bad at timeouts, still good at crootin [Fuller]
When this not-quite-monthly feature last ran at the end of June, Ohio State and Michigan occupied the top two spots, as expected, but Penn State languished in the bottom half of the conference rankings.
1. Ohio State
7. Michigan State
10. Penn State
Outside of the locked-in top two, the rankings saw considerable movement as many prospects looked to end their recruitment before the beginning of fall camp. No Big Ten program made more progress than PSU, which picked up seven commits since the last update. The current standings:
The conference is also settling into more clear-cut tiers, which I'll cover after the...
This was cool:
It didn't really work; Ohio State's NFL-bound defenders reacted quickly and beat their blocks, but I'm still drawing it up because it was a cool way to mess with the Quarters defense that our two biggest rivals, Ohio State and Rutgers (and Michigan State) run as a base.
Step 1: Play-Action Power
The first thing here is the power pull by the left guard, Braden (#71). That little bit of play-action is meant to get the linebackers reacting to pull, particularly the Sam, or "Star" in OSU's terminology (#43 Darron Lee), and the Mike (#5 Raekwan McMillan). These were two of the quickest linebackers (or in Lee's case hybrids) in the country last year, and the play's success depends foremost on flanking those two with offensive linemen, so getting them to take a false step to the their left is a big deal.
Peppers is set up a bit closer to the line of scrimmage than the QB, which is a key for the defense that Peppers will be coming across (not down), and threatening an outside run (or pass blocking but I think they knew he doesn't do that). His first step indeed is down and in, like he might do that. Then he holds up, at the same moment that Speight pulls the ball back to pass.
Step 2: Show a Tunnel Screen
Let's take a snapshot and see what the power did:
Not much. As soon as they read the pass the linebackers and DBs are all right back where they aligned. However the DL are aggressively getting upfield so they're playing along at least. Braden is set up to take the backside DT to wall off pursuit. The playside DE is allowed to come in free, another signal that the offense will try to run outside, and that holds that DE inside long enough that Peppers can outrun him to the slot.
As the ball goes to Darboh there, Ohio State's defenders start to react to what they're now reading as a screen that attacks the crease. This is a thing a lot of teams run against Quarters defenses because of how it messes with the 1-2 reads.
Remember how Quarters works:
One of the little confusing things you can do against quarters defenders is to stack your receivers or have them cross each other. The DBs have to read #2 to see if he's going vertical (play Cov 4) or horizontal (play Cov 2). Crossing receivers makes that read a little more difficult. Eventually the WRs separate and that's when the read determination is made, but it's still one more bit of analysis to cause paralysis.
The motion-to-stack-to-delay in the slot is messing with the quarters read, and true to form the CB and S stay back and read instead of attacking upfield.
Step 3: Swing out the Peppers
Meanwhile the linebackers are responsible for the RB—Peppers' outside release means the Star, Darron Lee ought to cover him. Michigan would like Darron Lee (the LB at the bottom of the screen) to try to make the play all by himself, meaning he's out of position and about to get walloped by Mason Cole, who's usually a really good downfield blocker. But Lee doesn't get fooled here either. When Darboh gets the ball, Lee races outside into the alley to be the force player.
But this is still fine—if Lee fights inside of Cole, the LB is dead. If Lee keeps leverage, Cole can still blast the much smaller player out of the lane. Glasgow meanwhile whooped past the nose tackle and may yet wall off McMillan.
The hope here is that in all the confusion, you'll catch the Buckeye defenders staying inside to squeeze down Darboh's running room. But they don't.
At the bottom-left you see Apple has defeated Grant's cut block. Lee is set up perfectly to force the run inside and not let Cole push him too far down to create space. Glasgow may be agile but McMillan is already past the hash and too quick to lose that matchup. However Glasgow did a good enough job to get out there that McMillan can't forget about him, which means there's still a lane to be had. And the playside DE, Lewis, has some agility—he checked Darboh then left him to keep pursuit hot—but he's not running down Peppers.
So Harbaugh's little tricky play has Peppers in space and able to pick the side of a Mason Cole vs. hybrid spacebacker block, with the MLB's pursuit too late squeeze down a hole. It's 6 yards before Apple's dodge of Perry fills. Had that block gone right, it'd be Peppers vs a safety who's coming down from the 50 yard line for a lot more.
It would have been fun to see this against a defense not of 2016 Ohio State's caliber. Anyway it's a good example of how Michigan's coaches were emptying the hat of ideas to find a few good matchups against a team they couldn't really play 11 on 11 with.
How’s the competition going?
“It’s going well. Typical camp stuff, so we’re supposed to keep it in house but everyone’s doing a good job. Everyone’s competing the way they should be. No one’s trying to back off. No one’s trying to give anyone any leeway. It’s just good, healthy competition.”
What’s the second camp [like] under Jim Harbaugh compared to the first one?
“Hmm. That’s a good question. Hold up with this. What he’s been stressing a lot is the toughness of it. The first camp, I think a lot of us were getting acclimated to his coaching style but the second one, now that we’ve been under his belt for a year-- even the young guys, they’re having to get this crash course in Harbaughism. I personally enjoy it. I’ve got no problem with it, but it’s definitely been an increase in I’d say intensity, maybe, is the best way to put it.”
Is it fun to watch the kids go through it the first time?
“Yeah! It’s always fun. Chris Evans is my roommate. I talked to him the first day of camp and I was like, ‘Hey, Chris. Ready for camp?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, dog. I’m so ready.’ I was like, ‘No, you’re not. You think you’re ready but you’re not. Just give it a couple days.’ But he’s doing well.
“I think all the freshmen are taking well, but there’s definitely those first few days where they’re like ‘What did I just get myself into?’ They’re adjusting well now. Everyone’s doing well.”
Is Chris working at running back and receiver or is he mostly at just running back?
“He’s been doing both. I kind of pay attention to him when he’s with us because we’re doing running back stuff. We get off from our play and we kind of huddle and talk about the play that just happened. I haven’t really seen him leave the running back huddle but if he has I’m typically not in the area where he would be there.I wouldn’t be surprised if he has.”
Jim said good things about him.
”Yeah, he’s a good guy.”
Jim said that about him as a player.
“Yeah, he’s athletic. Very athletic.”
You’ve been full go?
“Yeah, I’ve been through all the practices.”
Any discomfort with anything?
Have we talked to you since the forklift incident?
For those of us who weren’t there, talk a little bit about—I mean, how did that happen? Give us the rundown on that.
“You know, I was stretching at the track and there was a [claps] incident. But I’m not supposed to talk about it. Coach said chill on it so I’m gonna chill on it, but it was just an unfortunate incident. It happened. I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.”
[After THE JUMP: A rejected Charizard tattoo; fat man 7-on-7]
Greetings friends! We have been apart too long. Sorry, I meant to stop by for the thing, but I got busy and couldn't make it. Hope it went well. So, whatcha been up to?
As you may remember, every week we take a spirited jaunt through the Michigan schedule in an attempt to forage for useful information and hate-berries. The latter are plentiful. We just hope to scoop up a bit of the former in the process.
There has been no football yet, so for the next couple of weeks we're just going to take a quick overview of 2015 with a dash of a preview of the coming season. I also threw in some crootin' info, because what the hell. The bad news is that the first half of this preview is gonna be bleak. Not for Michigan, mind you. It's going to be a Bonus Area for Michigan, in which they will likely get to E. Honda hundred-hand slap the hell out of this lineup of old hatchbacks. But in terms of interest... yeah. Notsomuch.
About Last Year:
"Fans have a constitutional right to expect success and have high expectations" ~ James Joseph Harbaugh
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" ~Lao Tzu
"That step better not be to the inside, son." ~Jehu Chesson, I'm assuming
The Road Ahead:
Last year: 3-10 (0-8 MWC)
Recap: As usual, Hawaii was outstanding. Temperatures remained almost exclusively in the 80- to 90-degree range. Diverse inhabitants, flora, and fauna. The Hawaiian culture is distinctive, yet each island has its own particular character. Really a must-see.
Oh, the football team? No. No no no. My bad. The football team was an abomination. 120th in the country in F+ rating. Purdue-esque offensive yards-per-play numbers (rushing, passing, and total) despite being in the Mountain West. Their only wins were against UC Davis, UL Monroe, and Colorado. They were outscored 463 to 229. It is no wonder Hawaii decided to pull the plug on the Norm Chow experience after three and a half seasons yielded an 11-39 record (with a 4-28 record in the MWC). Their new coach is some guy. His team will be bad for at least as two weeks, which is as long as it will matter for Michigan fans.
The good news for Hawaii is… uh… **shuffles papers**… ah, yes, here it is. They have a good punter. Rigoberto Sanchez averaged over 45 yards per punt last year. And… well… did I mention the weather?
When last we saw them: Michigan is 2-0 against Hawaii all-time, with a 17-point win in 1986 and a 31-point win in 1998.
Crootin’: Keep scrolling, champ. 2016 rank: #104; 5-year ranking: #100
This team is as frightening as: A gentle ocean breeze. Fear Level = 2
Michigan should worry about: Hawaii will have a game under its belt before they play Michigan. Only one team will be working through the first-game kinks and jitters, and it won’t be the Rainbow Warriors.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Sleep. Literally. Hawaii has to fly to actual damn dingo-ate-my-linebacker Australia (a 10+ hour flight) to open their season against Cal. Then they fly back to Hawaii (another 10+ hour flight). Then they fly to Michigan a couple of days later (another 9+ hours in the air), then they play Michigan at noon Eastern, which is 6:00 a.m. Hawaii time. So, you’ve got a group of gigantic humans who don’t fit in airplane seats to begin with, you’re asking them to spend three half-days in the air through eleventy six time zones in the week and a half before the game, and then asking them to play a Harbaugh team before their bodies think it is time for breakfast.
When they play Michigan: Hawaii’s quarterback might ‘accidentally’ Moxon their Athletic Director six or seven times during the game.
[AFTER THE JUMP: It doesn’t get much better]
[I sat down shortly after the start of Mattison's roundtable.]
"Watching them this summer, you know, we're not allowed to be around them but I'm hearing what they've done and they've really taken care of business. They've worked really hard this summer, which shows that they have the same goals for their group as we do."
How many different places are you going to use Taco, or are you going to center in on one spot for him? And talk about what he brings to the table.
"The entire group of guys by their positions, tackle and nose, end is called 'end' or 'anchor', those are the two outside guys, they know that they have to know both positions. The reason for that is teams that trade the tight end, when you're an end you become an anchor, anchor becomes an end, that kind of thing, nose and tackle—and it helps us with our rotation. We've found this out over the years and it's happened more and more—teams that run spread offense, really one of the reasons they do that is if you have a really good defensive line or experienced defensive line, they try to wear them out, they try to get that defensive line to not have the impact that it would have in a game by taking a little bit of their gas away. So we want to have the ability to plug a lot of guys into different positions.
"Also I think whenever you are at a position and you know the other positions, you know better how to play it. I think the days are over where 'I am a this position and that's all I do,' and you're going to get in trouble doing that because all of a sudden somebody goes down or gets nicked up and you need to take the next-best guy and put him in somewhere. Experience helps you with that. These kids have heard the same techniques, the same expectations for three and four years, it's easy for them to slip into another position."
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
And Taco, talk about his contributions, speed and size, what he brings...
"Taco's got great leverage. He's a six-foot-five guy, so he's got long leverage, which allows you to keep separation. He plays very physical. He can run. He's an athlete, he was an outstanding basketball player. And he's got great experience now. He's played a lot of football since he's been here and now I think he really feels about about—you know, he's ready to really go."
[Hit THE JUMP for Mattison answering many questions that aren't Taco talk-abouts.]
BTN preview. BTN had their day at Michigan and came back with some video and some nonsense—on the television a person said that Michigan would be running a lot more man coverage, which is a literal impossibility. I'm not doing a recap post this year since specifics were thin; MGoVideo has the show up if you missed it.
The most interesting bit was Howard Griffith and then the rest of the crew advocating for Ben Bredeson to start immediately at left tackle because he is "elite":
Dave Revsine did have a couple of things of interest, including a Rashan Gary-Bredeson battle:
Nation's top recruit Rashan Gary in action pic.twitter.com/uo1EAHQQ6F
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
Bredeson got some rep at the UA game as the only guy who could even sort of slow Gary down, and here he sort of slows Gary down. Given the roster tackle reps for Bredeson are an inevitability—he can play it even if it's not an ideal spot and options past the starters are extremely questionable. Sufficient tackle reps to convince onlookers that Bredeson should play now are a bit of a surprise.
A bit more from Revsine:
Ben Bredeson has had a good day - has held his own against some talented guys.
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
Freshmen showing up during team drills. Gary with a sack, then Eddie McDoom with a TD grab - really turned on the jets
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
And yes Gerry DiNardo said some nice things. I can never take them seriously:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."
"How Michigan football returned to its smashmouth roots" was written before the 2013 season and remains the single least correct thing ever put on paper.
Let's infer things from this still shot. Via Chris Evans:
Two favorite things pic.twitter.com/NbFuIeDTaA
— Chris Evans (@Kidnplay_abc123) August 15, 2016
That appears to be ones versus ones. Items:
- David Dawson is at right guard. Kyle Kalis was spotted in a non-contact jersey earlier in fall camp so that's probably an injury issue rather than Dawson making a move past an established starter; he appears to be the top backup option at guard.
- Evans is in an H-back spot, not at tailback, His best fit on offense is as an OSU-style H-back in the vein of Jalin Marshall or last year's version Braxton Miller. While Michigan's offense doesn't have a dedicated spot like that, they did end up with a guy more or less in that role: Jabrill Peppers. With Evans impressing and Peppers around the offense figures to use a hybrid RB/WR guy on a lot of snaps, especially because you can do a lot worse than having De'Veon Smith block for you.
- Michigan is very spread out across the defensive line and features both Wormley and Gary at defensive end. Wormley is likely to split his snaps close to evenly between DT and DE; reports that Gary will start get another bit of weight to them.
- Pretty sure that's Peppers man up over a tight end I assume is Butt.
This is a good amount of data from a still shot.
It's a competition. All those #1 jerseys handed out? It's a competition like everything else:
“The one is not really given to me. Right now, I don’t really know what I’m wearing,” Crawford explained at Michigan’s Media Day. “I’m just wearing it right now, so we’ll see. There’s a couple players that want it. Whoever gets on the field first is going to get it.”
The hybrid space player breaks out. Excellent Andy Staples article on Jabrill Peppers and his ilk:
Since 2008, when the NCAA adopted the current clock rules and spawned an era of up-tempo offense, defensive coordinators have tried with little success to devise a system that can match up with an opponent who won't allow the defense time to substitute. The answer, it turns out, wasn't a scheme but a person. What those coordinators were seeking was a human Swiss Army knife, a player who can successfully operate on any of the defense's three levels and move effortlessly among them from play to play. With such a player on the field, a 4–3 base can morph into a 4–2–5 nickel without a single substitution or presnap move to tip off the quarterback. That 4–3 could also transform into (what appears to be) a blitzing 3–4 by walking the hybrid player to the line of scrimmage. Of course, the hybrid doesn't always have to blitz when he drops deep into the box (the area that encompasses the width of the offense's down linemen and extends about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage). He might bail and cover a receiver. Or he could come screaming off the edge faster than any defensive end or linebacker an offensive tackle has ever seen.
BC's Matt Milano, FSU's Derwin James, and Duke's Jeremy Cash are also this variety of hyper athletic linebacker/mean-ass safety. Read the whole thing for a picture of what Peppers's role will be this year.
Doctor Blitz. The Ringer's Jack McCluskey on Don Brown:
BC sent so many defenders into the backfield that it produced four players with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (no other team had more than two). Yet the Eagles failed to land a single player in the top 20 in that stat — they didn’t have transcendent talents like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (25.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks) or Penn State’s Carl Nassib (19.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks) inflating their numbers. Their best pass rusher, Matt Milano, led the team with 17.5 TFLs (tied for no. 21 nationally) and just 6.5 sacks (tied for no. 72 nationally).
And though the Eagles had been vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end in Brown’s first few seasons in Chestnut Hill, by Year 3 they got the personnel and the scheme to the point where they were solid on both ends. In 2013, Brown’s first year helming the defense, BC gave up 47 passing plays of more than 20 yards (tied for no. 97 nationally); in his last year, it gave up just 29 (tied for no. 10).
Someone is also using CFBStats.com, and well. That stat about 20 yard pass plays is clear evidence that Brown's reputation as an attack guy is warranted, and extends even to situations where his teams are getting burned on the back end as a result. Michigan probably won't have an issue as severe as BC 2013, but the Boring Old Jarrod Wilson days are probably behind us, for good and bad.
Hype hype hype hype. Michigan's gotten a lot of it this summer and there is naturally a tendency to check on this since Michigan hasn't been a truly elite team in a long time. (The Sugar Bowl was fun, sure, but if we're being honest that team was crazy lucky.) Dan Murphy analyzes the situation an article; he also gets a telling quote from Jake Butt:
“We were struggling with toughness our first few years,” Butt said about his underclassmen days under the former coaching staff. “Down the stretch of games when our backs were against the wall we struggled and we lost a lot of games. Coach Harbaugh identified this, and he made the changes necessary and it worked for us last year. I think it will continue to pay off for us going forward.”
Brady Hoke talked a lot about toughness but he wasn't having four-hour practices.
Injuries across the league. Michigan hasn't been hit yet, knock on wood. Others have not been so fortunate:
- Northwestern lost projected starting cornerback Keith Watkins II for the year.
- Indiana slot receiver J-Shun Harris is two thirds of the way to the Drake Johnson hat trick after tearing his second ACL in two years. Try to get the forklift incident out of the way quickly, I say.
- OSU DE Darius Slade tore his achilles and is out for the year; OL Malcolm Pridgeon is out three months with a knee issue. Neither guy was expected to start; both were likely on the two-deep. Let's get a newspaper commenter's take on the situation: "I BELEIVE THE BUCKS WILL BE VERY GOOD THEY ARE UNDER THE RADAR BECAUSE OF THE POTENIAL."
- All hell broke loose on the Iowa internets due to rumors of a CJ Beathard injury that remain unconfirmed. He was spotted in a knee brace.
Thing I don't care about anymore. Harbaugh blazing people on twitter was fun over the summer, but it's more or less football season now. Now we talk about football. I do not care about Harbaugh ending an interview early because Mark Snyder has the social grace of an autistic llama on PCP, or moistly goateed Jim Rome turning that into #content, or Harbaugh spending ten seconds of his life googling "Jim Rome Jim Everett".
It does not matter. Rich Rodriguez was nicer to the media than any Michigan coach ever has been or will be and they stabbed him in the back at every opportunity. The media read Goodnight Gorilla to Brady Hoke every night and Michigan fans still abandoned the stadium in droves rather than watch his offense-type substance. I don't think it's a negative. I don't think Ty Duffy's right when he says it's a positive:
Harbaugh has spent two years playing the pied piper and dropping the occasional crumb on social media. Every media member is talking about him. Every major college football coach is answering questions about him. He’s been forced to reveal nothing. He doesn’t demand media members go along with it. He knows they will.
Everyone is talking about Michigan. Harbaugh has kept everyone’s attention deflected away from Michigan’s quarterback battle, from Jabrill Peppers being poised for a breakout year, and from Rashan Gary arriving on campus as the No. 1 overall recruit.
Harbaugh has been “handling” the media, masterfully, since he arrived in Ann Arbor. The implication is that “the media” are going to turn on Harbaugh and somehow this fact will have some grave karmic implications for him. Spoiler: it won’t.
It's nothing. It is noise made by people who don't really understand what they're watching. Andy Staples doesn't care. He can write a thing about hybrid space players. Mark Snyder has nothing other than press conferences to live on because he's never cared to learn one thing about the sport he covers even after 20-some years.
Here's the thing: a large number of people like open contempt for sports press since so often they're contemptible.
This is not a problem for most fans because given the chance they'd stuff most of the media in a broom closet.
Anyway. This admittedly longish section is the last I'll mention it unless something really amazingly tone deaf happens.