Rostering 2017

Submitted by Seth on January 4th, 2017 at 4:05 PM

By timeless tradition, going all the way back to the very first post-Harbaugh offseason at Michigan, our people recount the story of Jake Rudock’s exodus from Iowa, update the Grand Google Sheet, and see what it can tell us about this year and the future.

Whereas, at the end of the 2014 Iowa football season Kirk Ferentz released an unprecedented post-bowl depth chart just for the sake of putting C.J. Beathard in front of most-of-the-time starter Jake Rudock. This accomplished several things: Beathard’s dad, who’d put some transfer noise in a local Tennessee paper, was placated, and the People of Rudock took the hint to grad transfer the hell out of Egypt. After wandering in the desert, the spiritual, spiritually 40-year-old Rudock was chosen by Harbaugh to lead the people of Ann Arbor to the promised land Citrus Bowl.

In honor of the old Pharaoh’s great dick move, I present this year’s post-bowl Foe Film diagram, now with 100% more mustache.


[Click to biggen make]

I’ve also updated the great spreadsheet of players going back to the class of 1993, with all that recruiting and attrition and start data.

Use as you like—I’ll keep it updated as the offseason progresses so you can use it for diaries or fact-finding.

[Hit THE JUMP for a chart party.]

For example it can show attrition was high among Hoke’s old players but it hasn’t hurt the APR because most of those guys are leaving with degrees:


Or if you plug in some numbers you can see how many returning starts just graduated, and how little experience is coming back.


That’s before attrition, i.e. with Peppers returning, and Clark getting a 6th year, and no more attrition among guys with a few starts (Kugler, Ways, Harris, JBB) who are near to getting their degree and likely to be passed on the depth chart by younger players. It also includes Newsome, whom a lot of people think might not be able to play this year. On the other hand it’s overstated, as Rashan Gary, Khalid Hill, and Tyree Kinnell have played extensively, and Maurice Hurst is a returning starter in all but the official box score.

That’s still extraordinarily low. If Newsome doesn’t make it back this year (my impression just from what’s been publicized about his injury) the 2017 team is functionally looking at between 125 and 150 starts worth of returning experience, with just Mason Cole among players with more than a season under his belt. That’s a hole that takes two years to climb out of: the only time they were ever under 200 was Rodriguez’s first season.

This happened for many reasons: Hoke’s classes had low attrition until many of them grad transferred, allowing the last few teams to get relatively old together. The classes of 2014 (when Hoke had few spots to fill and had lost his momentum) and 2015 (that Harbaugh had just a month to put together) were really small. Then some guys who could have gone pro stuck around for what looked to be a special season. And as Harbaugh guys seized playing time a few hangers on got their degrees and ceded scholarships back to the pool, which Harbaugh filled with back-to-back massive classes.

As a result Michigan goes into 2017 with just 30-ish players old enough to buy a beer:


projected based ~30 new guys and normal attrition

That doesn’t mean next year will be THAT bad: 2008 was special in ways that aren’t applicable to Harbaugh’s third year, and Ohio State made it to the playoffs this season with a roster nearly as green as Michigan will be. It almost assuredly means they’ll take a step back, and that 2018 will be better.

Table of stars

We can also see how recruiting has gone under Michigan’s coaches in the modern era. Since Carr took over as head coach after the 1995 class was signed, and because reliable recruiting data don’t exist before anyway, I started him off with 1996. Not sure if the mouseover will work on every computer but if it does you can look who’s counted in each grouping. (UPDATE: they work if you’re on a computer and visit the sheet.)

Which do matter

I put it in a tweet because I followed with some stuff about the dichotomy between the 4.5-stars and the consensus 5-stars. My method for stars is to try to convert all sites’ rankings and ratings into a sliding 5-star scale and average them together. The 4.5-stars are Top 100 types: the 5.9s to Rivals or mid-90s to 247. Michigan’s hit rate on those guys has been indistinguishable from that of the standard 4-stars. Gardner, Manningham, and the best offensive guard of all time are in there, but it was super hit and miss. For example out of five cornerbacks in that range the only two to see the field with regularity were Donovan Warren and James Whitley. The super 5-stars on the other hand were just about can’t-miss, the exceptions being Pat Massey and literally half of every 5-star running back in the country to not work out.



January 4th, 2017 at 4:17 PM ^

All this handwringing over the Orange Bowl, and look at that offense. Jake Butt is the sole dangerman / all-american type. 

There are some star down guys here and there.

And a whole lot of meh.

I like the guys on the offense. I root for them. I hope they do well on the next level. But in a couple of years we're going to look at that lineup and say, "dude, those were the days."

Smoke and mirrors. And still *that* close to the promised land.


January 4th, 2017 at 5:09 PM ^

Well put. I think those who are sunshine-rainbows optimists ("we're only going UP with Harbaugh RRRAAWWR") are kidding themselves with the huge turnover. 

But I am actually cautiously optimistic that, at least in the skill positions, the offense will be close to the same level as this year. Either Speight with another year of refinement, or a guy like Peters who beats out Speight with another year of refinement, will be an upgrade under center. The RBs will be good. I'm bullish on our returning TEs, and I think at least one of our young talents at WR emerges as a real threat. 

The OL will be a problem. But then, it was this year. And Michigan can't count being able to beat teams with low scores with the defensive turnover. But I think the offense will stack up well next year compared with this.

I Like Burgers

January 4th, 2017 at 6:29 PM ^

For them to be on par with this season's offense, you'd need to draw up a list of like 5 things you hope will work out, and you'd need a good 3-4 of them to pan out and exceed expectations.

For me it, would be:

1. Hope some combo of Ruiz/Onwenu/Spanellis/TBD is on par with Bredson/Kalis

2. Hope some combo of Bredeson/JBB/Newsome/Filiaga is on par with Magnuson/Braden

3. Hope DPJ and Crawford can replace the 1400 yds and 92 catches Darboh/Chesson had.

4. Hope one of TEs emerges as a capable Butt replacement

5. Hope a Higdon/Evans/Walker RB by committee rotation works out

Assuming Perry is gone, they'll be replacing their top four pass catchers -- roughly 75% of their receiving.  That's expecting a whole lot out of DPJ, Crawford, and the TEs.

Evans is a good change of pace back, but you're also going to need someone to fill Smith's role.  Higdon's stats were all in garbage time, and Walker is an unknown.  If they add Najee, that certainly helps a whole lot.

And the OL has been discussed to death.

Basically you're hoping almost every replacement is able to replicate what a guy who's started for multiple seasons was able to do.


January 4th, 2017 at 6:34 PM ^

QB play should improve, which should roughly make up for the loss of so many receivers and linemen. 

I think the defense takes a step back, probably about to where it typically was under Hoke. The starting DL should be excellent, but the rotation guys are unproven. The back 7 will have McCray and...a lot of guys who should be serviceable but didn't make much impact this year.

I think 9-3 with 2-2 in the 4 toughest games (Fla, @PSU, @Wis, OSU) and 7-1 in the others would be a good result.  


January 4th, 2017 at 8:47 PM ^

Will definitely be interesting. A lot of new starters. They won't be completely green as a good amount of them got some experience this year. I'm guessing there's going to be some mistakes/missed assignments in the early part of the year. Hopefully the mistakes/missed assignments don't lead to losses. However, I'm guessing we'll see a much better team next year around Thanksgiving then we will around Labor Day weekend.


January 4th, 2017 at 7:30 PM ^

I have to disagree that this will be Harbaugh's best defense. Best D-line maybe, although I hope not, but there is already starting to be more pure talent and athleticism in the back seven between the '16 and '17 classes than there was this year. The same coaching staff that got the most out of the LB's and safeties this season, which we all thought would be a liability, are going to develop the next wave right from the start, and they will have been in the same scheme for 3-4 years by the time they are upperclassmen. It will be very difficult to surpass what this unit did, I expect Don Brown to have it humming along.


January 4th, 2017 at 4:21 PM ^

Any chance we can get a "Way-Too-Early Seth Predicts the Starting Lineup FFF Style" chart? It's one of my favorite bits of each game week. Obviously it helps give you an idea of where an opponent's strengths are. It makes sense to wait a week or two to find out about Peppers and where a bit more of the attrition may come from, but it's a great visual. 


January 5th, 2017 at 8:51 AM ^

Nah. Not sure why you start Ruiz at Guard. He should replace Cole at Center. Cole slide out to LT, with Bredeson working LG. When/if Newsome makes it back you get Cole over to RT. RG is Big Mike, which, look at that lower body and tell me that isn't going to work out. RT is a fist figh betweem everyone else with best man winning out. It will be serviceable until Newsome is back.

That line can make things happen. It will also make mistakes. Hopfully it's able to get the RB four yards down field more often.


January 5th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

Let's assume Ruiz is "college ready".  That doesn't mean he's "Harbaugh ready".

We saw how long it took Rudock to grok Harbaugh's offense and that dude wants to go to med school.  The most wildly, ludicrously optimistic projection of Ruiz is that he hits the college life AND college speed grounds running and doesn't need to learn a single thing about O-line technique. . . he'd still need time to make line calls in such a complex offense.


January 4th, 2017 at 4:24 PM ^

...but I wonder why there was nothing in the "behavioral" category from '93-'96. Would be curious if that was just a good stretch or indicative of a recent change from '97-present. And how that compares to other programs. Those '93-'96 recruiting classes won us a national championship after all...


January 4th, 2017 at 4:42 PM ^

Because before I went to work for the Michigan Daily in 1998 I didn't know anybody you could give me inside information about why guys were leaving and there isn't much from the internet from back then so I have to rely on what accounts are available and give guys the benefit of the doubt if I don't know.


January 4th, 2017 at 5:04 PM ^

The late Moeller classes definitely had some behavioral issues but since that was at about the dawn of the internet so most of it is not listed online, even the stuff that was public at the time. And some of it never made the papers, that was pre-youtube, twitter, record everything. 96 was the first Carr class, a little bit different. Not sure that there is much value in re-hashing the specifics of things that happened 20 years ago. 


January 4th, 2017 at 4:25 PM ^

...but I wonder why there was nothing in the "behavioral" category from '93-'96. Would be curious if that was just a good stretch or indicative of a recent change from '97-present. And how that compares to other programs. Those '93-'96 recruiting classes won us a national championship after all...


January 4th, 2017 at 5:41 PM ^

Actually there aren't that many guys from the 1993-1996 classes we don't know about. Figure anyone who got their degree didn't leave for off-field issues I have a short list of transfers that fell into either Personal or Bad Scouting.

Personal: J.J. Brown, Jon Ritchie, Seth Smith, Trevor Pryce, Jeff Holtry

Bad Scouting: Clarence Thompson, Dana Overton, Earnest Sanders, George Howell, Anthony Williams, Rasheed Simmons, Tim Laws, J.R. Ford, David Bowens, Aaron Wright, Chad Carpenter, Grady Brooks, John Anes, and LeAundre Brown.

Keep in mind that I count "bad scouting" as anyone who transferred because he was unlikely to earn playing time with normal progression, but that could mean a David Dawson who can't unseat mediocre guys ahead of him, or Grady Brooks watching Larry Foote and Ian Gold running around and saying "Man, I could play anywhere else." However freshman who transferred and played for another power 5 school because he wanted to play right away would be "personal."

Our first stop is Mike Desimone's page of recruiting outcomes. From there I investigated each guy on the internet. For example, here's what I found on JJ Brown's transfer to South Carolina:

It was hard, but it was a learning experience. I had two seniors (Stacy Evans and Chris Rumph) at defensive end in front of me, and they paid their dues. I could understand they deserved to play. I was just a freshman. I thought I deserved to play, but it was not my decision," he said. "If I look at it, I'm still "the man."

I marked that "Personal" because Brown was still on a typical track to start as an upperclassman but just didn't believe it. But it could be either. The point is that doesn't seem like there was any off-field thing, just a typical transfer thing.


January 4th, 2017 at 6:27 PM ^

You're reasoning is generally sound but sometimes there is more to the story than just talent, especially on guys who transferred to lesser football schools. The kids we sent to Western Illinois generally didn't get funneled there because they couldn't play. Or there are guys who were pushed and said they jumped. And some of that wasn't really even misconduct per se, more like an attempt to change the attitude, culture, and direction of the program. 


For example, David Bowens was actually a really good player who had a blunch of sacks in a short period of time. But he had poor grades and some personal struggles similar to Jon Ritchie's situation (this was all fairly widely known public info at the time). Not at all scouting related. 


January 4th, 2017 at 6:29 PM ^

The mid-1990s were my era at Michigan and I do remember some of these guys.  For example, Pryce was a monster on the field but apparently had some off-field issues (sad because he would have been great).  I also was in West Quad with Jon Ritchie and remember him taking a dump in the stairwell and standing there laughing as students walked by trying to avoid stepping in it.  Good times.....


It really comes down to the OL and then seeing how quickly the young stars Harbaugh has recruited can build depth at WR and on defense.  

Don't underestimate the impact of Kenny Allen though - he was a stud this year outside of that weird Wisconsin game.  


January 4th, 2017 at 11:20 PM ^

I'm not getting my hopes up even if he does come back.  Chesson wasn't nearly as effective this year.  I could be wrong but I tend to think the knee injury played a part in that.  The old rule of thumb was while players may come back from a knee injury in one year or less, it usually takes longer before they return to their pre-injury form.


January 4th, 2017 at 6:52 PM ^

The optimist in me looks over the returning players for next year and goes:

The defense still should be good to great, but not elite. The offense will have either a better version of Speight or Brandon Peters plus a good stable of running backs and some solid options at TE and WR (although it's a huge dropoff from Chesson/Darboh/Butt to Crawford/?/Bunting) and maybe the OL jells and plays a little bit better. The schedue is light on difficult road games so there's a good chance they lose either in Happy Valley or Camp Randall and go 11-1 and play for the B1G Championship and a playoff spot.

The pessimist in me looks at the returning production and then the depth behind that returning production and goes:

The defense will probably slide from elite to merely above average due to a lack of depth in the front seven and 3-4 new starters in the secondary. They'll have some moments, but will be susceptible to giving up big plays, especially against elite teams. The offense might be below average unless Speight is really the next Ben Roethlisberger. They have neary every meaningful receiving target leaving and a stable of backs that could be best described as okay. The offensive line, which was already bad, will get worse when 3 seniors leave and are replaced by either true freshmen or ????. The schedule isn't horrid, but I could see them losing to Florida at JerryWorld, dropping both PSU and Wisconsin, one more game they should be favored in, and then losing at home again to OSU. They go to a random bowl game and beat up on a crap team to finish 8-5.


January 4th, 2017 at 6:44 PM ^

I think next year hinges on the QB position improving.  If Speight/Peters next year is better than Speight this year I think our offense will improve even with our OL remaining mediocre at best.


Our starters on defense should still be really good, we won't have the DL depth however.


January 4th, 2017 at 7:10 PM ^

It would be interesting to see how these charts would look if we measured the number of snaps players had instead of their starts. Obviously would be much tougher to record, but we have plenty of guys who've gotten solid playing time despite not being starters. On offense, you got guys like Crawford, McDoom, Wheatley, Bunting, Evans, Higdon, Isaac. On defense, you have Gary, Winovich, Hurst, Mone, Watson, Kinnel. You also have guys who played a lot of ST like Hudson, Metellus, and Bush.

So we may be very green in terms of returning starts, but there could be more than meets the eye.

Eye of the Tiger

January 4th, 2017 at 8:14 PM ^

Lots of new starters, very young OL running a complex offense, talented but inconsistent QB, etc.

I think we will be better than the 2013 team, but most of the structural issues are the same or similar. At the same time, better coaching should produce a more confidence-inspiring trajectory. OL I expect to be pretty bad at the start but improve over the course of the year.


January 4th, 2017 at 9:20 PM ^

I don't see how we don't take a step back seeing how much we graduate and that our schedule will be more difficult.  That being said, the d-line should still be stout, but look out if we get an injury.  Same with the LBs.  My bigger worry is with the DBs.  Can we count on Clark being 100% less than a year after an ACL tear? I doubt it.  Can we count on first and second year CBs (Hill, Long, St. Juste, & Thomas) to be anywhere near the caliber of Lewis & Stribling?  I doubt it.  Can we count on Kinnel and Watson, Metellus, and Hudson to be as good as Hill & Thomas?  Maybe not at the start of the year, but I think they'll be fine.


Whoever is our QB should be better than this year, even if it's Speight with another year of experience.  Chesson & Darboh were servicable this year, I can't imagine we can't replace their production with Harris, Crawford, McDoom, & DPJ.  We will miss Butt, but we have plenty of capable guys at TE.  Evans, Higdon, Isaac, Walker, Samuels, etc. will be an improvement at RB I think.  It really all comes down to the o-line.  Can Bredeson & Onwenu develop fast enough to be capable in their second years?  Will Newsome be back?  Can we get anything out of JBB or Kugler?  Will any true freshman be capable of being anything above not terrible?  Maybe Ruiz, but unless you are an elite o-line recruit, being a true freshman sucks.  Cole will be fine.  


I have to assume our cieling is 10 wins and 8-9 is probably more realistic.  But, it should be a great year to gain experience.  I expect a good year from Evans, the TEs, and the d-line.  Gary will blow up.  If Mone is healthy he should have a big year as should Hurst.  It will be hard to decide who to double.  That may give Winovich a lot of sacks.  We'll probably see some flashes from guys like DPJ & the young DBs.  I bet a true freshman sees some time at LB.  But, there are probably going to be some growing pains with the DBs and the o-line especially.  But, I am sort of looking forward to having a young team with Harbaugh without a ton of expectations and seeing how we can develop these young guys.  Assuming Harbaugh sticks around we will have the chance to put together several consecutive top 10 recruiting classes, which is where we will finally be able to have talent and depth without holes in classes because of coaching changes or dwindling records.