On who can make the call to change the years Michigan plays MSU on the road:
“It’s a combination of television, and where we have control it falls on the home team and not the visiting team, and that’s usually in conference and non-conference. But most of that now, any game changing assignments, time assignments, is usually done by television through the conference office. We don’t really have a lot of say. They may ask us what we’d like to do, but we now don’t have a say in picking the game times at this point.”
On breaking up the two home, two away format of the schedule and whether that’s something he’s pursuing:
“Conversations are continuing to be had about what we’d like but there’s 13 other schools in the conference. Scheduling, whether you have 10 teams in the league, eight teams in the league, or 14 like we do, is very hard to do. I don’t negate that. Would I love to see Ohio State and Michigan State on different years? Yes. Do I think it’s hard to do given where we are now? Yes. Will I continue to still have the conversations that need to be had to try to see if there’s anything that can be done? Yes. Is it easy? No.”
On whether he plans to present that to the board:
“I plan on having any conversation I need to have to the benefit of Michigan athletics. Listen, I have great colleagues. Jim Delany is a great commissioner. We have a great staff in the Big Ten. I have great colleagues across the conferences. We all have different things, tweaks, that we may like to see. I’m not the sole member that may want tweaks and changes to the schedule. As soon as we can have that conversation with everyone or individually, and conversations I’ve already had and discussion points, I’m working to understand as well as to talk about what I believe is in the best interest of Michigan.”
On whether Michigan will have to wait until the next batch of schedules is released to make a change:
“Probably, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s not going to change overnight. It’s trying to figure out how we can make any adjustments, and people know that we would like to see an adjustment to that.”
On changing the schedules that are in place:
“Listen, I’m not proposing that what we already have changes immediately, but I do want to have the conversation—I have had some—to understand and…but again, in talking to some of my colleagues, there are some things that other ADs would like to see on their football schedules. So, while we talk about the imbalance of Michigan State and Ohio State, both of them being away or at home, they have other tweaks or changes that they would like to see on their schedule. And once you start putting all that together, now you’ve got a big cauldron of issues that you’ve got to try and figure out, right?
“It’s not as simple as me saying, ‘Well, we want this’ and everybody saying, ‘Okay, we’ll just change it.’ If you start to make the changes—and you guys are very smart—as you start to look at the other schedules you’ll see that there’s more moves than just flipping one to one year and keeping the other on the other year. I mean, there’s more that needs to happen. So, it’s complex enough that the conversations need to be had and I’ll continue to have them when the issue comes up.”
[After THE JUMP: who has input on alternate uniforms, Harbaugh as attention lightning rod, and a bit about Harbaugh’s contract]
The sudden retirement of Dan Voltz leaves Wisconsin alarmingly thin up front.
As we're hanging on to every word leaking out of the submarine, the rest of the conference is also in their final preparations for the season, and expectations can change dramatically based on unexpected depth chart changes and injuries. Yesterday provided one such example when Wisconsin announced that interior lineman Dan Voltz is retiring due to injury; without him, the Badgers don't have a single OL with more than 13 career starts.
With opening weekend around the corner, I decided to take another look at each Big Ten squad to identify their strongest and weakest position groups. We'll start today with the Big Ten West. Before Iowa fans start getting mad online, these are listed in the same order as Bill Connelly's Big Ten power rankings—he's already quite accustomed to Hawkeye fans yelling at him.
Good news: The Huskers return five of their top six wide receivers from a year ago. Jordan Westerkamp has an argument—one that'll hopefully be refuted by Jehu Chesson—as the top returning receiver in the conference; he's a threat working underneath or stretching the field, and he's capable as both a slot and outside receiver. Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore averaged 11.1 and 9.9 yards per target, respectively, in 2015. Steady TE Cethan Carter, former four-star Stanley Morgan Jr., and slot bug Demornay Pierson-El—an electric return man coming off an injury-plagued year—round out a talented, deep group of pass-catchers. Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s penchant for losing his damn mind a couple times per game is all that's holding this passing game back.
Bad news: Corn Nation is rather alarmed at the defensive line situation:
Nebraska has no defensive line. Everyone experienced left or quit football. Defensive tackle Kevin Maurice has one career start, defensive ends Ross Dzuris and Freedom Akinmoladun have four starts apiece. Who’s going to fill the rest of that space? The Davis twins, one at a time, or both? Mick Stoltenberg?
Whomever it is, they’ll have to grow up fast. If the defensive line doesn't exist throughout the season, the offense will need to score 45 points a game. This is not conducive to having a great season.
The coach quotes coming out of fall camp would have me breaking out in hives if they were about Michigan. Their defensive coordinator is saying patently crazy things like experience doesn't matter much on the D-line:
Banker said that, if there’s a place where it’s OK for guys to be young, it’s the defensive line, coached by John Parrella.
“See ball, get off on the ball and get in your gap,” Banker said. “That’s what it really comes down to. And then go play the run on the way back to the quarterback. We’ve got to keep it simple for certain guys. That’s John’s biggest challenge and our biggest challenge right now. What you say in the meeting room. Who are you talking to? Are you talking to that young guy who hasn’t played a game, or are you talking to a guy who’s been here for five years and played in multiple games?”
Nebraska's D-line was excellent against the run last year, but they lost DTs Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine, who both went in the third round of the NFL draft. Meanwhile, they generated zero pass rush (96th in adj. sack rate). DT Kevin Maurice graded out very well last year on PFF, but a huge chunk of his value came from games against Southern Miss and Illinois. DE Freedom Akinmoladon has some upside. Otherwise, this looks like a group that could really hold the team back.
[Hit THE JUMP for Wisconsin's OL troubles(!!!) and much more.]
Ace took the best joke for this section. Tim Beck Man returns!
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — As the one-year anniversary of his firing at Illinois approaches, Tim Beckman has a new gig.
North Carolina officials confirmed Tuesday that Beckman is a volunteer assistant on Larry Fedora’s staff.
The Tar Heels play at Memorial Stadium in a prime-time game on Sept. 10.
Since Beck Man was referenced we are obligated to embed his greatest achievement despite the fact that nobody seems to watch this when we do:
That has just 8500 views and most of them are from the MGoStaff. Anyway:
"THE 'O' STANDS FOR MY SALARY..." https://t.co/C2kKTGjKFO
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) August 24, 2016
The K stands for the coffee he fetches.
Around the league some more. More things keep happening. They're mostly not great for the opposition because the only solid news coming out of camp concerns guys who aren't going to play anymore:
- Wisconsin OL Dan Voltz is forced to retire due to injury. Voltz was very good as a underclassman before an injury-wracked junior year saw a major dropoff. He was slated to start at guard.
- Nebraska lost projected starting left guard Jerald Foster to an ACL tear.
- Redshirt freshman DE Cassius Peat transferred away from Michigan State. Peat was a 3.5 star recruit. Academics appear to be the issue.
- MSU QBs are going to run more this year, because they are bad at throwing.
- Kirk Ferentz is a bit peeved that Drew Ott didn't get a fifth year despite the fact he was in the exact same situation as Mario Ojemudia. Both got injured a few snaps after they could not get an injury redshirt, and the NCAA doesn't bend on that.
- On the other hand, this Tanner Lee thing is weird. The Nebraska QB and Tulane transfer got a sixth year of eligibility. Ferentz says it's because Tulane changed OCs, but it's a bit more complicated. Lee used a bylaw that "addresses student-athletes who feel they were 'run off' by a school." If he actually did not have a scholarship any more that would be a legit reason to give him the year he lost by transferring.
- Indiana blog Punt John Punt projects JUCO transfer Richard Lagow as IU's starting QB.
BEHOLD THE THROW-GODDENING. Trevor Siemian has broken out of the funk where he is only an unstoppable throw-god when I am watching him play. Now he is unstoppable throw god 24/7:
#Broncos QB Trevor Siemian will start the third preseason game, coach Gary Kubiak told reporters. A very good sign for him for this season
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 22, 2016
The Broncos are going to die this season, aren't they?
The decline of daily fantasy. Long feature article from Outside The Lines on that brief period when every ad on ESPN was from DraftKings or FanDuel. Things got so oversaturated that we were annoyed with them despite the fact that DraftKings was paying us. I still have no problem with the business model—I played online poker successfully for years until a late rider was inserted into a port security bill that banned it. (I played in the WSOP main event, which was fun until it wasn't late on day two.) Daily fantasy was very, very close to that model. This kind of negative…
Yet they relentlessly promoted their games as a means to get rich quick when they knew only a tiny percentage of their customers were winning more often than losing.
…is something literally every state is guilty of with their lottery programs, and this one…
They failed to aggressively move against big-bankrolled players who dominated newer players, sometimes with predatory behavior or technological advantages.
…is actually an argument that daily fantasy is a game of skill.
But those companies were run by guys with huge blindspots and questionable ethics, so they blew it all up. This is indefensible:
And they allowed their own employees to play -- and win millions -- on their rivals' sites, despite their having access to odds-improving proprietary data.
During the online poker boom there were always new sites popping up and scamming people, so the big players strove to be as transparent and honest as possible. Daily Fantasy is poker if PokerStars and PartyPoker were rife with actual cheats, and the one thing you cannot do when collecting a rake is allow any impropriety that will sic attorneys general on you. This is on point:
"This industry blew up so quickly -- no one adequately planned or prepared for it," says Gabriel Harber, 29, a former high-volume player at DraftKings and FanDuel. "[The executives] didn't make the substantial investment on self-regulation and the regulatory side that was obviously needed. ... Every PR person and lawyer should be fired. How could you let your client engage in this kind of crazy advertising if every legal loophole wasn't closed? How stupid can you be?"
The execs brought it all on themselves.
Etc.: OSU blogs will post literally anything. That's the ticket, Rutgers basketball. WTKA adds an afternoon show with Jamie Morris and Marcus Ray. They've gone from four hours of live local content to nine over the past month. Not bad. LSSU faculty head wants hockey to drop down to D-III. #disrespekt will never die. Hugh Freeze created a mock funeral for himself, because motivation? Don Brown says his defense isn't high risk because it isn't.
That didn't last long:
All love for the people of Michigan and U of M pic.twitter.com/dATIELCJQe
— Ahmir_SoDevoted (@TheDeuce_2_Nice) August 24, 2016
Mitchell got in serious trouble over the summer that warranted what was probably going to be a year-long suspension. He was also apparently in the habit of posting images of him partying at various late-night hours on Snapchat. By all reports he was not a good fit for the program.
Privately we were expecting this, and I tried to gesture that direction in his recruiting profile:
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Washout potential is high. Pure athlete at the moment.
And lo, it has come to pass. Dude could have sped it up a bit so that I didn't have to write that profile.
Even though he was nominally a receiver, Mitchell's departure is mostly a hit to the safety depth chart. Michigan really likes the McDoom/Crawford/Johnson trio and with Brad Hawkins an academic casualty both WR recruits who could play S have burned out before they could even get started.
That brings Michigan to 23 scholarships in a class we expect to reach 30.
This is a new series I've begun to serve as an ad hoc glossary of specific football concepts/terminology that get thrown around in our articles. The plan is to discuss as they come up and then (probably forget to) link them when we're talking about this stuff down the road.
REACH BLOCK DEFINED
When an offensive lineman blocks a defensive player who's lined up playside of him. For example on this play Mason Cole is going to block this guy:
…on a play going to the right of him. In other words this play is going to the defender's left, and it's Mason Cole's job is to be in the way of that defender going left.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
There are lots of O-line technique videos out there but here's the simplest:
The reaching blocker takes a short (that's key) step at an angle toward the defender's opposite shoulder. That puts him in a stance sort of like that of an Olympic sprinter, so his next step can launch him across that defender and get your helmet across the defender's torso. Lock in that victory by putting the inside arm into the defender's outside number, and pivot around to seal. The key is quick feet and a wide stance to not get off-balance—remember the defender is also fighting.
IS THAT HARD?
Yuh huh. The lineman has a fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and the defense starts to read the blocking to get around that guy, get leverage, and seal the dude being blocked before dude can put a stop to this. It is the hardest of blocks.
Coaches emphasize different talking points but the basics are a short first step toward the outside shoulder, get your arms into him and your head across to seal, all the while keeping your feet apart so don't get knocked off.
Back when (IU OL coach) Greg Frey was at Michigan under Rich Rod, Michigan would try this a handful of times a game, and Molk was better at this than just about anyone I've watched closely. In fact Brian had a Picture Pages in 2008 to show Molk getting a guy lined up outside the guard.
Michigan tried a bunch in 2007, when they were a zone stretch team. This had varying results: Jake Long and (former tight end) Adam Kraus could pull it off occasionally; Justin Boren, Jeremy Ciulla, Alex Mitchell and Reuben Riley were comically bad at it. Against FBS competition it takes a very agile player.
[After THE JUMP: running it, and defending it]
You like what you’re seeing so far?
“Guys have worked extremely hard. Coach runs a great camp. We don’t waste a second, and that gives us a chance to get better physically, get better mentally, demeanor-wise, the whole deal. It’s been a tremendous couple of weeks here and just looking forward to shifting gears here and getting ready to play meaningful games.”
What’s different about a Jim Harbaugh camp than any others you’ve been in?
“Just efficient. You know, every second’s accounted for. Players, coaches, you all know where to be. We all know. We’re taking advantage of every second, staying within the rules. And it gives the guys a chance mentally to learn the system, which is an important piece for us. As I’ve said before, we put in the concepts in the spring and now we’re trying to master those concepts. We maximize our meeting time and Coach does a good job of knowing when to crank it up and knowing when to take it back, so it’s been great.”
Who are some of the Dudes so far in camp?
“We’ve got a lot of Dudes. We’ve got a lot of guys playing well. The guys that are fairly typical up front. I think Wormley’s had a good camp. Taco Charlton’s had a good camp. Bryan Mone, in my opinion, is from here [hand low] to here [hand high] from spring. You know, obviously he was coming off an injury so. Ryan Glasgow’s the real deal; very physical. We feel good about a bunch of those guys. Rashan Gary’s certainly going to be in the mix, but he’s got a learning curve as well. We’re happy with the front.
“At linebacker, the biggest thing with Ben Gedeon is he’s had to go from being a contributing linebacker playing some to it’s his show. Not easy to do. In fact, hard to do. So, I think he’s done an outstanding job in that area. Wroblewski…I don’t know. Probably doesn’t run as fast as some guys. Probably doesn’t hit quite as hard as some guys, but he just finds a way to help us so I’m very happy with him. I think Jabrill’s had an outstanding preseason camp, and Noah Furbush has a chance to be a real-deal guy. Mike McCray continues to be steady eddy, and Devin Bush is really doing well. I’m happy with the young guys. Uche is what we anticipated as a pass-rush guy, and he’s learning the Sam position better than expected. Devin Gil coming along as well and Elyse Mbem-Bosse, so those are the three rookies there.
“Then in the secondary, those guys are all good players, the veteran guys, and the addition of Khaleke Hudson—I think he has a chance to really help us this year. David Long—really happy with him. Special player as a freshman, and a very…he’s a professional. Comes in, notebook’s open, taking notes, being sharp, doing all those things. And there’s a number of guys—it’s probably really unfair, because I can’t think of anybody that I, like, ‘Oh geez, I gotta straighten this dude out.’ But it’s been a good camp and the guys are working hard, and that’s all you can ask.”
The veteran players you talked about, they’re in their third defensive coordinator in three years--
“Yeah, it’s hard now.”
How have those guys made the transition to yet another defensive coordinator?
“I don’t know, you gotta ask them, you know. I mean, I enjoy working with them. I’ve got great guys. I enjoy my room. Maybe it’s my age, whatever. I really don’t care too much about all this stuff but I do care about my room and coaching those guys and trying to get them to whatever their dreams are as a football player. That’s what I’m focused on. So, you know, you’d have to ask them, I guess.”
Are you seeing a willingness out of them to learn?
“Oh yeah. I mean, they got no choice. But, for a lot of reasons. You know, I don’t need anybody to hold my hand, you know what I mean? The bottom line is you’d like them to have that kind of a feeling and affinity towards what we’re doing. I think we do. They certainly seem willing. And we’re flying around out there, so that’s a positive.”
[After THE JUMP: “…I can assure you I’m not just looking at it (like), ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”]
[At this point I left the scrum to go talk with Tim Drevno. I transcribed the rest from video posted at Maize and Blue News.]
If you had to pinpoint one aspect of something that impresses you with what’s being accomplished with your unit, could you find one?
“How much we’ve absorbed. You know, I was kind of—came in and had phase one, phase two and then if I’m fortunate we’ll do phase three. I’m in phase three, so I feel pretty good about the learning curve and what they’ve been able to digest. We’re not perfect. Hopefully we can get close to…you know, the efficiency thing is what Coach talks about all the time. He just talked to the players about it with great points. That’s what we’ve got to be. We’ve got to be efficient a week from next Saturday. That’s the whole goal is try and get your guys efficient.”
I think a Big Ten analyst said this is going to be a high-risk, high-reward defense. Is that--
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a bunch of baloney. The high risk—no. We don’t just throw this stuff against the wall and take it and go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna run this play.’ Come on. We’re not doing that. We look at the formation, we look at the personnel groups. We lean to be on the aggressive side.
“Whether you’re running or passing the ball, we’re gonna have the ability when we dictate to come. That’s what it’s all about. And I can assure you that every one of the calls we’ve made—we’ve done kind of a thorough study—we’ll at least have run it 100 times. So, we’re not throwing things against the wall. It’s not that kind of a scenario. I guess say it because you’re playing man coverage and those types of things.
“Well, guess what: that’s what…Mike Zordich and Brian Smith, they’re accomplished teachers. If you call that high risk because we’re going to come out and play you like this [steps toward some reporters]…well, I don’t call that high risk. That’s just part of the deal.
“One thing we believe in is we deny free access, okay? We’re not going to play eight to 10 yards off and let you play that game all the time. Now, you’ll see us play off, but we determine when we do that. We’re gonna be able to do it all, but I can assure you I’m not just looking at it [like], ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”
With all of that said, how important is physicality and how impressed have you been with this group?
“There’s been some days out there where I’ve stood behind the 9-on-7s—and that’s nine offensive players against the seven defensive players—and it’s kind of a ‘Ooh’ cringe mode [on] both sides, now. So, I’ve been happy with that. I think when we go ‘On your mark, get set, go’ I don’t have any question that we’re going to go.
“But it’s a fine line because you’re tying to get Barney and Sally and everybody else to the dance, so, you know, there’s kind of a combination deal there that you’ve got to pay attention to. But again, Coach does such a good job of taking care of us it’s a non-issue.”
Channing Stribling had a great spring. How’s he played in the fall?
“Good. Really solid. I think the one thing we’ve been able to get through to him is it’s not just about defending out there. You’ve got to come in here and work the run game, be a part of that, too. But no, he’s a solid guy. Working hard. Happy with him.”