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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Stay stay stay. Questions about the commitment statuses of two of the more highly-rated commits have been answered. Sam McGuffie:

"He was just like, 'You've seen what Noel Devine has done and Steve Slaton, fast guys like that. We can get you the ball like that and incorporate you the same way.' That will be good. Just get me in space and let me shake some people."
Boubacar Cissoko:
"Where I stand right now, the day of the game, I'll make my commitment to Michigan," Cissoko said. "I actually got my hat in the bag. I talked to coach (Rich)Rodriguez and I talked to his staff also so right now everything is going smooth for me."
Meanwhile, Michigan is widely expected to have to deal with a re-recruiting job on one Ryan Mallett, the presumptive starter at quarterback next season should he choose to stick around. Rodriguez on his conversations to date with Mallett:
"I've talked to Ryan twice about it and told him our offensive system can really fit different skill players on offense whether you're a drop-back guy or a multi-purpose quarterback that can run or throw," Rodriguez said. "He's got to trust it. If he doesn't see his fit, that's his decision. We certainly hope he stays around. I think he's a talented young man who's got a lot of ability, and we can fit our system to the best quarterback."
Also of note in that article is one hell of a final, unexplained sentence: "In terms of recruiting for the 2008 class, Rodriguez said he expects to sign a full class of 25."

This would mean serious attrition. At the moment I think Michigan has 19 scholarships open, -- that's what the board says, anyway -- and that's with the projected departures of little-used seniors Grant DeBenedictis and Brett Gallimore (both have a fifth year available, but are unlikely to ever see the field). Mario Manningham's universally expected NFL departure is not included in that, and there are rumblings that Adrian Arrington, Terrance Taylor, and Tim Jamison could enter as well. If all those guys left, 1) that would suck and 2) that would still leave Michigan two scholarships short of 25. One additional departure possibility: redshirt freshman DT Jason Kates, who did not make the bowl trip for unexplained reasons.

Assistant rejiggeration. We know that OC Calvin Magee, recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach Tony Gibson, and current Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson will be members of Rich Rodriguez' staff. We know that Ron English, who is now the defensive coordinator at Louisville will not. The assumption past those four was Rodriguez might retain a couple more Michigan assistants -- most likely some combination of Loeffler, Campbell, and Stripling -- and fill in the rest of the gaps with former Mountaineers. In the same article linked above, however, Rodriguez leaves the door open for some outside hires:
[Rodriguez] has not yet finalized his staff. "Not completely," Rodriguez said. "I have some, obviously, in mind. When all the bowl games are over, I'll complete it probably within a week."

Rodriguez said he has not completely ruled out rehiring others from Carr's staff.

"That's yet to be determined," Rodriguez said. "To be fair to everyone, I met with all the guys (on Dec. 20). They were very good, very professional about it. Obviously I'm very loyal to the staff I had at West Virginia, with several of them coming with me and several others, possibly, from other schools."
Probably the most important decision facing Rodriguez at this juncture is whether to bring over current WVU DC Jeff Casteel and continue using the 3-3-5, a defense often derided as doomed against the power rushing attacks that supposedly dominate the Big Ten.

But... like... why is it derided like so? West Virginia's rush defense rankings over the past several years:


That ugly "104" was the year that spurred WVU's shift to the 3-3-5; implementation of said saw their rush defense immediately fly up 74 spots. Since their implementation of the stack, WVU has never finished below average in run defense and has been top twenty the past few years.

Beating up on overmatched opponents? Perhaps. But this is a complete listing of West Virginia's front seven (eight, actually, as the stack is always an eight-man front) draft picks in the odd stack era:
2003   5   144   James Davis   LB   Detroit Lions
(FWIW, two corners were also taken. In general, the WVU draft history stands as a tribute to Rodriguez's coaching ability. He's had two first-day picks in the entirety of his tenure at WVU, though when Slaton comes out he'll likely make it three. Michigan doubles that in a good year. He must feel like a kid in a candy store.)

WVU does not appear to have a massive talent advantage against the Big East. There is probably something to the theory that one extra game against a nonconference chump helps the stats out, but that's a marginal effect at best.

Does West Virginia's explosive offense get teams behind so quickly that they abandon the run? This does not appear to be a major effect. Rush and pass attempts by WVU opponents the past three years:

YearRush AttPass Att

Over the past three years -- both the apex of Rodriguez' spread 'n' shred offense and West Virginia's run defense -- opponents have run more than half the time.

I went to the trouble of purchasing the 3-3-5 coaching thing video put out by Casteel and WVU the year after their switch, and the interesting thing about it was its complete and wholesale focus on the run game. Every time they explored how they lined up against an opponent, it was player X has the C gap, player Y has the A gap, with only cursory references to what's done in pass coverage. The 3-3-5 is a rush defense that's quite effective despite having all of one NFL player at its disposal during its tenure at West Virginia.

I know John Tenuta is sexy, the Scarlett Johannson of defensive coordinators, but Casteel has quietly assembled an innovative and effective system without a major talent advantage over his competition and would be an attractive candidate even if he was the recently freed coordinator at Georgia Tech instead of Rodriguez' right-hand man.