Poll results: Who will win the Citrus Bowl?

Poll results: Who will win the Citrus Bowl?


January 1, 2016

Here are the results of the poll that I asked a couple weeks ago: Who will win the Citrus Bowl between Michigan and Florida?

Michigan by 14 points or fewer: 77%
Michigan by 14+ points: 14%
Florida by 14 points or fewer: 8%
Florida by 14+ points: 1%

As I post this right now, it’s 17-7 Michigan in the third quarter.

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47 comments

  1. Avatar
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    Roanman
    Jan 01, 2016 at 3:59 PM

    Is there time to change my vote?

  2. DonAZ
    Comments: 476
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    DonAZ
    Jan 01, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    I went into the game somewhat nervous about Michigan’s chances, and thinking we’d see a low-scoring affair .. 14-10, or something like that.

    Wow … 41-7. What happened? Is Michigan that good? Or is Florida’s defense not as good as advertised? Or did Florida just mail this one in and not care about it?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3322
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 01, 2016 at 6:32 PM

      I think it was a combination of those things. Michigan is/should be better offensively than they showed against, say, Ohio State. The issue had been the running game, but the OL stepped up today, and I thought Florida played some funky fronts with some really big bubbles. Maybe Michigan saw that on film, or maybe Smith and Johnson just happened to have a really good day seeing the holes. Florida’s defense is good, but they made some mental mistakes, and it didn’t help that one of their best players (Alex McCallister) screwed over his team. With the bad day that Hargreaves had and the rumors about some guys not being focused, it makes me think that maybe Hargreaves was one of the big ones lacking focus, too.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5454
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        Lanknows
        Jan 01, 2016 at 7:13 PM

        Or maybe, rather than two RBs magically improving something as instinctive as ‘vision’, the OL had over a month between games to work with Drevno on improving their run blocking.

        This September when you read the narratives about how improved the RBs are, in terms of vision, production, or anything else – remember that situation was entirely predictable with 4 starters returning, 2nd year in a system, and Drevno’s coaching.

        9 times out of 10, credit/blame for the run game goes mostly to the OL and the effectiveness of the pass game to keep defenses honest form cheating.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3322
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Jan 01, 2016 at 8:26 PM

          Sorry, Lanknows, but the cuts the running backs were making (especially in the first quarter) were cuts that we’ve been begging the running backs – in particular De’Veon Smith – to make all year long. I will give you the fact that a passing game and a good offensive line help the running game, but we had a decent passing game for half the year and the whole OL didn’t go from bad to good in the span of a few weeks. You saw (I assume) how badly some of our guys were being beaten by Brantley, Bullard, etc. Magically, that seemed not to factor into our RB production a ton. I wonder why that could be…

          Oh yeah, it’s probably because Smith was cutting back against the grain rather than plowing straight ahead into a pile of blue jerseys.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5454
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            Lanknows
            Jan 01, 2016 at 11:51 PM

            You don’t have to be sorry.

            Harbaugh praised Smith today for his tackle-breaking and compared him to Frank Gore. Smith is who he is and at this point he’s a consistent grinder who will get you extra yards and will be successful as long as the OL presents him with a reasonable opportunity.

            Smith is consistent and what he did today was consistent with what he’s done all year.

            Smith’s been making cuts all year. Sometimes he cut into a pile of bodies. Sometimes he didn’t cut because he was trying to get as many yards as he could. Sometimes, yeah, he didn’t see a better option, like every back ever doesn’t always see the better option. The vision meme is dramatically overstated. I’d like to see a coach talk about this or some statistical evidence or something. All I’ve seen is one influential blogger and his echoers spout the same thing.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
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              Jan 02, 2016 at 12:13 AM

              Since the whole universe can be boiled down to science/math, it seems, maybe there’s a stat out there that talks about vision. However, that’s one thing about sports – there’s never one true answer. The fastest guy doesn’t always get the most yards or score the most touchdowns. The biggest guy doesn’t always win the battle up front. The QB with the strongest arm doesn’t always throw the most touchdowns. We have to make subjective decisions about some things. And in this case, while I’d like to flatter myself and say that I’m the “influential blogger” you’re talking about, it’s probably Brian from MGoBlog. Regardless, just because he says it and he’s influential doesn’t mean he’s wrong. I do agree that he harps on it too much, but even given that, there have been a lot of times where I think Smith has just flat-out missed some giant, gaping holes. (And if I’m being honest, I rarely/never read his UFRs anymore because I disagree with him so often. I haven’t read even one this season.)

              Personally, as a coach, I think I’ve come to a pretty good point where I can delineate between “Oh, man, I wish he would have seen that hole because it would have been awesome” and “Hey, you should have seen that hole, so hit it next time.” There’s a difference between wishful thinking and proper execution. Smith has not executed properly often enough.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5454
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            Lanknows
            Jan 02, 2016 at 8:27 PM

            Yes, I believe the world can be explained by science and math.

            Yes, I was referring to Brian Cook. I’m in the same boat about UFR in general but when there’s something my eyes disagreed with I will occasionally dig in. I’ve probably read a dozen of examples where he blamed Smith/Green/Tousaint or Fred Jackson for poor vision / decision-making and agreed with maybe 1/4 of them at most.

            I think Anthony Thomas would have done worse this year than DeVeon Smith and Drake Johnson. He’s faster than Smith and runs harder than Johnson but he both went down easy (like Johnson) and rarely made his own yards (i.e., his vision would have got killed by Cook and others if the NFL-starter-laden OL wasn’t creating gaping holes for him).

            I agree it’s a subjective exercise to determine if a RB made the right decision or not. I also agree with Cook that it’s a “make plays” position. I feel like Smith has done that: he has made a lot of yards while breaking tackles this year. I think that his missed cuts, while extent, are typical of most backs. The criticism is baaaadly overstated to the point that a conversation about Smith is hard to come by where vision doesn’t come up. I attribute that to Cook, but maybe his misevaluation of the situation would be shared by others even if he hadn’t said anything. I kind of doubt it though.

            Overall, Smith is an above average Micigan back IMO. His vision is average, his balance his average, his speed is far below average but is offset by his tackle-breaking. He’s essentially Mike Hart with less in-a-phone-booth jukes and more in-a-dark-alley toughness power. Both became very good blockers.

            Next year, I expect Smith to put up a hart-like ypc.

            • Thunder
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              Jan 02, 2016 at 9:12 PM

              Anthony Thomas was picked near the top of the 2nd round of the NFL Draft, and he was the Rookie of the Year. I don’t think Thomas would have done worse. For as good as it is, we’re talking about a back who surprised us all that he did so well…while averaging 4.2 yards/carry and scoring 0 touchdowns.

              I don’t think Smith is an above-average back, unless you’re putting all the scrubs who never play into consideration. If you’re talking about starters, I think you’re very much wrong.

        • Avatar
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          Roanman
          Jan 01, 2016 at 9:26 PM

          Why assume that a month of practice with Drevno is more productive than a month of practice with Wheatley? Our offensive line has not been stellar at run blocking all season and our running backs have made a habit of driving into the pile. I saw improvement on both fronts in this game.

          The other guy making decisive cuts was Rudock. He made some runs out of pressure that left guys looking flat footed and helpless. I thought some of his moves up field were among the most impressive of the game.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5454
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            Lanknows
            Jan 01, 2016 at 11:44 PM

            For one thing, RB coaches are typically figureheads whose coaching role is secondary to their recruiting ability.

            More importantly, ‘vision’ is instinctive while something like blocking is more so about technique, reps, and coordination with teammates. Of course ‘vision’ will be better with familiarity and trust, too, but 90% of backs are what they are as runners and the areas that they improve in over (practice) time tend to be blocking, ball-security, and the art of selling play fakes.

            RBs don’t typically red-shirt and generally look like they’re going to look like by their 2nd or 3rd year. OLmen typically take 2 or 3 years just to be playable. So – practice makes more of an impact on OL.

            Also…

            I’ve seen the RBs get criticized for bouncing outside too often and not just hitting a hole and I’ve seen the RBs get criticized for running north/south “into the pile”. If their OL is making holes for them, they can’t win (unless they are really elite guys like Barry Sanders who can make something out of nothing.)

            It would be a major coincidence that multiple backs are “struggling with vision” in the same game and then suddenly in the next game have great footwork and vision. It’s more likely that the OL is blocking better making anyone who runs behind them look better.

            Our OL’s run-blocking wasn’t great today (and neither was our run game) but it was effective. That’s an improvement from being awful, which the run game was against real competition all year. There were enough holes to cut into and defenders weren’t slashing into the backfield unabated as often as they had previously this year.

            Better blocking begets better decision-making.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jan 02, 2016 at 12:25 AM

              I think you’re underestimating the effect that coaching can have on a running back. We’ve been through this before, but I might as well reiterate my side. There are lots of keys and talking points and drills at the running back position that I don’t think the average fan grasps. From stance to pre-snap reads to footwork to post-snap adjustments to landmarks to primary reads to secondary reads, etc., there are all kinds of things that go into playing RB at a high level. Yes, “instincts” and physical abilities are a big part of it (as they are at many positions), but it’s no more far-fetched to say that Smith and Johnson improved over a month than it is to say that FIVE SEPARATE GUYS PLUS THE TIGHT ENDS improved over that same time span. And if it takes years and years to get better at playing OL, then how do an extra 15-20 practices make a huge difference?

              It’s certainly plausible to think that Wheatley worked a lot on whom to read. It’s plausible to think the running backs did footwork drills. It’s plausible to think that Michigan’s game plan when watching film was to take advantage of some gaps/cutbacks that Florida left exposed in previous games. But all of those things would need to be assimilated into proper execution for the running backs. Regardless of what the tipping point was, it was better. I don’t care whether Smith got better by playing “Madden” or whether Johnson improved by watching a video of Michael Jackson dancing – the execution took a step forward.

          • Avatar
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            Roanman
            Jan 02, 2016 at 7:31 AM

            Just to be clear. Your position here is that Tyrone Wheatley is in a figurehead position coaching football at the University of Michigan and Jim Harbaugh and that his primary function is that of a recruiter?

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 02, 2016 at 8:15 PM

            If RB coaching is such a big deal why is there so little development in performance from 1st to 3rd year relative to QB, OL, LB, etc. Teams don’t red-shirt RBs unless they have a surplus of talent and depth already on the roster.

            Wheatley, like Jackson, is there to recruit as much as anything else.

            15-20 practices is how many practices worth of in-season. A month? Rudock got a lot better midseason. Thomas and Clark developed tremendously over a pretty short span.

            The OL had a major system change this year going to a mostly power scheme. It was always going to take some time and having a big chunk of uninterrupted practice time at the end of the year seemed to pay dividendeds against some pretty talented DLmen at UF.

            Or…the vision fairy drizzled pixy dust on Deveon, Drake and Jake’s eyeballs.

            • Thunder
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              Jan 02, 2016 at 9:19 PM

              It’s awfully convenient that you say “Oh, the coaching, reps, etc. helped the offensive line tremendously in bowl practices” but then follow it with “The extra coaching, reps, etc. can’t possibly have helped with the running backs.” That’s a neat and tidy argument for you.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 03, 2016 at 12:37 PM

            It’s not exactly my argument.

            Practice helps everyone but one position (OL) takes more practice to get good and shows more improvement over time than the other (RB).

            Arguing ‘vision’ got better is only slightly more meaningful than arguing speed got better. It might ‘look’ better, because of the blocking in front, but DeVeon Smith isn’t going to become a track star over a few weeks of practicing.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
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              Jan 03, 2016 at 12:56 PM

              As I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, there’s more to playing running back than just being handed the ball and letting nature take its course. It’s silly to say that offensive linemen can improve significantly between Ohio State (where we did nothing) and Florida (when we did well), but the running backs can’t see similar improvements. Some of the same things the linemen might be working on (identifying second-level blocks, making post-snap adjustments, etc.) can also be worked on by the running backs.

              But I said that before, and it didn’t seem to have any effect. So now I’m just regurgitating the same thing again.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 03, 2016 at 12:38 PM

            I notice no one is responding to my point about a lack of development of running skills over time.

            Silence speaks volumes.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
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              Jan 03, 2016 at 12:53 PM

              Personally, I didn’t respond to that because I don’t care to do the research to prove you wrong. I’m sure there are many cases where running backs do increase their production over the years. There’s also the fact that some guys come in at every position and play well immediately (like, say, Mason Cole), while there are others who take several years (like Mark Huyge, Ben Braden, Ryan Glasgow, etc.). Chris Perry is an example of a RB who was better – and produced more – as a senior than he did when he was younger. He had a good freshman year as a backup, but he dropped off as a sophomore and junior as he got more opportunities. There are also guys who don’t play much when they’re younger and then get more and more opportunities as they get older, often because they’re not good enough to start and then they get better so they start.

              So there are lots of different ways to attack your argument.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 03, 2016 at 3:51 PM

            Yes – there are many cases of course, because there are 10s of thousands of backs. But I think any reasonable observer would agree that by in large RBs don’t get significantly better as runners. That’s why you see so many play as freshman without issue and redshirting tailbacks is far less common than redshirting quarterbacks, linebackers and linemen.

            I’ve never said backs dont get better at all. They get better as runners, incrementally, and they certainly get better with ball security and blocking. (That was the biggest case with Perry, who also got a lot better catching passes).

            I just said the level of getting better isn’t anywhere near the level of other positions. No one is interested in disputing that.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 04, 2016 at 1:12 PM

            I wasn’t making a comparison, I was pointing out that Belichik (generally considered to be the best football coach of our time, and probably the best since Bill Walsh at least) doesn’t value RBs.

            Yes, having Brady allows him some luxuries, but few (no?) coaches have every been so open about their indifference to the RB position- even if they’ve had Montana, Manning, or any other great QB you want to name. It’s a QBs league everyone says, but few besides Belichik take his approach of emphasizing every other position on offense above RB. Belichik has always provided Brady with at least some excellent options at receiver (Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker, Moss) but he has increasingly deemphasized RB. If “well he has Brady” was the answer to everything Belichik could just spend 80% of his remaining cap on defense and let Brady do his thing with no names. At RB – he does that – to an extreme. Because he knows what he is doing.

            Michigan has typically been able to insert backups at RB without much dropoff for a long time. Hart was really the only significant exception on that front I can think of (in part because he was special but also in part because his backups were unusually bad by Michigan standards).

            The conventional explanation for that is that Michigan just had a ton of RB talent (under Fred Jackson’s guidance) but none of those guys ever stood out in the NFL and in fact the Michigan backs almost universally underperformed relative to their draft position.

            Meanwhile Michigan QBs and OL have generally outperformed their draft positions and expectations. This is an indicator of good they are as players outside of the Michigan system.

            Meawhile Michigan hasn’t had a dropoff in caliber of recruits they are getting in terms of star rankings for RB but the production has suffered while the OL depth, experience, and talent have dropped off.

            So, while nothing is definitive, that’s a lot of evidence pointing toward the importance of things that ARE NOT RB ability/development in run game production.

            I will restate my point for the sake of clarity: the level of development seen in RBs, particularly in regard to running ability, is very small relative to development seen at other positions. Many RB are playable as freshman, while most players at most other positions are cause for worry if they play as freshman.

            RBs don’t matter NEARLY as much as fans think.

            • Thunder
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              Jan 04, 2016 at 1:21 PM

              Belichick is an outlier. Granted, he does not invest heavily in the RB position and he wins a lot, and he obviously wins a lot. That doesn’t mean that he has all the answers for college football, or that his approach would work elsewhere. Also, the thing that you’re not really taking into account is that he doesn’t rely heavily on the running game, because he has a great QB. Michigan is not that place. New England has almost 700 passing attempts this year and just 383 rushing attempts (for 3.7 yards/carry). Other teams are successful and take different approaches, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, who have had success over the years as well (not talking about this season, obviously, but in the last 20 years).

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 04, 2016 at 1:29 PM

            Steelers and Cowboys won when they had great QB play too.

            Yes college ball and NFL aren’t exactly the same thing but football is football. You see the same thing all over football where a backup replaces a starter without much impact in the offense. Obviously there are exceptions with special players but even very good backs (like say Jordan Howard or Ezekial Elliot) are very replaceable.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 04, 2016 at 1:32 PM

            Agree the Belichik is an outlier. That’s my point. He is winning in part because he is doing things differently, just as Walsh did. I think you’ll see more of his philosophy on RB become commonplace over the years to come, just as Walsh’s philosophy became commonplace.

            • Thunder
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              Jan 04, 2016 at 2:46 PM

              I think you’re missing the point about Belichick. He’s able to skimp on running backs because he has other good pieces (Brady, the defense, tight ends, special teams, etc.). Different people find different ways to succeed. Pittsburgh is/was good for a long time because of their defense, but they also had a habit of drafting well, grooming players, and then letting high-priced guys go in free agency. That doesn’t mean every franchise could use the same path to success.

              In a more relevant discussion, Alabama is the most dominant college football team in the country over the last decade. Nick Saban puts a heavy emphasis on the running game, and Derrick Henry led the country in rushing attempts with 359. Alabama goes after the best backs every year. If you’re going to say that running backs don’t matter because Bill Belichick, then I’m going to say they do matter because Nick Saban. And we’re back to square one.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 04, 2016 at 4:29 PM

            I think you’re missing the point that he could skimp elsewhere but chooses to skimp at RB. That’s where you get the most bang for your buck. That’s the smartest place to skimp.

            Saban doesn’t have to deal with a salary cap. He can recruit the best possible guy at every position and he does. There is no reason to skimp, anywhere.

            That said, the Alabama RB situation is instructive. It doesn’t matter if it’s Henry, Yeldon, Drake, Richardson, Ingram or anyone else. It’s plug and play. They won’t miss Henry AT ALL.

            Yes, some of that is that they recruit elite HS players over and over again, but again the NFL is a nice litmus test of the individual’s ability. Some of these guys pan out to be decent NFL players but none have been stars and some have been flat-out busts. In other words some are very good and some are not. But they all LOOK good in college.

            They are like Michigan in the 90s. No matter who you throw behind their dominant OL, NFL WRs, they are going to look very very effective. Whether they are NFL busts or quality pros, it doesn’t really matter – they just need to be a guy. Hell, Alabama has so much talent even their QUARTERBACK just has to be a guy.

            • Thunder
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              Jan 04, 2016 at 4:46 PM

              Belichick skimps in a lot of places. That’s why he’s an outlier. He doesn’t spend high draft picks on wide receivers. Aside from short rentals of Randy Moss and Chad Johnson, you probably can’t name more than two or three wide receivers he’s had over the past ten years, instead choosing to pay people like Amendola and Welker. He gets a lot out of UDFA linemen or lowly drafted linemen. I don’t know that he really goes out and looks for high-profile defensive backs, either. He’s perhaps the best NFL coach in history. He really doesn’t have anything to do with most of the game of football, and that doesn’t really address the fact that he’s an *NFL* head coach. You pointed out yourself that the NFL and college are different (recruiting vs. drafting/signing), so I don’t know why we’re talking about him. Or why we’re talking about running backs elsewhere in the NFL.

              Now if you want to talk about Nick Saban (who might be about to win yet another national championship), he gave Henry the majority of snaps. Kenyan Drake and Damien Harris were apparently not good enough to tote the rock much this year. If the running back doesn’t matter, then why did Saban let Derrick Henry run the ball 32 times against Texas A&M, 38 times against LSU, 46 times against Auburn, and 44 times against Florida? Dee Hart and Altee Tenpenny didn’t do very well at RB for Alabama, but it’s all about the OL, I guess…

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 04, 2016 at 6:09 PM

            Pointing out that the best football coach on the planet doesn’t value RBs is significant to my point that RBs don’t much matter, I think.

            Amendola was paid handsomely by the Pats, they outbid everyone else who wanted him. There is no position where they devote less resources that I can think of than RB. Not by accident.

            It’s true that Belichik seeks bargains wherever he can find them, but it’s instructive that RB is the spot where he sees the most ‘value’.

            Your point about Alabama backs is incoherent. I’m aware Saban likes to run the ball. Henry ran for 5.7 YPC and his backup ran for 5.4 YPC. Henry is a year older and TJ Yeldon is gone so Henry got more carries than last years 50/50 split. The primary back got most of the carries. This is normal right? If your point is that TJ Yeldon is significantly better than Kenyon Drake uh, OK, I guess. And then…Altee Tenpenny is your argument? An erratic guy with off-field issues who ran for 5.2 ypc before his death? OK…

            Next year Harris, Scarborough or whoever else ascends to getting meaningful carries will surely run for similar results (5 or 6 ypc) — unless the Bama OL has some major attrition.

            Derrick Henry is a very good RB IMO. He’ll probably be adequate as player maybe even a starter in the NFL. But it doesn’t really matter if his backup runs for .3 ypc less than him. And any team who wastes a 1st round pick on a RB that’s just going to be basically the same as most others is foolish. Leonard Fournette, he’s not.

            Let me put it another way — alabama would be hurt more by losing 3 OLmen than 3 RBs. Their 4th string back would do just fine. Their 4th string OL (or even their 2nd string OL) would have more impact to their production.

            I think this debate has reached a point of diminishing returns (and concern, on my part). I’m not going to convince you on the point. I’m sure we’ll find another angle to debate RB-related issues somewhere down the line.

            • Thunder
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              Jan 04, 2016 at 7:49 PM

              Pointing out that the second-best coach (maybe he is, right?) on the planet DOES value running backs is also significant. And since Saban is the best coach in COLLEGE football, then I’d say that’s just as significant, if not more.

              Interestingly, Kenyan Drake – as a smaller, quicker backup – gets “easier” runs than Henry. (At least that’s YOUR logic when you talk about Michigan’s backs.) So which is it – do all runs matter, or do you only count tough runs between the tackles? After all, that was your reason for discounting the YPC difference between Smith, Isaac, etc. So if outside runs are going to be negated, then you can knock off some of Drake’s yards per carry.

              If Harris runs for 5 or 6 yards per carry next year, then that’s counter to your point that runners don’t improve from year to year. By your logic, he’s destined to be a 3.4 yards/carry guy for the rest of his career.

              Also, if Michigan was a plug-and-play school, then they wouldn’t have needed to burn Mike Hart’s redshirt in 2004. Or at least they wouldn’t have had to play him as much. Michigan was still in a good place in 2004 when it came to the offensive line, but Underwood/Jackson weren’t getting the job done well enough. But Hart stepped in, improved the running game, and usurped the RB job. So if running backs don’t matter, then Lloyd Carr – who seemed to value experience – wouldn’t have benched upperclassmen to play a freshman. These are just a couple of the numerous contradictions in your argument.

              But I’ll agree to disagree.

          • Lanknows
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            Lanknows
            Jan 04, 2016 at 11:11 PM

            You didn’t prove or even show that Saban values RBs. You showed he uses them (which Belichik does too – every play.) Like I already said, Saban doesn’t have to choose. His RB recruiting doesn’t compromise his potential to get more important positions – for Belichik it does. For Saban it only helps. There is no choice, therefore there is no valuation.

            Anyway, running a guy 40 times in a game that isn’t particularly competitive illustrates that the coach doesn’t have that much interest in preserving or protecting the guy. Not my definition of valuing anymore than I value a free ice cream cone.

            Yes I agree Drake’s job is easier than Henry’s. I also think he’s not as good as Henry. That’s why he’s the backup. Backups are not as good as starters. That’s why I don’t call for backup RBs to replace starters every single season like some people (ahem).

            Henry’s better and Alabama would not be as good without him. But it wouldn’t really affect them very much if he went down because the differences are marginal.

            Get what I’m saying? Small differences.

            LOL at Harris’ YPC number. As I’ve said many times I don’t put any stock into small sample sizes for YPC especially for backups whose carries are so context-dependent. Even if Harris got worse next year his YPC number would go up due to more carries (regression to the team mean) and presumably a better OL (given what Bama brings back).

            Anyway, I don’t think Drake’s really their 2nd best back. I think if Henry got hurt for any substantial period they’d split carries 50/50ish between Harris and Drake. Their YPC might suffer, but again – only marginally. .3 ypc? less? IDK, but it wouldn’t change much.

            Get what I’m saying? Small differences.

            All of this is splitting hairs. Freshman or Senior. 2 lead backs or 1. Future NFL all-pro or guy who gets cut. Insider runner or outside. Alabama’s backs are going to run for 5 or 6 YPC without doing/being anything special because that’s a machine they’re in. They have NFL WR and NFL OL and typically competent reliable QBs. You stick DeVeon Smith in that offense and he’ll run for 5.5 ypc no problem. Hell you can stick Derrick Green in there and he’ll probably run for 5.

            On Hart: I already talked about him as an outlier. Yes Underwood and Jackson were bad – they weren’t ‘just guys’ they were busts. Yes – Hart was especially good. But there are a couple points too remember here. 1_ I believe Michigan’s factory had already been disrupted by this time with the change to zone scheme under DeBord. 2_Hart had to break a lot of tackles. 3_Hart’s numbers weren’t actually that amazing 4.9 ypc for his career. But if you watched him, you knew he was good.

            Finally red-shirting RBs is dumb. Michigan would have been worse off if he had red-shirted. Nothing was ‘burned’. We got 4 good years out of Hart and he didn’t really improve as a runner from freshman year to senior year anyway. his best YPC season was his freshman year.

            Glad we can agree to disagree.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jan 05, 2016 at 11:15 AM

              Regarding Saban, there’s no way to “prove” he values running backs except by how he recruits them and how he plays them. I think it’s pretty clear he values them based on the way he runs his offense, his recruiting, and his use of particular guys. But if you don’t want to see it, I can’t force.

              Regarding Hart/Jackson/Underwood, it’s not JUST about Hart in that case. That’s what you’re failing to recognize. It’s not like Michigan had zero running backs, so they had to turn to the freshman. They had upperclassmen. So if the running back position was just “plug-and-play” then there would have been no need for Hart – or any younger guy – to leap over them on the depth chart. Michigan couldn’t plug-and-play, and Alabama can’t really do it, either; otherwise, they wouldn’t have younger guys passing up upperclassmen, guys transferring out because they can’t see playing time, etc.

              I think the best way to get younger players to buy in is to see older guys get rewarded for sticking around (“Hey, that could be me next year if I put in the work this year”) and to get a stab at some playing time when there are opportunities (in blowouts, when guys get injured, etc.). If seniors always get passed up by freshmen, then you would have issues with leadership and team chemistry. So in an ideal world, if all/most running backs are equal, then you would see senior running backs starting everywhere. The guy in the class below him would be #2 and the heir to the throne for the following year. But that’s not the way things work, because it’s not a plug-and-play position. It’s a position where, yes, talent matters, but so does buying in, doing your job, etc.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5454
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jan 03, 2016 at 12:44 PM

          Thomas was not a good NFL back. He averaged 3.7 YPC for his career and his carries went down steadily. His rookie year was his peak and then people figured out he went down easy and only got what the OL give him. He was released in his 4th year, which is pretty bad for a top pick..

          Thomas was fast and big but a product of his OL. He NFL career reflected that.

          • Thunder
            Comments: 3322
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jan 03, 2016 at 1:02 PM

            I obviously have no equal response to this, because we have yet to see whether De’Veon Smith will get drafted or even make an NFL roster. Regardless, I think it’s inaccurate to say that De’Veon Smith is better than Michigan’s former all-time leading rusher.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5454
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            Lanknows
            Jan 03, 2016 at 1:06 PM

            I didn’t say Smith was better than Thomas. I said Smith did better than Thomas did WITH THIS TEAM. Smith is better at breaking tackles. If you have a dominant OL opening up gaping holes then Smith is not nearly as good because he is slow.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jan 03, 2016 at 1:12 PM

              One of Smith’s problems is that he’s too slow to hit the holes that are there. He also misses some open holes. He also doesn’t have as good of VISION (yeah, I said it) as Thomas. So I disagree.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5454
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            Lanknows
            Jan 03, 2016 at 1:11 PM

            obviously I mean “than Thomas WOULD HAVE done” we are talking about a hypothetical that is not provable of course.

            Thomas went down easy. Everyone who was around at the time grumbled about it but because of the dominant OL the running game was successful.

            Michigan had a lot of RBs get drafted highly in the NFL but none of them ever really played up to expectations. Biakabatuka and Wheatley were probably the 2 that really had elite talent that warranted where they were picked. Biakabatuka struggled with injuries and even Wheatley, although he had a nice long career, was never a star.

            What Michigan did have was a lot of guys on the OL who started for a long time.

            It was the OL that made the Michigan run game under Bo-Moeller-Carr, not the backs.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jan 03, 2016 at 1:18 PM

              It’s the same problem that Emmitt Smith faced. If you have a good OL, people won’t respect what the running backs do. Be one of the top RB recruits in the nation and become a 2nd round pick, and people still won’t respect that you become an all-time leading rusher for a perennial power. The Bears were pretty terrible the five years before Thomas arrived and a few years after he got there, with the only blip being his ROY campaign in 2001. So maybe his crappy YPC has something to do with the crappy team around him. I’m not going to argue that Thomas is/should have been a great NFL back, but I also can’t side with you saying he would have been worse than Smith at any point.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5454
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            Lanknows
            Jan 03, 2016 at 3:41 PM

            The larger point is the RBs don’t matter much. Bill Belichik is with me. Chip Kelly is not — and he’s now out of work.

            Don’t get me wrong, there are guys that make a difference but they are on the far end of the bell curve. Fournette, Gurly, Peterson are special talents. For Michigan, Hart and Denard Robinson were difference-makers with the ball in their hands. But most guys are just guys and if you’re an elite top 10-15 program you’re going to plug in your backup and not miss much. The differences are small, though some people may be better in certain aspects than other, and some backs fit schemes better than others, the overall talent/ability tends to look like a bell curve with most people who play hovering around average.

            The people who think Ohio State or Indiana are going to fall off next year because they lose their backs aren’t paying attention.

            Obviously you don’t want to be too far on the left of the bell curve of RB ability, but other than the speed issue Smith is not. Johnson offers plenty of speed for outside runs, Smith plenty of toughness for inside runs and while, yeah, it’d be nice to have a guy who can do both, Michigan just needs to keep defenses honest enough to prevent them from cheating to be effective. With Chesson running reverses and FB dives I think they do that pretty well.

            The only times I feel like Michigan has had a weakness at the RB position was during the Rodriguez era when we were debating Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, and Cox. Even then – if Toussaint or Minor were healthy RB wasn’t a problem.

            We’ll see. Maybe Smith will move to fullback and Ty Isaac will emerge as the savior next year and run for 5 ypc. Crazier things have happened.

            But I think it’s more likely Smith sticks, the OL gets better, and Harbaugh continues to sing his praises and play him as the leading RB. I think Isaac is out of here and Johnson, Walker, Davis and Higdon will fight to be his complement.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 3322
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jan 03, 2016 at 3:59 PM

              We’re not really talking about the NFL. And you’re talking about a coach (Belichick) who has one of the great QBs of all-time in Tom Brady. Not exactly a perfect comparison.

              I think it’s misguided to say that “top 10-15 teams are just going to plug in the backup and be fine.” Well, yeah…but that’s partly because they’re top 10-15 teams. Michigan did that for a while. Ricky Powers gave way to Tyrone Wheatley, who gave way to Tim Biakabutuka, etc. Anthony Thomas bided his time, as did Chris Perry, as did Fitzgerald Toussaint, as did De’Veon Smith even, etc. Those guys didn’t come in and start immediately. The one who did (Hart) was obviously good from the beginning, but Chad Henne, Taylor Lewan (after he bulked up for a year), Mike Martin, Leon Hall, etc. were all pretty good in year one. You get guys like that sometimes.

              Then there are the Jake Rudocks, Erik Magnusons, Ryan Glasgows, Jourdan Lewises, etc., who get coached up, mature physically/mentally, and such. They all have coaches for a reason, just like the running back position.

  3. Avatar
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    Roanman
    Jan 03, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    A question for you Lanky and then some advice.

    What are running back coaches doing at the professional level? As they are certainly not out on the road recruiting.

    You should quit while you’re behind.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5454
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      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2016 at 12:34 PM

      strawman. A better question is why wouldn’t NFL teams have a RB coach? I didn’t say they were pointless, every position needs coaching. The NFL is not limited by the NCAA so they can hire coaches for every individual player if they want (the Dallas Mavericks actually do this in the NBA.)

      RB coaches don’t often become OCs or head coaches and it’s a relatively low paying gig. Other than MAYBE being a TE coach or special teams coordinator, RB coach is the least prestigious or important position on a coaching staff. If you can’t recruit, you aren’t going to hold a RB coach job at the college level. Not true for other positions (OC, DC, QB coach, etc.)

      • Avatar
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        Roanman
        Jan 03, 2016 at 2:58 PM

        Lol ….. at you.

        If RB coaching doesn’t improve RB performance, which is your original position, then RB coaching is of no effect, which has been your argument the length of this discussion.

        You are now arguing against your original position.

        It has to be tough being you Lanky.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5454
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          Lanknows
          Jan 03, 2016 at 3:43 PM

          Nope – not what I said.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1215
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            Roanman
            Jan 03, 2016 at 4:28 PM

            You should really take some time and read the drivel you type out.

  4. Avatar
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    Roanman
    Jan 03, 2016 at 4:40 PM

    You say, “For one thing, RB coaches are typically figureheads whose coaching role is secondary to their recruiting ability.”

    You go on to say, “If RB coaching is such a big deal why is there so little development in performance from 1st to 3rd year relative to QB, OL, LB, etc.”

    Then some time later you say, “A better question is why wouldn’t NFL teams have a RB coach? I didn’t say they were pointless, every position needs coaching.”

    Arguing out both sides of your mouth Lanky.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5454
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 04, 2016 at 1:17 PM

      None of those statements conflict. I think you need to work on reading comprehension.

      I said the PRIMARY job of a college RB coach is recruiting. I didn’t say he sits on his ass while the RBs do homework during practice because there is no such thing as RB development ever.

      What I said, again, is: RB running ability doesn’t generally improve much between freshman year and being an upperclassmen, especially compared to the rate of improvement at other positions. This indicates that the coaching there is not a huge factor. Coaches do help, in that element some, but mostly in other elements of being a complete running back – like blocking and pass-catching.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5454
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jan 04, 2016 at 1:24 PM

        Even Chris Perry – an outlier example of dramatic improvement from underclassmen to senior – didn’t improve THAT much as a runner. He was always good at that. He improved in maturity and the areas that allowed him to be a complete back. If Mike Cox (a talented runner) had had stable coaching situations while at Michigan I believe he would have been the kind of Perry-like back that had dramatic improvements in performances from freshman to upperclassmen. I don’t think it was about ability with the ball for them, it was the other stuff.

        So yeah, RB coaching does matter a bit (off field and on it) but it doesn’t matter as much as at other positions where you see more development. AND I believe the development happens more in other aspects of RB play than running ability. So – I don’t think RB coaches affect running ability very much, especially compared to OL play.

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