Mailbag: Nepotism Chances, Beilein Paranoia, Harbaugh Timing, RR Counterfactual

Mailbag: Nepotism Chances, Beilein Paranoia, Harbaugh Timing, RR Counterfactual

Submitted by Brian on November 26th, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Illu]\/[inati

1976 Michigan Football Team

It's happening...

image1 (1)

Circled are Jim Hackett, 53, and Jack Harbaugh, Bo assistant

I am not putting all the eggs in the ol' basket based on this. Maybe a few.

Chances of similar nepotism catastrophe?

Well, we've just witnessed the final episode of Brady Hoke in Michigan Stadium.  It's very easy for some to feel anger at the head coach, but the more appropriate target(s?) are those responsible for elevating Hoke to a position he was incapable of executing.  Beyond the anger, are the responsible parties still in a position of influence?  Not Brandon, of course, my concern is more directed toward Schembechler Hall.  Is there a risk of essentially repeating the same mistake of another Michigan Man, albeit a more competent version?

Mark

Uh… no? We have already plucked the last fruit off the Lloyd Carr tree, such as it is, and Michigan men available are:

  • JIM HARBAUGH. Probably not a mistake.
  • LES MILES. Questionable due to age and sketch, but even so not in Hoke's galaxy as in terms of qualifications, or lack thereof.
  • NOBODY. There are no other Michigan-affiliated head coaches.

I guess Michigan could go way off the board and hire one of the near-rookie NFL coordinators who have ties, but you have to think that after the last search they would try to avoid the appearance of nepotism. I cannot say for sure, of course. Michigan could go with Harold Goodwin or Teryl Austin, because nobody knows anything about Jim Hackett.

I kind of doubt it, though. After the two obvious guys there isn't a midlevel head coach with an uninspiring record who you can just barely see as conceivable if you squint particularly hard.

Meanwhile the new president isn't a Michigan guy and seems kind of appalled by the current culture of the department; most of said department consists of Brandon-hired short-timers with no connection to Michigan. The guy dead-set on the nepotism hire has been flushed, and what are the chances Michigan hires two CEOs like… that… back to back?

Okay, okay: nonzero. But not high. If Hackett's anywhere near the meat of the bell curve the backup plan won't be hired because he knows six different places Encore Records has been.

[After THE JUMP: or where Le Dog went to]

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Defense

Submitted by Ace on June 10th, 2014 at 3:44 PM


oh boy

A couple summers ago, I delved back into the blogspot days to look at Brian's 2008 recruiting posts and how well players lived up to expectations. There were high points, like Mike Martin wrestling Not Mike Martin. These were accompanied by lows such as "Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit." The McGuffie mixtape was rewatched, wistfully.

I forgot to continue the series last summer, so I'm picking it back up with the 2009 class; conveniently, all the players from that class have completed their time in the program, so it's easier to give a fair retrospective on their careers. If you want to go back and look though the old posts yourself, the Tate Forcier profile features links to every player.

While that last link is a nice teaser for the offense portion of this exercise, today I'll be looking at the 2009 defensive recruits. Brace yourselves.

Never Forget

I'm gonna go ahead and get the defensive back portion of this post over with, as the four commits in the secondary were Vlad Emilien, Thomas Gordon, Justin Turner, and Adrian Witty. Emilien's projection was a harbinger of doom for U-M's future situation at safety:

Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.

Brian, today, on this quote: "I was so innocent then."

Smith moved to outside linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer near the end of the 2009 season, ending up at Temple and never doing anything of consequence there. Emilien followed a similar path, playing a little special teams as a true freshman, then transferring after the first game in 2010 when Jordan Kovacs put a death grip on the strong safety spot. He ended up as, yup, an outside linebacker at Toledo, where he made 15 tackles as a senior last year.

omg shirtless heroin-laced carrot

Witty never actually made it onto the team due to academic issues, eventually landing at Cincinnati, where he's the top returner in the secondary this year. Not getting him through admissions may be viewed as a recruiting failure, but in context, it was totally worth it:

Adrian Witty, a teammate of Denard Robinson, is Denard Robinson's teammate. On this team, which they share, they play together. Also, Witty and Denard Robinson attended the same high school. At this high school, they played on a team which they shared and played together on: they were teammates.

That should be clear. Many, many folks regard Witty's offer as the heroin-laced carrot used to lure critical QB recruit Denard Robinson away from Urban Meyer's clutches and to Michigan's post-apocalyptic frozen wastes.

Even though Witty would've been, at worst, the second-best defensive back in this class for U-M, there are no hard feelings here. We salute you, heroin-laced carrot.

The most hyped recruit in the class was Massillon, Ohio's Justin Turner, a top-35 overall player to both Rivals and Scout.* It wasn't hard to see what all the excitement was about:

That excitement only grew after Turner tore it up at Army All-American Game, to the point that his recruitment post led off with a discussion of one of those B/R "[touted recruit] is [football titan]" posts:

If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:

"Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man."

IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)

Brian took the conservative tack, comparing Turner to... Marlin Jackson. Let's just move along.

The one defensive back to actually make a positive impact on the field at U-M, Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, came in as a relatively anonymous recruit. He got Brandent Englemon for his "YMRMFSPA" and this projection:

General Excitement Level: Well… he is the lowest-ranked non-kicker in the class, and that's probably for a reason. 
Projection: Obvious redshirt and will likely require at least two years before he's ready to see the field on defense. The most likely (but by no means assured) outcome is that he doesn't contribute much.

Yes, it's possible for a Cass Tech recruit to exceed expectations.

[*ESPN was a skeptical outlier, listing him as their #21 athlete. Point, ESPN.]

Who?

At least Mike Jones provided us this picture.

On to the linebackers: Isaiah Bell, Mike Jones, and Brandin Hawthorne. Brian's assessment of Jones' potential almost nailed it:

General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out. 

Instead, nobody panned out big. Bell washed out before annarbor.com died, Jones saw the field sparingly before playing his fifth year at Western, and Hawthorne topped out as a nickel linebacker.

I won't spend much time on these guys simply because there isn't a whole lot to talk about, but I will note that when a search for a player comparison goes like this, there's a pretty good chance you've got a serious tweener on your hands:

So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings.

Brian suggested Hawthorne "may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D," and hoo boy did some bad memories just come flooding back. Quick, to the defensive line!

THORQWASH & The Crab Person


Between this and the legendary hood slide, we're all good, Big Will.

Justin Turner wasn't the only five-star recruit to the established recruiting sites to get some major skepticism from ESPN. Will Campbell's rankings went #35 overall (Scout), #26 overall (Rivals), and... #21 offensive tackle (ESPN). Another point for the Worldwide Leader. Like Turner, an outstanding Army game performance added to the hype, as did pictures like this...

...and, for entirely different reasons, this:

WE GOT THOR.

In retrospect, however, maybe we should've seen Campbell's future weight issues coming:

Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.

"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."

Even though he didn't have the desired impact until a solid, though not five-star-caliber, senior season, Campbell always gave a hell of a quote. Brian's Gabe Watson comparison was pretty on point; though Big Will didn't come close to Watson's production, they were similar players—jovial, wildly talented, bull-strong, big fans of food—with similar hype coming to Ann Arbor. 

craaaaaaab people craaaaaab people

Michigan landed two defensive ends in the top-100 range in the class: Craig Roh (right) and Anthony LaLota. While Roh never became an edge-rushing terror, he managed to consitently produce and improve despite boucing between positions—not to mention different defensive schemes that didn't necessarily fit his skill set—for his entire career due to factors outside his control. This comparison both worked and, well, didn't work:

Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.

The tweener aspect of the comparison was spot-on, but Roh ended up being a very different player from Crable, more disciplined and able to hold the point of attack but far less explosive off the edge.

As for LaLota, he received one of the most random YMRMFSPA comps in this blog's history:

Alain Kashama… except good!

Kashama was a total project at Michigan, coming in with little football experience—as did LaLota, who played just 12 games of organized football before hitting campus—before settling in as a reserve pass-rushing specialist, eventually totaling six career sacks.

That ended up being six more career sacks than LaLota recorded, as he transferred back to home-state Rutgers two weeks into his sophomore season, where he quit football to focus on his education after a move to tight end saw him buried on the depth chart.

We end with the class curveball, Quinton Washington, whom everybody evaluated as an interior offensive lineman—with most saying he had a ton of potential there, this blog included:

General Excitement Level: High. It's clear the coaches were nuts about this guy and he's got the offers and recruiting mojo to back it up. 
Projection: Though the coaches have suggested Washington might see the field this year—they think he's that ready—a redshirt makes more sense with Schilling's move inside solidifying the interior line. He'll have to fight Ricky Barnum to replace Moosman next year; if he loses that battle he'll be the odds on favorite to replace Schilling in 2011.

Steve Schilling, in fact, was his player comparison. Washington instead moved to nose tackle early in the 2010 season, worked his way into a starting role as a junior, earned the nickname QWASH, and gave the defense a proficient space-eater until his role mysteriously diminished last season.

The real answer is Roh, but one could make a reasonable argument that Michigan's most critical 2009 defensive recruit was a guy who never played a down for the Wolverines: heroin-laced carrot (seriously, Brian, how the hell do you come up with these things?) Adrian Witty.

Unverified Voracity Is Aging Backwards

Unverified Voracity Is Aging Backwards

Submitted by Brian on August 19th, 2013 at 3:12 PM

154225657JR077_ILLINOIS_MICHIGAN

HEALTHING UP WOO

Jake Ryan came back before he was injured. Are we moving Jake Ryan's timetable up? I… maybe?

Joined by @CoachRoyM live on @michiganinsider - "wouldn't be surprised if jake came back sooner (than predicted)"

There are rumblings about the first Big Ten game, which would be crazy.

When you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. When you have four, math implodes. Michigan State's nominal starter put up 4.1 YPA in their latest closed scrimmage and their true freshman went 10 of 14 for 240 yards, so a two-way quarterback battle is now a four-way one:

"At the beginning of the scrimmage it was a three-horse race," Dantonio said Monday. "And at the end of the scrimmage, it was a four-horse race."

While you are fretting about uncertainty at guard and safety at least Michigan's quarterback battle is "who wants to get Devin Gardner sandwiches?" Also, Michigan is starting Taylor Lewan at left tackle instead of a former walk-on. LeVeon Bell ain't walking through that door.

Related: in weird news, Hoke told the Michigan insider that Shane Morris was held out of Saturday's scrimmage because they wanted to rest him. Uh?

Meanwhile in Iowa. An open practice(!) leads BHGP to conclude that redshirt sophomore Jake Rudock is likely to throw two-yard hitches on third and seven for the Hawkeyes. Rudock was a three-star out of star-studded Florida powerhouse St Thomas Aquinas a couple years back.

Other bits from Iowa City:

  • Sounds like depth is at a low ebb on defense.
  • Greg Davis has spent most of the offseason smoking opium and drinking absinthe, so Iowa's now a no-huddle shotgun team.
  • True freshman tailback LeShun Daniels is going to play, because he is an Iowa tailback. He is scheduled to be raptured up midseason. Weisman and Damon Bullock also return.

From the comments:

"It looked like a modern-day college football offense."

This… wait, so… but… I can’t… so wait, you mean…. but that’s…. that’s just…. um…. but…. I don’t…. wait, what?

In West Lafayette. Rob Henry is named Purdue's starter, which is amazing because he's a redshirt senior. I don't know if I've ever experienced the opposite of the Brooks Bollinger Eighth Year Memorial Season effect, but it seems like Henry should be much younger. Playing at Purdue == premature aging. Thus all the ACL tears.

In South Bend. The Irish lose Danny Spond to migrane issues. He was a returning starter at the Irish equivalent of SAM.

Another angle. Gardner posted his slant touchdown to Joe Reynolds to instagram:

dg1two's video on Instagram

The odds and such. Devin Gardner has dropped from 40/1 to 25/1 to win the Heisman and is the favorite to lead the Big Ten in passing yards. Gallon is a co-favorite in receiving yards, and in "bets I wish I could short" Derrick Green is fifth in rushing yards.

Well, maybe then. Ypsi PF Jaylen Johnson is getting heavy interest from Michigan and already possesses a Louisville offer. The one thing that seems to be holding Michigan back is Johnson's lack of shooting. He's working on it, though:

“He’s a skilled four-man for us. He’s a decision maker in the press (and) he’s the ball reversal guy because he can feed into the post. He can also shoot it now.”

It’s that final attribute that has scouts and coaches all abuzz. Johnson’s ability to face-up his opponents and knock down jumpers or drive to the basket helped garner him a four-star rating by Fox Sports Next. Now the No. 20 power forward in the country, he also holds offers from Cincinnati, Arizona State, Florida State, Maryland, Louisville, Iowa State, Oregon and Michigan State.


Johnson is young for his grade, and you know Beilein keeps an eye on that stuff. His coach reports that now that Johnson has "shown a lot of maturity" in the classroom that Michigan is getting more interested. His mom used to play at Wisconsin, but other than that connection it seems Michigan is the local favorite:

“I’ve really got to dissect the program and the way they play (more), but I love Michigan. I’m from Michigan and any time I turn the TV on, if Wisconsin is not playing and Michigan is, I’m rooting for Michigan. It is just a matter if it is going to be a fit for Jay. (It’ll be about) where I feel that Jay is going to get the most development, the most growth, (and has) the people who are going to get on board with Jaylen’s dream, as well as him being an asset to the program.”

Johnson's going to take all five officials, but probably won't use one on Michigan because he's, like, 10 minutes away. Iowa State, Louisville, and Oregon have been scheduled already.

Old school. Newsreels from mgovideo. This, the 1943 Brown Jug game:

1943 Minnesota at Michigan by mgovideo

This from the 1964 Purdue game, narrated by a very, very boring man.

1964 Purdue at Michigan by mgovideo

There's also a half-hour of the 1936 Minnesota game.

It just had to happen to us. This Football Study Hall piece attempts to rank coaching performance relative to recruiting success by taking star average and comparing it to F+, one of those fancy holistic statistical measures that tries to smooth out schedule strength and takes MOV into account. Your #1 recruiting outperformer is the 2012 Kansas State Wildcats.

Of local interest: #2 is… 2007 West Virginia. 2006 West Virginia is 10th. Michigan hires that guy, and that guy turns in the 19th-worst performance of the decade. Cumong, man. No other coach appears in the top and bottom 40. The only other coaches with multiple years in the top 40 are Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, and Brian Kelly, with Chip Kelly an honorable mention since he was the OC for Mike Belloti.

BONUS: this study makes Rick Neuheisel look like the worst coach of the past ten years. Three of his four UCLA teams finished 12th through 14th-worst, and many of those below him are outfits like Washington State and Colorado, teams whose recruiting profile doesn't really cover how terrible they are.

Etc.: "Forecast: Good." Not so good: David Terrell's situation. More Darboh stuff. I'm not sure if this is the best acronym for a college basketball team right now. IN SG James Blackmon Jr. on Michigan. On the 1977 OSU game.

Ultimate Ennui Showdown 2: Ennui Harder

Ultimate Ennui Showdown 2: Ennui Harder

Submitted by BiSB on July 25th, 2013 at 9:07 AM

We’re back. No need to thank us.

Henri, I’m not sure we’re welcome here anymore…

In case you missed Part One, we’re on the quest for the ultimate low point of the Michigan sports fan in recent history. I’ll present you with the terrible moment/period/whatever, as well as an argument or two in favor of it being the worst moment, and an argument or two for it not being as bad as you remember. I’ll also include the flip-side of the karma coin; if the ennui moment was the Yin, I’ll try to look on the bright side of life by finding the Yang.

We’re looking at the period starting in the 1990’s until today. We already looked at the ultimate killer dong-blows, as well as the I-coulda-been-a-contenda moments. Today, we consider the generally miserable experiences in the Well That Was Unpleasant Region, as well as the catch-all General FML Region. Read this, then vote HERE.

You’ll be happy to know that this will be the final front page of this here series. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the bracket in the Twitterverse posts in the coming weeks.

Again, remember to vote your pain here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PN9LXST

[For the protection of the childrens, all the gore after the jump].

Mailbag: Scrimmages, GA Strategy, Big WRs, Cute

Mailbag: Scrimmages, GA Strategy, Big WRs, Cute

Submitted by Brian on April 30th, 2013 at 12:21 PM

101709_SPT_UMvDelaware_MRM

this would have been far less awful to behold if it was officially an exhibition

brian,

i seem to remember that rodriguez had some idea about doing spring game scrimmage with d2 or d3 schools. after this year's boring spring game, is doing something like that becoming more appealing to either fans or dave brandon types? bring on slippery rock!

trppwlbrnID

RR's idea was actually to have a preseason game a la the NFL against a I-AA team to kick off the year a week early. It was his third-best idea ever, just behind inventing the zone read and recruiting Denard. I liked that idea for a lot of reasons:

  • More football.
  • …but of the sort that doesn't significantly increase injury risk since most starters will exit after a couple series.
  • Fewer bodybag games, nationwide.
  • An opportunity to have an interesting nonconference game along with ten conference games and still have seven home dates.

Excepting that one year the Mott Scrimmage was all punting drills I've happily paid near-game prices to watch Michigan practice. Maybe this makes me a freak. Even if it does, an annual exhibition game is more interesting stuff to watch because it gives teams an extra slot with which to schedule an actual opponent. If your objection is "you're adding more games and not paying these guys," I am with you on that.

That doesn't fix spring. Hoke has expressed a desire to have an actual game a la MSU, OSU, and ND, but he hasn't had the roster to do so—and neither did Rodriguez. Next year, you'd hope.

Dear Brian,

I'd like to hear your opinion as to what time you think students will need to show in order to get great sideline seats (sections 26-27, rows 30-50) for premium games like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio in 2013. I'm a rising senior and I've shown up 45 minutes to an hour early for every game over the past three years, and up until this year's basketball season, I would have thought an hour would probably be enough time to secure a pretty good spot in GA football seating. But after showing up to the Ohio basketball game this year at 4:20 pm (9pm start time) and seeing that there were already 1500-2000 students ahead of me, I'm less optimistic about the situation. Ditto for the NCG viewing (by the time they started letting people in there were at least 4000 people in a line that stretched from Crisler all the way through the parking lot, around Keech, and up to Main).

For basketball, it seems like all of a sudden it has become "cool" to show up to premium games outrageously early even for fans who couldn't name a single player on the basketball team (seriously). It's about to become "cool" to show up to football games outrageously early too. I only see two semi-plausible arguments as to why the lines won't be as bad.

1. There's no clear border between good seats and bad seats for football. In basketball, there's a pretty big drop-off if you don't get in the Maize Rage, so there's a lot of pressure to get those first 500 spots.

I'm not so confident with this one. It's not as if we don't know where the good seats are in the football student section. People are going to want to be in the first 5 rows all around, as well as sections 26 and 27. Those will fill up fast. Show up less than three hours early for UTL or the Ohio game and you will be in the corner or the end zone.

2. There's pretty much no pre-gaming tradition for basketball games.
For this one, it seems to me like a pretty big assumption that all the people who were pre-gaming up until halfway through the first quarter will continue to do so now that there is a competition for seats. The game has been changed. People will go to great lengths to make sure they get better seats than everyone else at a marquee event. It confers a feeling of superiority, whether or not the person actually cares more about the event than everyone else.

Sincerely,
Alex

I guess it depends on what your definition of "good seats" is. Personally, I think you have to be nuts to want to sit in the first ten rows, especially in the endzone. The worst seats I ever had were on a trip to Iowa: temporary bleachers actually on the field. I had no idea what was going on most plays until I saw it on the replay boards. 

Others disagree; those will go quickly. From my experiences at other stadiums with GA student seating, if you're in the stadium 45 minutes before gametime you'll have your pick of seats outside the might-hug-Devin zone. I've been to plenty of Michigan State-Michigan games at Spartan Stadium where the student section is half-full 15 minutes before kickoff. When I went to the UGA-Tennessee game last year, Georgia students filed in at a desultory pace. The number of seats that are at least okay is an order of magnitude higher, so I do think that cliff you reference is a major control on fan insanity.

Another you don't mention is the average level of commitment of a football ticket holder versus a basketball or hockey one. Football has 10x the number of students that either of those sports do, and many of them get tickets not because they're hardcore sports fans but because it's part of the college experience to show up in the second quarter with HOTTT on your ass barely able to walk. (I was even more curmudgeonly about these people when I was in college, thank you very much.) A lot of people aren't going to care much about where they sit.

I'm confident that anyone who gets to the stadium when I do will be able to pick damn near any seat they want outside of the first ten rows. If Michigan's taking on OSU to go 12-0… I still think you're good, actually. If 50% of students aren't showing up on time, do they really care enough to secure better seats for themselves? By definition they don't really care about what they're watching. They're going to feel superior anyway. Their ass is HOTTT.

Brian,

I heard Hecklinski quoted as saying the speed in a WR is over-rated. Michigan's prototype now seems seems to be 6-3 strong WR with fair speed while OSU prototype is 5-11 inch burner. To me, I would rather have the burner. I do understand it is a different offense with need for blocking more important with pro style offense, but I cannot believe speed in a WR that you are hoping to stretch the field is unimportant in any offense.

Peter F

It's not necessarily the case that big receivers have to be slow. The fastest guys in the world seem about evenly split between outside receivers (Usain Bolt, for one) and slots. Michigan's brought in a couple of guys—Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris—that are both large and very fast. Most of the top receivers in any given year will be both large and fast, and Michigan will take those guys when they can get 'em.

When they can't, like most people most of the time, Michigan will take large over quick. Those guys stretch the defense in a different way: by being just too damn big for cornerbacks to consistently cover one-on-one. As long as they're quick enough to get on the right side of a cornerback, those midgets can have all the recovery speed they want, it's not going to help. Despite being just 6'1", Junior Hemingway was an excellent example of this style of deep threat. Notre Dame's been running them out for years: Michael Floyd—yeesh, that guy—Jeff Samardzija, hell, Tyler Eifert. None of those guys were close to burners, but they certainly stretched the field anyway.

Michigan does give something up in the quicks department by going this route. They're not going to be a great WR screen team. Al Borges is fine with this. He hates throwing behind the line of scrimmage. He also loves the deep ball. I mean, come on, this is Al Borges we're talking about, the offensive coordinator who wants to call a 30 yard pass every down.

Title: Dave Brandon run for Senate?

Me: Go away!
DB: "Go away?"
[DB laughs as I begin crying]
Me: I hate you, I hate you.
DB: Where would you be without me, dollar, dollar? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of me!
Me: [stops crying] Not anymore.
DB: What did you say?
Me: Hoke looks after us now. We don't need you anymore.
DB: What?
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
DB: No!
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
[DB screams in frustration]
Me: LEAVE! NOW! AND NEVER COME BACK!
[DB is silent]
Me: [looks around] We told him to go away... and away he goes, Precious! Gone, gone, gone! Michigan is free!

Sincerely,

Brian Hale

No comment.

Hey Brian,

It's been three and a half years since you posted a pic of my son as a 7 WEEK old in a post.

I made a "vine" of him Tuesday. He's keeping up with this "Mgoblog's biggest fan" moniker at the ripe old age of almost four.

Go Blue,

Rob Nakfoor

Your head might explode if you turn the sound on here.

Mailbag: What Is Wrong With You People? Seriously.

Mailbag: What Is Wrong With You People? Seriously.

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Arizona-Wildcats-head-coach-Rich-Rodriguez[1]

no no no no no no no no no
BTW: you can only admire Rodriguez's daughter if you are <18

Let's schedule Arizona!

Brian,

I read with interest your article on “Who replaces Notre Dame?” and was wondering if Arizona might qualify as a worthy replacement.  Seems to me they’d be a step down from Notre Dame but my guess is that RichRod would do just about anything to get Michigan on his schedule.  I’m not even sure if we’d want to play him but I suspect that this matchup would generate a lot of interest.

Ken

I didn't think a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998 was going to be a hot ticket, even if Rodriguez is there. FWIW, the Wildcats have a game at Nevada in 2015 but nothing else on the docket in the relevant time frame.

I'm opposed to an Arizona series, because the upside is low—you beat a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998—and the downside is high. By 2015, Rodriguez will presumably have some fleet-footed bastards to scare the crap out of you (or he'll be fired, but… probably not). Casteel will still be there and they'll have a weird defense that's kind of like playing Air Force on the other side of the ball. And Rodriguez will start gameplanning for the thing as soon as it's announced. That is a dangerous situation leading to much mirth if it comes off poorly, and you're just a bully if it doesn't.

It is a very Dave Brandon thing to do, though. Not including them was a wishful-thinking-based oversight.

No, seriously!

Thanks for putting the thought into the open scheduling date; interesting stuff (as always).

But is the MGoBook putting odds on the open dates turning into additional MAC snacks?  And the better question; given the incentives that the current BCS/limited playoff creates, wouldn't it be completely irrational (and, frankly, negligent) to actually schedule a competitive opponent?

Also: I pledge the first $1K to whatever institution (charity, UM, MGoBlog) that would help apply enough influence/pressure to turn this into an Arizona-Michigan home-and-away.  Do you think Brandon could ignore a pledged collective $500K to Mott's Children's Hospital by fans if Michigan were to schedule a home and away with Arizona?  I think he'd find a way to ignore it, but I would revel in the all the headlines if the story gains traction.  And I'd also be interested to see how much fans would be willing to pledge to see these games take place (I realize there is a difference between "pledge" and "pay," but perhaps there are ways around that as well).  And we already know RichRod would take the games in a heartbeat ...

scott

Why? Why do you people want this? For revenge? Revenge on a guy Michigan fired after three years? I know Rodriguez was a disaster here but it's not like he was trying to be. Playing Arizona is beating up on the guy we already beat up on for three years… or losing to that guy. Just say no to Arizona.

As far as the 2015-2017 ND games turning into MAC games—snacks is out the window after last weekend—they might be able to get away with it in 2015, when they've got Utah and Oregon State already on the docket. 2015 is an ND/Nebraska home year. In fact, expect that slot to be filled with a one-off guarantee game.

2016 needs a marquee home game. The current home schedule: Colorado, MSU, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa. Unless the Buffs get it turned around in a major way, that's a repeat of this year's lame schedule minus the Dallas game. The Dallas game may have been a stupid thing to do but it was at least a hook for donors. Michigan needs one of those in 2016 and will have to return a trip in 2017.

As far as the limited playoff structure's incentives, I think the new system will be more inclined to reward quality nonconference schedules. Moving to a committee from polls makes it much easier to come to an agreement about the importance of tough schedules and promote last year's Oregon team over Stanford. Polls would never do that because no one is talking to each other and no common goal is settled upon.

Most years there will be a throng of one-loss teams arguing for one of two or three playoff spots, and those teams will be sorted out by schedule strength.

Let's not schedule Arizona!

Brandon won't schedule Arizona because…

I don't think Brandon would schedule Arizona because the risk / reward isn't there. If Michigan loses or splits with Arizona and Brandon's decision to replace RR with Hoke looks very bad. If Michigan sweeps Arizona, he's somewhat vindicated but given the number of down years Arizona has had, the expectations to win will clearly be on Michigan. Just my two-cents.

P.S. If RR came back to A2 with AZ, I would give him a standing ovation. Three years can change a lot of things, but if the game were played tomorrow, I'd probably be (secretly) rooting for RR to upset my own team. Does that make me a bad fan? Am I the only one who would feel that way? I wonder, though I doubt we'll ever know.

Pete

This is the thinking of a rational man. The first bit, anyway. I am not down with defecting to Team Rodriguez. Yeah, we screwed him. He screwed us, too. Let's just move on and not have that awkward conversation at the DMV.

In re: why Brandon won't do it, that's the same argument that everyone makes against the Horror II and that's still on the schedule. He does not think like other people. He likes to do things that get attention, no matter what sort of attention that is.

Let's fix our things!

Is Brandon going to take this opportunity to fix the odd-years-good-season-ticket, even-years-bad-season-ticket issues?  Perhaps, making it a point to schedule our new games so that they are not away in years we go to Braska and Hell-hole?

Presumably!

Side note: it is amazing how screwed Michigan got in the conference alignment breakdown. Not in OSU's division—which means I'm rooting for the bastards this weekend because it's in my self interest. The four other teams in the division who aren't Minnesota have crossover games with Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue. Michigan gets Ohio State. And Brandon couldn't even wheedle out a tiny concession like splitting the Nebraska and OSU games. Hell, when Wisconsin comes on the schedule again Michigan gets all of them on the road in 2016.

The Big Ten division split literally could not have been any worse for Michigan.

They really should flip MSU and Michigan into the other division and hand Illinois and Wisconsin back. That's got better competitive equity now, especially from an intra-division standpoint. It preserves all the relevant rivalries without requiring awkward crossover games and provides a lovely parallelogram of hate between Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. And you can call them "East" and "West".

152590948_standard_1348608045_730[1]

Gardner slant suck.

This will just turn into more "you love Denard and cannot be trusted", but FWIW:

Brian,

I don't know if this means much but I played WR at a small college so I have some background when I say that the slant-interception was on Gardner. My HS or college coaches would have chewed my ass for days had I come out of a break that slow.

The key to the slant is your third or fifth vertical step is a hard jab with the outside foot and a sharp turn at less than 45 degrees to the inside. You get low over your toe on the break and accelerate across the middle. The DB is
going to be closing hard and when you round your cut or get out slow they beat you to the ball. I watched that in real time and thought right away it was on Gardner and the replay only confirmed that. He comes out of his break standing straight up and his first two steps are not full speed. Little guys run slants well because they are quicker out of breaks, big guys are better targets because they can block out a crashing DB. Gardner was slow out of the break and he was standing straight up so the jab step wasn't as convincing. That throw was on the money if Gardner runs a good route.

Now, the DB was in great position so that may mean Denard should have gone elsewhere but if Gardner runs a great route the worst that happens is a PBU.

Just my two cents,
Keegan

Denard throwing it directly at the CB actually lends this credence (also, like, this guy knows what he's talking about) since the DB is expecting the slant to go where he is so he can tackle; Gardner is not there and CB is like "look what I found."

This does not change my depression level because it just moves some of the incompetence to another guy who is critical to the success of the whole thing.

Fair catches.

Hey Brian,

I was wondering how effective you think it is to call for a fair catch when the ball is inside the 10. Shouldn't the returner gamble on the fact that it might bump into the end zone. Is there any real advantage to getting it at the eight instead of say the two?

The conventional wisdom seems to be shifting a bit on punt returns. Previously it was heels at the ten and no steps back. Now punts at the seven or eight often get fair-caught. Until someone charts the percentage of punts that end up in the endzone after landing at the five, six, seven, etc., we won't have a yes or no answer to this, but I think catching punts a couple yards inside the ten is the right move. The value of field position is close to linear for most of the field but plunges once we start talking about the one or two yard line:

2723338601_713161096f[1]

The reason for this is obvious: most coaches will trade a down for a yard or two instead of risking the safety. I had the Mathlete take a look at whether this was correct strategy a while back, but unfortunately can't find that post. IIRC, he said that was the right move given the costs of a safety and how frequently you'll suffer one if you just run your usual offense.

By catching the ball at the seven or eight you're giving up the shot at a free first down, essentially, but you're also removing that awkward situation where you're burning a down and still trying to get out from your own goal line. It's the safe play, and probably the right one.

Internet, you are called out.

Hi Brian,

Amidst all the whining about football refereeing these days, people are STILL complaining about Mike Lantry's kick in 1974.

You would think after almost 40 years of controversy that you or one of your nerdy engineering friends could use modern technology and run a computer simulation to end the dispute once and for all.

This is much more important than the Kennedy assassination.

Best regards,

Jay McNeill
West Bloomfield, MI

Well? I mean, he's right. Computer engineers, assemble!

Mailbag: Ojemudia Redshirt, Triple Option, Rodriguez At Alabama Alternate Universe

Mailbag: Ojemudia Redshirt, Triple Option, Rodriguez At Alabama Alternate Universe

Submitted by Brian on August 8th, 2012 at 4:35 PM

MARIOOJEMUDIA10MP150[1]t1_johnson[1]image

1: pew pew pew  2: a man Al Borges isn't 3: an alternate universe

Ojemudia redshirt?

I think there is no way Mario O plays.  A ton of guys could be put on field before him.  Several combos could fill the WDE spot better, eg Ryan-Cam Gordon combo puts our best, or at least most experienced, backup on the field, Ryan-Avery is similar, or how about flip back Roh for a Roh-Brink/Heitzman/Wormley/Black(?) replacement.  Given how important a redshirt could be to Mario, I would think coaches will be creative.  

-Dirk

I agree with you philosophically. Ojemudia should get a redshirt. I get frustrated when certain players have theirs burned for what seems like no reason. I'm with you, man. But… I don't see how he doesn't get on the field if Clark's issues are severe.

The problem with the above scenarios is that they reduce Michigan's specialization by flipping guys around and they still leave Michigan an injury from putting Ojemudia on the field. Is that injury reasonably likely? Yeah. So it seems to make more sense to leave Ryan at SLB full time, where he is still getting a grasp on all the particulars, and Roh at SDE, where he needs every snap he can get to figure out how to deal with his size limitations. The immediate payoff here seems real, and given the way Michigan is recruiting they figure they will be able to insert a Taco Charlton or 2014 kid into the lineup when Ojemudia graduates without losing too much. Of course, Mattison just told everyone that he was comfortable with the idea of Ryan at WDE in practice and proclaimed his faith in Cam Gordon's ability, so what do I know?

But even with that move, you're still juggling just three players between two positions. That's not tenable. If the coaches know Clark is going to be back relatively promptly, then I can see holding Ojemudia out the first couple games and getting him the redshirt. If Clark's out until Notre Dame or later, I think you have to blood Ojemudia and worry about the consequences in the distant future.

Triple option?

Brian,

This may be a non feasible idea, but why not kill two birds with one stone by creating a triple option package for Denard and company? Everyone says its really hard to prepare for Air Force, and we could prepare our defense while surprising the crap out of Alabama. Think about it, our RB, FB, QB combo are familiar with zone reads and are a lot better than any combo air force will ever have. We surprised Ohio with the inverted veer last year, and Bama's young defense won't know what hit 'em.

In addition, I can't help but think kicking and coverage teams, plus Denard's (hopefully) reduction in interceptions will make up for the fortunate 80% fumble recovery rate. The special teams will likely improve with the influx of talent and depth we are getting, or negated by rule changes. Either way its a net gain for Michigan in special teams.

Jim

Unfortunately I think we have to file that under "not feasible." Triple option is not something you can go into halfway. Hell, Michigan's speed option last year was mostly a Denard run off-tackle that had little if any chance of getting to the tailback. The one time Denard pitched it was a fumble caused when a blitzing linebacker met him after he'd taken one step playside. While it had the excellent benefit of keeping defenses honest and shooting Denard into secondaries, calling it an "option" is being generous.

Adding a true triple option and trying to get him to better understand Borges's West Coast passing attack is way too much to bite off in one fall camp. Since Borges is what he is, he's going to do what he does, and that's get Denard to throw more accurate balls that are less frequently intercepted.

The inverted veer is a different business because it's a handoff. The worst thing that happens there is you make the wrong decision and you eat some yardage. We almost saw the worst thing with the option last year, and that's the last thing an offense trying to cut down on turnovers needs.

IN RE: making up for fewer fumbles recovered. I'm not sure the special teams will be much better than last year except in the realm of punting. Gibbons is still Gibbons, kick returns just got nerfed, and it's damn hard to have an impact punt return game these days what with everyone spread-punting their way to seven gunners. Punting should be better because Hagerup will either get his foot on straight or a quick hook for the steady Wile, but we're talking a few yards a game.

The interceptions, sure. Denard's interception rate dropped over the tougher second half of the year and he should improve somewhere between noticeably and spectacularly in year two with Borges. That still leaves Michigan treading water even in the most optimistic turnover scenario, and the schedule has taken a turn for the bear-like.

brian,

pre-bama thought experiment. in december of 2006, alabama offers rich rodriguez their head coaching job. he accepts. what happens to both alabama and michigan from then on?

trippwelborneID

images[1]

Well, let's start with Alabama. They struggle through an RR-at-WVU transition year probably a little bit worse than their initial 6-6 Saban year, with Star Jackson taking over for the Bama bangs QBs midseason. Jackson doesn't end up transferring to nowheresville and becomes something like Pat White but probably not as good. No one gives six hundredths of a crap about the academics of RR's incoming recruits or Rita's jaguar pants, but RR probably still makes his fatal "I don't need Casteel that badly" error. With a somewhat more secure powerbase and money-providing demons, he does not hire GERG on try #2 and cycles through one of the then-available proven SEC DCs (Jon Chavis, for example).

This plus the better fit with his recruiting makes his defense not the worst ever assembled at the school he's coaching. He gets his QB a year earlier and has considerably better talent than he inherited at Michigan. He's replacing a total loser, one of many such since Bear. He does at least okay, probably pulls off an SEC title game or two, maybe wins it once, and sees a BCS bid or two.

He's probably still at Alabama in a Pelini-esque state: decent success, the fanbase is relatively happy with him, but they'll start to sour after a subpar year and two means you're out, buddy.

Meanwhile, Michigan finds itself adrift in the middle of the Les Miles/Bill Martin boat thing without a seemingly A-list candidate willing to jump. At that point I have no idea what they do. At the time I was muttering about how Jim Grobe mutterings were just the worst. Ferentz was out, Schiano was out, Miles was out, and Tedford was seemingly uninterested. Michigan clearly had no idea where to go, whereupon Rodriguez fell into their lap.

large_826umqbs[1]If Rodriguez is not there… does it matter? I'm not sure it matters. Lloyd was not Bo but he did have an impressive winning percentage, a national title, and the continuation of a record bowl streak. Would a pro-style coach have been able to turn Threet/Sheridan/no OL/nobody at all into a bowl appearance? I don't think so. At that point you're working from behind the eight ball and you have to be really fantastic to pull yourself out of that tailspin. Would Hoke have survived that? I doubt it; at that point his resume was a bunch of .500 seasons at Ball State. Would any outsider Michigan could have acquired have managed to hang on? Maybe by another year or two.

Even if we have no clue about who takes the reins in RR's absence in 2008, we can hazard a guess at their fate: similar hammering by OSU, flameout in 3-5 years, replacement. That's the way of things whenever you replace a legend, and if Carr wasn't a legend (debatable) he was definitely the continuation of Bo. It would have taken a truly A-level coach to not bomb out with no quarterbacks and no safeties and no offensive line, and it didn't look like any were available.

In the end, both programs are probably happy with the way things turned out. Alabama's case: duh. Michigan's: Rodriguez was such a terrible fit that Michigan rejected it in three years, at which point Hoke was just plausible enough to show up and shock everyone by doing everything right for going on 18 months.

Unverified Voracity Debates The Number Three

Unverified Voracity Debates The Number Three

Submitted by Brian on February 23rd, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Brief vacation note. I'll be limited Friday and Monday as I visit some friends. I don't think it'll be that noticeable Friday but it's likely there aren't going to be any major columns Monday or Tuesday. I won't be able to catch the hockey game since they're not on TV, but I will write something up on the Purdue game whenever I get a chance.

Northwestern. Via mgovideo:

Podcast. I guested on The Solid Verbal. They asked me if I could think of anything wrong with Brady Hoke and I came up empty. It's been a good 13 months.

Beilein recruiting vs. development. I'm not entirely clear on whether Dan Hanner's recruiting and coaching rankings have methodology gaps that would particularly affect John Beilien but the general idea is to evaluate a coach's recruiting on the ORtg of his freshmen and his development of players on the movement of that ORtg as the players age. Survey says:

Coach Team Tenure All Recruiting Development Overall
John Calipari Kentucky 3 10 1st 35th 1st
Thad Matta Ohio St. 8 10 3rd 12th 2nd
Bo Ryan Wisconsin 10 10 17th 2nd 3rd
Mike Krzyzewski Duke 10 10 4th 18th 4th
John Beilein Michigan 5 10 14th 8th 5th
Lorenzo Romar Washington 10 10 19th 4th 6th
Mike Montgomery California 4 6 25th 5th 7th
Bill Self Kansas 9 10 7th 21st 8th
Rick Barnes Texas 10 10 2nd 37th 9th
Jim Boeheim Syracuse 10 10 6th 29th 10th

There are some obvious holes in the evaluations here since they only take offense into account, they assume a guy like Burke's performance is all recruiting and no development when he's had on average a half-year of development by the end of his freshman year, etc. But they do make the case that Beilein's recruiting at Michigan has been horrendously underrated, especially since the defense is more than holding its own in this year's Big Ten. Throw it on the pile of evidence indicating Beilein has a great eye for players.

See also: Trey Burke, nation's #3 freshman according to CBS.

It might behoove us to move to a less three-mad offense. Emphasis on "might"—obviously there is something going on with Beilein's offense that works. But in Ken Pomeroy's ongoing quest to discredit defensive three point efficiency, he's doing collateral damage to offensive three point efficiency:

OFFENSIVE 3P%

DEFENSIVE 3P%

Oh dear. The defensive plot is just a random scattering of data, as has been discussed previously, but the offensive version isn’t much better. If you shot 45% in the first half of the 2011 conference season, you’d be expected to shoot about 35% in the second half. If you shot 25% in the first half, you’d be expected to shoot 33% in the second half. A difference you couldn’t notice with your eyes. I don’t know exactly what implications this has on strategy, but when evenly-matched teams get together, action happening beyond the 3-point line is like a lottery. You take a shot and a third of the time you have success.

In contrast, two-point shooting correlates well. Pomeroy admits he doesn't know what the impact on strategy is, and neither do I. This could be an argument for Michigan to move its game inside the line, but it's not hard to see Michigan's #6 two-point shooting as a number that benefits greatly from Michigan's long-range bombing. As long as Michigan is going four-out, one-in they're going to have to take a lot of threes to stretch opponents into giving them decent opportunities from two.

Thirty-eight is way too many, though. Right now the Wildcats are obviously right with Michigan; in the future when McGary, Horford, Glenn Robinson, and Stauskas give M a huge size and athleticism advantage bombing it from the outside is asking to get upset. I wonder if we see Michigan cut back on the bombs in their new era of talent superiority.

gergdavis[1]greg-robinson-fail

Meet the new GERG? Iowa's new offensive coordinator:

If you were hoping that the Greg Davis rumors were nothing but smoke and disinformation, well, today is not your day. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, a gentleman who is about as well-connected to the Texas football program as Mack Brown himself, reported today that Greg Davis had accepted the Iowa offensive coordinator position.

Davis was run out of Texas on a rail after Colt McCoy graduated and the offense collapsed. Before that he'd told Vince Young to run around out there to good effect and transitioned to a pretty good McCoy-led passing spread, so this is not exactly hiring a guy whose only success in the past ten years was a one-year blip (Greg Robinson).

Still, a 61-year-old retread who cratered that much talent has Iowa fans shrugging. The consensus at BHGP is "decent"; if things go south this fall they'll turn quickly. Looks like Jacobi had to rewrite his headline after his initial take:

http://www.blackheartgoldpants.com/2012/2/22/2817320/greg-davis-hired-iowa-offensive-coordinator-goddammit

Also on the url of the above Prevail and Ride cartoon as uploaded to SBN:

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/962023/gergdavis.jpg

Mattison is probably not quaking at the hire.

Elsewhere in Iowa blogging. The High Porch Picnic evaluates Michigan's recent recruiting from an Iowa POV and is a bit bothered that Hoke and Ferentz seem to have a lot more overlap than the Hawkeyes did with the previous Michigan regime. If I was Iowa I'd be more concerned with Michigan's sudden relevance in Illinois, a place they've struggled in for the past five years.

This reminds me to elaborate on something I mentioned in passing on the Solid Verbal: the current configuration of offenses in the Big Ten footprint is advantage Michigan recruiting. The two schools who do the best job of competing on the trail, Notre Dame and Ohio State, are now spread offenses. The second tier run pro-styles. Michigan looks like it's in a phase where it's rarely going to lose a battle against the second tier; meanwhile they should have an advantage with certain recruits in hostile territory simply because their opponents won't have a good place to put them.

Michigan's in a good position to starve Michigan State and, to a lesser extent, Iowa of offensive talent while bolstering their class with a guy like Jake Butt who Ohio State might have been pursuing hotly if they were still running a Tressel offense.

Side note: the impressive thing about Hoke's progress in Illinois is beating out ND. Remember when going up against Notre Dame was totally pointless, especially in Illinois? Yeah. We'll see what happens with Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell; if Michigan lands them that will be a huge statement.

List o' jerkos. CBS's Eye on College Football lists the 30 BCS schools who voted to override the multi-year scholarship legislation and points out that their real desire is to avoid giving out multi-year scholarships themselves:

The motivation in Austin, Baton Rouge, Knoxville and Norman isn't that they can't hand out four-year scholarships, it's that they simply don't want to.

Of course, the legislation doesn't mean any school -- BCS, mid-major, or otherwise -- is required to offer multiple-year scholarships. But since that might put the schools that don't at a recruiting disadvantage against schools that do, the Texases (and USCs, and Alabamas) have tried to prevent anyone from offering them.

In short: because these schools don't want to promise their athletes a full four-year college education, they've decided the athletes at other schools shouldn't have the benefit of that promise, either.

But whatever, they failed. Wisconsin was the only Big Ten school to ask for an override. Their football team signed up with most of the rest of the conference in offering four-year rides, though, so why is unknown. IIRC, their hockey team has a bit of reputation for cutting kids loose. That might be it.

Now the Free Press won't exist for anyone else, either. Gannett hastens its own decline:

“We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers,” said Bob Dickey, [Gannett] president of community publishing. The model is similar to the metered system adopted by The New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month. That quota will be between five and 15 articles, depending on the paper, said Dickey. Six Gannett papers already have a digital pay regimen in place.

The Free Press is a Gannett paper, so to get your Drew Sharp fix you'll have to start kicking in subscription dollars. I'm sure the line will be lengthy: Gannett projects they'll increase subscription revenues by 25%—$100 million per year. Think of all the press conference rehashes, trolling, and Mitch Albom columns about angels you'll be missing out on.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not going to steal Ace's recruiting roundup thunder entirely but just… holy hopping ham sandwiches:

The Levenberry family is looking for a paternal figure to guide son E.J.'s career. It's found him in Ann Arbor.

E.J. Levenberry Jr. said this week that Michigan is the lead school for his services. The ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker prospect from Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton referenced Wolverines coach Brady Hoke as one of the primary reasons why.

"He kind of reminds me of my dad, the way he carries himself," Levenberry said.

Add Levenberry, Isaac, Treadwell, and O'Daniel—all players who Michigan reputedly leads for now—and that's nine Rivals 100 recruits, three guys who would be consensus five-stars if rankings hold, and a class that will compete for the best in the country. They'll probably lose at least one of those guys and rankings do not hold*; even so… good God.

*[Because there's not many places to go but down and as the year goes along recruiting analysts will turn up top flight talent they missed the first time around. See: Ondre Pipkins. Even if Rivals's opinion of Jake Butt doesn't change at all he's likely to slide 20-30 spots by Signing Day.]

Briefly. Ohio State fans are now the ones annoyed by the "spread can't work in B10 lol" meme propagated by hobos, people who think wrestling is real, and newspaper columnists—all the same people. They get bonus annoyance because Rich Rodriguez just "proved" this by having a quarterback run for 1700 yards. As I said: people who think wrestling is real.

So they're trying to dispel the Rodriguez stink:

Rodriguez largely failed to evolve his offense past the spread's origins.  Chris Brown, for instance, prophetically predicated at the beginning of Rodriguez's Michigan tenure that Rodriguez's passing game lacked the conceptual nature necessary to succeed as teams adapted to the spread's basic tenets.  Nor did Rodriguez (for the most part) diversiify his offense in the way an Oregon has to counteract things such as scrape exchanges.  Michigan never embraced plays such as the midline option, inverted veer, power or counter trey like others.  The upshot is that, while Michigan's offense was largely succesful once Denard Robinson was in place, it never hummed in the way Oregon's offense did (particularly against better teams) to overcome Michigan's defense or special team liabilities. 

That's not really true. Rodriguez adapted his system to use Lloyd's collection of tight ends, burned many defenses with plays specifically designed to blow up scrape exchanges, and eventually shelved large sections of the old playbook in favor of having Denard Robinson run QB isos and stretches, pairing those with "aigh he's open" moments when a Robinson run turned out to be a pass. The reason 31 points against Penn State and 28 with a missed chip shot field goal against Wisconsin were bad performances didn't have much to do with the offense.

Rodriguez's offense never reached the high-pitched hum of Oregon's because he never had a returning starter at quarterback and the only non-freshman was a breathtakingly green Denard Robinson. Also his tailbacks were pretty bad. If OSU fans are looking for narratives to combat hobos, "we'll have an assload of talent relative to Rodriguez" is your best bet.

Etc.: Tremendous has an even more detailed breakdown of Hoke's appearance at the Glazier Clinic. Rodger Sherman narrowly survived the Michigan-Northwestern game but the prognosis is grim. Michigan's off to a healthy lead in the name-based recruiting class derby but there's a "Zanquanarious Washington" out there—they will not win. Blue wall! You've already seen Luke Winn's decision to put us in SI's "magic eight" teams from which a national champion will come. That seems like a bad bet to me, but whatever. TTB interviews Jehu Chesson, who I will probably call "Jehuu Caulcrick" at some point during his career.

Post-Release Three And Out Q&A: Part II

Post-Release Three And Out Q&A: Part II

Submitted by Ace on December 22nd, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Brian has already fled the scene for whereabouts unknown, but he left behind part the second of John U. Bacon's Q&A. If you're looking for part one, click here.

8) FIRING PROCESS.

What did Dave Brandon say in his 2 hour meeting with Rich Rod the day before he was fired? Everyone including Rodriguez thought he'd be fired so why string it out like that?

Good question. Rodriguez told me that night in his home, between the two meetings, that he believed Brandon hoped that afternoon that Rodriguez would make it easy for him by conceding that things hadn’t gone as planned, it was all too much, and Rodriguez was ready to negotiate his departure. Rodriguez thought Brandon was surprised to see Rodriguez digging in his heels, asserting his eagerness to coach a fourth season, and displaying his confidence that 2011 would be the year his team would take off.

That night, Rodriguez told me he was “90-percent certain” Brandon would fire him the next day, which he did, “as expected,” as Rodriguez told his assistants after the meeting. For his part, Brandon stated at the press conference that he was still tossing the question over in his mind that very morning, though – as I wrote in the book – that seems very unlikely for such a calculating man.

So, why drag it out? Since this boils down to speculation, something I’ve tried to avoid, your guess is as good as mine. The book does point out, however, the indisputable effects the delay had on Rodriguez, his players, and the program, which don’t require speculation, namely: Rodriguez declined Maryland’s offer in December, which would have provided a safe haven for him, his coaches, and any players who might want to transfer, particularly Denard Robinson. It gave Brandon more time to set the stage for Brady Hoke, a relative unknown at the time. And, after the Gator Bowl, it made it very difficult for even Rodriguez’s most fervent supporters to defend retaining him. Whether these results were intended or not, they certainly helped pave the way for Brandon to hire Hoke, and for Hoke to succeed, with the team intact.
 
9) HYPOTHETICAL 2011.

Did Rich Rod ever hint at changes that would be made to his staff if he was retained for 2011?

He told me he was definitely going to make changes. With a few games to go in the 2010 season – after the Illinois game, I believe -- when it was already quite obvious the offense was working as well as the defense wasn’t, Brandon met with Rodriguez to discuss the future. He asked if Rodriguez was so loyal to his staff that he was not willing to make changes. Rodriguez replied that he was loyal to his staff, but he understood that changes needed to be made, and he was willing to make them, including replacing the entire defensive staff. Just as important, of course, would be the next step: figuring out who would replace them, starting with a new defensive coordinator.

To do so effectively, Brandon would need to offer competitive salaries and guaranteed contracts – as he’s done for Hoke’s staff -- which would have committed him to Rodriguez for probably two more years, minimum. Obviously, after the Gator Bowl, that was not going to happen.
 
10) DID BACON EVER GET A SENSE FOR WHAT RODRIGUEZ WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IF HE HAD A TIME MACHINE?

It’s part of the psychology of the big-time college coach, I’ve noticed, not to look back very often, not to indulge regret, and not to admit too many mistakes. Schembechler got better at the latter over time, for example, but only so much. Most of them don’t think too much about the past unless prompted – and even then, their failings are not usually at the top of the list of things they mention. They tend to be confident and stubborn in equal measure.

Nonetheless, I think there are several things we can conclude based partly on Rodriguez’s comments, but more on his decisions since becoming Arizona’s head coach. He clearly had prepared for his first press conference -- closing with the Wildcats’ signature slogan, “Bear Down!” -- something he had failed to do before his Ann Arbor introduction. I’m sure he wishes he had phrased things differently during any number of press conferences, although he would be likely to blame the interpretation of his remarks as much as the remarks themselves.

The fact that he’s currently working much harder to get WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Castell to join him than he had in 2007 tells you something, too. (Whether or not Arizona has the resources to lure Casteel to Tucson, however, remains to be seen.) And I suspect you’ve seen the last of Rodriguez calling for an inspirational song at a football banquet.

I think it’s pretty clear both Michigan and Rodriguez have learned a lot from those three years. I suspect both parties have read the book, too, and taken away some lessons. Brady Hoke is already off and running, while working to unite the family, and if Rodriguez gets Casteel (or a similarly good fit) at Arizona, I would expect him to do very well there, too.

11) PEOPLE YOU'D LIKE TO TALK TO.

I'd like to know the list of the people he most wanted to interview for the book and what his primary question would be for each one.

I’m satisfied that we reported everything that could be reported fairly. I followed the team non-stop for three seasons, compiling 10,000 pages of notes, and writing 2,000 pages. I don’t think readers will ever get a more thorough look inside a major college football program.

No reporter gets everyone he wants to speak on the record for a book, but we came very close. Of the hundreds of people I asked to interview, only six people declined: three at West Virginia, cited above, and three at Michigan: Scott Draper, President Coleman and Coach Carr. Given the eyewitness testimonies of hundreds of others, the first five could simply deny what other witnesses have said, on the record. They have so far declined to do so.

To me, there is only one important question that hasn’t been answered: Why did Coach Carr reach out to Rich Rodriguez, recommend him to Bill Martin, then invite his players to transfer immediately after Rodriguez was hired, all in the same week? As I wrote in the book, “on its face, it seems like a simple, generous offer to look out for people he cared about – and, in fairness, that was probably part of his motive.” But it’s also true that of the dozen-plus witness I’ve talked to, all of them interpreted it as a pre-emptive vote of no-confidence for the new coach. However, until Coach Carr chooses to speak – if he does, that is – I’ll leave that answer blank.

[Errors, the Threet thing, reactions from Rosenberg and Brandon, and additional notes covered after the jump.]

Post-Release Three And Out Q&A: Part I

Post-Release Three And Out Q&A: Part I

Submitted by Brian on December 21st, 2011 at 5:18 PM

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The ever-loquacious John Bacon gave me 6k words on the following questions about Three and Out that seemed to touch on most of the questions provided in the comments and via email. As per usual, we'll split that into two posts, the second of which will run tomorrow. Unfortunately, the answer to "why Greg Robinson?" turns out to be "I don't know, either," but some things are just unexplainable.

1) LAWSUITS

The book seemed reasonably two-sided once things got to Michigan. The WV stuff is more one-sided -- just Rich's POV. Did JUB see anything that supported WV's position in those 'negotiations'/lawsuits?

As stated in the book, then-Governor Joe Manchin and former A.D. Eddie Pastilong did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Ousted WVU president Mike Garrison entertained the idea, and I went so far as to send him several questions in the hopes of encouraging him to cooperate. We talked on the phone a couple times, and at one point he asked if I was for or against Rich Rodriguez. I told him I simply wanted to find the truth. He declined, saying he couldn’t answer the questions if he didn’t know where I stood. That seemed odd—it seems to me you either know what happened and what you think about it or you don’t—but that’s his decision.

I don’t think their silence left much out, however, because we were able to get five other central figures to speak freely, and on the record—and in each case, at considerable personal risk. Ike Morris owns an oil and gas company in Glenville, WV; Dave Alvarez is the president and CEO of a construction company in Meadowbrook, WV; Paul Astorg owns a Mercedes Benz dealership, and Matt Jones owns a handful of convenience stores, both in Parkersburg. Don Nehlen, the former West Virginia head coach, is now a spokesman for the coal industry. None of them have ever been Michigan boosters, but all have been long-time boosters for the Mountaineers, before, during and after the Rodriguez era. They are all private businessmen who depend on their reputations to be successful. They have a deep knowledge of West Virginia football politics, with close ties to all sides, and had no incentive to do anything other than throw Rodriguez under the bus and extoll West Virginia’s leadership. None of them had anything tangible to gain by speaking to me on the record, with a lot to lose. Yet they all did.

So, while I would have liked to get the above three people on the record, the people I spoke to answered every question I had, on the record, which I believe gives the reader almost everything they need to know about what happened in West Virginia.

As for the lawsuit, I assume the reader is referring to the buy-out provision in Rodriguez’s West Virginia contract. While Rodriguez maintained that the president, Matt Garrison, had promised him they’d cut it in half if he wanted to leave, which the above subjects confirmed, the contract was nonetheless legally binding. West Virginia University was well within its rights to sue for all four million, which Michigan and Rodriguez ultimately acknowledged, and paid.

2) LLOYD CARR
If JUB had to make a guess as to what caused in the great Carr switcheroo (from making first contact with RR to the continuous cold shoulder), what would it be? And does JUB think Carr informed the Freep investigation?

Before I delve into this, I’ve noticed some confusion over the timeline in some of the posts I’ve seen. Clarifying the sequence of events should clear up a lot of this.

On Monday night, December 10, 2007, Rodriguez received a call from Lloyd Carr, which marked the first direct contact Rodriguez had from someone representing Michigan. (Rodriguez was my source, and his recollection of it was consistent in a handful of accounts over a couple years.)

On Tuesday, December 11, Lloyd Carr told Bill Martin that Rodriguez would be a good candidate. This marked the first time someone within the department had made this suggestion to Martin, according to Martin himself, whose recollection of the conversation was also consistent over several interviews.

On Friday, December 14, Rodriguez met with President Coleman and Bill Martin in Toledo, and agreed on the basic tenets of a potential agreement.

On Sunday, December 16, the deal was finalized, via phone and fax.

On Monday, December 17, Rodriguez met Lloyd Carr outside the Junge Center for a brief handshake, on his way in to his first Ann Arbor press conference, where he would be named Michigan’s next coach.

After Rodriguez returned to Morgantown that day to start packing, Coach Carr met with his team a day or two later for a suddenly scheduled morning meeting, and offered to sign the transfer papers of anyone who wanted to leave. This has been corroborated by over a dozen people in the meeting room that day – both staffers and players – plus the Big Ten compliance office, Bill Martin, and Judy Van Horn, who spoke on the record about the day and its aftermath. The reporting of these events is air-tight.

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It’s important to note, looking at this timeline, that all this occurred before Carr got to know Rodriguez, and before Rodriguez met with any of Carr’s assistant coaches or players. Thus, the idea that Carr offered to sign his players’ transfer forms only after he became concerned about how Rodriguez would treat his assistants and players is hard to believe. For whatever reason, before Rodriguez had met any of those people, Carr had made up his mind to help his players transfer.

Until Coach Carr speaks, I can’t say why he called the transfer meeting. (As stated before, I made repeated requests to interview him at his convenience. While he declined to respond, I have since confirmed there is no question he received my requests and made a firm decision not to reply.) But I can say that he definitely did call the transfer meeting, that it was a premeditated decision—based on Draper’s call to compliance to have the forms and personnel ready to process the anticipated flood of requests—and it occurred before Rodriguez met any of his assistants or players.

Yes, I have a theory as to why, but it’s just that. Some have suggested that it’s my job as a journalist to fill in the blank with my best guess, but I believe the opposite is true: it’s a journalist’s job not to do so. If my theory proves wrong, it would unfairly influence public opinion, and might be difficult to reverse. (I’ve seen this happen frequently during the past three years.) Until Carr decides to answer such questions, I am going to let the facts above stand, and the readers can come to their own conclusions.

Carr’s speaking on these issues might help his cause, but as we’ve seen with other subjects who were interviewed for the book, it might not. If Carr had simple, innocent answers to the questions above, it would not be hard for him to find friendly journalists in the local media happy to communicate his message, directly or indirectly, as he has done in the past. To date, he has not attempted to do so.

[CARA, Shafer, Robinson (Denard and Greg), and the emotional stability of Rodriguez post-jump.]