Preseason Mailbag

Chen Geng (whose name can be pronounced in such a way that it sounds eerily/hilariously similar to “chain gang”):

Since it seems this season will go where the OL goes, what’s the injury history been for RR’s WVU teams? Did Barwis use chocolate milk to make their knees unbreakable?

Much thanks for the site.

It is my (and a generally-held) opinion that injuries are mostly freak occurences, and you can only prepare for them so much. That said, West Virginia has had a lot of luck (or injury prevention ability, if you believe in such a thing) over the past couple years. They bring back five starters this year, all of whom started most of last year except the right tackle, who started the final 6 contests.

Michigan, by contrast, started a smorgasbord of starting lineups, with Jake Long, Justin Boren, and Adam Kraus the only consistent starters (and even then Kraus and Boren trading starts at two different positions). Alex Mitchell, Corey Zirbel, Steve Schilling, Jeremy Ciulla, Mark Ortmann, etc., all started games as well. Of course, part of this was due to lack of production, rather than injuries (though they played a big part as well), but you can see that consistency is a big part of success.

So, it appears as though West Virginia has been mostly lucky in the past few years in terms of keeping starters along the O-line uninjured. If you believe that Barwis’s exercises have some sort of magical ligament-fortifying power (Corey Zirbel would tend to disagree), then the futur might look bright for Michigan offensive lines.

Tony in Markley (for the record, I love the use of dorm name for location, rather than, you know, where you’re from):

So, uh, what would a Forcier commit mean in comparison to Michigan just keeping Newsome committed?

Well, for the short-term, it is much, much better. Forcier is the most ready of all of Michigan’s quarterback prospects to step in a contribute right away. Like many of the SoCal QB prodigies (yes, including Jimmy Clausen), he has a private QB tutor, so his mechanics and reads, etc., are well ahead of your average high schooler. That, in combination with his predicted early enrollment, would mean he might be able to challenge for a starting job in 2009. That said, any true freshman is going to be a liability as a starting QB, but Forcier would be the best to step in as a true.

In the long-term, Newsome has a higher ceiling as a prospect. He is taller, faster, probably a little stronger in the arm department. That said, he is raw as a quarterback. Even an early enrollment (which he is/was also planning on doing) wouldn’t be enough time to get a QB like Newsome ready to play as a true freshman. However, he could have been an unstoppable beast down the road, once he became familiar with the responsibilities of the quarterback, and capable of doing what he needs to do to succeed.

I’ll also take this opportunity to give a WTF to the stated reason for his decommitment. Newsome’s father said he “heard” (ed note: this means the coach at another school, with no motivation to lie whatsoever) that Michigan wouldn’t give Kevin a legitimate shot at playing quarterback. Instead, he “heard” that they would give him one chance then switch his position. This does not make sense. The Newsomes believed the most obvious bullshit negative recruiting about THE ONE school that had no intentions of ever even considering making Kevin play anything other than quarterback.

Matt from Louisiana (since I’ve had parenthetical commentary on each commenter so far, I’ll disclose that I know Matt personally, and he wasn’t expecting my answer to come in mailbag form):


This individual was not the first to suggest such an idea:


But what are you thoughts on a SEC-Big 10 Challenge over Labor Day weekend (ala Big 10-ACC challenge on the hardwood)? As the NFL would not have started, you can have games on 3 days. You would rotate sites and let the 6th place team in SEC East/West (rotate) sit out. In the current state of college football, this is merely interesting fodder for discussion. However, upon moving to a playoff system (which will happen eventually), I think school presidents will value the growth of their sport (and ratings and revenue) over playing a really tough game (and a potential loss) the first weekend of the season.


Corso makes Gameday go. I can only listen to the smart Herbstreit talk college football for about 1.5 hours. But I will stick around for 2 hours to see that PLUS Corso’s antics.

Matt, as the proud proprietor of a blog, I reserve the right to condescendingly answer your question in mailbag form, rather than the simple e-mail that you definitely would have preferred.

However, from a strictly economic sense, I’m not sure that this would be a guaranteed way to make more money. Take the excuse of Bill Martin for not playing a tougher out-of-conference schedule (which, essentially, this would be forcing schools from each conference to do): they simply can’t afford it. Of course “can’t afford it” is secret code for “can make more money with a different system,” in this case playing Notre Dame and a rotating series of tomato cans. If you guarantee 3 home games, and shell out a half-million bucks to the helpless opponents (helpless unless, of course, it’s Appalachian State – too soon?), you are still netting more than going year-on, year-off in a home-and-home scenario, since you make the same amount off TV either way. Some teams, including those in the SEC, have neutral-site OOC games to make more money, but it is literally impossible to sell more tickets at any other venue than The Big House, Happy Valley, or The Shoe.

With the Big Ten locked into contracts with the Big Ten Network and ESPN, and the SEC’s recently-signed deal with the ESPN family of networks, there isn’t much of a way for the conferences or the schools themselves to make much more cash by playing a good OOC schedule. The networks can make more money by promising better ratings and charging more for ad time (which, technically, in the case of the BTN would make more money for conference schools), but this revenue typically doesn’t trickle down to the schools.

Also, there is the issue of coverage. Every weekend that Big Ten teams are in action, the BTN is guaranteed at least three games to cover. In SEC country, that would mean 3 SEC games that fans can’t see (and, knowing SEC fans, they wouldn’t even PPV the games, because they wouldn’t dare contribute money to the Big Ten).

While I think that such an idea would be good for college football, in addition to being downright entertaining (and perhaps being a yearly notch in the conference supremacy belt), when it’s all about the benjamins, a Big Ten-SEC Challenge isn’t an economically preferred system.

As far as the GameDay thing, Orson Swindle posted a pretty good synopsis of my feelings about it under his flesh name over at The Sporting Blog.

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I was listening to a wtka podcast Phil Steele. He thinks Penn State is going to be good. Why is it that our transition to the spread is looked on as a rough one but Penn State’s transition is going to help them for next year already. What gives?

I admittedly have not finished the Penn State preview yet, but I do think a lot of “experts” are overrating them, if only slightly. In regards to the spread question, I think the transitions by Michigan and Penn State are rather different.

Michigan has a completely new coaching staff, with new terminology and a new base offense. Penn State, on the other hand, has the same coaching staff, and will still use the same base offense, but incorporate spread elements into it. Sadly, Penn State also has an experienced quarterback (Darryl Clark) with a skill set more suited to the spread than any of Michigan’s returning players.

Anonymous commenter:

I think Rich Rodriguez is trying to bring the West Virginia-style jerseys to Michigan. Didn’t he learn anything about Michigan’s tradition with the #1 jersey debacle?

The new jerseys probably have nothing to do with Rich Rodriguez, and I think he has far more important things to care about than what jerseys look like.

The “new jersey” that was leaked is a product of the Adidas deal (and Adidas trying to go for a change from the Nike jerseys) than anything to do with rodriguez. I don’t think it is likely to end up as the final product, and when a final design is decided upon, there will probably be some sort of official unveiling.

Commenter phillip provides:


and I raise with:
These two articles definitely provide less chicken little-fodder for the Michigan fanbase. It is clear that Newsome is willing to do what it takes to improve his game, and become a better teammate, football player, and quarterback. As fans of the school to which Kevin is committed, that should be wholly acceptable to you, loyal reader.

The move to Hargrave, at this point, seems to be on account of his wanting to get the best coaching (and competition:

“The kid just came to play against better competition. That’s it. Nothing controversial. He gets to play against [junior-varsity teams from] Marshall, East Carolina and the University of Tennessee.”

) available and to get away from pro-VT pressure close to home. Until further notice, Kevin Newsome should be considered firmly committed to Michigan.


do you think the fact that buckeyes class is virtually full will help Michigan..Especially considering the Zach Borens and James Jackson that Michigan didn’t want that bad?

It certainly can’t hurt with top prospects who like both Michigan and Ohio State because OSU simply won’t have enough room to take all of the guys who are interested in committing. That doesn’t necessarily mean those guys will come to Michigan, but there is certainly one less team in the running for a lot of top prospects that Michigan is interested in.

Posted under Coaching, Mail Bag

Mailbag: Broken Spine Edition

Since a lot of people have been asking how I am doing, I’ll just start off by saying: considering the circumstances, I’m doing great. I can move around without a ton of pain, which is something most people who fall four stories can’t say (they usually can’t say anything because they die). Here is what an x-ray image of a broken spine looks like:
Pretend like I posted almost the exact same image 3 times. Now you know what my L1-L3 vertebrae look like. I am walking, talking, and (clearly) typing, so thanks to everyone for the kind words you gave earlier. And now for a couple of actually relevant things:

An anonymous commenter asks:

1. why RR would offer Cornelius Jones?

2. Rumor has it that that Jeremy Gallon has grades troubles and thats why some bigger schools passed on him. Any truth to that? Also is there any video of gallon

1. I have yet to figure out whether Jones is even a ’09 or ’10 prospect. There is precious little about him on the internet, and I think this “offer” sounds a little questionable. Where are the Scout and Rivals interviews with the kid (or even a profile on one of the two sites)?

Another thing I question on this topic is why the Free Press is writing about this offer. Michigan has offered tons of kids at this point, and this is the first one that the Freep has taken the time to write (read: plagiarize) and article about. Sounds a little questionable in terms of writer’s motives.

2. I have heard this, but it doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense. Sure, RR isn’t afraid of recruiting a kid because of possible grades issues, but then, neither are most of the schools in the SEC. There has to be another reason why schools didn’t pursue this kid.

I think it is primarily because he is tiny (reports range from 5-6 to 5-9), and few schools have need for tiny guys like Michigan has need for tiny guys. Another factor is that he will have to change positions, and perhaps take a while to be ready to play. If Michigan was not scrambling to fill all the roster spaces for slotmen, perhaps someone like Gallon would have had to wait until later in the recruiting process for an offer.

As far as Gallon video, this is the best (free) one I’ve been able to find. If any enterprising readers find something else, drop me a line.

I’ve also gotten about 30 versions of this question:

What’s the deal with Tate Forcier?

I have no idea. It certainly seemed like Michigan was going to be done with ’09 quarterbacks with Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver committed. However, Tate Forcier still came to Ann Arbor for Michigan’s senior camp, and appears to be strongly interested in the Wolverines.

Are Rich Rodriguez and Co. just leading the kid on? Or are they keeping him in mind as an insurance policy of either of the other guys jumps ship? Maybe he just refuses to let them drop him as a prospect. It may be too early to tell at this point, but I think Michigan has its two guys, and Tate will be on the outside looking in, barring any unforeseen circumstances.


Whatever happened to the combined recruiting board with MGoBlog?

Brian and I tried to come up with a simple solution that would be easy for both of us to access and maintain, and when nothing came up quickly, the project was sort of shelved/forgotten. In all honesty, I think it might serve a good purpose to maintain separate ones, as it leads to more information getting out overall, about a wide range of prospects. For now, don’t expect to see a combined recruiting board any time soon.

Posted under Mail Bag

Mailbag: Recruiting

This edition of the mailbag will cover some of the e-mails people sent while I was gone. This time, it will be the ones related to recruiting.

Tom asks:

In the past week it was announced that Virginia Tech is pulling a scholarship offer from a QB recruit over some legal problems the kid was having. Prior to Newsome declaring his intent to Michigan, he was pretty much considered “in the bag” at VT. So, my question is, how strong a verbal is he to us ?? Can/will we lose him ??

And I have gotten other people asking similar versions of this question, such as this one from penst8grad:

Ignore the email address, lifelong Wolverine fan here. Couldn’t afford the out of state tuition.

Local Penn State homer radio network is reporting that Newsome is having second thoughts and is going to visit schools. They honestly think they have a pretty good shot at him.

Do you know anything about this?

As far as the Penn State angle, I would take anything Nittany Lion homers say with a grain of salt. They have a major Michigan complex, and taking a QB committed to Michigan is something that many Penn State fans would have wet dreams about. It seems like something spoken out of hope rather than reality.

Overall, however, I can’t speak (other than from logic) on this situation. Since I’ve been out of the loop for three weeks, this is the most comprehensive answer I can give at this time. If something has developed since I left, I will certainly update the situation.

Fans were worried when there were rumblings from Virginia that Kevin Newsome might consider reneging on his verbal commitment because he wanted Rich Rodriguez to accept fewer quarterbacks. Many took this to mean that he was opposed to the commitment of Shavodrick Beaver, but since it has become clear that Michigan does not intend to take a third quarterback, the noise has quieted down.

Virginia Tech would have taken Newsome over the QB commit that they already had either way. He is one of the top-rated QBs in the country. He picked Michigan based on factors other than QBs coming in the class with him. Depth chart (VT may be redshirting Tyrod Taylor this year, making Newsome a year further away from getting on the field), education (VT is… a decent but not elite school), and coaching style (Michigan’s spread seems to be tailor-made for Newsome) all played a role.

Kevin Newsome seemed entirely confident in his choice of schools, and has not ever mentioned that he wants to take other visits. Another good sign is the fact that he has been recruiting other players for the 2009 class. It appears as though Newsome is quite solid. Unless something dramatic happens between Newsome and the Michigan coaching staff, expect to see Kevin on campus come January.

Commenter Thruline asks:

What’s up with Iowa? They were able to get quality players much more readily in times past.

Iowa had a few of pretty good recruiting classes around 2002-2005. The reasons this isn’t happening anymore are many:

  1. Competition. When Iowa was reeling in top classes, Illinois was a bad program with a bad coach. Notre Dame was being run into the ground by Ty Willingham. While neither Ron Zook nor Charlie Weis is a gret football coach, both are excellent recruiters (and are trying to build better staffs to make up for their inadequacies on the field). Iowa’s good classes came mostly from Chicago’s top players when there was almost nobody to fight against for them. Now, there are two better options for recruits, and Iowa has to pick up the leftovers from the Illini and Irish.
  2. Iowa’s case is also a textbook example of poor results on the field leading to worse recruiting returns off it. Iowa won back-to-back-to-back shares of the big ten title in ’02-’04, and this is when they were pulling down all the top guys. These teams succeeded with sleepers, overachievers, and the occasional top prospect. Since the more highly-ranked players have come in, Iowa has wasted their talent by underperforming on the field, and getting in tons of trouble off it. Top recruits simply don’t want to take on the risk of plying their trade in Iowa City.

I would expect that Iowa will continue to get middle of the pack recruiting classes in the Big Ten, but they will have to start performing better in order to regain footing among the elite recruiting teams in the country.

And frequent e-mailer RJ wonders:

I was wondering how you determine a player’s ceiling

(In asking this question, RJ is referring to my posts about the ceilings and floors of the past two Michigan recruiting classes (2007) (2008)). Of course, like almost everything in recruiting, determining a player’s ceiling (maximum potential) is entirely subjective, as is determining the floor (minimum potential), though the floor is a little easier to determine based on polish and high school performance.

The ceiling is essentially based on a player’s untapped potential. Measurables are a pretty good indicator of possible ceiling levels. If a player runs a 4.4 forty, but had the same high school production as a player with a 4.7 forty, they have the same floor, but the faster player probably has the higher ceiling. A quarterback with a very strong arm but bad mechanics has a higher ceiling but lower floor than one with good mechanics and questionable arm strength.

In the end, it’s pretty much all guesswork, putting together all the limited clues we have about how a player might perform in college, and trying to determine actual college production.

Thanks for the good questions, everyone, and don’t hesitate to ask more.

Posted under Mail Bag, Recruiting

Mailbag Part 1

All the questions pertaining to things other than recruiting:

ikgodofsky inquires:

How will the current roster adjust to the spread? Who will be Owen Schmitt? Do we really need all these slots? I want to avoid a USC situation where we have tons of guys taking up roster space when they can’t all play at once.

The current roster is certainly not composed in a way that is suited perfectly for the spread. The O-line was allowed to get fat and slow under Andy Moeller and Mike Gittleson, the quarterback isn’t that mobile, and there is a complete dearth of slot receivers. Michigan will certainly need to count on several incoming freshmen to contribute, or it could be a very rough first year offensively.

Owen Schmitt was considered the heart of the WVU offense (in terms of effort and enthusiasm, the guy who was actually the key to making it run was clearly Pat White). Though fullbacks may not be the rare athletes that wideouts or running backs are, Schmitt was definitely a near-perfect fit for the role in the WVU offense. Whoever plays the role in Michigan’s offense will have huge shoes to fill. It’s almost like asking “who will be Michigan’s next Jake Long at the tackle position?” That question is setting unrealistic expectations for anyone. The players who will contend for fullback in the first year will be Mark Moundros and Vince Helmuth. Both played last year, and Moundros was the player used more often of the duo. He also had a better spring, but Helmuth is the more athletic player of the two.

Michigan’s offense relies on having a bunch of little slot receivers. Considering Rich Rodriguez inherited a team with none of them, it will obviously be a big need in his first two recruiting classes. The roster at Michigan will be composed in a different way than it has been in the past, carrying slightly fewer offensive linemen, but more QBs and receivers. Michigan will have Terrance Robinson and Martavious Odoms (both true freshmen), along with several other guys who may play some slot. It is obviously a recruiting need. These players are also capable of playing multiple positions, so they aren’t just taking up dead roster space.

As far as the USC comparison, I’m not sure that is quite accurate. While the Trojans did have 10 running backs coming into 2007 (which led to some of them transferring), there is a difference between the types of players Michigan has and the types of guys USC had.

USC’s players were all big, classic running backs. There is only one of these guys on the field at a time, or occasionally two. In addition, the running back position is one that traditionally has a true starter that takes most of the snaps, then a couple backups who get the rest of the carries.

Michigan’s offense, on the other hand, will use at least 1 slot receiver on pretty much every play, most often 2 of them, and sometimes three. There is a lot more playing time available to slot receivers than running backs. In addition, the wide receivers on a team rotate more frequently than do feature backs. The final thing to keep in mind is that these guys are pretty much all capable of playing multiple positions (having played WR, RB, or QB in high school). The versatility of the athletes will also allow for there to be much more of them at a time.

So, if there is a fire sale on slot receivers, Rich Rodriguez is snart to be the first in line. The team needs many more of these players than currently populate the roster, and they will play an important role in the Michigan offense of the future.

A lot of people have asked me some variation of this question:

How does USC/OSU/ND/other get away with cheating? Michigan should be rewarded for doing things the right way.

I really disagree with the notion that everyone except Michigan cheats. Sure, there are certain schools (mostly in the SEC) that don’t quite keep everything aboveboard, but to claim that the reason Michigan hasn’t won a championship in 11 years is ridiculous.

I would much prefer that Michigan fans accept the fact that we don’t have quite as much to sell right now as do schools like Ohio State and LSU. Instead of trying to claim they cheat, I would rather they hope that the Wolverines are better in the future to compensate. This makes us look less like Notre Dame fans/head coach (whiny excuse makers), and more like true fans of the game who understand that everyone can’t win every game, and instead just focus on our own team, and wish them the best in the future.

Jared from Chicago asks:

So I hear you’ve had some experience with Big Ten Network in the past. I’m also fairly certain the whole Comcast debacle will make a blip on the Michigan Football/Sports radar for at least a few more months. What’s your take on the campus programming they have lined up recently? Is this just a revenue source to help them break even until Comcast can signed with? Is this a way to try and sell BTN to comcast as not just a sports tier package? Most importantly, is this going to be permanent non-sport coverage? I tell you what, I know I can’t wait for “Purdue Campus Programming: Vet School Diaries – Large Animal Hospital” showing Wednesday (5/21/08).

I am led to believe by various reports that the Comcast deal should be resolved by the time football season rolls around. This is a relief for fans of every Big Ten school (unless, of course, you are a huge fan of the remaining spring sports). This time, it sounds like something is actually going to happen, rather than empty promises from both sides. I think Comcast lost a lot more subscribers over the past year than it would like to admit, many of them simply because they wanted to get the BTN.

The campus programming has been part of the Big Ten Network’s plan from the beginning. Unless something changed over the course of a year, these programs are entirely produced by the universities. BTN’s reasons for presenting this information are many:

  • Something to show in the summer when there are little or no sports.
  • Outlet for Universities to show off some of their facilities and programs, enticing new students to apply.
  • Chance for the universities to show that they are about more than just sports.

The third reason is the one that the Big Ten Network was really pushing immediately prior to its launch, and when President Mark Silverman toured all the universities in the conference to take questions from concerned citizens. I don’t believe the presence of this programming has ulterior motives in terms of profiting without Comcast, or getting the Annoying Corporate Monolith to pick up the station as something other than a Regional Sports Network.

To the best of my knowledge, the Network is still planning to keep this coverage each summer as a permanent fixture of the schedule. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea. The BTN is, first and foremost, a sports network. If this material was really worth watching, it would appear during the sports seasons as well, when there weren’t any games on. BTN needs to understand that its audience is composed of not just Big Ten fans, but primarily sports fans. This type of programming should probably be relegated to late-night programming, since it is essentially just infomercial material.

Posted under Coaching, Mail Bag, Personnel

Mailbag: What is Success?

Would you take a 7-5 season every other year if it meant you could go 11-2 (or better, let’s say you win the NC every few tries) in the off years? Conversely, would you prefer to be 9-3 every year and never challenge for a title, or be slightly worse most years, but challenge for a national title 1 in 5 years or so?

The basic question here is whether you’d accept fairly consistent mediocrity with the occasional great year, or prefer consistent elite(ish) performance without getting to the promised land.

I’d like to never have to make that choice, but take the consistently elite years, with national championships sprinkled in here and there. Under Rich Rodriguez, I honestly believe that is a possibility, but given the theoretical “would you rather situation,” I don’t know what I’d take.

I guess I would take the elite years with no (or almost no) national championships. I find that to be better than being a program that people have a lesser opinion of, but occasionally surprises for the better. I think that the consistently elite program is more apt to break through than the consistently mediocre program (especially because successful programs have a recruiting advantage over mediocre ones except Clemson), which is why I think the premise of the question is flawed.

Posted under Mail Bag

Mailbag: Who to Recruit?

Double-barrel mailbag this time around. Both questions relate to making decisions on whether to recruit a particular kid or not.

Dave (in Ada, Ohio, my hometown’s Ohioan counterpart) asks:

What’s your take on recruiting a guy because Michigan really wants his teammate?

To start off, it all depends on whether the recruit in question is Michigan caliber. If he is, he can be a depth player even if he never contributes, and can help with recruiting his friend. Of course, this can backfire if you get the kid you didn’t really want and whiff on the one you did want.

Michigan obviously wanted Greg Mathews (he is definitely the best returning receiver on the team), but was their decision for picking him over a similar kid based on the fact that they also wanted his teammate (Lorenzo Edwards in the following class)? Michigan didn’t end up with Edwards, but since Mathews was a very good prospect in his own right, they didn’t regret landing him.

I think most schools, especially at the high-BCS level, will recruit the best players they can. If two players are the same in their mind, teammates (present and future recruiting classes) can be a tiebreaker.


should michigan recruit instate kids or focus on other areas. i ask because it seems like we are going after a lot of florida kids. thx.

Well, Steven, Michigan is currently going after kids at programs that they have established relationships with. For this staff, that means programs in Florida, and some in Ohio. They don’t quite have the relationships going in Michigan quite yet.

As time goes on, they will continue to recruit at the programs they know (along with going for other top-level prospects), and try to develop relationships to the in-state high schools. As time goes on, I think the majority of Michigan’s players will come from Ohio (as they pretty much always have), with Texas and Florida providing several players. They will take the top guys out of Michigan, and recruit top prospects from other states as well.

Posted under Mail Bag, Recruiting

Mailbag: Defending Power Teams?

Robert asked:

My MSU friend contends that UM’s defense will suffer against traditional big ten offenses because it only practices against the spread. Any thoughts which will address this/shut him up?

Well, first off, I have complete confidence that this staff will be more prepared for each opponent than any of the Michigan teams of the most recent years (say, 2005-2007) were. While the recent Michigan teams were unprepared to (or incapable of) defending a mobile quarterback, a good portion of this was preparation (see: App State 2007). Everything I have seen so far on the Michigan staff implies that Rodriguez’s crew will never be caught by surprise.

While Michigan’s first-team offense will indeed practice the spread offense more regularly than a standard double-wide set, the scout offenses will do what they’re designed for: getting the first team defense ready for the next opponent. Especially in the first couple of years, when Michigan still has some somewhat-highly-ranked pro-style offense recruits on the roster, their scout team will be able to give good preparation.

The main reason you see teams with spread offenses incapable of defending the pro-style sets of top teams is because teams less capable of recruiting top talent (many of which reside in conferences together) use offensive schemes that help them maximize their talent. They are also less able to recruit top-notch defensive players, who are smaller and quicker, but can be pushed off the ball with a power run game. Michigan shouldn’t suddenly have trouble recruiting top defensive talent, just because they changed offensive schemes.

Teams that play in a league that isn’t as prestigious are going to face other teams that employ similar styles. In the Big East, for example, West Virginia faced more dynamic offenses, and ran a 3-3 scheme designed to stop them (this isn’t strictly the case, as Pitt, for example, runs a fairly basic pro-style offense). Michigan, on the other hand, still intends to run primarily a 4-3 scheme. The 4-3 has been a staple in the NFL and college, and has always been capable of stopping the power run game if employed correctly.

Against Michigan State in particular, the talent difference between State’s offense and Michigan’s defense should do something to help Michigan stop the Spartans. While MSU has blockers and a couple decent backs, their quarterback position is… subpar… and they lost a couple of their top receivers in Devin Thomas and Kellen Davis. Unless Bryan Hoyer proves he can move the ball through the air, the Wolverines should be able to lead the box against State. In future years, if the talent level equalizes somewhat (as of now, it doesn’t necessarily seem like this will be the case, though MSU does have a few good 2009 offensive recruits), then perhaps the Spartans can try to pound it out against Michigan.

Of course, I don’t intend to guarantee a victory against Michigan State in 2008. Rather, a pounding run game will not blast through the Wolverine defense like your friend asserts. If the Michigan offense is in the swing of things by October 25th, I like the chances of a victory for the men in Blue.

Posted under Mail Bag

Recruiting: A Historical Perspective

RJ asks:

How does the class look so far compared to most years at this point?

and fellow commenter Max answered:

RJ, at roughly this point in recent years (Stars are per Scout):

’03 – No commits (First was 4-star Jake Long on July 10, 2004)

’04 – 4-star (WR) Morgan Trent committed in February 2003. After that, the first big push was in mid-June, when the Wolverines got verbals from 4-stars Max Martin, Will Johnson, and Roger Allison; 3-stars Chris Rogers, Charles Stewart, and Mike Hart.

’05 – September 2003 commit from 5-star Kevin Grady. As of May 11, 2004, commits included Grady; 4-stars Justin Schifano, Mario Manningham, and Laterryal Savoy.

’06 – As of May 13, 2007, commits included 5-stars Brandon Graham and Justin Boren.

’07 – As of May 5, 2006, commits included 5-star Ryan Mallet; 4-stars Vince Helmuth, Ryan Van Bergen, Martell Webb; 3-star Artis Chambers.

’08 – As of May 17, 2007, commits included 5-star Boubacar Cissoko; 4-stars Dann O’Neill, Elliot Mealer, and Kurt Wermers.

Strictly speaking, at this point (May 2nd), Michigan had only Trent in his year, all but Savoy in ’05, just Graham in ’06, all but Webb and Chambers in ’07, and all but Wermers this past year. For comparison, Michigan currently has the following players committed:

  • 5-star William Campbell
  • 5-star Kevin Newsome
  • 4-star Justin Turner
  • 4-star Teric Jones
  • 4-star Shavodrick Beaver
  • 3-star Fitzgerald Toussaint
  • unranked Isaiah Bell

However, it’s not the strict numbers game that had people worried (until recently), but the class compared to others, including rivals. Michigan State had a very early start to the recruiting class this year, and Michigan’s looked poor in comparison (though very good overall). Michigan State has never had more than one commit at this time in the past 6 recruiting classes.

This year (and perhaps it’s a long-term trend) many prospects (including top guys – 20 of Scout’s 50 5-stars) are committing early. This hurts teams in transition years – such as Michigan – because they have catching up to do in various other areas before they can worry about recruiting ’09 kids. However, with the recent batch of commitments, Michigan is back at pace for the 2009 recruiting class.

Posted under Mail Bag, Recruiting


First things first. Our boy RJ asks:

“The stat that you always hear preseason is returning starters. How much does this stat actually predict the outcomes of a season? Just because players haven’t had game experience doesn’t mean they won’t breakout. Good starters have to come from somewhere before they start.”

Well, returning starters have two advantages over anyone else on the team:
1) They were good enough to start last year (over any seniors who may have been on the team)
2) They have in-game experience.
The first part is self-explanatory, but it is the second part that is more important. Playing experience is huge moving from high school to college because the quality of opponent and speed of the game are faster, as well as fan interaction and pressure. A guy who has played before at least knows what it is like playing before 100,000+, and has experience either channeling that out or harnessing it to his advantage. A first-time player doesn’t know what that is like.

In addition, players can break out from non starting roles (or even as freshmen). But the potential for a freshman is anywhere from 0 to 100% of what you expect. An experience player has already shown what he can do in a game, so there are fewer surprises (positively and negatively).

Question numero dos is from Sam:

“whats the deal with william campbell? he says he is committed but that he is going to go on visits? that doesnt sound like a commit to me! thanks for your answer.”

I agree with you. If a player commits, but says he is going to look around, then I don’t consider it a commit at all. Rather, it is a strong lean. Nobody is truly committed until they sign the LOI, but there are definitely degrees of commitment. A guy who won’t take any other visits and actively recruits for your team is obviously most committed with guys who tell the national services that they are “kinda committed” to the school of their choice at the other end of the spectrum.

As far as Campbell in particular, I don’t think there is much to worry about. Here is a kid from Detroit who hasn’t had a ton of opportunity to see the world. Now he is given free trips to South Beach and L.A. based on his athletic talents. Can you hold it against him for taking up those offers?

Rich Rod has said he will recruit guys to the end, regardless of commitments. While most took that to mean he wouldn’t have a problem continuing to recruit Shaw and Roundtree last year, it also applies to guys committed to the Wolverines who are still looking around. If Campbell ends up going elsewhere, it isn’t because Rodriguez was sleeping on the job.

Posted under Mail Bag, Personnel, Recruiting