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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Recruiting Is Not An Excuse For Michigan To Be "Back"

So your team got number 1 through number 10 on Rivals top recruits list.  Congratulations! Now what.....

There have been more than a few Michigan Men that have declared that Michigan football is “back”.  If this is U of M being back, how far have the mighty fallen? Talk about a downgrade in your standards if an afterthought in the B1G race is being "back".  But when pressed to why they think U of M is back, Michigan Man ultimately points to recruiting, doesn't he?

I will have to admit that Brady Hoke has done a nice job bringing in bodies since his arrival in early 2011, but does that automatically translate to being back?  First and foremost, I have to say what an insult to coaches everywhere.  This argument essentially states that your job is obsolete because if the other side has better talent they will win regardless of your efforts.  Second, I will not even get into RichRod and the fact that he did bring in a lot of talent to U of M even though Michigan Man likes to ignore that.

The problem I have is that I have seen this mentality seep into some Spartan fans’ thoughts.  The “If we want to win, we need 5-star recruits” mentality.  If MSU pulled 10 out of 10 on the Rivals list, I am sure you would be doing back flips.  But what does that get you?

Let’s look at the 2009 class.  That class has had four full seasons to show how they deserved those top-10 spots (meaning if they were the epic college football players they were supposed to be, we should know by now).  Did you know that if your team pulled those 10 guys, you would have a total of two guys that became All-Americans?  That is the same number of All-American seasons as the 3-star Greg Jones!

This is not to say that those 10 players didn't deserve to be ranked that high.  Based on the number of them that seemed to get picked up by NFL teams regardless of their college careers, I would say they were all extremely talented.  But football is so much more than just being talented.  You have to be a fit in a system, you have to buy into the system, you have to have other guys around you that fit in the system, you need to have coaches that are competent in that system and so much more.

Mark Dantonio and his staff have done a very good job of identifying guys that fit.  Max Bullough is probably not a fit in Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense.  Kirk Cousins would be laughable in Urban Meyer’s spread option.  BJ Cunningham is probably a role player (redzone/possession receiver) in RichRod’s speed offense.  But at MSU they are perfect fits and the coaches put them in the right position to excel.

I know there are hundreds of success stories from guys that have made up top-100 over the years (That Terrelle Pryor kid won some football games. But there was that whole disgracing the university thing too).  But for everyone of the Julio Jones stories there is a Baker Steinkuhler and for every Ronald Powell there is a Sharrif Floyd.  Star rankings do not guarantee anything.  Basically even if your team is even able to pull the magical top-10 sweep, there are no guarantees of success.  So how important is it that anyone outside of Mark Dantonio and his staff put value in the recruits that are showing up in East Lansing? I, for one, am going to continue to trust Coach D over any ranking system out there.

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  1. Welcome aboard ATownAndDown! We hope this is the first of many posts!

    I'll play into your contrarian way or interacting with readers.

    I agree with your assessment with Ann Arbor Slappy's obsession with recruiting. When Rich first started losing, it was because "Lloyd left the cupboard was bare". When he kept losing, he just hadn't had time to "get his guys into the system". When Hoke arrived and still lost to MSU, it was because "Rich Rod left the cupboard bare". Through it all UM fans kept pointing to the next great recruiting class. Now through Hoke's early years, the fans acted like verbal commits who were still high school would win games for them. NOW, he has rolled together some consecutive impressive classes in quality and quantity at least according to recruiting services (and based on the other schools who wanted a lot of those guys - MSU included, for some).

    I will be submitting a post on this later, but here are the highlights of my take.

    Getting highly rated recruiting classes is better than getting low rated classes. While it doesn't predict the success of an individual player, it does give you greater margin for error on "misses" or "busts". While Dantonio does great with "less" or identifies "more" in guys that other programs miss, I bet he could even do more with a team full of 4 and 5 star guys. The % of 5 stars who become all american (or all conference)is greater than 4 stars. 4 stars have a higher hit rate than 3-tar guys and so on. Spartan Mag publishes specific stats on this every year in greater and greater degrees of detail.

    I agree that the system and fit matter. I also would be one who would LOVE a top 5 rated class at MSU for 3 years in a row.

    I do believe the chUMps are on their way back. They are not there yet. They need to prove it. Part of proving it is winning the division. Part of it is beating MSU again. November 2 is a very big game for both programs. I think MSU needs to reestablish momentum while slowing down Ann Arbor.

    The different take I have vs. chUMps fans is that they assume the "natural order" is that MSU will fade away again. I think they are right on UM. I think they are wrong on MSU. I think Danonio's ability to do more with less, keeping non-injury attrition very low, and developing talent helps close the talent gap if there is one. I also think he is just a damn good coach. I think he has a good balance between being conservative and being a gambler. Most of all he is a leader. If Hoke were in East Lansing, I don't think he could do what Coach D is doing. If coach D were in Ann Arbor, I think he would be competing for national championships by now. Why? He'd have a team full of 4 and 5 star players.

    1. Hey I am not going to turn down 4 and 5 star guys but in my opinion most recruiting sites don't have an accurate appraisal of talent let alone if that talent fits with a program.

      OSU has brought in top classes even through their transition. Did we look slower than them? Smaller? Less talented? So who have we "missed" on with our recruits?

      Maybe a post regarding the impact of Enos and the correspondence with last year and this years upperclassmen and the return of depth and talent since then is necessary.

    2. Dantonio could never live with the power-hungry money-fueled EGOS that permeate the background of Michigan football. True, if they left him alone, he might be doing what RTG said at the end, but he would never make it that far.

      Many people didn't "get" what Dantonio was talking about with the "pride comes before the fall" explanation of Michigan sports. Yet he always seemed to be perfectly clear about it. The key is when he said you can feel it on the pregame field within five minutes. If there really is a "Michigan Difference", Daryl Rogers explained it all many decades ago.

      ATown makes a great point about being level-headed, a characteristic all too rare in Ann Arbor. Realistically, they just took a step backward with their coach, yet they continue to canonize him for his classic Michigan recruiting strategy. They simply "shoot for the stars", ride the wave, and drumbeat their chests. RichRod's best year was 7-6, Hoke's second year was 8-5. Is that the "Michigan Difference"?

  2. ATownAndDown,

    I concur. It is an insult to coaches everywhere to elevate recruiting rankings, anointing them as the be-all and end-all of college football (which they aren't).

    On close scrutiny, your very fine piece inadvertently infers that better player ratings (on Rival or elsewhere) equates to better talent. The relationship between player ratings and talent is like the relationship between a photograph and a moving picture.

    Most recruiting sites define the stars as an indication of how QUICKLY a recruit could contribute to non-specific team, not the QUALITY of the contribution, and especially not the POTENTIAL development as a player.

    The stars actually are a reflection of the physiology of adolescent growth than anything else. Most young men have not achieved their adult height, as one example, by the age of 17 or 18 years. The "norm" for achieving full adult height is about 20 years. The point is, most recruits experience 2 years of physiological development after first stepping on campus. Until that physiologicl development is complete, there is no good way to accurately assess their talent.


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