well that's just, like, your opinion, man
Our annual gimmicky Big Ten preview occurred. Then a football season occurred. And now that it’s deeply offseason it occurred to us to do a wrap on that, roundtable style.
1. DEFEND YOUR TEAM
Brian: Christian Hackenberg got drafted ahead of Connor Cook. Therefore I had a good QB.
Seth: J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!
Brian: Seriously though, flip out Hackenberg for Cardale Jones, who was neck and neck with JT Barrett for much of the year and got drafted and my offense is clearly the best running outfit available: #4 overall pick at RB, first-rounder at LT, returning IU All-American next to him, a legit dual threat superback/H-back type and a traditional TE, both drafted. Marz and Kugler were both upper-echelon college players not quite good enough for the league; Ball got hurt in fall camp and eventually left UW's team.
There's nobody else who can put that kind of rushing firepower on the field, or really anywhere close to it. The downgrade from Elliott to anybody else is enormous.
Seth: Is it?
[After the jump: Brian gets thatsracist.gif about 3-3-5s. Spartan defensive backs are lamented. And someone in the comments will say they don’t like this series]
|Cedar Grove, GA – 6'3", 232|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||4*, NR overall
#15 LB, #33 GA
|ESPN||4*, NR overall
#13 LB, #37 GA
|24/7||3*, #839 overall
#30 LB, #70 GA
|Other Suitors||Auburn, OU, NC State, UF, ND, Ole Miss|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace featuring his many trophies.|
|Notes||Native of Cameroon. Twitter. Heir apparent to the Ojemudia Death Stare.|
Elysee Mbem-Bosse and soon-to-come Josh Uche are the first Don Brown dudes. Brown wasted little time getting on the phone with a guy he had no shot at while at Boston College:
“When he first got the defensive coordinator job at Michigan, I was one of the people he called on the first day in the office. He was like I just watched your tape and loved every second of it.”
Both EMB and Uche came to campus shortly after his hire, hit it off with the program and each other, and committed soon after they returned home despite offers from SEC powerhouses thought to lead. In Mbem-Bosse's case that was Auburn; in Uche's it was Florida. That's reason for optimism both in EMB's specific case and for this recruiting class in general—there are three stars who could have gone to Minnesota and there are three stars who could have gone to Auburn, and this class's three stars are generally the latter.
When not demonstrating Don Brown's ability to recruit, Mbem-Bosse is Middle Linebacker Classic. He's really only got one way onto the the field, and that's by wrecking lead blockers and unleashing furious anger on ball carriers. At 6'3" he's tall for a linebacker and will probably top out at 250 or even bigger. As per usual with guys that big who aren't highly touted, that size comes with some compromises.
Let's start with the good: dude is a mean-ass dude.
- ESPN: "powerful inside linebacker with great measurables for the position. Uses his hands to shock blockers and disengage to wrap up ball carrier. …. Has short area power to deliver a heavy hit.… thumper ready to make the jump physically … lot of tools desired in an upper-tier middle linebacker."
Woody Womack, Rivals: “really passes the eye test … athletic enough that he could move around and play a couple different positions. I think he could play all three linebacker positions.”
Touch The Banner: "…solid straight-line speed that’s maybe not in the 4.58 range, but not far off, either. Using that length and speed – plus a good understanding of pursuit angles – he can cover a lot of ground and wrap up ball carriers in space. When he arrives, he brings a punch and does a good job of wrapping up.
Rob Cassidy, Rivals, from a Rivals Camp: "long arms allow him to play bigger than his 6-foot-3 frame … extremely quick with his first step. He also ran well for a middle linebacker, as he shined in coverage even on the rare occasion that saw a running back test him deep." … "One of the most physically impressive linebackers in the country."
- Son Of A Coach: There aren’t going to be many players who can stuff the inside run quite like Mbem-Bosse. He does a great job of scraping through the trash and arrives at the ball violently when he gets to it … very good tackler that runs through people. ... will absolutely blow up the iso. … true inside linebacker that would thrive as a downhill run defender that is asked to blitz a lot versus the pass.
In the aftermath of that RCS camp, Rivals moved Mbem-Bosse into their top 250 at #157; he would eventually fall out but maintain a four-star ranking. They did explain why at the time, but that article was lost to their redesign. Yes, I am a little skeptical of that bump and subsequent fall, but their ranking is reasonable all the same.
That last scouting report segues into the downside: a guy who is "asked to blitz a lot" probably isn't too good in coverage. There are conflicting reports about how athletic Mbem-Bosse is, but virtually every report will mention "stiffness" and the like. A typical example from ESPN:
May be interchangeable between ILB and OLB given his athletic ability and potential to make plays outside of the numbers with his range. … shows some tightness opening and turning in pursuit. … We do not see the hips or fluid transitional skills to project high as a man coverage LB at the next level.
TTB says he's "not a great space player" and has a hard time bending or changing direction; Son Of A Coach says he "doesn't jump out as a great athlete", "looks a little stiff", and may not have sideline to sideline speed.
The upshot here is one you've already seen in the gentlemen listed as Mbem-Bosse's YMRMFSPA: Desmond Morgan. When Morgan got isolated on wheel routes against faster backs that didn't go very well. Michigan ran its coverages to minimize such occurrences, but when the rock-paper-scissors went badly there were moments he got exposed. EMB will have to be similarly protected. The good news is that Brown runs a lot of pattern-matching zone concepts and that's a good fit for a tall, rangy, smart linebacker. I know the takes on MGoBlue bios are always going to be the most positive ones available; even so, Brown seems legitimately high on his potential as a cover guy:
Coach Don Brown on Elysee Mbem-Bosse
Elysee “Boss Man” is a true sideline-to-sideline guy. He plays downhill and can explode on contact and has really good coverage skills for a middle linebacker. He’s a no-brainer for us and fits exactly what we are trying to do within our system.
For Don Brown that may be true in a way it is not more generally.
Michigan can also mitigate whatever issues he might have in coverage by blitzing maniacally, which Brown also likes to do. This uncommonly useful segment from 247's Auburn site makes an excellent point…
…with his size and explosion trying to pick him up with a running back is a losing proposition for an offense. When the Nebraska Rivals site caught up with EMB's coach, it was just after a 4 TFL, 2 sack performance. He "definitely can pass rush." That is an element Morgan didn't bring during his time at Michigan.
A second concern is Mbem-Bosse's rawness. He only has two years of football under his belt and that does show up on film. Son Of A Coach and TTB mention "false steps" and occasional failure to recognize keys; Womack says he can be "a little hot and cold" because he "doesn't realize the impact he can have on every down."
That concern is mitigated by Mbem-Bosse's background. Like Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, Mbem-Bosse was born in Africa—Cameroon, specifically. Immigrants are often really driven people, as Darboh and Chesson have demonstrated, and Mbem-Bosse seems to be from a similar mold. Per his coach he speaks "about four different languages." His twitter feed alternates between Bible verses and various workouts, and dude has serious academic plans:
"Knowledge is something that can never be taken away from you,"Mbem-Bosse said. "The average time playing in the league [NFL] is about three-and-a-half years. That means I'll have 50 or 60 more years in my life. I want to be able to grow up, have a beautiful wife and kids and say I was able to get a good education.
"There are way too many kids who go to college and don't have a plan B, and they end up bankrupt and struggling through life. Even if I don't make the league, I want to say I was successful."
That's a quote a lot like the ones Chesson issued when he was a recruit, and that was a major factor when I named him (co-)sleeper of the year. (Mbem-Bosse isn't eligible to be SotY since he's got two four-star rankings, FWIW.) Per his coach he's in "all AP classes" and "excels in math"—my man. I think he's more likely to hit because of his background.
If EMB does hit his ceiling the stiffness won't be a huge concern. As I've said virtually any time someone criticized Morgan, MLB is about 80% knowing what to do and 20% being able to go do it. Mbem-Bosse is a long way away from knowing what to do but seems like the kind of guy who's likely to figure it out as time goes along here.
Etc.: Prefers comically oversized weights.
Why Desmond Morgan? Morgan was a lightly-regarded guy coming out of high school. He was mostly a quarterback, so he had some of the same projection issues that Mbem-Bosse does. At Michigan he quickly established himself a thumping hitter and solid zone coverage linebacker. Morgan's athletic limitations occasionally got him in trouble on wheel routes and the like, but his smarts and ability to rock free-releasing OL backwards made him a quality player.
Mbem-Bosse is higher rated, with a couple of four-star rankings, and considerably taller. He has more upside and eventually could be a guy of interest to the NFL.
Guru Reliability: High. Relatively large spread in the rankings but scouting reports are consistent. EMB was healthy and at a high-profile high school; I can see both sides of the coin with his rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Lack of experience means there's a lot of projection in his rankings and offers. In addition, most scouting reports indicate that he's an interior thumper only, so he doesn't have a plan B if MLB isn't working out. On the other hand, high-academic guy and driven immigrant.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. EMB is probably never going to be an all-action three-down linebacker. He does project as a major run-stuffer in the middle.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Michigan needs a hard-nosed MLB for the Wisconsins and MSU and OSUs of the world. This is that dude. Mbem-Bosse would be out of place in the Big 12. In the Big Ten he's a major asset.
Projection: MLB is another spot where some young guys might play since there's little clarity what will happen next year. EMB is probably 50/50 to redshirt—he's physically ready; he could use a year of mental prep. Either way he's not likely to see much time.
In 2017 there will be at least one LB slot open, possibly two if Peppers goes to the draft and actually is more or less a linebacker. That is unlikely to affect EMB, who will be in the mix at MLB and MLB only. With Bush already on campus and that SAM spot looking like it'll go to hybrid space player types it'll be up to Mike McCray whether that's a serious battle or not. Right now the assumption is he'll have to wait for McCray to graduate before getting a shot as a thumper in the middle as an upperclassman. The decks are clear for him to start for two or three years after McCray departs.
These names had been rumored for a couple days and now they are official:
Donlon was just fired from Wright State after a six-year tenure. His axing was controversial, to say the least, after Donlon saw his charges to 22-13 season and 13-5 conference mark, and the conference tournament final. I mean, this is a hell of a resume to fire for a low major*:
Three years after he was named the Horizon League coach of the year and three days after he led his Wright State team to its third 20-plus wins season in four years, a tie for the most league wins by a WSU team and the third appearance in four years in the title game of the league tournament, Donlon was fired as the Raiders’ basketball coach.
Donlon and Wright State had a rough 2015 but the years surrounding it were all 20-win seasons featuring excellent defense considering WSU's place in the basketball firmament. Here are some key stats from his tenure:
|Year||Adj D Eff Rk||2PT % RK||BLK % RK||TO% RK||REB RK||FTR RK|
Donlon's teams played a high-foul, high-TO style that made them somewhere between respectable and just about as good as a low major can rank—with the exception of 2015. He's never had any shot blocking because of the nature of coaching at Wright State, but three of the last four years he's outperformed a ton of teams. (FWIW, His offenses were universally horrible. That doesn't matter because Beilein.) Donlon looks like the "defensive coordinator" I was advocating once LaVall Jordan left. Beilein:
"I have known Billy for almost two decades, and I love his passion and IQ for the game. He has tremendous experience as a player, assistant and head coach at the Division I level. Improving our defense is a huge goal for us, and defense is one of Billy's specialties."
If he can get Wright State into the top 60 three times in the last four years he's probably pretty good in that role.
The obvious catch is that free throw rate. That is emphatically not how Michigan plays right now, and it's an open question just how much rope Donlon will have to deploy his style of D. Beilein is notoriously persnickety about fouls. Insert hours-long autobench complaint here.
Meanwhile, Washington has been at Oakland for a decade, helping the Golden Grizzlies have disproportionate success in the Horizon League. He almost got a job in Ann Arbor during the last staff shakeup. I don't know much about him other than the fact that Sam Webb believes he'll be an excellent recruiter; unlike Donlon he doesn't have a helpful Kenpom page since he was an assistant.
*[Article states that Wright State pays its assistants less than the rest of the Horizon and doesn't have a full time strength coach; they are mid-major only if that's your term for literally every non-big-time CBB program.]
It's that time again.
Yea, the college offseason is a long desert you are condemned to wander in for eight months. Let us be an oasis at which you can slake your thirst. HAIL TO THE VICTORS is an annual publication from MGoBlog that previews the upcoming Michigan football season in 128 pages of glorious detail.
Whereas your Athlons and Phil Steeles of the world will devote two or maybe four pages to your favorite thing in the world, this magazine is by and for obsessives. Let us count the ways.
THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM
MGoBlog's Brian Cook writes a team preview covering about a third of the book, offers an opinion on the overall state of the offense, defense, and special teams, and then plunks down a prediction that will no longer be roundly mocked because Michigan's coaching staff is no good.
THE ENEMY THE ENEMY THE ENEMY
Ace Anbender surveys the opposition with savage intent. We are pleased to announce that this year we have secured the services of Buckeye Grove's Ross Fulton for the Ohio State preview; Ross's in-depth knowledge of the Buckeyes and surprising sanity are an excellent combination.
TWISTED BLUE STEEL
Adam Schnepp sits down with tight end Jake Butt and discusses Harbaugh, the NFL, his decision to avoid it, and many other topics. Michael Elkon on expectations in year two of Harbaugh.
SBNation's Ian Boyd on John O'Korn and how he fits into Harbaugh's passing game. Steve Sharik on Don Brown's dudes and what he plans to accomplish with them.
Seth Fisher and Mel Newman on when Texas A&M tried to buy Bo... and failed. John Kryk on The Guarantee, 30 years later. Steve Sapardanis on the Six Penny Defense, or when Bo invented the dime package. Craig Ross on how Michigan more or less invented all of football, from the forward pass to platoons.
THE SHIRT THE SHIRT THE SHIRT
This year's Kickstarter-exclusive shirt is perhaps the best ever, thanks to Smoothitron and BISB.
You can of course get the classic photobomb shirt if you are crazy.
BONUS: BETTER SHIPPING
NEW this year: thanks to sponsor Matt Demorest of Homesure Lending, shipping is upgraded to first class from third class. Magazines will arrive mere days after printing instead of weeks. Celebrate this fact with a new mortgage or the dog gets it.
YOU ARE PROBABLY RUNNING AROUND IN CIRCLES UNSURE OF WHAT TO DO AT THIS POINT
Click a link and you will be taken to the Kickstarter page, where you can decide on a support level and then pledge that amount. We appreciate your patronage. Click here or here or here or here but NOT HERE.
Spring games are mostly useless because there are so many weird guys on the field. Most of the freshmen haven’t arrived yet, guys with injuries are held out, and those who’ve earned starting jobs appear briefly if at all.
But we did get to see one matchup all game that is of some interest: new starting center (probably) Mason Cole vs. returned from the dead NT Bryan Mone. Both are expected to be very good this year, but Cole is moving down from two years of playing left tackle, while Mone lost all of 2015 to injury. So I thought we might take a trip through the spring game, focusing solely on plays when they went at each other.
Please don’t take this as a UFR—Brian has his own system for that, and I’m not trying to recreate it here. We’re not looking at what Mone does to JBB or walk-ons, but who scored points against each other.
|Q||Time||Type||Mone's Job||Cole's Job||Winner|
|1||0:50||Run||Left A||Pull & seal||Mone|
|Cole is pulling around the left guard (JBB), whom Mone put on skates at the snap. Cole correctly IDs that he has to deal with that and uses up his block, which means this play is about to be dead. Mone wins the point by pushing Cole backwards to cut off even the hope of a cutback, then tossing Cole to the side to close in on the back, leaving Godin totally free. Monster start for Mone.
|Mone shows great hands as he works from a 2-tech (over the LG) to the A gap on the other side and remains clean. He doesn't pressure but the offense is using up 3 blockers, meaning the rest of the protection is 1-on-1 (including Isaac vs. Godin). That creates pressure and Speight's throw downfield is a bit too far OOB. Cole did his part though so this round has no victor, except Don Brown.|
|2||8:00||Run||Left A||Step & seal backside||Tie|
|On a power play like this Cole is starting playside and just has to block down and seal, a job he is put in an advantageous position to do. We will see this a lot so I’m establishing a precedent that Cole doesn’t get a “win” for this even though he successfully blocked Mone. If Mone gets blocked down and beats it he gets double points. If Mone pushes Cole enough to bother the pulling guard, Mone gets a point. Here Mone tried to push Cole backwards to cut off running room but Cole stalemated him.|
|2||6:17||Run||Left A||Mone m2m||Cole|
|The Isaac run I broke down last week. Mone burrowed inside at the snap and delayed JBB's release while working Cole back, but Cole got the last little shove downfield that allowed Isaac to escape downfield so Cole FTW.|
|2||5:34||Pass||Left A||Protect left A||Cole|
|Cole got some help from JBB but didn't need it, keeping Mone at arm's length and giving Speight a pretty pocket to throw the Butt TD.|
|Q||Time||Type||Mone's Job||Cole's Job||Winner|
|3rd and 10 and they're one on one. Cole absorbed the first punch then Mone tossed him aside. Cole did well to spin around and regain position between Mone and Speight, but by then the center's in the QB's knees.|
|2||2:03||Pass||Left A||Protect left A||Cole|
|Cole wins the arm war this time and keeps Mone at bay without help, leaving Peters a nice pocket to step into if he chooses.|
|2||2:00||Run||Left A||Step & seal backside||Cole|
|They're running power away from Mone again so Cole just has to block down. He erases Mone and then releases downfield, nearly taking out a linebacker and setting up to cut off pursuit. Point Cole.|
|2||1:50||Pass||2-gap||Protect left A||Mone|
|This pass (the one Wheatley dropped) got off, but Cole got shoved deep into the pocket by Mone before handing the NT off to Pliska and picking up another rusher. No pocket equals point Mone.|
Standings are at 4-3-2 in favor of Cole at this point. Obviously the white/maize team was game-planning to run at Godin (at 3-tech) instead of Mone.
[The second half, after the jump]
This poor kid. [Photo: Danbury News-Times]
In a ceremony where the decor took away what little suspense there may have been heading into the announcement, three-star Newtown (CT) Sandy Hook ILB/FB Ben Mason committed to Michigan. Mason picked up a scholarship offer while on an unofficial visit in April, and a subsequent offer from Wisconsin didn't sway him from the Wolverines.
Mason projects to either inside linebacker or fullback at the next level; after his Michigan visit, he told TMI's Brice Marich he was open to either:
“(My parents) loved the college town feel of Ann Arbor and impressed with the academics. They also loved the opportunity I have defensively at linebacker or offensively at fullback with Coach Wheatley. I just want to play football. I really don’t care what position.”
Mason and Chase Lasater give Michigan two ILB/FB types in the class. Of the pair, Mason seems more likely to stick on defense—it's worth noting Don Brown saw fit to offer him when Brown was at Boston College. Michigan now has 12 commits in the 2017 class, including another linebacker prospect in four-star Josh Ross.
|3*, #32 ILB||3* ILB||NR OLB||
3*, 85, #28 ILB,
3*, #35 ILB,
Mason is a middle-of-the-pack three-star to Scout and 247, while Rivals hasn't given him a position ranking and ESPN hasn't bothered to scout him at all. Mason plays two positions that don't generate many four-star prospects (ILB and FB) and he comes from a state that doesn't produce much in the way of football talent; he's likely to stay a three-star.
Mason's size has some suggesting he could grow into a defensive end role down the road. 247 has the most updated figures: Mason checked in a 6'2.5", 247 pounds at last weekend's Opening regional. That's big enough to step in immediately at either inside linebacker or fullback.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the commitment post.]