this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
We're back with a trips formation.
Check out that guy lined up outside of Mathews way out there: that's a linebacker. He is on the LOS outside of a couple wide receivers. Weird.
Michigan will run a zone stretch, and Illinois will do what they did:
Again we see the backside defensive end crashing in with no thought for Threet. He can do this because Miller is shooting out to contain the QB, like we saw on the last play.
Also, check the linebacker, already flowing upfield as soon as he sees the play start.
Check the very top of the screen: if Michigan was to throw a bubble screen Odoms would probably get lit up, as the linebacker has used his advantageous position to hop past the wide receiver. This defense takes away all three prongs of the Rodriguez system.
But it doesn't take away everything. Look at the vast huge gaping hole between that linebacker and Miller. If Odoms was just to not go anywhere, or if he was to run a little hitch to the line of scrimmage, he would be wide open. Illinois's secondary is playing in the parking lot. If Odoms was to come in at the snap and establish a pitch relationship with Threet, there's no one to cover him on the option. This is not defeat for the zone read; it's just defeat for Michigan's zone read at this moment.
Anyway, McGuffie is forced to cut back because Schilling's been driven into the backfield…
… and gets smooshed.
The instant conclusion to jump to is that Rodriguez got beat. Illinois regularly deployed this gimmicky defense specifically aimed the staple of his offense. It has big gaping flaws in it that Michigan did not adjust to. They assumed Michigan would run on first down, put themselves in a position to stop it, and did; Michigan did not go to a throwing mode.
It's not that easy, of course, when you're a coach at a new school and you're using freshmen everywhere. Illinois, like Oregon, has guys who have been in this offense for multiple years and they pulled out a vast array of sleight-of-hand. Michigan probably doesn't have that rabbit in its hat yet.
Still… doing the UFR here was a sad trip into the recent past. At this point we know the line is better at pass blocking than run blocking—though Ortmann was way worse at guard than he was a tackle—and that teams are teeing off on the zone-read/bubble on first and ten; too rarely did we go away from that.
Hey, guess what? Michigan's run game against Illinois sucked donkey. This was partly Michigan's offensive line getting beat, but it was also partly Illinois outscheming Rodriguez.
To wit: first and ten on Michigan's second touchdown drive on the Illinois 25. Michigan comes out in a standard 3-WR set; Illinois has their base formation on the field with a linebacker over Odoms.
Michigan is running the same play Brandon Minor took to the house against Wisconsin; I've been terming it the "zone read dive" in the UFRs. Michigan will hand it off to McGuffie, using the zone-read induced delay on the unblocked defensive end to get out on the linebackers and shoot McGuffie into the secondary.
Problem: the defensive end couldn't give a crap about Threet. Here at the handoff he's already given up containment.
This is quickly followed by McGuffie getting swallowed whole. So Threet should keep it? Not so much, as Martez Wilson has hopped outside and Vontae Davis is crashing down, too. If Threet keeps it he's going to get tackled for loss, too:
(Also, note Molk's whiff on Miller, the only real execution issue on this play.)
And for the kicker, go up to that first frame above: that linebacker is right on the LOS, close enough to jump the bubble screen route if Michigan sets up to throw. They've got all the angles covered.
Except, of course, they don't. Michigan could combat this a number of different ways:
- Shoot Threet up into the hole originally designated for McGuffie. On this play it wouldn't work, but only because of the Molk whiff. If Molk gets a block that's into the secondary.
- Just run some play action. For Davis to get that close to the LOS he had to jump off Mathews as soon as he saw the zone read action; Mathews is now wide open.
- Throw a long handoff to Savoy. Look at the cushion, man.
They did none of these things. I've got another one of these coming in a little bit.
Earlier in the year this space featured a post detailing the carnage that had been wrought on the offensive line by poor recruiting, player development, and retention. As I was watching two sophomores and a redshirt senior who's not exactly ticketed for pro stardom, it occurred to me that the situation at LB was equally dire.
A season-by-season accounting with available players in bold:
2004 (would be fifth year seniors)
- Chris Graham didn't redshirt and is thus out of eligibility. Not that having him around would have helped much.
- John Thompson is the current starting SLB. He was a low-three star recruit.
- Brandon Logan is the only LB recruit in the class. A meh three star recruit, he was clearly not going to be a player from day one.
- Cobrani Mixon transfers to Cincinnati after a semester.
- Quintin Patilla moves to fullback, then transfers to GVSU.
- Obi Ezeh, a meh recruit, is the starting MLB.
- Jonas Mouton is a big recruit rated around #50 as a S. He is the starting WLB.
- Michigan's first JUCO in ten years, Austin Panter, arrives.
- Marell Evans is an unrated two-star with other offers from Temple and Buffalo.
- Brandon Herron is a meh three-star who redshirts; he hasn't been seen or heard from so far.
- Taylor Hill transfers.
- Marcus Witherspoon has Clearinghouse issues and ends up at Rutgers.
- JB Fitzgerald is playing on special teams as a freshman.
- Kenny Demens is looking likely to redshirt.
So, yeah… of course they're bad. Michigan has one four-star recruit on the roster outside of a JUCO and a true freshman, and has all of four guys with more than a year of experience in the program, one of whom has never threatened to get off special teams. So you're relying on either 1) an unheralded recruit being really good really fast or 2) all three of your upperclassmen being hits.
Neither one nor two has occurred, and finding a strongside LB next year is going to be problematic; the losses of Hill and Witherspoon are going to be damaging.
Update 10/7: Linked to articles on MD LB Jelani Jenkins (video interview), SC S Devontae Holloman, TX S Craig Loston, MN WR Bryce McNeal, SC DE Sam Montgomery, MI DT Will Campbell, video of OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Moved 2010 MI WR Jeremy Jackson to committed on the nonexistent 2010 board.
Editorial Opinion: A mostly quiet week. MD DE Jason Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins visited for the Illinois game, and there are a number of articles up on the recruiting sites about their trips. Sounds like Michigan has a decent, not great, shot at both. 2010 MI WR Jeremy Jackson, son of running backs coach Fred Jackson, committed last week, too.
Oh: Recruiting board lives here.
Michigan's in on three five stars: MI DT Will Campbell is widely expected to recommit; LA WR Rueben Randle is regarded as a longshot, and MD LB Jelani Jenkins is a mystery. Here's Jenkins after a recent win over DeMatha:
The Washington Post took the opportunity provided by that ESPN2-televised game to write up a mondo article on Jenkins and the immense pressure he's put under by the recruiting process. If you really want to parse finely, this could be construed as good:
And then there's Jelani's father, Maurice Jenkins, the finely dressed entrepreneur whose background as both an artist and architect best qualifies him to manage the whole process. He leaned against the fence surrounding Good Counsel's field 20 minutes before kickoff against Paul VI and watched his son run through pregame drills.
Minutes earlier, he had met with coaches from Notre Dame and Maryland who had come to watch Jelani. Hours earlier, he had spoken to UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel on the phone. Days earlier, he had chatted with a coach from Michigan, one of a handful of recruiters he said he's in touch with about once a week.
There is also more on The Matrix, the Jenkins family's highly elaborate school-measurement device:
In the following months, Maurice crafted a three-page matrix that reduced the recruiting chaos surrounding his son into a simple diagram. The columns list each school in nearly every division I-A conference. Programs that offer Jelani a scholarship are highlighted in yellow, which include nine Atlantic Coast Conference schools, six schools each from the Big Ten, Big East and Southeastern conferences, as well as four from the Pacific-10 and a pair from the Big 12. Notre Dame, an independent, also is highlighted.
The rows separate categories, such as diversity, U.S. News & World Report academic rankings, number of NFL draft picks in the past five years and graduation rates. "It gives us a snapshot of the things that are important to us," Maurice said of the matrix.
There is an engineer somewhere in that family, this I guarantee.
Earlier this year, MN WR commit Bryce McNeal announced he was still committed to Michigan but would take some visits, the hastily backed off that position. Now the visits are back on:
His recruiting could get interesting since he is committed to Michigan but still plans to take visits.
This obviously lowers the chances McNeal ends up signing with Michigan, but the announced visits are to Colorado and Minnesota… I'm not exactly writing him off.
FWIW, the rest of that mini-scouting report on McNeal:
ASSETS: Has excellent hands and change of direction. He also runs effortlessly after the catch.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: He needs to be more aggressive and emotional, along with adding about 10 to 15 pounds.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PLAY: The first time he touched the ball was in the second quarter on a punt return of 25 yards and you could see he was just a natural running with the ball in his hands.
CONCLUSION: Even though he does not play in the highest level of football in Minnesota, you can still see a special athlete every time he catches a pass or returns a kickoff or punt.
How many more?
Varsity Blue wonders if the class is close to full…
With the recent commitment of Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, it appears that the 2009 recruiting class is nearly full. Assuming William Campbell recommits to Michigan (which appears likely but certainly not set in stone), Michigan may save a couple slots for surprises from top prospects.
…but I say it isn't. My current count of open slots on the board is 20, and that's not counting a number of pretty obvious departures: a couple senior non-contributors with a fifth year of eligibility, some running back who finds himself on a depth chart behind up to nine others, and a certain tight end the coaching staff is fed up with. There will likely be another unexpected departure or two, bringing Michigan's total to around 25 and possibly even more.
Michigan has 18 commits at the moment. One man's semi-informed guess at the remainder of the class:
- Will Campbell.
- Two or three OL from the following list: Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, Travis Bond, and Chris Freeman.
- A third defensive end: Jason Ankrah, Sam Montgomery, Will Hill, or Mystery Recruit
- Another linebacker, hopefully Jelani Jenkins by maybe Mike Marry or Hawatha Bell.
- Two more defensive backs. Most likely: Vlad Emilien and some random corner. Also, the suddenly mysterious Dennis Thames is out there.
Helpful scouting-report type object on 2010 FL WR Ricardo Miller:
“The main thing that stands out about Ricardo is he is the best route runner I’ve seen in the entire state of Florida, which is impressive because we’ve got a lot of great receivers this year,” commented FlaVarsity.com publisher Michael Langston. “He reminds me a lot of (Mario) Manningham who used to be at Michigan.”
Suffuse yourself hey hey hey hey.
Seven minutes of Fitzgerald Toussaint highlights… NOW!
Etc.: SC DE Sam Montgomery still planning a visit.
Notes: Probably the biggest "wha?" in the poll is Cal's rocket sled to #13 after being omitted from the last poll. Take a look at the schedule: a loss to Maryland, then wins over ASU, Michigan State, Colorado State, and Washington State. The only non-BCS team in the bunch is respectable and there are a couple of wins over solid BCS programs. Yes, there is an inexplicable loss to Maryland, but scan down the list and you'll find a bunch of paper tigers and teams with equally inexplicable losses (hello, East Carolina!).
I just can't rank Auburn anymore when their offense is as dysfunctional as Michigan's and they're now a two-loss team separated from four losses by a gift touchdown and the lack of another Mississippi State safety. Read this and prepare to have your opinion of Tommy Tuberville lowered significantly unless you're a 'Bama fan, in which case read it and have your opinion confirmed despite the whole six game win streak thing.
BYU, IMO, is far too high, as Dr. Saturday points out that BYU's schedule is pretty weak: dead last to the computers. Yes, they've beaten UCLA and Washington, but UCLA and Washington are pretty bad. BYU isn't Hawaii last year or anything, but they're probably not deserving of #6.
I sort of missed that Oregon lost to USC 44-10; they won't be in the final poll.
If you happen to subscribe to every BlogPoll voter's RSS feed like I do this announcement will come as no surprise, but you're probably sane and thus do not so here goes: effective this week, the BlogPoll will appear at CBS Sports. An initial Monday poll is up right now, actually.
The process will go like this in the future:
- Bloggers post initial ballots by Monday at noon; this gets packaged into CBS's weekly poll feature.
- Readers at CBS will be encouraged to look at the various ballots and perhaps argue their case to non-believers.
- Revised ballots are still due at 10 AM Wednesday, and that's when the full poll will be posted with your standard commentary. This will happen at CBS.
This is something of a milestone for bloggers, as a mainstream site is partnering with a wide swath of the internet's wild west and giving some credence to the idea that maybe there is something different and, if not necessarily better, at least interesting enough to pay attention to there.
What they'll find is that the sausage is really close to the surface, with weird ballots and omissions and unabashed homerism and unabashed anti-homerism in the wake of humiliating defeat. They'll find that there's not a lot of room for strenuous disagreement between the BP and the AP because wins and losses rule all, unless you're a coach. They'll find a healthy skepticism for light schedules, tribes of resume-voting zealots. And hopefully they'll find intelligent coverage of their favorite team.
This would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of voters new and old, even the ones I regularly battle over their voting philosophies, and I'd like to thank everyone for their participation.