WTKA Roundtable 2/8/2018: Disappointing Finishes

Submitted by Seth on February 9th, 2018 at 11:31 AM

WTKA cover 2018-02-09

Super Bowl things discussed:

  • Brady can’t play defense (or receiver).
  • Matt Patricia to Lions: Ziggy is probably 40.

Signing Day things discussed:

  • Brian: Needs to be better, don’t think it’s going to be better enough. Best recruit they got since the season started (so after Muhammad)? Something fell apart after the professional recruiting guys came in. Pep’s an NFL guy that doesn’t help. Drevno whiffs on every big-time OT he goes after. What does the recruiting operation inside look like? This and the OL seem like the same problem.
  • Ed: Not worried, play football.
  • Craig: Should get a four-star out of every two three-stars. Coaching staff leaning on evaluation. Doesn’t agree with a lot of four- and three-star evaluations. Shouldn’t have passed on Alaric Jackson, now gonna be an All-B1G guy for Iowa.
  • Sam: The bad season was a problem.
  • They couldn’t even get guys on campus in January—this looked like Rich Rod at the end of his career. That OL was completely terrible, probably used effectively against M’s recruiters.
  • Mistake to pick fights with Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State when they don’t have the season to back it.
  • Giving Partridge the recruiting coordinator job is not a mistake: overhaul of recruiting efforts expected.
  • Lost their all-star recruiting staff from 2016-’17: Bam Richards, Gwen Bush, Tony Tuioti, et al. New people need to get up to speed on cultivating relationships.
  • At one point does Drevno get put under the microscope? Sam: Brace yourself for no changes there. OT development will be on display this year—last year they didn’t have the guys to throw at it (Ulizio, JBB, Runyan << all the guys coming off redshirts and maybe getting Newsome back)
  • Off to a very good start in 2019.

Basketball things discussed:

  • Loss to Northwestern was a bad beat. Survived Minnesota, defense let them down in the second half, Michigan can’t get into their offense until late in the shot clock.
  • Can’t fix the free throws.
  • Matthews suffers because Michigan can’t get jumpshot spacing from the PG. Other guys can’t get their own shots.
  • Craig: This team can’t shoot. Is a believer in hypnosis.
  • Ira: Second-chance points against Minnesota disappeared vs Northwestern, and so did turnovers—need transition baskets to beat up on a good defensive team.

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here. Tiny hamsters eating burritos are still here.


This looked like Rich Rod at the end of his career, this recruiting.



February 9th, 2018 at 12:05 PM ^

That's what I came here to ask. I never heard that news. Bummer if she is gone. Her role was novel nationwide, born of good insight from Harbaugh, and wildly productive in terms of having another closer at the end of each recruitment, as an extra persuasive birdie in the parents' ear.


February 9th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

Agreed.  And even if Mama Gwen is gone, we've got basically an unlimited checkbook for the football team when it comes to legal/legitimate advantages. You'd think you could EASILY throw like $200K  and get a ton of interest in the position from a nation wide search & also maybe throw in $60K or $75K for a top quality assistant as well.

Then if the primary person eventually leaves, you get the 2nd in command to step up to the top slot for continuity and hire a new #2.




February 9th, 2018 at 4:24 PM ^

I know he has been suffering and needs to have it done.  I imagine that has more to do with the way our recruiting cycle ended that people care to admit.  Angelique mentioned that she and Jim both needed sugery.  I am hoping Jim can have the anterior hip replacement and be back to himself soon since that type will be less evasive.

Pai Mei

February 9th, 2018 at 12:18 PM ^

Brian was all over it. Great stuff. 

I have a couple of questions about the class:

1) Its a risk not taking a DT this class right? Same applied to only taking one OT considering Hayes is said to be playing TE. I understand we took a large class in 2017, but still. 

2) Was the main recruiting issue this class because we lost Coach Wheatley and the coaching turnover? This staff knows how to identify talent but the organization is very troubling considering the salaries of the staff. 


February 9th, 2018 at 12:27 PM ^

1. It's kind of a risk not to take a DT in this class. They tried with Friday, but they also redshirted a couple guys. Paea and Jeter didn't play this year. Hopefully they get a good DT or two in 2019.

2. Wheatley was a good recruiter in Michigan. He went to Robichaud and knew people in the Detroit area. He also had name recognition. I don't know that his absence hurt elsewhere, but Michigan didn't really try to recruit too many 2018 kids in the Detroit area. They got Hayes, Mayfield, Hutchinson, VanSumeren, etc., but they didn't want guys like Gervin, anyway. So I don't think losing Wheatley was that big of a deal. It may hurt in 2019 and beyond, though...


February 9th, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

The thing that scares me the most is Brian losing it. Prior to this he was 'Harbaugh's an elite coach, I'm tired of hawt takes'. Now he just seems like he has lost faith, an almost Lions acceptence of things. 'Doesn't matter who we bring in. Bad things will happen to us'. 

I hope we can get our shit together. I hope Drev can get the O line together. 

I'm not sure what he meant about the 'professional recruiters' coming in. Did we get rid of alot of recruiters that had been working well for us earlier? 


February 9th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

Brian sometimes skids into the ennui as much as any of us. It wasn't a good year, but it also feels like a bit of an overreaction to say everything must be blown up and we are screwed forever. Then of course talk up 2019 recruiting, which is run by basically the same guys.


February 9th, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

1) Don't forget DIB as a potential 3T guy coming off a redshirt as well. Might be an anchor but he's got the frame for either/both.

2) Think Sherrone Moore will help in-state. It seems they're putting a bigger emphasis on in-state right now for '19 and beyond with the whole staff involved so I'm cautiously optimistic they can catch up and clean up on that front.

Enos would have helped in-state but then again, fuck Dan Enos and his stupid Situation tan.


February 9th, 2018 at 11:12 PM ^

A bunch of those kids just got Michigan offers and the tune seems to be changing already. I don't think the staff was doing a good job with the in-state '19s before but at least they identified the problem and are fixing it with hires (Moore, Washington) and hustle (everyone on staff has been out and about in-state since the early signing period).

Maybe I'm being overly optimistic here but Dantonio has beaten Harbaugh for an in-state kid Michigan wanted exactly once in Corley. There's enough other stuff to be concerned about that I'm not going to worry about that unless it actually becomes a problem.

Maize N' Ute

February 9th, 2018 at 1:18 PM ^

Mags, I respect your recruiting and scouting prowless, so let me throw something out to you:

Instead of hiring retread NFL coaches, why not focus on college and high school coaches as assistants?  Partridge has been tremendous for recruting, plus i believe he's a pretty dang coach. Bush is another HS coach who brings a lot to the table when it comes to recruiting. 

If we're having problems with our staff recruiting because it's not really their thing and they can't really resonate with the players, why not bring in a staff that can?  I would think bringing in a Wilcher from Cass would be a huge plus for the program, especially instate recruiting.  Wilcher has created a power with Cass, that has to say something about him, right?

I think the hiring of Washington and Moore will help with recruiting as well.  They're both young guys who played or coached in Michigan and Ohio.  I would image they have some respect from high school coaches. College and NFL are two different worlds.  I think we need people who love college football.

Maybe just being delusional? Thoughts?




February 9th, 2018 at 1:21 PM ^

Offensively, I think one situation is this:

Nobody runs Harbaugh's offense anymore. The "innovators" are the spread guys, the ones who run RPOs and throw the ball 60 times a game. Harbaugh wins partly because he runs an offense that is antiquated in some ways. Everything goes in cycles. It's like running the single wing. The single wing didn't go away because it stopped working, but because it was new and interesting and (most) people just stopped being interested in it.

So who excels at running offenses with multiple tight ends, fullbacks, etc.? It's not the Lincoln Rileys and Mike Leaches and Dabo Swinneys of the world. It's Harbaugh and the old-world ilk from the NFL and college football from the 1980s and 1990s. There are some ways to juice it up and make it interesting (like Matt Canda does), but you don't find many I-formation gurus in college or high school anymore.

I'm a high school coach, and nobody on our schedule ran a "conventional" I-formation offense this past year. The only team in our area (not on our schedule) who runs primarily I-formation stuff, we haven't played them in two years. It's all spread, option, double wing, pistol, etc. Granted, that's a tiny sample size compared to all the high school teams across the country, but it's not a sexy thing to do right now.

I've heard that Wilcher has been approached by college staffs before but hasn't budged from Cass Tech. Maybe that's just where he sees his calling in life.


February 9th, 2018 at 2:09 PM ^

It's harder for us to find talent/create pipelines because of our system? I do like our system. Well, the first two years I did. 

I'm a CC guy, and Wilcher has thrashed us. But part of me would be sad to see him go; from what I've read he's a good coach and great for that program. 


February 9th, 2018 at 5:07 PM ^

But . . . it's hard to find parts for, and to find people who know how to tune it.  And it breaks down a lot if not well-tuned.

At what point is it worth it?

Why is a "Stanford" type offense our goal state? 

Stanford has not had a sniff at the CFP.  They would be a middle of the pack team in the Big Ten East.




February 9th, 2018 at 5:06 PM ^

Wisc. does what it does because it has to. 

Good on them, they do it well, but they have yet to win the Big Ten in the Urban Meyer reign of terror.

If Michigan is shopping around for offense role models, we can do better than Wisconsin and Stanford, which do what they do because they have to.




February 10th, 2018 at 1:17 AM ^

I find what Penn State did extremely instructional.

Because they were in the exact same position that we are now . . . a shellshocked QB in Hackenberg behind a leaky disjointed OL, trying to run a pro style offense.. 

It was not working.  They were not a threat to any actual good teams.

But give that dufus James Franklin credit, he saw there was a problem and did the Don Brown thing and went out and got a top OC with a proven scheme and record of success with college players. 

It was a success that catapulted them from a near-death penalty program to a school on the rise with a Big Ten Championship, a Rose Bowl appearence, and now a top 5 recruiting class.

Had they just kept diddling around with their old pro style scheme, even with Barkley, they would be off the radar and Franklin on the hot seat (or gone by now).

When it's not working, it's not working.  Time to stop pumping the dry well.



February 9th, 2018 at 1:48 PM ^

Yeah, that was the most troubling quote I heard during the podcast as well.

I doubt he'll chime in specfically here, but just in case he's reading:

BRIAN--Care to follow-up on that statement & flesh out the details a bit more?  Clearly in 2016 & 2017 we had solid classes.  You don't think we can make that the norm going forward w/ the occasional outlier up or down here & there?  If not, why not?  

If not, it seems to me it could be a few different answers as to why (corresponding w/ different levels of pessimism):

Worst Case--Do you think it'll NEVER get better due to some type of institutional disadvantages we have at Michigan itself? (As in--even other coaching regimes 15-20 years hence won't be able to do it either.) 

Medium Case--Or is it more permanently anchored in the Harbaugh/Manuel dynamic & it just won't change until one or both are gone?  (As in--it can be done at Michigan, but we've got the wrong folks at the top & it won't change until they are gone).

Best Case--Or is it simply that you think the Harbaugh/Manuel regime CAN get there, but you're sketpical that the current & near-future steps they'll take are not sufficient to fully get there?  (As in--Harbaugh/Manuel can do it, but you think they'll need to go through another inflection points of "pain" before they are finally willing to stop with the half-measures & finally go all-in).

Because that general statement by him freaked me out.  Exactly HOW freaked out I'll get would largely depend on his underlying reasons/thoughts for the statement.


February 9th, 2018 at 2:09 PM ^

It's easy to feel down when you feel like crap.  I've heard brighter takes about the same news, from the same guys, right here.

The class isn't star-studded and they missed on a lot of targets but I was hearing at the very beginning of the recruiting cycle that the top recruits we wanted weren't interested, and that was before the 2017 season ended.  So I'm not sure how a class that more or less wound up as expected is "disappointing".  Michigan fans can act like even months-old narratives are bolts from the blue if it helps them feel terrible about the state of the program, and Brian isn't immune.

I do share legit concerns about Drevno.  I have no idea how much of this is his fault, and it's not like I want his guilt, but if there's any sense of accountability inside the program, they're not showing their hand on how they intend to improve things.  Apologies are nice but we need O-line recruiting and development to stop being the way it is.

On the other hand, after the last two cycles I really don't see this as anything but an anomaly that, yes, better stay an anomaly.  But with even 2019 looking much better, this isn't indicative of a downward trend so I don't know where all the doom & gloom is coming from.  It's healthy to be concerned but "RichRod's last season"?  8-5 would've been RichRod's best season at Michigan.

I'm much more concerned about all the futzing around they did on offense last year.  They're paying Pep and Drevno big money and for all the problems they had, it looks like they set an awful lot of practice time on fire from general disorganization.


February 9th, 2018 at 2:42 PM ^

"It's healthy to be concerned but "RichRod's last season"?  8-5 would've been RichRod's best season at Michigan."

I do worry about the seeming lack of organization. It seems like our D line coaches are doing a good job developing guys and fitting them into the system. The O line coaches... not so much. 


February 9th, 2018 at 4:49 PM ^

that was only because expectations were adjusted downward signifcantly very early on in the process.

Gloom and doom?  We started off 19-3 under Harbaugh.  We're 9-8 since, and have seen our biggest rivals out-coach and out-recruit us badly.  Harbaugh and his staff have shown no ability to develop either a QB or an offensive line, (which they were supposed to be the best at, and without which we won't be winning much of anything for the forseeable future).  There was absolutely nothing about the look and feel of Michigan football over the past year that gave the impression of a program on the rise to national championship status.  Or even Big Ten Eastern Division championship status.  Things just seem to be floundering.  People no longer feel like we're going to win simply because Harbaugh is here.


February 9th, 2018 at 12:47 PM ^

Ryan Hayes keeps saying he is going to play TE and Mayfield received all his praise as a defender in high school - Mayfield is three years away from being a backup.  This team is fucked. 


February 9th, 2018 at 1:12 PM ^

I'm hoping for an msu type turnaround this season.  They were suicidal during the 3-9 season and off-season with no staff changes.


It's possible.  Right?


I'll feel a lot better if Drevno serves as an analyst, Harbaugh calls plays and recruits, and Warinner works with the OL and recruits.  


February 9th, 2018 at 1:14 PM ^

Mama Bush! Where is she!

Losing Wheatley has been a HUGE loss and put that w Fisch and we are in a huge ass hole. We actually need some guys alla Wheatley Woodson with some juice!

Drevno and Pep have 0 juice w kids these days.


February 9th, 2018 at 1:55 PM ^

What offensive player would want to go to Michigan?  Player development on that side of the ball has been sorely lacking.  That is not on the players, that is on the coaches.  MSU and Wisconsin are head and shoulders better than Michigan in developing players.

If things do not click this year it will be time of a Brian Kelly-esque house cleaning.



February 9th, 2018 at 4:59 PM ^

If 2018 is another 8-4 bust, how long after a purge of offensive coaches will it be before the new guys can bring things up to speed?  At least two years, and probably more like 3-4 to get a decent Oline developed.  Harbaugh won't survive that, especially if we're losing to OSU and MSU every year.

Unless last year was a huge anomaly, and we prove that right off the bat in 2018, Harbaugh is toast.  He'll probably get a fifth year regardless of how things go in 2018, but if he can't make a championship team out of the talent he has back this year, there will be no keeping the wolves from the door.


February 9th, 2018 at 2:44 PM ^

Michigan football is in a state of limbo right now, similar to other older traditional "powers" such as Texas, ND, Tennessee etc.

The problem starts with the culture of the program, school and fans which is rooted in this myopic "leaders and best" thinking, which honestly has not been true in many, many years.

Hiring Harbaugh was supposed to lead to a rejuvenation of the program.  Unfortunately its created a situation where the program is teetering on failure. 

Instead of getting to work, rebuilding brick-by-brick, Jim chose to make a spectactle of the program with his unusual and off-beat recruiting and marketing gimmicks.  To make matters worse, he continued the tradition of "glamour program" which Hoke installed, where the team went on off-season trips to exotic (increasingly so) locations receiving rewards which they had not earned yet.

In order to get this program back on track, Jim needs to 1) Cut out the distracting BS that he himself creates 2) Get back to the basics of blocking and tackling and fundamentals  3) Recruit tough, smart, hard nosed players, particularly on the O line. 4) Cut the "entitlement" mentality that pervades across the program, from the team to the overpaid/underqualified assistant coaches.  Jim should have eliminated many of those guys this off season, but he did not.  That is not a good sign.