The Transition Effect: Carr to Rodriguez

The Transition Effect: Carr to Rodriguez

December 15, 2014
Ryan Mallett

With an upcoming coaching transition, there has been some concern that players will take flight to greener pastures. When Michigan went from a pro-style scheme to a zone read option scheme in the off-season between 2007 and 2008, some offensive players headed out the door. Not much of that can be attributed to the spread. Every team loses players in the off-season. Sometimes players are sick of standing on the sideline, sometimes they get homesick, and sometimes they butt heads with the coaches. Here’s a look at what the transition from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez cost Michigan going into 2008 and beyond.

Decommitted due to coaching transition: John Wienke, Christian Wilson
Wienke, a pro-style quarterback, decommitted in favor of Iowa, where he never saw any significant time. Wilson ended up committing to North Carolina due to the fact that Rodriguez’s offense didn’t leave a ton of room for fullback/H-back types. Wilson played but never made a huge impact for the Tarheels.

Transferred to other FBS teams between regimes: Justin Boren, Ryan Mallett
Offensive guard Justin Boren would have been a junior starter in Rich Rodriguez’s first season, but some alleged frictions between Rodriguez and Boren’s family led to his departure. Boren transferred to his home state Ohio State Buckeyes program, where he eventually started and became an undrafted free agent; he never played in an NFL game despite making the practice squad with a couple teams. Meanwhile, his right guard position was taken by David Moosman, who turned out to be a decent but forgettable piece up front for the Wolverines. Theories differ on Mallett, a touted quarterback who transferred closer to home at Arkansas. Some say he was already on his way out the door because of butting heads with Carr; others say he realized he wouldn’t fit into Rich Rodriguez’s offense. Either way, he was replaced by walk-on Nick Sheridan and Georgia Tech transfer Steve Threet, both of whom were subpar passers and poor fits for Rodriguez’s scheme. After the 2008 season,

Left early for the NFL Draft: Adrian Arrington, Mario Manningham
Arrington blew up in his final game, a bowl win over Florida, which might have sealed the deal. His 882 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in 2007 as the #2 option behind Manningham were impressive, although he slipped into the Draft in just the 7th round, making just 9 receptions in a short NFL career. Manningham had some issues following rules/laws and seemed to be headed for the door after a stellar three-year career; he possibly would have been a 1st round pick if not for a marijuana charge, and instead fell to the 3rd round. He was picked by the Giants and has had a solid but injury-marred career with 2,849 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

Transferred to other FBS teams after giving Rodriguez a chance:* Toney Clemons, Vince Helmuth, Dann O’Neill, Steve Threet
Clemons spent a year trying to wedge himself into the slot receiver role for Rodriguez, a role he was ill suited for because he was not very quick or elusive. Clemons had been recruited by Lloyd Carr as an outside wide receiver, and he transferred to Colorado for that reason. He had a decent career for the Buffaloes and managed to get drafted. Helmuth was brought in as a Lloyd Carr fullback, eventually moved to defensive tackle under Rodriguez, and then transferred to Miami-OH, where he never played, either. O’Neill spent a year redshirting and then transferred to Western Michigan, where his lack of lateral mobility was less of a hindrance; he started for several years for the Broncos. Threet got kind of a raw deal. After enrolling early at Georgia Tech in January 2007, he transferred to Michigan over the summer and redshirted during the season, hoping to follow Chad Henne as the starter for the Wolverines. Then when Rodriguez got hired, Threet and walk-on Nick Sheridan split playing time before Threet lit out for his third school, Arizona State. He had to sit out the 2009 season to transfer, and then concussions caused him to end his football career early.

Left early for the NFL Draft after giving Rodriguez a chance:* Carson Butler, Donovan Warren
Butler was unhappy with his role as a tight end in Rodriguez’s offense, so he made a mid-season switch to defensive end, finishing with 2 catches, 17 yards, and 5 tackles. He tested the waters of the NFL but was ultimately unsuccessful.  Warren left after his third season in Ann Arbor, hanging around through 2009. It’s unclear whether a different coach could have kept him around for a fourth season, but Warren was All-Big Ten and made 4 picks in 2009, after which he made an ill-advised attempt at making it in the NFL. He was not drafted and spent a few years bouncing around practice squads.

If Michigan changes systems to a spread or, say, a triple option, some transfers can naturally be expected. That change seems unlikely based on what we have been hearing, but anything is possible. The one guy who seemed like a possible early entrant into the draft (Devin Funchess) is gone already. The quarterbacks are mostly pro-style guys, so that would present a challenge if Michigan wanted to run any kind of option-type stuff. Michigan has been running a lot of zone schemes, so a loss of linemen would not seem to be a huge risk, regardless of the coach. The receivers are mostly big, pro-style guys who could get squeezed out if the new coach wanted to put tiny slot guys out there in spades. Michigan’s stable of tight ends would likely not be happy with a move to a spread, though A.J. Williams will be a senior and Jake Butt could be just a year away from heading to the NFL; the biggest flight risks there would probably be the young guys, Ian Bunting and Khalid Hill, who would still have time to redshirt for a year and make an impact elsewhere.

*There were some other transfers (Sam McGuffie, Marell Evans, Kurt Wermers, etc.) that seemed to have less to do with Rodriguez and more to do with homesickness, academic difficulties, etc.


  1. Comments: 21383
    Dec 15, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Your conclusions don't seem tied to your data. Actually, some of them seem contradictory (e.g., young guys are biggest flight risks). Not saying your opinions are wrong just that the data/analysis doesn't seem to support them.

    You are using a transition that included a major scheme change to draw conclusions about a transition that (presumably) won't include a major scheme change. This seems fundamentally misconceived.

    You talk a lot about scheme change here. If we don't change schemes, scheme won't be an issue, if we do, it might be. Well, yeah…

    Clearly, some attrition can be expected regardless. Every offseason brings it, even in stable times. Scheme is one element of change. Another is the coaching change itself (i.e., the human relationships).

    It's difficult to assess which elements of change leads to more or less transition costs. Making predictions about it at this point, when we don't even know who the coach will be, seems foolhardy.

    Here are my opinions on the topic of transition and attrition:

    1. Expect attrition to happen (because it always does)

    2. Expect more to happen if a major scheme change is included (probably not)

    3. Expect less if a big name "splash" hire is made (e.g., Harbaugh)

    4. Expect more if a hard-ass/disciplinarian is hired (e.g., Schiano)

    5. Expect less if the hiring is in-house promotion (e.g., Nussmeir)

    Shorter version: less change = less transition costs.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 15, 2014 at 6:49 PM

      I disagree. Young guys are the biggest flight risks – those weren't juniors and seniors who were transferring out of Ann Arbor. They were freshmen and sophomores. The guys who left are also mostly offensive players, except for Carson butler (sort of, since he was a TE to start and switched to DE mid-season) and Donovan Warren (who may have been headed to the NFL, regardless of the coach).

      I acknowledged that attrition will happen, and I state that on this site over and over again. Every off-season brings at least some slight changes to the roster on top of graduations/freshmen.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 15, 2014 at 8:19 PM

      In your example, most of the attrition was older guys like the ones leaving for the NFL.

      You listed 10 Michigan players. 4 left early for the NFL after their JR season. 4 (Clemons, Threet, Helmuth, and Boren) left half way through their careers (2 years of eligibility left). 2 left after one year (ONeill, Mallett).

      Obviously people can't transfer after they are seniors (unless there is a 5th year grad/school transfer situation a la Ryan Mundy) and people don't transfer before national signing day, so if there is no effect of age you'd expect the distribution to be 4/4/4 for juniors/sophomores/freshman. Since it was 4/4/2 the data indicates that older players left more than younger players.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 15, 2014 at 8:22 PM

      I tend to agree that young players are the bigger flight risk right now for Michigan. My point is the data doesn't show that in the Carr/Rodriguez transition you cited.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 15, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      Leaving after two years is "early" to me. Those guys have finished their sophomore (Boren, Clemons) or redshirt freshman (Threet) years and are headed out the door. No, you can't transfer as a senior, but you can transfer as a redshirt sophomore, a redshirt junior, or a true junior.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 16, 2014 at 2:03 AM

      You can't transfer after being a redshirt jr unless you have graduated (like I said about Mundy) and want to pursue a grad degree elsewhere.

      Those cases are going to be relatively rare (right? because there are way more freshman than there are 5th year seniors across the entire country and especially at Michigan in that 2007-2009 era when they struggled to fill out a full roster of scholarship players. There are more freshman than 4th year and 5th year seniors combined)

      So if you break people down into the 4 possible categories (as defined by years away from high school, regardless of red-shirt status) you will by definition have a much smaller pool of players of 'veterans' and your reported 'trend' will just be a case of sample bias.

      In other words, you are defining the majority of players in the 'early' category and therefore shouldn't be surprised when the majority of players transfering (or doing anything else) in the early category.

  2. Comments: 21383
    Dec 15, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    I'm not too concerned about people leaving. If we get the right coach all will be fine.

  3. Comments: 21383
    Dec 15, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    Minor point, but I think Arrington's NFL career was also affected by injuries. He twice got put on IR by the Saints after making the active roster.

    I suspect the biggest flight risk would be either at RB or on defense based on depth and the style of the new coordinator. The rest of the offense will be an open competition so most players are likely to stay to give it a shot. I would think that DB and DE also fall into that category.


  4. Comments: 21383
    Dec 15, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    Good read. Doubtless there are still a handful of fans who believe that Rodriguez actively ran all those guys out of town and that, had he only come to his senses, he could've gone 12-0 with the Cadillac that was left for him. Ah, well.

  5. Comments: 21383
    Dec 15, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    I am extremely concerned. We are the laughing stock of the country. I live in Atlanta and the last 3 days Michigan has been a topic of discussionabout how delusional we are in thinking that we can get a big name coach. I almost agree with them. what big name coach in his right mind would want to go up into that dysfunctional situation. look at how the last 2 head coaches have been treated by the fans media and ex players. just the fact that we believe Jim Harbaugh is going to be our coach next year is laughable. Look at the qb position. Morris is an overjoyed kid that has absolutely no moxy, Bellomy just isn't that good and Speight is basically unknown. at least with Hoke we held on to our playersand there were very few arrest and problems with the team. every time the team looks like it is about to turn a corner the coach is fired eg Rodriguez now Hoke. have you heard any names of kids who are thinking of transferring?

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:29 AM

      I don't think this process can really be judged until a coach is hired. If Michigan gets Harbaugh, the people in Atlanta you're listening to are the ones with egg on their face. If Michigan gets Stoops, same thing.

      If Michigan ends up settle for Greg Schiano or Randy Edsall or something, then I'll agree with them.

      Yes, I have heard of some names of kids who are thinking of transferring, but I'm not throwing any of them out there. I don't think that does much good. There are three in particular, plus a fourth that was named in the comments here in the past couple days.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 16, 2014 at 1:36 AM

      This types of hot takes (right or wrong) are why it'd be nice if people on here had to sign their name.

      I appreciate the sentiment that Michigan fans are delusional about the programs status in the national discourse, but like Thunder said – let's see what happens before we judge. Dave Brandon was terrible at his job, but thankfully he is gone.

    • Comments: 21383
      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:58 PM

      I think Hoke was treated extremely well by the administration, former players, current players, the media, and even the fans until this past season when everything fell apart due to Hoke's own shortcomings running the program (a sentiment that he probably would agree with himself).

      Also, "Morris is an overjoyed kid with absolutely no moxy" is a ridiculous bit of non-analysis (probably even worse than "he just wins games"). Morris has plenty of physical tools (e.g., great arm, solid legs), but has clearly demonstrated a lack of refined skills (e.g., accuracy, reading defenses). To say he has "absolutely no moxy" seems wrong in as much as it's a phrase that carries any meaning whatsoever. (But to your broader point of UM not having a viable QB, I agree. That's clearly issue #1 with the personnel.)

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