Taking stock during the bye week. Previously: secondary.
Following straight on the heels of the secondary preview, the linebacker preview caused more stomach-twisting agony at projected incompetence. Craig Roh was covered as a defensive lineman, leaving Mouton, Ezeh/Walk-on, and Freshman Spur Rotation the guys covered here.
Mouton and Ezeh were lumped together as close to interchangeable backers and given a two, except it was actually Mouton and Moundros evaluated as starters. Doom was projected at MLB:
…"sparsely deployed walk-on fullback to starting middle linebacker" is as much of a flashing sign that says DOOM as anything I've ever seen.
On the other hand, during the Illinois game last year Ezeh actually ran out of a hole Juice Williams was about to enter with the ball so he could chase after a running back. It looked insane, causing me to dig out the "run away" bit of "Janie's Got A Gun" and the fake Magic card you see at right. By the end of the year whatever hope remained for Ezeh was vestigial indeed; merely having options other than him could maybe possibly hopefully slightly improve matters?
All that was offered in hope was "Ezeh won't get worse and if he's replaced the guy doing the replacing will be better than him." When it came to address the backups, I was expecting "some" improvement from Ezeh thanks to the exit of Jay Hopson and the usual leveling up that comes through experience. The Enigmatic Kenny Demens was indeed dubbed The Enigmatic Kenny Demens; the tea leaves were not encouraging on him because he'd gone from pushing for a job in spring to all but absent in fall.
Mouton was declared a wildly inconsistent guy hopped up on bad angles but theoretically capable of becoming a "ruthless Crable-like playmaker." That was just a theory, though:
Unlike the situation at middle linebacker, it seems within the realm of possibility Mouton's light goes on and the talent he's flashed the past couple years turns into an All Big Ten kind of season. To deploy a cliche, he is the X factor, the guy with the greatest possible variance in his play on the defense. I'd settle for a return to his 2008 level; he is capable of more. There's a 25% chance he's awesome, a 50% chance he's okay, and a 25% chance he gets benched.
Mike Jones came in for the most pub as a backup.
His [Johnson's] recruiting profile picked him out as a true sleeper likely to exceed his relatively modest rankings based on local praise and late SEC offers, and while my usual heuristics lead me to be skeptical about a true freshman beating out a redshirt freshman with nary a fourth star to be seen, I've just got that feeling—what's it called—you know—optimism. Optimism enough to throw this position a 2, anyway. While two less-than-touted freshmen are not likely to be average Big Ten players in year one, I don't think we'll be looking back at 2010 and saying "oh God, what about that mess at spur."
Fast forward to NOW!
Mouton has settled into the broad 50% level where he is okay, in no danger of getting benched or making an All Big Ten team at year's end. He's come in for clucking on two separate Picture Pages wherein tailbacks got outside of him despite having a clear mandate to maintain contain. Despite this, he's been in the black most of the year on the UFR chart and has turned in some huge positive plays:
Mouton leads the team in tackles and is in a big pack of guys with around 5 TFLs. Though he hasn't made the senior leap he was capable of he is appreciably better than last year and is going to get some NFL team to take a swing at him in the draft.
Ezeh managed to hold off the challenge from Moundros largely because when Moundros came in he looked exactly like you'd expect a fullback to look at linebacker. The problem was that Ezeh looked like a fullback, too:
At this point it's almost hopeless. What are the chances Obi Ezeh learns how to be a linebacker in the last ten games of his career if he's still making incredibly basic mistakes like that after starting for three years? This has nothing to do with scheme. This is basic play recognition/ability to remember how to make your legs go. … The ugly fate foretold by the "Mark Moundros could start" preseason meme appears to be coming true.
That was after Ezeh scored a –8 against a I-AA team. That may have been harsh but if you're arguing that a –8 against UMass for a senior middle linebacker is really a –4 you're really just arguing about how obvious his future benching is. Frustratingly obvious, or eye-bleedingly obvious?
It was apparently the former. Ezeh hung onto his job until the Michigan State game, when a bizarre scheme that saw him fly out of the center of the defense on two long MSU touchdown runs was replaced by the usual thing where he was asked to read and react and did only the first:
The MSU game was finally enough. Michigan turned to The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who'd been enigmatically buried on the depth chart. Placed on the field he hit the right gaps, made a number of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, and could not be fingered for anything particularly negative that went on. Contrast the above clip with this:
I've got plenty more of the first clip to prove the trend. Demens hasn't seen enough time to prove anything but at the very least he's suggested he's already an upgrade as a sophomore. It wouldn't have taken much.
At spur it has been super boring. Johnson got knocked out of the UConn game and missed the next few weeks. He's reclaimed the starting spot after healing but he and Gordon alternate so much that it's hard to tell who is who. It doesn't help that neither of them has done much of anything good or bad. The hope was that maybe Cam Gordon would be able to pull the Brandent Englemon 1-0-1 this year. He hasn't come anywhere close, but the spurs are doing almost exactly that. Between them they have 25 tackles, 3.5 for loss and the one impressive sack of Dayne Crist.
Is that good? On this defense it qualifies. A couple freshmen are not huge issues. The 2 they were handed in the preview seems about right.
Fast forward to LATER!
Mouton is what he is at this point. He'll use his combo of size and speed to nail down a fair share of impressive plays; his iffy angles and pursuit will open up the outside and cutbacks. His pass drops have gotten much better. He's probably going to end the year as Michigan's leading tackler and have maybe 10 TFLs. He's not a star. He's not a liability. Except he's both. It all averages out to an average-ish Big Ten linebacker.
Rotating Spur Freshman should improve as the season progresses and the collective's eyes get less wide, but it's hard to see a lot of plays from Johnson and Gordon until 2011 when one of them can get a solid grip on the job and can focus on doing a bit more than not screwing up. But they're not screwing up—or at least not screwing up much compared to other spots. One negative: they must be iffy in pass coverage in practice if the exploitable nickel package has persisted this far into its erratic 2010.
The upside in the unit comes in the form of The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who turned in a legitimately good—not good-for-being-not-Ezeh—game against Iowa. It is highly likely he is better than Ezeh right now. It is unlikely he is as good as he showed against an Iowa team that IIRC did not run a counter or anything other than straight zone blocking all day. Where he falls in that continuum from Linebackers Obviously Better Than Ezeh to Legitimately Good will have a huge impact on Michigan's rushing defense the rest of the way.
Prediction accuracy to date: Pretty good, though the preview punted on making a call on Mouton and was taken in by whatever it was that caused Demens to plummet down the depth chart.
Level of play relative to prediction: Slightly optimistic, as Ezeh didn't seem to be any better this year than last.
Expected level of play for remainder of season: Somewhere between slightly and considerably better than predicted depending on how sustainable Demens's play is and how much of an upgrade Carvin Johnson is over Thomas Gordon. The guesses here: 70% sustainable and not much of an upgrade.
Ready to get back on the field. Had a week off to relax. "I don't know if I can wait. I'd rather play right now. We'll see on Saturday how we come out."
"I can't put nothing on nothing. I was out there playing so I can't blame it on my shoulder." The injury can't be blamed for any of his interceptions.
"We've been treating it every single day so I feel 100% better. Ready to rock." Doesn't care if he gets held out of games if the team's winning. Trainers kept him out against Iowa in the second half.
Will Campbell: "He's gonna be nice, he's gonna be nice at offensive guard."
On helmet-to-helmet hits: "I think we should just go out there and play football." Don't limit the physical play too much. "I just try to avoid them, I guess."
The coaches told him to improve his decision making in the bye week. "Not rushing it, just calm down." Ran too hesitant in the past couple games. "Making the read faster."
Team's coming together a little bit more in the bye week. "We train harder, we practice harder, we play harder. More as a team and a family than last year."
"We could have prevented all of those turnovers. Just simple mistakes. You live and you learn, you can't make the same mistakes twice."
"I don't like talking at all. I love to lead in examples." Would rather show than speak up.
"Cam Newton, I mean he played a great game." Doesn't know him personally.
Didn't watch much football for enjoyment during the bye Saturday - just a bit of future opponents to get some info on them.
Health and attitude can be improved during the bye week. "Very excited. This bye week pretty much got us back on track." Mentally and physically, the team is better ready to go. "Just being more hungry."
Hopkins is different than Smith or Shaw: "Inside. He's a better downhill runner."
Fewer mistakes coming up? "Yes, obviously. This bye week helped us look at all the mistakes we had, and correct them." Worked on small things this week, which they may have been overlooking in the week-to-week grind of the past few games.
Slot WR? "I like being in space, out in wideout, at running back, any way for me to get the ball and I'm free in space."
100% over his knee injury.
The night game is "Taking me back to my high school games when I always played on Friday nights, so I'm pretty excited about it."
Campbell and Washington "We always joke about those two switching them back and forth." He played DT kind of like an offensive lineman. "He can be a really really good offensive lineman. He's athletic, he's big, he's strong." Washington is a big hitter, so "I'm pretty excited to see what he can do against some other teams."
Team's leaders didn't address the team specifically in the bye week. The team just worked on fundamentals. "It was good to get a little rest this weekend... kinda recharge the battery and get ready to go."
Jibreel Black and Taylor Lewan are some young guys who are impressive. Lewan - "You just got to try to calm him down." Was a little too fired up against Iowa. "He has energy which is good, he's just gotta learn to control it and use it between the whistles."
Schilling only has 5 games left to finish his Michigan career. Wants to complete it the right way.
On Penn State: "It's a fun place to play, that's for sure." The night atmosphere is a bit different. "It's loud in there, it's hard to hear." The no-huddle might not be quite as affected with signaling.
Fun game in a great place to play. Feed off the increased excitement of the crowd at night games. Excited to get back out there. Watched PSU play on Saturday. Nice to see the tempo of the game. "I get more out of watching film, but I do get something out of watching the live games."
"Every team in the NCAA has bumps and bruises. A week to heal them is great." Feels very refreshed after the bye week. Points of emphasis during bye week: fundamentals, making the right reads.
"Obviously on Saturday we can prepare a little bit more because it's a bit later of a game."
"We've been making steps this whole season." May not correlate on the field yet, but they're making improvements on D. "You can definitely see things that we're doing better now that we didn't do at the beginning of the season." Reading keys, breaking faster on the ball. The team has guys who want to be good, and are willing to put in the time, which will prevent another collapse like last year.
Quinton Washington - "I thought that Quinton should be playing defense about a month ago. He's got that aggressive manner that's good for defense." It's going to take some time for him to get comfortable there.
Kenny Demens: "great athlete, great build. I think he's doing great with the opportunities he's getting."
Mike Martin is an amazing athlete, can fight through double- and triple-teams.
"We just keep looking forward, looking ahead. We try not to think to much about the past. Just try to stay positive and always have a good attitude."
This weekly update is for everyone wondering about defensive recruiting after last week's update was all offense. As we get closer to the end of the season we will start to hear more about potential decisions and timeframes for those decisions as well. Right now it's visits and interest for the most part.
5'11", 185 lbs.
Walls' grandma recently fell ill, so he is putting his future visits on hold. He told me earlier that he still plans on visiting MSU, South Carolina, Virginia, and UConn. His decision is a ways off:
I'm not going to make my decision until I've taken all my visits. I don't have a leader yet, I'm not ready to announce that because your mind changes with leaders all the time.
While he has postponed his visits, that didn't mean that Michigan couldn't come out and see him this past weekend.
Michigan sent a coach out to see me on Friday. Greg Robinson, the defensive coordinator, actually spent a good amount of time at my school talking with my coaches.
It was interesting to hear that Greg Robinson was the one that went out to see him since he doesn't make very many trips.
6'2", 281 lbs.
Kevin is a four star defensive tackle that has been hearing more from Michigan and a few other schools lately.
It's been on and off with Michigan, but I'm not upset about it or anything. I understand things change with schools, so it's not too late for them. I really like Michigan and Coach Dews, so we'll see. Florida has also been in contact with me lately, and I want to check them out too.
Tony Dews was out to see Kevin this weekend even though Kevin wasn't playing (injury). Dews also got a chance to see 2011 DB Blake Countess and 2012 WR Stefon Diggs since their team was playing Kevin's. Tony is always mentioned highly among recruits and it seems he's made a good impression with Kevin as well.
Coach Dews is supposed to call me this week, so we'll get to talk more. He's from this area so he understands how certain things are here. He's a good coach, and that program has been through a lot lately. He's a real personable guy. Michigan definitely has a shot because of him, and because they have great academics. I'm still trying to work out my schedule for official visits, so I'm not sure if I'll make it up there. My top list right now is probably UCLA, Oregon, Michigan, Arkansas, and Florida.
That list can definitely change, but Michigan is picking up some ground with Kevin. He's a recruit at a position of need, and has a lot of qualities the coaches really like. He would be a great pickup. Getting that visit set is key.
6'0", 190 lbs.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
As I said in a recent Weekly Update, Wayne Lyons has Michigan moving up his list. He wasn't sure then if he would make it up to Michigan for a visit, and while he's still not 100%, it's moving in a positive direction for the Wolverines:
I think I will end up taking a visit up there. I'm not sure yet, but I think I am going to visit.
While that's not written in stone, it's a step in the right direction. Without getting him on campus, Michigan probably has little shot to land him. His top school are Stanford, UCLA, Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Michigan. Lyons is another Tony Dews recruit.
- OL Chris Bryant has scheduled his official visit to Michigan for the weekend of The Big Chill hockey game (December 11th). "I want to experience being around the players and interacting with them." He's not sure if his decision will come shortly after the visit, but there is a good possibility that it will. Michigan is still in great position.
- LB Antonio Kinard should find out this week if he will be included in the 2011 class. Originally committed to the 2010 class, Kinard ended up at Hargrave Military Academy. He's waiting to find out if his SAT score is high enough, and if it is he will be enrolling in January.
- WR DeAnthony Arnett received a visit this weekend from Fred Jackson. DeAnthony remains that Michigan is out of his top group, but I have a weird feeling that something's going on. I'm not saying to hold your breath, but Michigan is trying to let him know how much he's wanted.
- S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix still maintains that he will visit Michigan for the Illinois game and that the Wolverines still have a shot at landing him.
The heat melts their brains. Miami fans are trolls:
You've got me there, Jim Martz.
(Via Jerry Hinnen.)
Further adventures in Remember When Smoking Was Cool And Pregnancy Drankin' jes' fine. Les Miles has done all manner of disqualifying things since the Kirk Herbstreit Miles Hiring Fiasco, before which I was highly in favor of Miles as Michigan's coach and after which I was very upset at Bill Martin. He derped the Ole Miss game and lied about it afterwards. He cut some kid who'd been on campus for a month. Whatever the hell that was at the end of the Tennessee game happened.
Miles is now in the radioactive bin of hypothetical Michigan coaching candidates next to Ron English, Mike DeBord, and Stan Parrish. I'd rather have Brady Hoke around. And yet somehow this is the worst thing he's done since that fateful day on a sailboat:
I'd rather see Simon Cowell as head coach around here.
Quarterback ding monitor. So you may have noticed that three Penn State quarterbacks wandered around the field asking for direction/pudding from the coaches in their win over Minnesota. This is because starter Robert Bolden left the game with "a cut hand" or "a cut hand and an eye poke" or "concussion-like symptoms" or, you know, a concussion. JoePa thought Bolden was questionable at best for next week; JayPa thought he was fine. JayPa's probably right since someone asked Joe about Kevin Newsome and he said "who?" I wouldn't put much stock in this "McGloin might start" headline from the Post-Gazette since it's generic walk-on fluff and the only mention of the injury is this:
Bolden was expected to undergo a series of medical tests Sunday, but Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson said Bolden's status would not be updated until today at the earliest. If Bolden is unable to play Saturday night at home against Michigan on ESPN, McGloin could get his first career start.
I'm guessing Bolden starts.
Meanwhile at Purdue things just keep getting worse. Third-stringer Rob Henry acquired a "crushed index finger" against Ohio State and Boiled Sports believes that means true freshman Sean Robinson will end up starting when Purdue takes on Illinois next week.
Penn State confidence monitor. They didn't lose against Minnesota but they did get outgained by 70 yards and cough up 400 yards of offense to a team headed for 1-11, so reviews are negative:
-- Penn State made Gopher running back DeLeon Eskridge look like Barry Sanders out there. The Lions missed so many tackles I thought they must have brought the wrong shoes. … -- Lion defense just has no playmakers. … -- In fact, until the fourth quarter, Penn State had precious little success running the ball against a defense ranked 102nd in the nation against the run. Unimaginable, really. … -- Minnesota's 75-yard TD drive to start the second half was so easy I thought I was watching the New Orleans Saints shred the Penn State defense. Very, very scary, folks.
This was a win, but no one was impressed. The line swung from M +2.5 to M –3 based on it, though it's gotten bet back down some since.
It's not that timeout, it's that you still had it. Back to the hat: many people are pointing at Kirk Ferentz going "Les Miles!" in the same manner you would scream "witch!" during a good hysterical mass hallucination after Iowa biffed its clock management good in their 31-30 loss to Wisconsin. Cue defense from Ferentz:
"We wanted to burn the timeout and just go from there," Ferentz said. "I guess we could have gone the other way. Might have saved us two seconds, something like that. I don't think that was exactly the turning point in the game."
Cue Hat reference:
Les Miles might agree.
Iowa fans probably won't.
Ferentz is right—taking the timeout there is not a major factor. But he's not off the hook because he made the most frustrating error coaches make these days now that they don't punt from the opponent's 34 (HINT, NORTHWESTERN): he didn't immediately start calling timeouts when Wisconsin made it first and goal. If Iowa has 40 seconds instead of 12 when the spike/timeout decision is made it's not nearly as big a deal. Always, always get rid of your timeouts on defense if given the opportunity—you will never save more time by holding them.
No, still a punk. In the weeks before the season Ohio State teammate Tyler Moeller said Terrelle Pryor was "kind of a punk" by way of explaining that he was no longer the kind of guy who puts "VICK 3:16" on his eyeblack or talks about how everybody steals from people, murders from people, whatever. Pryor should ban the word "everybody" from his vocabulary:
“Not to take anything away from Wisconsin at all – I really don’t want it to come off like this – but they weren’t better than us,” he said. “Everybody knows that if we play nine out of 10 times, we’d beat Wisconsin.”
Pryor stats: 14/28, 156 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 56 yards rushing on 18 carries. Final score: Wisconsin by 13. I'm sure Michigan would have been better off the last few years with Pryor behind center but right now I'm happy Michigan missed on an unlikeable guy who's not living up to his athletic potential.
The unabated stupidity. Richard Billingsley's computer rankings are even more off the chain than usual this week:
His ballot does not disappoint this week, ranking TCU at No. 1 (three spots higher than any other computer poll) and Missouri at No. 10 -- the Tigers' lowest spot in any computer poll by seven and two places below the less Mizzou-friendly humans. …
In fact, the rule that causes the high and low scores for each team to be thrown out might as well be called the Billingsley Rule -- counting ties, Billingsley ranks 17 of the 25 teams higher or lower than any other computer in the BCS, including being the only one to rank Virginia Tech at all.
At least the discard rule does effectively neuter Billingsley's poll. His poll is maybe 20% as impactful as the other four.
Etc.: You think we have problems? Boston College fired a good coach, hired a career assistant in his sixties named Spaz, is 0-4 in the ACC, and has scheduled Vanilla Ice to participate in something called "Ice Jam." Boston College has problems. EBay watch hits up 1976.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Denard - "Running-wise, everything's fine. We limited his throwing... Talking to the training staff, he should be able to do everything this week." The bye week helped him get healthy: "Denard can tolerate a lot of pain, but his issue with the last game wasn't the knee, but more the shoulder. He needed some rest, and he got that last weekend."
Martin, Molk, Shaw should all be good. "Mike and David Molk are... they should be good. Mike Shaw should be good as well."
Toussaint - "He did a little bit more last week, but the trainers think he'll be able to go." Not sure whether he'll contribute a lot, because that depends on how the RBs practice this week.
Gardner - "He's doing well. His back has been a little sore, so he's been a little limited." RR couldn't answer whether he'll try to earn a medical redshirt this season, and be a redshirt freshman next year.
Position Moves and the Bye Week
Will Campbell moved to guard, took to OL pretty well. See if he sticks after the first couple days this week. "Personality? I guess that's kind of an interesting way to put it... When we recruited him, I thought 'this is a big guy who can move a bit'" and could play either side of the ball. Will brought it up a bit earlier this year, but coaches wanted to wait for the open date.
"We're still a little thin [at defensive tackle] at times. We're playing around with Quinton Washington helping there a little bit on the defensive side." There's not a lot of time to let guys get established at a new position in just one week.
These position moves aren't permanent yet, they'll see how it goes this week.
Ricky Barnum is #3 guard, which allowed Washington to try DT. He can play all the offensive line positions.
Other moves - nothing substantive. Safeties should be able to play both S positions, Corners both CB positions.
"I think we've identified the guys we think are ready to play. We've gotta get them more ready." Not trying to mix in more new young guys during the bye week. Don't want to slow down the maturing process of some of the young guys, either.
"If anybody on our team could be a great field goal kicker, we'd have already found them and they'd be doing it." Hagerup was a pretty good high school kicker, but he wasn't as good as the other guys in fall camp. Kickers need to work on consistency.
"I'd hope that they have fresh legs a little bit after a couple days off." Enthusiasm may have been lacking in practice a bit, and that will hopefully be back. Coming off a bye, guys are usually more excited to be on the field. "I would think that our guys would be excited to get back out there and play a game."
Did defensive fundamentals improve in the last week? "I hope so. That certainly was our intent, to get better fundamentally." Getting off blocks was a bigger emphasis than working on tackling, which can get guys hurt.
Watched a lot of CFB Saturday, did some PSU prep. Yesterday watched his son play Pop Warner.
PSU healthier now. "Offensively, they've got what's probably gonna be their all-time leading rusher. Rob Bolden is a very talented guy." They have a lot of youth that will improve over the season.
Preparing for 3 different quarterbacks isn't a huge deal. They'll run mostly the same offense no matter who's in there. "We may see all three, I don't know." PSU might run a bit more with Newsome in there.
PSU defense - "They've had a shell of what they wanted to play with because of injuries." They're getting healthy now. Their defensive staff does a great job, and they'll play well against MICH.
"We'll keep them pretty busy" the morning of the PSU game. They'll have a walkthrough, go for a walk with their position coaches, etc. "The hard part - and I'm sure the players feel the same way - is waiting around all day." Night game - "It's a great atmosphere, the crowd is into it, the band plays music, they pipe in music. The night game, they have all day to tailgate, so they're in pretty good spirits."
Nobody will be around as long as Bowden was and JoePa is, because it's a different era now. "I don't know if Joe's record will ever be touched." Paterno knows about his own health, and he's giving the same effort he always has. "What he's done over the years has been remarkable, and so has his staff."
Should the Wolverines play a 2-QB system? "Denard's our starter. There's no controversy or anything like that." He may have "pressed the issue" too much on a couple plays in the last few games, feeling the pressure to make a big play. "He's just a second-year player, and he's going to make more mistakes going forward. The issue is minimizing them." QBs pressure on them because of the defense? "I think they do it naturally because we've had some success offensively, so if we're not scoring on every possession, it's disappointing."
Played poorly in the two losses, but there were positives: moved the ball, but couldn't finish drives, played some pretty good defense, but not enough to get the stops. "You learn: why did we lose? and correct the mistakes." Try to build on the positives, learn from the negatives. "If we just take care of the ball better than the last couple games, even with some of our other issues, we're right there at the end of the game."
Every week is critical. "One thing we want to be sure is that we have consistency in our approach." Tweak practices with focus, etc., but want to maintain the same routine and intensity. "We're gonna play as hard as we can every time... We're playing and they're keeping score, so we're going to play as hard as we can."
What do you think about fans demanding a certain numbers of wins? "I'm not listening." Worries about things he can control.
RR on Cam Newton: "What they do in their spread and ours is somewhat similar and somewhat different." Remembers watching him as a young guy at Florida. He's done a great job improving since then.
Helmet to Helmet - Any time you lead with the crown of your helmet, high or low, should be a penalty. Runners and blockers shouldn't be able to use the crowns of their helmet either.
Promised last week but Wife Day occupied the designated space.
This week's great linebacker debate is about how I'm sitting in a tree with Kenny Demens, finding reasons to posbang him that would not be reasons to posbang Ezeh or Mouton. That's not really how UFR works on defense. A three-yard run is a usually a +1 for the D, a zero-yarder +2, and a TFL +3—though it's context dependent—and I try to assign credit and blame to get to those numbers. There is wobble when the other team makes an error or there's a rock paper scissors play. If I was going to give Demens positive he didn't deserve they'd be coming off his teammates in the front seven and the only guys to suffer relative to expectations were Rotating Ineffective Nose Tackle and the Banks/Black combo.
Mouton also come in for a big minus and clucking, but I thought that was easily justified by the clips provided. If it's not here's another one. It's late in the third quarter and Iowa has third and three from the Michigan eleven. They come out in an unbalanced formation with a covered TE; Michigan responds with a 4-4:
Iowa will run off the right tackle. At the snap Kovacs blitzes. Banks, the DE to the bottom of the screen, takes on a double team from Iowa's LG and RG; Renaldo Sagesse is getting single blocked by the center:
A moment later Banks and Patterson have both gotten in bad situations. Sagesse is a yard downfield and sealed to the inside. Banks has managed to stick at the LOS but he's about to be effectively comboed and sealed to the inside:
Kovacs gets picked off by the fullback. Roh's gotten a cut on the backside but Gordon is flowing behind him; RVB has gotten down the line to cut off a hole; Sagesse is getting buried by a double downfield. Mouton has set up on the Iowa RT as Banks just kind of sits there at the LOS:
Here's an endzone angle of the last moment:
That's a lot of grass to Mouton's right there. I wonder what he's going to do about that:
Dios ffuuuu, man. This will be clearer on the video but this was not some crazy block by the right tackle here—Mouton fought inside of the guy, sealing himself. The sad thing is that Kenny Demens has cleared the trash from the Sagesse double and is showing up in the hole:
If Mouton is outside the guy he's almost certain to tackle short of the first down…
…but he's not:
Another third-down touchdown from the ten given up by a combo of players but especially one in particular; another four points on the board because of a basic mental error from a Michigan defender. This one is ten times more frustrating than Courtney Avery's because Mouton is a fifth year senior who's been doing this his entire career, including earlier this year against UMass on another egregious play that was picture-paged.
- Either Mouton has suffered the worst kind of coaching malpractice during his career or he's just not all there. Or both, I guess. He should not be making this mistake. He has made this kind of mistake dozens of times. Maybe there's something in the scheme that makes it confusing as to when he's supposed to be the contain guy, but I don't think so. WLBs should know this as part of their DNA. There's a theory floating around that Mouton has gotten used to playing next to Ezeh and now assumes he has to do everything himself and may get all clueful now that he's playing with a linebacker that usually shows up in the right spot at the right time, but I don't think so. It doesn't matter who you're playing next to since hopping inside that tackle is guaranteed doom.
- The defensive line didn't do the linebackers any favors… Other than some sporadic help from RVB and Roh this was par for the course. Here the NT is Sagesse instead of Patterson but the end result is similar to what happened all day: effective combo on Banks gets him passively single-blocked and gives Mouton a tackle to deal with. Combo on whoever the NT is crumples and/or seals the guy.
- …but could this actually be something resembling okay from Sagesse? It's not good by any stretch of the imagination but the reason Demens is flowing into the gap unblocked is because the C could not pop off of Sagesse after shoving him downfield. That mess falls in a heap, meaning that the nose has taken out two blockers. I didn't plus the guy because I thought it was more luck than anything and ending a play on your knees two yards downfield doesn't seem like a strategy sustainable in the long term. I didn't minus him either because he kinda sorta just managed to do his job.
- More good Demens play. He doesn't get blocked but because Sagesse is blown off the LOS this isn't the world's easiest scrape. He makes it and should have an opportunity to tackle if everyone else does their job. It's impossible to say whether or not Ezeh would have made the same scrape, but we've seen enough of him to know that he doesn't do it consistently. He might be standing right where he was at the snap, or he might not have the agility and recognition Demens does to get around the garbage. (FTR, Demens did not get a plus here; Mouton was –2, Banks –1.)
We don't know whether or not Demens does execute this consistently, or whether his run-fill gusto is exploitable with misdirection or play action. His Iowa game was promising, though. I'm sure he'll have some wobbly games during the second half—Iowa was not one. I repeat my stat of wonder and alarm: when Demens was on the field runs that did not pop outside contain because of mistakes by Mouton, Black, and Banks averaged under 2.5 YPC. This happened essentially without Mike Martin. Whatever problems existed with the run D had nothing to do with him.
Mouton, meanwhile, is incredibly frustrating. This year he's turned "big positive, bigger negative" into "big negative, bigger positive" but I'm not going to spend 2011 pining for him. Michigan can't and shouldn't pull him since he makes a lot of good plays; I don't think Michigan's run defense is going to suffer greatly without him.