"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
- Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon are your captains.
- Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge now have scholarships.
- Courtney Avery is out with orthoscopic [MGoI'mGoingToDoSoWellAsAnM3: ARTHROSCOPIC] surgery for some cartilage in his knee. Playing time and experience would say that Jarrod Wilson is the next guy in, but there's probably a three-way battle between him, Josh Furman, and Dymonte Thomas.
- Derrick Green and Deveon Smith made the traveling depth chart, and they will be expected to contribute either as backup running backs or special teamers. Their redshirts are toast.
- Starting offensive line is Lewan, Glasgow, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield.
- Blake Countess is starting cornerback and starting nickel. Next guy off the bench is probably Hollowell, but both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis made it onto the depth chart, so there may be some competition there.
- Dennis Norfleet is handling all return duties.
"Okay let's get started. Thanks for coming out. We're five days away now. It is game week, and it's exciting. Our players, our staff, everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to see where this team is, and we talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, so it's going to be exciting on Saturday.
"We voted our captains yesterday, and I think the four guys: Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon, are very deserving. At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players. As you all know we are a young football team. We also had an opportunity last night to award three scholarships to guys that have walked onto the program and have set a standard for work ethic and set a standard for their toughness. Their love for their teammates and their love for Michigan. Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge were three guys most deserving. When you have an opportunity to do that as a coach, you always feel good because it obviously is helping their families out. More than that, the guys have earned it.
"Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery Thursday night. Cartilage. It should be a two-week setback, but everything went well. He is in great spirits and he'll be back on the field soon."
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST
Rating: 4 of 5. Yeah, I said it.
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.|
|Fitzgerald Toussaint||Sr.*||Derrick Green||Fr.||Justice Hayes||So.*|
|De'Veon Smith||Fr.||Thomas Rawls||Jr.||Fitzgerald Toussaint||Sr.*|
|Drake Johnson||Fr.*||De'Veon Smith||Fr.||Drake Johnson||Fr.*|
The Man Comes Around
"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer that could approach six yards a carry." –Albert Camus
Toussaint rehabbed with a vengeance, and went into spring camp with a vengeance, and hopes to confront the Big Ten in superhero outfit and big guns this fall. His coaches have taken notice. Borges:
"Fitz has got fire in his eyes. I see no signs of any injury ... He is very hungry.
"One thing about running backs, it's not like the lines. You get to see them cut, even if it's not live or not with pads on. His stop and go ability looks to be right back where it was."
Fullback Joe Kerridge looks like a cross between a refrigerator and a bear (more on this in the Tight End And Friends section) and says Toussaint outworked even him over the summer:
"He busted his butt to get back before the start of camp. It seemed like every time I went in this summer to lift or do conditioning, Fitz was already there and he would still be there after I left."
When fall camp launched, the immediate and consistent buzz was that Toussaint was back to his old self—his old-old self. Tellingly, the coaches didn't dance around the topic like they do on most every other personnel battle. First he was back, then he was playing very well, then he was leading, and then it was his job, full stop.
So… what now?
[after THE JUMP: Yeah, what now? Freshmen are large men. A replacement for Vincent Smith, and veterans trying to hold off the youngsters.]
Commitments Come In Pairs, Volume [I Lost Count]
Michigan's 2015 class grew by two highly-regarded Ohio defensive backs over the weekend; if you missed them, here are the commitment posts for cornerback Shaun Crawford and safety Tyree Kinnel. The pair represent the fifth and sixth commits in the '15 class; to say the pace of recruiting has increased is an understatement:
Commitment no.5 for class of 2014 was Drake Harris, 4 months ago. No.5 for 2013 was on The Weekend that killed @AceAnbender
— Brett Thiessen (@The_Mathlete) August 23, 2013
Adding to that, Michigan's sixth commitment for the '14 class came when Ian Bunting pledged on April 23rd of this year; their sixth for '13 also occurred during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends.
Crawford and Kinnel aren't just highly-touted players from Ohio; they're both lifelong Michigan fans, which played a part in each of their commitments. Here's Crawford's post-commitment reaction to Tim Sullivan ($):
"Just being able to run out the tunnel and jump up and touch the sign, I've always seen it on Saturdays and finally getting the opportunity to do it is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I can't wait to make the Michigan family happy."
And Kinnel talking to Scout's Dave Berk ($):
“We’re all Michigan fans because my dad grew up in Jackson, Michigan,” he said. “He just loved Michigan and ever since I was born, he just brained washed me on Michigan.”
They've been groomed for the Maize and Blue; now, do they fit The Pattern™? Of course they do. Crawford to 247's Mark Zakrajsek ($):
"I will bring my effort, that's the only thing I can promise right now," Crawford said. "With great effort all the great things I do on the field will come. I will play every down like it's my last because it's my dream to play on national television on Saturdays. My goal isn't to win the Heisman or any personal awards, I just want to be the best teammate I can be and make sure my team and coaches know I won't let them down."
And Kinnel's high school coach to Berk ($):
“Tyree comes from a great mom and dad,” said Minton. “He’s from a great close knit family and he’s not your typical high school kid that goes out and hangs out.
He’s much more like Braxton [Miller] was as they don’t mind staying in and playing a video game or something like that. He knows there are a lot of bad decisions that are out there and he doesn’t want to get caught up by anything like that.”
As for on-field ability, I posted my favorite Crawford clip as a GIF and forgot to do so for Kinnel; Kinnel's coach talked up his instincts and play recognition, and this is a fine example—watch him play bracket coverage underneath the slot receiver while managing to keep his eyes on the quarterback, then come screaming from the opposite side of the field to stop the QB's scramble cold when it looked like an inevitable first down or even touchdown:
Making that play wasn't Kinnel's responsibility; he made it anyway after taking away the deep crossing route. Add that to the quote from his Hello post about Kinnel's coaches trusting him to call defensive audibles as a rising junior and we get an idea of his level of football smarts—he's very advanced in that regard for a player his age and it shows in his play.
Crawford and Kinnel were each Michigan's first offered prospects at their respective positions; their commitments add to an impressive trend in Brady Hoke's '15 class:
Worth noting that #Michigan has gotten commits from their first offers at CB, WR, RB, S and K now. That's five of six positions committed
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) August 24, 2013
That is a remarkable stat considering four of those players—Crawford, RB Damien Harris, WR George Campbell, and K Andrew David—are considered among the very top prospects (if not the top) at their position, and only David didn't hold offers from multiple BCS powers when he committed.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Da'Shawn Hand's and Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, highlights of several Michigan commits from last weekend's high school action, and two reasons you're definitely going to want Hjalte Froholdt to end up at Michigan.]
SOON. Via Maize and Blue Nation.
The biggest debate in Michigan fandom when Devin Gardner started taking warmup snaps at Gopher Stadium was whether to cut down, or across. Denard Robinson was incapacitated for God knows how long—it would turn out to be the duration of his career, at least as far as throwing was concerned—and Russell Bellomy was fresh off a 3/16, 38-yard, 3 INT performance in the second half of the Nebraska game. Doomy doom spread its doomy fingers across the land.
"Down" was winning handily through the first quarter as Michigan went three-and-out, two-and-out (an interception) and three-and-out in the first quarter. Then…
BOOM QUARTERBACK OUT OF NOWHERE
|opposite hash no problem|
|can't step in no problem|
|opposite hash again|
|zip in zone|
|slippery NW TD|
|third and eleven ok|
|very accurate deep|
|late but accurate|
|brilliant short flick throws|
|Funchess up high|
|toying with the defense|
|pass run pass TD|
|inaccurate when feet not set|
|TD, but way inside|
|corner way short|
|some bad INTs|
|misreads cover three|
Okay, we'll go with "across." For now.
Things got better from there. Gardner completed 47 yard passes to Gallon and Roundtree and even a 22-yarder to Jerald Robinson. (Yeah, remember that guy? I tell you, you think you know everything about Michigan football and then you're shocked when Jerald Robinson shows up on a box score not even a year old.)
Gardner executed a gameplan that was conservative in run/pass breakdown (only 18 attempts for Gardner versus 41 runs) but not in type of pass called (Gardner averaged 13 yards an attempt) as Michigan gradually blew out the Gophers.
And lo, your author gazed upon it and said…
I still find myself way on the conservative end of reaction to Gardner's performance. … Gardner had plenty of wide open dudes, and his throws were erratic. On the one hand, there was the picture-perfect bomb to Gallon; on the other, Dileo and Roundtree bailed Gardner out hardcore on the touchdown drive that put the game out of reach. The Dileo catch was a circus catch all the way, one that could have been made much easier.
Roundtree == Gardner TARP. MVictors
Meanwhile Roundtree broke open by yards and would have had an easy touchdown if Gardner had gotten the ball to the endzone on the opposite hash. As it was he had to circus Michigan out of an interception.
The commenters descended upon the author in their wrath.
The UFR basically bore this out. Here's Gardner's chart for the season:
note: moved one SC IN to BA based on a UFR correction from Space Coyote.
64% is solidly in the "meh" range, though it doesn't take those four scrambles into account. Add those in and it's a B, B+ performance. Also, low sample size and an offensive coordinator seemingly determined to keep things on the ground. I was leery that the things that didn't seem repeatable from the WRs would not repeat, and Michigan would be in trouble.
The next two weeks were wow experiences. Gardner was lethal against Northwestern…
a monster day, especially when you consider those five scrambles included a touchdown on second and goal from the eight and a third and eleven conversion. …
If Gardner can be as consistently accurate on deep balls as he has been so far, four verts is going to be an absolute bitch to defend—zone up and get outnumbered deep or play man and turn your back on this guy:
…Four-fifths of the time Gardner dropped back to pass something good happened, without the aid of an even halfway-credible running game. … there was exactly one inaccurate ball, that an out in the endzone to Gallon that glanced off his fingertips.
…and Iowa, though Iowa was barely trying at that point:
Unstoppable Throw-God Trevor Siemian is like "nice throw bud." It's just ten yards but it is also from a hash to the opposite sideline, there is no coverage in the world that stops it, and given all the other throws Gardner is made that doesn't seem like luck, it just seems like what Gardner does.
The hype was just about to kick in for serious if Michigan could take out Ohio State, but a bad thing happened at a bad time.
[after THE JUMP: accuracy issues, silly numbers from everywhere, redzone efficiency, speed of thought, stand up comedy, and Mr. Burns.]
Advanced technology is on the loose:
click for small
Depth charts are always a combination of reality, politics, and the cracked-out fantasies of low-level AD staffers, but there's information to mine so mine we will:
Starting line. Not a surprise, but it's Lewan-Glasgow-Miller-Kalis-Schofield. Depth chart world second team is Braden-Bryant-Burzynski-Bars-Magnuson. In the real world it's Bryant for any interior OL and Braden for any tackle.
Asterisks. Injury asterisks accompany Courtney Avery, Jordan Paskorz, Wyatt Shallman and Jake Ryan. Ryan is obvious. Avery was spotted at the Mott practice on the sideline working with Wellman. He didn't seem to be too obviously hurt, according to reports. Paskorz is the broken hand guy we thought might be Strobel.
Avery's injury is the most worrisome since the other guys were either known or going to be fringe contributors at most. Avery was pressing to start at safety.
Raymon Taylor has fended 'em off. No OR for Taylor at LCB.
Open battle at SAM. Cam Gordon OR Brennen Beyer.
Blake Countess is your starting nickel for now. Michigan will fold him inside and play Taylor/Hollowell outside. I bet Thomas works his way into the starting lineup by midseason.
Folks not redshirting. Since Dymonte Thomas and Channing Stribling make the two-deep, you know they're playing. Jourdan Lewis is in an OR spot with Hollowell, so I'm guessing he plays as well. Jake Butt and Taco Charlton are obviously also playing.
I'm hoping that just because you're listed doesn't mean you're playing, because both freshman LBs are on there. I'd heard that Hill was probably headed for a redshirt so here's hoping.
If you say so. Jehu Chesson OR Jeremy Jackson. Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith behind all three older guys. Ryan Glasgow in front of Willie Henry.
That last one may just be plausible. The others…
No Gallon at PR. Dileo is your backup there, which yes.
UPDATE: Avery's out two weeks after a knee scope.
Also Previously: Podcast 5.0.
I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.
We stared at each other. Nobody moved.
This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.
Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.
All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.
Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.
Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.
This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.
This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.
But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.
On fourth down, they're going.
Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.
In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.
The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.
Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.
This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.