And fin. Wolverine Historian's expanded versions of 1997 games have hit that year's Rose Bowl; this one is a three-parter and it's gooooood:
Odds. I've seen the line for Michigan's game against Western at anywhere between 8 and 13 points, but it appears it's settled at Michigan –12. This is good. Phil Steele's published a useful list of spreads and their correspondence to victory and a spread as big as that one is tough to overcome:
|Favorite of||# of GMS||Lost Outright||%|
|3 or less||1269||621||48.9%|
It would be nice to start the year off with one of those win things for a change.
Don't Messner with Texas. MVictors has posted an interview with Wolverine great Mark Messner; I celebrate by craft the worst bolded introductory phrase in the history of Unverified Voracity. The section Greg excerpts is mostly on Michigan State, Tony Mandarich, and steroids. It comes with some outstanding stories:
He did get me once and that’s when I realized that there was something strange going on with this man, because no man should ever do that. It was my junior year. We were watching film getting ready for Michigan State and I was like, “Look at this thing! He’s destroying people.” In that game I got out of position and he got underneath me. He picked me up off my feet and ran with me for fifteen yards with my feet just dangling. He threw me like a rag doll into the Michigan State bench.
More at the link.
Was anybody healthy? Anybody? This offseason's seen a bevy of injury revelations from Mike Shaw's sports hernia to Donovan Warren's bone chips to Jonas Mouton's shoulder. We already knew Brandon Minor had some wrist issues, but I don't think we knew they were this severe:
Minor underwent two surgeries in the offseason and gutted through 11 games last fall a virtual one-armed man. The pain was so intense he couldn't carry the ball in his right arm and couldn't lift weights.
“I could barely get 145 (pounds) up,” Minor said.
This might explain Minor's sparing use early in the year, and his tendency to put the ball on the turf. Place your bets for the next starter to reveal a crippling 2008 injury. I've got Obi Ezeh with the peg leg in the kitchen.
Hey, what's that: bird, plane, basketball program? Michigan's going to have a Midnight Madness event for the first time… ever? Probably ever. John Beilein probably isn't going rappel from the rafters riding a horse and a motorcycle, but it should be cool anyway. Details:
To kick off the 2009-10 season, both the men's and women's basketball teams will be participating in Michigan Madness on Friday, Oct. 16, the first day of practice allowed by the NCAA. Crisler Arena doors will open at 8 p.m. and admission is free.
The official basketball program will begin at 9 p.m. with player introductions. A skills competition and scrimmages will follow, allowing students and fans to get a first glimpse of the season's upcoming teams.
That's right: Michigan's midnight madness is at 9PM. Which okay. I don't know if we're at the point where we can expect anyone to show up well past their bedtime.
If you spin any faster you might drill straight into the magma. It's getting tough out there for BCS schools looking for suitable tomato cans to whack, as Michigan's home-and-home with UConn demonstrates. Heck, UConn has Tennessee lined up for a home and home, too. Further evidence:
Billed as the Celebrate the State Football Series, Michigan State will play 12 games against the directional Michigan schools during the next 10 years.
The agreement includes road contests against each MAC team, beginning in 2012 with a trip to Central Michigan. The Spartans have never visited Central Michigan or Western Michigan and last played a MAC team on the road in 1899.
Ouch. I guess if you have to line up road games (three of them!) against MAC schools it's nice to be able to turn it into yet more meaningless PR about owning the state. I mean… even if you successfully own the state, then what? Then you have a team that goes 7-5 on average instead of Michigan State's historical long-term 6-6. Woo! Michigan isn't Florida.
Etc.: Those who hate key jinglers are going to double hate towels. Michigan Stadium makes the next cut in the USA's World Cup bid. (Note to guy who posted this on the messageboard: AAAARGH it's on topic. It's about Michigan Stadium.) And this is apropos of little but there's a team named "Trollhattan" in the second level of Swedish soccer. There's a terribly funny joke about the internet in there somewhere.
Notes from today's press conference:
- Though there have been more explosive plays from the offense in camp this year, Rodriguez said it's not necessarily because the defense has been subpar. The offensive players in camp this year have better skill sets as a group than last year's, and the execution has improved with another year in the system. It's hard to tell if big offense plays mean offense == good or defense == bad, but when they go back and look at film, they can decide whether the defensive player was playing his assignment and was beaten by a good offensive play, or if there was a blown assignment.
- In case you were doubting that Rodriguez is pretty hands-off with the defense (last year's Purdue game notwithstanding), he said he's not quite sure exactly what the defense is doing. They're teaching well, and on track to where they should be. He won't concern himself too much with the defensive side of the ball until it's time to start drawing up gameplans.
- The first group on the defense is pretty good, but they are just a couple injuries away from having a scary lack of depth.
And from the practice session:
- Last year Brian said something along the lines of "this team can only execute one new thing per game, and when the offense is fully installed, it could be pretty dangerous." This was obvious itself (what with West Virginia being 5th and 15th in total offense nationally in his last two years there, and dropping to 59th with the same talent in the first year he was gone), but there was so much evidence of this going on today. There were tons of looks that weren't even hinted at last year: Tight end lined up as an H-Back, jet motion from slots, misdirection and slots being involved in the option game as pitchmen, even a little bit of pistol. Once the offense has the full playbook at its disposal, you'll see one of the more creative offenses out there (thankfully, as this was something I didn't think was necessarily coming).
- Martavious Odoms was out (red jersey) with headaches, Mathews wore a green jersey for the first half of practice, it looked like Moundros(?) was also in a green jersey, and Barnum is still out with the same ankle injury.
- Same old story with how players look: Denard is getting good velocity on the ball, though he has a bit of accuracy work to do, Kelvin Grady looks pretty good catching the ball and moving with it after the catch, Terrence Robinson dropped a couple of passes.
And your photo gallery:
It's a funny hat. The second funniest thing about Celebrity Jeopardy is that it's so, so true. (The first is Norm Macdonald.) Celebrity anything is so, so true. I was just watching the bit of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire where they bring out a celebrity* and Winona Judd was asked "if you have three shirts and four pairs of pants, how many outfits can you make." The answers were "goat," "Saturn," "i," and IT'S TWELVE YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME but she sat there, flummoxed, until Regis punched her in the face and deposited eggs in her stomach in the manner of all Notre Dame graduates looking to reproduce.
I thought that was a spectacular dumb celebrity event, but then Patricia Heaton showed up and showed us all what spectacular truly was:
WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN. She got racuous applause for multiplying because everyone felt terrible about her education. At Ohio State. And she still doubled the GNP of Sierra Leone.
*(This was not my executive decision, for the record. I only watch Golden Girls marathons.)
The following article is a little old but I ripped it out of an Unverified Voracity a little ways back because Steve Sharik posted an excellent diary on what we can expect from the defense this fall and it felt like it would be a standalone post. (BTW: Sharik has posted another diary about the triple option, which Markus from Carcajous(!) has followed up on.)
So the quick/spinner lingo that we've been using ever since Greg Robinson was hired, confusion over which led to commenters on this here blog to coin the term "deathbacker" has been clarified. One term does not exist, and the other one has been superseded:
There’s not much hybrid about the linebacker-safety position Stevie Brown will play this year. Robinson said he doesn’t call the position “spinner” or anything else. “He’s our SAM,” or strong-side linebacker, Robinson said.
There is, however, new terminology for the defensive line. Robinson calls those positions the quick, power, nose and tackle. The “quick” is the hybrid linebacker-end you’ve heard about (Brandon Herron); the “power” is an old-school defensive end (Brandon Graham); the “nose” is your typical nosetackle (Mike Martin); and the “tackle” can sometimes flex out and play end in four-man fronts (Ryan Van Bergen).
Wait, so Stevie Brown is a strongside linebacker? Um. I had assumed he was the weakside linebacker, who is a protected player in a 4-3 under and gets "his meat cooked." (That's how Jeff Casteel described the weakside LB/S in the 3-3-5 DVD I purchased when I thought Casteel was going to be the DC around these parts. The strongside linebacker "got his meat raw," which meant he usually had to deal with a blocker. Those terms have been rattling around in my head for two years now, and now they'll be rattling around in yours. Mwa ha ha.)
A protected player doesn't usually have to take on blockers and can just run to the ball and (hopefully) make a tackle. This fits in well with a converted safety at linebacker, but I'm (and we are, right?) pretty leery about Brown even if he's not taking on blockers every play. This won't make much difference against spread teams—it'll be worlds better than pretending Johnny Thompson can cover anyone—but if Wisconsin and Michigan State don't suck I can see him getting run over consistently. That's assuming they don't make a change for power-running teams, which was an excellent assumption under Shafer (Johnny Thompson third and long what?) but hopefully won't be one under Robinson.
Sharik talks about what he expects the defense to be in the diaries, and it's not a 4-3 under. It's kind of a 4-3 under, actually, but it's flipped:
I assume that Graham will most often be the weakside 5 technique. Not only that, he'll probably be a "wide" 5, meaning he'll line up a yard outside the tackle, angled in at the tackle's nose. This means two things: one, he won't be inside (generally) and therefore two, it will be virtually impossible to double him in run situations. (He'll probably be doubled in pass situations, but that's likely to happen regardless of his alignment. This tends to happen when you are a freak of nature and can make QB's look like Beetle Bailey after an angry Sarge has gotten hold of him.)
Mike Martin will play a weakside shade or 1 technique (usually), meaning those two beasts will be on the same side of the DL most of the time. I would think opponents would run away from those two, which is where Michigan will have a numbers advantage. So, the offense will have to chose between:
A: running at two future NFL 1st round draft picks at DL, backed up by a potential 1st team all B10 middle LB (Obi Ezeh) and a former 5-star recruit at weakside OLB (Mouton)
B: running where the defense has superior numbers
Michigan showed this formation for most of the spring game… sort of. Van Bergen went out early and Graham played sparingly.
Ezeh as a potential first team all-conference player is a considerable stretch, but the rest of it sounds good. In a 4-3 under the deathbacker sits even farther outside the tackle and is used as a freelance sower of chaos a la Shawn Crable; this is something I assume you'll see on passing plays. Having all the hybrids around allows Michigan to flip which side of the line those guys show up on without revealing a personnel change:
The "quick" can play strong side or weak; so can the "spinner." The "quick" can play w/hand down or not. The "spinner" can play on the LOS, at LB depth, or even in the secondary. The "quick" can play on the LOS or at LB depth.
This jives with comments from Van Bergen that he's usually going to be a three-technique defensive tackle but will move out to a five-technique defensive end from time to time when Michigan either goes with a two-gap look (infrequently, IME) or flips the deathbacker to the other side of the formation.
It certainly sounds good. Sharik details the various packages his high school team ran last year, which are customized to the opponent's strength and provided considerable flexibility. I'll be terribly pleased to see a defensive back-type object heading out into the slot against spread sets instead of Johnny Thompson. And opposing teams are going to have to prepare for a multitude of looks. In theory, it's a defensive equivalent of Michigan's offense and when it's had talent in the past it's been excellent.
Whether or not the Michigan defense has "talent" in the overarching sense is yet to be determined.
BONUS HYPE: I've been talking up incoming freshman Craig Roh for a while now, saying that despite his wiry frame Michigan will be virtually forced to use him because of a lack of deathbacker depth. And lo, it is so. Rodriguez on the crab man:
"It’s only been one week, but he’s got some natural ability, pass-rush wise, and we’re teaching him some different things in the scheme of our defense. But I think he could help us at least in a pass-rush mode and then as he continues to learn the defense he’ll do more and more of it."
Van Bergen, meanwhile, says he's "raw" but is a "really skilled" pass rusher. It might take him a couple games but I'd be surprised if he's not a part of the nickel package, and soon. If he's not that means Brandon Herron is way better than he has any right to be.
There were two ways that the Michigan offense’s inexperience showed with disadvantages in the snap count. No, I’m serious. They were something of opposites: 1) Early in the year, we saw the Infamous Frozen Line play, in which Michigan tried (sometimes successfully, though the referees didn't necessarily see it that way) to draw offsides calls by snapping the ball whenever an opponent crossed into the neutral zone. 2) Opposing defenses were really, really good at jumping Michigan’s snap counts last year.
Exhibit A, from the Utah UFR:
I don't get it. So Sheridan does the normal hand-slap thing to indicate he wants the ball but this time there's a pause before Molk snaps it. In the interim, Utah jumps offside because they've been timing the snap. Okay, super. Then Sheridan rolls out as the offensive line remains motionless and heaves one downfield to a blanketed Mathews, who leaps and makes the catch. Why not just run a play there? More later. (DO, 1, protection N/A)
The first time this play was run, Michigan got a hopeful jump-ball completion to Mathews. Michigan gets Utah again here, except the refs don't call the obvious offsides. Thanks, guys. Threet hurls the usual sideline route to Stonum. It's accurate but well-covered and broken up. (CA+, 1, protection N/A)
The second time was a drive-killing 3rd down incompletion (which, if the offsides had been called adequately, would have been a free first down).
So, Michigan got somewhat hosed by the referees on one of those, and got lucky on the first one. However, later in the year, we saw a similar occurrence against Minnesota. Defense jumps offsides, ball is snapped, pass is basically a hopeful jump ball downfield. The difference is that, like, the offensive line blocked, and it looked something like an actual play. This adjustment to the “free play” play showed, at the very least, growth by the coaching staff over the course of the year. More likely, it showed that Michigan will run an effective play when a flag is down for offsides.
On to exhibit B, from the Michigan State UFR:
MSU jumping snaps
Okay, Michigan State's crappy cornerbacks are going to press our crappy receivers all day and not get hurt by it, which will be a major factor in the bubble screen's ineffectiveness. Anyway, on this play State is slanting right to the direction of the play, robbing Schilling of any angle to block a DT lined up inside of him. Also, MSU appears to be timing the snap, as will become relevant later. The DT beats Schilling to the spot and Minor is tackled at the LOS.
Hated formation with a WR covered up. On this play the entire State DL pushes the entire Michigan OL into the backfield; it again looks like they're timing Molk's snaps. As a result, Minor has to cut back behind everyone and does well to get back to the LOS.
Again State jumps right at the snap; this one looks onside. Moosman has something of a tough time with the early-mover, who ends up lunging at Threet just as he throws, knocking this open post route off. (BA, 0, protection 1/2, Moosman -1)
Argh. This goes for a first down but Molk(-600000) holds on a bubble screen, partially because State is again jumping the snap count. (CA, 3, screen)
In the wrapup sections the matter came up again:
This actually came up in a mailbag earlier this year, at which point I said this…
“I’m pretty sure Michigan isn’t using no snap count whatsoever, it’s just that the count is silent. DEs don’t have license to time the snap with impunity. There will be variable pauses between the clap and the snap.”
…and promptly forgot about it.
As we now know, there weren't really variable pauses between the hand clap and the snap, which allowed Michigan State to jump the snap count time and again to mostly good effect. They picked up a few offsides calls, but they also got incompletions, stuffed runs, and sacks because their guys were moving before Michigan's OL could even get out of their stances. They were offsides on another two or three plays, but didn't get called for it.
But! It's clear Michigan State was very well prepared to play this edition of Michigan; they scouted out all the wheels and such and timed the snap counts and exploited Michigan's tendencies on offense wickedly. (On defense, OTOH, Michigan broke tendencies and largely played well save for four enormous errors turned in by Stevie Brown and Boubacar Cissoko.)
Aside from varying the snap count a little and picking up those offsides calls, Michigan could do little about it.
There was a little something Michigan could do about it, which David Molk took care of a couple times:
State has obviously been jumping the snap; this time Molk lifts his head and waits, drawing a DT offsides.
Michigan’s snap counts were all the same last year, much to the delight of opponents. This year, with a more experienced offensive line, might we see a little more variety in the snap counts, despite the likely starter at QB being a freshman? I would presume yes. Michigan’s coaches are a smart bunch, and they did what they could last year with limited talent, experience, and prep time. All of those things are an entire year better in 2009, so some variety will be mixed in. I’ll go back to Brian for the grand finale, this time from the Penn State UFR:
My theory: Michigan is implementing portions of a whole gameplan trying to find something that works. They then practice the hell out of their plan and break it out, finding early success.
However, I, and I think a lot of other Michigan fans, thought "I really hope they have a curveball coming up" in the second quarter; they did not. Once you get past the game plan, Michigan has no backup. So we've seen teams adjust to the offense and have success stopping it.
When does the backup plan come in? Well, 1) when Threet's elbow gremlins step off, and 2) when these guys get past the training wheels stage and have a base they can fall back on.
Now that Michigan’s offense will have the training wheels off (and hopefully Forcier can be a non-gremlin version of Threet), there will be more variety in multiple aspects of the game.
no, no, maybe
1. Does the CCHA rejecting Alabama's bid start to pave the way for Penn State to go varsity?
Probably not. All the reasons Penn State varsity hockey was unlikely the last time this blog addressed the topic still apply minus one: no conference to go to. Now Penn State could slot into UNO's spot in the CCHA and play a bunch a games against Big Ten teams and Notre Dame, which would put their program on decent footing financially. The CCHA, meanwhile, would be much more likely to accept a name school like Penn State.
That's a big hurdle gone and improves the chances of Penn State varsity hockey from 0% to something nonzero. But the rest of the pile of reasons it's not likely to happen—expense, Title IX, likely doormat status at the start—still apply. We can also toss "endowment-crushing economic collapse" on the heap now.
There is one wild scenario in which I could see some movement: the Big Ten Network wants content on Friday and Saturday nights and thinks that the CCHA with Penn State would be enough of a financial draw that they chip in.
[Side note/question: the CCHA's persistent attachment to Fox Sports Net is weird, since FSN craps all over college hockey whenever they've got a Wings game from 1985 to replay. I can only assume there's a contract that doesn't expire quite yet, because the BTN would be a natural fit for the league. Every team not in Alaska is in the footprint, and nothing else ever happens on Friday night.
Also, the glorious high definition of last year's BTN-broadcast Ohio State game left me crippled the next time I tried to squint at a Fox Sports' two-pixels-a-second stuff. Complicating factor: Fox is 49% owner of the BTN.]
2. Back in 2004, what (if any) were the reports out of practice in terms of the quarterback situation? I don't think it even occurred to me before he took the field that Henne might be the starter for the first game. All of the praise heaped on Tate so far made me want to check for a comparison.
Unfortunately, this blog started up just before the Rose Bowl that season and I can't go back and tell you definitively. What I remember (and this may be wrong; commenters are encouraged to provide their own take in the comments) is that Henne was recognized as an incredibly advanced high school quarterback and there was considerable uncertainty as to whether Gutierrez or Henne would get the job.
However, Henne was a surprise starter. I remember the muttering in the pregame warmups as it became clear that Gutierrez wasn't throwing and Henne was running the first-team offense. It was clear Gutierrez was injured and IIRC the base assumption was that Henne only had the job until such time as the real starter got healthy. This was not a correct assumption.
Just wondering, how many scholarships we have next year? I thought I heard we had 20, but then we had a whole slew of kids leave the program. Don’t we get those scholarships back? Shouldn’t we be thrilled when these kids leave the program when they can’t play for us anyway?
I just looked on Rivals and it says we have 18 kids committed. If we still stand at 20, that means we’ve pretty much hitched our wagon to these 3 star kids (who are probably better than that, based on their fit in our schemes) instead of waiting until some of the bigger name kids commit in Feb.
Do we have more than 20 scholarships?
Thanks for the help!
Yes, Aarronn—last name Herrmann FTW?—Michigan gets those scholarships back. Did you miss the constant bitching about this fact re: Alabama? This blog's current count stands at 20 but that's under the following assumptions:
Moundros and Kelvin Grady on scholarship until they graduate.
Morales and Sheridan are not.
All fifth-year players return.
No one leaves for the draft.
There's no other attrition.
Some of those are highly likely to be faulty: Bryan Wright and the Coner are not going to get fifth years unless they have incriminating photos of the coaching staff. And there's six months between now and signing day; it's likely a couple players leave the team for reasons of playing time, academics, or injury. (I had a dream last night that three more players left the team, FWIW, but I think they were all Marell Evans again.)
That will push Michigan's class to 23, 25, or even more. Add in a decommit or two and Michigan's still got a ways to go before its class is complete.
You're not wrong about hitching the wagon to three stars, though. This class is going to lag behind the average Michigan class, as discussed earlier. As long as Michigan fills their open scholarship and retains this class, though, it'll be a minor hindrance unless it happens again next year.
Brian,One thing I have noticed is that you freak out at the possibility of Nick Sheridan starting the season opener or any other game during the rest of his time at Michigan. My question is, Would it be all that bad if he did win the starting job come September 5th? Now before you wonder where I have been for the last 18 months, hear me out. If Sheridan has improved immensely during the spring, summer, and first few days of preseason and he outright beats both Forcier and Robinson, shouldn't that be encouraging? Now we do have 2 or 3 legitimate QB options. Wouldn't it be a good thing if Magee and Rodriguez could open up a majority of the playbook to a junior who actually has game experience and has started a D1 game?I was at the spring game and was able to see Forcier and I have been keeping up on what his teammates have been saying about him and I am very excited and I am trusting this year will be much better than last. However, they are saying good things about Sheridan as well. I think it would be great if Forcier was slowly worked into more and more snaps during games and by Eastern or Indiana, he's the starter.I guess I just won't be surprised if Sheridan or Forcier starts vs. Western.Your further thoughts and reasoning behind not wanting Sheridan to ever play again except in mop-up duty.Thanks,Adam
I don't mean to slam Sheridan, who's just a guy put in an impossible position trying to make the best of everything. And I don't mean to slam Adam, who seems like a perfectly nice, if insanely optimistic, guy.
That said: were you under a rock last year? Do you remember what happened? I hate Godwin's law right now. I mean, what is your instant reaction to this AnnArbor.com video headline:
Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan discusses - rather, avoids discussing - what he brings to the table
I know what it is. I know it in my bones. I know it in the bones of my bones. If you try to tell me it's not the cheap, obvious joke I will call you a liar.
I know you specifically disclaimed this sort of response, but… you're not allowed to do that. It is the correct, inevitable response. If Rodriguez chooses to play Sheridan at any point when Forcier is still mobile, that's either a huge failing in judgment or recruiting.
A brief recap of last year: 46% completion rate, 4.5 YPC, 2 TDs, 5 INTs. That's far, far worse than any true freshman starter in recent college football history save Jimmy Clausen, and Sheridan was a redshirt sophomore. He's a walk-on with zero recruiting profile with no indication he's got any upside. Why would he improve "immensely"? Why wouldn't Tate Forcier improve at a similar rate? Why isn't Forcier obviously ahead where Sheridan was last year given their vastly divergent spring games*? What part of the playbook can Sheridan, who's slower and has a weaker arm than Forcier, run that someone else can't?
Even immense improvement would only get Sheridan to the level of your average freshman quarterback. And even if that happens and it's close between Forcier, who should be better than your average freshman just because he's been bred to be a QB, and Sheridan—doubtful—you'd have to be nuts to go with a redshirt junior over a true freshman. You'd have to be triple nuts to go with a redshirt junior who completed 16 of 49 for under 150 yards in the last two games of the year and was clearly, totally inadequate in the process. You'd have to be sextuple nuts to go with him a year after you picked him over a superior quarterback based on practice performance that turned out to be a mirage.
Sheridan was asked if he felt he was being written off, and responded like so:
“No,” Sheridan said. “Not at all. Nope.”
Well… I'm writing him off. I am Time Warner. Sheridan is AOL. If he proves me wrong, well, fine. I suggest you join me in the most obscure country ending in –stan we can find.
But he definitely won't. Absolutely. I'm positive about this. Stop suggesting otherwise. Football coaches have to take team morale into account when they craft their public statements and have to keep their hotshot freshmen on their toes to keep them focused. That doesn't mean we have to believe them.
*(By this I mean Forcier's 10/13 + 50 yards rushing + 5 TDs in 2009 versus Nick Sheridan's interception-fest in 2008.)