On ESPN Part 2

I mentioned some time ago that I'd been looking into ESPN's foray into recruiting ratings, now four years old and presumably gaining some consistency. In part 1, I talked about my frustration at trying to find some consistency in the ESPN ratings that would allow me to create a mapping from ESPN's 100 pt scale to Rivals' 6.1 pt scale, something that would let me say "This kid was rated 79 by ESPN but 6.0 (high 4*) by Rivals, so Rivals clearly has him rated higher. Such a mapping was hard to create because ESPN's use of the 100 pt scale seems to vary widely from year to year.

But I said I'd keep trying. I said I'd report back in a few days. That was on June 19th.

In Part 2 (this), I'm looking at one very specific issue: Michigan.
That is, I've tracked the Rivals and Scout evaluations of Michigan's recruiting classes for a few years now, and while there are multiple cases each year where one is more bullish on a recruit than the other, in the end, it seems to be a crapshoot. That is, they have differences of opinion (which is why it's worth following both), but there seems to be no inherent bias. You can't say "Scout is always more bullish on Michigan recruits than Rivals is" or "Rivals always thinks more highly of Penn State recruits than Scout does."

I wanted to throw ESPN into the mix.

So here's what I did:

I added 2009 recruiting rankings from ESPN to the mapping and tried again. And I came up with this.
In the 2009 Rivals class, there are 25 5*s (6.1), 57 high 4*s (6.0), 75 mid 4*s (5.9) and 162 low 4*s (5.8). The mapping I came up with was

Rivals: ESPN (# of players / year per ESPN)
6.1: 84->100 (33)
6.0: 82->83 (50)
5.9: 80->81 (112)
5.8: 78->79 
5.7: 76->77

Then I pulled in 3.5 years of recruiting classes for Michigan (Feb 2006 -> Feb 2008 and ther current, unfinished class). I also brought in the 3 other midwestern powers: Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame, then quickly dismissed Penn State because (no offense Penn State fans) they have not recruited at the same level as Michigan, OSU and ND and that affects the comparison. 

And having established (though not published here, because it's a boring hypothesis to lay out evidence of) that Rivals and Scout seem fairly in line, I figure I am, as best as can be done, comparing ESPN to a consensus of 2.

I also allowed for minor differences in ranking. If one site says a player is 50th, a high 4*, and another says he is 25th, a 5*, that's not a difference worth noting. So translated to the Rivals 6.1 system, I noted the ratings as being significantly different if they were at least 0.2 apart - a 5* compared to a mid 4*, a mid 4* compared to a high 3*.

I also made some assumptions and threw out some data, and these are just my judgment, to be trusted or not trusted as you see fit:

1. I ignored players who were rated mid 3* or below by both services. I am not interested in whether Rivals and ESPN disagreed on just how mediocre the bottom of the class was, and there is too much noise in those ratings.
2. I ignored players where I did not have Rivals ratings or where there appeared to be good reason for not having ESPN ratings (Junior College transfers, foreign players).
3. However, if (to the best of my knowledge) a recruit was a conventional American high school recruit and was rated as a decent prospect by Rivals and simply not scouted by ESPN (usually carrying a grade of 40, which is ESPN-speak for "unrated), I think it is fair to say ESPN thinks less of this player. This player is marked as one that Rivals rated higher. I figure if Rivals thinks a kid is solidly Big 10 level, and ESPN simply chooses not to scout him (despite scouting over a thousand, maybe over two thousand kids), then ESPN doesn't think much of the recruit.

From there, I looked at one basic thing: how many players, by team, were rated higher by Rivals than by ESPN, and how many were rated higher by ESPN than by Rivals. If there's no bias, and with a decent sample of 68-78 comparable recruits for each team (3.5 recruiting classes) you'd expect it to be some high, some low, and a near washout.

School: Rivals is higher / ESPN is higher / Sample ... Effect
Michigan: 13 / 6 / 68 (-10%)
Notre Dame: 5 / 14 / 78 (+12%)
Ohio State: 14 / 8 / 75 (-8%)

Effect = (ESPN high - Rivals high) / Sample size
Positive = ESPN likes the classes more. Negative = Rivals likes the class more.

8%, 10%, 12% ...

Keep in mind, when I did this for Rivals vs. Scout, the numbers came out Michigan 2%, Notre Dame 4%, Ohio State 1%. By comparison, these are wild an enormous numbers, 8%, 10% and 12%. It does *not* mean that ESPN and Rivals agree more often than Rivals and Scout do. In fact, the # of matches is very similar. What it means is that while when Rivals and Scout disagree, it's as likely to be Rivals higher as it is to be Scout higher, when ESPN and Rivals disagree, it's usually to Notre Dame's benefit and Michigan's and Ohio State's detriment.

Bias? Not ready to say that.

First off, there could be a statistical bias here. Rivals and Scout have stable ratings systems. There may be 30 5* recruits one year and 36 the next, but it won't just from 50+ to mid 20s the way ESPN's did (for players rated 84 and higher). There won't be a 30-40% reduction in 4* players for one year, and then a jump back up, as there was between 2006, 2007 and 2008 for ESPN. Those wild swings could make a difference if, say one team had a small class and another had a large and blockbuster class in a year where ESPN was stingy. One team minimized the exposure to ESPN's stingy year, while another was fully exposed.

Another possibility is that it could be regional or positional. Maybe ND recruited a *ton* of offensive linemen and ESPN is just more generous with OL ratings than Rivals and Scout are. Those things (stripped of the school issue: just position and region) are things I will look at in part 3.

But before I get to part 3, one quick way of looking at the results of part 2.

If you just take the RR Rivals ratings and average them by team, what you get for this 3.5 year sample is

#1: Ohio State - 5.81
#2: Notre Dame - 5.78
#3: Michigan - 5.76

Not much of a difference. A difference of 0.03 over a class of 20 = trading 3 high 3* players for mid 4* players, noticable but not a huge difference.

If you average the mapped ESPN ratings, you get

#1: Notre Dame - 5.81
#2: Ohio State - 5.75
#3: Michigan - 5.72

The difference between that 5.81 and 5.72 is basically the same as if you took every single kid in Michigan's recruiting class and bumped them up a notch (from high 3* to low 4*, from low 4* to mid 4* ...). That's an enormous difference. And pwhat's driving it is that ESPN is just not impressed with the Michigan recruits that ESPN considers the elite among our classes. Michigan has 5 Rivals 5* players in the sample (Ryan Mallett, Brandon Graham, Donovan Warren, Steven Schilling and William Campbell) and only 2 of them carry even top 100 grades from ESPN (Mallett and Graham). 3 of Michigan's 9 "high 4*" players by Rivals are rated lower than that by ESPN (Justin Turner and Jonas Mouton as mid 4* and Boubacar Cissoko as a low 4*). And on the flipside, if that's the definition of elite, only 1 player has been named elite by ESPN that was not elite per Rivals (J.R. Hemingway).

On the flipside, there are 5 players that carry 5.9 or lower ratings by Rivals (mid 4* or lower, not top 100) that carry 5* / 6.1 grades from ESPN, and four more that are rated high 4* / 6.0 by ESPN.

Anyway, that's just data.
I want to dump things out by region, by position, by year and see what else turns up.
Basically, I want to look into this and see if there's consistency or bias in ESPN's ratings and whether I should continue paying attention. Of course, the best test will come on the field, when we can see the players that the services disagreed on and evaluate who was right and who was wrong.

Posted at 10:10 PM     Read More  


I tried, really I did.
I wanted to do something I thought was interesting. In fact, I'm still going to do it, but it's left me frustrated. I've never really looked at ESPN's recruiting ratings much, but I wanted to look into them a bit. I wanted to see if there was a difference, a bias, a trend of any sort; is there a particular position or school or region that they are more bullish on than Scout is or than Rivals is.
Step 1 seemed simple: try to map the ESPN rating system to the same scale Rivals uses. Rivals has this scale that goes to 6.1 and lets you seperate not just the 5* players from the 4* players, but the high 4* players (6.0) from the low (5.8). I figured I would take the ESPN ratings, map them to the Rivals system and then identify players with a significant difference in rating (0.2 or more).
First step, define the mapping. Should be easy: Rivals is fairly consistent in how they apply theirs, and it's approximately

1-35: 6.1
36-90: 6.0
91-180: 5.9
181-380: 5.8
381-?: 5.7

I dumped out ESPN's ratings for 2008 and figured I'd find the rating that was the cutoff for the top 35 players, and that's 6.1. I'd find the cutoff for the top 90 players, and that's 6.0. And here's what I found, using the 2008 ratings

Cutoff for 6.1: between 83 (23 players) and 84 (49 players)
Cutoff for 6.0: 82 (91 players)
Cutoff for 5.9: between 80 (240 players) and 81 (143 players)
Cutoff for 5.8: 79 (acutally 365 players)

Good, right?

But just to make sure I wasn't using a bad mapping, I tried it on the ESPN data for 2007 and 2006, too. And here's what I found: a chart of how many players *achieved or exceeded* a given ranking in each year, according to ESPN


Think about what that means. They are saying that the 2nd best player of the 2007 class (Chris Galippo, LB) would have been, at best, the 14th best player in the country if he'd graduated in 2006. That's a pretty steep dropoff in top talent. The 11th best player in 2007 (Marvin Austin, DT) would have been no better than 35th in 2006.

But as striking as the numbers at the top are, they are at least in some strange world plausible. We've all seen NFL drafts where people are excited about 3 possible #1 picks, and others where no one wants that top pick at all. A 13 to 1 change is a bit out of the realm of reason, but it's not nearly as bad as what happens when you compare 2007 to 2008. When you compare 2007 to 2008, you have to believe one of two things:

1. ESPN thinks that there was approximately twice as much top shelf talent in 2008 as their had been in 2007. 10 players at 88 or higher compared to 4 (a 150% increase). 91 players at 82 or higher compared to 53 (a 72% increase). 240 players at 80 or higher compared to 109 (a 120% increase). The 250th best player of 2007 would be borderline top 400 for 2008.

2. ESPN is being wildly inconsistent in how they grade players.

I think the latter is more believable. I think that if they gave a kid an 80 in 2007, they were saying he was a true stud recruit, a top 100 kid, what Rivals would call a "6.0". But if they gave a kid an 80 in 2008, they are saying something less; they are saying he is what Rivals would call a "5.9", or maybe even a "5.8" ... mid or maybe low 4*. It makes it hard to pay attention to ESPN's analysis if all you've got is a number which changes meaning and their verbal descriptions.

And while I'm at it, a couple more jabs at ESPN's ratings:

1. They have something called a "ESPN 150 Watch List". This is something other services have done before, too. Rivals used to do a "Pre-Evaluation Top 100 Watch List" which contained the names of 100 players to keep an eye on as potential candidates for the first ordered list. You'd expect ESPN's is the same, right? Except ESPN's "150 Watch List" contains a whopping 543 players. Why call it a "150 Watch List" if it's got 543 players? I know what they'll say ... "these are players that may make the Top 150", but really, *I* may make the Top 150 if I suddenly go back to high school and throw for 52 touchdowns this year. Don't give us a "watch list" with everyone on it. I could dump out the rosters of every team in 1-A and call it my "Heisman watch list", but there's really no value in it.

2. This one isn't just for ESPN, it's for anyone who has a numerical ranking scale and doesn't use it. Rankers are so focused on getting #1 vs. #2 vs. #3 right, and just generally throwing the rest into broad categories, that you often wind up with lists like ESPN's, where the first 15 points in their scale are sparsely populated, and then the rest are just crammed full. DaQuan Bowers got a 95. DJ Grant got an 85. There are 14 players between them. TJ Bryant got an 83. Keenon Cooper got an 81. There are 120 players between them. I understand that stars seperate, but that's not real. 

And Rankers *never* start their scale at 0. I guess it offends people. Movie reviewers give 1* to movies they detest. Rivals gives an automatic 4.5 out of 6.1 to anyone who knows how to buckle a chin strap. Why would you come up with a ranking system with a bizarre top grade like 6.1 if you are going to start it at 4.5? I guess because giving a 4.5/6.1 sounds charitable, but 0/1.6 sounds mean.

Anyway, I'm going to go ahead. I'm going to do my mapping based on averages across 3 years, I guess, and report back in a couple of days. We'll see.

Posted at 09:07 PM     Read More  

The Oddnessness of QB Recruiting 

The Long and Winding Road

Follow me for a moment here ...

A couple of years ago, Notre Dame landed two fairly highly regarded QB recruits in 4* prospects Zach Fraser and Demetrius Jones. When 5* QB Mitch Mustain decommitted from Arkansas and was looking around, the presence of Jones and Frazer in ND played a big part in his reconfirming with Arkansas.

Shortly after that, we started hearing in Michigan that Mustain's commitment to Arkansas put us in good stead with Ryan Mallett. Mallett eventually whittled his choices down to Michigan and Texas, where Mack Brown put on the hard sell. Brown was on the verge of filling his 2 person QB class with John Chiles and John Brantley.

The hard sell didn't work on Mallett, who all but eliminated Texas at that point and committed to Michigan soon afterward. With Mallett in the fold, Michigan had little need to pursue the top in-state QB that year, Steven Threet, who wound up at Georgia Tech.

And now we're hearing that QB depth charts could be a major factor in the decision of the top dual-threat QB for 2009, Russell Shepard, who is deciding between Texas, Michigan and Florida.

So why did I engage in this little trip down memory lane?

Count 'em off, in order of appearance as they say in the movies:
Zach Fraser: transfered from Notre Dame to Connecticut
Demetrius Jones: transfered from Notre Dame to Cincinnati
Mitch Mustain: transfered from Arkansas to USC
Ryan Mallett: transfered from Michigan to Arkansas
John Chiles: still at Texas
John Brantley: decomitted from Texas and signed with Florida
Steven Threet: transfered from Georgia Tech to Michigan.

The moral of the story? If you're a hotshot QB, just go where you want to go and don't worry about the depth charts. Those guys may not even be there two years from now. Three of the five transfers on that list (Mustain, Mallett and Threet) didn't get beaten out by other highly rated QBs; they left for various other reasons.

Posted at 09:09 PM     Read More  

Two Quick Recruiting Things  

Martavius Odoms (WR FL) has joined the class, turning down a track scholarship from Miami. Odoms is a speedy, 5'8" WR who makes this maybe the fastest class in recent Michigan history and almost certainly the shortest since the advent of the "Milk - It Does A Body Good" ad campaign. For the record, that makes 3 players listed at 5'9" or below (Odoms, WR Terrance Robinson and CB Boubacar Cissoko).

Why the rash of slot receivers (Odoms and Roundtree) and RBs/athletes that Rodriguez wants to turn into receivers (Robinson and Shaw)? Rodriguez has preached before about the need for numbers at WR, and he particular needs some depth at that "slash", playmaker position that he wants to utilize. Since Carr had few available, it became a major priority for the Feb 2008 recruiting class.

Second note: the top "dual threat" QB prospect for Feb 2009 would appear to be Russell Shepard of Houston Texas, who loves Texas and would love to play QB at Texas, but isn't sure if he'll get a shot at that position (given the verbal commitment given to Texas last week by projected 5* drop back QB Garrett Gilbert). 

Well, after visiting Texas this weekend and receiving an offer, albeit at WR and not at QB, Shepard had this to say (thanks to curt of Victors for the link): "I would say Texas is still up there, but Michigan is really at the top of my list, especially if they don’t get Terrelle Pryor.

There is obviously a long way to go, but that's a nice start.

Posted at 11:10 PM     Read More  

 Signing Day 2008: A Revisitation of Efficiency

The class is in t's thick through the middle, filled with lots of well regarded but not top 100 players ... the "mid to low 4*" players, in recruiting website parlance. So let's dive into how it stacks up.

I've lectured boringly before about my "recruiting efficiency" algorithm. In short, it's an algorithm for taking recruiting ratings (from Rivals, in this case) and team needs (my own assessment) and measuring how well a team did not only in securing talent but in securing the talent it needed. 

The idea:
1. To measure how well a program addressed team needs
2. To establish diminishing returns on class size, so that 30 member "oversigned" classes with tons of non-qualifiers don't get overrated every year.
3. To establish diminishing returns on an individual position, because the 3rd RB you bring in doesn't improve the roster as much as the first DT.

The drawbacks:
1. Someone has to assess team needs, and I'm only qualified (barely) to assess Michigan.
2. Team needs change. You may sign 2 QBs this year and think the 2nd is a luxury, but when 2 upperclassmen transfer ...
3. It is hard to quantify the need to add a single elite player at a position. You may have a depth chart full of good #2 corners, but desperately need that #1. It is hard to put a number to that.

But here's the process in short:

Identify class size, split it into 5 categories from highest priority (5) to lowest (1), with some buffer built in (for example, a 25 member class may have 6 in each spot instead of 5), slot the players in with their Rivals rating (in this case, the finer "RR" number, which splits 4*s into high/medium/low, for example) and do the math. The rating shown below is the ("RR rating" - 5.1), with a minimum of 0.1.

Here's the mathematical answer

Position Importance Player Rating Points Max
QB 5 Feagin 0.6 3 5
LB 5 Fitzgerald 0.8 4 10
S 5 Smith 0.8 4 15
OT 5 O'Neill 0.9 4.5 20
WR 5 Stonum 0.9 4.5 25
DL 4 Martin 0.7 2.8 29
OL 4 Mealer 0.7 2.8 33
RB 4 Shaw 0.8 3.2 37
TE 4 Koger 0.8 3.2 41
CB 4 Cissoko 0.9 3.6 45
CB 3 Floyd 0.4 1.2 48
QB 3 0 51
LB 3 Witherspoon 0.7 2.1 54
WR 3 Robinson 0.7 2.1 57
DL 3 0 60
OL 2 Wermers 0.5 1 62
LB 2 Hill 0.7 1.4 64
OL 2 Barnum 0.7 1.4 66
RB 2 McGuffie 0.7 1.4 68
TE 2 Moore 0.7 1.4 70
OL 1 Morales 0.1 0.1 71
OL 1 Omameh 0.1 0.1 72
OL 1 Khoury 0.6 0.6 73
RB 1 Cox 0.6 0.6 74
LB 1 Demens 0.7 0.7 75
WR 1 Roundtree 0.7 0.7 76

It adds up to a total of 50.4 points out of a max of 74 (74 = if we'd used 24 scholarships but met all our priorities with all 5* players). That's 68.1%. 

To put that in perspective, a class which perfectly addresses needs, and does so entirely with mid 4* players (RR rating of 5.9) would get a rating of 80%. A class that perfectly meets needs, and does so entirely with low 4* players (RR rating of 5.8) would get 70%. All high 3*s would be 60%, etc. The 68.1% indicates we met our needs mostly with mid to high 4*s (start in the low 70s) but missed a few needs (deduct a few points there and drop to the high 60s). 

How Did We Get There? 

Top Priority (5* needs) 
QB: Justin Feagin - 5.7 (3*). Adequate, but not a home run. 
OT: Dann O'Neill - 6.0 (4*). A perfect bookend to Steve Schilling in 2 years, I hope. 
WR: Daryl Stonum - 6.0 (4*). Another of the prototypical Michigan WRs. Nice. 
LB: J.B. Fitzgerald - 5.9 (4*). An excellent and much needed pickup. 
S: Brandon Smith - 5.9 (4*). Another excellent and much needed pickup. 
Overall ... a very, very good job. Not great, because there were no 5* players at the big need positions (or anywhere) and because we didn't pick up a "can't miss" prospect at QB to fill that most glaring of needs. 

High priority (4* needs)
RB: Michael Shaw - 5.9 (4*). Listed at RB, but hard to pin down. 
TE: Kevin Koger - 5.9 (4*). A good TE well suited to the Rodriguez offense. 
OL: Elliot Mealer - 5.8 (4*). Guard or Tackle, either way, we need both. 
DL: Mike Martin - 5.8 (4*). 4-3 Tackle. 1 is enough for this class, but at least 1 was critical. 
CB: Boubacar Cissoko - 6.0 (4*). With numbers (including a 5* last year), we needed 1 blue chip CB and he is it. Overall .. excellent. You don't expect to land 5* kids everywhere, so filling *all* of these with 4* kids is fantastic. No holes yet in the recruiting. 

Moderate priority (3* needs) 
QB: (no one). We could really use a 2nd QB, not just because of the changing system but due to depth. 
WR: Terrance Robinson - 5.8 (4*). A perfect slot fit for Rodriguez, filling a position that didn't really exist in Carr's offense (the dedicated slot WR). 
DL: (no one). Could have really used a DE in this class, after only Van Bergen (who could be a DT) in last year's. Losing Perry hurt. 
LB: Marcus Witherspoon - 5.8 (4*). We needed numbers at LB, and filled them. 
DB: JT Floyd - 5.5 (3*). One of the lowest rated recruits in the class, but as the #2 CB in the class. Overall ... this is where the problem lies. We didn't get the #2 QB, we didn't get a single DE and we left those needs unfilled. That's what's going to become the biggest need in next year's class. And that's why landing Perry and/or Pryor would have made this class not just a damn good one but one of the best I've seen at Michigan. 

Lower priority (2* needs) 
RB: Sam Mcguffie - 5.8 (4*). It's hard to say Sam McGuffie is a low priority. One of my favorite recruits in this class, on potential. 
TE: Brandon Moore - 5.8 (4*). Listed TE twice in case Rodriguez moves Webb to WR. 
OL: Barnum - 5.8 (4*). Always need numbers at OL 
OL: Kurt Wermers - 5.6 (3*). Always need numbers at OL. 
LB: Taylor Hill - 5.8 (4*). Had a real depth issue at LB and needed at least 3. 
Overall ... excellent. To fill the #16 - #20 needs with primarily 4* players is a great job of building quality depth and making sure that even when the inevitable happens and a few players don't pan out, that the depth is there to fill in. 

Luxuries (1* needs) 
RB: Mike Cox - 5.7 (3*). 
OL: Patrick Omameh - 5.1 (2*). 
OL: Rocko Khoury - 5.7 (3*) 
LS: George Morales - 5.2 (2*) 
WR: Roy Roundtree - 5.8 (4*) 
LB: Kenny Demens - 5.8 (4*) 
Overall ... It's nice to get 2 4* players and 2 3* players to fill in "luxury" spots in your recruiting class, but it's not what makes or breaks you. 

Grand total: As mentioned earlier, 68.1% ... that's pretty damn good, but not outstanding. 
It's as high as it is because Rodriguez filled almost all those need positions with 4* players (RB, WR, OL, LB). 
It's not higher because we didn't get the 2 QBs or the DE and because there were no 5* players in the class. 

I realize that to everyone here, that number is meaningless, so here's some comparison. 
2004 Michigan (Henne, Dutch, Arrington, Martin ...): 68.4% 
2005 Michigan (Slocum, Germany, Grady, Bass ...): 65.3% - because the top talent was not distributed to all positions of need. 
2006 Michigan (Graham, Schilling, Brown, Mouton, Boren ...): 69.5%. Outstanding class that had 2 5* recruits at two of the biggest needs. 
2007 Michigan (Mallett, Warren ...): 62.7%. The worst class in recent Michigan history, buoyed by two critical 5* gets (although that Mallett get didn't last long, did it?) 

And to put that in perspective with another school, admitting that by ability to diagnose another school's needs is in question 
2006 Notre Dame (Young, Aldridge, Frazer, Jones ...): 65.9% - because of failures to address DT and LB 
2007 Notre Dame (Clausen, Kamara, Romine ...): 67.4% - really hit hard by failure to address DT again. 
2008 Notre Dame (Crist, Floyd, Rudolph ...): 76.1%. A truly outstanding class with top 100 players recruited at positions of great need. 
That, in the 76% territory, is where the Michigan class would have landed if we had gotten Perry and Pryor. Pryor alone would push us to 72.3%. 

That's the mathematical answer. And here's the subjective answer 

QB: We did okay. I doubt we get Pryor, who seems to be a battle between OSU (Pryor's choice) and PSU (his father's choice). In getting Feagin, what we did was push back the need for a QB by a year. There is potential, there is at the very least a player in the system that can run Rodriguez's system, if not to perfection (though, of course, he will get his chance to prove he can do even that). It's almost a draw. 

RB: Home run. Sam McGuffie is exactly the back this system needs. He is a threat to go 75 yards on any play, and that is what makes this offense deadly. He is the perfect spread option back. Mike Cox ... I will admit, I know little about Mike Cox. 

WR/TE: Another home run. We were stocked with flankers and ends (Mathews, Savoy, Hemingway, Clemons and the possibility of Babb or Rogers moving), and Carr locked up another great prospect (Stonum), so Rodriguez set about to fill the one WR position that his offense calls for and Carr's did not - the shifty slot WR who beats bracket coverage and can't be handled by a LB. It is, almost, somewhere between an RB and a WR. And we got two ... Terrance Robinson and Michael Shaw. Both should work in that position. I do not know much about Roundtree, who emerged very late in the process. Add in two very promising pass-catching TEs, and we couldn't have done better.

OL: This is getting repetitive, but a couple of late moves made this a big class. Tackles and guards and centers and long snappers, blue chippers and late bloomers ... there is variety in this class, and enough high end prospects to make it a promising one. 

DL: Perhaps one of the few troubling spots. Mike Martin is a great pickup, the mauling, wrestling defensive tackle Carr locked up fairly early. But the defection of much anticipated Omar Hunter (DT) to Notre Dame and then Florida and the loss of blue chip DE Nick Perry to USC hurt the DL class tremendously, and left us with DE as possibly the second biggest recruiting need for 2009 (behind QB). DT will survive, with the class we brought in last year. 

LB: Wow. 4 4* LBs. No top 100 blue chippers, but 4 very promising LBs, and a couple who can probably go anywhere from Will to Mack. Fans go back and forth on whether Fitzgerald or Witherspoon is the top man in, but it doesn't matter ... between those two and Hill and Demens, the LB corps is the strength of the defensive class. In time, don't be surprised if one of these LBs winds up as a DE, or at least as a situational DE 

DB: Only three, but with a decent number of DBs in last year's class the big need was 1 top CB and 1 top S and we got that (in Cissoko and Smith). It was not a home run, but it was adequate to very good. 

Summary: Very good. Not perfect, not the best I've ever seen at Michigan, but outstanding considering the situation we were in. Normally, the transition year is a tough one for recruiting, and it's the first full year where the coach gets a "bump". If this is what Rodriguez can do with a tough situation, then watch out for his bump.

Posted at 08:35 PM     Read More  

 No Tea for the Tiller Man

Joe Tiller is not happy with the last minute defection of 4* WR Roy Roundtree to Michigan. In fact, he's doing something coaches rarely do - he's spouting off to the press about it (of course, he's only piping up because he's retiring and doesn't care).

"If we had an early signing date, you wouldn't have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hatselling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that's what happened."

How many ways could Tiller be wrong in one short soundbite? I count three. 

First off, no, this is not why we need an early signing period. In fact, this is exactly why we shouldn't have an early signing period. Roundtree described a Michigan offer as a dream come true. He said he always wanted to play for Michigan. He got the offer, he gets his chance, and that's a happy ending for Roundtree. If he committed to Purdue, changed his mind and then decided to play for Michigan, it's the original commitment to Purdue that was a mistake, not his change of destination. Put Michigan's and Purdue's views aside, what Roundtree wants is to be at Michigan.

An early signing period does not prevent kids from making mistakes, it locks them into their mistakes. Instituting an early signing period to prevent kids from changing their minds is like keeping families together by outlawing divorce.  An early signing period benefits schools and coaches, and maybe even obsessive message board posters who (act like they) live and die with these decisions, but it does so at the expense of the recruits. 

But I do have a proposal that helps the kids, and it's one I've mentioned before: a non-binding letter of intent.

Allow recruits to sing a non-binding LOI any time from, say, July 1st leading into the senior year. Once they file the letter, their scholarship to that school is secure, and in return for that guarantee, the recruit agrees to have no contact with coaches or recruiters from other schools and not to make any official visits to other campuses. It also has the benefit of preventing other coaches from calling recruits who filed these papers (contacting them would be a violation). But, if a kid were to change his mind, he could simply file paperwork to rescind the NBLOI, at which point it's like he never filed one, and recruiting is back on.


Kids can get the process done with, secure the scholarship and get back to class/football.

Kids receive some protection. No fear of commiting to a school and having the offer pulled at the 11th hour when a better player shows interest.

Kids can get persistent coaches off their backs.

Coaches know where they stand with a recruit. If the NBLOI is in, they know the commitment is (relatively) secure and that they don't have to worry about other coaches poaching. If the NBLOI is not in, they know the kid is still open. If the recruit files an NBLOI and then rescinds it, the school knows the kid is wavering and has to be recruited all over again. There is no "I'm 100% committed, but I'm still taking visits".

Kids know where they stand with a school. If they request an NBLOI and the school hesitates to give them one, then they know they are not priority #1 for the school. 

And kids still have the opportunity to change their minds.

Michigan has been stung a number of times, whether it be known cases of players who committed and then decommitted or just kids who (supposedly) told the coaches they were coming and then changed their minds. But in the end, if the kid has decided in February that he doesn't want to be at Michigan then he shouldn't be at Michigan. And if we're the beneficiary, that's great. Either way, the kid should be where he wants to be, and an early signing period is not a step in that direction.

That's point #1 where Joe Tiller is wrong. Or just being selfish and seeing things only from the standpoint of the coach and program.

Point #2 where he is wrong is in implying that Rodriguez is "selling snake oil". FIrst off, I don't think Tiller knows that phrase means. He probably just thnks "Well, it has something to do with being slimy" but doesn't exactly know what. But beyond that, to imply that Rodriguez did something slimy here is absurd

Tiller is angry that Rodriguez violated some unwritten gentlemen's agreement between Big 10 coaches. The coaches have agreed to certain rules on how to approach committed prospects, two in particular:

1. You ask the recruit once, and if he's not interested then you back off - obviously Roundtree was interested. Duh.

2. The recruit has to tell the coach he is committed to that he is looking around. Ya, and what if the offer comes at the last minute? "Coach, I'm about to announce in 3 minutes that I am switching to Michigan." Whee! Pointless. And more importantly, not under Rodriguez's control. What Roundtree did or did not tell Tiller is Roundtree's business. 

This isn't new and it isn't something Rodriguez is doing that no one else does. The Big 10 coaches made a wholesale assault on the UM commit list during the transition period and it didn't stop when Rodriguez took over. Boubacar Cissoko committed  to Michigan but was still recruited by Illinois and Penn State. John Wienke committed but visited Iowa and switched his verbal. Half of Michigan's recruiting class was contacted by Mark Dantonio and a handful here and there were contacted by Jim Tressell. 

Tiller's just being an ass.

And Point #3 where he is wrong is in describing Rich Rodriguez as some guy in a wizard hat. Joe Tiller has clearly never played any role playing games. If there's one midwestern coach who is a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil, it's Charlie Weis. Let's be clear on who is who, here, or our party is doomed to failure:

Charlie Weis: the wizard with the spells to make chickens blow up at 300 feet, but get into a nasty fight with a balrog or something and he's pretty much useless. He can make the balrog dance the macarena if you want, but come fighting time, he's going to be standing in the back saying "Ya, I don't really fight. I've got a slingshot!"

Rich Rodriguez: the archer who hangs back and picks off enemies from a distance. And when the room is clear, he's the first guy to the treasure chest in the corner, stuffing his pockets full of gold, while telling the rest of the party "Weird, this one's empty, too."

Jim Tressell: the thief / assassin dual class with a backstab multipler of x3. So keep your eye on him, because when he sneaks up on you, you are dead.

Bret Bielema: the meathead barbarian who runs headlong into battle just for the fun of it, and laughs at the pretty, pretty sight of his own blood spurting. "Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!"

And poor, poor, John L. He's clearly the elfin cleric who wants to help, who gets caught up in the battle while trying to heal a wounded friend and ends up getting her head chopped off.

Posted at 08:01 PM     Read More