Peppers at 10, which seems low.
10/5/2013 – Michigan 42, Minnesota 13 – 5-0, 1-0 Big Ten
Jon Falk has a compatriot at Minnesota. He's probably had a dozen over his 40 years as Michigan's equipment manager. Some guy who comes in with the latest Gopher coaching staff, wonders what it's like to hold the jug in his meaty palm, and maybe once gets to shepherd it for a year. Since Falk arrived at Michigan a fresh-faced young thing four years into Bo's career, his opposite number has had this experience three times.
In proof lingo, this means that beating Minnesota—beating up on Minnesota, usually—is a necessary but not sufficient property of Michigan teams that want to do anything with their seasons. Sometimes you can retain the Jug despite not being very good; sometimes you can retain the jug despite being headed for 3-9 because Nick Sheridan has an out-of-body experience. When you're headed for 3-9 you get a little misty about the Jug coming out. When you're not the worst team in Ann Arbor since the 1930s it's a checkbox to fill out.
Michigan did so in perfunctory style, grinding out a second half in which they went from vaguely threatened to bored. Since this came on the heels of narrow escapes against teams that lost 43-3 to Ohio on Saturday and 41-12 to Buffalo last week, it's progress. How much is unknown.
This game settled into a grim fugue state almost from the drop, as Michigan manballed its way into the endzone on a Statement Drive to start the game. Unfortunately, that Statement was "by putting Taylor Lewan next to Michael Schofield we can bull our way down the field against Minnesota." That statement is unlikely to apply to many teams on the schedule. But, hey, progress.
Then Minnesota donned turbans and embarked on the Ishtar Drive. An epic production galaxy-spanning in its dullness that arrived at its destination two hours too late and failed to have the desired impact, it ate up the rest of the quarter. Michigan left it without having attempted a pass.
This was a little dull.
It was the kind of dull that had Space Coyote, the Michigan's blogosphere's resident instant analysis savant, pleading with the masses that the intricacies of a well-blocked power play were just as appealing as, say, watching 175-pound Venric Mark activate his truck stick on an Ohio State safety. I can't imagine there's another Michigan fan in the world more receptive to that argument than yours truly and even I wasn't buying that as the secondary effect of all that manball kicked in: punt, commercial, play, end of quarter, commercial, play play, punt, commercial. Touchdown, commercial, kickoff, commercial—the NFL special. As the teams' attempt to blow through this game in record time was thwarted by the networks, being in Michigan Stadium became the worst concert of all time interrupted by bouts of football-related activity.
It was the kind of thing that made you consider what the purpose of your fandom was. Am I only here to see Michigan end a game with a larger number on the scoreboard than Opponent? Is there any valid goal outside of this? Am I a bad fan for wishing something interesting would happen? Do the people on twitter who scorn you for having feelings other than Go Team have a point? What is the point of any of this, and why can't they make the wifi work?
At halftime, the guys in front of me discussed whether they would bolt for Frazer's, and two did. I'm usually a guy who thinks leaving an athletic event before it's decided is a mortal sin, but I kind of envied the guy in the home-made muscle shirt screwing off to a place where he could get a beer and not hear "Build Me Up, Buttercup." At any other time, I would have thought this man's attendance at Michigan Stadium was a necessary property of a fan that he had just shown was not sufficient by leaving a touchdown game at halftime like he was a sorority girl about to blow a .341. On Saturday, I was with him in spirit.
This is a fearful development. I don't want to think like that. I want to be forever ten years old, excited by everything. On Saturday I had a long look down the elevator shaft.
It'll pass like the moment above did. Someone will do something interesting, and there will be something at stake other than a piece of crockery that just means you're not horrible, and sometimes not even that. I had a bad day, I was pissed at Dave Brandon when I discovered I was thirsty but knew I couldn't do anything about it without missing a large chunk of the game I was there to see even if it was narcoleptic, I was emo after the last few weeks of expectation-depressing terror. It'll pass, and the doors will close on the moment where I reached out and felt the slight outlines of a limit to my fandom.
Michigan won by a lot, eventually.
Completely one-sided highlights:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Has to be Michigan's new favorite worst nightmare at wide receiver: Devin Funchess. Relieved of many blocking duties and deployed on the outside, Funchess displayed fantastic hands on a couple of catches outside of his body, ran routes that got him tons of separation, and went right by a Minnesota cornerback(!) on a straight-up fly route(!) to prove himself Michigan's best deep threat(?). By the end of the game he had newspaper types plumbing the statistical depths for completely invalid comparisons to Jim Mandich, who was a tight end, which Devin Funchess is not.
Honorable mention: No Turnovers, which may be Devin Gardner's temporary name until such point as he turns it over. Schofield and Lewan were mashing as tackle brothers. Blake Countess did have a pick six, albeit one of no importance. James Ross and Desmond Morgan had lots of tackles, usually at the LOS when not facing spread formations.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
I guess? [Upchurch]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Wow. Are we at a loss here? We might be at a loss here. Countess's interception was after the game was decided, as was the long Funchess fly route thing. Michigan's longest run went for not many yards. I guess we're going with Fitzgerald Toussaint scoring an easy ten-yard touchdown, as it hinted that Michigan may be able to run the ball forward? Yeah, okay.
Honorable mention: Funchess reception, pick one. Countess pick. Black FF.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
[After THE JUMP: actual game analysis instead of pathetic emo self-pity mooning!]
Wilson pictures are thin on the ground. Via Rivals.
CA SF/PF DJ Wilson has committed to Michigan. Informative update…
IS ALREADY HERE, YEAHHHH
|3*, #135 overall||3*, NR||3*, NR overall
|3*, #219 overall
Wilson's ratings are pretty meh. He's a skinny 6'9" kid who was injured for much of the all-important evaluation periods the last couple years and put up about ten points a game when healthy. So those rankings are legit, for generic club X.
For Michigan, he's a fit for what they want to do and may outperform the middling-at-best expectations above. John Beilein likes three things: length, shooting, and intelligence. Wilson brings all three in spades. His AAU coach:
"D.J. can shoot it, handle it and pass it at 6'9 and is just scratching the surface in his basketball career. He is going to surprise a lot of people. He's a great kid and an extremely hard worker who wants to be really good at his craft. Schools just wanted to see if the back was an issue and clearly it's not."
At 6'9", he's a jumbo wing in the extreme or good-sized stretch four. He's got a sweet jumper with range out to three, and he's a 4.0 student who took an official visit to Columbia. The one in New York.
That back issue held him out for the entirety of last year's AAU circuit, which held his rankings down. He missed a big chunk of this year's, as well. This is from late July:
The last player into the 2014 Rivals150 at No. 150, D.J. Wilson has been sidelined by injuries for most of the past six months. Finally healthy, the 6-foot-8 combo forward from Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian is starting to show some things. …
What jumps out immediately about Wilson is his ability to stroke deep jump shots and the ease with which things seem to come to him on the offensive end. Because of his size and skill, he plays as a both a plus-sized wing or a face-up four who can stretch defenses and knock down shots.
Another evaluation from that tourney:
DJ Wilson had the college coaches buzzing with his play. Standing at 6’8” with a skinny frame, Wilson showed off a text book jump shot and went 3-3 from behind the line in a strong first half performance. His shot was smooth and effortless with range several feet behind the arc. When pressured Wilson used a pump fake to drive to the basket and finished with a soft floater.
Has a knack for doing a lot of things on the court and being very efficient. Wilson rebounds the ball well, handles, looks to get contact in the paint, and shows a nice touch with his left. Uses his length to his advantage on defense as well.
Here a lack of ridiculous athleticism is made up for by sheer length and craft.
A lack of assertiveness and questions about his energy level are the other consistent complaints, which get referenced even when he's playing well. Scout:
…back on the court Saturday and looked really good. Wilson hasn’t stopped growing and has now hit the 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 range, only adding to his value as a prospect. Wilson played harder than he has in the past, scored on the offensive glass and hit three triples off the catch. He’s a project but no doubt has upside.
ESPN's evaluation loves his upside ("quintessential frame with long arms and overall great length"; "great ball skills"; "impressive" three point shot") but lingers on a lack of energy exerted on both ends of the floor, especially when it comes to rebounding and defending. Hopefully that's an evaluation impacted by the lingering back issues.
Those back issues are a concern, as they had the specter of something chronic with their duration and consistent flare-ups. The CU Rivals site has the best description of what went down there:
The spring was a successful one, until injuring his back and having to sit out the July live period. An inconsistent recovery looked to be completed when Wilson averged 15.4 points per game over the first seven of the season.
But problems with his back creeped back up, eventually keeping him out of this past spring evaluation period because of inflammation.
"I could have played but I'd rather wait until summer," he said of sitting out the spring. "I didn't want to risk anything."
FWIW, his doctor told Wilson that the injuries were "things that only happen once."
Likes ice cream.
Wilson had offers from Gonzaga, Cal, Colorado, USC, Harvard, Columbia, and a few others. There were reports that everyone who lost out on Chatman (Oregon, USC, and Arizona) tried to get Wilson to dump his M visit and visit them this weekend, FWIW.
FAKE 40 TIME
Square root of negative one fakes. You can't write i these days without getting it autocorrected at the start of a sentence.
Junior year video:
UMHoops scouting video:
Wilson features extensively in a recent Capital Christian workout video that is for hardcore folks only:
One-on-ones start at about seven minutes and are the most interesting bit. Also the difference in Wilson's body from video one to this recent one jumps out; guy has done a lot of work despite the back injury.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
If you're still betting against Beilein's ability to unearth talent, you're hanging out at the penny slots swearing a lot. Don't sweat the rankings too much. Wilson's a high-upside project who fits well with Beilein's system and is a good bet to maximize his potential. He's an academic fit who should be able to generate shots with his brain in Beilein's system, and his injury makes it likely he's underrated.
ESPN compared Kam Chatman to Tayshaun Prince, but it's Wilson who's eerily reminiscent of the lanky 6'10" shooter and long-armed devil, down to that baby hook in the lane that is one of Prince's go-to moves. Wilson brings the stretch four shooting and good-enough driving ability that Prince does; he's skinny and lacks crazy athleticism but is also good enough in those areas.
The downside here is Evan Smotrycz: a quality-shooting stretch four with the ability to get to the basket who's allergic to rebounds and defense and eventually drives Beilein so crazy he bites his head off like a bat. Then he transfers to Maryland. Wilson, not Beilein. Or the bat. Bat's dead, bro.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Wilson fills one of Michigan's combo forward slots; since they were willing to take both Wilson and Donte Grantham it seems they will woo a few guys going forward, most prominently Australian transplant combo forward Jonah Bolden.
Bolden's recruitment will end in the spring; Michigan's pursuit of a shooting guard is going to conclude much more quickly, with both IN SG James Blackmon Jr and MS SG Devin Booker likely off the board by the end of the month. If Michigan gets one of those plan A SGs it's status quo—unless there's attrition, Bolden or bust for scholarship #5 and only if Bolden plays like a must-take—but if they miss on both they might hold onto scholarship #4 if they feel confident in Bolden and confident they can get away with a class consisting almost entirely of skinny combo forwards, especially if OH SG Javon Bess is off the board to Michigan State by then.
Can they? I think so unless they're getting early entry vibes from Stauskas. He'll have two more years when this class arrives, as will Caris LeVert. You could even slide Zak Irvin down if you wanted; Michigan does just fine with SGs who are more shooter than penetrator, and gol dang if that's not a huge lineup.
Funchess is listed as a tight end, but you played him as a wide receiver. Was that the plan?
“Well we obviously planned it that way. Getting him out on the perimeter a little bit, a mismatch in a lot of ways because he runs awfully well. He’s a big target. And then we get into the 11 personnel and he’ll be a tight end. Just trying to really take advantage of his skill sets.”
No turnovers coming out of a bye week has to be a big plus.
“It’s huge. No turnovers. Had two penalties. So I think that speaks to how these guys have really worked. The bye week, I thought, came at a good time for us in a lot of ways. It was good to see us respond.”
It’s one thing to have a plan, but another to execute it. You obviously want to get the running game going. Can you talk about how that played out?
“Well we wanted to run the ball. We wanted to send that message. I thought we did a pretty good job of it. We didn’t have as much yardage probably as we’d like to have from that aspect, but I really believe the threat was there consistently throughout the game that we were going to run the football. I think tackles for loss, I think there were three until the last when we were milking the clock at the end. I thought it worked out well.”
Here are the photos from the game yesterday.
Jibreel Black forced fumble (Fuller)
Devin Gardner rushing TD (Fuller)
Derrick Green (Upchurch)
Taylor Lewan and his precious (Upchurch)
Once again, all photos are creative commons licensed. If you have any questions or comments please contact me at [email protected]
Michigan has only offered one quarterback in the 2015 class in Josh Rosen, and he will not be a Wolverine. He told me that he’s already got a pretty good idea of where he wants to play his college ball, and that Michigan is too cold for him. That being said, which signal-callers could be on deck for a Michigan offer?
|Dual-threat Dillman is probably Michigan's top target for the class.|
Kevin Dillman (La Mirada HS – La Mirada, CA) Kevin Dillman is an interesting recruit as he was born in Sweden and has only lived in the United States for about three years. In his short time playing football in America he has garnered a ton of attention and is rated as a 5-star quarterback on some recruiting services. He recently named a top two of Nebraska and Michigan and he looks like the next best bet to receive an offer. He also hasn’t been shy and has openly expressed his affinity for the Wolverines and might be the most likely to commit from this list. Dillman has double-digit offers already from Nebraska, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, UCLA and more. Couple that with his prototypical size-- 6’4”, 225--and he’s worthy of his 5-star status.
He possesses elite athleticism, playing wide receiver, kick returner, and safety for his high school squad. This is not your typical pretty-boy QB; he’s physical, tough, and looks natural running the ball or dropping back and setting his feet when letting it fly. He has some of the more impressive film out there for 2015 QBs.
I think it is a question of when rather than if he receives a Michigan offer. Dillman told me that he’s taking his recruitment slowly right now to focus on his season but his knowledge for the Wolverines is always growing.
I actually don’t know much about Michigan history and stuff right now but I like the fact that they’re moving back to a more pro-style offense. The reason Michigan has been standing out for me is because growing up in Sweden I always looked up to and tried to learn from Tom Brady. The fact that he went to Michigan is the reason why I’ve had my eyes open for Michigan.
Dillman currently lives with a host family in California and tells me that distance will be a non-issue for him as he has already went through the “moving out of the house” transition. He wouldn’t quite name Michigan his favorite, but he said they are definitely up there for him and he plans to get more questions answered about his recruitment at the end of his season.
More targets after the jump.
Split out wide for most of the game, Devin Funchess set career highs in receptions and yards. [Photo: Bryan Fuller, MGoBlog]
After two ugly victories against overmatched opponents, Michigan entered their game against Minnesota with a reshuffled offensive line and a pressing need to placate the fanbase by not playing down to their opponent. After a slow start, they did just that, scoring 28 second-half points en route to a 42-13 homecoming victory.
The natives were restless during a plodding first half in which the two teams combined for just eight real drives (the Gophers ran out the last 1:25 of the half), due mostly to a 16-play, 75-yard march by Minnesota—during which they converted five third downs—that saw them tie the game at seven. That came after Jibreel Black forced a fumble by Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner on the game's opening possession; James Ross recovered and the Michigan offense capitalized with six runs in six plays, covering 35 yards and capped by an eight-yard Fitz Toussaint touchdown.
The ensuing Gopher drive ate up most of the first quarter, allowing them to not only knot up the score, but keep it close for the rest of the half. This was "old time Big Ten football" in the worst sense—slow-paced, run-heavy, and not particularly effective. Four consecutive punts followed, and the heated battle for field position eventually went in Michigan's favor—after Matt Wile's 55-yard boot was downed by Dennis Norfleet at the Gopher one-yard line, Minnesota was forced to punt it away from the nine, and Drew Dileo took a line drive kick well into Gopher territory. Four plays later, Devin Gardner hooked up with Devin Funchess—who spent most of the game lined up at wide receiver—on a post route for a 24-yard touchdown with 1:25 left in the half. Fitting the general tenor of the game, Minnesota decided to forego any chance at points, running twice and carrying three timeouts into halftime.
If that seemed questionable at the time, it looked more so after Michigan drove 75 yards in nine plays to open the second half, bolstered by an improved running game and the emergence of Funchess, Giant Wide Receiver. The first four plays of the drives were runs of 14, 5, 8, and 9 yards; a 21-yard back-shoulder throw to Funchess set up a two-yard Derrick Green touchdown to cap the drive. The Gophers could only respond with a field goal to cut the Wolverine lead to 21-10; that would be the closest they'd get for the rest of the game.
Much of the credit for that can go to Funchess, who finished with seven catches for 151 yards—both career highs—and set up a late Gardner touchdown run with a 46-yard grab on the right sideline. Even though the numbers don't bear it out, the running game looked improved as well; though Michigan averaged just 3.2 yards per carry as a team, Fitz Toussaint (right, Upchurch) had an impressive 78 yards on just 17 carries, adding a second touchdown run from 12 yards out to give Michigan a 28-10 third-quarter lead that proved insurmountable. Chris Bryant, the new starter at left guard, proved adept as a puller, which allowed Michigan to run the play they'd like to (eventually) make their offensive identity: power.
Most importantly, considering the troubles of the last two games, Michigan didn't turn the ball over once, the first time they've done so since their 58-0 win over these same Gophers in 2011, Brady Hoke's first season at the helm. After looking flustered against UConn, Devin Gardner was very sharp, connecting on 13 of 17 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown while showing a calmness in the pocket that wasn't present in previous games. Gardner wasn't needed much as a runner, carrying the ball just seven times for 17 yards and a TD; in a game like this, that's just fine.
While the defense had trouble getting off the field on third downs, allowing Minnesota to convert on 8 of 15 chances, they were otherwise solid; the Gophers mustered just 281 total yards on 4.5 yards per play and couldn't score a touchdown after their second drive. The inside linebacker duo of Desmond Morgan and James Ross combined for 19 tackles, making it tough sledding for any Minnesota run up the gut. While the Wolverines had trouble covering Gopher TE Maxx Williams, who finished with 54 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, the rest of the Minnesota passing offense generated just 91 yards. While the Gophers missed a couple chances for big completions late, Michigan made up for that when Blake Countess stepped in front of a Leidner throw and returned it 72 yards to complete the scoring with just 1:19 on the clock. The biggest concern on that side of the ball going forward may be the health of nose tackle Ondre Pipkins, who was carted off the field with a left knee injury; he's a critical backup behind Quinton Washington.
Despite the close calls and consternation from the nonconference slate, Michigan now sits at 5-0 and 1-0 in the Big Ten, and after two harrowing wins over bad teams the Wolverines beat Minnesota in a wholly acceptable fashion—the slow pace masked a dominant effort until the game broke open late. In the end, Michigan scored five touchdowns on eight offensive drives, with the defense adding a sixth for good measure while forcing Minnesota to fight for every yard. It wasn't pretty in any aesthetic sense; the score, however, speaks for itself.