that is nice bonus change
It's Football Season
As we prepare for Michigan's opener, high school football is already underway in several states, which means less recruiting news and more useful scouting information as prospects turn their focus back to the field.
2015 LB commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. earned the top grade of any player Josh Helmholdt saw in two games scouting Indiana prospects, as he turned in a four-TFL performance in his squad's seven-point loss to open the season ($):
Performance: Kirkland got off to a strong start in his 2014 campaign, registering four tackles for loss among his 12 total tackles. The Rivals250 prospect was lined up at middle linebacker, but was making plays sideline-to-sideline. He was at his best, though, when he was playing downhill, filling holes and coming off the edge to make plays in the backfield. Kirkland overran a few plays in the flats, but also made several impressive open field tackles on running backs trying to get the edge and made it difficult for Avon's offense to scheme around him.
Scout's Brian Dohn caught 2015 OL commit Jon Runyan Jr. and his St. Joseph's Prep squad scrimmage against Philadelphia Imhotep ($):
Jon Runyan, OL, 6-4, 291
Skinny: Runyan, who is committed to Michigan, plays left tackle and was markedly bigger. He put on 20-plus and now has the strength needed to be dominant this season. He fired off the ball and did a nice job of getting his hands onto the defensive lineman, but he wasn’t as active as he was when in the midst of the grind of the season. He was [solid], but not overwhelming. When he was able to engage the defensive player, Runyan did a good job of finishing the block.
At 6'4", 291, Runyan very much has the look of a future guard.
[After THE JUMP: Michigan's strong presence on the Freep's top 25 list of in-state players, updates on several 2016 prospects, and more.]
It says somethin' about somethin' that Michigan had even the barest semblance of a Quarterback Controversy this offseason. It's not so much that Brady Hoke was going around saying it to people—football coaches' public statement are 95% motivational lies. It's more that a lot of people wanted it to be true.
By the midst of spring practice it seemed like half of the Michigan fanbase had an I WANT TO BELIEVE poster they'd adorned with Shane Morris's head in their room. Beat writers sent out a never-ending stream of WHAT ABOUT THE QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY articles that message boards passed around, nodding sagely about, until yrs truly was twitching every time I checked twitter. Finally, the dam broke:
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME MICHIGAN REPLACED A FIFTH YEAR SENIOR QUARTERBACK WITH AN UNDERCLASSMAN VOLUNTARILY
DON'T LOOK IT UP I'LL TELL YOU NEVER
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SHANE MORRIS'S PERFORMANCE IN THE BOWL GAME THAT CONVINCES YOU HE'S THE GUY, EXACTLY
THAT ONE SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT OTHER SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT END AROUND THAT TECHNICALLY COUNTS AS A PASS
THE DUDE AVERAGED 5.2 YPA, WHICH IS THREET/SHERIDAN PRODUCTION
HE THREW AN INTERCEPTION THE INSTANT MICHIGAN LET HIM THROW DOWNFIELD
MICHIGAN SCORED SIX MEANINGFUL POINTS
DEVIN GARDNER WAS 80% DEAD MOST OF THIS YEAR AND STILL HAD 8.6 YPA
That about sums it up. The moment passed, people were yelled at to take their posters down, and Hoke named Gardner the starter in the middle of fall camp. But the discontent still lingers.
[After THE JUMP: SURROUNDED BY THE ENEMY STOP OUR LINES ARE BROKEN STOP SEND LOVE TO MY WIFE STOP]
Dance if you're the starting slot receiver.
Michigan released their game notes for Appalachian State, and they contain the depth chart as it stands right now. Keep in mind that OL Graham Glasgow (suspension), TE Jake Butt (knee), and S Delano Hill (jaw) are omitted—Hill is the only one of the three who could potentially be cleared for action by Saturday.
|MICHIGAN OFFICIAL DEPTH CHART (as of 8/25)|
|QB||D. Gardner||S. Morris|
|RB||D. Green||D. Smith||
D. Johnson OR
|FB||J. Kerridge||S. Houma|
|WR||D. Funchess||A. Darboh|
|WR||J. Chesson||F. Canteen|
|Slot||D. Norfleet||B. Dever|
|TE||A.J. Williams||K. Hill|
|LT||M. Cole||E. Magnuson|
|LG||E. Magnuson||K. Bosch|
|C||J. Miller||P. Kugler|
J. Burzynski OR
|RT||B. Braden||L. Tuley-Tillman|
|SDE||B. Beyer||T. Charlton|
B. Mone OR
|DT||W. Henry||M. Godin|
|WDE||F. Clark||M. Ojemudia|
J. Ryan OR
J. Bolden OR
R. Jenkins-Stone OR
|FS||J. Wilson||A. J. Pearson|
|SS||J. Clark||D. Thomas|
T. Richardson OR
R. Taylor OR
|Nickel||J. Peppers||D. HOLLOWELL|
|P||W. Hagerup||M. Wile|
|K||M. Wile||K. Allen|
|PR||J. Peppers||D. Norfleet|
|KR||D. Norfleet||J. Hayes|
|LS||S. Sypniewski||A. Robinson|
|H||K. Allen||S. Morris|
[Overanalysis section, after the jump]
So I'm in Canada and I'm shopping for food and we're in the dairy isle and my friend laughs and says "no way." But yes, yes way. There is a margarine they are selling called Memories Of Butter.
This is an acceptable name for something only if dairy cows have been obliterated by whichever flavor of apocalypse comes home to roost. In between shifts at the sludge plant you smear Memories of Butter on your protein cube and weep silently when the child who doesn't know any better asks you what it was like during the Before Time.
In a world where there is butter, this is literally the worst possible marketing. The butter is three feet away. Once moved to action by the memory of butter, you can reach out and acquire butter. Our operative theory was that it was badly mistranslated from French, or at least there was something lost in translation. What that could possibly be we do not know.
And so: Michigan football. There is no quote more Memories Of Butter than this Gerry DiNardo exclamation about Michigan finally getting rid of that Denard Robinson guy:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams. It changes your entire program. Just like the spread makes your defense soft, the West Coast offense makes your defense tough."
That comes from a Mark "Stretchgate" Snyder article that is almost as embarrassing as the article that will follow him around until he dies:
Every spring and fall, the network analysts would attend a practice, try to absorb the flavor and make nice about the impact of an offense they knew didn't fit.
Then they strolled into Ann Arbor this spring and had to check their GPS — or their mirror to see if they rolled back a decade.
This was Michigan playing smashmouth football, the game's nastiest, purest form.
Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten in sack-adjusted rushing, ahead of only Purdue, and was last nationally in TFLs allowed. A tub of margarine may well have made the two-deep on Michigan's "smashmouth" offensive line. It would clearly be the Free Press's best reporter.
Michigan football is a white tub proclaiming to be a memory of a feeling. It is on the shelf next to things that still provide dat mouthfeel tho. For everyone reading this Michigan basketball has provided the craved-for combinations of hope, joy, and even eventual, forgivable disappointment. For myself and a goodly hunk of the people reading this, USA soccer has also filled that void. But when we cleared the NBA draft and the World Cup, the cliff loomed ahead.
The dread was palpable. Dread. Unprecedented, but true.
How did we get here? Every year the fact that I declared 2005 the "Year Of Infinite Pain" becomes yet more ridiculous as we explore new avenues in not feeling real good about football, but I submit that 2013 was the worst football season I have ever experienced. 2005 just isn't even in the ballpark anymore; 2008 had an obvious explanation and novelty; 2010 was GERGtastic but man I can't get that mad at a season containing the 2010 Notre Dame game.
Why was 2013 the nadir? We've learned that it's worse—so much worse—to know that you have absolutely no chance to score points than to have absolutely no chance to prevent them. Ludicrous pointfests like 2010 Illinois and 2013 Ohio State are full of explosions, at the very least. Farting out a three-point loss with under 200 yards of offense is death on a field. There are tense, well-played defensive battles that are the football equivalent of pitcher's duels, and then there's 2013 Michigan: Don Kelly, the football team. (Except when they weren't.)
I kind of lost it as a result. By the end of the year I was giving up on UFRing anything and proclaiming that I was going to go bowling because the Big Lebowksi taught me how to sportsfan my best…
The movie is a series of unfortunate events culminating in the death of Donny thanks to the bullheaded stupidity of Walter, who doesn't want to give up his fifteen dollars to some nihilists. That Donny dies as an indirect effect of that decision is the capper: your desires and actions are futile; you are subject to the random capricious whim of a universe that doesn't care about anything and if it was going to care about something it absolutely wouldn't be you. I don't have to spell the rest out for you. Sports!
…and I remember watching the bowl game in this state of obligation. Worthless, stupid obligation. We had gone from infatuation to a bad 30-year-old marriage that will never end because no one can think of anything better to do.
In retrospect, all of that seems… on-point, actually. Semi-quitting and having public conniption fits at the folks who defended Borges looks like eminently defensible behavior, and that's coming from a guy who occasionally remembers certain actions in high school and has to quickly think of something else lest the eyerolling self-shame overwhelm.
This is where we are: when I got around to doing the Iowa UFR at the last possible moment, most people just asked "WHY?"
How do we get away from here?
Many of you aren't going to like my answer to this. It is: hold on to what we have and hope like hell. Transitions are awful. Michigan has suffered through two consecutive botched ones that left the roster in a state of strip-mined mid-majordom for the better part of a decade. The next one will either be run by Dave Brandon or an unknown person who has just arrived. With nothing approximating a terrific idea out there after Texas snapped up Charlie Strong, with zero reasonable, available Michigan Man™ options out there, the move appears to be to sit tight and hope.
And Brady Hoke does provide a good deal of hope. Seriously! His recruiting is bulletproof. He is the real William Carlos Williams. Michigan can suffer through the least tolerable season since the 1960s; he can lose three top-100 commits; Michigan State can win the Rose Bowl. None of this prevents him from locking down a class of consensus four-stars minus a kicker and an OL legacy. Save for the rare Skeeps suckerpunch or microfracture surgery, all of these players will arrive qualified and stick around until they've been definitively passed on the depth chart… and possibly beyond.
If these are the kind of positives that seem beneath This Is Michigan, well, yeah. This Is Michigan is fiction. This Is Michigan has rarely meant anything better than 9-3 since the 80s ended, and the program is now 1-5 against MSU and 2-11 against OSU since [insert year here]. They haven't had anything approximating a complete roster since 2006, and even that team was so desperately short on cornerbacks that Chris Graham spent much of Football Armageddon trying to cover a future first round pick WR.
This is were we're at: trying to figure out exactly which things we took for granted for 40 years are real assets and which are replaceable. For me, keeping guys around until they're good is not replacement-level performance—as much as I wish it was. And even if I think Hoke is set on 1997 Michigan as the endpoint of football as the sport mutates at breakneck speed around him, there are teams that make it work.
I just want something to work now. I just want something to sit on my tongue and dissolve into a salty heaven, like my father told me about in the long long ago. I may be of the mines and forever from the mines as we try to keep the engine that keeps us all alive running, but by God even a man of the mines has heard about grass, and the possibility of moving forward upon it for upwards of three yards at a time.
Let's find a cow. Let's punch it until it excretes butter. We may later find out that punching a cow until it leaks is not the optimal way to do these things, but that's for later. Now is for building a society like idiots who have only read about it in books.
Nobody is going to read this but I'm trying to get numbers for Gardner and the WRs and the OL for the last couple Big Ten games for the preview. Everything is after the jump.
[After the JUMP: a big table.]
News bullets and other items:
Blake Countess and Ray Taylor would be the starting corners if the season started today
Ryan Glasgow would be the starting nose tackle and Willie Henry the starting three technique if the season started today
Jabrill Peppers will be returning punts
Dennis Norfleet is the starting slot receiver, though Freddy Canteen has gotten better as camp has gone on
“Number one, thanks for coming out. We’ll break camp tomorrow. We've had two really good practices after taking Wednesday just to get them a little back healthy and rest and all that kind of stuff. Guys have done a nice job. Those two practices were spirited obviously. We had some humidity which was good because that's really the first time and then yesterday we were inside because we were thinking that we were going to get the storm that we finally got and it was good because it was nice and hot in there so they got to work through that a little bit.
Their mindset has been awfully good and the competition level, competing in challenging each other every day I think has been really good for us and I think our coaches and players would say the same thing. The competition has been very positive at every position. I'm excited about how they've come out and competed. Today for us was a Wednesday, Tomorrow will be a Thursday in how we manufacture the practice time. Will give them some rest on Sunday, give them some rest on Monday. That would almost normal for what a school– getting them ready and acclimated to the school times of practice.
We should be healthy as we can be right now. Still don't know about Delano [Hill]. He's been practicing as far as no contact. He feels good. The doctors will still evaluate him one more time and let us know if he will be ready for Appalachian State or not. Jake Butt has come a long way but I would say were still on the timetable we talked about and we’ll get with the doctors on that a little bit more.
The leadership on this team has really been throughout the team. I think when they voted for guys out of each class it's been really a positive and those guys--you can see it just in how they've treated each other--came out and competed and the things you want to see. It's been really a good camp. We're going to finish that tomorrow morning. Most of that will be a lot of kicking up at the stadium and a little bit of some of the scout team work that we want to continue to do but we won't be there but an hour and 15 minutes. A little bit of a preview of game day. How we approach it, who goes out when, all the mechanics with that. We've done it once so far but this will give us another chance. We have new guys on the team who weren’t here before and we made a couple changes so I think those are all positives.”
We haven't talked a lot about special-teams. You talked about Matt Wile. How confident are you that he's going to go from being your long-range guy to being your every-field-goal guy?
“Well, you know, Matt was always consistent from long-range or from every-field-goal guy. He's done a nice job. We rushed him a little bit because he's been doing kickoffs and that the last two days but I'm sure that tomorrow we might not kick him just for the simple fact that he probably wouldn't be at his best. He had a little bit of a foot [injury] which wasn’t his plant foot but that's fine but we just want to make sure that we’re resting him enough.”
So it's his kicking foot then?
“Yeah, which I've never heard of. You'd think it would be a plant foot. I'd be more worried if it was the plant foot.”
Kyle Kalis – is he healthy now and which positions is he working yet and does he have a chance to start?
“Well, I think he has a chance. I think we're still going through that a little bit with him. He's practiced the last two days which is the positive. I think between him and the way we been running it over there, you know, we've got [Kyle] Bosch over there working some, Joe Burzynski has been over there working some but, you know, getting Kyle back out is a real plus. Gives you some more… a little more of different people that we can play with.”
Who's going to be returning punts?
“That would be Jabrill.”
[After THE JUMP: corner shuffling, your starters on the interior defensive line, and another non-answer regarding captains]
MGoQuestion: Who's competing at nose tackle and who's at three tech?
“Oh boy. I’ll tell ya, Ryan Glasgow has had a really good fall camp, Ondre Pipkins has had a really good fall camp, Mone, Bryan Mone. There's all four of them at the nose, they’ve played really well. Ryan would be the starter. At the three technique I think Wille Henry, Chris Wormley, and Matt Godin and Tom Strobel have all really done a nice job but if we started today Willie would be the guy up first.”
You said you're working with Jabrill on punt returns. You guys haven't had much from the punt return. I mean, you had some sure-handed guys but is that an area that you need to get more out of?
“Well, I think that number one we’re putting a lot of our best guys out on the field and I think that's a plus. I think we've had some in the last three years that have been decent, some that maybe we haven't fielded the ball as well as we should have sometimes and I think that's all true – every special teams you want to get improvement.”
Is Norfleet still in at kick returner?
“Yeah. Oh yeah.”
What were the two or three things when you opened camp that you felt you absolutely had to accomplish and did you?
“I think yeah, we did accomplish it. The first thing which you guys all love to ask is the offensive line and I think that the progress that's been made there is really positive. Do I think that we're where we need to be as we get through the season? No, not yet but there's been a lot of progress. I think at the corner position we’ve had a great competition out there and I think all those guys have improved and that’s huge. I think up front defensively I think being a defensive line coach the noses and the three techniques, who is going to separate themselves and I think I said that the other day and Willie has done that at the three and I would say Ryan has right now at the nose position so those things were all – I think how the group of linebackers has worked together, and then the receivers. Who is going to come on and where Darboh’s health was. All of those things were part of what we wanted to see.”
You said you were going to work Jabrill more at the nickel but does Jourdan [Lewis] have that other spot? Is he a starter?
I think if we went out today it would be Ray [Taylor] and Blake [Countess]. Jourdan’s had a good fall camp. [Channing] Strib[ling]’s had a good fall camp, need a little more consistency. Delonte Hollowell’s had a good fall camp so I think that if we started the game today though it would be Blake and Ray.
Is that an experience thing?
“No, they've played well. The competition has been very heated.”
When you talk about the group of linebackers working together, how’s that come together with Jake [Ryan] changing positions and all of that and how are they working together?
“Well, I think that whole group has really worked well together and you can throw Ben Gedeon in there, Royce [Jenkins-Stone], James Ross, [Joe] Bolden, Desmond Morgan, and Jake. Mike McCray’s had a good fall camp. He's got to be a little more consistent but we like what we’ve seen of him so far. I think Jake had a little apprehension coming into camp even though he was over there all spring but I really think that he did a very good job of asserting himself in the position.”
You guys really liked Jarrod Wilson coming out of the spring. Has he solidified that free safety spot for you and what do you like about having him back there?
“Yeah, he has. I like his range, Like his intelligence, like his toughness, his ball skills and the abilities that he has.”
You mentioned the corners. What kind of rotating could you do at that point? You mentioned Ray and Blake but are Jordan and Jabrill going to be outside too?
“They can. They can. We haven't sat down yet to say we're gonna play this guy so many reps, this guy so many reps.”
But you don't mind shuffling them at those spots? I know Greg [Mattison] didn't like shuffling safeties...
“…as much last year. I think there were different reasons why. I think sometimes it’s just a comfort level with guys. You know everybody's going to get you in the right positions.”
So maybe there'll be more of it this year?
“Yeah, I would think so.”
What kind of weapon is Hagerup? We haven't seen him in a while. What does he add?
“Well, as far as Hagerup, what I like about Will is how he's come back, how he's taken some – that's hard to go through what he's gone through. I'm proud of him. You know, when he's on, which two years ago he was on most of the time, he's very effective in changing the field.”
“You know, we've got great leadership throughout.”
We heard a lot about Freddy [Canteen] in the spring and saw a lot of him in the spring scrimmage. Is he the slot guy or is Dennis [Norfleet] the slot guy?
“Dennis right now. I think one thing, Freddy, he started a little slower but he's finished very well.’
So you think that’s a shared position?
“Yeah, I think that personnel groups and formationally it makes a difference.”