Michigan (12-3, 2-0 B1G) at
Purdue (13-2, 1-1)
West Lafeyette, Indiana
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Thursday|
|LINE||Purdue -9 (KenPom)|
PBP: Adam Amin
Analyst: Craig Robinson
Right: Purdue Pete struggles to cope with 2013 Michigan's talent [Fuller].
Caris LeVert returned to practice yesterday after a one-game absence following his rolled ankle against Illinois. His pain level will determine if he's able to give it a go tonight:
“He’s been trying to do different things,” Beilein said. “Caris will be out there in practice today, and we’ll see how he does. If he is not able to do it without pain, he will not play. If he plays without pain, he’ll be in there.”
Beilein noted that LeVert will continue to try in practices until he’s healthy, including Thursday’s pregame shootaround in West Lafayette, and said that he will warm up tomorrow and see how he feels before a decision is made.
LeVert's presence is of paramount importance against the top-ranked defensive squad in the country.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||3||PJ Thompson||So.||5'10, 188||54||12||No|
|Low usage, decent outside shooter, solid assist:turnover ratio.|
|G||35||Rapheal Davis||Sr.||6'6, 217||48||18||No|
|Reigning B1G DPOY has developed into plus shooter. True lockdown guy.|
|F||12||Vince Edwards||So||6'8, 225||61||19||No|
|Inside-outside threat boasts team's highest assist rate.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||Fr.||6'9, 250||68||24||Not really|
|Heralded freshman is beast on boards, still finding consistency on offense.|
|C||20||AJ Hammons||Sr.||7'0, 250||48||26||Very|
|Living up to his potential: monster rebounder and shot-blocker, shooting 62%.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||So.||7'2, 282||42||29||Very|
|If Hammons was bigger and looked like Ivan Drago, he'd be Isaac Haas.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||So.||6'4, 200||48||14||No|
|Just A Shooter™, hits 35% of his threes.|
|G||1||Johnny Hill||Sr.||6'3, 187||45||17||Very|
|Strong finisher for a PG, but lost starting gig due to TOs and lack of 3P shot.|
|G||21||Kendall Stephens||Jr.||6'7, 205||42||22||Not really|
|High-volume gunner off the bench but only making 33% of threes.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Ring the silent alarm
— Kyle (@grade_eh_tweets) January 6, 2016
IN QB commit Brandon Peters tells Sam Webb that Michigan has two silent commitments on the West squad at the Army game. "Silent commits" are always a dubious notion, but they do work out frequently—FL LB Devin Bush Jr was a silent for months—and if one of those guys is announcing at the game itself that would be a good indicator indeed.
FWIW, Michigan is involved with these uncommitted players on the West squad: CA WR Dylan Crawford, MI CB Lavert Hill, CA CB David Long, MI WR Donnie Corley, and CA TE Devin Asiasi. Michigan has always seemed to trail for Corley and isn't even certain to get a visit from Asiasi so it would have to be two of the former three. Crawford seems the most likely since he's announcing at the game, has only officially visited Michigan and Oregon, and the Ducks reportedly do not have room.
Things look good for the two defensive backs but neither feels entirely certain right now. Long is down to Michigan and Washington; a mid-January official to UW looms. Long says Michigan will have an in-home with him just before his decision and that might give them "a little edge" in an interview with Brandon Brown.
Steve Wiltfong thinks it's a bigger edge as he recently ballz'd Long to Michigan after Long told him that he's "going to follow through with my schedule… but my mind is kind of made up." Webb also believes Michigan is "in the driver's seat." Long goes way back with Crawford and a couple of different articles have mentioned the attraction of playing together; our expectation is that they do in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile Hill is officially not announcing at the Army game and will take a series of official visits in January before announcing on Signing Day. On the other hand, Corley told Eugene Hankerson that Hill has already made up his mind. So… yeah. Optimism on Hill has been off the charts for months; his desire to see a bunch of places in January reduces that somewhat. Still seems highly likely that Harbaugh and brother win out eventually.
Hopes not so much up for this one
GA TE Isaac Nauta's decision has been made. Apparently it was difficult.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 6, 2016
Hopefully the difficulty there is "disappointing people close to me" instead of "passing up an opportunity to be a Harbaugh tight end." But probably not. Webb has an interview in which Nauta says a lot of great things about Michigan; despite that I think literally everyone expects Georgia is the pick. He'll announce at the Army game.
Meanwhile, CA TE Devin Asiasi really wants to play on offense but didn't get to show much in that department for his high school team; he apparently Balled So Hard early at the Army game. Brandon Huffman was impressed:
Asiasi is a big tight end, 6-5, 265-ish, but can absolutely run and catch like a lighter tight end. He's a smooth pass-catcher with a big catch radius, has soft hands, runs tremendous routes and looks natural playing the position.
Asiasi still maintains he will visit three schools not named Michigan in January—M is trying to get a midweek visit. That doesn't sound good but if the guy wants to be a tight end there's no better place. If he does end up visiting I'd give Michigan a good chance.
Paging one more defensive end
There's probably one spot left for a defensive end and three main possibilities for the spot.
Onwuzurike Onwuzurike Onwuzurike
Depending on who you listen to, TX DE Levi Onwuzurike is either the top priority (247 and Scout) or an afterthought (Rivals). I'm fairly certain Onwuzurike is in fact the most wanted guy at the spot.
Webb gathers the opinions of a couple of Scout Texas guys, who both think Onwuzurike is a major talent (Scout has him ranked highest of any service) and think Onwuzurike is a Baylor-Michigan battle. This is good, because various other people think it's a Washington-Michigan battle, and when you're the one school amongst changing other schools you're in good shape.
If Onwuzurike does go with one of his other finalists Michigan will try to lock down either AZ DE Connor Murphy or FL DE Joshua Uche. Murphy is a Harbaugh guy after his brother made it to the NFL after passing through Harbaugh's Stanford program; Miami decommit Uche is a new offer made in the immediate aftermath of Don Brown's hire.
Murphy recently expressed frustration with a a bunch of coaching changes amongst the teams he's considering, which made it into an article at Oregon Live since the Ducks just demoted their DC back to LB coach and fired the LB coach—Murphy's primary recruiter—after blowing a 31-point lead in their bowl game.
Smh @CMurph_90 has journalists writing articles about his subtweets
— Hunter Parks (@HPonDaDiamond) January 5, 2016
And, well, yeah. Murphy's kind of a big deal. And the teams he's considering have been chaos on the defensive side. In addition to the Oregon moves, DJ Durkin left M, USC has no DC, and ASU is in flux after OC Mike Norvell became Memphis's head coach and started raiding the former staff.
Michigan at least has the Harbaugh connection and a settled staff, and the article asserts a thing I didn't know was a fact.
Arizona State, Michigan, Oregon, Stanford and USC could all still be in the mix for the dynamic defensive talent, although the Wolverines are seen as the leader given Murphy's strong family bond with Jim Harbaugh.
I put a ballz in for Murphy like a year ago but we've maintained it mostly because if we are right we get crazy points for it since it's so old—we have no real idea which way Murphy is leaning. Michigan does have a big advantage in coaching relationships despite the Durkin move. A 'Bama visit looms after Michigan's shot, though.
Not much is known about Uche's status. Miami apparently hasn't talked to him since Richt arrived and now he's uncertain if he's even on their board. He's got visits to Florida and Michigan scheduled and should be a Signing Day decision.
Elliott continues to impress
TX DT Jordan Elliott is consistently mentioned as one of the best players at the Army Bowl. Rivals:
From the beginning of the day, Elliott caught everyone's attention. His first step caused problems for interior linemen throughout the day. He was ready to play today and blew up play after play during team and inside drills. His lower body strength and quickness definitely stood out.
Elliott has stood out more consistently on the defensive side of the ball than any other front seven player. …has done pretty much whatever he's wanted. He's big, explosive, and has experience playing multiple positions, though he's at his best as an even-front 3-technique tackle.
Meanwhile Steve Wiltfong called Elliott "an elite talent":
The country’s No. 7 defensive tackle according to 247Sports took several dominant reps, shoots the gap quickly and is a strong pass rusher from the interior. One of the more physically impressive guys on the field, Elliott is also one of the better athletes in small space with his quick first step.
Wiltfong would be surprised if he wasn't in the two deep "right away," which would in fact surprise me given the depth Michigan has coming back. I'm guessing Wiltfong isn't considering what Michigan brings back when he makes that statement; all the same that's impressive praise.
FWIW, Elliott again repeatedly shot down the idea he was anything but 100% solid to Michigan. He must be wondering how many times he has to say it by now.
Michael Onwenu is a mutant
DT Jordan Elliott vs OL Michael Onwenu pic.twitter.com/ewnTdnMrR7
— Brian Perroni (@Perroni247) January 4, 2016
Onwenu was one of the few to stay in front of Elliott
People usually don't come shaped like MI OL Michael Onwenu, who could not be weighed at the Army Bowl because the scale only goes up to 350. Unsurprisingly, there's "no question he was the strongest offensive lineman" at the Army Bowl, but when you put "perhaps the quickest" on top of that, as Wiltfong did, that's an impressive prospect. As a bonus, despite being a 6'3" guard Onwenu comes with tackle-length arms:
[Onwenu] had the biggest hands (11 inches) and second longest arms (35 inches) of any prospect in attendance.
If Onwenu works out he could really, really work out. He did impressive work against the best DT at the game—Elliott. Webb:
No one got past him, as he consistently stonewalled defenders at the line of scrimmage. Onwenu won back to back reps versus Elliot, showing that once he gets his paws on a defender, they’re done.
"Paws" may be literal here.
Other Army Bowl reports
Reports are mixed for Michigan's other Army targets. Hill just missed ALPHA DOG status on day one according to 247. He's a "lockdown corner with elite feet, great speed and quicks," which makes him sound like a guy Hill talks to every day—Jourdan Lewis.
IN QB Brandon Peters seems to be a notch behind the five stars at the event. Wiltfong:
Michigan commit Brandon Peters has a live, accurate arm and he also showed nice touch. He’ll be fun to watch develop in Ann Arbor as the Avon (Ind.) High talent continues to work on his fundamentals.
Webb was higher on his performance:
On Monday, he looked the part. You could argue that no other quarterback was better than him. Peters was impressive, showing off arm strength and accuracy.
He doesn't have a say in the rankings, though.
Weeble wobblers are committed but visiting
Nate Johnson stiffarms the dictionary all day bruh
Behold the most crootin quote of all time (ALL TIME):
“I’m committed to Michigan right now, so everyone knows I’m going to Michigan. If nothing changes, like decommitting, which I’m probably not gonna do, but we’ll see. Everyone will know that. If I decommit from Michigan, which I won’t, I’ll definitely hold off all the way until signing day.”
-TN WR commit(?) Nate Johnson
So. Despite having 23 commits, Michigan's class is still in considerable flux. A number of recruits aren't hearing much from the staff, and a handful of other guys are doing the committed-but-visiting thing that sets your teeth to grating if you're the kind of person who occasionally screams "you mean FIGURATIVELY" at people saying they literally ate a horse. (Guilty.)
Anyway, those guys are:
- TN WR Nate Johnson, who is visiting Miami, Vanderbilt, and Penn State. He says he is 100% committed, but… you saw the quote. None of those teams seem like particularly large threats. Johnson recently got a Virginia Tech offer as well, and… I mean… you saw the quote.
- IN WR/DB Chris Evans got an Ohio State offer and will "official for sure" since OSU was the proverbial dream school. I bet a thousand dollars that if Evans flips Bill Kurelic compares him favorably to Kareem Walker even though they're completely different prospects.
- CA WR Dylan Crawford isn't even committed yet but we should throw him in this bin since he also plans January visits to Miami, Washington, and Georgia plus an unofficial to UCLA.
- FL DT Rashad Weaver has a Temple visit scheduled.
- IN ATH Kiante Enis visited Indiana and says he hadn't heard much from Michigan a couple weeks back.
- FL LB Devin Gil and FL S Josh Metellus took a trip to Colorado last month (so did Devin Bush, but he's already enrolled).
- NJ WR Brad Hawkins and NJ DE Ron Johnson may visit North Carolina, South Carolina, or neither.
There are a couple other guys who may leave the class as well; Michigan is probably going to have a significant shuffle in the next few weeks. One that won't involve Jordan Elliott.
Your 2016 early enrollees are…
These gentlemen have already arrived on campus or will as soon as they're done with the Army game:
- IN QB Brandon Peters
- NJ RB Kareem Walker
- AL RB Kingston Davis
- NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell
- MA TE Sean McKeon
- CO DE Carlo Kemp
- FL LB Devin Bush Jr.
All eyes will be on the tailbacks and Bush headed into the spring game.
- GA WR commit Jeremiah Holloman had a terrific Rising Stars camp: Jake Reuse, a Georgia reporter said he was "the most impressive offensive player at the practices," which included a lot of top 2017 kids in Georgia.
- MI CB Ambry Thomas tells Steve Lorenz that things are "going really well" with Michigan and that he's planning on deciding this spring after a swing through various SEC schools. MSU, the crystal ball favorite, doesn't draw much mention.
- MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell is "slowing things down" and wants to visit Stanford, Duke, and UCLA; he was generally expected to drop for Michigan if he did indeed commit early. Michigan should still be in good shape since he goes to Cass and his parents are both alums. Given his list you know he's a high academic kid.
- MI LB Antjuan Simmons is just across the street from the Big House and has "really built a strong bond" with 2017 commit Ja'Raymond Hall. Simmons intends on making all his officials even so.
- MI WR KJ Hamler really wants an Oregon offer because he is small and fast as hell. He plans on camping there and it sounds like they're the real leader if they offer. Given what Ace saw this fall, I bet they do.
- FL CB Stanford Samuels III goes to Flanagan HS, which you may be familiar with since three commits in this class are Flanagan kids. That gives Michigan an in, but he's a national recruit—Scout has him #15 overall in 2017—and he'll be a tough pull.
- 2017 five-star TX S Jeffery Okudah put Michigan on his top ten list but says that Stanford and Ohio State are sticking out at the moment. He does plan a visit; early days for him.
NJ WR Donald Stewart is still planning a visit on the 22nd. He hasn't heard about Stanford admission yet, which is a major hitch for his presumed leader. No idea if Michigan will have room for him, but he remains an option.
Melanie Maxwell | The Ann Arbor News
Make an outlandish prediction for 2016.
Adam: De'Veon Smith will rush for 1,000+ yards with 5 yards per carry. Smith should have a little more room to run in 2016 thanks to John O'Korn's downfield aptitude, the development of Jehu Chesson from receiver with track speed to receiver with track speed and hands, and an offensive line that will have two years of getting Drevno'd under their belts.
Five YPC is a lofty estimate, but if Smith shows the kind of vision he did in the bowl game it's attainable; he rushed for 109 yards and 4.4 YPC against S&P+'s fifth-ranked run defense. Smith was injured most of the year, and his carries and yards/game dropped as a result. I think he would have gotten double-digit carries in every game had he not been hurt and expect him to in 2016. I also don't think there's another back on the roster who's likely to steal those extra carries. Sure, Kareem Walker will probably play, but I'd be surprised if he gets more than the 55 carries Drake Johnson got in 2015.
[Hit THE JUMP because someone makes a lemon bet on a linebacker]
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- QB Jake Rudock. Iowa transfer was a jittery mess for the first half and Andrew Luck Jr for the second. Cracked 3,000 passing yards with good efficiency and a solid TD/INT ratio; ended year by dicing up three top-ten pass defenses. Will be missed unless Harbaugh just Harbaughs himself another excellent QB, which is Harbaugh likely.
- C Graham Glasgow. Three year starter was always good even if it was near-impossible to tell without going into UFR-level depth. Stepped up as a senior and was, IMO, an All Big Ten-level performer. Michigan has a couple promising options to replace him; don't underrate his loss.
- TE AJ Williams. Went from symbol of the flaccid Hoke era to symbol of the player development Jim Harbaugh brings to the table. Improved his blocking immensely, quadrupled career receiving stats, was no longer a one-dimensional tight end who did not actually deliver on that dimension, blew guys off ball with consistency. I don't think I've ever seen a senior get that much better since… Bennie Joppru? Probably Bennie Joppru.
- FBs Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge. Treated as a unit. Solid to excellent blockers both with Kerridge a capable receiver and captain and Houma a promising mooseback capable of juking Florida linebackers. Normally a position met with a shrug these days, it's a much bigger deal under Harbaugh. Henry Poggi returns but hasn't touched a ball in anger yet.
- As of yet unknown attrition. Departures are on the way. Some of those will undoubtedly be on offense. Guys not playing at WR, RB, and QB are likely to be amongst the departures. None project to have significant 2016 roles unless the wild Rivals rumor about a starting OL not being asked back pans out. I'm skeptical about that.
- TE Jake Butt. 654 receiving yards a year ago with two-count-em-two drops all year. Blocking was finesse but relatively effective. Smoked touted Florida CB on route in bowl game. Should be nation's top receiving tight end and get that Mackey award he was inexplicably denied this year. A bit more oomph on the ground would be nice.
- OL Mason Cole. Emerged into a top-shelf run blocker in year two. Pass blocking was generally good but there were struggles against elite edge rushers like Yannick Ngakoue and Joey Bosa. Smart, technical player could get moved inside if Grant Newsome is Michigan's #5 OL.
- WR Jehu Chesson. Comparisons went from Stonum to Breaston to Manningham over the course of the season. Multi-use threat effective as a runner, blocker, and increasingly as a receiver. 764 yards and 9 TDs despite being chronically missed for the first half of the season, plus a KOR TD and a number of jet sweeps that went a long way. Has his shit together.
- WR Amara Darboh. Avant comparisons were on point, as he amply demonstrated on that catch. You know. That one. Solid intermediate threat with excellent hands and a large catching radius. Avant-esque. Like Avant. Reminiscent of Avant.
- RB De'Veon Smith. Nuclear-powered icebreaker back was frustrating much of the year but great against the Gators. If proverbial click has clicked and he knows where to go most of the time can be prototypical Harbaugh back. Superior blocker; may get drafted at fullback part-time a la BJ Askew.
- OLs Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden. All thrown into the same lump because they were more or less the same guy. All had their struggles, particularly the guards; all had their successes. All are likely to get incrementally better as senior returning starters, but it wouldn't be out of the question for one of them to get knocked out of the lineup if Kugler and Newsome emerge or Michigan picks up Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson.
- FB/TE Henry Poggi. Last year's version of early AJ Williams. Had one catch for two yards, did not carry the ball, was a blocker and only a blocker. As a blocker he was generally effective when he made contact with a person. He failed to accomplish this with understandable frequency since he was flipped from the DL in spring. Should improve significantly in that department but must be more of a threat to have the ball.
- RB Drake Johnson. Michigan's quickest back by far but career has been limited by injury.
- RB/WR Jabrill Peppers. Oh right that guy. In year two under Harbaugh should emerge as a guy who gets ten touches a game on a variety of screens, sweeps, and straight-up runs and throws.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
O'Korn is generally considered the leader at QB [Fuller]
Probably John O'Korn. Michigan's QB derby is currently a five-way battle that will add a sixth contender in Brandon Peters and maybe a seventh if Harbaugh goes back to the grad-transfer well, but after a season of scout-team hype anyone other than Houston transfer O'Korn would be a moderate surprise.
O'Korn is the platonic opposite of Jake Rudock. He is Ryan Mallett, more or less, capable of throwing for 3,000 yards as a true freshman and equally capable of going full Hackenberg on WR screens in an increasingly frustrating situation and getting deservedly benched as a sophomore. He is a big, strapping fellow with good wheels who can uncork pinpoint 40-yard passes on the run. He threw an array of insane interceptions and made other mistakes in bunches at Houston, but given a year of understudy under Harbaugh both the natural maturation process and the coaching upgrade promise big things.
Half the running back rotation. This space projects that De'Veon Smith ends up absorbing most of the carries from the fullback spot and plays enough RB to remain Michigan's leading rusher. That will leave about half the total carries available. Peppers, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, and freshmen Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis figure to scrap over the remainder.
Only Peppers is a lock to get a bunch of touches, because he is Peppers. The rest could go anywhere; Michigan fans are hoping the freshmen step up immediately. It could happen.
An offensive lineman, maybe two. Grant Newsome is a heavy favorite to be the fifth starter on the offensive line after Michigan burned his redshirt midseason so he could be a sixth OL in heavy packages. Newsome is an ideal left tackle, though, and Michigan has an incumbent. Look for Mason Cole to move inside, as his run blocking is considerably ahead of his pass protection.
It is possible that Michigan could mix things up more extensively if they feel their best five includes Patrick Kugler or Raulerson, potentially bumping Mason Cole to guard instead of center. If that happens it's probably a good thing.
Receivers and blocky/catchy types past the Big Three. We're filing Grant Perry as "new" since he made little impact last year except in the first and last games. In the former case that impact was massively negative; in the latter a pleasant surprise. Perry, Drake Harris, Moe Ways, and tight ends Ian Bunting and Khalid Hill will compete to fill snaps vacated by Williams and the departing fullbacks.
Unless there's an injury none will emerge into prime targets; the goal there is for Michigan to have guys ready to step in when Darboh, Chesson, and Butt all depart after next year.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1976
The peripheral nature of most of the previous section's bullet points. Michigan needs to find a QB, an OL, and half a running back. They have less to replace than 95% of D-I programs.
Three Amigos 2016. Butt, Darboh, and Chesson are a receiving trio that might be on par with the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston set. If Chesson continues his development he is a legit #1; Butt probably would have been the second tight end off the board if he announced for the NFL draft; Darboh is a circus-catch wizard and burly possession guy to move the chains. Nobody in the league is going to have a set of pass-catchers like that.
Continuity. Hey look Michigan has the same coaching staff for the second consecutive year, running the same offense. They have the same players running it, for the most part. This has been a rare treasure of late.
Experience. Michigan projects to have seniors start at eight of eleven positions, and one of the exceptions is Mason Cole.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2016
how much better can these gentlemen get? [Upchurch]
Blocking upside. I thought Michigan had two very good offensive linemen and three guys who were meh. One of the very good guys is gone; the three meh guys are all going to be redshirt seniors. I'm not sure how much any of them will improve. I mean, they should improve, but the kind of leap Cole took last year from meh to very good is unlikely.
Similarly, I don't think Jake Butt is suddenly going to be a murderous blocker. This doesn't feel like a run game that gets amazing unless it was really all targeting issues.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The O'Kornininging, or Speightininging, or Whoeverining. New quarterback is always a worry, albeit less so when Jim Harbaugh is his quarterback coach. O'Korn has all the tools you could want and seemingly went to Houston because he was wild and unrefined. He could be Ryan Mallett or he could be Ryan Mallett, if you get my drift.
Will the tailbacks be any good? I'd give that position group a D for the year. Kareem Walker may not be the quick fix everyone was vaguely hoping for when they heard the #1 back in the country was going to decommit from OSU and flip to Michigan. Recruiting consensus on Walker has dipped to the point where he's a good, not great prospect. (This might actually be good for Michigan given the track record of five-star backs in Ann Arbor.)
Smith and Johnson gave a glimmer of hope in the bowl game, enough to bump this from bad to dunno.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
It all hinges on INSERT QB HERE. If he comes in hot and we get a year of Late Rudock production this should be an offense that takes a major step forward. Whoever does get the job is going to have a terrific receiving corps, solid or better pass protection, and Jabrill Peppers hanging around.
The run game is a bit of a question mark still. Michigan has no slam-dunk back and probably won't see their OL take a quantum leap forward. Real improvement is likely, though. Michigan gets four OL back and will have continuity, plus both returning tailbacks who played in the bowl showed major improvement.
For context, Michigan finished 30th in offensive S&P+ this year, 43rd on the ground and 8th(!!!) in the air. They should be able to push the ground number up 10 to 20 spots, and if O'Korn hits the ground running and maintains that passing number—somewhat tough but he'll be operating in a friendly environment—Michigan should get into the top 20 teams statistically.
I'd say maintaining the passing production is unlikely, but a quick glance at Jim Harbaugh's track record with quarterbacks suggests it is anything but.
It's more likely than not this will go in. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Before Michigan takes on Purdue in their first huge test of conference play, I took a few questions on the season thus far and the outlook going forward. Let's start with a fun one.
— NOSDOOM (@MGoFour) January 6, 2016
Not at all unreasonable! Michigan is essentially at the midpoint of the season—they've played 15 of their 31 regular-season games—and Robinson is shooting 57% on over six three-point attempts per game. That alone is a good sample to go on and feel optimistic.
It's also reasonable based on the eye test. Robinson gets his share of great looks created by the LeVert/Irvin/Walton trio, which knows by now that finding Robinson open on the perimeter is the most optimal shot to generate on a given possession. Mark Donnal's emergence as a pick-and-roll threat is creating more open looks for Robinson as the spot-up option in a three-man game; even if that's not sustainable against better teams, it can only help his output compared to the beginning of the year, when M had little P&R game to speak of.
Most importantly, we already know Robinson is an incredible shooter. He hit 46% of his threes as a freshman at Williams while being the focal point of the offense. He spent his redshirt year shattering Nik Stauskas' practice records. He's got a textbook, repeatable stroke, leaving him less prone to the streakiness of a guy like Zak Irvin.
For Robinson to drop to 50% on the year, he'd have to cool off considerably. If we assume he finishes the season with 200 three-point attempts (he's at 91 right now), he'd have to shoot 44%—a 13-point dropoff from his current average—just to sink to 50%. While his shooting may take a hit due to the increased level of competition, I don't think the effect will be nearly that drastic. This is a special player.
[Hit THE JUMP for a breakdown of M's win probability against top-tier teams, parallels between this squad and the 2011-12 team, a guess at the next breakout performance, and more.]
How does a mediocre running team do this:
…to one of the best run defenses in the country? Let's discuss.
Entering this game Florida was fifth in rush D to S&P+, giving up just 4.4 YPC with sacks removed, which means they turned their opponents' running games into basically Florida's freshman-infested running game. In our diagram for Ace's FFFF we gave 7/11 defensive starters a "dangerman" star, and three(!) got the shield that's reserved for the top players at their position in the country. Among them was end Jonathan Bullard, perhaps the best run-defending player in the nation, and strong safety Marcus Maye.
And yet Michigan, whose running game was barely better than Florida's this year, ran on that: 225 yards on 46 carries. Brian mentioned in the game column that a lot of this came from a reinvigorated De'Veon Smith, and from my rewatch I bet you the UFR will bear that out. There was also a little RPS, some great plays by individual offensive linemen (Mason Cole and Graham Glasgow had very good games), and some Harbaugh games.
Part I: Florida throws paper
The run above, which came mid-way through the 2nd quarter, must be taken in context. Smith by this point was already well up in +'s running Michigan's base stuff, and Rudock was well on his way to an excellent day.
Florida's pass defense is just as good as their run D, and in passing downs they're lethal. So it's worth it to them to try some surprising/a little unsound things on 1st and 2nd down to keep Michigan's offense behind schedule, and bring up those long situations. Against Michigan in particular it appeared Florida's gameplan was to take away inside runs, trusting the Wolverine backs not to find any holes that left elsewhere.
Let's first go back to an earlier thing Florida did that should have earned a TFL:
This is the one where the broadcast crew infamously put up the ND and OSU scores mid-play. What Florida called (I think) is below:
It's an under but the 5-tech is actually in a 7-tech.
Michigan tried to run "Power" into this, pulling Kalis, blocking down on the DL and using the fullback as lead blocker. Florida is ready, as the NT shoots up the back of Glasgow before Braden can get an angle on him; Braden blocks air, and Kalis runs into the nose in the middle of his pull:
Smith did a very good job to dance around that NT, then to bounce outside the unblocked MLB whom Kalis was heading toward, turning minus two yards into four.
The lesson: Florida was messing with Michigan's power running attack by sending rushers into the A gaps, leaving the 'B' gaps open, but only as a funnel directly to the linebackers. Yes, you'd like Braden to get a better block. Yes, that was a great play by the NT to get into the path of Kalis. But this was Florida's plan against Michigan's base thing, and they got the base thing. RPS'd.
[After the jump we RPS right back]