Watch Michigan lose to Michigan State on Saturday was frustrating and somewhat difficult to put into perspective. We want to believe that the coaches are capable of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their players so the players can successfully execute. We also have to have the right players. It seems that we are still not where we want to be in terms of talent, coaching and understanding. How far away are we before we have the right combination?
Let's just get to the big question first. Michigan is still staring at the crater where their senior class is supposed to be, and reeling from Rich Rodriguez's inept offensive line recruiting. The 2011 class is also not spectacular, as it was a few in-state true believers, Blake Countess, and guys with little recruiting profile thanks to Rodriguez's sinking profile and Michigan giving Hoke three weeks to pile ten guys in. The talent on this team is mostly underclass.
That will not be the case on next year's defense. A projected starting lineup:
- DL: Clark (Sr), Beyer (Sr), Pipkins (Jr), Henry (Rs So)
- LB: Morgan (Sr), Ross (Jr), Ryan(Sr)
- DB: Countess (Rs Jr), Taylor (Sr), Wilson (Jr), J. Clark (Rs So)
This defense is an okay unit still beset by personnel issues. Snaps at NT not given to Quinton Washington against MSU went to… Jibreel Black. Yup. 250-pound Brennen Beyer is now the starting SDE. Before that the existence of Black was the only thing separating the situation the SDE and 3TECH positions from the one Michigan is dealing with at guard: one sophomore with a middling recruiting profile (Bryant on OL, Heitzman on DL) and a pile of freshman who are still freshman no matter how touted. I expect Michigan's defense to take a significant step forward from good but not great to maybe great next year.
The situation on offense is much more frightening. Michigan hasn't been able to move snap one away from Fitzgerald Toussaint, which is an indictment of Michigan's recruiting or development or both there. Michigan hasn't had a QB who wasn't massively turnover prone since Borges arrived, and there are zero seniors on next year's OL. Does a starting line of Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis-Braden featuring four sophomores and a junior who is a former walk-on entice? No.
Michigan's probably a 9-3 team next year and then you're putting all your eggs in Shane Morris's basket at QB the year after. So… not for a while.
[After the JUMP: oh good the "when can we fire this guy" tag is back. Yost: not really Yost.]
I once asked you a question regarding what would it take you to abandon your support for Rich Rod. You were kind enough to post it and respond.
I'd like to ask the same question for Hoke and company.
All I look for as a fan is player development. I figure Michigan will win and lose, but as long as the players are developing and they put in a strong effort I am happy. I don't expect perfection or anywhere near it. The players are still kids and I don't lose sight of that fact like so many others. But I just want to see them get better as the year goes. Compare the joke State was on offense at the beginning of the year with a crap line and few highly recruited players and look how Dantonio develops them. There is a plan. There is clear training that the players absorb. He molds them. The players clearly improve as a unit. Does Hoke do that? Is there evidence of that?
I don't know for sure, but just like with Rich Rod I just don't see the development.
Yet I don't feel as critical toward Hoke as so many others do. I think it has to do with recruiting acumen. But the thought that Hoke can't develop his players has been nagging at me.
What's your opinion? Specifically, what would it take you to abandon your support for Hoke? Do you think the player development is there? Why has Sparty been able to develop lower ranked players on offense (ignore their great D for the purpose of this question) into a more consistent superior unit than Michigan?
Thank you -
If we're comparing things to MSU, Dantonio started out 7-6, 9-4, 6-7 and then had an 11-win, turnover-fueled season of fortune that ended with a 49-7 loss to Alabama. In year five is when they actually seemed like a double-digit-win team, nearly winning the Big Ten and beating Georgia in the Outback. Hoke got off to a faster start thanks to Michigan's own lucky-as-hell 11-win season but right now he's in a similar doldrums as the previous guy's crappy late recruiting enters their upperclass years. Dantonio had a similar attrition issue because just about the only good players in JLS's last class were JUCOs.
Dantonio was also hired in late November instead of January, giving him more time to assemble a first class that would include late pickups Kirk Cousins and BJ Cunningham. Michigan's QB from their first class was Russell Bellomy—slight difference there—and they took a pass on Devin Lucien. (Who has nine catches for UCLA this year, FWIW.)
It takes time to assemble a winning program when you're coming from a botched transition, and I'll take a pass on another transition just yet.
What would it take for me to want Hoke gone? A lot. Nothing that can happen this year. Michigan could get bombed five straight times to close out the year and it would still make more sense to forge ahead instead of try another transition. In that case I'd probably be advocating for some staff changes, but haven't we seen enough of what happens when you change course wildly after three years of trying something?
And assuming there's notable progress on the field from a team that is shedding most of the baggage associated with that disastrous senior class, I would advocate a fifth year. So much of what's going on now is Rich Rodriguez and Mike Rosenberg and Dave Brandon's fault.
Hoke's recruiting does buy him quite a bit in my book. He's stabilized the program with the 2012 class, which still has 24 of 25 guys on campus; this year's 27 is all present and accounted for, and Michigan is finally entering a year in which they are struggling to add 18 guys to a single class. He's winning recruiting battles with powers and managing his roster sensibly*. You can see the direction things are going in terms of retention and recruiting stars.
MSU guys are good because they're around all the time. MSU has reached Wisconsin levels of retention, redshirting damn near everyone and keeping almost all of them around for four or five years. Michigan has taken a step and a half towards that.
Are people developing? Individuals, surely. Clark is coming along this year; Beyer has developed; I like both ILBs; Wilson and Taylor are moving forward. Gallon's great, and Funchess is now a weapon even if he can't block. The DL has taken a step back but I'm liking Willie Henry a lot.
Some units are not. Michigan hasn't developed a tailback since… Chris Perry? (Mike Hart came fully-formed out of high school.) Fred Jackson's talent evaluation has been a running joke for years now and it gets less and less funny every year; Michigan has no one who can pick up a blitz and is getting zero from two touted freshmen. Thomas Rawls is a ghost even after Drake Johnson's ACL tear.
The offensive line is hard to judge because of the recruiting crater but has been handled awfully—IMO Michigan is better off if they just stick with Glasgow-Miller-Kalis across the front and hope, and every snap on which a guy flips to an unfamiliar position in practice is a waste of time. The tight ends have almost gone backwards in terms of their blocking and Michigan insisted on using them extensively for half the season; AJ Williams's suspension for the MSU game is like seeing Robbie Findley pick up two yellows in the World Cup. Special teams have also been a consistent disaster from dinosaur punts to erratic punters to Michigan's horrible return units.
If Michigan does end up in a spot where a shakeup is required—emphasis on required, as that's the only way someone's getting forced out—the heat would fall mostly on Funk, Jackson, and Ferrigno. And Borges, who in addition to the we're-stretch-we're-power-we're nothing executive decisions that have exacerbated the line issues has fielded a turnover-mad QB for the third straight year.
*[For the most part. Not taking a QB in 2013 was a mistake.]
Imagine it's January and Hoke has to break it to the players that Borges and Funk were sent off to frolic around a nice farm. Who are valid candidates for OC/OL that Michigan would be able to hire next year? Of course, we'd all love to have an Art Briles, Gus Malzahn, or Chip Kelly heading up the offense, but that's not happening. Who would choose to leave their current positions for the Michigan job? Loeffler? Matt Canada? Ron Zook (just kidding I know he was a defensive coach)? Lane Kiffin (maybe just kidding, but a total buttwipe)? Before we call for heads to roll, I think some nominations are in order.
This is not happening, man. Let's start with that. And I don't know anything about OL coaches; nobody knows anything about them except their OL coach, who they usually hate. As far as OC: given Hoke's predilections I wouldn't get your hopes up if they center around the Briles/Malzahn/Kelly axis. That has about as much chance of happening as Al Borges getting replaced by Tony Franklin again.
If I'm picking from realistic candidates who might be available, I'm looking at Nebraska's Tim Beck. He has an option system that's one coherent whole and has been the productive half of the Cornhusker outfit for the last few years without amazing talent at the helm. He is also likely to be a free agent after the year. You'd have to figure out if he can run a passing-oriented offense first since Shane Morris isn't going to be running around like a maniac. But this is all fantasyland anyway.
I know your mailbox is full with football questions but I have a a couple hockey related questions.
First, after watching the Tech series Nagelvoort is clearly a high caliber goalie saving 56 of 59 shots (95% save percentage). Early in the season Racine looked solid with a 93% save percentage in two and half games before going down with a groin injury. If you are Red, what do you with the goalie situation? Do you split series a la 2011 with Hunwick on Friday and Hogan on Saturday until one emerges? Ride the hot hand with Nagelvoort or go back to the presumed starter with Racine?
Second, I have been a student ticket holder for the past 3 seasons. I hear a lot about the "glory days" of Yost can you talk about what exactly made those years so much better? Are the cheers stale? Is it purely an attendance issue? Did the renovations take away from the "aura" of Yost?
Thanks for the insight.
Sir. I love you. You are the best.
GOALIE STUFF: Racine is on quite a streak himself; I think at the very least when he is ready to play you have to go to a platoon. A lot of teams have done this; I remember going back to ND and Miami stats when previewing them and noting that they had two goalies who had split the games near-evenly. You don't have that much data on either guy; it seems like at this point you should give each guy one game on a weekend until such time as it seems one of them has separated themselves.
This is an excellent situation to be in. I mean… last year versus this year.
YOST STUFF: Hey man I don't want to harsh on you. Those students who are in the building nightly singing O Canada the 10 minute mark are my guys. I love that. Hagelin flag, etc.
Back in the day the entirety of that side of the ice was students, and there were about 30-40% more seats available before two different renovations, both of which screwed over the students. The first added that overhang for people who like to spend lots of money to not attend hockey games. (You probably don't know this since you're directly under them but the club seat section is never more than 50% full. Never.) That instantly cut out 3-4 rows and made about 4 more crappy seats where you had to duck to see anything, and made a big chunk of the student section almost separate from the rest of the arena. I was back there one year. It was awful.
The second stripped out most of the glass-level seats and altered the row structure such that there is very little student presence behind either of the benches. Back in the day, the oldest, meanest students sat behind the opposing bench and said horrible things about the opposition on the ice such that it was a not-infrequent occurrence for the parents of those players to trundle back into the student section trying to punch someone. This was scary and ridiculously awesome. It probably couldn't last. It hasn't.
Combine that with hostility to the penalty box cheer (band playing over it, Red exhorting it to stop) and the student section has necessarily gotten way less weird and unique and awesome over the past decade. About 80% of this is on the athletic department, and about 80% of that 80% was the Bill Martin department. They looked at SI articles describing the student section's cheer as a blight instead of a treasure and reacted accordingly. They've been crapping on the students ever since. None of this is actually the students' fault, except insofar as they were unable to come up with completely clean cheers that would show up in SI.
(The other 20% was that season-ending game where the dancing spread to the entire section, and now the student section is a bunch of FUN PEOPLE who LIKE CANDY and LIKE DANCING and LIKE FUN instead of terrible twisted misanthropes taking their frustrations on life out on innocent student athletes. Some people.)
The cost is becoming apparent. These days the student section is probably a quarter of what it was at its heyday and the corresponding drop in enthusiasm is obvious. In the heyday you knew that it was a football Saturday because the game was relatively muted, and you knew that Michigan had lost when the crowd was barely alive; after Saturday's game there was basically no difference in crowd enthusiasm from Friday. Yost is just another arena now.