Michigan Museday Wore Red Just This Once

Submitted by Seth on June 27th, 2012 at 8:28 AM


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The highly rated 2012 and 2013 (barring mass decommitments) classes have us all aflutter these days, so much so that we have to keep reminding each other most of these guys won't play a down for several years. Mentally placing them all in starring roles by 2016 is the classic recruiting fan's error—some work out, many end up overrated, plenty don't get to the end of their eligibility. Who knows how many will actually redshirt? I thought I'd try to answer that.

Why We Do It or Don't. Well, the obvious: would you rather have an 18-year-old who joined the team just weeks ago, or a 22-year-old who's been with the team for four years? The biggest reasons for the team not to redshirt a guy is when they think he's likely to be NFL-ready in four seasons, or if he's needed right away.

Then the human element comes in: Kids arrive needing to lose fat, needing to become accustomed to the rules that now govern their lives. Meaning no offense to Brackinses or Sarantii, but sometimes you bring in a guy because he's a good teammate (cough cough … BestIMG_1602of Kelly Baraka) and can help on special teams now but whose ceiling is such you highly doubt you'll renew his 5th. Players who came for the education will plan on moving on after four years. Players who came to play football will grate about being on the bench when they're better than the guy getting playing time (why Urban Meyer is going around pretending like he's the only coach who "plays the best players.") (Upchurch----->)

Coaches with three years to prove themselves will fire every bullet in the chamber to survive the current gunfight, not the one in four years. No coach in the country will hold back Desmond Morgan for just the hope of a 2015 Desmond Morgan, or at least not unless he's got a bunch of 2015 Desmonds on hand already. And there's the rub: the only way to have that luxury later on is to have the luxury already.

Historical Trend. Redshirting is a practice much older than my fan memory can take me. The history of serial redshirting freshmen is hard to track down but it seems to be exactly as old as the five years to play four rule, which was a response to wild old days in the '20s and '30s when teams were stocked with nigh professionals.

WWII screwed everything up as servicemen swapped schools to be at whatever camp their service commanded, then came back from war as 26-year-olds with eligibility. The mess clears out by 1960, which class had four players—quarterback Forest Evashevski, guard John Marcum, center Bill Muir, and tackle John Yanz—make it to a fifth year. None from the class of 1961 were on the '65 roster; five of the '62 freshmen made it to '66. There's your "good old days" baseline. Let's put that against the era I can at least kind of check against memory (big HT to Mike Desimone, whose wheel I have reinvented):

Class Total RS'ed % of Class 5th Yr % of Class
1993 23 17 73.9% 4 17.4%
1994 22 19 86.4% 17 77.3%
1995 19 14 73.7% 10 52.6%
1996 20 14 70.0% 6 30.0%
1997 18 10 55.6% 8 44.4%
1998 19 10 52.6% 9 47.4%
1999 22 19 86.4% 14 63.6%
2000 18 13 72.2% 8 44.4%
2001 21 15 (+1) 71.4% (76.2%) 8 38.1%
2002 20 14 70.0% 12 60.0%
2003 17 9 52.9% 5 29.4%
2004 24 18 75.0% 9 37.5%
2005 24 13 (+2) 54.2% (62.5%) 7 29.2%
2006 21 11 (+1) 52.4% (57.1%) 8 38.1%
2007 23 11 (+3) 47.8% (60.9%) 10 43.5%
2008 25 14 (+1) 56.0% (60.0%) 8 32.0%
2009 23 14 60.9% (10) 43.5%
2010 27 11 40.7% (7) 25.9%
2011 20 10 50.0% (8) 40.0%
AVG 21.4 13.7 63.3% 8.8 41.8%

Those parenthetical +'s are medical hardship redshirts or mid-career transfer years given to players from those classes who weren't redshirted initially, e.g. the three for 2007 are Woolfolk, Hemingway and Threet. In chart form (click embiggens):


The slightly different shade of blue for the 2009-'11 classes are the guys on track to play five years; they won't all. We're still looking at relatively small groups of redshirt seniors for the next few years, as cascades of attrition forced a lot more guys to play early who otherwise wouldn't have.

You can see what I mean about cascades. When Michigan was really humming, only about 30% of the freshmen were playing right away. That became more like 50% in the Late Carr era, and then peaked at 60% during the Year of Whatever Sticks. In the middle of that you can see the '97 and '98 classes were, for their time, anomalies for playing 8 or 9 true freshmen.

Who those freshmen were is instructive:

1997: Demetrius Smith, William Peterson, Pat McCall, Ray Jackson, Mo Williams, James Whitley, Anthony Thomas, and DeWayne Patmon

1998: David Terrell, Drew Henson, Justin Fargas, Marquise Walker, Todd Howard, Larry Foote, Hayden Epstein, Walter Cross, and Evan Coleman

That's three cornerbacks, six running backs, two linebackers, and a lot of guys listed at or near the top for their position coming out of high school.

Positional Redshirting. You don't need me to tell you some positions get more redshirts than others. Positions where weight matters—defensive line, offensive line, tight ends, and linebackers—should be more likely to see redshirts since very few people, even in the early-growth-spurt-athletic-freak category, can safely put on BCS-level muscle by 18. Those that demand a high level of developed knowledge and skills—quarterback, center, safeties, middle linebackers—might be a secondary category. Receivers and cornerbacks have a lot to learn and do need size but those are secondary to physical traits. And then there's running backs, who regress/retire from the NFL before 30, seem to progress little in measureables over the course of their college careers, and therefore usually play early unless blocked. Special teams is another consideration; safety-like objects are desired in abundance while 280-lb. future tackles need not apply. Let's test that against the '93-'11 recruits:

Position Recruited RS'd % RS'ed
Center 14 14 100.00%
Tackle 24 23 95.83%
Guard 31 29 93.55%
Tight End 26 21 80.77%
Kickers/Punters 18 14 77.78%
Defensive End 33 22 66.67%
Linebacker 57 37 64.91%
Quarterback 22 14 63.64%
Wide Receiver 40 23 57.50%
Fullback 16 9 56.25%
Defensive Tackle 27 15 55.56%
Safety 30 16 53.33%
Cornerback 35 15 42.86%
Running Back 33 12 36.36%
Avg/Total 406 264 65.02%

It's twue. Dwamatically so. While I was at it, I thought I'd also use the opportunity to see which positions Michigan favored over this same time period. The "Factor" means how many starting positions you're really recruiting for (TE and WR split one). The question here was whether how often that position is redshirted factors into whether we over-recruit or under-recruit that spot. This may be the most useful table of this article:

Position Factor Rec/Pos Rec/Pos/Yr % RS'ed
Running Back 1 33 1.74 36.36%
Quarterback 1 22 1.16 63.64%
Linebacker 3 19 1.00 64.91%
Cornerback 2 18 0.92 42.86%
Tight End 1.5 17 0.91 80.77%
Defensive End 2 17 0.87 66.67%
Wide Receiver 2.5 16 0.84 57.50%
Fullback 1 16 0.84 56.25%
Off. Guard 2 16 0.82 93.55%
Safety 2 15 0.79 53.33%
Center 1 14 0.74 100.00%
Defensive Tackle 2 14 0.71 55.56%
Off. Tackle 2 12 0.63 95.83%
Kickers/Punters 2 9 0.47 77.78%
Avg/Total 25 16.9 0.89 65.02%

Column C being how many recruits per year we managed to get to fill each starting spot. Okay, forget useful. What you're seeing instead is Michigan recruiting lots and lots of running backs. There was pretty high attrition there in the '90s, but this doesn't even count all the RBs who moved to other positions, something they did a lot of 20 years ago, when every HS team's best player was the running back. DT, OT, and kicker—recent problem areas—show up as dramatically under-recruited. Running these numbers over different time periods would say more but sample sizes are getting tiny as it is.

52 Barnum and 65 Omameh 2 for one but not a great shot

The best of what's left of the 2008 O-Line haul (Upchurch)

Anyway, yes, they're correlated, except safety is sitting in the "need more dudes" region with a less-than-average rate of redshirting. So we didn't have safeties either. On the other hand Michigan had some great tailbacks and quarterbacks come through here.

Going back to the table above, the only one that doesn't exactly fit the paradigm of a mass/experience/athleticism matrix is defensive tackle. For that just see the list of who redshirted versus who didn't:

Redshirted Didn't
Marques Slocum - 6'5/336 Jason Kates - 6'2/339
Richard Ash - 6'3/320 Alan Branch - 6'6/331
Quinton Washington - 6'4/315 William Campbell - 6'5/331
Marques Walton - 6'0/292 Gabriel Watson - 6'4/331
Grant Bowman - 6'3 /289 Terrance Taylor - 6'0/319
Will Johnson - 6'5/285 Larry Harrison - 6'3/313
Norman Heuer - 6'5 /282 Mike Martin - 6'2/299
Will Heininger - 6'6/277 Vince Helmuth - 6'1/291
Alex Ofili - 6'4 /275 Renaldo Sagesse - 6'4/289
Rob Renes - 6'2 /275 James McKinney - 6'2/285
Terry Talbott - 6'3/260 William Carr - 6'2 /276
Josh Williams - 6'4 /260 Paul Sarantos - 6'3/261
Eric Wilson - 6'4 /255 -
Shawn Lazarus - 6'3 /245 -
Ben Huff - 6'4 /232 -

Richard Ash, two guards (one of whom would have played but had eligibility issues), and a bunch of guys less than 290. Among those who played as true freshmen, it's planetary objects, a 20-year-old Canadian, a couple of low-expectation position switchers, and Will Carr. Find a freak athlete over 300 pounds who wants to play right away, you put him at the nose. On the left you're looking at a lot of vintage 3-techs. From this I take it players Michigan recruits for nose are probably more likely to play right away, while a 3-tech should be expected to need more time to develop.

Hyped Players Play Early. The nose tackles also seemed to have come with more hype. Recruiting data doesn't go back beyond 2002 but with that small sample plus the anecdotal evidence above from 1997-'98, we can see a little of how stars affect the likelihood of redshirting:

Rating Recruited Redshirted % RS'ed
5 stars 10 1 10.0%
4 stars 99 52 52.5%
3 stars 95 56 58.9%
2 stars 11 7 63.6%
Not Ranked 9 9 100.0%
Rivals Total 224 125 55.8%
Rating Recruited Redshirted % RS'ed
5 stars 17 4 23.5%
4 stars 87 45 51.7%
3 stars 90 55 61.1%
2 stars 13 7 53.8%
Not Ranked 17 14 82.4%
Scout Total 224 125 55.8%

Everyone else is average; the 5-stars are the ones who seem to overwhelmingly get on the field as freshmen, them being the most likely to be college-ready after high school and expected to be NFL-ready in four years.

2012-2013 and Beyond. We haven't done anything here really except confirm what we pretty much already knew about redshirting. That all said, here's my predictions for the upcoming guys:

[UPDATED: Now with more "Why?"]

Player Pos Pos-RS Stars RS? Why?
Blake Bars OG 93.5% 4 ? A couple of OL injuries and he's in.
Joe Bolden LB 64.9% 4 No Early enrollee, already 2nd on depth chart
Ben Braden OT 95.8% 3 Yes Less ready than Bars/Kalis at this point
Jehu Chesson WR 57.5% 3 No Need receivers. At least one will play
Jeremy Clark S 53.3% 3 Yes Kovacs/M-Rob ahead. Plz don't burn on Special Teams
Amara Darboh WR 57.5% 4 No See Chesson
Devin Funchess TE 80.8% 3 Yes Not ready. Needs to gain size
Allen Gant S 53.3% 3 Yes Depth at SS, more ready than Clark
Matthew Godin DT 55.6% 3 Yes 3-tech development track
Willie Henry DT 55.6% 3 Yes See Godin
Sione Houma FB 56.3% 3 Yes Hopkins and experience ahead of him
Royce Jenkins-Stone LB 64.9% 4 Yes If MLB, EEs are ahead. SLB 2-deep is set
Drake Johnson RB 36.4% 3 No RBs play early – want him ready if Toussaint leaves early.
Kyle Kalis OG 93.5% 5 No Most ready of OL. OL depth is scary thin
Erik Magnuson OT 95.8% 4 Yes High ceiling but not ready for PT yet
Dennis Norfleet RB 36.4% 4 Yes Would like to get separation from other returners.
Mario Ojemudia DE 66.7% 3 Yes Too small to hold edge right now
Ondre Pipkins DT 55.6% 5 No Weak depth chart plus 5-star nose tackles always play early
Terry Richardson CB 42.9% 4 No Is 7th CB, but 3 coming next year and Talbott is the guy to beat at field corner
Kaleb Ringer LB 64.9% 3 Yes Bolden better. Injuries could draw him in
James Ross LB 64.9% 4 Yes Needs to gain muscle, separate from Des
Tom Strobel DE 66.7% 4 Yes RVB-like – needs to grow into 5-tech
A.J. Williams TE 80.8% 3 No Has much to learn but depth here is scary
Jarrod Wilson S 53.3% 4 No EE. If ahead of Furman won't R.S.
Chris Wormley DE 66.7% 3 No Competition to back up Roh is Brink and Heitzman
Player Pos Pos-RS Stars RS? Why?
Jake Butt TE 80.8% 4 No College-ready TE needed immediately
Taco Charlton DE 66.7% 4 Yes Clark/Beyer are JRs – gain size.
Gareon Conley CB 42.9% 3 Yes One boundary will play, but not Conley
David Dawson OT 95.8% 5 Yes Hopefully 2012 OL ready. If not it's true freshman OT hell all over again
Jaron Dukes WR 57.5% 3 Yes 8th/9th receiver
Chris Fox OT 95.8% 4 Yes Tackles are supposed to redshirt
Ben Gedeon LB 64.9% 4 Yes Separation from big 2012 LB class
Khalid Hill TE 80.8% 3 Yes Developing into U-back
Maurice Hurst Jr. DT 55.6% 3 Yes 3-tech track but could draw in for depth
Patrick Kugler OC 100.0% 4 Yes Centers always redshirt
Jourdan Lewis CB 42.9% 4 No One boundary will play. Probably Lewis
Mike McCray LB 64.9% 4 Yes Slotted for SLB: Gordon/Ryan/RJS
Shane Morris QB 63.6% 5 Yes All depends on if Gardner gets his RS
Henry Poggi DT 55.6% 4 ? Highest-rated DT on roster after Pipkins
Wyatt Shallman RB 36.4% 4 Yes Are you *sure* you're a ….
Deveon Smith RB 36.4% 4 No Smith, possibly Toussaint gone. Opportunity knocks.
Channing Stribling CB 42.9% 3 Yes One boundary will play, but not Stribling
Scott Sypniewski LS NA NA Yes Glanda will be a senior
Dymonte Thomas S 53.3% 5 No 7 safeties on roster for 2 spots, none more highly rated, 4 just a year older
Logan Tuley-Tillman OT 95.8% 4 Yes Tackles redshirt.
Csont'e York WR 57.5% 3 Yes See Dukes

Yeah, 15 and 17 redshirts when we've been averaging 7 to 10—what was that I said about the classic fan mistake again? I'm kidding myself about 2012 and the depth on the team currently, but I could see 2013 actually shirting that many guys, provided they're not needed to fill new holes and whiffs from this year. The tight ends, at least, will see the field, and at least a DT will likely be called upon before he's due. It's quite far out to be thinking about not wasting a year of a York here or a season of Shane there, but 2017 will thank us.



June 27th, 2012 at 8:52 AM ^

Analyzing across position and recruiting level and weight does seem intuitively to explain a lot of the red-shirting.

I wonder what percent of the shared variance you'd find if you did a multiple regression that included recruiting stars, abitrarily-assigned-difference-from-target-weight-at-time-of-enrollment, relative-importance-of-weight-for-this-position, position, and depth at the position at time of enrollment.

But that analysis would include a lot more subjectivity in the predictor variables, so I like yours.


June 27th, 2012 at 8:57 AM ^

I like your prediction for the future,  It shows we won't have as many holes in the lineup that will require immediate help from a freshman to fill. Of course exceptional freshmen are exceptional and will get a chance to play right away no matter what.


June 27th, 2012 at 9:21 AM ^

You differ from what I perceive as the closest one can approximate to be the common expectation regarding redshirts on a few players. Here's where your predictions differ from what I had expected for 2012 recruits (based only on others' opinions):

Drake Johnson (I expected RS)

Jehu Chesson (I expected RS)

Terry Richardson (I expected RS - more because of depth chart than ability and position)

Chris Wormley (I expected RS - though here I don't see why you would go with what the numbers are telling you, especially with Strobel being the higher rated recruit)

On the flip side, I guess I expected that maybe a James Ross, who is advanced technically, but more limited physically, would be a candidate for early PT over the other LBs, but hopefully we can afford to give him a RS to let him develop.


June 27th, 2012 at 11:52 AM ^

What does Gardener getting approved for a medical Redshirt have to do with whether Shane Morris Redshirts his freshman year?

Either way, they're both on the roster during the 2013 season, yes?


June 27th, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

If Gardner gets the medical redshirt, he'll still be available in 2014. Assuming both Gardner and Bellomy will be capable quarterbacks, this means it will be unlikely Morris will *need* to play in 2014, so it will be less necessary to get him experience in 2013 and easier to give him a redshirt. However, if Gardner doesn't get a medical redshirt, and the 2014 QB depth chart shows Morris only a Bellomy injury away from being needed, it might be a good idea to get Morris some game experience in 2013 and burn his redshirt.


June 27th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

If Gardner is a junior next year we may be comfortable going into the season with Bellomy backing him up and Shane's redshirted unless Gardner is injured for an extended period of time. We did something similar with Gutierrez, using Spencer Brinton as the backup but everyone knew the freshman could come in if needed.

If Gardner is a senior next year then it's a Henne-Mallett situation, where you want the freshman to play in order to get him experience so you're not going into the season opener next year behind a quarterback with zero in-game experience.

Going away from your question for a moment, Henne wasn't asked to do anything very difficult in 2004 other than throw it to Braylon in double-coverage a lot. He became a guy capable (and allowed to...) put the game on his shoulders in 2005, and then moreso in 2006. Gutierrez was a good college QB and had a small bit of a pro career -- I often wonder what would have happened if he had not been injured and able to start in 2004. I think he wins that Notre Dame game, perhaps Ohio State too. Then he's the established starter in 2005, and in 2006, unless you see a redshirt sophomore Henne overtaking Gutierrez there, which experience-wise he'd be way behind but the talent gap at that point has to strongly favor the younger QB. Anyway there's your 2008 quarterback: a redshirt senior Chad Henne rallying the team around the new coach.


June 27th, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

 Anyway there's your 2008 quarterback: a redshirt senior Chad Henne rallying the team around the new coach.

You left out: "and running the read option."

And, Gardner is moving to WR, it's a done deal, even though it hasn't been announced publically, it's done, seal it up, throw it in the bag.  Devin is stretching the field these next 2 years then hopefully on to the NFL.

Bellomy to Gardner!  Get ready for it!


June 27th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

You aren't lying.  Hahaha.  Just sit there for a second, close your eyes, and picture Chad Henne running the read option... Hahaha.  If you pictured him banging Knees with Minor, you envisioned the same thing as me.


June 27th, 2012 at 4:29 PM ^

No - this is my fantasy dammit and in it there is nothing but Minor RAGE up the middle and lots of quick passes to Arrington which he catches behind his back and stuff. Also in my dream fantasy world every store has pub ale on tap.

You can run the spread and shred with a QB like Henne just fine. His legs don't have to be as much of a weapon when the passing game is a major threat. One of the first plays in that video is a perfect example of this, when Michigan runs a ZR where the QB uses the space created by a crashing end to pass a quick out for 8 yards.

Going into '08, given the talent on hand, I don't think anybody of consequence thought at any point we were going full-on Zone Read as a base offense. It was going to be something more like Northwestern's spread. That kind of offense, built on spreading to pass and running from the delay, is all over the NFL now. I mean: the Lions do it.


June 27th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

The Big Ten prohibited redshirting for other than medical reasons (season lost to injury) until the early to mid-1970s.  The first significant Michigan redshirt (non-injury) contributors that I recall were Calvin O'Neal and Greg Morton on the 1976 team.  Both were 5th year seniors and earned some All-American honors that year at LB and DT respectively.   Their year (1972 out of high school) also coincided with the first year that freshmen were eligible. 

The Big 8 (and probably the SWC and SEC) were big redshirters in the years leading up to the Big Ten joining the party.  Nebraska, in particluar, was known for redshirting loads of people.  Remember, at that time there were no (or virtually no) limits on how many scholarships you could offer.  So the powerhouses would stack their rosters.  Pitt brought in an incredible number of players as freshmen in 1973 (including Tony Dorsett) which helped it to its 1976 national championship.

Class of 1817

June 27th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

Have I told you lately that I love you?

Great piece, Seth. Super interesting, very informative.

And addressing an issue to a depth that is offered on no other site...especially not about the only team I care about.

I'm gonna go listen to some Rod Stewart now.


June 27th, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

Surprised to see Strobel redshirting and Wormley not. Same with Norfleet and Johnson at RB. In both instances on the list his 3 star player dresses as a freshman while his 4 star redshirts.


June 27th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

Is how the guys in front of them do. Because I've said before and will say again, the way a freshman gets playing time is being better than the guys in front of him. You can't say so and so will be do so we can have great 5th year guy later. (I mean, if it's just mop up duty in the case of a QB that's one thing...if it's rotation, even as a back up, that's another).  It's just not how teams work, and it helps define the morale of a team.  Players who know they're working harder and playing better than other guys get down, other players see the favoritism, and seniors don't really care about winning in 2017, they're worried about winning their final year, and don't want to see themselves sacrificed for future wins.

So yeah, as Misopogon points out, Meyer is hardly the only guy doing it. Any coach with a brain is.


June 28th, 2012 at 12:29 AM ^

He has a daughter, he has battled injuries, his mom was working a really tough job when an MGoBlogger ran into her, and it's likely he's on track to finish his graduation requirements either next June or over the summer, so yeah I'm not totally counting on him returning if he ends the season one of the conference's top RBs.


June 27th, 2012 at 10:14 PM ^

Obviously RR wouldn't have been the coach in 2008.  He only knows one offense...  Chad banging into Minor on the Zone read would have been common. 

I agree with the version of the spread you are talking about.  We should have been running that offense Henne's Sophomore year on...