Last summer, Bacon dropped "Endzone" (Amazon link), a nonfiction book that chronicles many of the things that had to go wrong to produce the Dave Brandon Era, and many more things that had to go right for Michigan to emerge from that disaster even stronger than before. By early September enough readers had pieced the bits of their blown minds back together enough to be like, "wait…what?" so we offered you the opportunity. Questions were asked in that thread or emailed to Brian.
One football season later, we have answers. Sorry it took this long—mostly the delay was due to one of the most questions that couldn't be answered without a few more months of data. Also Bacon was all over the country promoting the book this year, and had a kid in the interim. Plus there was football, so we held onto this for a little longer.
1. Why not BRANDON’S LASTING LESSONS?
In Seth Fisher’s review here in MGoBlog – which I found thoughtful, well-written, and unusually good at getting beyond the surface—Seth mentioned that, at the book launch at Rackham on Tuesday, Sept 1, he’d heard I really didn’t like the faux title, “Brandon’s Lasting Lessons.”
Actually, I find it amusing, and I get the point, too. As I’ve written before, if you were to compare Bo’s Lasting Lessons to “BLL,” the contrast would be striking. And if Michigan – and other power athletic departments – don’t learn the lessons this time, shame on them. The future will not be bright.
But it’s probably not wise for any author to refer to his book as something other than its actual title. Further, I don’t want to come off as flip or snarky toward Brandon. The entire book is not about him, of course, and I did my very best to be as fair as I could possibly be to him and his record, throughout. But if other folks find BLL funny, I will not begrudge you your fun.
[After THE JUMP: the attempt to interview Brandon, typos, and what happened with MSU moving to odd years?]
Ranked out of five swag Mattisons, naturally. Also check out this board post that should be a diary from alum96.
Greg Jackson, DBs, Michigan
If Michigan goes with an internal promotion it will be Jackson, not Greg Mattison. Mattison isn't going anywhere as he plans on retiring at Michigan; Jackson could make a move if he was offered a coordinator spot. After Michigan's defensive backs had a terrific year, that is at least a vague possibility.
In this scenario Michigan would bring in the best DL or LB coach they can find—Roy Manning?—since Mattison can coach either position group.
Likelihood: if Michigan does not end up with a slam-dunk outside candidate this is probably happening.
Verdict: Love what he did with the DBs this year, but track record still thin. Would at least ease necessity of finding a front seven coach.
Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Georgia
Probably out the door after Kirby Smart's hire at UGA. Has never left the south, possibly in his life. Had some sort of midseason blowup after which Mark Richt had to reassure everyone on twitter that Pruitt was still the DC, but afterwards it was assumed he was gone even before Richt got axed. That might be a problem for many coaches. It's probably an asset when you're working for Harbaugh.
Pruitt is regarded as a big-time recruiter as well. Mecole Hardman appears attached at his hip and he is at least at Durkin's level there. Georgia defensive players took to twitter en masse to plead for his job after Richt's firing, so whatever issues there were didn't seem to impact his players much.
Pruitt has taken on Auburn—the SEC's closest analogue to Ohio State's offense—three times in his career. Chronologically:
- As FSU's DC in the 2013 national title game: Auburn (the #7 FEI offense) put up 450 yards and 31 points, though two touchdowns were drives of 27 and 25 yards.
- At Georgia he held the #5 2014 Auburn offense to 7 points and under 300 yards, and then throttled a much much worse offense this year for similar numbers.
That's a pretty decent track record.
Likelihood: currently believed he will replace Smart at Alabama, where he was the DBs coach for a minute. Is believed to be interested in the Michigan opening. Would be an awkward fit since Michigan already has two DB coaches, but if he comes it might not be the end of the shuffling.
Longshot, but if he meets with Harbaugh they might get along, or get in a knife fight. Or both, because a knife fight seems like a good way to break the ice with these two.
Verdict: Pruitt is an angrier Durkin with good success against Auburn.
Barry Odom, DC, Mizzou
No Harbaugh connection, but probably available after Pinkel announced his retirement. Alum96 laid out the case for him, which largely built around the fact that he rescued an awful Memphis defense and then took over at Mizzou, where he maintained a very good D in trying circumstances:
He went to Memphis for 3 years and took an awful D and built it up year after year - by year 3 it had excellent metrics for a non P5. Again let me emphasize with these spread offenses today you can go to a non P5 and make a top 20 offense. You can do it at the bottom of the P5 too (seee Indiana or Washington State) Schemes help offense a lot more than defense. Building a top 20 defense or near it without elite athletes is damn hard as scheme can only take you so far - you need the horses. So his annual progress at Memphis and his final product in 2014 both impress. I also like that Memphis defense fell dramatically this year when he left - it shows me the defense suffered without him.
Then he took over a Missouri defense this year which had metrics similar to GMatt UM and kept is steady despite a steady outflow of NFL draft picks from the front 4 especially (and front 7 in general) in recent years. This despite coaching a 3-4 at Memphis and converting to a 4-3 at Missouri.
Odom fits Harbaugh's profile: he is a young up-and-comer, and he's got a very solid 4-year track record. Recruiting is something of an unknown, but he's 38 and is after it. Also a linebackers coach.
Likelihood: would definitely come. Harbaugh has to find him on his radar though.
Verdict: aside from Pruitt the guy on the board with the best combo of results, age, and experience.
Todd Orlando, DC, Houston
Former Utah State DC snapped up by Tom Herman when he took the Houston job. Moved Houston's D from 73rd to 31st in one year, and before that had kick-ass Ds (15th and 9th!) at Utah State of all places. Wisconsin grad, so Midwest-y. Had seven prior years as a DC at FIU and UConn. LB coach and former LB himself.
Honestly, if Herman likes him that's good enough for me.
Likelihood: dollars would make the difference.
Verdict: relatively young, ton of experience, excellent results, good staff fit. Yes please.
Lance Anderson, DC, Stanford
Harbaugh protégé ascended to top spot at Stanford two years ago. Michigan made a run at him last year but with Durkin coming in that turned into some sort of co-DC situation that a sitting DC was unlikely to find appealing.
Very solid first year save getting bombed by Oregon 45-16; finished #7 in FEI. Rather less good this year as Stanford finished 61st.
Likelihood: Doubtful. Would be a lateral move from a school that doesn't lose many coaches. Shaw is an offensive guy, so he's probably working with little or no interference. Unknown if Michigan throwing a bucket of money of him would move him since Stanford is private and we don't know how much he makes. Stanford does have a million billion dollars in general, though.
Verdict: Young, knows Harbaugh, probably can get after it in recruiting, LB/DT coach so a good fit for the current staff. Track record a little eh.
Jim Leavitt, DC, Colorado
Former USF head coach fired after grabbing and slapping one of his players at halftime of a game in 2009. Did win a wrongful termination suit afterwards. Found a home under Harbaugh as a linebackers coach for the duration of his San Francisco tenure, then grabbed the Colorado DC job. Year was nothing to write home about but he did improve the Buffalo D from #104 to #73.
Tenure at South Florida was long enough ago that we don't have a ton of advance stat data, but by FEI his last three years were excellent considering the circumstances: USF was 4th, 37th, and 35th from 2007 to 2009.
Likelihood: If Harbaugh wants him he'll come. How likely that is after the incident that got him fired is unknown—but I have to think it's not particularly high.
Verdict: Guy knows his way around a college defense and the incident that got him fired is now six years in the past. Still a major drag. Is a LBs coach, so that's a fit.
Scott Shafer, former HC, Syracuse
2008 season whipping boy took the dignified way out after having the 3-3-5 imposed on him midseason with predictably disastrous results. Moved to Syracuse as DC and then got the head job when Doug Marrone got the Bills job. Got reasonable results with bad talent until this year (DFEI, 2009-2015: 70, 38, 39, 39, 65, 36, 104).
Excellent dude who was Harbaugh's DC in 2007 before leaving for Michigan, which… uh… I know that seemed like a good career move at the time.
Likelihood: currently unemployed, so a definite yes if Michigan is interested. Harbaugh might hold a grudge for a lateral move.
Verdict: Eh. I'm sure he'd be fine.
Vic Fangio, DC, Chicago Bears
Cumong man, this makes us look ridiculous.
But Rivals said…
Verdict: Do you even want an NFL coordinator? We just saw what happens when an NFL style defense goes up against a spread option. Fangio's only stop in college since 1982 was one year with Harbaugh in 2010. This was a good year in which Fangio's defense gave up 52 points to Oregon. Also, like, recruiting?
Wagner is the rare C that can attack off the dribble. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
After playing all of 22 minutes through Michigan's first four games, freshman center Moe Wagner poured in 34 points on 21 shot equivalents over the last three contests—incidentally, all Michigan wins. He's gone from the #4 center to the #2 center in the span of a week; with how he's playing on offense, John Beilein may have no choice but to start him before long.
That's because Wagner's offensive skill level is leaps and bounds better than any other center on the roster in a way that opens up the entire offense. That impact was on full display last night against NC State.
Let's start with a look at his dunk; Wagner holds the ball at the top of the key, Michigan runs action like he's going to hand it off to Caris LeVert, and instead he goes off the dribble to posterize a guy:
Wagner's understanding of how the defense will react to this is so impressive for a freshman. He goes to the hoop the moment his defender, Beejay Anya, takes a false step towards LeVert; he also seems acutely aware that the weakside defender took a step out of the paint—he doesn't hesitate to go for the dunk because of the room that provided him.
Speaking of room, check out the spacing a skilled center provides in a John Beilein offense:
With two very dangerous shooters on the other side of the floor and Wagner operating on the perimeter, five NC State defenders have a combined one foot in the paint. This is also quite helpful when running the pick-and-roll, and Wagner did a great job as the roll man last night.
[Hit THE JUMP to see Wagner's impressive instincts on the high screen.]
In seemingly done but not official news that would have been way more disappointing last week:
Source: D.J. Durkin will be the next coach at Maryland.
— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) December 2, 2015
I think we all assumed that Durkin would be a head coach sooner or later, but not after one year, and not in Michigan's division. At least Durkin gets away from Ohio State's offense, though. Yeah.
Unless there's an 11th-hour switch here, Michigan needs a new DC and/or a LB/DL coach. Mattison can handle either unit in the front seven and could get bumped back up to the main job; Greg Jackson might be a DC possibility as well—the job he and Zordich did with Michigan's DBs was terrific.
Steve Lorenz has three DC names to watch that includes a familiar name: former Michigan DC and Syracuse HC Scott Shafer. Shafer did get a really raw deal here the first time around.
Reuben Jones (#4) and Shelton Johnson (#7) are probably not the same weight, lying roster. [Fuller]
The Question: Which freshman who redshirted this year will have the biggest impact/are you looking most forward to seeing in 2016?
|Tyrone Wheatley Jr.||TE||6'6"||245|
|Jon Runyan Jr.||OL||6'4"||275|
Adam: That Jim and Jay Harbaugh are looking to assemble an army of gigantic, athletic tight ends isn't exactly classified information, and they have someone who fits that mold in Tyrone Wheatley Jr. TWJ was recruited as both a tight end and defensive end, and at 6'6" and 260 pounds (and likely bigger and certainly stronger by now) that isn't much of a surprise; Jay Harbaugh said he's hoping Tim Drevno doesn't notice Wheatley Jr., so it seems plausible that he could also go down the path to being a really athletic offensive lineman.
He is, however, very much on the path to becoming a tight end at Michigan right now. It just so happens that there's going to be an AJ Williams-sized hole in the lineup next season, and who better to fill that than someone who's approximately AJ Williams-sized. Wheatley Jr. was talked about as a guy who could find playing time as a true freshman thanks to the relative polish for his age in his catching and blocking abilities, but a leg injury sidelined him early in the year and derailed hopes of early playing time as the TE group went from Jake Butt and ? to Jake Butt, his foil AJ Williams, and impressive depth in the form of Khalid Hill, Ian Bunting, etc. It seems likely that Wheatley Jr. will see significant playing time next season armed with plenty of scout team experience competing against one of the best defenses in the nation. Consider that, then consider AJ Williams' yards per target, and the hype surrounding Wheatley Jr. seems justified.
[Hit THE JUMP for MGoBloggers mentally adding 40 pounds to various stick figures]
This would not go over well.
After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.
With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:
Michigan broke out a 3-3-5 defense with an "even" front. Offensive coaches have different names for fronts but the basics are:
- Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
- Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
- Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
- Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
- Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)
These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.
Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.
There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.
[After the JUMP, we totally can't]