Unverified Voracity Took A Daguerreotype Of Greg Mattison

Unverified Voracity Took A Daguerreotype Of Greg Mattison

Submitted by Brian on August 18th, 2011 at 1:13 PM


regression + old-timey Greg Mattison = ?

Let it breathe. So how about that diary this morning? Man. I'm heartened by the idea that the admittedly rough model contained in it thinks Michigan's defense will bubble up to 71st even though it asserts changing coordinators/coaches is a worth an eight-spot hit to your final rankings.

In this case you can—are compelled to—argue that if anything it will swing the other way once Michigan decides to run one sane defense instead of a mélange of incoherent ones. Regression to the mean is our most favorite friend:

Top Underperforming Defensive Years


Predicted Finish

Actual Finish


Michigan 2010



New HC

Florida State 2009



New HC

Washington 2008



New HC

Northwestern 2010




San Jose State 2009



New HC

Not only are we bad and expected to regress upwards, we were much worse than expected. Expectations will deflate but even so they will come in well above our finish last year.

The main argument against this is the impact of Michigan's recruiting rankings on the model (quite positive) versus their impact on the field (not so much). The list of the departed is depressing and extensive: Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, Taylor Hill, Justin Turner, Vlad Emilien, Cullen Christian, and Demar Dorsey are a big chunk of Michigan's four and five star defensive recruits; none are around. Will Campbell and JB Fitzgerald, two of the thin remainder, are badly underperforming expectations. Attrition from the underclass has also hurt.

The numbers point towards a two-year project. Like the 2009 offense, the 2011 defense should be worlds better than its predecessor. Unfortunately that will only get them to average, which isn't that average for a BCS team that will play cupcakes who can't compete with it.

The other interesting thing from the model was a quantification of how important the quarterback is: getting a returning starter there is more than four times more valuable than an average non-QB offensive starter. Guess who's got a returning starter at QB for the first time since 2007? Michigan. You can even argue that 2006 was the last time Michigan really got to use a returning starter to his full capabilities—Chad Henne missed big chunks of 2007 and was never fully healthy until the bowl game.

Oh snap. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is itching for a duel. His statement on Larry Dee:

"If the allegations prove true," he said, "the words irony and hypocrisy don't seem to go far enough."

These corrupt NCAA functionaries would do their cause a favor if they at least required some caricature before they looked like Thomas Nast cartoons. I, mean, seriously:

thomas-nastpaul dee

That Junker guy That Junker guy also looked like a walking editorial cartoon. This is not helping their public image.

Oh snap part II. I was going to make this comparison myself but Grant Wahl beat me to it:

FIFA and NCAA are almost exactly the same in their complete inability to police themselves.

When you can compare an organization to FIFA with little, if any, hyperbole and don't have an obvious breaking point in 2014 there is trouble.

Yahoo continues strafing runs. It's a good combo they've got going at Yahoo: Charles Robinson flies over in the B-52 dropping the big bombs while Wetzel swoops in to pick off any survivors with a machine gun. This time Wetzel's plinking away at the whole damn system:

Guys wanted to party on a yacht. Guys wanted to drink free in a VIP section of a nightclub. Guys wanted some cash, or a mansion to hang out in, or some extra money for a big hit, or maybe even the wildest of parties.

It’s not abnormal behavior from 20-year-olds.

Except in the mind of the NCAA, which is so far backward, it’s wasting time arguing over whether offering players a minor monthly stipend will cut too far into the adults’ gravy train.

Would it be so bad if this stuff was okay? Not the prostitutes, but just hanging out maxing all cool with guys who want to be your pet ATM? I guess that's not in the Spirit of Amateurism but even the Olympics have given up that ghost. Adam Jacobi asked much the same question at CBS, and the only objections I have to it are purely selfish: I don't know if Michigan boosters can dole out the rewards with the same kind of élan other schools can.

I've advocated something less holistic in the past in regards to basketball: let kids enter the draft whenever they want, let them play summer ball with teams, let them sign with agents, let the NBA teams sign them—and then let the kids go back to school and play if the NBA doesn't think they're ready. Where's the harm in that?

The NCAA continues to pretend like it's 1955, and that there wasn't rampant cheating in 1955, and that everyone has the morals of 1880. They could go a long way towards making the system fair without unbalancing it just by acknowledging that pro leagues are not evil. The last people to have that notion rode bicycles with one enormous wheel and one tiny one and thought Irish people were basically livestock. They also looked like Paul Dee—ohhhhh. I get it now.

But it's not so they must burn. A bit more on Pryor getting paid by Sarniak:

Pryor said he and his mother received cash and assistance with car payments from Ted Sarniak, a businessman in Pryor’s hometown of Jeannette, Pa., sometime before leaving school in June, lawyer David Cornwell told ESPN.

Cornwell, who is representing Pryor in his bid to be declared eligible for the NFL supplemental draft, said Pryor informed the NCAA and provided documents in May. As Pryor was being recruited in 2008, the NCAA told Ohio State that Sarniak could not provide anything of value to Pryor once he enrolled.

It's Big Brother-y, but NCAA teams can view the bank accounts of their players, which is probably why AJ Hawk and friends had three thousand dollars in cash on them when they got robbed that one time. Smart people keep their booster money in hard currency. Terrelle Pryor put it in a bank, one that OSU had access to, after his controversial recruitment found that he had received extra benefits in high school from Sarniak. Sarniak was in frequent contact with not only Tressel but the head of compliance at Ohio State. Pryor had lots of suspiciously nice cars. At no point did anyone in the compliance department add two and two together.

Brace yourself for this bit of spin:

Phone records also show that Ohio State compliance director Doug Archie stayed in regular contact with Sarniak.

“It’s expected that a compliance officer is calling constituents involved with the athletics department,” Lynch said. “It speaks to the compliance department’s thoroughness in monitoring such matters.”


Available for viewing at the cube. Three Michigan commits made the NTDP U17s: Evan Allen, JT Compher, and Tyler Motte. This was already known, so it's a bit disappointing a couple of the other guys didn't slide their way onto the team. Three is still a good number. No other school has more than two.

Also, the U17 team is an indication of how much college hockey recruiting has accelerated. Only four of the twenty skaters are uncommitted. These guys are 2013 commits with two years of junior in front of them—that's like 80 of the top 100 guys in Shane Morris's football class already being committed.

By that time Michigan will be in the Big Ten, so you can ignore the Miami guys on the list. The only player from the U17 Michigan will see down the road is Michigan State commit Mike McCarron.

Waiting it out. Michigan would very much like to add U18 defenseman Jacob Trouba, one of those weird guys who waits it out. Trouba is a potential first rounder in next year's draft and has yet to make a decision because he plans on sticking to it:

"That's sort of why I haven't (committed), because I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," said the 17-year-old on Wednesday. … "My family and I have always been like that -- my parents have always told me that if I make a commitment, that I have to stick with it, at least until the end of the year and then I can do whatever," said the 6-foot-2, 193-pound blueliner. "So, I'm going to wait until I know for sure what I want to do and then I'm going to choose."

Michigan is "in the equation" along with Notre Dame and the OHL's Kitchener.

Etc.: A third oh snap: Braves and Birds defines Clay Travis by calling him "embarrassingly self-congratulatory." Also he demolishes the silly argument about lawsuits he's making in re: Texas A&M to the SEC. (Remember when people cared about that?). Rock M Nation/Football Study Hall/Football Outsiders guru Bill Connolly is profiled by Vox Magazine.

Recent Tea Leaves

Recent Tea Leaves

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2011 at 12:01 PM

First, Al Borges:

And then Greg Mattison:

Brink of the Brink. I jumped the gun yesterday by retweeting the Blade's Ryan Autullo, who reported Nathan Brink was hanging out on the first-team defensive line yesterday, and claiming this should deflate the Will Campbell hype balloon. It turns out reporters got to see a lot of stretching and not much else; the units out there were not exactly 20 minutes of solid evidence.

Nonetheless, yesterday was Nathan Brink day. Autullo gathered up some quotes for a feature story featuring the Word of the Day, as did AnnArbor.com's Kyle Meinke. Autullo's article:

"I hate to ever talk about a young man because I think every time I do that they go right down in the tubes," Mattison said after yesterday's practice. "He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …

"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.

The word of the day is always "physical" except when it's "toughness." It's a good sign for you when the coaches are describing you with the attributes they've been preaching nonstop since their arrival.

Is it good for Michigan? If you were under the impression Michigan wouldn't be rotating through walk-ons on its DL, no. That's been unlikely since those dual DT decommits on Signing Day two years ago, though.

Now you should brace for zing:

"Everybody's a scholarship football player to us," Mattison said. "The best 11, the best 12, the best 17, those guys are going to play."

This walk-on may be on the brink of doing that.


The other change. Is it alarming that Jibreel Black, who the coaches have been displeased with, was the other surprise first-team-ish player on the line yesterday? Probably not. An emailer relates that Craig Roh is sick. Not good but not a major problem unless it's mono.

Don't be mono, k thx.


might not be much bench time for this pair. via GBMW

Insidery scuttlebutt. Fall camps are full of temporary surprise starters as coaches test new things or dole out rewards and reprimands, so reading too much into any particular lineup is a constant threat. That said, a couple folk close to the program say Hawthorne has been playing well enough to warrant his shot at the first team. Consistency remains an issue. If Michigan can get production out of him that will be a bonus.

Other insidery nuggets: Demens has MLB locked down and is playing as well at that spot as anyone has in a while; Cam Gordon should hold off Jake Ryan for the SLB spot; Marell Evans has been a bit of disappointment.

Position switches. As media day content continues to trickle out information missed by folks moving to and fro amongst the panoply of assistants and players comes out. For example, there's a new contender at Safety Who Isn't Kovacs. Curt Mallory:

"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable]. We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense. …

"No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there—it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."

I liked Gordon last year in the limited role (and limited time) he was allowed. He's dropped some weight and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the fastest guy competing to start at safety. (Furman is probably faster but no one mentions him as a threat to start this year.)

Mallory mentioned Countess, Taylor and Hollowell first amongst the freshmen corners, FWIW.

Rivals also has an article on Brennen Beyer's move to SLB. He won't be required to play this year and that sounds like a good thing:

It's a change because I haven't really played that before, but it's fun trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can," Beyer said. … "Pass dropping, for one. I've never done that before," he said. "Playing while standing up—that's a little different."

Anyone nervous? I'm nervous. Jeff Hecklinski on the receivers:

"It was such a drastic change offensively that it really hasn't been aided [by their experience]," Hecklinski said. "We have to understand the intricacies that go along with the pro-style offense and the throwing game like we have.

"But, to their credit, they've worked hard throughout the summer. You can see a lot of good things throughout the summer. They came through and did the 7-on-7s and now we get a chance to look at them, you can see they've started to develop that timing and put things together. Now, we need to build on it, and we can hone it down to every little detail."

Practice buzz has been extremely happy with the unit as a whole despite the change; I'm guessing we see a preponderance of three-wide sets this fall. Four is a thing of the past but SDSU ran a lot of three-wide last year. With little established behind Koger at TE their other option is all I-Form.

Gallon is getting talked up, which is surprising. He was an impressive player in the Army Bowl as a recruit but couldn't find the field in an offense perhaps better suited for his talents—he mostly spent his time screwing up painfully on special teams. If he gets his act together he'd bring a YAC aspect Michigan's receivers are currently lacking. I'd bet this is more like Johnny Sears hype, though: encouragement more than accurate reporting.

Standard. More Fred Jackson: "I’ve very, very confident [in the future] because those two freshmen are good players. They are better than good. Both of them.”

Fall Camp 2011: Practice and Presser Notes

Fall Camp 2011: Practice and Presser Notes

Submitted by Tim on August 16th, 2011 at 9:29 PM


startled Borges is startled, from file

Al Borges

Does he still draw up plays? - "I'm always. I'm obsessive... I just, I like that part of the game. I like the tactics. I like to scribble." Denard's talent poses some interesting options in terms of new plays. The defensive-oriented head coaches tend to give the OC a little bit more freedom. "Brady know what we're doing, understands what we're doing, and monitors everything."

"There's so many frustrations out there" because guys aren't consistently performing perfectly yet. "It's just the way it is this time of year."

On Denard - "He's playing good. He's kind of a kick to coach. He's upbeat all the time." He's been receptive to every bit of coaching since he's been here. Timing is getting better in the passing game every day. The guys worked in the offseason, but there was room for improvement. "It's not there yet, but it's showing some promise."

On the tailbacks - "We still don't have a starting running back, but we've got a nice field to work from. Getting a little closer to that, I think." They'll cut down the running back competition when they start game-planning, instead of just going through camp.

There are nice inside and outside runners. "Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michael Cox, all of them have just shown some great flashes. ... Cox and Shaw are very similar in that they've got some home run threat to them. Toussaint's a tough kid that makes no concessions to the defense. He to has a nice burst and he can go. Vincent's as diverse as any of them." Thomas Rawls is a tough inside guy, like Hopkins, and Justice Hayes has good cuts.

3rd-down role - Vincent Smith - "He's certainly a candidate." Not big, but can block and pass. He's in the running for starting RB too, because he's so dynamic. Need an RB who can test out a nickel back in passing situations. "You've gotta run tight routes and catch it when they throw it to you."

If it takes multiple games to find a starting running back, so be it. "This is a collaborative effort." Hoke, Borges, Jackson - everybody will have a say in it.

The biggest issue with young RBs is protecting the QB. They can see running lanes pretty well, but there are so many things defenses will do that figuring out who to block is the hardest part.

"We're moving some folks around" to figure out some of the fullback race - they're keeping it under wraps for now who is moving and from where. John McColgan is the primary guy.

On Wideouts - "We've got some guys that are playing well out there. Some of the guys played some last year. Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Grady has done a nice job. Jerald Robinson who didn't play much, but he seems like he's got a future here. Drew Dileo, all those guys have worked their buns off." Receivers need to be able to play special teams to make travel squads. They've gotta block on the outside, as well.

"You always like to have a few rangy guys" at wideout, but any size is OK. "We would take a smaller, faster guy" at previous stops, because you get 6 points for a TD no matter how tall you are.

On the OL competition - With 5 top guys, "it kinda is what it is right now." There's a chemistry that's important to line play. You'd like to find five guys who can get used to each other. Michael Schofield will be a contributor, it's just a question of when.

Greg Mattison

Guys are demonstrating the want-to. They understand that they need to get to the level of Michigan expectations. "You never know when it's going to happen. The guys are consciously trying to work to get there. Whether that work is good enough right now? I can't say yes to that." Need to see more guys getting over "the hump."

Playing with great technique, playing with tremendous effort, and being very physical are the three most important factors. "We do those three things, now we're playing Michigan defense."

On Tackling - "It's always something that we have to work on." Had a couple disappointing reps on the goal-line drills today. Were just one wrapped tackle away from making some stops. Safeties, corners, etc. understanding to not give up big plays.

On playing rotations - the coaches need to determine throughout camp how many consecutive plays guys can play at their top level. "When they're tired, somebody else will come in for you. Get your rest, you're not demoted." Specifically along D-line. At Florida, had 6 guys who were worthy of being called starters, even though 4 played at a time. Helped to have a good rotation.

Defensive linemen need to be consistent. "We have to be a defense that you play with great technique on every player. Unless you are a dominant athlete."

On Mike Martin - "I think he's working hard, and I say this about every player on our team: they can work harder and they will work harder." Won't say anybody has "elite talent" until they prove it in games. "I don't know if we have any, and I don't know if we don't have any."

On Will Heininger - "I think he's much stronger. He's shown some signs of being very physical and strong at times." Like everybody else, he needs to develop consistency.

On Nathan Brink - "Played like a Michigan football player... This guy here has come out every day as tough as he can." He hit his weight goal of 260 by coming into camp at 264. "In the spring, it was mentioned a number of times, because his toughness showed up. He was only 250 at the time."

On walk-ons like Nathan Brink and Tony Anderson - "Everybody's a scholarship football player to us. The best 11, the best 12, the best 13, best 17 - those guys are gonna play." Doesn't matter if a guy is a walk-on or a 5th-year guy, they'll play.

On WLB -  "That position - and again I hate to ever say anything positive - I love how those guys are playing at times. At times they're playing with such energy, such speed, and such explosiveness." That's a battle.

On Cam Gordon - "He's working really really hard at the physical part of playing SAM backer." He's working hard to meet the standards.

On the secondary - Safeties play a number of coverages, but priority is always to keep the ball inside and in front of him. Jordan Kovacs comes to work every day ready to do things the right way. All of the other safeties show flashes, but lose concentration at times. They need to improve their consistency.

Courtney Avery comes out trying to get better every day. "When he makes a mistake, it bothers him, and he tries even harder next time." Guys are learning that they need to have great technique.

Position changes - "Not drastic. We'll look at an outside linebacker who's kinda a hybrid to the rush backer, and we might switch those guys at times." There are no big, permanent changes.

Freshman contributors. "We've got some pretty good freshmen. Some of them have caught your eye," but they also make big freshman mistakes. They need to show consistent great talent to get on the field as soon as possible. "Frank Clark is a very talented... freshman." like all freshmen, he needs to do it right on every play.

Practice Notes

Martavious Odoms still has a cast on his left arm, although it's coming off in the next week.

Vincent Smith, Terrence Robinson, Justice Hayes, Kelvin Grady, Thomas Rawls, Je'Ron Stokes, and Jerald Robinson were the players taking reps catching "kicks" from the jug machine. Fred Jackson made them all run through a couple different variations on the drill (turning around as the ball is launched, running five yards then turning around, etc.)

The defensive backs were working on proper alignments with coach Curt Mallory. He was running a group of DBs through their responsibilities as far as alignment, adjusting that alignment to motion and different offensive formations, and then their responsibilities depending on what certain offensive players would do. It was a very detail-oriented instruction.

During stretching (woo stretching!), one of the strength coaches reminded the players that they needed to take it upon themselves to have a good practice, saying "You don't have a great day by accident, you have it on purpose."

Also during stretching time, Brady Hoke was making his rounds and talking to a few players. He stopped and gave Stephen Hopkins a pat on the helmet and had a short conversation with him.

During the few plays of offense v. defense, it seemed there was a mixed group of starters and backups on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen were flanked by Jibreel Black and Nathan Brink on the DL (Will Heininger rotated in as well), with Jake Ryan and Brandin Hawthorne in at LB with Kenny Demens. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon (deep - Carvin Johnson also rotated in) were the safeties, with Troy Woolfolk and Courtney Avery at corner. A few expected starters rotated in with the other group, including Craig Roh.

Offensively, it seemed the units were a little more in line with expectations of a first and second unit. Fitz Toussaint and Michael Shaw got the first-team reps at RB. There were a couple plays of I-form, some shotgun, and a mix between run and pass as well.

On the "second" units, Michael Cox, Jeremy Jackson, and Tony Anderson were among the notable players. Shaw got a couple reps with Gardner's offense as well.


Unverified Voracity Is Secretly Switzer

Unverified Voracity Is Secretly Switzer

Submitted by Brian on August 12th, 2011 at 11:40 AM



An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.
Friedrich Nietzsche

EPIC. Thujone's latest paint opus has panels for Tate Forcier, Big Ten expansion, and Les Miles, but this is where it's at:



As always, Thujone comes with a CARTOON PENIS warning. Do not click if you are in a situation where being caught looking at a cartoon penis would be compromising.

Epic in the other direction. Chris Brown's latest at Smart Football is one of those posts that instantly illuminates a part of football that was murky before, and this one even comes with locally-relevant content. He describes the "snag" and "y-stick" plays you may have seen in your copy of NCAA 12 (or any year since '08 since they haven't changed it since). They incorporate stretches both vertical (i.e., making a cover two cornerback pick between a high guy and a low guy) and horizontal (i.e., making a flat defender pick between an outside guy and an inside guy) with routes that do well against man coverage.

Presenting that concept taking candy from a baby:

The snag is so synonymous with the triangle concept that some teams simply call it “triangle.” The basic concept involves one receiver in the deep third on a corner route (good by itself against man-to-man), one receiver in the flat, often a runningback or inside receiver (which can also be good against man from a bunch-set), and a third receiver on the “snag” route, sometimes also known as a “slant-settle” or a “mini-curl.”


As a general matter, against a Cover Two defense the quarterback will have a high/low read of the cornerback; if he sinks back he can throw it to the inside receiver in the flat; if the cornerback drops he will throw it to the corner route behind the cornerback, as shown in the clip below.

Against a Cover Three defense, the cornerback should take away the corner route by dropping into the deep third, but the snag/mini-curl and the flat should put a horizontal stretch on the flat defender and one of the two should be open.

At times like this I think to myself "boy, I hope I got that right." Drumroll…

NFW Michigan can defend this as aligned, as Rogers(-1) has a nasty choice between giving up the corner or the flat and chooses poorly by not sinking into the corner. (Cover -2, RPS -2); Gordon has no prayer of getting over in time and can only hope to tackle. Also, Avery(-1) appears to be abandoning his zone to ride the WR on a little hitch farther, which means the flat is wide open; Michigan is putting lots of guys in the same areas on their zone drops

Not bad. Michigan didn't even make that snag hard; by the time the ball is gone Mouton and Ezeh are within a yard of each other and Avery isn't much farther away. I still don't think there was any way for Michigan to defend this staple play as aligned, which points to the incoherence of the defense. Everything from last year points to the incoherence of the defense, sure.

Outdoor hockey is go. The on-again-off-again outdoor game in Cleveland is on again, this time officially. It's January 15th.

I wonder what the fan breakdown will be. This one's a bit farther than the Big House but still an easy drive and Ohio State fans don't usually turn out for hockey. They do make an exception for Michigan, though, and they'll probably make a larger one for the outdoor game PR stunt. 50-50?

Let's be friends. Dimitri Martin has a one-liner about bumper stickers: "to me, all bumper stickers say the same thing: 'let's not be friends.' This is one of two exceptions:


You know what happened in 1973, I'm sure. If not MVictors has you covered.

The other exception: once I saw a guy with a black bumper sticker that read CASH, as in Johnny.

I'm surprised it took this long. Greg Mattison has declared his team a "blitzing" team:

Very aggressive. I'll take anything more than three guys this year. Also, feel the soothing reassurance of Greg Mattison talking vis a vis Greg Robinson.

Euroleague says thanks. Someone credible enough to get retweeted by Pete Thamel says he "keeps hearing" NBA owners are pushing for an eligibility structure similar to the NFL. I.E.: you can't enter the draft until you're three years out of high school.

At that point wouldn't a lot of kids scheduled to be one-and-done GTFO? It's one thing when you've got to cool your heels for a year nailing cheerleaders and maybe taking a few classes. Three years is a totally different matter. The money will be bigger overseas since they can expect some high-level performances when the #1 pick in the NBA draft is 21.

Football can get away with their structure because there's nowhere else to play and they're almost always right: you should not be playing in the NFL less than three years after prom because you will die. The Adrian Petersons of the world are exceedingly rare. In basketball there are a dozen guys coming out of high school every year who can be all right NBA players right away.

Etc.: NCAA may or may not have sent a second "we're investigating you, buddy" letter to OSU. Wholly unreliable local radio host "The Torg" says "Ellis" from the SI story has talked to the NCAA, so take that for what it's worth.

Martavious Odoms's alarming cast should be off in two weeks so no big deal. Nobody knows who the starting running back is.

Fall Camp 2011: Greg Mattison Presser Notes

Fall Camp 2011: Greg Mattison Presser Notes

Submitted by Tim on August 9th, 2011 at 7:58 PM


Photo (obviously) from file

2 days in, there's a long way to go to where they want to be. Impressed and excited about effort. Couldn't see them in the summer, but they put in the work. "Trying to do the right thing, trying to improve themselves, and then it just carries over when they start practice." In spring, coaches were teaching the philosophy, then schemes. Players worked the schemes in their senior-led practices this summer.

Focus in early practices: "You want perfect alignments, you want perfect technique, and you want unbelievable effort to the football." Need to correct missed assignments early, because those will eventually become big plays in games. The defense's goal is to not give up big plays.

"When you coach the DL or you coordinate defenses, you have great respect for great coaches. And Brady's always been one of those guys." Great passion and work ethic as a coach. "Every day that i've been here, I feel like that was the greatest decision that I've made."

Strength of the D - "I can't say right now that we're a blitz team. I can't say that we're a coverage team. The only thing I can say is we'll play with unbelievable effort." Hoping to say that playing with great technique is a strength at the end of camp as well. Guys understand what he wants to do with the D. Now it's about doing the little things to properly execute what the coaches want. Wants to be a team that nobody can run the ball against. Wants an aggressive D that makes the QB nervous in passing situations.

Asked Will Campbell to cut weight he hit his target. Craig Roh needed to put on weight. "I noticed in practice no pads, I saw it already." There are a couple other players that were asked to hit weight goals, and didn't succeed (no names). Jibreel Black has to prove himself every day. Young guys can't get away with mailing it in, even if they're talented. The results speak for themselves. "Jibreel's gotta be more consistent." Will have to wait until first game to see if Martin will be used at LB, etc. "The thing that we're gonna do with this defense is always try to put players in a position to best effect the outcome of the ballgame."

Marell Evans "He's an inside linebacker. And he showed some very good things in the spring." LBs most improved since the start of spring. Is that because they were bad to start, or because they're improving? Hopefully the latter. Front 7 - "They're not going to get any stronger right now [since camp has started], and they're not going to get any bigger right now." Improving technique and effort will be the way to succeed.

Woolfolk - will know once hitting starts if he can still play. Coverage may be faster without pads. "I think you're gonna see where he's gonna be fine." The lineup isn't set. Nobody is ever handed a job. "When a guy gets hurt, he's gotta come back and earn that position." Some position changes still possible in fall camp. "It's anywhere in your defense. It isn't always about height-weight, that sort of thing. You're gonna put the best eleven on the field."

Freshmen - "I think Frank Clark has a lot of ability. You can see a different speed at which he goes. Brennen Beyer looks like a guy that we thought we saw on film." Some freshmen haven't been in a lot of practice due to summer classes.

How hungry is the D for success? "I feel that, and I feel it for them." All people talk about is how bad the D is. It doesn't matter what they've done in the past. "All we care about is that this defense plays the way Michigan defenses are supposed to play." When they work hard, then you want them to see the rewards.

"I've always loved recruiting." You work to make your coaching job go better. "When you're recruiting for the University of Michigan and having the direction that Brady's giving us right now, and that Dave Brandon's giving us, you get your blood going, because you want that young man to have this. You want him to have what's about to happen here." Surprised how quickly the 2012 class has come together? "No. It's Michigan." Tremendous product with academic/athletic/tremendous city to sell to the players. Want to make sure you get Michigan-type players.

Did the NFL experience change him? "Gave me a whole new perspective on pressuring the quarterback." NFL QBs will tear you apart if you don't get pressure on. If you have tremendous pass-rush ability out of your front 4, you may not need to blitz. "I was the luckiest guy in the world to have a chance to work with those guys [Ravens players]. Coaching is taking what you have and making sure it can learn." Coaching is about guys who people don't think are great players, and give them a chance to get drafted because they improve. If he's not going to get an NFL chance, he'll have his degree.

In college, you also need to be ready for a QB that takes off running, which can alter schemes. In college, there's less prep time (practice, film, etc.) than for the players than in NFL. "You have to make sure that you don't slow your players down because they don't know what to do." There will be plenty of defenses installed, but they won't be called unless they can be executed properly. You don't run the same defenses every week - the opposing offense can dictate what pressures and playcalls you use.

Expectations: "I do" expect them to set the world on fire. "I wouldn't be coaching if I didn't think we'd be able to get this defense up to the level that Michigan expects." If players play hard and execute assignments, they can succeed.

"I know in my heart what's about to happen here. We're going to have a Michigan football program that Bo, Coach Moeller and Coach Carr are going to be proud of again." When it happens, we'll find out. Passionate people with great product means something good is about to happen. Bo would like Hoke, how he teaches, and his passion.

Watched 3 game of film from last year- Wisc, MSU, and ND. "Those are hard-nosed physical teams, and like I said our #1 thing on D will be to be physical and stop the run." Hasn't watched college film other than looking at draft prospects over the past 3 years. Only has watched on TV. Watched Florida and Michigan last year as Ravens coach - just caught them on TV. "Anyplace that you've been at, when they're not having success, it bothers you."

How Much Should The D Improve? Not Enough

How Much Should The D Improve? Not Enough

Submitted by Brian on July 12th, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Let's take some small sample sizes and extrapolate wildly. It will be fun. Here's Bill Connolly breaking down expected improvement from teams that return varying numbers of defensive starters:

So Cincinnati returns 11 defensive starters. That's probably a good thing, right? But how good? And how much can a bad defense improve in one offseason just because of experience? Let's take a look, shall we?

Average Change In Def. F/+, Last Three Years
N Avg Chg in
Def. F/+

1 1 -12.4%
2 4 -10.9%
3 10 -8.4%
4 32 -2.1%
5 53 -1.1%
6 69 -0.5%
7 85 1.1%
8 56 1.5%
9 37 4.2%
10 9 6.0%
11 3 5.4%

So basically, if you return between five and eight starters, you are likely not going to change much, but three or fewer is a problem, and nine or more is a good thing.

F/+ is Connolly's advanced metric; it's play-based instead of drive-based like FEI. Don't be fooled by the % symbol—the metric is percentage based and from context it's clear the difference is meant to be added to the score, not multiplied. Since the best defenses are around +17% and the worst around –13%, 6% is about a fifth of the entire scale.

Michigan is, unsurprisingly, right at the bottom of that scale at 115th. They were 12% worse than an average defense down-to-down. The good news is they return 9-ish starters, losing Greg Banks, James Rogers and Jonas Mouton while reacquiring Troy Woolfolk. (They also lose Ray Vinopal and Obi Ezeh, but Ezeh had been replaced and Michigan should get JT Floyd back so let's call it a wash.)

The numbers are thin at both ends of the spectrum but, hey, extrapolating wildly from small sample sizes. Doing so says Michigan's defense will storm forward from 115th nationally to…



I have no source for this, unfortunately.

But wait! Our sample sizes are not small enough and our extrapolation is not making out with other nubile young extrapolations in front of a television camera. Bill added a second factor, the previous year's defense, and finds that a defense with an F/+ under –10% that returns nine starters should expect (for a given confidence level that is not high at all) to improve by 8.6%, which would see them get to…



You might be able to argue that Mike Martin wasn't right and the team was even younger than the average team that returns nine starters and GERG is rubbing stuffed animals on the faces of other stuffed animals at a tearful tea party and for the first time in a long time they'll just run one damn defense per year and that they should expect to improve even more. You're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Like installing the spread 'n' shred, digging out of a hole this big is a multi-year project.

Unverified Voracity Flags Down Shawn Kemp

Unverified Voracity Flags Down Shawn Kemp

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Facepalm of the last half-hour. Trey Keenan is a Texas offensive lineman with three stars, a Michigan offer, and a slightly shaky grasp of the recent past($):

Keenan admits he likes the direction that the new staff is taking the program. “I like that they’re going back to being the old Michigan and not the team that got beat by Appalachian State,” he said.

It's a good thing I set up a facepalm hotkey. Ctrl+Alt+FFFFUUU:


Dude is hardcore. Hey, look, it's the Little Brown Jug:


Just hanging out… uh… in some guy's basement on what appears to be a pool table. This would be the point at which we round up a posse and hunt down the varmit who stole our danged jug, but that would be pointless violence since some dude made a Brown Jug replica (and apparently that box) because he is hardcore. Auburn fans should try this: get some hardcore guy to make a replica of Toomer's Corner. Problem solved.

Come on, baby. Red apparently doesn't think anyone's jetting in the offseason:

Michigan coach Red Berenson said Monday he finished his postseason individual meetings with players and doesn't expect anyone to leave early for the pro ranks. The Wolverines, who advanced to the national title game, return two outstanding defensemen in junior Brandon Burlon and freshman Jon Merrill.

No quotes and frankly the Detroit News isn't an outlet that spends a lot of time on hockey, but… woo? It wouldn't be too outlandish: Merrill and Burlon are the only serious departure threats and both are Devils draftees. The Devils have a track record of leaving kids in college and have a number of D prospects a bit further along the development path than their guys at Michigan.

While it's kind of a negative that I can't think of a Michigan forward who would even think of an NHL departure at least we won't get blindsided, except of course we will.

Attention Shawn Kemp. You take any random son of an NBA star, have him commit to Michigan, and bam he's awesome:

I did not recognize Glenn “Trey” Robinson when compared to the skinny kid I watched last summer. Robinson was maybe 175 pounds soaking wet then.

Now he has a body that makes you envision a flying combo forward finishing strong on the offensive end with lock down ability defensively. Robinson did just that Friday night against Upstate. He finished at the rim, often violently, through contact.

That's the third or fourth early rave GRIII has picked up in the month or so AAU ball has been going on. In addition NBE lists Robinson at 6'8"(!), 205. Other first-hand reports like those of UMHoops think that's generous, but he's clearly bigger than he was when he committed.

(HT: UMHoops.)

Stats are bad (this time). I hate to disagree with a guy who goes back and checks out actual game film instead of talking about football players playing football, but KC Joyner has an ESPN Insider article that claims Michigan is going to have an "elite passing game"($) this year because of some shiny Denard stats that I think are silly.

Joyner splits Denard's attempts* into buckets by yardage: 11.9 YPA on throws of 11-19 yards, 16.4 YPA on throws from 20-29 yards, and 15.4 YPA on throws of more than 30 yards. These compare favorably to some guy you may have heard of:

A review of 11 of Ryan Mallett's games against SEC and bowl-level competition over the past two seasons found that the possible future first-round draft pick (and one of college football's top passers) posted an 8.2 total YPA, an 11.6 vertical YPA and a 14.6 stretch vertical YPA.

Robinson's 10 games include his three worst contests from last season with regard to passer rating (Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame) and exclude his two of his three best passer rating contests (Massachusetts and Bowling Green), yet he was still able to top Mallett in all three categories.

There are a number of problems with this analysis. One: it does not account for the frequency of throws. Mallett's Hogs passed 53% percent of the time; Michigan threw on 40% of snaps. Two: Denard's throws are heavily slanted towards short stuff. The "stretch vertical" number cited by Joyner consists of just 31 attempts, which is both a sample size problem and another equilibrium issue. Three:

A large number of Denard's long touchdowns were stupidly easy because of the system that ran so much and so effectively, often with Robinson himself. You can't point to 11 completions featuring safeties going "WHAT DO I DO /explodes" and extrapolate anything approximating Mallett's production. The opportunities above simply will not exist in an under-center WCO, leaving Denard to try to do this:

I love Denard like he is a combination of my own son and Olivia Wilde but I don't think he's making throws like that. Maybe "simply will not exist" is a bit much, but the amount of pressure Denard put on opposing safeties last year—and the interceptions he threw even when given reasonable windows—prevents you from divorcing his production from his system.

I'm not saying he won't be a better QB than he was last year. I'm saying the smart bet is on a significant reduction in passer efficiency if he's operating a WCO.

*[Attempts against Michigan's Big Ten schedule, ND, and UConn. Unclear why the bowl was left out. Probably because KC Joyner doesn't like watching snuff films.]

Get this man a cereal commercial. Don't tell that to Denard, though, who says "I really like this offesne and what we're doing" in a brief TSN interview. Also:

Q: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison says he talks a lot of trash to you. What’s going on there?

Robinson: We have that love/hate relationship. I love competing against him. Every day at practice, he says something to make you want to compete.

Q: What does he say?

Robinson: He says, ‘You can’t throw. Can’t throw.’ I know he’s teasing. I make a throw, and I’ll say something to him. Or I’ll just look over and smile at him.

Thank God for Denard—whenever you're feeling ambivalent about your connection to the program because of the Braylon Edwardses of the world just think about Denard.

Um… thanks? Believe it or not, this is Jack Nicklaus trying to say something nice about Ohio State:

"I don't know what really happened, but I'll promise you that Tressel wasn't the only one that knew what happened," Nicklaus told The Plain Dealer.

If he's right pieces of the Ohio State athletic department will be slowly descending from the troposphere for decades. (Not that he's anything other than a very famous message board poster in this department.)

Etc.: Ace relates the story of his first game at Michigan Stadium. I'd play but I can't remember which game it was because I was small. The Hero Of Tiananmen Square (AKA John Pollack, king of futile Big House preservation attempts) puts out an awful book on puns featuring many awful puns. As per usual, he misses the point entirely. You should have gone to Vermont, but at least you didn't go to Iowa State. TTB outlines the 4-3 under in parts: line, linebackers, and secondary. Forward Thinking surveys the QB landscape in the aftermath of Zeke Pike's Auburn commitment. If you didn't get enough carpet-bombing of former players who have fallen back in love with Michigan football, Mets Maize is over Avignon right now.

Coaching Clinic Notes: Mattison And The Defense

Coaching Clinic Notes: Mattison And The Defense

Submitted by Brian on April 20th, 2011 at 2:12 PM

A guest post from Craig Ross, who took in the coaches' clinic this year, as he does most years. If you're not sure what "technique" means or the basics of cover X defenses the UFR FAQ should be of some assistance.


greg-robinson-fail032911_SPT_UM Football Practice_MRM

Greg is not impressed, GERG

On a personal level Mattison is charismatic and impressive. I can’t imagine that he won’t be a absolutely great recruiter. His enthusiasm is manifest. He isn’t a defensive personality (I don’t mean football defense) in the slightest. Media guys kept asking him about his salary (incredibly rude, I thought) and he just said he didn’t want to talk about. Not mean. Not tired. Not nasty. Just matter of fact. But after the second “no,” these reporters got it.

Unlike GERG he has patience with questions, especially football questions. GERG wanted little to do with the press and had no patience with anything resembling a football question. [I asked whether he would be playing “one or two gap” a couple of years ago. He looked at me like I was crazy (maybe I am/was, probably the question was idiotic) but he responded (and repeated himself) with “Let’s just say by the end of the season you’ll be happy with our defense.” Uh, well, not exactly.

I don’t want to beat on GR. The media can be pretty awful and he had a right to some disinclination to talk about anything other than superficial sound bites. But even in coaching clinics he seemed loathe to talk about defensive structure, which he perceived as overrated (maybe he is right). His obsession was technique, notably tackling technique—stunning given what our defense did the last two years. But Mattison is a whole different deal. He gives smart questions their due. He gives sloppy questions more thought than they probably deserve. And, yeah, he isn’t above the ordinary sound bite to the ordinary sorta-non-question.

Mattison's Philosophy

The Ravens were a 3-4 team until Mattison took over the defense. In 2009 he changed the Raven to a 4-3 look and there is every reason to believe he will attempt to mimic the success he had in Baltimore. Mattison’s overall philosophies are

  1. stop the run,
  2. take away the offense’s best receiver (I assume this means the D may tend to roll a bit to the best WR’s side of the field), and
  3. keep the defensive formations stable but mix pressures and coverages.

Mattison will run a 4-3 with some nickel as a primary defense*. He was adamant about four things.

  1. Martin (or any NT) will never play right over the center, zero tech, that he will be shaded into the A gap, even if slightly**.
  2. He always wants four guys down. Always. He said “If I have to limp in there we are playing 4 guys on the line.” (A couple of times in the spring game it looked like we had three guys down. Reviewed this. On play one he had Big WC at NT and Mike Martin standing up on the edge. Denard breaks the play for 55 yards. Of course, we did have 4 DL in the game so he didn’t violate his abstract principle. Also, as noted, against spread looks he went with three DL. [Ed: my impression was that these sorts of games were reserved for passing downs, when run soundness goes out the window and you're just trying to hassle the QB.])
  3. GM prefers (strongly) that the defense generally have the same look. He stated that his defense will not “stem” into different looks. That said, he wants the defense to have variations out of the singular defensive formation.
  4. As every coach on the planet says and means, he wants the D to pressure the QB.

Mattison stresses that he has been left with attentive kids. He talks about their seriousness, that they have behaved and been supportive of each other. Unlike Borges, who spent a lot of time looking at last year’s offense, Mattison claims he did not watch “one minute” of last year’s tape. (I wish I hadn’t.) There are two reasons for this. First, he didn’t want to bias his impressions of the players. He preferred that he and his staff make their own valuations, as opposed to those that accrued in a different system. Second, he was going to run a different system anyway. Looking to last year’s model wasn’t going to provide any information likely to have value.

This is a treacherous judgment—my understanding of the lingo may hamstring my perceptions—but it looks to me like Mattison will to use a 4-3 under as his base defense. The NT will be shaded into the A gap toward the TE, the defensive end in 5 technique but slightly shaded to the outside, and the SAM lining up near the LOS outside of the tight end, assuming there is a TE on the field. On the weak side the tackle will be in 3-tech and the rush end will shaded slightly outside of the offensive tackle***.  Basically this:


Via Jene Bramel

I think Michigan will look like this a lot but the black “elephant”—the rush end for UM [ed: around here we called it Deathbacker when Greg Robinson was trying to use that guy as in coverage more]—might be a bit closer to the tackle. Mattison’s drawing also had the Mike (Middle LB) and Will (Weakside LB) slightly more shaded to the TE. In the diagram above the Mike has the strongside B gap and Will the weakside A gap. The Will just has to make sure his gap isn’t threatened and then can flow to the ball.

Coverage: The field (wide side) corner and safety will often play “quarters,” while the other safety will be responsible for half the field. [ed: This is also known as quarter-quarter-halves. It's a cover three that splits the field unevenly. Hit up this Smart Football post for more detail—look for the first diagram with color in it.] If there is a receiver to the boundary (short side) that corner will squat, but if there is no WR he may have a “fire” read, rushing the passer or having weakside run support.

A couple variants: A primary variation of this will be the DL all slanting to the weak side of the formation, the Mike and Will dropping into hook and curl coverage, with the corners and weakside safety splitting the field into thirds and the strong side safety having responsibility in the flat. Note that this comes out of the same 4-3 under look. I assume, on this choice, the Sam (Strongside LB) has edge integrity and the Mike and strong safety have primary run support to the play side.

Mattison didn’t mention the 4-3 over but they definitely played a bit of that in the SG. In that the NT shifts to a shade into the weakside A gap and the linebackers are more balanced. I have to look back at the tape some---pretty sure they played a bit of it, at least late in the SG.

It also looks like they will play some “Bear” defense, bringing the Will down into the gap between the End and the SAM. In such instances he said they will always be in man defense, they won’t try to zone. Mattison also stressed that “setting an edge” to the defense is always important and on their base defense that’s up to the Sam on the field side. He said this was “a huge deal.”


In terms of personnel note that Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd were out in the spring, as was Kenny Demens. In a surprise Marrell Evans started with the ones (I didn’t know he was on the team until 10 days ago) in the Spring Game. Herron was there, too. Herron was shucked by Cox on his long run. I thought Evans played pretty well.

Tony Anderson and Avery both played pretty well at corner (or was this just the weakness in our passing game?) so with Floyd and Woolfolk healthy in the fall, there should be a lot of competition there.

In a huge surprise to me, I saw some really good play from Greg Brown—at corner—in the last Saturday scrimmage [ed: ie, the Saturday before the spring game]. This was mentioned by the coaches, so it is not a secret or my insanity. Brown did give up the TD near the end of the spring game but he was in great position and just misplayed the ball. Right now Carvin and Kovacs are running with the ones at safety, but Marvin Robinson is going to be a monster if he can learn the D. Parents of a player mentioned this to me, that Marvin had the chance to be awesome, once he steps up his understanding of the playbook. Josh Furman made a couple of plays but I didn’t focus on him so I can’t evaluate his play yet. Marvin made numerous big plays in the last weekend scrimmage.

The DL looks set with Van Bergen at DE, Roh at rush end, Big Will at the three tech and Martin at NT. However, Martin was moved around a bit in the SG so I have to look at the tape of that. Depth is thin, but I saw some good play from Black (inconsistent, but flashes), Wilkins (big plays in the SG) and the other Will (Heininger) who has been moved inside to NT.

The LBs were Jones (Will) and Cam Gordon (Sam) and I thought they did OK. Jake Ryan just stood out on the last scrimmage (with the 2s)—he made play after play—and he did the same thing in the SG. He was a way under the radar recruit but he really looks like he will be a player.

This was the worst defense in the history of the galaxy (maybe not universe, there may be a planet where some team was worse) last year so I am surprised by what I saw this spring. It was a more ordinary spring--- the UM defense making the offense struggle to get any run game going (except for Denard), though maybe two big plays were broken by the RBs. I predicted before the SG (based on the prior week’s scrimmage) that this would be an average or above average defense. I still think that. Something in the back of my head thinks it might even be an “almost good” defense but I suspect this is delusional. Now the coaches seem nervous. Mattison was unhappy after the SG but they sure seem ahead of anything I have seen for a few years.


*[Editor's note: given how much we saw Thomas Gordon in the spring game I'm guessing the nickel will be the base defense against spread looks.]

**[During the spring game it seemed like were pretty close to a zero technique at times, something he seemed to disavow. From the endzone, where I sat, there always seemed some shade. But on the Tivo of the game (from the side) of course, it seemed like we had a NT in zero tech every now and then. I reviewed it. Seems like this was when the offense was in a spread, when GM went completely odd with a 3 man front—as George Halas suggested against the single wing.]

***[Mattison is concerned that too many rush ends tend to get too wide as they attempt to speed rush the tackle. He thinks this is too easy a mark for an offensive tackle unless the end is a blur. He wants him closer to the tackle. He especially wants Craig Roh to not get too wide, allowing him to probe in either direction.]

Unverified Voracity Wraps It Up

Unverified Voracity Wraps It Up

Submitted by Brian on April 12th, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Hello. What with hockey and dissertation and everything it was a tired, panicked last few days but go to bed at a reasonable hour and stay there for a good while and hey the sun's shining and there's a baseball game tonight. I've also got all these tabs; they're increasingly elderly but oh well.


Jake Fromm/Daily

Elsewhere in getting hammered in the temple. A roundup of post-championship reacts on the Michigan blogosphere. HSR:

The hardest part about the National Championship game last night was that there's no new lesson to glean from it. When you take penalties, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get the puck into the opponent's zone, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get a change in overtime, it's going to be almost impossible to win.


The Sun rose on Sunday in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful, 80-degree day, the first such day after another long Midwestern winter. Normally I’d be pleased, but yesterday a picturesque spring day felt like a cruel joke.

Red himself:

"I think right now it's pretty tough to reflect on the season when you just lost a national championship game in overtime. If you're a competitor, you're going to be devastated," he said.

"You know the seniors aren't going to get another chance, and they've been the nuts and bolts of this team. Our young guys, they might think they'll get the chance every year, but it doesn't work that way."

So… yeah… if you were in the comments yesterday complaining that I was too down you don't follow the hockey team closely enough. This could be your reaction every spring, too! Season tickets! Get them!

Also in enragement. This is uncharacteristic of Berenson:

“Were they good penalties?” Berenson asked. “I can’t tell you what I really think. I mean, you can’t talk about refereeing and penalties, but when one team gets nine (power plays) and the other four, it doesn’t add up.”

He wasn’t done.

“We’re not out there to take penalties,” he said. “So every time a player falls down, it shouldn’t be a penalty, not in NCAA championship hockey.”

FWIW, it was only the third-period calls that I thought were terrible. The other stuff was either unfortunate, undisciplined, or plain necessary. Michigan took like three straight in the second and didn't call the ref a troglodyte who should be shot into the sun, so… yeah.

That last "boarding" call was some kind of awful, though.

The enlightenment comes. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd won't be suspended for the season, or placed in stocks in the middle of campus, or forced to wear a hairshirt for picking up a DUI. While that's not so good for Michigan's laser night game throwback spectacular it's closer to sane. Rakes of Mallow somewhat defensively posted a list of recent DUI offenses and their consequences and the consensus is one game unless you play for OSU. [Ed-M: My list is better.] Doctor Saturday:

If anything, Res Life's scorched-earth verdicts against former basketball players Will Yeatman and Joseph Fauria and basketball player Kyle McAlarney — all of whom were booted from school for an entire semester for arguably lesser charges than the trio of alcohol-related offenses on Floyd's record — were evidence of a policy far out of step with the mainstream. As McAlarney wrote the Tribune, the office showed "no compassion, no consideration for me, no feelings whatsoever." Yeatman and his parents also publicly objected to his suspension before his transfer to Maryland.

I'm with him even if I was pulling for a two-game suspension.

Feature thing. ESPN's spring feature on Michigan:

It's so bizarre seeing Urban Meyer try to be part of the media. I expect him to kick himself out of this interview. Also there's actually a lot of interesting* technique stuff in there if you ever wanted to find out what a DL coach does.

*[for a given definition of interesting, which is mine but probably not yards.]

Too cool to live. Free Darko is no more. Amongst the huge list of tributes posted I think Will Leitch is the one who gets it rightest:

Free Darko made me see athletes not as heroes, not as villains, not as humans, but as mythic, god-like creatures, comic and tragic. I don't mean God in a big man in the clouds with a beard sense; I mean in a "release the kraken!" sense.

They were perfectly suited for the NBA. I talked to Shoals a bit when we were both writing for The Sporting Blog; he was disappointed in his traffic numbers and disappointed in the weirdly disjoined TSB and seemed like a guy who was losing faith, getting ready to move on. TSB duly imploded and now FD is scattering to fancy magazine pages of the world.

Random insane NCAA decision of the week. Colleges can no longer subscribe to Rivals and Scout because they provide recruiting information not freely available to the public. The Bylaw Blog is kinda sorta incensed by the unintended consequences of what started as an attempt to reign in AAU coaches in men's basketball:

But it’s the reason Rivals is not a permissible service that shows the deeper underlying problem with the current recruiting regulations. It is not permissible to subscribe to a recruiting or scouting service that provides videos of prospects in non-scholastic competition, unless the videos are free and available to the general public.

The NCAA and its members have fought the growth of non-scholastic youth sports vigorously. Subscribing to video of non-scholastic contests is prohibited. In basketball, going to watch AAU events is tightly restricted. In football, coaches are prohibited from going to any non-scholastic event.

This has resulted in two things: the steady, continued growth of AAU basketball, 7-on-7 football, and all other club sports, and diminished NCAA influence in this area. By removing college coaches from many AAU gyms and football camps, it has become the lawless wild west that the restrictions sought to avoid.

According to Infante, the NCAA should "let go" of high school sports and reorganize around the principle that non-scholastic sports are primary. That sounds radical, but Infante makes a persuasive point: you have no control over something you have completely banned and lots of control over something you are working with. If two rival AAU tourneys are competing for players, the one with college coaches in the house is going to win hands-down.

Meanwhile, Rivals and company should expect a surge in subscriptions from coaches' wives.

Side note: Banning Rivals based on video of "non-scholastic competition" is a weird situation when a lot of newspapers are covering recruiting in more detail these days. The occasional camp highlight video hardly registers on why people subscribe to Rivals—if anyone actually watches video it's of, you know, football—and it would be interesting to see if one of the sites tests the NCAA by cutting camp stuff. Most of it's "Christian Cullen" running a shuttle.

Foot… ball? Yes, they still play it. No, there is no running back. A Daily article on the situation recycles some of Borges' quotes from his recent press availability…

“To say we have a frontline back, a guy we’re saying, ‘This guy’s the guy’ — we’ve had flashes of excellence from all of them and that’s not a decision we have to make today,” Borges said. “But I like those kids.”

…and alarmingly references Vincent Smith and Michael Cox without so much as mentioning Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins. Practice chatter has been silent on him even as guys like Cox, who has never seen the field for a reason, get unearthed and evaluated. Meaningfulosity? About as much as the rest of spring practice, but if you forgot what happens this time of year because you were paying attention to basketball and hockey, we get very very bored and therefore try to parse anything we can out of the faint whisper of the ghost of a tiny fraction of tea leaf that wasn't very large to start with.

Etc.: Vada Murray memorial is set for 11 AM Thursday at Cliff Keen. Don't expect Jim Nantz to ever get bumped out of his Final Four spot. Hope you enjoyed your four years at Michigan, seniors!

Known Unknowns, Hoke, And Guys From West Virginia

Known Unknowns, Hoke, And Guys From West Virginia

Submitted by Brian on April 4th, 2011 at 5:10 PM

 rodriguez-real-sportsHead coach John Beilein gives a speech prior to the Wolverine's selection at the NCAA selection ceremony held at Crisler Arena on Sunday March 15, 2009. Michigan was selected as the number 10 seed. (WILL MOELLER /Daily)

right: Will Moeller/Daily

Nine months ago Michigan fans were suspicious of both of their West Virginia coaching heists. Today one is sitting next to Billy Packer and Jason Whitlock in a suit; the other is a season away from establishing himself for the long haul. Both undertook program-changing measures after a disappointing start, but only one successfully delegated his way to success.

You know who is who. Rich Rodriguez:

  • fired Scott Shafer after one year as defensive coordinator,
  • hired retread Greg Robinson, and
  • forced him to run a 3-3-5-ish defense that incorporated the 3-4 and 4-3 with freshmen everywhere.

He got the sad firing box.

John Beilein:

  • literally fired or replaced every one of his assistants,
  • hired two up-and-comers from smaller schools, and
  • all but abandoned the 1-3-1 defense that was his trademark at West Virginia.

If he can wring the expected improvement out of his 46% freshman usage he'll have Michigan's basketball team in the Big Ten title picture for the first time since Fisher was run out of town.

Both coaches tweaked their specialty offense for different players. Rodriguez coaxed an NCAA-average performance out of true freshman Tate Forcier by relying on his scrambling ability in the pocket and using him as a decoy in the run game. (Or at least trying to—Tate had a bad habit of keeping the ball when his read said hand off.) He improved the offense further with sophomore-who-would-have-been-redshirt-freshman-if-Michigan-had-any-options Denard Robinson. Even the Robinson offense wasn't going back to the old Pat White well. Without a Slaton to put oomph in the read and with defenses far more prepared to deal with it these days, he implemented a rushing game that revolved around the quarterback instead of using him as a "gotcha" thunderbolt. He used the QB rushing staples to implement a terrifying play-action game that often saw receivers open by ten yards.

Terrible defense put Michigan in long-field situations (Michigan led the country in TD drives of more than 85 yards), there was no field goal kicking, and the inexperienced Robinson was a turnover machine. The thing was a bit rickety. It was erratic. It put too much load on Robinson's shoulders. It was also incredibly young and promised infinity when Robinson was old enough to cut out the turnovers. It finished #2 in FEI, which you know because I say it every ten seconds.

Beilein lost his only two upperclassmen from the immensely disappointing 2009 team and returned a collection of role players and youth. He had to know his best player was a point guard who couldn't shoot to save his life. He still had a perimeter four and a spread-the-court offense, but he implemented a ton of ball screens that gave defenses a choice between open threes from guys who shoot at a 38% clip or getting pick-and-rolled to death by Morris and Jordan Morgan. Morgan shot 63% as a result and Michigan vastly exceeded expectations.

This lived up to their rep. Both were regarded as innovators. "Genius" is definitely not a word you want to throw around when you're talking about coaches but their peers seemed to regard Beilein and Rodriguez as people you want to talk to. Beilein doesn't talk but gets the most votes when his peers are asked to judge solely on coaching acumen; Rodriguez does, so he pops up at Oklahoma and his coaches get snapped up two seconds after they're let go. Carr's coaching tree is Brady Hoke and Scot Loeffler, end of story. It's tough to throw a rock in college football without hitting someone inspired by or directly associated with Rodriguez.

But he's not here because he couldn't let go. Of all the numbers associated with his tenure at Michigan this is by far the most damning:


It's the 37 next to Syracuse in the FEI defense ratings. That is a schedule-adjusted, I-AA-ignoring measure of defensive competency featuring Scott Shafer and absolutely no talent a few spots off the defenses of Michigan State and Wisconsin. Last year (Shafer's first) they were 72nd, the year before that 80th when Greg Robinson was the head coach and functional DC.

Maybe that wasn't possible here what with Never Forget


…and all that. But we do know Shafer, a very good MAC coordinator who Harbaugh picked up and then made Syracuse better than anyone thought possible very quickly, is a good coach. And we know he was undermined and pushed out. Evidence suggests Greg Robinson is a terrible coach but he was undermined, too, and instead of a vaguely worse defense than two BCS teams coupled with Denard Robinson—good for 8-4 at least—we got something that was literally the worst ever in various categories.

Beilein had already scrapped the 1-3-1 before the total program reboot and was rewarded with an uptick in his Kenpom numbers from 67th to 53rd. It's a lot harder to tell who's responsible for what, but Beilein seemingly felt everything was insufficient and blew it all to hell. He still teaches the 1-3-1 but only uses it on occasion; he's left the defense mostly to his assistants. His reward: 35th nationally this year. That's better than his previous three years at Michigan. It's better than he ever did at West Virginia, because he knew what he didn't know.

Rodriguez's problem was never his selection of defensive coordinators, it was his refusal to trust them to do their jobs. The thing about Hoke is this: he does. At SDSU he hired Rocky Long to run a 3-3-5; Rocky Long ran a 3-3-5, and it was pretty good, and now he's the head coach. He hired Al Borges to run a passing-oriented West Coast offense; Borges ran a passing-oriented West Coast offense that wasn't quite as good as Michigan's in FEI's eyes but was still top 20. If he "gets" anything it's that he's a former defensive lineman with a narrowly defined set of assets that does not include being a genius of any variety—he's never been a coordinator. So he's hired two guys with very long, very successful resumes to do that stuff for him. That's an upgrade over Rodriguez, who had one—himself. It's an upgrade over Carr, who had zero*.

When I am trying to be cheerful in the face of Hoke's indifferent record I think about the vagaries of MAC budgets and what Hoke did the instant he escaped them. Mattison is the third excellent hire Hoke's made. That's a trend, one that suggests he, too, knows what he doesn't know. Since I'm a Michigan fan I'm bracing for a fatal flaw, but at least it won't be the same one that sunk Rich Rodriguez.


*[Ron English masterminded The Horror and does not count. Before his elevation at Michigan he had never been a coordinator. After he left he led the weak unit on the last Kragthorpe Louisville team and has started the slow process of dying at EMU. The only thing he's proven is that he can yell at several future NFL stars effectively.]

Title disclaimer: hate on Donald Rumsfeld all you want—just not here—but the bit about known knowns and known unknowns and unknown unknowns is a useful bit of language. Not intended to endorse or unendorse anything about Rumsfeld. Disclaimers uber alles.