somehow we're only 124th
The more you hear about the defense, the more you hear about the 3-4. An example:
Ezeh said the team's defense under new coordinator Greg Robinson would mostly resemble a 3-4 ... One defensive player whose position has been adjusted is Stevie Brown. After playing (and often struggling) at safety last year, Brown will fill a hybrid outside linebacker-safety spot in the revamped defense
But I don't think it's an actual 3-4, by which I mean a Pittsburgh Steelers style 3-4 with big space-eating defensive linemen and havoc-wreaking linebackers. 3-4 versus 4-3 is often a proxy for a more fundamental distinction between defenses: one gap versus two. Wikipedia:
Sometimes the defensive scheme says he is responsible for only one gap - it's his job to make sure the running back can't come through his gap, and the other gaps will be someone else's responsibility. In this case we say the tackle is playing in a one gap defense. The tackle will line up right in the gap, not directly facing any offensive lineman.
In other schemes, the tackle will be responsible for two gaps. In this case the tackle will line up directly facing an offensive lineman, and his job will be to push that lineman backwards and make sure the running back doesn't run past on either side of his lineman.
If you want to play a two gap scheme, you need larger stronger defensive tackles who can control an offensive lineman or even two offensive linemen. If you want to play a one gap scheme you can use slightly smaller defensive tackles who are faster and more athletic and can penetrate into the offensive backfield more often. In a two gap scheme, the tackles are supposed to control the linemen, thus making sure that no one is blocking the linebackers behind them and the linebackers are then free to make the play and tackle the runner. So in a two gap scheme, you don't expect the defensive tackles to have a large number of sacks or tackles.
NFL style 3-4s are two-gap defenses with huge nose tackles and huge, mobile defensive ends who would probably be DTs in a 4-3. In college these sorts of folk are rare and the 3-4 is decidedly unpopular.
When it does emerge you get this a lot:
The picture is small, but that's USC in 2006. Note that the nearest defensive end is in a two-point stance.
You might recognize this defense because it's the one that blew up Michigan's zone stretch in the 2006 Rose Bowl. USC used Brian Cushing as a defensive end, but stood him up. This is basically a 4-3 defense with some extra frippery: you can back Cushing off or shift the line into another set of techniques or actually use it as a 3-4, or a 5-2 by moving the other linebacker up and loading the middle of the line:
That's what USC did in the Rose Bowl, putting one player on every gap and shooting it as soon as the line moved one way or the other.
So, it's a 3-4. Brian Cushing is technically a linebacker on the roster. But it's not a 3-4, as it's mostly a one-gap defense. In the NFL these days you're hearing a lot about "hybrid" defenses that shift from 3-4 to 4-3 based on situation, and that's what USC 2006 D was. They completely shut down Michigan's powerful rushing attack by shifting to a different front.
Given the wacky nomenclature of Michigan's Herrmann-era defensive line, which had a DE, an NT, a DT, and a "rush linebacker" I'm pretty sure that Michigan defenses from the era before I was paying enough attention to know were also flexible. This is what Robinson means by "multiple fronts."
Michigan is poised to go back to the future with three down linemen, two traditional linebackers, and a couple of hybrid folk. The "spinner" is a standup defensive end who plays on the weakside, and the "Stevie Brown isn't a safety" is a hybrid linebacker/safety sort who is probably going to function a lot like Brandon Harrison did under Ron English. Michigan had a specific spot they called nickelback; that guy always lined up over the slot receiver and blitzed a ton.
So it's going to look like a 3-4 at times, and there are only going to be three guys with their hand on the ground, and some announcers but definitely not Chris Spielman will talk about it as a 3-4, but I don't think it's really a 3-4. From my admittedly amateur perspective, it doesn't make any sense to take Mike Martin, a 290 pound penetrator, and turn him into a two-gap space eater. Nor does it make sense to take terror defensive end Brandon Graham and expose him to convenient double blocking on every play. Two gap defenses will probably be a changeup and nothing more. No matter how many people say it's a 3-4, don't believe them. It's not a 3-4.
Unless, of course, it is.
"Kelvin has asked for his release from the program and we will grant that to him," said Beilein. "Over the last two years, he has been a positive influence in helping build the foundation of our program. He is a wonderful young man on and off the floor. We wish him nothing but success in the future."
The writing was on the wall when David Merritt kept getting playing time over Grady. For whatever reason, Beilein would rather have gargled windex than play him, so he made the obvious move.
Effects for next year:
- Darius Morris has virtually no competition for the starting point guard slot.
- Uh… and there's no backup point guard with the walk-ons graduating. Stu Douglass? Laval Lucas-Perry?
- Michigan now has a third scholarship for the 2010 class. The class could grow to five if Anthony Wright isn't offered a fifth year—which was a near-certainty until the first half of the Oklahoma game—and Manny Harris leaves after his junior season.
Given Michigan's need for a big, Manny-Deshawn-replacing 2010 class this is probably a net benefit for the team long term. In the short term, Grady's absence puts the onus squarely on Morris.
Hockey summer. The hockey season is over, and that means one thing: months and months of waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to sign an NHL contract. There's always at least one, so let's run down the possibilities:
- Aaron Palushaj. Palushaj was heavily rumored to be out the door last year and is even more heavily rumored to be out the door this year. The Wolverine's Michael Spath is basically saying "he gone," as is (ugh) Hockey Buzz.
- Chris Summers. A first round pick entering his senior year is always a flight risk, but Spath says a projected second depature "isn't Summers." Also, when Jerry of the Joe Cribbs Car Wash was a Saline Reporter… uh… reporter he interviewed Summers and got the distinct impression he was in for the long haul. About that second projected departure…
- Scooter Vaughn. By the end of the year Vaughn was Michigan's eighth defenseman and was being tried out as a fourth-line forward. On the blue line the only graduation loss is Mitera. With Summers returning, no other defensemen seeming like huge flight risks (Kampfer, I guess, but there haven't been any rumblings to that effect), and freshman Lee Moffie arriving in the fall, Michigan will again have eight defensemen and Vaughn is staring at an uphill battle for playing time. Unsurprisingly, he might look elsewhere.
- Caporusso, Hagelin, and Rust. There hasn't been any buzz on these guys either way because none are expected to leave. Caporusso and his shiny point totals are the biggest threat, but he was a late third round pick and Ottawa is not a team with a rep for signing kids just for the hell of it. That said, this is Michigan hockey so someone will kill us with an unexpected departure.
If the only departures are Vaughn, who is probably going to spend most of next year in a suit, and Palushaj, who everyone had already written off, that would be a win.
Spot on. Joe Posnanski's blog post on what ails sportswriting is a version of my usual complaint, except much less snotty about the whole thing:
There is still great, great sportswriting being done in newspapers, I believe this with all my heart. But that professional thing — maybe in places, there is a lack of joy. Maybe in places, there is an honorable distance. Maybe in places, the professional skepticism that we have built up through the years turns our coverage of games into hard-nosed city hall reporting. And last I checked, nobody wears jerseys that say “City Hall” on them.
That's at least part of it, with a large section of the other part being blithering stupidity. (Of which the internet has none.) Elsewhere in the post, Posnanski—who is an Actual Journalist for the KC Star and SI, if you don't know who he is—relates a formative anecdote in which he won a team-sponsored raffle and had to give it all (cooler! golf trip!) back when his hard-nosed city hall editor took the stogie out of his mouth and muttered something dark and deflating. It's an excellent example of the culture that was installed way back when, and how it turns young bucks into bitter donut-inhaling old men.
Not that Posnanski is one; he's my favorite Actual Journalist because he's the kind of person who maintains a personal blog and gets it in a way people who think typing a gamer your browser window is being "internet savvy" don't.
For a section dubbed the "toy department," there isn't a whole lot of fun on the sports pages. The erratic attempts at it only serve to confirm that the worst thing in the world is someone with an inflated impression of how hilarious they are; they're more sad than anything else. The exceptions (Wojo at the News, for one) only serve to reinforce the dull stentorian grumbling of the rest of it.
Thank you. Y'all can stick little needles in your Jim Carty voodoo dolls as you read this, but the man has done us (or at least me) a service:
Kirk Bohls is a very good columnist for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Texas. We've been fortunate to meet and interact a little at the Rose Bowl. He's used Kentucky's recent firing of Billy Gillispie to compile a list of the 10 toughest jobs in college sports.Here's the excerpt for No. 8:
8. MICHIGAN FOOTBALL: Wolverines chased off proven winner Lloyd Carr for Rich Rodriguez, but the 108,500 fans who crowd the Big House won’t tolerate losses to Toledo — much less Ohio State — for long.We'll deal with why the contention Carr was changed off in a minute, but even more amusingly, Bohls lists the Texas football job behind Michigan at No. 10. The only problem with that suggestion, of course is ... well ... actual historical record. Michigan has had four coaches since 1968. None of them were fired. The only one who resigned under pressure did so for reasons that had nothing to do with football.
|Princeton, New Jersey - 6'6" 260
|Scout||4*, #15 DE, #116 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #11 SDE, #215 overall|
|ESPN||80, #13 DE|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida, Stanford|
|YMRMFSPA||Alain Kashama… except good!|
|AA game roundup. Hello: Anthony Lalota.|
|Notes||Early enrollment. Teammate (Tyler Stockton) committed to ND.|
Anthony LaLota came to the attention of college recruiters via a very strange and nasal route: Terry Bowden. Bowden met LaLota's father at some corporate event, got LaLota's film, and then devoted one of his columns to the kid and his upside. Key graf that's not getting ahead of ourselves at all:
I've broadcasted several University of Virginia football games over the last couple of years and he reminds me very much of Howie Long's son, Chris.
Yes, Chris Long as in the guy taken right after Jake Long in last year's NFL draft. Schwing.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. LaLota may have Chris Long upside, but his rep was that he was big and raw. Then he showed up at 230 pounds—which you'll note is a full 30 pounds less than the number above, which was harvested from dozens of internet links and Michigan's official site—and started practicing at Greg Robinson's DE/LB hybrid spot. He could probably snap 90% of this blog's readership in half, but he's not so big in context.
He's raw, at least. Notre Dame Scout.com guy Mike Frank:
"When you watch him, he's just an extremely athletic kid that just runs real well, plays aggressively, pretty big kid that just plays very well," he said. …
"I think he's one of those 'projectable guys,' a guy who's not ready to play from day one because I think he might need a little work on technique. But he's a guy that's got so much athletic ability that you think that it'll be a short time before you see him on the field," Frank said.
Frank also called LaLota "an ideal candidate defensively."
LaLota's coach echoed the sentiments about his athleticism:
“Just an endless amount of potential. Runs like a deer; doesn’t get tired. He’s relentless just keeps going after the ball. Could play offensive or defensive tackle. Ton of potential. Only played 12 games of football in his entire life. He continues to learn, and a kid that has Ivy League grades, as well.”
His position coach agrees:
"His upside is just absolutely out of sight," adds Law, who played at Rutgers. "Right now he's still learning, but he's learning fast. He has all the natural skills to be a big-time player in college."
When LaLota showed up at the Army game, he showed off his potential… and how far he has to go. He went mostly unmentioned, but Rivals' Barry Every filed this report:
ASSETS: Excellent height, great frame and long arms.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Really needs to work on pad level at the point of attack. He cannot get by on size and strength alone against this level of competition.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Seems to be a high-effort guy that really wants to get better as a defensive end.
CONCLUSION: Most likely a redshirt candidate next season as he continues to learn his position and acclimate to playing against stiffer competition. His excellent frame is meant for long-term success.
LaLota was the only Michigan commitment of the eight who attended an All America game to not impress. Rivals chucked him down 90 spots and Scout took back their fifth star after he struggled with more experienced opposition. He remains in the 100-200 range on all three sites, so that's not a disaster.
Obviously, the Anthony LaLota word of the day is "potential." Of this he has a ton. Despite having only a single year of college football under his belt, by March schools from every BCS conference had offered, including Penn State, LSU, West Virginia, and Boston College. By June, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida had added their names to the list. Yow.
Michigan will have to wait and see whether he's the guy who got all those offers or the guy who couldn't quite hack it at the all star game. Though his stock has dipped of late, LaLota's inexperiece means he's barely scratching the surface of his ability. Think of him as a 6'4", 230 version of Press Your Luck. No whammies.
Why Alain Kashama? Kashama, a Canadian, was also a very large, extremely athletic defensive end with little experience. He did exactly nothing in his Michigan career until the very end of it, when he owned Florida in the Outback Bowl, but his athleticism took him on a five-year tour of NFL practice squads. LaLota projects better because he's better scouted and had a boatload of offers.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though the guru reliability is "high," they all say LaLota is a boom-or-bust sort. We won't know what Michigan will get out of him for at least a couple years.
Projection: LaLota showing up 30 pounds light might actually be a boon for his chances at early playing time, as he's slotted into this spinner position and, given his athleticism, seems like an excellent fit for the spot. Still, he's so new to the game a redshirt seems likely, and preferable.
Added NJ OL Jake Kaufman, FL RB Roy Finch.
Editorial Opinion: A much more manageable set of items this week. The big news was Michigan picking up a commit from Dallas Skyline RB Tony Drake, which was covered earlier. With three senior RBs and transfers from McGuffie and Horn, Michigan will be in the market for probably three tailbacks this year. Drake is a smallish zone slasher; expect one angry moose type and a wildcard to round out the class.
He will battle the evil Mingovians
Okay, words: Legaux is a dual-threat QB who's obviously from Louisiana; he's a member of the Rivals 250 and completed nearly 70% of his passes last year. Michigan is his first big offer and that article comes from Sam Webb. So, yeah, heuristics and all that: Michigan leads for a quarterback named Munchie Legaux.
Let's do this.
MN OL Seantrel Henderson is currently the nation's #1 recruit to both Scout and Rivals. He's a mountain in a helmet, and last week he visited Michigan. The trip went well:
Cretin-Derham Hall's 6-8, 300-pound junior offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson was especially impressed with an unofficial visit to Michigan the other day.
And this appears to be the barest outline of a leader for Henderson, albeit an undeclared one:
GH: Which schools do you like right now?
SH: I like all schools, I don’t have a top three or four — Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame and Minnesota — those are some of the ones I like.
GH: Do you plan on taking all of your five official visits this fall?
GH: Do you have schools that you definitely want to go see?
SH: Michigan, for sure.
Schwing! There's a long way to go with Henderson—when you're the #1 recruit you can wait until signing day, or, like, a month after.
A couple things that may affect Henderson's choice are the fate of his friend JD Pride, who Henderson would like to go to school with, and the ability to play basketball in college. Pride, a dual threat QB, has a Minnesota offer and visited Michigan with Henderson.
A foot in the door
It's supposed to be a poor crop of defensive tackles this year, so this is welcome news:
An absolute beast is Johnathan Hankins out of Southeastern High School in Detroit, Michigan. He’s over 6-3 and 300, he dominates sort of like an ornery bear, a big one. Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State are after him, Florida’s offered.
A Florida offer for Hankins would be strange. IIRC Michigan is waiting on summer camp before deciding whether or not to issue an offer, and they've had plenty of opportunity to interact with Hankins. But the above-linked is part of Gator Country, the ESPN-affiliated Florida recruiting site, and is therefore likely to be accurate.
Despite the increased competition a Florida offer brings, I'd regard the above as extremely good news. Hankins has been rumored to be a Michigan fan and lean for a few months now, and if he's got the talent to reel in a Florida offer he's likely to pick one up from Michigan. Bonus: Hankins is a high school teammate of MI DE Will Gholston. Getting a commitment from him couldn't hurt in Gholston's recruitment.
Before: cute. Now: eh, not so cute.
An extensive Sam Webb article in the News on TX LB Caleb Lavey features this picture from the Lavey family archives:
Awww. Amazingly, Lavey comes up well short of the most adorable legacy-recruit-as-kid photo. Here's current Northwestern defensive back David Arnold, the son of former Wolverine Dave Arnold, a long time ago:
Those of you who managed to keep your brains from exploding should know that Lavey is now a 6'4" middle linebacker who racked up 200 tackles last year and has offers from Oklahoma, Penn State, Notre Dame, and others. He is no longer cute. This is good for his prospects.
Lavey hasn't come out and named a leader, but the unofficial visit and his dad's background have Michigan in good shape:
"I really like Coach Rodriguez," said Caleb. "He left me no doubt in my mind that he will be able to turn Michigan around. He's a great coach and a great guy. Me and my dad sat down and talked with him. We talked about the program and what his plans are. He has a great vision for Michigan and he'll be the coach that turns it around and turns it back into the national championship Michigan that it always has been."
Another trait that stood out was the vigor with which the players practiced. "It was just unbelievable how hyped up they were and how they were just getting after each other," Caleb reported. "It was great."
It still kills me a little that Arnold never got an offer; hopefully this one works out better.
Video of people and things
Rivals' move to Yahoo's video distribution system has been a godsend. Things are tagged and organized, they work cross-browser, and the free stuff is available for embedding. The old stuff was finicky—never worked in firefox for me—and way less functional. Yahoo FTW.
Anyway, embeds. This is FL RB Corvin Lamb, a teeny tiny jet engine from Miami Northwest:
Top five is a good place to be at that point; if there's a visit it'll get serious.
And while we're on video, please enjoy the most pointless content in the history of recruiting. It's highlight video of PA CB Cullen Christian's combine performance. Christian extends his arm! Is a certain height! Jumps! Continues jumping! Etc. The best part is that 1) this was evidently televised by Fox Sports, and 2) whoever did the televising thought his name was "Christian Cullen."
Etc.: M in SC RB Marcus Lattimore's top ten; MI QB Robert Bolden says he doesn't want to go "where they are recruiting two or three quarterbacks and have a bunch of guys already." The coming Gardner commit is probably the death knell for M's chances with Bolden.