Mailbag! Comment Count

Brian January 16th, 2009 at 12:33 PM

Hi Brian,

I was recently in a debate over the Rich Rodriguez hire in which my opponent stated that the spread offense has to have too many top tiered athletics in critical positions to work effectively, therefore believing Rich Rodriguez was a terrible hire. 

He went on to say that you need to have a star QB & RB, a quick offensive line, WRs that can not only catch but who can run fast, and once one of those positions are taken out of the equation, the whole offensive system is dead.  What are your thoughts on this?  I truly believe that Rich Rodriguez is not only great for Michigan, but could ultimately strengthen the Big Ten with his progressive style offense, which in my opinion is greatly needed right now.  Michigan could have hired 15 different types of Bo Schembechler who would have kept tradition and powerhouse football intact, but they didn’t.  They took a risk, and hired outside of the box.  I thought I would get your opinion on the spread offense and the argument above. 



Your friend appears to be making the argument that for an offense to be effective it has to have good players. I agree. The larger theory—that Rodriguez's offense is more dependent on massive levels of talent than your average pro-style thing—is counter-intuitive at best. Rodriguez developed the system at Glenville State, won with it at Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia, and until he had the Pat White-Steve Slaton terror combo there's no plausible argument you can make for the superiority of the talent at Rodriguez's disposal.

If there are concerns with the spread 'n' shred they go in the opposite direction: it's an offense that can make do with iffy performers at a lot of spots (WR, OL, FB, TE) because it basically ignores them, so when you've got the talent there it's not going to help you. And even that criticism is tough to apply when the near future of the QB position is some combination of Threet and Forcier, guys who aren't going to win games like Vince Young did.


I noticed that Bryce McNeal mentioned that Christianity was a factor in his decision to commit to Clemson.  I also recall Shavodrick Beaver citing God as one reason that he ended up committing to Tulsa instead of Michigan.  Do you think that Michigan under Rich Rodriguez has a 'Jesus deficit' in recruiting and if so, how big of a problem is this?  Is it possible that in addition to being a secret-file shredder and snake oil purveyor that RR is also Muslim or, even worse, Catholic?  For what it's worth, my sister-in-law's cousin sings in the same church choir as Les Miles' wife.  She reports that Miles regularly attends services, even the morning after away games.

DC Dave

Recruits commit to schools for their own private reasons. When asked about them, they come up with any old thing they think will sound good: God, family, national championships. When the real reasons are "my girlfriend is going there" and "I am afraid of Tate Forcier" and "cash money, homes" they get replaced with God, family, and national championships. Beaver's quotes were especially grating because he'd been giving similar quotes about Michigan for a long time and he had decommitted in favor of a coach who had spent all of one freakin' year at Rice. (Malzahn's immediate departure for Auburn was karma.)

But there might be something in this God deficit theory. Michigan hasn't fared too well against Notre Dame of late despite the presence of the great green goblin, after all, and Tressel participated in some sort of football-player-sponsored revival meeting at Ohio State's old basketball arena a few years ago. Michigan is highly secular compared to its two main rivals.

That hurts with some with recruits, but it probably helps with some others who may not walk around wearing Darwin fish but also aren't too enthused about getting evangelized for four years.

Do you think the amount of verbal de-commits is more of a philosophical difference between the recruiting methods of RichRod vs. Lloyd?

Wouldn’t Lloyd take a verbal commit from a kid only if he was not going to visit anymore schools;  whereas RichRod may let a kid verbal commit & still visit other schools?

Also, hard to take a commitment seriously if the kid is from out of state & hasn’t visited the school yet.  The de-commits do not bother me as much when it is a kid from Texas, or Virginia, as opposed to Michigan, or Ohio – harder to sell a kid if he isn’t from Big Ten country.


There are a number of factors at work in Michigan's tide of decommitments:

  1. Kids are committing earlier and earlier and decommitments naturally rise. Nowadays a lot of kids are committing just to reserve a slot and then keeping their options open. I've heard that one Michigan decommit never had any intention of signing with Michigan and just used the commit for leverage, publicity, and offers.
  2. A 3-9 season can't help things, and…
  3. …neither can the tidal wave of negative publicity that accompanied Rodriguez's move from West Virginia and the accompany Boren hootenanny.

The geographical thing is a red herring. Michigan's decommits almost all came from the Midwest (McNeal, Barnes, Campbell if you count him) or re-committed to a school no closer to them (Newsome and Fera both picked Penn State).

Only Beaver's bizarre Tulsa defection and the presumed commitment of Peace to a Big 12 school really fit that pattern. Two of seven isn't exactly definitive. With both DT recruits other than Campbell on the fence, that percentage may rise, but not to the point where it's going to be a majority of the issue.

A story I thought you and your readers may enjoy:
At the beginning of the school year, someone in our house bought a fish tank.  We added a few guppies to the tank, and decided to honor the new football season by naming one lucky guppy "Sam McGuppy."

Over break, Sam tragically died. (fitting, no?)  However, there is a new season of Michigan sports underway.  So, when we bought a replacement for Sam, we decided to name him "DeShawn Swims."

We all enjoy your blog, thanks.
Marco and Chris

Yes, these are my readers.



January 16th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

That was my exact thought as well. Bill Simmons is an entertaining read, once. However, occasional Q and A like this:

Q: I just sat through the postgame show for Minnesota-New Orleans and watched Emmitt Smith criticize the Saints because they "went lackadaisical" on a blocked field goal, then sternly looked in to the camera as he chided the Saints for having too many "offensive turnovers." What is my next move?
-- R. Tennant, Schaumburg, Ill.

SG: Just try to get through the next few days without getting debacled. That's my advice.

Make me nearly lose my shit laughing.


January 16th, 2009 at 12:57 PM ^

I think a lot of Bo Schembechler fans have ignored the fact that Schembechler followed the winds of change offensively while coaching at Michigan. Here are the offensive attacks he used while coaching the Wolverines (Jerry Hanlon was OC during a long period, but others like Don Nehlen were added in 1977).

1969-1973 - T formation, Wing T and some ISO I formation. Fullback and wingbacks (2nd TB) were largest ground gainers.

1975-1978 - Largely Option I formation. Tailback was leading ground gainer. 1978 saw the introduction of the wishbone attack at Michigan (QB Leach, David FB, Huckleby and either R. Smith or R. Clayton).

1979-1983 Mostly Option-I, but now some split back (pro sets) for passing downs, etc.

1984 - Revert back to Option I because Harbaugh was hurt, and Zurbrugg and Rein were not effective throwers.

1985-1989 - Multiple offense, including I formation, pro set and even re-intro of the 1978 wishbone set in '85 and '86 that Harbaugh mostly threw out of.

So what I'm saying is that Schembechler was not smashmouth 100%. He believed (obviously) that you need some of the so called "finesse game" as well with mobile QBs and triple option attacks. Michigan's offensive stats during Schembechler years were pretty impressive, even nationally. After the 1976 season (TB Rob Lytle, WR Jim Smith), Schembechler obviously came to Jesus about passing the football more effectively, which Michigan did starting that season and after. From 1977 onward and especially after the arrival of Anthony Carter in 1979, Michigan was no longer a run-oriented, smashmouth team offensively.

I see way more similarities between Rodriguez and Schembechler for this reason, than I ever observed between Lloyd and Schembechler, or between Moeller and Schembechler, for that matter.


January 16th, 2009 at 1:01 PM ^

a huge statue of Jesus at the north end of the stadium looming over the scoreboard, hands upstretched as if signifying a touchdown. Beaver would have stayed here for sure in that case.


January 16th, 2009 at 2:11 PM ^

of counter-examples. Off the top of my head, Northwestern, Utah, and TCU have all fielded prolific spread offenses without being loaded with talent across the board. You can take it all the way back to Houston in the early 90s.


January 16th, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

I always thought the spread was designed, at least in part, to minimize the talent deficiencies between teams on offense. That's why teams with a bunch of smurfs at WR and a mobile, inaccurate QB can obliterate teams like OU and Georgia, who should have supreme talent at most positions. Kind of like how most mid-majors in BBall are most successful when they have a bunch of 3-point shooters out there with a guard who can drive to the rim - to minimize the differences in talent and (usually) size between them and some of the bigger schools.

As for the religious bent of some recruits, I have to question when some kid injects God into his rationale for choosing between schools. I mean, A2 is liberal, but it's not Sodom and Gomorrah U. There are churches, there are religious groups, and most people only smoke weed out of bongs fashioned from a puppy's head once or twice a year. So I'm sure these kids won't be corrupted any more at UM than any other major school.


January 16th, 2009 at 3:12 PM ^

"That hurts with some with recruits, but it probably helps with some others who may not walk around wearing Darwin fish but also aren't too enthused about getting evangelized for four years."

I understand that this is hyperbole, but this probably is not true. There are a bunch of Christian coaches out there, like Mike Singletary and Tony Dungy and I doubt they are evangelizing all of their players. Even in those two cases you see two entirely different styles of relating to people (Dungy seems pretty calm and Singletary seems pretty intense) even though they fall in the same bucket of being "Christian coaches".

I personally think that some kids may feel like they are basically choosing a father figure for the next 4-5 years, so it would make sense they want to choose one that shares their values. Whether or not this is actually true, they may just feel that with a Christian coach who shares their values, he's less likely pull a move like Charlie Weis does every year in totally screwing over some kid.

Enjoy Life

January 16th, 2009 at 4:05 PM ^

You're saying the HC at nd is not a Christian??

Is this true? Hard to believe!! (Or was that sarcasm that I missed?)

It is true that Dungy does not allow players to swear. I have no idea how swearing relates to how you do anything in football.


January 17th, 2009 at 9:38 AM ^

Spin it any way you want, 7 so far with more pending is not some bump in the road. PSU has its next starting QB and PK thanks to RR decommits. It is unlikely that RR will fill all available schollies. The FL QB they may bring in looks like a Coner replacement. He is a major reach. Why is RR having so much trouble getting QBs? This class is smurf heavy. The idea that UM will now have a frosh QB who is a so-so rated (6th best pass/run QB) who was not invited to any all star game as the ONLY option to Threet is just awful. Sheridan may well see significant PT in '09. There are not many players coming to AA before signing day.

chitownblue (not verified)

January 17th, 2009 at 11:29 AM ^

Forcier is more than a "so-so rated" QB - he is among the top 150 prospects in the nation, according to both Scout and Rivals.

Also, despite the de-commits, we have somewhere between the 8th and 12th best class in the nation (depending on whether you choose to believe ESPN, Scout, or Rivals).

Calm thyself.


January 17th, 2009 at 1:03 PM ^

get hurt routinely. What happens if Forcier, as good as he may be, gets dinged? We are right back to '08. Yes ST should be better than last year but that is a very low bar. He is slow, his mechanics belie exposure to Lefty for a year, his release is slooow, he made poor reads (partly because of inexperience and a poor OL, and poor route running by everyone other than Mathews and Koger) but he did not see wide open guys, over/under threw people and generally had bouts of prolonged inaccuracy. This all suggests that Forcier will be the starter sooner than later.

chitownblue (not verified)

January 17th, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

So, if our good players get hurt, we will be worse. I agree.

As far as RR QB's getting hurt, please tell me how many starts Pat White has missed in 4 seasons as the starter. (Hint: it's 2).

How many starts did Rasheed Marshall, the QB before White, miss in 3 years as the starter? 0.

Chad Henne (Lloyd's QB!) missed more starts in 2007 than WVU QB's did in 7 years.

Icehole Woody

January 19th, 2009 at 1:48 PM ^

Last year was an abomination. New system, coach, QB to Arkansas, whatever, there was no excuse. However, even as pissed off as I am about 2008, I am willing to give the West Virginia experiment one more year. But if 2009 ends up being another loosing season I say fire everyone right on up to and including AD Bill Martin. But that is just my opinion. So, to those of you who are more understanding than me, at what point does your patience and support run out?


January 19th, 2009 at 3:11 PM ^




January 20th, 2009 at 2:25 PM ^

F*** it, we'll do it live!!!!!

Actually, I think you need to give college coaches at least 4 years (one full recruiting cycle) to prove themselves, unless they clearly are failing and there is no hope in sight, in which case 3 years is probably enough. To say that a coach receives approximately 1.5 recruiting/coaching years to install a completely new offense and revamp a defense and recruit the kids necessary for those systems is myopic. RR is going to have to show some growth this season, but leave the "BCS or bust" talk to Drew Sharp.