Unverified Voracity Faces Death Midgets

Submitted by Brian on June 24th, 2009 at 1:32 PM

Light day today due to Spain-USA. May we die with honor. Braves and Birds previews it for you.

Times and dates. A press release containing every exciting Big Ten matchup against Towson has been C&Ped into the diaries. Michigan games listed:

  • Western Michigan at MICHIGAN, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Notre Dame at Michigan, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Eastern Michigan at MICHIGAN, Big Ten Network, Noon ET
  • MICHIGAN at ILLINOIS, ABC, 2:30 p.m. CT

Yes, Western Michigan at Michigan is a 3:30 ABC game. Woo! It's not like there's anything else going on but Jebus. If the rest of the schedule wasn't dire enough to get WMU @ M on ABC I'd put in my usual complaint about a home 3:30 start really impinging on my ability to see games around the country.

Also: was it widely known that the Illinois game would be a 3:30 ABC affair?

We were good except for the eighty yard touchdown we gave up six times. I couldn't dig up a specific instance of this concept in the archives, but I'm pretty sure at various times last year I described the defense as doing pretty well except for the four long touchdowns. Michigan wasn't a team you drove the field on, it was a team you mostly failed against until someone in the secondary or one of the linebackers screwed up and then you ran for a long time and got seven points. Sometimes this happened most of the day (Illinois), sometimes it didn't.

It turns out there are numbers to support this idea:

The most interesting name on this list is Michigan. They were seventh in Success Rates+ but 62nd in PPP+ [Points Per Play]. That suggests that they played pretty efficient defense overall, not giving up consistent gains, but the breakdowns they did suffer were large ones, and they gave up far too many big plays.

There aren't any helpful glossary links that explain exactly what goes into these metrics, unfortunately, so I can't tell you if they attempt to account for the terrible field position Michigan found itself in time and again, but even that can't explain all of this discrepancy.

So: the stats point a finger squarely at last year's safeties, with some bonus points accruing to the sloppy linebacking.

More metrics for good. The Free Press summarizes Steele's metrics on Michigan, all of which point in the right direction. Many of them will be familiar to readers of this blog:

  • Teams coming off extremely negative turnover years improve 80% of the time.
  • Teams who lose three or more close games than they win improve basically 80% of the time.
  • Michigan returns many starters.
  • And holy hell the offense has to be way better.

Upshot:

Steele predicts an improved season for the Wolverines, the fourth-most improved season nationally, trailing only Illinois, Ohio and UCLA. He also sees them in the Champs Sports Bowl against Miami (Fla.).

Raise your hand if you'd take that right now. That appears to be everyone.

Another bullet in the head. Man, this coaches poll thing… eh… not so good:

the Coaches poll is a different story. Only 5 of the 18 non-BCS teams have a positive average, meaning that the overwhelming majority of non-BCS teams drop further in the Coaches poll after a loss than the average team does. (It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots.) In fact, the Coaches dropped non-BCS teams more than the average in nearly 2/3’s of their losses. Looking at it one final way, all of the BCS teams combine for the average 0.0 in the Coaches poll – non-BCS teams combine for a -1.6 average, losing a spot and a half more per game than BCS teams.

(HT: Blutarsky.)

And Carson went forth amongst the Hittites, and slew many, and gloried in the destruction, whereupon he was released from the football team to the annoyance of his high school coach. Minor PR fire at Detroit Renaissance arising from an interview with its head coach. First, the facts: Ren's Antonio Watts is being interviewed by "Hondo," who's a Spartan-slanted (and apparently unemployed now) TV guy the RCMB mocks.

First he references Carson Butler—"now with the Green Bay Packers"—as one of the major athletes in Renaissance's past, at which point Hondo asks why everyone loves Dantonio, at which point Watts says, in effect, "Dantonio shows up."

Then there's some garbled ungrammatical stuff from Hondo about the current Ren kids at State; Watts launches into this apropos of nothing—Hondo never mentions Michigan:

"I had two kids who went to the University of Michigan with Lloyd Carr and when Rodriguez took over last year, in my opinion they weren't done well. They weren't treated well. Carson had to leave early… to the NFL, and Andre Criswell, who's still up there, he's a graduate assistant who's not doing anything. And that hurt my heart. And I have a kid at West Virginia who's not very happy there. And I feel that."

Well, then. One: don't expect anyone out of Ren to go to Michigan in the near future. But let's not confuse this coach's slant with reality. Criswell is a great guy but he was the last guy in his recruiting class, a guy Carr offered on signing day because he had an extra scholarship. He came in as a fullback, never played under Carr in three years, and never played under Rodriguez. As mentioned, he's currently a grad assistant. I'm finding it difficult to see how that can be spun as anything negative. I'm even assuming his withdrawal from the program was entirely his decision: Michigan has extra scholarships this year. So what the hell?

And Carson Butler… well. Carson Butler is the most embarrassing program alum in the last decade. He punched a Notre Dame player last year. The year before that he participated in the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, was kicked off the team by Carr, and only let back on after he managed to evade legal consequences. At the time it seemed clear that Carr would have rather washed his hands of him then and there but couldn't justify it since he was acquitted. On the field the guy was a false-start prone headcase whose interest in blocking was nil.

And the stories that have hit my inbox about him have been either hilarious or disturbing, or both. There's a typical Carson Butler story in that thread linked above; I've heard three or four others of similar vintage. Unless this is an amazing hoax, the guy is a sociopath who got far more consideration than he deserved from Michigan.

So over it. A couple of weeks ago, Rich Rodriguez called up a couple of guys in West Virginia in an attempt to bury the hatchet. Here's how that went:

My wife is not a sports fan. 

Recently, though, she read the front page article by the Daily Mail's Jake Stump about Rich Rodriguez, the one where the former West Virginia University coach said how much he loved West Virginia and hoped the tension between him and hard-core Mountaineer football fans was fading.

Her observation after reading the article was, "Who is this man? What a pitiful, whiny, self-serving creature."

You, sir, have a very dramatic wife. Who likes adjectives.

Teeny tinies are the trend. Some of the roiling sea of consternation about Michigan's future is about the tiny wide receivers and their unsuitability for the NFL and that sort of thing. Maybe this helps?

Though there were no wide receivers taken in the first round in 2008, 10 went in Round 2, and a quick look at their first-year statistics paints an interesting picture. The success among the smaller guys was led by 5-10, 182-pound Eddie Royal of Denver, who embarrassed then-Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener on Monday Night Football to the tune of nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. That was just the opening salvo in a season that saw Royal finish with 91 catches for 980 yards in 15 games.

Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is another example of a small receiver having a big impact as a rookie. At 5-10, 175, he finished with 62 catches for 912 yards, but only two touchdowns. Even the surprise first receiver taken in 2008, 5-11, 184-pound Donnie Avery of St. Louis, had a stellar debut. He had 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns, not too shabby for a 'rook.'

Meanwhile, all the big guys from that draft haven't done anything. Now, none of these guys are 5'2" or whatever Jeremy Gallon is, but they are in the range that of a Je'Ron Stokes. And if you're one of these guys you're probably going to go to the school that can best deploy your tiny windmilling legs, right?

NHL draft bits. McKenzie has released his annual, accurate list of the top prospects in the draft. It finds Mac Bennett and Chris Brown in the second round, with Kevin Lynch an "honorable mention."

Comments

Seth

June 24th, 2009 at 2:16 PM ^

I don't know much about Shafer's games at Stanford, but I remember his WMU defenses very, very well. It was a high-risk, high-reward strategy that overloaded the middle and forced offenses outside. This meant he lived and died with his strong safety and outside linebacker, who caught anything that escaped from the blitzing zone (with the FS acting as a true safety).

Fortunately for the Broncos at the time, they had a couple of tackling machines at those positions with Ameer Ismail and C.J. Wilson.

Michigan in 2008: not so much.

It was very different from Jim Hermann et al. defenses, which tried to dictate the direction of the play, and relied on the middle linebacker to be sitting at the end of the corridor (meaning we were at our best with a Dave Harris/Larry Foote/Ian Gold/Sam Sword guy and in that spot, were okay with an upperclassman Carl Diggs/Lawrence Reid and why we hates Brackinses). Shafer had a lot less responsibility on the young Mack linebackers letting them blitz or take one-gap responsibilities. It made Mouton look pretty good. It made SS#3 look like a mass of pixels controlled by a 10-year-old EA Sports gamer.

That's what I meant in my great defense of Stevie Brown post during last season -- Shafer's schemes made Brown's position a boom or bust prospect. Sometimes he boomed. Other times he busted spectacularly. He was no C.J. Wilson.

The point's moot now, anyway, with the arrival of G-Rob and the Deathbackers Spinners, who, I imagine, will put greater emphasis on creating mismatches on the edges, while the middle linebackers have to spend a lot more time shedding blocks and cleaning up gaps left by the young tackles.

TheVictors97

June 24th, 2009 at 2:10 PM ^

Anyone know if the ACC/Big 10 will still have the deal with ESPN/ABC where if the one game isn't on ABC in your area you will receive it on ESPN? That has been a huge bonus living down here in Florida.

the_white_tiger

June 24th, 2009 at 2:23 PM ^

I'm raising my hand Brian, raising it! Seriously though, Phil Steele is also very high on M's talent on the field, he has them nowhere lower than fifth for the position rankings in the Big Ten except coaching which is sixth. How Bret Bielema is a better coach than RR somehow is escaping me...

CrankThatDonovan

June 24th, 2009 at 3:53 PM ^

I've been trying to figure out how Phil Steele's coaching rankings work since I first bought his magazine last year. I think it has something to do with stability and overall coaching staff, because I think Michigan's coaches were 10th (10th!) in the Big Ten last year, which is strange enough, but now, after a 3-9 season and a year with only one head coaching change in conference, they have moved way up to 6th, which is even stranger (correct me if I'm wrong, I don't have last year's edition with me).

So, yeah, he probably thinks that Rodriguez is a better coach than Beilema, but their coaching staff is more established/better than Michigan's right now. Steele absolutely adores Wisconsin's offensive line coaching, fyi

Erik_in_Dayton

June 24th, 2009 at 2:36 PM ^

I think this ground may have been covered last week, and I apologize if it was...Dantonio will presumably continue to have success in the state of Michigan. This problem with this, from an MSU perspective, is that you cannot build a national title contender out of nothing but Michigan kids. The state is not like Ohio or Texas, which have enough talent by themselves to field a top-flight team. Rodriguez and co. obviously realize this and are accordingly not that worried about being the Michiganiest Michigan team in the whole darn state of Michigan.

[email protected]

June 24th, 2009 at 3:31 PM ^

It's a good thing Dantonio wasn't ever the recruiting coordinator at tOSU, or the head coach of Cincinnati, or anything like that--because the Michiganiest Michigan team in the whole darn state of Michigan pulling all the Ohio kids tOSU didn't have room for might actually be pretty dangerous.

Maybe not Crystal Football dangerous--but Pasadena dangerous? Absolutely. And, let me tell you, I'm raising my hand for that.

Peace
Ty

Seth

June 24th, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

Michigan is losing population, which hurts. But it's still one of the most populous states in the country. When I did my big ranked recruits project thingy last year one of the things that stuck out the most was that highly ranked players in high-population states were more likely to perform to expectations.

In other words, though Alabama produces more than their fair share of football players, the 10th best player in Alabama will typically be ranked beside the 10th best player in Florida, but the 10th best player in Florida will perform better.*

National position ranking was the best indication of success.

Between 2005 and 2008 Michigan has produced three blue-chips (6.1+ for Rivals), seven national prospects (6.0), five more top 100 prospects (5.9), and 14 more 4-stars (parenthesis is only the school he signed with after high school).

Note: I didn't count 2009 guys because we haven't seen them perform yet.

Blue Chips:
Brandon Graham (Mich)
Kevin Grady (Mich)
Ronald Johnson (USC)

National Prospects
Dionte Allen (FSU)
Joseph Barksdale (LSU)
Boubacar Cissoko (Mich)
Antonio Bass (Mich)
Dann O'Neill (Mich)
Jonas Gray (ND)
Nick Perry (USC)

Rivals 100
Terrance Taylor (Mich)
Fred Smith (MSU)
Keith Nichol (Okla)
Chris Colasanti (PSU)
Darris Sawtelle (Tenn)

4-star prospects
Mark Ingram (Bama)
Steven Threet (GT)
Cedric Everson (Iowa)
Mike Martin (Mich)
Ryan Van Bergen (Mich)
Kenny Demens (Mich)
Martell Webb (Mich)
Eric Gordon (MSU)
Charlie Gantt (MSU)
Mark Dell (MSU)
Patrick Rigan (MSU)
Taurian Washington (OSU)
Jeff Lindsay (Purdue)
Quincy Landingham (Wis)

Using Rivals rankings, it doesn't look good against Alabama:

Blue Chips (4)
Andre Smith (Bama)
Julio Jones (Bama)
Burton Scott (Bama)
Tyler Love (Bama)

National Prospects (7)
Rolando McClain (Bama)
Jerrell Harris (Bama)
Mark Barron (Bama)
Kerry Murphy (Bama)
Tim Hawthorne (Bama)
Deantwan Whitehead (Louisville)
Sidell Corley (LSU)

Rivals 100 (11)
Chris Keys (Bama)
Michael Williams (Bama)
Earl Alexander (Bama)
Courtney Upshaw (Bama)
Brandon Gibson (Bama)
Michael McNeil (Auburn)
Antoine McClain (Clemson)
Dee Finley (Fla)
William Green (Fla)
Phelon Jones (LSU)
Jared White (UAB)

4-stars (23)
David Ross (Bama)
John Michael Boswell (Bama)
Taylor Pharr (Bama)
Brandon Lewis (Bama)
Glenn Harbin (Bama)
Robert Lester (Bama)
Alfred McCullough (Bama)
Destin Hood (Bama)
Ryan Pugh (Auburn)
Neil Caudle (Auburn)
Gabe McKenzie (Auburn)
Tommy Trott (Auburn)
Michael Goggans (Auburn)
Cameron Henderson (Auburn)
Jermarcus Ricks (Auburn)
Raven Gray (Auburn)
Bart Eddins (Auburn)
Terrell Zachery (Auburn)
Eltoro Freeman (Auburn)
Montez Billings (Auburn)
Rex Sharpe (Auburn)
Chris Smelley (S.Ca)
Wes Brown (Tenn)

In average position ranking, Bama's top prospects, however, were 14.1. Michigan's were 12.2. Translation: for those players that Rivals decided to pay attention to, those out of Michigan were better. It's just that they decided to give out a lot of 4-stars to same kinds of guys they gave 3 stars in Michigan.

So Bama's and Michigans' in-state talent pools are pretty similar. They're next door to hotbeds like Mississippi and Georgia and Florida, while we have Pennsylvania and Ohio to draw from. But both regions face tough competition, thus to be truly national contenders, we both have to recruit nationally.

What really sticks out is that Michigan in very recent years has lost some of its very best products out of state. It's not the Purdues that bother me so much as the USCs and LSUs and FSUs and NDs at the top. In Bama, the top school has a virtual lock on the top talent, and the little brother is taking home a lion's share of the 2nd tier. Voila: a nationally competitive school, and a little bro that doesn't embarrass itself.

By making major inroads in the state, Dantonio is building an Auburn. Having a national power in town means the creme de la creme isn't going to be available. But if MSU had Cedric Everson, Steven Threet, Mark Ingram, Darris Sawtelle, Chris Colasanti, Keith Nichol and Taurian Washington on their roster, would they be better or worse than they are now?

As for Michigan, I think the cause for concern is not entirely justified. The biggest losses were at the tail end of the Carr era, when the 2007 class lost out on Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen and Joseph Barksdale. RR let Nick Perry and Jonas Gray get away, but he also established a pipeline to Cass Tech.

If I did one of these for the JLS years, I'm willing to bet there would be considerable less "Michigan State" on the map among 4-5 star players in Michigan.

MSU will still get a few higher-profile players with strong Spartan leanings (Gholston, Charles Rogers). The guys who seem to be making their decision based on their coach's feelings toward a program, rather, are the ones well under radar, but just outside the national spotlight. Michigan gets a few of these guys too (Van Bergen, Martin, Demens, Webb). State pre-Dantonio was missing out on them. Now they're getting somewhere.

* Or in other, other words, the SEC is overrated.

Seth

June 24th, 2009 at 4:17 PM ^

And as I said when I did this the first time, Mich was also extremely unlucky with their top players being busts or getting injured.

Add Dan O'Neill to the list of Kevin Grady and Antonio Bass of top-end players who contributed little to the program.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had Perry and/or Barksdale in the interior D-line, with a redshirted Martin backing them up? That would have been nice.

Perry: whatevs -- you can't fault a kid for preferring sun and gold (yes, if you come to USC, Pete Carroll gives you gold).

But Barksdale still gets under my grill, in the little can where that gross-ass shit collects -- we told him he'd make an outstanding OT; he said he wanted to play defense; LSU offered him at defensive tackle, then converted him to OT, where he is on his way to being All-SEC. Fuck!

dmontag

June 24th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

I work as an usher for UM men's basketball (section 8/11, drop by), and Carson was in a group of football players (Kevin Grady and at least 2 more) who came to one of the early non-conference games. They sat in my section, and after the game, when I was taking a look for stuff that was left behind to take to the Lost & Found, I found Carson's student ID card. I took it to Lost & Found, but I doubt he ever picked it up, since he had announced he was leaving UM the day before.

Maize and Blue…

June 24th, 2009 at 2:57 PM ^

has had three shoulder operations and isn't capable of playing football anymore per S. Webb on WTKA. He is still on scholarship and getting his degree so I would say the University is doing right by him. The relly laughable thing about Watts' statement is that he never coached his kids, Butler and Criswell.
The WV guy must be Derek Knight who redshirted as a freshmen which would have been his only year there with RichRod. Still Watts places the blame on RR because the kid isn't enjoying himself under Bill Stewart.

mejunglechop

June 24th, 2009 at 3:18 PM ^

There's nothing wrong with the coaches poll dropping non BCS teams more than BCS teams after a loss. This is just a reflection of non BCS teams playing weaker schedules. If Boise State going 11-1 is understood as equally impressive as a BCS team going 10-2 or 9-3 then either a) the BCS team's wins are given greater value, b) the BCS team's losses are considered more forgivable, or most likely c) a combination of both a and b.

The Commish

June 24th, 2009 at 8:17 PM ^

"It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots."

But the problem seems marginal at best...no? And thus the potential explanation still applicable?

SpartanDan

June 25th, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

I did, and I saw that they compared BCS teams losing vs. non-BCS teams losing, and losing to a BCS team vs. losing to a non-BCS team, but didn't see any combined results for those two categories (as in comparing BCS teams losing to BCS, BCS losing to non-BCS, non-BCS losing to BCS, and non-BCS losing to non-BCS). Maybe it's there, but I don't see it. I think that would tell us far more about any bias than just comparing non-BCS teams losing with BCS teams losing without controlling for who they lose to, when, etc.

(That doesn't mean I don't think there is such a bias. But I don't think this data, by itself, shows that bias when there is an obvious alternate explanation available - for non-BCS teams, losses are either early in the season, where teams tend to move around more, or against a non-BCS team, which tends to drop them further than a loss to a BCS team would.)

The Commish

June 25th, 2009 at 7:57 AM ^

Brian says: "That point has been anticipated by the linked post: the problem is that the coaches, who have a vested interest in booting non BCS teams to the curb, drop them more than the writers do consistently."

Yet the link indicates: "It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots."

So, I'll repeat...if the difference between the polls is just 0.2 spots...then there doesn't seem to be a significant difference between the polls. And, as such, the difference in how a BCS team drops vs. a non-BCS team could be explained by quality of opponent.

Alaska Hokie

June 25th, 2009 at 12:15 AM ^

Both DeAngelo Hall and Eddie Royal are Virginia Tech grads. It's probably not best to use a matchup between them as an example, since they came from the same team -- definitely not usual among wide receiver/CB battles.

I don't know how that might factor into things, especially since they never played at the same time, but it's something to consider.

El Caballo de Sangre

June 25th, 2009 at 1:38 AM ^

Yeesh. At least you didn't wonder what time of the month it was, Brian.

Look, I'm not trying to be a dick here, and it's true that a heretic is always scorned more vehemently than a simple non-believer, but it's for damn sure West Virginia knows Rodriguez better than Michigan does at this point.

It really is possible that Rodriguez is the mercenary asshole that these people say he is.

This is not to say that he's not the asshole y'all needed at the time, but it IS to say that, in time, you will likely come to view his tenure with extremely mixed feelings - as a necessary break with the incestuous, hidebound past, but also as a dick who just didn't "get it" when it came to the "character" (and I acknowledge that that word is doing a lot of work here) of your program. Which is to say, he may very well end up being your very own John Cooper. Of course, he may not - but as a longtime obsessive partisan of my own chosen team, and a longtime interested observer of yours, I can tell you that there are plenty of parallels.

El Jeffe

June 25th, 2009 at 10:00 AM ^

What are the parallels between RR and Cooper?

Also, your claim seems to be that we should worry that RR is a mercenary asshole because WVU fans say he is and they ought to know because, you know, they know.

But there is an alternative explanation. They are fucking insane and don't have the slightest fucking capacity to speak calmly and rationally on the matter.

At this point, given RR's behavior and demeanor thus far and theirs, I'm leaning toward door #2.

PA Blue

June 25th, 2009 at 10:41 AM ^

Rodriguez was a God in WV right up until he left, which tells me that WV fans are reacting entirely to his departure, per se, and not at all to his "character." Mercenary? His first HC job in D-1 was at WV, and he stayed there a long time, eventually jumping to Michigan (however you feel about him, WV, or UM, the Michigan job is a huge step up). Where is the mercenary???

hokiewolf

June 25th, 2009 at 11:19 AM ^

I live on the VA/WV border, and there are tons of WVU fans around (many more than when I moved here 5 years ago, it seems). Every one of the ones with whom I've spoken now insist that they never liked the guy, and they only cheered for those 60-odd wins out of politeness. They are convinced that their rise was ordained by a higher power, and will continue indefinitely. Things are only rosier, according to them, now that they have a nice guy at the helm of the perfect ship.

I get a few sneers at my Michigan gear, and even a few open comments, although on the whole WVU fans are much more polite than OSU fans. I think that it must be the southern thing. Depending on the level of dick-dom vs. civility, I occasionally act surprised that they can recognize a word with so many letters. It never fails to tweak.

I have to admit that I'm looking forward to WVU's inevitable return to mediocrity as much as I am Michigan's return to power. Schadenfreude is fun. I think they'll have similar records this year as the Nice Guy botches at least two close games again, and Pat White is not there to provide any miracles. The divergence will truly begin in 2010.

Florida Buckeye

June 25th, 2009 at 10:39 AM ^

Michigan could only hope that RR ends up being their version of John Cooper! Cooper had one of the best records at OSU...he just couldn't beat UM! If given the choice of going 3-9 year after year with one of those wins being against OSU, or consistently winning 10-11 games, but always losing to OSU, I would guess that most UM fans would pick the 10-11 wins. At least for a while. Either way, RR gets fired eventually. Which comes first?

"I know John Cooper, and Rich Rodriquez is no John Cooper!"

Wide Open

June 25th, 2009 at 3:08 PM ^

I don't know how much of an "asshole" Cooper or Rodriguez are. And maybe if Rodriguez was more of a "mercenary" he would have jumped at the Alabama job three years ago when it was offered.

But if my head coach contributes to a culture of lax (at best) academic standards that make a nationwide mockery of the school itself, or is responsible for a "deteriorating climate within the football program", I don't want those parallels. If you can find that with Rich Rodriguez right now, please let us all know.