"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
So, my dear Harbaugh doubters and Maryland player drafters, how have your expectations changed for this year?
David: Starting last New Year's Day, I think I backed the idea that M was going to go 8-4 with a probable ceiling of 10-2. As M landed RuDock and Brian UFRed most of his 2014 games -and, admittedly, the Drake Harris hype train hit full steam ahead- I was getting confident in 9-3. Harris hasn't hit it big, yet, and RuDock is still coming along. But that defense looks, no, IS...really frickin' good, man. I thought they would be better than the past few years, but they could be the best M has had in quite a while. I wasn't too discouraged after Utah, but said to my buddy, as we walked away from the game, that I thought BYU would be the big measuring stick to tell us how we'd developed over the next month. I'm going to say that Michigan passed.
The rest of the league? Maybe not so much. Teams with good coaches grow and get better. And that could happen in a couple of places but not that many. Let's see some consistency out of the Penn State OL and Minnesota's offense. Brian mentioned that the Michigan State game looks a lot more tractable and I have to agree. It seems like it might finally be a more even game that its been over the last couple of years, obviously. With Michigan State's line of injuries over the past few weeks and some of their performances looking a tad spotty, despite playing lower level opponents, I am actually starting to like this matchup for Michigan. The Ohio State game? I feel better about it than I did a month ago, but if Ohio State executes to their highest ability, I'm not sure any other team in the country beats them. Obviously, that is a throw-out-the-records Game and just about anything can happen, but those are the types of things that are impossible to predict. If both teams play their best, I think Michigan still gets edged out. Ok, it's official. I have talked myself up to being confident in 9-3 and maybe even a little disappointed in not going 10-2*.
*obligatory mention barring major injuries to very key players: RuDock, G. Glasgow, Butt, Lewis, Peppers.
[after the jump: we jump but maybe not as high as Amara the American]
Note: Jabrill was on his way from class and missed the time they do the two-player panels, so we got extra time with him in a scrum. I jumped in mid-answer here.
“…in terms of punt returning, we’re almost on the brink of taking one back. Just minor corrections and me making full-speed decisions and trusting the blocks and the way it sets up. I think I’m right on the brink of breaking one.”
Your thoughts on how the secondary’s coming together right now after four games?
“You know, it all starts with the coaches. They do a great job of gameplan and coming up with schemes that best fit us and our best attributes and they put us in the right positions to make plays and it’s been working so far. It’s just all in the schematics.”
Talk about the coaches as technicians. What have you learned technically from them?
“It’s almost too much to name in terms of techniques and different things they teach us, different pointers what to watch in terms of route recognition, formation recognition, what they like to do out of said personnel or said formations so it all helps us out there on the field. We rep it so much in practice it just becomes second nature.
“In the games it actually slows down because we were prepared for tempo. In practice we kind of killed ourselves all week thinking they were going to go tempo, and if they did I didn’t notice it. You know, it definitely all starts with the preparation.”
How comfortable do you feel in this hybrid role that you’re playing?
“It’s…I’m always comfortable with the guys around me. They do a great job of preparing and helping me. I just do whatever I’m asked to do. You know, put the time in the film room, put the time in the playbook, learn the position as if I played it all year and just try to go out and compete each and every day.”
What do you like about the position that you’re playing and what you can do every week?
“I just like how I’m around the ball a lot. They put me in spots where I can excel, and then it’s up to me to play. That’s how I look at it. They can’t go out there and play for us, so they put us in the right spots at the right moments. Coach Durkin does a great job with knowing the personnel and what they like to do on each down and what’s their tendencies and while I’m out there I remember that. I can kind of get a jump on a route or get a jump on what play or what kind of run I expect them to run, so it just all goes back to schematics.”
[After THE JUMP: The best way to talk trash it to let your pads do it for you]
Nothing can possibly top...
Well then. This is going to be a tough vote.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the BYU game in GIFs and many more angles of the two plays above.]
1 hour 35 minutes
Also a big thanks to our sponsors. The show is presented by UGP & Moe's and frankly would not be happening without them; Rishi and company have been on board here from almost the beginning. Shopping with them helps us and supports good dudes.
Fan-dang-tastic defense from top to bottom and Rudock progress on offense, plus the two wow experience plays. Not bad overall.
Gimmicky Top Five List: Most Ridiculously Fun Blowouts
I thought this might have a significant amount of overlap and it did, but we fill in some just-missed and get in shots at NFL reporters all the same.
247's Steve Lorenz
We might talk a bit about Rashan Gary with Steve Lorenz of 247. Also Carlo Kemp, the 2017 in-state class, and general team stuff.
Catch us Mondays 5-7 on 1050 WTKA.
THE USUAL LINKS
KJ Hamler warms up. [Dave Nasternak/MGoBlog]
For this week's scouting post, Dave and I went out to Orchard Lake St. Mary's and their blood-red field to see four-star 2017 prospects KJ Hamler and Josh Ross, both of whom hold Michigan offers. OLSM took on Warren De La Salle in a matchup of defending state champions, though unfortunately DLS RB/CB Allen Stritzinger sat out due to injury.
Despite the absence of Stritzinger and standout linebacker Eric Rogers, De La Salle dominated; we exited the scene before the 31-8 score went final. While Hamler and Ross couldn't lead their team to victory, both showed flashes of their potential; in Hamler's case, one flash was especially bright:
We call him "Speedy Eaglet" for a reason.
[Hit THE JUMP for more video and scouting reports on Hamler and Ross.]
During the preseason I was goofing around with wide receiver targeting stats by Bill Connelly*, and Ace asked me if it says anything about anything if a team is targeting its tight ends more than its receivers. At the time it seemed Michigan was about to do that. They haven't:
But once things shake out it wouldn't be that surprising if it's Darboh and Butt then a bunch of low-amplitude dudes. The more the season has progressed, the more it seems Ian Bunting and Henry Poggi are going to siphon snaps and targets from Grant Perry and Drake Harris. Jehu Chesson gets ignored even when his cornerback has fallen down. We can compare this distribution to the rest of the Big Ten:
For the above I counted OSU's H-backs as receivers, fullbacks as RBs, and Northwestern's "superbacks" as tight ends. It's early in the season so there's still a ton of mess in those numbers. So lets get some more data and see what we find.
[after the jump: two blobs jousting]