Michigan Improvement ’13: Turnovers

Among the many things that didn’t go so well in Michigan’s first season was the Wolverines’ ability to take care of the ball. In 14 games, Michigan turned the ball over 256 times (18.39 per game, good for 55th in the nation). Adjusted for pace of play, they turned it over on 55.4% of their offensive possessions, 53rd in the nation.

While both of those rankings are equal to (or better than) Michigan’s ranks in some of the other categories, the low marks certainly indicate that there’s room for improvement – and possibly quick improvement.

Who turned it over most?

I generally hesitate to point fingers at individuals in terms of strong negative stats (especially with Michigan’s first team, which was composed almost entirely of club-recruited athletes playing at the Division-1 level). However, to look at how much the number can be improved, we must look at where the improvement would come from.

Player Pos. Yr. GP Ass. + Shot +GBs TOs
Jeff Chu A So. 14 12 9
Zach Dauch A Jr. 8 15 11
Ryan Dutton-O’Hara A Jr. 9 15 5
David McCormack A Fr. 12 41 8
Will Meter A Fr. 14 69 23
Thomas Paras A Jr. 14 74 22
Trevor Yealy A 5th 14 94 17
Doug Bryant M So. 11 55 11
Jason Davis M So. 8 3 4
Willie Steenland M Jr. 13 58 37
Alex Vasileff M Sr. 14 57 10
Brian Greiner FO 5th 13 54 4
Jack Eisenreich DM Fr. 10 5 1
Brent Kirshner DM Sr. 7 5 1
Thomas Orr DM Fr. 13 4 3
Sean Sutton DM Jr. 14 8 4
Mack Gembis D Fr. 14 13 5
Rob Healy D Sr. 14 17 15
J.D. Johnson D Jr. 14 42 9
Dakota Sherman D So. 14 22 8
Austin Swaney D Sr. 14 34 6
Emil Weiss G Fr. 10 34 13
Dylan Westerhold G So. 7 11 8

Assists + Shots + GBs intended to give a rough view of how involved in the game players are. Obviously the aim is to have the ratio of that sum to turnovers be as high as possible. Only players who participated in at least half the games are included.

Of course, the expectations are different for each position, and even for different players within a position group. A defensive midfielder just isn’t going to have much offensive production, nor really pick up as many GBs as some others. However, we at least have a bit of context.

High Achievers:

  • FOGO Brian Greiner (13.50 touches/turnover)
  • Midfielder Alex Vasileff (5.70 touches/turnover)
  • Defenseman Austin Swaney (5.67 touches/turnover)
  • Attack Trevor Yealy (5.53 touches/turnover)
  • Attack David McCormack (5.13 touches/turnover)

Room for Improvement:

  • Midfielder Jason Davis (0.75 touches/turnover)
  • Defenseman Rob Healy (1.13 touches/turnover)
  • Defensive midfielder Thomas Orr (1.33 touches/turnover)
  • Attackman Jeff Chu (1.33 touches/turnover)
  • Attackman Zach Dauch (1.36 touches/turnover)

So, two of the least turnover-prone are departing fifth-year seniors. However, one must assume that a year of experience (two of the bottom five were freshmen) and an influx of talent could improve numbers across the board.

Who’s coming in?

Unlike Michigan’s previous recruiting classes, all incoming recruits will arrive (or in many cases, have already arrived) with the expectation of playing Division-1 lacrosse. It’s fair to assume that the talent level of the 2012 recruiting class is going to be an upgrade over much of what Michigan has.

Many of the incoming freshmen who played at Michigan’s team camp already impressed me – albeit against lesser competition – and some of those who I didn’t see in action (including midfielder Kyle Jackson, faceoff specialist Brad Lott, and defenseman Cooper Charlton) are among the most highly-touted players in the class.

Keep in mind that many players on Michigan’s team last year missed significant portions – or even all – of the year due to injury. That includes longpoles Nick Guerriero and Vince Strittmatter, and even starting goalie Emil Weiss was unavailable in four games, and limited in a few others.

Last year, it was impossible to pull players off the field for underperforming. There simply wasn’t the depth available to do it. Many of the same pieces are returning, and the Wolverines add a well-regarded freshman class and several players (hopefully) back to full strength. That gives more options, and more talent at the coaches’ disposal.


No other Division-1 program in the past few years has had a rags-to-riches first recruiting class like Michigan’s could be. Although Detroit started with a mostly club (from Michigan State) and unrecruited roster, the Titans’ first recruiting class didn’t have the accolades that Michigan’s 2012 group does. Jacksonville actually had an excellent first season (6-7) after a multi-year ramp-up.

The only recent program to improve turnover percentage from year one to year two is Mercer, which went from .662 turnovers/possessions to .611, an improvement of .051 points. With a talent influx, Michigan’s number should at least match that.

And it means?

This is one area in which there isn’t much evidence to point to and say “see, it’ll be better” for Michigan’s 2013 team. Two of the three recently added Division-1 teams actually got worse from year one to year two in terms of turnovers per possession. None of the other new programs have recruited as well as Michigan did in year one (though Jacksonville was the closest), so the talent and experience bump from year one to year two should be in the Wolverines’ favor.

Not in Michigan’s favor is a likely scheme change in the wake of offensive coordinator Judd Lattimore’s departure for Penn. However, the talent and experience upgrade should be more than enough to counteract that effect.

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8 Responses to Michigan Improvement ’13: Turnovers

  1. CKLaxalum says:

    I think Boston University will have the most comparable “rags-to-riches” recruiting experience (to that of UofM) for a first year team. Of all the recent/future new D1 programs, UofM and BU are the most similar in terms of location, student demographics, and academic profile…among other characteristics.

    • Tim says:

      Honestly, I think Michigan’s rags-to-riches situation is going to be unique when all is said and done.

      Boston U isn’t going to start from quite the low Michigan did – Boston University announced Feb. 14, 2012, and their first season is going to be Spring 2014. Michigan announced less than nine months before their first official game as a varsity program. While Michigan’s club program was clearly one of the best in the country, it obviously didn’t have quite the talent that it might have had if the Wolverines had a year or two to recruit as a D-1 program.

      ON the other hand, I think Michigan’s immediate upside is higher than Boston’s, as well (and not just because the improvement is more obvious from starting so low). Michigan’s coaching staff has already been recruiting the East Coast hard – and they’ll be quickly landing (and already have in many instances) the guys who had been telling them “Coach, I’d love to come to Michigan, but I want to play D-1” in the past. Of course, in Boston’s particular situation, it really depends on their coaching situation – which I believe is yet to be resolved, even though they had announced an intention to get it done by June – in terms of how they’ll recruit in the first couple years.

      Long term, the schools do have a lot of similarities, so from an institutional perspective, they have similar potential as programs.

    • Mike L says:

      Boston University may have a longer road (rags-to-riches) since its Lacrosse program does not have the athletic $cholarship option$ (and funding) available to it that U of M does. I believe U of M can grant 12.6, BU does not get to offer that many for like 5 years. Having said that, Villanova’s lacrosse program success is truly amazing since they do not offer lacrosse scholarships like the other top notch D-1 programs, yet they have done so well with a very small budget. So, maybe Boston U can take off like Villanova’s program has.

      • CKLaxalum says:


        1. Villanova didn’t improve until they increased their budget (also their previous long-time coach retired) and added scholarships in the last couple of years.

        2. BU will have full scholarships within 4 years from their program’s start. (First year 3, Second year 6, third year 9 scholarships)

  2. AndyD says:

    Tim is right. The first couple of years for Michigan really should be observed in a different light than what you normally see with a D1 startup. It will take a couple of years to get the roster up to D1 standards, and it will also probably take even longer to knock whatever club culture still exists. (Coach Paul is always talking about culture building, and if you read between the lines I think you can see that this is actually the biggest challenge for now.) These first 2-3 years that Michigan is playing through are what most other programs, Michigan’s women’s team included, use to just recruit and/or prepare before diving in to competition. It’s a really interesting experiment. It’s why I’m not going to start looking at their on-field results with any kind of hyper-critical eye until year or 3 or 4.

    Both Michigan and BU fit the high academic profile of the typical elite D1 lacrosse program (minus a small handful of exceptions). BU’s advantage is location. Michigan’s advantage, which they probably hold over pretty much everyone else in D1 lacrosse, is resources.

  3. Clark Bell says:

    No program should be looked at very hard until it has had a least one full class run through and even then programs of an early age are still finding their culture.

    While BU and Michigan each have a good reason to draw, they are completely different experiences. The “students” going to play lacrosse at either of these institutions are going for the education and college experience while playing lacrosse.

    You go to Michigan to get the education but also the big time college football that only Notre Dame and the Big Ten schools, (of the lacrosse community,) can give you. At BU there is the education but no football, (great hockey, yes.) But at BU you are in a vibrant east coast city with a ton of other things to offer. One of my kids went to each and both had incredible experiences.

    One thing that is the same is that both schools have arch rivals that have killed successful lacrosse programs. The BC lax alums must be besides themselves…..

  4. DCLaxFan says:

    As an East Coaster, I can tell you that UM and BU are completely different. UM has a stellar academic reputation nationwide that will draw recruits from private schools and the best public schools. BU doesn’t come close to UM in academic reputation, even on the east coast, much less the midwest. Second, while Boston as a city is a big draw, so is Ann Arbor as a college town. The difference is that recruits from around the country will consider A2, while BU won’t get a national draw. Third, as Clark Bell notes, Michigan has a name brand athletic tradition. BU doesn’t. These three factors will give UM the potential to get real good in lax real soon. There’s no guarantee that will happen, but UM is more likely to be a top 25 team by its fourth year than BU.

  5. CKLaxalum says:

    DC, my point was that of all the new (known at this time) D1 lacrosse programs in recent/coming years, UofM and BU will probably prove to be the two that are most alike. Of course the two schools aren’t an exactly equal comparison (public vs private among many other differences), but that wasn’t the point. Both schools also share several other demographic similarities, especially when compared with most other colleges/universities.

    I’m quite familiar with Boston and New England and I can tell you that UofM and BU aren’t quite as “completely different” as you think. UofM is generally regarded as a Top 25 institution with BU generally placing in the Top 50. Also, BU absolutely has nationwide student appeal (20% from MA whereas MI draws the most nationally for a public school, but still has 65-70% instate students).

    The city of Boston, as well, is a huge draw for students from all over the country. Although UofM has tremendous east coast appeal (for a state university), the facts are that more east coast students will choose to stay in their region rather than go to school in a different part of the country. Likewise with students in the Midwest, West Coast, etc.

    I agree that UofM will most likely have a higher ceiling (Top 10) than BU, but BU probably won’t be too far behind (Top 25).

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