good luck with that
Let's talk about the guys we haven't talked enough about yet. The breakout kids. The unexpected boons. Our pantheon of heroes:
- Capt'n Seth of the Comma Police
- An Bender, Flyin' Ace
- The Heiko Kid
- The Blue Creature from the Bend
- Brett Thiessen (secret identity remains hidden)
- Coach Unpossible
Casey Stengel used to do this thing with the media where every year he'd point to a player on his team who wasn't already an established star (Gardner, Gallon, Lewan, Norfleet) and say "that guy is a lot better than people think." And that guy would have a really big year. Mentally (or mathematically if you're Mathlete) subtract John Q. MGoReader's expectation for the guys from your expectation for the guys this year, and tell us who's going to be surprisingly good?
BiSB: I'm on Team ACL this year. On the "breakout star" front, I'll go with BLAKE COUNTESS. I think a lot of people are expecting, or even hoping, that he'll come back
|Rev up the Countess hype again | Fuller|
approximately as he was as a freshman (which would still be pretty good), thinking his injury would offset whatever gains he has otherwise made. But we live in a world in which ACLs are repaired with unicorn dreams (or at least that's how Heiko explained it to me) and heal in six to nine months. Jake Ryan tore his five months ago, and is already running and doing lateral stuff. Countess is a full year removed, which in modern ACL years is "what, me worry?" I think on the conservative side we're going to get the Blake Countess we would have gotten in 2012, and on the upside we're looking at a guy who will compete with Bradley Roby and Darqueze "You Spelled Denard Wrong" Dennard for first team All B1G.
My "breakout contributor" guy is CHRIS WORMLEY, who also tore his ACL about a year ago. Heitzman is the starter at SDE, but Wormley can be a difference-maker. He's bigger and stronger than Heitzman, and already has a year in the system under his belt (even if a lot of that year was on an exercise bike). He'll get plenty of snaps anyway because of the depth at SDE and Mattison's love of DL rotation. He may never take over the starter label because Michigan doesn't really do the whole "roster update" thing, but I think by the end of the year he's the most effective guy at the position, and he'll be getting ~40% of the snaps.
Also, Norfleet will be the new Steve Breaston, by which I mean at some point a tight end will maddeningly refuse to pitch him the ball and as a result you will scream terrible terrible things to no one in particular.
Seth: NORFLEET IS ALREADY ESTABLISHED (else everyone would pick him)
[After the jump: NOT NORFLEET]
"How we doin'?"
Great. Are you game ready yet?
"Getting there, yeah. We're getting there. Now that we've kind of shaved it down to the guys that we think are going to participate in a game, that's always kind of when you start making a little bit more progress. You're not working with your third team guys all the time. You're working with the guys that are actually going to play in the game. You can start getting a little chemistry, and it starts going better."
You have six running backs on the depth chart. How many do you think will actually get carries?
"Who knows? I don't know. Fitz [Toussaint] is going to be our starting running back, and we're going to play it by ear. I don't have an answer to that question because Fitz is going to be the running back and we'll just see how things go."
Have you ever listed six guys at running back before?
"I think so. At one point I did. It may not have been at running back. Yeah, I'm sure I have, yeah. At some place I've been. That's a lot, though. I will say that."
Jabrill Peppers and his Paramus Catholic squad scrimmaged against Red Bank Catholic today. I don't know the final score, nor do I care, because HOLY MOTHER OF GOD LOOK AT THIS RUN:
[Video version here for the GIF-averse.]
A smattering of Twitter reactions that didn't contain totally-justified expletives:
— Paul Bloem (@pnbloem) August 27, 2013
— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) August 27, 2013
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 27, 2013
— Jake Smith (@smithjb) August 27, 2013
247's JC Shurburtt went so far as to suggest that Michigan should play Peppers at running back, even with the presence of Derrick Green on the roster. If you've got the time, our whole conversation is worth checking out:
@AceAnbender I think he's worlds better than Green and Green/Smith could compliment him well in a two-back Brown/Cadillac/Borges deal.
— JC Shurburtt (@jcshurburtt) August 27, 2013
Anyway, just wanted to post that our cornerback recruit—whose next-best position is supposedly safety, followed by wide receiver—just broke the internet as a running back. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee.
UPDATE: Slow-motion with me...
From the top: Broken tackle, immediate juke right, juke left, dip shoulder, broken tackle, stiffarm(!), reverse field (time elapsed: 3.3 seconds thus far), broken tackle, spin move, spin move, spin move to break tackle, stiffarm, waltz into end zone. All of that happened in 8.5 seconds. I keep trying to write words and then get distracted by the pictures, so I'll just stop trying and let you do the same.
|Taylor Lewan||Sr.*||Graham Glasgow||So.*||Jack Miller||So.*||Kyle Kalis||Fr.*||Michael Schofield||Sr.*|
|Ben Braden||Fr.*||Chris Bryant||So.*||Joey Burzynski||Jr.*||Alex Bars||Fr.*||Erik Magnuson||Fr.*|
There's nothing in-between for this offensive line. Either it's the tackles, both redshirt seniors who will get drafted next April, or it's the interior, all new starters in flux. While things almost literally can't be worse…
A single zero yard run was –6?
I try to keep two things in balance: the same blocks get the same scores and a zero yard run adds up to about the same thing as any other zero yard run, but when three blocks get whiffed and any of them would have been sufficient to blow up the play, well, here we are. Thinking of that picture from the 2007 OSU game.
…Michigan can't tread water here and expect to tread water overall. Denard Robinson's 7.2 YPC is out the door.
The way this went down gives some reason for concern. Not at right guard, where Kalis was the anointed from day one, at the other two spots.It's clear Michigan wanted Ben Braden to lock down the left guard job, and clear that Braden just could not, for whatever reason. His move outside totally withdraws him from the competition on the interior and leaves Michigan starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.
Rating: 5 of 5
|donkeys end to other T|
|does it again|
|go away DT|
|able to pull|
|well that'll happen|
You know, you hear a guy comparing some high school kid from Arizona to the best left tackle in the history of the program and you get a little excited but in the back of your head you think of Kevin Grady and countless other hype machines that turned to dust and you try to keep your head on straight. And then the guy shows up and is basically Jake Long, down to his decision to return for a senior year the NFL deems entirely unnecessary.
Yes: TAYLOR LEWAN is back for one last crack at a Big Ten championship. His last outing in a winged helmet was a titanic matchup with Jadeveon Clowney in which he held Clowney to three tackles (unfortunately one of them was a crushing TFL on which Clowney beat him straight up, see right) and no quarterback pressure.
Lewan is a returning All-American who kept Clowney quiet until he turned Vincent Smith into mist. (Smith immediately reassembled himself, T1000-style, and jogged off the field. Vincent Smith is from Pahokee.) In fact, you and I can both remember the only time last year when a pass rusher got the best of Lewan for a sack: it was Adolphus Washington in the Ohio State game. So… pretty much the worst time to give it up, but we'll take it.
FWIW, Lewan accumulated a total of –10 across 13 games in pass protection. This was significantly higher than his –4 last year, but 2011 Taylor Lewan didn't take on Alabama, suddenly great Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Adjusted for quality of competition, Lewan was on par with his sophomore year. The NFL liked it enough to project him around 10th in the draft.
But wait, there's more! While Clowney did secretly beat up on Lewan on the ground, he was far and away Michigan's best run blocker a year ago:
|Air Force||8||-||8||Blew some guys off the ball; locked out edge guys.|
|UMass||7.5||1||6.5||Dominating in this game.|
|Notre Dame||8.5||2||6.5||Got quality motion.|
|Purdue||10.5||4||6.5||Best drive blocker on the line.|
|Illinois||5.5||4||1.5||Would have been fine but pulled on a spring counter going his way.|
|MSU||6.5||4||2.5||Busted huge on one 6 yard loss, otherwise good.|
|Nebraska||2||2||0||They aren't really running any plays on which his blocking is relevant. That is bizarre.|
|Minnesota||8||1||7||Iso counter and sprint counter got tackles more involved.|
|Northwestern||5.5||2||3.5||Okay for him.|
|Iowa||7||1.5||5.5||More involved. Like it when he is involved.|
|South Carolina||4.5||9||-4.5||Clowney is like the endboss of Donkey Kong.|
He picked up some big minuses for busts; other than that he was impeccable. So why are those numbers topping out at +8 when a guy like David Molk regularly got into the mid-teens?
It's the same story from last year: pulling folks was futile. For whatever reason, Patrick Omameh was able to get out to the second level on zone plays like a mofo but never got the hang of pulling. Canonical example:
When the right guard does that on the regular, it's difficult to get your face-mashing left tackle involved. Darryl Funk inadvertently sums up the entire problem with Michigan's ground game in one painful joke:
I was kidding actually Taylor about this the other day. Every year we kind of recycle some pictures in the line room and I’ll get some action shots. I told Taylor, geez, ‘Schofield is in every one of these pictures and where are you?’ (Laughter).
That's too close to home, too near the bone, man.
Lewan's lack of impact in the run game is a problem with the offense, not Lewan, and it's one Michigan has to fix. You cannot have an All-American tackle that you can't use in the run game and be any good. Meanwhile if they can do that, the run game instantly becomes credible.
Lewan is likely to repeat as an All-American for a lot of reasons: talent, momentum, media profile after the Clowney matchup. He should be close to the same player he was in 2012, but with fewer mental mistakes and hopefully more involvement. Everything else should be about the same but the UFR chart, which should have consistent double-digit positive performances as long as Kyle Kalis is what he's cracked up to be.
[After THE JUMP: Schofield, Kalis, and then doubt. Plus backups, tons of 'em! Eventually!]
I'll miss you, #19.
|Joe Kerridge||So.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.||AJ Williams||So.||Devin Funchess||So.|
|Sione Houma||So.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.||Jordan Paskorz||Jr.*||Jake Butt||Fr.|
Al Borges necessitates a change in season preview strategies. Previously folded into the wide receiver section, tight ends and close relatives have become so prevalent and diverse that they demand their own post and elaborate delineation of responsibilities. I have also snatched the fullbacks away from the tailback section to give a full spectrum of guys who aren't tailbacks or receivers who will see the field for Michigan this fall.
Your author's attempt to distill all the things he's heard about the guys listed above and put them into categories:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end that motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: Devin Funchess is the only flex guy I can think of recently.
Complicating matters is the fact that many of the players listed above bleed into other positions: Houma, Rawls, and Shallman could be tailback-ish, Funchess and Butt will have their share of time with their hand in the dirt, tight to the end, and may even motion to fullback on occasion. In a Borges offense, things are not as they appear!
/tosses smoke bomb
Fullback is a spot where walk-ons are prevalent; Dudley mentioned above was both a walk-on and Michigan's finest linebacker eraser in the past 20 years, with only Chris Floyd offering competition. This year is no exception, as JOE KERRIDGE eased past converted tailback Stephen Hopkins last year to acquire a strong hold on the job. Judging from one of the sudden legion of shirtless photos players put on Instagram, if you encounter Joe Kerridge in the wild you should walk away slowly and hope you don't smell like salmon:
L to R: Sione Houma, Bobby Henderson, Joe Kerridge.
That plus the whole returning-starter bit should see Kerridge retain his role as Michigan's first choice when something absolutely has to die. In year one he was a little tentative, as you might expect, and there were a number of plays on which I though he was not reacting to the situation in front of him quickly enough to make an effective block. I'm still not clear on whether some of the suboptimal blocking on spread plays was because Michigan wasn't using newfangled arc blocking (ie: using your fullback or tight end to take out an exchanging linebacker and give your edge guy the edge) or because a freshman wasn't executing, but with the move away from spread elements, the job will be simpler: see man, make man wish he had taken up lawn darts.
Kerridge has a ton of potential. When he makes solid contact with guys, you can hear football:
That linebacker set up outside, Toussaint cut outside, and all the LB could do was fall over. He can bring the pain.
Kerridge had his inconsistencies. After three consecutive +3 games and a monster +6.5 against Illinois…
And Kerridge is racking up big numbers.
I may be giving him too much credit for standing up linebackers but to my eyes he really appears to be whacking them and providing the impetus for an improved under center run game. Those isos and such are
…he fell off into a bunch of games where he hung around 1 point. A large part of that was the Gardner transition; he also lost some playing time to Stephen Hopkins, who came back from injury and was given a shot to displace Kerridge. Kerridge did whiff some blocks. He got smoked for a sack in the bowl game, for one. And this inverted veer against State is something an experienced guy might decide to block the end on because otherwise there's no one else he can hit.
For a redshirt freshman it was a promising season. In year two the goal is to cut his failure rate in half and catch five passes. He'll be an interesting guy to watch in UFR. If Michigan really commits to MANBALL he could see some big numbers.
[After THE JUMP: Funchess, Williams, U-backs, we've got it all. Except upperclassmen.]
Highlights from 1948 Rose Bowl
Every five years or so, a group of old Michigan players from mid-1940s would gather to share old stories and relive the camaraderie of one of the closest teams to ever put on the winged helmet. The team featured the All-American backfield duo of Bob Chappuis and Bump Elliott, not to mention Howard Yerges, Bob Mann, and future All-Americans Alvin Wistert, Pete Elliott, Dick Rifenburg, and Robert Wahl. But when you ask the history guys who really made that team go, their answer is always the same guy, and not one of the above. He was also, coincidentally, the guy organizing the reunions.
As they last met in 2008, 2013 was supposed to be the next such get-together. Some of the guys are still out on the golf course, but the years have dealt the losses to these men that their 1946-'49 opponents never could, and of those that remain to us, too few can responsibly make the journey for a 2013 reunion. So we'll have it here instead, as MGoBlog had the opportunity to interview the man at the heart of one of Michigan's all-time greatest teams, spinning fullback Jack Weisenburger.
Last week I had the opportunity to spend a short time speaking with Jack on the phone about his time at Michigan, from his recruitment to the changes he witnessed in wartime, to the team. His story and theirs, after the jump.