We have enough talent to win now

Submitted by Magnum P.I. on December 30th, 2014 at 2:03 PM

So thorough was the coaching incompetence at Michigan the past two seasons that many among us have genuinely become convinced that we don't have good players on our team. On-field ineptitude chipped away at our psychology, making us feel that all things Michigan football were inept. Even in the past glorious days, there are Michigan fans claiming that we don't have good players and that we should temper our expectations for Harbaugh's first years. Maybe by 2017 we will have a competitive team.


We have extremely talented players and can be competitive this next season. The table below shows the total points from the 247 Composite Team Rankings for the 2014, 2013, and 2012 recruiting classes. Players from these classes will be teams' primary contributors during the 2015 season. Total points take into consideration both quality and number of recruits in a class. The "Total" column in the table simply sums the total points from the 2014, 2013, and 2012 classes, resulting in total points over the three-year period. Further, since older players typically contribute more, another column, "Weighted total," gives more weight to 2012 (x2) and 2013 (x1.5) points to privilege talent more likely to contribute next year. Note that the top 50 teams in terms of three-year total points, plus Big Ten and future opponents are included in the table.   

Rank Team 2014 2013 2012 Total Weighted total Weighted Rank
1 Alabama 319.58 319.48 310.06 949.12 945.95 (1)
2 Ohio State 296.06 303.28 281.66 881.00 876.20 (2)
3 Florida 267.75 291.51 286.99 846.25 852.66 (3)
4 Florida State 286.77 262.45 287.72 836.94 837.26 (4)
5 LSU 298.80 281.04 247.10 826.94 809.71 (6)
6 Georgia 273.38 260.43 270.37 804.18 803.18 (7)
7 Michigan 233.54 289.17 275.89 798.60 812.72 (5)
8 Texas A&M 278.25 267.84 245.56 791.65 780.75 (12)
9 Notre Dame 260.44 284.77 244.29 789.50 784.12 (10)
10 Auburn 276.87 252.54 259.73 789.14 783.43 (11)
11 USC 260.54 256.45 268.36 785.35 787.96 (9)
12 Texas 240.71 234.55 295.80 771.06 789.42 (8)
13 Miami 255.80 250.44 264.52 770.76 773.67 (13)
14 UCLA 238.37 276.28 243.49 758.14 759.85 (14)
15 Oklahoma 248.55 241.44 251.20 741.19 742.07 (15)
16 Clemson 240.66 249.53 245.91 736.10 737.85 (16)
17 Tennessee 274.76 213.60 239.11 727.47 715.59 (17)
18 South Carolina 240.77 223.69 244.96 709.42 710.82 (19)
19 Oregon 232.45 227.75 247.31 707.51 712.46 (18)
20 Ole Miss 240.82 275.38 188.88 705.08 687.77 (21)
21 Stanford 250.06 174.47 272.45 696.98 704.44 (20)
22 Virginia Tech 216.97 223.04 226.63 666.64 669.86 (22)
23 Washington 197.58 234.46 220.97 653.01 660.81 (23)
24 Arkansas 215.62 215.94 217.58 649.14 649.79 (24)
25 Baylor 217.00 206.91 218.04 641.95 642.30 (26)
26 Mississippi State 200.03 212.85 223.78 636.66 644.58 (25)
27 Nebraska 197.83 220.73 210.48 629.04 633.26 (27)
28 Virginia 205.30 203.20 219.02 627.52 632.09 (28)
29 Oklahoma State 216.48 200.06 209.50 626.04 623.71 (29)
30 Michigan State 217.41 192.46 207.57 617.44 614.16 (30)
31 Arizona State 222.47 191.16 203.12 616.75 610.30 (31)
32 North Carolina 213.49 206.46 195.21 615.16 609.07 (32)
33 Penn State 222.38 195.04 189.32 606.74 595.72 (37)
34 Kentucky 225.45 194.59 184.53 604.57 590.93 (38)
35 West Virginia 196.38 200.76 202.70 599.84 601.95 (34)
36 TCU 188.06 194.42 214.45 596.93 605.73 (33)
37 Arizona 211.60 186.77 196.20 594.57 589.44 (39)
38 Missouri 195.14 188.17 209.81 593.12 598.01 (36)
39 Texas Tech 190.04 182.63 217.80 590.47 599.72 (35)
40 Vanderbilt 183.09 210.77 188.63 582.49 584.34 (40)
41 Maryland 184.35 190.61 201.23 576.19 581.82 (42)
42 Pittsburgh 184.56 195.38 196.06 576.00 579.83 (43)
43 California 173.56 191.00 206.62 571.18 582.20 (41)
44 Louisville 183.93 193.73 191.75 569.41 572.02 (45)
45 Rutgers 165.50 176.19 219.66 561.35 579.40 (44)
46 Wisconsin 204.85 191.25 157.60 553.70 537.95 (50)
47 Oregon State 164.97 186.45 192.40 543.82 552.96 (47)
48 South Florida 190.54 173.80 179.46 543.80 540.11 (49)
49 Utah 160.27 180.94 202.21 543.42 557.40 (46)
50 N.C. State 200.91 161.86 179.37 542.14 534.96 (52)
51 Iowa 172.60 169.95 197.80 540.35 548.75 (48)
52 Indiana 180.15 188.56 171.61 540.32 537.47 (51)
53 Northwestern 182.10 173.94 173.74 529.78 526.99 (53)
56 Purdue 157.42 159.12 184.62 501.16 510.23 (57)
60 Illinois 152.35 177.60 159.84 489.79 492.29 (61)
61 Minnesota 169.94 151.40 167.54 488.88 488.08 (62)
70 Brigham Young 160.55 153.42 142.95 456.92 451.05 (70)
76 UCF 165.79 136.69 111.10 413.58 395.35 (80)
85 Hawaii 108.61 138.94 121.92 369.47 373.91 (84)
108 UNLV 81.84 120.23 102.60 304.67 311.59 (103)

Based on recruiting rankings, Michigan has the seventh most talented roster in the nation, ahead of every Big Ten team and every 2015 opponent outside of Ohio State. Using the weighted total, Michigan has the fifth most talented roster in the nation, with a preponderance of talent in the upper classes.

Clearly, recruiting rankings aren't completely accurate predictors of college performance, but Michigan's superiority based on this metric is so vastly beyond every non-Ohio State opponent (Nebraska is next at 27th), that even if there is a margin for error, we should still rest assured that our players have the talent to compete in every game next year.

Now that we have a proven winner, leader, and developer-of-talent at the helm, we can feel good about our odds this next season. The talent is there. These kids came to Michigan with the expectation of being developed, being put in position to succeed, and being great. Get after it, Jim.   


Avon Barksdale

December 30th, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

But receiver shouldn't really be an issue next year: Darboh, Chesson, Canteen, Harris, Cole should be as good, if not better than, almost any group in the Big Ten next year outside of Ohio State's group.

The biggest issue we have currently besides quarterback is TE. We have JB (who is good), but after that we have a bunch of upper classmen that don't do anything right. Williams and Heitzman can't block and aren't receiving threats. Bunting is small and strictly a receiving threat. Khalid Hill does just enough to be serviceable.

We definitely need Clark and another TE recruit like Wheatley to step in next year and help out.


December 30th, 2014 at 9:13 PM ^

Hill had some great plays this year before his injury. He is a natural Y, and they are not hulks like Other TEs. If you remember what a threat Bama had with Brad Smellie a few years ago (who is the same size as Hill), you could get excited about having Hill's speed in the flat.

What we really need to address is the ACLU issue, what the shit is up with all the knees this team gets hit with? I think it was s&c.


December 31st, 2014 at 12:25 AM ^

Yes and no.  There are lots of unknown/underwhelming performances in that group; I am very concerned that the team lacks guys who can get really stretch the field effectively, given how Darboh and Canteen were bottled up by even mediocre defenses.  I mean, 15 of Darboh's 36 catches and both of his TD catches came against Miami (NTM) and IU.  

Guys like Harris and Cole have potential, but right now we are banking on a lot of growth out of a unit that hasn't shown much on the field.  And Harris is coming off another injury, so who the heck knows about him and his ability to jump into the college game right now.  I see receiver being a very big issue next year, even with the expected reemergence of the TE in the offense.

Magnum P.I.

December 30th, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

Yes, there are questions at some positions, as there are every season. Fact is, based on recruiting rankings at least, that we have the kind of talent at QB and WR that schools like Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State, and everyone else we play (except OSU) can only dream about. Those teams would've been elated to get the players we have at those positions. 

Magnum P.I.

December 30th, 2014 at 4:37 PM ^

I'm coming at it from two related perspectives:

  1. That player ability cannot be judged based on the past two seasons due to gross misuse of talent and incompetence on the part of the coaching staff and weird voodoo cultural/psychological issues on the team. I assume that there was too much noise from all the coaching foibles that the true signal of player ability can't be judged. For the same reason that it would be hard to get a representative measure of the local temperature admidst a nuclear meltdown, it is hard to measure our player's ability amidst the last coaching regime.
  2. That there is just no plausible way that we struck out on every one of our four- and five-star recruits. It's a simple Occam's razor thing. What's more likely: (a) that all of our bluechip recruits just independently turned out to be not very good or (b) that something systemic about our coaching staff watered down the ability of all of our bluechip recruits.


December 30th, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

But if we struck out at QB, we'll have some tough sledding ahead. The best we can say about Morris is that he has played 1.5 games in three years, and will have his fourth coach/OC/QB coach next year without playing time to absorb their lessons, and has had injuries to his ankle and brain to boot. Frankly it would be a near-miracle if he were serviceable next year - He is anot typical 4/5 star QB entering his junior year.

That leaves us with Bellomy and Spreight. That will be a huge drop off even from the broken she'll of Gardner 2014.

I do not doubt that Harbaugh and staff will use the talent available better than it has been to date. But I also think we won't get B1G-top-three QB play until 2016 at best, and without that we are looking at 9-3 with losses to MSU/OSU again as our 2015 ceiling, if Harbaugh can resurrect Morris' career it will be one of the finest coaching jobs in his career, and one sorely needed.


December 30th, 2014 at 6:27 PM ^

Devin Gardner accounted for 50 touchdowns in his first 17 starts at Michigan.  He was a 4-5 star talent coming out of high school.  He was better than "serviceable" and we sucked ass this year.  5-7 ain't close to good.

If the team is good next year it will be because a lot of guys took an enormous leap and a lot of newcomers made an impact (Isaac, Bosch coming back, maybe a healthy Pipkins, Peppers, etc.).  It could happen, but it isn't particularly likely at all, especially given how last year went and the fact that we lose Ryan, Clark, Taylor, Gardner, Funchess, etc. (i.e. a lot of our best players on offense and defense). 

And if it does happen, we all probably owe Brady Hoke a sincere apology.


December 30th, 2014 at 6:52 PM ^

Devin got worse as Jeremy Gallon (leading single season receiver in M history), Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Patrick Omameh (NFL starter), Taylor Lewan (2-time lineman of hte year in the B1G), Fitz (on the Ravens active roster), and Schofield left school.

Yeah, he seemed a step slower this year, but the supporting cast got worse at just about every position.  The same people who predicted Brady Hoke was building a juggernaut should not be trusted now if they still think a juggernaut is in place. 

We made the best hire imaginable, but any success in the next three years is total gravy.

Magnum P.I.

December 30th, 2014 at 8:21 PM ^

I completely disagree that we have to wait for years to be successful. My contention regarding QB is that we just need a QB to be serviceable, given our massive talent advantage at most every position on the field over all opponents we'll face next season (save Ohio State). Barring Ohio State: Out of high school, our kids would have been signed over the kids at any opposing school next season, at every single position on the field--except for maybe McDowell at MSU and Hackenberg at PSU. The horses are there--they've just been stunted and poorly developed. Again: we have a massive talent advantage over every opponent we'll face next season. What a good coach does--and I'm assuming Harbaugh is a good coach--is maximize talent.

Hoke's problem is that he is a mediocre-to-bad in-game coach and a bad developer of talent. It's not that Hoke had better players when he first arrived at Michigan. All of his players, in every year, have been extraordinarily talented. It's just that someone else developed the kids that he inherited. The kids that he had to develop from scratch--who, on average, were more talented than those he inherited--have stagnated or regressed. 


December 30th, 2014 at 8:39 PM ^

When we had that talent advantage (Molk, Omameh, Lewan, Schofield, Denard, Fitz, Hemingway, Gallon, Roundtree on offense, Ryan, Countess, Martin, RVB, Demens, Morgan, Kovacs, Roh, etc. on D), Brady Hoke went 11-2.  Last year we went 5-7.  Maybe if Peppers is healthy and lives up to the hype and Morris lives up to the hype and Pipkins is healthy and lives up to the hype and Green is healthy and lives up to the hype and Isaac lives up to the hype and Kalis lives up to the hype and a lot of other ifs come true then I can get on board with your talent assumption.  And even then there are chinks in the armor (Who replaces a guy like Ryan or Clark?).

And just to be clear, people were plenty confident going into this year that we would get better despite losing Gallon, Lewan, Fitz, and Schofield.  Rather than question their own prognostication skills, they blamed Hoke (and the lack of recruiting success is indeed largely his fault).  But I'm just not interested in hearing lists of names of guys who've done nothing on the field as proof that we have better players than MSU or Utah (both of whom kicked our ass this year) or even teams like Maryland and Rutgers until we actually see it.

As far as developing guys, Ryan only played under Hoke and was awesome.  Same goes for Countess and Morgan.  Gallon did little to nothing prior to Hoke's arrival.  Gardner emerged as a star QB under Hoke prior to this past year when everything fell apart.  Schofield never played prior to Hoke's arrival and Lewan went from talented freshman to superstar.  Kovacs got better.  Demens got better.  Roh got better.

Some of that is natural age/progression, but plenty of guys played fantastically with Hoke as their coach and plenty played their best with Hoke as the coach. 

Walter Sobchak

December 31st, 2014 at 11:25 AM ^

Give me a break.  Hoke is plenty cuplable for the 5-7 record.  As numerous people have pointed out, as he ammassed highly touted recruits his players got worse. 

Countess?  Regressed.  Morgan?  Yeah hes solid, but not great.   Gallon?  He played only one year under RR. 

We do have talent.  Mark my words, when this team is 8-4 next year despite losing their QB and best three defensive players, everyone will be saying "I told you so".


December 30th, 2014 at 7:02 PM ^

Jim Harbaugh is a worse coach than David Shaw because he got way better results and has a much better record.

Brady Hoke had no trouble getting Jake Ryan to be a Butkus finalist or getting Frank Clark to double digit TFL or getting Denard to rush for 1,000 yards every year or getting Jeremy Gallon to break the single season receiving record or getting Taylor Lewan to win B1G lineman of the year or getting BWC and Schofield drafted or getting Countess to 1st team all B1G, and on and on and on.

The problem is he only recruited one of those guys and as some of them left the team got a lot worse every year.


December 31st, 2014 at 10:26 AM ^

This seems optimistic to me. 

Highly-ranked players with poor development are basically high schoolers. The wideouts are fairly young, but in terms of coaching and training, they're younger. 

Similarly, we did see that Funchness could get some yards in last year's offense. As inconsistent as he was, everyone else we had was clearly substantially worse. We have some evidence about the WRs and it's disappointing. 

More importantly, I don't think the wide receivers are quite the blue chips you're saying they are. Drake Harris was, but injuries are now a major concern. Darboh had some Michigan-comparable offers. Otherwise, they were low 4 stars at best with offers that usually topped out at low Big 10 schools. All reasonable recruits, but not much beyond that. 

I'd say that even more strongly about the quarterbacks. At a position where age and experience are really important, only Morris has any. The others could develop into great players, but not blue chips to be confident in. To have the 2nd option be a sophomore who was 29th pro-style (meaning around 40th QB overall) is just not what you'd want for a team that's striving for a top 10 or 15 ranking. Speight and Malzone did not have offers comparable to Michigan. Saying they're undervalued means trusting Borges' recruiting eye. 

Overall, I agree that the team can win next year. Harbaugh + a developing OLine and generally good defense can go a long way. 


December 31st, 2014 at 12:28 AM ^

But haven't we seen the past decade or so that the recruiting rankings don't seem to mean much at Michigan?  Those teams you listed certainly would like Michigan's talent, but they compensate by having those players redshirt and mature into their positions so that they are ready to go as upperclassmen; the fact most of Michigan's younger players saw significant time as first and second-year players isn't really a positive sign for the program overall.

I love the enthusiasm shown around here, but Michigan is a couple years away from being "Michigan" barring some crazy luck like they had in 2011.  And even then, they'll probably still lose to the OSU/MSU set if those teams are firing on all cylinders.


December 31st, 2014 at 10:28 AM ^

"But haven't we seen the past decade or so that the recruiting rankings don't seem to mean much at Michigan? "

This isn't the conclusion I would draw. Guys who study this stuff consistently find that recruiting rankings DO matter. Of course there are plenty of examples of busts and over-achievers, but on average, higher ranked recruits perform better than lower ranked recruits. See Matt Hinton's annual column on the topic for convincing evidence from every conceivable angle.

So why doesn't it seem to matter at Michigan? What would explain our recruits consistently under-performing? Poor coaching is the most popular explanation, and for good reason I'd say. It's a constant for all the players. It's easy to imagine that poor development in practice and inferior schemes negated Michigan's talent advantage. It's not the only possible explanation, but it seems to fit the evidence quite well.

Look at it another way: imagine how poorly Brady Hoke would have done if he didn't have bigger, faster, and stronger players than his opponents.

Magnum P.I.

December 31st, 2014 at 12:57 PM ^

Exactly. Excellent response. The deviation between Michigan's actual versus predicted performance based on recruiting rankings is huge. The possible explanations for this deviation are that (1) for some reason, our players' recruiting rankings were measured inaccurately or (2) something about our team was different from other teams. I am willing to wager that that "something" will be corrected under Harbaugh, and our actual performance will fall more in line with our predicted performance, which is very, very high.   


December 31st, 2014 at 3:53 PM ^

Oh, I know that taken in totality, recruiting rankings matter and tend to be a prelude to success. But on the micro-level, there are definitely outliers, and recently Michigan has been one of those on the negative side. I've always questioned the arguments about coaches consistently getting great things out of sub-optimal talent in the long term.  But my point is that Michigan has had three coaches (the end of Carr's run was rough) who had top-15 talent but didn't produce up to that level.  Some of that is player development, but also some of it may be a bit overrating given the Michigan name.  

If the issue just started with Brady Hoke, I'd agree.  But we saw a tire-fire with RR for nearly 3 years, with his defense getting worse every year until the end.  But then he goes anywhere else and has success.  So maybe Michigan got it wrong twice, or factors worked against them, such as institutional issues regarding offensive/defensive systems, training methods, etc.  But then, outside of 2006 Carr's last couple of years were also underwhelming given the talent, and you saw a couple of classes that were headlined by 2-3 big names and then a bigger drop off than you'd hope.

My point isn't that Michigan is screwed for years, only that the assumption that Michigan is poised to dominate again because they did well on the recruiting path might not occur in the first year.


December 31st, 2014 at 1:53 PM ^

Are the players ready to win workouts?  Practice? The Classroom? Behavior in Society and on Campus?  I expected a 6 to 9 win year to determine Those Who Will Stay.  It may not be as much turnover drug test failure wise as Texas, but actual live workout, practice, game, film study and behavior wise this will be a Texas like year.  I just hope the Michigan family stays together through this.


January 2nd, 2015 at 5:54 AM ^

Our problem hasn't been so much lack-of-talent, as lack of fight, discipline, and focus -- the intangibles. If it was just about talent, we wouldn't have lost to the Akrons and Toledos or even MSU. If nothing else, Harbaugh will change the team's attitude right away, which should make a huge difference. I agree that we have enough talent to win now. Talent with the right attitude will get us far -- especially from where we were at the end of last season -- but it'll take a bit of time to get the "player development" part dialed in and added to the mix to where we can compete at the very highest level. In Harbaugh I trust.


December 30th, 2014 at 2:26 PM ^

It's tough to know what our guys' potential really is. If we've been right that the team was not coached to its potential for the past few years, it is certainly reasonable to say that we have a team that could challenge OSU and MSU next year.

I think it'll happen, too.

Brady Hoke's Sugar Bowl season wasn't a truly dominating team, but they willed themselves to a good season, and markedly improved their record. Shows what can happen with a good coach.

But now we have a great coach, who has learned a lot over the past few years.

I think we'll all be pretty happy once things start to click for the players.


December 30th, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

That has played for both a real good coach and a lousy coach understands the difference it makes and why there is so much reason to be excited. The margin between mediocrity and greatness can be razor thin and great coaches get this and take care of the details. Think about M for the last few years and you get a vision of some  guy chronically late for meetings with his shirt untucked, clothes not matching, stumbling into the room all disheveled.  It is asking a lot for talent to overcome poor management and leadership.

Harbaugh has already done much more with much less before. The talent is there, its likely angry and hungry. Expect talent to start realizing its potential this year.


December 30th, 2014 at 2:41 PM ^

On the offensive side of the ball they lose Gardner and Funchess. That's it and that combo didn't prove to very deadly anyway. On defense it's a little more; Beyer, Ryan, Taylor, *Clark (*already gone by the end of the season). Ferns is gone too and a junior and senior Ferns is probably going to be really good but I think there is enough on the roster to make up for that. Overall, 2015 is when we'll see the roster start to have numerous upperclassmen. I think this will make a huge difference. I think Hoke gave Harbaugh a great base to work with and this is not a re-building project.

Chitown Kev

December 30th, 2014 at 7:06 PM ^

and I'll say it again.


My expectation for 2015 is 8-4 (which would be on par...in fact a little above year 1 Saban/Stoops.

The talent is here, though, for a SF-type turnaround in Year 1 and I wouldn't be surprised if we won the B10 championship.

I'm not expecting it. But I wouldn't be surprised.

Sauce Castillo

December 30th, 2014 at 3:20 PM ^

OP, very glad you made this post.  I've been preaching this to everyone.  Why can't we win now? Everyone pointed to 2015 as the year when Hoke was here with the roster and schedule.  20 starters back, 40 from the 2 deep.  Peppers hopefully 100% for the whole yr.  So our biggest question marks are around QB and WR you say?  Well we couldn't be bringing in a better person for that job than Jim Harbaugh.  This may be my maize and blue colored glasses but on paper there is nothing stopping this team from reaching the top next year.  Again, I'll believe it when I see it though.

Magnum P.I.

December 30th, 2014 at 3:32 PM ^

You're right. Flash back to fall 2012. Every Michigan fan and his (or her) mother was crowing about how 2015 would be the year that we would compete for a national championship. Well, it's almost 2015. The only thing that has changed is that Hoke drove the program into the ground. The pieces, from a player perspective, are all there.

Most important, as a first priority, is re-teaching them how to win. Harbaugh is the man for that job.  


December 30th, 2014 at 4:20 PM ^

So many people here have seemed to give up on Morris. I'm not sure why. I know his stats aren't that great but he's only played two games. One was pretty good and the other not so good. The latter he was beat around in and literally knocked out. He's been thrown in here and there for a play or two which would be hard situations for someone to be comfortable in. I'm not ready to count him out until I've seen him in consistent action which would probably take a couple of games in a row. I'm pretty confident that between him and Speight we can find good enough QB play.


December 30th, 2014 at 4:55 PM ^

"I'm not sure why."

Did you watch the Minnesota game?

I understand there is a lot of euphoria over Harbaugh, but honestly QB is a glaring hole on the offense right now.   As turnover prone as Gardner was, Morris couldn't beat him out... that should tell you something.