Mike Lantry, 1972
It's like the BlogPoll except for people. It's like the Heisman except with no prestige. It's like Tom Selleck except without a mustache. It's... MaxwellPundit!
1. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Obvs. That is one large, frightening man and if he wasn't saddled with a refugee from the Lollipop Guild at quarterback and a man more boring than Lloyd Carr as his coach he would probably break all sorts of records, not to mention the bones of those who feebly try to oppose him.
2. Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois
The size of an molecule and as hard to pin down as one, Wolfe racked up nigh 300 yards against Ohio State. Last year he ripped Michigan for 150 yards. MAC teams cower in fear when electron microscopes confirm his presence in-stadium. He is good. Nay, great. HEAR ME, UNCARING MAC-IGNORING HORDES.
3. Buster Davis, FSU
Sure, he waddles everywhere. There's some duck in his genetic heritage. But that is one enormously pissed-off duck. Kyle Wright can no longer watch Looney Tunes without wetting himself.
4. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
Good god, y'all. He's been very good the past couple years. As the leader of an energized defense featuring Ron English being awesome, he could singlehandedly restore my faith in humanity. Manbearstudfreak.
5. Glenn Sharpe, Miami
Maybe I'm overrating a player who had the benefit of knowing what route ("hopeful jump ball") Jeff Bowden was going to call on every pass play, but when it looks like you're the one running the route half the time, you're good. The only completions on Sharpe were on horrifically misthrown balls, which fortunately for Florida State were not in short supply.
- A note: this year I'm not looking at past ballots at all when I put in new ones. This may lead to surprising moves, but whatever. I hate poll momentum and if I can't remember where I ranked a team the week before my opinion on it probably wasn't worth keeping.
- Er... definitely a first in the poll is Tennessee hopping from unranked to #1, though it's still a very shaky recommendation. They lost most of a vicious front seven but just got done rolling one of last year's top rushing attacks. A lot of their points came when the Cal secondary elected not to tackle UT wideouts on simple out routes, sure, but that game was 35-3 before Cal made it respectable towards the end.
Also: don't let anyone tell you the Pac10 isn't soft. This game stands as incontestable proof of that conference's inferiority. Prediction: within five years the Mountain West gets their BCS slot.
- Auburn didn't do anything against WSU to drop, but Michael's nonstop Tiger bashing convinced me that mayhaps I was being irrationally exuberant.
- Miami and Florida State looked like the same team to me and remain within huggling distance. Only time will tell whether those defenses are viciously unstoppable or if the offensive lines are just as crappy as they were a year ago. Survey says a little of both.
Side note: Mike Patrick had the line of the weekend discussing uber-recruit Myron Rolle. After mentioning his straight As since eighth grade, Patrick said "I can't even be complimentary about that. It just makes me angry." Maybe you had to be there.
- Okay, Penn State fans, I tenuously add you on Morelli's strong showing, but how many rushing yards was that again?
Caterwaul in the comments and I may change the ballot.
Games Seen: BC-CMU, South Carolina-MSU, bits of Fresno-Nevada, Michigan-Vanderbilt, bits of Akron-PSU and OSU-NIU, UT-Cal, GT-ND, Miami-FSU, most of the first half of Neb-LTU, aaand way too much of Baylor-TCU.
Update: Note that the Pac-10 stuff above was TIC. Cal will probably end up 8-4 or 9-3 and Tennessee decked them. I moved Iowa down a few spots since they didn't handle their I-AA tomato can nearly as efficiently as Auburn and USC did more respectable opponents. Louisville took a hit, but not that much because of the Bush situation -- they have replacements for him and will be fine. It was more because I'm pretty sure I was just searching for anyone to put in the top ten preseason. NIU is replaced with Pitt, because Pitt had a nice opener and mustache.
Note a couple additions: "formation" and "brief." The former is self explanatory. "Brief" is a two-word description of the play. All terminology in these new sections is lifted directly from NCAA Football, since that's the common vernacular. A selection of plays have accompanying WMV video; look for links in the "brief" column.
I welcome formatting suggestions. I sent the verbosity down to a second line because of the extra columns. Not sure if I like it, but also not sure what the alternative is.
Also new: a generic +/- for "coverage." Since I have no idea what's going on downfield when the QB hesitates and takes a coverage sack or exactly why that WR is wide open, it's hard to assign individual credit or responsibility. When I can I will, but whenever a reasonably catchable pass is thrown I'll try to evaluate how well the intended receiver was covered. This rating is separate from individual ratings and liable to change radically as I get used to it.
Update: Oh. An asterisk next to a yard count is a pass play that turned into a QB scramble.
|O34||1||10||Standard nickel||Pass||3||WR Screen|
|McDonough: "They had three candidates to take the place of Cutler, Nickson's the one." Hur hur hur. Crable(+1), reads, closes, fends off a block, and cuts off the outside with the help of Hall. Five Wolverines gang-tackle Bennett.|
|A blitz! On the second play of the game! Nickson just barely gets it off before being leveled by Crable(+1). Leon Hall was also coming from that side.|
|O42||3||2||3-3-5 Stack||Run||11||QB Draw|
|Only six guys in the box on this play and it appeared that Graham was supposed to blitz around a stunting Biggs, leaving a big hole in the middle. I don't like this play call on a fairly obvious QB draw down.|
|M47||1||10||Standard nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Chris Graham(+1) sighting: faced with the prospect of one-on-one blocking with an OT he skips past him and converges along with Branch (+1, holding up well at the POA), and Biggs (who reads where the ball is going before closing down the RB).|
|M45||2||8||3-3-5 Stack||Run||2||Zone read keeper|
|Crable and Graham are blitzing. Crable cuts off the outside, forcing Nickson upfield. Graham pops up into the hole left between the guy attempting to block Crable and Biggs, who's stunting inside. Graham doesn't make the tackle but does force Nickson into the mush. Crable(+1) discards his blocker and recovers to make the tackle.|
|M43||3||6||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||Wild scramble|
|Terrance Taylor(+2) goes through a double team to get immediate pressure on Nickson, who scrambles out to the left. Nickson gets a fairly accurate pass off but Chris Graham(+1) is in great coverage, knocking the ball down. I think Taylor's held here just enough to prevent him from sacking Nickson.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 7 min 1Q. Crable and Graham have great drives. Crable's outstanding speed is put to good use: he snuffs out a screen, crushes Nickson, then manages to tackle him after keeping containment. Containment? NO WAI.|
|Woodley(+1) gets upfield fast enough such that the pulling guard who's supposed to block him on this play-action pass can't get there in time, forcing Nickson to scramble up in the pocket. Graham(-1) overruns the play and slips when Nickson cuts, else this goes for zero yards. A pursuing Branch(+2) punches the ball out from behind.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 5 min 1Q. Um, Branch just ran down that QB from behind.|
|Biggs' offensive lineman decides not to block him. Good coverage(+1) downfield forces Nickson to scramble up. Nickson was correctly ruled down on his fumble.|
|O32||2||6||Standard nickel||Run||-1||Zone read handoff|
|Really nice job by both Branch(+1) and Biggs(+1) to push into the backfield, allowing the defense to converge. Note: Mundy is in the game as the nickelback.|
|O31||3||7||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep cross|
|Bennett drops a great pass from Nickson. Zone had been busted wide open there (coverage -1), though if complete this play is coming back for illegal hands to the face on Woodley.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0 last min 1Q. Ron English looks a little like Denzel Washington.|
|O41||1||10||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||Zone read fake screen|
|Nickson is heavily pressured by both Biggs(+1) and Woodley(+1), which causes him to panic and throw inaccurately.|
|Good coverage(+1) forces Nickson to check down to the fullback. Burgess(+1) is all over him and makes the tackle immediately.|
|O44||3||7||Standard nickel||Pass||15||Deep cross|
|No pressure, lots of room in the zone (coverage -1)|
|M41||1||10||Standard nickel||Pass||11||Short stop|
|Charles Stewart(-1) is playing way off in man as Michigan zone-blitzes, almost missing the tackle.|
|Postgame the coaches point at Stewart(-2).|
|Drive Notes: TD, 10-7, 12 min 2Q.|
|WR lined up in the neutral zone. Weird.|
|Attempted screen is snowed under. Will Johnson and Prescott Burgess(+1) are ready to crush the RB should he receive the ball, so Nickson doesn't throw it. A charging Rondell Biggs(+1) prevents him from throwing it away; Woodley(+1) cleans up.|
|O8||2||22||Standard nickel||Run||-3||QB Draw|
|Er... Woodley(+2) does blow this play up, but they ran thi s QB draw thing that fakes up inside then comes out to his side of the field, leaving only a running back to block him. Thees is no good idea.|
|O5||3||25||Standard nickel||Run||-2||Off tackle|
|They give up and run. Nice play by Harris(+1), but there was nowhere for him to go anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 4 min 2Q. DANG. Just... just dang. When was the last time Michigan punched an opponent off the field like that? Even a crappy one?|
|Woodley(+3) runs right around the tackle and crushes Nickson.|
|Burgess(+1) and Harris(+1) zoom right past potential blockers, meeting at the RB.|
|O11||3||18||Standard nickel||Run||15||QB Draw|
|Somewhat scary there, but they go away.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 1 min 2Q.|
|Burgess(+1) jumps on the fullback out about five yards downfield, knocking the ball down.|
|O30||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||9||QB Draw|
|Crable blitzes for a fourth rusher. Woodley tries an edge rush, opening up a big hole for the draw; Harris gets solidly blocked by the RB.|
|Safety blitz from Englemon at the last second; Biggs(+2) slices between the tackle, who's blocking down on Branch, and the tight end to stuff this play in the backfield.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 13 min 3Q. Three and out on the first drive of the second half. Biggs gave no indication he could be this sort of playmaker a year ago, though he didn't get much time. And Jamison beat him out. Gooo Jamison!|
|O13||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-5||QB Draw|
|Vandy goes five wide. This is nominally a 3-3-5 but Crable(+1) is lined up with his hand down next to Woodley. Woodley and Crable stunt with Woodley(+1) crashing into the guard and Crable coming around him; it works beautifully; Crable is to the QB immediately; Biggs and Branch help clean up.|
|O8||2||15||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||QB Draw|
|Again Crable lines up with his hand down, this time at DT, and stunts, this time around Branch. Woodley(+1) is the one in the backfield disrupting the draw, as he shoves off his man and cuts off Nickson's foray up the gut. Nickson's forced detour gives Crable(+1) and Harris(+1) enough time to converge on him at the LOS.|
|O8||3||15||3-3-5 Stack||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Nice play by Burgess(+1) to shove away the feeble block attempt by the WR and contain the RB.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 7 min 3Q. Crable is a monster against these foofy spread rushing attacks. These last four drives are tingly.|
|O19||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||1||Option keeper|
|Hall(+1) is sent on a blitz but correctly reads the option play and backs off to keep contain on the RB. He doesn't do that and it's a big play. Nickson cuts up inside; Jamar Adams and Harris hit him at the LOS.|
|O20||2||9||3-3-5 Stack||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Very nice job by Biggs(+1) to hold his position, then shuck the blocker when the RB reaches him to make the tackle. Crable set up outside, read the play, and then crashed in on the RB to make very sure he went away.|
|O21||3||8||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Short post|
|Harris feints a blitz; Crable and Burgess actually come. The feint causes Vandy to shift its protection the wrong way, giving Burgess a free shot on Nickson. Despite the quick pressure, Nickson finds an open receiver and makes an accurate throw. Bennett drops it, partially because Jamar Adams(+1) arrives with the ball. (Coverage +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 1 min 3Q. I love Ron English. Crable looks like a different player. Biggs is playing like Woodley II. We're aggressive on third and long. Please, Vandy game, mean something. Brown roughs the kicker, causing the next drive. I realize this isn't technically correct, but it is essentially.|
|O36||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Short stop|
|Dropped by the Vandy receiver. I don't like how far Stewart has to play off this guy.|
|O36||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Penalty||13||Pass interference|
|Jamar Adams is right there on the receiver when the ball gets there, leaping over him in an attempt to make a play on the ball. Call is for hooking the receiver with his arm when he went to go over the top, which was unnecessary. Adams was in position to make a play. (Um... -1 for Adams, though I hate to give it to him, and +1 for generic coverage.)|
|This looks like a screen but, uh... isn't. Four players, including Eugene Germany and Will Johnson, burst through the line. Nickson bails out, understandably, and throws it away. (Crable, Johnson, Germany +1)|
|O49||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||7||Option pitch|
|Crable again blitzes, forcing the pitch immediately. It's impossible to see what happens downfield because of the camera angle, but Jamar Adams barely misses a tackle; Burgess can't quite get there, and Englemon doesn't wrap up.|
|M44||3||3||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Screen|
|Nickson's inaccurate on this screen, which would have worked. Michigan was sending the house.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 15 min 4Q. A couple Vandy screwups terminate the closest thing they've had to a drive since the touchdown.|
|Leon Hall(-1) gives up outside contain on this screen, opening up a big gain.|
|Coverage(+1) sack. Biggs(+1) gets it; Crable's pressure made him think twice about the throw.|
|O47||2||14||3-3-5 Stack||Run||12||Option pitch|
|Crable levels Nickson on this play. I don't like how tentative Adams(-1) is here. He comes up into the box presnap but holds up, allowing himself to get blocked by the tight end and giving the (white!) Vandy RB a nice gain.|
|Vandy runs a combo against our zone coverage. The underneath receiver clears out space for a deeper one, who makes the reception. Nice read and throw from Nickson.|
|Speed option play action; Spielman accuses a WR of running the wrong route. In any case, Nickson hesitates and is buried by four Wolverines, primary amongst them Jamar Adams(+1).|
|M41||2||19||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Bubble screen.|
|Dropped. Harris(+1) was going to crush him anyway.|
|Two blitzers don't get to the QB; Nickson makes a nice throw to Bennett. Stewart(+1) actually has pretty good coverage here, nearly knocking the ball loose. (Coverage +1)|
|Great coverage(+1). Nickson sits in the pocket looking for someone, can find nobody, and eventually hurls it to the back corner of the endzone. Crable(+1) eventually got the pressure.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 20-7, 9 min 4Q.|
|Pitch and catch.|
|O30||2||1||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|Man... Woodley(+2) shoots into the backfield, disrupting the play immediately. You would think he was unblocked, but he wasn't.|
|O29||3||2||3-3-5 Stack||Run||9||QB Draw|
|Crable(-1) overruns the QB draw, freeing Nickson. Englemon(+2) makes a textbook strip from behind to force a fumble and a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 20-7, 4 min 4Q.|
|Corner blitz! On one of these desperation drives! Hall(+2) gets chopped, gets up, and gets it done.|
|Nice throw from Nickson, but we had this stopped short of the first down if we get a tackle from Burgess or Englemaon|
|Hall(+1) blitzes again, crushing Nickson and forcing an errant pass.|
|Rattled, Nickson sails it wide.|
|Leon Hall blitzes again. Nickson just wants to get off the field.|
|Nickson errant again. We blitzed on almost every play on this drive.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, EOG.|
(Thanks to reader Josh Houchin for much of the video.)
Care to offer some sort of grotesque sexual reference that clarifies your feelings about Ron English?
Well, no. Apparently relatives of mine read this. But it's really hard not to.
Other than everything?
It's the difference between confidence and arrogance.
- English is more deceptive. One of the most irritating things about Herrmann's defenses was their refusal to do simple things like align themselves in formations that don't give away the call. A year ago, Michigan positively refused to depart from its base 4-3-4 against three wide-receiver formations on first and second down. An outside linebacker would line up in the vague area of the wide reciever, indicating to any idiot that Michigan was in a zone. Vanderbilt spent the entire game save a few short yardage plays with at least three wideouts on the field; English was in either a standard nickel or a 3-3-5, allowing him to call a variety of defenses that don't come with giant blinking signs that say "VANILLA ZONE."
- English has a better grasp of the underlying game theory. Not that he sits around with a calculator and a statistics textbook, but on third and twenty he sits in an umbrella zone and blitzes instead of rushing four or even (ugh) three. On a hypothetical desperation drive, he blitzed the hell out of the opponent. He seems to have a more intuitive feel for the right sort of call in most situations. (Note that predictability is death and taken to an extreme the aforementioned tendencies would be negative. English seems to have his weighting right.)
- English molds his schemes to his talent instead of vice versa. Crable was deployed like a nuclear jack-in-the-box: he'd pop up randomly and bam, you're dead. Mundy featured heavily as the nickel back, taking advantage of his coverage ability without making him the last line of defense. No 6'8" proven liabilities played over guys who just made the Patriots. (Previous sentence assumes a move inside for Branch.)
- English's players look smart. Crable? WTF? Last year that guy played like he had an extra chromosome. Against Vandy he was responsibly violent. Burgess and Graham were both solid. There were vanishingly few mistakes -- Stewart's bite on the trick play is the only one that comes to mind.
- Swagger heart wanting it more blah blah blah. He's a better motivator.
- And the grand poobah: English coaches like he's got a talent advantage. He swarmed Vandy instead of sitting back, waiting for them to make an error. Bend-but-don't-break is a rube's game suited for weaklings. Take a look around the NCAA: the best defenses are all ravenous things featuring penetration galore, proactive schemes that force the offense to react. Sitting back yourself is a recipie for losses against teams with offenses that efficient when not pressured, and these days that's nearly everyone. English coaches like he's got a terrifying defensive line, which is nice, because we just might.
Whoah, tiger. It's just Vandy.
True. I'm no doubt getting ahead of myself. But I don't think Vandy's offense is all that bad. They returned most of their starters from a year ago and the big issue at quarterback was handled ably by Nickson, one of those athletic sorts who would gut us in days of yore no matter the crappiness of his teammates. When he managed to get a pass off it was almost always a good throw until the last drive, when he was clearly not interested in getting his ass kicked further. There wasn't much he could do given the Mongol horde in his face on every snap.
The Vandy offensive line is probably a mediocre unit but not a bad one. They return three starters from a line that allowed 24 sacks a year ago and was roundly criticized in scouting evaluations of Jay Cutler. Senior Brian Stamper was second-team All SEC a year ago, charged with zero of those 24 sacks. He gave up two to Lamarr Woodley.
Still: just Vandy. Disappointment probably coming. Easy to blitz the hell out of theoretical desperation drive when you're up three scores. Repeat until Notre Dame.
Er... everyone? Let's check the table:
|Woodley||12||12||Uh... yeah, good start. All American?|
|Biggs||6||6||We'll have to see how he does against a better team before declaring him the new hotness.|
|Taylor||2||2||Came out once the 3-3-5 came in.|
|Branch||4||4||Somewhat quiet as the only DT.|
|Crable||7||1||6||Still have worries about him against power rushing attacks, but against the spread? A monster.|
|Harris||4||4||Picked up where he left off.|
|Graham||2||1||1||Left midway through second with minor pull.|
|Hall||4||1||3||Note that the secondary had little to do most of the day.|
|"Coverage"||7||2||5||Usually on top of Vandy receivers even when there were completions.|
None, really. The closest thing to one would be Charles Stewart, who had a few instances of meh coverage and the bust on the trick play touchdown. No one else had more than one or two minor errors the whole way.
Exciting new faces?
thanks to reader Dave Dilks for the picture.
Do Rondell Biggs and Shawn Crable count? They looked like entirely different players. Stewart was a little rough -- something reflected in the new depth chart, which has his spot occupied by Charles Stewart OR Morgan Trent -- and no other newbies featured in anything more than spot duty.
What have we learned?
Nothing definitively; it is just Vandy. But indications:
- This is going to be an aggressive defense that attempts to force opponent mistakes with multiple fronts, stemming, and blitzes.
- Two of the big question marks on defense, SAM linebacker and DE-opposite-Woodley, appear to have been filled.
- I may have underestimated Woodley himself.
- All zone all the time? Gone. Corners are now permitted to approach the line of scrimmage.
What does it mean for Central Michigan?
No doubt we'll see more of the same against $#*!ing crazy Brian Kelly's spread offense, which I can't seem to go two sentences without referring to as "frenetic." Central was competitive against a probably-good Boston College team, gaining 354 yards despite giving away a few possessions with someone other than redshirt freshman Dan LeFevour -- already inspiring painful headlines -- under center. Unless Kelly goes really bats he'll stick with LeFevour after his impressive debut (22-37 for 221 yards and 74 yards rushing), which should make the Central offense even more efficient.
Against BC there was a ton of screening and misdirection. If Michigan isn't careful, Central could get some gashing plays against the new, hypothetically-aggressive D. The game still projects as an interesting learning exercise instead of a possible upset -- LeFevour is but a freshman, after all, and Central has to play defense -- but if the defense does anything comparable to what it did against Vandy it will be time to get excited.
Posting light today.
An excellent article in the News about the new coordinators from Angelique S. Chengelis has a lot of encouraging/infuriating quotes. Rondell Biggs on English:
"We get to perfect what we do," Biggs said. "Last year, we were always changing things up. Now we put in the base, so people know what we're doing. We don't have to think so much. We don't have to change up things. We know our calls, we know our responsibilities.
"We've got a lot less thinking, a lot less stuff on our plates. I remember last year, we were getting new stuff every week, and it was hard to get a good rhythm."
KISS. This has been the standard mantra for months, but framed by Biggs like so it reminds me of this Vince Young quote from a couple years ago:
"They are physical. They don't try and disguise anything. Whatever they are trying to do, if they are trying to blitz, you know they are blitzing. If they are trying to sit back and play coverage or play the run, you know what they are doing. They just try and get physical with you and go nose to nose with you for four quarters."
There's no right level of complexity in a defense. You can be successful with anything from Miami's all-cover-2-all-the-time to John Tenuta's blitz Cuisinart. But what complexity you have must have a payoff, right? Each thing you add to a defense must have some advantage. Otherwise you're just complicating things for you and not them. Jim Herrmann's final years were miraculous, wildly complex schemes that were dead easy to read. Merely discussing it makes my molars ache. How many times did you see members of the secondary pointing at each other and re-arranging themselves moments before the snap? How many times did befuddled linebackers pick the wrong place to go? How much of Michigan's conservatism was because an aggressive Herrmann defense would inevitably bust coverages at a rate better associated with the Wildcats? (Which Wildcats? Pick one.)
That Vince Young quote is ludicrous. All the substitutions, all the presnap motion, all the wild gesticulation: for nothing. Michigan was dead easy to read. Herrmann's brilliance did nothing but confuse Michigan defenders into inaction. If he comes within 50 miles of Michigan Stadium he should be tasered and shipped to Istanbul.
Speaking of shipping people to Istanbul, Mike DeBord makes a strong case for immediate deportation and brainwashing in the same article:
"Today with so much eight-man, nine-man football, you can run away from the eighth guy, and you don't have to block that guy. It allows you to be able to run the ball when you've got eight guys down in the box."
Ack ack ack.
But even though I don't like that quote I must (temporarily) defend DeBord. I'm only through the first half but in that half his playcalling was excellent, sabotaged entirely by execution errors. I know I will like it much less during the second half but it wasn't all bad. Also, his other quotes from that article discussing the shift to a zone running game are all true; it's an astute way to take advantage of Hart's particular strengths and and get away from some of the ugly predictability that makes Michigan so frustrating. (Not coincidentally, this sort of running game makes the waggle a much bigger threat. Before, Michigan's run game was mostly pulling, pitches, and isos up the gut. Actual runs to the outside that could suck defenders along were few and far between. Thus the demise of the waggle. Its return Saturday saw an embarrassment of open receivers.) Many fans grumbled about wanting a third wide receiver or second tight end in the game instead of a meh fullback, and that's what they got (at least in the first half): Michigan's base formation was three wideouts, a tight end, and a running back.
Now, about that aggressive passing game...
Sigh. I promised myself no more attention for goobers, but I enjoyed this sentence so much that it's only right I give him some pub. Amongst He Is Manpundit's "breakout" whatevers of the opening weekend:
--Running back Kevin Grady of Michigan. He is slimmed down and MUCH quicker this year. I think he will, at some point, replace Michael Hart as a starter.
He'll be here all week, folks. The point at which a healthy Hart is replaced as a starter is when he runs out of eligibility. But that's punditry for you.
This will remain @ the top until Monday and serve as a place for any and all impressions on the game. I would normally put in a warning to keep the gnashing of teeth to a minimum if bad things occur, but this is Vanderbilt so you go right ahead if disaster strikes.
While we wait, commenter WolverBean took the Christmas metaphor and extended it to its very maximum. Behold:
'Twas the night before Football, and through the Big House
Not a player was stirring, not even A. Kraus.
The fans were all nestled up snug in their beds,
While visions of touchdown drives danced in their heads;
And Lloyd in his polo, and Mike [DeBord] in his hat,
Had just settled down to plan this year's attack.
When out on the field there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our tailgates to see what's the matter.
Away to the Big House! We flew there like flashes,
Poured in through the tunnels and down to the hashes.
When what, to my wondering eyes should appear.
But eighty-five warriors, dressed in their gear.
With a little old leader, so lively and coy,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Lloyd.
More rapid than eagles his players they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now Henne! Now Breaston! Now Woodley and Crable!
"On Manningham, Hart, Stewart, Burgess and Grady!
"To the top of the conf'rence! To the top of the poll!
"Now block away! Catch away! Run away all!"
So out to the sidelines, the players they flew,
With a book full of plays, and St Lloyd the coach too.
And then, with keys jingling, I saw on the field,
Aggressive, fast defense was finally revealed!
As I threw up my hands, and was jumping around,
Down the near sideline Lloyd came with a bound.
He was dressed all in Nike, from cap to his shoes,
And his clothes were all colored with Maizes and Blues,
A headset and whistle were hung off his back
And he looked like a general planning attack.
His eyes â€“ how they twinkled! His jowls how set!
His team, how it danced like his marionette.
His hair chestnut brown and his eyebrows were bushy,
His look tough as nails, though his man-boobs were mushy,
A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
All the refs knew to play fair or he'd go berserk.
Then waving his hand around over his head,
He signaled a play action pass to split end.
Henne rolled out, threw the ball, it came down
In the hands of The New Math! We all screamed "Touchdown!"
Then Lloyd turned to the stands, and announced to the ruckus,
"Happy Football to all! This year's boys are tremendous!"
Good Lord. The "commenter of the year" competition is getting mighty crowded these days.
Merry football, kids. I'll try to get something up late Saturday but can make no promises. Sunday, though. I'm going to bump UFR up this year... Monday/Tuesday might be ambitious but we'll see. Tuesday/Wednesday at the latest.
Disjointed thoughts not guaranteed to last more than two days follow. May take these back after film review.
OMG Defense! I sat next to a fairly crabby Vandy fan who said the Commodores returned basically everyone on offense save Cutler and a wide receiver, so that was not a green offensive line we utterly obliterated. Aside from the trick play and a few first downs at the end of the game, Michigan gave up approximately 120 yards. Damn!
Most encouraging was that it was for the most part Michigan making plays. Woodley had three consecutive sacks (although one may have been ruled a run, I haven't looked at the box score yet). Crable was effective attacking the line; Taylor was good; Biggs was a revelation. In the secondary we were active and around the ball, attempting to make plays on the ball.
It was night and day. Herrmann really was that bad.
Jamison what? Didn't play a snap. Stood on the sidelines, in pads, the whole game. Violation of team rules? Sure didn't seem like an injury, and I sincerely doubt that he'd go from the announced starter to sitting on the bench all game without reason.
Crable! I'm still concerned about him against traditional power-running teams, but he's a really interesting and effective player against the spread. He has the ability to fend off offensive linemen who aren't drive blocking until he determines which side the play is going to, at which point his unique combination of frame and speed allow him to make a play. There was an instance of this last year against Northwestern and he made a couple of similar plays today, notably against a couple of the zone reads Vandy ran.
Er... offense. There can't be many complaints about the run game. 242 yards with good showings from Hart, Grady, and Minor, minus Grady's fumble. The much-rumored zone blocking was legit and seemed fairly effective. There was but one fullback shuffle.
But... yeah... the passing game. Some of the problems were fairly innocuous execution errors: Massey's drop on the wheel route (that was a fairly tough catch, but still) and Breaston's drop on that slant. But the only downfield pass we attempted all day was the pass to Manningham. Partially that's DeBord: his tight end fetish was on full display today. But part of that was a really disturbing lack of pass blocking. Henne was buried when Jake Long whiffed a block; Riley was iffy all day; blitzes from the outside were unblocked all day. Henne did very well to buy time and scramble for the occasional first down, but his accuracy left much to be desired.
Where were the slants, outs, and stop routes? Henne threw literally nothing over the middle of the field all day. Bleah.
Goddamn I love Mike Hart. That is all. Oh: and where were the screens? We attempted one old-fashioned running back screen, IIRC.
Speaking of screens: We can't run any wide receiver screens until game six. They aren't going to work.
Overall? The booing at the end of the first half was a little goofy too me, since we were crushing them everywhere but the scoreboard. I'm disappointed in the passing game, too, but there was a lot of good to take out of that. That was a dominant defensive performance and a hell of a running game, and since Lloyd Carr coaches like he has a dominant defense and a hell of a running game no matter what the facts on the ground are, that's important.
Oh, yeah: Zoltan!