|WHAT||USA vs Nigeria
Send Off Series Friendly
|WHERE||Chad Henne Field
|WHEN||6 PM Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||I don't know man|
Super Eagles! via Vanity Fair
THE THEM: TEAM THAT FINALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ARMENIA
The US finally draws an opponent in the World Cup in their final open-door friendly. (They'll play Belgium in Brazil behind closed doors.) Nigeria's in group F with Argentina, Bosnia, and Iran. They're ranked 44th in the FIFA rankings and yes I hate World Cup draws, too.
Here is the part where I'd tell you where Nigeria falls in ESPN's Soccer Power Index, but it evaporated last week so I'm not entirely sure. This article ripping the World Cup draw process that I agree with so hard seems to have gotten them just before they disappeared, though, and it shows Nigeria 28th, approximately equal to the Greek squad Portugal just drew 0-0 with (albeit without Ronaldo) and in the vicinity of Costa Rica and Honduras.
In qualifying, Nigeria went 3-0-3 against a weak group of Malawi (122nd in the FIFA rankings), Kenya (102nd), and Namibia (120th) before defeating Ethiopia 4-1 (101st) in a two-legged playoff to claim their bid. In January they finished third in the African Nations Cup, losing the semifinal on penalties to Ghana after a 0-0 regulation; in recent World Cup friendlies they've drawn Mexico 0-0, Scotland 2-2, and Greece 0-0.
You may have figured out that this is a boring team that relies on its defense, and yes, yes they are. They had seven goals in their six group games despite playing some really bad teams, and you remember that USA-Scotland friendly. Nigeria omitted Seattle Sounders star Obafemi Martins in favor of unattached 32-year-olds with six caps and five goals for club over the past three years like Shola Ameobi, seemingly because the coach has a problem with him. So I guess it's not just Klinsmann.
Anyway. The Greece matchup was as dismal as you'd fear:
Defense and goalkeeping controlled the game in a 0-0 draw played in front of a largely pro-Greece crowd of 10,131 fans at the Chester stadium. Each team held the other in check throughout the game, preventing many quality scoring chances.
The teams managed just four shots on goal apiece.
But Klinsmann says Nigeria and Ghana play similar styles, so here they are.
Despite having an identical scoreline, the Mexico game was wide open and attacking:
So maybe the Greece thing is just Greece's ironhearted determination to be the least watchable football outfit on the planet.
Nigeria is threatening on the break and looks to counter; they are seemingly disorganized on set pieces, though: Mexico had four grade-A opportunities from dead balls.
While the lineup against Mexico was listed as a 4-4-2, it looked like a 4-3-3 for big chunks of the game; Liverpool-by-way-of-Chelsea forward Victor Moses is one of those striker/winger hybrids with Fenerbache's Emmanuel Emenike the main guy up top; Chelsea's John Obi Mikel is the heart of the midfield.
Like Ghana (and the US!), defense looks like it may be the Achilles' heel. A quick glance at the clubs of the players called up is enough to confirm that: the Nigerian defense includes two local players, a couple of guys in the English second tier, and just one player at anything resembling a big club: left back Eldereson Echiejile plays for French runners-up Monaco, and by "plays" I mean "mostly watches"—he had five appearances last year.
With limited exceptions, Nigeria is young and very athletic. They're likely to have one guy older than 27 start, that 33-year old captain Joseph Yobo, a central defender.
DEFENSIVE DEBACLE ON THE LEFT
Fancy soccer charting service Opta defines a "key pass" as the last pass before a shot attempt. The above is a chart of Turkish key passes against the USA. While the end point of the pass is not always the location the shot comes from*, it's a pretty good approximation when combined with your first-hand observations. The above chart amply demonstrates the debacle that combining Timmy Chandler and Brad Davis resulted in. The vast majority of chances originated on the USA's left flank; exactly one remotely threatening ball—the horizontal ball from #18 that ended up in the box—came in from the right side of the defense.
*[For instance, that super-long cross field pass from the Turkish side of midfield was the WTF ball that beat everyone and resulted in a shot from just outside the six-yard box.]
Crosses tell much the same story.
The Turks got in three crosses on the USA's right flank from the dangerous areas near the end line versus eight from the left. there were eight-ish more from moderately dangerous areas compared to three or four on the right. (The extremely deep crosses from 18 are almost harmless.) Whatever the US was doing on the left, it was not working.
While any soccer event has a thousand fathers, to my eye the chief blame was because of a mutual and profound cluelessness from both purportedly left-sided players. I noted some positional issues in the Turkey recap, where scoring chances came with Davis not even on the left half of the field; SI's Liviu Bird highlights another instance:
A taste of the U.S.'s poor defensive shape — in midfield and the back line — against Turkey. Should've been punished: pic.twitter.com/IrrGHYlzNf
— Liviu Bird (@liviubird) June 3, 2014
Bird also posted a stunning shot from just before the Chandler gift where Brooks is in fact outside of Chandler, because Chandler has once again inexplicably pulled up from the back four to no purpose.
Could this have been intentional? Is the US sliding its formation right, pretending that Turkey is Portugal and getting the ball off of Ronaldo's foot? It does not matter. Giving Portuguese right wing Nani the kind of time and space on the ball that the Turkish right was afforded in this game and Ronaldo's just raining in headers from Nani's pinpoint crosses.
So this is the thing that needs to get fixed.
GOALIE: Whoever, but I'd guess Guzan gets the start.
DEFENSE: Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson/Yedlin.
Well, you know my opinion on how Chandler did. This is probably the last time I'll get to mention it, so let me just reiterate how unbelievably bad he was on the goal that he handed to the Turks: not only did he give the ball away like a six-year-old, not only did his bizarre positional error start the move, but when the guy with the ball got to the near post, Chandler ran away from him! Guzan and the Turk had a jerky dance-off, and then the guy used the epic amounts of room provided to plink one off of Cameron's hand.
And the above charts. My God man. Beasley's not perfect, but neither does he run around handing out goals. To favor Chandler over him after the last two performances from Timmah in a US shirt is pure eurosnobbery.
Brooks looked pretty good in his run-out in the last 45 minutes but made too many big errors (that last image from Bird is very much a WTF thing) to displace Besler. I would guess we see him again at some point; the two starters will keep starting in an effort to get some chemistry together.
Johnson is your starting right back; might be time to put him on the shelf to keep his legs fresh and avoid injury. If Johnson does start, Yedlin at halftime is highly likely.
MIDFIELD: Jones/Beckerman, Bradley, Bedoya, Zusi.
Bradley is the man; unlike Johnson he's still working out positional kinks and trying to find his passing boots more consistently. Meanwhile the holding mid war will likely continue in 45 minute increments.
Look for the US to adopt an approach closer to the one they deployed in the second half, with Bradley shuttling back and sometimes interchanging with the other central midfielder, then taking over when it's time to surge forward. This will allow the wingers to spread wider and hopefully prevent the same kind of exposure the left endured against the Turks.
On the wings, Bedoya and Zusi look like near-certainties. Zusi is by far the USA's best set piece option who isn't a defensive trainwreck; Bedoya has the speed and athleticism to help cover the USA's weaker flank. Even if he's not looking like much going forward, he's got to be it.
Diskerud should see more minutes as a sub, and I guess Davis.
Might they play together?
ALTERNATE UNVERSE: if the US is truly dedicated to the idea of a narrow diamond midfield, there's little need to pretend your right and left midfielders are anything that looks like a winger. Zusi remains mandatory because set pieces, but if you're going to tuck your guys in so extremely a setup featuring all three of Bradley, Beckerman, and Jones is feasible, with Jones your nominally left-sided midfielder.
That provides a ton more bite and defense on your weak flank without sacrificing much, if anything. It's clear Davis doesn't know WTF he should be doing; Jones is not going to be a downgrade there, and then his pressing, ball-winning ways come with another pure holder on the field. He can also cover for an advanced fullback reasonably well.
Squad depth then becomes a major concern, of course.
FORWARD: Altidore, Dempsey
Absent a drastic change in formation, Altidore is mandatory as the only holder. Dempsey is trying to learn how to work with him and Bradley; the US should value whatever chemistry they can acquire over the distant chance something goes awry. Johannsson and Wondo should both pop in, you'd think.
WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, OTHER THAN EVERYTHING
Diamond versus 4-2-3-1, part III. The US tried to shut up shop a bit in the second half by withdrawing Bradley, and the pace of Turkish chances did slow somewhat. Clearly something has to change lest more ruthless teams than the Turks pile up the goals. The thing that makes the most sense is to go back to more of a flat midfield four with a designated holder who allows Bradley to maraud forward. The US were forced into something similar in their qualifier against Panama last year, when Cameron was the other central mid:
That game could easily have ended 5-0. Call it a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1; either way it seems like the best balance of defense and attack available.
Do we see something weird? See above about Jones and Beckerman on the field simultaneously. If the idea in the Turkey game was to overload the Ronaldo side of the field and force the ball away from it, I can see that being workable… but obviously not with Davis. Given the holes on the roster, some outside the box thinking might be in line.
Is there a way to get Diskerud or Johannsson on the field for a start? A corollary to the "something weird" question: will Klinsmann look at either of those guys for the Donovan-shaped hole at left mid? Is it completely crazy to consider a 4-3-3 with the three holders and something like Johannsson/Altidore/Dempsey up top? Probably! Almost certainly! I will do just about anything to displace the Landon-Donovan-shaped hole!
Can Yedlin force his way into the lineup? Johnson is locked in on the right for Portugal, you'd assume. But Yedlin showed very well against the Turks and it's not going to take that much for a Johnson-LB, Yedlin-RB lineup to seem like the best option in a non-Ronaldo world. I'm still guessing that Beasley has the edge unless there's a major issue with his play against Nigeria.
Can a forward score a real goal? Not just to shut Twellman up about it, because he's not entirely wrong. But, yeah, partially.
SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
From the man himself, it's official—USC running back transfer Ty Isaac is coming to Michigan:
I will be attending the University of Michigan this year
— Ty Isaac (@TyIsaac) June 5, 2014
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Ty Isaac's Twitter background is the album cover of Biggie's Ready To Die, making this transfer even more full of win than originally thought.
We still await word on whether Isaac will receive a hardship waiver that allows him to play this fall or if he'll have to sit out a year. Even though Michigan is outside the 100-mile radius that's the normal NCAA standard for granting a hardship, the reason Isaac transferred was so his mother—who's developed an ear condition that prevents her from flying—could drive to his games, something she can do from their Illinois home.
I thought I'd written a Hello post draft back in 2012, when Isaac was down to USC or Michigan in his recruitment. Turns out, the running back whose commitment post never saw the light of day was Bri'onte Dunn. An informative update is forthcoming.
5*, #7 RB,
5*, #4 RB,
4*, 83, #13 ATH,
4*, 95, #5 APB,
4*, #8 RB,
Coming out of high school, the recruiting services regarded Isaac as either one of the very best running backs in the country or a top-100-ish athlete. Naturally, ESPN ranks him the lowest despite an extremely positive scouting report (more on that below).
We don't have to take a guess as to his size; Isaac clocked in at 6'3", 225 pounds as a freshman last season at USC. He's a tall, upright back with the bulk to mash between the tackles and the height/hands combination to be a really dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield.
While Isaac had grabbed the attention of scouts as soon as he played on Joliet Catholic's varsity squad as a freshman, it's hard not to start this section with his record-shattering performance as a junior in the Illinois 5A state championship game, because GOOD GOD:
With 6 minutes and 40 seconds left in the first half, Isaac had already broken the Class 5A title record of 210 yards, set by Rock Island’s Alonzo Wise in 1997. With 48 seconds left until halftime, he had 376 yards, breaking a school record and the all-time IHSA rushing record for yards in a state title game regardless of class. Maine South’s Matt Perez had the previous mark in a Class 8A title game with 316 yards against Marist in 2009.
Isaac finished with 515 YARDS AND SIX TOUCHDOWNS ON 26 CARRIES, which definitely merits ALL-CAPS treatment. Search YouTube for "Ty Isaac state championship" and you get a series of clips like this, in which he makes one cut and then explodes past everybody for a touchdown:
Fits zone running scheme: check.
The massive amount of attention Isaac received for his performance didn't please him, however, as Joliet Catholic's defense collapsed and the team fell to Montini, 70-45:
"It wasn’t even something you could enjoy, it was something we needed," Isaac said. "We had to put points up. At the end of the day, it was really irrelevant."
Fits The Pattern™: check.
Aside from his eye-popping numbers, Isaac most impressed scouts with his combination of size, athleticism, and receiving ability. Scout's profile listed his strengths as breakaway speed, change-of-direction, and hands—blocking was the sole area for improvement—accompanied by this scouting report:
Tall, good sized back with the speed to break long runs. Is very smooth, changes directions well and has deceptive elusiveness. Is an excellent route runner and receiver out of the backfield who occasionally can split out or play in the slot. Does a lot of running from the wingback position, so he'll likely have to get used to inside running and blitz pick-up from a more traditional tailback spot in college. - Allen Trieu
"There was some talk that maybe Ty would flash out to the wide receiver position in college because of his size," said Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helmholdt. "I definitely think his upside is at running back, but that attests to his abilities as a receiver.
"He is a natural pass catcher with soft hands and obviously the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He could flash out into the slot at times and create mismatches with linebackers and safeties."
That could make him a great complement to Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, both of whom are much more accomplished runners than receivers. That's not to say Isaac doesn't hold his own as a runner; Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated said there was "not much to critique" in the room for improvement area of this scouting report, while the positives were... quite positive ($):
A polished, fundamentally sound, shifty, explosive running back with excellent size, athleticism and an even-keeled demeanor on and off the football field. A long, explosive, gliding stride with excellent knee lift. Great vision and a find-the-hole, hit-the-hole mentality with the ability to anticipate where the next wave of tacklers is coming from and cut it back against the grain. Weaves through traffic with the greatest of ease.
A naturally instinctive running back. Has the unusual ability for a prep running back to hit the hole square, and then make cuts off a wide, balanced base. Has an explosive gear once the path to paydirt comes in his radar. Nice forward lean with the football. Appears to protect the football well.
Hi. I would like ALL OF THAT. Prister went on to compare Isaac to Eddie George, another big upright back whom you may remember winning the Heisman at Ohio State.
There were concerns coming out of college, given Isaac's film heavy on untouched bursts into the secondary—sorry for being so good, I guess—that he lacked between-the-tackles power or the willingness to run though contact. That's not what ESPN saw when they updated their scouting report for Signing Day 2013 ($):
More of a one-cut-and-get-north type of back, but his vision reading linebacker flow and balance going against the grain are impressive. Has lateral quicks to slip pursuit. He has good feet for his size and the patience needed to follow blocks and let the hole open up. Very good initial take off with a long stride burst to turn the corner. While he can exploit a crease and accelerate through the second level, he makes his mark on strength and will likely do so at the next level. This is a strong runner who can be a load to wrap up solidly, particularly high, when he gets square to the line and utilizes his good downhill burst. Needs to be conscious of pad level and improve lean, but shows good body balance at contact. He's a hard runner who can finish and get the tough yard. Has a sturdy frame with high toughness for multiple carries.
Isaac's stock dropped a little bit as a senior, though Scout's Allen Trieu chalked this up to nagging injuries and less-than-stellar competition when he ranked Isaac as the #2 Illinois prospect in his class behind (sigh) Laquon Treadwell ($):
Isaac had a lot to battle this year. He had to fight injury as well as a growing sentiment that he did not play great competition in high school. Maybe those folks forgot about what he did as a junior, or his six touchdowns in the state title game against a good Montini team. He has good size, speed, and a smooth running style that has him compared with some of the USC greats that he now inherits the mantle from. He's also a great receiver out of the backfield, another asset he will bring to SoCal.
So that gets us through his high school career. Isaac's college career got off to a slow start, as he received just ten carries through the first nine games in a crowded backfield. After a breakout performance against Cal (11 carries, 87 yards, 2 TDs) in the tenth game, he mentioned one of the primary reasons it took him a while to get into gear:
Arriving on campus this summer after a storied high school career in which he rushed for a total of 5,305 yards out of a prolific double-wing attack, Isaac had some difficulties early on as he made the switch from wingback to tailback in USC’s intricate pro-style scheme.
“It was a shock to the system,” Isaac said. “I ran about five plays in high school, and now I’ve got five different reads on one play, so that was definitely something that I had to adjust to.”
Even though he must switch systems once again, it'll be far less of a transition than going from a very simple high school offense that utilized him as a wingback to a complicated pro-style attack with him as a traditional tailback.
Programs to offer Isaac out of high school included Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
If you're really curious, you can read a remarkably extensive history of Joliet Catholic football here.
As a high school junior, Isaac rushed for 2629 yards and 42 touchdowns on 203 carries, posting a ridiculous 13 yards per carry, while adding 360 yards and seven more TDs on 16 receptions (22.5 ypc). I can't find senior stats more specific than 1500 yards and 22 touchdowns on an unknown number of rushes—still not bad for an injury-plagued year.
At USC, he toted the rock 40 times for 236 yards (5.9 ypc) and two TDs, and chipped in four receptions for 57 yards.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.45. I can't find the source of the time, so I'll give it four FAKEs out of five. That would be very impressive for a back of that size, and while Isaac shows off solid top-end speed, he's not a pure burner.
Junior highlights, featuring a whole lot of that state title game:
While Cal's defense was, well, bad, you're still going to want to check out his second touchdown run in that game:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
A lot of this depends on the status of Isaac's redshirt. If he receives his NCAA waiver and is allowed to play right away, he should factor in immediately to Michigan's running back rotation—he has a size/skill combination, especially when it comes to receiving, that no other U-M back can boast.
If he doesn't get the waiver, that might actually work out best for U-M, as it would put Isaac a year of eligibility behind Green and Smith and give him a clear shot at the full-time starting gig in a few years. Of course, he may very well earn that role before Green and Smith graduate; there's a lot of unknown when it comes to the running backs given the state of the offensive line. No matter what, he should see the field whenever he's allowed to.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
This is where the NCAA waiver really comes into play. If Isaac redshirts this season, the need to land an elite back in the 2015 class is somewhat alleviated. If he doesn't, getting a back who will be ready to start in a few years will still be very important. Michigan should take a back regardless, but a potential extra year of Isaac on the roster would soften the blow of possibly missing out on both Damien Harris and Mike Weber.
Michigan expects to land USC transfer running back Ty Isaac, who according to a source is working through the admissions process with the school and committed some time after his visit this week.
Perhaps anything can happen but Isaac has given the Wolverines strong indications that he'll be attending school in Ann Arbor, according to the source.
Sam Webb was saying much the same except with the requisite caution that comes along with being a daily recruiting reporter for a particular school where the fans hold grudges forever.
Isaac, a five star to Rivals and Scout last year, averaged 5.5 yards a carry in sparing time as a freshman at USC. At 6'2" with an upright style, the closest comparison in recent Michigan history is Brandon Minor, though Isaac displayed some pretty fantastic hands in high school and could be a guy Michigan looks at as a wide receiver if someone actually steps up at running back.
Isaac will apply for a hardship waiver; his mom can no longer fly because of an ear issue and he'd like to be closer to home. If he gets it he'll be in the same class as De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green; if not he'd slot in a class behind them. Ace has a Hello post from last year that he gets to post now, and we'll do that when the "perhaps anything can happen" phase passes and Isaac himself is saying he'll end up at M.
As it turns out, taking this kind of beating has a long-lasting effect. [Fuller]
We all know that a well-timed hit on a passing quarterback, whether or not it results in a sack, makes it far less likely that pass will be completed, not to mention more likely to fall into the hands of a defender. It stands to reason, as well, that the cumulative effect of multiple hits on a quarterback will eventually affect his performance even when he's not taking hits.
Devin Gardner's 2013 season stands as a testament to this hypothesis. After the MSU seven-sack breaking point, there were several occasions when it seemed like he simply didn't have the juice to make certain throws that he didn't have any trouble making before his body was demolished piece by piece.
A recent article from the excellent site Pro Football Focus helpfully quantifies the effect of such punishment on a quarterback's accuracy and interception rate, using a data sample of every NFL throw from the past six years. As a quarterback takes more hits over the course of a game, their accuracy predictably plummets—on every throw, not just the ones when they're eating a defender:
After every sack or hit the quarterback takes, their Accuracy Percentage decreases by an average of a half of a percent. While that might not seem like much, there also isn’t much difference between the best and worst quarterbacks in the league. Based on the graph, an above average quarterback after five hits or sacks performs as well as an average quarterback with no hits or sacks. Once that above average quarterback has been sacked or hit 10 times, they play as well as a below average quarterback who hasn’t been sacked or hit.
The article also shows that interception rates increase substantially as the hits pile up, and more experienced quarterbacks are much better at mitigating these effects than rookie signal-callers—something to keep in mind when considering the relative merits of Gardner and Shane Morris.
When looking at Michigan's 2013 season, there's no question Gardner was a victim of this phenomenon. There's also evidence that he's better than most at handling the heat:
|2 sacks or fewer||152||94||61.8||10.1||7.9||3.9|
The heroic Ohio State (3 sacks) performance skews the numbers, though in fairness, so did Indiana's defense on the other. Even so, Gardner performed markedly better when not under constant pressure, especially when it came to producing yards and points.
The oddball interception rates can be chalked up to the concerted effort by Gardner to make fewer risky plays as the season went along. The desperation throwaways that resulted in stuff like the Stephon Tuitt pick-six turned into sacks intelligently taken as the season wore on, to the benefit of the turnover margin and serious detriment to Gardner's health and ability to make big plays on the ground or through the air.
So here's the hopeful part. Imagine a world in which Michigan has a running game that can move the ball forwards, forcing defenses to respect the run instead of pinning their ears back and going full-bore for Gardner's chest. Imagine a coherent Michigan offense that finds a way to counter the constant opponent blitzes. Imagine a full season of an offense directed by an NFL-level talent who doesn't end half his games resembling a coal miner.
This could very well be Michigan's reality in 2014. If it is, expect Devin Gardner to do big things.
The goal: to put together a team of Big Ten players that seems like a better team than your competitors. Incidentally we'll learn a surprising amount about the league and where Michigan might fit in.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON
- Everyone not grabbing dual-threat senior QBs grabs defensive linemen
- Seth takes Venric Mark in front of just about everyone
- Nothing terribly remarkable happens
- BISB takes all the guys I want
WHERE WE'RE AT PRESENTLY
ROUND 9 – Pick 1: Theiren Cockran, DE, Minnesota
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), RB Melvin Gordon (UW), WR Stefon Diggs (MD), OT Rob Havenstein(WI)
D: DE Frank Clark(MI), DE Theiren Cockran (MN), DT Darius Hamilton(RU), DT Carl Davis(IA), CB Trae Waynes (MSU)
BRIAN: I'll complete my DL with Cockran, who is another one of those Minnesota linemen that enter school as a 6'6" basketball player and take some time to pack on the weight. In Cockran's case he arrived at 210 pounds(!) and needed about a year and a half to get up to anything resembling plausible. When he did that, he popped into a starting job and immediately produced. Cockran matched the sack numbers of Bosa, Calhoun, and Spence without getting any of them by running over Fitz Toussaint. He made second-team All Big Ten as a result.
Cockran did that at 245 and with plenty more space on his 6'6" frame he should add another 20 or so pounds this year to become more of an all-around force. A still-raw true sophomore, he's about to Hageman your asses.
Also, while you guys were falling all over yourselves to pick piles of near-identical DEs I picked up the league's best QB, RB, CB, WR, and run-blocking tackle. Meanwhile I only got a first round DT, two second-team All Big Ten performers from a year ago, and a five star recruit with double digit TFLs as a true sophomore. Whatever shall we do?
ROUND 9 - PICK 2: Darius Kilgo, NT, Maryland
more like Darius KILLGO
O: RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DE/DT Andre Monroe (MD), NT Darius Kilgo (MD), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW), CB Desmond King (IA)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
ACE: You never should've assigned me both FFFF duties and the HTTV opponent previews, Brian. The student is becoming the master.
/sees Hamilton pick
Regardless, you haven't snarked at one of my picks since Round 4, which has to be some sort of record. I've got legitimate arguments for best RB, WR, and TE, I definitely have the best OT, and on defense I can lay claim to best all-around WLB and 3-tech/SDE/whatever I decide to do with Monroe. Also, beg to differ on the whole "best run-blocking tackle in the B1G" thing:
Yes, I made that GIF just to prove a point. What of it?
Anyway, it looks like we're poised for a run on defensive tackles, so I'll make my move here and once again grab an overlooked Maryland lineman. I probably shouldn't have to tell you anything other than "is a 310-pound redshirt senior named DARIUS KILGO" but I'll do so anyway.
While Brian drafted Carl Davis way back in the second round, Kilgo isn't too far off from Davis on 2015 NFL Draft rankings—or, in this case, ranked above him—especially when you separate the nose tackles from the three-techs. I discussed Maryland's strong defensive line when nabbing Andre Monroe; Bill Connelly is a fan, and the first name out of his mouth after Monroe's when discussing the Terp front seven was Kilgo's:
Darius Kilgo proved an agile, interesting force at nose tackle.
Kilgo's ascension to starting nose tackle in 2012 coincided with Maryland's rush defense shaving over a full yard per carry off their opponent average, from 4.7 down to 3.5. He tallied five TFLs and two sacks that season, and followed it up with 6.5 TFLs and another pair of sacks in 2013. For a 3-4 nose facing consistent double-teams, those are impressive numbers; he holds up against multiple blockers and still finds a way to occasionally knife into the backfield.
As for that "interesting, agile force" bit... yeah. Great jump, violent hands, scary closing speed on the QB ... I'm impressed, and again, that's my nose tackle. This defensive line is going to bring the noise and the funk. Also the pain. Definitely the pain.
So, uh, should we start worrying about the Maryland game yet? Because I'm definitely doing that.
[AFTER THE JUMP: really, just far far too much discussion about a single Rutgers OL.]
HUZZAH! The Kickstarter has been Kickstarted. HTTV shall be printed, just as Steve Gutenberg anticipated when he invented the four-color glossy printing press in 1988. Not only that, but with Draftstreet picking up the tab for express shipping, you will receive it mere seconds after it is mailed. But what will you actually GET for your money?* I thought it might be interesting for people who contributed to get a sneak peek at what is in this year’s HTTV, as well as to hopefully convince those of you on the fence to secure your copy while you still can.
*Disclaimer: I have not seen the magazine yet, so these are just my assumptions of what will be in there. But it all seems pretty likely.
Full Team Preview
Brian provides an in-depth look at every position group. Some tidbits:
- The defensive line section spends a couple of pages analyzing the various positions along the DL, including how Michigan will adapt to Ondre Pipkins’ injury, how the snap distribution is likely to shake out at the 3-tech DT spot, and whether we can expect Frank Clark to take another step forward.
- The parts about the linebackers and secondary are a combined 37 pages long, and largely consist of hand-drawn battle scenes of Jake Ryan and Jabrill Peppers attacking ninjas and robot dinosaurs with fighter jets and tanks. Complete with “neeeeeeeerrrrrrrVRROOOOOOOMMM” sound effects.
The part about the offensive line is a quarter of a page long, and consists mostly of a drawing of a seven-legged spider.
- The quarterback section is exactly one word long. I can’t tell you what it is, but it rhymes with “Kevin.”
- The running back section is just a list of every calorie Derrick Green has consumed since the end of last season.
- The wide receiver section is a full-page explanation of why Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, not a tight end.
- The tight end section is a full-page explanation of why Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, not a tight end.
Ace basically watched every available snap of every opponent Michigan will face this year other than Notre Dame and Ohio State. He broke the tape down, player by player, until he had a handle on the personnel and how they were used in the various offensive and defensive schemes. He then looked at the teams in the broader context of their previous seasons and used everything to put together a comprehensive and cohesive picture of what we can expect in 2014.
Meanwhile, I Googled “what is Notre Dame football” and “Ohio State intelligence joke” and pretty much copied and pasted the first few results. Between the two of us, this is what we found:
- Appalachian State is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Miami (NTM) is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Rutgers is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Maryland might actually be good and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Michigan State will be good and we shouldn’t be playing them where we are playing them.
- Minnesota is probably bad but BROWN JUG.
- The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the intercollegiate football team of the University of Notre Dame. The team is currently coached by Brian Kelly and play home games at the campus’s Notre Dame Stadium, with a capacity of 80,795.
- Ohio State ain’t come to play school.
Twisted Blue Steel
The creative essay portion of HTTV. People wax poetic on things of interest. This year's things of interest:
- A farewell to Jeremy Gallon. If you were wondering how many ways in 2,000 words you can call someone short without using the word “short,” the answer is 61.
- A farewell to Denard. Yeah, I know. He left two years ago. SHUT UP AND READ ABOUT DENARD.
- A farewell to Trey Burke. See above.
- An inspiring piece about the scrappy underdog tale of Hunter Lochmann. From his childhood days with a Darren Rovell poster on his wall and nothing but hand-me-down marketing plans, he learned the game from his sandlot strategy meetings, and managed to fight his way to the top. I challenge you to not cry at the description of the slow clap that follows his first successful SEO initiative.
The X’s and O’s. Space Coyote does a lot of it, so I don’t fully understand it. But it looks impressive, and I’ll take his word for it.
- An explanation of the change to the 4-3 Over from the 4-3 Under, and something about Doug Nussmeier. Blah blah.
- A detailed explanation of how running plays are designed to, under ideal circumstances, move the ball closer to the end zone.
- A bunch of pretty pictures with lines and stuff.
There are also a few other tidbits and other assorted whatnot buried in the book. I don’t want to give them all away, because half of the fun is finding them for yourself, but here are a few:
- The first letters of every line will give you a really nice recipe for chicken tetrazzini. The secret is nutmeg.
- The lower right-hand corner acts as a flipbook of the Dileo power-slide.
- The paper is made from real recycled pieces of Devin Gardner’s ribs. This wasn’t actually intentional; Michigan State just sacked him into a paper mill when this particular batch of paper was being made.
- Everyone who purchases HTTV will have a chance to play three snaps at right guard this season.
- If you read HTTV while listening to Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction," it syncs up in a really cool way. If you read at the right speed. And change some of the lyrics.
One Other Reason
There is one other reason to buy this magazine: you will want this magazine. You might not think so right now, because this has been a long and generally crappy few months. You don't think you'll be excited about this football season. I know, because I felt the same way. And then I started watching video of last year's Michigan/Notre Dame game and Michigan/Ohio State game to write my stuff, and I remembered how much I love college football.
You'll get there, too. It might be in early August, or it might not be until the team runs out of the tunnel, but you will get there. You'll get that familiar feeling of anticipation and dread that has accompanied those September saturdays your entire adult life. Regardless of the team turmoil or the weak schedule, it will at some point strike you that Michigan is playing football, and you will once again fall under the autumn spell. There's no shame in it. It happens to the best of us.
The only question is whether you will be prepared.