The "Right" Talent Needed in The Spread Offense?

Submitted by joelrodz on October 25th, 2009 at 9:53 PM
I took the liberty to use "I Blue Myself" content regarding how RR did with the spread over the years at WV and matched it up against the play time of WV's Pat White and Steve Slaton to see how the win pct changed for that team when these 2 work horses saw the field.  Both Slaton and White started playing in 2005 (both freshmen at the time, with slaton being a true frosh) with Slaton going pro after the 2007 season and White after the 2008 season.

When we look at WV records below, we see a dramatic improvement from 2001 to 2002. After the 2002 season it remained pretty constant until 2005 when Slaton and White saw playing time.

My thoughts on the shift in records from 2001-2002 and from 2004-2005 are as follows: The first shift appears mostly do to RR's spread implementation and having the right players in the system (perhaps similar to what we are seeing in Michigan from 2008-2009). The 2004-2005 change is the one i find most interesting. It appears that until Slaton and White came to WV the team was stuck in 8-9 wins and could not muster enough to compete for a BCS title. After White and Slaton took over the offense, the team won 10+ games every year.

I make these points simply in observation because i see some posts that assume we should be competing for a BT title and the like by year 3. I am not saying we won't, but based on RRs trajectory at WV, it seems that he needs the right talent to work his voodoo magic with his offense. If that talent is not there, a linear projection of continuous improvement might be wishful thinking. And i say "right" talent because Slaton and White were both 3 star recruits even though Slaton ran a blazing 4.3 40. 

Anyway, I'm I smoking crack or is there a valid relationship between the 2004-2005 jump in wins and the playing time of Slaton and White?

(Thanks to I Blue Myself for the content)

2001: 3-8 overall, 0-5 vs the top 30 and 0-2 vs the top 10.

2002: 9-4 overall, 3-3 vs the top 30 and 0-1 vs the top 10. WVU beat BC, Va. Tech, and Pitt.

2003: 8-5 overall, 0-3 vs the top 30, 0-3 vs the top 10.

2004: 8-4 overall, 0-3 vs the top 30, 0-1 vs. the top 10

2005: 11-1 overall, 2-1 vs. top 30, 0-1 vs. top 10
WVU beat SEC Champ Georgia, Louisville. Lost to Va. Tech

2006: 11-2 overall, 1-1 vs. top 30, 0-1 vs. top 10
WVU beat #12 Rutgers, lost to #5 Louisville (wow, how times have changed)

2007: 11-2 overall, 1-1 vs. top 30, 1-0 vs. top 10
WVU beat #5 Oklahoma, lost to #20 S. Florida.


OMG Shirtless

October 25th, 2009 at 10:00 PM ^

The one thing about this data that I was thinking about. Assuming the data uses the final rankings, what are the odds that a team would stay in the top 10 or top 25 with a loss against WV on its resume? Obviously it wouldn't be as big of an issue in the 2005-2007 range, but in the early 2000s WV didn't have the greatest reputation and a loss to them may knock a team out of the top 10/top 30.

It would be interesting to see both the record vs. top 30/top 10 at the time of the game as well as the end of the season.


October 25th, 2009 at 10:59 PM ^

When we made the hire. Not that we hired a bad coach but that being an elite contender would require us having the perfect storm of talent. I felt like we might start being the 9-3, 8-4, 10-2 teams that always compete for our conference championship & make a good bowl but over the course of a couple decades would only be in serious contention for national titles a small percentage of those years. Mainly because I feel that this system needs guys like PW & SS to make that next step. Scheme can only get you so far. And this system doesn't recruit just any ol players we want, especially because we are up north and the south AND west really does have a lot to offer kids in the attractive wow factor dept. that are playing the true spread offense. But hell maybe RR can actually start getting those types and finding them easier than he did at any school before here??

I think the jury is still out and will be for some time on if that is true or not, but I feel its obvious that we made a change that could at least put us ahead of a conference that is truly a step behind in the evolution of college football, IF we are patient. But I also feel that being ahead of the Big 10 isn't getting us all the way into true national contention & that is ultimately where I think all the die hard true blue Michigan fans are starving for us to be. We want to a program that is legitimately in the conversation year in and year out. I just hope that over the course of the next few seasons with improvement on the football field & with hard work on the recruiting trail, since it will obviously be easier for RR to recruit here than at WV, that UM football will get the elite talent needed & stay loaded with it so we will contend every year once the first few years of building this system are out of the way and the major hurdles are crossed.

Blue in Seattle

October 26th, 2009 at 11:56 AM ^

I'm no recruiting guru, and actually I think ranking children while still in high school as to their talent possibilities in college is pretty much a crap shoot except for generalities, i.e Will Campbell will probably be pretty good because now he can knock over two people at the same time.

But how can we worry ourselves and clutch the pearls over the talent that RR may or may not recruit in the coming years when he can build a national champtionship contender at WVU out of 3 stars?

To me that indicates he can develop talent into something the NFL wants (both former 3 star players are playing in the NFL now, aren't they? even though they were raised in a spread style team?)

and although Michigan is taking a dip in the TV coverage this year and last, I think it's still far beyond the exposure that WVU ever did or ever will get. Talented kids understand this very very well, I would say they understand is better than their stated "I want a strong acedemic school".

in general everyone is just too impatient.

But at least we have a blog where we can vent our emotions while we're remembering to be patient,

a Michigan Fan "time out" if you will.

I Blue Myself

October 25th, 2009 at 10:50 PM ^

Just to be clear, my original post was in response to a post someone had copied from the ESPN board pointing out Rich Rod's relatively poor record against teams that finished the season in the top 10 or top 30 of the Sagarin rankings. I don't know why they chose those cutoffs, but that was the source of my rankings. I didn't exactly triple check my work, so it's possible my numbers are slightly off.

I don't know the details of what went on at WVU in those years, so I can only speculate as to what exctly caused the major leap from 2004 to 2005. But I'm sure Pat White and Steve Slaton were a huge part of it. Some people have viewed this as a knock against Rich Rod -- i.e. he was only able to win because he lucked into getting a couple of low-ranked recruits who turned out to have NFL level talent. In some sense, this is true. You need to have high level talent in order to compete at the highest levels. But great talent doesn't always lead to great results (see Ron Zook), and even with White and Slaton, I'm sure Rich Rod had less talent to work with than Georgia or Oklahoma.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the huge leap at WVU came after four years of Rich Rod as coach. At that point, basically everyone on the team was recruited by RR for his system, and there wouldn't have been as much of a need to play freshmen (except freshmen with incredible talent, like White and Slaton). If you went back and looked at WVU in detail, I bet you'd find that they had the supporting cast in place in 2005 to take advantage of White and Slaton's talent. This probably supports your point that we shouldn't expect a major leap upward next year.

P.S. Always trust content from I Blue Myself, in spite of the name and avatar.


October 25th, 2009 at 11:04 PM ^

Enjoyed the post and perspective that this is not merely a function of time to install the spread, but also a function of the talent we bring in....That being said, and perhaps out of arrogance, we Michigan fans assume that given our tradition and national recruiting base, we could bring in the necessary talent for RR's system after a couple years of recruiting, and it would be just a matter of a couple years before the offense was humming. And to be honest, as disheartening as yesterdays loss was, it in no ways implies that the offense is not on schedule. Remember, if we assume that 08's class was half RR's, and half Lloyd's, and 09's class was all RR's, the significant offensive improvements have been made with a mix of primarily freshmen and sophomores, and only from 1 and a half RR recruiting classes. I am not concerned about the offense for the future. With Tate (remember....only a freshman) and gardner coming in, and speed all around, we should be ok there....especially once we get the linemen we need.

My concern is definitely the defense. We need studs on the lines and at cb. And seriously, why can we not recruit LBs anymore. I think this will be the test for RR and his staff going forward.

I also have one off topic remark to make about the SEC love in the media....
At some point someone needs to point out that the offense they play in the SEC (outside of UF's explosive group last year) may not always be a function of "Great SEC defensive speed." It's really annoying. Maybe the SEC offenses just suck?


October 25th, 2009 at 11:22 PM ^

regardless of the conference.
1. Athletic veteran QB with skills for the system he plays in.

2. A solid veteran O-Line.

3. A disiplined defense capable of making a stop when needed and not routinely giving up huge chunks of yardage.

I.E. the consistent leaders of the SEC, Big 12 and PAC 10.

Whether it is USC, Texas Florida, LSU, Alabama or to a lesser extent Oklahoma, each of these teams over the last several years has played with a veteran QB that fits the system, Solid OLine play from upper classmen and a relatively stout defense. The Big12 pretenders can score a ton of points, but can't stop anybody (Okie St and TT come to mind).

What happened Saturday, and the trend that seems to be playing itself out right now, is that the most important position on the team, QB, is VERY young with little experience in big games. The O line is undersized and over-matched and the defense is young, inexperienced and seemingly clueless in the back seven. No coach, and I mean NO COACH can win consistantly with that recipe.

This process will take some time. Unfortunately, the HORROR, and last season have made most of the fanbase very impatient. We all want to see this team improve quickly and begin to restore the glory to which we have all become accustomed.

This will not happen in a season or two or maybe three, but it will happen. Tate needs to stay upright (better blocking), he needs to make better reads and they have to do much better on 1st down. Look at the stats and you'll see, this offense hums when they aren't in 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 8.

We need linebackers in the worst way and safeties that don't get faked out of their shorts on every play-action move.

Michigan was beaten by a top-15 team that will compete for the Big-10 championship and a Jan. 1 bowl. We all got sucked into the hype of PSU not really being good and UM being on the edge of being very good. Michigan is not there yet, but they will be.


October 26th, 2009 at 9:18 PM ^

with the bulk of your comments but with regard to PSU, it's not that they were hyped as not being very good, it's that because of who they had played you couldn't really tell how good they were. As far as M is concerned, their weaknesses were exposed but up until the PSU game, it was reasonable to expect a much closer game (the bookies had about a +5 point spread). The game gives further data that shows just how much M needs to improve. Here's hoping that the rest of the season plays out with no more blowouts against M.


October 27th, 2009 at 12:56 AM ^

The one I wonder about is the first point. Veteran maybe in that they have been with the program a few years yeah - experience wise maybe not so much. Boeckman took OSU to the title game in his first year of starting (ditto Krenzel). Bama currently sits close to the top of the BCS rankings and their QB is in his first year of starting. USC's starting a true frosh and they're 5th in the BCS standings (although it will be interesting to see how they do in Eugene this weekend).

I think the second and third points are very true. They both can help compensate for a QB who maybe doesn't have a lot of experience. The third is what bothers me with UM. Their defense is a ways away from being on par with Bama, Florida, Texas, USC, etc.

M Go Brew

October 26th, 2009 at 1:39 AM ^

RR has shown that he can adapt his offense to his players at Tulane, Clemson, and WVU. I would assume he would do the same here. I don't think we are recruiting all of these receivers to just block. My gut tells me that in the next year or two, as the line and receivers mature, we will see more of an "Oregon with Dennis Dixon" than a "WVU with Pat White" because Tate is a better passer than runner.

On the other side of the ball, if we had a dominant defense year in and year out, we would be in the conversation for NC. The offense should - barring catastrophe - be good enough for a top 10 finish without a "perfect storm" of talent. Defense still wins championships... at least until Vince Young comes back to college.


October 26th, 2009 at 10:29 AM ^

When does Denard Robinson become "not the right talent" for quarterback? Even the argument that he is a wildcat qb doesn't quite do it, because Ronnie Brown is a wildcat qb throwing against NFL defenses, and he doesn't throw as many INTs as D Rob (Ronnie also isn't on the depth chart as a qb).

I don't mean this to be condescending to D Robinson, but I have to wonder when Tate establishes himself as THE qb, no matter what, sink or swim. Maybe put Robinson in every once and a while, but don't give him entire drives.

Robinson is way too good of an athlete not to utilize. He has even shown signs off toughness beyond his speed (I notice that he tends to fall forward when in a pile). But, when does RR draw the line and give full control to Tate and make D Rob become a slot receiver or an option qb that is only utilized sparatically. I feel that Rich Rod is catering to D Rob's athleticism and doesn't want to upset him by asking him to move positions.

I do realize that our back up qb would then be Nick Sheridan. But in terms of the passing game, would that really be so bad (5 ints on 137 att for Sheridan)(4 ints on 21 att for Robinson and 2 tds were wide open v. Deleware state). Ok, nevermind, it would still suck.


October 26th, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

I don't think that we'll see D-Rob switch to another position until there is an established back-up. Michigan has to have two QB's who can run the offense (and it's not really worth using Sheridan at this point). The switch could be next year if Gardner doesn't redshirt. More likely, it will be 2011.

I agree that Robinson should not get entire drives with the game in question. I was listening to the game on the car radio Saturday and cringed when it was 3rd and 9. I just knew what was coming next. The same thing applied to the Iowa game on the last drive.

Obviously, RR knows more about his personnel than I do but from what we've all seen on the field so far this year, it's pretty obvious that D-Rob has questionable passing (and decision making) skills when throwing anything over 5-7 yards downfield.

I realize that he's a true freshman (yada, yada, yada...) but that doesn't change the reality that he won't get it done in those circumstances this year. TF at least has a realistic chance.


October 26th, 2009 at 3:02 PM ^

"can you only use specific guys to run this offense?". Meaning White in particular due to his ability to make the correct reads. I remember watching RR on TV a long time ago talking about the complexity of the reads that White would make in split instant. Not saying others cannot do that, but I know his backup could not do it against an average Pitt team that ultimately send RR here. The backup had to be in the system for multiple years as well.


October 26th, 2009 at 4:31 PM ^

Ever so slightly OT, but every time I hear colleges mentioned like USC, Florida, LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, it just reminds me that Michigan needs to reestablish the "reload" on higher-performance-probability 4* and 5* recruits as soon as possible. Yes, there are the 3* sleepers in every class. That is the baseline from which those other programs are developing their annual results. Get those "inputs", and apply Barwis and RR coaching, and you will see M back in the BCS hunt every year.

Michigan landed Big Will and JT last year, and DG, Marvin Robinson and Ricardo this year, so that is a really nice start. Still, this year seems to be generally lagging in terms of contending for many of the remaining top recruits, probably due to last year's record. Regardless of the reason, Michigan needs to be in legitimate contention for more of the Top 100.

I will feel a lot better when Michigan is once again dominating in-state recruiting, poaching a chunk of Ohio, and working those CA, PA, TX and FL pipelines to get Top 20 in-staters. It will be great to see the program resume a consistent Top 5 overall recruiting presence, and there is no reason fans should expect otherwise.


October 27th, 2009 at 9:12 PM ^

I agree except that Florida has shit for defense this year and is only undefeated because they have the SEC financing their ref payoffs. They're sick of hearing about how the Big Ten has the only two-time Heisman (although, I hate hearing it's Griffin).

Look what happened when they played a decent offense in the 2007 Michigan team. They couldn't keep them out of the endzone unless Hart was fumbling on the goal line.