Michigan Museday Commits Early

Michigan Museday Commits Early

Submitted by Seth on February 21st, 2012 at 8:22 AM

beatles-hello-goodbye2

Content note: I'll come back to Manball Matrix next time. I thought this was more timely. Note II: So you won't miss another commitment, while reading this article you are advised to hit refresh on your browser at regular intervals.

It was a commit-a-palooza unlike Michigan had seen since scholarship offers were sent by telegram and a signing ceremony was when a young player stepped off the platform of Kerrytown Station to serenades by hawkers, haberdashers, and hazing-minded upperclassman. Within one week of Michigan's annual summer camp, seven players were moved to end their recruitments and commit to the Wolverines' Class of 2004:

Name Pos State Ht Wt Rivals Scout RR Committed
Chris Rogers LB/DE PA 6'3" 240 4 3 5.8 6/15/2003
Will Johnson DT MI 6'4" 285 4 4 5.9 6/18/2003
Roger Allison FB/LB MI 6'2" 230 3 4 5.6 6/18/2003
Grant DeBenedictis OL FL 6'5" 270 3 3 5.5 6/20/2003
Charles Stewart DB MI 6'1" 188 3 3 5.7 6/20/2003
Alex Mitchell OL MI 6'5" 310 4 3 5.9 6/20/2003
Mike Hart RB NY 5'10" 175 3 3 5.7 6/21/2003

The verbal explosion was mostly camp commits, i.e. guys who impressed enough to earn an offer which they immediately accepted. In an age when mid-June was still quite early to be filling nearly half of a class, Commit-a-Palooza '03 was remarkable. With Morgan Trent and Max Martin this was 9 of eventually 22 signed.

[Quick: two more recruits probably just pledged; hit refresh now!]

Michigan later filled that class with Henne, Jamar Adams, Alan Branch, Jamison, Arrington, and a lot more roster fodder who appeared unremarkably in early UFRs, or didn't. At the time I wrote an email I just spent way too much time trying to find that talked about early signees of years prior. The point was to temper the post-euphoric expectations of pre-Facebook friends by showing how previous early birds had a greater chance of busting, what with all the offseasons, lifting clubs, and senior years between now and National Signing Day. Then I proved myself inconclusive.

-------------------------------------------

With an 8-man commit-fest that forced me to put time stamps in my database to keep track of % of class filled, and which puts the '03 bonanza to shame [refresh reminder], let's try it again. Here's the players, classes 2003 to 2011 in my database who committed to Michigan at least 50 weeks before National Signing Day:

Name Pos State Ht Wt RR Committed Class Rivals Scout
Delonte Hollowell DB MI 5'8" 162 5.7 1/17/2010 2011 3 3
Ricardo Miller WR MI 6'2" 208 5.7 9/29/2008 2010 3 4
Jeremy Jackson WR MI 6'3" 194 5.5 10/1/2008 2010 3 3
Jerald Robinson WR OH 6'2" 175 5.7 2/9/2009 2010 3 4
William Campbell DT MI 6'5" 317 6.1 6/20/2007 2009 5 5
Boubacar Cissoko DB MI 5'9" 171 6 2/4/2007 2008 4 5
Vince Helmuth RB MI 6'1" 235 5.5 1/29/2006 2007 3 4
Artis Chambers DB IN 6'2" 185 5.6 2/19/2006 2007 3 3
Kevin Grady RB MI 5'10" 230 6.1 9/7/2003 2005 5 5
Justin Schifano OL NY 6'5" 300 5.8 1/15/2004 2005 4 4
Mario Manningham WR OH 6'0" 174 6 2/5/2004 2005 4 4
Morgan Trent WR MI 6'1" 180 5.8 2/10/2003 2004 4 4

I didn't include several guys who later decommitted, but I did count Will Campbell, who verbaled to Michigan in June of 2007 (!) and a year later decided to lead Rodriguez on a merry chase until 5 weeks to NSD. Many of these guys—Hollowell, Helmuth, Chambers, Trent—committed on the offer after Junior Day.Jerald-Robinson

[Refresh!]

Well there's Mario, and…well that's a lot of guys who didn't or haven't lived up to their hype. Schifano gave up football, Grady was overrated before he was the guy you could count on to get Michigan at least a mention in the Fulmer Cup, Chambers and Helmuth were whiffs, Cissoko … his thing, and these days the extent of our Campbell and Ricardo dreams are Gabe Watson and Tim Massaquoi.

Busts can come from any time, and this is a small sample of early RR and late Lloyd recruits who didn't have the pedigrees of the solid-to-high 4-stars Hoke is bringing in. Taking out kickers, players with more than half of their eligibility left, guys who didn't qualify, guys who lost their best years to injury before we could get a feel for their evaluation, and proprietors of Fck Lions, here's the apparent success rates by when they committed:

Weeks to NSD OvRtd +/-1* UnRtd Success Rate Avg Diff Tot
50 or more 4 6 -- 60.0% -0.95 12
40 to 49 5 10 -- 66.7% -0.50 17
30 to 39 3 22 1 88.5% -0.29 35
20 to 29 7 15 1 69.6% -0.52 27
10 to 19 4 9 -- 69.2% -0.31 17
5 to 9 5 25 1 83.9% -0.52 36
1 to 4 1 8 -- 88.9% -0.22 19
Week of NSD 5 18 2 80.0% -0.26 29
Totals/Avgs 34 113 5 77.6% -0.43 192

"OvRtd" (overrated) to me means guys who probably should have been pegged at 1.5 or more stars below their Scout/Rivals average. "UnRtd" means 1.5 or more stars and were, in order, Hart, Molk, Branch, Englemon and Omemeh. Google Doc here so you rip apart my totally subjective ratings. "Total" on right includes the guys I cut out so you can see the flow of a recruiting year before the Hoke era. FYI 30 to 39 week corresponds to about May-June.

[Refresh now anyway.]

Does this mean anything for the flood of early pledges this week, or much of this year's class for that matter? I don't really think so, no. Mostly what this says is that Michigan had a ton of busts over the last decade of recruiting, and that juniors who commit immediately upon receiving a camp offer are seldom primo athletes.

As of now Michigan has filled approximately half of its projected Class of 2013, (figuring on 22 total) at a point in the cycle when traditionally only about 6 percent of the class has taken shape. A look at previous 50-percent points demonstrates just how unprecedented this is for Michigan:

Year Commits Avg Stars 50% Full By Days to NSD Final Scout Rk Final Rivals Rk
2013 11 4.1 2/19/2012 352 n/a n/a
2012 13 3.6 6/10/2011 235 4 7
2011 10 3.3 1/20/2011 13 29 21
2010 14 3.3 6/20/2009 228 12 20
2009 11 3.6 8/31/2008 157 14 8
2008 12 3.8 7/31/2007 190 6 10
2007 10 3.6 8/24/2006 161 10 12
2006 10 3.5 12/4/2005 59 9.5 13
2005 12 3.5 12/7/2004 57 2 6
2004 11 3.6 8/7/2003 175 5 5
2003 8 3.8 12/10/2002 57 8 17

A handful of these 2013 guys—maybe one or two more than of a class put together later in the year—will probably disappoint from their lofty rankings. This is an inevitability. In fact count on a few never making it to campus, because 17-year-olds change their minds exactly as fast as popular music turns over. But then when you add up that attrition and apply it to the class that formed over the weekend, it's still shaping up to be one of the best incoming groups since Yost was greeting his freshmen at the train station.

So hit refresh one more time, because it only gets better from here.

Michigan Museday in Doctor Rocklove

Michigan Museday in Doctor Rocklove

Submitted by Seth on February 14th, 2012 at 4:53 AM

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the I

aom-book1777154-4_barrel_shotgun_1_largeTiming_is_everything12Options

Things of offense: Manliness, shotgun, impeccable timing, and options

Over the last few seasons we've talked a lot in this space about how shotgun formations and the spread are awesome, while anything else will steal your children. This is a myth—all offenses that score points are equal—but you could almost be forgiven for thinking that we are spread zealots when we have a tag called "i am a spread zealot no foolies." Most of the time we were saying "this is what Michigan should run right now," but to say most of the authors here haven't been partial to Oregonian offenses is an insult to your bias sensors.

Part of this is because I haven't always used the most correct terminology, or used sets and formation and personnel and philosophies as interchangeable when they're not. What we haven't said very much is talk about other offensive philosophies and why they are awesome too. What I'd like to do then is rectify some of that.

HUUUGE thank you to Tyler Sellhorn and Steve Sharik for looking over this stuff, then saying "omigod this is only like 10% of what offense is." Everything below that is correct came from them, but as you read I ask you only think of them as exasperated professors watching their theories butchered by a student presentation.

I. What's the Point of Offense?

Scoring is the point. How you get there is what we're talking about, and that's strategy. Offensive strategy comes down to a fairly simple concept: find a thing that you can beat a base defense with most of the time, then build in things around it to force the defense to defend you with a base defense. Anything can be adjusted to, but adjustments are usually unsound and thus make some other aspect easier than it should be. Where coaches disagree is on what that thing is, and whether to get so good at that as to be nigh unbeatable at it, or to get good at other things that beat base defenses too. What follows is a layman's oversimplification of offensive formations, and how they relate to offensive philosophies by a layman who needs to oversimplify it to get it.

* That link is to Chris Brown's "Why Every Team Should Apply the Constraint Theory of Offense" and you should read that.

-----------------------------------

II. Terminology

When I started trying to make formations and philosophies into the same thing, two coaches I asked about it said don't do that because personnel groups matter more. A formation is two things: personnel (how many RBs and TEs vs. receivers are there) and set (how they line up). Common backfield sets are the words you're probably most familiar with: a. I-Form, b. Split-backs, c. Ace, and d. Shotgun.

a.I-form b.PRoset

c.ACE d.SHOTGUN

But these words are only part of the set nomenclature. "I-Form" means the RB, FB, and HB are more or less in a line (though the FB is often shifted one way or another). "Split-Backs" refers to where the RBs are lined up, whereas "Shotgun" just means where the quarterback is lined up. What you know as "Ace" is actually referring to personnel, i.e. there is just 1 RB in the backfield. In the above examples both (c.) and (d.) could be called "Ace."

"Pro Set" is a specific alignment of the wide receivers, where one side has a receiver (the "flanker") plus a tight end, and the other side has just one receiver, the "split end."

The part defensive coaches are most concerned about when they're matching is not the set but the personnel. Football coaches express personnel in numeric terms you may have heard them yell at their wards but never understood: Twelve! Twenty! Twenty-One!, i.e. 12, 20, 21. These numbers, like "43" for a 4-3 defensive alignment, are combo digits where the first refers to the number of running backs out there, and the second to how many tight ends. So "12" means there's one running back and two TEs, "21" is two RBs and a TE, "11" is one RB and one TE. A third digit in the representation is the receiver count, e.g. 104 personnel means 1 RB, 0TE, 4 WRs.

So the four examples above are a.) I-form 21 Pro, b.) Split-backs 21 Pro, c.) Ace 11, and d.) Shotgun 11.

-----------------------------------

III. Why Set Matters

20081122_Nick_Sheridan_hands_to_Brandon_Minor_against_Ohio_StateDenard_Fitz_Offense-thumb-590x391-95878

DeSimone c/o DetNews | Melanie Maxwell

There are tradeoffs to how you line up your backfield, especially in the running game. A running back who starts the play behind the quarterback (a., b., or c.) will get the handoff a few yards behind the line of scrimmage with a running start in the direction you want the ball to go, but if the QB's getting a shotgun snap that handoff occurs six feet behind the line of scrimmage, and if the RB is moving it's not forward. This is a considerable disadvantage—one second after the snap a ball carrier about to hit his hole at full speed is far preferable to one at a dead stop far behind the line of scrimmage.

"Spread" has virtually lost its meaning but it's basically the opposite of bunching, the idea being to trade off some of the "I can put lots of guys at any point of attack on the line really really fast" for a measure "I can make your defenders pull apart to open up more space for my athletes to beat yours in space." I couldn't find a coach to back me up on this but I see horizontal spreading as a sliding scale between how much of the line of scrimmage in the box can you attack quickly with lots of guys (less spread) or how much of the line of scrimmage outside of the tackles can you attack quickly with one guy in space (more spread). Again, this is a tradeoff between things that are (specific talents nonwithstanding) equal.

Three of the four formations above are made to threaten this quick-strike downhill runner. Having the QB under center gives the RB in an Ace formation that head start. With multiple backs you threaten such quick attacks at multiple gaps in the line (think of two chess bishops next to each other), though when you go to 20-something personnel the defense will likely match.

I-form gets the added bonus of a fullback hitting that same hole even faster, either as a lead blocker or the main attraction. This is the key to such favorite I-form plays as SLAM! and WHAM! and BUHBUHBLAM!!! So long as the O-line can do its job the speed and power with which such an attack hits a base defense can make it good for 3 or 4 yards consistently. I've just described part of the base premise of Manball philosophy.

-----------------------------------

IV. Philosophies

george-halas-1Walsh_Bill1_49ers40031_1

There are plenty more than this, but the four concepts that seem to cover most offenses  you need to know are:

  • Manball: My bigger- and stronger- and faster-than-you-are running back and his lead blocker are going to attack any spot between the tackles so fast your defenders won't get there until we're already in your backfield. Requires: Talent across the board. An OL who can't block 1-on-1 can screw up the play; an RB who loses all momentum at the moment of impact is giving up an extra YPP.
  • Timed Passing: aka "West Coast:" A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices, living and exploiting those precious seconds when your zone defender can't be in two places at once. Requires: Quick-thinking, –seeing quarterback with strong arm and laser accuracy, WRs with great hands for catching under duress, pass-pro OLs.
  • Mesh/Read Passing: Spread, mesh, read, and gun, so on any given play, at any spot on the field, we can put it where you ain't by having QBs and receivers read your coverage and go right to the holes. Requires: Smart QB and receivers who can quickly read a defense, receivers with speed to open up those holes, incessant drilling so that QB and WRs are "in sync" or "on the same page."
  • Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22; when he makes his decision, take the option he didn't. Requires: QB with running back skills, quicker OL, WRs who can sustain blocks.

All of these are unbeatable strategies if executed properly against a base defense. And it's important to note that none are restricted to any one formation. What was so cool about the Zone Read, which uses an option philosophy, is that it does so from the same formations NFL offenses normally use for their Timed/Read passing games, preserving all of those passing advantages for the constraint plays. At Michigan Rich Rodriguez ran a ton of QB Iso out of a shotgun spread, sending a lead blocker (at times the RB, an H-back, or a pulling guard) into the intended gap and having Denard Robinson (and Feagin before him), act as his own I-back. It's also key to remember that most offenses use many concepts, in fact most NFL offenses today, though they call themselves West Coast, all use concepts that are very Air Raid.

However the formations do have some relationship to the above philosophies. To way oversimplify, here's a matrix of base effectiveness for each common formation and the four above philosophies ("1" being "Most Effective, and "4" being "Least Effective"). Also I'm comparing the formations to each other; West Coast still works quite well out of the I-form I'll have you know.

Shotgun Spread (11, 12) I-Form (21, 20, 22, 23) Split Back (20, 21, 22) Ace (12, 13)
MANBALL 4. Can work as a changeup (e.g. the delay) against defenses keying on ZR or pass, or with a great rushing QB. 1. Multiple RBs and blockers quickly hit many points of attack with forward momentum. 2. Two RBs mean either can get the handoff and get outside the tackles quickly, but any lead-blocking plays are slow to develop. 3. Single RB hits the hole with momentum, but no lead blocker. Power is mostly a check against passing.
Timed Passing (West Coast) 3. RB can stays to help with protection and QB should have time to survey, room to step up into the pocket. But because it's a pass-heavy set the defense will be keying on it, meaning less time to throw. 4. Relies a lot on play-action, rollouts, and the running game being good enough to make opponents cheat on it. Works if D must respect PA. 2. RBs and OL are already set in pocket formation. Great formation for a good Pro-style QB/WR combo to let routes develop. Usually frees a TE or RB in the flat as an outlet. Lack of spread hurts. 1. Horiz. spreading helps, drop-back is timed with routes. PA, threat of screens, end-arounds, and pre-snap motion force D to play it honest.
Mesh/Read Passing 1. QB is immediately in position to see and throw, receivers are spread horiz and vert. However lack of running threat lets D tee off with 9-techs, etc. Most NFL offenses today are this. 4. RBs are mostly limited to flat routes that you can high-low and TE is only inside receiver, but D overplaying run should get WRs good space for curls and slants. 3. Two receiver options are RBs starting far behind the line so meshing routes is difficult. Threat of run establishes pass options. 2. Receivers can be arranged to spread horizontally or bunched to flood a zone, RB acts as center threat.
Option 3. Spread 'n Shred. It gives up ground and is slower to develop. Options btw dive and QB off-tackle; Option 3 is a pre-snap read (bubble screen). Speed option gives up the dive for Options 2 or 3. 2. Nebraska under Osborne. The triple-option is often run from this set since Option 1 (the FB dive) can happen super-quick. 1. The triple-option ("Houston Veer") was born from this set. The playside RB is the dive, and you can option off of multiple front 7 players. 4. One of your "backs" is a receiver so the way to run Triple-O is to put that guy in motion (think Denard Jet), which basically means you're converting to an I-form.

No the formations are not created equal. Some are better at running, others passing. But the thing to remember here is the rule of constraints: if you can do something well from a formation that doesn't do it well, the things that formation does do well are now available to you. Oregon's offense works so well because running so effectively from the spread means defenses have to cheat against the run against an essentially passing 6180157606_e0a358684b_zformation. Meanwhile MANBALL offenses are best if filled with great passing pieces, e.g. Henne and Braylon/Avant, because if the safeties are backpedaling away from a 21 I-formation, well yipee.

When Brian complains about DeBord it's often because his playcalling was so predictable. The crime here wasn't anything to do with Manball as a Philosophy, but in not using the pass as a constraint, and in telegraphing which side the play was going—more often than not behind Long/Kraus because the other side was Mitchell/ Ciulla/ Schilling/ Ortman/ McAvoy/ Riley/ Whatever—by shifting the fullback to that side. Defenses would do the unsound thing, and there would be zero constraint. Conversely, when I was making yards-per-attempt cases from the UFRs earlier this year it again wasn't anything wrong with Manball the Philosophy, but because the offensive personnel's strengths were the wrong strengths for that philosophy. By 2015 I'm guessing that will have reversed.

Next Museday: a grossly oversimplified matrix of Rock, Paper, Scissors for each philosophy, and the RPS counters by defenses for each, then a long discussion of which philosophy I think Borges really believes in.

Michigan Museday Signs the Best Class Since…

Michigan Museday Signs the Best Class Since…

Submitted by Seth on February 7th, 2012 at 8:12 AM

backtotheheader2ndattempt

Inspired by/ripped off of Midnight Maize, who is better at this.

This wasn't a bad year, was it?

Name Ps Rivals
(7th)
Scout (4th) 247 (8th) ESPN (7th) Committed
Ben Braden OL 5.7 (3-star) 3-star 85 (3-star) 79 (3-star) Mar 24
Caleb Stacey OL 5.7 (3-star) 3-star 85 (3-star) 78 (3-star) 3/26 (1/21)
Kaleb Ringer LB 5.7 (3-star) 3-star 88 (3-star) 78 (3-star) Apr 12
Royce Jenkins-Stone LB 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 93 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Apr 16
Devin Funchess TE 5.7 (3-star) 4-star 90 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Apr 22
A.J. Williams TE 5.7 (3-star) 4-star 86 (3-star) 77 (3-star) Apr 22
Joe Bolden LB 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 96 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Apr 29
James Ross LB 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 95 (4-star) 80 (4-star) May 2
Mario Ojemudia DE 5.7 (3-star) 4-star 89 (3-star) 80 (4-star) May 7
Matt Godin DT 5.7 (3-star) 3-star 91 (4-star) 79 (3-star) May 12
Terry Richardson CB 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 95 (4-star) 81 (4-star) May 19
Allen Gant S 5.6 (3-star) 3-star 85 (3-star) 75 (3-star) May 31
Anthony Standifer CB 5.7 (3-star) 3-star 87 (3-star) 77 (3-star) 6/1 (12/8)
Erik Magnuson OT 5.9 (4-star) 4-star 96 (4-star) 79 (4-star) Jun 10
Tom Strobel DE 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 93 (4-star) 78 (3-star) Jun 10
Jeremy Clark DB 5.7 (3-star) 3-star 85 (3-star) 76 (3-star) Jun 24
Blake Bars OL 5.8 (4-star) 3-star 89 (3-star) 79 (3-star) Jun 26
Jarrod Wilson S 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 91 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Jul 8
Kyle Kalis OL 6.1 (5-star) 5-star 96 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Jul 10
Sione Houma FB 5.5 (3-star) 3-star 83 (3-star) 74 (2-star) Jul 25
Chris Wormley DE 5.7 (3-star) 4-star 96 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Jul 31
Ondre Pipkins DT 6.1 (5-star) 4-star 96 (4-star) 80 (4-star) Aug 8
Drake Johnson RB 5.6 (3-star) 3-star 85 (3-star) 72 (2-star) Nov 10
Amara Darboh WR 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 93 (4-star) 78 (3-star) Dec 4
Jehu Chesson WR 5.6 (3-star) 3-star 89 (3-star) 79 (3-star) Dec 21
Willie Henry DT 5.6 (3-star) 3-star 83 (3-star) 75 (3-star) Jan 31
Dennis Norfleet RB 5.8 (4-star) 4-star 94 (4-star) 75 (3-star) Feb 1

Considering how good things looked last July, people on the boards and whatnot are kinda disappointed that the class finished pryor-vetteas only consensus Top 10. This was back when nobody but Ohio State thought its cars-for-commitments program would continue, if there even would be such a thing as Columbus when The Law was through with them.

But with no 'Pryor' testimony available, the NCAA effectively rubber-stamped the automotive business, OSU turned in their slightly used Tresselwagon for a shiny refurbished Urban model and the Big Ten race went from this in July:

mvo2011

…to this:

mvo2012

…today. The above is a visualization of Michigan's 2012 class final rankings by Rivals and doesn't count Caleb Stacey and Anthony Standifer, who were in the class at the time. The red is 6.1, the yellow 5.8, yellow-green 5.7, everything right of the line is 3-stars. The link takes you back to July 18, when I used the same graphical representation to show just how good it was to be a Michigan Wolverine.

It wasn't just Ohio State blue was beating. Michigan was killing in the conference. This was then:

BigTen2011

…and this is now:

BigTen2012

Penn State's scandal turned them into Northwestern, while Ohio State's wasn't enough to counter the Urban effect. Michigan held steady but those late whiffs ended up with a class that's largely balanced between blue chips and the 60%-likely-to-be-"solid"-or-better-as-upperclassmen guys.

That's still good for among the top teams in the country:

NatRecruiting2012

Now this is Michigan, fergodsakes. More importantly Michigan, who by last July was already well extended into Ohio territory didn't seem to fall victim to the great Buckeye Reclamation of home state products late in the process. Gant, a legacy, and Wormley were Toledo-ish guys long considered Michigan's barring strange circumstances. Kaleb Ringer, A.J. Williams, and Willie Henry come from schools and have profiles that might have been automatic Buckeyes in a typical Tressel cycle but were probably second options for Meyer's late push. 134223433_crop_650x440But I have to imagine Jarrod Wilson received a desperate phone call before he enrolled at Michigan in January, and we know Kyle Kalis did. In return Meyer convinced Bri'onte Dunn, a Tressel commit worried about the sanctions, to stay in the fold and beat Michigan head to head for Armani Reeves after he shook loose from Penn State's class. That's 2 for 4 in head-to-head battles in Ohio with Ohio State's new coach. This is important; if we're going to travel back in time to battle Buckeyes on their own turf, it's important to plant Woody Hayes or one of his ancestors in manure every 30 years or so.

So did we make it? Are we back?

Michigan2004-2012

We're back, but it's an alternate 2005, when 4-stars are just plain 4-stars not Taylor and Jamison and Antonio Bass, and the 3-stars are mostly the good type of 3-stars—Gordon-like 3-stars as opposed to lots of Mister Simpsons and Nerd Terminators. More importantly there's just more of everybody, and the old defensive line coach is rich and powerful and the head coach at Michigan, and the guy at West Virginia has been committed.

Many of the key contributors from the classes before this experienced above normal attrition. By some of the decisions made during this year's cycle—backing off Yuri Wright after his expulsion, and seemingly backing off a rumored grade risk in one of the top in-state prospects, hopefully Hoke's excellent class of of 2012 will make up for in staying power what it lost by the slow close.

Michigan Museday is Just Big Boned, Part II

Michigan Museday is Just Big Boned, Part II

Submitted by Seth on January 31st, 2012 at 8:03 AM

2012-01-29 Museday

This is the continuation of last week's glance at the defensive line prospects from the perspective of body size against M linemen of yore at the same age. The point was to try to project what a certain body size and shape becomes and use that to relate the huge DL crop of 2012 to players we're maybe more familiar with.

This came about when I figured tried sorting the BMI (metric weight divided by height squared) of past players and found similar guys of memory ended up beside each other. Again, BMI is really for assessing whether normal people who are not 18-year-old athletes are overweight; do not interpret the numbers as any measure of how "in shape" any of these guys are.

Last week I did the nose tackles. Moving up the line is the DT, or the 3-tech. A quick technique refresher:

D-line-alignment-and-gaps-copy

Mentally shift the "1" in a 4-3 under to shaded over the center. In Mattison's defense the 3-tech is the guy lined up in the "3" spot on the line, shaded on the outside shoulder of a guard. He's the "4-3 Pass Rush Tackle," and this defense is designed to let him be more of an attacker than a "plugger." Pursuant to our discussion, greater heights that create leverage problems at the nose are not so much of a problem at 3-tech, which makes this guy more of a 3-4 DE than your traditional over-the-guard tackle. And lo the heights climb—a good 2 inches more than NT among Michigan's DTs.

6043760326_97b1775ee5_b

I thought about sprinkling in the SDEs since there's considerable overlap. Mentally start 5-techs around Willie Henry (B.Graham is above that). I'm leaving in the current players nominally slated for DT.

Pos. Name Class Ht Wt-Fr BMI-Fr BMI-Ply % Gain
3T Quinton Washington 2009 6'3 325 40.6 37.7 -7.6%
3T Alan Branch 2004 6'6 326 37.7 38.2 1.5%
3T Renaldo Sagesse 2007 6'4 303 36.9 35.2 -4.8%
3T Will Johnson 2004 6'4 285 34.7 34.7 0.0%
3T Kenny Wilkins 2010 6'3 270 33.7 35.0 3.6%
3T Larry Harrison 2002 6'2 261 33.5 40.2 16.6%
3T Willie Henry 2012 6'3 265 33.1 33.1 0.0%
3T/5T Chris Rock 2011 6'5 267 31.7 31.7 0.0%
3T/5T Keith Heitzman 2011 6'3 251 31.4 31.4 0.0%
3T/5T Matthew Godin 2012 6'6 270 31.2 31.2 0.0%
3T/5T Chris Wormley 2012 6'4 255 31.0 31.0 0.0%
3T/5T Ryan Van Bergen 2007 6'5 260 30.8 34.1 9.7%
3T/5T Greg Banks 2006 6'4 246 29.9 34.7 13.7%
3T/5T Juaquin Feazell 1994 6'4 245 29.8 33.5 10.9%
3T Norman Heuer 1999 6'5 251 29.8 33.4 11.0%
3T John Wood 1998 6'4 242 29.5 34.3 14.2%
3T Ben Huff 1993 6'4 234 28.5 33.2 14.3%
3T Alex Ofili 2001 6'4 230 28.0 35.2 20.4%
3T/5T Patrick Massey 2001 6'8 235 25.8 31.2 17.3%

You can see there's a lot of overlap, but in general the big dudes end up inside and the leaner guys are out. Latest recruit Willie Henry is right with Kenny Wilkins as kind of tweeners between NT and DT, comparable to Will Johnson, who maintained his weight (though it was much Barwicized), and Larry Harrison, who added a lot of it and played  beside like-massed Watson in a more even front.

Will_JohnsonSo long as Michigan runs a 4-3 under you need to stop looking at a 265-pound freshman "DT" and imagine him lifting his way to 300. The talk of "frame" and "carrying more weight" could matter if you're expecting Henry to be a breather for Pipkins (he might be) but not if he's a 3-tech.

After a drop-off you get to the RS freshmen Rock and Heitzman, and incoming Wormley and Godin. This is the Ryan Van Bergen/Norman Heuer*/Grant Bowman region which slowly drifts down a list of tweener 3- and 5-techs like Biggs, Zenkewicz, Banks, and Feazell, then Normal Heuer.*

Those guys were a little smaller than seems optional at the position, but they're also both quintessential Hoke DTs; if Wormley becomes RVB2 and Godin is Bowman, that would be win. Quinton Washington was a larger freshman than any of these guys, much larger than even Alan Branch or 22-year-old freshman Renaldo Sagesse. Q has dropped his BMI by 7.6% to reach a playing shape still large for 3-Tech but not as big as Branch (who was 6'6) played. A freakmonster like Branch or (pro comparison) Shaun Rogers/Tommy Kelly can do well here by bull-rushing hapless guards on a direct route to emptying a QB's alveoli…

(after the jump, you know what's coming)

Michigan Museday Isn't Just Big Boned, Part I

Michigan Museday Isn't Just Big Boned, Part I

Submitted by Seth on January 24th, 2012 at 8:15 AM

D-LineMiis
If Strobel/Pipkins/Godin/Wormley/Ojemudia had Mii's

Body Mass Index (metric weight divided by height-squared) isn't supposed to apply to athletes. It's a health heuristic used to calculate obesity, and according to the health professional I asked, it's not really that good at calling you fat because it doesn't say how much of that weight is muscle. It just guesses that your ratio is normal; for athletes that ratio is definitively not normal. Fortunately terrancetaylornotredameI'm not interested in whether our extant and incoming defensive linemen are in shape; I care about identifying which DL are what shape, how this applies to what positions the 5-man 2012 DL class* will likely play, and what the success/ failure/ mehness of similar looking players might suggest what we might expect out of next year's linemen.

----------------------------

* There's a chance Ojemudia may move but for now I'm counting him as a WDE.

----------------------------

The data. Thanks to Bentley we have an historical record of player weights: Google doc'ed here for your ease. For our purposes I'm taking the mid-'90s—when player size made its big leap—through the present. Height and weight data are bountiful, but making any use of them has been hard going. However the BMI seems to have one good use in determining who plays what spot in an unbalanced defensive line. Right away there's a noticeable difference among the playing BMIs at the four DL positions:

Pos Ht. Wt. Fr BMI Playing BMI
1T (Nose Tackle) 6'2 2/3 299.4 35.4 37.7
3T (Def. Tackle) 6'4 2/3 291.6 32.1 35.0
5T (SDE) 6'4 271.0 29.7 33.1
7T (WDE) 6'3 2/3 260.4 29.4 32.0
AVERAGE 6'3 2/3 283.0 31.9 34.8

As you go from outside to inside height remains steady as weight goes up. Interestingly NTs are the shortest on the line as well as the largest, speaking to a certain shorter/stouter body type preferred at the position. Reported heights are not always accurate but the listed height on Rivals tends to match the freshman heights in Bentley's database, so I've used those across the board; the DL I expect has the least amount of height gain (most of these guys have more facial hair at 18 than I could produce at 22). It tells the story:

ALLinM

Lots of these guys moved about too, especially between SDE and DT, but you can kind of see why. What I'd like to do from here is take a position-by-position look at the size of all of these guys as freshmen versus the Class of 2012, and their growth over their careers (to test if hanging weight on a large frame can "build" a great DL) and finally put the playing BMIs versus the guys left on the roster to see if the 2012 DL at least looks like defensive lines of yore.

------------------------------------

void(0)21-t1264826-500medium_031308watson

Renes talking down to lil bro | Bowman not being held | Watson being gravitational

Nose Tackle (NT, Nose Guard, 1-Tech) is the guy usually lined up shaded over the center. This job (most recently Mike Martin's) in a 4-3 under and 3-4 is similar in that the lineman must often stand up to double-teams or fight off a single-block lined up playside of him in order to cover two gaps. (Current players in bold, 2012 recruits in italics).

Name Class of Ht. BMI as Fr. BMI-Ply % Change
Gabe Watson 2002 6'4 40.7 40.3 -0.90%
Jason Kates 2006 6'3 40.6 42.4 +4.10%
Ondre Pipkins 2012 6'3 40.6 -- --
Richard Ash 2010 6'3 40.0 37.6 -6.30%
Terrance Taylor 2005 6'2 37.9 41.0 +7.50%
Will Campbell 2009 6'5 37.7 38.2 +1.20%
Marques Walton 2004 6'0 37.3 39.6 +5.80%
William Carr 1993 6'0 37.3 39.2 +4.80%
Marques Slocum 2005 6'6 35.8 38.8 +7.70%
Mike Martin 2008 6'2 35.7 39.0 +8.60%
Rob Renes 1995 6'2 35.3 37.0 +4.50%
Grant Bowman 1999 6'3 32.2 36.1 +10.70%
Adam Patterson 2006 6'2 32.1 35.4 +9.40%
Eric Wilson 1996 6'4 31.0 34.7 +10.50%
Shawn Lazarus 1998 6'3 30.6 37.1 +17.50%
Nate Miller 1994 6'4 29.2 33.7 +13.40%
Jason Horn 1991 6'5 27.9 32.8 +15.20%

Good news: Ondre Pipkins is as large as any NT to come in, in the top group with Watson, Kates and Ash. Watson and Ash both were asked to lose weight (Ash is now being rebuilt) while Kates lost his fucklion_plaqueability to play after adding another 4.1% to his body weight. The comparable here is something between freshman Gabe Watson (2002) and freshman Terrance Taylor (2005). The recruiting hype is in that range as well, but this is a kind of hard position to rank out of high school because most of these dudes just murder your typical suburban offensive linemen/future economics majors. They also get chopped a lot. Watson's high school career is responsible for at least three later shoulder surgeries I know of.

This is not necessarily such good news. Both Watson and Taylor played as true freshmen which suggests Pipkins's size should make him instantly plug-in-able. However they both had to wait to become starters; Watson was behind Lazarus and then Bowman before playing as a junior, and Taylor sat behind Watson (and Pat Massey at DT) for a year. The other guy with the same BMI as Pipkins—in fact he's almost identical—is current depth guy Richard Ash. But then here's where knowing the background of the players helps because Ash was kind of an out-of-shape flier expected to be Barwicized , while the book on Pipkins, like Watson and Taylor, is that he's carrying a lot college muscle already.

By BMI, Campbell is in the second group because of his height. Like OL/DL/Fck Lion Proprietor Marques Slocum, this method shows BWC's height as a disadvantage, making it harder for him to get his weight under offensive linemen. However his prodigious 5-star strength is still occasionally on display, and he admits part of his thing is effort. michpurdQuinton Washington, if he was an NT, would fit in this group.

The shorter guys in this part of the list finds some big successes among people coached by Hoke or Mattison: William Carr, Rob Renes and Mike Martin. But we don't have a guy like that right now.

The ones that had to be built—Bowman, Patterson, Wilson, Lazarus, Miller and Horn, came in about the size of Godin and Wormley and put on a lot of weight to be productive as upperclassmen (or in Patterson's case, a much needed body with functioning circulation and eligibility). Wormley could turn into a Lazarus or Wilson, who like Chris had the proverbial "frames" to put on a lot of muscle, and did so.

Next week: the DTs, the SDEs, and the WDEs.

Michigan Museday Wants Another Other Carr

Michigan Museday Wants Another Other Carr

Submitted by Seth on January 17th, 2012 at 9:39 AM

AAN UM v OSU biakabutuka LEWLloyd

This was Brady Hoke's first year at Michigan. Music was awesome because a) I was a sophomore in high school, and b) it was just way better than the music when you were a sophomore in high school. Michigan players wore deep dark navy mesh jerseys that stretched tight over massive shoulder pads and neck rolls, and exposed their abs. Most of the incoming Class of 2012 was born. And in 1995, Lloyd Carr took over for Gary Moeller in a move most everybody thought was temporary.

Had the internet at the time been more than BBSs that you logged into over 14.4 baud modems the general fan meltdown might have been better saved for posterity. A lot of folks thought Bo oughtta step back in; I mean you don't go from Schembechler, to his longtime heir apparent, to the affable defensive backs coach with a  penchant for quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. Some tweed jacket might have said it was like going from Henry (Plantagenet), to Richard, to John.*modem

---------------------------------------

* OT rules don't cover comments section, so if any of you want to talk Angevins, it's on!

---------------------------------------

As an officially interim guy (and not a candidate in the initial coaching search), Lloyd built his staff more like a Luke Fickell than an Urban Meyer: no big-name hires, no extra budget, just mostly everybody from the '92 shakeup moving up. The RB coach (Fred Jackson) became the offensive coordinator. The DL coach (Greg Mattison) became the DC. Longtime linebackers coach (really our recruiting guru before that was a coaching position) Bobby Morrison became OL coach, replacing the departed Les Miles. Oregon State DL coach Brady Hoke, hired only a few months ago by Moeller, whom Mattison knew from Western Michigan and Lloyd knew as the dude who was always hanging around Michigan's summer camps, was given just the DEs. brady-hokeMattison retained the DTs. Carr's additions were DBs coach Vance Bedford out of Oklahoma State, and former Michigan receiver Erik Campbell, who had been an RBs coach with Ball State and Cuse but was given the receivers.

The cupboard at the time wasn't bare, but there were some key losses. Michigan would have to replace senior QB Todd Collins, starting RB Tyrone Wheatley, All-American CB Ty Law, and 1st round draft pick OT Trezelle Jenkins, as well as heart and soul linebacker Steve Morrison. Also gone was nose guard Tony Henderson, OLBs Trevor Pryce, Matt Dyson, and Kerwin Waldroup, and starting short corner Deon Johnson. Still, we were Michigan fans and expected better than 4-loss seasons.

It started in the Pigskin Classic, which back then was the only game that could be played Week 1, and the only way a team could play 12 regular season games. By some golden poop magic, Scott Dreisbach led Michigan back from down 17-0 to 17-12. That afternoon I was in driver's ed, doing the last training hours I needed to graduate, and we were listening to Brandstatter on the radio; at this point the instructor very kindly had me pull over in a Wendy's because I looked like I had to pee. Then on 4th down with 4 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Dreisbach found Mercury Hayes in the corner of the end-zone.

1995UVA_1280x800

The rest of that year wasn't so 2011-ish. Dreisbach, a Henne-level recruit, was freshman-y maddening for five games, then he got hurt and a walk-on, Brian Griese, finished the last 9 games. Meanwhile the defense got so banged up that only one guy (Jarrett Irons) managed to start all 13 games (true freshman cornerback Charles Woodson, who earned his first start in Game 2, is the only other guy to start 12). We lost to Northwestern because Northwestern was weirdly doing that to everyone in those days (at the time I didn't feel this). We lost to Michigan State after MSU caught a late 4th down pass out of bounds and a yard shy of the marker, and this was ruled a 1st down. We lost to Penn State after they executed a perfect fake FG late. But Biakabutuka ran for 313 yards to beat No. 2 Ohio State (WH)…

…and it was good. Carr was given the job, and despite all expectations to the contrary just a year earlier, his assistants got to keep theirs. Over time he also won over most of the fans who'd doubted him.

Does this mean we'll have a functional DL? There's a story here that's not part of the Emerson-Quoting Good Guy Makes Good storyline, nor the Omigod-This-New-Cornerback(!) storyline. Behind the new Era of Good Feelings was some particularly good news coming from the defensive side of the ball. Michigan in '95 held opponents to 93.2 rushing yards per game, and 88.1 ypg in a Big Ten at its apex. This was an improvement from 112.3 ypg in 1994, which also happened to lead the Big Ten. Michigan in '95 also led the Big Ten in total defense  (314.5 ypg) for the first time since 1990. Points per game dropped from 19.3 (38th) to 12.0 (14th). This was despite losing Law and much of the front seven, and changing formation. Carr in '94 was running something like the 3-4 thing that was in vogue during the late exposed-belly period, and looked more like a 5-2. Missing all those 3-4 OLBs, Mattison switched to something like a 4-3 over that let murderous dudes with names like Steele and Irons and Swett and Sword hunt down ballcarriers.

This plays out a bit in the percentage of Michigan's tackles made by position:

Pos 1994 Tac% 1995 Tac%
NT Carr/Henderson 3.6% Carr 7.3%
DT Horn/Feazell 6.6% Horn/Feazell 9.4%
SDE Zenkewicz/Steele 8.8% Zenkewicz 4.4%
OLB/WDE Dyson/Waldroup 6.3% Steele 7.1%
SAM Hankins/Pryce 7.3% Bowens/Elston 5.0%
MLB Irons 13.5% Irons 13.6%
ILB/WLB Morrison 14.7% Swett/Sword/ Copenhaver 16.0%
DBs King, Sanders, Anderson, Thompson, Winters, Noble, Johnson, Law 39.4% King, Winters, Ray, Hankins, Thompson, Woodson 37.2%

Since interior DL is where we're petrified this year, let's look there. Mattison turned William Carr into a double-team-demanding nose guard, freeing Jason Horn to go from All-Conference to All-American. Horn was the first of four All-American interior defensive linemen on that team: Carr in '96, Glen Steele in '97, and (then redshirting) Rob Renes in '99. From there they turned Bowens, and then James Hall into rush WDEs, and Ben Huff and Josh Williams into quiet pluggers on some of the great Michigan defenses. They recruited the next generation of specialty guys: Rumishek (who as All-Conference as a senior), Shawn Lazarus, Eric Wilson, Norman Heuer, and the chef doeuvre of the Hoke school for hard-nosed nobody DTs, Grant Bowman.

The positional tackle rates for the 2001-'02 defense is eerily similar to another of recent memory:

# Pos 2001 Tac% 2002 Tac% 2011 Tac%
1 NT Lazarus/Bowman 4.9% Lazarus 4.7% Martin 4.7%
2 DT Heuer 4.5% Bowman/Heuer 5.7% Van Bergen 7.1%
3 SDE Rumishek 3.2% Rumishek 2.3% Heininger 2.4%
4 WDE Orr/Stevens 7.7% Orr/Stevens 9.2% Roh/Clark/ Black 8.5%
5 SAM Hobson 11.3% Hobson 14.0% Ryan/Beyer 5.9%
6 MLB Foote 11.1% Diggs/Reid 9.8% Demens 13.0%
7 WLB Diggs/Brackins 12.6% Kaufman/McClintock/ Sarantos 11.9% Morgan/Hawthorne 12.1%
8 DBs June, Curry, Drake, Shaw, Marlin, LeSueur, B.Williams, Howard 44.7% June, Shaw, Drake, Combs, Curry, LeSueur, M.Jackson 42.5% Kovacs, T.Gordon, Carvin, Floyd, Avery, T-Woolf Countess 46.3%

Obvious difference between future Jet Victor Hobson and Ryan/Beyer – it seems Demens, RVB and Kovacs split that difference. Maybe the SDE thing is a trend but this doesn't say very much; Dan Rumishek was All Big Ten in 2001, and yet wasn't the guy making tackles. From this however I think I'm starting to get an idea of what a Hoke carrdefensive line is supposed to do. The defense pivots on the SDE and NT, and then everybody collapses toward the ball with the DT handling cutbacks and the WDE a common late arrival.

Mattison left in '96, and Hoke, who took over the whole D-line in '97, departed for Ball State after the 2002 season. By then he'd helped recruit planetoids Gabe Watson, Larry Harrison and Alex Ofili, as was as the too-high Pat Massey, but their generation didn't take over until 2004, when Bowman, Heuer and Stevens graduated and Michigan went with a 3-4 again to give LaMarr Woodley a running start (the only other time in memory before this year that Michigan replaced all three of its interior DL).

Unfortunately I can't provide any better evidence that the return of the 1995 D-Line staff will be enough to make a functional defensive line out of Q-Wash, Campbell, Ash, Brink, and some freshmen. But the track record is real.

Picture Pages: Was It a Catch?

Picture Pages: Was It a Catch?

Submitted by Seth on January 4th, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Screenshot 1

There's been some question over the no-catch ruling on Virginia Tech's 3rd down overtime prayer to receiver/punter Danny Coale. The play was ruled a touchdown live but overturned on review.

The setup: On 3rd down and 5 from the Michigan 20 in the first possession of overtime, Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas attempted to hit Coale on a corner route in the end zone. Coale had Michigan's coverage (by safety Woolfolk and cornerback Avery) beat to the outside but the ball was slightly overthrown. Coale dove for what would be a spectacular one-handed catch, bringing the ball in just as he, and it, hit the ground just inbounds. The side judge ruled it a touchdown, but on review it was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass because the receiver did not have control of the ballrulebook when the ball hit the ground.

The rule: You can find it on Pages 72-73 of the NCAA rulebook (emphasis mine):

Incomplete Pass
ARTICLE 7. a. Any forward pass is incomplete if the ball is out of bounds by rule or if it touches the ground when not firmly controlled by a player. It also is incomplete when a player leaves his feet and receives the pass but first lands on or outside a boundary line, unless his progress has been stopped in the field of play or end zone (Rule 4-1-3-p) (A.R. 2-4-3-III and A.R. 7-3-7-I).

The argument: The debate centers on whether or not Coale had "firm control" of the ball when it touched the ground. If the ball never touches the ground it's a clear reception, but since in this case nobody is arguing that the ball didn't touch the ground, the standard we're debating is whether or not Coale had established this firm control before the ball touched turf. For that we will consult the video.

With the grit of 40 Ecksteins, two Welkers, and half a Dileo, Coale reaches out and gets a hand underneath the ball. This is not "firm" control.

Screenshot1

Coale now brings the ball between his forearms. This too would not be confused for "firm possession." However at this point he has a chance, if he can bring the ball to his chest and get it crooked in his arm, to prevent the ball from hitting the hard thing that is rapidly rushing toward him very fast.

Screenshot2

So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like 'Ow', 'Ownge', 'Round', 'Ground'! That's it! Ground! Ha! I wonder if it'll be friends with me?

Screenshot3

Here is the money shot (clickening embiggens). Coale's elbow has hit the turf (just inbounds) but the ball is still between his forearms, not in his hands. It is hard to tell but the ball has now hit the ground as well, a nanosecond after the elbow.

Video:

The announcers were focusing on the elbow but the question is still one of whether the ball was firmly controlled by the player before it hit the ground.

A good test of this "firm control" (this is a sanity check not the final arbiter) is whether the ball moved when it hit the ground. It stands to reason that if the receiver had firm control of the ball when it came in contact with the ground it won't move that much.

If you recall, this is what doomed Junior Hemingway's TD catch attempt while down 8 in the closing seconds of the Iowa game. Hemingway actually managed to get two hands under the ball and secure it against his chest and arm a moment before coming down atop it. The "firm control" test in that case seemed to have been passed, but the catch was ruled incomplete because the reviewers saw the ball move in his possession after it hit the ground.

As you can see in the screenshots below, at the zero moment (when a part of the body made the player down) Coale's level of possession is way less than Hemingway's.

coale Hemingway

What controversially damned Hemingway was that after this the ball rotated about 90 degrees after the nose of the ball hit the ground, or so it was supposed since Hemingway's body blocked most of that. With Coale however the movement after contact with ground was pretty clear.

Screenshot3

The ball is between Coale's forearms and possession only becomes firm long after the ball has impacted the ground. This I believe is what the review officials saw.

Screenshot7

Incomplete! Time to bring in the 3rd string VT kicker who has been 4/4 today for an easy field g…oh snap!

But it's too close to call/not enough evidence to overturn! If someone is saying this to you they are confusing a Law & Order episode for reality. They have conceded that "incomplete" is the correct call, and are essentially complaining that it should have been ruled incorrectly because of a technicality in the literal meaning of the review rule. You cannot complain about calls the refs get right; that's not how complaining works. If you think the video is "inconclusive" you are conceding the call could have gone equally either way and saying it should be one or the other makes as much sense as whining that a flip of the coin should have been heads.

Michigan Museday Updates Googledocs

Michigan Museday Updates Googledocs

Submitted by Seth on January 3rd, 2012 at 8:02 AM

medium_gary moellerKovacsack109cc6914b2e96cff14e6ccb8988f751-getty-124579644

With my office reopening for the first time since pre-Christmas it feels like the world's worst Monday. By 8:30 tonight it'll feel like Saturday. But the new 2012 calendar with the puppy photos says it's Tuesday, so COLUMN!

I thought with the Sugar Bowl tonight maybe it'd be helpful to go back through some of the spreadsheet-y Musedays from earlier this year and update to see if the conclusions maybe shifted through the year's progression. To sum up the updated talking points:

  • Hoke is the best first-year Head Coach in Big Ten history, unless Ara Parseghian is.
  • Mattison is more aggressive in selecting number of pass rushers than his predecessor but you'd be surprised to know he has changed his strategy dramatically over the course of this season
  • Borges learned to shotgun with Denard and Co., then unlearned that, then re-learned that.
  • Our defense is spectacular at stopping short situations.

10/4 – The Gary Moeller Effect

Dantonio-Headphones HawkeyePierce medium_gary moeller

Premise: Coaches who take over a B1G team with Big Ten experience tend to do better than those who don't. So I compared a number of coaches of good memory against their predecessors, and overall.

Findings: Too much noise except the guys who had experience recruiting the Midwest seemed to have much more success than those who didn't.

Update: Another year made Dantonio and Bielema look better. 2011 Michigan's final SRS of 16.85 (pre-bowl) is about even with the Moeller teams of '93 and '94 (as well as 1999, 2000, and surprisingly 2006). Here's the Top Ten single year-to-year improvements (by Simple Ranking System, which is a measure of expected victory margin over a middling team) by a first-year coach in the Big Ten since 1953:

Rank Coach School Year SRS Previous Coach SRS (Pre) Change
1 Ara Parseghian Northwestern 1956 8.57 Lou Saban -9.95 +18.52
2 Brady Hoke Michigan 2011 16.85 Rich Rodriguez 1.39 +15.46
3 Phil Dickens Indiana 1958 6.13 Bob Hicks -7.86 +13.99
4 John Jardine Wisconsin 1970 9.09 John Coatta -3.8 +12.89
5 Hayden Fry Iowa 1979 7.26 Bob Commings -5.5 +12.76
6 John L. Smith MSU 2003 7.95 Bobby Williams -2.67 +10.62
7 Mark Dantonio MSU 2007 6.69 John L. Smith -3.14 +9.83
8 Earle Bruce Ohio State 1979 21.71 Woody Hayes 12.99 +8.72
9 Joe Tiller Purdue 1997 8.49 Jim Colletto -0.09 +8.58
10 John Pont Northwestern 1973 4.52 Alex Agase -3.5 +8.02

Holy Uber Alleles Batman! Don't read much into this; the worst dropoff among 82 careers charted was Pat Fitzgerald in 2006. The rest of the Hall of Shame: Lou Saban (Northwestern '55), Gerry DiNardo (Indiana 2002), Tim Brewster (Minn 2007), Rich Rod '08, Gary Moeller (Illinois '77), Jerry Burns (Iowa '61), and for all the lolz, Luke Fickell. ALL the Lolz!

Jump for Mattison's aggression tendencies, the I-form vs. Shotgun numbers updated, and which Pink Floyd album best describes Michigan's 3rd and short defense

Michigan Museday Charts Shoe's Arm

Michigan Museday Charts Shoe's Arm

Submitted by Seth on December 20th, 2011 at 8:00 AM

denard-robinson-heismanRobinsonvsMSU.jpgdenardohiostatethrowingmotion

For those tracking Denard's passing acumen the tale has been one of major progression before 2010, followed by regression in 2011 followed by re-progression as he a.) grew more comfortable in Borges's offense, b.) played more out of the shotgun, and c.) gave his staph infection time to heal.

If you were reading the weekly previews this season you would have noticed the space for Michigan's passing game was consistently fretting about Robinson's accuracy. This would be followed by a game with some flash of the laser precision he seemed to possess at times in 2010, followed by a bomb that overshot Hemingway/Roundtree by 20 yards. This was our concern. The more intelligent announcers talked about where his shoulders and toes were at their release, and Borges pressers reiterated the footwork theory.

Then sometime around Purdue-Iowa-Illinois, said all, 2010 Denard worked his way back. I'd like to use this space to test if that was really the case.

The Hennechart you know (screens and Snackycakes have been removed):

Year Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR SCR DSR
2009 2009, All Of It 1 7 4 2 4 4 - - ? 44%
2010 Connecticut 2 9 - - 3 2 - - 2 69%
  Notre Dame 3 17 2 4 1 - 3 2 - 71%
  Michigan State 4 11 1 6 1 - - 2 2 68%
  Iowa 1 8 2 2 2 - 1 - - 64%
  Penn State 3 9 1 4 2 - 1 - - 63%
  Illinois 4 8 1 4 1 3 - - - 60%
  Purdue 2 11 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
  Wisconsin 3 12 1 2 2 2 - - - 71%
2011 W. Michigan - 5 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
  Notre Dame 6 6 1 5 5 1 1 1 - 50%
  SD State - 8 - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
  Minnesota 1 10 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
  Northwestern 4 9 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
  Michigan State 1 7 3 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%
  Purdue 1 6 - 1 2 1 - 2 - 64%
  Iowa 2 21 2 7 1 - 2 2 - 70%
  Illinois 1 3 1 2 - - - 1 1 67%
  Nebraska 1 9 - 2 2 1 - 1 3 67%
  Ohio State 3 7 2 1 - 2 - - 1 77%

That's lots of numbers. The easy metric to break these down metric is Brian's Downfield Success Rating at the far right. That's Dead-Ons and Catchables divided by all the rest (marginals are excised). But a few years ago, while trying to get a handle on what we had in Forcier, a few users thought to visualize this. I try that now with Denard's career:

DenardChart

I centered in the middle of the marginals to show how good the very goods were and how bad the very bads got. You kind of have to look hard to see it, but there is a regression apparent. Denard seemed to level off in the Big Ten season last year to a good chunk of accurate balls, one or two bad reads, and as many inaccurate as were dead on. For a good part of this year it was that one temptress of a perfectly thrown ball, one to five bad reads, and almost as many balls to Tacopants as the vicinity of his receivers. By Ohio State, on pure downfield success rating, it was just outside the UFR-era hall of fame (on many fewer attempts):

Season QB Opp. W/L DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR ATT DSR
2007 HENNE Purdue W 3 20 N/A 1 1 1 1 2 29 85.20%
2007 HENNE EMU W 4 16 N/A 1 0 1 2 1 25 83.30%
2005 HENNE Ohio St L 6 27 N/A 1 1 4 1 N/A 40 82.50%
2008 SHERIDAN Minn W 2 20 4 3 2 1 0 0 32 78.60%
2005 HENNE MSU W 4 25 N/A 1 3 3 1 N/A 37 78.40%
                           
2011 ROBINSON Ohio St W 3 7 2 1 0 2 0 0 15 76.92%

FTR by this metric, the Michigan State game this year is 3rd all time in the hall of shame, better only than Sheridan in the Badge of Fandom Endurance game vs. Northwestern, and Threet versus Purdue. Sheridan being on both lists was one (happy) fluke between games his coaches hardly let him throw more than a screen for fear of triggering an early duck season. 2011 Denard's is the opposite: one bad game amidst a bunch that range between mediocre and okay. His games aren't in the Junior Henne/Early Forcier range; they are about on par with Big Ten Forcier as a freshman, and he's better than freshman Mallett. This is without the legs.

There was also wide variance in number of throws, partly due to game-planning, but also having a lot to do with Borges leaning somewhat more on the running game when Michigan led. Look at the paucity of passes for Michigan against Purdue and Illinois, versus huge stacks for MSU (look at their pressure metric!) and Iowa. The percentages chart below can adjust for that a bit:

DenardChart2

Click it to embiggen. I took out a few more bad defenses to make that one if you're wondering why fewer bars. Also those marks are the rankings by FEI of that opponent's pass defense—the worst pass defense would be at the very bottom, the best at the very top. Take with a huge grain of salt since FEI's weird this year. (No way Iowa and Purdue have the same secondary, nor do I believe either are 40 spots worse than Minnesota). Anyway it shows the metric is at least defense-independent.

This one has the story we've been telling: 2010 was fairly static, while 2011 was a dropoff followed by progression in the new offense (and a stinker in a trash tornado in the middle). Denard also maybe scrambled a bit more at the end of the season (the white bars). Overall you'd almost expect the two years to be flipped, with the hard learning and scrambling a sophomore campaign and the leveling off near the peak of the previous year the work of an upperclassman. If you consider time in the system, it's more like the work of a redshirt freshman followed by a true freshman.

The reads are another thing that fixed over time (Nebraska's weekly BR looks bigger in a small sample). The % of bad robinson-michiganreads this year all told took a rather scary dip from pushing Sr. Henne to Threet-ish:

Player BR/Att DSR
HENNE 2007 6.12% 71%
ROBINSON 2010 6.67% 69%
FORCIER 2009 7.73% 70%
THREET 9.09% 55%
ROBINSON 2011 9.17% 61%
SHERIDAN 10.00% 60%
MALLETT 10.69% 51%
ROBINSON 2009 14.29% 44%

I'm ready to believe this was related to the footwork thing. If the staph infection affected him, it couldn't be more than the beating he took last year blamed for the perceived reduction in Big Ten play. There is evidence of greater pressure—the 7 categorized "PR" in the MSU game is one fewer than Brian gave for all of 2010—and all that.

How much this regression "hurt" Michigan this season can be overstated. Using all plays charted in UFR, Denard averaged 6.93 yards per play, as opposed to the 7.25 yards per play in 2010. That's not about bad defenses; against real opponents Denard's 6.55 YPA is better than his 6.30 in 2010. This is a result of the long passes against Notre Dame (10.09 YPP – which is ridiculous), but if we normalize every play longer than that to a cap of 20 yards, this is what he looks like per passing attempt (2010 schedule futzed with to match comparable games):denard-robinson

2010   2011  
Connecticut 7.48 WMU 6.57
Notre Dame 6.00 Notre Dame 7.77
Bowling Green 10.75 EMU 6.55
Penn State 6.29 SD State 5.88
Massachusetts 7.56 Minnesota 8.84
Indiana 9.00 Northwestern 10.96
Michigan State 6.10 Michigan State 3.17
Purdue 5.91 Purdue 7.14
Iowa 5.79 Iowa 4.31
Illinois 7.95 Illinois 6.64
Wisconsin 6.75 Nebraska 6.73
Ohio State ??? Ohio State 7.35

Including only non-theoretical defenses (No FCS, EMU, BG, Indiana, WMU, NW), and again, counting everything over 20 yards as 20, Denard was getting 6.47 yards per attempt last year, and got 5.96 per passing attempt this year. That's still good. And it's a good bet, with a second year fusing with Mr. Borges, the performance level he got back to from Iowa through Nebraska is conceivable for the bowl game and beyond. If he can somehow sustain what he did against Ohio State he would be inconceivable.

Michigan Museday Sanity Checks Postseason Ideas

Michigan Museday Sanity Checks Postseason Ideas

Submitted by Seth on December 13th, 2011 at 1:51 AM

95700713_crop_650x4401997michigan

In 1997, back when 7-point leads were comfortable and safeties were meant for hitting people while corners did the covering* undefeated and no-brainer No. 1 Michigan went to the Rose Bowl. That was pretty cool. We faced Washington State and Ryan Leaf back when he was Ryan Leaf and not Ryan Leaf, Woodson made that interception to stop the comeback keep Michigan in striking distance (wow I forgot that context), and woo forever.

Meanwhile the conferences that weren't the Big Ten and Pac Ten were into their third year of a "bowl coalition" to match up the best two teams possible. Undefeated kick-ball-in-OT-vs-Mizzou Nebraska went to that and beat the tar out of Tennessee. The AP declared the next day's Daily cover something to hang on your wall forever, the coaches gave Osborne his send-off gift, and it didn't matter that there was a co- because starting next year there would be the perfect championship system to determine an unquestionable champion…for 1997.

-----------------------------------

* This wasn't at all true unless you literally had Charles Woodson in your backfield. Dude should win an award for that or something.

-----------------------------------

Getting' Jiggy With It isn't working. This has been the BCS's problem since its inception. In 1998 it was SeattleTimesthe perfect system to pit the last big conference undefeateds against each other, but then it left out an undefeated minor conference team and arbitrarily selected one of several similar 1-loss teams to face unquestioned numero uno Tennessee. Every year there was at least some complaint they patched with an overreaction on the next one. Team A beat Team B beat Team C who got in? Overrate head-to-head and dump half the computers. Too influenced by pollsters? Let's get more computers. Teams running up the score? Dump the margin of victory. AP and Coaches No. 1 USC left out of a three-horse race? Overrate the polls. Undefeated SEC team left out of a three-horse race? Overrate schedule strength. Boise State keeps going undefeated by playing Wyoming 12 times? Autobid the little guys. Two Big Ten teams about to rematch? Oh the pollsters can jig the system. Wait the pollsters are jigging the system? Kick 'em out and get our own pollsters. Two SEC teams about to rematch? Dammit.

This is what a process looks like when it has no forethought. I could say the same about many playoff proposals. Every year there's a perfect system that would be perfect for that year if we had that system. What we should be asking for is a system that would be good enough every year.

Good enough is good enough. Math says if you found the best team in a 120-team league after 12-13 games of unbalanced schedules, you just got lucky. What we're shooting for here is something where only the homeriest homer of Domer will be claiming their team got duked. The last team in should have an ironclad case, were they to emerge victorious, to be the No. 1 overall team, but the first team out should not have a very good case to be given that chance.Colorado coach Gary Barnett thought beating Nebraska should have landed the Buffs in the Rose Bowl. Associated Press photo by David Zalubowski

Autobids are bad (for this). This includes conference champions, sorry. The championship games help clear things up by giving contenders an extra bellwether. However a two-division format means 8-4 teams can beat 12-0 teams they lost to the first time. The Big Longhorns Conference still technically exists. So does the Big East. Bowl tie-ins for conference champions are great and should stay but nothing should be automatic about a playoff.

The right process is some kind of playoff. I'd be fine if it just went back to bowl games and polls to determine the National Champion, but the game has gone national and there's money to be made.

The question is how many teams should be in it. The current system has two teams. The Plus-One proposal discussed by the conferences last year is basically four with some measure of flexibility. Brian wants six, which is the fewest that will accommodate undefeated mid-majors most years. Hinton proposed 10, which reasonably fits most of the good 2-loss teams.

What I'd like to do here is UFR the BCS years past and see which of these playoff systems, the BCS, a Plus-One, Brian's, or Doc Saturday's, would have been best.

 Kansas State and Joe Bob 1998: Slightly similar to this year, with one undisputed team on top, then lots of 1-loss teams to pick from. Four-teamer is #1 Tennessee (12-0), #2 FSU, #3 Kansas St, and #4 Ohio State. Six teamer includes #5 UCLA and #10 Tulane. Ten teams nets #6 Texas A&M with 2 losses, #7 Arizona with 1 loss, #8 Florida with 2 losses, and #9 Wisconsin with 1 loss (the Big Ten Champ). Ideally: Brian.

1999: The first obvious matchup of two undefeated BCS teams, #1 Florida State, and #2 Virginia Tech. Clear #3 Nebraska stands apart from a ton of 2-loss teams like Tennessee, Bama, Michigan, Wisconsin and MSU. 1-loss KSU is in there too. 10 teams works if you take Marshall over 3-loss Florida or Penn State. Ideally: BCS

2000: #1 Oklahoma, #2 Florida State, who lost to #3 Miami, who lost to #4 Washington. #5 V-Tech, and #6 Oregon State also had 1 loss each. After that is a lot of 2-loss BCS teams. The BCS system generated all sorts of controversy for teams 2-4 being mostly indiscernible, and lo more overreactive rules were written into the BCS codec. Ideally: Brian.

joey-harrington-112309jpg-0d838e58b1506ccb_display_image2001: Another year where 1 is clear but the rest ain't. #1 Miami, then #2 Nebraska, #3 Colorado with 2 losses but who just beat Nebraska, #4 Oregon with Joey Harrington. Getting to six includes 2-loss SEC teams #5 Florida and #6 Tennessee. You're leaving out 1-loss Illinois and 2-loss Texas here but 2-loss Tennessee was a shoe-in for the national championship game until falling in the SEC championship. An expanded field of 10 also draws in Stanford and Maryland. Ideally: Plus-One.

2002: #1 Miami, #2 Ohio State, HUGE GAP, #3 Georgia, #4 USC, #5 Iowa, #6 Washington State. This is the year you want to just skip to an N.C. game because the top two are undefeated and everyone else has 1 or 2 losses against easier schedules. A 10-team playoff includes Oklahoma, Kansas State, Notre Dame, and either Texas or Michigan. Could you really build a strong argument that the 2002 team is a national title contender? Ideally: BCS

2003: A top tier of three 1-loss teams: #1 Oklahoma, #2 LSU, #3 USC, then and easy cutoff between #4 Michigan and #5 Ohio State, #7 Florida State. Again you're picking between 2-loss teams for the 6th spot. Here I drew in FSU over Texas for winning their conference (not an auto-bid but it can count). Whichever team that is would have to play in Ann Arbor under the Brian plan to avoid having a repeat of M-OSU in the same place a week after The Game. The next four teams would include Texas, Tennessee, Miami (YTM), and either K-State or 1-loss Miami (NTM). This is a great case for a 4-team 2004-Auburn-Tigersplayoff, a decent case study for a 6-teamer, and shows how a 10-teamer is getting down to 1-loss MAC teams. Ideally: Brian.

2004: Again a clear top tier: #1 USC, #2 Oklahoma, #3 Auburn. A fourth is #5 Cal or #4 Texas, a sixth undefeated #6 Utah. Undefeated #9 Boise State is out there too. Expanding to 10 includes 2-loss Georgia, Virginia Tech, and 1-loss (not Big East yet) Louisville. Ideally: Brian.

2005: #1 USC, #2 Texas, BIG GAP, #3 Penn State, #4 Ohio State, #5 Oregon, #6 Notre Dame or maybe #11 WVU? Like '02 this is a "just play the NC" year. Twice in four years is enough to write a fix into the system for this sort of thing (more on this below). A 10-teamer includes Georgia, Miami (YTM), Auburn, and either VT, WVa., or LSU, or ??? – there are fully 10 two-loss BCS teams. Ideally: BCS.

2006: A one and many situation again. #1 Ohio State, then pick one from #3 Michigan (no need for shenanigans), #2 Florida, #5 USC, #4 LSU, #8 Boise State. I slotted in undefeated Boise over 1-loss Louisville and Wisconsin, and also moved USC over LSU for winning their conference. Going to 10 includes them plus probably Auburn and Oklahoma; after that is Brady Quinn's 10-2 Notre Dame who don't belong near an NC game except in ND fans' minds. Ideally: Brian.

obama-bcs2007: Sixer would have #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, #3 Virginia Tech, #4 Oklahoma, #5 Georgia, and #10 Hawai'i. This might as well be 2011 with another pretty sure-fire #1 and some confusion after that. This would be a hard call between a BCS game (LSU's a strong #2 while the other 1-loss team is #8 Kansas) and a 6-teamer. Going to 10 includes Mizzou, USC, Kansas, and West Virginia, who are indiscernible from Georgia and VT but cuts off before 10-2 Arizona State. Ideally: Doc Sat.

2008: This was the season that wasn't played. Henri the Otter of Ennui wins. Okay fine this is a mess of seven 1-loss teams at the top and two undefeated mid-majors, one of which played Michigan and respectable MWC schedule. Sixer ends up with #1 Oklahoma, #2 Florida, #3 Texas, #4 Bama, #6 Utah, and #5 USC. Sorry #9 Boise State. After that there's 1-loss Texas Tech and Penn State and 2-loss Ohio State. If you're okay with leaving out Boise for USC it's Ideally: Brian.

bearcat-arrested2009: It's not 2004 despite three undefeated BCS teams since the Big East was by now a mid-major. #1 Alabama and #2 Texas in easy, and #3 Cincy and #4 TCU after. Going to six includes #5 Florida and #6 Boise State. Only Florida among the six has a loss. The next four are Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia Tech and Iowa, all with 2 losses so 10 teams would only muddle things that are fine, but this year would work well as BCS, Plus-One, or the Cook Six Plan. Ideally: Brian.

2010: Top two are easy #1 Auburn and #2 Oregon. Top six hauls in #3 TCU, #4 Stanford, #5 Wisconsin, and #6 Ohio State. Again this is tailor-made for six teams (three undefeated, three with one loss). It's tempting to go with the NC format, TCU be screwed, but six is just fine. The 2-loss Sooners and Razorbacks, and 1-loss MSU and Boise would draw into a 10-team field. Ideally: Brian.

2011: Two is a rematch of #1 LSU and #2 Alabama. Four is #3 Oklahoma State, plus either #4 Stanford or #5 Oregon who beat them. Oklahoma-State1And #7 Boise State, now with BCS scheduled teams and TCU. I'm giving Boise the entry in a six-team system over Arkansas so we don't have half the field from one conference. Ten teams would be a bitch (Hinton includes Clemson in there—the BCS standings would have four SEC teams in a 10-team field). Ideally: Brian.

So you're saying the boss's system is better?

Yeah, I…wait I have a bolded subconscious alter-ego too now?

No I'm Ace's bolded alter-ego, filling in.

Where's mine?

The coaches like me better. Boom BCS'ed!

Really?

He got bored right around the time you started going over every year since 1998.

:( So final score is Brian 9, BCS 3, and 1 each for a Plus One and Doc Saturday's 10-team bowlstravaganza. So six is the best solution, but far from a perfect solution. This makes sense when you look at an average season. For this I can even give you a

Ch..

..art of how many of each type of contender we've had in 14 Final BCS Standings:

Team type Avg. per season
Undefeated BCS Teams 1.4
One-loss BCS Teams 3.4
Undefeated Mid-Majors 0.8
Two-loss BCS Teams 5.8

This is a loose argument for a six-team playoff. There's a reasonable chance of having four or five undefeated or 1-loss BCS teams, plus one perfect mid-major, every year. Those mid-majors aren't going away with TCU and Boise joining one of the recently pilfered BCS leagues; you can see Marshall and Tulane popped up before they did. However any given year should expect plenty of 2-loss BCS teams, more than you want to pick from to expand to a field of 10. Six draws an imaginary circle around the top three rows and suggests most years you can get between 5 and 6 comfortably competitive playoff contenders.

But then you still have 5/14 years when that's not ideal in just this little sample. Is that acceptable?

No it isn't. Even if you figure the perfect Plus-One year and the perfect Doctor Saturday year wouldn't bother too many people if we rammed them into a six-team field, what's unacceptable are those three BCS wins. It's better than the BCS's 3/14 but hell some years you just wanna see Ohio State versus Miami (YTM), or Florida State versus Vick, or the Pete Carroll's Hollywood All Stars versus the Vince Young Show. So:

top_plays_63mosu_display_image060104_young_vmed_10p

Let's have that!

Let's propose the six-team playoff system I'll call Brian-Plus:

  • Six-team field chosen by a select committee/cabal like in basketball
  • #3 and #4 hosting #6 and #5 respectively in home field quarterfinals the week after the conference championships (mid-majors who get in will almost certainly fall in that that 5- or 6-seed range to preclude too much blue turf in Round 1)
  • Semifinals in Sugar and Orange Bowls on Jan. 1.
  • Final a week later in the Rose Bowl.
  • All other bowls left alone; bowls can schedule Round 1 losers. Rose Bowl can have its regular game a week earlier with the parade.

…but that seeding committee can also choose to declare a clear national championship game. So basically when they meet they decide a.) Is it two or six this year, and then b.) If it's six who gets in and how are they seeded? On years when there's a clear two-team BCS game we revert to something like the current system, with bowl tie-ins for the regularly scheduled bowl games.

I would also suggest removing one game from the regular season schedule (if only this would solve the FCS problem) so that the conference championships are played over Thanksgiving and Round One of the playoffs be a week after. Maybe that's pushing it.