the season has truly begun now
Posting light today.
An excellent article in the News about the new coordinators from Angelique S. Chengelis has a lot of encouraging/infuriating quotes. Rondell Biggs on English:
"We get to perfect what we do," Biggs said. "Last year, we were always changing things up. Now we put in the base, so people know what we're doing. We don't have to think so much. We don't have to change up things. We know our calls, we know our responsibilities.
"We've got a lot less thinking, a lot less stuff on our plates. I remember last year, we were getting new stuff every week, and it was hard to get a good rhythm."
KISS. This has been the standard mantra for months, but framed by Biggs like so it reminds me of this Vince Young quote from a couple years ago:
"They are physical. They don't try and disguise anything. Whatever they are trying to do, if they are trying to blitz, you know they are blitzing. If they are trying to sit back and play coverage or play the run, you know what they are doing. They just try and get physical with you and go nose to nose with you for four quarters."
There's no right level of complexity in a defense. You can be successful with anything from Miami's all-cover-2-all-the-time to John Tenuta's blitz Cuisinart. But what complexity you have must have a payoff, right? Each thing you add to a defense must have some advantage. Otherwise you're just complicating things for you and not them. Jim Herrmann's final years were miraculous, wildly complex schemes that were dead easy to read. Merely discussing it makes my molars ache. How many times did you see members of the secondary pointing at each other and re-arranging themselves moments before the snap? How many times did befuddled linebackers pick the wrong place to go? How much of Michigan's conservatism was because an aggressive Herrmann defense would inevitably bust coverages at a rate better associated with the Wildcats? (Which Wildcats? Pick one.)
That Vince Young quote is ludicrous. All the substitutions, all the presnap motion, all the wild gesticulation: for nothing. Michigan was dead easy to read. Herrmann's brilliance did nothing but confuse Michigan defenders into inaction. If he comes within 50 miles of Michigan Stadium he should be tasered and shipped to Istanbul.
Speaking of shipping people to Istanbul, Mike DeBord makes a strong case for immediate deportation and brainwashing in the same article:
"Today with so much eight-man, nine-man football, you can run away from the eighth guy, and you don't have to block that guy. It allows you to be able to run the ball when you've got eight guys down in the box."
Ack ack ack.
But even though I don't like that quote I must (temporarily) defend DeBord. I'm only through the first half but in that half his playcalling was excellent, sabotaged entirely by execution errors. I know I will like it much less during the second half but it wasn't all bad. Also, his other quotes from that article discussing the shift to a zone running game are all true; it's an astute way to take advantage of Hart's particular strengths and and get away from some of the ugly predictability that makes Michigan so frustrating. (Not coincidentally, this sort of running game makes the waggle a much bigger threat. Before, Michigan's run game was mostly pulling, pitches, and isos up the gut. Actual runs to the outside that could suck defenders along were few and far between. Thus the demise of the waggle. Its return Saturday saw an embarrassment of open receivers.) Many fans grumbled about wanting a third wide receiver or second tight end in the game instead of a meh fullback, and that's what they got (at least in the first half): Michigan's base formation was three wideouts, a tight end, and a running back.
Now, about that aggressive passing game...
Sigh. I promised myself no more attention for goobers, but I enjoyed this sentence so much that it's only right I give him some pub. Amongst He Is Manpundit's "breakout" whatevers of the opening weekend:
--Running back Kevin Grady of Michigan. He is slimmed down and MUCH quicker this year. I think he will, at some point, replace Michael Hart as a starter.
He'll be here all week, folks. The point at which a healthy Hart is replaced as a starter is when he runs out of eligibility. But that's punditry for you.
This will remain @ the top until Monday and serve as a place for any and all impressions on the game. I would normally put in a warning to keep the gnashing of teeth to a minimum if bad things occur, but this is Vanderbilt so you go right ahead if disaster strikes.
While we wait, commenter WolverBean took the Christmas metaphor and extended it to its very maximum. Behold:
'Twas the night before Football, and through the Big House
Not a player was stirring, not even A. Kraus.
The fans were all nestled up snug in their beds,
While visions of touchdown drives danced in their heads;
And Lloyd in his polo, and Mike [DeBord] in his hat,
Had just settled down to plan this year's attack.
When out on the field there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our tailgates to see what's the matter.
Away to the Big House! We flew there like flashes,
Poured in through the tunnels and down to the hashes.
When what, to my wondering eyes should appear.
But eighty-five warriors, dressed in their gear.
With a little old leader, so lively and coy,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Lloyd.
More rapid than eagles his players they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now Henne! Now Breaston! Now Woodley and Crable!
"On Manningham, Hart, Stewart, Burgess and Grady!
"To the top of the conf'rence! To the top of the poll!
"Now block away! Catch away! Run away all!"
So out to the sidelines, the players they flew,
With a book full of plays, and St Lloyd the coach too.
And then, with keys jingling, I saw on the field,
Aggressive, fast defense was finally revealed!
As I threw up my hands, and was jumping around,
Down the near sideline Lloyd came with a bound.
He was dressed all in Nike, from cap to his shoes,
And his clothes were all colored with Maizes and Blues,
A headset and whistle were hung off his back
And he looked like a general planning attack.
His eyes â€“ how they twinkled! His jowls how set!
His team, how it danced like his marionette.
His hair chestnut brown and his eyebrows were bushy,
His look tough as nails, though his man-boobs were mushy,
A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
All the refs knew to play fair or he'd go berserk.
Then waving his hand around over his head,
He signaled a play action pass to split end.
Henne rolled out, threw the ball, it came down
In the hands of The New Math! We all screamed "Touchdown!"
Then Lloyd turned to the stands, and announced to the ruckus,
"Happy Football to all! This year's boys are tremendous!"
Good Lord. The "commenter of the year" competition is getting mighty crowded these days.
Merry football, kids. I'll try to get something up late Saturday but can make no promises. Sunday, though. I'm going to bump UFR up this year... Monday/Tuesday might be ambitious but we'll see. Tuesday/Wednesday at the latest.
Disjointed thoughts not guaranteed to last more than two days follow. May take these back after film review.
OMG Defense! I sat next to a fairly crabby Vandy fan who said the Commodores returned basically everyone on offense save Cutler and a wide receiver, so that was not a green offensive line we utterly obliterated. Aside from the trick play and a few first downs at the end of the game, Michigan gave up approximately 120 yards. Damn!
Most encouraging was that it was for the most part Michigan making plays. Woodley had three consecutive sacks (although one may have been ruled a run, I haven't looked at the box score yet). Crable was effective attacking the line; Taylor was good; Biggs was a revelation. In the secondary we were active and around the ball, attempting to make plays on the ball.
It was night and day. Herrmann really was that bad.
Jamison what? Didn't play a snap. Stood on the sidelines, in pads, the whole game. Violation of team rules? Sure didn't seem like an injury, and I sincerely doubt that he'd go from the announced starter to sitting on the bench all game without reason.
Crable! I'm still concerned about him against traditional power-running teams, but he's a really interesting and effective player against the spread. He has the ability to fend off offensive linemen who aren't drive blocking until he determines which side the play is going to, at which point his unique combination of frame and speed allow him to make a play. There was an instance of this last year against Northwestern and he made a couple of similar plays today, notably against a couple of the zone reads Vandy ran.
Er... offense. There can't be many complaints about the run game. 242 yards with good showings from Hart, Grady, and Minor, minus Grady's fumble. The much-rumored zone blocking was legit and seemed fairly effective. There was but one fullback shuffle.
But... yeah... the passing game. Some of the problems were fairly innocuous execution errors: Massey's drop on the wheel route (that was a fairly tough catch, but still) and Breaston's drop on that slant. But the only downfield pass we attempted all day was the pass to Manningham. Partially that's DeBord: his tight end fetish was on full display today. But part of that was a really disturbing lack of pass blocking. Henne was buried when Jake Long whiffed a block; Riley was iffy all day; blitzes from the outside were unblocked all day. Henne did very well to buy time and scramble for the occasional first down, but his accuracy left much to be desired.
Where were the slants, outs, and stop routes? Henne threw literally nothing over the middle of the field all day. Bleah.
Goddamn I love Mike Hart. That is all. Oh: and where were the screens? We attempted one old-fashioned running back screen, IIRC.
Speaking of screens: We can't run any wide receiver screens until game six. They aren't going to work.
Overall? The booing at the end of the first half was a little goofy too me, since we were crushing them everywhere but the scoreboard. I'm disappointed in the passing game, too, but there was a lot of good to take out of that. That was a dominant defensive performance and a hell of a running game, and since Lloyd Carr coaches like he has a dominant defense and a hell of a running game no matter what the facts on the ground are, that's important.
Oh, yeah: Zoltan!
I did this last year, too: thinking it was best to save the Michigan preview until the week before the season and erroneously believing that said preview as far more complete than it actually was, I find myself short on a Vanderbilt preview. I have little knowledge about the Commodores and nothing prepared. Since Vandy sans Cutler projects to be a walkover, I don't feel that bad about it.
Instead, a listing of things I'll be looking for as indicators of what the season holds.
Henne's accuracy. It's not a big deal if his downfield attempts are a bit off, but I dearly want to see his outs, slants, stops, and the like on the money.
Riley's pass blocking. I'll be watching the offensive line extensively but I probably won't be able to tell whether or not Bihl or Mitchell are performing adequately without the aid of tape. Everyone will know if Riley's whiffing regularly.
Manningham in command. No screaming from the sidelines, no missed routes, six catches and a touchdown. Or something like that.
Carson Butler. Manbearfreak.
Steve Breaston. A number of short catches he turns into six yards he shouldn't be able to, one ridiculous event, and no limping.
Run game. Obviously, but a run game that's nothing like Hart's 200 yard miracle against MSU, but one in which he's making first contact with tackles four, five, eight yards downfield. I'll be looking to see whether or not Obi Oluigbo can lock down the fullback spot and for any evidence of the rumored zone running.
The elimination of those run-on-run-off substitution patterns. Herrmann came up with these after one of those Purdue games when Tiller had fifteen guys in the huddle, then ran four off before the snap and stuck with it long after that had disappeared. It came to symbolize all the extra garbage Herrmann heaped on the players brains, which made bodies slow and fans grumpy. Hopefully they'll abandon this for well-defined substitution patterns.
Something other than obvious base-formation zone against three wides. Without question the most irritating thing about last year was Jamar Adams or Prescott Burgess hovering in the general area of a slot receiver before the snap on almost every play that featured three wides. Herrmann gave away the defensive call on that side of the field in every instance.
Varied coverage in the secondary. Pressing every play is about as smart as deep-zoning every play.
Tim Jamison. Obvs.
Chris Graham doing something. Anything.
Shawn Crable looking smart.
Cornerbacks other than Leon Hall. A potentially fatal weakness, but at least Michigan has four options. One should be adequate.
- Brian Kelly is *!ing crazy.
- Buckeyes Introduce Crimin-Os (cereal name shamelessly stolen from MNB)
- A lame excuse to put "The Run" on AOL.
- Bret Bielema Comes to You For Help.
Warren St. John has spent a lot of time staring at Ann Geddes calendars lately, if his latest endearingly creepy post is any indication:
The fact is, if you want baby to be the hit of the tailgate party -- and to perfectly compliment that grill and keg emblazoned with your team's logo -- you're pretty much obligated to get them a little mascot suit. But where to begin?
Um... at RJYH?
Mike D'Andrea is done. His knees say his career is over; Buckeye linebacker depth takes a small hit, though I don't know how much they were counting on him. The article makes it sound like this announcement was a mere formality.
I can't let you do that, Dave Wannstedt. OMG.
A startup venture, EndGame Technologies, has designed novel computer modeling software to assist National Football League coaches with critical play-calling decisions--the kind that often determine the outcome of the game. Should a team punt on fourth down--or go for it? Or attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown?
The startup faces a minor issue: the NFL doesn't allow computational aids to be used during the game. And I can tell you what it's going to say, anyway: GO FOR IT, LLOYD.
Bennie Joppru caught a preseason touchdown last night. He's not dead yet.
Las Vegas screwed my system up something fierce. Since the World Series of Poker had nearly nine thousand entrants this year, play on the first couple days was scheduled to go to two or three AM Pacific time. It was 7AM in Michigan when I finally collapsed into bed after day one. I maintained that schedule during the downtime in an attempt to be as alert as possible for day two. When I got back, my sleep schedule was completely trashed.
I gradually recovered, but even in the best of times I'm something of a late riser. And by "something of" I mean "am completelly and shamefully". Eleven... noon... one. Thereabouts. (This is extremely irritating if I haven't prepared something for the blog the night before, as I am forced to scramble.) Sometimes the Man holding you down is useful, because he makes you get up at a respectable hour and prevents the minor bursts of shame that come from a weekday PM rising time.
A funny thing happened this week: I wake up, check the clock, and it says "9:02" or "9:27". No alarms. No early bedtimes. Just a mysterious sea change in my circadian rhythms apropos of apparently nothing. I was puzzled. But no longer: football, tomorrow. When I arise the clock will say "9:02" or "9:27," I will head out to the family tailgate and read way, way too much into Michigan's opener. Subconsciously I have prepared myself. Good job, subconscious.
EDSBS called yesterday "Football Christmas" and that's exactly right. These days Christmas Eve is mostly a reminder of lost childhood magic. I go to bed wishing that I could not go to bed, wishing that I was straining to hear reindeer hooves on the roof. Today I've got that old feeling, even though the threat of coal is far less abstract in this particular venture. But if you were a child who had suffered through a series of disappointing Christmases -- socks, socks, an apple, socks -- and one horrible one, one that put you off the idea of Christmas for months -- show us on this doll, Josh -- then you might really appreciate it when the skies opened up and hosannahs rained from the heavens as Christ personally descended and bestowed all five Dinobots upon you. And you might not think so badly of those past Christmases after all.
Go, extended metaphors! Go Blue.