"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
With the season in the rearview and a new playcaller on the payroll the coaches have wasted no time in putting some new names on the offer board. Five new scholarship offers were extended within the past week, three from the 2015 class and two from 2016. Four of these young men will be recruited primarily by linebackers coach Roy Manning and from all accounts that is a positive thing. I was able to chat with each new offeree about the offer among other things.
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 6'4" / 187 lbs.
Location: Randleman High School (2015) – Randleman, NC
Offers: Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Michigan, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Ranking: ★★★★ .9163 (247 Composite)
If the Michigan coaches had a machine that created wide receivers, one might walk out that looked like Juval Mollette. He’s built a lot like Drake Harris, Csonte’ York, Jaron Dukes, and Moe Ways. At 6’4” he’s your typical long-striding, high-pointing type of receiver. He has good straight line speed but won’t lose anyone in a phone booth. He definitely does know how to use his frame to get position and make catches in traffic.
Coach Manning was the coach to offer the junior over the phone and Juval feels like Michigan is a good offer to add to his list. “My interest in Michigan is pretty high, but I really have the same interest in all of the schools that have offered me at this point.” Growing up in North Carolina, a state without much college football success, Juval didn’t really have a favorite team growing up and admits to not even really watching football until his freshman year. Because of that, and as you might expect he doesn’t know much about Michigan just yet. “I honestly don’t know too much. I know they have a great tradition of winning. I’m sure I’ll start to learn more.” Juval said Coach Manning made it a point to emphasize how important he was and that they don’t offer just anybody.
Based on his lack of interest in watching football and not really being a fan of anyone I’d say his recruitment is wide open. He has a solid offer list already with Michigan and Ohio State being the only non-ACC/SEC teams to show that level of interest. He’s never been to Michigan in any capacity and until he visits I think there’s a low probability of him becoming a Wolverine.
Ht/Wt: 6'0" / 185 lbs.
Location: St. Peters Prep (2015) – Jersey City, NJ
Offers: Alabama, Boston College, UConn, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★★★ .9859 (247 Composite)
Jabrill Peppers 2.0? Like Peppers, Minkah Fitzpatrick hails from New Jersey, plays a myriad of positions, looks far better than almost everyone else on the field, and is just a special athlete. I first made contact with him during my M Block days and honestly wonder why it took so long for the coaches to offer this kid.
From Fitzpatrick himself he says he already draws comparisons to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and prides himself on his Sherman-like physicality. Completely different from Sherman, Minkah thinks he needs to be more vocal on the field with communication and leadership.
Coach Manning once again was on the job and spoke to Minkah and his coach deciding to extend an offer to play at Michigan. I have heard great things from many recruits about Coach Manning and Minkah was no different. “Yeah I talked to him a lot. he seems like he would be a great leader and a great coach.”
Coach Manning won’t be the only person trying to bring Fitzpatrick to Ann Arbor as the aforementioned Jabrill Peppers reached out to Minkah immediately following his tweet about the Michigan offer.
— Breez (@JabrillPeppers) January 9, 2014
Jabrill and Minkah do have a bit of a relationship, he explained to me with a laugh. “We communicate a little bit but not too often. He’s tried recruiting me before though. I might ask him a few questions about Michigan but that’s about it. Or we’ll see how much he tries to recruit me.” And all Michigan fans rejoice.
With a look at his offer list Fitzpatrick has Michigan among many others to choose from and I asked him how the Maize and Blue stack up against the rest. “It’s a great program and I always liked the way they play. I’m really excited about the offer! I always try and do my research with every school and now that I have an offer I can start learning a lot more.” Part of that learning process will involve a first visit to Ann Arbor that Fitzpatrick hopes to take in the spring.
Fitzpatrick is going to have scads of options to weigh before he makes his decision but he really doesn’t want it to drag out if he can help it. “I would like to get it done before my senior season but if I don’t find the school that fits me best before then, I would probably have to wait until signing day.”
Fitzpatrick seemed genuinely interested in Michigan. He did admit to me that he also likes the Buckeyes quite a bit. I couldn’t help but notice him tweeting about them during their bowl loss. That being said I think Michigan has a real shot with him. He’s going to be able to go wherever he wants but the coaches have done well in New Jersey as of late and with Peppers in his ear that can’t hurt. Coach Manning appears to have made a great early impression and if he makes that visit in the spring I expect Michigan to be in it until the end.
Position: Weakside Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 235 lbs.
Location: West Forsyth High School (2015) – Clemmons, NC
Offers: Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia
Ranking: ★★★★ .9553 (247 Composite)
Born and raised in North Carolina, defensive end Jalen Dalton was a name I was not very familiar with. After seeing his name attached to an offer I watched his film and liked what I saw. He has a fantastic frame for growing into a beast of an edge rusher and uses it to perfection against much lesser competition in high school. Dalton describes himself as a physical, pure pass-rusher with a knack for deflections.
In his area of Winston-Salem he’s often compared to local star Kareem Martin, a first team All-ACC’er that just finished his senior season at North Carolina with 20 TFL and 11 sacks. After looking at Martin a little bit I can definitely see it. Dalton does a lot of things very well for a young pass rusher.
Coach Manning has made another solid impression on a recruit and Dalton couldn’t say enough about him. “My coach called me on my way to school and told me that Michigan had offered. Later that day I had PE so we called Coach Roy and we talked for a little while. He is a good man, really down to Earth. He seems really cool and laid back. That’s what I like in a coach. I really don’t know a lot about Michigan but I know I like Coach Roy.”
Dalton really wants to take a trip to Michigan and hopes to do that as soon as plans can be made. He said he’s big on the “vibes” that he feels when he visits a school. “Schools in my top list just have to give me that good vibe. I’m not sure how my recruitment will really play out but I’m going to start working on a bit of a timeline and ideas for visits soon and might know some by Tuesday.”
Dalton kept things pretty short and sweet but it was clear that Roy Manning did a very good job with him. He seemed to be quite proud about being born and raised in North Carolina which makes me feel like he might be tough to pull away from ACC country, especially when you look at his offer list containing both in-state schools, Clemson, and Florida State. We’ll see just how much magic Coach Manning has as Dalton’s recruitment progresses.
I almost always approve of Michigan following suit when Michigan State and Wisconsin offer offensive linemen and that’s exactly the case with in-state product Thiyo Lukusa. At 6’6” and 310 lbs. he figures to be a future tackle prospect and has performed well in that arena at several camps to date.
Lukusa has been open about how much he wanted an offer from the Wolverines, telling me that it was indeed a big time offer for him. He was informed of his offer by a phone call from Coach Hoke and almost all of the rest of the staff.
He wouldn’t call Michigan his leader but he did say, “they’re at the top though.” To me that sounds like the same thing, but I digress. I mentioned to him that 100% of the Crystal Ball picks at 247 think he’s a future Wolverine and he responded with, “MSU had a great season though, so I can’t say anything.” Seconds later he admitted to growing up a huge Michigan fan, “for sure!”. He said growing up a big Michigan fan will factor in to his decision….but not as much as roses. “Roses smell so good.”
I am 99.9% sure this will be a Wolverine/Sparty battle all the way. He’s got just the four offers right now but the way he spoke about both in-state schools it just seemed obvious at this early stage of his recruitment. Michigan State’s on-field success has clearly impacted the big lineman prospect but if Michigan can right the ship over the next two seasons, I believe Lukusa will be joining fellow tackle prospect Erik Swenson in the trenches in Ann Arbor.
Another New Jersey product, Kareem Walker is the first running back to receive an offer in the 2016 class. This kid came off to me as incredibly humble and genuinely grateful for an offer from Michigan. From Jersey, he also has a connection with Jabrill Peppers and already relates to him. “I’m from Irvington, New Jersey, it’s not a good neighborhood at all, kind of like Jabrill. As it comes closer to me getting ready to commit it will be helpful to know Jabrill because he will already be there and he will be able to tell me certain things.”
Ok, don’t freak out but on the field Walker actually reminds me of Denard with how he runs the ball. It’s not just because he has dreads, although that helps, but he does a lot of the same insane cuts, displays similarly quick feet, and like Denard, when there’s an opening he’s to it and through it before the defense knows what happened. This is how he describes himself. “I’m a person who you can’t take your eye off or you will miss out. I won’t quit no matter what the score is. It can be 100-0 and I still won’t give up on a play. I will continue to play with intensity and try to make big plays.” His high school coach compares him to Eric Dickerson, but I’m going to stick with Denard.
Like a lot of kids, from Michigan or not, their Wolverine knowledge begins and ends with Charles Woodson and The Big House. “I know a little about Michigan, mainly Charles Woodson. He kind of changed the face of college football by playing both ways and just going crazy in The Big House. I know that stadium is live and I hear the atmosphere is like no other.”
It’s obviously very early in the process for Kareem and he plans to take as much time as he needs to make the right decision. “I don’t really have a set time frame. I plan on taking my official visits and then talking it over with my parents and family before deciding. It really could be at any point after that.”
I had already had limited contact with each of these young men in the past except for Jalen Dalton, but after some in depth conversation with them I wouldn’t mind if they all committed today. On film they look great, they all seem to be grounded guys, and some of their best qualities seem to be off the field.
I’ve also learned more about how good of a recruiter Roy Manning seems to be. First impressions aren’t everything but he appears to be a pro at them. Maintaining a solid relationship and closing with some of these guys will bring his skillset full circle and solidify him as a quality recruiter in my mind.
Terran Petteway, who'd already poured in 14 second-half points, blew past Nik Stauskas with disconcerting ease. While Zak Irvin helped in the paint to force a difficult scoop that caromed off the backboard, nobody boxed out Leslee Smith—who, per hoop-math, has 20 putbacks this season on 72.7% shooting at the rim.
Smith's tip-in attempt lingered on the rim for an eternity before rolling off the mark. Two subsequent swipes at the ball by an indistinguishable assemblage of arms couldn't get the ball closer. We know that feel.
Derrick Walton drilled an running halfcourt shot to finish the first half. He also plowed over Smith on a baseline drive to lay in the eventual winning points; on another day, when the fates aren't as favorable, that's a charge.
On a night when 2013-14 Jordan Morgan played the role of 2010-11 Jordan Morgan, the fates cast Leslee Smith as Jordan Morgan vs. Indiana, with Walton playing the part of an early-arriving Ben Brust. We've all seen this show before, and I prefer this director's interpretation.
Nebraska is not last year's Indiana, of course, nor are they Wisconsin, and this 71-70 win featured plenty to be concerned about. A road win in the Big Ten, however, is rarely a thing of beauty. For every poorly-defended Nebraska pick-and-roll, Michigan executed one on the other end. For every blown switch, a beautiful set out of a timeout. For every blown call on Nebraska, one against the Wolverines. The three crucial free-throw misses late were canceled out on the scoreboard by an end-of-half prayer.* These plays offset until a victor had to be determined, and in that critical final minute, Michigan benefited from the breaks of the game.
If Michigan could've done something, anything, to stop the pick-and-roll in the second half, this would've been a relatively easy victory, as the Wolverines played efficient offensive basketball from wire to wire—1.21 points per trip with a 68.0 eFG%. Glenn Robinson III had one of his best games as a Wolverine, confidently knocking down a triple from the wing on Michigan's first possession and going on to score 19 points on 9/12 shooting. He hit multiple pull-up jumpers, got to the hoop off the dribble, and made one of the biggest plays of the game when he purloined a rebound from an unsuspecting Smith, corralled the ball at midcourt, and broke free for a one-handed throwdown to give Michigan a late two-point edge.
The player most representative of this game was Jordan Morgan, without a doubt. Working the pick-and-roll with Stauskas like he once did with Darius Morris, Morgan dropped 15 points on 7/9 shooting, slipping screens with impeccable timing to get wide-open looks at the rim; he even knocked down a pivoting baby hook for good measure. However—whether due to Michigan's defensive strategy, a mid-game foot or ankle injury that briefly took him out of action, or simply being too slow to move his feet—he struggled to stay between Nebraska ballhandlers and the basket on defense, beat to the rim time and again.
On Nebraska's final possession, John Beilein lifted Morgan for Zak Irvin, allowing Michigan to switch on every screen regardless of who set it for whom. That worked initially with Irvin challenging Petteway's shot; it almost backfired completely when nobody was in position to grab the rebound. This is still a team looking for the right answers, and they haven't found all of them quite yet.
One thing is certain, and that's Nik Stauskas' role as alpha-dog. After a relatively quiet first half, Stauskas asserted himself down the stretch, not only as a shot-maker but as the team's best passer; his four assists don't convey how well he moved the ball, especially off the high screen. Yes, he uncharacteristically missed a pair of free throws with five minutes to play. He also scored 12 points on 5/9 shooting, turned the ball over just once while facilitating much of the offense, hit a dagger of a three-pointer prior to that trip to the line, and hit a late layup to give the Wolverines a two-point lead.
After a rough stretch, Caris LeVert provided a solid offensive performance of his own with ten points (5/8 FG) and five assists, creating buckets for himself and others with his now-signature herky-jerky forays into the paint. While it wasn't a totally clean game from him—three turnovers and some poor on-ball defense come to mind—his assertiveness with the ball and ability to find the open man were encouraging given his recent outings.
Walton, meanwhile, may have finally asserted himself as the no-doubt starter at the point. The halfcourt shot was more luck than anything else, but he played within himself, dishing out four assists to just two turnovers, spotting up when need be—drilling a key corner three early in the second half—and playing solid perimeter defense in addition to hitting the game-winner. Spike Albrecht noticably struggled to contest three-point shots in his eight first-half minutes and was limited to just four minutes in the latter stanza. Nebraska was 5/11 on three-pointers in the first half, with three of those coming against Albrecht. The Huskers went just 2/9 the rest of the way as Ray Gallegos (3/5 in 1H, 1/5 in 2H) couldn't get clean looks over Walton.
There are adjustments to be made, no doubt; Michigan's bigs got caught in no-man's land far too often trying to defend high screens, and the guards let their man get around them far too easily on many a drive. Despite this, however, the Wolverines escaped with a road win; their 3-0 Big Ten record has them tied atop the conference standings with Wisconsin and Michigan State. In a season when, like last year, the conference champion could be determined by a few bounces of the ball, Michigan caught their breaks at just the right time.
With trips to Madison and East Lansing looming later this month—not to mention hosting a revitalized Iowa squad in between—the team held serve when they desperately needed it. Don't be surprised if we look back on this game as a turning point after the season plays out.
*Before anyone takes this too literally, I know that's not how it works. Go ahead and post "3-9 is UNACCEPTABLE" now, because you are fundamentally right that Michigan shouldn't miss that many free throws; just remember to conveniently ignore that the Wolverines are 57th in the country—third in the Big Ten—at making them, and free throws are worth one point regardless of the time on the clock.
In the aftermath of Michigan's quick OC change, everyone who's met, heard of, or birthed Doug Nussmeier has been asked about what they think about him. ("Needs to shave more often." –Mom) This post collects those things and presents them to you, the reader.
1. HE GON' GET PAID. Michigan is convinced that paying people large amounts of money will make them better at what they do (see: Hoke contract, Borges's 300k raise after year one) and they are doubling down on that. According to Bruce Feldman, Nussmeier "will be among the five highest-paid coordinators in college football," which means he'll be at or around one million dollars. Insert usual rabbling about how untenable this situation is, ethics-wise.
2. HE DID NOT LIKE NICK SABAN'S UNHINGED IN-GAME RANTING. In an interesting post on the Alabama 247 site, one of their moderators—in fact I think the owner of the whole 247 enterprise—lays out some reasons Alabama and Nussmeier parted mutually($), and they mostly have to do with blood running out of Nussmeier's ears. A small excerpt:
However, multiple sources tell BOL that Nussmeier was a bad fit for Saban. It takes a special/unique person to be a coordinator for Saban. During the heat of a game, it is common that Saban will become extraordinarily heated, openly and repeatedly question calls. Its not a bad thing, its just him and has always been his style. It is generally something that is understood and not that big of a deal among his staff.
"The writing was on the wall" after the Auburn game, which sounds pretty irrational to me since Alabama would have won that game if their kickers had been anything other than incompetent and Nussmeier's offense racked up 495 yards. The bowl loss to OU featured 516 yards and five turnovers, three of which were lost fumbles that have little if anything to do with the OC.
If this friction is based on three redzone trips in the Iron Bowl, great. Or the bowl game. I mean:
The numbers, however impressive they might be, only serve as a faint silver outline of what turned out to be a disappointing ending, as Alabama's offense failed on the national stage against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. It turned out to be the final game of Nussmeier's tenure, as he's agreed to move north and take the same job at Michigan.
In the Sugar Bowl, the flaws of Nussmeier's scheme were put under a heavy spotlight: the protection broke down, McCarron faltered and three turnovers ultimately doomed the Tide.
Okay, bro. Has nothing to do with the fact that the vaunted Tide D gave up 45 points to a virtual nobody. And it's Nussmeier's fault that TJ Yeldon fumbled inside the ten.
3. HE IS A FLEXIBLE MAN. Rivals caught up with Bama T/G/C Barrett Jones($), and he gave the requisite heap of praise. The most interesting bit is the part about Nussmeier's flexibility. After three years of mobile quarterbacks, Nussmeier adapted to Alabama instead of the other way around:
"I think a lot of guys walk into a situation and try to implement their philosophy but he's not one of those stubborn coaches that only knows one way. He understood we were having success doing things a certain way and he kept the staples and then added some wrinkles."
At Alabama that meant sticking with the Tide's bread and butter, which is meticulously executed inside zone. Darrell Funk is an inside zone guy himself, so hopefully those two guys will mesh.
Meanwhile, a glimpse at Keith Price's 2011 season reveals a mix of shotgun and under center, with an emphasis on the gun:
Here's everything he did against Baylor in that year's Alamo Bowl. At this point Baylor's defense is still a tire fire, FWIW:
This game plan was passing-spread oriented. Chris Polk did get 30 attempts but Price was the main way to move the ball as he went 23 of 37 for 438 yards (11.8 YPA!) in a loss(!) against RGIII. Baylor 67, Washington 56 remains the highest scoring regulation bowl game ever.
Meanwhile, a ten-minute Chris Polk career retrospective is helpful since Polk's career just about exactly coincided* with Nussmeier's:
That is a mix of inside zone and power blocking with a lot of draws mixed in; power seems to be mostly a short yardage or goal line thing from under center but is prevalent on shotgun runs.
*[Polk played two games under Willingham before getting injured and went to the NFL draft right after Nussmeier was hired at Alabama.]
4. HE'S NOT A LIFER. SBNation's Washington blog checked in with their Alabama blog about Nussmeier in December when Nussmeier interviewed for the vacant Washington gig. At 43 with a major reclamation project in front of him, Nussmeier would be a Hot Candidate in the event that he turns Michigan's offense into a top 20 unit. This is good and bad: bad for program stability, good to have a potential candidate to replace Hoke.
5. HE'S GOOD WITH QUARTERBACKS. From that UW-Bama conversation:
The 2011 version of McCarron would have a difficult time throwing the ball down the deep middle of the field, but the 2012 and 2013 versions have thrived in this area. He still lacks elite arm strength, but his mechanics are much improved – along with ability to go through his progressions and deliver the football on time, even to his third or fourth option. Once again, it’s nothing more than a guessing game when it comes to trying to determining how much of his progression is due to Nussmeier. Some natural progression is to be expected, and, over the summer, McCarron has a quarterback coach.
Angelique Chengelis pinged former Nussmeier QB Drew Stanton and got this:
“Doug Nussmeier is everything as advertised and more,” Stanton said Wednesday night after news broke that Michigan hired Nussmeier. “He has an unbelievable approach to the game that demands a lot out of his players but also has a way of making every day fun.
“He represents what college football should be all about. He’s going to make a great head coach some day, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I was literally in tears when he left my junior year at Michigan State.”
Price, meanwhile, was a throw-in in the Sarkisian/Willingham transition class that no one expected much from. They got a ton:
Doug Nussmeier was given a ton of credit for what Keith Price became. Price was a guy that they brought in in the initial recruiting class after Ty Willingham was fired, and quite frankly was mostly considered a depth guy. People expected Nick Montana to step in after Jake Locker and be the guy for the next three or four years, but all Price did was win the job and then go on to rewrite UW's passing records book. And though there were other factors at play, Nussmeier leaving for Alabama surely had something to do with Price having his worst season immediately thereafter.
6. HE WAS SHAPED BY JOHN L SMITH'S IDEAS. This is a good thing since we're talking about offense. Smith's career has been a series of explosive offenses and good records until things got unhinged at Michigan State, and even there he was setting fire to Michigan's secondary with That Goddamned Counter Draw until Drew Stanton went out and Braylonfest kicked in. Nussmeier was one of Smith's QBs at Idaho back when Idaho was a very good I-AA team instead of a terrible I-A team that should reclassify to I-AA; his first college job was under JLS as a QB coach at MSU.
His formative years were first as a QB in a wide open offense, then in a wide open version of fake football (the CFL), then as a guy in a spread-oriented system at MSU. Alabama fans' main complaint about him is that he got down to the six yard line in last year's A&M game and threw three times instead of running the dang ball, so if we have lizard brain complaints they'll probably be about throwing too much.
7. HE'S SUPPOSEDLY A REAL GOOD RECRUITER BUT I MEAN COME ON DO WE REALLY KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS DUDE WAS AT 'BAMA. Nussmeier was instrumental in getting touted 2015 QB Ricky Town to commit to Alabama but not instrumental enough to make Town reconsider his commitment after he moved. He was apparently the point man on a couple of other high profile recruitments and after Mike Vrabel's departure is now the highest-ranked dude in the Big Ten on 247's "best recruiter" rankings.
I give those little credence, but he'll have to be an upgrade on Borges, who rarely traveled and mostly just took guru Steve Clarkson's advice on who to recruit at QB.
Should old B-Dub bowls be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old TFLs be forgot,
in days of auld lang syne?
It's a brand new year full of not last year. Let's enjoy it.
RPI Effect Only Teams:
UMass-Lowell (2-12) picked up their first win over a D1 team. South Carolina State (4-9) played South Carolina close but lost. Houston Baptist (3-11)… don’t ask. are below the 300 mark to KenPom, and Coppin State (4-10) lost by only 2 points to Towson, but remains in a really really sketchy part of Baltimore. Long Beach State (4-10) were actually just down two points with five minutes left to Missouri, but couldn’t close the deal. Holy Cross (6-8) lost a very patriotic week, dropping games to Boston and American. Charlotte (9-4) downed North Carolina A&T.
Big Sorts of Teams:
#9 Iowa State (14-0, 2-0 Big 12)
This week: Beat Texas Tech (73-62); Beat #7 Baylor (87-72)
Iowa State is now the second-best team on Michigan’s non-conference schedule, both in the polls and on KenPom. The Cyclones dismembered Baylor at the Hilton Center. They led the entire second half, pulling away late. Point Guard DeAndre Kane had a monster game, going for 30 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds.
This was the start of an absolutely brutal stretch for ISU. They play Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Kansas twice, and Oklahoma twice in the next thirty days. The Big 12 is pretty good this year.
Florida State (10-4, 1-1 ACC)
This week: Lost to Virginia (62-50), Beat Clemson (56-41)
FSU dropped from 24th to 39th in KenPom on the heels of a home loss to Virginia. They shot only 30.8% from the field and had 16 turnovers to only 8 assists. Weirdly, they only got 14 shots out of their front court, making only 5. Maybe they forgot that being really tall helps, or they thought they had an unfair disadvantage being so very very tall.
#16 Dook (12-3, 1-1 ACC)
This week: Lost to Notre Dame (79-77); Beat Georgia Tech (79-57)
|This guy > Jabari Parker|
The Blue Devils lost to Tom Crean Memorial Disappointing-NCAA-Tournament-Run Award Winner Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 79-77. Jabari Parker scored only 7 points on 2-10 shooting. He was outscored by ND freshman Steve Vasturia. Do you have enough canned goods? You should probably purchase more canned goods.
Duke did manage to squeak by ACC palate-cleanser Georgia Tech by 22 points.
#1 Arizona (16-0, 3-0 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Washington State (60-25(!)); Beat Washington (71-62), beat UCLA (79-75)
Washington State isn’t very good. They’re basically Northwestern, but farther west and not as good academically. And sure, they have the offensive efficiency of a cat chasing a laser pointer dot. But they held the #1 team in the country to 28 points in the first half… and still trailed by 21 points. Only one Cougar had more than one make from the field; Junior Longrus scored his team-high six points on 2-for-6 shooting. Amazingly, no one on either team made more than three shots or had more than three assists all night, and the game featured only one player in double-digits (Caleb Tarczewski had 11). For the PAC-12, this game was very B1G.
Stanford (9-4, 0-1 PAC 12)
This week: Lost to Cal (69-62)
Stanford fell out of the KenPom top 50 after a 7-point home loss to rival Cal. This isn’t a huge problem for Michigan given Michigan’s win over Minnesota and the continued improvements of Iowa State. Still, Stanford being good would be good.
[Jump for the Big Ten]
So we've got ourselves a new offensive coordinator. I guess there's no use hiding that I'm on the more ambivalent end of the spectrum of Michigan fans, but I'm a spread zealot, and I admit another gorram transition is just too painful a prospect right this moment. At the very least it was the kind of PR coup that resets the countdown clock on Hoke's tenure. These days you only get to play the "it was my offensive coordinator's fault" card once per Rose Bowl trip, but this was the right time to do so. I'm probably just a cynic who's been sold a bill of Mariucci over Mornhinwheg to believe in any apparent upgrade. Let's see if the readers can convince me otherwise.
Eye of the TIger tried. He found some quotes by an ex-Bama player on how Inside Zone is repped to insanity, which can be taken as evidence of philosophical thinking, or taken as the zone version of Hoke's "Power" philosophy which admittedly never materialized under Borges anyway.
|The thing about Barrett Jones is you don't have to make tough decisions about what your OL can and can't do.|
Tiger pointed out that Alabama's riches in offensive lineman size allowed them to depart from the typical suite of complementary plays and players that limits you to. It's supposed to be this:
Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:
The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run. A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play. The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.
Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.
Major advantages: You can run an offense with less experienced OL and opens up a bigger growth curve for RBs, who become more effective the more comfortable they get at reading the holes and cutback lanes.
Major disadvantage: It's way harder to run play-action from a zone running look. Reason is nothing gets defenders thinking run like a good running MANBALL (or inverted veer) team pulling a guard. Second reason is the small, cut-rate scatbacks that zone lets you get away with don't typically make very good pass blockers. I probably don't have to tell this to 2013 Michigan fans.
At Alabama they overcame the disadvantage by having massive/quick OL who are naturally difficult obstacles to a pass rusher, and with 5-star running backs who can cut, block, slam, juke, and jet, all for three easy payments of $3,995.95, plus shipping and handler's fee (order now and we'll throw in a free safety). At Michigan, well, actually, we've got just those kinds of guys on campus now. Maybe?
Also there's this:
@michiganinsider I think people don't realize how handcuff Nuss was at Bama, he called the plays, but Nick was in control, handcuffs are off
— Theus DeShon Sears (@Theist313) January 10, 2014
And here I am a quarter way through UFRing an Alabama game. Anyone got Washington tapes?
P.S. I purposely stayed vague on the Song of Ice and Fire references; you're not off the hook from a season recap.
[After the jump: the board goes Borges for Nuss]
There are two main metrics by which I look at an offense, with different philosophies emphasizing different elements. I look at how well an offense does at converting first downs ([# of plays gaining a first down]/[# of first downs started]) and how good an offense is at stretching the field with explosive plays (Any yards gained beyond the first down line).
Below are the season numbers for each of Doug Nussmeier’s seasons alongside of the last 11 Michigan seasons for reference:
Blue=Michigan Red=Alabama Purple=Washington Gray=Fresno St
The top right quadrant is the Oregon zone. Offense that are really good at both. They consistently generate first downs but also produce big plays. The lower right quadrant is feast or famine. Lots of big plays, but can’t consistently convert first downs. The top left is probably where Brady Hoke wants to be, not consistently pushing the tempo or the big plays, but able to grind out first down after first down. The bottom left is for offenses that can’t do either well.
The Washington Years
As noted by Brian, in 2009 Nussmeier took over a tire fire of an offense. If there was a dot for 2008 Washington, you wouldn’t see it because it would be even lower and left of 2008 Michigan! His first year the offense improved along both dimensions and moved to bad but not awful. 2010 saw a bit more explosiveness but in year three the offense took a major step forward along both metrics.
Consistent improvement over three years is a very good sign. In fact, if you compare 2008-2011 Washington and Michigan, every year but 2010 is very similar and demonstrate a lot of positive improvement.
The Alabama Years
For a reference starting point, 2011 Alabama was most similar to 2004 Michigan. That was the team that beat LSU in the national championship. You can have an offense like that when you have a defense like that allows 37 bonus yards/game and an absurd 42% first down conversion (MSU was 59% this year).
In his first year turned the mediocre 2011 offense into a very good chain moving offense in 2012. For 2013 the moved further in that direction. The 82.7% first down conversion in 2013 was the third highest number since 2013. Some of that was due to the overall regression of defenses in the SEC in 2013. Texas A&M actually set the record this year with 82.9% conversions.
This does seem to be the coordinator who can do the things that Borges can’t while still fitting into Hoke’s desire for what his team’s offense looks like. Where Michigan has spent the last three years moving backwards, every single Nussmeier coordinated offense has shown year on year improvement. There aren’t going to be fireworks or a spread offense, most likely, but there should be a lot of first downs and hopefully consistent improvement.
From a watchability standpoint, this won’t be the fun offense many of where hoping for. It is a system that in the presence of elite talent and great defense can do everything you need it to. I have a working hypothesis that if your goal is national championships this is the way to go. Great defenses seem to have lower variance than great offenses. Put a team together around an elite offense and you get 10 amazing games and 2 games where the wheels fall off. Build it around a great defense and you are probably in all 12 games. Elite offense is great for making the leap from bad to good but if you want to get good to great, it has to start on defense. I’ll be pulling some more data this offseason to test this out.