Either the whole team blows worse than I'd feared or he's extremely impressed with that handful of four-stars he and Lloyd scored.
All in all, it was fun and left me confident that Michigan will win many games over the next several years.
The Dearborn event had a significant portion taped the masses:
It's like you're there!
Oi. Michigan's weird association with rugby continues, as Dhani Jones is spending a good chunk of his offseason learning how to play the game in England. A video feature on Blackheath's new pennyflankenshire or whatever (warning: the announcer seems constitutionally incapable of pronouncing the letter H):
My favorite shot: embittered-looking old Brits looking on dourly with half-full pints. England: feel the excitement! Mostly it rains, but other times you can look upon something with grim determination! With beer!
Actually, take away the beer and that sounds like Michigan football.
#1. Major alarm spread through all parts of the Michigan internet yesterday when Braylon Edwards dropped this bombshell in an ESPN chat:
I am already mad that Rich Rod because he gave the No.1 jersey to someone other than a WR, which is breaking tradition. But I think he is a great coach and will lead Michigan to a turnaround.
He further expounded on his displeasure on the radio:
"I'm glad you gave me a 'Go Blue' question, because Rich Rod gave the No. 1 jersey to an incoming freshman DB," Edwards said, sounding somewhat annoyed. "The No. 1 jersey has never been worn by anybody outside of a wide receiver -- it dates back to Anthony Carter, so I'm going to have a talk with (Rodriguez) about that next time I see him. But outside of that, he's been doing a great job."
(The defensive back in question is apparently JT Floyd, who wore it in high school.) Panic ensued! Okay... maybe not panic. Sample emails:
I think I share the feelings of many alumni when I say that while I am a strong supporter of moving
's offence [Canadian emailer? Maybe. -ed] and S&C into the new era, I have real issues with assigning the #1 jersey to a non receiver who has never earned it. Michigan
I'm all for giving Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt, but it's fairly bad form to gut a fairly big tradition at Michigan by giving the number to a freshman defensive back. Maybe he didn't know about #1, but I find that fairly hard to believe. What's next, no banner when they run out of the tunnel on Saturdays?
One clarification: before Edwards was forced to earn the #1, Michigan just gave it to kids as a recruiting inducement. However, as soon as Braylon got his NFL dolla bills (y'all), he gave Michigan the largest endowment a former athlete had ever provided. The intent was to enshrine Edwards' path:
"No freshman will be allowed to wear the No. 1," Edwards said. "The number holds too much significance and too much value. There are three criteria to receive it: first, no freshmen; second, the GPA (grade-point average); third, off-the-field conduct."
I don't know how closely the Carr staff was hewing to the specifications laid out by Braylon when he endowed a scholarship for the jersey, since Darryl Stonum had been promised the #1 as an incoming freshman, but at least Stonum was a superstar recruit and when he hit the field in spring he was sporting 22. Maybe Michigan promised him the jersey as a sophomore? Now it all goes wonky.
Though Rodriguez has made a heroic effort to learn and integrate himself into the Michigan tradition -- inviting program alumni back for meet-and-greets, visiting any M Club that will have him, and generally talking up Michigan history whenever prompted to -- this is a misstep. Edwards, poised to be one of the dominant NFL receivers of the next ten years, is going to be a resource both financial and otherwise no matter what happens here. But there's no reason to annoy him, or annoy fans who like a tradition that dates back 30 years (Tyrone Butterfield excepted), or remove whatever small recruiting juju exists when you dangle the 1 in front of a kid who knows what it means.
It's just going to look wrong for the #1 to be on defense. I'm already freaked out that Charles Woodson is going to be a white tailback for the next four years. This is too much. I might die. [probably not, though -ed] Hell, I'm all for more number specialization: tiny waterbug receivers get Desmond Howard's #21. Dann O'Neill gets Jake Long's 77. Whoever's small and slow and inexplicably awesome gets #20.
Is this a huge, huge deal? No, but it's directly opposed to both Rodriguez's fan- and media-friendly style and his love of weird little traditions. Number assignments aren't final yet and there's been a shocking amount of uproar about this -- Michigan message boards were unreadable for a period of several hours yesterday -- so I think there's a good chance Floyd has a sit-down with Braylon and ends up wearing something else.
Why would you ever leave? Not to be too unkind to a state that produced our current head football coach, but good God...
Seriously, a 26 win season with John Beilein's players, the best recruiting class in recent memory, a man dedicated to the state and University, why not give him a 10-year deal?
John Beilein's players won 27 games the year before he left, and if that doesn't impress because of a weak schedule and NIT help, well, before that Beilein's players had back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances.
Condolences to Bryan Wright. The sophomore kicker's father passed away recently. Michigan did what little they could:
. Upon learning of the death, the Michigan coaching staff contacted the family and a number of team members including players and ex-coach Lloyd Carr traveled to Salem to pay their respects.
Goddammit, stickam spammer, I am not still down to hook up, especially when you send me messages from "Robert Gleason."
You've done a great job comparing Beilein's UM recruits with his WVU recruits. [Have I? -ed] Do you have any opinion on Rodriguez's UM recruits as
compared to his WVU recruits, or is it too early to tell? It seems from much of your coverage that Rodriguez is, in large part, targeting not only the same type of recruits but also the same recruits at UM that he was targeting at WVU. Has there been any appreciable difference in the quality of his recruits (e.g., more 4-stars, more top 100 guys) at UM as compared to his recruits at WVU? One would hope so, since that is one of the advantages UM should have over WVU, but, again, maybe it's too early to tell.
Before I answer, note that this email was sent before the recent Beaver commitment.
And on to answering: there has been a notable uptick in Rodriguez's recruiting. A third of the way into Michigan's 2009 class he's picked up three top-100 players and four players given four or five stars, and it seems highly likely Bryce McNeal will join them. His record at West Virginia (all rankings are Rivals' because their site is more navigable):
- 2008: (this is a lot of Stewart but I think it's illuminating) instate OL Josh Jenkins is a soft commit for most of the year and does end up signing with the 'Eers. There are three other four-stars, one a JUCO and one a prep school kid who signed with WVU in 2007 but did not qualify; we should not double-count him. This class hasn't gotten to campus yet so we don't know their fates.
- 2007: Noel Devine headlines. Other four stars include a JUCO and troubled LB Pat Lazear; Bradley Starks and Terrence Kerns (who would prep and re-sign in 2008) are four-star high school recruits. Starks is a real fringe four-star type with other offers from Iowa State, Temple, and Marshall. Not exactly Kevin Newsome.
- 2006: No four star players.
- 2005: A five star, but it's Jason Gwaltney, who for a lot of reasons is horrifically overrated. He fails out his first semester.
- 2004: Two four stars. Brandon Barrett is an instate wide receiver who ends up #45 in the Rivals 100; Raymond Williams is a fringe four-star back from Cleveland. Barrett was a non-qualifier who got in trouble as a sophomore and failed out before his junior year. Two months after he signs his letter of intent, Williams robs a drug dealer with a fake gun, getting one of his teammates killed when the dealer unsurprisingly has a real gun. WVU withdraws his offer.
- 2003: No four star players.
- 2002: WR Broderic Jones never gets to campus, sits out 2002, and eventually ends up at Tulsa.
Rivals doesn't go any farther back than that, but I think the point is made. During the whole of Rich Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia, he got use out of one player given four or more stars: Noel Devine. (Lazear will start this year after special teams duty his first season; Rodriguez's teams were not particularly aided by his talents.) Every single other highly-rated player bombed out.
That doesn't surprise me. West Virginia has no instate recruiting base and had zero national cachet until the White-Slaton era. Chances are any player who was highly rated and didn't have a better option than West Virginia had grade or character issues. Or, if you're Jason Gwaltney, both.
Here's the scorecard. Seven years at West Virginia: seven four or five star recruits that made it to campus. Five months at Michigan: ten.*
Is Rodriguez recruiting the same guys he was at West Virginia? Probably. The difference is he's getting his first or second choice instead of #10.
*(Tentative numbers since WVU and Michigan obviously haven't gotten the 2008 and 2009 classes in the boat yet; Michigan's number only counts players that committed to the new staff.)
Hi Brian,I want to know what you think of the new changes for the football program now that everything is more settled. Even though as a great a coach as RR is, I wonder if that's enough. UM for the past two decades have been putting a lot of people in the NFL, which I think is a big plus when it comes to recruiting. Under Carr, his philosophy was that as long as he could get a good passing QB, then he'd be able to attract top-flight receivers. That way of thinking has worked considering the number of QB's we have in the NFL and Rivals.com has labelled us "Quarterback U." We also have a good number of receivers in the NFL, although Braylon is the only one that's actually doing well. But the point remains -- UM, under Carr, put kids into the NFL.Now that everything is different and RR has taken over, I'm not so sure that that is going to be the case. With his run-option spread offense, there is too little emphasis on passing. I'm afraid that not too long from now, we'll start seeing a major drop-off in the ratings of the QB's and WR's that we can recruit. In this year's NFL draft, only 3 players were picked from W. Virginia (Schmitt, Slaton, and Mundy(?!?)) vs. the 6 from Michigan. Granted Pat White is still at W. Virginia, but even if he was in the draft, I doubt he'd get picked up by anyone. He's not a good passer and even though he's a good play-maker, it won't be that easy in the NFL.Maybe I'm just having a hard time of letting go of the memories of 4th quarter comebacks (vs. MSU '04 and '07) and LAST second TDs (vs. PSU '05). And then there are all those other spectacular pass plays against ND in 2006. All of those would not have been possible without a great QB and WR combo. I'm starting to wish we could've gotten Les Miles because then maybe things wouldn't be changing so much.So what do you think? Are my concerns unfounded? Or am I just being a wuss about letting go?Thanks for reading.DavidUM Class of 2005
How convenient that this question comes directly after a discussion of West Virginia's recruiting, which was obviously not conducive to being an NFL factory. Let's focus this discussion on the offense, since the defense isn't changing in any way that might damage the NFL prospects of anyone on it.
Rodriguez's lack of NFL draftees is a chicken-and-egg argument. There's a reason Pat White was not recruited as a quarterback by anyone other than Rodriguez, and that's the same reason he's going to be an NFL wide receiver: he's not much of a thrower. That's why he was the #55 "athlete" in his recruiting class, and why he was a three-star prospect. If Rodriguez could have gotten, say, a guy who anchors a winning 100-meter relay team and is listed by Rivals as a pro-style quarterback because he's that comfortable in the pocket, he would have, and West Virginia's offense wouldn't have been so run-heavy. Same goes for players like Stonum and Mathews and so forth and so on.
The thing about recruits is this: they just want to go places, really, and justify the place they want to go in a post hoc fashion. Terrelle Pryor said he wanted to play in a pro-style offense so he would be prepared for the NFL. Kevin Newsome said NFL scouts would find him no matter what sort of offense he played in. PA CB Corey Brown cited Penn State's lack of cornerbacks in the NFL when he dropped them recently, but left both Michigan and West Virginia on his list when the only DB the 'Eers have produced in recent times is legendarily troubled Pacman Jones.
Part of the reason recruits want to go places is the style of offense and NFL prospects but, IMO, it's a much smaller part than you'd think by listening to their quotes, which are often an effect of their commitment and not a cause.
As far as the ratings of
QBs we can recruit... I think the Newsome/Beaver double dip combined with heavy interest from Jason Forcier and Eugene Smith blows that up. It's true Michigan is cutting itself off from the Hennes of the world, but before they cut themselves off from the Newsomes and Pryors. There might be some cause for concern at outside wide receiver -- I assume Michigan is going to have a parade of slot guys eager to be featured at a marquee school -- but at the moment we've got guys from Houston practically begging for an offer and guys from Minnesota decking their myspace pages with more block Ms than you can shake a stick at.
Everyone assumes that West Virginia running 70% of the time (and throwing screens another 10-15% of the time) was a choice. But what would you do with a freshman/sophomore/junior Pat White and Steve Slaton? Michigan has been notoriously run-heavy (57% during Henne's healthy junior year) despite having a multitude of downfield options whenever its quarterback is anything but a senior, and WVU was using an underclassman most programs saw as a wide receiver. And they averaged six yards per carry. And they had little receiving talent outside of the slot. Under the circumstances it would have been crazy to throw more.
At Michigan, Rodriguez will have highly-rated guys who can throw and run and more receiving talent than he's ever seen. We've seen that when he has a superior talent like Chris Henry, he uses him: Henry had 1872 yards in about one and a half years at WVU, and those were his freshman and discipline-ravaged sophomore years. IMO, Rodriguez will always be run-heavy but at Michigan the percentage of runs and short passes will be more like 65% than 85%. Since Michigan has been a magnet for receiving talent despite having a similar percentage of safe stuff you'd figure they would be able to reel in a similar level of badass.
There might be a rough year or two in 2010 or 2011 if (more likely, when) whichever inexperienced quarterback ends up seizing the job struggles and numbers fall, but if I'm right and once the quarterbacks hit upperclass status and Stonum or Clemons or Hemingway or some highly rated recruit from this year blows up, that will blow over.
Honestly, I'm more concerned with the defensive side of the ball, where Jay Hopson has been recruiting the hell out of every safety and linebacker in Mississippi and environs and most of them still favor the in-state hell schools (USM not included, SMQB, since there is the prospect of something other than four years of misery there). Whatever weird gravitational pull the state has only relaxes to the south, it seems.
I am pretty sure you have received this email before, and you have probably answered it, but here it goes again... will all this BCS +1 or BCS playoff talk ever come to fruition? I really hope not. Wouldn't a playoff undermine the "every game counts" concept of college football? Let's say 2007 Michigan, who lost to Appalachian State, ended up beating OSU in the finale and became Big Ten champs. Therefore, we had the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. If we end up winning that game, do we deserve to play for the championship? HECK NO! On the other hand, should Michigan still deserve to play in the Rose Bowl? Call me a traditionalist, but if the Big Ten and Pac-10 (or Big Nine and PCC or AAWU or Pacific 8 or whatever the heck they were) have been playing in this bowl game since the beginning of time, then why should the honor of playing in the game be taken away from them?
The point of the whole BCS championship is to pit #1 vs #2 to determine the true champion, and the only recent year the BCS championship contenders were wrong was 2004 when USC was sniped from going to the big game in favor of LSU, and even that is debatable, but college football is SUPPOSED TO BE DEBATABLE. Football is a debatable sport, and you will never find a real champion unless you have playoff series like pro basketball, baseball, and hockey. Even with an NFL style playoff, it can be iffy. Who is a better team, the Patriots or the Giants? If New England and New York played 10 games against each other, the Patriots would probably win 7 of them. Also, the Giants got lucky beating the Packers in Green Bay. So I guess you can say that the Giants did not deserve to be Super Bowl champs either. What is that you say? The NFL DOES have a playoff system? And there is STILL debate if the champions were good enough to be champions?
Even with a playoff, the teams left on the outside looking in will feel they were sniped from playing for the championship. So what is this whole playoff thing going to solve?
Thanks for your opinion,
Oh... here we go again. Oh, well. Onward.
I am a very specific playoff advocate. I agree that preserving the tension of the regular season is important, so my proposal is a six-team playoff in which the top two teams get byes and games in the first two rounds are played at home. The final is at the Rose Bowl. The teams are selected by a committee that heavily emphasizes nonconference schedule strength; there are no autobids. The bowl system lives on in parallel, selecting any team that doesn't make the playoff (and maybe the first-round losers, since I envision those games happening in December).
Keeps tension in the regular season. There is a huge difference between finishing 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and a huge difference between 3 and 4 and 5 and 6. The big issue with a playoff, as I see it, is that it makes something like WVU losing to Pitt late a minor deal. In this system the number of bids is restricted enough (remember WVU already had one loss) that WVU might drop out altogether, and even if they stay in they've gone from a bye and a home game to a first-round roadie.
Helps de-wussify nonconference schedules. Amen.
Actually increases the number of important late-season games. If you are seventh or eighth in the pecking order, everyone above you and nine and ten want you to lose. Now if you're anywhere below fifth late in the season your games have no national title implications.
Has a semblance of tradition. It might be a bit hypocritical to make the Rose Bowl a permanent host and then rail against the Plus One, as I'm about to do, but it's either that or rotating the game between the epicenter of college football tradition and, like, the Superdome. Duh.
Mostly preserves the bowl season. Hey, everyone likes random college football games.
Now, the BCS:
Even if college football is supposed to be debatable, the BCS has killed that debate by instituting a two-team playoff. One team wins and is given an NCAA-approved crystal football, and everyone else can pound sand. Now that the BCS has adopted an overwhelmingly poll-driven ranking system, the events that led to a split national title a few years ago are exceedingly unlikely to happen again, so you get what you get "#1" versus "#2" for "the national title." In the days before the BCS, national championships truly were mythical and were as such acceptable topics for debate. Now our only debate is which team would have put up a better fight than Ohio State. It is truly the worst of both worlds: a playoff that settles nothing.
Virtually anything would be better than it. A return to the ante-bellum bowl system? Check. A true "Plus One" that restores traditional bowl ties and has a national title game a week after? Check? A reasonably sized playoff? Check.
It's depressing that the only thing worse -- a seeded Plus One that almost entirely obliterates traditional bowl ties and imposes ridiculously unfair travel constraints on teams outside of California and the south -- is the thing that actually got proposed at the BCS
meetings. I reject every anti-playoff argument except this one: any group of people that could oversee the majesty that was ten years of the BCS would undoubtedly screw it up.