What the Deuce: Les Miles is Ryan Howard

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Les Miles is Ryan Howard

The needle has moved. If the Miles mobile has a top speed of 120, initially I was going 65. After Saturday night, I'm going 85-90. Throughout the game, the needle kept moving, steadily, like when my mom is driving. It didn't jump wildly like when I was 16 and trying to impress the head cheerleader at Troy High. There's no need to go any faster - I'd rather get there safely (successful transition) than wrap myself around a tree (returning to glory every 4 years).

Athletic Ability: It's been hammered into our heads that team speed is main reason for the SEC's superiority. Although I don't think speed is unique to the SEC, I do think its a foreign concept around Schembechler Hall. It wasn't LSU's speed that impressed me, it was the players' versatility and athletic ability. One play that I still remember came early in the game: LSU LB Ali Highsmith was lined up to Tim Tebow's left. Tebow recognized this and looked for the slot receiver on his right. Tebow threw to what appeared to be the open spot in the zone and was almost picked off. At the snap, Highsmith ran parallel to the line of scrimmage right to the spot where Tebow threw - and this play was by design.

Unfortunately, like speed, versatility isn't unique to LSU, but is a foreign concept at Michigan. I like to cook and my favorite instructor has to be Alton Brown who has taught me never to have unitaskers in my kitchen. Lloyd Carr needs to watch Good Eats - Michigan's roster is filled with unitaskers. For some inexplicable reason, Carr still believes that you need space filling defensive tackles, plodding linebackers, and a secondary that doesn't give up big plays (instead of making some from time to time). LSU's roster is filled with players in the mold of Bob Sanders, Troy Polamalu, Alan Branch (rare Michigan player who fits the bill), and Brian Urlacher.

While making a comparison to current NFL players may not be the best, my point is LSU has players that have freakish athletic ability for the positions they play. This includes the offensive players too. It's a misconception that you have to be big to win. The Denver Broncos, even with a lighter offensive line, are one of the best running teams in the NFL. Their success is because of guys who are strong and can get down field quickly to take on 2nd and 3rd line defenders. College coaches have realized this and the game now favors agile, versatile players. For some reason, the staff at Michigan hasn't realized this or refuses to accept it.

If Miles ends up in Ann Arbor, in this regard, my wish is twofold. I hope he keeps recruiting versatile players and implements a strength and conditioning program that takes advantage of this characteristic rather than eliminates it. Remember what Herbstreit said earlier this year - Michigan has cornered the market on making 4 and 5 stars slower. I'm confident with the success he's had at LSU using players like this, Miles will try and assemble a similar roster at Michigan.

Confident Play: From Bruce Feldman's article on LSU's win against Florida:

He scanned the room and observed his teammates talking about the No.1 Tigers' 28-24 victory, then looked back at the board. FOUR QUARTERS OF MEAN, NASTY, TOUGH ASS FOOTBALL. To Jackson and his teammates, those words serve as their mission statement. 'That is LSU,' he said. 'This is a four-quarters program.

LSU played with confidence throughout the game, even though the Tigers trailed until scoring the final touchdown of the game. On both sides of the ball, the players never looked frustrated or unsure of themselves. They played like they knew were going win and it was just a matter of time. The defense remained relentless even as Tebow stepped around on rushing lineman, found receivers open for 1st downs, and scrambled for a touchdown. The offense looked confident even with the interchangeable quarterbacks. The players in the huddle believed that they were going to succeed with Perrilloux or Flynn. I'm convinced Miles was as aggressive as he was because he had confidence in his offense and vice versa.
LSUs defenders looked natural in their movements. It never looked like the players were thinking about what they were doing or had to do, they just did it, almost instinctively.

Contrast that with the Wolverines against Eastern. Even after seeing the spread thrice this season, the defense looked tentative and unsure. The defense started slow and allowed EMU to stay in the game. Bradent Englemon was quoted as saying "I think we've gotten a lot better at understanding what types of plays we're going to get. We've definitely made strides in that area and have to continue to improve on that aspect of the game." It's half way through the season and this defense looks unsure of what it's supposed to do on individual plays. Literally, it looks like the players are evaluating a mental decision tree before reacting. Unfortunately, by that time, coupled with the lack of speed and athleticism, the opposition is in the endzone.

I'm convinced many of Michigan's problems are because of Carr's lack of confidence and this is well documented. I'm also positive he'd have botched the quarteback situation Miles had to deal with. Instead of taking advantage of Perrilloux's abilities, Carr would have gone with Flynn the entire game and, as a result, lost. Carr just doesn't seem sure of himself and is a terrible game day coach and this spreads to the players as well. One of the best things that can happen with Miles coming to Michigan is this program having a coach who is confident in his players and, more importantly, his own abilities.

Playcalling: Enough has been said of the playcalling at Michigan. If this were The Office, Lloyd Carr would be Michael Scott and Les Miles would be Ryan Howard. On last week's episode, Ryan comes back to Scranton to tell the employees how Dunder Mifflin is going to launch a new website, amongst implementing other technology, to help keep and gain new customers. Michael, fearing he is on his way out, decides to prove to Ryan that technology will ruin the business. To prove his point, Michael decides to win back lost customers with gift baskets that contain some of Scranton's finest food products. Needless to say, Michael is unsuccessful, ends up driving into a lake, while reminding the viewer that he is horribly unqualified for his job as regional manager. I don't think I need to tell you how this relates to Michigan football. If I do, just read the rest of Englemon's comments regarding the spread: "We try to stay in our base defense and make them adjust to what we do instead of trying to adjust to what they do..." Hey Lloyd, I'm sure there are a lot of local Ann Arbor businesses that have yummy things you can put in those gift baskets.

Don't let the Boyish looks fool you, Ryan Howard is a force

I'm going to wrap this up by saying that I'm a lot more in favor of Miles being Michigan's next head coach than I was a week ago. I'm also making an conscious effort to watch more LSU games until the season ends in order to get a better idea of Miles' coaching abilities. In the meantime, I've got my directions to Baton Rouge ready to go.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the Les Miles-Ryan Howard comparison. Although I'm somewhat on the Miles-Bandwagon (I still have a soft spot for Brian Kelly), your comparison brings up another point.

Ryan Howard is cold, heartless, and has never made a sale. I dont know where the rest of the Office season will go, but I get the feeling that Ryan's inability to understand people will come back to haunt him. How does that apply to Les Miles and football? Not positive, but you can draw some conclusions.

Is Les Miles like Ryan Howard? Yeah, to some degree maybe. Is the chatter surrounding his "loose morals" completely speculative? Prolly. Whatever the case, I agree that M needs to innovate. Gift baskets, while tasty and thoughtful, don't stop the spread offense.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous M - Flightsci said...

Does Ryan Howard enjoy a nice piece of saltwater taffy as much as Les Miles does?

3:48 PM  

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