...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
ND column coming noon-ish or one-ish.
Update 9/3... er 9/17: Linked to articles on PA WR/RB/KR Cameron Saddler, PA HB commit Christian Wilson, DC DT Reggie Ellis, PA WR Jonathan Baldwin, MN WR Mike Floyd, OH TE commit Kevin Koger. Also one that mentions both Saddler and Hale, and this on NJ S Brandon Smith.
Potentially dubious: There is also Bill Kurelic speculation on PA DE Shayne Hale and an article on the top 25 players in Pennsylvania. Hey: the top 50(!) players in Pennsylvania... M/Pitt lead for Baldwin suggested. Recruiting Planet says JB Fitzgerald is committing to M this weekend. Moved NJ LB JB Fitzgerald to committed.
More articles: PA LB Shayne Hale, LA CB Robby Green, PA WR Vaughn Carraway. Removed PA DT Reggie Ellis(dropped us), TX WR Jeff Fuller (Ok). More articles: PA TE Mark Wedderburn, TX S Keanon Cooper, NJ S Brandon Smith, TN CB JT Floyd, MI CB Boubacar Cissoko (and others), PA HB Christian Wilson, PA LB JB Fitzgerald. Also a general article on recruits not getting spooked.
Editorial Opinion: Sorry for the hiatus; recruiting coverage will be sparser during the season what with all the Actual Events going on but I'll endeavor to make this at least a biweekly thing.
Anyway, question #1 on everyone's mind: will this thus-far strong recruiting class decommit en masse to play for Appalachian State? A brief overview of the flight risks follows.
|As Solid As Verbal Commitments Get|
|The Free Press got in touch with the four instate commitments. Boubacar Cissoko:
"I still love Michigan. I still want to go there."
The other three guys:
Cissoko, Rocko Khoury, Dann O'Neill, and Mike Martin are all 95% to end up at Michigan no matter what.
Darryl Stonum also fits in this category; he recently reaffirmed his commitment after his official visit. One of the primary motivations for his commit was and is the presence of former teammates Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron at Michigan; this will not change.
|No Reason For Serious Worry|
|Tight ends Kevin Koger and Brandon Moore were also contacted by the Free Press and said they were not considering other schools or even visits; they slot in this category only because there was no specific mention of what would happen in the event of a coaching search.
Christian Wilson said he's not wavering... yet:
Wilson said he is solid with his commitment to Michigan, but added, "If their coaching staff goes, I'll have to see what's going on."
Given the extremely positive comments from Wilson's mother on SackCarr's message board before his commitment, I think Wilson is a good bet to stick even in the event of a coaching switch; obviously he is less solid than the instaters.
OH OL Elliot Mealer grew up a big Ohio State fan but never received an offer. If he were to get one he would be a major flight risk, but the usually reliable insiders at Buckeye Planet think that is not likely:
I know for a fact the staff is not and never was very interested in Mealer. If they had been they would have asked him to hold off on a decision to see where some other chips fell. The staff made no such effort and were content to let him accept the offer UM made without pushing. If they missed on every OL target on their board Mealer would still not get an offer because he was never on the staff's board.
That post was in June, but it seems believable. If Mealer was really that big an OSU fan the logical thing would be to drag his recruitment out (like, say, Thaddeus Gibson did); OSU probably cut him loose. That might not say great things about OSU's opinion of his talent but it also means Michigan is likely to hold on to him: sometimes going to Michigan is sort of a screw-you-OSU thing.
|No one on the list looks like a grade-A flight risk but a few players haven't said anything and don't have any magical ties to Michigan that would make them stay in the aftermath of a coaching change. New Jersey linebackers Marcus Witherspoon and JB Fitzgerald are in this category. Greg Schiano is following Fitzgerald around in a freakin' helicopter, which makes me uncomfortable. (At least it does not have hot chicks in it, like Don Johnson's helicopters. Presumably.) One thing that might help out here is the potential commitment of Brandon Smith, a fellow New Jersey-type person -- more on that potential later -- who has gotten tight with Fitzgerald. Smith has long maintained that he was a Michigan fan since childhood and would be one of those magical ties guys if he commits.
Sadly, Sam McGuffie may be the commit in greatest danger of fleeing. He is from Houston, has some reasons to stay local, and
IL QB John Wienke stuck to his commit in the face of Steven Threet's transfer but has not been pinged on this stuff; he might have options at Illinois or elsewhere. CT RB Mike Cox and IN OL Kurt Wermers haven't been in touch with anyone of late.
So... even if Michigan struggles through 2007 and Carr retires, it appears that most of the recruits are likely to stick. Ironically, all the speculation about Carr's retirement, now going strong into its third year, may help Michigan should the rumors finally come to fruition:
But considering the bad start and the speculation surrounding the future of U-M coach Lloyd Carr, you would think that recruits might start to shop around.
However, Carr's situation has been the subject of hearsay for some time. It is highly likely that Carr will not be around when the Class of 2008 is finishing up at U-M, so recruits' eyes are wide-open.
"A lot of those kids have been hearing for sometime that his tenure is near the end," said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for Scout.com and publisher of SuperPrep magazine.
Wallace, who has been following recruiting for more than 20 years, says that fact is one reason why the two losses won't hurt Michigan.
"Kids tend to think the coaches are going to stay because it's easier for them," Wallace said. "In Carr's case, they are going in expecting a transition.
"They are choosing Michigan because of the other things the school offers."
A few may depart; the remainder would be a decent class at the very least. Losing McGuffie would suck, though.
Not so sunny is Michigan's situation with a few recruits. The always frank and funny PA WR/KR Cameron Saddler is expressing some reservations about Michigan given the potential turmoil:
"I pushed all of my official visits back, just because some of these situations are iffy," Saddler said. "Like Virginia. People aren't too happy down there. And you know people aren't too happy in Ann Arbor with Michigan. Plus, we want to make a championship run with our team, so I want to put all this recruiting stuff on the back burner."
Saddler said Michigan's 0-2 start definitely got him thinking.
"I don't know if I want to go to a school with a new coach," Saddler said.
"What if that new coach doesn't want a 5-foot-6 player like me. Wait. Let me correct that. I should've said a 5-9 player like me."
Saddler was visiting with five star DE Shayne Hale; Hale's visit also got canceled because he hasn't taken the SAT yet, which is, for some reason, a requirement if you're going to go on an official. We'll have to see how their recruitment plays out; as of now the longer it goes for the pair -- oft rumored as a package -- the better for Michigan. It sounds like they'll wait until their season is over, at which point all this turmoil will get resolved. So there's that at least.
TX S Keanon Cooper is also a little shaken:
"I'm still debating whether or not I want to go into a situation where a team is rebuilding.
That's the thing about Michigan right now," he said. "They are 0-2 and are really struggling on both offense and defense. It looks like they might be heading towards a rebuilding time. I want to see if they can bounce back. They are a program that is capable of finishing fast once they start clicking."
I think "rebuilding" is probably a bit harsh, especially since Cooper is comparing Michigan to freakin' Minnesota in this quote, but whatever. Cooper says Wisconsin leads over a set of chasers including Michigan.
Also, NJ S Brandon Smith is name dropped by Mike Farrell as a potential commit on his official visit for the Penn State game:
New Brunswick, N.J. athlete Brandon Smith, a top-100 recruit, could also commit on the weekend of Sept. 21. Smith and recent Michigan commitment J.B. Fitzgerald have become friends and have talked about playing in Ann Arbor together. They are scheduled to take their official visits the same weekend, so Fitzgerald may help recruit his friend while they are on campus. Fitzgerald is a linebacker from Princeton Junction (N.J.) West Windsor Plainsboro South.
Farrell is not the most reliable person in the world when it comes to these things, and there is this extensive interview with Smith and his mother from a local newspaper that contradicts him:
Q: When will you make your decision?
A: I've been nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-Star game in Texas, which is on national TV in January. If I'm chosen, I would like to do it there, like A.D. did. If not, I'll announce it on Feb. 6, which is the official commitment day.
It sounds like Rutgers is a real threat:
Q for Cheryl: Where would you like to see your son go?
A: My heart says Rutgers, but then I think sometimes it may be good for him to get away. From a recruiting standpoint, I love Rutgers, coach (Greg) Schiano and coach (Joe) Susan, the recruiting coordinator. I've been the most impressed with them.
...but optimism maybe?
Q: What schools do you plan to visit?
A: The only official visit I have set up is Michigan on Sept. 21. I don't know after that. One thing about Michigan, I love the cold weather. I think it gives me an advantage because I'll go 100 percent in the cold.
Take it for what you will; I've backed Smith off from blue to green.
Further bleah: LA CB Robby Green article without a Michigan mention.
Neutral items. Vaughn Carraway still maintains Michigan as leader and is close to setting up an official:
"I'm really close to setting up a visit with Michigan," Vaughn Carraway said. "I already talked with the coaches about it and it's going to be soon." Carraway, ranked the No. 48 wide receiver in the country by Scout.com, says the Wolverines still lead slightly.
I kind of get the feeling Carraway's offer is valid only in the event a couple other players commit elsewhere.
TN CB JT Floyd was planning an official last weekend; he did not make it up because of weather, though.
Kenny Demens from the above-linked Cissoko article:
"It wasn't so good that they lost," said Demens, a four-year starter. "What I saw was an opportunity (to play). That's a plus for me. I talked with (linebackers) coach Steve Szabo for about an hour afterward and he told me, 'We need you. We need guys like you.'
"Sure, I've received some negative talk. I've received some messages saying Michigan is terrible. But for me, I should be concerned with a program that needs me, where I can be a benefit."
On Monday, Demens added another scholarship offer to his list -- Oregon.
He found that ironic.
"First they come here and beat Michigan," he said. "Then they want to come here and take one of their recruits away."
Demens said he won't commit until after the season. He intends to visit U-M, MSU, Nebraska and West Virginia.
The upshot: the recruits who have already committed to Michigan are likely to remain committed, but the early-season turmoil
and the widespread speculation about a coaching change at the end of the season are hurting our chances with various uncommitted recruits. There does appear to be a real net effect; it looks small enough to be mostly harmless.
Please note the timestamp on this from the BGS comments:
cue up Yakety Sax.
Don't mind if I do!
Massive, incredible credit goes to Jeremy Bronson, who put this together and did it as well as possible.
Side note: banner not intended to endorse any political POV. It's just supposed to be funny.
There is no better summary of this game and the typical reaction of the disinterested observer than this:
Go Blue and stuff.
Run Offense vs. SSONIINI
Notre Dame has battled valiantly against the pounding rushing games of Georgia Tech and Penn State but a lack of depth and talent has told late:
rushing average against, by quarter 1Q
3.74 yards per carry
Those numbers are not great even in the first half; in the second half they are deplorable. Notre Dame bloggers have chalked this up to an excessively bleah offense stranding their warrior-poets on the field too long and project this will not happen against a Michigan defense that's much kinder, to say the least, than either Georgia Tech or Penn State. I don't know if that's true, though:
|ND Plays||Opp Plays|
Neither of these is a huge discrepancy, and 68 defensive plays is not out of the ordinary. Notre Dame's offense has been so awful that many of the scores against the defense have been on short fields...
41% of all points scored against ND so far this season have occurred on drives of 36 yards or less.
...which holds down both yards ceded and plays dealt with. While ND's scoring defense (93rd) is an artifact of its tougher than average start and the crappy offense, there's no reason to believe that even if said offense does improve there will be any corresponding bump from the defense, currently ranked 100th against the run and yielding 4.82 yards per carry. The evidence shows that they tire; they should against Michigan.
Meanwhile, the lone bright spot in the first two Michigan games has been the run offense. Mike Hart rolled up 188 yards at 8.2 YPC against Appalachian State and 127 at 5.1 YPC against Oregon. While neither defense is exactly Penn State, neither is Notre Dame. Continued success is probable.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus his own damn body. He's limped off and missed portions of Michigan's first two games; Michigan's running game drops off dramatically when he's not in the game: Primary backup Brandon Minor is only averaging 3.8 YPC.
Pass Offense vs. SSONIINI
Ryan Mallett's debut was less than scintillating --6-17, 49 yards, and one interception -- but he was victimized by a few drops and some horrendous babying that asked him to throw a lot of hopeless bombs on third and forever. He was obviously a step down from even a Henne in full on Hennebriation mode and will remain so this week; better numbers are a definite.
How much better is in question. Carr called out Manningham's effort this week and praised Adrian Arrington; Mallett is going to need some help from wide receivers that were unprepared to catch the rockets he was slinging out there. You'd hope that a week of nothing but Mallett zingers would help matters; there will still be a drop here or there and Mallett goes all Jacob Silj on people.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's beleagured secondary has put up good numbers so far. Taylor Bennett was 11 for 23 for 121 yards; Anthony Morelli was 12 for 22 for 131 yards and one pick six into excellent coverage. Never change, Anthony. The mere idea of "excellent coverage" as applies to the Notre Dame secondary is mindblowing and worth examining. In this instance it was provided by sophomore cornerback Darrin Walls, not the cast of Manningham torchees that still hovers in the general vicinity of receivers without actually bothering to cover them. He's grabbed a starting spot and may be headed towards competence or better. The rest of it, though, is the same cast of characters: Boxer Tom Zbikowski, who is a boxer and the most overrated safety in America when he is not boxing or being boxed or participating in a boxing fight, Terrail Lambert and Ambrose Wooden, etc. New safety David Bruton has already made a couple hideous mental gaffes.
So... yeah, they've done pretty well so far but is this not a Zach Mills at PSU situation wherein opposing teams with good defenses can pack away anything remotely dangerous in the knowledge that 14 points will be good enough? A common MGoBlog heuristic is to severely doubt seniors who sucked as juniors without extenuating circumstances and to furthermore doubt all non-freshmen stuck behind the suck: this applies to every member of the Notre Dame secondary save Walls, and Michigan has at least two guys you have to cover, possibly more.
It's impossible to offer anything solid here with a freshman quarterback and conflicting indicators from the opposition... a few big plays for and against are probable.
Key Matchup: Mallett versus Corwin Brown. It will help our efforts greatly if Mallett does not throw the pick or two that seem inevitable; the coverages Brown calls will attempt to bait him into them.
Run Defense vs. SSONIINI
If we are preparing for Cripple Fight 2007, these are the most malformed limbs. Notre Dame's total rushing through two games: -8 yards. Michigan's rank in rushing defense: 109th. Something has to hold. Probably.
Which is it? If there's one position group that Michigan fans might be holding out a little bit of hope for, it's the defensive line. While they were spread and shred the last two weeks the guys up front are relatively veteran folks with little starting experience and considerable guru acclimation. Projected strongside defensive end Brandon Graham has missed most of the first two weeks with an ankle injury but was healthy enough to provide a little bit of pass rush -- virtually Michigan's only -- against Dennis Dixon last week and will hopefully find his way on the field full time, allowing Shawn Crable to resume his outside linebacker role. The rest of the line has been disappointing against spread option attacks, but Notre Dame's offensive line has been somewhere beyond disappointing. Somewhere *way* beyond it. Like in the realm of Michigan as a team. (Zing!)
On the other hand: the linebackers have been awful and the gashing consistent. Armando Allen is a fast little bugger, if one who has been consistently doomed by eight guys in the box and the turnstile in front of him. Notre Dame will not have negative rushing yards this day, and there is always the possibility of effectiveness when Chris Graham is on the field. (Jonas Mouton's potential return could help matters, but he's just a freshman.)
Pass Defense vs. SSONIINI
Everyone's praising Jimmah's poise... for some reason. Hell if I know why. There's a whole post on this: he didn't throw downfield against Penn State until the game was well out of reach and the backups were in; every completion was a swing or a screen or a long handoff save the occasional five-yard-out. He was sacked six times, led Notre Dame to no points, and only reached 144 yards passing with some garbage time YAC. Poised he may be. Good he is not.
So it's fortunate for him that he's going up against a Michigan secondary that has given up four long touchdowns in two weeks largely because it decides not to cover guys or enjoys falling down once they catch the ball. Notre Dame has promised to open up the playbook and they probably will: attempting to flail its way to first downs with ND's promised Nasty Power Ground game is not likely to work, so their best chance to score will be eating up big chunks of yards against Michigan's befuddled cornerbacks and safeties.
Again, I cannot tell you what happens here. Notre Dame has no good receivers. David Grimes and George West are s
light and slightly athletic; Robby Parris is sort of a Samardzija type, and Duval Kamara is an enormous freshman. None has established anything. Clausen enters his second career start with about four passes downfield to his name. The Michigan secondary seems equally crappy. One thing I do figure: the ND offensive line once again proves to be an achilles heel, severely limiting ND's chances of hitting a long play.
Key Matchup: Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable versus Various Offensive Linemen. Jimmah has proven he can hit guys running open by five yards in high school; Michigan secondary will provide these targets; pressure will make or break the ND passing game.
If Notre Dame punter Geoff Price was a thunder god from beyond time, he could battle Zoltan the Inconceivable to a near-standstill. He is but a man, so this is not possible, but you can still expect many booming 50-yarders followed by limp returns.
Punt returner Tom "You May Not Know This, But I Have Boxed From Time To Time" Zbikowski's inability to wrap up and tackle doesn't affect his returns; therefore he is good at them. He's capable of breaking one off if Zoltan decides, in his mighty wisdom, to let off one of the line drives that he occasionally fires.
Kicker Brandon Walker has two short field goals to his name; little is known about his proficiency.
Key Matchup: Zoltan/punt cover versus Zbikowski who is a boxer. Michigan cannot give up cheap points if their defense in intent on being cheap points incarnate.
- The coaching staff clearly has no faith in Mallett's ability to read defenses.
- Demetrius Jones wanders in to take a spread option snap. (Note: WOTS is that Jones is no longer with the team and may be looking to transfer, so this may not be a possibility.)
- Hart limps off the field.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Clausen's poise is limited to passes within five yards of the LOS.
- Michigan dominance on the lines is established early.
- We finally get a couple accurate deep balls.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Suck, -2 for They Appear To Suck Worse, +1 for We Could Just Pack It In).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -2 for This Season Is Basically Over Already, +1 for But It Would Be Nice To Shift The National Ire Onto SSONIINI, +1 for Mike Hart Deserves Better, +1 for Charlie Weis Deserves Worse, +1 for You Realize I Have To Watch These Things Over And Over Again, Right?)
Loss will cause me to... increase pace of "Profiles in Heroism" series.
Win will cause me to... create "Jimmah Clausen for Heisman" YouTube highlight reel.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There are portions of Michigan's team that are not resolutely awful: the run game. The receivers. The offensive line. And maybe the defensive line could squeeze its way into competence when it faces off against the Irish turnstiles.
Meanwhile, no part of Notre Dame's team has really looked good except maybe the secondary if you believe the Irish have finally taught Tom Zbikowski to cover and tackle and those corners to not flail horribly. I think the easier explanation is this: Morelli and Bennett suck and their teams knew that they could just pound ND and its swing-mad offense into oblivion. This is a version of the gameplan against Penn State at any point in the Zach Mills era. They suck on a level Michigan probably does not.
So... yeah, this is a game Michigan should win. A freshman quarterback, a defense that looks epically awful, and Angry Michigan Safety Hating God could conspire to throw this one to Notre Dame, but it would require two or three disastrous plays for that to happen. Chances of that: 30%. Outside of disaster, though, Michigan's advantage on both sides of the LOS should be the deciding factor.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart beats Notre Dame to death with their own limbs. Also goes for 165 and two touchdowns.
- Mallett throws two picks; so does Jimmah.
- 24-17, Michigan.
The Maginot Line in action!
|M45||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||17||PA Stop|
|Zone read fake, Dixon forms up and delivers a strike to a wide open reciever (cover -2). Basically the entire defense bites on this fake, most relevantly Jamar Adams(-1) and Brandon Harrison(-1), who flies up at a guy running a little flat/screen route. This is the kind of thing we should be running from time to time to exploit excessively aggressive corners.|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Zone read fake again into a speed option as the slot guy, who is Oregon's second tailback, motions into the backfield. Jamison(-2), unblocked, crashes down on Stewart, going up the middle, and gives up contain.|
|This is truly outstanding: Johnny Thompson(-1) bites on nothing at all... there's not even any playfake, opening up a spot for an easy slant completion. Michigan blitzed here and didn't get there. (pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M10||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||10||Zone read handoff|
|They're in this no-huddle thing where they line up, fake a snap with Dixon doing the leg lift, and then check for a new call based on the defensive alignment. (I hate this thing, by the way, and wish I could think of some way to outlaw it. Quarterbacks no longer have to check themselves, they just let the coach make all the calls.) Anyway: this time they actually go with the zone read handoff here; Taylor(+1) times the snap and gets a good push into the backfield. Thompson(-1) sort of runs forward, arms extended like he's blind, and getes chopped to the ground uselessly. Then Stewart just makes an awesome play, leaping through a thicket of arms and helmets, landing on his feet, and grinding towards the endzone. Our defense this day was atrocious, but part of that was because Jonathan Stewart is an outstanding player.|
|M1||1||G||Ace 3-Wide||Goal line||Run||0||QB sneak|
|Slipped as he got the snap.|
|M1||2||G||Shotgun 3-Wide||Goal line||Penalty||-5||False start|
|Note: this is a the "1" but is really the one-inch line, thus the M5 on the next play.|
|M5||2||G||Shotgun Tight||Nickel||Pass||Inc||PA Rollout|
|Zone read fake; Dixon keeps and has one guy on a wheel plus the other outside receiver crossing at the back of the endzone. He throws; Donovan Warren is close enough to break it up. (+1, cover +1)|
|M5||3||G||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||-1||WR screen|
|Brandon Harrison(+2) reads this and attacks before he can get blocked, disrupting the play. This is never a good call inside the five, IMO... too many bodies in enclosed space.|
|Drive Notes: FG(23), 0-3, 9 min 1st Q. Is this our best defensive stand of the day? Maybe.|
|Zone read fake. Dixon sets and throws behind his guy, preventing any YAC. Same play as the slant on the previous drive; bad throw and timing turned that into a stop.|
|Dixon has all day to throw (pressure -3). Brandon Harrison(-3) is burnt all crispy by Paysinger. Harrison just gets run right by. WTF? (Cover -2.)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2 pts), 7-11, 4 min 1st Q. We're out of position on the swinging gate and give up a two-pointer. Yay yay yay.|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|I'm not sure how Michigan can defend this better. Jamison has to stay outside to prevent Dixon from pulling the ball out and running. He collapses down and tackles Stewart, but Stewart is like 240 pounds of rapidly moving anger and he falls forward for a lot. I guess Chris Graham could have been more aggressive, but an aggressive Chris Graham is a Chris Graham who's running himself way out of position.|
|No formation here because of TV. As we come back to the play Dixon is firing a twelve-yard stop route. (Pressure -1, cover -1).|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Penalty||-5||False start|
|Graham comes through unblocked on a blitz, Dixon just runs the hell away from him. I don't even think Jamison is blamable here, as he was set up pretty far outside. Once he gets around him, there's acres of space. This is something you just have to live with sometimes when you're playing a quarterback as fast as Dixon.|
|50||2||2||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||6||Zone read handoff|
|Stewart breaks Chris Graham's tackle(-1) that would have stiffed this for no gain, then grinds forward for a first and more.|
|Crable crashes in recklessly as he was not in position when the ball was snapped â€“ most of the defense wasn't actually â€“ and gets hurdled. Michigan is fortunate that this didn't go for a big gain.|
|M42||2||8||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Zone read fake inside to Stewart is coupled with an option play using one of the wide receivers as a potential pitchman. Since Thompson(-1) and Harrison(-1) react to this slowly, there's no need for a pitch.|
|M34||3||In||Ace Big||Nickel||Run||1||QB sneak|
|For the first.|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||-7||Fumbled snap|
|Yay yay yay.|
|Simple stop route ten yards downfield is wide open (cover -1); it's a little behind the receiver but catchable. Dropped anyway.|
|Dunno WTF the Oregon tackle is thinking, but he just decides to not block Jamison. Jamison(-1) overruns the QB ridiculously, letting Dixon outside to scramble for about half the yardage.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(49), 7-11, EO 1st Q. Note that this "stop" has nothing to do with the Michigan defense: a fumbled snap, a dropped pass, and a blown blocking assignment. This is what we're banking on versus Notre Dame.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||18||Zone read handoff|
|This is Johnson, not Stewart. And this is too easy. Crable(-1) streaks upfield, opening a big lane. Terrance Taylor(-1) gives up that gap at the snap, getting sealed on a textbook easy zone block that allows the guard to come out and pound Chris Graham. The defensive line gave the linebackers no chance.|
|Zone read fake. Trent(+1) breaks on this ball and breaks up the pass(!!!). A nice play. (Cover +1)|
|O43||2||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|Same motion into the backfield that created the first triple option of the day; this time they go with the handoff. Taylor(-1) slants inside, giving up the same gap he did earlier in the drive. Graham(-1) is blocked to the ground, and there's a major gap.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Same play. Crable(-1) keeps contain but when he dives down to take the tailback he misses the tackle.|
|They hurry to the line and snap it this time, catching Michigan (and the ABC producer) off guard. A short pass is open (cover -1) at the sideline. Michigan misses an opportunity to keep this to a small gain as Donovan Warren(-1) misses a tackle.|
|Jumpin' Jehosephat. This is That God Damned Counter Draw. You know, the one Michigan was burned on time and again during the Year of Infinite Pain. But this time there's no running back. Dixon rolls to the right for a bit, then the two OL on the left side of the line get down and chop their guys as Dixon takes off to the wide open backside. This is a called run. And it works brilliantly. Chris Graham(-2) is supposed to be on the weakside here; when Michigan has corralled this it's because the WLB stayed home.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||14||Statue of Liberty|
|This actually shouldn't work. Adam Patterson has shot past an attempted block by Jeremiah Johnson(+1) and has Stewart dead to rights, but just runs past him. (-2). Graham also takes a terrible angle (-1) and then Stewart just does his thing.|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|John Thompson, unblocked, attacks the hole and tackles. Why is he unblocked? I dunno. Brandon Logan also helpful. Probably good play by the DTs this time.|
|Flushed out of the pocket by Brandon Graham(+1, pressure +1) and an unidentifiable linebacker. Good coverage (+1) on the roll and Adams keeping him in front of him keeps this from any yardage.|
|Dixon can't find anyone (cover +1), and is flushed by Brandon Graham(+1, +1 pressure).|
|M3||4||2||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Stewart right up the middle. Johnson(-1), Taylor(-1); these guys have both been massive disappointments.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-18, 10 min 2nd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Zone read handoff|
|Massive hole inside as Oregon takes advantage of a large split between Crable and Taylor. Thompson(-1) waves aimlessly at the passing Stewart.|
|O28||2||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||23||Zone read handoff|
|Complicated dance here; they pull a guard around to block Crable after the zone fake that holds him outside; this works. Then they pull the tight end around this guard to come up and block Thompson. This works. Stewart flies up to the outside, evading the late tackle attempt of Jamar Adams(-1) and Brandon Harrison(-2) being reckless on the outside.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||4||PA short out|
|Zone read fake to a pass play; Dixon throws high to a relatively covered reciever. Harrison makes an immediate tackle. (Cover +1)|
|M45||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||7||Short out|
|Quick snap â€“ we aren't set â€“ and a rollout to the short side to set up an out at the sticks. Dixon is off, forcing the reciever to retreat; we cannot tackle him anyway and he gets the first. (cover -1)|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|John Ferrara (+2) defeats a block on the inside, closing the hole and making a TFL. I remember when this happened with regularity. Jamar Adams, drawn up, prevents him from hopping outside.|
|M40||2||12||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Is this Ferrara's doing again? He gets shoved back a bit but is enough of a bother such that both men blocking him keep blocking him, allowing Graham and Ezeh to congregate unharried. We'll give him a +1.|
|Before the play, Griese is confused by Michigan not covering the slot guy, thus tipping their obvious zone coverage. He thinks this is dumb. Thank you, Griese. Finally someone points this out on the teevee after years and years of it. Anyway: Michigan's zone covers this just fine(+1). But Chris Graham(-3) runs his ass off attempting to cover someone on a nothing crossing route, opening up vast areas of field for Dixon to run up into. Worst linebacker ever.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||11||Deep stop|
|Oregon's stacked Stewart and Johnson, their two RBs, at the bottom of the formation. Obviously this has some interesting stuff associated with it. This is just a simple stop route that Dixon throws high but well enough in front of Donovan Warren. (Cover -1.)|
|M9||1||5||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||9||Statue of Liberty Fake|
|This is pretty fricking cool, the way they set this up earlier. Jamar Adams(-1) buys this hook, line and sinker, as does Thompson(-1). Hell, every-damn-body bought this, including Ferrara(-1). Easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-25 , 4 min 2nd Q. This drive is the difference between Mike Debord and Chip Kelly, and the decision to hire a guy who's proven he can light up opposing defenses at UNH (UNH!) instead of your buddy is the difference between Carr and Bellotti or Miles.|
|This into a three-deep zone. Disgusting. Jamar Adams(-4) decides not to cover the guy. (pressure -2, cover -4)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-32, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||14||Zone read handoff|
|Right up the middle. Taylor(-1) and Johnson(-1) are single blocked and creased, Graham(-1) meekly accepts a block.|
|Zone read fake; easy open gainer. (Cover -2)|
|Dixon zings this over a guy open for the first down. (Cover -1)|
|O42||3||2||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|We... stop... them? Crable(+1) and Thompson(+1) slice into the backfield for the stop.|
|Drive Notes: Pu... Punt?, 7-32, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Dixon has time but can't find anyone (cover +2). Harrison (+1) flushes Dixon and Taylor(+1) surprisingly tracks him down.|
|O20||2||22||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Jamar Adams(+1) comes up to fill this near the LOS. Just fine given the down and distance.|
|Incomplete and dropped; not going for the first anyway. Cover +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-32, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep cross|
|Faked end around gets a wide reciever wide open (cover -2). Ball is a little behind and dropped.|
|M37||2||10||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|Ferrara(-1) blown off the ball, opening up a hole behind him.|
|M30||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||8||TE out|
|Thompson(-1) gets shoved by the TE as he runs his out and coverts the first down. (Cover -1)|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||2||Jailbreak screen|
|Dixon overthrows this badly. Brandent Englemon(+1) reads it and comes up to snuff it out.|
|M20||2||8||Shotgun Tight||Nickel||Run||9||Power iso|
|A tackle and TE pull around to obliterate linebackers; Ferrara(-1) blown off the ball along with Gallimore(-1) (BRETT GALLIMORE!)|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||1||Triple option|
|Dixon keeps this. Thompson(+1) does well to beat a block and eliminate a pitchman. Crable(+1) stays responsible and corrals Dixon.|
|M10||2||9||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Gut handoff to Johnson this time. This is embarassing. Crable(-1) misses a tackle, as do Englemon and Trent. Trent's fortunate to force a fumble and fall on it.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-32, 6 min 3rd Q. Yay?|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Johnny Sears(-3). Awful coverage. He's in a deep zone and decides to ignore the guy he's lined up over. Aaaaand defensive charting stops here. (Cover -4)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-39, 2 min 3rd Q.|
You got me. The most damning thing to me: two of Oregon's long touchdowns were thrown into wussy three-deep coverage designed to prevent any long completions. On both, one of the guys in the three deep just decided not to cover a guy running a fly route right in their zone. Result: doom. By now we kind of expect that from Johnny "-3" Sears, but the other culprit was three-year starter and senior Jamar Adams.
Oh, but there's plenty of damning to go around. Chris Graham remains an easy starter on the Todd Howard All Stars*, always running hither and thither without any care as to where he should actually go. He doesn't defeat blocks or read plays or do basically anything well. Jonas Mouton's been held out the first couple weeks with an ankle injury; hopefully he will replace Graham as soon as he's healthy. Both interior defensive linemen have been disappointments. Neither has provided anything in the way of game-altering plays or even running lanes clogged. John Ferrara had the most positive impact of any DT, and no offense to him but that bodes unwell.
*(A team of the worst players in the Carr era who started regularly. Coming soon.)
I guess. You aren't going to like it.
|Jamison||-||4||-4||Hopefully will be more of a menace against non-spread runners.|
|Johnson||-||2||-2||Did little; not the worst offender, but last year we were getting production from this spot.|
|Taylor||3||5||-2||Looks much worse as the main guy.|
|Ferrara||3||3||0||Actually made a few plays; may be promising.|
|Crable||2||3||-1||Not a defensive end.|
|B. Graham||2||-||2||Has played little in the first two weeks; if healed looks like he will be a help.|
|Trent||1||-||1||Our best defensive player? That would say it all.|
|Harrison||3||6||-6||One! One long touchdown... ah ah ah|
|Sears||-||3||-3||Two! Two long touchdowns... ah ah ah|
|Adams||1||7||-6||Three! Three long touchdowns... ah ah ah|
|Englemon||1||0||1||Oh, Brandent. Always with the 1-0-1 line. How blameless you are.|
|"Coverage"||9||28||-19||It's a three deep zone! You can't give up long touchdowns in a three deep zone! What's the point of anything? Why don't I just die?|
Uh... pay no attention to the text next to "coverage." So... violence has been done unto everyone via numbers, and that was only about 2/3rds of that abortion.
Is there any hope at all?
Maybe if Jonas Mouton and Brandon Graham come back from injury and are effective players we will get a boost; also it'll be quite a bit easier going up against Jimmah and Notre Dame's offensive line, which appears to suck at a level even beyond that of Michigan's defense. But, long term: no. The linebacker play is atrocious and will remain so. At this point you may as well throw in Ezeh and Mouton in the hopes that they can learn. The secondary is atrocious and will remain so. Any time we want to go to a nickel we have to put two of the following players on the field:
- a true freshman
- a midget who can't even run fast
- Johnny Sears.
A hypothetical dime package would see all three on the field. Plus, our safeties are Michigan safeties. Finally, the DL has been a huge disappointment. Crable is a useless defensive end; Jamison has had no impact; the DTs have been pushed around time and again.
Things will get better, but bad is as good as it gets this year.
Come on, there must be some bright spots here or there.
Maybe Morgan Trent is a lot better? And John Ferrara made a couple plays as a redshirt freshman, so that's good. But that's it.
What does it mean for Notre Dame?
This is it for the defense. Notre Dame's offense has three points in two games -- the ten they put up against PSU were off an interception return and a punt return that led to a field goal. If they are to be anything other than Indiana in winged helmets, they have to do the proverbial "step up" and club Jimmah and company to the ground.
Can they do this? Uh... well. I expect things will be a lot better against that OL and a true freshman quarterback who's not that much of a run threat. But I also expect busted coverages, sporadic runs, and one or two hair-pulling moments.
Oh, who am I kidding? Four to six.