Mailbag: Absent Talent, Ferret Pushback, Lyons Impact, BASEBALL?, Clark Eval Comment Count

Brian May 12th, 2015 at 1:13 PM


skill position recruiting under Brady Hoke

Where is the talent?


Hoke's recruiting classes were consistently highly ranked, bringing in 4 and 5 star athletes coveted by other reputable football programs, yet I keep reading that we lag many Big Ten teams in talent. I find it hard to believe Hoke is this bad at talent evaluation and missed on this many athletes. What do you think of the innate talent on the roster? Is this a pure development issue, or was Hoke that unlucky or bad at identifying talent?

Peter from Horsham, PA

It could be there, but concealed by the Hoke chaos.

Last year's D was 14th in yards per play and returns eight or nine starters, depending on how you define the term. The only personnel losses were Raymon Taylor, Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, and Brennen Beyer; Michigan gets Desmond Morgan off an injury redshirt and adds Wayne Lyons.

It didn't feel like that good of a defense, though. Part of that was the quality of competition. Michigan is 41st in FEI despite having shiny regular stats. (MSU is one spot ahead of them in 40th.) Part of that was the offense putting the D out there so often in bad situations that they were going to crack eventually. Many, many games over the past two years have had a similar pattern. The defense scratches and claws to keep Michigan in it and then they collapse in the fourth quarter because they're out of juice.

The other part of that was Michigan going to a man press defense their team simply could not hack. Blake Countess was exposed for half the season before they went back to their old ways. Is that "talent"? In some ways. But Hoke took an All Big Ten sophomore and destroyed him because he couldn't see that he was being put in a terrible situation for his skill set.

Meanwhile on offense… I got nothing. With the exception of projected TE Devin Funchess, Michigan recruited horribly at QB and WR under Hoke. The Chesson/Darboh class was all right, but they appear to have missed on all three guys they took the next year and the jury is very much out on last year's class. QB… I want to throw a rock in Hoke's general direction every time I think about it.

Recruiting very badly at QB is a way to have your recruiting rankings far outstrip your ability to play football. It's only one spot. Michigan's piles of OL are five. Michigan has nothing to show from the Hoke era other than a three star they took early with little competition and Shane Morris, who it is now clear was wildly overrated by the services. Morris is the kind of boom-or-bust guy you can take happily in a Harbaugh context where the roster has five or six or seven QBs on it; he is a disaster waiting to happen if the two guys in front of him are Russell Bellomy and air and the guy behind him is a middling three star. Harbaugh set about fixing that, at least.

Meanwhile the places Hoke did best—the lines—are the ones where you have to wait the longest to get a return on your investment. OL are particularly unpredictable.

And, yes, I do think Hoke was pretty bad at IDing talent. Look at the Dukes/Jones/York WR class, or the performance of the tailbacks he brought in, or the Wangler/Ferns/Furbush/Winovich LB class. Do not get me started on the tailbacks. Look at the decision to move to press man.

Defensive line is an obvious exception, where Michigan's turned two three-star Glenville projects into real players, but that just re-confirms that Hoke was a pretty good DL coach who ended up in way over his head.

Uppity so-and-sos with their thesauri

Excuse me while I correct your nerdom with my (apparently) superior nerdom.  Ferret Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson would not be the correct name.  What you are looking for is Ferret Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson.  In the first Tecmo Bowl, Bo Jackson was just a man.  It is in Super Tecmo Bowl that he became an unstoppable run-circles-around-the-cpu-god.  Surely you did not mean to name the ferret after the lesser of the two Bo Jacksons.


Bro. I said I would brook no criticism about my asymptotically perfect ferret names, and yet here you are, brooking your ass off. Well, BEN, clearly "Ferret Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson" is clunky and unwieldy and stupid, as any six-year-old child could see. It is obvious to any Tecmo Bowl connoisseur that we are talking about the destroyer of worlds Bo Jackson, "Super" or not. Humor, prose, and lovemaking are all about omitting unnecessary flourishes. So too are ferret names.

[After the JUMP: Ben gets commuppanced hrrrrrd]


Sorry, Tecmo Super Bowl, that is.



Lyons impact.

With Wayne Lyons official, how will this impact the rotation in the secondary?  I have seen comments about pushing Countess to the nickel, but thought Peppers was supposed to be our hybrid nickel beast.  Depending on how it sorts out, I can see it impacting playing time for projected starters Countess, D. Hill, and James Ross plus our army of upperclassmen backup linebackers and safeties (let's redshirt more strategically, OK khaki brother?).

Jake from State Farm

If this is actually Jake from State Farm, please get your company to stop running that ad. It was fun for a bit. But it is now older than Craig Ross. Film some new spots, diversify your character. And so forth.

So, JAKE. Your question. There a three certain starters in the secondary: Jarrod Wilson, Jabrill Peppers, and Jourdan Lewis. Peppers looks like your nickelback in all situations. Lyons either starts as the boundary corner opposite Lewis, pushing Countess to spotting either starter, or does the spotting himself.

There's some possibility that he plays safety; I am leery of the possibility of a guy in a new system at safety, fifth year senior or not. I would take a Lyons move to S as bad news about Delano Hill and Jeremy Clark.

James Ross's playing time is more dependent on matchups than Lyons. If Michigan likes their second deep safety and their nickel, he'll get squeezed. Ross can move inside to compete with Morgan and Bolden in that case; even so someone is likely to end up the odd man out. From his perspective, that's a problem. From ours it's a good problem.


Any insight into how the Big Ten suddenly has 6 teams probably heading to the tournament, with two more on the bubble (including us)? And probably nationally seeded teams two years in a row? Does this season make you rethink your stance on the Big Ten going rebel from the NCAA for baseball?

Vasav Swaminathan

Wait, what?

Illinois is ranked #2? And Iowa #13? I admit I had not been paying attention, and that is bonkers. I have no idea how that is happening and I don't think anyone else does either. Best I could find in the Illinois blog world:

Specifically a pair of juniors, starter Kevin Duchene and closer Tyler Jay, have been standouts for Hartleb's squad. Duchene has a 0.74 ERA and for a starting pitcher that's just ridiculous. That means he's allowing less than one earned run per nine innings. And then there's Jay, who has compiled a 0.78 ERA (third-best in the nation) and a 0.63 WHIP (best in the nation).

On the offensive side of the ball, senior Casey Fletcher is hitting a team-high .350 average and has also driven in 28 runs at the plate this season. He was just named Big Ten player of the week after going eight-for-sixteen in just four games. The Illini lead the conference with 37 total home runs hit and senior power-threat David Kerian has hit 10 of them by himself. There are very few offensive categories that Illinois doesn't lead the conference in. If the Big Ten Tournament started tomorrow, the Illini would be the #1 seed.

That doesn't have much explanation in it, nor does it indicate if this is a fluke or not. Given the history of college baseball I lean towards fluke, because the fundamental force that prevents northern teams from competing seriously most of the time haven't and aren't changing: the weather. As long as the season starts in February, Big Ten teams are going to be on the road for months at a time.

Even if the Big Ten is doing better these days I'd love it if they gave the rest of the NCAA the bird and decided they were going to play through August, and with wood bats. These kids end up playing independent league ball during the portion of the summer they're forcibly idled, anyway, and it would give college towns some summer activity. It would also give the Big Ten Network something to show.

Clark evaluation.


Take the domestic violence factor out of the equation for the moment (which shouldn't be hard since it looks like that's what the Seahawks did), what did Frank Clark do to warrant being a second round pick?  He seemed to be mercurial on his production.  Is there something I'm missing here?


I was surprised, but I didn't think that pick was that crazy after thinking about it. You know, minus the domestic violence factor.

Clark suffered from problems on the interior line and at corner for much of last year. I've been going over the UFRs as I write the Hail To The Victors team preview, and there is a constant refrain in there: if someone could just cover someone or stay in their lane, Clark would be having a day. This clip was his year in a nutshell.

If Golson wasn't getting rid of the ball in rhythm because his first read was Will Fuller and Will Fuller was always open, Clark would have had a monster day.

Another factor: Michigan's young DTs would often get out of place and turn a Clark pressure into a scramble.

Clark got consistently good grades in UFR despite his lack of box score production. He displayed very good power and quickness. I get that the Seahawks thought he was worth a late second round pick on talent.


Space Coyote

May 12th, 2015 at 1:30 PM ^

What's wrong with that LB class? They've been on campus all of one year. Ferns transferred, Winovich took a stab at playing H-back this spring. So we're writing off a whole unit based on their true FR results?


May 12th, 2015 at 3:40 PM ^

They weren't the Hoke staff's first choices, other than Ferns.  They swung and missed, losing a bunch of guys to OSU and others.  The guys they got, they got later in the process after the A-listers were gone.  Ferns transferred.

Winovich had solid ratings and eventually landed an OSU offer (that seemed almost targeted at keeping him away from MIchigan as much as getting him to OSU) but his move to offense isn't confidence-instilling. Wangler was a legacy and came with questions about size and was projected by some to be a role-playing specialist. Yeah, he had the PSU offer but PSU wasn't exactly on top of their recruiting game in this time. Furbush was another "sleeper" deemed a tweener and weirdly/persistently projected to DE.

So, no, nobody should write them off, but at the same time the early returns are not very positive and the recruiting profiles/backstories themselves didn't engender much confidence.  It was the same with the WR class  -- "sure these guys are slow but...well, they're big I guess!" is fine enough reason to hold out some hope, but when they aren't getting any hype after a couple years on campus and get passed over, it's completely reasonable to not expect much.

At this point Michigan will be lucky to get one stater from that LB class - pretty disappointing given the 4 scholarships and roster need.  But yeah...plenty of time left caveat.


Yinka Double Dare

May 12th, 2015 at 1:41 PM ^

The bonkers thing with Illinois' baseball team is Tyler Jay is easily considered the best prospect, would certainly go in the top 10 if he was being used as a starter (he may even still end up going top 10), but for reasons unknown Illinois uses him out of the pen.


May 12th, 2015 at 1:48 PM ^

That makes way too much sense for any of the "suits" to make it happen. That's a great idea.

Also, of course Clark was drafted high, look at the worst thing a Michigan Man does in the NFL - he may have knowledge of questionable PSI! That's at least... twice as bad as domestic violence (Zoolander voice, and hopefully obvious sarcasm)


May 12th, 2015 at 2:00 PM ^

Duluth is home to one of those wood-bat Independent Summer League teams and it seems like a nice setup. FWIW they play something like 70 games from late-May to early August, with the bigger-college players joining a few weeks into the season.

I think some players may value joining a bus league like that, but then there's also something nice about being able to stay on campus and play. Places like Iowa City and Lincoln could develop a real summer fanbase, too, so distant from Major League teams. I guess part of the question is whether or not the NCAA would let a conference just fly alone like that.

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May 12th, 2015 at 2:18 PM ^

Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State all have minor league teams in town.  Penn State actually shares a field with them.  

There's also already wood bat leagues in the midwest for college players during the summer.  The Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League isn't the Cape Cod League, but it offers a place to play for many of Michigan's college teams already.  It would be interesting, and probably a financial payday for the wood bat league to play B1G teams.


May 12th, 2015 at 1:49 PM ^

The QB/WR classes have been awful.... hands down.

Some of it might've been coaching/development problems too, we may find out this season. Chesson has been a big disappointment to me bc he seems to always drop the ball. Darboh could break out and be that possession receiver we need to space the field with Canteen and Cole stretching it.

The LB's are very young and were behind starting upperclassmen, so you don't know what we have there yet.


Frank was always a constant threat to get into the back field for us. He could rush the passer and make stops in the run game. It's quite awful to hear what he did off of the field and I'm glad our staff was quick with their decision to dismiss him from the team. With that being said, you can see the talent on film that he has. Plays with a high motor, has a quickness about him, and can has NFL size for a 4-3 DE.

Hopefully that young man can make amends for his past given this opportunity for a second chance at life.


May 12th, 2015 at 2:07 PM ^

RPI has changed drastically to emphasize road wins.  It's helped the northern teams quite a bit.  As an example, the Missouri Valley conference is one of the strongest conferences in RPI this year by playing tough teams in the non-conference on the road.  The top 25 in RPI includes Dallas Baptist (who I've seen adn know are good), Missouri State, Radford, and Bradley.  What the hell is a Radford or a Bradley? 

Add that Nebraska and Maryland were two very solid adds in the last few years.  The B1G has had several big wins over big name programs this year.  

  • Illinois has wins over Coastal Carolina, and series wins over Oklahoma State and South Florida.  
  • Ohio State has a signature victory over ACC leader Louisville in the midweek.
  • Indiana took 2/3 from Stanford, split 2 with College of Charleston, swept Cal State Fullerton, and beat Louisville in the midweek.
  • Nebraska split with Fullerton as well and swept Florida Gulf Coast.  

All of those are pretty damn impressive wins. 

The big kicker though is how down the Big12 is.  They are looking at only having 2 tourney teams this year.  Texas is way down leaving just TCU and Oklahoma State in the running.  Tech has an outside shot, but its borderline.  Part of that is losing Texas A&M and Mizzou (granted they added TCU after that loss).  Baylor is down, Oklahoma is down.  They just aren't up there at the moment. 

There's some structural disadvantages yes, but the amount of money put into programs like Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, or anyone else in the B1G the last few years, the B1G is definitely showing some major improvements.  We've been a 2-3 bid league for a while, we're taking advantage of a down Big12 to grab another, and our recent success in facilities/adding good teams has lead to some better recruiting. 

For more in depth coverage, I suggest  They've amassed every major college baseball writer I have read over the last 15 years into one site.  Aaron Fitt (formerly of Baseball America), Eric Sorenson (ESPN/CBS), Kendall Rogers (Yahoo!), Mark Ethridge (SEBaseball), and Michael Baumann (Grantland) are just a few .  "O.M.G., it's amazing" is probably the best way to describe it.  They do regular features of different areas of the country along with national storylines.  

For B1G fans, I'd suggest starting right here:…

For a little older:

Season update from about a month ago:

Early season/preseason about how B1G has spent big on baseball

If you really wanted to stretch, you could blame the huge drop in home runs on some of the recent success, but they've adjusted the seams on the ball to make up for the deadening of the bats and we've still had success as home runs have come back up.  I don't think any the structural changes with the pitch clock have really offered any help to northern teams specific, so there isn't much to draw from there either.  

So yeah... BASEBALL



May 12th, 2015 at 2:35 PM ^


Humor, prose, and lovemaking are all about omitting unnecessary flourishes.


Out of curiosity, what constitutes "unnecessary flourishes" in the lovemaking melieu?


May 12th, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

I had read Clark wasa mid 3rd-rounder, so I guess late 2nd isn't crazy.  His production was hurt by the rest of the line's issues, but at the same time it always felt like he had one good move and then it was kinda over for Clark.  Part of that was QBs being able to move, but it also felt at times that he could run himself out of a play.  But again, based on talent you take a chance on a guy like him.

Hoke's skill recruiting was always weird to me when it came to QB, but I do think there is a bit of revisionist history regarding some other skill positions.  Drake Harris could have been an elite WR had be not been injured, Green and Smith were both highly-regarded RBs that Michigan snagged over lots of other worthy suitors, and guys like Butt and Bunting are the type of higher-ceiling offensive TEs that ND keeps churning out.  So while I buy player development being a bit issue, it does seem like Hoke had a decent eye for skill position, at least on the surface.


May 12th, 2015 at 8:39 PM ^

Fair points re: Hoke. I think the main issue with the skill-position talent was the lack of *talent*--that is, abilities that aren't commonly possessed. Speed and quicks weren't a priority, so we have next to none. It's funny: The one RB of that sort they brought in (Drake) has looked like the best one.

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May 12th, 2015 at 4:37 PM ^

"The only personnel losses were Raymon Taylor, Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, and Brennen Beyer; Michigan gets Desmond Morgan off an injury redshirt and adds Wayne Lyons."


May 12th, 2015 at 8:08 PM ^

Because I want my back seven to include Jabrill, Jarrod, Jourdan and James.  Too bad Peppers was injured last year or we might've been looking at Jabrill Jarrod Jourdan James Jake.

Which incidentally is an amazing name for a ferret.