Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Rough Guide to Scholarship Breakdowns

Grace Park thinks Michigan needs more offensive linemen.

There has been a great deal of discussion over the past couple seasons about how Michigan's scholarships should be allocated.  Some Michigan fans were frustrated by Rich Rodriguez's insistence on recruiting so many slot receivers, the disappearance of the tight end position, dwindling numbers on the defensive line, etc.  Fans often say Michigan needs this or needs that position.  What does that really mean?
Well, let's start with some simple math.  Teams are required to give scholarships to 85 players.  If only 70 of them were actually recruited as scholarship players, then 15 walk-ons have to be awarded one-year scholarships.
We can assume that one scholarship should be given to a punter and one to a kicker (even though Michigan currently has three punters/kickers on scholarship).  So that should be 83 spots divided amongst 22 starting positions for offense and defense, but Michigan only has 82 leftover slots.
82 / 22 = 3.73
So between three and four scholarships per starting position should be used.  This is obviously an inexact science, for several reasons.  First of all, if your four scholarship left tackles are redshirt juniors, then obviously you would want to bring in replacements.  Secondly, a third-string wide receiver is probably more likely to play than a third-string offensive guard, because offensive linemen don't rotate in and out of the game as often as wideouts.  Third, even if you have a full complement of players at one position, more are needed if those guys are ineffective.
Let's take a look at Michigan's projected position group depth for 2012:
QUARTERBACK = 3/3.73 (Denard Robinson, Sr.; Devin Gardner, Jr.; Russell Bellomy, So.)
RUNNING BACK = 8/3.73 (Michael Cox, RS Sr.; Vincent Smith, Sr.; Teric Jones, Sr.; Fitzgerald Toussaint, RS Jr.; Stephen Hopkins, Jr.; Justice Hayes, So.; Thomas Rawls, So.)
FULLBACK = 0/3.73
WIDE RECEIVER = 7/7.46 (Terrence Robinson, RS Sr.; Roy Roundtree, RS Sr.; Je'ron Stokes, Sr.; Jeremy Gallon, RS Jr.; Drew Dileo, Jr.; Jeremy Jackson, Jr.; Jerald Robinson, RS So.) 
TIGHT END = 3/3.73 (Brandon Moore, RS Sr.; Ricardo Miller, RS So.; Chris Barnett, So.)
OFFENSIVE LINE = 10/18.65 (Ricky Barnum, RS Sr.; Rocko Khoury, RS Sr.; Elliott Mealer, RS Sr.; Patrick Omameh, RS Sr.; Taylor Lewan, RS Jr.; Michael Schofield, RS Jr.; Christian Pace, RS So.; Chris Bryant, So.; Jack Miller, So.; Tony Posada, So.)
DEFENSIVE LINE = 10/14.92 (William Campbell, Sr.; Craig Roh, Sr.; Jibreel Black, Jr.; Quinton Washington, RS Jr.; Richard Ash, RS So.; Terry Talbott, RS So.; Ken Wilkins, RS So.; Brennen Beyer, So.; Keith Heitzman, So.; Chris Rock, So.)
LINEBACKER = 11/11.19 (Kenny Demens, RS Sr.; Brandin Hawthorne, Sr.; Isaiah Bell, RS Jr.; Cameron Gordon, RS Jr.; Mike Jones, RS Jr.; Jordan Paskorz, RS So.; Jake Ryan, RS So.; Frank Clark, So.; Kellen Jones, So.; Desmond Morgan, So.; Antonio Poole, So.)
CORNERBACK = 7/7.46 (J.T. Floyd, RS Sr.; Courtney Avery, Jr.; Terrence Talbott, Jr.; Greg Brown, So.; Blake Countess, So.; Delonte Hollowell, So.; Raymon Taylor, So.)
SAFETY = 6/7.46 (Jordan Kovacs, RS Sr.; Thomas Gordon, RS Jr.; Carvin Johnson, Jr.; Marvin Robinson, Jr.; Josh Furman, RS So.; Tamani Carter, So.)
The one gaping hole seems to be the fullback position, but that's misleading because a team doesn't need two or three extra scholarship fullbacks sitting on the bench.  Michigan ought to have one or two, but any fullback depth beyond that should come from walk-ons or backup tailbacks.
Another big discrepancy is caused by the tight end position, which actually should be divided between true tight ends and H-backs.  The Wolverines just added two players (Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams) to the mix for 2012, and the coaches might not be done recruiting for those two roles.
Those caveats aside, this is what Michigan needs in the class of 2012 from a purely mathematical standpoint:
QB: .73
RB: -4.27
FB: 3.73
WR: .46
TE: .73
OL: 8.65
DL: 4.92
LB: .19
CB: .46
S: 1.46
This doesn't take into account the age of the current scholarship players, but you can see that Michigan is in dire need of offensive and defensive linemen.  On the flip side, tailback should probably not be a priority in the upcoming recruiting cycle.


  1. Do you have any insight on Hoke's previous recruiting methods. In particular, how likely he would be to use the extra 3* scholarship allotment. Obviously it is temporary but I would imagine more transfers with the coaching change. The top notch DE talent Michigan has a chance at this year just seems to good to pass up. Also, with silent commit, Mario, and early decision of Paraoh Brown its seems our scholarship number would prevent us from taking any but Wormley after those 3. Personally, I just can't get over recruiting Mario this early with the available talent out there. He is obviously a tier below and undersized.

  2. @ JDVan 9:27 a.m.

    I haven't really looked at Hoke's previous recruiting successes and such, but that's on the agenda. I'm not sure when it will happen, though.

    I agree about the defensive end haul. There's a fair amount of talent in Michigan, but Ohio is rife with defensive ends. I'm not that high on Ojemudia, but I'm also willing to give Mattison a bit of a break because of his past successes.

  3. Is the OL position like the FB position? Do you really need 7.5 OGs?

    My thinking: The OGs (i.e., the RightOG and the LeftOG): 1) are basically interchangeable; and 2) they stay in most of the game without substitutions. So, do you really need 7.5 OGs?

    It seems like this idea is a really good start. I'm think that you might still be able to keep retains its basic simplicity while introducing some variance, including adjusting it based on: 1) interchangeability at position group (OGs and ILBs); 2) rate of expected inter-game substitution (OL/QB v. WRs); and 3) walk-on contribution (QBs v. K/P/LS/FB).

    Using this variance scheme, it seems OK to be light on OG/K/P/LS/FB and preferable to be heavy on QB/RB.

    As always, I appreciate your insights.

  4. .73 quarterbacks? I thought our current quarterback was too short for this system, and now you've got us recruiting fractional people?

    Also, what are the realistic prospects of getting a big-time safety in this class? Every time I start to get optimistic about the future, I see the depth chart on the back end of the defense. And I sigh. And drink.

  5. Good stuff.

    In addition to the three mitigating factors you mention, I was going to comment on the interchangeability factor until I noticed TriFloyd made the point. OL back-ups are often utility guys who can play in 2-3 spots. Another one would be the relative importance of the position and the importance of experience at a position.

    Obviously, the tough part about using generic starter positions is that the personnel groups vary so much (spread, nickel, etc) in games. An alternative would be to track non-special teams minutes per player. Then sum the minutes into position groups. Then divide by the total to get the proportions.

    Not sure if playing time data are readily available for UM players? I know the Notre Dame magazines (Blue & Gold?) have historically published playing time - minutes per player for a season. If so, that would not be tough to pull together. It would give you better weighting for positions in which back-ups are more critical (i.e., RB, DB).

  6. While OL are interchangeable to some degree, that is offset somewhat by the fact that they almost always red-shirt, meaning that some scholarships must be used for players that have little to no chance of contributing and moreover, would be undesirable to have contributing.

    I agree that this approach is a good starting point, but then you have to make adjustments for practical consideration (i.e. you definitely want to have 4 scholarship QBs)

    As an aside, I think you can cut the second decimal point.


  7. I like what you're trying to do here, but has Michigan EVER had three scholarship fullbacks, let alone four? Additionally, your scholarship breakdown doesn't account for kickers or punters, and that's going to affect the divisor which is going to create a different result for your equation which is going to dictate a different "average need" number per position group.

    I think instead this article would do better if you just divided up the 85 scholarships into different positional categories depending on need at that position instead of relying on a straight division equation to do the math for you.

    I really like your blog.

  8. @ TriFloyd 9:59 a.m.

    No, you probably don't need 7.5 offensive guards. The equation says so, but that's probably not true. It's just a "rough" breakdown. There are a lot of exceptions that can be applied, but all the variables add up to a very complicated application. Generally, it seems that teams would want to have 15-16 scholarship offensive linemen at any given time.

  9. @ BISB 11:26 a.m.

    Well, if Rich Rodriguez were still here, we would probably be recruiting Nick Patti . . . so there's your .73 of a quarterback.

  10. @ BISB 11:26 a.m.

    I think the chances are slim that Michigan grabs a big-time safety. We just don't seem to be recruiting many big-time safeties. I like Jarrod Wilson, but he's not a threat to be a 5-star. Otherwise, we're in on a handful of cornerback/safety tweeners like Wayne Morgan. Deon Bush is probably the best safety prospect we've offered, but I doubt he'll come to Michigan.

  11. @ Painter Smurf 11:55 a.m.

    You're right that such a computing method would be more accurate for determining scholarship numbers. Unfortunately, I haven't seen that info available for Michigan players, either.

  12. @ Lankownia 12:13 p.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly on the redshirt thing. It's preferable to have departing 5th year seniors replaced by juniors or seniors, giving a steady supply of mature, experienced players. Unfortunately, Michigan has had several freshman offensive linemen playing in recent years - Lewan, Molk, Boren, Omameh, and Schilling all played as true or redshirt freshmen. Some of them were pretty good when they were young, but some were liabilities.

  13. @ LSA Superstar 5:11 p.m.

    I did actually take into account our scholarship kickers and punters. Those scholarships are figured in.

    No, Michigan has never had 4 scholarship fullbacks (as far as I know). The most I remember is two. Like I said, that's one of the weaknesses of an equation like this.

    Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for reading.

  14. When did you become NateVolk? Grace Park needs to find a way to fill out that swimsuit better.

  15. @ Anonymous 7:22 p.m.

    NateVolk isn't the only one out there who thinks Grace Park is attractive. You may think she's not curvy enough, but it doesn't matter if she's got that pretty of a face.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  16. I have no problems with her face or curves, but the top does seem a bit outsized for her, no?

  17. @ Anonymous 7:54 p.m.

    Everything about that picture is perfect, especially because she's coming up out of the water to sit down with me and have a Corona. I'm just to the left of the camera.

  18. Pure focus on numbers fails to take into account fit and quality of the current players, as well as who is going to graduate soon. At WR, we've got next to nothing after 2012 besides a bunch of mediocre (at best) 3* guys. The 2012 class needs a stud WR, unless you want to rely on a true fresman in 2013, which is risky. Even in 2012, I don't like our WR situatino that much. We also need a quality RB. None of the 8 RBs on the roster are both good and underclassman. Teric Jones is dead weight and Toussaint is close to being in that category. Smith is a 3rd down back who wouldn't be playing if we had any talent on the roster. Rawls is a mediocre recruit and Justice Hayes, the experts tell me, would be better off at slot receiver (oh joy). Hopkins might be a decent fullback. Cox is unproven.

  19. @ Anonymous 8:56 a.m.

    Yes, yes, yes, I know. As I admitted in the above post - in the title, even - it's a "rough" breakdown of numbers. We don't need to be reminded of the shortcomings of such a breakdown. They've already been admitted.

    I think you're underselling the talent at the running back position. While it's true that none of those guys has had a true breakout season, there are several with talent. Cox has shown flashes of excellence, Toussaint is talented but injury-prone so far, and Rawls is liked by many. If we have a solid offensive line, our running backs should be plenty productive.

  20. "Rawls is liked by many"

    Rawls was liked by nobody in the Big Ten outside of Michigan. He has an offer list that is actually worse than his middling 3* rating.

    "If we have a solid offensive line, our running backs should be plenty productive."

    We had more than a solid offensive line last year, and our running backs weren't productive at all. They sucked horribly, forcing us to run our QB as much as 28 times in a game.

  21. @ Anonymous 10:58 a.m.

    I wrote a long reply that got lost in the internet, but in summary of what I wrote...

    There were many people (including Sam Webb and Josh Helmholdt) who were fans of Rawls. And it was stated that his recruiting ranking would have been higher if not for questions about whether he would qualify.

    Our non-Denard runners last year averaged 4.66 yards a carry. Toussaint averaged 10.4 yards a carry, Cox averaged 8.9, and Shaw averaged 5.4. Yes, Vincent Smith was overused and mediocre, and you'll find no argument from me on that. But saying they downright sucked is disingenuous and factually incorrect by any statistical measure.