Is Ferentz my worst nightmare?

I am a big Michigan football fan (which you would know if I actually spent time working on my about page) so the coaching search has captured a lot of my attention lately.

As my friend Brian at mgoblog has been talkingobsessing for days now, all the rumors are pointing to Kirk Ferentz as the next coach of Michigan. This isn’t totally out of left field, as when ESPN TV was talking about possible replacements he was one of the four guys named (along with Les Miles, Rich Rodriguez and Brian Kelly). Now at this point no “mainstream media” has picked this up which may or may not mean anything. As mgoblog mentions at one point, certain sources had said the deal was signed and sealed, but if that was true my gut says someone from ESPN or some Michigan newspaper would have called by now and asked and at least gotten enough info to make it public. Instead I continue to hope this is a sign that the deal isn’t done.

I am pretty against this at the moment because Ferentz is not the guy I want. Truth be told, I don’t know who that is. It’s easy to say Les Miles because he’s with a huge program and has been successful and seems established as a big time coach. At to it that he is a “Michigan man” and he seems more appealing. The fact that he is crazy and maybe often extremely lucky (see the Arkansas, Auburn, or Florida games for examples) doesn’t scare me as much as it does others. I think he should be given credit for not having quite as good of a team as people make it out to be. He has a wealth of talent, but his RB is a 2-star running back with zero speed. His star WR has been hurt on and off all season and has never seemed at 100%. His defensive star has been banged up the last few weeks and his senior QB has spent the last couple of years on the sideline. I am not saying that justifies 2-losses or anything, but it could explain some of the closer losses. Getting back to Ferentz though…

He has had three crappy years in a row (ok two crappy, one mediocre) most recently. Immediately prior to that he had won shares of two Big Ten titles and gotten to a BCS bowl. But in 9 seasons he is only 38-34 in Big Ten games (or about 4-5 wins per season). To put it into perspective, in his last nine seasons the much ostracized  Glen Mason went 31-41. One could argue it’s tougher at Minnesota. Plus I have heard the point made (at least once at mgoblog) that Ferentz had some easy Chicago recruiting during the Willingham era and before Zook came to U of I. I went to check this out and here is what I found (according to Rivals.com):

  • 2002: 0 Illinois recruits
  • 2003: 2 Illinois recruits (one 4-star, both from Chicago suburbs)
  • 2004: 1 Illinois recruit (5-star from Chicago suburb, appears to be from the same school as one of last years)
  • 2005: 6 Illinois recruits (one 5-star, four 4-star, 5 of them from Chicagoland)
  • 2006: 3 Illinois recruits (all 3-star or less, all of them from Chicago)
  • 2007: 3 Illinois recruits (one 4-star, two from Chicagoland)

Weis’ and Zook’s first seasons were 2005.  Rivals only goes back to 2002 so I assume that this coup of recruiting happened before that. It doesn’t look like he was raking in the Chicago recruits before those guys (in fact he did better after). During that timeframe though Ferentz’s recruiting classes only finished in the top 5 in the Big Ten (!) 2 out of 6 times. 2005 it finished 11th overall (again according to Rivals.com). That’s even MORE worrysome though because those recruits from the ’05 class should have been sophomores or juniors this year, which means that this years team shouldn’t have sucked so much. It looks like there have been some injuries but most of those guys haven’t panned out yet. It’s entirely possible that we would have learned more next season, which is ironic since there are people who think next year was Ferentz’s last chance to prove himself. Instead he might be bringing his mediocreness to A2 next year.

My biggest fear right now is that Michigan slips deeply in the middle of the road status. Take a look at Miami or Florida St. to see what I mean. Or the great ‘Bama teams of yesteryear. Is Ferentz the worst choice? No of course not, but this would not be the move you would expect college football’s all-time winningest team to make.

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