So in improvement week, how’d the guys do?
“Really good. It was a great week. Guys really worked hard, got better fundamentally. Just, I mean, great to go out and play the game of football and get better at it, you know? Really, we’re working hard trying to get better. Really had great focus, want-to. Really pleased with the young guys.”
Do you like the future of this offensive line?
“I do. I really do. It’s only going to get better. How do you get better at football? You play football. We do that here.”
Speaking of getting better, can you talk about the jump that you’ve seen Juwann Bushell-Beatty take in the time that he’s been in here?
“He’s done a great job. It really started with Juwann in the weight room with Kevin Tolbert and his staff. He’s really changed his body, and it’s really important to him. He takes pride in his work to be good. He’s really got good foot-turnover speed. He’s playing with strength, and that comes from the weight room work that he’s had. He’s just done a really, really nice job. Progressed very nicely. Juwann is a very good person that wants to be good at whatever he puts his hands on, so he’s got a great attitude.”
What do you see players that are playing at this level for the first time and really getting thrown in there, where do they gain the most the soonest?
“Just, as I mentioned earlier before, just getting game reps and practice reps. As many reps as you can get playing the game of football and seeing different looks and being quick on your feet, you really become a better football player.”
Did you see a jump from getting thrown into the Wisconsin game to how he played in almost a full Rutgers game?
“Yeah, when he came off the bench against Wisconsin there was not a big letdown. Your concern, you know, first time stepping in in a game, but he did an outstanding job coming off the bench, and then he did better in the Rutgers game. He just keeps progressing, keeps getting better, which is really nice.”
[After THE JUMP: keeping backs fresh, the ways the offense doesn’t change when Peppers is in, and a young-guys update]
site note: UFR tomorrow AM and PM. Sorry about the delay.
Breakout star Ben Gedeon [Bryan Fuller]
Oh, man, please do not excite me. PFF breaks down the Michigan-Ohio State matchup as only they can, and Michigan comes out ahead on most counts, including all three defensive units. Ben Gedeon is a surprise standout:
This was without question the biggest area of concern for the Wolverines heading into the season, but both Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray have played well thus far. Gedeon’s 89.1 run defense grade is second-best in the country behind only the Ohio Bobcats’ Blair Brown, and McCray has graded well in all three phases while posting 10 pressures (three sacks) and a QB rating against of 42.1 in coverage.
That's a huge boost to a defense that didn't really need one.
Ohio State's biggest advantage is quarterback, unsurprisingly. JT Barrett and Wilton Speight are grading out similarly as passers; meanwhile there is a slight Barrett advantage on the ground. The overall tone of the article is... uh... far too encouraging for me to be comfortable with.
But the level of dominance the Michigan defensive line has achieved to date can only be challenged by Alabama, as six players have run defense grades of at least 80.0 (by comparison, Alabama has two) and five have pass-rush grades higher than 75.0 (Alabama has six). DTs Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst and DEs Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton are all likely top 100 picks (should they all choose to enter the draft this year), and last year’s No. 1 recruit DE Rashan Gary has been as good as advertised.
Michigan is now slightly favored in the Game by S&P+ and it sounds like PFF would pick Michigan as well. This terrifies me.
Lewis on Lewis. Rather frank self-scout right here:
"There's still a few things I can clean up," Lewis said this week. "I've let a few guys behind me a little bit and have just relied on my quickness and makeup speed. But I've got to stop cheating (with my eyes) and use my technique more."
Not as harsh a self-assessment as Peppers giving himself a C-, but that is accurate. Three or four times the ball has gone in the air with Lewis in seemingly bad position; he's made a play each time. Ideally he'll be able to wipe out that moment of nervousness when the ball is in the air.
The Peppers factor [Patrick Barron]
Fancystat fight. Football Outsiders has two advanced CFB metrics: S&P+ and FEI. FEI, a drive-based metric, doesn't release until this week, and so we haven't been able to compare the two yet. In general FEI is less impressed. Michigan is third, not first, and their defense is fourth instead of an absurd runaway #1. OTOH, FEI has Michigan's offense third in the country, which seems optimistic.
The thing that really leaps out is special teams, though: S&P+ has Michigan 107th. FEI has Michigan 1st.
The FEI drilldown is how you'd expect. Michigan's been horrible at field goals (119th), meh at punting and returning kickoffs, and very good at their own kickoffs and returning punts. That shouldn't add up to the #1 team in the country but FEI also includes metrics for starting field possession on offense (#1) and defense (#13) that must factor in? Those numbers are only slightly about special teams.
S&P+ relies on "success rate" for kickoffs and punts, which has always seemed odd to me since there's no first down to shoot for. A yard is a yard on special teams. In any case, Michigan's terrible S&P+ rating is due to a heavy weight for FG kicking, which fair enough, and a poor punting success rate.
FWIW, the Mathlete's numbers that convert everything to points lost and gained have Michigan 16th.
My take: FEI is overrating the special teams because the defense is so dominant that it's moving field position outside the bounds of normal, and S&P+ isn't weighting the explosive Peppers returns enough. I asked Bill Connelly, the S&P+ purveyor, about this, and he said much the same thing. He's got good reasons to go with success rate but a guy like Peppers blows assumptions inherent in that choice out of the water.
Glasgow getting it done. Graham, that is. He got his first start this weekend and a newpaper breaks down film(!!!), where he impressed:
First and foremost, we have to highlight the performance of rookie Graham Glasgow, making his first start. Playing left guard, no Lions lineman drew Donald more often, matching up against the All-Pro 16 times, including 11 snaps in pass protection. Surprisingly, Glasgow rarely was given the assistance of a double-team, getting help from a teammate three of those snaps.
Glasgow was terrific throughout the first half. He didn't give up any pressure, until losing his block on Donald during Detroit's final offensive play. Stafford managed to escape that pressure, bailing from the pocket and finding Andre Roberts for a short touchdown on fourth down.
Is this an opportunity to say I foresaw all of this as early as Glasgow's first few games? Maybe. Probably. Yes.
The revamp is for real. John Beilein already had one major revamp of his program that ended in a Final Four run. Revamp #2 is on now, and it's seriously serious:
On @Hugeshow, Beilein says Billy Donlon ran today's practice, while he evaluated and studied it. First time he's done that.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) October 19, 2016
This is going to be a fascinating year.
Etc.: This midseason All Big Ten team is incorrect because the defense is not Michigan's starting 11, but it does have Ryan Glasgow on it so I give it ten points. Big Ten Geeks previews basketball. What went wrong with Notre Dame. People are so mad about this arm-grab thing from Richard Sherman that just looks like good crafty D to me. Early Big Ten hockey impressions. Brady Hoke could recruit some.
The internet appears to be looking out for me, as the only Illinois game readily available was their 31-16 loss at Nebraska a few weeks ago. This prevented me from going over more recent games against Purdue and Rutgers. Thank you, internet.
The Illini managed intermittent success on the ground against the Huskers in a game that was close until midway through the fourth quarter. Their lack of a downfield passing game doomed them; that has been their biggest issue on offense with Wes Lunt at quarterback.
Of course, we're not sure who Illinois will play at QB on Saturday. Lunt exited the Purdue game and missed last week's Rutgers game with a back injury. He's back at practice; replacement Chayse Crouch would provide more a dual-threat, spread-option look if Lunt is benched or can't go.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Another week, another pair of stars added to the Michigan defense; this time around, Ben Gedeon and Delano Hill add theirs. Only Dymonte Thomas and Mike McCray to go, and to be honest, neither is too far off.
The Illinois lineup can only be a guess. Lunt is questionable, three different tailbacks have started, and the offensive line has had five different starting combinations in six games—though they've at least kept this look for two straight weeks.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Hybrid. Illinois spent a lot of early downs in a three-WR I-form, a lot of passing downs in the gun, and they mixed in their fair share of Ace and pistol looks. It's hard to pin down an offensive identity for them.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Mostly zone blocking in this game, with a couple interesting wrinkles, one of which will be covered later.
Hurry it up or grind it out? A slow grind. Illinois is 124th in adjusted pace. They don't huddle that often; they do stand around forever staring at the sideline.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
News bullets and other items:
Devin Bush Jr. is acclimating himself well at LB. Sounds like he could step in with little drop off right now.
Kenny Allen would have kicked FGs at Rutgers, but the competition is still ongoing. No decision has been made this week since it’s just Wednesday.
Partridge added that the issues Allen has had have been mechanical, as it’s difficult to adjust your swing plan when you’re doing three different things.
Quinn Nordin’s healthy enough to participate in the kicking competition
I highly recommend reading what Partirdge had to say about Peppers’ attention to detail and drive, as well as his summation of the program’s culture.
Your thoughts on Jabrill’s [punt] return? There was an awful late flag that came in there. What did you see on that play?
“Phenomenal play by Jabrill, obviously. Kind of jumped in the air and then spun and ducked somebody at the same time, so phenomenal play. Questionable. Questionable. But, you know what, it happens. We’ve got to be real careful. I tell those guys all the time, let’s just get him to the dance. Get on your blocks as long as possible and just know if it’s ever questionable peel off and go find somebody else and let him make a move. We’ve got a phenomenal player back there, so we’ve got to get him the ability to make a play. Frustrating that we didn’t finish it, but we’ve got to learn from it and move on.”
Several of the veterans had some downtime last week. What did the kickers do? Were they going right along?
“Yeah, they continued to work, but we had to be smart and give them some downtime, too. We scheduled their kicking early in the week and then the young guys continued to work throughout the week, improvement week, just like the rest of the players.”
Coach said the competition’s always ongoing, but is it maybe a little bit more settled than it was coming out of the game before Rutgers?
“No, I don’t think it’s ever going to be settled here. I think we’re always going to compete and challenge those guys, and they know they have to perform at a high level or there’s going to be someone ready to perform. We’re still competing. About equal reps and keep working. About equal reps for the next few weeks.”
You can evaluate it in practice, but if they’re not kicking in a game, even the Rutgers game, is it hard to simulate what that experience is like?
“Yeah. I mean, of course I’d like to get a try there in a game to have that pressure, but we’ve got to just try to do our best in practice to be ready for the game when it comes. But yeah, of course. There’s nothing like game reps.”
[After THE JUMP: Partridge evaluates Peppers, JBB, what it’s like to work for Harbaugh, and his own coaching]
[Eric Upchurch – MGoBlog]
Despite finishing behind Indiana in the regular season Big Ten standings, it feels inarguable that Michigan State had the conference’s best team a year ago (their NCAA Tournament seed – a two, and the next highest Big Ten programs were three five-seeds – certainly suggests that). They were led by Denzel Valentine, the best player in the Big Ten, a senior who dominated college basketball in his final season, as well as two other seniors: steady big man Matt Costello and three-point sniper Bryn Forbes. Throw in talented 5* one-and-done power forward Deyonta Davis, and it was considered by many to be a national title frontrunner.
It came as somewhat of a surprise that MSU didn’t receive a one-seed. Perhaps it was the scheduling: the Spartans had three sub-300 opponents in the non-conference portion of the season and a season series against Rutgers helped drag down their RPI. They had a week mid-January where they lost three straight – routed by Iowa at home, lost at Wisconsin and at home against Nebraska, each by a single point. They destroyed Indiana in the teams’ only meeting and won the Big Ten Tournament after close victories over Maryland and Purdue. So it came as a bit of a surprise when State found themselves on the two-line with a first round matchup against 15-seed Middle Tennessee St.
[More on the Spartans after the JUMP]
Jim Harbaugh's NFL connections add to his recruiting appeal. [Bryan Fuller]
Ed-Ace: Recruitnik extraordinaire, regular podcast guest, and noted darts enthusiast Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, aka The Artist Formerly Known As Aquaman, is back with his weekly recruiting mailbag. If you aren't subscribed to 247 and want to read more from Steve and the gang, they're running a free trial through New Year's Day.
Caesar asks: What makes Michigan under Harbaugh good at recruiting and what does it do to distinguish itself from other programs?
There are a few noteworthy things Harbaugh has that other programs don't:
1. He has strapped on the helmet and played at a high level for the program he is coaching at. He's come as close to the top of the mountain as anyone for Michigan has, and with that comes a natural love and desire to bring the program to the top. That's not to say that other coaches aren't super effective in how they recruit and how they pitch their programs, but there's a natural aspect to how Harbaugh specifically can recruit kids because of a love for Michigan that most (if not all) coaches can't replicate for the programs they're currently at.
2. There isn't another coach in college football who can utilize success and connections in the NFL like Harbaugh can. Early on in Cesar Ruiz's recruitment, he mentioned that going to Michigan would give him a network to the NFL that he wouldn't find at any other program when you consider who Harbaugh knows in the league. I want to say he was on campus sometime around the time Michigan held their Pro Day, and mentioned tons of NFL teams being there despite the fact that they only had a handful of pro prospects last season. On top of that, Michigan utilizes NFL schemes both offensively and defensively so often that it helps acclimate their players to the pros while they're still in college. This stuff is truly valuable on the recruiting trail.
3. He wins. Obviously Michigan is far from the only program winning, and they haven't done it consistently for a long time, but he's already proven he can do some big things, and that stuff resonates with kids.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]