I did not make this headline up
About last week:
Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But the light only touches Ann Arbor.
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24 (W)
Recap: Had the Michigan game gone just a liiiiiittle differently, this would have been a frustrating result. Nebraska would have been Michigan's biggest remaining hurdle to a
Leaders Victors Legends Bo (NNTB) Division crown, and pulling one out of their ass like this would have been rather disappointing. Instead, the world just sucks and everything is terrible, so what the hell, FAT GUY HAIL MARY.
Nebraska outgained Northwestern 472-326, but turned the ball over four times and found themselves down 3 when the above hilarity happened. They actually faced a 4th and 15 at their own 24 with under a minute left, and Ameer Abdullah took a dump-off and broke about 4 tackles to gain 16 yards.
Despite the victory, Nebraska’s quarterback situation is a bit of a crap shoot. Taylor Martinez has a strained everything, and didn’t play in this one. Excluding the Fat Guy Hail Mary, Tommy Anderson Jr. and Ron Kellogg III combined for 21/41 for 228 yards (5.6 YPA), one touchdown, and four INTs. Armstrong is more mobile (he gained 69 yards on 17 carries), but his arm was rather Acme Rocket-like; among his three turnovers, he threw one of the worst picks you’ll ever see with about two and a half minutes left deep in its own territory with the game tied.
All things considered, the offense was still very productive, but it’s hard to say if the turnovers can be extricated from that productivity given the quarterback situation. Martinez is reportedly out for the Michigan game, though, which is a significant advantage for Michigan; Nebraska is going to have to tip its hand based on which QB is under center. If Armstrong is out there, I think you’ll see Jake Ryan out there on the assumption that Nebraska will be going run-heavy, whereas if Kellogg is out there Michigan will almost certainly be in a nickel.
This team is as frightening as: Oh hell everything is frightening now, even if it isn’t objectively frightening. Fear Level = 6
Michigan should worry about: Ameer Abdullah. He’s is already over 1100 yards on the season (or about negative-23 Michigan/MSU games worth), and is averaging 7.1 yards per tote. He's a home run threat who can also be an effective every-down back. With Martinez out last week, Abdullah got 27 touches, and there’s no reason to believe that number will decrease this week.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Nebraska’s Defensive FEI is 50th in the country… which is actually two spots BETTER than their Offensive FEI. They’ve put up some video game stats, but mostly against terrible defenses. They have played three defenses that are currently ranked in the top 93 in Defensive FEI (#23 UCLA, #30 Northwestern and #46 Minnesota), and have only averaged under 24 points per game in those three matchups. By comparison, they averaged 47 ppg against the #94, #95, #103, and #106 defenses and an FCS opponent. Michigan is statistically the best defense Nebraska will have faced this year.
When they play Michigan: Hurray for home games. Home games are good games. Home games don’t make me throw things.
Next game: @ Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: Poor Damn Northwestern]
- Drew Dileo and Keith Heitzman will be back Saturday. Brennen Beyer will start at SDE.
- AJ Williams will "be in the lineup."
- De'Veon Smith's demotion was to send a message. Still has a chance to earn his way back into the depth chart.
“Had a good practice yesterday. We expect it with the way this group has been. Most Tuesdays have been very good. It was good. The energy was good. The enthusiasm for the game of football was good. And in terms of preparation we got a lot done.”
Devin’s status physically? Has his leadership been tested?
“Oh I think all the leadership is always tested when you have adversity. He did a great job yesterday. Sore? Yeah. But every guy in the game of football across America who’s playing is going to be sore. He went out and attacked the day.”
Were there any lessons for him from last week?
“I think there’s always lessons. For him, maybe there’s some fundamental lessons when you look at technique that he can take home and learn from. I think leadership-wise I think there’s always those things we can build on ... I would think he keeps growing as a quarterback. That’s part of it. Being in those pressurized situations, made some awfully good throws. Obviously the Nascar series at the end of the game, late, showed a lot. He got them up even though he got him – he kept moving.”
FORMATION NOTES: On passing downs Michigan sometimes went with this 3-3-5-ish look with the line in a wide three-man front and the SAM hanging out next to one of the ends;
They also went with a weird wide even line against Ace, once:
M rolled down Gordon in their under early:
And occasionally split their nickel package, leaving just one LB. I called this 5-1.
Oh and on the final drive MSU pulled out an unbalanced formation with two inline TEs to the same side of the line.
Deliberately trolling Borges's unbalanced lines? Probably not, but I hope so.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Taylor, Countess, and Gordon went the whole way. When Michigan went to a nickel it was always Jourdan Lewis; Michigan also brought in Avery from time to time to spot Wilson, with iffy success.
Linebacker was the usual, except Brennen Beyer was moved to SDE, leaving SAM mostly Ryan with Cam Gordon backing; the three-man ILB rotation was still in place. Gedeon was sent to the bench again.
On the line Michigan did some weird stuff. Black(!) played nose tackle to open the game and would end up there periodically. Henry flipped between nose and three-tech; when it was Washington and Henry Michigan seemed to regard them as interchangeable. Clark went almost the whole way at WDE; very little Ojemudia. At SDE it was Beyer and some Wormley; no or very little Heitzman. Glasgow made a cameo or two.
[After THE JUMP: I mean, what did you expect?]
Basically the coaches have put guys who couldn't possibly succeed in a position to fail even harder. [Fuller]
Hey, UFRs are coming out today and tomorrow, but we can get most of the sad clown out now. Sad clowns: Brian, Bryan, Brett, Brandon, Brace, and Brseth. What I asked:
The worst part of it is…
Coach Brown: Man, what a loaded question. I think the worst part of it is, that we don’t know what the worst part of it is. Right now Michigan is 6-2 with a loss to Penn State that I don’t think they should have. The Michigan State loss was painful, but expected. That being said, there seems to be a list of issues that are present each week, with a few new ones popping up occasionally too.
Early on Devin was the interception king, while last week he played like he was so scared to turn the ball over that it might as well have been glued to his hand.
The offensive line has been different so many times I don’t even know who is playing what position anymore. Even the All-American left tackle has been moved around. The youth is inexperienced but talented, but so far has been pretty lack luster. Derrick Green is averaging around 3 ypc. Dymonte Thomas was thought to be all-world but he can’t get on the field. Channing Stribling has been there, but not quite. Kyle Bosch unfortunately has had to play. Shane Morris trips over yard lines. Jake Butt is being asked to do a TON. Jourdan Lewis shows signs of being the next Raymon Taylor. Brian, is he good or aren’t we sure yet?
|Does the inverted veer have a counter in this offense? Does the coaches know what a counter is? [Upchurch]|
Granted a lot of stuff sucked against Michigan State and those memories are at the forefront right now, but a lot of these things have shown up in every game this season. Inconsistent line play and positioning, ball security issues with Devin, no running game whatsoever, game-plans that seem to be constructed as the coaches walk onto the field.
I’m not even going to try and address the coaching issues that seem to be unidentifiable, but are definitely present. Is it Hoke’s leadership? Is it Borges’s predictability and lack of creativity? Is it Funk not knowing what to do with young linemen? Is it Mallory purposely teaching DB’s not to look back for the ball? Is it Mattison being too NFL-like that he won’t blitz when a blitz seems to be an obvious choice?
I know these guys have been football brains for many, many more years that I have been and on a level I can’t even comprehend, but at some point shouldn’t those brains be able to get things get fixed? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the war room to see and hear what the coaches talk about. They have to know these concerns right? And if so, where are the adjustments or the explanations for why things are happening the way that they are.
Michigan is 6-2 and could potentially go 9-3, while 8-4 is probably more likely, with 6-6 being….dammit, a very real possibility. There is a laundry list of issues with some being more glaring than others. Some things are controllable and some things are not. This team can’t get older and more experienced overnight.
I don’t have fool-proof answers and I don’t know exactly why these issues seem to be unaddressed, but one thing is clear, Team 134 isn’t that good. Facts are facts. What happens this year and next will be telling for the future of the entire staff and the direction of Michigan football.
[Jump. Or small hop if your ribs are still healing. Try not to step on the dead dove.]
“All right, on to Nebraska. You know, last ball game, it was a tough loss for us obviously. It’s time to move on. I thought for a lot of that ball game our kids competed, played very hard. Obviously there’s things we had to do better. Can’t give a score up before halftime like we did. But watching the tape, I thought our guys fought very hard. It wasn’t good enough.”
Brady expressed concerned on pass defense. What needs to improve?
“We have to be tighter. We have to compete more. There’s a difference between being in the right place as a secondary guy and competing. The bottom line is everybody on that field has a job to do and has an alignment and has a responsibility. And then you’re either successful or not successful based on what happens in your area. It’s like a five-technique defensive end. You can play the C-gap, and if you open that C-gap up too much, then it’s going to make it harder on somebody else. I’m not saying the secondary is the reason. Everybody has something that they have to get better at. One of the things that we have to get better, and it always goes with pass rush and getting to the quarterback, is tightening our coverage up and contesting throws a little better.”
Previously: Preview MGoPodcast with John Gasaway, Media Day Wrap, Bigs, Wings (Also, BUY HTTV BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. There's more great preview content in there than I can possibly cover in a sequence of blog posts.)
With the bigs and wings already covered, that leaves just the point guards to preview. Michigan has two very good options here, plus a third (Caris LeVert) that can be used situationally. Will their powers combined equal that of Trey Burke? Well, no, that's simply unreasonable. Will they still be pretty darn good? This blog says yes.
This looks pleasantly familiar.
Measurables: 6'1", 185
Recruiting Rankings: 247Composite #10 PG, #45 overall
The 2013 Michigan Gatorate Player of the Year winner and Mr. Basketball finalist officially took up the now-hallowed mantle of Michigan Starting Point Guard this week, when John Beilein gave Walton the nod over Spike Albrecht in the exhibition finale against Wayne State. The freshman ranked as high as #30 overall (and no lower than #67) depending on your recruiting site of preference. There were a few common threads in the various scouting reports on him:
- First and foremost, he's a pass-first point guard that keeps everyone involved. Scout hailed him as a "true point guard" whose court vision makes his teammates better. ESPN called him a "true point guard [that] can control the game" in their evaluation. Rivals didn't quite get the memo, calling him "one of 2013's top pure point men," after an AAU tournament last May ($). Whether true or pure, guard or man, Walton is certainly a natural fit at the one, and he'll look to distribute more than his predecessor.
- Walton can score, especially at the perimeter. Scout's report lists three-point range as a positive. ESPN also discusses his outside shooting in a good light and adds that he's got a solid mid-range game. The Rivals article cited above notes his ability to score from the outside or around the basket. When he decides it's time to score, Walton is capable, though it's unfair to compare him to Trey Burke in this regard. (That goes for just about everything, actually.) Early returns here are positive: Walton hit 3 of 7 three-pont attempts in the two exhibition games and looked very confident in his shot; yes, I'll acknowledge that's a tiny sample size.
- At the very least, Walton is going to give plenty of effort on defense, and while Scout lists his size and defensive ability in the "areas for improvement" section, that sentiment isn't echoed elsewhere. ESPN loves his toughness and competitive drive on both ends of the floor. Rivals cites his on-ball defense as a major factor in his lofty ranking. In the two exhibition games, Walton has two Burke-esque halfcourt steals and looks like he's well ahead of where Burke was defensively at this early stage.
There's also his leadership; while most AAU squads are disjointed at best, Walton's Michigan Mustangs won a major tournament in Las Vegas thanks to taking on the identity of their point guard, per Rivals's Eric Bossi ($):
It's only fitting that the Michigan Mustangs took home the 17 and under crown at the Adidas Super 64. ... Taking their cue from tough-as-nails floor general and tournament MVP Derrick Walton, the entire Mustangs team played with toughness, togetherness and a unified purpose. Frankly, there weren't enough teams in Las Vegas -- or any of our other stops between April and July -- that played with the same purpose as the Mustangs so it's good to see their efforts result in a big tournament victory.
Bossi's evaluation of Walton's play in that tournament was glowing, to say the least ($):
Setting the tone for the Mustangs was four-star point guard Derrick Walton. The Michigan bound guard was an absolute stud on both ends of the floor. He went right at defenders' chests on drives, dimed up his teammates with pinpoint passes, defended at a high level and generally played with a level of confidence that allowed him to do whatever he wanted to do.
One strength of Walton's that's become immediately apparent is his ability to push the pace and control the tempo of the game; he's always looking to run when he gets an outlet pass (or a defensive rebound—he had seven combined in the two exhibitions) and that resulted in a lot of easy transition buckets for Michigan. When McGary—and his Unseldian outlets—returns to the court, the fast break could become one of Michigan's primary offensive weapons.
Golden Age Rap Song That Describes His Game/Impact: "For My Dogs" — DMX
And I'm gonna be the one behind just to keep you on your toes
I be your extra eyes and hold you down around your foes
I be your extra gun you need me let me know
For my dogs I be the first to cock it back and let it go
Walton isn't going to be the first option on this team; he's going to let his teammates know he's got their back, however—whether that comes in the form of assists, timely buckets, or giving his all on defense.
The Bottom Line: Walton is a freshman point guard, and that means he's going to make the occasional mistake on both ends of the court. The difference between Walton and other point guards of recent vintage is that there are other options—not only is Spike Albrecht a viable starter on a solid team, Caris LeVert is quickly emerging as a serious drive-and-kick threat playing the point in bigger lineups. Walton is the starter and should be for the duration; on this team, that means he's going to be pretty good, even if he's the fourth or fifth option on the court whose primary job is to distribute—think Yogi Ferrell on last year's Indiana team, except hopefully with a more consistent outside shot.
[Hit THE JUMP for SPIKE.]