Odd time, but the UA game is tomorrow so let's set the stage.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 1, 2016
Rashan Gary coming back
senior highlights, or a bear playing football?
(bonus: Kareem Walker runs at 2:30 and 5:40 that look pretty decent)
Excellent news here:
— Adam Friedman (@RivalsFriedman) December 31, 2015
Michigan getting a return visit feels like a trip to confirm, with only one late official visit to a yet-to-be-determined team able to overturn what looks like a large Michigan lead. Sam Webb has a couple of long posts about Gary's status that continue to give off the impression that Gary is headed to Ann Arbor. Interestingly, the second discusses a prospect committed elsewhere who does not want his name out who will visit in January, might flip, and if he did flip would lock down Gary. Sam offers zero hints as to who this might be but it's a guy
- at the UA game
- committed elsewhere
- with a connection to Gary
There are two guys who seem like candidates: PA TE Naseir Upshur, an FSU commit who is tight with a lot of the NJ prospects flooding to Ann Arbor, and five-star TX OL Greg Little. Little, an Ole Miss commit, was briefly a source of Ole Miss optimism about Gary since those two have apparently struck up a friendship over the course of their recruitments. Little and Gary were at Ole Miss on the same weekend. Maybe this is a situation where these guys might be a package if they can find a school both guys like.
The previous paragraph is entirely speculation.
BTW, Gary is not likely to cede his status as the nation's top prospect.
Gary, meanwhile, has been utterly dominant so far at the event, drawing universal praise for an elite combination of strength, quickness and ability.
ESPN's CFB/NFL draft analyst @KevinW_ESPN said today it was easy to see why Rashan Gary is No. 1. On a different level.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2015
There just isn't another player like this one in the country. He is elite and he is No. 1 in the country for many reasons. He was constantly beating the one in front of him, he was in the backfield all day, and he was chasing plays down.
Rivals has him as a "stock up" guy despite the fact that his stock can't actually go up. Here's a bunch of reps between Gary and Little:
I like 'em both.
As far as Gary's decision goes, feelin' real good.
— Garrett Fishaw (@MGoFish) December 31, 2015
Delance decision primer
TX OL Jean Delance will announce tomorrow during the game. We have a ballz in for him based on a few things, but there is no certainty with his recruitment. Lorenz has a a ballz in for Michigan. Tim Sullivan thinks it's very close between Michigan and Texas with Michigan his tentative pick. He mentions something that was a reason we put in our pick:
Delance said he and his mother have to "duke it out" over where he goes. That his mother openly prefers him to stay at Texas, and that the phrasing implies he and Mom are on opposite sides of a disagreement (or boxing match, if he's being strictly literal, I guess)... that means he's favoring Michigan, right?
I mean, he told Josh Newkirk this about Texas:
“Texas is right down the street from my house,” he said. “(In my) home state, that’s what people want me to do. But I got to follow my own dreams, make my own destiny."
Sometimes quotes like that don't mean as much as it sounds like they do, but with Delance he's said things along those lines while being effusive about Harbaugh.
On the other hand, Scout guys are hearing Texas. The Texas 247 guy feels "just as strong about Texas as I did the day I put in a crystal ball for him." (As we'll see in a bit that might not be a bad thing.) Wiltfong and LSU guys at 247 were hearing Texas as well.
And Michigan did offer MD OL Stephen Spanellis, a Virginia commit. Normally that's a bad sign about the other guys on the hook but we've seen Michigan set up a few January visits for guys they may not have room for. Michigan is going into what will be a busy, tense Signing Day and they want to have backup options. A Spanellis offer does say one thing: Michigan has not gotten an official "yes" from Delance and desires to cover themselves if things go the wrong way.
So I don't know. I think it'll be M but if it goes the other way nobody will be too surprised.
[UPDATE: Steve just flipped his ballz back to Texas. Bleah.]
Brad Hawkins jittery? Probably not
Some conflicting information on NJ WR commit Brad Hawkins, who told Rivals he's thinking about visits to North Carolina and South Carolina and "wasn't sure if his recruiting process is over and done with."
"I'm 100-percent committed to Michigan," he stated. "I picked Michigan because it just felt like home. The people there are great people. The environment is a great environment. It's a college football town. There's nothing like it."
Maybe keep an eye on that but it appears that Hawkins is still a very good bet to end up in the class; can't say that about some other people who have scheduled visits. One thing that is clear: neither Hawkins or Johnson is set to enroll early. They were intending to but apparently are no longer.
FWIW, that 247 article confirms that Hawkins is coming in at WR. I'd speculated that either he or Mitchell might be slated for a switch to safety given reports that Michigan would take both CA WR Dylan Crawford and FL WR Pie Young should those prospects be amenable. That still might be the case—see Brian Cole and a zillion other position switches—but not right away.
FWIW, Hawkins is impressing at the Semper Fi game, with Brian Dohn reporting that he's "looked very good" and is amongst the best WRs at the game. Meanwhile Johnson was named the ALPHA DOG on day two:
Ron Johnson (Camden, N.J./Camden) was easily the most dominating player on the second day of practice.
The four-star Michigan commitment could not be blocked at the line of scrimmage, firing off the ball and using his raw strength to explode on contact. At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, Johnson is lean, but on Thursday he showed the upper body strength is already there to throw blockers to the wayside. … Coaches were raving about his performance on Day two, and rightfully so.
Johnson and Hawkins have sort of been forgotten men since their commitments but they're both four star guys.
The last New Jersicorn
Hey, so NJ S Jordan Fuller has had a recruitment even more mysterious than that of TX DE Levi Onwuzurike. He has talked to virtually nobody. He's offered no lists. The only indicator that he's considering anyone is that he took an official to Notre Dame. Dohn reports that Fuller has now set visits to OSU on January 15th and Michigan on the 22nd, with a couple schools trying to get a visit the following week. That appears to be a top three of M, OSU, and ND.
WI OL commit Ben Bredeson has also caught the eye. There have been mixed reports since apparently he drew a lot of duty against Gary, which isn't going to go well for anyone in a drill. Bredeson apparently slowed Gary down a bit, which is good enough to claim the "most successful vs Grendel" award.
Coach Herm Edwards mentioned a few players who stood out: Dwayne Haskins, Ben Bredeson, Levonta Taylor, Rashan Gary, Nigel Knott on the list
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2015
Scout's Bill Greene was impressed:
He had a good day Monday, and most people would agree he was one of the top linemen on Team Highlight. Bredeson is huge, but he was far more athletic than he looks on film, with better footwork. He was aggressive, and it was apparent he came to play football, not be on vacation.
Bredeson told folks he would start out at left guard when he arrived at Michigan. I'm pretty sure we already knew he was slated to be an interior OL, but there's oddly specific confirmation all the same.
Keep recruitin' that chicken
EJ Holland, the Texas guy who refused to believe that TX DT Jordan Elliott was favoring Michigan—which other people believed due to things like "Elliott saying it to every recruiting reporter he talked to"—will not let his recruitment die:
According to a couple of sources, Elliott is committed to Michigan but could still sign elsewhere in February. Texas will have a good shot if Jeffrey McCulloch and Dontavious Jackson side with the Longhorns. All three communicate frequently.
Hold your panic gifs. Lorenz talked to Elliott's mom and she shot that down emphatically. Meanwhile her twitter feed is a pile of Michigan stuff. Elliott himself also continually tweets Michigan stuff and seems peeved whenever someone suggests he's not solid
Why this dude will not let the Elliott stuff die is unknown, but he thinks Delance goes to Texas, so that's good news.
It's going to be that time soon. I still don't care about 2018 and refuse to until next fall, but 2017 is closing in on being the current class. So:
- 2017 MI CB Ambry Thomas is "very interested" and feels "comfortable" in Ann Arbor. Early favorite there was MSU, we'll see how that holds up.
- 2017 MI WR KJ Hamler, AKA "Speedy Eaglet," says Harbaugh is an "electric, electric coach." MSU gets a cursory mention.
- Michigan still leads for five star NY OL Isaiah Wilson, with Ole Miss and OSU the other two schools drawing mention. Lorenz cautions that Wilson's recruitment is likely to be a "bumpy ride."
- 2017 GA WR commit Jeremiah Holloman is impressing at a camp: "Holloman is a legit 6-foot-3, and, while he's lean, he's got a really well developed frame. He does a tremendous job of using his height to his advantage, and he was a troublesome matchup for many of the top rated defensive backs during practice." Twitter has a catch for those interested.
- Holloman's teammate and 2017 GA RB commit Kurt Taylor was fielding serious Florida interest before he pulled the trigger.
FL LB Joel Dublanko is still on the radar. He's coming in on the 15th despite not having an offer and seems to be a guy who would be a late offer if Michigan has room on Signing Day. Ditto LA DE Malcolm Roach, a Texas commit who told Holland that he would set a visit to Michigan in January. FL TE Jacob Mathis has an official set to Ole Miss right before Signing Day; M is involved there still. Sullivan doesn't think it's happening. FL WR Keyshawn "Pie" Young remains high on Michigan and plans on committing on Signing Day.
BYU QB Taysom Hill was offered a grad transfer opportunity at Virginia, which is no surprise after Bronco Mendenhall took that job.
[File photo: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Through the first half of the season Jake Rudock looked more like a liability than a solution at quarterback.
That felt like a distant memory as Rudock picked apart the vaunted Florida secondary, becoming the second Michigan quarterback (John Navarre) to surpass 3,000 single-season passing yards in the process. Rudock connected on 20/31 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns and looked like a completley different player from the one that threw three picks at Utah to open the season.
Even with Jabrill Peppers sidelined due to a hand injury, Michigan looked like a team peaking in bowl season and ready to carry that momentum into 2016. De'Veon Smith, perhaps unencumbered by the turf toe he'd dealt with all season, had some extra pep in his step; more importantly, he knew where to take that step, showing much-improved vision on his way to a 109-yard afternoon.
The O-line stymied a Florida pass rush that ranked among the best in the country. Jehu Chesson repeatedly won one-on-one battles with balleyhooed cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, a projected top-ten NFL draft pick, including a hitch-and-go touchdown that broke the game open. Grant Perry emerged with a couple big grabs and his first career score. If Rudock can be satisfactorily replaced, all the pieces are there for the offense to break out in 2016.
The defense, meanwhile, limited an overmatched Gators offense to 262 yards. Florida couldn't hit a big play—their longest gain went for 27 yards—and didn't have a means to stay ahead of the chains outside of a few scattered scrambles by quarterback Treon Harris, who had to deal with plenty of pressure from Michigan's front four. When Harris lost his composure, the Wolverines took advantage, most notably on a Jarrod Wilson interception in the end zone with the Gators threatening to answer Chesson's long TD.
The special teams battle hardly came into play, but Michigan won that, too. Channing Stribling intercepted the holder's pitch when Florida faked a field goal on their opening drive; long after the game had been decided, a cavalcade stuffed a fake punt in the backfield.
Rudock teared up in the televised interview following his final collegiate game. Jim Harbaugh is done working his magic with Rudock, who guided a limited team to ten wins in their first year in a new system. When this team reconvenes in the spring, most of the talent from today's blowout will be back, and if Harbaugh has coaxed similar improvement from the other quarterbacks on the roster, they'll be poised for a run at the playoff.
Michigan finishes Harbaugh year 1 with an authoritative blowout of #19 Florida to acquire ten wins. Not bad.
And you can't have one without the other...
Now a bunch of recruiting and lets get it in 2016.
By Heiko Yang
This is going to be my last punt column. Assuming I match into residency (20 days until urology match day ahhhh /vomits), I won’t have much time next fall to do this anymore. I’m bad enough with deadlines as is, and I’m the kind of the writer who likes to type three words at a time and then delete two, i.e. slow. Not really compatible with the 80-hour workweek.
A Michigan-Florida Citrus Bowl is a weirdly poetic last game for me. The same matchup in the same bowl game in 2008 was my introduction to Michigan football. I had just been accepted to medical school at Michigan that year. For my second-look visit they showed us highlights of that game, and they even had Lloyd Carr speak to us about leadership and teamwork and a lot of other stuff I can’t really remember. I wasn’t even a college football fan back then, but meeting the legendary national title-winning coach of college football’s winningest program was still a pretty cool experience.
Whatever impression of the football team I got that day, the next eight years were anything but. Yeah we all know this. Woe is me, you, and everyone else. I’ll try to spare you the Daily Sports column redux that people have been writing every year for the last half-decade or so. On the bright side there was that one good season in 2011, and I did get to see (on the sideline, no less) exhilarating wins against Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and in a BCS bowl. Beyond that, I am thankful that I’ve gotten so much more than entertainment value and school spirit out of this experience. How do you win and do the right thing when the odds are stacked against both? It seems like the Michigan football program has been running daily experiments to explore this question ever since I got here, and there’s an endless number of lessons, good and bad, to be drawn from the data.
At least the answer seems clear now, finally: wear khakis. No, but really. Winning the Michigan way is a lot like crowd surfing at a rock concert. The program can be buoyed only by the uninterrupted arm strength of the people in it, so the less everyone worries about their pants, the more time and energy they have to making sure it doesn’t tumble to the ground the way it has done so often in recent years. Also because they are the quintessential business casual pant material. Jake from State Farm agrees.
For poetry’s sake I’m going to predict the same score and outcome as that of the 2008 bowl game. Like Michigan, Florida has also spent a lot of time wandering the desert only to find itself recently. (One could say that their string of personnel issues is an indication that they’ve found a little too much of their former selves.) Both teams now have great defenses hamstrung by up-and-down offenses. In Michigan’s case, it’s been mostly down to up; Florida not so much. The Gators will score their points early and late, but the Wolverines will control the game, much like they did when Carr coached his last game.
But there will be something very, very different about this one. Rather than a sentimental elegy for the good ol’ times of the past, today’s victory will be a harbinger of amazing things to come in the future. We’ve got a monster recruiting class. Our roster won’t be decimated over the next month. And our head coach is here to stay – oh, and his name is Jim Harbaugh.
It’s an exciting new era for Michigan football, and wherever I end up, I can’t wait to see it.
Michigan 41, Florida 35
By Nick RoUMel
COUNTERPUNT – Citrus Bowl – Florida vs. Michigan 1/1/16
By Nick RoUMel
Just before Christmas, on Main Street, Ann Arbor, I was out for “Midnight Madness.” Among the shoppers and merchants were UM Medical students with buckets, collecting for the annual “Galen’s Tag” charity fundraiser. I said hello to a young man I knew, working on his Medical School Ph.D., when he motioned towards the student next to him. “I believe you know Heiko?” he asked.
Heiko Yang, Off-hour Postdoc
(full time M3 at Medical School)
I glanced over. Heiko looked just as he does in the photo above (from his Med School lab’s web page), perhaps taller than I’d remembered. But I didn’t immediately recognize him, since it was only the second time we’d ever met.
We talked for a long while, about football and residency search. He told me then he was leaving this column, due to his anticipated workload. Still, Heiko’s official announcement today leaves me with inexplicable sadness. I have enjoyed our friendship, mainly consisting of peppy email exchanges for our column, and occasionally during games. I have come to appreciate Heiko’s enthusiasm, humor, intellect, and above all, his mastery of creative syllogisms. This is a guy who can start out talking about being concussed in a softball game collision, and draw an analogy to forgetting the bad stuff about UM football; and today, he manages to connect crowdsurfing with football fan support. And here I thought I was the one who more easily –
“Look! A squirrel!”
Ahem. Well, that went off-topic quickly.
Heiko’s only flaw, as Punt, has been his wrongness. Counterpunt, channeling Nostradamus, has consistently been on the right side of these picks, while Punt predicts the result about as often as a blind squirrel finds a nut.
Today Heiko has chosen the safe choice. He knows, as Einstein never once said (despite memes to the contrary), that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” In this context, the usual result of a January Florida bowl game, at least in the last 30 years, is a high-scoring Michigan victory:
Jan. 2, 1988 Hall of Fame (Tampa) Michigan 28, Alabama 24
Jan. 1, 1991 Gator (Jacksonville) Michigan 28, Ol’ Miss 3
Jan. 1, 1994 Hall of Fame Michigan 42, NC State 7
Jan. 1, 1997 Outback (Tampa) Alabama 17, Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 1999 Citrus (Orlando) Michigan 45, Arkansas 31
Jan. 1, 2000 Orange (Miami) Michigan 35, Alabama 34
Jan. 1, 2001 Citrus Michigan 31, Auburn 28
Jan. 2, 2002 Citrus Tennessee 42, Michigan 17
Jan. 1, 2003 Outback Michigan 38, Florida 30
Jan. 1, 2008 Capital One/Citrus Michigan 41, Florida 35
Jan. 1, 2011 Gator Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 2013 Outback S. Carolina 33, Michigan 28
That’s an 8-4 record, and 3-1 in Citri Bowls, with at least 4 touchdowns in each win. Not bad - and better if you don’t count 2011 (when that thing happened); and 2013 (when that other thing happened). Oh, and another thing happened in ‘13: a fortuitous angle on a tackle helped make Jadeveon Clowney the #1 NFL draft pick in 2014.
So my hat is off to Heiko. He’s not insane, he’s just wisely foreseeing the odds-on result.
But my friend, here is where our friendship departs. In contrast to Punt’s La-Z-Boy bravado, not daring more than to changing channels in the dark, Counterpunt opts for the bold and the reckless path - nay, the insane choice – like motorcycle daredevil Evel Kneivel, who once attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon (seen here thrashing bravely at E.T.):
Yes Heiko, this is my parting gift to you. Because you are leaving and I am passive aggressive about it, my gift is not very nice. I give you a loss, from a banged-up Michigan team, fighting hard but losing by the skin of their teeth.
But there’s one more gift, and more important – it is my best wishes to you for a successful career. Go Heiko, and we’ll always be back here at this URL when you miss us.
FLORIDA 24, MICHIGAN 21
|WHAT||Florida vs Michigan|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern
January 1st, 201
|THE LINE||Michigan -4|
|WEATHER||mostly cloudy, 80-ish
slight chance of rain
I already used the "Good Ash, Bad Ash" clip for the Northwestern game this year but I mean yeah pretty much that again. Both teams have first-year coaches who spackled together an offense from the grim remains left by his predecessor. Both teams have fierce defenses. Both teams are entering the game after spending the last couple weeks twitching and repeating "not in the face" after not at all competitive games against rivals.
Florida's offense is slightly more dysfunctional after the weird mid-season PED suspension of their starting QB, but at no point has their defense been emasculated in the way Michigan's was against Ohio State. So… yeah. The books have installed Michigan a 4 point favorite despite this being a virtual road game, and that feels about right.
Run Offense vs Florida
Bullard brings the pain
Prepare for a rough ride. Anyone who's been on the internet over the past few weeks has run across a dubiously-sourced photo of Jabrill Peppers and the brace on his hand. It sounds like he will play, but the guess here is that he won't see time on offense with that injury. Also Derrick Green is not on the trip and has probably played his last snap as a Wolverine.
That leaves Smith and… uh… company I guess… against these guys:
All-American candidate DT Jonathan Bullard … boasts the top run-stopping grade in the nation at +36.5 while improving his pass rushing this year to the tune of six sacks, six hits, and 12 hurries on 253 rushes. His instincts and ability to read and defeat blocks have made him a force, and a very consistent one at that, as he’s yet to grade lower than +2.1 in any game this season. Complementing Bullard has been a deep rotation of defensive linemen, with six other players grading positively while playing at least 192 snaps, led by true sophomore DT Caleb Brantley and his team-high +10.6 pass rushing grade.
At the linebacker level, Antonio Morrison receives the hype, but it’s Jarrad Davis who has turned heads this season as his +11.6 mark leads the way for the Gators. He leads the team with 34 stops, including 12 in the passing game, good for 12th in the nation among linebackers.
That was posted before the FSU and Alabama games, and even those went poorly for the team as a whole the defense came out of that shiny. Bullard was named a PFF All-American. S&P+ has Florida the #5 rush defense in the nation.
Meanwhile Michigan is near-perfectly mediocre at 61st. While Florida will be missing a piece or two they've held up very well minus those guys down the stretch—it was only sheer repetition that saw Alabama crack 200 yards on the ground. It took Alabama 58 carries to get there; Florida gave up 4.0 YPC. Michigan fans are familiar with late fades from overworked defenses; even with that fade the Gators held up.
If there is a major weakness it's the strongside linebacker, who Florida State targeted on a number of successful Dalvin Cook runs. Ace detailed those earlier today in his FFFF.
It is very difficult to see Michigan getting much, if any production out of this unit. Michigan's offensive line plateaued at meh; Smith is the opposite of a home-run hitter; production against similarly-ranked defenses has been grim. Michigan has tried to minimize the importance of running backs for a bit now with Peppers and WR screens. Insofar as that is possible, expect a repeat. Florida does play their corners off a significant portion of the time, so various WR screens may be available.
One wild card to watch for: Ty Isaac. Reports from before the OSU game held that he was getting the bulk of the first team reps, and then he did not play at all in the game itself. Another month of preparation and the presumed absence of Peppers should see Isaac cash in on some of that practice hype for playing time. He's still likely to eat dirt given the context he'll be in, but keep an eye out.
KEY MATCHUP: NOT IN THE FACE.
[Hit THE JUMP for LESS DEPRESSING UNITS]
Previously: Florida Offense
In this game, UF's best offense was, in fact, their defense.
There's good reason everyone expects the Citrus Bowl to be a defensive slugfest: Florida's defense is every bit as good as their offense is bad, and if you read Tuesday's post you know that's high praise indeed. They held Florida State to 303 yards of total offense on 5.2 yards per play despite getting no help from the other side of the ball; much of that damage came late as Heisman-caliber back Dalvin Cook finally wore down an overworked defensive front.
Michigan does not have a Heisman-caliber back, to say the least. The going won't be easy.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
There are stars at every level, including a secondary that is arguably the best in the country.
Base Set? 4-3 under. The Gators bring in nickel Brian Poole on passing downs, usually lifting SLB Jeremi Powell, though they'll occasionally go to a three-man line instead.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]