Cullen pursuit. After Sam Webb broke news that Michigan was pursuing Kansas City DL coach Joe Cullen to be their defensive coordinator, an NFL reporter, uh, reported that Michigan wasn’t the only team in pursuit:
Chiefs defensive line coach Joe Cullen is considered a candidate for several defensive coordinator jobs, sources say. His name is in the mix with the Seahawks and Commanders, as well as at the University of Michigan.
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) February 4, 2024
The Commanders have since filled their spot, leaving the Seahawks. It makes sense that Mike Macdonald would probably both 1) recommend Cullen and 2) consider him for his own DC slot, since both guys have that Ravens background. Webb notes that Macdonald is going to be his own DC, though:
“Yeah, right now the plan is I’ll be calling the plays,’’ Macdonald said Thursday during his introductory news conference. “Now, depending on who the defensive coordinator is and when that becomes — ultimately, I’m the head coach of the football team, so I want to coach the football team. Right now, the best way that we can win in my opinion is for me to call the plays, and then when it becomes obvious that someone else is ready to go and we see it the same way, then we’ll make that change.’’
Cullen may want to be the guy, or the Seahawks may turn their attention to someone else.
[After THE JUMP: death to the NCAA, returning production, home regionals now]
Policework reference. Bill Connelly releases his returning production ratings for 2024. One Michigan unit finishes in an expected spot; the other not so much: Michigan is 132nd in returning offensive production and 109th on defense. The former, ok: the ~only returning starter is Colston Loveland.
Something feels deeply off on defense, though. Michigan returns five experienced DL, three out of five members of the secondary, and played Ernest Haussmann quite a bit last year. What could explain this?
Breaking things out by position is a bit trickier on defense, where units aren’t as strictly defined and the percentage of returning production is derived both from position units and types of stats (tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, passes defensed). Here’s the approximate layout:
Percent of returning tackles: 69.5%
Percent of returning passes defensed (intercepted or broken up): 12%
Percent of returning tackles for loss: 10.5%
Percent of returning sacks: 8%
By position, linebackers make up about 44% of the defensive formula, while defensive backs are at 42% and the defensive line is surprisingly at only 14%.
Connelly’s using some sort of regression analysis here to come up with these weights, but man that does not feel intuitive at all. These days most teams are playing two linebackers; for them to be half of the defensive formula feels like it cannot be right. Put another way: each linebacker spot is worth 22% of your returning production score; each DL is worth 3.5%.
You might be a football coach if you… spend 28 minutes talking about two Kenneth Grant plays.
Stay tuned for the discussion of Michigan’s defense as a whole, and how everyone has their head up looking for the ball. These guys are clearly high school coaches and they marvel at how Michigan plays so disciplined.
What happens when you punt. Brian Fremeau has gathered 11000 punts to see what happens when you punt from various spots on the field. Things are pretty linear, with nets of slightly over 40 yards, until you get close to midfield:
Also note that the black line is the median result, not the average. If it was the average punts outside your own 40 would look worse. Chalk this up as another reason coaches have more or less accepted David Romer’s paper from 20 years ago.
Ban the NCAA. Lee Aaliya got Jamal Crawford’d by the NCAA over this:
Aaliya played for eight or nine months for Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, a junior team in La Plata, a city in Buenos Aires Province. According to Saratsis, Aaliya was paid a monthly stipend for living expenses in Argentine pesos equivalent to $90.
The NCAA wanted extensive documentation related to the payments, like gas and electric bills, and Saratsis did his best to provide it. Some of the requests for receipts were, in his eyes, unreasonable. “How is an 18-year-old kid going to find grocery receipts from a year and a half ago?” he wondered.
Saratsis said he responded quickly, only for weeks to pass before he’d hear back from NCAA officials with another request. “They string this kid along for five months,” he said. (The NCAA did not respond to MLive’s request for comment for this story.)
When the NCAA finally came back with a decision, in mid-January, it baffled Saratsis. Aaliya had been paid less than $900, yet the NCAA wanted him to pay back $1,155 and sit out 20 percent of games his first season.
This one is solidly in the Not Juwan’s Fault category, not that it does much to change the overall shape of things. I cannot believe it is 2024 and Bryce Underwood is getting seven figures at LSU and the NCAA is still nickel-and-diming international students over grocery bills. The quicker this organization dies the better.
Schlossman’s shot of Harvard-Minnesota State in Albany
Yes, please. Brad Schlossman on the debacle that is the NCAA hockey tournament:
GRAND FORKS — The 2022 NCAA men’s hockey tournament should have been the last straw for neutral-site regionals.
It started with a game between Minnesota State and Harvard in Albany, N.Y. The crowd was sparse enough to count by hand — in a venue that seats more than 10,000. Pandemic-restricted crowds were larger.
Up the road, Minnesota played Western Michigan to go to the NCAA Frozen Four in Worcester, Mass. That game drew the smallest crowd to watch the Gophers all season.
In most sports, the big games have packed stadiums and the best atmospheres. In college hockey, they often have the worst.
Schlossman proposes doing away with regionals entirely, instead playing one-off games at the home rink of the higher seed on consecutive weekends. This dodges one of the major complaints about home regionals—most college hockey arenas aren’t well situated to handle four teams. He also points out that with the expansion of the football playoff, literally every other NCAA sport has some of their postseason at home sites.
The major holdup? Selfishness.
According to conversations with a dozen college hockey leaders, there are athletic directors and coaches who believe it’s unlikely their teams will ever be in the top eight of the Pairwise Rankings and have the ability to host.
So, they’d rather play in an empty arena in the middle of a college hockey desert than in a packed house on campus. They believe that gives their teams the best chance to advance.
This is a silly concern. Last year two ECAC teams, Quinnipiac and Harvard, would have hosted first round matchups. The year before, WMU, Minnesota-Duluth, and Quinnipiac would have hosted. Two years prior (IE, skipping the COVID year) Cornell and Umass would have hosted. The year before that, Clarkson, UMass, Minnesota State, Northeastern, and Quinnipiac would have hosted. The only conference that is never going to host is Atlantic Hockey, which is lucky to be in D-1 at all. Meanwhile any team good enough to make the tourney out of a major conference is going to be in contention to be top eight. Schlossman asserts that 28(!) different schools would have hosted first-round games over the last decade. Michigan would have had five, and I am now keenly feeling the absence of four ludicrous Yost environments in my bones.
The coaches and ADs who continue to insist on broken neutral site regionals should be drop-kicked into another sport where it’s supposed to be quiet.
Will this ever change? I guess there’s some hope on the horizon: Schlossman notes that four of the six conferences have conference tournaments entirely on home ice… including the CCHA and Atlantic hockey, who are the major hold-ups.