This was the one beacon of hope on the defense, provided mostly 4s. The preview was extremely high on one Mike Martin:
… it's time for Martin to make the same leap Brandon Graham did between his junior and senior years. I can't offer anything more powerful than this wonderfully ungrammatical assessment from Jibreel Black:
You look at the rest of this defensive line and there’s a lot of talent there, but is there anyone in particular that you look at and say, ‘wow man this dude is better than I thought he was? ‘
“Not necessarily better than I thought he was, because I know all of them are good, but when I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”
I hope to be like dang for large sections of the season. … I'm not sure if Martin will be on All Big Ten teams after the year, especially at a position at which statistics don't always tell the tale, but I'm confident in asserting he should be on them.
The preview misidentified the Banks/Sagesse combination as the other defensive tackle when it's primarily been Banks on the field and he's always a defensive end when Michigan goes to its four man front. The two were regarded as meh interchangeable pieces on par with Rondell Biggs, the Other Guy on Michigan's ridiculous '06 line. In sum:
Michigan's formations will go some way to determining which player gets more time. In three-man lines Sagesse is clearly going to be a pass-rush liability as a defensive end, but when Michigan goes to four (or brings in the "double eagle" package with the DEs lined up over the opposition guards) Sagesse's got more heft. I wouldn't be surprised to see both lifted for Jibreel Black or maybe Craig Roh on passing downs.
Take your pick of adjectives: workmanlike, yeoman, gritty, etc. Expect something okay here; the upside is low, but so is the downside.
Backups were not encouraging: "Everyone is worried" about Will Campbell's ability to stick after getting lit up in limited time as a freshman and falling behind Adam Patterson on the depth chart. Patterson was not projected to be good:
He'll play; I don't think he'll be much good. The dropoff after Martin will be similar to that Michigan experienced when Graham came off the field, though less severe since Martin won't be Graham and the backup is at least a senior.
Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh were treated as defensive ends, something that's been true for them about 50% of the time. When Michigan goes to a four-man line Roh is the weakside DE; he's a linebacker otherwise. When they're in a three man line Van Bergen is the strongside DE; he's still a three-tech DT otherwise. RVB in a nutshell:
Van Bergen knows the position [DE], was recruited to play it, and is entering his fourth year on campus with a season as a solid starter under his belt. Least useful phrase ever: he's not going to be Brandon Graham. Mitigating phrase: but he should be solid. At a spot more amenable to pass rush and with more experience, RVB should brush up against double-digit sacks and see his UFRs climb into the consistently good realm inhabited by, say, Tim Jamison as a senior.
Roh was given a 3 as the deathbacker and dubbed "the Denard Robinson of the defense," which was true last year but cannot be true this year since Roh hasn't decapitated three opponents.
The catch in the Craig Roh explosion is this niggling move to the 3-3-5, where he's a strongside linebacker. …No one's sure how much Michigan will be running a three man line this fall but it will be some, which will give Roh the ability to attack from surprising angles and use his vertical speed to get into the backfield. It will also expose him to play action, counters, and other plays he's not used to dealing with much that can take advantage of the inability to change direction that had everyone projecting him as a defensive end despite being linebacker size. Now, you could just say he'll blitz all the time but that would get predictable; it would also impinge on Jonas Mouton's ability to do the same thing, and Mouton's a guy who has the exact same strengths Roh does. They'll have to split the fun bits where they tear into the backfield.
All this makes it difficult to project what Roh will do this season. A guess: doubling his 7.5 TFLs and significantly adding to his two sacks is a good bet. I don't think he'll be a crazy star just yet, but I expect to be saying the same things about him next year that I'm saying about Mike Martin this year.
Fast forward to NOW!
I be like dang about Mike Martin. Fears about turning him into a mediocre nose tackle proved unfounded. The move to the 3-3-5 has actually freed him up to slant past offensive linemen and splatter running plays or unleash thumping pass rush up the middle. Despite essentially missing the Iowa game he's amongst the team leaders in TFLs with 5.5 and has 2.5 sacks. He's got 23 tackles, as well, an impressive 16 of those solos. He went into beast mode against Notre Dame, racking up an 11.5 and proving himself too quick for one guy to do anything with:
He followed that up with an +8.5 in his toughest matchup to date against Michigan State:
At the end of that game he got hit with a cheap block and sprained an ankle that saw him play like a ghost of himself in the Iowa game. He eventually missed the second half.
Van Bergen has also checked in around expectations. He wouldn't look out of place on Michigan defensive lines of yore when the defense was actually good. He's not making a ton of tackles (just twelve) but has two sacks and four of Michigan's eleven QB hurries on the season. He's been hovering around the +4/+5 area that's a decent to good day for a 4-3 DE, and since he's not a 4-3 DE those numbers point towards an above-average player. He was even an impact player against MSU with a drive-killing sack and solid play against the run. He tied Martin's numbers on the day.
The Banks/Sagesse combination has disappointed. Sagesse hardly sees the field. Moving him to the outside when he seemed like a functional DT last year is and was a strange move. It's hard to imagine he'd be less effective than Patterson, and with Michigan moving towards four-man lines against pro style offenses he could have reprised his role from last year as an okay backup to Martin. Though Banks leads the team in sacks that's because Ricky Stanzi inexplicably ran out of bounds, Indiana busted a protection, and one of the nonconference snackycakes was a nonconference snackycakes. He delivers no pass rush and often finds himself single-blocked effectively. Michigan's been trying to get freshman Jibreel Black more playing time in response; they're finding it hard to keep him on the field because right now he's horrendous against the run.
Finally, Craig Roh has not made the hoped for leap in production. This is largely not his fault. He's not a linebacker, he's a weakside defensive end, and when you put him in space he makes a lot of bad zone drops and is often beaten in one-on-one situations by far more agile receivers. He's okay in man coverage against a tight end, but he's hovering around 250 pounds—he is the wrong kind of mismatch against a WR.
Michigan put his hand on the ground against Notre Dame to good effect…
…until Brandon Herron went out with injury and Michigan felt forced to put him at linebacker. Roh had a +11 on the day; Herron hasn't seen the field since and Roh's been stuck at LB in Michigan's 3-3-5. As a result, he ended up solidly negative against Indiana. The pro-style attacks of MSU and Iowa saw him put his hand on the ground 70-80% of the time; Roh ended up in the +4/+5 RVB zone after both games.
Fast forward to LATER!
At this point it's obvious that Will Campbell is not going to have an impact on the defense this year, so things are settled and relatively static at three positions.
Martin's ankle is 90% of the variance in future performances from the Michigan defensive line. Since he was healthy enough to at least try against Iowa and has had a bye week the assumption/hope is that he's shaken it off and can resume his backfield-terrorizing ways. He should continue to perform at an all conference level; his numbers will probably come up short because no one can cover long enough for Michigan to get sacks.
Roh and Van Bergen are a level of play down from Martin; at this point in their careers they're both good Big Ten players but not stars. Roh should be improving more quickly than anyone else on the line because of his relative youth. Hopefully by the end of the year he can make more impact in the pass rush and Michigan can reliably get pressure with four.
The strongside DE spot currently manned by Banks could see a late switch as Michigan coaches keep trying to get Black playing time. Unfortunately, he's an obvious liability in the run game and opponents will have scouted this by now. They've already installed a run/pass platoon there, so all that's left is to throw Black in the game and hope.
Prediction accuracy to date: Complicated by the error when it comes to positions. RVB is about a 4, as is the combination of Martin and Banks. Roh is about a 3. If I'm ranking them by actual position the strongside DE is a weak 2, the DTs a 5, and Roh still a 3.
Level of play relative to prediction: About right; main error was being too optimistic about the Banks/Sagesse combo.
Expected level of play for remainder of season: No change unless Michigan manages to get Herron back and decides to roll with Roh as a 3-3-5 DE, something that will only be relevant against Purdue and maybe Illinois.
Dear people of the internet who without fail suggest that they will contain Michigan's offense by having a linebacker or safety "spy" Denard Robinson,
Please stop saying this.
A player placed in a spying role drops into a short zone on a pass play and is tasked with running down the quarterback if he breaks contain or starts scrambling. Denard Robinson doesn't really scramble. He prefers launching deep balls into whatever coverage you've got handy. You can put a guy in a spying role if you want but it won't do much other than make your defense more predictable on passing downs.
It will not do anything to slow the Michigan run game. When Michigan runs the ball with Denard your spy is just going to be playing run defense. This is hard against Denard, I know. However, telling one of your linebackers that he should watch for potential scrambles on pass plays does not help him on non-pass plays. Michigan runs the ball over 60% of the time. Denard Robinson scrambles maybe 3% of the time.
When you post on a message board or leave a comment on a blog that says "we should spy Robinson" like you're the second friggin' guy to ever think of this—your defensive coordinator is evidently the first—you should know that God throws a six-inch-tall Japanese schoolgirl with enormous glistening innocent eyes and a Hello Kitty lunchbox into a wood chipper.
Thank you for your attention.
Podcasting. No podcast this week due to a fiasco involving a flight to Ireland out of Chicago and the MGoFiancee's unwise decision to leave her passport in Ann Arbor, but I do appear on the latest edition of the Solid Verbal. My bit is at around the 23 minute mark.
Blood Battle. Michigan's annual contest against Ohio State to see which school can donate more pints of blood* is awwwwn. Hit up their website for details. Michigan won 2449-2350 last year—I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up.
BONUS: There's an organ donor challenge going on too, and Michigan is winning that too.
*(Attention OSU fans: cutting yourself with a broken bottle in a bar fight and oozing all over your Busch Light totally counts this year.)
Penn State past. MGoVideo's put together every snap videos from the '97 Judgment Day demolition:
There's also the 2006 defense. WARNING: watching these videos may make you powerfully nostalgic for defenses that have people on them who play football.
Lack of Cox explained. If you've been wondering why Michael Cox can't get a snap this helps explain it:
Rodriguez disclosed Wednesday that running back Michael Cox has had “a knee issue” for the past few weeks, and that his growth and practice has been limited.
He probably won't play much the rest of the year since he was a guy who really needed the practice reps for mental sharpness—Rodriguez said something about him needing to know the whole playbook before he sees the field. Also there are three guys in front of him. With Mike Shaw healthy and Stephen Hopkins easing into more playing time snaps are going to be fought for tooth and nail.
Also, Devin Gardner's back injury is still hampering him but they will bring him to Penn State in case there is an emergency.
Bolden yes no question? Robert Bolden was go, then he was no go, and now he's go?
Penn State freshman starting quarterback Rob Bolden has passed his Wednesday test intended to determine whether he is over effects from an apparent concussion suffered on Saturday at Minnesota.
Probably not. Penn State insider types (and Bolden's dad) are saying that Bolden has not practiced since the Minnesota game. There's little chance a guy who can't practice Wednesday will be ready to go Saturday, or prepared even if he is. Bolden's mom:
"He really wants to play against Michigan -- his heart is just going to be really broken since he can't," Williams said from her home in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich. "He failed that concussion test Sunday, which is not good.
"I think it's best for him if they sit him down this week. Hopefully, he can play next week [Nov. 6 against Northwestern]."
Beating Penn State without Bolden would cheapen the victory but right now the program needs a win of any variety, cheap or not. Also, did I mention that DE Jack Crawford is still out? That leaves Penn State starting either that freshman DT or a really bad veteran or stuffing lightweight pass rusher and doghouse resident Sean Stanley into the starting lineup. If Penn State goes with the DT Michigan should tell Robinson to keep it every time he tries to keep contain.
At least one thing has not gone horribly disastrously wrong. FO's Brian Fremeau has finally done the thing that I always thought should be done with punting stats: measured the average result of punts from every yard line on the field and ranked teams by how much above or below they are that break-even line. Michigan's standing in that advanced measure:
|Punt Efficiency Top-10||Punt Return Efficiency Top-10|
|5||Florida State||-.129||22||5||Michigan State||.270||37|
|10||South Carolina||-.095||19||10||Fresno State||.233||33|
Fremeau doesn't provide a link to a list of all I-A teams so we can't find out exactly how terrible the punt returns have been but… dang. Fourth nationally is a huge difference from the conventional net yardage measure, in which M has dragged itself up to 44th after starting the year in triple digits thanks to Will Hagerup's nervy start.
I wish Fremeau would provide an alternate measure that assumed an average number of punts per game and approximated how many points per game being 13% better than average is worth—my slightly educated guess is it's around a field goal. Net punting average is about 37 yards. 13% of 37 yards is about five yards, and this Advanced NFL Stats post estimates that a season-long four yard advantage in field position is worth 2.8 points per game. Michigan's yardage difference is bigger but punts are less frequent, so… yeah. Will Hagerup is worth two or three points a game.
Meanwhile, Michigan is a shiny 120th in field goal efficiency, which is bad.
Ufer. A couple days ago was the anniversary of Bob Ufer's death in 1981.
Etc.: If you need a photo of the band, or six billion of them, there is an official site dedicated to doing so. Hey, Michigan Hockey Scheduler guy: don't put a home hockey game smack dab in the middle of a football game, thanks. This MZone post about college fooball coaches's Halloween costumes is horrifying. MNB compares Michigan players to characters in the Wire. Demerit: somehow gives Snoop to someone other than Jeremy Gallon. Merit: members of the secondary are Namond, Randy, Michael, and Dookie.
Sleeper in-state linebacker Desmond Morgan (6'1", 225 lbs, three star) was offered by Michigan a few days ago. I got in touch to get his reaction to his first big offer and hear about his decision timeline, but first the film:
TOM: Congrats on the offer. Was it kind of unexpected for you?
DESMOND: Yeah, you could say it kind of came out of nowhere. I took a visit for the UMass game, gave my film to the recruiting coordinator, and then I hadn't heard from him in awhile. I got a call from Coach Magee, and he said someone wanted to talk to me. He handed the phone to Rich Rodriguez, and coach said I had an offer.
TOM: That had to have been exciting for you and your family.
DESMOND: Yeah, we're all Michigan fans, so it was definitely exciting. When I told my dad he gave me a big hug, and you could tell he was just really excited. Getting an offer from such a prestigious school, I think that's what shocked him. It was exciting.
TOM: You said this came as somewhat of a surprise. Are you expecting any other offers to come in, or are any schools like MSU talking to you?
DESMOND: There's nothing I'm counting on or expecting, if it happens it happens. Northwestern and Cincinnati have showed me some interest. MSU was early on, and I took a visit in February, but the communication kind of died off from there. That's really it for now though.
TOM: I think a lot of people have seen your film in the last two days. There's some good evidence there of why you were offered, but what did the coaches say they like about you?
DESMOND: They said they're looking for kids that knew how to hit, and that aren't afraid to get after it. They want guys that have a nose for the ball, and smart kids. I learn from my coaches, and I give 110% no matter what. Even if I'm doing something wrong, I'm going to go 100 MPH doing it.
TOM: You mentioned smart kids. You have a pretty high GPA yourself. Is it a 4.0?
DESMOND: Well, my unweighted GPA is a 3.97, and my weighted GPA with my honors courses is a 4.1.
DESMOND: No, before the recruiting process started my dad and I said that we were going to take our time with everything, and just let it play out. We still want to stick to that game plan, and just see how it goes. I don't have a specific date that I want to commit by, or anything.
TOM: What are your plans from here though? What does taking your time mean to you?
DESMOND: We want to go up to Michigan, probably after my season, and meet with the coaches, see the facilities, and everything that Michigan has to offer. I want to make sure I feel comfortable with everything, and not just make a rash decision. There's nothing in the nation that compares to the Big House, so it could just take one visit to know that I'm in love with it, or it could maybe take a couple. I'm not looking to prolong the matter, but I don't want to rush into anything. My decision will most likely be after the season.
Lewan moving. Complaints here are always less strenuous, likely because it's way easier to tell what everyone's supposed to be doing. A few commenters noted that Lewan's been moving early, Jerel Worthy-style, for chunks of the year. Kilgore Trout:
From my vantage point on the east side of the stadium, it looked like he pretty clearly moved early. I think he was doing it a lot against MSU and not getting called. Either he's got considerably faster reflexes than everyone else on UM's O-Line or MSU and Iowa's D-Lines, or he moves early a decent amount. To be honest, I think he's lucky to only have had two false starts called on him.
In retrospect I do remember Lewan getting a slight jump on the opponent; it's possible refs are now watching for this and Lewan got nailed.
Denard's accuracy. FWIW, this seemed interesting:
Looking at replays of his throws, he is not stepping into them. His front foot is stepping to the side, causing him to open up his body when he throws. This is causing him to be less accurate and also neutralizing his arm-strength.
All the passes where he throws the ball just short or one-hops the ball to the receiver is a function of not stepping into the throw.
He obviously looks great otherwise.
There was the usual war about Vincent Smith in the comments, but I've said my bit on that.
Demens defense. Most complaints center on the
enigmatic anointed Kenny Demens, his +8, and the assertion that Demens is a clear upgrade over Ezeh worthy of a "wow." The general theory from His Dudeness:
I know you watch a TON more game video than I do and that you have a TON more experience grading out players than I do, but I have to fear that sometimes you overrate guys based on a single game. I do hope Demens turns into a great MLB, but to say he is going to be a quality MLB from here on out until he graduates may be setting the bar a little high based on one game? I certainly hope you are correct in your assessment, but I will hold off on my expectations that he will be our MLB savior Christ child. I like to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised by what I get though, so that's my thing.
That's fair; I've tried to assert that Demens's performance was not necessarily replicable against teams that have seen him play and can identify some weaknesses. But he's a clear upgrade on Ezeh. Magnus suggests that Demens pluses would be Ezeh minuses:
I remember Ezeh being dinged for taking on blocks rather than getting around them somehow to make the tackle. Now it seems that we're celebrating the fact that Demens took on a block from a lineman, even though he was pancaked after he plugged.
This is probably in reference to this play featured in part of the OMG Demens section:
As a couple responders said, the difference between Demens running up into an offensive guard here and eventually getting pancaked and Ezeh getting whacked while motionless is self evident from the result of the play. This was my thought process here:
- This is a zero yard run without an obvious Iowa error so the net should be somewhere around +2.
- There are no creases in the line. Why are there no creases? Well, the three guys on the frontside all stand up to blocks at the LOS but don't disengage so that's half-points for Kovacs, Banks, and Mouton.
- On this one Patterson is done instantly and the G has almost a free release at Demens; there should be a gap. There isn't because Demens hits the G right at the LOS. –1 Patterson, +1 Demens.
- Floyd comes up and contains unblocked. Half-point.
Net is +2. On a play where Ezeh consumes a block with gusto and the opponent gets a big gain the play is going to net out at –2 or –3 and he's going to take some of the blame. Iowa had almost no success running between the tackles, so plays on which Demens was involved in were usually + plays and usually he got a share of the +.
On the other hand, BWS took another look at the National Lampoon's Zone Vacation picture pages and suggested the blame was largely on Demens:
I disagree somewhat. Asking a middle linebacker to cover a receiver moving into the flat is either an incoherent defense that will get you killed long term or one of those pattern reading systems that require a ton of drilling. By appearances (and necessity) Michigan does not run fancy stuff; this was three-deep zone with four underneath defenders, except one of them was way, way out of his zone. One of them was somewhat out of his zone.
Avery needs to re-route the slot guy but once he does that he has to get back out into the flat, whereupon the WR gets forced back into Demens and Iowa kicks a field goal and Michigan has a chance to win the game at the end. BWS says "Avery wasn't in great position here, but he also wasn't in terrible position. If he hadn't fallen, he might've had a chance to make the play." The reason he fell is he was playing with his back to the quarterback and running at full speed inside in an attempt to cover a receiver he has no prayer of helping on. Physics is relentless.
It is likely that Demens wasn't supposed to re-route the TE because he wasn't going vertical, and he did drag out of his zone. The reason that's a fifteen-yard error instead of five isn't on him. I should have given him a –1; Avery still is the primary culprit IME.
Black to the future. An email on Black:
I was really surprised by your rating of Black's play. I've watched the every defensive snap footage a few times, and to me it looks like Black is out there on about half the snaps, not barely playing as you indicated in the UFR. I also felt like he was a major culprit on a few of the big running plays. I feel like you may have mis-attributed some negatives to either Banks or Sagesse that were on Black. I don't think Sagesse really played at all except in a few relief appearances for Patterson in the second half. I'm not a coach or anything, but I played DL (and OL) in high school, and I'm fairly sure that Black had a fairly negative day. Looks to me like he only knows how to pass rush, and gets killed on run plays.
Thanks for all the hard work, as always.
I don't think I've mis-identified Black much; 55 is sufficiently different from 92 that I feel aware when he's in. Sagesse has not played much and I believe I've said that. But I agree that Black is a liability against the run. Michigan State glided down the field on a series of cutbacks he was on the ground for and a couple of runs that Iowa busted outside were partially (possibly largely) his responsibility.
Mouton defense disagreed with. Mouton came in for criticism on a number of runs outside the tackles including a Picture Pages dedicated to Iowa's fourth touchdown, and that criticism was criticized by people who sound like they know what they're talking about. MightAndMainWeCheer on the Iowa TD:
Banks gets hooked by the tackle (which is understandable considering he was lined up a shade inside of the tackle). The tackle then executes a scoop with the guard; the tackle then releases and blocks Mouton. Again, Mouton can't bail to the outside at the snap of the ball because there is a huge cutback lane between the B gap. Kovacs is blitzing but predictably gets kicked out by the FB; in this case cutting the FB and making a pile in the backfield would have been useful in getting the RB to cut up in side or take the ball wider to the outside thus allowing help to arrive. Again, Mouton is flowing down the line but gets blocked by a tackle (you can see a good view of it from the behind-the-offense replay in the youtube cutup). Also Demens does a good job of escaping the wash at the beginning of the play but he doesn't take a very good angle to the ballcarrier at the end.
I totally disagree. I missed Kovacs's blitz getting picked off by the fullback and hadn't considered whether he should get minused there; I'm not convinced but I can see the argument. However, defending Mouton not getting outside the tackle just doesn't fly. Mouton knows Kovacs is gone. Banks is in front of him getting shoved inside. He knows he has no help to the outside, so his first priority must be to funnel the ball inside. If he doesn't it's an auto touchdown. He doesn't, auto touchdown. There is a big damn B gap, true, but his choice is between doing what he did and hoping Robinson doesn't run into the wide open field outside or keeping contain and hoping help comes. Also, criticizing Demens because he didn't take a good angle to the ballcarrier seems insane to me. He hit it up in the hole to get a third down stop and the play went outside.
There's another guy saying similar things on the Picture Pages post itself but Bo Schembechler himself could call down from heaven to say Mouton was innocent and I wouldn't believe him. He expected to have to do it all himself, tried to, failed, and gave up many yards. He has done this throughout his career. There are other problems on the play—Banks did get a minus—but thanks to Sagesse taking two blockers and Demens getting to the hole Mouton is the most obvious reason the play blew up.
I'm slightly more receptive to the idea that I should have been harsher on Black on the other run outside the tackle, as Mouton was given a difficult task:
Black got crushed but Patterson actually stayed playside of his attempted double and is flowing down the line into a gap that Mouton also attacks. Mouton running up into that gap doesn't help; if he flows down the line the gain is held down. Kovacs didn't make a heroic play but I'm not sure what he's supposed to do there. I give minuses to linebackers who hit already filled gaps, and Mouton hit one and let a guy outside again.
Part the First in a preview series for Michigan Men's Basketball
The first part of Media Day was a role reversal of sorts, as Michigan's coaches put reporters through a typical (though abbreviated) workout for the Wolverines. Yours truly is pictured at right (photo by Julian Gonzales of the Free Press) being laughed at by John Beilein.
The workout was fairly light aside from a couple of the exercises that were designed to get our hearts working. It wasn't that tough - unsurprising considering most of the participants were middle-aged, and I'm not. One thing that surprised me was how much of the workout was devoted to injury prevention.
For more on the workout, Mike Rothstein of AnnArbor.com, Rod Beard of the Detroit News, and Joe White of iSportsweb all covered it. iSportsweb also has video, so you can make fun of how hilariously unathletic we writers are:
Player Notes & Quotes
Stu Douglass - The Europe trip helped the process of integrating new guys into the team, and they're poised despite their lack of experience. Guys are willing to put in the work to build something from this team, and to win. There is no making up for the personnel losses from last year's team, they're just looking at this as an entirely new squad.
Zack Novak - The lack of expectations will help motivate the team, and maybe sneak up on some people: "We like the position we're in right now." The goal of the team is to get better and grow each day, not necessarily any win totals. It's on the team leaders to help guide the younger guys toward that goal, and keep them on an even keel - not getting too high or too low. The young guys are going to be able to step up, too. Matt Vogrich "hasn't missed a shot in weeks" and the big guys are working hard - "I can go to battle with someone that's been working like they have."
Evan Smotrycz - The goal for Michigan is to improve to a level where they can compete with Michigan State and other top team in the country on a nightly basis. With no proven talent in the frontcourt, there's pressure for the young guys to perform, but there's also an opportunity for them to grow. The team's leaders have developed and guided the team in the Europe trip, in open gyms, and in workouts. The goal for every college team is to get to the NCAA tournament, but the Wolverines are more concerned with getting better every day and helping the team win.
Matt Vogrich - Novak is the most vocal player on the team, emphasizing toughness both physically and mentally. There are going to be ups and downs over the course of the season, so the players need to be able to play through them and not let their play be affected. Matt isn't necessarily gunning for a starting role, but whatever the team needs from him. He just wants to get enough minutes to prove he's a play that can help the team succeed.
Jordan Morgan - Jordan is finally 100% healthy. He's struggled with a couple different injuries since arriving at Michigan, and he's excited for the opportunity to be healthy. With no game experience in the frontcourt, there's pressure and opportunity to perform.
Coaches need to adapt to twists and turns during the season, but Coach Beilein likes where they're starting the year. There's a competitive spirit within the team, and expects the players to step up, particularly shooting the ball: "We don't have 1/6 nights from three." He urged everyone to look next door to Michigan Stadium if they don't believe this team can improve, saying "Just look at what Denard has done this year." If anybody on Michigan's team makes a similar leap, they'll surprise some opponents this year.
The rotation should be more inclusive this year, featuring 9 or 10 guys. More on Beilein's comments about individual players in the personnel preview coming later this week.