fair point that
What’s the secret to moving the ball against this Michigan State defense?
“Uh. Well, the first thing you have to make sure is you don’t give it to them. Same deal, because they’ve done a great job of feeding off turnovers, either creating opportunities for offense or literally scoring themselves, which is amazing how many times they’ve done that. So that’s the starting point. Take care of the football and minimizing the damage, if in fact there is damage. Making what could be a bad play not into a disaster. That’s number one. Number two is getting your bodies on their bodies, making sure your plays get started, so you give your skill guys a chance to do what they do best, whether it be in the open field or around the line of scrimmage. Those are really key points. If you’re getting hit in the backfield as soon as you hand the ball off, you’re not going anywhere, and they’ve done a lot of that.”
Previously: Preview MGoPodcast with John Gasaway, Media Day Wrap, Bigs (Also, BUY HTTV BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. There's more great preview content in there than I can possibly cover in a sequence of blog posts.)
Before I get into previewing the shooting guard and small forward types, here's some info on tonight's exhibition against Concordia since there won't be a full-blown game preview for reasons that should be self-evident.
Who: Michigan vs. Concordia
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
When: 7 pm Eastern
TV/Radio: Streaming on MGoBlue (subscription required) and Big Ten Digital Network (game listed as free for now, but may require a subscription). Radio info here.
Alright. On to the wings, where the four players expected to rotate in at the two and three (and some point guard and power forward, too) all have star potential.
Glenn Robinson III
Measurables: 6'6", 220
Base Stats: 33.6 minutes, 11.0 points, 65/32/68 2P/3P/FT%, 5.4 rebounds
Key Advanced Metrics: 15.2% usage, 7.8 OR%, 10.0 TO%, 67% of FGs assisted
As the fourth or fifth offensive option last year (depending on Mitch McGary's ascension point), GRIII ended the season with a very small usage number and absolutely bananas efficiency—his 128.4 offensive rating ranked tenth in the country. The big question—and perhaps the key to Michigan's season—is whether Robinson can continue to be so efficient without the benefit of Trey Burke creating open dunk after open dunk. A full two-thirds of Robinson's field goals last year were assisted, and most of the ones that weren't were putbacks following offensive rebounds; if someone kept track of baskets per dribble ratio, Robinson likely would've led the country in that stat.
For Robinson to become the lead dog that his NBA lottery projections suggest he should be, he'll have to become much more effective and assertive as a creator off the dribble—if he can consistently get himself to the basket, his ridiculous vertical and excellent finishing will lead to plenty of points, especially if he develops his decent—but thus far inconsistent—outside shot. Reports from the summer have been mixed in this regard. Robinson attended several camps and wasn't mentioned as a standout nor as one of the more assertive players. ESPN's Jeff Goodman, however, took a tour of the country's top programs and named GRIII the most impressive player he saw over the likes of Marcus Smart, Andrew Wiggins, and Adreian Payne ($):
Michigan's Glenn Robinson III was the most impressive player of anyone I saw on the trip. GR3 will see more time at his natural position, small forward, this season. The 6-7 Robinson has added weight and become more athletic.
The questions regarding the son of the "Big Dog" were about his perimeter shot and ability to put the ball on the floor. Robinson buried deep jumper after deep jumper and appears far more comfortable at the 3-spot in John Beilein's offense. It's still yet to be determined whether this aspect of his skill set will translate in games, but it's a good sign with Robinson more assertive on the offensive end. If he can gain a consistent jumper to go with his athleticism, he'll almost certainly be a lottery pick.
If Mitch McGary is healthy and Michigan gets that GRIII, all bets are off regarding this team's ceiling. Another data point in favor of "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" comes from assistant coach Jeff Meyer, who noted that Robinson has made great strides as a ballhandler and distributor:
“He’s worked very diligently in July — we kind of shifted and allowed the best point guard coach in the country [LaVall Jordan] to work with Glenn, with his ball handling. Vall did a great job of putting him through a series of skill development drills,” Meyer said. “Glenn on his own has really worked hard at improving in that area, which is putting the ball on the floor. I think, in terms of the first 15 practices, his ability to take the ball end-to-end with the bounce has definitely improved, his ability to negotiate ball screens, reading the defense and then playing based on what the defense is giving has improved. Through our first 15 practices, I think he’s at 16 assists to three turnovers, so he’s really improved in that area and I know he’s taken a lot of pride in improving in that area.”
This leads to another major question about Robinson, and that's where he'll play the majority of his minutes this year. With McGary dinged up to start the season and John Beilein's preference to bring along freshmen slowly if possible (see: McGary, Mitch), Robinson should reprise his role as a stretch four, especially early in the season. The coaches are very serious about incorporating more two-post lineups—including the starting lineup—and when McGary is healthy that means Robinson could slide down to the three, a much more natural defensive position for him (in Beilein's offense, the three and the four essentially mirror each other).
A move down to the three could greatly benefit GRIII defensively, where he struggled as a freshman last year, especially when trying to defend larger players. A lot of that was due to the usual freshman issues: Robinson got caught ball-watching regularly and often looked unsure of his assignment. A year of experience will help, as will the 10-15 pounds of muscle he added during the offseason—when he does play the four, that'll really come into play.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Tuesday. Must be time to post a shirtless photo of somebody. Nik Stauskas is a larger person.
Hopefully this makes him LeBron James, or at least more capable when it comes time to finish at the rim. Last year he had two modes: 1) Game, blouses dunk. 2) wildly inaccurate layup.
Drink. Nick Baumgardner, or at least his headline guy, gets the season off to a rousing start:
Not just a shooter: Nik Stauskas backs up his teary-eyed Final Four pledge by focusing on defense
"I'm going to get back in the gym as soon as I get back to Ann Arbor," Stauskas said, with tears in his eyes. "I'm going to be a different player next year."
Six months after making a vow to improve himself, Michigan's sharp-shooting Canadian sophomore showed up to media day Thursday looking like a different person.
Stauskas added 16 pounds of muscle to his frame, spending most of the summer in Ann Arbor in the weight room with fellow sophomore Caris LeVert.
Michigan loses two first round NBA picks; gets back three or four Sophomore Leap™ candidates, depending on how you look at McGary.
My other three is a lottery pick. Mitch McGary won't play in tonight's exhibition against NAIA Concordia. This is the only thing that prevents me from declaring victory in the great Glenn Robinson III Is A Small Forward Over John Beilein's Dead Body war of the 2013 offseason:
“Spike or Derrick will play at the point, Nik or Caris will play at the two, Glenn or Zak will be at the three, and at the other three it will be Jordan or Glenn. Jon’s played real well, too. Jon’s going to get a great chance.”
"The other three." A door opened, and Michigan became the first team to go 1 2 3 3 5, because it was good PR. In fairness to Beilein, the roles of the 3 and 4 in his system are not particularly different, especially when you've got a guy like Robinson.
Also, please be true:
“Glenn is one of our top assist guys in all the scrimmages thus far. A lot of times we’ll just let them play, and allow them to play to the vision and strengths that they have,” Beilein said. “He’s got an ability to play where he can see open men really quickly. You see a lot of kids who, for some reason, while they’re athletic, don’t have the same feel for the game in crowds.”
Shot creation from Robinson would be enormous. Freshman to sophomore leaps are possible at a couple of different positions from players who were already pretty damn good last time out.
A SHORT LIST OF THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
- Does Nik Stauskas rip an arm off a Concordia player, use it to shoot a three pointer, and then bite a chunk out of it as he leaves the floor?
- Is Caris LeVert showing any signs of making the proverbial Jump?
- Why did Tim Hardaway Jr get taller?
- That's still Trey Burke, right? I left my contacts out.
By the way, a quarter will get you in the door. If the University's making more money off the unclaimed student tickets, it's not going to be much money.
AT LEAST THEIR HELMETS WERE DUMB
Well, that's not good. By the time I got home from Saturday's hockey game it was halftime in the PSU-OSU game and the score was 42-7. That's some pretty un-swell boding right there. By the end, the Ohio State offense had eviscerated Penn State in unprecedented ways:
• Ohio State racked up 686 yards of total offense against Penn State, a new high for the Buckeyes against a Big Ten defense and a new low for the Nittany Lions in the 127-year history of the program. The final score, 63–14, made it the most lopsided defeat Penn State has endured since Nov. 25, 1899, in a 64–5 loss to the Duquesne Athletic Club, which was also the last time Penn State allowed 60 points. In the intervening 114 years, only two other opponents scored 50 points against Penn State: West Virginia in October 1988, and Navy in October 1944.
I was curious and grabbed a torrent of that event. OSU's line blew that 282 pound defensive tackle who occasionally featured against Michigan off the line regularly, took all manner of perimeter screens when presented the opportunity (including, oddly, a third and one conversion and a second and one conversion), and used Hyde as a punishing alternative to Braxton Miller—the usual. I guess they've kind of struggled in their other league games? Yeah.
Also alarming was Michigan State's Illinois-aided demolition of Illinois:
• Michigan State QB Connor Cook was 15-of-16 for 208 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois, setting a school record for pass efficiency (264.8) in a 42–3 rout. After a slow start, the Spartan offense as a whole converted 14 of 16 third-down attempts – including a kneel-down to end the game – the best single-game rate by any team this season, and scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions before killing the clock.
One of those touchdown drives featured an Illinois player certain to intercept not only not doing that but batting the ball directly to a Michigan State player for a touchdown. That put MSU up 14-3 in a half featuring that and a goal line stand for MSU at the one, turning a potential tie into a lead insurmountable and eventually a laughable blowout.
On the bright side, Minnesota ran for almost 300 yards in a relatively easy win over Nebraska. Football is weird. That's the hope now, anyway.
At least this is the last year we have to talk about this. Fresno State and Northern Illinois are currently undefeated and on track to finish higher than the champion of the Large America conference, which means whichever finishes higher in the final standings will get the honor of being annihilated in a BCS Game. This is the BCS's own fault, because rough and tough football coaches mewled about how it was mean when that man scored another touchdown:
One of the reasons the Bulldogs and Huskies are in such solid position, surprisingly, is their good standing in the computer polls, where both rank in the top 15 despite the computers' alleged emphasis on strength of schedule. (NIU's best win is over Iowa, by three points; the crown jewel in Fresno's resumé is either a one-point win over Rutgers, in overtime, or a one-point win over Boise State.) In fact, even the machines don't really know what to do with them. In Jeff Sagarin's rankings, for example, his "real" rankings – which include margin of victory – list both NIU and Fresno as mediocrities at No. 51 and No. 52, respectively, nowhere near the threshold for a BCS game; in the version Sagarin submits to the BCS, though, which excludes margin of victory, the same teams come in at No. 3 and No. 14.
The BCS has been one eyerolling compromise after another. Even if the playoff committee was Condoleeza Rice and 14 animals representing the diversity of American agriculture the output would be less of a steaming pile than the soon-to-be late, extraordinarily unlamented BCS.
Math is just a tool, and for two decades the people in charge of college football took the safety off of Richard Billingsley and pointed him at their face, then sawed-off the other computer rankings and pointed them at their family. We're better off without it if it's going to be used like that: by morons.
Brian mentioned a "triangle" route during the offensive UFR last week. I wanted to highlight that play, not just because I don't remember if we've covered what that means, but because it illustrates how the emergence of Funchess as a complementary deep threat to Gallon makes defenses do unsound (read: relatively easy to exploit) things.
A triangle is another passing concept for picking on zone, and works pretty well against different coverages. We've covered smash/high-low (which attacks the top and bottom of a zone simultaneously) and 4-verts (which gets guys to either side of a zone). A triangle is actually putting dudes to three sides of a zone. It's a slightly more complicated version of high-low, the triple-option version of it if you will.
Here's a play from the Indiana UFR. I want you to watch the bottom of the screen and how the Funchess, Gallon, and Toussaint routes work together:
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||TE out||Butt||Inc|
|IME Gardner blows this read presnap by going to the short side of the field. He's got three guys on the wide side and Toussaint's flare is going to be open as M runs a triangle there. Instead he's looking at the wheel/out combo M is running a lot this year. Both are covered; Gardner tries to fit a ball into Butt in a tiny window, LB breaks it up. (BR, 1, protection 1/1)|
The left side is a high-low. The right side of the play, even though Gardner didn't go there, is the triangle we're looking at.
I don't know if Gallon's route was a deep curl or an out or flag or whatever; it doesn't matter. I drew curl just to make the picture smaller.
In this case Gallon and Toussaint are smashing the corner's Cover 2 zone, while Funchess's curl route keeps the SAM linebacker from interfering with that. The cornerback went with Gallon (from alignment it was obvious he was more worried about the deep part of his zone than anything underneath), and that left the SAM to deal with Funchess and Toussaint. He chose Funchess, and Toussaint's flare route was open.
About three weeks ago I posted an article about which 2015 signal callers could be next in line for an offer. With no game to prepare for this week the coaching staff decided to travel the country checking in on recruits and I decided to do the same thing (from the comfort of my couch) with a focus on the quarterbacks.
I originally created a list of seven prospects consisting of Kevin Dillman, Nick Johns, Sheriron Jones, Kyle Kearns, Alex Malzone, Riley Neal, and Brady White. After a visit to the Indiana game I think Tyree Jackson could also be thrown into the mix at this point.
I was able to talk to each young man this weekend and see how often the coaches have been in contact with them, and try to gauge the interest level from the coaches, as well as from the recruits. In doing so I think I’ve identified a top tier of four targets on the quarterback big board.
Kevin Dillman – La Mirada High School – La Mirada, CA: The coaches have not been in contact with Dillman at all recently which is a bit surprising during a bye week that included traveling across the country as well as social media communication. He appears to be down the list as a secondary target.
Tyree Jackson – Mona Shores High School – Muskegon, MI: Jackson visited Ann Arbor for his first game experience against Indiana and had a great time which I reported here, but since his visit he has had zero contact with the coaching staff. He will continue to be a name to watch, but he also appears to be down the list a bit.
Nick Johns – Gonzaga High School – Washington D.C.: Johns told me that he speaks with Coach Mallory almost every day on Facebook. With so much contact I was curious as to what was discussed when they chat. “He just asks me what kind of team we are playing that week and what kind of defense they run. He tells me to try and identify our strengths and weaknesses against that team. He just tries to assess my football IQ.” Johns told me that Coach Mallory hasn’t exactly mentioned an offer yet, but Nick seems to feel pretty wanted based on how often they communicate. He did say that he would love to have an offer from such a great school like Michigan. I believe Johns is one of the top tier targets at this point.
Sheriron Jones – Rancho Verde High School – Moreno Valley, CA: Jones has not had any recent contact with the coaching staff at all and he even said that when he tries to call them, they never answer. That tells me that he is not a top priority at this time.
Kyle Kearns – Foothill High School – Pleasanton, CA: Kearns had a legitimate talk with Coach Borges on Wednesday evening that tentatively set up a “Wilton-Speight-like” visit in the Spring. “Coach Borges said that he plans to make it out this Spring to check me out. He talked about how they’ve only offered one guy and I’m a guy that he really likes. I see myself fitting in really well in his offensive scheme from what he told me.” I asked Kearns how he’d feel if an offer did eventually come and he simply said, “It would be huge!” He even flirted with the idea of committing on the spot if that did happen. “I can’t say I’d commit on the spot just yet. There are some other schools that I’ve built a strong relationship with and I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse.” (He actually used that phrase. I like this kid.) Kearns talked about how attractive Michigan is with George Campbell and Damien Harris already in the fold for the 2015 class. “With Michigan getting a top running back and wide receiver for 2015 it makes the decision that much easier. Couple that with world class academics and the biggest stadium in football…man.” After talking with Kearns and hearing his very obvious interest and discussing his regular talks with Coach Borges I now believe he may be the front-runner for the next quarterback offer.
Alex Malzone – Brother Rice High School – Bloomfield Hills, MI: Malzone has set up a regular communication schedule with Coach Borges that involves him calling the offensive coordinator every Thursday night between 9 and 9:30 pm. Borges also made it very clear to Alex that he is in the top tier of quarterbacks being evaluated. With Malzone being right in Michigan’s backyard and understanding what it means to be the quarterback at Michigan, he is a very real possibility to receive an offer. I believe Malzone will continue to be evaluated and being a Michigander is an advantage that has helped him land in the top tier.
Riley Neal – Yorktown High School – Yorktown, IN: Neal has already been talking to Coach Borges quite regularly, also on Thursdays, for a few weeks now. They usually talk about his film, each other’s seasons, and just the general recruiting process. Neal and I talked about some other quarterbacks getting attention from Michigan and he was very informed about the entire situation. He knew of Dillman, Malzone, and Kearns and also that the coaching staff was evaluating his position right now, which tells me he is interested and intuitive when it comes to the process. He is in the top tier.
Brady White – Hart High School – Newhall, CA: From what most here have expressed about Brady White this will be an unfortunate update, but he has not been hearing from the coaching staff at all lately and didn’t once during the bye week. His interest in Michigan seems legitimate but he may be tough to lure from the west coast.
In conclusion I feel like the top tier of four targets consists of Nick Johns, Kyle Kearns, Alex Malzone, and Riley Neal. These four quarterbacks are in regular contact with the coaching staff and all express sincere interest in being recruited by Michigan. At first glance I thought Dillman, Jones, and White all hadn’t heard from the coaches simply due to the fact that they are all California kids, which can be problematic due to the time difference and the fact that those kids just don’t leave their geographic area too often. That notion is of course debunked by the fact that fellow California native Kyle Kearns may be atop the big board right now. After this week my list does, in fact, put Kearns at the top and looks like this (last time's ranking in parentheses):
- Kyle Kearns (2)
- Riley Neal (3)
- Alex Malzone (7)
- Nick Johns (6)
Others: Dillman (1), White (5), Jones (4), Jackson (NR)
This is not necessarily my wish list, this is just how I feel the big board may look somewhere in Schembechler Hall, based on frequency of contact, expressed interest from both sides, and skill-set for Borges’ system. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out over the next couple of months.
“You know, it’s always an exciting week. Believe me. I think from campuses, both schools, both programs, the opportunity to play in a rivalry game that has a lot at stake obviously with us both in the same division, they’re an awfully good football team. I think they’ve come a long way from early in the same season as far as from an offensive perspective. I think Connor Cook has done a nice job. I think their whole offense has really taken off, and you can really see it. We pay attention throughout the year, but really their football team. Their defense is as good as any. That’s going to be a big challenge for us. Playing up in East Lansing is always a bit of a challenge. Any time you play away from home, that’s just part of it. Making sure as a team that our focus and discipline and all those things have to be spot on for us to go out and compete at our highest level. That’s what we need to do. We’re excited. It’s going to be a fun week.”
With how aggressive Michigan State plays, how do you get your team to embrace that level of physicality?
“Well you hope your team does the same thing. We’ve been inconsistent in that department, so they all know, the guys who’ve been here. I think there’s 27 of them who were there in East Lansing two years ago. It’s not a whole lot, but they understand that it’s a physical next five weeks, and it starts with the physicalness that Michigan State will play with.”
Can you talk about this game in the context of the Legends division title?
“Well number one it’s the passion for this football game by Spartans and Wolverines, something that as a coach or a competitor you understand that and you look forward to it. The other part of it, the piece of the puzzle, it is important football game when you look at where you want to be and where they want to be at the end of November.”
What are the areas you need to improve the most for this game?
“I think our special teams need to get better. I don’t think we’ve punted the ball as well as we need to. I don’t think we’ve covered at times the way we need to. Big plays defensively. Can’t give up those big plays, and you can’t have those lapses. From an offensive standpoint, you always want to be able to have a running game and count on the guys up front being physical at the line of scrimmage, and getting Fitz or whoever it might be in the backfield started.”
Michigan State likes to attack the middle of your offense and blitz their linebackers. Will you get a good test for how good your new guards are going to be?
“I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think those two guys – and the good thing is there’s nine other guys out there with them. Believe me, there’s other guys who will be there for the first time with more significant roles than maybe they were before. I think how we handle their defense, their front seven, how we get off bump coverage and all those things as tight as they play. Those are all things we’re going to learn. I’d like to know a little bit more before, but that’s not going to be the case.”
Will you know the identity of your team after this Saturday?
“I think it gives you a little bit of an idea. Will you know it for sure? I’m not sure. I think there’s no doubt that every part of this game from the offense and defense, every fabric, whatever it is, you’re going to find something out about your team.”
How do you get Devin Gardner not to try to do too much?
“Yeah. You can’t give the ball away. I think they lead the conference in turnover margin and those things. We’ve got to do a great job of taking care of the football. Great job in decision-making. I think a lot of it, and you asked specifically about Devin. A lot of it for a lot of guys is the fundamentals that you play with and the techniques, and not getting yourself off kilter with how you’re going to play.”
Can you talk about the run game and how important it is to run against them? They haven’t given up 100 yards to an opponent yet.
“Yeah. And if you watch them enough you know why. I think running the football opens up so much of your play-action game. I think that’s where offensively they’ve done a nice job. They’ve done a great job with pounding it in there with the power plays, the stretch plays, those kinds of things, and the play-action game has really helped from an offensive standpoint. I think it’s important for both of us to establish a running game of some sort.”
MGoQuestion: What have been the keys to Michigan State’s improvement on offense over the course of the season?
“I think their offensive line is better. I think they’re playing better together as a group. I think Langford is a back who’s very patient. I think he’s come on. I think the quarterback situation’s settled now, and there’s not who’s going to play, who’s not going to play?”
MGoQuestion: Given the propensity of their offensive coordinator to break tendency in rivalry games (e.g. Ohio State 2011), how do you prepare for that?
“Well you have to prepare for what they do, and most teams are going to have four base running plays, four base pass concepts. You’ve got to be a little bit different in some ways in how you call a game. But at the same time it’s the same plays, and getting all the looks you can at those plays is going to help you.”
Michigan State doesn’t like you very much. How do you feel about them?
“Well we don’t necessarily like them either. This isn’t an admiration society. It’s a great rivalry with two teams that are 45 miles apart? That might not be enough, but it’s what it is.”
It sounds like you’re hoping your players are physical rather than knowing that they’re going to be.
“Yeah, I would say this in answering that: I think there’s a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps. They understand it. There’s some new guys, a couple true freshmen, that haven’t played in this magnitude of a game. But you look at the back half of our schedule, it’s all physical. Every game’s got to be a physical game. I think from that standpoint, yeah, there’s some guys who don’t know it yet. I think they’re learning. I think they’ve learned in the last couple practices.”
How uneasy does that make you feel, that you have to hope -- ?
“I’m not hoping. It’s not hope. I don’t know if hope’s the right word. I think it’s more of us educating guys who haven’t played in that environment.”
How would you compare and contrast this rivalry with the Ohio State rivalry?
“I think they’re both important.”
[Sorry everyone, my recorder crapped out on me while this was taping, so I’ll just write up a summary of important things that were said. As always, most of it was people trying to get Hoke to say something provocative or edgy, like “how tough is your team?” and “is this an important rivalry game?”]
- Team is better equipped to handle the tough road environment. Learned a lot from 2011.
- Gardner’s fundamentals have improved. Getting a couple snaps in East Lansing in 2011 was a valuable experience.
- Michigan has not changed game prep to simulate Michigan State’s “physicality.” Will continue to do prepare the same way.
- Jake Ryan could play more continuous snaps. Previously he was rotating in for three snaps and coming out.
- Memory from playing Michigan State in 1997? "Charles Woodson's interception."
- Drew Dileo’s status is questionable. Coaches will see if he can practice on Wednesday before making a decision on whether they will unleash The Threat.