to play football, not to play trumpet
Hello. You have made it to the end. This year's edition checks in at 43,424 words.
Memories Of Butter. Let's punch a cow until it gives us butter, because it's hard to remember the right way to do it.
Quarterback. Protect this man for great profit.
Running back. Emerge from the swamp and claim your birthright.
Wide Receiver. I will not compare Devin Funchess to Megatron… okay maybe just a little.
Tight End And Friends. Waiting for Budot.
Offensive Line. The catch.
5Q5A, Offense. The madness of last year and leaving it behind.
Defensive End. Secret Agent Clark is the key to the whole thing.
Defensive Tackle. We have the meat. We have the ogre. Unleash the meatogre.
Linebacker. Four starters for two and a half spots. I like 'em both.
Cornerback. In ur face jammin ur doodz
Safety. In this solitary case, Nickelback does not suck.
5Q5A, Defense. Making the case that this is the year to kick ass.
Special Teams. Hagerup leg cannon returns.
Podcast 6.0. We may still be recording this, it's that long.
Heuristics and Stupid Prediction. I say 9-3.
THE HORROR II
Previewed by Ace.
One of my favorite annual pieces is always Orson's season kickoff post. He outdid himself this year. I had the fortune to read it in my feed reader, which meant the GIFs embedded in the post just ran; on SBN their normally very wise GIF-handling software only runs them when you mouseover the image. This is unfortunate, as the gifs give the piece a wonderfully haunted air.
I wasn't really prepared for the last one.
I know I've been pissed off you guys about the increasingly aggressive moneychangers in the temple, but goddamn that is heartstopping. I want to go there again. I want to see the mountains in the background as the sun sets in the third quarter and feel that awe and privilege that this place exists and I have a reason to be here.
And now I feel like there is still something sacred out there, and that is why we all gravitated to this thing in the first place. The bowl goes up and up and it is just impossibly full of people. The thing in front of us is happening right now and I will remember this as glory or death until I've forgotten my own name. The thing is still in there. You just have to look a little harder these days. Rummage around. You'll find it.
Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. Five Questions and Five Answers, Offense. 5Q5A, Defense.
The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|Year||Margin||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|2007||0.15 (41st)||14||15||2.46(33rd)||14||13||2.17 (67th)|
|2008||-.83 (104th)||9||11||2.42(33rd)||12||18||1.83 (57th)|
|2009||-1.00 (115th)||11||5||1.83(68th)||15||13||2.33 (83rd)|
|2011||+0.54 (25th)||9||20||2.31 (29th)||16||6||1.38 (33rd)|
|2012||-0.69 (99th)||7||11||1.69 (69th)||19||8||1.38 (28th)|
|2013||+0.38(33rd)||17||9||1.9 (64th)||13||8||2.77 (109th)|
Michigan did very well in this category considering that sacks allowed number. Pressure equals turnovers, and Michigan suffered all of the pressure last year. Their INT rate dropped significantly despite that, though a big part of that was five picks on 22 attempts by Russell Bellomy and Vincent Smith that did not repeat.
Michigan's interceptions were largely built on the craft and ability of their corners, who return and are being pushed hard from behind. Pass rush should improve with a season of a healthy Jake Ryan and both defensive ends coming back; Michigan gets its QB back for his senior year; the line… welp. The line.
If Michigan can pass protect reasonably well they should expect to be on the positive side of this ledger, perhaps significantly. If they can't…
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
Things that already happened like Funchess to WR, Brennen Beyer to DE, Braden to tackle, Magnuson to guard. Fret level: these already happened.
Various small moves associated with the change to an over defense. Fret level: minor. Michigan played a lot of over fronts last year and Brennen Beyer will be more comfortable in that front; the minor differences between WLB in an under and SAM in an over shouldn't be a problem for James Ross.
SAM Jake Ryan moves to MLB because over front. Fret level: moderate. It is a big change for a guy who was a terrific player at a spot Michigan no longer really has, and I worry it'll blunt his effectiveness.
SDE Keith Heitzman moves to TE because need blocking. Fret level: moderate. It makes sense because Michigan needs blocking desperately at TE and Heitzman was surplus to requirements at DE. I am just fretting because this reminds me about the TE blocking.
MLB Desmond Morgan to both ILB spots because Joe Bolden. Fret level: zero.
And that's it. Very stable. Shortest this section has been in a long, long time.
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Worst Case Barring Extreme Injury Scenarios
The offensive line is a pile of doom that takes the offense down with it as Michigan experiences a near-replay of last year: Gardner does stuff to win games by himself sometimes, there is a star receiver, real defenses turn Michigan's rushing offense off. The defense is still better than last year, deeper and less prone to collapse against… uh, the best rushing offense in the country. Michigan gets swept in their three road rivalry games, drops the Penn State game at home, and loses another game somewhere on the schedule to finish 7-5.
The offensive line holds up okay, giving Michigan a functional rushing game that develops as the season goes along. One of the backs stepping up helps this a lot; the receiving corps is great; Gardner still gets put in too many long-yardage scenarios for the offense to be great.
The defense is lights out. Michigan beats up a depleted Notre Dame team in game two, sweeps the home schedule, beats a freshman JT Barrett in Columbus, and still loses to MSU to finish 11-1.
This will be a significant step forward for both units. That will not get the offense to anything better than tolerable except for two games in which Gardner and Funchess go nuts. The defense should be very good… at worst. This is put up or shut up time for those guys.
With special teams looking fine to good, the main issue is the schedule. It's tough to lose five games with it and tough to win ten. It is a lot easier now that Braxton Miller doesn't lurk at the end of the year, Northwestern is losing critical players weekly, and there is a possibility that Notre Dame will be down a number of players from an already wonky-looking defense, but it feels like there are a couple games in there that the offense will clunk away.
|8/30||Horror II||Must win|
|9/6||@ Notre Dame||Tossup|
|9/20||Utah||Lean to win|
|10/4||@ Rutgers||Must win|
|10/11||Penn State||Lean to win|
|10/25||@ MSU||Probable loss|
|11/1||Indiana||Lean to win|
|11/8||@ Northwestern||Lean to win|
|11/30||@ Ohio State||Lean to loss|
Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa, Nebraska
I've got 9-3. Before the Miller injury I would have said 8-4 was more likely than 10-2, but now… I think 9-3.
Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. Five Questions and Five Answers, Offense.
1. CAN WE BE AGGRESSIVE MAN I JUST HAD EIGHT RED BULLS AND I'M FEELING RATHER AGGRESSIVE
I think so! I mean, if they're not radically changing their approach to defense they're doing the best job ever of faking it. They have been in the grill of receivers at the spring scrimmage, at both fall scrimmages, in the practices our insider got to check out, and at the coaching clinic. Either they've wasted a lot of time or the passivity we saw last year is out the window.
“We have a new scheme and a lot of in your face coverage … With this new style of play, let’s ball and see what we got. …
“Last year we were a little bit conservative," he said. "We have talent... let’s use it. You put your best against our best and let’s ride out -- lets go get it. That is the mindset that our coaches have instilled in us for this season. Our practices are more intense -- we go hard, we go faster, and our coaches are really pushing us more. It is not just for the starters but for the backups as well -- everyone is getting pushed and that is what we like about it."
This is not a situation where this is meaningless blather from a new defensive coordinator before he knows what he's got. Mattison knows his personnel and this is what he thinks they'll be best at. It's happening.
The upshot: a lot of man coverage, more man blitzes, many fewer cushions, and a lot of pressure both ways. This is in part a reaction to Michigan State's success with an aggressive, handsy secondary, and it will draw flags. Mattison:
We want to be so physical that it is going to happen… you’re going to get a penalty. That’s going to happen. As I mentioned, I think Coach Nussmeier… I think they might have thrown the ball 200 and some snaps this spring. We have officials every practice. I think in the spring we had a total of 20 interference penalties. …
An official calls (interference how many times?) Is he is going to call seven, eight, or nine times? It never happens. We would never let you do that. So why not be aggressive? The only reason you wouldn’t is if you’re worried about well, the coach may get mad at me if I get a penalty. You’re not going to be disappointed with the young man unless he did a stupid thing when he didn’t need to do it.
Michigan took some silly ones in both the spring and fall scrimmages, something that has been expressly tolerated so far. When the live bullets start flying that may not be so easy to let fly—some of the flags were completely unnecessary.
So it will be a work in progress. It is still a terribly exciting idea. We're coming at you.
[After THE JUMP: is this it? Is this the leap?]
2015 Lincolnton (NC) DL Darian Roseboro committed to Michigan in a ceremony broadcast on ESPN.com this afternoon, choosing the Wolverines out of a final six that also included Alabama, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Roseboro is slated to play strongside defensive end, though there's a good possibility he ends up at defensive tackle; either way, he's the first of Michigan's 11 commits in the class who will play on the defensive line.
4*, #14 DT,
4*, #6 DT,
4*, 82, #20 DT,
4*, 93, #6 SDE,
4*, #7 SDE,
Roseboro is comfortably within the top 200 overall prospects on every site, and Rivals—notably, the most recent to update their rankings—provides a very positive outlier, ranking him 42nd among all 2015 prospects. All but 247, which lists him as a strongside DE, consider him a defensive tackle prospect.
That's probably because Rosoboro is a very big guy. He's listed at either 6'3" or 6'4" and 283-293 pounds on the recruiting services; the general consensus has him at 6'4", 285 or so.
[After THE JUMP: scouting and such]
1. It can't get any worse, can it?
It can always, always get worse.
1A. But it's not likely to, right?
good night sweet prince [Heiko Yang]
No, it's not. Yes, even though Michigan lost both starting tackles to the NFL. It takes a special kind of panicked incompetence to end up with results like last year's Michigan. Al Borges's final D-I offense ran outside zone, then it ran power, and then it ran inside zone. It heaped all of the possible base plays you can run on an offensive line that had zero upperclassmen on the interior. It wasted essentially a month of practice time on the "tackle over" gimmick that was ruthlessly exposed by the first opponent that knew it was coming.
Michigan had 13 plays on which a tackle lined up next to another tackle. These plays were 11 runs that gained 8 yards (more than all of them on Toussaint's long run of the day, a 12-yarder), a seven-yard sack given up by Williams, and a scramble that gained eight yards. That is the product of three weeks of practice time and the futility there was only stopped by Lewan's injury.
Many of these plays could not be blocked by anybody, because Penn State was so aggressively overplaying run that they were in the gaps before Michigan could do anything about it.
Three guys for two blockers with the WLB meeting Bryant a yard in the backfield. If Kalis tries to pursue #40, the MLB, he blocks no one instead of an irrelevant guy. On second and one, a great PA down that a lot of DCs will just give you.
They got to the line of scrimmage with under ten seconds on the clock most of the time.
GET OUT OF THE HUDDLE.
Yes. In addition to all the things previously discussed, Michigan's offensive line is looking at Gardner with two seconds on the playclock. Michigan snaps it with zero already showing—probably not actually a penalty because there is a natural delay before the ump looks at the ball to see if it's still there—and slides their line against a four man rush with no tailback to pick up the DE:
That turnover is a tangible cost of Michigan's inability to get to the line with 20 seconds on the clock consistently.
It moved linemen around almost literally every game after the first four. It was dumb.
How did this happen to a guy who was rather successful at San Diego State? Panic strangled reason in multiple ways. Michigan is stuck on this picture of itself as its 1990s self, and Al Borges was openly contemptuous of the spread both in press conferences and off the record (not to me, but to multiple people who covered the program over the last few years).
So they played a tight end who couldn't block. I'm not talking about Devin Funchess, who was eventually thrust outside. I'm talking about AJ Williams, who had one catch for two yards a year ago and was no better at blocking than Funchess. They had to know this. It jumped off the screen to me, an amateur. But instead of doing something about it they just kept plugging along with him on the field, to the point where people trying to evaluate Taylor Lewan got frustrated:
…why in the HELL did Michigan keep a tight end to Lewan's side so damn much? He obviously didn't need the help. The quarterback was right-handed anyway (with bootlegs you like for the tight end to be lined up to the side of the quarterback's throwing hand), and they could have potentially had a wide receiver there instead of a tight end. It would've increased the chances of success on passing downs as well as run downs if you get the opposing defenses to spread themselves out. But is that what Michigan did?
Here is the scenario I saw time and time again. So you have a tight end helping before he goes out into his route. Lewan, who doesn't need the help any damn way, blocks the hell out of the edge rusher. But the rest of Lewan's buddies on the Michigan O-line aren't quite as, well, good as he is, so the quarterback is under pressure and ends up sacked.
I mean. This is a guy who said he "didn't want to get in a chess match" last year. They're playing chess anyway, man. If you want to try to win with checkers, you're gonna have a bad time. Yes, even if you've got 75 different colors. The full results were detailed after Borges's firing. It just did not work.
[After THE JUMP: Nussmeier the savior(?), offensive line the achilles heel, Gardner the legend(?), stupid predictions.]
…more day till the scrimmage that's a week till football [SI]
21 versus 1. Three weeks before the season is when I start getting amped. Three weeks is that it-doesn't-feel-that-far spot when you realize you have that thing this weekend, and you get next weekend, and after that the weeks have numbers.
I had this question posed last night: Who's the most exciting player you've ever watched?. Obvious first candidate was Denard. Then the people old enough to remember Carter were like "It's Anthony Carter hands down!" Nobody bothered to listen to my feelingsball about when you'd scan a Grbac ball's trajectory, hoping, and then you'd see it was in fact Desmond, and that moment you realized you are once again about to be treated to things that happen when Desmond Howard interacts with a football. No, I am told: that was AC. With 21 you feel it coming; when it's 1 you can almost touch it.
Playing time. HELLO to a 10-pound baby-in-South-Bend (not actually in South Bend). Bry_Mac's (2nd) kid joins mine, Fuller's, and Schnepp's to round out MGoBlog's huge 2014 class. That should close out the year in MGoOffspring.
Tickets are going cheap. You may have noticed a slight reorganization of the menu bar this week:
We're partnering with TiqIQ this year. They're an aggregator so they'll pull listings from a bunch of secondary markets plus direct from the box office. The current schedule will link to tix. The nice part about them is they have a free, Facebook-based fan exchange (SellerDirect) we can incorporate into the spreadsheet. Hopefully that should clear up some of the security problems the open google doc had. Right now the App State tix are going for $27; the Miami (NTM) are $23 and Maryland is $30. #thisseasonman.
2013 in Gifs. Drkboard is now Red_Lee. Last year he was giving us a spectacular gif per game until everyone switched those off, and those are collected in one diary. Along with, well… Well since the point has already been made and bandied about how the fanbase feels about the AD we've been making a conscious effort to save the griping for gripes. Also the free, open scrimmage a few weeks ago was very appreciated by the hardcore fans who attended, despite the abandoned attempt to get people to register for it. We're trying to be good, but you know what: it's the day before an opening game that only an insane person would schedule, and the gif guy makes it so easy to be bad! Compromise: it's after [the jump].