Monday, June 2, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #76 Blake Bars

Blake Bars (image via Go Blue Wolverine)
Name: Blake Bars
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 290 lbs.
High school: Nashville (TN) Montgomery Bell
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #62
Last year: I raned Bars #77 and said he would be a third-string offensive guard. He played in one game against Central Michigan.

As I mentioned during his first couple years on campus, the competition on the offensive line is tough and Bars is playing a little from behind. He did not play during the 2013 season except for a short stint against CMU in the season-opening blowout of the Chippewas. This spring he was running mostly with the third string and appears to be a backup option once again.

During the last couple years, Bars has shown some positional flexibility, playing some guard and some tackle. He also snapped the ball a little bit behind centers Graham Glasgow and Jack Miller, but Bars is just an emergency option there. He is a little bit heavier than last year (up six pounds on the roster), but 290 is still rather thin for a Big Ten offensive guard, especially one who stands 6'5". Unfortunately for him, he has been passed by guys in his own class (Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson, Ben Braden), the class below him (Kyle Bosch, David Dawson), and even a true freshman tackle (Mason Cole), albeit not at Bars's natural guard spot. It's tough to see where Bars breaks through unless injuries or early departures occur, but having a veteran offensive lineman to back up several spots is a bit of a luxury.

Prediction: Third string offensive guard


  1. Not intending to rehash RichRod stuff but here goes anyway...

    Many people blame RR for the last couple years (due to the talent leftover from the '09-'11 classes, especially the OL), but Bars and the '12 class of OLmen are exhibit A of why that's unfair. Now, there is plenty of time still for Bars and the others to become good players and you can't expect OLmen to step in during their first or second seasons. BUT, it's disappointing that A) not even one of the '12 OL class was ready to be a solid starter as a RS Freshman, B) the coaches didn't recruit more OLmen in that class to increase the odds that someone would be ready to help by '13, and C) 2 of the 4 recruits seem to be getting passed over already. The need for more OL in '13 was certainly foreseeable. Looking ahead to '14 we're talking about potentially starting a true freshman tackle ahead of a bunch of '12 and '13 recruits that might not be developing as quickly as one would expect, particularly giving their recruiting profiles.

    Stepping away from the OL, the skill position guys have been mostly Rodriguez's. Funchess and Butt stand as exceptions and they both came in at TE - a position Rodriguez didn't recruit.

    As Hoke's first class begins their 4th year, it's an increasingly unconvincing argument to blame Rodriguez for this team's struggles. Hoke has done some things really really well (lead the program toward a clear vision, manage public relations, guide the team through a huge transition) but the things that have NOT gone well (offensive talent recognition and development) should not be swept under the rug as just dirt from the past regime.

    1. AFAIC, it will still be OK to talk about RR this season and next. This year's 5th-year seniors (all three of them) come from his Freep-addled '10 class and next year's will come from "The Process" class of '11 (to which he made a contribution).

      I, too, am disappointed that the '12 class of O-linemen doesn't look a little better _and_ that they didn't take at least one more. Still, think how nice it would be to have even a couple of Heitzman-level (that is, low 3-star) O-line guys in the '10 class. Having just one lineman in a class (Pace) is crazy even if the cupboard is fairly well stocked with young guys (Lewan, Schofield, Q before his move) at the time.

      As far as I know, Hoke tried to hang on to Fisher in the '11 class. I still wonder whether he looked at some 2nd-tier O-linemen to join Miller, Posada, and Bryant. Might've been smart ...

    2. Having a one-man OL class is always bad, but RR had some justification for it (proven young OLmen, proven ability to produce young OL starters quickly, and bigger needs on D). So, while he started the problem, the bigger issue to me is that it wasn't fixed in '11 and '12.

      Granted, Hoke only had so much time in '11, but he managed to find a TE, a QB, a RB, and a bunch of defensive players. There must have been some other people out there (3 star types) to bring in for OL depth, but Hoke stuck with Rodriguez's leftovers (including near-commit Bryant, Miller, and Posada) after whiffing on retaining Fisher.

      In other words, a 3-man class coming off a 1-man class (Hoke) is probably no worse than a 1-man class coming off 3-man class (Rodriguez). Coaches know what they have.

      ...Except Hoke probably didn't in January of 2011. January of 2012 - now that's a different story.

      For the '12 class, Hoke should have known that Miller was small and not very good, Bryant needed a lot of work, Posada and Pace weren't going to help, Lewan might be an early entry guy, Omameh had limitations, etc. At that point he should have been saying "We're going to die in a couple years if we don't get this fixed FAST." We're going to need between 2-3 people to start as RS Freshman in 2013 (considering Lewan could leave and Glasgow was a walk-on, things looked even more bleak than they ended up) and probably 3-4 to start by their RS Soph year in 2014. Four recruits is a good OL class under normal circumstances, but these were not normal circumstances. This is the biggest recruiting failure of the Hoke regime.

      Rodriguez saw a very similar situation coming and took 6 OLmen in '08. To me, it's very indicative of the focus of Hoke (on D) vs Rodriguez (on O.) Both guys did well on smaller stages by letting someone else manage the "other" side of the ball, but struggled with vision/leadership at Michigan.

      Let's just hope Nussmeir's a lot better than GERG. His profile is a lot more promising, IMO. In my mind Borges is Hoke's GERG (old guy pushed out of his comfort zone) and Nussmeir is his Schafer (young up-and-comer). Hopefully, the order of the hirings is a heck of a lot better for Hoke. I'm optimistic it can be.

    3. I think this is the last year any excuses or caveats can apply to performance. Mainly, I imagine there will be some bumps with a coaching transition at O-Coordinator. Especially early, we could struggle to move the ball, which could mean an early loss to ND. Given our relatively easy schedule outside the 3 big away games, I would imagine anything less than 9-3/8-4 would be pretty bad. The team is still going to be young on the offensive side of the ball, due to a lot of holes in the 2010 and 2011 class, but the defensive side of the ball is going to much more experienced. I wold expect this defense to take a step forward, particularly if the NT and second safety position are figured out. I think next season becomes the year where no more qualifiers can be used for performance as it will be Hoke's fifth year in the program and his first full recruiting class will be seniors and RS juniors. That being said, I expect this year the team should be taking a significant step forward from last season.

    4. 2013 was the last year for caveats. They are gone now. The successful coaches who have led turnarounds typically bear fruit in year 3. Hoke gets a pass because his first class and the preceding class were both weak. But now he is in year four and his guys are the core of the program. They have a lot of snaps returning on both sides of the ball. Defensive depth is there. Senior QB. Future NFL receivers in Funchess and Butt. Most of the dead weight RB's have been cleared from the roster. OL is still young, but at least they have a bunch of guys to choose from. B1G is still pretty weak and OSU takes a step back this year. Time for Hoke to make a move.

    5. @ Lanknows

      Yes, Rodriguez signed 6 offensive linemen in the 2008 class...but 4 of them had been committed to Lloyd Carr. He flipped Barnum and got Omameh to commit. And perhaps one of the keys there is that a) he had a couple months to do it and b) he needed guys like Barnum and Omameh for his offensive line. It seems pretty clear to me that the guys Michigan already had committed (O'Neill, Wermers, etc.) weren't Rodriguez's type of guys. He chased a couple of them off in a hurry, and the other guys rode the bench for him and never saw the light of day until Hoke had no choice but to play Mealer.

      You can't expect a guy to fix a recruiting class when he was hired on January 10th (or whatever day it was around that time) and signing day is the first week of February. That's ridiculous.

    6. I mostly agree with you, but obviously Hoke did fill a lot of needs in his short time. He may have resorted to 3-star types and questionable characters, but he got guys for positions he felt were needed. OL wasn't a priority, as far as we can tell.

      Anyway, like I said - you can give Hoke a pass for '11 but not '12. He didn't take enough guys to be sure to avoid the problem. Maybe, like Rodriguez, he should have figured some of them wouldn't work out and fixed the situation by throwing numbers at it.

    7. Hoke took four linemen in the 2012 class. Even now they're jostling for position and there isn't enough room for all the linemen to get on the field. However, unlike Rodriguez's classes, Hoke's are still mainly intact. Personally, I would rather have four guys steadily competing than have two guys play decently while the other two book it for more playing time on a smaller stage. That gives you depth in the long run. Blake Bars might never be a starter, but he might be a better backup than a true freshman who's forced to play because the rest of the offensive line depth has been depleted by transfers.

    8. None of the '12 linemen look like studs. Magnuson and Kalis look like they are capable of being starters. Braden and Bars do not.

      A 50% hit rate is actually very normal. The problem is that we need 5 starters not two. So, besides Glasgow and the 2 '12 guys you have to use freshman.

      Assuming every recruit is going to pan out is poor strategy. I don't if that's what Hoke did, but he clearly underestimated the need for OLmen.

      I'm not sure I understand your point in the choices made above. They seem like false constructs - choices no one actually gets to make. You want as many good players as you can get. Taking more recruits gives you a better chance of not hurting your team when some recruits inevitably don't work out.

      Hoke would absolutely prefer his starting OL be Magnuson-Kalis-Glasgow-Bars-Braden than anything else. There IS room for all four to start, but because they aren't up the job we'll be starting freshman.

  2. Remember that Hoke only had a couple of weeks to work on his first class. He was just trying to hold on to any recruits that he could. Not his fault.

    1. He signed 9 guys that Rodriguez did not offer. None of them played OL.

    2. Lanknows. He had 3 weeks to sign a class. He had <6% of the time other coaches did, and be signed 50% of a class. This is an especially bad post, even for you.

    3. None of them played wide receiver or defensive tackle, either. But in those three weeks, he was able to grab a few long-term starters (Clark, Taylor, Wile), which is a higher percentage (33%) than Rodriguez's part of that class (25%, which includes Beyer, Morgan, Countess).

    4. Hoke filled half the class, so saying he can't get anyone in the short timeframe is demonstrably false.

      I'm not saying it's easy or that he should be expected to land a bunch of impact players, but he should be able to find some depth for the positions that need it. He identified what was a need (LB/DE, DB, K, QB, TE) and what was not (WR). OL seemed to fall in the latter category and that seems like a mistake to me.

      Also, pointing out that a bunch of Rodriguez's recruits didn't work for Hoke is pretty silly. That's no surprise when scheme/philosophy change dramatically.

    5. Okay, so you're argument is that we can't expect Rodriguez's recruits to pan out because the schemes changed, which is very convenient for your support of Rodriguez.

      What it doesn't account for is the fact that if you expect Rodriguez's recruits to fail due to the scheme change, you can't automatically assume that Hoke's young players (some of whom are/were playing too early) can reach the talent level of redshirt juniors and seniors just because. You're essentially absolving Rodriguez of any blame ("but but but scheme change!") and then saying "Well, Hoke's redshirt freshman linemen should be able to tear a hole through Ohio State's DL and LB's because competition."

    6. I'm not arguing to absolve Rodriguez of blame entirely. He started the OL problem (though the origins of the problem do really trace back to Carr's poor recruiting late, but that's another tangent...).

      While Rodriguez created a difficulty for him, it was Hoke's job to access the situation and fix it. He hasn't done that heading into his 4th season. Part of that WAS the 2011 class, short time-frame or not. Whether you want to blame not keeping Fisher or not finding a replacement, that OL class was too small. That is Hoke's fault -- not Rodriguez. If you want to blame anyone for the circumstances it's Dave Brandon - the guy shooting cheap shots at Rodriguez still.

      I don't expect all of Rodriguez's recruits to fail, but I recognize that you will have more guys leave or fail to succeed when they were recruited for another coach. That's normal and expected. It's not difficult to predict that success rate for Hoke recruits under Hoke would be higher than Rodriguez recruits under Hoke.

      I also don't expect all of Hoke's young players to be impact starters as underclassmen. But I would expect a few to do so. On defense we have them. On offense it's another story.

      Going back to the OL - Rodriguez got Lewan, Schofield, Omameh and (when healthy) Barnum to be contributors very quickly. As RS freshman two of those guys started and Schofield was the 6th man pushing a veteran for playing time. That Hoke didn't get ANY of his guys to play at that level last year is not a good sign. This year will tell us a whole lot more though.

    7. We're just going to have to agree to disagree on the 2011 class. The dude had 3 weeks. Anything he got from January 10th until NSD was gravy for that class.

      Aside from the 2011 class (which I will not concede is Hoke's fault), we're talking about guys who were true freshmen and redshirt freshmen during the 2013 season. You say that Hoke is going into his fourth season, but we've only really seen those guys in their first and second seasons (aside from a scrimmage on April 5). So I don't really get what your point is. It's Year Four for Hoke, but it's Year Three for his linemen.

      Rodriguez didn't get Schofield or Barnum to contribute very quickly. Schofield didn't play a lick for Rodriguez, and Barnum played in garbage time. Schofield became a contributor under Brady Hoke, and Barnum didn't play/stay healthy until his fifth year in 2012. Also, Lewan was a premium talent who - no matter who's to blame - was good enough to be in the discussion for the top OL in the 2014 NFL Draft and went in the 1st round. I don't really consider it to be surprising or concerning that no other young guys have played that well over the past couple years.

    8. On 2011: it's both their faults and neither. It's certainly not on Rodriguez, who didn't get to finish the class, sign the class, or coach the class. It's not entirely on Hoke given the circumstances, either. BUT, the one piece that Hoke DOES deserve some scrutiny on is overall strategy and numbers. He emphasized certain positions and deemphasized others.

      As I've said repeatedly, there are circumstances in 2011 that need to be considered. However, it's part of the picture of the overall recruiting strategy. Hoke was involved and made decisions. His 2011 decisions affected his 2012 decisions, at the very least. 4 OLmen wasn't enough.

      It's year three for his linemen only because Hoke didn't get any. That's by choice. It's year 4 for Frank Clark, Bellomy, etc. Similar thing with why there won't be veteran WRs on the roster this year - he chose not to take any, something you criticized in '12. In recruiting, coaches make choices between positions - emphasizing one over another. It appears we're reaping the rewards of Hoke focusing on LB and DBs, as those are now deep positions. But we're struggling at OL, lacked QB depth, are young at WR, and have yet to see the spoils of the scholarships thrown at H-back/FB/RB at expense of those other weaknesses.

      Valid point on Schofield - he didn't push for a starting job till his RS Soph year. Still, the practice hype came pretty quickly and, had dorrestein and huyge not been there it's plausible that he would have started early. That's conjecture but he did push Huyge hard in 2011.

  3. Once again, you break down an offensive lineman that is struggling to put on weight (you had a write up on Samuelsson the other day). At a certain point, the obvious question has to be what in the world is going on in the S&C program? I also am aware Magnusson hasn't beefed up as quick as we'd like.

    1. Magnuson was 286 as a freshman and 295 as a redshirt freshman. I think adding 9 pounds in one year is significant.