I GET IT
Photos from the Northwestern game---a win is a win: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgoblog/sets/72157637744982483/
Fuller didn't get a shot of Dileo that he put on Flickr, but he got this 6-yard catch by Butt on 2nd and 5, when Dileo was busy running off two defenders.
The primary complaint with Michigan's offense, rightly, has been with the blocking dudes' problems with blocking dudes. While gathering data on personnel changes throughout the Northwestern game I got an opportunity to look hard enough to have an idea where the UFR will lay blame for 9 points in regulation. Preview: Bosch didn't have a good game. However the freshman guards are a problem solved mostly by experience, i.e. we can't fix it this year.
But if Michigan is looking for an offensive boost it might find one by improving which parts they deploy among the five eligible receiver positions. Which personnel and how they're aligned come with various strengths. Generally the smaller and more spread out, the better to make space for you to operate; conversely the larger and tighter the better to block dudes. I put forth that our blocking dudes are currently pretty bad at blocking dudes, thus it's worth moving some of their snaps to 3rd and 4th receivers.
MANBALL isn't Borgesian
Here's Borges's offense being run at UCLA in 1998, a time when the spread offense was something that won games at Tulane:
Note the 3WR sets pop up plenty. I believe the goal here is to be multifarious, not just very large and good at something. He wants to be impossible to prepare for because at any moment you might put in your 4-4 personnel when you see him trotting out 3 tight ends, and then he'll spread them out and put a 6'6 monster on your tiniest cornerback. This is why they're recruiting Fifty Shades of Shea.
But That's a Long Way Away
Today, they have precious few developed parts to play these "skill" positions. The running backs can't block, either because they're really spread nutrinos (Toussaint, Hayes, Norfleet) or true freshmen (Green, Smith) who didn't need blocking lessons to run over high school fools. The fullbacks are a walk-on they've been developing for awhile but who still misses 1 in 5 blocking assignments, and a RS freshman they recruited out of Utah who needs work.
|Off. Performance vs. NW'ern When Player is On Field
(Only normal downs counted)
From a Borgesian perspective, the tight ends are in even worse shape. Funchess became a receiver because despite all that size he's not much of a blocker. That leaves his classmate A.J. Williams at the top of the depth chart despite the fact that he's not been a very good blocker, and his threat as a passing target fizzles out about three yards downfield. They've got Jake Butt, who like Funchess is more of a receiver at this stage in his career. And just so they have another body there, positional vagaband Jordan Paskorz has been getting a few drives here and there; after him it's burning a redshirt and air.
It would make sense, then, for the receivers to pick up the slack. If you can't block a guy with Williams, you can get that same block by putting a receiver far away from the play, so long as you threaten to go out there if a defender doesn't follow. But there's another problem with the receivers: Gallon is great but tiny, Funchess is great but still raw. Chesson is coming along. Dileo is himself.
And…? The coaches seem to have put every other receiver on the shelf: they've played Jeremy Jackson a lot and gotten little returns. Joe Reynolds seems to be not an option. So every time they go 4-wide, effectively the whole depth chart is out there. Exhaust those guys and the passing game goes away. Or at least this is the best reason I can imagine.
I'm not sure it's a good reason. It seems to me that they're pretty effective the more they spread 'em out, because you're essentially replacing a mediocre-to-bad FB or TE with a slot receiver who is pretty good at that job.
Did You See Dileo's Number in that Chart?
I spent much of yesterday and all night last night charting the personnel moves during last Saturday's game to be able to pull those numbers. The whole thing is here:
There's no way I can go back and do the whole season, unless Brian has a secret code hidden in the UFRs or something. Anyway: 9 YPA when Dileo is out there, and 4.5 to 5.5 when he's not. Here's some other things I found in there.
[After the Jump: What We've Learned]
- The bubble screen was praised. I may or may not have been there for it. I may or may not have been crying inconsolably all day as a result.
- Devin's left arm went numb during the game. Had to call timeout to get feeling back in it. Should we be concerned? Should we stop offending Angry Michigan Ulnar Nerve Hating God?
- Fitz missed practice time last week because of a concussion. He'll be back this week.
“Thanks for coming out. You know, it was a game where I think our defense really kept us in the football game, and I thought from the overtime, the offense started making a couple more things happen down in the red zone. That’s one thing both offense and defense we have to continue to work out. The red zones. Those haven’t been as good as we’d have liked them to be. But offensively I thought we started doing some nice things. We started the games, after the kickoff, we drive down, we have to do better in the red zone. We kicked the field goal, but we have to do a little bit more with it. We were 0 for 10 at one point on third down, which is not a number we want. It will be better. But the two backs, I think Derrick [Green] and De’Veon [Smith] did a nice job, averaged 4.4 yards per carry between the both of them. I think Devin [Gardner] had some form of running the ball 17 times. Had five sacks. Probably seven or eight called runs, and the rest of them called scrambles. He threw 43 times, did a nice job. We’ve got some that we dropped, and got some that we need to be a little more accurate and read through a little more.
“But at the end of the day, two things: Gallon jumping on the ball on the punt late to save time. It was a smart football play by him. And then I can’t give enough credit to – I told you after the game, it was one of the best team plays I’ve seen. When your field goal team gets on the field and guys on offense get off the field. I thought [Drew] Dileo, where he was, ran a vertical route on the other side of the field, and his effort to get there and slide in and hold. Gibby not really having a chance to go through his normal kicking procedure. Jareth Glanda, you can’t say enough about his snaps … But that whole team and the team getting off the field did a tremendous job. Gave us an opportunity to keep playing and win the game in three overtimes.”
Hey! Positive yards, you guys. Fourth and two call… oy. Throw a fade to Funchess. Devin Gardner, persisting.
Another good to very good performance with more safety rotation; they defended the option very well. Ace brings up Green smoking Nebraska, and immediately regrets saying the word "Nebraska."
SPECIAL TEAMS AND DECISIONS
More aggression is good; Matt Wile is officially good again. Oh right and that thing.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
Ohio State bludgeons without even trying, MSU eventually pulls away from Nebraska thanks to a bunch of turnovers.
"Across 110th Street."
"Flying Over Water," Jason Isbell
"In Love," weird Ben Folds side project with William Shatner called "Fear of Pop"
"The Great Communicator," Ted Leo
The usual links:
Life After Hand
It goes on, believe it or not. Michigan responded to missing out on Da'Shawn Hand by immediately offering Berrian Springs (MI) DE Jhonny Williams, a Missouri commit since September, and judging by his comments to Brandon he's taking his new opportunity very seriously:
Williams wasn’t shy about being excited to hear from Michigan for the first time just recently when we first spoke. After receiving his offer, Jhonny texted me last night with a very respectful message as he sorts through his options.
"I’m not ready to comment on the recent events. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I gather them. I need time. Thank you."
He didn’t hide the fact that he’s juggling some thoughts now that Michigan has offered and I expect the Wolverines to get some consideration.
Williams is a three-star, #42 strongside DE, and #15 prospect in the state according to the 247 Composite; while the rankings are middling, interest in him has picked up of late, as Notre Dame offered him last week. He looks impressive, albeit against relatively low-level competition, in his senior highlights on Hudl.
Shooting Down ALL THE RUMORS
Lose out on a top prospect in the midst of a very ugly stretch for the football team and now even the most outwardly faithful commits have to deny rumors of jumping ship. Rivals posted clickbait so obviously clickbait that I refuse to link it in which they suggest that Jabrill Peppers could join Hand at Alabama despite acknowledging in the very same article that Peppers hasn't spoken with the Tide in months. It even features speculation by a certain national analyst with the quote "I have nothing to back that up."
Meanwhile, Scout's Brian Dohn actually talked to Jabrill Peppers—a novel concept—and Peppers shot down the notion that he's looking around at all ($):
“I’m going to try to go out there for the game against that down south team,” Peppers said. “Everybody is worried about all of the recruits because of the losses, but that is why it’s called rebuilding. We have a new coach (Brady Hoke). He’s bringing in the talent.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to make sure we bring Michigan back to the Michigan we knew before.”
Not only is Peppers remaining a part of the class, he's planning to head to Ann Arbor for The Game. He's even giving quotes to the Daily about his future role on the team:
“I love (playing both ways),” Peppers said. “I love being able to have as many big-impact plays on the game as I possibly can. I definitely would love doing that, but first I want make sure that I’m fully committed and understand the defense and what coach Mattison is trying to do before they start moving me around to the offensive side of the ball.
“I’m all for it and want to do it and try to make as many plays as I possibly can.”
Decommitment pending, I'm sure.
As for Mason Cole and George Campbell, Sam Webb caught up with them after their regular season finale a week ago; they seem solid, as well ($):
Before departing the field both future Wolverines posed for photos that demonstrated their Maize & Blue pride in the form of Michigan caps and ‘M’ gestures with their hands. Upon putting on his hat, Campbell offered up an emphatic ‘Go Blue!’ When asked if that meant his commitment is solid, he didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he responded. “I am not listening to the calls (from other schools).”
Another "Go Blue", this time in tandem with Cole, hammered that point home.
Various tweets from other commits over the past couple weeks have driven this point home—the 2014 class is remaining firm in their commitments, at least for the time being, and there's nothing but pure speculation to suggest otherwise.
[Hit THE JUMP for a roundup of commit performances from last weekend.]
11/16/2013 – Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT) – 7-3, 3-3 Big Ten
In the long history of clock-running fire-drill field goal attempts there has been only pain and misery. When the game's about to end and you're trying to fling six guys on the field and take six off and align your kicker such that he can calmly take two steps and boot, you're gonna die.
Everyone knows this. Pac-12 refs know it so well that they don't even bother with last second field goals anymore as long as the defense squats on the ball like a hobo over a purloined chicken. Northwestern's student section knew it and was counting the clock down to their first Big Ten victory.
That's something I missed live and had to pick up on replay because I was dumbly staring at a horde of people exiting, a horde of people entering, focused on a line that I knew for a fact would not be set. So I also missed Drew Dileo sliding into his holder spot and recovering an instant before Glanda snapped it to him, possibly tipped off to exactly when he needed to get the ball off, set or not, by the numbers ringing out from the students.
Michigan's not set, in all probability, but there's no flag and Dileo's recovered from his sprawl and Gibbons ceases moving backwards, which oh by the way he is at the snap. Moving backwards. This is just an indicator of the doom to come—catch, placement, kick, overtime, whereupon it was ordained by fate that Michigan would pull this game out of their butt. Like it was nothing. Like it was always going to happen like that.
Because This Is Michigan, and That Is Northwestern.
The time for turning up your nose at any win, no matter how alarming, is past. Michigan could beat Akron on a triple reverse Hail Mary that Akron intercepts and fumbles out of their own endzone for a safety and it would be time to wave the flag and say hurrah.
So let us duly wave the flag. It is good to see the team happy. In the aftermath, various players tweeted out "Go team," each instance more delightful than the last, and then Taylor Lewan got piled on for following the crowd. Kyle Bosch did this.
— Kyle Bosch (@Kyle_Bosch65) November 17, 2013
And this time, Gardner destroyed the jumbled heap of pointy bits and gristle he calls a rib cage for a purpose. That purpose is looking an awful lot like not being in Detroit for a bowl game—SORRY, right, waving the flag.
While unit X's shocking incompetence is a callback to the Rodriguez days, so is feeling good for the put-upon players after a narrow win against a bad team. Even if I am in a emotion deprivation chamber for the rest of the year for my safety and that of people around me, the way you get out of those is by having good things happen, and that was a good thing.
It was also an obvious thing. My game previews have always been made in a spirit that says predicting things is dumb (thus the weird scores), but damn if this wasn't easy to call:
Michigan wins! On some bulllllllllshit that causes Northwestern fans to self-immolate.
Sippin' On Purple's Rodger Sherman has questionable taste in hats
This is what Northwestern does. Sometimes it's in the service of preventing a Big Ten championship game appearance, like it was last year; sometimes it's keeping you winless in that Big Ten. Either way, you could feel both sides of that stadium preparing to lose as Michigan embarked on the dread two minute drill. This one ended in chaos and fiasco, as they all do, but at the end Michigan managed to pull itself together and execute. Northwestern's bad mojo still trumps all.
That's not going to lead anywhere important—this season ends with an abattoir named Braxton Miller. In a landscape as bleak as the weather on Saturday, though, any ray of light is a welcome one. Let us forget about our worries and stare blankly into the butt of next week, ignoring what that hammering sound ahead might mean. It's probably meant for some other cow. Yeah. Otherwise I would not be so calm and tranquil.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. This is a tough one because while the defense held Northwestern to nine points in regulation, nobody really stood out as the single best guy on that unit. I think we will go with James Ross, though; Ross had an important sack and nine solo tackles amongst 13 total; his speed and ability to get to the right place was a major factor in Michigan suppressing Northwestern's option game.
Honorable mention: Jeremy Gallon had ten catches. Brendan Gibbons was perfect on the day. (Matt Wile missed the 51-yarder.) Wile dropped punt after punt inside the 20 and had a 50-yarder. Collectively, Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith had a stat line that looked like an actual running back: 27 carries for 120 yards.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska), James Ross (Northwestern)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Michigan executes the first and only successful clock-running end of game field goal fire drill in the history of football. Go team!
Honorable mention: Jibreel Black sacks Siemian to put Northwestern in a deep hole in the third OT, Jake Butt's one-hand stab gives Michigan a torchclown, Joe Reynolds flags down a punt at the one, subsequent Northwestern punt goes out at the ten, Derrick Green runs through a guy for a 20-yarder, Gardner leads with his ribs into the endzone.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.
11/16/2013: Michigan executes a clock-running last-second field goal to get the game to OT.
[AFTER THE JUMP: decisions, waggles, I hate Illinois rollouts, a brilliant GIF, and physics.]