"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Hayes Gets Wisconsin Offer, Postpones Decision
Michigan looked to be sitting pretty with 2016 Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Daelin Hayes last week when he announced his intention to make an April 27th decision. After receiving an offer from Wisconsin yesterday, however, Hayes has decided to take more time with his recruitment, per Rivals's Josh Helmholdt ($):
"Once [Wisconsin] offered I was in complete shock," Hayes said. "I honestly didn't see it coming. It was an amazing feeling and I immediately thanked God."
"My parents are the reason I decided to wait things out," he said. "[They] want me to slow down the process."
Brandon said Hayes will now wait until after his junior season to make a decision.
According to TomVH, Hayes now has Wisconsin in his top three with Michigan and Michigan State. While the second quote above indicates that the postponement wasn't entirely due to the new offer, it's clear the Badgers are going to be a factor moving forward.
In related news, 247 is the first outlet to release complete rankings for the 2016 class, and Hayes comes in at #126 overall (#8 RB—he's being recruited at multiple positions). Michigan's lone commit in the class, IL OT Erik Swenson, gets an initial ranking of #233 overall (#23 OT); that comes as a bit of a surprise, as Swenson had been billed as a potential five-star when he committed.
Given that these players have yet play their junior seasons, and most of the offseason camps are still to come, I wouldn't put a great deal of stock in these rankings. By the time these players sign their LOIs, the list will have changed dramatically.
[Hit THE JUMP for details on two recent offers, a big-time weekend visitor, Michigan commits in the updated ESPN300, and more.]
YOU'RE GONNA HAVE A BAD TIME
You asked today “how Borges is Nuss?” I think equally appropriate is “how Gibson is Funk?” It seems to me that their respective backgrounds, personal ties to the HC and seeming invulnerability in the face of terrible performances on the field are quite similar. And, my fear is that loyalty to Funk – like RR to Gibson before him – will ultimately lead the HC’s demise.
Do you agree?
I am about to conjure forth a firestorm of controversy and despair. Be warned.
Gibson's miserableness is likely overstated. Back when everyone was like "this secondary is the worst secondary in the world" I went back and looked at WVU's passing D performances under Rodriguez and found that they were decent. Tony Gibson coached Ryan Mundy well enough to get him drafted by the NFL—something that did not seem in the cards when he was at Michigan. Tony Gibson is… possibly not a complete twit.
/rain of blood
/skies turn black
/rabbit graveyard sees rabbit corpses assemble itself into evil zombie rabbit voltron
He is obviously not great, as secondaries he has been around since tend to be disaster zones. But the things that made him look like a twit at Michigan are some of the same things afflicting Funk: his coordinator doesn't know what he's doing week to week and therefore his players don't know what they're doing, everyone is confused and miserable.
Then someone shoots the glass in your underwater research lab. When the structure is so broken there's only so much you can tell about which part of the rubble was marginally less sound than other parts of the rubble.
You are right that we can take a look at heuristics in an attempt to find out if there are reasons other than perceived competence that Funk is around. Funk does not appear to meet Good Ol' Boys standards. Whereas Gibson came up with Rodriguez all the way from Glenville State, Funk has bounced from coaching staff to coaching staff on his way up the ranks. Hoke hired him from Colorado State just before his last year at Ball State, whereupon the Cardinals rushed for nearly five yards a carry. San Diego State went from 115th(!) in yards per carry to 28th in the two years Funk was there. And he did rather well to start at Michigan before the full weight of Rodriguez's recruiting came to bear.
Funk's track record with Hoke is pretty good, and he is not a guy who has been around forever-forever. I'm not sure we're going to get much clarity about whether he's a good coach this year given the issues with personnel, but it's put up or shut up time no matter what.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on using an opt-in system for student tickets. In my opinion, this would solve several problems. First, it would immediately reduce the number of empty seats by identifying non-attending students and allowing the University to resell their tickets. Second, it would condense the student section which--in the opinion of a recent alum (2006-2013)--would improve the stadium experience for students and, in turn, encourage more students to show up.
Under the system I envision, you would pay a fixed amount (approximating the price of season tickets) which gives you the right to opt-in to each individual home game for no additional fee. During the week leading up to each game you have the ability to "claim" your ticket online, up until some cut-off period. For example, maybe you have until 12:00am the night before the game.
If you don't claim the ticket by then, you cannot attend (I have mixed feelings about whether you should get some sort of small refund. maybe $5). Any unclaimed tickets would then be assigned the upper-most seats in the student section and then be resold by the university the morning of the game. The students would have to be alerted, somehow, as to which rows of the student section have been resold and are no longer part of the general admission section.
There would also have to be some penalty for students who claim their ticket but are no-shows. For instance, if on two separate occasions you claim your ticket and don't show up, you lose your right to claim tickets for the rest of the season. Obviously the University would have to start tracking student attendence (maybe by putting the tickets on the MCards like in bball), but I dont imagine that would be difficult.
This is what Michigan did for basketball this year except presumably Michigan will not be overbooking the student section by 50%.
I'm opposed. A claim system does allow the university to sell seats that would otherwise be empty; it's a pain for people, though, and as part of my withdrawal from the field of the War On Students I'm in favor of making the process of going to games as easy as possible for everyone but especially the fickle next generation.
The question then becomes: how do you reward loyalty without annoying overhead? Michigan's revised student section policy is a major step forward:
By 2015, seat reservations will be based entirely on loyalty. Attendance points will be accumulated the following ways: each game attended is three points and arriving 30 minutes prior to kickoff earns an additional three points per game, for a total of six points per game.
Groups of up to 100 students can reserve seats together.
Groups get the average priority of everyone in them. That's simple and effective; it does not put any onus on the students except to show up early, and it was obviously concocted by the student government because I mean seriously the guys in suits have been trying to fix it and came up with HAIL and the world's worst GA policy. (I hope that my repeated rants on the subject had some influence there, but probably not.)
It's a step forward. Others can be taken. The new priority system does not solve one of the main reasons the student section ends up looking empty: it is extremely difficult to flip tickets. The university decided it wanted full price for a student ticket not used by a student way back in the day and put a cumbersome validation process in place; if that was ditched most of those tickets not being used would get sold and deployed.
This brings back the unpleasant specter of the dudes I knew in college who bought tickets just to put them on eBay. I don't think that's going to be nearly the problem it was when student tickets cost $295 for the privilege of watching Penn State and nobody else. If Michigan's not capturing full value there they have to be close. Michigan should let tickets be sold normally while still scanning M-Cards for priority, and if you don't go to at least three games you no longer get to buy tickets.
Ugh. Capturing full value. I'm going to go take a shower now.
What's your solution to the Bag Man?
I put up a post on this on Bag Man Day that was immediately stepped on by the Horford transfer; I wanted to expound on some questions I got in the mailbag and picked this guy's email from about a half dozen.
Part of college football's draw is amateurism; kids playing for education not money. Obviously this is all smoke and mirrors anymore, but it's hard to let go of that aspect of it (if for nothing other than nostalgia's sake). I have a passing interest in the NFL as compared to college football. There's just a sense of cynicism when everything is commercialized and athletes are getting paid big money to play a kid's game while the "rest of us" slave at work for crumbs. Here are some questions you may be able to give your opinion on assuming some sort of compensation is awarded to student athletes.
Shouldn't we just make college football a D-League or create one for those who want to skip college?
Is the draw amateurism or the fact that these guys are students like the other students? Amateurism proponents are quick to mention the Insane Dollar Value of their scholarship. Some even go so far as to include all the world-class training and such in their effort to portray the college athlete as already well-compensated. If they're successful in their arguments, don't they just defeat themselves? They're already being compensated. Now we're just discussing the price.
Might as well go all in and not try to walk some line between amateurism and professionalism right?
Walking a fine line is dumb but neither should we upset the entire apple cart if we can at all help it. College has a lot of good effects for players even if they're not getting engineering degrees, and with most of them headed for brief pro careers at best the current model does a lot of good for a lot of people. We've done a half-dozen events with Carr-era players, and man they make you glad that college football is the way it is instead of being minor league baseball or the CHL.
Why stop at a fixed stipend? Should there be some kind of salary cap? If there is a stipend or other form of compensation, won't there still be bag men to get top recruits extra money to attend certain universities?
A stipend is only one way to approach it. The Olympic model is another. If the NCAA was to say "we won't pay you, but we don't mind if you get paid for your likeness" that sidesteps Title IX issues and mitigates bag-man issues. The difference between ten grand and zero dollars is a lot more compelling than 40 grand and 50 grand. While it'll still have some influence, other factors actually become more prominent.
I mean isn't this really just bidding wars for free agents that we see in pro sports?
Even if this is a negative, and I'm not sure it is, it is already happening.
Should all the athletes get the same wage and who decides the pay scale? Wouldn't there then be problems with different "salaries?"
We seem to have figured this out for everyone else in America. I don't understand why this is a particular issue for athletes.
Do "student athletes" also get a scholarship?
Yes. I mean, it's a perk that costs the university almost nothing and has great symbolic value.
Is competitive balance a casualty? Poorer and smaller schools certainly won't be able to afford top recruits, and maybe not even the stipend, so do we just have the same handful of teams who can actually afford to be competitive and get national exposure, eliminate the "Cinderellas" and certain universities' football programs altogether?
Unless you can find a kid who chose the MAC over the Big Ten right now this is just the status quo.
I guess I just don't see a fix to an already broken system. There's a ton of money to be made and everybody wants a cut. Paying the athletes, which I'm not totally against and there are legitimate arguments for, isn't going to solve the problem entirely because the NCAA doesn't have any teeth to enforce their rules. Athletes will get a stipend but then there will still be bag men steering athletes to certain schools. In essence, they'll be getting paid twice.
There isn't a fix, other than dropping the Victorian-era approach to amateurism. Probably the most ludicrous regulation of all is that athletes can't sign with agents and maintain their eligibility. An agent! Someone who's job is to be an advocate and aid for your career, and you can't even say "you will be my agent" even without getting money and the NCAA yanks your eligibility. It's ridiculous.
Simply, the NCAA needs to look at the rules and decide which of them are even vaguely enforceable, then dump the rest.
Name: Jalen Bates
Position: Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6'5" / 235 lbs.
Location: Kaplan – Kaplan, LA (2015)
Offers: Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Michigan, Texas Tech
The Michigan coaches were burning the midnight oil on Tuesday night as Coach Jackson got on the phone with Louisiana native Jalen Bates to extend him a scholarship offer.
One of my coaches texted me the number for Coach Jackson because he watched my film and really wanted to talk to me. I called Coach Jackson and pretty much right off the jump he offered me. He said that he had just seen my film that day and was really impressed with it. After he offered he said they’d really like to try and get me up there for a camp or to see the campus. It was just like that.
Being a Louisiana kid and not hearing from Michigan until yesterday, I was curious to ask Jalen about his Michigan knowledge.
Well I have a cousin, Jonas Mouton, and he played football for Michigan. I believe he was an all-conference linebacker. So actually I know a little bit about Michigan. I definitely wouldn’t mind going up there and following in my cousins footsteps because he’s in the NFL now. Michigan is on a big stage and anybody would love to play on a stage like that so I’ll be considering them.
Bates is another one of these under-the-radar guys that the coaching staff seems to have identified early as his budding offer list contains just three other schools. LSU isn’t on his offer list as of yet but I asked Jalen if an in-state power like the Tigers is an offer he covets.
I actually didn’t grow up an LSU fan, I grew up a Ragin’ Cajun fan. I live close to the campus and I grew up watching them. They are a program on the rise right now. I’m just a fan of them more than LSU because I feel like sometimes people just go to LSU because of the name and because they are big. I’m not really a fan of LSU.
Even though Jalen seemed to like the idea of playing for a program like Michigan he was very apprehensive of playing and living that far away from home. He recognizes how different it would be moving from Louisiana to Michigan and that will be a big factor for him.
When I get ready to commit I just want the place to feel like my life. It has to feel like home, like a down-south type of hospitality. I don’t want it to be such a change that I’m miserable. I want it to feel like a family.
Jalen said that his recruitment is really starting to blow up so his summer plans are very fluid right now. He’d like to take some visits and check some places out, Michigan included, and continue to work on his technique, get faster, and put on good weight. Once his senior campaign starts he’ll likely commit either at a homecoming type of event or after his season is over.
5 – Trending Blue
4 – Solidly in a top 2-3
3 – Contender in a top 3-7
2 – Among large (8-15) group under consideration
1 – Let’s see if he visits before we talk
0 – Passing interest or none
This score is a little misleading as Bates only has four offers. He receives a vibe score of 3 by default but I’m not sure Michigan is a top 3-7 type of interest for him. With a family member recently playing at a high level at Michigan he may be inclined to check out Ann Arbor, but with the amount of emphasis he put on his southern roots and the fact that he needs a place to feel like home, I just don’t see Michigan getting serious consideration. Bates also flat out said that Louisiana-Lafayette was his leader and I’m not sure that will change. If his recruitment really does blow up he may be forced to look at other, more prestigious programs, but if not, he’s likely to stay close to home.
Previously: Last year's profiles.
|Elkton, MD – 5'11" 185|
||Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#60 CB, #20 MD
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#52 CB, #22 MD
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#64 CB, #20 MD
|Other Suitors||BC, UConn, Rutgers, Maryland, Tenn(?), USC(?)|
|YMRMFSPA||poor man's DeMarcus Milliner|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace|
|Notes||Eastern Christian (Freddy Canteen)|
Given the choice between kicking off this series with the most celebrated recruit in the history of Michigan football—seriously, Michigan has never recruited a player as highly ranked as Jabrill Peppers in the ten or so years people have been celebrating recruits—and one of the few players eligible for sleeper status, let's go with the sleeper.
He is Brandon Watson, and he's not only overshadowed by Jabrill Peppers but his own danged teammate pressing to start despite being fresh off the turnip truck. But even though Watson is a holy lock to redshirt, his recruitment does have implications for Michigan's 2014 season.
That's because Watson is a man-to-man pressing machine. Give him your suit and it will come back so flat it looks two dimensional. Give him a wide receiver and he will jam him into the sidelines, possibly no matter what the call is.
You get the impression he and Brady Hoke could play a hilarious joke on the media one day where they switch places and nobody notices. Here's Watson dropping Hoke's second or third favorite word three times in a brief window:
At Michigan camp, I showed off my physicality," he said. "I was a bigger corner than most of the guys there. I was teachable I think. I think I did everything to the best of my abilities, and coach noticed and liked it.
"I'm physical at the line. If the quarterback's looking for a route that's deep, and the receiver can't get off the line, that's definitely noticeable. I think I'm just real physical, but I'm fast so I can keep up with people as well."
Watson will pull off the Brady Hoke half of the switcheroo perfectly. The hard part is the other bit.
Thanks to the unusual nature of Eastern Christian Academy, Watson's junior year consisted of three games before the local authorities pulled the rug out. As a result the meticulously assembled junior film that is the backbone of internet clips does not exist. The pickings are slim. The clip above is a minute long and consists of clips from a single game in which he's not even thrown at.
Even so it does confirm that ECA lined Watson up one inch from the receiver's nose consistently and dared the opponent to do anything about it. Usually they did not. It is probably not a coincidence that the clip looks like an even more aggressive version of Michigan's spring game.
While the abbreviated 2012 ECA season limited scouting opportunities for Watson, ECA did hit up a few 7 on 7 events and most recruiting services did stop by an ECA game in 2013 to fill in data they did not have.
Watson's best moment was a 7-on-7 dubbed SWAG in which he was a main reason his team reached the title game. Rivals named him the best player in attendance:
1. CB BRANDON WATSON, ELKTON (MD.) EASTERN CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Whenever the football was in the vicinity of Watson, it was either getting intercepted or it was going to be an incompletion. … dominant in coverage. He consistently got a good punch at the line of scrimmage in man coverage, and when playing off he closed quickly on the football. As receivers attempted double moves, Watson ran with the opposition step for step, showing great change of direction. The most impressive part of Watson's day was successfully defending a number of jump balls in the end zone against taller receivers.
2) CB Brandon Watson – Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian
The 6-foot-0, 187-pounds cornerback rarely got beat and won the matchup against Godwin in the semi-finals. He displayed terrific ball skills, great speed and excellent footwork.
Watson also drew mention from Rivals in a 7-on-7 as a rising sophomore:
[Touted guy opposite Watson gave] Watson his opportunity to make a statement, and he did just that by recording several interceptions on the day, including two in one game.
When sites got around to see him play actual football, they sounded impressed. 247 caught ECA versus Maplewood (TN), which ended in a 60-20 ECA blowout. Watson had a spectacular over-the-shoulder-and-then-break-11-tackles pick six called back on a "questionable" pass interference call and generally shut off whoever he lined up against. A catch was detected, though not of the receiving variety:
Watson played bump man coverage all night and was physical on the line of scrimmage. His receiver did not have a catch all game. Watson showed good speed and quickness, as well as a fluid hip-turn. He has been coached well. Watson has a nice break on the ball and showed good reactive quickness. He has a nice build and looked to have excellent strength. Watson’s only concern is his height, standing about 5-foot-10.
"But he was six foot not two blockquotes ago!" you angrily exclaim. I know, man. I know. We'll get through it.
Scout, the source of the quick clips above, saw ECA versus the seemingly-misspelled Champagnat Catholic in their season opener:
… physical and was able to flip his hips and run with the receivers. He was comfortable playing press coverage, and he rarely let the receiver release and get into his route with any kind of rhythm. He also had a very good interception (not on tape) in which he closed very quickly on a ball thrown 20 yards down the field over the middle.
…definitely a kid who looks better in a game than in 7-on-7 contests. He was sensational, and by the end of the game it wasn’t even a question of whether Champagnat would challenge him. Receivers had no shot against him.
Elided, unfortunately, was the note that Champagnat (is it a champagne with gnats in it? Or a gnat addled with champagne, making a scene?) didn't have much of a passing game, as high school teams are wont to not have.
ESPN mentions his "good height and size" and praises him for being a "long, rangy defender"—"WELL, WHICH IS IT?" you thunder from a pulpit of stone and lightning—and generally praises his play:
Shows a long stride with good speed. Flashes recovery quickness to close separation.… Can turn and run with receiver but does show some tightness in the hips when having to make a sudden change of direction if in off man coverage. Will generally maintain balance and mirror receivers with his length from a trail position. … Displays the ability to match up and mirror receivers out on an island.
Sounds pretty good, and then…
Will most likely see recruitment from mid level BCS programs.
You really just cannot tell how much ESPN likes a guy not at the very top of their rankings by their scouting report.
2014 Elkton (Md.) ECA CB Brandon Watson -- Watson was by far the most physical corner at the camp Tuesday and brings physical tools to the table that most high school defensive backs just aren’t privy to. 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, it’s hard to believe Watson only had four offers to his name heading into Michigan’s camp, but with several pass break-ups made throughout the day, the Wolverines threw their name into the hat. Watson showed nice discipline against the wide receivers, timing his break in order to avoid a penalty and never being burned deep in press coverage, adding speed to his above average size.
This concludes scouting done by unbiased sources. The rest comes from ECA's coach, Dwayne Thomas, who gets in our The Pattern quote of the day, one that includes Canteen:
“They’re kids that you’re never going to read about in the paper in a negative way. They’re kids that are not going to miss class. Kids that are not going to be a disruption to any program. Kids that are extremely positive and extremely focused on being the best that they could possibly be in every aspect of their life. Kids that I would let date my daughter if she was of age. So you’re getting high quality individuals with extremely extremely high work ethic.”
That's a full Date My Daughter coach quote.
On the field, Thomas echoes the bits about bumping and physicality and whatnot:
“…. extremely extremely gifted athlete who can run and is physical. He can run with the quickest receivers and can be physical and bump it up with the big receivers."
Another Thomas quote:
Brandon has this unique combination of speed, strength and hip flexibility that will allow him to be physical with the big receivers, and he’s agile enough to run and defend the smaller receivers as well.”
Since Watson enrolled early, we have another slab of data to look at… or at least we would if anyone talked about him. Watson mostly popped up in spring to talk about Canteen.
"He's a confident player, but that's good," Watson says. "The only time he trash talks, though, is when we're playing (video games)."
He spent the spring mostly playing nickel behind Countess, and was quiet during the game-type substance. 247's Steve Lorenz has said Watson had moved to safety a few times, but in the spring game the non-Jarrod Wilson role was fought over by the Hill/Thomas/Clark trio; that nickelback spot is kind of between the two. Positional clarity is going to be a ways off for Watson.
Anything that takes him away from his jam is going to require an adjustment period. At no point in his recruitment did the word "zone" surface. He'll probably have to learn what to do when you're more than a millimeter from the wide receiver.
Etc.: Thomas has a bit of Fred Jackson in him:
Sam Webb: Is there a player in college or the pros that you can kind of compare him to?
Dwayne Thomas: “Brandon would be a cross between Deion Sanders type that can run with any receiver. But he is a physical guy like some of the physical corners that have played on the NFL and the college levels.
Deion Sanders, but physical!
Why a poor man's DeMarcus Milliner? I have to depart not only Michigan but the Big Ten for the most press-mad corner Michigan has encountered in recent times.
Milliner is the 6'2" five-star spider-beast who hurled Roy Roundtree into the first row during the Alabama game that started 2012 with a thud. He was a top ten pick several months later, and then turned out to be six-foot-even in the NFL. Watson is probably 6'0" like Milliner was 6'2", and he will try to duplicate the things Milliner did… probably with less success.
Guru Reliability: Low. Limited exposure due to junior year scheduling snafu, and while there are a couple 7 on 7s it doesn't appear like he was at Nike camps or the like.
Variance: Moderate. Played the position he projects to, got a lot of coaching, healthy. High floor. Ceiling, though…
Ceiling: Moderate. Did not wow anyone with that size and speed; big differrence between 6'1" and 5'10" here that seems to be on the shorter side.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Watson should at least be a capable player. Stardom doesn't seem super likely due to profile and lack of spring buzz.
Projection: With both starters and both backups from last year returning, Peppers incoming, and guys like Delonte Hollowell around, Watson should be the lockiest lock on the roster to redshirt. The only way he plays is if he gets drafted onto special teams, and that seems wasteful even for this redshirt-averse staff.
It doesn't get much easier in the near future. Michigan loses only Taylor and Hollowell from the secondary after this year, and even two years down the road Watson is likely trying to pass Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, or Peppers to get significant playing time. This is of course possible; more likely is Watson putting in his special teams time until he can emerge as an upperclassman.
Watson is plausible, if not ideal, at safety and may get looks there if Michigan finds itself a bit short in the future.
In today's basketball world, the corner three is superior in value to any shot that doesn't come at the rim. It's also the toughest shot in the game to create for yourself; to do so requires a silky touch, a tapdancer's precision, and the guts and/or stupidity to launch a shot that would earn most players a quick trip to the bench.
Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry covered this topic in exacting detail yesterday, posting this fascinating chart that shows the assist rate for shots made from each spot on the floor—three-pointers usually require assistance, and the rate increases as the shooter gets closer to the baseline [click to embiggen]:
Goldsberry's post focused on the players who could create those high-percentage shots for their teammates, because even in the NBA, finding players who do it themselves is a difficult proposition:
Meanwhile, unassisted corners 3s are the white buffalos of perimeter shooting. They don’t come around too often. As it turns out, dribbling into the corner and firing up a 3 is very difficult, and perhaps unwise, as well. It takes a special kind of player to even attempt this task, as Rudy Gay demonstrates for us here: [GIF of Rudy Gay dribbling into the corner and badly airballing a fallaway attempt]
Which brings me to Nik Stauskas. I've written before about his pregame shootaround routine, but it's worth mentioning again. In addition to practicing the usual spot-up threes from various points around the arc, Stauskas always spent time in the corner working his crossover stepback, a move designed to clear out just enough space to launch from a spot that opponents long ago learned to keep him from at all costs.
Without ever having to look, Stauskas's feet nestled precisely between the three-point line and the sideline, the product of countless practice hours transforming process into instinct. By the end of his Michigan career, he made these audacious warmup attempts at about the same outrageous clip that he hit his normal shots. Michigan's shootarounds were considered must-watch because of the team's—and especially Glenn Robinson's—impromptu dunk exhibitions; for me, however, the Stauskas Stepback was always the highlight.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on Stauskas's incredible shot creation in GIF, still, and chart form. Oh, and some more words, too.]
Question: Did you notice any appreciable difference in the Spring Game between the Borges offense and Nussmeier's? What are hoping to see by fall, and do you think they appeared to be heading in that direction?
I might not be very useful in this roundtable.
Brian: Well... it wasn't much different in person.
And the stuff they did show was the usual vanilla business that is designed to be as basic as possible, so I'm not sure there's a whole lot to glean. It looked a lot more compact than last year's offense, sure. All spring games look compact as the bells and whistles are stowed away for use on a two-point conversion in the bowl game after you're down one billion points.
Michigan did seem to have a dedication to the inside zone with a side of power, and the linemen seemed more focused on making sure the defensive tackle was good and beat up before trying to get to the second level. That led to a lot of runs that made it to the line of scrimmage (hooray!) and didn't get much further. And that's fine. You don't dig out of a hole as big as the one Michigan's in quickly. Michigan looks like it's going to be mostly an IZ team that mixes in power to keep opponents honest, and as long as they look like that through the nonconference season and don't start flipping people about all willy-nilly, that is the first step towards competence.
So that's what I think we'll see: a boring-ass offense that tries to keep errors to a minimum and punts a lot. People will complain about its predictability and simplicity and they'll be right. Michigan doesn't have much choice, unfortunately.
Seth: It's impossible to compare Borges's Michigan offense to anything, because Michigan's offense wasn't anything under Borges for more than a few games. The three things I was looking for were 1) personnel, 2) a concept, and 3) how well those things could complement each other.
|If you flup this up, Doug, so help me Bo…|
Personnel was heavy, which was discouraging. For one Michigan has little in the way of tight ends. I didn't see anything from A.J. Williams, who was behind Heitzman, or Khalid Hill, who was behind Houma, and that was discouraging for hope of TE production before Butt's back. Houma is a fullback who lined up at the U only to motion back to fullback.
The operating theory on the OC hire was that Nussmeier at Bama was forced to use heavier formations than he wanted, however that compromise came down to 65% of snaps with three or more receivers:
|Team||Big||2 WR||3 WR||4 WR|
|Bama (Sugar Bowl)||3%||31%||58%||7%|
Eyeballing it, the spring game was closer to Michigan in 2013. If there was a difference it was more Ace as opposed to I-form, but that's less relevant because those second TEs were usually Houma and Kerridge, i.e. the fullbacks. There's a fear shared by every Michigan fan with a functional nervous system that the run-and-shoot-yourself-in-the-face offense under Borges was, despite protestations to the contrary, a mandate from the top. If Nussmeier compromises for Hoke more than he would for Saban, well, that would be insane. If that was all just a bunch of spring practice hooey, well, why are they spending spring practice on hooey when every countable hour is precious?
|Great scott Doc, this is too heavy. [Fuller]|
On the upside, there was a concept. The running was mostly zone, with some power mixed in only because you need to pull somebody to sell play-action. The passing game was a slight departure from Borges, who used a lot of 5-step patterns last year. These were 7-step patterns with an outlet, matching what we saw from Nussmeier at Alabama. The difference here can be overstated; Borges used lots of longer routes with Denard but went to the quicker stuff in 2013 because he couldn't get protection to last longer than that.
How do I feel about that? Well it fits the receivers' abilities. There's no Gallon to turn every 7-yard cushion into an easy 5 yards, but there's Canteen and the Funchise and lots of leapy things who can reel in a desperation heave. I have serious doubts the offensive line can hold up that long, but that's why there's an outlet. On the play I drew up it was Funchess running what appeared to be an option route; with Alabama it was usually an RB.
Zone is good. It's what Funk knows, it's easier to teach to young linemen, and we've already established his charges' total inability to pull correctly. My guess is the tight ends are in there because the OTs need help, though any time you have Heitzman/Williams/Houma in there instead of Chesson that's a talent downgrade.
I think the great hope for an offense that can finish in the top half of the conference is Gardner. I think Nussmeier is building an offense that is simple for everybody but him.