Mailbag: Turkmenistan, Safety Moves, Recruiting Feels, Toughness

Submitted by Brian on August 21st, 2014 at 12:33 PM

I'm in Turkmenistan. Seriously.


My name is Matan (Michigan '09) and I am a huge fan of MGoBlog.  I am currently driving 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia in a beat up little car as part of a for-charity roadtrip. 

A couple months ago (and two years ago), you posted a picture of the "Door to Hell" in Turkmenistan on the blog.  We figured we'd put the Michigan flag on it and claim it for the MGoBlog community. 

The second picture...well...when starring hell in the face, you might as well have some fun.

Go Blue!




It's always nice when someone explains why we got that one hit from Turkmenistan. Papua New Guinea, you're next.

Hey Brian,

I am of the type that I really don't care about ANY info about the skill positions that is coming out of camp because it is pretty clear that this team will only go as far as the offensive line will take them. The chemistry issues on the team last season were well documented and some have been more specific and direct, that there were chemistry issues and a lack of cohesion on the O-Line. With that being said, is there any truth to this and may it be better for this team to have an entire O-Line with youth so that they collectively progress together?


That's a bit of a stretch. I'd think that having an older guy next to you who could explain why you screwed up would accelerate the learning process for the younger folk. Where that kind of thing might pay off is a year or two down the road; this year it's just going to add to struggles.

I've dismissed "chemistry issues" as they may apply to last year's line, but there's two kinds of assertion in that bucket and I'd like to disavow one but not the other. The one I think is pretty unlikely to have had a major impact: Taylor Lewan supposedly being a jerk. At worst this slowed the ability of younger linemen to progress, and probably not much.

However, if by "chemistry issues" you mean the offensive linemen not having a good idea of what the guy next to him is going to do, I very much buy that as an explanation for why Michigan couldn't get yard one on the ground. So what I can offer is this: if the line remains stable through the year and reps the same offense throughout they will get better as we go, and possibly much better. Their relative youth should mean they improve faster than older players.

Meanwhile, moving guys around is going to be less of an issue if Michigan does focus on inside zone as their base play. Positional responsibilities are a lot closer in zone offenses—nobody pulls, everybody frequently executes doubles that send one or the other OL to the LB level depending on what the player in front of you does.

Unfortunately they're probably going to start as a pile of suck. Judge them by what their pile looks like at the end of the year. Maybe it'll be okay!

[After THE JUMP: safety moves, a guy who is not taking this mailbag as seriously as he should, recruiting feels]

Moving guys to safety?

With what seems like great depth at the CB position (Countess, Taylor, Stribling, Lewis, Peppers, etc); do you think the coaches missed an opportunity for one of them to learn S in spring practice to try and get the best DBs on the field in the fall?  What CBs are best suited to move to the safety position?  Who would you look at moving?

Nah. I do think Michigan apparently turning down a consensus four star safety recruit last year was unwise, but as we saw last year with Courtney Avery, moving cornerbacks to safety is a dodgy business when they're of the short and quick variety. Safeties have to hit and tackle; they're different players. That goes double now that Michigan's cornerbacks are fiendish man press guys.

A couple of guys from Michigan's CB corps could play some safety, but only free safety in Michigan's new-look D. Dawson and Stribling could deputize for Wilson; they're awkward fits for the box-plunging strong safety. Well, almost all of them are awkward fits.

The one who isn't: Peppers, obviously. But they seem set on having him as their nickel, which makes sense since that is essentially a starting position in modern football, and then gradually easing him into the boundary corner job.

I would be more comfortable with another solid safety option, but they do have three guys competing for one spot and should be able to find someone acceptable there.


It seems as though Coach Hoke has been emphasizing toughness since he got here, but recent comments seem to indicate he is not yet satisfied with the level of toughness.

Are there better ways for Coach Hoke to execute on his emphasis of toughness? 

Perhaps he could be more physical?  It sounds as though the emphasis on toughness has been sufficiently verbalized.  Or maybe he's not consistent enough with his emphasis on toughness.  If Coach Hoke more consistently executed his emphasis on toughness in a more physical way, do you think we could rush for more than 3.3 yards per attempt in 2014?



I don't think you are taking this mailbag entirely seriously, Scott.

Recruiting: how are the feels?

Michigan went through a really rough stretch of negative recruiting news where they failed to sign any recruits and lost the two highest profile members of their class for next season.  But over the last few weeks they've signed highly rated players at  RB, WR, and TE along with a solid QB recruit. 

Given the negativity you and many of your readers felt toward the program earlier in the year, how do you feel now about the recruiting status of the program?

Yeah, there was that period when Michigan suffered a couple of high profile decommits and it felt like the one bulletproof aspect of Hoke's tenure here might be falling apart under the weight of TFL after TFL. It was a bad time.

Then Hoke recovered rather spectacularly, sweeping the top three recruits in the state and picking off a couple of out-of-region commits from VA CB Garrett Taylor and CT TE Chris Clark, both top 100 talents. On Friday, NC DE Damien Roseboro is almost certainly going to join them as guys with no particular connection to Michigan who could have gone almost anywhere but landed in Ann Arbor.

Michigan is a bit fortunate that this class is a small one—it's always easier to find 15 guys instead of 25. Even so, to put up that unwatchable season and then have 8/9 non-kicker recruits be composite four-stars* after three high profile commits is extremely impressive. Hoke's recruiting is truly bulletproof, and that should be factored into any "can we fire this guy" discussion that may happen after the season.

*[Oddly, Alex Malzone is listed as a composite three-star by 247 despite having four stars on all four sites. I assume that's a glitch.]

Basketball recruiting feels?

First, the disclaimer - all hail John Beilein!  Nearly everything he's done in the last three years has been golden and I have total faith in him as the leader of our program.  With that being said, am I wrong in thinking that recruiting has been a bit of a disappointment lately? 

Coming off the national championship run, a run-away conference title, two straight years as the top offense in the country, and five early entries into the NBA draft - wouldn't you think we'd be challenging for the top 30 players more consistently? 

I know we get mentioned for some of them and Chatman is a highly rated player, but the last four players to sign with the program (MAAR, Dawkins, Teske, Robinson) are extremely low rated.  I have already talked myself into their talents and think they will fit well into the depth of this team......but where is the star?  Where is the next NBA prospect going to come from?  How should we judge the state of recruiting moving forward with the big fish still in the sea?  


I think you can feel a wee bit disappointed that Michigan didn't lock in a highly-rated guard in the 2014 or 2015 class, as Devin Booker, Luke Kennard, and James Blackmon amongst others escaped Michigan's clutches. Michigan had some bad luck there as various UK recruiting misses put Booker on their radar and sometimes you're just going to lose to Kentucky.

But they probably could have had Jalen Coleman if they didn't think Robinson was a player, and at this point if Michigan thinks someone's a player any reaction other than "if you say so, it is probably true" is irrational. Aubrey Dawkins already seems like he set to exceed expectations. Meanwhile, I wouldn't lump Teske in with the sleepers. He is likely to be a four-star kid most places as soon as the next round of rating updates.

Finally: look to 2016, young man. It takes time to get in with the big recruits from the start, and 2016 is a class where Michigan is not just after a couple of top guys who are fits but a half dozen: Winston, Thornton, Battle, Langford, Leaf, Murray, Goodin. If they do lock down the potentially monster 2016 class they could, all complaints will be silenced.



August 21st, 2014 at 12:52 PM ^

Regarding basketball recruiting, it's unfair for fans to expect a big haul after the NC appearance. Basketball recruiting is a completely different than football. Basketball recruiting cycle starts much, much earlier than football. It's nearly impossible to flip an elite blue chip recruit to pick a school that is 2 years away from signing day. It takes 3-4 years for it to take effect for the elite blue chip recruits to take a serious look at a school. I'm not surprised that it didn't happen for 2014 and 2015 class for this reason. 2016 is where the effect from the NC really takes place.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


August 21st, 2014 at 1:16 PM ^

I think it's all the players out of Michigan getting drafted in the NBA.  College basketball is big, but not as big relative to the NBA as college football (a phenomenon unto itself) is to the NFL.  And there are fewer players to boot.  It's not the players we're getting; it's the players we're losing and how we're losing them.

Any HS kid looking to go pro isn't planning on playing in college for more than a couple years.  The NCAA tournament is nice but they have their sights set on the NBA, and Beilein is turning Michigan into a gottdamn pro factory.  I don't know how basketball recruiting works, but kids aren't tough to figure out.  I'm somewhat surprised the last draft hasn't had an immediate effect.

That said Beilein über alles, so at this point he could recruit a 5'3" guy from Pawkatukacutt and I'd consider the burden of proof on everyone else to convince me why it's a bad idea.

Blue Mike

August 21st, 2014 at 1:59 PM ^

But the point isn't that the recent success both on the court and in the draft haven't had an effect.  It is that they haven't had an effect YET.  Brian has said it before as well:  basketball recruiting is a longer process than football recruiting.  Even when the went to the NC game, the talk was that the rewards would be reaped in 2015 if things fell right, or more likely 2016 and beyond.

It does seem weird, since most kids change commitments and are only in school for a couple of years at this point, but I think Michigan is just getting to the big boys table recruiting-wise.


August 21st, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

Other then Mitch Mcgary, none of the other players that have been drafted were rated in the top 50 propescts of their class at the time of their commitment. Arguably next year's go to guy and hopeful NBA prospect (Caris Levert) was a 3 star that was headed to Ohio University. Yet we have still had 5 draft picks and have been to the final game and elite 8 the last two year. So I think people need to take a chill pill. On top of that Beilien himself has said that he doesn't want the one and done players. In a lot of cases that is going to eliminate some of those top guys (pretty much Kentucky's entire roster) that just want to come play for 1 year and be gone. So I wouldn't look for Beilien to make a drastic change in his recruiting. Will you see a little uptick in some high quality guys...YES. But don't expect a loaded recuriting class like a Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina every year either.


August 21st, 2014 at 1:18 PM ^

As long as UM stays high in the real rankings, I don't care about recruiting rankings. Yes, winning gets easier with Top10 players... but if Beilein can keep winning with his current seemingly underrated recruits, I don't care if he never gets those Top 20 players.


August 21st, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

"blue chippers" that are the glaringly obvious one-and-dones as we'd like because they know Beilein and his staff will make sure they go to class and do their homework. I truly believe that the large majority of the top targeted recruits all plan on staying no more than two years at the very most, and just don't give a shit about the education part of school because they're completely focused on the NBA.

I believe this also applies to many of the top hockey recruits, too; playing college hockey is just a very temporary way station on their way to the NHL... or riding a bus in the AHL.


August 21st, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

unless by true blue-chipperes you mean the top 10-15 players in the recruiting rankings. But you can easily get several top 100 guys that are committed to a program and will stay 3-4 years. You don't have to get all McDonald's All-American kind of players to still get great players, and most to all of them gladly will stay a few years. 


August 21st, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

I still dont get turning down Montae Nicholson.  I went back and looked at  lot of stories around the issue and obviously we are not insiders but no one could really figure it out.  He is now at MSU and other than Malik McDowell and Craig Evans (the guy Wisconsin did not admit due to academics but MSU gladly gobbled up) getting the most hype out of their freshmen.  Narduzzi is basically foaming at the mouth over this guy's potential. Dude is 6'2, 209 as a freshman and a state champion in track.  They are talking about him eventually getting some playing time at corner and even WR for a few snaps per game down the road - sounds familiar. 

This feels like one we are going to be on the wrong side on.


August 21st, 2014 at 2:54 PM ^

Way awesome. Not quite on the same scale as an unobstructed, open pit to hell, but I had similar thoughts about camping in Canadian national parks as compared to U.S. national parks - far fewer railings and restrictions in Canada. Probably has a lot to do with fewer numbers of visitors.


August 21st, 2014 at 10:14 PM ^

i'll just throw in that the national parks in alaska felt completely different than other US national parks i have visited. instead of instructing you about all the different rules, dangers, limitations, etc., the signs advised how to react to a bear (try to fight a black bear, play dead if it's a brown bear). you can get dropped off in the middle of denali national park and they encourage you not to follow where others have gone, so that paths aren't created. it was pretty remarkable how different it felt.


August 22nd, 2014 at 3:02 PM ^

DIctatorships are not exactly known for giving a rat's ass about the safety of their people.

I'm just surprised there isn't a giant gold statue of Niyazov taking a huge dump into the Door of Hell.  Dude was all about golden statues and self-veneration.


August 21st, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

We will never know why Hoke passed on S Montae Nicholson who by all acoounts is now tearing it up at MSU.  IMO this was the worst player personnel decision Hoke made in his 3+ years.


August 21st, 2014 at 3:40 PM ^

I disagree and think it's very likely.  If Peppers, Lewis, (and maybe Stribling) are indeed superior players that emerge into starting roles, then you're talking about Countess and/or Taylor sitting on the bench while somone out of Hill/Clark/Thomas try to find their way.  The realities of sitting a very good veteran player while "acceptable" sees the field will eventually settle in and we'll see positions change. (This all assumes the hype of Lewis and Peppers is legit...)

The Avery comparison isn't particularly relevant because Countess and Taylor are clearly better players.  Moreover, they seem to be better at tackling, specificially.  Avery always seemed like an awkward fit at Safety - the move seemed to be based on need. Most of the NFL's best safeties are 6' or less, so it's seems unlikely we have to have a pseudo-LB type, especially with all the spread teams we face.

UM Indy

August 21st, 2014 at 4:15 PM ^

"Sometimes you're just going to lose to Kentucky."

Shakes fist at either Aaron or Andrew Harrison, whichever of the indistinguishable two hit that 3


August 21st, 2014 at 4:55 PM ^

The last thing I'm worried about is basketball recruiting.  Belein is an elite identifier of under the radar talent and I think you would be hard pressed to find any other coach who could've gotten the results Coach B did last year after losing what he did.  Everyone is expecting the team to have a more difficult time this year, but if anyone can get this team on a run, it's Belein.