Mailbag: Ben Braden Location, Keeping Score In Life, Why The Big Ten Is Bad, Etc.

Mailbag: Ben Braden Location, Keeping Score In Life, Why The Big Ten Is Bad, Etc. Comment Count

Brian January 11th, 2013 at 11:43 AM

2009 Topps Heritage - Clayton Richard TTM Auto[1]

it worked out okay for everyone in the end

Position battles: exciting instead of terrifying?


Way too early 2013 depth charts are beginning to pop-up. It’s looking like the battle at linebacker this year will be a good one (and both lines in future years). What was the last position battle that got you excited? 2 plus players going for one spot or, like the LBs, 3 plus players going for 2 spots. There have been positional battles the last few years, but those have been between average, at best, players.

Mike in Ohio

I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but the last position battle I remember being pretty "whatever" about was Henne vs Richard vs Gutierrez at QB in 2004. In some order those were the #3, #4, and #5 QBs in their respective years, so I figured Michigan was going to be just fine no matter who ended up starting.

The Gutierrez injury threw that all out of whack, of course, and we had Henne starting as a freshman, but he had Braylon to throw to so that worked out just fine.

It's tough to remember any others. The age of roster hyper-awareness was just dawning in 2004*, and Michigan hasn't exactly had an embarrassment of riches since. The linebackers this year should be a preview of coming years when Michigan is choosing between something like Wormley/Hurst/Poggi/Godin at three-tech and I'm all like "confidence, it is something I have."

*[I remember Tim Biakabutuka's first carries of Michigan being met with general merriment at his last name. If that happened now, the extent to which it did would be greatly reduced since about 40% of the people in the stadium would be like "four star recruit out of Canada, tailback, 6'0", born in Zaire, did well at Army Bowl. BOOM KIPER'D."]

Wither Braden?


obligatory (The Wolverine/Tim Sullivan)


With Taylor Lewan returning for his 5th year, I've read quite a few message board commenters suggesting that Schofield move back to LG and Braden or Magnuson take over at RT.

My question is this: for sheer upside, wouldn't it make more sense to move Braden inside for 2013 than Schofield? Just looking at their body types, it seems to me that Braden is more suited to the power run blocking Michigan needs than Schofield is.  I'd enjoy your perspective on what you would like to see happen with the OL and what you think will actually happen with the OL.

Thanks, and Go Blue!


It depends more on Braden's ability to pull than anything else. We've had some indication that Schofield is capable of it despite his tackle-like size, since he played guard effectively and Michigan spent chunks of the year pulling tackles on that sprint counter and an occasional sweep. In the event that Braden forces his way into the lineup, is he going to have that same ability? I don't know.

A point in your favor: with Lewan back Michigan gets plenty of power run blocking from one of their tackles. They can probably afford to have a non-devastating drive blocker at RT if he brings more pass protection to the table, and Schofield does bring a lot of pass pro. Remember that both of South Carolina's defensive ends are damn good and neither did that much in the bowl when they weren't ending Vincent Smith on a busted stunt pickup. By the end of the year, Schofield was pretty good.

What I think will happen and what I'd like to see happen are the same, and it's basically the five-guy lineup I posted yesterday: Lewan-Kalis-Miller-InsertGuardHere-Schofield. I assume Kalis and Miller are locks (though if you heard my segment on WTKA yesterday you heard Sam Webb rhapsodize about Patrick Kugler's ability to start early). The fifth guy is up in the air; I would prefer that guy to be a guard simply because it provides less uncertainty, and I worry less about guards getting the QB murdered.


As I'm sure we all were, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Lewan's decision to return next year. However, it seems like all non-Michigan sources (and I'm not talking about rival fan sites like 11W) have done nothing but trash his decision. Analysts at ESPN, some of the pay sites, Yahoo and others have all said he's making a terrible decision...given the insurance policy he will take out and other factors, what gives? Many of the sources are saying there's much more risk than Jake Long took, but given the new rookie pay scale, I actually think there's less. What say you?


Lewan didn't come back because it was the most profitable thing to do, so analyses of whether it's the most profitable thing to do miss the point. They do so very badly, so badly that I assume Darren Rovell has been cloned a thousand times and sent to draft chattering class.

Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important.

"You'll never play for a team again. You'll play for a contract."

It's a risk. But it's an opportunity as well.

but but but oversigning


Throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game, we have been subject to overwhelming Bama praise. “How much better are they than everybody else?” “Is this a dynasty?” “How many years until Michigan can compete on that level?” My constant mental response to this is: but, but, but…OVERSIGNING!

The morning following the Bama beatdown, there was an interesting blogger exchange on Twitter. Basically, a B1G blogger alludes to oversigning as a competitive advantage, then an SEC blogger trivializes oversigning’s competitive impact. Looking back, I see our friend Ramzy once called oversigning an “almost insurmountable competitive advantage.”

What say you? Are B1G fans making too much of oversigning by using it as an excuse for its poor brand of football? Are SEC fans ignoring it in order to maximize pride in their conference? What’s the best quantitative analysis out there that attempts to truly measure the impact?


It's an advantage, but it's only a small part of the reason that the Big Ten has fallen behind the college football world. Florida and Georgia don't do it, and they have been okay at playing football recently. Ole Miss seems to do nothing but, and they suck every year.

In parts:

  • Sucky management of the Big Ten's elite programs. Michigan has been wobbly at best since 2006 largely due to coaching and the program's remarkable ability to punch itself in the face. Penn State was operating essentially without a head coach for the past decade and has now been nuked by the NCAA. Ohio State has largely escaped these doldrums but was stripped of various key players last year en route to a .500 season and banned from postseason play this year. No other Big Ten team can really pick up the slack, except somewhat Nebraska, and this is only the second year they've been in the league. Of course the league is going to be bad when OSU and PSU can't play in bowl games and Michigan's sixth offensive lineman is a walk-on.
  • Talent distribution. Not sure this is a huge-huge factor in the Big Ten's sudden decline since demographic trends are very gradual, but population shifts aren't helping. Notice that the powerhouse basketball conference is hugely dependent on basketball-mad Indiana. You have the in-state schools, of course, and then the best player on OSU (Thomas) and second-best on MSU (Gary Harris, and he may be better than Appling) are from Indiana along with the backbone of Michigan's resurgence—Novak, Douglass, Robinson, Albrecht, and incoming Irvin and Donnal. Michigan has one player from outside the Big Ten footprint—Hardaway. Indiana is the Florida of high school basketball. Wisconsin is a great program… for a bunch of guys from Wisconsin and Ohio leftovers.
  • Sucky management of every Big Ten program. Bielema flees Wisconsin for an SEC also-ran. Why? I guess more resources. What's the difference between Wisconsin and Arkansas's revenue? Zero. Tim Brewster. Danny Hope. Ron Zook. Tim Beckman. Purdue just hired Darrell Hazell, a guy with two years of MAC head coaching experience. Again, compare that to basketball hires: Crean, Beilein, Tubby,  and Matta had all run programs that established themselves perennial ranked teams in major conferences before getting snapped up by the Big Ten. That's not happening in football. Instead Bielema gets sucked away.
  • Yeah, oversigning and whatnot. "Whatnot" == jamming a kid full of fake classes to get him eligible and keeping him eligible with the Tarheel curriculum. JUCOs and such. It's a factor. How much? It's not nearly as big a deal as the first bullet here.

That's good news. If Michigan can recruit at a level with Georgia and Florida and Stanford, they can play at that level. That's probably not enough to go up against an all-time dynasty like Alabama that cuts ALL THE CORNERS, but those things collapse eventually, and they can compete with just about anything else.

My thing with oversigning is not that it explains the gap between the conferences, but rather it's the ultimate dick move and should be stopped if the NCAA wants to consider themselves a snow-white organization with pure motives. The Big Ten has plenty of problems, most of which stem from the leadership of the conference (leaders and legends) and trickle their incompetence down from there.

I'm not even sure how you would be able to quantify the impact. But the fix is so, so easy: remove scholarship caps in favor of per-year caps. Move from a system that encourages attrition to keep costs down to one that isn't about athletes going pro in transferring to Kenesaw State.

Notre Dame == Michigan?

Is there any validity to an assertion that Michigan and Notre Dame were basically the same teams this year but for Notre Dame has an offensive coordinator that knows the spread and how to use a spread qb?


No. Notre Dame's defense was a significant cut above Michigan's until it got eviscerated by the Tide, and remains so: 7th in total D, second in scoring D. While their secondary was not good, neither was Michigan's, and while Michigan's front seven was surprisingly capable, Notre Dame's contains many highly touted recruits on their way to long NFL careers.

ND's offense was only slightly better than Michigan's. Moreover, it was much different. Gholson had just under 300 rushing yards on the year. It's a passing spread that keeps a little bit of QB run threat involved; it's not a spread 'n' shred. I could have given you partial credit if you'd said "an offensive coordinator more comfortable with his personnel," but again the ND line was nowhere near as problematic as Michigan's. Mark it zero, dude.


Now that Kovacs has graduated, we need a new #11. I say we give it to Desmond Morgan. That would leave us without somebody for #48, but the problem could be solved by giving BOTH numbers to Morgan. He could wear 11 on the front side and 48 on the back, or possibly reverse the order week to week.

This violates NCAA rules, you say? I have thought this objection through. The answer is to give him a special jersey where the numbers are the same color as the rest of the jersey -- dark blue numerals at home, white numerals on the road -- so the number is completely invisible. The officials will never find out.


Never let it be said that the Outback Bowl jerseys were a bad thing if ideas like this flow freely after seeing them.