|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Ben Gedeon||Sr.||Mike McCray||Jr.*|
|Noah Furbush||So.*||Mike Wroblewski||Jr.*||Devin Bush||Fr.|
|Josh Uche||Fr.||Elysee Mbem-Bosse||Fr.||Jared Wangler||So.*|
The old guard had been around forever—Desmond Morgan started as a freshman and had an injury redshirt in there—and is now gone. In their stead there is… well, a guy. Michigan's linebacker recruiting in the Hoke era was a major failing, so after one guy they've mishandled and one guy who narrowly evaded a career-ending injury there's freshmen and the only non-Order-of-St.-Kovacs walk-on on the two deep.
Could get hairy if anyone can get to these guys on the ground or protect their quarterback long enough to get 'em in the air. So probably not that hairy. Still, along with the offensive line and quarterback, linebacker stands out as a position at which things could go pear-shaped.
On the other hand, Peppers. He's actually in this post!
STRONGSIDE LB: HYBRID SPACE ASSASSIN
WOOOO! [Bryan Fuller]
Oh hey, it's JABRILL PEPPERS again. He's taken the baton from Jake Butt when it comes to posting shirtless jugs machine exploits:
Seen this on IG.. Had to try it lol harder than I thought pic.twitter.com/ZvLZRjfLhM
— JP5 (@JabrillPeppers) August 6, 2016
And this year he hopes to refine his immense talent into a TFL and PBU machine.
One part of his game is already flawless and has been so from the drop. He was a bonafide hybrid space player from his first snaps against Utah. Any sort of swing, flare, or screen to the wide side of the field was going to die horribly. Peppers was truly, literally unblockable in space. He'd slow up, pick his moment, and just explode past the wide receiver who drew the short straw:
Three times in this game Peppers destroyed plays that attacked the wide open spaces he is set to patrol. If Michigan can rely on that, those passes across the middle that open up because of bubble fakes get removed along with the screens; it's kind of a big deal to be able to do that.
The utter consistency with which this happened became a defensive bellwether. I eagerly awaited the moment when the offensive coordinator got fed up with having zero access to a big chunk of his playbook and said "screw it." One snap later the OC was reminded why he wasn't doing this:
There was an internet item purporting to show that Peppers missed 20% of his tackle attempts; you can mostly ignore that. A Peppers missed tackle was often something a lesser player wouldn't even get an attempt in on.
Blocking someone with his explosiveness on the edge is a futile task. This is a screen that he turns in barely outside the hash and still gets a tackle in on, because he can wait until the proper moment and just explode past the guy who drew the short straw:
Peppers gets places fast and brings a pop when he gets there. Sometimes he makes the play himself and sometimes he allows others to rally to make it, because he's constricting space that other guys cannot.
I say "mostly" because Peppers does need to refine a few things. He has a bit of Brandon Harrison disease wherein he gets going so dang fast that he overruns his target, and his tackling form could use some work. But even when he missed a tackle last year he funneled things back to his teammates.
As Peppers moves inside more often this ability will serve him well. There was a spate of tiny linebacker articles over this offseason, and this one from The Ringer highlights that Peppers evasion thing:
The key to smaller linebackers surviving in a land of 330-pound giants isn’t taking them on in single combat; it’s anticipating movements to avoid combat altogether.
“Those guys seem to make their living not by getting off blocks, but by never getting blocked,” Snead says. “They’ve got to read things quickly so they can use their deficiency to their advantage.”
There was the occasional indicator that Peppers would be able to continue his uncanny ability to blow past blockers even as space gets constricted. Here he reads the play and simply redirects past a fullback assigned to him:
His explosion is such that he can dart around blockers to the "wrong" side so fast that he makes it right. He makes all that Joe Bolden stuff work, and that'll be key when he is faced with much larger opposition.
We have some evidence what Peppers will look like as a linebacker. He was in the box on scattered snaps. He was kept clean, for the most part, and Peppers showed an ability to read and react. This isn't hard, but we don't have much else to go on:
Against UNLV he lined up as a Jake Ryan-style SAM on the line of scrimmage and did a good job to push the play back inside.
He was used as a blitzer very occasionally, and looked much like he did whilst erasing screen games nationwide. He's fast and brings a load and often comes in too hot to get a clean shot.
If he does get a free run at a blindside target an Oregon State receiver can tell you what the likely outcome is:
Peppers has the potential to force a ton of fumbles.
When Peppers is an actual SAM linebacker and not reprising his hybrid space player role, Plan A is keeping Peppers clean by demanding double teams for the SDE; Plan B is Peppers blowing the minds of linemen and blocky/catchy guys with his ability to do make something conventionally understood to be wrong work for him.
Peppers's coverage is still somewhat in question. He had issues early trying to defend horizontal double moves. That first impression lingered, and then the big bad thing against Penn State hammered it home for a lot of folks:
Peppers was rough early, no question. He was much better at playing press man as an outside corner, where he could set up to the inside and just run with his dude.
He developed over the course of the year. By midseason he was racking up some physical PBUs, usually when he was allowed to set up in press:
He was still a bit iffy in the slot but started making it difficult for guys to get in their routes, and he started making the occasional play in off man. The Penn State debacle is evidence enough that his coverage is still a work in progress, but in this case we really do mean "work in progress" instead of "permanent problem" as people so often do when they deploy that phrase. His improvement should be obvious. He won't be perfect but slot receivers aren't going to get the best of him for much longer.
Peppers also has upside as a safety. He's obviously kind of a big deal in run defense, and his speed allows him to get over the top of deep routes even when he lines up close to the line of scrimmage.
Peppers can and will do a half-dozen different things on D. You'll see him as a SAM, as a nickel, as a strong safety, as a boundary corner as Michigan tries to put out fires and exploit mismatches. Boston College SAM Matt Milano is a good baseline: 60 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 3 PBUs a year ago. Peppers is around the same size and much more athletic. (I have no idea how athletic Matt Milano is and I'm sticking with that assertion.) I'd expect more pass defense stats and not so many TFLs since the DL will eat up their share, but as I said on the other side of the ball his omnipresence should lead to a bunch of stats both ways and a Heisman finalist slot.
[After the JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! Probably!]
Ace, David, and I traveled to Wayne State last Saturday to take in part of the annual Prep Kickoff Classic. As they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men often get delayed by storms for almost three hours and force you to sit in a
sauna press box wondering if the game will be canceled. I may have altered the saying to fit the situation.
Anyway, the Martin Luther King v. Southfield game started late and ended early for both Ambry Thomas and your intrepid MGoScouts, and that’s no coincidence. Thomas cramped up at the end of the second quarter and exited the game. Trainers worked on Thomas extensively, and he appeared as though he was ready to enter the game early in the third quarter. When Thomas tried to get up from the bench, which he was using to keep his leg elevated, his coach told him to sit back down. With a 27-0 lead coming out of the half, there was no reason to let him re-enter. By the second time his coach help the stop sign up in his face, we knew both of our days were done.
There was still plenty to take in during the first half. Thomas shadowed three-star receiver Brandon Gray to great success; he also had over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, and that total could have been three if he wasn’t tripped up near the goal line on a screen pass he took 60+ yards and overthrown in the end zone once after putting a nice move on the DB.
On the other side of the ball, Sam Johnson cemented his status as a rising sophomore. He caught Ace’s eye last year, and the 6-4 potential Michigan target did so again this year thanks to his improvement in areas of relative weakness last season.
[After THE JUMP: Thomas highlights and a multi-player scouting report]
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Rashan Gary||Fr.||Ryan Glasgow||Sr.*||Chris Wormley||Sr.*||Taco Charlton||Sr.|
|Lawrence Marshall||So.*||Bryan Mone||So.*||Maurice Hurst||Jr.*||Chase Winovich||So.*|
|Carlo Kemp||Fr.||Michael Dwumfour||Fr.||Matt Godin||Sr.*||Reuben Jones||Fr.*|
Holy pants, you guys. This is bar-none the best situation Michigan's had at defensive tackle since… I don't know. Probably since scholarship limits came into effect. Michigan has three guys who should go in the top few rounds of the NFL draft, plus a Tongan who was generating more hype than any of them before an injury robbed him of his 2015 season. And on top of that they've got a fifth-year senior who's been productive and would be a strong rotation contributor on any Michigan DL of the last ten years.
Just stay healthy. Knock on all available wood, ladies and gentlemen, that Michigan will get to the Ohio State game without having to unearth Michael Dwumfour.
NOSE TACKLE: DAMMIT IF YOU DOUBT A GLASGOW YOU HAVE ONLY YOURSELF TO BLAME
No. Shut up. Stop it. I know Harbaugh said that thing. I still insist that you cease flapping your mandibles about in some misguided attempt to denigrate the play of Ryan Glasgow, who yes was a walk-on upon his arrival but is no longer. Glasgow was long ago awarded the Order of St. Kovacs and if you insist on talking about Bryan Mone even an instant longer I will have no alternative but to unlock his cage. A cage for robot Vikings.
You still doubt, sir? Reap the pointy-helmeted whirlwind:
Glasgow was good as a sophomore, when he ascended to the top of the depth chart in front of former five-star Ondre Pipkins. Pipkins was coming off an injury, so people assumed that was a temporary thing. It was not. Glasgow held up in the run game excellently but provided close to zero pass rush, and that was fine with Frank Clark coming off the edge a ton. Michigan used Glasgow as a screen or draw spy frequently of the time, and coped with the fact that he wasn't having much impact in that department.
Then Glasgow got better, DJ Durkin deployed a ton of stunts, and dude blew up.
|1||Utah||7.5||2||5.5||Added interior pass rush.|
|2||Oregon State||6||2||4||Partially culpable on first big run, otherwise good.|
|3||UNLV||11||11||Two very impressive TFLs.|
|4||BYU||13||13||Just wrecked BYU's C.|
|5||Maryland||7.5||3||4.5||Slightly off day.|
|6||Northwestern||15||1||14||This poor damn center.|
|7||MSU||8.5||2||6.5||Blown out once, otherwise Glasgow.|
|8||Minnesota||17||1.5||15.5||This will be a trend.|
|9||Rutgers||2.5||2.5||Injured relatively early.|
Glasgow alternated solid performances with center-wrecking exhibitions until leaving for good on a harmless-looking tackle early in the Rutgers game. The previously nonexistent pass rush showed up in a major way. Against Utah he ripped his way past their center more than once, and by Northwestern he'd started deploying a deeply unfair technique scouting sorts call "push-pull" where you blast the dude in front of you as hard as you can, then grab his jersey and rip him forward.
Glasgow wasn't quite dominant enough to rack up a ton of counting stats; no longer was he sitting back and waiting for screens. He forced a lot of scrambles and helped other guys get their numbers, especially as a dangerous man in Michigan's stunt game. Despite the lack of stats PFF had him the #18 pass rush DT in the country a year ago, a huge step up.
Meanwhile he was a rock as a run defender. He's explosive and he's smart as hell. After he and Hurst spearheaded the goal line stand against Minnesota, Adam got a brief one-on-one with him. Michigan won that game largely because Glasgow read the Gophers' intentions on the last two plays:
I really want to talk about isn’t the last play but the second to last. When they motioned what were you thinking, and did you expect that to happen?
“I mean, you can kind of tell by an offensive lineman’s demeanor what kind of play to expect, and they were all in loaded stances the whole game when they were coming off a run and they were sitting back. I was kind of confused at first when they were in their tight bunch set and everyone’s like really close splits but didn’t look like they were ready to fire out."
Over the course of the year guys will vacate their gaps or a rush lane and open it up for the opposition; I don't have a single clip from last year in which a Glasgow mental error was worth noting. Like his brother, Glasgow thinks the game at an advanced level.
While he's not 330 and occasionally succumbed to a double team his terrific technique allowed him to stack and shed most single blocking. Guys got hurled to the turf:
And not just jabronis from Minnesota:
With his stamina and lightning quick penetration I started comparing him to a star nose tackle of recent vintage. After BYU I compared him to Mike Martin thanks to plays like this:
I was chided for this take, and now I will have my revenge. Glasgow's Martin vibe only got stronger as the year went on and he blasted through and knifed past OL after OL. After Maryland:
Meanwhile, Glasgow did not have a day that was spectacular statistically (just one tackle) but contributed to the general defenestration of the Maryland offensive line. We talked about his crazy ability to pursue on that Delano Hill TFL. There was a also a screen on which he made a tackle outside the numbers after getting knocked over. His range and endurance are major assets.
The first play linked in that section is worth an embed:
That is simply absurd mobility from a 300-pound nose tackle. The only other guy I've seen play the spot and regularly involve himself with plays outside the hash marks was, yes, Mike Martin.
By midseason UFRs had a section in which Glasgow was praised in ever more fulsome terms. Oregon State:
Right now not so much. Glasgow has built on a promising first year as a starter and is now a highly consistent, disruptive interior DL. He's got a great feel for the game. Here he catches a downblock and rips through it almost automatically:
I don't think he even bothered to look at that guy.
Glasgow is capable of blowing guys up with raw power as well…He has terrific endurance and has even added a little pass rush this year. Michigan is lucky to have him.
Dude is elite. … He is playing out of his damn mind. Last year he'd flash talent and battle most of the time; this year he is violently discarding anyone put in front of him.
Like Hurst, his explosive upfield motion was occasionally used against him, but as you can see in the chart above minuses for him were close to nonexistent.
Glasgow was the linchpin of a ridiculous run defense, and it drove off a cliff immediately after his injury. Michigan gave up 864 rushing yards in nine games with him and 725 in four games without him; their yards per carry plummeted from third nationally to 26th. That's partially on Durkin's inability to deal with spreads and is still a stark reminder of just how important Glasgow was to last year's team.
Goals for Glasgow this year include "stay healthy," which is 1-100, and then to get that increment better so that his rushes that were previously effective at making the quarterback uncomfortable become rushes that deposit Glasgow's helmet into the quarterback's midsection. He'll be elite against the run. I'm loathe to project postseason accolades for a position that often gets overlooked so people can throw four DEs on the All Big Ten team, but Glasgow will absolutely deserve them on his way to the second or third round of the draft.
[After the JUMP: four more potential/extant dudes. And Jabrill Peppers! Really! He's the very next thing!]
QB having a bad time [Bryan Fuller]
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Rashan Gary||Fr.||Ryan Glasgow||Sr.*||Chris Wormley||Sr.*||Taco Charlton||Sr.|
|Lawrence Marshall||So.*||Bryan Mone||So.*||Maurice Hurst||So.*||Chase Winovich||So.*|
|Carlo Kemp||Fr.||Michael Dwumfour||Fr.||Matt Godin||Sr.*||Reuben Jones||Fr.*|
Amongst other far more important things, DJ Durkin's departure means the end of the irritating "buck" terminology. Michigan spent all off-season talking about this crazy DE/LB hybrid who would do all sorts of things at the WDE spot. They tried that against Utah, discovered that Mario Ojemudia was as good a linebacker hybrid as Craig Roh, and settled into a completely standard 4-3 for the rest of the season. (Yes, Michigan was "multiple" as all defenses are; all non 4-3 sets were exotic changeups.)
Michigan will continue with a bog-standard 4-3 this year, especially after Taco Charlton officially moved to weakside end in fall camp. There's zero reason to drop any of Michigan's defensive ends into coverage except as a very rare curveball.
Because when they are in coverage they are not feasting on souls, as one does.
WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END: IN SOVIET RUSSIA, TACO EATS YOU
Ah, screw it.
a bad time [Eric Upchurch]
TACO CHARLTON doesn't have the kind of returning production that generally warrants a FIVE out of FIVE ranking in this here preview, but counting stats, man. Counting stats. Because of the "buck" dream, Charlton got locked behind Chris Wormley until late in the year despite performing excellently in limited opportunities. This persisted so deep into the season that James Ross was called on to play WDE against Minnesota. It went badly; Charlton finally got a run out at his destination this season in the aftermath.
So while Charlton acquired a modest 5.5 sacks and 8.5 TFLs, that was on just 43% of Michigan's snaps. A version of Charlton who gets 75% of Michigan's snaps instead of 43% has a 10 sack, 15 TFL season(!). And extrapolating those numbers linearly may actually understate his production: PFF has him the #1 returning end in pass-rush productivity. Number one. As in there are no better numbers to be:
After compiling only 11 pressures on 120 rushes in 2014, Charlton notched six sacks, nine QB hits, and 26 hurries (41 total pressures) on 229 rushes last season.
The #1 pass rush DE in the nation is almost certainly optimistic, but Charlton isn't an average player trying to get better. He's a very good player who is about to inherit a bunch more snaps.
In addition to already being pretty good, Charlton retains considerable upside. He didn't redshirt because reasons. He came to Michigan with a reputation as a sushi-raw moldable athlete, and despite making massive progress over the last three years the NFL still looks at him in the same way. Brugler:
Charlton certainly passes the eye test with a tall, long frame with a moldable body type to bulk up or slim down. … With his combination of strength, length and long-striding acceleration, there aren't many college offensive tackles who can control him, but scouts are looking for improved hand use at the top of his rush. Regardless, the traits make him a very attractive lump of clay that NFL teams will want to develop.
NFL.com listed Charlton amongst the top NFL prospects to watch going into this season because of his "freaky athletic traits and functional power to go with them".
Charlton can be capital-E Elite because his package of speed around the edge…
…and pocket-crushing strength…
…adds up to a tough handle for most OTs. Charlton's mostly a power rusher; the speed is more about getting to OL quickly and then using that power. He doesn't go around guys, but he's able to get upfield fast enough that a rip back inside is extremely viable.
He was also agile enough to deploy the occasional spin move in this situation. His combo of speed and power also made him a valuable bit of Michigan's stunt game a year ago. He was able to get to the point the drive man cleared out and power through an out of position OL with frequency. Charlton brings raw power not far off Hurst and Wormley; many of his rushes last year featured him pushing the pocket closed.
ESPN has a good summary:
Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. Shows above average torso flexibility and strength to work through blockers while engaged. Keeps his feet and hands moving throughout. Flashes a quick inside move to cross the OT's face. Developing an effective push-pull move late in 2015. Lacks elite speed off the edge but shows above average closing burst. … Has some shock in hands. Should continue to improve array of pass rush moves because he has the required violent hands.
Brugler says he can "convert his edge speed to power before blockers are able to sink and anchor" and praises his overall strength and power before critiquing his hand usage. You can't teach the former. You can teach the latter.
The flip side of Charlton's remaining potential is the fact that he's not quite there yet. When we get to Ryan Glasgow in a bit I'll note that I didn't clip anything resembling a mental error from him over the course of the season. The same cannot be said for Charlton. Here he's to the top of the Michigan DL and seems to forget that he's part of a stunt and needs to contain Hackenberg:
He would occasionally hesitate, unsure of what to do, and get blocked as a result. He wasn't great at keeping smaller guys away from his knees. He was more prone to pick up a minus than Wormley or Glasgow. ESPN's profile notes that Charlton "needs to be more disciplined with gap assignments" and is "occasionally late locating the ball," and both of those critiques are on point. When NFL guys note his rawness they're not wrong.
Or at least they were not wrong when talking about Charlton's junior year. After a spring where he was close to unblockable and a fall camp that generated torrents of hype, it's clear everyone around the program expects him to blow up. That includes Charlton himself:
When you’re rushing against [Bredeson], not to say that he gives you problems, but is there anything that he does that maybe is a challenge for you, specifically?
I don’t want you to dog a guy, but what is it he does that’s good?
“He’s a guy who has good hands, strong hands. Once he latches on to you he does cause problems getting off. But for me…”
Meanwhile the insiders are like dang. Lorenz says Charlton is "in line to blow up"; Webb has repeatedly referenced Charlton, not Wormley or Glasgow or Hurst or Mone, as Michigan's most impressive defensive lineman in fall camp. It's to the point where Webb is talking about Chris Wormley like this:
The newly crowned captain has taken his game up a notch, and after Charlton he has arguably been the top performing defensive lineman.
If Taco Charlton is better than Chris Wormley this year, quarterbacks might as well show up wearing a jersey that reads "MEAT PASTE."
It's tough to project Charlton's numbers since there are only so many counting stats to go around and Michigan's entire front seven will clamor for them. Really good DEs can get shut out through vagaries of circumstance—Bosa had just five sacks a year ago. Charlton should get a ton of pressures, many of which turn into numbers. Double digit sacks are a strong possibility, and those TFL numbers should easily crest double digits and approach 20. He won't last long in the draft.
[After THE JUMP: Some guy. Rashad? Something like that. ]
Not that this will stop the boo birds, but this post has no drafting—it's the informative portion where we discuss what this exercise tells us about the Big Ten this year. User trueblueintexas already beat us to the punch on this if you want more thoughts.
Previously on Draftageddon:
Rounds 1-2: A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (M players: Peppers, Lewis, Butt)
Rounds 3-4: An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
Rounds 5-6: A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue J.J. Watt. (Charlton, Hurst)
Rounds 7-8: Hodor. (Mone, Darboh)
Rounds 9-11: We go on a mini Iowa binge, and Brian takes a true freshman (YTTF).
Rounds 12-14: A grueling three-rounder with safeties, RBs, and MSU legacies flexing. (O'Korn, Braden).
Rounds 15-16: We break out laughing at Tommy Armstrong. (Dymonte, Kenny Allen)
Rounds 17-18: Cheese and tackles. (Magnuson, Delano Hill)
Rounds 19-20: Tight ends, a boring Iowa safety, and Brian finally believes a Michigan coach quote over his own eyes. (Stribling)
Rounds 21-22: Slot Receivers (but no Grant Perry sorry)
Rounds 23-26: Shot through four rounds just to get done. (Clark, De'Veon, Speight, Kalis)
Click for big on these:
[Hit THE JUMP for what this all means and to share your thoughts on the conference this year. Also feel free to share any feelings you have about Draftageddon in the Kaepernick thread.]
|Ben Bredeson||Fr.||Ben Braden||Sr.*||Mason Cole||Jr.||Kyle Kalis||Sr.*||Erik Magnuson||Sr.*|
|Grant Newsome||So.||David Dawson||Jr.*||Patrick Kugler||Jr.*||Michael Onwenu||Fr.||Nolan Ulizio||Fr.*|
Michigan's line took a quantum leap in 2014, going from a flaccid crew of confused gibbons to pleasingly mediocre. Last year's edition of this post positively marveled at the fact that these gentlemen got in the way of the opposition frequently enough to be average-ish:
It got better. It really did. The OL nadir is in the past. We can come out of the bunker and rebuild society now.
That assertion was based both on my charting and a bunch of stats, many of them of the advanced line variety. Advanced line stats make total guesses about assigning credit and blame between tailback and line but they're worth peeking at in case they tell a story. Michigan's 2015 stats are mostly about treading water:
|Year||Adj Line Yards||Opportunity Rate||Power Success||Stuff Rate||Adj Sack Rate|
Michigan was less likely to get tackled for loss and less likely to get the 5+ yard carries that opportunity rate tracks. Those were a wash as Michigan's line yards stayed static. Contrary to your memories of the OSU game, pass protection took a big leap forward.
A certain level of treading water is expected when a new coach with a new, complicated system arrives. With four starters back and Mason Cole moving to his natural position, a step forward is likely. It's just that fifth guy who gives pause…
An Editor's Note About Charts
With four returning starters you're going to see a bunch of charts derived from last year's UFRs. Here's how to read them:
|Game||Opponent||+||-||TOT||Pass -||Error Rate||Comment|
|1||Utah||5||8||-3||5||8%||Guy did X|
Game and opponent are self-explanatory. The +, –, and TOT columns are my evaluations of how the player did when run blocking. Keep in mind that zero is not good, or even average. It is the nature of the beast that any successful run has many successful blocks; many unsuccessful ones are submarined by a single error. We're looking for a 2:1 positive-negative ratio to be decently successful. A future pro might be more like 3:1 or 4:1.
"Pass –" is derived from the protection minuses in UFR. Two protection minuses are approximately equivalent to one sack or severe hurry. "Error rate" is the number of protection minuses divided by the number of available protection points. The above line is Ben Braden's from the Utah game, in which he was almost 1:2 in run plus/minus and had protection errors on 8% of snaps. That's terrible; the good news is that Braden got better.
TACKLE: JUST A GUY WOULD BE FINE THANKS
present, he said [Brian Fuller]
Senior ERIK MAGNUSON was thrust into the lineup too early as one the umpteen guys tossed into the maelstrom of the 2013 offensive line. He was a guard then; the next year he played some there and, after an injury cost him his job, as a blocking tight end. Last year he got flipped out to tackle.
There he... well, he was there. He was neither forceful nor overrun. He didn't shut down elite pass rushers or get blown through by mediocre ones. His UFR chart from last year is decidedly sparse when compared to Cole's:
|2||Oregon State||5||0.5||4.5||0||0%||Not as involved as others but got his job done.|
|3||UNLV||6||6||0||0%||Clean positive sweep from the OL.|
|4||BYU||2.5||3||-0.5||0||0%||M clearly left-handed when it wants to rely on tackles.|
|5||Maryland||4||4||0||2||4%||Clear left handed bias again.|
|6||Northwestern||6.5||1||5.5||4||10%||End of game was pretty.|
|7||MSU||3||2||1||3||7%||A little frustrated with his second level blocking.|
|8||Minnesota||5||1.5||3.5||1||2%||Good day for him although M is clearly left-handed.|
|9||Rutgers||3||4.5||-1.5||0||0%||Not real good on perimeter.|
|11||PSU||3||3||4||6%||Also took advantage of weak edge.|
|TOTALS||55||29||26||24||4%||65% run blocking|
It's not so much that Magnuson didn't execute, it's that he wasn't called on to do much. He's right around our run-blocking Mendoza line thanks to some good days against the overmatched bit of the nonconference schedule. 24 pass protection minuses over the course of a season isn't anything to write home about, but Cole's maturation and Magnuson's move to tackle are the top two reasons Michigan's pass blocking got a lot better a year ago. When I started to talk about the OL individually in the middle of last year this was the conclusion:
Magnuson is [just a guy] right now. He's okay at blocking. They don't run to him very much. There are not many plays on which he has a big role and that seems to be about half Cole and half Magnuson. He is the Jarrod Wilson of the offensive line.
He's boring. We appreciate this immensely, because we are well aware of the alternatives to boring after the past half-decade.
It's maybe a little disappointing that Magnuson seems to be topping out at boring. I usually pick out the particularly good or bad plays to embed in these previews; Magnuson doesn't have anything to embed either way. On the ground I had him for zero +2 blocks a year ago and one –2 block. Part of the reason he doesn't have a lot of magnitude in that chart above is that he usually does something completely adequate and not that notable. When he does score a plus it's frequently for excellent awareness. Here he reads a blitz and manages to redirect enough to hit the linebacker who would otherwise be burying Smith in the backfield:
When Magnuson does move a guy it's usually because the guy is already moving. He was good at reading and staying attached on slants in Michigan's zone game; a bunch of cutbacks opened up last year because he was able to shove a guy past his intended destination.
This is a power play but it's the same principle and from a camera angle that makes it very clear:
The other times Magnuson moves a guy is because he's already engaged with Kalis:
Magnuson was effective at doubling a guy and popping out to the second level.
These are all real assets. They are offset by what I described as a "lack of oomph" after the Indiana game. Magnuson is not likely to get drive in a one-on-one block, and occasionally he ends up looking a bit… finesse.
That play was an outlier but I don't have anything in the way of a one-on-one drive block in an entire season of clips. This is an area he should get incrementally better in since he's got another year of weight training behind him; the time for big leaps forward is likely past.
Not everyone is as indifferent as this space was. CBS NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler called him a "legitimate NFL prospect" and "one of the top ten senior offensive tackles in the country."
...moves with a smooth shuffle and wide base, transferring his weight well in his kickslide to mirror edge rushers. He stays low off the snap and prefers to use his hands to control the point of attack to out-leverage and out-power defenders. Magnuson is able to secure downblocks and anchor at shallow depth, driving his legs to finish in the Wolverines' power offense.
I disagree with this take, but it's out there. NFL.com's Chad Reuter told Mike Spath that Magnuson could work his way into the first or second round with a good 2016; I disagree with that take as well… but it's out there.
Magnuson was relatively advanced mentally a year ago and will benefit less than some of his compatriots from increasing familiarity with the offense. Improvement should be clear but not transformative; a good goal is for Magnuson to move beyond Just A Guy status, get on the All Big Ten team in a very down year for the tackle spot conference-wide, and get drafted late.
[After the JUMP: the biggest question mark on the team. And Jabrill Peppers! (Not really. But maybe!)]