M Vision & Decisive Running POSBANG!

M Vision & Decisive Running POSBANG!

Submitted by MayOhioEatTurds on January 1st, 2016 at 4:52 PM

Not many expected Michigan to have a successful running game in the Citrus Bowl.  (I confess I didn’t expect it either.)

Not many were right.

Michigan’s running game had success from the first series.  And this running success was not predicated exclusively on OL play:

Instead, running success was predicated on vision and decisive cuts the likes of which Michigan has not seen in many a year.

De’Veon Smith, not known for vision but relentlessness, led the charge;

Drake Johnson got into the action on stretch plays for touchdown;

Houma did his own jitterbug impression for positive yards;

Resulting in 225 decisive, magnificent, inspired yards!

What made the difference from season play?  How was that change made in so few weeks?  Can vision be taught?

All Hail Wheatley!

All Hail Harbaugh!

The Players' Tribune : Drake Johnson and Desmond Morgan

The Players' Tribune : Drake Johnson and Desmond Morgan

Submitted by Bo_Knows on November 13th, 2015 at 11:52 PM

This was initially announced a month ago, that Michigan Athletics was going to partner up with The Players' Tribune, the startup media platform founded by Derek Jeter.

I saw two short pieces today involving Drake Johnson (here) and Desmond Morgan (here).

Enjoy!

1) I really enjoyed Desmond's answer to: "If I could change one rule in my sport it would be …"

and

2) Sorry if this was posted before, but I didn't see it.  I searched.  I swear!  haha

go blue!

 

MLive's 5 Things to Watch for Rutgers game

MLive's 5 Things to Watch for Rutgers game

Submitted by Cranky Dave on November 3rd, 2015 at 12:16 PM
MLive's 5 things to watch in Rutgers game starts with Michigan needing more Drake Johnson. I completely agree and thought he was the best back on the team since last season, when he's healthy. He looked good against Minnesota (5.5 YPC) and with Smith dinged up would guess he starts and gets bulk of carries this week. Also talks about potential matchup between Caroo (ankle injury) and Lewis. http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2015/11/5_things_to_watch_mic…

2014 RB Performance

2014 RB Performance

Submitted by fergusg on August 24th, 2015 at 10:18 PM

OK - so I know there have been a number of posts on RB performance and who the best RB is (mods - I think this is a new take, but feel free to remove if its redundant).  

I did a little more digging into the RB performance last year to see if I could quantify who performed better.  I came up with the following charts, which I think definitively shows Drake was our best running back by far.  (click to make bigger).  

Chart 1 - Big Ten Opponents only

This is based on approximately 32 attempts by Green, 56 by Johnson and 82 by Smith (Note: see data disclaimer below).

How do I read this chart?

Basically, the chart tells you what % of each RB's rushing attempts went for more than X yards.  The x axis is "X yards", the y-axis is the % of attempts.  Being higher on the chart is better.  Data is limited to Green, Smith and Johnson.

E.g.  25% of Green's rushining attempts went 7 yards or more; 34% of Johnson's did the same and only 20% of Smiths.  Likewise, 18% of Johnson's carries went 10 yards or more. 

Note: Read "15+" as "16 or more yards" (its a little nuance I oversaw when creating the charts)

How did you create this chart?

I basically copied and pasted the play by plays from ESPN for every game into a spreadsheet, then ran some conditional formulas and pivot tables  to identify:

1. Was a UM running back in the play?

2. If so, was it a rushing attempt?

3. If so, what was the result in yards.

4. Filter, summarize, etc

Data disclaimer: The underlying data may not be 100% correct, there may be minor discrepancies, but based on the digging and testing I've done, the impact to the results is limited.  I'd put the confident interval at >95% on the results.

What should I to take away from the chart?

Basically, Drake Johnson was the most efficient back by some margin.  71% of his carries went for 3 or more yards, compared to 44% for Green and 51% for Smith.  The talk of him not being a Power 5 RB seems like nonsense to me, based on the data.

I made also made up a metric I called the explosion/implosion index, calculated as follows: % of carries 10 or more yards divided by % of carries for 0 or less yards.  Johnson kills the other two here...

Explosion/implosion index results

  • Johnson: 2.0
  • Green: 0.57
  • Smith: 0.43

What if you include all games?  What if you exclude Indiana?

The answer is it gets closer, but doesn't change the story substantially.  

If all games are included, Drake still sits higher at all point on the curve if all games are included.

If all games except Indiana are included, Drake sits higher at all but 5 points (9-12 yards), where all the running backs are within 1-2 percent of each other.

Chart 2  - all games excl.  Indiana

If all games except App State, Miami (OH), and Indiana are included (Chart 3), Drake is higher at all points, except 15+ yard (5% of Drakes carries when 15+ yards, 7% of Green's did). 

Chart 3  - all games excl. App State, Miami (OH) and Indiana

 

Time is a Flat Football: Running Backs

Time is a Flat Football: Running Backs

Submitted by MilkSteak on July 23rd, 2015 at 1:08 AM

 

 

"Time is a Flat Football" is a series of posts which will explore players from Michigan football history members of the 2015 team resembles the most. Tackled in these posts will be the offensive "skill" position groups: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Receivers/Tight Ends. My apologies go out to the offensive line, but it's very difficult to get o-line statistics, and more difficult to compare the groups. I used Python and Pandas almost exclusively for this quick trip to the past. Any "predictions" can be described as unscientific, but kind of fun.

 

Disclaimer: Obviously caveats do apply here. These are namely the effects of other position groups, coaching, and style of offense on the players being analyzed. Also, the past probably has no bearing on what current players will do, unless you believe Rust Cohle. I plan to deal with these issues by completely ignoring them. It's the off season, people.

 

Michigan has an interesting mix of running backs this year. Junior backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith were highly rated coming out of high school, but neither have locked up the feature back role at this point. Drake Johnson is heading into his senior year after a promising junior season which unfortunately ended after a knee injury. Newly eligible Ty Isaac will be a RS sophomore after taking a year off following his transfer from USC. It's a crowded but talented backfield, and at this point, not much separates them. Let's take a look at their stats, gathered from sports-reference.com. Here are their stats throughout the years they have been active.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
2013 1 Derrick Green 83 270 3.3 2 0 0 0 0 83 270 3.3 2
2013 1 De'Veon Smith 26 117 4.5 0 0 0 0 0 26 117 4.5 0
2013 1 Ty Isaac 40 236 5.9 2 4 57 14.3 0 44 293 6.7 2
2014 2 De'Veon Smith 108 519 4.8 6 3 26 8.7 0 111 545 4.9 6
2014 2 Derrick Green 82 471 5.7 3 2 26 13.0 0 84 497 5.9 3
2014 3 Drake Johnson 60 361 6.0 4 1 11 11.0 0 61 372 6.1 4

 

We can also look at the totals for each player:  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
2014 2 Derrick Green 165 741 4.5 5 0 0 0 0 167 767 4.6 5
2014 2 De'Veon Smith 134 636 4.65 6 0 0 0 0 137 662 4.7 6
2014 3 Drake Johnson 60 361 6 4 1 11 11 0 61 372 6.1 4
2013 1 Ty Isaac 40 236 5.9 2 4 57 14.3 0 44 293 6.7 2

 

  Green and Johnson were each having promising seasons last year before going down with injuries. De'Veon Smith put up a relatively good season, especially considering he spent most of the year splitting carries with Green and Johnson. Isaac's freshman year at USC was good for a freshman back who was not the featured guy. Let's find some comparisons to past Michigan running backs from past years.  

 

Derrick Green

Derrick Green

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1984 2 Bob Perryman 76 393 5.2 5 2 15 7.5 1 78 408 5.2 6
1991 1 Tyrone Wheatley 86 548 6.4 9 10 90 9.0 0 96 638 6.6 9
2000 1 Chris Perry 77 417 5.4 5 0 0 0 0 77 417 5.4 5
2007 2 Carlos Brown 75 382 5.1 4 0 0 0 0 75 382 5.1 4
2014 2 Derrick Green 82 471 5.7 3 2 26 13.0 0 84 497 5.9 3

 

Derrick Green's sophomore campaign ended after just 6 games, so his stats ended up looking like players coming off the bench. As you can see in the chart above, Green is in good company. Freshmen Tyrone Wheatley and Chris Perry are very similar to sophomore Green. No one on the list is a prolific pass catcher, which makes comparisons easier. Arguably the best metric to judge running backs by is Rush Avg, AKA yards/carry. Let's see who's similar here, and throw in TDs just to compare.

 DGreenComps

 

Green's 5.7 Yds/Carry looks very similar to freshman Chris Perry's 5.4 average. Freshman Tyrone Wheatley's 6.4 Yds/Carry represents the top of the comparisons, and he was much more of a TD vulture than Green has been. Carlos Brown's sophomore campaign looks somewhat similar as well. Let's see how these running backs fared in their next year.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1985.0 3.0 Bob Perryman -11.00 -154.0 -1.5 -5 5 61 3.4 -1 -6.00 -93.00 -0.80 -6.0
1992.0 2.0 Tyrone Wheatley 99.00 809.0 0.9 4 3 55 2.2 3 102.00 864.00 1.00 7.0
2001.0 2.0 Chris Perry 35.00 39.0 -1.3 -3 0 0 0 0 41.00 85.00 -1.10 -3.0
2008.0 3.0 Carlos Brown -46.00 -260.0 -0.9 -4 0 0 0 0 -40.00 -237.00 -1.00 -4.0
  2.5 Mean 19.25 108.5 -0.7 -2 4 58 2.8 1 24.25 154.75 -0.48 -1.5

 

Every running back outside of Tyrone Wheatley saw a decrease in their Yds/Carry. The average running back saw an increased workload of about 20 carries, good for an extra 100 yds. Coach Wheatley is really skewing the numbers here. He took the leap from "damn, that guy's good for a freshman" to "damn, that guy's good". This is the type of jump we are hoping for with Green.  

If I had to make one prediction based on this data, I'd say that Green's Yds/Carry will go down this year. Should he win the feature back role, I have no doubt that he'll be relatively consistent. However, the progression for the comparable backs above shows that if you're not Tyrone Wheatley (and most people aren't) you'll come back to earth.  

Bottom Line: Derrick Green should have a season similar to Sophomore Chris Perry (2001).  

  Yr Rk Player Cls Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td
  2001 2 Chris Perry 2 112 456 4.1 2 6 46 7.7 0

 

The 2001 team won 8 games and lost 4. Chris Perry split carries that year with B.J. Askew, who had a good season as well. At this point it's tough to see much separation between all four candidates for the feature back role. Barring a surprise breakout, this should translate to a running back by committee simply for the sake of fresh legs.  

De'Veon Smith

De'Veon Smith, thanks to Maizeandbluenews.com

 

De'Veon Smith is another applicant for the feature back position. In the wake of losing Green to a broken clavicle, Smith saw the most carries on the 2014 team. However, Drake Johnson started stealing carries towards the end of the year before he too went down with an injury. Let's see to whom Smith is most comparable.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1984 1 Jamie Morris 118 573 4.9 2 14 131 9.4 0 132 704 5.3 2
1993 2 Ed Davis 93 441 4.7 2 11 89 8.1 0 104 530 5.1 2
1997 1 Anthony Thomas 130 529 4.1 5 21 205 9.8 0 151 734 4.9 5
2001 2 Chris Perry 112 456 4.1 2 6 46 7.7 0 118 502 4.3 2
2008 1 Sam McGuffie 118 486 4.1 3 19 175 9.2 1 137 661 4.8 4
2014 2 De'Veon Smith 108 519 4.8 6 3 26 8.7 0 111 545 4.9 6

 

The comparison which leaps out is Smith's sophomore season to Jamie Morris' freshman season. Attempts and Rush Avg are very similar. Morris was more involved in the passing game than Smith, but their Rec Avgs are similar (Smith's sample size is miniscule, though). Let's explore the similarities graphically because we can! DSmithComps

In addition to Jamie Morris, De'Veon Smith looks a lot like sophomore Ed Davis with more TDs. De'Veon Smith, much like Green, is in good company with the other players included in the comparisons. Chris Perry and Anthony Thomas were eventually drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds, and Sam McGuffie jumped over multiple guys (a habit he has yet to break). McGuffie left after one year, but let's see how the rest of the guys progressed.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1985 2.0 Jamie Morris 79.0 457.0 0.30 1.0 19.00 85.00 -2.90 1.00 98.0 542.0 0.10 2.0
1994 3.0 Ed Davis -13.0 -102.0 -0.50 1.0 -2.00 -53.00 -4.10 0.00 -15.0 -155.0 -0.90 1.0
1998 2.0 Anthony Thomas 16.0 232.0 1.10 7.0 -6.00 -65.00 -0.50 0.00 10.0 167.0 0.70 7.0
2002 3.0 Chris Perry 155.0 654.0 0.10 12.0 8.00 110.00 3.40 0.00 163.0 764.0 0.20 12.0
  2.4 Mean 59.25 310.25 0.25 5.75 4.75 19.25 -1.03 0.25 64.00 329.50 0.03 5.5

 

Most of these players took a major leap forwards in multiple stats. It seems as though once a player has reached a De'Veon Smith level of contribution, the next year they are expected to take on a more significant role in the offense. The average running back got about 60 more carries, 310 more yards, and gained 0.25 more yards/carry. The players most similar to Smith (Morris and Davis) represent opposite trajectories. Morris became the feature back and would keep that role until he graduated. Ed Davis continued to split carries until he graduated.

 

Bottom Line: If he wins the feature back role, De'Veon Smith could have a season similar to Sophomore Jamie Morris (1985).

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1985 2 Jamie Morris 197 1030 5.2 3 33 216 6.5 1 230 1246 5.4 4

  Morris had a great season by all accounts. Most impressive was his 5.2 yards/carry and the first of three straight 1,000 yd seasons. The 1985 team went 10-1-1 and finished ranked #2 in the country, with Morris being a large part of the offense. Past Wolverines show Smith to be the running back in the most prime position to break out.

Drake Johnson

Drake Johnson, courtesy of CBS

Drake Johnson came on strong last season before going down with a knee injury. By all accounts he's been putting in the work to be ready for this season, and with his vision he is definitely in the hunt for the feature back role. Let's see who Johnson's 2014 season was reminiscent of.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1977 2 Roosevelt Smith 57 308 5.4 4 5 46 9.2 0 62 354 5.7 4
1989 3 Allen Jefferson 65 380 5.8 3 3 27 9.0 1 68 407 6.0 4
1992 1 Ed Davis 61 374 6.1 3 3 11 3.7 0 64 385 6.0 3
2007 2 Carlos Brown 75 382 5.1 4 0 0 0 0 75 382 5.1 4
2009 1 Vincent Smith 48 276 5.8 1 10 82 8.2 2 58 358 6.2 3
2010 3 Michael Shaw 75 402 5.4 9 10 75 7.5 0 85 477 5.6 9
2011 3 Vincent Smith 50 298 6.0 2 11 149 13.5 2 61 447 7.3 4
2014 3 Drake Johnson 60 361 6.0 4 1 11 11.0 0 61 372 6.1 4

 

Drake Johnson's profile is similar to just about every change of pace back Michigan has had in recent years, minus the screens. Ed Davis pops up again, and Vincent Smith appears twice. Perennial change of pace backs Carlos Brown and Michael Shaw also appear. The most apt comparison seems to be Ed Davis' freshman campaign, followed by Vincent Smith's junior year. You know the drill: let's look at the progress they made from the comparison season to the next.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
1978.00 3.00 Roosevelt Smith 41.00 102.00 -1.20 -1.00 4 69.00 3.60 3.00 45.00 171.00 -0.80 2.00
1990.00 4.00 Allen Jefferson -13.00 -111.00 -0.60 3.00 -1 -5.00 2.00 -1.00 -14.00 -116.00 -0.60 2.00
1993.00 2.00 Ed Davis 32.00 67.00 -1.40 -1.00 8 78.00 4.40 0.00 40.00 145.00 -0.90 -1.00
2008.00 3.00 Carlos Brown -46.00 -260.00 -0.90 -4.00 0 0 0 0 -40.00 -237.00 -1.00 -4.00
2010.00 2.00 Vincent Smith 88.00 325.00 -1.40 4.00 5 48.00 0.50 0.00 93.00 373.00 -1.40 4.00
2011.00 4.00 Michael Shaw -44.00 -203.00 1.00 -6.00 -9 -63.00 4.50 0.00 -53.00 -266.00 1.00 -6.00
2012.00 4.00 Vincent Smith -12.00 -204.00 -3.50 0.00 -1 -75.00 -6.10 -1.00 -13.00 -279.00 -3.80 -1.00
  3.14 Mean 6.57 -40.57 -1.14 -0.71 1 8.67 1.48 0.17 8.29 -29.86 -1.07 -0.57

 

The basic gist of this table is that many of these backs have reached their ceiling, and might actually take a step back year-to-year in Rush Avg. While the mean Rush Att and Rush Yd changes are +6.57 and -40.57, respectively, the running backs themselves seem to fall into two categories. The first category includes freshman to sophomore Vincent Smith, freshman to sophomore Ed Davis, and sophomore to junior Roosevelt Smith. Each of these backs saw a significant increase in their carries and a decent uptick in yards. The second group saw just as significant a decrease in usage between years.  

The question of which of these groups Drake Johnson will fall into is difficult to answer. Perhaps the most relevant distinction between these two categories is Class. Most upperclassmen with Drake Johnson level production the previous year saw a decrease in touches the following year. All seniors experienced this decrease, as did junior Carlos Brown, although his decrease was entirely injury related. Only junior Roosevelt Smith did not see lower numbers. The two underclassmen, Ed Davis and young Vincent Smith saw increased usage.  

Bottom line Given that he's going into his ***RS Junior year, I'm most inclined to say Drake Johnson's final year will mirror that of Senior Michael Shaw (2011).  ***Thanks for the correction.

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
2011 4 Michael Shaw 31 199 6.4 3 1 12 12 0 32 211 6.6 3

 

The 2011 went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl. Shaw saw a small share of the rushing load with Denard, Fitz Toussaint, and junior Vincent Smith getting more carries. Carries were difficult to come by for Shaw behind these backs, a problem which will also be faced by Johnson.  

Ty Isaac

Ty Isaac, expertly photo shopped by someone here at MGoBlog

 

Ty Isaac is the outside challenger this year. After a decent freshman season with USC, Isaac transferred to Michigan, finally completing the Justin Fargas trade. Isaac's 2013 freshman season was similar to a few familiar names.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
2006 1 Brandon Minor 42 238 5.7 2 1 9 9.0 0 43 247 5.7 2
2008 1 Michael Shaw 42 215 5.1 0 6 32 5.3 1 48 247 5.1 1
2009 1 Vincent Smith 48 276 5.8 1 10 82 8.2 2 58 358 6.2 3
2013 1 Ty Isaac 40 236 5.9 2 4 57 14.3 0 44 293 6.7 2

 

If you've made it this far, you're acquainted with two of these names already. Freshmen Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith were similar to Isaac in most stats. Brandon Minor's first year was similar to Isaac's in many ways as well. Let's see how the sophomores stack up.  

 

Yr Cls Player Rush Att Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush Td Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec Td Plays Tot Yds Tot Avg Tot TD Tot
2007.00 2 Brandon Minor 48.00 147.00 -1.40 -1.00 2 -8.00 -8.70 0.00 50.00 139.00 -1.50 -1.00
2009.00 2 Michael Shaw 0.00 -30.00 -0.70 2.00 -4 -27.00 -2.80 -1.00 -4.00 -57.00 -0.80 1.00
2010.00 2 Vincent Smith 88.00 325.00 -1.40 4.00 5 48.00 0.50 0.00 93.00 373.00 -1.40 4.00
  2 Mean 45.33 147.33 -1.17 1.67 1 4.33 -3.67 -0.33 46.33 151.67 -1.23 1.33

 

Minor and Smith saw upticks in usage and yards, but all three regressed a little in Yds/Carry. I really do not believe that Isaac will be like one of these guys, simply because I'm pretty convinced he'll get at least a third of the carries.

Bottom Line: No idea. Ty Isaac is a bit of an unknown at this point. Just over 40 touches on a different team is not much to go on. Isaac's his build suggests he'll be more Minor than Smith, but his pass catching ability seems closer to the latter than the former.  

What Does It All Mean?

  I'm not sure that Michigan has a running back on the roster who is ready to be "the guy". Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith have each shown flashes of being able to handle the entire load, and Johnson looked good in limited action last year. Isaac had a promising freshman season at USC, but it's difficult to know just what he is. A look at the Yds/Carry shows reveals strong numbers for each back. RbCurAvg

These numbers are even more impressive when plotted against every Michigan running back with greater than 20 carries since 1975. The x-axis is the Class (1-freshman, 2-sophomore, etc) and the y is Yds/Carry.

curVrEveryoneScatter

The dotted line represents the absolute average Yds/Carry, and all four backs are well above the line. Those with fewer carries are well above the line, but even De'Veon Smith's >100 carry season last year put him above average. It looks like Michigan has at least four solid backs, meaning that at the very least we will have a strong committee. At best we might have the next Chris Perry or Jamie Morris. Just who that might be is impossible to answer at this point.  

Why Drake Johnson is susceptible to ACL tears

Why Drake Johnson is susceptible to ACL tears

Submitted by MGoStrength on July 14th, 2015 at 11:55 PM

So, I was bored this afternoon and decided to watch some games from last year and I made an observation, which some of you may be interested in, others maybe not.  But, Drake Johnson has obviously torn his ACL twice and I think I know why. 

 

Before I get into why Drake’s susceptible lets do a quick anatomy lesson.  Your ACL attaches to your femur (upper leg) and tibia (lower leg) and is one of the major ligaments (attaches bone to bone) that cross your knee.  Its role is to prevent your tibia from rotating independently of your femur.  To illustrate, cross your right middle finger over your index finger.  This is a model of how your ACL crosses over your knee joint.  Next wrap your left hand around your crossed fingers and externally rotate your right hand.  You’ll notice this force tightens your fingers.  If instead you internally rotate your right hand, your fingers loosen and come apart.  The former is a stable position for your knee, the latter an unstable one.  When your feet are pointed straight ahead of your body/torso and your knees are slightly outside of your feet you are creating a stable ACL.  When your feet open up it becomes difficult to track your knee outside unless your have incredible glute control and your tend to internally rotate or collapse your knee, collapse at the ankle, and lose the arch in your foot. 

 

It looks like Drake wears ankle supports, which is a possible indication that he’s been doing this for some time.  The arch you won’t see in a fully padded football player wearing cleats, but the knee you certainly can.  I believe this latter foot/knee position is exactly what I see Drake doing and why he is susceptible to ACL tears and he’s allowing his feet to externally rotate which is driving his knee inward and losing torque at his knee joint and making his ACL susceptible when under high speeds/loads.  But, this all starts by losing force through the hips.  Here’s a few pictures that illustrates what I mean.

 

Notice the knee internally rotated and inside the foot and the ankle collapsing

Again here, foot externally rotated and knee internally rotated.

Again, same thing

Drake uses this strategy over and over.  The vast majority of the time it is not an issue as he's obviously a high level athlete and a very strong guy.  However, when he uses this strategy under high loads or speeds the ACL becomes more susceptible and eventually as his past has show will tear under the pressure.  If he can learn the maintain torque through the hip, knee, ankle, and foot by pointing his toes straight ahead of him, not allowing his arch to collapse, and tracking his knee over or slightly outside of his foot, the will greatly reduce the chances of this happening.

Best and Worst: OSU

Best and Worst: OSU

Submitted by bronxblue on November 30th, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Let's get to it.  I was traveling most of Sunday, so this is going up a bit late.  

 

Worst:  Tapping Out

 

 

I know I'm just a guy who writes a couple of paragraphs interspersed with animated gifs a week about Michigan football, but man was this a tiring season.  The on-field play was bad enough, but then you have everything with Hoke, Brandon, player injuries, Shane Morris's concussion, Frank Clark's domestic violence situation, and everything else that turned what should have just been a bad season into a clown show.  It's a testament to the coaches and players that they remained as upbeat and non-homicidal as they did, but I would love nothing more than for next season to be overwhelmingly boring.  I know some people have knocked Brian for not keeping up with the UFRs and the like, but if I had to watch replays of this season intensely and try to tease out meaning going forward, I'd never leave my room or bathe.

 

 

Worst:  A Very Brady Holiday Game

 

 

It's already been said, but this season epitomized the Brady Hoke experience at Michigan.  The game could not have started worse, with Gardner throwing a headless turkey of a pass that was intercepted by OSU, and the Buckeyes quickly capitalized with a TD.  The next drive featured two huge sacks by OSU's stud line, and it felt like the rout was on.    But then Michigan held tough, scored on a couple of long drives, and would have entered the half with the lead had (sigh) they not given up an all too-familiar end-of-the-half TD run to Barrett.  Still, for over a half Michigan looked like they could hang with one of the best teams in the country, seemingly playing up to the talent on the recruiting trail if not on the field.  Of course, the fact "keeping up with OSU for part of a game" qualifies as a positive sign for UM is pretty damning praise.  But whatever, the Game felt like a game for the second year in a row despite the trajectory of the club coming in.

 

But every Michigan fan has seen this movie a million times, and there's a reason Hoke has been various hot seats since midway through 2012.  His teams seem capable in spurts, but against elite teams they fall apart amid a cloud of janky offenses, overwhelmed/non-adaptive defenses, and the types of mental errors and coaching mistakes that you just don't see with other top programs.  Outside of one completion to Devin Funchess, Michigan's offense plugged along but never really exploded; it's a testament to their determination and heart that they scored 28 points, but they needed drives of 7, 15(!), 12, and 9 plays to do it, and none were shorter than 75 yards.  On one hand, that was the most consistent offensive performance the Wolverines have shown against a team with a pulse all season, but it also highlighted how uncreative/un-explosive the team has been all year.

 

The defense did what it could, forcing OSU to punt 4 times, which feels like some type of record, but it also gave up nearly 500 yards and struggled to deal with yet another mobile QB, as Barrett ran for 2 TDs and threw for another before breaking his ankle.  Michigan had trouble getting pressure all day, failing to record a sack and only really threatening a handful of times.  OSU converted on 7 of 13 3rd downs, and... you know, it just wasn't good.  On paper they played well enough, but Michigan's long drives kept OSU's offense off the field as much as Michigan's play did, and they still dropped 35 points on 9 meaningful drives, and with a chance to boot OSU off the field on 4th-and-1 down 7, Michigan gave up a nearly-untouched Ezekiel Elliott 44-yard TD run that effectively ended the game.

 

On one hand, it was an entertaining game for one of the few times all year, and Michigan played with the passion, cohesiveness, and efficiency great teams display against other top programs.  Watching this game, it looked for long stretches like two national-caliber teams out there, trading shots in a meaningful rivalry game.  And then reality set in and Michigan reverted to the team we've seen for years now, one incapable of just keeping pace, of playing the type of fundamentally-sound, "big boy" football its coaches expound upon every week and claim they see every day in practice.  Michigan played like an overmatched underdog holding close, like a more historically-relevant Indiana or Illinois, and not the team a decreasingly-number of diehards claim are a "rival" to OSU.

 

Hoke should be and probably is gone, and I'll get to my feelings about the likely successors.  These last two weeks showcase the best and worst of his tenure as a head coach, and the fact that means two semi-competitive losses is the perfect summation as to why they should be his last at UM.

 

Best:  Why Can't They Make the Whole Season Out of OSU's Defense?

 

 

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, if Michigan is only capable of playing this way offensively when they line up against OSU, they might as well just schedule the Buckeyes 12 times.  Devin Gardner did throw the interception, and it was his fumble on a sack that OSU returned for a defensive TD following Elliott's TD run, but he also threw the ball as well as he has in weeks, completing over 2/3's of his passes for 233 yards and 2 TDs, and spread out the receptions to 9 different players, 10 if you include the throwback pass he caught from Drake Johnson on a pretty brilliant playcall that helped Michigan tie the game at 21 in the 3rd.  It wasn't anywhere close to his record-breaking performance from last year, but Gardner acquitted himself well enough in his final game as a Wolverine, and it was a bit poetic that his last completion of his career was a great little throw and catch to Canteen for Michigan's last TD.  Of course, the fact it was in a game Michigan wound up losing by 14 takes a bit of luster off the rose, but this is the "happy thoughts" part of this diary.

 

 

Drake Johnson had his 3rd really solid performance in 4 games, scoring 2 TDs and would have likely finished with 100 yards had he not been injured in the 3rd quarter.  What he does isn't necessarily flashy and I'm not sure if he could hold up to every-down back-type carries for a season, but his one-cut-and-go style meshes well enough with the playcalling, and outside of Green in spurts I'm not sure there has been another back this year who has shown Johnson's consistency these past 4-5 games.  In this game, nobody other than Gardner had more than 3 carries, and Norfleet's 10 yards were the most non-QB yards on the ground amongst Hayes, Smith, and Kerridge.  Once Johnson went down, so did the rest of the rushing offense.

 

According to the internet I am to believe that Devin Funchess GAF this game because he caught 7 balls for over 108 yards (only the second time sigh he's done so all year), but it also felt like one of the few times this year Michigan hasn't been afraid to throw downfield a bit and challenge defensive backs.  The offensive line gave up 5 sacks, but they tended to come in bunches and, overall, Gardner was able to survey the field and find open receivers reasonably well, especially when the pocket moved with him and bought him some time with his legs.  If this is Funchess's last game (and barring some crazy ju-ju by the next head coach or a poor draft report, it is), at least it felt like he had some chances to make plays and fulfill a bit of the promise expected before this broken season took place.

 

I'd like to say this portends some hope for next year, with only Gardner and (probably) Funchess gone, but I'm not going to fall for that fool's gold again quite yet.  Whoever takes over next year will find an offense capable of playing a couple of different ways, and even though a big part of me wishes we could have seen a healthy Devin Gardner is a spread-style offense behind an improving line, Morris and co., there's enough talent and ability at the QB position to make me think a repeat of 2008 ThreetSheridanDamnit isn't in the cards.

 

Good(?):  Good Many Cooks in the Backfield

 

 

Coming into the season, one of the key questions around these parts was whether or not Michigan had anyone who could matriculate the ball forward without (a) fumbling, (b) exploding, or (c) not following that up with three carries going backwards.  Transfer Ty Isaac was going to be redshirt, but after a disastrous 2013 people expected the slew of highly-rated freshmen to mature into competent rushers, especially if the offensive line made some positive strides.  For most of the year, it looked like Green was figuring out how to be a semi-effective rusher in college, while Smith would do his phonebooth runs where he fell forward for a couple of yards.  Nobody was going to mistake it for past efforts by Hart or Perry, but it was consistently mediocre, which counts as a "win" in my book.

 

Then Green went down and Smith stumbled getting the lion's share, while guys like Hayes and Norfleet provided change-of-pace but still felt like misshaped pieces in the offensive scheme.  All wasn't "lost" because this is 2014 Michigan, so not having a semi-competent rushing attack is WAYYYYYYY down the list of concerns, but given the improved play by the offensive line it was a bit sad it wasn't being put to better effect.  And then Drake Johnson had a good day against IU on Homecoming and we all kinda said "good for him" and figured that was it.  Two weeks later he was held in check by Northwestern, but that game was played on the M00N and DeVeon Smith had his best game in a Michigan uniform.  Since then, Johnson has played really well, and at some point the sample size  and opponent arguments disappear and you can begin to (cautiously) get excited about him coming back next year and competing with Green, Isaac, and Smith for meaningful carries.

 

Johnson isn't as dynamic as Smith or Green can be, and while Isaac looked good at USC during his freshman year who knows what effect the year away from the game will be, especially if he is learning yet another offense that may or may not be similar to the ones he's been exposed to the past 2 years.  I do think next year will feature a healthy dose of real Drake Johnson hype, especially if Michigan sticks with a similar blocking and running scheme, as his point-and-shoot running style works really well with zone blocking that was most effective this year.  Green was probably the "feature" back this year before he went down, and Isaac should get a good number of carries as he is eased back into the game.  So that means the backfield could well be a strength for the team in 2015, which would be great considering Michigan will be breaking in a new QB who, at best, has played 2 meaningful games in his college career.

 

Of course, there are only so many carries to go around, so I wonder if every rusher will be back next year, but that's a discussion for another day.  It still remains a positive uptick for the Michigan rushing offense to put up solid efforts for the better part of the month, and credit should go to the backs and the offensive line for making that a reality.

 

Worst:  Missing Frank Clark

 

I didn't want to say much last week given what transpired with Clark, but with the end of the season it is hard not to look back at the games against OSU and (in particular) Maryland and not see where his absence had a significant effect on how the defense played.  Clark wasn't a top-flight DE, but he was a disruptive force on a line that has lacked punch for most of Hoke's tenure, and more importantly possessed the athleticism to string out the QB-based running plays that killed Michigan against Maryland and are the bread-and-butter of OSU's offense.  I don't think he would have made a difference in the overall outcome against OSU, but I absolutely believe him not being available against Maryland cost Michigan that game.  Of course, I'm not condoning what happened in that hotel room and absolutely agree with Hoke's decision to dismiss him from the team, but from a football perspective him being gone hurt a Michigan team that could have at least won 6 games.

 

Best:  Defensive Effort

 

I know I seemed a bit underwhelmed about the defense's performance above, but I absolutely felt like they played as best as they could given just how scary-good OSU's offense can be.  Michigan didn't force a turnover or get a gift possession after a bad punt return or fumbled snap like other OSU opponents, so they deserve credit for giving up 35 points the honest way.  As noted earlier, they were without Frank Clark, and while early-season J.T. Barrett might have been susceptible to weird blitzing patterns or different alignments, by this time in the season Barrett was just another Heisman trophy-caliber QB coming off the Meyer assembly line.  And OSU's offense is designed to pick away at your weaknesses, like they did against MSU, like they did for stretches against PSU, and like they've done to great effect to everyone else this season save VT.  So while it is clear the corners aren't as talented as we all hoped coming into the year, and the linebackers struggled at times in coverage, and the run defense benefitted immensely from missing teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska, it was still a unit that "came to play" every week, as cliche as that is, and one a different team is probably good enough to win you 9-10 games.  And with only a couple of key contributors leaving (Ryan, Beyer, Taylor, Clark), it feels like a unit that the next coach should be able to meld pretty quickly.

 

Meh:  Flightracker 2015!

 

 

If you want a full recap of the coaching search and the key players involved, check the various diaries from alum96, Eye of the Tiger, and others, along with the front-page posts by Brian and the staff.  They have fantastic takes on the candidates, and I have nothing substantive to add in terms of names.

 

To steal a line from Brian, I don't know man.  Everyone and his mom at Michigan are calling for Jim Harbaugh; the 49ers have obliged by all but packing Jim's bags for him and called for an Uber headed to the airport.  Barring a run to the Super Bowl, I don't see a world in which Harbaugh is coaching in San Francisco next year, and even if they win out I could see both sides cutting ties at their highest point.  And by all accounts, he's interested in coming to Michigan, with those insider-y comments like "he feels like he might do better in college" and the usual platitudes about wanting to come back to his alma mater.  So the tracks are absolutely greased for Harbaugh to ride into town and save the day.

 

Now, I know I speak for the minority, but I'm not in love with the prospect of Harbaugh being the next head coach.  This isn't because I want to be a contrarian, or because I want to start a debate.  Objectively, Harbaugh is the best option for Michigan if the goal is winning quickly and (hopefully) voluminously while apeasing the most fans.  He had good success in college at Stanford, and though it was brief he absolutely showed an acumen recruiting top players to a down program.  He then went to the pros and had one of the most successful runs any new coach has ever experienced, winning 36 games in 3 years and going to at least the conference final every year.  He's young enough to stick around, and his ties to the University are unparalleled amongst the available options.  Plus, it would be fun to finally have a coach who would absolutely call Mark Dantonio out on being an a-hole and, well, we can only dream about that first post-game handshake.  And yet, there remain reasons why I really, truly wish Michigan would look somewhere else for their next coach.

 

First off, what I dislike about Harbaugh as a head coach is what he symbolizes.  Michigan got itself into this near-decade of sub-mediocrity because it doggedly holds onto the past, pulling off their best Notre Dame "echos of the past" by talking about how good they were years ago and how they just need to get back to playing football the "Michigan Way."  This mentality is obviously not shared by all Michigan fans, but there is this contingent that has been chasing ghosts since Bo left, and it has colored their worldview to such an extent that anyone who doesn't subscribe to that notion of Wolverine football is shouted down for "ignoring history" or recognize true greatness.  And yes, I believe Bo was a great coach for Michigan when he was there, and he absolutely helped revive a faltering program and bring them back to national prominence.  But he's also a guy who has 1 more Rose Bowl win than Mark Dantonio and the same number as John Cooper, whose teams always seemed a step below elite (save for your outlier year here or there), and whose memory exceeded his accomplishments around the time Carr left and the first "outsider" was let into his Hall.  Harbaugh has such a strong connection to Bo, to an era when Michigan could just be "Michigan" and that was enough to win most games, and I don't believe it is possible for Michigan, or really any program, to go back to that.  So through no fault of his own, his existence feels a bit like the "break glass to stop time" emergency release that will further keep Michigan a step behind other national powers that don't seem afraid to break with tradition and the withered alumni tree.

 

Now, I don't think Harbaugh would try to recreate 1980's Michigan football, but at the same time what we've seen from him in college has been schemes that wouldn't be out of place decades ago.  Stanford was a run-heavy outfit with a pretty basic defense that beat you by forcing you to grind down the field; it worked because Harbaugh is a good coach and his teams were smart, heady outfits that played within their limitations.  But the dirty little secret about 2009/2010 in the Pac-10 is that they were pretty terrible years for the conference.  Stanford and Oregon finished #4 and #3, respectively, in 2010, but the next best team was 8-5 USC coached by Lane Kiffin, and Oregon ran Stanford off the field when they played them.  In 2009 Stanford got on the national map when the upset Oregon, but that wasn't a banner year for the conference either, with Oregon winning the league at 10-3 and Pete Carroll's last USC team limping to a 9-4 finish with sanctions looming.  That isn't to outright dismiss Harbaugh's accomplishments because winning at Stanford is incredibly tough and his teams were trending upward, but at least some of that success should be attributed to playing some pretty weak competition, probably even weaker than what he'd see in the B1G his first year.

 

What we've seen nationally is that unless you have overwhelming talent, which Michigan doesn't have, the best teams employ offensive and defensive systems that attack your weaknesses dynamically and aren't afraid to fight left-handed if it makes sense.  It's how OSU turned a redshirt freshman into a record-breaking QB, or how Auburn drops 600 yards on Alabama (in a losing effort, yes), or how Rich Rodriguez is playing for the Pac-12 title in his third season at Arizona.  Maybe Harbaugh learned more coaching Kapernick and having to adapt to his playing style, so this could be a false concern.  But at the same time, it is reasonable to wonder if the best version of Stanford is the ceiling Michigan is looking at.  That might win them a bunch of games in this conference, but it will still put them behind OSU more times than not, and nationally I'm not sure that gets Michigan any closer to being nationally relevant year-by-year.

 

But beyond that concern of hoping for past glories, the other key reason I'm down on Michigan going for Harbaugh is that I don't think he's coming here, or that he'd stick around all that long if he did.  Like I said earlier, he's had a near-unprecedented run of success while at SF, and his name is already being thrown around for spots in NY, Cleveland, Atlanta, etc.  This isn't Nick Saban finishing under .500 in his two years in Miami, or Spurrier spectacularly flaming out in Washington and running back to college and its noon tee times.  Harbaugh isn't likely done with the NFL, and if he has some early success at UM that siren song is only going to get louder.  You may say "that's great, it means he'll win now and set Michigan back on the national map", but I could see that being a bit of a distraction and having a negative effect on recruiting.  Furthermore, and this is absolutely a personal take with no basis in provable fact, but I'm not sold Harbaugh views Michigan the way other people think he views Michigan.  This was the guy who took shots at the education, at the way the program was run once he was a head coach and recruiting against them, and he's not said or done anything since then to make me believe his view of Michigan has changed demonstrably.  We all laugh now at Brady Hoke for saying "This is Michigan, fergodsakes" because he failed to back up his love with results on the field, but there is something to be said for a guy who wants to stay and create a legacy at your school.  Harbaugh would absolutely be positive about Michigan while he is there, but I also think he'd be looking around at other opportunities when appropriate.  I'm not sure if "cold-eyed focus" and cutthroat calculus are good or bad traits, but Harbaugh has them in spades.

 

So I guess that's why I'd love for Michigan to look at younger options, guys who would jump at the opportunity to coach at Michigan for decades and turn it into their own instead of a guy who is sorta, kinda being pushed out for political reasons in the NFL and might land back at Michigan because it is the best option at the time.  The more I see and hear about guys like Herman at OSU, Frost at Oregon, or Aranda at Wisconsin the more I'd like a younger coordinator who has "apprenticed" under a top-flight coach and who seems poised to take over a program.  I know people say Michigan doesn't need to take chances on coaches, but Gus Malzahn had one season of HC experience at Arkansas St. before he took over at Auburn and turned that program around immediately, and guys like Bob Stoops and Chip Kelly got their first HC chances at programs where they flourished almost immediately.  Age is just a number, and getting a guy with "head coaching experience" instead of "a clue" is what led us down the Hoke wormhole.  "Michigan" does a fair bit of recruiting for you, and a young guy coming in will undoubtedly keep around the pieces from the current regime that work and won't be afraid to upset the apple cart a bit where necessary.  Who knows if any of these guys will turn out to be great HCs, but taking a risk on an unknown with upside sure beats out the alternative of Miles or retreads that seems to be option B if/when Harbaugh takes a hard pass.

 

I commend you for reading this far, so I'll end this here.  I want Michigan to win, to get back to being the type of program that deserved to be called a "Leader and Best" on the football field.  And maybe Harbaugh is the perfect compliment of old-world charm and new-world winning.  But what I fear is that the powers in control of the decision are going into it with blinders on, and for a school that has so many innovative elements it would be depressing to see them not explore every option out there.

 

Best:  The End

 

Finally, my Saturday nights/Sundays are free!  I want to thank everyone who reads and comments on these diaries, and for putting up with my rants and long-winded explanations.  I've enjoyed trying to bring a bit of levity to this season, and look forward to 2015 when Shane Morris and Drake Johnson ride Harbaugh mania to the Rose Bowl!

Best and Worst: Indiana

Best and Worst: Indiana

Submitted by bronxblue on November 2nd, 2014 at 10:41 PM

This is going to be an abbreviated Best and Worst.  First off, I've just survived a weekend of family celebrating both my wife's and my daughter's birthdays, so I finished watching the DVR of the game about an hour ago.  Plus, I'm dying right now of a sinus headache, the type that makes you wonder just how bad the longer-term damage would be to drill a teeny-weeny hole in your skull to release the pressure.  Plus, it's IU, Michigan is 4-5, and they just fired Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke is pretty much doomed to follow.  What happened on the field isn't really important.

Best:  Michigan Won!  And, Like, By A Lot of Points!!  More Than the Spread!!!

By my own back-of-an-envelope calculations, this is the first time Michigan has done that to a Power 5 team since the Truman administration.  That's the Marshall Plan for ya!

The game was never really in doubt when it became clear Indiana wasn't going to throw the ball forward, and with a 17-0 lead going into the half it was kinda, what's the word, "relaxing" to be watching a Michigan football game.  For future reference, I want to feel this way again sooner rather than later.

Worst:  The Part Where I Kinda Defend Dave Brandon

So yeah, something else happened in conjunction with this game.

The big news at the end of the week was David Brandon's resignation/peaceful surrender/It's not me, it's you as athletic director at the University of Michigan.  Obviously, this comes as a shock to everyone.

What was a bit surprising was the speediness in which the change was made; while I doubt the two are related, within a week of MGoBlog's release of Dave Brandon's Live Journal-esque email screeds, the pizza baron was out of office and early reports have them looking hard at Jim Phillips at Northwestern amongst other targets, which seems to be a departure of sorts from the "Michigan Man" ties that drove previous searches and comprised the initial "wish lists" for Brandon's replacement.  This is good for the University and, frankly, for Brandon; I certainly don't want to work at a place where a large number of people actively despise me, and I'm sure he'll rest easy on his pile of money, with many beautiful ladies.

But as (apparently) one of the resident contrarians/apologists for Dave Brandon as AD, I don't take much joy in his firing.  He needed to go because he failed the most basic tenet of being an athletic directory, the same rule that offensive linemen are told:  keep your name out of the newspapers.  If you are doing your job well, nobody should be talking about you until the end of the year when you collecting your team awards and QBs are talking about how they owe you a steak dinner and a nice watch after the Pro Bowl.

Dave Brandon the man became a PR circus, mishandling so many public elements of his job that it almost felt like he was doing it on purpose.  He kept trumpeting "dynamic pricing" of tickets while outright lying about attendance figures, he helped whittle away Michigan's voluminous waitlist by driving away large swaths of diehards with seat "donations" and screwy point systems, he messed around with gameday traditions and neutered the band in favor of Special K rocking the Big House with some of your favorite Deja Vu jams, and always, ALWAYS doubled down on bad decisions with condescension and general assholeness.  In particular, his handling of the football team and it struggles, highlighted this year by Morris's concussion fiasco and the rally, destroyed whatever residual goodwill he still had with most fans.

Still, what continues to bother me about the discussion surrounding his firing is the pervasive argument that Brandon's tenure was not beneficial to Michigan athletics in general, which I'm not sure is (a) true, (b) measurable, and (c) relevant to his firing.  As I stated earlier, Brandon had to go because he kept screwing up publicly and the cash cow was hemorrhaging support and money.

Measuring Brandon's tenure as it relates to other sports is difficult because so many factors are legitimately beyond his control and/or difficult to quantify.  Brian tweeted the following:

The argument being made was that before Brandon arrived, Michigan was an elite athletic institution across a variety of sports; it wasn't just a "football factory" that failed to live up the dual ideals of amateurism and Title IX equality.  Yet once his MBA-fueled policies took hold and he started to replace the institutional memory of the athletic department, the other non-revenue sports were marginalized and suffered.

First off, I question the premise that the Directors Cup is a good barometer of an athletic department's overall health and well-being.  When Stanford is riding a John Wooden-esque 19-straight titles because they are really good at golf and water polo while sports like basketball, hockey, and wrestling are ignored, you have to wonder a bit about the system's efficacy.

So I went through and compiled a list of Michigan's finishes in the final standings since 1999, with the highest-scoring sport included.

Year Ranking Highest-scoring Sport
 1999 6  W. Rowing
 2000 3  W. Rowing
 2001 4  W. Rowing
 2002 6  Softball
 2003 4  W. Rowing
 2004 2  W. Rowing
 2005 4  Softball
 2006  24  Softball
 2007 4  W T&F
 2008 3 Hockey/W. T&F
 2009 5 M. Golf/W. Water Polo
 2010 25 W. Water Polo
 2011 15 M. Golf
 2012 10 W. Rowing
 2013 4 Softball

So what I see is a school that was pretty good at Women's Rowing and Softball in the early 2000's, consistently finishing in the top 10 with one outlier in 2006.  Then the year he took over, the school suffered through a pretty terrible run at the selected sports (a dip highly unlikely to have been affected by Brandon's nascent hiring), and has since trended upwards, reaching #4 despite their national championships in Men's swimming & diving and gymnastics not counting in the final tally.   Rankings aren't complete for 2014, so there might be some softening.  Still, if you read the chart it sure looks like Brandon stepped into a leaky ship and helped plug the holes, though not being deeply knowledgeable of the various other sports at UM, I can't say for sure.

And on an interesting sidenote, here is a breakdown of the national championships Michigan has claimed over the same span, broken up by BD (Before Brandon) and AD (After Brandon)

Number of National Championships from 1999-2009:  3

M Gymnastics:  1999

Field Hockey:  2001

Softball: 2005

Number of National Championships from 2010-2014: 4

M. Gymnastics: 2010, 2013, 2014

M. Swimming and Diving:  2013

My point isn't to make an argument that Brandon should have been retained because the gymnastics team suddenly got better, only to argue that Dave Brandon's official job was to be the Athletic Director for the ENTIRE University, and on paper it looks like he wasn't doing a half-bad job.  The basketball team had just suffered through a 15-17 season after a promising return to the tournament in 2009-2010, and there were rumbling that Brandon might need to remove Beilein and go select one of "his" guys.  Yet he stuck with a guy he inherited from the last administration, helped to improve facilities, and now Michigan is one of the most consistent basketball programs in the country.  Conversely, the hockey team has gone into a talespin recently under Red, and yet it doesn't appear Brandon put much pressure on Berenson to turn the ship around or ship out.

Maybe with Brandon gone we'll hear from the other programs about his tenure from their perspective; my guess is that most will say he was fine to work with, gave them the resources they needed to be successful, and mostly stayed out of the way.  We keep hearing condemnations from "friends of John Bacon" that Michigan's financials were in shambles and Brandon should be fired for that, and yet the Michigan brand is, by virtually any metric, still one of the most marketable and profitable out there, doubly impressive because of the state's meager economic assistance and the poor performance of the football team in years past.  Making money is a major part of an AD's responsibility, and the guy who takes over for Brandon is probably continue a number of his policies, though probably with less fanfare.  It isn't breaking news that college sports are "big business", and anyone expecting the next AD to be a radical departure from this core outlook is probably going to be disappointed.

So I guess my point is that Dave Brandon had to be fired because he had a number of very public flameouts, and when people are marching on your boss's lawn calling for your head it's time to pack up the framed footballs and retire to your floating island or wherever guys like Brandon hang out.  But I don't know if he was a bad athletic director in totality, and the fact that doesn't matter in the final calculus of his firing shouldn't invalidate the positives he did at UM.

Best:  The Gooch

Back to football, Indiana has a freshmen linebacker on their team called Greg Gooch.   He didn't seem to chart, but I couldn't help seeing his name without remembering one of my favorite part-time characters on Scrubs.

Worst:  The Offense is Still Broken

 

Yes, Michigan just put up 404 yards on Indiana, and recorded both their first 200-yard passing game of the year (!) and first 100-yard rusher game in the B1G since the last time UM played IU (!!), but man is it hard to get excited.  For one thing, Indiana has a turrible defense that gives up huge plays to everyone, yet Michigan's longest play was a 34-yard strike to Darboh that featured Gardner having to bypass the rush, step into a lane, stutter-step about a million times, and still have to throw a tight throw to Amara as he finally shook off the IU defensive back.  It was a good play and helped get Michigan in position for an opening score, but Jeremy Gallon had 369 yards receiving on his own last year against effectively the same IU defense, including multiple 50+ yard receptions.  It remains an offense bereft of "playmakers", which I know is absolutely the most cliche thing to say but is kinda true.

If you look the offensive drive efficiency for NFL offenses, you see that the best teams score quickly and with (relatively) few plays.  It makes sense intuitively, as dinking-and-dunking your way down the field requires your offense to execute multiple times successfully, which as anyone with a basic understanding of probability knows that success rates tend to go down the more times you tempt fate.  Looking at Michigan's first couple of meaningful drives, you see these long 8+ play drives that are littered with short gains and the occasional long-ish run or completion but nothing really explosive.  It worked because it was Indiana and Drake Johnson had a career game (more on that later), but when your longest plays of the year so far are 62-yard and 61-yard runs by Green and Smith against App. St. to start the season, and your future 1st-round WR has a season long of 43 yards on an ill-timed bomb that probably should have been picked off by the PSU safety, you can't read TOO deep into a semi-breakout day.  Last year's offense was way more boom-or-bust, but this year's "consistent muck" probably wasn't what everyone hoped for when Michigan made a change at offensive coordinator.

Meh:  Gardner, Again

Just copy-paste one of my sections about Gardner from any diary this year.  Nothing has changed.  He's broken, not in a way that can't be fixed, but in a way that nobody at Michigan, in the next 4 games, is going to come close to accomplishing.  Sadly, he'd be the perfect QB for an Urban Meyer or a Chip Kelly offense, a guy who can outrun most defenders and throw the ball effectively enough to keep them honest.  He's a sunk cost, a broken wagon wheel dipped in dysentery on the Oregon Trail of 2014 Michigan football.

Best(?):  Disney's The Drake Johnson Story

First off, that was a legit good performance by Johnson, even with the opponent factored in.  He looked confident, made decisive cuts, broke some tackles, and had a couple of bursts that reminded people he was a pretty accomplished hurdler at Pioneer.  Once De'Veon Smith left the game with an injury, Johnson stepped in and turned a close-ish game into a blowout, and as noted before had the first 100-yard performance against a conference opponent in about a year.  Plus, being a hometown kid performing so well on Homecoming, after such a tumultuous week, is a great story and one he'll probably remember forever.

That said, I have no expectation that he (or this team) will be able to reproduce this running effort against anyone else on the schedule save (maybe) Northwestern, but even that might be generous.  It has literally been years since Michigan had anything approximating a consistent running game, and that was mostly because of the threat of Denard in the backfield.  With Gardner still nursing an injured ankle and the coaches consciously not asking him to do much on the ground, this 184 yards feels like the end of a movie that probably won't have any more sequels this year.

Best:  The Mendoza Line

This is the second team Michigan held a team under 200 yards of total offense (the other Miami [NTM]), and 75 of those came on IU's 2nd-to-last drive of the game.  I know IU is starting 18th-string freshmen and Buffy sidekick Zander Diamont, who has thrown something like 23 passes for 35 yards in his career, but holding superback Tevin Coleman to a shade over 100 yards even with those garbage carries is impressive.  Yes, everyone knew that IU had exactly two good players on offense - Coleman and Wynn - and so the defense was able to shift its formations to shutting down those two players, but  it is still pretty impressive that the defense was actually able to execute as well as it did.

It's hard to tell if the unit is "good" or not, since they alternately kick offenses off the field quickly and give up 80+ yard TD drives to end halves, and the offense has been so disjointed and anemic against most teams on the schedule that they tend to give up yardage and points out of exhaustion as much as poor playmaking.  Even the fact that the offense is one of the slowest in the country (thus reducing the total number of plays per game for both teams) hasn't been a blessing, since 3-and-outs that take 30 seconds or 3-and-outs that take 1 1/2/ minutes aren't functionally different.

I don't expect them to replicate a game like this against anyone left on the schedule, but looking at Maryland and NW I see the possibility for the defense to make a bit of a stand these next couple of weeks before OSU, well, you've all seen Oz.  At best, it's going to be one of the lighter death scenes in Oz.

Best:  Disruption

Again with all "this is Indiana" caveats applying, the defense still had 12 TFLs, including 2 sacks and another QB hit, spearheaded by Jake Ryan absolutely abusing IU's offensive line for 2.5 TFLs and 10 solo tackles all around.  It still feels like a bit of a waste with him in the middle, but it was nice to see him has such a disruptive effect in the game.

It was also the second week in a row that Michigan got a bit of luck in the fumble recovery game, this time Mone recovering Coleman's second stumble-fumble of the first half that Michigan capitalized on for an early 10-point lead.  It's a bit too little, too late, but after having major "luck" issues with fumbles and loose balls the past couple of years, it is nice to see the pendulum turn a bit toward the good guys.

Worst:  The Muggles

Straight off, I didn't know what a Muggle was until this tweet came out.  Despite being a guy who follows professional wrestling, I find stuff like Game of Thrones and Harry Potter slogs to read and just, I don't know, boring.  By all means enjoy what you like, but I've always found it hilarious that a Board post about Wrestlemania is littered with people calling it dumb and fake and yet there are heated discussions about characters in a show based on a series of books about dragons and mythical wolves.

Anyway, apparently Elliott Mealer called the University of Michigan students who called for Dave Brandon's firing muggles, which followed up earlier comments from  other former players that took issue with (I presume) their impression that people were a bit too excited about a guy they knew getting fired, and that the peanut gallery basically won out over the people who had played for the teams, including the current players.  He later deleted the tweet, but because this is the internet a not insignificant number of people returned fire at Mealer, while other agreed with him for a variety of reasons (bad precedence, issues of accountability, etc.).

I don't agree with Mealer's specific rationale, as the "you didn't play, so how do you know" argument is factually weak and intellectually lazy.  I don't need to have played lacrosse to know Dave Brandon wasn't very popular at UM and the lines against him were calcified, just like it doesn't take a parent to know this probably was a bad idea.

Still, he has his right to an opinion, just like anyone else.

But I have a bigger issue with the counter-argument that without "the muggles" paying tickets/attending games, there wouldn't be a need for guys like Mealer.  First off, most schools don't "make money" on college sports; Michigan is one of the few with an athletic department that generates a profit and is self-sustaining; the vast majority of departments rely on public and private funding to keep everything running.  And yet, there are over 125 FBS teams, and even more D1 athletic departments.  Unless we take the argument to its logical extreme that nobody, anywhere would watch college sports, fans' contributions don't cover the cost of an athletic department.  If it did, we wouldn't have basically any sports other than basketball, football, and baseball in the south and hockey in the northeast and Minnesota, and even that might be a stretch.

Secondly, the "I pay your salary" tone devalues a human's opinion and makes it akin to rank entertainment for the crowd's pleasure.  You see it with the arguments against paying players a stipend beyond their scholarships, this idea that they should be happy they have received what they did and stop complaining because most everyone else paid his/her way at Michigan.  Now, I'm not sure about the financial situation for others, but I paid part of my way through Michigan but had assistance from family; I definitely couldn't have afforded it without my loving benefactors (read: parents).  I've since paid for two graduated degrees via a combination of loans, scholarships, and part-time work, but 18-year-old BronxBlue had some help, and based on my peers at UM I wasn't the outlier.  And even if you did pay your whole way, I don't see how that should be held against other people who, for various reasons, are deemed worthy of additional assistance because of some extraordinary ability.  We give scholarships to budding math geniuses, and yet in my years of work in various university licensing offices the vast majority of these individuals didn't generate enough money to cover their funding.  It isn't their fault; in theory university's are designed to mold the future generations, and that can come from a multitude of actions.

Nobody is "right" in this situation; it's just a bunch of opinions about something that is history.  Yes, mob rule isn't usually the best option for making important decisions, but in this case it was pretty clear that Brandon's continued employment was untenable, and the issue was not if but when.  At the same time, men and women who work with Dave Brandon, who interact with him on a daily basis, may hold a different opinion of him compared to those who know him only from blog posts and email exchanges, some of whom certainly aren't blameless about the tone of the discussions.  The old saying is you can't get 10 people to decide on the toppings for a pizza, so expecting everyone to agree about something so dramatic as the firing of a prominent member of the Michigan athletic department is nigh impossible.

Still, it continues to bother me how quickly the discussion turns from a difference of opinion to attacks on people's character or station in life, and I had (foolishly) hoped that the bulk of Michigan fans would have let it go.

Best:  Northwestern

They lost at Iowa 48 to 7, gaining a total of 180 yards of offense.  Justin Jackson averaged more yards a run (4.0) than Trevor Siemian did throwing it (3.8), which I hear isn't a good thing.  Hopefully Michigan can do roughly the same and get the back to .500 before the big showdown (sigh) with Maryland to decide bowl eligibility and let me book my ticket to the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium!  Metro North, here I come!

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust and Rushing Performance for the CMU game

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust and Rushing Performance for the CMU game

Submitted by Daniel on September 3rd, 2013 at 12:01 PM

In the aftermath of the CMU game, I’ve seen a few comments about running backs that go something like this: “If you took out X’s long run, his YPC would have only been Y, so he really wasn't that effective,” or variations thereof. This got me thinking a little about the limitations of using YPC to summarize running back performance, so I've put together a couple ways of looking at running back performance against Central.

First off, sample size concerns are rampant. Statisticians frown on many, many things, but they take particular umbrage when you do anything with a really small sample (read: less than 30). But, like our beloved coaches, we live in the real world where we have to make decisions based on incomplete information; so we continue on despite the limitations of the dataset.

Strength of competition is also suspect. We don't know for sure how good CMU will be this year, but we do know they were outscored by fifty points in the only game they've played this year. They may not be great this year.

Central Tendency

Yards per carry is calculated by summing all rushing yards for a player and dividing by number of carries, making it an average (or sample mean). A sample mean is a very useful way of summarizing data with one nagging flaw: it is particularly vulnerable to outliers. The median, on the other hand, as the most central value, can be interpreted as a more typical expectation for a dataset. One extremely high or low value will have virtually no impact on the value of the median. Here's an example: Derrick Green's YPC for the CMU game was 6.1, 2 whole yards higher than Toussaint's 4.1. But Green's median carry of 3 is an entire yard shorter than Toussaint's 4. The YPC might lead you to conclude Derrick Green was a better bet for getting yards than Toussaint, but the median says at least 50% of Toussaint's carries went for 4 or more yards in comparison with Green's 3 or more yards. Since If you needed four yards for a first down, you may want to give it to Toussaint. That's potentially valuable information not contained in the YPC. Then there's the pesky fact that TD runs have a maximum length. If we're two yards out from the end zone, that's the maximum the player can get for that carry. This artificially lowers the YPC of a player who gets the ball over the line; in particular Toussaint's YPC would probably have been higher.

The table below contains a few measures of central tendency for the players who had at least 3 carries (three is still too small, but a line had to be drawn somewhere and Rawls' touchdown seemed to merit his inclusion in this list). Rawls gets no standard deviation because three is a small number.

Player YPC StdDev Median Min Max Carries TDs
Gardner 7.4 7 6 0 22 7 2
Green 6.1 7.9 3 1 30 11 1
Toussaint 4.1 5.3 4 -3 20 14 2
Rawls 4   5 -2 9 3 1
Smith 1.7 1.8 3 -1 4 7 0
Total 5.3 7.8   -3 38 47 6

QB Devin Gardner wins the YPC sweepstakes with a blistering 7.4 YPC bolstered by a median carry of 6 yards. I would advocate getting this man some more carries, but that's a) already happening and b) potentially troublesome for our passing game. Regardless, Gardner does a good job here no matter what metric you use: no negative yardage, a great longest run and two touchdowns on only 7 carries. At least for this game, our shiny "more passing-oriented" quarterback was our most effective running back, which speaks a bit to the value of athleticism at that position.

Among the running backs, Toussaint and Green duke it out for maximal effectiveness depending on which measure you use. Green wins on YPC, longest run, and least negative minimum run. Toussaint had a higher median, most touchdowns, and most carries. Rawls has the highest median of the RB's, but since he only had three carries, sample size tells us to pay no heed.

____ Yards and a Cloud of Dust

Hearkening back to the days of Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust (TYaaCoD), I wanted to know who was more reliable if you need three yards every time you rush.  The table below contains the percent of carries the player achieved at least three yards, embodying the spirit of slightly-in-jest Schembechlerian Michigan Football.

Personally, though, I find three yards slightly lacking. If you run three yards every rushing play and you rush every play, you end up facing 4th and 1 every series. Our Fearless Leader would still go for it on fourth down every time (Heil Hoke!), but it's not an optimal situation to find yourself in. What you really want is someone who can pick up 3.5 yards or so every play, so you get a new set of downs after every three. The play-by-play is unhelpful in this regard, however, only listing integer values for yards. So I also calculated the Four Yards and a Cloud of Dust (FYaaCoD) metric, which is how the table below is sorted. If you get four yards every carry, you can go on rushing forever.

I did make a slight modification to the success rates of both metrics: I counted a touchdown as a success regardless of how many yards the play was because there is no further to go.

Row Labels Total Yds Carries TYaaCoD FYaaCoD
Gardner 52 7 71% 71%
Rawls 12 3 67% 67%
Toussaint 57 14 57% 57%
Green 67 11 73% 55%
Smith 12 7 57% 29%

For TYaaCoD, you would want the following players rushing in order: 1. Green 2. Gardner 3. Rawls 4. Toussaint 5. Smith 6. Johnson. All players are between 50% and 75% successful at getting 3 yards against CMU, which is heartening. Moving to  FYaaCoD, you would want 1. Gardner. 2. Rawls 3. Toussaint 4. Green, 5. Johnson 6. Smith.

There's some shuffling when you move to FYaaCoD: Derrick Green drops from first to fourth, and Smith falls to sixth at a slightly disappointing 29% success rate. Rawls still has only three carries, but two of them pass the FYaaCoD test, so he has a terrific success rate of 67%. Almost as good as Devin Gardner, who had over twice as many carries. Devin's ability to scramble is probably for real. Toussaint's actual strength as a running back comes through a bit more on the FYaaCoD metric. On his 14 carries, he hit 4+ yards 57% of the time, and he often surpassed four. That increases the chance of success for future plays, as the distance to the first down marker is smaller.

I thought about running the same analysis with passing yards, but it didn't feel right since yards per catch vary widely based on the play. Your wideout running the deep route will end up with more yards per target than the slot ninja you toss the bubble screens to. That is more schematic than based on individual skill. It is true that running plays are also not all created equal. But every running play starts behind the line of scrimmage and heads as far as possible into enemy space, making comparison a reasonable exercise.

Charts

Any statistical summary is just that: a summary. We lose information when we look at average, median, min, max, total yds, TYaaCoD, FYaaCoD, etc. that is available to us in the actual dataset. Our lizard brains just can't process significant amounts of data in numerical form in any reasonably quick fashion. But there is one thing we are great at: reading charts. So I've assembled the information from each rushing effort for everyone with 3+ rushes in order from least yards gained to most. I've colored the touchdowns Highlighter Yellow™ so you can include/exclude them from your mental calculations as needed.

For recent time's sake, Drake Johnson. Fare thee well, 2013 Drake. We hardly knew ye.

Conclusions? Inferences?

A. We were completely misguided to push for Devin-Gardner-to-wide-receiver last year when his natural position is clearly running back. The fact that QB's get an extra blocker has no bearing on this.

B. At this exact moment in time, the staff's decision to go 1. Toussaint 2. Green 3. The Field. is pretty justified. We saw flashes of brilliance from both of them—maybe even more from Green—but Toussaint overall had a better day. If Green sheds a few pounds and picks up just a hair more speed in the process, though—and I think we all expect that to happen— he could become the clear #1 even by mid-October. De'Veon Smith is not yet ready for world-beating, but he did display that vaunted balance. Hold off on judgment on him at this point.

C. Charts are indeed fun to look at.

D. Norfleet had one rushing effort for 38 yds, which I didn't include in this analysis because dividing by zero is difficult and because his YPC would make Brian cry.

2013 Surprise Fall Contributor

2013 Surprise Fall Contributor

Submitted by Marley Nowell on August 26th, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Heading into the 2012 season there was much concern over the lack of size of the interior DL.  Spring Practice has us convinced that undersized Jibreel Black and hopefully breakout player Will Campbell would be manning those spots and we would survive. 

Cut to 2012 Fall Practice and seemingly out of nowhere Quinton Washington emerged as the surprise starter.  He went on to have a very good season and hopefully will continue this trend for 2013.

 

So I pose the question Who will be the surprise breakout starter/contributor for the 2013 season?  Here are the candidates:

RB Drake Johnson

Spring Practice was the time for another RB to emerge as Toussiant was still on the shelf and all of the practice reps and carries were there for the taking.  Aside from Justice Hayes grabbing the 3rd Down RB spot it didn't seem like anyone else had separated themselves.  I was expecting to see more "OR" in the RB depth chart but surprise we see Johnson has used Fall Practice to clearly pass Rawls and the freshman.  Speaking of the freshman I think this spot at the depth chart doesn't represent contribution ability but rather the best utilization of eligibility years.  Touissant is the clear starter and Hayes should take the majority of 3rd Down plays, leaving only "breather" and "garbage" carries for the other RBs.  Better to use Johnson than Green or Smith until and unless either of them show they are ready to take primetime carries.

LG Graham Glasgow

Glasgow had been in a battle with Miller for the Center spot for the Spring Practice and it seemed most of Fall Practice.  Only recently did we start hearing Chris Bryant was going to start and almost just as quickly that he had been passed Glasgow.  Hopefully Bryant still troublesome knee was not the reason Glasgow took the spot, but rather that once Glasgow got consistent snaps at LG he beat the guy would could have started in 2012.  Hopefully this is not similar to 2011 when Barnum was the starter at LG but was injured, making us believe he would be good in 2012.

SLB Brennan Beyer

We have continuously heard praise for Cam Gordon's athleticism and playmaking ability while the only think I remember reading about Beyer that he is a good run defender.  Yet he started the Spring Game and remains the co-starter. Here's hoping he has shown significant improvement and all his "hype" has been swallowed up by Fort Schembechler.

 

My choice for the 2013 Surprise Fall Contributor is Graham Glasgow.  Really the only knock against him was his underwhelming recruiting profile, which history has shown means little when dealing with lineman.He is a third year lineman with the size and strength to be a very good player at LG.  

 

GO BLUE!