Unverified Voracity Gets Previewed Comment Count

Brian June 1st, 2015 at 10:42 AM

[Scheduling note: Brian is out today and tomorrow, I (Seth) am finishing up HTTV. There will be a softball and baseball post later this afternoon]

The Bill C preview. Bill Connelly's annual preview series now goes 128 programs deep; he hit Michigan on Friday. The long term:

Harbaugh is a weird dude who says baffling, Les Milesian things -- that they both played for Bo Schembechler probably isn't a coincidence -- and might be getting weirder with age. And no one is guaranteed success when taking on a new job. If previous history correlated with future success, the last two Michigan hires would have worked out.

But Harbaugh is as close to a sure thing as you can hire. In just 11 years, he has raised the standard at every stop. He hires hungry assistants, builds an ultra-competitive environment, and then wins. He has coaching in his bloodstream, and he's been successful just about everywhere.

The short term is far more uncertain.  But you probably know this. You also know the thing that leaps off the page on this chart, but my god to see it quantified:


Adjusted pace. Good lord.

There is some good news. The numbers reflect the massive improvement in line play that I kept promising everyone existed no matter how implausible it seemed given the play of the offense overall:

The line started with just 34 career starts but improved to 50th in Adj. Line Yards and 72nd in Adj. Sack Rate. Considering the level of recruiting, this isn't great, but you can only improve so much in one year.

Both of those were deep into triple digits a year ago, and Michigan returns everyone except Jack Miller to that line instead of losing two NFL draft picks at tackle. I will always wonder how much of the crater was on Darrell Funk and how much was on Rodriguez's recruiting and Al Borges's mad scientist meddling.

Connelly notes that the schedule sets up to be highly swingy. They've only got two teams that project to be very good—OSU and MSU—and relatively few cupcakes. All but one of the good-to-middling teams comes to Ann Arbor, as well. With some luck Michigan could win an encouraging number of games… but there's not much slack in there.

A recommendation. I've had these tabs open in my browser for a while now because I don't want to just toss them off in a UV, but I don't seem to be getting around to the meaty post about them they deserve. So: if you want excellent annotated posts about football, head to James Light Football. He covers all kinds of things from college and pro levels, and he frequently strikes upon Michigan itself. He was at the coaches clinic and has a series of posts detailing things Jedd Fisch, John Baxter

Why do we play so many starters on special teams? What is a starter? Only the 5 offensive lineman and quarterback are starters. The rest is personnel driven. We don’t have starters, we have football players. You don’t play a position on this team, you play a role. What down is so insignificant that you can afford to have less than your best players?

…and DJ Durkin. Durkin's priorities say a lot about the state of what worries a modern defensive coordinator:

First thing Durkin and his staff do when playing a team is identify these three things. Tempo, Run/Pass Conflicts (RPO’s), Who’s their QB?

(RPOs have mostly been known as "packaged plays" around here.) Michigan under Hoke threatened in none of these categories.

Another point guard option. Michigan is focused on in-state PG Cassius Winston for their (currently) final slot in the 2016 class. They are not laser-focused, however, as Winston has given little indication what direction he might be leaning. They're keeping an eye on other options, though. One of them is Bruce Brown, a composite top 50 player who is listed as a shooting guard by most services. Michigan doesn't see it like that:

On Michigan: “Michigan they want me to run the one. And me and Tyus Battle in the backcourt, that sounds good. He’s solid.”

Indiana is also recruiting him as a point guard; St. John's, North Carolina, and Texas are other names in his recruitment. Brown is currently at a prep school in Vermont  but I think he grew up in Boston.

Where are they now: not currently on fire. Quinton Washington seems to have a cool job except for the parts where he catches on fire due to proximity to other fires.


That is "Will Power," who is apparently a real person and not a character in a freshman's screenplay.

Hello again: Moritz Wagner. It feels like we've welcomed Mortiz Wagner to the program a half-dozen times, but here's another one since Michigan signed him and officially announced him. There was a bit of an uncomfortable delay in there that conjured images of Robin Benzing—who did not qualify—but now that's all behind us and we can focus on what we've won:

"Moe is a long and versatile player," Michigan coach John Beilein said in the release. "He has a great understanding of the game with a tremendous upside. As a product of Germany, he has always played against men five to even 10 years older than him, which has only helped his growth as a player.

"As he continues in his development, Moe's skill and athleticism will allow him to eventually play multiple positions for us. He just turned 18 years old, so we are excited about his potential. Moe's engaging personality and passion for the game will make him a very valuable asset to our team now and in the years to come."

Interesting: Michigan listed him at a full 6'10" and they tend to be pretty accurate with roster numbers. Even Trey Burke, who everyone assumed was being handed an inch or two, measured out at just about what Michigan listed him at when he entered the draft. (Spike is likely an exception to this roster fidelity.)

Unless Wagner is a super prospect, he has an uphill path to playing time this year if Zak Irvin can handle the defense and rebounding aspects of the 4. John Beilein loves shooting and he's got a couple of prime wing options in Duncan Robinson and Aubrey Dawkins; if one of the forward-sized fours is going to wrest significant playing time away from those guys he's going to have to be really good.

Claiming poverty. Andy Staples on the "schools don't make a profit" argument put forth when people want to defend the NCAA's version of amateurism:

Athletic directors will claim their programs don’t make money, but that’s also a lie at most Power Five schools. They would make money if they weren’t giving their coaches huge raises and putting gold-plated waterfalls in their locker rooms. Do not confuse an inability to manage money with a lack of money, and don’t believe people who just got $10 million more when they say they can’t pay for the programs they were already funding with $10 million less.

At this point I think everyone understands this except the people charging hundreds of dollars an hour to not understand. October is the inconveniently-timed next potential NCAA-in-court bombshell, as the Jeffery Kessler case—that's the one that explicitly wants to blow the whole system up—will have its class certification hearing.

That lawsuit could put sufficient pressure on the NCAA to make certifying and negotiating with a union look like the best course of action.

Etc.: John Gasaway on deceased former NCAA head Walter Byers, and how he is often misunderstood.

State hockey loses Josh Jacobs to the OHL. That's a different league from guys signing OHL contracts. How long before MSU gets serious and replaces Tom Anastos with a hockey coach?



June 1st, 2015 at 12:30 PM ^

"Given the competition he's faced," - Wagner only played in 2 games last year, tallying a grand, whopping total of 3 minutes. Granted, he was practicing against a group of guys who beat the Spurs in the offseason, but I don't think he's anywhere near ready to start this year.

My hope is that DJ Wilson has come along enough to the point where they don't need to sacrifice the lineup and Irvin's potential development by playing him (Irvin) at the four. GRIII was frustratingly played out of position during his time at Michigan and even he was more equipped to handle the positional requirements of playing the four.

The only scenario where I would be happy with Michigan deploying shooters at the 1-4 positions would be if they had a monster talent playing at the 5. Given the current state of the roster that most definitely is not the case.


June 1st, 2015 at 11:59 AM ^

someone from MGoBlog would interview Coach Beilein and get some clarification on what he sees as each player's primary position for this year. I know he has recruited versatile players that can play more than one spot, but he must have a vision in mind for this squad. It would put an end to a lot of the speculation going on around here..

Having said that, I don't know why he would be recruiting so many 6-8" plus guys if he isn't going to use them.


June 1st, 2015 at 5:20 PM ^

I don't think Beilein thinks that way (re: primary positions) for wing players (i.e., not PGs or Cs).  He knows there's a lot of flexibility and overlap, especially between the 3 and 4.  I think he might see a best case scenario and know where a guy fits in if he hits his ceiling but it takes multiple years to get there with anyone, so why bother worrying about it.  It's not his job (or even a concern of his) to affect speculation.

Beilein has been pretty clear and (IMO) truthful in describing the versatility he sees in people like Chatman and Wilson.  In the end, he's going to play the best basketball players he can on the wing.


June 1st, 2015 at 5:28 PM ^

are more than capable of handling the 3 and 4 duties, as complements to our guards.  They are better players already than Novak ever was. (No direspect intended, I was a huge fan while he was here, but Michigan has moved forward as a program since then and you saw what happened when MIchigan upgraded from Novak to Robinson...)

If anyone is going to push Dawkins or Irvin to the bench, Kam Chatman is the biggest threat IMO.  He has the size, athleticism, and passing ability - just needs to put it together to play more intelligently and within the flow of the team game.  We've seen the flashes.

Wagner seems too skinny to make a big impact at the 4 and Robinson sounds like he could be limited to the 3 spot for defensive reasons (as Stauskas was as a freshman).  Michigan doesn't need another big offensive threat if Spike, Caris, Zak, and Derrick are all healthy.  They do need a guy who can defend, rebound, pass and hit corner 3s -- Chatman has the potential to do that. Dawkins too, though his defense was a problem as a freshman.


June 1st, 2015 at 11:55 AM ^

Anyone know where he pulls this data for the OL from?  Would be interested in keeping track of it...

"improved to 50th in Adj. Line Yards and 72nd in Adj. Sack Rate."


June 1st, 2015 at 12:10 PM ^

one of the few good players on their team. I hope FYS never wakes up. They are one of my singular least favorite teams in the world and I hope they suck forever. Keep it up Anastos, you da man


June 1st, 2015 at 12:18 PM ^

Notes on Baxter:

Too many coaches don’t teach, they narrate. (emphasis added) You see coaches during practice "You missed the block" or "You dropped the ball." Don’t commentate, give them the tools to do it correctly.

Hmmm. . .


June 1st, 2015 at 12:58 PM ^

From what I gathered from quick Google searching, Bruce Brown lists himself as being from Dorchester, MA, which is in Boston proper. He went to HS in Wakefield (north of the city) and then transferred to Vermony Academy. If anyone was wondering, I hope that clears things up. I was curious because I'm from/live in the Boston area.


June 1st, 2015 at 3:58 PM ^

According the linked glossary of advanced stats and terms on the linked page, here's the definition of Adjusted Pace:

Adj. Pace

Part of the offensive footprint, this takes into account both the number of plays a team attempts and the type of play. Since passes, on average, take up less time (thanks to the fact that 30-50 percent of them are incomplete and stop the clock), pass-heavy offenses are prone to run more plays, therefore limiting the effectiveness of a general plays-per-game measure. Adj. Pace takes a team's run-pass ratio into account.


June 1st, 2015 at 3:50 PM ^

I assign about 40% to RR recruiting, as it left us low on talent and bodies. This was papered over by Molk, and then Denard, but it showed up even before that.

Next would be 30% to Borges, although I can't sub categorize that. I don't see the tinkering as the problem as much as I see it as a response to a problem (a response that made things worse, granted, but given the state of the team it's not clear that blocking at the 75th best level would have made any difference versus the utter shambles we actually were). Put another way, we were failing, and rather than hope we gelled, he tried anything he could think of. I can't really fault that, even if it didn't work; it's not clear that anything would have. The bottom line is that it was his job, and he couldn't get it done.

Finally I assign Funk about 15% - he has to get some, but he also did good work with Glasgow, Magnusen and Cole, and was the coach for the rebound to bad (from utterly abysmal, granted).

The remainder I assign to injury (I think Kalis's back boo-boo has been a big factor in his lack of success thus far, for example), and slight over expectations - even five star linemen fail more often than you'd think, and we didn't exactly have wall-to-wall future-Sunday guys. Put more simply, I think that first year gave us less tolerance for what followed.

May we never have to dissect a similar failure again.


June 1st, 2015 at 5:11 PM ^

He short-changed the numbers there but he had a bunch of very good young linemen and a massive problem on defense AND a proven ability to get people up to speed quickly.  Rodriguez would have never faced the OL problems that Hoke did because he could identify OL talent very well and develop it very quickly.  Jake Fisher would have been here in 2013 and Rodriguez would have been just fine with the guys he had.  So yeah, you can blame Rodriguez for not setting up Hoke for success, but that wasn't his job.  Any blame to Rodriguez really should be beared by Dave Brandon.  So give HIM your 40%.

I'm not sure I'd bother parsing out percentages between Funk, Borges, and Hoke.  Patrick Omameh was an excellent OLmen under Rodriguez and moved on to be an NFL starter. Under that coaching staff at Michigan he was so ineffective that MIchigan fans were actively shooing him out the door and assuming the freshman could easily take his place.  That's how bad it was.

If you're going to blame recruiting -- you can blame Hoke.  Who was here for a full season before the '12 class was wrapped up, saw the situation, knew he wanted to play man ball, but still recruited only 4 guys to fill the gaping needs that would be there in 2013 and 2014, even if he had the good fortune to get Lewan back for his final season.

Magnuson and Cole didn't look any better later on than they looked in their first games.  If there's an argument for Funk it probably has to lie with Jack Miller, who was unplayable until breaking through into competancy in 2014.

Injuries are a part of football. Michigan OL has been exceptionally healthy the last few years. In other words, it could have been much much worse.  Rodriguez had less luck losing a couple seasons of Barnum (who was a guy they wanted and liked more than anyone besides maybe Molk and Lewan) and of course Pace.

So, in conclusion:  20 % Brandon  40% Funk and 40% Hoke/Borges.  I wouldn't blame Rodriguez AT ALL for stuff going on multiple years after he was fired.


June 1st, 2015 at 4:57 PM ^

He's listed at 5'11, while Walton is 6'.  They look to be about the same height (hard to tell with Walton's hair) in most photos I've seen and on the court. So if Michigan is fudging they're doing it on both of them.  Anyway, there's not much (any?) reason to inflate a sub 6' PG's height, assuming he's not an NBA prospect.  If anything you'd want to exaggerate how short he is to encourage the underdog narrative.