What goes into deciding whether to go punt block or punt return when you’ve got such an explosive return man in Jabrill?
“Uh…same thing that goes into when you throw a fastball or the curve. You know, you’ve got to pressure- the ability to pressure a punter keeps people in protection, sets up the ability to return. The ability to return a punt sets up the ability to pressure, and it’s really not unlike making calls of any kind in the game of football. You do all your work and you crunch all your numbers but you coach the game by feel, and it pretty much is that.”
How pleased are you with that unit? Does that unit still have more to give?
“The punt return unit?”
And punt block.
“I’ll tell ya, I’m really pleased, actually, with the punt return. The amazing thing is we’ve had 51 reps of it in five games now. Somebody needs to go back far and see how many times there’s 51 reps in five games. Obviously it’s because we’re playing amazing defense and what have you, but if you really look at what the unit has done, there’ve been three returnable balls kicked to us out of 51, okay? Obviously we had a round robin with all the Australian rugby punters against each other in the first four games, and everybody found out it’s really hard to return one of those. Three returnable balls, and we’ve- you know, the baseball analogy is we’ve hit the ball hard but unfortunately we’ve knocked it off the wall for doubles and triples. We haven’t had a home run yet.
“I think the thing that goes unsaid is Jabrill’s amazing decision-making back there [and] unselfishness to not risk balls that shouldn’t be touched or should be on the ground, protecting his teammates, those kinds of things. Besides being explosive the punt returner needs to be a great decision-maker and really needs to handle the ball well because one of the things we always say is if you have the ball you have the team, and you need to take care of the team. It’s been effective. I wish we could get more returnable balls, but I’m not in control of that.”
[After THE JUMP: Baxter is the Yogi Berra of this coaching staff]
Hey, I’m back. Sorry I missed last week. I tried to call, but it kept going straight to voicemail, and I didn’t want to leave a message because I figured I’d just see you Tuesday at the thing.
About Last Week:
The Road Ahead:
#13 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last week: Beat Ball State 24-19, Beat Minnesota 27-0
Recap: Northwestern is a thing. Probably.
They’re 5-0, they’re ranked in the top 15 for the first time 2001. They’ve given up the fewest points per game in the country (unless you’re just talking about points surrendered by the defense, in which case Michigan has the best scoring defense). They’re only giving up 4.0 yards per pass attempt, and have yet to surrender a 200 yard passing day to anyone.
But at the same time, the algorithms don’t like them very much (they’re #29 in the S&P+) and Vegas doesn’t trust them (they opened +12 against Michigan, which has since moved to about +8). And the reason is pretty obvious. They haven’t scored more than 24 points against any FBS opponents, and they’re #116 in the country in yards per play and #119 in passing yards per game.
Still, Northwestern remains a team about which we don’t know a lot, other than “defense good, offense bad.” Case in point: Northwestern bludgeoned Minnesota 27-0, which looks like a score indicative of an all-three-phases performance. But 14 of those points came on a fumble return for a touchdown and a punt return to the 5 yard line. Northwestern held Minnesota under 200 yards, but barely cracked 300 yards themselves.
This team is as frightening as: The upper end of the thing MInnesota was supposed to be. Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Northwestern is second in the conference in pretty much every major defensive category.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: They are second to Michigan in pretty much every major defensive category
When they play Michigan: Northwestern is what is known as a “fleet in being.” The problem isn’t that Northwestern is necessarily a good team. It that they are potentially a good team. Michigan plays Northwestern immediately before Michigan State, and I’m sure Harbaugh would prefer to treat this game much like they did UNLV; throw rock the whole time, not show anything interesting, and maybe set up the next opponent for a couple of counterpunches. But Northwestern looks real enough to have to take as a potentially serious game, thus losing the opportunity to play for the next move.
This week: @ #18 Michigan, 3:30, BTN
[AFTER THE JUMP: Monty Python, Kevin Bacon, and a rock]
We’ve heard a lot of guys say you tell them to stamp their personality on the defense. When did you start using that?
“I don’t know for sure when. Some time ago. I think it’s just a way for me to describe to those guys that-I mean, I think it’s important to play with a personality. You were recruited here for reasons that are good. Don’t change that. We don’t want robots. Keep playing the way you play, obviously within the scheme and what we do, but play the way you play the game. I think that’s important.”
They also say they believe in what they’re being given now, and that gives them more confidence. Can you talk about, as a coach, watching that process take place?
“Yeah. I just- I’m really proud of our guys of how hard they’ve been playing. That’s the biggest thing to me is playing with effort and playing with the technique we’re talking about, and so any time you get a group of guys that are believing in one another and playing for one another then I think you have a chance to have something special, and I think they’re starting to understand what that means.”
Any similarities between Oregon State’s offense and Northwestern’s
“Yeah, I think too often spread teams are all clumped together like, ‘Oh, they’re a spread team or a one-back team.’ I think there’s always a lot more differences that apply within those offenses than what some might say. Northwestern’s definitely unique in what they do and they’re really good at what they do. I mean, they’ve had that system there for a while and they do a great job. You can tell their players know what’s going on and know where they want to go.”
What are some of those unique things?
“Just…they’re committed to the run game. They’re a physical group. They’re committed to the run game, and they do a great job of changing up formations and personnel and all that but at the end of the day they want to run that ball, and they do a great job of it.”
You do some hands-on teaching. They said you get in the drills sometimes and show them stuff. Is that something that you’ve always kind of felt people learn better that way or it keeps you engaged or why do you do that?
“I don’t know. I’ve probably never but that much thought into it other than I think just what we said about stamp your personality as a player. I think you do the same thing as a coach, you know, and that’s…I don’t know. That’s just me. I like being hands-on and being involved in it. I like being high energy. Whatever your personality is, if you’re true to it I think that usually gets a response.”
[After THE JUMP: Nothing else about robots. Cyborgs maybe, but not robots. Fine, no cyborgs either. But defense, yes. Definitely some talk about the defense.]
[ED (Seth): By now you guys know Joe Pichey. You know about his recipes, and his blog, and why Stubb's sponsors them here, and why your doctor wants all this to stop. But I'm here to remind you anyway. Joe's blog is MMMGoBlueBBQ. Stubbs gives us some money to put his recipes here too because their CEO is a reader, and a nice guy, and he wants you to give his sauces a try next time you're in the supermarket. Your doctor: he wants you to cut out the saturated fats. Also maybe don't stand in the path of Michigan's defensive line. Actually if you're caught between a choice between having Italian sausage or Ryan Glasgow buried in your ribs, 9 of 10 doctors recommend the sausage. The 10th doctor is Doctor Durkin. He is a mean guy.]
Every once and awhile, you gotta fire up the grill and have a little fun. I love recipes that are a little sweet, a little spicy and a little charred on the edges. We all love that crispy edge, right? This is more of a technique than a recipe, but it's still tasty and really fun to make. I've used it on bratwurst, italian sausages and hot dogs so far, and all have turned out great. What's the benefit of this you ask? It adds some surface area that wlll char up nicely and it will also help hold some of the tasty condiments. Those ridges are fun!!! Just do it.
- Hot Italian sausages
- Hot dog buns
- Hatch Green Chili Anytime Sauce
- Sticky Sweet Sauce
- 12 oz beer
[Don't drink the beer; you need the beer. I said don't drink th—
Okay, go get another beer, and hit the jump]
"Superback" Dan Vitale is an excellent receiver/blocker. [Fuller]
Northwestern dismantled Minnesota, 27-0, last weekend. While the Wildcats defense proved dominant, the offense did not; Northwestern benefited from a defensive touchdown and a five-yard touchdown drive set up by a long punt return. That said, Clayton Thorson showed some improvement from his non-conference performances and the Wildcats eventually wore down the Gophers on the ground.
Can they replicate that against Michigan? Let's take a closer look.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Now with D-line rotation.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. Northwestern was in the gun for literally every non-goal line snap until garbage time, and they don't huddle, either.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A ton of inside zone with the occasional changeup.
Hurry it up or grind it out? This is a no-huddle offense that isn't quite at ludicrous speed but can push the tempo if need be.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
You know, Matt was just like "if I sponsor this you have to do them all for the whole season" and I was like "okay but you know that was going to be likely since now I am not going to be overwhelmed with sadness two-thirds through" and then he made some sort of intimidating hand gesture. But his heart is in the right place?
FORMATION NOTES: At this point Michigan has few formation surprises. They're usually in a nickel. They alternate between three or four fronts. One is a three man line with the buck in a two point stance as a 3-4 OLB:
30 nickel slide
One splits the DEs a bit further and tucks the buck in behind the NT:
And then they run a lot of standard four man fronts.
Some of the four man lines will have the buck in a two point stance; I still denote those as four man lines based on the alignments of the DL.
Michigan swaps mostly between man under with one or two deep safeties and a cover three with a few different variants.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotation up front with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley in front of Charlton/Hurst/Godin. Henry got a lot of playing time after a couple weeks in which Godin was more prominent; Hurst probably played the best of anyone. Ojemudia got almost all the buck snaps until he was hurt, and from that point it was RJS.
LB was Morgan and Bolden with a scattering of 4-3 snaps that featured Ross. The secondary did not have Stribling so it was Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Wilson/Hill for the vast majority of the game. When in a 4-3, Clark left. When in a dime, Dymonte Thomas entered.
Michigan continued flipping Peppers and Lewis between outside corner and slot like they did last week.
[After THE JUMP: a defenestration]