Your defensive line’s got some depth this season. Why is that depth going to be important for this team?
“I think depth’s really, really important with any defense nowadays with the way people like to run spread offenses and fast-paced offenses. A lot of them try to do that to try to negate a good defensive line. They try to tire them out, they try to get them running from sideline to sideline, and then they try to make them down to their level or average by being tired.
“Nowadays these D-linemen are bigger than they used to be and they’re carrying a lot of weight, so to have guys that rotate is really, really key for us. You saw that last year. We were a better defensive team when we had rotation, and when we got hit with some injuries it brought us down to not having the ability to rotate.”
Why do you see defensive linemen rotate and not offensive linemen?
“Well, offensive linemen don’t run to the football sideline to sideline. I mean, ours do. The good ones do, but there’s a lot of people that if you watch a defensive line, every play, whether it’s a pass all the way downfield or a sweep wide, you expect your defensive line to be running as hard and fast as they can to get there. Offensive guys are behind the ball sometimes so it doesn’t really matter to get down there that close.”
Have you found eight that have earned the right to be in that rotation at this point?
“Yeah, I think we have eight for sure, and there are more and more guys that are coming on. I would never rotate probably nine or 10 guys, but you always want the ability that if something does happen that another guy can come in and be one of those eight. That’s what we’re working for. Working for the ability to have a true rotation of guys.”
You really haven’t had a full, true eight guys here, have you?
“I think last year during the middle we were there. Then when Ryan got injured and Mario got injured, we bounced down under that.”
Who will you put out to start on Saturday?
“I really try to tell them that we have two starting lineups. You know, who goes out there for the very first play, we still have a couple days to decide that. Chris Wormley’s had a very, very good camp. Glasgow’s had a really good camp. Mone has really done well. Matt Godin’s doing very well. Taco. The whole group. I don’t want to single out one guy, because as we watch the film there’s an expectation, and to be in that first unit that takes the field very first of who’s in there the third or fourth play, they all have to do the same thing. I’ve been pleased with the effort and the work of all of them.”
[After THE JUMP: on communication during substitutions, working in Rashan Gary, and more Onwenu praise]
[Ed-Seth: We have the great pleasure of employing the services and serving utensils of the original barbecuing bloggerati Joe Pichey of GoBlueBBQ to write recipes for our most delicious sponsor, Stubb's BBQ sauce. It's kind of like that sweet brown ketchup everyone in this state usually buys, but with actual flavor. Also you can cook with it. For example…]
FINALLY!!!! The wait is over. We've made it to week one and the the biggest question of the offseason is about to be answered. Everybody has been talking about it and nobody knew the answer to the most asked question around Ann Arbor. No, I’m not talking about the starting QB for week 1. I’m talking about the first tailgate appetizer of the 2016 season. If you had Armadillo Eggs in the nonexistent, totally fictional office pool, congratulations. These are cream cheese stuffed jalapeños wrapped in breakfast sausage, rolled in crushed pork rinds and slow smoked for about an hour. Yes, you read that right. This is as close to tailgate perfection as you can get. Add a few frothy beverages and I am in heaven.
- Pork Sausage (I Like the Spicy)
- Cream Cheese (Jalapeño or pineapple flavor)
- Jalapeños (Halved and cored)
- Pork Rinds (Crushed)
- Stubb's Pork Rub
[After the JUMP: dippers at the ready]
Which freshmen do you NOT want to see burn their redshirts on Saturday?
BiSB: The blindingly obvious answer is Brandon Peters, so I'm assuming we won't spend much time on him.
As far as players who might actually play, I'll go with Josh Uche. Sure, Michigan needs to develop linebacker depth in a big damn hurry. And sure, Uche is a crazy athlete and has serious upside as an outside linebacker or weakside end. But he's skinny. Really skinny. He's listed at 6'3", 217 pounds. Remember how we all thought James Ross was too small as a freshman? He was 6'1", 225 pounds. But if Michigan wants some depth at SAM behind Peppers that brings some of the same pass rush and above-average athleticism, Uche might be it. He might be a fun toy to bring unholy brimstone off the edge, but I think an apprenticeship/eat-all-the-sandwiches year would be more valuable.
[Ace is typing]
[Hit THE JUMP to see who wants to redshirt Rashan Gary.]
Are you not entertained by PBUs? [Bryan Fuller]
|Boundary Corner||Yr.||Field Corner||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|Channing Stribling||Sr.||Jourdan Lewis||Sr.||Jabrill Peppers||So.*|
|Jeremy Clark||Sr.*||David Long||Fr.||Jourdan Lewis||Sr.|
|Keith Washington||Fr.*||LaVert Hill||Fr.||Brandon Watson||So.*|
Last year's secondary was sort of good. Michigan led the nation in yards per attempt allowed at 5.4 and opposition passer rating. S&P+ had them 11th nationally because Big Ten quarterbacks were double plus ungood a year ago, but that's still near-elite.
There's about to be some hedging about non-Jourdan Lewis corners because they weren't straight-up killers when they showed up on your television, but keep those numbers in mind when expectations are (slightly) tamped. Michigan gets back five of the six guys who spearheaded those stats. If you consider Jabrill Peppers a member of this unit, which you should, you have to back to 1997 for a comparable.
NOPE [Patrick Barron]
I'm about to write a lot about JOURDAN LEWIS, but you can skip it. The tl;dr version is "is Jourdan Lewis." He's an All-American. He's a perfect cover corner minus a few inches. He was all but impossible to escape a year ago:
He will be this again in 2016. The end.
Our probably unnecessary epilogue kicks off with an assertion from Don Brown that is both unexpected and extremely important:
Don Brown says of Jourdan Lewis on @SiriusXMCollege "may be one of the best run defenders at corner I've been around. Flat out"
— angelique (@chengelis) August 24, 2016
This is a weird thing for Jourdan Lewis to be since his run responsibilities a year ago were 404 file not found. Lewis was constantly locked in man coverage and almost never involved in the opposition's run game, which turned out to be much to Michigan's detriment against good spread offenses like Indiana and Ohio State.
As a result I don't have much of anything in which Lewis is active as run defender. He had a decent play against Florida when he was forced into the Peppers role:
And he ended up mirroring a WR in space effectively on a screen in the Maryland game. That's it. If that seems like an incredibly small sample size, it is. Lewis had probably under 20 tackles that weren't a direct result of a guy managing to catch the ball on him. We simply don't know how he's going to do when activated against the run.
Everything else is established. If you complete a pass on Lewis 90% of the time it's going to be like this:
Good luck creating an offense around that. For some reason, opponents kept testing Lewis despite this invariably being the result. PFF:
The top-graded cornerback in the nation last year at +22.3, Lewis broke out by leading the FBS with 15 passes defensed while surrendering only 36.7 percent of his targets to be completed, good for fifth-best. Perhaps most impressive was his ability to maintain his strong play from start to finish in 2015, despite facing 90 targets, 10th-most in the nation.
Lewis grades out like this because he is super quick and always in the pocket of whoever he's matched up against. By midseason I was clipping literally any completion on him that wasn't heavily contested for the sheer novelty. In addition to being impossible to shake, Lewis has mastered the craft of not quite interfering. One of his best traits is an sense of when to grab the receiver's hand such that his only option is to go up for a circus catch:
And that cat-quickness allows him to recover on routes that should be RPS minuses:
That should work. Lewis should not even be in position to get a little bit of hand on the waist and then extend through for a PBU. He is set up outside and has to make up a ton of ground in not much time. He does.
Lewis's main—only?—flaw is not being 6'1". A 6'1" version of Jourdan Lewis is a 15-year NFL All Pro. The 5'11" or 5'10" version is a good longterm starter. This didn't come up much last year. When Lewis was challenged by 6'5" quasi-TEs he won.
If it was a factor it was probably in Lewis's epic battle against Aaron Burbridge and Connor Cook. Lewis narrowly won that battle despite Burbridge going over 100 yards because it took almost 20 attempts to get there, but a hypothetical version of Lewis that is just as mobile and has another few inches of reach turns difficult completions into international-sign-of-no waving and punts.
Lewis's lack of size also occasionally figured in as opponents muscled through him, like on this completion in the bowl game:
Lewis has done an A+ job against lumbering 6'5" guys over the past two years but occasionally he will get ripped off balance by larger guys. That will continue.
Also in the tiny pile of areas for improvement is off coverage. Lewis wasn't bad at it, per se, but when opponents wriggled free it was often because they'd been issued breathing room.
Interceptions are not an issue. Some folks have asserted that Lewis got thrown at a bunch because he's not a threat to intercept the ball. He had just two a year ago, and one was against Maryland so that barely counts. I don't buy it; that feels like an answer to an unanswerable question. Q: Why do you do something that doesn't make sense? A: Well, here's something else that doesn't make sense.
Michigan's approach had a lot to do with the minimal INTs. Michigan rarely switched up their coverages and didn't run much zone, so opportunities to bait a quarterback a la Blake Countess were few and far between. Lewis ended up in a ton of trail coverage on which he could either secure a PBU or "get his head around" and potentially lose the plot.
It'll be fascinating to see how Don Brown changes this dynamic. Either way, Lewis is an All-American ticketed for the late first round of the NFL draft.
[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! Seriously this time!]
You were with Coach Baxter last year and now special teams is kind of your baby. Talk about what you’ve taken from Baxter and what you’ve brought in yourself to make it what you want it to be.
“They’re kind of Coach Partridge’s and I’s baby together, I guess. There were some things with Coach Baxter that were great and that we’ve carried over and other things that kind of we took from other places and things we’ve done in the past. As with anything, it’s always kind of a hodge-podge of different parts of your experience and you kind of piece together whatever you think is best for your specific team and players, so it’s a little bit of everyone.”
How deep is this group and how many guys will play?
“At what position? Tight end?”
Tight end, yeah.
“It’s really deep. I think there’s like 12 people or something. I couldn’t tell you how many are going to play. I think I would like for five or six [or] seven guys to play, but you never know exactly how a game’s going to go. There’s certainly a group of five or six guys that are all capable of contributing, and as you kind of go down the totem pole a little bit some of the younger guys have specific roles in packages that are a little smaller.
“You talk about getting guys in position to do things that they’re good at, so if they’re a younger guy it might be a speicfic four- or five-play set whereas Jake Butt has the whole playbook he excels at. We’ll just kind of see how the game goes, but I would say I’d like if we ended with five or six guys playing.”
Sean McKeon: you had him in the spring and all the way through fall camp. How have you seen him progress as a true freshman in that time?
“A huge amount. I mean, he’s a tremendously hard worker. It’s just the knack for—you tell him to do something or say, ‘Hey, I want you to work on this’ and he just does it and doesn’t overthink it. He just puts in the work. Very blue-collar in his approach. He’s improved a ton in really every way. Specifically as a route-runner [and] his ball skills.”
Jim talked about how happy he is with Kenny Allen. He did a good job for you last year. Where have you seen some improvement in all of those phases?
“He’s another guy—I mean, pretty much everything he’s improved on. We asked a lot of him to really shoulder the burden in all three phases, which not many guys do in the country. I think Hawaii’s guy was one of five guys in the country to do it last year, the Sanchez kid, who’s a very talented kid. Kenny’s excelled. He’s improved in every way. It’s exciting for him as a senior to be playing so well in every category.”
Would you be comfortable with him doing all three?
“We’d be more than comfortable with it because he’s physically more than capable of doing all three and he has the talent. I think ideally you’d like to take a little bit off of his plate, but it’s a long season and as other guys develop into certain roles I think that could happed. We’d be more than comfortable with him doing it if need be.”
There are so many athletic guys in this recruiting class that did all these good things in terms of returns and things in high school. Are you more apt to try and work them in there to not put a burden on Jabrill or Jourdan or Jehu?
“Yeah, there are a few guys that will have an opportunity.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
come out and plaaayyy
How this works again:
- Readers predict the final score of a designated game by placing a guess in the comments, preferably in the format of [M score][hyphen][Opp score], for example "41-0" or "35-0 Michigan", or "28-0 Go Blue", or "42-0 Harbaugh!" etc.
- The three guys who read this part holler at people who post in a different format
- First person (by timestamp) to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, I contact you for an address by your MGoBlog account email, and you give me some time to get that to you.
- If nobody got it right or I don't hear from the winner(s) we push it to next week or let it go.
Except this time you predict TWO scores!
About Last Time:
There was no last time. That was then. We're at now, now.
This Week's FIRST game: PARAMUS vs. Saint Francis!
— Paramus Catholic (@PCFB_LIVE) August 31, 2016
I've got two things to give out so I figured let's play twice. First Paramus is playing Friday night at the Big House at 6 p.m. If you wanna go, admission is $5 to see Drew Singleton, Corey Bolds, and whatever else from New Jersey Michigan may have designs on. We'll still be doing MGoRadio for the first hour else I'd join you.
This Week's OTHER first game:
FOOOOOOOOOOOTBALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL versus the state that tried to drop an apostrophe in its name like 50 years after we let them into the union.
I'm a liiitle excited.
And on the Line:
For the Michigan-Hawaii Game: One full-size, limited edition print by famous portrait artist (and Bacon book interviewee) Ben McCready. Bennie is named for THAT Bennie, who was his godfather. McCready is part of the lifeblood of this Michigan of ours. He was the guy they asked when they started the Legends jerseys, and the guy behind getting them retired again. He's putting one of his prints on the line for whoever guesses the score correctly.
For the Paramus-Whoever [checks] St. Francis Game: Open edition of the same.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning. The algorithm finds the winners as it chooses. The algorithm is self-correcting. The algorithm asked Jeeves! The algorithm is from Jersey, but escaped. The algorithm is Abby Wambach. This is the algorithm. Finally.