Gratuitous Brian Kelly:
Further gratuitous Brian Kelly:
Big time highlights from parkinggod:
Presser items after the jump.
WMU Postgame Presser Transcript: Jordan Kovacs, Brandon Herron, Denard Robinson, and Fitzgerald Toussaint
Jordan Kovacs and Brandon Herron
Kovacs and Herron are in serious mode.
What did you think about the two TDs you scored? Herron: "For one, I want to thank God -- Jesus Christ my lord and savior -- and I also want to thank my team. This is a team effort, this is about a team, and I thank a lot of my teammates because we all work together as one. This is not about me all. This is about the team."
What happened on the INT? Herron: "Jake Ryan tipped the ball, and I was just looking up, and my legs just carried me. and I grabbed it, and then I just -- I remember Aubrey [Pleasant], our GA, he tells us, 'Any time you get an interception, run it back to your sideline.' So after I caught the ball, I just looked straight ahead --obviously no ball security whatsoever -- but I was just trying to get to the endzone."
Did it change the game? Herron: "Yes and no. It did change the game, but obviously you can have a score or you can run it in, and a lot of teams that lose a game ... so it was just a well-fought game that we just weren’t trying to give up. We were just trying to pound them, each and every play."
Did you feel like defense needed to make a play because of WMU's success earlier in the game? Herron: "Yeah, well this is our first time playing defense under coach Mattison. A real game, so it was a little shaky at first. We were struggling with the communication a little bit. We talk about poise and having that poise, so we just needed to sit down and just have that poise and just talk. We have to be able to communicate if we want to be a good defense."
Kovacs, how are you being used differently? Kovacs: "It’s a completely different scheme. I think we’ve got some more blitz packages that give me the opportunity to come down in the box and try and make a play."
How do you feel about blitz call, and can you describe your hit on Carder? Kovacs: "When you get the blitz call, you’re thinking, 'I gotta come hard and I gotta make a play.' I gotta give a lot of credit to the defnese. That was a defensive effort. I think the front did a great job of disguising it, and we had great coverage, and I just came clean and made a play."
How close do you feel to playing defense the way coaches want to play? Kovacs: "We’re getting there. It was shaky at first no doubt, but I think that this film will be pretty good to look at, so we can improve before next game."
Talk about how much more effective the defense was when you blitzed. Kovacs: "I think you gotta give a lot of credit to Western. I think they came out with a great scheme, but we kind of settled in, and we got some blitzes we hit home with, and I think Brandon’s play was a big gamechanger for us, so we did turn it around after a couple drives."
What was the reaction when game was ended? Herron: "Yeah, I wanted to continue to play. We still had a job to do."
Defense played better after lightning delay ... what did the coaches tell you? Kovacs: "I mean, we just kind of settled in I think. I don’t think that we did change too many things. I think we came out at halftime with a better scheme, and we just executed, and we played hard"
How did you spend that time during the delay? Kovacs: "It’s different. I’ve never been here during a game like that. Just kind of relaxing in the locker room, we just kept quiet and stayed focused, and we honed in."
Was it difficult to keep game mentality with start/stop? Kovacs: "I've never been through anything like that. I think we traveled up the tunnel several times. I’ve never done that before."
Hoke said he didn’t feel very good about D. What’s is his major concern? Kovacs: "I think we didn’t do a good job first few possessions. They were running the ball on us. We still have a lot of areas to improve in, and we’re going to do that with this film, and we’ll be ready by next week."
Did you do anything special for HC’s first victory? Kovacs: "We do what we do after every victory, and that’s singing 'The Victors.' "
Does this feel like any other win, or do you feel a little empty inside? Kovacs: "I mean, it’s different, but we’ll take it. It’s a win. A win is a win, and we’re happy with that.
Either of you on the kickoff team? Kovacs: "Both of us." Herron: "Obviously our kickoff needs to improve, which we’ll focus on that tomorrow or whatnot. We kind of let things get away from us a little bit."
Kovacs, have you ever hit a quarterback that hard? Kovacs: "That was my first one I guess. Herron: "It was loud, too."
How much of an emphasis is put on creating turnovers? Kovacs: "I think not only coach Mattison but coach Hoke emphasized that. That’s one of our team goals is to win the turnover battle because if you do that you’re likely going to win the game. That’s something we strive to do as every team does."
Did the mood change when Woolfolk went down? Kovacs: "We’ve got a lot of guys that can step up and play. It’s tough to see a guy like that go down again, but at the same time we knew somebody else was going to have an opportunity to step in and play. We have some experienced guys at corner."
Herron, how do you build off your performance today? Herron: "It’s just about taking one day at a time, with the involvement of my teammates. Like I said, we have to work together. This is not about an individual. This is about a team, and the team coming out here and practicing everyday and trying to get better, this is what it’s about."
When was the last time you scored a TD in organized football? Herron: "I’ve never scored a touchdown -- well, I take that back. It was probably in eighth grade when I was playing running back. Coach Jackson was not the coach." Tee hee. "It’s been a while since I’ve been in the endzone."
When you got INT, what did you see in front of you? Herron: "I saw the left tackle, then I thought he hit me, but after I got past him, I didn’t see anybody else."
What were you feeling at the 10-yard line? Herron: "Gassed."
In endzone? Herron: "Obviously my teammates jumped all over me, so that took everything out of me as well. But with the love and help of my teammates, that carried me back to the sideline."
Talk about your position switch during camp. Herron: "I was just playing my new position, the WILL and the dime. This is something I had been practicing all camp, so it was my new position."
During the fumble recovery -- did ball just come to you? Herron: "First of all, I want to thank Kovacs, but it was a call where we saw -- I can’t put it out there – but we made a check, and I ended up coming off the edge, and Kovacs got free. I don’t think the ball rolled my way. I think I went to go get the ball, and then just ran it into the endzone."
[Ed-M: emphasis mine. Eeeeeeee!]
Did you think about falling on it? Herron: "No. I just -- I don’t know. [It was] something that just happened in the moment, and [I] just picked it up and just took off."
Can you talk about anticipation of the night game next week? Herron: "I think the night game is going to be crazy. I think our fans are looking forward to next week, so with that being said, against Notre Dame, especially wearing our throwback jerseys, it’s going to be amazing next week."
What were the conditions like before the rain? Herron: "Oh, it was hot. I was drained coming off the kickoff and then having to go [play] defense. But having that camp, it mentally prepared us, and like Coach said, we’re going to have adversity. It just matters how you get through it."
Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint
Denard and a guy who has more rushing yards than Denard.
Ever been through a game like that before? Denard: "No."
It looked like you wanted to stay out there before the second break. Denard: "We were ready to go. We were ready to keep playing, I mean, we get to play against somebody else! So we were ready to play."
What was your reaction to finding out you won the game? Denard: "When coach Hoke told us we won the game, everybody got quiet. It was like, 'Seriously?' Everybody wanted to play still."
How would you assess your performance? Denard: "I still got some learning to do, but I gotta do better. I thought I did all right."
How come there was so much shotgun and spread in the beginning? Denard: "Coach Al called all the plays, and I was ready. That’s all."
Fitz, talk about your emergence as starting RB. Toussaint: "I think it all started at the beginning of the week, we were still all competing, we still all need to work. We had to work on a couple things, and we had make sure everything was good with timing. We were just competing. I actually found out when I was taking more reps with the ones."
Can you describe the breakout run? Toussaint: "I was just running to daylight."
Any former michigan running backs get in touch with you to talk to you about the tradition or responsibility of your position? Toussaint: "No, sir."
Denard, what's it like handing off to Fitz? Denard: "I don’t want to juice his head too much. Fitz is probably one of the best running backs I’ve played with. When he gets the ball, he runs hard and he makes guys miss. He’s fast. He’s a good back."
What’s it mean for you to get two TD’s out of defense? Denard: "That felt good. I was kind of bored on the sideline. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure he felt the same way, we were ready to get back on the field, and when we saw B. Herron take it to the house we were like, 'Ahh' and we were rooting on the sidelines, but then it was like, 'man I want to get back on the field.'
"But we enjoyed it. We enjoyed it."
Does this feel incomplete not finishing the game? Denard: "Yeah it feels different. Everybody wanted to go back out and finish the game, but it is what it is."
How did you spend your time during the first delay? Denard: “We treated it like a halftime, and everybody was just getting focused and getting ready for the game.”
How many of old (spread) plays vs. new (manball) plays were there? Denard: “I thought it was 50/50. We did both, and I enjoyed it.”
Is that kind of balance what you expected? Denard: “I didn’t know what to expect. We were just excited and ready to play. Weve been working on all plays, so whatever they threw at us, we had to be ready.”
Fitz, you’ve been injured a whole lot. How does it feel to finish an entire game (sort of)? Toussaint: "It’s still a little new for me. It’s a new experience for me. I just want to stay healthy and continue to keeping pushing on with my teammates, and keep the unity."
So they really didn’t tell you you were starting until Friday? Toussaint: "I mean, I kind of had a clue, but it was announced [on Friday]."
Denard, talk about Alex Carder? Denard: "He’s a great quarterback. He’s probably one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. I enjoy watching him play."
You were the third leading rusher on the team today. Is that ideal? Denard: "Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I enjoy seeing [Fitz] running the ball, and Mike Shaw get the ball, and Vince. I love seeing those guys getting out in space and making people miss."
How do you feel about short gains vs. long runs? Toussaint: "We just chip away until we get a long one. Credit to the offensive line, who keep doing their job, and eventually it’ll come."
When do you start preparing for Notre Dame? Denard: "After tomorrow, we’ll watch film on the game, and get ready for Notre Dame."
You've had some fast starts in the past but then fell off toward the end of the season. Why is this year different? Denard: "I don’t want to compare last year to this year. This is a new era, and we just want to keep going and win for Michigan."
Dave Brandon wants me to terminate in-game tweeting for my own safety.
Opening remarks: "Hi everybody. If this has ever happened before, I don’t know when, and it’s been in the way, way distant past. We did have a pretty good look at the forecast coming into today, and we spent a lot of time yesterday with contigency plans, and I thought my operations staff did a terrific job of keeping their eye on the weather. We had every weatherman in southeastern Michigan helping us out. It was an unpredictable day because these cells kept popping up and dying down really fast. We were hoping we could get it in. We got through the first delay, and we actually thought we had another hour-and-a-half window before the next big front was moving through, but this time of year, with the humidity and heat that we had, we just had buildups come out of nowhere.
"In a conference situation, as I understand it, the Big Ten has some very specific rules and protocols to follow. In a non-conference game, it's a little more open-ended in terms of how this is managed. But in the conference rules, the officials and the head coaches and the home athletic director meet with the director of operations, and in our case that would be Rob Rademacher, and we would make a call.
"The choices that we had were to wait it out -- and we looked at that -- the choices that we had were to suspend the game and leave the score where it was, and there were some other options, but none of those were acceptable. We decided after a bit of discussion, and I want to compliment coach Cubit and Kathy Beauregard at Western -- they were really terrific about this. We really thought about the safety of the fans, and we thought about the safety of the players, because to make them sit what could have been an hour and 45 minutes based on some of the projections we had with the weather, and then try to go out and get warmed up again and play more football would have not been in the interest of either team. If this was a close game that was into the fourth quarter and the game was in doubt, I think we would have waited it out because -- well, we would have either waited it out because that was what the coaches wanted to do, or we would have decided that this would have gone in the books as a non-game.
"But the agreement that was reached between Western and Michigan was that the game was in hand, and that the game would stand as the final score would be indicated, so that’s kind of where we are."
Are there any stipulations about this win (in terms of stats and records)? "It’s a win for Michigan. It’s a loss for Western. And all the records and stats will go in the books as if it were a completed game. We just terminated the game for the safety of the players and the safety of the fans and the reality of the situation with the weather."
What would have happened if this had been a Big Ten game? "If this was a Big Ten game we would have been on the phone with the commissioner’s office and would have had Big Ten officials in the booth, and we probably would have been more involved with the Big Ten office in terms of managing that entire situation. We contacted the Big Ten only because we were looking for some directions in terms of -- we anticipated the possibility of a delay today, and you saw what we did. We had the messages all up on the board, we had the script written for the announcer, we were ready to put the weather map from the Weather Channel up there. We anticipated the possibility of a delay, and we got one. What we didn’t aniticpate was what happened, and that was the weather just kept rolling in and it was a danger situation."
Was it a quick decision to cancel? "Once we went in for the second time, we thought that maybe it was going to be a short delay, and then it became very apparent that we would never get the teams out before this next round. We knew it was going to be a long time, and at that point, I got a call from the head of officials, and I was over in the operations booth by where you all sit, and I ran across the field and got over here to have the conversation with the officials and the coaches, and we reached the decision that we reached."
Would it have been possible to postpone the game? I don’t even know that that’s an option. Certainly somebody said, “Is there a way we could … ” but that was cast aside right away. Certainly somebody, and I think they were wearing a different color than maize and blue said, "Well, maybe we should just terminate the game and it really never happened." And we’d be here till 3 o’clock in the morning before we were going to settle that outcome, because I’m proud of our team, and I think we had the game under control, and our team deserved the victory, and it all worked out.
What do you think of first game of Brady Hoke era? "It’s a win. It’s a win, and I am proud of the team. I think if I remember correctly we scored defensive tocuhdowns. I think if I remember correctly we won the turnover battle by a significant margin, because I don’t think we turned it over. How many penalties did we have?" One. "One. I like that. And I thought we were pretty diversified on offense. We weren’t letting any one player get beat up, we had a lot of things happening out there, and we were getting the ball out there to a lot of people. So coach Hoke will get up here and tell you all the things we have to work on -- and boy there are a lot of them -- but I loved winning the opening game, and Brady Hoke is 1-0."
What were some of the issues concerning the heat? "We were worried about the heat a lot. The players have misters over there, and I know the coaches were working hard on rotating people in and out. But we were worrying about the heat for everybody. When members of the Western Michigan band went down before they even got out of the tunnel, that’s how they ended up stripping down to t-shirts and shorts, and I thought that was a good decision. Our band did a magnificent job, because they were in those uniforms and they were out doing their thing … we have a tough band. Tough band. But at the end of the day, it was a tough day out there, it was hot, it was humid, and that just added to the complexity of it all."
Brady Hoke thinks that my tweets lack top-end information. Accuracy, too.
Opening remarks: "For all of you that stayed dry, good for you.
"Obviously it’s an unusual circumstance to have the weather kind of stop the game when it did. I think [Western H.C.] Bill [Cubit] and myself both had concerns [about] how long we’d be stopped, how many times we would be stopped. I’ve got so much respect for Bill as a football coach and as a person -- I think both of us we worried about the kids. You go out there and you play your heart out, then you’re back in for another half hour. And you [get] a five-minute warmup, and then all of a sudden a lightning strike comes again, and then you come back in … and it didn’t look like this was going to get any better, so it ended probably not the way all of us would like it to, but as long as those kids can be healthy, and no one got needlessly hurt, then we’re all for it.
"As far as what did go on on the field, turnover margin is a statistic that’s very important in the game of football. Our offense did a tremendous job taking care of the football, and our defense created three turnovers, obviously two of them were for defensive scores, which is always fun, but I think our guys really understand that message that we sent about taking care of the football. Defensively I think some guys did a nice job up front of applying some pressure, or if you were a guy who was coming on a blitz. Kovacs did a nice job, and [so did] Jake Ryan. And they all got good push.
"The game itself, we got a lot to work on. You look at our kickoff coverage, I thought was not near what it needed to be. You look at some of the third down conversions -- and I haven’t really looked at that total number yet. I was pleased with the 190 yards rushing the football. You gotta control the line of scrimmage to do that. And I would say the other thing that I was pleased at was that we didn’t have any penatlies, and that’s an important part early in the season – all season long – but I thought our guys did a nice job for that part of it."
Did you imagine your first game happening like this? "No I don’t think so. It was kind of wild. Wet and wild."
How big was Herron's interception? "Huge. We talked all week -- offensively, they’re a very good football team. I think [Cubit] is one of the great offensive minds in college coaching, and the way he uses tempo, the way he uses personnel, and the quarterback Alex Carder, who’s as good as any guy that we may play all year. He’s got some great weapons out there. At the same time, we need to push the pocket a little more. I think also in some of the zone coverage aspect, we need to challenge a little more, be a little tighter."
What's Troy Woolfolk's status? "He sprained his ankle -- his other ankle -- if we would have needed him he was going to go back in [Ed-M: we thank you Angry Michigan Defensive Back Hating God in your mercy!] but the other guys held pretty well."
Did blitzing a lot help your defensive plan later in the game? You have a plan, and you have certain things, and you want to make sure you have enough bullets for your guys, and that was all part of it. Obviously at times when they’re in what we call 10 personnel/four wides [i.e. one back] you can outnumber them [when you come with seven]. The key to it is the guy who’s unblocked having a great path to the quarterback, and that helped us some."
Does Denard being the third-leading rusher allow him to do other things more effectively? We just had a plan, and Al had a plan that he thought would be successful against what they did defensively. Denard’s always going to have a hand in what we do. Number one he’s the quarterback, but secondly because of his ability to run with the football."
Why did you decide to make Fitz your starting RB? "I thought he finished off fall camp real well. Thought he had a nice finish."
Can you talk about Herron’s playmaking ability? "That was good. Obviously they were timely and meant a lot to where we were in the fooball game. I think Brandon’s a guy who will continue -- as a senior for us, as he learns a little more concept-wise -- will continue to grow."
Can you address the issue of the suspended players? "I think it was addressed. We didn’t dress them."
Denard’s first series looked a lot like last year's spread. Did you plan it that way? "Al and I had talked, and he was going to start the game with the 38-39 sweep: the quarterback sweep. That was a comfort level probably -- [that] you want [Denard] to feel good about, and I think we blocked it well. I think he got a first down on it, so I think we were in and out of [the shotgun] enough. I think with Shaw’s run and on Fitz’s couple times he pounded it up with the power play, those were good also."
Are there times where you look at the defense and say that’s how I want it to look? “Well it’s never 'I', it’s 'We'. We’re a long way from any kind of defense that we want to represent Michigan with.” But just to build confidence? “Yeah I mean that’s great. And it’s really good, you know. It’s always fun to score on defense. But there’s a hundred different things in that tape that tomorrow we’ll address and correct and get better with.”
Early on, Carder was 14 for 15. But then the defense got better. How do you feel about your defense right now? "I would say not very good."
Was the physical camp rewarding? "I think there was a midnset that they understand how we’re going to play. And I think you could see it a little bit -- third quarter up front on both sides, it was going to be more physical, it was going to be more attacking, it was going to be that kind of deal. I think you can feel that. I thought there were some hard runs. I thought Fitz ran the ball up in there pretty hard, took some guys on, which you want to see out of your backs."
Did you rotate on defense as much as you had planned? "Yeah, pretty much. I think if we would have been in our base front more, we probably would have rotated just a little more. But I thought we stayed pretty fresh. It was pretty humid down there, pretty hot down there. We did have a pretty good wind there for a while, but you wanted to keep those guys fresh during the course of the game."
How long will you let yourself enjoy the win? "Well, I understand they’re on TV, right? And they’re delayed? So we’ll look at Notre Dame."
Can you comment on Fitz vs Shaw at RB? "I think number one, they both found -- had good vision, let me put it that way. Michael’s got a little more top-end speed, so he was able to get away from the safety, but if you noticed on the one long run by Fitz, he lowered himself to go through a guy, and if you watch, you’ll see Junior Hemingway launching himself to try and get a block over the top. That was exciting to me. That was good football to me."
Talk about the level of senior leadership. "The one thing I’d say -- Troy -- he got banged up there and all that, and he worked himself in the trainer’s – Paul Schmidt and his crew did a great job with that -- but he worked himself, and you could keep hearing him on the sideline encouraging on both sides."
(I think this was the question, but Dave Ablauf was talking over Angelique) Will Cam Gordon be held out for Notre Dame? Yes.
Can you talk about how special teams played? "Kickoff returns were awful. On the one [long WMU kickoff return], the defense had been on a long drive, Herron gets the pick, and he runs it back 90-whatever yards it was, and there was a celebration, which you want to see. It’s beautiful, because it’s fanaticism for the game, and all the guys -- a lot of them are on your kickoff team. I thought about taking a time-out and it would be a time we didn’t have a TV time-out, so we put some other guys in, and the other guys, to their credit -- Frank Clark was in there, and he made one hit for sure, and probably should have had another one."
What happened on the missed PAT? "We got knocked back a little bit, and we’ll correct that, and in fact the young man did correct it."
Did you treat the delay as a hafltime to do some extra coaching? "Here’s the first thing that went through my mind: We played Northern Illinois in Nuncie when I was at Ball State. We had a 45-minute delay, we were winning the game 14-7, maybe 14-0. We come back, Garrett Wolfe ran for 355 yards.
"So I wasn’t feeling really good about a delay."
It's a new year. If you're new around here you should check out the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post, which will clarify things. In an effort to make the liveblog something other than total chaos it is moderated. This means that relatively few comments actually get published. Bring your zingers, leave your "WOOOOOO!"
If you'd like to moderate please email me with your username.
It's the day before a Michigan football season, so there's an 80% chance you're about to see Bump, Canham, and Bo. Survey says…
…bingo. Three years ago I posted it up to point out just how long it had been since Michigan had to think about who would be its head coach: forty years. They'd secured an A-list candidate but whenever you're trying something new after doing one thing forever, things can go awry. They did—you may have noticed.
I thought about Bump and Bo over the summer when Ramzy at Eleven Warriors took a brief hiatus from ripping Kirk Herbstreit* to survey the new enemy in Ann Arbor. He used a certain picture, which I'll put next to what seems like the most representative image of Rodriguez on the first three pages of a generic image search. I'm not sure what that will be yet. Let's find out:
Slotting the two coaches** into the image above is left as a bloody obvious exercise for the reader.
Hoke may not have a winning record but he's got bravado. That, the knowledge he's not a Super Genius, and his magical intestines plus Denard Robinson is a pretty good start. When Hoke was hired I said "sometimes having an identity feels like having a ceiling," but thanks to Jim Tressel kindly donating his career and most of the meanest kids in Ohio to the cause that ceiling is a lot vaguer than it was in January. Let's go find it. In Pasadena, preferably.
*[Ramzy : Kirk Herbstreit :: Brian : punting from the 34]
THIS CONCLUDES the 2011 edition of the MGoBlog season preview. Every year I tell myself I'm going to get ahead of the curve and start posting these things two weeks before the season; every year something comes up and I spend this week eating microwaved dinners and staying up until 5 AM. At this point it would feel wrong to do it any other way (but I'm definitely doing it some other way next year).
The Story, 2011
- Offensive line: 4.5. Excellent if allowed to zone block, more than two injuries and it's time to panic
- Receivers: average of 3.5. Good depth, few stars, a lot rides on Hemingway.
- Running backs: 3. Six bullets (for now) instead of two; everyone's older.
- Quarterbacks: 5! Denard.
- Offensive questions: Verdict is basically last year's offense minus 5-10 Denard carries per game.
- Secondary: average of 2.5. A little depth, no freshmen, look out for Avery.
- Linebackers: average of 3. Demens bustout.
- Defensive line: average of 4. Top end is sexy except for SDE; depth is precarious.
- Defensive questions: tackling how much the GERG effect can help us. Survey says: lots.
- Special teams: average of 2. Hold on to the damn ball, and kick it between the posts.
- Ace previews Western.
- Stupid predictions: less horrible turnover margin and 8-4.
I would have bumped some fantastic diaries if doing so wouldn't caused everyone's heads to explode with word overload. If you're just dying for 3:30 tomorrow and need more, the Communist Football Almanack finishes in spectacular style, Jamiemac previews Western with prop bets a-plenty, and Michael Scarn drops a personal essay.
Now it's time for a hype video.
Here's to less drinking during UFRs. Go Blue.
Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs, the quarterbacks, special teams, defensive questions, offensive questions.
The theory of turnover margin: it is nearly random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are highly likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|Year||Margin||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|2007||0.15 (41st)||14||15||2.46(33rd)||14||13||2.17 (67th)|
|2008||-.83 (104th)||9||11||2.42(33rd)||12||18||1.83 (57th)|
|2009||-1.00 (115th)||11||5||1.83(68th)||15||13||2.33 (83rd)|
WELCOME TO YET ANOTHER YEAR where I predict Michigan's turnover rate plunges towards zero. I'm seriously this time though.
For the first time on this chart Michigan should have a non-insane person running things. In 2007, it was either injured Henne or Mallet; 2008 was death, 2009 was freshmen QBs, and last year was essentially a redshirt freshman. With Denard's return this is the first time since 2006 Michigan can expect their QB to be less turnover prone than the year before. (This obviously goes out the window in the event of a major injury to Denard. Also out the window: life, hope, puppies.)
But… I'm seriously this time. Even if Rodriguez had some weird evil turnover juju when he was around he's gone. Turnovers regress like a mofo. People have argued with me about this plenty and I do believe them somewhat:
- NFL turnover margins regress like a mofo and always will.
- College TO margins might have extra regression because low turnover teams tend to have senior quarterbacks and then break in new ones, and high turnover teams tend to have young quarterbacks who return. What looks like randomness is potentially roster turnover.
- Sucky defenses case fewer turnovers because things are easy.
So Rodriguez-era stuff was negative because the defenses were turrible and the quarterbacks were young. The defense does trace a largely negative track as it declines from 29 turnovers in the last Carr year to 20 in RR year 1, 16 in RR year 2, and 19 in RR year 3. Turnovers from the offense are about constant in the era of lots of freshmen, but in 2006 Michigan coughed it up just 12 times.
If Robinson remains healthy Michigan should improve significantly. The defense has to suck less and Robinson's responsibility should improve rapidly relative to players more than a year removed from being novelty freak shows. I'm afraid that Robinson is just a fumble-prone guy—Mike Hart didn't need experience to hold on to the damn ball—but the interception rate should dip considerably.
On the other side of the ball, a defense that rushes more than three players and has Martin, RVB, and Roh should get back to at least average in sacks. The center of the Gaussian distribution here is probably –3 turnovers on the year; even that would be massive improvement.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
Last year there were a half-dozen of varying severity. This year I'm not sure there are any, except insofar as people on the defense are all switching positions because of the scheme change. I'm not sure how much those count.
Here's a dossier:
- RVB is now a full time three-tech instead of a 5-tech on a three-man line. He's already started as a three tech in his career.
- Roh is now a WDE full time instead of a 3-3-5 OLB/DE.
- Kenny Demens is now a MLB instead of a snack for a guard.
- Thomas Gordon is a starting safety instead of a SLB/safety-type-object.
- Some wide receivers are flipping outside from the slot.
- Third string TE Steve Watson was on defense last year.
None of this comes anywhere close to Mark Moundros maybe starting at LB, Cam Gordon starting at FS, and Roh moving to LB. Anyone who's starting is moving to a spot they've played before or goddamn well should have (Roh).
The lone exception is Thomas Gordon, who is going to be playing at a new position after being a random DB his freshman year, then a spur. That's still not flipping sides of the ball. It is a concern. At least this year there are no obvious panic moves. Sliding Gordon from a nickelback to safety is not starting John Ferrara or pushing Mark Moundros as the solution at MLB.
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
There's no bottom if Denard and a couple of other key defensive players are hurt. Leaving the worst-worst case out, a relatively healthy Michigan has no business losing to WMU, EMU, Minnesota, or Purdue at home.
San Diego State, Northwestern, Illinois are all losable but Denard should be able to snake at least one of those. 5-7 is the floor.
The schedule is fairly soft, with no true road games until Michigan State (the game at Northwestern will be at least half M fans) and both Penn State and Wisconsin rotating off. If the offense maintains its current level of productivity and Mattison mediocres the defense real good, the only game that still seems entirely out of reach is Nebraska.
That's not to say Michigan can reasonably expect to win all games in reach. Taking more than two from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, and the Akron State Golden Bobcats seems to be irrational optimism. 9-3 is about all you can reasonably hope for.
There are a lot of ugly predictions like 5-7, 6-6, and 7-5 from the newspaper folk after their fifty words on the running backs* and it's easy to see why if you're looking at the surface. If you look at the final scores of last year's games it's easy to find extra losses but not extra wins.
If you look at the yardage margins and turnovers it's an entirely different picture. Michigan is poised for a big bounce. Robinson should cut down on his enormous mistakes considerably and a defense that bothers to rush will increase those of opponents. Nineteen starters return; Brendan Gibbons will either be much better or quickly replaced. GERG is gone. The offense will change and that's a drag but the things that made Robinson so insane are not that hard to exploit and he is still rapidly developing. This looks like a team that had a combination of bad luck and youth last year that should improve by leaps and bounds.
The catch: depth. It is a huge issue on both sides of the ball, with a half-dozen players essentially irreplaceable. Injuries happen; with Michigan which injuries will be huge. Huyge or Heininger or Cam Gordon going down is no big deal. Losing Denard or Martin or Demens is massive. A fully healthy Michigan looks like a (fringe) contender for a division crown, but football teams are not fully healthy.
|9/24||SDSU||Lean to win|
|10/8||@ NU||Lean to win|
|10/15||@ MSU||Lean to loss|
|11/12||@ Illinois||Lean to win|
|11/26||Akron State||Lean to loss|
Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana
I add it up and I come up with eight wins and change. Assume one irreplaceable player is annihilated and that comes back down to an even 8-4. Unlike last year, when I predicted 7-5 but thought 6-6 was more likely than 8-4, I think Michigan is more likely to surprise to the positive until such time as we have another Woolfolk ankle explosion pity party.
Some commenters have suggested that the exactingly specific predictions in the previous posts today suggest I'd be predicting something better than 8-4, but I think turnovers, while getting much better, will still be in the red. Though the special teams issues can't be as bad they will still be a problem that could kill Michigan in a close game.
Also, 50th in advanced metrics is still bleh territory since they correct for schedule strength. For example, that's worse than Purdue and Penn State last year; the Nittany Lions gave up at least 21 points in every Big Ten game and Purdue got bombed for at least 34 five times in conference.
*["Michael Shaw is expected to start but power back Fitzgerald Toussaint will also see time. If he had any newshole anymore we would tell you about Vincent Smith, but oh well."
/end running back "scouting".]