Hard edge. Via Martell Webb's twitter, here's Webb and Devin Gardner in their CB4 phase:
Needs moar jericurl but pretty good otherwise.
Pay your rent, eh? So Kenny Demens and Boubacar Cissoko have gotten sued for not paying rent. Like, any rent:
Hidden Valley Club Apartments is suing Demens and Cissoko for $9,925, plus interest and attorney fees. The suit, filed in 15th District Court, alleges Demens and Cissoko signed a lease, agreeing to pay $850 each month for an apartment from May 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010. The apartment complex “fully performed all of its obligations under the lease,” the suit claims, but Demens and Cissoko “failed to pay the agreed upon rent.”
Demens was served with the suit Sept. 27, court papers filed this month say. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
…and Demens being locked on the bench for the first six games gets a lot less mysterious. They're suing for 11.5 of 13 months worth of rent, so they probably paid a security deposit and then never wrote another check. Maybe the details will again point to Boubacar Cissoko and his sad disintegration, but it's probably hard to put your faith in a guy who's involved in a suit like that.
Hockey time. It's a bye weekend for football but Michigan has a key nonconference series against UNO coming up. UNO recently left the conference for the WCHA and so far they're the top-scoring team in the country; that's a little worrying after Michigan gave up more than 40 shots and required what sounded like a stand-on-your head performance from Shawn Hunwick to tie UNH 3-3. UNO is #10 in the most recent polls and pounded Michigan last year in the series that finally killed Michigan's flickering at-large hopes.
The games figure to be choppy. Via Yost Built:
They're also 10th in the country in PIMs at 20.5 per night. That's still far behind Michigan's national lead at 26.2 minutes a night. You know the CCHA officials are salivating. Don't expect much flow to these games.
Hopefully that's an aberration born of small sample size for Michigan. Even if it is, special teams will be key.
Old school. I link a lot of MVictors stuff on the sidebar but every once in a while it's good to put it on the front page in case anyone's new and hasn't been brought up to speed on the awesome historical content provided by Mr. Dooley. A post earlier this week on the 1910 season is extensive and awesome, as you can see at right.
"They are the men who stayed indoors during last year's underclass war." "Outrages of a further and still more vicious character were being planned and executed." This is why Mad Men is such a cultural touchstone. I miss newspapers that wrote like that and people who talked like that, or newspapers that massaged quotes so it seemed like they did. Same difference.
Michigan punched Ohio State to death 33-6, by the way, and slid by Michigan State 6-3 in a game the Daily headlined like so: "VARSITY BESTS FARMERS IN HARD-FOUGHT BATTLE." The Notre Dame game was cancelled because of a dispute over ineligible players, causing the Daily to sub-hed their article "Cancellation of today's game probably ends relations with Catholics." Sure, polio and whatever, I don't care: 1910 was awesome. Michigan even won the national title.
Ban Salsua Secundus. If you were doing that thing where you knew you'd seen that Oregon team before but couldn't quite put your finger on it, I can help you out: they are Sardaukar—relentlessly drilled, elaborately and garishly costumed, and completely without mercy.
Old stuff you've probably already seen. Wojo interview with Rich Rodriguez is frank:
Q: But most of the criticism is simply based on your won-loss record (13-18).
A: No question. That's the reality of it. OK, but why are the wins and losses there?
Q: Tell me, what are people missing?
A: In football, it's not as easy as saying, 'OK, you go to a place like Michigan that has so much winning tradition, you can screw up and win eight or nine, right?' Maybe that's not the case.
I think every program nowadays, it's not as easy to win. It doesn't automatically happen. I'm not making excuses, I'm just telling the truth. We haven't been good enough, but we're getting closer, and we'll get there. But it's gonna take longer than anybody wants, especially us.
So was Rodriguez's joke about Vince Lombardi not having a magic wand that he can come in and wave to make Avery, Talbott, and Cullen Christian juniors, but that didn't prevent Drew Sharp from calling Rodriguez Bobby Williams or this guy with a wicked leather jacket from writing something that I can link because it's not (quite) stupid enough to kill the elderly:
In the midst of a two-game losing streak where your team is giving up an average of 36 points, and with your defense ranked in the bottom 20 of college football, the best thing to do is joke about it.
Not so subtly hidden in all the knee-slappers Rodriguez delivered Monday was him taking zero responsibility for his defense's short-comings.
Behind closed doors, he can talk about his lack of contributions to the defense all he wants. To the media and Wolverine fans, Rich Rod has to be accountable for everything his team does.
Media people of earth: words said in press conferences do not matter. Rodriguez is fully aware that he needs to win games to keep his job. "Taking zero responsibility" is just answering your inane questions for the tenth time in a half hour with something other than Senator Tressel's ray of infinite boredom. This guy with a wicked leather jacket later fulminates that "this is not the time for levity." John McKay disagrees, and everyone's better off for it. Rodriguez should have gone with this after the 605th question about Denard's durability:
Following a game in 1967 in which O.J. Simpson carried the ball over 30 times, Mckay was asked "Why are you giving the ball to Simpson so often?" McKay replied, "Why not? it's not heavy, and he doesn't belong to a union."
But no. Press Conference is Serious Business.
This is what happens when you don't actually have anything useful to say. It's also why newspaper commentary is down to cheap outrage and the Washington Post making a content-sharing deal with Bleacher Report makes sense. Who can tell the difference? One RABBLE is like any other once it passes through an editor that turns it into English.
Kicking argh. I thought this was going to be a Rivals article from The Wolverine, but it turns out to be an incredibly well-timed article from the AP about kickers and how college kids are basically on their own:
Many coaches admit they don’t have any expertise in kicking and say they can’t devote an assistant coach solely to teaching it. The NCAA limits schools to one head coach, nine assistant coaches and two graduate assistants, and most programs choose to focus their staffs on positions from quarterback to defensive tackle to fullback.
That means the kickers end up coaching themselves to a large degree.
“A lot of them have got to be masters of their own trade, and that’s a discipline part of being a kicker at this level,” said Eric Russell, the Tennessee special teams coach who splits time between the kicking game and supervising tight ends.
“You’ve got to be able to correct yourself,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of one-on-one attention, and you’ve got to be able to adjust on a dime.”
Michigan's stellar 2 for 8 is mentioned. I'm not sure what Rodriguez can do about the current situation except spend another scholarship on a kicker this February and hope. That would have Michigan in the unusual situation of having two guys on scholarship at the same time, but is there any other freshman who can come in and radically improve his position from day one? Other than Dee Hart?
Etc.: "Superdenardman and Young Tatewalker." OSU blogs break down what went wrong against Wisconsin, and also what went wrong against Wisconsin. General replicability of these things by Michigan: minimal. Holdin' the Rope takes a breath and looks around.
It's back! Again! A wedding kiboshed the post-Indiana podcast and depression did in the MSU one, but we're back and kicking with a review of the Iowa game, a discussion about what qualifies as "rock bottom" when talking about basketball expectations, and a desultory tour of the upcoming Big Ten schedule, this one without Jamiemac and just Just Cover gamblin' ways. We do plan on bringing in opponent bloggers again, but this week we had the bye.
UPDATE: This post was pointing to podcast 2.1, not 2.2; fixed.
The usual links:
- Helpful iTunes subscribe link
- General podcast feed link
- Direct download link
- What's with the theme music?
Substitution notes: Patterson played the entire second half and big chunks of the first as it was clear that Mike Martin was not recovered from the late MSU cheap shot. RVB never came out; Black cycled in for Banks, mostly on passing downs. Fitzgerald got a few snaps as Roh's backup. At LB, Demens played the whole way except for the first few plays of Iowa's third drive; Thomas Gordon and Carvin Johnson rotated with Gordon appearing to get most of the time.
Formation notes: Okay, Greg Robinson, I believe you. This defense is indeed "multiple." Michigan played a little stack, a lot of it with two deep safeties:
That's a stack with the bandit in a deep half. I called it "stack two deep."
Michigan played some 4-3, and they played a lot of a 3-4:
This is different from a 4-3 with a standup DE because of the alignments of the DL, who are head up on the C and Ts. That's just a 3-4, straight up. Early in the game they were using Floyd as the WLB, but after a couple issues with that they put Kovacs in the box and used Floyd as the overhang guy. This appeared to be a response to Iowa's heavy use of twins.
The past two weeks the defense has used more 3-4 and 4-3 than stack, FWIW, so its heavy deployment in spring and fall may be an artifact of the team it's going against. Against spread outfits Michigan has been almost all stack.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|My copy of the game does not have this play. It was a one-yard run on which Demens made the tackle.|
|O39||2||9||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Demens||-3|
|Iowa overloads the wide side of the field with a covered TE and another TE in motion to act as a lead blocker. RVB takes a double as Iowa looks to run away from Martin. Roh(+0.5) drives the playside TE back a bit, creating an obvious gap where the play will go that Demens(+2) reads and fills before the guy peeling off RVB can get to him. He sets up in the hole with that OL grabbing him around the waist; with Johnson(+0.5) set up outside in a spot to prevent a bounce and Kovacs coming from the backside Robinson is swarmed for a loss.|
|Happy feet from Stanzi here as he doesn't even let his receivers try to test the middle of the field before checking down to the tailback. Cover +1, I guess. Roh(+0.5) was sort of coming through the line, possibly forcing a throw. Rogers(-0.5, tackling -1) comes up to meet Robinson after about five yards and offers a dodgy shoulder-block of a tackle that does manage to get him OOB but does not inspire anything resembling confidence.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-4||Pass||5||Slant||Demens||Inc|
|Kovacs blitz; no one gets home before he throws on three-step rhythm. It's a slant that Mouton(+1) reads and arrives as the ball does about six yards downfield. Receiver has to leap to catch a slightly high ball and Mouton hits him into the air, exposing him to a Demens(+1) killshot that shakes the ball loose. Cover +2.|
|Martin(+0.5) gets some pressure but doesn't matter since Johnson(-1, cover -1) has screwed up his zone drop by sticking too close to Demens and his guy, opening up a slant. Should be a first down but McNutt drops it.|
|O44||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Penalty||?||False start||?||-5|
|O39||3||15||Ace 3-wide||3-2-6 dime||Pass||3||TE out||Talbott||5|
|Stanzi checks down (cover +1) to a TE for five yards; Talbott(+1, tackling +1) is there to tackle immediately, no funny stuff.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O16||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4?||Run||Inside zone||Ezeh||14|
|Ezeh comes in. I'm not sure what to call this formation since it's got Johnson on the slot receiver and a three man line with the guys aligned as 3-4 LBs, except the WLB is JT Floyd. Martin(-1) is single-blocked and doesn't do anything to disrupt the play. This allows a guy out on Mouton. I'm not entirely sure what the responsibilities are here, but though Ezeh(-1.5) is indeed humiliatingly pancaked by a guard, Kovacs(-1) is flowing hard to the frontside of the play and gets caught way out of position when the cutback comes. I think this is on him and not Mouton but I'm not sure. Without the rolled up S anywhere near the play Robinson shoots right into the backfield with just C. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) between him and the endzone; Gordon makes an important, solid open-field tackle.|
|O30||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||3||Hitch||Roh||11|
|Two deep safeties for the first time. Iowa goes straight dropback and Michigan drops eight; Roh(-1, cover -1) does not get a deep enough zone drop despite Stanzi looking at his receiver all the way.|
|O41||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Banks||8|
|Michigan's only got six guys in the box for this with two deep safeties and T. Gordon covering the slot guy. Again, I'm not sure who's got what here but I think this is because Michigan's blitzing JT Floyd(-1) from the corner and he's heading at an upfield angle and cannot recover to flow down the line for the cutback. Banks(-1) did get controlled and blocked downfield, giving the RB the angle to get by Floyd, and I do think Ezeh ran himself out of the play unnecessarily. There are three guys on the frontside and just two on the backside so a smart guy would figure this is cutting back. Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1) comes up to fill well, though he had more time than Gordon to react.|
|O49||2||2||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Floyd||5|
|Banks(+1) gets playside of his guy and forces a bounce well outside where Floyd(-1, tackling -1) sees his tackle run through.|
|Demens back. I don't think this is on either linebacker since Demens(+0.5) and Mouton(+0.5) each have to carry routes to the safeties and end up dropping deep. Floyd(-1, cover -1) doesn't have anyone and still bails out, opening up the dumpoff for a bigger gain than it should be. No one anywhere near the QB (pressure -1) .|
|M35||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Run||Off tackle||Mouton||19|
|So the DL here is Black, Patterson, Sagesse, and Fitzgerald. Doom? Doom. They hit a gap outside of Black; Kovacs has to come up and fill the outside and takes a block. This is what he has to do to force it back to help but there is no help. I think M's alignment is messed up since they've shaded the line to the open side of the field and the linebackers are basically even(RPS –1). Sagesse(-1) is chopped to the ground immediately. This is bad. I think it makes Demens(-0.5) suck up into the gap that forms because he anticipates the cutback lane is open. He takes a block and bounces off it but is delayed. On the playside Black(-0.5) is walled off by a double. Mouton(-2) charges into a gap that Patterson has somewhat controlled, losing leverage. Once RB is through the crease he's gone.|
|M16||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Pass||N/A||Waggle cross||Floyd||Inc (Pen +2)|
|PA rollout sees two guys in the route. Deep guy taken away by the coverage(+1) so Stanzi checks down to a TE cross that Floyd(-1, cover -1) is all over, but he grabs the guy around the waist and gets a legit call. For some reason the refs put the ball at the 14 instead of the 9 and no one notices.|
|M14||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Run||Power off tackle||Roh||0|
|Roh(+1) slants inside as the tackle moves to the second level immediately. He takes a blocker with him, sitting down right in the intended path of the RB and absorbing the FB's lead block. RB bounces into Floyd(+0.5), who read the receiver's attempted block and set up to contain. He's such a terrible tackler, though. Demens(+0.5) scrapes through two half-blocks to help finish.|
|Corner blitz convinces Stanzi that he's got the guy who Floyd has just vacated so he tosses it; Kovacs(+2, cover +2) jumps it and gets both hands on what could be a 95-yard Rick Six but can't hang on. Pressure(+1) was coming so Stanzi had to get rid of it. (RPS+2)|
|Michigan in three-deep, but Courtney Avery(-3, cover -3) does the same thing he always does by chasing receivers all over the field, opening up this drag for a touchdown. Rogers(-1, tackling –1) could have stopped this at the sticks but loses leverage, etc. Stanzi had to throw because Roh(+1, pressure +1) was about to waste him. One freshman playing anything approximating zone and this is a FG attempt. Picture-paged earlier today.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M49||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Pass||N/A||Rollout throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|Another two-man route covered(+1) well by Michigan. Demens(+0.5) perceives the lack of underneath threats and comes charging up on the edge to force a throwaway. Maybe I'm just not used to a routine play here to give a plus-half, but there it is. I like his decision-making.|
|M49||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Screen||?||15|
|Michigan rushing four and dropping into a zone as Iowa runs a middle screen. Zero DL come even close to reading it, leaving four blockers in space against… uh… Kenny Demens. He charges up and gets hacked down by one of them. About all he could do. Secondary converges after the sticks. RPS -2; no idea what any individual player could have done there.|
|M34||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Counter||Black||3|
|Black(+1) does a nice job to slant through two Iowa OL and should draw a holding call as an Iowa TE yanks him from behind but does not. His presence in the middle of the play does force a bounce; Floyd keeps contain and Mouton(+0.5) gets free to help with the tackle and prevent any YAC.|
|M31||2||7||Ace twins twin TE||Base 3-4||Pass||4||Corner||Rogers?||31|
|I am not sure if this is on Rogers or Gordon. I think it is Rogers because Michigan is running three-deep and Johnson(+1, cover +1) has the out to this side of the field blanketed. The pass goes to the deep corner of the endzone where a deep zone should be in cover three; Rogers(-3, cover -4) is not there. No one was anywhere near Stanzi (pressure -3). It looks like Gordon was burned over the top but he's in cover three so he should be jumping the post cut on the assumption Rogers has his back.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Banks||4|
|So they've switched Kovacs and Floyd here, with Kovacs the nominal WLB and Floyd the nominal overhang guy. Michigan LBs hit it up quickly—they're probably depending on Iowa to run the max-pro routes on PA they've run before—and Mouton(+0.5) takes on a guard at the LOS. Robinson bangs into the mess; Patterson(+0.5) has actually come through and threatens from behind but Banks(-0.5) has been kicked out too far and Floyd(-0.5) is hesitant. He meets Robinson two yards downfield and gives up two more.|
|M44||2||6||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||5||Hitch||?||16|
|Kovacs in a two-deep instead of at the line. Michigan runs the Floyd corner blitz again and gets burned (RPS -1) as Iowa adjusts to the Kovacs near-pick on the last attempt to kill it by shortening up the route. Mouton(+0.5) got a free run but with the wide open guy on the sideline it doesn't matter. Stanzi hits him, Kovacs tackles.|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun twins 2TE||Base 3-4||Pass||3||Sack||Banks||-4|
|Eight man drop does cover(+2) everyone this time but the pressure(-2) is nonexistent. Martin is out and this is sad minus Martin. Stanzi rolls out, Banks chasing him. Stanzi inexplicably runs OOB instead of chucking the ball away.|
|M32||2||14||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||5||Dumpoff||Banks||Inc|
|Banks(+1) gets inside the Hawkeye LT and comes right up the middle, with Roh(+0.5) providing supporting rush (pressure +1). Those two force a dumpoff to the tailback behind the LOS that Demens(+0.5, cover +1) probably has nailed for no gain; ball is upfield and bounces off Robinson's hands.|
|M32||3||14||Ace 3-wide||3-2-6 dime||Run||Delay||Mouton?||15|
|Michigan in a three deep shell with six DBs on third and forever, which okay. RVB(+0.5, seriously) slants inside his blocker and forces a cutback. Black is understandably way upfield. Mouton(-1) takes on the wrong side of his blocker with the cutback, and with just five guys in the box it's a long way to the next M defender. Those guys are Avery, Kovacs, and Gordon, and somehow the three of them give up the extra two yards for the first down. Alright. I'm not going to put my fist through anything. 1) Avery is 20 pounds too light to stiff the momentum. 2) Kovacs is physically deficient still and with a receiver pushing the pile can't stand it up. Both get -0.5s for being tiny. Gordon had little chance to do anything given the angles of the play. Michigan would have been much better off without the cutback, but what can you do? Argh.|
|M17||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Inside zone||Martin||5|
|Martin(-0.5) back in and gets clubbed back. At this point it's clear he just doesn't have it. Thanks, MSU cheapshot. Demens(+0.5) does a good job to close the forming frontside hole and force a cutback; Banks(-0.5) blows his pursuit angle and is too far upfield to tackle at the LOS; Mouton(+0.5) did a good enough job with his guy to delay the back slightly and allow Banks to come from behind and tackle.|
|M12||2||5||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||2|
|Similar to the last play but RVB(+0.5) is slanting down the line along the line instead of two yards upfield so the cutback lane isn't there; Mouton(+0.5) perceived the cutback, hit his hole, and helped tackle.|
|M10||3||3||Ace||Base 4-4||Pass||N/A||Rollout out||Floyd||6|
|Motion reveals Floyd in man and eight guys on the LOS reveal a lack of crazy robber zones, so Stanzi can roll out and be confident he's got a window to hit on this out route. He does; Roh does okay on the rush but can't get past the RB instantly, and Stanzi's pass is accurate against good but not great coverage. RPS -1.|
|M4||1||G||I-form big||Base 4-4||Run||Power off tackle||Mouton||4|
|Sagesse(-1) gets crushed out of the hole but Roh(+1) stands up his guy, shucks inside, and convinces Robinson to maybe bounce it. He decides against it since that's going to be closed off, cutting back inside. Mouton(-1) is there. Mouton *was* there until the feigned bounce saw him head way to the playside where he had no hope of doing anything. That combined with a guard crushing Johnson(-0.5) into the endzone is a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Demens||0|
|Martin is out for the remainder. Nowhere to go this time as the M DL provides no gaps. +0.5 to Banks, who held up to a double well, Mouton, who took on a TE at the right spot to prevent a crease, and Kovacs, who took on a block and held. +1 Demens, who saw the gap forming when Patterson(-1) got scooped out of the play and hit the releasing center at the LOS, removing a developing cutback lane. Floyd(+0.5) contains, forcing Robinson back inside and allowing a gang tackle.|
|O29||2||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||3||Out||Rogers||8|
|Four yard out picks up a few YAC to set up third and short; Rogers(-0.5) in the area but not able to tackle quickly because of a general lack of athleticism. Avery actually dropped back into a zone well here, so there's that.|
|Probably goes for the first here except for Kovacs(+2) blitzing untouched from the outside reading the draw, changing direction, and tackling for loss. Demens ate a block but I'm sympathetic here since this is a draw against what looks like man coverage and he has to respect the threat of the guy as a receiver. Mouton should have scraped faster, IME. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 11 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Floyd||3|
|Patterson(-1) scooped and sealed easily, allowing the Iowa C out on Demens, who's trying to scrape to the hole but now has lineman in his face. Banks(+0.5) holds up to a single block well and closes the hole down, giving Floyd(+0.5) a fairly easy job to come up and tackle after a moderate gain.|
|O17||2||7||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Mouton||1|
|Patterson blown down the line as they try another zone play; with both playside DL getting doubled Demens hits that gap hard, cutting off the frontside. However, Patterson(-0.5) getting washed down the line so far and Banks(-0.5) getting kicked out leaves Mouton(+2) in a ton of space against a lead blocker on a play likely designed to cut back right here. He avoids the TE but gets tripped; he was aggressive enough and under control enough to knock into the back. This delays him and eventually sends him down. Even if he didn't go down the hit was enough to allow Kovacs to tackle if necessary. (RPS -1)|
|O18||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||3||Fly||C. Gordon||Inc|
|Plenty of time (pressure -2) but the underneath stuff is taken away(cover +1) and Stanzi just decides to bomb it. C. Gordon(+1, over +1) is there on an underthrown ball, taking the right angle. He's got a better chance to make a catch than the receiver. Ball goes over his head.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Pass||3||PA post||C. Gordon||34|
|No one near Stanzi(pressure -2) and there are five guys in a short zone with one outlet receiver; a huge gap opens up between the LBs and the secondary. -1 Demens, -1 Mouton. -2 Gordon for being too far off in a cover three with three deep guys; he should be jumping the post route instead of being literally ten yards off. His tackle is almost run through, too. This was easy. (Cover -2)|
|M29||1||10||I-form||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||PA dumpoff||Kovacs||11|
|No pressure again(-2); coverage downfield is good but the little dump route to the FB releasing out of the backfield is wide open with Demens(-1) not reacting to get over and Kovacs(-1) getting pulled downfield by a deeper route. (Cover -1)|
|M18||1||10||I-form big||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Roh||2|
|No gaps anywhere again. Roh(+0.5) has slanted past a blocker and absorbed an extra guy, as has RVB(+0.5), so there are defenders in the backfield and no gaps. RB has to bounce into Floyd, who could make a tackle at the LOS with a better angle but is conservative outside(-0.5); Demens(+0.5) has scraped over the top and dives back inside to tackle.|
|I swear to god I'm not slanting this to Demens(+1, cover +1) but here he gets a chuck on a TE releasing downfield and causes Stanzi to come off his primary read. Second read is a drag Floyd(+1, tackling +1) is in man on. He tracks the pass and comes up to tackle immediately on the catch. Stanzi again had a ton of time (pressure -1).|
|M11||3||3||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Mouton||11|
|No gaps inside; this is going outside. Kovacs blitzes and is picked off by the FB. Banks(-1) can't deal with a double and gets shoved inside, allowing the LT to come out on Mouton(-2), who makes a fatal mistake by fighting INSIDE of the tackle. He can get leverage on this guy, but instead fights inside and gives up the corner. Touchdown. Demens had scraped through and maybe could have tackled at the five if he had gone upfield instead of shot the gap, but in this situation I'd rather have a MLB who expects his guys to execute their assignments and hits that gap with authority than some guy who's always worried what might go wrong. Demens is playing better than anyone realizes.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-28, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Banks||20 + 15 pen|
|Three-fold failure on a cutback after Patterson(+1) and others cut off the frontside. 1) Banks(-1) is blown down the line way too far. 2) Kovacs(-1) tries to hop upfield of the fullback, opening the hole up wider when he needs to squeeze down; 3) Mouton(-2) again reacts late to the developing play and loses the tailback outside of him. Demens was in position to tackle, albeit for decent yardage, if he got a guy funneled to him as he reacted to the cutback and again scraped properly. Floyd adds 15 on a facemask.|
|M25||1||10||I-form big||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||1|
|Van Bergen(+1) pops through the line and forces another cutback. This time Mouton(+1) does get outside his blocker and heads outside to force the play back into the scraping, waiting, tackling(+1) Demens(+1).|
|M24||2||9||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Mouton||5|
|I mean, Jesus balls Mouton maintain leverage for twice in a row. Here there's nothing because RVB(+1) has driven two guys into the backfield and provided Roh a free run into one gap. Kovacs(-1) takes on the FB and gets knocked back, but Mouton(-1) is flowing upfield too hard and lets the RB outside of him; Demens has flowed down the line to shove him OOB after five when this should have been nothing. Maybe this is on Kovacs for not getting outside the FB... but the success of a play jammed up by the DL is on one, the other, or both of the guys maintaining leverage to the playside.|
|M19||3||4||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||7||Slant||Floyd||19|
|Michigan sends the house. Seven guys come and Gordon is trying to run man on a guy running a slant ten yards in front of him. Doesn't matter since Floyd(-2, cover -2) gave up a slant despite setting up with inside leverage, yielding an easy TD. Maybe someone busted and Michigan was going to drop someone or two someone's into short anti-slant zones?|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-35, 11 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|RVB(+1) drives playside, taking two Iowa DL into the backfield a yard. Patterson(-1) has been blown out by single blocking easily, allowing the C to nail Mouton. Demens(+1) is scraping into a lot of space, and forms up to tackle at the LOS as one of the RVB blockers tries to peel, but too late.|
|O24||2||6||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Black||5|
|Nothing obvious on the frontside as Patterson flows down the line and the linebackers are attacking the playside shoulder of their blockers, but it does seem more open. Black(-1) is cut to the ground on what kind of seems like a clip but isn't called. Mouton has to radically change direction and and can only get a bump; Kovacs flows in from the edge to tackle; C. Gordon comes up to prevent YAC.|
|O29||3||1||I-form big||Base 4-4||Penalty||False start||?||-5|
|Likely on the C since everyone moves and the snap is fumbled.|
|O24||3||6||Ace 3-wide||Nickel 3-4||Run||Zone stretch||Demens||1|
|Three wide for Iowa with seven guys against six blockers in the box so there's no one to block one particular guy: Demens. Banks(+0.5) flows to cut off the playside; Patterson(-1) and RVB(-1) have been blasted off the line by single blocking but Demens(+0.5, tackling +1) avoids the trash and comes up to tackle in the cutback lane. Asking for this if you run into a stacked box on third and six (RPS +1); would be frustrated here if an Iowa fan. Mets Maize picture-paged this.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-35, 8 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Base 3-4||Pass||N/A||Waggle TE out||Kovacs||25 (pen -5)|
|Entire world sucks to the run fake. I understand why, but this is just ludicrously open (cover -3) because Kovacs(-1) and Mouton(-1) the playside guys, went nuts about the run. Result is a big gainer but Iowa was in an illegal formation and it comes back. (RPS -2)|
|O35||1||15||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Pass||N/A||Waggle TE out||Kovacs||10|
|Floyd comes off with a minor injury; Avery in. Same play; Michigan defending it better but does allow a short completion; Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) overruns the tackle and allows the TE to cut back inside for an extra five.|
|O45||2||5||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Kovacs||-4|
|Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) blitzes off the edge untouched into another inside zone, where he forms up, gets under control, and tackles in the backfield by himself. Unblocked, sure, but actually making the tackle here is a big deal since it's the difference between third and long and third and medium. RPS +1.|
|O41||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Nickel 3-4||Pass||5||Slant||Floyd||17|
|Floyd(-3, cover -2) again gives up an easy slant based on one stutter-step outside. Increased penalty for doing the same thing you just did like five minutes ago. Also he's still not even in position to tackle.|
|M42||1||10||I-form twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||Zone stretch||Mouton||2|
|Patterson(-1) scooped and sealed again; Demens eats OL. So does Mouton(+2.5) but he beats the block to the outside on the stretch and pops Robinson at the line. This is a great play, and one Mouton can make but doesn't too often.|
|M40||2||8||I-form big||Base 4-4||Pass||Waggle scramble||Mouton||0|
|Mouton(+1) reads it and *flies* upfield at Stanzi(pressure +1), forcing him to roll out further and eventually forcing him OOB slightly behind the sticks.|
|Michigan stunts, getting Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) through on Stanzi and forcing him to dump it off really early. Avery(-2, tackling -2) comes up way, way too hard on a play where all he has to do is make a lousy ankle tackle and completely whiffs. Demens(-1, tackling -1) takes an angle too far upfield but maybe he's just doing what he does and knows a tackle eleven yards downfield is death and if he can't make it short of the sticks why bother at all? In any case, he's too far upfield after the whiff and Robinson runs through an arm tackle for a bunch of yards. This isn't even really a juke here, it's just... a freshman. I need a drink.|
|M14||1||10||I-form twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Mouton||1|
|Linebackers attacking hard given the situation; Mouton(+1) avoids one block and Demens(+0.5) comes up to pick off a guy peeling off Patterson. Mouton tackles.|
|M13||2||9||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Sagesse||2|
|Two deep safeties as Michigan may expect pass. Sagesse(+1) at NT (finally) gets playside of his guy and drives him into the backfield, forcing Robinson outside. Demens(+0.5) is chasing from the inside, forcing it further out where Mouton(+1) has kept outside leverage against two guys and comes off to tackle. Banks had fallen here; dangerous without good play from the LBs.|
|M11||3||7||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Pass||5||Corner||T. Gordon||Inc|
|T. Gordon tears off the corner unblocked(+1, pressure +1) and nails Stanzi quickly; Stanzi just chucks it long to prevent a sack. No one open, FWIW.|
|Drive Notes: FG(38), 28-38, 3 min 4th Q. Last drive not charted as it is irrelevant.|
Demens? Demens Demens? Is it really pronounced "Demons"?
Sounds like you need a—
You're no fun.
|Van Bergen||5.5||1||4.5||Best performance on the day but that's just average.|
|Banks||3.5||4.5||-1||Is what he is. No pass rush.|
|Sagesse||1||2||-1||Wonder why he's not the backup NT.|
|Patterson||1.5||5.5||-4||Bled it slowly this time, at least.|
|Black||1.5||1||0.5||Did not play much except on passing downs.|
|TOTAL||13.5||15||-1.5||Roh still mostly DE here so his plus also factors in here; the worst day for an M DL in a very, very long time. Pressure metric will confirm.|
|Ezeh||-||1.5||-1.5||At least the humiliating pancake was the definitive last word.|
|Mouton||13||10||3||Frustratingly culpable for most of Iowa's cutback or bounce-out runs.|
|Roh||5||1||4||Okay, but not making a big impact.|
|Johnson||1.5||1.5||0||This is the life of a spur this year…|
|Demens||11.5||3.5||8||A full and sumptuous conversation later.|
|Fitzgerald||-||-||-||A couple plays only.|
|TOTAL||31||17.5||13.5||Competency! And terrible loss of leverage!|
|Floyd||2.5||11||-8.5||Oh my god the slants.|
|Rogers||-||5||-5||Oh my god the 31-yard TD.|
|C. Gordon||2||2||0||One good angle on a deep ball, one good tackle, some excessively conservative play.|
|Talbott||1||-||1||One tackle, little dime in this game.|
|Avery||-||5.5||-5.5||The whiff, the zone vacation, etc.|
|TOTAL||12.5||30||-17.5||It's dead, Jim.|
|Pressure||6||13||-7||Loss of Martin gave Stanzi luxurious amounts of time.|
|Coverage||16||21||-5||Corners came in for a beating.|
|Tackling||7||5||2||Pretty decent until the 404.|
[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
Losing Martin—even when he was in the game he was obviously not Martin—crushed the DL just like you would expect. With Martin out the only half-plausible rushers on the line are RVB and Roh, if he's coming, and since the other two guys can be single-blocked no problem all you have to do is leave one guy in to double the other two, and while they're not terrible they're not BG or Martin. Add in Patterson and Banks getting clubbed in the run game and it adds up to a very rare—possibly unprecedented—negative day for the DL to go with a –7 pressure.
The linebackers we'll get to in a sec; the secondary is just a debacle. Avery's a part of that but it's not like the starting corners are any good, either. The two slants Floyd gave up were incredibly frustrating, the second moreso than the first because you should be able to play off the receiver and tackle the slant for less than nine yards.
Yeah. Watching the game live I thought that he was an obvious upgrade over Ezeh but expected that when I went over the game in detail I'd find he was at fault for some of the longer Iowa runs or third down conversions, or had messed up in some way that had gone unexploited. I didn't. I found little things that I thought were good plays I hadn't seen live, like this:
There Patterson gets insta-scooped and the center is going to club the MLB five yards downfield and the tailback will get a nice gain, except this is Demens and he reads the block. He attacks, turning the center into the clubee and turning the Iowa line into a mass of bodies without a gap in it. Floyd comes up to tackle.
How many times did Iowa RBs find themselves facing a line with no penetration and no holes in it? Several. How many times did previous Michigan opponents face this? Essentially never. Good DL play with crappy linebacker play yields a lot of penetration and a lot of lanes where the DL aren't. Crappy DL play with good LB play is this, a bunch of bodies on the line with no windows to squeeze through.
This doesn't look like much but he's there when Mouton forces it inside:
This was 100% consistent. When plays were turned back inside Demens was there.
Meanwhile, this was the only instance where it seemed like he was burned on play action:
Is that really on him? It seems like it's mostly on Gordon being way, way too deep. Demens was eight yards deep on his drop and I can't see any way that him being better at pass D stops this play. I minused him here, but I'm not sure if he deserves it.
He's the undisputed starter now. Not to pile on the guy, but this is the first thing that will pop into any Michigan fan's head when Obi Ezeh is mentioned for the rest of time:
Fair or not (pretty much fair), that's the coda.
So if Demens was such a ninja how did Iowa rack up all those yards on the ground?
Mouton. I know he came out +3 but I'm annoyed with that, and annoyed with him. There will be a picture pages later today or tomorrow discussing Iowa's 11-yard touchdown run on which Mouton fought inside a tackle and gave up the corner when Demens was scraping to the hole; most of Iowa's long runs were on plays where Mouton did not contain the ball and drive it back inside. Here's one:
Black didn't do Mouton a ton of favors but he can't get upfield and essentially block himself there. Force it back inside and it might be a big gainer; let him outside and it will be.
On the same play I gave Demens a minus half because he bit up, but I was torn about that since he sees Sagesse chopped and knows there's going to be a cutback lane, then doesn't get locked up by the OL. He seems like a smart player. Mouton doesn't; he makes a lot of great plays but he is still consistently making errors similar in severity to Avery's zone messes. Avery's a true freshman. He's a fifth-year senior. He is better this year, but he's still mistake-prone.
Here a window opens up in the line. I know what Demens would do: hit it. Mouton gives up backside contain by attempting to scrape over the top on a jammed-up play and gives the cutback lane. The #1 answer to the question "why do we give up so many cutback runs" is Mouton.
These four plays represent 54 of Robinson's 110 or so yards that came with Demens in the game. On plays where the rest of the D allowed him to be involved Iowa averaged under 2.5 YPC. This is how you get +8 as an MLB. Mouton came out positive because he made some impressive plays and blame on those outside runs was shared with the DL; he was obviously Michigan's second-best LB on the day.
Why the hell didn't they put Demens on the field before?
Man, I don't know. I assume part of it is disciplinary; I heard from a good source that he got in some minor trouble in the offseason. Not trouble enough to actually warrant a suspension or justify leaving him off the field for the first half of the year, but something that would provide some drag as he attempted to pass a senior returning starter. That's the only explanation for the Moundros dalliance. Obviously they were dissatisfied with Ezeh; to go to a converted FB walk-on when you've got Demens in your pocket there has to be something off-field, whether it's attitude or whatever.
And then Obi had a game or two where he was moderately okay, and GERG apparently really likes him, and oh hell, I don't know. As you're bitching try to remember that this is the vastly preferable scenario. For the rest of this year and the next two years Michigan will have an upperclass starter who looks competent instead of yet another freshman or position switch guy.
Isn't this all a little too good to be true?
Yes. I mean, Cam Gordon imploded as soon as I said "I like the kid!" I've just doomed Demens.
What about the other ten guys?
Right. Something more specific?
That's a horrendous performance from the DL, isn't it?
Yes. For most of the day Stanzi's experience in the pocket was this:
Martin is the Woolfolk of the defensive line and not having him made the line 70% as bad as the secondary. (The secondary doesn't have an RVB and the line isn't starting freshmen.) Patterson does well to not get blown up by a single block and Banks is reason 1B for all the cutback runs; neither can sack the quarterback unless given a gilded invitation (Banks got credit for one for Stanzi's inexplicable run OOB, FWIW). There's nothing surprising here given what we know.
Is the secondary.
Yeah: Kenny Demens. Also, RVB and Roh did yeoman work against extra defensive attention and still came through to the good.
All cornerbacks save Talbott and Mouton, +3 be damned.
What does it mean for Penn State and beyond?
If Martin's not full go we're permadead, but you knew that. Secondary is dire, but you knew that.
Demens's emergence is huge. If he can maintain this level of play Michigan will have gone from some of the worst linebacker play in the league to average-ish, or even better, and they've filled a gaping hole in the 2011 and 2012 defenses with the upperclass years of an effective player. There is a nonzero chance that Michigan can kinda-sorta shut down Penn State's rushing attack. If Demens comes through the next three games unscathed Michigan just picked up a huge win.
Freshman quarterbacks ahoy!
This one's not going to be a revelation. It's just more of the same from nickelback Courtney Avery, who you may remember from "aargh crippling third down conversion" and "I play man coverage always." But I'm grabbing it to show just how damaging it is to have these guys who should be redshirting running around on the field.
It's third and ten from the Michigan 14 on Iowa's third drive; Michigan has an excellent chance to boot Iowa off the field here. They come out in a three-wide set. Michigan responds with its 4-2-5 nickel package:
Courtney Avery is the nickelback and the key guy. Michigan's going to rush four and play three deep, leaving four guys in underneath zones. Avery is on the hashmarks to the top of the picture on the slot receiver:
Iowa's underneath receivers run crossing routes past each other—a mesh route. the two receivers to the top of the screen are going vertical, with Rogers on the outside guy and Avery on the inside one:
Avery is dropping deep to cut off space but turns his back to the QB. Has anyone else turned his back to the QB? No:
Here you can see two things: 1) Avery actually did a good job of rerouting the slot. Iowa's receivers are running paired posts and they are a yard away from each other. Cam Gordon should be in position to make a play on a throw here; it's unlikely Stanzi will force it if the drag isn't breathtakingly open. 2) Avery is completely out of his zone moving inside with his back turned to the QB:
Stanzi sees it and throws just as Roh lights him up:
Avery is nowhere. He can't change direction fast enough to get back out to his zone. No one could:
- Courtney Avery should be redshirting. He looks like a quarterback who played a little man coverage in high school, because that's what he is.
- Courtney Avery is not redshirting. Never Forget.
- Rerouting receivers is an important part of zone coverage. Avery changes the WR's route here and forces it deeper, into an area in which Cam Gordon is a threat.
- …but you have to pass the guy off way faster than this. I can't imagine you're ever supposed to chase the guy this far inside, or totally turn your body away from the QB.
- Demens is fine here, I think. Mesh is tough on LBs in zone. Here he lets the receiver outside of him but he has to expect Avery will be there. He also knocks down the other guy running a drag, which is a bonus.
- This is four free points from a freshman DB after the rest of the team got a stop. Maybe if Avery pulls off the slot receiver Stanzi has a shot at him on the post but that's a tougher throw than the little drag route here and with the reroute and the pressure chances are Stanzi either throws the drag anyway and picks up five or eats a sack.
- I would abandon the nickel. Thomas Gordon is almost exactly Avery—a high school quarterback switching to nickel-type DB in college—except he's got a redshirt year behind him. I can understand the desire to get another DB on the field in passing situations but Avery's been a huge liability so far; Gordon has not made similar mistakes.
So there's this and there's 404 Tackle Not Found—two huge swing plays that went against Michigan's freshman nickelback. Missing Troy Woolfolk is an enormous deal.
Based on Dr. Saturday's sadly extinct "Life on the Margins" series, this post breaks down the Michigan-Iowa game past the score and total yardage.
|Michigan v. Iowa|
|Yards Per Play||6.38||6.07|
|Yards Per Possession||29.46||43.50|
|Average Start||Own 34||Own 23|
|Yards For Points||405||296|
|Yards for Points and Wasted Yards include penalties; Michigan's 'assistance' to Iowa makes their scoring drives longer than their total yardage.|
By total yardage and average drive performance, Michigan should have won this game, possibly comfortably. Without their starting quarterback for most of the second half, the Wolverines outgained Iowa by nearly 150 yards. However, it was the Michigan mistakes [ed: (tm)?] that killed the team.
On top of four turnovers - two by Tate Forcier, one each by Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith - the Wolverines also had a 38-yard field goal blocked and returned into positive territory for the Hawkeyes. That's a five-possession swing, more than enough to compensate for a two-score loss by the Wolverines.
Michigan's turnovers occurred at inopportune times as well. Vincent Smith fumbled in the redzone with the Wolverines down 14 points, and Tate Forcier offered up an interception around midfield on the following drive.
Those Damn Penalties
Drive-killing penalties (on themselves) or drive-extending penalties (graciously extended to the Hawkeyes) also played a major role. Though Iowa took a few penalties as well, Michigan's errors had a greater impact on the game:
- A facemask on the opening kick return of the game gives Iowa the ball in good field position at their own 38. Thanks to a Hawkeye penalty (see above), the drive stalls. IMPACT: minimal field position swing.
- The Wolverines had a 2nd and 3 until a Taylor Lewan personal foul pushed Michigan back 13 yards. Second and 16 led to a three-and-out. IMPACT: Loss of drive.
- JT Floyd breaks up an Iowa pass in the redzone, but interferes with Allen Reisner on the play. The play only nets the Hawkeyes two yards and a free down. They go on to score a touchdown on the drive (after Jordan Kovacs can't reel in an interception two plays later). IMPACT: four points for Iowa since they would have been kicking on fourth and ten without the unnecessary hold around the waist.
- Michigan has a 3rd and 5 at midfield, but a Stephen Schilling false start pushes it back to 3rd and 10. Michigan is forced to pass, and Denard Robinson throws an interception on the next play. IMPACT: partially responsible for turnover.
- Michigan is threatening with a 1st-and-10 on Iowa's 15. A false start penalty leads to three straight plays for loss or no gain, and Seth Broekhuizen's 38-yard field goal attempt is blocked. IMPACT: significant. Most likely three points, maybe more.
- After an Iowa score, Jeremy Gallon returns the ball to the 25. A block in the back brings it to the seven. Michigan is able to move the ball on the drive, but eventually punts to close out the half. IMPACT: 50/50 loss of TD. With the additional 19 yards Michigan would have been at the Iowa 25 and would have had an opportunity to go for it on fourth and one.
- With Michigan in serious catch-up mode down 21 in the third quarter, a false start penalty on their first play of a drive doesn't prevent them from scoring a touchdown. It does take a little more time off the clock. IMPACT: minimal.
- On the ensuing drive, JT Floyd pulls Adam Robinson down at the Michigan 40-yard line... by the facemask. The Hawkeyes are able to punch it in from the 25 in three plays, pushing their lead back to three scores. IMPACT: aided Hawkeye TD drive considerably.
- Michigan kicks the ball out of bounds TWICE in the fourth quarter, giving the Hawkeyes the ball on their own 40-yard line. The Hawkeyes score on both ensuing drives (one touchdown, one field goal). IMPACT: argh.
Volume and timing of penalties conspired to doom Michigan on the day. Maybe a really good team can overcome those errors, but...
But What Does It All Mean?
Like Rich Rodriguez has been saying for the better part of three years, this team isn't good enough to play poorly and win. If "playing poorly" can include running up over 500 yards of offense, it should be happy times in Ann Arbor when they do finally play well. What's exciting is that we've seen that earlier this year, when Michigan had zero turnovers against UConn and Notre Dame.
So, can a bye week cure all the ills that plague Michigan? Probably not. But it can cure some. The coaches did an excellent job preaching discipline in fall camp, and the Wolverines committed very few turnovers and penalties to start the year. If they can drill that again in this two-week period, improvement is sure to follow.
Couple that with the healthy return of the team's best quarterback (and I don't mean to bag on Forcier, because he was mostly good, but the team's backup quarterback was responsible for 2 turnovers), running back, offensive lineman, and defensive lineman, and the future is maybe not as bleak as it seemed after Saturday's game.
[Ed: This shouldn't be construed as a "Michigan deserved to win" post. Errors are errors, and Michigan's were severe. The field position difference is enormous: 11 yards over 11 drives is 121 yards, or almost all of Michigan's yardage advantage.
We should distinguish between talent breakdowns like Denard bombing away to Tyler Sash and plain stupid crap like Lewan's PF and the false starts or the kicker putting two(!) kickoffs out of bounds. The former's more likely to recur than the latter, and Michigan made a number of their mistakes because they were forced into them in ways that Michigan's defense could not replicate. Some of the extra mistakes are a real trend... but how many?
The next three weeks will tell.]
Taking stock during the bye week.
People thought I was depressive when the secondary preview started "what's the point of anything?"
WHO'S DEPRESSIVE NOW!?!?! YEAHHHHH. Score one for cold-eyed realism. This could be the worst secondary in a BCS conference. It's definitely the worst in Michigan history.
Anyway, cornerback got a 1 and I thought about breaking the rules to go lower:
Nothing has ever gotten a zero before even jokingly, not even the 2008 offensive line that consisted of seven guys who could plausibly play and actually started a defensive tackle who had been switched in the middle of fall camp. But I thought about it here. What Michigan has to offer at corner is going to be substandard unless a great miracle falls from the sky, and will probably be no better than last year's fare even before Woolfolk moved.
Some vague hopes were offered for JT Floyd despite his ugly, brief tenure as the starter opposite Donovan Warren once Boubacar Cissoko went ham. These were based on constant positive reinforcement from the coaches and the occasional mysterious practice observer, with the latter given more credence because they didn't have an obvious ulterior motive. "Average" was the "best anyone could hope for," though.
Opposite Floyd I took a wild guess that Cullen Christian would end up starting—if not immediately by the time the Big Ten season hit—because he was the most highly-touted recruit and was not James Rogers. Avery and Talbott were regarded as basically identical recruits who needed a year and 20 pounds before seeing the field. They wouldn't be allowed that luxury.
At safety 2 was offered, "generously." Jordan Kovacs was said to be totally incapable of playing a deep half but "pretty good as a tiny linebacker." In sum:
So Kovacs is going to have to cover a deep half sometimes. This won't go very well, and Michigan's defense will be limited by it. On the other hand, the run defense shouldn't be nearly as bad with Kovacs filling the weakside alley; last year he racked up 75 tackles despite the late start. Marvin Robinson will press Kovacs for his job, but probably not take it. Iowa and Wisconsin have gotten away with players like him for years.
At free safety, Cam Gordon was named the Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype. The usual accolades were relayed, the thing about how he should probably be a linebacker mentioned, and a projection of a sort offered:
As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. … Repeating [Brandon Englemon's] +0.7 per game would go a very long way towards bringing Michigan's defense back from the dead. That's optimistic. Cam Gordon will chase more than a couple opponents into the endzone. But not on third and twenty-four.
Fast forward to NOW!
nothing really matters… anyone can see… that nothing really matters to meeeeeeeeeee
Depressingly accurate overall even considering the original depression that was depressing. Michigan is 118th in pass defense and 94th in efficiency.
Maybe the corners have been slightly less atrocious than expected, but Michigan's been limited when they try to play man coverage because things like Iowa's last touchdown happen when they do. On that play, Michigan sent the house and JT Floyd gave up a slant despite starting with inside leverage. They make plays on occasion, but lord they're not good. Michigan's defense is limited in the same way their offense was in 2008—with deficiencies that severe man coverage is a dangerous gamble every time it's deployed.
Floyd is significantly improved, so there's that. He's still below average. He's not a total liability. On the other side, Michigan hasn't been able to displace Rogers despite his tendency to go into anaphylactic shock whenever he comes within five yards of an opponent wide receiver…
OH MY GOD WHAT DID YOU DO BATHE IN CAT HAIR
…because the freshmen have been playing like typical three-star true freshmen: badly. They first started rotating into the lineup against BG; since then
- Cullen Christian was burned twice against BG and gave up an easy long touchdown against Michigan State,
- Terrence Talbott was primarily responsible for turning third and fifteen into first and ten on Michigan State's second touchdown drive and gave Indiana their last touchdown by dragging out of his zone, and
- Courtney Avery was personally responsible for large chunks of Indiana yards, gave up a touchdown on third and ten against Iowa by dragging out of his zone, and turned what should have been another third and ten stop into a whiffed tackle, 20 yards, and the field goal that was the final nail in Michigan's coffin.
This is disappointing, especially Christian's failure to beat out not only Rogers but apparently his classmates. Talbott and Avery feature in the nickel and dime packages while Christian backed up the outside guy; he has apparently lost that job. too—Avery came in against Iowa when JT Floyd missed a few plays.
At safety, Kovacs has been Kovacs. He's small, he's not very fast, but he's probably the team's best tackler and he's been in the right spot more often than anyone on the defense. This has resulted in a bunch of UFRs where he's got several half-points in each direction and comes out at zero. He could be the fifth-best player on a good defense.
Cam Gordon has been rough, honestly little better than the mess Michigan threw out last year. He racked up a double-digit negative day against Notre Dame and followed that up with another one against Michigan State. His angles have been too aggressive or too conservative with little porridge in-between, and he's failed to shake a nasty habit of not wrapping up his tackles. He's pretty good running downhill, and that's about it. Preseason hype has given way to cold reality. Gordon is a redshirt freshman converted wide receiver who should probably be playing linebacker. He plays safety like he's a bowling ball: he goes fast in one direction and hopes to knock over the pins with momentum because he has no arms.
Fast forward to LATER!
What can we expect the rest of the year? Pain, but less of it.
Rodriguez made an offhand comment about maybe moving someone from one safety spot to another when discussing the possibility of a Will Campbell move, but that would either be Jordan Kovacs or Marvin Robinson. Kovacs's tenure at deep safety last year was hardly less disastrous than that of Mike William or Gordon; Marvin Robinson is yet another freshman who is likely to make the same sorts of mistakes.
Gordon's it unless Michigan wants to turn to true freshman two-star Ray Vinopal, who picked off a pass from a third-string Bowling Green walk-on and has therefore made the best play by a Michigan safety in the last ten years. I'm not sure if that's a joke.
Floyd's not very good, Rogers is what he is at this point, and the freshmen are clearly not instant impact types, except insofar as they give up an extra touchdown per game than a Michigan secondary featuring Troy Woolfolk. That is an impact, just not the one you're hoping for.
Your best hopes the rest of the year:
- Courtney Avery learns WTF a zone is and how to play it.
- Cam Gordon's angles and tackling improve marginally.
- JT Floyd progresses towards average and at least gets basic things right.
Actually, your best hope is this: Michigan did okay against the two rookies and/or flat bad quarterbacks they've faced to date. Zack Fraser didn't do anything. ND's three-headed QB was contained. Bowling Green couldn't do much of anything. Michigan's next three opponents all feature freshmen at QB; they're ranked 104th (PSU), 105th (Illinois), and 107th (Purdue) in passing efficiency. They're bound to be less effective than the last three guys, a senior returning starter, junior returning starter, and senior returning starter who are all in the top 30 in passer efficiency. Tolzien will shred, but who knows what Terrelle Pryor will do? (Probably shred, actually—he has no problems against awful Ds this year.)
By the end of the year Michigan's numbers will be slightly less grim as the schedule eases and the freshmen learn WTF a zone is. They will still be grim.