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Friday, May 02, 2008


You've done a great job comparing Beilein's UM recruits with his WVU recruits. [Have I? -ed] Do you have any opinion on Rodriguez's UM recruits as
compared to his WVU recruits, or is it too early to tell? It seems from much of your coverage that Rodriguez is, in large part, targeting not only the same type of recruits but also the same recruits at UM that he was targeting at WVU. Has there been any appreciable difference in the quality of his recruits (e.g., more 4-stars, more top 100 guys) at UM as compared to his recruits at WVU? One would hope so, since that is one of the advantages UM should have over WVU, but, again, maybe it's too early to tell.

Go Blue,
Before I answer, note that this email was sent before the recent Beaver commitment.

And on to answering: there has been a notable uptick in Rodriguez's recruiting. A third of the way into Michigan's 2009 class he's picked up three top-100 players and four players given four or five stars, and it seems highly likely Bryce McNeal will join them. His record at West Virginia (all rankings are Rivals' because their site is more navigable):
  • 2008: (this is a lot of Stewart but I think it's illuminating) instate OL Josh Jenkins is a soft commit for most of the year and does end up signing with the 'Eers. There are three other four-stars, one a JUCO and one a prep school kid who signed with WVU in 2007 but did not qualify; we should not double-count him. This class hasn't gotten to campus yet so we don't know their fates.
  • 2007: Noel Devine headlines. Other four stars include a JUCO and troubled LB Pat Lazear; Bradley Starks and Terrence Kerns (who would prep and re-sign in 2008) are four-star high school recruits. Starks is a real fringe four-star type with other offers from Iowa State, Temple, and Marshall. Not exactly Kevin Newsome.
  • 2006: No four star players.
  • 2005: A five star, but it's Jason Gwaltney, who for a lot of reasons is horrifically overrated. He fails out his first semester.
  • 2004: Two four stars. Brandon Barrett is an instate wide receiver who ends up #45 in the Rivals 100; Raymond Williams is a fringe four-star back from Cleveland. Barrett was a non-qualifier who got in trouble as a sophomore and failed out before his junior year. Two months after he signs his letter of intent, Williams robs a drug dealer with a fake gun, getting one of his teammates killed when the dealer unsurprisingly has a real gun. WVU withdraws his offer.
  • 2003: No four star players.
  • 2002: WR Broderic Jones never gets to campus, sits out 2002, and eventually ends up at Tulsa.
Rivals doesn't go any farther back than that, but I think the point is made. During the whole of Rich Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia, he got use out of one player given four or more stars: Noel Devine. (Lazear will start this year after special teams duty his first season; Rodriguez's teams were not particularly aided by his talents.) Every single other highly-rated player bombed out.

That doesn't surprise me. West Virginia has no instate recruiting base and had zero national cachet until the White-Slaton era. Chances are any player who was highly rated and didn't have a better option than West Virginia had grade or character issues. Or, if you're Jason Gwaltney, both.

Here's the scorecard. Seven years at West Virginia: seven four or five star recruits that made it to campus. Five months at Michigan: ten.*

Is Rodriguez recruiting the same guys he was at West Virginia? Probably. The difference is he's getting his first or second choice instead of #10.

*(Tentative numbers since WVU and Michigan obviously haven't gotten the 2008 and 2009 classes in the boat yet; Michigan's number only counts players that committed to the new staff.)

Hi Brian,

I want to know what you think of the new changes for the football program now that everything is more settled. Even though as a great a coach as RR is, I wonder if that's enough. UM for the past two decades have been putting a lot of people in the NFL, which I think is a big plus when it comes to recruiting. Under Carr, his philosophy was that as long as he could get a good passing QB, then he'd be able to attract top-flight receivers. That way of thinking has worked considering the number of QB's we have in the NFL and has labelled us "Quarterback U." We also have a good number of receivers in the NFL, although Braylon is the only one that's actually doing well. But the point remains -- UM, under Carr, put kids into the NFL.

Now that everything is different and RR has taken over, I'm not so sure that that is going to be the case. With his run-option spread offense, there is too little emphasis on passing. I'm afraid that not too long from now, we'll start seeing a major drop-off in the ratings of the QB's and WR's that we can recruit. In this year's NFL draft, only 3 players were picked from W. Virginia (Schmitt, Slaton, and Mundy(?!?)) vs. the 6 from Michigan. Granted Pat White is still at W. Virginia, but even if he was in the draft, I doubt he'd get picked up by anyone. He's not a good passer and even though he's a good play-maker, it won't be that easy in the NFL.

Maybe I'm just having a hard time of letting go of the memories of 4th quarter comebacks (vs. MSU '04 and '07) and LAST second TDs (vs. PSU '05). And then there are all those other spectacular pass plays against ND in 2006. All of those would not have been possible without a great QB and WR combo. I'm starting to wish we could've gotten Les Miles because then maybe things wouldn't be changing so much.

So what do you think? Are my concerns unfounded? Or am I just being a wuss about letting go?

Thanks for reading.

UM Class of 2005
How convenient that this question comes directly after a discussion of West Virginia's recruiting, which was obviously not conducive to being an NFL factory. Let's focus this discussion on the offense, since the defense isn't changing in any way that might damage the NFL prospects of anyone on it.

Rodriguez's lack of NFL draftees is a chicken-and-egg argument. There's a reason Pat White was not recruited as a quarterback by anyone other than Rodriguez, and that's the same reason he's going to be an NFL wide receiver: he's not much of a thrower. That's why he was the #55 "athlete" in his recruiting class, and why he was a three-star prospect. If Rodriguez could have gotten, say, a guy who anchors a winning 100-meter relay team and is listed by Rivals as a pro-style quarterback because he's that comfortable in the pocket, he would have, and West Virginia's offense wouldn't have been so run-heavy. Same goes for players like Stonum and Mathews and so forth and so on.

The thing about recruits is this: they just want to go places, really, and justify the place they want to go in a post hoc fashion. Terrelle Pryor said he wanted to play in a pro-style offense so he would be prepared for the NFL. Kevin Newsome said NFL scouts would find him no matter what sort of offense he played in. PA CB Corey Brown cited Penn State's lack of cornerbacks in the NFL when he dropped them recently, but left both Michigan and West Virginia on his list when the only DB the 'Eers have produced in recent times is legendarily troubled Pacman Jones.

Part of the reason recruits want to go places is the style of offense and NFL prospects but, IMO, it's a much smaller part than you'd think by listening to their quotes, which are often an effect of their commitment and not a cause.

As far as the ratings of QBs we can recruit... I think the Newsome/Beaver double dip combined with heavy interest from Jason Forcier and Eugene Smith blows that up. It's true Michigan is cutting itself off from the Hennes of the world, but before they cut themselves off from the Newsomes and Pryors. There might be some cause for concern at outside wide receiver -- I assume Michigan is going to have a parade of slot guys eager to be featured at a marquee school -- but at the moment we've got guys from Houston practically begging for an offer and guys from Minnesota decking their myspace pages with more block Ms than you can shake a stick at.

Everyone assumes that West Virginia running 70% of the time (and throwing screens another 10-15% of the time) was a choice. But what would you do with a freshman/sophomore/junior Pat White and Steve Slaton? Michigan has been notoriously run-heavy (57% during Henne's healthy junior year) despite having a multitude of downfield options whenever its quarterback is anything but a senior, and WVU was using an underclassman most programs saw as a wide receiver. And they averaged six yards per carry. And they had little receiving talent outside of the slot. Under the circumstances it would have been crazy to throw more.

At Michigan, Rodriguez will have highly-rated guys who can throw and run and more receiving talent than he's ever seen. We've seen that when he has a superior talent like Chris Henry, he uses him: Henry had 1872 yards in about one and a half years at WVU, and those were his freshman and discipline-ravaged sophomore years. IMO, Rodriguez will always be run-heavy but at Michigan the percentage of runs and short passes will be more like 65% than 85%. Since Michigan has been a magnet for receiving talent despite having a similar percentage of safe stuff you'd figure they would be able to reel in a similar level of badass.

There might be a rough year or two in 2010 or 2011 if (more likely, when) whichever inexperienced quarterback ends up seizing the job struggles and numbers fall, but if I'm right and once the quarterbacks hit upperclass status and Stonum or Clemons or Hemingway or some highly rated recruit from this year blows up, that will blow over.

Honestly, I'm more concerned with the defensive side of the ball, where Jay Hopson has been recruiting the hell out of every safety and linebacker in Mississippi and environs and most of them still favor the in-state hell schools (USM not included, SMQB, since there is the prospect of something other than four years of misery there). Whatever weird gravitational pull the state has only relaxes to the south, it seems.
Hello Brian,

I am pretty sure you have received this email before, and you have probably answered it, but here it goes again... will all this BCS +1 or BCS playoff talk ever come to fruition? I really hope not. Wouldn't a playoff undermine the "every game counts" concept of college football? Let's say 2007 Michigan, who lost to Appalachian State, ended up beating OSU in the finale and became Big Ten champs. Therefore, we had the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. If we end up winning that game, do we deserve to play for the championship? HECK NO! On the other hand, should Michigan still deserve to play in the Rose Bowl? Call me a traditionalist, but if the Big Ten and Pac-10 (or Big Nine and PCC or AAWU or Pacific 8 or whatever the heck they were) have been playing in this bowl game since the beginning of time, then why should the honor of playing in the game be taken away from them?

The point of the whole BCS championship is to pit #1 vs #2 to determine the true champion, and the only recent year the BCS championship contenders were wrong was 2004 when USC was sniped from going to the big game in favor of LSU, and even that is debatable, but college football is SUPPOSED TO BE DEBATABLE. Football is a debatable sport, and you will never find a real champion unless you have playoff series like pro basketball, baseball, and hockey. Even with an NFL style playoff, it can be iffy. Who is a better team, the Patriots or the Giants? If New England and New York played 10 games against each other, the Patriots would probably win 7 of them. Also, the Giants got lucky beating the Packers in Green Bay. So I guess you can say that the Giants did not deserve to be Super Bowl champs either. What is that you say? The NFL DOES have a playoff system? And there is STILL debate if the champions were good enough to be champions?

Even with a playoff, the teams left on the outside looking in will feel they were sniped from playing for the championship. So what is this whole playoff thing going to solve?

Thanks for your opinion,
Oh... here we go again. Oh, well. Onward.

I am a very specific playoff advocate. I agree that preserving the tension of the regular season is important, so my proposal is a six-team playoff in which the top two teams get byes and games in the first two rounds are played at home. The final is at the Rose Bowl. The teams are selected by a committee that heavily emphasizes nonconference schedule strength; there are no autobids. The bowl system lives on in parallel, selecting any team that doesn't make the playoff (and maybe the first-round losers, since I envision those games happening in December).

This system...

Keeps tension in the regular season. There is a huge difference between finishing 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and a huge difference between 3 and 4 and 5 and 6. The big issue with a playoff, as I see it, is that it makes something like WVU losing to Pitt late a minor deal. In this system the number of bids is restricted enough (remember WVU already had one loss) that WVU might drop out altogether, and even if they stay in they've gone from a bye and a home game to a first-round roadie.

Helps de-wussify nonconference schedules. Amen.

Actually increases the number of important late-season games. If you are seventh or eighth in the pecking order, everyone above you and nine and ten want you to lose. Now if you're anywhere below fifth late in the season your games have no national title implications.

Has a semblance of tradition. It might be a bit hypocritical to make the Rose Bowl a permanent host and then rail against the Plus One, as I'm about to do, but it's either that or rotating the game between the epicenter of college football tradition and, like, the Superdome. Duh.

Mostly preserves the bowl season. Hey, everyone likes random college football games.

Now, the BCS:

Even if college football is supposed to be debatable, the BCS has killed that debate by instituting a two-team playoff. One team wins and is given an NCAA-approved crystal football, and everyone else can pound sand. Now that the BCS has adopted an overwhelmingly poll-driven ranking system, the events that led to a split national title a few years ago are exceedingly unlikely to happen again, so you get what you get "#1" versus "#2" for "the national title." In the days before the BCS, national championships truly were mythical and were as such acceptable topics for debate. Now our only debate is which team would have put up a better fight than Ohio State. It is truly the worst of both worlds: a playoff that settles nothing.

Virtually anything would be better than it. A return to the ante-bellum bowl system? Check. A true "Plus One" that restores traditional bowl ties and has a national title game a week after? Check? A reasonably sized playoff? Check.

It's depressing that the only thing worse -- a seeded Plus One that almost entirely obliterates traditional bowl ties and imposes ridiculously unfair travel constraints on teams outside of California and the south -- is the thing that actually got proposed at the BCS meetings. I reject every anti-playoff argument except this one: any group of people that could oversee the majesty that was ten years of the BCS would undoubtedly screw it up.