Mike Lantry, 1972
Sophomore Thomas Rawls is making a push for more carries this fall.
This Saturday marks the Spring Game, when we all watch a glorified scrimmage and make snap judgments like "Mark Moundros is going to start at middle linebacker," and "Tate Forcier has the Heisman in his future." (Okay, I admit, I said both of those things, but luckily the evidence has been wiped from the internet.) Nevertheless, it's the only semi-competitive football we'll see until the fall, providing us our lone peek into the progress of the team and the various position battles.
Here's what I'll be hoping to see from the offense on Saturday:
Mediocrity. I know, right? This is actually more of a defensive point, but I want to put this here: in the spring, the defense should be ahead of the offense in terms of installing their schemes and playing cohesively. It's no coincidence that we saw the offense absolutely wreck the defense in the 2009 and 2010 games, then look downright ugly at times in last year's edition. I don't need to tell you how those respective seasons turned out. After just two weeks of practice, the offensive line won't have gelled like they will in the fall, the timing between quarterback and receiver is often a little off, and the playbook is still very much in the installation phase. This plea may fall on deaf ears, but don't freak out if the offense isn't marching up and down the field; in fact, feel free to be a bit encouraged.
Gardner Gardner Gardner. All eyes will be on Devin Gardner, though the odds of the coaches trotting him out at receiver for a nationally-televised scrimmage are somewhere between zero and zero. He will be playing quarterback, however, and it's time to see a big step forward from him in the passing game. Practice accounts have been positive in that regard and it sounds like he's the clear-cut #2 QB ahead of Russell Bellomy, though we'll see how big of a gap there is between those two. If Bellomy looks like a passable second-stringer, you can keep hope alive for some Denard-to-Devin connections in the fall. If not, the coaches may find it too risky to split Gardner out wide.
Bowling Ball Rawls. I was pretty high on Thomas Rawls when he came out of high school, and after a freshman year spent mostly on the bench, he's impressed practice observers with his power as a running back and is making a strong push for the backup job. Vincent Smith will inevitably see snaps on third down, but there's still room for a back to spell Fitzgerald Toussaint on occasion and provide a different look in the backfield. Though Rawls won't make many people miss, he can knock them over, and if he shows that against the first team defense we can start thinking of him as a change-of-pace/short-yardage back. Redshirt freshman Justice Hayes has also drawn praise in the spring, though he'll have to prove he's either a more effective runner than Rawls or a more explosive receiving option than Smith to carve out a role; neither is out of the question given his athleticism.
Number One Target? The general assumption is that Roy Roundtree will be the top receiver this year, but I'm not sold on that. His production dropped dramatically last season as he played more on the outside and was no longer the beneficiary of numerous QB OH NOES as a RichRod slot receiver. Jeremy Gallon flashed a lot of talent last season, and I think he'll be a very capable second option, but he's 5'8". Hope may come in the form of redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson, who's been lauded as a potential go-to guy this spring despite never recording a collegiate catch. This may be your standard Johnny Sears-type spring hype, but let's withhold judgment until we see him on the field. If nobody looks like a solid #1 option, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Amara Darboh come fall.
My Kingdom for a Tight End. This is the scariest position group on the roster, and that's taking into account the fact that the offensive line has almost no depth. Redshirt senior Brandon Moore is the starter by default; he's had issues with drops in the past, so hope he holds onto the ball if it comes his way. Converted wideout Ricardo Miller will get time as an H-back (the "U" tight end in this offense), and he must prove he can hold up as a blocker if he wants to see much time. Behind them are redshirt senior walk-on Mike Kwiatkowski and converted DE Jordan Paskorz. If this unit isn't a total liability, I'll take it, especially with A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess providing reinforcements in the fall. If they are, Al Borges is going to have to get very creative with his schemes.
O-line Depth: Do We Have Any? The first-team offensive line should be just fine, with projected left guard starter Elliott Mealer the only unknown quantity. Mealer is a redshirt senior who's currently beating out a highly-touted (and massive) redshirt freshman in Chris Bryant, so I'm not too concerned about his ability to fit in. Ricky Barnum has reportedly adjusted well to his new role as starting center; again, I'm optimistic about the first team's ability. PANIC! will set in, however, if a starting lineman goes down, especially a tackle. The second-team line this spring features three(!) walk-ons, and while redshirt sophomore guard Joey Burzynski has impressed practice observers, color me skeptical of any 6'1", 284-pound walk-on being anything but a frightening liability in a game situation. The backup tackles are all walk-ons, at least until Kyle Kalis hits campus for the fall, so expect Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to be encased in bubble wrap until September.
Kickers. Make your field goals, please and thank you. That is all.
Indianapolis (IN) Pike WR Dominique Booth is one of the top Midwest prospects in the class of 2014, and he's off to a quick start in his recruitment. Booth already holds scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Missouri, with interest from several other schools across the region, including Michigan. Booth visited Ann Arbor at the tail end of March, and I had the chance to chat with him last night about his recruitment. Here's the full transcript:
ACE: First of all, what schools are currently contacting you the most in your recruitment?
DOMINIQUE: All of them are contacting Coach Moyers about me the same amount. There are so many schools and I think there are some my coach hasn't even told me [about]. Every day it seems like I'm hearing from a new school.
ACE: Of the schools you've heard from, who do you most want to get an offer from that hasn't offered yet?
DOMINIQUE: Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan.
ACE: I know you visited Michigan recently. What was your favorite part of the visit?
DOMINIQUE: I didn't get to go around the whole campus but their indoor practice facility stood out from any other, and all the championships they have won.
ACE: Which Michigan coaches have you been in contact with, and what's your impression of the coaching staff?
DOMINIQUE: Coach Mallory is the one recruiting me and they seem very enthusiastic.
ACE: Do you have any other visits planned for the spring/summer?
DOMINIQUE: Cincinnati this Saturday and Ohio State the Saturday after that.
ACE: Any plans to see Michigan again down the road?
DOMINIQUE: Yes, they made me promise to come back so they can show me all they have to offer. They also called my coach making sure he stresses to me that I need to come back and spend more time with them.
ACE: I know it's early in the process, but what attributes are you looking for in a school?
DOMINIQUE: A good medical school, a good teacher in the wide receivers coach, and a head coach that is going to be there the whole time I am.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field?
DOMINIQUE: Changing speeds in my route running, just being an athlete when the ball is in the air, I catch with my hands, and I'm really good in the screen game because I'm hard to bring down as a ball carrier. Another thing I'm good at is recognizing coverages and exploiting them.
ACE: And what parts of your game are you trying to improve?
DOMINIQUE: I can work on having cleaner cuts and being more aware of my surroundings while going up on the ball and using my hands more on the top of my routes.
ACE: When you're not on the field, what do you like to do in your spare time?
DOMINIQUE: Basketball and I'm a big movie watcher. I feel like I have to see every good new movie that comes out.
Hello. When awake, I'm lucid, and I've got all these tabs driving me crazy. So here are the tabs.
We've really done it now. Not satisfied with tight shots, the official site's practice video now goes field-level:
For their next trick they'll make a video from a helmet cam pointed inward at Denard's face.
Perhaps the best thing about the internet's transformation of fan culture is our ability to connect with the past of the program. Wolverine Historian and Greg have provided a sense of the whole program from its beginnings to the present day. We're extremely fortunate to have those two—I don't think there's anything close in any other fan base.
#JUSTIFYYOUREXISTENCE. An experiment designed to see whether a newspaper would publish any press release issued by the athletic department no matter how minor succeeded today with the news that everyone considers putting a twitter hash tag on the field for the spring game "news."
They're burying the lead, which is that an alien who can only badly mimic the English language has wormed his way into the athletic department:
"This initiative will help our athletic department use technology as a competitive advantage to engage and connect to fans, build brand loyalty, grow the digital audience and monitor and listen to what is being said through the digital engagement cycle," said Jordan Maleh, U-M's director of digital marketing.
Whatever said that is not human. It is probably from Trafalmadore.
I've got a great explanation about why things like this rub me the wrong way bouncing around in my skull but when I try to express it the vitriol overwhelms whatever point I'm trying to make. In itself, putting a hash tag on the field is a non-event. As part of the pattern we've seen since Brandon's hire it's another piece of evidence that what you get when you hire a bunch of MBAs into makework positions is a bunch of makework. There's no such thing as a bad idea as long as it's something that hasn't been done before.
Events other than actual Michigan football games at the stadium increasingly serve as a glimpse into the dystopian future in store for the program once Brandon gradually wears resistance down: presenting sponsors, endless distractions, curly fries on the field. Etc.
Five star flip. Rivals made good on its repeated promises to elevate Glenn Robinson III into five star territory. He's now the #11(!) player in the country. Mitch McGary slid to 30th, which seems fair. Stauskas crept up a little bit as well; he's now #71.
Please be sandbagging. Hoke's not a fan of where both of his lines are. This is not so good:
"On either side, it's not very good right now, I can tell you that," Hoke said Tuesday afternoon on a teleconference with reporters. "I think the kids are working, I think they're coming in here with energy and all those things, but I think the expectation level, how physical we want to be as a football team, I would say we're not where we need to be."
I know Omameh is never going to be the ideal guard for Hoke but he's an established starter with a decent to good track record and the only other spot on the line that's really an issues is the other guard. I get that the DL is going to be a work in progress much of the year, but that OL should be good. If it's not… erk.
At least Hoke's long term vision for the Spring Game is considerably less sour than Carr's was:
"If we had the choice, I think we'd really like to draft and split up the teams and go at it that way, but we really don't have that luxury because of our depth at our offensive line, our defensive line, a little bit at the receiver position, and it just isn't going to work out that way," Hoke said.
"We'll formulate some ways to make this as game-like as possible."
Carr gave off the impression he'd cancel the thing if he could get away with it. Drafting and playing an actual game-game would be far more entertaining than anything Michigan's ever done. Rodriguez wanted to do the same thing but had the same problem with line depth, which of courses invites the question WHY DIDN'T YOU RECRUIT SOME LINEMEN ARGLB.
I also have no idea where those tattoos came from. The Hayes story on Urban Meyer was light on Charles Robinson-esque bombs but heavy on evidence that Meyer's more Les Miles than Brady Hoke. Meyer then helped that along by flat-out lying:
Meyer adamantly denies the reports of course.
“I’ve never heard of Circle of Trust before in my life,” he said.
Internet says I remember all things:
Certainly there will still be opportunities for other players to advance into the "Circle of Trust" as the season unfolds. We all remember — and if we don't we are often reminded by No. 15 — how David Nelson came out of nowhere in the middle of last season to become a go-to-guy in some of Florida's biggest games down the stretch.
But after Saturday, Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow will know who belongs in the Circle of Trust.
"I think so," Meyer said. "I know I trust the Pounceys. I trust Tim. Who else are we going to trust? Who is going to be the fifth or sixth lineman? Who is not going to blow a coverage because we're more multiple back there.
"So, yeah, that's what you're trying to get done."
Not that this is new. Remember this from Darryl Stonum's recruitment?
"He told me that he talked to Coach Carr and Coach Soup and that they told him that I would be a much better fit in the Florida offense than I would be in the one at Michigan," Stonum recalled.
"I thought, wow, my coaches are selling me out? I confronted them about it. I asked Coach Carr and Coach Soup about it, and they said they never talked to that guy and that there was no way they ever said anything like that and that they think I should be a Wolverine. I believed them. Right then, I knew just how Florida rolled."
Ohio State may have picked the wrong guy to lead them through probation.
Rock someone else, Amedeo. Michigan canceled Amedeo Della Valle's visit in the aftermath of Burke's return and Albrecht's commitment. Sam Webb mentioned something on the GBW message board about potentially bringing in that grad-year guy, so it's possible they'd like to get that extra bit of guard depth they lack right now without committing to a guy for four years (or, like, two years, I guess). Unless that comes off it looks like your roster right now is what Michigan will go into 2012-13 with.
Michigan technically does not have a spot open in 2013 but that makes some dodgy assumptions. Austin Hatch is likely to reclassify and Michigan is all but guaranteed to lose someone to the NBA draft after the season, possibly multiple someones.
The nice thing is that Michigan doesn't have any truly pressing needs for 2013. They've got a PG, a center, and a high-quality wing committed. They will lose Vogrich and may lose a PG, a high quality wing, and a combo 4 type (if McGary or Robinson is really good right away). They can swing for the fences at any position from the 2 to the 4 and see if anyone bites without being too down on their chances in 2013-14 if they don't connect.
Legacy. Did we know that Drake Johnson's step-dad is Tom Slade?
"It wasn't so much pressure as it was expected because my whole family's gone to Michigan. It runs in my family to go to the university. My mom is the head cheerleading coach (Pam St. John). My dad went there; my grandfather went there. My step-dad played quarterback at Michigan (Tom Slade). . . . Yeah, he's my step-dad and he passed away almost six years ago, coming up. . . . When I was really young, my mom used to be really afraid of me going to games because there was like 110,000 people walking around and she didn't want me to get lost, but then at like age 13 I'd go to maybe four or five games a year."
In that interview at Touch The Banner he claims to run consistent 4.3 40s at 206 pounds and talks about an affinity for wide receiver as well. That'll be a backup plan if Johnson gets squeezed out by Hayes/Smith/Isaac/Shallman.
Etc.: Elsewhere in calling out silly lies, Jalen Rose pwns Skip Bayless. UMHoops on Burke's return. Open letter to the GT athletic department from a designer who knows his stuff. Interesting to think about what a Michigan analogue would look like. This week in the Inevitable NCAA Split On The Horizon. Tim Hardaway Jr. didn't even put his name in for an eval. Blake Countess interview.
Tough stuff on deck for the hockey team: Michigan plays Ferris, Western, Notre Dame, and MSU four times in conference next year. Those are the top two teams in the league, a team that should bounce back big time if they can just find a goalie, and… uh… Michigan State.
What if Will Campbell is really good?
[Ed: bump for everyone sticking around for lax Saturday.]
(Saturday's lacrosse game against Ohio State will be the first Michigan game in history truly available for mass consumption, as it will be broadcast on BTN. No paid streams, no hunting around the internet for free ones, no heading to the opponent's website for lame-ass freeze-prone gametracker. Therefore it deserves special treatment, so here is a preview of what you can expect.)
Date/Time: Saturday, April 14; 2:30
Record against the Buckeyes: 0-0
Last matchup: None
Last game: UD 11, U-M 7 (4/7); OSU 10, Hobart 9 (4/7)
Records: U-M 1-10; OSU 5-6 (3-1 ECAC)
(Michigan is an ECAC conference-mate of Ohio, but merely an associate member this season, as not every ECAC team was able to make room on its schedule for Michigan. Therefore our games don't count in the conference standings.)
|Faceoff %||42.0% (54th)||58.0% (54th)||44.5% (47th)||55.5% (47th)|
|Clearing %||71.2% (60th)||76.1% (2nd)||91.0% (3rd)||81.9% (19th)|
|Scoring %||28.7% (51st)||38.9% (57th)||27.8% (54th)||26.8% (7th)|
|O-rating||11.64 (55th)||13.70 (42nd)|
|D-rating||17.94 (57th)||11.99 (8th)|
(Please see first comment for explanation of these statistics.)
Other than perhaps the season opener - and maybe not even that - this is the game that Michigan has been targeting as its biggest all season. It could be because of the opponent; sources tell me that some kind of a rivalry may exist between these two schools. The athletic department, however, has scheduled us a springtime bonanza, with this game directly following the spring football game at the Big House. The weather will be warm but potentially rainy; with any luck the latter will hold off and a five-digit crowd will stick around for this Creator's Trophy showdown.
Yes, I said trophy, though it's not actually at stake this time. The Big Ten lacrosse-playing schools - Michigan, Ohio, and Penn State - have banded together to award a three-way trophy similar to the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. PSU already beat both schools to earn the inaugural Creator's Trophy, and it will stay with the current trophy-holder in the event of a three-way 1-1 tie in any given year.
Ohio last made the NCAA tournament in 2008, and with a first-round upset of 8th-seeded Cornell, the Buckeyes (along with Notre Dame) were at the time considered representative of a Western resurgence (or perhaps just "surgence") in the sport of lacrosse. But they haven't been able to duplicate that success since, as ND has left them in the dust somewhat, and head coach Nick Myers - who was promoted to the head job following that tournament run - may be feeling his seat warm up a little bit. (However, OSU is a football-is-king school, so don't expect the heavy boosters to particularly care, as they would at a place like Syracuse or UVA.)
[Ed: more after the jump.]
Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking
Now that Trey Burke has announced his return to the Michigan basketball program, we can all emerge from our panic rooms and take a look at the roster for next year. Since the end of the season, Michigan has lost five scholarship players—Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation; Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge to transfer—and pulled in a commitment from point guard Spike Albrecht. With today's news that the Wolverines are no longer pursuing combo guard Amadeo Della Valle, the roster is set barring a graduate-year transfer. Here's one man's guess at the 2012-13 depth chart:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Trey Burke||Tim Hardaway Jr.||Glenn Robinson III||Mitch McGary||Jordan Morgan|
|Spike Albrecht||Nick Stauskas||Matt Vogrich||Max Bielfeldt||Jon Horford|
|Eso Akunne||-||-||-||Blake McLimans|
Schwing. That's a lineup featuring an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, an enigmatic but uber-talented shooting guard, two five-star freshmen at the 3 and 4, and a proven Big Ten center. It's also a lineup with a fair amount of versatility. If Michigan wants to go small, they can play GRIII at power forward and slide either Nick Stauskas or Matt Vogrich to the wing, adding some extra outside shooting. Going bigger is pretty unnecessary, since the presumed starters outside of Burke all have more than adequate size for their position—no more 6'4" guys in the post.
At point guard, once again it pretty much starts and ends with Trey Burke, but the pickup of Albrecht gives the team some options. Albrecht's main strengths are basketball savvy and passing ability; should he pick up on the offense quickly enough, he can provide Burke with a few minutes of rest without sacrificing much offensive flow. Nick Stauskas is a natural shooting guard, but he's a slick passer. If he can just be adequate at handling the basketball, he could also help ease the load on Burke. While Burke will undoubtedly play well over 30 minutes a game once again, there's hope that he won't be forced to log the 40 (or more) minute efforts he did as a freshman.
The key to a successful season—and next year, success means a Big Ten title and/or a deep run in the NCAA tournament—is the production of Tim Hardaway Jr. Can he improve his shot selection and return to the efficient scoring ways of his freshman campaign, or will he continue to be maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball? Who knows, though I'd like to think he won't shoot 28% from downtown again. The good news is that with a four-star gunner in Stauskas and good secondary scoring options in GRIII and McGary, Michigan won't have to lean so heavily on Hardaway to carry the non-Burke scoring load. Stauskas hopefully will be the guy who finally lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly marksman; if he does, this team gets a whole lot more dangerous and versatile.
I'm guessing Glenn Robinson III steps right in and starts at small forward after surging to five-star status over the last several months. GRIII brings a level of athleticism on the wing that Michigan hasn't seen in a long time; the Burke-to-Robinson alley-oop combination should provide some Sportscenter Top 10 moments. Robinson should also be able to create his own shot heading towards the basket, something nobody outside of Hardaway could do with any consistency last season. Backing up GRIII will likely be Matt Vogrich, who will hopefully break through as an outside shooter while continuing to provide a surprising level of rebounding and defensive hustle.
The ballyhooed Mitch McGary should start right away at power forward with Smotrycz heading elsewhere. While his stock has dropped a bit since his commitment, McGary is still an instant-impact guy, and I'm very interested to see what he can bring to Beilein's burgeoning pick-and-roll game. McGary has the bounce necessary to take a quick pass off the roll and attack the basket with ferocity, something Jordan Morgan has struggled with in the past. With teams justifiably focused on stopping Burke, McGary could be the beneficiary of a lot of easy looks around the hoop. His high motor and effort should make him a force on the boards, as well. After redshirting last season, Max Bielfeldt has a chance to earn some PT at the four, being the guy who most fits the Beilein mold of a big who can stretch the floor. If he can hold his own defensively and on the glass, Bielfeldt could be a surprisingly solid weapon off the bench.
Jordan Morgan returns and should continue to provide high-percentage shooting, solid rebounding, and quality interior defense. While his ceiling doesn't appear to be especially high, Morgan has steadily improved in his Michigan career, and we'll likely see him take another step forward as a junior. If that step forward includes even a rudimentary post game (or at least better finishing on layup opportunities), the masses would be quite pleased. Morgan could be pushed for playing time by Jon Horford, who returns from a foot injury. Horford isn't as polished as Morgan, but he's more athletic and provides a better shot-blocking presence on defense. He should get at least 15 minutes a game next year, especially if Morgan's propensity for foul trouble continues to plague him. Blake McLimans may just be the odd man out with Michigan's new-found depth up front.
So, what's the outlook? While the Big Ten is loaded next year—the news that Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both return makes Indiana a potential national contender—Michigan is set to challenge for the conference crown and could be a Final Four team if a few things fall the right way. Getting Hardaway back on track is the key, assuming Robinson and McGary live up to their lofty recruiting rankings. While Michigan doesn't have a lineup loaded with shooters like Beilein's West Virginia squads, they have more athleticism and a dynamite point guard that the Mountaineers never had. Beilein's offense became more guard-centric the past two seasons with Darius Morris and Burke running the show, and that should continue next year. Expect to see more evolution from the offense as the coaches adjust to having a much bigger team, and possibly a shift back to more zone defense to better fit the personnel.
The expectations for next year are dramatically higher than they've been in Ann Arbor since the Fab Five era, and those expectations are justified. An experienced Burke coupled with a hopefully reinvigorated Hardaway should take this team a long way. If the freshmen produce as expected, Michigan will take the next (big) leap forward under John Beilein, going from Big Ten dark horse to national contender.
Little boxes on the grid-iron, little boxes made of football players, little boxes for positions, little boxes some the same. There's a tall one and a short one and strong one and speedy one and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all seem much the same.
Football positions are things that fans learn very young. Everyone knows who the quarterback and running back and linebackers etc. are. But then coaches start talking, and like any expert they designedly do so with such abstruse and recondite specificity as to elicit from the lay audience a greater appreciation for the mysteries of the speaker’s craft and complexities of the imbroglio of disagreements wherein than said audience might have been provisioned in elucidation—much like a writer who uses lots of SAT words to say "they’re being pretentious." Not that our coaches do this; Hoke’s staff is remarkably candid as coaches go.
Anyhoo, as with the penultimate sentence of the previous paragraph, more obscure lexemes, when understood, can communicate greater subtleties as well as pedantry. So that you too can cognize the nuances, or just sound like an insufferable know-it-all during the Spring Game (that’s what you're here for anyway right?), hither a glossary of Michigan’s various names, past and present, for eligible receivers; would that the Oxford was so concise.
Football allows four players of any type in the backfield ("backs") plus the two guys lined up on the extreme edges of the line ("ends") to be eligible receivers. A QB, RB, TB, HB, TB, WB, SB, FB, UB, YB, FL, Z, SR, or R is technically a back, while a TE, SE, X and Y are ends.
Quarterback (QB): Is an effin quarterback. Mr. Lewan would you kindly show the audience what this look li…
Ah. The first quarterback at Michigan was on Team 2 (1880): Edmund Barmore, though Elnathan Hathaway played some QB as well. Why "quarter?" When the game was young they played a lot like rugby, with rushers and a goalkeeper and innings and such. The recognizable part of this was that the rushers (blockers) were meant to plow the way forward, and a couple of ballcarriers stood half-way back from that. When the line of scrimmage and downs were established teams lined up in a diamond behind the line with a quarterback, two half-backs, and a full-back. Here's Stanford doing something like that under Harbaugh if you can imagine Luck is lining up in front of the 40 yard line:
The story is more complicated and took half a century but if you look at this you can see why the quarterback got the ball first. Now imagine the two halfbacks are receiving a lot of lateral handoffs and speeding for the edges more often, while the guy all the way back is set to plow straight forward.
Running Back (RB) is Michigan’s current preferred term for the traditional (first appeared in 1880) Halfback (HB), though RBs can often include fullbacks, e.g. Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson. Scatback or Powerback are unofficial labels that refer to skillsets, i.e. backs who, respectively, might run around or through attempted tackles. Tailback (TB) is slowly becoming an anachronism which seems to have made it into Michigan’s lexicon with Bo’s arrival and left shortly after the 1997 season; Manus Edwards in 1998 is the last player to be listed as "TB" in the Bentley database. That database phased out Halfback in the '60s.
Superback (SB) generally means an RB/WR hybrid. Rodriguez threw it around in 2009 to essentially mean Carlos Brown when Brandon Minor was in there too. It makes more sense the way Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern uses it to mean an RB who can split out to be a receiver, thus creating matchup problems for defensive coaches who prefer to match personnel (one LB per backfield member, one DB per receiver). All-Purpose Back is something I think Rivals.com made up.
Fullback (FB) is now the misnomered blocking back.
An H-Back is a fullback/tight end hybrid. An H-Back will line up behind or outside a tackle and usually goes in motion before the snap. A Wingback (WB)—on the far right of the pic at right—is another anachronism from when Single-Wing and Wing-T formations ruled the game and passing was for communists and differs from the H- in that he's lining up outside the ends. Michigan has WBs listed from '69 through '79. This differs from an H-Back in that he lines up outside the tight end—this is Pop Warner-style with no receivers remember. An A-Back is another term for this.
Hoke's staff has been recruiting a position they call the U Tight End or more often just "U" which is almost indistinguishable from H- or A-Backs except that it's much closer to a tight end in the hybridization scale. Calling him an "end" is a misnomer because he's not on the line, therefore he's not any kind of end.
You may remember the U from such Minnesota tight ends as those other Minnesota tight ends who were not Ben Utrecht or Matt Spaeth. Michigan did it too with Massaquoi and Ecker (right: from MGoBlue.com file, 2004). Nebraska has a U under Bo Pelini (Ben Cotton last year, Mike McNeill before) which he calls "The Adjuster" because he can be a FB, TE, or WR of the converted quarterback variety. Gruden calls this the "joker." In the play that had Greg Mattison cackling maniacally during the latest Spring Scrimmage overreaction you can see Ricardo Miller lined up as a U, which may be a nod toward more WR alleles this year, but Khalid Hill, a fullback-ian recruit, was offered at the 'U' and A.J. Williams came in as one too so Miller is not the coaches' ideal there.
Also Syracuse used this position under Doug Marrone, which I only know this from scouring 'Cuse articles during various GERG-related panics. The thing about the U is you don't know where he'll line up (backfield or as a true TE) until after he breaks from the huddle, so it's kind of a personnel gimmick.
Tight End (TE) is normally an end who lines up flush with the tackles. They used to be just called "ends" before a distinction needed to be made between them and wide receivers; the last ends on Michigan's rosters—OEs to the Bump Elliott era—were phased out in the middle of the 1960s. To Hoke the typical tight end spot is the Y. This is where I would expect Ricardo Miller to line up, and where The Funchess and other more receiverish TEs will end up, since he has a clearer release to receive, and because he can line up flush or as a receiver (ends can't move before the snap).
That label comes from receiver nomenclature: X, Y, and Z. The letters come from reading across the formation most typical when receivers began needing special designations:
Wide Receivers (WRs) are backs and ends lined up outside the box. Having the Y move to the right turns him into the slot receiver. Having him split all the way out makes him a wide receiver. He also would then be outside the Z and screw this up, but NFL players seem to be able to keep straight who's who:
"Some teams, mostly in collegiate and high school football, use route trees and route numbers for play calls. So you might hear a play such as "Spread right, Z zoom, 821 H-swing on two." Knowing what you know now, the play call should make a lot more sense. Spread right is the alignment, Z zoom is the motion, 821 are the pass routes in the order of "XYZ." So X runs an 8, Y runs a 2, and Z runs a 1. H-swing tells you what the H man runs (the running back or often the "H" back in two tight end sets) out of the backfield."
It seems Y and Z don't care who lines up outside; Z is the one that has to line up at least a yard off the line of scrimmage and who's counted as a back. If you turn the fullback into a slot receiver on the other side or bunch him up or whatever, that receiver is the R.
Split End (SE) is the X and was where you'd normally put the 'No. 1' receiver. The nomenclature appeared on Michigan rosters with Bo and lasted a year longer than his career; Greg McMurtry was one of the last listed starters at "SE" in Bentley, although my 2003 program has Braylon as it. Michigan didn't really have a Braylon or McMurtry last year so this fell to Roundtree. As an end the X needs to get out of bump coverage but doesn't go in motion. The Z last year was mostly Junior Hemingway. This is the Flanker (FL) position, and is typically the Jason Avant to the SE's Braylon. That's what Roundtree means by doing more movement before the play; he's kind of the possession guy now; he has moved from an end position to technically a back.
This is where it gets confusing, because the Flanker or the Y or the R can both be the Slot Receiver (SR) or Slot Back. This is because the slot comes from spread formations which differentiate from slot and wide. The slot refers to the area on either side of the line about mid-way between the wide receiver and the tackles. If the FL is inside the Y, he's the slot. If the Z is inside, he's the slot. SR as an official roster position came and went exactly as quickly as Rich Rod did; the leftover guys like Gallon and Dileo are now, with the rest of the receivers, listed as WR.
As Borges, a West Coast guy, well knows, where the slot lines up matters much to the receiver in his area, since they will run routes off of each other to flood a zone or clog the lane for man defenders.