Dear Diary for Better or Worse

Dear Diary for Better or Worse

Submitted by Seth on December 6th, 2013 at 11:07 AM

One Play. I got really into this piece by Brhino where he went over Michigan football seasons going back to the "Year of Infinite Pain" (i.e. 2005) to point out games where one play may have meant the difference. Interesting way to reassess how we view the seasons. For example this year's team was a couple things going right away from 11-1 and a BCS bid (MSU would have still have won the Bo Division, with BCS eligibility riding on that), and a couple of things going wrong away from 4-8. I chart:


Bicking makes it cligger.

Quibble: I may be stretching "one play" too far, but Football Armageddon had that late hit out of bounds by Crable on 3rd and 15. OSU scored on that drive to go up 10. Who knows if Michigan can drive the ball the same as they did on the next possession. NFL win probability calculator says OSU was 79% to win if Crable doesn't make that hit, and 91% after the call. Fan brain says Michigan would have drove for the victory, beaten essentially the same Florida team they played the following year, and cured cancer.

Trend Lines. If you're into seeing how the rest of the Big Ten progressed on offense as this season did, dnak followed up last week's Michigan chart with some for the rest of the field. MSU is a young offense slowly growing up, Michigan's is one coached by insane people.


Hypothesis: UConn was just a bad game and the coaches over-responded to it, putting themselves behind the 8-ball the rest of the season. I submit as a different model Penn State, which had more than a few personnel shortages but big talent in places and stuck with their scheme all year, seeing noticeable progression but no spikes until the last game.

Goals! The Corsi Charts have been shelved for the moment so MGoBlueline can do those goal analysis things I like much better anyway:


Compher wins the faceoff, which is huge. Even more important, however, is that DeBlois is able to tie his man up. This allows a clean tap across from Compher to Guptill…

The OSU weekend's tallies at the link.

Charity. Tomorrow is Adopt-a-Shelter and both sites still could use some volunteers. K.o.k.Law had a tailgate at the house next door to MGoPatio, the cause being to fix up the house of an 11-year-old with a terrible illness.

Weeklies. Turnover Analysis talked about the Countess interception, which had a negative result of half a point. I still would have taken it; I think Furman stood there amazed for a second while OSU's receivers recovered, and if he hadn't he was in the exact right spot to make a key block. Turnover margin has been steadily climbing to the good since UConn, though the offense going into a shell to make that happen might have negated the good that's done. Inside the Box Score. Best and Worst talks about Ben Gedeon. LSA's usual stuff.

Etc. All-B1G team. Wallpaper with hoops schedule.

[Jump to learn an important lesson about swearing.]

Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation

Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation

Submitted by Seth on September 3rd, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Wot it sez up dere^. Despite the blowout nature we got a good look last Saturday at the various positions that Michigan will rotate this season. So I charted who was in at what spot for every play. The results (link to Google doc):


Here's your starting defense, with everybody in their base 4-3 under spots. I want to self-congratulate the MGoStaff for nailing the starting lineup in HTTV with the exception of free safety, since Avery, though out of the lineup, was nominally ahead of Wilson on the depth chart.


The corners lined up to the field or boundary; the line was usually aligned to the formation but then CMU usually aligned to the boundary anyway. The safeties were always lined up to the formation. They split who ended up the deeper guy; usually it was the field guy, and usually that was Wilson.


There was heavy rotation in the front four, an almost even three-man rotation in the linebackers, and the secondary stayed put until it was time to empty the bench. It was rotation, not platooning; guys would go in for a certain number of plays then come out. I charted 44 non-garbage (before 14:59 of the 3rd quarter) plays; rotations as follows:

[Jump for breakdown, nickel, garbage time]

Sports in the Time of Esther McCleery

Sports in the Time of Esther McCleery

Submitted by Seth on August 2nd, 2013 at 10:45 AM


Dear Diary was going to be in this spot this morning, but the site was 504-ing and I couldn't get at all my precious tabs. So instead you get Esther McCleery.

My good friend Nate is certainly the most interesting person I've ever met. He's one of those diamonds from the middle of nowhere that the University of Michigan goes out of its way to collect, the nowhere in this case being Eastern Kentucky and the middle being a small town called Grayson. I'll save you his list of accomplishments because he'll be famous enough one day for all of them to end up in a book.

In a town like Grayson hoarding is one of the things that register on a list of pastimes. While sorting through one trove Nate found a stack of old copies of Life magazine and brought them with him to our college reunion last weekend. Inside he found and framed enough ads for bourbon to keep Kentucky bars well-tchotchke'd for a decade.

This he was doing at the breakfast table on Saturday morning while another friend and I were trying to justify to our wives why we're blowing what could have been a Europe trip on a few upcoming Saturdays.

That's when Nate serendipitously discovered an article on Homecoming in the November 1959 issue. Hey it's our band:


That's the only photo in the article that's pointed at the field. Life's photographer instead spent the 4th quarter with his camera turned toward Class of '34 alumna Esther McCleery. I'll reproduce that for you now:


HOMECOMING SPIRIT at game is shown in the mobile face of Mrs. Esther McCleery, class of '34 at Michigan. Above Mrs. McCleery screams, "Go, Team, Go, this is it!" as Michigan, behind 16-10 in final quarter, intercepts pass deep in Wisconsin territory. "All right, Blue," Mrs. McCleery bellows. "This is it, we've got 'em now."

But a moment later Michigan fumbles and Mrs. McCleery's face falls (below)


In the final minutes of the game, she dejectedly watches Wisconsin wrap it up with a field goal. "We've had it but good," she mutters.


But she brightened. "Next year we'll get 'em," she says.

Everyone ought to see Notre Dame du Paris (NOTE-rruh Dahm) one time in their life just to appreciate the feats of art and engineering that mankind can accomplish when we feel like it. To understand why we'd ever build such things, first you ought to experience something like Notre Dame at Michigan, since there are few other things in the world—other than gaining or losing another human being—that can make you truly appreciate the depths of emotions that make being a human animal quite worthwhile.1375122306_163422_HTTV_Sports

29 days, Esther.

Hokepoints: Where's the (Downfield) Threat?

Hokepoints: Where's the (Downfield) Threat?

Submitted by Seth on June 18th, 2013 at 11:32 AM

uspw_6637876Penn State's Navy's during the Lions win at Beaver Stadium. 09/15/2012 SEAN SIMMERS, THE PATRIOT-NEWS

[Sorry this one will be short but HTTV is going out today.]

I love me some plumb-able data, like the kind cfbstats puts out at the end of every year. And I love me some stats made out of ingredients that are don't get mentioned, like receiver targets and Bill Connelly's ensuing RYPR metric. Yes I've played around with it before, usually in context of how awesome Jeremy Gallon is.

RYPR (stands for Target Rate x Yards Per Target x Passing S&P+ x Pass Rate) is useful because it cuts through some of the usage bias. Penn State's Allen Robinson put up conference-leading numbers last year because Matt McGloin's brain was capable of processing just two commands: "run around a bunch" and "find A-Rob." Usage isn't a total red herring; a receiver earns his targets, and the more the offense focuses on him the more defenses do as well. However the thing to do in late June isn't so much awarding production in 2012 as trying to spot guys who are going to be a handful in 2013.

The last couple of weeks I've been referencing it while adding flourishes to the pages of Hail to the Victors 2013. I thought I'd spill some of those results onto the interwebs.

2013 Dangermen

Here's the top 25 guys Michigan will probably face this season:

# Player Ht Wt Yr Team CR YPT RYPR Rk(conf) Rk (FBS)
1 Kenny Bell 6'1 185 JR Nebraska 64.9% 11.2 134.6 3-B1G 34
2 Allen Robinson 6'3 201 JR Penn State 61.1% 8.1 133.3 4-B1G 36
3 Corey Brown 6'1 197 SR Ohio State 70.6% 7.9 118.2 6-B1G 52
4 TJ Jones 5'11 190 SR Notre Dame 61.0% 7.9 109.5 n/a 70
5 Devin Smith 6'1 200 JR Ohio State 51.7% 10.7 109.2 7-B1G 73
6 Titus Davis 6'2 190 JR CMU 54.4% 10.8 107.2 7-MAC 79
7 Cody Latimer 6'3 208 JR Indiana 78.5% 12.4 107.0 8-B1G 80
8 Shane Wynn 5'7 157 JR Indiana 70.5% 6.8 86.1 9-B1G 124
9 Kofi Hughes 6'2 210 SR Indiana 53.1% 7.9 85.0 10-B1G 129
10 DaVaris Daniels 6'2 190 JR Notre Dame 67.4% 10.7 82.7 n/a 137
11 Geremy Davis 6'1 214 JR Connecticut 62.0% 8.6 79.9 11-BE 148
12 Quincy Enunwa 6'2 215 SR Nebraska 60.9% 6.8 73.3 13-B1G 180
13 Kevonte Martin-Manley 6'0 205 JR Iowa 64.2% 7.0 70.2 15-B1G 196
14 Jamal Turner 6'1 185 JR Nebraska 60.4% 7.9 65.0 17-B1G 216
15 Kyle Carter 6'3 247 SO Penn State 69.2% 8.7 59.3 20-B1G 240
16 Ted Bolser 6'6 250 SR Indiana 65.1% 7.1 59.2 21-B1G 241
17 Bennie Fowler 6'1 218 SR MSU 60.3% 7.7 58.5 22-B1G 246
18 Keith Mumphery 6'0 208 JR MSU 51.9% 6.4 57.5 23-B1G 251
19 Brandon Moseby-Felder 6'2 195 SR Penn State 49.2% 6.9 57.2 24-B1G 252
20 Christian Jones 6'3 225 JR Northwestern 70.0% 8.2 54.3 28-B1G 273
21 C.J. Fiedorowicz 6'7 265 SR Iowa 69.2% 6.7 53.7 29-B1G 277
22 Shakim Phillips 6'1 200 JR Connecticut 56.1% 7.0 52.0 23-BE 294
23 Derrick Engel 6'2 182 SR Minnesota 62.1% 12.9 51.8 31-B1G 298
24 L.T. Smith 6'0 199 JR Akron 62.3% 6.6 51.3 22-MAC 301
25 Keith Sconiers 6'1 185 SR Akron 74.5% 7.8 48.3 24-MAC 323

CR is catch rate, i.e. the % of balls thrown at him that he caught. YPT is yards per target.

One of Michigan's smaller concerns going into this season is coverage. We'll be starting a new safety, almost assuredly Jarrod Wilson. Blake Countess comes back and J.T. Floyd graduated but it's not a one-for-one trade: Raymon Taylor is expected to shift to boundary while Countess resumes the field duties. Those familiar with Floyd's career here know his specialty was blanketing big receivers who didn't have enough speed to simply leave J.T. in the dust. Taylor is smaller, and not that guy. Depth there is still quite young and/or tiny. It's possible one of the tall freshman corners or nickel-safety Dymonte Thomas ends up spelling Taylor if Michigan comes up against a particularly large human.

Well look at the table above and find the deep threats. There really aren't that many. Kenny Bell and Allen Robinson are the guys to watch out for. Neither is paired with a secondary threat—Nebraska's next best receiver is Jamal Turner, and Penn State's Moseby-Felder is just a guy (their tight ends, e.g. Carter, are a bigger concern). Ohio State's Corey "Philly" Brown was their slot guy much of the year—the offense creates those yards for him—but Devin Smith is a go-long threat. Indiana's three guys look less scary when you consider they'd be ranked as highly in the MAC as the Big Ten.

Notably missing from that list is State's Aaron Burbridge. We saw the recruiting profile and that he was obviously better than Mumphery or Fowler, but his stats are really unimpressive: 62 targets, 364 yards for a 46.8% catch rate, 5.9 yards per target, and 40.6 RYPR. Like the other two Spartan receivers, he did seem to fall victim to Michigan State's tendency to do a lot of their passing only when they had to. One of the stats Connelly tracked was how often the guy was being targeted on a passing down (2nd and 10+, or 3rd and 6+), when presumably the level of difficulty rises. Of the guys on this list, four of the top six are Spartans, all of whom had about half of their targets come on passing downs.

Top Targets

Some of these guys appeared to be the focal point of their offenses:

# Player Team Tgt Cth Yds CRt YPT Tgt % %SD
1 Corey "Philly" Brown Ohio State 85 60 669 70.6% 7.9 32.0% 54.1%
2 Allen Robinson Penn State 126 77 1018 61.1% 8.1 28.7% 64.3%
3 TJ Jones Notre Dame 82 50 649 61.0% 7.9 22.5% 69.5%
4 Devin Smith Ohio State 58 30 618 51.7% 10.7 21.8% 69.0%
5 Kenny Bell Nebraska 77 50 863 64.9% 11.2 21.6% 61.0%
6 Kevonte Martin-Manley Iowa 81 52 569 64.2% 7.0 21.4% 56.8%
7 Titus Davis CMU 79 43 850 54.4% 10.8 20.7% 63.3%
8 Geremy Davis Connecticut 71 44 613 62.0% 8.6 19.8% 52.1%
9 Quincy Enunwa Nebraska 69 42 470 60.9% 6.8 19.3% 58.0%
10 Shane Wynn Indiana 95 67 648 70.5% 6.8 18.7% 67.4%
11 Keith Mumphery MSU 81 42 515 51.9% 6.4 18.5% 55.6%
12 C.J. Fiedorowicz Iowa 65 45 435 69.2% 6.7 17.2% 52.3%
13 Kofi Hughes Indiana 81 43 639 53.1% 7.9 15.9% 54.3%
14 Shakim Phillips Connecticut 57 32 399 56.1% 7.0 15.9% 40.4%
15 Rashad Lawrence Northwestern 55 34 321 61.8% 5.8 15.7% 70.9%

A picture emerges of go-to guys who get about 20% of balls. The exceptions were Allen Robinson and whoever's playing the Percy Harvin position for Urban Meyer.

By "%SD" that means the percent of balls thrown his way that were on standard downs, as opposed to passing downs—the reverse of what I was talking about above. It helps to pick out different types of receivers: Notre Dame and Ohio State will chuck their long balls to TJ Jones and Devin Smith, respectively, but look elsewhere when trying to reach the yard marker. Conversely Connecticut seems to save Shakim Phillips (40.4% standard downs) for when it needs a conversion.

Deep Threats

# Player Team Yards CatchRate YPT Target % RYPT
1 Cody Latimer Indiana 805 78.5% 12.4 12.8% 12.4
2 Kenny Bell Nebraska 863 64.9% 11.2 21.6% 11.2
3 Jesse James Penn State 276 60.0% 11.0 5.7% 11.0
4 Devin Smith Ohio State 618 51.7% 10.7 21.8% 10.7
5 DaVaris Daniels Notre Dame 490 67.4% 10.7 12.6% 10.6
6 Titus Davis Central Michigan 850 54.4% 10.8 20.7% 10.5
7 Keith Sconiers Akron 479 74.5% 8.7 10.1% 8.8
8 Kyle Carter Penn State 453 69.2% 8.7 11.8% 8.7
9 Geremy Davis Connecticut 613 62.0% 8.6 19.8% 8.6
10 Jerrod Dillard Akron 401 61.7% 8.5 8.6% 8.5
11 Christian Jones Northwestern 412 70.0% 8.2 14.3% 8.3
12 Matt Lehman Penn State 296 66.7% 8.2 8.2% 8.2
13 TJ Jones Notre Dame 649 61.0% 7.9 22.5% 8.1
14 Allen Robinson Penn State 1018 61.1% 8.1 28.7% 8.1
15 Zurlon Tipton CMU 287 66.7% 8.0 9.4% 8.0

These are sorted by "real yards per target", which is yards per target adjusted to what it would have been if your %SD correlated to the national average.

Finding Meaning

The point of this was to spot anyone who might be particularly dangerous given Michigan's defensive backfield. Your answers in order: Kenny Bell in single coverage, Kenny Bell's hair, Allen Robinson, Indiana, and Penn State's tight ends.

Come Meet Marlin Jackson (and some bloggers)

Come Meet Marlin Jackson (and some bloggers)

Submitted by Seth on April 5th, 2013 at 4:04 PM

On Monday I tweeted there would be some interesting Meta announcements on here. The first: indie HTTV shall return, depending on how that looks----------------------->

The second is we're finally having an in-person event that's not in the middle of July:


On Mount Blogmore the beards are made of bacon

When? The Michigan Spring Game event will be at 12:30 at Michigan Stadium. Whenever that's over, wander your way over to R.U.B. We'll be wandering at the same pace so probably won't really be underway until an hour or so after the game ends.

Where? Make your way to R.U.B. BBQ Pub at that corner (State & Packard) that was the Packard Pub, or the Artisan Bistro, or the Southside Grill, or the Atlanta Bread Company, or the Delta Restaurant, or Espresso Royale, or somebody's farm, depending on when you were last in Ann Arbor.

Who? You know, the guys. Brian Cook. Ace Anbender. Heiko Yang after Borges says he can leave the presser. Eric Upchurch. A two-time All-American defensive back. Tacopants. That tubby yutz with a beard…

Wait, you said… Marlin Jackson will be there to join our Q&A session, and will also talk a little about his Fight for Life Foundation, which sponsors programs to give kids some of logo2_03the opportunities that Marlin himself didn't have in Sharon, Pa. I'll let him explain:

I had to fight against never knowing my father, having a drug addicted mother, being neglected, moving from home to home, and not having any positive role models.  I had to fight for my life, the life that I wanted, the life that was just above the horizon of the ghetto that I could not see. The more I experienced beyond the confines of my childhood, the more I became encouraged to fight for all that is right and just in the world. My hope is to give kids who grow up as I did a fighting chance to make it in the world and to let them know that their environment does not have to dictate who they are in a negative way.

Some of the programs he runs are Field of Dreams, which provides incentives for kids to "gain yards" through scholastic achievement and community service; Seal the Deal football camps; and R.A.P. which uses music and the arts to help kids stabilize their lives.

How? This was all made possible thanks to Jared of Sports Power Weekends, who's so good at putting stuff together he does it for a living (he's the guy who organizes those logohotel+bus+ticket+tailgate+tshirt trips to away games). Jared will be there for you to thank in person, or if you want to sign up for his packages. At the moment he's planning trips to Iowa on 11/23, Northwestern on 11/16, and for out-of-towners, some  in-Ann Arbor programs for Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Need help with this? Yeah. We're going to have some computers set up so we can liveblog the event for those who can't be in Ann Arbor, and kinda help us field questions and whatnot. Moderators: that's the ticket! We need mods. Live mods. Mod mods.


Cost? No cover or anything. We'll order when we get there and split the bill, though a few people offered to get some rounds. If you feel especially privileged to be there and want to put money somewhere, Marlin's Foundation has a Kickstarter-like system of donation levels via paypal.

Why R.U.B. The consensus was that we like beer and ribs. A lought.

RSVP? In the comments I guess. Just trying to get an estimate within +/-15 to give Omar, who's kindly letting us use his place.

Wait no Dear Diary? Where's my Moment of Zen?

Drkboarder provides:


Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft This D-Line?

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft This D-Line?

Submitted by Seth on March 12th, 2013 at 1:10 PM

walsh_050736-- Chris Wormley

Left: Walsh. Right: Wormley by Upchurch

A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a 1997 article by Bill Walsh where he explained how he evaluates talent at each position. I then applied those evaluations to Michigan’s offensive personnel, because Borges is supposedly transitioning us to Walsh’s WCO. People requested a defensive version so here you go.

It’s probably not as useful because the closest NFL comparison to the Mattison ideal is the Greg Mattison Ravens. But then when you read about the history of Mattison’s 4-3 under defense, you find (49ers DC under Walsh) George Seifert’s ideas peppered all over. And there’s a reason for that:

Offensive evolution doesn’t matter so much when you’re talking about going back to the offense that dominated 1997. The 4-3 under defense—or whatever you call what Michigan does by shifting the line toward the nearest sideline—is more akin to a 3-4 than the 46 defense Walsh used to deploy against the run-heavy offenses of his day, or the Tampa 2 stuff that owned the period which that article was written.

Walsh’s defensive opinions are geared toward a 3-4, and that’s perfect for our purposes, since the 4-3 under is similar in personnel. When you see it you can see why:


So in we go again. I'm moving right now so I can't do it all in one again. Here's the interior DL and I'll cover linebackers and defensive backs in later weeks.

Nose Tackle


Dana Stubblefield / Rob Renes / Pipkins via Upchurch

Walsh Says: 6’2, 290. As discussed in the article when I made all the DL recruits into Wii avatars, the NT should have his mass low; a pyramid is more difficult to move than a cube. Like Mattison, Walsh puts the hands at the very top:

Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.

The Walsh ideal doesn’t necessarily have to take on doubles. What he looks for is the strength to not get knocked backwards, and the ability to move laterally without giving ground. The best can burrow forward and push a guard into the pocket.

Note that Walsh is inadvertently describing a 4-3 DT more than a 3-4 NT—he’s not asking for a two-gapper who sucks up doubles but a one-gapper who can’t be budged. However the first step to beating spread teams is an NT who requires doubles, since the spread 'n shred's base dive play is most dangerous when an interior OL is releasing into the linebackers.

Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Rob Renes. NFL scouts want everyone to be Wilfork, but active, stout, and sound come first.

What to look for in a Scouting Report: "Crab person" a la Mike Martin, i.e. he plays low and with great leverage. Strength—opponents can't move him. “Has excellent hands.” Athleticism: Walsh didn’t mention this but guys who are ranked basketball recruits as well seem to have a high success rate; that's obviously a mark of quickness/agility being important.qwash

What you can learn on film: Nose tackle recruits are often so much bigger than the competition that they can terrify offenses without technique. You can learn more from the plays where he flows down the line of scrimmage then makes the play. Leverage. Hands maybe but this seems to be something most will learn in college. It's paywalled (and there's a lot that's 3-techy about him) but if you have a Rivals account go watch Ndamukong Suh's high school film and how he uses his arms to dominate guys off the ball.

What could signal bust potential: We’ve seen our share of planetary objects who get lots of hype because they’re 320-pound creatures who pop average teen OL like so many zits. This is an effort position that scales dramatically with the transition from high school to Big Ten. An athletic man-child has a massive ceiling but is as likely to follow the career path of Richard Ash as that of Johnathan Hankins.

How our guys compare: The expectation here is for Quinton Washington (above-right/Upchurch) to reprise his role at Nose with Ondre Pipkins figuring in as a rotation starter and making appearances at the 3-tech spot as well. Q came to Michigan as a spread-style offensive guard highly sought after by all the right people. His switch to the defensive line was initially a swap with Will Campbell, except Washington stuck with it. It was a painful year and change waiting for him to catch up, made worth it last year when he was a pleasant surprise at nose. Listed at 6'4-300 he's on the plus side of the size curve but not to the degree Campbell was (Suh as a senior was listed at the same size). Where this project is concerned, Hoke seems to have had success in every facet except his stated goal of making Quinton two inches shorter; I like to mention that one of my favorite DTs to watch is Kawaan Short, who was listed at 6'5 as a recruit and 6'3 as a draft prospect. That upper body strength that Walsh covets in his NTs is what made Washington stand out as a recruit and contributes to the success he's had across the line.


left: Q.Wash's UFR totals for 2012. right: Pipkins's. Clicking bigs them.

Ondre Pipkins arrived looking pretty much exactly like an NFL nose tackle—6'3-340—and played pretty much exactly like a true freshman, as you can make out from the UFR chart above. That's technique (i.e. hands) talking—he got minuses for getting scooped and buried and eating doubles, and plus'ed for flashes of mobility.

Richard Ash has two years of eligibility left so you can't write him off yet but he came in a non-mobile planet and had to lose a lot of weight to uncover his playing body. The Walsh measureables are not favorable, at least not yet. The freshman pegged for NT (though either could play either) is probably Maurice Hurst, since he checks nearly every one of Bill's boxes, right down to a listed height-weight of 6'2-290. Mike Farrell on Hurst:

"He has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well."

Watching his film you can see the hands (start at 0:48). The knocks are he needs to get lower (on film you immediately see that butt sticking out) and I don't see strength mentioned much. He played running back for his high school and wasn't so big that he could get by on size so Hurst probably appreciates technique. I would guess he needs some time to put on muscle before he can contribute.

[After the jump, moving down the line]

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft This Team?

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft This Team?

Submitted by Seth on February 26th, 2013 at 8:32 AM

I'm trying out a new feature of mouse-over tags so readers who don't get some of our references can get caught up. Underlined text has a tag. If the tag is a link then you've found a link. I appreciate any feedback on its deployment.


Left: Young Wolverines some of whom were recruited for power (Upchurch). Right: Power.

Chris Brown's recent article on Smart Football included a link to a 1997-vintage article by Bill Walsh (YTBW). Chris included it as a way of crediting Walsh for correctly predicting Tony Gonzalez would become a great NFL tight end. With Michigan transitioning further toward a Walsh-ian offense, I thought I'd appropriate the whole article to see how well Michigan's 2013 offensive roster matches Walsh-ian archetypes.

Before we jump in, you'll recognize a lot of what's said here from like every NFL draft report ever. Walsh's coaching tree perforated the league for years, and that meant the things he tended to look for in players became what most of the people making draft decisions were looking for. They've been repeated so often as to become memes, however I still think going back to the source can provide some insight into how Michigan's players and recruits are being evaluated.

This is all intended to help you do your own scouting when we publish things like Hello posts (lots of those coming up) and positional previews.



Tom Brady prototype, Tom Brady, Tom Brady with legs? --Bryan Fuller

Walsh Says: 6'3, 210. Having a strong arm isn't as important as an "inventory" of passes, although decent arm strength is a necessity:

"Arm strength is somewhat misleading. Some players can throw 80 yards, but they aren't good passers. Good passing has to do with accuracy, timing, and throwing a ball with touch so it is catchable…

"Remember, the goal of passing a ball is to make sure it is caught ... by your intended receiver."

The most important characteristic for a quarterback is intuition/instincts. He has to be able to sense the rush, make the right decision quickly and get the ball "up and gone," and handle progressions and broken plays with grace as opposed to a sense of urgency.

"The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time."

Walsh wants his quarterback to be "courageous and intensely competitive." He also wants them mobile and defines it thus:

Mobility and an ability to avoid a pass rush are crucial. Some quarterbacks use this mobility within the pocket just enough so they are able to move and pass when they "feel" a rush. But overall quickness and agility can make a remarkable difference. As an example, there were some very quick boxers in Sugar Ray Leonard's era, but he was quicker than they were and because of that he became a great champ.

Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Tom Brady, obviously. Tate Forcier.

What to look for in a Scouting Report: High accuracy plus high YPA. "Makes things happen."

What you can learn on film: Doesn't make you nervous. Escapes from pressure then seems calm, not rushed. Sees something and reacts quickly. Receivers aren't making tough catches or breaking stride.

What could signal bust potential: First a warning on this part not to take it as "anyone who exhibits this trait will bust." What I'm saying is beware a guy ranked highly because this feature he possesses, which is a good thing to possess, may be overrated. Here it's arm strength—more an NFL problem than college since college QBs can learn systems and Navarre their way to great college careers with only one type of pass. Arm strength with no accuracy and a terrible delivery can turn into a great player if he's got an innate sense (think Stafford), but more often a coach will try to fix it and end up with a Dontrelle Willis.

How our guys compare: So far only Devin Gardner has seen substantial play against college defenses but we've gotten about a game's worth of Russell Bellomy too. Gardner's inventory has passes for finding Gallon 40 yards downfield, zips that only Dileo can get to, and even that Stafford-y thing he flipped to Dileo in the Outback Bowl. He has ideal size, and wins the mobility category over everybody not named Denard Robinson. If you give him a lane to pick up yards with his legs he will take it. And he MAKES PLAYS, those coming first to mind being where he runs around in the backfield defying sack attempts until something worthy of forward progress appears.

His weakness so far has been in that crucial "up and gone" aspect. His delivery has a long wind-up and that exacerbates a medium-to-mediocre diagnosis-reaction speed. Previous spring games when Devin looked really bad at this suggest it wasn't a few months as a receiver to blame, although that obviously didn't help. Gardner will live and die by his scrambling and ability to make linebackers freeze in coverage when he takes a step forward. He's not Tom Brady, but Gardner's package can equal a helluvah good college QB. An offseason as quarterback in a system designed to his strengths puts the ceiling high for 2013, and off the charts if there ends up being a 2014.

Russell Bellomy (right-Upchurch) in his few appearances last year—mostly the 2nd half bellomy-upchurchagainst Nebraska—gave us a fairly strong indication of his abilities. He wins Walsh points by having a catchable ball, but there it ends. His apparent lack of arm strength severely limits the inventory, his agility isn't anything special vs. Big Ten defenders, and while you can forgive a freshman thrust into starting for this, he showed a lot of panic. I am skeptical that he can contribute on this level unless his arm strength improves as much as I expect his comfort will.

Shane Morris, now. Other than every scouting thing they can do with high schoolers, it's hard to say what he will turn out to be. The senior year performance and the thing that guy said in the Elite 11 about his primary read being taken away are marks against the Walsh archetype, but the size and arm and full inventory are there. He's too young to know if he will develop the rest.

Running Back

noninstinctual backurlUpchurch - 8173104902_d5ed5e039e_o

Terrance Flagler, A-Train, Toussaint –Upchurch

Walsh Says: Needs to be big enough to take punishment and always fall forward, but "some smaller runners play big." He uses James Brooks but of course we've got our own exempli gratia. The 1B for backs is again, instincts, though he emphasizes getting "the first four yards within the scheme and then rely on instincts to take it beyond that."

Walsh puts a high value on durability, which maybe isn't as important in college where the hits are lighter and the roster is deeper. The other thing he harps on is instinct, mentioning he got burned on this with Terrance Flagler. This is the difference between Michael Shaw and Mike Hart.

After that he goes into bonus features. If he can block he doesn't have to come off the field in passing situations. He has to be able to catch a screen and the further down the field he can threaten as a receiver the more "dimensional" the offense becomes.

Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Anthony Thomas. Always falling forward, instinctual enough to be a kick returner before becoming the feature back.

What to look for in a Scouting Report: At least 185 lbs., thick and squat. Numbers don't tank against high-level competition.

What you can learn on film: Defenders look like bad tacklers (subtle movements by the RB make him tough to set up on). Falling forward, durability, operating in small spaces. Lots of D-I ticketed RBs will run sweeps all the time because their speed is just unfair against high school DEs. Watch the inside and zone running.

What could signal bust potential: Beware the big backs who wrack up huge high school yardage by running through terrible tacklers. It's hard to tell the guys who can subtly shift their bodies to make themselves difficult to bring down from the ones who just truck over a division full of future doctors and lawyers. One strong attribute can sometimes dominate a bad high school league, but D-I football requires several working together.

How our guys compare: Toussaint has shown the instincts and "plays big" at near the extreme for smallness. He looked on his way toward being a zone-style feature complement until having the unluckiest year in recent Michigan RB history. Justice Hayes is like Toussaint except he's yet to show those instincts. Dennis Norfleet has the playmaker thing down but there's a major difference in size between him and the other guys. Norfleet was listed at 5'7/161 last year, and Vincent Smith was put at 5'6/175. Hayes was 5'10/183 and Toussaint 5'10/202. Norfleet/Smith and Toussaint/Hayes are different tiers.

Among the plowshares, thick-trunked Thomas Rawls saw extensive action last year. The difference between him and Mark Ingram is Rawls seems to miss his hole a lot—that "first four yards" thing is a problem. I haven't seen enough of Drake Johnson yet to know if he brings anything different. None of the above (who are still on the roster) have yet to demonstrate they're any better than mediocre blockers.

Two incoming running backs come with the Walsh stamp of approval. Green is already 220 lbs. and his senior highlight reel shows him doing a lot of inside power running and finding his extra yards. Deveon Smith is already Toussaint-sized and seems to have that micro-instinctual quality that Hart had. No idea if either of these guys can block.

[The rest of the offense after you JUMP]

Hokepoints Not Out of the Attrition Woods Yet

Hokepoints Not Out of the Attrition Woods Yet

Submitted by Seth on December 18th, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Michigan attrition 2013

Shown: players recruited 2009-2013. Blue=expected to be on 2013 team.

When you change coaches there's always a transition cost. Some programs pay more of it than others of course but in general players across college football are less likely to stick it out through the bad times if playing for a coach who didn't recruit them. I've covered how attrition to the 2005 and 2006 classes had profound effects on later defenses. This time I thought I'd zoom out and show what we might expect from the latest round.

How bad was it really?


(Now with Teric Jones and Tamani Carter)

Surprisingly bad. I have recruiting data going back to 1993 but can only really start gauging the quality of each class back to '96.* What I did is look at attrition not just from who didn't make it to their senior years but how much of their careers were missed. Figuring four years of eligibility per recruit, here's attrition from each class expressed in percentage of lost years.

Class Players Graduated or On Team
Retention Expressed in Seasons Key Losses
1993 22 6 (27%) 60/88 (68%) Biakabutuka to NFL, lots of playing time transfers
1994 19 15 (79%) 65/76 (86%) T. Laws went to MSU after a yr
1995 19 12 (63%) 63/76 (83%) Woodson (NFL), Daydrion and Moltane to injury, Bowens transferred
1996 18 9 (50%) 51/72 (71%) Depth transfers.
1997 18 12 (67%) 59/72 (82%) McCall (lost to A-Train). Four guys kicked off the team
1998 18 14 (78%) 68/72 (94%) Terrell to NFL, Henson to AAA, Fargas to USC
1999 23 17 (74%) 80/92 (87%) Ryan Beard transfer, Shantee Orr to NFL, unrenewed Brackins
2000 18 13 (72%) 62/72 (86%) Zia Combs, Kolby Wells injuries. Benton DNQ.
2001 21 12 (57%) 66/84 (79%) Shazor/Ofili to NFL, Reid/Simelis injuries. Sanderson and Baraka dismissals.
2002 20 15 (75%) 74/80 (93%) Rembert & Gutierrez for PT. Berishaj medical. Harrison that whole thing.
2003 16 9 (56%) 47/64 (73%) Sharrow/Zuttah medicals. Mundy transfer. Presley dismissed. McCoy DNQ. C.Richard to MLB.
2004 22 11 (50%) 66/88 (75%) Branch/Arrington to NFL, Allison injury, PT transfers and lots of unrenewed 5ths in '08
2005 22 8 (36%) 63/88 (72%) Mario and Manbearfreak to NFL. Sears, Richards, McKinney, Germany, & FCK LION dismissed. Schifano, Zirbel, Criswell, McLaurin and Bass to injury
2006 18 12 (67%) 58/72 (81%) Boren. Also Cobrani Mixon.
2007 21 12 (57%) 63/84 (75%) Warren to NFL. Mallett, Clemons, Babb, guys transferred.
2008 24 12 (50%) 65/96 (68%) B.Smith, Wermers, O'Neill, Hill, McGuffie transferred; Cissoko, Feagin, Stonum dismissed; Spoon DNQ; Khoury, T-Rob, Cox no 5th.
2009 21 13 (68%) 61/84 (73%) Forcier, I.Bell dismissed; Witty DNQ; T.Jones medicaled; Stokes, Turner, LaLota, Emilien transfers
2010 26 11 (42%) 56/104 (54%) [Takes breath] DNQ: D.Rogers, Kinard, Conelius, Dorsey. Transfers: Cullen, Vinopal, Talbot22, Carvin, J-Rob, R.Miller, Hopkins. Dismissed: A.White. Injuries: Talbott, Pace. Tried football, didn't like it: Williamson
2011 19 13 (68%) 53/76 (70%) T.Posada, K.Jones, C.Barnett, G.Brown, C.Rock, T.Carter
2012 25 25 (100%) C/C (100%) --so far so good--
Average 410 251 (61%) 1,280 yrs of eligibility out of 1,640 yrs recruited (78%)

(Specialists & walk-ons removed, redshirting accounted for)

That high attrition from the RR classes is worrisome and kind, since it doesn't include things like All-American tackles likely headed to the NFL, or an expected unrenewed 5th next year, or the fate of several injured and/or not highly recruited guys looking up at increasingly un-scalable depth charts in the defensive front seven, or a punter on his fourth strike.


* Resources for the before times: DeSimone, MWolverine, SVijan, Bentley, old MaxPreps databases, crowdsourcing, and some sheets I printed off ESPN in the '90s to make my dynasties accurate.


It's also appreciably different from the kind of stuff Michigan weathered okay in the early Carr years, which was mostly playing time transfers of guys later in their careers who weren't going to contribute much and wanted a shot to play college football before they couldn't anymore. When Michigan got into depth chart trouble prior to the defensive back crisis of 2009-'10, it was because Henson took off leaving sophomore Navarre to man it too early, and because a generation of offensive linemen were wiped out by injuries in the early aughts.

Losing a star to the NFL hurts but it means having a star for a few years first. This is why I didn't want to just show the finish line stat that DeSimone keeps updated on his site, because it makes what happened to the 1993 class look like what happened to the 2010 class.

[After the jump it's a lineup of the usual attrition suspects, also verbs.]

Schedule of Successories!

Schedule of Successories!

Submitted by Seth on April 6th, 2011 at 3:19 PM


The Conference of Leaders and Legends and Champions and Successes and Deliverables has released its industry-leading, no frills, easy-to-use schedule of play through what we can only hope will be Brady Hoke's fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg managed to get early dibs on the Big Ten's 2013 and 2014 conference schedules (HT: dkeesbury), so we can bring you the near future's road to Pasadena / Wherever-Probably-Not-Glendale-lolz:

2013 Big Ten Schedule:

Date Opponent Location
Sep. 28 x TBA
Oct. 5 MINNESOTA* Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 12 @ Penn State* University Park, Pa.
Oct. 19 INDIANA* Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 26 x TBA
Nov. 2 @ Michigan State* East Lansing
Nov. 9 NEBRASKA* Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 16 @ Northwestern* Evanston, Ill.
Nov. 23 @ Iowa* Iowa City, Iowa (We're from Iowa!)
Nov. 30 OHIO STATE* Ann Arbor, Mich.

2014 Big Ten Schedule:

Date Opponent Location
Sep. 27 @ Indiana or Illinois? Bloomington, Ind. or Champaign, Ill.?
Oct. 4 x TBA
Oct. 11 MICHIGAN STATE Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 18 @ Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn.
Oct. 25 PENN STATE Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 1 IOWA Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 8 @ Nebraska Lincoln, Neb.
Nov. 15 x TBA
Nov. 22 NORTHWESTERN Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 29 @ Ohio State Columbus, Ohio

There's no Purdue. :-[(


And no Wisconsin.

I said No Wisconsin!

Where's Wisconsin?


And no Illinois.


Earlier there was a discrepency on that had Michigan playing the Illini instead of Indiana. That has been cleared up - the mothership just had a typo.


By 2014, Michigan State gets moved back to mid-October, which if I knew Michigan State existed when I was a kid* I guess that would feel more appropriate than mid-November. This seems to be a quirk of the schedule and not the Big Ten acknowledging rivalry dates are important, other than the BIG rivalry between Legendary Leadership, and Leaders of Legend. That – the conf. championship – will be on Dec. 7, 2013, and Dec. 6, 2014, respectively; locales TBD.


* My father went to MSU in the 60s - but like who of his generation remembers anything from that time? Nobody talked about Michigan State at Quarton Elementary School is what I mean.


The Rittenberg article also quotes a TV guy in the conference who seems to favor 9-game conference schedules:

"That's just the mathematics of it," said Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner, who puts together the schedule. "While teams are still playing eight conference games, out of the total inventory of games available, we're playing a smaller percentage. We've added a 12th institution. Part of this could be solved if we went to a nine-game [Big Ten] schedule moving forward. 

"It's not ideal, but hopefully moving forward it can be addressed."

Okay, so there's one guy who's maybe probably voting for 9 games at the next meeting. Reason for: one week in September we play the Wisconsin Badgers instead of the Not-a-State University Baby Seals (and MSU lines up Ohio State instead of the Northern Colorado School for Mimes). Reason against: fewer bowl-eligible Big Ten teams -- you're turning 12 almost-guaranteed wins for conference teams into exactly 6-6), plus all the same reasons BCS teams choose to play kick the can in September instead of each other. I'm for 9. I also think it's a pipedream.

Other random, non-bulleted thoughts:

Nothing lasts forever: Other than Penn State games, the schedule does set up nicely early in the season, but with brutal Iowa/Nebraska/Ohio State Novembers broken up by that quasi-traditional Northwestern-in-a-cold-November-Rain game.

Not a good refrain: When we rebooted the ND rivalry again for '02, I wanted somebody to notice that Michigan would end up getting both the Irish and Ohio State at home on odd years, thus leaving Michigan State the de facto big home game of even years. Surely when adding Nebraska, this would be rectified so that…dammit! So from now until the conference adds a 9th game or whatever, on odd years we get Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the Brown Jug game. On even years we visit all of them, and get Michigan State at home.

Also, MSU doesn't play Ohio State these two years, if you're the type who likes to grumble early.

I've added the info to the future schedules wiki.