Two quick mailbag questions for you during this recruiting season.
1 - How would you describe Harbaugh's recruiting philosophy?
I think Hoke's was pretty easy to understand. If you got an Offer from Hoke, it was a commit-able offer. If you wanted to take visits after accepting an offer, then you were no longer considered committed and they would consider you just a recruit competing for a spot in the class.
Rodriguez was somewhat similar to Harbaugh i think, but there are some subtle differences. Rodriguez would fire off a ton of offers and sort out how "official" they were as they learned more about grades, etc. I think he had less consideration for class distribution by position and that may have gotten him in trouble, but he also chased some of the top players regardless of fit.
Harbaugh seems to be something along the lines of this:
-- An offer is conditional upon certain requirements (curious your opinion on those)
-- If you commit, that doesn't mean that either you or Michigan is married to another. Visits are still allowed and Michigan may still explore options for your spot.
-- Until you sign the LOI or enroll, consider things a soft commitment.
Harbaugh sends out "offers." Hoke did not do that. If you had an offer from Michigan under Hoke you could commit to it. Harbaugh does the thing most people do these days and fires out offers in name only. To date he's been less than circumspect when it comes to allowing kids to commit to those offers (though sometimes that's not his call; some kids announce commitments to uncommitable offers).
A commitment is still mostly a commitment. Of the guys who left Michigan's class only two, Swenson and Weaver, were instances where Michigan flat out didn't want a guy because of their perception of his talent level. It's been more or less directly stated by guys like Steve Wiltfong that other players who decommitted had academic benchmarks they didn't reach or were 100% the player's choice. And Swenson was a unique situation since he was a highly-rated commit who was offered before his sophomore year by Brady Hoke. Michigan evidently made it clear they wanted to see him in action to confirm but didn't make it CLEAR, if you know what I mean. That's an error Harbaugh admitted to and hopefully won't be as much of a thing going forward.
I expect that Michigan will continue to have a few speculative commits who may or may not end up in the class for reasons academic and otherwise. Their offers will continue to keep pace with the state of the art in mangling the English langauge for marketing purposes. Some guys will take those offers. Michigan will make things clear to them, and some of them will end up in the class while others either use their status as a springboard, as Weaver did, or end up where they were going to end up anyway.
[After the JUMP: a graph, 2017 DL worries, 2016 LB worries, and HOW INSANE WAS THIS COACHING HIRE]
2 - I'm still perplexed by the class size exceeding 28 players. I know you tried to explain that in a previous post, but can you confirm again that the only way for Michigan to exceed 28 players is to use a grayshirt? It sounds like you have inside information about at least one player who may take that, but when I look at the class list and subtract the players who are commonly considered to be leaving at some point - I don't see an obvious candidate and certainly not 2 of them.
There are two limits in play here. The NCAA has a limit of 25 signees per class, but that limit is easily exceeded thanks to a pile of loopholes. The foremost of those is enrolling early, which allows you to backdate players to the previous class as long as that class has room. Michigan signed 14 last year and enrolled 7 early, so they could have gone up to a whopping 32 without running afoul of the NCAA limit.
There is a limit of 28 LOIs signed but it's unclear when you could actually run up against that given the 25 cap. Early enrolees don't actually sign the LOI.*
The Big Ten has a separate limit that is simply the number of scholarships you expect to have plus three. Michigan has to explain to the Big Ten how it will get to their number, which they seem to know already. 247 and Scout have held that they would go to 27 or 28 for months and that was before Willie Henry left.
*[Which is why Stephen Threet could transfer after one semester at Georgia Tech; had he been bound by a LOI he would have had to stay a whole year.]
Former Michigan hires ranked by insanity.
IN WHICH I DEFEND BRADY HOKE! [Eric Upchurch]
Which of these recent coaching hires is the most befuddling?
A) Tennessee hires Mike Debord as OC (last season)
B) Oregon hires Brady Hoke as DC
C) BC hires Scot Loeffler as OC
Debord, hands down. He had been out of coaching for three years when Tennessee pulled him off the scrap heap. He hadn't had a job of any importance since 2007, when he was at Michigan, and he was appointed Tennessee's quarterbacks coach. Debord is a former OL and last coached QBs in 1986 at Fort Hayes State.
The one thing that saves Tennessee a bit is the fact that Butch Jones is an offensive guy. If Jones is the defacto OC and Debord is an assistant to him that makes slightly more sense. But not very much even then. It is 2015 and Tennessee basically does not have a QB coach.
Neither other hire holds a candle to Debord. As I mentioned on Twitter, I think the Hoke hire is either secretly brilliant or a disaster. Hoke's a super recruiter. He identifies DL talent and develops it. Both of those are major assets for an Oregon program that does not recruit at the same level that other perennial contenders do even now.
Cultural fit is the huge question, obviously, and that's where the disaster/miracle comes in. If Hoke's spread issues are mitigated by the fact that the Oregon braintrust can tell him "don't do that" when he wants to implement a bad idea, it can work. If Hoke's brain explodes at Oregon's first practice, not so much.
The tiebreaker is Oregon's schedule. The Ducks' most imposing opponents are Stanford annually and USC usually. Those are both pro-style attacks Hoke is well-suited to defending. The fact he's never been a DC is a problem but I think he's a risk worth taking for the Ducks.
Meawhile Loeffler is just another run-of-the-mill Chan Gailey hire. He has experience, so he gets jobs. That all of that experience is miserable doesn't factor into the thinking of a Steve Addazio. It's not a hire that any BC fan is going to like, but it is in no way surprising.
Academics vs football, the graph
Thought you might find this interesting. It's a plot of the rank for all Power 5 conferences (CBS) against it's rank in the US News academic ranking. When you look at it - makes it clear the message the Harbaugh is selling is pretty unique - no surprise we tend to find ourselves head to head with Stanford and ND so frequently.
- There are just not that many schools with elite FB programs and academic institutions - It's pretty much just Mich, ND and Stanford. Suppose USC and UCLA just had bad years and NC was just a fluke good year
- B10 and ACC clear standout as places with good football (or mediocre depending on your view point) and good academics
- Pac12 is basically bimodal - lots of great schools and lots of bad ones
- SEC and B12 have good football but bad academics
I should point out that the US News rankings are an abomination that has damaged American higher education more than anything else in the last 20 years. Also, the kind of things that football players look for in a school's academics are often different than those that students without a 40-hour a week job look for. But I found the graph interesting all the same.
Linebackers: a problem? How much of a problem?
Hi Brian -
After all the injuries on the DL this year, you commented a few times on how as the second-stringers struggled and everyone got moved around, this put more pressure on the LBs, where they were expose as not being particularly great. Looking to next year, our LB situation doesn't appear to have improved dramatically, but with Glasgow back and some new additions (wooooooooGary!!!), the line looks pretty strong and hopefully able to stay healthy with a good rotation.
My question is, given the known weakness of our LBs, is it something that other teams can exploit in any meaningful way? Or is the strong defensive line able to protect against the LBs having their hands too full in almost any case?
There isn't much an offense can do to linebackers if the defensive line is truly dominant. If the opposition OL is getting blown up, linebackers are going to be watching tackles, cleaning up after missed tackles, and can get away with false steps. A bad LB might get lost in coverage consistently or miss a gap, leading to a big play. A guy executing the scheme correctly doesn't actually have to be that good if all he's getting are plays thrown into chaos already. To affect LBs you have to single up DL. If you can't do that it's up to the linebackers executing or not.
We saw that in the BYU game when Desmond Morgan played every snap and finished with a UFR grade of 1-0.5=0.5, inspiring the "desmond morgan is optional" tag. Later in the year I'd deploy a "desmond morgan is emphatically not optional" once the DL got worn down and subsequently shredded.
If Michigan stays healthy and their line looks something like Charlton/Hurst/Glasgow/Wormley backed by Gary/Gary/Mone/Godin for the duration of the year they can totally get away with some not great linebacker play.
DL configuration, 2017
So what is your opinion on how the DL looks going forward beyond the 2016 season? I know Gary can play a lot of spots, but I think of him as ideally as a giant quick SDE, especially using that speed and size off the edge. Other than that, UM has taken three true DTs in the last three classes (Mone, Dwumfor, Pallante).
That, um, seems less than ideal. Especially if the whole 'depth' thing is what makes a DL elite. Meanwhile they have a lot of DEs, and some LB/DE that UM and the players are now saying are just LBs. Meanwhile, I have to think (hope) that UM will continue to run a lot of nickel formations requiring two true LBs. What is going on?
Yeah, next year looks great when you look at the projected starters. Those are likely to be Marshall(?)/Hurst/Mone/Gary. Past that you've got:
- Brady Pallante (Jr*). I have my doubts that Pallante will ever be able to hold up at his size. Hoke's DL recruiting was way above par but that offer was odd at the time and hasn't changed much.
- Shelton Johnson (So*). Promising player with big frame could slide to 3-tech, probably an SDE in perfect world.
- Michael Dwumfour (Fr*). Hurst-like 3TECH/nose type. Don't want to play him a ton as a redshirt freshman.
- Ron Johnson (Fr*). WDE all the way.
- maybe Carlo Kemp (Fr*). Supposedly LB at first; expect he goes back to DL as soon as that position is settled. Could grow into SDE type.
- maybe Rueben Jones (So*). Ditto Kemp except WDE all the way.
Then you have a few WDE types and one definite DT. It will be a dropoff. Losing Elliott is a major blow.
Michigan really needs a DT or two who can play as true freshmen in 2017 with an eye towards being big timers in 2018. That and OT are the most glaring needs on the roster. The one mitigating factor is that Don Brown loves undersized guys and blitzes so Michigan might be okay with a DL that looks lighter than ideal once you get past the doom squad.