Mailbag!

Submitted by Brian on June 19th, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Brian,

Does it concern you that Michigan takes verbals from kids who have never even been on the campus in Ann Arbor?  I noticed on your blog that a recent comment mentioned that he's been to EMU, but never U-M.  This doesn't appear to be normal to me and may be cause for some kids to decommit at a later date. 

I wasn't sure if this was due to RR pressuring kids into committing or if it's just due to young, inexperienced kids making sudden reactive decisions.  Whatever the RR method is, I would like to see him go after some better players.  The Big Ten isn't going to improve much with one of their benchmark schools continually fighting over most of their recruits with powerhouses such as Tulsa, Duke, and Rutgers instead of Texas, USC, and Florida. 

Take care,
Mark

FTR: the player you're talking about is TX DE Holmes Onwukaife, who is apparently not committed after all. But the point stands.

I don't have any hard numbers on this, but just as a guy who follows recruiting pretty closely I can tell you my impression is this is a nationwide phenomenon as players get more used to the idea of a verbal commitment being more of a reservation than a, you know, commitment. Michigan is more exposed to this than most under Rodriguez because they recruit a lot from distant areas of the country.

As far as concern goes: it doesn't register. I think you have to take such a verbal commitment lightly and recruit as if the player in question is uncommitted but has a declared leader, but taking the commit certainly doesn't reduce your chances of landing him. I guess it might reduce the chances of landing another player at the same position, but everyone has to deal with this in a new era of early verbals and frequent decommits.

I would also like to see Rodriguez nail down a wide variety of the country's best players, and I don't think this year is representative of his recruiting: in RR's previous 1.5 classes at Michigan he's brought in a large number of four stars with good offers. This year's parade of middling sorts is a natural consequence of going 3-9.

This is in reference to an earlier post referencing this Varsity Blue look at Michigan's running game:

That was an interesting stat about UM beating the other teams rushing defense per average in all of their last 6 games other then MSU. 

Initially, I wondered if that was due to the high volume of carries but I looked it up and in 4 of the last 6 games, UM's yds/rushing attempt was actually higher then the opponents average too.  The two that weren't were MSU and OSU.  OSU gave up an average of 3.5 yds/rush attempt and UM averaged 2.7 yds/rush attempt.

What makes these stats even more impressive was that you know the defenses were focused on shutting down the running game and the short passing game until Threet/Sheridan proved they were viable threats in the downfield passing game.

It does bode well for 2009, especially if UM/Forcier can improve in the passing game (could it be worse?).

Keep up the good work.
Scott

This isn't so much a question as an addendum, I guess, but some commentary: Michigan's rushing game went from a train wreck to silently competent by the end of last season despite the quarterback fiasco, which is an impressive accomplishment. With literally everyone who had a significant hand in that back for a second year in the system, the arrow points resolutely up here.

HOWEVA, I am a bit concerned that part of the success was due to novelty and that next season won't be quite as fruitful as the numbers above and the returning starters imply. In the second half of the Penn State game Michigan got shut down when PSU adjusted to the MINOR RAGE, and the efficiency of the offense dipped. Michigan won't get that advantage of surprise this year.

Also, FWIW, it does sound like that round of cuts Calipari executed at Kentucky weren't quite as bad as it sounded:

Brian,

I agree with you that Calipari's over-signing and the inevitable cuts associated with it will be ugly.  I don't find the first three to go to be upsetting or nearly as despicable as being Sabanized, though.  I know that you pride yourself in being a very informed person, so if you have a minute to read over the following and take it into consideration the next time you write something about Kentucky basketball, I'd appreciate it.

Jared Carter didn't apply for a 5th year medical redshirt.  He'd already participated in Senior Night, because it was already known that he would not be back next year.  I see no difference in that and the handful of football players that don't come back for a 5th year at any given school in the country.

Donald Williams was in a weird situation.  I think Gillispie picked him up at a bar somewhere at the 11th hour.  (He commited on 8/27/08.)  UK had an extra scholarship available, so they took a shot on a guy with offers from UAB, New Orleans, St. John's and the like.  He showed up and ended up redshirting, and Gillispie told him that his scholarship would likely just be a one year deal, because he had an extra available for that year only.  Again, it's no surprise that he would not be on scholarship at UK next year, regardless of who the coach was.

The third person to be "cut" was A.J. Stewart.  If any of these three were politely given the boot, it was he.  A.J. had been suspended for falling asleep in team meetings, missing class, and he even quit the team at one point last season.  He was reinstated after a player vote to give him yet another chance.  He was going to have to miss the first semester of next season because of academic issues.  This guy will be better off transferring somewhere and getting his stuff together. 

The next round of cuts is where things will probably get interesting, and I'll probably email you again with all sorts of justifications and ridiculousness, but I honestly feel pretty good about these first three.
Thanks for your time,

Jeremy Herrmann  (Yes, that Herrmann)

So what sounded like three guys getting axed was more like one with a Reed Baker and an Amadou Ba thrown in. With Jodie Meeks is in the draft for good, Kentucky is now waiting on its recruits to qualify; if they do there will be one more outright cut.

Is this good? No. It is still worse than Alabama by a long shot, and if there's any justice in the APR Kentucky will find themselves looking at scholarship penalties in the near future—losing a guy who's ineligible is a double hit. But it's not as bad as it looked earlier.

Comments

bronxblue

June 19th, 2009 at 2:27 PM ^

I understand the concern about MINOR RAGE being less novel this season, but shouldn't two of the weakest links of the offense (the line and the QB) improving even marginally help to mitigate this expected drop? I mean, I always like Threet, but the second half of least season he was clearly hurt and unable to make the throws he needed to make downfield. As such, PSU et al. figured out that the only way UM was going to move the ball was on the ground, and good defenses (MSU, OSU, and PSU) ate them up. Maybe I'm more optimistic, but I think the running game will be pretty efficient this season, and should still be able to put up good numbers against all but the stoutest Ds (which outside of OSU, I'm not sure this team will see).

ShockFX

June 19th, 2009 at 2:30 PM ^

"In the second half of the Penn State game Michigan got shut down when PSU adjusted to the MINOR RAGE, and the efficiency of the offense dipped. Michigan won't get that advantage of surprise this year."

Did you watch the game? Or, like, the season? What surprise did UM have coming into that game?

cfaller96

June 19th, 2009 at 2:53 PM ^

What surprise did UM have coming into that game?

Uh, that MINOR RAGE was effective? Boom, surprise!

I agree, I'm not sure what "novelty" Brian is referring to here. During the first half of the PSU game, the only novel thing happening was competent (i.e. injury-free) throwing by Threet and kickass blocking by the line.

Going into this year, we can be assured of more, uh, consistent blocking by the line, and we'll just cross our fingers and hope Forcier is somewhat competent with his throws.

imafreak1

June 19th, 2009 at 2:56 PM ^

With the hopeful improvement both on the offensive line and consistency at QB, I think there is every reason to believe Michigan's running game will improve. If it doesn't Michigan is in trouble.

I thought it was evident that the sudden turn of events in the PSU game was largely caused by the injury to Threet and subsequent entrance of Nick Sheridan at QB.

chitownblue2

June 19th, 2009 at 3:02 PM ^

Not to be that guy, but:

QB Play vs. PSU in the 1st half:

Steven Threet - 7/11 73 yards, O TD, 0 INT. 10 rushes, 47 yards.

Nick Sheridan - DNP

QB Play vs. PSU in the 2nd half:

Steven Threet - 2/2, 11 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. 4 rushes, 15 yards.

Nick Sheridan - 3/9, 5 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. 4 rushes, 1 yard.

IIRC correctly, Threet played phenomenally in the 1st half (in addition to Minor Rage) and UM had a 17-10 lead. Threet led the team 36 yards on 7 plays, but had the drive end after he was broken on a QB keeper.

Sheridan's drive then went:

3 plays, -10 yards.
3 plays, 5 yards.
3 plays, 5 yards (this was a Threet drive, when he tried to play injured)
3 plays, 6 yards
3 plays, -1 yard.
7 plays, 44 yards (in garbage time - McGuffie ran for 38 of the 44 yards)

Our offense stopped working because we went from excellent QB play to unimaginably awful QB play, and Minor was the only thing left.

Anonymosity

June 19th, 2009 at 3:11 PM ^

In the second half of the Penn State game Michigan got shut down when PSU adjusted to the MINOR RAGE, and the efficiency of the offense dipped.

I think the adjustment was more "knock Threet out of the game" than anything...

baorao

June 19th, 2009 at 3:18 PM ^

are forgetting Brian's analysis of the PSU game that suggested that Penn State's DL was lining up poorly or over pursuing which was helping to create Minor Rage. So the adjustments were probably equal parts Threet and "don't run yourself out of the play".

Nickel

June 19th, 2009 at 3:31 PM ^

Whether it was Penn State adjusting or Threet getting hurt, as long as Forcier/Robinson are healthy I can't see how the running game won't improve.

After about the second series of the year most teams had figured out Threet and Sheridan presented such a low risk to the defense on the read option that everyone was flowing to the running back. With a legitimate running option at QB that forces the edge defender to at least respect the QB keeping the ball up inside for a couple yards gain. Just that split second is the difference between a RB being met head on vs. having the chance to run through an arm tackle, or the difference between an arm tackle and making the corner.

We'll be a long ways from WVU '06-07, but I'm optimistic we'll see a big improvement.

J. Lichty

June 19th, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

in RR's previous 1.5 classes at Michigan he's brought in a large number of four stars with good offers. This year's parade of middling sorts is a natural consequence of going 3-9.

I am not as pessimistic and don't really know how much 3-9 has to do with it.

A couple thoughts: some of the lack of 4 stars could be related to the lack of top end players at positions of need?
For example, ILB and DT both appear to be very thin this year.

Additionally, recruiting for the hybrid DE/OLB quick position (I am probably alone in not really caring for the "deathbacker" name) we have targeted some tweeners who are good fits for the position but not big enough to be a highly rated DE, and not quite quick enough to be a highly rated OLB.

Further, we are still in it with respect to numerous 4 stars, especially D-back, and we are even still realistically in it with Seantrel Henderson (although we will have tough competition and no natural advantage with him). There will be coaching changes at the end of next season which may loosen a few lodged commits like Stokes last year, and RR has always seemed to pull a few long shots like Q Washington and Ricky Barnum, perhaps Henderson could be his great OL get this year.

Finally, these are early commits and some of the rankings could adjust upward without the current 4 stars dropping (that may or may not happen), giving this bumper crop of three stars an entirely different feel.

Ultimately in my opinion we have to look at whether we are losing out on talent that we reasonably could have expected to get with a better year - a speculative exercise, but so far, I am just not seeing that we are losing out on many guys who would otherwise consider M. That perception may not be correct, but I just dont have the feeling like there are many natural highly rated targets for us at many positions.

I think also clouding the perception is that the state of michigan itself has a pretty good talent pool this year and some of those players have either committed or expressed a lean to Sparty. This is an exceptional year for talent in the state and I expect Dantonio will struggle a little when he has to reach out too much beyond the borders, but certainly the fact that Dantonio has landed a few who M has offered can also create the pessimistic perception.

Durham Blue

June 19th, 2009 at 5:37 PM ^

Michigan appears to now have one, maybe two legitimate QB's that can run and throw well. This will keep defenses off balance. And based on what I am hearing about the O line improving, experience from one full season in the new system, better QB more suited to the spread, experienced RB's, etc., barring key injuries and inexplicable fumble-itis, how can the offense NOT be orders of magnitude better?

mgovictors23

June 20th, 2009 at 9:53 AM ^

It's easy to shut down the running game when on quaterback reads you know he's going to give it to the running back ninety percent of the time. That will change this year though because Forcier and Robinson can both keep it and get big chunks of yards as well.

DrDetroit

June 23rd, 2009 at 8:24 AM ^

At the start of the game, Penn State was in a nickel defense. Michigan promptly shoved the ball down PSU's throat to get to a 10-7 lead.

Penn State then adjusted to a 4-3 defense basically ignoring one of the Michigan receivers. Michigan continued to run well getting another TD to lead 17-7.

After that PSU made a personnel change at LB. The new LB was effective in slowing down the running game. At this point Threet also started throwing Taco Pants. This was with about 12 minutes left in the second quarter. Michigan promptly went 3 and out, 3 and out, and 3 and out to finish the half. The start of the second half produced a drive that garnered one first down. The next Michigan first down was on McGuffie's run at the end of the 4th quarter.

Penn State made adjustments early in the game that dared Michigan to throw the ball. Obviously PSU's decision was a good one as the Michigan offense collapsed.

Penn State loaded the box to stop the run and Michigan was not effective enough throwing the ball to offset that adjustment. This year could be a different story with the new QBs.

Penn State has been weak at DT for the last two years. 2007 was the hand it to Mike Hart for 3.5 yards year. The same sorry DTs are back this year. Michigan should again be able to run the ball up the middle. With any effective passing this will create problems for the PSU defense.