Dec 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke in the second half against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Kansas State defeated Michigan 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football: A Tale of Two Strategies -- Michigan and Alabama

GBMWolverine Coach's Corner2Posted at 7:00am — 1/29/2014

Michigan Football: A Tale of Two Strategies — Michigan and Alabama

An interesting email came in the mail the other day; it discussed the problem Alabama has annually of paring the current roster of, shall we say, “undesirables” that cannot start or contribute to a meaningful extent. Other schools, more honorable in schema and dogma, do not follow this annual model. So, expect another large group of big name players to commit to Alabama, mostly the cream of the crop from SEC country football, while other schools may only have room for 15-18 commitments, 25 in a big year.

Here is the original link: lookahead-the-number-crunch

Now before reading onwards, know this, do not interpret this as some type of excuse.

Now, here are some comments from the staff. Alabama has to “CUT” 10 players from their team … and people wonder why it is so tough to compete against them.

Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban prior to kickoff of a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

First off, it has been clearly stated the past few years that Michigan is trying to build a program similar to Alabama, at least in terms of scheme or practice regimen. But there are clear limits to this modeling. From this point forward, perhaps Michigan followers really need to stop using this model or comparison, it simply is not fair to the Michigan players and coaches. There are constraints, which could muster intellectual support.

Expectations are pretty high at Michigan and should be on a yearly basis, but the problem becomes how to accomplish the stated goal of excellence, year in and year out, without being handcuffed by university, conference, or associated accepted ethics, which collectively should not be circumvented?

Some may point that Ohio State can accomplish high performance, so why not Michigan? Well to be honest Ohio State hasn’t really achieved the level of a team like Alabama, or a conference like the SEC. Certainly not on a year-to-year basis. Right now Ohio State is the best of the best in the Big Ten conference, withstanding this year’s loss to MSU. But only meaningless comparisons match OSU within the SEC schedule. Speculation is all that occurs, dogmatism and skepticism provide no evidence.

Bo 5Even dating back to Bo’s days, Ohio State always has had more talent on the roster than Michigan, in-state players being a big difference

Now mind you that the Big Ten schools achieved an understanding a couple of years ago where the schools guaranteed recruits a four year scholarship. Michigan was already doing this very thing.

First off, as stated, this is not an excuse for the past season or an attempt to deflect blame article, but a reference point on what it takes to be able to compete year in and year out on the contemporary national football stage against teams like Alabama. Neither is this an attempt to slam a University, such as Alabama, or a coach like Nick Saban, who are doing what the university allows and some would gloat winning.

Remember, a few years ago the SEC once again reentered the debate defined above. One of the most visible opponents of going from a one-year scholarship rule to a two-year scholarship rule was Nick Saban. Perhaps some of you remember watching this on the PC and it made you chuckle with his stance that players will coast through, the players won’t work hard, and then conclude they have it made, the result a free education. The clear implication is players should not receive a four-year agreement. Sabin has a four- year, or longer, deal, but apparently a student-athlete should not, as this is damaging to a football program.

So once again Alabama and the SEC are allowed to recruit their normal 25-27 recruits each year, and each year they come back to the decision of cutting 7-10 players depending on how many 5th year seniors will return, how many players transfer, and how many players leave early for the NFL draft.

The thing is Michigan fans get all bothered (perhaps rightfully so) when Michigan does not bring back 5th year players such as Ash and Furman.

michigan football -- footballPeople wonder why Michigan and dozens of others cannot compete with a Bama over an extended period of time? Besides the “out of luck scenario, transfers and JC players with talent are brought in to patch any potential weakness due to age and depth. So, these schools have the same 85-scholarship rule that Michigan goes by, but the number is indeed deceiving. The JC players are more plug-and-play and do not need extended developmental periods.

Recruiting shows and sites gloat over players and overall classes, but many players simply do not pan out to initial expectation, or simply get beat out in a position battle. When a player does not pan out in a school that honors a four-year agreement, it becomes problematical to secure a better player, at least in present tense and time. Being on top provides more high four-star and five star talent that in theory should provide fewer misses, but there are always “misses.” The roster simply gets replenished in quicker fashion.

So how does a program get around that magic 85 number? Simple, just do what Bama does and “cut” players. Keep in mind if a team recruits a class of 25 every single year, like Bama does, that equals 100 players even considering the 85-scholarship rule. Fifth year players who are truly needed complicate the number more, in that more “cuts” may occur.

It is hard to imagine many schools, including Michigan, wishing to delve into recruiting strategy of the above nature. Once upon a time, intercollegiate athletics were meant to benefit student-athletes. The resulting paradigm revolves around attitudes and strategies that favor either athletes or winning. The exception here does not outweigh the rule.

So, are there alternative strategies besides being sordid to compete with programs steeped in the philosophy delineated above? Evaluating recruits better than other programs is a starting place, followed obviously by better player development. This is problematical in a setting where the cards are lower than the opponent’s at the start of the game. Winning, year in and year out, may not yield talent like the home grown South, but winning, right or wrong, forgives sins and patches up the gab between the haves and have not’s.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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