Sunday, August 16, 2009

Judge Me By My Size, Do You?

And well you should not. For my ally is the Forcier. And a powerful ally he is.
- Yoda, 1 foot-6 inch, 30 lbs., 900 Year Old Senior Slot Receiver

OK, so sometimes I too can get carried away and need to retire to my nerdery with my calculator.

And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only Michigan football recruiting geek to have been slightly spooked about the smaller-sized skilled position players that now populate the Wolverine football roster. Observations and tweet messages from sports bloggers and national sports reporters during Michigan's first week of fall practice picked up on the apparent changes in Wolverine player stature as well. Of course there’s also a growing list of 3-star, sub-six foot recruits and commits brought in to play cornerback, tailback or slot receiver positions.

Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense doesn’t specify any particular player height or weight to play running back, slot receiver or outside receiver, or even quarterback. If such specs for skilled position players were ever written down for Rodriguez's read spread option offense, they'd probably include:

A. Under 6 feet tall

B. 4.6 sec 40 yard dash times or better,

C. Strength and athleticism to break open field tackles, and

D. Ability to fracture the ankles of oncoming defenders by making laser-precision, jock-removing jukes and cuts in the open field.

Michigan Freshman Running Back Vincent Smith

Football players of any size can certainly achieve the above. However, there’s been an interesting trend in offensive player profile and player size under Rodriguez, especially when we view some of the highest performing players at skilled positions like the quarterback, tailback and slot receiver positions over his coaching career.

Size of Impact Players At Tulane
I’ve probably written way too much about Rich Rodriguez’s stint at Tulane on this Michigan blog already. But it is an instructional reference point for Rodriguez’s first fully-fledged read spread option attack at the Division I level. As you can see from the 1998 season, there were several impact players under 6 feet tall and well under 200 lbs.

QB Shaun King: 6-0, 223 lbs., 3,495 yards passing, 38 TDs, 611 yards rushing, 11 TDs.

FB Okie Woods: 5-11, 230 lbs
TB Toney Converse: 5-8, 158 lbs., 982 yards rushing, 8 TDs
TB Jamaican Dartez: 5-9, 185 lbs., 679 yards rushing, 7 TDs

WR Jajuan Dawson: 6-1, 197, 74 catches, 1,030 yards, 12 TDs
Slot PJ Franklin: 5-10, 180 lbs., 79 catches, 1,216 yards, 10 TDs
Slot Adrian Burnette: 5-10, 186, 11 catches, 201 yards, 3 TDs
WR Kerwin Cooke: 6-1, 176, 31 catches, 528 yards, 4 TDs

Size of Impact Players At Clemson
Rodriguez was the offensive coordinator for 2 years under Tommy Bowden at Clemson, 1999-2000. The Tiger slot receivers and wide receivers were much taller than at Tulane. Travis Zachery was the main running back in 2000.

QB Woodrow Dantzler: 5-11, 200 lbs, 1,691 yds passing, 10 TDs, 1,075 yds rushing, 13 TDs.

TB Travis Zachery: 6-0, 190 lbs., 1,044 yards rushing, 13 TDs

WR Rod Gardner: 6-4, 215 lbs., 51 catches, 956 yards, 6 TDs
Slot Jackie Robinson: 6-1, 190 lbs., 24 catches, 276 yards, 3 TDs
TE Kevin Youngblood: 6-5, 219 lbs., 12 catches, 221 yards, 2 TDs

Size of Impact Players At West Virginia
Rodriguez coached at WVU for 7 years. I select the 2002 and 2007 seasons as samples with the size and weight of some of the top performances over this period, not repeating names:

QB Rasheed Marshall: 6-1, 190 lbs, 1,616 yards passing, 9 TDs, 666 yards rushing, 13 TDs

TB Avon Cobourne: 5-9, 190 lbs, 1,710 yards rushing, 17 TDs
TB Quincy Wilson: 5-9, 210 lbs, 901 yards rushing, 6 TDs

WR Miquelle Henderson: 6-2, 205 lbs., 40 catches, 496 yards, 2 TDs
WR Phil Braxton: 6-3, 200 lbs., 20 catches, 379 yards, 2 TDs

QB Pat White: 6-2, 190 lbs., 1,724 yds passing, 14 TDs, 1,335 yds rushing, 14 TDs

TB Steve Slaton: 5-10, 200 lbs, 1,051 yards rushing, 17 TDS
TB Noel Devine: 5-8, 170 lbs., 627 yards rushing, 6 TDs

WR Tito Gonzalez: 6-2, 210 lbs., 10 catches, 219 yards, 1 TD
Slot Jock Sanders: 5-8, 185 lbs., 12 catches, 102 yards, 0 TDs, 105 yards rush, 2 TDs
Slot Darius Reynaud: 5-10, 200 lbs, 63 catches, 725 yards, 12 TDs
WR Dorrell Jalloh: 6-0, 190 lbs, 24 catches, 271 yards, 1 TD

Impact Player Size And The Power of the Forcier At Scripps Ranch High School
Tate Forcier is not a huge quarterback by any means. He’s only 6-0, 190 lbs. and entering year 1 of the Michigan football strength and conditioning program of Mike Barwis. Forcier was a very accurate thrower, especially during his senior season of high shcool, when he connected on 65% of this throws for 3,331 yards and 23 TD passes. His top receiving targets on the Scripps Ranch football team last year, as one might expect at the high school level, were (with one exception) rather smallish in size:

TB Brennan Clay: 5-11, 182 lbs., 66 catches, 1,010 yards, 6 TDs
Slot Todd Herrod: 5-7, 142 lbs., 37 catches, 875 yards, 6 TDs
Slot Malcolm Billingsley: 6-0, 175 lbs., 21 catches, 365 yards, 1 TD
TE JT Kerr: 6-5, 230 lbs, 21 catches, 294 yards, 3 TDs
Slot Trayvon Herrod: 5-10, 140 lbs., 13 catches, 184 yards, 2 TDs
Slot Jake Curran: 6-1, 165 lbs., 10 catches, 103 yards, 2 TDs

Impact Player Size At Michigan
Since Rodriguez’s arrival in Ann Arbor, he’s continued to place quite a high level of emphasis on player speed and athleticism for the quarterback running back and slot receiver positions, as well as the defensive backfield. One cannot help but notice the physical stature of some of these lightning quick additions to the 2008 Michigan roster:

CB Boubacar Cissoko, 5-8, 175 lbs.
SR Martavious Odoms, 5-8, 171 lbs.
SR Terrance Robinson, 5-9, 170 lbs.
TB Sam McGuffie, 5-11, 190 lbs.

2009 Roster Additions:
TB Vincent Smith, 5-8, 165 lbs.
SR Jeremy Gallon, 5-9, 175 lbs.
CB Teric Jones, 5-10, 194 lbs.
TB Fitzgerald Toussaint, 5-10, 185 lbs.
WR Thomas Gordon, 5-11, 205 lbs.

2010 Verbal Commitments (so far):
TB Tony Drake, 5-8, 160 lbs
CB Courtney Avery, 5-9, 164 lbs.
CB Terrance Talbott, 5-10, 172 lbs.
WR Drew Dileo, 5-10, 175 lbs.

Rodriguez clearly doesn’t mind going after smaller-sized players, as he knows they will be well-conditioned by the time they hit the field and have the skills to perform their duties in this offense. Given the many examples at Tulane, Clemson and West Virginia, any panic about Rodriguez’s affinity for recruiting smaller profile players may be misplaced. Besides this, many Michigan fans may recognize the names of several high-impact players at Michigan over the last 40 years. Perhaps it’s comforting to know that a great many of these Wolverine players didn’t exactly arrive to Ann Arbor in “extra large” packaging:

TB Gordon Bell, 5-9, 178 lbs, 1973-1975
TB Roosevelt Smith, 5-10, 198 lbs 1976-1979
WR Anthony Carter, 5-11, 161 lbs, 1979-1982
TB Lawrence Ricks, 5-10, 205 lbs 1979-1982
WR Erik Campbell, 5-10, 168 lbs 1984-1987
TB Jamie Morris, 5-7, 175 lbs, 1984-1987
WR Desmond Howard, 5-10, 161 lbs. 1988-1991
TB Jon Vaughn, 5-10, 174 lbs, 1988-1990
WR Mercury Hayes, 5-11, 180 lbs. 1992-1995
TB Mike Hart, 5-9, 196, 2004-2007

Jamie Morris was only 5 foot 7 inches tall and 175 lbs. Yet he left burnout marks all over the Tartan surface at Michigan Stadium for 4, 392 yards and 25 touchdowns between 1984-1987.


Tim said...

I don't think the case is necessarily that Rodriguez prefers smaller players, but rather that smaller players are more likely to have the skill set he craves (great quickness, balance, and change of direction) that bigger players.

If he could land a 6-1 player with the same quickness and speed as a shorter guy, he'd almost certainly go for the bigger one. At West Virginia he's never been able to recruit the top-top guys with size AND that skill set (of course, Noel Devine was a top-top guy but didn't have the height). Once he builds up enough depth in the slot at MIchigan, and hopefully is able to be more selective in recruiting, you won't exclusively see tiny guys.

FloridaBuck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FloridaBuck said...

I contend that a significantly smaller than average, albeit a faster, team will ultimately be "worn down" by a larger, slower team. One or two "smallish" players can work in many different schemes, as evidenced in both college and pro level teams. But you rarely see more than 1 or 2 on the field at any given time. I think if you load your college team up with small, fast guys at most positions, you may defeat lower tier teams, but in the long haul, will lose, regardless of how good your execution is. For example...could the top US High School that executes nearly flawlessly, compete with any D-1 team. I wouldn't think so. Have any studies been attempted on this? Just curious.