Mailbag!

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Brian,

You probably already covered this but:

It is suggested that Rich Rod can do more with less and our current lack of high star recruits is related to the 3-9 record so as Rich Rod began to put winning seasons together at West Va did his recruiting classes increase in its ranking?   Does/will a Rich Rod program attract a highly ranked recruit or does his program with its level of intensity scare them away (ie Justin Boren = Seantrel Henderson)?

fraleyblue

When Rodriguez was hired I touched on this in Rodriguez's Profile In Heroism:

  Rivals Rank WV PA OH FL
2008 31 (currently) 1 2 2 4
2007 23 3 4 6 4
2006 52 0 5 3 4
2005 31 4 7 2 8
2004 47 1 6 4 2
2003 46 1 5 4 1
2002 37 0 5 4 2

That 2008 class would finish #23 as well, so there was a noticeable uptick in WVU's recruiting rankings towards the tail end of Rodriguez's career there. (The 2006 class was very small, and recruiting rankings are always biased towards large classes; that dip is an anomaly.) Bill Stewart and Doc Holliday (mostly Holiday) have continued that trend. How much of that is courtesy WVU's increased national profile and how much is on the supposed recruiting aces on WVU's new staff no one will ever know.

Meanwhile at Michigan, Rodriguez added nine recruits to Carr's final class and all of them except one or two, IIRC, had four stars on one of the two major sites. His second class finished #6 nationally after Rivals accounted for losses to academics and baseball and whatnot (cough cough Ole Miss). Rodriguez, clearly, likes high profile mofos about as much as any other coach around, and when positioned at a school like Michigan can do a pretty good job of acquiring said high profile mofos. The reputed intensity of the program might be a turnoff to some but to others, like Craig Roh, it's a selling point.

Long term I expect Rodriguez will recruit on about the same level as Carr did. This class isn't going to be a great one because of 3-9, not any desire or deficiency on Rodriguez's part.

More on that:

Hi, Brian:

Given our early season success, it is apparent that this season has more upside than most of us had anticipated – both in terms of wins and the corresponding (generally) positive media attention generated. In your opinion (e-pinion?), if we were to theoretically get to 9-10 wins (including a bowl game), will the fact that we took so many commits early have limited the upside of our recruiting class? It seems like a lot more guys who weren’t giving us a look prior to the season are now at least considering it, and we may or may not have room for everyone we would have liked to have taken.

Conversely, is it possible that OSU has limited the upside of their class by taking too few players prior to the season now that they are in a state of semi-turmoil? (Maybe I’m overestimating internet grumbling here, but the current pub can’t be doing great things with recruits.)
Apologies for the over-use of parentheses, and thanks in advance for any thoughts!

Go Blue!
Phillip Zinda ‘05

Well… yes, theoretically. But probably not really. I've followed recruiting a long time and it's almost an iron law that an implosion-type season will be followed by a relatively weak recruiting class.

Holding out in the hopes of turning your fortunes around doesn't help that much. With the accelerated recruiting timetable, kids you like but aren't great would go off the board and then you'd be hoping 1) your turnaround would happen like whoah and 2) there would be enough open-minded folk out there to fill up your class. Not likely in the current environment. I do expect that Michigan's turnaround will provide a small bump, but these days the relationships you build happen when players are juniors or younger, at summer camps early and summer visits and fall unofficials as juniors.

Dear Brian-

1) I am a little worried about the defense and time of possession in the spread offense. Do defenses on spread teams get more worn down (more plays, etc)? Are there examples of excellent defenses on spread teams from the past? I can't think of any off the top of my head.
2)  Has anyone attempted to empirically test the changes in noise level on the field after the lux boxes went up? I would imagine somebody has measured decibels in the past (although I wonder if decibels is the best measure of the impact of crown noise on an opposing team.
Thanks for all your hard work on this.

Niels Rosenquist

1) Do you count Florida or Oklahoma or Texas as spread teams? Last year Florida's defense was better than its offense. Oklahoma's warp-speed attack wasn't as successful but there are some false assumptions built into total yardage numbers. Oklahoma and their opponents averaged almost 13 possessions a game last year, 20% more than Texas did. Adjust for that reality and viola:

Oklahoma’s offense is now rated a more reasonable shade under 11% better than Texas’ offense. And whereas Texas’ defensive advantage was nearly 27% it is now just over 8% in the new analysis.

That still wasn't great, as Texas finished 51st in total defense, but how much of that had to do with the Big 12's offensive explosion last year? It's hard to tell.

As far as pace and time of possession and Michigan go: this year, 90-yard touchdowns or kick return touchdowns are going to result in defense fatigue, walk-ons hitting the field, and poor defensive performance. It's not a coincidence that the defense gave up two long touchdown drives immediately after Notre Dame had a long field goal drive and Stonum returned that kick. So, yes, the severe lack of depth this year might make it more sensible to keep things at a leisurely pace. Long term, though, powers should be doing what Oklahoma did last year. More possessions reduces overall variance by increasing the number of trials and makes it unlikely an inferior team can hang with you.

2) Not to my knowledge.

Hi Brian,

I'm not sure to what extent you've already addressed this, but I am wondering what your thoughts are regarding Devin Gardner next year.  From what I've heard/seen Gardner is a phenomenal athlete, and has recently improved his throwing motion to the point where I believe rivals has him the highest rated QB in the country.  I really appreciate what Tate has brought to the table this year, but I think he is limited by his physical abilities.  I don't think it's reasonable to sit Gardner just because Forcier is doing a good job if Gardner lives up to his potential.  Do you see a two quarterback situation in the future?  Assuming Forcier continues to play well, and Gardner keeps playing like the #1 QB recruit in the country, what do you foresee happening in the next 3 years at the quarterback position?

Thank you,

Chris Vandervoort
UM 2010

Michigan should try its hardest to redshirt Gardner next year. Getting two years of separation between him and the freshmen will be really important down the line. He's not likely to be better than Forcier fresh out of high school, especially if he doesn't enroll early. (Current status of that: maybe, maybe not.) In 2014 you have these choices at quarterback: fifth-year senior Devin Gardner or Anyone Else. I'm going with Gardner.

Assuming Michigan does manage to get a redshirt on the guy, in 2011 and 2012 he'll be available. At that point you probably turn Robinson into a bizarre hybrid of Antwaan Randle-El and Percy Harvin* and Gardner into Tim Tebow circa his freshman year. Forcier plays the Chris Leak role. Implementing a Michigan version of the Gator Heavy gets Gardner playing time, fills a potential hole in Michigan's offense, and promises the occasional awesome jump pass. Also… goal-line sets with both Forcier and Gardner on the field promise to be chaotic fun. Fade to Gardner? Wolverine Heavy? Hell, let's throw Robinson in there too and do a triple-reverse play action jump pass. WOOOOO.

*(Hhhyarrrrr! It has four legs and four arms and can run around the sun!)

After reading the Dinosaur Schematic Advantage and the Smart Football smackdown of Tressel, I've been thinking about what this means for the U-M/OSU rivalry in both the near and long term.  I know it's early to already be thinking about this year's game (then again, maybe it's never too early), but do you see this current Michigan team being close enough in talent to OSU to be able to win it based on home-field and schematic advantage?  There are obvious concerns with the defense and depth, but maybe Tressel isn't capable of fully exploiting them?

And for the long-term, do you believe that Rich Rod's innovation and tactical mind will be able to make up for the institutional advantages that OSU has (money, better home state, less competition for recruits in-state comes to mind) to give Michigan an edge in 2-3 years when the program has maximized its potential?  My best case scenario is a Carr over Cooper or Tressel over Carr -style domination eventually.  I would love to hear your (mostly speculative) thoughts.

Best,

Mike Forster, Class of '05

The short term in a word: no. Ohio State's good at lining up and out-executing folk they have a talent advantage over and that will be true in spades when their offense is on the field. And their defense is going to be very difficult for Michigan to handle with so many young kids everywhere and without a true deep threat on the roster (unless Stonum gets way better or Hemingway is faster than he seems).

In the long term: that is, indeed, the best case scenario. It's not likely to happen just because of math: both recent streaks have seen their share of flukes where the other team should have won but for life-on-the-margins type stuff. The edges of binomial distributions are uncommon. And those streaks were helped along by poor coaching from the other side of the aisle. Tressel may not be Urban Meyer but he's not Lloyd Carr over the last few years of his term. His decline phase is just beginning if it's beginning at all and at his age (56) he can probably coach another 8-10 years before becoming an anchor.

Comments

GoBlueScott

September 25th, 2009 at 11:49 AM ^

I think I need to ...

Assuming Michigan does manage to get a redshirt on the guy, in 2011 and 2012 he'll be available. At that point you probably turn Robinson into a bizarre hybrid of Antwaan Randle-El and Percy Harvin* and Gardner into Tim Tebow circa his freshman year. Forcier plays the Chris Leak role. Implementing a Michigan version of the Gator Heavy gets Gardner playing time, fills a potential hole in Michigan's offense, and promises the occasional awesome jump pass. Also… goal-line sets with both Forcier and Gardner on the field promise to be chaotic fun. Fade to Gardner? Wolverine Heavy? Hell, let's throw Robinson in there too and do a triple-reverse play action jump pass. WOOOOO.

... go to the bathroom. BRB

bronxblue

September 25th, 2009 at 12:02 PM ^

I am interested to see what happens to Denard in two years after the supposed redshirt of Gardner. At that point, he'll likely still be behind Forcier as the starter, and Gardner would be viewed as the future. Does that push him toward a new position, or does he settle into the Wolverine Heavy role mentioned before? It would seem that with his speed and toughness, he would have a much better chance of making it onto the field and into the NFL from the defensive backfield.

kgroff531

September 25th, 2009 at 1:44 PM ^

I have wondered the same thing. I am high on the idea of using him as a Harvin type hybrid position. With his speed and running vision, it would be hard not to keep him on the O-side. That being said...2 years is a loooong ways off. No way of knowing how he develops as a QB, how Gardner pans out or if Gardner even stays. I know one thing though, having to debate what the QB situation will be 2,3,4 years from now is a nice luxury that I didn't expect to have so soon.

StateSt09

September 25th, 2009 at 12:07 PM ^

"(money, better home state, less competition for recruits in-state comes to mind)"

I'm sure he meant better recruiting state but still-Ohio is not a better state than Michigan.

Section 1

September 25th, 2009 at 12:08 PM ^

I do understand what Brian is saying, and I don't disagree too much with his analysis.

But however you may want to interpret "this class", it seems to me that one recruiting class that gave us Forcier/Robinson, and another class that gives us Devin Gardner, are pretty darned good ones, if not, respectively, "a great one."

We might have thought that the OSU recruiting class that included Pryor was a "great one." Maybe so, but it isn't really all that clear. All of Tressel's recruits seem like pretty good recruiting classes. As do the early returns on RR recruiting at Michigan. Is "great" determined in kids' first and second years, when they are more "recruits" than they are products of the program? Or are they still "recruits" when they are upper classmen, and it is somewhat harder to tell raw h.s. talent from progress within the system?

wolverine1987

September 25th, 2009 at 12:16 PM ^

I really don't understand the guy who wrote that he wants to see Gardner over Forcier due to athleticism and what not. I would be THRILLED (major caveat: it's 3 games in etc. etc.) to see Forcier for the next four years provided he continues on this path, and honestly couldn't care less if anyone else plays QB for us--other than completely awesome possible two QB situations of course, and change of pace packages.

madvillian

September 25th, 2009 at 12:17 PM ^

I have a hard time seeing Gardner being the awesome game manager that Tebow is. I also have a hard time seeing Tebow running wild like I envision Gardner doing.

That said, the future looks bright at QB.

madvillian

September 25th, 2009 at 12:34 PM ^

I hear Michael Steele is a great game manager though.

Seriously though, early reports on Gardner are more Vince Young than Troy Smith (or Tebow).

You shouldn't assume stereotypes from a couple of throwaway sentences.

Ziff72

September 25th, 2009 at 12:33 PM ^

I'm officially tired of the Gardner talk. Kids looks great, kid sounds great, I'll be excited to see him play, but the had wringing over what he'll do when he's here, will he redshirt, will he decommit oh no oh my has got to stop. That email to Brian put me over the top. "I really appreciate what Tate has brought to the table this year, but I think he is limited by his physical abilities." Tate has played 3 games in his career and the guy already has him tapped out due to physical abilities. Which abilities are those?? To have freaky levels of poise, accuarcy, pocket awareness, work ethic and leadership or just the mundane speed to outrun the Notre Dame secondary?? Quaterback is not about speed spread or not. QB is about knowing the play, reading the defense and executing the play. Denard is much quicker than Gardner and we see what he can do with only a month of practices.....he can do the QB draw pretty good.

Enjoy the Moment!!

oakapple

September 25th, 2009 at 1:08 PM ^

It hurts him against a talented opponent who can make the Buckeyes pay. If the game gets out of hand, as it did last year, then it really doesn't matter.

On paper, the Buckeyes should beat Michigan easily this year. But rivalry games have a disproportionate tendency to turn out differently than people expect. The Wolverines' best chance is to keep it close, in which case Tressel could start playing the brand of conservative football that gives Michigan a chance.

DesHow21

September 25th, 2009 at 2:58 PM ^

Mich-Osu game in 2006 where it was 3rd and 1 (Osu ball) and they rushed to the line , spread the field and Beanie took it 50+ yards for a TD.

I was genuinely jealous of the buckeyes for their innovative coaching. Of course my point of reference was DeBOR(E)D.

I look at RR's team (not just him mind you) and thanks the heavens we have a true innovator guiding our program.

DesHow21

September 25th, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

"Tressel may not be Urban Meyer but he's not Lloyd Carr over the last few years of his term." -- Brian Cook

Wow, English and that other dude who was pushing him in the AD, just blew multiple veins at this statement.

Blue in Seattle

September 25th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

assuming he goes injury free for 3 years, I don't see why he wouldn't go to the NFL after his Junior year, unless he's never going to the NFL.

Denard will continue to gain in accuracy and decision making, and that pressure will be unbearable when he and Tate are Juniors, and I think eclipsing by his Senior year.

As much as kids want to play right away, I think more and more they understand the value of learning a system, refining/improving their techniques, and just in general letting their bodies grow for a year before putting it through the punishment of playing on the field every Saturday.

Tate is a freak of nature in that he's been trained for this position all his life. He had nothing to gain from being red-shirted. Robinson would have been red-shirted if he wasn't so freakin' fast, and surprisingly shown competence in his passing during camp, and in the game outside of throwing the long ball.

I guess I'm just saying Coach Rodriguez knows what he's doing, and he's stated Denard is a QB.