Show me the Peppers! [Fuller]
Ace: Aside from the quarterbacks, which position group and specific player will you be keeping the closest eye on during the Spring Game?
Seth: Safety, Peppers.
I have a pretty good idea of what the corners can do—Countess can zone like a boss but isn't sized or speedy enough for lockdown press man—and I can't really tell what happens on the OL or DL without video. Quarterback is missing one or two contenders. Where the slot side safety lines up will tell us how aggressive they think they can get, especially when it's Peppers in that spot.
|My recurring nightmare|
Also I'm anxious to see who among Dymonte, Clark, and Hill can play when Peppers comes down to nickel. Hill has a bad rap in my brain from getting so turned around against Lippett on the TD pass that debarked the end of the game and the beginning of Dantonio's Revenge for Imagined Slights Hour. I hate it when a bad play is what sticks out to me about a guy and I really want to start banking some nice thoughts. Same for Dymonte and Clark. One of those three or Stribling is going to be at least half a starter in the nickel, and if it's Stribling we are back to a nickel who's not a run defender (ie Countess). The floor on this defense is pretty okay; I want to see how high the cathedral can go.
Alex Cook: I feel like this is a somewhat obvious answer, but I'll be focused on our secondary, which projects to be the best unit on the team by a fair amount. The offensive line is compelling for an entirely different reason; I'd like to see some breakout performances on the D-Line; QB is a clear concern, of course; but I'm very excited about the secondary.
Jabrill Peppers is the headliner there and, after a freshman year ruined by injury, Michigan fans surely are going to be thrilled to see him out there. He's probably the best player on the team and -- depending on if he plays on offense / special teams units -- he could be the most important non-quarterback on the team. Beyond Peppers, there's Jourdan Lewis, who's very good in my opinion, locking down one of the corner spots; I'm most optimistic about he and Peppers of anyone on the squad this year. There's Jarrod Wilson, who's unremarkable in the best way possible; there's Blake Countess, who didn't play well after recovering from ACL surgery (but could be in for a rebound season); there's Channing Stribling, who stands out immediately because of his size; Wayne Lyons won't be there, but he could start. There's a lot of depth there and if you're looking for a group to get excited about, watch the secondary.
[After the jump: aggresssssssssssiveeeeeeeeeee]
It didn't take long for "Rudock waiver approved" to go to "Rudock to Michigan." ESPN's Dan Murphy:
Confirmed that Jake Rudock plans to be at Michigan next fall. Story coming soon.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 1, 2015
Rudock's 2014 stats were briefly addressed in the previous post: 61%, 7.1 YPA, 16:5 TD:INT. He faltered late and was pulled from the lineup for CJ Beathard, not that Beathard did much to inspire confidence himself. If the Rudock problems are Rudock problems then Michigan has a meh starter—still a huge win. If they are Greg Davis/Kirk Ferentz paleolithic goober offense problems, Rudock could be one of the better quarterbacks in the league next year and help the Harbaugh era off to a good start. Either way it's a massive relief.
Via Bruce Feldman:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 1, 2015
"Hearing" is not quite reporting, but if Feldman says something you can just about take it to the bank. And Rudock is not quite in the boat, but every sign available points to his desire to transfer to Michigan.
Rudock would be a massively important pickup just because he changes the floor on the Michigan quarterbacking situation from "weeping in a pile" to "decent Big Ten starter." If Rudock's been significantly hampered by the Greg Davis effect he could be better. Last year Rudock completed 61% of his passes for a decent 7.1 YPA with 16 TDs and 5 INTs, something that sounds like heaven. He's also a decent runner with a couple hundred yards last year even without sacks removed.
What do you know about your defense now that you didn't know six weeks ago?
"I think we have a pretty good handle on our personnel right now in terms of strengths and weaknesses of guys individually and I think as a unit, too. It's been a really good spring. We've had quite a bit of reps out there in practice, in four hour practices. I think the main thing that I figured out about our defense is that they are willing to work. The guys, they competed every day we've been out there and they've really put the time in."
You said you kind of have a feel for their strengths and weaknesses. Would you say what their strengths are right now?
"Yeah, no, not necessarily more than that. Like I said, I think our group is really willing to work. They’ve been great in terms of learning our scheme throughout the spring. They come to meetings prepared, they come to practice prepared. I think that anytime you've got a hungry group that way I think there's good things ahead."
You came out here about a month ago said you wanted to throw as much at them as you could and then sort of whittle it down from there. Have you started to figure out what you think is going to work?
"Yeah, we have a pretty good idea. Starting on Saturday and then today's practice we started to move that way and narrow it down and sort of hone in on some of the things we’ll be doing more of and they've really responded well to that, too. We probably got to a point there later in the spring where it was becoming overload for them, which was good. We pushed them to that limit and they saw we scaled back how they performed; a credit to them, They've grasped what we've thrown at them."
You said everyone would start with a clean slate. Who are the impact players?
"I think to name just a few guys – there are a lot of guys who really made strides throughout the spring. There are some guys we just pointed out the other day on film from day one of spring until now they've made huge strides. Lawrence Marshall is a guy who– he's a young guy, he's a freshman – the first two practices it didn't barely look like he could lineup. Now he's out there and he's playing really well for us. We expect him to help us. But there's a lot of guys. There's a whole group of guys that are veterans who’ve played a lot of football around here that have made those improvements as well. I just think that they're pushing each other really well and they’re in the mindset every day whether it's meetings or practice to come to get better."
You guys lost both ends. Who's at the head of the defensive ends this spring?
"We’ve got several guys playing there. Wormley's playing some end, I mentioned Lawrence, Royce Jenkins-Stone is playing some end, we've even moved Mo Hurst out there a little bit to play some end, so we've done a combination of a lot of things. I think one of the bonuses to what we do schematically is the concepts carry over in fit so we're moving guys in different spots so when you do get injuries, you get nicked up, that's part of football– we have some guys we can put in there."
[After THE JUMP: linebacker talk and your regularly scheduled batch of Jabrill Peppers questions]
Michigan's most recognizable player spent most of 2014 in sweats. [Fuller]
Who's going to be the star?
The last time Michigan entered a season with this little in way of proven standout players, Rich Rodriguez was in his first year as head coach. This season should—will—be better, but that uncertainty lingers. We don't know who's going to start at quarterback or running back. Any attempt to fill in the starting receiver spots should be done in pencil. There's no behemoth tackle destined for NFL riches, or a Steve Hutchinson promising pain with every pull, or even a David Molk delighting line play enthusiasts with his nimble reach blocks.
The defense, down a barbarian, would be similarly faceless if not for the presence of Jabrill Peppers, whose status is still based far more on his seemingly limitless potential than anything he did in three games last season before falling to injury. Only one returning defender so much as earned all-conference honorable mention in 2014: Blake Countess, who by all accounts had a down year.
This is, admittedly, cause for concern, though the 2008 comparison doesn't hold up when accounting for depth, talent, and the like. Brady Hoke's strong recruiting has left Jim Harbaugh with plenty of potential stars to coach. Saturday's Spring Game should provide the first hints as to who will step into featured roles this year, and which numbers will grace the replica uniforms at the M Den. (The newest addition is the #4 jersey, and with all due respect to De'Veon Smith, we all know why that's the case.)
Some candidates are more obvious than others. Jourdan Lewis looked the part of a lockdown corner for much of last season, and a greater emphasis on press man coverage should play into his strengths. Taco Charlton is only getting bigger and stronger after making some eye-opening plays as a sophomore. While he won't be confused for David Harris, Desmond Morgan is a steadying presence in the middle. Practice reports have Peppers living up to his sky-high expectations.
Heck, there's even a chance Michigan finally sees one of their blue-chip offensive line recruits translate recruiting plaudits into collegiate success. And if that happens, at least one of those running backs should break out, right?
It's unusual for Michigan to be in this position. Even the Rodriguez-Hoke changeover had Denard Robinson as a comforting constant. Unlike the last couple transitions, however, there's talented depth on both sides of the ball. There may not be proven stars littering the two-deep, but the ones on the coaching staff provide a lot of hope that'll change soon. Let's hope that optimism is only bolstered this weekend.
Random Canadian Bo appearance. Fire as per usual:
More Jaylen Brown. Brown sat down with Evan Daniels to talk about his recruitment. On Michigan:
Michigan is definitely going to be in the front runner of things. Talking to Coach Beilein, he’s like an offensive genius the way he gets these guys that aren’t really ranked high to be lottery picks in the draft is amazing. It’s definitely something that drew my attention. Also Michigan is a great education school. They have one of the top public universities in America with Cal-Berkeley, UCLA and North Carolina.
He also said that "I took a lot of visits and nobody's basketball programs was as good as Kentucky," so temper that enthusiasm. Rivals is continually throwing cold water on any speculation Michigan might get him, but it sounds like Sam Webb is talking to a lot of people close to the situation while Rivals cites national analyst Eric Bossi.
FWIW, nobody is saying Michigan is a lock or even necessarily a leader: the difference here is between Scout guys thinking Michigan has a legitimate shot and Rivals saying not so much.
UPDATE: Brown told ESPN that he would be going to an Adidas school, flat-out. That would knock out Kentucky, leaving Michigan up against Kansas and UCLA.
Legends update. MVictors talks to Ben McCready, the godson of Bennie Oosterbaan:
Nothing is official, but U-M is indeed evaluating the Legends program and considering changes.
The evaluation is being driven, in part, by feedback from the players.
McCready’s understanding is that they do intend to maintain the Legends distinction, but are considering honoring those players in a different way.
All options are on the table including a presence in the stadium to recognize the Legends.
I'm mildly distressed by the "feedback from the players" bit since in the past that's been used as a won't someone think of the children cover for Adidas pandering and the like. Suspect that they don't actually dislike it enough to make a difference. But some sort of in-stadium note that hey, Desmond Howard played here would be nice—with the boxes there is a ton of blank space to act as canvas.
An excellent example of the hockey tournament's absurdity. Providence was literally the last team in the field—if Michigan had won the Big Ten tourney they would have bounced the Friars. They happen to host this year, so #4 seed Providence got to welcome #1 seed Miami.
They won that game in a looney-tunes 7-5 contest in which Miami played with an extra attacker for almost half the third period after falling behind 6-2, then beat Denver the next night and are now in the Frozen Four. This happens almost every year. RIT took out another overall #1 seed in the opener. That's the hockey equivalent of a 16 over 1 upset, something that has never ever happened in basketball but has been achieved by a single small school in upstate New York twice.
Single elimination basketball can be random; it is much less so than hockey. Good basketball teams win almost all their games. Good hockey teams win two thirds. Look at the pro level to see the spread between good teams and bad. Hockey is closer to baseball, where 100 wins—a measly 62%—is considered the benchmark for an excellent team, than basketball, where three NBA teams cleared 70% last year with Indiana a game back of that number.
So Miami has a season worth of a one seed and their reward is to fly cross country to play Providence in Providence in a one-off game in a building that was half empty* even by the inflated official count. I defy you to come up with a system more nonsensical than that. Can't be done.
Okay, okay, can't be done outside of cricket.
*[Two-day attendance of 14,234 in a building holding 12,400.]
Um? Hockey recruiting coverage is scanty and Auston Matthews is a big deal so let's hold on to this for a brief moment:
Matthews, who is expected to be selected No. 1 in the 2016 NHL draft, will center Heinen and Moore if he chooses DU over Michigan, among others, and the major-junior route.
Later that article reiterates that Matthews's top college choices are those two schools, and reading between the lines it appears that intelligence comes directly from the Denver program. Everett, a WHL team based in a midsize Washington city, has his CHL rights.
I remember. Harbaugh on his CSG presidency aspirations:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) March 30, 2015
Yes, that is a hashtag for "enthusiasm unknown to mankind" that I will be enthusiastically, if ironically adopting.
But the best part of all this is that a Rivals commenter reminded me of the existence of Hideki. Hideki, a contemporary of mine at the university, won the then-MSA presidency in a landslide because he had a silly sign he carried with him everywhere:
These were the halcyon days in which the the student government's main function was dealing with BAMN so the rest of us didn't have to. We could safely dispatch an amiable man without a platform or a solid grasp of English as our representative, and we were rewarded with petty imbroglios like "that one time the vice president said the president had difficulty communicating and was called super racist":
Wong called for an apology from Secreto for "allowing the election to become a vehicle to foster racism on campus."
Many representatives and constituents said race was not the reason they were unhappy with Tsutsumi"s term.
"My problems are not with his language," said LSA senior Rodolfo Palma-Lulion. "It"s with his ideology."
"I don"t support the attacks on Hideki, but I don"t see them as racist," Kinesiology Rep. T.J. Wharry said. "I can"t understand what my grandparents say but they"re just as white as I am."
Tsutsumi said he felt all attacks on him were politically motivated and that he is "above the fray of party politics."
Drop that mike, Hideki. You clearly had all the vocabulary required to be a politician.
These days the CSG is serious business. It has to fix the athletic department's student ticketing policies, and cannot be solely deployed as a hilarious parody of national politics.
You'll never believe me. It turns out that Nick Saban doesn't care about one solitary thing in this world other than how to win many football games. It's almost like he's a robot programmed to act like a human being… poorly.