I thought about it all day. I wrote about it some in the recap of the football scrimmage, but it's still bouncing around in my head. The words still need to get out. I need to find a way to put this complete and total athletic overhaul into words.
Here's my Saturday. I walk into Ubben to watch the basketball scrimmage at 10:15. The players are going through position drills - all six of them. There were some walkons out there with them, but it was so alarming. Currently, there are six players on the team. Six.
Why six? Well, transfers. Last summer, Jalen Coleman-Lands transferred to DePaul and DJ Williams transferred to George Washington, which meant that we went into the season with 11 scholarship players instead of the normal 13. Then, after the season, one player graduated (Mark Alstork) and four more transferred. Well, three announced a transfer (Smith, Finke, and Lucas) and Leron announced he was forgoing his senior season to play professional basketball. So 13 becomes 11 becomes 6.
Where have we heard this before? On the other side of Kirby, of course. After his first season, Lovie had so many players depart that he went into his second season with 76 scholarship players (out of the max of 85) - he had maxed out his recruiting class but that only brought him to 76 players. Then, after this last season, 15 more players left the program.
Which meant that we went into the spring scrimmage with, by my count, 41 scholarship players participating. When you run the ones against the twos for a scrimmage (counting the kickers and the punters) you need 48 players just to play. And that's just to run two strings - when you sub in players you need way more than 48. So if we played 60 players yesterday it was 41 scholarship players and about 20 walkons.
Why so thin going into year three? Because this is a complete overhaul. I wrote about that several times after the season. At this point, Zook was still playing mostly Turner players and Beckman was still playing mostly Zook players and Lovie played 22 true freshmen and watched 15 inherited players transfer after the season.
Which, as I wrote yesterday, is why it's more or less a lost spring. That's not a bad thing necessarily - there's a reason, there's a goal - but combined with the six basketball players at Ubben, it's hard to find words to put into context. But I can try:
Lovie Smith now has 13 inherited scholarship players remaining. The average coach, at the beginning of their third season, would have around 35-40. Brad Underwood now has only two inherited scholarship players remaining (Aaron Jordan and Kipper Nichols). The average coach, going into their second season, would have 8-10.
I'm not talking inherited recruiting classes there, obviously. Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams were inherited recruits, as were the Bill Cubit recruits for Lovie. But just looking at inherited players, Lovie saw all that attrition in the first two years and now Underwood has seen six players choose to leave. Complete. And total. Overhaul.
Because it's happening to both programs at the same time you have to think that this was Whitman-encouraged. That's another thing I've written about many times yet haven't been able to properly put into words (yet). I believe Josh Whitman has told both coaches that they're inheriting a cultural mess and have all the room in the world to completely overhaul the roster and start over. Transfers aren't really mandated, I don't think, but when you're Te'Jon Lucas and you lose your starting spot to Trent Frazier and then the team is bringing in Ayo Dosunmu, you look to maybe get your minutes elsewhere.
Because it's very clear to me that both coaches want to play their own guys as soon as possible. We saw that with Lovie in his second season and I think we're going to see that with Brad Underwood in his. Big class, almost all of them get to play immediately. In the future, there will be redshirts and selective recruiting where the coaches are filling certain roster holes. Year two? Barely any upperclassmen (basketball will have one junior and one senior next season) and freshman take over everything.
Where does it all lead? Well, if it works, it's two completely rebuilt programs. The cupboards were bare, and even though it almost always guarantees losses, the second year, with the first full recruiting class, is a freshman adventure as the upperclassmen have found themselves on the bench (so they transfer) and the underclassmen dominate the game. Then, from there, year by year, slowly add pieces until the entire thing is rebuilt.
If it works we'll say it was brilliant. Both programs were going nowhere, the fired coaches left absolutely nothing to work with, so blow it up and start over.
If it doesn't work? I don't even want to think about it.