this may be of some local interest
BBQ Visitors: Offense
The weekend in which I can't leave my laptop for more than 30 seconds is nearly upon us. The BBQ at the Big House is on Saturday, and it features a visitor list absolutely loaded with top-end talent. 247's Steve Lorenz has the full, updated list posted for free, as well as an excellent VIP post that goes in-depth on each uncommitted 2017 and 2018 prospect who'll be on campus. I'll do my best to cover the highlights. Keep in mind that every 2017 Michigan commit save for Aubrey Solomon, Kai-Leon Herbert, and AJ Dillon is slated to be in attendance.
The headliner, of course, is #1 overall prospect Najee Harris, the California running back committed to Alabama. According to Lorenz, Bama insiders think Michigan is the top threat to flip him from his current commitment, and Harris will be accompanied by his mother on the trip. Harris won't be the only back at the BBQ; four-star UT RB Sione Heimuli-Lund is a Stanford commit who could wind up at RB, FB, or LB (or, given Harbaugh, all of them).
Michigan's top four targets at wide receiver will all be in attendance. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins need no introduction at this point; Michigan leads for Collins and is the presumed leader for DPJ. Four-star IA WR Oliver Martin is ramping up his recruitment now that baseball season is over—this weekend should give us a good idea of where Michigan stands compared to MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, and his other contenders. Four-star CT WR Tarik Black has Michigan in his top group, though Lorenz thinks Notre Dame and Stanford are out ahead at this point. Michigan's top tight end on the board, four-star CA TE Josh Falo, will also be at the BBQ.
With three-star AL OT Toryque Bateman naming Michigan his leading heading into his BBQ visit, the offensive line is the most likely (though far from only) source of a weekend commitment—Bateman pegged his chances of committing at 50% and potentially higher if the visit goes as well as his last trip to Ann Arbor. Four-star tackles Isaiah Wilson and Aaron Banks are also on the list; Wilson is a Michigan/Bama battle right now, while the Wolverines are hoping to lure Banks away from top-tier Pac-12 programs.
As I was writing this, Steve reported that four-star OT Henry Bainivalu will make the trip from Washington. This is the second unofficial for Bainivalu, which is especially notable for a prospect from the other side of the country—Michigan definitely has a shot, and...
...oh boy, we might have a situation here.
One prospect who'd been mentioned as a possible visitor who won't make it: five-star KY OT Jedrick Wills, who looks like a longshot at best.
In the 2018 class, four-star Oak Park OG Marquan McCall—who could also wind up at DT—will accompany his committed teammate, OT JaRaymond Hall. While I've avoided mentioning the 2019 class, early rankings have Belleville OT Devontae Dobbs as a five-star prospect; he'll be at the BBQ with a couple classmates from a program that's got a lot of young talent.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
let me show you how we handle punks in the district, punk [Patrick Barron]
Everywhere I turn this offseason, it seems someone is writing another article lauding the aggression, complexity, blitzes, and disguises built into Don Brown's defense. These attributes have obvious upside, but are we overlooking what could be a very steep learning curve for this defense? Can we really expect these guys to flawlessly execute such a reportedly complex defense within the first year?
There will be transition costs; there always are. When you're real good and have real good players those can be overcome. Last year's offense had a bunch of transition costs and still rocketed from 82nd in S&P+ to 30th; in FEI they went from 100th(!) to 33rd. This leap occurred despite weekly UFR diatribes about how various people on Michigan's offense still didn't really know what they were doing.
It going to be tougher for the defense to have anything similar since they were already very good. It's hard to improve much from 20th (FEI) or 2nd (S&P+). The leap from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is probably extant; it is certainly less grand than the leap from Brady Hoke to Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile Brown's defenses have tended to tread water in year one:
There's a ton of noise in that data since we're not accounting for returning starters and the like. It still suggests that a great leap forward should not be expected.
On the other hand, Don Brown has never been handed even half of the talent he's got this year and it's almost all very experienced. Michigan's starting D consists of eight seniors, a redshirt junior, Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary. While these guys haven't worked on certain things Brown does, they've at least encountered them from time to time; they can also spend the bulk of their offseason working on that stuff since you can take it as read that they've got man free coverages down.
It is a concern, but the schedule is reassuring. I'll take a series of early biffs against teams Michigan beats by 21 instead of 28 if the payoff is a defense that is finally, finally, finally equipped with the state of the art in shutting down a spread n shred. The talent available should mitigate some of those hiccups—a coverage bust doesn't hurt you if the QB is running for his life—and once those get smoothed over, Michigan's ceiling is higher.
Let's go moo
In my travels throughout the internet I came a cross a rather unique rendition of 'Let's Go Blue' that I thought should be shared. There is a man named Farmer Derek, a high level Bard no doubt, who serenades his cattle and posts the songs on YouTube. At the end of his version of Royals by Lorde he goes into Let's Go Blue and the cattle respond in kind. I don't know what should be done with this video, if anything, but I believe it should be shared and thought you should be notified. Cheers.
Sincerely yours in football,
This is a great service to the fandom, Pinball Pete:
[After THE JUMP: not cows responding to Let's Go Blue so why even bother]
Former Michigan OC Mike DeBord is masterminding the Tennessee attack
While SEC hype generally encompasses the whole league, perhaps it would be more accurate to call the West division – which has now won seven straight SEC title games – the class of college football instead of the conference as a whole. Maybe the credit should mostly be given to Alabama, a contemporary dynasty that’s won four national titles over that span.
In any case, the SEC East lags far behind its better half, and last year was no exception: after clinching the division, Florida barely beat Florida Atlantic at home and lost to Alabama in the conference championship (in a game where Bama was content to remain in 1st gear and allow its defense to crush the UF offense). Florida also lost to Florida State and Michigan – two very good, but not elite teams from great divisions – by a combined score of 67-9. The Gators finished two games ahead of the pack in the East.
Much of the division is in a bad place right now. Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt. Kentucky is Kentucky. Steve Spurrier left a depleted roster at South Carolina and bailed halfway into a 3-9 2015 campaign; USCe compounded the problem by hiring Will Muschamp, who’s technically part of the Saban coaching tree and who imploded as head coach during a disastrous tenure at Florida. Missouri had a hideously dysfunctional season on offense (and dealt with campus issues far bigger than football last fall) and promoted their defensive coordinator after Gary Pinkel retired. Georgia had grown stale under Mark Richt, so they hired Kirby Smart – a UGA alum, most recently Saban’s defensive coordinator, a guy who’s never been a head coach; the Bulldogs have talent, but the coaching is an unknown and the Bulldogs were about as bad as a team with 10-3 record (which is really good!) can be. Florida’s offense was awful once QB Will Grier was lost to a suspension – now they’re choosing between a Purdue transfer (Austin Appleby), Luke Del Rio (son of Jack, who’s never thrown a pass in a college game) and true freshman Feleipe Franks.
Tennessee is the favorite to win the SEC East in 2016 and while they are benefiting from the boost in hype that comes with an impressive bowl showing (they beat Northwestern 45-6), they are the most experienced and complete team in their division and one of few teams in the SEC with any certainty at the quarterback position.
[Team previews after the JUMP]
M Among Finalists For Justin Smith
Four-star 2017 IL wing Justin Smith announced his final seven schools on Monday, and despite being the only school not to put forth an offer yet, Michigan made the cut along with Illinois, Indiana, Stanford, Villanova, Wisconsin, and Xavier. Smith was at Michigan's team camp in June and the coaches followed him closely throughout the recent evaluation period; he's expected to be back on campus August 14th, when he could very well land an offer.
In a thread on the Scout board, Brian Snow mentioned that Villanova, Stanford, Michigan, and Indiana are likely ahead of the other three schools, and official visits—Smith plans to use them—will play a huge role. Smith looks like he'd be a great fit at Michigan; he's long, athletic, and boasts impressive court vision for a point guard, let alone a 6'7" wing.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
News bullets and other items:
- No one is expected to miss the entirety of fall camp
- Harbaugh noted that Chesson can be cleared by doctors and still not “cleared,” as there’s a process every player has to go through in going from being medically cleared to being 100% ready for all football action
- Harbaugh will keep an open mind when it comes to one-off alternate uniforms
- Jay Harbaugh came to his dad with the idea of switching not only to Nike but to Jordan
- Harbaugh called Michael Jordan one of humanity’s most evolved human beings of all time
- Biff Poggi hasn’t signed a contract yet but he’s slated to be either the assistant to the head coach or the assistant head coach and his responsibilities will include “all aspects of being the assistant head coach” so, uh, we’ll see.
So Dana [Jacobson] joked about putting the Jordan logo on the khakis, but--
“Why not? Why not?”
Will you get official pants with the Jordan logo on them?
“That would be wonderful. That’d be wonderful. That would be actually taking it up another notch.”
What do you make of this day for your players, to see the excitement on their faces? How big is it for them?
“You know, it’s big. It’s big. We’ve got a thing where we like to say ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ and the answer to that is ‘Nobody.’ Uh, expect possibly future us. It’s also an affirmation that, you know, we tell them, Jordan, the Jordan Brand, ‘Who could have it better than to have you?’ And then them wanting to have us, they’re telling us that they believe in us as well. It’s a very mutual thing.
“And you see it. You just walk by the aisles here. You see the product that they have and what else do you say? You just know it when you see it. It’s great.”
Jim, when and how did the conversation go down or the idea for you guys to reach out to them and the conversation between you and Michael?
“Second day on the job I said I really want to be Nike. About a month or two after that my son, Jay, younger guy, you know, 26, 27 years old said ‘Hey Dad, I think he we should be Jordan.’ ‘Hey, great idea.’ It all went into motion and ended [when] Michael Jordan called me on the telephone and said that they wanted us to be the first and only football school, program, in the world to be Jordan. I said, ‘You had me at “Hello.”’ We’ve been working for this for a very long time.
“The other thing he said that I thought was profound was that- he told me, you know what Nike means to Oregon, you know what Oregon means to Nike. Michigan will mean that to Jordan. And that, I thought, was very powerful. I thought that was very profound. But he had me at ‘hello’ in that conversation.”
You have a big imagination, but when that conversation happened did you imagine all this buildup and all this lead-up to the thing the other night, today, all this stuff?
“No, I did not. But when you put people that are great at what they do then they just blow you away. They knock your socks, they hit it out of the park starting Sunday night: State Street closed off, M-Den has midnight madness for the opening of Jordan and there’s 4,000 people in the streets with the excitement of a national championship, Big Ten championship, some kind of championship-type of celebration. That was the first thing that struck me: this is really motivating; I want to have one of these to celebrate a championship as well.
“The enthusiasm of the people was next. Everybody that cared about Michigan was showing that enthusiasm at the highest level.
“The next thing that struck me was when I went inside the M-Den and saw the product and the way it was being displayed. I mean, this is first class all the way with a big exclamation point on it (!).
“And today’s another one of those type of days where you walk in and your socks are just knocked off. And you know it when you see it. This is great. Everybody knows something’s great when you see it, so that’s been my impressions.”
Charles [Woodson] said something the lines of ‘We’ve got our swagger back.’ What does it matter what a player wears on the field in your opinion?
“I agree with everything Charles says except for that one. The greatest share is your effort and your talent and the work that you put in. But, as I said at the beginning, as Jack Harbaugh said, you are with whom you associate, and to take that a step further let’s associate ourselves with the most evolved human beings in the world if we are with whom we associate and also the highest level companies, brands, products.
“So, that just goes along with our principles that we have, to be associated with greatness. And to think about having Michael Jordan sharing a sideline with us, to think about being the only team--football team--and that’s the University of Michigan that’s Jordan, to have that iconic logo sharing a uniform, we’re very, very proud of that. You asked me the question and I’m proud. We’re proud.”
Nike likes to do special uniforms. Is there any wiggle room for you in this with this association to do something different?
“Well, we’ll definitely keep an open mind on it. You know, as I said, they hit it out of the park here and everything that they have done up to this point has been hitting it out of the park and knocking our socks off, so definitely going to keep an open mind to what their thoughts are and what their ideas are without question. Haven’t decided anything. Not going to change the uniform design at this time, but I stand open to their ideas because, you know, some people just think of things better than what other people do. And they obviously do a tremendous job, so we’ll definitely keep an open mind.”
I mean for a one-off.
“We’ll keep an open mind. Sure, I’ll keep an open mind. Be dumb not to.”
[After THE JUMP: all the world’s a team]
Mikey likes it. Sound the greatest horn in the deepest valley and bring all the counts, earls, and dukes to the castle. I have no complaints about a uniform thing. Yea, it is true. I was worried about the matte helmets, but in sunlight they look great:
Still Iconic. pic.twitter.com/SMTquow5vq
— Michigan Equipment (@HailEquipment) August 2, 2016
There's matte like Michigan wore in the no-numbers bowl and there's that. Still some sheen, but not shiny. Dark dark blue. Maize. It looks like the most Michigan version of Michigan. It looks precise and focused and traditional.
It's mildly fussed the Uni Watch guy because he doesn't have things to say...
Nike's characteristic hype notwithstanding, there's nothing to get particularly excited about here, because so little has changed, but there's nothing to complain about either. Carry on.
...and it's caused an ESPN headline that's precisely wrong:
— Kurt Svoboda (@ksvoboda) August 3, 2016
The only thing about these jerseys is nuance, and they aced every one. The logos are tastefully small and distributed symmetrically. The colors are right, the road whites are still so crisp, and the one weird thing has deep Michigan roots*. It feels like Michigan told Nike to do stuff and Nike killing it. This is in marked contrast to how these things go much of the time: wear this ridiculous looking thing that various other schools are also wearing.
*[The diversity angle is a major stretch. Having Gerald Ford's 4 is still cool.]
Senioritis prohibited. Michigan's Jordan-littered offer letters were all over the internet yesterday. An example:
— S A U C Y ™ (@_OverCees) August 2, 2016
Nick Baumgardner highlights a slightly unusual bit that I'm pretty sure is new this year:
The final bullet point reads: "We expect you to continue to strive for excellence as a student and as an athlete: this scholarship should serve as motivation towards continued growth, not an excuse to become complacent."
Pre-Swenson incident offer letters warned kids to keep their grades up and away from the local constabulary, as had offers dating back to the Rodriguez era. Specifically noting that offers are contingent on continued progress is a Harbaugh thing, and means we can expect more decommit kerfuffles going forward.
Both sides are boggling now. Anonymous coach takes on ACC teams have something to say about Don Brown:
“BC’s defense last year was the biggest pain for us to prepare for because they did so many things, especially on third down. The fronts they lined up in, the pressures they came with were unique, and they had some big, physical players. They were legit.”
“[New BC DC Jim] Reid played a base defense when he was at Virginia, and on third down you get maybe one or two different pressures, so it’s like one end of the spectrum to the other. It’ll be interesting to see what they do.”
Michigan is in the opposite situation. DJ Durkin was a Reid type of guy content to run fairly simple defenses. Michigan did have a big stunt package; blitzes were not particularly common and usually just a five man pressure.
Is this Ryan Glasgow's nickname? This is an amazing nickname for an older brother to bestow on his younger sibling:
Ayyy young toothless https://t.co/Tuxy1Djlnk
— Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) August 2, 2016
Always wanted a guy named Biff around. Biff Poggi, father of Henry, has at various times been headed to Ann Arbor or another high school head coaching gig after his odd and unceremonious dismissal from Gilman. He is officially a Wolverine:
"When you've been doing something for 30 years, I just went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and I learned that habits are a hard thing to break," Poggi said. "I love coaching high school kids, but this was such an opportunity."
Poggi's youngest son Henry is a Wolverines fullback with two years of eligibility remaining and his daughter Mellie is also at Michigan.
"I felt like if I was ever going to do it, this is like the sun, the moon and the stars have lined up and I really am very comfortable with Jim and the coaching staff," Poggi said.
Poggi's job will be to advise Harbaugh on strategy and organizational structure. His position does not count as a coaching position and he won't be coaching the players, coaching the team or recruiting, according to the Michigan job description.
It's another analyst role. It sounds like it's a short term thing until Poggi gets the itch to return to high school, where he appears to have a job waiting for him at St. Francis. I wouldn't be surprised if Poggi spent a couple years with his son and then went back.
One interesting side note is that Poggi has some recruiting hoops to jump through because of his generosity and persnickety NCAA rules:
Another issue for Poggi was that he played a large part in funding the St. Frances program from the beginning and that he also paid tuition for a number of young men at Gilman and at other schools. As a coach in the NCAA, he could no longer pay for those things.
"I had to hire a lot of lawyers and go through the complete compliance check to where I have to follow and obey exactly the rules," he said. "For example, I just can't go watch a high school football game which I've done for 30 years. I can't call a kid on the phone. I know all these kids, the Gilman kids and other kids, too. I just can't go, 'Hey, how you doing?' I can't text them. I have to be careful how I reply to a text from them. My life is completely different than how I lived it over the last 30 years."
Good news is that Poggi can slide into their DMs without consequence and retweet them until the sun grows cold and dim, because NCAA communication regulations are all over the place.
PFF previews Michigan. They've kind of done this several times over the offseason already and every time they publish a thing we grab it here and prize it apart for any insight into their database, so there's not a ton that will be new to readers of this space. Their main concern is at QB:
QB is the biggest question on the entire roster, as 2015 starter Jake Rudock is also now with the Lions. John O’Korn (who transferred from Houston after being benched in 2014 by the new regime looking for a more athletic option) and Wilton Speight (64 snaps last season) will compete for the starting position throughout this month and while the winner will be afforded some margin of error with what appears to be a relatively easy schedule early, if the Wolverines expect to win big road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State, they will need quality play from the new signal caller.
There's no disputing that. Harbaugh's track record helps in this regard; it's nice to have one of the biggest questions you can have seem like no big deal because of the head coach.
Elsewhere some confirmation that the linebackers were eh a year ago...
While the LB corps was turned over completely due to graduation, none of last year’s crew graded overwhelmingly positively and this year’s version of course has the benefit of playing behind likely the best defensive line in the country.
...and the usual praise for Peppers, Lewis, Wormley, Hurst, Glasgow, and company. The chaser: "while many schools may have just one true superstar, Michigan has at least six on the defensive side alone."
Meanwhile in the league. Rashan Gary and Taco Charlton are gonna eat:
Can someone in the tackle class pass block?
With Ohio State’s Taylor Decker moving on to the NFL and Michigan’s Mason Cole kicking inside to center this year, no returning offensive tackle in the [Big Ten] had a positive pass blocking grade in 2015. In fact, Nebraska’s Nick Gates is the only tackle to grade positively on run blocks last year. Offensive line is the unit we typically see the most variance and improvement in from year to year, but with the entire conference literally having nothing but subpar or first-year starters, this could be another rough year against the uber-talented EDGE players littered throughout the Big Ten.
Cole had a positive pass pro grade; Magnuson did not; the rest of the league is going to curl up and die when presented with Michigan's DL (and Jabrill Peppers).
Etc.: Butt, Peppers, and Lewis make SI's preseason All-America team.