BLUE

...the joy and despair of being a Wolverines fan.

 

February 11, 2007

RECRUITING SURPRISE


This blog did not spring forth from an untapped subterranean reservoir of football expertise. Like Thomas Covenant, silenced by the elohim in The One Tree, saying “Don’t touch me” during times of unbearable tension, this blog is a pressure release valve for my amateur obsession with Michigan Football. In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing.

But I do know what facts are.  

With the analysis below, I set out to prove Lloyd Carr is not a good recruiter. A biased position, to be sure, but all arguments begin with bias, with a premise that represents an unproved position. Only when unearthed facts are ignored does bias acquire its negative connotation.

I set out to prove Lloyd Carr can’t recruit, and I proved exactly the opposite. In fact, data from the last six years suggest he is the best recruiter in the country. The news isn’t all good for Lloyd – I am still firm in my belief that he’s not doing very well with the talent he brings to Ann Arbor – but faulting him for recruiting, that I can no longer do.

My first post, Coachioplegia, attempted to demonstrate that Carr is missing out on in-state talent.  While there have been a lot misses in the last two years (particularly this year), this trend is likely an aberration and not a major concern.  We’ll see.

Data time. For there to be meaning in this analysis, one must accept that there is some validity in how high school talent is evaluated, in this instance by the Rivals recruiting service. Individually, these assessments are sometimes wildly wrong, but from a reasonable distance, they are accurate (see the mgoblog analysis on this topic). This analysis is at 30,000 feet, a level of resolution where even the enormous (and enormously disappointing) Gabe Watson is lost among five stars like Lamarr Woodley, Percy Harvin, Reggie Bush and Vince Young.

Data from 2002 through 2007 was compiled for the top 25 teams. At first, I looked at the final Rivals rankings. You know: the famously annoying recruiting contest (unless you are on top) that Florida just won and USC normally wins. Compiling six years of data based upon this recruiting beauty contest reveals that Michigan averages a somewhat disappointing 9th place.  

But a further review of the Rivals (and Scout) method of ranking reveals that the number of recruits is taken into account as well as the quality of recruits. Such a system results, for example, in Florida winning this year’s beauty contest even though USC blew everyone away on the quality of player signed. Ohio State this year finished 15th because of the low number of recruits, but ranked fourth in quality. Well, maybe Ohio State only wanted 15 bodies because next year is loaded with in-state talent, and, indeed, that is the thinking in Columbus.  While there is some logic behind rewarding a team for recruiting a large number of quality players (consider LSU this year, with 21 – count ‘em 21 – recruits of four stars or better), for our purposes, we are only going to look at the quality of recruits.  (NOTE: There is something weird going on, too. Could it be some universities don’t use all their scholarships on a regular basis? For example, Georgia plummets from 2nd to 7th when you factor out number of recruits because they always seem to have large classes [29, 25, 21, 19, 28, 23; ave: 24] as compared to, say Michigan [22, 17, 22, 23, 19, 20; ave: 20.5]. What’s up with that? How can Georgia have 22 more scholarships used over the last six years?).

So, considering only the quality of recruits, Michigan finishes a respectable 5th. But it is more than just respectable. There are really 11 recruiting powerhouses when you look hard at the data: the three Florida schools, Texas, USC, the SEC powerhouses (Georgia, Tennessee and LSU), Oklahoma, Michigan and Ohio State. The drop-off after Tennessee is statistically significant, with Penn State and Notre Dame almost 0.20 behind the Volunteers.

Michigan is the highest ranked northern school and by far, with Ohio State coming in five spots behind.  Everyone is well aware that the Southeast, Texas and California are the three great reservoirs of football talent, so we expect the Florida teams, Texas, USC and other southern SEC powerhouses to have a distinct advantage and they do.  The northern state with the most talent is arguably Ohio, where Ohio State competes against absolutely no one for that talent bonanza. The teams that jump out at you are Michigan, Oklahoma and Tennessee, three teams from states with modest levels of talent. But Tennessee and Oklahoma are more southerly schools featuring warm climates appealing to southern players and naturally drawing on the massive collection of nearby talent, Oklahoma from Texas and Tennessee from the SEC lands where they compete every year. Michigan plays in the frozen north, which to Miami linebackers and Bayou linemen acts like holy water on the undead. And while the school is superb, Michigan’s campus is otherwise is 0 for 3 in the teenage trifecta of southern co-eds, palm trees, and scantily clad southern co-eds.

Lloyd Carr may have missed out on Ronald Johnson and he may not have the contemporary pretty-boy flash of Urban Meyer and Peter Carroll, but the man recruits the whole nation and recruits it well. And he doesn’t feed these recruits lines of bullshit like Ron Zook. Donovan Warren on Coach Carr's methods: “I like the fact that when a lot of coaches try to recruit you they throw out the negatives about each school, but Michigan didn't throw out the negatives about any school. They were just straight up with me. They laid it all out … the facts. They said this is a good opportunity for you. That was pretty much it.”; Carr's methods repel prima donnas like Rojo and Finch, but they attract classy studs like Mallett and Warren.

It turns out Coachioplegia is mostly an Xs and Ox disease.

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