M's Biggest Recruiting Weekend Is Here
Michigan has stacked this weekend with visits, many of the official variety, and it's shaping up to be their most important recruiting weekend of the fall. TMI's Brice Marich has a free rundown of the top visitors on campus, and 247's Steve Wiltfong has an overview of the major recruiting storylines. Here's a quick runthrough with some additional notes where applicable.
Five-star TX OLB Baron Browning: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, and UCLA appear to be Michigan's primary competition, and while the Wovlerines have been regarded as a fringe contender for much of Browning's recruitment, 247's Steve Wiltfong said this week his summer visit put M in better position than ND and OSU. Browning's brother played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, which can't hurt M's chances.
FIve-star FL OT Alex Leatherwood (Alabama commit): Michigan and Florida are trying to pry Leatherwood away from Bama, but Steve Lorenz has mentioned on our podcast that this is quite a long shot unless Bama OL coach Mario Cristobal leaves the staff after the season.
Four-star KY OT Jedrick Wills: Wills looked like he'd drop to Alabama before ever making it to Ann Arbor. While that didn't occur, Bama remains the favorite.
Four-star NJ OLB Drew Singleton: There's still a lot of optimism from Michigan insiders about Singleton—who's here for his second game this season—despite the buzz surrounding Clemson.
Four-star IMG OLB Jordan Anthony: Another linebacker prospect long considered a Michigan lean.
Four-star IMG OC Cesar Ruiz: As Lorenz said in this week's recruiting mailbag, Ruiz is arguably the most important target left on the board, and with Alabama seemingly out of the picture this is a race Michigan expects to win.
[This list is long enough to JUMP mid-section. As I said, it's a huge visit weekend.]
|WHAT||Wisconsin at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
October 1st, 2016
|THE LINE||Michigan –10.5|
probably some drizzle
Wisconsin is in an odd place on Michigan's schedule, as this is the first time I can remember that there's a nonconference game after the start of—
what's that now
how many damn teams does this conference have now
Anyway. The Certainly Part Of The Big Ten Wisconsin Badgers come to Michigan Stadium for the first time since people rode dinosaurs to the discotheque. They're coming off two hot-hot-hot wins over Certainly Top Ten Teams LSU and Michigan State. They're riding high with a legitimately terrifying defense and... an offense. That's not bad, per se. It's good for one 17 play touchdown drive a game. Anyway, the defense!
Run Offense vs Wisconsin
Sheehy(94) is the star on the line
The loss of star OLB Vince Biegel is a huge blow to the Badgers. Biegel and fellow OLB TJ Watt are far and away Wisconsin's best defensive players; without him it seems like Wisconsin will move Jack Cichy, he of the three straight sacks in the bowl game, to OLB and bring in one of the backup ILBs they're already rotating.
That shift seriously dents what is probably the best linebacker corps in the nation. Wisconsin runs a 3-4, so there are four of them; PFF has all of them +2.5 or better, with Biegel at +7.4 and Watt at +8.3. UW's given four other LBs significant snaps so far this year, so Biegel's replacement won't be fresh off the turnip truck. Whoever it is will be a massive downgrade.
As far as the run game goes, Michigan has to be looking at planet-sized nose tackle Olive Sagapolu with some concern after struggling against Colorado's Josh Tupou. Ace doesn't think it'll be a thing, though:
Up front, Sheehy was easily the most impressive lineman. NT Olive Sagapolu is a massive 340 pounds, but I don't think he'll give Mason Cole nearly as much trouble as Colorado's immovable NT Josh Tupou. Sagapolu didn't hold up too well to double-teams; LJ Scott didn't have much opportunity to establish himself because of the score, but when he had success it came right up the gut:
That was also a rare instance of Sheehy getting handled one-on-one. The other starting DE, Chikwe Obasih, is undersized for a 3-4 at 267 pounds and looked it for much of this game. Even for a 3-4 DE, his production is really lacking—no tackles in this game, only three (two solo) on the year—and he was the lineman most easily taken on and moved out of his lane by single blocking.
Connor Sheehy is a very legit 3-4 DE, albeit a guy who offers nothing rushing the passer. The other two guys are just kind of there.
Despite this, Wisconsin battered MSU into meek submission and held Leonard Damn Fournette in relative check. This is because linebackers, mostly. TJ Watt is a fullback-destroying missile, and everyone in that unit grades out positively.
Wisconsin comes up against a Michigan run offense that got right in a big way against Penn State, with four running backs all ripping off big chunk runs en route to over 300 yards. Issues abounded before that, however, and promise to crop up once again now that Michigan is playing a team with (mostly) first teamers in the front seven. Previous versions of the Michigan run offense under Harbaugh have taken one step back for every one forward. Consistent production this Saturday would be a game-changer for season expectations, but seems unlikely. Michigan will get some yards. Michigan will get stuffed more than they care to.
Wild card: Jabrill Peppers. With Noah Furbush back and Wisconsin inclined to run on first down this is a game where you can buy Peppers a bunch of offensive snaps by running an actual 4-3 on some downs. Even if they do keep him out there all the time, this is a game where 8-10 Peppers touches could contain in them the seed of a critical touchdown.
KEY MATCHUP: MASON COLE versus OLIVE SAGAPOLU and MICHIGAN'S OL IN GENERAL against CHIP AND RELEASE ON ZONE RUNS. This is kind of the same thing. Michigan would like to mitigate the big damn nose tackle. Mason Cole had major issues against Tupou and needs to do better against a not as good version, and the line as a whole needs to actually hit guys before releasing to the second level when they run zone stuff.
[Hit THE JUMP for CERTAINLY AN OFFENSE]
Event Reminder: We have a tailgate tomorrow morning at 1300 S. MAIN Street to raise money for Marlin Jackson’s Fight for Life Foundation.
When I describe this organization I start by asking if you’ve seen the
third fourth (HT comments) season of The Wire—the one where you get a heartbreakingly realistic picture of what happens to poor, inner city kids. Well my wife the child therapist who works with exactly those kinds of kids for a living looked at Marlin’s programs when we first started doing stuff with him, and was blown away by how it was designed for exactly what they need. If it wasn’t started by a two-time All-American for Michigan it would still be one of the best bang-for-buck charities I’ve ever seen. Marlin lived what these kids go through, and he used his Michigan education to do something about it.
Tailgater Concierge gave us the space and will have satellite TVs set up to watch the noon games, and will be grilling hot dogs and serving. Wolverine State Brewing generously donated three half-barrels of their best beer. And Eat Well Embrace Life is providing a ton of hummus and chips and pop. We’ll also have a raffle, and you can ask Ace about Harambe.
Penn State came down-down-down as it dawned on more and more fans that it was going to be a slaughter. Cheapest I found was a guy walking from Main Street past Crisler offering $30 each for two seats next to him. That’s a good baseline for Indiana and Maryland, which are still hanging out in the $50s.
[Hit THE JUMP for how Michigan’s best ticket this year is worth face]
Another game, another batch of data lost to garbage time. That’s certainly not a complaint, but it does explain why there wasn’t a ton of movement in the advanced stats. Michigan hit Bill Connelly’s criteria for garbage time with 46 seconds left in the first half, as Karan Higdon’s two-yard touchdown run put Michigan up 28. From there, the lead never shrunk to the point where there was any real threat of exiting garbage time.
The traditional stats paint a picture that matches what we observed: Michigan dominated in almost every area. You can run down the stat sheet and blindly point and likely find a stat Michigan handily won. First downs? Michigan more than doubled Penn State, 25 to 12. Rushing first downs? Michigan had a 14-3 edge. Yards per play? Michigan fell just short of doubling up Penn State with 6.1 to their 3.5. Rushing yards? Michigan’s 326-70 advantage was one of their biggest statistical wins of the day. That stat obviously needs to be contextualized a bit; Michigan still blew Penn State away when looking at average yards per rush, of which Michigan averaged 6.7 to Penn State’s 2.5. That Penn State stayed fairly balanced (28 rushes and 27 passes) and walked away with the aforementioned average yards per rush and 4.5 yards per pass is quite the accomplishment for the defense.
The stats in the preceding paragraph got me thinking about Michigan’s rush defense, and after looking through the numbers it deserves the spotlight this week. The traditional stats help set the table: Michigan has allowed 64 and 70 rushing yards over the last two games. Looking at things a little closer, Michigan has held opponents back in a variety of ways and situations; Bill Connelly’s advanced stats profile reflects that, and some of the non-Bill Connelly total win predictions and win-out percentages seem to have taken notice as well.
[After THE JUMP: Five Factors, counting the ways Michigan’s rush defense has been exceptional, and looking ahead to Wisconsin]
- Player reevaluations: Speight as poor man’s Ben Roethlisberger? Higdon runs behind his pads. Ed congratulates Harbaugh on his correct 4th down decision-making. Hard to take a lot seriously because they were facing No Linebackers U.
- Jim Harbaugh as Frank Caliendo: Not only is Harbaugh’s heart in the right place, he can also do an excellent Darth Vader.
- MSU-Wisconsin things: Short game. Was a 10-6 game but for the turnovers. O’Connor is not good. Wisconsin’s kicker being out forced them to use correct game theory. Hornibrook found the weak spot in State’s defense, which is Demetrius Cox, and played that all day.
- Badger Offense: The offense lacks speed and playmakers. Hornibrook doesn’t have a good arm but he’s got better vision than Bart Houston. Clement doesn’t look like himself at all. Same might be said for the Wisconsin running game.
- Badger Defense: Best defense Michigan has played by far. They have a 340-pound nose, all of the linebackers are stars. Blitz out of the 3-4 very effectively. Michigan can win this game with special teams and defense.
- One more loss for ol’ Notre Dame: their defense is putrid, corners to blame! Could not run, can’t stop the pass—there’s trouble when Kizer will leave for the draft. South Bend could have a 5-7 year. Firing Van Gorder won’t change that gear. This stuff’s all just par for course for the losers of Notre Dame!
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
Previously: Wisconsin Offense
we've got a Watt situation here
As I discussed yesterday, Wisconsin's offensive output in their blowout of MSU could be a mirage. The defense, on the other hand—well, here's the drive chart up to the point UW took a 30-6 lead:
Even when facing the 77th-ranked offense by S&P+, that is dominance—and while Wisconsin could cede more yardage on State's garbage-time drives, they picked off two more passes and didn't allow any points.
Wisconsin's linebackers will be one of the best position groups Michigan faces all year, and the defense as a whole looks very good. This is a huge test, especially for the offensive line and Wilton Speight.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
[EDIT: This has been updated to reflect the status of Vince Biegel, UW's star OLB who's been ruled out indefinitely with a foot injury. The guess here is UW slides starting ILB Jack Cichy outside and starts ILB Leon Jacobs, who looked the best of the backup linebackers against MSU. ILB Ryan Connelly and OLB Zack Baun are also candidates to step into the starting lineup; UW rotates a fair amount at ILB anyway.]
Yes, those are shields on both outside linebackers; we've changed the criteria slightly since NFL draft stuff isn't really relevant to these posts, which will please Ryan Glasgow fans—and who isn't one?—when we update these next week.
If anything, we were a little conservative handing out stars this week. TJ Edwards was one of the better ILBs in the Big Ten last year, but he looked just a hair behind the other three in on-field impact; there's a strong argument to be made that all four UW LBs deserve stars. I was also impressed with Sojourn Shelton, but had to mostly punt on the secondary since Idiot BTN Director was back in full force:
What's happening downfield? Hell if I know.
Base Set? 3-4. When going to nickel, UW will lift the nose tackle as most 3-4 teams do.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]