Mailbag: Grayshirting, DTs, More Borges

Mailbag: Grayshirting, DTs, More Borges

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Brian -

I was wondering if you could answer the question as to why Jeremy Clark and Michigan would pursue a grey shirt versus a preferred walk-on.  In both cases the player has to pay their own way until a scholarship is available.  But with a grey shirt you can't practice with the team at all.  Is the thinking that they would then get a psuedo sixth year?  I would think having the player on campus and practicing with the team as a walk-on that first year would be better than hoping he earns a scholarship by sitting around doing nothing for a year. 

Also, I know we all share concerns about the size of this class and where the scholarships will come from - but I have a more specific question for you.  How do you feel about only taking one at the DT spot?  My thinking is that it is one of the hardest positions to project (cough-Will Campbell-cough), you need a healthy rotation of players, and you need size.  I have no idea why the staff wouldn't want two true defensive tackles in this class given the lack of depth and talent at that position.  I would even take one lower rated DT in this class if you get a star DT with another scholarship.  I think that's far more important than just about every other position at this point. 

Adam
Chicago, IL

On grayshirting: you do get a psuedo-sixth year since your eligibility clock does not start ticking until the subsequent year if you are a mid-year enrollee. Clark could enroll, redshirt, and have four years of eligibility starting in in 2014. Enrolling in the fall starts your clock, so the fall of 2012 would be Clark's redshirt year. Also, being a preferred walk-on costs money.

I'm not actually sure what path Clark will take since grayshirting is an overloaded term that refers to both enrolling without a scholarship and not enrolling until winter. It could be either depending on how quickly Michigan thinks they'd want to deploy Clark and if he wants to/can make the financial sacrifice to enroll without a scholarship.

On the defensive tackle spot: I don't think anyone gets Michigan's plan there. When the 2012 class hits campus the only potential nose tackles on the roster are Quinton Washington and Richard Ash; the only three-techs are Will Campbell and Terrance Talbott. Both Talbott and Ash have been dogged with rumors they have health issues and neither was exactly a slam-dunk recruit. No one has played; Michigan took no true DTs a year ago. Campbell will be a senior and Washington a junior.

Meanwhile, the defensive line sees more rotation than any other position in football—Michigan rotated four guys last year even when the options were walk-ons and journeymen like Adam Patterson.

So it seems nuts to me to turn down a consensus four star DT with the offers to match, as it seems they will if Pipkins and O'Brien both want to sign up. Even if they can move some combination of Godin/Wormley/Strobel/Rock/Wilkins inside, those guys are all tall dudes who probably can't deal with the nose.

That leaves essentially no one after Martin graduates. Hoke's made all the right moves so far but if he takes a scholarship fullback over a desperately-needed nose tackle people should question that.

Hi Brian,
First, the giant scoreboard at Yost:  on the post today it indeed appears to be gigantic and I was wondering if you had a chance yet to see if this thing might interfere with sightlines across the ice or corner to corner?  Don't know if anyone remembers/cares, but there was a giant block hangy-downy scoreboard there back at Yost in the early 80's and it hung down too far.  If you were sitting really high up in the endzones or even in the top couple of rows on the sidelines, the scoreboard actually hung down far enough to block your view across the ice.  It was worse than obstructed view at Tiger Stadium, though I guess that might be because Larry Herndon never ran very far.  So, the end-zone scoreboards were actually an innovation kind of because there were then no seats obstructed by the scoreboard hanging down.  Someone must have thought about that one before they hung this thing, right?  I am suspicious of change, get off the lawn, I miss the Apple IIC, etc. 

The board is currently closer to the ice than it will be when it is finally deployed, and while it's certainly larger than the current one I don't think it's significantly taller. And the top couple rows on the sidelines are now usually vacant because of overhangs.

Second, we've seen a lot of decision matrices about 4th down, go for it vs. field goal vs punt on different places on the field.  Would it be possible for someone to do a historic survey? 

For example, I bet that matrix looked a lot different for a 1972 Bo team than for a 1998 Lloyd team because of the efficiency - or not - of the passing game back then.  Bo going for it on 4th and 7 with his option teams was a totally different animal than Carr going for it on 4th and 7 with Henne and Braylon.  I guess what I'm asking is, can those 4th and charts be adjusted backwards for inflation?  I bet they would explain a lot about the evolution of 4th-and theory and about Carr's reluctance to not punt from the opponent's 41. 
JS

A historic survey is outside the scope of a mailbag response but it's probably unnecessary anyway since the Mathlete tackled something similar in a past diary that got bumped to the front page. Two charts, one for high offensive expectation…

…and one for low offensive expectation…

…show the increasing viability of the punt as scoring decreases.

Game theory in the paleolithic era was probably better than it was over the past 20 years. It seems we've passed an inflection point where going for it is the choice, but teams are still being coached by guys who came up under old school coaches who had totally different probabilities in their head. It's like adding four cards to a deck and asking 1950s poker players to cope—eventually they'll make a mistake because the game has changed.

I think it is worth noting that the West Coast offense, which Borges favors, can be traced directly back to Sid Gillman, the same Sid Gillman whose offensive style was loathed by manball loving Woody Hayes when the two of them were rivals at Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio respectively. Also, the most famous west coast quarterback of all time is Joe Montana, and he was hardly an immobile pocket passer.

I am probably being overly optimistic, but do you think there is a possibility that Michigan's offense in 2011 will resemble Auburn's 2010 offense in that it will be a hybrid of spread elements and pro-style elements? Yes I realize that Denard's skill set is not identical to Cam Newton's, but based on some of the remarks Borges has made and Hoke's likely realization that Michigan fans aren't going to be patient for wins, I think this is the most likely direction for the offense.

-anon

I'm not sure I agree with the above emailer's police work there. Auburns' offense worked so well because they didn't even need any semblance of a pro-style attack because an inverted veer with Cam Newton was short-yardage gold. Newton was recruited to run the same offense he did run. When there was a mismatch between the offensive coordinator's vision, that of the head coach, and available personnel, both Tony Franklin and Tommy Tuberville got fired. Auburn is not a good analogue.

I'm not sure if there is in fact a good analogue for the transformation Denard is going to be asked to make. Usually when you have a talent like him at quarterback the head coach doesn't get fired because you win a bunch of games. I've searched my memory banks for an example of a successful returning spread quarterback dealing with a new, more pro-style system and can only recall the most ironic possible name: Pat White.

White, of course, was coming off of West Virginia's 48-28 demolition of Oklahoma; WVU was third nationally in rushing offense, 15th in yardage, and 9th in scoring. The next year Rodriguez was out and Bill Stewart brought in Jeff Mullen from Wake Forest; Mullen preached balance but seemed to respect the accomplishments of the previous regime:

“I don’t want it to be too much different. You’re talking about a group of men who left here who were very successful coaches, and they installed one of the best offenses in the country. I’m not going to come in here and turn it around,” he said.

WVU still ran the spread but lost some of its maniacal dependence on the run (70% in RR's last year, 63% in Stewart's first) and large chunks of its derring-do. West Virginia lost almost a yard per carry in the transition despite running less and retaining White and Noel Devine. Total yardage dropped to 59th, scoring to 73rd. You will not be thrilled to hear that turnover margin remained as ludicrously good as it was for the bulk of Rodriguez's tenure.

I think something like that dropoff may be in the cards for Michigan. Mullen was no slouch. He was able to staple together decent outfits at Wake Forest despite having a massive injury plague strike his already-depleted roster. But his expertise did not align with the skills of his offense and as a result a bunch of returning starters got a lot less explosive.

I do think Al Borges is going to put together something that tries to take advantage of the parts he has. If I had to guess I'd say Brady Hoke's public statements about manball are just statements—at San Diego State Borges had full sway to do what he wanted, and what he wanted was a lot of different things including quite a bit of zone running. But you can't expect Borges to be Rich Rodriguez when he's spent much of his career fiddling with passing routes instead of the slight adjustments Rodriguez used to keep Robinson ahead of the pack.

The falloff from the transition probably won't be as bad* but if Borges can just maintain Michigan's YPC I'll be thrilled.

*[Reasons: The offense wasn't as good as that WVU unit and shouldn't be exposed to such a withering regression to the mean, Denard is lower on his learning curve than White, there's no equivalent to losing Slaton, general coaching ept-ness will probably go up, field goals.]

Unverified Voracity, Concerned

Unverified Voracity, Concerned

Submitted by Brian on June 28th, 2011 at 12:40 PM

austin-hatchHi. I'm back.

Because I am a modern person there is always time to catch up with twitter when the photographer doesn't need you, so on Saturday I periodically felt awful for Austin Hatch after his life endured a plot twist Lars Von Trier would have rejected as gratuitous. Words fail me in these instances; I'm not supposed to say the one thing everyone else says but here there's not another option.

So… yeah. There is a Caring Bridge site up for Hatch if you'd like to sign his guestbook. If you are the praying sort he's a great target. Michigan is reportedly working with the NCAA to provide whatever help they can. In the past the NCAA has allowed people like Ray Ray McElrathbey to get some help as he took care of his brother, so hopefully they'll allow a fund for Hatch. If that gets set up you will of course be informed.

This was inevitable. When Michigan took a grayshirt commitment from Kentucky safety Jeremy Clark it was inevitable an SEC partisan would take a swing at Michigan for doing so. The inevitable has transpired, so the inevitable defense must as well.

The whole grayshirting issue got dragged into the oversigning conversation because of Bernie Machen and Les Miles's "surprise, you have to move out of the dorm" hijinks with Elliot Porter. The former blasted grayshirting in a slightly confused editorial; the latter was a focus of the Outside The Lines piece that bombed LSU for its practices. It's never been a focus of the internet zealots except insofar as it's a symptom of the larger issue.

Clark knows what the deal is and still finds the grayshirt offer from Michigan preferable to his other options. There's nothing wrong with a mutually agreed-upon grayshirt whether its in the SEC or Big Ten.

Meanwhile in the land of excellent public relations. Ohio State wide receiver James Jackson has become Wayne State wide receiver James Jackson and isn't happy about it:

"They had an oversigning issue," Jackson said. "They had to free up a few scholarships, and coach (Jim) Tressel told me I probably wouldn't play and maybe Ohio State wasn't the place for me."

This quote could not be better designed for SEC fans tired of Oversigning.com, but it's a strange one. If that's the conversation he had and Gene Smith is telling the truth (yeah, yeah, I know) when he says this…

"Our policy is as James Jackson stated: As long as a student-athlete maintains his/her academic standing, behaves appropriately and handles his/her responsibilities, he or she will retain their scholarship. We have no proof of any conversation between he and former head coach Jim Tressel," he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

…then the rest of the article's focus on Jackson's misconception that he had a four-year scholarship is misplaced. What policy did Jackson state? It seems like an important quote related to Smith was omitted from the article.

From the context it seems like Jackson said he could have stayed if he was willing to give up playing time, but then why would he say this bit at the end:

"My main goal coming out of high school was to get a degree from a Division I program," said Jackson, who now attends Wayne State, a Division II school in Michigan. "If I had known they wouldn't keep me in school for four to five years, no matter what, I would have gone somewhere else."

I'm confused.

If Tressel said he wasn't going to play and should think about a transfer but Ohio State was willing to sign the scholarship papers if he stuck around, that seems like a reasonable thing to do. The implication in the article is that they wouldn't. But it's never directly stated and it seems that even Jackson said something to the effect that they would have, except then he says they wouldn't. So… great job, Pat Eaton-Robb, you've confused the hell out of everyone.

Ohio State, meanwhile, has an outstanding alibi: from 2002 to 2010 they averaged 20 players per class, tied with Notre Dame for fifth-least amongst BCS schools and behind only the nerd factories at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Stanford, and Northwestern. If they are having "oversigning issues" everyone is, system fundamentally broken, etc.

Future relevance. Brady Hoke has said Michigan is planning on taking 26 kids in this recruiting class, which is five or six or seven spots more than they currently have. They've only got a couple fifth year seniors they can reasonably give the Firm Handshake, so unless there is a cavalcade of medical issues and other convenient transfers there are going to be some tense conversations that go like this:

BRADY HOKE: So how do you like Michigan despite never playing and never having any prospect of playing and being way too short to ever play?
SLOT RECEIVER: I love it. Angelo's hollandaise sauce, man. I put it on everything. I took a bath in it last night.
BRADY HOKE: /closes Angelo's by fiat
SLOT RECEIVER: And I am very close to getting my degree in astrophysics.
BRADY HOKE: /turns off the stars

If you can't tell, I'm uneasy about this. The system is full of perverse incentives; if the big conferences are really keen on student welfare above all they should move to a system where the only cap is on the number of signees per year, Title IX be damned.

High five! There are three Big Ten teams who can be perfectly happy that former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson has parachuted into Madison to fill the radioactive hole at quarterback that was the only thing standing between the Badgers and breathless, top-five preseason hype. They are the ones who don't have to play Wisconsin this year. Michigan is one of them. (West divisionmates Iowa and Northwestern are the others.)

In the past month we've seen Michigan's schedule go from relatively friendly to large, face-licking dog: Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor exited Ohio State, leaving the Buckeyes without a coach or experienced/not awful option at QB. Michigan State and Nebraska now have to face a souped-up version of the Badgers. If six things go right and Denard can fuse with Al Borges there's a possibility Michigan could get smoked by Wilson in the Big Ten Championship game.

In old news. Michigan has just about blown through its practice time penalties from the jihad:

"We're very close to the end," Brandon said. "We've done a really good job and picked up a lot of hours. We're well ahead of pace, and we're very close to being done."

Presumably they'll get through the remainder by the Western game, and then be in the clear.

Etc.: Chengelis not a fan of mascots. Andy Staples likes the graduate transfer rule. Former Florida linebacker Channing Crowder is all like "I was Terrelle Pryor except not subject to a federal investigation."  Michigan State was really bad on passing downs last year. Golf course will allow groups to park for an extra fee, just like everyone said they should last year. Doctor Saturday features Brady Hoke in their "mandate for change" series and is pitch-perfect.

Michigan's athletic department again has an inexplicable, meaninglessly small amount of university support. I wonder what that is.