landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
Last year at my old digs, I chronicled the weekly performances of Michigan commits in their final season of high school ball. That feature, Friday Night Lights, will make the move with me to MGoBlog. High school football news is not always so easy to come by, even in today's internet-centric world, so let me know if you have any additional information for any installment of the series.
MI QB Devin Gardner
By all accounts, Gardner is poised for a monstrous senior season. He's worked hard over the offseason on improving his ability to throw the ball, his conditioning should be at a peak, and his Inkster Vikings are expected to be one of the best teams in the state of Michigan.
There are a couple things that could hold him back: The Vikings play every single game on the road, including a couple trips to the Cleveland area, and another to Steubenville, Ohio (damn near in West Virginia). He also lost his #1 target from last year in current Wolverine Cameron Gordon. Still, look for excellent numbers from Devin in this space.
|Devin Gardner 2008|
|Zeeland West||W 27-22||7||12||136||58.33||1||0||11.33||9||65||7.22||1|
|Highland Park||L 22-24||3||1||0|
|Edsel Ford||W 41-7||3||1|
|Garden City||W 42-14||5||8||99||62.50||2||0||12.38||6||103||17.17||2|
|Allen Park||W 22-15||11||21||128||52.38||0||0||6.10||12||49||4.08||3|
|East Grand Rapids||L 24-43||5||16||84||31.25||1||1||5.25||12||44||3.67||0|
SC QB Cornelius Jones
Jones's season last year went poorly, as did his team's. However, Spartanburg should be one of the most improved in the area, and Jones will try to put up better numbers. In his second year under the current coaching staff, and Cornelius's second playing high school football, there's nowhere to go but up.
|Cornelius Jones 2008|
|Union County||W 31-0||10||16||122||62.50||0||0||7.625||18||30||1.67||2|
|Boiling Springs||L 22-29||12||20||231||60.00||1||0||11.55||21||79||3.76||0|
|Dorman||L 3-28||DNP (Illness)|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Hopkins, named one of the best players in the Dallas area, will try to build on a solid junior season and show that he is an elite player. However, he may make more of an impact defensively than carrying the rock.
|Stephen Hopkins 2008|
|Plano West||L 23-27||30||170||5.67||2||4||37||9.25||0|
|Fossil Ridge||W 49-28||25||208||8.32||3||1||28||28.00||0|
|Flower Mound||W 28-21||29||202||6.97||3||0||0||-||0|
TX RB Tony Drake
Drake has been a do-everything for Skyline. This year, he should be the starting RB after last year's starter moved on to Iowa State.
|Tony Drake 2008|
|Plano East||W 42-0||5||69||13.80||0||2||19||9.50||0|
|Lake Highlands||L 20-24||1||3||3.00||0||0||0||-||0|
|De Soto||W 51-26||0||0||-||0||0||0||-||0|
|Cypress Woods||W 35-21||7||56||8.00||0||0||0||-||0|
|Stony Point||L 14-28||1||2||2.00||0||0||0||-||0|
MI RB Austin White
White put up pretty good numbers last year, as he led Stevenson to the state semifinals before bowing out to eventual champion Rockford. The only thing that prevented him from getting ridiculous stats was a ton of blowouts. The Spartans should be a pretty strong team again, and White should have the opportunity to continue mixing long runs with steady production on the ground. Look for him to potentially flex out as a receiver more often this year, and hopefully contribute on defense.
|Austin White 2008|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
Miller moves from Orlando to Michigan, where he'll be a major boost to Pioneer's receiving corps. He'll be the #1 option for the Pioneers and should put up impressive statistics.
|Ricardo Miller 2008|
|Cypress Creek||W 36-0||2||64||32.00||1||0||0||-||0|
|Oak Ridge||W 22-14||4||70||17.50||0||1||14||14.00||0|
|West Orange||W 49-21||3||71||23.67||1||0||0||-||0|
MI WR/TE Jeremy Jackson
Jackson's Huron River Rats are making the transition to a triple-option offense, which doesn't bode well for his receiving numbers. He is also changing positions (probably to tight end), so it remains to be seen what kind of statistics Jeremy will produce in '09.
|Jeremy Jackson 2008|
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Robinson will play both ways for Canton South. Will he make a bigger impact at wide receiver or safety?
|Jerald Robinson 2008|
OH WR DJ Williamson
Williamson hasn't put up impressive numbers yet in his high school career. However, he has track star speed, and has one more year to impress onlookers.
|DJ Williamson 2008|
LA Slot Drew Dileo
Dileo's Parkview Baptist team should be strong as always, and Dileo should perform well. He was the team's MVP last year.
OH OL Christian Pace
Pace helped Avon Lake run over opponents last year (to the tune of 200+ yards per game on the ground), and looks to repeat that performance in 2009. The Shoremen are the #8 team in Northeast Ohio heading into the 2009 season.
|Christian Pace 2008|
|Maple Heights||W 38-26|
|Brecksville-Broadview Heights||L 6-11|
|Olmstead Falls||W 34-7|
|North Olmstead||W 12-6|
OH DT Terry Talbott
Talbott plays defensive tackle for Huber Heights, making statistics pretty hard to find for him. Huber Heights should field a pretty good team this year, though.
|Terry Talbott 2008|
|Lakota West||W 20-17|
|East St. Louis||W 20-12|
|Padua Fransiscan||W 21-17|
|South Lake||W 14-31|
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Paskorz is one of the lower-rated kids in Michigan's '10 class. He'll have his chance to prove the doubters wrong as a senior.
|Jordan Paskorz 2008|
|Shaler Area||L 6-21|
|Pine Richland||L 0-31|
|Franklin Regional||L 7-21|
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Kinard played with current Wolverines Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell last year. Will he have a good year without them by his side? Kinard returned one fumble 92 yards for a touchdown, and had one 54-yard touchdown run and another for 70+ yards last year. Other information on him is difficult to find.
|Antonio Kinard 2008|
|Chagrin Falls||L 0-21|
PA DE Ken Wilkins
Wilkins scored touchdowns on a 55-yard fumble return and a 26-yard blocked punt last year.
|Ken Wilkins 2008|
|Chartiers Valley||L 0-27|
FL S Marvin Robinson
Robinson has played both safety and running back for Lake Region. He's been named Preseason 2nd-Team All-State.
|Marvin Robinson 2008|
|Haines City||L 7-22|
|Winter Haven||L 0-17|
|Lake Wales||L 13-39|
|South Lake||W 18-10|
OH CB Courtney Avery
Avery is primarily a roboQB for Lexington, though he was also an all-state cornerback last year. Michigan fans are likely more interested in his defensive exploits.
|Courtney Avery 2008|
|Mount Vernon||W 49-7|
|Clear Fork||W 41-21|
|West Holmes||W 56-6|
|Sylvania Southview||L 24-38|
OH CB Terrence Talbott
Talbott is a pure corner for Wayne, who looks to have a big year with a number of junior and senior D-1 prospects.
|Terrence Talbott 2008|
|Lakota West||W 20-17|
|East St. Louis||W 20-12|
|Padua Fransiscan||W 21-17|
|South Lake||W 14-31|
Apologies for the inconsistent formatting. It will hopefully be much better during the course of the current season.
And fin. Wolverine Historian's expanded versions of 1997 games have hit that year's Rose Bowl; this one is a three-parter and it's gooooood:
Odds. I've seen the line for Michigan's game against Western at anywhere between 8 and 13 points, but it appears it's settled at Michigan –12. This is good. Phil Steele's published a useful list of spreads and their correspondence to victory and a spread as big as that one is tough to overcome:
|Favorite of||# of GMS||Lost Outright||%|
|3 or less||1269||621||48.9%|
It would be nice to start the year off with one of those win things for a change.
Don't Messner with Texas. MVictors has posted an interview with Wolverine great Mark Messner; I celebrate by craft the worst bolded introductory phrase in the history of Unverified Voracity. The section Greg excerpts is mostly on Michigan State, Tony Mandarich, and steroids. It comes with some outstanding stories:
He did get me once and that’s when I realized that there was something strange going on with this man, because no man should ever do that. It was my junior year. We were watching film getting ready for Michigan State and I was like, “Look at this thing! He’s destroying people.” In that game I got out of position and he got underneath me. He picked me up off my feet and ran with me for fifteen yards with my feet just dangling. He threw me like a rag doll into the Michigan State bench.
More at the link.
Was anybody healthy? Anybody? This offseason's seen a bevy of injury revelations from Mike Shaw's sports hernia to Donovan Warren's bone chips to Jonas Mouton's shoulder. We already knew Brandon Minor had some wrist issues, but I don't think we knew they were this severe:
Minor underwent two surgeries in the offseason and gutted through 11 games last fall a virtual one-armed man. The pain was so intense he couldn't carry the ball in his right arm and couldn't lift weights.
“I could barely get 145 (pounds) up,” Minor said.
This might explain Minor's sparing use early in the year, and his tendency to put the ball on the turf. Place your bets for the next starter to reveal a crippling 2008 injury. I've got Obi Ezeh with the peg leg in the kitchen.
Hey, what's that: bird, plane, basketball program? Michigan's going to have a Midnight Madness event for the first time… ever? Probably ever. John Beilein probably isn't going rappel from the rafters riding a horse and a motorcycle, but it should be cool anyway. Details:
To kick off the 2009-10 season, both the men's and women's basketball teams will be participating in Michigan Madness on Friday, Oct. 16, the first day of practice allowed by the NCAA. Crisler Arena doors will open at 8 p.m. and admission is free.
The official basketball program will begin at 9 p.m. with player introductions. A skills competition and scrimmages will follow, allowing students and fans to get a first glimpse of the season's upcoming teams.
That's right: Michigan's midnight madness is at 9PM. Which okay. I don't know if we're at the point where we can expect anyone to show up well past their bedtime.
If you spin any faster you might drill straight into the magma. It's getting tough out there for BCS schools looking for suitable tomato cans to whack, as Michigan's home-and-home with UConn demonstrates. Heck, UConn has Tennessee lined up for a home and home, too. Further evidence:
Billed as the Celebrate the State Football Series, Michigan State will play 12 games against the directional Michigan schools during the next 10 years.
The agreement includes road contests against each MAC team, beginning in 2012 with a trip to Central Michigan. The Spartans have never visited Central Michigan or Western Michigan and last played a MAC team on the road in 1899.
Ouch. I guess if you have to line up road games (three of them!) against MAC schools it's nice to be able to turn it into yet more meaningless PR about owning the state. I mean… even if you successfully own the state, then what? Then you have a team that goes 7-5 on average instead of Michigan State's historical long-term 6-6. Woo! Michigan isn't Florida.
Etc.: Those who hate key jinglers are going to double hate towels. Michigan Stadium makes the next cut in the USA's World Cup bid. (Note to guy who posted this on the messageboard: AAAARGH it's on topic. It's about Michigan Stadium.) And this is apropos of little but there's a team named "Trollhattan" in the second level of Swedish soccer. There's a terribly funny joke about the internet in there somewhere.
Notes from today's press conference:
- Though there have been more explosive plays from the offense in camp this year, Rodriguez said it's not necessarily because the defense has been subpar. The offensive players in camp this year have better skill sets as a group than last year's, and the execution has improved with another year in the system. It's hard to tell if big offense plays mean offense == good or defense == bad, but when they go back and look at film, they can decide whether the defensive player was playing his assignment and was beaten by a good offensive play, or if there was a blown assignment.
- In case you were doubting that Rodriguez is pretty hands-off with the defense (last year's Purdue game notwithstanding), he said he's not quite sure exactly what the defense is doing. They're teaching well, and on track to where they should be. He won't concern himself too much with the defensive side of the ball until it's time to start drawing up gameplans.
- The first group on the defense is pretty good, but they are just a couple injuries away from having a scary lack of depth.
And from the practice session:
- Last year Brian said something along the lines of "this team can only execute one new thing per game, and when the offense is fully installed, it could be pretty dangerous." This was obvious itself (what with West Virginia being 5th and 15th in total offense nationally in his last two years there, and dropping to 59th with the same talent in the first year he was gone), but there was so much evidence of this going on today. There were tons of looks that weren't even hinted at last year: Tight end lined up as an H-Back, jet motion from slots, misdirection and slots being involved in the option game as pitchmen, even a little bit of pistol. Once the offense has the full playbook at its disposal, you'll see one of the more creative offenses out there (thankfully, as this was something I didn't think was necessarily coming).
- Martavious Odoms was out (red jersey) with headaches, Mathews wore a green jersey for the first half of practice, it looked like Moundros(?) was also in a green jersey, and Barnum is still out with the same ankle injury.
- Same old story with how players look: Denard is getting good velocity on the ball, though he has a bit of accuracy work to do, Kelvin Grady looks pretty good catching the ball and moving with it after the catch, Terrence Robinson dropped a couple of passes.
And your photo gallery:
It's a funny hat. The second funniest thing about Celebrity Jeopardy is that it's so, so true. (The first is Norm Macdonald.) Celebrity anything is so, so true. I was just watching the bit of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire where they bring out a celebrity* and Winona Judd was asked "if you have three shirts and four pairs of pants, how many outfits can you make." The answers were "goat," "Saturn," "i," and IT'S TWELVE YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME but she sat there, flummoxed, until Regis punched her in the face and deposited eggs in her stomach in the manner of all Notre Dame graduates looking to reproduce.
I thought that was a spectacular dumb celebrity event, but then Patricia Heaton showed up and showed us all what spectacular truly was:
WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN. She got racuous applause for multiplying because everyone felt terrible about her education. At Ohio State. And she still doubled the GNP of Sierra Leone.
*(This was not my executive decision, for the record. I only watch Golden Girls marathons.)
The following article is a little old but I ripped it out of an Unverified Voracity a little ways back because Steve Sharik posted an excellent diary on what we can expect from the defense this fall and it felt like it would be a standalone post. (BTW: Sharik has posted another diary about the triple option, which Markus from Carcajous(!) has followed up on.)
So the quick/spinner lingo that we've been using ever since Greg Robinson was hired, confusion over which led to commenters on this here blog to coin the term "deathbacker" has been clarified. One term does not exist, and the other one has been superseded:
There’s not much hybrid about the linebacker-safety position Stevie Brown will play this year. Robinson said he doesn’t call the position “spinner” or anything else. “He’s our SAM,” or strong-side linebacker, Robinson said.
There is, however, new terminology for the defensive line. Robinson calls those positions the quick, power, nose and tackle. The “quick” is the hybrid linebacker-end you’ve heard about (Brandon Herron); the “power” is an old-school defensive end (Brandon Graham); the “nose” is your typical nosetackle (Mike Martin); and the “tackle” can sometimes flex out and play end in four-man fronts (Ryan Van Bergen).
Wait, so Stevie Brown is a strongside linebacker? Um. I had assumed he was the weakside linebacker, who is a protected player in a 4-3 under and gets "his meat cooked." (That's how Jeff Casteel described the weakside LB/S in the 3-3-5 DVD I purchased when I thought Casteel was going to be the DC around these parts. The strongside linebacker "got his meat raw," which meant he usually had to deal with a blocker. Those terms have been rattling around in my head for two years now, and now they'll be rattling around in yours. Mwa ha ha.)
A protected player doesn't usually have to take on blockers and can just run to the ball and (hopefully) make a tackle. This fits in well with a converted safety at linebacker, but I'm (and we are, right?) pretty leery about Brown even if he's not taking on blockers every play. This won't make much difference against spread teams—it'll be worlds better than pretending Johnny Thompson can cover anyone—but if Wisconsin and Michigan State don't suck I can see him getting run over consistently. That's assuming they don't make a change for power-running teams, which was an excellent assumption under Shafer (Johnny Thompson third and long what?) but hopefully won't be one under Robinson.
Sharik talks about what he expects the defense to be in the diaries, and it's not a 4-3 under. It's kind of a 4-3 under, actually, but it's flipped:
I assume that Graham will most often be the weakside 5 technique. Not only that, he'll probably be a "wide" 5, meaning he'll line up a yard outside the tackle, angled in at the tackle's nose. This means two things: one, he won't be inside (generally) and therefore two, it will be virtually impossible to double him in run situations. (He'll probably be doubled in pass situations, but that's likely to happen regardless of his alignment. This tends to happen when you are a freak of nature and can make QB's look like Beetle Bailey after an angry Sarge has gotten hold of him.)
Mike Martin will play a weakside shade or 1 technique (usually), meaning those two beasts will be on the same side of the DL most of the time. I would think opponents would run away from those two, which is where Michigan will have a numbers advantage. So, the offense will have to chose between:
A: running at two future NFL 1st round draft picks at DL, backed up by a potential 1st team all B10 middle LB (Obi Ezeh) and a former 5-star recruit at weakside OLB (Mouton)
B: running where the defense has superior numbers
Michigan showed this formation for most of the spring game… sort of. Van Bergen went out early and Graham played sparingly.
Ezeh as a potential first team all-conference player is a considerable stretch, but the rest of it sounds good. In a 4-3 under the deathbacker sits even farther outside the tackle and is used as a freelance sower of chaos a la Shawn Crable; this is something I assume you'll see on passing plays. Having all the hybrids around allows Michigan to flip which side of the line those guys show up on without revealing a personnel change:
The "quick" can play strong side or weak; so can the "spinner." The "quick" can play w/hand down or not. The "spinner" can play on the LOS, at LB depth, or even in the secondary. The "quick" can play on the LOS or at LB depth.
This jives with comments from Van Bergen that he's usually going to be a three-technique defensive tackle but will move out to a five-technique defensive end from time to time when Michigan either goes with a two-gap look (infrequently, IME) or flips the deathbacker to the other side of the formation.
It certainly sounds good. Sharik details the various packages his high school team ran last year, which are customized to the opponent's strength and provided considerable flexibility. I'll be terribly pleased to see a defensive back-type object heading out into the slot against spread sets instead of Johnny Thompson. And opposing teams are going to have to prepare for a multitude of looks. In theory, it's a defensive equivalent of Michigan's offense and when it's had talent in the past it's been excellent.
Whether or not the Michigan defense has "talent" in the overarching sense is yet to be determined.
BONUS HYPE: I've been talking up incoming freshman Craig Roh for a while now, saying that despite his wiry frame Michigan will be virtually forced to use him because of a lack of deathbacker depth. And lo, it is so. Rodriguez on the crab man:
"It’s only been one week, but he’s got some natural ability, pass-rush wise, and we’re teaching him some different things in the scheme of our defense. But I think he could help us at least in a pass-rush mode and then as he continues to learn the defense he’ll do more and more of it."
Van Bergen, meanwhile, says he's "raw" but is a "really skilled" pass rusher. It might take him a couple games but I'd be surprised if he's not a part of the nickel package, and soon. If he's not that means Brandon Herron is way better than he has any right to be.
There were two ways that the Michigan offense’s inexperience showed with disadvantages in the snap count. No, I’m serious. They were something of opposites: 1) Early in the year, we saw the Infamous Frozen Line play, in which Michigan tried (sometimes successfully, though the referees didn't necessarily see it that way) to draw offsides calls by snapping the ball whenever an opponent crossed into the neutral zone. 2) Opposing defenses were really, really good at jumping Michigan’s snap counts last year.
Exhibit A, from the Utah UFR:
I don't get it. So Sheridan does the normal hand-slap thing to indicate he wants the ball but this time there's a pause before Molk snaps it. In the interim, Utah jumps offside because they've been timing the snap. Okay, super. Then Sheridan rolls out as the offensive line remains motionless and heaves one downfield to a blanketed Mathews, who leaps and makes the catch. Why not just run a play there? More later. (DO, 1, protection N/A)
The first time this play was run, Michigan got a hopeful jump-ball completion to Mathews. Michigan gets Utah again here, except the refs don't call the obvious offsides. Thanks, guys. Threet hurls the usual sideline route to Stonum. It's accurate but well-covered and broken up. (CA+, 1, protection N/A)
The second time was a drive-killing 3rd down incompletion (which, if the offsides had been called adequately, would have been a free first down).
So, Michigan got somewhat hosed by the referees on one of those, and got lucky on the first one. However, later in the year, we saw a similar occurrence against Minnesota. Defense jumps offsides, ball is snapped, pass is basically a hopeful jump ball downfield. The difference is that, like, the offensive line blocked, and it looked something like an actual play. This adjustment to the “free play” play showed, at the very least, growth by the coaching staff over the course of the year. More likely, it showed that Michigan will run an effective play when a flag is down for offsides.
On to exhibit B, from the Michigan State UFR:
MSU jumping snaps
Okay, Michigan State's crappy cornerbacks are going to press our crappy receivers all day and not get hurt by it, which will be a major factor in the bubble screen's ineffectiveness. Anyway, on this play State is slanting right to the direction of the play, robbing Schilling of any angle to block a DT lined up inside of him. Also, MSU appears to be timing the snap, as will become relevant later. The DT beats Schilling to the spot and Minor is tackled at the LOS.
Hated formation with a WR covered up. On this play the entire State DL pushes the entire Michigan OL into the backfield; it again looks like they're timing Molk's snaps. As a result, Minor has to cut back behind everyone and does well to get back to the LOS.
Again State jumps right at the snap; this one looks onside. Moosman has something of a tough time with the early-mover, who ends up lunging at Threet just as he throws, knocking this open post route off. (BA, 0, protection 1/2, Moosman -1)
Argh. This goes for a first down but Molk(-600000) holds on a bubble screen, partially because State is again jumping the snap count. (CA, 3, screen)
In the wrapup sections the matter came up again:
This actually came up in a mailbag earlier this year, at which point I said this…
“I’m pretty sure Michigan isn’t using no snap count whatsoever, it’s just that the count is silent. DEs don’t have license to time the snap with impunity. There will be variable pauses between the clap and the snap.”
…and promptly forgot about it.
As we now know, there weren't really variable pauses between the hand clap and the snap, which allowed Michigan State to jump the snap count time and again to mostly good effect. They picked up a few offsides calls, but they also got incompletions, stuffed runs, and sacks because their guys were moving before Michigan's OL could even get out of their stances. They were offsides on another two or three plays, but didn't get called for it.
But! It's clear Michigan State was very well prepared to play this edition of Michigan; they scouted out all the wheels and such and timed the snap counts and exploited Michigan's tendencies on offense wickedly. (On defense, OTOH, Michigan broke tendencies and largely played well save for four enormous errors turned in by Stevie Brown and Boubacar Cissoko.)
Aside from varying the snap count a little and picking up those offsides calls, Michigan could do little about it.
There was a little something Michigan could do about it, which David Molk took care of a couple times:
State has obviously been jumping the snap; this time Molk lifts his head and waits, drawing a DT offsides.
Michigan’s snap counts were all the same last year, much to the delight of opponents. This year, with a more experienced offensive line, might we see a little more variety in the snap counts, despite the likely starter at QB being a freshman? I would presume yes. Michigan’s coaches are a smart bunch, and they did what they could last year with limited talent, experience, and prep time. All of those things are an entire year better in 2009, so some variety will be mixed in. I’ll go back to Brian for the grand finale, this time from the Penn State UFR:
My theory: Michigan is implementing portions of a whole gameplan trying to find something that works. They then practice the hell out of their plan and break it out, finding early success.
However, I, and I think a lot of other Michigan fans, thought "I really hope they have a curveball coming up" in the second quarter; they did not. Once you get past the game plan, Michigan has no backup. So we've seen teams adjust to the offense and have success stopping it.
When does the backup plan come in? Well, 1) when Threet's elbow gremlins step off, and 2) when these guys get past the training wheels stage and have a base they can fall back on.
Now that Michigan’s offense will have the training wheels off (and hopefully Forcier can be a non-gremlin version of Threet), there will be more variety in multiple aspects of the game.