this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Yesterday's Picture Pages covered extensive confusion on Michigan's part as they tried to run basic isos against a basic defense but couldn't get the ILBs blocked, with a side of playcalls that leave guys alone in the hopes that accounting for end-around motion or the threat of an option play will draw players away from the actual threat.
A second major reason Nebraska had unblocked guys all over the place was blockers seeing a player shoot past them quickly and reacting. I've been doing this for a while now and this sort of thing has become one of my pet peeves. A blocker will see a defensive player run past them clean. They now have two options:
- Turn around and get that guy.
- Know—or at least hope—that wasn't your guy and find someone else to block.
Door A never works. They don't block the guy they missed, and they don't block anyone further downfield. When another blocker takes care of the aggressive player or the ballcarrier outruns him, the play is still screwed up because another defender is coming free.
This happened to Michigan on consecutive plays at the end of the first quarter. On the first, Michigan runs the veer from a 4-wide formation. Nebraska responds with two safeties at about ten yards and 5.5 guys in the box, as was their wont:
You can see the nickelback cheating off Dileo presnap, and he will come.
Remember earlier in the year when I was complaining that the linebackers didn't seem to understand that when the line slanted one way they should be moving against it since that is where the ball is likely to end up? This is an offensive version of that.
Dileo should know these things when the corner comes:
- Michigan is running the inverted veer.
- A blitzing corner is invariably the defense's force player—he contains and forces the runner inside.
- On an inverted veer the force player will be optioned off by the running back. The quarterback will have the ball going vertically.
So does he need to block the corner? No. Will he block the corner? Well, this post exists, so deduct for yourself.
Michigan snaps the ball and runs the veer. Barnum pulls. Here's the mesh point:
45 degrees from downhill—okay
The playside end is hugging the back of the tackle who's ignoring him. This is normally a give by Robinson, and Michigan has picked up some decent chunks early by giving. Denard pulls this time, which is good because that corner is coming to make the give a likely TFL. Nebraska made it easy by tipping that the nickelback was coming presnap.
Dileo should move to the next level, but he turns and starts pursuing the nickelback.
90 degrees! alert!
Argh. At this point the guy is gone, and even if Dileo makes contact there's a good chance he'll pick up a block in the back call. To add insult to injury, trying to block this guy you can't block is purposeless—he's already going to be optioned off.
- Barnum picks up the end.
- Schofield gets his free release and engages the MLB.
The coast is clear!
turned around: dead
Dawwwww, unblocked safety. Unblocked safeties.
Five yards, and Dileo comes back in at the end to go "dawwwwww."
If Dileo can cut that safety like Joe Reynolds did against State, that is six points. Even if the safety keeps his feet and contains, that's likely a first down.
[AFTER THE JUMP: dawwwww not again.]
[Things got a little pushed back this week in part due to the basketball preview. FFFF is going up now, obviously, and the recruiting roundup is bumped to Friday. There will be a final basketball outlook piece this afternoon and I'll be covering the NMU game tonight.]
Just for you, Brian
Thanks to some DVR-related hijinks and the scarcity of Minnesota football torrents, this week I'm breaking down the Minnesota-Wisconsin matchup from two weekends ago, a game that ended in a 38-13 Wisconsin victory. This was the first start for true freshman Philip Nelson, who looked like a freshman but not an entirely overwhelmed one, and an awful game for the Gopher defense, which ceded 337 rushing yards on 6.2 ypc.
To the breakdown!
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Very, very spread—before I stopped charting with the score 38-13 midway through the fourth, Minnesota had run exactly two offensive snaps from under center, one coming on a third-and-short.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Mostly zone read stuff for the Gophers, though they'll also mix in some gap blocking principles.
Hurry it up or grind it out? With a freshman QB, Minnesota wasn't going too high-tempo; this isn't unusual, as they currently plod along at 110th in the country in adjusted plays per game.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Assuming Nelson sticks at quarterback, which is the plan, the Gopher QB provides a running threat but not a big-play threat; aside from a 17-yard scamper when he shockingly juked Chris Borland in space, Nelson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and didn't get any yards that weren't provided by the blocking. I'll give him a 5; if quarterback-turned-receiver Marqueis Gray is forced into action, Michigan faces a much better athlete that probably merits an 8.
Dangerman: The aforementioned Gray is Minnesota's best athlete at any position. He's only got eight catches this season as a result of bouncing between receiver and quarterback, but he's the only Gopher who really poses a major matchup problem at 6'4", 245 lbs., with impressive athleticism. Nelson targeted Gray frequently against the Badgers, though their timing was often off; he's a big target and a nice safety valve to have on the outside.
Zook Factor: Nothing too egregious from Jerry Kill on this day, though after Minnesota's touchdown late in the third quarter, he attempted an onsides kick by lining up practically his entire kickoff team between the hashes—rather obvious, guys—instead of going for a surprise onsides kick. Wisconsin recovered with relative ease.
Hennechart: Nelson was most accurate when going up the seam off play-action, largely because those plays (one of which is detailed in the breakdown below) usually netted a wide-open receiver. When asked to read coverage or fit a pass into a small window, he struggled—not surprising for a freshman throwing his first career passes:
Asterisks denote a BRX or INX—an especially bad read or inaccurate throw—and Nelson had one of each on his pair of interceptions; the first came on an ugly overthrow on a deep hitch that allowed a recovering defensive back to jump and grab, the second when he threw a slant into an unseen linebacker in underneath coverage.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown, including one of the better-blocked runs you'll ever see (by Wisconsin, of course)]
Formation notes: Much of the game was spent with Michigan in 2WR looks, leading to a lot of 4-3's like this with the linebackers shifted over the slot and a cornerback overhanging. When the receivers were split instead of twinned Michigan either got a straight up 4-3 even with two deep safeties or a shifted 4-4 look.
When Michigan spread the field, Nebraska defenders would go with them. Against three wide looks you got this:
And against four wide looks it was usually this:
Occasionally a safety would screw down but there weren't enough snaps with Denard on the field and M in a true spread to test it. Interestingly enough, I saw both Oregon and Arizona run double stacks last weekend like Borges does, except when they ran double stacks those stacks were damn near the edge of the field.
Substitution notes: Nothing new except for the obvious switch at QB. Rawls still can't get a snap. Funchess is playing all over the field, but rarely as an in-line TE.
[After the jump: it's okay and then DOOOOM.]
Bowlettes [Updated for clarity]:
- Devin Gardner has been taking most of the snaps at QB this week. Denard is obviously limited during his recovery, but I think it's curious that Bellomy has gotten only "a couple," regardless of whether he's the No. 1 or No. 2 backup. You'd expect Gardner and Bellomy to split reps equally and compete for the top backup spot. Plausible explanation: Bellomy is also limited by some undisclosed injury. (I don't know for sure, but it's an educated guess.) Either way, it sounds like Gardner is the bona fide starting QB until Denard recovers.
- As of now, Denard is expected back for Saturday. Hoke says the final call on the quarterback situation will be made just before game time. If you have been paying attention to Michigan's football program over the last season and a half, however, you have surmised that Michigan is highly unlikely to make this kind of decision just before game time. That decision will probably be made very soon if it has not been made already.
- If the distribution of QB snaps (see above) and Michigan's track record for saying things that turn out not to be true (e.g. previous injury reports and recovery projections, most notably during the Nebraska game, "Michigan says Denard will return to the game in the second half ...") are any indication, I would guess the probability that Denard plays on Saturday is around 50%, maybe less. In the absence of real information though, anything is possible; I'm not optimistic, but I never am.
- Amara Darboh and Joe Reynolds have gotten the reps at receiver that Gardner is now missing.
“Thought we came out yesterday and had a really good practice. That’s good to see. We didn’t play as well as we’d like to. I think everybody understands that, but I think we’ve moved forward and did a lot of things as a team very well. Competed very well. We’re pretty physical with each other, which is always a good thing. You don’t have guys feeling sorry for themselves, so the intensity level was good.”
Can you talk at all about the division of snaps at quarterback?
“You know, I couldn’t give you an exact number, to be honest with you. You know, Denard took some, Devin took a lot, and then Russell took a couple.”
Will Denard play on Saturday?
“We’re planning on it.”
Does he have any physical limitations?
“Not really. Not right now. He’s better. It’s not all the way cleared up yet, but it’s better.”
As reported by Scout's Allen Trieu, Michigan has picked up a commitment from Westland (MI) John Glenn WR Da'Mario Jones, who was previously a Central Michigan commit until getting a coveted Wolverine offer today:
"Actually, I was in my school library, and Coach Borges called and I picked up the phone and he said they gave me a full ride. I talked it over with my parents and we felt it was the best thing for me to do. I'm officially decommitted from Central Michigan."
Jones camped at Michigan, went to the BBQ at the Big House, and several games this year, but he says the relationship with the school began much earlier than that.
"Michigan is where it all started. They influenced me into playing, so it wasn't hard to the make decision based off that. We visited several times and I liked the area, the city is close to home, and everything's right."
The timing of the offer leads me to believe that picking up Jones is a response to Gareon Conley's probable decommitment and not an indication that Michigan is out of the running with IL WR Laquon Treadwell; Sam Webb believes the same. Jones is Michigan's third wide receiver pledge in the 2013 class—joining Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York—and, at least for the moment, their 23rd commitment overall.
|NR WR||NR WR||3*, 78, #77 WR||3*, 84, #151 WR|
Jones, who plays in a run-heavy attack at John Glenn, is currently very much under the radar, garnering three-star rankings from two of the four services. All four sites list him at 6'2" and between 185 and 195 pounds; with Michigan recruiting a lot of taller, bulkier wideouts, this suggests that he's destined for the slot.
There's not a whole lot out there scouting-wise on Jones, but we do get an evaluation from ESPN [emphasis mine] ($):
Jones has intriguing qualities and growth upside. He may not be a great speed guy, but is fast enough. Has a good solid frame to work with, needs to add strength, but possesses very good measurables. Shows adequate-to-good speed on tape. Has good height and arm length. Long strider that has good, but not great quickness and is pretty high cut. Has some ability to stop and start, but lacks elite explosion. ... Puts his shoulder down and fights for extra yards. Gives up his body to get the ball in traffic. ... Can be inconsistent as a catcher, shows ability to snatch the ball out of the air, away from his body, but also is a body catcher. Needs to develop in this area, has ability and does not seem to fight the football. Solid route runner that can get in and out of breaks. Runs a variety of routes and is well versed in getting DBs set up one-on-one. Does a good job of coming out of speed cuts and adjusting to the football, but high cut build limits fluidity and lateral agility. Good, but not great with the ball in his hands. ... Needs to add strength and bulk to improve his blocking. Jones grows on you the more you watch him and could be a BCS/non-BCS conference level prospect.
This is pretty much what you'd expect from a sleeper recruit that eventually earns a big-time offer—decent but not spectacular physical tools, raw ability, and room to grow both physically and technically.
Tim Sullivan made it out to see Jones in action earlier this fall, coming away impressed with his effort blocking downfield and inconclusive about his receiving ability due to a lack of targets ($):
Michigan has given Jones a hard look as a backup option at wide receiver, and it's easy to see why. Though he has a reputation as a slot-type receiver, he has good height (6-2) and his 185-pound mass looks to be solidly packed onto his frame. He still showed good burst, and though he didn't have the sudden acceleration of a Steve Breaston-type, he builds up a head of steam quickly, and can change directions without losing too much of that momentum.
With the ball in his hands, Jones was able to cut in and out of traffic, and although his help up front wasn't great, he was able to grind out some yardage. He was hardly targeted as a wideout in Glenn's run-heavy offense (one reason he only holds MAC offers, despite his talent), and didn't even get a chance to show much route-running polish, either.
Jones talked about himself a little bit in the wake of camping at Michigan this summer to 247's Todd Worly ($):
“I talk to them every two weeks or so,” Jones said. “At camp, they said I run good routes, I have better ball skills, and they said I have great speed – that I can flat-out fly. I sent them my highlight tape, and they said they’re interested in it and that there are things they like. I hope they see some things they like and make a move.”
As you'll see on his tape, Jones does possess above-average speed—somewhat deceptive speed due to a long stride—and the ability to go up and get the ball in the air, though as the ESPN evaluation says he sometimes allows the ball to get into his body.
Aside from Michigan, Jones held offers from Central Michigan, Bowling Green, New Mexico, Ohio, and Toledo. Scout also lists interest but no offer from Michigan State and Penn State—he camped at MSU and took an unofficial to PSU in March, per 247.
No stats that I can find in a quick search.
FAKE 40 TIME
Jones claims a 4.47 40 time from MSU's camp and a 4.50 at Ohio State, as well as a 10.9-second 100-meter dash ($). The 100 time is more believable than the 40 time to me, since his top-end speed looks better than his off-the-line acceleration. I'll give the 4.47 a four FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights:
Extensive senior highlights can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Jones is the only receiver in this class who looks like he could find a home in the slot. Since the only other slot receivers slated to be on the roster next year—Jeremy Gallon and The Threat—will both be seniors, Jones could find himself with a role early on in his career. With Gallon and Dileo around in 2013 and Jones needing a fair amount of development, I expect him to take a redshirt year, but after that he should have a shot to see the field. Much will depend on the direction Al Borges takes the offense post-Denard (or post-Gardner); if he goes to more two-TE sets with a lot of Funchess in the slot, which is expected, Jones may have a very limited role. If more spread elements remain, however, we could see him a fair amount moving forward.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
As said above, this is likely a reaction to the impending loss of Gareon Conley—who, while committed as a corner, may have had a chance to switch to wide receiver—and not a backup plan for missing out on Laquon Treadwell. As such, Michigan will continue to heavily pursue Treadwell, VA RB Derrick Green, and FL DB Leon McQuay III—the ideal Conley replacement—as well as an offensive lineman to take the spot formerly held by David Dawson.
Why can't Michigan run the ball without Denard? As with anything in football, the answer is "it's complicated" but against Nebraska the pendulum swung decisively towards an inability to block anything.
There were two primary ways in which things went unblocked, one of which we'll cover in two posts.
Ain't Nobody Trying To Block Important People
The first were either busts, play design errors, or combo blocking errors that left totally unblocked linebackers in the hole. A here's a third-quarter iso on the penalty fiesta drive that resulted in a field goal:
The highlighted guy is Nebraska's WLB. No one even tries to block him.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn't go well.
I'm not sure who this is on. I don't get the blocking. If Mealer releases directly downfield in the second frame in an attempt to get that WLB he does not have much of an angle and probably doesn't do much. I would expect Michigan to double that DT, leave Mealer behind on the DT, and then have Omameh pop off.
That doesn't happen. Did someone screw up? Is the play design bad? Is it Schofield moving to the second level poorly? Things are so confused I don't know.
If this was a one time thing you could chalk it up to a guy busting. It wasn't.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more unblocked guys! Like, so many you'll freak! They're coming out of holes in the ground like the Viet Cong!]