Why did Peppers seem to disappoint on offense this season in the big games? Lack of creativity? Poor execution on his part, maybe from limited reps? OL play? Cosmic misfortune?
There are many reasons.
- Defenses tended to absurdly over-focus on him when he entered the game. This resulted in a bunch of plays where his presence as a decoy created huge chunks for guys not named Peppers.
- Michigan's read option package was basic. Teams started scrape exchanging against it and Michigan did not have a response to it. This resulted in a number of plays that looked like bad reads but were in fact RPS minuses. It probably would have been more effective to just single-wing, or use Peppers as a tailback.
- He got some bad edge blocking from tight ends.
- Cosmic misfortune always plays a role.
In retrospect the QB package should have been dumped midseason, probably after Illinois shut it down, and Michigan should have moved on to something else. They've been good at doing this so far under Harbaugh—fullback traps fell out of the offense this year—but not so here.
The Pepcat package featured something every high schooler is relentlessly drilled on these days: defending a crazy athlete QB. Michigan is not a spread option team. They are strictly dilettantes in that department. So you had a primitive attempt at spread option going up against the last ten years of defensive advancements against it. That is ceased working after a shock and awe period isn't a surprise.
Peters chatter, QB competition
daddy needs a new Andrew Luck [Fuller]
There never seemed to be much insider chatter floating around this year about how Peters was performing in practice. Obviously last year the big chatter was that, O'Korn was out performing Rudock. Question 1.) Do we know anything about how he performed this fall in practice?
Secondly, I for one was pleasantly surprised with Speight's performance this year and I believe exceeded what many's expectations were for him.
That being said -
Question 2.) Do you anticipate any serious competition next year between a Redshirt Peters and Speight for the starting gig?
After a productive spring, Peters chatter went to zero in fall camp. You shouldn't read anything into that, though. O'Korn got talked up last year because Rudock was so bad early and there was nobody else to talk about except Shane Morris, who was not a viable target for chatter after last year's Minnesota game.
Michigan had determined it was going to redshirt Peters, he got put on the scout team, and Speight played well enough that backup talk was restricted to a few off weeks. O'Korn's existence, meanwhile, kept what backup chatter existed focused on him until Indiana.
I do expect a serious QB competition this offseason. By "serious" I mean "there is at least a 20% chance someone not named Speight is the starting QB." Brandon Peters is extremely good and should eat up ground quickly since he was not one of those QB guru guys. Speight had a good sophomore season but remains someone else's QB that Harbaugh is making do with, and we saw him switch horses midstream in San Francisco. Speight's weak performance against Iowa and turnovers against OSU leave the door open for a challenger.
I'd be surprised if Peters passed Speight. I would not be shocked.
[After the JUMP: blueshirting, sartorial discussion, why do anything really I mean seriously]
fair enough, Lonzo Ball
Michigan made 12 first-half three-pointers, only five short of the school record for an entire game. The Wolverines rebounded four of their ten missed shots in the half. They held a turbo-charged UCLA squad to two fast-break points.
Lonzo Ball pulled up from just inside the midcourt logo and tied the game at 50 as the half expired. Michigan had played a best-case scenario half and the Bruins matched them shot for shot. UCLA made ten threes themselves in the opening stanza. Only one team was equipped to sustain such a pace.
TJ Leaf, the former Michigan recruit, gave the Bruins the lead on the first possession of the second half, and they never lost it. This spectacular sequence from Ball and center Ike Onigbonu, who filled in more than capably for injured starter Thomas Welsh, stretched the lead to eight:
Alford and Leaf would push it to double digits with back-to-back buckets. Michigan made a couple mini-runs to get as close as five but they never had a shot to tie the game over the last 17:58. As the Wolverines offense sputtered, UCLA's continued to roar; the Bruins connected on 20-for-29 from the field in the second half while Michigan only went 10-for-29.
An impressive performance by Zak Irvin—who had 18 points, five rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and only one turnover—went for naught. Derrick Walton had another quiet performance, going 2-for-7 from the field for nine points with two assists and two turnovers, and if Michigan hoped to keep pace, they needed both their senior leaders to be lights-out tonight. One was, one wasn't. That isn't exactly a surprise to anyone who's followed their careers.
Michigan wasn't good enough to beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. That they hung with them for a half was impressive in and of itself, even if the second half left a feeling of demoralization. The Wolverines aren't an elite team this year; we knew that. The Bruins may be one; they've certainly looked the part. If Beilein's squad can keep up their early-season defense—judging that based on tonight is harsh, to say the least—and sprinkle in a little more of tonight's first-half shooting, they just might be a pretty good team themselves. Getting good performances from both their seniors at once would help; thus far, those games have been few and far between.
|WHAT||#27 Michigan (7-2) at #12 UCLA (9-0)|
Los Angeles, California
|WHEN||8 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||UCLA -7 (KenPom)|
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball can and will score from just about anywhere on the court.
While pulling out a last-minute win against Texas on Tuesday night provided a nice morale boost, it may not do a whole lot for Michigan's tournament resume. The Longhorns, at 4-4, are currently the only Big 12 team without a winning record, and KenPom projects them to finish last in the conference.
A victory at UCLA, on the other hand, would almost assuredly hold up as a signature win. This is Michigan's last chance to tally one more of those in non-conference play; they finish out with Central Arkansas, Maryland Eastern Shore, and Furman before tipping off Big Ten play on New Year's Day at Iowa.
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||2||Lonzo Ball||Fr.||6'6, 190||86||21||134||Not At All|
|Probable top-5 NBA pick next year. Deadeye shooter, excellent finisher and passer.|
|G||20||Bryce Alford||Sr.||6'3, 185||84||17||127||Not At All|
|Very efficient low-usage shooter: 50/42/90 splits this season with a good FT rate.|
|G||10||Isaac Hamilton||Sr.||6'5, 195||77||23||117||Not At All|
|Takes 26% of UCLA's shots when on the floor with 59/45/80 splits. Dang.|
|F||22||TJ Leaf||Fr.||6'10, 225||72||21||135||Not At All|
|Former M recruit is 55-for-77 on twos, 9-for-18 on threes. Decent rebounder and shot-blocker.|
|C||40||Thomas Welsh||Jr.||7'0, 245||64||16||127||Very|
|True seven-footer is top 100 in def. rebound and block rates, makes 57% of FGs.|
|G||3||Aaron Holiday||So.||6'1, 185||64||22||118||No|
|Backup point is a little turnover-prone, but posting 52/53/73 shooting splits with high FT rate.|
|F||14||Gyorgy Goloman||Jr.||6'11, 215||27||20||106||Very|
|Foul-prone backup big rebounds and protects the rim well, 16-for-26 on twos.|
|C||13||Ike Anigbogu||Fr.||6'10, 250||13||20||99||Very|
|Impressive rebound and block rates in very limited minutes, sky-high foul rate.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Moe Wagner is earning John Beilein's trust on defense. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
The Block Is Hot
I wasn't planning to do another Basketbullets before the UCLA game until I sat through John Beilein's presser after Tuesday night's win over Texas. Beilein is coming around to the idea that Moe Wagner is, in fact, his best all-around big man, and a big reason for that showed itself on the game's deciding play:
We got done what we had to get done. Moe’s block at the end was big. Moe’s blocking shots really for the first time in his life. His first blocked shots last year I think were in the Tulsa game. He’s learning when he should leave his feet, when he shouldn’t, to be a bigger presence at the rim. Really pleased with his development, as with DJ.
Beilein's memory is pretty good: Wagner had two blocks in last season's late-November win over Charlotte, then didn't record another before his four-block breakout against Tulsa in the NCAA tournament. Wagner has always possessed the requisite length and athleticism to be a good rim protector; now he's developing the necessary timing to challenge and alter shots without picking up fouls. That was on full display with Wagner's game-sealing block, which came after he and DJ Wilson seamlessly executed a switch. Wagner stayed vertical and waited until the last moment before swatting the ball away:
After recording blocks in two of his 29 appearances last year, Wagner has six in nine games. DJ Wilson has 14. Those two almost entirely account for Michigan's team block rate rising from 6.1% (308th nationally) last season to 8.4% (189th) this year, the team's highest mark since Beilein's first season, when Ekpe Udoh had 92 of the team's 160 blocks. Incidentally, that's the last time Michigan started two bigs. While there's still plenty of room to improve, those two have added a new dimension to the defense.
[Hit THE JUMP for Billy Donlon's clutch veto, a look at the game-winning bucket, and more.]
Bruh you gotta take that ring to Mount McDoom
enjoying the fact that this picture's filename is 0_0.jpg [Scout]
4* CA OL Aaron Banks is announcing in a few hours. The recruiting world's expectations: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. This is one invisible four-star recruit. Until yesterday he had got one Crystal Ball, that a year old from the weirdo who puts in a pick for every recruit in the country way early and then forgets about most of them.
One thing we can probably deduce from Banks's visit schedule: it's Michigan or Notre Dame. He took officials to those two schools and Oregon, which just imported a new staff. If Oregon was still in it he'd delay his announcement to catch up with the new guys. Cal and Stanford, the local-ish schools, aren't in it. There was some UCLA chatter after Jim Mora had an in-home, but he hasn't been to Westwood since this summer. Apparently that was the first time Mora had ever met Banks. That would be a weird way to pick up a commit.
FWIW, Lorenz says Banks is take and that he doesn't know what'll happen; Brandon Brown first said Michigan would pass but then backtracked on that; Wiltfong notes that ND has really been putting on a full court press, while Michigan sending Jay Harbaugh to close the deal instead of the head man could be construed as something other than all-out effort.
The most definitive opinion is from Scout's Greg Biggins, who feels pretty strongly that it'll be Michigan since "it's the only school he talks about" to the point where coaches from other schools on official visits mostly hear about Seoul Street's Korean street food, renovations to the IM building, and Stadium Boulevard being closed until spring. We have put a crystal ball for Banks to Michigan mostly because that's the most definitive take out there. Tom Loy, naturally, put one in for Notre Dame. Neither outcome would surprise.
[UPDATE: we've now flipped our CB to ND as Biggins reports that Michigan passed.]
The perils of naming any visit list ever: CA CB Darnay Holmes and PA S Paris Ford will not be on campus. That's a minor bummer. Sam Webb says that Michigan is focusing on ND commit Elijah Hicks as their fifth DB at this point. As of a few days ago Hicks's imminent flip from ND had been downgraded to "up in the air" after a hard ND push. You'd think that 4-8 and not having a defensive coordinator would make it hard to push.
Brad Hawkins can get up
4* NJ WR Brad Hawkins is a rare prep-and-follow guy for Michigan who actually came through and joined the next recruiting class. I was surprised, and now I'm not.
You know it's a good WR highlight video when the wide open touchdowns are in the second half; that is a man who can go get footballs.
The above and news that Michigan might not have room for one of the four very good WR prospects they're pursuing means we can shelve Hawkins-to-safety talk for the time being. Wiltfong told the ND 247 site that Michigan had removed itself from pursuit of 4* IA WR Oliver Martin because they were more or less full at wide receiver, which is a very good sign for the three names other than Martin currently on the board. 4* CT WR Tarik Black announces in a week and 5* MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones is an early enrollee whose last visit before a decision is to Michigan this weekend; only 4.5* AL WR Nico Collins looks set to take it to signing day.
Obligatory Najee Harris section
5* CA RB Najee Harris told Bleacher Report that he wanted to take all five officials before deciding, which... uh... probably not since that would mean two visits in addition to Michigan before the 12th. Cal is feasible because it's nearby, and it appears that the Bears did indeed host Harris. They sent him a party bus and everything. USC is maybe less realistic.
Anyway, that Bleacher Report article is yet another in which Harris's quotes about Harbaugh are eyebrow-raising, especially in direct comparison to Nick Saban:
"He's a legend in my area in a way," Harris said. "What Harbaugh did—to go to the NFL and do that, then go to college at Michigan and do that again—that's one of the best coaches."
He acknowledged Harbaugh and Alabama head coach Nick Saban are "extremely" different coaches but noted "they're both good people."
Harris observed Saban operates with a "straight business" approach, while Harbaugh is "juiced" and "full of energy." Most importantly, they share a penchant for developing winners.
That's the third article where the reserved Harris says some effusive things about Harbaugh. Will it be enough? Like Banks, nobody knows. Harris's mom has a twitter account that is very heavy on 'Bama stuff; Sam Webb's gut declared that people inside Schembechler think they lead. But nobody really talks to Harris outside the odd BR or newspaper article, so nobody's got a read.
You go to hell and you die, Georgia
Sometimes crystal balls are silly, like when Rutgers led on Isaiah Wilson's for four months
Georgia was a thorn in Michigan's side last year and they may be again. Unlike last year, location plays in Michigan's favor for 5* NY OL Isaiah Wilson. Alabama is perceived to be the main competition, but with the primary Bama 247 guy flipping his crystal ball to Michigan a couple days ago it appears the only thing standing between Michigan and Wilson is this weekend's official visit to Athens.
Nobody is talking about this outside of the Georgia sites because nobody expects much to come of it. Wilson told Adam Friedman* that his mind was just about made up a few days ago:
“The school I’m thinking of just seems perfect. That’s the best way I can put it. I’ll leave it at that. People can go on an do their guessing. I think I pretty much know where I’m going."
Always some small danger, but I'd be much more worried about Bama for an out-of-region recruit. To Wilson they probably look the same except one has Nick Saban and the other has Bootleg Nick Saban.
*[Yes, the guy who said Wilson was an OSU/Clemson battle earlier this year. This is a direct quote so Friedman's tendency to say CLEMSON EVERYTHING does not interfere.]
Meanwhile Michigan has a road game against Georgia (and Alabama, and apparently the rest of the SEC) for 4.5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon. Solomon just announced that he's going to spend that fifth official on the Bulldogs. Or not, and instead they'll spend it on Auburn. He's already been to Bama and M; his January schedule will take him to USC on the 13th, Georgia or Auburn the following week, and Florida just before Signing Day. Right now it seems like Michigan is where he wants to go, but they've got to dodge a ton of bullets to get to the finish line. UGA 247 reporter Kipp Adams has it about right:
This is an all-out war. Every school should be worried about everyone.
I dunno, man. Auburn—which has not been involved so far—kind of seems like another southern option that might be a compromise between Michigan (where Solomon wants to go) and Somewhere Close (where mom wants him to be). USC does not fit this narrative, admittedly, but I go back to that recent interview where Michigan seemed to be the choice.
I though that about DaShawn Hand, too, so don't take that too seriously.
Reitmaier set to stick with Oregon?
There's a poster on Rivals's board who is clearly connected with TN DT Rutger Reitmaier; he asserts that after Willie Taggart's hire at Oregon Reitmaier looks set to stick with his commitment. Message board rando discounts apply but this guy in particular seems consistent and credible.
I wouldn't write him off just yet, since it seems clear where his parents want him. Reitmaier's dad talked with Sam Webb for a very long piece, which is usually a good sign. In it he's pretty open:
When Coach Harbaugh and Coach Mattison reached out to us and once I started talking to them and doing the research I'm like, ‘oh boy, this is a really good school, and obviously, the program is great.’ But I didn't realize how (great) on the academic side it is. So (what you’re) kind of trying to figure out as a parent is, you want to have him play where he wants to play, but also give some (perspective) to the youth that doesn't have experience.
Michigan probably doesn't have room for all four of the DL currently on the board but they really need at least one NT type, and Reitmaier is in the Glasgow mold. 3.5* MI DE/DT Deron Irving-Bey probably tops out as a three-tech. Getting at least one and preferably two of Solomon, Reitmaier, and 4.5* UT DT Jay Tufele is neck-and-neck with a ready-to-play tackle as the most pressing need remaining in the class.
FL LB Jordan Anthony has set a commit date of 12/22 per this Epic Oskee-level video on Hudl. Speaking of!
Lorenz reports that Anthony will visit Ann Arbor on an unofficial this weekend instead of taking an official to Maryland. If so that is game over, man. Anthony's announcement will have zero suspense, which is the way I like my announcements.
MS LB Willie Gay is at one of those State versus State All Star games and sounding like a pretty good Peppers analogue: "Gay is really fluid and speedy from his linebacker position and he's got safety cover ability to go with his heat-seeking run support style." Michigan is still after him hard.
Lorenz also reports Michigan thinks 3.5* OH DE James Hudson's senior film is really good too. He and Stueber are probably the most underrated guys in the class.
4* 2018 MI LB Ovie Oghoufo is a Notre Dame commit but sounds very open about listening to Michigan, as you would expect after Notre Dame went 4-8. 4* 2018 GA LB commit Otis Reese just got a trio of heavy-hitting offers: Bama, Georgia, and Florida. If there's going to be wobble in his recruitment it'll start now. He sounded very committed just a couple weeks ago.
30 minutes—shorter due to Warde Manuel preceding
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
Segment two is here.
THE USUAL LINKS
- Florida State did not miss Don Brown being in their conference, has a good DL and one of the best RBs Michigan has ever faced.
- Michigan sends off an NFL DL, returns one
- Baskethooops takes: is the offense bogging down, or do the threes just have to fall? Getting used to playing with Mo.
- Brian goes full Craig Ross re: ticky-tack fouls on Michigan’s best bigs.
- Who can create on the offense?
- Michigan can win this Big Ten
- Comparing Beilein Michigan to Dantonio MSU