|WHAT||Michigan v. Michigan|
|WHEN||1 PM, April 16th 2010|
|THE LINE||Fun –7!|
|TELEVISION||BTN live stream (2.99) or
BTN tape delay @ 8 PM
|WEATHER||40 degrees at 8 AM warming to about 47 by game time. Windy, slight chance of rain.|
Michigan's lots are open and free to the public, but the golf course is closed and Pioneer is charging thirty bucks.
Stadium gates at 10 AM.
EIGHT FOOT CHARLES WOODSON BOBBLEHEAD.
With the weather looking slightly nasty, parking probably won't be a problem.
Locker Room Tours: Friday 6:30-8 PM and Saturday 7-9:30 AM.
Alumni Flag Football Game: 11 AM start at Michigan Stadium
Softball vs Northwestern: 6 PM @ Alumni Field, also 3 PM Sunday.
Men's Lacrosse v. Purdue: 7 PM @ Oosterbaan Fieldhouse.
Men's Tennis vs Notre Dame: Noon Sunday.
Michigan Run Defense vs. Michigan
Uh… how about…
A General Philosophy For Watching This Thing
Other than "have a good time with the closest thing to football you'll see in months": paradoxically, you'll probably learn the most by observing the players you've already seen a lot of, because those players will be going up against other Michigan players you don't know anything about and you'll have a baseline to compare them against. Unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of one-on-one matchups that promise to put an experienced player up against a noob, especially if they don't run ones versus ones. If and when they do:
- Taylor Lewan is likely to be blocking a blitzing Craig Roh, Ryan Van Bergen, or Greg Banks.
- Troy Woolfolk will probably be locked up on an inexperienced wide receiver much of the time he's out there (if he's out there much at all).
- Will Campbell will contend with a couple of guards who we've seen play.
- Experienced tight ends will be going up against Michigan's new spurs and recently deployed linebacker Craig Roh.
Other than that, I'll be doing what most people will: anxiously attempting to see Denard Robinson's rumored improvement, trying to figure out what's up with Justin Turner, doing a hype check on everyone named Gordon, and hoping like hell the first defense seems tough to run against and not particularly prone to giving up the big play. Seeing the 3-3-5 in extended action will be interesting, as well. Also there's that Devin Gardner guy and the tailback war.
There's plenty to check out this year, which will be fun tomorrow and paralyzingly fear-inducing for UConn. A roundup and impressions post of epic length will naturally appear in this space on Monday.
2011 MI DE Brennen Beyer received his Michigan offer in January, and didn't seem like it would be long before the lifelong Wolverine fan would commit to Rich Rodriguez. At long last, he is Blue! On that note, apologies if anything in here is slightly out of date...
|4*, #15 DE||NR DE||45, NR DE|
With 2011 prospects, there is a very limited amount of information available, especially for the guys who are a little more under-the-radar. Rivals's MichiganPreps has a brief breakdown of Beyer's game in the lead-in to a highlight package:
Brennen has excellent size at 6-foot-4 215 lbs. He has unbelievable hands as a TE and is a tough physical blocker. On defense Brennen plays D-End and was in opposing backfields most of the season recording 9 sacks and 9 tackles for loss.
On top of that brief breakdown, there is also indication from Scout.com's Allen Trieu that Beyer will probably be ranked third in the state in the class of 2011:
Detroit Renaissance linebacker Lawrence Thomas is definitely the top kid in the state. I think Saginaw wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett is pretty locked in at No. 2. Then there is some debate between three through six. We're supposed to submit our rankings this weekend for the Midwest. I think it'll go Thomas, Arnett, Plymouth DE/TE Brennen Beyer, Grand Blanc RB Justice Hayes, and then I'm not sure after that. Ogemaw Heights guard Anthony Zettel and Cass Tech corner Delonte Hollowell are certainly in the running for No. 5.
The third prospect in the state for 2010, for the sake of a reference, is 4* QB Robert Bolden on Rivals (the top 7 are all 4* or better) and 4* CB Mylan Hicks on Scout (the top 9 are all 4* or better). PlymouthCantonSports.com also has a profile on Beyer:
"There have been a number of times this season when the other team will run away from Brennen's side, but he'll make the play any way," said Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk. "His effort is amazing. He squeezes as hard as he can and makes plays, no matter if the play is coming at him or away from him."
"The thing about Brennen that stands out is that he is so athletic, he can play any position out here. He's proven he can play wide out, but he could also play center, tackle -- he could even play quarterback if he wanted to. He's just that athletic.
"Brennen is just a great, all-around kid. He's great academically and he has awesome morales [?, sic] and values."
Beyer excels in the classroom, having earned a stellar 3.9 grade-point average so far. "I'd love to play college football someday," he said. "I don't really care where right now, but the Big 10 would be nice."
High effort player with good academics and character, sounds great. Opposing basketball coaches say, "He's a man." From watching Beyer's video, I'd say he's reminiscent of a less-explosive Craig Roh type defensive end, right down to that low crab-stance. One issue I see with his game defensively is that he often doesn't hit the ball carrier as much as he grabs with his hands as he goes by, and drags the guy down. Offensively, he's a good pass-catching tight end.
Michigan was Beyer's first offer. He grew up a lifelong Wolverine fan, just 15 minutes away from Ann Arbor, and wasted little time in accepting it. He then grabbed three more offers ($, info in header) from the likes of MSU, Northwestern, and Stanford, and followed those up with UCLA and Texas Tech.
Notre Dame also offered, and he visited for their March 20th Junior Day. According to Tom, they were the other finalist along with the Wolverines. However, with all the time he spent on campus, Michigan was his clear winner. Syracuse and Vanderbilt were his other BCS-level offers.
As noted above, Beyer finished his junior season with 9 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Offensively, he had at least 6 touchdowns, but PlymouthCantonSports.com isn't exactly the pinnacle of great sportswriting, so there's always the possibility he had even more than that.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists his 40 time as 4.78, and ESPN credits him at 5.07. As a pass-rushing defensive end, those hardly sounds FAKE at all, and I'll give it just one FAKE out of five. I expect to see several articles with 4.2 40-yard dash times for him, so I can get my fill on FAKEness.
Beyer has both offensive and defensive highlights available on Youtube. Since I think he's being looked at as a defensive prospect, I'll embed his highlights from that side of the ball:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Beyer is so far from campus that it's nearly impossible to predict exactly what he'll do in Ann Arbor. He could bulk up over the course of his senior year and be ready to contribute immediately. As a high school junior, there's also a chance he's still growing and could get taller. Not even taking into account how members of the classes of 2009 and 2010 end up contributing, there are so many variable to take into account that it's an exercise in futility.
So of course I have to try anyway, right? He has a very good frame, and he will probably redshirt as a freshman to add sufficient bulk to it. He's one of Michigan's only true speed rushers in the past couple classes (Craig Roh being the other, depending on how some guys develop), so he should be able to contribute early in his career if he can get up to the right weight. He should play Craig Roh's position (either blitzing OLB in the 3-3-5, or the Quick DE if Michigan's defense goes back to last year's scheme).
For such an early commit, there's also a chance that he can work to enroll early (there has been no talk of this that I've seen; I'm just speculating), which would get him into a college weight program quicker, and let him tackle the playbook sooner, getting him on the field as a true freshman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is looking at a small class of 2011, and with four spots already taken, they'll be very careful about who they allow to commit. Offensive line and linebacker are big priorities, along with at least one true defensive tackle.
So the NCAA is all calling people at West Virginia to see if Rich Rodriguez was illegally stretching lawyaz in Morgantown, too, and the people who do the sort of stentorian wailing that passed for insight in 1982 are doing what they do:
How Much More of This Man Can Michigan Take?
The first step is acknowledging you have a problem.
The second step is doing something about it.
THE FIRST STEP IS REALIZING YOU DON'T HAVE TO HIT ENTER AFTER EVERY PERIOD ARGH.
The second step is assessing whether this is likely to be a big deal. You'd have to be a complete Stacy to voluntarily put yourself on the chopping block merely to spite your ex-boyfriend, but… yeah…
That is a state full of Stacys.
What we know is that in September, WVU was nonchalant. A quote given by one of the WVU guys has been kicking around message boards and blogs as people attempt to relieve the panic, but that quote is old. A fuller excerpt:
Of course, WVU officials identified this as a concern back in September of 2009, when the UM-Rodriguez story first broke. Our Dave Hickman caught up with athletic director Ed Pastilong, who indicated then his big house was in order. He suggested he and then-compliance man Brad Cox almost babysat Rodriguez's practices, almost obsessed over record-keeping.
So when the news broke, they double-checked their records and smiled.
"We looked into it,'' Patrick Hairston, WVU's assistant for compliance, said. "We're very comfortable no NCAA rules were broken."
I can't help but wonder how comfortable that position is today. There certainly seemed to be a lot of squirming in the practice facility on Tuesday.
That last sentence is complete speculation. Nonetheless, the happy quote has no relation to the investigation-type activity that's going on now. Which is this:
The NCAA has met with individuals involved with the West Virginia football program to identify any potential rules violations. The university has fully cooperated with the NCAA during this process. West Virginia University and its department of intercollegiate athletics is committed to operating its athletics department in conformance with the legislation and policies of the NCAA and the Big East Conference.
That is all the new information we have. "We looked into it" is not new.
Okay, so that's no good and certain excitable people are running around screaming about the end of the world. Allow me a moment to defuse that: the NCAA had access to everyone in Michigan's program discussing events that happened while they were at Michigan. They also had a variety of disgruntled ex-Wolverines willing to exaggerate wildly because of a combination of ignorance (of admittedly arcane rules) and bitterness. What they came up with was less than earthshaking.
At West Virginia they'll be attempting to determine what happened in 2007 and before with no leverage on players who have already seen their eligibility expire and probably like Rodriguez just fine. The exact details of a practice week three or four or five years ago are not likely to be fresh in their minds, anyway. This will come down to records. If West Virginia does not have records, that's a problem for West Virginia. If they have records that show a pattern of misbehavior that's gone unreported for years, that is a problem for both Rodriguez and West Virginia. If the pattern of misbehavior remains "slightly exceeded NCAA practice regulations," it won't change anything.
Would West Virginia actually have records that show years of unreported NCAA violations? Doubtful. They did hire Bill Stewart because he was a nice man who didn't trip Noel Devine so that is a possibility, but a screwup that vast has to be considered improbable.
Preliminary assessment: file this with Braylon Edwards #1 Jersey Fiasco in the pile of fiascoes that have no tangible impact but will be cited in all cases to fire Rodriguez by people who are bad at making arguments. Show tangible progress towards being a football team and this is just another scrap of noise.
Of Course This Is The New Policy
A rain on your wedding day note follows. The Bylaw Blog suggests this is a new thing:
This isn’t standard due diligence though because to my knowledge, this is unprecedented. The most likely comparison will be Kelvin Sampson, but that case was much different in that Oklahoma was already under investigation and going to appear before the Committee on Infractions when Sampson left for Indiana.
This is the opposite: a violation at the second school causes an investigation at the previous institution. Now knowing what to look for, it makes it much easier for investigators to see if the violations stretched back to previous programs in a coach’s career.
Hopefully this a move toward building cases against the individuals involved rather than the school.
It seems like John Calipari's great escape after a second Final Four appearance was vacated under his watch is the equivalent of Houston Nutt's 37-member Ole Miss class of a year ago: the straw that breaks the shame-camel's back and forces a re-evaluation of priorities. The NCAA is now trying harder to pin stuff on people, not just universities. And Rodriguez is the first guy subject to an "unprecedented" background check. Of course he is.
FWIW, The Bylaw Blog seems skeptical anything can come of this since Rodriguez, unlike Sampson, has been clean to date and there was no hint of any issues when he was hired at Michigan. In the seemingly unlikely scenario where this amounts to something serious, the end result would be a sanction against Rodriguez that could force Michigan to dump him but nothing else that impacts the school.
Here is a picture of a ninja assassin fairy:
I think it's about equally likely that Rodriguez is done in by one of these as this look at West Virginia's books. I'm going to resume panicking about the spur and bandit positions, because I like my panic to be sensibly directed.
Zeigler: no. This won't be news but anyone who hasn't seen it already should know that Trey Zeigler is headed to Central to play for his dad, which I find a deeply immoral decision that places family above my favorite sports team. In obviously related news, Isaiah Sykes is going to be on campus this weekend. Hopefully his transcripts are not a bloody mess of entrails.
Michigan's also going after Iowa decommit Cody Larson, a 6'9" 230 pound guy with a number of Big Ten schools after him; he could probably contribute more quickly than Jon Horford and his little pencil arms.
Side note: the NCAA has legalized "talking" to recruits when they're hanging around your campus. This is a win for common sense in general and Michigan in particular, since Michigan was guaranteed to be adhering to this rule as strictly as you possibly can and other schools… weren't.
Tate Forcier: mildly dinged. Forcier was spotted in a boot. Angelique Chengelis says it's a minor ankle sprain, the boot is precautionary, and Forcier is expected to practice today. Carry on with your panic about other matters.
You are all geniuses. There is a website that measures the overall stupidity of any particular account's twitter followers. It is called Stupid Fight. It thinks you, the MGoBlog readership, can assemble cars with your minds:
Suck on that, Stephen Hawking. (Also owned: Eleven Warriors, Black Heart Gold Pants, EDSBS, and Doctor Saturday.) When TSB colleague Chris Littman ran a bunch of folks yesterday, MGoBlog came out with a dazzlingly low score of 3. Someone must have posted something about American Idol today. No matter: you are America's only hope.
I’m basing this purely on the drills but Denard looks solid tossing the ball. Ins, outs, slants, deep – anyway you want it. Will be watching to see how he throws into coverage but I’m buying that RR’s got a decision to make next season. … More of what I saw last week, but Gardner’s arm just isn’t on par with Forcier and Robinson right now.
That's based on a couple quick glimpses from the open sections of practice, so take it somewhat lightly but that's another tentative, caveat-laden vote for Robinson. In certain situations.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is talking up the safeties on the Big Ten conference call:
"What we found more than anything else," he said during his Big Ten teleconference, "was a couple of guys, defensively, in the back end. … I feel better about it now than I did a few weeks ago."
MLive has the whole thing if you want to hear more Gardner panting.
Welcome to 2001. You know, I thought it was weird that the SEC didn't have high definition televisions in their replay booths. How hard is it to get a television in the press box? You tell me. These games are live. Stick a DirecTV dish on top of the stadium and maybe you won't make six soul-crippling errors a season.
DVSport, Inc., the leader in state-of-the-art high definition (HD) sports replay technology, announced today its new contract with the Big Ten Conference to upgrade all DVSport Standard Definition (SD) replay systems in the Big Ten to DVSport HD Replay™ systems for the start of the 2010 football season. As part of the agreement, DVSport will also provide its SD replay systems to the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Guh. It's not like this is important to anyone.
Patience? Anyone? I'm about ready to proclaim any and all former players' opinions of Rich Rodriguez to be not worth bothering with, whether they're good or bad. A couple of old Michigan players have knocked Rodriguez in the past couple days, and it annoys me. Amani Toomer:
I don’t think the spread offense has worked that well in the Big Ten. I think Ohio State runs a version of it successfully, but not the straight zone read of Rich Rodriguez. One problem I have with Rich Rodriguez is this. He comes into a situation and he tries to put his system in. And I always thought the main point about being a coach, was going into a situation, seeing the players you have, and adjusting your system to your players to fit the talent. That’s what Lou Holtz was good at, but he comes in there and tries to adjust the players to his system. And to me that is not a sign of a good coach
Toomer had issues with Lloyd Carr for whatever reason. He just beefs with everyone. Someone send him a link to The Golden Age of Tin and a valium. There is so much wrong in that statement that I've already shot down; I'm tired of it. But I do love this radio guys' follow up to Toomer's comment:
That year with Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, players that you would kill for to run a pro offense. There are so few schools that can get those guys. But to go against those principles and make the system easier on the lineman and not utilize the tremendous wide receiver talent that you guys have had at Michigan just boggles my mind.
Behold the stunning ignorance of the average talk radio robot: Henne, Hart, and Long were gone. So were Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham. The offensive line in 2008 was a wonky mish-mash with maybe seven halfway plausible bodies, one of whom was a guard that had been a defensive linemen just weeks before the season. I don't know why I bother disputing this stuff. It's self-evidently not the work of someone who cares whether he sounds like an idiot or not.
Meanwhile, Dhani Jones "blasted" Rich Rodriguez on Jim Rome:
"I'm not cool with him. I'm at my wits end right now. I mean, you can't come in and explain that you're going to do all this, and then your first year? Terrible. Second year? Alright -- but then terrible. You have to be able to change something if you're really going to make a statement. You have to do it within the first two years, and this is his third."
If you're inclined you can annoy the moderator at Jones's "livechat" on Saturday with questions about why he can't have a little patience that won't get through.
None of this helps. Dave Brandon is an adult and won't be swayed by talk radio, so all speaking out like that does is provide another PR hit against the program. It's juvenile. Suck it up and wait until this year is over.
Michigan Hockey Summer came early. For those unfamiliar, "Michigan Hockey Summer" refers to the hockey team's uncanny ability to have painful, unexpected departures in between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Michigan sort of had its MHS midseason, when Robbie Czarnik left and Jack Campbell didn't sign over the course of a week. Having already paid their debt to the hockey gods, it sounds like Michigan will escape this summer unscathed. An AnnArbor.com article on Carl Hagelin and Louie Caporusso certainly seems to kill any idea either would sign:
"We want to be the leaders on this team and we want to lead our team to the championship," Caporusso said this week. "We're going to take that responsibility and we're fine with that. That's the position you want to be in. You want people to count on you.
"That's pressure, but pressure leads to excitement."
If those guys come back, which sounds more than likely, the next most likely guy to go is Brandon Burlon, a Devils draftee, and Chris Brown, a Coyotes draftee. Neither is likely to go given those franchises' history with collegians.
Knock on wood, salt, ladder, etc.
Missed an "in before" opportunity. WCH took in the OHL 1 vs 2 matchup in Plymouth en route to the Frozen Four and commented that he didn't think the level of play was particularly high and that an OHL team would probably fare about as well as the USNTDP against college opponents, and I thought "how long before some nearly illiterate CHL fan calls WCH a 'looser'?" Turns out it's approximately eight hours, most of which came between 1 and 8 AM:
You are so full of s--- it scares me…….most OHL teams would hammer the usa u 18 team,Id like to see them play the Windsor,Barrie,Missy,Kitchner,
What is it with major junior that makes defenders so pissy? Whenever I bring up something like "the USHL is on par by the numbers" or "the CHL education package is basically a scam" I get a number of emails in the inbox that amount to long-winded nuh-uhs with zero supporting evidence. It's vastly out of proportion given the tiny number of people who care about hockey period, let alone college and major junior.
Etc.: The Mathlete breaks out the most valuable defensive players last year. Surprise! Brandon Graham is a landslide #1. RVB is the top returner. GQ asks "Do Football Writers Really Know Their Xs and Os?" Attn GQ: no. I don't know my Xs and Os that well and I've been trying for five years.
Michigan took both games in the midweek, beating Toledo by a score of 8-4 and Bowling Green State by a score of 8-5. I'm not going to get into either game too much as the midweek games are pretty meaningless from a long term perspective, but there were a few notable players and storylines worth recapping.
Eric Katzman was brilliant in relief of Matt Miller on Tuesday. Katzman went 5 innings, allowing just one hit and two walks to earn the win. It was great to see him get a solid long relief appearance and hopefully this builds his confidence when it comes to the weekend relief corps. He was mixing up pitches really well, and had some stretches of "effective wildness" that kept hitters off balance and rolling over pitches.
On offense, Ryan LaMarre kept his offensive tear rolling, knocking a 2-run homer in the first inning, his first long ball since returning from the injury. But not everyone enjoyed the LaMarre homer. Chris Berset, still feeling the "sting" of losing his 3-hole spot last weekend, came up on the next pitch to hit a solo home run of his own, the first back-to-back homers Michigan has had since February 2009.
John Lorenz also added on in the early innings to remind some of us that he's just as capable of producing in the 8-hole. Biondi also went 3/4.
This game was a bit more bothersome from an offensive perspective. For the most part, Michigan was kept off base for the first 5 innings. Biondi and Toth combined to produce a run in the first inning, and then the offense went into hibernation mode as Apthorpe chewed through our lineup.
Upon Apthorpe's exit, things picked up. Anthony Toth picked up his first career homer, and LaMarre and Berset both followed that up with hits. After a Crank hit by pitch, the Falcons made their only error of the game on a would be double play ball to end the inning. Instead, it opened the flood gates to a 5 run Michigan inning.
Things weren't all sunshine and happy following the inning. On Berset's double, LaMarre went 1st to 3rd and came up holding his hamstring, stretching it out thoroughly during a pitching conference at the mound. LaMarre would stay in and score on a Dufek sac fly, but he left the game as a precautionary move to start the next inning. He's expected to be fine for the Illinois series.
On the mound, Matt Gerbe made a good start, making it through 4 innings and giving up just one run. He gave up a lot of baserunners, but he managed to escape time and again. That changed in the 5th inning. After loading the bases, with only one out, Gerbe threw a wild pitch through Crank's legs. That plated the first Falcon run of the inning. The next batter would line one right back to Gerbe who made a great snag to catch the ball for an out, but when Gerbe went to throw out the runner at third for not tagging up, the ball was thrown away. Two more runners would score and Gerbe would be pulled.
Kolby Wood came in and did alright in earning the win, but the team did have to use Burgoon again for 2 innings. Tyler was lights out as usual, but I have to wonder what his availability is this weekend. I imagine he won't be in Friday unless it's a dire necessity.
Bonus update from The Daily's game wrap:
“I want to thank Tyler Burgoon for my inspiration for my first home run,” Toth said. “He inspired me by telling me I am never going to get one. He tells me that every single day, whether we have a game or not, so I’m glad I got that monkey off my back.”
Illinois questioning [ed: and awesome excel graph!] after the jump:
Continued from yesterday's extended look at the offense.
Scheme vs. Fundamentals: Fight
If you ask about the 3-3-5 and pull the string on a Michigan coach, this is what you get:
"Too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise," Rodriguez tells Ryan Terpstra on ESPN 96.1. "I mean, a lot of people are saying we're doing this or that, but basically, what we're doing this spring more than anything else is fundamentally trying to get better – trying to tackle better, trying to be able to react to the ball better so we get more people around the ball."
Greg Robinson said much the same thing to Adam Rittenberg and reiterated that to the folks at the coaches' clinic: "The fundamentals of leverage and angle and how a player uses his eyes and hands is more important than any scheme." I'm sure if you bugged any of Michigan's position coaches they would robotically intone a similar paean to fundamentals.
To this I say: 50% bollocks! It's not that fundamentals aren't important. Anyone who saw the performance of Craig Roh and Stevie Brown relative to expectations last year knows that how you tackle, cover, and read the opponent is a huge part of a football team's suck or lack thereof. You can ask Florida State about that. But I interpret "too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise" as "I would not like to talk about the details here; let's focus on platitudes." Certain defenses have strengths and weaknesses and fit other players better or worse, and while a defense that is robotically efficient is probably going to be decent that will depend on how well the players fit into the scheme.
The line should be the strength of the defense again. Will Campbell is rounding into a load, a true NT who requires a double team and holds up against it most of the time. At other times he gets too high, but they're working on that and by fall they hope he can be an anchor in there. Van Bergen is a redshirt junior who played well in a tough spot as a starter last year and is at a more natural position where he's doing well. No one's 100% sure that Mike Martin is going to be the other DE—the coaches will try him at both spots in fall—but Campbell "needs to be on the field" and Martin is likely to be Michigan's best defensive lineman, so that's the logical spot.
Michigan would like to get Campbell down another 10 pounds or so.
At end, Banks is starting in Martin's absence. Rodriguez mentioned yesterday that they've moved Adam Patterson to the nose, which 1) just about spells the end of Patterson as a potential contributor and 2) hints that Martin is going to start in the spot Banks currently occupies. I can't imagine a 272 pound senior is going to get substantial playing time as a zero-tech NT. He may be a situation substitution in pass-rush situations, but I kind of thought they might move Martin back inside and let Banks or even Roh take a crack at a speed rush when that happened.
The backups here are pretty sketchy without the freshman reinforcements, but Anthony Lalota was a regular entrant into the backfield against the second-string offensive line. He's RVB's backup with Heininger out.
There were some concerns about Craig Roh, who's a great athlete going directly upfield but doesn't have the lateral mobility to shuffle a step or two one way and then re-route his body in time to avoid blocking angles or get a proper zone drop. He'll be blitzing a ton; Michigan will be vulnerable when the opposition is running misdirection and Roh is being asked to execute linebacker responsibilities. Think waggles, counters, reverses, that sort of thing. He has displayed an aptitude in one-on-one coverage, though. He tracked a Michigan State tight end down and raked a ball free last year in a matchup that you'd think heavily favors the receiver; there were a couple other instances where his ability to cover a guy downfield was a surprising bonus.
There didn't seem to be a whole lot of progress with Ezeh and Mouton, though it's hard to tell with the move to the new system. Their responsibilities have changed and there's a learning curve that anyone would have. Moving to the 3-3-5 should allow Mouton to blitz almost as frequently as Roh; this is Mouton's main strength.
A surging Kenny Demens has been held out the last few days.
Observer A is a major believer in Robinson, though, citing that Roh play and a few others as an example of Robinson's ability to coach up players in a short amount of time. He was in charge of Roh and Brown last year; this year he's got all three linebackers. Robinson himself believes Mouton could be a breakout player. Here is a classic Robinson-ism that will make Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician delighted: "We just need to get him to slow down to play faster." Mouton overruns plays because he's "too instinctive" and doesn't always follows his keys, as anyone who remembers his 5-minus 8-minus 3 lines in UFR can tell you.
I've been pretty positive about the idea of running Jordan Kovacs out as a box safety since he was a heady kid and solid tackler and in the 3-3-5 DVD I have that is no longer a wasted purchase, Jeff Casteel repeatedly emphasizes that those characteristics are by far the most important when it comes to spurs and bandits. As a bonus, as the weakside guy Kovacs has the luxury of playing in space (usually) unblocked, so his size won't be a major hindrance.
HOWEVA, discussions with Observer A made it clear that running a 1-high defense* constantly is a recipe for getting four verticals in your face time and again and that teams could force Michigan into a two-deep alignment by formation or playcall. Jordan Kovacs being a walk-on sort of guy, they will do this constantly until Michigan proves they can deal with it.
Why not just deposit Marvin Robinson or Josh Furman at this spot in fall? Think about it: the bandit has to roll up to the line of scrimmage and act as a force player in the 3-3-5. Force players are important. It's their job to funnel everything inside of them. (This is often called "leveraging the football.") If they screw up, the runner is outside everyone and loping for a first down. In pass coverage they have to read and drop into flat zones, play something called "flat buzz" that I'm not quite clear on yet, and generally act as a cover two corner would. So there's all that. Then the bandit will have to rotate back into a two-deep on occasion, play a deep third when they switch up coverages, blitz, respond to motion, etc etc etc. It's probably the most complicated position on the defense. Throwing a freshman in there is asking for it.
Kovacs is Michigan's best option at the bandit, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good option.
Spur is also sketchy. Mike Williams has plummeted down the depth chart and is now behind both walk-on Floyd Simmons and redshirt freshman (and scholarship possessor!) Thomas Gordon. Williams is healthy, FWIW. Gordon did get some daps/love/props from observers who thought he was aware and athletic enough to deal with the coverages he'll be asked to run—a "pleasant surprise"—but he's safety-sized and is going to be asked to play over a tight end. He's also a redshirt freshman. Simmons also made a few plays and might be an okay option as a backup.
Observer A evaluated this group of eight players as "slow, small, inexperienced, or injured." He didn't add "pick three," but my brain did. Michigan's got a couple of fantastic prospects for the future in Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson (plus Carvin Johnson), but a couple of painful years beckon before Michigan has any chance of getting a guy who has both athleticism and a clue on the field.
The combination of cluelessness and lack of crazy athleticism led to a couple plays were Michigan just ran a tight end straight down the seam without a bump and gave up 30-yard plays. Michigan has an adjustment they want to install, but they haven't done it yet.
*(A one-high defense has one safety in the middle of the field and is usually cover 1 or cover 3 unless the defense is playing a disguised coverage. A two high defense has two safeties approximately on the hashes and usually suggests cover 2 or 4.)
The three members of the secondary proper actually didn't scare Observer A very much. Woolfolk is pretty good, Floyd is improved—though he shared my skepticism he would ever be above average because of his speed deficiencies—and Turner, while rougher in drills, got the proverbial "just makes plays" endorsement. It's tough to tell a kid's playmaking rate based on limited observation, but the general impression I got was that Turner should be okay eventually. It seems logical that when the freshmen arrive, there might be some reshuffling with the spurs and safeties. Observer B also thought Turner "was OK."
James Rogers seemed to be doing well in drills, too. He's "beginning to learn the position," which is a sad thing to say about a
fifth year senior who's bounced around so much.
Cam Gordon is the guy at free safety, but you knew that.
Robinson's entire session at the coaches' clinic was on his tackling system, which is unusual in a couple ways: it uses different aiming points than conventional systems and doesn't ask the player to break down and wait for the ball carrier to arrive; you "shimmy" to the ballcarrier. It's also unusual because Robinson picked it up from a high school coach, something the old regime "wouldn't be caught dead" doing. Michigan's current group of guys seems far more likely to pick up an innovation being run by high schools or lower division schools than the old guys, who talked to the NFL and only the NFL, which is probably why they couldn't defend the option worth a damn for almost a decade.
Here's how Greg Robinson explains Braithwaite's hire:
Robinson used the new coach, Braithwhite as a demonstrator of technique. He said the “best demonstration” coach he ever saw in his life was Jim Colletto but he says that AB is every bit as good. The impression they give is that this guy was hired because a) he knows what he is doing and (b) he is great at demonstrating techniques to the players.
Observer B notes a difference between the offensive and defensive coaches: the offensive guys are "tireless" explaining and drawing their schemes, but it's hard to get anything out of Robinson. Where Robinson gets expansive is when it comes to the aforementioned fundamentals. There was a chalk talk in which Robinson spent a good deal of time illustrating the right way to do a "dip and rip"; Bruce Tall was also in the midst of an animated technique discussion that lasted two hours.
One of the best things about having a hybrid-laden defense is it minimizes situational substitutions in today's fast-paced modern football environment. You should be able to respond to whatever the offense throws at you without having crazy packages where non-starters get pushed into the lineup, and can adjust to bizarre formations (wildcat) on the fly.
Defense In Toto
I got a vastly different perspective from defensively-oriented observer than was provided by the posters here over the weekend. We're going to have to score some points. I think in objective "this is Michigan" terms the defense is going to be bad, but one of the main confusions batting about the internet at the moment is someone asking "is this defense going to be (as) bad (as last year)?" and someone answering "(in terms of what I have come to expect from years of watching Michigan play and taking that as a baseline) yes."
I had this same sort of foreboding Q&A with Observer A, but when I asked point-blank "will they be better" I got a pretty solid "yes," albeit with the caveat that the same guy thought they'd be considerably better than they were last year.
That doesn't mean the defense is in a spot where it will remind anyone of 2006, or even 2005. In the Saturday scrimmage the defense did well on the first couple series but "after that the carnage was brutal," with the offense moving the ball "almost regardless of what unit was facing what unit." You can get a hint of that in the quarterback stats provided by MGoBlue in the most recent Inside Michigan Football, which are 9/11, 9/12, 100 yards rushing, made a pony sort of things.
There aren't any walk-on punters who are serious threats to play; the best guys they currently have are averaging in the 30 to 35 yard range. This is Will Hagerup's job as soon as he steps on campus.
Placekicking will be an adventure. Brendan Gibbons has a big leg but is "erratic at best." Walk-on Justin Meram was the other kicker who participated in the scrimmage; he seemed accurate on short stuff but his range might top out at 40 yards on a good day.