I see you, Bleacher Report. I see you.
[Hit THE JUMP for much more of THAT and the rest of the GIFs from the Hawaii game.]
You have read somewhere that power offenses like Michigan are often dependent on winning big, strong, man-a-mano battles. While that's quite an oversimplification, it's also a truth. Run defenders are usually given pretty simple assignments like "defend this gap at all costs!" or "don't let anyone outside you and hit anyone who tries" so confusing them into leaving your lane open is not sustainable. Sometimes you just need to shove the dude out of the way to make a gap. Sometimes you gotta…
[MC5 lyric you know is coming is not safe for work]
There's plenty going on in that play, but we're going to focus on two opposing concepts that are in play on just about every running play:
"The defender who is responsible for tackling or making sure the ballcarrier does not get outside of him. It is his responsibility either to tackle the ballcarrier or to force him to cut back into the pursuit pattern."
I took that quote from a coachoover post post worth reading. The force defender is being pulled in two directions. He MUST set up far enough outside that he won't get edged, but he's also got to be far enough inside to keep the gap small. Typically you put a little money in the bank; if the ballcarrier tries to go outside of you he's going to either run right into you or the sideline. The sideline is helpful but also passive. Better to redirect the ballcarrier to your friends.
That said, the force defender can't be too conservative. Goal A is set the edge, but every step towards the edge is a lane that's one step wider. The force defender sets up at a 45 degree angle, able to attack upfield or across it. That setup also gives him leverage to not get blown back by a…
Kickout block – On a running play, this blocker is running parallel to the line of scrimmage and his job is to to keep the outside edge rusher (usually a DE or OLB*) from crashing to the inside. It's almost always a fullback or a pulling guard who does the kickout block. Opposite of a crackback block.
* [or, like in the video above, a Cover 2 cornerback.]
If a force player has done his job well, there isn't much space between the force player's area of effect and the defensive pursuit. A kickout block attacks the force defender, thwacking him toward the sideline, preventing him from a tackle attempt, and creating a running lane over the resulting viscera. That's why FO says it's almost always an offensive lineman or fullback.
A kickout block is going to go as well as physics allow: the more accelerated mass you can hit him with, the more room there is to run.
[Hit THE JUMP to see it in action]
As per usual the edition of UV right after preview week is a catchup one with some old stuff I wasn't able to get to for obvious reasons.
The very latest on injuries. Per UMBig11:
Already some good news this morning. Mone (crutches), initial return to the field was looking like week 6. That is moving up to week 5 and possibly sooner. Taco (no cast, no boot, no crutches), maybe sitting one week and at most two.
I got some conflicting information about Mone but I'm not sure what the latest is. Either way it sounds like he should be good to go for the home stretch. Everyone else except Noah Furbush has a short-term ding that is a week tops.
Also, Denard Robinson Cook dropped the spout of a French press full of tea on my now very blue toe. I am day to day.
Speight profiled. Dan Murphy talks to Wilton Speight's high school coach and somewhat infamous QB guru Steve Clarkson; Clarkson reveals that Speight was on the verge of exiting:
“There was a time when he was contemplating leaving,” Clarkson said. “He had a conversation with Coach Harbaugh and Coach just said, ‘Hell, why are you thinking of leaving? You didn’t even get a chance to compete all spring. That essentially gave him confidence that he just needed to show what he can do. Since that conversation Wilton has taken that to heart and he sort of ran with it.”
There was a period in there where I was expecting that news any moment; good for both him and Michigan that it never came.
Manuel gameday. Max Bultman follows Michigan's AD around on game day. With permission. Probably. Anyway:
Manuel is a large, swaggering man, and he’s very easy to recognize. Fans holler to Manuel and frequently ask for pictures. Usually, he hollers back, sometimes in kind, others with a “Go Blue!” He poses for a lot of photos.
At the intersection of Main and West Stadium, Manuel greets a police officer. He does this many times on game day, and it stands out. He even asks one about his wife and kids. Later, Manuel explains that he got to know the force through the late Vada Murray, a police officer and Manuel’s best friend. He doesn’t have much spare time today, but he still stops when he can, nearly always with a charismatic greeting.
That’s the nature of his Saturday: so little time, so many hands to shake and so many people to catch up with.
Manuel is described as a personable man.
Artfully phrased. PFF looks at "How Michigan State can reload its defense," which is in fact a sneaky way to deliver a pile of bad news. Topics:
- Malik McDowell is real good.
- None of the other five returning DL had a positive pass rush grade; Demetrius Cooper's Big Ten season consisted of just eight pressures.
- Linebackers Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke missed a ton of tackles, with Bullough –12.7 on the ground.
- The three starters back in the secondary, well: "In 2015, the above trio combined to give up eight touchdowns compared to 11 total passes defended, and each of the three gave up completion rates of at least 62 percent. To put this in perspective, the top player returning in the secondaries of Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern all defended at least seven passes on their own and gave up completion percentages of under 51 percent last year."
Jury's still out on improvements after MSU's struggle against a 4-7 FCS team, but improvements will have to be had if MSU's D is going to keep pace with recent performance.
Also in this department is an interesting if slightly overlong breakdown of Tyler O'Connor's performance in the MSU opener from an MSU fan:
A reader summarizes this guy's take if you don't have time to wade through that:
1) The first and biggest observation is that not once all game did O'Connor look to his 2nd read in the passing game. And I don't mean that he didn't throw to him. On literally every pass in the 2 videos (which I'm pretty sure was every throw O'Connor had), O'Connor did not turn his head away from his first target. …
2) This is probably a result of the first issue, but O'Connor held onto the ball way too long. I will say that I think the video creator was being a little too harsh on O'Connor at times, especially on some of the play action passes as it looked like O'Connor got the ball out as soon his feet were set.
First game jitters maybe, but that'll be something to look for against Notre Dame to see if there's improvement.
One-upping Brady Hoke. Never talk to me or my son again about how Les Miles would have been a good choice.
LSU had nine men on the field on a punt return vs. Wisconsin. This is the second time I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in the Les Miles era.
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) September 4, 2016
The Hat is very entertaining but his offense has always been a trundling wreck.
It's aggressive, but…. It's not this aggressive:
"I'd say, like, 90 percent," Stribling said.
Yes, he estimated that Michigan blitzed on 90 percent of its defensive play calls against the woebegone Rainbow Warriors.
But then Stribling kept thinking, and, man, maybe it was actually more than that.
"I don't think any play was not a blitz, besides a cover-2," he said. "And we blitzed out of that, too."
Michigan rushed four about half the time in the first half per my charting. There was some run blitzing, but it's not that maniacal. It's only fairly maniacal.
The freshman-only locker room is an odd Harbaugh thing. Another tweak like split squad practices:
Starting in camp, and lasting throughout the duration of the season, Harbaugh has his first-year players surround themselves with their peers. For a variety of reasons.
A year ago, it worked for both Newsome and Perry. In 2016, that number has taken a lift.
"It really allows you to bond as a class. You can really focus on getting better and improving your skills without having to worry about being in the older locker room and trying to compare yourself to those guys," Newsome, now a sophomore starter at left tackle, said Monday. "It really allows you to just focus on becoming a class."
There will never be tangible evidence this is good or bad. It is an interesting team morale thing.
Wisconsin has our attention. But the one downer from the weekend was an injury to starting LB Chris Orr that will knock him out for the year. That happened very early and didn't seem to have much negative impact on a very good LB corps:
Aside from a couple of miscues in which the defense allowed RB Leonard Fournette to break contain, the linebackers did a fine job of containing the Heisman candidate. OLB T.J. Watt led the way with a team-high five stops, but OLB Vince Biegel was right behind him with four. They held Fournette to only 2.7 yards after contact per rush, and that happened only three times all of last season.
I'm a little more skeptical about PFF's take on UW corner Derrick Tindal, who did indeed break up a number of (late, inaccurate) passes in the vicinity of Malachi Dupre. He looked overmatched and fortunate to me; we'll see if his performance carries over.
Etc.: How the world changed around Nebraska. Ed Davis still waiting. Phil Brabbs doing thangs. Tennessee blogs worry how much they should worry about Mike DeBord, and this was before the Appalachian State game. If you would like to know all that there is to know about Illinois football, Illini Board is the place. Xavier Simpson profiled.
This is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series of one-on-one interviews in which I ask players to go in-depth about a certain play from last week’s game. This week I talked to Grant Perry about his touchdown catch that came on a nicely run corner route in the middle of the first quarter. Don’t remember it? Just watch the gif at the bottom of the post.
When you got to the line, what did you see?
“I actually saw a coverage that we didn’t get all week in practice. It was a bracket coverage where they had one guy outside of me and one inside of me, so pre-snap I was not expecting to get the ball. But ran a good route, Wilton saw it and lofted it right over the guy’s head. It was perfect.”
It looked like you faked the post to the inside before running the corner.
Is that something that is built into the route or are you guys allowed to improvise as you see different types of coverage?
“Yeah, we kind of just improvise on different kinds of coverage. Especially when there’s two dudes over you, you’ve got to kind of just give something one way, trick them out the other way, and then go back another way. So it’s really just about getting open. No real name to that. It’s just the art of route running.”
In the postgame press conference Coach Harbaugh said that was about as good as you can throw a corner route. As far as Wilton goes, would you say that’s one of his best-thrown routes that you saw through camp and whatnot?
“Yeah. I mean, I wasn’t surprised by it. We throw that during practice, after practice. Getting extra work, we’ll throw that route because that’s a route you run from the slot a lot. I wasn’t surprised by it. I’m sure he was very happy with the throw. Capping a 98-yard drive after an interception probably feels pretty good. Yeah, no surprise on that one there.”
You mentioned that you didn’t think you were going to get the ball. At what point did you know it was coming?
“Kind of when I broke him off outside and stepped inside. Went back to the corner and I looked back and he was trailing me, and I just saw the ball. So when the ball hit my hands I knew it came to me.”
So you turn to look as you get into the corner route?
“Yeah, step and look. Yep.”
What route would you say you’re most comfortable with and what’s your favorite route to run?
“I like running any route, to be honest. The corner route is a good route to run because you get to run deep and run away from people. Especially if it’s in the end zone. So that’s always fun. Really any route in this system is a good route to run.”
As we talked about earlier, you’re allowed to improvise here and there. Your route running is very precise; we can see that on film. What are some drills or other things you do to work on that?
“Coach Fisch, Coach Drew [Terrell], Coach Ryan [Nehlen], they put us through all these great drills. There’s a lot of cone drills we do working on cutting. There’s a tennis ball drill we do where we pick up the ball and work on getting low. And then stuff at the line of scrimmage trying to get the DB off you. Stuff like that really simulates and helps get the feel for it in the game.”
Can you talk about the kind of depth you were building on Saturday with all the guys that got in the game?
“Well, first, to start with, many players played and played well. Tremendous for morale. Guys that worked extremely hard all along just got to contribute, so it was good for our team.”
Along those same lines, in the past few years before you arrived the ‘wait until they get experience’ thing was kind of a common theme. Seventeen guys play Saturday. What has been the difference when you look at the ability to play young guys when you look at a few years ago and those young guys weren’t really getting a lot of reps?
“I can’t comment specifically about a couple years ago. Probably as you know, we talked about it. It’s a meritocracy in who plays. By your effort, by your talent you will be known. Positions on the depth chart when you go in the game, what the roles are, are based on that.”
The team struggled a little bit, maybe the first series and half, to run the football. What changed for you guys? It just seemed like all of sudden once Wilton completed that one third-down pass things just started clicking for the offensive line and clicking for the blockers on the outside. What was the difference?
“Uh…the third down, the fourth play of the game?”
Yeah, he connected on the pass but it seemed like as soon as that happened everything started working for the running game, too.
“Yeah, that was the fourth play of the game.”
Do you have any updates on Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton and if they’re going to be available this week?
“I don’t think either one will be available this week.”
If they’re not available, how does the defensive line need to regroup depth-wise and get ready for this game?
“I think Mo Hurst will return to action. Ryan Glasgow played very well in the football game. So did Chris Wormley. There’s talented players at that position. I don’t think that Bryan Mone and Taco will be out…it’s hard to say at this point. I don’t have an update on how long they’ll be out, but I don’t anticipate them playing this weekend.”
With that, you guys had Onwenu play a little bit of offense and a little bit of defense. With a couple guys out, do you think he’ll get more on defense at this point?
[After THE JUMP: even more injury updates, and Jim Harbaugh verbally assassinates a character assassin]
If Tarik Black Doesn't Commit, His Coach Just Might
I'll go out on a limb and say this didn't hurt last weekend's recruiting efforts. [Upchurch]
Four-star CT WR Tarik Black was the only uncommitted official football visitor last week. Michigan gave him plenty of attention, and if his reaction is anywhere close to his coach's, they hit it out of the park, via 247's Steve Wiltfong:
"It was great," Dave Dykeman, Black's coach told 247Sports. Black made the trip with Dykeman and his parents. "What an unbelievable place. I think he's very, very impressed.
"No commitment but a pretty special place. That was pretty obvious to all of us."
Usually when someone has to clarify that a commitment didn't occur, that means it was under serious consideration. Black plans to visit Auburn this weekend, but with Notre Dame seemingly on the outside looking in, Michigan should be considered the favorite here.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]