Five Star Temptresses And Variance Hating

Submitted by Brian on December 15th, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Two pretty much unrelated things in one post. I blame everything.

vince-young.new[1]

Vince Young; Garrett Gilbert

Cautionary tales?

A Braves and Birds post on the recent downfalls of Texas and Florida spurred responses from Blutarsky and Smart Football about the role of various schemes as your talent level waxes and wanes. The B&B theory:

…we can criticize [Texas] for not learning the lesson of the Vince Young era.  Apparently, the lesson that Brown took was “recruit five-star quarterbacks from Texas,” when he should have concluded “recruit quarterbacks who can run.”  In short, Texas was seduced by the prospect of a local five-star pocket passer and shifted their offense away from what worked for them when they were upsetting USC in the game of the decade.*

One can look at Florida and see the same mistake.  Urban Meyer has always won with mobile quarterbacks. … Nevertheless, Meyer was seduced by the same siren that causes Mack Brown to jump off the deck of his ship and swim to his doom.  He had a five-star pocket passer – John Brantley – living one hour from campus, so Meyer committed his post-Tebow Gators to Brantley.  Meanwhile, Meyer did not offer Denard Robinson a chance to play quarterback in Gainesville.

Brantley and Gilbert imploded, the team went with them, and the guys coordinating them left. Michael goes on to say this is a "cautionary tale" for Brady Hoke, whose most successful prior year was with Nate Davis. Davis is claimed to be mobile.

I'm not in agreement with his police work there. Hoke's offensive coordinator at Ball State was Stan Parrish, not Al Borges, and dubbing Nate Davis "mobile" is stretching the term. Davis averaged 3.7 non-sack carries per game in 2008, i.e. he had some scrambles and QB draws. For his part, Borges had great success with statue Ryan Lindley* (-57 rushing yards this year) at SDSU, Davis-ish scrambler Cade McNown (a couple hundred yards per year) at UCLA, and only-secretly-athletic Jason Campbell (30 rushing yards in 2004) at Auburn.

Michigan's long-term trajectory on offense should not expose them to the same problems Texas and Florida experienced. Hoke is a defensive guy who famously goes sans headset and Borges's successes have come with throwers at QB. That some of the throwers have been able to move a little doesn't make a difference. The offense is still not predicated on the QB's legs; instead the legs are a bonus that keeps some plays alive and gets you some yards on scrambles. In Michigan's case they are moving towards their OC's expertise, not away from it. (At least insofar as Greg Davis had any expertise. He and GERG should start a cover band.)

Variance: super teams hate it.

After passing through Get The Picture's digestive system the above post spurred Smart Football to offer some thoughts on the difference between a pro-style offense that is intent on putting up points and one that's intent on not blowing it:

For the truly elite-level recruiting teams, I think the agnosticism of pro-style treats them well because they basically recruit incredible players and then figure out the system and scheme later. Moreover, spread offenses, option offenses, and really any pass-first offense (including West Coast attacks of which I’d put Georgia in the category) require very good quarterback play. Alabama and LSU are basically designed to win in spite of their quarterbacks; Nick Saban does not want to return an all world defense with a bunch of five-star playmakers and lose because his QB was a junior and had some “growing pains”, which absolutely happens at every level. …

For everyone else having an identity and being somewhat contrarian helps a lot because it allows you to focus your recruiting on guys that can help you, and in many cases it means you don’t have to compete with some other teams for those guys. … Moreover, because you have a system with specific skills required, you can develop those skills. There are many examples, but think about how those Texas Tech teams under Leach always had four guys who could contribute and were open, even against the best Big 12 teams, because they’d worked on those skills every day for two years before they got in the game and had countless reps.

The former is what Ohio State did for years under Tressel, managing games with Krenzel and Boeckman and Zwick and Belissari and even most of the time with Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor. They massaged enough safe points out of their offense to let the reliably crushing D win games. Sometimes—usually against Michigan—they went full-throttle. This happened when they feared the opponent more than variance.

The latter is why hiring Paul Johnson was a good idea for Georgia Tech but would be a bad one for Georgia, why Leach is a great hire at Washington State, and how Rodriguez made West Virginia into a power with rag-tag recruiting classes and some duct tape.

Michigan was in the former camp, but after Bo they accomplished their goals less successfully than OSU. This goes back to the Mo era, when Michigan would show up for the game with three or four losses and inexplicably beat—often thump—John Cooper's national title contenders. To me, Michigan-OSU in the 90s will forever be a fourth quarter exchange between some ranting Buckeye fan and a snot-nosed teen version of yrs truly:

MAN ADVERTISING BEER ON HAT: You have four losses! We're ranked in the top five! We're a national title contender!
FUTURE BLOGGER: You were.

That was fun as far as it went but playing spoiler ain't no way to live. For Michigan to not be a second banana in the league they either had to

  • recruit and execute better
  • get an identity that allowed them to perform better than their recruiting rankings

Rodriguez was an attempt to do the latter. Hoke is an attempt to do the former, or at least he seems like it. Borges is a wildcard. Maybe he's content to ramp his offense down into Tressel/Lloydball territory once the defense is truly locked in, but maybe Michigan will morph into a team with an identity on offense, even if that identity is the Boise State and Stanford have used lately.

When to put the toys in the box

    There is a point at which it makes sense to trundle through games as safely as possible. That point is when you have the LSU/Alabama/OSU massive talent advantage over all comers. If Hoke's recruiting continues at the level it has, Michigan may achieve that. More realistically, a lack of oversigning and/or culture of rampant barely-punished extra benefits will leave them short of that, leave them in the same 8-10 range they usually inhabited under Carr.

    That will mean they'll have to have something to rely on on offense other than don't-screw-it-up-ball if they're going to be nationally relevant more often than they have been in the past 20 years.

    The early returns here are inconclusive since Borges is biding his time with Denard while recruiting Shane Morris. But they are encouraging, both when it comes to Hoke's game theory aggression and Borges's tendency to keep the pedal depressed when it makes sense to. Buried deep in his own territory up 17 against a Nebraska team that has struggled to move the ball, he'll run-run-punt; staked to a three point lead against Ohio State second down is for moving chains.

      Michigan's not going to be that super-talented dreadnaught year-in, year-out that allows them to play crushingly boring football and win. I don't think that's Hoke's plan; even if it is he's spent a lot of time learning about what happens when you don't have that as an option.

      *[Lindley's implosion this year—he's now 80th in passer rating—suggests Borges is a plus playcaller/schemer. SDSU returned much of their offensive line and has Ronnie Hillman; while their WR situation was bound to drag the numbers down it shouldn't have been that severe.]

      Comments

      AAB

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:02 PM ^

      Michigan's not going to be that super-talented dreadnaught year-in, year-out that allows them to play crushingly boring football and win.

      I can't imagine being an Alabama fan and having to watch Nick Saban openly hate football every week. I'd rather be on the dread pirate Leach and win 8 games a year than deal with that.

      Seattle Maize

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

      I dont know if I agree that we wont be very talented year in an year out.  Maybe not Alabama because they do some shady things, but if we keep recruiting like we have this year then we will consistently be one of the top 5 most talented teams in the country.  Combine that with great coaching and you have a team consistently competing for national championships.  Also, I think that Alabama is actually very fun to watch and I really hope Michigan is able to play like them, at least on defense, in the near future.  

      ChiBlueBoy

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

      We SHOULD recruit with the best. We SHOULD be able to win in soul-crushingly-boring fashion. I think a good offense is as important as defense. But a good offense that knows when to run-run-punt from the 17 against a team that can't move the ball > a team that knows nothing but passing on every down or a high-risk-high-reward offense.

      Blue boy johnson

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:43 PM ^

      I would have ignored your post as a simple mistake had Brian not posted the same thing in his OP. I thought there was some new meme I had missed out on

      Borges's tendency to keep the pedal depressed when it makes sense to. Buried deep in his own territory up 17 against a Nebraska team that has struggled to move the ball, he'll run-run-punt; staked to a three point lead against Ohio State second down is for moving chains.

      jmblue

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:40 PM ^

      I can't imagine being an Alabama fan and having to watch Nick Saban openly hate football every week. I'd rather be on the dread pirate Leach and win 8 games a year than deal with that.

      No you wouldn't. Bama is playing for its second national title in three years. If it were us, you'd love it.

      El Jeffe

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:55 PM ^

      I think you are in a minority of 1 if you mean you would rather watch entertaining football than compete for a MNC every blessed year.

      But, you are not if what you really mean is: "I would rather watch entertaining football and run the risk of going 7-5 occasionally than playing godawful boring Debordball and almost always go 9-3 except for once a decade when we go 11-1 or 12-0." Then I think I'd be on board with you.

      AAB

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:58 PM ^

      If you gave me a choice of rooting for Nick Saban's Alabama or Mike Leach's Texas Tech, I would take Mike Leach's Texas Tech, because watching Nick Saban's brand of football crushes my soul in a way that a national championship or two would not begin to make up for (it's the same reason -- outside of the obvious reasons -- I wouldn't have wanted to be a fan of Tressel's OSU).

      Obviously the ideal would be to be last decade's USC teams, which were both dominant and entertaining as hell.  

      El Jeffe

      December 15th, 2011 at 8:27 PM ^

      This I agree with. If you were choosing a team to root for based on these criteria, then yes, TTU >>>> Bammer by a country fried mile.

      I thought you meant if you had to choose between M winning MNCs with a boring offense and going 9-3 with a sweet offense.

      M-Wolverine

      December 16th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

      Because you've been pretty clear and consistent on your football viewing desires.  What I don't get is you liked USC? You do realize that they ran a functionally identical offense to what Michigan ran under Lloyd?  They had a lot more talent, and won a lot more, but stylistically it was pretty much the same.  So it seems the not so exciting offense IS ok if you win a lot....which you just said wasn't the case.

      RowoneEndzone

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

      Very interesting points made here.  Thanks for making me even more nervous about the A.D. (After Denard) years.  It sure is fun having a dual threat QB that freaks out D. Coordinators.  

      I do hope that Hoke and Mattison will recruit better than Lloyd. With the comination of that stadium expansion and facilities updgrades we can consistently win 10 a season and win the Big ten every 2 or 3 years.

      James Howlett

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:11 PM ^

      the pro-style becomes increasingly contrarian. I suspect that in the next few years, with the B12 and SEC assistants getting more head coaching jobs,  we'll see more spread than we've seen and less pro-style.

      That probably helps UM.

      Tater

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:12 PM ^

      Meyer wasn't seduced; he was coerced by a small but powerful group of alums close to Scot Brantley and John Brantley III.  I am guessing that AD Jeremy Foley "bought in," too.  Why else would a top ten "destination" program hire an assistant coach with no head coaching experience and then compound the error by bringing in Charlie Weis to eat yet another program?

      That's what happens when the good ol' boys are allowed to run the program long after their glory days have faded into the rear view mirror.  

      Gorgeous Borges

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

      Wait, what? Florida's glory days have long faded into the rear view mirror? When Brantley came in they had gone 13-1 the previous year and won the national championship the year before that. How is it even now 'long after' their glory dats had faded into the rear view mirror?

      You have the memory of a goldfish.

      somewittyname

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

      1. Maybe the issue wasn't that Gilbert wasn't mobile but simply that he was a bust. 

      2. Maybe's Hoke's aggression this year was because he knew we weren't way better or more talented than a lot of our opponents, so he was more prone to gambling. Hopefully, that's not the case and it's simply his general philosophy.

      Steenie

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:39 PM ^

      I cant see how their current state of affairs is simply due to them not recruiting mobile quarterbacks.  Colt McCoy, a pocket passer (with minor running ability) won way too many games in the post VY era to attribute their decline to a lack of mobility.  If im not mistaking that Texas defense has looked like shit the past two or three seasons, at least since Orakpo left.  And regarding Gilbert, the kid was most likely a no-brainer at the time.  Great QB right down the road, much like our friend in Warren.

      somewittyname

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

      so I actually live in Austin and went to a couple games and this year they actually had a pretty good defense and a lot of their issues were due to quarterback play, but I don't think it's to do with them being mobile or not. Little McCoy and Ash just aren't very good.

      And it will be interesting with respect to Brian's second topic to see how Harsin does at Texas since he was more of a system/gimmicky type guy at Boise and that stuff didn't seem to work at all this year for Texas.

      Lionsfan

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

      Plus I would imagine it doesn't help that they don't have a strong strong rushing attack. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't they have some good guys, just not guys that can put a game on their shoulders good?

      somewittyname

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

      I think their ground game was definitely better this year but not great. Their unanimous 5* true frosh, Malcolm Brown, looked pretty good and probably will be very good. But like you said, he wasn't quite ready for just putting a game on his shoulders. They also have a speed demon type, Fozzy Whittaker, that they like to use for their gimmicky stuff, but he's not a true RB.

      wile_e8

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

      About 2 - Even if he does tone down the gambling when the talent level is far superior to most opponents, it's still a good sign for those 2-3 games a year when the talent levels are equal or we are at a disadvantage. That was a major frustration of the late Carr era - strategizing as if we had superior talent even when we didn't.

      Magnus

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:25 PM ^

      The advantages of having a running - or at least mobile - quarterback are numerous.  I can't help but think that a return to statuesque quarterbacks would be a negative for most college teams.  The good thing about Hoke is that he obviously realizes that offensive linemen are extremely important pieces of the puzzle.  With the way he's recruiting on the OL, it might not matter whether our QB can scramble or not - he might have all day to sit in the pocket and dissect a defense.

      96goblue00

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:34 PM ^

      A good QB behind a beastly ground-eating O-line can look like a superstar QB. A monster O-line and a quick, aggressive and hard-hitting D is what gets you Ws. Look at OSU under Tressel. Why did they have so much success? They always had mammoth O-lines stacked with 4/5 star blue chips and very aggressive defenses. 

      Greg McMurtry

      December 15th, 2011 at 3:11 PM ^

      Wiscy would roll the whole B1G this year.  Huge O-line, a slimmed down Montee Ball AND they manage to pick up Russell Wilson (via free agency.!) I thought they would go undefeated. 

      Those two blocked punts wasted a chance at the MNC.  Could they still have pulled out wins in those games even after their punting miscues?  Yes, but the blocked punts were huge.  Especially, the Sparty blocked punt with seconds remaining before halftime.  Wiscy noooo!

      maizenbluenc

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:22 PM ^

      Wisconsin is going to struggle in their match-up against Oregon.

      It is the age old problem, you can play bludgeon football and win a lot of the time, but sometimes you have to put a boatload of points on the board. If you don't do that routinely, when the time comes you may encounter difficulties executing.

      If Al Borges brings us Cap One Bowl Michigan all the time, then I think we're a contender. If we revert back to conservation, beat down ball, then I think we trip up against the Oregons, USCs, and OSUs of the world.

      M-Wolverine

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

      They can put up a boatload of points. Their problem is they can't play defense for shit. That's why they're going to get rolled.

      (And you do know USC's offense was basically identical to ours, don't you? OSU's was more conservative a lot of the time too).

      Hail-Storm

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:43 PM ^

      There is no way the number 4 scoring offense in the country (Wisconsin 44.6) can keep up with the number 3 scoring offense in the country (Oregon 46.2). I mean defensively Wisconsin (Rank 6th 17.0) is a little better than Oregon's defense( Rank 48th 23.6), but that can't make up for the large discrepancy between the two offenses. I'm suprised Wisconsin is even showing up.

      M-Wolverine

      December 15th, 2011 at 4:51 PM ^

      I just don't see Wisconsin as better than Stanford...and Stanford had their problems. Can't say there was a point after Nebraska that Wisconsin really impressed me. But you never know. We'll see how good the conferences really are.

      El Jeffe

      December 15th, 2011 at 5:03 PM ^

      I watched some of the OSU/UO Rose Bowl from a few years back (Pryor's sophomore season, maybe?) and was interested at how little UO attacked the edge with outside zone runs against OSU. I feel like this year they're running a lot more outside zone (maybe Masoli wasn't convincing outside?). That's what I think UW will have trouble with. UW is stout up the middle, but James is frickin' terrifying on the outside, not to mention that freshman who either fumbles or runs 80 yards every time he touches the ball.

      So in conclusion, I agree that UW will have trouble.

      Hail-Storm

      December 15th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

      a mobile QB requiring extra attention from a defender is a huge advantage to exploit. Of course this does not have to be Denard (which is good because there are very few Denards) as we have seen that Slightly mobile QB's (ala Luck) can make things happen on broken plays. I think the big advantage of a mobile QB too, is the lack of negative yardage plays. Denards speed and elusiveness turned some negative plays into no gains or 1-3 yards gains. In sustainable drives, those differences can be huge.

      M-Wolverine

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

      I'll take your word for it and assume that the B&B's article is just flat out stupid. Florida and Texas aren't failing solely on having immobile QBs. If the rest of the team and coaching was up to par, they may not be winning national titles, but a QB doesn't turn you from undefeated to 6-6.  No one is going to say 2008 Michigan with Denard is playing for the title; mid-2000s Texas or Florida isn't 3-9 with their current QBs.   Those teams were loaded with talent; and oh yeah, that had maybe the two best college QBs of the last 30 years at the helm, who happen to run.Saying "just recruit another Young or Tebow" is insane.  Cause if it was that easy, everyone would do it.

      Smart Football's take is a lot, uh, smarter.  Which leads to Brian's point that you need to at least do one of the two...but ideally you do both.  Meyer used to do it, but the first part makes it sound like he didn't do it anymore (though losing coordinators and guys who can recruit might have been a bigger problem than scheme).

      I think the upside isn't necessarily late era Carr, though I agree it's not LSU/Alabama win and cheat level. Teams that have won multiple national championships  in a short time always seem to have something shady surrounding their program.  The high water mark is probably what OSU has done for the last decade, without the stink. Win the Big Ten a lot of years, get into more than one National Title game, hope to win one.  Do it by playing REALLY good defense (we may not have a team that is full of LSU level talent...but I'd like to concentrate on the D and try and get that to a close level, even if it can't be teamwide). Keeps you in every game.  And then hope Borges can RPS enough against the really good teams that are still going to get a bit more talent generally because of shady practices or recruiting hotbeds to be more innovative than we have in the past, if not cutting edge, with the same talent level.  The results won't be quite as dominant as OSU's were, because I don't seem them slipping off, Nebraska got added, and MSU has a pulse.  Though maybe some of that is offset if PSU falls off the map a little. So we won't have the pathetic Big Ten that Ohio State has had during their cheating salad days. But we could field teams of similar talent level, and maybe be a bit more like Tressel vs. Michigan on offense, but every game.

      Indiana Blue

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

      actually applies moreso to tsio than either LSU or Alabama.  It is true that they have very loose interpretation of the 'recruiting guidelines" in the SEC and it absolutely gives the teams that "oversign" a huge advantage.  Being able to drop (ie - medical redshirt) a player and use his scholarship to gain a "better" player allows them to constantly refresh & upgrade the roster.  Until the NCAA takes actual command of the oversigning regs, each conference will do their own thing.

      Go Blue! 

      M-Wolverine

      December 15th, 2011 at 3:44 PM ^

      Recruiting problems as Oregon.  And LSU isn't know for their history of clean play. (As is the SEC). And Saban's rep as an honest and upright guy isn't very strong either.  Just because they're not under NCAA investigation doesn't mean that they're programs are squeeky clean. I don't think anyone is the SEC is...and they're probably some of the worst, historically.

      Ziff72

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

      I think we may finally agree on something.

      College football is still a regional sport.  If we recruit at near an OSU level and maintain an elite coaching staff we can have the best program in the Big Ten over a long period of time.   Then we just need to play 1 great game against whatever cheating piece of shit team makes it in to win the NC.

      If we got to a playoff then we may have to rethink things because any lack of talent will be eventually exposed over a 3 game gauntlet.

      TheBigAC

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

      Just like losing Peyton Manning didn't take the Colts from divisional locks to a team staring down an 0-16 record?

      Now I am sure you will just point back to Manning being a special talent, but I think overall the NFL proves this out pretty regularly. How often do you hear around draft day you can't win in the NFL without a special QB.

      Granted this may not correlate well back to a mobile QB, but I would argue in general that in most cases, Alabama and LSU possibly excluded, the difference between a great or even very solid QB and a young/below average QB makes a big difference.

      Brimley

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

      is the Ravens winning the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer and his 76 rating and a terrific defense.  I definitely respect your point on the impact of a great quarterback, but I've seen a lot of them lose out over the years to a swarming defense.  Michigan for many years was able to produce just such a defense and I think can certainly do it again.  That, coupled with a little imagination from the OC, be it with a passing QB or one who can run, should lead to good times.

      TheBigAC

      December 15th, 2011 at 2:40 PM ^

      I would even argue that the 1997 UM team shows that you can win with a solid but unspectacular QB. I just think it is much harder and less common to win that way.

       

      although I just looked up the BCS champs and it seems much more evenly split between super star QB's and defense wins championships than I would have expected.

      M-Wolverine

      December 15th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

      They've made the rules all about protecting the QB, passing, and scoring. You can have success with a variety of QBs in college. But even so, I'd say the Colts have been divisional locks because their division sucks balls. And even if he was playing, if Houston was healthy, they might be passing them up anyway. It's not like the Colts were in the Super Bowl last year. Frankly, they haven't been very good for years, and having a lesser coach doesn't help them either. They've been carried a bit by Manning, but they've been sliding back for years. This probably would have been a year they biff the playoffs anyway if they didn't win the division, with the wild card competition in the AFC. So it's more like a 9-7 or 8-8 team going 0fer without their QB.

      And 0 wins is a different animal in the NFL, with the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.  Fans (who even show up) WANT them to lose.  They're better for losing.  Losing in college doesn't get you top ten recruits..it makes it harder to get them. So I don't think it's as big of a leap as you think. The only thing that's similar is that college Young and Tebow, and pro Manning are special talents, and you're not going to replace them automatically at the same level. (You know, unless you can tank it to get the #1 pick and have his replacement giftwrapped for you).

      funkywolve

      December 15th, 2011 at 5:10 PM ^

      Look at college.  Peyton Manning is at Tennessee 4 years.  I think they win one SEC title and no NC's.  He leaves and is replaced by Tee Martin.  What happens?  Tennessee wins the NC.  Tennessee had boat loads of talent, they just weren't able to get over the hump with Manning. 

      imafreak1

      December 15th, 2011 at 1:38 PM ^

      Is the message that;

      (1) Florida and Texas (or any really good program) need to recruit QBs that run?

      OR

      (2) Regardless of how may recruiting stars your QB has, if he sucks you're in trouble?

      OR

      (3) If you're a system guy, it is dangerous to move away from the system that got you where are? (The dance with who brung ya theory.)

      Gilbert and Brantley seem to suck (2.)  Now maybe they suck because they were in programs that didn't develop them properly (3.) (The LOL Charlie Weis explanation.)

      I'm not exactly ready to throw out the pocket passer (1.) nomesain?