spoiler alert: i linked this
Michigan (10-6, 3-1 B1G) at
Ohio State (13-4, 2-2)
Value City Arena,
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||Ohio State -10 (KenPom)|
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: Don't mock me, Thad. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
This game is all about upside for Michigan, as nobody really expects them to win this one: Ohio State is 100-9 at home since 2009-10, the Wolverines haven't exactly impressed even during their back-to-back wins, and both KenPom and Vegas have the Buckeyes favored by ten.
Pull off the upset, though, and Michigan would suddenly have a signature win while sitting, however briefly, alone atop the conference standings. (Wisconsin, Maryland, and Michigan State don't play tonight.) To get to 12 conference wins—the likely target number for an NCAA bid—they're going to have to pull out an unlikely win or two, and this would certainly qualify.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||3||Shannon Scott||Sr.||6'1, 185||74||21||Yes|
|Great defender, facilitates offense well, still not much of a shooter.|
|G||0||D'Angelo Russell||Fr.||6'5, 180||79||29||No|
|Volume scorer. Great outside shooter, even off dribble. Solid passer, too.|
|F||12||Sam Thompson||Sr.||6'7, 200||73||17||Yes|
|Ridiculous hops. Very good finisher. Not a good shooter.|
|F||2||Marc Loving||So.||6'7, 215||63||20||No|
|50% at both 2P and 3P. Gets to line. Underwhelming rebounder.|
|C||23||Amir Williams||Sr.||6'11, 250||46||17||Very|
|Effective finisher, good rebounder, blocks lots of shots. Turnover-prone.|
|F||1||Jae'Sean Tate||Fr.||6'4, 190||43||20||Yes|
|Excellent on the boards, good finisher, active defender. Turnover-prone.|
|G||15||Kam Williams||Fr.||6'2, 175||40||18||No|
|Efficient scorer sticks mostly to spot-up threes.|
|C||55||Trey McDonald||Sr.||6'8, 240||28||16||Very|
|Very good rebounder, especially on offense. Decent rim protector.|
The Buckeyes dropped just two non-conference games, both to top-ten teams, falling at #9 Louisville and dropping a neutral-court game to #9 UNC. They played the rest of their non-conference schedule at home and won every game handily, though the top-ranked team they beat was #95 Marquette.
They're off to just a 2-2 start to Big Ten play. OSU lost their opener at home to Iowa when freshman phenom D'Angelo Russell had a rough day from the field and the defense turned in an uncharacteristically poor performance. After a blowout home victory over Illinois and a thrilling overtime triumph at Minnesota, they fell by three points at Indiana on Saturday when, once again, Russell went cold.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
My biggest takeaway from last night is Michigan will need a very strong and well-coached front seven if Harbaugh is to pull a 1969 next Thanksgiving weekend.
The key to Michigan's dramatic defensive improvement in 2011 was that Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison gave Michigan's defense an identity. They went to a 4-3 under, single-gap run defense that Mattison brought from the Ravens, and over the course of the year found the best fits for the guys on hand.
|Durkin knew Mattison from his Charlie Weis pants days. [photo: Joe Raymond|Freep]|
You remember, despite the relative success of this transition, that some fits were more or less awkward than others. Jake Ryan was a perfect SAM. Ryan Van Bergen worked as a 3-tech or a 5-tech. Mike Martin played nose because nobody else could, and his disruption was deployed with a lot of stunts, or weird stuff like when they came up in an Okie and Martin dropped back to essentially MLB. Roh at WDE was a solid run defender but wasn't built to take advantage of that WDE-tackle matchup that's supposed to produce natural pressure.
Last year of course they went to a 4-3 over base alignment, making Jake Ryan into an awkward MLB because the alternative was Beyer as a really awkward 5-tech. The kicker: offenses were forcing Michigan to play nickel 50% to 90% of snaps, which made Ryan into either an undersized defensive end, or a guy on the sideline.
JMFR is gone but Mattison will still be around, joined by new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. At the Cleveland event last night I suggested Mattison’s role will be as sensei to Durkin, who hasn’t really flown solo yet (Muschamp was very involved with that defense).
It adds up to a belief that Michigan won’t change its defensive style for 2015, but what is that style? Coverages are another matter; just speaking to the front seven: should they be the under that they recruited for, or the over they transitioned to?
Refresher on 4-3 philosophy
Mattison and Durkin both coached (Durkin as a graduate assistant for one year) under Bob Davie at Notre Dame, who with Jackie Sherrill developed the Texas A&M "Wrecking Crew" defense. Jimmy Johnson (another Sherrill acolyte) took it a step further in Miami, and Pete Carroll now runs in Seattle.
You’ll note that they used different alignments. Johnson’s defenses were the genesis of the 4-3 over, and so influential that this is what people usually mean by “4-3” defense, as opposed to Tom Landry’s base version. Carroll’s been coaching the 4-3 under since he learned it directly from Monte Kiffin, who developed it at Nebraska.
The under alignment was not the base concept; the real philosophy in Kiffin's terms was to give his defensive linemen simple assignments so they could play with aggression and disruption. The benefit of one-gapping is no defensive linemen stopping to diagnose the play. Once the ball is snapped, all of these defenses want those brains thinking "go!", "put my hat in a gap," "be a factor," and "attack that block!"
Mattison used a mix in Baltimore because he had Ngata, but at Michigan he’s had an almost exclusively gap-attacking defense. The question has been what alignment to run it out of, and that’s a question of which players fit it best.
(Start at 1:17)
So which alignment is Michigan going with this year? I think again it’s a question of personnel? I make diagram.
Michigan’s short on red dudes
The above is my attempt at showing the spectrum of qualities emphasized by the front seven positions in the 4-3 over versus the 4-3 under. I also gave a small approximation of color fits for guys I know something about (Spur-like objects like Gant and Wangler left out because I ran out of colors to depict DB-ness).
It's meant to show what we mean when we talk about the why nothing's a perfect fit for the talent on hand. Suggestions for improved shading are welcome. Takeaway from this experiment: Michigan's front the next few years may be better at throwing out different looks than it will be at rotating through shark teeth.
If you trust my judgment on the shading above, the over appears to remain the best fit for the guys we have, provided they can find some backup ends (the glut of DE/DT tweeners remains). As Mattison mentioned in the video above, the half of the time you’re in nickel to counter a 3- or more-wide look, you’re in an over anyway. D.J. Durkin used a lot of smaller players and changed things up a ton at Florida, and I expect the future will be a truly multiple defense with versatile front seven players. I expect when they can’t run Ojemudia and Charlton out there at the ends, Durkin will experiment with linebacker-ish dudes out there.
Friday, January 9, 2015
UM 0 Minn 1 EV 07:03 C. Reilly from Collins and M. Reilly
Minnesota passes back and forth along the boards, and Tyler Motte overskates in pursuit. Once the puck is back on the stick of the defender he’s responsible for there’s little he can do. Collins easily gets a shot off, though it’s an easy save for Racine; he’s not screened and is square to the shooter.
The problem is that he gives up a huge rebound. To his credit, the rebound is directed to the corner as much as possible. That’s little consolation in relation to the final result, however. Serville has floated back toward the right side, but he has no idea that there’s a Minnesota player behind him. He needs to turn his head to check sooner than he does, because by the time he sees there’s someone there the puck is on Reilly’s stick.
He’s too far away to recover, and Racine is in the same situation. There’s no way he’s going to get across the crease in time to stop an undefended shot like that, and it’s an incredibly easy goal for Minnesota.
[After THE JUMP: Hyman hyperbole, lots of goals]
Paging Dr. Stalin
getting our glares on
Will there be a roster purge a la Charlie Strong or can we expect Harbaugh to try and retain almost everyone?
I'm not a fan of purges; part of a leader's job is to gain buy-in, but they do happen. Some attrition will certainly happen, but I'd like to not dig a huge roster hole we're digging out of for 3+ seasons.
Strong's purge is not likely to repeat if only because that kind of massive roster depletion is just about unprecedented. Strong walked into a combination of bad timing (two guys suspended for sexual assault) and no discipline after the Mack Brown decline had truly festered. Strong read guys the riot act…
Sources said all of the players in question were told that Strong was watching them closely dating back to February, when they were part of a group pulled aside and told that their attitude and/or behavior had to change.
As part of that conversation, players were told they’d be subject to more random drug tests, sources said.
…and they did not respond. That led to a lot of guys out the door.
Michigan has already experienced one of these, as Kyle Bosch was brought into a meeting with Harbaugh and told there would be some conditions on his continued membership:
“I was at school all day, getting ready,” Bosch told Sporting News on Tuesday morning. “Then I met with Coach Harbaugh and I didn’t expect the transfer. That was not my original intent when I went up there yesterday. … This was very untimely. If it was my intention to transfer, I would have done that a long time ago.”
Bosch said his meeting with Harbaugh produced two options: stay with the program with stipulations (he did not say what they were) or transfer.
The kind of things Bosch dealt with over the past year are best left unspecified, but if he didn't want to meet the law laid down by Harbaugh it's best that he find somewhere else to be.
Bosch is an exception. Hoke was very good at getting guys who work hard and go after their schoolwork, thus the APR and extremely low transfer rate. That rate is about to pick up for a lot of reasons (remember that even before the season ended Hoke mentioned two OL were headed out), but the departures won't rise to the level of a purge or leave Michigan alarmingly short-handed this September.
You can tell this is the case just by the recruiting numbers. Michigan has room for a class of 12 right now. Without epic departures that isn't going to get past 20, and a roster that only has to add 15 or 16 players is not in dire straights.
This staff versus previous staff.
Hi, I'm your DL coach. [Eric Upchurch]
Since the site has been 90% devoted to the assistant coaching rumors or hires for the past several days I wanted to throw a question at you.
The natural reaction in the wake of hiring Harbaugh and turning the page on the previous regime is to look at everything through rose colored glasses. At least until the first game we lose, people will mostly think he can do no wrong and every person he hires or recruits is a great fit.
If we take a step back, how do you feel the staff construction we will have next year compares to our reaction to the staffs that Rodriguez or Hoke hired in their first seasons? Do you see any areas that make you scratch your head or long for someone else?
There's no comparison. Hoke and Rodriguez both imported the large majority of their existing coaches and held on to Fred Jackson. Those coaches had experienced success—sort of in Hoke's case—in a specific context at a lower level of competition. Rodriguez fatally did not bring Jeff Casteel along; Hoke imported Greg Mattison and brought Al Borges with him.
- Is an in-demand OC/QB coach.
- Hired an in-demand DC.
- Kept Greg Mattison as a position coach.
- Hired the guy who built the Stanford ass-kicking machine.
- Hired Ty Wheatley in the recruiting-heavy RB slot.
- Hired an ex-NFL OC and successful college OC as a WR coach.
- Hired a special teams coordinator who has 15 years of crazy success.
Nobody on this staff is going to wander over to San Jose State after they're done at Michigan, and most of them have experienced impressive amounts of success outside of the Harbaugh context. With limited exceptions that latter was not true of anybody on either of the previous two staffs other than Greg Mattison.
If there's anything with this staff that makes me pause it's the still-hypothetical Dougherty hire. He's only had one year of TEs, and with the importance of those guys in the Harbauffense it seems like you'd want a guy with a long track record there, possibly with some OL coaching mixed in to help out Drevno. OC/OL is a lot on one plate.
But we don't know if that's actually going to come to fruition—given the timing here it's possible that Fisch swooped in on his spot. The last thing we heard about Dougherty was a Football Scoop report from three days ago—unreliable to start and increasingly so as we get further out without any confirmation. I'm beginning to think that's not happening.
[After the JUMP: search postmortem, these are my readers.]
Second 2015 QB In Play?
Even with Alex Malzone already on campus, quarterback is a major question mark for Michigan not just for 2015, but moving forward, and it appears Jim Harbaugh is going the extra mile to make sure he gives the program as many options as possible at the position:
Jim Harbaugh coming to Gilmer to see McLane Carter. He has a pretty good eye for qb's. Florida and Texas Tech just called as well.#Winner
— Jeff Traylor (@CoachTraylor) January 11, 2015
Carter has a very interesting profile, in part because he doesn't really have one; he's unranked on Rivals and Scout, while ESPN and 247 don't even have pages for him. Carter is picking up major school interest, however, after a senior year in which he led Gilmer to an undefeated state title season in Texas' 4A Division 2 (a medium-sized classification) while posting this stat line: 220-297 (74.1%), 3969 yards (13.4 YPA), 47 TDs, 2 INTs. Pretty good stats, I say.
There are a couple reasons Carter may have flown under the radar. He transferred back to Gilmer this season after spending his junior year at Salado, where he put up less impressive stats for a worse program. It also doesn't look like he hit the camp circuit much at all; the only camp eval I can find is, oddly, from last spring's RCS Detroit camp, per Rivals' Josh Helmholdt ($):
It was a long trip up to Michigan from northeast Texas for Carter, and he made the trip worthwhile by having a solid showing. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left-handed passer spun the ball very well on Sunday. His tight spirals cut through the wind when it was blowing hard later in the day. Overall Carter showed good arm strength and decent accuracy on his passes.
There's also a free scouting report from Scout after one of his playoff games:
Carter has a good frame (6-2 1/2, 190) and very smooth, left-handed delivery. His delivery isn't completely overhead, but it's close. He has a deceptively strong arm. That's probably because his southpaw delivery looks so smooth and effortless. He awaits his first FBS offer, but should start getting more attention as signing day approaches.
His senior tape, embedded at the top of the post, is pretty impressive; while his arm strength doesn't jump off the page, his accuracy sure does, especially on his deep throws. He also displays decent mobility, and based on both the film and his stats, his decision-making is excellent. He may not be a five-star talent, but he certainly looks like a guy who should at least have some sort of recruiting profile; with interest from the likes of BYU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and now Michigan and Florida of late, that should happen soon.
Whether or not Michigan makes a serious run at Carter (something I now hope they do given the length of this section), it's encouraging that Harbaugh might take a run at another quarterback in this class. That's no knock on Malzone, who I believe is a quality prospect; it'd just be nice to add some depth to the position, especially after what we've witnessed the last couple seasons. Any attrition at that position in the next couple years, given the current construction of the roster, could be really tough to handle.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
You don't need to be told that much about Tyrone Wheatley's origin story. If you're a pup, here you go:
Wheatley's career rushing average is second only to Denard Robinson at Michigan.
After that, Wheatley was a first round pick of the Raiders who had a decade-long NFL career during which he morphed from the fastest damn guy you've ever seen to a reliable pounder. A couple years after he retired he went into coaching, first at his high school alma mater, then as a running backs coach at an increasingly prestigious series of institutions: Ohio Northern, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and then the Bills. When Doug Marrone opted out of his Bills contract, Wheatley was on the open market and came home.
Here is the most spectacularly short coaching bio in history:
Tyrone Wheatley, a former NFL running back, will enter his second season as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and continues to oversee the team’s running backs.
Good job, good effort, Bills.
I have no idea if Wheatley's a good coach. I mean, he probably is, but it is hard to tell anything from stats. Football Outsiders has some running back stats in which the Bills two main backs fare poorly, but they're undrafted 33-year-old journeymanFred Jackson (not that Fred Jackson) and sixth-rounder Anthony Dixon operating behind an offensive line that FO's stats don't like much either.
His tenure at Syracuse seems relatively successful:
- In 2010, Wheatley arrives. Returning starter Delone Carter is coming off a season in which he barely cracked a thousand yards at 4.3 a pop; his final season sees his YPC jump a full yard.
- In 2011, senior Antwon Bailey ascends to the top job with grim results.
- In 2012, juniors Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley both have excellent production, collectively rushing for almost 2,000 yards at 5.2 a pop.
How much of that is due to tailback talent versus tailback coaching is hard to figure out, and then there's the whole blocking business that's important. I can just barely use stats to say a DBs coach is pretty good—with running backs it's hopeless. One year tenures at small schools aren't going to tell us much of anything, either.
Unfortunately, Tyrone Wheatley's kid is also named Tyrone Wheatley so attempts to track down anything about the elder's recruiting are swamped by articles about the younger. (Fortunately, the younger Wheatley is a four-star recruit with offers from the likes of Alabama who is now expected to end up at Michigan.)
Wheatley after his last game at 'Cuse, a Pinstripe Bowl win over WVU:
Also, an article on Wheatley's move to Syracuse:
So, is Syracuse home?
"Syracuse is a great opportunity...Michigan is home."
Wheatley’s ultimate dream is running his own team, but doesn't plan on Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon calling his number soon, or ever.
"Sometimes, as a human being, you have to know your limitations,” Wheatley said. “I've played in the Big House, and I know what it would take to run a program in the Big House. That is too much of a monster for me."
That's a sort of humility uncommon in coaches, though the reason Dave Brandon didn't call his number wasn't so much about Wheatley. He's also got a unique perspective on loyalty:
"Some coaches forget that they played,” Wheatley said. “When one of my players walks into the room, I can generally guess what's wrong--I've been down that road. Not just about X's and O's, it's about caring about the person. One of the great things Gary Moeller did for me is caring about me as a person. Can't get to the football player without getting to the person."
Wheatley is also intensely loyal to the idea of tradition.
"When I become a head coach, that's it, I plan on retiring there," he said. …
"I want to see 15, 20 graduating classes,” he said. “I want my players, who have fertilized that field with their blood, sweat, and tears, to come back and know they always have a place at the school, and that I'm going to be there."
That passion bodes well for the recruiting trail for as long as Michigan can hold on to Wheatley.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
RB coaches are often recruiters first because tailback is a spot where you've either got it or you don't. Wheatley promises to bring buckets of that as a famous program alum with a deep-seated passion for Michigan; he's also focused on being a head coach someday and the best way to get there is to kill it at Michigan. He's almost certainly going to be lights-out wherever they deploy him. The bet here is in-state and in the New York area.
As a coach… I don't think anyone could tell you. He's got all the experience you could want there, at least, and his quick rise to the NFL and then Michigan is encouraging. Yeah, his name helps. It's not everything. There are a number of other ex-Michigan guys who wanted to coach who didn't catch on so quickly.
And there is a coaching aspect. Michigan's seen a lot of wrong holes chosen and pass pickups airballed of late. Hopefully Michigan's backs will start improving at Michigan instead of after they leave now. For example: Mike Cox, Fitz Toussaint, Thomas Rawls.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE COACHING STAFF
We're in the home stretch here with everyone save Jimmie Dougherty and Roy Manning confirmed. Tolbert has just been officially anointed; we should hear about the other two guys in the near future here.
|OC||Tim Drevno||lock||DC||DJ Durkin||lock|
|QB||Jim Harbaugh||lock||DL||Greg Mattison||lock|
|WR||Jedd Fisch||lock||DB||Greg Jackson||lock|
|TE||Jimmie Dougherty||probable||ST||John Baxter||lock|
S&C: Kevin Tolbert.
If either of the unconfirmed guys gets knocked out it'll be for a subject matter expert. In Dougherty's case he might get passed over for a guy with more TE/OL experience; in Manning's that would be for a CBs coach.