Can you assess Wilton’s play through five games?
“He’s doing a nice job. He’s making really good decisions, which is obviously the first thing you look for in a guy who’s in his first year starting. Hasn’t turned the ball over very much at all, so that’s exciting. Has found ways to complete balls—he’s over 64% or so—and really good touchdown:interception ratio, and has managed the game really well. So, so far, so good.
“But the next half of the season will be another test. You know, he hasn’t been on the road yet, so that’ll be obviously different. And then we’ve just got a chance to continue to see how he improves.”
He’ll often talk about a play that you’ve dialed up that week and you can see that he likes the creativity. Talk about that side of the job, looking for something new every week or periodically that could be a good play for you.
“I think we’re just—we’re always gameplanning every week, every day. Every day we gameplan and put together the best possible pass game and run game we can, and then, you know, try to deliver it in a way they understand why the plays are in, and then maybe show them examples of plays where whether or not they’ve worked other places or whether or not they’ve worked here or whether it looks like they’ll work based on the coverages we get. Spend a lot of time just kind of explaining in our meetings—all position groups, all coaches—why plays are in and how to go out there and execute them.”
Some of the protection issues with veterans at times: are those mistakes guys shouldn’t be making at this point?
“I think that I don’t know much about whether we should or shouldn’t be making them. I don’t think there’s many being made. I think we’re still—well, we’ve only been sacked in five games eight times or nine times. I don’t know. That’s not much. We do a really good job of picking up almost everything. We get the kitchen sink thrown at us and our guys work really, really hard to pick it all up, and over the course of 17 games or so we’ve probably been as good as anyone in terms of not getting sacked and getting the ball off, so I don’t think there’s much of an issue there.”
When Jabrill’s working in the wildcat, are you hands-on with him in practice there, or who has the most input?
“Oh, with everything, it’s a group collective effort in everything that we do. You know, the wildcat stuff, we throw him in and quarterback roll, then he kind of deals with some of the ball handling with us, but really kind of everybody’s talking to him about what that job entails and what plays we’re putting in and really what he’s going to do with those plays and the footwork and the reads and all that.”
[Much more after THE JUMP]
Talk about the play last game of the corners. Those guys just seemed to be right on.
“Yeah, they’re playing well. They’re working hard in practice preparing themselves week in and week out and they just gotta continue, and it’s paying off in the games. So, we’ll keep on that same path and just try to keep building it.”
Lewis interception ranks where in the pick offs that you’ve seen?
“It’s insane. I mean, I haven’t seen anything like that from a defensive player. Seen a few guys offensively do it, but nothing like that defensively. That was a hell of a play.”
Besides that, the way that he’s closing in the run game and getting to the ball, just talk about how good he’s been.
“Yeah, he’s a complete player on the defensive side of the ball. The kid’s very competitive, very feisty, he’s very good at man-to-man coverage, very good at zone coverage when asked to drop, and he knows how to get off blocks and he knows how to make tackles. I mean, he can do it all. He’s a pretty good player.”
You’ve coached Jourdan now for a year and a half. How many times can you recall during a game where he made a technical mistake?
“Well, we all make mistakes and he has made a few. Even last week, him and Channing made a few technical mistakes that we’re trying to clear up and we will clear up. They’re few and far between with him. And the thing is, when he does it, he knows it and he gets pretty upset about it. He tries to figure it out real quick.”
Obviously not having Jeremy [Clark] you guys are kind of on thin ice with just two guys, even as good as they are. With the other two [freshmen], are they ready?
“I feel so bad for Jeremy. Really practiced so hard and played so well in the games he was in, and everybody’s talking about him and hoping the best for him. Brandon Watson had a hell of a camp. Really since spring. Played well in the spring, played well all through camp, and he’s going in, filling in just fine. Lavert Hill: extremely talented young man. He’s just got to grow and mature. He’s young. David Long, same way. His injury held him up a little bit, but now we’re starting to see some things out of him. It’s very unfortunate we lost Jeremy—you never want to lose a guy like that—but those guys, those three guys I think in time and if in need can fill in and play.”
[After THE JUMP: discussing soil conditions in the garden]
Based on what was readily available online, I had the choice of two Rutgers games to break down: their opening-week blowout loss to Washington or last week's blowout loss to Ohio State. I chose the more recent game for this breakdown because RU lost the centerpiece of their offense, Janarion Grant, the week prior, and I wanted to see how they'd function without him. Spoiler alert: not well.
Not well at all. Rutgers punted on every drive that didn't end a half; they didn't even finish a drive in OSU territory. The yakety flea flicker you see above is what happened on the lone occasion they crossed midfield.
They're gonna die.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Glasgow and Taco got shields now that we've tweaked the criteria, and Stribling got his star after last week's performance. On the other side... well, at least they've got a bunch of returning starters? Unfortunately, four of them stand out for the wrong reasons, and TE Nick Arcidiacono easily could've been a fifth—PFF has him grading out at a -7.9 and pretty much equally bad in all phases through four games. This doesn't bode well against a roving band of humanoid ninja stars.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Chris Ash is trying to turn Rutgers into Jersey Ohio State; OC Drew Mehringer is a Tom Herman disciple. This is very much a spread after being more of a hybrid under Kyle Flood.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Rutgers doesn't have the horses up front to run OSU's power read stuff with much success at all. They'll mix some of that in, but for now they're mostly an inside zone team.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle. Rutgers is 67th in adjusted pace. They go no-huddle but aren't fast enough to truly tempo defenses.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Was talking with Matt at the Marlin tailgate on Saturday when he broached the idea of buying one of those tailgate trailers with TVs and whatnot for next year. I am strongly encouraging this idea in the sponsor notes of the game column because then I can watch more of the noon games. Do it for your country, Matt.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets and possibly a trailer, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Just a couple of oddities other than the train. This was "Ace 3-wide offset." As you can see, the back is... offset.
And Michigan lined up in that formation with Chesson at TE again. Here he is running down the middle of the field.
These formations get appended with "WR hide."
PERSONNEL NOTES: OL and QB as you would expect, with Bushell-Beatty replacing Newsome when he got hurt. Michigan went much more WR-heavy in this game, with around 60 snaps for both Chesson and Darboh out of 77 possible. Perry, Crawford, and McDoom combined for another 38; with Butt near-omnipresent that meant Michigan was without a fullback for about half the snaps.
Smith got about 50% of the RB snaps with Evans and Isaac splitting the rest; Peppers got five snaps, four as a wildcat QB and one as a slot. Asiasi got 23 snaps as the #2 TE with Bunting injured; Wheatley and Michael Jocz(!) got 3 and 2 snaps, respectively.
[After THE JUMP: come on ride the train.]
Watch the receiver at the bottom of the screen
We’re going to be talking more often in the next few weeks about Run-Pass Option (RPO) plays, also known as packaged plays. Rutgers lives off them, Indiana loves them, Maryland is installing them, and Ohio State has made them a bigger part of their offense this year.
The general concept is easy enough: the offense will isolate a defender who has both run and pass responsibilities. The quarterback reads what that guy decides to do, then either throws the pass if that guy attacks the run, or runs the running play if he stays back.
But they’re not good for all seasons—RPOs take advantage of players with both run and pass responsibilities. If there are none, or at least there are super-clear priorities, it’s hard to find a defender to put in a bind. For example Cover 1—which is still Michigan’s base play—has pretty clear-cut jobs for their man-on-man defenders, the linebackers are given small zones they can defend while hanging in to plug their gaps, and one safety is given free reign to roam the deep middle and clean up any runs that get through. But even Michigan can’t stay in Cover 1 forever (cough cough Durkin), and against option-y, spread-to-run teams you’re almost forced to get your safeties involved in the run game, and then once again you’re susceptible to the offense putting that guy in a run-pass bind.
So let’s see how they work.
Solving Stacked Boxes
While run options are an answer to the problem of how to involve your quarterback in the running game, run-pass options address a different age-old problem for offenses looking to run the ball successfully: defenders in the box.
[After the jump: locking them in the box]
[Ed-Ace: For those wondering when you'll see basketball media day and Michigan team preview content, that's coming next week, when I get a bye week breather from football. Until then, Alex has you covered on hoops preview stuff.]
Peter Jok [David Scrivner – Iowa City Press-Citizen]
It was supposed to be Fran McCaffery’s best team in Iowa City: there were four senior starters – and a junior – and those players collectively had more experience than anyone else in the conference by a decent margin. Iowa had been to the tournament in each of the previous two seasons (as an 11-seed, then as a 7-seed) and the level of continuity in the program suggested that there perhaps would be another leap. It was a long time coming after Fran McCaffery’s slow rebuild out of the disastrous Todd Lickliter era.
After the non-conference portion of the season (in which Iowa had a few losses – but no bad ones – and a good win over Wichita State), the Hawkeyes entered Big Ten play and started off hot, winning 10 of their first 11. That start was fueled by season sweeps of Michigan State and Purdue; Iowa ascended from a preseason projection of #36 nationally from Kenpom and spent an entire month of the season in the top five of the algorithm’s rankings. Stretch-4 Jarrod Uthoff and wingman Peter Jok were a formidable one-two punch; the other three senior starters and a deep frontcourt of young talent complemented them well.
A midweek loss to Indiana on the road in early February was the turning point. It was a crazy game: Indiana raced out to a 15-point lead, Iowa battled back to take the lead in the second half, and then the Hoosiers went supernova and scored 17 points in five minutes, winning somewhat comfortably in the end. From there, things spiraled: the Hawkeyes barely beat a horrible Minnesota team at home and then lost four in a row – highlighted by upset losses at Penn State and Ohio State. They won in Ann Arbor to close the regular season and briefly stopped the bleeding – and then lost their Big Ten Tournament opener to lowly Illinois.
Eventually, they were the same seed as the year before – a seven. It wasn’t the first time a McCaffery Iowa team had imploded down the stretch; they were never in danger of missing the tournament like they were in 2014, but with the amount of veteran leadership on the squad – which had been a part of the implosion before – the finish to the season, one that had been so promising, seemed inexplicable. Iowa defeated 10-seed Temple in the Round of 64 before getting routed by Villanova, the eventual national champions, in the next game.
With the graduation of Uthoff, Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, and Anthony Clemmons, the Hawkeyes will be forced to replace over half of the team’s minutes; luckily for Iowa, Peter Jok stayed for his senior year and should be one of the best players in the Big Ten this year. The young frontcourt players who got some seasoning last year make those spots less of a concern than point guard, where there are no returning players.
[More on the Hawkeyes after the JUMP]